Tuesday, October 23, 2007



Mrs. James Harness
Far up on the mountain-side stood alone in the clearing. It was
roughly yet warmly built. Behind it jagged cliffs broke the north
wind, and towered gray-white in the sunshine. Before it a tiny
expanse of green sloped gently away to a point where the mountain
dropped in another sharp descent, wooded with scrubby firs and
pines. At the left a footpath led into the cool depths of the
forest. But at the right the mountain fell away again and
disclosed to view the picture David loved the best of all: the
far-reaching valley; the silver pool of the lake with its ribbon
of a river flung far out; and above it the grays and greens and
purples of the mountains that climbed one upon another's
shoulders until the topmost thrust their heads into the wide dome
of the sky itself.
There was no road, apparently, leading away from the cabin. There
was only the footpath that disappeared into the forest. Neither,
anywhere, was there a house in sight nearer than the white specks
far down in the valley by the river.
Within the shack a wide fireplace dominated one side of the main
room. It was June now, and the ashes lay cold on the hearth; but
from the tiny lean-to in the rear came the smell and the sputter
of bacon sizzling over a blaze. The furnishings of the room were
simple, yet, in a way, out of the common. There were two bunks, a
few rude but comfortable chairs, a table, two music-racks, two
violins with their cases, and everywhere books, and scattered
sheets of music. Nowhere was there cushion, curtain, or
knickknack that told of a woman's taste or touch. On the other
hand, neither was there anywhere gun, pelt, or antlered head that
spoke of a man's strength and skill. For decoration there were a
beautiful copy of the Sistine Madonna, several photographs signed
with names well known out in the great world beyond the
mountains, and a festoon of pine cones such as a child might
gather and hang.
From the little lean-to kitchen the sound of the sputtering
suddenly ceased, and at the door appeared a pair of dark, wistful
"Daddy!" called the owner of the eyes.
There was no answer.
"Father, are you there?" called the voice, more insistently.
From one of the bunks came a slight stir and a murmured word. At
the sound the boy at the door leaped softly into the room and
hurried to the bunk in the corner. He was a slender lad with
short, crisp curls at his ears, and the red of perfect health in
his cheeks. His hands, slim, long, and with tapering fingers like
a girl's, reached forward eagerly.
"Daddy, come! I've done the bacon all myself, and the potatoes
and the coffee, too. Quick, it's all getting cold!"
Slowly, with the aid of the boy's firm hands, the man pulled
himself half to a sitting posture. His cheeks, like the boy's,
were red--but not with health. His eyes were a little wild, but
his voice was low and very tender, like a caress.
"David--it's my little son David!"
"Of course it's David! Who else should it be?" laughed the boy.
"Come!" And he tugged at the man's hands.
The man rose then, unsteadily, and by sheer will forced himself
to stand upright. The wild look left his eyes, and the flush his
cheeks. His face looked suddenly old and haggard. Yet with fairly
sure steps he crossed the room and entered the little kitchen.
Half of the bacon was black; the other half was transparent and
like tough jelly. The potatoes were soggy, and had the
unmistakable taste that comes from a dish that has boiled dry.
The coffee was lukewarm and muddy. Even the milk was sour.
David laughed a little ruefully.
"Things aren't so nice as yours, father," he apologized. "I'm
afraid I'm nothing but a discord in that orchestra to-day!
Somehow, some of the stove was hotter than the rest, and burnt up
the bacon in spots; and all the water got out of the potatoes,
too,--though THAT didn't matter, for I just put more cold in. I
forgot and left the milk in the sun, and it tastes bad now; but
I'm sure next time it'll be better--all of it."
The man smiled, but he shook his head sadly.
"But there ought not to be any 'next time,' David."
"Why not? What do you mean? Aren't you ever going to let me try
again, father?" There was real distress in the boy's voice.
The man hesitated. His lips parted with an indrawn breath, as if
behind them lay a rush of words. But they closed abruptly, the
words still unsaid. Then, very lightly, came these others:--
"Well, son, this isn't a very nice way to treat your supper, is
it? Now, if you please, I'll take some of that bacon. I think I
feel my appetite coming back."
If the truant appetite "came back," however, it could not have
stayed; for the man ate but little. He frowned, too, as he saw
how little the boy ate. He sat silent while his son cleared the
food and dishes away, and he was still silent when, with the boy,
he passed out of the house and walked to the little bench facing
the west.
Unless it stormed very hard, David never went to bed without this
last look at his "Silver Lake," as he called the little sheet of
water far down in the valley.
"Daddy, it's gold to-night--all gold with the sun!" he cried
rapturously, as his eyes fell upon his treasure. "Oh, daddy!"
It was a long-drawn cry of ecstasy, and hearing it, the man
winced, as with sudden pain.
'Daddy, I'm going to play it--I've got to play it!" cried the
boy, bounding toward the cabin. In a moment he had returned,
violin at his chin.
The man watched and listened; and as he watched and listened, his
face became a battle-ground whereon pride and fear, hope and
despair, joy and sorrow, fought for the mastery.
It was no new thing for David to "play" the sunset. Always, when
he was moved, David turned to his violin. Always in its quivering
strings he found the means to say that which his tongue could not
Across the valley the grays and blues of the mountains had become
all purples now. Above, the sky in one vast flame of crimson and
gold, was a molten sea on which floated rose-pink cloud-boats.
Below, the valley with its lake and river picked out in rose and
gold against the shadowy greens of field and forest, seemed like
some enchanted fairyland of loveliness.
And all this was in David's violin, and all this, too, was on
David's uplifted, rapturous face.
As the last rose-glow turned to gray and the last strain quivered
into silence, the man spoke. His voice was almost harsh with
"David, the time has come. We'll have to give it up--you and I."
The boy turned wonderingly, his face still softly luminous.
"Give what up?"
"This--all this."
"This! Why, father, what do you mean? This is home!"
The man nodded wearily.
"I know. It has been home; but, David, you didn't think we could
always live here, like this, did you?"
David laughed softly, and turned his eyes once more to the
distant sky-line.
Why not?" he asked dreamily. "What better place could there be? I
like it, daddy."
The man drew a troubled breath, and stirred restlessly. The
teasing pain in his side was very bad to-night, and no change of
position eased it. He was ill, very ill; and he knew it. Yet he
also knew that, to David, sickness, pain, and death meant
nothing--or, at most, words that had always been lightly, almost
unconsciously passed over. For the first time he wondered if,
after all, his training--some of it--had been wise.
For six years he had had the boy under his exclusive care and
guidance. For six years the boy had eaten the food, worn the
clothing, and studied the books of his father's choosing. For six
years that father had thought, planned, breathed, moved, lived
for his son. There had been no others in the little cabin. There
had been only the occasional trips through the woods to the
little town on the mountain-side for food and clothing, to break
the days of close companionship.
All this the man had planned carefully. He had meant that only
the good and beautiful should have place in David's youth. It was
not that he intended that evil, unhappiness, and death should
lack definition, only definiteness, in the boy's mind. It should
be a case where the good and the beautiful should so fill the
thoughts that there would be no room for anything else. This had
been his plan. And thus far he had succeeded--succeeded so
wonderfully that he began now, in the face of his own illness,
and of what he feared would come of it, to doubt the wisdom of
that planning.
As he looked at the boy's rapt face, he remembered David's
surprised questioning at the first dead squirrel he had found in
the woods. David was six then.
"Why, daddy, he's asleep, and he won't wake up!" he had cried.
Then, after a gentle touch: "And he's cold--oh, so cold!"
The father had hurried his son away at the time, and had evaded
his questions; and David had seemed content. But the next day the
boy had gone back to the subject. His eyes were wide then, and a
little frightened.
"Father, what is it to be--dead?"
"What do you mean, David?"
"The boy who brings the milk--he had the squirrel this morning.
He said it was not asleep. It was--dead."
"It means that the squirrel, the real squirrel under the fur, has
gone away, David."
"To a far country, perhaps."
"Will he come back?"
"Did he want to go?"
"We'll hope so."
"But he left his--his fur coat behind him. Didn't he
"No, or he'd have taken it with him."
David had fallen silent at this. He had remained strangely silent
indeed for some days; then, out in the woods with his father one
morning, he gave a joyous shout. He was standing by the
ice-covered brook, and looking at a little black hole through
which the hurrying water could be plainly seen.
"Daddy, oh, daddy, I know now how it is, about being--dead."
"It's like the water in the brook, you know; THAT'S going to a
far country, and it isn't coming back. And it leaves its little
cold ice-coat behind it just as the squirrel did, too. It does
n't need it. It can go without it. Don't you see? And it's
singing--listen!--it's singing as it goes. It WANTS to go!"
"Yes, David." And David's father had sighed with relief that his
son had found his own explanation of the mystery, and one that
Later, in his books, David found death again. It was a man, this
time. The boy had looked up with startled eyes.
"Do people, real people, like you and me, be dead, father? Do
they go to a far country?
"Yes, son in time--to a far country ruled over by a great and
good King they tell us.
David's father had trembled as he said it, and had waited
fearfully for the result. But David had only smiled happily as he
"But they go singing, father, like the little brook. You know I
heard it!"
And there the matter had ended. David was ten now, and not yet
for him did death spell terror. Because of this David's father
was relieved; and yet--still because of this--he was afraid.
"David," he said gently. "Listen to me."
The boy turned with a long sigh.
"Yes, father."
"We must go away. Out in the great world there are men and women
and children waiting for you. You've a beautiful work to do; and
one can't do one's work on a mountain-top."
"Why not? I like it here, and I've always been here."
"Not always, David; six years. You were four when I brought you
here. You don't remember, perhaps."
David shook his head. His eyes were again dreamily fixed on the
"I think I'd like it--to go--if I could sail away on that little
cloud-boat up there," he murmured.
