"I'd dearly love to see all the things that are in it," said the Story Girl.
"Pa says it must never be opened without Cousin Rachel's permission," said Cecily.
Felix and I looked at the chest reverently. It had taken on a new significance in our eyes, and seemed like a tomb wherein lay buried some dead romance of the vanished years.
"What happened to Will Montague?" I asked.
"Nothing!" said the Story Girl viciously. "He just went on living and flourishing. He patched up matters with his creditors after awhile, and came back to the Island; and in the end he married a real nice girl, with money, and was very happy. Did you ever HEAR of anything so unjust?"
"Beverley King," suddenly cried Felicity, who had been peering into a pot, "YOU'VE GONE AND PUT THE TURNIPS ON TO BOIL WHOLE JUST LIKE POTATOES!"
"Wasn't that right?" I cried, in an agony of shame.
"Right!" but Felicity had already whisked the turnips out, and was slicing them, while all the others were laughing at me. I had added a tradition on my own account to the family archives.
Uncle Roger roared when he heard it; and he roared again at night over Peter's account of Felix attempting to milk a cow. Felix had previously acquired the knack of extracting milk from the udder. But he had never before tried to "milk a whole cow." He did not get on well; the cow tramped on his foot, and finally upset the bucket.
"What are you to do when a cow won't stand straight?" spluttered Felix angrily.
"That's the question," said Uncle Roger, shaking his head gravely.
Uncle Roger's laughter was hard to bear, but his gravity was harder.
Meanwhile, in the pantry the Story Girl, apron-enshrouded, was being initiated into the mysteries of bread-making. Under Felicity's eyes she set the bread, and on the morrow she was to bake it.
"The first thing you must do in the morning is knead it well," said Felicity, "and the earlier it's done the better—because it's such a warm night."
With that we went to bed, and slept as soundly as if tragedies of blue chests and turnips and crooked cows had no place in the scheme of things at all.
CHAPTER XIII. AN OLD PROVERB WITH A NEW MEANING
It was half-past five when we boys got up the next morning. We were joined on the stairs by Felicity, yawning and rosy.
"Oh, dear me, I overslept myself. Uncle Roger wanted breakfast at six. Well, I suppose the fire is on anyhow, for the Story Girl is up. I guess she got up early to knead the bread. She couldn't sleep all night for worrying over it."
The fire was on, and a flushed and triumphant Story Girl was taking a loaf of bread from the oven.
"Just look," she said proudly. "I have every bit of the bread baked. I got up at three, and it was lovely and light, so I just gave it a right good kneading and popped it into the oven. And it's all done and out of the way. But the loaves don't seem quite as big as they should be," she added doubtfully.
"Sara Stanley!" Felicity flew across the kitchen. "Do you mean that you put the bread right into the oven after you kneaded it without leaving it to rise a second time?"
The Story Girl turned quite pale.
"Yes, I did," she faltered. "Oh, Felicity, wasn't it right?"
"You've ruined the bread," said Felicity flatly. "It's as heavy as a stone. I declare, Sara Stanley, I'd rather have a little common sense than be a great story teller."
Bitter indeed was the poor Story Girl's mortification.
"Don't tell Uncle Roger," she implored humbly.
"Oh, I won't tell him," promised Felicity amiably. "It's lucky there's enough old bread to do to-day. This will go to the hens. But it's an awful waste of good flour."
The Story Girl crept out with Felix and me to the morning orchard, while Dan and Peter went to do the barn work.
"It isn't ANY use for me to try to learn to cook," she said.
"Never mind," I said consolingly. "You can tell splendid stories."
"But what good would that do a hungry boy?" wailed the Story Girl.
"Boys ain't ALWAYS hungry," said Felix gravely. "There's times when they ain't."
"I don't believe it," said the Story Girl drearily.
"Besides," added Felix in the tone of one who says while there is life there is yet hope, "you may learn to cook yet if you keep on trying."
"But Aunt Olivia won't let me waste the stuff. My only hope was to learn this week. But I suppose Felicity is so disgusted with me now that she won't give me any more lessons."
"I don't care," said Felix. "I like you better than Felicity, even if you can't cook. There's lots of folks can make bread. But there isn't many who can tell a story like you."
"But it's better to be useful than just interesting," sighed the Story Girl bitterly.
And Felicity, who was useful, would, in her secret soul, have given anything to be interesting. Which is the way of human nature.
Company descended on us that afternoon. First came Aunt Janet's sister, Mrs. Patterson, with a daughter of sixteen years and a son of two. They were followed by a buggy-load of Markdale people; and finally, Mrs. Elder Frewen and her sister from Vancouver, with two small daughters of the latter, arrived.
"It never rains but it pours," said Uncle Roger, as he went out to take their horse. But Felicity's foot was on her native heath. She had been baking all the afternoon, and, with a pantry well stocked with biscuits, cookies, cakes, and pies, she cared not if all Carlisle came to tea. Cecily set the table, and the Story Girl waited on it and washed all the dishes afterwards. But all the blushing honours fell to Felicity, who received so many compliments that her airs were quite unbearable for the rest of the week. She presided at the head of the table with as much grace and dignity as if she had been five times twelve years old, and seemed to know by instinct just who took sugar and who took it not. She was flushed with excitement and pleasure, and was so pretty that I could hardly eat for looking at her—which is the highest compliment in a boy's power to pay.
The Story Girl, on the contrary, was under eclipse. She was pale and lustreless from her disturbed night and early rising; and no opportunity offered to tell a melting tale. Nobody took any notice of her. It was Felicity's day.
After tea Mrs. Frewen and her sister wished to visit their father's grave in the Carlisle churchyard. It appeared that everybody wanted to go with them; but it was evident that somebody must stay home with Jimmy Patterson, who had just fallen sound asleep on the kitchen sofa. Dan finally volunteered to look after him. He had a new Henty book which he wanted to finish, and that, he said, was better fun than a walk to the graveyard.
"I think we'll be back before he wakes," said Mrs. Patterson, "and anyhow he is very good and won't be any trouble. Don't let him go outside, though. He has a cold now."
We went away, leaving Dan sitting on the door-sill reading his book, and Jimmy P. snoozing blissfully on the sofa. When we returned—Felix and the girls and I were ahead of the others—Dan was still sitting in precisely the same place and attitude; but there was no Jimmy in sight.
"Dan, where's the baby?" cried Felicity.
Dan looked around. His jaw fell in blank amazement. I never say any one look as foolish as Dan at that moment.
"Good gracious, I don't know," he said helplessly.
"You've been so deep in that wretched book that he's got out, and dear knows where he is," cried Felicity distractedly.
"I wasn't," cried Dan. "He MUST be in the house. I've been sitting right across the door ever since you left, and he couldn't have got out unless he crawled right over me. He must be in the house."
"He isn't in the kitchen," said Felicity rushing about wildly, "and he couldn't get into the other part of the house, for I shut the hall door tight, and no baby could open it—and it's shut tight yet. So are all the windows. He MUST have gone out of that door, Dan King, and it's your fault."
"He DIDN'T go out of this door," reiterated Dan stubbornly. "I know that."
"Well, where is he, then? He isn't here. Did he melt into air?" demanded Felicity. "Oh, come and look for him, all of you. Don't stand round like ninnies. We MUST find him before his mother gets here. Dan King, you're an idiot!"
Dan was too frightened to resent this, at the time. However and wherever Jimmy had gone, he WAS gone, so much was certain. We tore about the house and yard like maniacs; we looked into every likely and unlikely place. But Jimmy we could not find, anymore than if he had indeed melted into air. Mrs. Patterson came, and we had not found him. Things were getting serious. Uncle Roger and Peter were summoned from the field. Mrs. Patterson became hysterical, and was taken into the spare room with such remedies as could be suggested. Everybody blamed poor Dan. Cecily asked him what he would feel like if Jimmy was never, never found. The Story Girl had a gruesome recollection of some baby at Markdale who had wandered away like that—
"And they never found him till the next spring, and all they found was—HIS SKELETON, with the grass growing through it," she whispered.
"This beats me," said Uncle Roger, when a fruitless hour had elapsed. "I do hope that baby hasn't wandered down to the swamp. It seems impossible he could walk so far; but I must go and see. Felicity, hand me my high boots out from under the sofa, there's a girl."
Felicity, pale and tearful, dropped on her knees and lifted the cretonne frill of the sofa. There, his head pillowed hardly on Uncle Roger's boots, lay Jimmy Patterson, still sound asleep!
"Well, I'll be—jiggered!" said Uncle Roger.
"I KNEW he never went out of the door," cried Dan triumphantly.
When the last buggy had driven away, Felicity set a batch of bread, and the rest of us sat around the back porch steps in the cat's light and ate cherries, shooting the stones at each other. Cecily was in quest of information.
"What does 'it never rains but it pours' mean?"
"Oh, it means if anything happens something else is sure to happen," said the Story Girl. "I'll illustrate. There's Mrs. Murphy. She never had a proposal in her life till she was forty, and then she had three in the one week, and she was so flustered she took the wrong one and has been sorry ever since. Do you see what it means now?"
"Yes, I guess so," said Cecily somewhat doubtfully. Later on we heard her imparting her newly acquired knowledge to Felicity in the pantry.
"'It never rains but it pours' means that nobody wants to marry you for ever so long, and then lots of people do."
