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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesLaddie; A True Blue Story - Chapter 13. The Garden Of The Lord
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Laddie; A True Blue Story - Chapter 13. The Garden Of The Lord Post by :sumit Category :Long Stories Author :Gene Stratton-porter Date :May 2012 Read :3007

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Laddie; A True Blue Story - Chapter 13. The Garden Of The Lord

CHAPTER XIII. The Garden of the Lord

"With what content and merriment,
Their days are spent, whose minds are bent
To follow the useful plow."

That spring I decided if school didn't stop pretty soon, I'd run away again, and I didn't in the least care what they did to me. A country road was all right and it was good enough, if it had been heaped up, leveled and plenty of gravel put on; and of course our road would be fine, because father was one of the commissioners, and as long as he filled that office, every road in the county would be just as fine as the law would allow him to make it. I have even heard him tell mother that he "stretched it a leetle mite," when he was forced to by people who couldn't seem to be made to understand what was required to upbuild a nation. He said our language was founded on the alphabet, and to master it you had to begin with "a". And he said the nation was like that; it was based on townships, and when a township was clean, had good roads, bridges, schoolhouses, and churches, a county was in fine shape, and when each county was in order, the state was right, and when the state was prosperous, the nation could rejoice in its strength.

He said Atlas in the geography book, carrying the world on his back, was only a symbol, but it was a good one. He said when the county elected him to fill an important office, it used his shoulder as a prop for the nation, so it became his business to stand firmly, and use every ounce of strength and brains he had, first of all to make his own possessions a model, then his township, his county, and his state, and if every one worked together doing that, no nation on earth had our amount of territory and such fine weather, so none of them could beat us.

Our road was like the barn floor, where you drove: on each side was a wide grassy strip, and not a weed the length of our land. All the rails in the fences were laid straight, the gates were solid, sound, and swung firmly on their beams, our fence corners were full of alders, wild roses, sumac, blackberry vines, masses of wild flowers beneath them, and a bird for every bush. Some of the neighbours thought that to drive two rails every so often, lay up the fences straight, and grub out the shrubs was the way, but father said they were vastly mistaken. He said that was such a shortsighted proceeding, he would be ashamed to indulge in it. You did get more land, but if you left no place for the birds, the worms and insects devoured your crops, and you didn't raise half so much as if you furnished the birds shelter and food. So he left mulberries in the fields and fence corners and wild cherries, raspberries, grapes, and every little scrub apple tree from seeds sown by Johnny Appleseed when he crossed our land.

Mother said those apples were so hard a crane couldn't dent them, but she never watched the birds in winter when the snow was beginning to come and other things were covered up. They swarmed over those trees until spring, for the tiny sour apples stuck just like oak leaves waiting for next year's crop to push them off. She never noticed us, either. After a few frosts, we could almost get tipsy on those apples; there was not a tree in our orchard that had the spicy, teasing tang of Johnny Appleseed's apples. Then too, the limbs could be sawed off and rambo and maiden's-blush grafted on, if you wanted to; father did on some of them, so there would be good apples lying beside the road for passers-by, and they needn't steal to get them. You could graft red haws on them too, and grow great big, little haw-apples, that were the prettiest things you ever saw, and the best to eat. Father said if it didn't spoil the looks of the road, he wouldn't care how many of his neighbours straightened their fences. If they did, the birds would come to him, and the more he had, the fewer bugs and worms he would be troubled with, so he would be sure of big crops, and sound fruit. He said he would much rather have a few good apples picked by robins or jays, than untouched trees, loaded with wormy falling ones he could neither use nor sell. He always patted my head and liked every line of it when I recited, sort of tearful-like and pathetic:

"Don't kill the birds! the happy birds,
That bless the field and grove;
So innocent to look upon,
They claim our warmest love."

The roads crossing our land were all right, and most of the others near us; and a road is wonderful, if it is taking you to the woods or a creek or meadow; but when it is walking you straight to a stuffy little schoolhouse where you must stand up to see from a window, where a teacher is cross as fire, like Miss Amelia, and where you eternally HEAR things you can't see, there comes a time about the middle of April when you had quite as soon die as to go to school any longer; and what you learn there doesn't amount to a hill of beans compared with what you can find out for yourself outdoors.

Schoolhouses are made wrong. If they must be, they should be built in a woods pasture beside a stream, where you could wade, swim, and be comfortable in summer, and slide and skate in winter. The windows should be cut to the floor, and stand wide open, so the birds and butterflies could pass through. You ought to learn your geography by climbing a hill, walking through a valley, wading creeks, making islands in them, and promontories, capes, and peninsulas along the bank. You should do your arithmetic sitting under trees adding hickory-nuts, subtracting walnuts, multiplying butternuts, and dividing hazelnuts. You could use apples for fractions, and tin cups for liquid measure. You could spell everything in sight and this would teach you the words that are really used in the world. Every single one of us could spell incompatibility, but I never heard father, or the judge, or even the Bishop, put it in a speech.

If you simply can't have school THAT way, then you should be shut in black cells, deep under the ground, where you couldn't see, or hear a sound, and then if they'd give you a book and candle and Miss Amelia, and her right-hand man, Mister Ruler, why you might learn something. This way, if you sat and watched the windows you could see a bird cross our woods pasture to the redbird swamp every few minutes; once in a while one of my big hawks took your breath as he swept, soared, sailed, and circled, watching the ground below for rabbits, snakes, or chickens. The skinny old blue herons crossing from the Wabash to hunt frogs in the cowslip swale in our meadow, sailed so slow and so low, that you could see their sharp bills stuck out in front, their uneven, ragged looking feathers, and their long legs trailing out behind. I bet if Polly Martin wore a blue calico dress so short her spindle-shanks showed, and flew across our farm, you couldn't tell her from a heron.

There were so many songs you couldn't decide which was which to save you; it was just a pouring jumble of robins, larks, doves, blackbirds, sparrows, everything that came that early; the red and the yellow birds had not come yet, or the catbirds or thrushes. You could hear the thumping wings of the roosters in Sills' barnyard nearest the schoolhouse, and couldn't tell which was whipping, so you had to sit there and wonder; and worst of all you must stand Miss Amelia calmly telling you to pay attention to your books or you would be kept in, and all the time you were forced to bear torments, while you watched her walk from window to window to see every speck of the fight. One day they had thumped and fought for half an hour; she had looked from every window in the room, and at last there was an awful whacking, and then silence. It grew so exciting I raised my hand, and almost before she nodded permission, "Which whipped?" I asked.