The man sighed and shook his head.
"We can't go on cloud-boats. We must walk, David, for a way--and
we must go soon--soon," he added feverishly. "I must get you
back--back among friends, before--"
He rose unsteadily, and tried to walk erect. His limbs shook, and
the blood throbbed at his temples. He was appalled at his
weakness. With a fierceness born of his terror he turned sharply
to the boy at his side.
"David, we've got to go! We've got to go--TO-MORROW!"
"Yes, yes, come!" He stumbled blindly, yet in some way he reached
the cabin door.
Behind him David still sat, inert, staring. The next minute the
boy had sprung to his feet and was hurrying after his father.
A curious strength seemed to have come to the man. With almost
steady hands he took down the photographs and the Sistine
Madonna, packing them neatly away in a box to be left. From
beneath his bunk he dragged a large, dusty traveling-bag, and in
this he stowed a little food, a few garments, and a great deal of
the music scattered about the room.
David, in the doorway, stared in dazed wonder. Gradually into his
eyes crept a look never seen there before.
"Father, where are we going?" he asked at last in a shaking
voice, as he came slowly into the room.
"Back, son; we're going back."
"To the village, where we get our eggs and bacon?"
"No, no, lad, not there. The other way. We go down into the
valley this time."
"The valley--MY valley, with the Silver Lake?"
"Yes, my son; and beyond--far beyond." The man spoke dreamily. He
was looking at a photograph in his hand. It had slipped in among
the loose sheets of music, and had not been put away with the
others. It was the likeness of a beautiful woman.
For a moment David eyed him uncertainly; then he spoke.
"Daddy, who is that? Who are all these people in the pictures?
You've never told me about any of them except the little round
one that you wear in your pocket. Who are they?"
Instead of answering, the man turned faraway eyes on the boy and
smiled wistfully.
"Ah, David, lad, how they'll love you! How they will love you!
But you mustn't let them spoil you, son. You must
remember--remember all I've told you."
Once again David asked his question, but this time the man only
turned back to the photograph, muttering something the boy could
not understand.
After that David did not question any more. He was too amazed,
too distressed. He had never before seen his father like this.
With nervous haste the man was setting the little room to rights,
crowding things into the bag, and packing other things away in an
old trunk. His cheeks were very red, and his eyes very bright. He
talked, too, almost constantly, though David could understand
scarcely a word of what was said. Later, the man caught up his
violin and played; and never before had David heard his father
play like that. The boy's eyes filled, and his heart ached with a
pain that choked and numbed--though why, David could not have
told. Still later, the man dropped his violin and sank exhausted
into a chair; and then David, worn and frightened with it all,
crept to his bunk and fell asleep.
In the gray dawn of the morning David awoke to a different world.
His father, white-faced and gentle, was calling him to get ready
for breakfast. The little room, dismantled of its decorations,
was bare and cold. The bag, closed and strapped, rested on the
floor by the door, together with the two violins in their cases,
ready to carry.
"We must hurry, son. It's a long tramp before we take the cars."
"The cars--the real cars? Do we go in those?" David was fully
awake now.
"And is that all we're to carry?"
"Yes. Hurry, son."
"But we come back--sometime?"
There was no answer.
"Father, we're coming back--sometime?" David's voice was
insistent now.
The man stooped and tightened a strap that was already quite
tight enough. Then he laughed lightly.
"Why, of course you're coming back sometime, David. Only think of
all these things we're leaving!"
When the last dish was put away, the last garment adjusted, and
the last look given to the little room, the travelers picked up
the bag and the violins, and went out into the sweet freshness of
the morning. As he fastened the door the man sighed profoundly;
but David did not notice this. His face was turned toward the
east--always David looked toward the sun.
"Daddy, let's not go, after all! Let's stay here," he cried
ardently, drinking in the beauty of the morning.
"We must go, David. Come, son." And the man led the way across
the green slope to the west.
It was a scarcely perceptible trail, but the man found it, and
followed it with evident confidence. There was only the pause now
and then to steady his none-too-sure step, or to ease the burden
of the bag. Very soon the forest lay all about them, with the
birds singing over their heads, and with numberless tiny feet
scurrying through the underbrush on all sides. Just out of sight
a brook babbled noisily of its delight in being alive; and away
up in the treetops the morning sun played hide-and-seek among the
dancing leaves.
And David leaped, and laughed, and loved it all, nor was any of
it strange to him. The birds, the trees, the sun, the brook, the
scurrying little creatures of the forest, all were friends of
his. But the man--the man did not leap or laugh, though he, too,
loved it all. The man was afraid.
He knew now that he had undertaken more than he could carry out.
Step by step the bag had grown heavier, and hour by hour the
insistent, teasing pain in his side had increased until now it
was a torture. He had forgotten that the way to the valley was so
long; he had not realized how nearly spent was his strength
before he even started down the trail. Throbbing through his
brain was the question, what if, after all, he could not--but
even to himself he would not say the words.
At noon they paused for luncheon, and at night they camped where
the chattering brook had stopped to rest in a still, black pool.
The next morning the man and the boy picked up the trail again,
but without the bag. Under some leaves in a little hollow, the
man had hidden the bag, and had then said, as if casually:--
"I believe, after all, I won't carry this along. There's nothing
in it that we really need, you know, now that I've taken out the
luncheon box, and by night we'll be down in the valley."
"Of course!" laughed David. "We don't need that." And he laughed
again, for pure joy. Little use had David for bags or baggage!
They were more than halfway down the mountain now, and soon they
reached a grass-grown road, little traveled, but yet a road.
Still later they came to where four ways crossed, and two of them
bore the marks of many wheels. By sundown the little brook at
their side murmured softly of quiet fields and meadows, and David
knew that the valley was reached.
David was not laughing now. He was watching his father with
startled eyes. David had not known what anxiety was. He was
finding out now--though he but vaguely realized that something
was not right. For some time his father had said but little, and
that little had been in a voice that was thick and
unnatural-sounding. He was walking fast, yet David noticed that
every step seemed an effort, and that every breath came in short
gasps. His eyes were very bright, and were fixedly bent on the
road ahead, as if even the haste he was making was not haste
enough. Twice David spoke to him, but he did not answer; and the
boy could only trudge along on his weary little feet and sigh for
the dear home on the mountain-top which they had left behind them
the morning before.
They met few fellow travelers, and those they did meet paid scant
attention to the man and the boy carrying the violins. As it
chanced, there was no one in sight when the man, walking in the
grass at the side of the road, stumbled and fell heavily to the
David sprang quickly forward.
"Father, what is it? WHAT IS IT?"
There was no answer.
"Daddy, why don't you speak to me? See, it's David!"
With a painful effort the man roused himself and sat up. For a
moment he gazed dully into the boy's face; then a half-forgotten
something seemed to stir him into feverish action. With shaking
fingers he handed David his watch and a small ivory miniature.
Then he searched his pockets until on the ground before him lay a
shining pile of gold-pieces--to David there seemed to be a
hundred of them.
"Take them--hide them--keep them. David, until you--need them,"
panted the man. "Then go--go on. I can't."
"Alone? Without you?" demurred the boy, aghast. "Why, father, I
couldn't! I don't know the way. Besides, I'd rather stay with
you," he added soothingly, as he slipped the watch and the
miniature into his pocket; "then we can both go." And he dropped
himself down at his father's side.
The man shook his head feebly, and pointed again to the
"Take them, David,--hide them," he chattered with pale lips.
Almost impatiently the boy began picking up the money and tucking
it into his pockets.
"But, father, I'm not going without you," he declared stoutly, as
the last bit of gold slipped out of sight, and a horse and wagon
rattled around the turn of the road above.
The driver of the horse glanced disapprovingly at the man and the
boy by the roadside; but he did not stop. After he had passed,
the boy turned again to his father. The man was fumbling once
more in his pockets. This time from his coat he produced a pencil
and a small notebook from which he tore a page, and began to
write, laboriously, painfully.
David sighed and looked about him. He was tired and hungry, and
he did not understand things at all. Something very wrong, very
terrible, must be the matter with his father. Here it was almost
dark, yet they had no place to go, no supper to eat, while far,
far up on the mountain-side was their own dear home sad and
lonely without them. Up there, too, the sun still shone,
doubtless,--at least there were the rose-glow and the Silver Lake
to look at, while down here there was nothing, nothing but gray
shadows, a long dreary road, and a straggling house or two in
sight. From above, the valley might look to be a fairyland of
loveliness, but in reality it was nothing but a dismal waste of
gloom, decided David.
David's father had torn a second page from his book and was
beginning another note, when the boy suddenly jumped to his feet.
One of the straggling houses was near the road where they sat,
and its presence had given David an idea. With swift steps he
hurried to the front door and knocked upon it. In answer a tall,
unsmiling woman appeared, and said, "Well?"
David removed his cap as his father had taught him to do when one
of the mountain women spoke to him.
"Good evening, lady; I'm David," he began frankly. "My father is
so tired he fell down back there, and we should like very much to
stay with you all night, if you don't mind."
The woman in the doorway stared. For a moment she was dumb with
amazement. Her eyes swept the plain, rather rough garments of the
boy, then sought the half-recumbent figure of the man by the
roadside. Her chin came up angrily.
"Oh, would you, indeed! Well, upon my word!" she scouted. "Humph!
We don't accommodate tramps, little boy." And she shut the door
It was David's turn to stare. Just what a tramp might be, he did
not know; but never before had a request of his been so angrily
refused. He knew that. A fierce something rose within him--a
fierce new something that sent the swift red to his neck and
brow. He raised a determined hand to the doorknob--he had
something to say to that woman!--when the door suddenly opened
again from the inside.
