The Comings of Cousin Ann
The Comings of Cousin Ann
By Emma Speed Sampson
Author of "Mammy's White Folks" "Billy and the Major" "Miss Minerva's Baby" "The Shorn Lamb"
Reilly & Lee Co. Chicago
Printed in the United States of America Copyright, 1923
by The Reilly & Lee Co.
All Rights Reserved
The Comings of Cousin Ann
I The Veterans of Ryeville 9
II Cousin Ann at Buck Hill 20
III Cousin Ann is Affronted 32
IV The Energy of Judith 44
V Uncle Billy's Diplomacy 58
VI A Question of Kinship 68
VII Judith Makes a Hit 77
VIII Cousin Ann Looks Backward 89
IX The Veterans' Big Secret 98
X Judith Scores Again 111
XI A Surprise for Cinderella 123
XII Jeff Gives a Pledge 136
XIII The Debut Party 144
XIV On With the Dance 156
XV Cinderella Revealed 165
XVI The Morning After 176
XVII Uncle Billy Makes a Call 185
XVIII A Cavalier O'erthrown 193
XIX Miss Ann Moves On 202
XX A Heart-Warming Welcome 212
XXI The Clan in Conclave 220
XXII A Great Transformation 228
XXIII The Lost Is Found 237
XXIV Blessings Begin to Flow 251
XXV Uncle Billy Smiles 262
The Comings of Cousin Ann
The Veterans of Ryeville
Ryeville had rather prided itself on having the same population—about three thousand—for the last fifty years. That is the oldest inhabitants had, but the newer generation was for expansion in spite of tradition, and Ryeville awoke one morning, after the census taker had been busying himself, to find itself five thousand strong and still growing.
There was no especial reason for the growth of the little town, save that it lay in the heart of rolling blue-grass country and people have to live somewhere. And Ryeville, with its crooked streets and substantial homes, was as good a place as any. There were churches of all denominations, schools and shops, a skating rink, two motion picture houses and as many drug stores as there had been barrooms before prohibition made necessary a change of front. There were two hotels—one where you "could" and one where you "couldn't." The former was frequented by the old men of the town and county. It stood next to the courthouse. Indeed its long, shady porch overlooked the courthouse green. There the old men would sit with chairs tilted against the wall and feet on railing and sadly watch the prohibition officers hauling bootleggers to court.
There were a great many old men in Ryeville and the country around—more old men than old women, in spite of the fact that that part of Kentucky had furnished its quota of recruits for both Union and Rebel armies.
In Kentucky, during the war between the states, brother had been pitted against brother—even father against son. The fact that the state did not secede from the Union had been a reason for the most intense bitterness and ill feeling among families and former friends. The bitterness was gone now and ill feeling forgotten. The veterans of the blue and the gray sat on the Rye House porch together, swapping tales and borrowing tobacco as amicably as though they had never done their best to exterminate one another.
"As for Abe Lincoln," declared Major Fitch, an ancient confederate, "if it hadn't been for him Gawd knows what we'd 'a' had to talk about in these dry days. I tell you, sah, we ought to be eternally grateful to Abe Lincoln. I for one am. I was a clerk in a country store when the war broke out and I'd 'a' been there yet if it wasn't for the war. I'm here to say it made me and made my fam'ly. We were bawn fighters—my fo' brothers and I—and up to the sixties we were always in trouble for brawling. The war came along and made a virtue of our vices. My mother used to be mighty 'shamed when she heard we were called the 'Fighting Fitches.' That was befo' the war, and one or the other of us boys was always up befo' the co't for wild carrying on. But, bless Bob, when we were called 'Fighting Fitches' for whipping the Yankees the old lady was as pleased as Punch."
"What did they call ye fer not bein' able to whup us?" asked a grinning old giant from the mountains.
"Nothin'—'cause we were able. All we needed was mo' men and mo' food and mo' guns. We'd 'a' licked the spots off of you Yanks if we had had a chance. You wouldn't stand still long enough to get whipped."
So the talk went on, day in and day out. Battles were fought over and over but never finished. They always ended with a draw and could be resumed the next morning with added zest and new incidents. One old man, Pete Barnes, who had the distinction of being the only private who frequented the porch at Rye House, always claimed to have been present at every battle mentioned—even Bunker Hill and the battle of New Orleans.
"Yes sirree, I was there; nothin' but a youngster, but I was there!" he would assert. "There wasn't a single battle the Fo'th Kentucky Volunteers didn't get in on an' the Johnny Rebs would run like hell when they heard we were comin'. I tell you when we got them a goin' was at Fredericksburg in '62—must have been 'bout the middle of December. We beat 'em even worse than we did at Chickamauga the following year."
"Aw dry up, Pete. You know perfectly well the Yanks got licked at both of those battles," a jovial opponent would declare, but Pete Barnes was as sure his side had won as he was that he had been present at the surrender of Cornwallis and there was no use in trying to persuade him otherwise.
The Rye House faced on Main Street and nothing happened on that thoroughfare that escaped the oldsters on the porch. If anything was going on all they had to do was move their chairs from the side porch to the front, whether it was a circus parade or a funeral, or just Miss Ann Peyton's rickety coach bearing her to Buck Hill, which was the first large farm the other side of the creek, the dividing line between Ryeville and the country. There were several small places but Buck Hill the only one of importance.
On a morning in June the old men sat on the porch as usual, with feet on railing and chairs tilted to the right angle for aged backbones. Nothing much had happened all morning. The sun was about the only thing that was moving in Ryeville and that had finally got around to the side porch and was shining full on Colonel Crutcher's outstretched legs.
"I reckon we'd better move," he said wearily. "Th'ain't much peace and quiet these days, what with the sun."
"Heat's something awful," agreed Pete Barnes, "but it ain't a patchin' on what it was at Cowpens."
"Cowpens!" exclaimed a necktie drummer who was stopping at the Rye House for a day or so, "I thought Cowpens was a battle fought between the United States and the English back in 1781."
"Sure, sure!" agreed Pete, "I was a mere lad, but I was there."
"It was in January, too," persisted the drummer.
"Of course, but we made it so hot for the—for the other side that this June weather is nothin' to it."
There was a general laugh and moving of chairs out of the rays of the inconsiderate sun.
"By golly, we're just in time," said Colonel Crutcher. "There comes Miss Ann Peyton's rockaway. Where do you reckon she's bound for?"
"Lord knows, but I hope she's not in a hurry," said Judge Middleton—judge from courtesy only, having sat on no bench but the anxious bench at the races and being a judge solely of horses and whiskey. "Did you ever see such snails as that old team? Good Golddust breed too! Miss Ann always buys good horses when she does buy but to my certain knowledge that pair is eighteen years old. Pretty nigh played out by now but I reckon they'll outlast old Billy and Miss Ann."
"I reckon the old lady has to do some scrimpin' to buy a new pair," said Major Fitch. "By golly, I remember when she was the best-looking gal in the county—or any other county for that matter. She was engaged to a fellow in my regiment—killed at Appomattox. She had more beaux than you could shake a stick at, but I reckon she couldn't get over Bert Mason. She wasn't much more than a child when the war broke out, but the war aged the girls as it did the boys."
"I hear tell Miss Ann is on the move right smart lately," ventured Pete Barnes.
"So they tell me," continued Major Fitch. "I tell you, havin' comp'ny now isn't what it used to be, what with wages up sky-high and all the niggers gone to Indianapolis and Chicago so there aren't any to pay even if you had the money, and food costin' three times what it's wuth. I reckon it is no joke to have Miss Ann a fallin' in on her kin nowadays with two horses that must have oats and that old Billy to fill up besides."
"Yes, and Little Josh tells me Miss Ann is always company wherever she stays," said the Judge. "He wasn't exactly complaining but just kind of explaining. You see his wife, that last one, just up and said she wouldn't and she wouldn't. I reckon Miss Ann kind of wore out her welcome last time she was there because she came just when Mrs. Little Josh was planning a trip to White Sulphur and Miss Ann wouldn't take the hint and the journey had to be put off and then the railroad strike came along and Little Josh was afraid to let his wife start for fear she couldn't get back. Mrs. Little Josh is as sore as can be about it and threatens if Miss Ann comes any more that she will invite all of her own kin at the same time and see which side can freeze out the other. The old lady hasn't been there this year and she hasn't been to Big Josh's either. Big Josh's daughters have read the riot act, so I hear, and they say if their old cousin comes to them without being invited they are going to try some visiting on their own hook and leave Big Josh to do the entertaining. They say he is great on big talk about family ties and the obligations of kinship but that they have all the trouble and when their Cousin Ann Peyton visits them he simply takes himself off and leaves them to do the work. Big Josh lives up such a muddy lane it's hard to keep servants."
Miss Ann's lumbering carriage had hardly reached the far corner when the attention of the old men on the porch was arrested by a small, low-swung motor car of the genus runabout. No doubt its motor and wheels had been turned out of a factory but the rest of it was plainly home made. It was painted a bright blue. The rear end might have applied for a truck license, as it was evidently intended as a bearer of burdens, but the front part had the air of a racer and the eager young girl at the wheel looked as though she might be more in sympathy with the front of her car than the back. Be that as it may, she was determined not to let her sympathies run away with her but, much to the delight of the dull old men on the Rye House porch, she stopped her car directly in front of them and carefully rearranged a number of mysterious-looking parcels in the truck end of her car.
"Hiyer, Miss Judith?" called Pete Barnes. The girl must stop her engine to hear what the old man was saying.
"What is it?" she called back gaily.
"I just said hiyer?"
"Fine! Hiyer, yourself?" she laughed pleasantly, although stopping the engine entailed getting out and cranking, since her car boasted no self-starter.
All of the old men bowed familiarly to the girl and indulged in some form of pleasantry.
"Bootlegging now, or what are you up to?" asked Major Fitch.
"Worse than that—perfumes and soaps, tooth pastes and cold creams, hair tonics and henna dips, silver polish and spot removers—pretty near everything or a little of it; but I'm going to come call on all of you when I get my wares sorted out."