Miss Amelia turned red as a beet. Gee, but she was mad!

"I did!" she said. "Or at least I will. You may remain for it after school is dismissed."

Now if you are going to be switched, they never do it until they are just so angry anyway, and then they always make it as hard as they dare not to stripe you, so it isn't much difference HOW provoked they are, it will be the same old thrashing, and it's sure to sting for an hour at least, so you might as well be beaten for a little more as hardly anything at all. At that instant from the fence not far from my window came a triumphant crow that fairly ripped across the room.

"Oh, it was the Dorking!" I said. "No wonder you followed clear around the room to see him thrash a Shanghai three times his size! I bet a dollar it was great!"

Usually, I wouldn't have put up more than five cents, but at that time I had over six dollars from my Easter eggs, and no girl of my age at our school ever had half that much. Miss Amelia started toward me, and I braced my feet so she'd get a good jolt herself, when she went to shake me; she never struck us over the head since Laddie talked to her that first day; but John Hood's foot was in the aisle. I thought maybe I'd have him for my beau when we grew up, because I bet he knew she was coming, and stuck out his foot on purpose; anyway, she pitched, and had to catch a desk to keep off the floor, and that made her so mad at him, that she forgot me, while he got his scolding; so when my turn came at last, she had cooled down enough that she only marched past to her desk, saying I was to remain after school. I had to be careful after that to be mighty good to May and Leon.

When school was out they sat on the steps before the door and waited. Miss Amelia fussed around and there they sat. Then her face grew more gobblerish than usual, and she went out and told them to go home. Plain as anything I heard May say It: "She's been awful sick, you know, and mother wouldn't allow it." And then Leon piped up: "You DID watch the roosters, all the time they fought, and of course all of us wanted to see just as badly as you did."

She told them if they didn't go right home she'd bring them back and whip them too; so they had to start, and leave me to my sad fate. I was afraid they had made it sadder, instead of helping me; she was so provoked when she came in she was crying, and over nothing but the plain truth too; if we had storied on her, she'd have had some cause to beller. She arranged her table, cleaned the board, emptied the water bucket, and closed the windows. Then she told me I was a rude, untrained child. I was rude, I suppose, but goodness knows, I wasn't untrained; that was hard on father and mother; I had a big notion to tell them; and then, she never whipped me at all. She said if I wanted her to love me, I mustn't be a saucy, impudent girl, and I should go straight home and think it over.

I went, but I was so dazed at her thinking I wanted her to love me, that I hardly heard May and Leon calling; when I did I went to the cemetery fence and there they lay in the long grass waiting.

"If you cried, we were coming back and pitch into her," said Leon.

There was a pointer. Next time, first cut she gave me, I decided to scream bloody murder. But that would be no Crusader way. There was one thing though. No Crusader ever sat and heard a perfectly lovely fight going on, and never even wondered which whipped.

May and Leon stepped one on each side, took a hand, and we ran like Indians, and slid down the hill between the bushes, climbed the fence, crossed the pasture back of the church, and went to the creek. There we sat on a log, I told them, and we just laughed. I didn't know what I could do to pay them, for they saved me sure as fate that time.

I wished we lived in the woods the way it was when father and mother were married and moved to Ohio. The nearest neighbours were nine miles, and there wasn't a dollar for school funds, so of course the children didn't have to go, and what their fathers and mothers taught them was all they knew. That would not have helped me much though, for we never had one single teacher who knew anything to compare with what father and mother did, and we never had one who was forever reading books, papers, and learning more things that help, to teach other people. I wished father had time to take our school. It would have been some fun to go to him, because I just knew he would use the woods for the room, and teach us things it would do some good to know about.

I began debating whether it was a big enough thing to bother the Lord with: this being penned up in the schoolhouse droning over spelling and numbers, when you could smell tree bloom, flower bloom, dozens of birds were nesting, and everything was beginning to hum with life. I couldn't think for that piece about "Spring" going over in my head:

"I am coming, I am coming:
Hark! the little bee is humming:
See! the lark is soaring high,
In the bright and sunny sky;
All the birds are on the wing:
Little maiden, now is spring."

I made up my mind that it was of enough importance to call for the biggest prayer I could think of and that I would go up in the barn to the top window, stand on a beam, and turn my face to the east, where Jesus used to be, and I'd wrestle with the Lord for freedom, as Jacob wrestled with the Angel on the banks of the Jabbok in the land of Ammon. I was just getting up steam to pray as hard as ever I could; for days I'd been thinking of it, and I was nearly to the point where one more killdeer crying across the sky would have sent me headlong from the schoolhouse anywhere that my feet were on earth, and the air didn't smell of fried potatoes, kraut, sweat, and dogs, like it did whenever you sat beside Clarissa Polk. When I went to supper one night; father had been to Groveville, and he was busy over his papers. After he finished the blessing, he seemed worried, at last he said the funds were all out, and the county would make no appropriation so school would have to close next week.

Well that beats me! I had faith in that prayer I was going to make, and here the very thing I intended to ask for happened before I prayed. I decided I would save the prayer until the next time I couldn't stand anything another minute, and then I would try it with all my might, and see if it really did any good. After supper I went out the back door, spread my arms wide, and ran down the orchard to the fence in great bounds, the fastest I ever went in my life. I climbed my pulpit in the corner and tried to see how much air my lungs would hold without bursting, while I waved my arms and shouted at the top of my voice: "Praise ye the Lord! Praised be His holy name!"

"Ker-awk!" cried an old blue heron among the cowslips below me. I had almost scared it to death, and it arose on flapping wings and paid me back by frightening me so I screamed as I dodged its shadow.

"What is all this?" asked father behind me.

"Come up and take a seat, and I'll try to tell you," I said.

So he stepped on my pulpit and sat on the top rail, while I stood between his knees, put my arms around his neck, took off his hat and loosened his hair so the wind could wave it, and make his head feel cool and good. His hair curled a little and it was black and fine. His cheeks were pink and his eyes the brightest blue, with long lashes, and heavier brows than any other man I ever have seen. He was the best looking--always so clean and fresh, and you never had to be afraid of him, unless you had been a bad, sinful child. If you were all right, you would walk into his arms, play with his hair, kiss him all you pleased, and there wasn't a thing on earth you couldn't tell him, excepting a secret you had promised to keep.

