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´╗┐Title: Understood Betsy
Author: Fisher, Dorothy Canfield, 1879-1958
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Understood Betsy" ***



Author of "The Bent Twig," etc.


[Illustration: Uncle Henry looked at her, eyeing her sidewise over the
top of one spectacle glass. (Page 34)]


  I    Aunt Harriet Has a Cough
  II   Betsy Holds the Reins
  III  A Short Morning
  IV   Betsy Goes to School
  V    What Grade is Betsy?
  VI   If You Don't Like Conversation in a Book Skip this Chapter!
  VII  Elizabeth Ann Fails in an Examination
  VIII Betsy Starts a Sewing Society
  IX   The New Clothes Fail
  X    Betsy Has a Birthday
  XI   "Understood Aunt Frances"


Uncle Henry looked at her, eying her sidewise
over the top of one spectacle-glass    Frontispiece

Elizabeth Ann stood up before the doctor.
"Do you know," said Aunt Abigail, "I think
it's going to be real nice, having a little girl
in the house again"

She had greatly enjoyed doing her own hair.

"Oh, he's asking for more!" cried Elizabeth Ann

Betsy shut her teeth together hard, and started across

"What's the matter, Molly? What's the matter?"

Betsy and Ellen and the old doll

He had fallen asleep with his head on his arms

Never were dishes washed better!

Betsy was staring down at her shoes, biting her
lips and winking her eyes



When this story begins, Elizabeth Ann, who is the heroine of it, was a
little girl of nine, who lived with her Great-aunt Harriet in a
medium-sized city in a medium-sized State in the middle of this country;
and that's all you need to know about the place, for it's not the
important thing in the story; and anyhow you know all about it because
it was probably very much like the place you live in yourself.

Elizabeth Ann's Great-aunt Harriet was a widow who was not very rich or
very poor, and she had one daughter, Frances, who gave piano lessons to
little girls. They kept a "girl" whose name was Grace and who had asthma
dreadfully and wasn't very much of a "girl" at all, being nearer fifty
than forty. Aunt Harriet, who was very tender-hearted, kept her chiefly
because she couldn't get any other place on account of her coughing so
you could hear her all over the house.

So now you know the names of all the household. And this is how they
looked: Aunt Harriet was very small and thin and old, Grace was very
small and thin and middle-aged, Aunt Frances (for Elizabeth Ann called
her "Aunt," although she was really, of course, a
first-cousin-once-removed) was small and thin and if the light wasn't
too strong might be called young, and Elizabeth Ann was very small and
thin and little. And yet they all had plenty to eat. I wonder what was
the matter with them?

It was certainly not because they were not good, for no womenkind in all
the world had kinder hearts than they. You have heard how Aunt Harriet
kept Grace (in spite of the fact that she was a very depressing person)
on account of her asthma; and when Elizabeth Ann's father and mother
both died when she was a baby, although there were many other cousins
and uncles and aunts in the family, these two women fairly rushed upon
the little baby-orphan, taking her home and surrounding her henceforth
with the most loving devotion.

They had said to themselves that it was their manifest duty to save the
dear little thing from the other relatives, who had no idea about how to
bring up a sensitive, impressionable child, and they were sure, from the
way Elizabeth Ann looked at six months, that she was going to be a
sensitive, impressionable child. It is possible also that they were a
little bored with their empty life in their rather forlorn, little brick
house in the medium-sized city, and that they welcomed the occupation
and new interests which a child would bring in.

But they thought that they chiefly desired to save dear Edward's child
from the other kin, especially from the Putney cousins, who had written
down from their Vermont farm that they would be glad to take the little
girl into their family. But "ANYTHING but the Putneys!" said Aunt
Harriet, a great many times. They were related only by marriage to her,
and she had her own opinion of them as a stiffnecked, cold-hearted,
undemonstrative, and hard set of New Englanders. "I boarded near them
one summer when you were a baby, Frances, and I shall never forget the
way they were treating some children visiting there! ... Oh, no, I don't
mean they abused them or beat them ... but such lack of sympathy, such
perfect indifference to the sacred sensitiveness of child-life, such a
starving of the child-heart ... No, I shall never forget it! They had
chores to do ... as though they had been hired men!"

Aunt Harriet never meant to say any of this when Elizabeth Ann could
hear, but the little girl's ears were as sharp as little girls' ears
always are, and long before she was nine she knew all about the opinion
Aunt Harriet had of the Putneys. She did not know, to be sure, what
"chores" were, but she took it confidently from Aunt Harriet's voice
that they were something very, very dreadful.

There was certainly neither coldness nor hardness in the way Aunt
Harriet and Aunt Frances treated Elizabeth Ann. They had really given
themselves up to the new responsibility, especially Aunt Frances, who
was very conscientious about everything. As soon as the baby came there
to live, Aunt Frances stopped reading novels and magazines, and re-read
one book after another which told her how to bring up children. And she
joined a Mothers' Club which met once a week. And she took a
correspondence course in mothercraft from a school in Chicago which
teaches that business by mail. So you can see that by the time Elizabeth
Ann was nine years old Aunt Frances must have known all that anybody can
know about how to bring up children. And Elizabeth Ann got the benefit
of it all.

She and her Aunt Frances were simply inseparable. Aunt Frances shared in
all Elizabeth Ann's doings and even in all her thoughts. She was
especially anxious to share all the little girl's thoughts, because she
felt that the trouble with most children is that they are not
understood, and she was determined that she would thoroughly understand
Elizabeth Ann down to the bottom of her little mind. Aunt Frances (down
in the bottom of her own mind) thought that her mother had never REALLY
understood her, and she meant to do better by Elizabeth Ann. She also
loved the little girl with all her heart, and longed, above everything
in the world, to protect her from all harm and to keep her happy and
strong and well.

And yet Elizabeth Ann was neither very strong nor well. And as to her
being happy, you can judge for yourself when you have read all this
story. She was very small for her age, with a rather pale face and big
dark eyes which had in them a frightened, wistful expression that went
to Aunt Frances's tender heart and made her ache to take care of
Elizabeth Ann better and better.

Aunt Frances was afraid of a great many things herself, and she knew how
to sympathize with timidity. She was always quick to reassure the little
girl with all her might and main whenever there was anything to fear.
When they were out walking (Aunt Frances took her out for a walk up one
block and down another every single day, no matter how tired the music
lessons had made her), the aunt's eyes were always on the alert to avoid
anything which might frighten Elizabeth Ann. If a big dog trotted by,
Aunt Frances always said, hastily: "There, there, dear! That's a NICE
doggie, I'm sure. I don't believe he ever bites little girls. ... MERCY!
Elizabeth Ann, don't go near him! ... Here, darling, just get on the
other side of Aunt Frances if he scares you so" (by that time Elizabeth
Ann was always pretty well scared), "and perhaps we'd better just turn
this corner and walk in the other direction." If by any chance the dog
went in that direction too, Aunt Frances became a prodigy of valiant
protection, putting the shivering little girl behind her, threatening
the animal with her umbrella, and saying in a trembling voice, "Go away,
sir! Go AWAY!"

Or if it thundered and lightened, Aunt Frances always dropped everything
she might be doing and held Elizabeth Ann tightly in her arms until it
was all over. And at night--Elizabeth Ann did not sleep very well--when
the little girl woke up screaming with a bad dream, it was always dear
Aunt Frances who came to her bedside, a warm wrapper over her nightgown
so that she need not hurry back to her own room, a candle lighting up
her tired, kind face. She always took the little girl into her thin arms
and held her close against her thin breast. "TELL Aunt Frances all about
your naughty dream, darling," she would murmur, "so's to get it off your

She had read in her books that you can tell a great deal about
children's inner lives by analyzing their dreams, and besides, if she
did not urge Elizabeth Ann to tell it, she was afraid the sensitive,
nervous little thing would "lie awake and brood over it." This was the
phrase she always used the next day to her mother when Aunt Harriet
exclaimed about her paleness and the dark rings under her eyes. So she
listened patiently while the little girl told her all about the fearful
dreams she had, the great dogs with huge red mouths that ran after her,
the Indians who scalped her, her schoolhouse on fire so that she had to
jump from a third-story window and was all broken to bits--once in a
while Elizabeth Ann got so interested in all this that she went on and
made up more awful things even than she had dreamed, and told long
stories which showed her to be a child of great imagination. But all
these dreams and continuations of dreams Aunt Frances wrote down the
first thing the next morning, and, with frequent references to a thick
book full of hard words, she tried her best to puzzle out from them
exactly what kind of little girl Elizabeth Ann really was.

There was one dream, however, that even conscientious Aunt Frances never
tried to analyze, because it was too sad. Elizabeth Ann dreamed
sometimes that she was dead and lay in a little white coffin with white
roses over her. Oh, that made Aunt Frances cry, and so did Elizabeth
Ann. It was very touching. Then, after a long, long time of talk and
tears and sobs and hugs, the little girl would begin to get drowsy, and
Aunt Frances would rock her to sleep in her arms, and lay her down ever
so quietly, and slip away to try to get a little nap herself before it
was time to get up.

At a quarter of nine every weekday morning Aunt Frances dropped whatever
else she was doing, took Elizabeth Ann's little, thin, white hand
protectingly in hers, and led her through the busy streets to the big
brick school-building where the little girl had always gone to school.
It was four stories high, and when all the classes were in session there
were six hundred children under that one roof. You can imagine, perhaps,
the noise there was on the playground just before school! Elizabeth Ann
shrank from it with all her soul, and clung more tightly than ever to
Aunt Frances's hand as she was led along through the crowded, shrieking
masses of children. Oh, how glad she was that she had Aunt Frances there
to take care of her, though as a matter of fact nobody noticed the
little thin girl at all, and her very own classmates would hardly have
known whether she came to school or not. Aunt Frances took her safely
through the ordeal of the playground, then up the long, broad stairs,
and pigeonholed her carefully in her own schoolroom. She was in the
third grade,--3A, you understand, which is almost the fourth.

Then at noon Aunt Frances was waiting there, a patient, never-failing
figure, to walk home with her little charge; and in the afternoon the
same thing happened over again. On the way to and from school they
talked about what had happened in the class. Aunt Frances believed in
sympathizing with a child's life, so she always asked about every little
thing, and remembered to inquire about the continuation of every
episode, and sympathized with all her heart over the failure in mental
arithmetic, and triumphed over Elizabeth Ann's beating the Schmidt girl
in spelling, and was indignant over the teacher's having pets. Sometimes
in telling over some very dreadful failure or disappointment Elizabeth
Ann would get so wrought up that she would cry. This always brought the
ready tears to Aunt Frances's kind eyes, and with many soothing words
and nervous, tremulous caresses she tried to make life easier for poor
little Elizabeth Ann. The days when they had cried they could neither of
them eat much luncheon.

After school and on Saturdays there was always the daily walk, and there
were lessons, all kinds of lessons--piano-lessons of course, and
nature-study lessons out of an excellent book Aunt Frances had bought,
and painting lessons, and sewing lessons, and even a little French,
although Aunt Frances was not very sure about her own pronunciation. She
wanted to give the little girl every possible advantage, you see. They
were really inseparable. Elizabeth Ann once said to some ladies calling
on her aunts that whenever anything happened in school, the first thing
she thought of was what Aunt Frances would think of it.

"Why is that?" they asked, looking at Aunt Frances, who was blushing
with pleasure.

"Oh, she is so interested in my school work! And she UNDERSTANDS me!"
said Elizabeth Ann, repeating the phrases she had heard so often.

Aunt Frances's eyes filled with happy tears. She called Elizabeth Ann to
her and kissed her and gave her as big a hug as her thin arms could
manage. Elizabeth Ann was growing tall very fast. One of the visiting
ladies said that before long she would be as big as her auntie, and a
troublesome young lady. Aunt Frances said: "I have had her from the time
she was a little baby and there has scarcely been an hour she has been
out of my sight. I'll always have her confidence. You'll always tell
Aunt Frances EVERYTHING, won't you, darling?" Elizabeth Ann resolved to
do this always, even if, as now, she often had to invent things to tell.

Aunt Frances went on, to the callers: "But I do wish she weren't so thin
and pale and nervous. I suppose it is the exciting modern life that is
so bad for children. I try to see that she has plenty of fresh air. I go
out with her for a walk every single day. But we have taken all the
walks around here so often that we're rather tired of them. It's often
hard to know how to get her out enough. I think I'll have to get the
doctor to come and see her and perhaps give her a tonic." To Elizabeth
Ann she added, hastily: "Now don't go getting notions in your head,
darling. Aunt Frances doesn't think there's anything VERY much the
matter with you. You'll be all right again soon if you just take the
doctor's medicine nicely. Aunt Frances will take care of her precious
little girl. SHE'll make the bad sickness go away." Elizabeth Ann, who
had not known before that she was sick, had a picture of herself lying
in the little white coffin, all covered over with white. ... In a few
minutes Aunt Frances was obliged to excuse herself from her callers and
devote herself entirely to taking care of Elizabeth Ann.

So one day, after this had happened several times, Aunt Frances really
did send for the doctor, who came briskly in, just as Elizabeth Ann had
always seen him, with his little square black bag smelling of leather,
his sharp eyes, and the air of bored impatience which he always wore in
that house. Elizabeth Ann was terribly afraid to see him, for she felt
in her bones he would say she had galloping consumption and would die
before the leaves cast a shadow. This was a phrase she had picked up
from Grace, whose conversation, perhaps on account of her asthma, was
full of references to early graves and quick declines.

And yet--did you ever hear of such a case before?--although Elizabeth
Ann when she first stood up before the doctor had been quaking with fear
lest he discover some deadly disease in her, she was very much hurt
indeed when, after thumping her and looking at her lower eyelid inside
out, and listening to her breathing, he pushed her away with a little
jerk and said: "There's nothing in the world the matter with that child.
She's as sound as a nut! What she needs is ..."--he looked for a moment
at Aunt Frances's thin, anxious face, with the eyebrows drawn together
in a knot of conscientiousness, and then he looked at Aunt Harriet's
thin, anxious face with the eyebrows drawn up that very same way, and
then he glanced at Grace's thin, anxious face peering from the door
waiting for his verdict--and then he drew a long breath, shut his lips
and his little black case very tightly, and did not go on to say what it
was that Elizabeth Ann needed.

Of course Aunt Frances didn't let him off as easily as that, you may be
sure. She fluttered around him as he tried to go, and she said all sorts
of fluttery things to him, like "But, Doctor, she hasn't gained a pound
in three months ...  and her sleep ... and her appetite ... and her
nerves ..."

[Illustration: Elizabeth Ann stood up before the doctor.]

The doctor said back to her, as he put on his hat, all the things
doctors always say under such conditions: "More beefsteak ... plenty of
fresh air ... more sleep ... SHE'll be all right ..." but his voice did not
sound as though he thought what he was saying amounted to much. Nor did
Elizabeth Ann. She had hoped for some spectacular red pills to be taken
every half-hour, like those Grace's doctor gave her whenever she felt
low in her mind.

And just then something happened which changed Elizabeth Ann's life
forever and ever. It was a very small thing, too. Aunt Harriet coughed.
Elizabeth Ann did not think it at all a bad-sounding cough in comparison
with Grace's hollow whoop; Aunt Harriet had been coughing like that ever
since the cold weather set in, for three or four months now, and nobody
had thought anything of it, because they were all so much occupied in
taking care of the sensitive, nervous little girl who needed so much

And yet, at the sound of that little discreet cough behind Aunt
Harriet's hand, the doctor whirled around and fixed his sharp eyes on
her, with all the bored, impatient look gone, the first time Elizabeth
Ann had ever seen him look interested. "What's that? What's that?" he
said, going over quickly to Aunt Harriet. He snatched out of his little
bag a shiny thing with two rubber tubes attached, and he put the ends of
the tubes in his ears and the shiny thing up against Aunt Harriet, who
was saying, "It's nothing, Doctor ... a little teasing cough I've had this
winter. And I meant to tell you, too, but I forgot it, that that sore
spot on my lungs doesn't go away as it ought to."

The doctor motioned her very impolitely to stop talking, and listened
very hard through his little tubes. Then he turned around and looked at
Aunt Frances as though he were angry at her. He said, "Take the child
away and then come back here yourself."

And that was almost all that Elizabeth Ann ever knew of the forces which
swept her away from the life which had always gone on, revolving about
her small person, exactly the same ever since she could remember.

You have heard so much about tears in the account of Elizabeth Ann's
life so far that I won't tell you much about the few days which
followed, as the family talked over and hurriedly prepared to obey the
doctor's verdict, which was that Aunt Harriet was very, very sick and
must go away at once to a warm climate, and Aunt Frances must go, too,
but not Elizabeth Ann, for Aunt Frances would need to give all her time
to taking care of Aunt Harriet. And anyhow the doctor didn't think it
best, either for Aunt Harriet or for Elizabeth Ann, to have them in the
same house.

Grace couldn't go of course, but to everybody's surprise she said she
didn't mind, because she had a bachelor brother, who kept a grocery
store, who had been wanting her for years to go and keep house for him.
She said she had stayed on just out of conscientiousness because she
knew Aunt Harriet couldn't get along without her! And if you notice,
that's the way things often happen to very, very conscientious people.

Elizabeth Ann, however, had no grocer brother. She had, it is true, a
great many relatives, and of course it was settled she should go to some
of them till Aunt Frances could take her back. For the time being, just
now, while everything was so distracted and confused, she was to go to
stay with the Lathrop cousins, who lived in the same city, although it
was very evident that the Lathrops were not perfectly crazy with delight
over the prospect.

Still, something had to be done at once, and Aunt Frances was so frantic
with the packing up, and the moving men coming to take the furniture to
storage, and her anxiety over her mother--she had switched to Aunt
Harriet, you see, all the conscientiousness she had lavished on
Elizabeth Ann--nothing much could be extracted from her about Elizabeth
Ann. "Just keep her for the present, Molly!" she said to Cousin Molly
Lathrop. "I'll do something soon. I'll write you. I'll make another
arrangement ... but just NOW...."

Her voice was quavering on the edge of tears, and Cousin Molly Lathrop,
who hated scenes, said hastily, "Yes, oh, yes, of course. For the
present ..." and went away, thinking that she didn't see why she should
have ALL the disagreeable things to do. When she had her husband's
tyrannical old mother to take care of, wasn't that enough, without
adding to the household such a nervous, spoiled, morbid young one as
Elizabeth Ann!

Elizabeth Ann did not of course for a moment dream that Cousin Molly was
thinking any such things about her, but she could not help seeing that
Cousin Molly was not any too enthusiastic about taking her in; and she
was already feeling terribly forlorn about the sudden, unexpected change
in Aunt Frances, who had been SO wrapped up in her and now was just as
much wrapped up in Aunt Harriet. Do you know, I am sorry for Elizabeth
Ann, and, what's more, I have been ever since this story began.

Well, since I promised you that I was not going to tell about more
tears, I won't say a single word about the day when the two aunts went
away on the train, for there is nothing much but tears to tell about,
except perhaps an absent look in Aunt Frances's eyes which hurt the
little girl's feelings dreadfully.

And then Cousin Molly took the hand of the sobbing little girl and led
her back to the Lathrop house. But if you think you are now going to
hear about the Lathrops, you are quite mistaken, for just at this moment
old Mrs. Lathrop took a hand in the matter. She was Cousin Molly's
husband's mother, and, of course, no relation at all to Elizabeth Ann,
and so was less enthusiastic than anybody else. All that Elizabeth Ann
ever saw of this old lady, who now turned the current of her life again,
was her head, sticking out of a second-story window; and that's all that
you need to know about her, either. It was a very much agitated old
head, and it bobbed and shook with the intensity with which the
imperative old voice called upon Cousin Molly and Elizabeth Ann to stop
right there where they were on the front walk.

"The doctor says that what's the matter with Bridget is scarlet fever,
and we've all got to be quarantined. There's no earthly sense bringing
that child in to be sick and have it, and be nursed, and make the
quarantine twice as long!"

"But, Mother!" called Cousin Molly, "I can't leave the child in the
middle of the street!"

Elizabeth Ann was actually glad to hear her say that, because she was
feeling so awfully unwanted, which is, if you think of it, not a very
cheerful feeling for a little girl who has been the hub round which a
whole household was revolving.

"You don't HAVE to!" shouted old Mrs. Lathrop out of her second-story
window. Although she did not add "You gump!" aloud, you could feel she
was meaning just that. "You don't have to! You can just send her to the
Putney cousins. All nonsense about her not going there in the first
place. They invited her the minute they heard of Harriet's being so bad.
They're the natural ones to take her in. Abigail is her mother's own
aunt, and Ann is her own first-cousin-once-removed ... just as close as
Harriet and Frances are, and MUCH closer than you! And on a farm and
all ... just the place for her!"

"But how under the sun, Mother!" shouted Cousin Molly back, "can I GET
her to the Putneys'? You can't send a child of nine a thousand miles
without ..."

Old Mrs. Lathrop looked again as though she were saying "You gump!" and
said aloud, "Why, there's James, going to New York on business in a few
days anyhow. He can just go now, and take her along and put her on the
right train at Albany. If he wires from here, they'll meet her in

And that was just what happened. Perhaps you may have guessed by this
time that when old Mrs. Lathrop issued orders they were usually obeyed.
As to who the Bridget was who had the scarlet fever, I know no more than
you. I take it, from the name, she was the cook. Unless, indeed, old
Mrs. Lathrop made her up for the occasion, which I think she would have
been quite capable of doing, don't you?

At any rate, with no more ifs or ands, Elizabeth Ann's satchel was
packed, and Cousin James Lathrop's satchel was packed, and the two set
off together, the big, portly, middle-aged man quite as much afraid of
his mother as Elizabeth Ann was. But he was going to New York, and it is
conceivable that he thought once or twice on the trip that there were
good times in New York as well as business engagements, whereas poor
Elizabeth Ann was being sent straight to the one place in the world
where there were no good times at all. Aunt Harriet had said so, ever so
many times. Poor Elizabeth Ann!



You can imagine, perhaps, the dreadful terror of Elizabeth Ann as the
train carried her along toward Vermont and the horrible Putney Farm! It
had happened so quickly--her satchel packed, the telegram sent, the
train caught--that she had not had time to get her wits together, assert
herself, and say that she would NOT go there! Besides, she had a sinking
notion that perhaps they wouldn't pay any attention to her if she did.
The world had come to an end now that Aunt Frances wasn't there to take
care of her! Even in the most familiar air she could only half breathe
without Aunt Frances! And now she was not even being taken to the Putney
Farm! She was being sent!

She shrank together in her seat, more and more frightened as the end of
her journey came nearer, and looked out dismally at the winter
landscape, thinking it hideous with its brown bare fields, its brown
bare trees, and the quick-running little streams hurrying along, swollen
with the January thaw which had taken all the snow from the hills. She
had heard her elders say about her so many times that she could not
stand the cold, that she shivered at the very thought of cold weather,
and certainly nothing could look colder than that bleak country into
which the train was now slowly making its way.

The engine puffed and puffed with great laboring breaths that shook
Elizabeth Ann's diaphragm up and down, but the train moved more and more
slowly. Elizabeth Ann could feel under her feet how the floor of the car
was tipped up as it crept along the steep incline. "Pretty stiff grade
here?" said a passenger to the conductor.

"You bet!" he assented. "But Hillsboro is the next station and that's at
the top of the hill. We go down after that to Rutland." He turned to
Elizabeth Ann--"Say, little girl, didn't your uncle say you were to get
off at Hillsboro? You'd better be getting your things together."

Poor Elizabeth Ann's knees knocked against each other with fear of the
strange faces she was to encounter, and when the conductor came to help
her get off, he had to carry the white, trembling child as well as her
satchel. But there was only one strange face there,--not another soul in
sight at the little wooden station. A grim-faced old man in a fur cap
and heavy coat stood by a lumber wagon.

"This is her, Mr. Putney," said the conductor, touching his cap, and
went back to the train, which went away shrieking for a nearby crossing
and setting the echoes ringing from one mountain to another.

There was Elizabeth Ann alone with her much-feared Great-uncle Henry. He
nodded to her, and drew out from the bottom of the wagon a warm, large
cape, which he slipped over her shoulders. "The women folks were afraid
you'd git cold drivin'," he explained. He then lifted her high to the
seat, tossed her satchel into the wagon, climbed up himself, and clucked
to his horses. Elizabeth Ann had always before thought it an essential
part of railway journeys to be much kissed at the end and asked a great
many times how you had "stood the trip."

She sat very still on the high lumber seat, feeling very forlorn and
neglected. Her feet dangled high above the floor of the wagon. She felt
herself to be in the most dangerous place she had ever dreamed of in her
worst dreams. Oh, why wasn't Aunt Frances there to take care of her! It
was just like one of her bad dreams--yes, it was horrible! She would
fall, she would roll under the wheels and be crushed to ... She looked up
at Uncle Henry with the wild, strained eyes of nervous terror which
always brought Aunt Frances to her in a rush to "hear all about it," to
sympathize, to reassure.

Uncle Henry looked down at her soberly, his hard, weather-beaten old
face quite unmoved. "Here, you drive, will you, for a piece?" he said
briefly, putting the reins into her hands, hooking his spectacles over
his ears, and drawing out a stubby pencil and a bit of paper. "I've got
some figgering to do. You pull on the left-hand rein to make 'em go to
the left and t'other way for t'other way, though 'tain't likely we'll
meet any teams."

Elizabeth Ann had been so near one of her wild screams of terror that
now, in spite of her instant absorbed interest in the reins, she gave a
queer little yelp. She was all ready with the explanation, her
conversations with Aunt Frances having made her very fluent in
explanations of her own emotions. She would tell Uncle Henry about how
scared she had been, and how she had just been about to scream and
couldn't keep back that one little ... But Uncle Henry seemed not to have
heard her little howl, or, if he had, didn't think it worth
conversation, for he ... oh, the horses were CERTAINLY going to one side!
She hastily decided which was her right hand (she had never been forced
to know it so quickly before) and pulled furiously on that rein. The
horses turned their hanging heads a little, and, miraculously, there
they were in the middle of the road again.

Elizabeth Ann drew a long breath of relief and pride, and looked to
Uncle Henry for praise. But he was busily setting down figures as though
he were getting his 'rithmetic lesson for the next day and had not
noticed ... Oh, there they were going to the left again! This time, in her
flurry, she made a mistake about which hand was which and pulled wildly
on the left line! The horses docilely walked off the road into a shallow
ditch, the wagon tilted ... help! Why didn't Uncle Henry help! Uncle Henry
continued intently figuring on the back of his envelope.

Elizabeth Ann, the perspiration starting out on her forehead, pulled on
the other line. The horses turned back up the little slope, the wheel
grated sickeningly against the wagonbox--she was SURE they would tip
over! But there! somehow there they were in the road, safe and sound,
with Uncle Henry adding up a column of figures. If he only knew, thought
the little girl, if he only KNEW the danger he had been in, and how he
had been saved...! But she must think of some way to remember, for sure,
which her right hand was, and avoid that hideous mistake again.

And then suddenly something inside Elizabeth Ann's head stirred and
moved. It came to her, like a clap, that she needn't know which was
right or left at all. If she just pulled the way she wanted them to
go--the horses would never know whether it was the right or the left

It is possible that what stirred inside her head at that moment was her
brain, waking up. She was nine years old, and she was in the third A
grade at school, but that was the first time she had ever had a whole
thought of her very own. At home, Aunt Frances had always known exactly
what she was doing, and had helped her over the hard places before she
even knew they were there; and at school her teachers had been carefully
trained to think faster than the scholars. Somebody had always been
explaining things to Elizabeth Ann so industriously that she had never
found out a single thing for herself before. This was a very small
discovery, but an original one. Elizabeth Ann was as excited about it as
a mother-bird over the first egg that hatches.

