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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesJudy - Chapter 26. Judy Plays Lady Bountiful
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Judy - Chapter 26. Judy Plays Lady Bountiful Post by :adhoc Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :May 2012 Read :2910

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Judy - Chapter 26. Judy Plays Lady Bountiful


"Down, Terry," commanded the Captain, as the little dog went for the mild-eyed cow, but the mild-eyed cow seemed perfectly able to take care of herself, and as she lowered her horns, Terry retired discreetly to a safe place between the Captain's knees, where he wagged an ingratiating tail.

Launcelot and the cow stood framed in the rose-covered gateway.

"Yes, I've bought a cow," explained the big boy, who was dusty but cheerful, "and we are going to have our own butter and milk, and if there is any over, I'll sell it."

"You have my order now," said the Judge, handsomely.

"Thank you, sir," said Launcelot, and Anne cried:

"Oh, Launcelot, make it in little pats stamped with a violet, and label it, 'From the Violet Farm.'"

"That's not a bad idea," commended the Captain, "novelties like that take, and if the butter is good, you may get a market for more than you can make."

"Then I will get another cow and enlarge my hothouse, and between the butter and the violets I guess I can bring up my college fund," and Launcelot looked so hopeful that they all smiled in sympathy.

"Where did you get her?" asked Judy, as she patted the pretty creature on the head.

"I bought her a mile or so out in the country, and I tell you I hated to take her after I had paid the money."

"Why?" asked Anne.

"Oh, they were so poor, and the cow was the only thing they had. There is a widow, named McSwiggins, with six children, and I guess they have had a pretty hard time, and now their taxes are due and the interest and two of them have had the typhoid fever, and are just skin and bone, and they had to sell the cow, and they cried, and I felt like a thief when I carried her off."

"Oh, poor things," cried Judy, when Launcelot finished his breathless recital, "poor things."

"I didn't want to take her, after I found out, but Mrs. McSwiggins said that they needed the money awfully, and that I was doing them a favor--only it was hard, and then she cried and the children all cried, too."

"Why haven't they told some one before this?" asked the Judge, wiping his eyes.

"I guess the mother is too proud. They are from the South and they haven't been in this neighborhood long, and she don't know any one."

"What's the cow's name?" asked Anne, whose eyes were like dewy forget-me-nots.

"Sweetheart. The biggest girl named her, and when I went out of the gate she just sat down on the step and looked after us, and her eyes hurt me, they were so sad."

The little cow moved restlessly. "I guess I'll have to go," sighed Launcelot, standing like a Peri outside the gates of Paradise, and contrasting the coolness and quiet of the old garden with the heat and dust of the long white road. "I guess I'll have to take Sweetheart on."

But just then down the path came Perkins, dignified in white linen, and in his hand he bore a tray on which a glass pitcher, misty with coolness and showing ravishing glimpses of lemon peel and ice, promised delicious refreshment.

"You come and have some lemonade, Mr. Launcelot," said Perkins, as he set the tray on the table, "I'll hold the cow."

And, as they all insisted, Launcelot came in, and Perkins went without the gate.

But, alas, Sweetheart was a cow of many moods, and as the gay little party in the garden sipped the cooling drink in the shade of the trees, the little cow, growing restive out there in the sun with the flies worrying her, suddenly ducked her head and ran.

And after her, still holding the rope, went the immaculate Perkins, to be dragged hither and thither by her erratic movements, while he shouted desperately, "Whoa."

And after Perkins went the excited Terry-dog, and after Terry went Launcelot, and after Launcelot went Judy, and then Anne, and then far in the rear, the Judge, while Captain Jameson, too weak to run, stood at the gate and watched.

It was a brave race. Perkins had grit and he would not let go of the rope, and Sweetheart wanted to go home and she would not stop running, and so the procession went up the dusty road and down a dusty hill, and then up another dusty hill, and down a cool green bank, where seeing ahead of her a murmuring limpid stream, Sweetheart dashed into it, stood still, and placidly drank in long sighing gulps.

Perkins went in after her, and was rescued by Launcelot, while Judy and Anne stood on the bank and laughed until the tears ran down their cheeks.

Perkins laughed, too, as he emerged wet and dripping, but beaming.

"I didn't let her go," he chuckled, a little proud of his agility in his old age, and Launcelot said admiringly, "I didn't think you had it in you, Perkins," and at that Perkins chuckled more than ever.

They went back in a triumphal procession, and then Lancelot took Sweetheart away with him, and the little girls went up-stairs to dress.

The Captain and the Judge were left alone, and presently the former said:

"Why can't we put Launcelot through college, father? It's a shame he should have to work so hard."

But the Judge shook his head. "He is having something better than college, Philip," he said. "He is learning self-reliance and he will get to college if he keeps on like this and be better for the struggle. I've told Grennell a half-dozen times that I would put up the money, for I like the boy--but there is one very good reason why we can't pay his way."

"What's that?" asked the Captain, with interest.

"He won't take a cent from anybody," said the Judge, "and I like his independence."

"So do I," said the Captain, heartily, "but we will keep an eye on him, father, and help him out when we can."

An hour later as the Captain sat alone under the lilac bush, Judy came down with white ruffles a-flutter and with her brown locks beautifully combed and sat beside him.

"To-morrow is my birthday," she said, superfluously.

"My big girl," smiled the Captain, "you make me feel old, Judy mine."

She smiled back, abstractedly. "Are--are you going to give me a present, father?" she stammered.

It was a queer question, and the Captain was not sure that he liked it. Birthday presents were not to be talked about beforehand.

