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Title: Minerva's Manoeuvres - The Cheerful Facts of a "Return to Nature"
Author: Loomis, Charles Battell
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          MINERVA’S MANŒUVRES



------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Illustration: The balloon, Minerva, a shriek and a shout.]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          Minerva’s Manœuvres

               The Cheerful Facts of a “Return to Nature”


                                   By

                         CHARLES BATTELL LOOMIS

                    Author of “Cheerful Americans,”
                                  Etc.


                   Illustrated by Frederic R. Gruger


                             [Illustration]



                                New York
                         A. S. Barnes & Company
                                  1905



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                           COPYRIGHT, 1905 BY
                           A. S. BARNES & CO.
                         Published August, 1905



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   To

                                 J. B.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                PREFACE.


When a play makes a tremendous hit the author is called before the
curtain and after bowing and allowing his heart (and his head) to swell
more and more, he generously points to the actors and actresses who are
grouped around him as much as to say, “They did it.”

And then the audience goes wild at such unselfishness and cries of
“Speech, speech!” rend the air and the author has arrived at the
happiest moment of his life. He feels that all creation was evolved just
for this supreme moment and his knees shake and (in a voice surcharged
with emotion) he says things that do not read well in print, but which
rouse the house to greater enthusiasm, and he wishes that William
Shakespeare could have lived to see this night, and goes home to dream
happy dreams.

Sometimes he can’t contain his speech any longer than the end of the
third act, and with comparatively little applause, and, it may be, only
one solitary call of “Author” (from his devoted brother in the front
row) he rushes to the footlights and delivers himself of his pent up
eloquence. And then perhaps the critics jump on the piece and kill it,
and the next day he wishes he hadn’t spoken.

But no dramatic author would think of going out before the gray asbestos
curtain had been raised on the overture to say to the cold, sternly
critical audience that this was the proudest moment of his life and that
he hoped the actors would see their duty and do it. That would be
considered assurance.

And yet we writers of—novels—do rush on before the first chapter has
been reached and sometimes we tell how it is going to end and sometimes
we give the names of the authorities from whom we lifted our central
idea, and sometimes we strike an attitude of timid uncertainty and
bespeak the indulgence of the reader—but always without response of any
kind.

Not a hand, not a cry of “Author”: nothing but the gray asbestos curtain
of silence.

Of course there are cases when a book runs into the “six best selling
class” and people get into the habit of buying it and the habit is not
broken for weeks and weeks; and then, after the twentieth edition is
exhausted the author comes out with a “Preface to the twenty-first
edition,” and as he smells the fragrance of the bouquets that the
critics have handsomely handed out and hears the plaudits of those who
have thronged to read him he says brokenly, “I thank you. You have
raised me from a point where I was living on my brother in the front row
to a position where I can take my pick of motor cars” (Not automobiles,
mind you), “and while I never thought of money while I was writing the
book, now I both think and have a good deal of it. Thank you! Thank
you!”

But I, (rather than not come out at all) am going to squeeze before the
gray asbestos and say “Thank you. Critics, readers; gentle and
otherwise, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

“If there is anything good in this book, believe me it is the characters
who are responsible for it.

“And let me take this occasion to say that the book would never have
been written if I had not been encouraged by one who has the faculty of
making a man do his best. She is here to-night, but I am not permitted
to mention her.

“I have had great fun writing ‘Minerva’s Manœuvres,’ and this is really
the proudest moment of my life. (Cheers.) My heroine, Minerva, is a good
girl and I can give her a fine character if she should ever seek a
place—in your hearts.

“Thank you! Thank you!”

(Curtain goes up.)

                                                                C. B. L.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CONTENTS.


             CHAPTER.                                PAGE.
                   I. A COERCED COOK                     1
                  II. MINERVA STUDIES NATURE            14
                 III. AN EAST WIND                      27
                  IV. A FRIENDLY BURGLAR                40
                   V. THE CONSTABLE CALLS               58
                  VI. MISS PUSSY TRIES FLY PAPER        73
                 VII. MINERVA’S PASTORAL                81
                VIII. THE ’CORDEEN COMES                91
                  IX. A NAKED SCUTTERER                108
                   X. WE PLAN A CONCERT                123
                  XI. THE HORSE IN THE KITCHEN         134
                 XII. “THE SIMPLE LIFE”                140
                XIII. AN UNSUCCESSFUL FIASCO           158
                 XIV. THE-FOURTH-OF-JULY               173
                  XV. MINERVA’S NATURE STUDY           194
                 XVI. WHEN THE LAW IS ON               206
                XVII. THE STORY OF A PIPE              217
               XVIII. WE FIND A PIANO                  225
                 XIX. TH’ OULD SCUT                    240
                  XX. A MUSICAL TRAMP                  252
                 XXI. WE MAKE HAY                      258
                XXII. “DING DONG BELL”                 266
               XXIII. ELIGIBLE                         276
                XXIV. PAT CASEY CALLS                  292
                 XXV. A CONTINUOUS WEEK END            299
                XXVI. WE INVITE MORE GUESTS            310
               XXVII. A HOT NIGHT                      319
              XXVIII. “TRAMP’S REST”                   333
                XXIX. MINERVA AND THE SNAKE            339
                 XXX. A HORSEHEAD PERCH                350
                XXXI. THE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY        361
               XXXII. WE GO TO THE FAIR                373
              XXXIII. CHERRY DISPOSES                  392
               XXXIV. MINERVA SETTLES IT               409



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                       PAGE

             THE BALLOON, MINERVA, A         _Frontispiece_
             SHRIEK, AND A SHOUT

             “STEAL AWAY”                               148

             “TH’ OULD SCUT”                            242

             SHE MADE A CROQUET WICKET OF               358
             HERSELF



------------------------------------------------------------------------


        [Illustration]


                               CHAPTER I

                            A COERCED COOK.


        AT the last minute we learned that the girl we had counted upon
        to do our cooking at Clover Lodge had scarlet fever, and as she
        was the only local girl that we could hire—New England girls
        preferring to work in a “shop” to domestic service—we were at
        our wits’ end.

        In our extremity Mrs. Vernon (my wife) made a last appeal to
        Minerva. She went into the kitchen of our New York flat and
        said,

        “Minerva, Mamie Logan, the girl we expected to have up at Clover
        Lodge, has scarlet fever.”

        Minerva was blacking the stove (as I could see from the dining
        room), but she stopped and turned around as she always did when
        her mistress spoke to her, and said “Yas’m.”

        “Well, do you know what that means, Minerva?”

        “Means she’s sick, ma’am.”

        “Yes, but it also means that I haven’t anybody to cook for me up
        there.”

        “Yas’m.”

        “Well, don’t you think you could go up if we gave you five
        dollars a month more than you’re getting now?”

        Minerva rubbed her already black arm with the blacking brush in
        an absent-minded sort of way as she said,

        “’Deed I hate the country. It’s so dismal.”

        _I_ would have given up trying to get her to come then, as her
        tone sounded final to me, but Mrs. Vernon caught a gleam of
        willingness in her expression, and she said,

        “Some country places may be doleful, Minerva, but Clover Lodge
        is in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and there’s
        a light kitchen and you can take ‘Miss Pussy,’ you know. I’m
        sure you’ll like it and the work won’t be as hard as it is here
        and there’s lots of fresh air. And I’ll lend you books to read.
        If you won’t come we’ll have to give up going, as I won’t take a
        stranger up from the city.”

        “Yas’m,” said Minerva, turning to the stove and beginning to use
        the brush again.

        “Well, will you go, Minerva?”

        “Yas’m.”

        “Oh, you dear good thing,” said my wife, and I fully expected
        her to hug Minerva.

        She came in to where I was finishing my second cup of coffee and
        said,

        “Minerva is a jewel. She’s going up. Do you know, in some ways
        it’s better than if we had Mamie Logan because Minerva is a much
        better cook and she won’t have any beaux from the village to
        make a noise in the kitchen in the evening—”

        “No, but you may have to import beaux from Thompson Street to
        solace her loneliness,” said I. “If I know the kind at all,
        Minerva will die one day away from New York.”

        “Nonsense,” said Ethel. “She can’t help falling in love with the
        view from the kitchen windows. That lovely old purple Mount
        Nebo.”

        I had my doubts of a New York born and bred colored cook falling
        in love with any view that did not comprehend a row of city
        houses somewhere in its composition, but I said nothing. The
        doctor had told me that Ethel absolutely needed a long rest in
        the “real country,” hill country preferred, and even if I had to
        go out and help Minerva in the kitchen I was going up.

        We had spent a delightful week at Clover Lodge the year before
        with the Chauncey Wheelocks, but this year they were going to
        Europe and had proposed our renting it furnished and had
        promised Mamie Logan as cook. But a _cordon bleu_ is not immune
        from scarlet fever, as we had found to our vexation—although I
        doubt if we felt it as much as Mamie did. She, by the way, had
        actually liked scenery and had told Mrs. Vernon that the distant
        old mountain peak was company for her while she was washing
        dishes. But a purple peak would not take the place of the yellow
        lights of a great city to Minerva and I looked forward to varied
        experiences, although I said nothing about my expectations to
        Ethel.

        I half expected Minerva to back out when it came to going, but
        she did not. Possibly the excitement of going on the cars had
        something to do with her fortitude. Possibly the diversion that
        “Miss Pussy” afforded made her forget that she was leaving her
        beloved city.

        The cat was a startler and no mistake. While the train was in
        motion she kept quiet, but whenever we stopped at a station she
        let forth ear splitting shrieks, acting exactly as if she were
        being tortured. More than one non-smoking man sought refuge in
        the smoker and many were the black looks cast at Minerva.

        I was glad that she sat behind us, for I did not wish to be
        mixed up in the affair. As for her she shrieked with laughter
        every time that the cat shrieked with dismay, and I felt that
        the cat, though unpleasant, was really making our journey
        easier, as it kept Minerva from dwelling upon her exile.

        We took a branch road at Springfield and a half hour later we
        were in a wagon, climbing the steep ascent that leads to Clover
        Lodge.

        The cat, sniffing fresh air and longing to be at liberty,
        redoubled its howls, but Minerva no longer laughed. She looked
        at the distant hills in an awed sort of way and sighed.

        I sat with the driver, and Mrs. Vernon told Minerva interesting
        bits about the locality through which we were passing, but a
        languid “Yas’m” was the only reply she vouchsafed. She was fast
        falling a prey to nostalgia.

        Upon our arrival at Clover Lodge there was enough to do to keep
        every one busy. The frantic cat was set free as soon as we
        arrived and she scudded under the house and we saw no more of
        her for some time. I did not think much of it at the moment, but
        when after our somewhat picnic dinner I heard Minerva at the
        back of the house calling in heart breaking tones “Miss Pussy,
        Miss Pussy, woan’ you come out? Come ou—t,” I realized that I
        should have chained the cat in the kitchen. It might stay away
        for a day or two in order to express its contempt for people who
        could subject it to such humiliation.

        I was enjoying a smoke and Ethel was lying down. Oh, what a
        blessed relief this was from the noise and odours and bustle of
        the city!

        “I can’t get out. Mist. Vernon! Mist. Vernon! I can’t get out.
        Ow.”

        The sounds seemed to come from under the kitchen. I side-tracked
        my _peaceful_ thoughts, laid my cigar on the railing of the
        piazza and ran around to the kitchen door and beheld Minerva
        wedged fast under the house. Clover Lodge has a very diminutive
        cellar which does not extend as far as the kitchen. There is a
        space of some two feet between the kitchen floor and the ground,
        used as a receptacle for various odds and ends in the way of
        boxes, clothes poles and the like, and our stout Minerva had
        attempted to creep under there in order to get Miss Pussy, whose
        tell-tale eyes gleamed at her from the darkness. She had failed
        to take into account the fact that her head could go where her
        body could not follow and she had become stuck.

        “It’s all right, Minerva. I’ll get you out. There’s very little
        room for promenading there. I’ll have to knock a board out. I’ll
        get an axe.”

        She kept up her groaning and at last Ethel was aroused by it,
        and, somewhat alarmed, hurried into the kitchen and saw the
        sprawling figure of Minerva with Clover Lodge on her back. The
        spectacle appealed to her sense of humour and she retreated to
        where she could laugh.

        I had a somewhat ticklish job to get Minerva out unhurt. It was
        awkward splitting the board without touching her, but I
        compassed it at last, although each stroke of the axe was
        followed by a groan from Minerva, a spit from the cat and a
        suppressed laugh from Ethel, who was viewing the proceedings
        from a little distance.

        When the board fell away and had been removed, Minerva, like an
        alligator, crawled in a little farther, so as to turn around,
        and then she crawled out face foremost, leaving Miss Pussy
        saying most ungenerous things there in the dusk.

        “The cat will come out in a while, Minerva,” said I. “Are you
        hurt?”

        Minerva was sitting on the ground, listening intently.

        “What’s dem noises?” said she; “Oh, dis ain’ no place for me.
        Heah dem moanin’s in de grass.”

        “Dem moanin’s in de grass” were bull frogs in a little pond not
        far away, but I dare say she pictured the meadows as full of
        people who had been enticed from the city and were now expiring
        under the evening sky, far from their friends.

        I explained what the noise was and she returned to the kitchen,
        while I resumed consumption of my cigar and Ethel returned to
        her room, but in a few minutes:

        “Mis. Vernon. Mis. Vernon. Ain’t there no more lights?”

        Ethel had dropped asleep, so I went out into the kitchen.
        Minerva had lighted two lamps, and to me the kitchen looked like
        a ball room, it was so light, but the dusky maid from the
        Metropolis was seeing New York in her mind’s eye, and two
        kerosene lamps did not take the place of the firmament of gas
        and electric lights to which she had been used all her life.

        “It is the first night and I will humour her,” thought I, and so
        I brought out a lamp from the parlour and another from the
        sitting room. I had the light from my cigar and needed no other.

        When all four lamps had united to cast their radiance upon the
        kitchen Minerva was satisfied and thanked me in a die-a-way tone
        that, being interpreted, meant “Give me back New York with its
        crowds, and its noise and its glitter and its entertaining
        ‘gentlemen’ and its ice cream and soda.” Poor Minerva! Our joy
        and happiness came from the very things that were the
        abomination of desolation to her.

        Meanwhile Ethel awoke from her nap and came down stairs. “Mercy,
        how dark it is. Why didn’t you light a lamp? Where are you,
        Philip?”

        “I’m out on the piazza. Come out?”

        “No, dear, I want to finish that story of Mrs. Everard Cotes’.
        I’m fascinated with it.”

        “Ethel, come here,” said I, in a tone full of meaning.

        She felt her way out.

        “Minerva needed the gleam of many lights in the kitchen and I’ve
        plucked a lamp from every room. You’ll tire your eyes reading.
        Come and sit with me.”

        Ethel gave a little chuckle and sat down in the chair I
        provided.

        “Dear, it will end by our becoming her slaves.”

        “Anything to keep her,” said I. “Who wants a light but the great
        light of stars. I suppose that to-night on all this broad
        continent there is no soul so wretched as poor Minerva, deprived
        of her elevator man and the girl across the hall—and all, that
        we may live in comfort. Who are we, Ethel, that we should do
        this thing?”

        “Oh, stop your nonsense. Minerva will be all right when the sun
        shines.”

        The light from the kitchen window shone away down the hill and
        lighted up the pool in which the bull frogs were “moaning.”
        Above their chorus we heard a wail.

        “What’s that, an owl?”

        “No, Ethel, that’s a howl. It’s Minerva again.”

        We could now distinguish “So dismal!”

        “You go and hold her in your lap and rock her to sleep. I
        can’t,” said I.

        Ethel sighed herself. It was becoming monotonous. She rose and
        went into the kitchen, feeling her way cautiously through the
        dark sitting room, yet stumbling over a foot stool.

        It looked to me as if we would be forced to take turns sitting
        outside of Minerva’s bedroom door, guarding her against the
        horrors of a country night, but after a time Ethel returned to
        me and told me that “Miss Pussy” had come in for dinner and that
        Minerva was perfectly happy and was going to take her to bed
        with her.

        Soon after that she retired, and, being tired out with the
        labours and tribulations of the day, she slept like a log all
        night, and we were enabled to enjoy our repose undisturbed.

        I rose early next morning and sang gaily, and I sang with a
        purpose. It might disturb Mrs. Vernon’s last nap, but it could
        not fail to make Minerva realize that she was not alone in the
        country, whereas if she had risen first and had seen nothing in
        the world but the great silent mountain she might have fled
        incontinently to the city.

        When she came down to the kitchen, carrying the cat in her arms,
        I had already started the fire.

        “Good morning, Minerva,” said I. “I haven’t built a kitchen fire
        since I was a small boy, and I wanted to see if I could do it.
        Excellent draught. Did you sleep well?”

        “Yas’r.”

        The laconic answer was in itself a symptom that she felt better.

        “And the cat came back?” said I.

        “Yas’r.”

        I left the kitchen and took a walk in the cool morning air. All
        was well with the world. Minerva had slept and had learned that
        a night in the country was not fatal and Miss Pussy had
        recovered her equanimity. I sought for an appetite in the pine
        woods, and I found one.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER II

                        MINERVA STUDIES NATURE.


        I BLESSED Heaven for the lovely day that had come to us. If it
        had been rainy or even gray we should have had a hard time to
        keep Minerva. But even a hidebound cockney like herself could
        tolerate the sweetness of the air and the softness of the clouds
        and the brightness of the sun.

        Ethel made cake so that she could be in the kitchen. I did not
        exactly approve of it, because the day was meant to be spent in
        the open, and I wanted to swing hammocks out in the pine woods
        and read a new novel which had been recommended to me as
        excellent for reading aloud, but I well knew the wisdom of
        getting Minerva started right, and I dare say that Ethel’s
        amiable conversation made her forget that the cook on the “other
        side of the hall” was nearly two hundred miles away.

        At lunch time, Ethel looked very much heated and worn, and I
        said to myself, “Better me in the kitchen making impossible cake
        and regaling Minerva with anecdotes than Ethel neutralizing all
        the effects of this delicious country air in her efforts to keep
        our cook contented.” So, after lunch, I put up the hammocks and
        then I insisted on Ethel’s taking her embroidery and coming out
        to the woods.

        “And what will Minerva do? She is afraid of the crickets, and I
        dare not leave her all the afternoon alone until she is
        acclimated.”

        “No, of course she can’t be left. I didn’t intend her to be
        left. I will go and learn how to make bread, or, better still, I
        will paint the floor. Doesn’t the floor need painting?”

        “Now, Philip, don’t be foolish. Of course you can’t stay in the
        kitchen. It’s no place for a man—”

        “Nor is it any place for a woman who has come to the country for
        her health. And yet Minerva won’t stay here alone. What’s to be
        done?”

        Ethel thought a minute and then said:

        “I have some plain sewing that I want done and Minerva is very
        handy with her needle. She makes all her own clothes. She shall
        come to the pine woods with us and sew a fine seam until it’s
        time to start dinner, and then we can go back to the house and
        sit on the piazza. It’s not as pleasant as the woods, but we’ll
        be within ear call.”

        This seemed preposterous, but if I disapproved and Minerva left,
        Ethel would be apt to blame me, so I consented and we all went
        to the grove, like a happy family of three. I read out loud from
        the new novel, but I don’t think that Minerva cared much for it,
        because when Miss Pussy, who had accompanied us, brought a bird
        and laid it at her mistress’ feet, Minerva broke right into my
        reading with:

        “Why, Mis. Vernon, Miss Pussy has a bird, and it ain’t a sparrer
        an’ it ain’t a canary. What other kinds is there?”

        Then the reading was stopped while Ethel gave a lesson in
        ornithology to the child of the city streets. I did not mind her
        absorbing all the learning she could, but I resented the
        interruption and I arose and walked away, wondering how long
        this thing was going to last. I had no doubt that in another
        week we would be giving a party in Minerva’s honour, and that we
        should take out a subscription for her in the Booklovers’ seemed
        foreordained. She must learn “How to Know the Trees,” and “How
        to Become a True Nature Lover in Six Lessons,” and “How to
        Listen to Birds,” and particularly “How to Forget the City.” If
        I could get her that book I would be willing to pay almost any
        price for it. Also, “How to Teach a Cook to Depend on Herself
        for Her Joys.” This traipsing around after us was not what I had
        expected.

        My way led out to the road that runs below the pine grove, and I
        had barely emerged from the wood when I was hailed with a “Well,
        well, we are in luck! Where’s the Missus?” and there were Harry
        Farnet and his wife Rose, looking lost in a three-seated wagon
        drawn by two horses.

        “Where did you drop from?” said I, for Harry Farnet is a New
        Yorker who generally runs over to Europe in the summer.

        “Why, we’re at South Edgeley for a couple of weeks,” said he,
        “and the Longleys, who are staying at the Hillcrest, told us you
        had taken a cottage here for the summer, and so we thought we’d
        chance finding you in and take you back to dine and spend the
        evening, and then ride home in the moonlight. How’s Ethel?”

        “Ethel is middling well, but she’s playing nurse girl to our
        cook and it is wearing on her just a little—and on me a great
        deal.”

        “What _do_ you mean?” asked Rose.

        “Why, we brought up Minerva, you know—the treasure that we’ve
        had for three winters, and we find that she needs a city setting
        to be a jewel of the first water. She is so lonesome that we
        spend most of our time coddling her. She’s afraid of the frogs
        and moans for the delights of Gotham.”

        “Poor thing! Well, she won’t have to bother with dinner
        to-night, so just give her a book—here, give her this box of
        candy. It’s quite dreadful, but I’m sure she’ll like it, and
        it’ll keep her mind off her troubles for quite a while. Jump in
        and take us to your house. Is Ethel there?”

        “No, we’re all just up in the woods above. I’ve been reading to
        her, with interruptions from Minerva. Minerva and Kate Douglas
        Wiggin do not appear to be twin souls. Ethel! Ethel!” I called,
        and she answered, and a minute later she came in view and was
        both surprised and overjoyed to see the Farnets. Rose and she
        went to school together and they have always kept up an
        intimacy.

        “Hello, you dear thing! You’re going riding with us—going to
        take dinner with us—we’re at South Edgeley, and in the evening
        we’ll drive you back.”

        “Lovely!” cried Ethel, enthusiastically, and I was glad that the
        Farnets had come. Ethel needed company just as much as Minerva.

        I heard a dead limb cracking in the woods above, and, looking
        up, saw Minerva, her eyes wide open and fearful, as if she
        thought we were going to leave her to perish in nature’s
        solitudes. For Ethel was just stepping into the carriage.

        “That’s Minerva,” said Ethel to Rose. “Our cook. You know her,
        don’t you? Perfect jewel, but it’s the first time she has ever
        been away from New York, and she is very mournful.”

        “So Philip was saying,” said Rose. “I tell him to give her a box
        of this dreadful chewing candy. It’s some we got at the only
        store in South Edgeley, and if she starts a piece it will keep
        her busy chewing for an hour at least. You’re not afraid to
        leave her, are you?”

        “No, I’m not afraid,” said Ethel; “but I’m afraid she will be.
        She’s a hare for timidity. Oh, Minerva! we’re going for a ride
        and you needn’t get dinner to-night. We’ll be back before bed
        time.”

        “Go’n’ to leave me alone in that God-forsaken house?” said
        Minerva, in such evident terror that Ethel shook her head at
        Rose and said, “I can’t do it. It would be heartless. You stay
        here and dine with us. We have loads of provisions.”

        “No, Mamma will expect us. We told her we were going to get you
        and she’ll expect us. Our landlady has two seats waiting for
        you. You must come.”

        Here was a vexing situation. It would be downright cruel to
        maroon Minerva, and yet we didn’t like to give up our
        anticipated pleasure.

        There was more noise in the woods and “Miss Pussy” jumped out of
        a tree with a chipmunk in her mouth.

        “Oh, Mis. Vernon, look at Miss Pussy! She’s got a striped rat. I
        never see sich a place for wild animals. I couldn’ no more stay
        alone—”

        She paused for a phrase strong enough, and Rose clapped her
        hands and said,

        “I have it. Minerva shall be your maid and ride on the back
        seat. This old ark was the only thing we could get, but now the
        third seat will be of some use.”

        Miss Pussy dropped the chipmunk at Minerva’s feet, and Minerva
        jumped backward pretty nearly a yard.

        “She’s killed it, Minerva. That chipmunk will never have a
        chance to hurt you,” said I in a consolatory tone. That reminded
        me of “Miss Pussy.”

        “We can’t take the cat along,” said I to Ethel. “When the cat
        travels I prefer to be doing something else. I can still hear
        her cries on the train.”

        “Well, shut her up in the house,” said Harry. He looked at his
        watch. “Come, it’s time we were starting. It’s up hill half the
        way back.”

        “You can say that of any drive around here,” said I.

        Minerva climbed in much as a mountain would have done it, and we
        started for the house to get wraps.

        “The time we came up and this time are the on’y times I was ever
        in an open wagon,” said Minerva.

        “Minerva is getting loquacious,” said I to Ethel.

        Minerva overheard me and said,

        “No, I ain’t, sir, not when they’s any one around. I’ll git used
        to it if there’s somethin’ doin’ all the time.”

        “You’ve got your work cut out for you,” said Harry to me.
        “Master of the Revels. You might give her a lawn party—”

        Rose shook her head warningly at her husband and we changed the
        subject, but it was plain to be seen that all Minerva needed was
        the excitement of society. If we made her our guest and I did
        the cooking we would have no difficulty in keeping her
        contented.

        There was nothing worthy of note regarding Minerva during our
        ride to South Edgeley. She sat on the back seat and tangled her
        jaws in the candy, and I presume that she had a good dinner at
        the Farnet’s boarding house. Certainly we did and we enjoyed
        that and the ride back very much, and rejoiced that we had
        friends so near, although as Harry did not own the horses and
        the haying season was “on,” it was not likely that the Farnets
        and we would often meet, unless we walked toward each other and
        met at some half way point—and there again Minerva would be in
        the way. A three-mile walk with Minerva tagging behind like a
        younger sister was not a tempting idea.

        However, the doctor had said that Ethel must have a good long
        rest in the country, and her needs were paramount. Without
        Minerva to cook she could not rest, and we must keep Minerva
        though the heavens should fall.

        We were talking quietly about Minerva that evening after the
        Farnets had driven home, when the light in her bedroom that had
        been shining out on an elm at the side of the house, suddenly
        disappeared, there came a shriek, and then,

        “Oh, Lordy, oh Lordy, leggo my hair.”

        I thought of tramps, but Ethel, being a woman, divined what had
        happened and bade me light a lantern quickly. I rushed to the
        kitchen and lighted it. The house was not on fire, that was
        certain. Minerva was either having a fit or an encounter with a
        burglar, for there was a sound as of heavy foot-falls and
        choking ejaculations.

        I seized the kitchen poker, expecting to sell my life at a
        bargain, but Ethel looked at me commiseratingly and with the one
        word “Bat,” she hurried up the back stairs.

        I must say that at first I took the word to mean that Minerva
        had been imbibing and I wondered at Ethel’s using so idiomatic
        an expression, but when she entered the room and the sounds
        almost immediately stopped, to be followed by sobbing, I
        suddenly divined what she meant.

        “No, Minerva, it isn’t poisonous.” (More lessons in Natural
        History.) “Probably the poor thing was more frightened than you
        are.”

        I did not think it at all likely. At any rate, it had been far
        more reticent.

        “I’ll give you a screen from the spare room to put in your
        window. It was attracted by the light. It’s a sort of mouse with
        wings.”

        “Striped rats and mice with wings! Lordy, the country’s awful!”

        Poor Minerva! She must have been surprised to see that country
        horses were just like those of the city. Certainly a horse has
        more evil potentiality than a stupid little bat, but when a
        beast has you by the hair and you see him, as it were, through
        the back of your head, he is apt to loom large and terrifying.

        Quiet was soon restored and Ethel came down with the lantern. I
        put away the poker which I had been holding ever since I picked
        it up.

        “It’s the greatest mercy in the world that the lamp went out.
        She knocked it over when the bat hit her.”

        “What next? Is the room moth miller proof? Could she survive a
        June bug?”

        “Well, really, it’s nothing to laugh at. If you ever have a bat
        in your back hair you’ll not think of laughing.”

        As my back hair is fast going to join the snows of yesteryear, I
        considered this a most unkind cut, but I was above
        retaliating—as I could not think of anything to say.

        “Well, Minerva has now been here a whole day and she’s hardly
        been out of our sight. I admit that she is an excellent cook and
        a hard worker, but as a steady visitor who, rides with us and
        sews with us she is likely to pall. Hasn’t she a mother who can
        come and visit her?”

        “No,” Ethel answered, “Minerva is an only child.”

        “And a child only,” said I.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER III

                             AN EAST WIND.


        THE next morning broke with an east wind blowing and a wet rain
        falling, but Ethel said that the two days in the country had
        made her feel like a different woman already, so I did not mind
        the rain, although a rainy day in the country, unless one be
        well fortified, either by inner grace or outer books and the
        good things of life, is apt to be a dreary affair.

        Breakfast was delicious. We have never had a cook who had so
        much—well, you might call it temperament, as Minerva has. She
        will toss off a roll with the lightness that makes it a work of
        art, and her fried chicken is better than the broiled chicken of
        most cooks.

        Ethel already better, and the breakfast such a poem: why, I felt
        that I was to be envied, and I wondered how people could be
        content to spend their summers on alien piazzas, eating hotel
        dinners and watching hotel dwellers dress and pose and gossip.

        There had been no more bats in Minerva’s belfry, and as she had
        always seemed like a sensible girl in the city, I made up my
        mind that she was reconciled to the country and that in a few
        days she would begin to have very much the same feeling for it
        that we have—for Ethel and I were born in the city, and the
        country is an acquired taste with us.

        But while I was browsing around in the Wheelocks’ library, Ethel
        came to me and said:

        “The worst has happened, Philip. Minerva says she won’t
        stay—that she just can’t. She wants you to get a horse and take
        her to the station right away.”

        I laid down my book with a sigh. “What’s the matter now?” said
        I. “More wild animals?”

        “No, it’s the rain and the east wind. She says the moaning of it
        through the shutters is awful and she can’t stand it.”

        “Might have known it,” said I, bitterly. “I might have known it.
        You’re beginning to feel better and the worst seems to be over,
        and then Minerva plays her trump card and takes the cake.”

        My metaphors were sadly mixed, but I didn’t care. I was not at
        that moment trying to construct logical metaphors. I foresaw
        what would happen if Minerva left and Ethel went into the
        kitchen permanently. A sanitarium for her and I an enforced
        bachelor in some city room—for we had let our flat for the
        summer.

        I do not often interfere with the household work, for my
        business keeps me at home most of the time, and I hold that when
        man and wife are both at home it is better to have but one
        housekeeper and that one a woman, but now I went out into the
        kitchen to try to mend matters, and I found Minerva looking at
        the steadily falling rain that was making Mount Nebo look like a
        ghost of itself. Now and again the blind rattled and always the
        wind moaned through it with a wintry effect that would have been
        admirably adapted to the return of the prodigal daughter.

        And with each wail of the wind Minerva answered antiphonally,
        almost as if she were taking lessons in keening.

        “Oh, myomy, myomy!”

        Back and forth she rocked, her eyes glued to the dismal prospect
        (dismal to her, but with a surpassing beauty to sympathetic
        eyes), and the tears rolling down her face.

        “Why, Minerva, what’s the matter? Got a toothache?” said I,
        affecting to be unwitting of the cause of her sorrow.

        “’Deed, suh, it’s wuss’n a toothache. It’s the heartache. I
        knowed better when I said I’d come. Nance Jawnson told me how
        haw’ble the country was, but I felt sorry for Mis. Vernon, and
        so I come. Please get me away in a wagon. That wind whines like
        it was a dawg howlin’ an’ I can’t stand dawgs howlin’ ’cause my
        sisteh died of one.”

        Her words were ambiguous, but I was in no mood to carp or
        criticise. She was suffering as acutely as a little child
        suffers when you throw her doll over the fence and I felt I must
        cheer her up and keep her if it—if it took all summer.

        “Well, Minerva, we can soon stop the wind’s howling by opening
        the blinds.” I suited the action to the words and the wild
        moaning of the wind ceased. It was really almost as if the wind
        had been asking to have the blinds opened.

        “Now you see, Minerva, that’s stopped and the rain will stop
        after awhile.”

        “Yas’r, but it’s lonesome an’ I didn’t bring my ’cordeen. I
        forgot it till now.”

        I knew she was a great hand to be trying patent medicines and
        supposed she referred to some bottled stuff, so I said,

        “Oh, well, if that’s all, I can send for your medicine, or
        perhaps I can get some at Egerton.”

        She looked at me in surprise as she said,

        “I didn’ say nothin’ ’bout med’cine. I said I left my ’cordeen—”

        “Oh, your accordeon. Can you play that?” said I, thankful that
        she had forgotten it.

        “Yes indeedy.”

        Her face grew pensive as she thought of the dreadful musical
        instrument which she had mercifully forgotten. I had never heard
        her use it at home, but Ethel told me afterward that she had
        been in the habit of going up on the roof with other cooks and
        the janitor, and that her departure was always followed by weird
        strains which Ethel had supposed was the janitor discoursing
        music that had the dyingest fall of anything ever heard. But it
        seems that Minerva was the performer, and among those whose ears
        are ravished by the “linked sweetness long drawn out”—and then
        pushed back again, she was accounted an adept.

        Perhaps I could hold her by means of the accordeon. It was worth
        trying.

        “Minerva,” said I, “Mrs. Vernon tells me that you want me to
        drive you down to the station and get you a ticket for New York.
        Now, if you go it will be a discreditable performance and an act
        unworthy of one who has always been well treated.”

        I paused. The words were some of them a little beyond her, but
        they had made the more impression for that very fact.

        “Mrs. Vernon is not strong enough to do the work and she came up
        here to gain strength. You are a very good cook, but if you left
        us now we would not care to have you when we returned to the
        city, and you will not find mistresses like Mrs. Vernon
        everywhere. There are those who forget that a servant is a human
        being, and you might happen to get such a mistress as that. I
        repeat that your going would be distinctly discreditable,
        utterly reprehensible and in the nature of a bad act. Now, if
        you must go, I am not the one to keep you, but if you go you go
        for good, which is not likely to be good for you.”

        “Yas’r,” said Minerva, blinking at me.

        “Now, if I send for your accordeon, will you give me your word
        of honour to stay your month out?”

        I had used such a severe tone, mingled with what sorrow I could
        weave into it, and spotted with incomprehensible words, that
        Minerva was much impressed, and she said in a tone that was
        already more hopeful, “I give you my word, Mist. Vernon. My
        ’cordeen is like human folks to me.”

        “Very well, I will write for it by the next mail. Where shall I
        tell Mr. Corson to look for it?”

        “Mr. Corson ain’t got it. I lent it to the jan’ter the night
        befo’ I lef’ an’ he fo’got to give it back an’ I fo’got about it
        till the wind began to moan at me an’ then I got mo’ homesick
        ’an ever an’ thought of it.”

        Think of being willing to swap the music of the wind for the
        cacophony of an accordeon! And yet, when some composer of the
        future introduces one in his Afro-American symphony and Felix
        Weingartner gives the symphony in Carnegie Hall, there may come
        a rage for accordeons and we shall no longer associate them with
        tenement houses and itinerant toughs, white and black.

        I hastened to write the letter to the janitor, whose name was
        George W. Calhoun Lee, and Ethel, being housebound anyway, went
        into the kitchen to preserve some blueberries. I do not like
        preserved blueberries; neither does she, but there was nothing
        else she could think of to do in the kitchen, and Minerva needed
        “human folks” pending the arrival of the ’cordeen.

        The Dalton boy came for the mail at noon and he had with him a
        string of trout. They were fresh from the brook and were still
        wriggling. I saw him pass into the house, and I followed him
        into the kitchen; for a string of trout is a joy to the eye—and
        I had a suspicion that Minerva would not know what to do with
        them.

        She stared at them with the interest of a child, giggling every
        time one twitched its tail.

        “Wha’ makes ’em move that way?” asked she of no one in
        particular.

        “Why, they’re not dead yet,” I answered.

        “An’ come all the way from New York?”

        “Why, Minerva, these were caught in the brook down there in the
        valley. Weren’t they, Bert?”

        “Yes, sir. Ketched all five inside an hour.”

        Minerva’s eyes opened wider. “What’s a nower?” asked she.

        Bert looked puzzled and so did Ethel, but I was able to explain
        and somehow the explanation struck Minerva as being very funny.
        She went off into a fit of laughter just like those she had had
        on the train when the cat howled.

        “Inside a nower. That’s one awn me. Inside an hour.”

        Ordinarily one does not go into the kitchen and provide
        amusement for the cook, but the events of the past few hours had
        so altered the complexion of things that I felt distinctly
        elated at having, in however humble a way, ministered to the joy
        of one as leaden hearted as Minerva and her laughter was so
        unctious, once it had got fairly started that first the Dalton
        boy, then Ethel, and at last I joined in and the east wind must
        have been astonished at his lack of power over our temperaments.

        After the laughter had subsided and Bert had gone on his way
        with the precious letter to G. W. C. Lee, I was about to leave
        the kitchen, forgetful of my errand, when Minerva, in a tone of
        delightful _camaraderie_, said,

        “Mist. Vernon, I can’t skin them fishes alive. They always come
        skinned from the fish store.”

        “Well, I’ll kill them and scale them and clean them, and you can
        watch me, and the next time you’ll know how.”

        Ethel had finished her berry canning and she now left the
        kitchen, winking at me as she did so as much as to say it was
        now my turn at the wheel. It was years since I had dressed a
        fish, but I snapped each one on the head as I had been taught to
        do by country boys in my own boyhood, and then I prepared them
        for the pan, scraping off much of their beauty in the process.

        “Do they have North River shad out in that brook?” asked Minerva
        as I worked.

        I thought at first it was a little pleasantry, but, looking at
        her, I saw she was perfectly serious—in fact, very serious, and
        I explained to her that cod and blue fish and sturgeon and sword
        fish never penetrated to these mountain brooks, preferring the
        sea; and so, with cheerful chat on both our parts, we bridged
        over the end of the morning and a half a day was gone with
        Minerva in a better frame of mind than she had been the day
        before with the sun shining. So valuable a thing is diplomacy.

        While I was washing my hands, preparatory to lunch, Ethel being
        engaged in fixing her hair, I heard Minerva break out into song,
        and a moment later someone began to whistle in the kitchen.

        Our window commanded a view of the side path, and no one had
        entered the kitchen since I had left it, but nevertheless two
        people were giving a somewhat unpleasant duet in the kitchen.
        The whistle did not accord with the voice, which had
        considerable of the natural coloured flavour—if flavour can have
        colour.

        “Who can it be?” said I. “Minerva doesn’t know a soul up here,
        and no one up here would be apt to know ‘In the Good Old Summer
        Time.’”

        “It’s positively uncanny,” said Ethel, taking the last hair pin
        out of her mouth and putting it into her hair. “I’m going to
        see. I want Minerva to make chocolate for lunch, and I forgot to
        tell her.”

        Ethel went down and I hastily dried my hands and followed. If
        this fellow musician could be caged I would keep him for
        Minerva’s delectation. He should hang in the kitchen—so to
        speak. Minerva was evidently enjoying the duet—even more than we
        were.

        I hurried and came within sight of the kitchen just as Ethel
        entered it. Ethel turned and came quickly toward me, her hand
        over her mouth to pen up her mirth.

        We both rushed up stairs and sat down and had our second laugh
        of the morning in spite of the east wind. There was only one
        person in the kitchen, Minerva by name, and she was providing an
        obligato for her singing with her own lips. Minerva was
        performing the hitherto impossible feat of singing and whistling
        at the same time.

        “When the ’cordeen comes,” said Ethel, “Minerva will be a trio.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER IV

                          A FRIENDLY BURGLAR.


        WE retired that night feeling that our hold on Minerva was
        stronger than it had been hitherto, and we slept the sleep of
        the unworried.

        But we were awakened at a little past midnight by a noise as of
        a somewhat heavy cat coming up stairs. Miss Pussy is heavy, but
        her tread is absolutely noiseless, so it could not be she, and
        we could hear Minerva snoring in her room, so it was not she.

        “It’s a burglar,” whispered Ethel, wide awake in an instant.

        I did not like the thought, which waked me wide also. I like
        burglars in books, but in real life there are too many
        possibilities wrapped up in them to make them agreeable
        companions of the night.

        I hope I am not a coward, but I am not war-like. If a burglar
        has resolved on entering my house I say let him get away with
        the goods and then I’ll lose no time in putting in burglar
        alarms so as to be prepared thereafter, but to get up and attack
        a burglar with a chair or to attempt to expostulate with him
        lies outside of my province, and I hoped that these sounds would
        prove to be caused by shrinking wood or cracking plaster.

        Creak, creak, creak. There was not a shadow of a doubt that some
        one was coming up the stairs. Ethel pulled the pillow over her
        face and I could feel her trembling. I sat up in bed and tried
        to feel brave. Tried it two or three times in obedience to the
        old saying anent succeeding but to be honest I did not feel
        brave.

        The steps came nearer and Ethel, whose hearing is wonderfully
        acute, suddenly threw off the pillow, and sat up in bed also,
        saying:

        “Philip, we must not let Minerva hear him or she will leave in
        the morning.”

        “Sh!” said I, “be still. There he is.” We both put on the
        semblance of slumber.

        The moon was shining into the room and we now saw a burly
        looking fellow with a bag over his shoulder walk past our door
        and peer into the spare room.

        The Wheelock furnishings are plain and our own belongings would
        pack in small space and bring little in open market and it
        struck both Ethel and myself in spite of our fears that it was
        very funny for a burglar to be looking for plunder in our
        cottage.

        I fancy that he himself saw he had picked out a poor house, for
        he left the spare room, contented himself with a casual glance
        into our sparsely furnished bedroom and then went creaking down
        the stairs again. Burglars in books make no noise, but I am sure
        I could have gone down stairs more quietly than he did and I was
        in an agony of fear—no longer of him but that Minerva might wake
        up and become panic stricken.

        The burglar went as far as the kitchen and then he actually
        stumbled over a chair and this brought about the dreaded result.
        Minerva waked up and the next instant we heard a husky,

        “Is that you, Mis. Vernon?”

        Next we heard steps in her hall and the query repeated in a
        louder tone,

        “Is that you, Mis. Vernon?”

        Then came a shriek. She had evidently encountered the burglar.

        “Oh, Philip, what _shall_ we do?” said Ethel. “Don’t you think
        it will be safe to go and tell the burglar to go away? Minerva
        will surely go into hysterics and leave in the morning.”

        “She’s gone there now. Hear her!”

        The noise occasioned by the advent of the bat was as nothing
        compared to the din that Minerva let out upon the midnight air.

        And now we heard a man’s voice, the voice of the burglar.

        “Be quiet. I’m not going to hurt you. I made a mistake in the
        house.”

        Made a mistake in the house and the next one half a mile away!

        “Philip, if he were a dangerous burglar he would have shot her
        by this. Go and speak to him and tell him to go away.”

        It was a risky proceeding, but after all we had gone through I
        was determined to keep Minerva with us at any risk, so pulling a
        dressing gown over my pajamas and leaping into my slippers, I
        went down stairs choking down my rising heart.

        I met the burglar coming down the back stairs with his hands in
        his ears to shut out the shrieks that arose from Minerva.

        When he saw me he sat down on the stairs and said, “I thought
        so. I thought she’d waken the house.”

        Now this was a queer way for a burglar to act and it gave me
        heart. By all the rules of burglary the man should either have
        given me one in the jaw or a bit of lead in the lung or else he
        should have rushed past me and escaped, but he sat down on the
        top step and reminded me of Francis Wilson by the quaintness of
        his intonation and the expression that came over his face.

        “Come here. I won’t hurt you,” said I, much as I might talk to a
        huge mastiff whose intentions were problematical. “Are you a
        family man?”

        “Yes,” said he, astonished by the question into answering it.

        “Well, then, you will understand my position when I tell you
        that the girl whom you have started into hysterics up there is
        our cook, our only cook, and if we lose her we’ll be absolutely
        cookless. You’re a burglar, are you not? Be frank.”

        “Well, if you appeal to me that way, I am,” said he.

        “Well, she’s frightened stiff. Even if you go away now and
        nothing further happens she will follow in the morning because
        she will expect burglars every night. Now I’m going to try to
        convince her that you stopped in here to ask the way to the
        village or to borrow a book—anything but that you’re a burglar,
        and I want you to help me out.”

        “The idea is farcical,” said he smiling quite as if we were
        having a friendly chat after a dinner in his honour.

        “No doubt it is farcical,” said I, “but if I can overcome
        Minerva’s fears by any means I’m going to do it. She’ll go into
        a fit pretty soon if the cause is not removed.”

        “She’s most there now,” said the burglar. And he told the truth.
        Minerva had not ceased to use each breath in the manufacture of
        wild yawps that outdid her performances the evening of the bat.

