The Green Satin Gown
Laura E. Richards
Part 2 out of 2
this is the right one at last!' You may believe I made up my mind
that I would be the right one, Lottie!
"That kitchen was in a scandalous condition. It was well I had seen
Mrs. Bowles first or I should have wanted to run away that very
minute. The eldest little girl--it seems strange to think that there
ever was a time when I didn't know Barbara's name!--followed me out,
--I think her father told her to,--and rubbed along against the wall,
just exactly as I used to when I felt shy. When I asked her a little
about where things were, and so on--they were everywhere and nowhere;
you never saw such a looking place in your life!--she took her
finger out of her mouth, and pretty soon I told her about our yellow
coon kittens, and after that we got on very well. She said they had
had one girl after another, each worse than the last. The shoe
factory had taken off all the good help and left only the incapable
ones. The last one, Barbara said, had almost starved them, and been
saucy to Mrs. Bowles, and dirty--well, there was no need to tell me
that. It was a shame to see good things so destroyed; for the things
were good, only all dirty and broken, and--oh, well! there's no use
in telling about that part.
"I asked when her mother had had anything to eat, and she said not
since noon; I knew that was no way for an invalid to be taken care of,
so I put the kettle on and hunted about till I found a cup and saucer
I liked, and then I found the bread-box--oh, dear! that bread-box,
girls! But the mold scraped right off, and the bread wasn't really
bad; I made some toast and cut the crust off, and put just a thin
scrape of butter on it; then I sent Barbara in with a little tray
and told her to see that her mother took it all. I thought she'd
feel more like taking it from the child than from a stranger, if she
hadn't much appetite. My dears, the child came out again in a few
minutes, her face all alight.
"'She drank it all, every drop!' she cried. 'And now she's eating
the toast. She said how did you know, and she cried, but now she's
all right. Father 'most cried, too, I think. Say!'
"'Father says the Lord sent you. Did he?'"
[Illustration: "'FATHER SAYS THE LORD SENT YOU. DID HE?'"]
"I nodded, for I couldn't say anything that minute. I kissed the
little girl and went on with my cleaning. Girls, don't ever grudge
the time you spend in learning to cook nicely. Food is what keeps the
breath of life in us, and it all depends upon us girls now, and later,
when we are older women, whether it is good or bad. No, Sue, I'm not
going to preach, but I shall never forget how that tired man and
those hungry children enjoyed their supper. 'Twas mother's supper,
every bit of it, from the light biscuit down to the ham omelette; I
found the ham bone in a dark cupboard, all covered with mold, like
the bread, but 'twas good and sweet underneath. I only wish mother
had been there to see them eat. After supper Mr. Bowles came and
shook hands with me. I didn't know then that he never used any more
words than he had to; but I was pleased, if I did think it funny.
"I was tired enough by the time bedtime came, and after I had put
the children to bed and seen that Mrs. Bowles was comfortable, and
had water and crackers and a candle beside her--she was a very poor
sleeper--I was glad enough to go to bed myself. Barbara showed me my
room, a pretty little room with sloping gables and windows down by
the floor. There were two doors, and I asked her where the other led
to. She opened it and said, 'The shed chamber.' I looked over her
shoulder, holding up the candle, and saw a great bare room, with
some large trunks in it, but no other furniture except a high
wardrobe. I liked the look of the place, for it was a little like
our play room in the attic at home; but I was too tired to explore,
and I was asleep in ten minutes from the time I had tucked up
Barbara in her bed, and Rob and Billy in their double crib.
"I should take a week if I tried to tell you all about those first
days; and, after all, it is one particular thing that I started to
tell, only there is so much that comes back to me. In a few days I
felt that I belonged there, almost as much as at home; they were
that kind of people, and made me feel that they cared about me, and
not only about what I did. Mrs. Bowles has always been the best
friend I have in the world after my own folks; it didn't take us a
day to see into each other, and by and by it got to be so that I
knew what she wanted almost before she knew, herself.
"At the end of the week Mr. Bowles said he ought to go away on
business for a few days, and asked her if she would feel safe to
stay with me and the children, or if he should ask his brother to
come and sleep in the house.
"'No, indeed!' said Mrs. Bowles. 'I shall feel as safe with Nora as
if I had a regiment in the house; a good deal safer!' she added, and
"So it was settled, and the next day Mr. Bowles went away and I was
left in full charge. I suppose I rather liked the responsibility. I
asked Mrs. Bowles if I might go all over the house to see how
everything fastened, and she said, 'Of course.' The front windows
were just common windows, quite high up from the floor; but in the
shed chamber, as in my room, they opened near the floor, and there
was no very secure way of fastening them, it seemed to me. However, I
wasn't going to say anything to make her nervous, and that was the
way they had always had them. If I had only known!
"After the children went to bed that evening I read to Mrs. Bowles
for an hour, and then I went to warm up a little cocoa for her; she
slept better if she took a drop of something hot the last thing. It
was about nine o'clock. I had just got into the kitchen, and was
going to light the lamp, when I heard the door open softly.
"'Who's there?' I asked.
"'Only me,' said a girl's voice.
"I lighted my lamp, and saw a girl about my own age, pretty, and
showily dressed. She said she was the girl who had left the house a
few days ago; she had forgotten something, and might she go up into
the shed chamber and get it? I told her to wait a minute, and went
and asked Mrs. Bowles. She said yes, Annie might go up. 'Annie was
careless and saucy,' she said, 'but I think she meant no harm. She
can go and get her things.'
"I came back and told the girl, and she smiled and nodded. I did not
like her smile, I could not tell why. I started to go with her, but
she turned on me pretty sharply, and said she had been in the house
three months and didn't need to be shown the way by a stranger. I
didn't want to put myself forward, but no sooner had she run
up-stairs, and I heard her steps in the chamber above me, than
something seemed to be pushing, pushing me toward those stairs,
whether I would or no. I tried to hold back, and tell myself it was
nonsense, and that I was nervous and foolish; it made no difference,
I had to go up-stairs.
