Three Young Knights
Annie Hamilton Donnell
Produced by Prepared by Al Haines.
THREE YOUNG KNIGHTS
By Annie Hamilton Donnell
The last wisp of hay was in the Eddy mows. "Come on!" shouted Jot.
"Here she goes--hip, hip, hoo-ray!"
"Hoor-a-ay!" echoed Kent. But of course Old Tilly took it calmly. He
planted his brown hands pocket-deep and his bare, brown legs wide apart,
and surveyed the splendid, bursting mows with honest pride.
"Yes, sir, that's the finest lot o' hay in Hexham county; beat it if you
can, sir!" he said approvingly. Then, being ready, he caught off his
own hat and cheered, too.
"Hold on, you chaps; give the old man a chance to holler with you!"
Father Eddy's big, hearty voice cried above the din, and there was the
flaring, sun-browned "wide-awake" swinging with the other hats.
"Hooray for the best hay in town! Hooray for the smartest team o' boys!
Hooray for lib-er-tee!"
They were all of them out of breath and red in the face, but how they
cheered! Liberty--that was something to cheer for! After planting-time
and haying, hurrah for liberty!
The din softened gradually. With a sweep of his arm, father gathered
all the boys in a laughing heap before him.
"Well," he said, "what next? Who's going to celebrate? I'm done with
you for a fortnight. I'm going to hire Esau Whalley to milk and do the
chores, and send you small chaps about your business. You've earned
your holiday. And I don't know but it's as good a time as any to settle
up. Pay day's as good one day as another."
He drew out a little tight roll of bills and sorted out three
five-dollar notes gravely. The boys' eyes began to shine. Father 'most
always paid them, after haying, but--five dollars apiece! Old Tilly
pursed his lips and whistled softly. Kent nudged Jot.
[Illustration: He sorted out three five-dollar notes gravely.]
"There you are! You needn't mind about giving receipts!" Father Eddy
said matter-of-factly, but his gray eyes were a-twinkle under their
cliffs of gray brows. He was exulting quietly in the delight he could
read in the three round, brown faces. Good boys--yes, sir--all of them!
Wasn't their beat in Hexham county--no, sir! Nor yet in Marylebone
county or Winnipeg!
"Now, on with you--scatter!" he laughed. "Mother and I are going to
mill to celebrate! When you've decided what you're going to do, send a
committee o' three to let us know. Mind, you can celebrate any way you
want to that's sensible."
The boys waited till the tall, stoop-shouldered figure had gone back
into the dim, hay-scented barn, then with one accord the din began
"Hoo-ray! Hoo-ray for father!"
"Father! father! hoo-ray!"
It died away, began again, then trailed out to a faint wail as the boys
scuttled off round the barn to the orchard. Father smiled to himself
"Good boys! good boys! good boys!" he muttered.
"Come on up in the consultery!" cried Kent excitedly.
"Yes, come on, Old Till; that's the place!" Jot echoed.
The "consultery" was a platform up in the great horse-chestnut tree.
When there was time, it could be reached comfortably by a short ladder,
but, in times of hurry, it was the custom to swing up to it by a
low-hanging bough, with a long running jump as a starter. To-day
they all swung up.
"Oh, I say, won't there be times!" cried Kent. "Five apiece is fifteen,
lumped. You can celebrate like everything with fifteen dollars!"
"Sure--but how?" Old Tilly asked in his gentle, moderate way. "We don't
want any old, common celebration!"
"You better believe we don't!"
"No, sir, we want to do something new! Camping out's old!"
"Camping's no good! Go on!" Jot said briefly. It was always Old Tilly
they looked to for suggestions. If you waited long enough, they were
sure to come.
"Well, that's the trouble. I can't 'go on'--yet. You don't give a chap
time to wink! What we want is to settle right down to it and think out
a fine way to celebrate. It's got to take time."
For the space of a minute it was still in the consultery, save for the
soft swish of the leaves overhead and roundabout. Then Jot broke out--a
minute was Jot's utmost limit of silence.
"We could go up through the Notch and back, you know," he reflected.
"That's no end of fun. Wouldn't cost us all more'n a fiver for the
round trip, and we'd have the other ten to--to--"
"Buy popcorn and 'Twin Mountain Views' with!" finished Kent in scorn.
"Well, if you want to dress up in your best fixin's and stew all day in
a railroad train--"
"I don't!" rejoined Jot, hastily. "I was thinking of Old Till!"
Tilly's other name was Nathan, but it had grown musty with disuse. He
was the oldest of the Eddy trio, and "ballasted" the other two, Father
Eddy said. Old Tilly was fourteen and the Eddy twins--Jotham and
Kennet--were twelve. All three were well-grown, lusty fellows who could
work or celebrate their liberty, as the case might be, with a good will.
Just now it was the latter they wanted to do, in some untried way.
It was a beautiful thinking-place, up in the consultery. The birds in
the meshes of leaves that roofed it over twittered in whispers, as if
they realized that a momentous question was under consultation down
below and bird-courtesy demanded quiet.
Jot fretted impatiently under his breath,
"Shouldn't think it need to take all day!" he muttered. "You're as slow
"Old Tilly!" laughed Kent. The spell of silence was broken, and the
birds overhead broke into jubilant trills, as if they were laughing,
"I guess the name fits all right this time," Old Tilly said ruefully.
"I can't seem to think of anything at all! My head clicks--the mowing
machine wheels have got into it, I guess!"
"Wheels in mine, too!" Kent drawled lazily.
Jot sprang to his feet in excitement. In his haste he miscalculated the
dimensions of the consultery. There was a wild flutter of brown hands
and feet, and then the chestnut leaves closed calmly over the opening,
and there were but two boys in the consultery. One of those parted the
leaves again and peered down.
No answer. Old Tilly's laugh froze on his face.
"Jot! Hello!" he cried, preparing to swing himself down.
"Hello yourself!" came up calmly.
"Oh! Are you killed?"
"'Course! But, I say, you needn't either o' you sit up there any longer
gloomin'. I've thought of the way we'll celebrate. It's great!"
The crisp branches creaked as the others swung down to the ground in
"You haven't!" cried Kent.
"What is it, quick!" Old Tilly said. Old Tilly in a hurry!
"Wheels!" announced Jot, deliberately. "You chaps had 'em in your head,
and that put 'em into mine. Yes, sir, we'll celebrate on wheels!"
"Why, of course! Good for you!" shouted Kent. But Old Tilly weighed
things first in his mind.
"That would be a go if we had enough to 'go' round. But you twinnies
wouid have to ride double, or spell each other, or something."
"Spell nobody!" scornfully cried Jot.
"N-o, no, b-o-d--"
"Shut up, Kent! That's all right, Old Till. Benny Tweed'll lend me his
bike just like a book--I know Ben! Besides, he owes me a dollar and I'll
call it square. There!"
Old Tilly nodded approvingly. "Good!" he said. "Then we'll take a trip
off somewhere. That what you meant?"
"Sure! We'll go Columbus-ing--discovering things, you know."
"Like those fellows--what's their names?--who did errands for people,
and had wonderful things happen to them while doing them!" put in Kent,
"Errands? What in the world--knights? He means knight-errants!"
exclaimed Old Till, laughing.
"That's a good one--'Did errands for folks!'" Jot mocked.
"Well, what did they do then, Jotham Eddy?"
"Why, they--er--they--they rode round on splendid horses, all armed--
"Apple-pie--armed with apple-pie!"
Old Tilly came briskly to the rescue.
"Never mind the errands or the pie!" laughed he. "We'll be reg'lar
knights and hunt up distressed folks to relieve, and have reg'lar
adventures. It will be great--good for Jot! We won't decide where
we're going or anything--just keep a-going. We'll start to-morrow
morning at sunrise."
"Hoo-ray for to-morrow morning!"
"Hoo-ray for sunrise!"
"Hoo-ray for Jot!" finished Kent, generously forgetting mockeries.
The plan promised gloriously. When father and mother came home from the
mill they fell in with it heartily, and mother rolled up her sleeves at
once to make cakes to fill the boys' bundle racks. They would buy other
things as they went along--that would be part of the fun.
In the middle of the night Jot got out of bed softly and padded his way
across to the bureau, to feel of the three five-dollar bills they had
left together under the pincushion for a paper weight. He slid his
fingers under carefully. What! He lifted the cushion. Then he struck
a match--two matches--three, in agitated succession.