"Do! Do!" they responded, but she was in and off before they could say more.
"Gee, that's a pretty girl!" exclaimed the necktie drummer.
"I reckon she is," grunted Colonel Crutcher, "pretty and good and sharp as a briar and quick as greased lightning. There isn't a girl like her anywhere around these parts. I don't see what the young folks of the county are thinking about, leaving her out of all their frolics."
"Well, you see—" put in another old man.
"Yes, I see the best-looking gal of the bunch and the spunkiest and the equal of any of them and the superior of most as far as manners and brains are concerned, just because she comes of plain folks—"
"A little worse than plain, Crutcher," put in Judge Middleton. "Those Bucks—"
"Oh, then she lives at Buck Hill?" asked the drummer.
"Buck Hill! Heavens man! The Bucknors live at Buck Hill and are about the swellest folk in Kentucky. The Bucks live in a little place this side of Buck Hill. There's nobody left but this Judy gal and her mother. I reckon their place would have gone for debt if it hadn't so happened that the trolley line from Louisville cut through it and they sold the right of way for enough to lift the mortgage. They do say that the Bucknors and Bucks were the same folks originally but that was in the early days and somehow the Bucks got down and the Bucknors staid up. Now the Bucknors would no more acknowledge the relationship to the Bucks than the Bucks would expect them to."
"I should think anybody would be proud to claim kin with a peach like that girl," said Major Fitch. "Her mother is a pretty good sort too, but slow. I reckon when they get cousinly inclined they always think of old Dick Buck, Judy's grandfather, who was enough to cool the warmest feelings of kinship."
Nodding assent to the Major's remark, the veterans lapsed into sleepy silence.
Cousin Ann at Buck Hill
"Here comes Cousin Ann!" It was a wail from the depth of Mildred Bucknor's heart.
"Surely not!" cried her mother. "There are lots of other places for her to visit before our turn comes again. There's Uncle Tom's and Cousin Betty's and Sister Sue's, and Big Josh and Little Josh haven't had her for at least a year. Are you sure, Mildred?"
"It looks like the old rockaway and Uncle Billy's top hat," said Mildred. "It is too much to bear just when we are going to have a house party! Mother, please tell her it isn't convenient this June and have her go on to Big Josh's."
"Oh, my dear, you know Father wouldn't hear of my doing that. Maybe it isn't she after all. Nan, climb up on the railing and see if that could be Cousin Ann Peyton's carriage coming along the pike and turning into the avenue."
"Well, all I have to say is if it is her—"
"She," corrected her mother.
"Her carriage. Wait until I finish my sentence, Mother, before you correct me," and the girl climbed on the railing of the front porch where the ladies of the Bucknor family were wont to spend the summer mornings. Clinging to one of the great fluted columns she tiptoed, trying to peer through the cloud of limestone dust that enveloped the approaching vehicle.
"It's her all right and I don't care what kind of grammar I use to express my disgust," and Nan jumped from the railing. "I don't see why—"
"Well, my dear, it can't be helped. You know how your father feels about his kin. Better run and tell Aunt Em'ly to send Kizzie up to get the guest chamber in order."
"Oh, Mother, you know it is in order. Nan and I have been busy up there all morning getting it ready for the girls. We've even got flowers all fixed and clean bureau scarves and everything," said Mildred, trying not to weep.
"Yes, and linen sheets. We thought you wouldn't mind, Mother, because you see Jean Roland is used to such fine doings, and this is her first visit to Kentucky. We know you have only three pairs of linen sheets but this seemed the psychological time to use them. I've a great mind to go yank them off the bed."
"But, Mother," pleaded Mildred, "couldn't we put old Cousin Ann Peyton in the little hall room? I can't see why she always has to have the guest chamber. She's no better than anybody else."
"But your father—"
"What difference will it make to Father? He needn't even know where we put Cousin Ann."
"What do you think about it, Aunt Em'ly?" Mrs. Bucknor asked the lean old colored woman who appeared in the doorway. "Here comes Miss Ann Peyton, and the young ladies want to put her in the little hall bedroom because they have planned to put their company in the guest chamber?"
"Think! I think I'm a plum fool not ter have wrang the neck er that ol' dominick rooster yestiddy when he spent the whole day a crowin' fer comp'ny. I pretty nigh knowed we were in fer some kind er visitation."
"Maybe he was crowing for our house party," suggested Nan.
"No, honey, that there rooster don't never crow for 'vited comp'ny. Now if I had er wrang his neck he'd 'a' been in the pot, comp'ny or no, an' it 'ud cure him of any mo' reckless crowin'."
"But, Aunt Em'ly, what do you think about putting Miss Ann in the hall room?"
"Think! I think she'll git her back up an' that ol' Billy'll be shootin' off his mouf, but we-all done entertained Miss Ann an' ol' Billy an' them ca'ige hosses goin' onter three months already this year an' it's high time some er the res' of the fambly step up. What's the matter with Marse Big Josh? An' if he air onable what's the matter with Marse Lil Josh? Yassum, put her in the hall room an' 'fo' Gawd I'll make that ol' Billy keep his feet out'n the oven, if not this summer, nex' winter. He's the orneris' nigger fer wantin' ter sit with his feet in the oven."
"Then, Mother, may we keep the guest chamber for the girls? Please say yes!" begged Nan. "Aunt Em'ly thinks it is all right and you know you have always been telling us to mind Aunt Em'ly because she has such good judgment."
"Well, my jedgment air that Miss Ann oughter been occupewin' the hall room for some fifty year or mo', ever sence she an' that ol' Billy took ter comin' so reg'lar," said Aunt Em'ly. "If I had it ter do over I'd never 'a' let him git so free with his feet in the oven. The truf er the matter is, Miss Milly, that you an' Marse Bob Bucknor an' all yo' chilluns as well, long with all the res' of the fambly includin' of Marse Big Josh an' Marse Lil Josh, done accepted of Miss Ann Peyton an' ol' Billy an' the ca'ige hosses like they wa' the will of the Almighty. Well, now le's see if Miss Ann Peyton can't accept the hall room like it wa' the will er the Almighty an' if ol' Billy can't come ter some 'clusion that Gawd air aginst his dryin' out his ol' feet in my oven."
While this discussion was going on, the cloud of limestone dust had disappeared and from it had emerged a quaint old coach, lumbering and shabby, drawn by a pair of sleek sorrel horses, whose teeth would have given evidence of advanced age had a possible purchaser submitted them to the indignity of examining them. Their progress was slow and sedate, although the driver handled the reins as though it were with difficulty that he restrained them from prancing and cavorting as they neared the mansion.
Old Billy's every line, from his dented top hat to his well-nigh soleless boots, expressed dignity and superiority. He was quite sure that being coachman to Miss Ann Peyton gave him the right to wipe those worn boots on the rest of mankind.
"Look at that ol' fool nigger!" exclaimed Aunt Em'ly in disgust. "Settin' up there lookin' mo' like a monkey than a man in that long-tail blue coat with brass buttons an' his ha'r like cotton wool an' whiskers so long he haster wrop 'em. The onlies wuck that nigger ever does is jes' growin' whiskers."
"Oh, come now, Aunt Em'ly," remonstrated a young man who stepped from the study window on the porch as the old coach lumbered up the driveway, "Uncle Billy keeps his horses in better condition than any on our farm are kept. Poor old Uncle Billy!"
"Poor old Uncle Billy, indeed!" snapped Mildred. "I reckon, Brother Jeff, you'd say poor old Cousin Ann, too."
"Of course I would. I can't think of any person in the world I feel much sorrier for."
"Well, I can. I feel lots sorrier for Nan and me with our house party on hand and Cousin Ann turning up for the second time since Christmas. It's all well enough for you and Father to be so high and mighty about honoring the aged, and blood being thicker than water and so on. You don't have to sleep with Cousin Ann, the way Nan and I do sometimes."
"We-ell, no!" laughed Jeff.
"Hush, Mildred. Remember how Father feels about the comings of Cousin Ann. You and Nan must be polite." Mrs. Bucknor sighed, realizing she was demanding of her daughters something that was difficult for her to perform herself. Being polite to Cousin Ann had been the most arduous task imposed upon that wife and mother during twenty-five years of married life.
At the yard gate Uncle Billy drew in his steeds with a great show of their being unwilling to stop. He turned as though to command the footman to alight and open the door of the coach. With feigned astonishment at there being no footman, he climbed down from the box with so much dignity that even Aunt Em'ly was impressed, though unwilling to acknowledge it.
"That ol' nigger certainly do walk low for anybody who sets so high," she whispered to Mildred. The bowing of Uncle Billy's legs in truth took many inches from his height. But the old man, in spite of crooked legs, worn-out boots, shabby livery and battered high hat, carried himself with the air of a prime minister. Miss Ann Peyton was his queen.
There was an expression of infinite pathos on the countenance of the old darkey as he opened the door of the ancient coach. Bowing low, as though to royalty, he said, "Miss Ann, we air done arrive."
Jeff Bucknor took his mother's arm and gently led her down the walk. Involuntarily she stiffened under his affectionate grasp and held back. It was all very well for the men of the family to take the stand they did concerning Cousin Ann Peyton and her oft-repeated visits. Men had none of the bother of company. Of course she would be courteous to her and always treat her with the consideration due an aged kinswoman, but she could not see the use of pretending she was glad to see her and rushing down the walk to meet her as though she were an honored guest.
"It is hard on Mildred and Nan," she murmured to her stalwart son, as he escorted her towards the battered coach.
"Yes, Mother, but kin is kin—and the poor old lady hasn't any real home."
"Well then she might—There are plenty of them—very good comfortable ones—"
"You mean homes for old ladies? Oh, Mother, you know Father would never consent to that. Neither would Uncle Tom nor Big Josh. She would hate it and then there's Uncle Billy and the horses—Cupid and Puck—to say nothing of the chariot."