So I explained all this, and more too. About how I wanted to hunt for the flowers, to see which bloomed first, and watch in what order the birds came, and now it was a splendid time to locate nests, because there were no leaves, so I could see easily, and how glad mother would be to know where the blue goose nested, and her white turkey hen; because she wanted her geese all blue, and the turkeys all white, as fast as she could manage.

Every little thing that troubled me or that I wanted, I told him.

He sat there and he couldn't have listened with more interest or been quieter if I had been a bishop, which is the biggest thing that ever happened at our house; his name was Ninde and he came from Chicago to dedicate our church when it was new. So father listened and thought and held his arms around me, and--

"And you think the Lord was at the bottom of the thing that makes you happy?"

"Well, you always go to Him about what concerns you, and you say, 'Praise the Lord,' when things go to please you."

"I do indeed!" said father. "But I had thought of this running short of school funds as a calamity. If I had been praying about it, I would have asked Him to show me a way to raise money to continue until middle May at least."

"Oh father!"

I just crumpled up in his arms and began to cry; to save me I couldn't help it. He held me tight. At last he said: "I think you are a little overstrained this spring. Maybe you were sicker than we knew, or are growing too fast. Don't worry any more about school. Possibly father can fix it."

Next morning when I wakened, my everyday clothes lay across the foot of the bed, so I called mother and asked if I should put them on; she took me in her arms, and said father thought I had better be in the open, and I needn't go to school any more that spring. I told her I thought I could bear it a few more days, now it was going to be over so soon; but she said I might stay at home, father and Laddie would hear me at night, and I could take my books anywhere I pleased and study when I chose, if I had my spelling and reading learned at evening. NOW, say the Lord doesn't help those who call on Him in faith believing!

Think of being allowed to learn your lessons on the top of the granary, where you could look out of a window above the treetops, lie in the cool wind, and watch swallows and martins. Think of studying in the pulpit when the creek ran high, and the wild birds sang so sweetly you seemed to hear them for the first time in all your life, and hens, guineas, and turkeys made prime music in the orchard. You could see the buds swell, and the little blue flags push through the grass, where Mrs. Mayer had her flowerbed, and the cowslips greening under the water of the swale at the foot of the hill, while there might be a Fairy under any leaf. I was so full, so swelled up and excited, that when I got ready to pick up a book, I could learn a lesson in a few minutes, tell all about it, spell every word, and read it back, front, and sideways. I never learned lessons so quick and so easy in all my life; father, Laddie, and every one of them had to say so. One night, father said to Laddie: "This child is furnishing evidence that our school system is wrong, and our methods of teaching far from right."

"Or is it merely proof that she is different," said Laddie, "and you can't run her through the same groove you could the rest of us?"

"A little of both," said father, "but most that the system is wrong. We are not going at children in a way to gain and hold their interest, and make them love their work. There must be a better way of teaching, and we should find different teachers. You'll have to try the school next year yourself, Laddie."

"I have a little plan about a piece of land I am hoping to take before then," answered Laddie. "It's time for me to try my wings at making a living, and land is my choice. I have fully decided. I stick to the soil!"

"Amen!" cried father. "You please me mightily. I hate to see sons of mine thriving on law, literally making their living out of the fruit of other men's discord. I dislike seeing them sharpen their wits in trade, buying at the lowest limit, extorting the highest. I don't want their horizons limited by city blocks, their feet on pavements, everything under the sun in their heads that concerns a scheme to make money; not room for an hour's thought or study in a whole day, about the really vital things of life. After all, land and its products are the basis of everything; the city couldn't exist a day unless we feed and clothe it. In the things that I consider important, you are a king among men, with your feet on soil you own."

"So I figure it," said Laddie.

"And you are the best educated man I have reared," said father. "Take this other thought with you: on land, the failure of the bank does not break you. The fire another man's carelessness starts, does not wipe out your business or home. You are not in easy reach of contagion. Any time you want to branch out, your mother and I will stand back of you."

"Thank you!" said Laddie. "You backed none of the others. They would resent it. I'll make the best start I can myself, and as they did, stand alone."

Father looked at him and smiled slowly.

"You are right, as always," he said. "I hadn't thought so far. It would make trouble. At any rate, let me inspect and help you select your land."

"That of course!" said Laddie.

I suspect it's not a very nice thing for me to tell, but all of us were tickled silly the day Miss Amelia packed her trunk and left for sure. Mother said she never tried harder in all her days, but Miss Amelia was the most distinctly unlovable person she ever had met. She sympathized with us so, she never said a word when Leon sang:

"Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly to-day,
Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,
Like fairy-gifts fading away,
Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still--"

while Miss Amelia drove from sight up the Groveville road.

As he sang Leon stretched out his arms after her vanishing form. "I hope," he said, "that you caught that touching reference to 'the dear ruin,' and could anything be expressed more beautifully and poetically than that 'verdantly still?'"

I feel sorry for a snake. I like hoptoads, owls, and shitepokes. I envy a buzzard the way it can fly, and polecats are beautiful; but I never could get up any sort of feeling at all for Miss Amelia, whether she was birdlike or her true self. So no one was any gladder than I when she was gone.

After that, spring came pushing until you felt shoved. Our family needed me then. If they never had known it before, they found out there was none too many of us. Every day I had to watch the blue goose, and bring in her egg before it was chilled, carrying it carefully so it would not be jarred. I had to hunt the turkey nests and gather their eggs so they would be right for setting. There had to be straw carried from the stack for new nests, eggs marked, and hens set by the dozen. Garden time came, so leaves had to be raked from the beds and from the dooryard. No one was busier than I; but every little while I ran away, and spent some time all by myself in the pulpit, under the hawk oak, or on the roof.

Coming from church that Sunday, when we reached the top of the Big Hill, mother touched father's arm. "Stop a minute," she said, and he checked the horses, while we sat there and wondered why, as she looked and looked all over the farm, then, "Now drive to the top of the Little Hill and turn, and stop exactly on the place from which we first viewed this land together," she said. "You know the spot, don't you?"

"You may well believe I know it," said father. "I can hit it to the inch. You see, children," he went on, "your mother and I arranged before the words were said over us"--he always put it that way--I never in my life heard him say, "when we were married"; he read so many books he talked exactly like a book--"that we would be partners in everything, as long as we lived. When we decided the Ohio land was not quite what we wanted, she sent me farther west to prospect, while she stayed at home and kept the baby. When I reached this land, found it for sale, and within my means, I bought it, and started home happy. Before I'd gone a mile, I turned to look back, and saw that it was hilly, mostly woods, and there was no computing the amount of work it would require to make it what I could see in it; so I began to think maybe she wouldn't like it, and to wish I had brought her, before I closed the deal. By the time I returned home, packed up, and travelled this far on the way back with her, there was considerable tension in my feelings--considerable tension," repeated father as he turned the horses and began driving carefully, measuring the distance from Hoods' and the bridge. At last he stopped, backed a step, and said: "There, mommy, did I hit the spot?"

