NAN SHERWOOD AT PINE CAMP
or, The Old Lumberman's Secret
By Annie Roe Carr
Chapter I. THE YELLOW POSTER
"Oh, look there, Nan!" cried Bess Harley suddenly, as they turned into High Street from the avenue on which Tillbury's high school was situated.
"Look where?" queried Nan Sherwood promptly. "Up in the air, down on the ground or all around?" and she carried out her speech in action, finally spinning about on one foot in a manner to shock the more staid Elizabeth.
"Oh, Bess!" mocked her friend.
She was a rosy-cheeked, brown-eyed girl, with fly-away hair, a blue tam-o'-shanter set jauntily upon it, and a strong, plump body that she had great difficulty in keeping still enough in school to satisfy her teachers.
"Do behave, Nan," begged Bess. "We're on the public street."
"How awful!" proclaimed Nan Sherwood, making big eyes at her chum. "Why folks know we're only high-school girls, so, of course, we're crazy! Otherwise we wouldn't BE high-school girls."
"Nonsense!" cried Bess, interrupting. "Do be reasonable, Nan. And look yonder! What do you suppose that crowd is at the big gate of the Atwater Mills?"
Nan Sherwood's merry face instantly clouded. She was not at all a thoughtless girl, although she was of a sanguine, cheerful temperament.
The startled change in her face amazed Bess.
"Oh dear!" the latter cried. "What is it? Surely, there's nobody hurt in the mills? Your father——-"
"I'm afraid, Bess dear, that it means there are a great many hurt in the mills."
"Oh, Nan! How horridly you talk," cried Bess. "That is impossible."
"Not hurt in the machinery, not mangled by the looms," Nan went on to say, gravely. "But dreadfully hurt nevertheless, Bess. Father has been expecting it, I believe. Let's go and read the poster."
"Why it is a poster, isn't it?" cried Bess. "What does it say?"
The two school girls, both neatly dressed and carrying their bags of text books, pushed into the group before the yellow quarter-sheet poster pasted on the fence.
The appearance of Nan and Bess was distinctly to their advantage when compared with that of the women and girls who made up the most of the crowd interested in the black print upon the poster.
The majority of these whispering, staring people were foreigners. All bore marks of hard work and poverty. The hands of even the girls in the group were red and cracked. It was sharp winter weather, but none wore gloves.
If they wore a head-covering at all, it was a shawl gathered at the throat by the clutch of frost-bitten fingers. There was snow on the ground; but few wore overshoes.
They crowded away from the two well-dressed high-school girls, looking at them askance. Bess Harley scarcely noticed the mill-hands' wives and daughters. She came of a family who considered these poor people little better than cattle. Nan Sherwood was so much interested in the poster that she saw nothing else. It read:
NOTICE: Two weeks from date all departments of these mills will be closed until further notice. Final payment of wages due will be made on January 15th. Over-supply of our market and the prohibitive price of cotton make this action a necessity. ATWATER MILLS COMPANY. December 28th.
"Why, dear me!" murmured Bess. "I thought it might really be something terrible. Come on, Nan. It's only a notice of a vacation. I guess most of them will be glad to rest awhile."
"And who is going to pay for their bread and butter while the poor creatures are resting?" asked Nan seriously, as the two girls moved away from the group before the yellow poster.
"Dear me, Nan!" her chum cried. "You do always think of the most dreadful things. It troubles me to know anything about poverty and poor people. I can't help them, and I don't want to know anything about them."
"If I didn't know that you are better than your talk, Bess," said Nan, still gravely, "I'd think you a most callous person. You just don't understand. These poor people have been fearing this shut-down for months. And all the time they have been expecting it they have been helpless to avert it and unable to prepare for it."
"They might have saved some of their wages, I suppose," said Bess. "I heard father say the other night how much money the mills paid out in a year to the hands, some perfectly enormous sum."
"But just think how many people that has to be divided among," urged Nan. "Lots of the men earn only eight or nine dollars a week, and have families to support."
"Well, of course, they don't have to be supported as we are," objected the easy-minded Bess. "Anyway my father says frugality should be taught to the poor just the same as reading and writing. They ought to learn how to save."
"When you earn only just enough to supply your needs, and no more, how can you divide your income so as to hoard up any part of it?"
"Dear me! Don't ask questions in political economy out of school, Nan!" cried Bess, forgetting that she had started the discussion herself. "I just HATE that study, and wish we didn't have to take it! I can't answer that question, anyway."
"I'll answer it then," declared Nan. "If you are a mill-hand your stomach won't let you save money. There probably won't be a dozen families affected by this shut-down who have more than ten dollars saved."
"Goodness! You don't mean that that's true? Why, dad gives me that much to spend on myself each month," Bess cried. "The poor things! Even if they are frowsy and low, I am sorry for them. But, of course, the shut-down doesn't trouble you, Nan. Not personally, I mean. Your father has had a good position for so many years——-"
"I'm not at all sure that it won't trouble us," Nan interposed gravely. "But of course we are not in danger of starvation."
She felt some delicacy about entirely confiding in Bess on the subject. Nan had heard the pros and cons of the expected closing of the mills discussed at home almost every day for weeks past; but family secrets should never be mentioned outside the family circle, as Nan very well knew.
"Well," signed Bess, whose whole universe revolved around a central sun called Self, as is the case with many girls brought up by indulgent parents. "I hope, dear, that this trouble won't keep you from entering Lakeview with me next fall."
Nan laughed. "There never was a chance of my going with you, Bess, and I've told you so often enough——-"
"Now, don't you say that, Nan Sherwood!" cried her chum. "I've just made up my mind that you shall go, and that's all there is to it! You've just got to go!"
"You mean to kidnap me and bear me off to that ogre's castle, whether or not?"
"It's the very nicest school that ever was," cried Bess. "And such a romantic place."
"Romantic?" repeated Nan curiously.
"Yes, indeed! A great big stone castle overlooking Lake Michigan, a regular fortress, they say. It was built years ago by Colonel Gilpatrick French, when he came over from Europe with some adventurous Irishmen who thought all they had to do was to sail over to Canada and the whole country would be theirs for the taking."
"Goodness me! I've read something about that," said Nan, interested.
"Well, Lakeview Hall, as the school is called, was built by that rich Colonel French. And they say there are dungeons under it."
"Where they keep their jams and preserves, now, I suppose?" laughed Nan.
"And secret passages down to the shore of the lake. And the great hall where the brave Irishmen used to drill is now the assembly hall of the school."
"Sounds awfully interesting," admitted Nan.
"And Dr. Beulah Prescott, who governs the hall, the preceptress, you know, is really a very lovely lady, my mother says," went on the enthusiastic Bess. "MY mother went to school to her at Ferncliffe."
"Oh, Bess," Nan said warmly, "It must be a perfectly lovely place! But I know I can never go there."
"Don't you say that! Don't you say that!" cried the other girl. "I won't listen to you! You've just got to go!"
"I'm afraid you'll have to kidnap me, then," repeated Nan, with a rueful smile. "I'm very sure that my father won't be able to afford it, especially now that the mills will close."
"Oh, Nan! I think you're too mean," wailed her friend. "It's my pet project. You know, I've always said we should go to preparatory school together, and then to college."
Nan's eyes sparkled; but she shook her head.
"We sat together in primary school, and we've always been in the same grade through grammar and into high," went on Bess, who was really very faithful in her friendships. "It would just break my heart, Nan, if we were to be separated now."
Nan put her arm about her. They had reached the corner by Bess's big house where they usually separated after school.
"Don't you cry, honey!" Nan begged her chum. "You'll find lots of nice girls at that Lakeview school, I am sure. I'd dearly love to go with you, but you might as well understand right now, dear, that my folks are poor."
"Poor!" gasped Bess.
"Too poor to send me to Lakeview," Nan went on steadily. "And with the mills closing as they are, we shall be poorer still. I may have to get a certificate as Bertha Pike did, and go to work. So you mustn't think any more about my going to that beautiful school with you."
"Stop! I won't listen to you another moment, Nan Sherwood!" cried Bess, and sticking her fingers in her ears, she ran angrily away and up the walk to the front door.
Nan walked briskly away toward Amity Street. She did not turn back to wave her hand as usual at the top of the hill.
Chapter II. THE COTTAGE ON AMITY STREET
The little shingled cottage stood back from the street, in a deeper yard than most of its neighbors. It was built the year Nan was born, so the roses, the honeysuckle, and the clematis had become of stalwart growth and quite shaded the front and side porches.
The front steps had begun to sag a little; but Mr. Sherwood had blocked them up. The front fence had got out of alignment, and the same able mechanic had righted it and set the necessary new posts.
The trim of the little cottage on Amity Street had been painted twice within Nan's remembrance; each time her father had done the work in his spare time.
Now, with snow on the ground and frozen turf peeping out from under the half-melted and yellowed drifts, the Sherwood cottage was not so attractive as in summer. Yet it was a cozy looking house with the early lamplight shining through the kitchen window and across the porch as Nan approached, swinging her schoolbooks.
Papa Sherwood called it, with that funny little quirk in the corner of his mouth, "a dwelling in amity, more precious than jewels or fine gold."
And it was just that. Nan had had experience enough in the houses of her school friends to know that none of them were homes like her own.
All was amity, all was harmony, in the little shingled cottage on this short by-street of Tillbury.
It was no grave and solemn place where the natural outburst of childish spirits was frowned upon, or one had to sit "stiff and starched" upon stools of penitence.
No, indeed! Nan had romped and played in and about the cottage all her life. She had been, in fact, of rather a boisterous temperament until lately.
Her mother's influence was always quieting, and not only with her little daughter. Mrs. Sherwood's voice was low, and with a dear drawl in it, so Nan declared.
