Laura E. Richards
Part 2 out of 3
Gates to Die.' Dear me, yes! if ever a person could tell you--and
Miss Bellflower, is it? Ah! she looks rugged, now; don't she? and
livin' in the old Shannon house, too. 'T is dretful onhealthy,
they say, the Shannon house; but havin' a rugged start, you see,
you may weather it a consid'able time, dearie, and be a comfort to
them as has you WHILE they has you. My Philena, her cheeks was
just like yours, like two pinies. And where is she now? Ah! I've
seen trouble, Miss Bellwether. Miss Grahame here can tell you of
some of the trouble I've seen, though she don't know not a quarter
part of it."
"Oh yes, Mrs. Lankton," said Hildegarde, with what seemed to
wondering Bell rather a scant measure of sympathy; "Miss
Merryweather shall hear all about it, surely. But will you tell us
now about the game, please? We want to know so very much!"
"To be sure, dearie! to be sure!" acquiesced Mrs. Lankton with
alacrity. "'T is a fine game, and anncient, as you may say. Why,
my grandmother taught me to play 'The Highland Gates' when I was
no bigger than you, Vesta Philbrook. Ah! many's the time I played
it with my sister Salome, and she died just about your age."
"Well, Mrs. Lankton," said Hildegarde, encouragingly.
"Well? oh, bless you! no, dearie! She was terrible sick! that was
why she died. Oh, my, yes! She had dyspepsy right along, suffered
everything with it, yet'twas croup that got her at last. Ah!
there's never any child knows when croup 'll get her; girl NOR
Hildegarde began to feel as if she must scream, or stamp her foot,
or do some other impossible thing.
"Mrs. Lankton," she said, gravely, "I am sure Auntie has the
kettle on, and you will be the better for your tea, so will you
not tell us as quickly as you can, please, about the game? The
children are waiting, you see, to go on with their play."
"Jest what I was going to say, dear," cried Mrs. Lankton. "Let 'em
play, I says, while they can, I says; for its soon enough they get
the play squenched out of 'em, if you'll excuse the expression,
At this apostrophe, delivered with mournful intensity, Bell
retreated hastily behind a post of the veranda, and even Susan
Aurora Bulger giggled faintly, with her apron in her mouth.
Hildegarde was silent, and tried the effect of gazing severely at
the widow, apparently with some success, for after a pause of
head-shaking, Mrs. Lankton continued:
"But as you was saying, dearie, about the game. Ye--es! Well, my
grandmother, she was an anncient woman; some said she was ninety-
seven, and more called it ninety-eight, but she didn't rightly
know herself, bein' she had lost the family Bible. Burned up with
the house it was, before she came from the Provinces, and some
said it was because of starting a new fire in the cook-stove on
Sunday; but I don't want to set in judgment, not on my own flesh
and blood, I do not, Miss Grahame. And I remember as if it was
this day of time, she settin' in her chair in the porch to our
house, smokin' her pipe, if you'll excuse me ladies, bein' an
anncient woman, and I HAVE heard great ladies took their pipes in
them times, but so it is. And she says to me, 'Drusilly,' she
says, 'Why don't you play with Salome?' and I says, ''Cause I
ain't got nothin' to play.' And she says, 'Come here,' she says,
'and I'll learn ye a game,' she says. So I called Salome, and we
two stood there, and Gram'ther she taught us 'The Highland Gates
to Die.' Salome, she had been feedin' the hens, and when she come
back she left the gate open, and they all got out and went and
strayed into the woods, and my father got so mad we thought we
should lose him, for sure. Purple he used to get when he was mad,
same as a late cabbage, and an awful sight. Yes, children, be
thankful if you're learned to keep your tempers. So that's all I
know, Miss Grahame, my dear, and you're welcome as air to it; and
I do believe I see Mis' Auntie lookin' out the kitching winder
this minute, so if you 'll excuse me, ladies, bein' I feel a
goneness inside, and if I should faint away, how your blessed
mother would feel!"
IN GOOD GREEN WOOD.
They were in the Roseholme woods, all four girls,--Hildegarde,
Bell, Gertrude and little Kitty. Kitty was only eight years old,
but she liked good times as well as if she were sixteen, and when
the sisters said "Come along, Kitty," she had dropped her doll and
flown like a bird to join them. Willy shouted after her, having
designs on her in regard to tin soldiers; but for once Kitty was
deaf to her Willy's voice. Now she was as happy as a child could
be, sitting in a nest of warm pine needles, playing at "partridge
The other girls sat near her, making oak wreaths and talking
busily. Bell was telling of some college experiences.
"So we found we had not nearly green enough to trim the hall, and
I volunteered to get some more, while the rest of the committee
made the garlands. I had not far to go, only to the grove, about a
mile beyond the campus; but it was growing dark, so I hurried as
much as I could. I ran across Professor Thunder's yard, as that
cut off nearly half the distance, and there my fate found me. Oh,
dear! Hildegarde, you will never guess what I did."
"Nothing, I am sure," said Hildegarde, gravely, "that was not
consistent with dignity and decorum. The college maiden is an
awful person, I have always understood."
"You shall judge!" said Bell. "Remember that I was alone, with
none to help me carry the boughs; that I was late, it being then
six o'clock, and the dance beginning at eight. I had to get the
greens, help put them up, get my supper, dress, and be there at
eight to receive the juniors. And there--there, in the clear
afternoon light on the lawn, stood the professor's wheelbarrow,
saying as plainly as a wheelbarrow can, 'You'd better take me
along to bring the things home in.' Could I resist that mute
appeal? I could not. I saw, I took, I trundled! The thing went of
its own accord, I believe; certainly I never before made such good
time to the grove. Once there, it was a matter of only a few
minutes to strip the boughs and fill the friendly barrow. But, oh!
I filled it not wisely, but too well. It was all so green and
pleasant, and the smell of the trees was so delightful, that I did
not know when to stop. Soon the barrow was heaped high with all
manner of pleasantness, and I started to return. Well, my dear,
then the trouble began. In the first place, full barrows are
different from empty ones. It was very heavy, and the boughs kept
slipping this way, and sliding that way, and tumbling down every
third second. I got cross--oh, so cross! and presently I passed
the janitor's son, lounging along homeward, and he grinned, being
an oaf, and said, 'Better let me help ye, hadn't ye?' Oh, no! he
didn't mean to be rude, he really meant to help; but my blood was
up, and my hair was down, and I was very short with him, I fear,
and trundled off alone with my dignity. Then a branch fell out and
got tangled in the wheel, and while I was getting it out a twig
snapped into my eyes; and there was a stone in my shoe, and
altogether,--well, it was only a mile to the grove, but it was
twenty miles back, I can tell you. Before I reached the campus my
arms were so sore, and my foot so lame, and my eye so painful,
that my pride ran out at the heels of my boots, like the
gunpowder. I was going pretty slowly, so as to keep the boughs
from tumbling out more than was absolutely necessary,--and I heard
the boy lumbering up behind me again. So, without turning round, I
said, 'You SHALL help me now, if you please!' and--and--oh,
Hildegarde! a deep voice answered, 'I shall be charmed to do so!'
and I looked up and saw Professor Thunder!"
"Oh, Bell! oh, poor thing!" cried Hildegarde. "What did you do?"
"Do?" replied Bell. "I didn't do anything. He took the handles
from me,--his own handles, mind you, of his own barrow,--and
trundled it solemnly along. I was struggling with hysterics. I am
not in the least hysterical by nature, but the combination--the
professor taken for a lout and commanded to trundle his own
barrow, stolen by a sophomore, the twig in my eye and the stone in
my foot--was too much for me. Besides, there seemed nothing in
particular to say. I could not begin 'Please, sir, I thought you
were the janitor's boy!' nor did 'Please Professor Thunder, this
is your wheelbarrow, which I have stolen,' seem exactly a happy
opening for a conversation. So we went on in silence, and when the
branches tumbled off, I picked them up without a word. How could I
be such a dumb idiot? Don't ask me! If it had been any other
professor I might have found courage to speak; but Jupiter Tonans
was my terror and my hero; I sat at his feet, and the roll of his
deep voice was music to my sophomoric ears. I had never spoken to
him out of class, but only that morning he had praised my
translation, he who seldom praised anything,--and now to come to
"At last, after about three hours of dreadful silence, he opened
his lips and spoke: 'The greens are for decorational purposes, I
presume, Miss Merryweather?' Oh, and I had hoped he would not
remember who I was.
"'Yes, sir,' I said. 'For the sophomore reception this evening.'
"'Ah!' he said, 'in that case, it will be well for us to hasten.'
"Silence again, while we quickened our pace, making the branches
fall off more than ever. Then--'The wheelbarrow,' said the
professor, 'amazes us by its combined simplicity and perfection.
The conception of a man of universal genius and vast erudition,--I
allude to Leonardo da Vinci, the marvellous Florentine,--it has
for upwards of three hundred years served mankind as a humble but
valued ally. In every rank of life it finds its place. This
barrow, for example--'
"My heart came into my mouth. 'Professor Thunder,' I said, 'this
is your wheelbarrow. I came across your lawn, and saw it standing
there, and--I took it.'
"'Yes, my child,' he said, 'I saw you take it.'"
"Oh, oh!" moaned the two girls. "Poor Bell! oh, poor Bell!"
"Then I broke down and cried, and told him all about it, and how I
had taken him for the janitor's boy, and all. Girls, he was
perfectly angelic! He made me sit down on the bank to rest, and
talked to me, oh, so kindly! and was glad I had taken the barrow,
and all. And--it is too dreadful to tell, but--I had dropped my
handkerchief, and he gave me his, about three square yards of
finest cambric,--I shall never smell orris again without thinking
of that moment,--and said--you won't think me vain to repeat this,
Hildegarde?--said that he could not have his best pupil spoil her
eyes, as it would interfere with her Greek. And then we came to
the campus, and the girls standing in the door of the Gym saw
Professor Thunder wheeling the wheelbarrow fall of greens, and me
walking meekly by his side. I shall never forget their faces; one
moment, and then they turned and fled. It was base, but I could
not blame them; the sight was not one to induce composure, as the
Professor himself would say. So I thanked him as well as I could
for the dumbness and heat that were on me; and he took off his hat
and made a grand bow, and then he shook hands--oh, so cordially!
and begged to present me with the freedom of the wheelbarrow; and
then he went away. There, Hildegarde! You wanted a college story,
and you have had one."