"I went softly, my shoes making no noise. My own little room was dark,
for I had closed the blinds when the afternoon sun was pouring in
hot and bright; but a slender line of light lay across the blackness
like a long finger, and I knew the moon was shining in at the
windows of the shed chamber. I did a thing I had never done before
in my life; that silver finger came through the keyhole, and it drew
me to it. I knelt down and looked through.
"The big room shone bare and white in the moonlight; the trunks
looked like great animals crouching along the walls. Annie stood in
the middle of the room, as if she were waiting or listening for
something. Then she slipped off her shoes and went to one of the
windows and opened it. I had fastened it, but the catch was old and
she knew the trick of it, of course. In another moment something
black appeared over the low sill; it was a man's head. My heart
seemed to stand still. She helped him, and he got in without making
a sound. He must have climbed up the big elm-tree which grew close
against the house. They stood whispering together for a few minutes,
but I could not hear a word.
"The man was in stocking feet; he had an evil, coarse face, yet he
was good-looking, too, in a way. I thought the girl seemed frightened,
and yet pleased, too; and he seemed to be praising her, I thought,
and once he put his arms round her and kissed her. She went to the
wardrobe and opened it, but he shook his head; then she opened the
great cedar trunk, and he nodded, and measured it and got into it
and sat down. It was so deep that he could sit quite comfortably
with the cover down. Annie shut it and then opened it again.
"I had seen all I wanted to see. I slipped down-stairs as I heard
her move toward the door; when she came down I was stirring my cocoa
on the stove, with my back to her. She came round and showed me a
bundle she had in her hand, and said she must be going now. I kept
my face in the shadow as well as I could, for I was afraid I might
not be able to look just as usual; but I spoke quietly, and asked
her if she had found everything, and wished her good night as
pleasantly as I knew how. All the while my head was in a whirl and
my heart beat so loud I thought she must have heard it. There was a
good deal of silver in the house, and I knew that Mr. Bowles had
drawn some money from the bank only a day or two before, to pay a
"I never listened to anything as I did to the sound of her footsteps;
even after they had died away, after she had turned the corner, a
good way off, I stood still, listening, not stirring hand or foot.
But when I no longer heard any sound my strength seemed to come back
with a leap, and I knew what I had to do. I told you my shoes made
no noise. I slipped up-stairs, through my own room, and into the shed
chamber. Girls, it lay so peaceful and bare in the white moonlight,
that for a moment I thought I must have dreamed it all.
"It seemed half a mile to the farther end, where the great cedar
trunk stood. As I went a board creaked under my feet, and I
heard--or fancied I heard--a faint rustle inside the trunk. I began
to hum a tune, and moved about among the trunks, raising and
shutting the lids, as if I were looking for something. Now at last I
was beside the dreadful chest, and in another instant I had turned
the key. Then, girls, I flew! I knew the lock was a stout one and
the wood heavy and hard; it would take the man some time to get it
open from the inside, whatever tools he might have. I was
down-stairs in one breath, praying that I might be able to control my
voice so that it would not sound strange to the sick woman.
"'Would you mind if I went out for a few minutes, Mrs. Bowles? The
moonlight is so lovely I thought I would like to take a little walk,
if there is nothing you want.'
"She looked surprised, but said in her kind way, yes, certainly I
might go, only I'd better not go far.
"I thanked her, and walked quietly out to the end of the garden walk;
then I ran! Girls, I had no idea I could run so! Strength seemed
given me, for I never felt my body. I was like a spirit flying or a
wind blowing. The road melted away before me, and all the time I saw
two things before my eyes as plain as I see you now,--the evil-faced
man working away at the lock of the cedar chest, and the sweet lady
sitting in the room below with her Bible on her knee. Yes, I thought
of the children, too, but it seemed to me no one, not even the
wickedest, could wish to hurt a child. So on I ran!
"I reached the first house, but I knew there was no man there, only
two nervous old ladies. At the next house I should find two men,
George Brett and his father.
"Yes, Lottie, my George, but I had never seen him then. He had only
lately come back from college. The first I saw of him was two
minutes later, when I ran almost into his arms as he came out of the
house. I can see him now, in the moonlight, tall and strong, with
his surprised eyes on me. I must have been a wild figure, I suppose.
I could hardly speak, but somehow I made him understand.
"He turned back to the door and shouted to his father, who came
hurrying out; then he looked at me. 'Can you run back?' he asked.
"I nodded. I had no breath for words but plenty for running, I
"'Come on, then!'
"Girls, it was twice as easy running with that strong figure beside
me. I noticed in all my hurry and distress how easily he ran, and I
felt my feet, that had grown heavy in the last few steps, light as
air again. Once I sobbed for breath, and he took my hand as we ran,
saying, 'Courage, brave girl!' We ran on hand in hand, and I never
failed again. We heard Mr. Brett's feet running, not far behind; he
was a strong, active man, but could not quite keep up with us.
"As we neared the house, 'Quiet,' I said; 'Mrs. Bowles does not know.'"
He nodded, and we slipped in at the back door. In an instant his
shoes were off and he was up the back stairs like a cat, and I after
him. As we entered the shed chamber the lid of the cedar trunk rose.
I saw the gleam of the evil black eyes and the shine of white,
wolfish teeth. Without a sound George Brett sprang past me; without
a sound the robber leaped to meet him. I saw them in the white light
as they clinched and stood locked together; then a mist came before
my eyes and I saw nothing more.
"I did not actually faint, I think; it cannot have been more than a
few minutes before I came to myself. But when I looked again George
was kneeling with his knee on the man's breast, holding him down,
and Father Brett was looking about the chamber and saying, in his
dry way, 'Now where in Tunkett is the clothes-line to tie this fellow?'
"And the girl? Annie? O girls, she was so young! She was just my own
age and she had no mother. I went to see her the next day, and many
days after that. We are fast friends now, and she is a good, steady
girl; and no one knows--no one except our two selves and two
others--that she was ever in the shed chamber."
