She had heard of the "marching bands," and inferred that the strange dress of her rescuer [Pg 15] was made up by fragments from rival political uniforms. It's fun. I drag the gun carriage. That's on account o' my strength. Look a' there for an arm!
Only thing, though. I'll show you all right if you'll let me ride your donkey. Funny, ain't she? Make her talk. A puzzled and angry expression came over the youth's face as he looked toward the burro, who had already begun to make hay for herself out of the lush grasses bordering the Ardsley. The lad scrutinized her dress and gazed abstractedly upon the white "Californian. Amy's simple white flannel frock, with its scarlet sash, and the scarlet cap upon her dark curls, suggested only another "uniform.
Neither did they ride upon white donkeys. Yet a donkey of venerable and unhappy appearance did nightly help to swell the ranks of the country's patriots, and the beast which he knew enjoyed a sort of honor: it drew an illuminated "float" wherein rode a greatly envied fifer. Pepita now took share in the conversation. Never was a remark more felicitous. The lad threw himself down on the grass, laughing boisterously. Amy joined, in natural reaction from her former fear, and even the "Californian" helped on the fun by observing them with an absurdly injured expression.
If you like that kind of music, you should hear their duet about breakfast time. Which is the shortest way to some real road? They are so very, very lovely I'd like to take them home to put in father's studio. Maybe you know him. He is always discovering original people. The speech was out before she realized that it was not especially flattering. Her father liked novel models, and she had imagined how her new acquaintance would look as a "study. We live at Fairacres. It has been our home, our family's home, for two hundred years. You don't look it. An' you needn't get mad, if it has.
I ain't made you mad, have I? I'd like to ride that critter. I'd like to, first rate. You get on her back and show me which way to go, and I'll try to make her behave well. I have some sugar left. That turning? All right. See, Pepita, pretty Pepita! Smell what's in my fingers, amiable. Then follow me, and we'll see what—we shall see. For the girl knew that the "Californian" would pursue the enticing titbit to the sweetest end.
Yet this end seemed long in coming. For more than a mile their path lay close to the water's edge, through bogs and upon rocks, over rough and smooth, with the bluff rising steeply on their right and the stream preventing their crossing to the farm lands on its left. But at length they emerged upon a wider level and a view that was worth walking far to see.
Here the lad dismounted. He was so much too large for the beast he bestrode that he had been obliged to hold his feet up awkwardly, while riding. Besides, deep in his clouded heart there had arisen a desire to please this girl who so pleased him. If you like leaves, there's some that's pretty," he said, pointing upward toward a brilliant branch, hanging far out above the stream.
We can get on faster now; and tell me, please, what are all those buildings yonder? How picturesque they look, clustered amid the trees on the river's bank.
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Her answer was a rustle overhead. She fancied that a squirrel could not have climbed more swiftly; for, glancing up, she discovered the witless youth already upon the projecting branch, moving toward its slender tips, which swayed beneath his weight, threatening instant breakage. Below him roared the rapids, hurrying to dash over the great dam not many yards away. This is nothing. You just ought to see what I can do.
Catch 'em. There you are. That's prettier than any. Yonder's a yellow-robin's nest. I'll get it for you! Amy shut her eyes that she might not see; though she could not but hear the snapping of boughs, the yell, and the heavy splash which followed. Amy ventured to open her eyes. There, dripping and grinning, evidently enjoying the fright he had given her, stood her strange new acquaintance.
His hand still clutched the scarlet branch with its swinging nest that he had risked his safety to secure, nor would relinquish for so trivial a matter as a fall into the water. He stared at her in genuine surprise; all the gayety of his expression giving place to disappointment.
It's beautiful, and I thank you, of course. But I want to get home. You must show me the way. So they piled the branches upon the back of the [Pg 21] dumbly protesting "Californian," Amy retaining the delicate nest and gently shaking the water from it. Shaking her body viciously, but unable to rid herself of her brilliant burden, the burro started swiftly along the footpath running toward the distant buildings, and over the little bridge that crossed just there.
Both path and bridge were worn smooth by the feet of the operatives from the mills, which interested Amy more and more, the nearer she approached them. Once or twice, on some rare outing among the hills where her home lay, she had caught glimpses of their roofs and chimneys, and she remembered to have asked some questions about them; but her father had answered her so indifferently, even shortly, that she had learned little.