Further discussion was impossible. Mother and son reached the yard gate as Uncle Billy opened the coach door and announced the fact that Miss Ann had arrived at her destination. Then began the unpacking of the visitor. It was a roomy carriage, and well that it was so. When Miss Peyton traveled she traveled. Having no home, everything she possessed must be carried with her. Trunks were strapped on the back of the coach and inside with the mistress were boxes and baskets and bundles, suitcases and two of those abominations known as telescopes, from which articles of clothing were bursting forth.
It was plain to see from the untidy packing that Miss Ann and Uncle Billy had left their last abode in a hurry. Even Miss Peyton's features might have been called untidy, if such a term could be used in connection with a countenance whose every line was aristocratic. As a rule that lady was able so to control her emotions that the uninitiated were ignorant of the fact that she had emotions. She gave one the impression on that morning in June of having packed her emotions hurriedly, as she had her clothes, and they were darting from her flashing eyes as were garments from the telescopes.
Gently, almost as though he were performing a religious rite, Uncle Billy lifted the shabby baggage from the coach.
"Let me help you, Uncle Billy. Good morning, Cousin Ann. I am very glad to see you," said Jeff, although it was impossible to see Cousin Ann until some of the luggage was removed.
"Thank you, cousin." Miss Ann spoke from the depths of the coach. Her voice trembled a little.
At last, every box, bag and bundle was removed and piled by Uncle Billy upon each side of the yard gate like a triumphal arch through which his beloved mistress might pass.
Old Billy unfolded the steps of the coach. These steps were supposed to drop at the opening of the door but the spring had long ago lost its power and the steps must be lowered by hand.
"Mind whar you tread, Miss Ann," he whispered. Nobody must hear him suggest that the steps were not safe. Nobody must ever know that he and Miss Ann and the coach and horses were getting old and played out.
Miss Ann had dignity enough to carry off broken steps, shabby baggage, rickety carriage—anything. She emerged from the coach with the air of being visiting royalty conferring a favor on her lowly subjects by stopping with them. Her dignity even overtopped the fact that her auburn wig was on crooked and a long lock of snow-white hair had straggled from its moorings and crept from the confines of the purple quilted-satin poke bonnet. The beauty which had been hers in her youth was still hers although everybody could not see it. Uncle Billy could see it and Jeff Bucknor glimpsed it, as his old cousin stepped from her dingy coach. He had never realized before that Cousin Ann Peyton had lines and proportions that must always be beautiful—a set of the head, a slope of shoulder, a length of limb, a curve of wrist and a turn of ankle. The old purple poke bonnet might have been a diadem, so high did she carry her head; and she floated along in the midst of her voluminous skirts like a belle of the sixties—which she had been and still was in the eyes of her devoted old servant.
Miss Peyton wore hoop skirts. Where she got them was often conjectured. Surely she could not be wearing the same ones she had worn in the sixties and everybody knew that the articles were no longer manufactured. Big Josh had declared on one occasion when some of the relatives had waxed jocose on the subject of Cousin Ann and her style of dress, that she had bought a gross of hoop skirts cheap at the time when they were going out of style and had them stored in his attic—but then everybody knew that Big Josh would say anything that popped into his head and then swear to it and Little Josh would back him up.
"By heck, there's no room in the attic for trunks," he had insisted. "Hoop skirts everywhere! Boxes of 'em! Barrels of 'em! Hanging from the rafters like Japanese lanterns! Standing up in the corners like ghosts scaring a fellow to death! I can't keep servants at all because of Cousin Ann Peyton's buying that gross of hoop skirts. Little Josh will bear me out in this."
And Little Josh would, although the truth of the matter was that Cousin Ann had only one hoop skirt, and it was the same she had worn in the sixties. Inch by inch its body had been renewed to reclaim it from the ravages of time until not one iota of the original garment was left. Here a tape and there a wire had been carefully changed, but always the hoop kept its original form. The spirit of the sixties still breathed from it and it enveloped Miss Ann as in olden days.
Cousin Ann Is Affronted
Mrs. Bucknor stood aside while Uncle Billy and Jeff unpacked the carriage but as the visitor emerged she came forward. "How do you do, Cousin Ann?" she said, trying to put some warmth in her remark. "Have you driven far?"
Cousin Ann leaned over stiffly and gave her hostess a perfunctory peck on her cheek. "We left Cousin Betty Throckmorton's this morning," she said with a toss of the purple poke bonnet.
"Then you must have had a very early breakfast." It was a well-known fact that the sorrel horses, although of the famous Golddust breed, were old and could travel at a stretch only about five miles an hour.
"We lef' Miss Betty's befo' breakfas'," said Uncle Billy sadly, but a glance from his mistress made him add, "but we ain't hongry, case we done et our fill at a hotel back yonder."
"I deemed it wise to travel before the heat of the day," said Miss Ann with an added dignity. "Take my luggage to my room, Billy."
"Yassum, yes, Miss Ann," and the old man made a show of tying his team to the hitching post although he knew that the fat old Cupid and Puck were glad to stop and rest and nothing short of oats would budge them.
Mildred and Nan came slowly down the walk, followed by Aunt Em'ly. "We've got to let her kiss us and we might just as well get it over with," grumbled Mildred.
"Well, they's some compersations in bein' black," chuckled Aunt Em'ly. "I ain't never had ter kiss Miss Ann yit."
"How do you do, cousins?" and Miss Peyton again stooped from her loftiness and pecked first one girl and then the other. The old lady called all of her young relations cousin without adding the Christian name and it was generally conceded that she did this because she could not keep up with the younger generation in the many homes she visited.
"Mother, remember your promise," whispered Mildred.
"Yes, Mother, remember," added Nan. "Now is the time, before the trunks and things get put in the wrong room."
"Uncle Billy, Miss Ann is to have the room next the guest chamber. I mean the—hall room," hesitated poor Mrs. Bucknor, who was always overawed by Cousin Ann.
Uncle Billy put down the two bulging telescopes he had picked up and looking piteously at Mrs. Bucknor said, "What you say, Miss Milly? I reckon I done misumberstood. You mus' 'scuse ol' Billy, Miss Milly."
"Miss Milly done said I'll show you the way," said Aunt Em'ly, picking up a great hat box and a Gladstone bag. "I'll he'p you carry up some er these here bags an' baggage."
The gaunt old woman stalked ahead, while Billy followed, but far from meekly. His beard with its many wrapped plaits wagged ominously and he could hardly wait to get beyond earshot of the white folks before he gave voice to his indignation.
"What's all this a puttin' my Miss Ann off in a lil' ol' hall bedroom? You-alls is gone kinder crazy. The bes' ain't good enough fer my Miss Ann. How she gonter make out in no little squz up room what ain't mo'n a dressin'-room? Miss Ann air always been a havin' the gues' chamber an' I'm a gonter 'stablish her thar now. Miss Milly done got mixed up, Sis Em'ly," and the old man changed his indignant tone to a wheedling one. "Sholy yo' Miss Milly wa' jes' a foolin' an' seein' as th'ain't nobody in the gues' chamber we'll jes' put my Miss Ann thar."
The door of the guest chamber was open and the determined old darkey pushed by Aunt Em'ly and entered the room prepared by Mildred and Nan for their friends.
"See, they mus' a' got a message she wa' on the way, kase they done put flowers in her room an' all," and old Billy kneeled to loosen the straps of the telescopes.
"Git up from yonder, nigger!" exclaimed Aunt Em'ly. "The young ladies air done swep and garnished this here room for they own comp'ny. Th'ain't nothin' the matter with that there hall room. It air plenty good enough fer mos' folks. I reckon yo' Miss Ann ain't a whit better'n my Miss Mildred and my Miss Nan—ain't so good in fac', kase they's got the same blood she air an' mo' of it. They's a older fambly than she is kase they's come along two or three generations further than what she is. They's Peytons an' Bucknors an' Prestons an' Throckmortons an' Butlers an'—an' every other Kentucky fambly they's a mind ter be."
Uncle Billy staggered to his feet and looked at Aunt Em'ly with amazement and indignation. He tried to speak but words failed him. She towered above him. There was something sinister and threatening about her—at least so the old man fancied. Aunt Em'ly was in reality merely standing up for the rights of her own especial white folks, but to the dazed old man she seemed like a symbolic figure of famine and disaster, lean and gaunt, pointing a long, bony finger at him. He followed her to the hall bedroom and deposited his burdens and then staggered down the stairs for the rest of Miss Ann's belongings.
Poor Uncle Billy! His troubles were almost more than he could bear. Not that he personally minded getting up before dawn and flitting from Mrs. Betty Throckmorton's home before any member of the household was stirring. His Miss Ann had so willed it and far be it from him to object to her commands. Even going without breakfast was no hardship, if it so pleased his beloved mistress. The meal he had declared to Mrs. Bucknor they had eaten at a hotel on the way was purely imaginary. Crackers and cheese from a country store they had passed on their journey and a spray of black-heart cherries he had pulled from a tree by the wayside was all he and his mistress had eaten since the evening before at supper.
That supper! Would he ever forget it? From the back porch steps he had heard the insults flung at Miss Ann by her hostess. Of course everybody who was anybody, or who had ever belonged to anybody, knew that Mrs. Elizabeth Throckmorton, known as Cousin Betty, was not really a member of the family but had merely married into it. According to Uncle Billy's geography she was not even an American, let alone a Kentuckian, since she had come from some foreign parts vaguely spoken of as New England. He and Miss Ann never had liked to visit there, but stopped on rare occasions when they felt that being an outsider her feelings might be hurt when she heard they had been in her neighborhood, had passed by her farm without paying their respects in the shape of a short visit.
The encounter between the two ladies had been short and sharp, while the Throckmorton family sat in frightened silence. Miss Ann and Uncle Billy had been there only two days but from the beginning of the visit Uncle Billy had felt that things were not going so smoothly as he had hoped. Things had not been running very well for the chronic visitors in several of the places visited during the last year but there had been no open break or rudeness until that evening at the Throckmortons'. It was a little unfortunate that they had come in on the family without warning, just as the oldest grandchildren were recovering from measles and the youngest daughter, Lucy, had made up her mind to have a June wedding. The measles had necessitated an extra house cleaning and fumigation of the nursery and the young sufferers had been put in the guest chamber to sleep, while the June wedding meant many visits to Louisville for trousseau and much conversation on the subject of who should not be invited and what kind of refreshments must be served.
