POLLY OF PEBBLY PIT
LILLIAN ELIZABETH ROY
Author of Polly and Eleanor, Polly in New York, Polly and Her Friends Abroad, Polly's Business Venture.
TO MY DEAR FRIENDS, SARAH J. BATTEY, M.D., AND BRYAN M. BATTEY.
I THE FARM IN PEBBLY PIT
II A MOMENTOUS LETTER
III PREPARING FOR THE UNKNOWN
IV THE "SERVANT PROBLEM" SOLVED
V UNPLEASANT SURPRISES
VI THE HARROWING DETAILS
VII A LITTLE SCHEME THAT WORKED
VIII ACCLIMATING THE CITY GIRLS
IX SEVERAL MISUNDERSTANDINGS
X THE DANCE AT BEAR FORKS
XI IN THE WILDERNESS
XII THE BLIZZARD ON GRIZZLY SLIDE
XIII A NIGHT IN THE CAVE
XIV OLD MONTRESOR'S LEGACY
XV MONTRESOR'S CLAIM is JUSTIFIED
XVI A YOUNG STRANGER IN OAK CREEK
XVII SARY'S AMBITIONS
THE FARM IN PEBBLY PIT
"Polly! Poll-ee!" sounded musically from the direction of the kitchen doorway in a ranch-house, and reached Polly Brewster as she knelt beside her pet in the barn.
"Run outside and see what Maw wants, Poll," said Mr. Brewster, who was working faithfully over the object of Polly's solicitous devotion.
Obediently, Polly ran out and shaded her eyes as she gazed across the great depression of the volcanic crater which had made such a wonderful farm for the Brewsters. At the door of the long, squat homestead, stood Mrs. Brewster, waiting for an answer.
The moment she saw Polly, she called: "Din-ner-r's ready!"
"All right!" shouted the girl, waving her sun-bonnet to signify she had heard the message.
Mrs. Brewster returned to the kitchen and Polly went back to her father's side. He glanced up as she entered the barn, and Polly replied to his questioning look.
"Maw said dinner's ready."
"Well, Ah reckon Noddy's all right now, Poll," said the rancher, as he stood up to stretch his tired muscles.
"I felt sure she would be, Paw," returned Polly, positively.
"If only Jeb was about, now, Ah could leave him with Noddy, with directions about the medicine, till we-all get back from dinner," mused Mr. Brewster, standing in the doorway to look about for Jeb.
"Why, Daddy! Do you suppose I'd leave Noddy with Jeb for a single moment? And just as we saved her life, too! I reckon not! I'll stop here myself and watch her," declared Polly with finality, as she assumed the post vacated by her father, and held the little burro's fuzzy head upon her knees.
Sam Brewster smiled as he watched Polly bend over her pet and whisper affectionately in the long, sensitive ear.
"Poll, Jeb will shore say you used witchcraft on the burro; he said Noddy was done for—being buried under that slide the way she was."
"Noddy would have been done for if Jeb had had her in charge; but she just couldn't refuse to live, with me right here calling her back, you know. She loves me so, she had to listen to my voice," explained Polly, with suspicious moisture in her big blue eyes.
"Ah reckon that's it, Poll! Love works wonders if we'd only let it. And you love everything in a way that everything loves you back again. It beats me, how the beavers, and foxes, and even the bears treat you as if you were one of them, instead of running to cover. As for the chicks and colts and lambs on the ranch—why, they'd follow you to Oak Creek, if they could!"
Polly smiled happily as she looked away over the distant mountain-sides where Nature's creatures roamed unrestrained. And then her eyes rested upon the pastures nearer home, where the farm pets grazed. Every one of them, wild or tame, were her friends.
"Reckon Ah'll go now, Poll. What shall Maw do about the dinner?"
"Tell her not to bother about me. I'll wash the dishes' when I get back, Daddy."
So Mr. Brewster started for the house and Polly settled herself in a more comfortable position while crooning to little Noddy. As she sat holding the little burro's head, her thoughts wandered back to the time when Noddy was but three days old. The mother had died and left the tiny bundle of brown wool to be brought up on a nursing bottle. To keep the baby burro warm it had been wrapped in an old blanket and placed back of the kitchen stove. Thus Noddy first learned to walk in the large kitchen of the log ranch-house, and later it felt quite like a member of the family.
Being such a sleepy little colt, the name of Noddy was considered very appropriate but, as the burro grew older, it showed such intelligence and energy that its name was a dreadful misnomer.
Noddy considered Polly her particular charge and followed her about the place like a dog. And when the burro was full-grown, she became the daily companion that Polly rode to school, over the mountain trails, or about the farm.
The wise western burros are not half appreciated by folks who do not understand their unusual intelligence and their devotion to their masters. They will seek for water or edible herbs when lost on the desert or mountain peaks and sacrifice life to save that of the rider's.
But Noddy's present condition was not due to sacrifice. Most of the horses and burros at Pebbly Pit showed such an aversion to the Rainbow Cliffs that they never grazed near there, although the luxuriant grass made fine pasturage. These cliffs were the local wonder and gave the farm its name. They were a section of jagged "pudding-stone" wall composed of large and small fragments of gorgeously hued stones massed together in loose formation, like shale. Great heaps of these jeweled fragments, which crumbled easily from the cliff, lay piled up along the base of the wall and sparkled brilliantly when the sun shone upon them, or directly after a rain.
Noddy had been pasturing out the night before her accident, and at sunrise found herself too near the tabooed cliffs. She lifted her ears suspiciously, wrinkled her nose fearfully, and wheeled to run away to a more desirable locality. But in that quick turn she loosened the shale at the base of a steep descent. The treacherous rock slid and threw her down. Before she could get up and away the great mass rumbled down and covered her, but she finally managed to work her head free for breath.
Jeb, out early to seek for stray cattle, saw the fresh slide and gazed wonderingly at it. Then he spied the nose and hoof of a burro protruding from the shale. He rushed to the barn where he had left Mr. Brewster, and in a short time master and man had the tools and "cradle" back at the spot, and Noddy was soon unearthed. She was unconscious, and Jeb declared it was useless to bother with a burro so evidently far gone. Even Mr. Brewster feared she was past help, but Polly insisted that Noddy must live.
All that morning Polly sat holding the limp brown head while whispering words of affection in the long ears, and who will say that Noddy's instinct did not respond to love, even though the physical sense of hearing was deaf to earthly sounds? She slowly revived and was resting comfortably when the house-call came for dinner.
Mr. Brewster returned after dinner, bringing a bowl of gruel for the burro, and Jeb followed his master to inquire about the patient.
"Jeb, you-all help me feed Noddy while Polly runs to the house for her dinner," said Mr. Brewster.
"I'd a heap rather wait here and help with Noddy, Paw!"
"Oh, Polly! Maw told me to say there was a letter for you. Jim Melvin stopped off with our mail he got at Oak Creek to-day."
"A letter! Who can it be from?" asked Polly wonderingly. "That's what you must find out. It looks like a girl's writing and it is post-marked Denver. Who do you know there?" replied her father.
"Denver? Why, nobody! I'll run and see who it's from!" cried she eagerly, and Mr. Brewster smiled at the success of the ruse to get his daughter away for a time.
Polly was a genuine child of Nature. Her life of little more than fourteen years had been spent in the mountains surrounding her ranch- home, Pebbly Pit. The farm was oddly located in the crater of an extinct volcano, known on the maps as "The Devil's Grave." Like many other peaks scattered about in this region of Colorado, the volcanic fires had been dead for centuries.
The outer rim of the crater formed a natural wall about the bowl, and protected the rich and fertile soil of the farm from the desert winds that covered other ranches with its fine alkali dust. The snows in winter, lodging in the crevices of the cliffs, slowly melted during the progress of summer, thus furnishing sufficient moisture for the vegetation growing in the "bowl"; and this provided splendid pasturage for the herds of cattle owned by the rancher.
When Sam Brewster staked his claim in this crater, his companions jeered at the choice and called the place "Pebbly Pit." But the young man had studied agriculture thoroughly and knew what he was doing; then the test made by the government convinced him of this.
Besides, his Denver bride preferred the beauty of the spot to the more sociable but draughty ranches in the valley of Bear Forks River; so they settled in the crater, and named the farm Rainbow Cliffs, but the original nick-name clung, and gradually the owners, from habit, also came to call their place "Pebbly Pit."
In the mountains where the government gives a settler all the timber he needs, transportation is so difficult and paid labor almost unknown, so that the size and quality of a rancher's house and out-buildings expresses his character. Sam Brewster's buildings and fences were as solid and comfortable as any in the State. He and his wife (a refined young woman) were ambitious and energetic, so it was not surprising that they succeeded in life.
When John, the first-born, had completed his studies at High School in Denver, he was sent to a well-known college in Chicago. And now that Polly, seven years John's junior, had finished her grammar course at the little Bear Forks log school-house, she, too, was determined to enter High School at Denver.
Sam Brewster had stubbornly refused to consent to the plan, taking for an excuse that no friends or relatives remained in Denver where Polly might board, and commutation was out of the question. But he knew, and so did his wife, that the truth of his refusal lay in the fact that he could not bear to part with his youngest child—even though she visited at home each week-end.
Mrs. Brewster sided with Polly's ambition, and planned to visit her old home in Denver to see if she could find any friends who would prove to be desirable for Polly to associate with. The matter stood thus this lovely June day when the unexpected letter arrived.
The very unusual occurrence created enough interest for Polly to take her mind from the burro, so she ran swiftly towards the house while every possible correspondent she could think of passed through her thoughts. But she was as much at sea as ever, when she danced up the log steps leading directly to the kitchen.
