A LITTLE MAID OF OLD MAINE
BY ALICE TURNER CURTIS
A LITTLE MAID OF PROVINCE TOWN A LITTLE MAID OF MASSACHUSETTS COLONY A LITTLE MAID OF NARRAGANSETT BAY A LITTLE MAID OF BUNKER HILL A LITTLE MAID OF TICONDEROGA A LITTLE MAID OF OLD CONNECTICUT A LITTLE MAID OF OLD PHILADELPHIA A LITTLE MAID OF OLD NEW YORK A LITTLE MAID OF VIRGINIA
ILLUSTRATED BY ELIZABETH PILSBRY
THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY PHILADELPHIA 1928
COPYRIGHT 1920 BY THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY
A Little Maid of Old Maine
"A LITTLE MAID OF OLD MAINE" is a true story of the brave effort of two girls to bring help to a little settlement on the Maine coast at the time of the War of the Revolution. Parson Lyon, the father of Melvina, was a friend and correspondent of Washington, and the capture of the English gunboat by the Machias men is often referred to in history as "The Lexington of the Seas," being the first naval battle after the Lexington encounter.
The story is based on facts, and its readers cannot fail to be interested and touched by the courage and patriotism of Rebecca and Anna Weston as they journeyed through the forest after the powder that was to make possible the conquest of America's foe.
I. A LIBERTY POLE 9 II. REBECCA'S SECRET 19 III. MELVINA MAKES DISCOVERIES 33 IV. AT MR. LYON'S 45 V. A BIRTHDAY 57 VI. LUCIA HAS A PLAN 68 VII. "A TRAITOR'S DEED" 79 VIII. "WHITE WITCHES" 90 IX. REBECCA'S VISIT 102 X. AN AFTERNOON WALK 112 XI. AN EXCHANGE OF VISITS 121 XII. WILD HONEY 133 XIII. DOWN THE RIVER 143 XIV. AN UNINVITED GUEST 152 XV. REBBY AND LUCIA 165 XVI. REBBY DECIDES 178 XVII. A PERILOUS JOURNEY 189 XVIII. TRIUMPH 205
SHE ADDED WOOD TO THE FIRE Frontispiece PAGE "WE'LL WADE OUT TO FLAT ROCK" 34 "BUT WHICH ONE IS TO BE MINE?" 77 HOW LONG THE AFTERNOON SEEMED! 127 A MAN CAME AROUND THE CORNER OF THE HOUSE 175
A LITTLE MAID OF OLD MAINE
A LIBERTY POLE
Anna and Rebecca Weston, carrying a big basket between them, ran along the path that led from their home to the Machias River. It was a pleasant May morning in 1775, and the air was filled with the fragrance of the freshly cut pine logs that had been poled down the river in big rafts to be cut into planks and boards at the big sawmills. The river, unusually full with the spring rains, dashed against its banks as if inviting the little girls to play a game with it. Usually Anna and Rebecca were quite ready to linger at the small coves which crept in so near to the footpath, and sail boats made of pieces of birch-bark, with alder twigs for masts and broad oak leaves for sails. They named these boats Polly and Unity, after the two fine sloops which carried lumber from Machias to Boston and returned with cargoes of provisions for the little settlement.
But this morning the girls hurried along without a thought for such pleasant games. They were both anxious to get to the lumber yard as soon as possible, not only to fill their basket with chips, as their mother had bidden them, but to hear if there were not some news of the Polly, the return of which was anxiously awaited; for provisions were getting scarce in this remote village, and not until the Polly should come sailing into harbor could there be any sugar cakes, or even bread made of wheat flour.
As they hurried along they heard the cheerful whistle of Mr. Worden Foster, the blacksmith, who was just then taking a moment of well-earned leisure in the door of his shop, and stood looking out across the quiet waters of the river and harbor. As the girls came near he nodded pleasantly, but did not stop whistling. People in Machias declared that the blacksmith woke up in the morning whistling, and never stopped except to eat. And, indeed, his little daughter Luretta said that when her father wanted a second helping of anything at the table he would whistle and point toward it with his knife; so it might be said that Mr. Foster whistled even at his meals.
"There's Father! There's Father!" Anna called out as they passed a big pile of pine logs and came to where stacks of smooth boards just from the sawmill shut the river from sight.
"Well, Danna, do you and Rebby want your basket filled with golden oranges from sunny Italy and dates from Egypt? Or shall it be with Brazilian nuts and ripe pineapples from South America?"
"Oh, Father! Say some more!" exclaimed Anna, laughing with delight; for she never tired of hearing her father tell of the wonderful fruits of far-off lands that he had seen in his sailor days, before he came to live in the little settlement of Machias, in the Province of Maine, and manage the big sawmill.
"Father, tell us, is the Polly coming up the bay?" Rebecca asked eagerly. She had a particular reason for wanting the sloop to reach harbor as soon as possible, for her birthday was close at hand, and her father had told her that the Polly was bringing her a fine gift; but what it was Rebecca could not imagine. She had guessed everything from a gold ring to a prayer-book; but at every guess her father had only smilingly shook his head.
"No sign of the Polly yet, Rebby," Mr. Weston replied.
Rebecca sighed as her father called her "Rebby," and a little frown showed itself on her forehead. She was nearly fourteen, and she had decided that neither "Rebecca" nor "Rebby" were names that suited her. Her middle name was "Flora," and only that morning Anna had promised not to call her by any other name save Flora in future.
Mr. Weston smiled down at Rebecca's serious face.
"So 'tis not spices from far Arabia, or strings of pink coral, this morning," he continued, taking the basket, "but pine chips. Well, come over here and we will soon fill the basket," and he led the way to where two men were at work with sharp adzes smoothing down a big stick of timber.
In a few minutes the basket was filled, and the little girls were on their way home.
"Would it not be a fine thing, Rebby, if we could really fill our basket with pineapples and sweet-smelling spices?" said Anna, her brown eyes looking off into space, as if she fancied she could see the wonderful things of which her father spoke; "and do you not wish that we were both boys, and could go sailing off to see far lands?"
"Anna! Only this morning you promised to call me 'Flora,' and now it is 'Rebby,' 'Rebby.' And as for 'far lands'—of course I don't want to see them. Have you not heard Father say that there were no more beautiful places in all the world than the shores of this Province?" responded Rebecca reprovingly. She sometimes thought that it would have been far better if Anna had really been a boy instead of a girl; for the younger girl delighted to be called "Dan," and had persuaded her mother to keep her brown curls cut short "like a boy's"; beside this, Anna cared little for dolls, and was completely happy when her father would take her with him for a day's deep-sea fishing, an excursion which Rebecca could never be persuaded to attempt. Anna was also often her father's companion on long tramps in the woods, where he went to mark trees to be cut for timber. She wore moccasins on these trips, made by the friendly Indians who often visited the little settlement, and her mother had made her a short skirt of tanned deerskin, such as little Indian girls sometimes wear, and with her blue blouse of homespun flannel, and round cap with a partridge wing on one side, Anna looked like a real little daughter of the woods as she trotted sturdily along beside her tall father.
As the sisters passed the blacksmith shop they could hear the ringing stroke on the anvil, for Mr. Foster had returned to his work of hammering out forks for pitching hay and grain; these same forks which were fated to be used before many months passed as weapons against the enemies of American liberty.
"To-morrow I am to go with Father to the woods," announced Anna as they came in sight of the comfortable log cabin which stood high above the river, and where they could see their mother standing in the doorway looking for their return. The girls waved and called to their mother as they hurried up the path.
"We have fine chips, Mother," called Rebecca, while Anna in a sing-song tone called out: "Pineapples and sweet-smelling spices! Strings of pink coral and shells from far lands."
Rebecca sighed to herself as she heard Anna's laughing recital of their father's words. She resolved to ask her mother to forbid Anna talking in future in such a silly way.
"You are good children to go and return so promptly," said Mrs. Weston, "but you are none too soon, for 'twill take a good blow with the bellows to liven up the coals, and I have a fine venison steak to broil for dinner," and as she spoke Mrs. Weston took the basket and hurried into the house, followed by the girls.
"Mother, what is a 'liberty pole'?" questioned Anna, kneeling on the hearth to help her mother start the fire with the pine chips.
"What dost thou mean, child? Surely the men are not talking of such matters as liberty poles?" responded her mother anxiously.
Anna nodded her head. "Yes, Mother. There is to be a 'liberty pole' set up so it can be well seen from the harbor, for so I heard Mr. O'Brien say; and Father is to go to the woods to-morrow to find it. It is to be the straightest and handsomest sapling pine to be found in a day's journey; that much I know," declared Anna eagerly; "but tell me why is it to be called a 'liberty pole'? And why is it to be set up so it can be well seen from the harbor?"
"Thou knowest, Anna, that King George of England is no longer the true friend of American liberty," said Mrs. Weston, "and the liberty pole is set up to show all Tories on land or sea that we mean to defend our homes. And if the men are talking of putting up the tree of liberty in Machias I fear that trouble is near at hand. But be that as it may, our talking of such matters will not make ready thy father's dinner. Blaze up the fire with these chips, Anna; and thou, Rebby, spread the table."
Both the girls hastened to obey; but Anna's thoughts were pleasantly occupied with the morrow's excursion when she would set forth with her father to discover the "handsome sapling pine tree," which was to be erected as the emblem of the loyalty of the Machias settlement to Freedom's call. Anna knew they would follow one of the Indian trails through the forest, where she would see many a wild bird, and that the day would be filled with delight.
But Rebecca's thoughts were not so pleasant. Here it was the fifth of May, and no sign of the Polly, and on the tenth she would be fourteen; and not a birthday gift could she hope for unless the sloop arrived. Beside this, the talk of a liberty pole in Machias made her anxious and unhappy. Only yesterday she had spent the afternoon with her most particular friend, Lucia Horton, whose father was captain of the Polly; and Lucia had told Rebecca something of such importance, after vowing her to secrecy, that this talk of a liberty pole really frightened her. And the thought that her own father was to select it brought the danger very near. She wished that Lucia had kept the secret to herself, and became worried and unhappy.