The money was gone!
Jot gasped with horror. The last match went out and left him standing
there in the dark. After one instant's hesitation he made a bound for
the bed. "Kent! Kent! Wake up!" he whispered shrilly. He shook the
limp figure hard.
"Thieves! Murder! Wake up, I tell you, Kent! We're robbed!"
"M-m--who's rob--Oh, say, lemme alone!" murmured poor Kent, drowsily.
Jot shook him again.
"I tell you thieves!" he hissed in his ear. "The money's gone! Do you
hear? It isn't under the pin-cushion where we left it! It's gone!
We've been robbed, Kent Eddy!"
The limp figure strengthened as if electrified and rose to a sitting
position. Kent's eyes flew open.
"What?" he cried.
"Get up quick, Kentie, and we'll wake Old Tilly up! Maybe we can catch
"Catch who? I wish you'd talk English, Jot Eddy!"
Old Tilly was slumbering peacefully, oblivious to thieves and
five-dollar bills alike. It took a long time to wake him and longer
yet to make him understand the dire thing that had happened.
"Get up! Get up! We've got to catch 'em!" concluded Jot.
"Yes, the thieves--catch the thieves, you know!" Kent explained. "I
don't s'pose you'll lie there all night and let 'em cut off with our
money, if you are Old Tilly!"
Then something funny happened. Anyway, it seemed funny to Old Tilly. He
buried his face in the pillow and choked with laughter.
"It's gone to his head!" whispered Jot, in alarm.
"No, to his t-toe!" giggled Old Tilly, purple in the face.
"Yes, sir, he's crazy as a loon. Let's call father, Jot!"
"Hold on!--wait! It's all right, boys! The money is, and I am, and
everybody is! Just wait till I get my laugh out, won't you?"
"No, sir, but we'll wait till you get out o' bed and that's this very
minute!" Jot exclaimed wrathfully. He was dancing up and down with
Old Tilly slowly brought a lean, shapely leg into view from beneath the
sheet. To the boys' amazement it was covered with a long black
stocking. Old Tilly, like the other boys, had been barefooted all day.
"Thought I might as well get a good start in dressing!" he chuckled.
"Nothing like being read--"
"Oh, come off!"
"Well, I wish it would; there's something in the toe that hurts. Ow!"
He drew off the stocking and gravely examined the snug little wad in the
"The money!" cried Kent.
"Yes, sir, the money!" Jot echoed in astonishment.
"Why, so it is!" Old Tilly said in evident surprise. "Then the thieves
didn't get away with it, after all! I call that a lucky stroke--my
getting partly dressed overnight! No, hold on, you little chaps--don't
get uppy! I'll explain, honest I will! You see, I got up after a while
and put the money there for safe-keeping. I'd like to see the thief
that would look there for it! He'd get a good kick if he did!"
It was half an hour later when the trio settled back into sleep again.
In the east already there were dim outriders of day trailing across the
Without further incident the three knights-errant got under way next
day. In a glare of July sunshine they rode away in search of
adventures, while Father and Mother Eddy in the kitchen doorway looked
after them a little wistfully.
"Bless their hearts!" mother murmured tender-wise.
"Good boys! Good boys!" said father, coughing to cover the break in his
"I say, this is great!" called Jot, who led the van, of course. "This
is the way to do it!"
[Illustration: "I say, this is great!" called Jot.]
"Yes, sir!" Kent cried in high feather, "it feels as if you were reg'lar
old knights, you know! Isn't it jolly not to know what's going to
Old Tilly's wheel slid up abreast of Kent's and proceeded sociably.
"Esau Whalley's farm 'happens next,' and then old Uncle Rod King's
next," Old Tilly said calmly. "I guess we better wait till we get out
o' this neck o' woods before we settle down to making believe!"
But three wheels driven by three pairs of sturdy, well-muscled legs get
over miles swiftly, and by ten o'clock the boys had turned down an
unfamiliar road and were on the way to things that happened. Before
noon knightly deeds were at their hand. Jot himself discovered the
first one. He vaulted from his bicycle suddenly, as they were bowling
past a little gray house set in weeds, and the others, looking back, saw
him carrying a dripping pail of water along the path to the kitchen
"The pail was out there on the well curb, asking to be filled," he
explained brusquely, as he caught up with them, "and the old woman
pumping into it didn't look as if lugging water agreed with her.
Besides, I wanted a drink."
"You didn't get one," retorted Kent, wisely.
Jot cast a sidewise glance upon him.
"I said I wanted one, didn't I? Anybody can want a drink."
"And take your remedy. Dose: lug one pail o' water for an old woman.
If not successful, repeat in ten min--"
Jot made a rapid spurt and left his teaser behind. When Old Tilly had
come abreast of him again, he reached out a brotherly hand and bestowed
a hearty pat on his arm.
"Good boy!" he said, and unconsciously his voice was like father's,
miles back in the kitchen doorway. It was the way father would have
"That's the way to do. We'll pick up 'errands' to do for folks. What's
the use of being knights?"
And Old Tilly's turn came next, in the way of driving the cows out of
somebody's corn patch and propping up the broken fence. If it took but
a few minutes, what of that? It saved a bent old man's rheumatic leg's,
and the gay whistle that went with it drifted into an open window and
pleased a little fretful child.
"My turn next!" shouted Kent, gliding away from them out of sight over
the brow of a hill.
"Good luck to you!" called Jot. "We're going into camp to take a bite.
No use being in such a rush."
"When you come my way, drop in!" floated back faintly. They tilted their
wheels against trees and threw themselves down in the shade to rest.
Jot was ravenous with hunger.
"Cakes are all right to begin on," he said, regarding mother's bountiful
store with approval. "But when I strike the next store you'll see the
crackers and cheese fly!"
"I don't mind taking a hand in the scrimmage myself!" laughed Old Tilly,
munching a fat cake. "I say, wasn't Kent foolish to go scooting off
like that? Might as well have begun easy. I move we ride nights and
mornings mostly, and loaf noons. There's a moon, 'silver mo-oo-on'--"
His voice trailed lazily into song. It was pleasant lounging in the
shade and remembering the hay was all in and adventures ahead.
An hour or so later they moved on at a leisurely pace, looking for Kent.
The general direction had been agreed upon, so they experienced no
anxiety. It added to the fun to hunt for him.
"Where in the world did he go to?" queried Old Tilly, laughing. "He
disappeared like a streak of lightning!"
"I see him--there, under that tree!" cried Jot, waving a salute. "He's
lying down and enjoying life."
But it was a tired old man under the tree, and, from his forlorn face,
he did not seem to be "enjoying life." He was very old, very shabby,
very tired. His unkempt figure had collapsed feebly by the way
apparently. What astonished the boys was the wheel that lay on its side
near him. He did not look like a wheelman.
"Hold on. Old Till, I say!" called Jot in sudden excitement, forging
ahead to his side. "I say, that looks like our wheel--mine and Kent's!
I guess I know our wheel!"
Jot was riding the borrowed machine. Kent had the one they owned
"You're right, sonny; it looks that way!" rejoined Old Tilly, excited in
his turn. "But we can't pounce on it and cut, you know. How do we know
what Kent's up to?"
Jot grunted derisively. "Probably he's given it to the old duffer for a
birthday present--hundredth anniversary!" he scoffed. "That would be
taking his turn at doing knight-errands. Let's go right on and not
disturb the poor old man--"
"Let's have sense!" remarked Old Tilly, briefly. "We'll forge on ahead
and hunt Kent up before we arrest tramps for bike-lifting. When he says
he's been robbed it'll be time to holler 'Stop, thief!'"
"Yes, come on!" Jot called back as he shot ahead. "I haven't a doubt but
we'll find Kentie's got his bike tucked away all safe in the toe of his
They came almost instantly into the outskirts of a snug little
settlement. The road was flanked on both sides by neat white houses.
Trig little children scurried out of their way, cheering shrilly.
Somewhere there was music. [Transcriber's note: the word "trig", above,
is as it appears in the original book.]
"Hark!" Jot cried.
"Hark yourself! That's a good hand-organ," Old Tilly said; and he
hummed the familiar tune, and both wheels sped on to the time of it, as
it seemed. The music grew louder. "Look up in that dooryard, will you!
Jot Eddy, look at the chap that's grinding it!"
