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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Story Of Waitstill Baxter - Spring - Chapter 6. A Kiss
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The Story Of Waitstill Baxter - Spring - Chapter 6. A Kiss Post by :bigjim_l0pht Category :Long Stories Author :Kate Douglas Wiggin Date :May 2012 Read :1375

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The Story Of Waitstill Baxter - Spring - Chapter 6. A Kiss

SPRING
CHAPTER VI. A KISS

"SHALL we have our walk in the woods on the Edgewood side of the river, just for a change, Patty?" suggested her sister. "The water is so high this year that the river will be splendid. We can gather our flowers in the hill pasture and then you'll be quite near Mrs. Boynton's and can carry the nosegay there while I come home ahead of you and get supper. I'll take to-day's eggs to father's store on the way and ask him if he minds our having a little walk. I've an errand at Aunt Abby's that would take me down to the bridge anyway."

"Very well," said Patty, somewhat apathetically. "I always like a walk with you, but I don't care what becomes of me this afternoon if I can't go to Ellen's party."

The excursion took place according to Waitstill's plan, and at four o'clock she sped back to her night work and preparations for supper, leaving Patty with a great bunch of early wildflowers for Ivory's mother. Patty had left them at the Boyntons' door with Rodman, who was picking up chips and volunteered to take the nosegay into the house at once.

"Won't you step inside?" the boy asked shyly, wishing to be polite, but conscious that visitors, from the village very seldom crossed the threshold.

"I'd like to, but I can't this afternoon, thank you. I must run all the way down the hill now, or I shan't be in time to supper."

"Do you eat meals together over to your house?" asked the boy.

"We're all three at the table if that means together."

"We never are. Ivory goes off early and takes lunch in a pail. So do I when I go to school. Aunt Boynton never sits down to eat; she just stands at the window and takes a bite of something now 'and then. You haven't got any mother, have you?"

"No, Rodman."

"Neither have I, nor any father, nor any relations but Aunt Boynton and Ivory. Ivory is very good to me, and when he's at home I'm never lonesome."

"I wish you could come over and eat with sister and me," said Patty gently. "Perhaps sometime, when my father is away buying goods and we are left alone, you could join us in the woods, and we would have a picnic? We would bring enough for you; all sorts of good things; hard-boiled eggs, doughnuts, apple-turnovers, and bread spread with jelly."

"I'd like it fine!" exclaimed Rodman, his big dark eyes sparkling with anticipation. "I don't have many boys to play with, and I never went to a picnic Aunt Boynton watches for uncle 'most all the time; she doesn't know he has been away for years and years. When she doesn't watch, she prays. Sometimes she wants me to pray with her, but praying don't come easy to me."

"Neither does it to me," said Patty.

"I'm good at marbles and checkers and back-gammon and jack-straws, though."

"So am I," said Patty, laughing, "so we should be good friends. I'll try to get a chance to see you soon again, but perhaps I can't; I'm a good deal tied at home."

"Your father doesn't like you to go anywheres, I guess," interposed Rodman. "I've heard Ivory tell Aunt Boynton things, but I wouldn't repeat them. Ivory's trained me years and years not to tell anything, so I don't."

"That's a good boy!" approved Patty. Then as she regarded him more closely, she continued, "I'm sorry you're lonesome, Rodman, I'd like to see you look brighter."

"You think I've been crying," the boy said shrewdly. "So I have, but not because I've been punished. The reason my eyes are so swollen up is because I killed our old toad by mistake this morning. I was trying to see if I could swing the scythe so's to help Ivory in haying-time. I've only 'raked after' and I want to begin on mowing soon's I can. Then somehow or other the old toad came out from under the steps; I didn't see him, and the scythe hit him square. I cried for an hour, that's what I did, and I don't care who knows it except I wouldn't like the boys at school to hector me. I've buried the toad out behind the barn, and I hope Ivory'll let me keep the news from Aunt Boynton. She cries enough now without my telling her there's been a death in the family. She set great store by the old toad, and so did all of us."

"It's too bad; I'm sorry, but after all you couldn't help it."

"No, but we should always look round every-wheres when we're cutting; that's what Ivory says. He says folks shouldn't use edged tools till they're old enough not to fool with 'em."

And Rodman looked so wise and old-fashioned for his years that Patty did not know whether to kiss him or cry over him, as she said: "Ivory's always right, and now good-bye; I must go this very minute. Don't forget the picnic."

"I won't!" cried the boy, gazing after her, wholly entranced with her bright beauty and her kindness. "Say, I'll bring something, too,--white-oak acorns, if you like 'em; I've got a big bagful up attic!"

Patty sped down the long lane, crept under the bars, and flew like a lapwing over the high-road.

"If father was only like any one else, things might be so different!" she sighed, her thoughts running along with her feet. "Nobody to make a home for that poor lonesome little boy and that poor lonesome big Ivory.... I am sure that he is in love with Waitstill. He doesn't know it; she doesn't know it; nobody does but me, but I'm clever at guessing. I was the only one that surmised Jed Morrill was going to marry again.... I should almost like Ivory for myself, he is so tall and handsome, but of course he can never marry anybody; he is too poor and has his mother to look after. I wouldn't want to take him from Waity, though, and then perhaps I couldn't get him, anyway.... If I couldn't, he'd be the only one! I've never tried yet, but I feel in my bones, somehow, that I could have any boy in Edgewood or Riverboro, by just crooking my forefinger and beckoning to him.. .. I wish--I wish--they were different! They don't make me want to beckon to them! My forefinger just stays straight and doesn't feel like crooking!... There's Cephas Cole, but he's as stupid as an owl. I don't want a husband that keeps his mouth wide open whenever I'm talking, no matter whether it's sense or nonsense. There's Phil Perry, but he likes Ellen, and besides he's too serious for me; and there's Mark Wilson; he's the best dressed, and the only one that's been to college. He looks at me all the time in meeting, and asked me if I wouldn't take a walk some Sunday afternoon. I know he planned Ellen's party hoping I'd be there!--Goodness gracious, I do believe that is his horse coming behind me! There's no other in the village that goes at such a gait!"