Rebecca was thinking of these things, and not of spreading the table, when she went to the cupboard to bring out the pewter plates, and she quite forgot her errand until her mother called:
"Rebby! Rebby! What are you about in the cupboard?" Then, bringing only one plate instead of four, she came slowly back to the kitchen.
"What ails the child?" questioned Mrs. Weston sharply. "I declare, I believe both of my children are losing their wits. Here is Anna making rhymes and sing-songing her words in strange fashion; and thou, Rebecca, a girl of nearly fourteen, careless of thy work, and standing before me on one foot like a heron, staring at naught," and Mrs. Weston hurried to the pantry for the forgotten dishes.
Anna smiled at her mother's sharp words, for she did not mind being called a silly girl for rhyming words. "'Tis no harm," thought Anna, "and my father says 'tis as natural as for the birds to sing;" so she added more chips to the fire, and thought no more of it.
But Rebecca, who was used to being praised for her good sense and who was seldom found fault with, had looked at her mother in surprise, and the pewter plate fell from her hands and went clattering to the floor. At that moment the door swung open and Mr. Weston entered the kitchen.
"Father! Father!" exclaimed Rebecca, running toward him, "you won't put up a liberty pole, will you? You won't! Promise you won't, Father!" and she clasped his arm with both hands.
Mr. Weston looked down smilingly at his little daughter. He was evidently amused at her excitement.
"Is this the little girl who was born in loyal Boston?" he questioned; for Rebecca was six years of age and Anna three when their parents came to this far-off place to make their home. Eastern Maine was then a wilderness, and this little village was not connected with the outside world except by the Indian trails or by the sailing craft which plied up and down the coast. But its citizens were soon to write a page of heroism and valor in their country's history.
"Of course Machias is to have a liberty pole," continued Mr. Weston. "It has been so decided by a vote in a town meeting; and Dan and I will start off in good season to-morrow morning to look for the finest pine sapling in the forest. It will be a great day for the village when 'tis set up, with its waving green plume to show that we are pledged to resist England's injustice to her long-suffering colonies."
It was the custom to leave a tuft of verdure at the top of the liberty tree as an emblem, the best they had at command, of the flag they meant to fight for.
Before her father had finished speaking Rebecca had relinquished her grasp on his arm and ran toward the cupboard, and neither her father nor mother gave much thought to her anxious question. The venison was just ready to serve, and Mrs. Weston hurried from the fireplace to the table, on which Rebecca had now placed the dishes, while Mr. Weston and Anna talked happily together over the proposed excursion on the following day.
"I am afraid that we may have to postpone our journey," said Mr. Weston, "for I noticed the gulls were coming in flocks close to the shores, and you know:
"'When sea-birds fly to land A storm is at hand.'"
"But look at Malty," responded Anna quickly, pointing to the fat Maltese cat who was industriously washing her face:
"'If the cat washes her face over the ear 'Tis a sign the weather'll be fine and clear,'"
quoted the little girl; "and you told me 'twas a sure sign, Father; and 'tis what Matty is doing this minute."
"To be sure," laughed Mr. Weston, "both are sure signs, and so we will hope for fair weather."
Rebecca was very silent at dinner, and as the sisters began to clear away the dishes Anna watched her with troubled eyes.
"Perhaps it's because I called her 'Rebby,'" thought the little girl regretfully. "I'll tell her I am sorry," and when their mother left the kitchen Anna whispered:
"Flora, I forgot when I called you 'Rebby.' But I will now surely remember. You are not vexed at me, are you?" and Anna leaned her head against her sister's arm and looked up at her pleadingly.
Rebecca sniffed a little, as if trying to keep back the tears. She wished she could talk over her worries with Anna; but of course that would never do.
"I believe I'd rather be called 'Rebby,'" she managed to say, to the surprise of her younger sister. "Do you suppose they really mean to put up a liberty pole?"
"Of course," responded Anna. "I heard the minister say that it must be done."
Rebby sighed dolefully. She was old enough to understand the talk she heard constantly of His Majesty's ships of war capturing the American fishing sloops, and of the many troubles caused to peaceable Americans all along the coast; and she, like all the American children, knew that their rights must be defended; but Lucia Horton's talk had frightened and confused Rebecca's thoughts. To set up a liberty pole now seemed to her a most dangerous thing to do, and something that would bring only trouble.
She wished with all her heart that she could tell her father all that Lucia had told her. But that she could not do because of her promise. Rebecca knew that a promise was a sacred thing, not to be broken.
"Rebby, will you not go to the bluff with me? 'Twill be pleasant there this afternoon, and we could see the Polly if she chances to come into harbor to-day," said Anna.
"You had best ask Luretta Foster, Danna," she answered quickly. "I am sure Mother will want my help with her quilting this afternoon."
Rebby so often played at being "grown up" that this reply did not surprise Anna, and she ran off to find her mother and ask permission to go to the shore with Luretta Foster, a girl of about her own age. Mrs. Weston gave her consent, and in a few moments the little girl was running along the river path toward the blacksmith shop where a short path led to Luretta's home.
Anna often thought that there could not be another little girl in all the world as pretty as Luretta. Luretta was not as tall or as strongly made as Anna; her eyes were as blue as the smooth waters of the harbor on a summer's day; her hair was as yellow as the floss on an ear of corn, and her skin was not tanned brown like Anna's, but was fair and delicate. Beside her Anna looked more like a boy than ever. But Luretta admired Anna's brown eyes and short curly hair, and was quite sure that there was no other little girl who could do or say such clever things as Anna Weston. So the two little girls were always well pleased with each other's company, and to-day Luretta was quite ready to go down to the shore and watch for the Polly. Mrs. Foster tied on the big sunbonnet which Luretta always wore out-of-doors, and the two friends started off.
"Will it not be fine if the Polly reaches harbor to-day?" said Anna. "My father says she will bring sugar and molasses and spices, and it may be the Unity will come sailing in beside her loaded with things from far lands. Do you not wish our fathers were captains of fine sloops, Luretta, so that perhaps we could go sailing off to Boston?"
But Luretta shook her head. "I'd much rather journey by land," she answered; "but 'tis said the Polly is to bring a fine silk gown for Mistress Lyon; 'tis a present from her sister in Boston, and two dolls for Melvina Lyon. Why is it that ministers' daughters have so many gifts?" and Luretta sighed. Her only doll was made of wood, and, though it was very dear to her, Luretta longed for a doll with a china head and hands, such as the fortunate little daughter of the minister already possessed.
"I care not for Melvina Lyon, if she be a minister's daughter," Anna responded bravely. "She can do nothing but sew and knit and make fine cakes, and read from grown-up books. She is never allowed to go fishing, or wade in the cove on warm days, or go off in the woods as I do. I doubt if Melvina Lyon could tell the difference 'twixt a partridge and heron, or if she could tell a spruce tree from a fir. And as for presents, hers are of no account. They are but dolls, and silver thimbles and silk aprons. Why! did not my father bring me home a fine beaver skin for a hood, and a pair of duck's wings, and a pair of moccasins the very last time he went north!" And Anna, out of breath, looked at her friend triumphantly.
"But Melvina's things are all bought in stores in big towns, and your presents are all from the woods, just as if you were a little Indian girl," objected Luretta, who greatly admired the ruffled gowns of Melvina's dolls, such as no other little girl in the settlement possessed.
Anna made no response to this; but she was surprised that Luretta should not think as she did about the value of her gifts, and rather vexed that Melvina Lyon should be praised by her own particular friend.
The girls had passed the sawmill and lumber yard, and now turned from the well-traveled path to climb a hill where they could catch the first glimpse of any sail entering the harbor. Farther along this bluff stood the church, not yet quite finished, and beyond it the house of the minister, the Reverend James Lyon, whose little daughter, Melvina, was said to be the best behaved and the smartest girl in the settlement. Although only ten years old Melvina had already "pieced" four patchwork quilts and quilted them; and her neat stitches were the admiration of all the women of the town. But most of the little girls were a little in awe of Melvina, who never cared to play games, and always brought her knitting or sewing when she came for an afternoon visit.
Anna and Luretta sat down on the short grass, and for a few moments talked of the Polly, and looked in vain for the glimmer of a sail.
"Look, Danna! Here comes Melvina now," whispered Luretta, whose quick ears had caught the sound of steps.
Anna looked quickly around. "She's all dressed up," she responded. "See, her skirts set out all around her like a wheel."
Melvina walked with great care, avoiding the rough places, and so intent on her steps that, if Anna had not called her name, she would have passed without seeing them. She was thin and dark, and looked more like a little old lady than a ten-year-old girl.
"How do you do?" she said, bowing as ceremoniously as if Luretta and Anna were grown up people of importance.
"Come and sit down, Melly, and watch for the Polly," said Anna.
"And tell us about the fine dolls that are on board for you," added Luretta quickly.
A little smile crept over Melvina's face and she took a step toward them, but stopped suddenly.
"I fear 'twould not be wise for me to stop," she said a little fearfully; but before she could say anything more Anna and Luretta had jumped up and ran toward her.
"Look!" exclaimed Anna, pointing to a flock of white gulls that had just settled on the smooth water near the shore.
"Look, Melly, at the fine partridges!"
Melvina's dark eyes looked in the direction Anna pointed. "Thank you, Anna. How white they are, and what a queer noise they make," she responded seriously.
Anna's eyes danced with delight as she heard Luretta's half-repressed giggle at Melvina's reply. She resolved that Luretta should realize of how little importance Melvina Lyon, with all her dolls, and her starched skirts like wheels, really was.
"And are those not big alder trees, Melly?" she continued, pointing to a group of fine pine trees near by.
Again Melvina's eyes followed the direction of Anna's pointing finger, and again the minister's little daughter replied politely that the trees were indeed very fine alders.