Seen from this point they impressed her by contrast to all she had ever known. There was a whirl and stir of life about them that excited and thrilled her. Through the almost numberless windows, wide open to the air, she could see hundreds of busy people moving to and fro, in a sort of a rhythmic measure with the pulsating engines. As yet she did not know what these engines were. She heard the mighty beat and rumble, regular, unchanging, like a gigantic heart of which this many-storied structure was the enclosing body; and she slowly advanced, fascinated, and quite heedless of some staring eyes which regarded her curiously from those wide windows.
A discontented bray and the touch of a hand upon her shoulder suddenly recalled her, to observe that she had reached the bottom of a steep stairway, and was face to face with another stranger. I am here by accident. I was lost on the river bank, a long distance back, and a strange lad helped me so far.
I don't see him now, and I'm rather frightened about him, for he fell into the [Pg 23] water, getting me this nest. He doesn't act just like other people, I think. Poor 'Bony'! He has run up into the street above us, yet even he knew better than to have brought you just here," and he glanced significantly toward a large sign of "No Admittance. Gazing about, her perplexity became almost distress; for she found herself shut in a little space by buildings of varying heights.
Behind her lay the difficult route over which she had come, and on the east uprose a steep bank or bluff. Against this was placed a nearly perpendicular sort of ladder, and this steep stair was the only visible outlet from the ravine. I fancy you could easily climb it, as do our own mill girls; but this pretty beast of yours, with the fanciful burden, how about him? Well, I have great faith in girls, even girl donkeys, as well as in those who own them.
There will certainly be a way out; if not up the bank, then through the mill. By the by, if you've never visited such a place, and have come to it 'by accident,' wouldn't you like to go through it now? I'd be pleased to show you about, though we must first find a safe place where we can tie your donkey.
She looks very intelligent. She's the dearest burro. She and her brother Balaam were sent to my brother and me from California. Her name is Pepita, and I am Amy Kaye. I live at Fairacres. At this announcement the gentleman looked as if he were about to whistle, though courtesy prevented. He bowed gravely:—. If you'll excuse me for a moment, I'll find something with which to tie the burro. Having them on her back frets her. Pepita did not endorse this opinion. In the matter of tying she gave them all the trouble she could, and allowed them to depart only after a most indignant bray.
Her racket brought various heads to the windows, and the visitors were as much of interest to the artisans as themselves were to Amy. She followed her guide eagerly, too self-unconscious to be abashed by any stare; and though he had shown [Pg 25] many strangers "over the works," he felt that explaining things to this bright-eyed girl would be a pleasanter task than ordinary. This was down another short flight of steps, and over a bridge spanning the race, which deep, dark watercourse immediately caught Amy's attention.
Isn't that man afraid to stand there? The work is monotonous, but it must be done, or there'll be the mischief to pay. Now, here are the fires. A soot-grimed man approached the door of the furnace room, and respectfully touched his forehead to his superior, then glanced toward Amy. I'll try to be careful," she answered, tiptoeing across the earthen floor, to stoop and peer into the roaring furnaces.
How hot it is! Is it all right? We takes care [Pg 26] of the danger, miss. But hot? Well, you should ought to be here about midsummer, say. Steady, an' wages regular. Good day, miss, you're welcome, I'm sure," he concluded, as she thanked him again for opening the furnace doors and explaining how it was he managed the great fires. Hmm; most young ladies who have visited us have seemed afraid rather than pleased. The whir of the machinery frightened them.
Nor was he the only one who found it so. Even the usually silent workmen in the fireproof storehouse, where the bales of wool were piled to the ceiling with little aisles of passage between, were moved to explanation by the alert, inquiring glances of this dainty visitor. Indeed, she would have lingered long before the big chute, through which compressed air forced the cleansed fibres to the height of four stories and the apartment where began its real manufacture into yarn.
Metcalf took her next to this top floor; and though the deafening noise of the machinery made her own voice sound queerly in her ears, she managed to ask so many questions, that before she again reached the ground floor and passed outward to the impatient Pepita, she had gained a clear general idea how some sorts of carpets are made. Metcalf, kindly. They are so clean, so jolly, and—think! They are actually earning money. Does it [Pg 28] strike you oddly that a girl should earn her own living? You caught but a fleeting glimpse of them. There's a deal of reality in their lives, poor things.
They haven't much leisure, and I dare say that you are an object of envy to every mill girl who has seen you to-day. I hope not. I liked them so. It seems so fine to really earn some of the money which everybody needs so much, just by standing before one of those 'jennies' and doing what little they did. They laughed often, as if they were glad. Nobody looked sorrowful, so I don't see why you pity them.