She forgot how afraid she was of Uncle Henry, and poured out to him her
discovery. "It's not right or left that matters!" she ended
triumphantly; "it's which way you want to go!" Uncle Henry looked at her
attentively as she talked, eyeing her sidewise over the top of one
spectacle-glass. When she finished--"Well, now, that's so," he admitted,
and returned to his arithmetic.

It was a short remark, shorter than any Elizabeth Ann had ever heard
before. Aunt Frances and her teachers always explained matters at
length. But it had a weighty, satisfying ring to it. The little girl
felt the importance of having her statement recognized. She turned back
to her driving.

The slow, heavy plow horses had stopped during her talk with Uncle
Henry. They stood as still now as though their feet had grown to the
road. Elizabeth Ann looked up at the old man for instructions. But he
was deep in his figures. She had been taught never to interrupt people,
so she sat still and waited for him to tell her what to do.

But, although they were driving in the midst of a winter thaw, it was a
pretty cold day, with an icy wind blowing down the back of her neck. The
early winter twilight was beginning to fall, and she felt rather empty.
She grew very tired of waiting, and remembered how the grocer's boy at
home had started his horse. Then, summoning all her courage, with an
apprehensive glance at Uncle Henry's arithmetical silence, she slapped
the reins up and down on the horses' backs and made the best imitation
she could of the grocer's boy's cluck. The horses lifted their heads,
they leaned forward, they put one foot before the other ... they were off!
The color rose hot on Elizabeth Ann's happy face. If she had started a
big red automobile she would not have been prouder. For it was the first
thing she had ever done all herself ... every bit ... every smitch! She had
thought of it and she had done it. And it had worked!

Now for what seemed to her a long, long time she drove, drove so hard
she could think of nothing else. She guided the horses around stones,
she cheered them through freezing mud-puddles of melted snow, she kept
them in the anxiously exact middle of the road. She was quite astonished
when Uncle Henry put his pencil and paper away, took the reins from her
hands, and drove into a yard, on one side of which was a little low
white house and on the other a big red barn. He did not say a word, but
she guessed that this was Putney Farm.

Two women in gingham dresses and white aprons came out of the house. One
was old and one might be called young, just like Aunt Harriet and Aunt
Frances. But they looked very different from those aunts. The
dark-haired one was very tall and strong-looking, and the white-haired
one was very rosy and fat. They both looked up at the little, thin,
white-faced girl on the high seat, and smiled. "Well, Father, you got
her, I see," said the brown-haired one. She stepped up to the wagon and
held up her arms to the child. "Come on, Betsy, and get some supper,"
she said, as though Elizabeth Ann had lived there all her life and had
just driven into town and back.

And that was the arrival of Elizabeth Ann at Putney Farm.

The brown-haired one took a long, strong step or two and swung her up on
the porch. "You take her in, Mother," she said. "I'll help Father

The fat, rosy, white-haired one took Elizabeth Ann's skinny, cold little
hand in her soft warm fat one, and led her along to the open kitchen
door. "I'm your Aunt Abigail," she said. "Your mother's aunt, you know.
And that's your Cousin Ann that lifted you down, and it was your Uncle
Henry that brought you out from town." She shut the door and went on, "I
don't know if your Aunt Harriet ever happened to tell you about us, and
so ..."

Elizabeth Ann interrupted her hastily, the recollection of all Aunt
Harriet's remarks vividly before her. "Oh yes, oh yes!" she said. "She
always talked about you. She talked about you a lot, she ..." The little
girl stopped short and bit her lip.

If Aunt Abigail guessed from the expression on Elizabeth Ann's face what
kind of talking Aunt Harriet's had been, she showed it only by a
deepening of the wrinkles all around her eyes. She said, gravely: "Well,
that's a good thing. You know all about us then." She turned to the
stove and took out of the oven a pan of hot baked beans, very brown and
crispy on top (Elizabeth Ann detested beans), and said, over her
shoulder, "Take your things off, Betsy, and hang 'em on that lowest hook
back of the door. That's YOUR hook."

The little girl fumbled forlornly with the fastenings of her cape and
the buttons of her coat. At home, Aunt Frances or Grace had always taken
off her wraps and put them away for her. When, very sorry for herself,
she turned away from the hook, Aunt Abigail said: "Now you must be cold.
Pull a chair right up here by the stove." She was stepping around
quickly as she put supper on the table. The floor shook under her. She
was one of the fattest people Elizabeth Ann had ever seen. After living
with Aunt Frances and Aunt Harriet and Grace the little girl could
scarcely believe her eyes. She stared and stared.

Aunt Abigail seemed not to notice this. Indeed, she seemed for the
moment to have forgotten all about the newcomer. Elizabeth Ann sat on
the wooden chair, her feet hanging (she had been taught that it was not
manners to put her feet on the rungs), looking about her with miserable,
homesick eyes. What an ugly, low-ceilinged room, with only a couple of
horrid kerosene lamps for light; and they didn't keep any girl,
evidently; and they were going to eat right in the kitchen like poor
people; and nobody spoke to her or looked at her or asked her how she
had "stood the trip"; and here she was, millions of miles away from Aunt
Frances, without anybody to take care of her. She began to feel the
tight place in her throat which, by thinking about hard, she could
always turn into tears, and presently her eyes began to water.

Aunt Abigail was not looking at her at all, but she now stopped short in
one of her rushes to the table, set down the butter-plate she was
carrying, and said "There!" as though she had forgotten something. She
stooped--it was perfectly amazing how spry she was--and pulled out from
under the stove a half-grown kitten, very sleepy, yawning and
stretching, and blinking its eyes. "There, Betsy!" said Aunt Abigail,
putting the little yellow and white ball into the child's lap. "There is
one of old Whitey's kittens that didn't get given away last summer, and
she pesters the life out of me. I've got so much to do. When I heard you
were coming, I thought maybe you would take care of her for me. If you
want to, enough to bother to feed her and all, you can have her for your

Elizabeth Ann bent her thin face over the warm, furry, friendly little
animal. She could not speak. She had always wanted a kitten, but Aunt
Frances and Aunt Harriet and Grace had always been sure that cats
brought diphtheria and tonsilitis and all sorts of dreadful diseases to
delicate little girls. She was afraid to move for fear the little thing
would jump down and run away, but as she bent cautiously toward it the
necktie of her middy blouse fell forward and the kitten in the middle of
a yawn struck swiftly at it with a soft paw. Then, still too sleepy to
play, it turned its head and began to lick Elizabeth Ann's hand with a
rough little tongue. Perhaps you can imagine how thrilled the little
girl was at this!

She held her hand perfectly still until the kitten stopped and began
suddenly washing its own face, and then she put her hands under it and
very awkwardly lifted it up, burying her face in the soft fur. The
kitten yawned again, and from the pink-lined mouth came a fresh, milky
breath. "Oh!" said Elizabeth Ann under her breath. "Oh, you DARLING!"
The kitten looked at her with bored, speculative eyes.

Elizabeth Ann looked up now at Aunt Abigail and said, "What is its name,
please?" But the old woman was busy turning over a griddle full of
pancakes and did not hear. On the train Elizabeth Ann had resolved not
to call these hateful relatives by the same name she had for dear Aunt
Frances, but she now forgot that resolution and said, again, "Oh, Aunt
Abigail, what is its name?"

Aunt Abigail faced her blankly. "Name?" she asked. "Whose ... oh, the
kitten's? Goodness, child, I stopped racking my brain for kitten names
sixty years ago. Name it yourself. It's yours."

Elizabeth Ann had already named it in her own mind, the name she had
always thought she WOULD call a kitten by, if she ever had one. It was
Eleanor, the prettiest name she knew.

Aunt Abigail pushed a pitcher toward her. "There's the cat's saucer
under the sink. Don't you want to give it some milk?"

Elizabeth Ann got down from her chair, poured some milk into the saucer,
and called: "Here, Eleanor! Here, Eleanor!"

Aunt Abigail looked at her sharply out of the corner of her eye and her
lips twitched, but a moment later her face was immovably grave as she
carried the last plate of pancakes to the table.

Elizabeth Ann sat on her heels for a long time, watching the kitten lap
the milk, and she was surprised, when she stood up, to see that Cousin
Ann and Uncle Henry had come in, very red-cheeked from the cold air.

"Well, folks," said Aunt Abigail, "don't you think we've done some
lively stepping around, Betsy and I, to get supper all on the table for

Elizabeth Ann stared. What did Aunt Abigail mean? She hadn't done a
thing about getting supper! But nobody made any comment, and they all
took their seats and began to eat. Elizabeth Ann was astonishingly
hungry, and she thought she could never get enough of the creamed
potatoes, cold ham, hot cocoa, and pancakes. She was very much relieved
that her refusal of beans caused no comment. Aunt Frances had always
tried very hard to make her eat beans because they have so much protein
in them, and growing children need protein. Elizabeth Ann had heard this
said so many times she could have repeated it backward, but it had never
made her hate beans any the less. However, nobody here seemed to know
this, and Elizabeth Ann kept her knowledge to herself. They had also
evidently never heard how delicate her digestion was, for she never saw
anything like the number of pancakes they let her eat. ALL SHE WANTED!
She had never heard of such a thing!

They still did not ask her how she had "stood the trip." They did not
indeed ask her much of anything or pay very much attention to her beyond
filling her plate as fast as she emptied it. In the middle of the meal
Eleanor came, jumped into her lap, and curled down, purring. After this
Elizabeth Ann kept one hand on the little soft ball, handling her fork
with the other.

After supper--well, Elizabeth Ann never knew what did happen after
supper until she felt somebody lifting her and carrying her upstairs. It
was Cousin Ann, who carried her as lightly as though she were a baby,
and who said, as she sat down on the floor in a slant-ceilinged bedroom,
"You went right to sleep with your head on the table. I guess you're
pretty tired."

Aunt Abigail was sitting on the edge of a great wide bed with four
posts, and a curtain around the top. She was partly undressed, and was
undoing her hair and brushing it out. It was very curly and all fluffed
out in a shining white fuzz around her fat, pink face, full of soft
wrinkles; but in a moment she was braiding it up again and putting on a
tight white nightcap, which she tied under her chin.

"We got the word about your coming so late," said Cousin Ann, "that we
didn't have time to fix you up a bedroom that can be warmed. So you're
going to sleep in here for a while. The bed's big enough for two, I
guess, even if they are as big as you and Mother."

Elizabeth Ann stared again. What queer things they said here. She wasn't
NEARLY as big as Aunt Abigail!

"Mother, did you put Shep out?" asked Cousin Ann; and when Aunt Abigail
said, "No! There! I forgot to!" Cousin Ann went away; and that was the
last of HER. They certainly believed in being saving of their words at
Putney Farm.

Elizabeth Ann began to undress. She was only half-awake; and that made
her feel only about half her age, which wasn't very great, the whole of
it, and she felt like just crooking her arm over her eyes and giving up!
She was too forlorn! She had never slept with anybody before, and she
had heard ever so many times how bad it was for children to sleep with
grown-ups. An icy wind rattled the windows and puffed in around the
loose old casings. On the window-sill lay a little wreath of snow.
Elizabeth Ann shivered and shook on her thin legs, undressed in a hurry,
and slipped into her night-dress. She felt just as cold inside as out,
and never was more utterly miserable than in that strange, ugly little
room, with that strange, queer, fat old woman. She was even too
miserable to cry, and that is saying a great deal for Elizabeth Ann!

She got into bed first, because Aunt Abigail said she was going to keep
the candle lighted for a while and read. "And anyhow," she said, "I'd
better sleep on the outside to keep you from rolling out."

Elizabeth Ann and Aunt Abigail lay very still for a long time, Aunt
Abigail reading out of a small, worn old book. Elizabeth Ann could see
its title, "Essays of Emerson." A book with, that name had always laid
on the center table in Aunt Harriet's house, but that copy was all new
and shiny, and Elizabeth Ann had never seen anybody look inside it. It
was a very dull-looking book, with no pictures and no conversation. The
little girl lay on her back, looking up at the cracks in the plaster
ceiling and watching the shadows sway and dance as the candle flickered
in the gusts of cold air. She herself began to feel a soft, pervasive
warmth. Aunt Abigail's great body was like a stove.

It was very, very quiet, quieter than any place Elizabeth Ann had ever
known, except church, because a trolley-line ran past Aunt Harriet's
house and even at night there were always more or less hangings and
rattlings. Here there was not a single sound except the soft, whispery
noise when Aunt Abigail turned over a page as she read steadily and
silently forward in her book. Elizabeth Ann turned her head so that she
could see the round, rosy old face, full of soft wrinkles, and the calm,
steady old eyes which were fixed on the page. And as she lay there in
the warm bed, watching that quiet face, something very queer began to
happen to Elizabeth Ann. She felt as though a tight knot inside her were
slowly being untied. She felt--what was it she felt? There are no words
for it. From deep within her something rose up softly ... she drew one or
two long, half-sobbing breaths....

[Illustration: "Do you know," said Aunt Abigail, "I think it's going to
be real nice, having a little girl in the house again."]

Aunt Abigail laid down her book and looked over at the child. "Do you
know," she said, in a conversational tone, "do you know, I think it's
going to be real nice, having a little girl in the house again."

Oh, then the tight knot in the little unwanted girl's heart was loosened
indeed! It all gave way at once, and Elizabeth Ann burst suddenly into
hot tears--yes, I know I said I would not tell you any more about her
crying; but these tears were very different from any she had ever shed
before. And they were the last, too, for a long, long time.

Aunt Abigail said, "Well, well!" and moving over in bed took the little
weeping girl into her arms. She did not say another word then, but she
put her soft, withered old cheek close against Elizabeth Ann's, till the
sobs began to grow less, and then she said: "I hear your kitty crying
outside the door. Shall I let her in? I expect she'd like to sleep with
you. I guess there's room for three of us."

She got out of bed as she spoke and walked across the room to the door.
The floor shook under her great bulk, and the peak of her nightcap made
a long, grotesque shadow. But as she came back with the kitten in her
arms Elizabeth Ann saw nothing funny in her looks. She gave Eleanor to
the little girl and got into bed again. "There, now, I guess we're ready
for the night," she said. "You put the kitty on the other side of you so
she won't fall out of bed."

She blew the light out and moved over a little closer to Elizabeth. Ann,
who immediately was enveloped in that delicious warmth. The kitten
curled up under the little girl's chin. Between her and the terrors of
the dark room loomed the rampart of Aunt Abigail's great body.

Elizabeth Ann drew a long, long breath ... and when she opened her eyes
the sun was shining in at the window.



Aunt Abigail was gone, Eleanor was gone. The room was quite empty except
for the bright sunshine pouring in through the small-paned windows.
Elizabeth Ann stretched and yawned and looked about her. What funny
wall-paper it was--so old-fashioned looking! The picture was of a blue
river and a brown mill, with green willow-trees over it, and a man with
sacks on his horse's back stood in front of the mill. This picture was
repeated a great many times, all over the paper; and in the corner,
where it hadn't come out even, they had had to cut it right down the
middle of the horse. It was very curious-looking. She stared at it a
long time, waiting for somebody to tell her when to get up. At home Aunt
Frances always told her, and helped her get dressed. But here nobody
came. She discovered that the heat came from a hole in the floor near
the bed, which opened down into the room below. From it came a warm
breath of baking bread and a muffled thump once in a while.

The sun rose higher and higher, and Elizabeth Ann grew hungrier and
hungrier. Finally it occurred to her that it was not absolutely
necessary to have somebody tell her to get up. She reached for her
clothes and began to dress. When she had finished she went out into the
hall, and with a return of her aggrieved, abandoned feeling (you must
remember that her stomach was very empty) she began to try to find her
way downstairs. She soon found the steps, went down them one at a time,
and pushed open the door at the foot. Cousin Ann, the brown-haired one,
was ironing near the stove. She nodded and smiled as the child came into
the room, and said, "Well, you must feel rested!"

"Oh, I haven't been asleep!" explained Elizabeth Ann. "I was waiting for
somebody to tell me to get up."

"Oh," said Cousin Ann, opening her black eyes a little. "WERE you?" She
said no more than this, but Elizabeth Ann decided hastily that she would
not add, as she had been about to, that she was also waiting for
somebody to help her dress and do her hair. As a matter of fact, she had
greatly enjoyed doing her own hair--the first time she had ever tried
it. It had never occurred to Aunt Frances that her little baby-girl had
grown up enough to be her own hairdresser, nor had it occurred to
Elizabeth Ann that this might be possible. But as she struggled with the
snarls she had had a sudden wild idea of doing it a different way from
the pretty fashion Aunt Frances always followed. Elizabeth Ann had
always secretly envied a girl in her class whose hair was all tied back
from her face, with one big knot in her ribbon at the back of her neck.
It looked so grown-up. And this morning she had done hers that way,
turning her neck till it ached, so that she could see the coveted tight
effect at the back. And still--aren't little girls queer?--although she
had enjoyed doing her own hair, she was very much inclined to feel hurt
because Cousin Ann had not come to do it for her.

[Illustration: She had greatly enjoyed doing her own hair.]

Cousin Ann set her iron down with the soft thump which Elizabeth Ann had
heard upstairs. She began folding a napkin, and said: "Now reach
yourself a bowl off the shelf yonder. The oatmeal's in that kettle on
the stove and the milk is in the blue pitcher. If you want a piece of
bread and butter, here's a new loaf just out of the oven, and the
butter's in that brown crock."

Elizabeth Ann followed these instructions and sat down before this
quickly assembled breakfast in a very much surprised silence. At home it
took the girl more than half an hour to get breakfast and set the table,
and then she had to wait on them besides. She began to pour the milk out
of the pitcher and stopped suddenly. "Oh, I'm afraid I've taken more
than my share!" she said apologetically.

Cousin Ann looked up from her rapidly moving iron, and said, in an
astonished voice: "Your share? What do you mean?"

"My share of the quart," explained Elizabeth Ann. At home they bought a
quart of milk and a cup of cream every day, and they were all very
conscientious about not taking more than their due share.

"Good land, child, take all the MILK you want!" said Cousin Ann, as
though she found something shocking in what the little girl had just
said. Elizabeth Ann thought to herself that she spoke as though milk ran
out of a faucet, like water.

She was very fond of milk, and she made a very good breakfast as she sat
looking about the low-ceilinged room. It was unlike any room she had
ever seen.

It was, of course, the kitchen, and yet it didn't seem possible that the
same word could be applied to that room and the small, dark cubby-hole
which had been Grace's asthmatical kingdom. This room was very long and
narrow, and all along one side were windows with white, ruffled curtains
drawn back at the sides, and with small, shining panes of glass, through
which the sun poured a golden flood of light on a long shelf of potted
plants that took the place of a window-sill. The shelf was covered with
shining white oil-cloth, the pots were of clean reddish brown, the
sturdy, stocky plants of bright green with clear red-and-white flowers.
Elizabeth Ann's eyes wandered all over the kitchen from the low, white
ceiling to the clean, bare wooden floor, but they always came back to
those sunny windows. Once, back in the big brick school-building, as she
had sat drooping her thin shoulders over her desk, some sort of a
procession had gone by with a brass band playing a lively air. For some
queer reason, every time she now glanced at that sheet of sunlight and
the bright flowers she had a little of the same thrill which had
straightened her back and gone up and down her spine while the band was
playing. Possibly Aunt Frances was right, after all, and Elizabeth Ann
WAS a very impressionable child. I wonder, by the way, if anybody ever
saw a child who wasn't.

At one end, the end where Cousin Ann was ironing, stood the kitchen
stove, gleaming black, with a tea-kettle humming away on it, a big
hot-water boiler near it, and a large kitchen cabinet with lots of
drawers and shelves and hooks and things. Beyond that, in the middle of
the room, was the table where they had had supper last night, and at
which the little girl now sat eating her very late breakfast; and beyond
that, at the other end of the room, was another table with an old
dark-red cashmere shawl on it for a cover. A large lamp stood in the
middle of this, a bookcase near it, two or three rocking-chairs around
it, and back of it, against the wall, was a wide sofa covered with
bright cretonne, with three bright pillows. Something big and black and
woolly was lying on this sofa, snoring loudly. As Cousin Ann saw the
little girl's fearful glance alight on this she explained: "That's Step,
our old dog. Doesn't he make an awful noise! Mother says, when she
happens to be alone here in the evening, it's real company to hear Shep
snore--as good as having a man in the house."

Although this did not seem at all a sensible remark to Elizabeth Ann,
who thought soberly to herself that she didn't see why snoring made a
dog as good as a man, still she was acute enough (for she was really
quite an intelligent little girl) to feel that it belonged in the same
class of remarks as one or two others she had noted as "queer" in the
talk at Putney Farm last night. This variety of talk was entirely new to
her, nobody in Aunt Harriet's conscientious household ever making
anything but plain statements of fact. It was one of the "queer Putney
ways" which Aunt Harriet had forgotten to mention. It is possible that
Aunt Harriet had never noticed it.

When Elizabeth Ann finished her breakfast, Cousin Ann made three
suggestions, using exactly the same accent for them all. She said:
"Wouldn't you better wash your dishes up now before they get sticky? And
don't you want one of those red apples from the dish on the side table?
And then maybe you'd like to look around the house so's to know where
you are." Elizabeth Ann had never washed a dish in all her life, and she
had always thought that nobody but poor, ignorant people, who couldn't
afford to hire girls, did such things. And yet (it was odd) she did not
feel like saying this to Cousin Ann, who stood there so straight in her
gingham dress and apron, with her clear, bright eyes and red cheeks.
Besides this feeling, Elizabeth Ann was overcome with embarrassment at
the idea of undertaking a new task in that casual way. How in the world
DID you wash dishes? She stood rooted to the spot, irresolute, horribly
shy, and looking, though she did not know it, very clouded and sullen.
Cousin Ann said briskly, holding an iron up to her cheek to see if it
was hot enough: "Just take them over to the sink there and hold them
under the hot-water faucet. They'll be clean in no time. The dish-towels
are those hanging on the rack over the stove."

Elizabeth Ann moved promptly over to the sink, as though Cousin Ann's
words had shoved her there, and before she knew it, her saucer, cup, and
spoon were clean and she was wiping them on a dry checked towel. "The
spoon goes in the side-table drawer with the other silver, and the
saucer and cup in those shelves there behind the glass doors where the
china belongs," continued Cousin Ann, thumping hard with her iron on a
napkin and not looking up at all, "and don't forget your apple as you go
out. Those Northern Spies are just getting to be good about now. When
they first come off the tree in October you could shoot them through an
oak plank."

Now Elizabeth Ann knew that this was a foolish thing to say, since of
course an apple never could go through a board; but something that had
always been sound asleep in her brain woke up a little, little bit and
opened one eye. For it occurred dimly to Elizabeth Ann that this was a
rather funny way of saying that Northern Spies were very hard when you
first pick them in the autumn. She had to figure it out for herself very
slowly, because it was a new idea to her, and she was half-way through
her tour of inspection of the house before there glimmered on her lips,
in a faint smile, the first recognition of humor in all her life. She
felt a momentary impulse to call down to Cousin Ann that she saw the
point, but before she had taken a single step toward the head of the
stairs she had decided not to do this. Cousin Ann, with her bright, dark
eyes, and her straight back, and her long arms, and her way of speaking
as though it never occurred to her that you wouldn't do just as she
said--Elizabeth Ann was not very sure that she liked Cousin Ann, and she
was very sure that she was afraid of her.

So she went on, walking from one room to another, industriously eating
the red apple, the biggest she had ever seen. It was the best, too, with
its crisp, white flesh and the delicious, sour-sweet juice which made
Elizabeth Ann feel with each mouthful like hurrying to take another. She
did not think much more of the other rooms in the house than she had of
the kitchen. There were no draped "throws" over anything; there were no
lace curtains at the windows, just dotted Swiss like the kitchen; all
the ceilings were very low; the furniture was all of dark wood and very
old-looking; what few rugs there were were of bright-colored rags; the
mirrors were queer and old, with funny old pictures at the top; there
wasn't a brass bed in any of the bedrooms, just old wooden ones with
posts, and curtains round the tops; and there was not a single plush
portiere in the parlor, whereas at Aunt Harriet's there had been two
sets for that one room.

She was relieved at the absence of a piano and secretly rejoiced that
she would not need to practice. In her heart she had not liked her music
lessons at all, but she had never dreamed of not accepting them from
Aunt Frances as she accepted everything else. Also she had liked to hear
Aunt Frances boast about how much better she could play than other
children of her age.

She was downstairs by this time, and, opening a door out of the parlor,
found herself back in the kitchen, the long line of sunny windows and
the bright flowers giving her that quick little thrill again. Cousin Ann
looked up from her ironing, nodded, and said: "All through? You'd better
come in and get warmed up. Those rooms get awfully cold these January
days. Winters we mostly use this room so's to get the good of the
kitchen stove." She added after a moment, during which Elizabeth Ann
stood by the stove, warming her hands: "There's one place you haven't
seen yet--the milk-room. Mother's down there now, churning. That's the
door--the middle one."

Elizabeth Ann had been wondering and wondering where in the world Aunt
Abigail was. So she stepped quickly to the door, and went dawn the cold
dark stairs she found there. At the bottom was a door, locked
apparently, for she could find no fastening. She heard steps inside, the
door was briskly cast open, and she almost fell into the arms of Aunt
Abigail, who caught her as she stumbled forward, saying: "Well, I've
been expectin' you down here for a long time. I never saw a little girl
yet who didn't like to watch butter-making. Don't you love to run the
butter-worker over it? I do, myself, for all I'm seventy-two!"

"I don't know anything about it," said Elizabeth Ann. "I don't know what
you make butter out of. We always bought ours."

"Well, FOR GOODNESS' SAKES!" said Aunt Abigail. She turned and called
across the room, "Henry, did you ever! Here's Betsy saying she don't
know what we make butter out of! She actually never saw anybody making

Uncle Henry was sitting down, near the window, turning the handle to a
small barrel swung between two uprights. He stopped for a moment and
considered Aunt Abigail's remark with the same serious attention he had
given to Elizabeth Ann's discovery about left and right. Then he began
to turn the churn over and over again and said, peaceably: "Well,
Mother, you never saw anybody laying asphalt pavement, I'll warrant you!
And I suppose Betsy knows all about that."

Elizabeth Ann's spirits rose. She felt very superior indeed. "Oh, yes,"
she assured them, "I know ALL about that! Didn't you ever see anybody
doing that? Why, I've seen them HUNDREDS of times! Every day as we went
to school they were doing over the whole pavement for blocks along

Aunt Abigail and Uncle Henry looked at her with interest, and Aunt
Abigail said: "Well, now, think of that! Tell us all about it!"

"Why, there's a big black sort of wagon," began Elizabeth Ann, "and they
run it up and down and pour out the black stuff on the road. And that's
all there is to it." She stopped, rather abruptly, looking uneasy. Uncle
Henry inquired: "Now there's one thing I've always wanted to know. How
do they keep that stuff from hardening on them? How do they keep it

The little girl looked blank. "Why, a fire, I suppose," she faltered,
searching her memory desperately and finding there only a dim
recollection of a red glow somewhere connected with the familiar scene
at which she had so often looked with unseeing eyes.

"Of course a fire," agreed Uncle Henry. "But what do they burn in it,
coke or coal or wood or charcoal? And how do they get any draft to keep
it going?"

Elizabeth Ann shook her head. "I never noticed," she said.

Aunt Abigail asked her now, "What do they do to the road before they
pour it on?"

"Do?" said Elizabeth Ann. "I didn't know they did anything."