Luretta was now laughing without any effort to conceal her amusement. That any little girl in Maine should not know a partridge from a gull, or an alder bush from a pine tree, seemed too funny to even make it necessary to try to be polite; and Luretta was now ready to join in the game of finding out how little Melvina Lyon, "the smartest and best-behaved child in the settlement," really knew.
"And, Danna, perhaps Melvina has never seen the birds we call clams?" she suggested.
Melvina looked from Anna to Luretta questioningly. These little girls could not be laughing at her, she thought, recalling with satisfaction that it was well known that she could spell the names of every city in Europe, and repeat the list of all England's kings and queens. She remembered, also, that Anna Weston was called a tomboy, and that her mother said it was a scandal for a little girl to have short hair. So she again replied pleasantly that she had never known that clams were birds. "We have them stewed very often," she declared.
Anna fairly danced about the neat little figure in the well-starched blue linen skirt.
"Oh, Melly! You must come down to the shore, and we will show you a clam's nest," she said, remembering that only yesterday she had discovered the nest of a kingfisher in an oak tree whose branches nearly touched the shore, and could point this out to the ignorant Melvina.
"But I am to visit Lucia Horton this afternoon, and I must not linger," objected Melvina.
"It will not take long," urged Anna, clasping Melvina's arm, while Luretta promptly grasped the other, and half led, half pushed the surprised and uncertain Melvina along the rough slope. Anna talked rapidly as they hurried along. "You ought really to see a clam's nest," she urged, between her bursts of laughter; "why, Melly, even Luretta and I know about clams."
Anna had not intended to be rude or cruel when she first began her game of letting Luretta see that Melly and her possessions were of no importance, but Melvina's ignorance of the common things about her, as well as her neatly braided hair, her white stockings and kid shoes, such as no other child in the village possessed, made Anna feel as if Melvina was not a real little girl, but a dressed-up figure. She chuckled at the thought of Luretta's calling clams "birds," with a new admiration for her friend.
"I guess after this Luretta won't always be talking about Melvina Lyon and her dolls," she thought triumphantly; and at that moment Melvina's foot slipped and all three of the little girls went sliding down the sandy bluff.
The slide did not matter to either Anna or Luretta, in their stout shoes and every-day dresses of coarse flannel, but to the carefully dressed Melvina it was a serious mishap. Her starched skirts were crushed and stained, her white stockings soiled, and her slippers scratched. The hat of fine-braided straw with its ribbon band, another "present" from the Boston relatives, now hung about her neck, and her knitting-bag was lost.
As the little girls gathered themselves up Melvina began to cry. Her delicate hands were scratched, and never before in her short life had she been so frightened and surprised.
She pulled herself away from Anna's effort to straighten her hat. "You are a rough child," she sobbed, "and I wish I had not stopped to speak with you. And my knitting-bag with my half-finished stocking is lost!"
At the sight of Melvina's tears both Anna and Luretta forgot all about showing her a "clam's nest," and became seriously frightened. After all, Melly was the minister's daughter, and the Reverend Mr. Lyon was a person of importance; why, he even had a colored body-servant, London Atus by name, who usually walked behind the clergyman carrying his cloak and Bible, and who opened the door for visitors. Often Melvina was attended in her walks by London, who thought his little mistress far superior to the other children.
"Don't cry, Melvina," pleaded Luretta. "We will find your bag, and we will wash the stains from your stockings and dress, and help you back up the slope. Don't cry," and Luretta put a protecting arm about the frightened Melvina. "Your hat has only slipped from your head; it is not hurt at all," she added consolingly.
Melvina was finally comforted, and Anna climbed up the slope to search for the missing bag, while Luretta persuaded Melvina to take off her stockings in order that they might be washed.
"They'll dry in no time," Luretta assured her. "I can wash them out right here in this clean puddle, and put them on the warm rocks to dry." So Melvina reluctantly took off her slippers, and the pretty open-work stockings, and curling her feet under her, sat down on a big rock to watch Luretta dip the stockings in the little pool of sea water near by, and to send anxious glances toward the sandy bluff where Anna was searching for the missing bag.
MELVINA MAKES DISCOVERIES
The sun shone warmly down on the brown ledges, the little waves crept up the shore with a pleasant murmur, and Melvina, watching Luretta dipping her white stockings in the pool, began to feel less troubled and unhappy; and when Anna came running toward her waving the knitting-bag she even smiled, and was ready to believe that her troubles were nearly over.
In spite of the sunshine dark clouds were gathering along the western horizon; but the girls did not notice this. Anna and Luretta had forgotten all about the sloop Polly, and were both now a little ashamed of their plan to make sport of Melvina.
"Here is your bag all safe, Melly," called Anna, "and while Luretta is washing your stockings I'll rub off those spots on your pretty dress. Can't you step down nearer the water?" she suggested, handing the bag to Melvina, who put it carefully beside her hat and agreed promptly to Anna's suggestion, stepping carefully along the rough shore to the edge of the water. The rocks hurt her tender feet, but she said nothing; and when she was near the water she could not resist dipping first one foot and then the other in the rippling tide.
"Oh, I have always wanted to wade in the ocean," she exclaimed, "and the water is not cold."
As Anna listened to Melvina's exclamation a new and wonderful plan came into her thoughts; something she decided that would make up to Melvina for her mischievous fun. She resolved quickly that Melvina Lyon should have the happiest afternoon of her life.
"Melly, come back a little way and slip off your fine skirts. I'll take off my shoes and stockings and we'll wade out to Flat Rock and back. Luretta will fix your clothes, won't you, Lu?" she called, and Luretta nodded.
The stains did not seem to come out of the stockings; they looked gray and streaked, so Luretta dipped them again, paying little attention to her companions.
Melvina followed Anna's suggestion, and her starched skirts and hat were left well up the beach with Anna's stout shoes and stockings, and the two girls hurried back hand in hand to the water's edge.
Flat Rock was not far out from the shore, and Anna knew that the pebbly beach ended in soft mud that would not hurt Melvina's feet, so she led her boldly out.
"It's fun," declared Melvina, her dark eyes dancing as she smiled at Anna, quite forgetting all her fears.
"It would be more fun if we had on real old clothes and could splash," responded Anna; and almost before she finished speaking Melvina leaned away from her and with her free hand swept the water toward her, spraying Anna and herself. In a moment both the girls had forgotten all about their clothes, and were chasing each other along the water's edge splashing in good earnest, and laughing and calling each other's names in wild delight. Farther up the shore Luretta, a draggled stocking in each hand, looked at them a little enviously, and wondered a little at the sudden change in Melvina's behavior.
"Now show me the clam's nest!" Melvina demanded, as out of breath and thoroughly drenched the two girls stood laughing at each other.
"All right," Anna responded promptly. "Come on down to the point," and followed by Melvina, now apparently careless of the rough beach, she ran along the shore toward a clam bed in the dark mud.
"Look!" she exclaimed, pointing to the black flats-mud. "There is the clam's nest—in that mud. Truly. They are not birds; they are shellfish. I was only fooling."
"I don't care," answered Melvina. "I shall know now what clams really are."
"And those birds are gulls, not partridges," continued Anna, pointing to the flock of gulls near shore, "and come here and I will show you a real alder," and the two girls climbed over a ledge to where a little thicket of alder bushes crept down close to the rocks.
"And those splendid tall trees are pines," went on Anna, pointing to the group of tall trees on the bluff.
Melvina laughed delightedly. "Why, you know all about everything," she exclaimed, "even if your hair is short like a boy's."
"I know all the trees in the forest," declared Anna, "and I know where squirrels hide their nuts for winter, and where beavers make their houses in the river."
The two girls were now beyond the ledge and out of sight of Luretta, and Anna was so eager to tell Melvina of the wonderful creatures of the forest, and Melvina, feeling as if she had discovered a new world, listened with such pleasure, that for the moment they both forgot all about Luretta.
At first Luretta had been well pleased to see that Melvina was no longer vexed and unhappy; but when both her companions disappeared, and she found herself alone with Melvina's soiled and discarded skirts and the wet stockings, she began to feel that she was not fairly treated, and resolved to go home.
"Dan can play with Melvina Lyon if she likes her so much," thought Luretta resentfully, and started off up the slope. Luretta was nearly as tidy as when she left home, so she would have no explanations to make on her return. As she went up the slope she turned now and then and looked back, but there was no sign of Anna or Melvina. "I don't care," thought the little girl unhappily. "Perhaps they will think I am drowned when they come back and don't find me." She had just reached the top of the slope and turned toward home when she saw London Atus hurrying along the path that led to the church.
"Perhaps he has been sent after Melvina, and can't find her," thought Luretta; and she was right; the colored man had been to Captain Horton's house to walk home with his little mistress, and had been told that Melvina had not been there that afternoon; and he was now hurrying home with this alarming news.
Anna and Melvina were now comfortably seated on a grassy knoll near the alder bushes, Melvina asking questions about woodland birds, and the wild creatures of the forest, which Anna answered with delight.
"Perhaps you can go with Father and me to the forest to-morrow," said Anna. "We are going to find a liberty pole, and 'twill be a fine walk."
"I know about liberty poles," declared Melvina eagerly, "and my father is well pleased that the town is to set one up. But, oh, Anna! surely it is time that I went on to my visit with Lucia Horton!" and Melvina's face grew troubled. "Do you think Luretta Foster will have my clothes in good order?"
At Melvina's words Anna sprang to her feet. "I think she will do her best, and 'tis well for us to hurry," she responded; "but you have had a good time, have you not, Melvina?"
"Oh, yes! I would like well to play about on the shore often; but I fear I may never again," said Melvina; her smile had vanished, and she looked tired and anxious.
"Let us hasten; the tide is coming in now, and Luretta will have taken our things up from the beach," said Anna, taking Melvina's hand and hurrying her along over the ledges. "I am glad indeed, Melvina, that we are better acquainted, and we will often wade together."
But Melvina shook her head dolefully. "My mother does not like me to play out-of-doors," she said. "Do you think, Anna, that Luretta is quite sure to have my things clean and nice?"