"See here, boy," began the woman, looking out at him a little
less unkindly, "if you're hungry I'll give you some milk and
bread. Go around to the back porch and I'll get it for you." And
she shut the door again.
David's hand dropped to his side. The red still stayed on his
face and neck, however, and that fierce new something within him
bade him refuse to take food from this woman.... But there was
his father--his poor father, who was so tired; and there was his
own stomach clamoring to be fed. No, he could not refuse. And
with slow steps and hanging head David went around the corner of
the house to the rear.
As the half-loaf of bread and the pail of milk were placed in his
hands, David remembered suddenly that in the village store on the
mountain, his father paid money for his food. David was glad,
now, that he had those gold-pieces in his pocket, for he could
pay money. Instantly his head came up. Once more erect with
self-respect, he shifted his burdens to one hand and thrust the
other into his pocket. A moment later he presented on his
outstretched palm a shining disk of gold.
"Will you take this, to pay, please, for the bread and milk?" he
asked proudly.
The woman began to shake her head; but, as her eyes fell on the
money, she started, and bent closer to examine it. The next
instant she jerked herself upright with an angry exclamation.
"It's gold! A ten-dollar gold-piece! So you're a thief, too, are
you, as well as a tramp? Humph! Well, I guess you don't need this
then," she finished sharply, snatching the bread and the pail of
milk from the boy's hand.
The next moment David stood alone on the doorstep, with the sound
of a quickly thrown bolt in his ears.
A thief! David knew little of thieves, but he knew what they
were. Only a month before a man had tried to steal the violins
from the cabin; and he was a thief, the milk-boy said. David
flushed now again, angrily, as he faced the closed door. But he
did not tarry. He turned and ran to his father.
"Father, come away, quick! You must come away," he choked.
So urgent was the boy's voice that almost unconsciously the sick
man got to his feet. With shaking hands he thrust the notes he
had been writing into his pocket. The little book, from which he
had torn the leaves for this purpose, had already dropped
unheeded into the grass at his feet.
"Yes, son, yes, we'll go," muttered the man. "I feel better now.
I can--walk."
And he did walk, though very slowly, ten, a dozen, twenty steps.
From behind came the sound of wheels that stopped close beside
"Hullo, there! Going to the village?" called a voice.
"Yes, sir." David's answer was unhesitating. Where "the village"
was, he did not know; he knew only that it must be somewhere away
from the woman who had called him a thief. And that was all he
cared to know.
"I'm going 'most there myself. Want a lift?" asked the man, still
"Yes, sir. Thank you!" cried the boy joyfully. And together they
aided his father to climb into the roomy wagon-body.
There were few words said. The man at the reins drove rapidly,
and paid little attention to anything but his horses. The sick
man dozed and rested. The boy sat, wistful-eyed and silent,
watching the trees and houses flit by. The sun had long ago set,
but it was not dark, for the moon was round and bright, and the
sky was cloudless. Where the road forked sharply the man drew his
horses to a stop.
"Well, I'm sorry, but I guess I'll have to drop you here,
friends. I turn off to the right; but 't ain't more 'n a quarter
of a mile for you, now" he finished cheerily, pointing with his
whip to a cluster of twinkling lights.
"Thank you, sir, thank you," breathed David gratefully, steadying
his father's steps. "You've helped us lots. Thank you!"
In David's heart was a wild desire to lay at his good man's feet
all of his shining gold-pieces as payment for this timely aid.
But caution held him back: it seemed that only in stores did
money pay; outside it branded one as a thief!
Alone with his father, David faced once more his problem. Where
should they go for the night? Plainly his father could not walk
far. He had begun to talk again, too,--low, half-finished
sentences that David could not understand, and that vaguely
troubled him. There was a house near by, and several others down
the road toward the village; but David had had all the experience
he wanted that night with strange houses, and strange women.
There was a barn, a big one, which was nearest of all; and it was
toward this barn that David finally turned his father's steps.
"We'll go there, daddy, if we can get in," he proposed softly.
"And we'll stay all night and rest."
The long twilight of the June day had changed into a night that
was scarcely darker, so bright was the moonlight. Seen from the
house, the barn and the low buildings beyond loomed shadowy and
unreal, yet very beautiful. On the side porch of the house sat
Simeon Holly and his wife, content to rest mind and body only
because a full day's work lay well done behind them.
It was just as Simeon rose to his feet to go indoors that a long
note from a violin reached their ears.
"Simeon!" cried the woman. "What was that?"
The man did not answer. His eyes were fixed on the barn.
"Simeon, it's a fiddle!" exclaimed Mrs. Holly, as a second tone
quivered on the air "And it's in our barn!"
Simeon's jaw set. With a stern ejaculation he crossed the porch
and entered the kitchen.
In another minute he had returned, a lighted lantern in his hand.
"Simeon, d--don't go," begged the woman, tremulously. "You--you
don't know what's there."
"Fiddles are not played without hands, Ellen," retorted the man
severely. "Would you have me go to bed and leave a half-drunken,
ungodly minstrel fellow in possession of our barn? To-night, on
my way home, I passed a pretty pair of them lying by the
roadside--a man and a boy with two violins. They're the culprits,
likely,--though how they got this far, I don't see. Do you think
I want to leave my barn to tramps like them?"
"N--no, I suppose not," faltered the woman, as she rose
tremblingly to her feet, and followed her husband's shadow across
the yard.
Once inside the barn Simeon Holly and his wife paused
involuntarily. The music was all about them now, filling the air
with runs and trills and rollicking bits of melody. Giving an
angry exclamation, the man turned then to the narrow stairway and
climbed to the hayloft above. At his heels came his wife, and so
her eyes, almost as soon as his fell upon the man lying back on
the hay with the moonlight full upon his face.
Instantly the music dropped to a whisper, and a low voice came
out of the gloom beyond the square of moonlight which came from
the window in the roof.
"If you'll please be as still as you can, sir. You see he's
asleep and he's so tired," said the voice.
For a moment the man and the woman on the stairway paused in
amazement, then the man lifted his lantern and strode toward the
"Who are you? What are you doing here?" he demanded sharply.
A boy's face, round, tanned, and just now a bit anxious, flashed
out of the dark.
"Oh, please, sir, if you would speak lower," pleaded the boy.
"He's so tired! I'm David, sir, and that's father. We came in
here to rest and sleep."
Simeon Holly's unrelenting gaze left the boy's face and swept
that of the man lying back on the hay. The next instant he
lowered the lantern and leaned nearer, putting forth a cautious
hand. At once he straightened himself, muttering a brusque word
under his breath. Then he turned with the angry question:--
"Boy, what do you mean by playing a jig on your fiddle at such a
time as this?"
"Why, father asked me to play" returned the boy cheerily. "He
said he could walk through green forests then, with the ripple of
brooks in his ears, and that the birds and the squirrels--"
"See here, boy, who are you?" cut in Simeon Holly sternly. "Where
did you come from?"
"From home, sir."
"Where is that?"
"Why, home, sir, where I live. In the mountains, 'way up, up,
up--oh, so far up! And there's such a big, big sky, so much nicer
than down here." The boy's voice quivered, and almost broke, and
his eyes constantly sought the white face on the hay.
It was then that Simeon Holly awoke to the sudden realization
that it was time for action. He turned to his wife.
"Take the boy to the house," he directed incisively. "We'll have
to keep him to-night, I suppose. I'll go for Higgins. Of course
the whole thing will have to be put in his hands at once. You
can't do anything here," he added, as he caught her questioning
glance. "Leave everything just as it is. The man is dead."
"Dead?" It was a sharp cry from the boy, yet there was more of
wonder than of terror in it. "Do you mean that he has gone--like
the water in the brook--to the far country?" he faltered.
Simeon Holly stared. Then he said more distinctly:--
"Your father is dead, boy."
"And he won't come back any more?" David's voice broke now.
There was no answer. Mrs. Holly caught her breath convulsively
and looked away. Even Simeon Holly refused to meet the boy's
pleading eyes.
With a quick cry David sprang to his father's side.
"But he's here--right here," he challenged shrilly. "Daddy,
daddy, speak to me! It's David!" Reaching out his hand, he gently
touched his father's face. He drew back then, at once, his eyes
distended with terror. "He isn't! He is--gone," he chattered
frenziedly. "This isn't the father-part that KNOWS. It's the
other--that they leave. He's left it behind him--like the
squirrel, and the water in the brook."
Suddenly the boy's face changed. It grew rapt and luminous as he
leaped to his feet, crying joyously: "But he asked me to play, so
he went singing--singing just as he said that they did. And I
made him walk through green forests with the ripple of the brooks
in his ears! Listen--like this!" And once more the boy raised the
violin to his chin, and once more the music trilled and rippled
about the shocked, amazed ears of Simeon Holly and his wife.
For a time neither the man nor the woman could speak. There was
nothing in their humdrum, habit-smoothed tilling of the soil and
washing of pots and pans to prepare them for a scene like this--a
moonlit barn, a strange dead man, and that dead man's son
babbling of brooks and squirrels, and playing jigs on a fiddle
for a dirge. At last, however, Simeon found his voice.
"Boy, boy, stop that!" he thundered. "Are you mad--clean mad? Go
into the house, I say!" And the boy, dazed but obedient, put up
his violin, and followed the woman, who, with tear-blinded eyes,
was leading the way down the stairs.
Mrs. Holly was frightened, but she was also strangely moved. From
the long ago the sound of another violin had come to her--a
violin, too, played by a boy's hands. But of this, all this, Mrs.
Holly did not like to think.
In the kitchen now she turned and faced her young guest.
"Are you hungry, little boy?"
David hesitated; he had not forgotten the woman, the milk, and
the gold-piece.
