[Transcriber's note: Extensive research found no evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
[Frontispiece: "THIS THE FIRST TIME YOU'VE BEEN ON A FARM?" HE ASKED.]
CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1924, BY
CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I PLANS II LOOKING FORWARD III RAINBOW HILL IV FIRST IMPRESSIONS V DAYS OF DELIGHT VI WINNIE IS NERVOUS VII AN ADVENTURE FOR SARAH VIII STORM SIGNALS IX ONE WISH COMES TRUE X AN EVENTFUL DAY XI ALL SERENE AGAIN XII NAPOLEON BONAPARTE XIII THE GAY FAMILY XIV THE GAY FINANCES XV THE POOR FARM XVI SARAH'S SURPRISE XVII WILLING AND OBLIGING XVIII A NEW FRIEND XIX JACK—HIRED MAN XX A LITTLE GIRL LOST XXI DOWN LINDEN ROAD XXII SARAH HAS AN IDEA XXIII BONY JOINS THE CIRCUS XXIV TRULY A SACRIFICE XXV UP TO MISCHIEF XXVI SOMETHING TO REMEMBER XXVII SUMMER'S END
Doctor Hugh leaned back in his swivel chair and looked anxiously at his mother.
"I don't believe you realize how incessant the noise will be," he urged. "Every morning hammering and sawing and the inevitable shouting and argument that seem to attend all building operations, especially when the job is one of alteration, like this."
"I shall not mind the noise, dear," said Mrs. Willis tranquilly. "Let me see the plans again."
She held out her hand for the blue prints and four interested heads immediately bent above them, Rosemary being tall enough to look over her mother's shoulder and Sarah and Shirley pressing close to her side.
"I don't see how anyone can tell a thing from that," Rosemary complained. "There's nothing but white lines."
The doctor smiled, but his glance was on the frail, almost transparent hands which held the roll of paper flat on the desk.
"I suppose you thought that carpenters worked from photographs of completed interiors, or illustrations in interior-decoration catalogues," he suggested good-naturedly. "You see before you, Rosemary, a most practical conception of two offices and a reception room. Mr. Greggs will rip out one side of the house and add them on as a wing and when the joining is painted over you'll think those rooms were built when the original house was."
"Well—all right," conceded Rosemary, "I suppose Mr. Greggs knows. Anyway, it will be fun to have something going on. Vacation certainly isn't very exciting."
"I want to see them rip the house," announced Sarah with intense satisfaction.
"I think I owe it to Mr. Greggs almost as much as to Mother, to have you at a safe distance before the ripping begins," said Doctor Hugh a little grimly. "Somehow I have the feeling, Sarah, that the best-laid plans of architects may go awry when you're about."
"Huh!" retorted Sarah, abandoning blue prints for her favorite goatskin rug on which she flopped in an attitude more comfortable than graceful.
Shirley, too, wearying of the unfamiliar, turned to the delights of the iron wastebasket into which she tried to wedge her plump self with indifferent success and a great crackling of paper.
Doctor Hugh began to sharpen a pencil with meticulous care, his dark eyes behind their glasses apparently intent on the task in hand. But the more discerning of his patients, and every nurse who had served on his cases, could have told you that Doctor Willis always saw most when he appeared to be quite absorbed.
Even an outsider would have been interested in the group gathered in the young doctor's office that summer afternoon. The little mother (she was no taller than her oldest daughter and came only to her tall son's shoulder) sat at one side of the flat-topped desk, leaning her head on one hand as she studied the plans for the addition to the house. She was very lovely and very appealing, from her wavy dark hair faintly streaked with gray to her little buckled slippers, and there was nothing of the invalid about her. It would have been difficult to say, off-hand, just why she should inspire the conviction, immediate and swift, that those who loved her must be constantly on guard to protect her against physical exhaustion and weakness. Difficult, that is, only until one saw her patient, shining eyes and then one knew, what had never been hidden from Doctor Hugh, that in her body dwelt an unquenchable spirit that would always outrun her strength.
In Rosemary, leaning above her mother and studying the blue prints so intently that a little frown gathered between her arched brows, the spirit and strength were united. The effect of Rosemary on the most casual beholder, was always one of radiance. The mass of her waving hair was bronze, said her friends; it was red, it was gold, it was all of these. Her eyes were like her mother's, a violet blue, but dancing, drenched in tears or black with storm—seldom patient eyes. She lived intensely, did Rosemary, and sometimes she hurt herself and sometimes she hurt others. She could be obstinate—wanting her own way with the insistence of a driving force; that was the Willis will working in her, Winnie said. All the Willis children had that trait, Winnie said also. Rosemary could be sorry and make frank confession. That, Sarah always thought, was the hardest thing in the world to do.
The dark and stolid Sarah lying on her stomach on the white goatskin rug, was "the queer one" of the family. Sarah's nature was as uncompromising as her own square-toed sandals and about as blunt. Demonstrations of affection bored her. She tended strictly to her interests and felt small concern in the affairs of her sisters. You could reach Sarah—after you had learned the way—and the depths in her were worth reaching. But her one passionate devotion was for animals—she would do anything for her pets, dare anything for them. Sometimes Doctor Hugh wondered if she would not sacrifice anyone to their needs.
If one desired a contrast to Sarah, there was Shirley. Shirley who sat in the wastebasket and beamed upon an approving world. Six year old Shirley was a born sunbeam and her brief fits of temper only seemed to intensify the normal sunshine of her disposition. She smiled and she coaxed answering smiles from the severest mortal; she dimpled and laughter bubbled up to meet her chuckling mirth. It was impossible to remain cross or ill-tempered when Shirley danced into a room and it is to be feared that her gifts of cajolery bought her off from often needed reproofs. It was never easy to scold Shirley.
Doctor Hugh Willis, sharpening his pencil so painstakingly, knew all this and more. To his natural endowment of keen-eyed penetration had been recently added the illuminating experience of a year as sole head of the household—a year in which the little mother had been absent in a sanitarium recovering her shattered health and he had been responsible for the welfare of his sisters.
Not the least interesting figure of that group—Doctor Hugh. Dark-haired, dark-eyed and tall, his keen, intelligent face could be as expressive as Rosemary's. His chin was firm and his mouth could be grim and smiling, by turns. His speaking voice was rather remarkable in the range of its modulations and his manner was incisive as one used to commanding obedience. His patients said "Doctor" had a way with him.
"Shall I cut the cake, or put it on whole?" inquired someone blandly on the other side of the closed door.
"There's Winnie," said Mrs. Willis, lifting her head and smiling. "Open the door, Shirley."
Five pairs of eyes turned affectionately to the tall, thin woman who stepped into the room as Shirley obeyed. This was Winnie without whom the Willis household would have been lost indeed since for twenty-eight years she had solved every domestic difficulty for them, shrewdly and capably. Loyalty and service were beautiful, concrete things in her faithful loving eyes. Dear Winnie!
"About the cake," she said now, smoothing her immaculate apron and glancing sharply at the circle of rather serious faces.
"Bother the cake," answered Doctor Hugh, secure in the knowledge that whatever he said would receive Winnie's unqualified approval. "Have you seen the plans for the new office, Winnie?"
"That I have not," she replied eagerly and Rosemary yielded her place while Winnie stared over Mrs. Willis' shoulder at the mysterious white lines and dots.
"You must be expecting a lot of sick folks, Hughie," she commented after a moment's study.
"I'll give up the other office," the doctor explained, "and have all my office hours here."
"When can Mr. Greggs start work, Hugh?" asked his mother, rescuing the elastic bands from Shirley and moving the ink well back from the small, exploring fingers.
"Next week, he hopes," Doctor Hugh answered. "There won't be any digging to be done, because we are not going to extend the cellar; but there will be mason work for the foundation and they want to open out the side of the hall as soon as they start."
"It will be messy," said Winnie, with unmistakable disapproval of anything "messy."
"It will be messy," agreed the doctor. "Worse than that, it will be noisy. I want Mother and you to take the girls and go away till it is over. I don't think anyone should be asked to endure the sound of constant hammering in the hot weather; I'll be out of the house so much that I don't count and of course I'll keep the other office till things are in shape here."
He spoke evenly, but his eyes met Winnie's across Mrs. Willis' shapely drooping head.
"I think we ought to get out of Mr. Greggs' way," declared Winnie briskly. "Carpenters have small patience with women and their housekeeping habits. They think we're interfering when we only want to keep 'em from driving nails in the mahogany tables. And if they're going to ruin the hall rug with their bricks and mortar I, for one, don't want to be here to see it."
"Oh, Winnie, you fraud!" Mrs. Willis spoke merrily. "You are not worrying about the hall rug—I know you too well. You're siding with Hugh and you are both conspiring to wreck the household budget a second time. I had all the luxury one woman is entitled to last year in the sanitarium—from now on I intend to consider expenses and a summer away from home isn't to be thought of."
"Your health is worth more than dollars and cents," said Winnie sagely.
"I'm not going to take music lessons this vacation," offered Rosemary. "That ought to help, Mother."
"If I can arrange it so you can leave the house while the alterations are being put through and yet keep the living expenses down to your stipulated level—will you go, Mother?" said Doctor Hugh artfully.
"Can you come, too?" countered his mother.
"Well—part of the time at least," he temporized.
A sudden picture of her orderly quiet home in the hands of the loud-talking, aggressively cheerful town carpenter and his helpers, the gash in the hall letting in dirt and flies, with the attendant bustle and confusion that go with artisan work, flashed across Mrs. Willis' vision. Sarah and Shirley must be constantly admonished to keep out of mischief and danger, Winnie placated when her domain should be encroached upon. And the noise of hammers and saws and files!