The girls laughed heartily at Bell's adventures, and Hildegarde
declared that she should never fear a college girl again, as it
was evident that they were girls of like passions, getting into
scrapes like their sisters.
While talking, the girls had been busily plaiting garlands of oak
leaves, and now they proceeded to crown each other, and hang long
wreaths on neck and arm.
"Hildegarde shall be the fairy queen," said Gertrude "and we her
attendant fays. Hail, Queen!"
"Oh yes, that is all very well for you!" said Bell; "you don't
weigh one hundred and thirty pounds. A fine sylph I should make!
Hilda is perfect for the queen, however."
Certainly Hilda did look very lovely, with the green chaplet
crowning her fair locks, and the afternoon sunlight sifting
through the leaves, checkering her white dress with light and
shade. Roger Merryweather, coming through the wood in his quiet
way, with his tin plant-box slung over his shoulder, thought he
had never seen a fairer sight, and paused to enjoy it before
announcing his presence to the girls. As he stood there,
motionless, and screened by the broad leaves of a great chestnut-
tree, a frightful scream was heard, a ferocious yell, which made
the whole wood vibrate with horrid sound. The girls sprang to
their feet in terror; little Kitty ran to Bell and hid in her
gown, while the older girls with one accord turned at bay, ready
to face they knew not what peril. Even Roger was startled for the
moment, and was about to step hastily forward, when a second
shriek rang out. He recognized the voice, and stood still,
unwilling to spoil sport. And now from the thicket burst two wild
forms, blanketed and feathered, uttering hideous yells, and
brandishing glittering weapons over their heads. Kitty shrieked,
but after one moment Bell burst into laughter.
"You imps!" she cried. "You wicked, wicked little wretches, to
frighten us so! Kitty darling, it is the boys. Look up, darling!
Don't you see? It is our naughty, naughty boys, playing Indian.
After them, Toots! after them, Hilda! We'll give them a lesson
they shall not forget."
"Huh! huh!" shouted the Indians. "Big Chief Hop-toad! big
Medicine-man Put-Squills-In-His-Tea! gobble up the white squaws
for supper! Huh! huh!"
And now the quiet spectator saw a merry sight. The girls flew in
pursuit, the boys fled before them. In and out of the trees,
laughing, shrieking, they doubled and twisted. Hildegarde ran
well, and Bell had not had two years of basket-ball for nothing.
As for Gertrude, she was lithe and long-limbed as a young
greyhound; but even so, they could not catch their tormentors.
The long gray legs twinkled like lightning over the ground. Phil
paused from time to time to shout his warhoop, and Gerald, when he
could find breath, chanted wild scraps of song, accompanied by
"My tom, my tom, my tommy-hawk,
With thee I'll make the pale-face squawk:
With thee I'll make them cry 'Oh, lawk!'
My tom, my tom, my tommy-hawk."
Circling round a great tree, he came full upon Hilda, flying in
the other direction, and made a snatch at her green wreath.
"Pale-face squaw shall lose her hat,
Medicine-man will see to that,"
"Will he, indeed?" cried Hildegarde. "Catch me if you can, you
odious redskin! I defy you in every withering term that a Cooper
maiden ever invented!"
"Ho! if you are a Cooper maiden, you are nothing but a female!"
said Gerald. "Aha! she turns, she flies! she feels the scalp a-wr-
r-r-r-r-iggling on her head! she fears she'll soon be a female
dead! Ho, ho! Medicine-man! Big Injin! Ho!"
Flying breathless now, Hildegarde darted hither and thither,
hiding under the leaves, dodging behind the tree trunks. Finally,
seeing her foe pausing for an instant behind the bole of a huge
nut-tree, she rushed upon him, and seizing him, shook him
violently. Then she let go her hold and screamed, for it was not
Gerald that she was shaking.
Roger Merryweather stepped forward, unable to keep from smiling at
her face of horror. He felt a little "out of it," perhaps, and
twenty-four seemed a long way from seventeen; but he should not
have watched the girls, he told himself with some severity,
without letting them know he was there. Now this pretty child
regarded him as a double eavesdropper and spy. But his apology was
drowned in the shouts of the boys.
"Hi! here's Roger! hurrah! Roger, Roger! my scientific codger,
come and play Big Injin! The pale-faces are uncommonly game, but
we shall have them all the same. Hi! there goes Dropsy!"
Indeed, at this moment Gertrude tripped over a tree root and fell
headlong; as she fell she caught at Phil's ankle, just as he was
in the act of grasping Bell by the flying tail of her gown;
another moment, and all three were on the ground together in a
"Anybody hurt?" asked Roger, going to pick them up.
"Oh no!" said Bell, sitting up and shaking the pine needles from
her hair. "Toots was underneath, and she makes a noble cushion.
All right, Toots? and how do you come here, Professor?" The three
fallen ones righted themselves, and sat up and panted; seeing
which, the others came and sat down, too, and for a space no one
spoke, for no one had any breath save Roger, and he was laughing.
"I have been botanizing," he said at last. "I was coming quietly
along, when suddenly Bedlam broke loose, and I have been standing
by to go about ever since. No extra lunatics seemed to be needed,
or I should have been charmed to assist."
By this time Hildegarde had recovered her composure. It was her
fate, she reflected, to run into people, and be found in trees,
and be caught playing "Sally Waters;" she could not help her fate.
But her hair was all down her back, and she could help that. She
began to knot it up quietly, but Gerald raised a cry of protest.
"What, oh what is she doing that for? Don't, Miss Hildegarde,
please! I was just thinking how jolly it looked, let alone the
chances for scalping."
"Thank you!" said Hildegarde, as she wound up the long locks and
fastened them securely. "I have no fancy for playing Absalom all
the way home. Have you hurt your foot, Phil?" for Phil was rubbing
his ankle vigorously, and looking rather uncomfortable.
"I stumbled over Dropsy's nose," he said, ruefully. "When she fell
down, her nose reached all the way round the tree, and tripped me
up. I wish you would keep your nose in curl-papers, Dropsy."
Dropsy beat him affectionately, and helped rub his ankle. They
were silent for a moment, being too comfortable to speak, each one
thought to himself. The sunbeams flickered through the leaves; the
pine needles, tossed into heaps by the hurrying feet, gave out
their delicious fragrance; overhead the wind murmured low in the
branches. It was a perfect time, and even Gerald felt the charm
and was silent, throwing acorns at his sisters.
"Sing, Roger," said Bell, at length, softly. "Sing 'Robin Hood!'"
So Roger sang, in a noble baritone voice, that joyous song of the
forest, and the woods rang to the chorus:
"So, though bold Robin's gone,
Yet his heart lives on,
And we drink to him with three times three."
"HANDS ACROSS THE SEA."
"Oh, how jolly you all look!" cried Hildegarde, peeping through
the hedge. "Where are you going?"
The Merryweathers were going to ride; so much was evident. Five
bicycles stood at the door, glittering in the sunlight; five
riders were in the act of mounting, plainly bound on a pleasure-
"Only for the mail, and a little spin after it," cried Mr.
Merryweather. "Wish you could come too, Miss Grahame. You will
certainly have to get a wheel and join us. Nothing like it, I
Bell and Gertrude, in trim short skirts and gaiters, sat already
perched, ready for the start; and Phil and Gerald were putting a
last touch to their shining metal-work.
Mrs. Merryweather came out on the steps, with Kitty by her side.
"Here are my letters, dear people," she said. "And don't forget
the boots, please; they are very important."
"May one inquire what boots?" asked Mr. Merryweather.
"I really have no idea!" replied his wife. "Somebody said at
breakfast that you must be sure to remember the boots, and dwelt
on their importance; therefore I mention them."
"Ou, avez-vous procure ce chapeau?" inquired Gerald, politely.
"My dear Gerald, you know that I will not endure slang that is
less than fifty years old."
"It isn't slang, Mother! At least it may be; but I want to know,
because, really, you know, ma'am, when it comes to baskets--"
Mrs. Merryweather put up her hand, and removed her head-gear.
"Dear me!" she said, "it is a basket, sure enough. That is very
curious! Why--why then, I must have picked the raspberries into my
A shout of laughter, in which Mrs. Merryweather joined placidly,
greeted this announcement. "I put plenty of green leaves in it,"
she said; "it will be all right. But I sent it to the minister's
wife, and I fear she will be surprised. My dear Gertrude, have you
learned your Latin lesson, that I see you starting off so freely?"
"Yes, mother," said Gertrude, sadly. "I learned it, and it was a
detestable lesson. I am SO tired of hearing that Titus Labienus
was stationed on a hill!"
"I know!" chimed in Phil. "I remember when I was in Caesar, about
forty years ago, and Titus Labby was on the hill then. It's my
belief he got stuck there, and was afraid to come down."
"That is curious!" said Mrs. Merryweather, meditatively. "Always
on a hill; why, so he is! That is rather interesting, don't you
"With all respect, I do not!" said Mr. Merryweather. "I desire to
depart. If Caesar had had a wheel, he would not have been so
"Oh, jolly!" cried Gerald. "Caesar commanded to let scoot the
legions through the morasses and bogges the bogs. Then came
Vercingetorix on a '91 Columbia, weighing seventy-three pounds,
and said, 'How in time am I to get up this hill?' Then spake to
him Caesar, and said these words,--Get out, you Ferguson!"
For Ferguson, swiftly departing, had launched a kick at his
brother in passing, nearly sending him from his seat. Gerald
whirled off in pursuit; the others followed more soberly, and the
whole party disappeared round the curve of the road.