She had come from the South to Northern Illinois, from Tennessee, to be exact, where Mr. Sherwood had met and married her. She had grace and gentleness without the languor that often accompanies those qualities.
Her influence upon both her daughter and her husband was marked. They deferred to her, made much of her, shielded her in every way possible from all that was rude or unpleasant.
Yet Mrs. Sherwood was a perfectly capable and practical housekeeper, and when her health would allow it she did all the work of the little family herself. Just now she was having what she smilingly called "one of her lazy spells," and old Mrs. Joyce came in to do the washing and cleaning each week.
It was one of Mrs. Sherwood's many virtues that she bore with a smile recurrent bodily ills that had made her a semi-invalid since Nan was a very little girl. But in seeking medical aid for these ills, much of the earnings of the head of the household had been spent.
The teakettle was singing when Nan entered the "dwelling in amity", and her mother's low rocker was drawn close to the side-table on which the lamp stood beside the basket of mending.
Although Mrs. Sherwood could not at present do her own laundry-work, she insisted upon darning and patching and mending as only she could darn and patch and mend.
Mr. Sherwood insisted that a sock always felt more comfortable on his foot after "Momsey" had darned it than when it was new. And surely she was a very excellent needlewoman.
This evening, however, her work had fallen into her lap with an idle needle sticking in it. She had been resting her head upon her hand and her elbow on the table when Nan came in. But she spoke in her usual bright way to the girl as the latter first of all kissed her and then put away her books and outer clothing.
"What is the good word from out of doors, honey?" she asked.
Nan's face was rather serious and she could not coax her usual smile into being. Her last words with Bess Harley had savored of a misunderstanding, and Nan was not of a quarrelsome disposition.
"I'm afraid there isn't any real good word to be brought from outside tonight, Momsey," she confessed, coming back to stand by her mother's chair.
"Can that be possible, Daughter!" said Mrs. Sherwood, with her low, caressing laugh. "Has the whole world gone wrong?"
"Well, I missed in two recitations and have extras to make up, in the first place," rejoined Nan ruefully.
"And what else?"
"Well, Bess and I didn't have exactly a falling out; but I couldn't help offending her in one thing. That's the second trouble."
"And is there a 'thirdly,' my dear?" queried little Mrs. Sherwood tranquilly.
"Oh, dear, yes! The worst of all!" cried Nan. "The yellow poster is up at the mills."
"The yellow poster?" repeated her mother doubtfully, not at first understanding the significance of her daughter's statement.
"Yes. You know. When there's anything bad to announce to the hands the Atwater Company uses yellow posters, like a small-pox, or typhoid warning. The horrid thing! The mills shut down in two weeks, Momsey, and no knowing when they will open again."
"Oh, my dear!" was the little woman's involuntary tribute to the seriousness of the announcement.
In a moment she was again her usual bright self. She drew Nan closer to her and her own brown eyes, the full counterpart of her daughter's, winkled merrily.
"I tell you what let's do, Nan," she said.
"What shall we do, Momsey?" repeated the girl, rather lugubriously.
"Why, let's not let Papa Sherwood know about it, it will make him feel so bad."
Nan began to giggle at that. She knew what her mother meant. Of course, Mr. Sherwood, being at the head of one of the mill departments, would know all about the announcement of the shut-down; but they would keep up the fiction that they did not know it by being particularly cheerful when he came home from work.
So Nan giggled and swallowed back her sobs. Surely, if Momsey could present a cheerful face to this family calamity, she could!
The girl ran her slim fingers into the thick mane of her mother's coiled hair, glossy brown hair through which only a few threads of white were speckled.
"Your head feels hot, Momsey," she said anxiously. "Does it ache?"
"A wee bit, honey," confessed Mrs. Sherwood.
"Let me take the pins out and rub your poor head, dear," said Nan. "You know, I'm a famous 'massagist.' Come do, dear."
"If you like, honey."
Thus it was that, a little later, when Mr. Sherwood came home with feet that dragged more than usual on this evening, he opened the door upon a very beautiful picture indeed.
His wife's hair was "a glory of womanhood," for it made a tent all about her, falling quite to the floor as she sat in her low chair. Out of this canopy she looked up at the brawny, serious man, roguishly.
"Am I not a lazy, luxurious person, Papa Sherwood?" she demanded. "Nan is becoming a practical maid, and I presume I put upon the child dreadfully, she is good-natured, like you, Robert."
"Aye, I know our Nan gets all her good qualities from me, Jessie," said her husband. "If she favored you she would, of course, be a very hateful child."
He kissed his wife tenderly. As Nan said, he always "cleaned up" at the mills and "came home kissable."
"I ought to be just next door to an angel, if I absorbed the virtues of both my parents," declared Nan briskly, beginning to braid the wonderful hair which she had already brushed. "I often think of that."
Her father poked her tentatively under the shoulder blades with a blunt forefinger, making her squirm.
"I don't feel the wings sprouting yet, Nancy," he said, in his dry way.
"I hope not, yet!" exclaimed the girl. "I'd have to have a new winter coat if you did, and I know we can't afford that just now."
"You never said a truer word, Nan," replied Mr. Sherwood, his voice dropping to a less cheerful level, as he went away to change his coat and light the hanging lamp in the dining room where the supper table was already set.
Mother and daughter looked at each other rather ruefully.
"Oh, dear me!" whispered Nan. "I never do open my mouth but I put my foot in it!"
"Goodness!" returned her mother, much amused. "That is an acrobatic feat that I never believed you capable of, honey."
"We-ell! I reminded Papa Sherwood of our hard luck instead of being bright and cheerful like you."
"We will give him a nice supper, honey, and make him forget his troubles. Time enough to call to order the ways and means committee afterward." Her husband came back into the kitchen as Nan finished arranging the hair. "Come, Papa Sherwood!" cried the little lady. "Hot biscuit; the last of the honey; sweet pickles; sliced cold ham; and a beautiful big plum cake that our Nan made this morning before school time, her own self. You MUST smile at all those dainties."
And the husband and father smiled. They all made an effort to help each other. But they knew that with the loss of his work would doubtless come the loss of the home. During the years that had elapsed, Mr. Sherwood had paid in part for the cottage; but now the property was deteriorating instead of advancing in value. He could not increase the mortgage upon it. Prompt payment of interest half-yearly was demanded. And how could he meet these payments, not counting living expenses, when his income was entirely cut off?
Mr. Sherwood was forty-five years old, an age at which it is difficult for a man to take up a new trade, or to obtain new employment at his old one.
Chapter III. "FISHING"
Nan told of Bess Harley's desire to have her chum accompany her to Lakeview Hall the following autumn, as a good joke.
"I hope I'll be in some good situation by that time," she said to her mother, confidentially, "helping, at least, to support myself instead of being a burden upon father and you."
"It's very unselfish of you to propose that, honey," replied her mother. "But, perhaps, such a sacrifice as the curtailment of your education will not be required of you."
"But, my DEAR!" gasped Nan. "I couldn't go to Lakeview Hall. It would cost, why! a pile!"
"I don't know how much a pile is, translated into coin of the realm, honey," responded Mrs. Sherwood with her low, sweet laugh. "But the only thing we can give our dear daughter, your father and I, is an education. That you MUST have to enable you to support yourself properly when your father can do no more for you."
"But I s'pose I've already had as much education as most girls in Tillbury get. So many of them go into the mills and factories at my age. If they can get along, I suppose I can."
"Hush!" begged her mother quickly. "Don't speak of such a thing. I couldn't bear to have you obliged to undertake your own support in any such way.
"Both your father and I, honey, had the benefit of more than the ordinary common-school education. I went three years to the Tennessee Training College; I was prepared to teach when your father and I met and married. He obtained an excellent training for his business in a technical college. We hoped to give our children, if we were blessed with them, an even better start in life than we had.
"Had your little brother lived, honey," added Mrs. Sherwood tenderly, "we should have tried to put him through college, and you, as well. It would have been something worthwhile for your father to work for. But I am afraid all these years that his money has been wasted in attempts to benefit my health."
"Oh, Momsey! Don't say it, that way," urged Nan. "What would we ever do without you? But I sometimes think how nice it would be had I been a boy, my own brother, for instance. A boy can be so much more help than a girl."
"For shame!" cried her mother, laughing. "Do you dare admit a boy is smarter than a girl, Nan?"
"Not smarter. Only better able to do any kind of work, I guess. They wouldn't let me work in the file shop, or drive a grocery wagon."
"Goodness! Listen to the child!" gasped Mrs. Sherwood. "I should hope not! Why, honey, is your mind running continually on such dreadful things? I am afraid your father and I allow you to hear us talk too frequently about family matters. You must not assume the family's burdens at your age."
There was that trend to Nan Sherwood's character, however. With all her blithesomeness and high spirits she was inclined to be serious in thought.
This conversation occurred several days after the evening when, on their way home from school, Nan and her school chum, Bess Harley, had read the yellow poster at the gate of the Atwater Mills.
The district surrounding the mills, in which most of the hands lived, had put on an aspect of mourning. Some of the workmen and their families had already packed up and gone. Most of the houses occupied by the hands were owned by the Atwater Company, and if the poor people remained till January 15th, the wages due them then would be eaten up by the rent of the tenements.
So they were wise to leave when they could. Many who remained would be a burden upon the taxpayers of Tillbury before the winter was over.
Nan and her folks were not in such a sad situation as the laborers, of course. Mr. Sherwood had a small sum in bank. He had, too, a certain standing in the community and a line of credit at the stores that he might have used.
Debt, however, save that upon their house, he had fought to keep out of all his married life. That his equity in the Amity Street cottage was so small was not his fault; but he owed not any man.