Jot uttered an exclamation of astonishment.
Up in one of the shady side yards stood Kent, turning the crank of a
hand-organ! He was facing the highway where the other two boys were,
but not a trace of recognition was in his face. Ranged in a semicircle
before him was a line of little children shuffling their toes to the gay
"It's Kent!" gasped Jot.
"Or his ghost--pretty lively one! Where in the world did he get that
hand-organ? And what's he done with his bike? Why--oh!"
Old Tilly added two and two, and, in the light of a sudden inspiration,
they made four. Yes, of course, that was it, but he would wait and let
Jot guess it out for himself. Jot had other business in hand just then.
"Say, come on up there with the youngsters, Old Till!" he whispered
excitedly. "Come on, quick! We'll make him smile! He can't keep his
face with us tagging on with the children!"
They left their wheels beside the road and stalked solemnly up the path.
The children were too intent on the music to notice them, and the figure
at the crank did not change its stiff, military attitude. The tune
lurched and swayed on.
Suddenly, with a sharp click, the music swept into something majestic
and martial, with the tread of soldiers' feet and the boom of drums in
it. The faces of the little children grew solemn, and unconsciously
their little shoulders straightened and they stood "at attention." They
were all little patriots at heart and they longed to step into file and
tramp away to that splendid music.
Again the tune changed sharply, and still again. Then the organ-grinder
slung his instrument with an experienced twist and twirl across his
shoulders, and took off his cap.
"Look, will you? He's going to pass it round!" giggled Jot, under his
breath. "He'll pass it to us, Old Till!"
"Keep your face straight, mind!" commanded Old Till, sharply.
The organ-grinder handed round his cap, up and down the crooked line of
his audience. The two sober boys at one end dropped in a number of
pennies, one at a time deliberately,
"Bless ye!" murmured the organ-grinder, gratefully. Jot's brown face
tweaked with the agony of keeping straight, but Old Tilly was equal to
the occasion. He assumed a benevolent, pitying expression.
"Hold on a minute!" he called. "Here's a nickel for your poor wife and
children. How many you got?"
"Five, sir, your honor," the musician murmured thickly.
"Sure--all but a couple of the little uns. They're up 'n' dressed,
thank ye; bless ye!"
Jot made a strange, choking sound in his throat.
"Is the young gent took ill?" inquired the organ-grinder, solicitously.
"No, oh, no; only a slight attack of strangulating--he's liable to
attacks. It was the music--too much for him!"' Old Tilly gravely
explained, but his lips quivered and struggled to smile.
The whole little procession trailed slowly down the lane to the street.
At the next house and at all the others in succession, it turned in and
arranged itself in line again, prepared to listen with ears and dancing
toes. Jot and Old Tilly followed on in the rear. They found it hard
work to find pennies enough to drop into the organ-grinder's cap at
every round. Toward the end they economized narrowly.
The small settlement came to an abrupt ending just over the brow of the
hill. The houses gave out, and the musician and his audience swung
about and retraced their steps. The children dropped off, a few at a
time, until there were left only the three boys, who went on soberly
"Oh, say!" broke out Jot at last.
"'Tis not for the likes o' me to 'say,' your honor," the organ-grinder
murmured humbly, and Jot gave him a violent nudge.
"Let's knock off foolin'!" he cried. "I say, where'd you get that
machine, Kentie? Where'd you get it? And for the sake o' goodness
gracious, where's your wheel?"
"'Turn, turn, my wheel,'" quoted Kent from the Fourth Reader. He was
shaking with suppressed laughter, that turned into astonishment at Old
Tilly's calm rejoinder. If it didn't take Old Till to ferret things
"It isn't liable to 'turn, turn,' while that old tramp has it," Tilly
said calmly. "He isn't built for a rider. What kind of a trade did you
make, anyway? Going halves?"
"No, going wholes!" Kent answered briefly, and would say no more. They
went on down the sandy road. When they got back to the forlorn old
figure under the tree, it was slowly rising up and regarding them out of
tired, lack-luster eyes. The wheel still leaned comfortably in its
place close by.
"Me--bring--money. Play--tunes. You--buy--food," Kent said very slowly
and distinctly, pausing between every word. "He's a foreigner, you
know," he explained over his shoulder to the boys. "He no understand.
You have to talk pigeon English to him. See how he catches on to what I
The old face had grown less dull and weary. A slow light seemed to
illumine it. As the little stream of pennies dripped into the
tremulous, wrinkled old hand, it suddenly flashed into a smile. Then a
stream of strange words issued from the old man's lips. They tripped
over each other and made weird, indistinguishable combinations of sound,
but the boys translated them by the light of that smile. How pleased
the old fellow was! How he fingered over the pennies exultantly!
"Tell the whole story, old man," Old Tilly said quietly as they mounted
their wheels and glided off. "It looks like a reg'lar novel!"
"Yes, hurry up, can't you!" impatiently Jot urged. "Begin at the
beginning, and go clear through to the end."
"You've helped folks. Why shouldn't I? There weren't any old ladies
with empty water pails, or any cows in corn lots, so I had to take up
with the poor old organ-grinder. That's all."
"All!" scoffed Jot, "Go on with the rest of it, Kent Eddy!"
"Isn't any 'rest,'" grunted Kent, "unless you count the organ-grinder;
he had some-looked as if he'd rested. Well, sir"--Kent suddenly woke
up--"but without any fooling, you ought to have seen that old chap when
I came on him. He was all used up--heat, you know. There was a creek,
back a ways, and the water kind of pulled him up. He couldn't talk
English, but he offered me a black two-cent piece for pay. He turned
his pocket out to find it. That set me to thinking I'd make him a
"Of course! Go on!" hurried Jot.
"Isn't any 'on.'"
"There's honor," Old Tilly cried softly. "I say that was splendid,
Kentie! I like that!"
Kent flushed uneasily. Old Tilly's face looked like father's when he
said his rare, hearty words of commendation.
"Well, the organ-grinder likes it, too!" Kent laughed. "Now he can have
something to eat. Poor old fellow! He couldn't have gone through all
those dooryards to save his life! He was 'most sunstruck. I told a
motherly old lady about him, at one of the houses, and she's going to be
on the lookout for him, and give him a snack of meat and bread."
They went on for half a mile quite silently. Then, without warning.
Jot suddenly began to laugh. He tumbled off his bicycle and collapsed
in a feeble heap.
"Don't anybody st-op me !" he cried. "It's dangerous! I'm having one o'
The others joined in, and, for a little, the woods rang with boyish
"It was rich!" stammered Jot. "Passing the hat round capped it!"
"It was great!" laughed Old Tilly. "You're an actor, Kentie!"
"Me! What are you?"
"Well, I can't grind a hand-organ and pass round the hat like that!"
"I could!" Jot cried, suddenly sobering down and going through the
motions of turning a crank with airy ease. "It's 'most too easy for
The fun lasted until night. It was Saturday, and they rode until sunset
without further stops.
"We'll rest awhile and then go on by moonlight," Old Tilly said. "It
will be jolly and cool then. Besides, we don't want to be on the road
to-morrow. I promised mother I'd see that you all kept Sunday."
"And go to church ?" Jot said.
"Yes, and go to church, it there's one to go to anywhere," Old Tilly
rejoined quietly. "I told mother I'd see that you fellows went to
church quiet and nice, if possible. She put in the extra collars and
neckties on purpose."
A long rest, with a hearty lunch, and then they were off again in the
clear moonlight. It was splendid. The trees, the road, the pale,
ghostly houses--everything had a weird, charmed aspect. They might have
been riding through fairyland. It was growing late, they knew, and at
last they stopped, out of sheer weariness.
A great, square bulk loomed faintly before them in the waning moonlight.
It might be a house--might be a mountain! Jot spurted on ahead to
"House!" he shouted back. "Doors open--all quiet--guess it's on a picnic
ground. I felt a stair that seemed to lead up to a balcony or
"Well, we're sleepy enough. We'll take anything we can get!" yawned
"Come on, then."