"You did!" said mother, stepping from the carriage and walking up beside him. She raised one hand and laid it on the lamp near him. He shifted the lines, picked up her hand, and held it tight. Mother stood there looking, just silently looking. May jabbed me in the side, leaned over and whispered:

"Could we but stand where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o'er,
Not our Little Creek, nor dinner getting cold,
Could fright us from that shore."

I couldn't help giggling, but I knew that was no proper time, so I hid my head in her lap and smothered the sound the best I could; but they were so busy soft-soddering each other they didn't pay a bit of attention to us.

It was May now, all the leaves were fresh and dustless, everything that flowered at that time was weighted with bloom, bees hummed past, butterflies sailed through the carriage, while birds at the tops of their voices, all of them, every kind there was, sang fit to split; friendly, unafraid bluebirds darted around us, and talked a blue streak from every fence rider. Made you almost crazy to know what they said. The Little Creek flowed at our feet across the road, through the blue-flag swamp, where the red and the yellow birds lived. You could see the sun flash on the water where it emptied into the stream that crossed Deams', and flowed through our pasture; and away beyond the Big Hill arose, with the new church on top, the graveyard around it, the Big Creek flashing at its base. In the valley between lay our fields, meadows, the big red barn, the white house with the yard filled with trees and flowering shrubs, beyond it the garden, all made up, neat and growing; and back of it the orchard in full bloom.

Mother looked and looked. Suddenly she raised her face to father. "Paul," she said, "that first day, did you ever dream it could be made to look like this?"

"No!" said father. "I never did! I saw houses, barns, and cleared fields; I hoped for comfort and prosperity, but I didn't know any place could grow to be so beautiful, and there is something about it, even on a rainy November day, there is something that catches me in the breast, on the top of either of these hills, until it almost stifles me. What is it, Ruth?"

"The Home Feeling!" said mother. "It is in my heart so big this morning I am filled with worship. Just filled with the spirit of worship."

She was rocking on her toes like she does when she becomes too happy at the Meeting House to be quiet any longer, and cries, "Glory!" right out loud. She pointed to the orchard, an immense orchard of big apple trees in full bloom, with two rows of peach trees around the sides. It looked like a great, soft, pinkish white blanket, with a deep pink border, spread lightly on the green earth.

"We planted that way because we thought it was best; how could we know how it would look in bloom time? It seems as if you came to these hilltops and figured on the picture you would make before you cleared, or fenced a field."

"That's exactly what I did," said father. "Many's the hour, all told, that I have stopped my horse on one of these hilltops and studied how to make the place beautiful, as well as productive. That was a task you set me, my girl. You always considered BEAUTY as well as USE about the house and garden, and wherever you worked. I had to hold my part in line."

"You have made it all a garden," said mother. "You have made it a garden growing under the smile of the Master; a very garden of the Lord, father."

Father drew up her hand and held it tight against his heart.

"Your praise is sweet, my girl, sweet!" he said. "I have tried, God knows I have tried, to make it first comfortable, then beautiful, for all of us. To the depths of my soul I thank Him for this hour. I am glad, Oh I am so glad you like your home, Ruth! I couldn't endure it if you complained, found fault and wished you lived elsewhere."

"Why, father!" said my mother in the most surprised voice. "Why, father, it would kill me to leave here. This is ours. We have made it by and through the strength of the Lord and our love for each other. All my days I want to live here, and when I die, I want to lie beside my blessed babies and you, Paul, down by the church we gave the land for, and worked so hard to build. I love it, Oh I love it! See how clean and white the dark evergreens make the house look! See how the big chestnuts fit in and point out the yellow road. I wish we had a row the length of it!"

"They wouldn't grow," said father. "You mind the time I had finding the place those wanted to set their feet?"

"I do indeed!" said mother, drawing her hand and his with it where she could rub her cheek against it. "Now we'll go home and have our dinner and a good rest. I'm a happy woman this day, father, a happy, happy woman. If only one thing didn't worry me----"

"Must there always be a 'fly in the ointment,' mother?"

She looked at him with a smile that was like a hug and kiss, and she said: "I have found it so, father, and I have been happy in spite of it. Where one has such wide interests, at some point there is always a pull, but in His own day, in His own way, the Lord is going to make everything right."

"'Thy faith hath made thee whole,'" quoted father.

Then she stepped into the carriage, and he waited a second, quite long enough to let her see that he was perfectly willing to sit there all day if she wanted him to, and then he slowly and carefully drove home, as he always did when she was in the carriage. Times when he had us children out alone, he went until you couldn't see the spokes in the wheels. He just loved to "speed up" once in a while on a piece of fine road to let us know how going fast felt.

Mother sat there trembling a little, smiling, misty-eyed. I was thinking, for I knew what the "fly in the ointment" was. She had a letter from Shelley yesterday, and she said there wasn't a reason on earth why father or Laddie should spend money to come to Chicago, she would soon be home, she was counting the hours, and she never wanted to leave again. In the start she didn't want to go at all, unless she could stay three years, at the very least. Of course it was that dreadful man, who had made her so beautiful and happy, and then taken away all the joy; how COULD a man do it? It was the hardest thing to understand.

Next morning mother was feeling fine, the world was lovely, Miss Amelia was gone, May was home to help, so she began housecleaning by washing all the curtains. She had been in the kitchen to show Candace how. I had all my work done, and was making friends with a robin brooding in my very own catalpa tree, when Mr. Pryor rode up, tied his horse, and started toward the gate. I knew he and father had quarrelled; that is, father had told him he couldn't say "God was a myth" in this house, and he'd gone home mad as hops; so I knew it would be something mighty important that was bringing him back. I slid from the tree, ran and opened the gate, and led the way up the walk. I opened the front door and asked him in, and then I did the wrong thing. I should have taken his hat, told him to be seated, and said I would see if I could find father; I knew what to do, and how to do it, but because of that about God, I was so excited I made a mistake. I never took his hat, or offered him a chair; I just bolted into the dining-room, looking for father or mother, and left the door wide open, so he thought that wasn't the place to sit, because I didn't give him a chair, and he followed me. The instant I saw mother's face, I knew what I had done. The dining-room was no place for particular company like him, and bringing him in that way didn't give her time to smooth her hair, pull shut her dress band at the neck, put on her collar, and shiny goldstone pin, her white apron, and rub her little flannel rag, with rice flour on it, on her nose to take away the shine. I had made a mess of it.

