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Title: Elizabeth, Her Folks
Author: Kay, Barbara
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Elizabeth, Her Folks" ***

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[Illustration: "'Nothing ever tasted so good to me in my life'"]



                         _ELIZABETH, HER BOOKS_

                               ELIZABETH
                               HER FOLKS

                                   BY
                              BARBARA KAY

                             [Illustration]

                              _ILLUSTRATED
                                   BY
                            THE DONALDSONS_

                       GARDEN CITY      NEW YORK
                       DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
                                  1920



                          COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY
                       DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

           ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION
           INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN



                                CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                                                     PAGE

        I.  JOHN'S GIRL                                            3

       II. THE STEPPE CHILDREN                                    16

      III. THE LITTLE ROOM--AND PEGGY                             28

       IV. THE BIRTHDAY                                           44

        V. NINETY-NINE NEGROES                                    58

       VI. THE BEAN SUPPER                                        71

      VII. THE LOCKED CLOSET                                      87

     VIII. LETTERS AND THE POST OFFICE                           102

       IX. HUCKLEBERRIES AND NEW FRIENDS                         117

        X. PROVINCETOWN AND A WALK IN THE WOODS                  134

       XI. LITTLE EVA                                            147

      XII. BUDDY WANTS TO KNOW                                   164

     XIII. CRABBING                                              180

      XIV. ELIZABETH IS RUDE                                     192

       XV. PICKING CHICKENS                                      207

      XVI. MOTHER                                                220

     XVII. ELIZABETH IS SCARED                                   234

    XVIII. ELIZABETH SHAKES HANDS                                249

      XIX. RUTH                                                  265

       XX. GOOD-BYE                                              278



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


    "'Nothing ever tasted so good to me in my
        life'"                                        _Frontispiece_

                                                         FACING PAGE

    "'Do open it. I can hardly wait to see what
        you think of it.'"                                        50

    "'Oh! let's try them on'"                                     98

    "'I can't help being afraid of what's in this
        particular letter'"                                      202



                          ELIZABETH, HER FOLKS



                          ELIZABETH, HER FOLKS


                               CHAPTER I

                              JOHN'S GIRL


A little girl in a short-sleeved, blue ruffled nightgown flung herself
across the foot of Grandmother Swift's great guest-chamber bed, and
sobbed as if her heart would break.

Downstairs, each in an old-fashioned, valanced rocking chair before one
of the living-room windows, Grandfather and Grandmother Swift were
discussing the newcomer.

"I think she seems real glad to be here," Grandmother was saying. "She
looks a little pale and peaked, but we'll soon have her fed up and as
brown as a berry."

"I never see any brown berries. All the berries I ever had anything to
do with was red or blue, but there must be berries that is brown, if you
say so, Mother."

Grandmother's amber needles flew.

"She seemed real pleased at the things I had cooked up for her," she
said, "especially the chocolate cake. She didn't more than sample the
lemon pie."

"I thought she seemed a little high-toned about her vittles. She kinder
turned up her nose at your ginger tea, Mother. She was used to having
her dinner at night, she said, and drunk nothing but a demi-tassy after
it."

"You hadn't ought to have begun your teasing before she was fairly in
the house, Father--it made her feel strange. She hasn't been here for
four years, and four years, when a child is just getting into her teens,
is a long while."

"An inch in a man's nose is considerable."

Grandmother surveyed him severely over the top of her bi-focal glasses.

"Speaking of noses," she said, "you be careful how you try pulling
Elizabeth's nose or chuck her under the chin, or any such actions.
Growing girls is particular about such things."

"And I'm particular who I chuck under the chin. I'm afraid you are going
to ruin your eyes with those glasses, Mother, you have to strain so hard
to look over the top when you want to see anything at a distance, and
work so hard trying to look under 'em when you want to see anything nigh
to."

He chuckled at Grandmother's sudden effort to concentrate her keen brown
eyes within the space of the glass half-moon through which she was
supposed to focus her knitting.

"I just wanted to bind off the sleeve before the light faded," she said.

"When Congress repeals this here light-saving scheme, it'll hurt your
feelings two ways, won't it, Mother? You won't have the satisfaction of
expressing your mind at the Administration for setting the clock back,
and you won't have a extry hour of light to strain your eyes in."

The old lady--she was seventy-five, but in a strong light when she was
not quite becomingly dressed, which was not often, she looked
sixty--drew her rocking chair closer to the small window, and knitted in
silence. All the windows in that remarkable old house were small, and
divided into little, square panes. Grandfather drew _his_ rocking chair
closer to _his_ window, and made a great pretence of reading, but he did
not turn or rattle his paper.

"You trying to prove that your eyes is just as good as mine? Well, I
don't know as I blame you, Father, but your glasses is out in the barn
on the feed box. If you could read a line without 'em, I'd know the
contents of the whole paper by this time."

Grandfather Swift grinned, and unbuttoned a lower button on the
immaculate linen waistcoat he had put on in his granddaughter's
honour--he wore no coat.

"Got back at me that time, didn't you, Mother? I always feel uneasy
after I get the better of you till you've worked the laugh round to me
again. Well, I thought we'd be setting up till all hours of the night,
entertaining John's girl, and hearing all the news of the family. I
wonder if she always goes to bed before sundown. She didn't look a mite
sleepy to me."

"She travelled all the way from New York--of course she was sleepy."

"Her father brought her all the way from New York to Boston, and she
rested there a couple of days before he put her on the Cape train. All
she had to do was to sit among her bags and boxes till she got here.
Three shiny black bags, she had, and as proud of 'em as if she had made
'em herself--and a wardrobe trunk. I thought myself that all trunks was
wardrobe trunks until she told me different."

"You can't hardly judge the child till she gets settled down a little."

Grandfather Swift let his paper fall to the floor. Then he picked it up
and folded it carefully, and made a place for it on the stand between
the two windows under the wide fronds of Grandmother's pet fern, which
was supposed never to be displaced for such a purpose.

"I did hope John's girl was going to be a little more like folks," he
admitted.

The dimity curtains in the guest chamber puffed in the light night
breeze. An insect with the voice of a bird set up a cheerful chirping
just under her window, but Elizabeth Swift, in a little, huddled heap on
the four-poster bed that had belonged to her great-grandmother, with her
head smothered in the best goose-feather pillows to shut out the sound
she was making, was still sobbing as if she could never stop again.

"They don't even speak the English language," she was saying to herself.
"They are just countrified and ordinary, and I've got to have them for
my grandparents just as if they were like other people, and eat great
hunks of corn beef and drink ginger tea, and never see my parents, or my
dear, dear brother."

The goose-feather pillow got wetter and wetter until Elizabeth, still
very miserable but quieter now, began to be concerned about the damage
she was doing, and finally dragged herself up on the edge of the bed to
examine it.

"I mustn't do damage to property, no matter how anguished I am," she
thought. "People's things aren't to blame, if they do say 'hadn't
oughter,' and 'ain't,' but I don't see how my own mother and my own
Father John could have sent me here."

She groped for the second pillow, and the tears started afresh, but
presently she began to try to stop them. The soft wind that was pushing
the dimity curtains into the room brought with it a heavy breath of
honeysuckle and roses. Her mind began to stray away from her immediate
trouble.

"Honeysuckle toilet water might be the very best toilet water that any
one could have. I wonder if you couldn't make some with honeysuckle
blossoms and wood alcohol. There's a bird going to bed in that tree.
Maybe it's an oriole."

She had never seen an oriole except in pictures, but that was one of the
things she had wanted to come to Cape Cod for, when she had thought she
was coming with her mother and her big soldier brother to a cottage on
the beach, before they had realized how sick he was going to be when he
got home from France. The bird chirped drowsily once more, and the
insect in the grass drew its string over its bow again. She almost went
to the window to look, but she had cried so long that she wasn't quite
willing to think of pleasant things yet. Her head ached and her nose was
sore, and the second pillow was almost as wet as the first. She hung
them both over the foot-board to dry.

"I suppose it is a little funny to cry quarts into old family
goose-feather pillows. I might have cried so long I would have had to
use a whole feather-bed, too. I wonder if Grandmother would scold me
just as if I were a child. I told her I was going to have my fourteenth
birthday here. I told my horrid grandfather, when he pinched me, that I
wasn't in the habit of being teased. What would Jean Forsyth say if she
could see me now? I guess I'll get up and put some talcum powder on my
nose."

There was a knock on the door as she began to move around the room. She
scrambled back into bed meaning to pretend to be asleep, but her
grandmother opened the door and came in just as if she had spoken.

"Are you asleep, Elizabeth?"

"No, Grandma."

"I thought you might like a glass o' milk to kinder stay your stomach
between now and breakfast."

"Thank you, Grandma."

"Would you like a cookie to go with it? I made up a whole jar full o'
sugar-molasses cookies so's you could go and help yourself to them
whenever you was a mind to. I'll set the milk right here on the stand,
and then I'll go fetch the cookie."

"Thank you for the milk, Grandmother, but I don't care for the cookie. I
never eat between meals."

"Your grandfather and I had a little spell o' argument about that
cookie. He claimed you wouldn't be used to eating sugar-molasses
cookies, but I thought you might of inherited your father's taste for
them."

"I have inherited a great many of Father's tastes."

"Your brother Johnny, he used to like 'em, too, when he was a little
feller. He was a real good little boy, Johnny was. He spent every summer
of his life with me and Grandpa till he began to go to that college."

"We don't called him Johnny. We called him Junior when he was growing
up, and I called him Buddy, but now we call him John--or John Junior
when we wish to distinguish him from Father."

"Well, your grandfather and I always called him Johnny. It seemed to
suit him. I hope he'll get well enough to get down to Gran'ma's before
the summer is over. Gran'ma could help him to get well."

"He is quite sick now, and unable to see any one at all. He is very
devoted to me, but he is in such a weakened condition that even I wasn't
allowed to see him. He won the D. S. C.--the Distinguished Service
Cross, you know."

"I don't know so much about this new-fangled soldiering. I lost two
brothers in the Civil War--your great uncles they would have been. Only
eighteen and twenty, but grown men they seemed to be in them days. Your
father favoured my brother William more'n he did anybody on his father's
side o' the house. Johnny, he looked like Sam when he was a little
feller. Well, I'm real glad Johnny got home safe."

"Of course, we can't be sure that he is safe yet, but the recent reports
have been very encouraging."

"Your father's proud of his boy, I guess. It was a great thing for him
to have a grown boy to go. The next best thing to going himself."

"I don't think he cared about going himself."

"Did he ever say anything about not caring to go?"

"I don't think I ever heard him express himself on the subject; but the
work he was doing here, of course, was very important. Anybody who was
connected with steel production in any way felt that they were being a
great deal more useful on this side of the ocean."

"Whatever your father was doing on this side of the ocean, I guess his
soul and his spirit was all the way across it."

"I think you are mistaken, Grandmother."

Grandmother Swift looked at her granddaughter over the rim of her
bi-focal glasses, and smiled.

"It's one o' the easiest things in this world to be mistaken,
Elizabeth," she said.

Elizabeth put out her hand for her glass of milk, and began to drink it
with a sudden meekness.

"You go and set yourself in the chair by the bed, and finish your milk,
and I'll lay back your bed for you. There's a golden robin has a nest in
that tree, and I guess there'll be a family there pretty soon."

"You mean an oriole, don't you, Grandmother? Oh, I'm crazy to see one."

"Some folks calls it that. Golden robin means more to me. I like to have
things called by their prettiest names." She was busying herself about
the bed. "I'm going to turn these pillows over on their dry side," she
said, as if Great-grandmother's goose-feather pillows had always one
tear-dampened surface.

"Oh!" Elizabeth said, "I--I----"

But her grandmother wasn't looking at her.

"Speaking o' names," she was saying, "I'll tell you a conundrum that my
grandmother used to tell me, a real appropriate conundrum, seeing that
it's about a namesake o' yours. See how long it takes you to guess it.

    "Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy and Bess,
    All went together to seek a bird's nest,
    They found a bird's nest with four eggs in it,
    They each took one and left three in it."

"But how could they?" Elizabeth cried.

"Well, they did, and now's a good chance to show how smart you are, so's
Gran'ma needn't make any mistake about it."

Something in the eyes over the bi-focal glasses made Elizabeth squirm a
trifle.

"The girls at home," she said, rapidly, "often call me Betsy. Oh, I know
now. That's the answer. It was all one girl--Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy,
and Bess--all nicknames for Elizabeth. I never heard of any one called
Elspeth, but I'm called all the others myself."

"Your great-grandmother was always called Elspeth. She always called you
that when you was a baby."

"Did she? I didn't know that I ever saw Great-grandmother."

"She saw you. She loved you better than any grandchild she lived to see,
because you was named after her, I suppose. She used to say that
conundrum was wrote about her, because she was four or five different
characters all in one. Elizabeth when she was feeling high and mighty,
Elspeth when she was good, Betsy when she had trouble keeping herself
in, and Bess when she put on her airs and graces. Bessie was a real
stylish name in her day."

"Why, I have different names for myself--Beth you know, and Betty, they
are contractions of Elizabeth, too, but I never knew any one else who
thought of themselves in different characters."

"Your great-grandmother was quite a remarkable woman. She was your
grandfather's mother, but she seemed like my own. You look considerable
like her, Elizabeth."

"I've always thought I resembled my own mother more than any one. She
was an Endicott, you know."

"Your great-grandmother was a Jones. The Joneses had the name o' being
one of the likeliest families in Crocker Neck."

"Did they?"

"And she had the reputation of having the prettiest manners and the
kindest ways of any girl from here to Chatham. Your father takes after
her in that. It was the first trouble that ever come to him when his
gran'ma died, and he took it hard. He went out behind the henhouse and
lay there a whole night; just the way he used to when he had trouble as
a boy."

"But he was a grown man then, and I was born."

"He wasn't so much of a grown man that he didn't lay and blubber all
night. He ain't so much of a grown man now that he wouldn't do the same
thing if he was in the same kind of trouble."

"He--he didn't when we thought we had lost Buddy."

Grandmother's eyes looked kindly over the tops of her ridiculous
glasses, but all that she said was,

"You come and hop into bed now. You'll get cold setting by that open
window."

"I guess I know how my own father felt and acted last winter," Elizabeth
said, but not aloud, as she slipped between the creamy linen sheets, and
her grandmother tucked her under the blue-and-white comfortable. She
closed her eyes for the good-night kiss that she expected to submit to,
but it did not come. Instead, her grandmother made her way to the door
and stood holding it open, as she looked back to say:

"Your grandfather and I are real glad to have you with us, Elizabeth.
It's always a day of rejoicing to us when we have our own flesh and
blood under our roof. No matter what you start out in life thinking, the
conclusion you kinder come to, when all's said and done, is that blood
is thicker than water."

Her tone was exactly as gentle as before, but alone in the darkening
room Elizabeth felt a slow wave of crimson mount to her forehead, and
spread hot over her face.

"Grandmother doesn't think I am very nice," she said.



                               CHAPTER II

                          THE STEPPE CHILDREN


"Dear Buddy:" Elizabeth was writing, "dear, dear, dear, _dear_ Buddy:
Mother says I may write you real letters, now, all about everything,
because you are in a condition to bear it. So I am starting in bright
and early this morning to go into details about my existence here, and
my rejoicings at your convalesence. (I spelled that right, I know. I am
naturally a good speller, but I have such a poor example set by my
brother the Harvard gradjuate, that I fall into bad ways at the
slightest provocation.)

"First let me testify that I love you best--best--best in the world next
to and including Father John and Mother Darby. You know that already,
but if you are like me, the things you like to be told best are the
things you know already. You know also already how I feel about your
being sick. Please get better and come down here quick. I want you here,
oh! so very, very much. Father and Mother thought I had better get the
benifit of country air, but they don't know that I can't get much
benifit from country air while you are breathing cloriform and bandige
lint all the time. I am not as comfortable in my mind as I should be in
stuffy New York, in the hotel with Mother and Father. I know you will
suspect my motives in yearning for hotel life, but it is really you and
Mother and Father I want more even than life at the Holland House. Of
course, I can't help feeling that if the house in Jersey is going to be
closed and the family moved into town, though even in the dead of
summer, that I ought to be moved with it, instead of being shoved off
down here.

"Buddy, I know you used to like it here, but I am miserable. I know you
would think it was awful of me if you knew how I felt inside all the
time, but I am not half-civilized or savage enough to like the primative
way things are down here. I think girls are more sensitive and refined
than boys and care what they eat more, and how things sound that are
said to them.

"I suppose that sounds horrid. Grandmother thinks I am horrid, though
she is very tactful, I will say;--but Grandfather teases me from morning
till night, and has no respect for my years. I don't see why he thinks I
am such a child. He was engaged to Grandmother when she was sixteen, and
that is only two years and forty-one days older than I am. But oh!
Buddy, I wish my other grandparents had lived. I think I am all
Endicott, really, because I feel like a stranger in a strange land.
Children and little girls keep coming to call on me. The girls of my own
age that I used to play with keep their distance, and I am not sorry.
It's hard enough to be polite as it is. Life is one eternal round of
corn beef and cabbage and fried fish hash. I hope you get plenty of
steaks and chops and delicacies. Grandmother won't let me go in bathing
unless I have someone to go with, and I haven't any one to go with. The
motors whizz by all day, but Grandfather's Ford is in the repair shop,
and so I don't get anywhere. Tennis? All the boys own the courts around
here, and won't let the girls on them for fear they will mess them up
for the tournaments. I don't know any girls to play with, so that
doesn't affect me, but you can see what a good time I am having.

"Well, 'a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.' We
used to have good times together, Buddy, befo' de war.

                           "Your affectionate, but very blighted sister,
                                      "ELIZABETH--ELIZA--ELSPETH--BESS--
                                      BESSIE--LIZZIE--BETSY--BETH, ETC."

As she folded the closely written sheets of lilac-tinted notepaper and
crowded them into their envelope, her grandmother's voice summoned her
to the head of the stairs.

"The step-children are here," was what she seemed to be saying; "shall I
send them up or are you ready to come down?"

"I beg your pardon, Grandmother?"

"The step-children are here."

"If you wish, Grandmother. It sounds just as if you said the
step-children."

"I did say the step-children. I'm going to send them up for you to amuse
them. Go right on upstairs, children. She ain't a bear. She won't bite
you."

"I--" pant--pant--"see a bear yesterday, a dancing bear. Didn't I see a
bear, Mose?"

"Hush, babe," another breathy voice answered. "You don't want to talk so
much when you go a-visiting."

A mysterious single file of chubby children, considerably more ragged
than dirty, made a cautious way up the steep stairs, panting as they
came. Elizabeth led the way into the big chamber where she had been
writing, and the three followed her solemnly. Her first instinct was to
give them each a friendly pat, as if they were so many little dogs who
had been running hard.

"Good morning, children," she said. She was fond of children, and these
were adorable specimens, despite their superfluous fringes.

"Good morning, teacher," they answered, with unexpected promptitude.

"Well, I'm not exactly a teacher, you know. I'm just Miss--I
mean--Elizabeth."

"We know who you be," the eldest, a boy, volunteered. "You'm Miss Laury
Ann's granddaughty, that's who you be. We come to see you."

"That was very kind of you," Elizabeth smiled, "but I don't know who you
are."

"We'm the step-children."

"You are just about like steps," said Elizabeth, "but that seems a funny
name to call you just the same."

"'Tis our _name_," the second child, a girl with long red curls, met
Elizabeth's eyes and subsided instantly.

"S-T-E-P-P-E," the boy spelled out. "'Tain't a joke. It's our name. It's
Parper's name and Marmer's name."

"Steppe-father and Steppe-mother," Elizabeth said to herself, "and the
Steppe children."

"You have other names?" she said aloud.

"I'm Moses."

"I'm Mabel."

"I'm Madget."

"Her real name is Margery, but she calls herself Madget, and so we call
her that. Madget means a dwarft, and she's little for her age. I'm
nine."

"I'm seven."

"I'm four," said Madget.

All this had so much the effect of a recitation that Elizabeth asked
them if they spoke pieces.

"I speak 'Shavings,'" Moses said. "I--I mean Excelsior."

"I speak 'Baby's Evening Prayer.'"

"I speak, 'Little drops o' water--little grains o' sand--make a mighty
ocean--an' a pleasant land,'" Madget contributed.

"She didn't ask you to speak it," Moses said, witheringly, "she only
asked did you speak it."

"And you went and spoke it," Mabel added, accusingly.

The wail that Madget set up at being accused of this breach of polite
usage sent Elizabeth's arms straight around her.

"You must remember she's only a baby," she said.

"That's what we tell her," Mabel said, "but we can't make her pay no
attention to it."

"You must pay attention to it, and take care of her."

"Oh! we take care of her, all right," Moses agreed, darkly. "We gotter."

"Doesn't your mother take care of her sometimes?"

"No, ma'am."

"Is she sick--or something?"

"Yes, ma'am. She's sick o' living, she says."

"What does she do all the time?"

"Nothin'."

"Does she have to stay in bed?"

"Yes, ma'am, when she ain't up."

"What does the doctor say is the matter with her?"

"She don't have no doctor. She reads novels."

"All the time?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Who does the cooking?"

"We don't have no cooking."

"What do you eat?"

"Bread and molasses, and doughnuts out the cart."

"Don't you ever have any meat or chicken or fish hash or anything?"

"When my a'nt comes we do."

"Then your mother isn't really sick?"

"She feels as if she was, and she says that's just as bad."

"I'm going to be a hired girl when I grow up, and go out to work where I
can make pies and cakes," Mabel said.

"I'm going to be a cook on a vessel," Moses said, "and get learned how
to make vittles."

"I'm going to be a bake-cart," Madget said.

"Listen to her. Don't you know you can't be a bakery cart?" Moses
jeered.

"You gotter be the one that drives it," Mabel contributed.

"I wanter _be_ a bake-cart and curry the food around all the time."

"All right, you may." Elizabeth spoke just in time to avert another
tearful crisis. "What would you like to do to amuse yourselves,
children? Would you like to have me tell you a story?"

"No, ma'am," Moses said, promptly. He indicated the row of shiny
travelling bags by the mahogany what-not. Elizabeth had long since
unpacked them, but they were such proud possessions that she could not
bear to put them out of sight. "I want to see what's in _that_," he
said, selecting the hat-box.

"I want to see what's in that," Mabel said, choosing the suitcase in her
turn.

Madget fell upon the overnight bag.

"I wanner see that," she said.

Elizabeth's laugh rang out gayly.

"You are acting just like the story of the three bears," she said.
"There isn't anything inside of the bags now, but I'll show them to you,
just the same. This is my hat-box, see, and these silver letters on the
outside are my initials, E. S."

"There is, too, something inside," Mabel cried, as the brightly flowered
lining was disclosed. "Trimming. Now open mine. There's trimming in all
of them."

"And a pocket, too," Elizabeth said.

"Now me," said Madget.

"There isn't any trimming in this," Elizabeth said, hastily, "but there
are lots of pockets, and see, in this pocket there is a little cake of
lovely smelling soap, and I'm going to give it to you. You can wash your
face and hands with it."

"She ain't a very good one to give soap to," Moses said. "Water makes
her nervous."

"I'll give you all a piece of soap if you'll promise to use it every
day--the big bear and the middle-sized bear, and the baby bear."

"I ain't going to be no bear," Moses said, "I was a bear in a
canatartar. Zibe Hunt--he had me on a string, and he sang a song."

"What kind of a song?"

    "I am an animal trainer,
        This is my polar bear.
    He comes from the far-distant mountains,
        Out of his icy lair."

Mabel obliged, "And then he done some tricks," she added, "and Zibe hit
him; and Parper licked him."

"Why should your father lick him?"

"For what he done to Zibe after the canatartar. He don't like to play
bears now."

"I see a dancing bear," Madget said. "Didn't I, Mose?"

"You better stop talking about bears," Moses hinted, darkly.

"If you'll bring the children downstairs, Elizabeth," Grandmother called
from the foot of the staircase, "they can have some milk and cookies."

Madget made directly for the staircase, and as promptly fell all the way
into Grandmother's arms, from which position she scowled and freed
herself.

"She always falls downstairs," Mabel said, tolerantly. "It don't hurt
her."

"It does her good," Moses explained.

"Milk," said Madget, "and cookies."

"The little thing is really hungry," Grandmother said. "How long ago did
she have her breakfast, Mose?"

"We don't have no breakfast to our house. She wouldn't eat her bread
because she said she was skeered of it."

"Scared of it?"

"Well, some of it had gray fur on it, and she was afraid it was going to
crawl out on her."

"Grandmother," Elizabeth cried, "why are these children neglected like
this? Are they so poor or what?"

"They ain't no poorer than a great many other folks. Their mother won't
do anything for them--that's all."

"But why?"

"She don't like work. Mercy me! They've et a dozen cookies already. You
fill up their glasses, Elizabeth. I stirred half a cup o' cream into the
pitcher so's to be sure they was nourished."

"Why isn't something done about them? The Charity Organization Society,
or somebody, ought to take up the case."

"The only organization society we got is the fire department. These
children don't need putting out, they need taking in more, I should say.
If one person in the world lays down and refuses to do what the Lord
requires of him he puts a powerful lot o' machinery out o' gear. Mis'
Steppe--she just refuses to do her part in the Lord's scheme."

"Is she old and ugly?"

"She's young and pretty if she'd fix herself up some. She come from real
good folks, too, but when she see how hard it was to live and take care
o' her children like other folks, she just decided to lay down, and down
she lay. Most all of us feels inclined to shirk our responsibilities at
one time or another, but most of us thinks better of it after a spell.
She thought worse of it, Mis' Steppe did. Too bad you don't like
sugar-molasses cookies, Elizabeth."

"I do," Elizabeth blushed. "I was only just waiting for the children to
get all they wanted."

"They'll never do that, but they got all they can hold. You open the
screen door, Elizabeth----Scat, out you go," she said, shooing at the
Steppe family as if they were so many chickens, and the children
scattered instantly, chickenwise, onto the lawn, and down the path to
the gate. "Too much of anything is good for nothing," she concluded,
tranquilly.

                               * * * * *

"Buddy, my darling, I have broken into my letter again to say that I am
a pig--the piggiest kind of pig, and this letter to you is a piggy
letter. I will send it because I wrote it, and because I haven't got any
time to write another, better one. I only wish to add that in certain
ways I am as bad as 'Mis' Steppe,' that's a good pun you see, whether
you know who I'm talking about or not. I'm going to be a better sister
to you, and a better daughter to Father John and Mother Darby. I've
found out that one poor mother can do so much damage in the world that I
don't want to be a poor--anything. Get well, and write me a letter,
Buddy.--SISTER BET."



                              CHAPTER III

                       THE LITTLE ROOM--AND PEGGY


The golden robins woke first, and demanded their breakfast in weak,
insistent voices. Then the blue counterpane slid to the floor and two
ruffled blue dimity sleeves were flung out at right angles. The clear
bell of the schoolhouse clock struck six times.

"Dear me, I must hustle," Elizabeth said.

She flew to the wash-stand and poured the creamy, gilt-edged bowl of the
best room set full of well water, in which she laved and splashed. An
aroma of bacon and coffee and the inimitable savour of raised biscuits
helped to accelerate her progress. She sang as she dressed, but she
thought of nothing at all but her breakfast.

Her grandfather, in his shirt sleeves and sand-coloured waistcoat, was
already at the table when she took her place there, and unfolded her
red-fringed, damask napkin from the napkin ring that was her father's,
and marked with his name. It was on a standard, and supported by twin
boys, wreathed and carrying trumpets. Elizabeth always tried to hide it
behind some dish as she ate.

"Good morning, Miss Betsy."

"Good morning, Grandfather."

The hired girl, who was sixteen and the daughter of a neighbour, wiped
her immaculate pink hands on a more immaculate and pinker apron, and
took her seat opposite Elizabeth. She was an enormously fat blonde, who
never spoke without blushing. Grandmother was bustling about with plates
of biscuit and coffee cups.

"The reason we don't have more help around the place is that Mother
wears herself all out waitin' on them," Grandfather observed. "Judidy,
ain't you got no control over Mis' Swift? Can't you make her set down to
the table when breakfast is ready?"

"No, sir," Judidy blushed. "She told me to set down, so I set."

"Well, whenever she tells me to set down--I set, but I thought maybe you
had more independence of spirit."

"No, sir."

"Elizabeth, here--she don't pay much attention to what anybody says. She
sets all the time, so's to be on the safe side. Well, I guess we're in
for a spell o' bad weather. I see old Samuel Swift out bright and early
this morning, and when Samuel comes out of his hiding that means rain
sure enough."

Elizabeth shuddered. Samuel Swift was an unbelievably unkempt individual
who lived in a hermit's shack in the woods, and was locally known as a
"weather breeder." Whenever he harnessed his ancient mare to his
antiquated buggy and emerged into the light of day the wind changed,
according to neighbourhood tradition, and the fog and rain swept in. She
quoted:

    "There was an old man with a beard,
    Who said, 'it is just as I feared,
        Three rats and a hen,
        An owl and a wren
    Have all made their nests in my beard!'"

"That's poetry," her grandfather explained with a wink at Judidy. "Fall
to," he said as he served the last plateful of golden eggs and crisp
bacon. "Here's Mother with her last chore done, and we ain't more than
half through our breakfast. If that coffee's for Elizabeth, Mother, you
can give it to me."

"I thought Elizabeth could have a little--very weak."

"Not at my table," Grandfather said.

Elizabeth poured a glass of milk and drank it in silence, but her
grandfather gave her one sharp look from under his bushy brows.

"I see old Samuel's crawled out," he said, turning to Grandmother. "I
guess we'll have some wet weather, now."

"He's a disgusting creature," Elizabeth said, looking resentfully at the
jug of milk--and taking a second glass of it.

"He's a kind of relation of yours. His mother was my father's cousin. I
think he'd be better off at the poor farm, but he's so dirty, the
selectmen kinder hate the job o' trying to get him there."

"A relation?" Elizabeth cried. "Oh!"

"You don't know much about your Cape Cod relations, do you, Elizabeth?"

"I guess I'm a kind o' relation, too," Judidy simpered. "Everybody's
relation on Cape Cod, I guess."

"Elizabeth would be proud to have you for a relation, Judidy,"
Grandfather said, gravely. This time Elizabeth saw the sharp glance that
appraised her, and she turned quickly toward Judidy.

"Anybody would be proud to have a--a cousin with such a lovely
complexion," something urged her to say.

"Don't!" Judidy protested. "I'm all tanned up."

"I have a friend in New York, Jean Forsyth," Elizabeth said, presently,
"whose sister married a count."

"And when you get back to New York, you can tell her all about your
cousin Samuel," her grandfather twinkled. "My, what good times you can
have, comparing notes."

"Father!" said Grandmother Swift, warningly. "You run along upstairs,
Elizabeth, and I'll come up there as soon's I take one more swaller o'
coffee. I got something I want to say when there ain't no men-folks
about."

Upstairs again, Elizabeth took the photograph of a deep-eyed girl in a
silver frame out of the drawer in her wardrobe trunk and gazed at it
with gathering woe.

"Oh, dear, Jeanie," she said, "the only thing that would make me any
less miserable in these surroundings would be to sit down and write you
just exactly how things are, and that I can never do."

"You come with me," her grandmother called suddenly from the threshold.
"I got an idea."

She led the way past the landing and tiny hall into which the steep
stairway debouched, into the regions in the rear of the three bedrooms
that Elizabeth was familiar with. There seemed to be a chain of small,
stuffy rooms dimly stored with old furniture and boxes, and not all on
the same level, and beyond them a low room, with a slanting roof, half
chamber, half hallway.

"I never knew you had all these rooms," Elizabeth said. "Why, the old
house is enormous, isn't it?"

"The front o' the house is new; it hasn't been built more'n fifty years
at the outset, but these back chambers belong to the old house--the one
your great-grandfather built to go to housekeeping in." She flung open a
door that led into a little room still beyond.

"Oh, what a darling, what a sweetheart of a room!" Elizabeth cried.
"Whose was it?"

"It was your Aunt Helen's room. She had it papered in this robin's egg
blue paper, and she got a lot o' old, painted furniture, and fixed it up
real cunning. I thought maybe you might like to do the same thing."

There was only one portion of the room in which Elizabeth could stand
upright. The roof sloped gradually until it met the partition about
shoulder high, where two tiny, square windows, of many panes, were set;
but the main part of the chamber, in spite of its low ceiling, was big
enough to hold all the essentials of comfortable furnishing.

"You could hunt around through the house and the attic chamber until you
found the things you wanted to put in it, and furnish it just according
to your taste, and nobody would ever set foot inside of it unless you
happened to want them to. I know girls. That's what they want."

"I guess you do know girls, Grandma," Elizabeth said. "I guess Aunt
Helen must have had a good time growing up if you let her do things like
this. I don't remember her much."

"Well, that ain't so remarkable. She's lived in China since before you
was born. I ain't never let anybody use this room, but now I kinder
think her lease has expired. She's got daughters as big as you, and sons
that's grown men now."

"I'll be just as good to her room!"

"I guess you can't help it. There's a good spirit in it. You rummage
around in these different rooms here, and then you go up in the barn
chamber and look till you find the things that suits you. There's a
powerful lot of what some folks calls antiques around this place.
Dealers and what-not is always coming around and begging to look through
my pantry and my attic, wanting to buy all Grandmother's pretty dishes,
and a good many that warn't so pretty, but I tell 'em all that when I'm
ready to part with 'em I'll let 'em know."

"The Washington Vase china that you use all the time is really valuable,
isn't it?"

"Well, so those collectors say. It's valuable to me, because I was
brought up on it. Money value ain't everything. The value of a dollar is
one thing--the joy it brings to you is another. You just rummage around
and find the things that you like, and we'll get Grampa or Zeckal to
move 'em up for you."

"How did you ever think of such a thing, Grandmother?"

"Well, your grandpa thought he hadn't seen you looking around the house
much, and s'long's it's full o' the kind o' things that most city folks
goes so wild about, I kinder figured you might like something to get
your interest started. Helen, she was never very much interested in
anything she didn't have to do with. You favour her in some ways."

"I suppose I haven't seemed very much interested in the house and
things, I've--had other things on my mind."

"You've been worried about your brother, and a little homesick."

"I didn't think I showed it."

"You don't always have to show your feelings to Grandma. You better
start in the barn chamber, and then work on through the house. When you
get all the furniture you want, you can come to me and get the key to
that closet some day." She indicated a door that might have been a panel
set in the wall, except for the keyhole, where a knob might have been.
"There's a closet there, that runs clear under the eaves. I guess you
might find some fol-de-rols you would like."

"It might be fun to start in the closet," Elizabeth suggested.

"It might," her grandmother agreed, "but better save that till the
last."

"I will," said Elizabeth.

The barn chamber, reached by a rickety stairway leading from the region
of the stalls, from which a white mare poked a friendly nose as she went
by, proved to be a storehouse of the most heterogeneous assemblage of
objects Elizabeth had ever imagined. The overflow of fifty years of
housecleaning and readjustment had been brought together under those
dusty rafters.

"Poor things," Elizabeth thought, looking about at the old settees and
rocking chairs, broken backed and legless. "A horse in that condition is
put out of its misery. I don't suppose they could blindfold and shoot an
old sofa, but they might cremate it, or something."

She came upon the wreck of a little old rocking chair, a child's chair,
with a back beautifully decorated with grape clusters and leaves, and
two limp, broken arms stuck out helplessly. These she tied up with
strips of faded blue cambric that were lying about, and set the little
chair gallantly rocking.

There were innumerable cracked china jugs, big bowls, and strange wooden
utensils and cabinets; beds that had been taken apart, forlorn, carved
old posters minus springs or mattresses that were merely being used as
pens to keep forlorn chairs and tables herded together. These things
were all draped with dust and spiders' webs; and in a corner, from a
pile of ancient straw, Elizabeth heard a faint, continuous rustling.

"Mice!" she said, "but they can't frighten me unless they get a good
deal nearer. Still, I guess I'll look carefully around and choose my
nearest exit."

Her first discovery for her house furnishing was a flag-bottomed chair
with rockers about two inches long. It was perfectly preserved. It
wasn't a child's chair, though it was very little of its age, she told
herself. The next was a spinning wheel, which was the first one she had
ever seen outside of a picture book.

"I'm going to get Grandmother to teach me to spin on it," she said.

There was a writing desk, a rosewood box with inlaid corner pieces, and
a short-legged, square stand to set it on; and then more rustling in the
straw sent Elizabeth suddenly downstairs again, though not until she had
segregated her chosen furniture.

"Zeckal, whoever he may be, can come and get it," she said.

She went back to the little blue room under the eaves, and began a
diagram of arrangement. Standing against the wall was a long, panelled
picture in a black frame, that had made its appearance there in her
absence. Elizabeth lifted it to the light and disclosed three barefooted
ladies in flowing garments of gauze, who were standing on a light turf
from which lilies of the valley were springing. One of these ladies was
reclining on the breast of another, and the third was standing erect and
aloof, with shining eyes.

"'The Christian Graces,'" Elizabeth said. "For goodness' sake!" and
beneath, the curious inscription, simulating letters cut into stone, was
engraved in a neat, Spencerian hand, "Faith, Hope, and Charity."

"For goodness' sake!" said Elizabeth, again.

She turned the picture around, and found on the board at its back
another inscription, written in a round, childish hand, "Helen Swift,
aged eleven, hung in my room to help me to remember."

"I guess I'll hang it in my room, to help me to remember," Elizabeth
said.

She was a little self-conscious about going down to dinner. She knew
that her grandfather had found a good many things to chuckle at in her
breakfast-table conversation. She always knew afterward just what things
she had said that Grandfather would consider most typical of what he
referred to as her "city manner." This time she realized that her
allusion to Jean Forsyth's brother-in-law would be the subject of many
sly, humorous thrusts for a long time to come. However, when she reached
the table again, her grandfather had not yet come in, but he appeared
almost instantly, with a tall, freckled girl hanging on his arm--a girl
with a turned-up nose and a bronzed pigtail the size of her doubled fist
hanging down her back.

"But, Granddaddy Swift," she was saying, earnestly, "don't you see that
I can't come and meet a brand-new city granddaughter, and sit down to a
respectable person's dinner table, attired in a bloomer suit? Don't you
know it isn't done in the circles in which we move? Make him let go of
my ear, Grandmummy."