"Well, they can't pour it right on a dirt road, can they?" asked Aunt
Abigail. "Don't they put down cracked stone or something?"

Elizabeth Ann looked down at her toes. "I never noticed," she said.

"I wonder how long it takes for it to harden?" said Uncle Henry.

"I never noticed," said Elizabeth Ann, in a small voice.

Uncle Henry said, "Oh!" and stopped asking questions. Aunt Abigail
turned away and put a stick of wood in the stove. Elizabeth Ann did not
feel very superior now, and when Aunt Abigail said, "Now the butter's
beginning to come. Don't you want to watch and see everything I do, so's
you can answer if anybody asks you how butter is made?" Elizabeth Ann
understood perfectly what was in Aunt's Abigail's mind, and gave to the
process of butter-making a more alert and aroused attention than she had
ever before given to anything. It was so interesting, too, that in no
time she forgot why she was watching, and was absorbed in the
fascinations of the dairy for their own sake.

She looked in the churn as Aunt Abigail unscrewed the top, and saw the
thick, sour cream separating into buttermilk and tiny golden particles.
"It's gathering," said Aunt Abigail, screwing the lid back on.
"Father'll churn it a little more till it really comes. And you and I
will scald the wooden butter things and get everything ready. You'd
better take that apron there to keep your dress clean."

Wouldn't Aunt Frances have been astonished if she could have looked in
on Elizabeth Ann that very first morning of her stay at the hateful
Putney Farm and have seen her wrapped in a gingham apron, her face
bright with interest, trotting here and there in the stone-floored
milk-room! She was allowed the excitement of pulling out the plug from
the bottom of the churn, and dodged back hastily to escape the gush of
buttermilk spouting into the pail held by Aunt Abigail. And she poured
the water in to wash the butter, and screwed on the top herself, and,
again all herself (for Uncle Henry had gone off as soon as the butter
had "come"), swung the barrel back and forth six or seven times to swish
the water all through the particles of butter. She even helped Aunt
Abigail scoop out the great yellow lumps--her imagination had never
conceived of so much butter in all the world! Then Aunt Abigail let her
run the curiously shaped wooden butter-worker back and forth over the
butter, squeezing out the water, and then pile it up again with her
wooden paddle into a mound of gold. She weighed out the salt needed on
the scales, and was very much surprised to find that there really is
such a thing as an ounce. She had never met it before outside the pages
of her arithmetic book and she didn't know it lived anywhere else.

After the salt was worked in she watched Aunt Abigail's deft, wrinkled
old hands make pats and rolls. It looked like the greatest fun, and too
easy for anything; and when Aunt Abigail asked her if she wouldn't like
to make up the last half-pound into a pat for dinner, she took up the
wooden paddle confidently. And then she got one of the surprises that
Putney Farm seemed to have for her. She discovered that her hands didn't
seem to belong to her at all, that her fingers were all thumbs, that she
didn't seem to know in the least beforehand how hard a stroke she was
going to give nor which way her fingers were going to go. It was, as a
matter of fact, the first time Elizabeth Ann had tried to do anything
with her hands except to write and figure and play on the piano, and
naturally she wasn't very well acquainted with them. She stopped in
dismay, looking at the shapeless, battered heap of butter before her and
holding out her hands as though they were not part of her.

Aunt Abigail laughed, took up the paddle, and after three or four passes
the butter was a smooth, yellow ball. "Well, that brings it all back to
me!" she said? "when _I_ was a little girl, when my grandmother first
let me try to make a pat. I was about five years old--my! what a mess I
made of it! And I remember? doesn't it seem funny--that SHE laughed and
said her Great-aunt Elmira had taught her how to handle butter right
here in this very milk-room. Let's see, Grandmother was born the year
the Declaration of Independence was signed. That's quite a while ago,
isn't it? But butter hasn't changed much, I guess, nor little girls

Elizabeth Ann listened to this statement with a very queer, startled
expression on her face, as though she hadn't understood the words. Now
for a moment she stood staring up in Aunt Abigail's face, and yet not
seeing her at all, because she was thinking so hard. She was thinking!
"Why! There were real people living when the Declaration of Independence
was signed--real people, not just history people--old women teaching
little girls how to do things--right in this very room, on this very
floor--and the Declaration of Independence just signed!"

To tell the honest truth, although she had passed a very good
examination in the little book on American history they had studied in
school, Elizabeth Ann had never to that moment had any notion that there
ever had been really and truly any Declaration of Independence at all.
It had been like the ounce, living exclusively inside her schoolbooks
for little girls to be examined about. And now here Aunt Abigail,
talking about a butter-pat, had brought it to life!

Of course all this only lasted a moment, because it was such a new idea!
She soon lost track of what she was thinking of; she rubbed her eyes as
though she were coming out of a dream, she thought, confusedly: "What
did butter have to do with the Declaration of Independence? Nothing, of
course! It couldn't!" and the whole impression seemed to pass out of her
mind. But it was an impression which was to come again and again during
the next few months.



Elizabeth Ann was very much surprised to hear Cousin Ann's voice
calling, "Dinner!" down the stairs. It did not seem possible that the
whole morning had gone by. "Here," said Aunt Abigail, "just put that pat
on a plate, will you, and take it upstairs as you go. I've got all I can
do to haul my own two hundred pounds up, without any half-pound of
butter into the bargain." The little girl smiled at this, though she did
not exactly know why, and skipped up the stairs proudly with her butter.

Dinner was smoking on the table, which was set in the midst of the great
pool of sunlight. A very large black-and-white dog, with a great bushy
tail, was walking around and around the table, sniffing the air. He
looked as big as a bear to Elizabeth Ann; and as he walked his great red
tongue hung out of his mouth and his white teeth gleamed horribly.
Elizabeth Ann shrank back in terror, clutching her plate of butter to
her breast with tense fingers. Cousin. Ann said, over her shoulder: "Oh,
bother! There's old Shep, got up to pester us begging for scraps! Shep!
You go and lie down this minute!" To Elizabeth Ann's astonishment and
immense relief, the great animal turned, drooping his head sadly, walked
back across the floor, got upon the couch again, and laid his head down
on one paw very forlornly, turning up the whites of his eyes meekly at
Cousin Ann.

Aunt Abigail, who had just pulled herself up the stairs, panting, said,
between laughing and puffing: "I'm glad I'm not an animal on this farm.
Ann does boss them around so." "Well, SOMEbody has to!" said Cousin Ann,
advancing on the table with a platter. This proved to have chicken
fricassee on it, and Elizabeth Ann's heart melted in her at the smell.
She loved chicken gravy on hot biscuits beyond anything in the world,
but chickens are so expensive when you buy them in the market that Aunt
Harriet hadn't had them very often for dinner. And there was a plate of
biscuits, golden brown, just coming out of the oven! She sat down very
quickly, her mouth watering, and attacked with extreme haste the big
plateful of food which Cousin Ann passed her.

At Aunt Harriet's she had always been aware that everybody watched her
anxiously as she ate, and she had heard so much about her light appetite
that she felt she must live up to her reputation, and had a very natural
and human hesitation about eating all she wanted when there happened to
be something she liked very much. But nobody here knew that she "only
ate enough to keep a bird alive," and that her "appetite was SO
capricious!" Nor did anybody notice her while she stowed away the
chicken and gravy and hot biscuits and currant jelly and baked potatoes
and apple pie--when did Elizabeth Ann ever eat such a meal before! She
actually felt her belt grow tight.

In the middle of the meal Cousin Ann got up to answer the telephone,
which was in the next room. The instant the door had closed behind her
Uncle Henry leaned forward, tapped Elizabeth Ann on the shoulder, and
nodded toward the sofa. His eyes were twinkling, and as for Aunt Abigail
she began to laugh silently, shaking all over, her napkin at her mouth
to stifle the sound. Elizabeth Ann turned wonderingly and saw the old
dog cautiously and noiselessly letting himself down from the sofa, one
ear cocked rigidly in the direction of Cousin Ann's voice in the next
room. "The old tyke!" said Uncle Henry. "He always sneaks up to the
table to be fed if Ann goes out for a minute. Here, Betsy, you're
nearest, give him this piece of skin from the chicken neck." The big dog
padded forward across the room, evidently in such a state of terror
about Cousin Ann that Elizabeth Ann felt for him. She had a
fellow-feeling about that relative of hers. Also it was impossible to be
afraid of so abjectly meek and guilty an animal. As old Shep came up to
her, poking his nose inquiringly on her lap, she shrinkingly held out
the big piece of skin, and though she jumped back at the sudden snap and
gobbling gulp with which the old dog greeted the tidbit, she could not
but sympathize with his evident enjoyment of it. He waved his bushy tail
gratefully, cocked his head on one side, and, his ears standing up at
attention, his eyes glistening greedily, he gave a little, begging
whine. "Oh, he's asking for more!" cried Elizabeth Ann, surprised to see
how plainly she could understand dog-talk. "Quick, Uncle Henry, give me
another piece!"

Uncle Henry rapidly transferred to her plate a wing-bone from his own,
and Aunt Abigail, with one deft swoop, contributed the neck from the
platter. As fast as she could, Elizabeth Ann fed these to Shep, who
woofed them down at top speed, the bones crunching loudly under his
strong, white teeth. How he did enjoy it! It did your heart good to see
his gusto!

[Illustration: "Oh, he's asking for more'" cried Elizabeth Ann]

There was the sound of the telephone receiver being hung up in the next
room--and everybody acted at once. Aunt Abigail began drinking
innocently out of her coffee-cup, only her laughing old eyes showing
over the rim; Uncle Henry buttered a slice of bread with a grave face,
as though he were deep in conjectures about who would be the next
President; and as for old Shep, he made one plunge across the room, his
toe-nails clicking rapidly on the bare floor, sprang up on the couch,
and when Cousin Ann opened the door and came in he was lying in exactly
the position in which she had left him, his paw stretched out, his head
laid on it, his brown eyes turned up meekly so that the whites showed.

I've told you what these three did, but I haven't told you yet what
Elizabeth Ann did. And it is worth telling. As Cousin Ann stepped in,
glancing suspiciously from her sober-faced and abstracted parents to the
lamb-like innocence of old Shep, little Elizabeth Ann burst into a shout
of laughter. It's worth telling about, because, so far as I know, that
was the first time she had ever laughed out heartily in all her life.
For my part, I'm half surprised to know that she knew how.

Of course, when she laughed, Aunt Abigail had to laugh too, setting down
her coffee-cup and showing all the funny wrinkles in her face screwed up
hard with fun; and that made Uncle Henry laugh, and then Cousin Ann
laughed and said, as she sat down, "You are bad children, the whole four
of you!" And old Shep, seeing the state of things, stopped pretending to
be meek, jumped down, and came lumbering over to the table, wagging his
tail and laughing too; you know that good, wide dog-smile! He put his
head on Elizabeth Ann's lap again and she patted it and lifted up one of
his big black ears. She had quite forgotten that she was terribly afraid
of big dogs.

After dinner Cousin Ann looked up at the clock and said: "My goodness!
Betsy'll be late for school if she doesn't start right off." She
explained to the child, aghast at this sudden thunderclap, "I let you
sleep this morning as long as you wanted to, because you were so tired
from your journey. But of course there's no reason for missing the
afternoon session."

As Elizabeth Ann continued sitting perfectly still, frozen with alarm,
Cousin Ann jumped up briskly, got the little coat and cap, helped her
up, and began inserting the child's arms into the sleeves. She pulled
the cap well down over Elizabeth Ann's ears, felt in the pocket and
pulled out the mittens. "There," she said, holding them out, "you'd
better put them on before you go out, for it's a real cold day." As she
led the stupefied little girl along toward the door Aunt Abigail came
after them and put a big sugar-cookie into the child's hand. "Maybe
you'll like to eat that for your recess time," she said. "I always did
when I went to school."

Elizabeth Ann's hand closed automatically about the cookie, but she
scarcely heard what was said. She felt herself to be in a bad dream.
Aunt Frances had never, no NEVER, let her go to school alone, and on the
first day of the year always took her to the new teacher and introduced
her and told the teacher how sensitive she was and how hard to
understand; and then she stayed there for an hour or two till Elizabeth
Ann got used to things! She could not face a whole new school all
alone--oh, she couldn't, she wouldn't! She couldn't! Horrors! Here she
was in the front hall--she was on the porch! Cousin Ann was saying: "Now
run along, child. Straight down the road till the first turn to the
left, and there in the cross-roads, there you are." And now the front
door closed behind her, the path stretched before her to the road, and
the road led down the hill the way Cousin Ann had pointed. Elizabeth
Ann's feet began to move forward and carried her down the path, although
she was still crying out to herself, "I can't! I won't! I can't!"

Are you wondering why Elizabeth Ann didn't turn right around, open the
front door, walk in, and say, "I can't! I won't! I can't!" to Cousin

The answer to that question is that she didn't do it because Cousin Ann
was Cousin Ann. And there's more in that than you think! In fact, there
is a mystery in it that nobody has ever solved, not even the greatest
scientists and philosophers, although, like all scientists and
philosophers, they think they have gone a long way toward explaining
something they don't understand by calling it a long name. The long name
is "personality," and what it means nobody knows, but it is perhaps the
very most important thing in the world for all that. And yet we know
only one or two things about it. We know that anybody's personality is
made up of the sum total of all the actions and thoughts and desires of
his life. And we know that though there aren't any words or any figures
in any language to set down that sum total accurately, still it is one
of the first things that everybody knows about anybody else. And that is
really all we know!

So I can't tell you why Elizabeth Ann did not go back and cry and sob
and say she couldn't and she wouldn't and she couldn't, as she would
certainly have done at Aunt Harriet's. You remember that I could not
even tell you why it was that, as the little fatherless and motherless
girl lay in bed looking at Aunt Abigail's old face, she should feel so
comforted and protected that she must needs break out crying. No, all I
can say is that it was because Aunt Abigail was Aunt Abigail. But
perhaps it may occur to you that it's rather a good idea to keep a sharp
eye on your "personality," whatever that is! It might be very handy, you
know, to have a personality like Cousin Ann's which sent Elizabeth Ann's
feet down the path; or perhaps you would prefer one like Aunt Abigail's.
Well, take your choice.

You must not, of course, think for a moment that Elizabeth Ann had the
slightest INTENTION of obeying Cousin Ann. No indeed! Nothing was
farther from her mind as her feet carried her along the path and into
the road. In her mind was nothing but rebellion and fear and anger and
oh, such hurt feelings! She turned sick at the very thought of facing
all the staring, curious faces in the playground turned on the new
scholar as she had seen them at home! She would never, never do it! She
would walk around all the afternoon, and then go back and tell Cousin
Ann that she couldn't! She would EXPLAIN to her how Aunt Frances never
let her go out of doors without a loving hand to cling to. She would
EXPLAIN to her how Aunt Frances always took care of her! ... it was easier
to think about what she would say and do and explain, away from Cousin
Ann, than it was to say and do it before those black eyes. Aunt
Frances's eyes were soft, light blue.

Oh, how she wanted Aunt Frances to take care of her! Nobody cared a
thing about her! Nobody UNDERSTOOD her but Aunt Frances! She wouldn't go
back at all to Putney Farm. She would just walk on and on till she was
lost, and the night would come and she would lie down and freeze to
death, and then wouldn't Cousin Ann feel ...  Someone called to her,
"Isn't this Betsy?"

She looked up astonished. A young girl in a gingham dress and a white
apron like those at Putney Farm stood in front of a tiny, square
building, like a toy house. "Isn't this Betsy?" asked the young girl
again. "Your Cousin Ann said you were coming to school today and I've
been looking out for you. But I saw you going right by, and I ran out to
stop you."

"Why, where IS the school?" asked Betsy, staring around for a big brick,
four-story building.

The young girl laughed and held out her hand. "This is the school," she
said, "and I am the teacher, and you'd better come right in, for it's
time to begin."

She led Betsy into a low-ceilinged room with geraniums at the windows,
where about a dozen children of different ages sat behind their desks.
At the first sight of them Betsy blushed crimson with fright and
shyness, and hung down her head; but, looking out the corners of her
eyes, she saw that they, too, were all very red-faced and scared-looking
and hung down their heads, looking at her shyly out of the corners of
their eyes. She was so surprised by this that she forgot all about
herself and looked inquiringly at the teacher.

"They don't see many strangers," the teacher explained, "and they feel
very shy and scared when a new scholar comes, especially one from the

"Is this my grade?" asked Elizabeth, thinking it the very smallest grade
she had ever seen.

"This is the whole school," said the teacher. "There are only two or
three in each class. You'll probably have three in yours. Miss Ann said
you were in the third grade. There, that's your seat."

Elizabeth sat down before a very old desk, much battered and hacked up
with knife marks. There was a big H. P. carved just over the inkwell,
and many other initials scattered all over the top.

The teacher stepped back to her desk and took up a violin that lay
there. "Now, children, we'll begin the afternoon session by singing
'America,'" she said. She played the air over a little very sweetly and
stirringly, and then as the children stood up she came down close to
them, standing just in front of Betsy. She drew the bow across the
strings in a big chord, and said, "NOW," and Betsy burst into song with
the others. The sun came in the windows brightly, the teacher, too, sang
as she played, and all the children, even the littlest ones, opened
their mouths wide and sang lustily.



After the singing the teacher gave Elizabeth Ann a pile of schoolbooks,
some paper, some pencils, and a pen, and told her to set her desk in
order. There were more initials carved inside, another big H. P. with a
little A. P. under it. What a lot of children must have sat there,
thought the little girl as she arranged her books and papers. As she
shut down the lid the teacher finished giving some instructions to three
or four little ones and said, "Betsy and Ralph and Ellen, bring your
reading books up here."

Betsy sighed, took out her third-grade reader, and went with the other
two up to the battered old bench near the teacher's desk. She knew all
about reading lessons and she hated them, although she loved to read.
But reading lessons...! You sat with your book open at some reading that
you could do with your eyes shut, it was so easy, and you waited and
waited and waited while your classmates slowly stumbled along, reading
aloud a sentence or two apiece, until your turn came to stand up and
read your sentence or two, which by that time sounded just like nonsense
because you'd read it over and over so many times to yourself before
your chance came. And often you didn't even have a chance to do that,
because the teacher didn't have time to get around to you at all, and
you closed your book and put it back in your desk without having opened
your mouth. Reading was one thing Elizabeth Ann had learned to do very
well indeed, but she had learned it all by herself at home from much
reading to herself. Aunt Frances had kept her well supplied with
children's books from the nearest public library. She often read three a
week--very different, that, from a sentence or two once or twice a week.

When she sat down on the battered old bench she almost laughed aloud, it
seemed so funny to be in a class of only three. There had been forty in
her grade in the big brick building. She sat in the middle, the little
girl whom the teacher had called Ellen on one side, and Ralph on the
other. Ellen was very pretty, with fair hair smoothly braided in two
little pig-tails, sweet, blue eyes, and a clean blue-and-white gingham
dress. Ralph had very black eyes, dark hair, a big bruise on his
forehead, a cut on his chin, and a tear in the knee of his short
trousers. He was much bigger than Ellen, and Elizabeth Ann thought he
looked rather fierce. She decided that she would be afraid of him, and
would not like him at all.

"Page thirty-two," said the teacher. "Ralph first."

Ralph stood up and began to read. It sounded very familiar to Elizabeth
Ann, for he did not read at all well. What was not familiar was that the
teacher did not stop him after the first sentence. He read on and on
till he had read a page, the teacher only helping him with the hardest

"Now Betsy," said the teacher.

Elizabeth Ann stood up, read the first sentence, and paused, like a
caged lion pausing when he comes to the end of his cage.

"Go on," said the teacher.

Elizabeth Ann read the next sentence and stopped again, automatically.

"Go ON," said the teacher, looking at her sharply.

The next time the little girl paused the teacher laughed out
good-naturedly. "What is the matter with you, Betsy?" she said. "Go on
till I tell you to stop."

So Elizabeth Ann, very much surprised but very much interested, read on,
sentence after sentence, till she forgot they were sentences and just
thought of what they meant. She read a whole page and then another page,
and that was the end of the selection. She had never read aloud so much
in her life. She was aware that everybody in the room had stopped
working to listen to her. She felt very proud and less afraid than she
had ever thought she could be in a schoolroom. When she finished,
"You read very well!" said the teacher. "Is this very easy for you?"

"Oh, YES!" said Elizabeth Ann.

"I guess, then, that you'd better not stay in this class," said the
teacher. She took a book out of her desk. "See if you can read that."

Elizabeth Ann began in her usual school-reading style, very slow and
monotonous, but this didn't seem like a "reader" at all. It was poetry,
full of hard words that were fun to try to pronounce, and it was all
about an old woman who would hang out an American flag, even though the
town was full of rebel soldiers. She read faster and faster, getting
more and more excited, till she broke out with "Halt!" in such a loud,
spirited voice that the sound of it startled her and made her stop,
fearing that she would be laughed at. But nobody laughed. They were all
listening, very eagerly, even the little ones, with their eyes turned
toward her.

"You might as well go on and let us see how it came out," said the
teacher, and Betsy finished triumphantly.

"WELL," said the teacher, "there's no sense in your reading along in the
third reader. After this you'll recite out of the seventh reader with
Frank and Harry and Stashie."

Elizabeth Ann could not believe her ears. To be "jumped" four grades in
that casual way! It wasn't possible! She at once thought, however, of
something that would prevent it entirely, and while Ellen was reading
her page in a slow, careful little voice, Elizabeth Ann was feeling
miserably that she must explain to the teacher why she couldn't read
with the seventh-grade children. Oh, how she wished she could! When they
stood up to go back to their seats she hesitated, hung her head, and
looked very unhappy. "Did you want to say something to me?" asked the
teacher, pausing with a bit of chalk in her hand.

The little girl went up to her desk and said, what she knew it was her
duty to confess: "I can't be allowed to read in the seventh reader. I
don't write a bit well, and I never get the mental number-work right. I
couldn't do ANYthing with seventh-grade arithmetic!"

The teacher looked a little blank and said: "_I_ didn't say anything
about your number-work! I don't KNOW anything about it! You haven't
recited yet." She turned away and began to write a list of words on the
board. "Betsy, Ralph, and Ellen study their spelling," she said. "You
little ones come up for your reading."

Two little boys and two little girls came forward as Elizabeth Ann began
to con over the words on the board. At first she found she was listening
to the little, chirping voices, as the children straggled with their
reading, instead of studying "doubt, travel, cheese," and the other
words in her lesson. But she put her hands over her ears, and her mind
on her spelling. She wanted to make a good impression with that lesson.
After a while, when she was sure she could spell them all correctly, she
began to listen and look around her. She always "got" her spelling in
less time than was allowed the class, and usually sat idle, looking out
of the window until that study period was over. But now the moment she
stopped staring at the board and moving her lips as she spelled to
herself the teacher said, just as though she had been watching her every
minute instead of conducting a class, "Betsy, have you learned your

"Yes, ma'am, I think so," said Elizabeth Ann, wondering very much why
she was asked.

"That's fine," said the teacher. "I wish you'd take little Molly over in
that corner and help her with her reading. She's getting on so much
better than the rest of the class that I hate to have her lose her time.
Just hear her read the rest of her little story, will you, and don't
help her unless she's really stuck."

Elizabeth Ann was startled by this request, which was unheard of in her
experience. She was very uncertain of herself as she sat down on a low
chair in the corner of the schoolroom away from the desks, with the
little child leaning on her knee. And yet she was not exactly afraid,
either, because Molly was such a shy little roly-poly thing, with her
crop of yellow curls, and her bright blue eyes very serious as she
looked hard at the book and began: "Once there was a rat. It was a fat
rat." No, it was impossible to be frightened of such a funny little
girl, who peered so earnestly into the older child's face to make sure
she was doing her lesson right.

Elizabeth Ann had never had anything to do with children younger than
herself, and she felt very pleased and important to have anybody look up
to HER! She put her arm around Molly's square, warm, fat little body and
gave her a squeeze. Molly snuggled up closer; and the two children put
their heads together over the printed page, Elizabeth Ann correcting
Molly very gently indeed when she made a mistake, and waiting patiently
when she hesitated. She had so fresh in her mind her own suffering from
quick, nervous corrections that she took the greatest pleasure in
speaking quietly and not interrupting the little girl more than was
necessary. It was fun to teach, LOTS of fun! She was surprised when the
teacher said, "Well, Betsy, how did Molly do?"

"Oh, is the time up?" said Elizabeth Ann. "Why, she does beautifully, I
think, for such a little thing."

"Do you suppose," said the teacher thoughtfully, just as though Betsy
were a grown-up person, "do you suppose she could go into the second
reader, with Eliza? There's no use keeping her in the first if she's
ready to go on."

Elizabeth Ann's head whirled with this second light-handed juggling with
the sacred distinction between the grades. In the big brick schoolhouse
nobody EVER went into another grade except at the beginning of a new
year, after you'd passed a lot of examinations. She had not known that
anybody could do anything else. The idea that everybody took a year to a
grade, no MATTER what! was so fixed in her mind that she felt as though
the teacher had said: "How would you like to stop being nine years old
and be twelve instead! And don't you think Molly would better be eight
instead of six?"

However, just then her class in arithmetic was called, so that she had
no more time to be puzzled. She came forward with Ralph and Ellen again,
very low in her mind. She hated arithmetic with all her might, and she
really didn't understand a thing about it! By long experience she had
learned to read her teachers' faces very accurately, and she guessed by
their expression whether the answer she gave was the right one. And that
was the only way she could tell. You never heard of any other child who
did that, did you?

They had mental arithmetic, of course (Elizabeth Ann thought it just her
luck!), and of course it was those hateful eights and sevens, and of
course right away poor Betsy got the one she hated most, 7x8. She never
knew that one! She said dispiritedly that it was 54, remembering vaguely
that it was somewhere in the fifties. Ralph burst out scornfully, "56!"
and the teacher, as if she wanted to take him down for showing off,
pounced on him with 9 x 8. He answered, without drawing breath, 72.
Elizabeth Ann shuddered at his accuracy. Ellen, too, rose to the
occasion when she got 6 x 7, which Elizabeth Ann could sometimes
remember and sometimes not. And then, oh horrors! It was her turn again!
Her turn had never before come more than twice during a mental
arithmetic lesson. She was so startled by the swiftness with which the
question went around that she balked on 6 x 6, which she knew perfectly.
And before she could recover Ralph had answered and had rattled out a
108 in answer to 9 x 12; and then Ellen slapped down an 84 on top of 7 x
12. Good gracious! Who could have guessed, from the way they read, they
could do their tables like this! She herself missed on 7 x 7 and was
ready to cry. After this the teacher didn't call on her at all, but
showered questions down on the other two, who sent the answers back with
sickening speed.

After the lesson the teacher said, smiling, "Well, Betsy, you were right
about your arithmetic. I guess you'd better recite with Eliza for a
while. She's doing second-grade work. I shouldn't be surprised if, after
a good review with her, you'd be able to go on with the third-grade

Elizabeth Ann fell back on the bench with her mouth open. She felt
really dizzy. What crazy things the teacher said! She felt as though she
was being pulled limb from limb.

"What's the matter?" asked the teacher, seeing her bewildered fact.

"Why--why," said Elizabeth Ann, "I don't know what I am at all. If I'm
second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-grade
spelling, what grade AM I?"

The teacher laughed at the turn of her phrase. "YOU aren't any grade at
all, no matter where you are in school. You're just yourself, aren't
you? What difference does it make what grade you're in! And what's the
use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you
don't know your multiplication table?"

"Well, for goodness' SAKES!" ejaculated Elizabeth Ann, feeling very much
as though somebody had stood her suddenly on her head.

"Why, what's the matter?" asked the teacher again.