CHAPTER XIV. FORBIDDEN FRUIT
We were all, with the exception of Uncle Roger, more or less grumpy in the household of King next day. Perhaps our nerves had been upset by the excitement attendant on Jimmy Patterson's disappearance. But it is more likely that our crankiness was the result of the supper we had eaten the previous night. Even children cannot devour mince pie, and cold fried pork ham, and fruit cake before going to bed with entire impunity. Aunt Janet had forgotten to warn Uncle Roger to keep an eye on our bedtime snacks, and we ate what seemed good unto us.
Some of us had frightful dreams, and all of us carried chips on our shoulders at breakfast. Felicity and Dan began a bickering which they kept up the entire day. Felicity had a natural aptitude for what we called "bossing," and in her mother's absence she deemed that she had a right to rule supreme. She knew better than to make any attempt to assert authority over the Story Girl, and Felix and I were allowed some length of tether; but Cecily, Dan, and Peter were expected to submit dutifully to her decrees. In the main they did; but on this particular morning Dan was plainly inclined to rebel. He had had time to grow sore over the things that Felicity had said to him when Jimmy Patterson was thought lost, and he began the day with a flatly expressed determination that he was not going to let Felicity rule the roost.
It was not a pleasant day, and to make matters worse it rained until late in the afternoon. The Story Girl had not recovered from the mortifications of the previous day; she would not talk, and she would not tell a single story; she sat on Rachel Ward's chest and ate her breakfast with the air of a martyr. After breakfast she washed the dishes and did the bed-room work in grim silence; then, with a book under one arm and Pat under the other, she betook herself to the window-seat in the upstairs hall, and would not be lured from that retreat, charmed we never so wisely. She stroked the purring Paddy, and read steadily on, with maddening indifference to all our pleadings.
Even Cecily, the meek and mild, was snappish, and complained of headache. Peter had gone home to see his mother, and Uncle Roger had gone to Markdale on business. Sara Ray came up, but was so snubbed by Felicity that she went home, crying. Felicity got the dinner by herself, disdaining to ask or command assistance. She banged things about and rattled the stove covers until even Cecily protested from her sofa. Dan sat on the floor and whittled, his sole aim and object being to make a mess and annoy Felicity, in which noble ambition he succeeded perfectly.
"I wish Aunt Janet and Uncle Alec were home," said Felix. "It's not half so much fun having the grown-ups away as I thought it would be."
"I wish I was back in Toronto," I said sulkily. The mince pie was to blame for THAT wish.
"I wish you were, I'm sure," said Felicity, riddling the fire noisily.
"Any one who lives with you, Felicity King, will always be wishing he was somewhere else," said Dan.
"I wasn't talking to you, Dan King," retorted Felicity, "'Speak when you're spoken to, come when you're called.'"
"Oh, oh, oh," wailed Cecily on the sofa. "I WISH it would stop raining. I WISH my head would stop aching. I WISH ma had never gone away. I WISH you'd leave Felicity alone, Dan."
"I wish girls had some sense," said Dan—which brought the orgy of wishing to an end for the time. A wishing fairy might have had the time of her life in the King kitchen that morning—particularly if she were a cynically inclined fairy.
But even the effects of unholy snacks wear away at length. By tea-time things had brightened up. The rain had ceased, and the old, low-raftered room was full of sunshine which danced on the shining dishes of the dresser, made mosaics on the floor, and flickered over the table whereon a delicious meal was spread. Felicity had put on her blue muslin, and looked so beautiful in it that her good humour was quite restored. Cecily's headache was better, and the Story Girl, refreshed by an afternoon siesta, came down with smiles and sparkling eyes. Dan alone continued to nurse his grievances, and would not even laugh when the Story Girl told us a tale brought to mind by some of the "Rev. Mr. Scott's plums" which were on the table.
"The Rev. Mr. Scott was the man who thought the pulpit door must be made for speerits, you know," she said. "I heard Uncle Edward telling ever so many stories about him. He was called to this congregation, and he laboured here long and faithfully, and was much beloved, though he was very eccentric."
"What does that mean?" asked Peter.
"Hush! It just means queer," said Cecily, nudging him with her elbow. "A common man would be queer, but when it's a minister, it's eccentric."
"When he gets very old," continued the Story Girl, "the Presbytery thought it was time he was retired. HE didn't think so; but the Presbytery had their way, because there were so many of them to one of him. He was retired, and a young man was called to Carlisle. Mr. Scott went to live in town, but he came out to Carlisle very often, and visited all the people regularly, just the same as when he was their minister. The young minister was a very good young man, and tried to do his duty; but he was dreadfully afraid of meeting old Mr. Scott, because he had been told that the old minister was very angry at being set aside, and would likely give him a sound drubbing, if he ever met him. One day the young minister was visiting the Crawfords in Markdale, when they suddenly heard old Mr. Scott's voice in the kitchen. The young minister turned pale as the dead, and implored Mrs. Crawford to hid him. But she couldn't get him out of the room, and all she could do was to hide him in the china closet. The young minister slipped into the china closet, and old Mr. Scott came into the room. He talked very nicely, and read, and prayed. They made very long prayers in those days, you know; and at the end of his prayer he said, 'Oh Lord, bless the poor young man hiding in the closet. Give him courage not to fear the face of man. Make him a burning and a shining light to this sadly abused congregation.' Just imagine the feelings of the young minister in the china closet! But he came right out like a man, though his face was very red, as soon as Mr. Scott had done praying. And Mr. Scott was lovely to him, and shook hands, and never mentioned the china closet. And they were the best of friends ever afterwards."
"How did old Mr. Scott find out the young minister was in the closet?" asked Felix.
"Nobody ever knew. They supposed he had seen him through the window before he came into the house, and guessed he must be in the closet—because there was no way for him to get out of the room."
"Mr. Scott planted the yellow plum tree in Grandfather's time," said Cecily, peeling one of the plums, "and when he did it he said it was as Christian an act as he ever did. I wonder what he meant. I don't see anything very Christian about planting a tree."
"I do," said the Story Girl sagely.
When next we assembled ourselves together, it was after milking, and the cares of the day were done with. We foregathered in the balsam-fragrant aisles of the fir wood, and ate early August apples to such an extent that the Story Girl said we made her think of the Irishman's pig.
"An Irishman who lived at Markdale had a little pig," she said, "and he gave it a pailful of mush. The pig at the whole pailful, and then the Irishman put the pig IN the pail, and it didn't fill more than half the pail. Now, how was that, when it held a whole pailful of mush?"
This seemed to be a rather unanswerable kind of conundrum. We discussed the problem as we roamed the wood, and Dan and Peter almost quarrelled over it, Dan maintaining that the thing was impossible, and Peter being of the opinion that the mush was somehow "made thicker" in the process of being eaten, and so took up less room. During the discussion we came out to the fence of the hill pasture where grew the "bad berry" bushes.
Just what these "bad berries" were I cannot tell. We never knew their real name. They were small, red-clustered berries of a glossy, seductive appearance, and we were forbidden to eat them, because it was thought they might be poisonous. Dan picked a cluster and held it up.
"Dan King, don't you DARE eat those berries," said Felicity in her "bossiest" tone. "They're poison. Drop them right away."
Now, Dan had not had the slightest intention of eating the berries. But at Felicity's prohibition the rebellion which had smouldered in him all day broke into sudden flame. He would show her!
"I'll eat them if I please, Felicity King," he said in a fury: "I don't believe they're poison. Look here!"
Dan crammed the whole bunch into his capacious mouth and chewed it up.
"They taste great," he said, smacking; and he ate two more clusters, regardless of our horror-stricken protestations and Felicity's pleadings.
We feared that Dan would drop dead on the spot. But nothing occurred immediately. When an hour had passed we concluded that the bad berries were not poison after all, and we looked upon Dan as quite a hero for daring to eat them.
"I knew they wouldn't hurt me," he said loftily. "Felicity's so fond of making a fuss over everything."
Nevertheless, when it grew dark and we returned to the house, I noticed that Dan was rather pale and quiet. He lay down on the kitchen sofa.
"Don't you feel all right, Dan?" I whispered anxiously.
"Shut up," he said.
I shut up.
Felicity and Cecily were setting out a lunch in the pantry when we were all startled by a loud groan from the sofa.
"Oh, I'm sick—I'm awful sick," said Dan abjectly, all the defiance and bravado gone out of him.
We all went to pieces, except Cecily, who alone retained her presence of mind.
"Have you got a pain in your stomach?" she demanded.
"I've got an awful pain here, if that's where my stomach is," moaned Dan, putting his hand on a portion of his anatomy considerably below his stomach. "Oh—oh—oh!"
"Go for Uncle Roger," commanded Cecily, pale but composed. "Felicity, put on the kettle. Dan, I'm going to give you mustard and warm water."
The mustard and warm water produced its proper effect promptly, but gave Dan no relief. He continued to writhe and groan. Uncle Roger, who had been summoned from his own place, went at once for the doctor, telling Peter to go down the hill for Mrs. Ray. Peter went, but returned accompanied by Sara only. Mrs. Ray and Judy Pineau were both away. Sara might better have stayed home; she was of no use, and could only add to the general confusion, wandering aimlessly about, crying and asking if Dan was going to die.
Cecily took charge of things. Felicity might charm the palate, and the Story Girl bind captive the soul; but when pain and sickness wrung the brow it was Cecily who was the ministering angel. She made the writhing Dan go to bed. She made him swallow every available antidote which was recommended in "the doctor's book;" and she applied hot cloths to him until her faithful little hands were half scalded off.
There was no doubt Dan was suffering intense pain. He moaned and writhed, and cried for his mother.