"Now we must go fishing," Mrs. Sherwood said, in her sprightly way, when the little family really discussed the unfortunate situation after the announcement of the shut-down of the mills was made public.
"Goodness, Momsey! What a reckless creature you are," laughed Mr. Sherwood. "Waste our precious time in such employment, and in the dead of winter, too?"
"Now, Papa Sherwood, I don't mean that kind of fishing at all!" cried the little woman gaily. "We are going to fish for employment for you, perhaps for a new home."
"Oh!" gasped Nan. The thought of deserting the little cottage on Amity Street was a dreadful shock.
"We must face that possibility," said her mother firmly. "It may be. Tillbury will see very hard times now that the mills are closed. Other mills and shops will follow suit."
"Quite true, Momsey," agreed the husband and father.
"I am a very logical person, am I not?" said the smiling little lady.
"But the fishing?" cried Nan curiously.
"Ah, yes. I am coming to that," said her mother. "The fishing, to be sure! Why, we are going to write letters to just everybody we know, and some we only know by hearsay, and find out if there isn't a niche for Papa Sherwood somewhere outside Tillbury."
"So we can!" cried Nan, clapping her hands.
"I am afraid there is general depression in my line of business everywhere," suggested Mr. Sherwood. "For some years the manufacturers have been forcing cotton goods upon a false market. And the recent attempt to help the cotton growers by boosting the price of raw cotton will come near to ruining the mills and mill workers. It is always so. In an attempt to benefit one class of the people another class is injured."
"Now, never mind politics, sir!" cried his little wife. "We poor, weak women aren't supposed to understand such things. Only when Nan and I get the vote, and all the other millions of women and girls, we will have no class legislation. 'The greatest good for the greatest number' will be our motto."
Mr. Sherwood only smiled. He might have pointed out that in that very statement was the root of all class legislation. He knew his wife's particular ideas were good, however, her general political panacea was rather doubtful. He listened thoughtfully as she went on:
"Yes, we must fish for a new position for papa. We may have to go away from here. Perhaps rent the house. You know, we have had good offers for it."
"True," admitted Mr. Sherwood.
"Oh, dear!" sighed Nan, but below her breath so that Momsey and Papa Sherwood did not hear the sigh.
"I am going to write to Cousin Adair MacKenzie, in Memphis. He is quite prominent in business there," pursued Mrs. Sherwood. "We might find a footing in Memphis."
Mr. Sherwood looked grave, but said nothing. He knew that the enervating climate of the Southern river city would never do for his wife. Change of climate might benefit her greatly; the doctors had all said so of late; but not that change.
"Then," continued Nan's mother, "there is your brother, Henry, up in Michigan."
"Oh! I remember Uncle Henry," cried Nan. "Such a big, big man!"
"With a heart quite in keeping with the size of his body, honey," her mother quickly added. "And your Aunt Kate is a very nice woman. Your uncle has lumber interests. He might find something for your father there."
"I'll write to Hen, Jessie," Mr. Sherwood said decisively. "But a lumber camp is no place for you. Let's see, his mail address is Hobart Forks, isn't it? Right in the heart of the woods. If you weren't eaten up by black gnats, you would be by ennui," and he chuckled.
"Goodness!" cried Mrs. Sherwood, making big eyes at him. "Are those a new kind of mosquito? Ennui, indeed! Am I a baby? Is Nan another?"
"But think of Nan's education, my dear," suggested Mr. Sherwood.
"I ought to work and help the family instead of going to school any longer," Nan declared.
"Not yet, Daughter, not yet," her father said quickly. "However, I will write to Hen. He may be able to suggest something."
"It might be fun living in the woods," Nan said. "I'm not afraid of gnats, or mosquitoes, or, or on-wees!"
She chanced to overhear her father and Dr. Christian talking the next day on the porch, and heard the wise old physician say:
"I'm not sure I could countenance that, Robert. What Jessie needs is an invigorating, bracing atmosphere. A sea voyage would do her the greatest possible good."
"Perhaps a trip to Buffalo, down the lakes?"
"No, no! That's merely an old woman's home-made plaster on the wound. Something more drastic. Salt air. A long, slow voyage, overseas. It often wracks the system, but it brings the patient to better and more stable health. Jessie may yet be a strong, well woman if we take the right course with her."
Nevertheless, Mr. Sherwood wrote to his brother. He had to do so, it seemed. There was no other course open to him.
And while he fished in that direction, Momsey threw out her line toward Memphis and Adair MacKenzie. Mr. Sherwood pulled in his line first, without much of a nibble, it must be confessed.
"Dear Bob," the elder Sherwood wrote: "Things are flatter than a stepped-on pancake with me. I've got a bunch of trouble with old Ged Raffer and may have to go into court with him. Am not cutting a stick of timber. But you and Jessie and the little nipper,"("Consider!" interjected Nan, "calling me 'a little nipper'! What does he consider a big 'nipper'?") "come up to Pine Camp. Kate and I will be mighty glad to have you here. Tom and Rafe are working for a luckier lumberman than I, and there's plenty of room here for all hands, and a hearty welcome for you and yours as long as there's a shot in the locker."
"That's just like Hen," Nan's father said. "He'd divide his last crust with me. But I don't want to go where work is scarce. I must go where it is plentiful, where a man of even my age will be welcome."
"Your age, Papa Sherwood! How you talk," drawled Nan's mother in her pretty way. "You are as young as the best of 'em yet."
"Employers don't look at me through your pretty eyes, Momsey," he returned, laughing.
"Well," said his wife, still cheerfully, "my fishing seems to be resultless yet. Perhaps the bait's gone off the hook. Had I better haul in the line and bait again? I was always doing that when I went fishing with Adair and his brothers, years ago, when I was a little girl."
Her husband shook his head. "Have patience, Jessie," he said.
He had few expectations from the Memphis letter; yet there was a most surprising result from it on the way, something which by no possibility could the little family in the Amity Street cottage have suspected.
Chapter IV. SWEEPING CLEAN
"My goodness me!" ejaculated Bess Harley. "Talk about the 'leaden wings of Time.' Why! Time sweeps by us on electrically-driven, ball-bearing pinions. Here's another week gone, Nan, and tomorrow's Saturday."
"Yes," Nan agreed. "Time flies all too quickly, for me, anyway. The mills have been closed a week now."
"Oh, dear! That's all I hear," complained Bess. "Those tiresome old mills. Our Maggie's sister was crying in the kitchen last night because her Mike couldn't get a job now the mills were closed, and was drinking up all the money they had saved. That's what the mill-hands do; their money goes to the saloon-keepers!"
"The proportion of their income spent by the laboring class for alcoholic beverages is smaller by considerable than that spent by the well-to-do for similar poison!" quoted Nan decisively. "Mike is desperate, I suppose, poor fellow!"
"My goodness me!" cried Bess again. "You are most exasperating, Nan Sherwood. Mike's case has nothing to do with political Economy, and I do wish you'd drop that study out of school——"
"I have!" gasped Nan, for just then her books slipped from her strap; "and history, rhetoric, and philosophical readings along with it," and she proceeded cheerfully to pick up the several books mentioned.
"You can't mean," Bess said, still severely, "that you won't go to Lakeview with me, Nan?"
"I wish you wouldn't keep saying that, Bess," Nan Sherwood cried. "Is it my fault? Don't you suppose I'd love to, if I could? We have no money. Father is out of work. There is no prospect of other work for him in Tillbury, he says, and," Nan continued desperately, "how do you suppose I can go to a fancy boarding school under these circumstances?"
For once Elizabeth was momentarily silenced. Suddenly her face brightened. "I tell you!" she exclaimed. "I'll speak to my father about it. He can fix it so that you will be able to go to the Hall with me, I know."
"I'd like to see myself an object of charity!" Nan cried, with heat. "I, guess, not! What I can't earn, or my father can't give me, I'll go without, Bess. That's all there is to that!"
Bess stared at her with quivering lips. "You can't be so mean, Nan," she faltered.
"I'm not mean!" denied the other.
"I'd like to know what you call it? Why, father'd never miss your tuition money in the world. And I know he'd pay your way if I asked him and told him how bad I felt about your not going."
"You're a dear, Bess!" declared Nan, impulsively hugging her friend again. "But you mustn't ask him, honey. It wouldn't be right, and I couldn't accept.
"Don't you understand, honey, that I have some pride in the matter? So have Papa Sherwood and Momsey. What they can't do for me their own selves I wouldn't want anybody to do."
"Why, that sounds awfully silly to me, Nan!" said Bess. "Why not take all you can get in this world? I'm sure I should."
"You don't know what you are saying," Nan returned seriously. "And, then, you are not poor, so you can afford to say it, and even do it."
"Poor! I'm getting to hate that word," cried Bess stormily. "It never bothered me before, much. We're not poor and none of our friends were poor. Not until those old mills closed. And now it seems all I hear is about folks being POOR. I hate it!"
"I guess," said Nan ruefully, "you don't hate it half as much as those of us who have to suffer it."
"I'm just going to find some way of getting you to Lakeview Hall, my dear," Bess rejoined gloomily. "Why! I won't want to go myself if you don't go, Nan."
Her friend thought she would better not tell Bess just then that the prospect was that she, with her father and mother, would have to leave Tillbury long before the autumn. Mr. Sherwood was trying to obtain a situation in Chicago, in a machine shop. He had no hope of getting another foreman's position.
Nothing had been heard from Mr. Adair MacKenzie, of Memphis. Mrs. Sherwood wanted to write again; but her husband begged her not to. He had a proper pride. It looked to him as though his wife's cousin did not care to be troubled by the necessities of his relations.