A more unpropitious moment for paying a visit could not have been chosen. It was plain to see that the Throckmortons were not aware of the honor conferred upon them. The guest chamber having been converted into a convalescent hospital, Miss Ann must share room and bed with the reluctant Lucy. Bureau drawers were cleared and part of a wardrobe dedicated to the aged relative. Moreover there was no room in the stable for the visiting carriage horses, as a young Throckmorton had recently purchased a string of valuable hunters that must be housed, although Miss Ann's Golddust breed were forced to present their broad backs to the rain and wind in the pasture.
Old Billy slept in the coach, but he often did this in late years—how often he never let his mistress know. In early days he had been welcomed by the servants and treated with the respect due Miss Ann Peyton's coachman, but the older generation of colored people had died off or had become too aged and feeble to "make the young folks stand around." As for the white people, Uncle Billy couldn't make up his mind what was the matter with them. Wasn't Miss Ann the same Miss Ann who had been visiting ever since her own beautiful home, Peyton, had been burned to the ground just after the war? She was on a visit at the time. Billy was coachman and had driven her to Buck Hill. He wasn't old Billy then, but was young and sprightly. He drove a spanking pair of sorrels and the coach was new and shiny. It was indeed a stylish turnout and Miss Ann Peyton was known as the belle and beauty of Kentucky.
It was considered very fortunate at the time of the fire that Ann was visiting and had all of her clothes and jewels with her. They at least were saved. From Buck Hill they had gone to the home of other relations and so on until visiting became a habit. Her father, a widower, died a few weeks after the fire and later her brother. The estate had dwindled until only a small income was inherited by the bereaved Ann. Visiting was cheap. She was made welcome by the relations, and on prosperous blue-grass farms the care of an extra pair of carriage horses and the keep of another servant made very little difference. Cousin Ann, horses and coachman, were received with open arms and urged to stop as long as they cared to.
In those days there always seemed to be plenty of room for visitors. The houses were certainly no larger than of the present day but they were more elastic. Of course entertaining a handsome young woman of lively and engaging manners, whose beaux were legion, was very different from having a peculiar old lady in a hoop skirt descend upon you unawares from a shabby coach drawn by fat old horses that looked as though they might not go another step in spite of the commands of the grotesque coachman with his plaited beard and bushy white hair.
But that supper at the Throckmortons'! Uncle Billy was seated on the porch steps with a pan of drippings in his hand, wherein the cook had grudgingly put the scrag of a fried chicken and a hunk of cold corn bread. The cook was a new cook and not at all inclined to bother herself over an old darkey with his whiskers done up in plaits. The old man silently sopped his bread and listened to the talk of the white folks indoors.
"Cousin Ann, have you ever thought of going to a home for aged women?" Mrs. Throckmorton asked. Her tone was brisk and businesslike, though not unkind. Mrs. Throckmorton had been entertaining this old cousin of her husband for many years and while she was not honored with as many visits as some of the relations she was sure she had her full share. It seemed to her high time that some member or near member of the family should step in and suggest to the old lady that there were such homes and that she should enter one.
"I? Ann Peyton go to an old ladies' home? Cousin Betty you must be in a jocular vein," and Uncle Billy saw through the open door that his mistress drew herself up like a queen and her eyes flashed.
"Well, plenty of persons quite as good as you go to such homes every day," insisted the hostess. "I should think you would prefer having a regular home and not driving from pillar to post, never knowing where you will land next and never sure whether your relations will have room for you or not. As it is, just now I am really afraid it will not be convenient for you to stay much longer with us. What with Lucy's wedding and the measles and everything! Of course you need not go immediately—"
"That is enough, Cousin Betty. Never shall it be said that we have worn out our welcome. We go immediately." Miss Ann's voice was loud and clear. She stood up and pushed back her chair sharply. "We beg to be excused," she said and turned to walk from the room.
"Oh, nonsense, Cousin Ann!" exclaimed Mrs. Throckmorton impatiently. "Nobody said you must go immediately. It was just with the wedding imminent and—anyhow I meant it for the best when I mentioned a home for aged women. You would be quite comfortable in one and I am sure I could find exactly the right sort. You would have to make a deposit of several thousands—I don't know exactly how much but you must have a little something left since you pay old Billy's wages and have your horses shod and so on. Of course in the home you would have no such expenses. You could sell your horses and your old coach is little more than junk, and old Billy could go to a home too."
Miss Ann had paused a moment but when Mrs. Throckmorton spoke of her carriage as junk and suggested a home for Billy, too, her indignation knew no bounds and with a commanding gesture of dismissal she stalked from the dining-room. Billy was summoned and since it was out of the question to start so late in the evening it was determined that daylight should find them on their way to Buck Hill—Buck Hill where a certain flavor of old times was still to be found, with Cousin Bob Bucknor, so like his father, who had been one of the swains who followed in the train of the beautiful Ann Peyton. Buck Hill would always make her welcome!
And now—Buck Hill—and a hall bedroom!
The Energy of Judith
"Mother, Cousin Ann Peyton is at Buck Hill. I saw her old carriage on the road when I went in for my express parcels."
"Why will you insist upon saying Cousin Ann, Judith?" drawled Mrs. Buck. "I'd take my time about calling anybody cousin who scorned to do the same by me."
As Judith's mother took her time about everything, the girl smiled indulgently, and proceeded in the unpacking of the express packages.
"I'm so glad I am selling for this company that sends all goods directly to me instead of having me take orders the way the other one did. I'm just a born peddler and I know I make more when I can deliver the goods the minute they are bought and paid for. I'm going to take Buck Hill in on my rounds this year and see if all of my dear cousins won't lay in a stock of sweet soap and cold cream."
"There you are, calling those Buck Hill folks cousin again. Here child, don't waste that string. I can't see what makes you so wasteful. You should untie each package, carefully pick out the knots, and then roll it up in a ball. I wonder how many times I've told you that."
"So do I, Mother, and how many times I have told you that my time is too precious to be picking out hard knots. I bet this minute you've got a ball of string as big as your head, and please tell me how many packages you send out in a year."
The girl's manner was gay and bantering. She stopped untying parcels long enough to kiss her mother, who was laboriously picking the knots from the cut twine.
Mrs. Buck continued, "Wasting all of that good paper too! Here, let me fold it up. My mother and father taught me to be very particular about such things and goodness knows I've tried to teach you. I don't know where we'd be if I didn't save and if my folks before me hadn't done so."
It was a well-known fact that Judith's maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Ezra Knight, had been forced to abandon their ancestral farm in Connecticut and had started to California on a hazard of new fortunes but had fallen by the wayside, landing in Kentucky where their habits of saving string and paper certainly had not enriched them. Such being the case a whimsical smile from the granddaughter was pardonable.
"There is no telling," she laughed, "but you go on saving, Mother dear, and I'll try to do some making and between us we'll be as rich as our cousins at Buck Hill."
"There you are again! I'd feel ashamed to go claiming relations with folks that didn't even know I existed. I can't see what makes you do it."
"Oh, just for fun! You see we really and truly are kin. We are just as close kin as some of the people Cousin Ann Peyton visits, because you see she takes in anybody and everybody from the third and fourth generation of them that hate to see her coming. Yesterday in Louisville I looked up the family in some old books on the early history of Kentucky at the Carnegie Library and I found out a lot of things. In the first place the Bucks weren't named for Buck Hill."
The land owned by Mrs. Buck had at one time been as rich as any in Kentucky, but it had been overworked until it was almost as poor as the deserted farm in Connecticut. As Judge Middleton had said, the price of the right-of-way through the place sought by the trolley company had enabled her to lift the long-standing mortgage. She had inherited the farm, mortgage and all, from her father, who had bought it from old Dick Buck. The house was a pleasant cottage of New England architecture, built closer to the road than is usual on Kentucky farms. Old Mr. Knight had also followed the traditions of his native state by building his barn with doors opening on the road. The barn was larger than the house, but at the present time Judith's little blue car and an old red cow were its sole inhabitants. The hay loft, which was designed to hold many tons of hay, was empty. Sometimes an errant hen would find her way up there and start a nest in vain hopes of being allowed to lay her quota and begin the business of hatching her own offspring in her own way, but Judith would rout her out and force her to comply to community housekeeping in the poultry-house.
The Knights' motto might have been: "Lazy Faire" and the Buck's "'Nuff Said," as a wag at Ryeville had declared, but such mottoes did not fit Miss Judith. Nothing must be left as it was unless it was already exactly right and enough was not said until she had spoken her mind freely and fearlessly. Everything about this girl was free and fearless—her walk, the way she held her head, her unflinching hazel eyes and ready, ringing laugh. Even her red gold hair demanded freedom and refused to stay confined in coil, braid or net.
"I'm sure I don't know where you came from," Mrs. Buck drawled. "You're so energetic and wasteful like. Of course my folks were never ones to sit still and be taken care of like the Bucks," and then her mild eyes would snap a bit, "but the Knights believed in saving."
"Even energy?" asked Judith saucily.
"Well, there isn't any use in wasting even energy. My father used to say that saving was the keynote of life as well as religion. I reckon you must be a throw back to my mother's grandfather, who was a Norse sailor, and reckless and wasteful and red-headed."
"Maybe so! At any rate I'm going to plough some guano into these acres, even though I can't plough the seas like my worthy grandpap, Sven Thorwald Woden, or whatever his name was. Just look at our wheat, Mother! It isn't fit to feed chickens with because our land is so poor. I'm tired of this eternal saving and no making. There is no reason why our yield shouldn't be as great per acre as Buck Hill, but we don't get half as much as they do. I've got to make a lot of money this summer so as to buy bags and bags of fertilizer. I've got a new scheme."
"I'll be bound you have," sighed Mrs. Buck.
"But you'll have to help me by making cakes and pies and things and peeling potatoes."
"All right, just so you don't hurry me! I can't be hurried."
"What a nice mother you are to say all right without even asking what it is."