"Oh, isn't it dreadful!" said Felicity, wringing her hands as she walked the kitchen floor. "Oh, why doesn't the doctor come? I TOLD Dan the bad berries were poison. But surely they can't kill people ALTOGETHER."
"Pa's cousin died of eating something forty years ago," sobbed Sara Ray.
"Hold your tongue," said Peter in a fierce whisper. "You oughter have more sense than to say such things to the girls. They don't want to be any worse scared than they are."
"But Pa's cousin DID die," reiterated Sara.
"My Aunt Jane used to rub whisky on for a pain," suggested Peter.
"We haven't any whisky," said Felicity disapprovingly. "This is a temperance house."
"But rubbing whisky on the OUTSIDE isn't any harm," argued Peter. "It's only when you take it inside it is bad for you."
"Well, we haven't any, anyhow," said Felicity. "I suppose blueberry wine wouldn't do in its place?"
Peter did not think blueberry wine would be any good.
It was ten o'clock before Dan began to get better; but from that time he improved rapidly. When the doctor, who had been away from home when Uncle Roger reached Markdale, came at half past ten, he found his patient very weak and white, but free from pain.
Dr. Grier patted Cecily on the head, told her she was a little brick, and had done just the right thing, examined some of the fatal berries and gave it as his opinion that they were probably poisonous, administered some powders to Dan and advised him not to tamper with forbidden fruit in future, and went away.
Mrs. Ray now appeared, looking for Sara, and said she would stay all night with us.
"I'll be much obliged to you if you will," said Uncle Roger. "I feel a bit shook. I urged Janet and Alec to go to Halifax, and took the responsibility of the children while they were away, but I didn't know what I was letting myself in for. If anything had happened I could never have forgiven myself—though I believe it's beyond the power of mortal man to keep watch over the things children WILL eat. Now, you young fry, get straight off to your beds. Dan is out of danger, and you can't do any more good. Not that any of you have done much, except Cecily. She's got a head of her shoulders."
"It's been a horrid day all through," said Felicity drearily, as we climbed the stairs.
"I suppose we made it horrid ourselves," said the Story Girl candidly. "But it'll be a good story to tell sometime," she added.
"I'm awful tired and thankful," sighed Cecily.
We all felt that way.
CHAPTER XV. A DISOBEDIENT BROTHER
Dan was his own man again in the morning, though rather pale and weak; he wanted to get up, but Cecily ordered him to stay in bed. Fortunately Felicity forgot to repeat the command, so Dan did stay in bed. Cecily carried his meals to him, and read a Henty book to him all her spare time. The Story Girl went up and told him wondrous tales; and Sara Ray brought him a pudding she had made herself. Sara's intentions were good, but the pudding— well, Dan fed most of it to Paddy, who had curled himself up at the foot of the bed, giving the world assurance of a cat by his mellifluous purring.
"Ain't he just a great old fellow?" said Dan. "He knows I'm kind of sick, just as well as a human. He never pays no attention to me when I'm well."
Felix and Peter and I were required to help Uncle Roger in some carpentering work that day, and Felicity indulged in one of the house-cleaning orgies so dear to her soul; so that it was evening before we were all free to meet in the orchard and loll on the grasses of Uncle Stephen's Walk. In August it was a place of shady sweetness, fragrant with the odour of ripening apples, full of dear, delicate shadows. Through its openings we looked afar to the blue rims of the hills and over green, old, tranquil fields, lying the sunset glow. Overhead the lacing leaves made a green, murmurous roof. There was no such thing as hurry in the world, while we lingered there and talked of "cabbages and kings." A tale of the Story Girl's, wherein princes were thicker than blackberries, and queens as common as buttercups, led to our discussion of kings. We wondered what it would be like to be a king. Peter thought it would be fine, only kind of inconvenient, wearing a crown all the time.
"Oh, but they don't," said the Story Girl. "Maybe they used to once, but now they wear hats. The crowns are just for special occasions. They look very much like other people, if you can go by their photographs."
"I don't believe it would be much fun as a steady thing," said Cecily. "I'd like to SEE a queen though. That is one thing I have against the Island—you never have a chance to see things like that here."
"The Prince of Wales was in Charlottetown once," said Peter. "My Aunt Jane saw him quite close by."
"That was before we were born, and such a thing won't happen again until after we're dead," said Cecily, with very unusual pessimism.
"I think queens and kings were thicker long ago," said the Story Girl. "They do seem dreadfully scarce now. There isn't one in this country anywhere. Perhaps I'll get a glimpse of some when I go to Europe."
Well, the Story Girl was destined to stand before kings herself, and she was to be one whom they delighted to honour. But we did not know that, as we sat in the old orchard. We thought it quite sufficiently marvellous that she should expect to have the chance of just seeing them.
"Can a queen do exactly as she pleases?" Sara Ray wanted to know.
"Not nowadays," explained the Story Girl.
"Then I don't see any use in being one," Sara decided.
"A king can't do as he pleases now, either," said Felix. "If he tries to, and if it isn't what pleases other people, the Parliament or something squelches him."
"Isn't 'squelch' a lovely word?" said the Story Girl irrelevantly. "It's so expressive. Squ-u-e-l-ch!"
Certainly it was a lovely word, as the Story Girl said it. Even a king would not have minded being squelched, if it were done to music like that.
"Uncle Roger says that Martin Forbes' wife has squelched HIM," said Felicity. "He says Martin can't call his soul his own since he was married."
"I'm glad of it," said Cecily vindictively.
We all stared. This was so very unlike Cecily.
"Martin Forbes is the brother of a horrid man in Summerside who called me Johnny, that's why," she explained. "He was visiting here with his wife two years ago, and he called me Johnny every time he spoke to me. Just you fancy! I'll NEVER forgive him."
"That isn't a Christian spirit," said Felicity rebukingly.
"I don't care. Would YOU forgive James Forbes if he had called YOU Johnny?" demanded Cecily.
"I know a story about Martin Forbes' grandfather," said the Story Girl. "Long ago they didn't have any choir in the Carlisle church—just a precentor you know. But at last they got a choir, and Andrew McPherson was to sing bass in it. Old Mr. Forbes hadn't gone to church for years, because he was so rheumatic, but he went the first Sunday the choir sang, because he had never heard any one sing bass, and wanted to hear what it was like. Grandfather King asked him what he thought of the choir. Mr. Forbes said it was 'verra guid,' but as for Andrew's bass, 'there was nae bass aboot it—it was just a bur-r-r-r the hale time.'"
If you could have heard the Story Girl's "bur-r-r-r!" Not old Mr. Forbes himself could have invested it with more of Doric scorn. We rolled over in the cool grass and screamed with laughter.
"Poor Dan," said Cecily compassionately. "He's up there all alone in his room, missing all the fun. I suppose it's mean of us to be having such a good time here, when he has to stay in bed."
"If Dan hadn't done wrong eating the bad berries when he was told not to, he wouldn't be sick," said Felicity. "You're bound to catch it when you do wrong. It was just a Providence he didn't die."
"That makes me think of another story about old Mr. Scott," said the Story Girl. "You know, I told you he was very angry because the Presbytery made him retire. There were two ministers in particular he blamed for being at the bottom of it. One time a friend of his was trying to console him, and said to him,
"'You should be resigned to the will of Providence.'
"'Providence had nothing to do with it,' said old Mr. Scott. ''Twas the McCloskeys and the devil.'"
"You shouldn't speak of the—the—DEVIL," said Felicity, rather shocked.
"Well, that's just what Mr. Scott said."
"Oh, it's all right for a MINISTER to speak of him. But it isn't nice for little girls. If you HAVE to speak of—of—him—you might say the Old Scratch. That is what mother calls him."
"''Twas the McCloskeys and the Old Scratch,'" said the Story Girl reflectively, as if she were trying to see which version was the more effective. "It wouldn't do," she decided.
"I don't think it's any harm to mention the—the—that person, when you're telling a story," said Cecily. "It's only in plain talking it doesn't do. It sounds too much like swearing then."
"I know another story about Mr. Scott," said the Story Girl. "Not long after he was married his wife wasn't quite ready for church one morning when it was time to go. So, just to teach her a lesson, he drove off alone, and left her to walk all the way—it was nearly two miles—in the heat and dust. She took it very quietly. It's the best way, I guess, when you're married to a man like old Mr. Scott. But just a few Sundays after wasn't he late himself! I suppose Mrs. Scott thought that what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander, for she slipped out and drove off to church as he had done. Old Mr. Scott finally arrived at the church, pretty hot and dusty, and in none too good a temper. He went into the pulpit, leaned over it and looked at his wife, sitting calmly in her pew at the side.
"'It was cleverly done,' he said, right out loud, 'BUT DINNA TRY IT AGAIN!'"
In the midst of our laughter Pat came down the Walk, his stately tail waving over the grasses. He proved to be the precursor of Dan, clothed and in his right mind.
"Do you think you should have got up, Dan?" said Cecily anxiously.
"I had to," said Dan. "The window was open, and it was more'n I could stand to hear you fellows laughing down here and me missing it all. 'Sides, I'm all right again. I feel fine."
"I guess this will be a lesson to you, Dan King," said Felicity, in her most maddening tone. "I guess you won't forget it in a hurry. You won't go eating the bad berries another time when you're told not to."
Dan had picked out a soft spot in the grass for himself, and was in the act of sitting down, when Felicity's tactful speech arrested him midway. He straightened up and turned a wrathful face on his provoking sister. Then, red with indignation, but without a word, he stalked up the walk.