"I have only two objections to going away, Hugh," said Mrs. Willis quietly. "One is leaving you and the other is the expense."
"Then it is as good as settled," declared Doctor Hugh, rolling up the blue prints and snapping an elastic around them as though he snapped his ideas into place with the same deft movement.
Rosemary's eyes began to shine.
"Oh, Hugh, tell us!" she begged. "I know you have some perfectly lovely plan—tell us what it is."
But the doctor's smile was enigmatic and the two words he vouchsafed a conundrum to them all.
"Rainbow Hill," was the answer he made to every question.
Winnie, always an ally of the doctor's, appealed to, could give no help. "If you studied geography more and cats less, Sarah," she informed that small girl who insisted on repeated questioning, "you might be able to tell me. I've told you before that I know nothing at all about this Rainbow Hill."
And Rosemary, waylaying her brother with carefully planned nonchalance, fared no more successfully.
"You can't wheedle any news out of me, my dear," announced Doctor Hugh, his eyes twinkling. "All in good time—and after Mother, you'll be the first to be told. Patience is a virtue, Rosemary."
And then he ducked to escape the porch cushion she sent whirling toward him.
"I don't believe you've heard a word I've been saying, Jack Welles!"
The boy on his knees before the tangled fishing tackle spread out on the lowest porch step, looked up alertly.
"Sure I heard," he protested. "Something or other is 'perfectly adorable.'"
Rosemary laughed. She had been sitting in the porch swing and now she came and camped on the middle step, chin in hand, regardless of the hot sunshine that turned her bronze hair to red gold.
"I suppose I did say that," she admitted. "But it really is, Jack. I don't believe Mother would call it an exaggeration."
Jack Welles frowned at a tangle of line. "I heard you," he said again, "but I didn't get where this place is—I saw you and your mother going off with Hugh in the car this morning," he added.
"I'll untangle that for you," offered Rosemary, holding out her hand for the line. "We went to see Rainbow Hill and now Mother is crazy to go there for the summer. Hugh is as pleased as pleased can be, for he wants her to go somewhere before Mr. Greggs starts the work here."
"Where's Rainbow Hill?" asked Jack, watching the slim fingers as they worked at the waxed silk thread so woefully knotted.
"That's the best part of the whole plan," Rosemary assured him, taking his knowledge of a plan for granted. "It's only about eight or nine miles from here and twelve from Bennington. Hugh can easily come out in the car. You must have seen the house, Jack—it is right on the tip-top of that hill to the right, the little white clapboarded house you see as soon as you pass the cross-roads."
"I've seen it," said Jack.
"Well, you may have seen it, but you can't tell how lovely it is until you go through it," declared Rosemary, winding a free length of line about her slender wrist for safe-keeping. "There's no front porch—you step into the living-room right from the lawn. But there is a side porch with awnings and screens that Mother will just love."
"Where are the folks who live there?" demanded the practical Jack.
"They're going to California, to visit their married daughter," Rosemary explained. "They're patients of Hugh's—Mr. and Mrs. Hammond. And they wanted to rent the house because they didn't like the idea of closing it for almost three months with all their nice furniture and a piano and everything in it. So—wasn't it lucky—they happened to ask Hugh if he knew of anyone who would rent the place furnished and he saw right away it would be just the thing for us."
"Whereupon they insisted that he take it as a gift, with a maid and two butlers thrown in," recited Jack, who knew in what affection Doctor Hugh's patients held him.
"Not exactly," dimpled Rosemary, "but they did say that if Mother would live there during the summer they would consider it a favor and wouldn't dream of charging rent. Mrs. Hammond said she knew she wouldn't have to worry about her things if Doctor Hugh's mother would be there to look after them. But, of course, Hugh wouldn't listen to that—he said business was business and as soon as he and Mr. Hammond had the rent fixed, Hugh took Mother and me to see Rainbow Hill. And it's too lovely for words."
"Any butlers?" suggested Jack.
"Not a butler," answered Rosemary firmly. "Winnie beats all the butlers I ever saw—or read about," she emended, remembering that her actual experience with butlers was limited.
"Winnie won't take kindly to pumping water from the well every morning," said Jack, sorting fish hooks with a practised hand.
"There's no water to pump," was the prompt and cheerful response. "It's an old-fashioned house, but the plumbing is new—Hugh found that out before he even mentioned Rainbow Hill to Mother. It will be such fun to show the place to Sarah and Shirley—I can hardly wait."
Jack looked up at the vivid, glowing face above him.
"I can imagine Sarah let loose on a farm," he said drily. "They'd better tie up the pigs and nail down the cows—I wouldn't trust that girl within ten feet of a live animal."
"You think you're smart, Jack Welles!" broke in the wrathful voice of Sarah as that young person hurled herself around the side of the house and confronted them indignantly. "You think you're smart, don't you?"
"'Scuse me, Sarah, I didn't know you were within hearing distance," apologized Jack with proper contriteness. "Don't be mad at me, Sally, for here you are going away—when are you going?"
"Monday," said Sarah sullenly.
"You're going away Monday," went on Jack, "and you may not see me till September; can't we part friends, Sarah?"
Sarah regarded him suspiciously, but he surveyed her over his fish hooks and was apparently quite serious.
"I'll be glad to leave some people in this neighborhood," stated Sarah with peculiar distinctness. "I'm going to do just as I please at Rainbow Hill."
"Then I take it that Hugh won't be there?" said Jack, but Rosemary hastened to act as peacemaker.
"Don't fuss," she advised them wisely. "Jack, I may learn how to fish this summer myself—Mr. Hammond told Hugh that Mr. Hildreth is a great fisherman."
Jack asked who Mr. Hildreth was and Sarah answered that he was the tenant farmer.
"And his wife is the tenant farmeress," said Sarah importantly. "They live in another house and plant things—Hugh told me."
"Yes'm, I don't doubt it," agreed Jack, when he had assimilated this remarkable information, "but how come a farmer and a farmeress have time to give lessons in fishing?"
Rosemary began on the last knot in the line. "Don't be silly, Jack," she begged. "There'll be two boys there—Mrs. Hildreth says her husband gets two students from the State Agricultural College to help him every summer. They'll want to go fishing and Sarah and I can go along."
"When you farm, you farm," said Jack sententiously. "You don't hoe the potatoes one day and then go fishing for a week. But I may be wrong at that and if you find Mr. Hildreth needs an extra hired man, Rosemary, one to go fishing, I mean, ask him to send for me. I'll come right up and fish and look after the garden in my odd moments."
"Hugh's coming to spend two weeks in August," announced Sarah. "And he'll come out as many week-ends as he can; will you really come, Jack?"
"I always did yearn to be a hired man," Jack answered earnestly, "and they tell us there is no time like the present to put one's ambition in training. I'm awfully afraid I'll have to earn my living after I leave school and a nice trade, like that of hired man, might be useful in my later life. I'll think it over and let you know, Sarah; but don't let Mr. Hildreth build on my coming—I can't face his grief and disappointment in case I fail to turn up."
"You think you're smart!" was Sarah's retort and Rosemary said to herself that it was impossible to tell when Jack was in earnest.
Winnie came out and told them that lunch was ready just then, and Jack took his fishing tackle and retreated to his own home which was next door, first thanking Rosemary fervently for the unknotted line she handed him.
There were times during the days of preparation for the eventful Monday when Mrs. Willis wondered whether they were really wise to go to so much trouble, times when she thought wearily that her own home, noisy as it might be, would be far preferable to the effort required to adapt her family to a new environment.
Rosemary put the feeling into words one noon when the doctor came home to lunch and found her sitting on the floor beside a trunk with a lapful of rusty keys.
"Nothing fits," complained Rosemary. "All the keys to everything are lost. And I don't see what good a restful summer will do Mother if she has nervous prostration before she gets off."
Doctor Hugh settled several difficulties in as many minutes—he had a gift for that—by dispatching Sarah to the locksmith with soft-soap impressions of the keyless locks and orders to get keys to fit them and insisting that his mother must stay quietly in her room the remainder of the day and be served with luncheon and supper there.
"You girls try to talk all at once," he told his three sisters when they sat down at last to Winnie's rice waffles, "and that is enough to tire anyone.
"Can't I take the cat, Hugh?" urged Sarah anxiously. "You can take it in the car for me and I know fresh country air will be good for poor Esther."
"Esther wouldn't appreciate Rainbow Hill," said Doctor Hugh with conviction. "Cats don't like to change their homes, Sarah. Besides, you'll have all the animals you want once you are on the farm. And that reminds me I want to say one thing to you."
"I suppose," remarked Sarah plaintively, "you're going to scold."
"Not exactly," said her brother, smiling in spite of himself. "But while I want you to have a happy summer, Sarah, and 'collect' snakes and bugs and insects to your heart's content, I want you to understand clearly that the menagerie is to be kept outside of the house. Mother and Winnie mustn't be expected to get used to finding snakes in boxes and spiders in bottles, and the place to study a colony of ants is outside, not in the front hall. If I find you can't remember this one rule, you'll have to come back to Eastshore and stay with me during the week."
Sarah, with an unhappy recollection of the furore she had created the week before when she had bodily transplanted a thriving colony of ants to the hall rug, promised to remember.
"Jack Welles said he might come up for a couple of weeks and be a hired man," announced Rosemary, smiling.
"I hope he does," approved the doctor promptly. "He'll find it an endurance test and a particularly valuable one. Yes, Winnie?"
"I wish you'd step out and look at the canna bed," said Winnie grimly. "Every single plant pulled out and left dying in the sun."