        “I’ll go and tell her to dress and come down and I’ll explain it
        all to her. We have to handle her with gloves on account of
        cooks being so scarce. You understand?”

        “I understand. I have a little home in Pittsfield and half the
        time my wife does the cooking although ‘business’ is unusually
        good.”

        “What is your busin—?”

        I noticed his bag and stopped. How absent minded of me to ask.

        “I don’t believe it is always as bad as it is to-night,” said I
        with a laugh. “My income doesn’t admit of anything for burglars.
        I only make enough for myself and my wife.”

        “I believe you,” said he. “I saw that when I got up stairs and
        if I had not kicked over that cursed chair I would have been a
        mile away by now.”

        I started to call up stairs to Minerva when the burglar’s eyes
        moved to a point behind me and turning, I saw Ethel, fully
        dressed and very calm. Her fear of losing Minerva had overcome
        her fear of the burglar and she had come down to see what she
        could do.

        “Ethel, this is the burglar who woke us up, but he has taken
        nothing, and he’s going to fib a little so that Minerva may be
        brought out of her hysterical state. Please go up stairs and
        tell her to dress and come down; that there’s no danger, but I
        want to see her about something.”

        With excitement and amusement struggling for the mastery on her
        features Ethel went up stairs and in a few moments the shrieks
        subsided.

        “What induced you to come to such a place as this, so far off
        the line of travel?”

        “Exactly that,” said the burglar, “because it was off the line
        of travel and because I have made some of my richest hauls in
        houses like this.”

        “Aren’t you ashamed to be a burglar?” said I, thinking that I
        might do some missionary work.

        “Now see here,” said he, rising from the chair in which he had
        seated himself after Ethel had gone up stairs, “I did not come
        here to be catechised or criticised. I came here to do business
        and I found it was impossible, so let us forget that I am a
        burglar and that you are a poor man and bend all our energies to
        retaining the services of your cook. As a fellow American I feel
        for you and I’d hate to see ‘the Madame’ forced to do her own
        cooking through any fault of mine. By the way, how’s the
        larder?”

        “The who?”

        “The larder. What have you to eat?”

        “Oh, I misunderstood you. I guess I can find something to eat.
        Are you fond of blueberries—not whortleberries, you understand,
        but blueberries.”

        “All the same, ain’t they?”

        “Not by a long shot. You’re evidently a city man. A blueberry is
        to a whortleberry what a wild cherry is to an oxheart. We have
        plenty of blueberries and some milk and I dare say Minerva can
        boil you some eggs if you care for them.”

        “No, I don’t want to bother you or her. Cooks object to getting
        extra meals.”

        I had not thought of that and I deemed it considerate in the
        burglar.

        I led the way to the pantry, where I found a pitcher of rich
        milk and a pan of berries and when Mrs. Vernon and Minerva came
        down stairs, the burglar and I sat at the dinner table, eating
        berries like the best of friends.

        “Frightened, Minerva?” asked I with a reassuring smile.

        “Yas’r,” was the monosyllabic and therefore reassuring reply.

        “I’m sorry if I disturbed you, Minerva,” said the burglar with
        an assumption of breeziness that sat very well on him.

        Minerva smiled foolishly. She was abashed.

        “I missed my way, Tom,” said he, turning to me, “and it’s a
        wonder I got here at all.”

        “Will you please explain why you call me Tom,” said I, giving
        him a cue, “when my name is Philip Vernon.”

        “Simply because I’ve been spending a week with Tom,” said he,
        “and he is very well indeed.”

        “Hasn’t he had any return of those spells?” asked I with mock
        concern.

        “No, Phil, Tom seems to be on the high road to recovery, now.
        His wife has a Dane for a cook and she makes the best omelets I
        ever ate. Can you make good omelets?” said he, turning to
        Minerva, whose eyes were riveted on this easy mannered friend
        who had reached our house so late.

        “Yas’r.”

        “Pardon my suggesting it, Mrs. Vernon,” said he, turning to my
        wife, “but would it be asking too much—”

        “Why, I’m sure Minerva would be delighted to cook you an omelet.
        She knows what it is to be hungry. Don’t you Minerva?”

        “Yas’m,” said she, going into the kitchen and setting a match to
        the fire which was laid in preparation for the morning.

        “She looks like a good-natured girl—one who would stick to you
        through thick and thin,” said the burglar in a tone that would
        easily reach Minerva’s ears.

        “Minerva’s a very good girl,” said Ethel, sitting down in the
        chair I had drawn up to the table.

        We talked on various topics, much as if we had known each other
        for years, but this was due more to the burglar’s absolute ease
        of manner than to any self command on our parts. When Minerva
        came in with a smoking hot omelet he said,

        “Handsomest omelet I ever saw. If it tastes like _that_ I’ll eat
        every bit myself. You’re a born cook, Minerva.”

        Minerva grinned and went into the pantry whence she emerged with
        bread and butter.

        As for the burglar he kept up a running fire of talk about
        supposed friends of ours.

        “Rather sad, that accident to Tom’s nephew, wasn’t it?” said he.

        “I hadn’t heard of it,” said Ethel, while I admitted a like
        ignorance.

        “Is that so? Tom is no letter writer. Why little Sanderson fell
        down an elevator shaft and ripped all the buttons off his
        shoes.”

        He said this so seriously that it was all Ethel could do to keep
        a straight face.

        “And Mary has finally decided to accept Jim Larkins. Seventeen
        times she had rejected him. Do you think they’ll be happy?”

        “I hope they will,” said I, and then to make conversation I
        said,

        “What’s become of Ed. Cortelyou?”

        “I’m sorry to say,” said the burglar, with a long face, “that
        Ed.’s gone to the bad. It doesn’t pay to trust a young man with
        unlimited money. If I ever succeed in amassing a fortune—not
        that I feel especially encouraged just now—but if I ever do, I
        will tie it up so that Charley can not play ducks and drakes
        with it.”

        “By the way, do you expect Charley to follow your profession?”
        said Ethel wickedly and unexpectedly.

        The burglar helped himself to the rest of the omelet with a
        roguish grin and said,

        “I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Kate is all for having him
        study for the ministry, but I’ve seen enough misery endured by
        young ministers whose hearts were not in their work and who were
        perhaps tortured by this modern spirit of doubt, and I tell her
        that the profession that was good enough for his father is good
        enough for him.”

        There seemed to be something fascinating in the clear-cut tones
        of the burglar’s voice for Minerva stood in the kitchen
        listening intently to every word.

        “I hope you will enjoin on him the necessity of being honest,”
        said Ethel with evident enjoyment.

        “Example is better than precept, Mrs. Vernon,” said he, looking
        her straight in the eyes. “I’m not much of a preacher myself. I
        sometimes say to him, ‘Do as you see me do, my boy, but try to
        do it better.’ I do hope to enable him to make an easy entry
        into the homes of really good people. I tell him that it’s not
        always the richest who are the most valuable. He may be able to
        pick up something from a man who is comparatively poor, but who
        has good taste, and I tell him always to keep his eyes and ears
        open when he is in the houses of others, because there is no
        telling how profitable a good use of eyes and ears may be. The
        boy has quite a taste for rare china. He’s managed to get hold
        of some handsome pieces.”

        “Do you allow him much spending money?” asked I with a
        deprecating smile.

        “No, I don’t give him any stated sum, but he has his own ways of
        adding to his income. I believe in making a boy self reliant. He
        wasn’t over six when I gave him a little boost up the ladder as
        a starter, and told him to remember to rise superior to
        circumstances, and he made quite a comfortable nest egg. Went
        into the hen business. Selected his own hens and sold them at a
        profit. A boy that learns to be self reliant is years ahead of a
        boy who is pampered. Minerva, that was the best omelet I ever
        ate. I wish I could stay here and eat one of your breakfasts,
        but, Philip, if I expect to get to the McLeod’s to-night, I’ll
        have to be going right along. You see I expected to get here in
        time to dine with you, and leave about eleven, but I lost my
        way, and I know the Major will be expecting me and he won’t go
        to bed until I come. I’m awfully sorry to go.”

        As he rose from the table I noticed the bag containing his
        plunder. Unless Minerva was an absolute innocent she would
        suspect that all was not right when he picked it up, but luckily
        at that moment she went out to the pantry to put away the milk,
        or something, and during her absence he picked it up with great
        nonchalance and walked out of the room, bowing to Ethel, who
        made a little gesture of repugnance when the real nature of his
        work was brought home to her in so concrete a manner.

        I followed him out to the front door, where he deposited the bag
        on the step and said very suggestively,

        “I believe I’ll give Minerva a tip if you have no objection. She
        deserves it.”

        “Why, I have no objection,” said I, “but it isn’t necessary.”

        “Pardon me if I differ,” said he, good naturedly, holding out
        his hand.

        And then I understood that I was being held up.

        “How much do you want to give her,” said I, wishing now that he
        was far away.

        But his demand was very reasonable—comparatively speaking,—for
        he said,

        “I think that five dollars and a quarter would be a fair amount
        for me to give. She may not get every cent, but I’ve talked a
        good deal to-night and the laborer is worthy of his hire. You’re
        a decent sort of fellow, or I might increase the amount.”

        “You’ll have to come up stairs for it,” said I, “I never carry
        much in my pajamas.”

        He followed me up stairs, his eyes roving all over the place.

        “There must be a lot of high thinking done in this
        establishment,” said he, as he looked at the sparsely decorated
        walls.

        “It was a high old thought to get you to pose as my friend. If
        Minerva stays with us I’ll think of you, and I wish that you
        might be induced to—”

        “Don’t, that’s cant. You may think you mean it, but you don’t.
        If you read in to-morrow’s paper that I had been arrested, you
        wouldn’t drop one tear. You live your life, and I’ll live mine.
        If you ever have a chance to do a man a good turn, go ahead and
        do it, but I won’t lie awake nights wondering whether you’ve
        done it or not.”

        “No, I suppose you’re not given to lying awake nights, but you
        may lie awake days and ponder on a good many things.”

        “Don’t you believe it, my Christian friend,” said the burglar as
        we walked back to the kitchen, “I sleep the sleep of the just,
        and the reason I’m just, is because I never rob a man that I
        know to be poor.”

        We had now come down stairs again, and he went out into the
        kitchen, and I heard him say to Minerva,

        “Minerva, here’s some silver to add to your collection. And
        don’t ever make the mistake of leaving the Vernons. They are the
        salt of the earth. They may not be rich, but I am sure they’re
        kind, and if you know when you’re well off you’ll stay with
        them. I’ve known Mr. Vernon ever since he was a boy, and if I
        was looking for a position like yours I’d try to get one with
        him. And Mrs. Vernon is just as good. You stay by them and
        they’ll stay by you.”

        “’Deed I will,” said Minerva with the unction of one who has
        felt a revival of religious feeling at a camp meeting. The
        burglar had actually aroused in her a sense of loyalty.

        I was sorry to see him go. I’ve known many an honest man who
        wasn’t half as interesting, and I’ve known many an interesting
        man who was not much more honest, although I never had any words
        with a confessed burglar before. I actually found myself saying
        “Good luck to you,” as he shouldered his bag and went off down
        the tree-bordered road in the silver moonlight.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER V

                          THE CONSTABLE CALLS.


        NEXT morning we slept late, but when Mrs. Vernon and I finally
        awoke we heard no sounds in the kitchen.

        “I have a headache,” said Ethel. “That midnight supper didn’t
        agree with me.”

        “Why you didn’t eat anything.”

        “No, but I can’t sit up late and feel good for anything in the
        morning. I suppose Minerva feels the same as I do.”

        “Yes, but as she is paid to forget her feelings, I suppose
        she’ll get up and get breakfast.”

        “Do you mind calling her?” asked Ethel, and again donning my
        dressing gown I went to the foot of the stairs and called,

        “Minerva! Minerva, it’s half past eight o’clock.”

        No answer.

        I went up stairs and stood outside her door.

        “Minerva, it’s time to get up. I know you must be sleepy, but
        it’s half past eight.”

        “Mist. Vernon,” came a languid response, “I don’ feel like I
        could cook this morning, I’m so tired.”

        What was this? Was it insubordination? Perhaps it was, but I did
        not mean to recognise it as such. Who had prepared the midnight
        supper without a word? Minerva. Was I one to forget benefits
        conferred? No. Did I want to keep Minerva at all hazards? Yes.
        Was it wise to let Ethel know of the state of affairs? No.

        Therefore I came softly down the stairs and going out into the
        kitchen, I built a fire and then went to work as dexterously as
        I could to cook things for breakfast. I poured a cup of cold
        water on three cups of oatmeal flakes and set them to boil, and
        while I waited for the water to attend to business I got a book
        and read. Really, this cooking is no such hardship as I had
        supposed, thought I. I was not as quick as Minerva, for I was an
        hour getting the oatmeal to a point where it looked palatable,
        and I made some mistake of proportions in making the coffee, but
        I sliced the bread very well, indeed, and I set the table
        without nicking a plate, and at last I put a half dozen eggs
        into the water in the double boiler and went up stairs to
        announce breakfast. Ethel had fallen asleep. I woke her and told
        her that I believed breakfast was ready. Then I went down to my
        book again.

        Ethel can hurry upon occasion, and she was no time in coming
        down. But quick as she was, I was quicker, for I had the eggs on
        the table before she appeared, and when she came into the room
        we sat down together with never a suspicion on her part that
        Minerva had not prepared the breakfast. I felt the way I used to
        feel when I was a boy and used to do something a little beyond
        my supposed powers. My bosom swelled with pride as I reflected
        that every bit of the breakfast had been prepared by me.

        Ethel uncovered the oatmeal dish and then she said, rather
        irrelevantly, I thought,

        “What’s the matter with Minerva?”

        “Nothing, dear,” said I, reaching out my hand for my portion.

        Her only answer was to ring the bell.

        “—Er—I believe Minerva is upstairs,” said I.

        “What has she been doing to the oatmeal?” said Ethel, poking at
        it with her spoon, but not attempting to taste the stiff-looking
        mass.

        “Fact is, Ethel,” said I, “Minerva is a little upset by last
        night’s disturbance, and I cooked the breakfast.”

        “You mean you didn’t cook it,” said Ethel, with just a touch of
        sarcasm.

        “Well, what I didn’t do, I didn’t do for you. I thought you’d
        had enough of the kitchen, and if you disguise this with sugar
        and cream it will be all right.”

        But this was an exaggeration. We could not pretend to eat the
        gluey mass, so I said,

        “Well, anyhow, there are nice fresh eggs. It doesn’t take a
        great deal of skill to boil them.”

        “Did you use the three-minute glass,” said Ethel, as she helped
        me to two eggs and then took two herself.

        I told her that I didn’t know what she meant; that I used no
        glass at all, but had boiled them in the under part of the
        oatmeal boiler, as I had noticed Minerva do.

        “Yes, but how long?” asked Ethel, as she took up her knife and
        chipped the shell of one.

        “About an hour and a half,” said she, answering her own
        question. “You meant well, Philip, but you didn’t know. These
        are as hard as a rock and not yet cold. I hope the coffee is
        better.”

        Ethel is not usually so fault finding, but I laid it to her
        broken sleep, and said,

        “The _bread_ is _cut_ pretty well. And the butter is just as
        good as if Minerva had put it on the table herself.”

        “Yes, the bread and butter are quite a success, Phil, but this
        coffee—”

        “Mild?” said I, taking my cue from the color of it as she
        poured.

        “I should say so. It looks like a substitute for coffee.”

        “Then I guess I don’t care for any,” said I. “But anyhow, you
        didn’t have to do any of the preparing, and we’ll leave it for
        Minerva to wash the dishes.”

        I helped myself to milk and managed to eat an egg, but they are
        not very good when hot and hard, unless they are sliced and
        reposing on a bed of spinach.

        I began to feel a little hot myself that Minerva should have led
        me to this successful exposure of incompetence, and leaving the
        table I went up stairs and called out somewhat angrily,

        “Minerva, we’re all through breakfast and you’ll have to come
        right down and prepare lunch, as nothing has been fit to eat.”

        A snore was the only response that she gave, and I was glad she
        had not heard me. One cannot afford to be peremptory if one has
        but one string to one’s bow. I came down stairs again.

        Ethel was in the kitchen frying some eggs and preparing some
        more coffee.

        “Is she coming down?” asked she.

        “Er—no—she’s tired. But Ethel, I can’t have you getting
        breakfast. I’ve already got one, and although it wasn’t a
        success, we’d better make it do. You look tired out after the
        excitement of last night. Let’s eat some berries and drink a
        glass of milk and wait for lunch. Wasn’t that burglar funny last
        night?”

        “Philip, are you going to let Minerva stay in bed all day?” said
        Ethel.

        I sat down on the kitchen table and said,

        “Ethel, would you like to be waked up in the middle of the night
        and forced to prepare an extra meal? Minerva is a human being
        and she is tired. You’re a human being and you’re tired. Let us
        let Minerva spend this one day in bed taking the rest cure, and
        after we’ve eaten this second breakfast, which smells pretty
        good, _we’ll_ spend the day out doors.”

        “But Minerva is insubordinate.”

        “Very well, let us call it that. Suppose we suppress her
        insubordination and she works for us all day and takes the
        evening train for New York, will the thought that we have
        suppressed insubordination in a cook get us a new servant?
        Insubordination in the city, where there are whole intelligence
        offices filled with girls looking for new places, is a thing
        that I can’t and won’t stand; but insubordination, with Mamie
        Logan sick with scarlet fever and no other girl in the world
        that I know of, is a thing to be coddled, as you might say. Call
        it weariness caused by over-service and it immediately becomes a
        thing that we can pardon. Do you want to pack up and go back to
        New York?”

        Ethel assured me that she did not.

        “Well, then, don’t let us talk any more about insubordination.
        We’ll eat what you set before us, asking no questions, and then
        we’ll go out for a long walk.”

        We went out for a long walk, and both of us succeeded by sheer
        will power in forgetting that Minerva existed. We made believe
        that we could live on the delicious air that blew so gently at
        us, and for two or three hours we wandered or sat still, or
        Ethel sketched and we were thoroughly happy.

        It was about noon when we returned to the house. We heard loud
        voices and stopped to listen.

        “I tell you he was a frien’ of Mist. Vernon’s,” we heard Minerva
        say.

        “Well, then, Mr. Vernon has a thief for a friend.”

        We exchanged meaning glances. Our friend of the night before had
        evidently been traced as far as our house. There was nothing to
        do but to go forward and accept the inevitable.

        I went into the kitchen, followed by Ethel. A large, determined
        looking man was sitting on a chair in the middle of the floor;
        by his side stood a strapping mulatto, and Minerva, stopped
        midway in her dishwashing and with something of sleepiness still
        in her eyes, was standing by the stove.

        “How are you?” This from me.

        “Good morning. My name is Collins, and I’m a constable. The
        Fayerweather’s house was robbed last night and the thief got
        away with the goods.”

        I assumed a look of great unconcern, but I felt that Minerva was
        devouring me with her eyes.

        “That’s bad,” said I.

        “Yes, it’s bad, but it might be worse. I find that he came as
        far as here, and your girl says that you entertained him with a
        midnight supper. Where is he now; hiding?”

        His tone was insolent, and my tone was correspondingly
        dignified.

        “Why, I haven’t the slightest idea where the thief that robbed
        the Fayerweather’s is now,” said I, wishing with all my heart
        that the constable was on his vacation at some pleasant summer
        resort, far, far away.

        “Minerva,” said I, trying to take the bull by the horns, “what
        makes you say that I entertained a thief last night?”

        “I didn’ say so, Mist. Vernon. This ge’man said that a man,
        now—robbed that house, an’ ast me if we had a mid—a midnight
        vis’ter; an’ I said no one but your frien’ that I cooked the
        om’let for; an’ he ast me how he looked, an’ I told him it
        couldn’ be him, because you an’ him was great frien’s, an’ I
        knowed you wasn’ no frien’s with a burglar.”

        “Hm,” said I, wondering why in thunderation I had been placed in
        such an unpleasant position as this, solely through my
        well-meant efforts to keep Minerva contented.

        “Did you entertain a friend here after midnight, last night?”
        asked the constable, who seemed a painfully direct sort of
        individual.

        “There was a man came here late last night, and we had a little
        chat together, and a—a little supper, you might call it.”

        I paused and looked at Ethel. She was the color of a carnation.

        “Go on,” said the constable.

        At this I remembered my dignity, and again stood upon it.

        “Why should I go on? Who are you to cross-question me in this
        way?”

        “I am the constable, as I said before, and I consider it very
        suspicious that you should be visited by a man who had a bag
        that jingled, at midnight.”

        “Why shouldn’t it jingle at midnight?” said I with a desperate
        attempt to impart a tone of lightness to the conversation. “If I
        choose to give a meal to a wayfarer with a jingling bag, I
        suppose it is my own concern.”

        “Mist. Vernon, he warn’t no tramp. He was a good dresser,” said
        Minerva, looking at me reproachfully.

        “Was—this—man—a—friend—of—yours—or—not?” asked the constable
        doggedly.

        “He was a friend of mine last night,” said I, thinking of the
        debt of gratitude I felt I owned him when he went away.

        “Did you suspect him of being a thief?” said the constable, in
        such a casual way that without thinking I said “Yes.”

        Minerva’s arms had been folded on her breast. They dropped to
        her side. Ethel slipped behind the constable and went into the
        parlour—to cool her red cheeks, I suppose.

        It was certainly a very unpleasant position for both of us, and
        I felt that my white lies were coming home to roost way ahead of
        roosting time.

        “Did he give you a part of the spoils as a reward for having fed
        him?”

        “No, sir.” This indignantly.

        “He didn’t give you this?” said he, pulling out of his pocket a
        silver vase.

        “No.”

        At this Minerva actually began to sob. “Oh, Mist. Vernon, how
        could you say that? I found that vase in the kitchen this
        morning, and this man says it was stolen from them people. Oh,
        why did I come up here?”

        “Philip, you might as well tell the whole story,” said Ethel,
        coming back from the parlour. “We’ll probably lose Minerva now,
        anyway.”

        “So there _is_ a story,” said the constable, crossing his legs
        in a most irritating way. In fact he couldn’t have done anything
        that would not have been irritating.

        I saw that the best thing to do was to tell the truth,
        ridiculous as it might sound with Minerva there. Indeed, the
        very fact of my telling it might soften the girl and show her
        how much we were willing to descend in our efforts to keep her
        valuable services. But I made a wrong start. I said:

        “I knew that the man was a burglar—”

        Minerva immediately burst out sobbing and left the kitchen and
        went to her room, and my mental eye could see her remorselessly
        packing her trunk.

        “Go on,” said the constable, and then, “Go outside,” said he to
        the mulatto.

        “Well, now that they’ve gone,” said I in a relieved tone, “I can
        tell you the whole thing, farcical as it is. Have you a
        servant?”

        “My wife has a hired girl. What’s that got to do with it?”

        “Do you have trouble in keeping her?”

        “We have trouble in keeping _them_. It’s one after another. They
        all get the itch for the mills or the stores.”

        “Good! Then you’ll understand me,” said I, and I told him the
        whole story, going on to say:

        “When we were roused by this burglar, and I realized that
        Minerva would throw up her position if she was unduly startled,
        I resolved to throw myself on the burglar’s mercy, and ask him
        to pose as my friend, so as to deceive Minerva. It worked all
        right, or would have worked all right if you hadn’t come here to
        upset her worse than ever. She’s probably packing her trunk,
        now—”

        “By Godfrey, I’m sorry,” said the constable, who seemed a very
        decent sort of fellow, now that I knew him better.

        “You may well be sorry,” said I, with considerably more spirit
        than I had yet shown. “Of course, I understand that you are
        doing your duty, but it’s always best to come to headquarters in
        an affair of this kind. You got only a garbled version from
        Minerva. I have given you the facts. The burglar evidently left
        that cup by mistake, and the Fayerweathers are welcome to it.
        I’m sure I never want to see it again. It would be a perpetual
        reminder of our loss of Minerva.”

        The constable rose. “It’s a durned shame,” said he, “but of
        course I didn’t know anything about you. So then you don’t know
        where the burglar went after he left here?”

        I hesitated. It did not seem honourable to tell even the little
        I knew about the man who had been my guest.

        “He went out the front door,” said I, “but where he is now I
        haven’t the shadow of a suspicion.”

        The constable opened the kitchen door. “Come along, Jim,” said
        he.

        Then he took his leave.

        Overhead Minerva was preparing for the same thing.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER VI

                      MISS PUSSY TRIES FLY PAPER.


        IN the back hallway, up stairs, there was a long wooden chest,
        half full of old magazines. Behind it mice had established a
        home. I did not know this at the time, but was to learn it a few
        minutes after the constable left.

        We stood in the kitchen, Ethel and I, listening to the heavy
        foot-falls of Minerva. She was evidently packing her trunk.
        Suddenly there came a mewing at the kitchen door, and I opened
        it for the entrance of Miss Pussy, who made a bee line for up
        stairs, one of her hunting grounds.

        “We might hide Miss Pussy,” said I, “and then Minerva wouldn’t
        go.”

        Minerva’s voice has a penetrating quality, and in a minute we
        could hear her making a confidant of Miss Pussy.

        “Miss Pussy, you an’ me is go’n’ back to the lovely city.
        Country’s ba-ad ’nough, but livin’ with the frien’s of burglars
        is wuss. What you want, Miss Pussy?”

        The voice came out into the hall; Minerva had evidently followed
        the cat out.

        “Yeah, you’ll get a mouse behin’ there. You wait—”

        We heard a grunt such as some people make when they lift
        something heavy, and then a characteristic chuckle, and then a
        half agonized,

        “Ooh, come out, come out, Miss Pussy. You’ll git squished. I
        can’t hold it. Come out.”

        “What _is_ happening now?” said I to Ethel.

        “Oh, some of her tomfoolery. I’m out of patience with her.”

        “Mist. Vernon! Mist. Vernon! quick! qui-i-ck! I can’t hol’ much
        longer! Pussy’ll be squished!”

        I rushed up those familiar stairs, followed by Ethel, and there
        stood Minerva, her eyes nearly popping out of her head as she
        tried with bare success to hold up the heavy chest full of
        magazines.

        Of the cat nothing was to be seen except a twitching tail that
        told me she was underneath the chest watching a mouse in calm
        obliviousness of the fact that her mistress was using all her
        strength in an effort to save her from becoming only a map of a
        cat.

        “Hold on a minute,” I cried, rushing to her assistance, but just
        as I reached her the chest slipped from her fingers.

        But a cat with all its nine lives fresh within its young frame,
        is not easily “squished,” even by so heavy a thing as a chest
        full of magazines, and Miss Pussy’s body darted out just in
        time. Not so the tip of her tail which, whisking behind her as
        she turned to rush out, was caught between chest and floor, and
        acted like a push button on a call bell, for she emitted a
        continuous yawp that lasted until I had lifted the chest again.

        Cats generally see where they are going, but Miss Pussy had been
        looking behind her at the spectacle of her imprisoned tail, and
        when I released her she sprang high in the air and landed
        compactly and dexterously on a sheet of sticky fly paper.

        Never can I forget the look she gave us over her shoulder as her
        feet struck the gluey mass. To give herself a leverage by which
        to pull her dainty fore-paws out of the entanglement, she sat
        down—temporarily, as she thought—permanently, as the fly paper
        decided.

        We _were_ sorry for the cat, but being Americans we gave
        ourselves over to mirth at the picture she presented. The pencil
        of a Frost is needed to adequately represent her agonized
        twisting on the sticky sheet. At last, by a Herculean effort,
        she extricated her fore paws and walking glue-ily to the head of
        the stairs she dragged herself along on the fly paper as if she
        were part sled, part cat. Coming to the head of the stairs she
        attempted to walk down in the manner of trick cats, but not
        being used to the exercise she turned a series of summersaults
        instead, and landed at the foot so completely enmeshed in sticky
        fly paper that it would have been a small fly, indeed, who could
        have found a place for his own little feet upon its yellow
        surface.

        I have often derided the witless persons who found amusement in
        what I call pantomime catastrophes, but this simple conjunction
        of cat and fly paper was as funny as anything I ever looked at.

        “It’ll spoil her nice fur,” said Minerva, running down stairs
        after the cat and overtaking her at the kitchen door, which I
        had fortunately closed. A sympathetic hand picked up the papered
        cat and attempted to divorce her from her adhesive mantle, but
        when I came down it looked to me as if there were far more fur
        on the “tanglefoot” than Pussy had herself, and the ungrateful
        animal had scratched her benefactress as well as she could with
        glue covered talons. Then spitting and swearing, Miss Pussy
        dashed through the kitchen window, not waiting for it to be
        opened, and went to her first retreat, where she remained for
        the rest of the day, ridding herself, after the manner of cats,
        of as much as she could of the flies’ last resting place.

        It suddenly occurred to me that the time was ripe for more
        diplomacy, that even now, at the eleventh hour, I might save
        Minerva to the house of Vernon, and things would continue to go
        on as smoothly—as before.

        “Minerva, you saved Miss Pussy’s life by holding on as you did,”
        said I. (I said nothing about her asininity in lifting the chest
        for Miss Pussy to creep under it.)

        “Might as well be dead as all gawmed up with that fly paper
        stuff.”

        “Well, she has a cat’s tongue, and she knows how to use it.
        She’ll be as sleek as sealskin by to-night. Minerva!”

        “Yas’r.”

        “Minerva, if I raised your wages, do you think you’d stay with
        us? Of course, you know I never saw that man until last night.”

        “Then how’d he know so much about them children and all them
        people?”

        “That was just his funny way. He was making believe—just—just to
        make talk. But you haven’t answered my question. ‘Would you stay
        if I raised your wages?’”

        “How much?”

        There was no use in my being mealy mouthed now, and so I flung
        economy to the four winds of heaven and said:

        “Thirty dollars a month.”

        Minerva gasped. The bait was in her throat.

        “Thirty dollars a month right through the summer,” said I.

        “I’ll stay, Mist. Vernon, jes to help you out, but I do hate the
        country and the night time. If it was all day long all the time,
        I could stan’ it. If I could git to bed about eight o’clock, I
        wouldn’t mind it so much, but you have dinner so late, I don’t
        get the dishes washed in time.”

        I pondered, and just then Ethel came into the kitchen.

        “Ethel, Minerva is going to stay with us for the summer, but she
        is afraid of the dark, and thinks that if we could have dinner
        earlier she would like it better.”

        Ethel sniffed. She sniffed disdainfully.

        “When would you like to have it, Minerva?” said I, hoping that
        the sniffing would cease. Sniffs are not a part of diplomacy, by
        any means.

        “If you had it at five o’clock, I’d get to bed at eight.”

        “Five o’clock is ridiculous,” burst out Ethel. I looked at her
        warningly, but she did not pay any attention to my signal.

        “No, Minerva,” said she. “Six o’clock is plenty early enough.”

        “Well,” said Minerva, actually putting her hands on her hips, a
        new attitude for her, “I’m on’y staying now to oblige, and I’ll
        have to go back, I reckon.”

        Now this was a little too much, but for the sake of keeping her
        and the health of my wife at any cost, I said:

        “Well, Minerva, I suppose that in spite of Mrs. Vernon’s
        objection to the hour we’ll have dinner at five, but I tell you
        plainly that it is because I do not want Mrs. Vernon to be left
        without a servant.”

        “You’re a very ungrateful girl, Minerva,” said Ethel with a
        strange lack of tact. “Mr. Vernon has put up with a great deal
        from you, and you act as if you were ill treated.”

        “I’m kep’ a prisoner in the country, an’ that’s ill treatment
        all right,” said Minerva, sullenly, and I motioned to Ethel and
        we left the kitchen together.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER VII

                          MINERVA’S PASTORAL.


        NEXT morning was a pleasant one, and as soon as breakfast was
        over I went out into the kitchen and told Minerva that if her
        friend did not delay, her musical instrument ought to arrive by
        Friday. I found her in her usual state of good temper.

        “That little place where you were sewing, out there in the
        woods, will be a very good spot in which to play it,” said I
        suggestively.

        “Oh, I kin play it anywheys,” said she with a kindling glance,
        that bespoke the artist of temperament, absolute master of his
        instrument. So Paderewski might speak of his ability to play a
        piano in a drawing-room car.

        That morning I had a notion to go fishing, and I asked Ethel to
        join me, but she said she was tired, and laughed as she said it.
        Of course Minerva was the real reason.

        “I wish that houses were automatic,” said I, “so that they could
        run themselves. Just think how nice it would be to have a house
        fitted to run by steam all day long, by simply dropping a five
        dollar gold piece in the slot in the morning.”

        “How expensive,” said the economical Ethel.

        “I don’t think so,” said I, “there’s many a housekeeper who
        would be willing to give up many things if five dollars a day
        would bring relief from household sorrows. ‘No servants needed.
        A child can run it. Can be fitted to any house. Gas or electric
        or steam motive power. Not half the danger from explosions that
        went with the old system when servants were liable to go off at
        any moment. Come to our warerooms and see a large house running
        by itself.’ There’s a fortune in the idea.”

        “Well, you have the idea,” said Ethel. “Go sell it.”

        “No, I’m going fishing.”

        The great advantage that fishing has over some sports is that
        one does not need ability or paraphernalia of any sort beyond
        those of the most primitive type. Your hammer-thrower needs
        brawn, your chess player brains, your golf player a caddy—and a
        vocabulary, but anyone can go fishing. Of course there is a
        great difference between going fishing and catching fish, and I
        am one of that large army that goes fishing and returns from
        fishing as innocent of fish as at the moment of departure.

        But to the man with eyes, there are many things besides fish
        that he can catch, and, although no hint of a nibble came to my
        patient fingers, I reveled in the day and would have stayed
        longer if I had not felt anxious about Ethel and Minerva. What
        could they do to amuse each other, with me away?

        I made my pleasant way back up the hills, so reminiscent of
        Scotch scenery, and knew very well the sarcasms that would greet
        me when I acknowledged that I had possessed no magnetism over
        the fish. Ethel always has a store of amiable causticisms for me
        when I come back from a fishless expedition.

        When I returned I found the house empty and the gluey Miss Pussy
        shut up and miaowing in the kitchen. I was startled at first. I
        had come up by way of the pine grove, and there was no one
        there. I called my loudest and no one answered. Had Minerva
        obliged Ethel to get a horse and wagon and take her to the
        station in my absence? It looked like it. The fire was nearly
        out, the dishes all washed, the floor freshly mopped. That was
        it. Minerva had swept and garnished the house and had then left
        it, and in a short time Ethel would come back disconsolate, and
        then—why, then we would pack up and go back ourselves.

        The only thing that did not fit in with my conjecture was the
        presence of Miss Pussy. It did not seem as if Minerva would go
        away and leave her precious cat.

        I heard a rattle of wheels. Bert Dalton was going to the
        village. I would go down with him and ride back with Ethel. She
        had probably hired the Stevens’ horse. I hurried out and hailed
        Bert, and he stopped.

        “Going to the village?”

        “Yes, sir, want anything got?”

        I explained the situation, and joined him, and we were soon out
        of sight of the house. I looked at my watch. If we hurried I
        could yet get to the station before the train for New York came
        in. I told Bert so, and he quickened the horse’s pace.

        About half a mile on our way I heard some one calling for help.
        Bert heard the call, too, and just as I was going to say “stop,”
        he stopped of his own accord. We both jumped out. The noise came
        from a field on our right, mostly given over to blueberry
        bushes, but with a little timber on its farther edge.

        “Help! Murder!” It was a high-keyed woman’s voice.

        “Tramps,” said Bert, as we hurried on.

        “Hysterics,” said I, for I was sure I heard laughter alternating
        with the screams. And the laughter had a strangely familiar
        sound.

        On we ran, the screams continuing, and at last the sounds were
        located, that is, the screams were. They came from a low growing
        chestnut. Perched in its branches sat Minerva, her face the
        image of horror, and below on a fallen trunk sat Ethel,
        laughing, with the tears rolling down her cheeks. By her side
        were two tin pails, nearly full of blueberries.

        “Minerva, stop that screaming. I tell you she won’t hurt you,”
        said Ethel, and then went off into another fit of laughter, and
        Minerva yelled blue murder again.

        Neither had seen us.

        “Come up here, Mis. Vernon. He’ll kill you, shu’s you’ bawn.”

        “She’s gone away. You’ve frightened her. Come down.”

        “Oh, Lawdy! Lawdy! _Lawdy!_ Why’d I come? He’ll shu’ly kill us.”

        When we saw that the danger was imaginary, I signalled to Bert,
        and we both stepped out of sight of Minerva and Mrs. Vernon, in
        order to see the comedy. Ethel’s perfect calmness and her
        amusement, but slightly tinged with sympathy, formed such a
        striking contrast to Minerva’s abject fear. Who was this he-she
        that was threatening Minerva’s existence?

        There was a rustling in the bushes, Minerva’s screams redoubled,
        and in spite of her 180 pounds she climbed still higher into the
        tree.

        And then the cause of all the commotion showed “himself.” A
        mild-looking Jersey cow, all unconscious of the agony she was
        causing, came into view and advanced toward Ethel, sniffing.

        “Don’t you overturn our berries,” said my wife, walking toward
        the creature. The cow was evidently a pet, for as Ethel put out
        her hand to shoo her away she sniffed expectantly and put out
        her tongue in hope of receiving some little delicacy.

        This so terrified Minerva that she took another step upward, put
        her faith in a recreant limb, and, just as Bert and I discovered
        ourselves to Ethel, our “cook lady” fell out of the tree and
        landed smack on the cow, who kindly broke her fall and then
        broke into a run, kicking her heels and waving her tail, after
        the manner of her species.

        Minerva was not hurt, thanks to the cow, but she was much
        agitated, and it was some time before we could make her listen
        to the words of wisdom that all three poured forth with generous
        ease.

        “It was such a lovely day, we thought we’d go berrying,” said
        Ethel. “You got my note, I suppose.”

        “No, I did not. I made up my mind that you were taking Minerva
        to the train, and as Bert passed by just then, I came down with
        him in order to go back with you.”

        “Then how came you here?” asked Ethel.

        “How came we here? _How came we here?_ Why those screams went
        beyond Mount Nebo. You’ll see people pouring over the edge of it
        in a few minutes. Such shrieks I never heard outside of a mad
        house. I thought it was Indians.”

        Minerva’s agitation had now taken the form of sobbing, and as
        she mopped her face with her apron it began to dawn upon her
        that she had not been in danger until she took to the tree. She
        helped herself to a handful of berries, and they seemed to do
        her good, for she listened to Ethel’s account of what had
        happened and punctuated it with what at first were chuckles, and
        when the humour of the thing had soaked in far enough were her
        irresistible guffaws, so provocative of laughter in others.

        “We were picking berries and enjoying ourselves very much when I
        heard a rustling and looked up, and there was a cow. I said
        rather hastily, ‘Oh, look,’ and Minerva looked and screamed out,
        ‘It’s a bear,’ and before I could tell her what it was she had
        gone up that tree as if she had lived in the country all her
        life. She begged of me to come up with her, but I got over my
        fear of cows some time ago.” This with a conscious blush, for
        Ethel knew that in times past she, too, had fled from a cow.

        I turned to Minerva. “Do you mean to tell me that you never saw
        a cow before? There are cows in the city.”

        “I never saw one.”

        “Haven’t you seen pictures of them on groceries?”

        “I spec I have, but comin’ thataway at me it looked like a
        bear.”

        “Very like a bear,” said I. “Well, it’s lucky you weren’t hurt.
        You can thank the cow that you didn’t break your back. I hope
        you didn’t break hers.”

        She went off into yells of laughter at this mild bit of humour,
        and cheerfulness now being restored, I thanked Bert for giving
        me a lift and told him I didn’t care to go any farther.

        He left us and we went on picking berries, and before the pail
        was full Minerva had a chance to pat the fearsome beast that had
        so nearly frightened her to death. Now that she knew it was
        merely a cow, the source of the milk and cream of which she was
        so fond, she had no fear at all, being in that respect different
        from Ethel, who in the beginning had feared cows because they
        were cows, just as certain other women fear mice because they
        are mice, and as Lord Roberts fears a cat because it is a cat
        and not “the enemy.”

        The whistle at the Wharton Paper Mill told us it was twelve
        o’clock, and like hungry mill hands we started for home. Minerva
        walked ahead with both pails, and Ethel and I followed.

        Half way up Minerva burst into song.

        “How volatile!” said I.

        “The worst is over. We’ll have no more trouble with her,” said
        Ethel.

        So lightly do we attempt to read the future.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER VIII

                          THE ’CORDEEN COMES.


        THAT afternoon Bert brought an express package to Minerva.

        To _her_ it was a package of sunlight.

        In _fact_ it was the accordeon.

        As soon as Minerva opened the bundle she stopped cooking dinner
        and began to play on her beloved instrument. Such sounds I had
        hoped never to hear again, and I went out into the kitchen and
        told her that I was sorry, but that I could not stand it in the
        house.

        She looked up from the instrument, and there was a world of
        appeal in her eyes. I had never seen so much expression in them.
        Music certainly had power over her.

        “Oh, Mist. Vernon, it’ll be dark after the dishes is washed, an’
        I don’ dah go in the woods,” said she. “I’ll play sof’.”

        “Yes, but you’ll delay dinner.”

        She actually came over and laid her brown hand on my sleeve.

        “Mist. Vernon,” said she, in honey tones, “I’m on’y gettin’
        dinner at five to please myse’f. If I git it at six Mis. Vernon
        will like it better. She said so. I won’t play long.”

        But I was determined not to listen to such music as that in the
        house. So I went out doors.

        Ethel was sitting at the window of her bedroom. When she saw me
        she put her hands to her ears and made a grimace.

        I made signs to her to come down.

        “Let us be diplomatic,” said I, when she had come down stairs.
        “Let us go for a long walk.”

        The hideous “upside down music” assailed us until we were fully
        a half a mile away.

        “Ethel,” said I, “we haven’t gone about this matter of keeping
        Minerva in the right way.”

        “Meaning what?” said Ethel.

        “Meaning that we are trying to make her like a thing she does
        not understand. The country is an unknown land to her. We must
        try to make her acquainted with it, and perhaps she will love it
        so much that we will have hard work getting her to go back with
        us.”

        “Well, goodness, that is hardly worth striving for,” said Ethel.
        “There are only three months up here, but there are nine months
        in the city, and we want her there.”

        “Well, we won’t educate her up to that point, then, but we must
        do something to make her more contented. She is just as much a
        human being as you and I, and I dare say that her summer is just
        as much to her as ours is to us. We are depriving her of
        recreation pier amusements, of ice cream, of band concerts, and
        what are we giving her in return? We ought to go out and get
        some one of her own colour to come and call on her.”

        “Don’t be absurd, Philip. Minerva is not a farce.”

        “No, she is only getting to be a tragedy. But I’m not absurd.
        Next to Minerva’s love for the city is her love for people. If
        we can’t make her love the country, we may be able to make her
        love the people of the country, and I am going to ask Bert if
        there is not some respectable man or woman who could be hired to
        come here and call on Minerva every day.”

        Ethel looked at me expecting to see a twinkle or so in one or
        another of my eyes, but I was not thinking of twinkling. I never
        was so much in earnest. Minerva was plainly sorry that she had
        been impertinent and I was going to be eminently just.

        We dismissed Minerva from our thoughts, or at least I, man-like
        dismissed her from mine. I don’t suppose that Ethel was able to
        do so, but we did not talk of her again, preferring to drink in
        the beauties of nature and call each other’s attention to each
        draught. Rare is that nature lover who can silently absorb the
        loveliness of a landscape.

        Nor would I laugh at those who call on their companions for
        corroboration of their views as to views. It is simply another
        way of sharing delights, and that man who gobbles up a landscape
        and never comments upon it is not likely to have kept silence
        from Japanese motives. They say that the Japanese take the
        appreciation of beauty so much as a matter of course that they
        never refer to the rapturous tints in an orchard of peach
        blossoms or the tender greens of a spring landscape, feeling
        that it would be an insult to invite attention where attention
        was already bestowed; but with us of the West, when a man
        refrains from speaking about this lordly oak or that graceful
        dip of hill, or those clouds dying on the horizon in every
        conceivable colour, the chances are that he is thinking of his
        business affairs, and the clouds die and the hills dip and the
        tree spreads not for him.

        Many of these graceful thoughts I expressed in fitting words to
        Ethel, so it will be seen that our walk was not without
        interest, and as she in turn said many quotable things, which I
        now forget, the walk was prolonged until to our astonishment we
        found that it was seven.

        “Hungry as a bear?” asked I.

        “Indeed I am. Probably Minerva has been holding dinner in the
        oven this half hour, and it will not be fit to eat.”

        We hastened our steps, and in a few minutes our home burst upon
        us—also more strains from the accordeon—together with plunks
        from a banjo.

        We heard the plunks before we saw who was supplying them, but in
        a moment the musician was seen to be seated upon the front
        verandah.