"Now he's gone off mad," said Cecily reproachfully. "Oh, Felicity, why couldn't you have held your tongue?"
"Why, what did I say to make him mad?" asked Felicity in honest perplexity.
"I think it's awful for brothers and sisters to be always quarrelling," sighed Cecily. "The Cowans fight all the time; and you and Dan will soon be as bad."
"Oh, talk sense," said Felicity. "Dan's got so touchy it isn't safe to speak to him. I should think he'd be sorry for all the trouble he made last night. But you just back him up in everything, Cecily."
"You do! And you've no business to, specially when mother's away. She left ME in charge."
"You didn't take much charge last night when Dan got sick," said Felix maliciously. Felicity had told him at tea that night he was getting fatter than ever. This was his tit-for-tat. "You were pretty glad to leave it all to Cecily then."
"Who's talking to you?" said Felicity.
"Now, look here," said the Story Girl, "the first thing we know we'll all be quarrelling, and then some of us will sulk all day to-morrow. It's dreadful to spoil a whole day. Just let's all sit still and count a hundred before we say another word."
We sat still and counted the hundred. When Cecily finished she got up and went in search of Dan, resolved to soothe his wounded feelings. Felicity called after her to tell Dan there was a jam turnover she had put away in the pantry specially for him. Felix held out to Felicity a remarkably fine apple which he had been saving for his own consumption; and the Story Girl began a tale of an enchanted maiden in a castle by the sea; but we never heard the end of it. For, just as the evening star was looking whitely through the rosy window of the west, Cecily came flying through the orchard, wringing her hands.
"Oh, come, come quick," she gasped. "Dan's eating the bad berries again—he's et a whole bunch of them—he says he'll show Felicity. I can't stop him. Come you and try."
We rose in a body and rushed towards the house. In the yard we encountered Dan, emerging from the fir wood and champing the fatal berries with unrepentant relish.
"Dan King, do you want to commit suicide?" demanded the Story Girl.
"Look here, Dan," I expostulated. "You shouldn't do this. Think how sick you were last night and all the trouble you made for everybody. Don't eat any more, there's a good chap."
"All right," said Dan. "I've et all I want. They taste fine. I don't believe it was them made me sick."
But now that his anger was over he looked a little frightened. Felicity was not there. We found her in the kitchen, lighting up the fire.
"Bev, fill the kettle with water and put it on to heat," she said in a resigned tone. "If Dan's going to be sick again we've got to be ready for it. I wish mother was home, that's all. I hope she'll never go away again. Dan King, you just wait till I tell her of the way you've acted."
"Fudge! I ain't going to be sick," said Dan. "And if YOU begin telling tales, Felicity King, I'LL tell some too. I know how many eggs mother said you could use while she was away—and I know how many you HAVE used. I counted. So you'd better mind your own business, Miss."
"A nice way to talk to your sister when you may be dead in an hour's time!" retorted Felicity, in tears between her anger and her real alarm about Dan.
But in an hour's time Dan was still in good health, and announced his intention of going to bed. He went, and was soon sleeping as peacefully as if he had nothing on either conscience or stomach. But Felicity declared she meant to keep the water hot until all danger was past; and we sat up to keep her company. We were sitting there when Uncle Roger walked in at eleven o'clock.
"What on earth are you young fry doing up at this time of night?" he asked angrily. "You should have been in your beds two hours ago. And with a roaring fire on a night that's hot enough to melt a brass monkey! Have you taken leave of your senses?"
"It's because of Dan," explained Felicity wearily. "He went and et more of the bad berries—a whole lot of them—and we were sure he'd be sick again. But he hasn't been yet, and now he's asleep."
"Is that boy stark, staring mad?" said Uncle Roger.
"It was Felicity's fault," cried Cecily, who always took Dan's part through evil report and good report. "She told him she guessed he'd learned a lesson and wouldn't do what she'd told him not to again. So he went and et them because she vexed him so."
"Felicity King, if you don't watch out you'll grow up into the sort of woman who drives her husband to drink," said Uncle Roger gravely.
"How could I tell Dan would act so like a mule!" cried Felicity.
"Get off to bed, every one of you. It's a thankful man I'll be when your father and mother come home. The wretched bachelor who undertakes to look after a houseful of children like you is to be pitied. Nobody will ever catch me doing it again. Felicity, is there anything fit to eat in the pantry?"
That last question was the most unkindest cut of all. Felicity could have forgiven Uncle Roger anything but that. It really was unpardonable. She confided to me as we climbed the stairs that she hated Uncle Roger. Her red lips quivered and the tears of wounded pride brimmed over in her beautiful blue eyes. In the dim candle-light she looked unbelievably pretty and appealing. I put my arm about her and gave her a cousinly salute.
"Never you mind him, Felicity," I said. "He's only a grown-up."
CHAPTER XVI. THE GHOSTLY BELL
Friday was a comfortable day in the household of King. Everybody was in good humour. The Story Girl sparkled through several tales that ranged from the afrites and jinns of Eastern myth, through the piping days of chivalry, down to the homely anecdotes of Carlisle workaday folks. She was in turn an Oriental princess behind a silken veil, the bride who followed her bridegroom to the wars of Palestine disguised as a page, the gallant lady who ransomed her diamond necklace by dancing a coranto with a highwayman on a moonlit heath, and "Buskirk's girl" who joined the Sons and Daughters of Temperance "just to see what was into it;" and in each impersonation she was so thoroughly the thing impersonated that it was a matter of surprise to us when she emerged from each our own familiar Story Girl again.
Cecily and Sara Ray found a "sweet" new knitted lace pattern in an old magazine and spent a happy afternoon learning it and "talking secrets." Chancing—accidentally, I vow—to overhear certain of these secrets, I learned that Sara Ray had named an apple for Johnny Price—"and, Cecily, true's you live, there was eight seeds in it, and you know eight means 'they both love' "—while Cecily admitted that Willy Fraser had written on his slate and showed it to her,
"If you love me as I love you, No knife can cut our love in two"—
"but, Sara Ray, NEVER you breathe this to a living soul."
Felix also averred that he heard Sara ask Cecily very seriously,
"Cecily, how old must we be before we can have a REAL beau?"
But Sara always denied it; so I am inclined to believe Felix simply made it up himself.
Paddy distinguished himself by catching a rat, and being intolerably conceited about it—until Sara Ray cured him by calling him a "dear, sweet cat," and kissing him between the ears. Then Pat sneaked abjectly off, his tail drooping. He resented being called a sweet cat. He had a sense of humour, had Pat. Very few cats have; and most of them have such an inordinate appetite for flattery that they will swallow any amount of it and thrive thereon. Paddy had a finer taste. The Story Girl and I were the only ones who could pay him compliments to his liking. The Story Girl would box his ears with her fist and say, "Bless your gray heart, Paddy, you're a good sort of old rascal," and Pat would purr his satisfaction; I used to take a handful of the skin on his back, shake him gently and say, "Pat, you've forgotten more than any human being ever knew," and I vow Paddy would lick his chops with delight. But to be called "a sweet cat!" Oh, Sara, Sara!
Felicity tried—and had the most gratifying luck with—a new and complicated cake recipe—a gorgeous compound of a plumminess to make your mouth water. The number of eggs she used in it would have shocked Aunt Janet's thrifty soul, but that cake, like beauty, was its own excuse. Uncle Roger ate three slices of it at tea-time and told Felicity she was an artist. The poor man meant it as a compliment; but Felicity, who knew Uncle Blair was an artist and had a poor opinion of such fry, looked indignant and retorted, indeed she wasn't!
"Peter says there's any amount of raspberries back in the maple clearing," said Dan. "S'posen we all go after tea and pick some?"
"I'd like to," sighed Felicity, "but we'd come home tired and with all the milking to do. You boys better go alone."
"Peter and I will attend to the milking for one evening," said Uncle Roger. "You can all go. I have an idea that a raspberry pie for to-morrow night, when the folks come home, would hit the right spot."
Accordingly, after tea we all set off, armed with jugs and cups. Felicity, thoughtful creature, also took a small basketful of jelly cookies along with her. We had to go back through the maple woods to the extreme end of Uncle Roger's farm—a pretty walk, through a world of green, whispering boughs and spice-sweet ferns, and shifting patches of sunlight. The raspberries were plentiful, and we were not long in filling our receptacles. Then we foregathered around a tiny wood spring, cold and pellucid under its young maples, and ate the jelly cookies; and the Story Girl told us a tale of a haunted spring in a mountain glen where a fair white lady dwelt, who pledged all comers in a golden cup with jewels bright.
"And if you drank of the cup with her," said the Story Girl, her eyes glowing through the emerald dusk about us, "you were never seen in the world again; you were whisked straightway to fairyland, and lived there with a fairy bride. And you never WANTED to come back to earth, because when you drank of the magic cup you forgot all your past life, except for one day in every year when you were allowed to remember it."
"I wish there was such a place as fairyland—and a way to get to it," said Cecily.
"I think there IS such a place—in spite of Uncle Edward," said the Story Girl dreamily, "and I think there is a way of getting there too, if we could only find it."
Well, the Story Girl was right. There is such a place as fairyland—but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.
As we sat there the Awkward Man passed by, with his gun over his shoulder and his dog at his side. He did not look like an awkward man, there in the heart of the maple woods. He strode along right masterfully and lifted his head with the air of one who was monarch of all he surveyed.
The Story Girl kissed her fingertips to him with the delightful audacity which was a part of her; and the Awkward Man plucked off his hat and swept her a stately and graceful bow.