Hildegarde looked after them rather dolefully. A year ago a girl
on a bicycle was a shocking thing to our heroine; she shook her
little head severely, and said that nothing would induce her to
mount one. Somehow her views had changed since she had seen the
Merryweathers on theirs. She began to think that it would be
uncommonly pleasant to go skimming along like a swallow, swooping
down the hills and whirling along the levels. "The nearest
approach to flying that this generation will see," Mr.
Merryweather called it, and Hilda inclined to think he was right.
"Remember that you are both coming over this morning," called Mrs.
Merryweather, cheerfully. "I mean this evening, of course, to tea.
We will have some music. Kitty, my dear, we must go to our
"Shall we bring our sewing out on the verandah, mammy?" asked
Hilda, rousing herself from a little reverie. "Ah, you have the
letters, sly one, and never told me!"
"I doubted if there was anything that would interest you, my
love," said Mrs. Grahame. "Yes; let us have our work, by all
means. There are one or two business letters that I should like
you to look over."
Hilda smiled and departed, revolving the thought that she was a
selfish and empty-headed wretch. She did not want to read business
letters; she wanted to be on a wheel, flying over the smooth road,
with the wind lifting her hair and breathing cool against her
cheek. And here was her mother sitting alone, and the new
tablecloths to hem, and--and altogether--"If you COULD tell me why
they thought it worth while to keep you," she said to herself, "I
should be glad to know it. Perhaps you can tell me what P-I-G
Returning with the wide sewing basket, she found her mother
looking over a pile of letters. "It is high time," said Mrs.
Grahame, "that you began to take some interest in business
matters." Hildegarde wondered what was coming; her mother looked
very grave; she held in her hand a square grey envelope. "I shall
be greatly obliged, therefore, my dear," her mother continued,
with the same portentous gravity, "if--you would--read that"; and
she gave the letter to Hildegarde.
"Oh, mamma! you wicked, wicked deceiver! You frightened me almost
to death; and it is from Jack, dear old Jack. Oh, how delightful!
You pleasant person, Mrs. Grahame; I forgive you, though my heart
still throbs with terror. Are you all comfortable, my own? Your
little feet all tucked up beneath your petticoat, so that they
cannot steal in and out? Don't you want a glass of milk, or a
cracker, or a saddle of mutton, or anything else? Then be silent!
and oh, how happy we shall be!" Hildegarde settled herself in her
chair, sighed with pleasure, and broke the seal of the fat letter.
"DEAR HILDA: It seems an age since I last wrote, but there is so
much going on I have hardly time to breathe. There have been some
awfully jolly concerts this spring, and I have been going to them,
and practising four hours a day, and having lessons and all that.
Herr J. played at the last two concerts, and I know what heaven is
like--my heaven, at least--since I heard him. He played--"
Here followed an accurate list of the great violinist's
performances, covering three sheets of note-paper.
"It isn't the technique and all that, though of course he is the
first in the world for that and everything else; it's the sense,
the heart that he puts into it. In that adagio--well, I played it
to you once, like the cheeky little duffer I was, and felt pleased
as Punch with myself, and no end cocked up because you liked it.
Hilda, I ought to have been taken out and shot for daring to touch
it! When the maestro (they call him maestro here, so you mustn't
think me Frenchified), when he played it, the world seemed just to
melt away, and nothing left but a voice, that sang, and sang, and
told you more than you ever dreamed of in all your life before. I
wish I could describe things, but you know I can't, so you won't
expect it. But one thing I will tell you, if you'll promise not to
tell any living soul--"
"Stop, my dear!" said Mrs. Grahame, quickly. "We must not touch
upon the boy's confidences. Head that part to yourself."
"Thank you, ma'am!" said Hilda. "This mark of trust is most
gratifying, I assure you. 'Not tell any living soul except your
mother, dear.' Now how do you feel, madam?"
"Dear Jack!" said Mrs. Grahame, softly. "Dear lad! of course I
shall like to hear it. Go on, Hilda, and I promise not to
"The day after the last concert--it was only day before yesterday,
but it seems an age--I went to take my lesson, and my master was
not there. He is often late, so I just took out some music and
began to play over the things I had studied. There was a sonata of
Rubinstein's, very splendid, that has quite possessed me lately. I
played that, and I suppose I forgot where I was and all about it,
for I went on and on, never hearing a sound except just the music.
You must hear it when I come back, Hilda. It begins in the minor,
and then there is the most superb sweep up into the major; your
heart seems to sweep up with it, and you find yourself in another
world, where everything is divine harmony. I'm talking nonsense, I
know, but that piece just sends me off my head altogether. Well,
at last I finished it and came down from the clouds, and when I
turned around, Hilda, there was the maestro himself, standing and
listening. Well! you can't go through the floor and all that sort
of thing, as they do in the fairy-books, but I did wish I was a
mouse, or a flea, or anything smaller that there is. He stood
still a minute. Perhaps he was afraid I would behave like some
asses the other day--they weren't Americans, I am happy to say--
who met him, and went down on their knees in the hotel entry, and
took bits of mud from his shoes for a keepsake; they truly did,
the horrid pigs! And he just said 'Dummkopfer!' and went off and
left them kneeling there. Wasn't that jolly? Well, I say, he might
have thought I would act like that, and yet I don't believe he
did, for he had the kindest, friendliest look on his face. He came
forward and held out his hand, and said, 'So you play the great
sonata, my son; and love it, too, I perceive.'
"I don't know exactly what I said,--some rubbish about how much I
cared for it; but I stammered mostly, and got all kinds of
colours. I guess you can tell pretty much how I behaved, though I
really am getting to be not quite so much of a muff. Anyhow, he
seemed to understand, and nodded, and said, 'Give me now the
violin, for there are things you understand not yet in the piece.'
"Oh, Hilda! he took my violin in his own hands, and played for me.
Think of it! the greatest master in the world, all alone with me
there, and playing like--like--well, I don't know how to say what
I mean, so you'll have to imagine it for yourself. He went all
through it, stopping once in a while to explain to me, and to
describe this or that shade of expression or turn of the wrist. It
was the most splendid lesson any one ever had, I believe. But that
is not the best, and I hardly like to tell even you the rest. You
may think I am just bluffing, and anyhow,--but it is the truth,
so--well, after about half an hour my master came in, and of
course he was delighted, and highly honoured, and bowing and
scraping and all. But the maestro came and put his hand on my
shoulder, and said, 'Friend, will you give me up this pupil,
"I don't mind if you don't believe it; I didn't myself, but
thought I was asleep and dreaming it all. 'I will give you in
exchange two others,' he said. 'The fat English lady has shortness
of breath, and cannot keep my hours of work, and the young Russian
makes eyes at me, which is not to be endured. Will you take them,
both very rich, and give me in exchange this child?'
"Of course there is only one answer, you know; it is like when a
king asks for anything. And besides, Herr Geiger is so good and
kind, he was really perfectly delighted at my having the great
chance,--the chance of a lifetime. So I am going this afternoon to
take my first regular lesson from the great master of the world,
and I don't deserve it, Hilda, and I wonder why everything is done
so for me, and such happiness given to a fellow like me, when
there are hundreds of other fellows who deserve it a great deal
more. I know what you and your mother would say, and I do feel it,
and I am thankful, I truly think, with all my heart, and I hope I
shall be a better fellow in every way, and try to make some
return. I couldn't go without telling you. Of course I wrote a
line to the governor first. He will be so happy! And of course if
it hadn't been for him, I never should have had any music, or any
violin, or anything; and without you and your mother, Hilda, I
never should have come here, that is certain. So I don't see very
clear, sometimes, when I think about you and him.
"Time for the lesson now. Good-bye! I am the happiest fellow in
the world! Best love to your mother, and uncle--no! shall write to
him by this mail.
"Always your affectionate
"P.S. Lesson glorious! he is really the greatest man in the world,
I don't care who the next is. I didn't thank you for your last
letter. Of course I felt for a minute as if my gas-balloon had
bust, when you told me that the lovely Rose was going to marry Dr.
Flower; but I guess it is all right. You see, she must be very
sweet and all that; but after all, I never saw her, and you say
she has no ear for music, and I am afraid that would have been a
pretty bad thing, don't you think so yourself? So I guess it is
all right, and I am as jolly as a coot. Awfully jolly about the
new neighbours turning out such bricks. Do any of them play or
"P.P.S. I fought my first duel yesterday, with a chap who slanged
the U. S. I got a cut on my left arm, but then, I cut a little
slice off his ear, so I was all right. J."
"Dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Grahame; "a duel! The naughty, naughty
boy! Those student duels are not apt to be serious affairs
nowadays, I believe, but still it seems a dreadful thing. What
will the Colonel say when he hears it?"
"He will very likely be pleased as Punch, as Jack says," rejoined
Hildegarde. "To have his milksop fight a duel would probably seem
to him a very encouraging thing. And of course, mammina, it isn't
like a real, dreadful duel, is it? I mean, it is more a kind of
horrid bear-play? But oh, to think of our Jack cutting off a piece
of a man's ear! It almost spoils the beautiful other part of it.
No, nothing can spoil that. Dear, delightful, stupid, glorious old
Jack! I always knew he had genius. When shall we see the Colonel?"
"Possibly to-night, at the Merryweathers'," said her mother.
"These pleasant little tea-parties seem to take in all our little
circle. See! there come the riders back again, Gerald and Phil
racing, as usual. Hear them shout! Certainly, never a family was
Hildegarde came up behind her mother, and put her arms lightly
round her neck.
"I prefer my pea!" she said. And the two women laughed and kissed
each other and went on with their work.
MERRY WEATHER INDOORS.