And, riding into what seemed a yard, they found a good place for their
wheels under some bushes. The moon was too low to give them any light,
but the boys found the doorway to the big building and went up the
stairs, guided by their hands along the narrow passageway. They could
only discern a queer little enclosure, topped by a little rail. They
were too thoroughly tired out to be curious, and, feeling some narrow
seats, they lay down, and, making themselves comfortable, were soon
Jot was dreaming that Old Tilly had made him go to church and the people
were singing, when suddenly he opened his eyes. Was he dreaming? Over
him floated a sweet hymn, one his mother loved to join in singing at
church Sunday morning. The boy's eyes opened wider still at sight of
flecks of sunshine dancing on the walls near, and, raising his head, he
saw through the clear little panes of a long window, where the green
leaves were dancing against the glass. The singing went on, and the boy
raised himself in a wondering fashion upon his elbow. Where were they?
Jot lifted his head still higher, and, glancing over the railing, he
looked down upon a goodly company. The amazement on his face grew
greater instead of less. They were in church!--that was sure. Jot
looked back to his sleeping companions and held his breath as one of
them stirred uneasily. What if he should roll off the bench? The hymn
grew louder and sweeter, and Jot smoothed out his hair and straightened
his necktie and sat up straight. The branches outside tapped the
narrow, small paned window near him, and from the open windows below the
sweet beauty of the summer morning stole in. But as the minister rose
to give out his text, a sound from one of the boys back of him caused
Jot to turn.
Jot turned in his narrow seat there in the church gallery as he heard a
sound that made him think his brothers were waking. But Old Tilly had
only stirred in his sleep and struck out a little jarringly against the
back of the narrow gallery pew. Jot turned back and scanned the place
they had so innocently taken for their quarters the night before. The
gallery pew they were in was like a tiny half-walled room, with seats
running around three sides and up to the queer door on the fourth side.
The walls of the pews were almost as high as Jot's head if he had dared
to stand up.
Kent stirred uneasily and threw out his arm with a smart rap against the
side. Jot crept across to him in terror. "Sh! Sh! Keep quiet! don't
breathe! You're in meeting!" he whispered. "The minister's down there
preaching now! Oh, sh!"
"Lemme--" But Jot's hand cut off the rest. The other hand gently shook
"I tell you we're in meeting; don't make a sound!"
"Who's making a sound?" whispered Kent, now thoroughly awake. Was Jot
taken suddenly crazy? Hark! who was that talking?
"If you don't believe me, raise your eye over that wall and sec what!"
whispered Jot eagerly. He drew Kent up beside him and they peeped
carefully over. Kent dropped back, as Jot had done, in sheer surprise.
The two boys gazed at each other silently. It was too much for Kent,
though, and, to suppress a laugh, he stuffed his handkerchief in his
Kent pointed to Old Tilly and smiled broadly.
"He promised mother he'd take us to meeting," he whispered, "and he's
"Yes, but she wouldn't like to see him asleep in church!" Jot whispered
Below them the minister's deep voice tolled on solemnly. They could not
catch all the words.
"Come on! I'm going to sit up like folks. I want to hear what he's
saying," Jot whispered after awhile.
They smoothed their hair and tried to straighten collars and ties, and
then suddenly some of the people down below in the body of the church
glanced up and saw two boyish faces, side by side, in the gallery. The
puzzle was beyond unraveling. The women prodded each other gently with
their parasol tips and raised their eyebrows. The men looked blank.
When had those youngsters got up there in that pew? One of the deacons
scowled a little, but the two quiet brown faces allayed his suspicions.
It wasn't mischief--it was mystery.
The sight that had met Jot's astonished eyes in the beginning was a
quaint one. This was a new kind of a church! At home there were rows
upon rows of red-cushioned seats, with the hymn books and fans in the
racks making the only break to the monotony. Here the pews were all
little square rooms with high partitions and doors. The hard board
seats ran 'way round them all, so that in some of them people were
sitting directly "back to" the minister! Rows on rows of the little
rooms, like cells, jutted against each other and filled up the entire
space below save the aisles and the pulpit.
[Illustration: This was a new kind of church.]
And the pulpit! Jot's eyes returned to it constantly in wondering
admiration. There was a steep flight of stairs leading up to it on each
side, and an enormous umbrella-like sounding-board was poised heavily
above it. The pulpit itself was round and tail and hung above the heads
of the congregation, making the practice of looking up at the good old
minister a neck-aching process. Directly beneath the pulpit was a seat
facing the people. It was empty now, but a hundred years ago, had the
lads but known it, the deacons had sat there and the "tithing-man,"
whose duty it was to go about waking up the dozers with his long wand.
It was called the Deacon's Seat, and if sometimes the deacons themselves
had dropped off into peaceful naps--what then? Did the "tithing-man"
nudge them sharply with his stick, or was he dozing, too?
There are still a few of these old landmarks left in the country. Now
and then we run across them and get a distinct flavor of old times, and
it is worth going a good many miles to see the inside of one of them.
By just shutting one's eyes and "making believe" a little, how easy it
would be to conjure up our dear old grandmothers in their great scoop
bonnets, and grandfathers with their high coat collars coming nearly to
their bald crowns! And the Deacon's Seat under the pulpit--how easy to
make believe the deacons in claw-hammer coats and queer frilled shirt
The people Jot and Kent saw were ordinary, modern people, and their
modern clothes looked oddly out of date against the quaint old setting.
Jot thought with a twinge of sympathy how hard the seats must feel, and
how shoulders must ache against the perfectly straight-up-and-down
backs. He felt a sudden pity for his great-grandmother and great-uncles
This especial old church, box-like and unchurchly without and ancient
within, was rarely used for worship except in the summer months. Then
there were services in it as often as a minister could be found to
conduct them. The three young adventurers had stumbled upon it in the
dark and overslept out of sheer physical weariness. It was up in one of
the old choir pews in the high gallery they had wakened--or Jot had
wakened--to the strains of the beautiful hymn his mother loved.
The whole explanation was simple enough when it was explained. Kent and
Jot worked it out slowly in their own minds.
Meanwhile Old Tilly slept on, and the sermon came to an end. There was
another hymn and then the benediction. The people dispersed slowly, and
once more the big house was deserted.
Then Jot woke Old Tilly. "I say," he cried, "I say, old fellow, wake
"Yes, I'm coming in a minute!" muttered Old Tilly.
"You'll be late for church," remarked Kent dryly, with a wink at Jot.
Old Tilly stirred and rose on his elbow. Then he gave a bewildered look
"You're in church. Didn't you promise mother you'd take us to church?"
"But you slept all through the service," said Kent, "and I shall tell
"Kent Eddy, what are you trying to get at? How did we get here,
anyhow?" said Old Tilly, rising cautiously; and then, as he looked down
on the empty room below, standing to his full height, he said. "Well, if
I ever!" a laugh breaking through his white teeth. "I should say we had
been in church!" he added. "Why didn't you fellows wake me up? What
did the folks think?"
"Oh, they only saw the two good boys sitting on the seat facing them!
We didn't say we had another one smuggled in under beside us. But my!
You did rap the seat awfully once with your elbow!"
"Well, I know one thing: my shoulder aches from lying on that narrow
seat so long," said Old Tilly. "I say, let's go down to the wheels and
the grub. I'm half starved!"
"All right," said Kent in rather a subdued way. The morning service had
stolen pleasingly through him, and somehow it seemed to the little lad
as though their ship had been guided into a wonderfully quiet harbor.
And now he followed his brothers down the narrow stairs that they had so
innocently groped their way up in darkness the night before. The three
had agreed to leave the church and partake of the lunch that was in the
baskets on the wheels, but now they found doing so not as easy of
accomplishment as they had at first thought. When they tried the outer
door they found to their dismay that it was locked. Old Tilly would not
believe Kent, and he pushed the latter's hand off the door knob rather
impatiently. "Let me get hold of it!"
But, rattle the door as he might, he could not stir the rusty lock.
"Well, we're locked in, that's sure!" said Kent, looking almost
"I guess you're right, Jotham," Old Tilly said.
"But what in the world did they go and lock up for, when we got in just
as easy as pie last night?" exclaimed Kent, disgustedly.
"Oh, ask something easy!" Jot cried. "What I want to know is, how we're
going to get on the other side o' that door."
The care-taker, if one could call him that, of the old meeting-house,
had taken it into his head to take care of it!--or it may have been that
the key chanced to be in his pocket, convenient. At all events, the
door was securely fastened. The three boys reluctantly gave up the
attempt to force it.
"Windows!" Kent suddenly exclaimed, and they all laughed foolishly.
They had not thought of the windows.