I do not think it is always the best way; still—Why, here's 'Bony. Do you march again to-night? The lad said nothing, but kept on tying into a compact bundle all the branches heaped upon the ground, and to which he had made a considerable addition during Amy's inspection of the mill. He had begged a bit of rope from the office in the street above; and [Pg 29] when he had secured the boughs to his satisfaction, he slung them across his shoulder.
He seemed none the worse for his fall into the water, and Amy laughed; not only at the readiness with which he constituted himself her assistant, but also at Pepita's frantic efforts to ascend the steep stairway. But if we can get her up there, above, she can carry the stuff herself. I can walk, when I am told the road.
He isn't hurting her, and she is going up! But his merriment suddenly ceased. The "Californian" could use her nimble feet for more than one purpose. She resented the indignity of her present position in the only manner possible to her, and when a third prod touched her dainty flesh, she flung one heel backward, with an airy readiness that might have been funny save for its result.
For the indignant Pepita had planted her active hoof squarely in the mouth of the lad who was tormenting her, and had knocked him backward from the stair. During a brief time he lay, dazed by the blow, with a trickle of blood rapidly staining his features. Don't get frightened. There may not be much damage done. That boy has as many lives as a cat. I'll see to him," returned Mr. Metcalf, quietly. With a strong, kindly touch, the gentleman helped the unfortunate "Bony" to his feet; whereupon, the lad flew into a fearful rage and started up the ladder, in pursuit of the burro.
His movement roused Amy also to action, and she followed him so swiftly that she reached the top, and the broad road there, almost as soon as he. Before then, however, he had caught up a barrel stave, which happened to be lying in a too convenient spot, and was belaboring Pepita with all his might.
The latter, after her ascent of the steps, had [Pg 31] remained standing at their head, gazing dreamily downward in her own demure manner and evidently considering that she had quite properly adjusted matters. Amy succeeded in reaching them just as the third blow was descending upon Pepita's flank and by a deft movement arrested the stroke. The stave flew out of the lad's grasp, and his astonishment at her strength cooled his anger. You shall not. Aren't you ashamed of yourself to beat a helpless creature like that?
If you are still able to act so—so brutally—you can't be much hurt. I was terribly frightened and sorry, but now I don't care. She served you just right. Then the red Tam dropped on the burro's neck and a torrent of affectionate words was poured into the creature's indifferent ears. This was about half true. One tooth had been broken out by the blow upon the lad's jaw and another had been loosened. The copious bleeding of these wounds gave him a startling appearance, and when Amy looked up a shudder of repellent pity ran through her. Then she seemed to see her mother's gentle face and, conquering the aversion she felt, she pulled out her handkerchief and began to wipe the discolored, ill-shapen lips of the half-wit.
He submitted to the operation in amazed silence. Metcalf had nothing to say, though he watched with keen interest the outcome of this little transaction. If I had some water, I could do it nicely. I'm sorry you were hurt. But don't you ever strike my Pepita again! Next time she might kill you. It was her only way of defending herself, for she hasn't sense like you—". Regarding the imbecile face before her, Amy's sentence ended in confusion. Nor did it add to her comfort that the unhappy fellow now began to weep in a whimpering sort of way, that might have suited a spoiled child of a few years.
This is only one of 'Bony's' charming habits," said Mr. Metcalf, smiling derisively. Haven't you, lad? Well, it's all right. I'm sorry for you. You're sorry for yourself; and our young lady here is sorry for us both. Brace up. Be a man. What would the 'boys' think of you, in this uniform, crying? Good night. Thank you for the leaves. Metcalf, will you tell me the nearest way, please? Amy picked up the fallen bundle of boughs, which the superintendent had brought with him from the yard below, and laid them upon Pepita's back.
The gentleman directed her, courteously escorted her through the gateway, which bore another of those prohibitory "No Admittance" signs, and watched her walk briskly away, thinking what a bright feature of the landscape she made. Odd, too! A Kaye. I wonder if she will ever come again to what, if all had gone as was expected, might easily have been her own great property. Well, that was pretty to see: the way in which she wiped the face of poor 'Bony.
Where is he now? I'll have a talk with him and try to keep him out of the parades.
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They are not good for him," reflected Mr. But the talk had to be postponed; for there was "Bony" already far along the road toward Fairacres, following doggedly in Amy's footsteps, though she repeatedly assured him that she could manage quite well without him and preferred to be alone. So that, by the time they had come to the front of the old mansion, she knew his simple history completely, and her pity had almost outgrown her aversion. The shout summoned a large woman to the door, who threw up her arms with the answering cry:—.