_MAINE TO THE RESCUE_
"Oh, dear! oh, dear! It's snowing!"
"Hurrah! hurrah! It's snowing!"
Massachusetts looked up from her algebra. She was the head of the
school. She was rosy and placid as the apple she was generally
eating when not in class. Apples and algebra were the things she
cared most about in school life.
"Whence come these varying cries?" she said, taking her feet off the
fender and trying to be interested, though her thoughts went on with
"a 1/6 b =" etc.
"Oh, Virginia is grumbling because it is snowing, and Maine is
feeling happy over it, that's all!" said Rhode Island, the smallest
girl in Miss Wayland's school.
"Poor Virginia! It is rather hard on you to have snow in March, when
you have just got your box of spring clothes from home."
"It is atrocious!" said Virginia, a tall, graceful, languishing girl.
"How could they send me to such a place, where it is winter all the
spring? Why, at home the violets are in blossom, the trees are coming
out, the birds singing--"
"And at home," broke in Maine, who was a tall girl, too, but lithe
and breezy as a young willow, with flyaway hair and dancing brown
eyes, "at home all is winter--white, beautiful, glorious winter,
with ice two or three feet thick on the rivers, and great fields and
fields of snow, all sparkling in the sun, and the sky a vast
sapphire overhead, without a speck. Oh, the glory of it, the
splendor of it! And here--here it is neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor
good red herring. A wretched, makeshift season, which they call
winter because they don't know what else to call it."
"Come! come!" said Old New York, who was seventeen years old and had
her own ideas of dignity. "Let us alone, you two outsiders! We are
neither Eskimos nor Hindoos, it is true, but the Empire State would
not change climates with either of you."
"No, indeed!" chimed in Young New York, who always followed her
leader in everything, from opinions down to hair-ribbons.
"No, indeed!" repeated Virginia, with languid scorn. "Because you
couldn't get any one to change with you, my dear."
Young New York reddened. "You are so disagreeable, Virginia!" she
said. "I am sure I am glad I don't have to live with you all the
"Personal remarks!" said Massachusetts, looking up calmly. "One cent,
Young New York, for the missionary fund. Thank you! Let me give you
each half an apple, and you will feel better."
She solemnly divided a large red apple, and gave the halves to the
two scowling girls, who took them, laughing in spite of themselves,
and went their separate ways.
"Why didn't you let them have it out, Massachusetts?" said Maine,
laughing. "You never let any one have a good row."
"Slang!" said Massachusetts, looking up again. "One cent for the
missionary fund. You will clothe the heathen at this rate, Maine.
That is the fourth cent to-day."
"'Row' isn't slang!" protested Maine, feeling, however, for her
"Vulgar colloquial!" returned Massachusetts, quietly. "And perhaps
you would go away now, Maine, or else be quiet. Have you learned--"
"No, I haven't!" said Maine. "I will do it very soon, dear Saint
Apple. I must look at the snow a little more."
Maine went dancing off to her room, where she threw the window open
and looked out with delight. The girl caught up a double handful and
tossed it about, laughing for pure pleasure. Then she leaned out to
feel the beating of the flakes on her face.
"Really quite a respectable little snowstorm!" she said, nodding
approval at the whirling white drift. "Go on, and you will be worth
while, my dear." She went singing to her algebra, which she could not
have done if it had not been snowing.
The snow went on increasing from hour to hour. By noon the wind
began to rise; before night it was blowing a furious gale. Furious
blasts clutched at the windows, and rattled them like castanets. The
wind howled and shrieked and moaned, till it seemed as if the air
were filled with angry demons fighting to possess the square white
Many of the pupils of Miss Wayland's school came to the tea-table
with disturbed faces; but Massachusetts was as calm as usual, and
Maine was jubilant.
"Isn't it a glorious storm?" she cried, exultingly. "I didn't know
there could be such a storm in this part of the country, Miss Wayland.
Will you give me some milk, please?"
"There is no milk, my dear," said Miss Wayland, who looked rather
troubled. "The milkman has not come, and probably will not come
to-night. There has never been such a storm here in my lifetime!"
she added. "Do you have such storms at home, my dear?"
"Oh, yes, indeed!" Maine said, cheerfully. "I don't know that we
often have so much wind as this, but the snow is nothing out of the
way. Why, on Palm Sunday last year our milkman dug through a drift
twenty feet deep to get at his cows. He was the only milkman who
ventured out, and he took me and the minister's wife to church in
his little red pung.
"We were the only women in church, I remember. Miss Betsy Follansbee,
who had not missed going to church in fifteen years, started on foot,
after climbing out of her bedroom window to the shed roof and
sliding down. All her doors were blocked up, and she lived alone, so
there was no one to dig her out. But she got stuck in a drift about
half-way, and had to stay there till one of the neighbors came by
and pulled her out."
All the girls laughed at this, and even Miss Wayland smiled; but
suddenly she looked grave again.
"Hark!" she said, and listened. "Did you not hear something?"
"We hear Boreas, Auster, Eurus, and Zephyrus," answered Old New York.
At that moment there was a lull in the screeching of the wind; all
listened intently, and a faint sound was heard from without which
was not that of the blast.
"A child!" said Massachusetts, rising quickly. "It is a child's voice.
I will go, Miss Wayland."
"I cannot permit it, Alice!" cried Miss Wayland, in great distress.
"I cannot allow you to think of it. You are just recovering from a
severe cold, and I am responsible to your parents. What shall we do?
It certainly sounds like a child crying out in the pitiless storm.
Of course it _may_ be a cat--"
Maine had gone to the window at the first alarm, and now turned with
"It _is_ a child!" she said, quietly. "I have no cold, Miss Wayland.
I am going, of course."
Passing by Massachusetts, who had started out of her usual calm and
stood in some perplexity, she whispered, "If it were freezing, it
wouldn't cry. I shall be in time. Get a ball of stout twine."