Elizabeth rose shyly, and then she sat down again, but the stranger
eluded Grandfather's masterful grip, and slipped around to her side,
with a hand out-stretched in greeting.

"Isn't he dreadful?" she said, indicating her tormentor affectionately.
"When I heard you were here, I was going back to the cottage, to put on
my best bib and tucker and make a proper call upon you, but Granddaddy
wouldn't hear of it. He insisted on dragging me hither by the hair. So
here I am--Peggy Farraday, at your service, and am very glad to meet
you, too."

"I'm glad to meet you," Elizabeth said. "I haven't seen any girls for a
long time."

"The woods down here are full of them."

"Well, I guess I haven't been into the woods very much."

"Elizabeth ain't a tomboy, like you, into everybody else's business, all
day long. She stays at home with me and Gra'ma, and minds her p's and
q's."

"Well, we'll change all that. Attractive as you and Grandmummy are, you
can't expect to monopolize her forever. Now it's my turn."

Elizabeth saw that both her grandfather and grandmother were beaming at
this tall girl's impulsive chattering. She felt her own stiffness
relaxing under the sunny influence of the stranger's smile.

"I adopted Grandmummy and Granddaddy three years ago, when I came over
to this ducky old house, on my very first day on the Cape, to beg a pint
of milk and a pail of water for my hungry, unkempt family. I saw that
they were just the grandparents I was looking for, and so I took them
on, and I've been the plague of their existence every summer since.
Haven't I, Granddaddy? Isn't he a lamb? You know, my one ambition is to
squeeze him to pieces, but he's so woolly and scratchy and cantankerous,
that it's almost impossible to get your arms around him, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is," Elizabeth said, crimsoning, with a quick glance at her
grandfather.

To her surprise, he took no notice of her discomfiture. Both he and
Grandmother seemed unaware of the delicate ground upon which Miss Peggy
Farraday had set her enthusiastic little heels.

"I'm fifteen," that young lady continued, with very little pause either
between her mouthfuls of food or of conversation--"You're fourteen,
aren't you? I had more fun the year I was fourteen than I ever had
before, or ever expect to have again."

"I'll be fourteen next Thursday," Elizabeth said.

"I took on an entirely new character the day I was fourteen. I became
very sedate and dignified, and changed my name from Peg to Peggy. Do you
expect to do that?"

"I think perhaps I shall," Elizabeth said. "I guess my character does
need improving."

She expected some retort from her grandfather at this, but he only held
out his hand for her plate, and heaped it high with roast lamb and
tender green peas from the kitchen garden.

"I envy you the scrumptious things you have to eat all the time over
here. We bring our fat cook down with us. She cooks all right in town in
the winter, but she always sulks on Cape Cod, and we have a dreadful
time getting anything. We're not lucky enough to have Judidy."

"Don't!" that flattered young lady protested. "Land, think of anybody
feeling lucky to have me! I _kin_ cook, though, whenever Mis' Swift is
willing."

"Mother, she don't let our help do much work. She's afraid they'd get
the habit, and kinder get in her way whenever she wanted to make a day
of it. When she's cooking, Judidy she generally sets down and reads the
newspaper."

"I'm so fat," Judidy explained, "that I kinder make hard work getting
around."

To Elizabeth's surprise, Peggy Farraday went off into peals and spasms
of laughter at this.

"They are such loves," she explained. "They are such darlings! I adore
the way they do things. Grandmummy--I call her that, because she was
jealous of Granddaddy for a name--is a lot like the Peterkins in her
domestic arrangements."

"I ought to be like Elizabeth Eliza. That's my name." Elizabeth was glad
that she had read the "Peterkin Papers" with Buddy the summer before.
She had never met any other girl who was familiar with them.

"I'll tell you later what character in fiction I think you're like. It
takes me a while to make up my mind about things like that. I seem to
jump at conclusions a good deal quicker than I do."

"Can you always tell whether you like people or not, at first meeting?"

"Yes, I can. Can't you?"

"Yes."

Peggy looked up quickly, and then her eyes dropped to her plate and she
began eating rapidly.

"She's shy, too," Elizabeth thought.

"If you'll come upstairs after dinner," she said, aloud, "I've got
something I want to show you. You've come just in time to give me your
advice about something pretty exciting."

As she was leaving the dining room something made her turn and look back
at her grandmother, who was smiling broadly to herself, like the
Cheshire cat in "Alice in Wonderland."

"The something I was going to show you was _her_ surprise to me,"
Elizabeth whispered to Peggy.



                               CHAPTER IV

                              THE BIRTHDAY


Elizabeth sat in her little blue room, and shivered.

It was the afternoon of her birthday, and although she hadn't mentioned
the fact to any one, she had dressed herself to do honour to the
occasion. Every undergarment, chemise, camisole, and petticoat, was of a
soft, flesh-tinted silk. Her dress was of the finest white muslin
trimmed only with infinitesimal tucks and Valenciennes beading, and she
was wearing a blue ribbon sash with a big butterfly bow at the back.

"My pride ought to keep me warm," she thought, "what a pity it doesn't."

Before she bought her silken lingerie she had deliberated a long time
between that magnificence and a light blue wool sweater and had finally
succumbed to the lure of the lacy garments which had taken every penny
of her month's allowance and all that she was allowed to borrow on her
next.

She looked around her room with a glow of satisfaction, having only that
morning put the finishing touches on it. She had draped the windows with
an old-fashioned print, a blue groundwork with tiny pink roses wandering
over it, that her grandmother had produced from an ancient chest stored
with remnants of the popular fabrics of an older generation. The
furniture she had chosen was mostly painted black, or a very dark stain.
She had found another flag-bottomed chair, a twin to the first, and a
wonderful old settee on rockers, which had a deep seat with an
adjustable rack running along the outside of it, as if to prevent its
being used except for the one person who chose to sit in the space that
was clear at the end. This she had piled with cushions made from little
square pillows that her grandmother kept for "children who came
a-visiting." Her desk and her spinning wheel were in opposite comers,
and a miniature organ, the keyboard of which comprised two octaves
exactly, occupied a position under the eaves between the two farther
windows.

The morning mail had brought her a writing-case from her mother, a check
for five dollars from her father, and a letter, her first, from her
Buddy. She had taken a high resolution not to shed one tear on her
birthday, and the mild faces of Faith and Charity smiled down on her as
if to strengthen her will.

"Hope looks a little teary, herself," she said.

There was a sound of altercation on the stairway that led directly out
of the passage from the dining room of her new suite.

"You _shall_ come upstairs, Grandmummy, and give it to her yourself. She
doesn't want your present by way of me. She wants it handed out, with
your own personal and private blessing. Besides, I've got a present for
her myself. I can't give her two presents."

Peggy Farraday, with her hands sternly set on Grandmother Swift's
shoulders, marched her firmly into Elizabeth's chamber.

"Here's Grandmummy with a beautiful present for your birthday. She was
going to send it upstairs by me, but I declined the honour."

"Young folks like to open packages by themselves, without anybody
standing around counting the Ohs and Ahs, and waiting to be thanked for
something that may not exactly suit. If Elizabeth likes what I've made
her, I guess she can make out to tell me so." Grandmother, entirely
unruffled by the recent coercion to which she had been submitted, put
down a bulky tissue-wrapped package and departed.

"Isn't she funny?" Peggy said. "But do open it. I can hardly wait to see
what you think of it. It's copied from one of mine, the only sweater
I've ever really loved. And it's in your colour, and everything."

[Illustration: "'Do open it. I can hardly wait to see what you think of
it.'"]

Elizabeth, scarcely crediting her senses, shook out from the folds of
tissue the lovely, fleecy garment of her dreams, a wool sweater in her
own colour of "Heaven's blue." She gave it one comprehensive glance,
then she slipped after her grandmother, caught up with her halfway down
the stairs, and kissed her on the nape of an astonished neck.

"You're not a grandmother, you're an angel," she said, and flew back, in
a panic, to Peggy.

"Here's my present," that young lady informed her. "It's something very
practical, but I made it myself. I thought you might like it. I always
give away the kind of thing I adore, don't you? That's doing the very
best you can to show love--and one person's sure to be suited."

"It's a laundry bag," Elizabeth said, "and I haven't got one. You dear."
She put out her hand toward Peggy, and missed her. Then they both put
out their hands together, and kissed.

"The beauty of this creation is that you don't have to fish down into
it," Peggy explained. "It buttons all the way across the bottom, and can
be dumped that way. I made the buttonholes myself."

"And it's my colour, too. Have you made this since you were here last
week?"

"No, I made it the first week I came down, to be sure to have it ready."

"Before you even saw me. How did you know you'd like me well enough to
give it to me when it was done?"

"I was willing to take my chances. When I heard about your brother being
sick, and your disappointment about the cottage, I thought you might be
feeling kind of low when you first got here. So I prepared for it."

"How kind you are! How kind everybody is."

"Well, don't get the weeps. See here, do you know what this bar on this
settee was put on for? It's a kind of a cradle arrangement. Mother makes
up baby's bed on the lower end, puts up the bar, sits herself up at the
head, and rocks and knits. Grandmother told me. She was rocked there
herself when she was a baby. She remembers having scarlet fever on it.
Aren't these old things fascinating? You're an awfully lucky girl to
have grandparents like this. Mine live in a Back Bay apartment, and are
just like everybody else, only a lot more so."

"You're a lot nicer than I am," Elizabeth said, suddenly.

"Well, I don't have such nice clothes. I thought you might like this
clo', though." Peggy stood up to be admired. "It's my best bib and
tucker. See, this is the bib," she indicated the square of cobwebby lace
and lawn under her bronze chin, "and this is the tucker." She turned
around, to show its counterpart in the back. "That's really what I
bought it for, I couldn't decide between this pink linen and a gray
dotted swiss until I realized that this was a bib and tucker. Which of
course settled it at once. By the way, I know something very funny."
Peggy barely took a breath between sentences. "I wonder if you know it,
too. My sister Ruth knows your brother John quite well. They wrote to
each other all the time that he was abroad. I just found out that he was
your brother by the merest accident."

"You don't mean that Ruth Farraday is your sister! Why, Buddy's known
her for years."

"Can't he have known my sister for years?"

"Yes, I suppose so, but it doesn't seem possible. I thought he met that
girl in Boston."

"I live in Boston. If you've got a sample of your brother's handwriting,
I can prove to you that my Ruth is the girl. I've taken in his letters
for years."

Elizabeth produced the precious morning missive by the simple process of
diving into the neck of her blouse. Peggy bent over the letter.

"It's the same," she said. "Oh, is he going to be an awful lot better
soon? Ruthie has been dreadfully worried, I know, though she hasn't said
much about it. She's the still member of the family, you see."

"What does she look like?"

"Oh, she's darlingly pretty, with great blue eyes and long golden
lashes, and lovely colour that comes and goes, and she dresses sort of
quaintly. She looks well in fringes and sashes and droopy things. I have
to wear boys' clothes, almost, to set off my peculiar style of beauty,
but you mustn't judge Ruthie by me. She's really a star."

"I think I'd like you best."

"Oh, you wouldn't if you could see Ruth. You'd just call for the incense
and get busy worshipping. Everybody does."

"Has she many suitors?"

"Flocks and herds of them, but she doesn't care. She's kind of booky and
dreamy. I don't mean she doesn't play a stunning game of tennis, and
drive a car, and all that. She was motor corps for a while, and just
crazy to get over, but Dad wouldn't hear of it. She'll be on the Cape
bye and bye, and you can judge for yourself--I'm going to stay to
supper, did you know it? Your grandmother sent over and invited me
yesterday."

"I didn't know she even remembered my birthday, and now--only think!"

"She said to me that you were as blue as indigo, and putting up a good
old struggle not to be, and she wanted you to have something pleasant to
remember. That festive sound from below stairs is Judidy taking her turn
at the handle of the ice-cream freezer. Do you know what they make the
ice-cream of here? Just pure Jersey cream and fruit juice. I never
tasted anything like it in my life."

"Didn't I hear something outside the door? It sounded just as if
somebody had crept up and then crept away again."

"I didn't hear anything." Peggy threw open the door like a flash. "It
_was_ someone. More birthday surprises." She held up the package that an
unseen hand had deposited on the threshold. "Open it quick, Elizabeth."

"Why, it's the Kipling 'Birthday Book,'" Elizabeth said, "that
red-leather edition that I've been crazy for. Who do you suppose could
have got it for me?"

"Who is there left to give you a present?"

"Nobody."

"Grandpa hasn't been heard from."

"Grandpa?"

"He's capable of anything. You don't half appreciate him, Elizabeth."

"I know I don't, Peggy, but I think I'm beginning to."

At the supper table they cornered him.

"Well," he admitted to Peggy, "I didn't know as you was upstairs, and I
calculated to have Elizabeth blame it on you, but seeing as I'm caught,
I'll own up to what I can't hide. I asked that girl in the apothecary
shop in Hyannis what was the best kind of a birthday present, and she
said a birthday book. I thought that was likely, so I asked to see one.
She fetched out a Longfeller book and a Emerson book, and then I see
this one standing all alone in a corner, and I took to it right away.
Kipling, he writes about things I know something about. So I took him."

"And you are going to put your name in the book the first thing--before
any one," Elizabeth declared: "What's your birthday?"

"What day is to-day?"

"The thirtieth of June."

"That's it."

"You don't mean that you were born on my birthday?"

"I always kind o' calculated you were born on mine."

When Judidy, attired in a purple and yellow silk gown over which
she wore a black silk apron embroidered in blue forget-me-nots,
rose to change the plates, with an expression of the most intense
self-consciousness, Grandmother rose also, and the two exchanged
signals.

"If I understood dumb show a little better," Grandfather said, slyly, "I
might be inclined to think that Mother had something hid out in the
kitchen, and Judidy had an errand in the pantry, but o' course I
probably got it all mixed up."

"Well," Grandmother smiled, "seeing as the same thing has come o' the
pantry every June thirtieth for forty-five years, it ain't anyways
likely that you know anything about it." She bustled off to the kitchen,
to reappear with a mound of ice-cream in which the strawberries were
embedded, like so many perfect emeries.

"I like ice-cream better than anything in the world," Elizabeth said.

"I like it better than fathers and mothers and sisters and intimate
friends, but not better than grandparents, especially not grandparents
when one of them is celebrating its birthday," Peggy declared, "Now, I'm
getting silly. Will somebody stop me, please? Oh, look! Look at Judidy!"

That flushed and excited young woman was approaching the table with the
air of a standard bearer. In her arms she carried a big tray lined with
white paper lace, and on it was set a marvellous erection of cake--a big
round of chocolate confection lettered in pink, and further adorned by
blazing pink candles. She placed it in front of Elizabeth.

"Time was when I had a cake to myself on my birthday," Grandfather
grumbled.

"The time ain't so fur off." Grandmother appeared, with a round loaf of
fruit cake on which one candle burned brightly. "You can take the candle
right off if you want to. I only put it on for a joke. The cake is just
what I always bake for you."

"Elizabeth can eat all the candle grease." Grandfather made an effort to
frown, in which he succeeded only indifferently.

"I made it myself," Judidy cried, as Elizabeth counted her candles,
"fourteen, and one to grow on."

"And did you make all the letters--'Elizabeth With Love?'--I think
that's the nicest thing any birthday cake ever said on it."

"I was going to put on 'Elizabeth-aged-fourteen,' and then I thought
that the candles would tell how old you were," the blushing Judidy
hovered over her masterpiece, "and then I thought it was better to put
on a kind of a message. I couldn't write a very long one, but I guess
that says just as much as a whole sheet of paper."

"How did you make the letters so clear?"

"With a cornycopia. You colour your white frosting with strawberry
juice, and then you make this here cornycopia out of letter paper, and
then you sort of dribble it along and write with it."

"It looks lovely," Elizabeth said. "Thank you. Thank you, Judidy."

"Don't let your ice-cream melt," Peggy warned.

"You haven't let yours melt," Grandmother said, putting out her hand for
the empty dish Peggy was waving.

"I never had all the ice-cream I wanted," Peggy acknowledged, sadly. "I
never shall have, I know I shan't, because I can't hold it."

When Elizabeth made her wish, and blew out her candles, tears of pure
delight stood in Judidy's eyes.

"I've give you luck," she said. "Oh, I hope it was a good wish!"

"It was the best wish anybody could wish," Elizabeth smiled. "I shall
never forget this birthday, and this cake, Judidy, nor any of the dear
things that have been done for me."

                               * * * * *

That night, as her grandmother tucked her into bed, she caught one of
the kindly hands and clung to it.

"That was the most beautiful sweater in all the world," she said. "Do
you think I could go down and kiss Grandfather good-night, too?" she
asked, shyly.

"I guess it could be managed. I'll go downstairs with you, and see."

And presently Grandfather, with his glasses sitting low on his nose, and
his nose in the morning paper, was attacked from behind and kissed
breathlessly; but when Elizabeth tried to escape, she found herself
caught by a blue dimity sleeve, and drawn into an energetic embrace.

"No, you don't," he said, placing her on his knee. "You're going to set
here a while, and talk to Grandpa."

But the eminence of his knee proved such an embarrassing vantage ground
that he soon let her go.

"Good-night," she said, slipping her hand into his. "Good-night,
Granddaddy, dear," and she kissed him again, a real kiss this time, as
if he were her father, or Buddy.

"Well, well," he said, "well, well!" and sat holding her by the
shoulders so long that he almost seemed to have forgotten she was there.
Then he picked her up in his arms and carried her up the stairs again,
tucking her into bed with a hand as accustomed as Grandma's.

"Fourteen years old and letting her grandfather put her to bed the way
he did when she was a baby. Ain't you ashamed?" he asked, playfully, in
a tone she had never heard him use before.

"No, I'm proud," Elizabeth said, and she meant it.

Under her pillow was her brother's letter, and she lit a flickering
bedside lamp to read it by before she went finally to sleep. It was a
short letter, slanting down the paper, as he was not yet able to sit up
in his bed long enough to write properly. He said:

    DEAR SISTER-ON-HER-BIRTHDAY:

    I'd be willing to eat a German helmet to be able to spend this
    day with you. But the U. S. base hospital--base is the word--has
    got me for the present. I send you my respects, and fourteen and
    one half kisses to grow on.

    For the love of Michael, don't get priggish in your old age.
    Some of your letters have made me wonder if there was nobody
    home where my sister lived, but lately they've seemed more
    the real thing. Get acquainted with your grandfather and
    grandmother. Grandfather once told me that he had come to the
    conclusion there was only one person in the world he had to keep
    an eye on, and that was himself. Good talk, Sis.

    Which endeth the lesson.

                                                              BUDDY.

As she tucked the letter back in its envelope, she realized that the
sheet which had been wrapped around it to prevent its scrawly surface
from showing through the transparent envelope was not blank as she
had at first supposed; she spread it out before her, thinking to
find a postscript to her own letter, but it was not that. It was
evidently a sheet of a letter begun and discarded. Elizabeth had read
it before she realized that it was not meant for her eyes to see.
"Sweetheart--Sweetheart--Sweetheart--" it ran, "I have never called you
this, and I have no right to call you so now, or any other name. At
least, not for many years to come. I'm done for. I love you, and I can't
try for you. That's something the war has done for a lot--more----" Here
it broke off, abruptly.

"Oh, Buddy, Buddy," Elizabeth cried, "I didn't mean to snoop. How
perfectly, perfectly terrible!"

It was two in the morning before she slept. She lay wide eyed in the
darkness, thinking of her brother and Peggy Farraday's sister. It
couldn't be anybody else--she knew that much about Buddy. For the first
time in her life she was feeling the weight of a trouble that did not
make her want to cry.

"I guess that's what it means to be fourteen and grown up," she said.



                               CHAPTER V

                          NINETY-NINE NEGROES


Peggy and Elizabeth were lying on the beach in their bathing suits.
Peggy had hollowed out a careful seat in the sand, and built arm rests
and a slanting support for the head, which she was trying to recline on
and enjoy. Elizabeth, who had made no such elaborate preparations for
relaxation, was really comfortable. She was wearing a black mohair suit
with a patent leather belt and silk stockings, and a blue rubber cap put
on with great care, so that tendrils of soft brown hair framed her face.
Peggy wore a rubber diving cap that made her look as if she had been
scalped, but her blue jersey suit was trimmed with blue and green
stripes and slashed up the side and laced fetchingly.

"Did you get your birthday wish, or did you wish for a handsome husband
in the sweet bye and bye?" Peggy asked, lazily. "I always wish for
things that will happen right away, because I can't stand the strain of
not knowing whether I'm going to get them or not."

"I didn't wish to get anything. I wished to be something. I can't tell
yet whether I'm going to succeed in being it."

"Oh, I know--occasions like that always make you feel noble, but I hate
to waste a wish on wanting to be a better girl. You can't tell your
wish, and if you don't, there's nobody that can judge whether you've got
it or not."

"Can't we judge for ourselves?"

"I suppose we can, but it's kind of embarrassing to award yourself
prizes for virtue."

"I know it, but in a kind of general way you have to keep tabs on your
own piggishness, because you're the only one that can."

"Did you say pig or fig?" Peggy had all of "Alice in Wonderland" on the
tip of her tongue.

"I said pig, but I guess prig was what I meant, really. You're not a
prig--but I am."

"Well, speaking of wishes," Peggy said, "do you know the very latest way
of telling who you'll marry? You count ninety-nine niggers, twenty-seven
white horses, and three red-heads, and then the next man you shake hands
with, you'll marry. Let's begin and do it. I've been meaning to for a
long time, but I wanted to wait until I had somebody to do it with.
Those things are not so much fun alone. Kindly remove that inquisitive
sand flea from my back. Oh! Ouch! Lots of people claim they don't bite."
Elizabeth took the offender between thumb and forefinger.

"He's a funny looking beastie," she said. "He's got a kind of solemn,
long face."

"I think he looks interrupted," Peggy said. "I guess he liked my
flavour. Shall we start counting to-day?"

"There aren't many Negroes on the Cape, unless you count Portuguese."

"There are two kinds of Portuguese--black Portuguese and white
Portuguese. We'll have to count the black ones. My mother once went to
the Azores--that's inhabited by Portuguese, you know--she says that the
high-class women all wear a kind of nun's costume, with a huge black
head-dress made exactly like a pea-pod, and they are all quite
light-skinned in spite of their black hair and eyes. Well, let's go in
swimming."

Elizabeth swam her hundred strokes, and then stood breast high, watching
Peggy's fearless performance as that young person displayed all the
latest spectacular swimming feats, diving and wallowing and spouting
like a young whale. The raft, which was usually rocking in at least
seven feet of water, had at first filled Elizabeth with terror, but
Peggy's adventurous spirit was beginning to animate her, and she
followed courageously when Peggy cried, "Now, the raft," and climbed up
its slippery sides with very little hesitation.

"You're an amphibious animal," Elizabeth said. "I don't just know what
kind, but I do know what your mind is like--the way it flies around, up
one thing and down another. It's exactly like a squirrel."

"I don't know whether that's a compliment or not. Look who's here,
Elizabeth. A little fish, see. A perfectly good fish. I wonder how he
got here."

"Is he dead?" Elizabeth asked, shrinking a little.

"He's either dead or sleeping. I think he's alive. He hasn't any eyes,
that's his trouble. Let's put him back in the water--but let's wish on
him first."

"Wait a minute," Elizabeth cried. "I know a perfectly lovely poem out of
the Kipling book. I'll try it on the poor little thing.

    "Little blind fish, thou art marvelous wise.
    Little blind fish, who put out thine eyes?
    Open thy eyes, while I whisper my wish;
    Bring me a lover, thou little blind fish."

"He couldn't very well open his eyes, on account of never having any,
but I guess he got the general idea. Back you go into the water, you
little blind fish."

"You wish, too."

"I did--one of my next week wishes. You know how they tell your fortune
with cards. 'What you expect, What you don't expect, What's sure to come
true. Next week.' My wishes are all on that principle. There goes
fishie, swimming away for dear life."

"Bring me a lover, thou little blind fish." The raft was rocking gently
under a fleece-lined sky, and the water was blue-green and full of
little thrills and ripples. Peggy took off her cap, and let her black
hair stream on the breeze.

"Have you ever thought much about lovers?" Elizabeth said.

Peggy blushed. "Have you?"

"Not about my own. That is, I mean not about anybody I ever knew or saw,
but have you ever thought about anybody else having a lover? Any
relation of yours?"

"About Ruthie, yes, but I don't believe she would ever really care about
that. Except in a very friendly way. All the engaged people I ever knew
were so mushy! I can't imagine Ruth being mushy."

"I never think about the engaged people I know. That isn't what I call
being engaged--the way people _are_ engaged. I always think of the way
people in books get engaged, and that makes it easier to imagine."

"Yes, it does. That would be the only way Ruth would ever do it. But I
don't think she would."

"Do you think she would be the kind of girl to get engaged by letter?"

"Well, I don't know. I don't like to think about her getting engaged.
She's too useful around the house. You wouldn't like to think of your
brother being engaged, would you?"

"I might, if he were very unhappy."

"Well, don't you worry about your brother being unhappy. The thing about
being grown up is that you can do just about what you please. If a man
wants to get married, he can do it, when he's as old as that."

"There might be things to prevent him--health and things."

"Say, I wouldn't worry about my brother and any girl if I were you. He
isn't the marrying kind. I heard Sister tell Mother that. Mother was
quizzing her, I guess; you know how mothers are about this suitor
proposition. Well, Ruth said that John Swift was the one man she knew
that was perfectly satisfied to be a friend, and a good friend to a
girl, and that he had told her so. She said she had a perfectly
tranquil, lovely friendship with him."

"Oh, dear!" Elizabeth thought.

"Buddy has got a very beautiful nature," she said aloud. "I think a girl
of his own age would like him very much, and he would make a good friend
to her."

"Ruth would make the best little friend in the world. I think friendship
is much more beautiful than love. I don't think I should altogether like
it, if my sister and your brother were the other kind, and wanted to
behave, well, you know--that way. Would you?"

"I don't know," said Elizabeth, faintly.

On the way home she was very silent, while Peggy chattered, but at her
own gate she looked at her friend speculatively.

"Do you know, Peggy," she said, "that there are ways in which I feel a
whole lot older than you are?"

"Are there?" said Peggy, uncertainly. "Look, Elizabeth, there's the
third Negro. I'll bet we'll really get our fate settled before the
summer is over."

That afternoon Elizabeth took her knitting--she was making a scarf for
Buddy, who had demanded one to bind himself round, soldier fashion,
during the period of his anticipated convalescence on Cape Cod--and sat
in Grandfather's chair by the living-room window. Her grandmother was
darning stockings on the other side of the branching fern. Elizabeth's
knitting would have progressed more rapidly if she had not been keeping
a sharp eye on the street, in order that no Negroes should escape her.

"Did you ever do any stunts to see who you would marry?" she asked her
grandmother.

"My sister and I used to hang horseshoes over the door, and the first
one that passed under them was supposed to be the one we was going to
marry."

"Did somebody pass under?"

"We did it a good many times. I remember one time we did it, and the
first one that passed under was to be my husband, and the second was to
be Alviry's. The first one turned out to be young Pork Joe, who was one
o' the unlikeliest boys that ever put his waistcoat on hind-side before;
he never would dress himself proper. I was pretty well discouraged at
the idea of young Pork Joe for a husband, but Alviry she made me hang
around watching for her beau to turn up, and lo and behold the very next
person to set foot over that threshold was your grandfather. I thought I
felt bad enough before, but when I saw John Swift's shoulders thrusting
themselves through that door frame, I just bolted off upstairs and had a
good cry. Alviry she wasn't pleased, either. She had her eye on Martin
Nickerson at the time."

"Maybe it was the second one you were to marry, and the first didn't
count. Who was young Pork Joe?"

"Old Pork Joe's son. He used to keep pigs to sell, and so they finally
got calling him that."

"The way they call the plumber Pump Peter. I think Cape Cod is the
funniest place."

"It ain't so different from other places."

"In other places you don't associate so much with--the baker and the
butcher."

"Maybe they ain't so well worth associating with."

"My friend Jeanie Forsyth is a direct descendant from the _Mayflower_."

"Well, so're you. Don't you know it?"

"Have we really got _Mayflower_ blood?"

"Those old pewter spoons on the dining-room mantle, that you was
examining the other day, was made from a mold that Peregrine White
brought over on the _Mayflower_. My mother was a White, you know."

"I didn't know. I guess I don't know much about anything, Grandmother."

"Live and learn. Babies ain't born with any great amount of contrivance,
nor yet much of an idea of what's what."

"I've learned a lot since I've been down here."

"You ain't so sure as you was about the way things was meant to be. At
first, we're pretty sure that things was meant to be just one way, and
that way the one we've picked out. After living along a while, we get to
realize that the other feller has his way, too. Then we have to kinder
arrange our ideas again."

"Buddy thinks I'm a snob."

"Well, what do you think?"

"I--I think Buddy's right."

"Well, he ain't going to be right very long if you _think_ so. When I
was growing up, I used to have a stylish city friend that I spent a good
deal of time with. She was the daughter of the biggest man we had had
from these parts, and she used to spend her summers at home, in the big
white house on Main Street--the one with the pillars and the cedar
hedge, just opposite the post office. She used to get her dresses from
Paris, and let me make copies of them, too, and she was courted by a
member of the governor's staff. I don't know as she ever had a
brother-in-law that was a count----"

"Oh, Grandmother!"

"Well, let Grandma have her joke--as long as she can keep Grandpa quiet.
Well, when we was little girls, she used to love to go to my grandma's
with me."

"Not Grandmother Elspeth's?"

"No, my grandmother; Grandmother White. Well, Mary's folks mostly lived
away from here, and most of the ways and doings of home folks was a
novelty to her. She liked to get Grandma telling about old times on Cape
Cod. You see, when Grandmother was a little girl, her mother was
bedridden, and the whole family was taken care of by her and a
neighbour's daughter, a little girl called Hopey D.--I never knew what
the rest of her name was. As fast as the babies come along, they was put
in the old settee cradle, and she and Hopey used to have to change
places sitting and rocking there all the time they wasn't doing
housework. That's the same settee you got in your room upstairs. Grandma
used to tell how the fire would go out in the old fireplace, on account
of she and Hopey not keeping it going right. Those were the days before
matches, you know; and she used to have to run through the woods to the
nearest neighbour, who lived a mile away, to borrow fire and bring it
home in a swinging pail."

"Oh," Elizabeth cried. "Oh, that doesn't seem possible. I thought that
the days before matches were way back in Columbus's time, or something."

"No. I've got a piece o' flint and a tinder box upstairs somewhere that
came from Grandma's. Supposing you had to strike a spark from a piece o'
flint before you could get the kettle to boiling."

"Supposing I had a bedridden mother, like poor Grandma White. Oh, I hope
that Hopey D. was a nice little girl, and that she and great--no,
great-great-grandmother had good times together."

"When Grandma used to tell all those old stories to my stylish friend,
do you know how I felt? I felt mortified at having a grandma that wasn't
more high toned, and I used to try to get Mary not to go there, so's we
wouldn't have no more talk about running after a pail of fire, and
rocking babies on the old settee and such."

Elizabeth bent her head over her knitting, and the colour mounted slowly
to her forehead, but she did not speak.

"So you see, girl nature is pretty much girl nature, wherever you find
it."

"I was going to write a letter to-night, Grandmother," Elizabeth said,
after a period of silence, "and it wasn't going to be a very nice kind
of a letter, because it--it was going to misrepresent things some. Now,
I am going to write entirely differently, because things you've been
saying have set me to thinking. I'd be willing to show you the letter,
if you thought you ought to see it," she added, anxiously, but her
grandmother only smiled.

"I ain't never very particular about reading other folks' letters," she
said. "I have trouble enough reading those I write myself, and those
that is sent to me."

"All right," Elizabeth said, in a very small voice, "I guess it's going
to be hard enough to write it, anyway." This was the fateful epistle:

    DEAR JEANIE:

    I want to begin by correcting an impression I was snobby enough
    to give you when I first came down here. I wrote you about this
    place and my grandparents in an entirely false way. I did it
    because I was too proud to own up the truth. I was surprised and
    shocked when I got here, to find how things really were. I
    hadn't been here since I was a little girl, and then only for
    very brief visits. I imagined a kind of Farm de-luxe and a
    grandmother in real lace and mitts, and a kind of Lord
    Chesterfieldian grandfather, and all the comforts of a château.
    Instead, my dear Granddaddy and dearest Grandmother are
    just--natives. They murder the President's English, and they sit
    around in their shirt sleeves--the former, not the latter--and
    they, well, they aren't like anything I've ever known. So I got
    started pretending, in my letters to you, and kept right on. The
    "car" is an old, rattletrap Ford, and Granddaddy drives it in
    his suspenders when he wants to. The chauffeur I sort of gave
    you the impression we had is a regular, farm hired man. Our
    hired girl sits at the table with us, and she is nice, too. They
    are all nice, nice people--nicer than I am. My grandmother is
    beautiful looking. I wish you could see her. I didn't care for
    any one to see her, for a while. Now, I am getting anxious for
    everyone to.

    Jeanie, can you understand me or not? I'm just a prig, snob,
    liar, and I don't feel fit to live. I don't know what got into
    me. I always tell you everything, and now I deliberately did
    this awful thing, and I've got something else that I can't tell
    you, but that is not my secret.

    Can you love me any more? I ask this seriously, because I know
    you won't mind my humble origin half as much as the deception. I
    knew this all the time, and yet I could not seem to help the way
    I was behaving.

    I am afraid to read your letter in answer to this, so don't
    write me one. Let me hear from you by return mail, but don't say
    anything, not much, about this anyway. If you love me, though,
    please begin your letter by saying so. I don't deserve you for
    my most intimate friend. I've taken a new name. My
    great-grandmother's name, and I am going to live up to it. I
    took it so to be thoroughly part of my family, and to cultivate
    the old-fashioned virtues with. It's

                                                            ELSPETH.

    P. S.--Call me by it. Everything I told you about my birthday
    was so. They did all those beautiful things for me. I slightly
    camouflaged details, but it was all the way I said, except that
    Judidy _ate_ with us. Aren't I a pig?

                                                      ELSPETH again.



                               CHAPTER VI

                            THE BEAN SUPPER


The three Steppe children stood in the centre aisle of the local
department store, in a state of unembarrassed good humour, while Peggy
and Elizabeth drew apart in consultation. The saleswoman busied herself
with folding up a series of small garments that had been discussed and
rejected by the two young shoppers.

"Six dollars and thirty-three cents, and a stamp." Elizabeth counted the
contents of her purse again, distractedly. "Your three dollars and my
three, and the thirty-three cents we both saved on ice-cream cones, and
the stamp makes it thirty-five. I had no idea that children's clothes
were so expensive. We can hardly buy shoes for them."

"Well, they can't go to that supper unless they have shoes. Look at
their feet, Elizabeth--I mean Elspeth----"

"I know it," Elizabeth said, colloquially.

"I want to go to bean supper," Madget wailed. "I said I would go."

"Hush up, Baby," Mabel warned her, "you're in a apartment store. The
lady will throw you right out the door if you don't be good and quiet."

Madget turned large, disturbed eyes on the lady indicated, and
discovered in her calm countenance nothing to rouse alarm.

"I want to go to bean supper!" she wailed, even louder than before.

"We have some laced canvas shoes with rubber bottoms that are a dollar
and a dollar and a half," the clerk volunteered. "You might get them for
the little girls, and a pair of sneakers for the boy. We have them in
black and brown," she added, with a hasty glance toward the grimy toes
and scratched ankles protruding from his nondescript footwear. "We have
stockings and socks that are reasonable, too."

"Well, let's get their feet covered," Peggy said, "and trust to luck for
the rest."

Madget and Mabel were accordingly fitted to brown shoes and socks and
Moses to black sneakers and long, black ribbed stockings. Nothing that
could be said to him, even the argument of the financial inconvenience
of covering his long legs, would induce him to put on socks like those
of his sisters. It was stockings or nothing with Moses, though he was
perfectly willing to do without them entirely.

"One dollar and eight cents. Could we buy this little boy any kind of
trousers or bloomers for that, do you suppose? You wouldn't mind taking
a stamp to make up the difference, would you?" Peggy asked, anxiously.

"Not in the least. We have some khaki bloomers that might fit him for
seventy-five cents."

"I ain't agoing to wear bloomers," Moses said, decisively. "I want pants
or nothing."

"Nothing is what you've got on now," Peggy said, severely, "or very near
nothing. You can't go to that bean supper in rags, you know. Don't you
want to have some cake and ice-cream, and corned beef----"

"And potato salud," Mabel put in, helpfully, "and beans----"

"And ice-cream and cake and potato salud," Madget droned, "and coffee
and ice-cream and cake----"

"You said that before," Moses said. "Don't you ever get tired of hearing
things over and over?"

"We can get a Butterick pattern and make him a shirt," Peggy suggested.

"We can get Grandmother to give us some cambric and things to make the
little girls dresses. See here, Moses, you've just got to have a pair of
those bloomers. All boys wear them. You can't go to the supper if you
don't---- Do you mind measuring him?"

Moses stood up and was measured; and five dollars went into the cash
drawer of the Hamlin Department Store, while the two girls, laden with
their purchases, steered their young charges toward home.

Grandmother produced goods enough to make Moses a blouse of brown
striped shirting and each of the little girls a print dress. She also
found some old petticoats, yellowed with age, but daintily made, and
some waists with which they could be worn, complete to the very last
button.

"So far, so good," Peggy said, "but we've got to hustle to get this
family covered before five o'clock to-morrow night. Moses' shirt is
going to be the worst. The dresses we can mostly make on the sewing
machine. You play around here in the yard all day to-morrow, children,
so we can try on the things whenever we need you."

They started with their dressmaking bright and early the next morning.

Moses' shirt went very well, for after it was cut and basted,
Grandmother offered to do all the necessary finishing, but Madget's
dress kept both the girls busy almost all the rest of the day. It was a
very effective garment, despite the fact that the seams were not
finished. The hem was done beautifully by hand, the little sleeves were
lace trimmed, and the pink chambray of which the dress was made hung in
graceful folds about the small figure. Madget's toilet was very
successful, but as for Mabel, ill luck seemed to blight her costume from
the very start. One side of the dress was cut shorter than the other,
both sleeves turned out to be for one arm, and there was no more
material to cut another, and to add dismay to discomfiture, Elizabeth
spilt a whole bottle of ink over the front breadth just as she was
getting it ready for the machine.