        He was a tall, good-looking mulatto, and I at once recognized
        him as being the man who had driven the constable over that
        morning.

        Ethel stopped short, and became angry at the same instant. I
        stopped short and became amused at the same instant, thus
        showing how the same acts will affect different natures; also
        showing how a person can do two things at once and do them both
        well. For there is no question but that our stops were as short
        as they could have been, and our anger and amusement were well
        conceived and well carried out.

        Ethel was too angry to speak. I was too amused to keep silent.

        “It’s scandalous,” said Ethel, as soon as she could find words.

        “It’s just right,” said I. “And it has given me a good idea.
        After dinner I will tell you about it.”

        The banjoist had seen us first, and had told Minerva, and both
        had jumped to their feet, the man to bow and Minerva to run into
        the kitchen, where she was followed by her friend.

        By the time we had come up to the front path to the veranda the
        coloured man had come out from the kitchen and in most melodious
        tones said,

        “Minerva wanted to know if you would like dinner served on the
        piazza, the evening being so pleasant.”

        Delmonico never had a head waiter with the aplomb, the native
        dignity, the utter unconsciousness of self that this superbly
        built man displayed.

        I felt that we had suddenly fallen heir to a fortune, and a
        group of retainers, and trying to play my part to the best of my
        ability I said,

        “By all means—er—”

        “James.”

        “By all means, James. Is it ready?”

        “I will ascertain in a moment sir,” said this yellow prince, and
        retired to the kitchen, whence he emerged in a moment.

        “A slight retention in the oven in regard to the roast, sir, but
        the soup will be ready immejutly.”

        Ethel had gone up stairs at once. I nodded my head gravely and
        said,

        “Very well, James,” and then I went up to make my toilet.

        “The tide has turned, Ethel,” said I when I reached the room. “A
        kind Providence has sent the grandson of some Senegambian king
        to wait on us and to amuse Minerva between meals. Put a ribbon
        in your hair, and I will put a buttercup in my button hole, or I
        will dress, if you say so, and we will put on the style that
        befits us.”

        “Who is that man?” said Ethel.

        “In fairy stories wise people never question. They accept. This
        is the constable’s driver, and he was probably attracted here by
        the dread strains of the accordeon. Let us make the most of him.
        I am quite sure he is going to serve dinner, and I feel it in my
        bones that he will do it well.”

        And he did do it well and the dinner was worth serving. It had
        been delayed by the concert, there was no doubt of that, and it
        was nearly eight when we sat down to it, but the silent,
        graceful fellow, moved noiselessly in and out from kitchen to
        verandah, the whippoorwills sang to us, the roses filled the air
        with fragrance, and a silver crescent in the west rode to its
        couch full sleepily.

        This may sound poetic. If it does it is because we felt
        satisfied with everything once more, and satisfaction is poetry.

        After the dinner was over Ethel went out into the kitchen about
        something and found Minerva smiling and bustling around to get
        the dishes washed in a hurry.

        “Mis. Vernon,” said she, “that man wants to know if Mist. Vernon
        has any work for him to do.”

        “That man” was out on the veranda clearing away the dessert
        dishes.

        “I’ll see,” said Ethel. “How did he happen to come here?”

        “Why, Mis. Vernon, that man is related with my folks. His aunt’s
        brother married my aunt’s niece. I don’ know what that makes him
        to me, but he remembers me when I was a little gal in New York,
        and he reckernized me as soon as he saw me. He says—”

        The approach of James prevented her from saying anything
        further, but as soon as he had gone out for the coffee cups, she
        continued:

        “He says that he’s on’y be’n workin’ with that policeman while
        he was manufacturin’ hay, an’ he’d like to do odd jobs.”

        “I’m afraid they’ll have to be real odd ones,” said I when Ethel
        told me what had transpired. “But if it is going to make Minerva
        contented we will have him come and paint the porch green
        to-morrow, and red the day after.”

        I sat and smoked peacefully for a few minutes. James had taken
        the last saucer out to the kitchen, and Ethel sat by my side,
        looking out into the waning light of day.

        Suddenly there came the strains of “Roll Jordan, Roll,” in the
        form of a soprano and bass duet.

        Minerva’s playing on the accordeon had not prepared me for the
        sweetness of her voice, which is perhaps not strange, and of
        course I knew nothing of James’s capabilities as a vocalist
        until I heard his rich, mellow baritone blend with her warm
        soprano.

        The effect was delightful. Not since I heard the original Fiske
        Jubilee singers, twenty-five years ago, when a boy of six or
        seven, have I heard any negro music that satisfied me as this
        did.

        “Ethel,” said I, “we are It. Is there a local charitable
        organization or a Village Improvement Society, or a Mother’s
        Meeting that needs help?”

        “What are you after now,” said Ethel.

        “Minerva’s pleasure first and foremost, but also the
        amelioration of the bitter lot of parties at present unknown, by
        means of a concert to be given at the house of Mrs. Vernon, by
        James and Minerva.”

        “Philip!” said Ethel.

        “As near as I can make out,” said I, “I am devoting this summer
        to the building up of your health by a life in the country, free
        from cares. To do that we must have a girl, and there is but one
        girl that we know we can have, and that is the girl we do have.
        Can’t you imagine how Minerva will take fire at the thought of
        singing in a concert?”

        “I suppose she would like it,” said Ethel, “but how do you know
        that we can get people to come?”

        “We needn’t worry about that part of it at first. First of all
        we must begin our rehearsals, and they will take time. Do you
        appreciate that fact? And very first of all, I’ll go out and
        interview James.”

        “Philip,” said Ethel, rising and looking at me with a vexed
        expression, “I wish you had more dignity. I’ll go out and tell
        James that you wish to speak to him.”

        “Not at all,” said I. “What! You go out and tell him? Wait. Sit
        where you are, and all will be well.”

        I was beginning to feel in holiday mood, for I was sure that I
        had struck on an arrangement that would tide us over at least a
        fortnight.

        I went out to the kitchen.

        “Minerva,” said I, “Mrs. Vernon would like to speak to you.”

        I then went back to Ethel and said, “I have asked Minerva to
        come. When she comes, tell her to send James. We will do this
        thing in style while we are about it.”

        Minerva came in, her face all smiles.

        “Minerva, ask your friend James to come out,” said Ethel. “Mr.
        Vernon wishes to speak to him.”

        “That’s it! That’s _style_!” said I, as soon as Minerva had
        gone. “Now is our dignity preserved, and James feels that he has
        fallen among people who know what’s what. Do you want to be
        present at this interview?”

        Ethel decided that she did not, and went into the parlour as
        James came out of the kitchen.

        “Did you want to speak to me, sir?” said James respectfully.

        “Yes, James. What is your last name?”

        “Mars. James Montgomery Mars.”

        “Minerva tells me, James, that you are looking for work.”

        “Yes, sir; for congenial work.”

        “Would singing be congenial work?”

        “Singing’s a pleasure, sir. It ain’t work.”

        “I’ve been thinking,” said I, “that what this section needed was
        a concert for the benefit of something. Now, Mrs. Vernon likes
        to make other people happy, and while we were listening to you
        and Minerva sing, it struck us both that a concert of old
        plantation melodies like those you could sing, would be well
        received, say at the Congregational Church at Egerton. I would
        pay you a coachman’s wages for staying here and practising, but
        all the money taken in would go to—”

        “The Hurlbert Hospital. That’s what they always do with the
        money up here, sir.”

        “Oh, I see, like the Liverpool Sailors’ Home.”

        He did not understand my allusion, but I did not explain.
        Allusions that are explained lose half their charm.

        “What do you think of the idea?”

        “I think it’s all right, sir. But between singing what would I
        do?”

        “Do you love nature?”

        “I don’t know’s I know what you intend to mean, sir.”

        “Does it make you happy to be out doors?”

        “Oh, sure. I’m an out-door boy, all right.”

        “Well, Mrs. Vernon, in her desire to benefit humanity—You
        understand me, James?”

        “Oh, I get the words all right. I don’t rightly see your drift.”

        “What I want to say is, that Mrs. Vernon wishes to make Minerva
        love out doors as well as you do, and she is going to teach her
        some of the things that a country-bred man like you knows by
        heart. How to tell an oak from a maple at twilight.”

        “Oh, that kind has been here before. The Wheelocks, that had
        this house last year, went out in the woods with these here
        glasses and they brought things up close with them. They never
        cared for nature unless they had their glasses.”

        “James, I’m afraid it is apt to degenerate into something like
        that, but—James, if I tell you something, will you respect my
        confidence?”

        “Will you please say that in different words?”

        I thought a moment while I chose simpler words.

        “Will you say nothing to Minerva, if I tell you something?”

        “Oh, sure.”

        “Well, this concert and these nature lessons are solely for the
        purpose of keeping Minerva’s mind off herself and the city. She
        wants to go back to New York, and we want her to stay here all
        summer, and—”

        I explained it all to him, and the fellow seemed to enter right
        into the spirit of the thing, and assured me that he would do
        all he could to help.

        “Where do you live?”

        “Down in the valley a bit. When shall I show up in the morning?”

        “The earlier, the better. I want you and Minerva to begin to
        practise for the concert right away. Do you sing by note.”

        “Yes, sir.”

        “Well, have you any book of negro melodies.”

        “No, sir. Wouldn’t do me much good, sir, as I can’t read music.”

        “Oh, I thought you said you sang by note.”

        “Yes, sir. Note by note, right along. I have a good ear, but I
        can’t read music.”

        “Very well, James. Come in the morning prepared to sing note by
        note, by ear, anything you can remember. Do you know ‘Swing Low,
        Sweet Chariot?’”

        “Indeed I do. Oh, I know all the jubilee songs, and all the
        rag-time songs, and I guess we can fill up a couple of hours
        singin’ in the old Congregational Church.”

        He chuckled.

        “What is it, James?”

        “Why, I was thinkin’ that here the white folks sing down there
        every Sunday in the church, and if I care to go an’ hear them it
        don’t cost me a cent, but if Minerva and me sing there in that
        same church, the white folk’ll have to pay money to hear us.
        ‘Tain’t gen’elly that way.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER IX

                           A NAKED SCUTTERER.


        THE next morning was one of those days that sometimes come in
        the summer, when the most desirable thing to do is to sleep. The
        air was soft and damp, and sleep inviting, and when something
        awoke me at six o’clock, I drowsily looked at my watch and
        dreamily realized that I was not compelled to catch any train,
        but could sink into delightful unconsciousness once more.

        Just what had waked me I did not know, but before I went off
        again I heard the voice of James out doors, and then I heard the
        voice of Minerva, evidently at her open window, saying:

        “I’ll be down in a few minutes.”

        And then I dropped off, to be awakened again in what seemed like
        a moment by these beautiful words:

                   “Oh, de debbil he t’ought he had me fas’.
                          Le’ my people go.
                   But I t’ought I’d break his chains at las’,
                          Le’ my people go.
                   Go down Moses, way down in Egypt la-an’,
                   Tell ol’ Phar’o’ fo’ to le’ my people go.”

        It was melodious, it was harmonious, but it was also six o’clock
        in the morning.

        “Oh, won’t they stop,” said Ethel, sleepily.

        “Not by my command,” said I. “They are practising for the
        concert.”

        “Oh, I’m so sleepy! What time is it?”

                       “Oh, ’twas a dark an’ stormy night,
                              Le’ my people go;
                       When Moses an’ the Israelite,
                              Le’ my people go.”

        “_Make_ them go,” said Ethel, her eyes wide open, but her mouth
        passing from the words to a yawn.

        “And it’s such a beautiful morning to sleep,” said I.

        But as verse after verse rolled out sonorously, sleep fled from
        the room in dismay, and we followed, and for the first time
        since we had come to the country, found ourselves as one might
        say, up before breakfast. The morning air was delightful, but we
        knew the danger that lurks in morning air on empty stomachs—or
        we thought we knew it. If there is no danger in such exposures I
        make my humble apology to those who hold the contrary opinion.
        Personally I do not know what is right to do—that is,
        hygienically right to do, at any given moment.

        May I be forgiven for digressing at this point, in order that I
        may touch on a topic that has been near my heart for a long
        time, but has never had a chance for utterance before. I was
        brought up to believe that water with meals was a very bad
        thing, so I went without water at meals, and thrived like a
        green bay tree.

        One day a doctor told me that water with meals was the one thing
        needed to bring out the tonic properties of food.

        I immediately began to drink water with my meals in perfect
        trust and confidence, and—I continued to thrive like a green bay
        tree.

        When I was a boy, I was told that tomatoes were exceedingly bad;
        that they had no nutritive qualities, and that it was but a few
        short years since they had been called “love apples” and had
        rightly been considered poisonous.

        With unquestioning faith I refrained from eating the juicy
        vegetables and remained free from all the diseases that follow
        in their train. I had not tasted a tomato, and I did not know
        what I was losing.

        One day when feeling a little off my feed, a young doctor friend
        said, “What you need is the acid of a tomato.”

        With an unfaltering trust I approached a tomato and ate it and
        realized the many, many years that were irrevocably gone; years
        in which I might have eaten the succulent fruit—for a tomato is
        a fruit; there’s no question of it.

        After that day I made a point of eating tomatoes whenever I
        could and I remained free from the diseases that had been said
        to follow in their train.

        I blindly follow the dictum of the last doctor who speaks and it
        is to that fact that I attribute my good health.

        I read somewhere not long since that the best way to keep free
        from colds was to sit in draughts as much as possible and I
        believe there is a good deal of sound sense back of that dictum,
        but Ethel will not let me try the virtue of the thing.

        No doctor has told me that it is right to take long walks on an
        early morning empty stomach and so I have not done it, but I
        have an English friend who used to walk twenty miles or so to
        breakfast. The English are always walking twenty miles to
        somewhere, and look at them. A fine race!

        The Americans are not much given to walking, but look at them—a
        fine race!

        Everything is certainly for the best—always, everywhere.

        We walked around to the kitchen and found Minerva on her knees
        before the fire watching insufficient kindling feebly burn while
        James sat on the kitchen table swinging one long leg and
        teaching her a rag-time melody.

        He rose to his feet as we came in and gave us a hearty good
        morning and then burst into a good-natured laugh that showed all
        his beautiful white teeth.

        “Made an early start, sir.”

        “Yes, James. It isn’t absolutely necessary for rehearsals to
        begin quite so early,” said I. “It woke us up.”

        “There, now, Minerva, what did I tell you? I was sure they’d
        hear it.”

        “No question about your filling the church.”

        “’Deed I’m awful sorry,” said Minerva, “Wakin’ you so early, an’
        the fire not kindled.”

        “Well, never mind. We’ll drink some milk and then we’ll go for a
        little walk, but I think that to-morrow perhaps the rehearsals
        needn’t begin until after breakfast. There’ll be a long morning
        before you and you can rehearse in the morning and take the
        nature study in the afternoon.”

        “Yas’r,” said Minerva, a shade of reluctance in her tone which I
        attributed to the mention of nature study. Minerva evidently
        wanted life to be one grand sweet song.

        All that morning snatches of melody floated over the landscape
        in the which landscape we were idly lolling under the trees
        reading, and I think that household duties were neglected, but
        that James was not averse to work was shown by the fact that he
        carried great armfuls of kindling wood into the kitchen.

        When Ethel went out there just before lunch she found the west
        window banked up to the second sash with kindling wood.

        Ethel likes to have the whole house in ship shape order, and
        this unsightly pile of wood in the kitchen went against the
        grain. There was enough there to last a week and meantime the
        kitchen was robbed of that much daylight.

        James sat on the door-sill idly whittling a piece of kindling
        and Minerva, temporarily songless, was getting lunch ready.

        “Oh, James,” said Ethel after a rapid survey of the situation,
        “I wish if you haven’t anything else to do that you would pile
        that kindling wood out in the woodshed.”

        She told me he burst into his hearty laugh, and, rising with
        alacrity, he said:

        “Certainly, Mrs. Vernon,” and for the next half hour he was
        busily employed in undoing what he had done in the half hour
        before.

        “Oh, it will be easy to find employment for him along those
        lines,” said I when she told me. “We’ll just make him do things
        and undo them and that laugh of his will keep Minerva sweet
        natured and he’ll earn his wages over and over again.”

        “Well, it seems sort of wicked to make a human being do
        unnecessary things just for the sake of making him undo them
        again,” said my mistress of economics.

        “In cases like that the end justifies the means.”

        After lunch that day Ethel interrogated Minerva as to her
        feelings.

        “Oh, Mis. Vernon, James is like human folks to me. He’s in a way
        different from you an’ Mist. Vernon.”

        “Do you mean you think he’s better?” said Ethel, more to draw
        Minerva out than for any other reason.

        “No, but he’s more folksy. You an’ Mist. Vernon, after all’s
        said an’ done, is white. It ain’t dat he’s kinder dan you, but
        he’s more my kind. My, he’d be lovely in de city.”

        Minerva sighed.

        “Minerva, don’t think about the city, you wouldn’t have such a
        chance to sing together in the city as you have here. I couldn’t
        get up such a concert as this is going to be in the city, but up
        here you have just that much more freedom.”

        “Minerva,” continued Ethel, “You needn’t scrub the kitchen floor
        this afternoon. I want you and James to join a little school
        that I am going to get up.”

        “Never did like school,” said Minerva.

        “Well,” said Ethel, feeling that she had approached the subject
        in the wrong way, “I don’t mean a school where you have to sit
        in a stuffy room and do sums on a board and learn to read and
        write. I mean that we are going out into the woods to learn
        something about the denizens of the woods and fields.”

        “Yas’m,” said Minerva.

        Minerva was an emotional being. There was never any doubt of
        that. I think it was the next day that Ethel and I were
        returning from a walk and we saw James leave the kitchen and go
        around to the front of the house as if he were looking for some
        one.

        When he saw us he said:

        “Have you seen Minerva?”

        We told him we had not, but just then we all saw her coming out
        of the woodshed with a handful of kindlings, her cat, still
        somewhat sticky, perched on her shoulder.

        She entered the kitchen and I was just about to ask James a
        question about the Hurlbert Home when the now familiar shrieking
        voice of Minerva came to us through the open kitchen window.

        “Ow, ow, take it away. Ow, I’m bitten.”

        Ethel, alarmed, started for the house. I, nonplussed, stood
        still. James burst out laughing.

        A moment later Minerva came running out of the front door, her
        apron over her head.

        “What is it, Minerva?” said Ethel, taking hold of her and
        uncovering her face.

        “Ow, Mis. Vernon, dere’s der stranges’ animal in the kitchen.
        Tain’t a dog an’ it has a mouth like hinges, an’ I’m afraid
        it’ll eat Miss Pussy up.”

        “What a child you are, Minerva,” said Ethel. “There’s no animal
        there. I’m sure of it.”

        “Let’s see what it is,” said I, and turned to speak to James,
        but he had disappeared.

        I could hear his hearty voice shattering the air with laughter,
        but I could not see him.

        “Come, we’ll go in and see this beast,” said I. “Perhaps it’s a
        rat.”

        “’Deed it ain’t a rat. I ain’t agoin’ in. It’s scutterin’ all
        over de place, an’ it’s stark naked.”

        Scuttering all over the place and stark naked. A light burst on
        me.

        Ethel and I went in hand in hand, because her hand sought mine.
        I can not say that I was afraid.

        When we reached the sitting room we could hear the scuttering
        together with other noises that were not pleasant, and I
        realized that to metropolitan Minerva the animal must be very
        terrifying if, indeed, he proved to be what I thought he was.

        Minerva had evidently slammed the kitchen door after her, for it
        was shut.

        I opened it and the stark naked scutterer turned out to be a
        little pig not much bigger than Miss Pussy and as pink and nude
        as Venus rising from the sea.

        The little chap was frantic and he rushed through the dining
        room into the sitting room and thence to the front porch.

        Minerva had been standing there wringing her hands, with her
        back to the house. It therefore happened that she did not see
        the innocent little porker coming. His only idea was to get out
        of doors and away, but he blundered in doing so, for he ran
        plump into Minerva, who sat down on him as promptly and then in
        her agitation she rolled off the front steps to the front path,
        and the squealing piggy, freeing himself from her skirts, ran
        off down the road.

        “Ow, he’s bit me. He’s bit me,” said Minerva, sitting up in the
        path and rubbing her knee.

        I am not entirely at home in natural history, but I do not think
        it is the habit of little pigs to bite, and I told Minerva so,
        but she insisted that she was bitten, and nothing would calm her
        until Mrs. Ethel took her into the kitchen and satisfied her
        that she had not been bitten at all.

        Minerva’s plight had its funny side, and James evidently thought
        so, for he now came into view and said,

        “She’s the most fidgety girl I ever saw. I brought her a present
        of a little pig and left it in the kitchen for her, and the pig
        has never been away from its mother before, and it was most as
        much frightened as Minerva was.”

        “What she needs is lessons in natural history, James. The other
        day she mistook a cow for a bear, and the only animals she seems
        to know are horses and dogs and cats.”

        “I guess I’ll go get that pig,” said James. We could hear the
        little animal squealing. It was running madly around in the
        lower lot.

        “I’ll help you, James.”

        Afterwards I was sorry I had said I would help James. I had
        never chased a pig before, and I did not know they could cover
        ground so quickly or so unexpectedly. Twice I was bowled over in
        my efforts to grab the slippery beast, and by the time that he
        was caught I was winded and perspiring.

        “I’ll take it into the kitchen and show it to Minerva and tell
        her how it happened,” said James.

        “Yes, do,” said I. “The only way to get her broken to pigs is to
        show her that they do not intend any harm.”

        We went into the kitchen and found her laughing hysterically,
        while Ethel was picking up pieces of crockery that decorated the
        floor. It seems that the lunch dishes were piled up preparatory
        to washing them and piggy had run against the leg of the table
        and dislodged them with destructive effect.

        James entered the kitchen, holding the pig clasped to his ample
        chest.

        “There, Minerva, you see the animal is perfectly harmless.”

        “My, _my_, I never did see such a mouth,” said she.

        Ethel does not like to touch strange animals, but she wished to
        show Minerva how perfectly innocuous this little piggy was, and
        so she stroked its pink little snout and the next instant the
        little fellow had her finger in its mouth and sucked it as if it
        were a stick of candy.

        This at first frightened Minerva and it did not please my
        fastidious wife, but for the sake of the object lesson she said:

        “Now, you see, Minerva, this pig is even more harmless than a
        cat, for a cat has claws and this pig has only—”

        Alas, for Ethel. The pig showed what it could do by inserting
        its pearly teeth in her finger.

        She snatched her hand away in a moment, but Minerva’s confidence
        in pigs had been so lessened that we told James that he would
        better take his gift elsewhere.

        For my part I was not sorry to see the shiny little creature go.
        Pigs have never appealed to me as household pets. My ancestors
        came from England.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER X

                           WE PLAN A CONCERT.


        IT was the day after we had given up that particular spot in the
        woods as a trysting place and we were all driving to the village
        in Bert’s wagon.

        We were going for two reasons; Ethel intended buying Minerva a
        new dress (for out doors), and I was going to find out something
        about the concert which I proposed giving.

        Ethel and I took turns in driving, while James and Minerva sat
        on the back seat.

        Great billows of clouds lapped the shores of blue above us and
        cast huge shadows on the hillside; shadows that moving changed
        the entire aspect of the places over which they passed.

        Bobolinks launched themselves and their songs at the same time
        and gave to the day a quality that no other songster is ever
        able to impart. It was a morning to inspire happiness.

        “What a heavenly country this is,” said Ethel; “I’d like to live
        here until the leaves color.”

        “I dare say it would be nice here in the winter time, too.”

        “Oof!” shuddered Ethel. “Pretty but dreadful. How can anyone
        keep warm in the country in the wintertime?”

        Her remark had been heard by Minerva, and she said to James:

        “Do folks leave here in winter?”

        “No, indeed,” said James. “Winter’s the best time of the year up
        here. I jus’ like the cold. Coastin’ from here to the village, a
        mile and a half. Everybody does it. And skating! Umm. You ought
        to stay up here in winter.”

        “Oh, lawdy, if it’s so sad in the summer I’d die in the winter.
        Don’t the wind howl like a dog?”

        “Like a thousand dogs, but I like it. You come up here an’ visit
        my old mother in the winter, an’ I’ll teach you to skate and
        you’ll never want to go back.”

        “Imagine Minerva here in winter,” whispered Ethel to me. “Poor
        thing. She would die of the horrors. But, do you think she is
        more contented?”

        “I certainly do. She is going to have new clothes—Is that a
        sheep?”

        It turned out to be a rock. “There are no sheep around here,”
        said Ethel. “Bert said so.”

        “I wonder if Minerva would be frightened at sheep?”

        “She might be. The most peaceful animals aren’t always the most
        peaceful looking. I think a cow is much more diabolical than a
        lion as far as looks go. A lion is kind of benign and I dare say
        that a lion that has just eaten a man looks sleepy and contented
        and good-natured as he licks his chops.”

        “I think the most dreadful looking beast in the whole menagerie
        is the goat, although, come to think of it, he is more likely to
        be found in the back yard than in the menagerie, and I dare say
        that Minerva knows him like a book. Yes, he has the devil beaten
        to a pulp, as Harry Banks would say, and yet he never has the
        bad manners to spit like the—what was that beautiful beast that
        spit in the face of that pompous little man down at Dreamland?”

        “Oh, you mean the llama. Wasn’t that funny? And he did look so
        innocent. And now that spitting is a misdemeanor and the
        practice is going out, I suppose the llama will steadily
        increase in value—”

        “Do you mind if we sing. Mr. Vernon?” said James, respectfully.

        I thought a minute. If James had been driving and Minerva was by
        his side on the front seat it would have been perfectly natural
        for Ethel and me to break out into song on such a perfect day in
        such a lonely place.

        As the conditions were reversed; as I was driving and James and
        Minerva were on the back seat, it seemed to me perfectly proper
        that they should be the ones to break out into roundelays, and I
        told them to break out—couching the permission in other
        language.

        They began, after a whispered consultation, and the song which
        they sang was as follows:

                   “Ma-ah ol’ missus said to me
                     (Gwan to git a-home bime by)
                   “Whe-en she died she’d set me free
                     (Gwan to git a-home bime by)

                   Oh dat watermiyun
                     (Lamb er goodness you must die)
                   I’se gwan fer to jine de cont’aban’ chillun
                     (Gwan ter git a-home bime by).

                   “Whe-en she died she died so po’
                     (Gwan ter git a-home bime by).
                   She lef’ me wuss’n I was befo’
                     (Gwan ter git a-home bime by).”

        They had started the chorus of the second verse, throwing
        themselves into it with all the abandon of bobolinks—black
        bobolinks—when we came to a turn in the road and heard a clatter
        of hoofs and a smart turn-out belonging to summer people from
        Egerton drove by.

        I recognized in the ladies who were leaning languidly back on
        the cushioned seats two New Yorkers whom we met at a tea last
        winter and who seemed to take an interest in Ethel, so much so
        that I told her at the time that if she had had any social
        ambitions I was sure that here were stepping stones.

        But I am quite sure that the stepping stones marveled greatly at
        the spectacle and the sounds we presented. Driving a chorus out.
        We looked back after we had passed and found that they were rude
        enough to be looking at us.

        “Do you care, Ethel?”

        “Well, I wish they had been some one else. It must have looked
        silly.”

        “Not at all. It looks perfectly business-like. Or it will look
        so later. When Mrs. Guernsea and her daughter see the
        announcements of the concert they will realize that we were
        doing a little preliminary advertising to whet the appetites of
        the populace. They will come to the concert. Mark my words.”

        As we were now within sight of the houses of the village, I told
        James that I guessed we’d better postpone further melody until
        our return, as we might be taken for a circus, rather than a
        concert, and the rest of the way was made in silence.

        While Ethel was buying clothes for Minerva, I, by the advice of
        James, sought out Deacon Fotherby of the Second Congregational
        Church.

        He presided over the destinies of a shoestore, and when I went
        in he was trying to force a number eight shoe on a number nine
        foot of a Cinderella of uncertain age, whose face was red—from
        his exertions.

        I waited patiently about until the good deacon got a larger
        shoe, called it a number seven (may the recording angel pardon
        him) and slipped it on the foot of Cinderella, who departed
        simpering.

        He came up to me in a business-like way.

        “Is this Deacon Fotherby?”

        “My name is Fotherby, but I sell shoes week days.”

        “Well, _Mr._ Fotherby, I don’t want to buy any shoes to-day, but
        I do want to know whether you are interested in the Hurlbert
        Home.”

        The deacon’s manner underwent a remarkable change. Up to that
        time he had been the attentive salesman. Now his face softened,
        he motioned me to a seat and sat down beside me.

        “Interested? I’m wrapped up in it. What do you want? To help it
        or be helped by it?”

        “Both in a way,” said I, as I thought of what the concert was
        going to accomplish for me.

        “I am in a position to give a concert of negro melodies for the
        benefit of your home. I control—in a measure—two colored persons
        who have fine voices, and it occurred to me that the villagers
        and perhaps the summer people would attend a concert given in
        your church.”

        “Yes, they would,” said he, rubbing his hands. “And we could
        provide some attractions out of our own ranks. There’s a male
        quartette in the Sunday School—”

        “White?” said I.

        “Why, certainly,” said he.

        “Well, I’m a person entirely devoid of race prejudice, but you
        must remember that this is New England, Massachusetts in fact,
        and if we wish to make a success of this concert we must not mix
        the two races. I see no reason personally why your white
        quartette should not sing on the same stage with our colored
        singers, if they sing as well, but I am quite sure that the
        public would not patronize the concert if we advertised it as a
        mixed affair.”

        The good deacon rose from his seat and said, “Why, my dear sir,
        I consider that a colored man has just as white a soul as a
        white man.”

        I also rose and told him that I could not swear as to the color
        of any soul; that souls might be a delicate pink for all I
        personally knew to the contrary. I also told him that I would
        not object to attending a concert of beautiful voices that came
        out of white and black throats (I was not flippant enough to say
        that all throats were red) but that I knew my fellow Yankees too
        well to think that they would care to come to a concert where
        whites and blacks sang on the same stage.

        “It might go in the South,” said I, “where their ideas about
        such things are different from ours, but up here if you want our
        colored concert to be a success you must let all the singing be
        done by colored folks and all the hearing be done by white.”

        At this point the talk drifted to the negro question and what a
        problem it was getting to be and I found that we thought alike
        on most points, and I finally made him understand that I was
        acting from diplomatic motives entirely, and because I
        understood the temper of the New Englanders so well.

        “Remember that it was in a town in Connecticut,” said I, “that a
        colored man was ejected from a white man’s restaurant, and it is
        in New England that little colored children have a hard time at
        school, because they are black, and for no other reason. Being
        in New England, the country of liberty, you must give me the
        liberty of arranging my concert so that it shall be a success,
        and therefore (I smiled) there must be no mixture of races on
        the stage.”

        We decided that the early part of September would be a good time
        to give it, as the haying would by that time have been done and
        we could count on a larger audience.

        On the way home James told me that he had a brother and a little
        sister, who could be brought into the concert, and that with
        them he could furnish some very nice quartettes.

        Ethel looked at me meaningly, and said,

        “Minerva might go there and practise. Do they live at your
        mother’s?”

        “Yes, ma’am.”

        I realized that it would be better for them to practise at his
        house than at ours, because, while the practice of music makes
        perfect, it sometimes also makes maniacs.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XI

                       THE HORSE IN THE KITCHEN.


        “NOW, I’ll tell Mis. Vernon, if you do dem tricks. Stop.”

        “Why, he’s perfectly harmless, Minerva. Look, I’m holding him.”

        “Don’ you let him get at me. Mah goodness, he has a head like a
        horse. Ooh, Lawdy, where’s he gone?”

        It was raining and Ethel and I were in the sitting room when we
        heard these loud words and then Minerva burst into the room.

        She had her skirts held at a height that would have been all
        right for ballet dancing, but Minerva is not a ballet dancer and
        Ethel bade her remember herself.

        Now it seemed to me that that was exactly what she was doing.
        Fright is memory of self as nearly as I can make out, and
        Minerva was evidently frightened at a new animal that “looked
        like a horse.”

        I had a mental picture of a pony that James had smuggled into
        the kitchen and then I remembered that New York was not a
        stranger to ponies and that perhaps in her childhood Minerva
        might have ridden a pony in Central Park or at Coney Island. No,
        it must be some other beast.

        “What is the matter. Don’t you see that Mr. Vernon is reading to
        me?”

        “But it jumped at me!”

        “What jumped at you?” said I sternly. If there is anything that
        I dislike it is to be interrupted when I am reading. If
        interruptions ever came in the midst of prosy descriptions I
        would not mind it at all. I could even stand it in the midst of
        a digression (like the present one), but interrupters have the
        uncanny knack of timing their breaks so that just as the author
        has led up to a brilliant _mot_ and the moment is
        psychologically perfect, they say their little say and when the
        reading is resumed the humour or the wit of the sentence has
        evaporated.

        James now appeared in the doorway.

        “What jumped at Minerva, James?”

        “It was on’y a grasshopper, sir. Never saw anyone afraid of a
        grasshopper before.”

        “Why, Minerva!” said Ethel. “You said it looked like a horse.”

        James, with a chuckle, stooped and picked something from the
        floor. It bent its legs for a spring as he put his hand down and
        again Minerva screamed. It leaped with a thud against his palm
        and he held it between thumb and forefinger and said,

        “She’s right. It does look like a horse.”

        I had never noticed the resemblance before, but there was no
        gainsaying it, once our attention had been called to it. I
        imagine that if the head were increased to horse size and the
        body and legs were in proportion, it would be a more formidable
        looking beast than the hyena. And if a hyena were reduced to
        grasshopper size he would be as “cute” as a caterpillar.

        “Minerva,” said Ethel, “sit down. You may go, James. I wish you
        would not scare Minerva.”

        “Never thought she’d scare so easy, Mrs. Vernon,” said he
        respectfully. He was always respectful. He went out into the
        woodshed to split some kindlings. He had already split enough to
        last us all of a winter, but it was healthful exercise and I
        kept him at it when he was not singing or mowing the lawn.

        “Minerva, I don’t suppose that there is a more harmless insect
        in the world than a grasshopper,” said Ethel.

        “What are they for?” said Minerva.

        “Why—er,” said Ethel, while I held my book up before my face
        discreetly.

        “Why, they are to hop in the grass.”

        “Oh,” said Minerva.

        “Yes, they can hop many times the length of their own bodies.”

        “Oh,” said Minerva.

        Ethel made a mental calculation.

        “I should say, Minerva,” said she, “that a grasshopper can hop
        about one hundred and twenty times his own length. How tall are
        you?”

        “I’m five feet three,” was her unexpected answer.

        “Well, call it five feet,” said Ethel, with a very serious face.
        “If you had the power of a grasshopper you could hop six hundred
        feet. That is to say, you could hop a _long_ city block.”

        The idea of Minerva hopping from Seventh Avenue to Eighth (for
        instance) was too much for me and I began to cough so hard that
        I had to go up stairs for a trochee.

        When I came down Ethel was saying,

        “You’ve heard the noises in the grass, haven’t you?”

        “’Deed I have,” said Minerva, dismally.

        “Did you know that the grasshoppers make a great deal of that
        noise?”

        “No’m,” said Minerva, her mouth wide open.

        “They do. And how do you suppose they do it?”

        “They blow, I suppose.”

        “No, they don’t blow. Do they, Philip?”

        “No, very few grasshoppers can blow. They can blow away, but
        they make that noise by—er—why, they make that noise—”

        The words of a college song came into my head, “I can play the
        fiddle with my left hind leg.”

        “They make fiddles of themselves and play, Minerva.”

        Minerva looked at me seriously.

        “That’s it, Minerva,” said Ethel eagerly. “They scrape their
        wings in some way and that makes the sound. You don’t know how
        many things there are to learn about the country and, Minerva,
        it isn’t half as dangerous as the city. To-morrow if it is
        pleasant, we’ll go out and try to catch a grasshopper playing
        his little fiddle. You may go, now, Minerva.”

        Minerva went out and closed the kitchen door and the next minute
        the house shook. I thought of the powder mills at Mildon. Again
        the house shook.

        “It is Minerva hopping,” said Ethel.

        “Pretty close to six hundred feet, from the sound,” said I.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XII

                           “THE SIMPLE LIFE.”


        I HAD strung up a hammock between two trees in front of the
        house and days when Ethel did not feel like walking she used to
        lie in it while I sat by her side and read to her. She would
        have been glad to read to me some times, but if there is
        anything I dislike it is to be read to. I can never follow what
        is being said unless I have a book in front of me, and besides
        as I cannot knit and do not know how to draw it would be time
        wasted for me to sit still and listen to reading.

        We are so built, the most of us, that we consider we are wasting
        time unless our hands are moving. If a woman sits with her hands
        in her lap thinking great thoughts she is manifestly idle. But
        if she sits embroidering tasteless doilies and thinking of
        nothing, she has found something for her hands to do and Satan
        is foiled again. How often he is foiled these days.

        As I say, I do dislike to be read to, so while Ethel sits and
        crochets or knits or does fancy sewing, I sit by her side and
        read, and it is a very pleasant way of passing the time. Her
        embroidery is worth while, and I think there is to be found no
        such practice in language as reading aloud.

        I recommend it to all lispers and persons with uncertain
        pronunciations.

        While we were reading who should drive up but the Guernseas, the
        people who had heard our open air concert.

        I saw they were about to stop, so I laid down my book and went
        out to greet them.

        “Won’t you come into the house?” said I, and Ethel rising,
        seconded the invitation.

        “Thank you, no it is such a lovely day we’ll sit here. John, you
        may come back in twenty minutes.”

        John was their very elegant driver, and after hitching the
        horses to the stone post, he touched his hat and walked away.

        Ethel and I stood by the carriage and passed the commonplaces of
        the day for a minute or two and then the absurdity of the
        situation dawned on me. Here were our two distinguished friends
        doing us the honour of calling on us, and they were sitting in
        the most comfortable seats in a very ornate carriage, while my
        good wife and I stood at their feet as it were and received
        their call. I prefer _sitting_ at people’s feet, after the
        manner of the Jews of old, so I went into the house and brought
        out two dingy hair-cloth chairs, much to Ethel’s mortification,
        and we sat down on them.

        So sitting we were not more than abreast of the floor of the
        carriage, and we addressed all our remarks to those above who
        evidently had no sense of humour, for they never smiled at the
        situation once.

        “We want to know,” said Mrs. Guernsea, languidly, “whether you
        are living this simple life that Charles Wagner preaches.”

        “I haven’t read his book, but our life is simple. I think we are
        both very simple.”

        I looked at Ethel and she and I looked up to the perches above
        us, and I know that she was thinking that we _were_ very simple
        to allow a thing of this kind to happen, instead of insisting
        that our grand visitors come at least to the verandah and meet
        us upon an equal footing.

        “Caroline, they are leading the simple life. Fancy! Was that why
        you went driving with those colored people yesterday?”

        Ethel started to tell the facts in the case, but I rudely
        interrupted and said,

        “Mrs. Guernsea, in the simple life all men are equal, but in
        real life there are many inequalities. The woman you saw on the
        back seat was Minerva, our estimable cook, while the man was
        James, our man-of-all-play.”

        I pronounced his title quickly and she did not notice the
        variation.

        “This is the land of the free and theoretically all men are free
        and equal. As a matter of fact, all men are not so, but up here
        while we lead the simple life we try to make those with whom we
        come in contact believe that they are so. You met us yesterday,
        and yesterday I was driving Minerva and James out. Had you met
        us to-day, James would have been driving Mrs. Vernon and me
        out.”

        Both Mrs. Guernsea and her lackadaisical daughter accepted what
        I had to say in the spirit in which I wished them to accept it;
        as a truth of the simple life, and it was so different from
        their own lives that for the nonce it interested them to hear
        about it. Therefore, despite Ethel’s reproving brow-liftings, I
        went on.

        “In our life here in this cottage Minerva does all the cooking,
        because she is the best cook of the four, just as I do all the
        reading aloud, because I am the best reader; and Mrs. Vernon
        does all the embroidery, because she is the best embroiderer;
        and James—well, we have not yet found what James can do best,
        but there is one thing—his spirits are never depressed and he
        heartens us all.”

        “How curious. And do you believe that such a state of things
        would be possible in a more complex life, in New York, for
        instance?”

        “Mrs. Guernsea, have you ever tried having Mr. Guernsea take
        your men and your maids out driving in the Park?”

        “Why, no!”

        “Try it, when you go back,” said I. “They will be pleased beyond
        any doubt.”

        “But your servants were singing. Did not that annoy you?”

        “My dear Mrs. Guernsea, it is one of the first principles of the
        simple life not to be annoyed. Didn’t you think their voices
        sweet?”

        “Yes, but it seemed so—so unconventional.”

        “The simple _lifers_,” said I, “abhor conventions that already
        exist. They aim to create new conventions and live up to them.
        We felt the need of song. Neither Mrs. Vernon nor myself can
        sing very acceptably. Both Minerva and James are blessed with
        delightful voices, so they sang for us without a word of
        demurring.”

        “Would they sing now, do you suppose? It was really very
        lovely.”

        “I have no doubt. I’ll go and ask them. But—”

        I hesitated. The precious old humbug, so devoid of humour, was
        condescending toward the simple life during a single ennuied
        afternoon. I wondered if I could make her become a disciple of
        it for a few short moments; hence my hesitation. I resolved to
        risk it, and with an elevation of my eyebrows directed at Ethel
        which meant “Keep out,” I said:

        “In the simple life anything like condescension jars. If Minerva
        and James consent to sing I must ask that they be allowed to sit
        in the carriage and that you make one of us on the ground. I
        will get chairs.”

        “Oh, no, we will stand.”

        And the daughter said languidly, “We sometimes drive over to the
        country fairs, and it is awfully jolly to stand alongside the
        carriage and watch the races. We have done it on the other side,
        too.”

        “Oh, I know they always do it there,” said I, with enthusiasm.
        “Many’s the picture I’ve seen of it.”

        I went in and found Minerva ironing, while James was blacking
        the stove.

        “Will you please tidy yourselves up a bit and come out and sing
        for two of our friends?” said I. “They are influential city
        people, and they may not be able to attend the concert. You’re
        to sit in their carriage and sing.”

        They were, of course, delighted, being two children, and I left
        them tidying up, and hurried back.

        Ethel had gone into the house for something, but she soon came
        out with a bowl of blue berries and two napkins.

        “Will you help yourselves?” said she.

        Mrs. Guernsea looked at her daughter, and her daughter looked at
        Mrs. Guernsea. They were too well bred to suggest that anything
        was missing, but they were evidently thinking of saucers and
        spoons. I came to the rescue, knowing that Ethel had entered
        into my madness.

        “More simple life, but you don’t _have_ to do it. Still, berries
        never taste so luscious as when eaten from the hand.”

        I held the bowl solemnly before them, they removed their gloves,
        ate dainty mouthfuls of berries, and their delight in the
        flavour was very real.

        “Oh, I wish that it were possible to do this at home.”

        I bowed. “It needs only for Mrs. Guernsea to do it to make it
        possible everywhere.”

        While they were eating Minerva and James came out, and if
        Minerva was not the best looking woman there, James was the best
        looking man—by all odds. I was proud of their appearance.

        I was a little afraid that the Guernseas would show a certain
        amount of _hauteur_, but they were evidently trying to enter
        into the simple life, and would obey all its rules for the
        nonce. It was a break in their sadly monotonous lives.

        “Minerva and James, these are Mrs. Guernsea and her daughter,
        Miss Guernsea, and they wish you to sing some of your songs.”

        Both Mrs. Guernsea and the daughter smiled very seriously, and I
        helped them to alight from the carriage.

        They took their stand on the green sward, and as I would not
        have felt comfortable to remain seated with them standing, I
        left my seat, and so Ethel was the only one who had a seat at
        the concert.

        After a little self conscious giggling on Minerva’s part, a
        giggling that James reprimanded with native dignity, the pair
        began “Steal Away.”


        [Illustration: “Steal away.”]


        The richly caparisoned horses, to employ a term that has been
        faithful to writers these many years, the beautiful Victoria,
        handsomely japanned, the earnest songsters leaning back on the
        cushions and singing the plaintive song, while the fashionable
        Guernseas stood and drank it all in, formed a picture as unusual
        as it was pleasing—to me.

        Midway in the second verse, even as the Guernseas had surprised
        us the day before, so to-day the pastor of the Second
        Congregational Church surprised us to-day by driving past in his
        buggy, accompanied by his wife.

        I think he had meant to stop, but when he saw what was going on,
        he simply opened his mouth; his good wife opened her mouth, and
        I think the horse opened its mouth, and they drove by.

        They had seen the simple life being lived by six persons.

        James and Minerva were ready for an encore, but it did not occur
        to either Mrs. Guernsea or her daughter to applaud. They
        contented themselves by saying it was very charming.