The two little girls had now come in sight of the place where they had left Luretta. They both stopped and looked at each other in dismay, for the tide had swept up the beach covering the pool where Luretta had endeavored to wash the stockings, and the rocks where Anna and Melvina had left their things, and there was no trace either of Luretta or of their belongings.
"Luretta has taken our things up the slope," declared Anna. "She saw the tide would sweep them away, so she did not wait for us."
"But how can we find her?" wailed Melvina. "I cannot go up the slope barefooted and in my petticoat. What would my father say if he met me in such a plight? He tells me often to remember to set a good example to other children. And I would be ashamed indeed to be seen like this."
"You do look funny," Anna acknowledged soberly. Her own flannel dress had dried, and, except for her bare feet, she looked about as usual; but Melvina's white petticoat was still wet and draggled, her hair untidy, and it was doubtful if her own father would have recognized her at the first glance.
"I will go and get your things," said Anna. "Come up the slope a little way, and sit down behind those juniper bushes until I come back. Luretta must be near the pine trees. I'll hurry right back, and you can dress in a minute."
Melvina agreed to this plan, and followed Anna slowly up to the juniper bushes, and crouched down well under their branches so that she was completely hidden from view; while Anna scrambled hurriedly up the slope and looked anxiously about for some sign of Luretta and the missing garments. But there was no sign of either; so she ran along the bluff to where the pines offered shelter, thinking Luretta must surely be there.
And now Anna began to be seriously alarmed. Perhaps Luretta had been swept out by the tide before she could save herself. And at this thought Anna forgot all about shoes and stockings, all Melvina's fine garments, and even Melvina herself, and ran as fast as her feet could carry her toward Luretta's home. At the blacksmith shop she stopped to take breath, and to see if Luretta might not, by some happy chance, be there; but the shop was silent. Mr. Foster had gone home to his supper; but Anna did not realize that the hour was so late, and ran swiftly on.
As she neared the house she stopped suddenly, for Luretta was standing in the doorway, and Rebecca was beside her, and they were both looking at Anna. There was no time to turn and run back.
"Why, Dan! Where are your shoes and stockings?" said Rebecca, coming down the path to meet her sister. "You were so late in coming home that Mother sent me to meet you."
"What did Luretta say?" gasped Anna, thinking to herself that if Luretta had told of Melvina, and their making sport of her, that there was trouble in store for them all.
"Luretta hadn't time to say anything," responded Rebecca, "for I had just reached the door when we saw you coming. Now we'll get your shoes and stockings and start home, for Mother is waiting supper for us."
"Luretta has my shoes," said Anna, and ran on to the door, where Luretta was still waiting.
"Give me my shoes and stockings; quick, Lu! And then take all Melvina's things and run, as fast as you can, to the——"
"Luretta! Luretta!" called Mrs. Foster; and Luretta with a hurried whisper: "Oh, Anna! I haven't her things. Don't say a word about Melvina," vanished into the house.
"Come, Anna," called Rebecca reprovingly. "Father will come to look for us if you do not hasten. Why did not Luretta give you back your shoes and stockings?" she asked as Anna came slowly down the path. "It's a stupid game for her to keep them, I will say;" and she put a protecting arm across her sister's shoulder. "But do not feel bad, Dan, dear; she will bring them over before bedtime, if the storm holds off; and Mother has made a fine molasses cake for supper." But Anna made no response.
"Oh! Here comes the minister. Keep a little behind me, Dan, and he may not notice your bare feet," exclaimed Rebecca.
Usually the Reverend Mr. Lyon was very ceremonious in his greeting to the children of the parish; but to-night he wasted no time in salutations.
"Have you seen Melvina?" he asked anxiously. "She left home early this afternoon to visit at Captain Horton's and did not appear there at all; nor can we find trace of her."
"No, sir," responded Rebecca. "I have but come to fetch my sister home from Mr. Foster's, and have seen naught of Melvina."
Mr. Lyon turned and hurried back toward the main path, where London Atus was inquiring at every house if anyone had seen his little mistress; but no one had news of her.
"What can have befallen Melvina Lyon? And there's a storm coming up. I do hope no harm has come to her," said Rebecca, as she hurried Anna along the path.
"Oh, Rebby! It mustn't storm!" exclaimed Anna.
"'Twill only postpone Father's trip to the forest, Dan," said Rebby; "but look at those black clouds. 'Twill surely be a tempest. I hope we'll reach home before it breaks," and she started to run, pulling Anna along with her.
"Oh, Rebby, let me go! I can't go home! I can't!" exclaimed Anna, breaking away from her sister's clasping hand and darting ahead.
Rebecca had not heard Anna's last words, and thought her sister wished only to outrun her in the race home. So she ran quickly after her, and when at the turn by the blacksmith shop she lost sight of Anna she only thought that the younger girl was hidden by the turn of the path, and not until she pushed open the kitchen door did Rebecca realize that Anna had run away from her, that she had not meant to come home.
"Just in time," said Mr. Weston, drawing Rebecca in and closing the door against a gust of wind and rain. "But why did you not bring Danna home? It has set in for a heavy storm, and she will now have to stay the night at Mr. Foster's."
AT MR. LYON'S
Anna raced back along the path to the bluff as fast as she could go; but the strong wind swept against her, and at times nearly blew her over. The rain came down in torrents; and, as it had grown dark with the approaching storm, she could no longer see her way clearly, and stubbed her toes against roots and stones until her feet were hurt and bleeding.
But she could not stop to think of this: she could think only of Melvina, cowering, wet and afraid, under the juniper bushes.
"Perhaps she will be blown down the slope into the river," thought Anna, "and it will be my fault. Perhaps I have killed Melvina, by trying to make myself out as cleverer than she. Oh! If she is only safe I'll never try to be clever again," she vowed, as she fought her way on against wind and rain.
As she reached the top of the bluff there was a moment's lull in the storm, and Anna could clearly see the wide branched juniper bushes where she had left Melvina.
"Melly! Melly!" she called, scrambling down the slope. But there was no answer; and in a moment Anna realized that Melvina was not under the trees.
The storm began again with even greater violence, and Anna was obliged to cling closely to the rough branches to keep from being swept down the slope. She could hear the dash of the waves on the shore, and she trembled at the thought that Melvina might have been swept down into the angry waters.
After a little Anna, on her hands and knees, crawled up the slope, clinging to bits of grass here and there, and not venturing to stand upright until she had reached the top.
She knew what she must do now, and she did not hesitate. She must go straight to Mr. Lyon's house and tell him the story from the moment that she had told Melvina that pine trees were alders. For a moment she wondered what would become of her afterward; but only for a moment did she think of herself.
It seemed to the little girl that she would never reach the minister's house. For a moment she rested in the shelter of the church, and then dragged herself on. Her feet hurt so badly now that it was all she could do to walk.
There were lights to be seen, up-stairs and down, at the parsonage; but Anna did not wonder at this. She managed to reach the front door and to lift the knocker.
In a moment London opened the door, holding a candle above his head.
"Well, boy, who be ye?" he questioned sharply, seeing only Anna's curly brown head.
"If you please, I am Anna Weston," faltered the little girl. "I—I—must see the minister. It's about Melvina."
A smile showed on the black face, and London nodded his head.
"Missy Melvina am safe in bed," he whispered, then in a louder tone, "Step in, if ye please, Missy Anna."
Anna dragged herself up the high step, and Mr. Lyon just then opened a door leading into his study.
"What is it, London?" he questioned, and seeing Anna, lifted his hands in amazement.
Anna stumbled toward him.
"I am to blame about Melvina!" she exclaimed, and, speaking as quickly as she could, she told the whole story. She told it exactly as it had happened, excepting Luretta's part of the mischief, and Melvina's willingness to wade in the creeping tide.
Mr. Lyon had taken her by the hand and led her into the candle-lit room. A little fire blazed on the brick hearth, and as Anna came near it a little mist of steam rose from her wet clothes.
The minister listened, keeping Anna's cold little hand fast in his friendly clasp. His face was very grave, and when she finished with: "Is Melvina safe? London said she was. But, oh, Mr. Lyon, all her fine clothes are swept away, and it is my fault," he smiled down at her troubled face.
"Be in no further alarm, my child. But come with me, for your feet are cut and bruised, and Mrs. Lyon will give you dry clothing. Melvina does not blame you in her story of this mischievous prank. But I doubt not you are both blameworthy. But 'twill be your parents' duty to see to thy punishment." As the minister spoke he drew her toward a door at the far end of the room and opened it, calling for Mrs. Lyon, who rose from her seat near a low table in front of the big kitchen fireplace.
All Anna's courage had vanished. She hung her head, not daring to look at Mrs. Lyon, saying:
"I must go home. I must not stay."
"London is at your father's house ere this, and will tell him that you are to spend the night here. They will not be anxious about you," said Mrs. Lyon; "and now slip out of those wet garments. I have warm water to bathe your feet," and almost before Anna realized what was happening she found herself in a warm flannel wrapper, her bruised feet bathed and wrapped in comforting bandages, and a bowl of hot milk and corn bread on the little table beside her. When this was finished Mrs. Lyon led the little girl to a tiny chamber at the head of the stairs. A big bedstead seemed nearly to fill the room.
"Say your prayers, Anna," said Mrs. Lyon, and without another word she left the little girl alone. Anna was so thoroughly tired out that even the strange dark room did not prevent her from going to sleep, and when she awoke the tiny room was full of sunshine; she could hear robins singing in the maples near the house, and people moving about down-stairs. Then she sat up in bed with a little shiver of apprehension.
What would the minister and Mrs. Lyon and Melvina say to her? Perhaps none of them would even speak to her. She had never been so unhappy in her life as she was at that moment. She slipped out of bed; but the moment her feet touched the floor she cried out with pain. For they were bruised and sore.
There was a quick rap at the door, and Mrs. Lyon entered. "Good-morning, Anna. Here are your clothes. I have pressed them. And I suppose these are your shoes and stockings!" and she set down the stout shoes and the knit stockings that Anna had supposed had been swept out to sea.