"I don't know what we are going to do," Peggy cried. "It's nearly four
o'clock. We've just about got time to wash and dress them and get them
started."

Grandmother appeared at this juncture with a little white, frilly
garment in her hands.

"Here's an apron that would just about fit the oldest girl," she said.
"I know it ain't the style to wear aprons, and this would cover all her
new dress up, but I found it, and I just thought I'd show it to you."

Elizabeth looked at it speculatively.

"She could wear that for a dress," she cried. "We could just sew in lace
at the armholes, and nobody would ever know."

"Have I got to be washed?" Moses demanded. "I can wash myself, and I
will, too. Kin I borry an old tablecloth or something?"

"Here's a towel," Peggy said.

"I want an old tablecloth, _too_."

"You come downstairs and I'll give you one. Children takes notions,"
Grandmother said. "He probably has an idea of some kind. You come along
with me, Moses."

Thus relieved of Moses, Peggy and Elizabeth each took a little girl and
scrubbed and polished and combed till the result was miraculous. With
the wonderful, red curls smoothed and a big yellow bow on top of them,
Mabel looked like the distinctive child she was meant to be. The apron
proved a great success.

"She looks just as well as Madget, in spite of all our trouble,"
Elizabeth said a little dolefully. "There's nothing to cry about in
that, Madget. You want your sister to look as well as you do, don't you,
dear?"

"No, I don't," Madget answered, concisely.

"She's awfully cunning, if she is bad," Peggy said, standing off to view
the effect of her finishing touches. "She looks good enough to eat."

"Ice-cream and potato salud, and beans and coffee an' ice-cream," Madget
began, at the suggestion.

"I said _you_ looked good enough to eat, Madget."

"I _am_ going to eat."

"Where do you suppose Moses is? It's time he was dressing."

"No, he went downstairs with Grandma. There he comes now, I think."

Trailing up the front stairs into the guest chamber, which was the
centre of activities, Moses appeared, swaddled in the folds of a red
damask tablecloth, holding his clothes in his hand. His hair was
dripping, but from the rest of his person there emanated an atmosphere,
even an odour, of shining cleanliness.

"Want to know how I washed?" he inquired, proudly. "I went out by the
back door, and I took off all my clothes, and then I rubbed myself all
over with yaller soap, and then I turned the hose on till I come nice
and clean. I don't like to take no baths in the house. You can't get the
water to squizzling."

"Well, I guess it squizzled, all right," Peggy said. "Now get yourself
into these clothes quickly."

It was two thoroughly exhausted girls that finally marshalled their
charges into the Town Hall, where the bean supper was to take place, but
they felt that their efforts to improve the Steppe children were
justified by the result. Moses in a brown shirt, bloomers and stockings
to match them, with his not unshapely feet encased in black sneakers,
and a red Windsor tie--he had demanded red--headed the little
procession. Then Mabel, proudly pinned into her white apron, with a
yellow sash about her middle, and the lace frills of her improvised
sleeves draped elegantly about her elbows, and lastly the resplendent
Madget--a complete product in pink chambray and ribbons to match.

"Their colours all swear at each other," Elizabeth said, "I never
thought of that, did you, Peggy? We'll put Moses between. His tie
doesn't go with pink or yellow, but there isn't very much of it, thank
goodness!"

"Where are the beans?" Mabel asked, practically, as they seated her at
one end of a long, deal table decorated with bunches of small American
flags--the occasion was patriotic--clustered in cups and glasses, like
stiff-stemmed flowers, and vases of dahlias and asters and rambler roses
flanking them.

"Don't show your ign'rance," Moses said, witheringly. "It's a bean
_supper_. You don't have no more beans than you do supper. See the
chocolate cake, Madget, and the custid pie, and the potato salud?"

"What's that yellar stuff, with leaves growing out of it?" Mabel
inquired.

"That's potato salud. Ain't you never seen potato salud before? Where
you been all your life?"

"To home," Mabel answered, literally.

Madget, elevated on a wooden box with Peggy's coat thrown over it, sat
speechless between her brother and Elizabeth. The hall began to fill
rapidly. A young girl mounted the platform and started a few uncertain
notes on the wheezy organ.

"That's going to be the 'Star-Spangled Banner,' Peggy groaned. "We've
got to get these children up again." But one of the bustling waitresses
hurried to the side of the young organist, and arrested her in
mid-career.

"Don't play that," she was heard protesting. "We want to feed this lot,
and get them out in time to set the tables twice. We haven't got time
for them to stand up through the anthem."

The young musician switched obediently to "I am always blowing
bubbles--blowing bubbles in the air," which Moses sang with her
nonchalantly.

Plates of cold ham and corned beef began to circulate up and down the
table. The portly waitresses, family matrons in white duck and muslin,
enveloped in huge white aprons with long strings tied imposingly behind,
began to pass the beans, and to distribute thick mugs of golden-brown
coffee.

Madget still gazed ahead, with unseeing eyes and quivering lips.

"You eat your supper," Moses said, not unkindly, "or brother'll land you
one when he gets you home. Ain't you thankful for all that Miss Laury
Ann and Elizabeth and Peggy Farraday has done for you? See me eat."

"See me," Mabel contributed, encouragingly, but Madget's miserable
silence was unbroken.

"Let's not pay any attention to her," Peggy whispered. "She's got stage
fright. I don't believe she's ever been in a crowd before."

"And such a crowd," Elizabeth groaned. "Where did they all come from?"

"Oh, from all around. These suppers are awfully popular, because you are
allowed to eat all you can for thirty-five cents. All these women that
have to do their own cooking all the time are so glad to have a meal
that somebody else gets ready. Lots of poor old hermits that live alone
like to come and stuff themselves in a civilized manner once in a
while."

"Civilized!" Elizabeth cried, looking down at the three-pronged fork
with which she had been vainly trying to spear her beans. "Sheets for
tablecloths, and paper napkins, and these implements of torture."

"Civilization, as my history teacher loves to remark, is all a matter of
comparison. Don't eat with your knife, Moses, dear. Nice little boys
don't eat with their knives."

Moses looked around inquiringly.

"I ain't got no spoon," he said.

"Why don't you try a fork?"

"I ain't never et with a fork," he said. "Forks is for women."

"He's about right," Peggy said. "Look down the table,
Elizabeth--Elspeth, I mean."

A long line of men and boys, with only an occasional woman sandwiched in
between, faced them. They were all eating steadily and industriously
with their knives. At intervals they would stretch a far-reaching hand
for more supplies, or nudge a neighbour, and indicate with a grunt a
plate of food that was out of their reach. Peggy began to choke with
suppressed merriment.

"Look, look, there comes old Samuel Swift," she said. "Would you think
they would let him in? Oh, isn't he an outrageous old creature? Who is
he, anyway, Elspeth? Do you know? Where did he come from?"

"He's a sort of--of relation of mine," Elizabeth said, bravely.

"Cousin Samuel," Peggy cried. "Do you think we ought to invite him to
come and sit beside us? Oh, dear, I wish you'd pinch me. I'm afraid I'll
have hysterics if I don't stop seeing the funny side of everything."

"I'm having--having trouble on my own account," giggled Elizabeth.

"Where's Madget?" Peggy gasped.

Madget's empty seat confronted them accusingly.

"She got bashful, and went under the table," Mabel said. "She has those
bashful spells. I give her a piece of bread and butter."

Madget, secure from embarrassment in this seclusion, ate everything that
her thoughtful brother and sister provided her with, impartially. Her
pink chambray suffered from contact with the dusty floor and the butter
and chocolate icing.

"What's the odds, so long as she's happy?" Peggy cried. "That's better
than having her cry into her plate. See Moses. Isn't he wonderful? I
don't suppose he ever really got enough to eat before in his life."

"I suppose he is wonderful," Elizabeth said, "but I wish he'd keep his
bloomers up, or else not get up from the table when he passes food down
to Madget. You'd think he'd feel them slipping, wouldn't you?"

"It would be all right if he had something on under them," Peggy said.

"I didn't think of that, did you?"

"I've busted in my back," Mabel informed them, cheerfully, "I guess I've
et so much."

"I wish we'd sewed her in, instead of pinning her in," Elizabeth said,
"but never mind. I'll take my school pin. She's lost one of the blue
enamel baby pins."

"I've got a pin down my back," Mabel said, wriggling. "Shall I git it
for you?"

"No, no, not here, dear."

"I'd just as soon."

"Well, we wouldn't just as soon have you. After the ice-cream comes,
we'll go."

But when this condition had been fulfilled, Madget presented an
unexpected obstacle to their departure. She had her ice-cream in her
hiding place, and spilled a great deal of it down the front of her
dress. By some unique manipulation of her spoon she had managed to smear
her hair with it also. It was not because of these casualties that she
refused to make a second public appearance, however. She merely
preferred not to see the light of day again, having successfully sought
sanctuary from an intimidating multitude. Finally, Elizabeth picked her
up, and bore her kicking and screaming from the hall, Woodrow Wilson,
under the protection of his flag, looking down at her with some
criticism implied in his glance, and the unfriendly crowd of Madget's
imagination seemed to be boring a hole in her back with its composite
gaze.

"It was a relief to get Moses out without his trousers falling off,"
Peggy declared. "Mabel's apron was entirely undone, and her hair came
down."

"Think how well their shoes and stockings looked," Elizabeth said,
philosophically. "I'm glad we gave them a treat, but I think I should
have lived ten years longer if the bean supper hadn't occurred. Madget's
got an awfully shrill voice."

"I can hear her yet," Peggy laughed, "'I won't come out. I won't go
home. I won't stay here. I won't be good.' Honestly, Elspeth, it was
screamingly funny if we wanted to look at it that way."

"But we didn't do it to be funny," Elizabeth wailed. "We did it to be
kind. Did you ever stop to think, Peggy, how different things are in
real life from the way they are in books? In a book it would have come
out that the children's clothes were a great success, and the children
had a lovely time, and the two young heroines were greatly admired for
their philanthropy. Or if it had been a funny book, the children would
have said funny things that you could have enjoyed. In real life, you
just get tired and hot, and things seem flat and stupid."

They were walking home as they talked, with the three children solemnly
herded in front of them. The arch of maple trees that shaded the main
street of the town swayed softly in the breeze. The birds were still
busy calling to each other.

"I don't know that life is so much different from books," Peggy said.
"It sometimes seems to me much more beautiful. You can't see the colour
of the trees in a book. Walking down Main Street doesn't mean a thing if
you read about it, but when you are doing it, you can smell the flowers
and hear the birds sing and see the trees waving in the breeze."

    "I hear the wind among the trees
    Playing celestial symphonies.
    I see their branches downward bent,
    Like keys of some great instrument,"

Elizabeth quoted. "They do look a little like a great harp, don't they?"

"I can't say that they do," Peggy returned, candidly, "but they sound
like one. You know a lot of poetry, don't you, Elizabeth?"

"I'd like to know a lot of poetry. My friend Jean Forsyth knows almost
all the poetry that was ever written. She is really literary, you know.
I think she'll be a great poetess when she grows up."

"I'd like to meet her some time," Peggy said. "Oh, listen to Moses." She
beckoned Elizabeth nearer the children, who were engaged in animated
discussion of the afternoon's festivities.

"I could go back there and eat a whole pot o' beans and a plate o' corn
beef, and a freezer of ice-cream, and a six-quart measure of coffee."

"Well, why don't you go back then?" the practical Mabel inquired, "it
was paid for you to eat all you wanted to."

"I did eat all I wanted to. I was only saying how much more I could eat
_if_ I wanted to."

"I _did_ eat a freezer of ice-cream, didn't I, Mabel?" Madget insisted.

"You didn't have no freezer of ice-cream to eat."

"I did so. A big bear crawled under the table, and gave it to me."

Mabel lifted a sisterly hand to chastise her for the sin of
prevarication, but Elizabeth arrested the blow.

"Madget knows she didn't see a big bear. She is only having her little
joke."

"A dancing bear, with a great big little monkey on its back," Madget
offered in corroboration.

"I don't like jokes," Mabel said. "I ain't agoing to have her make 'em.
I'd rather talk about what I had to eat, and I can't if Moses and the
baby won't give me any chance to."

"I'll tell you what you do," Peggy said, "you run home and tell your
marmer and your parper all about it. The one that gets there first can
talk the most, you know. Now we'll go and tell Grandmummy," she added,
as the children took to their heels.

"I wonder what she'll say," Elizabeth mused. "She always says something
that you don't quite expect, but that somehow settles things."

What she did say, after listening to the complete recital of the affair
with an almost suspiciously long face, was merely:

"There's a great satisfaction in undertaking a thing and going straight
through to the end, no matter how it comes out. What's worth doing is
worth doing well, and I was real proud of the way you two girls stuck it
out."

"Well, that's something," Peggy said to Elizabeth, "but deep down in the
bottom of her soul, she's laughing at us, just the same."

"She's laughing at us--some," Elizabeth acknowledged.



                              CHAPTER VII

                           THE LOCKED CLOSET


    SISTER DEAR:

    Your epistles of late show a great improvement. I don't refer to
    the spelling and rhetoric. You are not one of these fancy
    spellers, I am thankful to state, and you subject the English
    language to only an average amount of ill treatment. What I am
    referring to is your morale. Your morale has certainly looked
    up. Your letters from the farm leave nothing to be desired,
    though they create an atmosphere of yearning for the farm, and
    all the livestock inclusively. This is a flattering statement.
    Being weakened by long suffering, I don't mind admitting right
    out in writing that I'd rather see my sister than even Old Dog
    Tray.

    It's good of you to return this compliment. You did in your last
    letter, you know, but I'm afraid, if you once got me down there,
    you would repent of your bargain. Even sisters have their
    limits, and, to tell you the secret that is preying on my damask
    cheek (See Bartlett's Familiar Quotations)--like the worm in the
    well-known bud--no girl but you cares a tinker's damn what
    becomes of me. No girl but you answers my letters. To be sure,
    you are the only girl I write to, but I don't think that ought
    to make a real difference, do you? You'd write your Buddy--if he
    was your Buddy--no matter what stood in the way, wouldn't you?
    If he wasn't your Buddy, you wouldn't. _Voilà l'obstacle._
    That's Sarah Bernhardt for "Aye, there's the rub," if anybody
    should ask you.

    All of which is complete nonsense. The general idea is that I am
    not getting well very fast, and I don't care very much if I am
    not. France was France, and I made it--Dieu merci! If I never
    make anything else, I hope I shan't do much hollering, but I,
    too, was young once, little sister. So whenever you feel it's a
    hardship to milk six cows before sunrise--as I suppose of course
    you are doing--give a thought to your bed-ridden

                                                              BUDDY.

                               * * * * *

    BUDDY, my own darling, dear, dear BUDDY:

    I love you best, best, best, which doesn't include the other
    generation, on account of its being so unflattering to our
    mutual mother and father, but is almost completely true, all the
    same. I hate to love anybody so much, because there is a hurt in
    loving all that. My hurt is in your not getting better, and not
    feeling more encouraged about it. Mother writes that your
    discouragement is worse than your sickness. Oh, dear, Buddy,
    don't be discouraged. Please, please, please don't. You _did_ go
    over to France and fight. You did get a D. S. C. that all your
    family are so proud of, their hats will hardly fit any more. You
    are perfectly lovely yourself, and better looking than any one,
    and have perfectly fascinating manners. Isn't that something?
    Any girl would be crazy about you, and if there is any girl you
    want to be crazy about you, I'll bet you could get her without
    half trying. I know that if you only wanted to be a girl's
    friend, you would be a perfectly beautiful, tranquil friend to
    her, and she would like it better to have you be that than to
    have a lover of any kind. Also I believe that if ever you wanted
    to get engaged just by letter, you could do that, too.

    Peggy Farraday's sister Ruth is expected down here any time. I
    believe that she is the girl you used to correspond with before
    you went to France. Perhaps you have forgotten all about her by
    this time. Peggy and I took the Steppe children to a bean
    supper. I will describe this at length anon. It made them quite
    sick. As I remarked before, I like you better than ice-cream or
    pink silk underclothing.

                                                Your Sister,
                                                            ELSPETH.

Elspeth waited anxiously for the answer to this letter, for she had
tried to be very tactful and helpful, and to handle strategically the
secret that she had surprised, but Buddy's answer was a blow. He wrote:

    DEAR SIS:

    I'm duly appreciative of the soft stuff. I sure do appreciate
    your letters, and I know you like the way I look. (We might be
    mistaken for twins, save for the slight accident of a few years'
    handicap.) But I'd be willing to can that Everywoman stuff, if
    it's all the same to you. Don't go getting ideas in your head
    about the girls I'm clubby with. My first letter was all a joke,
    and I gave you the credit for understanding a joke. That's all.
    Keep on the subject of the old farm, and this year's crop of
    brass tacks, and you will suit me fine.

    I am no better, but a lot worse. Don't, however, mention me to
    any one but Grandpa and G-ma. If any one wants to know how I am,
    say that I am aces up, and anxious to get discharged and go to
    Russia. Yes, if I can get my old job back, I might get a chance
    at Russia, and that's what I want. To get as far out of this
    country as I can get. If this letter sounds grouchy--it's
    because I am grouchy, and not that I don't like my relations. I
    do, and here's a kiss to prove it.

                                                                BUD.

"I don't see why a tactful letter like mine made him sore," Elizabeth
thought, forlornly, and inelegantly. But a communication from her
mother, a day or two later, made her understand her brothers state of
mind and body a little more clearly.

    ELIZABETH DEAR:

    Be careful how and what you write to Junior--John, I mean. He is
    in a highly excitable condition, and little things worry him out
    of all proportion. Recently his great fear seems to be that you
    will gossip about his condition to friends of his that you may
    meet on the Cape. As far as I can find out, he has no friends
    there except his immediate family, but he says that you don't
    understand how a fellow hates to have his physical condition
    discussed, and he seems to be in terror lest you tell someone
    whom he doesn't care to have informed just what a state he is
    in. I am writing you this for two reasons: First, I don't want
    you to mind if John writes you irritably, and second, I promised
    him that I would ask you not to talk about him to any one at
    all.

    Your father and I are as comfortable as we can be with this
    anxiety upon our minds, but New York is very uncomfortable just
    at present, and keeping cool is an occupation in itself. I miss
    my little girl. I didn't realize, Elizabeth, dear, how many
    things you do for me, how many steps you save me, and how many
    thoughtful little things you contribute to my comfort.

    I know it is hard for you to be away from us, but I am so
    thankful for your brave and helpful spirit and the real
    character building that I feel you are accomplishing. Every
    letter I get I am prouder of, and so is your father. You could
    make it so much harder for us if you were not trying to get
    through the summer right.

    Do be careful when you go into the water, and don't ever stay in
    too long. Take plenty of wraps to the beach to put on when you
    come out. Don't let Grandmother feed you too many pies and
    cakes, but obey and trust her in every other way. She is a very
    wise woman. Mother knows in just what ways this summer is hard
    for you, and she loves you dearly--dearly.

                                                             MOTHER.

"I thought I had got all over the habit of crying at Mothers letters,
but it seems that I haven't," Elizabeth said. "I know what Buddy's
afraid of now. I shall just have to use my own judgment and try to make
it the best old judgment I ever used in my life." She wrote again:

    DEAR BUDDY:

    I am very snubbed, but I guess I shall survive. I will can the
    Everywoman stuff, but after all, I know more about it than you
    do, even at my very immature age, because some day I am going to
    grow up to be a woman, and in spite of your very great and
    boasted superiority--_you_ aren't.

    I won't talk about you to any one except to G-pa and G-ma, and
    not them if you don't want me to. But I shall say that I love
    you, and why. You're a dear darling, that's why, and if I was
    cross a little bit at your letter, I got right over it, on
    account of your being such a dear, _and_ such a darling.

    I am glad you can sit up some. I ate a whole pint of ice-cream
    and a quarter of a chocolate cake to-day, and thought of our
    childhood days when you did the same thing. Peggy Farraday's
    sister came yesterday, and I think she is a peacherine. She
    inquired for you and I said you were getting better, and thanked
    her. Buddy, I won't say nothing to nobody that will make you out
    an invalid or not an invalid. When asked, I shall open my mouth
    wide, and say nothing, nothing, nothing.

    I do, I do, I do love you.

                                                            ELSPETH.


The answer to this was brief:

    DEAR SIS:

    Consider yourself patted on the back, and congratulated for
    being the nicest girl. Enclosed find two dollars which will buy
    six or eight pints of vanilla girl-exterminator, and don't,
    after taking the dose, leave a letter telling how you met your
    fate.

                                    Yours,
                                            The mean old Grouch, BUD.

    P. S. Tell Peggy Farraday's sister anything you please.

It was not long after this exchange of letters that Elizabeth asked her
grandmother for the key of the locked closet.

"I thought you had forgot all about it," her grandmother said.

"No, but I was rash enough to promise Peggy that she could be with me
when I opened it, and we've been doing so many things out of doors
together that we haven't had any other time."

"Well, here it is. You can play with anything you find, as long as you
want to, but hang the clothes up again, come night."

"I will, Grandmother. I'm so excited, and I've got to go upstairs and
twirl my thumbs until Peggy comes. Send her right up, won't you?"

Waiting upstairs in her little blue room, Elizabeth began reading over
her brother's letters, and pondering on his sudden change of mood.

"When he heard that Ruth Farraday was coming down here he was afraid I
would say something to her. Before he knew that, he was willing to be
just as mushy as I was. I suppose being in love is a pretty terrible
feeling."

"Oh, Elizabeth-Elspeth," sang Peggy from the bottom of the stairs, "can
I bring my sister Ruth up with me?"

"Cert-certainly." Elizabeth flew to straighten the pillows on the cradle
settee, and to pick up some stray threads from the braided rug in front
of it. "I shall be very glad to see her."

Ruth Farraday, in a rose-and-white striped satin sports skirt, with a
fleecy, rose-coloured sweater and hat to match, made a very pretty
picture against the background of Elizabeth's little room. "Like a rose
against the blue of the sky," Elizabeth thought. "Her name ought to be
Rose, anyway. How becoming she would be to Buddy's dark eyes and
colouring."

"This is the room, Ruth," Peggy said, "you can look at it for two
minutes, and then you've got to stop looking at it, because we are
gathered together to-day for quite another purpose, to wit, to penetrate
the mysteries of Blue Beard's closet."

"It's a lovely room," Ruth said, smiling. "I wouldn't have intruded on
this very special occasion, except that it began to rain as I was
bidding Peggy good-bye at the gate, and Peggy thought you would rather
shelter me than have me run away through the flood."

"Yes, indeed," Elizabeth said, "and it will be fun to have you see
what's in the closet if you don't mind."

"I shall adore it."

"I adore you," Elizabeth said to herself, "already."

"We'd better hurry," Peggy cried. "Ruth is getting ready to rave about
the cradle settee and the flag-bottomed chairs. If we get started
telling her the history of all the things in the room, we shan't get a
look at Blue Beard's wives. Ruthie, dear, this is the key to the
enchanted closet. Doesn't it look spooky? This house is a hundred and
twenty-five years old, and see, all the doors have latches instead of
knobs. Which leads us to this one particular door." Peggy linked an arm
through that of her sister on one side and her friend on the other, "And
presto! Here we are. Now, Elizabeth-Elspeth."

"One, two, three!" Elizabeth turned the big key in the ponderous lock,
and the door swung wide.

"Blue Beard's wives' trousseaux!" Peggy said. "One hundred and one
thousand two hundred and forty-three silk dresses of the Georgian
period. I don't know when the Georgian period was, but I guess this is
it."

Ruth stepped inside the closet.

"These things run from about eighteen fifty to the early nineties;
mostly Victorian, if you must be educated, Peggy," she said.

"I suppose I must, but look, look, look, at all these beauties."

On rows of little pegs driven into the low rafters of the irregular
triangle that formed the closet were the carefully preserved relics of
three generations of dainty feminine finery. Dresses of taffeta and
dimity and poplin, in all the flower-like gradations of colour that our
grandmothers remember their mothers and grandmothers looking most
distinguished in. Not only gowns, but capes and dolmans and dressing
sacques, and, packed away in a barricade of old-fashioned, flowered
bandboxes, were the bonnets and hats, and even some of the gay little
bags and muffs that complemented the costumes.

"I never saw anything so wonderful in my life," Ruth Farraday said.

"Oh, let's try them on. Let's get Grandmummy to tell us about them.
Let's dress Ruth up and take a snapshot of her. Let's----" Peggy's
breath failed her.

[Illustration: "'Oh! let's try them on'"]

"Here's Grandmother now," Elizabeth said.

Grandmother, making her placid way through the outer chamber, smiled,
and held out her hand to Ruth Farraday.

"Peggy's sister," she said, "well, well, it's good to have Peggy bring
her sister along--to play in the garret."

"This--this is Miss Farraday, Grandmother," Elizabeth said. "She--she
isn't----"

"Elizabeth is trying to say that I am not a little girl, but I'm not
really so very far from it. I'm not so grown up that I want to be sent
out of the attic now I've just seen all these lovely things. You don't
mind if I stay?"

"I'd mind if you didn't stay. You are the kind o' sight that sore eyes
is aching for all the world over." The old woman and the girl smiled at
each other as if they had been friends all their lives.

"First, tell me who this belonged to, Grandmummy," Peggy dragged at her
sleeve imploringly, "and then tell me who every single dress here
belonged to."

"Well, they belonged to a number of people, all told. Some of my wedding
things is there. That rose lavender silk in your hand, Peggy, was the
dress I appeared out to meeting in the Sunday after I was married. The
blue silk with the black velvet ribbon scallops around the basque was
the dress my sister Alviry wore to my wedding. She had long, pink ribbon
streamers on her hat, a chip hat trimmed with pink roses, and she was a
picture, I can tell you. My appearing-out hat is here somewhere--like
Alviry's, only trimmed with little lavender plumes. I had a black silk
trimmed with jet. That's it, that Elizabeth has her hand on. That's too
old for me yet, but everybody had to have a black silk dress that was
heavy enough to stand alone in those days."

"What's this little love of a pink muslin with all these tiny, tiny
ruffles on it, Grandmother dear? See these bell-shaped white
undersleeves, and this figured pink sash, Peggy. Wouldn't your sister
look a dream in it?"

"That was the dress I wore when I give your grandfather my promise. I
liked it better than any dress I ever had."

"I should think you would have," Peggy put in, fervently.

"I should have liked it best if your grandfather had never been born in
the world. Leastways, that's what I've always said. It was the first
dress my mother ever let me have all the say about. Dresses had to be
chose for their wearing qualities when I was a girl. If they wouldn't
wash and turn, year out and year in, we warn't allowed to have 'em, but
I had set my heart on a pink muslin with dolman undersleeves, and after
I went and nursed Grandmother White through scarlet fever, and just
barely lived after I caught it myself, Mother said I could have anything
I wanted as a present to get well on. Land, I begun to improve from the
day that dress was promised me."

"I should think you would have," Peggy said, again.

"It was pretty brave of you to go into a house where they had scarlet
fever, and nurse your grandmother through it," Elizabeth said. "Weren't
you deadly afraid?"

"I don't remember much about that part. My father sent me, and so I
went, but I shall never forget the day when I first put on the dress.
Your grandfather he was calling on my brother Jonas when I come down the
stairs drawing my train after me. Jonas he started to stare at me, and
then he began to say poetry. An old poem he used to say whenever he
wanted to tease me:

    "Here she goes, there she goes,
    All dressed up in her Sunday clothes,
    High-heeled boots and a cashmere shawl,
    Grecian bend and a waterfall.

I was so put out, I run upstairs and didn't come down again till he
coaxed me down with the promise of a drive to Bass River by moonlight."

"But how about Grandfather? You said that was the very dress he proposed
to you in."

"So t'was."

"Did he propose that evening?"

"No, he didn't. I was so put out at Jonas that I wouldn't have a word to
say to your grandpa for a whole week."

"That was hard on Grandfather."

"He went and got another girl and took her to the Harvest Dance. Eliza
Perkins, and she wore a mahogany-coloured silk that made her look as
sallow as a pumpkin. I was so sorry for him that I kinder made it up to
him. I suppose girls will always be high and mighty with the boys they
like best. I never took the trouble to plague any other of the young
men, but your grandfather I used to make life a burden to."

"Nowadays it's the young men that are high and mighty," Ruth Farraday
said, "they go into the service, and their uniforms turn their heads,
and then they--forget."

"I guess the young men to-day ain't so different from the men in my
time, if you come right down to it. I guess liking is liking--just the
same as it always was. Love will go where it's sent."

"Do you believe it comes once to every man, as the saying goes?"

"I know it. There's a lot of talk about loving this one and that one,
but when you get right down to it, the second time is a pretty poor
imitation of the first. There is natures that's different, of course,
but true natures find their own and cling to it."

"Oh, I don't know that I like that for a philosophy," Ruth said, "it's
all right--if it isn't one-sided, but if only one feels it----"

"It ain't so often one-sided as you think--the real thing ain't. If it
ain't real--why, that's another story."

"But how is anybody going to tell if it is real?"

"There ain't really any way of not telling."

"Grandmummy," Peggy begged, "can we dress Ruth up in your pink muslin
and take a snapshot of her?"

"Certain, but you ought to curl her hair. I made a hundred and twenty
curls when I wore that dress."

"That's where Elizabeth inherits her curly locks. Please dress up in
Grandmother's muslin, Ruth. Don't you want her to, Grandmummy?"

"It would do my heart good to see her pretty face shining out over my
pink muslin."

"If you feel like that, then you shall," Ruth said.

"I have a kind o' feeling that it will bring you luck," Grandmother
said, when the soft hair had been loosened and curled about the face,
and the pink muslin had been hooked and buttoned and tied till it
undulated in delicate folds and curves all about the girl's slender
body.

On the lawn under the honeysuckle arbour, on the gate post, on the front
steps of the old house, which followed the old-time habit of facing the
south, though the street was due north, Peggy took picture after
picture, and Ruth Farraday smiled up at the sun like an old-fashioned
blush rose blooming in an old-time garden.

"There comes Father," Grandmother said, "let's see how much he'll
notice."

Grandfather, approaching, took in the tableau under the honeysuckles.
Elizabeth and Peggy watched breathlessly as he made straight for the
little figure in Grandmothers pink muslin gown and stood staring down at
it.

"I don't know who you be," he said, slowly, "nor where you got the dress
you're wearing, but I know what you make me feel like." He swept his hat
to his breast with a courtly, old-time bow, and bent over Ruth's little
hand and saluted it.

Then he put out his other hand to his wife and drew her arm within his.

"Mother," he said, softly.



                              CHAPTER VIII

                      LETTERS AND THE POST OFFICE


    JEANIE DEAR:

    Your letter was lovely. I forget what you are like between times
    a little, and then I look at your picture or get a letter from
    you, and know. I can hardly believe you love me, after all you
    know about me, but I guess you do. I wish I could see you, but I
    am glad you are at the Point again this summer. I tried out
    Mother about my coming to visit you, without asking in so many
    words, but her idea is that she would like to have me stay put.
    My brother may get well enough to come down here at any time,
    and when he does I want to be chief nurse and bottle
    washer--medicine bottles.

    I've been doing quite a lot of things. I spend a great deal of
    time with Peggy Farraday. She is very nice. Nicer than I am, but
    not as nice as you, Jeanne of Arc. She is as nice as a Peggy
    Farraday can be. She has a sister Ruth, who is as sweet as
    peaches. She is about nineteen and a half, and blonde, with big
    blue eyes and long golden lashes, and one of those soft voices
    low in the throat, with a kind of thrill in it. You know--like
    contralto singing. You would love her. I am wild about her, and
    Buddy knows her. Don't mention that to any one. It's a secret.
    If you were here I think I could hint to you some things about
    it, but I can't on paper. Somebody might read a letter some time
    that you didn't expect. Buddy is very unhappy, and writes me one
    cross letter to every pleasant one. He is afraid I shall not be
    discreet, but discreet is my middle name, to use slang. Oh, I
    long to tell you what I mean. He won't write to her and she
    won't to him, and I am trying to make them. You can see how
    exciting it is.

    Well, I must give you a brief résumé of what I have been doing,
    before I close. Monday we went in swimming, and afterwards, in
    the Farraday car, to Wianno, which is a very attractive summer
    colony farther up the Cape. We stopped at Hyannis and had
    ice-cream with a frozen pudding sauce. Tuesday, after swimming,
    Grandfather took us to Chatham in the noble Ford--me and
    Peggy--and we stopped at an attractive little tea room, where we
    had chocolate ice-cream. Wednesday we went swimming and then we
    walked to the adjoining town where we got some wonderful
    ice-cream sodas, three apiece. Peggy and I have each got over
    thirty Negroes. I told you how we were counting them in order to
    find out our fate. I am glad you have begun, too. I love you
    dearly.

                                         Your own ELIZABETH-ELSPETH.

    (Peggy calls me that. She sends her love even though she doesn't
    know you.)

Elizabeth was in a letter-writing mood, and sealing Jean's letter with
her favourite sky-blue sealing wax, stamped with her monogram signet
ring, she opened her letter-case again. She began:

    DEAR DADDY:

    We don't write very many letters to each other this summer. At
    least, I don't write many separate ones to you, but all the
    letters that go to Mother are meant for you, too. My special
    particular efforts go to Buddy. Poor Buddy! I hope you will soon
    be able to bring him to his own grandmother's hunting ground. He
    keeps writing me about going to Russia. I guess I should want to
    go to Russia if my health was as discouraging as Buddy's. I
    worry about him, and, Daddy, dear, I worry about you. I have
    made the great discovery that a Daddy is a Daddy, and that it
    has to work pretty hard buying wardrobe trunks and Japanese
    kimonas and almond nut bars for its female offspring.

    When I think of you sweltering in that hot city whether you want
    to or not, I get quite upset. You have to work every day, don't
    you, whether you feel like it or not? I never thought of that
    before till last evening, and it made me a little bit ill, it
    struck me with such force. I have just never happened to think
    of it in that light. I can tell you, Daddy, it made me love you
    harder than ever, and that's pretty hard. Well, all I can say is
    that I respect you more than anybody, and I hope you are never
    sorry you got married and got this family on your hands.

    Now for a few words to cheer you up. Monday we went in swimming,
    Peggy and I, and afterwards in the Farraday car to Wianno. I
    guess you know all about Wianno. We stopped at Hyannis and had
    some ice-cream with frozen pudding sauce. Tuesday we swam and
    Grandfather took us to Chatham in the Grand Old Ford, and we had
    chocolate ice-cream there. Wednesday we went in swimming and
    then walked to Harwich and got three ice-cream sodas. Also we
    counted quite a lot of Negroes. I wrote Mother that we had to
    get ninety-nine Negroes etc. for a stunt we are doing.
    Portuguese count, if they are dark enough.

    I love you more than my old scratchy pen can tell. There goes
    the station barge, with the morning mail. So here goes I after
    it.

                                                          YOUR BABY.

You write an awful lot of letters, Elizabeth," said Peggy, as the two
met at the post-office steps. "You get a lot, too. I'm not much good at
correspondence. Did you ever write to a boy, Elizabeth?"

"No, not really. Only thank-you letters and answering invitations and
things like that."

"Well, don't you ever tell, Elizabeth, because I might get teased, but
I'm writing to a boy right now. That is, I am going to be when I've
answered his letter. It isn't a silly boy, though, it's a sensible
boy--a boy that knows a lot of things I want to learn about. Chester
Reynolds, you know, that I've told you about winning the tennis cups. I
got a letter from him last night. It isn't supposed to be very nice to
show letters, but if you'd like to see this one, I'll bring it around
to-morrow, and then I'll bring my answer to it, and let you see what you
think of that."

"All right," Elizabeth agreed.

"Isn't it a funny thing, he is the only boy that I ever thought I'd like
to correspond with, and now he has just sat himself down and written to
me."

"I think that's very nice." Elizabeth said. "There's a boy in New York
that I felt that same way about. He sort of offered to send me a copy of
'Prometheus Bound,' but I knew if he did that I should have to write and
thank him, and I didn't know whether Mother would approve of my writing
him like that when I was away from home, so I didn't say anything more
about it."

"What is 'Prometheus Bound,' anyway?" Peggy inquired.

"Well, I think it is a kind of a blank verse poem or book, something
like Whittier's 'Snow Bound,' but I'm not sure. That was one reason that
I wanted him to send it--so I could find out. He was quite a literary
boy, one of Jeanie's friends. He's very good looking, though."

"I don't like literary boys as a rule, though, do you?" Peggy asked.
"They usually wear rubbers and horn rims, and have to mind their
mothers."

"Not any friend of Jeanie's. Her friends are always all-around boys.
They must have brains, too."

"Oh!" Peggy said, impressed.

The crowd on the post-office steps was beginning to thicken. The big
bags, bulging with mail, had been passed behind the glass façade of the
mail-box section, and behind the closed wicket that indicated the
distribution was taking place the silent postmaster and his assistant
worked with grim, accustomed rapidity.

"Let's go and watch them put the things into the boxes," Elizabeth said.
"It's the most exciting thing to see the letters go in. Ours is 178.
See, here it is," she cried, as Peggy followed her into the stuffy
office. "There's a card from Buddy already, and one for Grandfather from
the Bass River Savings Bank, and one fat one that I can't see the face
of that I hope is from Jean. She doesn't always wait to get answers, you
know. She writes when the spirit moves and so do I. I've just been
writing her."

"When you go back to New York, let's write to each--I mean one
another--like that, only I'm afraid you'll get the worst of the bargain.
When the spirit moves me to write a letter, it mostly only moves me to
say, 'Dear Elspeth,' or whoever it is, 'Hello! Yours frantically fondly,
Peggy.' It's funny, when I like to talk so much, that I don't like to
write more."

"There's my thirty-first," Elizabeth whispered, as a solemn black
chauffeur made his appearance in the post office.

"My thirty-third," Peggy said, "and outside is a white horse. What a
pity we have got to get the white horses in sequence. They are so hard
to find, especially when you are looking for them. But when we do get
them all, I am going to keep my hands behind me all the time, until I
find somebody I am willing to shake hands with!"