        But I felt that the labourers were worthy of their hire, and
        still thinking of the simple life and equality, I said to Mrs.
        Guernsea, in the most matter of course way:

        “I wonder if you wouldn’t let James take Minerva out for a short
        drive in return for their singing? James is an expert driver.”

        Mrs. Guernsea was not at all hard, and besides, I believe that
        she was in a way hypnotised; so with scarce a moment’s
        hesitation she said:

        “Why, certainly. You won’t be gone long, I suppose?”

        “Oh, no ma’am. We’ll just drive around the square.”

        The “square” was a stretch of country road some two miles in
        length.

        James unhitched the horses and mounted the driver’s seat, but
        Minerva sprawled luxuriously in the seat in which she had sung.
        James tightened the reins and the horses started off at what is
        called a spanking pace by those who know.

        What happened thereafter was told me in part by James, and I
        will give the substance of it.

        It seems that he had not gone very far when he met John, the
        driver.

        Naturally enough, when John saw his mistress’s horses coming
        toward him at a pace considerably above that indulged in by
        himself (when he was driving for her), he was at first
        dumbfounded and then angered. To him what had occurred was as
        plain as the nose on his face. Mrs. Guernsea had been asked into
        the house by us, and this impudent scamp had seized the
        opportunity to take his girl out for a ride.

        “Here, stop. Get out of that!” he yelled.

        James replied by some piece of impertinence that served to
        increase the coachman’s anger, and picking up a stone he let
        drive at James, but hit the flank of the nigh horse instead. He,
        feeling the unwonted sting, plunged forward, communicated his
        fear to his mate, and the two horses began to run away.

        We at the house heard Minerva’s familiar screams, but I set it
        down to a new animal that had come to her ken, as I knew that
        James was a capable driver.

        As for Mrs. Guernsea, she was telling us something about the
        evening that the English primate took dinner at her house on
        Madison Avenue, and she did not notice Minerva’s cries.

        James had been familiar with horses from his boyhood, and he
        would have brought the pair under his control before long, but
        John was a man of action, and when he saw the horses start on a
        mad run, and also saw a boy (Bert, in fact,) riding horseback,
        he yelled to him: “Lend me that horse, boy. My team is being
        stolen.”

        Bert, having just passed the run-a-way, jumped quickly from his
        mount and John took his place and turning the horse, dashed
        after James.

        The run-a-ways, hearing the clatter of hoofs behind them, ran
        the harder and Minerva’s screams steadily increased in pitch and
        volume.

        At the first turn James guided the horses to the left and
        calculated that before the two miles were made they would be
        winded, for their gait was tremendous.

        As John made the turn, crying “Stop thief” at the top of his
        lungs, he passed the minister who had just passed us and who was
        going back to our house—for as it turned out, he wished to see
        me.

        He heard the hue and cry, and bidding his wife get out of the
        carriage and wait for him, he whipped up and started in pursuit.

        And Bert, deprived of his horse, but unwilling to be deprived of
        so much excitement cut across lots, that he might see the race
        on its last quarter. This much I afterward learned from him.

        Through it all James never lost command of the horses, nor
        Minerva of her voice. Her view halloo echoed over woodland and
        vale, and came to me from different points of the compass, and I
        began to feel that something serious was the matter, and now and
        again I had visions of bills for the repair of a carriage.

        When they reached the last quarter I could distinctly hear the
        “Stop thiefs!” of two voices, and so did Ethel, but both Mrs.
        Guernsea and her daughter were of those people who can attend to
        but one thing at a time, and they were busily engaged in
        talking, the mother to me and the daughter to Ethel.

        The way in front of our house is level and commands a view of
        the country for a considerable distance, and when James started
        on his last quarter, and had attained a steep hill, from where I
        sat (for I had insisted on bringing out chairs for us all) I
        could see Mrs. Guernsea’s delicately made carriage swinging from
        side to side of the road, James sitting erect, his wrists tight
        against his chest and Minerva letting out warwhoops on the back
        seat.

        Nearer and nearer they came, and at last Mrs. Guernsea heard the
        commotion and, putting up her lorgnon gazed in the direction
        from which the sound came.

        “Why he is going too fast!” said she. “He will lather the
        horses.”

        I felt quite sure that the lathering had already been well done,
        but I did not say so.

        “I’m afraid they are running away,” said I.

        “No,” said Miss Guernsea, rising to her feet and using her own
        eyes, “He is running away with them. He is being chased. Hear
        that? ‘Stop thief!’”

        Across the swampy land in front of our house I saw the running
        figure of a boy. He climbed the stone wall that edges the road,
        and panting violently rushed up to us.

        It was Bert. “Try to head him off,” said he. “He’s trying to
        steal that turn-out.”

        I did not believe it, even then. When I put my confidence in a
        man I don’t like to have it disturbed, and I won’t disturb it
        myself as long as there is a shadow of a chance to preserve it.
        The horses were running away, but it was not James’ fault. I was
        sure of that.

        A minute later the form of a man on horseback was seen cresting
        the hill, and after a longer interval the minister’s buggy
        topped the same crest.

        The last turn in the road is a few rods north of our house, and
        James guided the horses skilfully round that turn and stopped
        them in front of our house. This was partly because Minerva,
        having fainted, was no longer screaming, and partly because
        John’s horse had stumbled and thrown him. And the minister came
        in second, his horse panting.

        “James,” said I indignantly, “what do you mean by driving those
        horses at such a gait?”

        James, when the horses had stopped, had sprung from the seat and
        was now at their heads talking in a low voice to them and
        patting them in order to calm them.

        Minerva came to herself, said “Oh Lawdy! Are we back again,
        already?” and climbed ungracefully out of the carriage.

        The horses were white with lather, their tongues lolling out of
        their mouths; and the wagon was sadly scratched. It was a
        mortifying moment for a liver of the simple life.

        “James, what happened?” said I, sternly.

        And then John came limping up, with a flesh wound on his
        forehead and shaking his fist at James, and with his cockaded
        hat in his hand said to Mrs. Guernsea, “I met him trying to run
        away with the horses ma’am, and I tried to stop him. The cheek
        of him, ma’am!”

        James gave a contemptuous grunt, and leaving the horses, who had
        calmed down wonderfully under his ministrations, he pointed to a
        cut on the flank of the nigh horse.

        “That’s what started the trouble, madam,” said he, “and it was
        your driver that threw the stone.”

        I will say for Mrs. Guernsea, that she behaved like a
        thoroughbred. She was evidently a woman who reasoned things out,
        and she knew something of the principles of the simple life, for
        she said:

        “Everybody meant well, I’ve no doubt, and the thing is all over
        now.”

        John was blanketing the sweating horses.

        “Don’t let it worry you an instant, Mr. Vernon,” said she. “It
        was all an accident.”

        I tried to get them to come indoors and take some refreshment,
        for the last few moments had been more strenuous than simple,
        but they decided that it was better for the horses to exercise
        them a little more and so they drove slowly home, and Bert went
        after his horse which had not hurt itself, and the minister went
        on to pick up his wife whom he had left at the first turn.

        “And it was really all your fault,” said Ethel, smilingly, after
        James and Minerva had departed to the kitchen.

        “Well, it gave Minerva something to think about and made life
        worth living for the Guernseas.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIII

                        AN UNSUCCESSFUL FIASCO.


        I AM not quite sure whether I have spoken of it but by
        profession, trade, occupation, I am a writer. I write short
        stories under an assumed name and therefore the telling of the
        events of the summer is in a manner easy for me.

        But I not only write stories; I also at times read stories, and
        I have been known to recite—not in an impassioned way but merely
        foolishly. The previous winter had been a hard one in more ways
        than one for both Ethel and myself, but toward the close of it
        the winning of a prize in a story competition had given me
        enough money to enable me to knock off work for all summer, and
        it had seemed wise to take advantage of such a chance to rest
        and lie fallow.

        I did not mention my occupation at the start because I was
        afraid that readers would say, “Oh, dear, this is a story by a
        literary man, and nothing will happen in it.” You see now-a-days
        when men in all walks of life write of what they have done, and
        make books of their writings, the people who read books have
        gotten to the point when they look with suspicion on a story
        that is written by a mere professional writer. They say, “Oh, he
        has done nothing but write. Let us read the book of the man who
        has first done and has then written.”

        But you who have read thus far may feel in a way friendly to
        Minerva, and the rest, and so I take you into my confidence and
        make the pun to you that won for me a rebuke from Ethel. Letters
        spell livelihood for me.

        The Congregational Minister, Egbert Hughson, and his wife
        returned to us in a few minutes and after the moving accident
        had been discussed for a certain length of time, he came to the
        matter that had brought him up.

        He was a smooth shaven alert, Western man of about thirty, I
        should say, and I marked him out as a type of the modern
        muscular Christian, and this guess proved to have been correct.
        He was an Iowan who had come East to study, had graduated from
        Williams and after a year in a small Iowa church had been called
        to Egerton through the good offices of a former class-mate.

        I hope I may not be accused of egotism if I set down plainly
        what Mr. Hughson said. The denouement is not what an egotist
        would roll under his tongue. During the narration of the episode
        let me treat Philip Vernon quite as if he did not press the keys
        with which I am writing this.

        “Mr. Vernon, I did not know until Deacon Fotherby told me, that
        we had so distinguished a man amongst us. I have read your
        sketches in the _Antarctic Monthly_ with a great deal of
        pleasure, and although you use a pen name, still I happened to
        know that you were the author. I also understand that you
        sometimes recite.”

        I bowed assent. I could have told him the rest. He was going to
        say: “Now the Y. P. S. C. E. are about to give a little literary
        entertainment for the benefit of the library and it would add
        interest to the proceedings if you would do us the great honor
        of reciting one or more pieces for us, or perhaps read something
        of your own.”

        I guessed right. He said it, allowing for certain unimportant
        verbal variations. I think it was the Y. M. S. C., instead of
        the Y. P. S. C. E., and instead of saying “it would add interest
        to the proceedings,” he said it would “give the affair a
        literary flavour”—words of the same import.

        I told him that Mrs. Vernon had come up to rest, but that did
        not head him off. I really didn’t suppose it would. I was merely
        making his task a little difficult, so that he would appreciate
        me the more. We writers all do things like that. If I had fallen
        into his arms and had said, “Recite; why I’ll do the whole
        programme,” while he would have thanked me, he would have felt
        that he had gotten me so easily that I could not be worth much.

        “Well, surely,” said he, “it won’t tire Mrs. Vernon for you to
        come and talk to us. You’ll be doing a favour to your fellows.”

        Ah, now it was time for me to come down gracefully off my perch,
        and I consented to sing my little song. Altruism is the lesson
        of the hour, and I think I have learned it. I have been taught
        it often enough by various committees. Committees believe firmly
        in altruism. “Altruism,” say they, “is the getting of a man to
        do something worth something for nothing.” Some define altruism
        as “Depriving the labourer of his hire for the good of others.”

        I would not care to be misunderstood in this matter. I really
        think that if a man has talents he ought to use them to the
        benefit of his fellows, but I have known so many poor strugglers
        in New York who, when they were struggling most frantically,
        have been asked by complaisant committees to _give_ their
        services for the entertainment of the Grand-Daughters of
        Evolution or some other body perfectly capable of _paying_ for
        their services that I am rather glad of this opportunity of
        freeing my mind.

        Altruism begins at home. If you believe in it, practise it
        yourself, but until you have learned to think about the _needs_
        of the other fellow, don’t ask him to think of your _luxuries_.

        The upshot of the whole matter was that I told Mr. Hughson that
        I would be glad to come and recite the following Wednesday (a
        week later), and a week later we hired Bert’s wagon, and with
        James holding the reins, Minerva by his side (of course we could
        not leave her at home alone) and Ethel and I on the back seat,
        we drove down to the Sunday School of the church.

        I wish that the good pastor had introduced me. He was a man who
        had moved among his fellows and who knew life and had a sense of
        values, while the man who did introduce me, and who shall be
        nameless, was insincere, shallow, a flatterer and fond of the
        sound of his own voice.

        I can say these things thus plainly, because he is now spending
        a year or so in State prison for breaking the sixth commandment.
        (No need to look it up; it is “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”)

        To tell the truth, I did not want to be introduced. I had not
        recited for months, and I was feeling frightfully nervous. So
        much so that my knees wabbled, my palms were moist and my throat
        parched.

        I would gladly have given the Y. M. S. C. ten dollars to release
        me, only I didn’t have my check-book with me.

        This full-whiskered man, who was the Sunday School
        superintendent, took his long length up onto the platform and
        bowing and grimacing said, in a hard, flat voice,

        “Ladies and gentlemen, I think that we of Egerton have always
        been fortunate in securing the summer services of various people
        who are eminent in the walks of life to which it has pleased God
        to call them. You may remember that last summer we had the
        eminent English scientist, Professor Drysden, who did some very
        clever card tricks for us; the year before we had Rev. Amaziah
        Barton, who sang a very amusing coon song for us, and I think it
        was the year before that that the famous Arctic explorer, whose
        name escapes me, entertained us with ventriloquial tricks. All
        these men showed in thus—er—doing things that were in a measure
        outside of the ordinary line of their duties, how manifold are
        the workings of the human brain.

        “To-night we have with us a man whose name is known wherever the
        English language is spoken; a man whose erudite works are upon
        every shelf, a man who has reflected lustre upon the language
        spoken by Chaucer and Spenser—”

        (I have never written anything under the name of Philip Vernon,
        so that my hearers were so far entirely in the dark as to my
        identity.)

        “Mr. Vernon is a frequent contributor to the _Antarctic
        Magazine_, and those of us who feel that the month has not been
        well spent until we have absorbed its contents know Mr. Vernon’s
        work as we know our Bibles.

        “We have been told by a celebrated philosopher that a little
        nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men, and there
        is a great deal of truth in the remark. I am not above smiling
        at a joke myself; no one can afford to be so engrossed with the
        affairs of the world as never to permit a jocose remark to pass
        his lips.

        “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and so Mr. Vernon
        is going to unbend to-night, and will make you shriek with
        laughter by his card tricks.”

        Here he was interrupted by the Rev. Mr. Hughson, who said in a
        loud whisper, “No, he is going to recite.”

        I was boiling. If I had been Mark Twain himself, such an
        introduction would have made whatever followed in the nature of
        an anti-climax. As I was to the audience simply an unknown “Mr.
        Vernon,” it was little less than cruelty to animals.

        “Oh, surely. I am sure we are all prepared to laugh heartily at
        the witticisms and comical actions of Mr. Philip Vernon, the
        great author whom I now take pleasure in introducing to you.”

        Ethel was well in the back of the room. She hates to hear me
        recite, as she is always afraid that I will go to pieces, a fear
        that I have often told her was groundless, as whatever else may
        happen, I always keep control of myself, but this evening the
        malapropos idiocies of the asinine gentleman on the platform
        upset me so that I hardly knew what I was doing when I stumbled
        up alongside of him.

        I had chosen a poem that is not humourous in itself, but by
        means of perverting its written meanings and by the use of
        uncouth gestures the thing has served to create amusement among
        my friends and (when I am feeling in the mood for it) even among
        my enemies. But to-night I was not feeling humourous; only
        angry.

        I bowed to the audience, bowed to the minister, bowed to the
        idiot who had misintroduced me, and then I began the thing, and
        to Ethel’s intense relief (for I happened to look at her) the
        audience burst out into laughter before I had finished the first
        verse. The second verse caused them to laugh still more, and
        instead of keeping my wits entirely on the matter in hand I
        allowed myself to think of both what my audience was doing and
        what the man had been saying, and the consequence was what it is
        apt to be if a man loses grip of his work. I lost my lines. I
        had recited the thing dozens of times, but now not a word would
        come to me. I smoothed my moustache and coughed in character,
        and took a step or two around the platform, as if I were leading
        up to some business and then I bowed suddenly and walked into
        the cloak room, where I was followed by Ethel, and for the next
        two minutes I had all I could do to restrain her sobs. She was
        hysterical.

        As for me, I was angry clear through, and when the pastor came
        in I started to tell him, but he raised his hand and I saw that
        he understood better than I could say. He grasped my hand and I
        knew that he was a man of feeling.

        “It’s all right,” said he. “The audience is laughing and
        applauding, and they think you meant to do it. Go back and give
        them something else.”

        It was as if a flash of lightning had shown me a way of escape
        from a perilous lodgment.

        “Do you mean it?” said I.

        He opened the door a little and I could hear them clapping their
        hands.

        “Ethel, I’ll go in and tell them that story I wrote for Mazie.”

        Back to the platform I went, with my mind full of a nonsense
        story I had written for my niece.

        I was received by enthusiastic applause, and heartened by their
        kindly feeling I told them the following story, which I called:


                 “The Mother of Little Maude and Little Maude.”


        Once upon a time there was a little girl named Maude, and she
        went out a-driving in a four-wheeled carriage drawn by two
        four-legged horses and driven by one two-legged driver. And the
        dear little girl named Maude sat on the front seat by the
        two-legged driver and Maude’s dear Mama sat on the back seat by
        herself, which is not the same as _beside_ herself.

        And all of a sudden the horses, which had only been running
        before, began to run away. And the dear little girl named Maude
        wished to let her mamma know that they were running away, but
        she did not wish to alarm her too suddenly, for sometimes shocks
        are serious.

        And the dear little girl named Maude saw a reporterman walking
        along the sidewalk looking for news for his paper. So she called
        to the reporterman and said, “I wish to speak to you on
        business.”

        And the reporterman was agile, and he jumped on the step of the
        carriage, and the little girl said to him, “Please get it into
        your paper that the horses are running away, and I wish my dear
        mamma to know it. I am none other than little Maude.”

        And the reporterman did not know that the lady on the back seat
        was the mamma of little Maude, so he raised his cap and jumped
        from the carriage and nearly fell down in so doing, for the
        horses were now running madly on eight legs, and the driver was
        getting nervous and the reporterman went to the newspaper office
        and wrote: “The horses of the little girl who is none other than
        little Maude, are running away and it is a pretty serious
        business, for her mamma does not know it, and there is no
        telling when the horses will stop.”

        And they slapped this news into type, and then it was printed in
        the newspaper, and a newsboy took the papers and ran into the
        street, crying “Extry! Extry! Full account of the running away
        of the horses of the little girl, who is none other than little
        Maude.”

        And Maude’s mamma heard the little boy, and she beckoned to him
        to bring her a paper. And the newsboy was also agile, and he
        leaped upon the step and sold a paper to the lady for a cent and
        then he jumped off again, for he had other papers to sell.

        And the mamma of little Maude began to read the news. And when
        she came to the part that said the horses of little Maude were
        running away, she looked straight ahead and saw that it was
        indeed true.

        And with great presence of mind she climbed over the back seat
        and dropped to the ground unhurt. And when little Maude saw that
        her dear mamma had escaped, she also climbed over the back seat
        and dropped to the ground unhurt. And when the driver saw that
        Maude’s mamma and little Maude had escaped, he also climbed over
        the back seat and dropped to the ground unhurt.

        And the two horses, who were very intelligent and who had
        wondered what would be the outcome of their runaway, got into
        the carriage and they also climbed over the back seat and
        dropped to the ground unhurt.

                  *       *       *       *       *

        The ride home was pleasanter than I had expected it to be. When
        I had stepped off the platform after my fiasco, I understood how
        a suicide felt. When I stepped off the second time I felt
        better.

        “I almos’ bus’ laughin’,” said Minerva, as she climbed into the
        carriage.

        “Thank you, Minerva,” said I, fully appreciating both the
        compliment and her peril.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIV

                          THE-FOURTH-OF-JULY.


        A WEEK of lovely weather made us forget time. We spent our days
        in the open air, and Minerva spent her days practising for the
        concert. It was wonderful with what expedition she cooked our
        meals and cleaned up afterward. The meals were, if anything,
        more delicious than formerly. She was happy, and she could not
        help communicating some of her happiness to her cooking. It was
        not so much the thing she cooked, as the happy way she cooked
        it.

        James was a sort of Luther Burbank in his power over plants. One
        afternoon I said to Ethel in his hearing that I thought it was a
        pity that the Wheelocks had not planted a vine in front of the
        house, as it would have added greatly to its picturesqueness.

        He was oiling his lawn mower at the time, and I noticed that he
        stood up and looked at the house front and nodded his head and
        smiled, but I would not have thought of it again had it not been
        for the fact that two days after, on returning from a drive with
        Ethel, we both burst out into ejaculations of surprise and
        delight.

        The front of the house, up to the second-story window, was
        adorned by a most beautiful crimson rambler.

        I felt like rubbing my eyes. We must have lost our way. It could
        not be our house.

        But just then Minerva and James came around the corner of the
        house, hand in hand. As soon as they saw us they let go of
        hands, and she went back to the kitchen with a guffaw that
        merely indicated light heartedness.

        James looked up at the vine and said,

        “Looks pretty nice, don’t it?”

        We overwhelmed him with compliments, and found out that he had
        bought a large potted plant in full bloom and had sunk pot and
        all in the earth. I had never heard of such a thing being done
        before, and I looked to see the roses all wither, but they did
        nothing of the kind. Our place looked a hundred per cent. better
        than it had done before, and when, a day or so later, I received
        a bill from a florist at Egerton, I paid it without a murmur.
        There is nothing like initiative, and it is worth paying for.

        As I say, the days went by unheeded. We were too far from any
        church to attend one, but we tried to be as good on Sunday as we
        were on week days.

        And this, by the way, is a most excellent rule for anyone to
        follow.

        One morning I heard what sounded like pistol shots in the
        distance, many times repeated, and while we were at breakfast
        one or two teams passed us headed for Egerton.

        “I wonder if haying is over as soon as this?” said Ethel. “I
        thought that horses were all at work in the fields.”

        “Not this morning, evidently,” said I as another team, a
        two-horse one this time, went by, loaded with children.

        “Oh, it’s a picnic,” said I, and then we heard a loud explosion
        in the opposite quarter from that of the last pistol shot.

        I looked at Ethel, and we burst out laughing together.

        “Fourth-of-July!”

        “Of course! What geese we are. Oh, let’s go down town and see
        what they are doing!”

        “Why, we can hear it up here. That’s all they are doing,” said
        I.

        “No, I’ve always read about Fourth-of-July in the country. Don’t
        you remember Tom Bailey, in the ‘Story of a Bad Boy’? Let’s go
        down and join in the fun.”

        “Probably Bert’s gone with his family. We’d have to walk.”

        “Hello! here’s someone driving up to the post. Why, it’s James
        with a two-seated wagon!”

        Just then Minerva came into the room, dressed up in her Sunday
        best and with an assortment of colored ribbons that made her
        look like a fair.

        “Will there be anything to do to-day, ma’am? I’ve made lunch.”

        “Where do you want to go, Minerva?” said Ethel.

        “Why, James is just crazy to take me down to town to see the
        parade.”

        “Who else is going?”

        “No one on’y him an’ me. He brought his father’s wagon.”

        “I guess there’ll be no objection, Minerva,” said Ethel. “When
        will you be back?”

        “Oh, time for dinner.”

        “Yes, you may go Minerva,” said Ethel, and Minerva clapped her
        hands. “Country ain’t so bad when you know it,” said she.

        She went out into the kitchen, and I said,

        “I have a kind of notion that James is going to invite us to go
        down with them. Now that would be extremely simple and would
        probably strike Mrs. Guernsea as being very original, but I
        think it will be better if I hire his rig and get him to drive
        us down and we’ll stay there all day and take dinner at the
        hotel, and come back by moonlight.”

        Ethel took a turn at hand clapping.

        “You’re a great deal better than when we came up, aren’t you?”
        said I.

        “Oh, I’m all well now, and perfectly happy.”

        I went out and said to James,

        “James, can I hire your father’s team for to-day? and then I’d
        like you to drive us to town and bring us back to-night. We’ll
        dine at the hotel and you and Minerva can dine where you like.”

        Whatever James’ idea may have been, he was not above earning an
        honest dollar, and I offered him two for the use of his team,
        and a half hour later we started for town.

        His father had raised the horses himself (well-matched and
        handsome sorrels), and under James’ guidance they made nothing
        of the three-mile drive.

        It was exhilarating to go through the air at such a pace, and we
        were both glad we had come, although we were both ashamed that
        we had forgotten what day it was.

        Arrived in town, James put the horses up at a stable, and we
        broke up into groups of two.

        I had never seen Minerva in such spirits, and it seemed to me
        that she clung to James’ arm in a way that signified something
        approaching an understanding between them. What if he married
        her? How could we find work for him in New York?

        She almost danced along, and his own stride was to a certain
        extent cake-walkey. We saw them enter an ice cream saloon
        immediately, and we knew they would be happy all day long.

        There was joy in the air and we were happy. There is no question
        about it; as a people we are beginning to take our holidays less
        sadly. Everywhere laughing groups were forming on the sidewalks
        of Main street to wait for the parade, which was to be made up
        not only of G. A. R. men, but also of representatives from
        nearly every fire company in the county. Engines and hooks and
        ladders had been coming in on the railroad all the morning, and,
        as I said to Ethel, I trembled when I thought of what might
        happen in their absence. She characteristically advised me not
        to tremble too much.

        Blue coated, peak hatted men jostled slouch hatted veterans of
        the Civil War and younger men in khaki hurried to headquarters
        to make part of the parade.

        Small boys were firing off lock-jaw pistols and smaller boys
        were exploding firecrackers and already that morning there had
        been a delightful fire in a fireworks store. Thanks to the
        visiting firemen it had been put out before the store was
        entirely consumed. Every one had been intensely gratified at the
        excitement excepting the owner who had reckoned on having his
        fireworks set off in other places than his own store. There was
        no chance for his rockets to show to advantage. However, he was
        fully insured and he showed his American spirit by hiring an
        empty store and doing a good business for the rest of the day in
        selling wet fireworks at a discount. Small boys found that fifty
        per cent of the crackers in a package would go off in spite of
        their exposure to water and as two cents a package was his
        prevailing price they were willing to buy to the extent of their
        Fourth-of-July fortunes.

        To our city eyes the parade was not very imposing but then again
        viewed as a spectacle of American manhood it was not without its
        interest and the company of smoothshaven, tanned cheeked
        veterans of the Philippine War marching sturdily along provoked
        tremendous cheers from many who in the nature of things must
        have been “antis.”

        All men are or ought to be expansionists on the Fourth-of-July.
        It is a day for fine feeling and for feeling fine. Ethel
        responded to its spirit nobly and she had not looked so well in
        years.

        Once we heard loud laughter from the crowd and I instinctively
        said “Minerva,” and sure enough they were laughing at our maid.
        She or James had bought an American flag and she had wrapped it
        around her shoulders and was rising and falling on the balls of
        her feet in response to some internal rhythm. All at once she
        broke out into the singing of Dixie in which she was joined
        first by James and then by the entire crowd. Those who could not
        sing cheered and if there were any Southerners present it must
        have warmed the cockles of their hearts.

        There is no doubt that the most popular song in the United
        States to-day (outside of “America” which is popular by
        tradition) is Dixie which was composed and written by a
        Northerner, fused into life by Southerners and now serves to
        show that we are Americans all.

        After the parade those of us who could made our way to the Town
        Hall where the Declaration of Independence was to be read and
        where speeches were to be made quite in the old fashioned way.

        Ethel had never heard the Declaration of Independence read.
        Fancy! Neither had I.

        It seemed rather long but we liked the sentiments in it and it
        was read by a man who knew his business; the rector of the
        Episcopal Church.

        Those who had a special pull were admitted to the platform. I
        worked no wires. In fact Ethel wanted to sit where she could
        leave the house easily if she felt faint so we were in the rear.

        James evidently had a pull for he and Minerva sat on the
        platform. I was glad to see it because surely the Fourth-of-July
        is—well it is not necessary to say more.

        Most of the speeches were very long and the place was very hot
        but there was one speech that was full of flowery eloquence that
        I had supposed had faded from the earth.

        I am indebted to the courtesy of the editor of the _Egerton
        Ensign_ for its text and I give it herewith so that future ages
        may see that, as late as the year 1903, Demosthenian eloquence
        had not passed away.

        The speaker was a member of the State Legislature and he still
        clung to Burnside whiskers—or to be more accurate they still
        clung to him. He had a high forehead that continued unabashed
        over to his collar.

        He rose amid considerable handclapping and advancing to the
        front of the platform he bowed solemnly to the multitude and
        then in a voice that was rich and sonorous and musical he said:

        “One hundred and twenty-seven years ago to-day a nation was born
        upon earth.

        “Ladies and gentlemen, need I tell you what the name of that
        Nation was? Need I say to any boy or to any girl or to any man
        or to any woman in this vast assemblage what the name of that
        nation was?

        “No, ev-er-y boy and ev-er-y girl and ev-er-y man and ev-er-y
        woman knows that I refer to these free and independent United
        States of America. (Cheers).

        “Born amid the thunder of warring guns (sic) and nursed upon
        bullets she grew to lusty childhood, advanced to sweet womanhood
        and in her turn, upon that other day to be held in
        remembrance—upon Dewey day—she became the mother of a child—a
        child that it is our duty to cherish and to educate and to
        uplift and to protect until she is as American as her mother.

        “Need I say that I refer to the Philippines?” (Cheers mingled
        with a few hisses). He had now warmed to his work and his
        studied eloquence gave way to something more sincere.

        “Ladies and Gentlemen, we warred with England in the days of old
        and I remember the time when it was thought to be unpatriotic
        for an American to like an Englishman but I say let us be
        magnanimous. Let us not any longer taunt England with her
        defeat. Those soldiers that she sent to harry and to bully and
        to cripple us are dead long ago. They did what they had sworn to
        do when they took oath under that despicable despot George the
        Third. When they fought us they were doing their duty as they
        saw it and their dust has mingled with the free soil of this
        great country these many years.

        “Let us be magnanimous. Why even in those dark days we were not
        without friends on the other side. The name of William Pitt
        should ever be spoken with respect by true Americans.

        “Let us be magnanimous. Are we likely to go to war with England?
        (thunders of Nos from all parts of the house).

        “No, gentlemen, we are not likely to go to war with that
        country. Right or wrong she was our mother and we are the
        greatest credit to her that ever a daughter was to a mother.
        From the sea-kissed shores of the coast of Maine to the ocean
        lapped coast of California; from the storm swept areas of the
        great lakes to the humid waters of the Gulf of Mexico we are the
        greatest daughter that a mother ever had.

        “Was Greece great? We shall be greater.

        “Was Rome powerful? We shall be more powerful.

        “Were the Middle Ages renowned for their arts? We shall be more
        renowned.

        “Was England strong upon sea or land? We shall be more strong.

        “Has England stood for internal fair play? We shall stand for
        external fair play.

        “This country that was mocked and taunted within the memory of
        men yet living shall become one, who with power to mock does not
        mock. She shall spread abroad her hand and wars shall cease. The
        oppressed in all climes shall look to her for protection and she
        will protect.

        “I hear voices borne on the summer wind of this day and they
        bring good tidings to me. They tell me that the right to work
        for a fair wage shall belong to each man and each woman who
        chooses to exercise it. They tell me—these voices—that the right
        to stop others from working shall be taken from those who think
        they hold it (Hear, hear) and that the right of the rich to
        eternally grab is no right.

        “These voices tell me that the arts have found in these United
        States a soil in which they may flourish undisturbed. The blood
        of the Italians who have come to this country, mixed with the
        blood of the Poles and cooled by the blood of those of the North
        lands, tempered still more by the sturdy common sense of the
        Britons, made buoyant by the wit of the French and made strong
        and powerful by the blood of the three century old Americans
        will result in a type of man that shall cause our houses to
        become beautiful; that shall save our forests from destruction,
        that shall decorate and color and cause to blossom and run to
        ripe fruitage all that makes life cultivated, pure, serene and
        lovable.

        “Ladies and gentlemen, let us thank God that we are Americans;
        that we have been allowed to live to see this day. There are
        strifes and rumours of strifes in our land but everything tends
        to betterment, and I firmly believe that at the last we shall be
        found to be the chosen people of the Lord of All Things by whom
        all things were made.”

        (Cheers, and thunders of applause, in which I am free to say
        that Ethel and myself joined heartily.)

        In fact, although the speech was over flowery, it had in it a
        good deal that any fair-minded man could say amen to and
        delivered under the influence of the deep baritone of a natural
        orator it was stimulating.

        And then some one, with no sense of the fitness of things, rose
        and called on all to sing “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”

        The millennium is not as close as all that. We still have the
        question of the rights of labour and the wrongs of capital with
        us, and a better hymn might have been selected.

        “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” would have been more in the spirit
        of the time.

        We made our way out, and as I was leaving the hall I looked back
        and saw the orator of the day shaking hands with James. It gave
        me a choky feeling, so that perhaps I was still under the
        influence of his speech.

        I will acknowledge that I set down the speech in this place in
        order to make fun of it, but after all it was sincere, and
        sincerity makes a poor butt for the shafts of ridicule.

        During the afternoon we took a drive in James’s wagon, and saw
        something of the beauty of the surrounding country, going quite
        a distance on the road to Springfield. We returned to Egerton by
        the upper road, and I had all I could do to keep the horses
        under control, as that end of the town was given up to the small
        boy, and pistols, crackers and bombs were being exploded on
        every hand.

        One of those hideous things that knock the romance out of any
        spot in which they are placed, a merry-go-round, was revolving
        to the sound of wheezy organ music, and the horses were of one
        mind with us as to its being a blot on civilization, and they
        proceeded to show their distaste for it to such an extent that I
        stopped them short and let Ethel get out. Then I forced them to
        stand still and watch the moving picture. They obeyed me for a
        few seconds and then they tore down the street. I controlled
        them very soon, however, and when I had stopped them I hitched
        them to a post on a quiet square and went back to get Ethel.

        I found her by a tree, looking with amusement at the carrousel.
        My eyes followed hers, and the picture presented to them was
        eminently characteristic.

        James was riding on the merry-go-round. He was astride of a
        small wooden pony that gave his legs a chance to look unduly
        long, while perched alongside of him sat Minerva astride of a
        giraffe. She was clinging to the neck of the beast, and for the
        time being she was in New York (for Coney Island is to all
        intents and purposes New York and your merry-go-round is the
        strawberry mark that identifies Coney Island).

        Round and round she whirled, her eyes shining ecstatically, and
        from time to time she reached out her right hand and met James’s
        left.

        “We will have to keep a butler next winter,” said Ethel.

        Suddenly Minerva saw us and she waved her hand to us and yelled
        something that we could not distinguish, but I knew it was an
        invitation to mount some strange animal and be happy.

        We shook our heads. Happiness would not come to us in those
        questionable shapes. When I want to be sea-sick give me the
        ocean and a European port as the reward, not merely sickness for
        sickness’ sake. And Ethel is of the same mind only more so. She
        goes so far as to say, give her some American port and leave the
        sea and its sickness out altogether.

        The music dwindled, the merry-go-round became less merry, and at
        last ceased to go round, and then Minerva, settling her ample
        skirts so as to cover the flanks of the giraffe, said,

        “Oh, Mis. Vernon, I ain’t had so much fun this summer. Better
        come up. It’s jus’ as easy.”

        “I’m glad you like it, Minerva,” said Ethel, “but it would make
        me dizzy. Have you had lunch?”

        “Deed we have. Want some peanuts?”

        The offer was made with such generosity of spirit that Ethel
        accepted. It was the Fourth-of-July, and we all ate peanuts
        together. I don’t think that James liked it. He felt that
        Minerva had not been well brought up. I am sure that he would
        not have asked us to eat peanuts, but I don’t see that any harm
        was done. There was no cloth spread and I have never yet come
        across a rule that says a lady of color on a giraffe should not
        offer peanuts to her mistress on the sidewalk of a New England
        town.

        Anyway the peanuts were good and we enjoyed them.

        We told James and Minerva to have a good time and to be ready to
        start for home at half past nine. There was to be a display of
        fireworks at eight, and I knew they would want to see that. It
        was somewhere in the neighbourhood of five o’clock when we left
        them and drove back to the stable.

        The fireworks display was beautiful, although not lavish. I
        listened for Minerva’s rapturous Ah’s, but did not hear them,
        and as the circle in which we sat was not more than an eighth of
        a mile in diameter, I judged that for some unaccountable reason
        she was not there.

        After the exhibition, which ended with a flight of a hundred
        rockets, one of which stove in a plate-glass window and so
        provided extra amusement for the crowd, we made our way to the
        stable, expecting to find James there, but he was not.

        We found our wagon under a shed and we climbed in and waited, as
        Ethel was tired of being on her feet.

        We waited until ten o’clock and James and Minerva did not come,
        so I asked a hostler to harness up, and telling him to keep
        James and Minerva if they came, we went forth to look for them.

        I had a theory as to where they were, and I drove to Doncaster
        street, whereon the merry-go-round stands.

        My instinct as to the whereabouts of the couple proved correct.
        There, under the flare of gasoline torches, whirled the
        merry-go-round, and now James was astride of an ostrich and
        Minerva, like Una, was riding a lion by his side and their hands
        were clasped in a firm, firm clasp.

        I caught the eye of James and signalled, and when the music came
        to an end and the machine stopped, he and his lady love
        dismounted.

        When we were all in the carriage Ethel said to Minerva,

        “How did you enjoy the fireworks?”

        She threw herself back in the seat with a gasp.

        “Lawdy, forgot all ’bout the fireworks.”

        “You don’t mean to say, Minerva, that you have been riding ever
        since we saw you this afternoon.”

        “’Deed we have. Rode every beas’ an’ bird there was.”

        “And what did you have for supper?”

        “Peanuts,” said James, rather shamefacedly.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                               CHAPTER XV

                           MORE NATURE STUDY.


        “IT’S love that makes the world go round,” said I next morning
        at breakfast.

        “What makes the merry-go-round?” said Ethel.

        “The answer to that will be found in the May number,” said I.
        “You ought not to ask conundrums, whose answers have to be
        thought up. But isn’t it so? Hasn’t Minerva been an angel ever
        since James came and if she isn’t in love with him what is she?”

        “If that’s another conundrum, I give it up, too. Do you suppose
        that James loves her?”

        “It wouldn’t surprise me. Minerva is not bad looking and she has
        a happy disposition in the main,” said I, as Ethel passed me my
        coffee.

        “My, yes, she’s a different creature from what she was when she
        first saw these hills. This morning she actually told me that
        the sunsets up here had more colors in them than they had in New
        York, and that they were bigger. She’s beginning to take notice.
        I must give her a nature lesson. Something has always happened
        to prevent it.”

        “I don’t think the need for it exists now that she has James.
        He’s all the study she needs.”

        “Yes, but if we should come up here next summer, and James
        should not prove constant, it would be something if she loved
        the country for its own sake.”

        Just then Minerva came in with a dish of brains; a present from
        Bert’s father, who sent the pleasant message that they always
        threw the stuff away, but he knew that city folks had queer
        tastes.

        “Minerva, what were you going to do this morning?” asked Ethel.

        “Nothin’, ma’am,” said she innocently.

        “You mean nothing in particular,” said Ethel, knowing that no
        impertinence was intended. “Suppose you take some of those new
        kitchen towels to hem and we’ll go out into the fields and I’ll
        tell you something about the flowers.”

        “I got some sewin’ of my own to do if you’ll let me,” said
        Minerva.

        “Why certainly. You know, Minerva, as long as you get your work
        done each day, I don’t care what you do for yourself.”

        “No’m, I know you don’t. I don’t either ma’am.”

        I looked up hastily, but Minerva was guiltless of any attempt at
        repartee. She was simply acquiescing with her mistress.

        Having nothing better to do than loaf, I went with Ethel to a
        place called the wintergreen lot, about a half mile distant, and
        Minerva followed after with a lot of white stuff that reminded
        me strongly of the day I was married. I am not up in feminine
        fabrics, and the thing might have been mosquito netting.

        The day was hot and sultry. Hanging over Egerton in the
        southwest were great black, wicked looking clouds that portended
        thunder storms. We had so far escaped without one, although we
        had several times heard distant thunder and had seen a storm
        following the course of the river in the west.

        “Shall we take umbrellas?” said Ethel.

        “What’s the use?” said I. “If it rains we’ll probably get wet
        anyway, and in such hot weather as this a wetting won’t hurt.”

        So we went unhampered by umbrellas, and after a walk through a
        tree-embowered road, whose beauty we were told had been marked
        for destruction by the brass mill, but of which destruction the
        happy trees were all ignorant, we reached the wintergreen lot,
        and Ethel, spreading a shawl, seated herself on the mossy
        ground, while I perched on a rock until it got too hard, when I
        changed to another rock.

        “Minerva, do you see that little red berry in the grass?” said
        Ethel.

        “Yas’m.”

        “Well, pick it and I’ll tell you something about it.”

        I sniffed. Ethel’s love of outdoor life is very real, but she is
        not a botanist. “She knows what she likes” in nature, but she
        can’t tell why.

        She heard the sniff and her lips came together to form a
        noiseless word that she bestows upon me when she thinks I need
        it.

        Then she smiled at me and took from a little bag she had brought
        with her Mrs. Dana’s book, “How to Know the Wild Flowers,” which
        she had evidently found among the Wheelock’s possessions.

        “That, Minerva, is the wintergreen berry. Taste it and tell me
        what it reminds you of.”

        Minerva’s wide mouth enveloped the dainty berry and she crushed
        it with her tongue. Then she beamed.

        “Chewin’ gum,” said she. “Wish I had some.”

        “Well, I wasn’t thinking of that, but they do flavor chewing gum
        with it, I believe. But could you get anything in the city as
        pretty as that?”

        “Yas’m.”

        “What, Minerva?”

        “Cra_m_berries.”

        “Yes, but they don’t grow in the city. Now here’s something that
        I never noticed before. It says in this book that ‘he who seeks
        the cool shade of the evergreens on a hot July day is likely to
        discover the nodding wax-like flowers of this little plant.’ Now
        let’s see if we can find any. It doesn’t seem likely that the
        fruit and the blossom would be blooming at the same time.”

        “They are, though,” said I. “Found that out when I was a boy. I
        can never taste wintergreen berries without being reminded of a
        girl that—”

        “Wait, Philip, we’ll be back. I want to see if I can get a
        flower.”

        Ethel always cuts me off when I make any references to my lost
        youth. She calls them my calf love days and takes no interest in
        them, while I contend that some of the happiest moments in a
        man’s life are when he roams the fields in retrospect with a
        girl who is always ten times prettier than anyone he ever met. I
        once met one of those old-time beauties and the shock was
        terrific. I tried to restore her features as I gazed at her, but
        my imagination balked at the task. She was a good woman, the
        mother of seven good children, but the vision of the lovely,
        dancing-eyed, pink-cheeked, rosebud-mouthed, shell-like-eared,
        dimple-chinned naiad of my early youth was gone.

        From the way in which she looked at me, I felt that she had
        suffered a like shock. The tall, lithe-limbed, high-browed,
        innocent-faced, clear-eyed, light-hearted boy of sixteen no
        longer stood before her. Thanks be to the conventions of
        society, neither one of us wished that our tongues could utter
        the thoughts that arose in us, and we both had the audacity to
        speak of the jolly days of long ago, and I left her, thinking
        that I still considered her the little beauty of 1886, while she
        left me still imagining that I thought she thought me the
        handsome youth of the same year.

        Ethel gave a little cry of delight.

        “I’ve found one, Philip. It’s just like the picture in the
        book.”

        “Why, of course,” said I. “You don’t suppose that they make up
        those pictures and expect the plants to conform to them?”

        Not noticing my flippancy, she came over with two of the little
        flowers and held them up for me to see.

        “They look like something very pretty, Minerva. What do they
        remind you of?”

        “A pair of pants,” said Minerva, with a loud laugh.

        “Dutchmen’s breeches, do you mean?” said Ethel. “Oh, I see what
        you mean. Yes, they are like little knickerbockers, but they
        remind me of Japanese lanterns. Now, Minerva, the woods and the
        fields are full of plants like these and they all have names and
        each has a beauty of its own—”

        “What’s Dutchmen’s breeches?” interrupted Minerva. She had been
        to the “Continuous” many times and I think that Dutchmen’s
        breeches brought to her mind a pair of knockabout comedians.

        “Do you think there are any in this field, Philip?” said Ethel.

        “You have got me, Ethel. I forget each summer the names of the
        flowers I learned the summer before. Seems to me Dutchmen’s
        breeches is an early spring flower.”

        “No, I think it comes in the late fall to tell the truth. We’ll
        look it up.”

        She turned to the index, which referred her to the 37th page.
        Minerva looked over her shoulder in the way she should not have
        done and no sooner did she see the flower picture than she said,

        “Oh, Lawdy, that makes me homesick. I’ve seen that in the park.”

        “Oh, surely not,” said Ethel. “Let’s see what it says.”

        “Mmmmmm,” she mumbled over the early part of the description and
        then she came to, ‘The flower when seen explains its two English
        titles. It is accessible to every New Yorker, for in early April
        it whitens many of the shaded ledges in the upper part of the
        Central Park.’ Why, you were right, Minerva. I dare say you know
        more about such things than I do.”