"That's a good joke on the Eddy boys!" Old Tilly said. "We sha'n't hear
the last of it if anybody lets on to father."
"Better wait till we're on the other side of the windows!" advised Kent.
"Maybe it isn't a joke."
There were windows enough. They were ranged in monotonous rows on all
sides of the church, above and below. They all had tiny old-fashioned
panes of glass and were fastened with wooden buttons. It was the work
of a minute to "unbutton" one of them and jump out.
"There!" breathed Jot in relief, as his toes touched sod again, "I feel
as if I'd been in prison and just got out."
"Broken out--that's the way I feel. I wish we could fasten the window
again," Old Tilly said thoughtfully.
Kent was rubbing his ankle ruefully.
"It was a joke on us, our mooning round that door all that time, and
thinking we were trapped!"
"Oh, well, come on; it doesn't matter, now we're free again."
"Come along--here are our wheels all right," Old Tilly said briskly.
"Let's go down to that little bunch of white houses there under the
hill, and pick out the one we want to stay over night in."
"The one that wants us to stay in it, you mean! Come on, then."
It was already mid-afternoon. The beautiful Sunday peace that broods
over New England's country places rested softly on new-mown fields and
bits of pasture and woods. The boys' hearts were made tender by the
service they had so unexpectedly attended, and as the beauty of the
scene recalled again the home fields, they fell into silence. A tiny,
brown-coated bird tilted on a twig and sang to them as they passed. The
little throat throbbed and pulsated with eager melody.
Old Tilly listened to the song to its close, then swung round suddenly.
His face was like father's when he got up from his knees at family
"That bird seems singing, 'Holy, holy, holy,'" Old Tilly said softly.
"Can't you hear?"
"Yes, I hear," murmured Jot.
The little white house they picked out sat back from the highway in a
nest of lilac bushes. It reminded the boys a very little of home.
"Stop over night? Away from home, be ye? Why, yes, I guess me an' pa
can take you in. One, two--dear land! there's three of ye, ain't there?
Yes, yes, come right in! I couldn't turn three boys away--not three!"
The sweet-faced old woman in the doorway held out both hands
welcomingly. She seemed to get at the history of the three young
knights by some instinctive mind-reading of her own--the boys themselves
said so little. It was the little old lady's sweet voice that ran on
without periods, piecing Old Tilly's brief explanatory words together
"Havin' a holiday, be you? I see. Well, young folks has to have their
outin's. When they git as old as me an' pa, they'll be all innin's!"
she ran on. Suddenly she stooped and surveyed them with a placid
attempt at sternness. "I hope you've all be'n to meetin'?" she cried.
Jot's face twisted oddly.
"Yes," Old Tilly answered, subduedly, "we've been to church."
"I thought so--I thought so. Now come in an' see pa--poor pa' He was
took again yesterday. He's frettin' dretfully about the hay. Pa--"
Her voice went on ahead and heralded their coming. "Here's three boys
come to stop over night with us--three, pa. You're glad there's three
of 'em, ain't you? I knew you'd be. When I'd counted 'em up, I didn't
hesitate any longer! The littlest one looks a little mite like our Joey,
pa--only Joey was handsome," she added innocently.
Kent nudged Jot delightedly. They were entering a quaint, old-fashioned
room, and at the further end on a hair-cloth settle lay a withered
morsel of an old man. His sun-browned face made a shriveled spot of
color against the pillows.
"That's pa," the little old lady said, by way of introduction. "He was
took yesterday, out in the field. It was dretful hot--an' the hay 'most
in, too. He's frettin' because he couldn't 've waited a little mite
longer, ain't you, pa? I tell him if the boys was here--" She broke
off with a quiver in her thin, clear voice. Pa, on the couch, put out
his hand feebly and smoothed her skirt.
"We had three boys--ma an' me," he explained quietly. "That's why ma was
so quick to take you in, I guess. They was all little shavers like you
"Yes, jest little shavers," said ma, softly. "They hadn't got where I
couldn't make over 'em an' tuck 'em in nights, when they was took away--
all in one week. You wouldn't have thought 'twould have be'n all in one
week--three boys--would you? Not three! I tell pa the Lord didn't give
us time enough to bid 'em all good-by. It takes so long to give up
Old Tilly and the others stood by in odd embarrassment. Jot was bothered
with a strange sensation in his throat.
But the old lady's sorrowing face brightened presently. She bustled
about the room busily, getting out chairs and setting straight things
crooked in her zeal.
"I guess you're hungry, ain't you? Boys always is--an' three boys!
Dear! how hungry three boys can be! I'm goin' out to get supper. Pa,
you must do the entertainin'."
The bread was "just like mother's"--white with a delicious crust--and
the butter yellow as gold, and Jot helped himself plentifully. "Ma,"
behind the tea urn, watched him with a beaming face.
"That's right!--I love to see boys eat! I tell pa sometimes I can just
see our three boys settin' at this table eatin' one of ma's good meals
o' victuals. You must have some of this custard, Joey." A faint
essence of added tenderness crept into the wistful old voice at that
name. The boys knew that Joey had been the little old lady's baby.
"Joey was a great hand for custard. Joey was a master hearty boy."
After supper, the boys wandered out around the tiny farm. It was at best
a rocky, uneven place, but there were evidences of "pa's" hard work on
it. Most of the grass had been mowed and carried into the barn, but
there was one small field still dotted over with cocks of overripe hay.
Old Tilly strode over and examined it with an air of wisdom.
"Too ripe," he commented. "I guess it won't be worth getting in, if it
stays out here much longer."
"He meant to have it all in yesterday--she said he did. I mean that
little old lady said so," Jot remarked.
"Well, if it isn't all in to-morrow, it's a goner," Old Tilly said
"Now, boys, there's lots o' good water out in the cistern," the old lady
said, when they came back. "I've put the towels handy in the shed. It
may be you'll sleep sounder if you have a nice sponge off."
Only too glad, the boys took to the shed, and then followed their guide
to the airy room waiting. How the pillows fitted a fellow's head! as
Jot said luxuriously. And the beds, how good they felt after those hard
church pews! They were sound asleep in a moment.
The little old lady stole in to look at them. She held the lamp high in
one hand and gazed down with wistful eyes into the three healthy brown
faces. When she went back to pa, her face was wet with a rain of tears.
"They look so good, pa, lyin' there!" she said brokenly. "An' you'd
ought to see how much like Joey the littlest one throws up his arm!"
The old man could not sleep. He kept asking if it looked like rain and
kept fretting because he could not move his legs about freely.
"I've got to move 'em, ma," he groaned.-"I've got to practice before
to-morrer, so's to get the hay in. I've got to get the hay in, ma!"
It was Jot, for a wonder, who slept the longest. He woke with a start
of surprise at his strange surroundings. Then he sat up in bed, blinking
his eyes open wider. The room was a large one with two beds in it. He
and Kent had slept in one, and Old Tilly in the other. It was just
before sunrise, and in the east a wide swathe of pink was banding the
sky. Outside the window, a crowd of little birds were tuning up for a
Jot rubbed his eyes again. There was no one else in the room. The
other boys had vanished completely. He leaped out of bed with a queer
sense of fright. Then he made a discovery.
"Come on--haying's begun," the note read. It was in Kent's angular,
boyish hand, and Jot found it pinned conspicuously to the looking-glass
frame. "Old Till and I are at it. Come on out."
So that was it? They were getting in the poor little morsel of an old
man's hay. Jot jumped into his clothes with a leap and was out in the
hay-field with them. He was inclined to be cross at being left dozing
while the work began.
"I call that shabby mean," he protested. "Why couldn't you wake a
fellow up? I guess I'd like a hand in helping the old man out, as well
as either of you."
"Wake you up!" laughed Kent. "Didn't I tickle the soles of your feet?
Didn't I pinch you? What more do you want?"
"You wouldn't wake up, Jot," Old Tilly said cheerfully. "I took a hand
at it myself, but nothing this side of a brass band would 've done it
this morning. We couldn't bring that in, you know, for fear of waking
the folks. So Kent wrote you a letter."
The work went on splendidly. They were all in fine haying trim, and the
cocks in the rough little field were tossed briskly into the rack.
There were three loads, and the last one was safely stowed in the haymow
before the little old lady in the house had stirred up her breakfast
[Illustration: They were all in fine haying trim.]
"I hope she won't discover anything before we get away," Old Tilly said.