It rained that evening, so the plans for tennis were brought to
naught; but the evening was cheerful enough, in spite of the
pouring rain outside. The wide, book-strewn parlour of Pumpkin
House was bright with many lamps, and twinkling with laughing
faces of boys and girls. Mr. Merryweather, cheerfully resigned to
"company," possessed his soul and his pipe (being duly assured
that Mrs. Grahame liked the smell of tobacco), and the Colonel
puffed his cigar beside him. A little fire crackled on the hearth,
"just for society," Mrs. Merryweather said, and most of the
windows were wide open, making the air fresh and sweet with the
fragrance of wet vines and flowers. The two ladies were deep in
household matters, each finding it very pleasant to have a
companion of her own age, though each reflecting that the children
were much better company in the long run. The children themselves
were playing games, with gusts of laughter and little shrieks and
shouts of glee. They had had "Horned Lady," and Willy's head was a
forest of paper horns, skilfully twisted. Hugh had just gone
triumphantly through the whole list, "a sneezing elephant, a punch
in the head, a rag, a tatter, a good report, a bad report, a
cracked saucepan, a fuzzy tree-toad, a rat-catcher, a well-greaved
Greek, etc., etc., etc.
"There are no thoughts in this game, beloved," said the child when
he had finished, turning to Hildegarde. "My head turns round, but
it is empty inside."
"Good for Hugh!" cried Phil. "Just the same with me, Hugh. It
makes me feel all fuzzy inside my head, like the tree-toad."
"You ARE like a tree-toad!" said Gerald. "That is the resemblance
that has haunted me, and I could not make it out, because as a
rule tree-toads are not fuzzy. I thank thee, Jew--I mean Hugh--for
teaching me that word. My brother, the tree-toad! Every one will
know whom I mean."
"Just as they know you as the 'one as is a little wantin',"
retorted Phil. "Just think, Miss Hilda, Jerry and I spent a week
together at a house at Pemaquid, and Jerry left his sponge behind
him when he came away. Well, and when the captain of the tug
brought it over to the island where the rest of us were, he said
one of the boys had left it, the one as was a little wantin'. And
he said it was a pity about him, and asked if there warn't nothin'
they could do for his wits."
"That was because he heard me reciting my Greek cram to the cow,"
said Gerald. "Most responsive animal I ever saw, that cow, and
mooed in purest Attic every time I twisted her tail. And how about
the pitch-kettle, my gentle shepherd? Was I ever seen, I ask the
assembled family,--WAS I ever seen with a pitch-kettle on my head
instead of a hat?"
"Oh, Hilda!" exclaimed Bell; "you ought to have seen Phil. He had
been pitching the canoe,--this was ever so long ago, of course,--
and he thought it would be great fun to put the pitch-kettle on
his head. He thought it was quite dry, you see. So he did, and
went round with it for a little, so pleased and amused; and then
he saw some ladies coming, and tried to take it off, and it
wouldn't come. Oh dear! how we did laugh!"
"Yes, Miss Hilda, I should think they did!" cried Phil,
indignantly. "Sat there and chuckled like great apes, instead of
helping a fellow. And I had to crawl under barrels for about half
a mile, so that those people wouldn't see me."
"Poor Phil!" cried compassionate Hildegarde. "And did you get it
off at last?"
"First we tried butter," he said, "but that wouldn't stir it. Then
they gave me a bath of sweet oil, and put flour in my hair, and
hot water, and turtle soup, and I don't know what not; and the
more things they did, the faster the old thing stuck. So at last
we had to call the Mater, and she took the scissors and cut it
"Oh, meus oculus!" cried Gerald. "Do you remember how that kettle
looked, with a fringe of hair all around it? Half his hyacinth bed
on one fell kettle! He ought to have sung a 'Lock-aber no more!'"
"And we ought to have sung 'Philly, put the kettle on!'" cried
"Toots, don't exhaust your brain!" said Gerald, gravely. "You may
need it some time; there is no knowing. No knowing, but much
nosing!" he added. "Could you move the principal part of your
person, my child? It casts such a deep shadow that I cannot see
"Will some one please tell me what is the matter with Gertrude's
nose?" asked Hildegarde, innocently. "You are always talking about
it; it seems to me a very good nose indeed."
"Dear Hilda!" exclaimed Gertrude; "what a nice girl you are!"
"That is just the point, Miss Hilda," said Gerald. "It is an
excellent nose. Take it as a nose, it has no equal in the country,
we have been assured. If there is one thing this family is proud
of, it is Gertrude's nose. We may not be clever, or rich, or
beautiful, but we can always fall back on the nose; there's plenty
of room on it for the whole family."
"Why," put in Phil, "the Pater has been offered a dollar a pound
for that nose, and he wouldn't look at it."
"He couldn't see it," said Bell; "the nose was in the way."
"Why, one day we had been in bathing," said Phil, "and when we
came back, Toots hung her nose out of the window to dry, and went
to sleep and forgot it; and will you believe it? a fellow came
along and climbed right up it, just like 'Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let
down your hair,' you know. Ah! Oh, I say!"
At this outrage, Gertrude rose, and fell upon her brother tooth
and nail. She was a powerful child, and at the shock of her onset,
the seat of Phil's chair gave way, and he "sat through" like
little Silver-hair, and came suddenly to the floor, his head and
legs sticking up helplessly through the empty frame. The young
people were so overcome with laughter that no one could help him;
but Roger, who had been hidden in a convenient corner with an
absorbing monograph on trilobites that had just arrived by mail,
came forward and pulled his brother out.
"Dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Merryweather, looking up. "Philip, my
dear, it is strange that none of you can remember not to sit in
"What is the matter with the chair?" inquired Mr. Merryweather.
"The seat has been loose for a long time," said his wife. "It
always comes down when any one sits in it."
"And could it not be mended?"
"Why, yes," said Mrs. Merryweather, evidently receiving a new
idea. "I suppose it might be mended, Miles. Do you know, I never
thought of that! Certainly; it shall be mended. Bell, remind me
to-morrow to get some glue. That is one of the set of chairs that
came from my father's house, you remember, Miles, and the seats
were always loose. One night my mother had a party, and your Uncle
Frederick went round before the people came, and set the seats
forward in the frames, so that whoever sat down would go through
at once. The governor of the State was the first to take his seat,
and he went directly through to the floor, just as Phil did now.
My father was excessively angry, and Frederick and I spent the
next day in bed, but we thought it was worth the punishment."
"These are improving reminiscences, my dear Miranda!" said Mr.
"Oh! but what do you think mamma did this morning?" cried
Gertrude. "May I tell them, mamma? Do you mind?"
"Tell them, by all means, my dear," said Mrs. Merryweather,
cheerfully. "Did I do anything more foolish than usual? Oh, yes, I
remember! I was measuring the whale-oil soap. Tell them, Gerty, if
you think it would amuse them. I am not very useful," she added,
turning to Mrs. Grahame, "but I do seem to give a good deal of
amusement, and that is a good thing."
"Well," said Gertrude, "you see, we had to squirt the roses, and
mamma said she would make the whale-oil mixture for us, because it
is such horrid stuff, and we had some errands to do first. So I
came back after the errands, and she was measuring it out. Dear
mamma! am I a wretch?"
"Not at all, my child," said her mother. "I richly deserve to be
exposed; besides, one can always serve to point a moral. You see,
Mrs. Grahame, the receipt said, 'half a pint of soap to a gallon
of water! Now I had ten gallons of water, so I--tell what I was
doing, cruel child."
"She had the pint measure," said Gerty, "and she was filling it
half full and then pouring it into the water. She was going to do
that ten times, you see; and I said, 'Why don't you fill it full,
five times?' Darling mamma, I AM a wretch!"
"Yes, you are," cried Bell. "Poor mamma! dear mamma!"
The children all clustered round their mother, caressing her, and
murmuring affectionate words. Mrs. Merryweather smiled in a happy,
"I am a sad goose, good neighbours," she said; "but they always
bring me out right, somehow. There now, darlings, sit down, and be
good. And, by the way, Gertrude, I am minded to heap a coal of
fire on your head. Didn't you tell me this morning that Titus
Labienus was always on a hill, or something like that?"
"Yes," said Gertrude. "So he is, and ever will remain so. Have you
taken him down, dear mamma?"
"Not exactly!" said her mother. "But I have made a ballad about
him, and I thought it might possibly amuse you all."
An eager shout arose, and all the young people gathered in a
circle round the good lady's chair, while she read:--
"THE BALLAD OF TITUS LABIENUS."
Now Titus Labienus
Was stationed on a hill;
He sacrificed to Janus,
Then stood up stark and still'
He stood and gazed before him,
The best part of a week;
Then, as if anguish tore him,
Did Labienus speak:
"Oh, hearken, mighty Caesar I
Oh, Caius Julius C.,
It really seems to me, sir,
Things aren't as they should be.
I've looked into the future,
I've gazed beyond the years,
And as I'm not a butcher,
My heart is wrung to tears.
"All Gaul it is divided
In parts one, two and three,
And bravely you and I did,
In Britain o'er the sea.
In savage wilds the Teuton
Has felt your hand of steel,
Proud Rome you've set your boot on,
And ground it 'neath your heel.
"But looking down the ages,
There springs into my ken
A land not in your pages,
A land of coming men.
I would that it were handier
'Tis far across the sea:
The land that is to be.
"A land of stately cities,
A land of peace and truth:
But oh! the thousand pities!
A land of weeping youth.
A land of school and college,
Where youths and maidens go
A-seeking after knowledge,
But seeking it in woe.
"I hear the young men groaning!
I see the maidens fair,
With sighs and bitter moaning,
Tearing their long, fair hair.
And through the smoke of Janus
Their cry comes sad and shrill,
"Oh, Titus Labienus,
Come down from off that hill
"For centuries you've stood there,
And gazed upon the Swiss;
Yet never have withstood there
An enemy like this.
The misery of seeking,
The agony of doubt
Of who on earth is speaking,
And what 'tis all about."
"Now he had planned an action,
And brought his forces round;
But--well, there rose a faction,
And ran the thing aground.
And--their offence was heinous,
Yet Caesar had his will;
And Titus Labienus
Was stationed on a hill.
"'Then the Helvetii rallied,
To save themselves from wrack,
And from the towns they sallied,
And drove the Romans back.
The land was quite mounTAINous,
Yet they were put to flight;
And Titus Labienus
Was stationed on a height.
"'Then himself advised them
Upon the rear to fall;
But Dumnorix surprised them,
And sounded a recall.