"We'll get along!" was Mr. Sherwood's repeated and cheerful statement. "Never say die! Hope is our anchor! Fate shall not balk us! And all the other copy-book maxims."
But it was Mrs. Sherwood and Nan who managed to save and scrimp and be frugal in many infinitesimal ways, thus making their savings last marvelously.
Nan gave up her entire Saturdays to household tasks. She insisted on that, and urged the curtailment of the weekly expense by having Mrs. Joyce come in to help but one day.
"I can iron, Momsey, and if I can't do it very well at first, I can learn," declared the plucky girl. "And, of course, I can sweep. That's good for me. Our physical instructor says so. Instead of going to the gym on Saturday, I'll put in calisthenics and acrobatic stunts with a broom and duster."
She was thorough, too. She could not have been her father's daughter without having that virtue. There was no "lick and a promise" in Nan Sherwood's housekeeping. She did not sweep the dust under the bureau, or behind the door, or forget to wipe the rounds of the chairs and the baseboard all around the rooms.
Papa Sherwood, coughing in the lower hall as the dust descended from above, declared she went through the cottage like a whirlwind. It was not as bad as that, but her vigorous young arms wielded the broom with considerable skill.
One Saturday, with every other room swept but the front hall, she closed the doors into that, and set wide open the outer door. There was more snow on the ground now; but the porch was cleaned and the path to the front gate neatly dug and swept. The tinkle of sleigh bells and the laughter of a crowd of her school friends swept by the corner of Amity Street. Nan ran out upon the porch and waved her duster at them.
There she stood, smiling out upon her little world for a minute. She might not see Amity Street, and the old neighbors, many weeks longer. A half-promise of work from the Chicago machine shop boss had reached Mr. Sherwood that morning by post. It seemed the only opening, and it meant that they would have to give up the "dwelling in amity" and go to crowded Chicago to live. For Momsey was determined that Papa Sherwood should not go without her.
Nan came back into the hall and began to wield the broom again. She could not leave the door open too long, for it was cold outside and the winter chill would get into the house. They had to keep all the rooms at an even temperature on account of Momsey's health.
But she swept vigorously, moving each piece of furniture, and throwing the rugs out upon the porch for a special sweeping there. The rough mat at the door was a heavy one. As Nan stooped to pick it up and toss it after the other small rugs, she saw the corner of a yellow envelope sticking from under the edge of the hall carpet.
"Wonder what that is?" murmured Nan. "Somebody has thrust a circular, or advertisement, under our door, and it's gone under the carpet. Yes! There's a tack out there."
She seized the corner of the envelope with thumb and finger. She drew it out. Its length surprised her. It was a long, official looking envelope, not bulky but most important looking. In the upper left-hand corner was printed:
ADAIR MACKENZIE & CO. STOCKS AND BONDS MEMPHIS
It was properly stamped and addressed to her mother. By the postmark on it Nan knew it must have been tucked under the door by the postman more than a week before. Somehow he had failed to ring their bell when he left the letter. The missing tack in the edge of the hall carpet had allowed the document to slide out of sight, and it might have been hidden for weeks longer had chance not shown the small corner of straw-colored paper to Nan.
She felt breathless. Her knees trembled. Somehow, Nan just KNEW that the letter from her mother's cousin must be of enormous importance. She set her broom in the corner and closed the door. It was fated that she should do no more sweeping that day.
Chapter V. GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Mr. Sherwood, in overalls and an old cap, had been sifting cinders out behind the shed. They had to be careful of fuel as well as of most other things. Momsey would not open the long envelope until he had been called and had come in. Nan still wore the bright colored bandana wound about her head, turban-wise, for a dust cap. Papa Sherwood beat the ashes from his hands as he stood before the glowing kitchen range.
"What is it?" he asked calmly. "A notice of a new tax assessment? Or a cure-all advertisement of Somebody's Pills?"
"It's from Cousin Adair," said Momsey, a little breathlessly. "And it's been lying at our door all the time."
"All what time?" asked Mr. Sherwood curiously.
"All the time we have been so disappointed in our inquiries elsewhere," said Momsey soberly.
"Oh!" responded her husband doubtfully, and said no more.
"It makes my knees shake," confessed Nan. "Do open it, Momsey!"
"I, I feel that it is important, too," the little lady said.
"Well, my dear," her husband finally advised, having waited in patience, "unless it is opened we shall never know whether your feeling is prophetic or not. 'By the itching of my thumb,' and so forth!"
Without making any rejoinder to this, and perhaps without hearing his gentle raillery, Mrs. Sherwood reached up to the coils of her thick hair to secure woman's never-failing implement, a hairpin.
There were two enclosures. Both she shook into her lap. The sealed, foreign-looking letter she picked up first. It was addressed in a clerkly hand to,
"MISTRESS JESSIE ADAIR BLAKE,
"KINDNESS OF MESSRS. ADAIR MACKENZIE & CO.
"MEMPHIS, TENN., U.S.A."
"From England. No! From Scotland," murmured Nan, looking over her mother's shoulder in her eagerness. She read the neatly printed card in the corner of the foreign envelope:
KELLAM & BLAKE HADBORNE CHAMBERS EDINBURGH
Mrs. Sherwood was whispering her maiden name over to herself. She looked up suddenly at her husband with roguish eyes.
"I'd almost forgotten there ever was such a girl as Jessie Adair Blake," she said.
"Oh, Momsey!" squealed Nan, with clasped hands and immense impatience. "Don't, DON'T be so slow! Open it!"
"No-o," her mother said, with pursed lips. "No, honey. The other comes first, I reckon."
It was a letter typewritten upon her cousin's letter-head; but it was not dictated by Mr. Adair MacKenzie. Instead, it was from Mr. MacKenzie's secretary, who stated that her employer had gone to Mexico on business that might detain him for several weeks.
"A letter addressed by you to Mr. MacKenzie arrived after his departure and is being held for him with other personal communications until his return; but being assured that you are the Jessie Adair Blake, now Sherwood—to whom the enclosed letter from Scotland is addressed, I take the liberty of forwarding the same. The Scotch letter reached us after Mr. MacKenzie's departure, likewise. Will you please acknowledge the receipt of the enclosure and oblige?"
This much of the contents of the secretary's letter was of particular interest to the Sherwoods. Momsey's voice shook a little as she finished reading it. Plainly she was disappointed.
"Cousin Adair, I am sure, would have suggested something helpful had he been at home," she said sadly. "It, it is a great disappointment, Robert."
"Well, well!" replied Mr. Sherwood, perhaps not without some secret relief. "It will all come out right. At least, your cousin hasn't refused his assistance. We shall be established somewhere before he returns from his Mexican trip."
"I, I did depend so much upon Adair's good will and advice," signed Momsey.
"But, dear me suz!" gasped Nan impatiently. "What are you folks bothering over that for? It isn't Cousin Adair that I want to know about. It's this letter, Momsey," and she seized the thin yet important envelope from Scotland and shook it before her mother's eyes.
"Better look into it, Momsey," advised Mr. Sherwood easily, preparing to return to the cinder sifting. "Maybe it's from some of your relatives in the Old Country. I see 'Blake' printed in the corner. Didn't your father have an uncle or somebody, who was steward on the estate of a Scotch Laird of some renown?"
"Heck, mon!" cried Momsey, with her usual gaiety, and throwing off the cloud of gloom that had momentarily subdued her spirit. "Ye air a wise cheil. Ma faither talked muckle o' Uncle Hughie Blake, remimberin' him fra' a wee laddie when his ain faither took him tae Scotland, and tae Castle Emberon, on a veesit."
Nan and Papa Sherwood laughed at her when she assumed the Scotch burr of her forebears. With precision she cut the flap of this smaller envelope. She felt no excitement now. She had regained control of herself after the keen disappointment arising from the first letter.
She calmly opened the crackly sheet of legal looking paper in her lap. It was not a long letter, and it was written in a stiff, legal hand, instead of being typewritten, each character as precise as the legal mind that dictated it:
"Mistress Jessie Adair Blake, (Known to be a married woman, but wedded name unknown to writer.)
"Dear Madam: It is my duty to inform you that your father (the late Randolph Hugh Blake) was made sole beneficiary of his late uncle, Mr. Hugh Blake, the Laird of Emberon's steward, by a certain testament, or will, made many years ago. Mr. Hugh Blake has recently died a bachelor, and before his demise he added a codicil to the above testament, or will, naming you, his great niece, his sole heir and beneficiary.
"There are other relatives who may make some attempt to oppose your claim; but none of near blood. Your title to the said estate is clear; but it is quite necessary that you should appear before our Courts with proofs of identity, and so forth. On receipt from you of acknowledgment of this letter, with copies of identification papers (your grandfather's naturalization papers, your father's discharge from army, your own birth certificate and marriage lines, and so forth) I will give myself the pleasure of forwarding any further particulars you may wish, and likewise place at your command my own services in obtaining possession for you of your great uncle's estate.
"The said estate of Mr. Hugh Blake, deceased, amounts, in real and personal property, including moneys in the bank, to about the sum, roughly estimated, of 10,000 pounds.
"Respectfully, your servant,
"Andrew Blake, Solicitor and Att'y."
Nan had leaned over her mother's shoulder, big-eyed, scarce believing the plainly written words she read. It was preposterous, ridiculous, fanciful, a dream from which she must awake in a moment to the full realization of their dreadful need of just such a godsend as this.
It was her father's voice that roused the girl. He had not seen the letter and Momsey had read it silently to herself.
"Look out, Nancy! What is the matter with your mother?"
With a cry the girl caught the frail little lady in her arms as the letter slipped unheeded from her lap to the floor. Mrs. Sherwood's eyes were closed. She had fainted.