There she came right in the door, just as she was from the tub. Her hair was damp and crinkled around her face, her neckband had been close in stooping, so she had unfastened it, and tucked it back in a little V-shaped place to give her room and air. Her cheeks were pink, her eyes bright, her lips red as a girl's, and her neck was soft and white. The V-shaped place showed a little spot like baby skin, right where her neck went into her chest. Sure as father kissed her lips, he always tipped back her head, bent lower and kissed that spot too. I had seen hundreds of them go there, and I had tried it myself, lots of times, and it WAS the sweetest place. Seeing what I had done, I stopped breathless. You have to beat most everything you teach a child right into it properly to keep it from making such a botch of things as that. I hardly dared to peep at mother, but when I did, she took my breath worse than the mistake I had made.

Caught, she stood her ground. She never paused a second. Straight to him she went, holding out her hand, and I could see that it was red and warm from pressing the lace in the hot suds. A something flashed over her, that made her more beautiful than she was in her silk dress going to town to help Lucy give a party, and her voice was sweet as the bubbling warbler on the garden fence when he was trying to coax a mate into the privet bush to nest.

Mother asked him to be seated, so he took one of the chairs nearest him, and sat holding his hat in one hand, his whip in the other. Mother drew a chair beside the dining table, dropped her hands on each other, and looking in his eyes, she smiled at him. I tell the same thing over about people's looks, but I haven't told of this smile of mother's; because I never saw exactly how it was, or what it would do to people, until that morning. Then as I watched her--for how she felt decided what would happen to me, after Mr. Pryor was gone I saw something I never had noticed until that minute. She could laugh all over her face, before her lips parted until her teeth showed. She was doing it now. With a wide smile running from cheek to cheek, pushing up a big dimple at each end, her lips barely touching, her eyes dancing, she sat looking at him.

"This IS the most blessed season for warming up the heart," she said. "If you want the half of my kingdom, ask quickly. I'm in the mood to bestow it."

How she laughed! He just had to loosen up a little, and smile back, even though it looked pretty stiff.

"Well, I'll not tax you so far," he said. "I only want Mr. Stanton."

"But he is the whole of the kingdom, and the King to boot!" she laughed, dimpled, and flamed redder.

Mr. Pryor stared at her wonderingly. You could even see the wonder, like it was something you could take hold of. I suppose he wondered what could make a woman so happy, like that.

"Lucky man!" he said. "All of us are not so fortunate."

"Then it must be you don't covet the place or the title," said mother more soberly. "Any woman will crown the man she marries, if he will allow her. Paul went farther. He compelled it."

"I wonder how!" said Mr. Pryor, his eyes steadily watching mother's face.

"By never failing in a million little things, that taken as a whole, make up one mighty big thing, on which he stands like the Rock of Ages."

"Yet they tell me that you are the mother of twelve children," he said, as if he marvelled at something.

"Yes!" cried mother, and the word broke right through a bubbling laugh. "Am I not fortunate above most women? We had the grief to lose two little daughters at the ages of eight and nine, all the others I have, and I rejoice in them."

She reached out, laid a hand on me, drew me to her, and lightly touched my arm, sending my spirits sky-high. She wasn't going to do a thing to me, not even scold! Mr. Pryor stared at her like Jacob Hood does at Laddie when he begins rolling Greek before him, so I guess what mother said must have been Greek to Mr. Pryor.

"I came to see Mr. Stanton," he said suddenly, and crosslike as if he didn't believe a word she said, and had decided she was too foolish to bother with any longer; but he kept on staring. He couldn't quit that, no matter how cross he was. The funniest thing came into my mind. I wondered what on earth he'd have done if she'd gone over, sat on his lap, put her arms around his neck, took his face between her hands and kissed his forehead, eyes, lips, and tousled his hair, like she does father and our boys. I'll bet all I got, he'd have turned to stonier stone than Sabethany. You could see that no one ever served HIM like that in all his old, cold, hard, cross, mysterious, shut-in life. I was crazy to ask, "Say, did anybody ever kiss you?" but I had such a close escape bringing him in wrong, I thought it would be wise not to take any risks so soon after. It was enough to stand beside mother, and hear every word they said. What was more, she wanted me, because she kept her hand on mine, or touched my apron every little while.

"I'm so sorry!" she said. "He was called to town on business. The County Commissioners are sitting to-day."

"They are deciding about the Groveville bridge, and pike?"

"Yes. He is working so hard for them."

"The devil you say! I beg pardon! But it was about that I came. I'm three miles from there, and I'm taxed over sixty pounds for it."

"But you cross the bridge every time you go to town, and travel the road. Groveville is quite a resort on account of the water and lovely country. Paul is very anxious to have the work completed before the summer boarders come from surrounding cities. We are even farther from it than you; but it will cost us as much."

"Are you insane?" cried Mr. Pryor, not at all politely; but you could see that mother was bound she wouldn't become provoked about anything, for she never stopped a steady beam on him. "Spend all that money for strangers to lazy around on a few weeks and then go!"

"But a good bridge and fine road will add to their pleasure, and when they leave, the improvements remain. They will benefit us and our children through all the years to come."

"Talk about 'the land of the free'!" cried Mr. Pryor. "This is a tax-ridden nation. It's a beastly outrage! Ever since I came, it's been nothing but notice of one assessment after another. I won't pay it! I won't endure it. I'll move!"

Mother let go of me, gripped her hands pretty tight together on the table, and she began to talk.

"As for freedom--no man ever was, or is, or will be free," she said, quite as forcibly as he could speak. "You probably knew when you came here that you would find a land tax-ridden from a great civil war of years' duration, and from newness of vast territory to be opened up and improved. You certainly studied the situation."

"'Studied the situation'!" His whip beat across his knee. "'Studied the situation'! My leaving England was--er--the result of intolerable conditions there--in the nature of flight from things not to be endured. I had only a vague idea of the States."

"If England is intolerable, and the United States an outrage, I don't know where in this world you'll go," said mother softly.

Mr. Pryor stared at her sharply.

"Madame is pleased to be facetious," he said sneeringly.