"It would be awful, after all this trouble, if we didn't shake hands
with the right one, wouldn't it, Peggy? There goes a postcard right into
my box. It's for Judidy. She has a young man. Did you know it? He's
almost as fat as she is, and not nearly so good looking."

"I hope she gets somebody very nice, and marries them, and has a whole
backyard full of fat pink babies, though I don't know what Grandmummy
would do."

"Grandfather says she'd get the work done quicker if she didn't have
Judidy to look out for, and I think perhaps she would. Isn't it funny,
when I first came, Judidy just seemed to me like a kind of queer person
that I felt not quite right about eating at the table with, and now
she's my friend."

The gate in the wicket flew up, and in an instant it was surrounded.

"See all the mail-hungry fiends," Peggy said. "Oh, goody, Mother's got a
letter from my cousin in Rome--and Ruth has a letter from that Chambers
fellow."

"What Chambers fellow?" Elizabeth asked, quickly.

"Piggy Chambers I call him. He's got loads of money and he is very good
looking, and he just pesters Ruthie to death."

"What does she do?"

"She lets him. She likes it, rather."

"Oh, dear!" Elizabeth said.

"You don't have to worry. She's my sister. Piggy Chambers isn't so bad.
He's just kind of a bore, you know, and awfully fond of writing letters
to Piggy Chambers, Esquire. Lots of grown-up fellows are like that."

"She's your sister, but I love her, too."

"Shouldn't think much of you if you didn't."

They were on their way home by this time, and the post-office crowd had
begun to melt away, streaming up and down the street, and into all the
cross roads.

"I wish my grandmother would let me come after the mail at night,"
Elizabeth said. "I have to wait till Judidy or Zeke are ready to come,
or Grandfather will take me. As if I wasn't old enough to go out after
six o'clock alone."

"It isn't your being old enough, it's the general reputation of the post
office being a place where the crowd goes in the evening to--start
something. You know yourself that lots of things that go on there don't
look very well. It's such a mixed crowd, too."

"As long as you behave yourself, I don't see what difference it makes."

"I've thought a lot about going to the post office at night," Peggy
said, "and I've argued a lot about it with Ruthie and Mother, and the
conclusion that I've come to is that it's just as well to keep away. All
the girls that aren't nice hang around there. Some of the girls that are
nice stay away. When I grow up, my niceness is going to be so much a
matter of course that I won't have to look out for it so hard. Just now
I am going to obey Grandmummy's rule to 'avoid the appearance of evil'."

"I guess you are just about right, Peggy," Elizabeth said after
reflection. "Sometimes you talk a lot like Jeanie. Would you like to
hear some of her letter?"

"I should say I would, but don't read it to me unless you really want
to."

"I do," Elizabeth said, "and the reason I do is that I think you are
like Jean in some ways. You are both of you way beyond me in the way you
look at things."

"The way I look at things is better than the way I act sometimes."

"I'm inclined to be just the other way around. The way I look at things
is worse than the way I act most generally."

"I'm disobedient," Peggy said, "and sloppy weather, and always late to
places. I do as I'm told about things like going to the post office at
night, but not about trying to run the car or getting home on time."

"I'm just the other way," Elizabeth reflected. "I wouldn't monkey with
anything I was told not to touch, but I'd make a big fuss, if only in my
own mind, about obeying a grown-up rule that I didn't understand."

"Either way gets you into trouble at times," Peggy said, sagely. "Don't
look round, but there are two boys trailing behind us."

"What kind of boys?"

"Two of the boys that were down at the Aviation Camp all last summer."

"Are they all right?"

"Yes, but I don't know them."

"They are speaking to us. Don't look round."

"_Oh, girls!_"

"I suppose they'll get tired and go away."

"Don't look round."

"_Oh, girls!_"

"Now, look here," Peggy suddenly wheeled on the two followers. "We
haven't met you. We're not going to have you trailing around after us."

The older of the two boys whipped off his hat.

"I--I beg your pardon," he said, colouring. "We were only joking.
We--we----"

"It puts us in an embarrassing position," Elizabeth contributed.

"Well, some of the girls, they--we----" the other boy also found
explanation more difficult than he had anticipated.

"There's a difference in girls," Peggy said, severely.

"We were only going to ask you the way to the beach." The first boy's
hair was a blazing, splendid red. Elizabeth liked red-headed boys.

"I've seen you there almost every day this summer," Peggy challenged.

"So've I seen you." The second boy had a wide, ingratiating grin. "We
want to get acquainted, that's all," he admitted, "so we were pursuing
what seems to be the usual way down here."

"That isn't the way to get acquainted with us," Elizabeth said.

"What is the way, then?"

"Don't ask _us_." Peggy gathered Elizabeth's arm under hers, and hurried
her along.

"They are sort of nice," she admitted, when they had put several yards
between them and the objects of their encounter. "If they are really
nice, I suppose they will get introduced the way they ought to. If they
aren't, well, we won't see them."

"It's a sort of strain waiting to find out such things," Elizabeth said.

"Read me Jean's letter, and that will take our minds off them," Peggy
demanded, practically. "One reason that I don't like to have much to do
with boys is that when you get thinking about them it's hard to get your
mind on other things. If they are silly, they aren't any fun."

"On the other hand," Elizabeth argued, "if they aren't just a little
bit--silly or--something--they aren't so much fun."

"Well, they have to be interested in you some," Peggy admitted.

"Now I'll read you Jean's letter. We'll sit down under this tree by the
gate. See how pretty her handwriting is. Doesn't she make fascinating
E's and R's?"

"I think there is a lot of character in handwriting," Peggy said,
bending her head over the letter. "See this one from Piggy Chambers. He
writes like a pig and he is one."

"See this card from my brother Buddy. He writes like a perfect
gentleman, and he is one, though I say it as shouldn't."

"Oh, I've seen your brother's handwriting before, but not for a long
time. Why don't you write him to write Ruthie? I'd a whole lot rather
she was hearing from him regularly than from Piggy."

"Has she a friendship with Mr.--Mr. Piggy?"

"No, she hasn't. He just wants her to marry him, and that's all there is
about it. If your brother is her friend, it would be the part of a good
friend to stick around just now, if only by correspondence."

"There are things about my brother that you don't understand, Peggy,"
Elizabeth said, solemnly.

"Thirty-four," Peggy said, her gaze diverted to the street, "count that
one, Elizabeth. It may be that same chauffeur, but never mind. We don't
know positively that it is."

"Well, now for Jean," Elizabeth said, after these formalities were
finished.

    ELSPETH-ELIZABETH DEAR:

    I've had your long letter, the one that told about the Steppe
    children (and how I laughed!), for a week, and your two
    postcards. I wrote you one serious letter in answer to a serious
    one from you, and now I'll just tell you about the way things
    are going here. It's just the same thing--sailing, teas, dances,
    bathing, and then begin all over and do it again. I like it
    all--especially the sailing--"a wet sheet and a flowing sea,"
    you know, is one of my ideals. Another ideal is getting
    realized, too. I'm learning to drive the car. I bogged it
    yesterday, and a farmer with whiskers to his knees, and a long
    rope, like the funny papers, came and pulled us out. The
    chauffeur was with me. He ought to have prevented it, but he
    said I was too quick for him. Anyhow, won't it be wonderful when
    I learn? Then you and I can "ride together, forever ride," as
    Browning says.

    I went into New York on Thursday, and what do you think, I went
    to see your brother Buddy. I called up your mother from the
    station and she suggested it, so I did, as we had the car and
    were going out of New York from his end of the town, anyway. I
    felt two ways about doing so. One way was, that it was hard on
    you for me to see him first, and the other way was that if you
    couldn't see him, I could represent you. He is quite a
    sick-looking Buddy, but very, very sweet and dear. I hope you
    can get him down to the Cape and take care of him. They won't
    discharge him, will they, until they get good and ready to? He
    looks a lot like you and a lot like some of those Rembrandt
    portraits of himself. I suppose it's his beard that makes him
    look so sort of shady and shadowy. He said he didn't think he
    would ever be any better, but that if he did, he hoped he could
    go to Russia. He seemed to want me to think that this and
    everything else he said was a joke. I must interrupt myself now,
    and say au revoir, because the car is waiting, and Mother is
    being very polite in it. I can see her back getting politer
    every minute.

                                                'bye--
                                                               JEAN.

    P. S. I love you.

"I didn't know that your brother was as sick as all that," Peggy said.
"Why haven't you told me so?"

"He doesn't want anybody told. He doesn't want to appear like a
confirmed invalid."

"I'd like to tell Ruthie."

"I--I'll tell you what you do. You take Jeanie's letter and read it to
her. That won't be either of us telling her."

"All right, I will."

"I don't know what excuse you can give for having a strange girl's
letter with you."

"I won't need any excuse. I'll just say to Ruth that I've got a letter
from a friend of yours about John Swift. She'll just grab the
letter--that's all. I'll say you were willing."

"You come around and tell me what she says afterwards."

"All right." Peggy was making a prolonged departure, kicking at the turf
as she stood at the gate. "I'll come around this afternoon, anyway, and
we'll go and get some tutti-frutti ice-cream."

"All right, and if you hear anything more about who those boys were, you
can tell me then."

"All right, and I'll bring around that letter I was telling you about,
from Chester Reynolds."

"All right. I guess my dinner's ready. I heard the bell when we first
got in sight of the house."

At this point Grandfather appeared at the door and seeing Elizabeth
still looking in the direction of her departing friend, he approached
firmly and grasped her by the ear, and led her, protesting, into the
house.



                               CHAPTER IX

                     HUCKLEBERRIES AND NEW FRIENDS


Grandfather came out of the north door and shaded his eyes with his
hand. He gazed searchingly at Elizabeth's favourite tree by the gate
under which she and Peggy were sitting with their embroidery.

"Well, well, I'm disappointed," he murmured to himself. "I thought if I
see anything of those two girls I'd ask them to go huckleberrying, but I
s'pose they've gone off down to the shore, or somewhere."

"Oh, do ask us to go huckleberrying," Elizabeth cried.

"I thought they'd be right out here, sitting under that tree, like
enough, doing some chore o' fancy work. It does beat all where they find
to hide themselves."

"Oh, what fun!" Peggy cried. "He took me huckleberrying last year, and I
got four quarts in about two hours."

"Well, well, I am disappointed. I might's well make up my mind to go
alone."

"He will, too, if we don't hurry," Elizabeth said, stuffing her crochet
work into the pocket of her blue linen dress. "Run and get into the
Ford."

Grandfather, equipped with as many shining pails as a tinware peddler,
approached the car and stared at it gravely, though Peggy and Elizabeth
were already in possession of the back seat.

"Too bad I couldn't find those girls," he said. "Mother's put a great
heap of sweaters and aprons under the seat, so's if I should be lucky
enough to pick them up on the way. Well, Lizzie"--this to the
machine--"how cranky are you to-day? Crank by name and crank by nature,"
he made half a dozen ineffectual attempts at starting, and then
succeeded suddenly, jumped into the car, and they were off with a snort
and a flourish.

"You darling Granddaddy," Elizabeth said in his ear, "we're crazy to go
huckleberrying, and Peggy says you know all the spots where they grow
thickest."

"Well, well, how did you get here? I dusted my car out carefully just
before I started. It don't seem as if I could overlook a couple o' girls
o' that size."

"You didn't have your glasses on, Granddaddy."

They took the road to the north, winding white into the hazy distance.

"The road is like a white ribbon," Elizabeth said, "and those little
scrubby pines, sitting low all along the way, are like--well, I don't
know what they are like, but I like _them_. I don't complain if the
trees on the Cape are not majestic, as they are in other summer resorts.
You see a lot more sky when the trees are low."

"You stand up for Cape Cod," her grandfather said. "It's a pretty good
place. You know the story of the old farmer who was driving back from
his wife's funeral. 'I lived with that woman forty year,' he said, 'and
toward the last, I really got to like her.'"

"Is that the way you feel about Cape Cod?" Peggy asked, mischievously.
"I thought it was the way you felt about Lizzie."

"Lizzie's got her good qualities, like most o' the rest of us. She ain't
got much natural pride about the way she looks, and she hates to admit
that a man is stronger than she is, but when he once gets the best of
the argument she goes along peaceable. There's a lot o' human nature to
Lizzie."

"I'm so excited about these huckleberries I can't wait to get there.
Don't you love to see those clumps and clusters of dusky blue berries
just waiting to be jingled into the pail? The woods smell so sweet, too,
with the wild honeysuckle and wild roses."

"And wild bog cranberry and wild turnip and wild beech plums,"
Grandfather added. "Well, here we are."

They had switched from the macadam to a road deep with sand through
which the light car had been ploughing for the last several minutes.
There was a cleared space before them and a path leading into the woods
beyond.

"Foller your nose," Grandfather said, "and you'll find berries enough to
make huckleberry dumplings for a regiment."

Elizabeth and Peggy slipped into the big gingham aprons that Grandmother
had provided, and each slung a pail over an arm.

"I'll bet I can get more than you do," Peggy said.

"If you do, it's because your fingers are longer." Elizabeth looked
ruefully at her small, chubby hands.

"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp," Peggy said. "I can
quote poetry as well as your friend, Jean, but don't ask me what that's
out of, because I don't know. My fingers are longer. I don't know
whether that makes any difference or not, but I'll give you a handicap."

"I scorn your handicaps. One, two, three, go. May the best girl win."
Elizabeth shot down the path, and the sound of the fruit beginning to
spatter into her pail was heard almost immediately.

"I never saw so many blue or huckleberries in my life. I've got the
loveliest, thickest patch--come over here, Elizabeth," Peggy shouted
from her retreat.

"I've got all the blue or huckleberries in the world right here,"
Elizabeth mimicked.

"I'll pick a couple o' minutes, and then I'll lie in the bushes and rest
a while," Grandfather said, vanishing with a six-quart cranberry
measure.

Later when the girls came into the clearing again with their laden pails
they found him stretched at full length and apparently fast asleep, but
beside him was his heaping measure of berries.

"Granddaddy Swift," Peggy cried, "when did you pick all those?"

"Those?" he said, yawning. "Oh, a couple of hours back."

"I bet you've been working your head off every minute. We've got three
quarts apiece. Elizabeth beat me after all, and then turned around and
helped me get mine."

"I nearly killed myself doing it. I never want to _eat_ another
huckleberry, but I am thirsty for water or something. Don't I hear a
spring?"

"There might be one through the trees there. I don't know nothing about
it." Grandfather pointed, however, in a definite direction.

Peggy parted the branches, and slipped into a thread of a path which led
them directly to a pool of crystal clear water fed by a tiny stream that
was bubbling and gushing out of the earth. Protruding from the spring
were three bottles of ginger ale that had been so placed that the cool
water splashed upon them as it fell. On a rock close by were spread two
paper napkins with a pile of bread-and-butter sandwiches on one and a
stack of sugar-molasses cookies on the other. Between the two, holding
them down, was a box of chocolates from New York's most popular candy
manufacturers.

"I don't know nothing about it," Grandfather said, when they dragged him
to the feast, "I've been fast asleep back there for upwards of two
hours."

"You're a story-teller," Peggy said, "and for a punishment you've got to
tell us a real story as soon as you've had your party."

"Nothing ever tasted so good to me in my life," Elizabeth said, as they
were brushing off the crumbs.

"That's what she says after every meal she eats," her grandfather
chuckled.

"But it's always true. Now here's your pipe and here's your baccy, and
while you're filling it, you've got to be thinking of a story to tell
us."

"I can't tell stories," he protested. "I'd sing a song if I knew any.
There was a song my grandfather used to sing to us when we were
children, but I can't remember it. The chorus went like this," he made a
great pretence of getting the pitch, and then, rocking himself gently,
sang in a solemn, sing-song voice:

    "Injun pudding and pumpkin pie
    The gray cat scratched out the black cat's eye."

I never knew the rights of it, or what the trouble was. Some kind of a
disagreement they had."

"But where did the injun pudding and pumpkin pie come in?" Peggy asked.
"And what is injun pudding?"

"Don't show your ign'rance, as Moses says," Elizabeth put in. "It's
Indian pudding, and you make it out of Indian meal and molasses, and it
cooks all day and makes whey, and eaten with ice-cream it's perfectly
heavenly. Grandma is going to show me how to make it. I made a cake, you
know."

"I heard about that cake," said Peggy, hastily.

"Who's Grandma?" Grandfather inquired, innocently. "I thought we only
had grandmothers around our place."

"Grandma likes it better for me to call her that," Elizabeth answered,
blushing.

"You needn't think you are getting out of telling us that story," Peggy
cried, "tell us about the time you went courting Grandmummy."

"I don't remember nothing about it."

"Tell us about the time you took Eliza Perkins to the Harvest Dance,"
Elizabeth said, daringly.

"Well, apparently you know something about it already. Women do beat the
Dutch, gossiping along about things that happened near fifty years ago
as if 'twere yesterday."

"You needn't blame Grandma. I worm all her secrets out of her."

"I'll warrant you do. I calculated for her to remember that Harvest
Dance as long as she lived. Did she tell you how she was dressed?"

"Was it a fancy dress party?"

"Certain it was, and I went as King of the Harvest. I had a velvet suit
with corn tassels all down the seams, and a velvet tam o'shanter with a
big tassel on that. Your gram'ma she was going to be Queen o' the
Harvest, till we had a little tiff, and she refused to have anything to
do with me."

"She didn't tell us that."

"I calculated she hadn't. Well, she went as an apple, root and branch,
all decked out in apple blossoms, with a staff, with artificial apples
growing on it, and looking like an apple blossom herself, with her
pretty pink cheeks and all the lacy fixings in the world trailing after
her. I took Eliza Perkins, who was the best-natured and biggest-hearted
girl I ever set eyes on, and the homeliest. Lord have mercy, wasn't she
homely! I knew 'twould never do to take a pretty girl, so I picked her
out to make your grandma jealous with, and I told her so. She was
willing. 'I'll make Laury Ann just about jealous enough,' she said.
''Twouldn't do to have her too jealous.' And she certain played her part
well. Your grandma asked me to come around to a candy pull to her house,
before the evening was over."

"She didn't tell me any of this, the wretched woman!" Peggy cried. "Did
you go to the candy pull?"

"Oh, I went sure enough."

"Did you have a nice time?" Elizabeth asked.

"I didn't have the kind of time I expected," Grandfather twinkled.

"Why not?"

"There wasn't any candy, and there wasn't any pull."

"What was there?"

"Your grandma was there."

"Oh, what did happen? Granddaddy, don't you see me shaking with
excitement and suspense?" Peggy demanded.

"Well, Mother and me, we kind of come to an understanding. I guess it's
about time I hitched up Lizzie and we started along. She's been a
whining and a whinnying back there for some time now. Besides, your
grandma calculates to make huckleberry dumplings for supper. She gave me
special directions not to ask anybody in to eat 'em. She allowed she was
only going to have enough for the immediate family."

"That means I'm coming!" Peggy cried. "I _am_ the immediate family."

"I know what dress Grandma had on that night-- her pink muslin with
dolman undersleeves, the one that Ruth tried on the other day,"
Elizabeth said, "and you kissed her in."

"Well, force o' habit is strong. Get your berries together and hop back
into the car, or I'll have to start without you." Grandfather led the
way through the branches into the clearing where they had left the
machine.

"I half expected to see Lizzie grazing around without her harness on,"
Peggy said. "Grandfather is so convincing."

"You take good care o' that sister of yours." Grandfather was using most
of his breath in the effort to crank Lizzie. "Don't let any o' these fat
boys that is hanging around her try to run away with her. She's too
precious."

"He must have seen Piggy," Peggy said in an undertone to Elizabeth.

"There was a fat boy hanging around your grandma once." He jumped into
his seat with the agility of a boy himself, a thin boy, "Giddap, giddap,
Lizzie."

"I know," Elizabeth leaned over the seat to say into his ear, "Pork
Joe."

"You're a remarkable good guesser after you've been told. Well, Peggy,
as I was saying, don't let any young Pork Joe get that pretty sister of
yours."

"Did she say anything more to you about that letter from Jean?"
Elizabeth asked, snuggling down into the seat beside Peggy again.

"Not a word," Peggy said. "Piggy Chambers is around all the time since
he came down, and so I can't get much action. By the way, they want us
to go to Provincetown with them to-morrow. Can you go? You'd better.
They need chaperoning."

"I think I can. I'll have to ask, of course."

"Provincetown is way down on the tip toe of the Cape, you know. We live
in the elbow."

"Whoa, Lizzie." Grandfather threw in his clutch and stopped with a
flourish just behind two figures who, laden with pails full of berries,
and apparently oblivious of the oncoming machine, were plodding ahead in
the dust. "Want a ride, boys?"

Two caps were whipped off with an amazing suddenness, exposing one
blazing head of bright red hair and one inimitable grin.

"Yes, thank you, sir," two voices spoke as one.

"One will have to ride behind and one with me," Grandfather said.
"Elizabeth, these boys are Jim Robbins' grandsons, and if they are
anything like old Jim, they are good young fellows to know. They'll tell
you their own names, I guess."

The red-headed boy on the front seat turned and smiled a trifle
mischievously.

"I'm Tom Robbins, and this is my cousin, Will Dean, Miss Elizabeth Swift
and Miss Peggy Farraday."

"How do you do?" Peggy said, gravely.

"How do you do?" Elizabeth echoed, demurely.

"Captain Swift is pretty good about picking up passengers on the road,
isn't he?" asked the boy with the grin.

"When you see two boys limping along in front of you everywhere you go,
something's got to be done about it," Grandfather said good humouredly,
"anybody might almost think you boys follered me on purpose. Yesterday
and day before and day before that, I come across them hoofing it along
the road," he explained, "going the same direction I was, and scurse
able to take another step."

"We didn't ask you for a ride _to-day_," the red-headed boy blushed. "We
didn't even know you were on the road till we looked up and saw you
about a minute before you caught up to us."

"What's those girls giggling about?" Grandfather inquired. "I can't have
a minute's serious conversation with anybody without this
giggle-giggle-giggle business going on."

"I guess I know what you are smiling about," the Dean boy lowered his
voice, "but honest, don't misjudge us just on account of that
post-office business. We kind of wanted a chance to square it, you know.
Your grandfather thinks we're all right."

"It's been pretty dry weather for the gardens, hasn't it?" Tom Robbins
was saying to Grandfather. "Have your vegetables suffered much?"

"Just about all they're capable of."

"Do you see much prospect of a rainy spell?"

"As fur as I'm concerned, I don't know as it will ever rain again."

"That's too bad."

"Ankle getting better?"

"What ankle?"

"The one you sprained the day before yesterday."

"Oh, yes, sir, thank you."

"Which ankle was it, now?"

"The left--I mean, the right."

"I suspected as much," said Grandfather, gravely. "Well, they are pretty
nice, clever little girls, ain't they?"

"Yes, indeed."

"Ever play checkers?"

"Yes, sir."

"Your cousin play checkers?"

"Yes, he does."

"Well, it might be good for lame ankles for you to come around and have
a game o' checkers with an old man once in a while. Always ask for me in
particular because when anybody comes around to the house, especially
when I've got a young girl visiting me, I like to be the one that has
the privilege of saying whether I'm to home or not."

"Thank you, Captain Swift. We--we will be glad to come."

"Our girls don't go to the post office at night, but Saturday night
around mail time they'll probably be dishing out Indian pudding and
ice-cream to anybody that might happen along."

"I know two fellows that might happen in," Tom Robbins said.

"I think those boys are really quite nice," Peggy said, as they sat
under their favourite tree after supper.

"I think they are," Elizabeth said, "but it was rather mortifying the
way they followed us in the first place. They ought to have known
better."

"But it only needed a hint from us to make them realize."

"I think boys need those hints. It's the fault of girls if they aren't
kept right up to the standard."

"Some of the girls on the Cape are not very particular. They are just
out after a good time and don't care how they get it."

"I guess that's mostly just thoughtlessness. Anyhow, these boys haven't
been a bit--well--you know--familiar since that first minute."

"No, they haven't one bit. I think Will is quite good fun. Did you
notice how he wouldn't sit on the seat with us for fear of crowding us,
but just got right down on the floor and stuck his feet out? I think
that's the way they really are, and the other was just showing off."

"I think so, too," Elizabeth said. "Anyway, I'm awfully glad we told
Grandmother about it. She knew who they were right away, and everything.
I wouldn't have known whether I ever ought to speak to them again or
not."

"It isn't every grandmother that you could tell a thing like that to,"
Peggy reflected. "I didn't tell my mother. She just wouldn't have
thought it was much account. She trusts me to know the right thing, and
that's fine of her when I do know it, but when I don't, it's
embarrassing."

"The thing about Grandmother," Elizabeth said, "is that she remembers
back so well. She knows what it's like to be a girl, and she thinks all
the things that girls think are important. Lots of grown people don't.
She imagines right into things, but she doesn't poke around them. She
doesn't say much, either, but when you tell her a thing she listens to
it."

"I wish any of my relations did that. Father just says, 'All right,
Peggy, I'll take it all on trust--where's the morning paper?' whatever I
say to him, and Mother says, 'Put in that little wisp of hair, darling,'
or 'Look at your nails,' no matter what I say to her. Sister doesn't
listen to anything anybody says any more."

"Not even to Mr. Chambers?"

"Him less than anybody, but she spends all her time with him."

"Peggy, don't you think she's got a heart?"

"I don't know what she's got. She kept me awake last night by snivelling
for about an hour, and when I got so sorry for her that I couldn't help
it, I went in and tried to put my arms around her, and she just turned
me out as if I'd been an interloper. I don't know what to make of her
lately. If you're looking for a nasty grown-up sister, I'd dispose of
her cheap."

"I'm glad she's not happy," Elizabeth said, soberly.

"Well, I'm not. I'm just sore at her about last night, but I'll get over
that. You remember that in 'Little Women' about not letting the sun go
down upon your wrath. Well, I scarcely ever do."

"I try not to," Elizabeth said. "It isn't getting angry so much that
afflicts me. It's a lot of horrid, sensitive ideas that I have. I want
to be loved the best, and have things just the way I think is about
right--and if I don't, I brood over it."

"Well, I'm a more active nature," Peggy said. "Haven't we had fun
to-day?"

"Weren't the huckleberries fun--from bush to kettle, as it were? Weren't
those boys cute, to get acquainted with Grandfather?"

"Wasn't it funny we happened to pick them up, when they'd been
huckleberrying, too?"

"And oh! Wasn't Grandfather a darling all day--so funny--telling stories
and making little surprises, and so nice with the boys and everything.
Oh, Peggy, don't you--love my grandfather?"

"I certainly do," said Peggy, solemnly.



                               CHAPTER X

                  PROVINCETOWN AND A WALK IN THE WOODS


Elizabeth enjoyed her ride to Provincetown much more than she expected
to.

The objectionable Mr. Piggy Chambers shared with Ruth the soft cushions
of the back seat of the big touring car while the two girls occupied the
folding seats forward, which were, as Peggy said, as luxurious as most
stationary seats in machines of an ordinary make. The chauffeur was in a
smart buff livery that matched the upholstery, and on either side of
Peggy and Elizabeth were sliding panels that revealed at the touching of
a button a vanity box and a smoking kit respectively. Peggy had found a
green leather driving coat with buff facings for herself tucked away
under the chauffeur's seat, and Mr. Chambers had produced a brown and
blue coat of soft scotch wool for Elizabeth. Ruth was wearing a white
wool cape of her own, and steadily refused any of the additional
luxuries that the owner of the big car offered to produce.

"I feel like an absolute traitor to Buddy to be taking a minute's
comfort," Elizabeth thought, trying to keep firmly in mind the fact that
Mr. Piggy Chambers had claimed industrial exemption from the service
through which her brother had lost his health, and perhaps the girl he
loved, "but the car does roll smoothly, and the country is beautiful,
and I'm lucky to have a chance to see it, though my motives in coming
were quite unmixed."

"You see, the Cape has everything," Peggy said with the air of a
showman, "salt-water ponds, and fresh-water ponds, and hills and woods
and sand-dunes. If you want a walk through the pines to a leafy glade,
walk this way, ladies and gentlemen. If you want rocks and breakwaters
and sand-dunes and inlets, look out of the car on the other side. Every
town has at least two or three of the oldest windmills on Cape Cod, and
dancing pavilions and moving-picture palaces stare at us from every
side, without in the least interfering with the general panorama."

"Don't you think you have talked enough, Peggy?" Ruth suggested.

"No, I honestly don't, but perhaps Mr. Chambers does."

"This is Miss Ruth's party," Mr. Chambers smiled diplomatically. "This
country makes me think of English country, in one way," he added,
smoothly. "It is, of course, altogether different, but in England,
especially in the north, you get a varied landscape in a limited area,
as you do here. This is the only place in the states where you find just
that."

"The Cape is only eight miles across at its widest point," Ruth said,
"and of course the whole scenic effect is miniature in proportion. We'll
begin to see the sea on both sides of us presently."

"What amuses me is the way the townships are cut up; a township of
fifteen hundred people is cut into almost what you might call house
lots. North, South, East, West Harwich, Harwich Port, Harwich Centre,
and it doesn't take ten minutes to run through any one of these little
villages, and get into the next."

"They are all very attractive," Elizabeth said, defensively, but not
very loudly.

"I'd like to show you England," Mr. Chambers continued, in a lowered
voice. "I think you'd like it over there, say in a year or two, after
the children begin to get back their rosy cheeks again, and the gardens
are flourishing a bit more. The war has left it all a bit ragged."

"It hasn't left _you_ ragged," Elizabeth thought. "It's only left you
fatter and complacenter and richer. I wish Buddy had a million."

"You look like a snow maiden in those white clothes," Piggy Chambers was
saying to Ruth.

"'Sweetheart, sweetheart, sweetheart,'" Elizabeth repeated to herself.
"'I have never called you this and I have no right to call you so now.'"
That was what her Buddy had written to Ruth Farraday, and Ruth Farraday,
not knowing, was leaning back in Piggy Chambers' great French car, and
letting him tell her that she looked like a snow maiden.

"My brother says that southern France is much more beautiful--_was_ much
more beautiful than England," she said aloud. "He--he helped to break
the Hindenburg Line, you know."

"Did he?" said Mr. Piggy Chambers, civilly.

"My--my father would have gone, I think, but he wasn't able to get away
from his business."

"If he was in the steel business, he would have been industrially
exempted, anyway."

"He--he wouldn't have wanted to be industrially exempted," was on the
tip of Elizabeth's tongue, but she remembered that she was talking to
her host of the day. "It won't get me very far to be ill-bred and
impolite all of a sudden," she thought, sensibly. "Mr. Piggy Chambers
might just as well think that the members of our family are well brought
up." Provincetown reminded Mr. Chambers a little of a Dutch fishing
village, which he described at great length.

"Anybody would think he had just discovered Abroad," Peggy scolded in an
undertone. "Ruth likes all that travelogue stuff, because she was so
crazy to get there and couldn't. Now we are going to get out and walk, I
am thankful to say, but if he tries to lose us, don't let him, that's
all!"

Mr. Chambers did try to lose them. He tried bribing them with ice-cream
and they took the ice-cream, but consumed it in time to join the two
before they had strolled more than three blocks. He suggested that the
chauffeur take the two girls in the car to examine the Truro lights a
mile or two back from the course over which they had just come, while he
and Miss Ruth strolled along the shore.

"I'd rather stay here with Ruthie," Peggy insisted, flatly, and
Elizabeth could not determine whether Ruth was pleased or displeased,
for she made no display of either emotion.

"If she wanted us to go, I think perhaps she would say so, but I don't
know. Grown-up girls don't seem to think they can say what they mean,
the way children do," she thought.

Presently they were all walking along the beach, and Elizabeth found
herself walking with Ruth, though she could not tell exactly how it had
come about. No one seemed to have planned to pair off in that way. It
just happened, though both Peggy and Mr. Chambers seemed to be very much
dissatisfied with the arrangement.

"Buddy would love a day like this," Elizabeth said. "He's shut up in
that old hospital, you know, and he can't get out till he gets better,
and he can't get better till he gets out. I want to get him down to the
Cape, where I can take care of him."

"You must be very worried about him," Ruth said. "I didn't even know
that he wasn't discharged or anything about him, until Peggy found out
all these things through you."

"He's been too sick to write much."

"He writes to you, doesn't he?" Ruth said, so very carelessly that
Elizabeth's heart sank.

"Yes, he does. He says that I'm the only girl that answers his letters
whether he writes to them or not."

"Does he expect to have girls write to him that he doesn't take the
trouble to inform of his whereabouts?"

"I think he would be very pleased if they did."

"Why should they?"

"Why--why shouldn't they?" Elizabeth stammered.

"He's probably devoted to dozens of girls," Ruth said, lightly, "all
waiting for a personal word from him. He's probably quite a Lothario,
only little sisters aren't supposed to know that."

"I don't exactly remember what a Lothario is," Elizabeth said, "but if
you mean that he's a flirt and I don't know it, you're just awfully
mistaken. I know things about Buddy that nobody else knows, that he
doesn't even know that I know. I know what he's like, too, inside."

"You think he's very nice inside, don't you?"

"Yes," said Elizabeth, a little hostilely.

"Well, I'll tell you a secret," said Ruth Farraday, still very lightly
and gayly. "I do, too."

"Then why--why do you go to Provincetown and things with Mr. Piggy
Chambers?"

"Mr--Mr. _who_? Really, that's too bad of Peggy. I'll have to speak to
her." Ruth Farraday seemed to have a sudden little coating of ice all
over her. "Would you mind telling Peggy that I want to speak to her
alone a minute?"

Elizabeth obeyed meekly and so miserably that Mr. Chambers, at whose
side she lingered, since there was nothing to do but take Peggy's place
with him, asked her what was wrong.

"I'm not feeling very well," Elizabeth said, "the sun is so bright."

"I find her rather bright myself," Mr. Piggy Chambers murmured. "Would
you like to do me a great favour?"

"Yes, yes, indeed," Elizabeth said, untruthfully.

"Will you take Miss Peggy and go back to the drug store where you had
your ice-cream, and buy a five-pound box of the very best chocolates
they have? If they haven't a five-pound box, get five one-pound boxes.
Just use your own judgment about it."

"I will," said Elizabeth, "of course, Peggy might not want to go.
She--I--we don't care very much about chocolates."

"But Ruth does," said Mr. Chambers, decisively. "I should very much
appreciate it, and we'll come along and pick you up presently. You might
like some more ice-cream." He slipped a five-dollar bill into her hand.

"He asked me if I would do him a great favour," Elizabeth explained to
the protesting Peggy, as they turned toward the quaint street on which
the little shops were set, "and I couldn't say no, could I? I couldn't
say, 'Thank you for your lovely ride, but I don't feel obliging.'"

"I just wish he'd asked me. I would have said 'No!' right out. Sister
has been giving me fits because you told her that I called him Piggy."

Elizabeth's eyes filled.

"I'm not blaming you. I know you didn't spill the beans on purpose. I
just wanted to know how it happened."

"I just called him that. That's all," Elizabeth said, miserably.

"Well, don't you care, darling," Peggy advised. "Ruth was only upset
about something else, and wanted to take it out on me. It will serve her
right if Mr. Hoggy Chambers proposes while we're gone. I promised her I
wouldn't call him Piggy any more."

"I think he means to."

"Well, if he does, I wonder what he'll say. Love me and the world is
mine. I guess that's about what he will say. The world is my oyster and
I'll let you keep it in your stew, if you'll be good."

"Mr. Piggy Chambers," said Elizabeth, "Oh!"

"If she says 'yes' to that freak, I'll--I'll disown her."

"Oh, let's not think of it."

"There isn't much else I can think of," Elizabeth said. "Oh, but look!
Sixty-four, sixty-five. Those are black Portuguese, and they count." Two
swarthy fishermen in bright blouses were passing them on the narrow
street.

"You've caught up with me," Peggy said. "I was four ahead of you for a
long time."

"We'll probably get them all just in time to shake hands with Tommy
Robbins and Billy Dean."

"I won't," said Peggy.

"You might have to," Elizabeth argued. "Supposing we were going away and
they came to say good-bye, and held out their hands to shake hands. We'd
have to shake them."

"I'd say I had a sore finger."

"We couldn't both say we had sore fingers. Besides, they could see we
hadn't."

"We might both have lame wrists, if we had been doing the same thing,
rowing or playing tennis."

"It would look rather suspicious."

"Wouldn't it be better to look a little suspicious than to tie yourself
up for life that way, or run the chance of it? I know who you want to
shake hands with. That Reynolds boy."

"I don't want to shake hands with anybody," Peggy said. "We may like Tom
and Bill a good deal better before the summer is over, though."

"They really are quite nice," Elizabeth reflected.

"Mr. Chambers is trying to get us to ride home in the front seat, with
the chauffeur. He says the front seat is the most comfortable in the
car, and was designed for three. I told him I'd think it over."

"I don't see what difference it makes now. He's talking to her alone,
anyway."

"I think it's a terrible responsibility. They are both old enough to be
married, and they ought to be old enough to know just what they want to
do, instead of keeping a couple of kids--I mean children--worried to
death all the time."

"I think Mr. Chambers knows what he wants to do."

"Yes, but he ought to know better than to keep bothering a girl that
doesn't."

Elizabeth and Peggy managed to eat a plate of ice-cream apiece in spite
of their dejection, but Elizabeth steadfastly refused to break Mr.
Chambers' five-dollar bill, even to pay for the five pounds of candy she
purchased for him.

"He can pay me the way he would a grown-up person," she said. "I prefer
to buy our own ice-cream, and do his errands on a strictly business
basis."

"My goodness," Peggy said, "I feel as if we had suffered enough, without
having to buy our own refreshments."

They rode with the chauffeur only a part of the way home, because when
they had travelled twenty miles of the forty between the tip and the
elbow of the crooked right arm of Massachusetts a tire gave way and they
all stepped out of the car and took a walk in the woods while they were
waiting for repairs to be made.

Mr. Chambers and Ruth slipped into a thread of a path going in the
opposite direction from that taken by the two girls, but evidently made
a detour and turned again toward them, for the moment in silence. When
they heard the sound of voices just beyond Peggy put her finger to her
lips.

"I am the kind of man who always gets what he wants," Mr. Chambers was
saying. "You won't give me the chance to tell you what I want, but you
know pretty well what it is, and I think you know that I am going to get
it."