Chapter VI. A SPRAT FOR A HERRING
"I don't need the doctor this time, honey; joy never killed yet."
So said Mrs. Sherwood, opening her eyes to see the scared face of Nan close above her. Then she saw her husband at her feet, quietly chafing her hands in his own hard, warm palms. She pulled hers gently from his clasp and rested them upon his head. Mr. Sherwood's hair was iron-gray, thick, and inclined to curl. She ran her little fingers into it and clung tightly.
"Let, let me get my breath!" she gasped. Then, after a moment she smiled brilliantly into the wind-bitten face of the kneeling man. "It's all over, Robert," she said.
"My dear!" he cried thickly; while Nan could not wholly stifle the cry of fear that rose to her lips.
"It's all over," repeated the little woman. "All the worry, all the poverty, all the uncertainty, all the hard times."
Mr. Sherwood looked startled indeed. He had no idea what the letter from Scotland contained, and he feared that his wife, who had already suffered so much, was for the moment quite out of her head.
"My poor Jessie," he began, but her low, sweet laugh stopped him.
"Not poor! Never poor again, Robert!" she cried. "God is very good to us. At the very darkest hour He has shown us the dawn. Robert, we are rich!"
"Great goodness, Jessie! What do you mean? Exclaimed Mr. Sherwood, stumbling to his feet at last.
"It's true! It's true, Papa Sherwood!" Nan cried, clapping her hands. "Don't you call ten thousand dollars riches?"
"Ten, thousand, dollars?" murmured her father. He put his hand to his head and looked confusedly about for a seat, into which he weakly dropped. Nan had picked up the letter and now she dramatically thrust it into his hand.
"Read that, Papa Sherwood!" she said commandingly.
He read the communication from the Scotch attorney, first with immense surprise, then with profound doubt. Who but a young imaginative girl, like Nan, or a woman with unbounded faith in the miracles of God, like her mother, could accept such a perfectly wonderful thing as being real?
"A hoax," thought the man who had worked so hard all his life without the least expectation of ever seeing a penny that he did not earn himself. "Can it be that any of those heedless relatives of my wife's in Memphis have attempted a practical joke at this time?"
He motioned for Nan to bring him the envelope, too. This he examined closely, and then read the communication again. It looked all regular. The stationery, the postmark, the date upon it, all seemed perfectly in accord.
Mrs. Sherwood's gay little laugh shattered the train of her husband's thought. "I know what the matter is with you, Papa Sherwood," she said. "You think it must be a practical joke."
"Oh!" gasped Nan, feeling a positive pain at her heart. This awful possibility had never entered her mind before.
"But it isn't," went on her mother blithely. "It is real. Mr. Hugh Blake, of Emberon, must have been very old; and he was probably as saving and canny as any Scotchman who ever wore kilts. It is not surprising that he should have left an estate of considerable size——-"
"Ten thousand dollars!" breathed Nan again. She loved to repeat it. There was white magic in the very sound of such a sum of money. But her father threw a conversational bomb into their midst the next instant.
"Ten thousand dollars, you goosey!" he said vigorously. "That's the main doubt in the whole business. It isn't ten thousand dollars. It's fifty thousand dollars! A pound, either English or Scotch, is almost five of our dollars. Ten thousand dollars would certainly be a fortune for us; fifty thousand is beyond the dreams of avarice."
"Oh, dear me!" said Nan weakly.
But Mrs. Sherwood merely laughed again. "The more the better," she said. "Why shouldn't we be able to put fifty thousand dollars to good use?"
"Oh, we can, Momsey," said Nan eagerly. "But, will we be let?"
Mr. Sherwood laughed grimly at that; but his wife continued confidently:
"I am sure nobody needs it more than we do."
"Why!" her daughter said, just as excitedly, "we'll be as rich as Bess Harley's folks. Oh, Momsey! Oh, Papa Sherwood! Can I go to Lakewood Hall?"
The earnestness of her cry showed the depths to which that desire had plumbed during these last weeks of privation and uncertainty. It was Nan's first practical thought in relation to the possibility of their changed circumstances.
The father and mother looked at each other with shocked understanding. The surprise attending the letter had caused both parents to forget, for the moment, the effect of this wonderful promise of fortune, whether true or false, on imaginative, high-spirited Nan.
"Let us be happy at first, Nan, just in the knowledge that some money is coming to us," Mrs. Sherwood said more quietly. "Never mind how much, or how little. Time will tell all that."
"Now you talk like father," cried Nan, pouting.
"And let father talk a little, too," Mr. Sherwood said, smiling, "and to you both." His right forefinger struck the letter emphatically in his other hand. "This is a very wonderful, a blessed, thing, if true. But it has to be proven. We must build our hopes on no false foundation."
"Oh, Papa Sherwood! How can we, when the man says there——-"
"Hush!" whispered Momsey, squeezing her excited little daughter's hand.
"In the first place," continued Mr. Sherwood quietly and gravely, "there may be some mistake in the identification of your mother, child, as the niece mentioned in this old man's will."
"Oh!" Nan could not help that gasp.
"Again, there may be stronger opposition to her claim than this lawyer at present sees. Fifty thousand dollars is a whole lot of money, and other people by the name of Blake will be tempted by it."
"How mean of them!" whispered Nan.
"And, above all," pursued Mr. Sherwood, "this may be merely a scheme by unprincipled people to filch small sums of money from gullible people. The 'foreign legacy swindle' is worked in many different ways. There may be calls for money, by this man who names himself Andrew Blake, for preliminary work on the case. We haven't much; but if he is baiting for hundreds of Blakes in America he may secure, in the aggregate, a very tidy sum indeed."
"Oh, Father!" cried Nan. "That's perfectly horrid!"
"But perfectly possible. Let us not swallow this bait, hook, line and sinker. You see, he sends no copy of the will in question, or that codicil relating to your mother's legacy; nor does he offer identification or surety as to his own standing. Don't let the possibilities of this wonderful thing carry you off your feet, my dear."
Nan's lip was quivering and she could scarcely crowd back the tears. To have one's hopes rise so high only to be dashed——-.
"Don't completely crush us, Papa Sherwood, with your perfectly unanswerable logic," said his wife lightly. "We'll remember all these strictures, and more. We can at least put the matter to the test."
"Quite so," agreed her husband. "We will prepare the papers requested by this Scotch attorney. I will even inquire of a good lawyer here something regarding the Scotch laws in such a matter as this, if it will be necessary to make a personal appearance before the local courts over there. And perhaps we can find out the true standing of Mr. Andrew Blake, of Kellam & Blake, Edinburgh. It will cost us a little money, and we can ill spare it now; but to satisfy ourselves——-"
"We will throw a sprat to catch a herring," quoted Momsey cheerfully.
"Quite so," repeated Mr. Sherwood.
"But, dear, DEAR!" moaned Nan. "Is that all it is going to amount to? Don't you really believe it's all true, Papa Sherwood?"
"I can't say that I do, my dear," returned her father gravely. "Such romantic things as this do not often happen outside of story books."
"Then, I declare!" cried Nan desperately, "I wish we lived in a story book!"
"Your father will make inquiries at once, honey," said Momsey easily, seemingly very little disturbed herself by her husband's doubts and fears. To her mind this wonderful turn of fortune's wheel was in direct answer to prayer. Nothing could shake her faith in the final result of her husband's inquiries. Yet, she was proud of his caution and good sense.
"I do think it is dreadful," murmured Nan, "to believe one's self rich for only a minute!"
"Have patience, honey," said her mother.
"Meanwhile," added Mr. Sherwood, rising, "I will go back to sifting cinders."
But Nan did no more sweeping that day.
Chapter VII. A VISTA OF NEW FORTUNES
Nan said nothing to Bess Harley, her particular chum and confidant, about the wonderful letter that had come from Scotland. Although Momsey and Nan talked the legacy over intimately that Saturday afternoon, and planned what they would really do with some of the money "when their ship came in," the young girl knew that the matter was not to be discussed outside of the family circle.
Not even the hope Nan now cherished of accompanying her chum to Lakeview Hall when the next school year opened was divulged when the two girls were together on Sunday, or on the days that immediately followed.
Nan Sherwood went about her household and school tasks in a sort of waking dream. Imagination was continually weaving pictures in her mind of what might happen if the vista of new fortunes that had opened before the little family in the Amity Street cottage really came true.
Papa Sherwood's first reports on the matter of the Scotch legacy were not inspiring.
"Mr. Bludsoe says we'd better go slow," he said seriously. Mr. Bludsoe was a lawyer of high repute in Tillbury. "This letter may be written by an attorney in Edinburgh; but there are rascally lawyers there as well as elsewhere. Bludsoe had correspondents in London. They may be able to inform him regarding the firm of solicitors, Kellam & Blake, if the firm really is entered at the Scotch bar."
"Oh! But won't that mean delay?" murmured Nan.
"Meanwhile," said her father, smiling at her impatience, "we will prepare the papers identifying your dear mother so that, if this wonderful new fortune should be a reality, we can put in a proper claim for it. Just the same," he added to his wife, when Nan had left the room, "I have written to that machine shop boss in Chicago that I am ready to come to work any day he may send for me."
"Oh, Robert!" gasped the little lady. "Won't you believe?"
"Like the darkey who was asked if he believed the world was round, and said, 'Ah believes it, but Ah ain't dead sho' of it.' I presume this great fortune is possible, Jessie, but I haven't perfect and abiding faith in its existence, FOR us," said her husband.
But Momsey had just that quality of faith. She went singing about her household tasks and her usual smile beamed quite beatific. So said Dr. Christian, who stepped in to see her, as was his custom every few days.