"There wasn't any use in wasting my breath asking, because I knew you'd tell me without asking."
"Well, this is it: I'm going to feed the motormen and conductors. I got the idea yesterday when I was coming up from Louisville by trolley, when I saw the poor fellows eating such miserable lunches out of tin buckets with everything hot that ought to be cold and cold that ought to be hot. I heard them talking about it and complaining and the notion struck me. I went up and sat by the men and asked them how they would like to have a supper handed them every evening, because it seems it is the night meal they miss most, and they nearly threw a fit with joy. I'm to begin this very day."
Mrs. Buck threw up her hands in despair. "Judy, you just shan't do any such thing."
"Now, Mother, honey, you said you'd help and the men are not bringing any supper from home and you surely wouldn't have them go hungry."
"But you said I would not have to hurry."
"And neither will you. You can take your own time and I'll do the hurrying. I only have two suppers to hand out this evening, but I bet you in a week I'll be feeding a dozen men and they'll like it and pay me well and before you know it we'll be rich and we can have lots better food ourselves and even keep a servant."
"A servant! Heavens, Judith, not a wasteful servant!"
"No indeed, Mother, a saving one—one who will save us many steps and give me time to make more money than you can save. I'll give them fried chicken this evening and hashed brown potatoes and hot rolls and plum jam and buttermilk. The radishes are up and big enough to eat and so are the young onions. All conductors eat onions. They do it to keep people from standing on the back platform. I am certainly glad the line came through our place and we have a stop so near us. I'll have to order a dozen baskets with nice, neat covers and big enough to hold plates and cups and saucers. Thank goodness we have enough china to go around what with the Buck leavings and the Knight savings. I'm going to get some five and ten cent store silver and a great gross of paper napkins. I tell you, Mother, I'm going to do this up in style."
Mrs. Buck groaned out something about waste and sadly began paring potatoes, although it was then quite early in the forenoon and the trolleymen's supper was not to be served until six-thirty.
"That child'll wear herself out," she said, not to herself but to an old blue hen who was scratching around the hollyhocks, clucking loudly. The hen had a motherly air, having launched so many families, and Mrs. Buck felt instinctively she might sympathize with her.
"Thank goodness I ain't got but one to worry about," she continued as the repeated clucks brought Old Blue's brood around her. "Now just look at that poor old hen! I wonder if she'd rather be a hen and have so many large families to raise or if she wishes she'd been a rooster and maybe been fried in her youth."
Deep thinking was too much for Mrs. Buck. She stopped peeling potatoes and fell into a brown study. The side porch was a pleasant place to sit and dream. Judith had sorted out her wares and stored them in the back of her blue car. She had caught two chickens and dressed them and set a sponge for the hot rolls. She had promised herself the pleasure of serving the motorman and conductor a trial supper whose excellence she was sure would bring in dozens of orders.
A whirr from the barn and in a moment Judith was off and away, leaving a cloud of dust behind her.
"No hurry about the potatoes!" she called as she passed the house, and then her voice trailed off with, "I'll be back by and by."
"Just like the old woman on a broomstick in Mother Goose," Mrs. Buck informed the hen and then since there was no hurry about the potatoes she fell to dreaming again. It was very peaceful on the shady porch with that whirlwind of a Judy gone for several hours on one of her crazy peddling jaunts. What a girl she was for plunging! Again the mother wondered where she came from and for the ten thousandth time agreed with herself that it must be the blood of the Norse sailor cropping out in her energetic daughter.
"It might have been the Bucks way back yonder somewhere. Certainly she didn't get any up-and-doing from old Dick Buck or my poor husband." Mrs. Buck always thought and spoke of her husband as her poor husband. That was because he had died in the first year of their marriage. Perhaps a merciful Providence had taken him off before he had time to develop to any great extent the traits that made his father, old Dick Buck, a by-word in the county as being the laziest and most altogether no-account white man in Kentucky.
Her thoughts drifted back to her childhood in New England. She could barely remember the old white farmhouse with its faded green shutters that rattled so dismally in the piercing winds that seemed to single out the Knight house as it swept down between the hills. She recalled vividly the discussion carried on between her parents in regard to their mode of moving West—whether by wagon or rail—and the final decision to go by wagon because in that way they might save not only railroad fare but the bony team. Furniture was packed ready for shipment and stored in a neighbor's barn until they were sure in just what part of the West they would settle. California had been their goal, but Kentucky seemed far enough. They had stopped for a while in Ryeville with an old neighbor from New England and, hearing of a farm owned by one Dick Buck that was to be sold for taxes, they determined to abandon the journey to California and put what savings they had on this farm.
The mortgage went with the farm. That Ezra Knight bargained for, but what he had not bargained for was that old Dick Buck and his son, young Dick, also were included in the purchase. They lived in a two-room log house, a little behind the site Ezra had selected for his own domicile. This was the natural place to build, since the land sloped gently from it, giving a proper drainage, and then the well was already there and a wonderfully good well it was.
The new house was built, the plan following the old house they had left in Connecticut as closely as possible, but still old Dick Buck stayed on in his log cabin. Every day he told Ezra Knight he was planning to move, but always some unforeseen event would arise to make it necessary for him to postpone his departure. The houses were not fifty feet apart, the back yard of the New England cottage serving as a front yard to the cabin. The days stretched into weeks, the weeks into months. Ezra grew impatient and the old Dick took to his bed with a mysterious malady that defied the skill of the country doctor. Mrs. Knight, a kindly soul, ministered to his wants, saying she couldn't let a dog suffer if he was a neighbor. The months stretched into years. Every time Ezra approached the one time owner of the farm on the subject of his finding some other place of abode, old Dick had an attack of his mysterious malady and Ezra would have to give up for the time being.
In the meantime young Dick was growing into a likely lad and little Prudence Knight had let down her skirts and put up her hair. Dick was employed on the Knight farm, and what was more natural than he should take his meals with them? Old Dick found it equally natural that he should also make one at the frugal board. When Ezra died, which he did ten years after he moved to Kentucky, old Dick and young Dick kindly offered to sit up with the corpse. The bereaved wife made the bed in the low-ceilinged attic room for them and what more natural than they should stay on? Stay on they did until young Dick and Prudence were married; until young Dick died. Then old Dick stayed on and Mrs. Knight died and his daughter-in-law and the little flame-haired Judith were left to fend for themselves.
After the death of Mrs. Knight of course leaving was impossible. Old Dick even spoke of himself as the sole support of his daughter-in-law and her little Judith. He began to look upon hunting and fishing as a duty and seemed to feel that they would have been destitute without his occasional donation of a small string of perch or a rabbit. Mrs. Knight tolerated him because she was used to him. Judith had a real affection for the old man and, when he died, mourned for him sincerely. To be sure he had been a very untidy old person who had never done a day's work in all his life but at least he had a nimble wit which had appealed to the child.
After his death Judith trapped rabbits and caught fish. She did many things besides, however, as by that time family funds were so low and the farm so unproductive it was necessary for some member of the family to begin to make money. She was fourteen at the time her grandfather died—a slim long-legged girl giving promise of the beauty that the old soldiers and the drummer on the Rye House porch acknowledged later on. Even then the wire-spring energy was hers that still puzzled her mother—energy and an ever-present determination to get ahead. Sometimes she caught enough fish to sell a few. Sometimes she carried rabbits into the town for sale. In blackberry season she was an indefatigable picker. She went in for chickens and had steady customers in Louisville for her guaranteed eggs. School was looked upon as part of the business of getting ahead. Nothing in the way of weather daunted her. She went through the high school with flying colors and got a medal for not having missed a single day in four years.
At nineteen she was teaching school for eight months of the year and the other four peddling toilet articles and a few side lines and now planning to feed the motormen on the interurban trolleys.
"Well, well! I guess she got it from the Norse sailor," sighed Mrs. Buck picking up another potato.
Uncle Billy's Diplomacy
The hall bedroom at Buck Hill was not such a small room, except in comparison with the other rooms, which were enormous. There was plenty of space in it for Miss Ann and a reasonable amount of luggage, but not for Miss Ann and three trunks and the numerous bags and bundles and boxes, which Billy stowed away, endeavoring to make the place as comfortable as possible for his beloved mistress.
"I'll unstrop yo' trunks an' we kin git unpacked an' then I'll tote the empties up in the attic 'ginst the time we 'cides ter move on," he said, looking sadly at Miss Ann as she sank listlessly in a chair. Miss Ann allowed herself to be listless in the presence of Billy, and Billy alone. At the sound of a step on the stairs she stiffened involuntarily. Nobody must find Ann Peyton slouching or down-hearted. It was only Mildred going up for a last look at the guest chamber, to make sure everything was in readiness for her company. She did not come to her old cousin's room so Miss Ann felt at liberty to relax once more.
"Billy, I am not going to unpack yet," she faltered. "I—I—perhaps we may have to start off again in a hurry."
"Don't say it, Miss Ann! We won't never be called on ter depart from Buck Hill 'til we's good an' ready—not whilst Marse Bob Bucknor's prodigy is livin', an' Mr. Jeff the spitin' image of his gran'dad. I's sho Miss Milly done put you in this pretty lil' room kase she thought you'd like it, bein' so handy to the stairs an' all, an' the windy right over the baid so's you kin lay an 'look out at the trees an' flowers—an' if there ain't a wishteria vine a comin' in the casement an' twinin' aroun' jes' like a pixture. I tell you Miss Ann, this here room becomes you powerful much. I wonder they ain't never give it ter you befo'. It's a heap mo' homey like than the gues' chamber an' I'm thinkin' it's agonter be quieter an' cooler an' much mo' habitationable."
"Yes, Billy, I'm sure it will be." There was a plaintive suggestion of tears in her voice.
"Now, Miss Ann, you git in yo' wropper an' lay down a spell an' I'm gonter fotch you a cup er tea. You's plum tuckered out what with sech a early start an' mo'n likely no sleep las' night. You ain't called on ter be a botherin' yo' little haid 'bout nothin'. Jes' you res' yo'se'f an' after you rests you kin come down on the po'ch an' git the air."