"When you are dressed come to the kitchen and your breakfast will be ready," said Mrs. Lyon, and left the room before Anna had courage to speak. Anna dressed quickly; but in spite of her endeavors she could not get on her shoes. Her feet hurt her too badly to take off the bandages; she drew her stockings on with some difficulty, and shoes in hand went slowly down the steep stairs.
When she was nearly down she heard Mrs. Lyon's voice: "She is a mischievous child, and her parents encourage her. She looks like a boy, and I do not want Melvina to have aught to do with her."
Anna drew a quick breath. She would not go into the kitchen and face people who thought so unkindly of her. "I will go home," she thought, ready to cry with the pain from her feet, and her unhappy thoughts. The front door was wide open. There was no trace of the storm of the previous night, and Anna made her way softly across the entry and down the steps. Every step hurt, but she hurried along and had reached the church when she gave a little cry of delight, for her father was coming up the path.
"Well, here's my Danna safe and sound," he exclaimed, picking her up in his arms. "And what has happened to her little feet?" he asked, as he carried her on toward home.
And then Anna told all her sad story again, even to the words she had overheard Mrs. Lyon say.
"Don't worry, Danna! I'd rather have my Dan than a dozen of their Melvinas," said Mr. Weston quickly.
When London had come the previous night with the brief message from the minister that Anna was safe at his house and would stay the night there, the Westons had been vexed and troubled, and Mrs. Weston had declared that Anna should be punished for running off in such a tempest to the minister's house. But as Mr. Weston listened to his little daughter's story, and looked at her troubled and tear-stained face, he decided that Anna had had a lesson that she would remember, and needed comforting more than punishment; and a few whispered words to Mrs. Weston, as he set Anna down in the big wooden rocker, made Anna's mother put her arms tenderly about her little daughter and say kindly:
"Mother's glad enough to have her Danna home again. And now let's look at those feet."
Rebby came running with a bowl of hot porridge, and the little girl was made as comfortable as possible. But all that morning she sat in the big chair with her feet on a cushion in a smaller chair, and she told her mother and Rebby all the story of her adventures; and when Rebby laughed at Melvina's not knowing an alder from a pine Danna smiled a little. But Mrs. Weston was very sober, although she said no word of blame. If Melvina Lyon's things had been lost it would be but right that Anna's parents should replace them to the best of their ability, and this would be a serious expense for the little household.
After dinner Rebby went to the Fosters', and came home with the story of Melvina's return home. It seemed that the moment Anna left her she became frightened and had followed her up the slope; and then, while Mr. Lyon and London were searching for her, she had made her way home, told her story, and had been put to bed. Luretta had carried Melvina's things and Anna's shoes and stockings well up the shore, and had put them under the curving roots of the oak tree; so, although they were well soaked, they were not blown away, and early that morning Luretta had hastened to carry the things to the parsonage.
"You were brave, Dan, to go through all that storm last night to tell the minister," said Rebby, as she drew a footstool near her sister's chair and sat down. Rebby was not so troubled to-day; for her father had postponed his trip to the forest after the liberty tree, and Rebby hoped that perhaps it would not be necessary that one should be set up in Machias. So she was ready to keep her little sister company, and try to make her forget the troubles of her adventures.
"Of course I had to go, Rebby," Anna responded seriously, "but none of it, not even my feet, hurt so bad as what Mrs. Lyon said about me. For I do not think I am what she said," and Anna began to cry.
"Father says you are the bravest child in the settlement; and Mother is proud that you went straight there and took all the blame. And I am sure that no other girl is so dear as my Danna," declared Rebby loyally. "After all, what harm did you do?"
But Anna was not so easily comforted. "I tried to make fun of Melly for not knowing anything. I tried to show off," she said, "and now probably she will never want to see me again; and oh, Rebby! the worst of it all is that Melvina is just as brave as she can be, and I like her!" And Anna's brown eyes brightened at the remembrance of Melvina's enjoyment of their sport together.
"Don't you worry, Danna; Father will make it all right," Rebecca assured her; for Rebecca thought that her father could smooth out all the difficult places.
Anna did not speak of the excursion to the forest; she did not even think of it until that evening, when her father came home with a roll of fine birch-bark, soft and smooth as paper, on whose smooth surface she and Rebecca with bits of charcoal could trace crude pictures of trees and Indians, of birds and mice, and sometimes write letters to Lucia Horton or Luretta Foster.
"You must take good care of your feet, Dan, for I must start after the liberty tree in a few days," said Mr. Weston, "and I want your company."
Anna's face brightened, but Rebecca looked troubled.
"Why must we have a liberty pole, Father?" she asked fretfully.
"We have good reasons, daughter. And to-day tidings have come that the brave men of Lexington and Concord, in Massachusetts, drove the British back to Boston on the nineteenth of April. 'Tis great news for all the colonies. I wish some British craft would give Machias men a chance to show their mettle," said Mr. Weston, his face flushing at the thought of the patriotic action of the men of Massachusetts.
Rebecca sighed. She, too, wished that her home town might do its part to win a victory for America; but, remembering what Lucia Horton had told her, the very mention of a liberty pole made her tremble.
When Anna hobbled up-stairs that night she was in a much happier frame of mind.
"My father is the best father in all the world, and my mother is the best mother, and my sister is the best sister," she announced to the little group as she said good-night. But the shadow of Mrs. Lyon's disapproval was not forgotten; Anna wondered to herself if there was not some way by which she could win the approval of Mr. and Mrs. Lyon, and so be allowed to become Melvina's friend.
"Mrs. Lyon doesn't like me because my hair is short, for one reason," thought Anna. "I'll let it grow; but 'twill take years and years," and with this discouraging thought her eyes closed, and she forgot her troubles in sleep.
In a few days Anna's feet were healed, and, wearing her soft moccasins, she could run about as well as ever. But her father and mother were quick to see that a great change had come over their little daughter. She no longer wanted to be called "Dan"; she told her mother that she wanted her hair to grow long, and she even asked Rebecca to teach her how to sew more evenly and with tinier stitches.
For Anna had made a firm resolve; she would try in every possible way to be like Melvina Lyon. She gave up so many of her out-of-door games that Mrs. Weston looked at her a little anxiously, fearing that the child might not be well. Every day Anna walked up the path to the church, and lingered about hoping for a glimpse of Melvina; but a week passed and the little girls did not meet.
At last the day came when Mr. Weston was ready to start for the forest to select the liberty tree; but, greatly to his surprise, Anna said that she did not wish to go, and he started off without her.
This was the first real sacrifice Anna had made toward becoming like Melvina. She was quite sure that Melvina would not go for a tramp in the forest. "It would spoil her clothes," reflected Anna, and looked regretfully at her own stout gingham dress, wishing it could be changed and become like one of Melvina's dresses of flounced linen.
"I would look more like her if I wore better dresses," she decided.
"Mother, may I not wear my Sunday dress?" she asked eagerly. "I will not play any games, or hurt it. I will only walk as far as the church and back."
For a moment Mrs. Weston hesitated. It seemed a foolish thing to let Anna wear her best dress on a week day; but the little girl had been so quiet and unhappy since the night of her adventure that her mother decided to allow her this privilege; and Anna ran up-stairs, and in a few minutes had put on her Sunday dress. It was a blue muslin with tiny white dots, and the neck and sleeves were edged with tiny white ruffles. It had been Rebecca's best dress for several summers, until she outgrew it, and it was made over for the younger girl, but Anna was very proud of it, and stood on tiptoe to see herself reflected in the narrow mirror between the windows of the sitting-room. Her mother had made a sunbonnet of the same material as the dress, and Anna put this on with satisfaction. Always before this she had despised a sunbonnet, and never had she put it on of her own accord. But to-day she looked at it approvingly. "No one would know but that my hair is long, and braided, just like Melvina's," she thought as she walked slowly toward the kitchen.
"I will only walk to the church and straight back, Mother dear," she said, "and then I will put on my gingham dress, and sew on my patchwork."
"That's a good girl. You look fine enough for a party," responded her mother, and stood at the door watching Anna as she walked soberly down the path.
"I know not what has come over the child," she thought, with a little sigh. "To be sure, she is more like other little girls, and perhaps it is well;" but Mrs. Weston sighed again, as if regretting her noisy, singing "Dan," who seemed to have vanished forever.
When Anna reached the church she stood for a moment looking wistfully toward the parsonage. "If Mrs. Lyon could see me now she would not think me a tomboy," thought Anna; and with the thought came a new inspiration: why should not Mrs. Lyon see her dressed as neatly as Melvina herself, and with the objectionable short hair hidden from sight?
"I will go and call," decided Anna, her old courage returning; "and I will behave so well that Mrs. Lyon will ask me to come often and play with Melvina," and, quite forgetting to walk quietly, she raced along the path in her old-time fashion until she was at the minister's door. Then she rapped, and stood waiting, a little breathless, but smiling happily, quite sure that a little girl in so pretty a dress and so neat a sunbonnet would receive a warm welcome. Perhaps Mrs. Lyon would come to the door, she thought hopefully.
But it was Melvina herself who opened the door. Melvina, wearing a white dress and a long apron.
For a moment the two little girls stood looking at each other in surprise. Then Melvina smiled radiantly. "Oh! It really is you, Anna! Come in. I am keeping house this afternoon, and nobody will know that you are here."
"But I came to call on your mother. I wanted her to see me," explained Anna.
But Melvina did not seem to notice this explanation. She took Anna's hand and drew her into the house.
"Oh, Dan! wasn't it fun to wade and run on the shore?" said Melvina eagerly, as the two girls entered the big pleasant kitchen. "I didn't mind being wet or frightened or punished. Did you?"
"I wasn't punished," Anna responded meekly.
"I was. I was sent to bed without my supper for three nights; and I had to learn two tables of figures," declared Melvina triumphantly. "But I didn't care. For I have a splendid plan——" But before Melvina could say another word the kitchen door opened and Mrs. Lyon entered.