"What's this? What's this?" the old medical practitioner demanded of Mr. Sherwood, on the porch, where he usually made his report, and to which Nan often stole to listen openly to them discuss her mother's case. "I find her in a state of happy excitement, and that is quite right, Robert, quite right, if the hopes that are the wellspring of it are not quenched. What does it mean? Have you arranged the sea voyage I advised?"
Papa Sherwood's face changed suddenly. He looked oddly, Nan thought, at the doctor. "I don't know but that is it, Doc," he said. "That sea voyage may be in the offing."
"Best thing that could happen to her, best thing that could happen to her!" declared the old physician with emphasis, as he stumped away.
Nan wondered what that could mean. A sea voyage for Momsey? Of course, for all of them. She could not imagine Momsey going anywhere without her and Papa Sherwood.
She knew she was not to say anything about what she heard pass between her father and the doctor on the porch. Indeed, Nan was no bearer of tales in any event. But she was very curious. The steam from the cauldron of Mystery seldom arose in the little "dwelling in amity" save about Christmas time or just previous to Nan's birthday. But Papa Sherwood certainly was enigmatical and Momsey was mysteriously happy, as Dr. Christian had said.
"And we'll put steam heat in the little house. You know, Robert, we've always wanted to," Nan's mother suddenly said one evening as they all sat around the reading lamp, and quite apropos of nothing at all. Then she laughed, flushing prettily. "There! You see what my mind runs on. I really can't help it."
It was only a day or two later that the second letter came from Memphis. Mr. Adair MacKenzie had returned from Mexico and evidently one of the first duties he performed was to write his Cousin Jessie his congratulations.
"A letter on quite another matter," this epistle read, "from our distant kinsman, Andrew Blake, of Kellam & Blake, apprised me that the ancient Hugh Blake, steward to the Lairds of Emberon for so many years, was dead and that his property was willed to your father, whose appearance as a lad at Emberon pleased the old man greatly.
"You are to be congratulated. The estate is considerable, I understand. Your husband's troubles which are mentioned in your letter that I found awaiting my return will now be over. For, although Andrew Blake intimates that there may be considerable opposition in the courts there, over the money going to an American heir, you will be able in the end to establish your rights.
"Believe me, my dear Jessie, I know of nobody in our family to whom I would rather see fortune come than to yourself and your dear ones. If I can be of any assistance, financially, or otherwise, in helping you obtain your rights in this event, believe me, I stand ready to give such aid. Do not hesitate to call upon me. My regards to your husband and little girl whom I have never seen; Alice and John join me in expressing our good wishes for your happy future. I remain, with the old love I always had for you, Your cousin, Adair MacKenzie."
"Now, Robert, what have you to say?" cried Momsey triumphantly, while Nan danced a fandango about the room.
"This much," replied her husband, smiling. "Our minds are relieved on one point, at least. Kellam & Blake are respectable attorneys. We will send our communication to Mr. Blake at once, without waiting for Mr. Bludsoe's enquiries to bear fruit. Your Cousin Adair knows the Scotch firm, and of course vouches for their trustworthiness."
"Dear me, Papa Sherwood, you are so practical!" sighed Nan. She meant "vexing;" they were interchangeable terms to her mind at this exciting point. "Can't you work up any enthusiasm over Momsey's wonderful fortune?"
"Its existence is established, it would seem, beyond peradventure," said Mr. Sherwood drily. "But our attempt to obtain the fortune is not yet begun."
"Why, ee!" squealed Nan. "You don't really suppose anybody will try to keep Momsey from getting it?"
"Exactly that," said her father. "The Blakes are a widely scattered clan. There are probably a number of people as close in blood-tie to the old man who has just died as your mother, my dear. These people may all bob up, one after another, to dispute Momsey's claim."
"But, dear me!" gasped Nan. "The money was willed to Momsey."
"Nevertheless, these other relatives, if there be such—can keep Momsey out of the enjoyment of her rights for a long time. Court processes are slow, and especially so, I should judge, among the canny and careful Scotch. I think we would better leave it to the lawyers to settle. We cannot hasten the courts by worrying over the fortune.
"I think," pursued Papa Sherwood judiciously, "that instead of spending our time discussing and dreaming of the fortune in Scotland, we would better go right on with our tasks here as though there were really no fortune at all."
"Oh, my!" whispered Nan, her eyes clouding. "That's because of my last fortnightly report. I know I fell behind in history and rhetoric."
"Don't be too hard on us, Papa Sherwood," said Momsey brightly. "Anticipation is more than half of every pleasure. I lie awake every night and spend this great fortune of ours to the very last penny."
"Of course," the little lady added, with more gravity, "I wouldn't really spend fifty thousand dollars so recklessly as I do in my mind. But I can found schools, and hospitals, and educate Nan, and give you, Papa Sherwood, a great big business, and buy two automobiles, and——-"
"Enough! Enough!" cried Mr. Sherwood, in mock seriousness. "You are a born spendthrift, Momsey. That you have had no chance to really be one thus far will only make your case more serious when you have this legacy in your possession. Two automobiles, no less!"
"But I want you both, my dears, to bear one very important fact in mind. Roughly estimated the fortune is ten thousand pounds. To be exact, it may be a good deal less at the start. Then, after the lawyers and the courts get through with the will and all, the remainder that dribbles into your pocket, Momsey, may be a very small part of ten thousand pounds."
"Oh, how horrid, Papa Sherwood!" cried Nan. "We won't listen to him, will we, Momsey?"
"Oh, yes we will," her mother said quietly, but smiling. "But we will still believe that the world is good and that God has given us great good fortune. Papa talks very sensibly; but I know that there is nothing to fear. We are going to be very well off for the rest of our lives, and I cannot be thankful enough for it."
At that Mr. Sherwood literally threw up his hands. "Nevertheless," he said, "I expect to go to Chicago next Monday, to begin work in the machine shop. The boss writes me that I can come at that time."
"I will get your clothes ready for you, Robert," said Momsey calmly. "Perhaps you will feel better in your mind if you keep busy during this time of waiting."
Chapter VIII. TWO IMPORTANT HAPPENINGS
It happened, however, that Mr. Sherwood did not go to Chicago to work in the machine shop. Something happened before the week was out, that quite put his intention aside.
Indeed, Nan declared that two important happenings just then changed the current of affairs at the little cottage on Amity Street and that she had a principal part in the action of the first of these unexpected happenings.
It was lovely skating on Norway Pond, and both Nan and her chum, Bess Harley, were devoted to the sport. Nan had been unable to be on the ice Saturdays, because of her home tasks; but when her lessons were learned, she was allowed to go after supper.
It happened to be just at the dark of the moon this week; that kept many off the ice, although the weather was settled and the ice was perfectly safe. Sometimes the boys built a bonfire on Woody Point, with refuse from the planing mill, and that lit up a good bit of the ice.
But once out on the pond, away from the shadows cast by the high banks, the girls could see well enough. They were both good skaters, and with arms crossed and hands clasped, they swung up the middle of the pond in fine style.
"I just love to skate with you, Nan," sighed Bess ecstatically. "You move just like my other self. We're Siamese twins. We strike out together perfectly. Oh, my dear! I don't see whatever I am to do if you refuse to go to Lakeview with me."
Nan could scarcely keep from telling Bess of the wonderful new fortune that seemed about to come to her; but she was faithful to her home training, and only said:
"Don't fret about it, honey. Maybe something will turn up to let me go."
"If you'd let my father pay your way——-?" insinuated Bess.
"Don't talk of that. It's impossible," said Nan decisively. "It's a long time yet to fall. Maybe conditions will be different at home. A dozen things may happen before school opens in September."
"Yes! But they may not be the right things," sighed Bess.
She could not be too melancholy on such a night as this, however. It was perfectly quiet, and the arch of the sky was like black velvet pricked out with gold and silver stars. Their soft radiance shed some light upon the pond, enough, at least, to show the girl chums the way before them as they skimmed on toward Powerton Landing.
They had left a noisy crowd of boys behind them, near the stamp Factory, mostly mill boys, and the like. Bess had been taught at home to shrink from association with the mill people and that is why she had urged Nan to take this long skate up the pond. Around the Tillbury end of it they were always falling in with little groups of mill boys and girls whom Bess did not care to meet.
There was another reason this evening for keeping away from the stamp factory, too. The manager of that big shop had hired a gang of ice cutters a few days before, and had filled his own private icehouse. The men had cut out a roughly outlined square of the thick ice, sawed it into cakes, and poled it to shore and so to the sleds and the manager's icehouse.
It was not a large opening in the ice; but even if the frost continued, it would be several days before the new ice would form thickly enough to bear again over that spot.
Elsewhere, however, the ice was strong, for all the cutting for the big icehouses had been done long before near the Landing. The lights of Powerton Landing were twinkling ahead of them as the two friends swept on up the long lake. The wind was in their faces, such wind as there was, and the air was keen and nippy.
The action of skating, however, kept Nan and Bess warm. Bess in her furs and Nan in her warm tam-o'-shanter and the muffler Momsey had knitted with her own hands, did not mind the cold.
The evening train shrieked out of the gap and across the long trestle just beyond the landing, where it halted for a few seconds for passengers to embark or to leave the cars. This train was from Chicago, and on Monday Papa Sherwood expected to go to that big city to work.
The thought gave Nan a feeling of depression. The little family in the Amity street cottage had never been separated for more than a day since she could remember. It was going to be hard on Momsey, with Papa Sherwood away and Nan in school all day. How were they going to get along without Papa Sherwood coming home to supper, and doing the hard chores?
Bess awoke her chum from these dreams. "Dear me, Nan! Have you lost your tongue all of a sudden? Do say something, or do something."