She disappeared. In three minutes she returned, dressed in her
blanket coat, reaching half-way below her knees, scarlet leggings
and gaily wrought moccasins; on her head a fur cap, with a band of
sea-otter fur projecting over her eyes. In her hand she held a pair
of snow-shoes. She had had no opportunity to wear her snow-shoeing
suit all winter, and she was quite delighted.
"My child!" said Miss Wayland, faintly. "How can I let you go? My
duty to your parents--what are those strange things, and what use
are you going to make of them?"
By way of answer Maine slipped her feet into the snow-shoes, and,
with Massachusetts' aid, quickly fastened the thongs.
"The twine!" she said. "Yes, that will do; plenty of it. Tie it to
the door-handle, square knot, so! I'm all right, dear; don't worry."
Like a flash the girl was gone out into the howling night.
Miss Wayland wrung her hands and wept, and most of the girls wept
with her. Virginia, who was curled up in a corner, really sick with
fright, beckoned to Massachusetts.
"Is there any chance of her coming back alive?" she asked, in a
whisper. "I wish I had made up with her. But we may all die in this
"Nonsense!" said Massachusetts. "Try to have a little sense, Virginia!
Maine is all right, and can take care of herself; and as for
whimpering at the wind, when you have a good roof over your head, it
is too absurd."
For the first time since she came to school Massachusetts forgot the
study hour, as did every one else; and in spite of her brave efforts
at cheerful conversation, it was a sad and an anxious group that sat
about the fire in the pleasant parlor.
Maine went out quickly, and closed the door behind her; then stood
still a moment, listening for the direction of the cry. She did not
hear it at first, but presently it broke out--a piteous little wail,
sounding louder now in the open air. The girl bent her head to listen.
Where was the child? The voice came from the right, surely! She
would make her way down to the road, and then she could tell better.
Grasping the ball of twine firmly, she stepped forward, planting the
broad snow-shoes lightly in the soft, dry snow. As she turned the
corner of the house an icy blast caught her, as if with furious hands,
shook her like a leaf, and flung her roughly against the wall.
Her forehead struck the corner, and for a moment she was stunned;
but the blood trickling down her face quickly brought her to herself.
She set her teeth, folded her arms tightly, and stooping forward,
measured her strength once more with that of the gale.
This time it seemed as if she were cleaving a wall of ice, which
opened only to close behind her. On she struggled, unrolling her
twine as she went.
The child's cry sounded louder, and she took fresh heart. Pausing,
she clapped her hand to her mouth repeatedly, uttering a shrill,
long call. It was the Indian whoop, which her father had taught her
in their woodland rambles at home.
The childish wail stopped; she repeated the cry louder and longer;
then shouted, at the top of her lungs, "Hold on! Help is coming!"
Again and again the wind buffeted her, and forced her backward a
step or two; but she lowered her head, and wrapped her arms more
tightly about her body, and plodded on.
Once she fell, stumbling over a stump; twice she ran against a tree,
for the white darkness was absolutely blinding, and she saw nothing,
felt nothing but snow, snow. At last her snow-shoe struck something
hard. She stretched out her hands--it was the stone wall. And now,
as she crept along beside it, the child's wail broke out again close
"Mother! O mother! mother!"
The girl's heart beat fast.
"Where are you?" she cried. At the same moment she stumbled against
something soft. A mound of snow, was it? No! for it moved. It moved
and cried, and little hands clutched her dress.
She saw nothing, but put her hands down, and touched a little cold
face. She dragged the child out of the snow, which had almost
covered it, and set it on its feet.
"Who are you?" she asked, putting her face down close, while by
vigorous patting and rubbing she tried to give life to the benumbed,
cowering little figure, which staggered along helplessly, clutching
her with half-frozen fingers.
"Benny Withers!" sobbed the child. "Mother sent me for the clothes,
but I can't get 'em!"
"Benny Withers!" cried Maine. "Why, you live close by. Why didn't
you go home, child?"
"I can't!" cried the boy. "I can't see nothing. I tried to get to
the school, an' I tried to get home, an' I can't get nowhere 'cept
against this wall. Let me stay here now! I want to rest me a little."
He would have sunk down again, but Maine caught him up in her strong,
"Here, climb up on my back, Benny!" she said, cheerfully. "Hold on
tight round my neck, and you shall rest while I take you home. So!
That's a brave boy! Upsy, now! there you are! Now put your head on
my shoulder--close! and hold on!"
Ah! how Maine blessed the heavy little brother at home, who _would_
ride on his sister's back, long after mamma said he was too big. How
she blessed the carryings up and down stairs, the "horsey rides"
through the garden and down the lane, which had made her shoulders
Benny Withers was eight years old, but he was small and slender, and
no heavier than six-year-old Philip. No need of telling the child to
hold on, once he was up out of the cruel snow bed. He clung
desperately round the girl's neck, and pressed his head close
against the woollen stuff.
Maine pulled her ball of twine from her pocket--fortunately it was a
large one, and the twine, though strong, was fine, so that there
seemed to be no end to it--and once more lowered her head, and set
her teeth, and moved forward, keeping close to the wall, in the
direction of Mrs. Withers's cottage.
For awhile she saw nothing, when she looked up under the fringe of
otter fur, which, long and soft, kept the snow from blinding her;
nothing but the white, whirling drift which beat with icy, stinging
blows in her face. But at last her eyes caught a faint glimmer of
light, and presently a brighter gleam showed her Mrs. Withers's gray
cottage, now white like the rest of the world.
Bursting open the cottage door, she almost threw the child into the
arms of his mother.
The woman, who had been weeping wildly, could hardly believe her eyes.
She caught the little boy and smothered him with kisses, chafing his
cold hands, and crying over him.
"I didn't know!" she said. "I didn't know till he was gone. I told
him at noon he was to go, never thinking 'twould be like this. I was
sure he was lost and dead, but I couldn't leave my sick baby. Bless
you, whoever you are, man or woman! But stay and get warm, and rest
ye! You're never going out again in this awful storm!"