"It would be such fun to have it a reg'lar surprise!"
"Wouldn't it!" cried Jot.
"But she might think somebody'd come along in the night and stole it,
don't you see?" Kent objected.
"No, sir, I don't see. I guess she'd see our trail. And besides, look
up there in the mow! It doesn't look just exactly as it did before we
A few minutes after the boys had glided away on their wheels, the little
old lady hurried into "pa's" room.
"Pa, pa, it's all in, jest as nice as a new pin! Every spear's in!" she
cried delightedly. "Them three boys did it before breakfast. I knew
what they was up to, but I wasn't goin' to spoil their little surprise!
I guess I know how boys like surprises. Don't you remember how Hilary
an' Eben got the potatoes all dug that time an' surprised you? How
innocent their little faces looked when you said, 'Hum-suz-a-day! how it
makes my back ache thinkin' o' those potatoes!' Joey was a tittle thing
in kilts, but he helped. He tugged 'em in, in his own little basket--I
can see jest how proud he looked! But I evened up a little on the
surprise. I guess when they come to open them bicycle baskets they'll
see some things in the way of apple-pie that was not there earlier!"
All the morning the boys wondered at the stream of wagons traveling
their way. Then just at noon they found out what it meant. They came
round a sharp curve in the road upon a beautiful grove on the shore of a
lake. It was gay with flags and the bright dresses of women and
children. Here and there an awning or tent dotted the green spaces.
People were bustling about in all directions, laughing and shouting to
each other, and every few minutes there were new arrivals.
"Hark! there's a band o' music! It's a circus!" cried Kent, excitedly.
Jot had disappeared somewhere in the crowd.
"No-o, not a circus," Old Tilly said doubtfully. "It's some kind of a
big picnic. See, there's a kind of a track laid out over there where
that flag is. They're going to have some kind of athletics."
"Foot-races and hurdles and things! Oh, I say, can't we stay and see
'em?" Kent cried eagerly.
At that instant appeared Jot, waving his cap in great excitement.
"Come on--we're invited!" he shouted. "There's going to be lots of fun,
I tell you! We can buy ice-cream, too, over in that striped tent, and
there are boats we can hire to row out in, and--everything."
"Hold on a minute!" demanded Old Tilly with the sternness of authority.
"How did you get your invitation? and what is it that's going on,
"Tell quick, Jot--hurry! They're getting ready for a foot-race,"
"It's a Grangers' picnic, that's what. And a big jolly Granger invited
us to stop to it. He asked if we weren't farmer boys, and said he
thought so by our cut when I said, yes sir-ee. He wants us to stop. He
said so. He says his folks have got bushels of truck for dinner, and we
can join in with them and welcome."
"And thanking him kindly, I'll stop!" laughed Kent, in high feather.
"Come on over there, Jot, and see 'em race." And the three young
knights were presently in the midst of the gay crowd, as gay as anybody.
The afternoon was full of fun for them. They made plenty of
acquaintances among the other brown-faced farmer boys, and entered into
the spirit of the occasion with the hearty zest of boys out holidaying.
They were a little careful about not being too free with their
spending-money. "'Cause we're out on a long run, you know," Old Tilly
said. But what they did spend went for their share of the entertainment
given so freely to them by the big Granger who had taken them in tow.
It was a day filled with a round of pleasure, as Jot had predicted.
The athletic contests on the primitive little race-track proved the
greatest attraction of all. There were bicycle races after the
foot-racing and hammer-throwing and high jumping. Jot longed to vault
into his own wheel and whirl round the track dizzily, like the rest of
them. He and Kent stood together close to the turning-point. They had
somehow drifted away from Old Tilly.
A new race began, and up at the starting-place there seemed to be a good
deal of hilarity. The hearty laughs were tantalizing.
"What is it? Why don't they come on and give us fellows a chance to
laugh, too?" exclaimed Jot, impatiently.
Kent was peering sharply between his hands. He suddenly began to laugh.
"It's a slow race!" he cried. "They're trying to see who can get
behind! Come on up further where we can see. It'll be great!"
"Come along, then--hurry!" shouted Jot.
"It's a free-for-all. Anybody can compete," somebody was saying as they
passed. "But they've got to be slower than Old Tilly!"
"Can't do it!" whispered Jot. "Old Tilly can sit still on his bike."
"I hope he'll see the race," Kent panted. "It would be mean if he
missed. Here's a good place--there they come. Look at 'em crawling
along like snails! There's one chap clear behind. Yes, sir, he's
Jot gave one look and uttered a shout:
"It's Old Tilly!"
"Look for yourself and see--ain't it?"
"Of course--no--yes, sir, it's Old Till, for a fact."
"And he's 'way behind--I told you there wasn't anybody slower'n Old
Tilly! He's beating as fast as anything."
"As slow as anything. Come on! Let's cheer him, Jot."
They caught off their caps and cheered wildly. Every-body else joined
in, catching at the name and laughing over it as a good joke.
"Hurrah--hurrah for Old Tilly!"
"Hip, hip, 'n' a tiger for Old Til-ly!"
The time-keeper called time, and Old Tilly descended from his victorious
wheel and bowed profoundly to his cheerers. He walked away to join the
other boys with the exaggerated air of a great victor, and the people
"Oh, I say, that was rich, Old Till," gasped Jot. "That was worth a
"What made you think of entering?" Kent laughed.
"Oh, I thought I would--I knew I could beat 'em," Old Tilly said
Sunset ended the festivities in the grove, and the boys mounted and rode
away with the other tired people. Gradually they fell behind.
"Don't--rush--so; I've got to keep up my reputation!" said Old Tilly.
"Besides, I'm tired."
"Same here. Let's camp out to-night in the woods. Why didn't we stay
there and camp in that grove?"
"Well, we might have, but we won't go back," answered Old Tilly. "Come
on, let's make for that pretty little brown house. Maybe we can buy our
But the little brown house was shut up tight. The curtains were all
pulled down, and a general air of "not at home" pervaded even the
clapboards and the morning-glory vine over the door. Only the neat
little barn looked hospitable. Its doors stood open wide. A distant
rumble of thunder suddenly sounded, and the sky darkened with ominous
"Going to rain," Kent said.
"Sure," added Jot. "Look at those clouds, will you? We'd better get
into a hole somewhere."
"We'll go into the barn," decided Old Tilly, after a minute's thought,
"and if it rains all night, we'll stay there. We can't do any harm."
It rained all night. Shower after shower burst over them heavily, and
there was a continual boom of thunder in their ears. A slight respite
at midnight was followed by the most terrific shower of all. The boys
huddled together in the hay, with awe-struck faces, but unafraid. They
could not sleep in such a magnificent tumult of nature.
Suddenly there was a blinding flash of lightning, then a crash. The
whole universe seemed tottering about them. Dizzy and stunned, they
gazed at each other, unable to move for an instant. Then it was Jot who
sprang up in tremulous haste.
"I smell smoke--we're afire!" he exclaimed.
"Yes," Old Tilly cried, striving to be calm, "it struck this barn."
They darted away in search of the fire. The glare of the lightning
showed them their way, and presently they came into the glare of the
flames. The bolt had descended through the harness room.
"Quick! Cattle first!" shouted Old Tilly, clearly. "We must save the
"You go to them, you two--I'm going to the pump," called back Kent,
decisively. He remembered there was a pump just outside the barn, and
he was sure he had seen two or three pails standing about near it--yes,
there they were! He caught them up with a sweep as he leaped by. It was
the work of a moment to fill two pails and a moment more to dash them
down by the floor in one corner where the scattered hay was burning.
Again and again he made flying leaps to the pump and back.
Meanwhile the other two boys were releasing the frantic cattle. It was
no simple thing to do--the poor creatures were so terrified. There were
two steers and a gentle-faced heifer. The boys had made acquaintance
with them the night before, and the poor things greeted them now with
piteous lows of appeal.
"So, boss--so boss--so-o!" soothed Jot at the heifer's head. His
trembling fingers caressed the smooth, fawn-colored nose, as, with the
other hand, he untied her. She crouched back at first and refused to
pass that terrible flaming something on the way to safety outside. But
Jot pulled her along, talking to her all the way.
In less time than it takes to tell of it, the cattle were out of danger.
"Now the hens--hurry, hurry, Jot! I'm going to help Kent. It mustn't
get to the hay upstairs!"