Truly, Cleena. Real, regular adventures. See my leaves? See this lad! He got them for me. He is Bonaparte Jimpson. An' what's Napoleon Bonyparty's gineral's pleasure at Fairacres, the night? I'll tell you. Yes, you will have time enough. The train isn't due till after six, and they'll be a half-hour longer getting home from the station. Sit you down, Goodsoul, just for one little bit of minute. The scrubbing must surely be done by now. Isn't it? The scrubbin's never done in this dirty world. Well, an' what is it? Be quick with you! Amy coaxed the old servant down upon the doorstep of the freshly cleaned kitchen, whither they had now gone, and speedily narrated her afternoon's experiences.
Besides," and she pulled the other's ear down to her lips, "I'd just like to have father see him. He isn't pretty, of course, but he's new. I wonder, could he pose? Sure, it's I minds the time when the master caught me diggin' petaties an' kept me standin', with me foot on me spade, an' me spade in the ground, an' me body this shape," bending forward, "till I got such a crick in me back I couldn't walk upright, for better 'n a week. Posin', indeed! Well, he might. He looks fit for naught else.
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But, come now, I want to put all these leaves up in the dining room. Will you help me? I'll bring the step ladder and hand them to you, while you put them over the doors and windows. We'll make the place a perfect bower of cheerfulness, and if our dears, when they come—Oh, Cleena! However, it was not Amy's habit to borrow trouble, and she ran lightly away, calling to the boy on the porch:—.
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If you'd like to see her brother, you can come with me. Ain't he black! Amid ample accommodations for a dozen horses, the two burros seemed almost lost; but they occupied adjoining box-stalls which, if rather time-worn and broken, were still most roomy and comfortable. As he asked this question the lad pulled from his pocket a miscellaneous collection of objects, and invitingly displayed them upon the palm of his long hand. I fancy we are not a 'swopping' family. But I must choose some name for you besides that dreadful 'Bony. So is Lafayette. Let me see. Suppose we make it just 'Fayette'?
That is short and pleasant to speak, and I like my friends to have nice names. Would you like it? Fayette laughed, so noisily and uproariously that [Pg 37] the burros brayed again; and they kept up this amusing concert until Amy had brought each an armful of hay, and had directed her companion where to find a pail and water for their drink. Then they returned to the house and beheld Cleena in the dining room, already mounted upon the step-ladder, trying to arrange the branches with more regard to the saving of time than to grace.
But she made to the picture-seeing girl a very attractive "bit. Indeed, Cleena Keegan was a person of sufficient importance to warrant a paragraph quite to herself. She was a woman of middle age, with a wealth of curling, iron-gray hair, which she tucked away under a plain white cap. Her figure was large and grandly developed. She wore a blue print gown, carefully pinned back about her hips, thus disclosing her scarlet flannel petticoat; both garments faded by time and frequent washings to a most "artistic" hue.
Upon her shoulders was folded a kerchief of coarse white muslin, spotlessly clean; and as she stood, poised among the glowing branches, with the dying sunset light touching her honest face to unusual brightness, she was well worth Amy's eager wish:—. That's not nice of you, Goodsoul. Yet it's a great pity that a body who is such a 'study' in [Pg 38] herself can't fix those branches a bit more gracefully.
You're jamming the leaves all into a little mess and showing the stems! Oh, Cleena, I wonder if I can't reach them. Belike I'd be handier at the pullin' them down nor the puttin' them up. With head erect she descended from the ladder, and stood, arms akimbo, regarding the results of her labor. Even to her it suggested something not "artistic," and at Fairacres anything inartistic was duly frowned upon. Before either she could finish her sentence or Amy mount the ladder, Fayette had run to its top and stood there rapidly pulling from the wall the branches Cleena had arranged.
Thrusting all but one between his knees, he fastened that over the window-frame so deftly and charmingly that Amy clapped her hands in delight. He obeyed. His vacant face flushed with a glow of enthusiasm equalling, if not exceeding her own, and even Cleena spent some moments of her rarely wasted time in watching him.
Her own face had again become a "study," yet of a sort to provoke a smile, as her gaze roved from his handiwork, over the length of his ungainly person, to [Pg 39] rest upon his bare and not too cleanly feet; then travelled slowly upward again, trying to settle once for all his rightful position in the social scale. Her thought might have been thus expressed:—. His head's the same.