"No," said Ruth Farraday.

"You know that I want you to marry me?"

"Yes, I know that."

"You know that I love you?"

"I--I don't know much about love."

"I can teach you,"

"Nobody can teach me anything that I can't find out for myself. If I
don't know what this--this feeling people call Love is, from the inside,
nobody can come and throw it over me, like a cloak."

"Oughtn't we to stuff our fingers in our ears?" Elizabeth pantomimed.

"No," Peggy shook her head, fiercely.

"Wrapping it around you like a cloak is just what I should like to do. I
should like to keep you warm and comfortable for the rest of your life."

"And happy?"

"I know I could make you happy."

"Warmth comes from within, doesn't it? You wouldn't want an icicle of a
woman."

"I am not afraid that you would be an icicle."

Peggy was showing strong signs of disgust, but Elizabeth was listening
with parted lips and shining eyes. She had forgotten that she was
eavesdropping, forgotten everything except that Buddy's girl did not
want to give up her chance of learning something that Buddy could teach
her. She expected the next words when they came.

"I would be an icicle--to you."

The suitor did not seem to realize the significance of this statement.

"All I want is a chance to melt the icicle," he said, complacently.

"Goop!" said Peggy in a loud whisper. Then she sneezed, but fortunately
the speakers had passed far enough beyond to confuse the sound with the
general blend of forest sounds, the whirring of wings in the underbrush,
or the rustling in the trees overhead.

"I guess he thought I was a startled quail," Peggy said, "though I
wouldn't have cared much if he had found me. I never heard such
silliness, did you?"

"I didn't think it was silliness," Elizabeth said. "It was quite a lot
the way people talk in books, you know."

"It wasn't really mushy," Peggy agreed, "only sort of peculiar. Well, I
guess I am not going to have a new brother-in-law right away. Still, I
notice she's keeping a string tied to him, just the same."

When they got back into the car Ruth suggested that the girls take the
folding seats in the tonneau again, and Mr. Chambers quietly acquiesced
in this arrangement. As they took their places Peggy gave her friend the
benefit of a long, significant wink, and then subsided into the silence
that encompassed them all during the remainder of the long drive home.



                               CHAPTER XI

                               LITTLE EVA


I come to tell you that my mother's sick," Moses said. "She's hollering
something awful. She said to tell Miss Laury Ann, but I can't find her
nowhere."

"She's out with Grandfather," Elizabeth said, "and I don't know when
she'll be back."

"Maybe Marmer'll be dead by that time. She's kind of turned green
already."

"She can't be going to die."

"I arsked her was she going to die, and she said she guessed she was. I
dunno nothing about it."

"I'll go home with you," Elizabeth resolved suddenly. "I'll get Judidy,
and we'll go and see what we can do."

"Marmer didn't tell me to get no girls," Moses said, doubtfully, "she
told me to get Miss Laury Ann."

"I'll be better than nobody, Moses."

"Well, if you do come over to my house, I ain't agoing to wear no
bloomer suit."

"Oh, I shan't expect you to," Elizabeth said, hastily.

Judidy was nowhere to be found, so leaving word with Zeckal, the
good-natured hired man, to send either Judidy or her grandmother to the
rescue as soon as possible, Elizabeth followed Moses to the tumbledown
little red house that was his home. On an old horsehair sofa in the
middle of the kitchen, which was the first room they entered, a young
woman with her blonde hair straggling into blue eyes swimming with pain
was lying in a huddled heap. In the middle of the floor was a wash-tub
full of dirty water and half-submerged, grimy garments.

"I was trying to git some washing done when the pain struck me," a weak
voice said. "I ain't in no condition to receive visitors."

"I didn't come to visit," Elizabeth said, gently. "I came to help."

A spasm of pain racked the sick woman. Elizabeth was down on her knees
beside her in an instant.

"You're all corseted up!" she said. "I'm going to rip these things off,"
for under the trailing, ragged garments that overlaid Mrs. Steppe she
was wearing a corset like a board. Elizabeth tore at the strings until
she released her.

"You shouldn't lace like that," she said, in horror.

"I don't lace," the sick woman breathed, "my waist is
only--eighteen--inches--around. It's naturally--small. I guess if I
could only get a little hot water to drink I would feel better."

Elizabeth found a one-wick kerosene stove so begrimed and choked with
soot that she could scarcely light the sputtering wick, but thanks to
her recent investigations in her grandmother's kitchen, she was able to
heat a little water over it.

"A month ago I didn't even know there was such a thing as a one-wick
kerosene stove," she thought. She caught sight of what at first glance
looked like a small gray animal on the floor under the table. "It's
nothing but a piece of moldy bread, the kind that poor Madget was afraid
would crawl out on her. Oh, dear!"

"Where are the little girls?" she asked, as the sufferer sat up and
drank the steaming water in the cracked blue cup that was the only china
receptacle of any kind that Elizabeth could find.

"I wasn't able to get them any breakfast, so they went out to see if
they could pick some blue berries."

"Madget is so little she ought to have milk in the morning." Elizabeth
could not refrain from making this superfluous suggestion.

"Milk sours so." The spasm of pain that attacked her was of longer
duration this time. Elizabeth began rubbing the afflicted area, and
calling to Moses, who presently appeared, and gazed at his mother
speculatively as she winced and writhed in agony.

"Go and get a doctor, Moses. Any doctor you know about."

"I don't believe in doctors," Mrs. Steppe breathed. "I--I believe in
spirit healing. Get a medium."

"You get a doctor, Moses," Elizabeth said. "Tell him that I--Captain
John Swift's granddaughter--will settle the bill."

"Oh, all right," Moses said.

"I don't know much about mediums," she explained to the sick woman, "but
I know that a doctor would be able to help you right away."

"I--I don't believe in medical healing," the woman moaned, "but if you
want to spend your money that way--the last time--I had a sick spell,
Mis' Abithy Hawes, she's a fine medium, she--come here and went into a
trance--and had me cured in half an--hour. No doctor--could do--do like
that. Her control is--Little Eva."

"Don't try to talk," Elizabeth said, mystified.

The next half hour was one that she remembered all her life. The spasms
of pain increased. Elizabeth's experience of acute illness was so
limited that she earnestly believed she had a dying woman on her hands.
Madget and Mabel came in whimpering and hungry, and Madget cried
steadily and consistently from the moment when she caught her first
glimpse of her mother's tortured face. Mrs. Steppe continued to call for
Mis' Abithy Hawes, and Elizabeth finally thought of sending Mabel to
look for that lady. Mabel returned from this quest with amazing
promptitude.

"She had her hands in the flour dough," Mabel explained, "and she can't
come. She sent word that she couldn't have no trances till she got her
work done up, and then she'd see. She give me a cookie."

"Did you explain to her how sick your mother was?"

"Yes, she said she couldn't have no trances now. She said Little Eva was
cranky to-day."

By the time Moses appeared, with the word that the doctor would follow
him shortly, Elizabeth was at the limit of her endurance and her
ingenuity. She had been heating water in a leaky lard pail, and
stripping off her own white petticoat to make hot compresses to relieve
the increasing pain of her patient, quieting the ubiquitous Madget for a
few seconds at a time only to provoke the din again as soon as she set
her down from her lap; and trying in the intervals to reduce the
slovenly room to something like order.

"Is she dead yet?" Moses inquired, solemnly.

Elizabeth shook her head.

"Moses, dear," she said, "you mustn't talk like that. It's unfeeling."

"All right," he said with unexpected docility, "I won't. I just wanted
to make some plans, that's all. I thought I might come to live with you,
if Marmer died."

Elizabeth put her arms around the forlorn little figure.

"She isn't going to die," she said, "at least, I don't think she is."

"Well, you can't tell," said Moses, skeptically.

The doctor, who proved to be a portly being with a red beard and the
kindest eyes Elizabeth had ever seen, as she told Peggy afterward,
explained that the seizure was nothing more serious than neuralgia
complicated with a slight gastric attack.

"Lack of nourishment, lack of exercise, lack of any sort of proper care
for mind or body," he said.

"What is neuralgia?" Elizabeth asked.

"Starved nerves in revolt is one way of putting it."

"I thought she had appendicitis or pleurisy or something."

"She has nothing that a week's care won't bring her out of. If she isn't
looked out for at least for that length of time the trouble is likely to
increase. There isn't anybody to take care of her, is there?"

"Well, there is nobody but me," said Elizabeth.

The doctor looked at her under quizzical eyebrows with an expression
that reminded her of her grandfather.

"Give her this medicine regularly," he said, as if he found nothing
remarkable in her statement, "and see that she has three nourishing
meals a day and keep her quiet."

"It's easier to keep her quiet when you are here," Elizabeth said,
indicating the awestruck Madget, Moses, and Mabel, who stood in a
respectful row, at a respectful distance from the great man.

"I understand these children are always quiet when they're asleep or
when the doctor comes."

"Well," Elizabeth said, "the better they feel that they know you the
more noise they make. They treat me like an old friend now."

"I used to live in New York myself," the doctor observed, "and I miss it
a good deal more than most people suspect. I know all about you, you
see. I know pretty well all the news of the comings and goings in town."

"You're a New Yorker, and yet you stay down here all the year round,"
Elizabeth said. "I don't see how you can, if you really liked New York."

"I liked New York," he said, "but you can't be a country doctor on
Broadway. I'd rather take care of these people than those."

"Oh, why?"

"They need it more," he said, simply. "In a big city you don't get the
same chance to find out what people do need. It isn't always sick bodies
a doctor is called in to look out for, you know. A doctor down here has
to be a kind of a lawyer and a justice of the peace and a plumber, into
the bargain. In New York he doesn't get that kind of an opportunity."

"That seems a funny kind of thing to call an opportunity, I think."

"It is one, though," the doctor said. "Where is these children's
father?"

"He's on a coal barge. He only gets home once in a while."

"He must make pretty good money."

"He does, only she--" Elizabeth, who had walked to the door with him,
and was standing just outside it as they talked, indicated the woman in
the room beyond--"spends it on candy and novels and things, and then he
gets discouraged, and doesn't send it to her, or drinks."

"Well, call me again if you need me. No, I won't send you the bill.
There isn't any bill. I'm paid already."

"I hope he didn't mean that it paid him just to see me here doing good,"
Elizabeth thought, when she realized that that was what he did mean. "I
don't want him thinking I'm always looking after the poor when this is
the first time I ever did it."

The children crowded around her when the doctor left.

"Your mother is going to be well in a week," she told Moses. "I'm going
to wash your face, Mabel--and Madget, if you don't stop crying, do you
know what I'm going to do to you?"

"Spank me!" wailed Madget.

"No, I'm not. I'm going to kiss you, but I guess it would be more to the
purpose to feed you. What does your mother make oatmeal in when she
makes it?"

"She don't make none," Mabel said. "Can you make oatmeal?"

"I could follow the directions on the package, I guess. I can make
cake."

"I want some cake," cried Madget, promptly.

Elizabeth was trying to get some water "boiling, foaming, scalding hot,"
according to directions, when Judidy appeared at the door, her moon face
beaming over various pails and packages.

"Land o' Liberty!" she said. "You up here a-tending the sick, and me out
skylarking with my feller. I brought some milk and sandwiches for the
children. I guess she ain't sick much, is she?"

"I'm dretful sick, Judidy," a voice from the couch said, weakly; "I had
the doctor."

"I thought you was a spiritualist, and didn't believe in no medicine."

"I don't believe that no doctor could doctor me as well as Little Eva
could, but Mis' Hawes she couldn't come. I was too sick to depend on a
contrary control, so we called the doctor, and he left me some kinder
dark stuff to take, and some light-coloured pills that's kind o'
quieting."

"_Do_ tell," said Judidy, politely. "Now you drink to where I've got my
finger," she instructed Madget, as she held out the milk bottle, which
the children were trying to reach, "then Mabel, then----"

"Pour a little out in this cup, and I'll feed Madget myself," Elizabeth
said. "I guess the other children had better drink out of the bottle."

Judidy looked at Elizabeth admiringly as she lifted the little girl on
her lap.

"My, ain't you a pretty picture," she said, heartily. "You was just as
stuck up, when you first came, with your ideas about having a demi-tassy
after you had et, and laffing at the pump in the kitchen, and never
eating anything between meals, and to see you now, a-taking up with the
town's poor as if they was own relations."

"Don't you call us town's poor," Mrs. Steppe said, sitting up suddenly,
and then falling back with a groan. "I ain't never been called such a
name, Judidy Eldredge."

"You just lay still," Judidy said, "and don't you worry. I'll stay now,
Elizabeth, and you can go home and get ready for your dinner. It's a
lucky thing I had it all arranged to have a day off on account of my
feller being home. Miss Laury Ann she told me to send you as soon as I
got here."

"But I don't want you to have to lose a day with your--feller,"
Elizabeth said, trying not to be guilty of the rudeness of correcting
Judidy's pronunciation. "I'll come back as soon as Grandma will let me."

Madget began to whimper as she set her down, but Moses assured her that
if his marmer died, he would "come over there right away and tell her
about it."

"I don't know whatever makes him so pleased to think of my dying," his
mother said, plaintively, "he has never known anybody that died or
anything, if he is always burying birds with regular funeral preaching."

"He doesn't want you to die," Elizabeth said, "he just gets ideas in his
mind."

"Well, they aren't very cheerful ideas for a sick woman to hear."

"No, they aren't," Elizabeth agreed.

"If I can get Mis' Hawes over here, Little Eva will tell me if I'm going
to die. I'd like to lick Moses once, anyway, whether I'm going to die or
not."

                               * * * * *

"I don't think anybody could 'a' done any better," her grandmother said,
when she told her the story. "Hot compresses is the thing that always
relieves pain, and what the whole situation needed was somebody to take
charge and send for the doctor. You was a pretty brave, practical girl,
I should say. The Swifts always had good contrivance, and come out
strong when there was anything real to be done."

"I don't think that I managed so very well. The children kept crying and
I couldn't stop them, and Mrs. Steppe kept asking for a medium that I
couldn't get for her. What does she mean by Little Eva being Mrs. Hawes'
control?"

To her surprise her grandmother began to laugh, and laughed until the
tears ran down her cheeks.

"I suppose it _is_ funny," Elizabeth said, "but I never thought of it
that way. I suppose it's funny about Moses keeping on asking if his
mother was going to die, but it didn't seem funny at the time, it just
seemed queer and--and awfully hard to manage. I--I----" to her chagrin,
her lip began to tremble. "What--what is a control, anyway?" she wailed.

"It ain't nothing that you got to bother with just at present," her
grandmother said, "you come here." She sank into one of the numerous
valanced rockers conveniently placed about the house, and held out her
arms. "You come here--to Grandma," she said.

"You'll think I'm an awful baby," Elizabeth sobbed on the comfortable
bosom, snuggling a little closer in the protecting embrace. "It isn't so
much what I've done that I mind, but what I've got to do. It isn't very
brave of me, but I dread taking care of that awful woman for a whole
week. She--she isn't very grateful, or anything. She'd rather have a
medium. But--but the children--they love me."

"Elizabeth," her grandmother said, "I ain't a-going to let you go there
for any week."

"But it's my duty, Grandmother. You aren't going to stop me doing my
duty, are you? You can't spare Judidy, and there isn't anybody else.
There aren't any real servants or charity organization societies here. I
don't see what there is to do but just what Doctor Hartly does, go
around and be anything that the people need you for."

"You can't be all things to all men, Elizabeth," her grandmother said,
sagely. "If you can be like that Holland boy I've heard tell of, that
put his hand through a hole in the wall and kept the water from
destroying a whole town, that's one thing, but the kind of a hole that
the water'll roll through forever, the minute you take your arm out, is
another. The Steppe family is going to be in need of any person's full
strength as long as Mis' Steppe continues to breathe, and we can't wish
anybody's breath to stop, in spite of Moses. The best you can do for any
set o' people in that condition is just what you went and done to-day.
Look out for 'em when they get way down, give 'em what extry strength
and vittles you got at all times, but don't try to lift 'em up unless
you can lift 'em all the way out. Mis' Steppe will always sag back from
her own weight."

"Oh, dear," Elizabeth sighed. "Don't you think she could be reformed?"

"She might, and then again she mightn't. I should say she couldn't be.
She's always trying to get something for nothing, that woman is. This
business of getting a medium to get her control to fix up things she's
too lazy to fix for herself that's Mis' Steppe all over."

"But what is a control?"

"A control is a spirit guide that takes possession of a medium when she
goes into a trance. Somebody that has lived and died, usually somebody
kind o' tricky, that has a hard time getting into communication with
whoever 'tis they want to talk to."

"But that's just pure faking, isn't it?"

"I don't know whether 'tis or not. I don't understand it. My idea is,
never to make too light of a thing that I don't understand."

"You don't think there is a Little Eva, do you, Grandma?"

"No, I don't, but Mis' Hawes does."

"I shouldn't think there was anything to do but laugh at Little Eva."

"So wouldn't anybody, first off, but spiritualism is some people's
religion. It ain't mine, but in general it ain't a good idea to laugh at
anybody's religion, not even the cannibals'."

"What shall we do about the Steppes, then?"

"I'm going to get Judidy's sister to go over there and stay what she
can. What she can't, you and me and Judidy'll make up between us. We'll
have a kind of general care of 'em till they get out o' this particular
patch o' woods. Then they'll have to go on their own gait again."

"It does seem sort of awful, not to really do anything."

"Yes, it does, but the thing to do is to keep people like that in the
back of your mind, and when any chance comes that might benefit 'em, not
to be too lazy to pass it along. I'm kind of arguing with your
grandfather about taking Moses to come and live with us. I ain't pushing
the matter, but kind o' working along easy. I've got an idea of getting
Mis' Steppe interested in a different class o' books. Any woman that'll
get the notion out of a book that she can wear a eighteen-inch corset
around her waist under her rags and stick to it can get some other more
practical notion through her head in time. Anyhow, that's one thing to
work on. I ain't very hopeful, but I thought of it. I keep at the
Steppes, and little by little I hope to get something accomplished. I
see that the children is fed up about once a day anyway, but I don't
stick my wrist through the hole o' their shiftlessness, I just bail out
a little water as often as I can."

"That _is_ the way, isn't it?" said Elizabeth. "I just thought I'd have
to go there and practically live for weeks. It--it seemed like a
bottomless pit."

"There ain't really no such thing as a bottomless pit," Grandmother
said, sagely; "there are only pits that we can't plumb the bottom of."

                               * * * * *

She told the story of Elizabeth's activities to Grandfather that night
and this time she did not laugh, even in recapitulating the difficulties
the little girl had encountered in relation to Mrs. Steppe's religious
convictions and her constant demand for Little Eva. On the contrary, she
wiped her eyes quite openly.

"She was calculating to go there," she said, "and take entire charge of
that miserable Steppe family without any help from anybody, nurse that
sick woman and feed those children for a week and longer if it was
required of her. She would have done it, too, if I hadn't put a stop to
it. I wish you could have seen that pretty, anxious little face, and
those great eyes of hers brim full o' tears but game as a fightin' cock.
I do wish you could have seen her, Father."

"I wish I could of," said Grandfather, gravely.

"Just one thought come into my mind as I set there talking to her, and
it come so strong I almost up and said it aloud before I caught myself.
I was thinking o' that first night she come, and the dejected way you
sat in that chair there, after she had gone up to bed, and I said to
myself, holding her there in my lap all exhausted and quivering, after a
whole forenoon spent doing battle with the slothfulness of the Steppe
family, 'Father Swift,' I said to myself, 'what do you think o' John's
girl now?' I said."

"Didn't you hear what I spoke up and answered? Well, you couldn't 'a'
been listening very hard. When you said that, I had my answer ready to
the dot. 'I think a whole lot better of her,' that's what I said, 'and I
have been doing so for some time back'."



                              CHAPTER XII

                          BUDDY WANTS TO KNOW


Elizabeth had been to tea with the Farradays. The big, closed-in porch,
which was practically their summer living room, gay with chintzes and
strewn with all the appurtenances of luxurious modern existence, always
gave her a little feeling of homesickness for the life to which she was
used in town. The trim maid, quietly manipulating the tea wagon laden
with the delicacies of the usual teatime meal, took on an almost
pathetic glamour to the little exile.

Mr. Chambers was in possession of the wicker chaise-longue. Ruth had
poured tea with deft and dainty fingers, though she was unusually
silent, even for her. Mrs. Farraday, who was as unlike Elizabeth's
mother as it was possible for her to be, had yet, in a gown of blue
linen, with rose-coloured net cuffs and neck piece, managed to suggest
her vividly.

Peggy had behaved abominably. In intervals of passing cakes she had
managed to get out of the line of vision and stand grimacing and
contorting her face at Elizabeth. Usage demanded that Elizabeth return
these impudent salutations in kind, and twice Peggy nearly made her do
so.

"I should have been mortified," she thought, "if Mr. Piggy Chambers had
caught me making faces, especially since I would naturally make that
kind of faces about him, if it happened so. I guess Ruth would never
speak to me again."

"I can't help it," Peggy whispered, "these tea fights on the veranda,
with Piggy--I mean Hoggy--Chambers and Mother knitting as if she had
just eaten the canary, and Ruthie saying nothing and sawing wood, and
the other self-sufficient member of our little circle sitting there and
owning the universe--they just make me wild. I feel as if I would like
to get an Indian tomahawk and scalp 'em all."

"I--I like tea on your veranda, though," Elizabeth couldn't help
admitting. "Grandmother would think afternoon tea was ridiculous, and I
am used to it in my own home. I'm used to having my own mother around,
too."

"If your own mother were aiding and abetting the slaughter of your
innocent sister," Peggy said, "you might not feel so excruciatingly fond
of her. I didn't make that remark all up. Father said it first. Our
family is just completely mixed up over the whole affair. There's one
ray of light. Ruthie isn't mushy about any of it. Only she makes me
nervous."

"I don't see how you can bear it at all," Elizabeth said. "I can't,
hardly."

"Can hardly, Miss Swift," Peggy mocked. "You are more sensitive to
things than I am, I guess. I throw 'em off after I've howled for a
while. My idea would be to fill Piggy's bed with flour and hair-brushes,
or to stick a hair-pin in his tires. You'd just give him mental
treatment and take it awfully to heart."

"I guess that's why we get on so well together. Opposites attract
opposites."

"If I were a man I think I should want to marry you, Elizabeth, but if I
were a girl, I don't think I should want to be just like you."

"That's not very flattering, because you are a girl already, and you
couldn't be a man if you wanted to."

"I mean for myself I would like to be like you. You take things harder
than I do. I can always go out and punch something."

"There never seems to be anything I can punch," said poor Elizabeth.

                               * * * * *

Peggy had walked with her as far as her own gate, and then she had gone
in to get her belated morning mail. She had been so sure that there was
no one to write to her until she had answered the letters with which her
portfolio was stuffed that she had neglected to go to the post office as
usual. She found, however, a long letter from her brother and one from
her mother. Buddy wrote:

    DEAR LITTLE SISTER:

    I am going to take you into my confidence in an important matter
    because, well, there is nobody else that I can ask any help of.
    You needn't get peeved at this way of putting it, because it
    stands to reason that if you weren't a pretty reliable little
    sport I wouldn't trust you. I don't have to. I only do.--Hope to
    die, and cross your heart?--Thank you.

    Well, the thing is, I want to know something about Ruth
    Farraday. For reasons of my own I haven't been writing to her.
    Now, I might like to write to her once or twice, a friendly
    little note, you understand. A fellow gets so doggone lonesome.
    They won't let me go until they're satisfied I'm fixed up. How
    you are going to fix up a fellow who has got some of the things
    I've got the matter with me, I don't know. They think it's shell
    shock, among other things. Well, among other things, it isn't
    shell shock, it's----Oh, well, it isn't shell shock. It's darned
    old discouragement, and homesickness for the things that never
    were on land or sea. That's poetry, my darling sister. I have
    some of that in my system, too.

    Well, I've been here alone so long that I want to know
    everything--_everything_ about the people I care about. Ruth
    Farraday is one that I do care something about. She was mighty
    nice to me before I went to be a soldier. I think she would have
    been nicer if I had worked it around to get a commission instead
    of just plain enlisting, but this is only just conjecture. She
    is a beautiful girl, and her heart is in the right place
    wherever it is, but Sister, that's what I want to know. You're
    fooling around with the Farradays so much, you ought to get some
    line on this. I don't want to be idiot enough to start the poor,
    sick old friend stuff, _if_ she's got her mind all off me or
    anybody that looks like me, and on somebody that doesn't. Does
    she wear a ring, and is she reported to be free or _cinched_, or
    _what_?

    I can't stand not knowing any longer. That's the point. I may
    have been a darn fool in the way I've warned you against talking
    to her about me. I've just had all these notions one after
    another, kind of feverishly. I'm going to write to her if you
    advise me to. Don't go making up anything. Tell me the truth.
    I've got to know it, Kid. I'm just all in--that's all.

                                                              BUDDY.

She opened her Mothers letter with eyes so full of tears she could
scarcely distinguish its import.

    ELIZABETH DEAR.

    It is getting harder and harder to be away from you, especially
    since there is no immediate hope of Buddy's release. The poor
    boy doesn't get better. It is difficult to understand all the
    intricacies of the doctor's diagnosis. New conditions of warfare
    and of life breed new conditions of disease, physical and
    mental, he says, as well as new kinds of wounds and injuries, to
    be patiently handled by the new medicine and surgery. To a
    mother's eye, Buddy seems to be suffering from an old-fashioned
    set of causes and effects. But I don't know. All I know is that
    Buddy is not getting better, and that he has to be handled more
    carefully than ever. Elizabeth, dear, let me warn you again to
    be careful what you write him. He looks forward to your letters
    with the greatest interest, and yet when they come, to be
    perfectly frank, they often seem to fret him or to make him
    irritable. Perhaps you had best not mention your friends the
    Farradays. He used to know Ruth Farraday quite well, and
    sometimes the mention of these boys and girls that he used to
    have so many gay times with seems to make him morose. At other
    times he likes to look back at things he used to do. He is only
    a little boy, after all. Twenty-three doesn't seem much more to
    me than fourteen does, in spite of that stern look he has that
    all the men who have done any real fighting seem to come back
    with.

    My darling, take care of your health. Don't go out in all
    weathers without being suitably attired for cold or wet, as the
    case may be. Your letters are a great comfort to me. You are
    good to help Grandmother so much. She appreciates it, and so does

                                                             MOTHER.

    P. S. I wish I might have tasted that cake you made.

"Oh, Mother," Elizabeth cried. "Oh, you can't help me the least little
bit in this, can you? What is the best thing for me to do for my Buddy?"

She tried to talk with her grandmother, very carefully, for fear of
betraying Buddy's confidence, but for once her grandmother did not help
her.

"It isn't a very good idea for little girls to think too much about such
things," she said. "Love is a mystery. One heart kinder gets clinging to
another heart, and nobody knows how it all come about, or how to stop
it. When your time comes it is about like your time coming to die or be
born, and you can only pray that it ain't going to be too hard, with
anybody concerned in it."

"But, Grandmother, if you loved anybody and you were a man, and--and
didn't tell her so because you were poor or anything, and she was all
mixed up with somebody else, and----"

"Well, I ain't going to be called on to be a man just at present,"
Grandmother said, "and I guess that's just as well, for anybody that's
got to make blueberry cake and biscuits for supper. Your grandfather is
going to Hyannis to get a watermelon, perhaps you'd like to go with him
for the ride."

"I would, only I've got to write a letter to Buddy. He--he wants me to
write him right away about something."

"Well, give him Grandma's love and tell him to come down to the old
place and get well."

"I'm going to write Buddy just the way I would want to be written to if
I was in love with Ruth Farraday," Elizabeth decided, "only I am going
to remember that he is sick. Supposing I was sick and supposing I was in
trouble about something that was making me sicker, how would I want to
be written to? Oh, dear Lord," she said, closing her eyes, suddenly,
"help me to write that kind of a letter and to get it right."

She climbed the stairs slowly and opened the desk in her little room.
The sisters Faith, Hope, and Charity smiled benignly down at her, as she
began to write:

    DEAR BUDDY:

    Cross my heart and hope to die. I am quite a lot more grown up
    than I was when you knew me, and I understand the sacredness of
    confidences as I didn't at that time. You don't need to worry
    about trusting me. I love Ruth Farraday very much, and I should
    think anybody might.

    Well, she is not a happy girl. There is a man called Mr. Piggy
    Chambers--that is what Peggy calls him, anyway--who is in love
    with her and asked her to marry him. I heard him that day that I
    went to Provincetown with him in his car. I did not tell you
    that I went to Provincetown with him, because I do not like him
    anyway, and I did not want you to think I would go motoring with
    a man like that. The fact was that I went to chaperone him and
    her. Well, she told him that he could not teach her love because
    she would be an icicle to him, and she said she did not know
    much about love anyway, but he insisted, to no purpose. I ought
    to have stuffed my ears, and so had Peggy, but some way we
    didn't.

    The only drawback is that he is around the place all the time,
    and does not seem to be discouraged in any way. Peggy is furious
    at him. Whenever I see him on their porch eating, in that wicker
    chaise-longue they have, I cannot tell you how I despise him, in
    spite of his being really very nice, if you like that kind. He
    doesn't seem to have any neck, to speak of, and his collars look
    as if they would choke him. His eyes are small, though bright
    and animated looking.

    Ruth Farraday comes here a great deal, and she asks for you
    sometimes, too. She loves Grandmother more than anybody does
    outside of the family. Their eyes look lovingly at each other
    even when they are not speaking, you know, like cousins or
    something. She is very kind to me, and never neglects a chance
    to do nice things for me. I told you how Granddaddy kissed her.
    She is sweet. She is just sweet. If I loved her, Buddy--(you
    told me not to talk this way to you once, but I am going to)--I
    would tell her I did, in some way. She is awfully little, for a
    girl as old as she is, and people protect her. Peggy protects
    her in a great many ways, and I know she is not happy.

    I guess there is one thing that I ought to repeat. Yesterday she
    said, "How is your brother?" and I said, "He is about the same,"
    and she said, "I've just discovered how ill he has been. I wish
    I had known it before," and I said, "Well, he might get
    discharged soon," because I didn't know what else to say. She
    said, "I should have written him, if I had thought he cared."
    Well, what could I say? I didn't say anything, because you have
    warned me so against blabbing. Then she said, "I can't write him
    now very well. I can't."

    Well, so this is about all I know. I wish it were something
    helpful, but it seems like nothing at all. I am only trying to
    write as I would be written by. (See the Golden Rule.) If I have
    not made you sicker, and you love me into the bargain, please
    tell me so. When you are fourteen, responsibility frightens you
    a good deal. At fifteen or sixteen, you throw it off better. If
    you tell me anything to say to Ruth Farraday, I will say it. She
    is certainly sweet, and I certainly love her, and she is
    certainly not a happy girl.

                                        Your sister
                                                          ELIZABETH.

    P. S. That day we went to Provincetown, when I was walking alone
    with her, she said you were probably devoted to dozens of girls,
    and I said positively that you weren't. She said she would tell
    me a secret, and that was, that she thought you were very nice.
    It doesn't sound much to write it, but I think she meant it, in
    spite of laughing at it when she said it. She is certainly
    sweet. I would write to her, if it was me.

She made a special trip to the post office to mail this letter, and as
she dropped it into the slot, she had a moment of dizziness, as if the
floor of the post office had suddenly shaken itself under her feet. Even
the blueberry cake did not tempt her to eat very heartily at supper.

"Elizabeth is growing up too fast," her grandmother complained,
"watermelon and blueberry cake don't interest her."

"I been trying to interest her with the account of the young red-head
that rode with me to Hyannis when she wouldn't go along. He's a pretty
likely young chap, mad about electricity, he says, and going to study to
be an electrical engineer, but Elizabeth is too old for such light talk.
Can't we think o' something solid that'll kind o' get her attention?"

"She don't feel very well to-night, I guess. Leave her alone, Father."

"I don't feel sick," said Elizabeth, "but I feel about ninety years old.
I'll just go and sit in Granddaddy's lap after supper and braid his
beard, so there won't be any hard feeling." She liked nowadays to make
her grandfather the kind of answer that would please him.

She crept away to bed as early as she could, and lay with throbbing
temples against the cool white pillows in Great-grandmother's
guest-chamber bed, wondering if she had written wisely to her sick
brother and praying that she might have helped, not hindered, his
recovery.

It was two days later that Peggy came to her with a troubled face.

"We've been having ructions over at our house," she said, "and I'm
frightened. Mother and Ruth have had an awful row. I don't know how it's
coming out. Mother is trying to egg Ruthie on to take Piggy for her
lawful wedded. Anyhow, she claims Ruth ought to take him or leave him,
with an accent on the _take_. Mother doesn't believe much in this soft
stuff, you know. She wants everybody comfortable, without any rowing
over expenses. She likes people to settle down and have large families,
and large limousines, and large dinner parties, and so on. Her cry is
that the country is going to the dogs, and our young men are all lame,
halt, and blind from the late war, so why not pick a soft spot and let
yourself down in it? She would. She wants Ruth to."

"Oh, Peggy, would you?"

"I don't know what I should do," Peggy said. "I like the people I like
awfully. I'd rather be with them than be bothered. I don't see much use
in being married, anyway."

"Sometimes," Elizabeth said, "I've thought it might be rather nice to be
_just_ married."

"Well, Ruth, she's a puzzle to me. Something's eating her--'scuse my
elegance--I don't know whether it's wanting to be married, or not
wanting to be. She told Mother that she'd rather be the wife of a poor
man that she was keen on, than to have a million. Mother said that Piggy
Chambers had four million. Ruth said that made about two, or one and one
half, since the purchasing power of a dollar was so reduced. I didn't
know Ruthie had it in her to talk back that way. Mother said that the
purchasing power of a dollar was reduced for our family as well as
anybody's, did she ever think of that? And that girls were an expensive
luxury nowadays. Whereupon Ruthie said that she hadn't thought of that,
but she would, if that was the way Mother looked at it. Mother said it
wasn't, but that was the way somebody a little more practical than
Ruthie might have looked at it for themselves. Then she said that Ruth
had been playing with Piggy, or nobody would have had any reason to
think of the matter at all. It was all pretty raw, you know. I wouldn't
tell any other soul on earth, but someway you are different."

"A lot of people tell me things," Elizabeth said, "and I love Ruth."

"Your family is different," Peggy sighed. "If Ruthie and I lived all
alone, we'd be different. I wish you'd come on over to the house with
me, Elizabeth. I'm honestly almost afraid to go home. The atmosphere is
so thick, you couldn't cut it with a knife unless it had just been
sharpened."

"All right, I will," said Elizabeth. "I was coming over there anyway.
Grandma thought it would cheer me up. I've been sort of mopey, myself."

"Well, it's about as cheerful in the cottage as if it was a nice, cozy
morgue, but perhaps we can amuse ourselves with croquet and raspberry
shrub. Truth compels me to state that Cook has just completed a
mocha-frosted cake with an icing about six feet high. Do we get any of
that? The answer is, probably not, but while there is life there is
hope."

"Do you know that you have an awfully funny mind, Peggy? Amusing, I
mean, and brilliant."

"That's a pretty embarrassing way for you to talk to an old friend,"
Peggy said, but she blushed in spite of her light laugh.

"Hello! Daddy's come," she cried, as they approached the Farraday porch.
"That makes it even more exciting, doesn't it?"

Mr. and Mrs. Farraday were engaged in earnest conversation as the two
girls opened the screen door and stepped into the dainty space within.

"Hello, Daddy, dearest," Peggy cried, flying to kiss him, "this is a
darling, unexpected pleasure."

Mr. Farraday had a nice smile. He looked very much like his younger
daughter.

"Ruth phoned me to come down," he said. "How's my son?"

"She's feeling a lot better, dear, since she knows you're in the house,"
Peggy flashed back. "I'm the only son he's got, you know."

"Your father and I were talking, dear," Mrs. Farraday's smooth tones
intervened.

"Elizabeth and I only looked in to see Cook, _in re_ a large cake she's
been making."

Mrs. Farraday looked up. "Here comes Ruth and Mr. Chambers, so you may
as well stay here. I've told Cook to serve that cake with our tea
to-day."

"You have your good points, Mother," Peggy said, saucily.

Ruth threw up her small head as she came out of the house. She was very
pale, Elizabeth noticed, and Mr. Chambers was very red. He was smiling,
but Ruth's face was entirely grave.

"I am glad you are here, Father," she said, "for I have an announcement
to make to you."

"Shall I go?" Elizabeth asked.

"No, dear, I want you to stay. It's not a secret. It is merely that Mr.
Chambers has asked me to marry him, and I have said that I would."

"Oh, Lord!" Peggy cried.

"Don't you want me for a brother-in-law, Miss Peggy?" Mr. Chambers
asked. "You don't sound very much pleased at our news."

"I don't want any brother-in-law very much," Peggy said, "but I do want
my sister to do what she wants to, and--and to be happy," she finished,
lamely.

"I don't know what to say," Mr. Farraday said. "I feel just about the
way Peggy does. If--if you're both sure, you have my blessing."

"What nonsense!" Mrs. Farraday cried. "Of course they are both sure, and
of course they have our blessing."

"How about you, little Miss Elizabeth?" Piggy Chambers smiled at her and
held out his hand.

"I--I congratulate you," Elizabeth said.

"And me?" asked Ruth.

"And you," Elizabeth said, not quite able to keep her voice steady, "if
you want to be congratulated by me."

"Kiss me, dear." Mrs. Farraday slipped an arm around her daughter's
shoulders.

"No," said Ruth, sharply, "no."

"I don't see why anybody should want to kiss anybody," Peggy said. "It's
too exciting, anyway."

"It's rather usual," Mr. Farraday murmured, "or it used to be, before
this modern generation."

"A telegram for Miss Ruth," the maid came in and crossed the porch to
present it.

Ruth looked a little dully at the yellow envelope on the silver tray.

"Who can be telegraphing now?" she said.

"Shall I open it, Sister?" Peggy put out her hand protectingly.

"No."

Ruth tore the crackling paper slowly, her mouth set in pinched, tense
lines which changed suddenly and quivered for an instant piteously. Then
she regained her composure.

"It's just a telegram from your brother," she said to Elizabeth, "a few
lines to inquire about me and wish me good luck. It's funny it should
have come _now_--isn't it?"