But Maine was gone.
In Miss Wayland's parlor the suspense was fast becoming unendurable.
They had heard Maine's Indian whoop, and some of them, Miss Wayland
herself among the number, thought it was a cry of distress; but
Massachusetts rightly interpreted the call, and assured them that it
was a call of encouragement to the bewildered child.
Then came silence within the house, and a prolonged clamor--a sort
of witches' chorus, with wailing and shrieking without. Once a heavy
branch was torn from one of the great elms, and came thundering down
on the roof. This proved the finishing touch for poor Virginia. She
went into violent hysterics, and was carried off to bed by Miss Way
land and Old New York.
Massachusetts presently ventured to explore a little. She hastened
through the hall to the front door, opened it a few inches, and put
her hand on the twine which was fastened to the handle. What was her
horror to find that it hung loose, swinging idly in the wind! Sick
at heart, she shut the door, and pressing her hands over her eyes,
tried to think.
Maine must be lost in the howling storm! She must find her; but
where and how?
Oh! if Miss Wayland had only let her go at first! She was older; it
would not have mattered so much.
But now, quick! she would wrap herself warmly, and slip out without
any one knowing.
The girl was turning to fly up-stairs, when suddenly something fell
heavily against the door outside. There was a fumbling for the handle;
the next moment it flew open, and something white stumbled into the
hall, shut the door, and sat down heavily on the floor.
"Personal--rudeness!" gasped Maine, struggling for breath. "You shut
the door in my face! One cent for the missionary fund."
The great storm was over. The sun came up, and looked down on a
strange, white world. No fences, no walls; only a smooth ridge where
one of these had been. Trees which the day before had been quite
tall now looked like dwarfs, spreading their broad arms not far from
the snow carpet beneath them. Road there was none; all was smooth,
save where some huge drift nodded its crest like a billow curling
for its downward rush.
Maine, spite of her scarred face, which showed as many patches as
that of a court lady in King George's times, was jubilant. Tired!
not a bit of it! A little stiff, just enough to need "limbering out,"
as they said at home.
"There is no butter!" she announced at breakfast. "There is no milk,
no meat for dinner. Therefore, I go a-snow-shoeing. Dear Miss Wayland,
let me go! I have learned my algebra, and I shall be discovering
unknown quantities at every step, which will be just as instructive."
Miss Wayland could refuse nothing to the heroine of last night's
adventure. Behold Maine, therefore, triumphant, sallying forth, clad
once more in her blanket suit, and dragging her sled behind her.
There was no struggling now--no hand-to-hand wrestling with
storm-demons. The sun laughed from a sky as blue and deep as her own
sky of Maine, and the girl laughed with him as she walked along, the
powdery snow flying in a cloud from her snow-shoes at every step.
Such a sight had never been seen in Mentor village before. The
people came running to their upper windows--their lower ones were
for the most part buried in snow--and stared with all their eyes at
the strange apparition.
In the street, life was beginning to stir. People had found,
somewhat to their own surprise, that they were alive and well after
the blizzard; and knots of men were clustered here and there,
discussing the storm, while some were already at work tunnelling
through the drifts.
Mr. Perkins, the butcher, had just got his door open, and great was
his amazement when Maine hailed him from the top of a great drift,
and demanded a quarter of mutton with some soup meat.
[Illustration: "MAINE HAILED HIM FROM THE TOP OF A GREAT DRIFT."]
"Yes, miss!" he stammered, open-mouthed with astonishment. "I--I've
got the meat; but I wasn't--my team isn't out this morning. I don't
know about sending it."
"I have a 'team' here!" said Maine, quietly, pulling her sled
alongside. "Give me the mutton, Mr. Perkins; you may charge it to
Miss Wayland, please, and I will take it home."
The butter-man and the grocer were visited in the same way, and Maine,
rather embarrassed by the concentrated observation of the whole
village, turned to pull her laden sled back, when suddenly a window
was thrown open, and a voice exclaimed:
"Young woman! I will give you ten dollars for the use of those
snow-shoes for an hour!"
Maine looked up in amazement, and laughed merrily when she saw the
well-known countenance of the village doctor.
"What! You, my dear young lady?" cried the good man. "This is 'Maine
to the Rescue,' indeed! I might have known it was you. But I repeat
my offer. Make it anything you please, only let me have the
snow-shoes. I cannot get a horse out, and have two patients
dangerously ill. What is your price for the magic shoes?"
"My price, doctor?" repeated Maine, looking up with dancing eyes.
"My price is--one cent. For the Missionary Fund! The snow-shoes are
yours, and I will get home somehow with my sled and the mutton."
So she did, and Doctor Fowler made his calls with the snow-shoes,
and saved a life, and brought cheer and comfort to many. But it was
ten dollars, and not one cent, which he gave to the Missionary Fund.
THE SCARLET LEAVES
"The Committee will please come to order!" said Maine.
"What's up?" asked Massachusetts, pausing in her occupation of
"Why, you know well enough, Massachusetts. Here it is Wednesday, and
we don't know yet what we are going to do on Friday evening. We must
do something, or go shamed to our graves. Never a senior class has
missed its Frivolous Friday, since the school began."
"Absolutely no hope of the play?"
"None! Alma's part is too important; no one could possibly take it
at two days' notice. Unless--they say Chicago has a real gift for
acting; but somehow, I don't feel as if she were the person."
"I should bar that, positively," put in Tennessee. "In the first
place, Chicago has not been here long enough to be identified with
the class. She is clever, of course, or she could not have entered
junior last year; but--well, it isn't necessary to say anything more;
she is out of the question."
"It is too exasperating!" said Massachusetts. "Alma might have
waited another week before coming down with measles."
"It's harder for her than for any one else, Massachusetts," said
Maine. "Poor dear; she almost cried her eyes out yesterday, when the
spots appeared, and there was no more doubt."