At first she did not recognize Anna, and smiled pleasantly at the neat, quiet little girl in the pretty dress and sunbonnet. "And who is this little maid?" she asked.
"I am Anna Western," Anna replied quickly, making a clumsy curtsy.
Mrs. Lyon's smile vanished. She thought to herself that Anna had taken advantage of her absence to steal into the house, perhaps to entice Melvina for some rough game out-of-doors.
"I came to call," Anna continued bravely, her voice faltering a little. "I wanted to say I was sorry for being mischievous."
Mrs. Lyon's face softened, and she noticed approvingly that Anna's short curly locks were covered by the sunbonnet, and that she was dressed in her best; but she was still a little doubtful.
"Well, Anna, I am glad indeed that you are so right-minded. It is most proper that you should be sorry. I doubt not that your good parents punished you severely for your fault," said Mrs. Lyon. But she did not ask Anna to sit down, or to remove her sunbonnet. Melvina looked from Anna to her mother, not knowing what to say.
"I think I must go now," said Anna, almost ready to cry. "Good-bye, Melvina; good-afternoon, Mrs. Lyon," and making another awkward curtsy Anna turned toward the door.
"Oh, Danna! Don't go," called Melvina, running toward her; but Mrs. Lyon's firm hand held her back.
"Good-afternoon, Anna! I hope you will grow into a good and obedient girl," she said kindly.
Anna's tears now came thick and fast. She could hardly see the path as she stumbled along. But if she could have heard Melvina's words as her mother held her back from the kitchen door, she would have felt that her visit had been worth while. For Melvina had exclaimed, greatly to Mrs. Lyon's dismay: "Oh, Mother! Ask her to come again. For I want to be exactly like Danna, and do all the things she does."
Luretta Foster, coming down the path, stopped short and stared at Anna in amazement. It was surprising enough to see Anna dressed as if ready for church, but to see her in tears was almost unbelievable.
"What is the matter, Danna?" she asked, coming close to her little friend's side, and endeavoring to peer under the sunbonnet. "Would not your father let you go with him to the forest?"
Anna made no answer, and when Luretta put a friendly arm about her shoulders, she drew a little away.
"Do not cry, Dan. My brother Paul has gone to the forest with your father, and he promised to bring me home a rabbit to tame for a pet. I will give it to you, Dan," said Luretta.
For a moment Anna forgot her troubles. "Will you, truly, Luretta?" and she pushed back her sunbonnet that she might see her friend more clearly.
"Yes, I will. And I will give you a nice box with slats across the top, and a little door at the end that Paul made yesterday for the rabbit to live in," Luretta promised generously. "I do not suppose Melvina Lyon would know a rabbit from a wolf," she continued laughingly, quite sure that Anna would suggest asking Melvina to come and see their tame wolf. But Anna did nothing of the sort.
"Melvina knows more than any girl in this settlement," Anna replied quickly. "She can do sums in fractions, and she can embroider, and make cakes. And she is brave, too."
"Why, Dan Weston! And only last week you made fun of her, and said that all those things were of no account," exclaimed Luretta.
For a moment the two little friends walked on in silence, and then Anna spoke.
"Luretta, I'll tell you something. I am going to try to be exactly like Melvina Lyon. Everybody praises her, and your mother and mine are always saying that she is well-behaved. And I am going to let my hair grow long and be well-behaved. But don't tell anyone," Anna added quickly, "for I want Mrs. Lyon to find it out first of all."
"Oh, Dan! And won't you make funny rhymes any more? Or play on the timber-rafts—or—or—anything?" asked Luretta.
"I don't believe there is any harm in making rhymes. It's something you can't help," responded Anna thoughtfully. "And Parson Lyon has written a book," she added quickly, as if that in some way justified her jingles.
"I don't want you to be different, Dan!" declared Luretta.
Anna stopped and looked at her friend reproachfully. "Well, Luretta Foster, I am surprised!" she said, and then clasping Luretta's hand she started to run down the path, saying: "Let's hurry, so I can take off this dress; then we will walk a little way toward the forest to see if Father and Paul are coming. Will you truly; give me the rabbit if Paul captures one?"
"Yes, I will," promised Luretta; but she began to wish that she had not suggested such a thing. If Danna was going to be exactly like Melvina Lyon, thought Luretta, a rabbit would not receive much attention.
Rebecca was sitting on the front step busy with her knitting as the two little girls came up the path. It was her birthday, but so far no one had seemed to remember it. The Polly had not reached port, so the fine present she had been promised could not be expected. But Rebecca was surprised and disappointed that everyone had seemed to forget that she was fourteen on the tenth of May. But as she looked up and saw Anna dressed in her best, and Luretta beside her, coming up the path, Rebby's face brightened. "I do believe Mother has planned a surprise for me," she thought happily. "Oh, there comes Lucia! Now I am sure that Mother has asked her to come, and perhaps some of the other girls," and Rebecca put down her knitting and stood up, smiling at the girls expectantly, for she was quite sure that their first words would be a birthday greeting.
At that moment Mrs. Weston, busy in her kitchen, remembered suddenly that it was September tenth. "My Rebby's birthday! And, with my mind full of all the worry about being shut off from the world by British cruisers, and provisions growing so scarce, I had forgotten," and Mrs. Weston left her work and reached the front door just as Rebecca rose to her feet to greet her friends.
"Fourteen to-day, Rebby dear," said Mrs. Weston, putting her arm about her tall daughter and kissing Rebecca.
At the same moment, hearing her mother's words, Anna ran forward calling out: "Rebby is fourteen to-day."
Luretta and Lucia were close behind her, and Rebecca found herself the centre of a smiling happy group, and for the moment quite forgot that she must do without the present from Boston that her father had promised her.
LUCIA HAS A PLAN
"I have brought you a birthday gift, Rebby," said Lucia, who had been looking forward all day to the moment when she could give her friend the small package that she now handed her.
Rebecca received it smilingly, and quickly unwound the white tissue paper in which it was wrapped, showing a flat white box. Inside this box lay a pair of white silk mitts.
Rebecca looked at them admiringly, and even Mrs. Weston declared that very few girls could hope for a daintier gift; while Anna and Luretta urged Rebecca to try them on at once, which she was quite ready to do. They fitted exactly, and Lucia was as proud and happy as Rebecca herself that her gift was so praised and appreciated.
"They came from France," she said. "Look on the box, Rebby, and you will see 'Paris, France.' My father bought them of a Boston merchant, and I have a pair for myself."
"Are any more girls coming, Mother?" Rebecca asked as Mrs. Weston led the way to the living-room.
"No, my dear. And I only——" Mrs. Weston hesitated. She had started to say that she had only remembered Rebecca's birthday a few moments earlier; but she stopped in time, knowing it would cloud the afternoon's pleasure; and Rebecca, smiling and delighted with Lucia's gift, and sure that her mother had some treat ready for them, exclaimed:
"I do not mind now so much that the Polly has not arrived; for I could have no gift finer than a pair of silk mitts."
Anna had taken off her sunbonnet and was sitting on one of the low rush-bottomed chairs near a window. She was very quiet, reproaching herself in her thoughts that she had no gift for her sister. What could she give her? For little girls in revolutionary times, especially those in remote villages, had very few possessions of their own, and Anna had no valued treasure that might make a present. If she had remembered in time, she thought, she would have asked her mother to help her make a needle-book.
Suddenly she jumped up and ran across the room and kissed her sister, first on one cheek and then on the other, saying:
"If I had golden beads in strings, I'd give you these, and other things. But Rebby, dear, I've only this To give to-day: a birthday kiss."
Lucia and Luretta were sure that Anna must have had her verse all ready to repeat; and even Rebecca, who knew that Anna rhymed words easily, thought that Anna had prepared this birthday greeting, and was very proud of her little sister. But at the words, "golden beads," a great hope came into Rebecca's heart. Perhaps that was what the Polly was bringing for her.
"I am to have a rabbit," said Anna happily. "What shall I name it?"
Lucia did not seem much interested in anything so ordinary as a rabbit, and had no suggestion to offer, and while Anna and Luretta were deciding this question Lucia whispered to Rebecca: "When I go home be sure and walk a little way; I want to tell you something important."
Rebby nodded smilingly. For the moment she had entirely forgotten the uncomfortable secret that Lucia had confided in her, and was thinking only that it was really a wonderful thing to have a fourteenth birthday.
While the four little girls were talking happily in the living-room, Mrs. Weston was trying to think up some sort of a birthday treat for them. There was no white sugar in the house, or, for that matter, in the entire settlement. But the Westons had a small store of maple sugar, made from the sap of the maple trees, and Mrs. Weston quickly decided that this should be used for Rebecca's birthday celebration. She hurried to the pantry, and when an hour later she opened the door and called the girls to the kitchen they all exclaimed with delight.
The round table was covered with a shining white cloth, and Mrs. Weston had set it with her fine blue plates, that she had brought from Boston when she came to Machias, and that were seldom used.
By each plate stood a lustre mug filled with milk, and in the centre of the table was a heart-shaped cake frosted with maple sugar.
"Oh, Mother! This is my very best birthday!" Rebecca declared happily, and as the other girls seated themselves at the table she stood with bowed head to say the "grace" of thanks before cutting her birthday cake.
Anna wished to herself that Melvina Lyon might have been one of the guests, and shared the delicious cake. She wondered just how Melvina would behave on such an occasion; and was so careful with her crumbs, and so polite in her replies to the other girls that Lucia and Rebecca began to laugh, thinking Anna was making believe for their amusement.
Before the little girls left the table Mr. Weston appeared at the kitchen door, and was quite ready to taste the cake, and again remind Rebecca of the gift the Polly was bringing.
"Let me whisper, Father," she responded, drawing his head down near her own. "It's beads!" she whispered, and when her father laughed she was sure she was right, and almost as happy as if the longed-for gift was around her neck.
"Well, Paul and I found the liberty tree," said Mr. Weston, "and I cut it down and trimmed it save for its green plume. Paul is towing it downstream now; and when we set it up 'twill be a credit to the town."