                              CHAPTER XIII

                                CRABBING


Elizabeth's first impulse the next morning was to write to Jean. It was
Jean who always helped her to think out her problems, and this was the
greatest problem that she had ever been called to face. She could not
entirely confide in her friend, still she was comforted by the mere act
of opening her birthday writing-case, and filling the fountain pen with
which she was going to write.

She wondered if the Christian Graces, when they looked down on her Aunt
Helen, had ever found her in such a state of real trouble and dismay.

"Hope can't do me much good," she thought, "and there is nobody to have
any Charity for but Mr. Piggy Chambers. It's Faith I need for my guide,
and she is the saddest looking sister of the lot."

    DEAR JEAN:

    All I can say is, I wish you were here, and I don't see how I am
    going to stop saying that and write anything else. Letters are
    such cold and far-away things. I hope you do know how I love
    you, and how the thought of you comforts me. I told you about
    Faith, Hope, and Charity. Well, there they stand grinning above
    me, and they don't offer much consolation.

    I am in trouble, Jean. I can tell you this much. Ruth Farraday
    is going to marry Mr. Chambers, and she was Buddy's girl. I
    can't tell you the ins and outs of it, because they are other
    people's different secrets, but I am afraid that this will kill
    Buddy, and I don't see one single thing to do about it. I feel
    like a criminal and a German spy, to tell you even this much,
    but I feel as if I should burst with grief--really burst. You
    know that feeling of suffocating you get after you have eaten a
    lot too much. I have that same feeling emotionally. I know this
    is a funny way to say it, but it's the only way I can express
    it. I wish we could be together, and I could hear you reading
    poetry or something soothing, and you could help me think how to
    break it to Buddy. It will have to be told him. After I write
    you, I am going to write him. So you see how much I value
    writing to you.

    I will answer your questions some other time, when my mind is
    more free. Though I can only doubt if that time will ever come.
    I wish you could see Ruth Farraday. There is something about her
    that makes me think of the girl in the "First Violin," though
    she isn't in the least like her. I don't know what it is. I
    guess it is the sadness that hangs about that book. There is a
    sadness hanging about her, and about me, too,
    Jeanie-that-I-love.

    I am glad your friend Neil Seymour is at the Point. I liked him
    very much. If he still wants to send me "Prometheus Bound," he
    may, Mother says. I guess she thinks anything that will keep me
    contented is a good idea. I think "Prometheus Bound" would help
    me, if it is anything like what I think it is.

    When I write you, I feel a little as if I were right in the room
    with you. What I am doing now is to hang onto the door, not to
    have to shut it, and go into another room, where my sick Buddy
    is. Life is a strange thing. Good-bye--good-bye--good-bye. I
    love you--hard.

                                    That old-fashioned girl,
                                                            ELSPETH.

    MY DEAR BROTHER:


    I have got to use my own judgment about writing to you. I am to
    blame for writing you the way I did, but I did not know any
    better at that time. I only told you the truth. Now I have more
    truth to tell you. Buddy, will you brace up as if you were in
    the trenches again? You are a soldier, you know, and you've got
    to fight another battle.

    Mother said I was not to tell you anything that might trouble
    you, but I have got to trouble you the worst of all. Buddy, Ruth
    Farraday is engaged to marry that goop, and her family have
    egged her on till she did not know which way to turn, and has
    turned this way. She told me and her family, and her face looked
    like death. I am not making this up. Peggy says so, and she
    knows. She loves Ruthie with all her heart, and she would not
    make anything up. She is not that kind. I am more that kind, but
    this is really and truly so. Ruth is not a happy girl, and we
    both know it. She has lost her lovely pink cheeks, and is a
    white apple blossom now. A pear blossom is more like it, only
    not pretty enough for her.

    Well, Buddy, I have never had any real, grown-up trouble, but
    the kind of fourteen-year-old trouble I have had has seemed
    pretty hard sometimes. Grandmother says that you've always got
    to live, whether you can or not. I know you don't want my
    condolences, but I love you so that I can't help being sick over
    this. It's hard work for me to eat and sleep. I hope you can
    swear a little, because that will help you.

                                                             SISTER.

"I don't feel very much like going to Swan Pond crabbing," she thought,
as she sealed her two letters, and set them before her on the desk, "but
I suppose people mustn't give up to things. Even if my heart is
breaking, the Robbins boy and his cousin and Peggy ought not to have
their plans spoiled."

She made her way through the chain of little rooms between her den and
her sleeping chamber, unfastening, as she went, the blue linen gown,
buttoned all the way down the back, that, with its pink twin, was her
regular morning uniform. In her bed room she slipped into a blouse cut
like a boy's, and dark blue woollen bloomers with wool stockings to
match. With this she put on, very carefully, a blue tam o' shanter. She
saw in the glass that her face was drawn, and her eyes had dark shadows
beneath them.

"If Tom Robbins notices how I look and asks me any questions, I shall
only tell him that I am in deep trouble," she thought. "I won't say
anything like that to Bill. He would only grin and be embarrassed, but I
think Tom Robbins would understand more about grief."

She was a little ashamed of having thought so much of her own trouble
when she saw Peggy's stricken face.

"Don't ask me what has happened," Peggy whispered, as they clambered
into the car and Grandfather started for the cross-roads where they were
to pick up the two boys. "I don't know what hasn't happened. Ruth has
shut herself into her room, after some sort of a tragic heart-to-heart
talk with Father, and Mother and Father are scarcely speaking, and the
cook is mad, and ruined the breakfast muffins and gave us bad eggs, or
baddish eggs, for breakfast, and Sister won't see me. Piggy sent her a
huge box of flowers this morning. I've got to stop calling him Piggy and
call him Albert, I suppose. Wouldn't you know his name would be Albert?
Isn't he the most Albertish person? Elizabeth, I never hated anybody so
much in all my life. He never did me any harm, but I would be pleased
and proud to--to choke him to death."

"So would I," sighed Elizabeth.

"Wasn't it funny, her getting that telegram from your brother just when
she did? Sometimes I think she was keen on your brother, and sort of
peeved because he didn't ever write to her when he got back. You don't
suppose she'd get herself engaged to Piggy just out of pride, do you?"

"Oh, I don't know," Elizabeth cried.

"Anyhow, she took that telegram to bed with her, and it was all mussed
up under her pillow. I know, because I made the beds this morning. Our
treasure of a second maid went to mass, and stayed out to breakfast."

"What's all that whispering about?" Grandfather inquired, looking over
his shoulder. "I've a great mind to just reach over and tech the whip to
you," he made a movement toward an invisible whip socket. "I guess I
won't. It makes Lizzie nervous to have me flourishing a whip around. I
suppose you are trying to get all giggled and whispered up before you
have to stop it and talk to the boys."

"We aren't giggling much this morning," Elizabeth said. "There they are
on the corner, waving to us."

"Did you ever see such red hair?" Peggy said. "I like red-headed
children and boys. I don't think I like red-headed girls so much. I
think Mabel is awfully cunning with her red curls."

"Mabel? Oh, she has real auburn hair," Elizabeth said, "and it's
beautiful. How do you do?" she returned Tom Robbins' greeting with more
than a touch of her customary shyness as he scrambled for a place on the
floor of the car at her feet.

"It's my turn," he insisted, as his friend Bill tried to argue the
matter. "You ride with Captain Swift, and mind the rakes."

"You've got real nets!" Peggy cried. "How scrumptious! We just take
rakes, you know."

"I don't know as the Swan Pond crabs will consent to do anything but be
raked in," Grandfather said. "I heard of a boy once that caught a crab
in one of those store nets, but it was a bad one."

"You wait and see," Tom said. "Our object is to catch crabs, and we are
going to catch them."

"So am I," said Grandfather.

They left the machine in a clearing by the roadside, and, laden with
nets and bait, made their way through a path among the underbrush, until
they stood on the shore of Swan Lake. A blue sky, with here and there a
winging cloud, met the low horizon, skirted with the dense green of
low-set pine and oak trees. The gray-green water lapped the shore
alluringly.

There was a general scramble to remove encumbering shoes and stockings.

"If anybody says, 'Come on in, the water's fine,' they'll owe me a
pineapple college ice," Peggy declared, "or, if you prefer it in New
York-ese, a pineapple sundae--though why they should think over there
that by spelling Sunday with an e, they can make it a soda-fountain
dish, I don't know."

"Don't you go jeering at the manners and customs of my native town,"
Elizabeth cried.

"Did your ancestors own most of New York?" Grandfather asked,
innocently. "I thought most of Manhattan Island belonged to the Dutch."

"I don't know what my ancestors owned," Elizabeth said.

"They owned this, for instance," her grandfather waved a nonchalant hand
at the beautiful country about him, "forty or fifty acres around these
parts. My Great-grandfather Swift, he got kinder tired of having so much
property, and he sold a chunk to the town for a cemetery, and one thing
and another."

"Where did he live?" Elizabeth asked.

"Up the road apiece, in a great house that was burnt down long before my
time. He was quite a likely old fellow, though, from all I can hear of
him. He had a lot of stories told about him. He started a bank, and all
his money was carted up to it in ox teams, because they didn't have
anything but silver money in those days."

"Quite an influential old party, wasn't he?" Peggy said. "Doesn't it
make you feel creepy, Elizabeth, to descend from the very oldest
settlers, the way you do? I don't know anything about my ancestors."

"I never did before," Elizabeth said.

"The time is going to come when Elizabeth will be proud of what she
comes from," her grandfather said. "Well, if anybody really wants to go
crabbing with me, I'd advise them to----"

"Come in while the water's fine," the boys chanted together.

"I owe you a pineapple college ice," Bill grinned at Peggy.

"I owe you a pineapple sundae," Tom told Elizabeth.

"I wasn't betting," Elizabeth said.

"But I was," Tom's grin was almost as broad as his cousin's. "You can
have a maple marshmallow sundae if you prefer it. I do."

"Well, it's hard to choose," Elizabeth temporized.

"You can have both," Tom decided. "I'll show you how to use the crab
catcher. You float the bait on this line, and when the crab comes to the
surface, you----"

But Grandfather, scorning artificial allurements, caught the first crab.
The crab was scurrying away over the pebbles and shells at the bottom of
the transparent water when Grandfather's inexorable implement caught him
in mid-career, and he was imprisoned in the covered basket they had
brought for the purpose.

"I didn't know that you could catch them so near the shore," Elizabeth
said, looking down at her bare toes in some dismay, "do they hurt when
they bite you?"

"The game is not to let them bite you," Peggy said. "Hooray! One for
me--us, I mean."

"Three," said Grandfather, landing another.

"I've got the father and mother of all crabs here," Bill Dean said, as
he dragged at the handle of his net. "Look at old Grandfather Crab."

"He isn't very pretty," Elizabeth said, "but I prefer him to a raw
lobster. I never saw a green lobster till the other day."

"She was just making Judidy throw it out when I caught her at it,"
Grandfather laughed, "she said it was sick, and would give us all
ptomaine poisoning, and the lobster was so mad when he heard it that he
tried to claw poor Judidy's hand off."

"It _is_ strange that they turn bright red after being bright green,"
Elizabeth said. "I think I prefer crabs."

"Come with me, and we'll get some," Tom said, taking possession of her.

"I guess we can rest now," he said a little later, "we got more than any
of them."

"Did we?"

"Well, we got as many, anyhow. I'm hot, aren't you?"

Elizabeth mopped her forehead and smiled by way of answer.

"Look here," Tom said, "there is something I want to ask you, Miss
Swift. If you don't like it you just have to say so, and I will
understand and not ask you again. I was just wondering if I couldn't
call you Elizabeth. Bill he's going to ask Peggy, I mean Miss Farraday,
the same thing."

"I didn't know you had been calling me anything," Elizabeth said.

"Well, I haven't. I think last names are rather stiff, you know, and I
didn't like to use your first name without permission."

"I'd just as soon have you call me by my first name," Elizabeth said,
"if--if only----"

"You've got something in your mind about me that you aren't saying. If
you think it's--well--fresh--of me, to ask you that question about first
names, you can say so."

"I don't think that's fresh of you," Elizabeth said, "but I--well, I
don't feel like talking in any way but a very straightforward and
truthful way to-day. The thing I don't like, really, is the way you
tried to get acquainted with us. Every time I think of that, I feel as
if--well, I wish it hadn't happened, that's all."

"So do I," said Tom Robbins, soberly, "but I'll tell you something. I
have never done anything like that before. We just made up our minds
that we would, that's all. You know the way you make up your mind to try
something that you've seen other people do."

"But I don't see why you tried it on us," said Elizabeth.

"I don't see why we did, either, except that we wanted to know you the
most of any girls."

"I don't like to have a boy make me feel that he thinks I am a girl he
can scrape acquaintance with," Elizabeth said. "It hurts my feelings."

"I wouldn't hurt your feelings for anything, and you ought to know now
that I am not the kind of boy that does things like that, except for a
lark. Don't you?"

"Don't I what?"

"Know that?"

"Yes, I guess I do."

"Well, then?"

"All right, you can call me Elizabeth."

"Peggy and I have caught more than you have," Bill shouted, as he came
up with crawling crabs in his net.

"I guess it worked all right," Tom whispered to Elizabeth, "with them."

"Bill asked if he could call me Peggy," that young lady whispered to
Elizabeth, on the way home. "I was so surprised I nearly fell over. I
thought he always had. I've always called him Bill."

"I think boys sort of make up their minds to do a certain kind of thing,
and then they do it," said Elizabeth, "without thinking whether it is
really appropriate or not."

"I guess you are right," Peggy said, "and now that we've had this
pleasant afternoon, we'll just have to take up the burden of our gloomy
thoughts again."

"I know it," said Elizabeth, forlornly.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                           ELIZABETH IS RUDE


Elizabeth and Moses took the shore road, and finally struck off across
the fields and through the woods to make a short cut for the bathing
beach. Moses was going to initiate the new bathing suit Elizabeth had
bought him, and Elizabeth to sit on the beach and knit on a sweater she
was making for Madget.

It was a rehabilitated Moses that alternately darted and jogged along by
her side. He was wearing one of the half-dozen shirts that Grandmother
had cut and made by the famous Butterick pattern from which the girls
had fashioned the garment he wore on his appearance at the bean supper.
His trousers were the veritable "pants" of his dreams, and the rudiments
of suspenders, with which he would not part, were tucked in under his
belt. His face was comparatively clean, and he had allowed Elizabeth to
brush his heavy, upstanding hair until it looked almost personable.

"What are those things around your neck?" Elizabeth cried, catching
sight of an extraordinary decoration only partially concealed by his
shirt collar.

"Shark's teeth. I wear 'em for luck. I cut 'em out myself."

"Cut them out of what?"

"Sharks. What'd you think I got 'em from? Cats or something?"

"Moses, you've got to learn to be a little more respectful to me. I
don't like the way you speak to me."

"All right," he agreed, amiably.

"Where did you get those teeth from?"

"I told you I got 'em from sharks. I go down to the shore when the boats
come in from their weir. You know, the men bring in a lot of fish every
day. Well, yesterday they brought in four sharks and they let me cut out
these teeth. I could of got more if my knife had been sharper, or I'd
had more time. Every night they give me a fish, too."

"That doesn't sound a bit probable, about the sharks. Still, I never
caught you telling a lie, Moses. What do you do with the fish they give
you?"

"I take 'em home and I cook 'em. Mis' Laury Ann, she showed me how, one
time. Mabel, I'm learning her to cook, and Madget she wants I should
learn her, but I don't think I shall."

"Oh, dear, I'm afraid I've rather neglected you lately," Elizabeth said.
"I haven't been to see your mother for a long time."

"Well, Mis' Laury Ann she comes, and Judidy. Mother says neglecting is
all you can expect from girls."

"She's a whole lot better, isn't she?" Elizabeth asked, hastily.

"Sure. Mis' Abithy Hawes she come around and got Little Eva to going it,
and Little Eva she said that Mother had water on her lungs."

"Mercy!"

"But Mother she got to reading a book that said housework was a good
cure for sickness. About sweeping bein' good for the spine, and washing
bein' good for the stomick, and housecleaning a good thing for the
figger. So she thought she'd try that, too."

"Where did she get the book?"

"It was one that Mis' Laury Ann lent her."

"I guess Grandmother is working along the way she said she was going
to," Elizabeth thought. "Does your mother really do housework?" she
asked, aloud.

"Most every day," Moses said, proudly, "she bought me these pants, too."

"Does she do any cooking?"

"She don't like to cook, and she ain't never learned. I kin learn her
when I've learned myself some more."

"It does seem as if there were _some_ improvement in your family's
condition, doesn't it, Moses?"

"Judidy, she told Ma she was the town's poor, and Ma says she ain't.
That kind of stuck in Ma's crop, and Madget cried and said she wouldn't
go to the poor house. Now Ma says she is going to buy tea and coffee
enough to git a premium set o' dishes. I don't know whether she will or
not. If she don't I'm going to earn them. Captain Swift is going to let
me sell some corn and string beans out of his garden."

The path emerged on the beach, and Moses disappeared abruptly in the
direction of his favourite clump of pines, scorning a bath-house. He
reappeared almost immediately, clad in a single garment of blue jersey
that glistened with newness.

"You watch me pretending to be a whale," he said, "first I'll dive. Then
I'll come up spouting a whole mouthful of water."

"He's a good little swimmer," Elizabeth thought, as she watched his
antics. "I guess he'll turn out all right. How wonderful Grandmother is,
always keeping her eye on them. It's so much easier to do a thing like
that as hard as you can sometimes, and then drop it, than it is to keep
pegging along at it all the time."

She was knitting so busily that she did not see Ruth Farraday
approaching along the beach, and it was not until a long shadow fell
across her work that she realized Ruth was near. Ruth in a pink voile
frock, with a frilly, rose-coloured parasol, smiled down at her--a smile
of the lips only.

"Shall I sit down beside you?" she asked, in her low, clear voice.
"Peggy couldn't come down to the beach to-day. I was too lazy to go in
swimming, but I thought I'd like a smell of the sea, all the same."

"I--I'm very glad to see you," Elizabeth said.

"I'm glad to see you. I haven't seen you since that other day at tea."

"No," said Elizabeth, gravely.

"I haven't been feeling very well since then. It was--nice of your
brother to wire me, wasn't it?"

"I told Buddy that I thought you would be pleased to hear from him. It
was my fault. I shouldn't have told him, if I had known."

"If you had known what?" asked Ruth Farraday, lightly.

"That you were going to marry somebody else."

"Somebody else?" she laughed.

"Somebody that wasn't Buddy," Elizabeth said, bravely.

"There never was any question of my marrying your brother. We were very
good friends before he went abroad. Then he seemed to let it--our
friendship, die a natural death."

"I told you about his being sick," Elizabeth said, "and I told you that
there weren't any other girls."

"There not being any other girls doesn't--didn't necessarily mean----"

"Oh, yes, it does, with Buddy."

"That's putting it rather ambiguously."

"I don't know how it's putting it," Elizabeth cried, "but I do know that
there wasn't any other girl."

"He didn't tell you so, did he?"

"He--he----" Elizabeth stammered.

"You--you said that you told him to communicate with me?" Ruth was
having almost as much difficulty in speaking as Elizabeth.

"He wrote and asked my advice, and I told him I would, if I were he, and
that was why he did it, and then I had to write him that you were
engaged."

"Oh, you've written him that already?"

"I had to," Elizabeth said, miserably. "I had just told him that you
weren't engaged to anybody else, and that you inquired about him, and
that you--you might want to hear from him. He's very sick, and he wrote
and asked me what to do."

"When did he write that?"

"Just the other day."

"And you wrote just the other day?"

"There was time for him to get my letter before he telegraphed to you."

"And then you wrote again to say that I was engaged?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'm still engaged," Ruth Farraday said, lightly. "When you write
to him, won't you tell him that I thank him for remembering me so--so
pleasantly, but that I'm a good deal occupied just at present."

"No, I won't," said Elizabeth.

"Indeed?"

"He's too sick, and it would bother him too much."

"Oh, very well," said Ruth Farraday.

"I didn't mean to be rude," Elizabeth said.

"You were, rather. I'd like to send your brother a message, you see, and
I--I can't write to him. I've tried, and I can't. I don't want him to
think I am altogether unappreciative. What message shall I send him,
Elizabeth?"

"Send him your love, if you really mean it, and then not any message."

"I will. I do send him my love. I'm sorry he's sick. Wouldn't it be wise
to say that?"

"I think so."

"Send him my love and tell him--oh, tell him he was a day too late."

"I will," said Elizabeth.

With one long, indrawn breath, Ruth Farraday turned and walked back
along the beach.

"She's shivering as if she were cold," Elizabeth thought, as she watched
the diminishing figure.

It was high tide, and the deep blue waves were foam-crested. The wide
sky was streaked with clouds, and a bright sun lay hot upon the sands.
Elizabeth looked first at Moses' bobbing head, and then at the bobbing,
rose-coloured parasol dwindling in the distance.

"Life is a curious thing," she said to herself, slowly, "it keeps
changing so, getting better or worse all the time. Here's Moses and the
Steppes, who were so perfectly hopeless and helpless, and there is an
improvement in them. They are my friends and my responsibility--if I
don't live up to it very well. Then here is Ruth Farraday, that I truly
love, and everything about her is getting worse every minute, and it's
all mixed up with me, somehow. I don't do much good, or anything, but
it's mixed up with me all the same."

She knitted to the end of her row and pulled out her needle. She gave
another long look at sea and sky.

"Everything is a part of everything," she said, a little confusedly.
"Poor Buddy, dear."

She wrote him a long letter that night, and told him what Ruth had said,
and then she tried not to think about him at all for the next few days.
She was afraid for what she had done. She had had no word from him in
answer to her letter announcing Ruth's engagement, and only the briefest
line from her mother, who was evidently gravely anxious about her son's
condition. She knew that Buddy was worse, and she knew that the letter
she had written him had made him worse; how much worse, Elizabeth could
not bear to think.

It was five days after her meeting with Ruth upon the beach that the
evening mail brought her two letters, one in her mother's handwriting
and one in Buddy's. Judidy brought them in and put them in her lap.

"We are going to lose Judidy next winter," her grandmother said when
that young woman had blushed, giggled, and withdrawn to the back porch,
from which the sound of a drawling, masculine voice was heard at
intervals, interspersed with Judidy's high-pitched protestations. "She's
going to be married, she tells me."

"Is she?" said Elizabeth, trying to subdue the dizziness she felt at the
sight of Buddy's familiar scrawl.

"Your grandfather and I thought we'd give them a wedding. Judidy's folks
won't. They are nice enough people, but peculiar--odd. They believe in
saving trouble and expense on everything."

"Oh, Grandmother," Elizabeth said, trembling, "will you hold my hand
while I read these letters? I--I am so worried about Buddy."

"Certain." Grandmother drew out the little footstool that matched the
particular valanced rocker she was sitting in. "You come here."

Elizabeth leaned her head against her grandmother's knee, with the
feeling of faintness still upon her. Her grandmother stroked her hair
gently.

"I can't read them out loud, Grandma. They are private in a way.
It's--it's the private things in them that frighten me."

"There ain't nothing in this world to be afraid of. There ain't," said
Grandmother. "Fear once killed a cat, you know."

"Don't you ever get afraid, Grandma?"

"Certain I get afraid, but when I do, I just think that there ain't
nothing in this world to be afraid of so much as of being afraid, and
that kind of stops me."

"I can't help being afraid of what's in this particular letter."

[Illustration: "'I can't help being afraid of what's in this particular
letter'"]

"What are you afraid it's going to do to you?"

"I--I don't know."

"Well, you just open it up and read it, and after you've opened it up,
you'll just find you're sitting here the way you were before, with your
grandma's arms around you."

Elizabeth pulled the kindly hand down to meet her lips.

"Well," she said, "I'm going to read it now."

    DEAR LITTLE SISTER:

    I can't tell you how much I thank you for your two letters. They
    cured me. I've been seeing ghosts, but "being gone, I am a man
    again." I'm going to get my discharge if I have to bust the
    whole darned hospital, and I'm coming down to Cape Cod. While
    there, I shall tell you what I think of several things,
    including the opinion I have of a man who sits in a cloud of
    vapour all day in a United States Base Hospital, and lets things
    go some other man's way.

    You tell Miss Ruth Farraday that it's never too late. No, don't
    tell her anything, but whenever you see the man in the case,
    stick out your sweet little tongue at him. I'm sick--sure I'm
    sick, but I'm a well man, just the same. You wait and see. I
    broke the news to Mother and she doesn't believe it. She thinks
    that I'm probably delirious. Father sees that something
    significant has happened, but doesn't believe that I can bust
    out so easy. You wait, dear.

    Keep your eye on Ruth and report to me.

    I love and admire you, and you are my own darling sister, for
    whom and which I devoutly thank whatever gods there be. I am the
    Captain of my Soul.

                                                         YOUR BUDDY.

Elizabeth buried her face in the ample folds of her grandmother's white
apron.

"He's better. He's going to get well," she sobbed. "Oh, dear, I was
afraid I had killed him, but I didn't. I did him good."

"He needed something to rouse him," Grandmother said, "your mother says
the doctor has been saying that for some time. I don't know how you've
done it, but I guess you've turned the trick."

"He says he's going to get out and come down here right away."

"I thought 'twas about time."

"He's so sweet and dear and handsome, and he was so brave, and oh, I
love him so!"

"That don't seem to me to be anything to sob over."

"I--I can't help it."

"I always cried more tears of joy than I ever cried of sorrow. It runs
in the family."

"I guess I can read Mother's letter aloud. It's longer than Buddy's."

    ELIZABETH DEAR:

    The strangest thing has happened to your brother. He has
    suddenly taken a new lease of life. Night before last I left him
    just as dull and discouraged and apathetic as ever, and this
    morning when I went to see him, at about ten o'clock, he was
    another boy. The nurse said he had been that way ever since he
    got a letter from you in the morning mail. I suppose that was
    merely a coincidence. I don't mean to say that I found him in
    any seraphic mood. He was literally fighting mad at the hospital
    authorities, and his whole mind seemed concentrated on getting
    out. At first I thought his fever had risen, but the doctor
    assures me that the subtle cloud that has been resting over his
    mind has lifted. He says he has never known a case where the
    patient provided his own stimulus before, that usually it has
    come from the outside in the form of some kind of shock,
    pleasant or unpleasant.

    It hasn't been entirely a nervous case, you understand. He would
    probably have less trouble in getting away, if it had been just
    a matter of mind, but his mind has kept his body sick. It's been
    a vicious circle. He has believed, it now develops, that the
    physical matter was incurable. His old job was gone, you know,
    and that seemed to depress him. Your father was perfectly
    willing to keep him at home indefinitely, and we kept telling
    him so, but in his poor, tortured mind he had construed our
    doing so into an admission that we never expected him to get
    well.

    At any rate, the worst is over now. I believe we'll have our boy
    restored in mind and body very soon. I don't dare to hope we'll
    all get down to Cape Cod as soon as he thinks we shall but I am
    inclined to think that he is too lively a character for the
    United States Government to hold very much longer.

    You have been my brave, darling daughter, and I love you more
    than I can tell you. I am sending your shoes by this post.

                                                             MOTHER.

"I hope he'll get here while it's still cucumber season," Grandmother
said. "My, how that boy used to eat herrings and cucumbers! I cooked a
whole half dozen once, and I vow he et the whole lot, and I don't know
how many cucumbers. He was a dretful one to eat. He used to like to
climb up in the pear tree in pear season, and pick the topmost pear on
the tree and eat his way down."

"Do you mind if I cry a little more, Grandma? I can stop, but I don't
want to," Elizabeth sniffled.

"It will be good for the fern to have a little dampness in the air. You
cry, and I'll knit a spell."

"You tease just about as much as Grandfather does, don't--don't you?
Only you're so--so sly about it, nobody realizes it."

"Ain't that our ring on the telephone?"

"I don't know. I just sit here and let it ring all the time. I forget to
count whether it's fifteen or fourteen."

"Land, fourteen will wake me up out of a sound sleep when I'm to bed
upstairs. And I don't never hear fifteen no more'n if it hadn't
sounded."

"It _is_ fourteen," Elizabeth said, as the imperious instrument sounded
one long and four short signals distinctly. "I'll answer."

"Elizabeth, where have you been all day?" Peggy's voice inquired. "I
particularly want to see you about something, but Mother insists it's
too late for me to come over."

"I went swimming with Moses," Elizabeth said, "and finished Madget's
sweater, and made a chocolate cake. What is it that you've got to tell
me?"

"I can't tell you very well over the phone."

"Is it pleasant or unpleasant?"

"Unpleasant," Peggy whispered, with her mouth close to the receiver.

"Tell me."

"I can't."

"Hint it. Is it about Ruthie?"

"Yes."

"And it's unpleasant?"

"Well, there is something pleasant about it. The festivities will be
pleasant."

"Oh, Peggy, tell me. I've just about got to know."

"Well, listen close. It's going to be hurried up."

"What is?"

"The--well--you know. Somebody's receiver is down. They are listening
in. Don't you hear that clock ticking?"

"Oh, don't mind that. Tell me."

"They've hung up, I think. Guess what I mean. The festivities are going
to be hurried up. We want you to take part in them. It's going to be in
two weeks. Now do you know? It begins with w."

"You mean Ruth is going to be----"

"Yes, but don't breathe it. We want you at it--you know--the w. You and
me, dressed alike in blue dimity. There won't be many people."

"Oh, Peggy, I couldn't."

"Yes, you can. The way I look at it is that we might as well be
philosophical about it and have a good time, even if our hearts do hang
down to our boots. Don't you say so? Mother is calling me and I've got
to go. Don't breathe a word. I'll tell you all about it to-morrow. I'll
be over. Good-bye."

"Oh, good-bye!" said Elizabeth.



                               CHAPTER XV

                            PICKING CHICKENS


Do you want to come out and set with me in the woodshed while I pick a
couple o' chicken?" Grandfather asked one morning at the breakfast
table.

"Ye--es," said his granddaughter.

"I don't mind picking a chicken, but I do like encouragement while I'm
a-doing of it. All the pesky little pin feathers stick twice as tight
when I'm alone with 'em."

"When do you begin?" Elizabeth faltered.

"Soon's I can get to it. First I catch my chickens. After you have heard
them squawking for a while, you get your knitting and come out to the
shed."

"When he cuts off their heads, I just about pass into Kingdom Come,"
said Judidy. "I hate to hear them squawking as much as I hate to hear a
pig stuck."

"Oh, do you cut off their heads?" Elizabeth asked, faintly.

"Well, I wring their necks first."

"Don't take Jehoshaphat, will you, Captain Swift? I've fed him about
every day this year, and he eats out o' my hand just as cute's the next
one."

"Don't take Speckletop, will you, Grandfather?" Elizabeth moaned.

"She's a setting hen. I don't calculate to eat no chicken pie made out
o' setting hens."

"It's dretful hard to eat your own hens," Grandmother said. "You raise
'em from chickens, and you get to know every one from every t'other one,
and then some fine morning Father he puts their heads on the chopping
block, and that's the last of them, but they do stick, going down, when
I try to eat them."

"You don't have to worry, Mother. I know this is a pretty middling
tender-hearted family, so I bought this pair o' roosters over to
Battletown."

"Where's Battletown?" Elizabeth asked.

"That's the old-fashioned name for the region over yonder. This here was
called Crocker Neck. You remind me and I'll tell you some poetry about
it."

"I hate to eat anybody else's hens," Grandmother said, "you don't know
how they been raised."

"They say old Uncle Jonathan Swift won't take his vittles hot nor cold,"
Grandfather chuckled. "Either way they hurt his teeth, he says."

"If you feel too squeamish about seeing those chickens picked, you just
tell Grandfather, Elizabeth," her grandmother said after he had left the
table. "I used to feel pretty delicate about such things myself, till I
decided I'd got to get hardened."

"How did you get hardened?"

"Well, I took a spell to think about it. I can stand most anything if I
can get my ideas fixed up about it."

"Oh, so can I," Elizabeth cried. "I guess I inherited it."

"I couldn't stand the sight o' blood, or hearing about killing a pig or
a chicken, much less seeing the carcasses around. Well, I come to the
conclusion that every time a chicken was killed somebody'd have to pick
it, and I could pick a chicken if anybody else could. I figured out that
if it wasn't me, it would have to be somebody else, probably just as
squeamish. So I went ahead and caught a chicken and wrung its neck. I
couldn't of chopped off its head if I suffered, but after Father helped
me out that far, I cleaned it and picked it just like a storekeeper."

"I suppose that's the way you do get character, just by doing things
that you can't do--all the time."

"Well, Providence sees that you have plenty of things to do that can't
be done. I kinder hate to see young folks forcing themselves into it."

"I guess I'll go and see that chicken picked all the same, Grandmother,"
Elizabeth said.

She did not even put her fingers in her ears to shut out the sounds of
attack and slaughter in the chicken yard when she went out to the
woodshed and took her place determinedly on the step, companionably near
the three-legged stool that her grandfather had drawn up to the door.

"What was the poetry you said you were going to say to me?" she began,
"that poetry about Crocker Neck?"

"It's just what the girls used to say to the boys when they went
a-courting:

    "Hasty pudding in the pot,
    Pumpkin in the lantern,
    If you hadn't come from Crocker Neck,
    You wouldn't be so handsome."

"It doesn't rhyme very well, does it?" Elizabeth said.

"It used to kinder tickle the young folks. We used to have one that we
said to the girls:

    "The Cape Cod girls they have no combs.
    They comb their hair with the codfish bones.

I don't know as that rhymes any better, but young folks get up things
that don't have much rhyme or reason."

The air was full of the scent of wet feathers. Elizabeth looked up in
time to see him lift a dripping fowl from the pail of hot water at his
side, and then hastily looked away again.

"Grandfather, what did you do when you were a young man?" she said.

"I went to sea."

"How old were you when you first went?"

"'Long about nine or ten. I started in by going cook."

"Cook?" Elizabeth cried. "Cook? How--how did that happen?"

"All the boys went cook summers. We used to go to district school in the
winter and then go to sea in the summer. I cooked for seventeen men my
first trip, and I hadn't nothing to cook in but a baking kettle,
neither."

"What kind of boat did you go in?"

Grandfather industriously plucked at the carcass in his hand.

"A fishing vessel. She was called the _Good Intent_. I used to make
seven loaves of bread at a time, and we had to eat it every scrap up
before we could touch the new. It didn't make much difference, though,
because we carried four bushels of meal, part Indian and part rye, and
it all soured before we was out long, but we et it just the same. We
used to stay out two or three weeks at a time, and bring in seven or
eight thousand fish."

"I can't believe that you used to be a cook. It doesn't seem possible."

"I didn't used to be a cook," said Grandfather, quietly, "I used to go
cook on my grandfather's vessel. Have you heard from that friend of
yours lately whose brother-in-law is a count?"

"No. Yes, that is. She writes me quite regularly." Elizabeth blushed
crimson. "She's an awfully nice girl, with no nonsense about her at
all."

"'Taint so much her that I'm interested in as her brother-in-law,"
Grandfather said, solemnly, "he must have been a pretty smart man, to
earn that title of count by his own efforts."

"I--I don't think he did," Elizabeth said, before she caught the twinkle
in her grandfather's eye.

"Your grandmother's father he was a sailmaker, you know," he continued,
soberly. "He used to have a sail loft where he sat and sewed on sails.
He used to pay your grandmother by the dozen for threading for him."

"I didn't know," said Elizabeth. She looked up from her knitting for an
instant, and saw the strange, prickly surface of the denuded fowl. "I
didn't realize that the reason they called it goose flesh when they got
chilled was because your flesh looked like a goose's flesh--I mean a--a
geese's," she added, hastily.

"Yes, and sometimes the reason they call a young girl a little goose is
that all of a sudden she begins to act like one. Pesky things, these
little pin feathers!"

"I--I can help you do that," Elizabeth said.

"Well, put that towel over your lap and don't get any blood on you. Sure
it won't make you sick?"

"I'm just about sure that it will," said Elizabeth, "but--but what do I
care? Did it make you sick when you first went to sea, Grandfather?"

"Sick as a dog," said her grandfather, heartily, "and the smell of that
souring meal, and mouldy corn beef, and dead fish--well, I----"

"Oh, you poor, poor granddaddy," Elizabeth cried, "you poor little boy,
why did they make you go?"

"That was my father's idea of bringing me up. I ain't so sure it wasn't
a pretty good one."

"Did you get paid for it?"

"Six dollars a month and found. I had the promise of a new hat in the
fall, but I never saw it. Times has changed considerable since I was a
boy."

"I should think they had," said Elizabeth, fervently.

"You see, Grandfather he owned a fleet of fishing vessels, he owned a
dozen himself, and he was part owner with your grandmother's father in
as many more."

"But I thought you said Grandmother's father was a--was just a
sailmaker?"

"So he was, but he was a shipowner, too. He had to have an interest in a
good many vessels in order to get the business of making sails for
them."

"Did he make them all by himself?"

Grandfather smiled.

"Well, not exactly. His will was good, but he couldn't manage to fit out
more than a few hundred boats single-handed."

"You laugh at me every word you say, Grandfather."

"About every other word, I should call it. He went to sea a good part of
his life, but he had learned his trade at sailmaking. Boys learned a
trade those days, if they was real enterprising. My father he learned
the cooper's trade when he was a boy."

"How big were these boats?"

"They carried from ten to twenty-five men. Grandfather he built a
sailing vessel down here at the mouth of Herring River that went all
around the world nearabout. 'Twas his boast that he built it from timber
cut on his own land. I was on board of her just off New Bedford when the
steamer _Morning Star_ struck her amidships. She sunk in less'n fifteen
minutes."

"But you--were saved?"

"I woke up when she struck, and I come up from below just as I was, in
my underclothes. I saw a dark shape coming alongside, and that was all I
knew. I jumped for her. They said I was the first one over the side.
'Twas the old coastwise steamer that saved us, nosing along in the dark.
She was good enough for me to land on."

"All these things don't seem possible, Grandfather. I can't believe
them. You must have been a brave little boy."

"I don't know. I don't think boys is born brave, but they get the fear
o' God put into them one way or another, the same as little girls."

"But all these things are like--story books."

"Like enough. Story books is imitated from real life, as near as I can
make out."