This time Elizabeth Ann didn't answer, because she herself didn't know
what the matter was. But I do, and I'll tell you. The matter was that
never before had she known what she was doing in school. She had always
thought she was there to pass from one grade to another, and she was
ever so startled to get a little glimpse of the fact that she was there
to learn how to read and write and cipher and generally use her mind, so
she could take care of herself when she came to be grown up. Of course,
she didn't really know that till she did come to be grown up, but she
had her first dim notion of it in that moment, and it made her feel the
way you do when you're learning to skate and somebody pulls away the
chair you've been leaning on and says, "Now, go it alone!"

The teacher waited a minute, and then, when Elizabeth Ann didn't say
anything more, she rang a little bell. "Recess time," she said, and as
the children marched out and began putting on their wraps she followed
them into the cloak-room, pulled on a warm, red cap and a red sweater,
and ran outdoors herself. "Who's on my side!" she called, and the
children came darting out after her. Elizabeth Ann had dreaded the first
recess time with the strange children, but she had no time to feel shy,
for in a twinkling she was on one end of a long rope with a lot of her
schoolmates, pulling with all her might against the teacher and two of
the big boys. Nobody had looked at her curiously, nobody had said
anything to her beyond a loud, "Come on, Betsy!" from Ralph, who was at
the head on their side.

They pulled and they pulled, digging their feet into the ground and
bracing themselves against the rocks which stuck up out of the
playground. Sometimes the teacher's side yanked them along by quick
jerks, and then they'd all set their feet hard when Ralph shouted out,
"Now, ALL TOGETHER!" and they'd slowly drag the other side back. And all
the time everybody was shouting and yelling together with the
excitement. Betsy was screaming too, and when a wagon passing by stopped
and a big, broad-shouldered farmer jumped down laughing, put the end of
the rope over his shoulder, and just walked off with the whole lot of
them till he had pulled them clear off their feet, Elizabeth Ann found
herself rolling over and over with a breathless, squirming mass of
children, her shrill laughter rising even above the shouts of merriment
of the others. She laughed so she could hardly get up on her feet again,
it was such an unexpected ending to the contest.

The big farmer was laughing too. "You ain't so smart as you THINK you
are, are you!" he jeered at them good-naturedly. Then he started,
yelling "WHOA there!" to his horses, which had begun to walk on. He had
to run after them with all his might, and just climbed into the back of
the wagon and grabbed the reins the very moment they broke into a trot.
The children laughed, and Ralph shouted after him, "Hi, there, Uncle
Nate! Who's not so smart as he thinks he is, NOW!" He turned to the
little girls near him. "They 'most got away from him THAT time!" he
said. "He's awful foolish about leaving them standing while he's funning
or something. He thinks he's awful funny, anyhow. Some day they'll run
away on him and THEN where'll he be?"

Elizabeth Ann was thinking to herself that this was one of the queerest
things that had happened to her even in this queer place. Never, why
never once, had any grown-up, passing the playground of the big brick
building, DREAMED of such a thing as stopping for a minute to play. They
never even looked at the children, any more than if they were in another
world. In fact she had felt the school was in another world.

"Ralph, it's your turn to get the water," said the teacher, handing him
a pail. "Want to go along?" said Ralph gruffly to Ellen and Betsy. He
led the way and the little girls walked after him. Now that she was out
of a crowd Elizabeth Ann felt all her shyness come down on her like a
black cloud, drying up her mouth and turning her hands and feet cold as
ice. Into one of these cold hands she felt small, warm fingers slide.
She looked down and there was little Molly trotting by her side, turning
her blue eyes up trustfully. "Teacher says I can go with you if you'll
take care of me," she said. "She never lets us first-graders go without
somebody bigger to help us over the log."

As she spoke they came to a small, clear, swift brook, crossed by a big
white-birch log. Elizabeth Ann was horribly afraid to set foot on it,
but with little Molly's hand holding tightly to hers she was ashamed to
say she was afraid. Ralph skipped across, swinging the pail to show how
easy it was for him. Ellen followed more slowly, and then--oh, don't you
wish Aunt Frances could have been there!--Betsy shut her teeth together
hard, put Molly ahead of her, took her hand, and started across. As a
matter of fact Molly went along as sure-footed as a little goat, having
done it a hundred times, and it was she who steadied Elizabeth Ann. But
nobody knew this, Molly least of all.

Ralph took a drink out of a tin cup standing on a stump near by, dipped
the pail into a deep, clear pool, and started back to the school. Ellen
took a drink and offered the cup to Betsy, very shyly, without looking
up. After they had all three had a drink they stood there for a moment,
much embarrassed. Then Ellen said, in a very small voice, "Do you like
dolls with yellow hair the best?"

Now it happened that Elizabeth Ann had very positive convictions on this
point which she had never spoken of, because Aunt Frances didn't REALLY
care about dolls. She only pretended to, to be company for her little

"No, I DON'T!" answered the little girl emphatically. "I get just sick
and tired of always seeing them with that old, bright-yellow hair! I
like them to have brown hair, just the way most little girls really do!"

Ellen lifted her eyes and smiled radiantly. "Oh, so do I!" she said.
"And that lovely old doll your folks have has got brown hair. Will you
let me play with her some time?"

"My folks?" said Elizabeth Ann blankly.

"Why yes, your Aunt Abigail and your Uncle Henry."

"Have they got a DOLL?" said Betsy, thinking this was the very climax of
Putney queerness.

"Oh my, yes!" said Molly, eagerly. "She's the one Mrs. Putney had when
she was a little girl. And she's got the loveliest clothes! She's in the
hair-trunk under the eaves in the attic. They let me take her down once
when I was there with Mother. And Mother said she guessed, now a little
girl had come there to live, they'd let her have her down all the time.
I'll bring mine over next Saturday, if you want me to. Mine's got yellow
hair, but she's real pretty anyhow. If Father's going to mill that day,
he can leave me there for the morning."

[Illustration with caption: Betsy shut her teeth together hard, and
started across.]

Elizabeth Ann had not understood more than one word in five of this, but
just then the school-bell rang and they went back, little Molly helping
Elizabeth Ann over the log and thinking she was being helped, as before.

They ran along to the little building, and there I'm going to leave
them, because I think I've told enough about their school for ONE while.
It was only a poor, rough, little district school anyway, that no
Superintendent of Schools would have looked at for a minute, except to



Betsy opened the door and was greeted by her kitten, who ran to her,
purring and arching her back to be stroked.

"Well," said Aunt Abigail, looking up from the pan of apples in her lap,
"I suppose you're starved, aren't you? Get yourself a piece of bread and
butter, why don't you? and have one of these apples."

As the little girl sat down by her, munching fast on this provender, she
asked: "What desk did you get?"

Elizabeth Ann thought for a moment, cuddling Eleanor up to her face. "I
think it is the third from the front in the second row." She wondered
why Aunt Abigail cared. "Oh, I guess that's your Uncle Henry's desk.
It's the one his father had, too. Are there a couple of H. P.'s carved
on it?"

Betsy nodded.

"His father carved the H. P. on the lid, so Henry had to put his inside.
I remember the winter he put it there. It was the first season Mother
let me wear real hoop skirts. I sat in the first seat on the third row."

Betsy ate her apple more and more slowly, trying to take in what Aunt
Abigail had said. Uncle Henry and HIS FATHER--why Moses or Alexander the
Great didn't seem any further back in the mists of time to Elizabeth Ann
than did Uncle Henry's FATHER! And to think he had been a little boy,
right there at that desk! She stopped chewing altogether for a moment
and stared into space. Although she was only nine years old, she was
feeling a little of the same rapt wonder, the same astonished sense of
the reality of the people who have gone before, which make a first visit
to the Roman Forum such a thrilling event for grown-ups. That very desk!

After a moment she came to herself, and finding some apple still in her
mouth, went on chewing meditatively. "Aunt Abigail," she said, "how long
ago was that?"

"Let's see," said the old woman, peeling apples with wonderful rapidity.
"I was born in 1844. And I was six when I first went to school. That's
sixty-six years ago."

Elizabeth Ann, like all little girls of nine, had very little notion how
long sixty-six years might be. "Was George Washington alive then?" she

The wrinkles around Aunt Abigail's eyes deepened mirthfully, but she did
not laugh as she answered, "No, that was long after he died, but the
schoolhouse was there when he was alive."

"It WAS!" said Betsy, staring, with her teeth set deep in an apple.

"Yes, indeed. It was the first house in the valley built of sawed
lumber. You know, when our folks came up here, they had to build all
their houses of logs to begin with."

"They DID!" cried Betsy, with her mouth full of apple.

"Why yes, child, what else did you suppose they had to make houses out
of? They had to have something to live in, right off. The sawmills came

"I didn't know anything about it," said Betsy. "Tell me about it."

"Why you knew, didn't you--your Aunt Harriet must have told you--about
how our folks came up here from Connecticut in 1763, on horseback!
Connecticut was an old settled place then, compared to Vermont. There
wasn't anything here but trees and bears and wood-pigeons. I've heard
'em say that the wood-pigeons were so thick you could go out after dark
and club 'em out of the trees, just like hens roosting in a hen-house.
There always was cold pigeon-pie in the pantry, just the way we have
doughnuts. And they used bear-grease to grease their boots and their
hair, bears were so plenty. It sounds like good eating, don't it! But of
course that was just at first. It got quite settled up before long, and
by the time of the Revolution, bears were getting pretty scarce, and
soon the wood-pigeons were all gone."

"And the schoolhouse--that schoolhouse where I went today--was that
built THEN?" Elizabeth Ann found it hard to believe.

"Yes, it used to have a great big chimney and fireplace in it. It was
built long before stoves were invented, you know."

"Why, I thought stoves were ALWAYS invented!" cried Elizabeth Ann. This
was the most startling and interesting conversation she had ever taken
part in.

Aunt Abigail laughed. "Mercy, no, child! Why, _I_ can remember when only
folks that were pretty well off had stoves and real poor people still
cooked over a hearth fire. I always thought it a pity they tore down the
big chimney and fireplace out of the schoolhouse and put in that big,
ugly stove. But folks are so daft over new-fangled things. Well, anyhow,
they couldn't take away the sun-dial on the window-sill. You want to be
sure to look at that. It's on the sill of the middle window on the right
hand as you face the teacher's desk."

"Sun-dial," repeated Betsy. "What's that?"

"Why to tell the time by, when--"

"Why didn't they have a clock?" asked the child.

Aunt Abigail laughed. "Good gracious, there was only one clock in the
valley for years and years, and that belonged to the Wardons, the rich
people in the village. Everybody had sun-dials cut in their
window-sills. There's one on the window-sill of our pantry this minute.
Come on, I'll show it to you." She got up heavily with her pan of
apples, and trotted briskly, shaking the floor as she went, over to the
stove. "But first just watch me put these on to cook so you'll know
how." She set the pan on the stove, poured some water from the
tea-kettle over the apples, and put on a cover. "Now come on into the

They entered a sweet-smelling, spicy little room, all white paint, and
shelves which were loaded with dishes and boxes and bags and pans of
milk and jars of preserves.

"There!" said Aunt Abigail, opening the window. "That's not so good as
the one at school. This only tells when noon is."

Elizabeth Ann stared stupidly at the deep scratch on the window-sill.

"Don't you see?" said Aunt Abigail. "When the shadow got to that mark it
was noon. And the rest of the time you guessed by how far it was from
the mark. Let's see if I can come anywhere near it now." She looked at it
hard and said: "I guess it's half-past four." She glanced back into the
kitchen at the clock and said: "Oh pshaw! It's ten minutes past five!
Now my grandmother could have told that within five minutes, just by the
place of the shadow. I declare! Sometimes it seems to me that every time
a new piece of machinery comes into the door some of our wits fly out at
the window! Now I couldn't any more live without matches than I could
fly! And yet they all used to get along all right before they had
matches. Makes me feel foolish to think I'm not smart enough to get
along, if I WANTED to, without those little snips of pine and brimstone.
Here, Betsy, take a cooky. It's against my principles to let a child
leave the pantry without having a cooky. My! it does seem like living
again to have a young one around to stuff!"

Betsy took the cooky, but went on with the conversation by exclaiming,
"HOW could ANY-body get along without matches? You HAVE to have

Aunt Abigail didn't answer at first. They were back in the kitchen now.
She was looking at the clock again. "See here," she said; "it's time I
began getting supper ready. We divide up on the work. Ann gets the
dinner and I get the supper. And everybody gets his own breakfast. Which
would you rather do, help Ann with the dinner, or me with the supper?"

Elizabeth Ann had not had the slightest idea of helping anybody with any
meal, but, confronted unexpectedly with the alternative offered, she
made up her mind so quickly that she didn't want to help Cousin Ann, and
declared so loudly, "Oh, help YOU with the supper!" that her promptness
made her sound quite hearty and willing. "Well, that's fine," said Aunt
Abigail. "We'll set the table now. But first you would better look at
that apple sauce. I hear it walloping away as though it was boiling too
fast. Maybe you'd better push it back where it won't cook so fast. There
are the holders, on that hook."

Elizabeth Ann approached the stove with the holder in her hand and
horror in her heart. Nobody had ever dreamed of asking her to handle hot
things. She looked around dismally at Aunt Abigail, but the old woman
was standing with her back turned, doing something at the kitchen table.
Very gingerly the little girl took hold of the handle of the saucepan,
and very gingerly she shoved it to the back of the stove. And then she
stood still a moment to admire herself. She could do that as well as

"Why," said Aunt Abigail, as if remembering that Betsy had asked her a
question. "Any man could strike a spark from his flint and steel that he
had for his gun. And he'd keep striking it till it happened to fly out
in the right direction, and you'd catch it in some fluff where it would
start a smoulder, and you'd blow on it till you got a little flame, and
drop tiny bits of shaved-up dry pine in it, and so, little by little,
you'd build your fire up."

"But it must have taken forEVER to do that!"

"Oh, you didn't have to do that more than once in ever so long," said
Aunt Abigail, briskly. She interrupted her story to say: "Now you put
the silver around, while I cream the potatoes. It's in that drawer--a
knife, a fork, and two spoons for each place--and the plates and cups
are up there behind the glass doors. We're going to have hot cocoa again
tonight." And as the little girl, hypnotized by the other's casual,
offhand way of issuing instructions, began to fumble with the knives and
forks she went on: "Why, you'd start your fire that way, and then you'd
never let it go out. Everybody that amounted to anything knew how to
bank the hearth fire with ashes at night so it would be sure to last.
And the first thing in the morning, you got down on your knees and poked
the ashes away very carefully till you got to the hot coals. Then you'd
blow with the bellows and drop in pieces of dry pine--don't forget the
water-glasses--and you'd blow gently till they flared up and the
shavings caught, and there your fire would be kindled again. The napkins
are in the second drawer."

Betsy went on setting the table, deep in thought, reconstructing the old
life. As she put the napkins around she said, "But SOMETIMES it must
have gone out ..."

"Yes," said Aunt Abigail, "sometimes it went out, and then one of the
children was sent over to the nearest neighbor to borrow some fire. He'd
take a covered iron pan fastened on to a long hickory stick, and go
through the woods--everything was woods then--to the next house and wait
till they had their fire going and could spare him a pan full of coals;
and then--don't forget the salt and pepper--he would leg it home as fast
as he could streak it, to get there before the coals went out. Say,
Betsy, I think that apple sauce is ready to be sweetened. You do it,
will you? I've got my hands in the biscuit dough. The sugar's in the
left-hand drawer in the kitchen cabinet."

"Oh, MY!" cried Betsy, dismayed. "_I_ don't know how to cook!"

Aunt Abigail laughed and put back a strand of curly white hair with the
back of her floury hand. "You know how to stir sugar into your cup of
cocoa, don't you?"

"But how MUCH shall I put in?" asked Elizabeth Ann, clamoring for exact
instruction so she wouldn't need to do any thinking for herself.

"Oh, till it tastes right," said Aunt Abigail, carelessly. "Fix it to
suit yourself, and I guess the rest of us will like it. Take that big
spoon to stir it with."

Elizabeth Ann took off the lid and began stirring in sugar, a
teaspoonful at a time, but she soon saw that that made no impression.
She poured in a cupful, stirred it vigorously, and tasted it. Better,
but not quite enough. She put in a tablespoonful more and tasted it,
staring off into space under bended brows as she concentrated her
attention on the taste. It was quite a responsibility to prepare the
apple sauce for a family. It was ever so good, too. But maybe a LITTLE
more sugar. She put in a teaspoonful and decided it was just exactly

"Done?" asked Aunt Abigail. "Take it off, then, and pour it out in that
big yellow bowl, and put it on the table in front of your place. You've
made it; you ought to serve it."

"It isn't done, is it?" asked Betsy. "That isn't all you do to make
apple sauce!"

"What else could you do?" asked Aunt Abigail.

"Well...!" said Elizabeth Ann, very much surprised. "I didn't know it
was so easy to cook!"

"Easiest thing in the world," said Aunt Abigail gravely, with the merry
wrinkles around her merry old eyes all creased up with silent fun.

When Uncle Henry came in from the barn, with old Shep at his heels, and
Cousin Ann came down from upstairs, where her sewing-machine had been
humming like a big bee, they were both duly impressed when told that
Betsy had set the table and made the apple sauce. They pronounced it
very good apple sauce indeed, and each sent his saucer back to the
little girl for a second helping. She herself ate three saucerfuls. Her
own private opinion was that it was the very best apple sauce ever made.

After supper was over and the dishes washed and wiped, Betsy helping
with the putting-away, the four gathered around the big lamp on the
table with the red cover. Cousin Ann was making some buttonholes in the
shirt-waist she had constructed that afternoon, Aunt Abigail was darning
socks, and Uncle Henry was mending a piece of harness. Shep lay on the
couch and snored until he got so noisy they couldn't stand it, and
Cousin Ann poked him in the ribs and he woke up snorting and gurgling
and looking around very sheepishly. Every time this happened it made
Betsy laugh. She held Eleanor, who didn't snore at all, but made the
prettiest little tea-kettle-singing purr deep in her throat, and opened
and sheathed her needle-like claws in Betsy's dress.

"Well, how'd you get on at school?" asked Uncle Henry.

"I've got your desk," said Elizabeth Ann, looking at him curiously, at
his gray hair and wrinkled, weather-beaten face, and trying to think
what he must have looked like when he was a little boy like Ralph.

"So?" said Uncle Henry. "Well, let me tell you that's a mighty good
desk! Did you notice the deep groove in the top of it?"

Betsy nodded. She had wondered what that was used for.

"Well, that was the lead-pencil desk in the old days. When they couldn't
run down to the store to buy things, because there wasn't any store to
run to, how do you suppose they got their lead-pencils!" Elizabeth Ann
shook her head, incapable even of a guess. She had never thought before
but that lead-pencils grew in glass show-cases in stores.

"Well, sir," said Uncle Henry, "I'll tell you. They took a piece off the
lump of lead they made their bullets of, melted it over the fire in the
hearth down at the schoolhouse till it would run like water, and poured
it in that groove. When it cooled off, there was a long streak of solid
lead, about as big as one of our lead-pencils nowadays. They'd break
that up in shorter lengths, and there you'd have your lead-pencils, made
while you wait. Oh, I tell you in the old days folks knew how to take
care of themselves more than now."

"Why, weren't there any stores?" asked Elizabeth Ann. She could not
imagine living without buying things at stores.

"Where'd they get the things to put in a store in those days?" asked
Uncle Henry, argumentatively. "Every single thing had to be lugged clear
from Albany or from Connecticut on horseback."

"Why didn't they use wagons?" asked Elizabeth Ann.

"You can't run a wagon unless you've got a road to run it on, can you?"
asked Uncle Henry. "It was a long, long time before they had any roads.
It's an awful chore to make roads in a new country all woods and hills
and swamps and rocks. You were lucky if there was a good path from your
house to the next settlement."

"Now, Henry," said Aunt Abigail, "do stop going on about old times long
enough to let Betsy answer the question you asked her. You haven't given
her a chance to say how she got on at school."

"Well, I'm AWFULLY mixed up!" said Betsy, complainingly. "I don't know
what I am! I'm second-grade arithmetic and third-grade spelling and
seventh-grade reading and I don't know what in writing or composition.
We didn't have those."

Nobody seemed to think this very remarkable, or even very interesting.
Uncle Henry, indeed, noted it only to say, "Seventh-grade reading!" He
turned to Aunt Abigail. "Oh, Mother, don't you suppose she could read
aloud to us evenings?"

Aunt Abigail and Cousin Ann both laid down their sewing to laugh! "Yes,
yes, Father, and play checkers with you too, like as not!" They
explained to Betsy: "Your Uncle Henry is just daft on being read aloud
to when he's got something to do in the evening, and when he hasn't he's
as fidgety as a broody hen if he can't play checkers. Ann hates checkers
and I haven't got the time, often."

"Oh, I LOVE to play checkers!" said Betsy.

"Well, NOW ..." said Uncle Henry, rising instantly and dropping his
half-mended harness on the table. "Let's have a game."

"Oh, Father!" said Cousin Ann, in the tone she used for Shep. "How about
that piece of breeching! You know that's not safe. Why don't you finish
that up first?"

Uncle Henry sat down again, looking as Shep did when Cousin Ann told him
to get up on the couch, and took up his needle and awl.

"But I could read something aloud," said Betsy, feeling very sorry for
him. "At least I think I could. I never did, except at school."

"What shall we have, Mother?" asked Uncle Henry eagerly.

"Oh, I don't know. What have we got in this bookcase?" said Aunt
Abigail. "It's pretty cold to go into the parlor to the other one." She
leaned forward, ran her fat fore-finger over the worn old volumes, and
took out a battered, blue-covered book. "Scott?"

"Gosh, yes!" said Uncle Henry, his eyes shining. "The staggit eve!"

At least that was the way it sounded to Betsy, but when she took the
book and looked where Aunt Abigail pointed she read it correctly, though
in a timid, uncertain voice. She was very proud to think she could
please a grown-up so much as she was evidently pleasing Uncle Henry, but
the idea of reading aloud for people to hear, not for a teacher to
correct, was unheard-of.

   The Stag at eve had drunk his fill
   Where danced the moon on Monan's rill,

she began, and it was as though she had stepped into a boat and was
swept off by a strong current. She did not know what all the words
meant, and she could not pronounce a good many of the names, but nobody
interrupted to correct her, and she read on and on, steadied by the
strongly-marked rhythm, drawn forward swiftly from one clanging,
sonorous rhyme to another. Uncle Henry nodded his head in time to the
rise and fall of her voice and now and then stopped his work to look at
her with bright, eager, old eyes. He knew some of the places by heart
evidently, for once in a while his voice would join the little girl's
for a couplet or two. They chanted together thus:

   A moment listened to the cry
   That thickened as the chase drew nigh,
   Then, as the headmost foes appeared,
   With one brave bound, the copse he cleared.

At the last line Uncle Henry flung his arm out wide, and the child felt
as though the deer had made his great leap there, before her eyes.

"I've seen 'em jump just like that," broke in Uncle Henry. "A
two-three-hundred-pound stag go up over a four-foot fence just like a
piece of thistledown in the wind."

"Uncle Henry," asked Elizabeth Ann, "what is a copse?"

"I don't know," said Uncle Henry indifferently. "Something in the woods,
must be. Underbrush most likely. You can always tell words you don't
know by the sense of the whole thing. Go on."

   And stretching forward, free and far,

The child's voice took up the chant again. She read faster and faster as
it got more exciting. Uncle Henry joined in on

   For, jaded now and spent with toil,
   Embossed with foam and dark with soil,
   While every gasp with sobs he drew,
   The laboring stag strained full in view.

The little girl's heart beat fast. She fled along through the next
lines, stumbling desperately over the hard words but seeing the headlong
chase through them clearly as through tree-trunks in a forest. Uncle
Henry broke in in a triumphant shout:

   The wily quarry shunned the shock
   And TURNED him from the opposing rock;
   Then dashing down a darksome glen,
   Soon lost to hound and hunter's ken,
   In the deep Trossach's wildest nook
   His solitary refuge took.

"Oh MY!" cried Elizabeth Ann, laying down the book. "He got away, didn't
he? I was so afraid he wouldn't!"

"I can just hear those dogs yelping, can't you?" said Uncle Henry.

   Yelled on the view the opening pack.

"Sometimes you hear 'em that way up on the slope of Hemlock Mountain
back of us, when they get to running a deer."

"What say we have some pop-corn!" suggested Aunt Abigail. "Betsy, don't
you want to pop us some?"

"I never DID," said the little girl, but in a less doubtful tone than
she had ever used with that phrase so familiar to her. A dim notion was
growing up in her mind that the fact that she had never done a thing was
no proof that she couldn't.

"I'll show you," said Uncle Henry. He reached down a couple of ears from
a big yellow cluster hanging on the wall, and he and Betsy shelled them
into the popper, popped it full of snowy kernels, buttered it, salted
it, and took it back to the table.

It was just as she was eating her first ambrosial mouthful that the door
opened and a fur-capped head was thrust in. A man's voice said:
"Evenin', folks. No, I can't stay. I was down at the village just now,
and thought I'd ask for any mail down our way." He tossed a newspaper
and a letter on the table and was gone.

The letter was addressed to Elizabeth Ann and it was from Aunt Frances.
She read it to herself while Uncle Henry read the newspaper. Aunt
Frances wrote that she had been perfectly horrified to learn that Cousin
Molly had not kept Elizabeth Ann with her, and that she would never
forgive her for that cruelty. And when she thought that her darling was
at Putney Farm...! Her blood ran cold. It positively did! It was too
dreadful. But it couldn't be helped, for a time anyhow, because Aunt
Harriet was really VERY sick. Elizabeth Ann would have to be a dear,
brave child and endure it as best she could. And as soon ... oh, as soon
as ever she COULD, Aunt Frances would come and take her away from them.
"Don't cry TOO much, darling ... it breaks my heart to think of you there!
TRY to be cheerful, dearest! TRY to bear it for the sake of your
distracted, loving Aunt Frances."

Elizabeth Ann looked up from this letter and across the table at Aunt
Abigail's rosy, wrinkled old face, bent over her darning. Uncle Henry
laid the paper down, took a big mouthful of pop-corn, and beat time
silently with his hand. When he could speak he murmured: An hundred dogs
bayed deep and strong, Clattered an hundred steeds along.

Old Shep woke up with a snort and Aunt Abigail fed him a handful of
pop-corn. Little Eleanor stirred in her sleep, stretched, yawned, and
nestled down into a ball again on the little girl's lap. Betsy could
feel in her own body the rhythmic vibration of the kitten's contented

Aunt Abigail looked up: "Finished your letter? I hope Harriet is no
worse. What does Frances say?"

Elizabeth Ann blushed a deep red and crushed the letter together in her
hand. She felt ashamed and she did not know why. "Aunt Frances
says, ... Aunt Frances says,  ..." she began, hesitating. "She says Aunt
Harriet is still pretty sick." She stopped, drew a long breath, and went
on, "And she sends her love to you."

Now Aunt Frances hadn't done anything of the kind, so this was a really
whopping fib. But Elizabeth Ann didn't care if it was. It made her feel
less ashamed, though she did not know why. She took another mouthful of
pop-corn and stroked Eleanor's back. Uncle Henry got up and stretched.
"It's time to go to bed, folks," he said. As he wound the clock Betsy
heard him murmuring:

     But when the sun his beacon red....



I wonder if you can guess the name of a little girl who, about a month
after this, was walking along through the melting snow in the woods with
a big black dog running circles around her. Yes, all alone in the woods
with a terrible great dog beside her, and yet not a bit afraid. You
don't suppose it could be Elizabeth Ann? Well, whoever she was, she had
something on her mind, for she walked more and more slowly and had only
a very absent-minded pat for the dog's head when he thrust it up for a
caress. When the wood road led into a clearing in which there was a
rough little house of slabs, the child stopped altogether, and, looking
down, began nervously to draw lines in the snow with her overshoe.