        “Why, Mis. Vernon, I haven’ any grudge aginst country if o’ny
        city is a few blocks off. My, if I could run down now an’ see my
        folks I’d bring ’em up here to-morrer. I used to go to the park
        often my day out, but the city’s all around it an’ up here the
        country’s so big it—oh, Lawdy, what was that?”

        It was a flash of lightning, followed by a clap of thunder that
        told us a storm was close at hand.

        “Ooh, let’s get under the trees,” said Minerva, her face showing
        abject terror.

        “That would be the last thing to do,” said I.

        “Well, let’s do it first, then,” said she, all unconscious of
        the witticism.

        The black clouds had been coming swiftly and now in the
        southwest we heard the noise of rain. We could see it falling on
        Egerton and could mark its approach up the hills to where we
        were standing.

        The flashes of lightning grew more blinding and the thunder
        claps followed more and more quickly. We were in for a wetting,
        that was sure.

        Minerva threw herself on her face in the soft moss and began to
        pray, “Oh, Lawd,” said she; “Don’t send any messengers to take
        me, out here in the country. Let me go back to the city
        befo’—Oh, Lawdy.” This break in the prayer was caused by a flash
        and a peal that were almost simultaneous, and down in a forest
        of walnuts below us there was a sound of riven wood.

        “Dear, I wish we were home,” said Ethel, drawing a long breath
        and coming close to me.

        “Well, we are probably safer here than at home. It’ll be over
        soon.”

        And now the rain came down in sheets. We were wet to the skin in
        two minutes. Minerva in a heap on the ground moaned and prayed
        and ejaculated and Ethel clung to me and shuddered at each awful
        peal and each blinding flash. My clothes hung in bags about me
        and leaked at a dozen points.

        The display was magnificent, but I did not see the beauty in it
        that I saw when I was a boy. Then I was not frightened. Now each
        summer the storms seem to be worse and more awe-inspiring, and
        to tell the truth, so many of our friends have suffered loss
        from thunder storms that I would be perfectly willing to forego
        them in future.

        The storm departed suddenly, even as it had come, and when the
        rumbling grew fainter Minerva rose to her feet.

        A call came to us from the road. We looked up and saw James,
        also soaked to the skin, sitting in Bert’s buggy.

        At the sound of his voice Minerva gave a glad cry and started to
        run to him.

        He made a trumpet of his hands and said, “Mrs. Vernon, you and
        Mr. Vernon drive and Minerva and me’ll walk.”

        I considered a minute and then thinking that Ethel ran a greater
        risk of catching cold if she rode than if she walked, I shook my
        head and told Minerva to run along.

        We took one or two steps in the sloppy moss and our shoes
        spurted water.

        “Let’s go barefoot,” said I. “It will be much more comfortable.”

        We took off our shoes and stockings, and for the first time in
        many years we walked the country barefoot. Perhaps it was
        Ethel’s first experience of the joy. To judge from her face it
        was. But we picked out soft places and by the time we reached
        the house we were already somewhat dried, nor did we get any ill
        effects.

        “Ethel,” said I, “what was that white thing Minerva brought to
        sew on?”

        “A wedding veil,” said Ethel.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XVI

                          WHEN THE LAW IS ON.


        ETHEL was out in the little orchard south of the house with
        Minerva, looking for “queen’s lace.” She had two purposes in
        mind. To teach Minerva something more of nature and to make a
        conventionalized design of the ground plan of the flower for use
        in her everlasting embroidery.

        “Mis. Vernon.”

        “What is it, Minerva?”

        “Don’t the apples we have in the city come from the country?”

        “Why, yes,” said Ethel.

        She told me of the conversation later, I being at the time
        fishing for trout (in all innocence) with James (who knew the
        law).

        “Well, then, how come that apples here is so little and city
        apples is so big?”

        “Why,” said Ethel, “these haven’t grown yet.”

        “Do they grow on the tree?” said Minerva.

        “Why, certainly. You surely didn’t suppose that they grew after
        they were picked.”

        “But the stems is so little that I wouldn’t think they’d hold
        apples like I see in the grocery stores.”

        “Why, but the stems grow, too.”

        “Oh,” said Minerva.

        Minerva’s ignorance of common things was a never-ending marvel.

        “Who do you pay for these apples, Mis. Vernon,” she went on.

        “Why, nobody. They go with the house.”

        And then Minerva gave utterance to a wise remark.

        “Ain’t it queer, Mis. Vernon, that in the country, where you
        don’t have to pay for apples, every man has apple trees of his
        own, and in the city, where you do have to pay, nobody has any?”

        “Just what do you mean?” said Ethel, wishing (as she told me) to
        draw out Minerva’s thought.

        “Why, I mean poor people in the city has to pay for apples, an’
        in the country people don’t have to pay for ’em, but it don’t do
        no good, because they have their own trees.”

        “Well, but if they didn’t have their own trees, they would have
        to pay for them,” said Ethel, puzzled.

        “Yas’m, but people in the city, if they had trees,—I mean poor
        people, then they wouldn’t have to pay for apples and they could
        use their money for somethin’ else, and people in the country
        has more money than poor people in the city, and they don’t have
        to spend it on apples, because they have ’em on their own
        trees.”

        “Oh, I see,” said Ethel. “You mean that it doesn’t seem fair
        that poor people in the city, who would appreciate apples on
        their own trees, if they had them, have to pay for apples, while
        in the country people who could afford to pay for apples don’t
        have to, but can go out and pick them.”

        “Yas’m,” said Minerva. “I guess that’s what I meant.”

        “Yes,” said Ethel. “That must have been just what you meant.
        There are a great many things that we can’t understand about
        those things, but you know that farmers sell their apples to the
        people in the city, and that’s one of the ways they make their
        money.”

        Minerva thought a minute. “Apples on the stands in the city
        sells for five cents, and I’ve seen rows of trees up here full
        of apples.”

        “They call them orchards,” said Ethel.

        “Why don’t they call them apples?” asked Minerva.

        “No, no, the rows of trees are called orchards, and if the
        farmers could sell the apples for five cents apiece they would
        make a great deal of money, but they sell them to other men, who
        sell them to others, and they sell them to the men who keep the
        apple stands. The farmers don’t get a cent apiece for them.”

        Minerva’s mind must have been in good working order that day,
        for she now said,

        “If the poor people in the city knew they could get them for
        nothing they would all come to the country. An’, Mis. Vernon,”
        said she, with a characteristic chuckle, “If the farmers knew
        they sold for five cents in the city they’d take ’em down
        theirselves and sell ’em.”

        Even Minerva felt that the middle man was an excrescence.

        They were still hunting for the queen’s lace when I returned
        with what was for me a fine string of trout. James had taken his
        string home.

        “Oh, what beauties. Did James catch them for you?” said Ethel.
        “We’ll have them for lunch.” Minerva took the forked stick that
        held the half dozen, not one less than eight inches in length,
        and as soon as she had left, Ethel told me of her thoughtful
        conversation. She also told me that she despaired of getting any
        queen’s lace.

        “I must send to the seedsman for some seeds and sprinkle it in
        the grass so that we may have some next year.”

        “Do so,” said I with the tone that fits superior knowledge. “Do
        so, and help fill the cell of a model Massachusetts prison.
        Don’t you know that that’s wild carrot and it’s counted as big a
        nuisance as the Canada thistle. Don’t you know we’d be fined?”

        “Well, certainly farmers don’t know a beautiful thing when they
        see it,” said Ethel jumping to an illogical conclusion. “Are you
        sure that it is a nuisance? It grew all over the grass in
        Barnham.”

        “Yes, and they were shiftless people in that place. Here, give
        me your nature book.” I took it and soon found the page. “Here
        it is: ‘This is, perhaps, the “peskiest” of all the weeds with
        which he has to contend.’ The farmer may think it’s beautiful,
        but it isn’t beauty so much as a living that he is after. We
        have to obey the laws in a civilized state like Massachusetts.
        It’s a punishable offence to let it grow.”

        “Well, I don’t see how it could harm just on this place. Nobody
        farms it very near us.”

        “No, but the wind has a way of carrying seeds, Ethel,” said I,
        sarcastically. “It was the way of the wind with a seed that
        first suggested rural delivery, I have no doubt. Who is that
        talking to Minerva?”

        It was a man who, driving by, had stopped and hailed her, and
        had now left his horse in the middle of the road and had gone
        over to her.

        We could not hear what he said, but we saw her suddenly put her
        two hands behind her back as if to conceal her string of fish.

        I hurried over to the man, followed by Ethel.

        “Are those trout,” said the man, carelessly.

        “No, they’re fishes,” said Minerva, in a tone of contempt for
        his ignorance.

        “Yes, they’re trout?” said I. “Why do you want to know?”

        There was something in his manner that I did not like.

        “Who caught those trout,” said he.

        I felt like saying, “I, said the fly with my hook and eye,” but
        I really did say “I caught them. Have you any objections?”

        “Decidedly,” said he, his manner becoming stern and official. “I
        am the game warden, and this is the middle of July. The law went
        on on July 1st. I can arrest you.”

        There seemed to be something cockily pompous about this man, who
        was not above five feet high, but whose erectness of bearing and
        awesome manner made him seem (to himself) at least six feet two
        in his stocking feet.

        So when he said “I can arrest you,” I said, “And will you?” and
        felt quite Shakespearean as I said it. It recalled the scene
        between Arthur and Hubert de Burgh.

        “Well,” said he, seeing that I stirred not, “Perhaps it can be
        settled out of court. As game warden I can sell you the right to
        have caught those fish.”

        “Oh, that’s it, is it?” said I, “Bribery and corruption. And in
        Massachusetts. Well, I don’t believe I care to buy the right. I
        went out fishing this morning not knowing of the law. Ignorance
        of the law is no excuse, I know that, but the point is, that if
        I have got to pay out money I prefer to pay it in a fine than to
        pay it to you for a right you can’t give me. The law makes no
        distinction, if I know anything about laws” (and I know precious
        little) “and if I mustn’t catch trout out of season, I mustn’t
        catch ’em, that’s all. Lead me to prison.”

        I said this in mock heroics and he in his turn said,

        “Well, of course, I didn’t mean to take a bribe. You
        misunderstood me. As game warden I own the fish. I represent the
        state and the state owns the fish, therefore I own them. Now you
        have caught some of my fish. I can’t sell you the right to catch
        them, very true, but I can sell you the fish now that they are
        caught.”

        Minerva’s hands had fallen to her sides and he now took the
        string from her, while she was off her guard, and said:

        “There are six of them. This season of the year they are worth
        fifty cents apiece for the males and a dollar for the females.”

        I laughed in his face.

        “My dear man, if you think I am going to pay anywhere from three
        to six dollars for a fish lunch you are mistaken. I’d rather
        throw away the fish and pay my fine like a man.”

        “You can’t throw them away,” said he, defiantly; “I have the
        fish and possession is nine points of the law. Did you have an
        aider and abettor?”

        “I refuse to answer,” said I.

        He turned quickly on Minerva. “Did your master go out with
        anyone?”

        “I didn’t see him go out,” said Minerva, sullenly. It was plain
        to be seen that her sympathies were not with the myrmidon of the
        law.

        “I am not afraid of this law,” said I. “I fished innocently and
        I am willing to pay the fine. I will also consider it my duty to
        tell the judge that you attempted to compromise with me on a
        money basis.”

        His manner changed in a twinkling. “See here,” said he. “You’re
        a stranger up here and you’re from the city. It’s easy to see
        that. I’ll tell you what I’ll do.”

        He walked slowly over to his wagon, holding the string of fish
        in front of him, while he gazed at them thoughtfully. He climbed
        into the wagon and seemed to be hunting for something under the
        seat. He soon found it. It was the whip. He applied it to the
        horse and the animal responded in a spurt of speed that took him
        out of sight before we realized what had happened.

        Our fish lunch was gone.

        “I’m glad it ended that way,” said Ethel. I looked at her and
        saw that she was rather pale. “It would have been dreadful if he
        had arrested you.”

        “I think I’d like to be the game warden,” said I, “if people
        generally are innocent of the law. But he was afraid of my
        bribery talk.”

        It may have been five minutes later that Bert drove over to the
        house on his way to town. He had with him another dish of
        brains.

        “Bert,” said I, “When does the law on trout go on?”

        “First of July,” said he.

        “What’s the name of the game warden?”

        “Why, father. Been fishin’?” said he, with a laugh.

        “Yes, but that wasn’t your father that you must have just
        passed.”

        “No,” said he. “That’s Cy Holden.” He laughed reminiscently.
        “Cy’s a great boy.”

        “How is he great?”

        “Oh, he’s always playing practical jokes,” said he.

        “Much obliged for the brains,” said I. “We’ll have them for
        lunch.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XVII

                          THE STORY OF A PIPE.


        I SUPPOSE that there are prettier places in the world than
        western Massachusetts, although I should consider it a
        profitless task to try to find them, but whether it arose from
        the beauty of the scenery or the witchery of the mountain air,
        certain it is that we have never stayed at a country place that
        exercised such a charm over us as did the rolling hills and
        valleys around Clover Lodge. Ethel was not less under its
        influence than I, and we have seen how Minerva, coming there
        with an evident and pronounced disgust for it, was now coming to
        look on it as home.

        All the events connected with that summer resolved themselves in
        the retrospect into something agreeable. The visits in turn of
        the burglar, the sheriff, and the “game warden” furnished us
        food for pleasant talk, and our early and frantic attempts to
        keep Minerva satisfied did not seem as tragic when looked at
        from the latter end of July as they did in the happening.

        It was a few days after our loss of the delicious trout lunch
        that we received an unexpected call from a neighbour.

        It was an unusually hot night for Clover Lodge. Ordinarily a
        blanket was not too much, no matter how warm the day, and there
        were nights in July when two blankets were necessary, but this
        night was breathless, and so hot that a sheet would have felt
        like hot metal.

        We had retired to rest, but found that rest was impossible. It
        was a night in which to deplore good circulation and wish for
        cold feet.

        It may have been twelve o’clock; it may have been much later—we
        had no striking clock in the house—when we heard uncertain steps
        on the graveled walk. They came nearer and nearer, and at last a
        foot slid along the floor of the porch, followed by a reluctant
        mate, a heavy hand fell against the door and an over-mellow
        voice called out,

        “You ’wake, papa?”

        I was only too wide awake, but I had no children, so I did not
        think it necessary to answer his question.

        A muttering arose and then a louder query as to whether “papa”
        was awake.

        “Who can it be?” said Ethel.

        “Some one who believes in local option. I wish he’d go away.”

        “Papa. Papa. It’s on’y me. I wan’ a borrer mash.”

        “What does he want?” said Ethel.

        “He wants a match.”

        “Oh, tell him to go away. He’ll set the house afire.”

        “How can he set the house afire if he hasn’t a match? It rests
        with me whether he sets anything afire.”

        I called out in as stentorian a tone as my lungs would allow me
        to muster, “Go away. Go home.”

        My voice was encouragement to the tired wayfarer.

        “Oh, papa. Was ’frai’ you was ’sleep. Papa, ’blizh me wi’ a
        mash. Mine wen’ out, wan’a ligh’ a pipe.”

        I got out of bed. The moon had about ended its lighting services
        for the night, but I could see the form of a man sitting on the
        porch seat, his head swaying from side to side and as I looked
        he again lifted up his voice and said,

        “Papa, don’ you hear me? Be neighbourly, papa.”

        “I don’t find any matches,” said, I with a fine Puritanical
        regard for the letter of the truth. I found none because I did
        not look for them.

        My denial of his request worked on the sensibilities of my
        unknown neighbour to such an extent that he was moved to tears.
        Amid his maudlin sobs he said,

        “Pa’a, if you came to my house in dea’ night an’ as’ me for mash
        I’d leshu have one. I’m kin’ hearted, pa’a. On’y one mash I as’
        an’ pa’a refuses. My pipe’ gone out an’ pa’a has box’s mashes
        an’ he can’ fin’ one.”

        It did seem a little like a disobliging spirit and I moved to
        the bureau to get one, but Ethel said,

        “Don’t give him one. He’ll set himself on fire or else set fire
        to the grass. Tell him to go away.”

        Ethel has a horror of drunken gentlemen or even drunken men, who
        are not gentlemen, and I could do no more than respect her
        wishes.

        I leaned out of the window and said in very much the tone one
        would assume in talking to a wilful little dog,

        “Now go home. Go right home. You may catch cold if you stay
        here. I can’t let you have a match.”

        “Papa, if I caught cold ni’ like this I’d know wha’ do with it.
        Mos’ hot ’nough to ligh’ my pipe. Goo’ bye, papa. Mos’
        unneighbourly, papa.” He rose from his seat and swayed down the
        walk until he came to the gate.

        “Papa, I shut your gate for you. No har’ feelin’s, papa. Mos’
        unneighbourly, but I shu’ your gate.”

        And muttering and stumbling, he went along to his home.

        Ethel, with an absence of logic that must have been due to the
        heat, lay awake for an hour in fear that the matchless man would
        set fire to the house in revenge, but we did not hear from him
        again.

        Next morning I found a pipe in the grass not far from the gate.
        I said nothing about it to Ethel, but when opportunity offered I
        showed it to James and asked him if he knew whose it was.

        “Looks like Sam Adams’s,” said he. “Yes, there’s S. A. scratched
        on the bowl.”

        I knew Sam Adams (fictitious name) to be a hard working farmer
        of some thirty years of age, a young married man with an adoring
        wife and pretty baby and with a lack of tact that I have never
        ceased to wonder at I resolved to restore the pipe to him. I
        learned from Bert that once in a while he would go down to
        Grange Meeting and would stop on the way back for beverages that
        he did not need.

        The opportunity soon offered itself. I was out walking by myself
        one Sunday afternoon and I came on him inspecting some buckwheat
        that was coming along finely.

        I leaned on the fence that separated us and passed the time of
        day with him.

        He was cordial, as he always was.

        “Nice hay weather,” said I, a phrase that I had picked up very
        easily and worked a good deal.

        “Yes, if it wasn’t the Sabbath,” said he, “or if my grass land
        was a leetle further away.”

        “Mr. Adams,” said I, “I picked something up the other day that I
        think belongs to you.”

        His manner, which had been warm, became frigid as he said, “I
        guess not. I haven’t missed anything.”

        “Isn’t this yours?” said I, producing the pipe.

        He looked me coldly in the eye and said, “I never saw that
        before.”

        I, on my part, saw something that I had not seen before. I put
        the pipe into my pocket, feeling that I had put my foot in it.

        Anxious to make amends, I pulled out a cigar and said, “Have
        one.”

        Relaxing, he accepted it and biting off the end he put it in his
        mouth.

        “Got a match,” said I without thinking.

        “Thank you, yes,” said he turning away his head.

        I lighted a cigar and we puffed silently for a minute or two.

        “Weather’s been hot enough lately, to drive a man to drink,”
        said I. “Better take your pipe and think no more about it.”

        “Thank you,” said he, as he put it into his pocket. And we
        became good friends from that hour.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                            WE FIND A PIANO.


        AS matters were now running so swimmingly with us, Ethel invited
        an old school friend of hers to come and pay us a visit.

        Miss Paxton, “Cherry,” as most of her friends call her, is an
        unusually talented woman. She can draw very well indeed, and she
        can play the piano in an almost professional way. Tall and
        slender, with a facial animation that is almost beauty, she is a
        general favorite by virtue of her buoyant spirits and readiness
        for whatever is going on.

        When Minerva heard that she was coming up she clapped her hands
        and said,

        “_My_-oh-my! I’m glad to hear she’s comin’. Now we will have
        music.”

        She meant piano music, for Miss Paxton did not sing. But we had
        no piano.

        I had not thought it worth while to get one, because Ethel,
        while very fond of music and with a cultivated taste for it, is
        not able to play. Her father thought that so many people
        now-a-days play the piano badly, that it was just as well not to
        play it at all, and he would never hear of her taking lessons.

        As Miss Paxton was only going to be up a week, it did not seem
        to be worth while sending to Springfield for a piano. I did not
        know at the time that there was a wareroom in Egerton.

        We talked it over, Ethel and I, and we came to the conclusion
        that we would help Cherry to enjoy herself without music—unless
        she should show an unexpected predilection for the accordeon, in
        which case we had no doubt that Minerva would lend her her
        instrument.

        Cherry was coming on a Saturday, and we were to drive to Egerton
        to meet her.

        Friday afternoon we went to call on Mrs. Hartlett, an old lady,
        who was in her hundredth year, and in almost complete possession
        of her faculties.

        I feel that I owe it to Mrs. Hartlett to give some account of
        our visit to her, although the real object of this chapter is to
        tell what was happening during our absence from home.

        Mrs. Hartlett was a widow, her husband having died eighty-one
        years before.

        “Just think of it, Philip,” said Ethel, as we began to descend
        the little hill at the foot of which Mrs. Hartlett lived with a
        granddaughter, a woman verging on sixty years, and almost as old
        looking as her grandmother.

        “Just think of it; for the best part of her life Mrs. Hartlett
        has had a young husband.”

        “What do you mean?” said I, not at once seeing her drift.

        “Why, the memory of her husband is that of a young man. They
        said he was only twenty-two when he died, and for over eighty
        years she has had that picture in her memory.”

        “It’s probably kept _her_ young,” said I.

        We found her sitting outside of her door under a grape arbour,
        knitting. Her face was thin and her cheek bones high and the
        skin was drawn tightly, but its colour had a reminiscence of the
        rosy shade that had (so tradition said) made her a beauty “in
        the days when Madison was president.”

        She was erect, and despite a slight trembling of her frame, she
        looked strong.

        “We thought we’d come and see you and bring you some sweet
        peas,” said Ethel.

        “It is very good of you,” said she, in a voice which though
        cracked had a pleasant ring of sincerity in it. “You are the
        Vernons, are you not?”

        I was surprised that so old a soul should be enough interested
        in things to know who transient summer people were, but I
        suppose it was that very interest in things that had kept her
        faculties unimpaired.

        As I looked at her I felt proud of New England. Perfectly
        self-possessed, abundantly able to hold her own in conversation,
        respected by all and self-respecting, she was a type of that
        native cultivation that made the hill towns a source of strength
        to the nation, before the coming of steam cars that drew the
        young men and maidens from the hills and sent them forth to
        carry New England traditions to the West.

        “Yes, so you’ve heard of us.”

        “Oh, yes, the young people come in and keep me informed of all
        passing matters,” said she, talking slowly and evidently
        choosing her words with care.

        “Pray be seated,” said she quaintly, and we took seats under the
        pleasant grape arbour.

        Suddenly a canary, whose cage hung in the centre of the arbour,
        burst into a roulade that had something of the bubbling ecstacy
        of a bobolink’s note.

        Mrs. Hartlett looked up at him and smiled.

        “He is a source of comfort to me,” said she. “He sings as long
        as the sun shines. Last winter he was mute for upwards of a
        week, and I feared that I was going to lose him, but it was only
        that he was moulting. When his new coat had come he began
        singing again and in spite of the fact that he has no mate he is
        happy.”

        Two mateless creatures and both of them happy. It’s all in the
        temperament.

        “How do you like it up on these hills?” said Mrs. Hartlett.

        “Very much,” said Ethel. “It is so quiet and there are so few
        houses that it’s a pleasant contrast to our noisy, busy New York
        life.”

        “Child, I remember when this was a busy community, too,” said
        the old lady. “When I was a young lady of eighteen, we had a
        singing school here and Dr. Lowell Mason used to come from
        Boston every two weeks to teach us, and there were two hundred
        young people of both sexes who gathered in the seminary to learn
        of him.”

        “You had a seminary here?” said I, astonished, for the district
        school of the present day is the only school in the
        neighbourhood, and it does not accommodate more than
        twenty-five.

        “Indeed we did; a seminary and a college for chirurgeons. Dr.
        Hadley was the best chirurgeon of his time and young men from
        all over New England used to come here to learn of him. Times
        have changed, but if the houses have fallen away and the people
        gone the country has grown more beautiful.”

        “How do you pass the time?”

        “With my magazines and my young friends. I have taken _Littell’s
        Living Age_ and the _Atlantic_ ever since they started, and they
        keep me abreast of the times, and the young people are very
        good. Two years ago they clubbed together and gave me a cabinet
        organ. I cannot play it myself; my fingers are too stiff, but
        the young folks come in and play me the old tunes I knew when I
        was a girl—‘Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes,’ and many others
        that are never heard now, I suspect. Mr. and Mrs. Hayden are
        especially kind in coming to sing to me but all the young people
        are very thoughtful.”

        It was not until later that I realized that the “young people”
        she had specified were considerably over fifty. But she was
        right. Youth is a relative term.

        “Do you walk about much?”

        “When my rheumatism permits of walking. My knees are somewhat
        rheumatic but it is no more than I might reasonably expect at my
        great age. I shall be one hundred years old on the 16th of
        September next if the Lord spares me.”

        There was a gleam of pride in her eyes as she said this. She was
        striving for a goal.

        We rose to go soon after, fearing that we might tire her if we
        stayed too long.

        “Oh, don’t go yet,” said she, half rising and putting out her
        mitted hand. “You have barely come. I want that you should see
        my cat. I am quite proud of my cat. She was given to me by a
        play actor who spent last summer here. I was brought up to
        consider play acting an abomination to the Lord but we live and
        learn and this gentleman was an honest, God-fearing man although
        he has been a play actor ever since his youth. I cannot recall
        his name. Names have a way of going from one. It is one of the
        defects of age with which we must be patient.

        “Pussy, pussy,” said she, calling in falsetto.

        Whether in answer to the call or merely because Her Independence
        decided that it was time for her to come out and stroll about I
        cannot say but at that minute a most magnificent Angora jumped
        heavily from a chair in the sitting room (as I saw from my seat
        under the arbour) and walked out to us. She walked over to Ethel
        and sniffed her dress and passed her by. Then she came to me and
        sniffed my trouser leg and arching her back she rubbed against
        me and began to purr in tremendous fashion, quite like a young
        lion.

        The old lady laughed cheerily.

        “She always shows a _penchant_ for gentlemen,” said she. “You
        never will guess her name. The play actor named her.”

        “Lady Macbeth?” said I, quite at a venture.

        “Why, my sakes,” said Mrs. Hartlett. “You are right. You must be
        a Yankee. You know we are said to be able to guess almost
        anything.”

        “Well, if I’m not a Yankee born I’m one in spirit. My ancestors
        came from Connecticut.”

        “The ‘land of steady habits.’ Stop, Macbeth. Don’t let her
        sharpen her claws in that fashion. I call her Macbeth half the
        time although she has a much better character than Macbeth had.”

        “So you read Shakespeare?” said I.

        “I never did until in recent years. The pastor we had a few
        years back, in ’65, I think it was, told me that there was much
        in him that would repay me and I have found it so. I sometimes
        think that we of the last century were narrow. It came about
        from our isolation. The easier modes of getting about have made
        us better acquainted with our world neighbours.”

        I signalled to Ethel and we again rose.

        “Do you feel that you must go?” said Mrs. Hartlett. “I thank you
        for coming and I am sorry that I cannot offer you something in
        the way of refreshment but my granddaughter has gone to town and
        I find that it does not do for me to try to handle cups and
        saucers and glasses for my old wrists are tired of service and
        they play me strange tricks.”

        We shook hands with the old lady and as we came away she said:

        “When you can find nothing better worth doing come and see me.”

        “Well, she is the real thing,” said I as we got out of hearing.

        “Ninety-nine years young and growing younger every year. Think
        of her hobnobbing with a play actor. I wonder who he was.”

        “Why, but aren’t actors all right?” asked Ethel.

        “Yes, they are if they are, but you don’t know what it meant for
        her, brought up as she had been, to acknowledge that an actor
        might be a good man. It showed great independence of mind.”

        “What poise she had,” said Ethel.

        “She could stand before kings.”

        “And the kings might well feel honoured.”

        We walked slowly back as Ethel was trying to see how many kinds
        of wild flowers she could pick. Mrs. Dana’s book had had an
        effect upon her she had not anticipated and I was afraid that
        she was going to become a botanist and talk about pistils and
        stamens, and things.

        I believe she had picked twenty-five different “weeds,” as the
        farmers thereabouts called them, when she stopped and stood
        erect and listened.

        “Where’s that piano?”

        “Is it a piano,” said I, not willing to believe the evidence of
        my ears. We were about ten rods from our house and there is not
        another house nearer than a quarter of a mile and no piano
        within a half mile.

        “It certainly is a piano and in our house,” said she.

        What we had heard were preliminary chords and now to a bang-bang
        accompaniment we heard the pleasing lyric, “Hannah, Won’t You
        Open That Door,” and recognized the voice as that of James.

        “First a crimson rambler and now a piano,” said I. “I suppose he
        planted a few keys and the piano sprang up quickly.”

        “Well, what does it mean?”

        “It means,” said I, “that, however it may have happened, we have
        a piano in the house and Cherry can play when she comes.”

        We now noticed wheel tracks, some of them on our lawn and we
        knew that James had not worked a miracle but that the piano had
        come to the house by _very_ human agencies. A broken plant
        showed where a horse’s hoof had toyed with it.

        Our appearance on the path was the signal for the music to stop
        and Minerva came to the door perfectly radiant.

        “It’s come, ma’am. The pianner has come,” said she, her eyes
        dancing with delight.

        “Well, who sent it?” said I.

        James had come out.

        “Where did the piano come from, James?”

        “I do’no’, sir,” said he. “I found it here when I come up to the
        house.”

        “Why, it come in a wagon,” said Minerva.

        She looked me in the eye and then she gave one of her chuckles.

        “Say, Mist. Vernon, didn’ you order it?”

        “No,” said I.

        She clapped her hands rapturously. “Then you can thank me for
        it, Mist. Vernon and we’ll have music when Miss Cherry comes. I
        half knowed he didn’t mean it for here but I wanted it.”

        “What do you mean, Minerva? Tell us what happened.”

        “Why, it was this way. I was moppin’ de kitchen an’ I see a man
        pass the winder, an’ I thought maybe it was tramps, an’ I
        clinched the mop an’ got ready to run, an’ a man comes to the
        back-kitchen door an’ asks where he’s to put the pianner.

        “‘What pianner?’ says I. ‘Why, the on’y pianner we’ve brought,’
        says he, ‘for Mr. Werner.’”

        “‘Vernon,’ says I. ‘Well, Vernon,’ says he, ‘Where’ll I put it,’
        says he, and I says, ‘Right in the parlour,’ and I walked thoo
        to show him, and he went out to the other man an’ they
        unstrapped it an’ like to ha’ broke the porch floor gettin’ it
        in, an’ they set it up an’ unlocked it an’ then they gev me the
        recippy to sign an’ it was written on it, ‘Mr. H. Werner,’ but I
        thought as long as the pianner was up an’ you’d like it I
        wouldn’t tell ’em they’d made a mistake, an’ I signed the
        recippy an’ they drove off.”

        I looked at Ethel.

        “It’s fate,” said she.

        “Do you know where it came from?” said I to Minerva.

        “No, sir. From that away.”

        “Oh, there’s only one place,” spoke up James: “It came from
        Hill’s in Egerton. He rents ’em.”

        It was a time when quick thought would be a good thing. “James,”
        said I, “you go right down to Hill’s and tell him that he sent a
        piano to me by mistake but that I want to keep it, and that he’d
        better send another to the Werner’s before they make a kick
        about it.”

        “Won’t we have fun when Cherry comes?” said Ethel after the
        others had gone and we stood looking at the case that had the
        potentiality of so much pleasure in it.

        “Minerva is a treasure,” said I.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIX

                             TH’ OULD SCUT.


        I HAVE made mention of the fact that during the haying season
        horses were difficult to get. We generally relied on Bert, but
        he was not always able to supply us with a means of conveyance
        to town. I had counted on him to bring Miss Paxton up, but I had
        neglected to say anything to him about it and our telepathic
        communication was out of kilter, for he never felt my desire,
        and so it fell out that when at four o’clock of Saturday
        afternoon I realized this and Ethel and I went down to his
        father’s to get him to harness up, we learned that he and his
        father were over in the “east lot” getting in some valuable
        hay—the weather threatening thunder storms—and that we could not
        possibly have either of the horses.

        Here was a pretty how-de-do.

        It was ten minutes after four and the train came to Egerton,
        three miles away, at 4:58. We might walk down and hire a livery
        team but even at that it would require speed.

        In my dilemma Bert’s mother suggested that we try Pat Casey.

        “He lives in the little red house beyond the ruins of the old
        church,” said she, “and you may be able to hire his horse.”

        Across the fields to the little red house we hurried. A short,
        lithe, nimble-footed man was tossing hay in front of his house.
        We climbed the last fence and stood before him.

        He looked up and greeted us pleasantly, his eyes twinkling with
        what looked like suppressed mischief.

        “Is this Mr. Casey?”

        “I’m Pat Casey. Divil a hair I care about the Misther,” said he,
        leaning on his rake and bobbing his head at us.

        “Well,” said I, hurriedly, “We want to go down to Egerton to
        meet a friend who is coming on the 4:58. Can you let us hire
        your team?”

        He threw back his head and laughed.

        “Is it hire? Divil a hire. If ye dare trust your legs in me
        caart you’re welkim to use me ould scut of a harse—bad scran to
        her.”

        The “bad scran” was delivered with a laugh that robbed it of all
        animosity and setting his rake against a tree he led the way to
        a tumble down barn that sheltered a more tumble down dirt cart,
        and a yet more tumble down horse. It certainly was an “ould
        scut,” whatever that is. It was blind in one eye; its back
        seemed trying to show Hogarth’s line of beauty in the form of a
        deep curve, and its four legs stood not under its body but at
        obtuse angles to it, as if it had been staggering with a heavy
        weight long enough and was now about to break in two in the
        middle.

        And yet when Pat slapped the animal on the flank and spoke a
        word or two to it the horse whinnied and pricked up its ears and
        looked intelligently out of its only seeing eye, and I judged
        that it would not be cruelty to animals to take it.

        But when I saw the harness, which was eked out by strings and
        ropes, when I saw that the cart was literally a dirt cart and
        that we would have to sit in hay, I decided that we would use
        the horse only to get us down there


        [Illustration: “Th’ ould Scut.”]


        and that I would then hire a livery team to bring Cherry up and
        would pay Pat to go back in it and get his horse.

        “You’re sure the horse will be able to pull us down?” said I to
        Pat.

        “Hell, yes,” said he, genially, looking at Ethel as he spoke.
        “Sure ’tis gentle as a kitten. Ther’ wife there’d make a pet of
        um if she had him. Not afred of the trolley caars. Egorry when
        he was a colt there was not wan finer annywhere. He’d be a hell
        of a fine harse now, sorr, on’y fer a shlight weakness in his
        back. He’s the bye’ll carry you down on time. Don’t be afraid of
        the whip, on’y let him see it before you use it an’ thin he’ll
        know what to expect.”

        All the time he was talking he was harnessing the “scut,” as he
        chose to designate it, and I, to save time, ran the cart out.

        “Don’t you want to go back, Ethel?”

        “No, it’ll be loads of fun to go down this way,” laughed Ethel,
        and immediately Pat gave her an encouraging nod of the head and
        said, “Me leddy, take life as it comes. It’s a dam site
        betther’n flndin’ fault.”

        I would have resented these strong words addressed to Mrs.
        Vernon if he had been somebody else, but his oaths were as
        harmless and void of offense as the ejaculations of a sunny
        tempered child. I am not sure that he would have understood the
        nature of an oath.

        He helped Ethel in with Irish politeness, handed me the dreadful
        looking reins, and taking off his hat he said:

        “Don’t spare um. He’s strarng as a—as a harse, th’ould scut.”

        Then he slapped the horse again on the flank and with a “To hell
        wid ye,” addressed to the animal, he went back to his haying and
        we started on our journey to town.

        The horse could go but I soon learned that he did not regard the
        whip as anything at all. I showed it to him before using and he
        pricked his ears each time I showed it, but that was merely as
        much as to say, “I understand what you mean, but I’m doing my
        best as it is.”

        The cart was not easy, but Ethel was out for a lark and she
        considered our passage in this vehicle in the nature of a lark.
        For my part I was ashamed of the rig.

        “Remember that you are to dress for dinner,” said she.

        “Does this look like dressing for dinner?” said I with a look at
        the impossible beast in front of me.

        “Well, but Cherry won’t see him, and I am sure that she is
        always used to seeing men dressed for dinner.”

        “If I know Cherry Paxton at all she will be glad to be free from
        all conventions for a short time. I will take her into our room
        and I will show her my suit all laid out on the bed and I’ll ask
        her to try to realize how I’d look if I wore it, and I will be
        comfortable in an outing shirt and sack coat as usual.”

        Further conversation along these lines was stopped at that
        moment because the beast stepped on its foot, or did something
        equally absurd, that caused it to limp along on three legs for a
        few yards and then stop.

        I got out and looked at its hoof—somewhat gingerly, for I am not
        used to horses. It did not seem to be suffering pain but it
        looked at me out of its well eye and seemed to say, “This is
        where I stop.”

        I climbed into the cart and I tightened the reins and clucked
        and applied the whip, but to no purpose. The horse looked around
        at me in a languid way, but he refused to budge.

        “Nice,” said I, looking at my watch. “Quarter to five, and we’ve
        got at least two miles to go yet. I wonder how Pat starts him.”

        “He used languages,” said Ethel suggestively.

        “Thanks. So he did.”

        Once more I pulled on the reins, clucked and plupped and whipped
        (not viciously, but ticklingly) and once more the horse did not
        move.

        “To hell wid ye,” said I suddenly, and it worked like a charm.
        The old beast took up his ungraceful trot, and we jolted along
        to the station.

        I had meant to hitch the horse on the outskirts of Egerton and
        walk up to the station in style, but as we neared the
        Congregational Church I saw that it lacked but two minutes of
        train time, and so setting aside pride, in my anxiety to meet
        our guest, I whipped him up the incline that leads to the
        station, and just as we drove up to the platform the train
        pulled in, and out of the drawing-room car came Cherry, pretty
        and pink and smiling. She waved to us and then, when she saw our
        equipage, she shook her own hands in a manner indicative of
        delight, and not waiting for me to come and help her, she ran
        down the steps of the car and hastened over to us.

        “How lovely,” said she, kissing Ethel, but refraining from
        kissing me. “Are we to go up in it?”

        “Hell, yes,” said I, thinking of Pat.

        Ethel frowned at me and explained to Cherry the bad influence
        under which we had been.

        “No, we’re going to get a team to take us up. We only took this
        because we would have missed the train if we had walked.”

        “Don’t do any such thing,” said Cherry. “It will be perfectly
        delicious to ride up in a cart, and in that lovely new-mown hay.
        Mmh, how sweet it smells.”

        “No evening clothes for me,” thought I, and I was right. Cherry
        had come up to have a good time and to forget that such a place
        as New York and its exactions ever existed, and when she had
        settled herself in the hay with her traps all about her and her
        trunk for her to lean her back against, we started out for the
        return trip, while Ethel told her of our good luck with the
        piano.

        I will confess that the inhabitants of Egerton eyed us
        curiously, for Ethel did not look like a carter, and Cherry was
        very modish, and I was not in the costume of a teamster. And we
        had to stop at the grocery store to get lemons and things.

        Altogether these were not pleasant moments, and I was glad when
        we turned our backs on Egerton and began the ascent of the
        hills.

        “Th’ ould scut” was a good walker and he went up the hills as if
        he smelt his dinner ahead of him.

        “Think of it,” said Ethel. “The harness hasn’t broken yet!”

        “How perfectly delicious to think of it,” said Cherry. “It
        really looks as if each moment would be its next. How was he
        ever ingenious enough to tie it all together in that fascinating
        way? He _must_ be a character. I do wish the horse would stop.
        So you could start him again.”

        “No, you mustn’t wish that, for my profanity is really wicked,
        while Pat’s is as natural to him as leaves are to trees. It’s
        part of his growth. I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll go down
        and hear him swear after dinner.”

        We had come to a level place about a quarter of a mile in
        extent. The view of the town from which we had left was well
        worth looking at, and I was just on the point of stopping the
        horse that we might see the little city perched on the side of a
        hill and surrounded by green farms and wide expanses of
        woodland, when “th’ ould scut” stopped of its own accord, began
        to tremble violently and then broke into a gallop. So quickly
        did he start that we were all pitched out. By great good fortune
        not one of us was seriously hurt, although Ethel scraped her
        wrist, and Cherry bumped her head. I escaped unscathed, and
        telling the others to follow I started after the horse.

        I soon gave up the chase, however, and sitting down on a bank I
        waited for the others.

        “What shall we do? Go back and get a team, or walk. It’s a mile
        or more,” said I, when they came up.

        “Oh, it’s perfectly lovely to walk,” said Cherry, and as Ethel
        said she felt able, walk we did.

        We had gone perhaps two-thirds of the way, looking at every turn
        for a wrecked cart and a broken legged horse, when we heard the
        rattle of wheels and saw the horse coming back after us, guided
        by Pat, himself.

        “Oh, ’tis the devil’s own pity, sure it is,” said he when he saw
        us. “Sure, he had the blind staggers. Why didn’t ye bleed him?”
        said he.

        “How could I bleed him when he ran away?”

        “Oh, well, that’s arl he needed,” said Pat. “He come runnin’ in
        the door yaard, an’ me woman says, ‘they’re kilt,’ says she. And
        I whips out me knife an’ cuts his mout’, an’ he’s arl right.
        Ye’d oughter have bled him. Ah, it’s a hell of a bad job that it
        happened ye. Were ye hurrted?”

        We assured him that it was all right, and would have continued
        on foot, but he said the horse had needed bleeding and that she
        was as fresh as a colt now, and he helped the ladies in, gave me
        the reins, slapped the animal’s flanks as before, with the same
        command as to his destination, and we drove home in triumph,
        leaving him to walk.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XX

                            A MUSICAL TRAMP.


        WE wanted Cherry to play, but we did not feel that we ought to
        ask her to do it; she would be tired, after her journey, and
        piano playing to her was no novelty.

        But when, after dinner, while passing through the sitting room,
        on our way to the veranda she ran a harmony enticing hand over
        the keys as she walked by the piano, I could not help saying,

        “Don’t you feel like following that up with the other hand?”

        She laughed, and sitting down at the piano she said, “Why,
        certainly. What shall it be?”

        “Oh, we leave that to you,” said Ethel. “Play what you like and
        you’ll play what we like.”

        “Is Grieg getting old fashioned?” I asked.

        “I never inquired,” said Cherry. “I don’t believe in fashions in
        arts. I liked Grieg, and Schumann, and Beethoven, and
        Mendelssohn, and Wagner, and Johann Strauss when I was a child,
        and so I’ll always like them. And Grieg is always fresh. What
        shall I play—‘Anitra’s Dance’?”

        “Yes, do,” said Ethel. “I never hear that without thinking of
        Seidl and Brighton Beach and the throngs of doting Brooklyn
        women who didn’t go to hear the music, but to see Seidl. But it
        was beautiful music—when the roar of the surf didn’t drown it.”

        Cherry found the piano stool at just the right height, and
        without any airs or graces beyond those which were part of her
        endowment, she started in to play. The windows were open and the
        music and the moonlight, and the hum of the insects, and the
        landscape became indissolubly blended, and I blessed Minerva
        once more for the truly “Puss-in-boots” service she had rendered
        to the “Marquis of Carabas.”

        The dance ended, Cherry turned around on the piano stool and
        said,

        “Minerva chose a very nice piano.”

        There was a sound of steps on the porch and the shadow of a man
        fell across the square hallway. There was also a subdued rap on
        the door post.

        I stepped to the door and found a tramp standing there. He was
        the typical tramp of the comic papers; unshaven, dusty,
        blear-eyed, unkempt, stoop shouldered, ragged, un-prepossessing.

        “What do you wish?” said I, irritated at the interruption.

        He hesitated a moment.

        “I’d like a glass of milk,” said he, huskily.

        “Well, go around to the back door and the girl will give you
        one. Don’t you want some meat?”

        “Thanks; I don’t care if I do,” said he, wiping his mouth as if
        my invitation had been a bibulous one.

        He went around, and I returned to the sitting room, where Cherry
        had started another piece.

        “Do you have many tramps?” asked she when she had finished.

        “Not many. They are too lazy to climb the hills. I think he is
        only the third one this summer. He was awful looking. Did you
        see him?”

        “No,” said Ethel and Cherry together.

        “What a life! Probably not a wish in the world but for food and
        drink.”

        My moralizing was cut short by the return of the tramp. In his
        right hand he held a sandwich and with his left he was wiping
        milk from his moustache.

        As he passed the window he beckoned to me, who was sitting by
        it.

        I supposed that he wanted money, and went out.

        “Say, boss,” said he, “I’m pretty far gone, but you didn’t set
        the dog on me, and I want you to ask that young lady in there a
        favour.”

        “What is it?”

        “Ask her to play the ‘Dance of the Dwarfs’ in the same
        suite—‘Peer Gint.’”

        “Sit down,” said I, and felt as if I needed a seat myself.