"I don't understand why they call him the awkward man," said Cecily, when he was out of earshot.
"You'd understand why if you ever saw him at a party or a picnic," said Felicity, "trying to pass plates and dropping them whenever a woman looked at him. They say it's pitiful to see him."
"I must get well acquainted with that man next summer," said the Story Girl. "If I put it off any longer it will be too late. I'm growing so fast, Aunt Olivia says I'll have to wear ankle skirts next summer. If I begin to look grown-up he'll get frightened of me, and then I'll never find out the Golden Milestone mystery."
"Do you think he'll ever tell you who Alice is?" I asked.
"I have a notion who Alice is already," said the mysterious creature. But she would tell us nothing more.
When the jelly cookies were all eaten it was high time to be moving homeward, for when the dark comes down there are more comfortable places than a rustling maple wood and the precincts of a possibly enchanted spring. When we reached the foot of the orchard and entered it through a gap in the hedge it was the magical, mystical time of "between lights." Off to the west was a daffodil glow hanging over the valley of lost sunsets, and Grandfather King's huge willow rose up against it like a rounded mountain of foliage. In the east, above the maple woods, was a silvery sheen that hinted the moonrise. But the orchard was a place of shadows and mysterious sounds. Midway up the open space in its heart we met Peter; and if ever a boy was given over to sheer terror that boy was Peter. His face was as white as a sunburned face could be, and his eyes were brimmed with panic.
"Peter, what is the matter?" cried Cecily.
"There's—SOMETHING—in the house, RINGING A BELL," said Peter, in a shaking voice. Not the Story Girl herself could have invested that "something" with more of creepy horror. We all drew close together. I felt a crinkly feeling along my back which I had never known before. If Peter had not been so manifestly frightened we might have thought he was trying to "pass a joke" on us. But such abject terror as his could not be counterfeited.
"Nonsense!" said Felicity, but her voice shook. "There isn't a bell in the house to ring. You must have imagined it, Peter. Or else Uncle Roger is trying to fool us."
"Your Uncle Roger went to Markdale right after milking," said Peter. "He locked up the house and gave me the key. There wasn't a soul in it then, that I'm sure of. I druv the cows to the pasture, and I got back about fifteen minutes ago. I set down on the front door steps for a moment, and all at once I heard a bell ring in the house eight times. I tell you I was skeered. I made a bolt for the orchard—and you won't catch me going near that house till your Uncle Roger comes home."
You wouldn't catch any of us doing it. We were almost as badly scared as Peter. There we stood in a huddled demoralized group. Oh, what an eerie place that orchard was! What shadows! What noises! What spooky swooping of bats! You COULDN'T look every way at once, and goodness only knew what might be behind you!
"There CAN'T be anybody in the house," said Felicity.
"Well, here's the key—go and see for yourself," said Peter.
Felicity had no intention of going and seeing.
"I think you boys ought to go," she said, retreating behind the defence of sex. "You ought to be braver than girls."
"But we ain't," said Felix candidly. "I wouldn't be much scared of anything REAL. But a haunted house is a different thing."
"I always thought something had to be done in a place before it could be haunted," said Cecily. "Somebody killed or something like that, you know. Nothing like that ever happened in our family. The Kings have always been respectable."
"Perhaps it is Emily King's ghost," whispered Felix.
"She never appeared anywhere but in the orchard," said the Story Girl. "Oh, oh, children, isn't there something under Uncle Alec's tree?"
We peered fearfully through the gloom. There WAS something—something that wavered and fluttered—advanced—retreated—
"That's only my old apron," said Felicity. "I hung it there to-day when I was looking for the white hen's nest. Oh, what shall we do? Uncle Roger may not be back for hours. I CAN'T believe there's anything in the house."
"Maybe it's only Peg Bowen," suggested Dan.
There was not a great deal of comfort in this. We were almost as much afraid of Peg Bowen as we would be of any spectral visitant.
Peter scoffed at the idea.
"Peg Bowen wasn't in the house before your Uncle Roger locked it up, and how could she get in afterwards?" he said. "No, it isn't Peg Bowen. It's SOMETHING that WALKS."
"I know a story about a ghost," said the Story Girl, the ruling passion strong even in extremity. "It is about a ghost with eyeholes but no eyes—"
"Don't," cried Cecily hysterically. "Don't you go on! Don't you say another word! I can't bear it! Don't you!"
The Story Girl didn't. But she had said enough. There was something in the quality of a ghost with eyeholes but no eyes that froze our young blood.
There never were in all the world six more badly scared children than those who huddled in the old King orchard that August night.
All at once—something—leaped from the bough of a tree and alighted before us. We split the air with a simultaneous shriek. We would have run, one and all, if there had been anywhere to run to. But there wasn't—all around us were only those shadowy arcades. Then we saw with shame that it was only our Paddy.
"Pat, Pat," I said, picking him up, feeling a certain comfort in his soft, solid body. "Stay with us, old fellow."
But Pat would none of us. He struggled out of my clasp and disappeared over the long grasses with soundless leaps. He was no longer our tame, domestic, well acquainted Paddy. He was a strange, furtive animal—a "questing beast."
Presently the moon rose; but this only made matters worse. The shadows had been still before; now they moved and danced, as the night wind tossed the boughs. The old house, with its dreadful secret, was white and clear against the dark background of spruces. We were woefully tired, but we could not sit down because the grass was reeking with dew.
"The Family Ghost only appears in daylight," said the Story Girl. "I wouldn't mind seeing a ghost in daylight. But after dark is another thing."
"There's no such thing as a ghost," I said contemptuously. Oh, how I wished I could believe it!
"Then what rung that bell?" said Peter. "Bells don't ring of themselves, I s'pose, specially when there ain't any in the house to ring."
"Oh, will Uncle Roger never come home!" sobbed Felicity. "I know he'll laugh at us awful, but it's better to be laughed at than scared like this."
Uncle Roger did not come until nearly ten. Never was there a more welcome sound than the rumble of his wheels in the lane. We ran to the orchard gate and swarmed across the yard, just as Uncle Roger alighted at the front door. He stared at us in the moonlight.
"Have you tormented any one into eating more bad berries, Felicity?" he demanded.
"Oh, Uncle Roger, don't go in," implored Felicity seriously. "There's something dreadful in there—something that rings a bell. Peter heard it. Don't go in."
"There's no use asking the meaning of this, I suppose," said Uncle Roger with the calm of despair. "I've gave up trying to fathom you young ones. Peter, where's the key? What yarn have you been telling?"
"I DID hear a bell ring," said Peter stubbornly.
Uncle Roger unlocked and flung open the front door. As he did so, clear and sweet, rang out ten bell-like chimes.
"That's what I heard," cried Peter. "There's the bell!"
We had to wait until Uncle Roger stopped laughing before we heard the explanation. We thought he never WOULD stop.
"That's Grandfather King's old clock striking," he said, as soon as he was able to speak. "Sammy Prott came along after tea, when you were away to the forge, Peter, and I gave him permission to clean the old clock. He had it going merrily in no time. And now it has almost frightened you poor little monkeys to death."
We heard Uncle Roger chuckling all the way to the barn.
"Uncle Roger can laugh," said Cecily, with a quiver in her voice, "but it's no laughing matter to be so scared. I just feel sick, I was so frightened."
"I wouldn't mind if he'd laugh once and have it done with it," said Felicity bitterly. "But he'll laugh at us for a year, and tell the story to every soul that comes to the place."
"You can't blame him for that," said the Story Girl. "I shall tell it, too. I don't care if the joke is as much on myself as any one. A story is a story, no matter who it's on. But it IS hateful to be laughed at—and grown-ups always do it. I never will when I'm grown up. I'll remember better."
"It's all Peter's fault," said Felicity. "I do think he might have had more sense than to take a clock striking for a bell ringing."
"I never heard that kind of a strike before," protested Peter. "It don't sound a bit like other clocks. And the door was shut and the sound kind o' muffled. It's all very fine to say you would have known what it was, but I don't believe you would."
"I wouldn't have," said the Story Girl honestly. "I thought it WAS a bell when I heard it, and the door open, too. Let us be fair, Felicity."
"I'm dreadful tired," sighed Cecily.
We were all "dreadful tired," for this was the third night of late hours and nerve racking strain. But it was over two hours since we had eaten the cookies, and Felicity suggested that a saucerful apiece of raspberries and cream would not be hard to take. It was not, for any one but Cecily, who couldn't swallow a mouthful.
"I'm glad father and mother will be back to-morrow night," she said. "It's too exciting when they're away. That's my opinion."
CHAPTER XVII. THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING
Felicity was cumbered with many cares the next morning. For one thing, the whole house must be put in apple pie order; and for another, an elaborate supper must be prepared for the expected return of the travellers that night. Felicity devoted her whole attention to this, and left the secondary preparation of the regular meals to Cecily and the Story Girl. It was agreed that the latter was to make a cornmeal pudding for dinner.
In spite of her disaster with the bread, the Story Girl had been taking cooking lessons from Felicity all the week, and getting on tolerably well, although, mindful of her former mistake, she never ventured on anything without Felicity's approval. But Felicity had no time to oversee her this morning.
"You must attend to the pudding yourself," she said. "The recipe's so plain and simple even you can't go astray, and if there's anything you don't understand you can ask me. But don't bother me if you can help it."