You see, something perfectly dreadful had happened in school that day.
The Superintendent, the all-important, seldom-seen Superintendent, came
to visit the school and the children were given some examinations so he
could see how they were getting on.

Now, you know what an examination did to Elizabeth Ann. Or haven't I
told you yet?

Well, if I haven't, it's because words fail me. If there is anything
horrid that an examination DIDn't do to Elizabeth Ann, I have yet to
hear of it. It began years ago, before ever she went to school, when she
heard Aunt Frances talking about how SHE had dreaded examinations when
she was a child, and how they dried up her mouth and made her ears ring
and her head ache and her knees get all weak and her mind a perfect
blank, so that she didn't know what two and two made. Of course
Elizabeth Ann didn't feel ALL those things right off at her first
examination, but by the time she had had several and had rushed to tell
Aunt Frances about how awful they were and the two of them had
sympathized with one another and compared symptoms and then wept about
her resulting low marks, why, she not only had all the symptoms Aunt
Frances had ever had, but a good many more of her own invention.

Well, she had had them all and had them hard this afternoon, when the
Superintendent was there. Her mouth had gone dry and her knees had
shaken and her elbows had felt as though they had no more bones in them
than so much jelly, and her eyes had smarted, and oh, what answers she
had made! That dreadful tight panic had clutched at her throat whenever
the Superintendent had looked at her, and she had disgraced herself ten
times over. She went hot and cold to think of it, and felt quite sick
with hurt vanity. She who did so well every day and was so much looked
up to by her classmates, what MUST they be thinking of her! To tell the
truth, she had been crying as she walked along through the woods,
because she was so sorry for herself. Her eyes were all red still, and
her throat sore from the big lump in it.

And now she would live it all over again as she told the Putney cousins.
For of course they must be told. She had always told Aunt Frances
everything that happened in school. It happened that Aunt Abigail had
been taking a nap when she got home from school, and so she had come out
to the sap-house, where Cousin Ann and Uncle Henry were making syrup, to
have it over with as soon as possible. She went up to the little slab
house now, dragging her feet and hanging her head, and opened the door.

Cousin Ann, in a very short old skirt and a man's coat and high rubber
boots, was just poking some more wood into the big fire which blazed
furiously under the broad, flat pan where the sap was boiling. The
rough, brown hut was filled with white steam and that sweetest of all
odors, hot maple syrup. Cousin Ann turned her head, her face very red
with the heat of the fire, and nodded at the child.

"Hello, Betsy, you're just in time. I've saved out a cupful of hot syrup
for you, all ready to wax."

Betsy hardly heard this, although she had been wild about waxed sugar on
snow ever since her very first taste of it. "Cousin Ann," she said
unhappily, "the Superintendent visited our school this afternoon."

"Did he!" said Cousin Ann, dipping a thermometer into the boiling syrup.

"Yes, and we had EXAMINATIONS!" said Betsy.

"Did you?" said Cousin Ann, holding the thermometer up to the light and
looking at it.

"And you know how perfectly awful examinations make you feel," said
Betsy, very near to tears again.

"Why, no," said Cousin Ann, sorting over syrup tins. "They never made me
feel awful. I thought they were sort of fun."

"FUN!" cried Betsy, indignantly, staring through the beginnings of her

"Why, yes. Like taking a dare, don't you know. Somebody stumps you to
jump off the hitching-post, and you do it to show 'em. I always used to
think examinations were like that. Somebody stumps you to spell
'pneumonia,' and you do it to show 'em. Here's your cup of syrup. You'd
better go right out and wax it while it's hot."

Elizabeth Ann automatically took the cup in her hand, but she did not
look at it. "But supposing you get so scared you can't spell 'pneumonia'
or anything else!" she said feelingly. "That's what happened to me. You
know how your mouth gets all dry and your knees ..." She stopped. Cousin
Ann had said she did NOT know all about those things. "Well, anyhow, I
got so scared I could hardly STAND up! And I made the most awful
mistakes--things I know just as WELL! I spelled 'doubt' without any b
and 'separate' with an e, and I said Iowa was bounded on the north by
Wisconsin, and I ..."

"Oh, well," said Cousin Ann, "it doesn't matter if you really know the
right answers, does it? That's the important thing."

This was an idea which had never in all her life entered Betsy's brain
and she did not take it in at all now. She only shook her head miserably
and went on in a doleful tone. "And I said 13 and 8 are 22! and I wrote
March without any capital M, and I ..."

"Look here, Betsy, do you WANT to tell me all this?" Cousin Ann spoke in
the quick, ringing voice she had once in a while which made everybody,
from old Shep up, open his eyes and get his wits about him. Betsy
gathered hers and thought hard; and she came to an unexpected
conclusion. No, she didn't really want to tell Cousin Ann all about it.
Why was she doing it? Because she thought that was the thing to do.
"Because if you don't really want to," went on Cousin Ann, "I don't see
that it's doing anybody any good. I guess Hemlock Mountain will stand
right there just the same even if you did forget to put a b in 'doubt.'
And your syrup will be too cool to wax right if you don't take it out
pretty soon."

She turned back to stoke the fire, and Elizabeth Ann, in a daze, found
herself walking out of the door. It fell shut after her, and there she
was under the clear, pale-blue sky, with the sun just hovering over the
rim of Hemlock Mountain. She looked up at the big mountains, all blue
and silver with shadows and snow, and wondered what in the world Cousin
Ann had meant. Of course Hemlock Mountain would stand there just the
same. But what of it? What did that have to do with her arithmetic, with
anything? She had failed in her examination, hadn't she?

She found a clean white snow-bank under a pine-tree, and, setting her
cup of syrup down in a safe place, began to pat the snow down hard to
make the right bed for the waxing of the syrup. The sun, very hot for
that late March day, brought out strongly the tarry perfume of the big
pine-tree. Near her the sap dripped musically into a bucket, already
half full, hung on a maple-tree. A blue-jay rushed suddenly through the
upper branches of the wood, his screaming and chattering voice sounding
like noisy children at play.

Elizabeth Ann took up her cup and poured some of the thick, hot syrup
out on the hard snow, making loops and curves as she poured. It
stiffened and hardened at once, and she lifted up a great coil of it,
threw her head back, and let it drop into her mouth. Concentrated
sweetness of summer days was in that mouthful, part of it still hot and
aromatic, part of it icy and wet with melting snow. She crunched it all
together with her strong, child's teeth into a delicious, big lump and
sucked on it dreamily, her eyes on the rim of Hemlock Mountain, high
above her there, the snow on it bright golden in the sunlight. Uncle
Henry had promised to take her up to the top as soon as the snow went
off. She wondered what the top of a mountain would be like. Uncle Henry
had said the main thing was that you could see so much of the world at
once. He said it was too queer the way your own house and big barn and
great fields looked like little toy things that weren't of any account.
It was because you could see so much more than just the....

She heard an imploring whine, and a cold nose was thrust into her hand!
Why, there was old Shep begging for his share of waxed sugar. He loved
it, though it did stick to his teeth so! She poured out another lot and
gave half of it to Shep. It immediately stuck his jaws together tight,
and he began pawing at his mouth and shaking his head till Betsy had to
laugh. Then he managed to pull his jaws apart and chewed loudly and
visibly, tossing his head, opening his mouth wide till Betsy could see
the sticky, brown candy draped in melting festoons all over his big
white teeth and red gullet. Then with a gulp he had swallowed it all
down and was whining for more, striking softly at the little girl's
skirt with his forepaw. "Oh, you eat it too fast!" cried Betsy, but she
shared her next lot with him too. The sun had gone down over Hemlock
Mountain by this time, and the big slope above her was all deep blue
shadow. The mountain looked much higher now as the dusk began to fall,
and loomed up bigger and bigger as though it reached to the sky. It was
no wonder houses looked small from its top. Betsy ate the last of her
sugar, looking up at the quiet giant there, towering grandly above her.
There was no lump in her throat now. And, although she still thought she
did not know what in the world Cousin Ann meant by saying that about
Hemlock Mountain and her examination, it's my opinion that she had made
a very good beginning of an understanding.

She was just picking up her cup to take it back to the sap-house when
Shep growled a little and stood with his ears and tail up, looking down
the road. Something was coming down that road in the blue, clear
twilight, something that was making a very queer noise. It sounded
almost like somebody crying. It WAS somebody crying! It was a child
crying. It was a little, little girl. ... Betsy could see her
now ... stumbling along and crying as though her heart would break. Why,
it was little Molly, her own particular charge at school, whose reading
lesson she heard every day. Betsy and Shep ran to meet her. "What's the
matter, Molly? What's the matter?" Betsy knelt down and put her arms
around the weeping child. "Did you fall down? Did you hurt you? What are
you doing 'way off here? Did you lose your way?"

"I don't want to go away! I don't want to go away!" said Molly over and
over, clinging tightly to Betsy. It was a long time before Betsy could
quiet her enough to find out what had happened. Then she made out
between Molly's sobs that her mother had been taken suddenly sick and
had to go away to a hospital, and that left nobody at home to take care
of Molly, and she was to be sent away to some strange relatives in the
city who didn't want her at all and who said so right out....

Oh, Elizabeth Ann knew all about that! and her heart swelled big with
sympathy. For a moment she stood again out on the sidewalk in front of
the Lathrop house with old Mrs. Lathrop's ungracious white head bobbing
from a window, and knew again that ghastly feeling of being unwanted.
Oh, she knew why little Molly was crying! And she shut her hands
together hard and made up her mind that she WOULD help her out!

[Illustration: "What's the matter, Molly? What's the matter?"]

Do you know what she did, right off, without thinking about it? She
didn't go and look up Aunt Abigail. She didn't wait till Uncle Henry
came back from his round of emptying sap buckets into the big tub on his
sled. As fast as her feet could carry her she flew back to Cousin Ann in
the sap-house. I can't tell you (except again that Cousin Ann was Cousin
Ann) why it was that Betsy ran so fast to her and was so sure that
everything would be all right as soon as Cousin Ann knew about it; but
whatever the reason was it was a good one, for, though Cousin Ann did
not stop to kiss Molly or even to look at her more than one sharp first
glance, she said after a moment's pause, during which she filled a syrup
can and screwed the cover down very tight: "Well, if her folks will let
her stay, how would you like to have Molly come and stay with us till
her mother gets back from the hospital? Now you've got a room of your
own, I guess if you wanted to you could have her sleep with you."

"Oh, Molly, Molly, Molly!" shouted Betsy, jumping up and down, and then
hugging the little girl with all her might. "Oh, it will be like having
a little sister!"

Cousin Ann sounded a dry, warning note: "Don't be too sure her folks
will let her. We don't know about them yet."

Betsy ran to her, and caught her hand, looking up at her with shining
eyes. "Cousin Ann, if YOU go to see them and ask them, they will!"

This made even Cousin Ann give a little abashed smile of pleasure,
although she made her face grave again at once and said: "You'd better
go along back to the house now, Betsy. It's time for you to help Mother
with the supper."

The two children trotted back along the darkening wood road, Shep
running before them, little Molly clinging fast to the older child's
hand. "Aren't you ever afraid, Betsy, in the woods this way?" she asked
admiringly, looking about her with timid eyes.

"Oh, no!" said Betsy, protectingly; "there's nothing to be afraid of,
except getting off on the wrong fork of the road, near the Wolf Pit."

"Oh, OW!" said Molly, cringing. "What's the Wolf Pit? What an awful

Betsy laughed. She tried to make her laugh sound brave like Cousin
Ann's, which always seemed so scornful of being afraid. As a matter of
fact, she was beginning to fear that they HAD made the wrong turn, and
she was not quite sure that she could find the way home. But she put
this out of her mind and walked along very fast, peering ahead into the
dusk. "Oh, it hasn't anything to do with wolves," she said in answer to
Molly's question; "anyhow, not now. It's just a big, deep hole in the
ground where a brook had dug out a cave. ... Uncle Henry told me all
about it when he showed it to me ... and then part of the roof caved in;
sometimes there's ice in the corner of the covered part all the summer,
Aunt Abigail says."

"Why do you call it the Wolf Pit?" asked Molly, walking very close to
Betsy and holding very tightly to her hand.

"Oh, long, ever so long ago, when the first settlers came up here, they
heard a wolf howling all night, and when it didn't stop in the morning,
they came up here on the mountain and found a wolf had fallen in and
couldn't get out."

"My! I hope they killed him!" said Molly.

"Oh, gracious! that was more than a hundred years ago," said Betsy. She
was not thinking of what she was saying. She was thinking that if they
WERE on the right road they ought to be home by this time. She was
thinking that the right road ran down hill to the house all the way, and
that this certainly seemed to be going up a little. She was wondering
what had become of Shep. "Stand here just a minute, Molly," she said. "I
want ... I just want to go ahead a little bit and see ... and see ..." She
darted on around a curve of the road and stood still, her heart sinking.
The road turned there and led straight up the mountain!

For just a moment the little girl felt a wild impulse to burst out in a
shriek for Aunt Frances, and to run crazily away, anywhere so long as
she was running. But the thought of Molly standing back there,
trustfully waiting to be taken care of, shut Betsy's lips together hard
before her scream of fright got out. She stood still, thinking. Now she
mustn't get frightened. All they had to do was to walk back along the
road till they came to the fork and then make the right turn. But what
if they didn't get back to the turn till it was so dark they couldn't
see it...? Well, she mustn't think of that. She ran back, calling, "Come
on, Molly," in a tone she tried to make as firm as Cousin Ann's. "I
guess we have made the wrong turn after all. We'd better ..."

But there was no Molly there. In the brief moment Betsy had stood
thinking, Molly had disappeared. The long, shadowy wood road held not a
trace of her.

Then Betsy WAS frightened and then she DID begin to scream, at the top
of her voice, "Molly! Molly!" She was beside herself with terror, and
started back hastily to hear Molly's voice, very faint, apparently
coming from the ground under her feet.

"Ow! Ow! Betsy! Get me out! Get me out!"

"Where ARE you?" shrieked Betsy.

"I don't know!" came Molly's sobbing voice. "I just moved the least
little bit out of the road, and slipped on the ice and began to slide
and I couldn't stop myself and I fell down into a deep hole!"

Betsy's head felt as though her hair were standing up straight on end
with horror. Molly must have fallen down into the Wolf Pit! Yes, they
were quite near it. She remembered now that big white-birch tree stood
right at the place where the brook tumbled over the edge and fell into
it. Although she was dreadfully afraid of falling in herself, she went
cautiously over to this tree, feeling her way with her foot to make sure
she did not slip, and peered down into the cavernous gloom below. Yes,
there was Molly's little face, just a white speck. The child was crying,
sobbing, and holding up her arms to Betsy.

"Are you hurt, Molly?"

"No. I fell into a big snow-bank, but I'm all wet and frozen and I want
to get out! I want to get out!"

Betsy held on to the birch-tree. Her head whirled. What SHOULD she do!
"Look here, Molly," she called down, "I'm going to run back along to the
right road and back to the house and get Uncle Henry. He'll come with a
rope and get you out!"

At this Molly's crying rose to a frantic scream. "Oh, Betsy, don't leave
me here alone! Don't! Don't! The wolves will get me! Betsy, DON'T leave
me alone!" The child was wild with terror.

"But I CAN'T get you out myself!" screamed back Betsy, crying herself.
Her teeth were chattering with the cold.

"Don't go! Don't go!" came up from the darkness of the pit in a piteous
howl. Betsy made a great effort and stopped crying. She sat down on a
stone and tried to think. And this is what came into her mind as a
guide: "What would Cousin Ann do if she were here? She wouldn't cry. She
would THINK of something."

Betsy looked around her desperately. The first thing she saw was the big
limb of a pine-tree, broken off by the wind, which half lay and half
slantingly stood up against a tree a little distance above the mouth of
the pit. It had been there so long that the needles had all dried and
fallen off, and the skeleton of the branch with the broken stubs looked
like ... yes, it looked like a ladder! THAT was what Cousin Ann would have

"Wait a minute! Wait a minute, Molly!" she called wildly down the pit,
warm all over in excitement. "Now listen. You go off there in a corner,
where the ground makes a sort of roof. I'm going to throw down something
you can climb up on, maybe."

"Ow! Ow, it'll hit me!" cried poor little Molly, more and more
frightened. But she scrambled off under her shelter obediently, while
Betsy struggled with the branch. It was so firmly imbedded in the snow
that at first she could not budge it at all. But after she cleared that
away and pried hard with the stick she was using as a lever she felt it
give a little. She bore down with all her might, throwing her weight
again and again on her lever, and finally felt the big branch
perceptibly move. After that it was easier, as its course was down hill
over the snow to the mouth of the pit. Glowing, and pushing, wet with
perspiration, she slowly maneuvered it along to the edge, turned it
squarely, gave it a great shove, and leaned over anxiously. Then she
gave a great sigh of relief! Just as she had hoped, it went down sharp
end first and stuck fast in the snow which had saved Molly from broken
bones. She was so out of breath with her work that for a moment she
could not speak. Then, "Molly, there! Now I guess you can climb up to
where I can reach you."

Molly made a rush for any way out of her prison, and climbed, like the
little practiced squirrel that she was, up from one stub to another to
the top of the branch. She was still below the edge of the pit there,
but Betsy lay flat down on the snow and held out her hands. Molly took
hold hard, and, digging her toes into the snow, slowly wormed her way up
to the surface of the ground.

It was then, at that very moment, that Shep came bounding up to them,
barking loudly, and after him Cousin Ann striding along in her rubber
boots, with a lantern in her hand and a rather anxious look on her face.

She stopped short and looked at the two little girls, covered with snow,
their faces flaming with excitement, and at the black hole gaping behind
them. "I always TOLD Father we ought to put a fence around that pit,"
she said in a matter-of-fact voice. "Some day a sheep's going to fall
down there. Shep came along to the house without you, and we thought
most likely you'd taken the wrong turn."

Betsy felt terribly aggrieved. She wanted to be petted and praised for
her heroism. She wanted Cousin Ann to REALIZE ... oh, if Aunt Frances were
only there, SHE would realize...!

"I fell down in the hole, and Betsy wanted to go and get Mr. Putney, but
I wouldn't let her, and so she threw down a big branch and I climbed
out," explained Molly, who, now that her danger was past, took Betsy's
action quite as a matter of course.

"Oh, that was how it happened," said Cousin Ann. She looked down the
hole and saw the big branch, and looked back and saw the long trail of
crushed snow where Betsy had dragged it. "Well, now, that was quite a
good idea for a little girl to have," she said briefly. "I guess you'll
do to take care of Molly all right!"

She spoke in her usual voice and immediately drew the children after
her, but Betsy's heart was singing joyfully as she trotted along
clasping Cousin Ann's strong hand. Now she knew that Cousin Ann
realized. ... She trotted fast, smiling to herself in the darkness.

"What made you think of doing that?" asked Cousin Ann presently, as they
approached the house.

"Why, I tried to think what YOU would have done if you'd been there,"
said Betsy.

"Oh!" said Cousin Ann. "Well ..."

She didn't say another word, but Betsy, glancing up into her face as
they stepped into the lighted room, saw an expression that made her give
a little skip and hop of joy. She had PLEASED Cousin Ann.

That night, as she lay in her bed, her arm over Molly cuddled up warm
beside her, she remembered, oh, ever so faintly, as something of no
importance, that she had failed in an examination that afternoon.



Betsy and Molly had taken Deborah to school with them. Deborah was the
old wooden doll with brown, painted curls. She had lain in a trunk
almost ever since Aunt Abigail's childhood, because Cousin Ann had never
cared for dolls when she was a little girl. At first Betsy had not dared
to ask to see her, much less to play with her, but when Ellen, as she
had promised, came over to Putney Farm that first Saturday she had said
right out, as soon as she landed in the house, "Oh, Mrs. Putney, can't
we play with Deborah?" And Aunt Abigail had answered: "Why YES, of
course! I KNEW there was something I've kept forgetting!" She went up
with them herself to the cold attic and opened the little hair-trunk
under the eaves.

There lay a doll, flat on her back, looking up at them brightly out of
her blue eyes.

"Well, Debby dear," said Aunt Abigail, taking her up gently. "It's a
good long time since you and I played under the lilac bushes, isn't it?
I expect you've been pretty lonesome up here all these years. Never you
mind, you'll have some good times again, now." She pulled down the
doll's full, ruffled skirt, straightened the lace at the neck of her
dress, and held her for a moment, looking down at her silently. You
could tell by the way she spoke, by the way she touched Deborah, by the
way she looked at her, that she had loved the doll very dearly, and
maybe still did, a little.

When she put Deborah into Betsy's arms, the child felt that she was
receiving something very precious, almost something alive. She and Ellen
looked with delight at the yards and yards of picot-edged ribbon, sewed
on by hand to the ruffles of the skirt, and lifted up the silk folds to
admire the carefully made, full petticoats and frilly drawers, the
pretty, soft old kid shoes and white stockings. Aunt Abigail looked at
them with an absent smile on her lips, as though she were living over
old scenes.

[Illustration: Betsy and Ellen and the old doll.]

Finally, "It's too cold to play up here," she said, coming to herself
with a long breath. "You'd better bring Deborah and the trunk down into
the south room." She carried the doll, and Betsy and Ellen each took an
end of the old trunk, no larger than a modern suitcase. They settled
themselves on the big couch, back of the table with the lamp. Old Shep
was on it, but Betsy coaxed him off by putting down some bones Cousin
Ann had been saving for him. When he finished those and came back for
the rest of his snooze, he found his place occupied by the little girls,
sitting cross-legged, examining the contents of the trunk, all spread
out around them. Shep sighed deeply and sat down with his nose resting
on the couch near Betsy's knee, following all their movements with his
kind, dark eyes. Once in a while Betsy stopped hugging Deborah or
exclaiming over a new dress long enough to pat Shep's head and fondle
his ears. This was what he was waiting for, and every time she did it he
wagged his tail thumpingly against the floor.

After that Deborah and her trunk were kept downstairs where Betsy could
play with her. And often she was taken to school. You never heard of
such a thing as taking a doll to school, did you? Well, I told you this
was a queer, old-fashioned school that any modern School Superintendent
would sniff at. As a matter of fact, it was not only Betsy who took her
doll to school; all the little girls did, whenever they felt like it.
Miss Benton, the teacher, had a shelf for them in the entry-way where
the wraps were hung, and the dolls sat on it and waited patiently all
through lessons. At recess time or nooning each little mother snatched
her own child and began to play. As soon as it grew warm enough to play
outdoors without just racing around every minute to keep from freezing
to death, the dolls and their mothers went out to a great pile of rocks
at one end of the bare, stony field which was the playground.

There they sat and played in the spring sunshine, warmer from day to
day. There were a great many holes and shelves and pockets and little
caves in the rocks which made lovely places for playing keep-house. Each
little girl had her own particular cubby-holes and "rooms," and they
"visited" their dolls back and forth all around the pile. And as they
played they talked very fast about all sorts of things, being little
girls and not boys who just yelled and howled inarticulately as they
played ball or duck-on-a-rock or prisoner's goal, racing and running and
wrestling noisily all around the rocks.

There was one child who neither played with the girls nor ran and
whooped with the boys. This was little six-year-old 'Lias, one of the
two boys in Molly's first grade. At recess time he generally hung about
the school door by himself, looking moodily down and knocking the toe of
his ragged, muddy shoe against a stone. The little girls were talking
about him one day as they played. "My! Isn't that 'Lias Brewster the
horridest-looking child!" said Eliza, who had the second grade all to
herself, although Molly now read out of the second reader with her.

"Mercy, yes! So ragged!" said Anastasia Monahan, called Stashie for
short. She was a big girl, fourteen years old, who was in the seventh

"He doesn't look as if he EVER combed his hair!" said Betsy. "It looks
just like a wisp of old hay."

"And sometimes," little Molly proudly added her bit to the talk of the
older girls, "he forgets to put on any stockings and just has his
dreadful old shoes on over his dirty, bare feet."

"I guess he hasn't GOT any stockings half the time," said big Stashie
scornfully. "I guess his stepfather drinks 'em up."

"How CAN he drink up stockings!" asked Molly, opening her round eyes
very wide.

"Sh! You mustn't ask. Little girls shouldn't know about such things,
should they, Betsy?"

"No INDEED," said Betsy, looking mysterious. As a matter of fact, she
herself had no idea what Stashie meant, but she looked wise and said

Some of the boys had squatted down near the rocks for a game of marbles

"Well, anyhow," said Molly resentfully, "I don't care what his
stepfather does to his stockings. I wish 'Lias would wear 'em to school.
And lots of times he hasn't anything on under those horrid old overalls
either! I can see his bare skin through the torn places."

"I wish he didn't have to sit so near me," said Betsy complainingly.
"He's SO dirty."

"Well, I don't want him near ME, either!" cried all the other little
girls at once. Ralph glanced up at them frowning, from where he knelt
with his middle finger crooked behind a marble ready for a shot. He
looked as he always did, very rough and half-threatening. "Oh, you girls
make me sick!" he said. He sent his marble straight to the mark,
pocketed his opponent's, and stood up, scowling at the little mothers.
"I guess if you had to live the way he does you'd be dirty! Half the
time he don't get anything to eat before he comes to school, and if my
mother didn't put up some extra for him in my box he wouldn't get any
lunch either. And then you go and jump on him!"

"Why doesn't his own mother put up his lunch?" Betsy challenged their

"He hasn't got any mother. She's dead," said Ralph, turning away with
his hands in his pockets. He yelled to the boys, "Come on, fellers,
beat-che to the bridge and back!" and was off, with the others racing at
his heels.

"Well, anyhow, I don't care; he IS dirty and horrid!" said Stashie
emphatically, looking over at the drooping, battered little figure,
leaning against the school door, listlessly kicking at a stone.

But Betsy did not say anything more just then.

The teacher, who "boarded 'round," was staying at Putney Farm at that
time, and that evening, as they all sat around the lamp in the south
room, Betsy looked up from her game of checkers with Uncle Henry and
asked, "How can anybody drink up stockings?"

"Mercy, child! what are you talking about?" asked Aunt Abigail.

Betsy repeated what Anastasia Monahan had said, and was flattered by the
instant, rather startled attention given her by the grown-ups. "Why, I
didn't know that Bud Walker had taken to drinking again!" said Uncle
Henry. "My! That's too bad!"

"Who takes care of that child anyhow, now that poor Susie is dead?" Aunt
Abigail asked of everybody in general.

"Is he just living there ALONE, with that good-for-nothing stepfather?
How do they get enough to EAT?" said Cousin Ann, looking troubled.

Apparently Betsy's question had brought something half forgotten and
altogether neglected into their minds. They talked for some time after
that about 'Lias, the teacher confirming what Betsy and Stashie had

"And we sitting right here with plenty to eat and never raising a hand!"
cried Aunt Abigail.

"How you WILL let things slip out of your mind!" said Cousin Ann

It struck Betsy vividly that 'Lias was not at all the one they blamed
for his objectionable appearance. She felt quite ashamed to go on with
the other things she and the little girls had said, and fell silent,
pretending to be very much absorbed in her game of checkers.

"Do you know," said Aunt Abigail suddenly, as though an inspiration had
just struck her, "I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that Elmore Pond
might adopt 'Lias if he was gone at the right way."

"Who's Elmore Pond?" asked the schoolteacher.