"Are you hungry--dear?" stammered Mrs. Holly again; and this time
David's clamorous stomach forced a "yes" from his unwilling lips;
which sent Mrs. Holly at once into the pantry for bread and milk
and a heaped-up plate of doughnuts such as David had never seen
Like any hungry boy David ate his supper; and Mrs. Holly, in the
face of this very ordinary sight of hunger being appeased at her
table, breathed more freely, and ventured to think that perhaps
this strange little boy was not so very strange, after all.
"What is your name?" she found courage to ask then.
"David what?"
"Just David."
"But your father's name?" Mrs. Holly had almost asked, but
stopped in time. She did not want to speak of him. "Where do you
live?" she asked instead.
"On the mountain, 'way up, up on the mountain where I can see my
Silver Lake every day, you know."
"But you didn't live there alone?"
"Oh, no; with father--before he--went away" faltered the boy.
The woman flushed red and bit her lip.
"No, no, I mean--were there no other houses but yours?" she
"No, ma'am."
"But, wasn't your mother--anywhere?"
"Oh, yes, in father's pocket."
"Your MOTHER--in your father's POCKET!"
So plainly aghast was the questioner that David looked not a
little surprised as he explained.
"You don't understand. She is an angel-mother, and angel-mothers
don't have anything only their pictures down here with us. And
that's what we have, and father always carried it in his pocket."
"Oh----h," murmured Mrs. Holly, a quick mist in her eyes. Then,
gently: "And did you always live there--on the mountain?"
"Six years, father said."
"But what did you do all day? Weren't you ever--lonesome?"
"Lonesome?" The boy's eyes were puzzled.
"Yes. Didn't you miss things--people, other houses, boys of your
own age, and--and such things?"
David's eyes widened.
"Why, how could I?" he cried. "When I had daddy, and my violin,
and my Silver Lake, and the whole of the great big woods with
everything in them to talk to, and to talk to me?"
"Woods, and things in them to--to TALK to you!"
"Why, yes. It was the little brook, you know, after the squirrel,
that told me about being dead, and--"
"Yes, yes; but never mind, dear, now," stammered the woman,
rising hurriedly to her feet--the boy was a little wild, after
all, she thought. "You--you should go to bed. Haven't you a--a
bag, or--or anything?"
"No, ma'am; we left it," smiled David apologetically. "You see,
we had so much in it that it got too heavy to carry. So we did
n't bring it."
"So much in it you didn't bring it, indeed!" repeated Mrs.
Holly, under her breath, throwing up her hands with a gesture of
despair. "Boy, what are you, anyway?"
It was not meant for a question, but, to the woman's surprise,
the boy answered, frankly, simply:--
"Father says that I'm one little instrument in the great
Orchestra of Life, and that I must see to it that I'm always in
tune, and don't drag or hit false notes."
"My land!" breathed the woman, dropping back in her chair, her
eyes fixed on the boy. Then, with an effort, she got to her feet.
"Come, you must go to bed," she stammered. "I'm sure bed is--is
the best place you. I think I can find what--what you need," she
finished feebly.
In a snug little room over the kitchen some minutes later, David
found himself at last alone. The room, though it had once
belonged to a boy of his own age, looked very strange to David.
On the floor was a rag-carpet rug, the first he had ever seen. On
the walls were a fishing-rod, a toy shotgun, and a case full of
bugs and moths, each little body impaled on a pin, to David's
shuddering horror. The bed had four tall posts at the corners,
and a very puffy top that filled David with wonder as to how he
was to reach it, or stay there if he did gain it. Across a chair
lay a boy's long yellow-white nightshirt that the kind lady had
left, after hurriedly wiping her eyes with the edge of its hem.
In all the circle of the candlelight there was just one familiar
object to David's homesick eyes--the long black violin case which
he had brought in himself, and which held his beloved violin.
With his back carefully turned toward the impaled bugs and moths
on the wall, David undressed himself and slipped into the
yellow-white nightshirt, which he sniffed at gratefully, so like
pine woods was the perfume that hung about its folds. Then he
blew out the candle and groped his way to the one window the
little room contained.
The moon still shone, but little could be seen through the thick
green branches of the tree outside. From the yard below came the
sound of wheels, and of men's excited voices. There came also the
twinkle of lanterns borne by hurrying hands, and the tramp of
shuffling feet. In the window David shivered. There were no wide
sweep of mountain, hill, and valley, no Silver Lake, no restful
hush, no daddy,--no beautiful Things that Were. There was only
the dreary, hollow mockery of the Things they had Become.
Long minutes later, David, with the violin in his arms, lay down
upon the rug, and, for the first time since babyhood, sobbed
himself to sleep--but it was a sleep that brought no rest; for in
it he dreamed that he was a big, white-winged moth pinned with a
star to an ink-black sky.
In the early gray dawn David awoke. His first sensation was the
physical numbness and stiffness that came from his hard bed on
the floor.
"Why, daddy," he began, pulling himself half-erect, "I slept all
night on--" He stopped suddenly, brushing his eyes with the backs
of his hands. "Why, daddy, where--" Then full consciousness came
to him.
With a low cry he sprang to his feet and ran to the window.
Through the trees he could see the sunrise glow of the eastern
sky. Down in the yard no one was in sight; but the barn door was
open, and, with a quick indrawing of his breath, David turned
back into the room and began to thrust himself into his clothing.
The gold in his sagging pockets clinked and jingled musically;
and once half a dozen pieces rolled out upon the floor. For a
moment the boy looked as if he were going to let them remain
where they were. But the next minute, with an impatient gesture,
he had picked them up and thrust them deep into one of his
pockets, silencing their jingling with his handkerchief.
Once dressed, David picked up his violin and stepped softly into
the hall. At first no sound reached his ears; then from the
kitchen below came the clatter of brisk feet and the rattle of
tins and crockery. Tightening his clasp on the violin, David
slipped quietly down the back stairs and out to the yard. It was
only a few seconds then before he was hurrying through the open
doorway of the barn and up the narrow stairway to the loft above.
At the top, however, he came to a sharp pause, with a low cry.
The next moment he turned to see a kindly-faced man looking up at
him from the foot of the stairs.
"Oh, sir, please--please, where is he? What have you done with
him?" appealed the boy, almost plunging headlong down the stairs
in his haste to reach the bottom.
Into the man's weather-beaten face came a look of sincere but
awkward sympathy.
"Oh, hullo, sonny! So you're the boy, are ye?" he began
"Yes, yes, I'm David. But where is he-- my father, you know? I
mean the--the part he--he left behind him?" choked the boy. "The
part like--the ice-coat?"
The man stared. Then, involuntarily, he began to back away.
"Well, ye see, I--I--"
"But, maybe you don't know," interrupted David feverishly. "You
aren't the man I saw last night. Who are you? Where is he--the
other one, please?"
"No, I--I wa'n't here--that is, not at the first," spoke up the
man quickly, still unconsciously backing away. "Me--I'm only
Larson, Perry Larson, ye know. 'T was Mr. Holly you see last
night--him that I works for."
"Then, where is Mr. Holly, please?" faltered the boy, hurrying
toward the barn door. "Maybe he would know--about father. Oh,
there he is!" And David ran out of the barn and across the yard
to the kitchen porch.
It was an unhappy ten minutes that David spent then. Besides Mr.
Holly, there were Mrs. Holly, and the man, Perry Larson. And they
all talked. But little of what they said could David understand.
To none of his questions could he obtain an answer that
Neither, on his part, could he seem to reply to their questions
in a way that pleased them.
They went in to breakfast then, Mr. and Mrs. Holly, and the man,
Perry Larson. They asked David to go--at least, Mrs. Holly asked
him. But David shook his head and said "No, no, thank you very
much; I'd rather not, if you please--not now." Then he dropped
himself down on the steps to think. As if he could EAT--with that
great choking lump in his throat that refused to be swallowed!
David was thoroughly dazed, frightened, and dismayed. He knew now
that never again in this world would he see his dear father, or
hear him speak. This much had been made very clear to him during
the last ten minutes. Why this should be so, or what his father
would want him to do, he could not seem to find out. Not until
now had he realized at all what this going away of his father was
to mean to him. And he told himself frantically that he could not
have it so. HE COULD NOT HAVE IT SO! But even as he said the
words, he knew that it was so--irrevocably so.
David began then to long for his mountain home. There at least
he would have his dear forest all about him, with the birds and
the squirrels and the friendly little brooks. There he would have
his Silver Lake to look at, too, and all of them would speak to
him of his father. He believed, indeed, that up there it would
almost seem as if his father were really with him. And, anyway,
if his father ever should come back, it would be there that he
would be sure to seek him--up there in the little mountain home
so dear to them both. Back to the cabin he would go now, then.
Yes; indeed he would!
With a low word and a passionately intent expression, David got
to his feet, picked up his violin, and hurried, firm-footed, down
the driveway and out upon the main highway, turning in the
direction from whence he had come with his father the night
The Hollys had just finished breakfast when Higgins, the coroner,
drove into the yard accompanied by William Streeter, the town's
most prominent farmer,--and the most miserly one, if report was
to be credited.
"Well, could you get anything out of the boy? " demanded Higgins,
without ceremony, as Simeon Holly and Larson appeared on the
kitchen porch.
"Very little. Really nothing of importance," answered Simeon
"Where is he now?"
"Why, he was here on the steps a few minutes ago." Simeon Holly
looked about him a bit impatiently.
"Well, I want to see him. I've got a letter for him."
"A letter!" exclaimed Simeon Holly and Larson in amazed unison.
"Yes. Found it in his father's pocket," nodded the coroner, with
all the tantalizing brevity of a man who knows he has a choice
morsel of information that is eagerly awaited. "It's addressed to
'My boy David,' so I calculated we'd better give it to him first
without reading it, seeing it's his. After he reads it, though, I
want to see it. I want to see if what it says is any nearer being
horse-sense than the other one is."