The Story Girl did not bother her once. The pudding was concocted and baked, as the Story Girl proudly informed us when we came to the dinner-table, all on her own hook. She was very proud of it; and certainly as far as appearance went it justified her triumph. The slices were smooth and golden; and, smothered in the luscious maple sugar sauce which Cecily had compounded, were very fair to view. Nevertheless, although none of us, not even Uncle Roger or Felicity, said a word at the time, for fear of hurting the Story Girl's feelings, the pudding did not taste exactly as it should. It was tough—decidedly tough—and lacked the richness of flavour which was customary in Aunt Janet's cornmeal puddings. If it had not been for the abundant supply of sauce it would have been very dry eating indeed. Eaten it was, however, to the last crumb. If it were not just what a cornmeal pudding might be, the rest of the bill of fare had been extra good and our appetites matched it.
"I wish I was twins so's I could eat more," said Dan, when he simply had to stop.
"What good would being twins do you?" asked Peter. "People who squint can't eat any more than people who don't squint, can they?"
We could not see any connection between Peter's two questions.
"What has squinting got to do with twins?" asked Dan.
"Why, twins are just people that squint, aren't they?" said Peter.
We thought he was trying to be funny, until we found out that he was quite in earnest. Then we laughed until Peter got sulky.
"I don't care," he said. "How's a fellow to know? Tommy and Adam Cowan, over at Markdale, are twins; and they're both cross-eyed. So I s'posed that was what being twins meant. It's all very fine for you fellows to laugh. I never went to school half as much as you did; and you was brought up in Toronto, too. If you'd worked out ever since you was seven, and just got to school in the winter, there'd be lots of things you wouldn't know, either."
"Never mind, Peter," said Cecily. "You know lots of things they don't."
But Peter was not to be conciliated, and took himself off in high dudgeon. To be laughed at before Felicity—to be laughed at BY Felicity—was something he could not endure. Let Cecily and the Story Girl cackle all they wanted to, and let those stuck-up Toronto boys grin like chessy-cats; but when Felicity laughed at him the iron entered into Peter's soul.
If the Story Girl laughed at Peter the mills of the gods ground out his revenge for him in mid-afternoon. Felicity, having used up all the available cooking materials in the house, had to stop perforce; and she now determined to stuff two new pincushions she had been making for her room. We heard her rummaging in the pantry as we sat on the cool, spruce-shadowed cellar door outside, where Uncle Roger was showing us how to make elderberry pop-guns. Presently she came out, frowning.
"Cecily, do you know where mother put the sawdust she emptied out of that old beaded pincushion of Grandmother King's, after she had sifted the needles out of it? I thought it was in the tin box."
"So it is," said Cecily.
"It isn't. There isn't a speck of sawdust in that box."
The Story Girl's face wore a quite indescribable expression, compound of horror and shame. She need not have confessed. If she had but held her tongue the mystery of the sawdust's disappearance might have forever remained a mystery. She WOULD have held her tongue, as she afterwards confided to me, if it had not been for a horrible fear which flashed into her mind that possibly sawdust puddings were not healthy for people to eat—especially if there might be needles in them—and that if any mischief had been done in that direction it was her duty to undo it if possible at any cost of ridicule to herself.
"Oh, Felicity," she said, her voice expressing a very anguish of humiliation, "I—I—thought that stuff in the box was cornmeal and used it to make the pudding."
Felicity and Cecily stared blankly at the Story Girl. We boys began to laugh, but were checked midway by Uncle Roger. He was rocking himself back and forth, with his hand pressed against his stomach.
"Oh," he groaned, "I've been wondering what these sharp pains I've been feeling ever since dinner meant. I know now. I must have swallowed a needle—several needles, perhaps. I'm done for!"
The poor Story Girl went very white.
"Oh, Uncle Roger, could it be possible? You COULDN'T have swallowed a needle without knowing it. It would have stuck in your tongue or teeth."
"I didn't chew the pudding," groaned Uncle Roger. "It was too tough—I just swallowed the chunks whole."
He groaned and twisted and doubled himself up. But he overdid it. He was not as good an actor as the Story Girl. Felicity looked scornfully at him.
"Uncle Roger, you are not one bit sick," she said deliberately. "You are just putting on."
"Felicity, if I die from the effects of eating sawdust pudding, flavoured with needles, you'll be sorry you ever said such a thing to your poor old uncle," said Uncle Roger reproachfully. "Even if there were no needles in it, sixty-year-old sawdust can't be good for my tummy. I daresay it wasn't even clean."
"Well, you know every one has to eat a peck of dirt in his life," giggled Felicity.
"But nobody has to eat it all at once," retorted Uncle Roger, with another groan. "Oh, Sara Stanley, it's a thankful man I am that your Aunt Olivia is to be home to-night. You'd have me kilt entirely by another day. I believe you did it on purpose to have a story to tell."
Uncle Roger hobbled off to the barn, still holding on to his stomach.
"Do you think he really feels sick?" asked the Story Girl anxiously.
"No, I don't," said Felicity. "You needn't worry over him. There's nothing the matter with him. I don't believe there were any needles in that sawdust. Mother sifted it very carefully."
"I know a story about a man whose son swallowed a mouse," said the Story Girl, who would probably have known a story and tried to tell it if she were being led to the stake. "And he ran and wakened up a very tired doctor just as he had got to sleep.
"'Oh, doctor, my son has swallowed a mouse,' he cried. 'What shall I do?'
"'Tell him to swallow a cat,' roared the poor doctor, and slammed his door.
"Now, if Uncle Roger has swallowed any needles, maybe it would make it all right if he swallowed a pincushion."
We all laughed. But Felicity soon grew sober.
"It seems awful to think of eating a sawdust pudding. How on earth did you make such a mistake?"
"It looked just like cornmeal," said the Story Girl, going from white to red in her shame. "Well, I'm going to give up trying to cook, and stick to things I can do. And if ever one of you mentions sawdust pudding to me I'll never tell you another story as long as I live."
The threat was effectual. Never did we mention that unholy pudding. But the Story Girl could not so impose silence on the grown-ups, especially Uncle Roger. He tormented her for the rest of the summer. Never a breakfast did he sit down to, without gravely inquiring if they were sure there was no sawdust in the porridge. Not a tweak of rheumatism did he feel but he vowed it was due to a needle, travelling about his body. And Aunt Olivia was warned to label all the pincushions in the house. "Contents, sawdust; not intended for puddings."
CHAPTER XVIII. HOW KISSING WAS DISCOVERED
An August evening, calm, golden, dewless, can be very lovely. At sunset, Felicity, Cecily, and Sara Ray, Dan, Felix, and I were in the orchard, sitting on the cool grasses at the base of the Pulpit Stone. In the west was a field of crocus sky over which pale cloud blossoms were scattered.
Uncle Roger had gone to the station to meet the travellers, and the dining-room table was spread with a feast of fat things.
"It's been a jolly week, take it all round," said Felix, "but I'm glad the grown-ups are coming back to-night, especially Uncle Alec."
"I wonder if they'll bring us anything," said Dan.
"I'm thinking long to hear all about the wedding," said Felicity, who was braiding timothy stalks into a collar for Pat.
"You girls are always thinking about weddings and getting married," said Dan contemptuously.
"We ain't," said Felicity indignantly. "I am NEVER going to get married. I think it is just horrid, so there!"
"I guess you think it would be a good deal horrider not to be," said Dan.
"It depends on who you're married to," said Cecily gravely, seeing that Felicity disdained reply. "If you got a man like father it would be all right. But S'POSEN you got one like Andrew Ward? He's so mean and cross to his wife that she tells him every day she wishes she'd never set eyes on him."
"Perhaps that's WHY he's mean and cross," said Felix.
"I tell you it isn't always the man's fault," said Dan darkly. "When I get married I'll be good to my wife, but I mean to be boss. When I open my mouth my word will be law."
"If your word is as big as your mouth I guess it will be," said Felicity cruelly.
"I pity the man who gets you, Felicity King, that's all" retorted Dan.
"Now, don't fight," implored Cecily.
"Who's fighting?" demanded Dan. "Felicity thinks she can say anything she likes to me, but I'll show her different."
Probably, in spite of Cecily's efforts, a bitter spat would have resulted between Dan and Felicity, had not a diversion been effected at that moment by the Story Girl, who came slowly down Uncle Stephen's Walk.
"Just look how the Story Girl has got herself up!" said Felicity. "Why, she's no more than decent!"
The Story Girl was barefooted and barearmed, having rolled the sleeves of her pink gingham up to her shoulders. Around her waist was twisted a girdle of the blood-red roses that bloomed in Aunt Olivia's garden; on her sleek curls she wore a chaplet of them; and her hands were full of them.
She paused under the outmost tree, in a golden-green gloom, and laughed at us over a big branch. Her wild, subtle, nameless charm clothed her as with a garment. We always remembered the picture she made there; and in later days when we read Tennyson's poems at a college desk, we knew exactly how an oread, peering through the green leaves on some haunted knoll of many fountained Ida, must look.
"Felicity," said the Story Girl reproachfully, "what have you been doing to Peter? He's up there sulking in the granary, and he won't come down, and he says it's your fault. You must have hurt his feelings dreadfully."
"I don't know about his feelings," said Felicity, with an angry toss of her shining head, "but I guess I made his ears tingle all right. I boxed them both good and hard."
"Oh, Felicity! What for?"
"Well, he tried to kiss me, that's what for!" said Felicity, turning very red. "As if I would let a hired boy kiss me! I guess Master Peter won't try anything like that again in a hurry."
The Story Girl came out of her shadows and sat down beside us on the grass.