"Why, you must have seen him--that great, big, red-faced,
good-natured-looking man that comes through here twice a year, buying
stock. He lives over Bigby way, but his wife was a Hillsboro girl, Matey
Pelham--an awfully nice girl she was, too. They never had any children,
and Matey told me the last time she was back for a visit that she and
her husband talked quite often about adopting a little boy. Seems that
Mr. Pond has always wanted a little boy. He's such a nice man! 'Twould
be a lovely home for a child."

"But goodness!" said the teacher. "Nobody would want to adopt such an
awful-looking little ragamuffin as that 'Lias. He looks so meeching,
too. I guess his stepfather is real mean to him, when he's been
drinking, and it's got 'Lias so he hardly dares hold his head up."

The clock struck loudly. "Well, hear that!" said Cousin Ann. "Nine
o'clock and the children not in bed! Molly's most asleep this minute.
Trot along with you, Betsy! Trot along, Molly. And, Betsy, be sure
Molly's nightgown is buttoned up all the way."

So it happened that, although the grown-ups were evidently going on to
talk about 'Lias Brewster, Betsy heard no more of what they said.

She herself went on thinking about 'Lias while she was undressing and
answering absently little Molly's chatter. She was thinking about him
even after they had gone to bed, had put the light out, and were lying
snuggled up to each other, back to front, their four legs, crooked at
the same angle, fitting in together neatly like two spoons in a drawer.
She was thinking about him when she woke up, and as soon as she could
get hold of Cousin Ann she poured out a new plan. She had never been
afraid of Cousin Ann since the evening Molly had fallen into the Wolf
Pit and Betsy had seen that pleased smile on Cousin Ann's firm lips.
"Cousin Ann, couldn't we girls at school get together and sew--you'd
have to help us some--and make some nice, new clothes for little 'Lias
Brewster, and fix him up so he'll look better, and maybe that Mr. Pond
will like him and adopt him?"

Cousin Ann listened attentively and nodded her head. "Yes, I think that
would be a good idea," she said. "We were thinking last night we ought
to do something for him. If you'll make the clothes, Mother'll knit him
some stockings and Father will get him some shoes. Mr. Pond never makes
his spring trip till late May, so we'll have plenty of time."

Betsy was full of importance that day at school and at recess time got
the girls together on the rocks and told them all about the plan.
"Cousin Ann says she'll help us, and we can meet at our house every
Saturday afternoon till we get them done. It'll be fun! Aunt Abigail
telephoned down to the store right away, and Mr. Wilkins says he'll give
the cloth if we'll make it up."

Betsy spoke very grandly of "making it up," although she had hardly held
a needle in her life, and when the Saturday afternoon meetings began she
was ashamed to see how much better Ellen and even Eliza could sew than
she. To keep her end up, she was driven to practising her stitches
around the lamp in the evenings, with Aunt Abigail keeping an eye on

Cousin Ann supervised the sewing on Saturday afternoons and taught those
of the little girls whose legs were long enough how to use the sewing
machine. First they made a little pair of trousers out of an old gray
woolen skirt of Aunt Abigail's. This was for practice, before they cut
into the piece of new blue serge that the storekeeper had sent up.
Cousin Ann showed them how to pin the pattern on the goods and they each
cut out one piece. Those flat, queer-shaped pieces of cloth certainly
did look less like a pair of trousers to Betsy than anything she had
ever seen. Then one of the girls read aloud very slowly the
mysterious-sounding directions from the wrapper of the pattern about how
to put the pieces together, Cousin Ann helped here a little,
particularly just as they were about to put the sections together
wrong-side-up. Stashie, as the oldest, did the first basting, putting
the notches together carefully, just as they read the instructions
aloud, and there, all of a sudden, was a rough little sketch of a pair
of knee trousers, without any hem or any waist-band, of course, but just
the two-legged, complicated shape they ought to be! It was like a
miracle to Betsy! Then Cousin Ann helped them sew the seams on the
machine, and they all turned to for the basting of the facings and the
finishing. They each made one buttonhole. It was the first one Betsy had
ever made, and when she got through she was as tired as though she had
run all the way to school and back. Tired, but very proud; although when
Cousin Ann inspected that buttonhole, she covered her face with her
handkerchief for a minute, as though she were going to sneeze, although
she didn't sneeze at all.

It took them two Saturdays to finish up that trial pair of trousers, and
when they showed the result to Aunt Abigail she was delighted. "Well, to
think of that being my old skirt!" she said, putting on her spectacles
to examine the work. She did not laugh, either, when she saw those
buttonholes, but she got up hastily and went into the next room, where
they soon heard her coughing.

Then they made a little blouse out of some new blue gingham. Cousin Ann
happened to have enough left over from a dress she was making. This thin
material was ever so much easier to manage than the gray flannel, and
they had the little garment done in no time, even to the buttons and
buttonholes. When it came to making the buttonholes, Cousin Ann sat
right down with each one and supervised every stitch. You may not be
surprised to know that they were a great improvement over the first

Then, making a great ceremony of it, they began on the store material,
working twice a week now, because May was slipping along very fast, and
Mr. Pond might be there at any time. They knew pretty well how to go
ahead on this one, after the experience of their first pair, and Cousin
Ann was not much needed, except as adviser in hard places. She sat there
in the room with them, doing some sewing of her own, so quiet that half
the time they forgot she was there. It was great fun, sewing all
together and chattering as they sewed.

A good deal of the time they talked about how splendid it was of them to
be so kind to little 'Lias. "My! I don't believe most girls would put
themselves out this way for a dirty little boy!" said Stashie,

"No INDEED!" chimed in Betsy. "It's just like a story, isn't it--working
and sacrificing for the poor!"

"I guess he'll thank us all right for sure!" said Ellen. "He'll never
forget us as long as he lives, I don't suppose."

Betsy, her imagination fired by this suggestion, said, "I guess when
he's grown up he'll be telling everybody about how, when he was so poor
and ragged, Stashie Monahan and Ellen Peters and Elizabeth Ann ..."

"And Eliza!" put in that little girl hastily, very much afraid she would
not be given her due share of the glory.

Cousin Ann sewed, and listened, and said nothing.

Toward the end of May two little blouses, two pairs of trousers, two
pairs of stockings, two sets of underwear (contributed by the teacher),
and the pair of shoes Uncle Henry gave were ready. The little girls
handled the pile of new garments with inexpressible pride, and debated
just which way of bestowing them was sufficiently grand to be worthy the
occasion. Betsy was for taking them to school and giving them to 'Lias
one by one, so that each child could have her thanks separately. But
Stashie wanted to take them to the house when 'Lias's stepfather would
be there, and shame him by showing that little girls had had to do what
he ought to have done.

Cousin Ann broke into the discussion by asking, in her quiet, firm
voice, "Why do you want 'Lias to know where the clothes come from?"

They had forgotten again that she was there, and turned around quickly
to stare at her. Nobody could think of any answer to her very queer
question. It had not occurred to any one that there could BE such a

Cousin Ann shifted her ground and asked another: "Why did you make these
clothes, anyhow?"

They stared again, speechless. Why did she ask that? She knew why.

Finally little Molly said, in her honest, baby way, "Why, YOU know why,
Miss Ann! So 'Lias Brewster will look nice, and Mr. Pond will maybe
adopt him."

"Well," said Cousin Ann, "what has that got to do with 'Lias knowing who
did it?"

"Why, he wouldn't know who to be grateful to," cried Betsy.

"Oh," said Cousin Ann. "Oh, I see. You didn't do it to help 'Lias. You
did it to have him grateful to you. I see. Molly is such a little girl,
it's no wonder she didn't really take in what you girls were up to." She
nodded her head wisely, as though now she understood.

But if she did, little Molly certainly did not. She had not the least
idea what everybody was talking about. She looked from one sober,
downcast face to another rather anxiously. What was the matter?

Apparently nothing was really the matter, she decided, for after a
minute's silence Miss Ann got up with entirely her usual face of
cheerful gravity, and said: "Don't you think you little girls ought to
top off this last afternoon with a tea-party? There's a new batch of
cookies, and you can make yourselves some lemonade if you want to."

They had these refreshments out on the porch, in the sunshine, with
their dolls for guests and a great deal of chatter for sauce. Nobody
said another word about how to give the clothes to 'Lias, till, just as
the girls were going away, Betsy said, walking along with the two older
ones, "Say, don't you think it'd be fun to go some evening after dark
and leave the clothes on 'Lias's doorstep, and knock and run away quick
before anybody comes to the door?" She spoke in an uncertain voice and
smoothed Deborah's carved wooden curls.

"Yes, I do!" said Ellen, not looking at Betsy but down at the weeds by
the road.  "I think it would be lots of fun!"

Little Molly, playing with Annie and Eliza, did not hear this; but she
was allowed to go with the older girls on the great expedition.

It was a warm, dark evening in late May, with the frogs piping their
sweet, high note, and the first of the fireflies wheeling over the wet
meadows near the tumble-down house where 'Lias lived. The girls took
turns in carrying the big paper-wrapped bundle, and stole along in the
shadow of the trees, full of excitement, looking over their shoulders at
nothing and pressing their hands over their mouths to keep back the
giggles. There was, of course, no reason on earth why they should
giggle, which is, of course, the very reason why they did. If you've
ever been a little girl you know about that.

One window of the small house was dimly lighted, they found, when they
came in sight of it, and they thrilled with excitement and joyful alarm.
Suppose 'Lias's dreadful stepfather should come out and yell at them!
They came forward on tiptoe, making a great deal of noise by stepping on
twigs, rustling bushes, crackling gravel under their feet and doing all
the other things that make such a noise at night and never do in the
daytime. But nobody stirred inside the room with the lighted window.
They crept forward and peeped cautiously inside ... and stopped giggling.
The dim light coming from a little kerosene lamp with a smoky chimney
fell on a dismal, cluttered room, a bare, greasy wooden table, and two
broken-backed chairs, with little 'Lias in one of them. He had fallen
asleep with his head on his arms, his pinched, dirty, sad little figure
showing in the light from the lamp. His feet dangled high above the
floor in their broken, muddy shoes. One sleeve was torn to the shoulder.
A piece of dry bread had slipped from his bony little hand and a tin
dipper stood beside him on the bare table. Nobody else was in the room,
nor evidently in the darkened, empty, fireless house.

[Illustration: He had fallen asleep with his head on his arms.]

As long as she lives Betsy will never forget what she saw that night
through that window. Her eyes grew very hot and her hands very cold. Her
heart thumped hard. She reached for little Molly and gave her a great
hug in the darkness. Suppose it were little Molly asleep there, all
alone in the dirty, dismal house, with no supper and nobody to put her
to bed. She found that Ellen, next her, was crying quietly into the
corner of her apron.

Nobody said a word. Stashie, who had the bundle, walked around soberly
to the front door, put it down, and knocked loudly. They all darted away
noiselessly to the road, to the shadow of the trees, and waited until
the door opened. A square of yellow light appeared, with 'Lias's figure,
very small, at the bottom of it. They saw him stoop and pick up the
bundle and go back into the house. Then they went quickly and silently
back, separating at the cross-roads with no good-night greetings.

Molly and Betsy began to climb the hill to Putney Farm. It was a very
warm night for May, and little Molly began to puff for breath. "Let's
sit down on this rock awhile and rest," she said.

They were half-way up the hill now. From the rock they could see the
lights in the farmhouses scattered along the valley road and on the side
of the mountain opposite them, like big stars fallen from the multitude
above. Betsy lay down on the rock and looked up at the stars. After a
silence little Molly's chirping voice said, "Oh, I thought you said we
were going to march up to 'Lias in school and give him his clothes. Did
you forget about that?"

Betsy gave a wriggle of shame as she remembered that plan. "No, we
didn't forget it," she said. "We thought this would be a better way."

"But how'll 'Lias know who to thank?" asked Molly.

"That's no matter," said Betsy. Yes, it was Elizabeth-Ann-that-was who
said that. And meant it, too. She was not even thinking of what she was
saying. Between her and the stars, thick over her in the black, soft
sky, she saw again that dirty, disordered room and the little boy, all
alone, asleep with a piece of dry bread in his bony little fingers.

She looked hard and long at that picture, all the time seeing the quiet
stars through it. And then she turned over and hid her face on the rock.
She had said her "Now I lay me" every night since she could remember,
but she had never prayed till she lay there with her face on the rock,
saying over and over, "Oh, God, please, please, PLEASE make Mr. Pond
adopt 'Lias."



All the little girls went early to school the next day, eager for the
first glimpse of 'Lias in his new clothes. They now quite enjoyed the
mystery about who had made them, and were full of agreeable excitement
as the little figure was seen approaching down the road. He wore the
gray trousers and the little blue shirt; the trousers were a little too
long, the shirt a perfect fit. The girls gazed at him with pride as he
came on the playground, walking briskly along in the new shoes, which
were just the right size. He had been wearing all winter a pair of
cast-off women's shoes. From a distance he looked like another child.
But as he came closer ... oh! his face! his hair! his hands! his
finger-nails! The little fellow had evidently tried to live up to his
beautiful new raiment, for his hair had been roughly put back from his
face, and around his mouth and nose was a small area of almost clean
skin, where he had made an attempt at washing his face. But he had made
practically no impression on the layers of encrusted dirt, and the
little girls looked at him ruefully. Mr. Pond would certainly never take
a fancy to such a dreadfully grimy child! His new, clean clothes made
him look all the worse, as though dirty on purpose!

The little girls retired to their rock-pile and talked over their bitter
disappointment, Ralph and the other boys absorbed in a game of marbles
near them. 'Lias had gone proudly into the schoolroom to show himself to
Miss Benton.

It was the day before Decoration Day and a good deal of time was taken
up with practising on the recitations they were going to give at the
Decoration Day exercises in the village. Several of the children from
each school in the township were to speak pieces in the Town Hall. Betsy
was to recite BARBARA FRIETCHIE, her first love in that school, but she
droned it over with none of her usual pleasure, her eyes on little
'Lias's smiling face, so unconscious of its dinginess.

At noon time the boys disappeared down toward the swimming-hole. They
often took a swim at noon and nobody thought anything about it on that
day. The little girls ate their lunch on their rock, mourning over the
failure of their plans, and scheming ways to meet the new obstacle.
Stashie suggested, "Couldn't your Aunt Abigail invite him up to your
house for supper and then give him a bath afterward?" But Betsy,
although she had never heard of treating a supper-guest in this way, was
sure that it was not possible. She shook her head sadly, her eyes on the
far-off gleam of white where the boys jumped up and down in their
swimming-hole. That was not a good name for it, because there was only
one part of it deep enough to swim in. Mostly it was a shallow bay in an
arm of the river, where the water was only up to a little boy's knees
and where there was almost no current. The sun beating down on it made
it quite warm, and even the first-graders' mothers allowed them to go
in. They only jumped up and down and squealed and splashed each other,
but they enjoyed that quite as much as Frank and Harry, the two
seventh-graders, enjoyed their swooping dives from the spring-board over
the pool. They were late in getting back from the river that day and
Miss Benton had to ring her bell hard in that direction before they came
trooping up and clattered into the schoolroom, where the girls already
sat, their eyes lowered virtuously to their books, with a prim air of
self-righteousness. THEY were never late!

Betsy was reciting her arithmetic. She was getting on famously with
that. Weeks ago, as soon as Miss Benton had seen the confusion of the
little girl's mind, the two had settled down to a serious struggle with
that subject. Miss Benton had had Betsy recite all by herself, so she
wouldn't be flurried by the others; and to begin with had gone back,
back, back to bedrock, to things Betsy absolutely knew, to the 2x2's and
the 3x3's. And then, very cautiously, a step at a time, they had
advanced, stopping short whenever Betsy felt a beginning of that
bewildered "guessing" impulse which made her answer wildly at random.

After a while, in the dark night which arithmetic had always been to
her, Betsy began to make out a few definite outlines, which were always
there, facts which she knew to be so without guessing from the
expression of her teacher's face. From that moment her progress had been
rapid, one sure fact hooking itself on to another, and another one on to
that. She attacked a page of problems now with a zest and
self-confidence which made her arithmetic lessons among the most
interesting hours at school. On that day she was standing up at the
board, a piece of chalk in her hand, chewing her tongue and thinking
hard how to find out the amount of wall-paper needed for a room 12 feet
square with two doors and two windows in it, when her eye fell on little
'Lias, bent over his reading book. She forgot her arithmetic, she forgot
where she was. She stared and stared, till Ellen, catching the direction
of her eyes, looked and stared too. Little 'Lias was CLEAN,
preternaturally, almost wetly clean. His face was clean and shining, his
ears shone pink and fair, his hands were absolutely spotless, even his
hay-colored hair was clean and, still damp, brushed flatly back till it
shone in the sun. Betsy blinked her eyes a great many times, thinking
she must be dreaming, but every time she opened them there was 'Lias,
looking white and polished like a new willow whistle.

Somebody poked her hard in the ribs. She started and, turning, saw
Ralph, who was doing a sum beside her on the board, scowling at her
under his black brows. "Quit gawking at 'Lias," he said under his
breath. "You make me tired!" Something conscious and shame-faced in his
manner made Betsy understand at once what had happened. Ralph had taken
'Lias down to the little boys' wading-place and had washed him all over.
She remembered now that they had a piece of yellow soap there.

Her face broke into a radiant smile and she began to say something to
Ralph about how nice that was of him, but he frowned again and said,
crossly, "Aw, cut it out! Look at what you've done there! If I couldn't
9 x 8 and get it right!"

"How queer boys are!" thought Betsy, erasing her mistake and putting
down the right answer. But she did not try to speak to Ralph again about
'Lias, not even after school, when she saw 'Lias going home with a new
cap on his head which she recognized as Ralph's. She just looked at
Ralph's bare head, and smiled her eyes at him, keeping the rest of her
face sober, the way Cousin Ann did. For just a minute Ralph almost
smiled back. At least he looked quite friendly. They stepped along
toward home together, the first time Ralph had ever condescended to walk
beside a girl.

"We got a new colt," he said.

"Have you?" she said. "What color?"

"Black, with a white star, and they're going to let me ride him when
he's old enough."

"My! Won't that be nice!" said Betsy.

And all the time they were both thinking of little 'Lias with his new
clothes and his sweet, thin face shining with cleanliness.

"Do you like spruce gum?" asked Ralph.

"Oh, I LOVE gum!" said Betsy.

"Well, I'll bring you down a chunk tomorrow, if I don't forget it," said
Ralph, turning off at the cross-roads.

They had not mentioned 'Lias at all.

The next day they were to have school only in the morning. In the
afternoon they were to go in a big hay-wagon down to the village to the
"exercises." 'Lias came to school in his new blue-serge trousers and his
white blouse. The little girls gloated over his appearance, and hung
around him, for who was to "visit school" that morning but Mr. Pond
himself! Cousin Ann had arranged it somehow. It took Cousin Ann to fix
things! During recess, as they were playing still-pond-no-more-moving on
the playground, Mr. Pond and Uncle Henry drew up to the edge of the
playground, stopped their horse, and, talking and laughing together,
watched the children at play. Betsy looked hard at the big, burly,
kind-faced man with the smiling eyes and the hearty laugh, and decided
that he would "do" perfectly for 'Lias. But what she decided was to have
little importance, apparently, for after all he would not get out of the
wagon, but said he'd have to drive right on to the village. Just like
that, with no excuse other than a careless glance at his watch. No, he
guessed he wouldn't have time, this morning, he said. Betsy cast an
imploring look up into Uncle Henry's face, but evidently he felt himself
quite helpless, too. Oh, if only Cousin Ann had come! SHE would have
marched him into the schoolhouse double-quick. But Uncle Henry was not
Cousin Ann, and though Betsy saw him, as they drove away,
conscientiously point out little 'Lias, resplendent and shining, Mr.
Pond only nodded absently, as though, he were thinking of something

Betsy could have cried with disappointment; but she and the other girls,
putting their heads together for comfort, told each other that there was
time enough yet. Mr. Pond would not leave town till tomorrow.
Perhaps ... there was still some hope.

But that afternoon even this last hope was dashed. As they gathered at
the schoolhouse, the girls fresh and crisp in their newly starched
dresses, with red or blue hair-ribbons, the boys very self-conscious in
their dark suits, clean collars, new caps (all but Ralph), and blacked
shoes, there was no little 'Lias. They waited and waited, but there was
no sign of him. Finally Uncle Henry, who was to drive the straw-ride
down to town, looked at his watch, gathered up the reins, and said they
would be late if they didn't start right away. Maybe 'Lias had had a
chance to ride in with somebody else.

They all piled in, the horses stepped off, the wheels grated on the
stones. And just at that moment a dismal sound of sobbing wails reached
them from the woodshed back of the schoolhouse. The children tumbled out
as fast as they had tumbled in, and ran back, Betsy and Ralph at their
head. There in the woodshed was little 'Lias, huddled in the corner
behind some wood, crying and crying and crying, digging his fists into
his eyes, his face all smeared with tears and dirt. And he was dressed
again in his filthy, torn old overalls and ragged shirt. His poor little
bare feet shone with a piteous cleanliness in that dark place.

"What's the matter? What's the matter?" the children asked him all at
once. He flung himself on Ralph, burying his face in the other boy's
coat, and sobbed out some disjointed story which only Ralph could
hear ... and then as last and final climax of the disaster, who should
come looking over the shoulders of the children but Uncle Henry AND Mr.
Pond! And 'Lias all ragged and dirty again! Betsy sat down weakly on a
pile of wood, utterly disheartened. What was the use of anything!

"What's the matter?" asked the two men together.

Ralph turned, with an angry toss of his dark head, and told them
bitterly, over the heads of the children: "He just had some decent
clothes. ... First ones he's EVER had! And he was plotting on going to
the exercises in the Town Hall. And that darned old skunk of a
stepfather has gone and taken 'em and sold 'em to get whiskey. I'd like
to KILL him!"

Betsy could have flung her arms around Ralph, he looked so exactly the
way she felt. "Yes, he is a darned old skunk!" she said to herself,
rejoicing in the bad words she did not know before. It TOOK bad words to
qualify what had happened.

She saw an electric spark pass from Ralph's blazing eyes to Mr. Pond's
broad face, now grim and fierce. She saw Mr. Pond step forward, brushing
the children out of his way, like a giant among dwarfs. She saw him
stoop and pick little 'Lias up in his great, strong arms, and, holding
him close, stride furiously out of the woodshed, across the playground
to the buggy which was waiting for him.

"He'll go to the exercises all right!" he called back over his shoulder
in a great roar. "He'll go, if I have to buy out the whole town to get
him an outfit! And that whelp won't get these clothes, either; you hear
me say so!"

He sprang into the buggy and, holding 'Lias on his lap, took up the
reins and drove rapidly forward.

They saw little 'Lias again, entering the Town Hall, holding fast to Mr.
Pond's hand. He was magnificent in a whole suit of store clothes, coat
and all, and he wore white stockings and neat, low shoes, like a city

They saw him later, up on the platform, squeaking out his little
patriotic poem, his eyes, shining like stars, fixed on one broad,
smiling face in the audience. When he finished he was overcome with
shyness by the applause, and for a moment forgot to turn and leave the
platform. He hung his head, and, looking out from under his eyebrows,
gave a quaint, shy little smile at the audience. Betsy saw Mr. Pond's
great smile waver and grow dim. His eyes filled so full that he had to
take out his handkerchief and blow his nose loudly.

And they saw little 'Lias once more, for the last time. Mr. Pond's buggy
drove rapidly past their slow-moving hay-wagon, Mr. Pond holding the
reins masterfully in one hand. Beside him, very close, sat 'Lias with
his lap full of toys, oh, FULL--like Christmas! In that fleeting glimpse
they saw a toy train, a stuffed dog, a candy-box, a pile of
picture-books, tops, paper-bags, and even the swinging crane of the big
mechanical toy dredge that everybody said the storekeeper could never
sell to anybody because it cost so much!

As they passed swiftly, 'Lias looked out at them and waved his little
hand flutteringly. His other hand was tightly clasped in Mr. Pond's big
one. He was smiling at them all. His eyes looked dazed and radiant. He
turned his head as the buggy flashed by to call out, in a shrill,
exulting little shout, "Good-bye! Good-bye! I'm going to live with ..."
They could hear no more. He was gone, only his little hand still waving
at them over the back of the buggy seat.

Betsy drew a long, long breath. She found that Ralph was looking at her.
For a moment she couldn't think what made him look so different. Then
she saw that he was smiling. She had never seen him smile before. He
smiled at her as though he were sure she would understand, and never
said a word. Betsy looked forward again and saw the gleaming buggy
vanishing over the hill in front of them. She smiled back at Ralph

Not a thing had happened the way she had planned; no, not a single
thing! But it seemed to her she had never been so happy in her life.



Betsy's birthday was the ninth day of September, and the Necronsett
Valley Fair is always held from the eighth to the twelfth. So it was
decided that Betsy should celebrate her birthday by going up to
Woodford, where the Fair was held. The Putneys weren't going that year,
but the people on the next farm, the Wendells, said they could make room
in their surrey for the two little girls; for, of course, Molly was
going, too. In fact, she said the Fair was held partly to celebrate her
being six years old. This would happen on the seventeenth of October.
Molly insisted that that was PLENTY close enough to the ninth of
September to be celebrated then. This made Betsy feel like laughing out,
but observing that the Putneys only looked at each other with the
faintest possible quirk in the corners of their serious mouths, she
understood that they were afraid that Molly's feelings might be hurt if
they laughed out loud. So Betsy tried to curve her young lips to the
same kind and secret mirth.

And, I can't tell you why, this effort not to hurt Molly's feelings made
her have a perfect spasm of love for Molly. She threw herself on her and
gave her a great hug that tipped them both over on the couch on top of
Shep, who stopped snoring with his great gurgling snort, wriggled out
from under them, and stood with laughing eyes and wagging tail, looking
at them as they rolled and giggled among the pillows.

"What dress are you going to wear to the Fair, Betsy?" asked Cousin Ann.
"And we must decide about Molly's, too."

This stopped their rough-and-tumble fun in short order, and they applied
themselves to the serious question of a toilet.

When the great day arrived and the surrey drove away from the Wendells'
gate, Betsy was in a fresh pink-and-white gingham which she had helped
Cousin Ann make, and plump Molly looked like something good to eat in a
crisp white little dimity, one of Betsy's old dresses, with a deep hem
taken in to make it short enough for the little butter-ball. Because it
was Betsy's birthday, she sat on the front seat with Mr. Wendell, and
part of the time, when there were not too many teams on the road, she
drove, herself. Mrs. Wendell and her sister filled the back seat solidly
full from side to side and made one continuous soft lap on which Molly
happily perched, her eyes shining, her round cheeks red with joyful
excitement. Betsy looked back at her several times and thought how very
nice Molly looked. She had, of course, little idea how she herself
looked, because the mirrors at Putney Farm were all small and high up,
and anyhow they were so old and greenish that they made everybody look
very queer-colored. You looked in them to see if your hair was smooth,
and that was about all you could stand.

So it was a great surprise to Betsy later in the morning, as she and
Molly wandered hand in hand through the wonders of Industrial Hall, to
catch sight of Molly in a full-length mirror as clear as water. She was
almost startled to see how faithfully reflected were the yellow of the
little girl's curls, the clear pink and white of her face, and the blue
of her soft eyes. An older girl was reflected there also, near Molly, a
dark-eyed, red-cheeked, sturdy little girl, standing very straight on
two strong legs, holding her head high and free, her dark eyes looking
out brightly from her tanned face. For an instant Betsy gazed into those
clear eyes and then ... why, gracious goodness! That was herself she was
looking at! How changed she was! How very, very different she looked
from the last time she had seen herself in a big mirror! She remembered
it well--out shopping with Aunt Frances in a department store, she had
caught sight of a pale little girl, with a thin neck, and spindling legs
half-hidden in the folds of Aunt Frances's skirts. But she didn't look
even like the sister of this browned, muscular, upstanding child who
held Molly's hand so firmly.