        The oafish tramp sat down on the porch seat, and I went in and
        told Cherry what the tramp would like to hear.

        Surprise showed in her face, but quite as a matter of course she
        went to the piano and began the lumbering, humourous dance.

        In the middle of it I could hear the tramp laughing gutturally,
        and when she had finished it he clapped his hands and said,

        “Beg pardon, but I’m much obliged. That’s one of the funniest
        pieces of music that was ever composed. Say, boss, will you step
        out a minute.”

        I stepped out. He had risen and was evidently going.

        “Boss, I used to be one of the second violins in Seidl’s
        orchestra, but—well,—that’s how. I was go’n’ _by_ here, for I
        had had som’n’ to eat at the last house, but when I heard
        ‘Anitra’s Dance,’ gee! it brought back the good old days when I
        was doing the only thing I ever cared for, fiddling; and I
        thought I’d ask for some more, and then I didn’t dare until I’d
        been around to the kitchen and braced up. Thank the young lady
        for me.”

        He shuffled out to the road.

        “You wronged him, Philip,” said Ethel when I returned. “Think of
        his knowing ‘Peer Gint.’”

        Cherry wiped her eyes and broke into a chorus from “Iolanthe.”



                              CHAPTER XXI.

                              WE MAKE HAY.


        SUNDAY it rained until late in the afternoon, but at that time a
        westerly wind sprang up which rapidly dried things, and enabled
        us to go out for a sunset walk.

        “This is a place in which to do nothing but be happy,” said
        Cherry to Ethel as we stood on top of our favorite rock and
        looked up the valley for miles and miles, watching belated and
        feathery clouds fly across it, trying to catch up with the rain
        clouds that had all day long swept by.

        “That’s what I felt when I first came up,” said Ethel, “but I’m
        beginning to feel so strong now that Philip has sent for a lawn
        tennis set, and James is going to mark a court, and you and I
        can play against Philip.”

        “Yes, and while we’re waiting for it to come,” said I, “we’ll
        have to pitch in and give our next-door neighbour a spell of
        work at hay-making.”

        “What’s a spell of work?” asked Cherry.

        “Why, it’s falling to, and helping your neighbour this week, and
        next week he falls to, and helps you.”

        “Oh, how delicious. And do you know how to make hay?”

        “Anyone can learn how in a single morning. First you cut it,
        then you toss it, and then you gather it. It’s as easy as
        lying.”

        “I’m afraid I’ll never learn it,” said Cherry demurely.

        “I was reading somewhere,” said I, “that in Germany, where they
        learn to be economical from the beginning, the navy is
        supported—or else it’s the army is supported entirely on the hay
        that Americans would leave in the corners and the by-ways. I’ve
        no doubt that the Emperor William commands his people in a
        heaven-sent message to get out their nail scissors and cut the
        little blades in the remote corners that nothing be lost, and as
        ‘mony a mickle maks a muckle,’ he pays for his army out of the
        hay crop that would become withered grass with us. Now
        to-morrow, when we go over to help the Windhams, you must
        remember to account each blade of grass as equal in value to any
        other blade.”

        “What will Mr. Windham say to women working?”

        “Well, the idea! Ethel. Did any Yankee farmer ever object to
        women working? And isn’t it better to work out-of-doors than to
        work indoors? I’d rather you lifted forkfuls of hay than have
        you lift heavy mattresses and furniture and things, and it’s
        better to rake hay than to sweep floors.”

        “When Philip gets on a topic like that, the best thing to do is
        to just let him talk it out,” said Ethel. “Don’t say a word, and
        he’ll burn up for lack of fuel.”

        “Which is a logical remark,” said I.

        “But it will be too perfectly delightful to go out like Boaz and
        glean.”

        “You may possibly mean Ruth,” said I.

        “I do. I always mix them up. Boaz seems like a woman’s name. Do
        you think it will rain to-morrow?”

        “To-morrow,” said I, with a glance at the west where the sun, a
        red ball, was disappearing in a cloudless sky, “will be a good
        hay day.”

        And to-morrow was. We rose and breakfasted early and found when
        we looked at the thermometer that it was already 78, but there
        was a west wind blowing to temper the heat.

        “They’re already at work, aren’t they?” said Cherry as we
        started out, the women clad in walking skirts and shirt-waists
        and broad-brimmed hats, and I bare headed and outing shirted.

        “My dear child, they have been at work for the last four hours.”

        I had told Windham what to expect, and when he saw us coming he
        said, “That’s right. The more the merrier. You’ll find rakes
        there by the fence.”

        I told him that I would mow a little, as I had done it when a
        boy.

        “Good work,” said he, and let me take his own scythe while he
        drove a loaded wagon home.

        I started in at a field that they had not intended to attack
        until after lunch, but Windham said it would make no difference.
        Ethel and Cherry raked as if they were sweeping, and I am not
        sure that their money value could have been represented by any
        undue use of figures. I vaulted the fence and began my fell
        work, taking care to keep close to the edge and demolishing
        every last blade of grass. I also found that my method of attack
        spared a little mouthful of grass at each stroke, and when I had
        gone down the length of the field and had stuck the point of the
        scythe in the earth twice, and had cut the end off of a stone,
        and had lunged into the fence, I determined to rest a minute and
        try to recall the proper way in which to hold the scythe.

        The way back was easier, as I was now one remove from the fence.
        I poised the scythe in such a manner that I reaped what I had
        before spared, but found, upon looking back over the path by
        which I had come, that I had spared a few inches in each swathe.
        I seemed to be unable to make a long, clean sweep. And my back
        felt like breaking and I was sweating in a manner unbecoming a
        gentleman.

        That, however, did not worry me at all, as I reflected that on
        my father’s side I was the first gentleman that had appeared in
        America for nine generations—all the rest had been of the bone
        and sinew of the nation.

        When people talk about pride of ancestry in my hearing, and
        their pride of ancestry is based on the fact that they have had
        fine blood in their veins for generations, I inflate my chest
        and tell them about my maternal ancestors, the Durbans. Not a
        man did a stroke of work for eight generations, and they lived
        in cities and looked down on country folk in a manner that was
        as aristocratic as could be. When my mother married my father,
        who had been born and bred a country boy, all the Durbans held
        up their hands in holy horror and said that my mother would
        never draw a happy breath again.

        Yet she went on drawing one happy breath after another, until
        she died, and my father knew his first unhappiness when she
        departed.

        But when I meet people who laugh at lineage and genealogy, I do
        not speak of the Durbans at all. I say, “Yes, pride of lineage
        is foolish. The Vernons have been plain country folk ever since
        they came over in 1639, and not one of them was ever celebrated
        for anything—not even for his wickedness. They’ve just been
        Yankee countrymen, and so, of course, pride of ancestry is a
        foolish thing.”

        Whenever you hear a man laughing at pride of ancestry, you may
        be sure that his ancestors were no better than my fathers were.
        But if he is always talking about his ancestry, depend upon it,
        he has something back of him as good as the Durbans, and his
        forbears looked down on farmers.

        We worked until the whistles at Egerton blew for noon, and I had
        by that time devastated quite a patch of grass.

        Windham had been busy in other places all the morning, and when
        he came to look at what I had done he made no reference to the
        thrift of the Germans. He looked at the regular patches of
        spared blades that were holding their heads high amidst the
        blades that had fallen so bravely, and said,

        “How would you like to drive the rake this afternoon?”

        I blushed and said that I believed that would be a change of
        work.

        I did not laugh at the somewhat amateur raking of Ethel and
        Cherry. Hay-making is an art, and beginners learn better by
        encouragement than by ridicule.

        We had brought our lunch, and we picnicked under the spreading
        branches of an oak, and found that we were feeling “pretty
        good.” And we had six red arms to our credit—four of them
        pretty.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXII

                           “DING DONG BELL.”


        THE week passed so quickly, with our hay-making and our getting
        over our hay-making and our pleasant walks—we did not attempt to
        drive out again behind “th’ ould scut”,—and the attractive meals
        that Minerva cooked and the pleasant music that Cherry found
        within the piano, that when Friday came, and Cherry asked me if
        I had found a team to carry her down, Ethel said,

        “It’s all nonsense, your thinking of going back. Philip, she
        says that she hasn’t made any plans at all, beyond thinking of
        going to Bar Harbor in September to visit her aunt.”

        “Well, then, Cherry, it will be downright unkind in you to ask
        me to hunt up a team yet awhile. Just stay on until the haying
        season is over, and we can go down behind a real horse.”

        “Well, of course I’m having a perfectly delicious time,” said
        Cherry, putting her arms around Ethel’s shoulders
        affectionately, “and I’d much rather stay than go, but it seems
        like—”

        “It doesn’t seem like anything at all,” said Ethel, “except that
        we want you to stay. And, besides, we want you to meet Ellery
        Sibthorp.”

        “Ellery Sibthorp,” said Cherry with a laugh. “Is that his real
        name?”

        “That’s his real name, the one he writes under, and Philip asked
        me to ask him up. He’s all alone in the world and is struggling
        to make a name for himself.”

        “Mercy, I should think he had one ready made. Ellery Sibthorp.
        It’s as valuable as Rudyard Kipling.”

        “Wait till you see him,” said I. “He’s poor as a church mouse
        and as clean as a whistle, and as good as gold.”

        “Oh, I’m simply _dying_ to see him. When does he come? And how
        will you get him up?”

        “Egerton livery, this time. And he’s coming Monday. So you see,
        if you were to go to-morrow, you wouldn’t see him.”

        “Tell me something about him. Of course I’ll stay. How old is
        he? Is he married?”

        “Oh, no. I guess he’s about twenty-eight, and he’s one of the
        great unrecognized. Good, but different, so he’s got to wait.”

        “Hasn’t he had anything accepted?”

        “Oh, a few things, but not enough to make him hopeless of
        success.”

        “Oh, is he _that_ type?”

        “A little. If he finally takes the world by storm, he won’t be
        among those who are surprised.”

        “And what do _you_ think of him?”

        “I? Oh, I think he’s young and can afford to wait, but I guess
        he’s one of the real ones. It won’t do him any harm to wait.”

        “That always sounds so merciless,” said Ethel. She and Cherry
        were sitting on a settee under a maple. She turned to her
        friend. “Half the time he lives on next to nothing, and yet
        Philip says that it will do him no harm to wait. He may starve
        before the world finds him out.”

        “Even if he does, he’ll be the happier in the world to come,”
        said I. “But don’t look for a sad-eyed, posing, long-haired,
        hollow-cheeked poet. Sibthorp sticks to prose, and he has a
        sense of humour that keeps him sane and satisfied and hopeful. I
        really think that if he were to be tremendously successful now
        that life would lose something of its savour. He feels in a
        vague way that he belongs to the line of those who have had to
        toil and wait before recognition came, and the thought is not
        distasteful.”

        “Will he read to us, or will he be like you, and never read
        anything of his own?”

        “Oh, he’ll read, if you press him—”

        Just then we heard moans that we had supposed were never to be
        heard again, and Minerva came running out of the house.

        “Oh, Mist. Vernon, Miss Pussy has fell down the well.”

        “Not really?” said Ethel, jumping up from the settee. “Oh,
        Philip, you must get her out at once. We never can drink the
        water again.”

        “Are you sure she’s there, Minerva?”

        “’Deed I am. I had the top off to fix that chain that got
        unhooked agin, an’ she must have jumped up awn the edge and then
        fell in. She’ll be drowned, sure.”

        “Where’s James?” said I, hurrying through the house.

        “He’s gone home.”

        “Well, you go get him. I’ll fish for the cat, but he’d be more
        likely to get her if he went down. Hurry!”

        Our drinking water was pumped out of the well, that was under
        the kitchen, by means of an endless chain furnished with rubber
        buckets, and while the well was some thirty feet deep, it would
        not be much of a job for a man used to it to go down and rescue
        the cat, supposing that its nine lives held out until he came. I
        did not think of going down, because I cannot swim, and a single
        false step would have meant drowning for me, and the husband who
        throws away his life for a cat has a false sense of values.

        Minerva rushed out to within bawling distance of James, and I
        lighted a candle and lowered it by means of a clothes line for
        about ten feet.

        “I see her! She’s swimming!” I exclaimed, and then the candle
        went out and I drew it up.

        I then tied an eight-quart pail on the line and lowered that,
        and when I felt it hitting water I called to the cat
        reassuringly, hoping that it would have sense enough to get
        inside of the pail. I pulled and felt the weight of the cat.

        “I’ve got her,” said I to Ethel and Cherry, who stood,
        interested spectators, at the kitchen door.

        “Oh, how fortunate,” said Ethel.

        “Yes, Minerva needn’t have called James. My, the cat must be
        water logged. She’s heavy.”

        I pulled hand over hand, and at last the pail was near enough
        for me to reach down and taking it’s bail, pull it over the
        edge.

        It was full to overflowing—with water.

        “Where’s the cat?” said Ethel in astonishment.

        “Cat’s gone back.”

        I lowered the bucket again, although I felt that it was time
        thrown away. While I was trying to attract Miss Pussy’s
        attention Cherry, looking out into the moonlight, said,

        “Here comes James.”

        And a minute later he came in. He had not quite reached home
        when he heard Minerva’s agonized calls, and came in obedience to
        them.

        “Think you can get her, James?” said I.

        “I guess so. Light the lantern, Minerva,” said he, and Minerva
        sprang to the cellar stairs and brought out a lantern which she
        lighted promptly.

        “Think she’s drowned, James?”

        “No, sir, cats hate water, but they can swim all right.”

        He stepped into the woodshed and came back in a minute with a
        coil of new clothes line. This he doubled and then tied it
        around his waist, asking me to hold on to the end of it.

        The lantern he fastened to the other rope’s end.

        “Keep yourself braced,” said he. “I wont fall, for I’ve often
        been down there to clean it, but if I do, you can pull me up.”

        “Try _not_ to go, James,” said I, looking at his two hundred
        pounds, and at the slender rope.

        We wrenched off the case of the pump, and stepping down he was
        lost to sight almost immediately.

        I lowered the lantern and he made his way to the water.

        “Do you suppose the cat slipped?” I asked Minerva.

        “I reckon she was thirsty.”

        “Well, she won’t be thirsty when she comes out. What do you
        find, James?”

        “A scrubbing brush.”

        “Ooh,” said Ethel, and “Ugh,” said Cherry, but Minerva said,

        “Lawdy, I wondered what I had done with that.”

        “Where’s the cat, James?”

        “I’m afraid she’s sunk. She ain’t here. That’s certain.”

        “That’s too bad. Coming up?”

        “Yes, sir. No use looking any more. She’s gone down.”

        I began to pull in the rope, and James began to ascend. Suddenly
        there was a splash and simultaneously I was pulled forward, and
        almost went into the well myself.

        Minerva shrieked and so did Ethel and Cherry, but James’s voice
        rose assuringly.

        “All right. Missed my footing. My, but this water’s cold.”

        We could hear him spluttering.

        “Here, lend a hand, all of you, at this rope,” said I, and we
        all began to pull.

        Of course it meant that next day James would have to pump the
        well dry and get the poor little body of the poor little cat.
        What a lot of excitement and suspense and labour over one
        smallish cat. Indeed, what a risk of life, for James might
        easily have hit his head when he fell.

        We hung back on the rope like sailors, and James climbed higher
        and higher, and at last his black hand came up and grasped the
        edge of the curb, and a moment later, dripping and shivering, he
        stood upon the floor.

        And then we heard the voice of a cat. I rushed to the well and
        looked in, but the sounds did not come from there. They came
        from out of doors.

        “That sounds like her,” said James.

        “It’s her ghost,” said Minerva. “She’s comin’ to ha’nt me.”

        Illogically enough we all pictured the cat standing outside of
        the door dripping water.

        I opened the door and in walked Miss Pussy, as dry as a bone,
        and began to rub against Minerva’s skirts.

        “Why, she’s dry,” said Ethel.

        Minerva burst out laughing. “My, I clean forgot. I shut her out
        doors before I began moppin’.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                               ELIGIBLE.


        WE were sitting at dinner Monday night, all of us wondering why
        Ellery Sibthorp had not come. We had heard the whistle of the
        train on which he was to have come, and we had allowed more than
        time for the livery team to come up, but it was now seven, and
        we had given him up.

        “I’m afraid he missed the train in New York. I wish I’d walked
        down to the station.”

        “Will you please tell me,” said Ethel, “how your going down to
        Egerton would have prevented his missing the train in New York?”

        “Well, I was thinking that perhaps he missed the hackman at
        Egerton.”

        “It’s too perfectly awful of him,” said Cherry, “seeing that I
        stayed over just to meet him.”

        “The disappointment will be his when he sees you,” said I, and
        at this both of them asked me what was the matter with my wits.

        “Have you had an infusion of Irish blood?” asked Ethel.

        “I’m thinking of how inhospitable I was not to go down to the
        train.”

        There was a knock at the kitchen door, and Minerva, who had been
        removing the soup plates, went out to open it.

        A light-keyed, pleasant voice said to her,

        “Can you tell me where the Vernons live?”

        “Right here, sir. Come in won’t yer?”

        In through the kitchen came a light step, following Minerva’s
        heavy one, and as she opened the door into the dining room she
        said to us informally,

        “I guess this is the man you was lookin’ for.”

        “Oh, I didn’t know you had company,” said Sibthorp, setting down
        his grip and removing, or trying to remove his hat. His hand hit
        it and it fell to the floor, and when he stooped to pick it up
        he felt flustered, and put it on again, his face turning the
        colour of a peony.

        Ethel rose from her seat and said,

        “Mr. Sibthorp, you surely haven’t walked up? May I present you
        to Miss Paxton?”

        “Certainly,” said the poor fellow. “That is, I did, and I’m
        happy to meet everybody.”

        He had taken off his hat again, and I now found his hand and
        gave it a hearty shake.

        “This is your house for the time being, Ellery, old man,” said
        I, “and Miss Paxton is one of the family, also. We call her
        Cherry, but it isn’t obligatory. Now hang your hat up in the
        hall, and I’ll show you where you can find a pitcher and basin,
        and nobody’s the least bit stiff in this house, so you can feel
        as happy as if you were by yourself.”

        I led him out of the room, and by the time he had explained how
        he had not seen any hack, and had come up by a short-cut that a
        farmer told him about, he was feeling more in command of
        himself. It is really a tax on a man’s self possession to be
        shown through the kitchen and brought face to face with a
        strange and exceedingly pretty young woman, and I would not care
        to have anyone think that Sibthorp was one of those hopelessly
        diffident fellows, whose every contact with their fellow beings
        is agony.

        When he came back to the table he went over and shook hands with
        Ethel, and sat down in his seat quite himself.

        He was a good-looking fellow, reminding one a little of the
        pictures of Robert Schumann. His eyes were deep-set and his lips
        full, and if he had been born twenty years earlier his hair
        would have been long. The spirit of the times is against
        excessive hair.

        The cow boy had it and stuck to it and—the cow boy is going.
        Whether artists and literary men pondered on the fate of the cow
        boy, and in order to save themselves, cut their hair, or not, I
        am not prepared to say, but it is a fact that if all the hair
        that is _not_ in these United States were to be placed end to
        end it would encircle the earth time and time again—which
        beautiful thought I dedicate to the statisticians.

        “What bracing air you have up here,” said Sibthorp. “Why, I came
        up the hills like a streak, and I was getting so that a short
        walk in the city tired me. Isn’t it a great place?”

        “You’re inoculated soon,” said Cherry. “There’s something in the
        spirit of this place that makes people stay on and on. I was
        only invited for a week, and now they can’t get me to go. It’ll
        be the same with you.”

        “Ellery,” said I, “the motto of this place is going to be ‘All
        hope (of getting away) abandon ye who enter here.’ You see,
        Ethel and I were getting mortally tired of our honeymoon, which
        had lasted four years, and so we began to invite people up here
        to relieve our _ennui_.”

        “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, to say that?” said Cherry; but
        Ethel only laughed.

        “It’s a fact. At first Minerva (she’s the lady that ushered you
        in) contributed daily to our amusement and excitement, but now
        she’s getting to be semi-occasional, and so we’re thinking of
        our friends who don’t hate the country, and you may be in quite
        a congested community before you have a chance to go. You play
        tennis, don’t you?”

        “I used to when I was a boy.”

        “Oh, don’t say that. We’re all boys and girls up here. We expect
        to set up a court to-morrow and there’ll be four of us to play.”

        “Have you written much lately?” asked Ethel.

        It was curious to see the extra animation that came into
        Sibthorp’s face at her question. Tennis had left him cold, but
        the mention of the works of Sibthorp roused him.

        It is the fashion to laugh at this tendency in writers, but I
        have a dim suspicion that the engineer is roused to greater
        interest at mention of some engineering problem he has solved,
        than he is at the ordinary topics of the day, and so it is with
        all.

        “Had something accepted last week,” said he. “It had been
        everywhere, and if it had come back again, I would have burned
        it up, but the _Atlantic_ took it, and the only reason I didn’t
        send there at first was because I thought it wasn’t good
        enough.”

        “How proud we must be.”

        “Well, it’s funny, but as soon as the _Atlantic_ took it, I went
        and got my carbon copy and read it, and I thought it was pretty
        good, and when it had come back time before, I had read it, and
        thought it was rotten.”

        “And when it’s printed, there’ll be as many opinions of it as it
        has readers. But you’re progressing if the _Atlantic_ takes you
        up. Doesn’t it make you feel sorry to see the goal?”

        “No, sir. _Now_ I won’t be happy until I’ve written a serial for
        the _Atlantic_, or some one of the big magazines.”

        “Is that the way it works?” laughed Cherry. “The more one gets,
        the more one wants?”

        “That’s the way ambition is built up,” said I, “acceptance by
        acceptance.”

        “What a place to work in this must be,” said Sibthorp, as he
        allowed Ethel to replenish his plate.

        Cherry laughed. “Yes, you ought to see the way Mr. Vernon works.
        A poem in the morning, a short story in the afternoon, and an
        essay in the evening.”

        Sibthorp turned his glowing eyes on me. “Good boy. Are you
        really working?”

        “Miss Paxton sees fit to jest,” said I. “I’m afraid I haven’t
        done as much as I might.”

        “You couldn’t do less, Philip, seeing you haven’t done a thing
        since you came up,” said Ethel.

        “All the better for winter. But don’t let my example influence
        you, Sibthorp. I’ll turn you loose with pens and paper, or my
        typewriter, and you can enrich the literature of this country
        every minute, if you want to. Only, if you take my advice,
        you’ll give _literachure_ the go by, and stay out doors for a
        week or so.”

        “I’ll work out doors, but I must work,” said he, his eyes
        shining.

        Ethel laughed. “A night up here will cure that. You’ll be
        content to loll by to-morrow.”

        “Why, I wrote on the way up,” said he.

        “Really!” said Cherry. “What did you do with it? Hand it to the
        conductor by mistake, for your ticket?” she added saucily.

        “No, but do you know, whenever I ride any distance, I feel that
        I must write something because money spent on tickets seems
        money thrown away.”

        “Dear me, is it a poet speaking or a thrifty Yankee.”

        Cherry spoke to him as if she had known him all her life. I did
        not know but he would take offence, but he was looking at her
        when she spoke, and that made all the difference in the world.
        Ethel said one day that Cherry’s eyes apologised for whatever
        daring might be in her words.

        “I’m very thrifty. I have need to be,” said Sibthorp earnestly,
        and as I knew that his income for the preceding year had been
        something in the neighbourhood of four hundred dollars, I
        flashed a warning signal to Cherry, and asked him to do the
        thing that would make him the happiest.

        “After dinner suppose you read us the stuff you’ve been
        writing.”

        “How disrespectful,” said Cherry. “Stuff!”

        “Why, if it wouldn’t bore you?” said he, smiling at Cherry.

        “Lovely! Perfectly delicious!” said Cherry, and Ethel said,

        “It’ll make me think I’m living in a literary atmosphere once
        more. Since Philip won that prize, he’s simply vegetated. I
        don’t like it a bit. What’s your story about?”

        “It’s a sort of fable. I call it the ‘Two Altruists.’”

        We had coffee served out under the maple, and while we were
        drinking it Sibthorp, after apologising for not being a better
        reader, began it.

        “Once upon a time—”

        “Wait a minute,” said I, “Here comes Minerva. She doesn’t want
        to listen, but it’ll go better if we wait until she has gone.”

        She had come for the cups and saucers, and she took Ellery’s
        coffee before he had had a chance to touch it, but no one
        noticed, he least of all, intent as he was upon disburdening his
        mind of his fable.

        I make no bones of producing it, because we all liked it so well
        that it seems as if a larger audience might be pleased at its
        whimsical tone.

        “‘Once upon a time,’” he began again, “‘there was a man whose
        chief happiness came from seeing others happy. He was indeed an
        absolute altruist.

        “‘Now it so fell about that this altruist was a professional
        writer, and wove tales for the magazines, and one day, being in
        a happy mood, caused by his having given his last crust and his
        last shirt to a professional beggar, he wove a story for a
        competition and was so fortunate as to receive the capital prize
        of $1,000.00.’”

        (“I was thinking of you, Philip, when I wrote that,” said he.)

        “‘For a time his joy was unbounded, but after a while the
        thought came to him of those in this world to whom the money
        would mean so much more than it did to him, and he essayed to
        put the thousand dollar bill into his side pocket and walked
        along the highway, pondering upon the best disposition to make
        of it.

        “‘And in his abstraction he missed his side pocket altogether
        and the thousand dollar bill fluttered through the air and fell
        to earth, where it lay in plain sight, if the man had but looked
        behind him.

        “‘Now after the altruist had gone the space of a mile he put his
        hand into his pocket that he might pull out the bill, and
        feeling its tangibility, plan its disposition with more
        concreteness.

        “‘And the bill was gone!

        “‘Then the altruist fell to skipping and jumping in great joy.
        “For,” said he to himself, “no matter who finds that bill it
        must perforce make him happy; therefore I have added a happiness
        to some fellow mortal, a happiness that is scarce ever
        vouchsafed to one on this world of ours where money is not to be
        had for the mere picking up.” And he ran along the highway full
        of the joy of others’ lives and stirred to seraphic emotions by
        his altruistic temperament.

        “‘Now in that same town there lived another altruist, whom
        Howells or Tolstoi would have loved with exceeding ardour. His
        form of altruism was not so much sharing his joys with others as
        taking from them their sorrows. As the former added to the joys
        of life, so he subtracted from the sorrows of existence or
        converted them into his personal joys, and he always went about
        looking for those with long faces that he might foreshorten
        them.

        “‘And it happened that he, walking along the highway, came upon
        the thousand dollar bill.

        “‘Now, it was a time of roominess in his pocket, which had
        scarce felt the weight of a minor coin for many days. And a
        thousand dollars would have brought luxuries to his house for a
        twelve month, he being unwedded.

        “‘But when he picked up the bill and saw its denomination he
        fell into loud lamentation and raised his voice to its highest
        pitch, saying,

        “‘“Woe is me, for in this town some poor fellow is mourning this
        night at the loss of what may have been his all.”

        “‘And this second altruist had a voice of penetrating quality,
        for in his younger days he had been an auctioneer, and his words
        went through the stillness of the night and came to the ears of
        the other altruist, walking his happy way to his home.

        “‘And at once the first altruist turned about and hastened to
        where the voice came out of the night, saying,

        “‘“Weep no more, brother, for I am coming to comfort thee. It
        matters not what has happened to thee, I have words at my
        tongue’s end that cannot fail to give thee good cheer.”

        “‘And after a time he came upon the second altruist swaying and
        moaning and waving the bill in the air, and he said to him,

        “‘“Brother, what calamity has descended upon thee? Hast lost
        thine all?”

        “‘And the second altruist said,

        “å∑‘“No, but one of my brothers in this world has lost this
        great piece of money, and I cannot sleep this night for grief
        aß∑t the thought of his sorrow.”

        “‘And the first altruist stared at him in wonder, and said,

        “‘“What condition of affairs is this and what is the
        constitution of man? For I had attained to perfect joy at the
        thought that you (or another) had found my money, while you have
        been rendered miserable at the thought that I (or another) had
        lost it. In what way can we be happy together?”

        “‘And even as they held converse a robber came along, and
        snatching the thousand dollar bill made off with it.

        “‘“Ah,” cried both together, raising their voices in joy, “now
        we can be happy again, for beyond peradventure this robber who
        took the money needed it, else he would not have taken it, and
        while we do not condone his dishonesty, we rejoice at his
        prosperity.”’”

        He finished and looked around for an approbation that was freely
        given him.

        “How did you ever think of such an idea?” said Cherry, and I
        could see that he had impressed her.

        He looked at her and began to explain very seriously how the
        idea had come to him, and she listened just as seriously.

        “It’s another edition of you,” said Ethel to me with a smile,
        and I recalled certain conversations that we had had in years
        gone by, when she was deeply interested in the “how” of
        “literary endeavour.”

        She flashed a signal to me that I could not mistake. I looked at
        the handsome pair seated under the maple, he full of the
        animation of self interest, she animated by a sympathy that
        might well become something greater, and instantly I began to
        look ahead and foretell what propinquity would do quite as if
        they were characters in a story of mine, and I intended that
        they should fall in love with each other.

        He had four hundred a year or less, and ambition, but she had
        beauty and—enough to support two comfortably while ambition was
        becoming fruition.

        A new interest had been added to life at Clover Lodge.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXIV

                            PAT CASEY CALLS.


        THE next day we were all awakened by one of Minerva’s morning
        songs, but it was such a morning—the air was so bracing and
        fragrant, the sun so mellow, and yet not too hot, that not one
        of us felt that the song was out of place, and all four met on
        the porch a good half hour before breakfast.

        “Well, Ellery, this is a great day to work. How would an epic do
        and we’ll delay luncheon a half hour, so that you can finish
        it.”

        Ellery looked over the waving, billowing meadows. Then he looked
        at Cherry, rosy and vibrant with animation.

        “I believe it’s going to do me more good if I lay off for a few
        days and get charged with some of this air.”

        We all shrieked gaily at him.

        “We could have told you so last night,” said Ethel.

        “I did tell him so,” said I. “Here’s where you store up mental
        energy, but you might as well try to write at sea as to try to
        write up here. Let’s go put up the tennis net.”

        “Oh, all right,” said Ellery. “I was going to ask Miss Paxton if
        she wouldn’t show me around the place a little. Have we time
        before breakfast?”

        “Yes,” said Ethel, “but don’t go too far. Minerva’s going to
        have griddle cakes and real maple syrup and they need to be
        eaten hot.”

        When the two had sauntered off I said to Ethel,

        “You’re a romantic soul with your griddle cakes. Don’t you see
        those two? In the language of the day, Ellery is stung.”

        “Imagine him married.”

        “It would be the finest thing for him that ever happened. He
        might amount to something with a wife to look after him.”

        “It doesn’t _always_ work,” said Ethel, saucily.

        “Better four hundred a year where love is—” I began.

        “Than a stalled ox and hatred therewith,” concluded Ethel.

        “Something like that. Four hundred a year with love is a large
        order. She’d better wait until Ellery is famous. But perhaps
        we’d better not hurry them along. She’s interested in him
        because he has talent and is unrecognized, and he’s interested
        in her because he has talent and she recognized it, but I don’t
        believe but that you could buy him off with a mess of pottage—”

        “Or some griddle cakes. There’s the bell now. You call them.”

        I called “Breakfast’s ready,” although the two were out of
        sight, and my call was answered by an “Arl right. I’m just in
        time.”

        “Who was that?” said Ethel in some dismay.

        “Sounded something like ‘th’ ould scut,’” said I, for by that
        name our friend Casey had come to be known.

        It proved to be he, bare-footed and hatless, coming to us across
        the fields.

        “Good marnin’, ’tis a hell of a fine day.”

        “Yes, it is,” said I, “although your language is somewhat
        strong.”

        “No harrum intindid,” said he, looking at Ethel with a pleasant
        smile. “Ye can’t make an insult out of a hell or two a day like
        this. I t’harght that perhaps your woman would like some blue
        berries for breakfast th’ day, an’ I brarght them up. They’re
        picked this marnin’, an’ the dew is yit on them.” He held out an
        eight-quart pail filled to the top with tempting berries.

        “How much are they, Pat,” said I, putting my hand into my
        pocket.

        “Who’s insultin’ now?” said he, with a growling laugh. “I’ll
        sell no _prisints_ this yair. ’Twas a hell of a bad ride ye had
        th’ other night, an’ I tould me ould woman I’d git square wid ye
        one way or another, an’ this is the way. They’re dam fine.”

        “They certainly are,” said Ethel, unconsciously seconding his
        oath.

        She went into the house to get a bowl to put them into and just
        then Ellery and Cherry came up.

        “The top of the marnin’ to ye,” said Pat, bowing to Cherry, as
        he had bowed to Ethel. “It’s easy to tell why it’s a fine day.”

        Cherry was unconscious enough to ask him why.

        “Sure, wid you out how could’t help ut.”

        “Now will you be good, Cherry?” said I.

        “You’ve kissed the blarney stone,” said she, with a lovely
        blush.

        “Sure I have, but I knew beauty before that.”

        His tone was not offensive nor did Cherry take offence. It was
        truth buttered with flattery and that’s as good as cake.

        Ethel now came out with the bowl, and the big “bloomy” berries,
        damp with dew, were poured into it.

        “It’s glad I am you’re up here,” said Pat, as he walked down the
        path. “Neighbours is neighbours, an’ phwin you’re passin’ an’
        need restin’ it’s fine buttermilk me ould woman’ll give ye, an’
        glad of the chance. Good marnin’ to yez.”

        “Good morning, Mr. Casey, and thank you very much for the
        berries. They’re the best I’ve seen,” said Ethel.

        “They’re dam fine, that’s a fact,” said he. “But none too good
        for the likes of youse.”

        We all went in to the griddle cakes, but before Minerva began to
        fry them we had heaping plates of blue berries and even as the
        burglar had been impressed by them so were Cherry and Ellery.

        “I thought,” said Ellery, “that your New Englander was always on
        the make.”

        “Well, in the first place, Pat is not, strictly speaking, a New
        Englander,” said Ethel, “and in the second place, they’re _not_
        always on the make by any means, as we’ve often found out since
        we came here. Neighbourliness is never sold and there’s lots of
        neighbourliness here.”

        “The very fact that neighbourliness is not sold makes it the
        more necessary for country people to get a good price for the
        things they do sell,” said I, sententiously.

        “It’s a great place,” said Ellery, with enthusiasm. “I believe I
        will try tennis this morning,” he added, somewhat irrelevantly,
        although in justice to him it should be said that his eyes had
        rested on Cherry’s exuberant beauty before he said it.

        “I’m a good deal of a duffer at it. I imagine you play a strong
        game, Miss Paxton. Will you be my partner in a four-handed
        game?”

        “D_ee_-lighted,” said Cherry, showing her pretty teeth.

        “The writing of the epic is indefinitely postponed,” said Ethel.
        “You are all alike, you men.”

        “Wait till next winter, Mrs. Vernon,” said Ellery. “I’m going to
        make myself a storehouse of energy and I dare say Vernon’s doing
        the same thing.”

        “Well, you’ll need some of it this morning,” said I. “At tennis
        Mrs. Vernon and I are the strongest up here.” He looked
        doubtful. “It’s a fact—we are introducing the game.”

        “Mr. Sibthorp and I expect to make a pretty strong team,” said
        Cherry.

        Ethel’s eyes sought mine. And found them.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXV

                         A CONTINUOUS WEEK END.


        ETHEL was reading a letter, Ellery and Cherry having brought the
        mail up from the post-office. Ellery had now been at Clover
        Lodge a fortnight and during that time we had fished (for bull
        heads this time), had gone on long tramps, had read to each
        other, and had played many a game of tennis, and while we could
        not say that Ellery was in a fair way to propose to Cherry, he
        was hard hit.

        The glamour of the place had appealed to him and neither he nor
        Cherry had any intention of going back until we went in
        September.

        Minerva had shown signs of homesickness, and one day we had let
        her and James go to Springfield to spend the day, and after her
        return she had said,

        “City ain’t what it was,” which we had taken to be a most
        encouraging sign. Nearly three months out of New York and still
        happy. Who would have predicted it?

        Ethel dropped the letter in her lap and said, “What are we going
        to do, Philip? This letter is from Madge Warden, and she and Tom
        are going to a place in Vermont to try it on the recommendation
        of a friend, and Madge asks if it would be convenient to stop
        off on the way up instead of on the way back. She says that if
        we could find a shack for them here, Tom wouldn’t care to go to
        Vermont.”

        “Well, of course, have ’em come.”

        “Yes, but she wants to come this Friday for over Sunday, and
        we’ve invited the Benedicts for over Sunday.”

        I thought a minute.

        “It would be great to have them all here, because they are so
        congenial, but unless you and I gave up our room and slept in
        hammocks—”

        “Why couldn’t you and Ellery sleep in hammocks and then I could
        let Madge share my room with me and give the Benedicts the spare
        room?”

        “And what would become of Tom?”

        “Oh, that’s so,” said Ethel. “I’m afraid we can’t do it.”

        “They’s a sofa in the woodshed,” said Minerva, who had been
        dusting the sitting room and always interested in household
        problems, had stopped at the open window outside of which we
        were sitting.

        “So there is. Good for you, Minerva,” said I, in spite of a
        warning look from Ethel, who says that at times I am too
        colloquial with Minerva.

        Ethel and I went around to the woodshed to look at it. It was
        across two rafters, but with help from James, who was busy in
        the vicinity, I got it down.

        “So I’m to write and tell them all to come? Isn’t this going to
        be a good deal of a drain on your pocketbook, Philip?”

        “We can’t do worse than go home broke and then I’ll begin
        again.”

        “‘Easy come, easy go,’” quoted Ethel, with a half sigh.

        “Don’t you want ’em to come? Will it be too hard on you?”

        “No, no, we’ll make them understand it’s a picnic, but you will
        have to hustle in the fall.”

        “Well, hustling never killed anybody, and we’ll have a summer to
        remember. It’s a lucky thing that James is so handy. He can help
        in the kitchen.”

        And so the sofa was brought into the house and dusted, and the
        Wardens were implored to come up and told to take the same train
        that the Benedicts were coming on, and the haying season being
        practically over, we were able to engage Bert’s double team and
        his three-seated wagon, and Friday afternoon we all went down to
        meet them.

        No, not all. We left Minerva behind. She and James had to
        prepare a dinner for eight.

        There was no accident on the way down, and we arrived at the
        station several minutes before the arrival of the train.

        At last we heard the whistle below the bridge and then it
        steamed in and we took up our station around the parlour car and
        prepared to greet our guests.

        But the only one to get off was a well-setup young fellow in
        irreproachable apparel, and he did not belong to _us_.

        “Why, of course, they never would have taken a parlour car. The
        Benedicts might, but the Wardens wouldn’t,” said Ethel, and we
        looked down the platform to see whether they had alighted. But
        they had not. Our guests had not come.

        “Isn’t it too provoking,” said Cherry, sympathetically to Ethel.

        “It really is,” said Ethel. “That dinner will be stone cold if
        we wait for the next train.”

        “When is the next train?” asked Ellery.

        “In two hours,” I replied. “They won’t come to-night, though.
        Something happened to Tom at the last minute and he asked the
        rest to wait and they waited. We’ll get a telegram saying so.
        Everybody obeys his will always.”

        The irreproachable stranger had been walking around as if he was
        looking for somebody. He now approached me with uplifted hat.

        “Would you be so good as to tell me whether Mr. Vernon lives
        near here?”

        “I am Mr. Vernon.”

        He coloured, stammered and said,

        “I am Talcott Hepburn, and I am afraid that I’ve been led into
        an unpardonably rude act.”

        “Are you the son of Talcott Hepburn, the art collector?” said I.

        “Yes,—oh, you know him then,” said he, relieved. “My friend Tom
        Warden took the liberty of bringing me along with him—only”—here
        he paused. “He has missed the train.”

        I understood in a minute. Tom Warden is an artist, and he is the
        soul of hospitality. He knows Ethel and me as well as he knows
        his father and mother, and it never had occurred to his simple
        but executive soul that there was anything unusual in his asking
        a friend to come along without letting us know.

        Of course, if we could accommodate eight we could accommodate
        nine. But now it looked as if we would have but five.

        I presented Mr. Hepburn to the rest of the “family.” He was
        about twenty-four or five, good looking, smooth shaven, of
        course, with a sober expression that might have hidden a
        humorous temperament, but did not. It evidently did not strike
        him that there was anything _whimsical_ in his having arrived
        ahead of the man who had invited him to be the guest of a
        stranger. He did see, however, that the act itself was one that
        might be misconstrued, and he began to explain the case to
        Ethel, who said at once,

        “Why, Mr. Hepburn, Tom’s friends are our friends, and the more
        the merrier. I’m only sorry they missed the train.”

        “He was busy with a picture that some one had bought and which
        he wasn’t satisfied with, and I dare say he missed it on that
        account. He was coming with a Mr. and Mrs. Benedict, and I was
        to meet him on the train. I was a little late myself, and just
        had time to step aboard, and they missed it.”

        While he was talking I was looking at the telegraph office
        intending to step over there—it lay just across the track—to
        enquire whether there was a telegram for me. A messenger boy
        came out, mounted a wheel, and started across the track, bound
        for the road that leads up to Clover Lodge.

        I ran and intercepted him.

        “Have you a telegram for Philip Vernon?” said I.

        “Yes, sir,” said he, dismounting and pulling the telegram out of
        his side pocket. “I was just go’n’ up to your place.”

        “Saved me a dollar, didn’t it?” said I.

        “Yes, sir, and lost me ten cents.”

        “Here’s the ten cents,” said I, as I signed for the telegram.

        “It’s collect, sir,” said he; “forty-five cents.” I paid him and
        I opened the envelope.

        “All missed confounded train. Be good to Hepburn if he caught
        it. Will come on next train. Wait for us. Tom.”

        A most characteristic telegram in every way. It’s superfluity of
        expression, its thought of Hepburn and its command to wait, were
        all as like Tom Warden as they could be.

        “There’s nothing to do _but_ wait,” said I when I had shown the
        telegram to the others.

        “The dinner will be spoiled,” said Ethel ruefully.

        “Let me walk up and tell Minerva to wait,” said Cherry, and
        Ellery enthusiastically seconded her motion.

        “Why, it seems too bad,” began Ethel.

        “Not at all. We’re just going to take a walk,” said Cherry, and
        they started, well pleased at the turn of affairs.

        I knew young Hepburn to be a millionaire in his own right and I
        knew that Ethel would worry at having him see the make shifts to
        which we resorted, but I was rather amused at the prospect
        myself. We had already shown the simple life to two New Yorkers
        and now we would show it to some more.

        We asked him if he would not like to ride around Egerton and see
        a typical Massachusetts town and he said he would.

        “Do you know,” said he to Ethel, “I held back about coming up in
        such a very unconventional way, but you know how compelling Tom
        is, and he said he would explain it all before I was even
        presented, and so I came. And then to have him miss the train.
        It was awkward.”

        “Simply one on Tom, Mr. Hepburn,” said I. “Our house is one of
        those affairs that can be stretched to accommodate any number of
        people if they themselves are accommodating.”

        “Well, you know,” said Mr. Hepburn, “I might find a room at the
        hotel.” Perhaps he had thought he was not accommodating.

        I knew that Ethel was wishing that he _would_ find a room at a
        hotel, but there was no hotel. She was beginning to think how
        _much_ less a sofa would be than the bed he was accustomed to
        sleep in when he was at home. But when you are picnicking the
        only thing to do is to have a good time and forget that there is
        such a proverb as “Other times, other manners.”

        Our ride was pleasant and it did not seem anything like two
        hours when we heard the whistle of the train at South Egerton,
        and drove rapidly to the station.

        Hepburn offered to stay in the carriage and mind the horses, and
        I accepted his offer, although I knew that Ethel thought it
        making a very free use of a millionaire. Not that Ethel is
        snobbish, but she has never used millionaires much.

        The train came in and this time I took up my place by the
        ordinary cars, and soon saw the quartette moving along the
        aisle.

        Tom looked out of the window and saw Hepburn sitting erect in
        the front seat of the picnic wagon holding the unmistakably farm
        horses, and he exploded into laughter that we outside plainly
        heard.

        “Hello,” said he as soon as he emerged. “Broken him in already.
        Well, here we are. Better late than never. You know the
        Benedicts?”

        “What a question,” said Ethel, kissing in turn Madge and Mrs.
        Benedict.

        “But we didn’t know Mr. Hepburn,” said she saucily.

        “Oh, well, he’s harmless and I’ll bet he came out of it all
        right. Hello, Crœsus. Stole a march on us, eh?”

        “Crœsus” raised his derby, but good driver that he was, kept his
        eyes on the horses.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXVI

                         WE INVITE MORE GUESTS.