"Let's race the train down the pond to Tillbury," proposed Nan instantly.
The lights of the long coaches were just moving out of the station at the Landing. The two girls came about in a graceful curve and struck out for home at a pace that even the train could not equal. The rails followed the shore of the pond on the narrow strip of lowland at the foot of the bluffs. They could see the lights shining through the car windows all the way.
The fireman threw open the door of his firebox to feed the furnace and a great glare of light, and a shower of sparks, spouted from the smokestack. The rumble of the wheels from across the ice seemed louder than usual.
"Come on, Bess!" gasped Nan, quite excited. "We can do better than this! Why, that old train will beat us!"
For they were falling behind. The train hooted its defiance as it swept down toward Woody Point. The girls shot in toward the shore, where the shadow of the high bluff lay heavily upon the ice.
They heard the boys' voices somewhere below them, but Bess and Nan could not see them yet. They knew that the boys had divided into sides and were playing old-fashioned hockey, "shinny-on-your-own-side" as it was locally called. Above the rumbling of the train they heard the crack of the shinny-stick against the wooden block, and the "z-z-z-zip!" of the missile as it scaled over the ice.
"Those boys will get into the ice-hole if they don't look out," Nan had just said to her chum, when suddenly a wild yell arose from the hockey players.
The train was slowing down at the signal tower, and finally stopped there. A freight had got in on the main track which had to be cleared before the passenger train could go into Tillbury station. The coaches stood right along the edge of the frozen pond.
But it was nothing in connection with the evening train that caused such a commotion among the skaters near the stamp factory. There was a crash of breaking ice and a scrambling of skaters away from the spot. The boys' yells communicated panic to other people ashore.
"He's in! He's in!" Nan and Bess heard the boys yelling. Then a man's voice took up the cry: "He'll be drowned! Help! Help!"
"That's old Peter Newkirk," gasped Nan, squeezing Bess' gloved hands tightly. "He's night watchman at the stamp works, and he has only one arm. He can't help that boy."
The youngsters who had been playing hockey so recklessly near the thin ice, were not as old as Nan and Bess, and the accident had thrown them into utter confusion. Some skated for the shore, screaming for ropes and fence-rails; others only tried to get away from the danger spot themselves. None did the first thing to help their comrade who had broken through the ice.
"Where are you going, Nan?" gasped Bess, pulling back. "You'll have us both in the water, too."
"We can save him! Quick!" returned her chum eagerly.
She let go of Bess and unwound the long muffler from about her own neck. "If we could only see him!" the girl said, over and over.
And then a brilliant idea struck Nan Sherwood, and she turned to shout to old Peter Newkirk on the shore. "Peter! Peter! Turn on the electric light sign! Turn it on so we can see where he's gone in!"
The watchman had all his wits about him. There was a huge electric sign on the stamp works roof, advertising the company's output. The glare of it could be seen for miles, and it lit up brilliantly the surroundings of the mill.
Peter Newkirk bounded away to the main door of the works. The switch that controlled the huge sign was just inside that door. Before Nan and Bess had reached the edge of the broken ice, the electricity was suddenly shot into the sign and the whole neighborhood was alight.
"I see him! There he is!" gasped Nan to her chum. "Hold me tight by the skirt, Bess! We'll get him!"
She flung herself to her knees and stopped sliding just at the edge of the old, thick ice. With a sweep of her strong young arm she shot the end of the long muffler right into the clutching hands of the drowning boy.
Involuntarily he seized it. He had been down once, and submersion in the ice water had nearly deprived him of both consciousness and power to help save himself. But Nan drew him quickly through the shattered ice-cakes to the edge of the firm crystal where she knelt.
"We have him! We have him!" she cried, in triumph. "Give me your hand, boy! I won't let you go down again."
But to lift him entirely out of the water would have been too much for her strength. However, several men came running now from the stalled passenger train. The lighting of the electric sign had revealed to them what was going on upon the pond.
The man who lifted the half-drowned boy out of the water was not one of the train crew, but a passenger. He was a huge man in a bearskin coat and felt boots. He was wrapped up so heavily, and his fur cap was pulled down so far over his ears and face, that Nan could not see what he really looked like. In a great, gruff voice he said:
"Well, now! Give me a girl like you ev'ry time! I never saw the beat of it. Here, mister!" as he put the rescued boy into the arms of a man who had just run from a nearby house. "Get him between blankets and he'll be all right. But he's got this smart little girl to thank that he's alive at all."
He swung around to look at Nan again. Bess was crying frankly, with her gloved hands before her face. "Oh, Nan! Nan!" she sobbed. "I didn't do a thing, not a thing. I didn't even hang to the tail of your skirt as you told me. I, I'm an awful coward."
The big man patted Nan's shoulder lightly. "There's a little girl that I'm going to see here in Tillbury," he said gruffly. "I hope she turns out to be half as smart as you are, sissy." Then he tramped back to the train that was just then starting.
Nan began to laugh. "Did you hear that funny man?" she asked Bess. "Do stop your crying, Bess! You have no reason to cry. You are not hurt."
"But, but you might have been, been drowned, too," sobbed her chum. "I didn't help you a mite."
"Bother!" exclaimed Nan Sherwood. "Don't let's talk about it. We'll go home. I guess we've both had enough skating for tonight."
Bess wiped away her tears and clung to Nan's hand all the way to their usual corner for separating. Nan ran home from there quickly and burst into the kitchen to find Momsey and Papa Sherwood in the midst of a very serious conference.
"What is the matter?" cried Nan, startled by the gravity of her father and the exaltation upon her mother's face. "What's happened?"
"A very great thing, Nan, honey," said Momsey, drawing her daughter to her side. "Tell her, Papa Sherwood."
He sighed deeply and put away the letter they had been reading. "It's from Mr. Blake, of Edinburgh," he said. "I can no longer doubt the existence of the fortune, my dears. But I fear we shall have to strive for it in the Scotch courts."
"Oh!" cried Nan, under her breath.
"Mr. Blake tells us here that it is absolutely necessary for us to come to Scotland, and for your mother to appear in person before the court there. The sum of money and other property willed to Momsey by her great uncle is so large that the greatest care will be exercised by the Scotch judges to see that it goes to the right person."
"As your mother once said, we must throw a sprat to catch a herring. In this case we shall be throwing a sprat to catch a whale! For the amount of money we may have to spend to secure the fifty thousand dollars left by Mr. Hugh Blake, of Emberon, is small, in comparison to the fortune itself.
"We must go to Scotland," finished Mr. Sherwood firmly. "And we must start as soon as possible."
Chapter IX. ON THE WAY TO THE WILDERNESS
It seemed to Nan Sherwood that night as though she never could get to sleep. Her mind and imagination worked furiously.
Momsey and Papa Sherwood had sent her to bed early. There had been no time to tell them about the accident on the ice and her part in it. Her parents had much to discuss, much to decide upon. The Scotch lawyer urged their presence before the court having jurisdiction in the matter of the late Mr. Hugh Blake's will, and that as soon as they could cross the ocean.
Transportation from the little Illinois town, across the intervening states to the seaport, and thence, over the winter ocean to Glasgow, and so on by rail to Edinburgh, was a journey the contemplation of which, to such a quiet family as the Sherwoods, was nothing less than appalling.
And there were many things to take into consideration that Nan did not wholly understand. Mrs. Sherwood would require her husband's undivided attention while she made the long and arduous journey. The sea voyage was right in line with the physician's opinion of what was needed to restore her health; but it was a venture at best.
Had the family possessed plenty of money it is doubtful if Mr. Sherwood would have risked more than a coasting voyage. Conditions rising out of the legacy from the great uncle in Scotland spelled necessity in this case. Of the little sum left in bank, most of it would be required to pay the fares of Mr. and Mrs. Sherwood to Edinburgh, and their modest living there for a few weeks. There was not enough money in hand to pay a third passage and the expenses of a third person in Scotland, until the court business should be settled.
Mr. Sherwood had already taken Mr. Bludsoe, the lawyer, into his confidence. He could make arrangements through him to mortgage the cottage if it became absolutely necessary. He shrank from accepting financial help from Mrs. Sherwood's relatives in Memphis.
Besides, decision must be made immediately. Plans must be made almost overnight. They must start within forty-eight hours to catch a certain steamer bound for the Scotch port of Glasgow, as Mr. Sherwood had already found out. And all their questions resolved finally into this very important one:
"WHAT SHALL WE DO ABOUT NAN?"
Nan, in her little white bed, had no idea that she was the greatest difficulty her parents found in this present event. It never entered her busy mind that Papa Sherwood and Momsey would dream of going to Scotland without her.
"What shall we do with Nan?" Momsey said over and over again. She realized as well as did Mr. Sherwood that to take the child was an utter impossibility. Their financial circumstances, as well as other considerations would not allow it.
Yet, what should they do with her, with whom to trust her during their uncertain absence on the other side? No answer that came to their minds seemed the right one. They rose that wintry morning without having this most important of all questions decided.
This was Sunday and Mrs. Joyce always came over for breakfast; for she lived alone and never had any too much to eat, Nan was sure. As for the old woman's eating with the family, that was a fiction she kept up for appearance's sake, perhaps, or to salve her own claims to former gentility. She always set a place for herself at the family table in the dining room and then was too busy to eat with them, taking her own meal in the kitchen.
Therefore it was she only who heard the commanding rap at the kitchen door in the midst of the leisurely meal, and answered it.
Just then Nan had dropped her knife and fork and was staring from Momsey's pitying face to Papa Sherwood's grave one, as she cried, in a whisper:
"Not me? Oh, my dears! You're never going without me, all that long journey? What, whatever shall I do without you both?"