"The other one!" exclaimed the amazed chorus again.
"Oh, yes, there's another one," spoke up William Streeter
tersely. "And I've read it-- all but the scrawl at the end. There
couldn't anybody read that!" Higgins laughed.
"Well, I'm free to confess 't is a sticker--that name," he
admitted." And it's the name we want, of course, to tell us who
they are--since it seems the boy don't know, from what you said
last night. I was in hopes, by this morning, you'd have found out
more from him."
Simeon Holly shook his head.
"'T was impossible."
"Gosh! I should say 't was," cut in Perry Larson, with emphasis.
"An' queer ain't no name for it. One minute he'd be talkin' good
common sense like anybody: an' the next he'd be chatterin' of
coats made o' ice, an' birds an' squirrels an' babbling brooks.
He sure is dippy! Listen. He actually don't seem ter know the
diff'rence between himself an' his fiddle. We was tryin' ter find
out this mornin' what he could do, an' what he wanted ter do,
when if he didn't up an' say that his father told him it didn't
make so much diff'rence WHAT he did so long as he kept hisself in
tune an' didn't strike false notes. Now, what do yer think o'
"Yes, I, know" nodded Higgins musingly. "There WAS something
queer about them, and they weren't just ordinary tramps. Did I
tell you? I overtook them last night away up on the Fairbanks
road by the Taylor place, and I gave 'em a lift. I particularly
noticed what a decent sort they were. They were clean and
quiet-spoken, and their clothes were good, even if they were
rough. Yet they didn't have any baggage but them fiddles."
"But what was that second letter you mentioned?" asked Simeon
Higgins smiled oddly, and reached into his pocket.
"The letter? Oh, you're welcome to read the letter," he said, as
he handed over a bit of folded paper.
Simeon took it gingerly and examined it.
It was a leaf torn apparently from a note book. It was folded
three times, and bore on the outside the superscription "To whom
it may concern." The handwriting was peculiar, irregular, and not
very legible. But as near as it could be deciphered, the note ran
Now that the time has come when I must give David back to the
world, I have set out for that purpose.
But I am ill--very ill, and should Death have swifter feet than
I, I must leave my task for others to complete. Deal gently with
him. He knows only that which is good and beautiful. He knows
nothing of sin nor evil.
Then followed the signature--a thing of scrawls and flourishes
that conveyed no sort of meaning to Simeon Holly's puzzled eyes.
"Well?" prompted Higgins expectantly.
Simeon Holly shook his head.
"I can make little of it. It certainly is a most remarkable
"Could you read the name?"
"Well, I couldn't. Neither could half a dozen others that's seen
it. But where's the boy? Mebbe his note'll talk sense."
"I'll go find him," volunteered Larson. "He must be somewheres
But David was very evidently not "somewheres'round." At least he
was not in the barn, the shed, the kitchen bedroom, nor anywhere
else that Larson looked; and the man was just coming back with a
crestfallen, perplexed frown, when Mrs. Holly hurried out on to
the porch.
"Mr. Higgins," she cried, in obvious excitement, "your wife has
just telephoned that her sister Mollie has just telephoned HER
that that little tramp boy with the violin is at her house."
"At Mollie's!" exclaimed Higgins. "Why, that's a mile or more
from here."
"So that's where he is!" interposed Larson, hurrying forward.
"Doggone the little rascal! He must 'a' slipped away while we was
eatin breakfast."
"Yes. But, Simeon,--Mr. Higgins,--we hadn't ought to let him go
like that," appealed Mrs. Holly tremulously. "Your wife said
Mollie said she found him crying at the crossroads, because he
didn't know which way to take. He said he was going back home.
He means to that wretched cabin on the mountain, you know; and we
can't let him do that alone--a child like that!"
"Where is he now?" demanded Higgins.
"In Mollie's kitchen eating bread and milk; but she said she had
an awful time getting him to eat. And she wants to know what to
do with him. That's why she telephoned your wife. She thought you
ought to know he was there."
"Yes, of course. Well, tell her to tell him to come back."
"Mollie said she tried to have him come back, but that he said,
no, thank you, he'd rather not. He was going home where his
father could find him if he should ever want him. Mr. Higgins,
we--we CAN'T let him go off like that. Why, the child would die
up there alone in those dreadful woods, even if he could get
there in the first place--which I very much doubt."
"Yes, of course, of course," muttered Higgins, with a thoughtful
frown. "There's his letter, too. Say!" he added, brightening,
"what'll you bet that letter won't fetch him? He seems to think
the world and all of his daddy. Here," he directed, turning to
Mrs. Holly, "you tell my wife to tell--better yet, you telephone
Mollie yourself, please, and tell her to tell the boy we've got a
letter here for him from his father, and he can have it if he'll
come back.".
"I will, I will," called Mrs. Holly, over her shoulder, as she
hurried into the house. In an unbelievably short time she was
back, her face beaming.
"He's started, so soon," she nodded. "He's crazy with joy, Mollie
said. He even left part of his breakfast, he was in such a hurry.
So I guess we'll see him all right."
"Oh, yes, we'll see him all right," echoed Simeon Holly grimly.
"But that isn't telling what we'll do with him when we do see
"Oh, well, maybe this letter of his will help us out on that,"
suggested Higgins soothingly. "Anyhow, even if it doesn't, I'm
not worrying any. I guess some one will want him--a good healthy
boy like that."
"Did you find any money on the body?" asked Streeter.
"A little change--a few cents. Nothing to count. If the boy's
letter doesn't tell us where any of their folks are, it'll be up
to the town to bury him all right."
"He had a fiddle, didn't he? And the boy had one, too. Wouldn't
they bring anything?" Streeter's round blue eyes gleamed
Higgins gave a slow shake of his head.
"Maybe--if there was a market for 'em. But who'd buy 'em? There
ain't a soul in town plays but Jack Gurnsey; and he's got one.
Besides, he's sick, and got all he can do to buy bread and butter
for him and his sister without taking in more fiddles, I guess.
HE wouldn't buy 'em."
"Hm--m; maybe not, maybe not," grunted Streeter. "An', as you
say, he's the only one that's got any use for 'em here; an' like
enough they ain't worth much, anyway. So I guess 't is up to the
town all right."
"Yes; but--if yer'll take it from me,"--interrupted
Larson,--"you'll be wise if ye keep still before the boy. It's no
use ASKIN' him anythin'. We've proved that fast enough. An' if he
once turns 'round an' begins ter ask YOU questions, yer done
"I guess you're right," nodded Higgins, with a quizzical smile.
"And as long as questioning CAN'T do any good, why, we'll just
keep whist before the boy. Meanwhile I wish the little rascal
would hurry up and get here. I want to see the inside of that
letter to HIM. I'm relying on that being some help to unsnarl
this tangle of telling who they are."
"Well, he's started," reiterated Mrs. Holly, as she turned back
into the house; "so I guess he'll get here if you wait long
"Oh, yes, he'll get here if we wait long enough," echoed Simeon
Holly again, crustily.
The two men in the wagon settled themselves more comfortably in
their seats, and Perry Larson, after a half-uneasy,
half-apologetic glance at his employer, dropped himself onto the
bottom step. Simeon Holly had already sat down stiffly in one of
the porch chairs. Simeon Holly never "dropped himself" anywhere.
Indeed, according to Perry Larson, if there were a hard way to do
a thing, Simeon Holly found it--and did it. The fact that, this
morning, he had allowed, and was still allowing, the sacred
routine of the day's work to be thus interrupted, for nothing
more important than the expected arrival of a strolling urchin,
was something Larson would not have believed had he not seen it.
Even now he was conscious once or twice of an involuntary desire
to rub his eyes to make sure they were not deceiving him.
Impatient as the waiting men were for the arrival of David, they
were yet almost surprised, so soon did he appear, running up the
"Oh, where is it, please?" he panted. "They said you had a letter
for me from daddy!"
"You're right, sonny; we have. And here it is," answered Higgins
promptly, holding out the folded paper.
Plainly eager as he was, David did not open the note till he had
first carefully set down the case holding his violin; then he
devoured it with eager eyes.
As he read, the four men watched his face. They saw first the
quick tears that had to be blinked away. Then they saw the
radiant glow that grew and deepened until the whole boyish face
was aflame with the splendor of it. They saw the shining wonder
of his eyes, too, as he looked up from the letter.
"And daddy wrote this to me from the far country?" he breathed.
Simeon Holly scowled. Larson choked over a stifled chuckle.
William Streeter stared and shrugged his shoulders; but Higgins
flushed a dull red.
"No, sonny," he stammered. "We found it on the--er--I mean,
it--er--your father left it in his pocket for you," finished the
man, a little explosively.
A swift shadow crossed the boy's face.
"Oh, I hoped I'd heard--" he began. Then suddenly he stopped, his
face once more alight. "But it's 'most the same as if he wrote it
from there, isn't it? He left it for me, and he told me what to
"What's that, what's that?" cried Higgins, instantly alert. "DID
he tell you what to do? Then, let's have it, so WE'LL know. You
will let us read it, won't you, boy?"
"Why, y--yes," stammered David, holding it out politely, but with
evident reluctance.
"Thank you," nodded Higgins, as he reached for the note.
David's letter was very different from the other one. It was
longer, but it did not help much, though it was easily read. In
his letter, in spite of the wavering lines, each word was formed
with a care that told of a father's thought for the young eyes
that would read it. It was written on two of the notebook's
leaves, and at the end came the single word "Daddy."