        “WELL, Philip, my boy,” said Tom, slapping me on the knee when
        we were all in our seats, and I had relieved “Crœsus” of the
        reins, “I suppose it was an unpardonable piece of assurance for
        me to invite a man you had never seen without letting you know
        he was coming. And then to let him come up first! That was
        certainly rubbing it in, but the poor boy doesn’t have a chance
        to get out much. Sort of a fresh air charity on your part.”

        He roared with laughter at this sally of his, and Hepburn smiled
        faintly.

        “This poor boy has always had to do the society act, Philip, and
        he’s fitted for better things. Hope you haven’t any hops up at
        your house. Have you any hops?”

        “Not a hop,” said I.

        “Nor a _cotillion?_”

        “Nor a _cotillon_. In fact, I’m afraid it may be rather dull for
        one who is accustomed to do something all the time.”

        “I’m sure I’ll have a delightful time,” said Hepburn from the
        second seat. “I’m rather tired. It’ll be a jolly good thing for
        me.”

        “By George, isn’t this a paintable country?” broke in Tom. “If a
        man could only get the fragrance of this air into his pictures
        it would be no trouble to get rid of them.”

        “Inoculated already,” laughed Ethel.

        “Oh, I always get inoculated as soon as I come to this kind of
        country. I was born on prairie country and I never saw a hill
        until I was eighteen, and then I wondered how I had lived
        without ’em.” He turned ’way round. “Pity you don’t paint,
        Benedict.”

        Benedict, on the back seat, said, “Oh, I don’t have to _do_
        anything to enjoy this. Just to be alive is enough in air like
        this. Isn’t it, Alice?”

        And Alice agreed with him and the horses bore us higher and
        higher, slower and slower, and at last we arrived and Ellery and
        Cherry greeted us.

        James came out to relieve the guests of their suit cases and I
        invited all hands to go to their rooms and remove the evidences
        of their smoky ride.

        When Ethel and Madge had come down from our room I said to
        Ethel,

        “No dressing, I suppose?”

        “No, I suppose not,” said she, and there was a little note of
        regret in her voice.

        I went up and washed and put on a cutaway and in a few minutes I
        came down and walked back and forth on the veranda.

        In about a quarter of an hour the three men who were using
        Ellery’s chamber as a dressing room came down the front stairs.
        I caught a glimpse of them and lo, two were in Tuxedos, and
        Hepburn was in full evening clothes.

        Quick as a wink, and before they saw me, I whisked around to the
        back of the house, and finding Ethel in the kitchen, where she
        was superintending some salad arrangement, I said,

        “They’re all dressed. Me to _my_ evening clothes.”

        “Good,” said she.

        I saw Ellery within calling distance. He was in a sack coat. I
        hailed him and he came up.

        “Don’t want to make ’em feel foolish. They’re all dressed. Run
        up and put on your Tuxedo or whatever you have. Come into my
        room to dress and we can help each other.”

        He got his clothes and we hastened to my room, where we made as
        quick changes as we could.

        “Funny about Ethel,” said I. “She likes simplicity, but she also
        likes evening clothes. Says a man looks better. I won’t wear a
        Tuxedo and look like a bob-tailed cat, so I’ve got to go the
        whole thing. When she sees five immaculate shirt fronts she’ll
        be just about happy.”

        “Well, it does look nice,” said Ellery.

        “Oh, I don’t mind once I’m in them.”

        At last we were ready all but our ties, and none too soon, for
        we heard Ethel come into the front hall and say, “Dinner’s
        ready. Where are the men?”

        And then Madge said, “Oh, they had to run up stairs at the last
        minute to get something. Here they come.”

        Ethel called up to me, “Hurry down, dear. We’ll go in
        informally.”

        “That’s right. We’ll be right down,” said I.

        We heard the tramp of the other three, and I would have run down
        on account of the stranger within my gates, but Ellery asked me
        to tie his cravat, and I made a botchy tie of it, and finally
        Ethel called up from the dining room. “We’re all waiting, dear.”

        Then we both went down in our evening clothes, and entered the
        dining room. Around it stood the ladies and the three men, and
        when we saw them and they saw us a happy shout arose. The men
        were not in evening dress.

        They _had_ seen me when they first came down, and, as Tom
        explained afterward, Hepburn, seeing that I was not in evening
        clothes, had suggested that they all change back, which Tom was
        very glad to do, “as he hated the durned things.”

        So there they stood in sacks and cutaway and we were the only
        ones in evening dress.

        “Well, I won’t change back again,” said I, “but after this let’s
        give our city clothes a rest and just be comfortable.”

        “But I contend,” said Benedict, “that evening clothes _are_ just
        as comfortable.”

        “Yes,” said Tom, “but it’s harder to get into ’em, and if we go
        out walking after dinner it’s ridiculous to be dressed so
        stiffly in a wild flower country.”

        It was a jolly dinner and no one did more to make it jolly than
        Tom. His humour is elemental, but it is genuine, and his
        appreciation of it is also genuine and his tremendous
        reverberating laugh is infectious.

        Many times during the progress of the meal I found Hepburn’s
        placid eyes resting on Cherry.

        “Two of them,” thought I, and after dinner Ethel and I compared
        notes and we agreed that Cherry could have her choice.

        Perhaps we jumped to conclusions, but to see Cherry was to love
        her, and Ethel told me that she was glad that Cherry was only a
        little girl when I first met her or “you might have been Mr.
        Paxton.”

        “Phil, do you know who it would do good to have up here?” said
        Tom, after a burst of enthusiasm concerning the country. “Jack
        Manton. Jack Manton and Billy Edson. They’re both stone broke
        and they’re getting their country by taking walks out of New
        York, and this scenery would just about kill ’em both dead. Why
        don’t you ask ’em up?”

        A roar followed this question.

        “Let ’em sleep in the chimney,” I suggested, at which innocent
        remark Minerva, who was waiting on table, gave a suppressed
        giggle that set Cherry off and she was followed first by Ellery
        and then—of all the people in the world, by Mr. Hepburn.
        Probably Minerva’s act itself was so unheard of that it struck
        him as being humourous. A maid laughing at table.

        But it was a lucky thing that Minerva was in the room. That is
        lucky for Jack and Billy.

        “Kin I say sump’n?” said she to Ethel, and Ethel, rather
        astonished, said, “What is it?”

        “They’s a lot of boards out in the woodshed, an’ James could
        build a place for those gen’lemen.”

        “The very thing,” said Tom. “That’s it. That’s _IT_. Just ask
        ’em up and save their lives.”

        “But you said it would kill ’em dead to come up,” said Cherry.

        “Oh, they wouldn’t stay dead five minutes in this air,” said he.
        “Come on. If I hadn’t been an artist I would have been a
        carpenter. Send for ’em. I’ll help build the shack.”

        I looked at Minerva. Her face was beaming.

        She loved company.

        “What do you think, Ethel?”

        “Why, the more the merrier,” said she. “Are they congenial?”

        “Congenial’s no name for it,” said Tom. “Both of ’em starving.
        Neither has sold a picture in six months, and the night before I
        came away they dropped in at my studio, and when I told ’em
        where I was coming they were as happy as if they were coming
        themselves, and were going to share in it. Two nice, promising
        boys, and perhaps this would be their salvation.”

        “Have them come by all means,” said Ethel.

        And Minerva went out to tell James the good news.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXVII

                              A HOT NIGHT.


        IT was a hot, clear moonlit night.

        Our newly arrived guests, after an evening given up to piano
        music and song, had retired to their various cubby holes.

        But peace did not lie upon the house, for it was the hottest
        night of the season and mosquitoes—hitherto an undreaded foe,
        attracted by the unwonted light and the music, had descended
        upon us and as, of course, screens were not dreamed of in a
        place where the mosquito rivals the tramp in scarceness, they
        had entered the house and were singing their infernal songs in
        the ears of people fresh from a mosquitoless city.

        I was mortified. It seemed a breach of hospitality to invite
        people up to a place where every prospect pleases and man is not
        so vile, and then to let loose a horde of mosquitoes upon them.

        It was between three and four in the morning, and soon the first
        signs of dawn would be upon us.

        I was trying to be comfortable in a hammock slung under the
        boughs of the maple, and Ellery was trying to be comfortable in
        another hammock slung under other boughs, but neither of us was
        making a success of it, although he was fitfully sleeping. There
        is something unmistakably enticing in the thought of depending,
        cool and free from a leafy arbour while the summer moon watches
        over one’s slumbers, and the lulling breezes croon one to
        unconsciousness, but loyal as I am to Clover Lodge and its
        vicinity, I am more loyal to truth, and that night was a night
        to be remembered for years even as the blizzard is
        remembered—but for opposite reasons.

        The air was still, but the mosquitoes were not and neither were
        my guests. I could hear them stirring and slapping and I feared
        that some of them were cursing, and I longed for dawn with all
        my heart. Dawn and the hot day that would follow in its wake,
        for at least we could escape to some lofty point, where the
        mosquitoes would not follow us.

        I knew that Tom and Benedict were used to all sorts of
        experiences, and I knew their wives too well to think for a
        moment that they would hold me responsible for the night and the
        winged pests, but Hepburn—

        Hepburn had been raised in the lap of luxury, and when I thought
        of his tall form accommodating itself to the ornate but
        contracted sofa, I felt so uncomfortable that I thought of going
        in and asking him to swap couches with me—and change discomfort.

        I fell into a doze, from which I was awakened by hearing a step
        on the gravelled path.

        I was wide awake in an instant.

        Between me and the moon was outlined the tall form of Hepburn,
        fully clothed and smoking a cigar.

        “Is that you, Mr. Hepburn?” said I.

        “Yes,” said he, softly, so as to awaken no one else. “Did I wake
        you? Pardon me.”

        “Oh, that’s all right. But why are you up and dressed?”

        “Why,” said he, very glibly, “the night is so beautiful and
        bright that it seems a sin to sleep, don’t you know. I thought
        I’d stroll about a bit.”

        My conscience smote me.

        “It was that sofa, wasn’t it?”

        “Don’t say a word. Sofa’s awfully jolly, but I think I drank too
        much coffee.”

        “What’s the matter?” said Ellery, waking up.

        “What do you say to a swim?” said I.

        “When?” said Ellery, sleepily.

        “Why, now. How does it strike you, Mr. Hepburn?”

        “Great.”

        Ellery, still half asleep, rubbed his eyes and then saw Hepburn
        for the first time.

        “Why, is it as early as that?” said he.

        “Earlier,” said Hepburn, which was not so bad.

        I had sat up in the hammock, and setting my feet in my slippers,
        I rose to my pajamaed height and said,

        “This is the hottest ever. I’ll get the other fellows and we’ll
        go over to Marsh’s Pond and have a swim at sunrise.”

        I tiptoed up to the hot box that contained Tom and Benedict and
        whispered to them, “Are you awake?”

        Tom answered, “Oh, no, we’re sound asleep and dreaming of
        icebergs.”

        Then I could hear him shaking the bed with suppressed laughter.

        “Well, come along for a swim. Get into your old clothes and
        don’t make a noise.”

        In a few minutes we were all ready. We passed under Minerva’s
        window, and although we stepped lightly we waked her and we
        heard her heavy feet coming down on the floor of her room.

        I knew that a yawp was due, so I said in a voice loud enough to
        reach her, “Don’t be frightened, Minerva. It isn’t burglars.
        It’s Mr. Vernon going for a walk.”

        “Lawdy, I thought it was more burglars,” said she, and heaved a
        sigh of relief.

        Other voices were now heard and from the window of the spare
        room was thrust the head of Madge, who demanded what was the
        trouble.

        “Lack of sleep,” said Tom. “We’re going for a swim. Down to the
        old swimmin’ hole, my dear.”

        “What won’t men do?” said Madge, and retired to envy us our
        privileges.

        “Might as well tell Ethel what we’re doing. She may be worried,”
        said I, and we walked under her window.

        “Give ’em a song,” said Benedict, who was a fine baritone, and
        he began it, “‘Sleep no more, ladies, sleep no more.’”

        He sang it as a solo as none of us knew the setting he used, but
        as an injunction it was needless. The ladies were not
        calculating on sleeping any more.

        “Where are you going?” asked Ethel from somewhere out of sight.

        “Oh, only down to the old swimmin’ hole,” said Tom.

        “Why, there’s no swimming hole anywhere’s near,” said she.

        “Marsh’s Pond, my dear,” said I. “This is a record-breaker for
        heat and we’re going to break the record for swimming at an
        unseasonable hour. We’ll be back for breakfast. Good night.”

        “How far is it?” asked Tom.

        “Oh, only a couple of miles or so,” said I. “We’ll take it easy
        there and back.”

        “Please may I be excused,” said Benedict. “I’m not in training
        for such a walk on an empty stomach.”

        “That’s easily remedied. We’ll fill up on cold lamb.”

        And we did fill up, and then we started, and in spite of the
        heat, we enjoyed the walk. It was after three and it would need
        the pencil of a poet and artist combined to tell of the wonders
        and the beauties of that walk with the delicate indications of
        the coming dawn filling the east with rosy promise.

        Marsh’s Pond is about two miles long and a half a mile wide, and
        it has at one point a sandy beach. Around it are cottages and
        bathing houses, most of them bearing the idyllic names that lake
        dwellers love to bestow upon their houses. We passed “The
        Inglenook” and “The Ingleside” and “Inglewild,” and “Tramp’s
        Rest,” and many another bearing equally felicitous titles, and
        at last we came to the sandy beach just as the sun cast its
        first golden beams on the foliage of the woods across the lake.

        “Hepburn, you’re a brick for waking up so early,” said Tom. “If
        only I had thought to bring along my little flask. It’s just the
        thing before a morning swim.”

        “If you don’t mind Scotch,” said Hepburn, producing a cunning
        little silver flask.

        Ellery was on the water wagon, but the rest of us drank to the
        rising sun and then plunged in and were cool.

        “It was worth the walk,” said Benedict, as he dove and emerged
        twenty feet beyond. “Why don’t people do this every day?”

        With the sun had come a gentle breeze that was several degrees
        cooler than the surrounding atmosphere had been, and we spent a
        pleasant half hour admiring the coming of day from our watery
        vantage.

        After we had come out we went into the bathing house, which went
        by the name of Tramp’s Rest. It was a roomy affair, and had been
        left open all winter, or we would have been unable to enter it.

        “We’ll put up a shack like that,” said Tom, “and Jack and Billy
        can bunk in it.”

        “I’m afraid we haven’t lumber enough,” said I.

        When we were ready to go home Hepburn and Ellery said they were
        going back by what is called the upper road, which is a half
        mile farther, but we chose the lower road, and were home a good
        half hour ahead of them.

        It was after six and we were ravenous. A west wind was blowing
        and it had blown the crazy horde of mosquitoes away, and it was
        much cooler, and I am thankful to say that not again that summer
        did we have such a visitation. Mosquitoes might always be found
        in the long grass, but it was easy to avoid them.

        Minerva prepared an early breakfast, and just as we sat down to
        it Ellery and Hepburn arrived.

        “How do you like it as far as you’ve got, Talcott?” asked Tom,
        as we all sat down.

        “Well, do you know I read this ‘Simple Life,’ that the President
        recommended, and I didn’t see such an awful lot in it, but if
        this is it, it’s all right. I don’t think I ever had such an
        appetite for breakfast before.”

        “After being awake all night you ought to have,” said I, in an
        apologetic tone. “You see the Wheelocks had two young children
        and they did not entertain and as we took the house furnished we
        were not prepared as we should have been.”

        “But it’s nice to have the house full all the time,” said Ethel,
        who evidently thought my remark ungracious.

        “No question of its having been filled last night,” said Tom,
        rubbing his cheek, “Filled with mosquitoes. I thought they never
        came up here.”

        “You might say they never do. Last night was an exception,” said
        I.

        “Dear, dear, how like Jersey that sounds. Jersey nights are made
        up of exceptions,” said Tom.

        Minerva appeared at the door, not with her hand raised, but in
        an attitude that said “Please, may I speak,” and Ethel, with a
        hasty look at Hepburn, said, “What is it, Minerva?”

        “Now James wanted to know where’s he’s to build that lean-to.”

        “The what?” said Ethel.

        “That’s all right,” said Tom, grasping the situation. “You tell
        James to wait until after breakfast and I’ll come out and show
        him.”

        Minerva shut the door and Tom said, “She believes in free
        speech.”

        “I must speak to her,” said Ethel.

        But there was a general chorus of objections, Hepburn expressing
        his opinion by saying, “It strikes me as awfully quaint, you
        know.”

        After breakfast Tom took me aside and said,

        “Now, see here, Phil, this deluge wasn’t expected by you, but I
        don’t see any indication of the waters subsiding. We all want to
        stay. Now hospitality is hospitality, but we’re not paupers and
        we’re not rich enough to feel that we can live on you all summer
        without a murmur. You understand? Now, I’ve forced Billy and
        Jack on you, and I’ve been talking with Hepburn and Benedict,
        and we’re going to form a pool to cover expenses. Don’t want you
        to make a cent out of us, but we don’t want you to be out of
        pocket, and so if you’ll let us pay our share of the bills when
        they come in we’ll stay. Otherwise we all go back to-morrow.
        Yes, sir, we all go back to-morrow. I’m in earnest.”

        Tom was a curious mixture of simplicity and worldly wisdom, and
        I could not help laughing at him.

        “Well, go home,” said I, “and leave us to ourselves.”

        He put his arm around my shoulder.

        “Now, you don’t mean that at all, old man. You were both glad to
        see us and you want us to stay. Hepburn’s having the time of his
        life.”

        “With his midnight walks?”

        “That’s all right. It was part of the fun. Now, I’m going to see
        about getting some cot beds because Hepburn is too long for that
        sofa. Where can I get a wagon?”

        I told him about Bert, and he went on to see James about the
        lean-to.

        Later I met Hepburn. He came up as if he wanted to speak about
        something that was weighing on his mind, and I expected to have
        him tell me that he had just received a telegram calling him
        home at once, but I was mistaken.

        “It’s no end jolly up here,” said he, “but I can see that we’re
        a good deal of a household for Mrs. Vernon. She doesn’t look
        strong. Now, isn’t there some place near by where we could
        arrange to stay, don’t you know, and come over here for tennis
        and all that sort of thing? I’d like to come up again.”

        “Why, you’re not going?”

        “Why, I really ought to, you know. So unexpected my coming and
        all that sort of thing.”

        Ethel had heard us talking and she came out of the house.

        “We don’t want you to think of going, Mr. Hepburn, if you can be
        comfortable. I’ll be able to borrow a bed to-night and if Mr.
        Warden builds that temporary shed, in such weather as this
        you’ll be comfortable sort of camping out.”

        “Oh, I’m all right. The mosquitoes were a bit annoying, but
        everything else is all right. I’m feeling very fit this morning,
        I assure you.”

        “Then don’t think of going,” said I.

        And then Cherry came out with the tennis net and Hepburn
        relieved her of it immediately and went with her to put it up,
        and Ellery and Mrs. Benedict came out a minute later and
        announced that they were going for a little walk.

        Ethel, with a suggestive glance at me, that seemed to imply that
        all was not right between Cherry and Ellery, went into the house
        to invite “Jack” and “Billy,” while I went down to James’s house
        to see about engaging James’s little sister to help Minerva. If
        we were going to be a hotel we would need more help.

        As I passed the woodshed I saw Tom in his shirt sleeves sawing
        planks, while Benedict and James were acting as willing helpers.

        The only one who was doing nothing was Madge, so I hunted her up
        and invited her to go with me to the house of James.

        And thus continued the day begun so early in the morning.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXVIII

                            “TRAMP’S REST.”


        TOM had discontinued work on the lean-to for some untold reason,
        and just after lunch he and Hepburn had gone over to Bert’s to
        get the horse and go for the cots.

        The rest of us broke up into convenient groups and tennised or
        walked, but by the middle of the afternoon a drowsiness came
        over us, superinduced by our sleepless night, and with the
        exception of Ethel and Mrs. Benedict, who were helping prepare
        dinner, we all slept, some in hammocks, one on the ornate sofa
        and the rest in the three bedrooms.

        And then, just before dinner, Tom and Hepburn not having come,
        we all went out to look for them.

        It ought not to have taken them long to buy two cot beds and
        bring them up, and they had been gone four hours at least.

        We walked upwards of a mile toward town, and at last came to a
        rock, from the top of which we could command a view of the rest
        of the road to Egerton, but there was no sign of Bert’s wagon.

        “Well,” said Ethel, “we’d better be starting back, for dinner
        ought to be ready soon.”

        And so we sauntered back, expecting every minute to be overtaken
        by the cot bringers.

        We arrived at the house and all entered by the south door,
        attracted thereto by the recumbent figures of our truants. Each
        one was reclining gracefully upon a cot reading, and smoking
        excellent cigars.

        “Here, here,” said Tom, when he saw us. “This will never do.
        Dinner’s ready this ten minutes, and Hepburn and I are
        starving.”

        As soon as Hepburn had seen us he had risen from his couch, but
        Tom continued to lie there blocking the doorway.

        “What about that lean-to,” said I.

        Tom rose and folded up his cot as an Arab is supposed to fold
        his tent. Then he set it up against the side of the house and
        said oracularly:

        “The lean-to is indefinitely postponed. We know _more_ than we
        did this morning.”

        “Well, but where have you been? We walked half way to town and
        didn’t see you,” said Ethel.

        “Exploring the country. Haven’t we, Talcott.”

        “It’s a beautiful country,” said Talcott, laughing.

        All through dinner those two seemed to have a secret, and as
        near as we could make out, Minerva was in it, because every time
        she came into the room and looked at Tom she smothered chuckles.

        After dinner Tom said, “Mrs. Vernon, what do you say to our
        taking our coffee in the summer house?”

        “In the summer house,” said Ethel, “why, there isn’t any summer
        house.”

        “Well, whatever you call it, then. Minerva, you bring it to us
        there.”

        Minerva broke out into childlike laughter.

        “All right, sir, I will.”

        Then she looked at her mistress and said, “Kin I do it, ma’am.”

        Ethel shook her head at Tom and said,

        “You’re a bad boy. All this is subversive of discipline.” But
        she told Minerva to do as Mr. Warden wished, and, Tom leading
        the way, we all went out of the house feeling that we were on
        the verge of a surprise.

        Out the front door and north of the house we went and then
        around to the lesser orchard at the back of it and there,
        between two apple trees, stood a “summer house,” over the
        dilapidated door of which was a sign reading “Tramp’s Rest.”

        We who had bathed that morning recognized in it the bath house
        in which we had dressed.

        “How did you get that here?” said several of us at once.

        “If you don’t mind having it on your land,” said Hepburn, “I’d
        like to make you a present of it. I took a fancy to it this
        morning and this afternoon Tom and I drove over there on our way
        from town and brought it back.”

        “Yes, but who said you could take it?” said Benedict.

        “Oh, I bought it this morning. Mr. Sibthorp and I found out the
        owner and he was willing to sell it for a song.”

        “But how did you get it here on that wagon?”

        “Oh, we didn’t. We had this—er—Bert’s horses—but an Irishman of
        the name of Casey loaned us his hay wagon and he felt insulted
        when I offered to pay him for the use of it. He really became
        violently abusive, don’t you know, and used highly colored
        language, but we could see that he meant well. Really I thought
        him something of a character. Didn’t you think him a character,
        Mr. Sibthorp?”

        “He certainly was,” said Sibthorp. “He had no opinion at all of
        Bert’s horses. Said he had an—ould—ould—”

        “Ould scut,” I suggested.

        “That’s it. Said he had an ould scut of a horse that would walk
        right away from Bert’s pair, and that any time we wanted to take
        the young ladies out for a ride to come and take him right out
        of the stall, whether _he_ was there or not. His language was
        ornamented with picturesque oaths that wouldn’t sound well here,
        but they were awfully funny.”

        “I guess he said nothing that he wouldn’t say before anyone,”
        said Ethel.

        Sibthorp gave her a whimsical look. “Excuse me,” said he, “but I
        guess that when _you’ve_ heard him talk he has repressed his
        vocabulary.”

        “Why,” said Ethel, “you know he came with berries the morning
        after you came.”

        “Oh,” said Ellery, “he had sworn off that morning. You ought to
        have heard him to-day.”

        “Perfectly willing to let it go at imagining,” said Ethel.

        And then Minerva came out with the lilting walk that was hers
        when she was happy. She bore a tray and set it down on a rustic
        table that I remembered to have seen in the furniture store at
        Egerton the week before.

        “Here’s to the ‘Tramp’s Rest,’” said Tom when we had all been
        provided with coffee. “I boney a cot in this house to-night. You
        fellows can sleep in rooms if you want. For me the stars through
        the cracks.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXIX

                         MINERVA AND THE SNAKE.


        THE latter part of the week Ethel received a letter from Billy,
        saying that he and Jack would be delighted to come up.

        Billy’s letter was characteristic. It ran:

            “My Dear Mrs. Vernon:

            “You are a kind, good lady. Jack agrees with me in this. You
            have saved our lives. It has been a long time since we sold
            any pictures, and we have forgotten the address of our bank,
            so we were not thinking of going to any summer resort this
            summer, but your invitation could not be refused without
            insulting you.

            “It is not entirely as if we were strangers, however,
            because we know Tom (oh, don’t we know him) and we know your
            husband. Tom has brought him to the Olla Podrida Club more
            than once and has made him smoke the club cigars which we
            thought unkind. So we have a certain sympathy with your
            husband and are prepared to like him better the more we know
            him.

            “Will you please ask Tom to tell us what train to take, and
            also to do any other things that are necessary. He will
            understand.

            “Please give my regards to Miss Paxton. You mentioned her as
            part of your ‘party,’ and she must be a large part, unless
            she has changed. I used to know her before I came to New
            York, when she was a little girl (three years ago).

            “Jack wants me to tell you that whatever I think of you he
            thinks also, and that you do not know how much you have done
            for ART IN AMERICA by making it possible for us to set down
            on canvas the beauties of your state. (I’m not sure whether
            that should be a capital S or not.)

                  “Yours cordially,

                    “WILLIAM EDSON.”

        When we showed the letter to Tom and asked him what Mr. Edson
        meant by saying, “ask Tom to do any other things that are
        necessary,” he burst into a roar of laughter.

        “That means in plain English that the dear boys are stone broke,
        and that they will need money before they can buy their tickets.
        I will telegraph them ten dollars.”

        “Do you mean to say,” said Benedict, “that those young men are
        going to borrow the money to come up here?”

        “Yes, why not?” said Tom with just a suspicion of heat in his
        tone.

        “Why, nothing,” said Benedict, “only I’d stay in the city all
        summer before I’d borrow money to go away. I’d be too
        independent.”

        “Independent, poppycock,” said Tom. “We’re told to let
        independence be our boast, but we’re also told that it’s wrong
        to boast. So it’s wrong to boast of independence. No man can be
        independent in this world. He relies on one man to bring him
        into the world and on another to bury him, and all the time he’s
        here he’s relying on one person or another. The only thing is
        for him to accept help and be willing _to_ help. That’s all,”
        Tom laughed. “Sermon’s over. Collection will now be taken up to
        bring those two babes to the place where they can make bread for
        next winter. No, sir. You, Phil, can _not_ contribute. This
        hard-as-nails Benedict, who thinks he’s made his own way, and
        who has been helped all along by our free institutions, will
        chip in, and so will old Crœsus when he comes back from his
        horseback ride with Cherry.” He paused. “Sibthorp ought to learn
        to ride.”

        Benedict’s hand went down into his pocket and brought out a
        bill.

        “Now, see here,” said Tom. “I don’t want you to have the idea
        that you’re doing a charitable act, for you’re not. Those boys
        are going to give us a couple of sketches before they go back,
        and we’ll sell them for more than ten dollars and refund pro
        rata. Will that satisfy your sordid business soul?”

        Benedict drew off and gave Tom a friendly punch. They were
        always insulting each other, having been friends for years, and
        both of them members of the Olla Podrida Club, which, by the
        way, is an association of artists and men interested in art.
        Benedict buys a picture once in a while and, according to Tom,
        when he relies on the advice of an artist friend, he gets a good
        one. When he relies on his own judgment he gets something that
        provides no end of amusement to all the artists except the one
        who painted the picture.

        “I want none of your impudence, Tom,” said he, and then Minerva
        interrupted.

        It seems as if Minerva were always interrupting and generally
        with a shriek.

        “Oh, Lawdy! Lawdy! there’s a big worm in the kitchen!” cried she
        as she came running out of the sitting room to where we were
        standing.

        “Worms can’t hurt you, Minerva,” said Tom. “Go get a bird and
        see him catch the worm.”

        “Oh, my! but this worm would eat any bird I ever saw. It’s that
        long.”

        She showed how long it was, and Tom said,

        “Why, it must be a snake.”

        We men ran into the kitchen, and there, sure enough, was a
        little green snake about a foot long and frightened in every
        inch.

        Tom picked up the mop, and carefully aiming at the little
        creature, he brought it down about three feet away from it. For
        the snake had eluded him.

        Minerva’s curiosity was greater than her fear, and she came to
        the door of the kitchen to watch us.

        Benedict picked up a broom and made a swipe at the snake that
        upset a pitcher of milk, but missed the snake which coiled its
        pretty green length in the middle of the floor raised its pretty
        head and darted out a needle-like and beautifully red tongue at
        us in a way that reminded me of the Morse alphabet.

        I cannot explain why I was thus reminded, and probably such a
        reminder was far from the snake’s intention.

        I could not help feeling sorry for the little fellow. They say
        that snakes love milk. Here was a place flowing with milk, but
        he could not stop to drink it because three huge beings
        threatened his very life.

        “Can he jump?” said Minerva, preparing to jump herself.

        “No, Minerva, he is perfectly harmless,” said I, resolved to
        save his life. “Say, you fellows, stop whacking at him and
        capture him alive. I want to show Minerva that these snakes
        haven’t a vicious thought in their heads.”

        I took the mop from Tom, and watching my chance, I brought it
        down on the snake in such a way as to pin it, wriggling. Then I
        picked it up by the neck.

        “Oh, Lawdy!” cried Minerva, and stepping backward trod on the
        tail of Miss Pussy who happened to be coming into the kitchen.

        Miss Pussy emitted a yell that Minerva firmly believed to come
        from the mouth of the snake, and clapping both her hands to her
        ears she rushed through the dining room and met Ethel coming in.

        Ethel and she met on their foreheads, and Minerva was not hurt
        at all. Ethel, however, was hard hit, and, infected with
        Minerva’s panic, she turned and ran through the sitting room
        into the arms of Madge, who had come to see what was happening.

        Madge was almost bowled over, but managed to withstand the
        shock, and brought the chain of concussions to an end.

        I am perhaps a crank on the subject of snakes, but I do object
        to the senseless panic that seizes on some people when they see
        one. Now, if it were a mouse, it would be different. A mouse has
        cluttering little feet and a method of approach that reminds one
        of happenings in a previous state of existence, and I confess
        that a mouse in a room will spoil my peace of mind, but a snake
        is generally good to look upon, and it is graceful beyond
        measure, and it is nearly always harmless and perfectly willing
        to leave you most of the world for your inheritance.

        So I kept hold of the snake, and after Ethel had assured me that
        she was not seriously hurt by the impact of Minerva’s splendidly
        built skull, I told her that I wanted to give Minerva a little
        lesson in natural history.

        There is one thing about Minerva. She is a reasonable being. Her
        fear of cows vanished after we had assured her that cows were
        for the most part friendly, and as there were no rattle-snakes
        in the vicinity, I knew I was safe in calming her fears in
        regard to the snake. So I asked her and the rest to come out of
        doors and I would show her what a perfectly innocuous thing our
        little green friend was.

        “Nearly everything we meet out doors, Minerva,” said I, “is
        disposed to leave us alone if we will leave it alone. This
        little green snake, that looks as if it were fresh from Ireland,
        is only anxious now to get away from me and rejoin its little
        ones. If you kept the kitchen full of snakes there would never
        be any flies there, because snakes love flies. Come and stroke
        him. I give you my word he will neither sting nor bite.”

        Minerva came up with confidence, and amid shrieks from all the
        women she patted the little green head, and the little red
        tongue came out and spelled a message of love to her.

        “See there, Minerva! He wants to show you that he is perfectly
        friendly.”

        “My, aint he clean!”

        “Of course he’s clean. Snakes are all the while washing
        themselves with their tongues.” I caught Ethel’s eye, and felt
        that my natural history was shaky, but I wanted to make an
        interesting story for Minerva, and who cares for facts in
        natural history, so long as you have something that will be
        read?

        “I dare say that at one time snakes and cats belonged to the
        same family. When you see a cat crouched down and creeping along
        after a bird, it looks like a snake. Its head is flattened and
        its ears are laid back and its tail looks just like a snake in
        itself. Probably snakes once had fur—”

        “And they rubbed it all off creepin’ ’round.”

        “Exactly. Now, take this little snake and be kind to him and
        overcome your antipathy to him—”

        As I said this I loosened my hold on him, preparatory to handing
        him to Minerva.

        But instead of going to Minerva, he turned and made his way
        swiftly up my arm and around my neck.

        Ugh. I never felt anything so creepy in my life. I flung him
        from me (with a wild cry, Ethel says, although I think she is
        mistaken). At any rate I tossed the snake far from me, and he
        made his sinuous, chilly, gliding, repulsive way to his waiting
        family. And probably wrote a book on the bad habits of human
        beings from his short and superficial observation of them.

        There is a certain rooted antipathy to snakes that lies deep at
        the base of our being. I cannot explain it, but I know it’s
        there. I am no snake charmer.

        Minerva might have said something, but she knew her place, and
        refrained. She merely went out to the kitchen and guffawed all
        by herself, while I, ignoring the remarks of my friends, went
        upstairs to wash the feeling of cold snake from my neck.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXX

                           A HORSEHEAD PERCH.


        I ENJOY the luxury of being absent-minded sometimes. I claim
        that to be absent-minded once in a while proves that one has a
        mind to be absent.

        I was absent-minded the day that Jack and Billy were expected
        and I went over to the lake to fish for bass with Sibthorp, with
        never a thought of them.

        The rest of my guests went their various ways and left the house
        to Ethel and Minerva, and about an hour before train time Ethel
        realized that I had done nothing about getting the expected
        arrivals.

        “Can you drive a horse, Minerva?” said she.

        “I kin sit in the wagon and hold the reins.”

        “Well, I guess that’s all that’s necessary, but I can’t even do
        that. You’ll have to take me down to get the men who are
        expected.”

        “Yas’m.”

        “We must go at once and get Mr. Casey’s horse.”

        I must explain that Ethel knew that “th’ ould scut” had had the
        blind staggers the day before and that Pat had explained that he
        could not have two attacks the same week, as the blood letting
        simply rejuvenated him.

        So the two set off for Pat’s and found him unhitching his horse.

        “Oh, have you just been to town?” said Ethel (as she told me
        afterwards).

        “Sure I have. Can I git y’annything there!”

        “Why, I wanted to meet two friends who are coming up. If I’d
        known you were going down—”

        “I’d have waited arl night fer them. Annything to oblige a
        leddy. Take him though, you. He’s gentle as a kitten. Gentler,
        because I’ve not spared ’im. He’ll not have the blind staggers.
        I bled him like a pig yestiddy, an’ he’s fresh as the morning.”

        As he talked he harnessed him up again and invited the two to
        get in and he’d turn him around and start them right.

        “What’ll I do if anything happens, Mr. Casey?”

        “Sit on his head and holler fer help.”

        “Oh, of course,” said Ethel. “I read that in a book.”

        Minerva went off in an ecstacy of laughter.

        “What are you laughing at, Minerva?” asked Ethel.

        “I was wonderin’ how you’d get up to his head.”

        “Why, Mr. Casey means if he falls down. Don’t you, Mr. Casey?”

        “’Deed an’ I do. But he won’t fall down. He’s strarng as a horse
        an’ gentle as a—as a litter of kittens. He knows it’s a leddy
        behind him, an’ he’ll have plisant thoughts of you arl the way
        down. But don’t use the whip. After bleedin’ he’s a bit
        skitterful.”

        We had had the horse several times at a pinch and Ethel knew
        that he always cautioned against use of the whip, although
        th’ould scut’s hide was as tough as that famous one “found in
        the pit where the tanner died.”

        “You take the reins, Minerva,” said Ethel.

        Minerva took them and pulled them up so tight that she almost
        yanked the horse into the wagon.

        “Oh, he’ll never stumble. A loose rein an’ a kind worrd an’ th’
        whip in the socket an’ll he go like the breezes of Ballinasloe.
        Good bye an’ God bless you.”

        And so they started and the horse went along in a leisurely
        manner as was his wont. Once he strayed off to the roadside to
        crop the verdant mead and as Minerva pulled on the wrong rein
        she nearly upset the wagon. But she was quick to learn, and
        before they had gone a mile Ethel said she drove as if she had
        been doing it all day.

        They found that the horse had the pleasing habit of picking up
        apples that lay in the road—for their way ran by several apple
        trees, and there were windfalls in plenty. As he was not
        checked, every time this happened Ethel felt as if they were
        going to be pitched out head foremost, but they made their first
        mile in safety and then the horse, reaching a level stretch “got
        a gait on him” and trotted along in good shape for nearly half a
        mile.

        When they came to the place called “long hill” Ethel got out so
        that the horse would have less difficulty in making the descent.

        Minerva, innocent as a child as to the proper thing to do, did
        not tighten the check rein nor did she take in the slack in the
        reins, but resting her hands idly in her lap chirruped to the
        horse as she had heard James do, and he began the “perilous
        descent.”

        Half way down he saw a bit of hay in the road, and being of a
        mind to eat it, he lowered his head at the very moment that he
        stepped on a loose stone, and the next minute Minerva was over
        the dashboard, and the horse and she lay in the road together.

        She was the first one to pick herself up. In fact she was the
        only one to do it, as Ethel was several rods away and almost too
        frightened to stir.

        “Quick, Mis. Vernon, come and sit on his head.”

        Ethel told me that she did not like the idea at all, but it was
        a case that called for but one decision. The horse had been
        loaned to her and if she could save its life by sitting on its
        head she meant to do it, although she did hope that Minerva
        would relieve her from time to time.

        “I thought we’d divide it up into watches,” she told me, “and I
        did hope that some wood team would come along soon.”

        The horse struggled to rise, but as the hill was steep he found
        it hard to do and in a minute my wife had seated herself as
        elegantly as she could on his head, and probably smoothed her
        skirts over her shoe tops after the manner of womankind.

        Minerva, her spirits ebullient as soon as she saw that no damage
        had been done, went off into a roar of laughter at the quaint
        spectacle of Ethel using a horse as a sort of couch.

        “I wonder if it hurts him?” said Ethel.

        “’Deed no. You ain’t heavy enough.”

        “Well, if I get tired I’ll want you to come.”

        “Lawdy, I’d smash him. He won’t need me.”

        “Is anyone coming?”

        “No’m.”

        “Well, isn’t this too vexing? There are those two men coming.”

        “Where?” said Minerva, looking up and down the road.

        “No, I mean on the train. Of course they can hire a team, but it
        is awfully vexing to have this happen.”

        “Yas’m. Shall I get you an apple?”

        Without waiting for an answer Minerva climbed a rail fence—not
        without difficulty—and picked up several red astrachans that lay
        just beyond it. Then she essayed to return, but this time she
        got caught when half way over and could not extricate herself.

        “Mis. Vernon, I’m stuck. Somep’n caught my dress. Come an’ help
        me.”

        “Oh! _Dear!_ I can’t help you. I can’t leave this horse for a
        minute. There’s no telling what might happen. Isn’t this awful?”

        “’Deed it is. Never did think much of that ould scut. What is an
        ould scut, Mis. Vernon?”

        “Oh, it’s just a pet name. Irish people are very affectionate.”

        “Never get _my_ affections,” said Minerva, race prejudice
        cropping out even in her predicament.

        All the while she was trying to free herself, and at last she
        tore herself loose, sacrificing a part of her skirt, and rolled
        over the fence, the apples scattering in front of her as if in a
        panic.

        But once over she gathered them up and handed one to Ethel, who
        leaned back along the forehead of her animal sofa and gave
        herself up to the delights of eating.

        “Would the ould scut like one too?” asked Minerva.

        “Oh, surely,” said Ethel, and so Minerva picked out a large
        apple and held it to the velvet nose of the poor old horse. He
        smelt it eagerly and opening his jaws took it in.

        Minerva sat down in the grass of the roadside and fell to,
        herself, and for a minute, Ethel said, the three jaws crunched
        apple pulp noisily.

        “Mis. Vernon?”

        “What is it, Minerva?”

        “How come a horse can eat when he’s standin’ up. Lyin’ the way
        he is now it’s easy because the apple kin go along level, but
        when he’s standin’ up how can it go way up in his head.”

        “Why, he swallows it.”

        “Yes, but how can he swallow up? We swallow down. If I was to
        stand awn my head I couldn’t swallow.”

        She was silent a minute and then she said, “Go’n’ to try.”

        And try she did.

        There in the lonely road, with Ethel reclining so luxuriously on
        a horse-hair sofa, Minerva played circus and made a croquet
        wicket of herself and then tried to eat an apple.

        Ethel was so interested in the experiment that she was surprised
        when she heard a masculine voice say, “Well, I swan!”

        She turned, and there below her in the road stood the figure of
        the Perkins’ hired man.

        “Oh, I’m so glad you’ve come,” said Ethel from her perch.
        “What’s the proper thing to do to this horse?”

        “Well, I’d git off his head first off.”

        Ethel left her seat, the hired man took hold of the bridle, the
        horse made one or two tries and then rose to his feet and Ethel
        said he


        [Illustration: She made a croquet wicket of herself.]


        shook himself so violently that she thought the harness would
        break.

        But it stayed together in all its knotted parts and Minerva,
        somewhat shamefaced at having been caught trying to swallow like
        a horse, climbed up into the wagon and my wife drove on down
        town, where she arrived just as Jack and Billy were about
        concluding a dicker with a hackman.

        When they saw th’ ould scut they concluded the dicker—Ethel
        having introduced herself, and then they insisted that she ride
        up with them, while Minerva followed after with the grips.

        Sibthorp and I and no fish arrived home simultaneously with my
        guests.

        The meeting of Billy and Cherry was most affecting. They acted
        like school children over each other. It struck me at the time
        how much more a woman will palaver over a man if she does not
        care for him in any other than a Platonic way than she will when
        her affections are engaged.

        It is also queer how some men express themselves more fully in
        their letters than they do in their actions.

        Billy was much quieter than Tom, and Jack was almost reserved.

        But the same air that has a lazing effect on writers braces up
        artists to do good work. Tom had painted two landscapes since
        his arrival and Billy and Jack went out after supper and each
        took a shy at the same sunset.

        It was curious to see how different were the colors each used.

        And the sun had used another palette altogether. And yet all
        three sunsets were beautiful and I dare say that one was as true
        as the other, all of them being illusions.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXXI

                       THE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY.


        IT may not possess any interest to the reader, but I feel that
        we have been together so long (if he has not skipped) that he
        _will_ be interested to know that early in September an editor
        in New York wrote me, saying that he would take a long story of
        mine at such a figure that—well, our summer outing was more than
        paid for and on receipt of the check I stopped keeping a hotel
        and insisted on my “guests” becoming guests—a distinction with a
        wide difference.

        Golden rod was yellowing the lanes and fields and roads, and
        here and there purple asters were foretelling the approach of
        winter. The nights were getting chilly and providing an
        excellent excuse for pine knot wood fires, around which we all
        gathered and told stories or listened to Cherry’s piano music or
        to heated but amicable art discussions on the part of the three
        brushmen.

        Two goal points beckoned us to the future; one of them the
        centennial anniversary of good old Mrs. Hartlett, the other the
        cattle show at Oakham.

        The former would fall on September 16th; the latter on October
        3rd, and the day after the cattle show our happy household would
        break up. We expected to go down with the rest and open up our
        flat and we regretted the necessity of doing so, as the time
        approached.

        We had grown to love the country in all its moods and I felt
        sure that in winter also we would find it full of the stimulus
        of life, but even with James for a companion, we knew that
        Minerva would not outstay the first snow storm, and since his
        situation with the liveryman now only awaited my announcement
        and his acceptance of it, we were going to count the winter in
        New York as simply so many days of anticipation of the next
        summer’s joys with perhaps the same crowd of congenial people,
        and it might be two of them keeping house in a new bungalow.

        After all, Hepburn was better fitted than Sibthorp to make a
        husband for Cherry. She was a girl with luxurious tastes and the
        very fact that she could live our simple life and be happy
        argued that she would make an ideal helpmate for the man who had
        been born with a diamond encrusted spoon in his mouth.

        Mrs. Warden thought that Billy also was smitten, but if so
        Cherry did not know it.

        The centenary of Mrs. Hartlett fell on a perfect day. The
        morning broke, cool and cloudless and a brisk west wind policed
        the air all day and kept it free from disorderly elements.

        At three o’clock we all went over to her house on foot. Sibthorp
        and the artists had ransacked a greenhouse at Egerton and were
        loaded down with roses: Hepburn had been fortunate enough to buy
        a century plant in bloom and the rest of us bore other
        offerings.