"Don't, honey! Don't say it that way!" begged Momsey, putting her handkerchief to her eyes.
"If it was not quite impossible, do you think for a moment, daughter, that we would contemplate leaving you at home?" queried Mr. Sherwood, his own voice trembling.
"It, it seems impossible!" gasped Nan, "just as though it couldn't be. I won't know what to do without you, my dears. And what will you do without me?"
That seemed to be unanswerable, and it quite broke Momsey down. She sobbed openly into her handkerchief.
"Who's going to be her little maid?" demanded Nan, of her father. "Who's going to 'do' her beautiful hair? Who's going to wait on her when she has her dreadful headaches? And who's going to play 'massagist' like me? I want to know who can do all those things for Momsey if you take her away from me, Papa Sherwood?" and she ended quite stormily.
"My dear child!" Mr. Sherwood said urgently. "I want you to listen to me. Our situation is such that we cannot possibly take you with us. That is final. It is useless for us to discuss the point, for there is nothing to be gained by discussing it from now till Doomsday."
Nan gulped down a sob and looked at him with dry eyes. Papa Sherwood had never seemed so stern before, and yet his own eyes were moist. She began to see that this decision was very hard upon her parents, too.
"Now do you understand," he asked gently, "that we cannot take our little daughter with us, but that we are much worried by the fact, and we do not know what to do with her while we are gone?"
"You, you might as well put me in an orphan asylum," choked Nan. "I'll be an orphan till you get back."
"Oh, honey!" cried her mother.
"There now!" said Nan, jumping up quickly and going around the table to her mother's side. "You poor dear! I won't say anything more to hurt and trouble you. I'm a selfish thing, that's what I am."
Momsey wound her arms about her. Papa Sherwood still looked grave. "We get no nearer to the proper solution of the difficulty," he said. "Of course, Nancy, the orphan asylum is out of the question."
"I'll stay here, of course," Nan said, with some difficulty keeping her voice from quavering.
"Not alone in the house, honey," Momsey said quickly.
"With Mrs. Joyce?" suggested Nan tentatively.
"No," Mr. Sherwood said. "She is not the person to be trusted with you."
"There's Mrs. Grimes' boarding house around the corner?" suggested Nan.
Momsey shuddered. "Never! Never! My little girl in a boarding house. Oh, Papa Sherwood! We must find somebody to care for her while we are away, who loves Nan."
And it was just here that a surprisingly gruff voice took up the matter and decided it in a moment.
"That's me," said the voice, with conviction. "She's just the sort of little girl I cotton to, sister Jessie. And Kate'll be fairly crazy about her. If you're going anywhere for a long spell, just let me take her up to Pine Camp. We have no little girls up there, never had any. But I bet we know how to treat 'em."
"Hen!" shouted Mr. Sherwood, stumbling up from the table, and putting out both hands to the big man whom Mrs. Joyce had ushered in from the kitchen so unexpectedly.
"Henry Sherwood!" gasped Momsey, half rising herself in her surprise and delight.
"Why!" cried Nan, "it's the bear-man!" for Mr. Henry Sherwood wore the great fur coat and cap that he had worn the evening before when he had come to Nan's aid in rescuing the boy from Norway Pond.
Afterward Nan confessed, naively, that she ought to have known he was her Uncle Henry. Nobody, she was quite sure, could be so big and brawny as the lumberman from Michigan.
"She's the girl for me," proclaimed Uncle Henry admiringly. "Smart as a whip and as bold as a catamount. Hasn't she told you what she did last night? Sho! Of course not. She don't go 'round blowing about her deeds of valor, I bet!" and the big man went off into a gale of laughter that seemed to shake the little cottage.
Papa Sherwood and Momsey had to learn all the particulars then, and both glowed with pride over their little daughter's action. Gradually, after numerous personal questions were asked and answered on both sides, the conversation came around to the difficulty the little family was in, and the cause of it.
Henry Sherwood listened to the story of the Scotch legacy with wide-open eyes, marveling greatly. The possibility of his brother's wife becoming wealthy amazed and delighted his simple mind. The fact that they had to take the long journey to Scotland to obtain the money troubled him but little. Although he had never traveled far himself, save to Chicago from the Michigan woods, Mr. Henry Sherwood had lived in the open so much that distances did not appall him.
"Sure you'll go," he proclaimed, reaching down into a very deep pocket and dragging to light a long leather pouch, with a draw-string of home-cured deer skin. "And if you are short, Bob, we'll go down into this poke and see what there is left.
"I came down to Chicago to see about a piece of timber that's owned by some sharps on Jackson Street. I didn't know but I might get to cut that timber. I've run it careless-like, and I know pretty near what there is in it. So I said to Kate:
"'I'll see Bob and his wife, and the little nipper——-"
"Goodness!" ejaculated Nan, under her breath.
Uncle Henry's eyes twinkled and the many wrinkles about them screwed up into hard knots. "Beg pardon!" he exclaimed, for his ears were very sharp. "This young lady, I should have said. Anyhow, I told Kate I'd see you all and find out what you were doing.
"Depending on mills and such for employment isn't any very safe way to live, I think. Out in the woods you are as free as air, and there aren't so many bosses, and you don't have to think much about 'the market' and 'supply and demand,' and all that."
"Just the same," said Mr. Robert Sherwood, his own eyes twinkling, "you are in some trouble right now, I believe, Hen?"
"Sho! You've got me there," boomed his brother with a great laugh. "But there aren't many reptiles like old Ged Raffer. And we can thank a merciful Creator for that. I expect there are just a few miserly old hunks like Ged as horrible examples to the rest of us."
"What is the nature of your trouble with this old fellow?" asked Mr. Robert Sherwood.
"We've got hold on adjoining options. I had my lines run by one of the best surveyors in the Peninsula of Michigan. But he up and died. Ged claims I ran over on his tract about a mile. He got to court first, got an injunction, and tied me all up in a hard legal knot until the state surveyors can go over both pieces of timber. The land knows when that'll be! Those state surveyors take a week of frog Sundays to do a job.
"I can't cut a stick on my whole piece 'cause Ged claims he'll have a right to replevin an equal number of sticks cut, if the surveyors back up his contention. Nasty mess. The original line was run years and years ago, and they're not many alive today in the Big woods that know the rights of it.
"I expect," added Uncle Henry, shaking his bushy head, "that old Toby Vanderwiller knows the rights of that line business; but he won't tell. Gedney Raffer's got a strangle hold on Toby and his little swamp farm, and Toby doesn't dare say his soul's his own.
"Well!" continued the lumberman, with another of his big laughs. "This has nothing to do with your stew, Bob. I didn't want to come to the house last night and surprise you; so I stayed at the hotel. And all the time I was thinking of this little nip, Beg pardon! This young lady, and how smart and plucky she was.
"And lo and behold," pursued Uncle Henry, "she turns out to be my own niece. I'm going to take her back with me to Pine Camp. Kate's got to see and know her. The boys will be tickled out of their boots to have a girl like her around. That's our one lack at Pine Camp. There never was a girl in the family.
"Seems that this was just foreordained. You and Jessie have got to go 'way off, over the water; can't leave this plucky girl alone. Her old uncle and aunt are the proper folks to take care of her. What do you say yourself, young lady?"
Nan had liked the big man from the very beginning. She was a sensible child, too. She saw that she must settle this matter herself, for it was too hard a question for either Momsey or Papa Sherwood to decide. She gained control of herself now; but nobody will ever know how much courage it took for her to say, promptly:
"Of course I will go home with you, Uncle Henry. It will be fun, I think, to go into the woods in the winter. And, and I can come right back as soon as Momsey and Papa Sherwood return from Scotland."
So it was settled, just like that. The rush in which both parties got under way on Monday made Nan's head whirl. Momsey was to buy a few necessary things in New York before she boarded the steamer. Nan had a plentiful supply of warm winter clothing, and she took a trunkful.
Mrs. Joyce was left to take a peep at the little, locked cottage on Amity Street, now and then. Nan could say "Goodbye" only very hastily to Bess Harley and her other school friends. Her school had to be broken off at a bad time in the year, but there was the prospect of a change in Nan's method of education the next fall.
Momsey and Papa Sherwood took the train east an hour before Nan and Uncle Henry boarded that for Chicago. All went with a rush and clatter, and Nan found herself at last rumbling out of Tillbury, on her way to the northern wilderness, while a thin drive of fine snowflakes tapped on the car windows.
Chapter X. GEDNEY RAFFER
It was fortunate for Nan Sherwood that on the day of parting with her parents she had so much to do, and that there was so much to see, and so many new things of which to think.
She had never traveled to Chicago before, nor far from Tillbury at all. Even the chair car was new to the girl's experience and she found it vastly entertaining to sit at a broad window with her uncle in the opposite chair, gazing out upon the snowy landscape as the train hurried over the prairie.
She had a certain feeling that her Uncle Henry was an anomaly in the chair car. His huge bearskin coat and the rough clothing under it; his felt boots, with rubber soles and feet; the fact that he wore no linen and only a string tie under the collar of his flannel shirt; his great bronzed hands and blunted fingers with their broken nails, all these things set him apart from the other men who rode in the car.
Papa Sherwood paid much attention to the niceties of dress, despite the fact that his work at the Atwater Mills had called for overalls and, frequently, oily hands. Uncle Henry evidently knew little about stiff collars and laundered cuffs, or cravats, smart boots, bosomed shirts, or other dainty wear for men. He was quite innocent of giving any offence to the eye, however. Lying back in the comfortable chair with his coat off and his great lumberman's boots crossed, he laughed at anything Nan said that chanced to be the least bit amusing, until the gas-globes rang again.