David, my boy [read Higgins aloud], in the far country I am
waiting for you. Do not grieve, for that will grieve me. I shall
not return, but some day you will come to me, your violin at your
chin, and the bow drawn across the strings to greet me. See that
it tells me of the beautiful world you have left--for it is a
beautiful world, David; never forget that. And if sometime you
are tempted to think it is not a beautiful world, just remember
that you yourself can make it beautiful if you will.
You are among new faces, surrounded by things and people that are
strange to you. Some of them you will not understand; some of
them you may not like. But do not fear, David, and do not plead
to go back to the hills. Remember this, my boy,--in your violin
lie all the things you long for. You have only to play, and the
broad skies of your mountain home will be over you, and the dear
friends and comrades of your mountain forests will be about you.
"Gorry! that's worse than the other," groaned Higgins, when he
had finished the note. "There's actually nothing in it! Wouldn't
you think--if a man wrote anything at such a time--that he'd 'a'
wrote something that had some sense to it--something that one
could get hold of, and find out who the boy is?"
There was no answering this. The assembled men could only grunt
and nod in agreement, which, after all, was no real help.
The dead man found in Farmer Holly's barn created a decided stir
in the village of Hinsdale. The case was a peculiar one for many
reasons. First, because of the boy--Hinsdale supposed it knew
boys, but it felt inclined to change its mind after seeing this
one. Second, because of the circumstances. The boy and his father
had entered the town like tramps, yet Higgins, who talked freely
of his having given the pair a "lift" on that very evening, did
not hesitate to declare that he did not believe them to be
ordinary tramps at all.
As there had been little found in the dead man's pockets, save
the two notes, and as nobody could be found who wanted the
violins, there seemed to be nothing to do but to turn the body
over to the town for burial. Nothing was said of this to David;
indeed, as little as possible was said to David about anything
after that morning when Higgins had given him his father's
letter. At that time the men had made one more effort to "get
track of SOMETHING," as Higgins had despairingly put it. But the
boy's answers to their questions were anything but satisfying,
anything but helpful, and were often most disconcerting. The boy
was, in fact, regarded by most of the men, after that morning, as
being "a little off"; and was hence let severely alone.
Who the man was the town authorities certainly did not know,
neither could they apparently find out. His name, as written by
himself, was unreadable. His notes told nothing; his son could
tell little more--of consequence. A report, to be sure, did come
from the village, far up the mountain, that such a man and boy
had lived in a hut that was almost inaccessible; but even this
did not help solve the mystery.
David was left at the Holly farmhouse, though Simeon Holly
mentally declared that he should lose no time in looking about
for some one to take the boy away.
On that first day Higgins, picking up the reins preparatory to
driving from the yard, had said, with a nod of his head toward
"Well, how about it, Holly? Shall we leave him here till we find
somebody that wants him?"
"Why, y--yes, I suppose so," hesitated Simeon Holly, with
uncordial accent.
But his wife, hovering in the background, hastened forward at
"Oh, yes; yes, indeed," she urged. "I'm sure he--he won't be a
mite of trouble, Simeon."
"Perhaps not," conceded Simeon Holly darkly. "Neither, it is safe
to say, will he be anything else--worth anything."
"That's it exactly," spoke up Streeter, from his seat in the
wagon. "If I thought he'd be worth his salt, now, I'd take him
myself; but--well, look at him this minute," he finished, with a
disdainful shrug.
David, on the lowest step, was very evidently not hearing a word
of what was being said. With his sensitive face illumined, he was
again poring over his father's letter.
Something in the sudden quiet cut through his absorption as the
noisy hum of voices had not been able to do, and he raised his
head. His eyes were starlike.
"I'm so glad father told me what to do," he breathed. "It'll be
easier now."
Receiving no answer from the somewhat awkwardly silent men, he
went on, as if in explanation:--
"You know he's waiting for me--in the far country, I mean. He
said he was. And when you've got somebody waiting, you don't mind
staying behind yourself for a little while. Besides, I've GOT to
stay to find out about the beautiful world, you know, so I can
tell him, when _I_ go. That's the way I used to do back home on
the mountain, you see,--tell him about things. Lots of days we'd
go to walk; then, when we got home, he'd have me tell him, with
my violin, what I'd seen. And now he says I'm to stay here."
"Here!" It was the quick, stern voice of Simeon Holly.
"Yes," nodded David earnestly; "to learn about the beautiful
world. Don't you remember? And he said I was not to want to go
back to my mountains; that I would not need to, anyway, because
the mountains, and the sky, and the birds and squirrels and
brooks are really in my violin, you know. And--" But with an
angry frown Simeon Holly stalked away, motioning Larson
to follow him; and with a merry glance and a low chuckle Higgins
turned his horse about and drove from the yard. A moment later
David found himself alone with Mrs. Holly, who was looking at him
with wistful, though slightly fearful eyes.
"Did you have all the breakfast you wanted?" she asked timidly,
resorting, as she had resorted the night before, to the everyday
things of her world in the hope that they might make this strange
little boy seem less wild, and more nearly human.
"Oh, yes, thank you." David's eyes had strayed back to the note
in his hand. Suddenly he looked up, a new something in his eyes.
"What is it to be a--a tramp?" he asked. "Those men said daddy
and I were tramps."
"A tramp? Oh--er--why, just a--a tramp," stammered Mrs. Holly.
"But never mind that, David. I--I wouldn't think any more about
"But what is a tramp?" persisted David, a smouldering fire
beginning to show in his eyes. "Because if they meant THIEVES--"
"No, no, David," interrupted Mrs. Holly soothingly. "They never
meant thieves at all."
"Then, what is it to be a tramp?"
"Why, it's just to--to tramp," explained Mrs. Holly
desperately;--"walk along the road from one town to another,
and--and not live in a house at all."
"Oh!" David's face cleared. "That's all right, then. I'd love to
be a tramp, and so'd father. And we were tramps, sometimes, too,
'cause lots of times, in the summer, we didn't stay in the cabin
hardly any--just lived out of doors all day and all night. Why, I
never knew really what the pine trees were saying till I heard
them at night, lying under them. You know what I mean. You've
heard them, haven't you?"
"At night? Pine trees?" stammered Mrs. Holly helplessly.
"Yes. Oh, haven't you ever heard them at night?" cried the boy,
in his voice a very genuine sympathy as for a grievous loss.
"Why, then, if you've only heard them daytimes, you don't know a
bit what pine trees really are. But I can tell you. Listen! This
is what they say," finished the boy, whipping his violin from its
case, and, after a swift testing of the strings, plunging into a
weird, haunting little melody.
In the doorway, Mrs. Holly, bewildered, yet bewitched, stood
motionless, her eyes half-fearfully, half-longingly fixed on
David's glorified face. She was still in the same position when
Simeon Holly came around the corner of the house.
"Well, Ellen," he began, with quiet scorn, after a moment's stern
watching of the scene before him, "have you nothing better to do
this morning than to listen to this minstrel fellow?"
"Oh, Simeon! Why, yes, of course. I--I forgot--what I was doing,"
faltered Mrs. Holly, flushing guiltily from neck to brow as she
turned and hurried into the house.
David, on the porch steps, seemed to have heard nothing. He was
still playing, his rapt gaze on the distant sky-line, when Simeon
Holly turned upon him with disapproving eyes.
"See here, boy, can't you do anything but fiddle?" he demanded.
Then, as David still continued to play, he added sharply: "Did
n't you hear me, boy?"
The music stopped abruptly. David looked up with the slightly
dazed air of one who has been summoned as from another world.
"Did you speak to me, sir?" he asked.
"I did--twice. I asked if you never did anything but play that
"You mean at home?" David's face expressed mild wonder without a
trace of anger or resentment. "Why, yes, of course. I couldn't
play ALL the time, you know. I had to eat and sleep and study my
books; and every day we went to walk--like tramps, as you call
them," he elucidated, his face brightening with obvious delight
at being able, for once, to explain matters in terms that he felt
sure would be understood.
"Tramps, indeed!" muttered Simeon Holly, under his breath. Then,
sharply: "Did you never perform any useful labor, boy? Were your
days always spent in this ungodly idleness?"
Again David frowned in mild wonder.
"Oh, I wasn't idle, sir. Father said I must never be that. He
said every instrument was needed in the great Orchestra of Life;
and that I was one, you know, even if I was only a little boy.
And he said if I kept still and didn't do my part, the harmony
wouldn't be complete, and--"
"Yes, yes, but never mind that now, boy," interrupted Simeon
Holly, with harsh impatience. "I mean, did he never set you to
work--real work?"
"Work?" David meditated again. Then suddenly his face cleared.
"Oh, yes, sir, he said I had a beautiful work to do, and that it
was waiting for me out in the world. That's why we came down from
the mountain, you know, to find it. Is that what you mean?"
"Well, no," retorted the man, "I can't say that it was. I was
referring to work--real work about the house. Did you never do
any of that?"
David gave a relieved laugh.
"Oh, you mean getting the meals and tidying up the house," he
replied. "Oh, yes, I did that with father, only"--his face grew
wistful--"I'm afraid I didn't do it very well. My bacon was
never as nice and crisp as father's, and the fire was always
spoiling my potatoes."
"Humph! bacon and potatoes, indeed!" scorned Simeon Holly. "Well,
boy, we call that women's work down here. We set men to something
else. Do you see that woodpile by the shed door?"
"Yes, sir."
"Very good. In the kitchen you'll find an empty woodbox. Do you
think you could fill it with wood from that woodpile? You'll find
plenty of short, small sticks already chopped."
"Oh, yes, sir, I'd like to," nodded David, hastily but carefully
tucking his violin into its case. A minute later he had attacked
the woodpile with a will; and Simeon Holly, after a sharply
watchful glance, had turned away.