        On the little lawn in front of her house sat Mrs. Hartlett on a
        stiff-backed chair that had belonged to her grandfather. She was
        alert and smiling and actually rosy. Her hundred year old eyes
        sparkled with animation and she was just as proud of having
        achieved a century as any wheelman ever was.

        There were at the lowest estimate two hundred people gathered on
        the lawn about the old lady, and I’ll venture to say that not
        five of them were there out of idle curiosity. There were
        Minerva and James and the president of the Egerton National
        Bank, and the pastors of three churches of different protestant
        denominations and a comparatively newly arrived Hungarian
        family, to whom Mrs. Hartlett had been “neighbourly,” and Father
        Hogan and the Guernseas and the man whose pipe I had returned.
        (He had brought Mrs. Hartlett a peach pit basket, which he had
        whittled himself and which gave her great joy, as she said it
        was exactly like one that her brother had given her in 1812).

        But to go back to the guests. Such a heterogeneous collection of
        people one does not often see, and yet they all had one common
        object; to render homage to a woman who, for a century, had
        breathed a spirit of kindliness and tolerance that was American
        in the best sense. Yankee farmer, Hungarian immigrant, Pat
        Casey—who was there, alert and smiling—all were the better for
        Mrs. Hartlett’s having lived so long a life, and each one felt
        it in his own way.

        And almost every one present had brought a gift. In some
        instances they were trifling affairs—like the peach pit
        basket—but the kindly spirit of giving was there, and I doubt
        not that Mrs. Hartlett valued the little carving for the sake of
        the associations it brought up full as well as she did the
        handsome antique chair that the Guernseas gave her.

        One of the last arrivals was a man who had walked many miles to
        visit her on her birthday. He drew after him a toy express
        wagon.

        He was patriarchal in appearance, with a long white beard and
        eyes more shrewd than kindly, and yet it was a kindly spirit
        that had drawn him ten miles out of his accustomed itinerary
        that he might pay his respects to the woman who had never bought
        a single one of his wares, but who had always given him a
        pleasant salutation and had more than once invited him to come
        in and partake of berries and milk, or, if it was wintertime, to
        have a cup of coffee and fortify himself against the elements.

        It was Isidor Pohalski, an old man about thirty years Mrs.
        Hartlett’s junior, a peddler by occupation, who in summer drew
        his wares around the country on a little express wagon and in
        winter drew them on a boy’s sled. (So they told me.)

        He had brought a present too, a bertha of Belgian lace, and when
        I saw him and Father Hogan and Rev. Mr. Hughson and the bank
        president and the artists so near together it gave me a kind of
        lion and lamb feeling that smacked of the millennium.

        “Do you mean it for me?” asked Mrs. Hartlett, recognising the
        beautiful lace.

        Isidor nodded, saying nothing. His English was for but one at a
        time. In a crowd he was reduced to signs.

        “Much thanks. Much thanks,” said Mrs. Hartlett, quaintly, being
        one of those who talk to a foreigner with special idioms. She
        held out her hand and shook his and said,

        “You stay for lemonade? Yes?”

        The Hebrew nodded and smiled and stayed.

        There was one surprise connected with the very informal
        exercises of the afternoon and that was the gift by Mrs. Hughson
        on behalf of the people generally of a rouleau made up of one
        hundred gold dollars.

        “May your pathway to heaven be paved wid ’em,” said the
        irrepressible Pat, stepping up and shaking hands with her.

        “Thank you, sir,” said she, and Pat walked off with his head in
        the air and brimming over with good feeling—and suppressed
        oaths.

        “Won’t you sing your song, Mrs. Hartlett?” asked Cherry.

        “I’m afraid I’m not in very good voice to-day,” said the old
        lady with an exaggerated simper and then she hastened to say,
        “That’s what people used to say when I was a girl. There was
        much more singing then than there is now, but it was always
        considered right to apologise for one’s voice.”

        She cleared her throat and then she turned to the doctor, who
        sat near her, and said, “I wanted to dance, to-day, but Dr.
        Ludlow says that at my age the less I dance the better for my
        health—and I dare say he is right.”

        She looked at the doctor, her eyes twinkling, and then she sang
        a strange old song that I had never heard before. It was sung to
        a quaint air that might have been by Purcell and that told of
        what befell the daughters of a king who lived up in the “North
        countree:”

                    “‘The king lived up in the North Countree
                      “‘Bow down downaday
                    “‘The king lived up in the North Countree
                      “‘The bough that bends to me
                    “‘The king lived up in the North Countree
                    “‘And he had daughters, one, two, three—
                    “‘I’ll prove true to my love,
                      “‘If my love proves true to me.’”

        It was a melodramatic song and told of the death by drowning of
        the youngest of the three daughters, and the phraseology was so
        queer that it might easily have become comic; but the old lady
        sang it with such simplicity; her voice, in spite of its
        quavers, was so true and still bore such evidence of the silvery
        quality that it had once contained, that my three artist friends
        afterwards acknowledged that the song gave them a choky feeling
        in the throat.

        Sibthorp told them that one did not need to be an artist to have
        choky feelings.

        At the song’s conclusion Pat Casey turned to the Rev. Mr.
        Hughson, by whose side he was standing, and said,

        “She’s a dam good woman—glory be to God.”

        Cherry had made some sort of lace arrangement for the hair,
        three cornered and arabesque, and when Mrs. Hartlett had
        finished singing she crowned her with it.

        It wasn’t particularly becoming, but when I said so Ethel said I
        was horrid.

        Just after the singing I saw Minerva whisper something to James,
        and the two went off. At the time I supposed that she had gotten
        tired of standing around among white folks, with nothing to do,
        and in a measure I had guessed right, but I was not prepared for
        what followed.

        The windows of Mrs. Hartlett’s parlour were open; it had been
        her intention to hold her reception in the house until she saw
        that it would be impossible with such an out-pouring of
        neighbours and friends.

        Suddenly from out the open windows came the sound of melodious
        voices—negro voices singing one of the most plaintive of the
        darkey melodies: “Steal Away to Jesus.”

        Our proposed concert at Egerton had fallen through, owing to
        various reasons. We had made it all right with Deacon Fotherby
        by sending him the goodly amount of a collection taken up one
        evening among the Clover Lodgers.

        But when I heard the music and recognized that there were four
        voices concerned in it I realized that the concert had merely
        been changed in point of time and place and that we were now
        listening to it, and that it was one of Minerva’s sudden
        inspirations. She had come to Mrs. Hartlett’s with no gift and
        the generous-hearted girl had proposed that she and James and
        the others give the only thing in their power to give.

        The effect was strangely beautiful. The voices were softened
        just a little; they were in perfect accord and the four sang
        with the sincerity of feeling that negroes always throw into
        their songs, whether grave or gay.

        “It’s Minerva’s present to you, dear,” said Cherry, leaning over
        and patting Mrs. Hartlett’s hand.

        “Niggers can _sing_, annyway,” was Pat’s Irish comment.

        I think everyone present felt that he or she had some part in
        the concert. It was what they all would have done if they had
        been able, and as we listened to song after song, some
        “spirituals,” some full of laughter, and saw the rapt expression
        on the face of Mrs. Hartlett, we felt that the “century” was
        being crowned felicitously through the happy idea of an ignorant
        girl, whose heart was in the right place.

        The thing that made Minerva a joy forever was that her heart
        _was_ in the right place.

        Perhaps that is why James had found it so easily.

                  *       *       *       *       *

        When we went home at sunset from the old lady’s house Cherry
        walked by her old-time playmate, Billy, and it struck me that he
        might be thinking of becoming a rival to Sibthorp and Hepburn.

        “It’s cruel in Cherry to let that young man walk with her,” said
        I to Ethel.

        “Oh, I don’t believe that he has ever thought of Cherry except
        as an old friend,” said she.

        “Well, if Cherry lets him walk with her much he will begin to
        think Cherry is catching.”

        “But she’s already caught,” said Ethel.

        And we could hear Hepburn at that very moment singing a little
        thing that Cherry was very fond of playing.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXXII

                           WE GO TO THE FAIR.


        “HOW are we going over to the fair at Oakham?” asked Cherry, the
        evening before that event.

        “I’ve provided for it,” said I.

        “Not th’ ould scut?” said Ethel.

        “Hardly. Let’s see, there are ten of us.”

        “Twelve,” said Ethel, “or thirteen.”

        “No, ten.”

        “Twelve. Minerva and James are going and we’re to have lunch
        over there.”

        “Five buggies, two in each,” said Sibthorp as unconsciously as
        he could.

        “Fine,” said Hepburn and Billy in the same breath, and Cherry
        blushed rose red.

        “Couldn’t get buggies, but I think you’ll all be pleased at the
        conveyance,” said I. “It’ll be quite a ride. Three hours there
        and three hours back.”

        “Goodness,” said Cherry; “I thought it was only about seven
        miles away.”

        “It might be 200 miles away if we took a special,” said Sibthorp
        suggestively.

        “And only a few rods if we took snails,” said Tom and laughed
        uproariously.

        “It’s something between snails and specials,” said I, but
        further than that I was sphynxlike.

        Next morning was a crisp, smoke scented October morning, the air
        full of the snap of early fall, the landscape hinting at coming
        crimsons and yellows, the sky a clear blue, guiltless of clouds.

        We rose early and while we were at breakfast we heard the lowing
        of cattle.

        “Whose cow’s loose this morning?” asked Tom.

        “That’s the voice of our steeds, if I’m not mistaken. Get your
        wraps and traps and come.”

        Scowls of surprise were bent on me by all.

        “Behold the chariot of Apollo and the horses thereof,” said I,
        and led the way to the front door, whither I was followed by
        all.

        In front of the house stood a comfortable-looking hay wagon
        carpeted with straw and hitched to it were twelve oxen.

        They were of all sorts and sizes, from a pair of huge white
        blanketed ones to two little black Holstein leaders; they were
        mottled, brown, mahogany and fawn color and the black Holsteins
        had gold leafed horns in honor of the occasion. At the side of
        this “string” stood Sam Goodman and his son.

        “Are we going in that?”

        “That we are going in,” said I proudly. “If we have luck we’ll
        get there inside of three hours. How far is it, Mr. Goodman?”

        “Between six an’ seven miles. What d’yer think of the string?
        Prize winners?”

        “They ought to be.”

        “What does he do with so many cows?” said Cherry.

        “Where—_where_ did you come from, baby dear?” said Tom. “Those
        are called oxen in this part of the country. Not all yours are
        they?” turning to Sam.

        “No, sir. Mine are the white blankets. But all Egerton cattle
        and we’ve taken fust prize for four years hand runnin’! Whoapp,
        Jerry! Whenever you’re ready I’m ready, Mr. Vernon.”

        Which was local for “Please hurry up,” so I told our party to
        get aboard as soon as possible and we would start for the cattle
        show.

        There is no better way of enjoying scenery than to go out riding
        behind a team of cattle. One has all the slowness obtainable by
        walking and yet one is riding, and can give his full attention
        to the beauties of either side of the road. To those who are not
        in too great a hurry I commend this form of locomotion!

        At last we were ready, and after we were all seated James helped
        the giggling Minerva to a seat in the back. She and James were
        the only ones who had real seats. The rest of us sat in the
        straw.

        “G’long!” shouted Mr. Goodman, and the oxen started.

        “Isn’t this fun?” said Cherry, wriggling her shoulders with
        delight.

        “Fine, and after three hours of it walking will be even more
        fun,” said Tom.

        “Oh, I’ve forgotten the lunch,” said Ethel.

        “Now, look here,” said Tom, “we mustn’t stop this procession.
        Give me the key, Philip, and I’ll go back after the lunch and—”

        “Whoa,” shouted Mr. Goodman.

        “Don’t stop,” cried Tom. “I’ve only got to go back to the house.
        I’ll catch up. Keep ’em going.”

        “Whoohaw, gee a little,” shouted Goodman, snapping his long whip
        and the oxen kept up their sleepy pace, while Tom ran back to
        the house to get the lunch.

        “Isn’t this lovely?” said Cherry. “Whenever we get tired of
        riding we can walk on ahead and wait for the team to catch up.
        Why haven’t we ever done this before?”

        “Because it would be something of a task to get six pair of
        cattle on any day except fair day,” I explained. “And, by the
        way, this costs us nothing. Goodman is honoured at having us
        come. Said so—in other words. Was insulted when I spoke of
        payment.”

        “I’m learning something new about the country people all the
        time,” said Cherry.

        “Goodman sells cheeses. He doesn’t rent cattle. If we had wanted
        a cheese it would have cost us market prices, but a ride after
        the Egerton string honours him and Egerton. That’s the Yankee of
        it.”

        “Isn’t it glorious? Where is Mr. Warden? He’ll surely get left.”

        Just then an automobile going to the fair came up behind us and
        passed us tooting the loudest horn I ever heard.

        The cattle were not broken to automobiles and the leaders
        started to run, their example was followed all along the line,
        and in a minute (and to the secret gratification of Goodman, who
        had not liked Tom’s cavalier way of going back as if we were
        stationary) the six pair of cattle were running away.

        The wagon bumped and pitched and we were pitched and bumped amid
        shrieks from Minerva and laughter from the rest.

        “Whoo! Whoo, I say! Gee—haw! _Whoo!_ WHOA! WHOA-UP!”

        We had reached the brow of a little hill, at the base of which a
        pretty brook meanders across the road, and the frightened
        animals plunged down the hill regardless of their reputation for
        slowness.

        As we left the brow of the hill we saw at the house Tom waving
        the lunch basket and calling to us to stop. He thought it was a
        trick, but we knew it wasn’t.

        We beckoned him to come and then we gripped the sides of the
        wagon and wondered just how it would end.

        At the side of the bridge the road led into a by path to the
        water and the wise Goodman, fearing that we would not keep the
        bridge at the rate we were going gee-ed them into the by path.

        Whether the water had a cooling effect on them or what was the
        reason, I cannot say, but just as the wagon was in mid stream
        the forward oxen stopped, their example was passed down the line
        as it is on a freight train, and the series of jolts was finally
        communicated to the wagon and James and Minerva turned back
        summersaults into the water.

        We all choked with laughter when they emerged, dripping.

        “Don’t like cow ridin’,” said Minerva, shaking mud and water
        from her hat.

        They were not hurt and by the advice of Ethel, Minerva went back
        to the house to get dry clothing. James waited to show her a
        short cut across the fields, so that we need not wait, and Tom
        came up with the lunch basket just as the cavalcade started
        again.

        “Sorry I didn’t bring a wheel along,” said Tom. “If we find
        we’ve forgotten anything else it’ll be hard catching up. There’s
        quite some go in those beasts.”

        “Them pesky devil wagons,” said Goodman. “I wish there was a law
        agin’ them.”

        It is not my intention to tell of all the things that happened
        on the way. The oxen got accustomed to automobiles long before
        we reached Oakham and our progress became slower and slower as
        we had to take to the side of the road to let pass us the
        constantly thickening stream of vehicles of all kinds from every
        part of the county bound for the fair. Arrived at the grounds,
        wherever pretty Cherry went the boys were sure to go, while we
        elders went off by ourselves.

        Ethel and I had hardly had a minute together since our guests
        had begun coming, but Ethel seemed to have thrived on the extra
        work and the added excitement. Of course it was the unlimited
        fresh air that had made it possible. We looked back on a very
        happy summer and were glad that everything had happened as it
        had.

        “I wonder if Cherry has made up her mind yet,” said Ethel, while
        we were watching the efforts of a man to hit a darkey’s head
        with a base ball.

        “She’ll have to make it up quickly unless she wants Hepburn and
        Sibthorp to possess their souls in patience during the fall.”

        “And whichever of the two she takes there will be two
        disappointed men.”

        “What, Billy?”

        “Yes, I think, after all, he is hard hit.”

        “And she treats him with amusing indifference. There they all go
        to have their tin-types takes. What children they are!”

        It may have been a half hour later that Ethel and I were
        watching the energetic seller of whips.

        Starting with one whip, which he offered for a dollar, and
        getting no takers at that price (for most of them had seen his
        operations before) he would offer two and then three and then
        four and at last half a dozen whips for the same dollar.

        “An’ I’ll throw in this raw-hide just to make the game excitin’.
        Here, by George, I’m ashamed of myself to be such a poor
        business man as to give away fifteen dollars’ worth of whips for
        the price of one decent one, but I’m bound to make a sale if I
        give you my _whole stock_ for a dollar. He-ere we have a bobby
        dasher of a whip to tickle the flies to death in the pantry.
        I’ll chuck that in just for devilment and I hope you won’t tell
        none of your folks what a fool I be. That’s eight whips for one
        ordinary every day dollar. Why it’s a crime to take advantage of
        me in this way and git so much for so little.

        “_Thank_ you, sir, for relievin’ me of an embarrassin’
        situation.”

        This to a long-bearded man who handed up a dollar and got the
        eight whips, one of which would have cost a dollar in any
        harness store. But that is not the same as saying that it would
        have been worth a dollar.

        “Now, here we are again. Here’s a whip for one dollar.”

        Naturally the zest of the transaction had departed with the
        long-bearded farmer and most of the crowd went away. But new
        ones came up and minute by minute the whip man added whip after
        whip and soon the crowd was as dense as before and he
        strenuously showed the swishing qualities of each whip, fanning
        the air with vigor and filling that part of the fair grounds
        with his syren voice and his picturesque language.

        “Oh, you’re here, are you,” said a voice at my side, and turning
        I saw Sibthorp.

        “Hello, where’s Cherry?” said I.

        “I wanted to speak to you. Let’s get away from that clatter.”

        I believe that Ethel must have divined what he wanted to say,
        for she said,

        “Take me over to the wagon. I want to see about getting lunch
        ready.”

        We took her over to the wagon and on our way there corralled
        James and Minerva. Ethel had brought an oil stove for the making
        of coffee and the three began operations at once, while Sibthorp
        and I walked off to that part of the fair where the cattle tests
        were to be made later in the day.

        I could see that whatever it was that Sibthorp wanted to say he
        was not going to find it easy to say it, for he made five or six
        false and utterly inconsequent starts and seemed ill at ease.

        “Say, Ellery, you didn’t get me off here to tell me that you
        never saw such long horns on an ox. What do you care about
        oxen?”

        “No, that’s so—er—say, Phil, the fact is, I believe that I
        am—that I think a good deal—”

        “That you are in love with Cherry?”

        “Why, how did you know it?” said Ellery, with a sigh of relief.

        “Oh, when you’ve been through the mill yourself you’re always
        able to tell the symptoms. Now what can I do for you? Do you
        want me to propose?”

        “No, no-o, but I want to know whether you think I’d stand any
        sort of show.”

        “Why, my dear boy,” said I. “Aren’t you as good as anybody else
        on earth? Have you totally misconceived Emerson’s message? Go in
        and win. Cherry’s a good girl—as good as anybody in the world.
        You’re a good chap—good as anybody on earth. Tell her your life
        story, and then come to me for my congratulations.”

        “Well, but do you think I stand any show?”

        “You’re the best judge of that, old man. She’s been very kind to
        you. I’d feel encouraged if I were you. But do it to-day, and do
        it soon. There are several Richmonds in the field.”

        “That’s what I was afraid of. Jack and the rest.”

        “Jack, nothing. The only man _you_ have need to fear is that
        genial millionaire, Hepburn.”

        “Oh, I’m not afraid of him. Cherry doesn’t believe in marrying
        for money.”

        “How do you know?”

        “Oh, we talked it over academically, you know.”

        “Well, sometimes a woman forgets to be academic when it comes to
        the test. I think you’d better engage her in talk, old man, and
        do it to-day. Remember we all go down to-morrow.”

        “Thanks, awfully, old man. You’ve heartened me up considerably.”

        We had walked as we talked over to the wheel of fortune, and
        just as we arrived there a young man was so remarkably lucky as
        to win a hundred dollars. He was a very lucky young man, because
        earlier in the day I had passed by there with Ethel and had
        stopped a minute and he had then won fifty dollars. I like to
        see such happiness as was his. I have never seen it anywhere
        else, but on the stage. He put the money in his pocket and
        started away from the wheel and the gentleman who was running
        the wheel asked him in honey tones if he wouldn’t stay and try
        his luck again.

        “_No_, sir,” said the upright young man. “I never did anything
        of this kind before to-day, and I’m going to stop now.”

        “I wish I had your strength of character,” said the owner of the
        wheel, who seemed to be a very straightforward sort of person,
        even if he was limited in his phraseology. I recalled that he
        had said exactly the same words to the same young man when he
        had won the fifty dollars in the morning, and had signified his
        intention of stopping for good.

        “Hello, there’s Cherry, now,” said Sibthorp, and looking up I
        saw her going by in company with Tom and his wife. Sibthorp
        joined the trio and he and Cherry fell behind and a minute later
        I saw them stop at the gate of the merry-go-round. For, of
        course, a modern country fair would not be the real thing if it
        did not have one of the gaudily grotesque nerve rackers.

        Wishing the boy luck, I wandered off alone and soon fell in with
        Hepburn.

        “Hello, Mr. Vernon,” said he. “Have you seen anything of Miss
        Paxton?”

        “Yes, she and Sibthorp went off together not a minute ago.”

        “Oh, that’s all right then. I was afraid she had gone off with
        Billy.”

        The young men had one evening drunk “_Bruderschaft_” and all
        called each other by their first names.

        “Why are you afraid of Billy?” said I.

        Hepburn colored, an unusual thing for him to do, as he generally
        had easy command of himself. He looked me straight in the eye
        and then he said,

        “I’m hard hit, governor.”

        “Does you credit,” said I.

        “Yeah,” said he, pulling at his under lip. “But you know it’s
        deuced hard for a fellow like _me_ to say anything. All that
        cursed money of mine, you know. I’ve never been taken for what I
        am myself until I came up here, and when it comes to telling
        Miss Paxton how things stand with me, don’t you know—why, I
        wouldn’t blame her if she refused me, even if she loved me,
        because a girl like that doesn’t like to be thought—doesn’t like
        to be thought to be influenced by the money a fellow has.”

        “Well, she wouldn’t be.”

        “No, that isn’t the point. _She_ wouldn’t be, but she might be
        afraid that the world would think she was.”

        We were walking back and forth along the “Midway,” and we had
        now come to the wheel of fortune and subconsciously I felt
        impelled to stop and look in at the operations which had just
        started up with the placing of a dollar by a raw-boned fellow
        fresh from the plough.

        “You mean to say,” said I, “that if you were in the position of
        Sibthorp, for instance, that you would feel you had a good
        chance of winning her?”

        “I don’t think Sibthorp has any chance with her. I mean that if
        I was ordinarily well off I would go in and ask her, and I think
        she’d have me. I’d tell you what I wouldn’t say to any one else
        up here, for I think you understand those things. I’m not
        conceited but—well, a fellow knows.”

        “Lost it, young man,” said the man at the wheel, “but next time
        you may have better luck. _You_ want to try?”

        “Why, I believe I will.”

        Interested as I was in Hepburn’s revelations of soul, I looked
        up and saw the young man who had been so lucky twice before. He
        had plainly forgotten that he had ever seen the wheel—so
        treacherous are some memories—and pulling out of his pocket a
        dollar bill and a cent—all he had, evidently—he placed the
        dollar on “25,” which with great ingenuousness he said was his
        age, and the wheel spun round.

        “I’m afraid you’re going to lose it, young man,” said the
        gamester. “It’s a hundred dollars if it stops at your figure.
        She comes nearer, she passes, she comes round again—she goes
        slower—she pas—no, she touches it. I congratulate you, young
        man. I lose, but you gain and I like to see a man win when he’s
        young and out for fun.”

        “By _George_,” said the young man, ecstatically happy. “I never
        played one of the blamed things before. A hundred dollars?”

        “Yes, a hundred dollars. Suppose you try it again.”

        A dense crowd was now around the wheel and all eyes were fixed
        on the poor young man, who had so suddenly won a pocket of
        money—and that for the third time that day—although I was the
        only one who remembered that fact.

        His hand sought his pocket—and then he remembered that a dollar
        and a cent had been all he had had—there—and he shook his head
        and said,

        “No, sir. I’ve struck ile and I’m go’n’ to quit.”

        “By George, I like your strength of character. Who else will
        take the young man’s chance? Only a dollar a try.”

        The dollars rained down. The wheel went round and a score of
        anxious eyes blazed at the board. But every man lost his dollar
        and the young man who had been so strangely lucky and so
        curiously forgetful of his former luck, walked away, followed by
        Hepburn, who had been in a brown study, and me.

        “There’s only one man seems to win in those games of chance,”
        said I.

        “Some men are born lucky,” said Hepburn, and straightened
        unconsciously as he said it.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXXIII

                            CHERRY DISPOSES.


        WE had had a merry lunch, we had watched the tests of the
        draught cattle, we had all drunk pink lemonade and survived, and
        now, by unanimous vote, we had decided to stay and have our
        dinner in the “Mammoth Restaurant,” and go home by the light of
        the golden hunter’s moon.

        The wheel of fortune had been dismantled and the man who ran it
        and the man who had been so lucky had gone off together. They
        seemed to have struck up a friendship, and I am told that it not
        unfrequently happens that lucky men and professional gamblers
        make the rounds of the various county fairs and the luck of both
        continues until the end of the season.

        Sibthorp was not the life of the party at lunch, but Hepburn was
        in high spirits.

        I judged that Sibthorp had been tried and found wanting and that
        Hepburn had been accounted worthy. Jack and Billy were their
        usual irresponsible selves and Tom bubbled over with a merriment
        that was at times elephantine but always genuine.

        After lunch Sibthorp came to me and we strolled away naturally
        and easily. I put on my best father confessor air and waited for
        him to unbosom himself.

        “It’s all over,” said he.

        “What? You’ve asked her?”

        “Yes.”

        He looked so dejected that I grasped his hand.

        “Maybe a cattle show was a poor place,” said I.

        “I chose a poorer,” said he, “I asked her in the
        merry-go-round.”

        “Wha-at?”

        “Yes. I didn’t want to be romantic. It has often struck me that
        many a girl says yes because it is moonlight, or the lane is
        shady, or the breeze is balmy. You see I look at it from the
        point of view of a writer—and I thought I’d strip it of all
        glamour after I’d made up my mind—thanks to you—that I had a
        chance, and so when she said she’d like to ride around on the
        elephant I was fool enough to sit alongside of her on a blame
        little donkey and there wasn’t anybody within ear shot as the
        next thing behind was a wagon and they’re not popular. And just
        before the thing started I—well I asked her, and she burst out
        laughing and then she got mad and then the old thing started and
        we had to ride till it stopped, and then she asked me to take
        her away because she felt dizzy and I took her away and we ran
        plump into Hepburn and he asked her to go and see a man selling
        whips, and I went down the road a mile and wished I’d never been
        born. I think she felt insulted.”

        I looked the other way.

        “Why don’t you try again?”

        “Thank you. I know when I’ve had enough.”

        He left me and I went behind a large oak and sat on the grass
        and laughed until I cried. The idea of a sensible man sitting on
        a wooden donkey and asking a pretty girl on a wooden elephant if
        she would care to ride the merry-go-round of life with him.

        “I’m afraid that Ellery is artificial,” said Ethel when I told
        her.

        “But Hepburn is the real thing,” said I.

        It was in the middle of the afternoon that Ethel and I were
        sitting together in a little pine grove. I had been telling her
        the events of the morning and now we were resting on the grass
        and watching the farmer folk. Oakham fair day is the great day
        for exchanging “visits.” Two elderly men met.

        “Well, how are you doin’ it!”

        “Oh, the way I always do. You’re lookin’ abaout the same. Leetle
        more gray but I guess you’re able to do the chores?”

        “Oh, yes, ain’t had to call in Maria to do that yet. You seem to
        be stavin off death.”

        “Fooled him so fur. Git me in the end though. That your
        daughter?”

        “No, that’s my grandchild.”

        “Well, well. Looks like your daughter Libby.”

        “Libby’s daughter.”

        “By Godfrey, time _has_ a way of gittin’ along. Beats these
        automobiles.”

        “Doos so. Well, glad I seen yer. Oakham Fair’s gre’t day to see
        folks. Most interestin’ exhibit. I say folks is the most
        interestin’ exhibit.”

        “Ye-es, yes. Be’n comin’ here thirty-five years. Ever sence the
        fust fair.”

        “Me too. Bet ye a cooky you won’t do it no thirty-five years
        more. Not ’nless the good Lord fergits to git ye.”

        “Ha, ha, ha. Well, good bye, Silas. ’Member me to the folks.”

        “I will so. Like’s not you’ll find ’em ’raound here sum’er’s. Be
        good.”

        “Same to you y’old rascal.”

        The two men shook hands and passed on and then we heard the end
        of a conversation on the other side of the tree—a conversation
        that was being carried on while two walked together.

        “No, Mr. Edson, a woman always feels honoured and I hope we may
        always be friends.”

        Ethel looked at me and her lips parted. It was Cherry’s voice.
        We waited to hear Hepburn speak but he did not do so.

        The steps died away and Ethel rose to her feet and looked down
        the pathway.

        Cherry was walking toward the edge of the pine woods and by her
        side walked a young man in whom the animation of youth seemed to
        be temporarily arrested.

        He had not spoken a word in our hearing but we knew from the
        shape of his back that it was Jack.

        “Three proposals in one day,” said Ethel in awed tones.

        “Well, she’s worth it,” said I, and was a little astonished that
        Ethel did not second my assertion.

        “Isn’t that Pat Casey walking with a priest?” asked Ethel
        suddenly.

        “Yes, that’s Father Hogan and Rev. Mr. Hughson told me he was
        one of the greatest influences for good in Egerton.”

        “I wonder if he will stop Pat from using profanity.”

        “Maybe he won’t try to.”

        Just then Pat left the priest, touching his cap as he did so,
        and a moment later he saw us and hurried over with the light
        little step peculiar to him, lifting his shocking bad hat as he
        came.

        “Hello, Pat,” said I. “So you are considered a good enough man
        to walk with Father Hogan?”

        His eyes twinkled.

        “Sure it’s honoured I am by walkin’ wid him. He’s a hell of a
        fine man. I was just tellin’ him so. Didn’t he walk a mile out
        of his way yisterday to tell me he seen me ould cow I lost,
        roamin’ toward Maltby. First he told them to pen it up, an’ thin
        he come an’ told me. He’s dam sure of Heaven, that man is! No
        airs on him at all an’ him a friend of Archbishop Ireland.”

        “Well, Pat, how’s the ould scut. Did you enter her for the
        race?”

        “Sure I did not. She got at the oats last night an’ was feelin’
        so fine this marnin’ that I knew’t’d be a sure t’hing if I
        entered her.”

        He winked his eye at Ethel and then he said:

        “An’ how’s the cherry blossom?”

        “Pat, you’re a poet. She’s still on the branch.”

        “Egorry, it’s the lucky man that picks her. A fine gerrul. None
        better in Ireland an’ that’s sayin’ arl there is to be said. I
        suppose ye’ll be go’n’ down one of those fine days now.”

        “Yes, we expect to go to-morrow.”

        “Is it so soon an’ the glory of the year so nair. Sure it’s
        sorry I’ll be to see the lights arl gone when I’m passin’ by in
        the avenin’.”

        He took off his hat and extended a very dirty hand to Ethel.

        She took it bravely and he said,

        “If y’ave need of th’ould scut come an’ take her an’ welkim. An’
        come up next yair. Give me regards to the young leddy. I’d a
        darter just like her wance.”

        We smiled involuntarily as we contrasted Cherry and Pat.

        “I’d a darter just like her, but she got consumpted an’ she’s
        wid the saints. She was a hell of a good gerrul.”

        His eyes moistened and I understood for the first time what had
        made him the good-hearted man he was.

        With a wave of his hand he walked lightly away.

        “And yet some people don’t like the Irish,” said Ethel.

        We all attended the races but they did not merit a description.
        They were almost as tame as a hippodrome race at a circus, and I
        verily believe that th’ould scut would have stood some show of
        winning had Pat entered him.

        Cherry sat next to Ethel on the grandstand and to me she looked
        distraught. She had little to say and I, with my usual habit of
        adding two to two, made up my mind that she had accepted Hepburn
        and was now sorry that she had done so. I could not account for
        her lack of animation in any other way.

        I suggested my thoughts to Ethel but she said they were
        nonsensical; that Cherry was very sorry to have to leave the
        place; that she had become attached to Clover Lodge and that she
        hated the thought of going up to her aunt at Bar Harbor.

        She recovered her spirits in the “Mammoth Restaurant.” The long
        tables were so unlike anything to which she had been accustomed
        that the very novelty pleased her, and as we were all together
        at one end we were able to do and say pretty much what we wanted
        and we were a gay crowd.

        We had met pretty nearly everybody we had ever seen in the
        Egertons, and we had bid good bye to old Mrs. Hartlett just
        before the races began.

        She having a mind to try a new sensation and one that would have
        been impossible in her childhood, had come over with her
        physician in his electric run-about and it was something of a
        shock to see the dainty little old lady accustomed to move
        slowly and with dignity perched up in one of the fastest things
        on wheels, but it was just such open-mindedness that had enabled
        her to remain young for one hundred years and we bade her good
        bye quite sure that she at least would be in Egerton another
        summer whoever else might drop by the way.

        Minerva was in her element all day long. A crowd was a crowd
        after all even if it was composed of country people, and she
        kept herself and James in the thick of it.

        Once we saw her treating six strange little darkey boys and
        girls to pink lemonade and once I saw her by a happy fluke throw
        a left-handed ball at the colored man who was soliciting tries
        at his hard head and she hit him fair and square and then hit
        the crowd by her hearty, carefree laughter.

        There was one little incident connected with Minerva’s day at
        the fair that might have been serious if Minerva’s star had not
        been in the ascendant when she herself was.

        A balloon ascension had been advertised for the afternoon and
        Ethel had wanted to go over and see it, but I told her that the
        filling of balloons by gas was always a slow process and that
        we’d see it when it went up.

        Now, James was more gallant, and when Minerva asked him to take
        her to see the balloon go up he took her to the very spot.

        It so happened that when the balloon was filled and they were
        ready to cast off the guy ropes and go up to the extent of the
        long rope Minerva took it into her sportive head to catch hold
        of the rope and the next minute the balloon went up with the
        stout Minerva dangling beneath.

        Three things went up—no, four. The balloon, Minerva, a shriek,
        and a shout—the latter from the crowd.

        Ethel and I had been in the main tent looking at the
        horticultural display, but at the familiar shriek we ran out.

        They had stopped the ascent of the balloon but they flew Minerva
        full a hundred feet above the crowd, one foot around the rope,
        the other frantically kicking.

        It was not an adventure that could have happened to anyone but
        Minerva or if it had happened to any other person he would have
        fallen to earth and cast a gloom over the fair.

        But somehow the crowd seemed to realize that it was a time for
        mirth and that the girl would come down all right and they
        howled advice at her. Some told her to climb into the car, a
        physical impossibility for her, while others asked her to do
        tricks, supposing that she was an acrobat in disguise. In fact I
        think it was the general opinion that she was an acrobat.

        Poor Minerva an acrobat. Far from it.

        “Oh, James, come an’ git me. I’ll die up here. Oh, Lawdy, why’d
        I come up?”

        Minerva was unconsciously quoting her own utterance of a few
        weeks before. Why had she come up, indeed. Was it to end her
        days in the clouds?

        Much can happen in a little space of time and although there was
        a good deal of give and take on the part of Minerva and the
        crowd I don’t suppose she was up in the air many seconds. We can
        afford to laugh at it now but at the time, aside from its
        ludicrous aspect there was a terrifying side to it. Minerva was
        not built to fly to mother earth from such a height and survive.

        But although she was frightened half to death she did not lose
        her grip, and her foot around the rope lessened the strain on
        her hands and James and several others sprang to the rope and
        began to haul her down as soon as they could.

        When she felt her feet touch earth she fell on her face in a
        dead faint and then the crowd learned for the first time that
        she was not an attraction of the fair.

        A dash of lemonade—the nearest approach to water handy—brought
        her to her senses, but her feelings were hurt and she would not
        listen to James’s apologies (although what he found to apologise
        for I don’t know, seeing he had not been to blame; but he was
        very gallant)—she would not listen to his apologies but flounced
        off to a place far from the madding crowd just as Miss Pussy had
        retired after the humiliation of her upward trip and for the
        space of full five minutes Minerva refused to be comforted.

        But peanuts have a mollifying effect on some dispositions and
        James bought a bulging bag and presented them to the amateur
        _ascenseur_ and all went merry as a marriage bell from that time
        on.

                  *       *       *       *       *

        It was moonlight when the slow-moving oxen, decorated with their
        prize-ribbons (for they had won first prize) took up the
        homeward march.

        We had a free road in a very short time for everything else
        passed us, and we sang songs and yodled and tried to forget that
        to-morrow would end all the happy days.

        Coming to a steep hill we all got out, although Mr. Goodman said
        there was no need. But sitting Turk fashion is easier for Turks
        than for Americans, and we felt the need of limbering up.

        The ascent was flanked on either side by luxuriant maples that
        made a tunnel through which flecks of moonlight dappled the
        road. When we had gone half way up the moon seemed perched on
        the apex of the hill, golden and radiant, and while Ethel and I
        looked two figures walked into the shining circle—two figures
        that were very loverlike.

        It was impossible to miss the significance.

        Cherry and Hepburn.

        Their heads were facing each other and they were two black
        silhouettes representing happiness.

        I looked at poor Sibthorp who was walking just ahead of us. He,
        too, had seen the silhouette as it was outlined for one brief
        moment against the golden background, and I knew that his
        thoughts were not happy. I knew that Jack and Billy were
        somewhere behind us and a minute later Tom and his wife took the
        place of the lovers, but there was room for an ox team between
        them. And yet Tom and his wife are happy. But after twenty years
        silhouettes against the moon are not loverlike, however
        loverlike may be the hearts that are beating ten feet apart.

        That night, after all had retired, Ethel stood before the glass
        taking out her hair-pins and she addressed my figure in the
        mirror.

        “What _do_ you suppose?” said she in a low voice.

        “I suppose I’m tired,” said I yawning.

        “Cherry is engaged.”

        “Tell me something new,” said I. “Where are they going to live.”

        “In his studio—”

        “What,” I almost shouted. “Is it Jack after all.”

        “No, goosie,” said she fondly. “It is Billy.”

        “And the moon?—”

        “That was Billy and not Hepburn. I was fooled too.”

        “But Billy hasn’t a cent.”

        “No, but she has faith in his future, and she says she has never
        loved any one else since she first knew him, years ago.”

        “Ethel Vernon,” said I. “As a character reader I am not a
        success. I would have sworn that it lay between Hepburn and
        Sibthorp.”

        “You must remember that Cherry is not a character in one of your
        stories but a real girl,” said Ethel.

        “Well, I wish her joy of her long wait.”

        “It won’t be as long a wait as it would be if she had rejected
        him,” was Ethel’s Hibernian response.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXXIV

                          MINERVA SETTLES IT.


        AT almost the last moment we all postponed our going down for a
        day as there were so many last things to do in the way of
        leaving the place winter-proof.

        And it was well for us that we waited, for the very last mail
        altered the complexion of things considerably. It contained a
        letter from the Wheelocks telling us that instead of coming home
        they had decided to stay in Rome for another year.

        “I thought I’d write to say,” it ran, “that if you want to rent
        the house again next summer we’ll be glad to have you do so. Let
        me know if any repairs are needed.”

        I sought out our guests and told them the good news.

        “We can have the place next summer and we invite you all to come
        up again and be with us, or build bungalows, if you want.”
        Cherry blushed furiously. “We might form an artist colony.”

        “Suits me down to the ground,” said Billy.

        Hepburn said nothing. Neither did Sibthorp, but Tom and his wife
        said that they had been thinking seriously of building a little
        cottage, and now that we were sure to come back he would surely
        do it.

        “I must go and tell Minerva,” said Ethel. “Do you know she is
        positively blue this morning at the thought of going back.
        She’ll be glad to know we are coming up next year.”

        She went to the kitchen and through the door which she left open
        we heard what followed.

        “Minerva, I have some good news to tell you.”

        “Yas’m.”

        “The Wheelocks are not coming back for a year and we’ll take the
        house again next summer, so you can come up with us and see more
        of your friends up here.”

        Minerva laughed a joyous laugh, and James, who had been nailing
        fast the kitchen windows, added volume to her laugh in a
        cachinnation that was brimming over with optimism.

        “Mrs. Vernon,” said he, dropping his hammer on the floor.
        “Minervy wanted me to tell you something that she thought might
        disappoint you.” He laughed again, this time in a conscious way.
        “Fact is,” said he, “Minervy an’ me has come to an
        understandin’, an’, an’—an’—we’re go’n’ to git married.”

        “I’m very glad to hear it,” said Ethel, quickly, “and I don’t
        mind saying that I’ve been hoping for it. Mr. Vernon is quite
        sure he can get something for you to do in the city.”

        “Nothin’ in the city would just suit me, ma’am,” said he, “I
        wasn’ cut out for the city. I once passed a couple of days in
        New York and it was all I wanted. Too noisy.”

        “Oh, you’d git used to that,” said Minerva. “_My_-oh-my, that’s
        what I like about the city. Ef ’twas noisier here I’d like it a
        heap better.”

        “Can’t you postpone your marriage till next summer, James? We
        can’t get along without Minerva, and we’re coming back here next
        summer and you could get married then and we’d employ you and
        probably run a kitchen garden for you to attend to. You see
        there’ll be a number coming up next summer.”

        “I dare say I could do that all right next summer but I got a
        job at the Boardman’s tendin’ to their green house for the
        winter, an’ Minerva an’ me’s go’n’ to git married just as soon
        as you leave. She ain’t go’n’ down at all.”

        Ethel saw it was no use to plead; that Minerva and James were so
        selfish that they had rather marry and stay up than postpone
        their marriage the best part of a year in order to enable her to
        keep a good cook. She left the kitchen and came to me with the
        news which I had already heard, as I told her.

        The rest of the party condoled with her.

        “Isn’t it disheartening,” said she, sinking into a big arm chair
        disconsolately.

        A brilliant thought struck me as I looked at my wife.

        “I have a solution of the whole business.” I stepped to the
        door. “James, stop that hammering a minute.”

        James, who had resumed his task of nailing fast the sashes,
        stopped.

        I returned again to Ethel.

        “I think that I can work on that novel that Scribman wants just
        as well here as in the city. What do you say to our staying up
        here all winter so as to keep Minerva?”

        “Oh, you treasure of an idea-haver,” said Ethel, rushing at me
        and kissing me right before everybody.

        “But would James let her work?” said Cherry.

        “That remains to be seen,” said I. “Let’s see it now.”

        We all trooped out into the kitchen, Mr. and Mrs. Tom, the
        Benedicts, Jack and Billy, Sibthorp and Hepburn and Cherry by
        herself. She had avoided Billy all the morning but as he had
        told me the news I knew it was all right with them.

        As we entered the kitchen James was walking toward the north
        window and Minerva was walking toward the south. Both of them
        were looking very unconcerned. If I had been making a picture of
        it I should have called it “After the Salute.”

        “James,” said I, “I congratulate you on the news that Mrs.
        Vernon has just brought me, although we’ll hate to give Minerva
        up. In fact we want to know whether if we decided to stay here
        all winter you could not attend to the Boardman green house and
        let Minerva do our cooking? You could live here, you know.”

        James’ handsome face became occupied with a smile of great
        dimensions.

        “I reckon I could do that, all right, sir. What do you say,
        Minervy?”

        Minerva simpered. “I’d like nothin’ better than to work for you
        all winter up here. I was thinkin’ it would be awful lonesome
        after you left.” James looked as if he thought this only half a
        compliment but Ethel felt it was a very sincere one.

        “Oh, you dear good thing,” said my wife, and I was reminded of
        the day that Minerva promised to go up to the hated country.

        “James,” said I, “there’ll be no need to postpone your wedding
        day.”

        Minerva giggled.

        James looked me in the eye. Then he picked up the hammer and
        going over to the window he drew out the nails he had just
        driven in. They would not be needed now that we were going to
        stay.

        “Mr. Vernon,” said he, “’member that day we went to
        Springfiel’?”

        Minerva giggled harder, sunk her head in her shoulders, and put
        her hand before her face.

        “Yes, I remember,” said I, wondering what was coming.

        “Well, we got married that day.”

        “Is that so, Minerva?” said Ethel.

        “Yas’m,” said Minerva.



                                 [Illustration]



------------------------------------------------------------------------



        ● Transcriber’s Notes:
           ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was corrected.
           ○ Unbalanced quotation marks were left as the author
             intended.
           ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
           ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent
             only when a predominant form was found in this book.
           ○ On page 7 of the printed book, spaced characters were used
             to emphasize the word “peaceful.” In the electronic
             versions, italics were used instead.
           ○ Text that was in italics is enclosed in underscores
             (_italics_).





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