"Maw, Maw! Where are you—is there really a letter?"
"Yes—from Denver! But how is Noddy?" replied Mrs. Brewster, coming to the kitchen door, holding a square envelope in her hand.
"Dear little Noddy—she is all right now, Maw, but it looked mighty bad a bit of time back. I just had to pray and pray with all my might, Maw—you know how!" sighed Polly, taking the refined-looking letter from her mother without seeing it.
"I never knew how I loved that dear little bundle of fuzz and flesh till I thought she was dead! Oh, I am so glad she will live that I don't care if I ever eat again or not!"
Still holding the precious letter, Polly turned back to look at the barn where the object of her love was lapping up the gruel. Mrs. Brewster smiled indulgently at her intense young daughter, then reminded her of the unopened communication.
"Dear me! So much excitement in one day—I don't see how I can quiet down again. But who do you suppose would write to me?" queried Polly, holding the envelope at arm's length and studying the hand- writing.
"I'm not clairvoyant, Polly, so suppose you open it and see for yourself," laughed Mrs. Brewster.
"Well, I hate to spoil this nice stationery but—here it goes!" murmured Polly, severing an end of the envelope as if she was the executioner of an innocent victim.
"See who it's from, Polly, while I dish up your dinner. Of course you don't care whether you ever eat again, but I would suggest that at least you strive to ward off starvation," remarked her mother, teasingly, as she took a well-filled plate from the oven.
"Wh-h-y—of all things!" gasped Polly, as she read the letter quickly.
Mrs. Brewster stood waiting to hear more, and Polly gave another hurried glance at the signature before explaining.
"It's from Anne Stewart—the girl who used to teach at Bear Forks school that time the teacher got sick and had to leave for a few months. You know—the pretty one with the blonde hair that all the big scholars raved over?" announced Polly.
"Oh, yes! The one that you said was so happy to be in this wonderful country?"
"Yes, that's the girl! Well, guess what she writes me?" And Polly waved the written sheet above her head.
"Polly, have you been writing to her about High School?" hurriedly asked Mrs. Brewster.
"I never thought of that! Maybe we can plan it with her," returned Polly, her expression changing instantly to meet the new suggestion of her mother's.
"Well, time enough to settle that question. Now tell me what she wrote," declared Mrs. Brewster, sighing with relief.
"You'll be taken right off your feet, Maw, so you'd best sit down and listen," advised Polly, nibbling at a biscuit while she waited for her mother to be seated.
"Now, I don't want you to shake your head or say a word, until I'm all through reading, Maw. It's something terribly surprising and goodness only knows why she asked me. I was so young when she taught school that she never noticed me much."
"Yes, you were so much younger two years ago, and you are so very ancient now!" retorted Mrs. Brewster, trying to appear serious.
"You know what I mean—but this isn't reading you the letter and I know just how you'll gasp when you hear her brother—listen and I'll read it."
A MOMENTOUS LETTER
Having seen that her mother was seated and ready for the surprise, Polly read:
"Dear Miss Polly:
"As you are fast reaching the boundary-line where girlhood and womanhood meet, I feel I must address you with the prefix that dignifies this stage of your life, although I seem to know you best as the rosy-cheeked little girl whose name of 'Polly' seemed to fit her exactly.
"Perhaps your mother will be surprised that I did not write this letter to her, as most of it concerns her and her family directly. But I can best explain why I am writing to you by the following:
"My brother Paul and your brother John are chums in college, you know, and I heard quite recently that you wished to prepare for High School in Denver this fall. When a friend in Chicago wrote me to find a good home in the mountains near Denver where I can stay with and tutor his daughters during the summer, I thought of the region about Bear Forks. Having been there myself, I know how wonderful the country and climate are.
"If your mother and yourself think well of my proposition, I know I can help you a great deal, also, towards preparing you for High School, as I will have to devote a short time each day this summer in keeping Eleanor up in her studies.
"Last year Eleanor and Barbara Maynard, of Chicago, came to board with us in Denver. These girls are acquainted with Paul and John, through their brother who is a class-mate of the boys. The younger girl, Eleanor, who is your age, had been very ill and the doctor ordered her to Denver because of the wonderful air. Her sister, who is about my age, accompanied her. The father, Mr. Maynard, engaged me to tutor Eleanor, or Nolla we call her, during her stay in Denver, as she was backward in lessons.
"We three became very good friends and when the girls went back to Chicago, I missed their companionship very much. I had a letter from the father last week, asking me to find a mountain resort for this summer where he could send the girls, as Nolla needs the invigorating air and simple life of the Rockies. She is organically sound but not strong enough to stand city air and life.
"Mr. Maynard has been through the Bear Forks country and when I wrote suggesting a ranch there, he immediately wired me to settle the matter at once. To-day I had a letter from the mother who cannot go with her daughters for the summer, so she asked me to go with them, more as a friend and adviser than as a tutor. My expenses will be paid, and my salary for tutoring Nolla will be a blessing to help Paul through his third year's term of the college course.
"I know your brother is away with Tom Latimer on some practice work with a survey crew, so his room is vacant this summer. Then too, I was told by John that you had a small spare room back of the kitchen, so that three girls could have comfortable quarters. If, by any chance, your mother would consent to take us in for the summer, I could help you with your preparatory lessons for High School next term, at the same time that I coach Nolla. And I will agree for myself and the two girls that we will not expect any other than your usual home-life.
"This unexpected request may meet with disapproval and refusal by your family, but do not let one of the causes be on the grounds of the extra work we might create, because we do not want any fussing, whatever, but we do want to be treated as members of the family—to do our share of anything that needs to be done.
"Mr. Maynard wishes his girls to live in the outdoors as much as possible, so we will not be in your mother's way. I certainly hope your father and mother will allow us to come, and I can promise you that you will enjoy these girls very much. The terms are of no consequence, Mr. Maynard said, as he is ready to pay anything to give Nolla a quiet home and the life she needs.
"I trust you can persuade your mother to try us, at any rate, and so, hoping for a favorable reply to this letter,
"I am your sincere friend, ANNE STEWART."
While Polly read the letter aloud, her mother thought rapidly. She had the picture of a charming girl who had often met John Brewster at social gatherings during the term she taught the children at Bear Forks. Now her brother Paul was one of John's chums at college. Perhaps this girl had visited at Chicago, and perhaps John had visited her home at Denver—but he had never said a word about it. It was very evident that this girl had an intimate acquaintance with the home-life at Pebbly Pit, and this knowledge must have reached her through John. Hence John and she must be very well acquainted. John would doubtless marry some day, but his mother did not care to see him entangled before he had launched his bark on the waters of his ambition. If he was touched by one of Cupid's darts to fancy himself in love with his chum's pretty sister, it was good judgment for his mother to know all there was to be known about the girl. Not that the letter confessed this state of affairs, but the mother feared that such must be the case—for who could resist loving her handsome, clever boy?
"Maw! I _said—Anne Stewart is perfectly lovely!"
"Oh, yes, Polly! So I believe," replied Mrs. Brewster, in an absent- minded manner.
"Well! If you'd let them come here I would love it!"
"You can't judge beforehand, Polly. Having three city strangers come suddenly to live at a ranch where city manners are unknown, will turn things upside-down, you know."
"But you see, Maw, the teacher offers to help me with lessons so I can pass for High School in the fall," Polly reminded her mother.
"I can do as much for you, dear, without the care of strangers," remonstrated Mrs. Brewster, who would not commit herself until she had had time to weigh all things carefully.
"Then I s'pose you intend refusing this request!" pouted the disappointed girl.
"I wish to think over the situation most wisely before we reply to the letter. Now finish your dinner and do the dishes. I am going to take my mending to the side porch."
Polly did as she was told but her imagination strayed to Denver and Chicago, as she tried to picture Barbara and Eleanor Maynard with Anne Stewart, visiting Pebbly Pit that summer. Meantime, Mrs. Brewster considered the pros and cons of the problem. If this Anne Stewart proved to be the sort of wife John needed, it would be advisable to have her know her future family-in-law. If she was not desirable, it would be discovered during the weeks she lived under the same roof with John's mother. But should it transpire that there was no cause for worry about John and this young teacher, she would still prove to be a good friend for Polly to know in case the child attended school in Denver the following term. Mrs. Brewster had almost decided to speak favorably to Polly of the plan, when the girl joined her on the porch.
"Do you suppose Daddy will mind having so many young folks about the place—that is, if you will let them come?"
"I'm sure your Paw will be happy to give you pleasure, and you know how glad he is to have young people visiting here, rather than having you leave home to visit others," remarked Mrs. Brewster, slowly drawing the yarn through a hole in a sock.
"While I washed the dishes, I wondered if he would say anything to you about the extra work, the three girls will make?" said Polly, trying to "feel" her mother out.
"That will be his main objection, I think. He had planned for me to visit my old friends in Denver, this summer, but this new departure will make it impossible for me to be away from here."
"Oh, Maw, if you want to go away, don't let these girls spoil your plans!" cried Polly, contritely.
"I really had not thought of my own pleasure in visiting old friends at Denver, Polly, but I had planned to see about your residence this winter should you attend school there. I want you to board with a family that can offer you the proper atmosphere. If this young teacher proves to be nice, she will know all I needed to find out about the school and a boarding house, and I will not have to leave my beloved home at all."
"Well, then, it all depends on what Daddy will say!" cried Polly, joyously. "I do wish he'd hurry in."
"He must have known your wishes, Polly; I see him coming towards the house," laughed Mrs. Brewster.