"Why, I did that," declared Shirley in her clear little voice that always reminded Winnie of a robin's chirp. "I thought Mother would want to take the cannas to Rainbow Hill with us—we can plant them around the porch there."
Doctor Hugh pushed back his chair, his mouth twitching.
"Whatever happens this summer, Winnie," he said gravely, "something tells me that you won't be bored."
A white clapboarded house with moss-green shutters and a dark oak "Dutch" door, the upper half of which swung hospitably open—this was Rainbow Hill in the light of the late June afternoon sun. A little jewel of a house set in the center of a close-cropped emerald-green lawn and circled by sturdy old trees, elms and maples that had marked the site of the old homestead and now guarded the "new house" as it had been called ever since it had been built six years before to replace the farmhouse destroyed by fire.
"Welcome to Rainbow Hill," said Mrs. Joseph Hildreth, coming out on the red tiled walk as a car swept up to the door and stopped.
Mrs. Hildreth, the wife of the tenant farmer, was a young woman with wide-awake blue eyes and an air of capability that struck terror to the souls of the lazy. She was known far and wide as "a hustler" and she had been known to do a large washing and baking in the morning and drive the hay rake in the field in the afternoon on occasions when her husband was short of help. It was a pity her voice was so loud and rasping, but then not everyone is sensitive to voices.
"I guess you'll find everything about ready for your supper," said Mrs. Hildreth when Doctor Hugh had introduced Sarah and Shirley and Winnie, the three members of the party she had not met previously. "I brought up a pail of strawberries—they'll be better next week. Mrs. Hammond said you were to have half the garden, same as they did. The butter may be a little soft, but Joe will get you a piece of ice in the morning at the creamery. We weren't sure you'd get here to-day, so I didn't order it."
With a few more confidences, directed mainly to Winnie, she went back to her own house—an attractive story and a half bungalow just visible from the side porch, and the Willis family were free to take possession of Rainbow Hill.
"Isn't it darling!" Rosemary kept exclaiming. "Aren't the rugs pretty—and the white curtains! Wait till you see the rooms upstairs."
In spite of Winnie's warning that supper would be ready in fifteen minutes and Doctor Hugh's declaration that he must go back to Eastshore as soon as the meal was over, it was impossible to refrain from running upstairs for a peep at the second story. There was a large and airy bedroom for the mother, a connecting room which was allotted to Rosemary and across the hall a smaller room with twin beds which would, it was instantly decided, "fit" Sarah and Shirley. Next to this was the guest room which Doctor Hugh would occupy during his visits, and at the other end of the hall, next to the shining blue and white tiled bathroom, a square room with two windows and a narrow balcony that delighted Winnie.
"There's no nicer place to dry your hair," she explained seriously to Mrs. Willis. "I can sit out there and darn stockings while my hair is drying."
The trunks and one or two boxes, packed with necessary possessions mostly of a personal nature, had been sent on ahead in the morning and were already in the halls. The house was tastefully furnished throughout and Mrs. Willis assured her son that as soon as she had rearranged a few trifles and had unpacked her treasures she was sure she would feel contented and at home.
"I want to go everywhere!" declared Sarah, subsiding into a chair at the dining-room table with visible reluctance. "I want to see the horses and the cows and the pigs. Say, Hugh, do you think we could keep pigs when we go home? There's room in the yard."
"You want to go to bed early and save your exploring until to-morrow," advised the doctor. "I have to be back at the house by eight and that's bed-time for one little girl I know. Shirley looks sleepy now."
"I'm not," said Shirley automatically, her invariable remark whenever the subject was mentioned.
Although the doctor had an appointment waiting him, he seemed to find it hard to tear himself away from the pleasant picture the mother and her three daughters made on the spacious side porch after supper that night. Winnie had insisted on displaying her convenient kitchen and though there was no gas range she declared that the oil stove would fulfill all her requirements except for her weekly baking when she would build a fire in the range. There Were electric lights throughout the house; and the outbuildings, as they learned later, as well as the tenant house, were also wired.
"Here comes somebody!" said Sarah in a loud whisper. "It's the farmeress."
"No it isn't, it's two of them," asserted Shirley, pressing her small nose against the wire screen and acquiring a plaid pattern on the tip.
"Hush—they'll hear you," said Mrs. Willis, rising and opening the screen door as two young men came across the lawn.
"Mrs. Willis?" said the taller. "Mr. Hildreth sent us up to see if you wanted any help, unpacking. This is Richard Gilbert," he introduced his companion, "and I am Warren Baker. We're working for Mr. Hildreth this summer."
Doctor Hugh came forward at once and while they were being introduced the three girls studied the newcomers with interest. They were both apparently about eighteen years old, both deeply tanned, both slim and muscular and wholesome-looking. Richard Gilbert was slightly shorter and heavier than Warren, who was really thin. The latter had dark hair and gray eyes, while Richard's hair and eyes were brown. Both boys were neatly, if not smartly, dressed and gave a pleasant impression of cleanliness, coolness and comfort, though they had done a heavy day's work and their day had started at five that morning. Rosemary instantly decided that she liked them both.
So did the rest of the Willis family, and Doctor Hugh delayed his departure till he declared that one more moment would mean he must break the speed laws to get back to town. It had been arranged that he was to take his breakfast and dinner with the hospitable Welles, a most convenient plan since their house was the nearest. He was seldom home for lunch and his telephone calls would be taken care of at the "Jordan office" as Eastshore still called the rooms which had been occupied by the old and popular physician whose practise had been taken over by Doctor Hugh.
Mrs. Willis watched him drive away, satisfied that his comfort was provided for; and then, as she had decreed that no unpacking was to be done that night, Richard and Warren took their leave, after promising to show the girls the whole farm the next morning.
"If they know what they're about, they'll tie a rope to Sarah," said Winnie, going about locking doors and windows as though she expected a siege.
She had managed to "get a good look," as she said, at the visitors and had approved of them whole-heartedly.
"Nice, ordinary boys," she said to Mrs. Willis at the first opportunity. "Not a bit stiff or shy. did you notice, and yet not any of these smart Alecs that can't stop talking long enough to listen to what a body has to say."
"What are you locking up all the windows for, Winnie?" Sarah questioned her, sitting down on the rug to take off her sandals as a preparation for the trip upstairs. "You'll have to open them all in the morning again."
"Well, maybe I will," admitted Winnie, turning the key in the front door and sliding both bolts with emphasis, "but I won't come downstairs and find the parlor full of skunks and owls and bats—we'll be saved that."
"They couldn't get through the screens," protested Sarah, whose natural tendency to argue was intensified by weariness.
"You never can tell," was Winnie's answer to this. "I'm not taking any chances in the country."
She thought Sarah had gone up to bed and was startled a few minutes later, when busy in the kitchen, to hear the door open behind her.
"What are you doing, Winnie?" demanded Sarah, her dark eyes instantly coming to rest on the table where, spread out in imposing array, were three mousetraps and the cheese with which Winnie intended to bait them.
"If you must know," said Winnie, exasperated, "I'm setting mousetraps."
"Oh!" Sarah gulped. "Oh, Winnie—the poor little mice!"
"Now, Sarah, don't begin all that," Winnie pleaded. "I'm dead tired and I haven't the heart to start a debate with you. I'll say one thing and then I'm through; I don't intend and nothing shall induce me, to have a lot of nasty little mice tramping over my pantry shelves."
"How do you know they will?" asked Sarah.
"Because," said Winnie with terrible finality.
Sarah and Shirley were asleep two minutes after their heads touched the pillow; and the house was in darkness soon after, for they were all tired from the events of the day.
In her room, though, Rosemary did not find that sleep came immediately. After lying quietly in bed, staring into the soft darkness, she felt more wide-awake than ever. She slipped softly to the floor, felt for and found her pretty white dressing gown and slippers—Rosemary was very fond of white—which were close at hand and, wrapping herself up comfortably, pattered over to the open window.
It was a moonlight night, warm and sweet, and Rosemary knelt down with a little gasp at the loveliness spread before her. She rested her elbows on the low window sill and leaned forward, drinking in the scent of new hay and roses and dewy grass. The shrill, insistent chorus of insects was music, and when the mournful cry of a distant hoot owl came out of the woods that rose shadowy and dark across the white ribbon of road, why that was music, too. Country nights are no more absolutely silent than nights in the town or city, but some enchantment weaves the noises of the countryside into graceful harmony. The cry of a bird, the soft stirring of the animals in the barns, the far barking of a watchful dog—all these Rosemary heard; and the insects filled in the pauses.
She did not know how long she had been at the window when, faintly—miles away, she would have said—she heard the notes of a violin.
"Rosemary!" whispered someone from the doorway. "Are you awake, darling?"
Mrs. Willis came across the room and knelt beside her daughter.
"Did you hear it, Mother? It couldn't be a violin—yes, it is! But at this time of night and way out in the country!"
"Listen!" said Mrs. Willis softly.
Rosemary had inherited her passionate love for music from her, and her delight and wonder were no greater than her mother's as the music came nearer. Someone was playing Schubert's "Serenade" in the moonlight.
"I see him!" whispered Rosemary. "Look, Mother—an old man!"
Sure enough, as they watched, a halting figure came down the road which the moonlight had changed to a silver ribbon. They knew he was old for he was stooped and walked with the shuffling gait that comes from feebleness. His head was bent over his violin, and as he walked those unearthly sweet strains melted into the moonlight and became a part of the silver mist. Just as he reached a point opposite the house he must have stopped. A tree hid him from the two watching. Probably he sat down on the large rock at the side of the road to rest—to rest and play. For, hidden from the enthralled listeners, he played the "Serenade" through twice, lovingly, delicately, with a haunting yearning that held a touch of genius. Then, still playing, he shuffled on. They caught a glimpse of him as he came out from behind the tree, saw the light flash on his bow and he was gone. They listened until his music had died away in the distance—always the "Serenade," over and over.