But the woodbox, after all, was not filled. At least, it was not
filled immediately. for at the very beginning of gathering the
second armful of wood, David picked up a stick that had long
lain in one position on the ground, thereby disclosing sundry and
diverse crawling things of many legs, which filled David's soul
with delight, and drove away every thought of the empty woodbox.
It was only a matter of some strength and more patience, and
still more time, to overturn other and bigger sticks, to find
other and bigger of the many-legged, many-jointed creatures. One,
indeed, was so very wonderful that David, with a whoop of glee,
summoned Mrs. Holly from the shed doorway to come and see.
So urgent was his plea that Mrs. Holly came with hurried
steps--but she went away with steps even more hurried; and David,
sitting back on his woodpile seat, was left to wonder why she
should scream and shudder and say "Ugh-h-h!" at such a beautiful,
interesting thing as was this little creature who lived in her
Even then David did not think of that empty woodbox waiting
behind the kitchen stove. This time it was a butterfly, a big
black butterfly banded with gold; and it danced and fluttered all
through the back yard and out into the garden, David delightedly
following with soft-treading steps, and movements that would not
startle. From the garden to the orchard, and from the orchard
back to the garden danced the butterfly--and David; and in the
garden, near the house, David came upon Mrs. Holly's pansy-bed.
Even the butterfly was forgotten then, for down in the path by
the pansy-bed David dropped to his knees in veritable worship.
"Why, you're just like little people," he cried softly. "You've
got faces; and some of you are happy, and some of you are sad.
And you--you big spotted yellow one--you're laughing at me. Oh,
I'm going to play you--all of you. You'll make such a pretty
song, you're so different from each other!" And David leaped
lightly to his feet and ran around to the side porch for his
Five minutes later, Simeon Holly, coming into the kitchen, heard
the sound of a violin through the open window. At the same moment
his eyes fell on the woodbox, empty save for a few small sticks
at the bottom. With an angry frown he strode through the outer
door and around the corner of the house to the garden. At once
then he came upon David, sitting Turk-fashion in the middle of
the path before the pansy-bed, his violin at his chin, and his
whole face aglow.
"Well, boy, is this the way you fill the woodbox?" demanded the
man crisply.
David shook his head.
"Oh, no, sir, this isn't filling the woodbox," he laughed,
softening his music, but not stopping it. "Did you think that was
what I was playing? It's the flowers here that I'm playing--the
little faces, like people, you know. See, this is that big yellow
one over there that's laughing," he finished, letting the music
under his fingers burst into a gay little melody.
Simeon Holly raised an imperious hand; and at the gesture David
stopped his melody in the middle of a run, his eyes flying wide
open in plain wonderment.
"You mean--I'm not playing--right?" he asked.
"I'm not talking of your playing," retorted Simeon Holly
severely. "I'm talking of that woodbox I asked you to fill."
David's face cleared.
"Oh, yes, sir. I'll go and do it," he nodded, getting cheerfully
to his feet.
"But I told you to do it before."
David's eyes grew puzzled again.
"I know, sir, and I started to," he answered, with the obvious
patience of one who finds himself obliged to explain what should
be a self-evident fact; "but I saw so many beautiful things, one
after another, and when I found these funny little flower-people
I just had to play them. Don't you see?"
"No, I can't say that I do, when I'd already told you to fill the
woodbox," rejoined the man, with uncompromising coldness.
"You mean--even then that I ought to have filled the woodbox
"I certainly do."
David's eyes flew wide open again.
"But my song--I'd have lost it!" he exclaimed. "And father said
always when a song came to me to play it at once. Songs are like
the mists of the morning and the rainbows, you know, and they
don't stay with you long. You just have to catch them quick,
before they go. Now, don't you see?"
But Simeon Holly, with a despairingly scornful gesture, had
turned away; and David, after a moment's following him with
wistful eyes, soberly walked toward the kitchen door. Two minutes
later he was industriously working at his task of filling the
That for David the affair was not satisfactorily settled was
evidenced by his thoughtful countenance and preoccupied air,
however; nor were matters helped any by the question David put to
Mr. Holly just before dinner.
"Do you mean," he asked, "that because I didn't fill the woodbox
right away, I was being a discord?"
"You were what?" demanded the amazed Simeon Holly.
"Being a discord--playing out of tune, you know," explained
David, with patient earnestness. "Father said--" But again Simeon
Holly had turned irritably away; and David was left with his
perplexed questions still unanswered.
For some time after dinner, that first day, David watched Mrs.
Holly in silence while she cleared the table and began to wash
the dishes.
"Do you want me to--help?" he asked at last, a little wistfully.
Mrs. Holly, with a dubious glance at the boy's brown little
hands, shook her head.
"No, I don't. No, thank you," she amended her answer.
For another sixty seconds David was silent; then, still more
wistfully, he asked:--
"Are all these things you've been doing all day 'useful labor'?"
Mrs. Holly lifted dripping hands from the dishpan and held them
suspended for an amazed instant.
"Are they--Why, of course they are! What a silly question! What
put that idea into your head, child?"
"Mr. Holly; and you see it's so different from what father used
to call them."
"Yes. He said they were a necessary nuisance,--dishes, and
getting meals, and clearing up,--and he didn't do half as many
of them as you do, either."
"Nuisance, indeed!" Mrs. Holly resumed her dishwashing with some
asperity. "Well, I should think that might have been just about
like him."
"Yes, it was. He was always that way," nodded David pleasantly.
Then, after a moment, he queried: "But aren't you going to walk
at all to-day?"
"To walk? Where?"
"Why, through the woods and fields--anywhere."
"Walking in the woods, NOW--JUST WALKING? Land's sake, boy, I've
got something else to do!"
"Oh, that's too bad, isn't it?" David's face expressed
sympathetic regret." And it's such a nice day! Maybe it'll rain
by tomorrow."
"Maybe it will," retorted Mrs. Holly, with slightly uplifted
eyebrows and an expressive glance. "But whether it does or does
n't won't make any difference in my going to walk, I guess."
"Oh, won't it?" beamed David, his face changing. "I'm so glad! I
don't mind the rain, either. Father and I used to go in the rain
lots of times, only, of course, we couldn't take our violins
then, so we used to like the pleasant days better. But there are
some things you find on rainy days that you couldn't find any
other time, aren't there? The dance of the drops on the leaves,
and the rush of the rain when the wind gets behind it. Don't you
love to feel it, out in the open spaces, where the wind just gets
a good chance to push?"
Mrs. Holly stared. Then she shivered and threw up her hands with
a gesture of hopeless abandonment.
"Land's sake, boy!" she ejaculated feebly, as she turned back to
her work.
From dishes to sweeping, and from sweeping to dusting, hurried
Mrs. Holly, going at last into the somber parlor, always
carefully guarded from sun and air. Watching her, mutely, David
trailed behind, his eyes staring a little as they fell upon the
multitude of objects that parlor contained: the haircloth chairs,
the long sofa, the marble-topped table, the curtains,
cushions, spreads, and "throws," the innumerable mats and tidies,
the hair-wreath, the wax flowers under their glass dome, the
dried grasses, the marvelous bouquets of scarlet, green, and
purple everlastings, the stones and shells and many-sized,
many-shaped vases arranged as if in line of battle along the
corner shelves.
"Y--yes, you may come in," called Mrs. Holly, glancing back at
the hesitating boy in the doorway. "But you mustn't touch
anything. I'm going to dust."
"But I haven't seen this room before," ruminated David.
"Well, no," deigned Mrs. Holly, with just a touch of superiority.
"We don't use this room common, little boy, nor the bedroom
there, either. This is the company room, for ministers and
funerals, and--" She stopped hastily, with a quick look at David;
but the boy did not seem to have heard.
"And doesn't anybody live here in this house, but just you and
Mr. Holly, and Mr. Perry Larson?" he asked, still looking
wonderingly about him.
"No, not--now." Mrs. Holly drew in her breath with a little
catch, and glanced at the framed portrait of a little boy on the
"But you've got such a lot of rooms and--and things," remarked
David. "Why, daddy and I only had two rooms, and not hardly any
THINGS. It was so--different, you know, in my home."
"I should say it might have been!" Mrs. Holly began to dust
hurriedly, but carefully. Her voice still carried its hint of
"Oh, yes," smiled David. "But you say you don't use this room
much, so that helps."
"Helps!" In her stupefaction Mrs. Holly stopped her work and
"Why, yes. I mean, you've got so many other rooms you can live in
those. You don't HAVE to live in here."
" 'Have to live in here'!" ejaculated the woman, still too
uncomprehending to be anything but amazed.
"Yes. But do you have to KEEP all these things, and clean them
and clean them, like this, every day? Couldn't you give them to
somebody, or throw them away?"
"Throw--these--things--away!" With a wild sweep of her arms, the
horrified woman seemed to be trying to encompass in a protective
embrace each last endangered treasure of mat and tidy. "Boy, are
you crazy? These things are--are valuable. They cost money, and
time and--and labor. Don't you know beautiful things when you see
"Oh, yes, I love BEAUTIFUL things," smiled David, with
unconsciously rude emphasis. "And up on the mountain I had them
always. There was the sunrise, and the sunset, and the moon and
the stars, and my Silver Lake, and the cloud-boats that sailed--"
But Mrs. Holly, with a vexed gesture, stopped him.
"Never mind, little boy. I might have known--brought up as you
have been. Of course you could not appreciate such things as
these. Throw them away, indeed!" And she fell to work again; but
this time her fingers carried a something in their touch that was
almost like the caress a mother might bestow upon an aggrieved
David, vaguely disturbed and uncomfortable, watched her with
troubled eyes; then, apologetically, he explained:--
"It was only that I thought if you didn't have to clean so many
of these things, you could maybe go to walk more--to-day, and
other days, you know. You said--you didn't have time," he
reminded her.