Polly leaned over the hand-rail of the porch to watch her father coming nearer and nearer. Then, when she thought he was in hailing distance, she shouted:
"Daddy! Do hurry and hear the news—came in my letter!" And the missive was waved back and forth to urge the rancher to greater speed.
Mr. Brewster reached the porch and whipped off his wide sombrero to mop his warm forehead. "Well, Maw, did Poll tell you about Noddy? Ah tell you! Our Polly is some doctor, all right!"
As the rancher chuckled over his words, Polly felt she had been guilty of neglect, for she had quite forgotten to ask how Noddy was. Mrs. Brewster smiled as she continued her darning.
"Who's with Noddy now—did you give Jeb careful instructions, Paw?" anxiously queried Polly.
"Noddy's sleeping as peacefully as a babe, so you-all needn't worry any more. Now tell me all about the wonderful letter."
"Sam, do you remember that golden-haired young lady from Denver, who took Miss Shalp's place at Bear Forks school for a few months?" quickly asked Mrs. Brewster.
The note of anxiety in the query was not overlooked by the rancher, but he answered indifferently—to all appearances:
"Shore thing, wife. Could any one forget such a nice girl in a hurry?"
"Well, Sam, the letter's from her—Anne Stewart is her name."
"Don't tell him what! Let me read it, Maw!" cried Polly.
So the letter was read again and the moment it was concluded Polly and Mrs. Brewster looked fearfully at Mr. Brewster, for they both expected violent objections from him.
But the rancher stood boring a hole with the toe of his boot down through the soft grass sod, while he seemed to study the cobbler's handiwork. After a few moments of tense silence, he looked up and laughed heartily.
"Who'd have thought it, Mary? You, young looking enough to pass for a blushing bride but having a son old enough to think of a sweet-heart. And little Poll here, trying to bamboozle us to let her go away to school. Ah, well!"
Polly gazed from father to mother and back again. "What has John got to do with this letter? Gracious, he isn't thinking of a wife, I hope!"
Her parents laughed at her perplexity, and Mr. Brewster explained satisfactorily to her question:
"I was thinking of the four pretty girls we'd have at the ranch all summer, if John comes home to choose one of them."
"Oh, Daddy! Then you'll have them come?" cried Polly, at the same time jumping at her father to throw her arms about his neck.
"On one condition—yes. That is: a gal to do the chores for Maw, so she can look after such a handful of trouble as three new ready-made daughters will make for her."
"A hired girl! Why, Sam, how you talk. What could I ever do with help in such a small house? Besides, Anne Stewart says they will help with the work," objected Mrs. Brewster.
"That's my only condition! You're not going to slave for a lot of city girls if I know it. Why, they won't know how to hold a kitchen knife, let alone cook for the family," replied Mr. Brewster.
"I'll agree at once, Sam, because I know there isn't a girl or woman to hire within fifty miles of Oak Creek," laughed Mrs. Brewster.
"Then Polly can answer the letter as she likes, and I will hunt up a gal. You said it: you'd agree to hire help if one can be found!" quickly came from the rancher.
"Sam, you took this occasion to have your own about hired help," laughed his wife, shaking her head deprecatingly.
"You never would listen before, but now you've got to!" said Mr. Brewster, triumphantly.
"Polly, you can run in and answer that letter as soon as you like," hinted Mrs. Brewster, and the girl eagerly obeyed.
While she wrote the answer over and over till it met with her approval, her parents exchanged confidences regarding John and this young teacher, but Polly never dreamed of such fears.
The letter that left Pebbly Pit the following day was the first thread woven in the warp and woof of two young lives—Eleanor Maynard in Chicago and Polly Brewster in the Rockies. Had the reply been other than it was, would these two girls have met and experienced the interesting schooldays, college years, and business careers that they enjoyed through becoming acquainted that summer at Pebbly Pit?
PREPARING FOR THE UNKNOWN
The letter sent from Pebbly Pit to Anne Stewart was forwarded by the latter to the Maynard girls in Chicago. It was eagerly read aloud to Mrs. Maynard by Barbara. Reaching the paragraph in the letter where Mrs. Brewster asked Anne Stewart if she thought five dollars a week for the board of each would be asking too much, Barbara dropped the sheet of paper and gasped. An expression of incredulity appeared on the faces of the mother and daughter, while Eleanor laughed outright.
"Just fancy! Five dollars a week!" she cried, throwing herself back on the cushions of the divan.
"It must be a mistake! I trust it isn't meant for fifty a week! That is about the price a good hotel would charge, but I had hoped this place would be more reasonable. However, I am quite sure that figure five is a mistake; no one can possibly give meals at that rate, no matter how meager the fare may be!" declared Mrs. Maynard.
"The writing is plain enough and so is the figure '5,' mother," returned Barbara, referring again to the letter, then handing it to her mother.
Mrs. Maynard adjusted her lorgnette and studied the figure given. "It does seem to be five, without a doubt!" admitted she.
"Oh, well! it really doesn't matter much what the price is just as long as we have a good time this summer!" exclaimed Eleanor.
"But, Nolla, dear, it does matter! Your father is dreadfully upset about our plans. He says my Newport season will cost far more than I fancied it would, and you two girls going to a mountain resort like this is an extra cost. He will have to be away all summer on important business connected with the bank, and that will cost extra money. Altogether, he feels anything but indifferent," sighed Mrs. Maynard, handing the letter back to Barbara.
"Well, we are not responsible for father's worries over the bank's loans, but we are concerned about the style and quality of meals to be served at this Brewster place for five dollars a week," scorned Barbara.
"I don't believe Anne Stewart would take us to a place where anything was horrid and cheap! She knows what's good as well as we do!" defended Eleanor, who was eager to go to this mountain ranch.
"Nolla is quite right, Bob. Anne is too particular to engage board in an undesirable house or hotel!" added Mrs. Maynard.
"Besides, these Brewsters have a farm, you know, and I suppose they raise lots of things that we have to pay such awful prices for—eggs, chickens, butter and vegetables," added Eleanor.
Mrs. Maynard and Barbara looked with admiration at the young girl, for that was an idea they had not thought of!
"Of course, that's why they can board us so reasonably! Then, too, I suppose they do their own marketing for other items of food, such as delicacies and supplies from the baker's! It does make a difference in the accounts, you see, when one markets!" ventured Barbara, glancing at her mother who never bothered about anything connected with the housekeeping—leaving it all for the servants to do.
"Now, Bob, don't criticize your mother's methods. I can't drudge about the house and take charge of the Social Clubs and Welfare Work as well," complained Mrs. Maynard.
"Of course not, Bob! Besides, mother never did know a good cut of beef from a poor one—they never taught domestic science in her day, you see," hurriedly interpolated Eleanor, hoping to waive a scene such as was a common occurrence between Barbara and her mother.
"Nolla, are you sarcastic about my education?" queried Mrs. Maynard, with dignity.
"Mercy, no! I only tried to show Bob the difference in present day methods and the past."
Mr. Maynard entered the room during Eleanor's reply, and smiled as he heard his youngest daughter's frank words. It was a keen pleasure to him to have one child fearless in thought and word. His son and elder daughter had been spoiled by fawning tutors and companions, so they had acquired the habit of white-washing facts to suit the needs. Eleanor had been too delicate to attend any expensive and fashionable seminary and, being taught by Anne Stewart while in Denver, had acquired many of Anne's splendid ways.
"Frederick, what do you know about this mountain resort you asked Anne Stewart to write about?" asked Mrs. Maynard.
"Well, now that we are all together and have the time to talk this matter out, I will say my say," replied Mr. Maynard, seating himself and drawing Eleanor down beside him upon the divan.
"You remember the first year we were married—I had to visit Bear Forks to investigate a loan one of our clients at the bank asked us to make on a tract of timber-land? You wouldn't go with me when you heard we would have to camp out at night and ride horses over rough mountain- trails. That is the season you visited your school-friend in the East."
Mr. Maynard looked at his wife as he spoke and she nodded her head as if the memory was not pleasant to recall. Her husband smiled an enigmatical smile and continued his description.
"That is when I met Sam Brewster and his wife—they had been married about as long as we had, and their happy ranch-life struck me as being the most desirable existence I ever heard of."
Mrs. Maynard's lips curled in silent derision. She understood her husband's yearning for a simple life in place of the frivolous and empty excitement of the social career she had made for herself and family.
"The country about the sections I visited is beautiful and healthy, and as Nolla is ordered to a quiet, mountainous region for a time, I know of no place so suitable. Besides, Anne Stewart has been there, too, and she is wild over the place."
"But you are so old-fashioned in your ideas of living and pleasures, father, and I want to know if this place will suit me. Are the Brewsters members of the best set there, or will I be left absolutely unaided to find a way to meet young people such as we would like to know?" asked Barbara, anxiously.
"The Brewsters are by far the wealthiest family in that whole section of country, and I have heard that the ranch and house are the finest in the state. You met young John Brewster at the College Prom and you can tell what you think of him."
"Ye-es, young Brewster is all right. Every one seemed to think he is exceptionally nice," remarked Barbara.
Mrs. Maynard sighed with relief as she felt that a weight had been lifted from her mind. She was anxious to have her two daughters climb the social ladder to a higher plane than she had been able to reach, so she knew they must be careful to associate with only those who had already arrived there through forbears or ambition.
"Then we can wire Anne at once to complete arrangements, Frederick?" ventured the lady, watching her husband's expression.
"I'll attend to that but when can you be ready to go?" asked Mr. Maynard, glancing from one to the other of the trio.
"The same day you start, Daddy!" declared Eleanor, giving her father a hug.
"Why, we simply can't, Nolla! Father leaves Chicago next week and we have so much to prepare before going to a place where we are apt to meet the very elite of society," cried Barbara.