"Oh—Mother!" Rosemary raised her blue eyes, swimming in tears.
"Yes, dearest—" there was a little catch in Mrs. Willis' tender voice. "It was very beautiful and very wonderful—but you must go to bed now. It is late."
Rosemary, turning drowsily to pillow her cheek on her hand after her mother's kiss, was conscious of a hope that the old violin player might not lack a comfortable bed and the peace and security of a home—somewhere.
"It is so nice at Rainbow Hill," murmured Rosemary, drifting off into delicious slumber.
"Aren't you ever going to get up?" demanded Sarah.
Rosemary sat up and regarded her sister sleepily.
"Did you hear the violin?" she asked.
"What violin?" Sarah's surprise was an answer in itself.
While she dressed, hurried by the impatient younger girls, for Shirley soon joined Sarah, Rosemary told of the music she had heard the night before.
"Mother heard it, too; we both saw the old man," she asserted when they were inclined to be skeptical and scoffed that she had been dreaming.
Winnie had evidently risen "with the larks" as she was fond of declaring (though when pressed by Sarah, intent on the habits and traits of larks, she had been forced to admit that she had never seen one) for the windows on the first floor were unlocked and open to the fresh morning air and the upper half of the Dutch door folded back to let in a flood of sunshine.
"Breakfast will be ready in ten minutes," Winnie greeted the girls. "Ten minutes, no more, no less; and you're not to set foot out of the house until you've eaten, because I don't intend to spend my time fishing Sarah out of the well and pulling Shirley from under a hay stack while the muffins are getting cold."
Mrs. Willis, coming downstairs, cool and sweet in a blue linen gown, laughed at this arraignment but she, too, insisted that the farm should be seen after breakfast.
"And do be careful about hindering Mr. and Mrs. Hildreth," she cautioned them as they sat down at the table. "They are very busy folk, I know, and you mustn't expect them to answer too many questions. Richard and Warren will have their work laid out for them and can't be distracted—you will have weeks to explore Rainbow Hill and I don't want you to feel that you must be shown everything in one day."
"I'll help you, Mother," promised Rosemary. "Sarah and Shirley can go out and play, but I'll help you and Winnie unpack."
However, when Sarah and Shirley dashed out of the house a few minutes later, Rosemary was with them. Mrs. Willis had explained that her eldest daughter could help her more by "looking after" the impetuous Shirley and that unknown quantity, Sarah, than by remaining in the house to open the trunks and boxes.
"I am going to do just as much as I can and then stop," the mother said, smilingly. "I promised Hugh and Winnie to be temperate and not tire myself needlessly. Hugh will probably call up this morning and I want to be here when he does. You run along with Sarah and Shirley, Rosemary—Mother feels safe about them when she knows you are with them."
Rosemary flushed with pleasure and resolved to be worthy of the confidence. She would be more patient than she had ever been before.
"It's just like Rosemary, to offer to stay in and help," said Winnie, watching the three girls cut across the lawn in the direction of the barns, "you could see plain she was crazy to go out and look around, but she never grabs what she wants—that child was born unselfish."
Rainbow Hill was what, in the farming parlance, is known as "an all around" place. That meant the owner, Mr. Hammond, believed in general farming as distinguished from the specialized type such as truck farming or dairying. Some oats and wheat were grown at Rainbow Hill, several acres of tomatoes raised yearly for the cannery, a good crop of hay harvested; there would be one "field crop" raised for marketing, generally potatoes or cabbage. The milk from a small herd of cows was sold at the local creamery and all food for the animals on the place was grown on the farm. How much hard work was bound up in the tilling of the well-ordered fields, the cultivation of the thrifty orchard and the healthy aspect presented by the live stock was something the three Willis girls could not be expected to grasp at once. Everything was beautifully neat, from the freshly swept barn floor to the white-washed chicken houses; not a weed showed its head in the large vegetable garden and a town-bred girl might easily make the mistake of thinking that this state of affairs was always to be found on every farm—something to be taken for granted, like fresh eggs or new milk.
It was in the vegetable garden that they found Warren Baker. He was dressed in a clean blue shirt and dark blue overalls and he was on his knees beside a long row of thin green spikes.
"Good morning," he greeted the visitors politely. "Out seeing the sights? But didn't you forget your hats?"
Warren wore an immense straw hat that shaded the back of his neck as effectively as his face.
"Oh, we don't want to bother with hats," said Rosemary carelessly. "Aren't those onions you're weeding?"
"They're onions," answered Warren, "but I'm not weeding them; I'm thinning them. If you stayed in one place in the sun as long as I do, a hat would feel pretty good."
Sarah asked why he was "thinning" the onions and he explained that he pulled out some to give those left more room to grow.
"This the first time you've been on a farm?" he asked her.
"The first time I ever stayed on a farm," said Sarah with precision. "I've been to different farms with Hugh—that's my brother; but we only stayed a little while. I think, when I grow up, I'll have a farm and be an animal doctor."
"Sarah loves animals," Rosemary explained. "We've seen the horses in the barn and the chickens and the pigs; but we didn't see a cow yet."
"Rich turns them into the lane as soon as he finishes milking," said Warren, rising from the onion row. "I'll go down and let them into the pasture now and you can come and see them, if you like."
"Well—you're sure it won't be a trouble?" hesitated Rosemary.
"Mother says we mustn't bother you," added Shirley primly, speaking for the first time.
"You can't bother me," said the boy so heartily that he reminded Rosemary of Jack Welles.
"Then don't you have to work, only when you want to?" suggested Sarah who unconsciously then and there outlined her ideals of labor.
Warren, leading the way out of the vegetable garden, laughed.
"Sure I have to work," he said good-naturedly. "If you knew Mr. Hildreth, you wouldn't ask a question like that; he does two men's work every day of his life and encourages everyone else to follow his example. But you see, I can talk and work, too; it's all right to talk, if you don't stop work to do it."
"Is it?" queried Sarah doubtfully.
"Not a question about it," declared Warren, taking down two bars for the girls to go through into a green lane fenced in on either side with a heavy wire fence. "Talk and work, mixed, are all right, but all talk and no work makes Jack a poor hired man—haven't you ever heard that proverb?"
Sarah puzzled over this until they came up with the cows and then she forgot it promptly. There were ten of the sleek, cream-colored bossies, gentle, affectionate creatures who pressed their deep noses trustingly into Warren's hands and begged him to open the wide gate that kept them from the shady pasture.
He swung the gate back and they moved slowly forward, beginning to crop the grass before they were half way through.
"There's a brook," cried Shirley, catching sight of the water. "I want to go wading—come on!"
"Not now," said Rosemary, catching Shirley by her frock as though she feared that small girl might plunge into the stream head-first, "after lunch, dear, if Mother is willing."
"We want to do a lot of other things first," Sarah reminded her. "We haven't been up to the top of the windmill yet."
Warren turned and looked at her, a twinkle in his eyes.
"You wouldn't like it if you got up there and your sash caught on the wheel," he told her. "Think how you would look going round and round like a pinwheel. Folks would come to look at you instead of the circus."
"I wouldn't catch my sash," said Sarah positively. "There's a little platform up there and I could stand on that. And I saw the little iron stairs that go up inside like a lighthouse."
The twinkle went out of Warren Baker's eyes and his pleasant voice was serious when he spoke.
"There are just two places on this farm from which you are barred," he said, his glance including the attentive three before him. "One is the windmill; the door is usually locked and I don't know how it came to be left open this morning. But locked or not, keep out of it—it is no place for anyone unless a mechanic wants to oil or repair the machinery.
"The other place is the tool house. Mr. Hildreth has a bunch of fine tools and they're the apple of his eye—apples, would be more accurate, perhaps. The tool house is usually locked, too, and there are only three keys; but if you do find it unlocked some fine morning, take my advice and stay outside. Or, if you must go in, don't touch a tool. The rest of the farm is open to you and the four winds—with reasonable restrictions, I ought to add."
Three pairs of eyes stared at him so solemnly, that he felt uncomfortable.
"I'm not laying down the law in my own name," he said earnestly. "Mr. Hildreth is mighty particular about how things are run at Rainbow Hill and I thought I could save you future trouble by warning you. Of course I only work for him—'hired man' is my title—and very much at your service."
There was so much boyish honesty in the speech, so much genuine good will and an utter absence of attempt to strike a pose, not unmixed with worth-while pride and a desire that his position should be clear to them from the start, that even Sarah, who was quick to resent real or fancied efforts to "boss" her, answered his smile with her own characteristic grin.
"Of course we won't go where we shouldn't," said Rosemary warmly. "At least not now, when there is no excuse for not knowing."
But Warren, noting that Sarah became absorbed in the antics of a beetle crossing her shoe, registered a resolve to see that the windmill door was kept locked.
"There's your brother," said Shirley, pointing to a figure coming down the lane.
"Rich isn't my brother—he's my pal," replied Warren. "And Mr. Hildreth is with him, so you'll have a chance to meet a real farmer and a good one."
"Then I can ask him about the insides of cats," was Sarah's rather disconcerting response.
DAYS OF DELIGHT
"You're the doctor's sisters," declared Mr. Hildreth when he was within earshot. Then, to Warren, "That row of onions isn't done."
Mr. Hildreth, the girls were to learn speedily, made statements. He did not ask questions. And usually his declarations stood unchallenged.