Mother's hands parted, and one of them stretched across the table toward him.

"Forgive me!" she cried. "That was unkind. I know you are in dreadful trouble. I'd give--I'd almost give this right hand to comfort you. I'd do nearly anything to make you feel that you need bear no burden alone; that we'd love to help support you."

"I believe you would," he said slowly, his eyes watching her again. "I believe you would. I wonder why!"

"All men are brothers, in the broader sense," said mother, "and if you'll forgive me, your face bears marks of suffering almost amounting to torture."

She stretched out the other hand.

"You couldn't possibly let us help you?"

Slowly he shook his head.

"Think again!" urged mother. "A trouble shared is half over to start with. You lay a part of it on your neighbours, and your neighbours in this case would be glad, glad indeed, to see you care-free and happy as all men should be."

"We'll not discuss it," he said. "You can't possibly imagine the root of my trouble."

"I shan't try!" said mother. "But let me tell you this: I don't care if you have betrayed your country, blasphemed your God, or killed your own child! So long, as you're a living man, daily a picture of suffering before me, you're a burden on my heart. You're a load on my shoulders, without your consent. I have implored God, I shall never cease to implore Him, until your brow clears, your head is lifted, and your heart is at rest. You can't prevent me! This hour I shall go to my closet and beg Him to have mercy on your poor soul, and when His time comes, He will. You can't help yourself, or you would have done so, long ago. You must accept aid! This must end, or there will be tragedy in your house."

"Madame, there has been!" said Mr. Pryor, shaking as he sat.

"I recognize that," said mother. "The question is whether what has passed is not enough."

"You simply cannot understand!" he said.

"Mr. Pryor," she said, "you're in the position of a man doubly bereft. You are without a country, and without a God. Your face tells every passer-by how you are enjoying that kind of life. Forgive me, if I speak plainly. I admire some things about you so much, I am venturing positive unkindness to try to make you see that in shutting out your neighbours you will surely make them think more, and worse things, than are true. I haven't a doubt in my mind but that your trouble is not one half so dreadful as you imagine while brooding over it. We will pass that. Let me tell you how we feel about this road matter. You see we did our courting in Pennsylvania, married and tried Ohio, and then came on here. We took this land when it was mostly woods. I could point you to the exact spot where we stopped; we visited it yesterday, looked down the hill and selected the place where we would set this house, when we could afford to build it. We moved into the cabin that was on the land first, later built a larger one, and finally this home as we had planned it. Every fruit tree, bush, vine, and flower we planted. Here our children have been born, lived, loved, and left us; some for the graveyard down yonder, some for homes of their own. Always we have planned and striven to transform this into the dearest, the most beautiful spot on earth. In making our home the best we can, in improving our township, county, and state, we are doing our share toward upbuilding this nation."

She began at the a b c's, and gave it to him straight: the whole thing, just as we saw it; and he listened, as if he were a prisoner, and she a judge telling him what he must do to gain his freedom. She put in the birds to keep away the worms, the trees to break the wind, the creeks to save the moisture. She whanged him, and she banged him, up one side, and down the other. She didn't stop to be mincy. She shot things at him like a man talking to another man who had plenty of sense but not a particle of reason. She gave him the reason. She told him exactly why, and how, and where, and also just WHAT he must do to feel RIGHT toward his neighbours, his family, and his God. No preacher ever talked half so well. Yea verily, she was as interesting as the Bishop himself, and far pleasanter to look at. When she ran short of breath, and out of words, she reached both hands toward him again.

"OH DO PLEASE THINK OF THESE THINGS!" she begged. "Do try to believe that I am a sensible person, and know what I am talking about."

"Madame," said Mr. Pryor, "there's no doubt in my mind but you are the most wonderful woman I ever have met. Surely I believe you! Surely I know your plan of life is the true, the only right way. It is one degree added to my humiliation that the ban I am under keeps me from friendly intercourse with so great a lady."

"'Lady'?" said my mother, her eyes widening. "'Lady'? Now it is you who are amused."

"I don't understand!" he said. "Certainly you are a lady, a very great lady."

"Goodness, gracious me!" cried my mother, laughing until her dimples would have held water. "That's the first time in all my life I was ever accused of such a thing."

"Again, I do not comprehend," said Mr. Pryor, as if vexed about all he would endure.

Mother laughed on, and as she did so she drew back her hands and studied them. Then she looked at him again, one pink dimple flashing here and there, all over her face.

"Well, to begin at the root of the matter," she said, "that is an enormous big word that you are using lightly. Any one in petticoats is not a lady--by no means! A lady must be born of unsullied blood for at least three generations, on each side of her house. Think for a minute about where you are going to fulfil that condition. Then she must be gentle by nature, and rearing. She must know all there is to learn from books, have wide experience to cover all emergencies, she must be steeped in social graces, and diplomatic by nature. She must rise unruffled to any emergency, never wound, never offend, always help and heal, she must be perfect in deportment, virtue, wifehood and motherhood. She must be graceful, pleasing and beautiful. She must have much leisure to perfect herself in learning, graces and arts----"

"Madame, you draw an impossible picture!" cried Mr. Pryor.

"I draw the picture of the only woman on earth truly entitled to be called a lady. You use a good word lightly. I have told you what it takes to make a lady--now look at me!"

How she laughed! Mr. Pryor looked, but he didn't laugh.

"More than ever you convince me that you are a lady, indeed," he said.

Mother wiped her eyes.

"My dear man!" she cried, "I'm the daughter of a Dutch miller, who lived on a Pennsylvania mountain stream. There never was a school anywhere near us, and father and mother only taught us to work. Paul Stanton took a grist there, and saw me. He married me, and brought me here. He taught me to read and write. I learned my lessons with my elder children. He has always kept school in our house, every night of his life. Our children supposed it was for them; I knew it was quite as much for me. While I sat at knitting or sewing, I spelled over the words he gave out. I know nothing of my ancestors, save that they came from the lowlands of Holland, down where there were cities, schools, and business. They were well educated, but they would not take the trouble to teach their children. As I have spoken to you, my husband taught me. All I know I learn from him, from what he reads aloud, and places he takes me. I exist in a twenty-mile radius, but through him, I know all lands, principalities and kingdoms, peoples and customs. I need never be ashamed to go, or afraid to speak, anywhere."

"Indeed not!" cried Mr. Pryor.