"It will take fully two weeks to go through the girls' wardrobe, Frederick, and see that everything is the last word," added Mrs. Maynard, explanatory of her eldest daughter's dismay.
"Well, fix things up any way you say, but I'm off for the bank when you begin talking dress," laughed Mr. Maynard.
"Now, Frederick, don't leave us like this! You know we will need money to fit out the girls, and then you must have some idea of when Anne can expect them in Denver," hurriedly said Mrs. Maynard as her husband crossed the room to leave.
"Daddy, I don't want another thing to wear; I've got so many things now that it makes me tired to keep changing to suit the thousand and one occasions," declared Eleanor, running after her father to kiss him good-by.
"Nolla! I declare you will never grow up! Pray walk like a lady when you cross a room, won't you?" complained Barbara.
Eleanor smiled up at her father and he pinched her thin cheek as he stooped to kiss her. Then, he waved his hand at the others and left the room. Once outside the door and safely out of hearing he chuckled to himself.
"Bob pictures a gay resort with troops of male admirers to play tennis and dance away the hours with. She is thinking of dress to captivate her 'moths,' but Nolla is thinking of the rural pleasures she has heard me describe to her. If Bob knew the truth, she'd never go, and poor little Nolla would lose the most wonderful opportunity of her young life. I'd best not prejudice Bob or mother, but just pay the bills for finery and whims and bide my time."
Soon after arriving at his bank-office he sent a message to Anne Stewart at Denver, advising her to engage the rooms at the Brewster home. As an afterthought, he added that he was anxious to have Eleanor get away about the time he left home for his trip.
That afternoon he carried home the reply from Anne Stewart: "Have engaged rooms and board from next week on. Wire when to expect you at Denver. Anne."
Mrs. Maynard had heard from her friends that day that their plans were changed and now they expected to leave Chicago sooner than she had thought. This made her agree quickly to having her daughters start the following week.
"But, mother, it can't be done. I need a riding habit, and tennis clothes, and a few new afternoon gowns and evening dresses!" remonstrated Barbara.
"You had a new habit last fall, Bob," Eleanor said.
"But it has a long coat and full bloomers. No one is wearing that style, now. Everything is mannish coats and tight knickerbockers," argued Barbara.
"I will call up the tailor at once, girls, and have him give us the preference over other work," Mrs. Maynard replied.
"Not for me! I don't like the tight habits. I shall take my bloomer one," replied Eleanor, decidedly.
"Dear me, Nolla! You don't seem to care a fig about your appearance. What will become of you when it is time for you to make your debut?" sighed Mrs. Maynard, despondently.
"I'm not going to do anything so silly—I'm going into business when I grow up!"
Mother and sister could hardly gasp the words as they turned shocked eyes in the direction of Mr. Maynard who had been writing out checks for his family. He leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily at the independence of his youngest child.
"Frederick! Now you see what comes of your petting Nolla whenever she says or does anything dreadful!" exclaimed Mrs. Maynard.
"Is business so dreadful, then? Anne Stewart seems all right, and she is earning her living," ventured Eleanor.
"I wash my hands of you, after this, Eleanor! If you do anything so unheard of as you threaten, no one will keep up with you," declared Barbara, sternly.
"They'll have to travel mighty fast to keep up with me, Bob, once I am of age and start in business," laughed Eleanor.
"That will do, young lady! Remember you are only fourteen, and business is a long time off for you!" Mrs. Maynard remarked.
Then Eleanor hung over the back of her father's chair twisting the iron-gray hair into ridiculous points while her mother and Barbara forgot her presence and planned many fetching gowns for the summer campaign. Both were fair examples of modern society and its aims, and they sacrificed many worth-while plans and pleasures upon the altar of their fickle goddess. So it followed that the fashionable tailors, the modiste and the lingerie-maker stitched and fitted and clipped, on beautiful materials and trimmings, until everything was ready for Barbara's summer victory. Eleanor steadfastly refused to be annoyed by having new clothes made, so her trunk was packed with the wardrobe she already had on hand.
"Of course, Nolla's appearance is not of as much consequence as yours, Bob, as she still is so young and delicate. It is different with you, however, and I'm so glad you are sensible to appreciate what a difference clothes make," said Mrs. Maynard, resignedly, as the seven trunks were packed and waiting for the expressman.
"I'm glad your fussing is over at last. If you had much more to sew and fit we never would get away!" grumbled Eleanor, watching the man stagger as he carried the heavy trunks downstairs.
"Well, I'll soon be reaping the benefit of my patience and you'll be sorry you were so indifferent over your looks," retorted Barbara, turning away from the window once her five trunks were safely on the express wagon.
"Girls, you're sure everything that Celeste wrote down on the list is packed? Your complexion cream in case of freckles or tan—and the shampoo mixture for the hair-dresser to use? Tell him I never allow you to use ready-made preparations on your hair."
"Yes, mother, all the toilet articles are in the small trunk, and the few extra things were packed in Eleanor's trunk because she had a corner with nothing to fill in it," explained Barbara.
"Thank goodness we can eat dinner and go to bed to-night without being served styles and fits!" sighed Eleanor, not meaning to be irreverent at her mother's gospel.
Anne Stewart had not mentioned the need of mountain-shoes and good plain clothing in her letters to the Maynards, because Mr. Maynard particularly requested her to delete such items. Anne was bright at reading minds and smiled as she surmised the reason for the restriction. She knew Eleanor would glory in old clothes and a good time, but would Barbara be so willing to visit Pebbly Pit farm if she knew the truth about the environment?
Anne's single steamer trunk was filled with sensible clothes and the toilet articles she knew she would need for the summer. Then she wired the Maynards to say all was waiting to hear from them. And Barbara wired back that they would meet her at the Denver Terminal Station at the day and time agreed upon.
Meantime, great preparations were under way at Pebbly Pit. John's room had to be cleaned and rearranged for the young ladies. While Polly and her mother planned the work, Mr. Brewster made a thorough search of the countryside in hopes of finding a suitable maid-servant for his wife and Polly.
Most ranchers need their daughters at home, and as there are no really poor or poverty-stricken families in those farming sections, the task of finding a servant was not an easy one. And Mr. Brewster realized what it meant, when he read in the papers how difficult a problem it was becoming—this servant-girl question!
At last, as he was about to despair of ever finding any one, he stopped in at the Oak Creek Post Office to see if there was any mail. Here he met a rancher-friend from the Yellow Jacket Pass region.
"How-thar, Sam!" called Jim Sattler, heartily.
"How-do yourself, Jim!" returned Mr. Brewster, catching hold of Jim's hardened hand and shaking it back and forth.
"You-all air a sight for sore eyes, Sam! Hain't seen hide nor hair of any one of you for nigh onto a year! Be'n keepin' pritty busy, Sam?" said Jim, in a voice that rolled forth like deep thunder.
"Mighty busy, Jim! John's away to college, you know, and now my leetle chick thinks she can scratch for herself, too. She's bound to go to school, in Denver, this coming fall."
"Sam, nuthin' like it, these days! A man or woman has to have ddication to rassle with livin'! Let her go to it, says Ah! It won't be long afore my boys'll be goin' away, too!"
"That's what brings me here to-day. Ah have been hunting for some kind of a gal to help the missus this summer and to have her broken in by the time Polly leaves home," explained Sam Brewster.
"Not yet! It seems they're as scarce as hen's teeth. Ah never dreamed it would be such a job to hunt one up, or Ah doubt if Ah'd have consented to have those girls come and summer with us."
"See har, Sam! Ah bet Ah knows just the woman for you-all, ef you-all ain't lookin' for a young gal with a figger like a wisp of hay."
"Polly's wisp enough for one ranch! So Ah'm not looking for style but stock. Do you-all know one, Jim?"
"Ah do that! Sary Dodd's her name. You know Bill Dodd, don't yuh—he never 'mounted to much as a rancher."
"Seems to me Ah do! The name's familiar, anyway. Did he come from Yellow Jacket Pass way?" asked Mr. Brewster, scratching his neck, thoughtfully.
"The same! Wall, he died an' left Sary with nothing but funeral costs. She had to sell that measly ranch that Bill held a quarter interest in to pay bills, and now she hain't got nawthin' but her health. Better see Sary, Sam."
It was the dawn of hope for Mr. Brewster. Since starting on his self- appointed search, he had been growing more and more despondent of success. Now he urged his horse towards Yellow Jacket Pass to find Sary Dodd.
After seeking at various ranches for the elusive Sary, he located her. But she was not elusive looking. She was six feet in height and would tip the scales easily at two hundred pounds.
"Are you widow Dodd? Jim Sattler sent me to see if you-all would like a place to live out? We-all have company for the summer and my wife needs help," explained Sam Brewster.
Sary beamed and exchanged polite introductions. "You-all tuk me clar off my feet, Mr. Brewster. Yes, Ah did think some of goin' in a reel good fam'ly to wuk, but nawthin' come up fer me, so Ah'm visitin' the neighbors. Do you-all want me immijit?"
The rancher saw that Sary was over-anxious to accept his offer of a place, but he was not the man to take advantage of her in financial matters. So he replied:
"Ah s'pose we ought to fix the wage, but Mrs. Brewster wants some one at once, and you-all can settle salary when you-all get there."
"Ah've heerd tell what a square man you-all was, Mr. Brewster, an' now Ah knows it!" Suspicious moisture filled Sary's eyes as she spoke.
"Ah've won a way by being honest in all my dealings, for it pays in the end. But tell me—can you come along?"