Thanks to Kent's steady, tireless work, there was little danger of that
now. Already the flames were greatly subdued, and only sputtered
aimlessly under the regular showers of water that fell upon them. The
two boys toiled over them patiently till just a blackened corner told
that they had been there in the trig little barn.
It had been a short, sharp battle. A moment's indecision, a very little
less determined effort and presence of mind, and nothing but a miracle
could have saved the barn. And then the house! It stood so near--what
could have saved it?
It was an hour or more before Old Tilly would allow the live stock
brought back into the barn. They hovered anxiously over the blackened
embers, for fear they might spring into life again. But at last there
seemed no danger, and presently the building settled back to quiet
again, and the tired rescuers tried to snatch a little sleep in the hay.
Jot woke the others in the first dim daylight.
"Fire! Fire!" he screamed.
"Where? Where is it?" cried Kent, springing to his feet.
"Put--it--o-ut," mumbled Old Tilly.
It was only a nightmare, but the boys could not doze again after it.
It was just as the sun was rising clear and beautiful that the boys came
out from the barn, and as they caught sight of each other's blackened
faces in the dazzling light, they each gave way to a roar of laughter.
"Well, we all seem to be in the same boat," said Kent, making for the
pump and filling the pails one after the other. "Here's a pail apiece;
that ought to do it for us." Then he went to one of the wheel baskets
and brought back a crash towel and a generous piece of soap. "Now lay
to on yourselves, boys, and then we will see what we can scare up for
breakfast. I suppose there's no getting into the house, so we'll have
to depend on ourselves." But here Kent noticed how particularly quiet
Old Tilly was.
"What's up, lad?" he said, as he plunged his face down into one of the
dripping pails, and then after scrubbing and sputtering for a while he
reached out blindly for a, towel, which one of the others tossed into
his hands. When his eyes were free, he drew a long breath, saying,
"Water fixes a fellow all right." But as he did this he noticed
something that made him exclaim sharply. It was the sight of Old Tilly
washing himself with one hand, while around the wrist of the other a
grimy handkerchief was bound. "Why didn't you say you were hurt?" he
said, coming over to Old Tilly's side. "What is it, anyway?"
"Oh, it's nothing," said Old Tilly, with an impatient nod of his head.
"Maybe it's where the lightning ran down," he said, with a laugh.
"Lightning!--not much! Come, out with it. What is it?"
"Oh, it's just a tear on an old nail. One of those steers got a little
ugly, and I jumped back too suddenly. It's nothing."
"We'll have to take your word for it," said Kent. But he very soberly
turned to the lunch baskets. It was just as they had packed up
everything neatly and were mounting their wheels to ride away, that a
wagon came rumbling down the grassy road and turned in to the farmyard.
A young man with a limp felt hat was on the seat with a woman wearing a
brown straw hat, while a tiny girl in a pink sunbonnet was nestled down
"Halloo!" said the man, as he saw the boys. "Just leavin'?"
"Yes, sir," said Old Tilly, respectfully. "We took the liberty of
sleeping in your barn last night. You see the storm kept us there all
"Well, the storm kept us, too," said the young farmer, reaching for the
little child and setting her down by the pump, and then helping the
woman to alight.
The young woman gave a relieved look around, first at the barn and then
at the house, and said delightedly:
"Oh, Jim, how good it does seem to see everything safe! I can't believe
my eyes hardly." And she added, turning to the boys with a slightly
embarrassed laugh, "I never was very good to stay away from home nights,
and we didn't mean to stay last night, but the rain kept us. It just
seemed to me that with every clap of thunder we'd find everything burned
to ashes, and the whole place gone."
Tears came into her eyes, as she turned and gave her hand to the little
child. "Well, I'm going in to get breakfast," she said, a glad,
tremulous light showing across her face. "You better bring these boys in
to breakfast, Jim. If they've just slept in the barn they must be
hungry." Then turning back again with a heartier laugh, "I feel that
glad to see everything, even to the chickens, just as we left them, that
I wouldn't object to asking the President of the United States to
breakfast. You ain't from around here, are you?" she asked, looking at
the boys. "I thought not. And you're hungry, I'll wager," she said, as
she bustled away with the little girl tugging at her skirts, not waiting
for the boys to disaffirm, as they most assuredly would have done had a
chance been given them, for they were not in the least hungry. But
then, what was a cold luncheon taken from a bicycle basket compared with
a warm breakfast that might include ham and eggs?
"She's awfully nervous, Nancy is," said the young farmer, a trifle
apologetically; "she would have it at brother Ed's that she was being
burned out of house and home. We oughtn't to have stayed, but brother
Ed urged us to go home with him. She's always that way when she's away.
We've ridden nineteen miles since daybreak, and she believed every mile
that we were going to see a burned-down house at the end."
"Well," said Old Tilly in a quiet way, so as not to alarm the young
farmer, "I guess she was about right this time. If we hadn't happened
here--" Then he slipped back into the barn, and the young farmer
followed after, and Old Tilly pointed to the blackened corner, while the
other two drew near interestedly.
"You see how it struck," Old Tilly said quietly, "but we put it out
after a while. It is well we happened to be right here."
The young farmer was gazing at the burned place, with his jaw dropped
and a look of terror coming into his blue eyes.
"It did strike! I should say it did!" he cried excitedly. "What will
[Illustration: "I should say it did strike!" he cried, excitedly.]
Then as a realization came to him that it was owing to the boys that
they had a roof over their heads, he turned first to one lad and then to
the other, and shook their hands heartily. There were tears in his
eyes, but he did not seem conscious of them. "I don't know what Nancy
'll say," he reiterated, as he shook one hand after the other up and
down like a pump handle. "We'll have to be everlastingly obliged to you
for the rest of our days," he said, trying to laugh a little. But his
voice choked, and he turned away to hide his emotion. Then he dropped
down upon a corn-cutter and insisted on hearing the story from beginning
to end, although Old Tilly declared time and again, with the other two
joining in, that "It was nothing."
"You call it nothing? Well, you wait until you've worked half a
lifetime, as Nancy and me have done, to get a place, and then see what
you think about it. I guess Nancy 'll believe it's something."
Then he stopped as a clear call, "Breakfast! Breakfast!" came ringing
out to them from the open door beyond the pump. "Perhaps we'd better not
say anything about it until after breakfast. She's had a powerful
uneasy night, and it's been a good bit of a ride over, too."
To this the boys assented, and the four walked across the yard to the
kitchen door, where the little girl was shyly waiting for them.
"Ain't you the young chap that beat in the bicycle slow race?" asked
Nancy, when she caught a sight of Tilly's face as he removed his hat.
The other two boys laughed, and the farmer, looking squarely at his
"Well, I thought I'd seen you somewhere."
And then they settled down to breakfast in the happiest frame of mind,
evidently, that could be imagined. But all the time Old Tilly kept one
hand down at his side, a little out of sight, and the boys noticed that
he took upon his plate only such things as he could very easily manage
with one hand. The breakfast, for a hurried one, was very satisfactory
indeed. Jot and Kent ate with full appreciation of it.
But had they watched closely, they would have seen how Old Tilly's face
now flushed and then grew pale, and that occasionally he brought his
lips together as though striving to control himself.
But, all unmindful of what the boy was undergoing, Nancy presided
merrily over the table, and kept prompting Jim to fill up the plates as
they needed it, and pressed this and that upon the boys' attention.
"I don't feel as if I should ever want to go away again," she cried.
"It's so good to be at home. I've been through every room in the house
and taken a view of them all." And then she said laughingly, turning to
the boys, "Not that there are so very many of 'em, but they're all we've
got, you know. After breakfast we're going out to the barn, ain't we,
Polly?" she added.
But now Kent noticed that Jot's face had suddenly sobered; he was
looking at Old Tilly anxiously; he had seen. His hand come up from
beneath the table, and he was sure that the handkerchief was spotted
with red. "I say--Old Tilly--" Jot got to his feet hastily.
But Old Tilly's face was white, and he was swaying from side to side.
Old Tilly was fainting away.
"I--I'm awake now. What's the matter? Who's sick?"
Old Tilly sat up dizzily. He had lost consciousness only for a moment,
but his face seemed to be growing whiter and whiter. Jot and Kent
hovered over him anxiously.
"You got kind of faint, Old Till--just for a minute. You're all right
now," Kent said.