He was a tall, broad-shouldered man with a rather grim, weather-beaten face and shrewd blue eyes. A hard worker, his neighbors said, and accustomed to demanding, and receiving, the best from his helpers. He was intolerant of laziness—"shiftlessness" the country phrase ran—but he had the reputation of being a just taskmaster and he could be very kind.
"I'm going back and finish the onions now," said Warren. "I came down to let the cows out."
"Rich was late this morning," asserted Rich's employer, "because he wasted time at the creamery. We're going to fix the line fence."
Rosemary looked at Richard Gilbert who carried a box of tools. He did not seem to mind the accusation brought against him—though, as a matter of fact, he had waited to get a piece of ice for Winnie and this had delayed him at the creamery—but then Richard was not easily offended. He was inclined to be easy going and was much less apt to "fire up" than Warren.
"I'm going with Warren," announced Sarah, who liked her new friend very much and saw no reason for leaving him in doubt of her feelings.
Mr. Hildreth stalked toward the brook, followed by Richard and Warren, and Sarah started up the lane. Rosemary, picking a buttercup for Shirley, was surprised to hear a sudden shout.
"Mr. Hildreth!" yelled Sarah—there is no other word for it—"Mr. Hildreth! Can you make violin strings from a cat's insides?"
The farmer, knee-deep in the brook, looked up, startled. Rosemary stared and Shirley looked interested. As for Richard and Warren, they laughed immoderately.
"A girl in school said you could," went on Sarah, still shouting. "Violin strings, she said—can you?"
"Sure—haven't you heard cats sing at night?" called back Mr. Hildreth, having recovered his breath. "Any cat that's a good singer, will make good violin strings. Miss—er—what's her name?" he questioned Richard who was holding up one end of the sagging wire.
"That's Sarah," said Richard.
"You ask Warren, Sarah," called the farmer. "He'll tell you."
And as Warren walked on, Sarah, tagging after him, began an exhaustive and relentless study of cats and violin strings.
Richard held the wire carefully, but his dancing brown eyes suggested that he was not too busy to talk.
"There was an old man playing the violin last night," said Rosemary. "Did you hear him?"
"Old Fiddlestrings," he answered. "You'll probably hear him every moonlight night. Winter and summer he goes up and down the road playing his one tune."
"It was the 'Serenade,'" said Rosemary. "Does he always play that? Where does he live? Is he poor?"
"Not so poor as he is crazy," declared Richard sententiously. "He has enough money so he never has to work. He lives in a crazy little cabin on the other side of the hill and has a garden where he raises herbs and sells them—they say he does a big business with the city drugstores."
"Guess you'd call it work, digging in that yard of his," observed Mr. Hildreth drily.
"Well—what I mean is, he doesn't have to go out and work by the week," explained Richard.
"And his music?" asked Rosemary, pulling Shirley back as the investigating toe of her sandal threatened to dip into the water.
"He only plays when there is a moon," said Richard, his merry face sobering. "Seems like he can't rest on a moonlight night. Sometimes he walks up and down the road for hours and sometimes he sits out in his yard and plays; but they say he never goes to bed and he never lays his violin down till morning."
"He's a good fiddler," said Mr. Hildreth.
"His music was wonderful," glowed Rosemary. "Mother and I couldn't go to bed as long as he played. I'd give anything if I could play like that!"
"You play the piano just as nice!" chirped Shirley loyally.
"Say, there is a piano in the house, isn't there!" Richard almost dropped the wire. "Can you play?"
"Not as well as my mother," said Rosemary, "but I've studied several years."
"Can you play 'Old Black Joe'?" demanded Richard. "That's a song I always liked."
The contrast between his cheerful, open face and his melancholy taste in music was so great that Rosemary could not help laughing. But she said she could play "Old Black Joe" and promised to play it for him at the first opportunity.
Those early days at Rainbow Hill were not long enough. That was the general complaint. Mrs. Willis and Winnie, busy in the house, said evening came before the delightful tasks were half started or the more prosaic duties completed. There was the garden to be visited, the flower vases to be filled, the porch made cool and clean and comfortable, every morning; Winnie reveled in her kitchen, hung over the great pans of milk in the speckless pantry and gloated as she skimmed the heavy cream. Sarah said she saved all the cream till Hugh was expected and then served it up to him, whipped stiff in the largest bowl she could find, with fresh, hot gingerbread, the doctor's favorite dessert.
The girls roamed the place from one end to the other and knew every inch of the farm as well as the Hildreths did, in a week's time. They came in only to sleep, Winnie declared, but Mrs. Willis insisted, with a gentle firmness that was effective even with the determined Sarah, that the most strenuous day should end at five o'clock. Then, freshly bathed and dressed, they rested quietly till dinner and spent the short evening on the porch or in the pleasant living-room.
That living-room proved a magnet to Richard and Warren. As soon as the lamp was lighted and Rosemary or her mother sat down at the piano, the boys seemed irresistibly drawn to the little white house. Their evenings with the Hildreths had been dreary in the extreme—both the farmer and his hard-working wife practised and preached that "early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise"—and they either sat silently in the twilight until nine o'clock when they went to bed and set the alarm clock for five, or lit a single lamp in the kitchen and read agricultural papers by its uncertain rays.
"I hope I can be as good a farmer as Joe Hildreth," Warren once confided to Mrs. Willis, "but I think I'll have one less cultivator on my farm and a couple more lights in my farmhouse."
No wonder that the shaded lights of that other living-room, which cast a soft and rosy glow over the simple wicker furniture and cretonne cushions, the books and magazines and the always open piano, spelled comfort and cheer to the lonely young fellows miles distant from relatives and old friends. Richard Gilbert said it was the books that drew him, while Warren thought the music lured him. In reality, it was the gracious, lovely presence of the mother, gentle Mrs. Willis who never raised her voice above its soft, even level, who moved noiselessly about the house and whose step was so light on the stair that one might easily not hear her cross the hall and enter a room. But she could not leave it that her absence was not noted and her low laughter missed.
No wonder that twenty times a day the cry, "Where's Mother?" sounded through the house. No wonder that Doctor Hugh called up every morning and "ran in" as often as his busy schedule would allow, or bore her off with him to inspect the progress of the building at the Eastshore house. No wonder the nervous, driving energy of Mrs. Hildreth's nature was turned into channels that flowed back to the little lady in the white house bearing gifts of the garden and dairy. And no wonder at all that two boys, who had never known their own mothers, found no words with which to tell her what her interest and friendship meant to them.
In time there came to exist a tacit agreement between Richard and Warren that Mrs. Willis was not to be "worried" and in the effort to spare her they assumed, unconsciously, a brotherly guardianship over the three girls for which their mother was silently grateful. It was obvious that she could not tramp the fields with them and equally apparent that they would go wherever their healthy young active curiosity might lead. Richard and Warren took upon themselves the duties of friendly counselors—and had their hands full from the start.
"Country life may be healthy," said Winnie one Saturday when Doctor Hugh was spending the week-end at Rainbow Hill, "but I don't know as I'd call it exactly beautifying. Rosemary has a crop of freckles on her nose that will probably last all winter and Sarah is about as black as the automobile curtains. As for Shirley, between the briar scratches and the bruises on her hands and arms, she looks more like a strawberry plant, than a natural, human child."
Winnie was genuinely grieved at the girls' indifference to their looks, especially Rosemary of whom she was very proud, but Doctor Hugh declared that he liked to see folk look as though they lived outdoors.
"They live outdoors all right," Winnie informed him, a trifle tartly, "in fact I don't see why you didn't lug up a couple of tents and turn 'em loose inside. Rosemary is going to be blown out of the window some fine night and, to my way of thinking, it's better to start sleeping on the ground than to land there sudden like, right in a sound sleep."
Rosemary laughed. She was sitting on the arm of her brother's chair and, despite the freckles across her nose, presented a charming picture of a pretty girl in a dull rose frock.
"Fresh air is good for you, isn't it, Hugh?" she demanded. "Winnie is always saying I ought to sleep in the 'Cave of the Winds.'"
"I wouldn't say a word, if you'd be reasonable," said Winnie, setting the table as she talked. "But it can rain or blow great guns and you never as much rise up to put the window down; you might think it was nailed up. Last night the rain poured in and soaked through to the hall ceiling and what Mrs. Hammond is going to say when she sees that, I don't know."
"We must have it repapered for her," said the doctor lazily. "Shirley lamb, there seems to be something wrong with your dress—what is that oozing out of your pocket?"
Winnie glanced at the discomfited Shirley.
"It's an egg—a fresh egg," she said resignedly. "I sent her out to get me one for the French toast and I suppose she forgot to give it to me. Never mind, Shirley, it's nothing to sit on an egg, dearie; the mother hen does it every day. For goodness' sake, what are you laughing at, Hughie?"
WINNIE IS NERVOUS
When Doctor Hugh went back to the Eastshore house Sunday night, in order to be ready for an early Monday morning appointment, he took his mother with him. There were several things which their brief residence at Rainbow Hill had demonstrated would be immediately required, noticeably more frocks for Sarah. That small girl tore and wore out and soiled an amazing number of dresses within a day. Winnie, too, had a list of necessities and Mrs. Willis had proposed that she go in with Hugh and gather frocks and utensils; then Hugh would bring them back in the car and her, too.
"You'll be alone only one night," Mrs. Willis said to Winnie. "And if you are the least bit nervous, I'm sure one of the boys will come up and sleep in the house."
"Now don't you worry about us," was Winnie's reply. "I guess I can take care of things all right. There's nothing to be afraid of—and anyway I don't see that two women in a house makes it any safer than one."