"Ef you-all kin wait, Ah'll tie up my bundle in a minit!" agreed Sary, anxiously.
"All right! But don't waste any time packing your ball-gowns, Sary," laughed Mr. Brewster, facetiously, as the load of trouble rolled from his heart. Sary was soon perched beside the rancher on the high spring seat of the lumbering ranch-wagon, tenderly holding a half-dead rubber plant. On that drive, her host heard more of every family history of the ranchers for miles around than he had ever dreamed of knowing even if he lived to be a hundred.
Sary Dodd arrived at the ranch-house the day before the visitors were expected. Mrs. Brewster and Polly were in the midst of a light house- cleaning as the strangers must not find a speck of dust anywhere!
"Maw, here's Sary Dodd! Ah got her to help!" shouted Sam Brewster, pulling up his horse by the side of the porch.
"Sary Dodd! Oh, Sary, I'm right glad to see you! Come in, won't you?" greeted Mrs. Brewster, coming to the door.
"Just in time, Mrs. Dodd, to help me shove this press in to the spare room," added Polly, arresting her work to smile at the new-comer.
"Give Sary time to lay off her bonnet, child!" reproved Mrs. Brewster, pulling out a rocker for the widow.
"Laws me! What'cher doin'—a-cleanin' house agin!" cried Sary, leaning against the door-frame panting for breath.
"Winded, Sary? Ah told you-all Ah'd carry that heavy box from the wagon. But no!" exclaimed Mr. Brewster.
Polly was over by the door by this time, and she stooped to carry the box indoors.
"Goodness! What's in the box to make it so heavy?"
"Chil', that box hol's all my treasures on arth! Some few things Bill lef me, our fam'iy album, an' my gran'mother's pieces of reel silver— four plated! And mos' of all, the Brittania cake basket Bill gave me on our annerversary!" explained Sary, pathetically, as she dabbed a black cotton glove at her dewy eyes.
"Sam, take the team to the barn and leave Sary with us. We'll soon have her feeling at home," said Mrs. Brewster, seeing a frown coming over her lord and master's face, as he wondered if his home-life was to be shadowed by a sorrowing widow!
The moment Mr. Brewster left for the barn, his wife returned to the "help," who had plumped herself down into the wooden Boston rocker and was fanning herself vigorously with a newspaper.
"Let me remove your bonnet, Sary," offered Mrs. Brewster kindly, taking the twisted black strings to undo the knot that was tightly tied under a heavy double chin.
"Ah declar t' goodness, Miss Brewster, ef you-all hain't too good! Ah'll jest set t' git my second wind, an' then Ah'll tek right hol' of things!" gasped Sary.
"Don't hurry yourself. Just cool off and then you'll feel better after such a long ride. Shall I send Polly to the spring-house for some cold milk?" asked the lady of the house, folding the flimsy crepe token of Sary's state of widowhood.
"G'wan now, Miss Brewster—I'm no infant!" scoffed Sary. "Don' cher know a fat bein' mustn't tech milk 'cause it's more fattenin'?"
The hostess refrained from giving her opinion, but she busied herself with unpinning the rusty black plush cape that the widow had donned when she began her journey to new surroundings. Being quite rested by this time, Sary gripped a hold on each arm of the rocker and managed to hoist her bulky form out from the too close embrace of the senseless wooden arms.
"Now ef Polly er you-all 'll show me what to bunk, Ah ricken Ah'll change my Sunday-best an' pitch inter work," said the willing help.
"Polly, you drag the box in while I show Sary her room," called Mrs. Brewster, coming to the door that opened from the living-room directly into John's chamber—now to be a guest room.
THE "SERVANT PROBLEM" SOLVED
In the wild mountain regions of the Rockies, where maids are unheard of, and the "hotels" provide the most primitive service, the house- wives have little concern over the perplexing question of "help" as experienced in large cities.
If it is necessary to assist a neighbor who is marrying off a daughter and wants to provide her with a trousseau, a sewing-bee is arranged and ranchers' families for miles around drive in and visit. Quilts, sheets, and other necessities are quickly stitched and neatly folded out of the way by the women, while the men occupy themselves with work about the place until it is time for the grand dinner.
The same neighborly help is offered in other emergencies, so that few families want servants. At the same time, help has not been looked down upon as menial work by the ranchers, and so the "help" lives as a member of the family that happens to secure one.
In cases such as Sary Dodd's, where a woman is left penniless and another woman needs her practical aid, the two meet half-way and the kitchen atmosphere is serene. Quite different is the case in cities, however.
Sary felt she was the social equal to any rancher's wife, for had she not been mistress of a ranch, too—even though it was never paid for. So she felt she was doing the Brewsters a favor by sharing their home and work, even while she admitted the obligation she was under of being provided with bed and board.
The tiny room allotted to the widow was directly back of the kitchen L. It had a single window that gave a fine view of Rainbow Cliffs, but the furniture was of the plainest. Sary took in the simplicity in one glance and then turned to her mistress.
"Ah've hear'n tell how Sam Brewster kin buy er sell th' hull township, ef he likes, Miss Brewster," ventured Sary, slyly.
But the mistress had heard of Sary's proneness to gossip and so replied: "We don't consider wealth worth anything unless you know what to do with it. We live as comfortably as we like, and try to use what is left in helping others."
Sary made no reply to this statement, but watched Mrs. Brewster go to the window and pull on the cord that was stretched at one side of the window-frame. Instantly, the decorated window-shade pulleyed up to allow more light to shine into the room.
"Now Ah see how that wu'ks!" cried Sary, delightedly.
Mrs. Brewster turned with a questioning look in her eyes.
Sary explained. "Cal Lorrimer tol' me like-es-how them winder shades wu'ked but Ah jest coulden' see it."
Mrs. Brewster laughed and Sary ventured to pulley the shade herself. She drew it up and down several times and then turned to express her sentiments to her mistress.
"My, but yuh're ferchunit t' have all seeh new-fangled idees in the house! It clean locoes me t' think Ah'm livin' wid sech fine contraptions." And Sary pressed her large freckled, hands over her sparse red hair to signify how "locoed" her brain really was.
Mrs. Brewster laughed merrily. "Why, Sary, since I left Denver, my friends all have shades in the windows that run up and down on springs without any other help. They go by themselves."
"Now, Miss Brewster! Do you believe that fairy-tale?" quizzed Sary, looking keenly at her mistress to see if she was trying to laugh at her ignorance of city-life.
"It is a fact, Sary—not a fairy-tale. My friend has them all through her house, and I expect to replace these pulleys with spring rollers, some day."
Sary passed her hand over the lustra design on the shade and Mrs. Brewster turned to leave the room. Before she closed the door, she said: "I'm going to start dinner, Sary. When you are ready you can join me in the kitchen."
The moment the mistress was gone, Sary ran to make sure the door was securely closed. Then she turned to inspect the belongings of the room. "Huh! the press ain't so much—plain deal painted brown."
The press was passed by the scornful occupant of the room, and the bed next came under her appraising eye.
"Th' bed's soft wood, too, but it feels comfertible."
Sary sat on the bed and bounced up and down to test the springs and mattress before she pulled back the covers to examine the quality of filling in the ticking.
"Laws! It hain't corn-husks, a-tall! It's soft as down!"
Inborn curiosity compelled her to take a hairpin and rip open a bit of the seam. To her amazement she pulled out a tangle of long whitish hair.
"Of all things! And this is what I hev to sleep on!" ejaculated the insulted maid. "Wall, we'll see about that!"
The sheets and newly patched quilt were designated as "ornery" but the printed spread, patterned to imitate blue torchon lace, drew a murmur of admiration from the woman. Sary quickly changed her robe of mourning to a calico house-dress and went out, determined to speak her mind about that awful mattress! She never thought such a rich man's house would have so common a thing as "combin's"—even if it was in the "help's" tick!
But the wonderful odor of boiling cabbage made her forget her complaint for the time being. She went to the stove and lifted a lid from the large kettle. She sniffed audibly.
"Um! Ah loves cabbige soup, Miss Brewster!"
"Do you, Sary—so does Mr. Brewster. If you will watch the meat frying, I will blow the horn to call the men to dinner."
Mrs. Brewster waited until Sary began thickening the gravy, then she took the horn and stood upon the door-step, blowing it several times. It was then hung back of the kitchen door again.
"Polly! Come now, dear, and wash up for dinner," called Mrs. Brewster, standing in the doorway that led to the family living-room.
Presently, the family, augmented by Sary, sat down in the kitchen for dinner. Jeb, the hired man, had followed in after his master, and had been introduced to the new help; he now watched her capable hands and arms as she swung the soup-kettle from the stove.
"Just a moment, Sary!" whispered Mrs. Brewster, warningly.
Sary looked around in surprise and saw the others with bowed heads, waiting for her to get rid of the pot and fold her hands. It took her but half a second to understand and follow the leading.
The ranchers of the Rocky Mountains and plains are most orthodox church folk. They would as soon steal or murder as to miss "meetin'," or work on a Sunday. And most of them have regular family prayers and long services at home whenever opportunity offers.
Sam Brewster was not one of the latter kind but the longer the grace he said, the better a man he thought he was. In every other way, so liberal and kind, it was not consistent for him to act so narrow-minded regarding religion.
Once the grace was said, the host unfolded his napkin and looked to Sary for the soup. The soup-pot had been taken up the second time and was about to be placed in the middle of the table where every one could serve themselves as they wished, but Mrs. Brewster gave her a look and sign that was incomprehensible. She was confused for once in her life.
"I'll serve the soup this noon, Sary, and you can pass the plates," remarked Mrs. Brewster, seeing her maid did not understand.