Quoth he, "The gods sustain us!
These ills we'll still surmount!"
And Titus Labienus
Was stationed on a mount."
"Thus comes the cry to hand here
Across the western sea,
The land that is to be.
My heart is wrung with sorrow;
Hot springs the pitying tear.
Pray, Julius C., to-morrow
Let me get down from here I
"Oh, send me to the valley!
Oh, send me to the town!
Bid me rebuff the sally,
Or cut the stragglers down;
Send me once more to battle
I'll drive his Gallic cattle,
And stop his Gallic tricks.
"Oh! sooner shall my legion
Around my standard fall;
In grim Helvetic region,
Or in galumphing Gaul;
Sooner the foe enchain us,
Sooner our life-blood spill,
Than Titus Labienus
Stand longer on the hill!"
A NEW LIFE.
"Bell," said Hildegarde, "I really think I must be a cat in
"What do you mean, dear?" inquired Bell, looking up from her
"Why, I have had so many lives. This is the fifth, at the least
computation. It is very extraordinary."
Quiet Bell waited, seeing that more was coming. The two girls were
sitting on the end of a wharf, in the sparkling clearness of a
September morning. Before them stretched a great lake, a sheet of
silver, dotted as far as the eye could see with green islands.
Behind lay a pebbly beach, and farther up, nestled among a fringe
of forest trees, stood a bark hut, with broad verandahs and
overhanging eaves. Hildegarde looked up and around, her face
shining with pleasure.
"They have all been so happy--the lives," she said. "But this
surely is the most beautiful to look at. You see," here she turned
again to her companion, "first I was a little girl, and then a big
one, at home in New York; and a very singularly odious specimen of
both I was."
"Am I expected to believe this?" asked Bell, quietly.
"Oh yes! because I know, you see, and I remember just how
detestable I was. Children are so sometimes, you know, even with
the very best parents, and I certainly had those. Well, at last I
grew so unbearable that I had to be sent away. Oh, you need not
raise your eyebrows, my dear! It's very nice of you, but you never
saw me then. I don't mean that I was sent to the Reform School;
but my father and mother had to go to California, and I was not
strong, so the journey was not thought best for me; and besides,
dear mamma saw that if I was ever going to amount to anything I
must be taken away from the fashionable school and the set of
girls I was getting intimate with. I wasn't intimate with mamma
then; I didn't want to be. The other girls were not, and I thought
it would be silly; think of it, Bell! Well, I was sent, a forlorn
and furious child (fifteen years old though, the same age as dear,
sweet Gertrude), to my mother's old nurse in the country,--a
farmer's wife, living on a small farm, twenty miles from a city.
There, my dear, I first learned that there was a world outside the
city of New York. I must tell you all about it some day,--the
happy, blessed time I had with those dear people, and how I
learned to know my own dearest ones while I was away from them. I
buried that first Hildegarde, very dead, oh, very dead indeed!
Then the next summer I went to a new world, and my Rose went with
me. I have told you about her, and how sweet she is, and how ill
she was, and now how she is going to marry the good doctor who
cured her of her lameness. We spent the summer with Cousin Wealthy
Bond, a cousin of my mother's,--the loveliest old lady, living
down in Maine. That was a very new world, Bell; and oh! I have a
child there, a little boy, my Benny. At least, he is Cousin
Wealthy's Benny now, for she is bringing him up as her own, and
loves him really as if he were; but I always think of him as
partly mine, because Rose and I found him in the hospital where we
used to go to carry flowers. He had been very ill, and we got
Cousin Wealthy to let him come to her house to get well. And
through, that, somehow, there came to be a little convalescent
home for the children from the hospital,--oh, I must tell you that
story too, some day, and it is called Joyous Gard. Yes, of course
I named it, and I was there for a month this spring, before you
came, and had the most enchanting time. I took Hugh with me, and
the only trouble was that Benny was madly jealous of him, and gave
him no peace. Poor Benny! he is a dear, nice little boy, but not
like Hugh, of course, and that exasperated him past belief. It was
just like Lord Lardy and the waiter in the Bab Ballad, for Hugh
was entirely unconscious, and would smile peacefully at Benny's
demonstrations of wrath, thinking it all a joke.
"Oh, I could talk all day about Benny and Cousin Wealthy, and
nice, funny Mrs. Brett, and all of them. Well, then, two years ago
came our trouble, you know. Dear papa died, and we came out here,
feeling very strange and lost. It was sad at first, of course; but
oh, we have had such peace and happiness together, my mother dear
and I! The last year, when we had grown used to doing without the
dear one, and knew--but mamma always knew it--that we must make
happiness for each other,--the last year has been a most lovely
time. But sweet and happy as it has all been, Bell, still I have
always had a small circle to love and to be with. Mamma, bless
her, and at one time one set of dear friends, and at another time
another; never many people at once, and life peaceful and lovely,
but one day pretty much like another, you see. But since you all
came, I have been in a new world altogether,--a great, merry,
laughing world, with such lots of children and fun--"
"And noise!" put in Bell. "We are a dreadfully noisy set, I fear."
"Oh, noise is good," cried Hildegarde, "such happy, healthy noise
as this. I love it, though it did startle me at first. It seemed
pleasant enough to have you all next door; but then came this last
development,--Cousin Wealthy's illness, and her sending for mamma,
and your mother's kindness in bringing me out to this delightful
place. It is all like a fairy tale. I used to hear of people's
camping out, but I always thought I should hate it. Hate this!"
She looked up at the brilliant sky above her, and around at the
shining lake, the dark trees drooping to the water's edge, the
green islands sleeping in the sunshine. "Oh, pleasant place!" she
They were silent for a few moments; Bell was scouring dishpans
till they shone like silver, while Hildegarde thoughtfully wrung
out the dishcloths that she had been washing as she talked.
"I suppose," said Bell, slowly, "life is always good, when we want
to make it so. There are so many different kinds of life,--I have
known so many in the short time I have been alive, and it didn't
seem to make much difference about the outside of them. Some of
the poorest and most suffering lives have been the happiest and
blessedest, and again some that have money and health and
everything that so many people sigh for, are miserable, for one
reason or another. I can't bear to hear girls say, 'Oh, if I only
had money! I would do so much, and be so good, and all that sort
of thing.' I always want to say, 'Why don't you begin with what
you have?' I did say it once to a girl, and she has hardly spoken
to me since. She had been wishing that she had a hundred dollars
to give to the Mission Society, and when I asked her for ten cents
(I was the collector) she said she had only one dime, and she must
get some soda water, or she should die."
"The creature! what did you say to her?"
"I said, 'Possibly the world would continue to revolve if you
did!' and stalked away. Oh, I cannot stand that sort of thing, you
know! And if you are a girl, you can't knock people down when they
Bell spoke regretfully, and Hildegarde could not help laughing at
her friend's angry eyes and kindling cheek. The strong white bare
arms, the deep chest and square shoulders, looked as if Bell would
be no mean antagonist.
"I should not like to have you knock me down, my dear!" said
"You never would need it," said Bell. "But I can tell you, Hilda,
there are times when I feel as if a blow from the shoulder would
be the best argument in the world. I love fighting! and I think I
am rather a bonny fighter, as Alan Breck says. Roger taught me to
Hildegarde opened her eyes a little at this, boxing never having
come within her horizon of feminine accomplishments.
"Does Professor Merryweather know how to do everything?" she
asked. "He seems to be the Admirable Crichton come to life again."
"Nearly everything," said Bell, with judicious candour. "He cannot
write verses, and he does not like dancing; those are the only
things I can think of just now."
A birch canoe glided silently round the point; Roger was kneeling
in the stern, paddling, Indian fashion, while Will and Kitty were
curled up like two kittens in the bow. Hildegarde thought to
herself that he was the handsomest man she had ever seen, so
strong, so gentle, so perfectly graceful; but she did not say so.
"What luck?" cried Bell, as the Cheemaun came alongside the wharf.
Roger held up a string of gleaming fish, two of them long, deep-
bodied fellows, striped with pink and silver. Willy was happy with
three hideous horned pouts, which he declared were the best fish
"Oh, pickerel! how delightful!" cried Bell, as she took the
beauties from her brother's hands. "We will bake them for supper,
Hilda; it is our turn, isn't it?"
"Oh!" said Willy, "I thought it was Toots' and Roger's turn. Toots
makes the best griddle-cakes, and she ought always to get supper."
"Willy, you ungrateful little monster!" cried Bell. "And you said
only last night that my biscuits were a dream of joy. You won't
find me baking an extra pan for you, if you are going to turn upon
me in this way."
"Oh yes! so you did, sister," said Willy, penitently. "But you
see, I am griddle-cake hungry to-day, and yesterday I wasn't."
"Come, Hilda! we'll make our little gentleman pickerel-hungry
before he is an hour older!" and the two girls hurried into the
Inside the camp was a large, low room, with a huge open fireplace
filling nearly one side. A plain table stood in the middle; two
hammocks were slung against the walls, which were hung with guns
and fishing-rods. A bookcase in one corner, and Mrs.
Merryweather's workstand in another, completed the furniture of
the primitive parlour. On one side a door opened into the tiny
kitchen, and hither the girls now betook themselves, after
reminding Will and Kitty that it was their turn to set the supper
table. The fire was soon burning brightly in the stove, the kettle
put on to boil, and Hildegarde, rolling up her sleeves, set to
work mixing and moulding biscuits, while Bell devoted herself to
the stuffing and dressing of the big fish.
"I wish I had Izaak Walton here!" she said, as she mixed the bread
"Father Izaak pleasant company would be at any moment," Hilda
assented; "but what do you want him for just now? To cook the fish
"Not exactly; I doubt if he was as good in the kitchen as by the
brookside; but to give me his famous receipt for cooking pickerel.
I should like to astonish the family with it. I remember that it
has thyme in it, and sweet marjoram and summer savory, not to
mention oysters and anchovies, a pound of butter, a bottle of
claret and three or four oranges; he gives you your choice about
two cloves of garlic, and says you need not have them unless you
like. Perhaps on the whole it is just as well not to try the dish
at present; the anchovies were left behind, and the orange trees
are not bearing very well this year."