Lucia rose quickly. "I must be going home," she said, a little flush coming into her cheeks. "I have enjoyed the afternoon very much," she added politely; for if Melvina Lyon was the smartest girl in the village no one could say that any of the other little girls ever forgot to be well-mannered.
Rebecca followed her friend to the door, and they walked down the path together, while Anna and Luretta questioned Mr. Weston eagerly as to Paul's success in capturing a rabbit, and were made happy with the news that he had secured two young rabbits, and that they were safe in the canoe which Paul was now paddling down the river, towing the liberty tree behind him.
Rebecca and Lucia had gone but a few steps when Lucia whispered: "We mustn't let them put up the liberty tree. Oh, Rebby, why didn't you try to stop your father going after it?"
"How could I?" responded Rebecca. "And when I said: 'Why must Machias have a liberty pole?' he was ill pleased with me, and said I must be loyal to America's rights. Oh, Lucia! are you sure that——"
But Lucia's hand was held firmly over Rebby's mouth. "Ssh. Don't speak it aloud, Rebby. For 'twould make great trouble for my father, in any case, if people even guessed that he knew the plans of the British. But I could not help hearing what he said to Mother the day he sailed. But, Rebby, we must do something so the liberty pole will not be set up."
"Can't we tell my father?" suggested Rebecca hopefully.
"Oh, Rebecca Weston! If your father knew what I told you he would do his best to have the liberty pole put up at once," declared Lucia.
"But I have a plan, and you must help me," she continued. "Paul Foster will bring the sapling close in shore near his father's shop, and it will rest there to-night; and when it is dark we must go down and cut it loose and push it out so that the current will take it downstream, and the tide will carry it out to sea. Then, before they can get another one, the Polly will come sailing in and all will be well."
"Won't the British ship come if we do not put up the liberty pole?" asked Rebecca.
"There! You have said it aloud, Rebby!" whispered Lucia reprovingly.
"Not all of it; but how can we go out of our houses in the night, Lucia?" replied Rebecca, who had begun to think that perhaps Lucia's plan was the easiest way to save the village. For Lucia had told her friend that the Polly, of which Lucia's father was captain, and the sloop Unity, owned and sailed by a Captain Jones of Boston, would be escorted to Machias by an armed British ship; and if a liberty pole was set up the British would fire upon the town. So it was no wonder that Rebecca was frightened and ready to listen to Lucia's plan to avert the danger.
She did not know that her father and other men of the settlement were already beginning to doubt the loyalty of the two captains to America's cause.
"It will be easy enough to slip out when everybody is asleep," Lucia replied to Rebecca's question. "We can meet at Mr. Foster's shop. If I get there first I will wait, and if you get there before me you must wait. As near ten o'clock as we can. And then it won't take us but a few minutes to push the sapling out into the current. Just think, Rebby, we will save the town, and nobody will ever know it but just us two."
Rebby sighed. She wished that Lucia's father had kept the secret to himself. Besides, she was not sure that it was right to prevent the liberty pole from being set up. But that the town should be fired upon by a British man-of-war, and everyone killed, as Lucia assured her, when it could be prevented by her pushing a pine sapling into the current of the river, made the little girl decide that she would do as Lucia had planned.
"All right. I will be there, at the blacksmith shop, when it strikes ten to-night," she agreed, and the friends parted.
Rebecca walked slowly toward home, forgetting all the joy of the afternoon; forgetting even that it was her fourteenth birthday, and that a string of gold beads for her was probably on board the Polly.
Paul Foster towed the fine sapling to the very place that Lucia had mentioned, and his father came to the shore and looked at it admiringly as he helped Paul make it secure. "It is safely fastened and no harm can come to it," Mr. Foster said after they had drawn the tree partly from the water. Paul drew his canoe up on the beach, and taking the rabbits in the stout canvas bag, started for home.
Anna and Luretta were both on the watch for him, and came running to meet him. Anna now wore her every-day dress of gingham, and in her eagerness to see the rabbits she had quite forgotten to try and behave like Melvina Lyon.
"Why, it is a pity to separate the little creatures," Paul declared, when Luretta told him that she had promised one to Anna. "See how close they keep together. And this box is big enough for them both. And they are so young they must be fed very carefully for a time."
"I know what we can do," declared Anna; "my rabbit can live here until he is a little larger, and then my father will make a box for him and I can take him home."
Paul said that would do very well, and that Anna could come each day and learn how to feed the little creatures, and what they liked best to eat.
"But which one is to be mine? They are exactly alike," said Anna, a little anxiously. And indeed there was no way of telling the rabbits apart, so Anna and Luretta agreed that when the time came to separate them it would not matter which one Anna chose for her own.
At supper time Anna could talk of nothing but the rabbits, and had so much to say that her father and mother did not notice how silent Rebecca was.
The little household retired early, and by eight o'clock Rebecca was in bed, but alert to every sound, and resolved not to go to sleep. The sisters slept together, and in a few minutes Anna was sound asleep. Rebecca heard the clock strike nine, then very quietly she got out of bed and dressed. Her moccasins made no noise as she stepped cautiously along the narrow passage, and down the steep stairway. She lifted the big bar that fastened the door and stood it against the wall, then she opened the door, closing it carefully behind her, and stepped out into the warm darkness of the spring night.
"A TRAITOR'S DEED"
It was one of those May evenings that promise that summer is close at hand. The air was soft and warm; there was no wind, and in the clear starlight Rebecca could see the shadows of the tall elm tree near the blacksmith shop, and the silvery line of the softly flowing river. As she stood waiting for Lucia she looked up into the clear skies and traced the stars forming the Big Dipper, nearly over her head. Low down in the west Jupiter shone brightly, and the broad band of shimmering stars that formed the Milky Way stretched like a jeweled necklace across the heavens. The little village slept peacefully along the river's bank; not a light was to be seen in any of the shadowy houses. A chorus of frogs from the marshes sounded shrilly through the quiet. In years to come, when Rebecca heard the first frogs sounding their call to spring, she was to recall that beautiful night when she stole out to try and save the town, as she believed, from being fired on by a British gunboat.
She had made so early a start that she had to wait what seemed a very long time for Lucia, who approached so quietly that not until she touched Rebby's arm did Rebby know of her coming.
"I am late, and I nearly had to give up coming because Mother did not get to sleep," Lucia explained, as the two girls hurried down to the river. "She is so worried about Father," continued Lucia; "she says that since the Americans defeated the English at Lexington they may drive them out of Boston as well."
"Of course they will," declared Rebecca, surprised that anyone could imagine the righteous cause of America defeated. "And if the English gunboat comes in here the Machias men will capture it," she added.
"Well, I don't know," responded Lucia despondently. "But if it destroyed the town there wouldn't be anyone left to capture it; and that is why we must push that liberty tree offshore."
The girls were both strong, and Lucia had brought a sharp knife with which to cut the rope holding the tree to a stake on the bank, so it did not take them long to push the tree clear of the shore. They found a long pole near by, and with this they were able to swing the liberty tree out until the current of the river came to their aid and carried it slowly along.
"How slowly it moves," said Rebecca impatiently, as they stood watching it move steadily downstream.
"But it will be well down the bay before morning," said Lucia, "and we must get home as quickly as we can. I wish my father could know that there will not be a liberty pole set up in Machias."
Rebecca stopped short. "No liberty pole, Lucia Horton? Indeed there will be. Why, my father says that all the loyal settlements along the Maine coast are setting up one; and as soon as the old British gunboat is out of sight Machias will put up a liberty tree. Perhaps 'twill even be set up while the gunboat lies in this harbor."
"Well, come on! We have tried to do what we could to save the town, anyway," responded Lucia, who began to be sadly puzzled. If a liberty tree was so fine a thing why should her father not wish Machias to have one, she wondered. Lucia did not know that her father was even then bargaining with the British in Boston to bring them a cargo of lumber on his next trip from Machias, in return for permission to load the Polly with provisions to sell to the people of the settlement, and that, exactly as Lucia had heard him predict, an armed British gunboat would accompany the sloops Polly and Unity when they should appear in Machias harbor.
The two friends whispered a hasty "good-night," and each ran in the direction of home. Rebby pushed the big door open noiselessly, but she did not try to replace the bar. As she crept up the stairs she could hear the even breathing of her father and mother, and she slid into bed without waking Anna, and was too sleepy herself to lie long awake.
The unfastened door puzzled Mr. Weston when he came down-stairs at daybreak the next morning. "I was sure I put the bar up," he thought, but he had no time to think much about trifles that morning, for, as he stood for a moment in the doorway, he saw Paul Foster running toward the house.
"Mr. Weston, sir, the liberty pole is gone," gasped the boy, out of breath. "The rope that held it to the stake was cut," he continued. "Father says 'tis some Tory's work."
Mr. Weston did not stop for breakfast. He told Mrs. Weston that he would come up later on, as soon as he had found out more about the missing liberty tree; and with Paul beside him, now talking eagerly of how his father had gone with him to take a look at the pine sapling and found no trace of it, Mr. Weston hurried toward the shore where a number of men were now gathered.
Anna had hard work to awaken Rebby that morning, and when she came slowly down-stairs she felt cross and tired; but her mother's first words made her forget everything else.
"We will eat our porridge without your father," Mrs. Weston said gravely. "A terrible thing has happened. Some traitor has made way with the liberty tree that your father and Paul selected yesterday."
"Traitor?" gasped Rebby, who knew well that such a word meant the lowest and most to be despised person on earth, and could hardly believe that what she had supposed to be a fine and brave action could be a traitor's deed.
"Who else but a traitor would make way with our liberty pole?" responded Mrs. Weston. "But do not look so frightened, Rebby. Sit up to the table; when your father comes home he will tell us who did the base act. And we may be sure Machias men will deal with him as he deserves."
But Rebecca could not eat the excellent porridge; and when her mother questioned her anxiously she owned that her head ached, and that she did not feel well.