"I didn't think any things like these could happen to anybody I knew. I
mean, things so exciting."

"You never thought to sink so low as to be picking pin feathers out of
the same fowl with a feller that had been cook on a fishing schooner."

This time Elizabeth met his twinkling gaze. She rose from her task long
enough to deposit an emphatic kiss on the top of a shiny, bald pate.

"Who called me a goose?" she said.

"In the circles you're accustomed to, I suppose they don't call such
names?"

"This is the circle in which I move," Elizabeth said, "this circle of
you and Grandmother and Judidy. Now I know where I inherited my cooking
ability from--you, sir."

"Well, there was times when the crew could get their teeth into my pie
crust," grandfather admitted.

Elizabeth slipped up to her room that afternoon, after her noonday
dinner, and wrote to Jean:

    JEANIE DEAR:

    I have learned so much since I came to Cape Cod, that I don't
    see how there is going to be much more in the world to learn. I
    suppose there will be, but I don't think it can possibly be so
    important. I was an untried child when I came here, and now look
    at me. You can't, but I wish you could. I have grown a little
    taller and, I think, a lot sadder looking. Also, I am healthier.
    I feel a lot like Alice in Wonderland, mentally, however--I have
    to keep running and running, to stay in the same place, and then
    I don't.

    I have some things in my mind that I can hardly bear, and some
    that I can hardly wait for, and some that I can hardly believe.
    You know what they are all about. The first is Buddy's girl and
    her approaching wedding. I am to stand up with them. I couldn't
    refuse; how could I, Jean? It's just a terrible, terrible thing.
    Buddy doesn't know it, because he is coming out of the hospital
    and down here just as soon as he can, and I am afraid it would
    retard his recovery if I wrote him. So I am not telling him till
    he gets here. Do you wonder, Jean, that I feel like a so much
    older girl than I did when I first came down here? Sometimes I
    think that my hair ought to be quite gray, with all my
    responsibility. I lit a light once, in the middle of the night,
    and got up to see if I hadn't really got gray hair, I felt so
    gray. I keep having to decide what to tell Buddy and what not. I
    can't ask Mother, because Buddy would never forgive me if I did,
    and what he would do to me would turn me gray for a fact, I
    guess. I've hinted it all out to you to keep from bursting, but
    Jeanie, it isn't the same thing as talking to you. It's only
    like saying my prayers or writing a diary. Besides, I haven't
    told you details. Only the general facts.

    The things I can hardly wait for are my parents and Buddy
    coming--my own brother, that has come out of the jaws of death
    in two senses, since I have seen him. Once from the Trenches and
    once from the U. S. Base Hospital. Having a brother is the
    strangest, sweetest thing. I'd rather have one than a sister,
    though I do think Ruth Farraday is beautiful, and Peggy's lot
    is, next to mine, the most fortunate in that respect. I ought
    not to crow like this to an only child, though.

    The things I can hardly believe are the things I've been hearing
    about my ancestors. In a way, you know, I think it is more
    interesting to be an American than even to be a count. I've
    lived along all my life with the idea that I was a New Yorker,
    or rather a New Jerseyite with one foot on Broadway or Fifth
    Avenue, and I thought the cook was the cook and the butcher the
    butcher, and that was all there was to it. I had a grandfather
    and grandmother that I had idealized in my imagination, all
    dressed up in city clothes and manners. I didn't stop to think
    what I came from, except that Mother was an Endicott, and that
    all her relations lived abroad most of the time.

    You know the rude shock I got when I came down here. The corner
    grocer is my distant uncle. The hired girl is a kind of cousin.
    The butcher that goes out selling things in a cart, meat all raw
    and pig pork that he has killed himself, is the family's friend.
    It seemed just plain awful to me at first. I didn't know what
    any of it _meant_. But now I'm getting to. I talked with
    grandfather, who quite rightly understands my horrid scruples
    and teases me to pieces about them, and I talked with Peggy,
    whose father tells her a lot of things. (Those girls get their
    niceness from their father.)

    He says this early settlers' blood is a wonderful thing. It was
    mostly the younger sons of aristocrat families that settled
    here, and a great many of them married their cooks or serving
    maids. (Perhaps that's why cooking is such a general talent.)
    They had to hew a living out of a very sterile soil, and to
    learn all the virtues of thrift and prudence from actual
    practise. They didn't have any houses or money or matches or
    anything. They just had to make them, and learn not to be
    aristocrats, instead of learning to be. They had to _make_ New
    England. Well, my grandparents and my great-great-great-greats
    did an awful lot about this. There wouldn't be any Cape Cod, if
    it hadn't been for these Industries that they were engaged in,
    and it's the most romantic thing, the way even young children
    lived this seagoing, hardy life in the school of hard knocks. My
    grandfather was a cook at a very early age, and was lost at sea,
    only he jumped into a coastwise steamer instead of being
    drowned.

    It's all wonderful, about grandmother's being courted at a
    Harvest Ball, and her grandmother running to get fire in a
    swing-pail, and funny little old songs they sing. Do you know
    what I feel as if I had done? I feel my roots pushing right down
    into the ground, and I love the ground, and it loves my roots.

    Also, I love you, my own Jeanie, and more so all the time as I
    grow better. Some time I am going to show you all this Cape.
    Well, now I must take up my cross and my scare again. I almost
    forgot it when I was writing.

                                                Your
                                                          ELIZABETH.

When she had finished and stamped this letter, Elizabeth took it in her
hand and went slowly down the stairs. It was nearly time for the
auto-bus from the morning train, the rumble of which could be heard
distinctly on the street beyond that on which the old house stood.
Elizabeth always waited for this before she went to the post office. She
had heard the whistle of the train some time since.

Her grandmother stood at the door.

"The barge has turned in on our street, and it's stopping here," she
said, "I guess we're going to have company. I'm dretful glad Father
killed those roosters this morning. There's plenty cooked."

"Who do you suppose it is?" Elizabeth said.

"Some o' Father's folks. They're always turning up when least expected."

Elizabeth watched the high-set, curtained vehicle, a hybrid motor truck
and picnic carryall that had been converted to its present use by the
exigencies of "depot" traffic. A boy in overalls had descended from the
driver's seat, and was lifting out a small motor trunk by its handle,
and a big, pig-skin suitcase.

"Why, that's like Mother's trunk," Elizabeth said, "and that suitcase is
like her suitcase."

A tall, blonde woman in a blue tailored suit and a blue veil jumped
lightly out of the unwieldy conveyance, her hand touching that of the
boy in overalls.

"Shall I lift these here baggages into the house for you?" he said.

"Yes, thank you. Thirty-five cents, isn't it? Oh, don't bother to make
change. That's all right."

"For the Land o' Liberty!" Grandmother exclaimed. "For the land sakes!"

"Why, it _is_ Mother!" cried Elizabeth.



                              CHAPTER XVI

                                 MOTHER


Madget was sitting on the floor, and singing to herself:

    "I am a little love, and I'm sitting on the floor.
    They put me here to sit and sing,
    Eating cookies as I sing,
    On Grandma Swiftie's lovely floor.
    A little girl I used to be
    Is sitting on the floor."

"Don't you think you have sung almost enough, Madget?" Mrs. Swift said.
"What's the matter, Elizabeth? Don't _you_ think she has?"

"Oh, I don't know. I was just listening to the sound of your voice,
Mother. It's so good to hear it again--saying anything."

"No, I don't," said Madget, pausing between selections only long enough
to reply literally to the question addressed to her:

    "A little girl with yellow teeth
    Was sitting on the kitchen floor.
    She sat and sang most all day long,
    And et some cookies all day long,
    On Grandma Swiftie's lovely floor."

"She certainly has a keen sense of rhythm," Mrs. Swift laughed. "You've
grown up so, Elizabeth, I hardly know my child."

"I'm not really a child any longer, Mother, dear."

"I don't suppose you would care to walk down to the block and get a
quart of ice-cream so soon after breakfast, would you, dear?"

"Oh, yes, Mother, I can always eat ice-cream." Elizabeth swept the
gingham frock she was making for Madget out of her lap and rose hastily.

"I don't think I've quite lost my little girl," Mrs. Swift smiled.

"For that, Mummy, darling, I won't go. You are just playing tricks on
me, the way you always do, and I fall right into the trap the way I
always do, and oh, it's so good to have it happening again!"

"You may go for ice-cream if you like, but a maturer Elizabeth might
prefer to wait until it was a little nearer dinner time. When you sat
down, you were going to whip all the seams in that dress before you
moved again."

"I want some ice-cream!" wailed Madget.

"You shall have some bye and bye, dear. Don't you know that nice little
girls don't shriek like that?" Elizabeth said.

"Dear me," Mrs. Swift laughed, "I think I'll have to make a kindergarten
teacher out of you. You have the professionally maternal manner."

"But I have grown older, Mother, and soberer."

"You've taken hold of life better. To tell you the truth, I was worried
about you this spring, you seemed to be getting your sense of values so
wrong. You were running around with nice, wholesome children enough, but
your ideas of life seemed to be growing very artificial. That was one
reason I sent you down here by yourself. I was pretty sure that you
would learn some of the essential lessons."

"I guess you would have been disappointed if I hadn't, Mother. I might
not have. At first I just thought it was all horrid and--common."

"And what, dear?"

Elizabeth hung her head.

"Don't you know that nice little girls don't use that word?"

"There isn't any other that says it."

"That is one of the words which reflect on the user. It's one mostly
used by people who have just come to realize that there is a difference
in manners."

"It's awful to be a snob, isn't it, Mother?"

"It's unfortunate."

"I've just discovered that I was one. Mother, what do you suppose made
me so snobbish about the Cape when I first came down? You're not a snob,
and Father isn't, nor Jeanie."

"I am afraid it was the disadvantage of your bringing up, my dear. We
had some pretty hard knocks when you were growing up. Your father's
advancement came late. We always lived nicely and had the same standards
as other people, but we had a greater struggle to maintain them. Our
lean years gave you a little sense of inferiority, my dear, that's all."

"Oh, Mother, how much you know and how wise you are! There is something
I wish I could tell you about, Mother, dear, but I can't."

"You mean about Buddy and Ruth Farraday?"

"I didn't know you knew," Elizabeth gasped.

"I didn't until the night I came away, and then Buddy told me. It was
very brave and dear of him."

"Oh, Mother, what shall we do?" Elizabeth wailed. "Ruthie is going to be
married next week. Maybe before Buddy gets here."

"Grandmother told me so last night. I don't think there is anything to
do, excepting to let matters take their course."

"But couldn't you go and see Ruth, and tell her?"

"Tell her what? That my boy loves her and that she should have loved
him?"

"Well, she should. She almost does, I think. She's just marrying because
her dreadful mother----"

"Elizabeth!"

"She _is_ a dreadful mother."

"So are we all sometimes, but it takes our contemporaries to judge us."

"But you are so nice, and she isn't, Mother, dear."

"Elizabeth, if you are in the confidence of the Farraday family in any
way that I am not, you must not share that confidence with me."

"But it's Buddy's future we are talking about, and if I know things that
will help us to work it out, I think I ought to be allowed to tell
them."

"I think I can manage to get a perspective on Buddy's future without
gossiping about the Farradays."

"Well, why can't you go and tell Ruthie about Buddy? Tell her he--he
loves her, right out?"

"Why didn't you do that, dear?"

"I--I was scared to; besides, it would have been sneaky to Buddy,
and----"

"Exactly."

"But now she'll be married if somebody doesn't do something."

"I am afraid there is nothing to be done but sit still and let her _be_
married."

"But how can you, Mother?"

"I don't know how I can, to tell the truth. That's about the hardest
thing any mother does, to sit still and let things happen that involve
her children, but as your father says, a man's first duty is to mind his
own business, and if at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

"Oh, dear!" said Elizabeth.

"Oh, dear!" echoed Madget.

"Aren't you happy, Madget?"

"I want some ice-cream and some doughnuts and some cookies and some
boiled ham, and I want to come and sit on your lap."

"You may have some ice-cream pretty soon and you may come and sit on my
lap now. Will that do?"

"I know who I love," Madget said, pushing aside the folds of gingham and
climbing into the coveted place, "but I won't tell."

"Do you want to see the beautiful present that my mother brought me,
Madget?"

"I want a beautiful present," said Madget.

"I am going to give you a present," Elizabeth said, "but not now,
because you asked for it. It isn't nice to ask for things. You must just
wait until people give them to you."

"All right," Madget said, unexpectedly.

"That's the way those children are," Elizabeth explained, seriously,
"Moses especially. You tell them what isn't nice, and then they agree
with you, and there isn't any argument. It just leaves you feeling
flat."

"Madget is only waiting seraphically for her present to come without
asking," Mrs. Swift said.

"See what I have!" Elizabeth took a gayly-coloured rubber cape and
bathing cap to match from the back of the chair on which she was
sitting, and spread them out for the child's inspection. "I carry them
around everywhere I go, Mother."

"Rainbows," said Madget, ecstatically.

"It is all the rainbow colours," Elizabeth said, "isn't it lovely,
Mother, dear?"

"I'm so glad you like it. I had a bad time making up my mind what to
get."

"These capes look so grand when you come out of the water, and it's
cold, too, running up to the bath-house. You really need something. Look
here."

Madget had insinuated her bobbing curls into the depths of the cap, and
then, standing, was swathing herself in the folds of the bright cape.

"She looks like one of the Stewart babies. I don't know why, but I
suppose it's that dressed-up look they have. Her hair is clean, because
I washed it myself. What are you laughing at, Mother?"

"It seems so extraordinary to have you in charge of a family of
children."

"Well, somebody had to take an interest in them. It's Grandmother that
takes the real care of them, though. I only help as I can."

Mrs. Swift smiled a smile of deep satisfaction into her embroidery.

"I am very pleased with you, dear," she said.

"Mother," Elizabeth's gaze became fixed out of the window, "a boy comes
to call on me sometimes. I don't think you would disapprove, because
Grandfather invited him--but there he comes now."

"He looks like a nice boy."

"He is. He's quite sensible, when you get to know him."

"Well, go to the door, Elizabeth. He looks as if he might run away if he
wasn't admitted instantly."

"I guess he has heard you're here."

"How do you do?" Tom Robbins said to the widening crack that gave him
his glimpse of Elizabeth, "I can't wait till you get the door open."

"How do you do?" said Elizabeth.

"Is Captain Swift at home? I don't want to see him, but I have to ask
for him because he told me to."

"No, but my mother is," Elizabeth said.

"Well, I want to see _her_."

"Here she is, then. Mother," Elizabeth led the way into the living room,
"this is Mr. Robbins."

"I'm glad to meet Mr. Robbins. I think that his other name is Tom, or if
it isn't it ought to be, for he's the image of the Tom Robbins I knew."

"Father remembers you," Tom cried. "He used to see you when you were
first married."

"Take some chairs," Elizabeth said.

"That's our joke," Tom explained, "the first time I came here Captain
Swift was so full of fun, and everything----"

"That, well, I got rattled," Elizabeth explained, "so I said, 'take some
chairs,' and we always say it now."

"Taking chairs just about describes me when I go into a place. I move
around a good deal," Tom said.

"If I could have my present," Madget interrupted from the sofa, "I
_would_ be good."

"At dinner time I am going to give it to you."

"All right," Madget said, "I'll go ask Grandma Swift to have my dinner."

"Isn't she cunning?" Tom looked after her as she trotted off. "Oh,
Elizabeth, I'm going to give Moses my old bicycle. It isn't doing any
one any good now. I'm making him a rack to go in front, that he can
carry milk bottles on."

"Grandfather will give him a job carrying milk then," Elizabeth said.
"Won't that be fine?"

"It seems to me that you children are quite practical philanthropists. I
think you are doing wonders for the Steppes."

"It's all Elizabeth," Tom said, "she's the one that got us all thinking
of it. What I came in this morning for is this, Mrs. Swift. Our family
is going to give a big, old-fashioned clambake on the beach the first
pleasant day after Monday, and we wanted--that is, I did--we thought
perhaps Peggy and Elizabeth might like to come. It'll be great fun. Bill
and I are going to help dig the clams. Of course it's just a family
affair, and I don't know whether Father knows you are in town, Mrs.
Swift, but I am sure if you would like to come, too, we should all be so
very glad. We thought of Elizabeth and Peggy first, you see." Tom was
very confused.

"That's very kind of you, Tom, but I shouldn't be able to go. I am
expecting my husband and my sick son almost any day now, and my object
in coming ahead of them is to get everything in running order for them,
but I am sure Elizabeth would be delighted to go, and I should be very
glad for her to."

"Oh, thank you. Mrs. Farraday said that Peggy could come if Elizabeth
could. I think it will be pretty good sport. It will be a regular,
old-fashioned clambake, you know, with the clams banked in bricks and
sand, and all the things wrapped in seaweed and steamed in--in their own
steam. We have one every year, and some of our family comes from a long
way to be there."

"I think it will be beautiful," Elizabeth said. "I am so glad Mummy will
let me go."

"I wish I had my twenty-seven white horses," she sighed, as she watched
Tom's retreating figure. "He's nice mannered, isn't he? He always whips
off his hat at the gate, just like that. He'd count for one red-head so
nicely. I got my ninety-nine Negroes, but the white horses are very hard
to get. I've only got four and a half, and I'm not sure it wasn't the
same white horse all the time."

"Four and a half white horses?" Mrs. Swift looked up inquiringly.

"A white goat. That's what I mean by half. We saw him one way down in
Chatham. I don't really mean to count him unless we get desperate. I
don't suppose it's quite fair."

"We have to make a good many compromises in this day and age, but it
doesn't seem to me that a goat would make an efficient substitute for a
horse. Why stop there? Why not a pig or a bear?"

"Well, I didn't really mean to count him. Peggy and I get discouraged,
and then we try to think of encouraging things."

"I haven't seen Peggy yet."

"She's coming soon, but she has to help Ruth make that dreadful
trousseau. I'm going upstairs and get Madget's doll, and then I'm going
to telephone and see where she is."

Solemnly seated on the floor in the guest chamber, Elizabeth found
Madget contemplating the Little Red Riding Hood doll that Mrs. Swift had
brought for her. It stood upright on the bureau and returned her gaze
complacently.

"Is that my present?" Madget said. "I want it."

"You shouldn't have come upstairs without being sent, Madget."

"I was sent. You sent me for a thimble."

"But that was yesterday."

"Here it is," Madget said, producing it with a wide smile.

"Yes, that's your present," Elizabeth said in despair. "Take it."

Madget took it.

"My baby dolly!" she cried.

As Elizabeth started downstairs again, she heard Peggy's voice.

"You don't need to telephone," Peggy cried, from the sitting room, "I
came and I brought the bride along with me, what there is left of her."

"I didn't know it was going to be quite so much trouble to be married,"
Ruth Farraday was saying, "perhaps if I had, I wouldn't have attempted
it."

"Well, this is the last marriage I can ever have in my family," Peggy
said, "unless I ever take the fatal step myself, which I won't. You're
just the same, aren't you, Elizabeth? You can only have one outside of
your own."

"I don't think Buddy will ever marry," Elizabeth said, looking at Ruth
Farraday.

"My son is coming to-morrow or the next day," Mrs. Swift said, hastily,
"we hope that Cape Cod is really going to make him well again."

"He'll be here in time for the wedding," Peggy said, "if he is invited."

"We were planning to have only the family," Ruth said, "but not having
two sisters to add the proper touch of picturesqueness, I asked
Elizabeth to stand with Peggy."

"She never opened her mouth," said the incorrigible Peggy, indicating
herself, "excepting to put her foot into it."

"Hush, Peggy," said Ruth, whitening a little, "Mrs. Swift understands.
Peggy regards this wedding as a sort of cross between a picnic and a
visit to the dentist's."

"I certainly do," said Peggy, "only you don't have to have so many
clothes on those occasions. I don't see why you can't just be married in
what you've got. Well, anyway, that clambake is going to be a ray of
light through the gloom. That's something we can enjoy without any
mixture of our emotions."

"I shall have to come some day without Peggy," Ruth said, rising, "this
time we were just going by to the post office and she dragged me in."

"She gets a letter every mail," Peggy explained, "and sometimes two a
mail. If you think I've said awful things, Mrs. Swift, I'm sorry,
but--but----"

"I assure you they are nothing to the things she could say," Ruth
laughed. "I'm glad she has Elizabeth's restraining influence. I suppose
the two are so different that that's the reason they get on so well."

"Elizabeth's a perfect lady," Peggy said.

Mrs. Swift stood at the window and watched the two girls go down the
path, Ruth's pink linen and close-fitting white sweater outlining her
extreme slenderness and her little feet set with a delicate deliberation
as she moved.

"She _is_ an apple-blossom girl," she said, thoughtfully, "poor Buddy!"

"Oh, Mother, Mother, Mother," Elizabeth wailed, flinging her arms around
her, "isn't it perfectly terrible? I am so glad you are here. I don't
believe I could have borne it another minute without you."

"Well, now, I guess you're satisfied," Grandfather said, coming in on
this tableau. "I guess you've got about all you need to make you happy,
ain't you?"

Elizabeth threw a forlorn glance at her mother.

"I need other things to make me happy," she said, "but I'm perfectly
satisfied with this darling person, all the same."



                              CHAPTER XVII

                          ELIZABETH IS SCARED


"Well, Baby."

"Well, Daddy."

Elizabeth and her father were the first ones down to breakfast on the
morning after his arrival with Buddy--the first of the visiting family,
at least. Grandfather had been outside and at work since dawn, and
Grandmother and Judidy had been in the kitchen almost as long, employed
in magnificent preparations for feasting the returned sons of the house.

"What is all this radiance for this morning, Elizabeth? Me or Buddy or
the new roadster?"

"You _and_ Buddy _and_ the new roadster, Father, darling. The roadster
was the completest surprise, but I am more intimately fond of you and
Buddy. I just can't believe you are here. I gave myself a good hard
pinch every time I woke up in the night, to try to make myself believe
it. The last time, I got up and sneaked to your door and listened to
hear if you were breathing."

"Well, was I?"

"You were doing more than that, Daddy."

"Where did you sleep when they turned you out of your room for John?"

"I'll show you bye and bye, Daddy. I've got a room of my own, and all I
had to do was to put a tiny, weeny little bed in it. I thought that was
going to crowd it dreadfully. Instead, it is very becoming to it. Faith,
Hope, and Charity guard my slumbers, only I couldn't slumber, I was so
excited."

"Faith, Hope, and Charity?" her father looked inquiring.

"They are my guardian angels, borrowed from Aunt Helen by permission of
Grandmother. Would you like to go out and see the pigs, Daddy?"

"I'd like to but I don't think we've time before breakfast."

"Well, their names are Faith, Hope, and Charity, also--this new litter,
I mean. Grandfather let me name them. They are excruciatingly cunning,
Daddy. Faith and Hope keep themselves a little messily, but Charity is
as clean as a kitten. She knows her name, too, and comes when you call
her by it."

"Her?"

"Well, him or her. All their names are nice and non-committal. They can
be boys or girls, whichever they like."

"I should think they were committed to a great deal, in either event."

"Well, children," Grandmother appeared behind a platter heaped high with
crisp, hot doughnuts, "have you got a good appetite for your breakfast?"

"It seems so funny to think of your being Grandmas child," Elizabeth
said.

"But I am."

"Well, it's hard to believe it."

Grandfather, who had followed on his wife's heels, took his place at the
head of the table, and shook out his napkin.

"I've heard tell of a feller that went driving down Chatham way one
day," he said, "and he come to an old house in the woods, and there he
found a little old man sitting on the doorstep that was so old and
palsied and shaky, he could hardly make out to speak at all. Well, this
feller he wanted to find out how the old man happened to be left alone
at his great age, with no care nor companionship nor nothing, so he
asked him; he says 'Do you live all alone here?' he says. The little old
man he was so deaf he couldn't hardly hear nothing, but this feller he
asked him again, and he put his hand up to his ears and just made out to
catch the question. 'No,' he says in his high-pitched, quavering voice,
'No, I don't live here all alone, I live here with my father.'--'Your
father?' this feller says, all taken aback, 'Your father? Have you got a
father? Where is he?' The little old man he hardly made out to get this
question at all, but after a long time, when it had been repeated to him
over and over again, he managed to understand it. 'Where's Father?' he
says. 'You ask me where my father is? Well, where should he be, 'cepting
upstairs, putting Grandfather to bed.'"

Mr. Swift laughed immoderately.

"I suppose it does look a little like that to Elizabeth," he said.
"She's used to thinking of me as being about as old as that kind of
relative gets to be."

"Grandfather's whole life is spent in teasing me," Elizabeth said, "it's
bread and butter and pie and cake to him."

"By the way, Father, where is your pie this morning? I didn't know that
you ever started the day without it, but I don't see it on the table."

"Now, I am going to tell something on Father," Grandmother said, slyly.
"He ain't had a piece o' pie for his breakfast since Elizabeth come, and
he wouldn't let me put none on the table, either."

"I was afraid she'd get to making it the way she makes cake, and I'd
have to eat it whether or no." Grandfather mopped his brow with a great
show of vigour.

"It warn't that," Grandmother smiled. "He was just sprucing up for his
city granddaughter a little. He went down street and got two new
neckties and a white cotton vest before she'd been here a week. He had
to kind of jerk Elizabeth down a peg and jerk himself up several to meet
her."

"Why, Granddaddy _Swift_," Elizabeth said, "have you been going without
your breakfast pie on my account?"

"Who said breakfast pie?" a gaunt figure in khaki appeared in the
doorway, and Elizabeth, with one admonishing finger still uplifted,
turned from her grandfather and with one leap hurled herself upon it.
"I'm going to get out of these clothes to-morrow," Buddy continued,
calmly, holding his sister off with one hand, "but I have forgotten how
to get into regular trousers before breakfast. Emerson, the well-known
sage of Concord, used to eat pie for his breakfast--pumpkin pie, and it
goes very well with coffee."

"Grandfather won't let me have so much as a snitch of coffee," Elizabeth
pouted, still clinging to him.

"Not even a demi-tassy," Grandfather put in, slyly.

"And a good thing, too," Buddy said. "Granddad, your ideas of bringing
up Elizabeth are a good deal like my own--a firm, strong hand applied
wherever necessary."

"And last but not least--Mother," said Elizabeth, pausing in the midst
of a grimace at her brother. "I never knew you to be the last one at the
breakfast table in my life before, Mother."

"I'm glad," Mrs. Swift said, as she took her place between her children,
"and oh, John and I have our napkin rings! I was going to bear it with
resignation if we didn't, but I am so glad to see them again. We had
them on our honeymoon, you know."

"Elizabeth had one for a while, but she didn't seem to admire it, not
what you might call beyond reason," Grandfather said.

"Oh, dear!" said Elizabeth, "the instances keep piling up of the way he
has seen right through me from the first minute of my coming, but now
I'm beginning to see through him," she added, triumphantly.

"When anybody makes up their mind they are beginning to see through
Father, there is generally breakers ahead for them," Grandmother said,
thoughtfully.

"It's from Father that I get whatever business acumen I have," John
Swift said; "let the other fellow think he is getting away with
everything, and then when he has given himself entirely away, never let
up on him."

"Yes, that's my principle," Grandfather said, complacently.

"I'm going into Father's office, did you know it?" Buddy said. "Until
day before yesterday I might just as well have thought of getting a job
with J. P. Morgan, and then suddenly this opening came, and my old boss
recommended me for it."

"We lost a good man suddenly," John Swift explained, "and yesterday
morning old Howard came in to me and asked me what I knew of a youngster
named John Smith that used to be with the Urner Company. I was pretty
sure he had got the name wrong, so I told him I'd call up the Urner
office and find out if he was the one I thought he was. In the
afternoon, just before I left, Howard asked me if I found out anything
about the boy, and if I knew anything to his advantage or disadvantage.
'I do,' I said, 'both. He's my son.' 'We'll take him in,' Howard said,
'I guess you know how to handle him by this time.'"

"You see," Buddy explained, "I began to get busy on the hospital wire
just as soon as I realized I was cured, and my old boss is a white man,
if ever there was one."

"Not going to Russia just at present?" his father asked.

"Not going to Russia," Buddy said, steadily.

After breakfast Elizabeth had her first minute alone with her brother.
They were in the living room, in Grandmother's and Grandfather's chairs
respectively, with the big fern branching between them.

"Well, Sister?" Buddy said.

"Well, Buddy!"

"What do you know about Ruth, now?"

"About Ruth?"

"Yes, Sister, darling, you heard me the first time."

"You mean how--how is she?"

"I mean, tell me everything you know that you haven't told me before."

"Haven't you talked with Mother about her since you came?"

"Not a word."

"Hasn't she told you----"

"Nothing."

"Well, then, I've got to."

"You certainly have--and quick," said Buddy. "What is it? Fire away."

"Ruth--Ruth is going to--to get married next week--Thursday."

"Oh!" Buddy's jaw shut on the monosyllable.

"It was hurried up all of a sudden. I saw her and talked with her on the
beach once, and she said to tell you that your telegram was a day too
late."

"Thanks," said Buddy, briefly.

"She sent her love, and said you were a day too late."

"We'll see about that. Is this Chambers fellow around?"

"No, he is in Boston, but he comes down to see her all the time."

"We'll see about that, too. What's her telephone number?"

"Thirty-two, ring eleven. You have to ring in, you know--that handle on
the box, and ask Central."

"Oh, I know," said Buddy, "telephone is nice and convenient, isn't it?
Anybody on the farm can hear from this location," he picked up the
instrument from the desk in the corner.

"Shall I go?" Elizabeth asked.

"No, dear."

"I want to speak to Miss Ruth Farraday--Mr. Swift." He put his hand over
the mouthpiece, the fingers trembled slightly, but his voice was cool,
"I guess that was your friend Peggy. Sounded like a flapper's voice.
She's gone to call her. Oh, hello, Ruth," he said into the instrument,
"this is John. Yes, I managed to squirm out. Fine, thank you. A little
under weight, that's all. I want to see you. Now, this morning, may I
come over there? I wouldn't take up much time. Yes it _is_ important.
Oh, all right, that will be better yet. I am perfectly able to make it,
but I'd rather have you here if you'll come. All right. In about half an
hour. All right. Good-bye."

"She's coming here," he explained to Elizabeth, "she was starting out to
do some errands. She didn't want me there, at any rate. Perhaps Chambers
is expected."

"The walls of that house are as thin as paper," Elizabeth said, "and I'm
glad you don't have to go there. Her mother might be around."

"It's awfully decent of her to come here."

"She _is_ awfully decent."

"She's scared."

"Who wouldn't be?" Elizabeth said. "My gracious!"

"I suppose I ought to try to get into some kind of decent clothes."

"No," said Elizabeth, "stay in those."

"But I've been mustered out. I ought to be in 'cits'."

"She'd like you better in those," Elizabeth said, positively.

"How do you know?"

"I don't know how I know, but I know," Elizabeth said. "I'm a girl, and
I know."

"I guess you are," Buddy said. "I never thought of it before, but you're
a girl and you've got a line on girls. Do I look pretty punk to you?
Cadaverous and all that?"

"You are the handsomest thing," Elizabeth cried, "that I ever saw,
Buddy. You used to be good looking, but now you've got a kind
of--look--a soulful look--that----"

"That'll do. I was only interested in my physical aspect."

"Well, that's perfect," Elizabeth said.

"Is my face clean?"

"Let me see. Yes, it is, perfectly."

"Then I won't go upstairs at all. You just sit around and help me kill
time till she comes."

"Oh, Buddy, can I kiss you just once?"

"You cannot," said Buddy. "I've changed a good deal in a great many
ways, but I haven't got to the point where I like to be kissed after
breakfast yet."

"You used to write pretty affectionately from those old trenches."

"There was an ocean between us then, and it was perfectly safe."

"I think men are the funniest things," Elizabeth said. "It isn't that
they don't want to be loved----"

"No, it isn't," said Buddy. "So tell Mother to keep the coast clear,
will you, and then come back. No, don't come back. I'll watch for Ruth
and let her in. No, you watch for Ruth and let her in. You bring her in
here, and then get out unless I tell you to stick around. See?"

"You can't tell me that before her."

"I can tell anybody anything before her."

"All right," Elizabeth said, "but--but I'm scared, Buddy."

"You--you go to the deuce," her brother said, and only then did
Elizabeth realize the strain under which he was labouring.

It was with a face nearly as white as Buddy's own that she opened the
door to Ruth a few minutes later.

"Buddy's in there," she said, weakly, to Ruth's inquiry.

"Come and show me," Ruth said.

"Right this way," Elizabeth said, superfluously. "Buddy, here's Ruth."

"All right," said Buddy, unfolding his long legs from the rocking chair,
and advancing so slowly that Elizabeth knew he was trembling with
weakness, "you may go now, Elizabeth."

"Please," said Ruth Farraday in her low voice, "let her stay."

"All right," said Buddy, "you may stay, Elizabeth."

"I'd rather go," said Elizabeth, miserably. But neither of the two paid
any more attention to her.

Ruth put out her hand, and then when Buddy would have taken it, withdrew
it.

"I am going to be married," she said, "next week. Did Elizabeth tell
you?"

"Yes," said Buddy. "It's me you should be marrying. You know that, don't
you?"

"No," said Ruth Farraday. "Yes, I do know it, I think. But it's too late
now."

"It's not too late."

"You don't seem to understand that I am going to be married--married
next week."

"I heard you the first time," said Buddy, grimly.

"Well?"

"You are my girl," said Buddy, "and you know it."

"Supposing I do," said Ruth Farraday, "what then?"

"Then this marriage is a lie. It can't happen."

"It has--happened, as far as I am concerned. I have given my word."

"Ruth, you can't mean that."

"But I do."

"It means a lifetime of misery for three people."

"But it's all done, now. That's all there is to say."

"You mean, you haven't the courage to break away?"

"I mean more than that. This has happened, that's all, I've given my
word. I've let things get where they are. If you wanted to marry me, you
should have told me when I was free. I waited for you, for just a word
or a line from you."

"I was sick."

"I wasn't waiting for you to get well, and write me you were well. I
wanted to know that you thought of me when you were sick."

"Oh, Ruth, I didn't think of anything else."

"I waited as long as I could, that was all."

"Ruth----" Buddy said, "Ruth----" He took a long step toward her, "Get
out of this room, Elizabeth," he said, steadily, "you are willing for
her to go, dear, aren't you?" he said, as Ruth put out a restraining
hand.

"Oh, I don't know. Oh, I don't know."

"I'd better go," said Elizabeth, and Buddy nodded to her as she slipped
out. Before the door had closed on her, he had walked across the floor
and taken Ruth Farraday in his arms.

It was nearly half an hour later that Elizabeth, watching from the room
above, saw Buddy walk with Ruth to the gate, open it for her, and stand
with his head bared as she walked down the street. She ran down the
stairs breathlessly to meet him as he came in.

"Is it all right?" she asked. "Oh, Buddy, is it all right?"

"It's all right, little sister," Buddy said, "it's all right anyway, the
way she wants it. She won't break it off. She thinks it wouldn't be
honourable."

"But she must break it off, Buddy. It'll kill you if she doesn't."

"No, it won't. She must do what she wants to do."

"But she doesn't know what she wants," Elizabeth cried.

"She knows what's right for her."

"I don't believe she does at all."

"You don't know."

"I do know this," Elizabeth cried, "you can't stand it, Buddy, it will
kill you. It will kill you."

"All right, then," said Buddy, "let it. But I don't think it's going to.
She wouldn't want it to, you see."



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                         ELIZABETH SHAKES HANDS


"Well," Peggy said, surveying the picnic tables set up in the pine grove
beyond their customary bathing beach, "this is certainly some party. I
never saw so many pumpkin pies in conclave assembled in all my life."

"Pumpkin pies are just the background," Elizabeth said, "all these
regular New England dishes don't count; they always have them. Brown
bread and biscuits and cake and watermelon. They always have them. The
stuff they are baking is the real party."

"This being your first clambake, you are just repeating what you've been
told. I know. It was nice of the boys to send for us, so we could be
sure and be here early, but where are they?"

"Mrs. Something-or-other Robbins, that tall woman with the earrings,
told me the boys had been sent to Harwich for some more provisions, but
they will be back right away."

"Rather a good-looking crowd of people, aren't they? And what a lot of
work they've done. These tables were put up last night, and every family
contributed some of this milder grub--I mean these foods on the tables,
if I must be polite. The men dug the clams and furnished all the other
things. I asked Tom how they managed. Look, there are Mabel and Madget
down on the beach, right in the heart of the bake. I'll bet Tom told
them they could hang around."

"Do you know what, Peggy?"

"What particular what?"

"Mabel is my last red-head."

"Well, she's my next to the last, come to think of it. It was lucky we
went to the cattle show, and got all those white horses at once."

"I am not going to shake hands with anybody to-day. It's hard to
remember, though. Just now I shook hands with Tom's father and his
uncle."

"Those old men don't count, anyway."

"Are you sure? Tom's uncle is quite a young widower, Mother says."

"Well, you don't have to worry, because you didn't have Mabel when you
shook hands. Now is the time to look out."

"You are safe until you see another red-head."

"Let's go down on the beach and see what the mound builders have
accomplished," Peggy said, "that large woman in the yellow skirt is
going to come over here and entertain us if we don't."

"I think we will go down on the beach," Elizabeth said to the large
woman, as they turned to walk in her direction, "of course we would like
to help if we could, but Mrs. Robbins said there wasn't anything left to
do."

"We have everything done, I think," said the woman, whose name they did
not know. "The boys are going to bring back some vines to trail over the
table, and some paper napkins to twist up in the glasses. We do
everything the same way every year, to keep up the tradition."

"I think it's awfully nice," said Peggy, "and we appreciate being
included."

"We always have a table of young people. The boys are always privileged
to invite their--friends. Dear me, I must count noses."

"There she bustles off, counting noses," Peggy said. "I don't like her
so much, but I guess she's a good-hearted one. Now's our chance to break
away."

They scrambled down the steep embankment to the beach.