And now Sary beheld a new order of things! Soup that was dipped into plates and passed until each member at table had a dish before him. Large white napkins that were not tied about the neck but spread over the lap! How funny it seemed that the small red-flowered squares Sary had been accustomed to when company came were nowhere in evidence.
As the meal progressed, Sary's wonderment increased; she failed to hear familiar sounds of eating, nor saw the usual form of plying knife and fork together.
Immediately after dinner, Polly led her mother to John's room. "Maw, I'm going to use those new shades I bought for your Christmas gift, and put them at the windows of the girls' room."
"Oh, Polly, don't you think plain white ones will look nicer?" quickly replied Mrs. Brewster, as she beheld the pea-green Holland decorated with monster bronze roses and huge butterflies.
Polly felt disconcerted for the moment as she realized that her mother's tone implied disapproval of the change. But she would not admit that possibly the white would improve the bed-room.
"Why, Maw, you know how much I paid for those shades last Christmas. The man in Oak Creek said they were the grandest ones in Denver!"
"Maybe he thought so, Polly, but we must remember that his taste in art has lacked cultivation. Now I prefer pure white shades, or curtains, for a bed-room window," said wise Mrs. Brewster, leaving her daughter to wonder whether she liked pure white for the living-room, also.
But Polly had enough human will and stubbornness in her make-up to resist the suggestion offered by her experienced mother. "Well, I'll tell you what we'll do, Maw: I'll just put these lovely shades up till after the girls see them, then we'll change to white. I think it will be best to keep these new and clean for the front room, but I want the city girls to know we've got such expensive things in the house."
"Polly dear, that is foolish. I have always tried to teach you otherwise. What matters it, whether you display gorgeous 'feathers' if the thing be false? Simplicity and wisdom are the rarest adornments of a home."
"There you go again, Maw, lecturing me with your wise old saws," laughed Polly, jumping upon the chair to fit the shades in place.
Mrs. Brewster smiled but said nothing. She knew how soon her child would learn good from bad, once she came in contact with strangers. And so well had the mother grounded her daughter that she had no qualms about the result of any contacts.
Mrs. Brewster watched while Polly finished the placing of the dreadful shades, then she looked about at the colored prints tacked upon every available spot of rough plaster-walls. Her brow puckered at the conglomeration of subjects and sizes of the chromos, but she knew how carefully Polly had saved every one of them that had arrived with tea or soap, so she passed no audible judgment.
"Oh, Maw! I have another great idea!" cried Polly, jumping from the chair and clapping her hands.
"Let's move Daddy's sofa into the bedroom and place it at the foot of the bed, just like the pictures in the Farm Journal show us! Then we won't have to have the single bed brought in from the barn—Anne can sleep on the bed-lounge."
"I really think Anne Stewart will prefer a bed, Polly, even if it is small," gasped Mrs. Brewster hastily.
"Then we'll change later. It won't take a minute to move the sofa in and it will look so citified to the girls who most likely have divans or sofas in their bedrooms at home."
"I think they will like the difference—not having their country bedroom look like the city one. A complete change always is better than a similar environment, especially if the city rooms are more artistically furnished than the result of our efforts."
"Now, Maw, don't you want me to surprise them with the sofa John gave Paw and you, long ago? I'm sure they won't hurt it," coaxed Polly.
"Oh, I'm not thinking of any damage. I was wondering how Anne would like to sleep on a folding sofa instead of in a bed."
"She won't mind; and she'll be glad to see her friends impressed by the bedroom furniture," quickly explained Polly.
"Well, then, call Sary to help you shove it in, while I go and find those braided mats we made last winter," said Mrs. Brewster in a tone of resignation.
Polly needed no second consent, but ran out to call Sary. The sofa was soon wheeled from the chimney-nook into the bedroom which adjoined the living-room at the back. Once it was placed at the foot of the heavy walnut bed, Polly whipped off the cretonne covering that always hid the hideous plush-carpet upholstery.
As the slip-cover came off and revealed the red and green and purple design, Polly glanced at Sary to see the effect made.
"Oh, laws! Ah never see'd sech a sofy! Ain't it grand?" breathed Sary, lost in admiration.
"Sary, it opens, too!" announced Polly, condescendingly pulling at the strap that moved the spring to turn the half into a low bed.
"Well, suhs! What next? Yoh Paw must be a milyonaire, shore!"
"No, Sary; John saved his money for selling chickens and a calf, and got this for Paw and Maw, when he went to high school in Denver. Oh, we had an awful time carting it from Oak Creek to Pebbly Pit through all the snow and weather!" explained Polly.
Mrs. Brewster laughed at the remembrance but told Polly that she hoped she would keep the cover on the sofa.
"You don't mean me to cover up the velvet, do you?" asked Polly, aghast at the suggestion.
"Perhaps Anne will sleep better if the flowers are out of sight," remarked Mrs. Brewster, softly, but with amused sarcasm.
"You-all mought better do that, Miss Pollee, cuz them colors will git sun-streaked in this bright light," added Sary.
"I am not worrying about the fade, Sary, but over the fact that the young teacher and her friends will think we prefer such crude articles of furniture, instead of tolerating them just because my dear children denied themselves to give us pleasure. It is their motive and delight that we all felt in the gifts, more than the objects which showed immature judgment," explained Mrs. Brewster, slowly and thoughtfully.
Polly was silenced and she suddenly realized how far she must climb before she knew as much as her mother—even though she studied "Art Notes" in the monthly magazines that reached the ranch.
"I wonder if the harsh color Maw speaks of is the real cause of that cretonne cover always being over the sofa?" wondered the girl to herself. But she said nothing and the sofa was left at the foot of the great bed.
Mrs. Brewster knew she had said much, so she left the room and beckoned Sary to follow her to the kitchen. Polly silently proceeded with the finishing touches to the room.
She hung a painted-framed mirror over the wash-stand. The glass was greenish in hue and wavy in lines, but it looked like a reflector and so it remained in position. An enameled basin and earthen jug did duty for toilet purposes. The plain deal chairs were decorated with crocheted tidies—one tied to the back of each chair. And last, but not least, came the treasure of the Brewster family. It had been preserved in paper wrappings and lavender for many years, and now and then the mistress of the ranch-house removed it and hung it out to keep the folds from turning yellow.
"There now! When they see this knitted cotton spread with its raised roses and lilies, those girls will know that we can have wonderful things here as well as there."
So saying, Polly spread out the thick white quilt until the large double-bed was smoothly covered. Then she stood back and sighed with gratification at the result of her afternoon's work.
"There now! I'll just call Maw before I close up the room," murmured Polly, skipping away to look for Mrs. Brewster.
Sary followed closely after the mistress, as Polly led the triumphal march to the guest-chamber. The door was flung open and the ladies asked to admire.
"Polly, something told me that you would get the spread out of the chest," declared Mrs. Brewster, patting her daughter gently. "And your god-mother would be so pleased if she were here to see how you honored her work. Some day, these quaint old-fashioned spreads and patch-work quilts will become quite the rage again, and then you will feel proud to show yours. I think Anne will appreciate the endless task such a spread represents."
And once more Polly felt that she had not expressed her interior decorating ideals on the same high plane her mother seemed to have reached, but she would not admit having made a mistake, so the crocheted spread remained, even as the green shades and the gay sofa remained, to welcome the city girls to Pebbly Pit.
The time set for the meeting of the Maynard girls and Anne Stewart at the Denver Terminal Station came and passed with no sign of the Chicago travelers. Then Mrs. Stewart was seen hurrying down the platform waving a yellow envelope to attract her daughter's attention.
Anne was patiently seated on the edge of a truck looking keenly at every one in sight, so she soon saw her mother. The Oak Creek local, that left Denver daily at noon, was getting up enough steam to enable it to make a regular start. Whether it would arrive was a question!
Anne hastily tore the telegram open and read it aloud. "Missed train. Don't wait for us. Go on and send machine to meet us to-morrow, same train, at Oak Creek. Explain to Brewsters. Bob."
Anne looked at her mother and laughed. "If that isn't Bob all over! Guess her hair wasn't dressed."
"Do they think the Brewsters run a limousine, or do they mean a sewing- machine?" asked Mrs. Stewart, guilelessly.
Anne laughed again at her mother's innocent expression, but Mrs. Stewart added: "I told you no good would come of transplanting hot- house flowers to an old-fashioned roundel."
"I can picture Bob Maynard hiking from Oak Creek Station to Pebbly Pit—most likely she will wear French heeled shoes!" said Anne, and she laughed so merrily that waiting passengers in the dingy cars glanced from the tiny windows and felt better for the contagious laughter.
"Oh, my dear! You won't think of making those city girls start training with such a hard lesson, will you?" cried Mrs. Stewart, who understood the reason Mr. Maynard had for this outing.
"Bless your dear heart, no! I'll send the wagon for them, but I wondered what would happen in case they had to walk!"
"Well, I'm thankful I'm not in Mr. Maynard's shoes when those girls find out what they will have to do without all summer."
"Nolla will be in her glory—" began Anne, when the conductor hurried over to the two women.
"Going by this train, ladies?"
"Good-by, mother. I'll write all about the reception," laughed Anne, hurriedly kissing her mother and giving her a hug.
"All aboard!" shouted the brakeman, as the tardy passenger mounted the steep steps and waved her hand at Mrs. Stewart.
It was a ride of about seventy miles and Anne thoroughly enjoyed reviewing every landmark as she passed it by. Jeb stood waiting at the little station of Oak Creek, his mouth and eyes wide open as he watched the train pull in—always an exciting time for the farmhand.