"I'll steep up some thoroughwort; a good cup of herb tea will soon send off your headache," said Mrs. Weston, "and you had best go back to bed. Maybe 'tis because of the birthday cake."
Rebecca made no response; she was glad to go back to her room, where she buried her face in the pillow, hardly daring to think what would become of her. Supposing Lucia should tell, she thought despairingly, saying over and over to herself, "Traitor! Traitor!" So that when Anna came softly into the room a little later she found her sister with flushed face and tear-stained eyes, and ran back to the kitchen to tell her mother that Rebby was very ill.
It was an anxious and unhappy morning for Rebby and for her mother, for Mrs. Weston became worried at the sight of her daughter's flushed cheeks and frightened eyes. She decided that it was best for Rebecca to remain in bed; and, had it not been for the frequent doses of bitter herb tea which her mother insisted on her drinking, Rebby would have been well satisfied to hide herself away from everyone.
Anna helped her mother about the household work, thinking to herself that probably Melvina Lyon was doing the same. After the dishes had been washed and set away Mrs. Weston suggested that Anna should run down to Luretta Foster's.
"'Twill be best to keep the house quiet this morning, and you can see the rabbits," she added.
"But, Mother! I am not noisy. Do I not step quietly, and more softly?" pleaded Anna. She was quite ready to run off to her friend's, but she was sure her mother must notice that she was no longer the noisy girl who ran in and out of the house singing and laughing.
"Well, my dear child, you have been 'Anna,' not 'Dan,' for a week past. And I know not what has turned you into so quiet and well-behaved a girl," responded her mother. "But run along, and be sure and inquire if there be any news of the rascal who made way with the liberty tree."
Anna started off very sedately, measuring her steps and holding her head a little on one side as she had noticed that Melvina sometimes did. She was thinking of Rebby, and what a pity it was to have to stay indoors when the sun was so warm, and when there were so many pleasant things to do. "I will go over on the hill and get her some young checkerberry leaves," resolved Anna, remembering how Rebby liked their sharp flavor. Then she remembered that the rabbits were to be named that morning; and, forgetting all about Melvina, she ran swiftly along the path, beginning to sing in her old-time manner.
Luretta was watching for her, and smiled happily when she heard Anna's voice. "Oh! She's going to stay 'Danna,' and not be like that stuck-up Melvina Lyon," she thought with delight; for Luretta did not think Anna would make a satisfactory playmate if she were going to change into a quiet, well-behaved girl like the minister's little daughter.
In a few minutes the girls were beside the box that held the captive rabbits, who looked up at them with startled eyes. Paul had brought a basket of fresh grass, and some bits of tender bark and roots on which the little creatures were nibbling.
"I do wish they were not exactly alike," said Anna.
But Luretta declared that she thought it was much better that way. "Because I should want you to have the prettiest one, and you would want me to have the prettiest one, and how could we ever choose?" she explained; and Anna acknowledged that perhaps it was better that the rabbits should be alike in every way. After much discussion of names they decided that the rabbits must be called as nearly alike as possible; and so the new pets were named "Trit" and "Trot."
Every little child in the neighborhood enjoyed a visit at Luretta's home. In the first place because of Mrs. Foster's pleasant smile and kind welcome, and also because of the wonderful treasures it contained. There was a great round ostrich egg, which Mr. Foster's brother had brought from far-off Africa. This egg was carefully kept in a wooden box on the high mantel shelf; but Mrs. Foster was never too busy to take it down and let the little visitor gaze at it with admiring eyes. Then there was a model of a water-mill, with its tiny wheels, as complete as if it could begin work at once. This stood on a table in the corner of the sitting-room, where anyone might stand and admire it, and hear Luretta or Paul tell that their father had made every bit of it himself. Besides these treasures Mrs. Foster, with a pair of scissors and a bit of paper, could make the most beautiful paper dolls that any little girl could wish to possess; and whenever Luretta's friends came for a visit they usually took home a paper doll, or perhaps a bird cut from paper, or a horse. So Anna was ready to leave even the beautiful rabbits and go indoors. But this morning Mrs. Foster did not seem her usual cheerful self.
"This is sad news about our liberty tree; but the men have set out in boats to search for it, and 'twill be a good omen indeed if they find and bring it back," she said.
"My father says 'twill be a great day for the settlement when 'tis put up," said Anna, looking longingly toward the box on the high mantel, and hoping she might have a look at the wonderful egg.
"And so it will be. With Boston in the hands of the British, and no safety on land or sea 'tis time each town showed some mark of loyalty," declared Mrs. Foster. "I will put on my sunbonnet and we will walk to the wharves, and perhaps hear some news of the traitor who made way with it. I said at first maybe 'twas the mischief of some boy who did not realize what the tree stood for; but Paul flared up at once and said there was no boy on the coast of Maine who would do such a thing, unless 'twas a young Tory; and we know of no Tory here."
As they neared the wharf they heard a loud cheer from a group of men, and could see that a boat, rowed by Mr. Weston and Mr. Foster, was coming rapidly toward the shore and behind it trailed the fine pine sapling.
"And there comes Parson Lyon with his little daughter," said Mrs. Foster. "He is as good a patriot as General Washington himself," she added admiringly.
As Mr. Lyon came near the little group he stopped for a moment.
"May I leave my daughter with you?" he asked. "I wish to be one of those who lift that sacred tree to safety." And he hurried on to the wharf, leaving Melvina, who stood smiling delightedly at this unexpected meeting with Anna.
For a moment both Anna and Luretta looked at Melvina a little doubtfully, for they could but remember and be ashamed of their part in the foolish game they had tried to play with her so short a time ago. But Melvina was smiling and friendly, and evidently had cherished no ill-feeling toward them. By the time she had replied to Mrs. Foster's friendly inquiries in regard to her mother, Anna and Luretta were quite at their ease; and Luretta said to herself that she did not wonder Anna wanted to be like Melvina. Luretta even began to wonder if it would not be well for her to learn to speak as softly as did Melvina Lyon; it certainly had a pleasant sound, she thought admiringly.
"I must return home," said Mrs. Foster, "but Melvina's father will expect her to wait here for him; so, Luretta, you and Anna may stay with her until he comes. Here is a clean log where you can sit comfortably, and do not go far from this spot."
The little girls promised, and Mrs. Foster started for home. Hardly had she turned her back when Melvina clasped Anna by the hand, and exclaimed: "Now you can tell me more about the woods, and the little animals who live in hollow logs or burrow under rocks, and about the different birds and their nests! Oh, begin quickly, for my father may soon return," and she drew Anna toward the big log that lay near the path.
"Tell her about our rabbits, Danna," suggested Luretta. "My brother Paul brought me two little gray rabbits from the forest," she explained; and Melvina listened eagerly to the description of Trit and Trot, and of their cunning ways and bright eyes, and was told that they had already lost their fear of Luretta and Anna.
"I wish I could see them. I have never seen any little animals except kittens," said Melvina. It seemed to Melvina that Anna and Luretta were very fortunate children. They could run about in old clothes, play on the shore and among the piles of lumber, and they knew many strange and interesting things about the creatures of the forest which she had never before heard. The long lessons that she had to learn each morning, the stint of neat stitches that she had to set each day, and the ceremonious visits now and then, when she always had to take her knitting, and was cautioned by her anxious mother to "remember that she was a minister's daughter, and behave properly, and set a good example"—all these things flitted through Melvina's thoughts as tiresome tasks that she would like to escape, and be free as Anna seemed to be.
"Mayn't I bring the rabbits down here for Melvina to see?" asked Anna. "The box would not be very heavy."
But Luretta had objections to this plan. Her brother had told her not to move the box from the sunny corner near the shed; and, beside this, she was sure it was too heavy for Anna to lift. "If you should let it fall they might get out and run away," she concluded. Then, noticing Anna's look of disappointment, she added: "I know what you may do, Danna. You and Melvina may go up and see the rabbits, and I will wait here for Parson Lyon and tell him where Melvina is, and that we will see her safely home; and then I will hurry after you."
"Oh! Yes, indeed; that is a splendid plan," said Melvina eagerly, jumping up from the log. "Let us go now, Anna. And is not Luretta kind to think of it?"
Anna agreed rather soberly. Mrs. Foster had told them to remain near the log, she remembered, but if Melvina saw no harm in Luretta's plan she was sure it must be right; so taking Melvina's hand they started off.
"Let's run, Anna," urged Melvina; for Anna was walking sedately, in the manner in which she had so often seen Melvina come down the path, and she was a little surprised that her companion had not at once noticed it. But Anna was always ready to run, and replied quickly: "Let's race, and see who can get to the blacksmith shop first."
Away went the two little girls, Melvina's long braids dancing about, and her starched skirts blown back as she raced along; and, greatly to Anna's surprise, Melvina passed her and was first at the shop.
"I beat! I beat!" exclaimed Melvina, her dark eyes shining and her face flushed with the unwonted exercise.
"You do everything best," Anna declared generously, "but I did not know that you could run so fast."
"Neither did I," Melvina acknowledged laughingly. Anna felt a little puzzled by this sudden change in Melvina, which was far more noticeable than Anna's own effort to give up her boyish ways and become a quiet, sedate little girl. For ever since the few hours of freedom on the shore, on the day of the tempest, Melvina had endeavored to be as much like Anna as possible. She ran, instead of walking slowly, whenever she was out of her mother's sight. She had even neglected her lessons to go out-of-doors and watch a family of young robins one morning, and had been immediately called in by her surprised mother. In fact, Melvina had tried in every way to do things that she imagined Anna liked to do. She had even besought her mother to cut off her hair; but, as she dared not give her reason for such a wish, Mrs. Lyon had reproved her sharply, saying that it was a great misfortune for a little girl not to have smoothly braided hair, or long curls. So while Anna endeavored to cover her pretty curly hair, to behave sedately, and give up many of her outdoor games, in order to be like Melvina, Melvina was wishing that she could be exactly like Anna; and as they stood looking at each other at the end of their race each little girl noticed a change in the other which she could not understand, and they started off toward Luretta's home at a more sober pace.