"Yes, I know that; she is a poor, unfortunate Lamb, and I love her,
you know I do; still, a growl may be permitted, Maine. There's
nothing criminal in a growl. The question is, as you were saying,
what shall we do?"
"We had a dance last week!" said Maine; "at least the sophomores did,
and we don't want to copy them."
"The real question is," said Tennessee, cracking her chestnut
leisurely, "what does Maine intend to do? If she thinks we made her
Class President because we meant to arrange things ourselves, she is
more ignorant than I supposed her. Probably she has the whole thing
settled in her Napoleonic mind. Out with it, Moosetocmaguntic!"
Maine smiled, and looked round her. The Committee was clustered in a
group at the foot of a great chestnut-tree, at the very edge of a
wood. The leaves were still thick on the trees, and the October sun
shone through their golden masses, pouring a flood of warmth and
light down on the greensward, sprinkled with yellow leaves and
half-open chestnut burrs. Massachusetts and Tennessee, sturdy and
four-square as their own hills; Old New York and New Jersey, and
Maine herself, a tall girl with clear, kind eyes, and a color that
came and went as she talked. This was the Committee.
[Illustration: THE CONFERENCE.]
"Well," said Maine, modestly. "I did have an idea, girls. I don't
know whether you will approve or not, but--what do you say to a
"A fancy ball! at two days' notice!"
"Penobscot is losing her mind. Pity to see it shattered, for it was
once a fine organ."
"Be quiet, Tennessee! I don't mean anything elaborate, of course.
But I thought we might have an informal frolic, and dress up in--oh,
anything we happened to have. Not call it a dance, but have dancing
all the same; don't you see? There are all kinds of costumes that
can be got up with very little trouble, and no expense to speak of."
"For example!" said Massachusetts. "She has it all arranged, girls;
all we have to do is to sit back and let wisdom flow in our ears."
"Massachusetts, if you tease me any more, _I'll_ sit back, and let
you do it all yourself. Well, then--let me see! Tennessee--to tell
the truth, I didn't sleep very well last night; my head ached; and I
amused myself by planning a few costumes, just in case you should
fancy the idea."
"Quack! quack!" said Massachusetts. "I didn't mean to interrupt, but
you _are_ a duck, and I must just show that I can speak your language.
"Tennessee, I thought you might be an Indian. You must have something
that will show your hair. With my striped shawl for a blanket, and
the cock's feather out of Jersey's hat--what do you think?"
"Perfect!" said Tennessee. "And I can try effects with my new
paint-box, one cheek stripes, the other spots. Hurrah! next!"
"Old New York, you must be a flower of some kind. Or--why not a
basket of flowers? You could have a basket-work bodice, don't you see?
and flowers coming out of it all round your neck--your neck is so
pretty, you ought to show it--"
"Or carrots and turnips!" said the irrepressible Massachusetts.
"Call her a Harvest Hamper, and braid her lovely locks with strings
"Thank you," laughed Old New York, a slender girl whose flower-like
beauty made her a pleasure to look at. "I think I'll keep to the posy,
Massachusetts. Go on, Maine! what shall Massachusetts be, and what
will you be yourself?"
"Massachusetts ought by rights to be an apple, a nice fat rosy apple;
but I don't quite know how that can be managed."
"Then I shall be a codfish!" said Massachusetts, decidedly.
"I am not going to desert Mr. Micawber--I mean the Bay State. I
shall go as a salt codfish. _Dixi_! Pass on to the Pine-Tree!"
"Why, so I might be a pine-tree! I didn't think of that. But still,
I don't think I will; I meant to be October. The leaves at home are
so glorious in October, and I saw some scarlet leaves yesterday that
will be lovely for chaplets and garlands."
"What are they? the maples don't turn red here--too near the sea, I
"I don't know what they are. Pointed leaves, rather long and delicate,
and the most splendid color you ever saw. There is just this one
little tree, near the crossroad by the old stone house. I haven't
seen anything like it about here. I found it yesterday, and just
stood and looked at it, it was so beautiful. Yes, I shall be October;
I'll decide on that. What's that rustling in the wood? aren't we all
here? I thought I heard something moving among the trees. I do
believe some one is in there, Massachusetts."
"I was pulling down a branch; don't be imaginative, my dear. Well,
go on! are we to make out all the characters?"
"Why--I thought not. Some of the girls will like better to choose
their own, don't you think? I thought we, as the Committee, might
make out a list of suggestions, though, and then they can do as they
please. But now, I wish some of you others would suggest something;
I don't want to do it all."
"Daisy will have to be her namesake, of course," said Tennessee.
"Jersey can be a mosquito," said Old New York; "she's just the
figure for it."
"Thank you!" said Jersey, who weighed ninety pounds. "Going on that
theory, Pennsylvania ought to go as an elephant, and Rhode Island as
"And Chicago as a snake--no! I didn't mean that!" cried Maine.
"You said it! you said it!" cried several voices, in triumph.
"The Charitable Organ has called names at last!" said Jersey,
laughing. "And she has hit it exactly. Now, Maine, what is the use
of looking pained? the girl _is_ a snake--or a sneak, which amounts
to the same thing. Let us have truth, I say, at all hazards."
"I am sorry!" said Maine, simply. "I am not fond of Chicago, and
that is the very reason why I should not call her names behind her
back. It slipped out before I knew it; I am sorry and ashamed, and
that is all there is to say. And now, suppose we go home, and tell
the other girls about the party."
The Committee trooped off across the hill, laughing and talking,
Maine alone grave and silent. As their voices died away, the ferns
nodded beside a great pine-tree that stood just within the border of
the wood, not six yards from where they had been sitting. A slender
dark girl rose from the fern-clump in which she had been crouching,
and shook the pine-needles from her dress. Very cautiously she
parted the screen of leaves, and looked after the retreating girls.