"Dear me!" said Hildegarde. "That is as bad as my Southern receipt
for wedding cake. Two hundred and one pounds of flour and fruit,
and ten eggs to the pound; and if it isn't rich enough then, you
can add two pounds of currants and one of raisins for each pound
of flour. That would make,--let me see! I worked it all out once:
two hundred and seventy pounds of things, and two thousand seven
hundred eggs. What do you suppose they baked it in?"
"In the well!" said Bell. "That would hold it. Or else they built
a pavilion round it, and had the bride and groom dance a minuet on
the top after the ceremony. What fun cook-books are! Any more
pleasantnesses in your Southern friend?"
"Oh, all kinds of good things! I remember the receipt for Seminole
soup; we ought to try that out here, if we could find the
ingredients. 'Take a squirrel, cut it up and put it on to boil.
When the soup is nearly done add to it one pint of picked hickory-
nuts and a spoonful of parched and powdered sassafras leaves, or
the tender top of a young pine tree, which gives a very aromatic
flavour to the soup.'"
"Oh, do somebody get us a pine tree!" cried Bell. "That is truly
delightful! We must try it some day. Now it is my turn. I quote
from Mrs. Rundell the glorious. This is what she gives to the
poor; I don't want to be poor in Mrs. Rundell's parish.
"'Cut a very thick upper crust of bread, and put it into the pot
where salt beef is boiling and near ready; it will attract some of
the fat, and, when swelled out, will be no unpalatable dish to
those who rarely taste meat.' That is called a brewis, my dear;
suppose we give it to our pampered family here some day, and see
what they say. How nearly are your biscuits done? I hear the
people growling inside, like hungry bears. Uncle Pickerel is
beginning to smell very good."
"Another five minutes will give them the requisite 'beautiful
light brown'" said Hildegarde, peeping into the oven. "And the tea
is made, and the potatoes are tearing off their jackets in
impatience to be eaten."
"Are we going to have any supper?" asked Phil, looking in from the
dining-room. "Roger has fainted with hunger, and lies a pallid
heap on the floor, and Obadiah is gnawing his boots in his agony."
"As long as he does not swallow the nails," said Bell, calmly, "it
will do him no harm. Have the babes got the table ready?"
"All ready, sister!" cried Kitty. "Cups and saucers and plates,
and--oh, Willy, we have forgotten the butter! Why do we always
forget the butter?"
In five minutes the whole family were seated round the table, with
the lamp burning brightly above their heads. Bell came in
triumphantly, bearing the mighty pickerel in their glory, on a
huge platter decorated with green leaves and golden-rod.
Hildegarde followed, flushed and sparkling, with her biscuits and
coffee; and every one fell to with right good will.
"Why is it that everything tastes so good here?" demanded Will.
"At home I can't always eat as much as I want to, and here I can
always eat more than there is; and yet there is lots!" he added,
surveying the broad table, heaped with substantial victuals of
"Ah! that's the beauty of it!" cried Gerald, spearing a potato.
"The human capacity enlarges, my son, with every mile one retires
from civilisation. When I was a Kickapoo Indian, Willy, I ate for
three weeks without stopping, and I had three buffaloes at a--"
"Gerald, my dear!" said Mrs. Merryweather.
"Yes, Mater, my dear!" said the unblushing Gerald. "I was only
trying to expand his mind, like the Ninkum. Excellent biscuits,
Miss Hilda! three more, if you please."
It was clear moonlight when the girls went to bed; clear, that is,
to Hildegarde's unpractised eyes. She saw only the brilliant stars
overhead, and took no note of the low bank of cloud in the south.
Captain Roger (for Roger was in command at camp, Mr. Merryweather
only coming out at night on his bicycle, and going in again to his
business in the morning), after a critical survey of the sky, went
the rounds in his quiet way before bedtime, making all secure, but
said nothing to anybody. Going to bed was a matter of some labour
at the camp. During the day the beds were piled one on top of
another in the one bedroom, the blankets, after hanging in the air
for two or three hours, being folded and laid over them. Only in
the tent where Mr. and Mrs. Merryweather slept the beds remained
stationary all day, the sides of the tent being rolled high, to
let the air circulate in every direction.
When nine o'clock came, or ten, as the case might be, the order
was given, "Bring out the beds!" Straightway the boys made broad
their backs, and walked about like long-legged tortoises,
distributing mattresses here and there. The three girls slept in
the bedroom which opened off the living-room; the boys and Roger
carried their beds into the second tent, or under the trees, or
into the boat-house, as fancy suggested, and the wind favoured.
Then blankets were unrolled, and the business of bed-making went
As I said, it was clear moonlight when the girls went to bed; but
somewhere in the middle of the night Hildegarde was waked by a
rustle and a roar. Visions of lions ramped before her still-
dreaming eyes; she shuddered awake, to find a gale raging round
the camp. Outside was one continuous roar of waves on the shore,
while overhead the wind clutched and tore at the branches, and
shook the frail hut to its foundations. Hildegarde lay still and
listened, with a luxurious sense of safety amid the wild tumult.
"But I am safe, and live at home!" she said softly. Then suddenly
a thought came, like a cold hand laid on her heart, and she sat up
in bed, her breath coming quickly.
"Bell!" she said, under breath, that she might not wake little
Kitty, "Bell, wake up!"
"What is it?" asked Bell, turning drowsily on her side. "Not our
turn to get breakfast, you know."
"There is a storm! Hear it raging outside. Oh, Bell! the birch
canoe! Can you remember whether we put her in the boat-house when
we came in from paddling?"
Bell was wide awake now, and on her feet in an instant.
"We did not!" she said, searching frantically for her clothes. "My
dear, we left her; don't you remember? The boys were just cutting
wood, and we thought we would wait till they finished, and then,--
what a wretch I am! What IS happening to this skirt?"
"I am putting it on too," said Hildegarde. "It is mine. Here is
yours. Now a jacket; there, we are all right. Is any one sleeping
on the piazza?"
"No, they all went up to the pine grove to-night, or last night,
or whenever it was. Have you any idea what time it is? Carefully
now, Hilda. I will open the door, and you must be ready to help me
The two girls stepped out into the black night, and the wind
clutched them. They were thrown violently against the wall of the
hut, but contrived to shut the door and make it fast; then,
bending low and holding by each other, they crept along toward the
boat-house. The waves were dashing against the rocks, the spray
flew in their faces, half blinding them; but it was not very dark,
as there was a moon behind the clouds, and they could see their
"Do you think we shall find her?" asked Hildegarde under her
"I can't hear!" shouted Bell.
"Do you think we shall find her?"
Hildegarde thought she was shrieking, but her friend only shook
"That comes of asking stupid questions," said Hildegarde to
herself; and she lowered her head and fought her way on in
Now, groping with their hands, they found the wall of the
boathouse, and crept along in its lee, sheltered somewhat from the
blast; but when they stepped out on the wharf, the wind seized
them with such fury that Hildegarde tottered, staggered back a
step, and felt the ground slip from under her. Another moment, and
she would have been in the wild water; but Bell held her with a
grasp of steel, and with one strong heave lifted her bodily to the
wharf again. Then she shook her gently, "to bring back your
nerve!" she shouted in explanation; and the next moment recoiled
herself with a shriek that rang above the roar of wind and wave.
Up from the wharf rose two forms, blacker than the blackness of
night and storm, and confronted them. The two girls clung close
"What is it?" cried Bell, faintly.
Now Hildegarde was in mortal terror of the storm, but she did not
fear anything that had human shape. "Who are you?" she asked,
sternly. "What are you doing on this wharf?"
"We are playing on the jewsharp!" replied a familiar voice. "What
are YOU doing, if it comes to that?"
"Oh, Jerry! oh, Phil! how could you frighten us so? We thought,--I
don't know what we didn't think. We came to see if the canoe was
safe. We forgot to see that you put her up after tea."
"Just what we came for," said Phil. "She isn't here; I'm afraid
The girls uttered a cry of dismay.
"Oh, it can't be! Look in the boathouse, boys; it is possible--"
"It is highly possible," said Jerry, "that she got up on end and
walked in, as soon as she saw that the weather looked squally.
She's a very sensible boat, but weak in the legs, if you follow
me. I think she's gone; and a very pretty kettle of fish she makes
to seethe two tender bodies in. I wouldn't be us, Fergs, my boy,
when the Cap'n finds it out to-morrow."
"Wait," said Hildegarde, "oh, wait! Don't let us give up hope. It
will do no harm to look, Jerry."
"No harm in life," said Jerry. "Just hold on to this wind, will
you, while I get in."
With some difficulty he opened the boat-house door; then,
sheltered behind it, he struck a match, while all pressed eagerly
forward. There in her place, high and dry, lay the birch canoe.
Nobody said anything for a moment; the relief was too great.
Hildegarde felt the tears come to her eyes, she could not tell
why; but she found herself saying under her breath, "We might have
known he would do it; he always takes care of everything."
"Roger is a tedious person," said Gerald, turning off his
satisfaction with a laugh. "The amount of virtue that he staggers
under is enough to swamp anybody. He will come to the gallows yet,
you'll see! Human nature must assert itself some time. Whew! there
goes my head! Catch it, Bell, will you?"
"I am very, VERY hungry!" Phil announced with mournful emphasis.
"It makes me starved to play this kind of game in the middle of
the night. Can't we have some food, to celebrate the safety of the
"Me, too!" cried Gerald. "I am dying, Egypt, dying! a corpse among
the alders dank---"
"Oh, do stop, boys!" cried Bell. "I'll push you off the wharf if
you go on so."
"Oh, wouldn't us lorf, if she pushed us off the wharf!" cried
"I am cross!" said Bell. "My hair is wound all round my neck, and
I am half strangled. You boys think of nothing but eating from
morning till night. But I am hungry myself, so come along!"
The four buffeted their way back to the house, and Phil climbed in
at the pantry window and opened the kitchen door for the dripping
party. They lighted a lantern, and judicious rummaging produced
crackers and cheese, gingerbread, and some bottles of root beer.