His clothes—they're the heathenest of all. I'd disdain 'em. But, arrah musha! The hand of him! The master himself couldn't better them fixin's. Then she hastened to her kitchen, and soon the appetizing odor of a well-cooked meal was in their nostrils, and the two young decorators realized that they were very hungry. I always do when the people are coming home from town. They go there quite often; at least father does, though mother hasn't been before in months. The candles are terrible extravagance, Cleena says, but they're so pretty.
Fayette carried away the step-ladder, then returned to watch Amy as she set the old-fashioned candelabra upon the already daintily spread table. She had bordered the white cloth with some of the most dazzling-hued leaves, and when the wax tapers threw their soft radiance over the whole charming interior, poor Fayette felt his weak head grow dizzy and confused by the beauty of it all. He dimly realized that he was in a new world, which soothed and appealed to his clouded nature as did the birds and the flowers.
That impulse, which he could neither express nor understand, which sent him so constantly into the woods and solitudes, was gratified now. This was as delightful as his favorite pastime of lying upon the grass and gazing upward into the sunlit sky. But a shadow fell across the threshold of the still open door, and looking up she saw a stranger,—an old man of rather forbidding aspect, whose glance passed swiftly from herself to the youth near the big fireplace. There followed an instant of mutual and frowning recognition between these two; then Fayette disappeared through an inner doorway, while the newcomer remained at the entrance, his hat in his hand, and an assumed suavity in his manner.
He went to the city, yesterday, with my mother and brother. I expect them back on the next train. Will you come in? He accepted the great chair Amy rolled toward him, and let his gaze slowly sweep the cheerful apartment. Yet he knew it by heart, already, and his face brightened as he saw how little it had been changed since these many years. Apparently not one of its quaint and rich old furnishings was missing, and the passage of time had but added to the remembered charm of the place.
Even the chair into which he sank had a familiar feel, as if his back had long ago fitted to those simple, comfortable lines. The antique candelabra—how often had he watched his grandmother's fingers polishing them to brilliancy. But the girl was new. The only modern thing, save the freshly gathered leaves,—which also seemed but a memory of his childhood,—to remind him of the present and the errand upon which he had come.
Dark, crisp hair.
Those short curls are like a boy's. Her eyes are the Kaye eyes; and that toss of her head, like her great-grandmother come to life again. All our women had it. Ah, well. If things—hmm. The visitor became absorbed in his thoughts, and his wandering gaze came home to rest, seemingly, upon the tips of his own boots, for he did not notice when Amy disappeared and Cleena entered. I'm not to be put off this time by any false stories.
Here I am, and here I shall stay until I see your master. Steadily and silently confronting one another for some seconds, they measured each other's wills. The unwelcome guest was not sure but that the woman would lift him bodily and fling him out of doors. She looked ably strong and quite minded so to do; but, after a further reflection, she appeared to change her mind as well as her tone.
There's no irreverence meant. Come in by, to the library yon. There's pictures to see, an' books a plenty. Leave the master be, like a gentleman now, as you was born, till he eats his meal in peace. A body can bear trouble better on a full stummick nor an empty. Come by. To his own amazement, the caller rose and followed her.
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He told himself he was a simpleton to have left the cheery supper room and the certain presence of the man he wished to see for an hour of solitary waiting in an unknown place. But he knew it well—from the outside. A detached, strong little building, of hewn stone like the mansion; one of Cuthbert Kaye's many [Pg 43] "follies.
Well, it made the property so much the more valuable. Yes, after all, he would better visit it while the coast was clear. Here an' above. You was never in the paintin' study, now was you? So he followed her up the graceful staircase, with its softly covered steps, and into a room which rumor said was worth travelling far to see; and though thus prepared, its half-revealed beauty astonished him.
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It must have cost a power of money. And—it explains many things. I suppose so. It's rather dark, however, for me to see as I would like. Isn't there a lamp here? Askin' pardon for forgettin' me manners, but it's never a lamp will the master have left in this place. If one comes, indeed, 'tis himself brings it. Forby, on occasion like this, I'll fetch it an' take all the blame for that same. It's below. I'll step down;" and she departed hastily, leaving him alone.
As the stage from the railway station rolled up to Fairacres, Amy was waiting upon the wide porch. She had put on her daintiest frock, white, of course, since her father liked her to wear no other sort of dress; and she had twisted sprays of scarlet woodbine through her dark hair and about her shoulders. Before the vehicle stopped, she called out eagerly:—.
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