"Well, in that case," she said gravely, "I think you did right to slap his ears—not because he is a hired boy, but because it would be impertinent in ANY boy. But talking of kissing makes me think of a story I found in Aunt Olivia's scrapbook the other day. Wouldn't you like to hear it? It is called, 'How Kissing Was Discovered.'"
"Wasn't kissing always discovered?" asked Dan.
"Not according to this story. It was just discovered accidentally."
"Well, let's hear about it," said Felix, "although I think kissing's awful silly, and it wouldn't have mattered much if it hadn't ever been discovered."
The Story Girl scattered her roses around her on the grass, and clasped her slim hands over her knees. Gazing dreamily afar at the tinted sky between the apple trees, as if she were looking back to the merry days of the world's gay youth, she began, her voice giving to the words and fancies of the old tale the delicacy of hoar frost and the crystal sparkle of dew.
"It happened long, long ago in Greece—where so many other beautiful things happened. Before that, nobody had ever heard of kissing. And then it was just discovered in the twinkling of an eye. And a man wrote it down and the account has been preserved ever since.
"There was a young shepherd named Glaucon—a very handsome young shepherd—who lived in a little village called Thebes. It became a very great and famous city afterwards, but at this time it was only a little village, very quiet and simple. Too quiet for Glaucon's liking. He grew tired of it, and he thought he would like to go away from home and see something of the world. So he took his knapsack and his shepherd's crook, and wandered away until he came to Thessaly. That is the land of the gods' hill, you know. The name of the hill was Olympus. But it has nothing to do with this story. This happened on another mountain—Mount Pelion.
"Glaucon hired himself to a wealthy man who had a great many sheep. And every day Glaucon had to lead the sheep up to pasture on Mount Pelion, and watch them while they ate. There was nothing else to do, and he would have found the time very long, if he had not been able to play on a flute. So he played very often and very beautifully, as he sat under the trees and watched the wonderful blue sea afar off, and thought about Aglaia.
"Aglaia was his master's daughter. She was so sweet and beautiful that Glaucon fell in love with her the very moment he first saw her; and when he was not playing his flute on the mountain he was thinking about Aglaia, and dreaming that some day he might have flocks of his own, and a dear little cottage down in the valley where he and Aglaia might live.
"Aglaia had fallen in love with Glaucon just as he had with her. But she never let him suspect it for ever so long. He did not know how often she would steal up the mountain and hide behind the rocks near where the sheep pastured, to listen to Glaucon's beautiful music. It was very lovely music, because he was always thinking of Aglaia while he played, though he little dreamed how near him she often was.
"But after awhile Glaucon found out that Aglaia loved him, and everything was well. Nowadays I suppose a wealthy man like Aglaia's father wouldn't be willing to let his daughter marry a hired man; but this was in the Golden Age, you know, when nothing like that mattered at all.
"After that, almost every day Aglaia would go up the mountain and sit beside Glaucon, as he watched the flocks and played on his flute. But he did not play as much as he used to, because he liked better to talk with Aglaia. And in the evening they would lead the sheep home together.
"One day Aglaia went up the mountain by a new way, and she came to a little brook. Something was sparkling very brightly among its pebbles. Aglaia picked it up, and it was the most beautiful little stone that she had ever seen. It was only as large as a pea, but it glittered and flashed in the sunlight with every colour of the rainbow. Aglaia was so delighted with it that she resolved to take it as a present to Glaucon.
"But all at once she heard a stamping of hoofs behind her, and when she turned she almost died from fright. For there was the great god, Pan, and he was a very terrible object, looking quite as much like a goat as a man. The gods were not all beautiful, you know. And, beautiful or not, nobody ever wanted to meet them face to face.
"'Give that stone to me,' said Pan, holding out his hand.
"But Aglaia, though she was frightened, would not give him the stone.
"'I want it for Glaucon,' she said.
"'I want it for one of my wood nymphs,' said Pan, 'and I must have it.'
"He advanced threateningly, but Aglaia ran as hard as she could up the mountain. If she could only reach Glaucon he would protect her. Pan followed her, clattering and bellowing terribly, but in a few minutes she rushed into Glaucon's arms.
"The dreadful sight of Pan and the still more dreadful noise he made, so frightened the sheep that they fled in all directions. But Glaucon was not afraid at all, because Pan was the god of shepherds, and was bound to grant any prayer a good shepherd, who always did his duty, might make. If Glaucon had NOT been a good shepherd dear knows what would have happened to him and Aglaia. But he was; and when he begged Pan to go away and not frighten Aglaia any more, Pan had to go, grumbling a good deal—and Pan's grumblings had a very ugly sound. But still he WENT, and that was the main thing.
"'Now, dearest, what is all this trouble about?' asked Glaucon; and Aglaia told him the story.
"'But where is the beautiful stone?' he asked, when she had finished. 'Didst thou drop it in thy alarm?'
"No, indeed! Aglaia had done nothing of the sort. When she began to run, she had popped it into her mouth, and there it was still, quite safe. Now she poked it out between her red lips, where it glittered in the sunlight.
"'Take it,' she whispered.
"The question was—how was he to take it? Both of Aglaia's arms were held fast to her sides by Glaucon's arms; and if he loosened his clasp ever so little he was afraid she would fall, so weak and trembling was she from her dreadful fright. Then Glaucon had a brilliant idea. He would take the beautiful stone from Aglaia's lips with his own lips.
"He bent over until his lips touched hers—and THEN, he forgot all about the beautiful pebble and so did Aglaia. Kissing was discovered!
"What a yarn!" said Dan, drawing a long breath, when we had come to ourselves and discovered that we were really sitting in a dewy Prince Edward Island orchard instead of watching two lovers on a mountain in Thessaly in the Golden Age. "I don't believe a word of it."
"Of course, we know it wasn't really true," said Felicity.
"Well, I don't know," said the Story Girl thoughtfully. "I think there are two kinds of true things—true things that ARE, and true things that are NOT, but MIGHT be."
"I don't believe there's any but the one kind of trueness," said Felicity. "And anyway, this story couldn't be true. You know there was no such thing as a god Pan."
"How do you know what there might have been in the Golden Age?" asked the Story Girl.
Which was, indeed, an unanswerable question for Felicity.
"I wonder what became of the beautiful stone?" said Cecily.
"Likely Aglaia swallowed it," said Felix practically.
"Did Glaucon and Aglaia ever get married?" asked Sara Ray.
"The story doesn't say. It stops just there," said the Story Girl. "But of course they did. I will tell you what I think. I don't think Aglaia swallowed the stone. I think it just fell to the ground; and after awhile they found it, and it turned out to be of such value that Glaucon could buy all the flocks and herds in the valley, and the sweetest cottage; and he and Aglaia were married right away."
"But you only THINK that," said Sara Ray. "I'd like to be really sure that was what happened."
"Oh, bother, none of it happened," said Dan. "I believed it while the Story Girl was telling it, but I don't now. Isn't that wheels?"
Wheels it was. Two wagons were driving up the lane. We rushed to the house—and there were Uncle Alec and Aunt Janet and Aunt Olivia! The excitement was quite tremendous. Every body talked and laughed at once, and it was not until we were all seated around the supper table that conversation grew coherent. What laughter and questioning and telling of tales followed, what smiles and bright eyes and glad voices. And through it all, the blissful purrs of Paddy, who sat on the window sill behind the Story Girl, resounded through the din like Andrew McPherson's bass—"just a bur-r-r-r the hale time."
"Well, I'm thankful to be home again" said Aunt Janet, beaming on us. "We had a real nice time, and Edward's folks were as kind as could be. But give me home for a steady thing. How has everything gone? How did the children behave, Roger?"
"Like models," said Uncle Roger. "They were as good as gold most of the days."
There were times when one couldn't help liking Uncle Roger.
CHAPTER XIX. A DREAD PROPHECY
"I've got to go and begin stumping out the elderberry pasture this afternoon," said Peter dolefully. "I tell you it's a tough job. Mr. Roger might wait for cool weather before he sets people to stumping out elderberries, and that's a fact."
"Why don't you tell him so?" asked Dan.
"It ain't my business to tell him things," retorted Peter. "I'm hired to do what I'm told, and I do it. But I can have my own opinion all the same. It's going to be a broiling hot day."
We were all in the orchard, except Felix, who had gone to the post-office. It was the forenoon of an August Saturday. Cecily and Sara Ray, who had come up to spend the day with us—her mother having gone to town—were eating timothy roots. Bertha Lawrence, a Charlottetown girl, who had visited Kitty Marr in June, and had gone to school one day with her, had eaten timothy roots, affecting to consider them great delicacies. The fad was at once taken up by the Carlisle schoolgirls. Timothy roots quite ousted "sours" and young raspberry sprouts, both of which had the real merit of being quite toothsome, while timothy roots were tough and tasteless. But timothy roots were fashionable, therefore timothy roots must be eaten. Pecks of them must have been devoured in Carlisle that summer.
Pat was there also, padding about from one to the other on his black paws, giving us friendly pokes and rubs. We all made much of him except Felicity, who would not take any notice of him because he was the Story Girl's cat.
We boys were sprawling on the grass. Our morning chores were done and the day was before us. We should have been feeling very comfortable and happy, but, as a matter of fact, we were not particularly so.
The Story Girl was sitting on the mint beside the well-house, weaving herself a wreath of buttercups. Felicity was sipping from the cup of clouded blue with an overdone air of unconcern. Each was acutely and miserably conscious of the other's presence, and each was desirous of convincing the rest of us that the other was less than nothing to her. Felicity could not succeed. The Story Girl managed it better. If it had not been for the fact that in all our foregatherings she was careful to sit as far from Felicity as possible, we might have been deceived.