If he had been a mammy coaxing a child Billy's tone could not have been more gentle or loving. He busied himself unstrapping the trunks and valises and then hurried off for the cup of tea, declaring he would be back in a moment although he well knew that a trial of will with Aunt Em'ly lay before him. Tea and toast he determined to have for his mistress—if over the cook's dead body. Aunt Em'ly was queen of the kitchen and nothing irritated her more than having extra food to prepare.
"Let 'em eat they victuals when they's served, three times a day without no stint or savin' an' not be peckin' in between times," she hurled at poor old Billy when he meekly demanded a tray for the hall bedroom.
"I'll fix it myself, Sis Em'ly, an' I won't make a mite er dirt. Miss Ann air plum flabbergasted what with sech a long trip an' no breakfas'."
"I thought you done boas' you et at a hotel," sniffed the old woman. "How come she air hongry fer tea an' toas' if she done et at a hotel."
"Sho—sho—but you see it done got jolted down an' Miss Ann—Please, Sis Em'ly. I ain't a arskin' nothin' fer myse'f, but jes' for my Miss Ann. You done won out consarnin' gues' chambers an' hall bedrooms so you mought be willin' ter give a po' tired lady a cup er tea."
Aunt Em'ly was really a very kind person, but there was something about old Billy's long beard tied up in innumerable plaits, his bow legs and general air of superiority, that had always irritated her. For years she had been held in the subjection of politeness by this unwelcome guest by the attitude of her white people to his mistress, but now the barriers were down and Mrs. Bucknor had openly expressed her impatience at this too-frequent visitor and had been persuaded by her daughters to give Miss Ann the hall room, no longer need she assume cordiality to the old servant. Of course she intended to make the tea for Miss Ann but she also intended to be as disagreeable as possible while the kettle boiled.
The old man sat meekly in the corner of the kitchen, watching Aunt Em'ly while she scalded the small Rebecca pot and measured out the tea. He was glad to see that she put in an extra spoonful as that meant that he too might find some much-needed refreshment. She made quite a stack of toast and buttered it generously, although all the time she grumbled and frowned.
"Here, take it, an' git out'n my kitchen. I don't much mo'n git the breakfus dishes washed befo' I haster begin gittin' dinner an' if I's gonter have ter be a stoppin' every five minutes ter fix trays I like ter know when I will git through."
"Thank you, Sis Em'ly, thank you!" cried old Billy, seizing the coveted tray and making a hasty exit. "Her bark air wus'n her bite," he chuckled, "an' I do hope Miss Ann ain't gonter take away her appletite for dinner by eatin' all this toas' an' drinkin' this whole pot er tea, kase I tell you now ol' Billy's stomic air done stuck to his back with emptiness."
The tea and toast did put heart in the weary travelers. Miss Ann left half the simple feast for Billy, commanding him to go sit in the corner of the room and devour his share.
"Now I'm gonter rub down my hosses an' wash the ca'ige, and if you's got any little odd jobs fer me ter do I'll mosey back this way arter dinner. Praise Gawd, the Buck Hill folks has dinner in the middle of the day, an' plenty of it. These here pick-up, mid-day canned salmon lunches air bad enough for the white folks but by the time they gits ter the niggers th'ain't nothin' lef but the can. I hear tell the young ladies air 'spectin' of comp'ny so I reckon you'll be a needin' yo' sprigged muslin ter take the shine out'n all the gatherin'. I'm a gonter press it fer you, even if a hot iron air arskin' a big favor with some er these free niggers."
"Oh, Billy, you needn't bother to press my gown. It makes very little difference what I wear. I don't believe I can appear this evening."
"Miss Ann, air you sick? Ain't yo' tea picked you up none?"
"No, Billy, I'm not sick. I'm just so miserable. I'm beginning to see that we are no longer wanted—even here at Buck Hill." The old woman's voice quavered piteously. "They used to want us—everywhere. At least, if they didn't they pretended they did. I don't know when it started—this drawing back—this feeling we are a burden. When did it begin, Billy?"
"'Tain't never begun. You's jes' so blue-blooded you is sensitive like, Miss Ann. You is wanted mo'n ever. You-all's kin is proud ter own you. You air still the beauty of the fambly, Miss Ann. I knows, kase I done seed every shemale mimber of the race er Peytons an' Bucknors an' all. Th'ain't never a one what kin hol' a can'le ter you. Don't you go ter throwin' off on my Miss Ann or you'll be havin' ol' Billy ter fight. I ain't seed nothin' in this county ter put long side er you, less'n it wa' that pretty red-headed gal what went whizzin' by us up yonder on the pike in a blue ortermobubble. I ain't knowin' who she air but one thing that made her so pretty wa' that I member the time when you wa' jes' like her. She turned her head aroun' ter look at us an' she give me sech a start I pretty nigh fell off'n my box.
"I ain't meanin' no disrespec' ter Marse Bob an' Miss Milly's daughters, but they ain't nothin' by the side er that there young gal what dusted us this mornin'. The bes'-lookin' one er their daughters is Mr. Jeff. He air sho growed ter a likely young man. He air certainly kind an' politeful too. Didn't he say pintedly he wa' glad ter see you? Didn't he ketch a holt an' help me tote ev'y las' one er these here trunks up here? When the young marster air so hospitle I don't see whe'fo' you gits notions in yo' haid."
"Perhaps you are right, Billy," and Miss Ann again held up her head. She must not let herself slump. The will that had carried her through all the long years of visiting must carry her still. She had demanded and hence received homage and respect from her kinsmen for two generations and she must continue to do it. It would be fatal at this point to show weakness or truculence. She had been and intended to be always the honored guest at the various homes that she visited. The unfortunate occurrence at Cousin Betty Throckmorton's was to be ignored—forgotten. Billy was right; she must dress with care. The matter of the hall bedroom must be treated lightly and accepted as a compliment. It wasn't as though she had been put out of the guest chamber. She knew in her heart that in times that were past any youthful visitors expected at Buck Hill must have made way for her, but she did not acknowledge it to herself or to Billy.
She shook out the sprigged muslin and gave it to the old man to press. Then, with meticulous care, she began the business of unpacking. It was with some irritation that she found only the top drawer of the bureau empty. In the other drawers Mrs. Bucknor had put away sundry articles which she had forgotten about—remnants of cloth, old ribbons and laces and photographs. The hall room was used only when there was an overflow of guests and only transient visitors put there. For transients one drawer was sufficient. In the wardrobe there hung an old hunting suit of Jeff's and several dancing frocks belonging to Mildred and Nan, that had been temporarily discarded to await future going over by the seamstress.
"They might have spared me this," Miss Ann muttered, as she endeavored to make hanging room for her voluminous skirts.
She snatched the offending garments from the hooks and put them in a pile on the floor. Then she pulled out the lower bureau drawers and dumped the contents on top of the old hunting suit and dancing frocks.
"There! I shall give them to understand I am not to be treated with ignominy. I am Ann Peyton. I have always been treated with consideration and I always intend to be."
The old eyes flashed and the faded cheeks flushed. She gave the pile of debris a vicious little kick. The blow dislodged from the mass a small, old-fashioned daguerreotype. There was something about the little picture that was familiar. She stooped and picked it up. It was her own likeness, taken at seventeen, a slender, charming girl whose expression gave one to understand that she could not be still much longer. She would have been a better subject for a motion-picture camera than the invention of Daguerre. Youth looked into the eyes of age and Miss Ann put her hands over her own poor face as though to hide from youth the ravages of time. It seemed to her that the young Ann looked out on the old Ann and said, "What have you done with me? Where am I? You needn't tell me that you and I are one and the same."
Slowly she walked to the bureau and slowly she raised her eyes to the mirror and then gazed long and sadly at her face.
"Ann Peyton, you are a fool. You have always been a fool. It is too late to be anything else now and you will go on being a fool until the end of time. This child had more sense than you have."
Reverently she placed the little daguerreotype in her handkerchief box. It was the picture she had given Bob Bucknor, the father of the present owner of Buck Hill and the grandfather of Jeff. He had prized it once but now it was thrown aside and forgotten by all. She then stooped over and gathered up the articles on the floor and carefully put them back in drawers and wardrobe. She washed her face and hands, straightened her auburn wig, changed her traveling dress to a more suitable one and then sailed majestically down the stairs.
A Question of Kinship
Jefferson Bucknor had been away from home, except for flying visits, for five years. Like most of the young men of his age, the World War had broken in on his college course. He had gone into training at the first suggestion of his country's need. He was then in his junior year at the University of Virginia. Law had been his goal and at the close of the war he hastened back to finish what he had begun. Determined to hang out his shingle as soon as possible, he had studied summer and winter until he got his degree. He was now at home, taking a much-needed rest and getting acquainted again with his family. The sisters had grown up while he was away, and his father and mother were turning gray. He had only arrived the day before the coming of Cousin Ann, and could not help regretting that his sisters were having this house party. It would have been pleasant to be quietly at home for a while.
"When does your company come?" Jeff asked Mildred. Cousin Ann had joined them on the front porch, where the family awaited the summons to dinner. "Mildred and Nan are having a swarm of guests," he explained to the old cousin.
"Ah, indeed!" said Cousin Ann.
"Some of them come at six-thirty and the rest at seven from Louisville. We are to meet them at the trolley. You'll go with us, won't you, Jeff?" asked Mildred.
"Of course, if you need me."
"Need you! I should say we do need you. Why, you are to fall madly in love with Jean Roland. We've fixed it all up. She's rich and beautiful."
"Yes, and we put linen sheets on the bed in the guest chamber," broke in Nan. "Jean Roland is used to grand things, but she'll have to sleep three in the bed and so will all of us—now."
"Hush!" from Mrs. Bucknor. There was an embarrassed silence. Cousin Ann's backbone stiffened. Mrs. Bucknor looked reproachfully at her daughters, who giggled helplessly. It was a relief to have the head of the house arrive at that moment.