Merrily the four adventurers gathered round the table, dripping,
rosy and breathless; the girls' long locks hung down over their
shoulders, the boys' short curls were plastered close to their
"We must be a lovely sight!" said Bell. "What a pity there is no
one to see us! What do you want, Jerry?"
"I want raspberry jam, chiefly," said Gerald, "but first I want to
make a speech. I propose a sentiment. Pledging the assembled
company in this beaker of rich wine--. Let go that bottle,
Ferguson, or I'll have your life! that's my beaker, I tell you!
There! now you've upset it. Attendez seulement bis ich dein tete
"Take the butter-dish," said Bell. "That will do just as well."
"I pledge the assembled company in this rich butter," Gerald
continued with dignity, "though it is not so comfortable to drink,
and I propose, first, the confusion of Ferguson, who is a
pettifogger and an armadillo, and, secondly, the health of our
captain, Roger, the Codger, who saved the Cheemaun. Three cheers
for the well-bred captain of the--"
"Thank you so much!" said Roger, looking in through the window.
"Empty compliments are all very well, but I think I might have
been asked to supper."
He was hailed with a chorus of shouts, and stepping in through the
window, drew up a stool and sat down by Hildegarde.
"What HAVE you been doing, children?" he asked, looking round at
the four, who had now arrived at the smoking stage of dampness,
each sending up his little pillar of cloud.
Four eager voices told him of the search and the finding, and he
smiled quietly as he helped himself to jam.
"I wonder what you took me for!" he said, "I truly wonder. The
boat went to bed at nine o'clock, with the rest of the children. I
beg your pardon, Miss Grahame," he added, turning to Hildegarde
with his kind, grave smile, "for naming you in company with this
lawless crew of mine."
"Oh, please," cried Hildegarde, "I like to--I wish I were--" She
stammered, and felt herself blushing in the furious way that makes
a girl the most helpless creature in the world. She would have
given her hand, she thought, to keep back the tide that surged up
over throat and cheek and brow. "When there is nothing earthly to
blush about, ninny!" she almost cried aloud.
But Bell came to the rescue. "She wishes she were much wiser than
the rest of us, Roger, but she doesn't think she is, and I am
really not so sure about it myself. That is the best part of her:
she's just a girl."
"Just a girl!" said Roger, looking at Hildegarde; and he looked so
kindly that poor Hildegarde blushed again.
A-SAILING WE WILL GO.
"Friends," said Mrs. Merryweather, "the day is before us. What is
the plan of action?"
"I go a-fishing," said Roger; "and with me Willy, to take his
first lesson in bass-fishing."
"I tinker the wharf," said Phil; "and with me Obadiah, to take his
first lesson in useful occupation."
"Verily and in good sooth," put in Gerald, "the most useful
occupation I can think of, my peripatetic food-absorber, would be
to heave thee into the glassy deep."
"Like to see you try it!" said Ferguson.
"Anything to oblige!" replied Obadiah, rising with, alacrity.
"Don't booby, boys!" said Roger, with quiet authority. "Let other
people have a chance to speak."
"Hilda and I will make a pie!" said Bell; "'which is werse,' said
Mr. Peggotty, 'though sich were not my intentions.'"
"And I have gingerbread to make, and raspberries to pick," said
Gertrude, "so Kitty must help me."
"But what do I see?" cried Gerald, in tragic tones. "A vessel in
the offing, headed in this direction. Now who do you suppose has
the cheek to come here?"
"Probably some lunatic is thirsty," said Phil, "and wants a glass
of water. You know, Miss Hilda, they come here by the boatload,
asking for water, and we show them the lake and tell 'em to help
themselves. It makes them hop with rage. They say, 'What! do you
drink THIS?' Then, when we tell them that all their water supply
comes from this lake, they grin like a dog and go about the city,-
-I mean depart on their imbecile way. But these people are all
dressed up. Oh, Momus and Comus! There are girls on board! Come
The twins vanished, and the others looked curiously at the
approaching craft. It was a small steam launch, gayly adorned with
paint and streamers; in the bow stood a light, girlish figure,
waving a handkerchief and gesticulating with fervour.
"Who can it be?" asked Mrs. Merryweather. "The boat is from
Pollock's Cove, isn't it, Roger?"
"Yes; but I see no one on board that I know. That young lady
evidently thinks she is coming among friends, however. Look! they
are putting out a boat. I will go and see what is wanted."
He went to the wharf, and the rest waited in some amusement,
thinking that a mistake had been made. To their amazement they saw
Roger, after a moment's parley, help the young lady out of the
boat, which straight-way returned to the launch; before they had
time to exchange wonderments, she was advancing toward them with
"My dearest, dearest Hildegarde! Do I see you again, after so many
years? Quel plaisir! what joy!"
The young lady was dressed in the extreme of fashion, with little
boots, and little gloves, and a dotted veil, and a chiffon
parasol, and Hildegarde was folded in a perfumed embrace before
she had fairly recognised her visitor.
"Madge!" she cried, "is it really you?"
"Myself, cherie! your own Madge. I heard that you were in the
wilderness and flew to you. What a change, my dearest, from---"
"Mrs. Merryweather," said Hildegarde, her cheeks burning, but her
voice quiet and courteous, "this is Margaret Everton, an old
school-mate of mine. Mrs. Merryweather, Madge, with whom I am
staying. Miss Merryweather, Professor Merryweather, Miss Everton."
"Oh, hum--mum-m-m-m-m-m!" said Madge, or something that sounded
like it. The Merryweathers welcomed her courteously, and Mrs.
Merryweather asked if she had come over from Pollock's Cove.
"Oh, yes! I am staying there for a day or two. Some friends of
mine are there, charming people, and I heard that Hildegarde was
here, and of course I flew to see her. She is my oldest and
dearest friend, Mrs. Merryweather."
"Indeed!" said Mrs. Merryweather, with friendly interest.
"Yes, indeed. We were at school together, and like twins, except
for the difference in colouring. Ah, les beaux jours d'enfance,
Hilda, my love! And you are quite, quite unchanged since the happy
days at Madame Haut Ton's. 'Queen Hildegarde' we used to call her
then, Miss Merryweather. Yes, indeed! she was the proudest, the
most exclusive girl on Murray Hill. The little aristocratic turn
of her head when she saw anything vulgar or common was quite too
killing. Turn your head, Hilda, my love!"
Hildegarde coloured hotly. "Please don't be absurd, Madge!" she
"Pray turn your head, Miss Grahame!" said Roger Merryweather,
gravely. "I am sure it would interest us."
Hildegarde shot an imploring glance at him, and turned in
desperation to her visitor.
"It is a long time since I have heard from you, Madge," she said.
"I am sure you must have a great deal to tell me. If Mrs.
Merryweather will excuse us, suppose we go for a little walk
"Surely, my dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Merryweather, with perhaps
But Madge had made herself very comfortable on the verandah, and
had no intention of stirring just yet. Go scrambling about over
rocks, and tearing herself to pieces among bushes? Hardly.
Besides, one glance had shown her that Professor Merryweather was
uncommonly good-looking. She settled herself gracefully in her
chair, and gave a pretty little sigh.
"Dear child, I am a wretched walker, alas! You know I never was
strong, and this winter's gaiety quite finished me. I am ordered
to rest, positively, this summer, under the severest penalties. It
was really a terrible winter in New York. Every one said it was a
wonder the girls were not killed, they went such a pace. Do you
never come over to Pollock's Cove, Professor Merryweather? we had
such a charming hop there last night; danced till two o'clock,
with SUCH music! You must positively come over for the next one;
we are to have them every week."
Roger thanked her, but was not a dancing man, and hops were hardly
in their line out here.
"Not a dancing man! What a confession, Professor Merryweather! But
I am sure you really dance beautifully; doesn't he, Hilda?"
"I don't know!" said Hilda, laughing. "He has never asked me to
"Ah! you are quizzing me. I will never believe he could be so
ungallant. But Hilda, I hear that really you live in positive
seclusion, like a nun without a convent. My dear, how tragic, to
pass your best years in this way! I told mamma that I should
positively implore you to come to me this winter, and she said it
was my DUTY. To think of YOU, Hilda, forswearing the world! It is
too BIZARRE! But we have not forgotten our little queen on Murray
Hill; no, no, dear!"
"You are mistaken, Madge," said Hilda. "I was in New York for
several weeks last winter, staying with Aunt Anna; but you were in
Washington at the time."
"Oh, but I heard of you!" cried Madge, archly. "I heard how the
whole Hill was at Miss Grahame's feet, and how Bobby Van Sittart
nearly went into a decline because she would not smile on his
suit. I heard--"
"I think you heard a great deal of nonsense, Madge!" said Hilda
with some asperity. "Come! you would like to see something of the
island before the steamer comes to take you back. I will get the
canoe and take you for a paddle."
Madge recoiled with a pretty shriek.
"Oh, horrors! Trust myself in a horrid tippy canoe, with a girl?
Never, my dear! I value my life too highly, I assure you. But
there is a sailboat! I dote on sailing, and I am sure Professor
Merryweather is a superb sailor."
Professor Merryweather rose with a smile, and would be charmed to
take the young ladies out in the Keewaydin.
"Oh, but, Captain Roger, you were going out fishing!" cried
Hildegarde, her cheeks crimson with mortification.
Roger looked at her with a twinkle. "The fishes are not expected
to migrate just yet, and there is a good wind for sailing. Pray
come, Miss Grahame!"
Madge was already on her feet, fluttering with coquetry; and
Hildegarde, after a despairing glance at Mrs. Merryweather, saw
that she could do nothing but lead the way to the wharf.
"Won't you come, Bell?" she asked wistfully; but Bell was cruel,
and said she must attend to her cooking; adding for the special
edification of the stranger that she had the floor to scrub and
the fish to clean. In silence Hildegarde walked down the wharf;
she was thoroughly upset, and turning to look back to the house,
it did not restore her composure to see Obadiah and Ferguson
standing on their hands on the piazza, waving their feet in the
air with every demonstration of frantic joy.