"That was worth while!" she said; and her voice, though quiet, was
full of ugly meaning. "Snakes can hear, Miss Oracle, and bite, too.
We'll see about those scarlet leaves!"
"Tra la, tra lee,
I want my tea!"
Sang Tennessee, as she ran up-stairs. "Oh, Maine, is that you? my
dear, my costume is simply too perfect for anything. I've been out
in the woods, practising my war-whoop. Three yelps and a screech; I
flatter myself it is the _most_ blood-curdling screech you ever heard.
I'm going to have a dress-rehearsal now, all by myself. Come and
see--why, what's the matter, Maine? something is wrong with you.
What is it?"
"Oh! nothing serious," said Maine, trying to speak lightly.
"I must get up another costume, that's all, and there isn't much time."
"Why! what has happened?"
"The scarlet leaves are gone."
"Gone! fallen, do you mean?"
"No! some one has cut or broken every branch. There is not one left.
The leaves made the whole costume, you see; it amounts to nothing
without them, merely a yellow gown."
"Oh! my dear, what a shame! Who could have taken them?"
"I cannot imagine. I thought I would get them to-day, and keep them
in water over night, so as to have them all ready to-morrow. Oh, well,
it can't be helped. I can call myself a sunflower, or Black-eyed
Susan, or some other yellow thing. It's absurd to mind, of course,
"Only, being human, you do mind," said Tennessee, putting her arm
round her friend's waist. "I should think so, dear. We don't care
about having you canonized just yet. But, Maine, there must be more
red leaves somewhere. This comes of living near the sea. Now, in my
mountains, or in your woods, we could just go out and fill our arms
with glory in five minutes, whichever way we turned. These murmuring
pines and--well, I don't know that there are any hemlocks--are all
very splendid, and no one loves them better than I do; but for a
Harvest festival decoration, '_Ils ne sont pas la dedans_,' as the
French have it."
"Slang, Tennessee! one cent!"
"On the contrary; foreign language, mark of commendation.
"But come now, and see my war-dance. I didn't mean to let any one
see it before-hand, but you are a dear old thing, and you shall. And
then, we can take counsel about your costume. Not that I have the
smallest anxiety about that; I've no doubt you have thought of
something pretty already. I don't see how you do it. When any one
says 'Clothes' to me, I never can think of anything but red flannel
petticoats, if you will excuse my mentioning the article. I think
Black-eyed Susan sounds delightful. How would you dress for it? you
have the pretty yellow dress all ready."
"I should put brown velveteen with it. I have quite a piece left
over from my blouse. I'll get some yellow crepe paper, and make a hat,
or cap, with a brown crown, you know, and yellow petals for the brim;
and have a brown bodice laced together over the full yellow waist,
The two girls passed on, talking cheerfully--it is always soothing
to talk about pretty clothes, especially when one is as clever as
Maine was, and can make, as Massachusetts used to say, a court train
out of a jack-towel.
A few minutes after, Massachusetts came along the same corridor, and
tapped at another door. Hearing "Come in!" she opened the door and
"Busy, Chicago? beg pardon! Miss Cram asked me, as I was going by, to
show you the geometry lesson, as you were not in class yesterday."
"Thanks! come in, won't you?" said Chicago, rising ungraciously from
her desk, "I was going to ask Miss Cram, of course, but I'm much
Massachusetts pointed out the lesson briefly, and turned to go, when
her eyes fell on a jar set on the ground, behind the door.
"Hallo!" she said, abruptly. "You've got scarlet leaves, too. Where
did you get them?"
"I found them," said Chicago, coldly. "They were growing wild, on
the public highway. I had a perfect right to pick them."
There was a defiant note in her voice, and Massachusetts looked at
her with surprise. The girl's eyes glittered with an uneasy light,
and her dark cheek was flushed.
"I don't question your right," said Massachusetts, bluntly,
"but I do question your sense. I may be mistaken, but I don't
believe those leaves are very good to handle. They look to me
uncommonly like dogwood. I'm not sure; but if I were you, I would
show them to Miss Flower before I touched them again."
She nodded and went out, dismissing the matter from her busy mind.
"Spiteful!" said Chicago, looking after her sullenly.
"She suspects where I got the leaves, and thinks she can frighten me
out of wearing them. I never saw such a hateful set of girls as
there are in this school. Never mind, sweet creatures! The 'snake'
has got the scarlet leaves, and she knows when she has got a good
She took some of the leaves from the jar, and held them against her
black hair. They were brilliantly beautiful, and became her well.
She looked in the glass and nodded, well pleased with what she saw
there; then she carefully clipped the ends of the branches, and put
fresh water in the jar before replacing them.
"Indian Summer will take the shine out of Black-eyed Susan, I'm
afraid," she said to herself. "Poor Susan, I am sorry for her." She
laughed; it was not a pleasant laugh; and went back to her books.
"What a pretty sight!"
It was Miss Wayland who spoke. She and the other teachers were
seated on the raised platform at the end of the gymnasium. The long
room was wreathed with garlands and brilliantly lighted, and they
were watching the girls as they flitted by in their gay dresses, to
the waltz that good Miss Flower was playing.
"How ingenious the children are!" Miss Wayland continued. "Look at
Virginia there, as Queen Elizabeth! Her train is my old party cloak
turned inside out, and her petticoat--you recognize that?"
"I, not!" said Mademoiselle, peering forward. "I am too near of my
sight. What ees it?"
"The piano cover. That Persian silk, you know, that my brother sent
me. I never knew how handsome it was before. The ruff, and those
wonderful puffed sleeves, are mosquito-netting; the whole effect is
superb--at a little distance."
"I thought Virginie not suffeeciently clayver for to effect zis!"
said Mademoiselle. "Of custome, she shows not--what do you say?
"Oh, she simply wears the costume, with her own peculiar little air
of dignity. Maine designed it. Maine is costumer in chief. The
Valiant Three, Maine, Massachusetts, and Tennessee, took all the
unpractical girls in hand, and simply--dressed them. _Entre nous_,
Mademoiselle, I wish, in some cases, that they would do it every day."