Winnie, though she would have been the last to admit it, had been slightly timid at first about the sleeping arrangements. She had never lived in the country in her life and she privately thought the farm a lonely place, especially at night when, to quote her own words, "there was nothing nearer than the moon." As a matter of fact Rainbow Hill was not an isolated place at all, there were telephone connections to the outside world and a private system of communication with the tenant house. No one ever locked the house doors in that section and gradually Winnie's unexpressed fears wore away.
Mrs. Willis, in her wholesome nature, was seldom frightened and to her the country meant peace and seclusion. All the girls had been trained from babyhood to regard the dark as "kind to tired people" and each had been taught to go to bed alone as a matter of course. They had never been terrified by foolish stories and silly myths and so were not afraid. Rosemary could lock up a house as competently as the doctor and thought nothing of going downstairs after the lights were out for the night to see if a window catch had been fastened.
When bed-time came the night following the morning of Mrs. Willis' departure, Winnie was too proud to ask Warren or Richard to spend the night in the house. It is quite probable that either or both might have offered to stay, but they had returned late from a trip to Bennington and, driving into the barn at nine o'clock, had decided to go to bed early.
"Are you going to lock the doors?" asked Rosemary, turning on the piano bench in surprise as Winnie shut the front door with a bang and slid the heavy bolt and chain.
"I am that," said Winnie with emphasis. "I'm responsible for the rented stuff in this house and I don't aim to have any of Mrs. Hammond's furniture being carried off."
"Why Winnie, no one will take anything," remonstrated Rosemary. "Warren says doors are never locked in any of the farmhouses around here. There hasn't been a tramp seen this summer."
"And I don't intend to have the record broken—not by me," said Winnie, shutting the living-room windows with a bang and turning the catches. "I'm going out in the kitchen now and bolt that door."
Sarah and Shirley had been in bed for an hour and there was only Rosemary to accompany the determined Winnie on her rounds. They made a thorough job of the locking up—Winnie by preference, Rosemary by compulsion—and then snapped off the lights and went upstairs together.
"I'll leave my door open to-night, Winnie," said Rosemary. "Then if you should want anything, you could call me."
"It's going to rain," replied Winnie absently. "The wind is rising, too. Don't let the ceiling get soaked again."
Rosemary kissed her good night—Winnie's arms had been the first to hold Rosemary when she was born—and went into her own pretty room.
She did not hurry over undressing and even attempted to read as she brushed her hair. Of course neither pleasure nor task went forward very smoothly, but Rosemary enjoyed the sensation of dawdling. She was not sleepy and it was pleasant to play that she was a lady of leisure. Then, before she was ready for bed, she must needs try her hair a new way and turn on all the lights in the room to get the effect.
"It will be so exciting," said Rosemary, staring with naive satisfaction at the pink-cheeked girl in the white kimono who stared back at her from the glass, "it will be so exciting to go to dances and parties. If I ever get to high school, I'll be thankful, for then there is always something happening. I hope there's a dancing school that's some good in Eastshore this winter."
At last Rosemary was ready for bed. She pattered over and felt of the floor under the two screened windows—quite dry, so the rain, if there had been rain, had not beat in.
"But it isn't raining," said Rosemary to herself, snapping off the lights and trying to see out into the darkness. "When it rains we can hear it on the tin roof of the porch; it is only cloudy and windy."
Mindful of her promise to Winnie, she opened her door—though as a rule the Willis family slept with individual bedroom doors closed—and listened for a moment, peering into the shadowy hall. There was not a sound and no light shone under Winnie's door—it must be open and she was asleep.
"How the wind does blow!" said Rosemary, safe in bed, wondering if she ought to get up and pin the muslin curtains back for they fluttered madly.
Before she could act on this thought, she was asleep. How long she slept she did not know, but she woke to find Winnie standing beside the bed.
"Rosemary!" she whispered. "Rosemary! There's the most awful racket you ever heard!"
Rosemary sat up in bed and drew the blanket around her.
"What—what's the matter?" she stammered.
"Hush—don't wake up Shirley and start her crying," warned Winnie who looked taller than ever in the scant gray dressing gown she had pulled tightly about her. "Sarah wouldn't wake if the house caved in—there, do you hear that?"
Rosemary listened intently. She shook her head.
"I don't hear anything," she said.
"Then come out in the hall and you will," advised Winnie, stalking toward the door.
Rosemary followed sleepily. She didn't want to listen to noises and she couldn't help wishing that Winnie had been a little harder of hearing.
"There—hear that?" Winnie's tone was almost triumphant.
Through the whole house sounded a wail that rose as they listened and mounted to a shriek. In spite of her desire to remain cool and calm, Rosemary shivered.
"It woke me up," whispered Winnie fearfully. "I never, in all my born days, heard anything like it."
"What—what makes it?" said Rosemary.
"I don't know, but I'm going to find out," declared Winnie. "I'm not afraid of anything, once I know what it is; but when I don't know the cause, I can be scared as well as the next one."
Winnie was perfectly sincere in this statement. She might have added that no matter how badly frightened she was, she could not be kept from making her investigations. Now she prepared to go downstairs by pressing the button that lighted both halls.
"Don't go down, Winnie," begged Rosemary. "I don't believe it's anything but the wind."
"We had a high wind one night when your mother was home and nothing made this kind of racket," was Winnie's retort. "You sit at the top of the stairs, Rosemary, and you can see me all the time and you won't feel alone; there's no use in you prowling around just because I do."
"Hark—it's raining!" Rosemary had heard the sound of drops on the tin roof of the porch "I'm coming down with you, Winnie—wouldn't it be nice if only Hugh were here!"
The wail sounded again, low and hesitating, then it began to rise. As Winnie and Rosemary reached the level of the first floor hall the peak of the shriek sounded in their ears.
"Oh, don't go out in the kitchen!" Rosemary's voice shook with nervousness. "Winnie, don't go fussing around; come back in my room and sleep with me. We can't hear anything there."
"I aim to find out what—" began Winnie, then stopped suddenly.
Someone was coming up the narrow flagged walk, someone who was whistling softly.
"Hello!" came a low-voiced hail. "Hello—don't be frightened—this is Warren and Rich. Anything the matter?"
Rosemary promptly turned and fled and then, the second floor gained, turned and hung over the railing to watch Winnie unchain and unbolt and unlock the front door and then admit two dripping, but cheerful figures, in yellow oilskins.
"Raining and blowing great guns," said Warren's voice. "We got up to close one of the windows and saw your house lighted—thought maybe someone was sick."
"You're the best boys who ever breathed," the grateful Winnie informed them. "Nothing's the matter except I'm trying to find out what makes—that! Listen!"
"You've left the upstair doors open," said Richard promptly. "There's something about the way this house is constructed that does it. Whenever there's a wind of any account, all the second story doors have to be closed; it's the one drawback. I suppose Mrs. Hildreth didn't think to tell you."
"We left our doors open to-night, because we're lonely without Mrs. Willis," was Winnie's simple explanation. "Rosemary was down with me, but she left when she heard you—I daresay she's listening up in the hall now."
"Of course I am," said Rosemary. "Ask Warren and Richard to stay, Winnie; there is the guest room all ready."
"You go up and go to bed this minute," commanded Winnie, whose invitations, like the queen's, usually brooked no refusal. "Now I know the wind makes that howl, I'm not the least bit nervous, but I'd rather have someone around to ask in case something else turns up."
Nothing more of a disturbing nature "turned up" that night and the household settled down and slept peacefully, secure in the knowledge that very real protection, in the persons of the two husky lads, was close at hand. Winnie summoned them at five o'clock the next morning—knowing that Mr. Hildreth would not easily forgive a delayed morning start—and actually had coffee and her famous waffles ready for them at that hour.
"Send for us any time," grinned Warren when he saw the table set.
"Any time you need aid, Winnie—or plan to serve waffles."
AN ADVENTURE FOR SARAH
"Do you have to work all the time?" asked Sarah plaintively.
She sat on the top of a fence rail and, her feet hooked around the next bar, was placidly, if precariously, watching Richard Gilbert tinkering with a cultivator that had developed a sudden "kink."
"Well, summer is the time to work, on a farm," Richard answered good-naturedly. "You have to cultivate the corn when there is corn to cultivate, Sarah."
Sarah nodded, her eyes on the horse which stood patiently waiting.
"He's shivering," she said. "Look—see him shiver, Rich. And it is just as hot!"
"That isn't shivering," replied Richard, glancing up from the wheel in his hand. "Solomon is twitching to shake a fly off—that's all."
"Did he shake it off?" demanded Sarah with interest.
"I suppose so," answered Richard absently, searching for a screw he had dropped in the dirt.
"I could get the fly batter and swat flies for Solomon," suggested Sarah. "He'd like that, wouldn't he? I could ride on his back and hit all the flies, Rich."
"Yes, that sounds like a good scheme," admitted Richard cautiously, "but something tells me it wouldn't work. If you didn't frighten Solomon into fits, or start him galloping, or fall off and break your neck, you'd be sure to distract me from the work in hand and then Mr. Hildreth would want to know why I hadn't finished the corn. I'm afraid, Sarah, Sol will have to worry along in the same old way. The flies aren't bad to-day, anyway."
"Yes they are, he's twitching again," said Sarah. "He ought to wear a window screen—or something."
She was secretly relieved that her swatter plan had not been accepted, for she had a marked aversion to killing flies. Indeed many a royal battle had she waged with Winnie over the matter of killing flies that found their way into the house; Sarah, left alone, would slowly and painfully have captured each fly alive and unharmed and given him his freedom via the front door.