Mr. Bucknor was a hale and hearty man of fifty, florid and handsome, slightly dictatorial in manner, but easily influenced by his wife, who was all softness and gentleness. He was generous and hospitable, priding himself on keeping up the reputation in which Buck Hill had gloried in the past—that of an open house with bed and board for all of the blood. He greeted his Cousin Ann with a cordiality that might have been balm to her wounded feelings had she not been aware that that was Cousin Bob's manner to everybody.
"And where do you come from, Cousin Ann?" he demanded. "I hope all were well. Cousin Betty Throckmorton's? Well, well! I thought Sister Sue was to have the honor of your company. It will keep! It will keep! Measles at Cousin Betty's? Heavens! I hope none of them will go off in pneumonia. You must give us a nice long visit. Always glad to have you, Cousin Ann. Glad to have any of my kin come and stay as long as they choose. Blood is thicker than water, I say, and blue blood is thicker than red blood."
"Thank you, cousin," was all Miss Ann could say.
"By the way, Mildred, speaking of falling in love, who is that pretty girl I saw on the trolley yesterday?" asked Jeff. "I can't remember ever having seen her around here before, but then the girls have all grown beyond me since I left home. She has what some people call auburn hair, but I like to call it red, although it had lots of gold in it. She got on the last stop before you get into Ryeville. Seemed to know everybody on the car—even the motorman and conductor. At least, I saw her chatting with them—the ones who were relieved at the last switch and were eating their suppers. She was as lively as a cricket—was just bubbling over with energy—"
"Oh, I know who that was," said Mildred. "It sounds like that forward Judith Buck. She has no idea of her place. I never saw such a girl. She rides around the country in a ridiculous looking little home made blue Ford with a spring wagon back and puts on all the airs of sporting a Stutz racer. She never stops for anybody but just whizzes on by. Sometimes she even bows to us, although she gets mighty little encouragement from me, I can tell you."
Suddenly there flashed upon Miss Ann's inward eye a picture of a bright-haired girl in a little blue car who had passed her coach only that morning, and with the picture came the remembrance of Uncle Billy's words: "I ain't seed nothin' in this county ter put 'long side er you lessen it wa' that pretty red-headed gal what went whizzin' by us up yonder on the pike in a blue ortermobubble." She remembered that he had declared the girl looked as she had looked in her youth.
Mildred continued her diatribe concerning the lively Judith: "Surely you remember her, Jeff. She used to come here selling blackberries when she was a kid—a little barefooted girl and as pert as you please even then. After old Dick Buck died she used to trap rabbits and bring them here for sale and sometimes fish. It always made me mad for Aunt Em'ly to encourage her by making Mother buy the things. I think poor persons should be taken care of all right but they should know their place."
"But what is her place?" asked Jeff, a flush slowly spreading over his handsome, rather swarthy countenance.
"Well, I should say her place was at the back door," declared Mildred. "Old Dick Buck's granddaughter needn't expect to get any social recognition from me."
"Me either!" chimed in Nan.
"Of course not!" said Mrs. Bucknor. Mr. Bucknor was reading the morning paper and seemed oblivious to the conversation.
"She doesn't look to me like a girl who cared a whit for social recognition," said Jeff quietly, although his lip had a curl that showed his disapproval of his family's snobbishness.
"Don't you believe it," said Mildred, with rather more violence than the subject under discussion warranted. "I went to high school with her for a year and then thank goodness Father sent me to a private school. She was the greatest smart Aleck you ever saw. Had herself elected president of the class and was always showing off, getting medals for never being late and never missing a single day of school since she started. She was always acting in plays and getting up class entertainments for devastated Europe. Some of the girls in Ryeville wanted to ask her to join our club, but I just told them they could count me out if they did any such thing."
"Me too!" said Nan.
"And I tell you Buck Hill is too nice a place for parties for the set to let Nan and me out. She's got a place as teacher now, out in the county near Clayton. I can't abide her. She even had the impertinence to tell some of the girls once that the original name of her family was the same as ours—that her old grandfather, Dick Buck, had told her so. The idea! Next she'll be claiming kin with us Bucknors."
"What's that? What's that?" asked Mr. Bucknor, dropping his paper. "Who claims kin with us?"
"Old Dick Buck's granddaughter. Isn't it ridiculous?"
"Not at all," spoke Cousin Ann, coming into the conversation as a ship in full sail might break into a fleet of fishing boats. "Not ridiculous at all. In fact, quite the proper thing for the young woman in question to do. She, too, may have pride of birth and there is no reason why she should not claim what is due her."
"But—" interrupted Mildred. Miss Ann Peyton paid no attention at all to the girl. She addressed her remarks to Jeff, who was all respectful attention.
"Yes, cousin, the Bucks are descended from the Bucknors quite as much as you or I are. I recall it all now, although I have not thought of it for many, many years. I can remember hearing my grandfather tell of a brother of his Grandfather Bucknor who, out of pure carelessness, dropped the last syllable of his name. It was in connection with a transfer of property. The deed was recorded wrongly, naming Richard Buck. He was a lazy man and rather than go to the trouble of having the matter corrected he just allowed himself to be called Richard Buck. He left Kentucky after that, but his son returned later on. My grandfather told me a slump in fortune began from that time and the Buck branch of the family has been on the downward road ever since. Perhaps, having reached the bottom, this young person is now ascending. But low or high, the fact remains that she is kin."
"Bless my soul!" exclaimed Mr. Bucknor, "I didn't dream that old tale had a word of truth in it. I've heard old Dick Buck, when he was drunk, insisting that he belonged to my family, but it sounded ridiculous on the face of it."
"Exactly!" chorused Mildred and Nan.
"However, I must look into the matter," the father continued somewhat pompously. "If the girl is kin we must claim her."
"Oh, Bob, I beg of you to do no such thing," said Mrs. Bucknor gently, laying a restraining hand lightly on her husband's arm. Her touch was soft and light but it held Bob Bucknor as effectively as iron handcuffs might have. "If this girl is as forward as Mildred and Nan say she is, it would be very embarrassing to have her constantly asserting her kinship with our girls. I am sure I do not know her at all. She is pretty and no doubt is good, but she is naturally common and evidently very pushing."
"All right, my dear, all right! You know best," responded Mr. Bucknor.
At this juncture Kizzie announced dinner, which was a relief to all of them.
"Take my arm, Cousin Ann," said Jeff gallantly.
For a moment the old woman and the young man stood looking off over the rolling meadows of blue grass. Cutting the lush green pasture lands was the white limestone turnpike. Far off in the distance a blue speck appeared on the white road. In a twinkling it grew into a car and then went whizzing by, leaving a cloud of white dust in its wake. Jeff smiled and, glancing down at his old cousin, caught an answering smile on her face.
"I'm rather glad she's kin," he whispered, and she gave his arm a tiny squeeze.
Then the thought came to him: "I wonder if she is as bold and forward as Mildred says she is. I wish she hadn't been so familiar with those motormen. That wasn't very ladylike to go up and engage them in conversation. Perhaps Mildred is right. You could hardly expect old Dick Buck's granddaughter to be very refined—but, gee, she's a good looker!"
Judith Makes a Hit
Judith reached home in time to prepare an excellent basket supper for her motormen customers. She was determined that her food should be so good it would advertise itself and every employe on the line would demand service. All of the potatoes were not peeled when she was ready for them, but her mother's explanation was that it seemed a pity to peel potatoes because there was so much waste in that method. It really was better to cook them in the skins. Judith kissed her and laughed.
"Another time we'll cook them in their jackets, Mumsy dear, but I cleared enough money this morning to afford to waste a few potato peelings. If I have a week of such luck, I'll have to get in more supplies. The girls in this county are just eating up my vanishing cream and my liquid powder that won't rub off. I've made a great hit with my anti-kink lotion with the poor colored people. Half the female world is trying to get curled and the other half trying to get uncurled. I have got rid of dozens and dozens of marcel wavers, the steel kind that must dig into you fearfully at night, and bottle after bottle of that quince seed lotion, warranted to keep hair in curl for an all-day picnic, where it usually rains, and, if it doesn't, you fall in the creek to even up."
"Judy, you take my breath away with such talk and such goings on. I can't bear to think of your selling things to negroes. There is no telling what might happen to you if you don't look out."
Mrs. Buck had an instinctive dislike for the colored race. She never trusted them and was opposed even to employing them for farm work. She preferred the most disreputable poor white to the best negro. It was a prejudice inherited from her father and mother, who on first coming to Kentucky had done much talking about the down-trodden blacks, but being unable to understand them had never been able to get along with them.
Old Dick Buck had said of Mr. and Mrs. Ezra Knight, "They've got mighty high ideas about negroes but they ain't got a bit of use for a nigger."
Judith shared none of this prejudice. She liked colored people and they liked her and respected her. As she went speeding along the roads in her little blue car, there was never a darkey old or young who did not wish her well and bow low to her friendly greeting. Only that morning she had given a lift to a bent old man who was on his way to Mr. Big Josh Bucknor's, and thereby saved him many a weary mile.
"I'd take you all the way, Uncle Peter, but I can't trust my left hind tire up that bumpy lane," Judith explained.
"Ain't it the truf, Missy? If Mr. Big Josh would jes stop talkin' 'bout it an' buil' hisse'f a road! He been lowin' he wa' gonter git busy an' backgammon that lane fer twenty-five years an he ain't never tech it yit. That's the reason they done sent fer me. The ladies in the fambly air done plum wo' out what with cookin' fer comp'ny an' washin' up an' all. It looks like comp'ny air the only thing what don't balk at that there lane. They done sint a hurry call fer ol' Peter, kase they got a notion Miss Ann Peyton air on the way. They phoned down ter the sto' fer me ter put my foot in the pike an' come erlong. They done got a phome message from way over yonder at Throckmorton's that dus' from Miss Ann's coach wa' a risin'. They ain't mo'n got shet er a batch er visitings when here come news that Miss Ann air a comin'. The ladies air sho' peeved an' they done up an' said they ain't a gonter stay home an' Mr. Big Josh tell 'em ter go 'long if they's a min' an' he'n me'll look arfter Miss Ann."