It was, indeed, Mark Wilson, who always drove, according to Aunt Abby Cole, "as if he was goin' for a doctor." He caught up with Patty almost in the twinkling of an eye, but she was ready for him. She had taken off her sunbonnet just to twirl it by the string, she was so warm with walking, and in a jiffy she had lifted the clustering curls from her ears, tucked them back with a single expert movement, and disclosed two coral pendants just the color of her ear-tips and her glowing cheeks.

"Hello, Patty!" the young man called, in brusque country fashion, as he reined up beside her. "What are you doing over here? Why aren't you on your way to the party? I've been over to Limington and am breaking my neck to get home in time myself."

"I am not going; there are no parties for me!" said Patty plaintively. "Not going! Oh! I say, what's the matter? It won't be a bit of fun without you! Ellen and I made it up expressly for you, thinking your father couldn't object to a candy-pull!"

"I can't help it; I did the best I could. Wait-still always asks father for me, but I wouldn't take any chances to-day, and I spoke to him myself; indeed I almost coaxed him!"

"He's a regular old skinflint!" cried Mark, getting out of the wagon and walking beside her.

"You mustn't call him names," Patty interposed with some dignity. "I call him a good many myself, but I'm his daughter."

"You don't look it," said Mark admiringly. "Come and have a little ride, Won't you?"

"Oh, I couldn't possibly, thank you. Some one would be sure to see us, and father's so strict."

"There isn't a building for half a mile! Just jump in and have a spin till we come to the first house; then I'll let you out and you can walk the rest of the way home. Come, do, and make up to me a little for my disappointment. I'll skip the candy-pull if you say the word."

It was an incredibly brief drive, at Mark's rate of speed; and as exciting and blissful as it was brief and dangerous, Patty thought. Did she imagine it, or did Mark help her into the wagon differently from--old Dr. Perry, for instance?

The fresh breeze lifted the gold thread of her curls and gave her cheeks a brighter color, while her breath came fast through her parted lips and her eyes sparkled at the unexpected, unaccustomed pleasure. She felt so grown up, so conscious of a new power as she sat enthroned on the little wagon seat (Mark Wilson always liked his buggies "courtin' size" so the neighbors said), that she was almost courageous enough to agree to make a royal progress through the village; almost, but not quite.

"Come on, let's shake the old tabbies up and start 'em talking, shall we?" Mark suggested. "I'll give you the reins and let Nero have a flick of the whip."

"No, I'd rather not drive," she said. "I'd be afraid of this horse, and, anyway, I must get out this very minute; yes, I really must. If you hold Nero I can just slip down between the wheels; you needn't help me."

Mark alighted notwithstanding her objections, saying gallantly, "I don't miss this pleasure, not by a jugful! Come along! Jump!"

Patty stretched out her hands to be helped, but Mark forestalled her by putting his arms around her and lifting her down. A second of time only was involved, but in that second he held; her close and kissed her warm cheek, her cheek that had never felt the touch of any lips but those of Waitstill. She pulled her sunbonnet over her flaming face, while Mark, with a gay smile of farewell, sprang into the wagon and gave his horse a free rein.

Patty never looked up from the road, but walked faster and faster, her heart beating at breakneck speed. It was a changed world that spun past her; fright, triumph, shame, delight, a gratified vanity swam over her in turn.

A few minutes later she heard once more the rumble of wheels on the road. It was Cephas Cole driving towards her over the brow of Saco Hill. "He'll have seen Mark," she thought, "but he can't know I've talked and driven with him. Ugh! how stupid and common he looks!" "I heard your father blowin' the supper-horn jest as I come over the bridge," remarked Cephas, drawing up in the road. "He stood in the door-yard blowin' like Bedlam. I guess you 're late to supper."

"I'll be home in a few minutes," said Patty, "I got delayed and am a little behindhand."

"I'll turn right round if you'll git in and lemme take you back-along a piece; it'll save you a good five minutes," begged Cephas, abjectly.

"All right; much obliged; but it's against the rules and you must drop me at the foot of our hill and let me walk up."

"Certain; I know the Deacon 'n' I ain't huntin' for trouble any more'n you be; though I 'd take it quick enough if you jest give me leave! I ain't no coward an' I could tackle the Deacon to-morrow if so be I had anything to ask him."

This seemed to Patty a line of conversation distinctly to be discouraged under all the circumstances, and she tried to keep Cephas on the subject of his daily tasks and his mother's rheumatism until she could escape from his over-appreciative society.

"How do you like my last job?" he inquired as they passed his father's house. "Some think I've got the ell a little mite too yaller. Folks that ain't never handled a brush allers think they can mix paint better 'n them that knows their trade."

"If your object was to have everybody see the ell a mile away, you've succeeded," said Patty cruelly. She never flung the poor boy a civil word for fear of getting something warmer than civility in return.

"It'll tone down," Cephas responded, rather crestfallen. "I wanted a good bright lastin' shade. 'T won't look so yaller when father lets me paint the house to match, but that won't be till next year. He makes fun of the yaller color same as you; says a home's something you want to forget when you're away from it. Mother says the two rooms of the ell are big enough for somebody to set up housekeepin' in. What do you think?"

"I never think," returned Patty with a tantalizing laugh. "Good-night, Cephas; thank you for giving me a lift!"

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