"Horses sometimes wear nets—or they used to when they were used for driving," explained Richard, beginning to pound the wheel in place. "As a horse ran or trotted, the net hobbled up and down and was supposed to keep the flies off; that wouldn't be any use when a horse is walking slowly around a field. A blanket would keep them away from Solomon, of course, but he'd die with the heat."
"I'll invent something for him," said Sarah comfortably.
"Where are the other girls?" asked Richard hastily.
A few weeks' acquaintance with Sarah had already taught him the expediency of keeping her in action. Sarah on the move might do some very startling things but a contemplative Sarah presented possibilities that were limitless.
"Hugh came and took Rosemary and Shirley with him," answered the small girl balancing on the fence. "I didn't want to go. I don't like automobiles much. When I grow up, I'm going to have a hundred horses and pigs and cows and everything."
"That'll be fine," Richard approved. "There now, I think that will work. Have to be moving on, Sarah; you going to wait for me to come round again?"
"No, that isn't any fun," said Sarah with more frankness than politeness. "Guess I'll go out to the orchard."
"Don't go through the upper field," commanded Richard, gathering up the lines.
Sarah scrambled down from the fence and reached for Solomon's glossy black tail.
"Why not?" she asked suspiciously.
"Because Mr. Hildreth turned the old ram out to pasture there this morning, that's why," said Richard. "Here, what are you trying to do?"
Sarah had grasped a handful of the horse's tail and was pulling on it wildly. Old Solomon turned his head around and stared at her reproachfully.
"I want to get enough hairs to make a ring," explained Sarah. "The washwoman is going to show me how next time she comes, but she said I had to get the hair."
"How many do you think you need?" said Richard, laughing as he released the tail from the covetous clutch of the small fingers. "You won't want more than half a dozen as long as these; Solomon thought you meant to pull his tail out by the roots, didn't you, Boy?"
"I didn't mean to hurt him," apologized the somewhat abashed Sarah. "What's a ram?"
"His other name is Mr. Sheep," said Richard, handing her half a dozen long black wiry hairs. "And he's old and cross and has been known to butt people. I don't think he'd hurt you, but he might frighten you."
"I wouldn't be afraid," boasted Sarah, stuffing her horse hairs carefully into the pocket of her middy blouse. "Shirley might, but I wouldn't. Shall I bring you a sweet apple, Rich?"
"If you find any," he said, swinging the cultivator back into place and clucking to Solomon to go ahead. "I can't eat green rocks, you know, and you shouldn't."
Sarah, in spite of warnings and orders, insisted on trying to eat everything in the shape of an apple that tumbled to the ground under the orchard trees. No fruit was too green for her palate, no round, bullet-like sphere too hard for her small white teeth.
She crawled through the fence now, waved a farewell to Richard, who was well on his way to the corner of the cornfield, and trotted off to search the orchard for spoils.
Sarah amused herself without much trouble—"though as much can't be said for the rest of us," Winnie had once remarked when Sarah's efforts to entertain herself had involved the entire family in explanations with nervous neighbors who objected to tame white mice—and the life at Rainbow Hill suited her exactly. She not only visited the horses and cows and pigs regularly, made friends with the flock of sheep and claimed to know every fowl in the poultry yard by name and sight, but she had a tender word for every bug, spider and grasshopper she met. Little water snakes were Sarah's delight and not even the ants and worms were beneath her notice and affection. Truly, as Doctor Hugh said, Sarah was certainly intended to live in the country.
"I'd like to see a ram," she said to herself as she scrambled up the bank to the orchard. "I never saw one. It wouldn't do any harm to go around the upper pasture and look in."
But she had a number of things to do in the orchard first. Sarah was noted for her thoroughness in whatever she undertook and now her heart was set on finding an apple soft enough for Richard Gilbert to eat—and just a plain apple for Miss Sarah Willis. Alas, Mrs. Hildreth had been out earlier in the day and had carefully picked up every windfall. She and Winnie were adepts at making delicious apple sauce and the first summer apples were scarce enough to be carefully hunted for.
So, though Sarah went the rounds of every tree and even shook one or two cautiously (Mr. Hildreth had intimated that he would "shake" anyone detected trying to knock down green apples or pears and Sarah had a wholesome respect for his mandates, so far) but she was forced to go appleless.
"I think I'd better go look at my apple seed I planted," said Sarah aloud.
She had borrowed the coal shovel from Winnie a few days previous and with much effort and earnestness, had planted a plump seed from an apple in a sunny, open space in the orchard. The apple was exceedingly green, but aside from doubtful fertility, the seed was doomed never to sprout because of the overwhelming curiosity of its small planter. Sarah had "looked" at that seed each day since planting it.
"If all these trees didn't grow any faster than my seed," mourned Sarah, scratching around in the soil with an oyster shell, the shovel having been confiscated by Winnie, "I don't see how people get any apples to eat."
Then a large—a very large—black ant hurrying up the trunk of a young pear tree, caught her eye and she stopped to study him. She thought for a moment of writing her name and address on a piece of paper and tying it to him so that at some distant date, say a hundred years ahead, another little girl might find the ant and read that Sarah had also known him.
"If a turtle lives sixty years, why can't an ant live a hundred?" Sarah asked the black crow who sat on a branch and stared at her. "Only, I haven't any paper or pencil or thread to tie it on with—so I'll wait."
With this sensible conclusion she turned her attention to the swing Warren had put up for her and Shirley on a conveniently low limb of an apple tree. Sarah did not swing sedately—she must do that as she did everything else, fast and furiously. She took out the notched board that served as a seat and stood up in the loop, jerking herself forward and backward until she attained the desired speed. Swooping down in one of these mad rushes, she caught sight of something moving in the next field.
"There's the ram!" she thought. "I'll go see what he looks like"; and jumping out of the swing she ran over to the wire fence that enclosed the orchard on three sides.
"He doesn't look cross—you're not, are you?" said Sarah, addressing the Roman-nosed wooly creature that stood gravely regarding her.
The flock of sheep were up at the other end of the field and the ram stood alone. Perhaps he had glimpsed the flashing of Sarah's frock through the trees as she swung and had come down to see what made the fluttering. Sarah was quite enchanted with him and thought he looked lonely.
She dropped to her knees and crawled through the fence, holding back the heavy wire strands with difficulty, and sat down on the grass to pull up her socks, brush her hair out of her eyes and tuck in a handful of gathers at her waistline where her skirt had torn loose from the band.
Having made herself neat for the introduction, Sarah advanced fearlessly to greet the ram. To her surprise he came toward her with lowered head, and something in his wicked little eyes made her uneasy. The next thing she knew, she felt a terrific impact against her legs and down she went with a thud. She had presence enough of mind to roll over and she kept rolling, in a frantic instinct to get out of the way of that powerful head. Dizzy and shaken—for she had fallen heavily—she scrambled to her feet and began to run, the ram coming after her valiantly.
"Rosemary! Mother! Rich—Rich! Warren!" screamed poor Sarah, running as she had never run before, "Rich! Rich!"
It was Warren who heard her and reached her first. He had been working in the tomato field which was near the orchard and he had no horse to consider—Richard could not abandon Solomon in the middle of the cornfield. Warren ran in the direction of the cries and, leaping the dividing fence, came to the rescue. The ram stopped short as soon as he saw him and Sarah fled straight into Warren's protecting arms.
"There, there, you're all right—you couldn't run like that if you were hurt," he soothed her. "Don't cry, Sarah—see, here comes your Mother; you've frightened her. And Winnie, too! Look up and smile and wave your hand—don't let your mother be frightened, Sarah."
Mrs. Willis had heard Sarah's shrieks and now she was running across the field, Winnie imploring her to walk at every step.
"She isn't hurt!" called Warren, trying to relieve the mother's anxiety at once. "She's all right, Mrs. Willis."
And then Sarah gained her vocal powers of which, till this minute, she had been deprived. Fright and running had taken her breath and she almost choked with the effort to articulate. Lifted high in Warren's arms, the tears running down her face, Sarah managed to put her chief sorrow into words that reached her mother and Winnie half way across the pasture and Richard just breathlessly rounding the orchard.
"I lost my horse hairs!" screamed Sarah.
Rosemary, seated on the lowest porch step, was outwardly "cool and calm and collected," to borrow one of Winnie's favorite phrases. She was dressed all in white and Doctor Hugh, coming from the shed where he had put his car, noted appreciatively what a lovely dash of color the blue wool she was knitting made in the picture. It just matched her eyes, he thought.
"Hello, sweetheart!" he greeted her, and then, as she raised her face to kiss him, "why, what's the matter?"
For the blue eyes were mutinous and stormy and it was easy to see that Rosemary was unhappy.
"Oh, Hugh! Don't go in right away—I never get a chance to talk to you," she said, moving over to give him room to sit on the step. "Everyone will have a thousand things to tell you—it was that way last Sunday. I suppose if we see you only once a week, or every other week, it's natural, but I wish I could ever talk to you without Shirley or Sarah asking you questions at the same time."
Doctor Hugh laughed as he took off his hat and dropped down beside his sister.
"Seems to me you have a good deal of energy for such a warm day," he commented, running his fingers through his thick dark hair. "Doesn't that breeze feel good, though! Eastshore has been becalmed this week and the dust from the plastering has settled on everything in the house—I'm glad Mother can't see it. And where is Mother, Rosemary?"
"Lying down," answered Rosemary, beginning to purl. "She didn't expect you for an hour. Sarah and Shirley went to town with Warren—he had to go over and get a bolt or something, so Mother let them go. How far has Mr. Greggs got with the building, Hugh?"