"That's the only time I ever didn't slide down, sitting," Peggy said. "I
don't believe in being civilized unless you have to. I only ate a
cross-section of burnt toast this morning, and drank some feeble cocoa.
I'll be too hungry to eat pretty soon. We now approach the most
celebrated of all the relics of the mound builders, a perfectly intact
mound about six feet long and broad in proportion. This mound is a
perfect specimen of the mound builders art. It is made of bricks and
sand. A huge fire was first built on the base of this erection, in the
ashes of which are baking, at the present moment, luscious ears of corn
dressed in their original wrappers, huge sweet, or garden potatoes,
clams by the galore, as our cook says, and, I strongly suspect, lobsters
and bluefish, to complete the assortment. Dost like the picture, Love?"

"What's all that seaweed sticking out?"

"The things are steamed in seaweed, darling. That's what gives them
their galumptious flavour."

Mabel and Madget drew near as they saw their friends approaching.

"Is it a grave?" Madget asked in an awed whisper, as she indicated the
erection respectfully.

"It's a giant's grave," Peggy said. "Fee, foo, fi, fum. Can't you smell
the blood of an English giant?"

"No, I can't," said Mabel, "them's just clams, and we'm going to have
some. Moses has gone to ride with Tom and he told me to stay here and
watch, to see if the clams didn't burn. They ain't burnt yet."

"How's your mother?" Elizabeth asked, hastily, as she saw the rising
laughter in Peggy's eyes.

"She's better, and she's got a purple velvet dress," Mabel said, "she
got breakfast to-day, too."

"What did she get for breakfast?"

"Fried fish and potatoes, and elderberry wine."

"I shall choke," Peggy cried, "anything anybody says to-day strikes me
so funny."

"You can laugh at me," Mabel said, unexpectedly, "I don't care. I ain't
funny."

Peggy sank on the sand and gave way to merriment. Mabel regarded her
kindly, and Elizabeth took advantage of the occasion to tie four
shoe-strings in double bows, and comb two curly heads with the side comb
of which she relieved the helpless Peggy.

"This week has been such an awful strain," Peggy said, wiping her eyes,
"that whenever I get a reaction, I'm off. Oh, there come the boys, now."

"Awfully sorry," Tom said, hurrying down the beach. He gave a hand to
Peggy, which she shook heartily, and then extended it to Elizabeth, who
was a little farther away.

Elizabeth gave a little shriek, and put her own hands behind her back.

"I've got a kind of a sore finger," she said.

"I'll remember and not scrunch it," Tom said, "if I get the chance, that
is."

"It's going to be sore all the week, isn't it, Elizabeth?" asked the
irrepressible Peggy. "I'm all right, because I'm--oh!--oh!" she
shrieked, glancing at Tom's blazing hair.

"What's all this mystery?" Bill said, joining the group.

"Peggy is just slightly indisposed, as usual," Tom said. "She has one of
her light attacks of mental derangement."

"I'm a psycho--psycho--whatever--it--is case," Peggy said. "I'll be all
right when I have had most of what's under there."

"It's a giant's grave full of clams and oysters and ice-cream and potato
salud and pumpkin pie," Madget elucidated in a sing-song voice, "and I
am going to have some of all of it."

"Doesn't leave much room for the giant, does it, Madget?" Tom said, "but
you are right about having some of all of it. We have a nice New York
guy coming pretty soon. I asked him specially for you, Elizabeth. I know
you have a warm spot in your heart for anybody that lives around Grant's
Tomb."

"Is he your cousin?" Elizabeth said.

"No, he's just a fellow I see around the town sometimes. We hit it off
pretty well, and he doesn't know many people."

"What's his name?"

"Stoddard, Robert Stoddard."

"Where does he live?"

"New York City, New York State, Manhattan Island."

"I mean, what part of New York?"

"Oh, I don't know that. New York's all New York to me."

"I'm going to live in New York next year," Elizabeth said.

"I thought you always had."

"No, we lived in New Jersey, but now we're going to take an apartment in
town. It's just been decided, and I am so excited about it, I can hardly
breathe."

"What about school?" Peggy asked.

"I am going to study with Jean this winter. She has always had private
teachers, you know."

"That will be fine for you," Peggy said, "but don't let's think about
next winter. When do we eat, Bill?"

"In about half an hour, or less."

"Come on up to the grove," Tom said. "I told Bob I'd meet him by the
road and kind of work him in among the crowd. We sure have a raft of
relations when they are all got together."

"Shall we bring Madget and Mabel?"

"Sure. Moses is up there now, right in the heart of the picnic. He was
trying to catch watermelon juice between the cracks of the table, where
they were cutting it, the last I saw of him."

"I want some watermelon," said Madget, leading the procession.

"Did you see what I did?" Peggy whispered to Elizabeth as they followed
the others. "I shook hands with Tom. I never thought. I just did, that's
all."

"But you didn't have your last red-head."

"He made the last red-head, don't you see?"

"I never thought of that. Do you think he counts that way?"

"I don't know whether he does or not. I don't want to count him, but I
want to play fair. Only I shouldn't think, as a general proposition,
that shaking hands with your last red-head mattered one way or the
other. I didn't even consciously remember that he was my last red-head."

"Well, then, I don't think he's the one. If you had really counted him
first as a red-head and then shaken hands with him, you'd have to call
him the first boy you shook hands with, but he really isn't, as it
stands. Now that you've counted him, if you shook hands with him again,
why----"

"Well, you bet I won't. I'll put my hands behind me the way you did."

"I thought just in time."

Tom dropped behind his friends.

"Bill wants you to walk with him," he said to Peggy.

"Sure I do, but Tom said it first," Bill grinned, "he wants to walk with
you, Elizabeth."

"I'll beat you climbing up the bank," Peggy cried, making for the sheer
wall of soil and roots ahead of them.

"You won't beat me," Elizabeth said, "I'll go round by the road, thank
you."

"Some people have a great amount of superfluous energy," Tom said, "Bill
and Peggy are pretty well matched for that."

"Peggy is only a tomboy at times," Elizabeth said, "she really has quite
an old mind, when you get to know her as well as I do."

"I'd rather get to know you as well as she does."

"Well, she sees me every day, almost."

"I wish it hadn't been almost halfway through the summer before you and
I met. I've got to go home Monday," Tom said, mournfully.

"I didn't know that. I thought you were going to stay through September,
like the rest of us."

"Well, it's all decided for Monday."

"That's too bad. It will break up our summer crowd, sort of."

"Is that all you care?"

"I--I'm sorry," said Elizabeth.

"Well, I suppose I ought to be thankful for small favours. I haven't
hardly seen you, except around at your grandfather's, and with Peggy and
everything."

"I think we've had a good time," Elizabeth said.

Tom kicked out at a giant horseshoe that obstructed his path.

"Darn the good time," he said.

"Well," said Elizabeth, hastily, "we'd better catch up with the
children. I don't know what they'll be into."

"They'll be all right," Tom muttered.

"Isn't that your friend waiting up there by the path?"

"Oh, I suppose so."

"Tom," Elizabeth said, "don't be cross. I haven't done anything, have
I?"

"No, and you won't do anything. That's the trouble. Even say a kind
word. Come ahead, I suppose I've got to collect that guy and drag him
round among the animals."

"That isn't a very nice way to speak of your relations."

"Elizabeth, there's Bill and Peggy talking to Bob--he'll keep a minute.
Aren't you sorry that I'm going away Monday?"

"Of course I am."

"How sorry?"

"Quite a lot."

"Will you write?"

"If Mother'll let me."

"Does she usually let you?"

"Well, she never has."

"You told me yourself that Peggy wrote to a boy. Bill's going to get her
to write to him."

"I said I would if my mother will let me."

"The question is--will she?"

"If she does, I will. Aren't you satisfied?"

"No, you are just saying that to please me!"

"Don't you want to be pleased?"

"Not like that."

"I don't know what you want me to say."

"Would you say it if you did?"

"How do I know?"

"Girls are the hardest things to get anything out of--Elizabeth"--little
beads of dampness stood out on Tom's forehead--"Elizabeth, will you, I
mean, do you, I mean, would you care----"

"Hurry up there," Peggy called.

"Everybody's supposed to take their places," Bill cried, "come ahead,
you two."

"They want us," Elizabeth said, relieved that the tête-à-tête was
over.

"We're all introduced," Peggy said, "but Elizabeth."

"Miss Swift, I want you to meet my friend Mr. Stoddard," Tom said, doing
the honours.

The tall boy standing between Peggy and Bill put out his hand, and
Elizabeth slipped hers into it.

"I am very glad to meet you, Mr. Stoddard," she said.

The warning cry from Peggy came too late.

"Now, you've done it!" she said.

"What has she done?" the tall boy asked. His eyes were brown and amused,
and he had to look down several inches even to reach the level of the
lanky Peggy.

"Nothing, really. She had a--sore finger, and I was afraid----"

"I've heard about that sore finger before," Bill said, "there's some
kind of a mystery about it."

"We're just full of the dickens to-day," Peggy explained, hastily, "this
sparkly air has gone to my head--our heads, I guess. Elizabeth always
behaves better than I do, but she's as far gone as she ever is to-day.
We've just been giggling at nothing all the morning."

"If you can call Mabel and Madget nothing," Elizabeth supplemented.

"Let's go eat, let's go eat, let's go eat," Bill chanted. "I am so
starved, I am weak. Tom and I didn't eat any breakfast this morning."

"I guess that's what's the matter with him," Elizabeth smiled at him.

"All right," Tom said in an undertone. "I'll come out of it--for you."

"It was me that you went into it for," Elizabeth whispered, saucily.

The Steppe children in a comparatively decorous row were much more
nearly a social success than on their first public appearance. They ate
steadily and conscientiously, and their table manners compared not
unfavourably with those of the other children of the party. Most of
these ate with their parents. Two boys of thirteen, twins, and two girls
a little younger than Peggy and Elizabeth were at the low table, at the
end of the two long rows of family tables that Tom had designed for his
guests.

"Bet you I can eat more clams than you can," Bill challenged Peggy.

"I hope you can," said Peggy, "my idea is to go easy on the clams, eat
two sweet potatoes, one lobster, a soupçon of bluefish, all the corn I
can hold, because that's the best of all, with that grand, sea-weedy
taste it's got, and this lovely, gooey, trickly butter. Then I shall
really fill up on cake and pie. I'm not going to eat any bread, because
that takes room."

"You are going to eat watermelon?" Bill asked, anxiously.

"I'm going to take one of those boatshaped pieces and get in," Peggy
said.

"The beauty of this party," Bob Stoddard said, "is that you can treat
everything like that. You can snuggle right down into all the edibles."

"I'm snuggling into my clams," Elizabeth said. "Isn't it funny that the
clams you get in New York are so distinct from these clams? They are
just like different animals."

"They _are_ different animals," Bob said. "You like New York, don't
you?"

"Love it."

"Well, here's to it, then," he lifted his clam shell gayly, and
Elizabeth gravely lifted one of her own. They drained the liquor
ceremoniously.

"I hope I shall see you in the winter," Bob Stoddard said.

"You'll see me," Tom interposed quickly, "I'm coming on to visit you in
my Christmas vacation."

"You said that last year."

"Well, this year I'm coming."

"I'm in a comatose condition," Peggy complained at dusk, as they
lingered under their favourite tree to talk over the events of the day.
"I hope nobody will ever mention any kind or variety of food to me
again. If Tom hadn't brought all that candy, I should feel better, and I
think those ice-cream cones we had on the way were nasty."

"They tasted nice and cooling at the time," Elizabeth said. "I wouldn't
want another one right now."

"And your family are all in the house there, eating," Peggy said. "Can't
you hear the merry clatter of their knives and forks?"

"Don't mention it, Peggy. Do you realize what happened to me?"

"You shook hands with that boy, you mean. I tried to warn you, but it
was all over before I could even cough."

"I know it, and I had been fortifying myself all summer long against
doing anything like that."

"Well, you won't have to remain in suspense like me."

"Maybe it's Tom for you, after all."

"No, I know it isn't. That's a nice boy, though. It would be funny if
you really did grow up and marry him."

"I'd rather marry somebody that I knew a little better."

"Well, if you do marry him, you will know him better, that's one
comfort. How's your brother?"

"He's pretty good. He--he----Oh, he's the best we could hope for him to
be."

"He's awfully handsome. Do you know what's happened over at my house? My
sister is getting ready to marry a man she isn't even on speaking terms
with. They had some kind of a ruction last night about the war or
something. He drove down, meaning to stay two or three days, and they
had this row, and he just turned around and went back. Meantime, we
merrily make trousseau and wedding chest."

"I wish that he'd never come," said Elizabeth.

"Oh, but he will. He'll be back to-morrow morning, with the bells on,
and the flags flying, and a footman on the step of his car to show how
classy he is. Just you wait."

"Oh, dear," said Elizabeth, with a glance toward the open window of the
dining room where her brother was sitting, "oh, dear, Peggy!"



                              CHAPTER XIX

                                  RUTH


The small reception room in the Farraday cottage had been converted into
a temporary sewing room, and here Elizabeth and Peggy were sewing on
their own blue dimity frocks, fitted to them by the Boston seamstress,
who had been working in the house, and finished except for the
hemstitching to be done on sleeves and collar. Peggy sewed neatly but
erratically, exploding into violent protestations when her thread
knotted or her scissors fell. Elizabeth found the steady rhythm of
hemming rather soothing to her, especially to-day, when her heart was so
heavy for her brother.

"Piggy's--I mean, Mr. Chambers' parents have sent the flat silver,"
Peggy announced, "and to my taste it's very hideous. It's the kind with
a beading all around it. If you are going to have elaborate silver,
why--have it. Have Cupids and little birds building nests, but if you
are going to have it simple, why, then it's a crime, I think, to have a
_little_ trimming on it."

"You've got very good natural taste, Peggy--my mother says so."

"I know it. So's Ruth. I bet she hates this. Just think, Elizabeth, if
you marry a man it's not only for keeps, but it's for every day, all the
time, whether he likes the things you loathe or not."

"Have you shaken hands with anybody yet, Peggy?"

"No, I haven't. Have you seen your future husband again?"

"I passed him on the street yesterday. I like a boy that really takes
his hat off, instead of fumbling at it."

"Tom certainly takes his hat off--like a streak."

"Too much like a streak. Besides, he always wears a cap."

"I like caps," said Peggy.

"I don't. I like hats. Bob Stoddard had a hat even at the picnic."

"Look here, Elizabeth," Peggy said, seriously, "I hope you really won't
get interested in that Stoddard boy. It would be kind of uncanny, and I
should feel too awfully responsible."

"You didn't do anything about it."

"I got you into this counting business. I don't really think there is
anything in it, but if there was, I should feel guilty all the rest of
my life. I don't want to have your marital unhappiness to consider, the
way I expect to consider Ruth's."

"Mr. Chambers came back, didn't he?"

"I told you he would. They are on the porch now, having a pow-wow.
Mother was so rejoiced over the prodigal's return that it was pitiful."

"Peggy, don't you wish that Ruth had just happened to fancy my Buddy,
and to have married him instead?"

"Goodness, yes. Anybody. That doesn't sound very flattering. You know I
would have adored it, but that's too great a piece of luck even to
contemplate. I'd rather she'd marry--Bill Dean than Piggy Chambers.

    "I do not like you, Doctor Fell (Chambers)
    The reason why I cannot tell,
    But this alone I know full well,
    I do not like you, Doctor Fell (Chambers)."

"It would be nice to have lots of money," Elizabeth said, "and to have
chauffeurs, and butlers, and tall, elegant footmen in green livery, and
estates and things."

"Oh, yes, it would, if you didn't have to take any incumbrances with
them. If you had to be handcuffed to a fat man, in addition, that would
be something else again."

"Life is very bewildering. Don't you think so, Peggy?"

"It doesn't bewilder me. It disgusts me sometimes. All these mixups
could be avoided, if people only wouldn't be short-sighted."

"Some trouble seems to come from other sources."

"Yes, but most all the things that people suffer from could be avoided
if they weren't so silly. I notice that all the time."

"Well, so do I."

"Hark," said Peggy, "they're at it again. If they row like that before
they are married, what will happen to them in their honeymoon stages?"

"He's going," Elizabeth said; "she's letting him out of the front door."

"Good riddance to perfectly good rubbish," said Peggy, "till dinner
time."

                               * * * * *

"No," Ruth's clear voice rose, distinctly, "no, no. I mean what I say."

"So do I mean what I say. I'll see you at dinner."

"If you like."

"Oh, I like!"

"At seven then."

"At seven."

The door closed after him, and Ruth, looking wearier and paler than
Elizabeth had ever seen her, opened the door that led from the reception
room to the hallway, and came in.

"Take some seats," said Peggy, hospitably.

Ruth sank into a big wicker armchair without speaking.

"Lovely weather we're having for this time of year," Peggy continued,
conversationally. "Ruth, dear, I love you."

"I'm glad of that," Ruth said.

"So do I!" said Elizabeth, timidly.

"I'm glad of that, too," said Ruth Farraday, with her charming, wistful
smile. "Well, children, you don't need to go on with those dresses. You
won't have occasion to wear them."

"What?" said Peggy.

"I've just told Mr. Chambers that I won't marry him."

"Does he know it?"

"Well, not exactly, Peggy--that's his trouble--but he will know it.
I'm--I'm through."

"I don't believe it," Peggy said.

"I do, and that's the principal thing," Ruth said. "I never realized how
he felt about certain things before. I hadn't given much thought to his
attitude about the war and all that. I knew he had been a sort of
pacifist, and that he had German friends and business connections. I
like men to be broad-minded. I don't mind a man that sticks to honest
conclusions, if they're sincere, but when I find they are coloured by
physical or moral cowardice, why, then I--I'm through. Albert Chambers
is a coward, and he's a selfish coward. We've had it all out and I
know."

"Hooray," said Peggy, "I could have told you that any time this summer."

"And I'm through with marriage or any idea of marriage, so there we
are."

"I don't envy you the sweet task of breaking it to Mother."

"Haven't you got any feeling, Peggy? Don't you care how hard the things
are I've been going through?"

"Don't I?" said Peggy. She flung the folds of muslin wide, and made an
impetuous dive for her sister. "Oh, Ruthie, Ruthie, Ruthie," she cried,
"I'm so glad, I'm trying not to believe it, for fear it isn't so."

Ruth clung to her wordlessly.

"I love you, I love you," Peggy whispered.

"I tried to do the right thing," Ruth said. "It's been hard to know what
was right."

"_You're_ all right," said Peggy, feebly. "Excuse these tears all down
your back, Ruthie."

"I've got to be at home for lunch," Elizabeth said. "I--I--they're
expecting me."

"Don't mind us," Peggy said, "this is only a small family reunion."

"I think I'd really better go."

"I'll write a note to your brother, Elizabeth, when it's settled. Mr.
Chambers doesn't even understand it yet, you know."

"I wouldn't have told Buddy unless you had told me to," Elizabeth said.

Ruth smiled.

"I might have known you wouldn't," she said, "your own kind of people
have your own sense of decency, and the others never have."

"I'm so glad I seem to you like your own kind of people." Elizabeth took
Ruth Farraday's out-stretched hand gratefully.

"Well, you do, dear, and you always have. On your own account, I mean."
she added, quickly.

"That's what I meant, too," said Elizabeth, shyly.

                               * * * * *

It was hard to sit through the mid-day meal with the secret that would
change Buddy's world for him locked in her breast, still Elizabeth
managed it somehow. He looked very pale and worn, but the three men kept
up a lively discussion of the impending Presidential campaign and other
political matters. She noticed the respect that both her father and
Buddy paid to Grandfather's opinions on all these subjects.

Elizabeth wondered how it could be that Buddy could laugh his hearty
laugh, before he knew the thing that she could have told him or how,
when the conversation turned to the question of bait for a day's fishing
on the banks that the three men contemplated, he could discuss worms and
fishing tackle so eagerly.

"Speaking of fish," Buddy said, "it seems to me that these are
extraordinarily good herrings we are eating. I don't suppose there is
any difference in herrings, but----"

"Well, you don't suppose right, then," Grandfather said, "there is as
much difference in the herrings that come from Herring River and those
you get over to the westward as there is between some folks. The meat's
whiter and sweeter in the Herring River herrings. I used to think it was
a great thing to go after them in the spring. It don't make no
difference where a herring has been putting in his time in the other
seasons, come spring he makes for the river bed where he was born. I've
seen them so thick on their way up Herring River that they couldn't swim
straight, but had to kind of flop over one side to make way for t'other.
I used to get five cents a hundred for 'em, and kitch 'em as fast as I
could haul 'em out."

"That isn't true, is it?" asked Elizabeth. "Do herrings go back to the
place where they were born?"

"Yes, and sometimes they swim a great many hundreds of miles to get
there. They seek the Southern waters in the cold weather, you know, but
they always come back once a year to the stream in which they were
born," Elizabeth's father explained to her.

"The place where their great-grandfathers were spawned. It's natural,"
Grandfather said.

"I guess it is natural," Elizabeth said, soberly.

"You bet it is," said Buddy.

They took a drive in the new roadster that afternoon, and Buddy seemed
so happy and so free during the entire course of the day that Elizabeth
was entirely unprepared to find him, as she found him some time after
supper, flung across the bottom of the big four-poster bed in the guest
room, with his head buried in his hands.

"Buddy," she said, "Buddy, dear."

"Oh, I'm all right, Sis. Run along."

"I thought perhaps you wanted to walk with me to the post office."

"I do, but it isn't time yet."

"It's nearly time."

"When it's time, we'll go."

"Buddy, I wouldn't feel too bad. Things mightn't be so dreadful as you
think."

"They might, and then again they mightn't."

"I wouldn't give up."

"I've given up everything I can give up."

"You seem--pretty much all right."

"Live or die, sink or swim, survive or perish. Them's my slogans. I'll
come through all right. I _am_ all right. Got to be."

"Oh, Buddy," Elizabeth said, "you _will_ be all right."

"It's a funny thing, little sister, that you don't irritate me more. It
seems to me that you used to be quite an irritating child, and now I
scarcely mind you, no matter how Paul Pryish or Polly Anna-ish you get."

"I could irritate you more if I wanted to."

"I'm perfectly willing to take that for granted."

                               * * * * *

Just as they reached the post office they met the Chambers' car piled
with a full luggage equipment. Albert Chambers sat in lonely state
within, looking neither to right nor left.

"He didn't go back to dinner, after all," Elizabeth thought, "or at any
rate, he didn't stay."

Buddy made no comment on this encounter, but he walked composedly
through the crowd overflowing the little building, his head held high,
and all the colour drained from his white face. He even insisted on
stopping at the drug store and regaling Elizabeth with her favourite
marshmallow and maple nut sundae, though he refused all refreshment for
himself.

"One thing that the life over there taught you was that you've got to
get through every day somehow," he said, thoughtfully. "I wish ice-cream
soda didn't drip so much. There's a row of pink rings and chocolate
rings all along this counter. I don't like them."

"He thinks everything is perfectly horrid," Elizabeth said to herself,
"and yet he doesn't give in. Oh, I think he's perfectly splendid!"

They made a detour and came out by the Flatiron field, where the station
road divided itself into two separate byways in the crux of which was a
letter box. Ruth Farraday was in the act of mailing a letter there. It
dropped inside as Elizabeth and Buddy approached.

"I was just mailing you a letter," Ruth said.

"Can't I get it out?" Buddy asked.

"No," Ruth said, "turn and walk with me home, and I'll tell you.
Elizabeth knows already. I've broken my engagement. No, don't say
anything. I--I just want to tell you, that's all."

"There is so much I _might_ say!" Buddy said.

"The reason I broke it has nothing to do with anything else--except that
I broke it," she explained, incoherently. "It doesn't mean anything but
that. I shall never marry now, I'm going into reconstruction work
abroad."

"Not--not right away," Buddy said.

"As soon as I can make my plans--but there is one thing I want you to
believe. I've written it in the letter, but I don't know whether I've
managed to make it as clear as I meant to. I've broken my engagement
only because Mr. Chambers and I were not suited to each other."

"I--know that," Buddy said.

"So this might just as well be good-bye between us."

"If you wish it so?"

"Do you doubt I wish it?"

"No," Buddy said, "I know how you feel."

"Then--then good-bye."

"Right here?" said Buddy. "I thought we were going to walk home with
you."

"I'm nearly home," Ruth said. "Say it now, please."

"Good-bye," said Buddy. He stood looking at her for a moment, levelly
into her eyes. Then he turned away, wheeling as if he were under orders
to march.

"Tell me what you know, Elizabeth," he said, as they walked on, and
Elizabeth told him of what had happened at the Farradays that morning.

"But I thought things were going to be all fixed," she concluded,
miserably, "and now they seem to be in a worse tangle than ever. I don't
see what she's sending you away for."

"That's all right," said Buddy. "I see."

"But she said it was good-bye between you."

"That's all right. It's an ethical question with her. She split up with
him because she couldn't stand him, not because she wanted me. It's like
a gentleman's agreement, you see. You enter into a mutual arrangement
under the supposition that the other fellow is as decent as yourself.
When you find he isn't, that releases you, unless the contract is
actually signed. If he'd been all right, she would have stuck. She wants
me to understand that."

"But you do understand it, and I don't see why she has to be so cool."

"I want her to be cool," said Buddy. "What do you think I wanted? To go
in and spend the evening?"

"Well, that would be better than this."

"No, it wouldn't," said Buddy.

"I don't understand you," Elizabeth said. "Perhaps you are not feeling
very well, Buddy. You looked awfully pale there in the post office."

"I'm not pale now, am I?"

"No-o, but you look so kind of queer, and you act queer, too, Buddy. I
understood why you respected her feelings when she wouldn't break her
engagement, but now that she has, I don't see why you go right on
respecting them. I--I thought you wanted to marry her yourself."

"Marry her? Why, I'm going to," said Buddy. "That's the point."

"When--when?" said Elizabeth.

"Just as soon as I can get three weeks' salary in my jeans."

"But she said she was going away, and--and everything."

"Oh, I'll attend to all that!" said Buddy, happily. "Don't you worry,
Sister."



                               CHAPTER XX

                                GOOD-BYE


Elizabeth was making a round of farewell calls. Her summer on Cape Cod
was over. Her trunk had already been packed and sent by express to New
York, with all the other family baggage excepting the light motor trunk
and bags that they were to carry in the car.

Moses and Madget and Mabel surrounded her when she arrived at the
Steppes.

"You look like a lady in them clothes," Moses said, "I didn't know you."

"She's got gloves on," Mabel said, "and a pink hat."

"Loverly gloves," said Madget, dreamily. "I want a pink hat."

"I want flowers on _my_ hat," said Mabel, critically.

"How nice your house looks," Elizabeth said. "The kitchen floor is
clean, and everything put away."

"Mis' Laury Ann, she's learning me how to do housework, and I learn
Mabel pretty good. Marmer she bought some dishes. See 'em there. Mabel
and me, we like to keep 'em shined up."

On the two shelves over the pump an array of formidably coloured, coarse
crockery had made its appearance. Large pink roses heavily smeared with
gilt were the prevailing decoration. Three pink coffee cups, with a
gilded moustache protector in each, occupied a place of honour.

"Me and Marmer and Mabel has these," Moses informed her proudly.
"Madget, she drinks out of a mug. It's only a plain white mug, so we
don't put it where it will show. Ma, she says she had just as soon we
would eat out o' them dishes if we'll clean 'em up after."

"Who does the cooking?"

"I told you I done the cooking once," Moses said, "how many times have
you got to be said it over to?"

"Moses!"

"Well," said Moses, argumentatively, "if you was old enough to boss me,
it would be different, but you ain't."

"I'm bigger than you are, Moses, and you are not big enough to boss me."

"No," said Moses, "but I'm big enough to fight you to see who's got the
most strength. Only girls can't fight."

"Only morally," said Elizabeth.

"Huh?" said Moses, staring blankly.

"Well, never mind. You take care of your mother and sister and be a
nice, clean boy, and--and learn your lessons at school."

"Then what'll I get?"

"You'll get to be comfortable and happy by your own efforts."

"Well, I ain't going to do what anybody tells me--much."

"Tell yourself, Moses. Tell yourself to be good, and then mind yourself.
I do."

"But you'm a girl," Moses said.

"It doesn't make any difference who you are, Moses. If you don't try to
learn that lesson about minding yourself, you won't get on very well."

"Who says so?"

"Miss Laury Ann says so, for one."

"Did she tell you to mind yourself?"

"She--she showed me how to do it."

"Does she mind herself?"

"Always, that's what makes her--so nice and kind. You see, Moses, you
are the man of the family, and the man of the family has to be
responsible for it and have a good control of it. So you've got to have
a good control of yourself." The word was unfortunate.

"Ma's got a control," Moses said. "Little Eva."

"I didn't mean that kind of control, Moses. I meant--well, you just
think what I meant. I want you to promise me that you will watch
yourself and tell yourself what's right and wrong, just as if you were
telling it to somebody else."

"Well, I'll see about it," said Moses, "but if I do it, _they_ got to,"
he pointed to his sisters.

"Try it a while for yourself, and then if it works, teach it to them,"
said Elizabeth with sudden inspiration.

"Well, I'll teach it to them, anyway," Moses decided.

"Here comes Marmer," Mabel cried.

"I just slipped over to Mis' Hawes'," Mrs. Steppe explained,
apologetically. "I had a matter I wanted to consult her about. My spine
kinder give way last night, and I thought when she was going into a
trance, she might see if Little Eva had anything to say about it. It
ain't important enough for her to go into one special for."

Elizabeth stared at the vision in purple velvet--a tight-fitting basque
of obsolete make gripped the eighteen-inch waist inexorably, and the
skirt, cut to the prevailing eight inches above the floor, exposed high
white canvas shoes with knotted laces, shoes that had apparently never
been cleaned in the course of their long and useful existence. Mrs.
Steppe had not prefaced this elaborate toilet by arranging her hair, and
the light strands stood out from her face, straggling and unkempt as
usual.

"I'm glad to see you," Elizabeth said, a little confusedly. "I just came
in to say good-bye. I'm going away to-night, you know."

"What train be you taking?"

"I'm not taking any train. We're motoring."

"Well," said Mrs. Steppe. "I'm glad you got an automobile to go in. I'm
one of those that likes to see my friends get on in the world."

"So--so do I," said Elizabeth. "What a pretty colour that dress is."

"I like to wear silks and velvets," Mrs. Steppe said, with the slightest
emphasis on the _I_. "Some people don't care nothing about it."

"I love silks and velvets myself, and that's a lovely quality."

"When I put my money in anything, I like to put it in something good."

"Yes, indeed. I think that's my brother tooting his horn for me, so I'll
have to say good-bye."

"It's quite a little car, ain't it?" Mrs. Steppe surveyed the new
roadster from the vantage point of the window. "For my taste, I like
these limousines, but anything that will go is better than nothing."

"Yes, indeed," said Elizabeth, "good-bye."

"Good-bye," said Mrs. Steppe, "take care of yourself. I hope you'll find
me in better health next summer than you have this."

"Good-bye, Mabel. Good-bye, Madget."

"Good-bye," said Mabel, "come again."

"Kiss me again, Madget," said Elizabeth, "aren't you a little sorry I am
going? Oh, be good children, won't you?"

"Bring me a present some time," said Mabel.

"I will."

"Well, if you say you will, you will--I know that," said Mabel.

"Leggo," said their mother, "leggo. That little automobile out there is
waiting for her. Tell Moses to get off that front seat and come back
into the house. I don't know where the boy's manners is. I ain't never
seen any sign of them."

"Oh, dear!" said Elizabeth, as she drove away with Buddy, "it doesn't
seem as if anybody with so little intelligence could be so selfish as
that Mis' Steppe is. It saddens me every time I go there. I know I've
had a funny call, but it doesn't seem funny to me. It never does."

"Now, you want to be dropped at Peggy's, don't you?"

"Yes, please."

"Give Peggy my love and tell her to keep us informed about her sister."

"I guess you've kept informed about her ever since she left."

"A little additional information at times won't do any harm. I don't
want her to spring anything on me--like getting out of the country."

"She's getting ready to go abroad."

"She thinks she's getting ready to go abroad. I just want about ten days
before the day she thinks she's going."

"She's getting her passport."

"I want her to," said Buddy, affectionately, "I want her to have
everything go the way she thinks she wants it to go, and then at the end
I want to step right in and smash it."

"Just like that?" said Elizabeth.

"Just like that," said Buddy, happily.

                               * * * * *

"I don't believe I'm going to be able to bear this," said Peggy. "I
thought it was going to be all right to say good-bye. Everybody has to
at this time of the year, but--but that doesn't make it any easier. I
don't want to part with you at all. I couldn't sleep last night,
thinking of it."

"Neither could I," said Elizabeth.

"It's a whole year till next summer."

"I know it."

"I figured it out. It will be at least two hundred and seventy-two days
before we are down here together again."

"Will it? We might visit each other in the winter."

"We might, but will we? You know my parents and I know yours. They
always have other plans for their offspring in the vacations."

"How is your mother?" Elizabeth asked.

"She's pretty good. I did Mother an injustice. She's a better loser than
I thought she'd be. She's been awfully decent to Ruth. Elizabeth, do you
know what I found out about Ruth?"

"Oh, what?"

"I found out why she broke her engagement. I would have broken mine. She
found out that he falsified his income tax report. He bragged about it
to her. He thought it was smart. She wouldn't stand for it, that's all.
If he hadn't given himself away, she'd be Mrs. Millionaire-slacker-Piggy
Chambers, and half over to Europe by this time."

"I don't like to think of it."

"Well, then, think of me," said Peggy. "You don't care as much as I
care. You are going back to your Jean and you like her best. There, I
said I would bite my tongue out before I said that to you, and now I've
gone and said it."

"Let's not care what we say," Elizabeth said. "I do love Jean.
Grandmother always says it doesn't make any difference how many children
a woman has, she always has a different place in her heart for every
one. I guess that's the way it is with friends. None of them can occupy
the same place."

"I only have one in my place," said Peggy, "you are my most intimate
friend and I am not yours. Well, I guess I'll have to get reconciled to
it."

"I have two most intimate friends," said Elizabeth, "don't cry, Peggy."

"Well, you're crying yourself, that's something. It's--it's a great
deal."

"Good-bye," said Elizabeth, "there's Buddy's horn again."

"Good-bye," said Peggy. "Oh, I won't say good-bye. I--I guess I'll come
over there and see you off."

"She won't," Elizabeth thought, "she's just saying that to postpone the
evil hour. All right, Peggy, dear," she said aloud, "good-bye
till--good-bye!" and she flung her arms around Peggy's neck in a
suffocating embrace.

                               * * * * *

In the old valanced rocking chairs before the living-room windows
Grandfather and Grandmother Swift sat alone in the gathering darkness.

"House seems kinder lonesome to-night, don't it, Mother? Hard lines to
lose the whole family all to once. They ought to gone off one by one,
so's we wouldn't notice it so much."

"Times come and seasons change," said Grandmother. "We have to expect to
let 'em go. We are lucky to have them coming, even if we do have to let
them go again."

"Young John--Buddy she calls him--is as likely a young feller as I ever
see."

"And as handsome."

"John--he's made a fine job of his business and a fine job of his life,
as far as I can see. He keeps remarkable young for a man of his way of
living, too. Don't dissipate none. I expect that's the secret of it. He
picked himself up a pretty likely wife, too--good looking and sweet
natured and no nonsense about her. _She_ looks like her, too."

"She's going to be about her mother's size, I should say, when she gets
her growth. She ain't quite so fair, but she's got the same eyes, and
the same long, light-coloured lashes."

"But her mouth's all Swift," said Grandfather. "You know that tintype we
got of John. Why, cut her hair off, and put her in a boy's shirt and
necktie and she'd be the image of him."

"When they stood up there together by the door just before they started,
and he put his arm around your shoulder, the likeness stood out plain
then."

"Where's Judidy to-night? Gone out with her feller?"

"No, not to-night. The poor critter felt so bad when she see that car
pulling out of the yard that she burst out into a fit of crying, and put
her apron over her head and run off. She hasn't been heard from since."

"Judidy was fond of _her_, and she had cause to be. I guess she give her
almost a complete wedding outfit out of her own fixings that she brought
down."

"It was pretty cunning of her to give away the silk things she set such
a store by. She washed 'em all out herself and run new ribbons in them,
and then went and laid them out on Judidy's bed, with her eyes full of
tears because she was parting with them. She found out that Judidy had
set her heart on silk underwear for her wedding outfit, and she thought
it all out that she had ought to give them to her. 'I have about
everything I want, Grandma,' she said, 'and I've had a summer's wear out
of them.' She don't exaggerate nothing much, that she does."

"She's been pretty plucky, the way she took right hold helping you in
the kitchen. She's helped me, too. When we was getting in the hay, and
Zeckal was busy all the time she mixed up the hog's vittles and fed the
hens, and carted big pails of water around. Faith, Hope, and Charity,
they've been squealing considerable to-night, I notice. I guess they
kinder feel the absence of a friend."

"You remember the first night she come, Father? You was kind o'
disappointed in her."

"So was you, but you didn't let on nothing."

"You said that you kinder hoped that John's girl was going to be a
little more like folks."

Grandfather chuckled.

"Did I?" he said. "Well, she turned out to be a good deal more like
folks than most people ever gets to be."

Grandmother wiped her eyes.

"There," she said, "I'm most always able to be philosophical about
everything, but to tell the truth, I don't know how I am going to be
able to get along without that child."

"Well--" Grandfather took off his spectacles and wiped them carefully
before he transferred his attention to the process of mopping his
forehead--"well, I don't know how I'm going to get along without her,
either," he said.


                                THE END

                 [Illustration: THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS
                          GARDEN CITY, N. Y.]



Transcriber Notes:

Passages in italics were indicated by _underscores_.

Small caps were replaced with ALL CAPS.

Throughout the dialogues, there were words used to mimic accents of the
speakers. Those words were retained as-is.

The illustrations have been moved so that they do not break up
paragraphs and so that they are next to the text they illustrate.

Errors in punctuations and inconsistent hyphenation were not corrected
unless otherwise noted.

In the caption of the illustration on page 46, a period was added at the
end of the last sentence.

On page 6, "look a might" was replaced with "look a mite".

On page 40, "strangers smile" was replaced with "stranger's smile".

On page 60, "Peggy s!" was replaced with "Peggy's".

On page 181, "Promethueus Bound" was replaced with "Prometheus Bound".

On page 185, a single quotation mark was replaced with a double
quotation mark.

On page 207, a quotation mark was added before "Do you want to come".

On page 279, "overt he pump" was replaced with "over the pump".





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