"Of course I am," he said, finally. "Why?"

"Will it--cost--as much as--Launcelot's cow?" asked Judy, still blushing.

"As Launcelot's cow?"

He stared at her. "Why do you want to know?" he asked.

"Well," she patted his coat collar, coaxingly, "I want you to give me the money, and let me buy back the McSwiggins cow.

"I'll buy it myself."

But she shook her head. "No, I want to give it myself. I feel--so--so--thankful, father, for my happiness, that I want to do something for somebody else, who isn't happy."

He put his hand under her chin and turned her face with its earnest eyes up to him. "You are sure you would rather have that than any other birthday present, Judy mine?" he asked, thinking how much she looked like her mother.

"I am very sure, father."

They sent for Launcelot that evening, and he entered into the plan with enthusiasm. "I can get another cow," he said, "and if they have the money and the cow both they will get along all right."

"I don't want them to know who gives it," said Judy. "I hate that way of giving. I don't want to go and stare at them and talk to them about their poverty. I think it would be nice to tie a note to Sweetheart's horns and just leave her there."

The next day about noon, a mysterious party, with a strange and unusual looking cow in their midst, crept to the back of the McSwiggins barn. Sweetheart lowed softly, as she recognized the familiar surroundings.

"Gracious, I hope they won't hear," said little Anne, "that would spoil it all."

Perkins set a heavy basket down and wiped his forehead.

"You go and look, Mr. Launcelot," he said, "and if there ain't any one around you tie her to the hitching-post, and then bring the ends of those pink ribbons back with you."

When that was accomplished, the Mysterious Four hid themselves in some bushes by the side of the road to await developments.

Presently Johnny McSwiggins, trailing listlessly towards the barn, gave one look and rushed back into the house.

"They's somethin' out thar," he said, with his eyes bulging.

Mary McSwiggins, the oldest girl, looked at him hopelessly. "I don' care ef they is. We alls too po' fer anythin' to hurt."

"But hit looks lak Sweetheart's ghos'," declared Johnny, "an' hit's got pink ribbin on. I declar' hit look lak Sweetheart's ghos', Sistuh Ma'y."

At that beloved name, Mary rushed out, while the family trailed behind, Mrs. McSwiggins bringing up the rear with the wan baby in her arms.

Tied to the post was Sweetheart, but such a cow had never been seen before in the history of Fairfax, for Judy was nothing if not original, and with the help of Anne and Launcelot she had decked the little cow gorgeously.

Around her neck was a huge wreath of roses, pink ribbons were tied to her horns, and two long pink streamers like reins went over her back and across the path and around the barn, where the ends were hidden.

"Gee," said Johnny McSwiggins, but the rest of them were silent, gazing at this transformed and glorified Sweetheart, while Mary laid her head against the sleek neck and murmured love names to her dear little cow.

"They's somethin' at the end of them ribbins," said Mrs. McSwiggins, after awhile, "you all go an' look."

And when they looked they found two huge baskets, one filled with wonderful things all ready to eat (Perkins had packed that), and the other filled with fruits and vegetables (Launcelot had raised them), and on top of one basket was a box of candy (Anne sat up to make it), and on the other a package of raisin cookies (from the little grandmother).

The little McSwiggins squealed and gurgled with delight, and then ate as only people can who have seen the gaunt wolf of starvation at the door, and as they ate they asked the question unceasingly:

"Who sent it?"

"They's a letter tied to her horn," volunteered Johnny McSwiggins after he had devoured two cookies and three sandwiches and a chicken leg. "I seen it."

They found it under the roses, and when they opened it, there dropped out two yellow-backed bills (from the Judge and the Captain), and a note (and that was from Judy), and the note said:

"I waved my wand and commanded that Sweetheart be brought back to you. Also these other gifts. If you wish to keep them, and to keep my favor, you must never ask whence they came.

"Your guardian fairy,

Then all the little McSwiggins stared, and the littlest McSwiggins--except the baby, asked, "Was it really a fairy, mother?" and Mrs. McSwiggins wiped her eyes and sobbed, "I reckon it was, honey," but Mary McSwiggins with her eyes shining as they had never shone before in her sad little life said softly to her mother, "I'll bet it was them girls and that Bart boy. I'll bet it was--"

"What girls?" asked Mrs. McSwiggins.

"Them girls down at the Judge's in the big house. They wears white dresses, and one's got yaller hair and the other's got brown, and I was behin' the fence yustiddy when they was pickin' flowers, and that's how I foun' out they names--the dark one's Judy, and the light one's Anne--and the boy's named Launcelot. And that's how they got that fairy name--you look here," and she held up the note to her mother, "'Ju--ann--lot'--it's jes' them names strung together."

"Well, now," said Mrs. McSwiggins, "if that ain' bright, honey. But I don't know's we ought to take all them things."

"Sweetheart ain't goin' away from yer no more," said Mary, firmly, "and they'd feel mighty bad if we didn't take the other things."

"Well, mebbe they would," said Mrs. McSwiggins, "and anyhow they's saved us from the po'house, and that's a fact, Mary, and don' you forgit it when you say yo' prayers."

Far down the road the Mysterious Four gloated over their success.

"Wasn't it fun?" gasped Anne.

"Here's to the fairy Juannlot," cried Launcelot.

"May she never cease to do good," cried Judy, beaming on her fellow conspirators.

But Perkins merely nodded approval. For had not all the good ladies of the house of Jameson played the role of Lady Bountiful, and was not Judy thus proving herself worthy of their name and fame?

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