"But when you think on the essentials of a real lady--and then picture me patching, with a First Reader propped before me; facing Indians, Gypsies, wild animals--and they used to be bad enough--why, I mind one time in Ohio when our first baby was only able to stand beside a chair, and through the rough puncheon floor a copperhead stuck up its gleam of bronzy gold, and shot its darting tongue within a foot of her bare leg. By all accounts, a lady would have reached for her smelling salts and gracefully fainted away; in fact, a lady never would have been in such a place at all. It was my job to throw the first thing I could lay my hands on so straight and true that I would break that snake's neck, and send its deadly fangs away from my baby. I did it with Paul's plane, and neatly too! Then I had to put the baby on the bed and tear up every piece of the floor to see that the snake had not a mate in hiding there, for copperheads at that season were going pairs. Once I was driven to face a big squaw, and threatened the life of her baby with a red-hot poker while she menaced mine with a hunting knife. There is not one cold, rough, hard experience of pioneer life that I have not endured. Shoulder to shoulder, and heart to heart, I've stood beside my man, and done what had to be done, to build this home, rear our children, save our property. Many's the night I have shivered in a barn doctoring sick cattle and horses we could ill afford to lose. Time and again I have hung on and brought things out alive, after the men gave up and quit. A lady? How funny!"

"The amusement is all on your part, Madame."

"So it seems!" said mother. "But you see, I know so well how ridiculous it is. When I think of the life a woman must lead in order to be truly a lady, when I review the life I have been forced to live to do my share in making this home, and rearing these children, the contrast is too great. I thank God for any part I have been able to take. Had I life to live over, I see now where I could do more; but neighbour, believe me, my highest aspiration is to be a clean, thrifty housekeeper, a bountiful cook, a faithful wife, a sympathetic mother. That is life work for any woman, and to be a good woman is the greatest thing on earth. Never mind about the ladies; if you can honestly say of me, she is a good woman, you have paid me the highest possible tribute."

"I have nothing to change, in the face of your argument," said Mr. Pryor. "Our loved Queen on her throne is no finer lady."

That time mother didn't laugh. She looked straight at him a minute and then she said: "Well, for an Englishman, as I know them, you have said the last word. Higher praise there is none. But believe me, I make no such claim. To be a good wife and mother is the end toward which I aspire. To hold the respect and love of my husband is the greatest object of my life."

"Then you have succeeded. You stand a monument to wifehood; your children prove your idea of motherhood," said Mr. Pryor. "How in this world have you managed it? The members of your family whom I have seen are fine, interesting men and women, educated above the average. It is not idle curiosity. I am deeply interested in knowing how such an end came to be accomplished here on this farm. I wish you would tell me just how you have gone about schooling your children."

"By educating ourselves before their coming, and with them afterward. Self-control, study, work, joy of life, satisfaction with what we have had, never-ending strife to go higher, and to do better--Dr. Fenner laughs when I talk of these things. He says he can take a little naked Hottentot from the jungle, and educate it to the same degree that I can one of mine. I don't know; but if these things do not help before birth, at least they do not hinder; and afterward, you are in the groove in which you want your children to run. With all our twelve there never has been one who at nine months of age did not stop crying if its father lifted his finger, or tapped his foot and told it to. From the start we have rigorously guarded our speech and actions before them. From the first tiny baby my husband has taught all of them to read, write and cipher some, before they went to school at all. He is always watching, observing, studying: the earth, the stars, growing things; he never comes to a meal but he has seen something that he has or will study out for all of us. There never has been one day in our home on which he did not read a new interesting article from book or paper; work out a big problem, or discuss some phase of politics, religion, or war. Sometimes there has been a little of all of it in one day, always reading, spelling, and memory exercises at night. He has a sister who twice in her life has repeated the Bible as a test before a committee. He, himself, can go through the New Testament and all of the Old save the books of the generations. He always says he considers it a waste of gray matter to learn them. He has been a schoolmaster, his home his schoolroom, his children, wife and helpers his pupils; the common things of life as he meets them every day, the books from which we learn.

"I was ignorant at first of bookish subjects, but in his atmosphere, if one were no student, and didn't even try to keep up, or forge ahead, they would absorb much through association. Almost always he has been on the school board and selected the teachers; we have made a point of keeping them here, at great inconvenience to ourselves, in order to know as much of them as possible, and to help and guide them in their work. When the children could learn no more here, for most of them we have managed the high school of Groveville, especially after our daughter moved there, and for each of them we have added at least two years of college, music school, or whatever the peculiar bent of the child seemed to demand.

"Before any daughter has left our home for one of her own, she has been taught all I know of cleanliness about a house, cookery, sewing, tending the sick, bathing and dressing the new born. She has to bake bread, pie, cake, and cook any meat or vegetable we have. She has had her bolt of muslin to make as she chose for her bedding, and linen for her underclothing. The quilts she pieced and the blankets she wove have been hers. All of them have been as well provided for as we could afford. They can knit, darn, patch, tuck, hem, and embroider, set a hen and plant a garden. I go on a vacation and leave each of them to keep house for her father a month, before she enters a home of her own. They are strong, healthy girls; I hope all of them are making a good showing at being useful women, and I know they are happy, so far at least."

"Wonderful!" said Mr. Pryor.

"Father takes the boys in hand and they must graduate in a straight furrow, an even fence, planting and tending crops, trimming and grafting trees, caring for stock, and handling plane, auger and chisel. Each one must select his wood, cure, fashion, and fit his own ax with a handle, grind and swing it properly, as well as cradle, scythe and sickle. They must be able to select good seed grain, boil sap, and cure meat. They must know animals, their diseases and treatment, and when they have mastered all he can teach them, and done each thing properly, they may go for their term at college, and make their choice of a profession. As yet I'm sorry to say but one of them has come back to the land."

"You mean Laddie?"


"He has decided to be a farmer?"

"He is determined to make the soil yield his living."

"I am sorry--sorry indeed to hear it," said Mr. Pryor. "He has brain and education to make a brilliant figure at law or statesmanship; he would do well in trade."

"What makes you think he would not do well on land?"

"Wasted!" cried Mr. Pryor. "He would be wasted!"

"Hold a bit!" said mother, her face flushing as it did when she was very provoked. "My husband is, and always has been, on land. He is far from being wasted. He is a power in this community. He has sons in cities in law and in trade. Not one of them has the friends, and the influence on his time, that his father has. Any day he says the word, he can stand in legislative halls, and take any part he chooses in politics. He prefers his home and family, and the work he does here, but let me tell you, no son of his ever had his influence or opportunity, or ever will have."