"Well, you know he isn't naturally swift," said the doctor cautiously, "and he and his helper have more labor troubles than any union I ever heard of—they differ continuously. But I will say that the lawn is piled high with lumber and bricks and I never come home at night that I don't have to chase a dozen boys away—kids who think I'm a grouch because I won't have them breaking their necks at my front door. Jack Welles says I ought to take patients wherever I find them and not be too particular."
"Tell me about Jack," Rosemary said, smiling.
"Jack is the same old Jack," declared the doctor. "He works in the garden, when his father makes him, and he goes fishing as often as the law allows. I believe he and half a dozen of the high school boys are going camping next week and Jack is counting on coming up here in August when I take my two weeks off. He's determined to work—asked me to speak to Mr. Hildreth about a job while I am here."
"Warren and Richard will be glad, if he does come," asserted Rosemary. "They think Mr. Hildreth ought to have another man all the time—Warren was grumbling because he had to go after the bolt this afternoon; he said it would put him back two hours."
The doctor watched the busy needles clicking placidly for several minutes. Then—
"And now, as we feel a little more serene," he said quietly, "suppose you tell me what was the trouble when I came."
"The trouble?" fenced Rosemary. "What trouble?"
"She thinks she can fool me," said Doctor Hugh, apparently addressing his remark to the solitary white hen that wandered around a bush on the lawn at that moment. "She thinks I don't know the signals—those famous storm signals. She thinks I didn't know the moment I looked at her that she wanted something she couldn't have."
"I had—an argument," admitted Rosemary with hot cheeks. "It was all Winnie's fault."
"Yes?" said her brother politely.
"It was, Hugh, honestly it was. Winnie is as good as gold, but I do wish she wouldn't try to look after me, as she calls it. I can look after myself. Mother would let me do lots of things, if it wasn't for Winnie."
"Here, here, you'll have to take out all that knitting, if you're not careful," warned the doctor, for the blue eyes were stormy again and Rosemary was knitting furiously. "What was this particular argument about?"
"I want to sleep outdoors," explained Rosemary. "I could take out a quilt and spread it on the grass and a blanket to cover me—I've never done it and it would be such fun. And Winnie says if I must be crazy can't I wait till I get back to Eastshore? As if anyone ever slept out on the grass in town where everyone can see you!"
"No, that wouldn't be exactly the thing to do," agreed Doctor Hugh, his lips twitching. "Well, Rosemary?"
"First Mother said I could, and then, after Winnie had talked to her, she said she thought it wouldn't be best," reported Rosemary. "Winnie told her a cow might step on me—and all the cows are in the barnyard or the pasture at six o'clock and never get out!—or, she said, someone might come and carry me off! And where would I be, while they were carrying me?" demanded Rosemary with intense scorn. "I'd like to see anyone carry me off!"
"I hope this 'argument' didn't degenerate into a clash," said the doctor seriously. "You know how it tires Mother to have to hear these quarrels, Rosemary, and to be constantly called upon to act as arbitrator."
"I banged the door," confessed Rosemary. "I can't help it, Hugh, I always lose my temper when I argue. And Winnie kept saying the same thing a hundred times—I don't see why I shouldn't sleep outdoors, do you?"
"If mother has said 'no,' there's one hard and fast reason," pronounced her brother. "But I believe in the value of experience as a teacher, especially for strong-willed little girls who are slow to learn that their own way isn't the best in the world. Good gracious, that isn't Sarah, is it?"
He broke off abruptly as an energetic figure advanced toward him, waving two small hands black with grease, in welcome. It was Sarah, a Sarah whose socks were down to her ankles and whose dress was torn and spotted with the same black grease that liberally anointed her face as well as her hands. Her dark, straight hair straggled into her eyes and there was a large bump on her forehead that evidently gave her little concern.
Behind her trotted Shirley, a little less disheveled, a little less dirty and quite as radiantly content.
"You look nice," said Rosemary severely. "I should have thought Warren would have been ashamed to ride home with you—where is he? I didn't see the wagon drive past."
"Mr. Hildreth made him turn into the field, without going to the barn," explained Sarah, standing at a safe distance from Doctor Hugh who would, she was sure, see the bump even under a layer of dirt. "We had lots of fun, Rosemary; the wheel came off and I helped Warren put it on again."
"And I had a chocolate ice cream cone," said Shirley, standing on tip-toe to kiss her brother and leaving small finger marks on his collar as visible marks of her affection.
"I'd better go and get washed up," announced Sarah blandly, though to her hearers' knowledge this was the first time on record she had made such a suggestion voluntarily.
"Come here, Sarah," said Doctor Hugh quietly, "I want to look at that bruise on your forehead."
"That isn't anything," Sarah assured him, backing off.
"Come here and let me see it," the doctor repeated and, as Sarah reluctantly approached him, "how did you get it?"
"I was under the wagon," said Sarah, wincing slightly as Doctor Hugh felt of the bruise with firm, practised fingers, "and I heard Warren coming and I jumped up and hit my head."
She did not think it necessary to add that Warren had requested her to stay in the road and not crawl under the broken wagon.
"All right, the skin isn't broken," announced the doctor. "But it aches a little doesn't it, dear?"
"A little," nodded Sarah, winking to keep back the tears.
He put an arm around her, heedless of the dirt and grease.
"That won't last long," he promised, "and if you and Shirley will go in and get washed and dressed without dawdling, I'll take you for a little drive before dinner."
"Rosemary, too?" asked Shirley, balancing like a butterfly on the top step.
Forgetting her aching bump, Sarah followed Shirley into the house with a shout, and the sound of their feet clattering up the open stairway proclaimed their intentions of not wasting a minute.
"Here comes Mrs. Hildreth," said Rosemary in a low voice. "I wish I could fix her just once—she doesn't know how to be pretty."
Rosemary, with uncanny penetration, had hit upon the truth. Mrs. Hildreth did not know how to be pretty. She would have said she had not the time to "fuss with her looks," but it would have taken little extra time to have done her really abundant hair in a becoming style instead of the tight knot into which she invariably twisted it. And surely, if she could don that clean, starched dark calico dress in five minutes, it would have taken no longer to put on a pretty light-colored frock.
"I thought your brother would be out to spend Sunday," said Mrs. Hildreth capably, in her high-pitched, nervous voice, "so I brought up two extra bunches of asparagus. Winnie told me the doctor liked it."
"Winnie has my likes and dislikes down pat," declared Doctor Hugh, rising and shaking hands. "Will you come in, Mrs. Hildreth? My mother will be down in a minute."
Rosemary took the asparagus and seconded the invitation.
"No, thanks, I can't stay," said Mrs. Hildreth, rather regretfully. "I have to tend to the chickens and get the milk pans and strainers ready and do a lot of little chores before I get supper. You use your porch a lot, don't you?"
"Yes," said Rosemary who, she had once told her mother, always felt as though Mrs. Hildreth's sharp eyes condemned her as lazy. "We all love to be out of doors."
"I'm outdoors most of the time," said Mrs. Hildreth, "but I don't have time to sit on the porch, unless it is Sunday afternoons."
She went back to her work and Rosemary, returning from delivering the asparagus to Winnie, found her mother and an immaculate Sarah and Shirley entertaining Doctor Hugh. He brought the car around presently and they went for the promised drive to Bennington, the pretty county seat, and back.
After dinner that evening Rosemary, quite restored to good humor, was surprised to have a question put to her.
"How would you like to try sleeping outdoors to-night, Rosemary?" asked Doctor Hugh placidly.
ONE WISH COMES TRUE
Rosemary answered her brother's question characteristically.
"Oh, Hugh! I'd love to."
"Well, don't tell Sarah or Shirley," he cautioned, "because I don't want a riot—wait till they have gone to bed and then at nine o'clock, if you really want to try the experiment, you may."
"Won't Mother care?" asked Rosemary doubtfully.
"I've talked it over with Mother, and she is willing to let you try the plan while I am here," said the doctor. "It is a clear warm night and too early in the season for heavy dews, so there could not be a better time. You'd find it harder to go to sleep if there were a moon, so that's in your favor, too."
"I wouldn't want to sleep outdoors on a moonlight night," declared Rosemary decidedly. "Old Fiddlestrings—Warren says everyone calls him that—would be walking up and down the road, playing the 'Serenade.' I'd rather sleep outdoors in the dark—as soon as you are used to it, it isn't dark at all and I love to see the stars."
It seemed to Rosemary that Sarah and Shirley must have turned back the hands of the clock to delay their bed hour. They monopolized their brother, seated on either side of him in the porch swing while the summer dusk slowly deepened and Mrs. Willis rested in the big chair which had an arm strong and broad enough to hold Rosemary who knitted with outward calm and inward fever. Were those children never going to bed?
Winnie had gone over to the bungalow with Mrs. Hildreth, who was delighted to have someone with whom to exchange household lore, and Warren and Richard had tactfully betaken themselves to Bennington, knowing instinctively that Doctor Hugh would like to have his family to himself for one brief evening, after a week's separation.
"Too dark to knit, Rosemary," he said at last. "And don't turn on the light, dear; can't you be content to do nothing for a little while?"
"Time for bed, Shirley," announced Mrs. Willis. "Run along and see how nearly undressed you can be before Mother comes up."
Shirley obediently clambered down and looked at them wistfully. Her bed hour was half-past seven and Sarah had the privilege of staying up till eight o'clock. She clung jealously to this prerogative and as a rule nothing would induce her to go to bed when Shirley did. She might fall asleep on sofa or rug, but she would protest vigorously, if sent upstairs before the eight strokes of the clock were heard. Thirty minutes at bed-time marked the difference to Sarah between six and nine years old.