"Of course I'm all right!--I always was! I don't see what you're making
such a fuss about!" But the pale face belied his words.
Kent lifted the clumsily bandaged hand and unwound the handkerchief. It
was stained with blood.
"Oh, what have you done, Kent! You shouldn't have taken the bandage
off!" exclaimed Jot, in fright. "See how the blood is dripping from the
"It's nothing, I tell you!" growled Old Tilly. "Wind the thing up again!
It's only a nail tear!"
Old Tilly was swaying again, and they forced him gently back. The
little woman looked up startled.
"What is it, Jim? How did it happen?" she quavered.
Jim's face looked very sober. "I guess I better fetch the doctor," he
said. "He hurt it on a nail, he says. I won't stop to harness up--Old
Betty's used to bein' rode bareback."
He hurried away, followed by his wife. Jot was examining the torn wrist
tenderly. Some new, untried strength seemed to spring into the brown,
boyish face. It took on the lines of a man's.
"It's an artery, Kentie. I know, because the blood leaps up so when the
handkerchief is off. It can't have been bleeding all night. I don't
"It bled some last night," said Old Tilly, "but I stopped it. I guess I
hit it someway just now against the table. It began again worse than
ever. Cover it up, can't you? It's--all--right!"
"It isn't all right! Get me a little stick, quick, Kentie! No, that
fork'll do. Hand it here. This bleeding's got to stop."
It seemed odd that it should be Jot--little, wild, scatter-brained Jot--
who should take the lead in that calm, determined way. What had come to
the boy? With pale face and set teeth he quietly bound the handkerchief
tightly above the wrist, and, inserting the fork handle in the knot,
twisted it about. The bleeding lessened--stopped.
"There! Now, if I keep a good grip on it--oh, I say, Kentie, wasn't I
afraid I couldn't work it!" he said, breathing hard.
"I don't see how you did work it! I don't see how you ever thought of
it, Jot Eddy!"
"Well, I did. I read how it was done, up in the consultery. Father may
laugh, but I'm going to be a doctor!"
Kent's face was full of new-born respect. He suddenly remembered that
it was Jot who had set "Rover's broken leg and nursed the little sick
calf that father set such store by.
"I guess father won't laugh." Kent said soberly. Jot was sitting on the
edge of the lounge holding the fork in a firm grasp. Old Tilly opened
his eyes and nodded approvingly.
"That's what I tried to do myself with the handkerchief--bind it tight.
It wasn't very bad at first, but I jerked it or something. I didn't
want you fellows' good time spoiled."
"That's just like you!" burst out Kent. "You never tell when you get
hurt, for fear other folks'll be bothered."
The little woman crept back into the kitchen and went quietly about her
The doctor soon came, and in a brief time the artery was taken up and
the hand deftly bandaged.
"Which of you fellows made that tourniquet with the fork?" the doctor
Kent pointed proudly to Jot.
"Oh, it was you, was it? Well, you did a mighty good thing for your
brother there. He'd have lost plenty of blood before I got here if you
The whole of that day and the next night the boys remained at "Jim's."
The doctor had positively objected to Old Tilly's going on without a
And the little woman--the little woman would not hear of anything else
but their staying! She had been out to the barn with Jim and seen the
blackened corner. After that she hovered over the three boys like a hen
over her chickens.
"For--to think, Jim!--it was saving our home he got hurt!" she cried.
The boys talked things over together, and Kent and Jot were for turning
about and going straight home. But not so Old Tilly.
"I guess! No, sir; we'll go right ahead and have our holiday out. It's
great fun cruising round like this!"
"But your hand, Old Tilly--the doctor said--"
"To keep it quiet. He didn't say to sit down in a rocking-chair and
sing it to sleep. I guess if I can't ride a wheel with one hand, my
name isn't Nathan Eddy!"
"It isn't'" laughed Kent. "It's Old Tilly Eddy!"
But in the middle of the night a ghost appeared suddenly over Old Tilly.
The pale moonlight introduced it timidly as Jot, in his white shirt. He
sat down on the bed.
"I'm going home," he announced in a whisper. "You other fellows can do
as you like. Of course you can ride all right with one hand, if you're
bound to. But I sha'n't ride with three hands any further from home!
I'm going home! I--I feel as if I must!"
Old Tilly sat up in bed. "You sick, Jotham Eddy?" he cried.
"No--o, not sick--not reg'lar built! But I tell you I'm going home.
It's no use saying anything--I've said it." "I believe you're sick;
you're keeping something back, Jot."
"Well, what if I am? Didn't you keep something back yourself, till you
fainted away doing it? I'm going--you and Kentie needn't, of course. I
tell you I feel as if I must."
"He's sick, Kentie," Old Tilly said next morning. "There's something the
matter with him, sure, or he wouldn't be so set. Don't you think he
LOOKS kind of pale-ish?"
"Pale-ish!" scoffed Kent.
"Well, something's up. Mother put him in my care, and I'm going to take
him home. I'd never forgive myself, and mother'd never forgive me, if
anything happened to Jot away from home. I'm sorry on your account,
"Oh, go ahead! I'm all right," rejoined Kent, cheerfully. "I'd just as
soon. We've had a jolly good time of it so far, and we can take the
rest of it out in going fishing or camping at home."
"Well, then we'll go right back home--on Jot's account. I feet as if I
must take him to mother."
Poor Jot! It was hard to be taken home that way, when all the while
wasn't he taking wounded Old Tilly home to mother? It was the only way
he had been able to work it out, lying awake and worrying over the torn
wrist. Something must be done to get Old Tilly home.
"I told the truth--I said I was keeping something back," thought Jot.
"I said I wasn't sick, didn't I? And Old Till's got to go home. The
doctor told me the sooner the better."
But it was a distinct sacrifice to Jot's pride to be "taken home to
mother." He bore it remarkably well because of the love and anxiety in
his sturdy little heart. He would do a good deal for Old Till.
They returned by a more direct route than they had come. On the way,
they discussed their adventures. Jot counted them up on his fingers.
"Hand-organs, old churches, little old man's hay--pshaw! that wasn't an
adventure!" Jot blushed hotly, as if caught in some misdeed.
"No, skip that," Old Tilly said quietly. "That just happened. Begin
"Hand-organs, old churches (two adventures there, you know), picnics,
"Skip that!" cried Old Tilly.
"No, sir! Slow races, burning barns, arteries--" "Oh, I say! I'll do
the counting up myself! Besides, you left out the very first adventure,
"The very first one?"
"Yes, of course--losing all our money before we started!"
"Quits!" cried Jot, laughing. He did not appear sick at all. All the
way home he watched Old Tilly with almost professional care. And Old
Tilly, unknown to Jot, watched him.
"Say, Jot," he said that night, when they had gone upstairs to their own
beds once more, "don't you feel a little better?" His face was white
and tired, and he nestled in the pillows gratefully. It was good to be
at home. "Don't you feel a good deal better?"
"Me?" asked innocent Jot. "I feel jolly! Never felt--oh, er--I mean--
"You're a rascal!" laughed Old Tilly, comfortably. "That's what you
mean. Think I didn't surmise a thing or two? Well, honest, I didn't,
at first. But on the way home I found out what you were up to. You
looked altogether too healthy!"
There was a moment's silence, then Jot spoke meekly. "I felt sort of
mean, but I couldn't help it, honest. And I told the truth, now, didn't
I? I was going to own up to-morrow."
He went away into the next room and crept into bed beside Kent.
"Jot! Jot, I say!" called Old Tilly, presently. "Hope you don't think
I'm mad. I don't mind. I--I like it."
There was an indistinct mumble of relief from Jot's quarter, followed by
another silence. Then again Old Tilly's contented voice crept through
"Say, Jot, you asleep?"
"Sound! It feels mighty good to be home, doesn't it?"
"Good-night, old chap!"
Then silence, unbroken. By and by Mother Eddy stole upstairs to her
"Good boys, every one of them. God bless them!" she murmured. "Home
isn't home without them. But young things must have their holidaying.
And I guess from what they tell, they've made good use of theirs. And
it isn't everyone does that; some of them just waste it. But this one's
held something in it. I don't know just what. But every one of them
seems--well, sort o' more manly-like. I'm glad their pa let them go.
But home ain't home without boys in it. That's sure."
And she turned and went softly down the stairs.
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