"All this is news to me," said Mr. Pryor.

"You didn't expect us to come over, force our way in and tell you?"

It was his turn to blush and he did.

"Laddie has been at our house often," he said. "He might have mentioned----"

Mother laughed. She was the gayest that morning.

"He 'might,' but he never would. Neither would I if you hadn't seemed to think that the men who do the things Mr. Stanton REFUSES to do are the ones worth while."

"He could accomplish much in legislative halls."

"He figures in the large. He thinks that to be a commissioner, travel his county and make all of it the best possible, to stand in primaries and choose only worthy men for all offices, is doing a much bigger work than to take one place for himself, and strive only for that. Besides, he really loves his land, his house, and family. He says no man has a right to bring twelve children into the world and not see personally to rearing and educating them. He thinks the farm and the children too much for me, and he's sure he is doing the biggest thing for the community at large, to go on as he does."

"Perhaps so," said Mr. Pryor slowly. "He should know best. Perhaps he is."

"I make no doubt!" said mother, lifting her head proudly. "And as Laddie feels and has fitted himself, I look to see him go head and shoulders above any other son I have. Trade is not the only way to accumulate. Law is not the only path to the legislature. Comfort, independence, and freedom, such as we know here, is not found in any city I ever have visited. We think we have the best of life, and we are content on land. We have not accumulated much money; we have spent thousands; we have had a big family for which to provide, and on account of the newness of the country, taxes always have been heavy. But we make no complaint. We are satisfied. We could have branched off into fifty different things after we had a fair start here. We didn't, because we preferred life as we worked it out for ourselves. Paul says when he leaves the city, and his horses' hoofs strike the road between our fields, he always lifts his head higher, squares his shoulders, and feels a man among men. To own land, and to love it, is a wonderful thing, Mr. Pryor."

She made me think of something. Ever since I had added to my quill and arrow money, the great big lot at Easter, father had shared his chest till with me. The chest stood in our room, and in it lay his wedding suit, his every Sunday clothes, his best hat with a red silk handkerchief in the crown, a bundle of precious newspapers he was saving on account of rare things in them he wanted for reference, and in the till was the wallet of ready money he kept in the house for unexpected expense, his deeds, insurance papers, all his particular private papers, the bunches of lead pencils, slate pencils, and the box of pens from which he supplied us for school. Since I had grown so rich, he had gone partners with me, and I might lift the lid, open the till and take out my little purse that May bought from the huckster for my last birthday. I wasn't to touch a thing, save my own, and I never did; but I knew precious well what was there.

If Mr. Pryor thought my father didn't amount to much because he lived on land; if it made him think more of him, to know that he could be in the legislature if he chose, maybe he'd think still more----

I lifted the papers, picked it up carefully, and slipping back quietly, I laid it on Mr. Pryor's knee. He picked it up and held it a minute, until he finished what he was saying to mother, and then he looked at it. Then he looked long and hard. Then he straightened up and looked again.

"God bless my soul!" he cried.

You see when he was so astonished he didn't know what he was saying, he called on God, just as father says every one does. I took a side look at mother. Her face was a little extra flushed, but she was still smiling; so I knew she wasn't angry with me, though of course she wouldn't have shown the thing herself. She and father never did, except as each of us grew big enough to be taught about the Crusaders. Father said he didn't care the snap of his finger about it, except as it stood for hardihood and bravery. But Mr. Pryor cared! He cared more than he could say. He stared, and stared, and over and over he wonderingly repeated:

"God bless my soul!"

"Where did you get the crest of the Earl of Eastbrooke, the master of Stanton house?" he demanded. "Stanton house!" he repeated. "Why--why, the name! It's scarcely possible, but----"

"But there it is!" laughed mother. "A mere bauble for show and amounting to nothing on earth save as it stands a mark for brave men who have striven to conquer."

"Surgere tento!" read Mr. Pryor, from the little shield. "Four shells! Madame, I know men who would give their lives to own this, and to have been born with the right to wear it. It came to your husband in straight line?"

"Yes," said mother, "but generations back. He never wore it. He never would. He only saves it for the children."

"It goes to your eldest son?"

"By rights, I suppose it should," said mother. "But father mentioned it the other night. He said none of his boys had gone as he tried to influence them, unless Laddie does now in choosing land for his future, and if he does, his father is inclined to leave it to him, and I agree. At our death it goes to Laddie I am quite sure."

"Well, I hope--I hope," said Mr. Pryor, "that the young man has the wit to understand what this would mean to him in England."

"His wit is just about level with his father's," said mother. "He never has been in England, and most probably he never will be. I don't think it means a rap more to Laddie than it does to my husband. Laddie is so busy developing the manhood born in him, he has no time to chase the rainbow of reflected glory, and no belief in its stability if he walked in its light. The child of my family to whom that trinket really means something is Little Sister, here. When Leon came in with the thief, I thought he should have it; but after all, she is the staunchest little Crusader I have."

Mr. Pryor looked me over with much interest.

"Yes, yes! No doubt!" he said. "But the male line! This priceless treasure should descend to one of the male line! To one whose name will remain Stanton! To Laddie would be best, no doubt! No doubt at all!"

"We will think about it," said mother serenely as Mr. Pryor arose to go.

He apologized for staying so long, and mother said it hadn't been long, and asked him the nicest ever to come again. She walked in the sunlight with him and pointed out the chestnuts. She asked what he thought of a line of trees to shade the road, and they discussed whether the pleasure they would give in summer would pay for the dampness they would hold in winter. They wandered around the yard and into the garden. She sent me to bring a knife, trowel, and paper, so when he started for home, he was carrying a load of cuttings, and roots to plant.

When father came from town that evening, at the first sight of him, she went straight into his arms, her face beaming; she had been like a sun all that day. Some of it must have been joy carried over from yesterday.

"Praise God, the wedge is in!" she cried.

Father held her tight, stroked her hair, and began smiling without having the least idea why, but he very well knew that whatever pleased her like that was going to be good news for him also.

"What has happened, mother?" he asked.

"Mr. Pryor came over about the road and bridge tax, and oh Paul! I've said every word to him I've been bursting to say from the very start. Every single word, Paul!"

"How did he take it?"

"Time will tell. Anyway, he heard it, all of it, and he went back carrying a load of things to plant. Only think of that! Once he begins planting, and watching things grow, the home feeling is bound to come. I tell you, Paul, the wedge is in! Oh I'm so happy!"

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