All this came into her mind and went out again in a moment, for Molly
caught sight of a big doll in the next aisle and they hurried over to
inspect her clothing. The mirror was forgotten in the many exciting
sights and sounds and smells of their first county fair.

The two little girls were to wander about as they pleased until noon,
when they were to meet the Wendells in the shadow of Industrial Hall and
eat their picnic lunch together. The two parties arrived together from
different directions, having seen very different sides of the Fair. The
children were full of the merry-go-rounds, the balloon-seller, the
toy-venders, and the pop-corn stands, while the Wendells exchanged views
on the shortness of a hog's legs, the dip in a cow's back, and the
thickness of a sheep's wool. The Wendells, it seemed, had met some
cousins they didn't expect to see, who, not knowing about Betsy and
Molly, had hoped that they might ride home with the Wendells.

"Don't you suppose," Mrs. Wendell asked Betsy, "that you and Molly could
go home with the Vaughans? They're here in their big wagon. You could
sit on the floor with the Vaughan children."

Betsy and Molly thought this would be great fun, and agreed

"All right then," said Mrs. Wendell. She called to a young man who stood
inside the building, near an open window: "Oh, Frank, Will Vaughan is
going to be in your booth this afternoon, isn't he?"

"Yes, ma'am," said the young man. "His turn is from two to four."

"Well, you tell him, will you, that the two little girls who live at
Putney Farm are going to go home with them. They can sit on the bottom
of the wagon with the Vaughan young ones."

"Yes, ma'am," said the young man, with a noticeable lack of interest in
how Betsy and Molly got home.

"Now, Betsy," said Mrs. Wendell, "you go round to that booth at two and
ask Will Vaughan what time they're going to start and where their wagon
is, and then you be sure not to keep them waiting a minute."

"No, I won't," said Betsy. "I'll be sure to be there on time."

She and Molly still had twenty cents to spend out of the forty they had
brought with them, twenty-five earned by berry-picking and fifteen a
present from Uncle Henry. They now put their heads together to see how
they could make the best possible use of their four nickels. Cousin Ann
had put no restrictions whatever on them, saying they could buy any sort
of truck or rubbish they could find, except the pink lemonade. She said
she had been told the venders washed their glasses in that, and their
hands, and for all she knew their faces. Betsy was for merry-go-rounds,
but Molly yearned for a big red balloon; and while they were buying that
a man came by with toy dogs, little brown dogs with curled-wire tails.
He called out that they would bark when you pulled their tails, and
seeing the little girls looking at him he pulled the tail of the one he
held. It gave forth a fine loud yelp, just like Shep when his tail got
stepped on. Betsy bought one, all done up neatly in a box tied with blue
string. She thought it a great bargain to get a dog who would bark for
five cents. (Later on, when they undid the string and opened the box,
they found the dog had one leg broken off and wouldn't make the faintest
squeak when his tail was pulled; but that is the sort of thing you must
expect to have happen to you at a county fair.)

Now they had ten cents left and they decided to have a ride apiece on
the merry-go-round. But, glancing up at the clock-face in the tower over
Agricultural Hall, Betsy noticed it was half-past two and she decided to
go first to the booth where Will Vaughan was to be and find out what
time they would start for home. She found the booth with no difficulty,
but William Vaughan was not in it. Nor was the young man she had seen
before. There was a new one, a strange one, a careless, whistling young
man, with very bright socks, very yellow shoes, and very striped cuffs.
He said, in answer to Betsy's inquiry: "Vaughan? Will Vaughan? Never
heard the name," and immediately went on whistling and looking up and
down the aisle over the heads of the little girls, who stood gazing up
at him with very wide, startled eyes. An older man leaned over from the
next booth and said: "Will Vaughan? He from Hillsboro? Well, I heard
somebody say those Hillsboro Vaughans had word one of their cows was
awful sick, and they had to start right home that minute."

Betsy came to herself out of her momentary daze and snatched Molly's
hand. "Hurry! quick! We must find the Wendells before they get away!" In
her agitation (for she was really very much frightened) she forgot how
easily terrified little Molly was. Her alarm instantly sent the child
into a panic. "Oh, Betsy! Betsy! What will we do!" she gasped, as Betsy
pulled her along the aisle and out of the door.

"Oh, the Wendells can't be gone yet," said Betsy reassuringly, though
she was not at all sure she was telling the truth. She ran as fast as
she could drag Molly's fat legs, to the horse-shed where Mr. Wendell had
tied his horses and left the surrey. The horse-shed was empty, quite

Betsy stopped short and stood still, her heart seeming to be up in her
throat so that she could hardly breathe. After all, she was only ten
that day, you must remember. Molly began to cry loudly, hiding her
weeping face in Betsy's dress. "What will we do, Betsy! What can we DO!"
she wailed.

Betsy did not answer. She did not know what they WOULD do! They were
eight miles from Putney Farm, far too much for Molly to walk, and anyhow
neither of them knew the way. They had only ten cents left, and nothing
to eat. And the only people they knew in all that throng of strangers
had gone back to Hillsboro.

"What will we do, Betsy?" Molly kept on crying out, horrified by Betsy's
silence and evident consternation.

The other child's head swam. She tried again the formula which had
helped her when Molly fell into the Wolf Pit, and asked herself,
desperately, "What would Cousin Ann do if she were here!" But that did
not help her much now, because she could not possibly imagine what
Cousin Ann would do under such appalling circumstances. Yes, one thing
Cousin Ann would be sure to do, of course; she would quiet Molly first
of all.

At this thought Betsy sat down on the ground and took the panic-stricken
little girl into her lap, wiping away the tears and saying, stoutly,
"Now, Molly, stop crying this minute. I'll take care of you, of course.
I'll get you home all right."

"How'll you ever do it?" sobbed Molly.

"Everybody's gone and left us. We can't walk!"

"Never you mind how," said Betsy, trying to be facetious and
mock-mysterious, though her own under lip was quivering a little.
"That's my surprise party for you. Just you wait. Now come on back to
that booth. Maybe Will Vaughan didn't go home with his folks."

She had very little hope of this, and only went back there because it
seemed to her a little less dauntingly strange than every other spot in
the howling wilderness about her; for all at once the Fair, which had
seemed so lively and cheerful and gay before, seemed now a horrible,
frightening, noisy place, full of hurried strangers who came and went
their own ways, with not a glance out of their hard eyes for two little
girls stranded far from home.

The bright-colored young man was no better when they found him again. He
stopped his whistling only long enough to say, "Nope, no Will Vaughan
anywhere around these diggings yet."

"We were going home with the Vaughans," murmured Betsy, in a low tone,
hoping for some help from him.

"Looks as though you'd better go home on the cars," advised the young
man casually. He smoothed his black hair back straighter than ever from
his forehead and looked over their heads.

"How much does it cost to go to Hillsboro on the cars?" asked Betsy with
a sinking heart.

"You'll have to ask somebody else about that," said the young man. "What
I don't know about this Rube state! I never was in it before." He spoke
as though he were very proud of the fact.

Betsy turned and went over to the older man who had told them about the

Molly trotted at her heels, quite comforted, now that Betsy was talking
so competently to grown-ups. She did not hear what they said, nor try
to. Now that Betsy's voice sounded all right she had no more fears.
Betsy would manage somehow. She heard Betsy's voice again talking to the
other man, but she was busy looking at an exhibit of beautiful jelly
glasses, and paid no attention. Then Betsy led her away again out of
doors, where everybody was walking back and forth under the bright
September sky, blowing on horns, waving plumes of brilliant
tissue-paper, tickling each other with peacock feathers, and eating
pop-corn and candy out of paper bags.

That reminded Molly that they had ten cents yet. "Oh, Betsy," she
proposed, "let's take a nickel of our money for some pop-corn."

She was startled by Betsy's fierce sudden clutch at their little purse
and by the quaver in her voice as she answered: "No, no, Molly. We've
got to save every cent of that. I've found out it costs thirty cents for
us both to go home to Hillsboro on the train. The last one goes at six

"We haven't got but ten," said Molly.

Betsy looked at her silently for a moment and then burst out, "I'll earn
the rest! I'll earn it somehow! I'll have to! There isn't any other

"All right," said Molly quaintly, not seeing anything unusual in this.
"You can, if you want to. I'll wait for you here."

"No, you won't!" cried Betsy, who had quite enough of trying to meet
people in a crowd. "No, you won't! You just follow me every minute! I
don't want you out of my sight!"

They began to move forward now, Betsy's eyes wildly roving from one
place to another. How COULD a little girl earn money at a county fair!
She was horribly afraid to go up and speak to a stranger, and yet how
else could she begin?

"Here, Molly, you wait here," she said. "Don't you budge till I come

But alas! Molly had only a moment to wait that time, for the man who was
selling lemonade answered Betsy's shy question with a stare and a curt,
"Lord, no! What could a young one like you do for me?"

The little girls wandered on, Molly calm and expectant, confident in
Betsy; Betsy with a very dry mouth and a very gone feeling. They were
passing by a big shed-like building now, where a large sign proclaimed
that the Woodford Ladies' Aid Society would serve a hot chicken dinner
for thirty-five cents. Of course the sign was not accurate, for at
half-past three, almost four, the chicken dinner had long ago been all
eaten and in place of the diners was a group of weary women moving
languidly about or standing saggingly by a great table piled with dirty
dishes. Betsy paused here, meditated a moment, and went in rapidly so
that her courage would not evaporate.

The woman with gray hair looked down at her a little impatiently and
said, "Dinner's all over."

"I didn't come for dinner," said Betsy, swallowing hard. "I came to see
if you wouldn't hire me to wash your dishes. I'll do them for
twenty-five cents."

The woman laughed, looked from little Betsy to the great pile of dishes,
and said, turning away, "Mercy, child, if you washed from now till
morning, you wouldn't make a hole in what we've got to do."

Betsy heard her say to the other women, "Some young one wanting more
money for the side-shows."

Now, now was the moment to remember what Cousin Ann would have done. She
would certainly not have shaken all over with hurt feelings nor have
allowed the tears to come stingingly to her eyes. So Betsy sternly made
herself stop doing these things. And Cousin Ann wouldn't have given way
to the dreadful sinking feeling of utter discouragement, but would have
gone right on to the next place. So, although Betsy felt like nothing so
much as crooking her elbow over her face and crying as hard as she could
cry, she stiffened her back, took Molly's hand again, and stepped out,
heart-sick within but very steady (although rather pale) without.

She and Molly walked along in the crowd again, Molly laughing and
pointing out the pranks and antics of the young people, who were feeling
livelier than ever as the afternoon wore on. Betsy looked at them grimly
with unseeing eyes. It was four o'clock. The last train for Hillsboro
left in two hours and she was no nearer having the price of the tickets.
She stopped for a moment to get her breath; for, although they were
walking slowly, she kept feeling breathless and choked. It occurred to
her that if ever a little girl had had a more horrible birthday she
never heard of one!

"Oh, I wish I could, Dan!" said a young voice near her. "But honest!
Momma'd just eat me up alive if I left the booth for a minute!"

Betsy turned quickly. A very pretty girl with yellow hair and blue eyes
(she looked as Molly might when she was grown up) was leaning over the
edge of a little canvas-covered booth, the sign of which announced that
home-made doughnuts and soft drinks were for sale there. A young man,
very flushed and gay, was pulling at the girl's blue gingham sleeve.
"Oh, come on, Annie. Just one turn! The floor's elegant. You can keep an
eye on the booth from the hall! Nobody's going to run away with the old
thing anyhow!''

"Honest, I'd love to! But I got a great lot of dishes to wash, too! You
know Momma!" She looked longingly toward the open-air dancing floor, out
from which just then floated a burst of brazen music.

"Oh, PLEASE!" said a small voice. "I'll do it for twenty cents."

Betsy stood by the girl's elbow, all quivering earnestness.

"Do what, kiddie?" asked the girl in a good-natured surprise.

"Everything!" said Betsy, compendiously. "Everything! Wash the dishes,
tend the booth; YOU can go dance! I'll do it for twenty cents."

The eyes of the girl and the man met in high amusement. "My! Aren't we
up and coming!" said the man. "You're most as big as a pint-cup, aren't
you?" he said to Betsy.

The little girl flushed--she detested being laughed at--but she looked
straight into the laughing eyes. "I'm ten years old today," she said,
"and I can wash dishes as well as anybody." She spoke with dignity.

The young man burst out into a great laugh.

"Great kid, what!" he said to the girl, and then, "Say, Annie, why not?
Your mother won't be here for an hour. The kid can keep folks from
walking off with the dope and ..."

"I'll do the dishes, too," repeated Betsy, trying hard not to mind being
laughed at, and keeping her eyes fixed steadily on the tickets to

"Well, by gosh," said the young man, laughing. "Here's our chance,
Annie, for fair! Come along!"

The girl laughed, too, out of high spirits. "Wouldn't Momma be crazy!"
she said hilariously. "But she'll never know. Here, you cute kid, here's
my apron." She took off her long apron and tied it around Betsy's neck.
"There's the soap, there's the table. You stack the dishes up on that

She was out of the little gate in the counter in a twinkling, just as
Molly, in answer to a beckoning gesture from Betsy, came in. "Hello,
there's another one!" said the gay young man, gayer and gayer. "Hello,
button! What you going to do? I suppose when they try to crack the safe
you'll run at them and bark and drive them away!"

Molly opened her sweet, blue eyes very wide, not understanding a single
word. The girl laughed, swooped back, gave Molly a kiss, and
disappeared, running side by side with the young man toward the dance

Betsy mounted on a soap box and began joyfully to wash the dishes. She
had never thought that ever in her life would she simply LOVE to wash
dishes beyond anything else! But it was so. Her relief was so great that
she could have kissed the coarse, thick plates and glasses as she washed

"It's all right, Molly; it's all right!" she quavered exultantly to
Molly over her shoulder. But as Molly had not (from the moment Betsy
took command) suspected that it was not all right, she only nodded and
asked if she might sit up on a barrel where she could watch the crowd go

"I guess you could. I don't know why NOT," said Betsy doubtfully. She
lifted her up and went back to her dishes. Never were dishes washed

"Two doughnuts, please," said a man's voice behind her.

Oh, mercy, there was somebody come to buy! Whatever should she do? She
came forward intending to say that the owner of the booth was away and
she didn't know anything about ... but the man laid down a nickel, took
two doughnuts, and turned away. Betsy gasped and looked at the home-made
sign stuck into the big pan of doughnuts. Sure enough, it read "2 for
5." She put the nickel up on a shelf and went back to her dishwashing.
Selling things wasn't so hard, she reflected.

As her hunted feeling of desperation relaxed she began to find some fun
in her new situation, and when a woman with two little boys approached
she came forward to wait on her, elated, important. "Two for five," she
said in a businesslike tone. The woman put down a dime, took up four
doughnuts, divided them between her sons, and departed.

[Illustration: Never were dishes washed better!]

"My!" said Molly, looking admiringly at Betsy's coolness over this
transaction. Betsy went back to her dishes, stepping high.

"Oh, Betsy, see! The pig! The big ox!" cried Molly now, looking from her
coign of vantage down the wide, grass-grown lane between the booths.

Betsy craned her head around over her shoulder, continuing
conscientiously to wash and wipe the dishes. The prize stock was being
paraded around the Fair; the great prize ox, his shining horns tipped
with blue rosettes; the prize cows, with wreaths around their necks; the
prize horses, four or five of them as glossy as satin, curving their
bright, strong necks and stepping as though on eggs, their manes and
tails braided with bright ribbon; and then, "Oh, Betsy, LOOK at the
pig!" screamed Molly again--the smaller animals, the sheep, the calves,
the colts, and the pig, which waddled along with portly dignity.

Betsy looked as well as she could over her shoulder ... and in years to
come she can shut her eyes and see again in every detail that rustic
procession under the golden, September light.

But she looked anxiously at the clock. It was nearing five. Oh, suppose
the girl forgot and danced too long!

"Two bottles of ginger ale and half a dozen doughnuts," said a man with
a woman and three children.

Betsy looked feverishly among the bottles ranged on the counter,
selected two marked ginger ale, and glared at their corrugated tin
stoppers. How DID you get them open?

"Here's your opener," said the man, "if that's what you're looking for.
Here, you get the glasses and I'll open the bottles. We're in kind of a
hurry. Got to catch a train."

Well, they were not the only people who had to catch a train, Betsy
thought sadly. They drank in gulps and departed, cramming doughnuts into
their mouths. Betsy wished ardently that the girl would come back. She
was now almost sure that she had forgotten and would dance there till
nightfall. But there, there she came, running along, as light-footed
after an hour's dancing as when she had left the booth.

"Here you are, kid," said the young man, producing a quarter. "We've had
the time of our young lives, thanks to you."

Betsy gave him back one of the nickels that remained to her, but he
refused it.

"No, keep the change," he said royally. "It was worth it."

"Then I'll buy two doughnuts with my extra nickel," said Betsy.

"No, you won't," said the girl. "You'll take all you want for nothing ...
Momma'll never miss 'em. And what you sell here has got to be fresh
every day. Here, hold out your hands, both of you."

"Some people came and bought things," said Betsy, happening to remember
as she and Molly turned away. "The money is on that shelf."

"Well, NOW!" said the girl, "if she didn't take hold and sell things!
Say ...  "--she ran after Betsy and gave her a hug--"you smart young one,
I wish't I had a little sister just like you!"

Molly and Betsy hurried along out of the gate into the main street of
the town and down to the station. Molly was eating doughnuts as she
went. They were both quite hungry by this time, but Betsy could not
think of eating till she had those tickets in her hand.

She pushed her quarter and a nickel into the ticket-seller's window and
said "Hillsboro" in as confident a tone as she could; but when the
precious bits of paper were pushed out at her and she actually held
them, her knees shook under her and she had to go and sit down on the

"My! Aren't these doughnuts good?" said Molly. "I never in my life had
ENOUGH doughnuts before!"

Betsy drew a long breath and began rather languidly to eat one herself;
she felt, all of a sudden, very, very tired.

She was tireder still when they got out of the train at Hillsboro
Station and started wearily up the road toward Putney Farm. Two miles
lay before them, two miles which they had often walked before, but never
after such a day as now lay back of them. Molly dragged her feet as she
walked and hung heavily on Betsy's hand. Betsy plodded along, her head
hanging, her eyes all gritty with fatigue and sleepiness. A light buggy
spun round the turn of the road behind them, the single horse trotting
fast as though the driver were in a hurry, the wheels rattling smartly
on the hard road. The little girls drew out to one side and stood
waiting till the road should be free again. When he saw them the driver
pulled the horse back so quickly it stood almost straight up. He peered
at them through the twilight and then with a loud shout sprang over the
side of the buggy.

It was Uncle Henry--oh, goody, it was Uncle Henry come to meet them!
They wouldn't have to walk any further!

But what was the matter with Uncle Henry? He ran up to them, exclaiming,
"Are ye all right? Are ye all right?" He stooped over and felt of them
desperately as though he expected them to be broken somewhere. And Betsy
could feel that his old hands were shaking, that he was trembling all
over. When she said, "Why, yes, Uncle Henry, we're all right. We came
home on the cars," Uncle Henry leaned up against the fence as though he
couldn't stand up. He took off his hat and wiped his forehead and he
said--it didn't seem as though it could be Uncle Henry talking, he
sounded so excited--"Well, well--well, by gosh! My! Well, by thunder!
Now! And so here ye are! And you're all right! WELL!"

He couldn't seem to stop exclaiming, and you can't imagine anything
stranger than an Uncle Henry who couldn't stop exclaiming.

After they all got into the buggy he quieted down a little and said,
"Thunderation! But we've had a scare! When the Wendells come back with
their cousins early this afternoon, they said you were coming with the
Vaughans. And then when you didn't come and DIDN'T come, we telephoned
to the Vaughans, and they said they hadn't seen hide nor hair of ye, and
didn't even know you were TO the Fair at all! I tell you, your Aunt
Abigail and I had an awful turn! Ann and I hitched up quicker'n scat and
she put right out with Prince up toward Woodford and I took Jessie down
this way; thought maybe I'd get trace of ye somewhere here. Well, land!"
He wiped his forehead again. "Wa'n't I glad to see you standin'
there ... get along, Jess! I want to get the news to Abigail soon as I

"Now tell me what in thunder DID happen to you!"

Betsy began at the beginning and told straight through, interrupted at
first by indignant comments from Uncle Henry, who was outraged by the
Wendells' loose wearing of their responsibility for the children. But as
she went on he quieted down to a closely attentive silence, interrupting
only to keep Jess at her top speed.

Now that it was all safely over, Betsy thought her story quite an
interesting one, and she omitted no detail, although she wondered once
or twice if perhaps Uncle Henry were listening to her, he kept so still.
"And so I bought the tickets and we got home," she ended, adding, "Oh,
Uncle Henry, you ought to have seen the prize pig! He was TOO funny!"

They turned into the Putney yard now and saw Aunt Abigail's bulky form
on the porch.

"Got 'em, Abby! All right! No harm done!" shouted Uncle Henry.

Aunt Abigail turned without a word and went back into the house. When
the little girls dragged their weary legs in they found her quietly
setting out some supper for them on the table, but she was wiping away
with her apron the joyful tears which ran down her cheeks, such white
cheeks! It seemed so strange to see rosy Aunt Abigail with a face like

"Well, I'm glad to see ye," she told them soberly. "Sit right down and
have some hot milk. I had some all ready."

The telephone rang, she went into the next room, and they heard her
saying, in an unsteady voice: "All right, Ann. They're here. Your father
just brought them in. I haven't had time to hear about what happened
yet. But they're all right. You'd better come home."

"That's your Cousin Ann telephoning from the Marshalls'."

She herself went and sat down heavily, and when Uncle Henry came in a
few minutes later she asked him in a rather weak voice for the ammonia
bottle. He rushed for it, got her a fan and a drink of cold water, and
hung over her anxiously till the color began to come back into her pale
face. "I know just how you feel, Mother," he said sympathetically. "When
I saw 'em standin' there by the roadside I felt as though somebody had
hit me a clip right in the pit of the stomach."

The little girls ate their supper in a tired daze, not paying any
attention to what the grown-ups were saying, until rapid hoofs clicked
on the stones outside and Cousin Ann came in quickly, her black eyes

"Now, for mercy's sake, tell me what happened," she said, adding hotly,
"and if I don't give that Maria Wendell a piece of my mind!"

Uncle Henry broke in: "_I_'M going to tell what happened. I WANT to do
it. You and Mother just listen, just sit right down and listen." His
voice was shaking with feeling, and as he went on and told of Betsy's
afternoon, her fright, her confusion, her forming the plan of coming
home on the train and of earning the money for the tickets, he made, for
once, no Putney pretense of casual coolness. His old eyes flashed fire
as he talked.

Betsy, watching him, felt her heart swell and beat fast in incredulous
joy. Why, he was proud of her! She had done something to make the Putney
cousins proud of her!

When Uncle Henry came to the part where she went on asking for
employment after one and then another refusal, Cousin Ann reached out
her long arms and quickly, almost roughly, gathered Betsy up on her lap,
holding her close as she listened. Betsy had never before sat on Cousin
Ann's lap.

And when Uncle Henry finished--he had not forgotten a single thing Betsy
had told him--and asked, "What do you think of THAT for a little girl
ten years old today?" Cousin Ann opened the flood-gates wide and burst
out, "I think I never heard of a child's doing a smarter, grittier

It was a great, a momentous, an historic moment!

Betsy, enthroned on those strong knees, wondered if any little girl had
ever had such a beautiful birthday.



About a month, after Betsy's birthday, one October day when the leaves
were all red and yellow, two very momentous events occurred, and, in a
manner of speaking, at the very same time. Betsy had noticed that her
kitten Eleanor (she still thought of her as a kitten, although she was
now a big, grown-up cat) spent very little time around the house. She
came into the kitchen two or three times a day, mewing loudly for milk
and food, but after eating very fast she always disappeared at once.
Betsy missed the purring, contented ball of fur on her lap in the long
evenings as she played checkers, or read aloud, or sewed, or played
guessing games. She felt rather hurt, too, that Eleanor paid her so
little attention, and several times she tried hard to make her stay,
trailing in front of her a spool tied to a string or rolling a worsted
ball across the floor. But Eleanor seemed to have lost all her taste for
the things she had liked so much. Invariably, the moment the door was
opened, she darted out and vanished.

One afternoon Betsy ran out after her, determined to catch her and bring
her back. When the cat found she was being followed, she bounded along
in great leaps, constantly escaping from Betsy's outstretched hand. They
came thus to the horse-barn, into the open door of which Eleanor whisked
like a little gray shadow, Betsy close behind. The cat flashed up the
steep, ladder-like stairs that led to the hay-loft. Betsy scrambled
rapidly up, too. It was dark up there, compared to the gorgeous-colored
October day outside, and for a moment she could not see Eleanor. Then
she made her out, a dim little shape, picking her way over the hay, and
she heard her talking. Yes, it was real talk, quite, quite different
from the loud, imperious "MIAUW!" with which Eleanor asked for her milk.
This was the softest, prettiest kind of conversation, all little murmurs
and chirps and sing-songs. Why, Betsy could almost understand it! She
COULD understand it enough to know that it was love-talk, and then,
breaking into this, came a sudden series of shrill, little, needle-like
cries that fairly filled the hay-loft. Eleanor gave a bound forward and
disappeared. Betsy, very much excited, scrambled and climbed up over the
hay as fast as she could go.

It was all silent now--the piercing, funny little squalls had stopped as
suddenly as they began. On the top in a little nest lay Eleanor, purring
so loudly you could hear her all over the big mow, and so proud and
happy she could hardly contain herself. Her eyes glistened, she arched
her back, rolled over and spread out her paws, disclosing to Betsy's
astounded, delighted eyes--no, she wasn't dreaming--two dear little
kittens, one all gray, just like its mother; one gray with a big bib on
his chest.

Oh! How dear they were! How darling, and cuddly, and fuzzy! Betsy put
her fingers very softly on the gray one's head and thrilled to feel the
warmth of the little living creature. "Oh, Eleanor!" she asked eagerly.
"CAN I pick one up?" She lifted the gray one gently and held it up to
her cheek. The little thing nestled down in the warm hollow of her hand.
She could feel its tiny, tiny little claws pricking softly into her
palm. "Oh, you sweetness! You little, little baby-thing!" she said over
and over in a whisper.

Eleanor did not stop purring, and she looked up with friendly, trusting
eyes as her little mistress made the acquaintance of her children, but
Betsy could feel somehow that Eleanor was anxious about her kitten, was
afraid that, although the little girl meant everything that was kind,
her great, clumsy, awkward human hands weren't clever enough to hold a
baby-cat the proper way. "I don't blame you a bit, Eleanor," said Betsy.
"I should feel just so in your place. There! I won't touch it again!"
She laid the kitten down carefully by its mother. Eleanor at once began
to wash its face very vigorously, knocking it over and over with her
strong tongue. "My!" said Betsy, laughing. "You'd scratch my eyes out,
if _I_ were as rough as that!"

Eleanor didn't seem to hear. Or rather she seemed to hear something
else. For she stopped short, her head lifted, her ears pricked up,
listening very hard to some distant sound. Then Betsy heard it, too,
somebody coming into the barn below, little, quick, uneven footsteps. It
must be little Molly, tagging along, as she always did. What fun to show
Molly the kittens!

"Betsy!" called Molly from below.

"Molly!" called Betsy from above. "Come up here quick! I've got
something up here."