"_Et moi aussi_!" exclaimed Mademoiselle, nodding eagerly.
"Maine herself is lovely," said Miss Cram. "I think hers is really
the prettiest costume in the room; all that soft brown and yellow is
really charming, and suits her to perfection."
"Yes; and I am so glad of it, for the child was sadly disappointed
about some other costume she had planned, and got this up almost at
the last moment. She is a clever child, and a good one. Do look at
Massachusetts! Massachusetts, my dear child, what do you call
yourself? you are a most singular figure."
"The Codfish, Miss Wayland; straight from Boston State-House. Admire
my tail, please! I got up at five o'clock this morning to finish it,
and I must confess I am proud of it."
She napped her tail, which was a truly astonishing one, made of
newspapers neatly plaited and sewed together, and wriggled her body,
clad in well-fitting scales of silver paper. "Quite a fish, I
flatter myself?" she said, insinuatingly.
"Very like a whale, if not like a codfish," said Miss Wayland,
laughing heartily. "You certainly are one of the successes of the
evening, Massachusetts, and the Mosquito is another, in that filmy
gray. Is that mosquito-netting, too? I congratulate you both on your
skill. By the way, what does Chicago represent? she is very effective,
with all those scarlet leaves. What are they, I wonder!"
Massachusetts turned hastily, and a low whistle came from her lips.
"Whew! I beg pardon, Miss Wayland. It was the codfish whistled, not I;
it's a way they have on Friday evenings. I told that girl to ask
Miss Flower about those leaves; I am afraid they are--oh, here is
Miss Flower!" as the good botany teacher came towards them, rather
out of breath after her playing.
"Miss Flower, what are those leaves, please? those in Chicago's hair,
and on her dress."
Miss Flower looked, and her cheerful face grew grave.
"_Rhus veneneta_" she said; "poison dogwood."
"I was afraid so!" said Massachusetts. "I told her yesterday that I
thought they were dogwood, and advised her to show them to you
before she touched them again."
"Poor child!" said kind Miss Flower. "She has them all about her
face and neck, too. We must get them off at once."
She was starting forward, but Miss Wayland detained her.
"The mischief is done now, is it not?" she said. "And after all,
dogwood does not poison every one. I have had it in my hands, and
never got the smallest injury. Suppose we let her have her evening,
at least till after supper, which will be ready now in a few minutes.
If she is affected by the poison, this is her last taste of the
They watched the girl. She was receiving compliments on her striking
costume, from one girl and another, and was in high spirits. She
glanced triumphantly about her, her eyes lighting up when they fell
on Maine in her yellow dress. She certainly looked brilliantly
handsome, the flaming scarlet of the leaves setting off her dark
skin and flashing eyes to perfection.
Presently she put her hand up to her cheek, and held it there a
"Aha!" said Massachusetts, aloud. "She's in for it!"
"In for what?" said Maine, who came up at that moment. Following the
direction of Massachusetts' eyes, she drew her apart, and spoke in a
low tone. "I shall not say anything, Massachusetts, and I hope you
will not. Don't you know?" she added, seeing her friend's look of
inquiry. "Those are my scarlet leaves."
"Yes. I have found out all about it. Daisy lingered behind the rest
of us the other day, when I had been telling you all about the leaves,
to pick blackberries. She saw Chicago come out of the wood a few
minutes after we left, looking black as thunder. Don't you remember,
I thought I heard a rustling in the fern, and you laughed at me? She
was hidden there, and heard every word we said. Next day the leaves
were gone, and now they are on Chicago's dress instead of mine."
"And a far better place for them!" exclaimed Massachusetts,
"though I am awfully sorry for her. Oh! you lucky, lucky girl! and
you dear, precious, stupid ignoramus, not to know poison dogwood
when you see it."
"Poison dogwood! those beautiful leaves!"
"Those beautiful leaves. That young woman is in for about two weeks
of as pretty a torture as ever Inquisitor or Iroquois could devise.
I know all about it, though there was a time when I also was ignorant.
Look! she is feeling of her cheek already; it begins to sting.
Tomorrow she will be all over patches, red and white; itching--there
is nothing to describe the itching. It is beyond words. Next day her
face will begin to swell, and in two days more--the School Birthday,
my dear--she will be like nothing human, a mere shapeless lump of
pain and horror. She will not sleep by night or rest by day. She
will go home to her parents, and they will not know her, but will
think we have sent them a smallpox patient by mistake. Her eyes--"
"Oh, hush! hush, Massachusetts!" cried Maine. "Oh! poor thing! poor
thing! what shall I do? I feel as if it were all my fault, somehow."
"Your fault that she sneaked and eavesdropped, and then stole your
decoration? Oh! come, Maine, don't be fantastic!"
"No, Massachusetts, I don't mean that. But if I had only known,
myself, what they were, I should never have spoken of them, and all
this would never have happened."
"The moral of which is, study botany!" said Massachusetts.
"I'll begin to-morrow!" said Maine.
* * * * *
"And what is to be the end of the dogwood story, I wonder!" said
Tennessee, meeting Massachusetts in a breathless interval between
two exercises on the School Birthday, the crowning event of the
Harvest Festivities at Miss Wayland's. "Have you heard the last
"No! what is it?"
"Maine is in a dark room with the moaning Thing that was Chicago,
singing to her, and telling her about the speeches and things last
night. She vows she will not come out again to-day, just because she
was at chapel and heard the singing this morning; says that was the
best of it, and she doesn't care much about dancing. Maine! and
Miss Wayland will not let us break in the door and carry her off
bodily; says she will be happier where she is, and will always be
glad of this day. I'll tell you what it is, Massachusetts, if this
is the New England conscience I hear so much about, I'm precious
glad I was born in Tennessee."
"No, you aren't, Old One! you wish you had been born in Maine."
"Well, perhaps I do!" said Tennessee.
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