"But she is at Buck Hill," said Judith. "I am sure of it. I saw her carriage turning in there this morning. Poor old lady!"
"I ain't seein' that she air so po'."
"It seems very pitiful to me for her never to be wanted, always coming and always having to pack up and leave. I'd love to have her come visit me. You know she and I are of the same blood, Uncle Peter—or did you know it?"
"Land's sake, Missy, I mus' a made a mistake. I been a thinkin' all along that I wa' a ridin' with ol' Dick Buck's gran'baby. You mus' scuse me."
"So you are, Uncle Peter, I am Judith Buck, but I have just as good a right to be Judith Bucknor as Mr. Bob Bucknor or Mr. Big Josh Bucknor, or any of them."
"Well, bless Bob! Do tell!" was all the old man had time to ejaculate, as they came to the mouth of the lane, bumpy in dry weather and muddy in wet, and he must leave the swiftly moving car and again trust to his old limbs to carry him on his way. His step was lighter, however, as he was the bearer of good tidings to all the white folks at Mr. Big Josh's. Miss Ann Peyton was not coming, but was making a visit at Buck Hill. He was full of other news, too, but was not quite sure whether it would be so welcome to the family.
"Not that she ain't mo' likelier than mos' er the young genderation," he muttered.
Judith had a slap-dash impressionistic manner of cooking all her own, following no rules or recipes, but with an unerring instinct that produced results. She said she cooked by ear. Whatever her method, the motormen were vastly pleased with the hot suppers she brought them and the word was passed that the pretty red-headed girl at the last stop before you got to Ryeville would furnish a basket supper at a reasonable figure and soon almost every man on the line was eager to become one of her customers.
The first supper was difficult because she was determined to have it absolutely perfect, and her mother would insist upon getting in her way, offering various suggestions that might save a tenth of a cent.
"I tell you, Mumsy, I am not saving but making. Please sit down in this chair by the table, while I behave like the man in the lunatic asylum who thought he was a steam engine. I'm afraid I might get off the track and run over you. If you just stay still in one spot I'll get through. I can't go over you, I can't go around you and I can't go under you.
"There's the whistle blowing for two stops before ours and I'm ready. Hurrah for a fortune, Mumsy!" and with a kiss Judith was off, bearing a basket in one hand and a tin cooler of buttermilk in the other.
The Bucks' farm was a triangle, bounded on two sides by converging roads and the other by the pasture lands of Buck Hill. The trolley line skirted the back of the farm, but turned sharply toward Ryeville before reaching the corner where the two roads met. The track curved about five hundred feet beyond the location of the stop where Judith had promised to meet the car with the suppers. There was a short cut from the rear of the house and Judith always took short cuts. Through the orchard, down the hill, across a stream, up the hill, skirting a blackberry thicket, through a grove of beeches, dark and peaceful with lengthening shadows falling on mossy banks, went the girl. She stopped a moment in the grove and looked out across the fertile country—everywhere more fertile than the Buck farm but nowhere more beautiful, she thought.
"I wish I had time to stop here longer," she sighed, putting down her basket and patting a great beech tree. "Thank goodness the Bucks were too lazy to cut you down and the Knights too slow." The honk of an automobile horn startled her. A seven-seated passenger car was coming down the road and in the distance could be seen the approaching trolley.
"Got to run after all," she cried. "That's what I get for making love to a tree." She flew along the path by the fence and reached the small station before the trolley slowed down for the stop. Breathless but triumphant she stood, large basket in one hand, buttermilk cooler in the other.
The big motor car, which was driven by Jeff Bucknor, was parked by the roadside. From it emerged Mildred and Nan in all the glory of fresh and frilly lawns and the latest in hats from a Louisville milliner.
"Now, Jeff," said Mildred, "you must get out and meet the bunch, and be sure you make no mistake. You are to fall in love with Jean Roland and no one else. She is the smallest and the darkest and much the best dressed. I do hope and trust it will be love at first sight. She is already just wild about you, without ever even seeing you, and when she sees you she is sure to topple over completely."
"What nonsense," scoffed Jeff.
Mildred ignored the presence of Judith Buck, although they could not help seeing her, since her blue cotton dress and her red gold hair made a spot of color that would surely have affected the optics of a stone blind person. Her color was naturally high, and frying chicken over a hot wood stove and sprinting for the trolley had added to it. Nan did worse than ignore the presence of her neighbor, as she openly nudged her sister and whispered audibly:
"Look at her! What do you suppose she has in her basket?"
"Hot rolls, fried chicken, hashed brown potatoes, damson jam, radishes and young onions. Can't you smell 'em?" answered Judith quite casually, as though announcing a menu at a restaurant. At the same time she smiled brightly and looked at the Misses Bucknor with no trace of either embarrassment or resentment. Jeff, who was plainly mortified at Nan's rudeness, laughed in spite of himself.
One of the things that irritated Mildred more than anything else about Judith Buck was that she seemed never to take offense, nor even to know when an insult was intended. Sometimes she would wear for a moment a quizzical smile, but usually she presented what she called a duck's back to intentional slights. Having satisfied Nan's curiosity concerning what was in her basket, she stepped forward to the platform and swung the cooler of buttermilk back and forth in the manner of a brakeman with a red lantern.
"I think they will stop here anyhow, Miss Buck," said Jeff. "Do let me help you on with your basket. I know it is heavy. I am Jefferson Bucknor. Perhaps you don't remember me, but I have seen you often when you were a child. I've been away from home a long time."
While Jeff was introducing himself to Judith the trolley had slowed up and stopped. Three young women and two young men were standing on the platform ready to alight. They were part of the house party and delighted greetings were exchanged between them and Mildred and Nan.
One of the young men, catching sight of Judith, gave only a hurried handshake to his hostesses and then sauntered towards the end of the platform where the girl in blue cotton was standing. He was a handsome youth, dressed in the latest and most pronounced style. His manner and general carriage were indefinably impudent. He came quite close to Judith and peered into her face and only turned to join the others at a sharp call from Mildred.
"Tom Harbison, come here this minute!"
At Jeff's proffers of assistance Judith had smilingly thanked him. "But I'm not getting on myself—only my basket and can of milk," she said.
"Then I'll help them on," said Jeff, although Judith assured him she was quite able to do it herself.
"Yonder she is!" the conductor shouted to the motorman. "I knew she would come. I never knew a red-headed gal to disappoint a fellow yet."
Eagerly the basket was seized by the hungry men and loud was their shout of joy over the can of ice-cold buttermilk.
"You'll find a note inside explaining how you can phone me if you want extras," called Judith. "See you to-morrow at the same time. Be sure and bring back my basket and dishes."
The trolley moved off, leaving the house party grouped at one end of the platform, Judith and Jeff at the other. It was plain that something was vexing Mildred and the smart young beauty by her side. Jeff, however, was perfectly unconscious of being the cause of their annoyance.
"Thank you ever so much," said Judith. "You are a grand assistant to the chief cook."
"I am delighted to have helped you, but please tell me what on earth you mean by bringing food to motormen."
"Mean? Why, it's my business. I am caterer-in-ordinary to the six-thirty trolley and perhaps others," she laughed and looked him squarely in the eyes. For a moment, in spite of the persistent demand from Mildred for him to hurry, Jeff gazed into hers. He flushed a little and then with a hurried good-bye joined his sisters and their guests.
Mildred managed to have Jean Roland occupy the front seat by the driver. Jean was pretty, well-dressed and no doubt was fascinating. Jeff remembered he was supposed to fall in love with her at first sight. Therefore he looked at her critically. She was all Mildred had promised, but Jeff found himself gazing over the head of his companion at a slender figure in blue gingham, disappearing over the hill.
It was a distinct annoyance to him that Tom Harbison should lean far out of the back of the car and wave his forty-dollar panama hat at Judith Buck's retreating figure, and even a greater annoyance that Judith should turn around when she got to the brow of the hill and see the fine hat doing obeisance to her.
Cousin Ann Looks Backward
Mildred was right. Buck Hill was a perfect place for parties—of all kinds. There was a long, broad hall leading into double parlors on one side and on the other the dining-room and sitting-room. The satiny floors—ideal for dancing—reflected in their polished surfaces rare pieces of old mahogany. French windows opened on the porches, where comfortable wicker chairs and hammocks were plentiful.
The garden to the south of the house was noted in a county famous for gardens. Mr. Bucknor prided himself on having every kind of known rose that would grow in the Kentucky climate. The garden had everything in it a garden should have—marble benches, a sun dial, a pergola, a summer house, a box maze and a fountain around which was a circle of stone flagging with flowering portulacca springing up in the cracks. The shrubs were old and huge, forming pleasant nooks for benches—now a couple of syringa bushes meeting overhead, now lilacs, white and purple extending an invitation to lovers to come sit on the bench. Oh, Buck Hill was a place for lovers! The garden a place of all places!
The house party was in full swing. Five guests had arrived on the six-thirty and three more on the seven o'clock trolley and a car of six had driven over from Lexington in time for supper. The mansion was filled and running over, but the overflow could always be taken care of in "The Office," a cottage near the house, a building quite common in old southern homes, often set aside for young male visitors.
Cousin Ann had been lying down all afternoon in response to the earnest pleadings of old Billy. He had pressed the sprigged muslin and it hung on a hook behind the door in readiness for the mistress. Then he brought her a pitcher of water, fresh from the well, and a funny little tight bouquet of verbenas.
"I thought you mought w'ar 'em in yo' ha'r, Miss Ann," he said. "I 'member how you uster always w'ar verbeny in yo' ha'r."
"So I did, Billy." Miss Ann raised her hand to her hair, but quickly dropped it, remembering suddenly that her own snowy locks were exposed to view. She did not relish having even old Billy see her without her wig. She drew a scarf over her head and Billy turned his away, pretending he had not seen what she did not want him to see.
"Now you dress up pretty, Miss Ann, an' 'member th'ain't gonter be nary pusson here what kin hol' a can'le to you."
"Have they come yet, Billy?"
"Some air come an' mo' air comin', so I reckon you'd bes' rise an' shine, Miss Ann. Kin I he'p you none?"