The cumbersome ranch-wagon, with its high spring-seat, was drawn up beside a telegraph pole to which the skittish young horses had been securely tied. Anne went over to meet Jeb, and said, with a smile:
"Were you waiting for some ladies for the Brewsters? I am Anne Stewart, the teacher who used to be at Bear Forks school."
"Ya-as'm! How-dee! Hain't you-all got unny more comin'?"
"Not to-day. They missed their train and expect to be here on to- morrow's noon-train. What is your name, may I ask?"
"Jeb," laconically replied the man, looking about as if he still missed a necessary item for the return trip.
"Oh! I guess you want my baggage. It's that small trunk over by the box-car," explained Anne, and Jeb grinned with relief.
As he carried the trunk lightly as if it were a stick, Anne remarked: "It's too bad to make you take this trip again to-morrow."
"Not so-es you-all kin notice it! To-morrer is pay-day fer the miners, en Oak Crick is a lively town, them times," explained Jeb, winking an eye to show what fun he expected to have next day.
"Then it's a lucky thing for you, Jeb, that my friends missed the train to-day."
"Jes' so!" chuckled Jeb, as he gathered up the reins and snacked the whip over his horses' heads.
Conversation lagged after the start, for the bumping and rumbling of the heavy wagon as it went over rocks and ruts in the rough trail, forced all the breath from the passenger's lungs.
The wagon drew up beside the porch of the ranch-house and Anne found the family waiting to receive them. She jumped from her perch and greeted Polly, then smiled at Mr. and Mrs. Brewster as the girl introduced her. Even Sary felt flattered at the kindly greeting accorded her by this pretty school-teacher.
"Wh-hy—you are all alone!" gasped Polly.
Then Anne explained about the telegram just as her train was about to leave Denver. The looks of blank surprise changed to relief as the family heard the cause of the other two girls' non-appearance. They all entered the house together, delighted with each other. Mrs. Brewster felt that she was going to like this girl.
Anne was delighted with the place and everything in connection with it. Even the intense coloring of the sofa or the pea-green shades failed to disturb her peace and repose that night.
After the supper dishes had been cleared away, Mrs. Brewster led the way to the wide terrace that stretched from the porch to the descent of the crater. Here the group watched the sunset, and became better acquainted. By bedtime, Mrs. Brewster was of the opinion that any man excepting John, who got Anne Stewart for a wife was very fortunate, indeed! John was still a superior being.
The next morning, at breakfast, Mr. Brewster said to Jeb: "Ah have to look after some business in Oak Creek, to-day, Jeb, so you need not drive over for the girls. Ah will stop at the station and look them up."
"Mebbe you-all'd better take me to hist the trunks, es Ah am young and hearty," ventured Jeb, anxiously.
"You! Why, Jeb, Ah can turn you over with my small finger," laughed Mr. Brewster, comparing his tall muscular frame with that of small slim Jeb's.
So Jeb slouched away to look after his master's farm work as well as his own, and as he worked he grumbled and thought of the fun and frolics the "fellers" in Oak Creek were having on their pay-day.
At the Denver station, two girls dressed in the latest modes, walked along the platform toward a line of railway coaches.
"What dirty-looking cars. Can these be right?" said Barbara Maynard.
And the younger girl, Eleanor, replied: "I suppose they burn soft coal."
"Well, they shouldn't! Everything we have on will be covered with soot before we reach the town."
"That will mean more business for the dry-cleaners at Oak Creek," laughed Eleanor. Had she known that the place could not boast of any kind of a cleaning establishment, she would have laughed louder and longer at the novelty.
"I suppose this Oak Creek is the shopping center for all the smaller villages that are within motoring distance of it," surmised Barbara.
"I suppose so," agreed Eleanor, as she watched a man oil the wheels under the engine.
The man finished the work and straightened up. His face and hands were black from grease and oil and soot, but he smiled a friendly smile at the young ladies who were obviously waiting to board his train.
"She's all made up, leddies, ef you-all wants to git in."
"Mercy! Does he have to grin as if he were an old friend when he announces the fact?" complained Barbara, daintily picking her way between boxes and bags of freight.
"He's a genuine western type," laughed Eleanor, following her sister into the coach.
"Goodness gracious! Are we expected to sit on these old dusty plush seats?" cried Barbara, whipping the upholstery with her tiny handkerchief before she seated herself.
Again Eleanor laughed but she was not as merry as when she jumped from the Pullman that morning.
Quite different were the sensations of the two city girls, to those of Anne Stewart, as they passed over the same route and saw the same country. Perhaps it was the difference in training more than the ideals of the three girls.
"Nolla, can all the houses be as horrid as those we have passed by?" asked Barbara, nodding at a group of log-houses.
"I don't know, but they certainly are smaller than the homes in Chicago, aren't they?" rejoined Eleanor, gazing in open curiosity at the scenery and buildings so different from that of the city.
"Smaller! Why, they are simply poverty-stricken in looks!" exclaimed Barbara in disgust.
The nearer the train came to Oak Creek, the smaller and rougher the houses seemed, until the guard called out:
"Oak Crick! Here's your station!"
The girls gazed at each other in consternation, for the place was little more than a rough mining settlement, or ranch-town.
The brakeman caught up the leather bags and jumped from the slowing train. He planked them down regardless of contents, and ran off to the station. It was an old discarded box-car shoved on a siding to do duty as ticket-office and freight station.
The girls hurried out to the car platform and Barbara asked: "Nolla, why don't you call the porter?"
"They never had one on this line!" Then stepping down side-ways from the high narrow steps of the train, Eleanor cried:
"Gracious! Do catch me if I fall!"
Barbara stared about as a frozen horror slowly crept into her soul and was expressed in her eyes. "Was this the lovely mountain resort for which she had planned such conquests?"
Eleanor spied the precious bags too close to the tracks to insure their safety, so she rushed over to save them from disaster—for who could tell whether that shaky old train would hold together much longer!
But the Local looked worse than it really was. It was as reliable a set of old cars as could be found, even if the paint and polish had vanished with age. Just as the bags were recovered, the whistle tooted, the wheels grated in turning, and the train that on its return trip to Denver, might have carried these girls back to their kind of civilization, slowly pulled out of sight.
Eleanor struggled with the two well-filled bags of toilet accessories, and deposited them before her sister. "Bet you everything is broken, and our house-dresses ruined with perfume!"
As Barbara made no reply, Eleanor followed the direction of her stare. A group of dreadful looking miners and a crowd of wild-looking cow- punchers were using seven expensive wardrobe trunks for their pleasure.
Evidently the men had indulged in too many tests of Oak Creek whiskey, called "Pizen" by the natives. The cow-boys were picturesque enough. in their wide sombreros, woolly chaps, gay shirts, and a swagger that matched their trick of shooting. The miners were swarthy, bearded foreigners, who wore long boots, loose shirts, and belts from which ugly-looking six-shooters protruded.
As Eleanor decided to go over to the circle surrounding the trunks, and demand an explanation she heard a hardened miner shout: "It's my deal next!"
Then the sisters saw that their largest trunk had been turned over on its side to make a convenient card-table. The others accommodated the players and loungers whose spurred heels beat a tattoo upon the polished grain-leather covers.
"Humph! At least we can display original etchings on our trunks when we get them back home," remarked Eleanor, with a gleam of amusement at the affair.
"Everything will simply be ruined! Just see that trunk holding my evening-dresses—right by that horse-trough. Do make those awful creatures go away, won't you, Nolla?" begged Barbara.
"With those nasty guns sticking from their belts—not me! But I'll go to the office and complain to the baggage-master."
So Eleanor courageously turned her back on the fascinating sight of all those revolvers, and Barbara followed closely at her sister's heels; both of them hurried to the old car that displayed a sign saying it was the baggage-room. No one was there, so the girls stood at the door, whence the road leading to the railway could be seen.
"If only we knew when the chauffeur would come!" sighed Barbara, but now Eleanor had misgivings about an automobile.
Meantime the men had seen the two strangers hovering about but they were not aware that the trunks belonged to the new-comers. When the girls entered the "station" one old rascal leaned over and said:
"Them are tenderfeet an' we-all oughter welcome 'em in th' good old- fashioned custom."
"Sure thing!" cried the others, and they quickly planned.
Eleanor decided it was time to dispossess these ruffians from her property, so she assumed an air of courage and started for the group, while Barbara held firmly to her sister's sleeve. But an unexpected denouement halted the two girls.
"Ah say you cheated that deal!" howled a miner, at the same time he slapped his leather gauntlet across a cow-boy's face.
Instantly every revolver was whipped forth and a terrible fight ensued, every man taking part in the general melee. The girls, trembling with fear as shots and curses rang out profusely, clung to each other helplessly, but failed to note that the guns were aimed skyward.
"Hey, boys—what the deuce do you-all mean?" shouted a fine-looking man coming upon the scene unannounced.
The crowd of men looked sheepish and hurriedly explained the joke, looking over in the direction of the two strangers. As their welcome was considered a huge joke the men laughed loudly. Mr. Brewster (for it was the rancher) frowned when he saw the pale girls almost fainting from fear. Then he turned to the ringleader in the plot:
"Say, Bill! Was that pesky train from Denver on time—or too soon, for a change?" asked Mr. Brewster, consulting his watch.
"It war ten minits too airly, 'cause Hank Janssen, th' ingineer, 's got a christenin' down to his home to-night," explained Bill.
"Then those two girls are my company," groaned the rancher, causing a scramble at his words. The cow-punchers whipped off their hats to salute and the miners shuffled behind the daring cow-boys, the better to hide their faces from the "Boss."