The little rowboat was unmoored, and a few quick strokes brought
them alongside the Keewaydin. Hildegarde had never thought it
could be anything but pleasure to her to board this beloved
vessel, but she found herself now wishing that sailing had never
been invented. She glanced timidly at Roger, but there was no
expression in his face as he handed Madge on board, and replied
gravely to her lively questions. Madge was treading on air. They
had told her at Pollock's Cove that she would not be able to get a
word out of the handsome young professor; and here he was at her
side, perhaps--who knew?--soon to be at her feet. A little absent-
minded, to be sure, but they were often that way when a strong
impression had been made. As for poor Hilda, it was really
lamentable to see how utterly she had lost her savoir-faire,
living in the wilderness. Here was this charming man, really with
the bel air, and distinguished in some way or other, and she was
as mute as a fish. Really, it was a charity to come and see her.
"Would you like to take the helm, Miss Hilda?" asked Roger.
Hilda thanked him with a glance, and took her place at the tiller
"Oh, Professor Merryweather! are you really going to trust us to
Hilda's steering? I am sure, now, you think girls are too ignorant
to know anything about that sort of thing. I wonder at you! OUR
lives may not be of much consequence, because, of course, we are
only silly little girls, but to risk your own life so, really, I
She paused for the compliment that should follow, but Roger only
said, "Bear away, please!" and loosened the sheet a little.
"Did your ears burn yesterday, Professor Merryweather? I am sure
they must have. Everybody was talking about you at the hotel, and
they said you had done something so remarkable,--something about a
prism, wasn't it? You remember, Hilda, all the prisms on the
chandeliers at Madame Haut Ton's! Do yours go on a chandelier,
"Not exactly!" said Roger. "You have a large party at Pollock's, I
believe, Miss Everton? I think I heard the Sinclairs say they were
to be there this month."
"Oh, aren't the Sinclairs enchanting?" cried Madge, with effusion.
"And isn't Jack simply delicious? I danced with him ten times last
night, and each dance was better than the last. Professor
Merryweather, I shall give you no peace till you promise to come
over for the next hop."
"We are not to expect peace in this world, are we?" said Roger,
smiling. "Steady, Miss Grahame! as you are!"
"I think nautical terms are too delicious!" cried Madge. "And that
reminds me, Hilda, Grace Atherleigh has just come back from
Europe. She has been away three years, you know; in Paris most of
the time,--dear Paris! Don't you adore it, Professor Merryweather?
And she has brought back forty-three dresses. Yes, my dear, it is
true, for I had it from her aunt, Mrs. Gusham. Forty-three
dresses, all made this spring. And she had the most horrible time
at the custom-house--"
"Madge," said Hildegarde, as patiently as she could, "will you
please wait for the stories till we get back to the wharf? I must
attend to the steering, and I cannot listen at the same time."
"My dear, I am dumb! I only just want to tell you before I forget
it--you know what a wretched memory I have--what happened--"
"Luff!" said Roger, suddenly. "Luff, child, LUFF!"
Startled and confused, Hildegarde tried to do as she was told,
but, in her distress, did exactly the opposite, and bore away; a
grating sound was heard: the boat slid forward a few feet and
"Oh, what have I done?" cried poor Hilda.
"Nothing of consequence! We have run on a shoal, that is all. Sit
steady, please, ladies!"
Roger was overboard in an instant, up to his waist in water,
pushing at the boat. Hilda sat dumb and scarlet, and even Madge
was subdued for the time, and murmured exclamations under her
breath. It was only a moment; a few vigorous shoves set the
Keewaydin afloat again, and Roger leaped lightly in.
"Perhaps I would better take the tiller this time!" he said. "The
bottom seems to be shoal all about here. And if you and Miss
Everton will sit a little forward, Hilda, you will be more
comfortable; I fear I cannot help dripping like hoary Nereus all
over the stern here."
He had never called her by her name before. Hildegarde reflected
that for once she could not blush, being already a Tyrian purple.
Of course it slipped out without his knowing it; but she was
conscious of Madge's gaze, and for once was thankful for her
This incident, or something else, had a quieting effect upon Miss
Everton, and the sail home was a silent one. Roger was not
inclined to talk, and he had a power of silence which was apt to
extend to his companions; so they were all relieved when the
Keewaydin glided gracefully to her moorings, and Ferguson appeared
in the small boat to take them ashore.
"This is my brother Philip, Miss Everton!" said Roger. "Now if you
will step into the boat, he will take you and Miss Grahame ashore,
while I make all fast here. If you will take his hand, and be
careful to step in the middle of the boat. In the MIDDLE of the
boat, Miss Everton! Ah!" For Madge, with an airy leap, had
alighted full on the gunwale. Down went the boat; the girl tried
to regain her balance, but in vain, and after a few moments'
frantic struggle, fell headlong into the water.
Phil had thrown himself to starboard the moment he felt the shock
of her alighting, hoping to counterbalance her weight; but he was
too light. Now, however, he leaned swiftly forward, and caught the
little French boots as they disappeared under the clear water.
There was nothing else to be done. In this ignominious way, feet
foremost, poor Madge had to be dragged in over the gunwale,
dripping and shrieking.
"You odious boy!" she cried, as soon as she could find breath.
"You did it on purpose! You tried to drown me, I know you did!"
Hildegarde hastened to her assistance. Roger, his face set like a
rock, but his eyes dancing wickedly, proffered his aid, but was
peevishly repulsed. As for Phil, he could only try to control
himself, and murmured broken excuses between the gusts of laughter
which shook him like a reed. Madge was a sorry sight, all her gay
plumes broken and dripping, her spotted veil in a little wet mop
over one eye, her floating curls reduced to forlorn strings of wet
hair, her light dress clinging about her. How different from the
bright bird of paradise that had so lately fluttered down on the
camp, bent on conquest! Now her only thought was to escape. Mrs.
Merryweather met her on the wharf with open arms and a warm
blanket, and she was brought to the camp, and dried and warmed as
quickly as possible. But Madge's temper, none of the sweetest by
nature, was completely spoiled; she had only peevish or sullen
answers for all the expressions of sympathy and condolence that
were poured out by the kindly campers. It was all the boy's fault,
and there was no excuse for him. She ought to have known better
than to come among such. But here Hilda pressed her hand, and said
"Be still!" in a low tone, but with a flash of the eye that so
forcibly recalled the "Queen Hildegarde" of old days that Madge
subsided, and whimpered to herself till the steamer came to take
her back to Pollock's Cove.
When she was gone Hildegarde slipped away, saying that she would
pick some apples for tea; and on reaching the apple tree, she sat
down under its hanging branches and indulged in a good cry, a rare
luxury for her. It was a comfort to let the tears come, and to
tell the friendly tree over and over again that he would never
forgive her; that she was the most imbecile creature that ever
lived, and that Madge was the only person she deserved to have for
a friend, and that, now the others had found her out, the sooner
she went home to her mother the better. Her mother would not
expect her to be sensible; her mother knew better than to expect
things of her. She was not fit to be with these people, who were
so terribly clever, and knew so many things: and so on and so on,
in the most astonishing way, our quiet, self-possessed girl
sobbing and crying as if her heart would break, utterly amazed at
herself, and wondering all the time what was the matter with her,
and whether she would ever be able to stop.
She stopped suddenly enough; for Roger, coming through the fields
with the milk, heard this piteous sobbing, and setting down his
cans, parted the branches of the apple tree, saying in his kindest
voice: "Why, my Kitty, my Pretty, what is the matter with you? who
hurt my little--I--I beg your pardon, Miss Grahame!"
Hildegarde felt the hand of fate very heavy on her, but was quite
helpless, and sobbed harder than ever.
What was a poor professor to do? Fortunately, Roger had plenty of
sisters, and knew that a girl did not kill herself when she cried.
After a moment's thought, in which he reminded himself severely
that he was getting to be an old fellow, and might be this child's
uncle, he came under the tree and sat down on the grass.
"Can you tell me what troubles you?" he asked, still in the gentle
voice that was rather specially Kitty's privilege. "You have had
no bad news?"
Hilda shook her head.
"Perhaps if you were to tell me what the trouble is, I could help
you; or would you rather I would go away and not bother you?"
No! Hildegarde, to her own amazement, would rather he stayed.
Whereupon, Roger, drawing from his experience of girls, perceived
that there was nothing to do but sit and wait till the storm had
spent itself. So he picked the apples within his reach, and
reflected on the feminine character.
Presently a small and shaken voice said from under the
handkerchief, "I--am so sorry--you got wet, Captain Roger!"
"Got wet?" said Roger, vaguely. He was generally more or less wet,
being an amphibious creature, and did not for the moment grasp
"I ran--the--boat aground, and you jumped overboard, and got--all
wet!" and Hildegarde sobbed afresh.
"You don't mean--" said Roger. "You are not troubled about THAT?"
But it appeared that Hildegarde was troubled about that.
"My dear child, do you think I did not see that it was not your
fault? You were doing beautifully, if that--if Miss Everton had
let you alone for an instant. And do you think I mind a wetting,
or twenty wettings? Miss Hilda, I thought you knew better than
"I was so stupid!" said Hildegarde, wiping her eyes, and trying to
speak evenly. "I thought you were very angry, because you were so
silent. I thought you would never--"
"Silent, was I? Well, you know I am in a brown study half the
time. Isn't that why they call me Roger the Codger? But this
time,--oh, I remember! I was trying to make out how that shoal
came to be there, when it is not buoyed out on the map. Come, Miss
Hilda, you must laugh now!"
And Hilda laughed, and dried her eyes, and looked up,
"All kinder smily round the lips,
And teary round the lashes."
"That's right!" said Roger, heartily. "Now you shall be Kitty, and
we will---we will shake hands and be friends, and eat an apple
together. Kitty and I always do that when we have had a tiff."
So they did; and the apples on that tree were the best apples in
IN PERIL BY WATER.
"All aboard!" said Roger.
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