We had not passed a very pleasant week. Felicity and the Story Girl had not been "speaking" to each other, and consequently there had been something rotten in the state of Denmark. An air of restraint was over all our games and conversations.
On the preceding Monday Felicity and the Story Girl had quarrelled over something. What the cause of the quarrel was I cannot tell because I never knew. It remained a "dead secret" between the parties of the first and second part forever. But it was more bitter than the general run of their tiffs, and the consequences were apparent to all. They had not spoken to each other since.
This was not because the rancour of either lasted so long. On the contrary it passed speedily away, not even one low descending sun going down on their wrath. But dignity remained to be considered. Neither would "speak first," and each obstinately declared that she would not speak first, no, not in a hundred years. Neither argument, entreaty, nor expostulation had any effect on those two stubborn girls, nor yet the tears of sweet Cecily, who cried every night about it, and mingled in her pure little prayers fervent petitions that Felicity and the Story Girl might make up.
"I don't know where you expect to go when you die, Felicity," she said tearfully, "if you don't forgive people."
"I have forgiven her," was Felicity's answer, "but I am not going to speak first for all that."
"It's very wrong, and, more than that, it's so uncomfortable," complained Cecily. "It spoils everything."
"Were they ever like this before?" I asked Cecily, as we talked the matter over privately in Uncle Stephen's Walk.
"Never for so long," said Cecily. "They had a spell like this last summer, and one the summer before, but they only lasted a couple of days."
"And who spoke first?"
"Oh, the Story Girl. She got excited about something and spoke to Felicity before she thought, and then it was all right. But I'm afraid it isn't going to be like that this time. Don't you notice how careful the Story Girl is not to get excited? That is such a bad sign."
"We've just got to think up something that will excite her, that's all," I said.
"I'm—I'm praying about it," said Cecily in a low voice, her tear-wet lashes trembling against her pale, round cheeks. "Do you suppose it will do any good, Bev?"
"Very likely," I assured her. "Remember Sara Ray and the money. That came from praying."
"I'm glad you think so," said Cecily tremulously. "Dan said it was no use for me to bother praying about it. He said if they COULDN'T speak God might do something, but when they just WOULDN'T it wasn't likely He would interfere. Dan does say such queer things. I'm so afraid he's going to grow up just like Uncle Robert Ward, who never goes to church, and doesn't believe more than half the Bible is true."
"Which half does he believe is true?" I inquired with unholy curiosity.
"Oh, just the nice parts. He says there's a heaven all right, but no—no—HELL. I don't want Dan to grow up like that. It isn't respectable. And you wouldn't want all kinds of people crowding heaven, now, would you?"
"Well, no, I suppose not," I agreed, thinking of Billy Robinson.
"Of course, I can't help feeling sorry for those who have to go to THE OTHER PLACE," said Cecily compassionately. "But I suppose they wouldn't be very comfortable in heaven either. They wouldn't feel at home. Andrew Marr said a simply dreadful thing about THE OTHER PLACE one night last fall, when Felicity and I were down to see Kitty, and they were burning the potato stalks. He said he believed THE OTHER PLACE must be lots more interesting than heaven because fires were such jolly things. Now, did you ever hear the like?"
"I guess it depends a good deal on whether you're inside or outside the fires," I said.
"Oh, Andrew didn't really mean it, of course. He just said it to sound smart and make us stare. The Marrs are all like that. But anyhow, I'm going to keep on praying that something will happen to excite the Story Girl. I don't believe there is any use in praying that Felicity will speak first, because I am sure she won't."
"But don't you suppose God could make her?" I said, feeling that it wasn't quite fair that the Story Girl should always have to speak first. If she had spoken first the other times it was surely Felicity's turn this time.
"Well, I believe it would puzzle Him," said Cecily, out of the depths of her experience with Felicity.
Peter, as was to be expected, took Felicity's part, and said the Story Girl ought to speak first because she was the oldest. That, he said, had always been his Aunt Jane's rule.
Sara Ray thought Felicity should speak first, because the Story Girl was half an orphan.
Felix tried to make peace between them, and met the usual fate of all peacemakers. The Story Girl loftily told him that he was too young to understand, and Felicity said that fat boys should mind their own business. After that, Felix declared it would serve Felicity right if the Story Girl never spoke to her again.
Dan had no patience with either of the girls, especially Felicity.
"What they both want is a right good spanking," he said.
If only a spanking would mend the matter it was not likely it would ever be mended. Both Felicity and the Story Girl were rather too old to be spanked, and, if they had not been, none of the grown-ups would have thought it worth while to administer so desperate a remedy for what they considered so insignificant a trouble. With the usual levity of grown-ups, they regarded the coldness between the girls as a subject of mirth and jest, and recked not that it was freezing the genial current of our youthful souls, and blighting hours that should have been fair pages in our book of days.
The Story Girl finished her wreath and put it on. The buttercups drooped over her high, white brow and played peep with her glowing eyes. A dreamy smile hovered around her poppy-red mouth—a significant smile which, to those of us skilled in its interpretation, betokened the sentence which soon came.
"I know a story about a man who always had his own opinion—"
The Story Girl got no further. We never heard the story of the man who always had his own opinion. Felix came tearing up the lane, with a newspaper in his hand. When a boy as fat as Felix runs at full speed on a broiling August forenoon, he has something to run for—as Felicity remarked.
"He must have got some bad news at the office," said Sara Ray.
"Oh, I hope nothing has happened to father," I exclaimed, springing anxiously to my feet, a sick, horrible feeling of fear running over me like a cool, rippling wave.
"It's just as likely to be good news he is running for as bad," said the Story Girl, who was no believer in meeting trouble half way.
"He wouldn't be running so fast for good news," said Dan cynically.
We were not left long in doubt. The orchard gate flew open and Felix was among us. One glimpse of his face told us that he was no bearer of glad tidings. He had been running hard and should have been rubicund. Instead, he was "as pale as are the dead." I could not have asked him what was the matter had my life depended on it. It was Felicity who demanded impatiently of my shaking, voiceless brother:
"Felix King, what has scared you?"
Felix held out the newspaper—it was the Charlottetown Daily Enterprise.
"It's there," he gasped. "Look—read—oh, do you—think it's—true? The—end of—the world—is coming to-morrow—at two—o'clock—in the afternoon!"
Crash! Felicity had dropped the cup of clouded blue, which had passed unscathed through so many changing years, and now at last lay shattered on the stone of the well curb. At any other time we should all have been aghast over such a catastrophe, but it passed unnoticed now. What mattered it that all the cups in the world be broken to-day if the crack o' doom must sound to-morrow?
"Oh, Sara Stanley, do you believe it? DO you?" gasped Felicity, clutching the Story Girl's hand. Cecily's prayer had been answered. Excitement had come with a vengeance, and under its stress Felicity had spoken first. But this, like the breaking of the cup, had no significance for us at the moment.
The Story Girl snatched the paper and read the announcement to a group on which sudden, tense silence had fallen. Under a sensational headline, "The Last Trump will sound at Two O'clock To-morrow," was a paragraph to the effect that the leader of a certain noted sect in the United States had predicted that August twelfth would be the Judgment Day, and that all his numerous followers were preparing for the dread event by prayer, fasting, and the making of appropriate white garments for ascension robes.
I laugh at the remembrance now—until I recall the real horror of fear that enwrapped us in that sunny orchard that August morning of long ago; and then I laugh no more. We were only children, be it remembered, with a very firm and simple faith that grown people knew much more than we did, and a rooted conviction that whatever you read in a newspaper must be true. If the Daily Enterprise said that August twelfth was to be the Judgment Day how were you going to get around it?
"Do you believe it, Sara Stanley?" persisted Felicity. "DO you?"
"No—no, I don't believe a word of it," said the Story Girl.
But for once her voice failed to carry conviction—or, rather, it carried conviction of the very opposite kind. It was borne in upon our miserable minds that if the Story Girl did not altogether believe it was true she believed it might be true; and the possibility was almost as dreadful as the certainty.
"It CAN'T be true," said Sara Ray, seeking refuge, as usual, in tears. "Why, everything looks just the same. Things COULDN'T look the same if the Judgment Day was going to be to-morrow."
"But that's just the way it's to come," I said uncomfortably. "It tells you in the Bible. It's to come just like a thief in the night."
"But it tells you another thing in the Bible, too," said Cecily eagerly. "It says nobody knows when the Judgment Day is to come—not even the angels in heaven. Now, if the angels in heaven don't know it, do you suppose the editor of the Enterprise can know it—and him a Grit, too?"
"I guess he knows as much about it as a Tory would," retorted the Story Girl. Uncle Roger was a Liberal and Uncle Alec a Conservative, and the girls held fast to the political traditions of their respective households. "But it isn't really the Enterprise editor at all who is saying it—it's a man in the States who claims to be a prophet. If he IS a prophet perhaps he has found out somehow."
"And it's in the paper, too, and that's printed as well as the Bible," said Dan.
"Well, I'm going to depend on the Bible," said Cecily. "I don't believe it's the Judgment Day to-morrow—but I'm scared, for all that," she added piteously.
That was exactly the position of us all. As in the case of the bell-ringing ghost, we did not believe but we trembled.
"Nobody might have known when the Bible was written," said Dan, "but maybe somebody knows now. Why, the Bible was written thousands of years ago, and that paper was printed this very morning. There's been time to find out ever so much more."