Mr. Brewster hurried over to reassure the girls that the whole fight had been staged to entertain them. He explained the cause of his not being on hand to meet them, and waving his hand for the cow-boys, he called:
"Get busy, boys! Shake those trunks into the wagon."
While the men eagerly lent shoulders and muscles to the task expected of them, the three principals in this group made personal notes of each other, albeit not a word was said.
"Ah never did see such ridiculous styles as this!" thought Sam Brewster, looking the girls over from top to toe.
"This rough man Mr. Brewster! Why, he's a common farmer!" thought Barbara, disdainfully.
"I bet Polly's father's a heap of fun!" thought Eleanor.
When Mr. Brewster realized there were seven great trunks belonging to two girls, he groaned within himself, wondering what in the world could be found to fill so many!
The men were handed cigars, and as they doffed their hats to say "Thank you-all" they backed away to permit the Boss to help the girls up the high wagon-side.
Barbara looked at the rough stained hands and said insultingly: "No, thank you!"
"Here—let me jump up and pull you in," laughed Eleanor, uncomfortably, seeing that her sister had offended their host.
Sam Brewster turned to give his horses a pail of water while the two girls attempted to climb up. But the small steel foot-rest was too high to be reached without a boost from below, so they had to climb, hand over hand, up the great wheel with its spokes clogged with the heavy mud from the trails.
When they were finally seated, both girls looked at each other. Fresh natty traveling suits were streaked by the mud, and their gloves—soft chamois-skins—could now be thrown away. Even their faces had been smeared with mud when they slipped and had to clutch at any possible rescue. Naturally, they were not in too amiable a frame of mind for what awaited them at the end of the trip.
The high spring-seat was the only one, so Barbara had to sit there. "I simply cannot hold on to this sky-scraper!" complained she testily.
"It's the only one, Bob, so you will have to!" replied Eleanor.
In another moment, Mr. Brewster climbed up easily and sat beside the strangers. He churked to the horses and drove away in a manner that threatened to hurl the city girls from their earthly perch into kingdom come.
"Oh, this is terrible!" groaned Barbara, at an unusually hard bump of the wagon over a rutty road.
"Maybe we can sit down on the floor of the wagon where the trunks are?" ventured Eleanor, looking at Mr. Brewster.
"Shore—if you-all want to. The senseless trunks make better company than a rough old farmer," replied Mr. Brewster, without the least suspicion of malice in the words.
The exchange was made and the girls felt protected by the trunks, so they could take a livelier interest in the ride. As they left the road leading from Oak Creek, the sight of imposing mountains towering in the distance thrilled them in spite of their determination to dislike everything they saw. And the gorgeous hues and beauty of the strange wild-flowers caused exclamations from Eleanor, while Barbara gasped at the vast herds of cattle, grazing, as they roamed over the plains.
Finally Mr. Brewster guided the horses away from the wide trail, into the Bear Forks trail that wound in and out, now on the brink of the river's chasm, or again between jagged cliffs. Anon the awed girls gazed down into fearful depths as the wagon skirted the dangerous brink, or craned their necks to look at the wonderful vines and foliage hanging from the tops of massive rocks. By the time they reached the ridge of foot-hills where the trail led off to the cliffs at the Devil's Grave, both sisters were silenced by the impressive scenery, so that petty problems of puny mortals faded into a misty back-ground.
Suddenly the trail turned around a group of great rocks and the first glimpse of Rainbow Cliffs could be seen. As the wagon drew nigh the gorge running through the cliffs, Anne Stewart and Polly were found waiting for the visitors.
Anne introduced Polly, and Eleanor acknowledged the courtesy, but Barbara rudely failed to notice it as she was so obsessed with the desire to complain about the railroad, the natives of Oak Creek, the trails to Pebbly Pit, and everything connected with the coming.
Polly felt dreadfully shy with such unusual-looking girls. Not that their hats had feathers or fine flowers, nor their suits had any expensive trimmings on them, to suggest wealth, but the way they looked in their clothes! What made the difference, she wondered. Had Anne told her the actual cost of those hats and suits, poor Polly would have fainted from shock.
Barbara was holding forth on her wrongs. "I can't see for the life of me, Anne, why you selected such an outlandish spot as this, for us, in which to waste a precious summer. Why, it is simply unbearable— nothing but mountains and trails in sight! And no one but just farmers to associate with! Oh, oh!" The accent on "farmers" made Polly wince and Eleanor frown, at the speaker. Anne hastened to change the subject for she feared Mr. Brewster might turn his horses and take them all back to Oak Creek station.
It was a duel of dialogue between Anne and Barbara after that, each one trying to keep up a conversation they wished to down the other with. Thus the wagon reached the porch.
Polly sprang out and ran indoors unnoticed by any one. Eleanor was deeply interested in gazing out at the great crater bowl that formed the pasture and farm-lands of Pebbly Pit. Anne was anxious to have her charges make a good impression on Mrs. Brewster and so she jumped out and held a hand to assist Barbara.
The lady of the house stood waiting to welcome the girls, when Sary ran out from the kitchen, hurriedly drying her wet hands on an apron. She fully expected to shake hands with the fine ladies, when her turn came to be introduced. She stood directly back of her mistress peering eagerly at the new-comers in their simple straw hats, severe cloth suits, and shoes, gloves, and veils of the finest.
Before Anne Stewart could open her lips to introduce the girls, Barbara sent a scornful glance over the group and then at the ranch-house, and said: "What a barracks! It's nothing more than a log cabin on a gigantic scale."
"Oh, I think it is great! Just like the wonderful cabins we read about in the Adirondacks, or other large camp-sites," quickly added Eleanor.
"But this is not a camp, my poor little sister! And we haven't the same set either, as we would have had at a fashionable camp," sneered Barbara.
"You needn't 'poor me,' Bob! I'm just crazy over the farm and—and everything. Hurry up, Anne, and introduce me so I can get acquainted," cried Eleanor, nudging the teacher to remind her of her duty.
Mr. Brewster had driven the team to a post a little farther up the road, and was not present when the introductions took place. Mrs. Brewster summoned a pleasant smile for Barbara, and a motherly pat on the shoulder for Eleanor. Then Sary stepped forward to be introduced, as it was customary for her to be treated as a member of the family.
"Glad t' know you-all!" simpered Sary, bowing stiffly and offering her reddened hand to shake the gloved ones of the girls.
Barbara completely ignored the par-boiled digits and slightly lifted one eyebrow at Sary. Eleanor felt so humiliated at her sister's actions that she came forward to make amends but Sary would have none of it.
When Barbara gave her a frozen look, Sary examined her hands for a moment, then humped her shoulders and stamped back to the kitchen-range where she had been boiling soap-fat and straining out the scum before the arrival of the city misses.
"Anne, would your friends like to refresh themselves in the bedroom?" asked Mrs. Brewster to break the embarrassed silence.
"Oh, yes, of course!" replied Anne, anxiously turning to Barbara.
Eleanor took the initiative of going toward the door. "I never saw such a darling bungalow! I just love everything spread out on the ground floor. No stairs and no elevators—Oh, how nice!"
"It is a change from your brown-stone mansions, isn't it?" replied Mrs. Brewster, smiling at the concerned face.
"To me it is the most awful place! I don't suppose you have baths, or electric light, or telephone service?" said Barbara.
"Now you see here, Barbara Maynard! You've got to stop this whimpering or I'll wire Daddy to make you go home! I just won't have my whole summer spoiled by your complaints!" cried Eleanor, angrily, and stamping her foot to emphasize her words.
"I hope you didn't expect me to stay here, did you?" demanded Barbara.
"I hope you won't—that's all I've got to say! Come on, Anne, and show me the place. Where's Polly gone?" said Eleanor.
Polly was found in the large living-room, looking the picture of disappointment. Anne understood how she must have felt, so she diverted the attention of the newcomers to the great yawning fire-place that could hold several tree-trunks at one time.
"And do you know, Nolla, every bit of wood in this house was hewn and carted here by Mr. Brewster? You see the government allows settlers just so much timber with which to construct a home and barns. There is a county sawmill to saw and trim logs and then the owner has to cart them himself. Naturally, one hasn't time to carve fancy ideals in the wood one uses for the house. And having it sent from Denver, or other large cities where labor is to be had, is also out of the question. The freight costs, and the long haul from Oak Creek to the Pit presents difficulties not to be overcome. So folks build homes as solid and strong as they can, and leave the trimmings for a future generation." Anne explained all this for Barbara's benefit, and Mrs. Brewster smiled her gratitude to the girl.
Eleanor seemed more impressed than ever after she heard of the time and labor it must have taken to construct such a house as the Brewster ranch boasted; and Barbara was taken back, as she had not thought of such things, but she pretended not to care.
THE HARROWING DETAILS
"Now, girls, come and see the guest-room Polly prepared for us. You know she is going to study interior decorating when she grows up— aren't you, Polly?" said Anne, placing an arm protectingly about the girl's shoulders and moving towards the chamber.
Polly brightened up at once, for she remembered the sofa that Anne had praised as having made a fine bed, and then there were the gorgeous bronzed shades that darkened the windows!
Polly stood at the head of the sofa watching eagerly for the effect of the decorating on the city visitors. Barbara stared at first in utter unbelief that her room could be so barren of comfort, then she turned and frowned darkly as the truth impressed her.
"Why! There's nothing here—only an old bed, and a painted set of drawers such as our servants would fling out of the room!" Then she caught a twisted reflection of her face in the green mirror. It was too much!
She threw herself upon the sofa and laughed hysterically. Eleanor wondered at her sister's discordant mirth but when she looked in the direction Barbara's eyes were turned, she saw the cause.