There was a sound of scrambling, rapid feet on the rough stairs, and
Molly's yellow curls appeared, shining in the dusk. "I've got a ..." she
began, but Betsy did not let her finish.

"Come here, Molly, quick! QUICK!" she called, beckoning eagerly, as
though the kittens might evaporate into thin air if Molly didn't get
there at once. Molly forgot what she was going to say, climbed madly up
the steep pile of hay, and in a moment was lying flat on her stomach
beside the little family in a spasm of delight that satisfied even Betsy
and Eleanor, both of them convinced that these were the finest kittens
the world had ever seen.

"See, there are two," said Betsy. "You can have one for your very own.
And I'll let you choose. Which one do you like best?"

She was hoping that Molly would not take the little all-gray one,
because she had fallen in love with that the minute she saw it.

"Oh, THIS one with the white on his breast," said Molly, without a
moment's hesitation. "It's LOTS the prettiest! Oh, Betsy! For my very

Something white fell out of the folds of her skirt on the hay. "Oh,
yes," she said indifferently. "A letter for you. Miss Ann told me to
bring it out here. She said she saw you streaking it for the barn."

It was a letter from Aunt Frances. Betsy opened it, one eye on Molly to
see that she did not hug her new darling too tightly, and began to read
it in the ray of dusty sunlight slanting in through a crack in the side
of the barn. She could do this easily, because Aunt Frances always made
her handwriting very large and round and clear, so that a little girl
could read it without half trying.

And as she read, everything faded away from before her ... the barn,
Molly, the kittens ... she saw nothing but the words on the page.

When she had read the letter through she got up quickly, oh ever so
quickly! and went away down the stairs. Molly hardly noticed she had
gone, so absorbing and delightful were the kittens.

Betsy went out of the dusky barn into the rich, October splendor and saw
none of it. She went straight away from the house and the barn, straight
up into the hill-pasture toward her favorite place beside the brook, the
shady pool under the big maple-tree. At first she walked, but after a
while she ran, faster and faster, as though she could not get there soon
enough. Her head was down, and one arm was crooked over her face....

And do you know, I'm not going to follow her up there, nor let you go.
I'm afraid we would all cry if we saw what Betsy did under the big
maple-tree. And the very reason she ran away so fast was so that she
could be all by herself for a very hard hour, and fight it out, alone.

So let us go back soberly to the orchard where the Putneys are, and wait
till Betsy comes walking listlessly in, her eyes red and her cheeks
pale. Cousin Ann was up in the top of a tree, a basket hung over her
shoulder half full of striped red Northern Spies; Uncle Henry was on a
ladder against another tree, filling a bag with the beautiful, shining,
yellow-green Pound Sweets, and Aunt Abigail was moving around, picking
up the parti-colored windfalls and putting them into barrels ready to go
to the cider-mill.

Something about the way Betsy walked, and as she drew closer something
about the expression of her face, and oh! as she began to speak,
something about the tone of her voice, stopped all this cheerful
activity as though a bomb had gone off in their midst.

"I've had a letter from Aunt Frances," said Betsy, biting her lips, "and
she says she's coming to take me away, back to them, tomorrow."

There was a big silence; Cousin Ann stood, perfectly motionless up in
her tree, staring down through the leaves at Betsy. Uncle Henry was
turned around on his ladder, one hand on an apple as though it had
frozen there, staring down at Betsy. Aunt Abigail leaned with both fat
hands on her barrel, staring hard at Betsy. Betsy was staring down at
her shoes, biting her lips and winking her eyes. The yellow, hazy
October sun sank slowly down toward the rim of Hemlock Mountain, and
sent long, golden shafts of light through the branches of the trees upon
this group of people, all so silent, so motionless.

[Illustration: Betsy was staring down at her shoes, biting her lips and
winking her eyes.]

Betsy was the first to speak, and I'm very proud of her for what she
said. She said, loyally, "Dear Aunt Frances! She was always so sweet to
me! She always tried so hard to take care of me!"

For that was what Betsy had found up by the brook under the big red
maple-tree. She had found there a certainty that, whatever else she did,
she must NOT hurt Aunt Frances's feelings--dear, gentle, sweet Aunt
Frances, whose feelings were so easily hurt and who had given her so
many years of such anxious care. Something up there had told
her--perhaps the quiet blue shadow of Windward Mountain creeping slowly
over the pasture toward her, perhaps the silent glory of the great
red-and-gold tree, perhaps the singing murmur of the little
brook--perhaps all of them together had told her that now had come a
time when she must do more than what Cousin Ann would do--when she must
do what she herself knew was right. And that was to protect Aunt Frances
from hurt.

When she spoke, out there in the orchard, she broke the spell of
silence. Cousin Ann climbed hastily down from her tree, with her basket
only partly filled. Uncle Henry got stiffly off his ladder, and Aunt
Abigail advanced through the grass. And they all said the same
thing--"Let me see that letter."

They read it there, looking over each other's shoulders, with grave
faces. Then, still silently, they all turned and went back into the
house, leaving their forgotten bags and barrels and baskets out under
the trees. When they found themselves in the kitchen--"Well, it's
suppertime, anyhow," said Cousin Ann hastily, as if ashamed of losing
her composure, "or almost time. We might as well get it now."

"I'm a-going out to milk," said Uncle Henry gruffly, although it was not
nearly his usual time. He took up the milk pails and marched out toward
the barn, stepping heavily, his head hanging.

Shep woke up with a snort and, getting off the couch, gamboled clumsily
up to Betsy, wagging his tail and jumping up on her, ready for a frolic.
That was almost too much for Betsy! To think that after tomorrow she
would never see Shep again--nor Eleanor! Nor the kittens! She choked as
she bent over Shep and put her arms around his neck for a great hug. But
she mustn't cry, she mustn't hurt Aunt Frances's feelings, or show that
she wasn't glad to go back to her. That wouldn't be fair, after all Aunt
Frances had done for her!

That night she lay awake after she and Molly had gone to bed and Molly
was asleep. They had decided not to tell Molly until the last minute, so
she had dropped off peacefully, as usual. But poor Betsy's eyes were
wide open. She saw a gleam of light under the door. It widened; the door
opened. Aunt Abigail stood there, in her night cap, mountainous in her
long white gown, a candle shining up into her serious old face.

"You awake, Betsy?" she whispered, seeing the child's dark eyes gleaming
at her over the covers. "I just--I just thought I'd look in to see if
you were all right." She came to the edge of the bed and set the candle
down on the little stand. Betsy reached her arms up longingly and the
old woman stooped over her. Neither of them said a single word during
the long embrace which followed. Then Aunt Abigail straightened up
hastily, took her candle very quickly and softly, and heavily padded out
of the room.

Betsy turned over and flung one arm over Molly--no Molly, either, after

She gulped hard and stared up at the ceiling, dimly white in the
starlight. A gleam of light shone under the door. It widened, and Uncle
Henry stood there, a candle in his hand, peering into the room. "You
awake, Betsy?" he said cautiously.

"Yes. I'm awake, Uncle Henry."

The old man shuffled into the room. "I just got to thinking," he said,
hesitating, "that maybe you'd like to take my watch with you. It's kind
of handy to have a watch on the train. And I'd like real well for you to
have it."

He laid it down on the stand, his own cherished gold watch, that had
been given him when he was twenty-one.

Betsy reached out and took his hard, gnarled old fist in a tight grip.
"Oh, Uncle Henry!" she began, and could not go on.

"We'll miss you, Betsy," he said in an uncertain voice. "It's
been ... it's been real nice to have you here ..."

And then he too snatched up his candle very quickly and almost ran out
of the room.

Betsy turned over on her back. "No crying, now!" she told herself
fiercely. "No crying, now!" She clenched her hands together tightly and
set her teeth.

Something moved in the room. Somebody leaned over her. It was Cousin
Ann, who didn't make a sound, not one, but who took Betsy in her strong
arms and held her close and closer, till Betsy could feel the quick
pulse of the other's heart beating all through her own body. Then she
was gone--as silently as she came.

But somehow that great embrace had taken away all the burning tightness
from Betsy's eyes and heart. She was very, very tired, and soon after
this she fell sound asleep, snuggled up close to Molly.

In the morning, nobody spoke of last night at all. Breakfast was
prepared and eaten, and the team hitched up directly afterward. Betsy
and Uncle Henry were to drive to the station together to meet Aunt
Frances's train. Betsy put on her new wine-colored cashmere that Cousin
Ann had made her, with the soft white collar of delicate old embroidery
that Aunt Abigail had given her out of one of the trunks in the attic.

She and Uncle Henry said very little as they drove to the village, and
even less as they stood waiting together on the platform. Betsy slipped
her hand into his and he held it tight as the train whistled in the
distance and came slowly and laboriously puffing up to the station.

Just one person got off at the little station, and that was Aunt
Frances, looking ever so dressed up and citified, with a fluffy
ostrich-feather boa and kid gloves and a white veil over her face and a
big blue one floating from her gay-flowered velvet hat. How pretty she
was! And how young--under the veil which hid so kindly all the little
lines in her sweet, thin face. And how excited and fluttery! Betsy had
forgotten how fluttery Aunt Frances was! She clasped Betsy to her, and
then started back crying--she must see to her suitcase--and then she
clasped Betsy to her again and shook hands with Uncle Henry, whose grim
old face looked about as cordial and welcoming as the sourest kind of
sour pickle, and she fluttered back and said she must have left her
umbrella on the train. "Oh, Conductor! Conductor! My umbrella--right in
my seat--a blue one with a crooked-over--oh, here it is in my hand! What
am I thinking of!"

The conductor evidently thought he'd better get the train away as soon
as possible, for he now shouted, "All aboard!" to nobody at all, and
sprang back on the steps. The train went off, groaning over the steep
grade, and screaming out its usual echoing warning about the next road

Uncle Henry took Aunt Frances's suitcase and plodded back to the surrey.
He got into the front seat and Aunt Frances and Betsy in the back; and
they started off.

And now I want you to listen to every single word that was said on the
back seat, for it was a very, very important conversation, when Betsy's
fate hung on the curl of an eyelash and the flicker of a voice, as fates
often do.

Aunt Frances hugged Betsy again and again and exclaimed about her having
grown so big and tall and fat--she didn't say brown too, although you
could see that she was thinking that, as she looked through her veil at
Betsy's tanned face and down at the contrast between her own pretty,
white fingers and Betsy's leather-colored, muscular little hands. She
exclaimed and exclaimed and kept on exclaiming! Betsy wondered if she
really always had been as fluttery as this. And then, all of a sudden it
came out, the great news, the reason for the extra flutteriness.

Aunt Frances was going to be married!

Yes! Think of it! Betsy fell back open-mouthed with astonishment.

"Did Betsy think her Aunt Frances a silly old thing?"

"Oh, Aunt Frances, NO!" cried Betsy fervently. "You look just as YOUNG,
and pretty! Lots younger than I remembered you!"

Aunt Frances flushed with pleasure and went on, "You'll love your old
Aunt Frances just as much, won't you, when she's Mrs. Plimpton!"

Betsy put her arms around her and gave her a great hug. "I'll always
love you, Aunt Frances!" she said.

"You'll love Mr. Plimpton, too. He's so big and strong, and he just
loves to take care of people. He says that's why he's marrying me. Don't
you wonder where we are going to live?" she asked, answering her own
question quickly. "We're not going to live anywhere. Isn't that a joke?
Mr. Plimpton's business keeps him always moving around from one place to
another, never more than a month anywhere."

"What'll Aunt Harriet do?" asked Betsy wonderingly.

"Why, she's ever and ever so much better," said Aunt Frances happily.
"And her own sister, my Aunt Rachel, has come back from China, where
she's been a missionary for ever so long, and the two old ladies are
going to keep house together out in California, in the dearest little
bungalow, all roses and honeysuckle. But YOU'RE going to be with me.
Won't it be jolly fun, darling, to go traveling all about everywhere,
and see new places all the time!"

Now those are the words Aunt Frances said, but something in her voice
and her face suggested a faint possibility to Betsy that maybe Aunt
Frances didn't really think it would be such awfully jolly fun as her
words said. Her heart gave a big jump up, and she had to hold tight to
the arm of the surrey before she could ask, in a quiet voice, "But, Aunt
Frances, won't I be awfully in your way, traveling around so?"

Now, Aunt Frances had ears of her own, and though that was what Betsy's
words said, what Aunt Frances heard was a suggestion that possibly Betsy
wasn't as crazy to leave Putney Farm as she had supposed of course she
would be.

They both stopped talking for a moment and peered at each other through
the thicket of words that held them apart. I told you this was a very
momentous conversation. One sure thing is that the people on the back
seat saw the inside of the surrey as they traveled along, and nothing
else. Red sumac and bronzed beech-trees waved their flags at them in
vain. They kept their eyes fixed on each other intently, each in an
agony of fear lest she hurt the other's feelings.

After a pause Aunt Frances came to herself with a start, and said,
affectionately putting her arm around Betsy, "Why, you darling, what
does Aunt Frances care about trouble if her own dear baby-girl is

And Betsy said, resolutely, "Oh, you know, Aunt Frances, I'd LOVE to be
with you!" She ventured one more step through the thicket. "But
honestly, Aunt Frances, WON'T it be a bother...?"

Aunt Frances ventured another step to meet her, "But dear little girls
must be SOMEWHERE ..."

And Betsy almost forgot her caution and burst out, "But I could stay
here! I know they would keep me!"

Even Aunt Frances's two veils could not hide the gleam of relief and
hope that came into her pretty, thin, sweet face. She summoned all her
courage and stepped out into the clearing in the middle of the thicket,
asking right out, boldly, "Why, do you like it here, Betsy? Would you
like to stay?"

And Betsy--she never could remember afterward if she had been careful
enough not to shout too loudly and joyfully--Betsy cried out, "Oh, I
LOVE it here!" There they stood, face to face, looking at each other
with honest and very happy eyes. Aunt Frances threw her arm around Betsy
and asked again, "Are you SURE, dear?" and didn't try to hide her
relief. And neither did Betsy.

"I could visit you once in a while, when you are somewhere near here,"
suggested Betsy, beaming.

"Oh, YES, I must have SOME of the time with my darling!" said Aunt
Frances. And this time there was nothing in their hearts that
contradicted their lips.

They clung to each other in speechless satisfaction as Uncle Henry
guided the surrey up to the marble stepping-stone. Betsy jumped out
first, and while Uncle Henry was helping Aunt Frances out, she was
dashing up the walk like a crazy thing. She flung open the front door
and catapulted into Aunt Abigail just coming out. It was like flinging
herself into a feather-bed....

"Oh! Oh!" she gasped out. "Aunt Frances is going to be married. And
travel around all the time! And she doesn't REALLY want me at all! Can't
I stay here? Can't I stay here?"

Cousin Ann was right behind Aunt Abigail, and she heard this. She looked
over their shoulders toward Aunt Frances, who was approaching from
behind, and said, in her usual calm and collected voice: "How do you do,
Frances? Glad to see you, Frances. How well you're looking! I hear you
are in for congratulations. Who's the happy man?"

Betsy was overcome with admiration for her coolness in being able to
talk so in such an exciting moment. She knew Aunt Abigail couldn't have
done it, for she had sat down in a rocking-chair, and was holding Betsy
on her lap. The little girl could see her wrinkled old hand trembling on
the arm of the chair.

"I hope that means," continued Cousin Ann, going as usual straight to
the point, "that we can keep Betsy here with us."

"Oh, would you like to?" asked Aunt Frances, fluttering, as though the
idea had never occurred to her before that minute. "Would Elizabeth Ann
really LIKE to stay?"

"Oh, I'd LIKE to, all right!" said Betsy, looking confidently up into
Aunt Abigail's face.

Aunt Abigail spoke now. She cleared her throat twice before she could
bring out a word. Then she said, "Why, yes, we'd kind of like to keep
her. We've sort of got used to having her around."

That's what she SAID, but, as you have noticed before on this exciting
day, what people said didn't matter as much as what they looked; and as
her old lips pronounced these words so quietly the corners of Aunt
Abigail's mouth were twitching, and she was swallowing hard. She said,
impatiently, to Cousin Ann, "Hand me that handkerchief, Ann!" And as she
blew her nose, she said, "Oh, what an old fool I am!"

Then, all of a sudden, it was as though a great, fresh breeze had blown
through the house. They all drew a long breath and began to talk loudly
and cheerfully about the weather and Aunt Frances's trip and how Aunt
Harriet was and which room Aunt Frances was to have and would she leave
her wraps down in the hall or take them upstairs--and, in the midst of
this, Betsy, her heart ready to burst, dashed out of doors, followed by
Shep. She ran madly toward the barn. She did not know where she was
going. She only knew that she must run and jump and shout, or she would

Shep ran and jumped because Betsy did.

To these two wild creatures, careering through the air like bright-blown
autumn leaves, appeared little Molly in the barn door.

"Oh, I'm going to stay! I'm going to stay!" screamed Betsy.

But as Molly had not had any notion of the contrary, she only said, "Of
course, why not?" and went on to something really important, saying, in
a very much capitalized statement, "My kitten can WALK! It took THREE
STEPS just now."

After Aunt Frances got her wraps off, Betsy took her for a tour of
inspection. They went all over the house first, with special emphasis
laid on the living-room. "Isn't this the loveliest place?" said Betsy,
fervently, looking about her at the white curtains, the bright flowers,
the southern sunshine, the bookcases, and the bright cooking utensils.
It was all full to the brim to her eyes with happiness, and she forgot
entirely that she had thought it a very poor, common kind of room when
she had first seen it. Nor did she notice that Aunt Frances showed no
enthusiasm over it now.

She stopped for a few moments to wash some potatoes and put them into
the oven for dinner. Aunt Frances opened her eyes at this. "I always see
to the potatoes and the apples, the cooking of them, I mean," explained
Betsy proudly. "I've just learned to make apple-pie and brown betty."

Then down into the stone-floored milk-room, where Aunt Abigail was
working over butter, and where Betsy, swelling with pride, showed Aunt
Frances how deftly and smoothly she could manipulate the wooden paddle
and make rolls of butter that weighed within an ounce or two of a pound.

"Mercy, child! Think of your being able to do such things!" said Aunt
Frances, more and more astonished.

They went out of doors now, Shep bounding by their side. Betsy was
amazed to see that Aunt Frances drew back, quite nervously, whenever the
big dog frisked near her. Out in the barn Betsy had a disappointment.
Aunt Frances just balked absolutely at those ladder-like stairs--"Oh, I
COULDN'T! I couldn't, dear. Do YOU go up there? Is it quite safe?"

"Why, AUNT ABIGAIL went up there to see the kittens!" cried Betsy, on
the edge of exasperation. But her heart softened at the sight of Aunt
Frances's evident distress of mind at the very idea of climbing into the
loft, and she brought the kittens down for inspection, Eleanor mewing
anxiously at the top of the stairs.

On the way back to the house they had an adventure, a sort of adventure,
and it brought home to Betsy once for all how much she loved dear, sweet
Aunt Frances, and just what kind of love it was.

As they crossed the barnyard the calf approached them playfully, leaping
stiff-legged into the air, and making a pretense of butting at them with
its hornless young head.

Betsy and Shep often played with the calf in this way by the half-hour,
and she thought nothing of it now; hardly noticed it, in fact.

But Aunt Frances gave a loud, piercing shriek, as though she were being
cut into pieces. "Help! HELP!" she screamed. "Betsy! Oh, Betsy!"

She had turned as white as a sheet and could not take a single step
forward. "It's nothing! It's nothing!" said Betsy, rather impatiently.
"He's just playing. We often play with him, Shep and I."

The calf came a little nearer, with lowered head. "GET away!" said Betsy
indifferently, kicking at him.

At this hint of masterfulness on Betsy's part, Aunt Frances cried out,
"Oh, yes, Betsy, DO make him go away! Do make him go away!"

It came over Betsy that Aunt Frances was really frightened, yes, really;
and all at once her impatience disappeared, never to come back again.
She felt toward Aunt Frances just as she did toward little Molly, and
she acted accordingly. She stepped in front of Aunt Frances, picked up a
stick, and hit the calf a blow on the neck with it. He moved away,
startled and injured, looking at his playfellow with reproachful eyes.
But Betsy was relentless. Aunt Frances must not be frightened!

"Here, Shep! Here, Shep!" she called loudly, and when the big dog came
bounding to her she pointed to the calf and said sternly, "Take him into
the barn! Drive him into the barn, sir!"

Shep asked nothing better than this command, and charged forward,
barking furiously and leaping into the air as though he intended to eat
the calf up alive. The two swept across the barnyard and into the lower
regions of the barn. In a moment Shep reappeared, his tongue hanging
out, his tail wagging, his eyes glistening, very proud of himself, and
mounted guard at the door.

Aunt Frances hurried along desperately through the gate of the barnyard.
As it fell to behind her she sank down on a rock, breathless, still pale
and agitated. Betsy threw her arms around her in a transport of
affection. She felt that she UNDERSTOOD Aunt Frances as nobody else
could, the dear, sweet, gentle, timid aunt! She took the thin, nervous
white fingers in her strong brown hands. "Oh, Aunt Frances, dear,
darling Aunt Frances!" she cried, "how I wish I could ALWAYS take care
of you."

The last of the red and gold leaves were slowly drifting to the ground
as Betsy and Uncle Henry drove back from the station after seeing Aunt
Frances off. They were not silent this time, as when they had gone to
meet her. They were talking cheerfully together, laying their plans for
the winter which was so near. "I must begin to bank the house tomorrow,"
mused Uncle Henry. "And those apples have got to go to the cider-mill,
right off. Don't you want to ride over on top of them, Betsy, and see
'em made into cider?"

"Oh, my, yes!" said Betsy, "that will be fine! And I must put away
Deborah's summer clothes and get Cousin Ann to help me make some warm
ones, if I'm going to take her to school in cold weather."

As they drove into the yard, they saw Eleanor coming from the direction
of the barn with something big and heavy in her mouth. She held her head
as high as she could, but even so, her burden dragged on the ground,
bumping softly against the rough places on the path. "Look!" said Betsy.
"Just see that great rat Eleanor has caught!"

Uncle Henry squinted his old eyes toward the cat for a moment and
laughed. "We're not the only ones that are getting ready for winter," he

Betsy did not know what he meant and climbed hastily over the wheel and
ran to see. As she approached Eleanor, the cat laid her burden down with
an air of relief and looked trustfully into her little mistress's face.
Why, it was one of the kittens! Eleanor was bringing it to the house.
Oh, of course! they mustn't stay out there in that cold hay-loft now the
cold weather was drawing near. Betsy picked up the little sprawling
thing, trying with weak legs to get around over the rough ground. She
carried it carefully toward the house, Eleanor walking sinuously by her
side and "talking" in little singing, purring MIAUWS to explain her
ideas of kitten-comfort. Betsy felt that she quite understood her. "Yes,
Eleanor, a nice little basket behind the stove with a warm piece of an
old blanket in it. Yes, I'll fix it for you. It'll be lovely to have the
whole family there. And I'll bring the other one in for you."

But evidently Eleanor did not understand little-girl talk as well as
Betsy understood cat-talk, for a little later, as Betsy turned from the
nest she was making in the corner behind the stove, Eleanor was missing;
and when she ran out toward the barn she met her again, her head
strained painfully back, dragging another fat, heavy kitten, who curled
his pink feet up as high as he could in a vain effort not to have them
knock against the stones. "Now, Eleanor," said Betsy, a little put out,
"you don't trust me enough! I was going to get it all right!"

"Well," said Aunt Abigail, as they came into the kitchen, "now you must
begin to teach them to drink."

"Goodness!" said Betsy, "don't they know how to drink already?"

"You try them and see," said Aunt Abigail with a mysterious smile.

So when Uncle Henry brought the pails full of fragrant, warm milk into
the house, Betsy poured out some in a saucer and put the kittens up to
it. She and Molly squatted down on their heels to watch, and before long
they were laughing so that they were rolling on the kitchen floor. At
first the kittens looked every way but at the milk, seeming to see
everything but what was under their noses. Then Graykin (that was
Betsy's) absent-mindedly walked right through the saucer, emerging with
very wet feet and a very much aggrieved and astonished expression. Molly
screamed with laughter to see him shake his little pink toes and finally
sit down seriously to lick them clean. Then White-bib (Molly's) put his
head down to the saucer.

"There! Mine is smarter than yours!" said Molly. But White-bib went on
putting his head down, down, down, clear into the milk nearly up to his
eyes, although he looked very frightened and miserable. Then he jerked
it up quickly and sneezed and sneezed and sneezed, such deliriously
funny little baby sneezes! He pawed and pawed at his little pink nose
with his little pink paw until Eleanor took pity on him and came to wash
him off. In the midst of this process she saw the milk, and left off to
lap it up eagerly; and in a jiffy she had drunk every drop and was
licking the saucer loudly with her raspy tongue. And that was the end of
the kittens' first lesson.

That evening, as they sat around the lamp, Eleanor came and got up in
Betsy's lap just like old times. Betsy was playing checkers with Uncle
Henry and interrupted the game to welcome the cat back delightedly. But
Eleanor was uneasy, and kept stopping her toilet to prick up her ears
and look restlessly toward the basket, where the kittens lay curled so
closely together that they looked like one soft ball of gray fur. By and
by Eleanor jumped down heavily and went back to the basket. She stayed
there only a moment, standing over the kittens and licking them
convulsively, and then she came back and got up in Betsy's lap again.

"What ails that cat?" said Cousin Ann, noting this pacing and

"Maybe she wants Betsy to hold her kittens, too," suggested Aunt

"Oh, I'd love to!" said Betsy, spreading out her knees to make her lap

"But I want my own White-bib myself!" said Molly, looking up from the
beads she was stringing.

"Well, maybe Eleanor would let you settle it that way," said Cousin Ann.

The little girls ran over to the basket and brought back each her own
kitten. Eleanor watched them anxiously, but as soon as they sat down she
jumped up happily into Betsy's lap and curled down close to little
Graykin. This time she was completely satisfied, and her loud purring
filled the room with a peaceable murmur.

"There, now you're fixed for the winter," said Aunt Abigail.

By and by, after Cousin Ann had popped some corn, old Shep got off the
couch and came to stand by Betsy's knee to get an occasional handful.
Eleanor opened one eye, recognized a friend, and shut it sleepily. But
the little kitten woke up in terrible alarm to see that hideous monster
so near him, and prepared to sell his life dearly. He bristled up his
ridiculous little tail, opened his absurd, little pink mouth in a soft,
baby s-s-s-, and struck savagely at old Shep's good-natured face with a
soft little paw. Betsy felt her heart overflow with amusement and pride
in the intrepid little morsel. She burst into laughter, but she picked
it up and held it lovingly close to her cheek. What fun it was going to
be to see those kittens grow up!

Old Shep padded back softly to the couch, his toe-nails clicking on the
floor, hoisted himself heavily up, and went to sleep. The kitten
subsided into a ball again. Eleanor stirred and stretched in her sleep
and laid her head in utter trust on her little mistress's hand. After
that Betsy moved the checkers only with her other hand.

In the intervals of the game, while Uncle Henry was pondering over his
moves, the little girl looked down at her pets and listened absently to
the keen autumnal wind that swept around the old house, shaking the
shutters and rattling the windows. A stick of wood in the stove burned
in two and fell together with a soft, whispering sound. The lamp cast a
steady radiance on Uncle Henry bent seriously over the checker-board, on
Molly's blooming, round cheeks and bright hair, on Aunt Abigail's rosy,
cheerful, wrinkled old face, and on Cousin Ann's quiet, clear, dark

That room was full to the brim of something beautiful, and Betsy knew
what it was. Its name was Happiness.


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Understood Betsy" ***

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