But Mrs. Holly only shook her head and sighed:--
"Well, well, never mind, little boy. I dare say you meant all
right. You couldn't understand, of course."
And David, after another moment's wistful eyeing of the caressing
fingers, turned about and wandered out onto the side porch. A
minute later, having seated himself on the porch steps, he had
taken from his pocket two small pieces of folded paper. And then,
through tear-dimmed eyes, he read once more his father's letter.
"He said I mustn't grieve, for that would grieve him," murmured
the boy, after a time, his eyes on the far-away hills. "And he
said if I'd play, my mountains would come to me here, and I'd
really be at home up there. He said in my violin were all those
things I'm wanting--so bad!"
With a little choking breath, David tucked the note back into his
pocket and reached for his violin.
Some time later, Mrs. Holly, dusting the chairs in the parlor,
stopped her work, tiptoed to the door, and listened breathlessly.
When she turned back, still later, to her work, her eyes were
"I wonder why, when he plays, I always get to thinking of--John,"
she sighed to herself, as she picked up her dusting-cloth.
After supper that night, Simeon Holly and his wife again sat on
the kitchen porch, resting from the labor of the day. Simeon's
eyes were closed. His wife's were on the dim outlines of the
shed, the barn, the road, or a passing horse and wagon. David,
sitting on the steps, was watching the moon climb higher and
higher above the tree-tops. After a time he slipped into the
house and came out with his violin.
At the first long-drawn note of sweetness, Simeon Holly opened
his eyes and sat up, stern-lipped. But his wife laid a timid hand
on his arm.
"Don't say anything, please," she entreated softly. "Let him
play, just for to-night. He's lonesome--poor little fellow." And
Simeon Holly, with a frowning shrug of his shoulders, sat back in
his chair.
Later, it was Mrs. Holly herself who stopped the music by saying:
"Come, David, it's bedtime for little boys. I'll go upstairs with
you." And she led the way into the house and lighted the candle
for him.
Upstairs, in the little room over the kitchen, David found
himself once more alone. As before, the little yellow-white
nightshirt lay over the chair-back; and as before, Mrs. Holly had
brushed away a tear as she had placed it there. As before, too,
the big four-posted bed loomed tall and formidable in the corner.
But this time the coverlet and sheet were turned back
invitingly--Mrs. Holly had been much disturbed to find that David
had slept on the floor the night before.
Once more, with his back carefully turned toward the impaled bugs
and moths on the wall, David undressed himself. Then, before
blowing out the candle, he went to the window kneeled down, and
looked up at the moon through the trees.
David was sorely puzzled. He was beginning to wonder just what
was to become of himself.
His father had said that out in the world there was a beautiful
work for him to do; but what was it? How was he to find it? Or
how was he to do it if he did find it? And another thing; where
was he to live? Could he stay where he was? It was not home, to
be sure; but there was the little room over the kitchen where he
might sleep, and there was the kind woman who smiled at him
sometimes with the sad, far-away look in her eyes that somehow
hurt. He would not like, now, to leave her--with daddy gone.
There were the gold-pieces, too; and concerning these David was
equally puzzled. What should he do with them? He did not need
them--the kind woman was giving him plenty of food, so that he
did not have to go to the store and buy; and there was nothing
else, apparently, that he could use them for. They were heavy,
and disagreeable to carry; yet he did not like to throw them
away, nor to let anybody know that he had them: he had been
called a thief just for one little piece, and what would they say
if they knew he had all those others?
David remembered now, suddenly, that his father had said to hide
them--to hide them until he needed them. David was relieved at
once. Why had he not thought of it before? He knew just the
place, too,--the little cupboard behind the chimney there in this
very room! And with a satisfied sigh, David got to his feet,
gathered all the little yellow disks from his pockets, and tucked
them well out of sight behind the piles of books on the cupboard
shelves. There, too, he hid the watch; but the little miniature
of the angel-mother he slipped back into one of his pockets.
David's second morning at the farmhouse was not unlike the first,
except that this time, when Simeon Holly asked him to fill the
woodbox, David resolutely ignored every enticing bug and
butterfly, and kept rigorously to the task before him until it
was done.
He was in the kitchen when, just before dinner, Perry Larson came
into the room with a worried frown on his face.
"Mis' Holly, would ye mind just steppin' to the side door?
There's a woman an' a little boy there, an' somethin' ails 'em.
She can't talk English, an' I'm blest if I can make head nor tail
out of the lingo she DOES talk. But maybe you can."
"Why, Perry, I don't know--" began Mrs. Holly. But she turned at
once toward the door.
On the porch steps stood a very pretty, but frightened-looking
young woman with a boy perhaps ten years old at her side. Upon
catching sight of Mrs. Holly she burst into a torrent of
unintelligible words, supplemented by numerous and vehement
Mrs. Holly shrank back, and cast appealing eyes toward her
husband who at that moment had come across the yard from the
"Simeon, can you tell what she wants?"
At sight of the newcomer on the scene, the strange woman began
again, with even more volubility.
"No," said Simeon Holly, after a moment's scowling scrutiny of
the gesticulating woman. "She's talking French, I think. And she
"Gosh! I should say she did," muttered Perry Larson. "An'
whatever 't is, she wants it powerful bad."
"Are you hungry?" questioned Mrs. Holly timidly.
"Can't you speak English at all?" demanded Simeon Holly.
The woman looked from one to the other with the piteous, pleading
eyes of the stranger in the strange land who cannot understand or
make others understand. She had turned away with a despairing
shake of her head, when suddenly she gave a wild cry of joy and
wheeled about, her whole face alight.
The Hollys and Perry Larson saw then that David had come out onto
the porch and was speaking to the woman--and his words were just
as unintelligible as the woman's had been.
Mrs. Holly and Perry Larson stared. Simeon Holly interrupted
David with a sharp--
"Do you, then, understand this woman, boy?"
"Why, yes! Didn't you? She's lost her way, and--" But the woman
had hurried forward and was pouring her story into David's ears.
At its conclusion David turned to find the look of stupefaction
still on the others' faces.
"Well, what does she want?" asked Simeon Holly crisply.
"She wants to find the way to Francois Lavelle's house. He's her
husband's brother. She came in on the train this morning. Her
husband stopped off a minute somewhere, she says, and got left
behind. He could talk English, but she can't. She's
only been in this country a week. She came from France."
"Gorry! Won't ye listen ter that, now?" cried Perry Larson
admiringly. "Reads her just like a book, don't he? There's a
French family over in West Hinsdale--two of 'em, I think. What'll
ye bet 't ain't one o' them?"
"Very likely," acceded Simeon Holly, his eyes bent disapprovingly
on David's face. It was plain to be seen that Simeon Holly's
attention was occupied by David, not the woman.
"An', say, Mr. Holly," resumed Perry Larson, a little excitedly,
"you know I was goin' over ter West Hinsdale in a day or two ter
see Harlow about them steers. Why can't I go this afternoon an'
tote her an' the kid along?"
"Very well," nodded Simeon Holly curtly, his eyes still on
David's face.
Perry Larson turned to the woman, and by a flourish of his arms
and a jumble of broken English attempted to make her understand
that he was to take her where she undoubtedly wished to go. The
woman still looked uncomprehending, however, and David promptly
came to the rescue, saying a few rapid words that quickly brought
a flood of delighted understanding to the woman's face.
"Can't you ask her if she's hungry?" ventured Mrs. Holly, then.
"She says no, thank you," translated David, with a smile, when he
had received his answer. "But the boy says he is, if you please."
"Then, tell them to come into the kitchen," directed Mrs. Holly,
hurrying into the house.
"So you're French, are you?" said Simeon Holly to David.
"French? Oh, no, sir," smiled David, proudly. "I'm an American.
Father said I was. He said I was born in this country."
"But how comes it you can speak French like that?"
"Why, I learned it." Then, divining that his words were still
unconvincing, he added: "Same as I learned German and other
things with father, out of books, you know. Didn't you learn
French when you were a little boy?"
"Humph!" vouchsafed Simeon Holly, stalking away without answering
the question.
Immediately after dinner Perry Larson drove away with the woman
and the little boy. The woman's face was wreathed with smiles,
and her last adoring glance was for David, waving his hand to her
from the porch steps.
In the afternoon David took his violin and went off toward the
hill behind the house for a walk. He had asked Mrs. Holly to
accompany him, but she had refused, though she was not sweeping
or dusting at the time. She was doing nothing more important,
apparently, than making holes in a piece of white cloth, and
sewing them up again with a needle and thread.
David had then asked Mr. Holly to go; but his refusal was even
more strangely impatient than his wife's had been.
"And why, pray, should I go for a useless walk now--or any time,
for that matter?" he demanded sharply.
David had shrunk back unconsciously, though he had still smiled.
"Oh, but it wouldn't be a useless walk, sir. Father said nothing
was useless that helped to keep us in tune, you know."
"In tune!"
"I mean, you looked as father used to look sometimes, when he
felt out of tune. And he always said there was nothing like a
walk to put him back again. I--I was feeling a little out of tune
myself to-day, and I thought, by the way you looked, that you
were, too. So I asked you to go to walk."
"Humph! Well, I--That will do, boy. No impertinence, you
understand!" And he had turned away in very obvious anger.
David, with a puzzled sorrow in his heart had started alone then,
on his walk.
It was Saturday night, and the end of David's third day at the
farmhouse. Upstairs, in the hot little room over the kitchen, the
boy knelt at the window and tried to find a breath of cool air
from the hills. Downstairs on the porch Simeon Holly and his wife
discussed the events of the past few days, and talked of what
should be done with David.
"But what shall we do with him?" moaned Mrs. Holly at last,
breaking a long silence that had fallen between them. "What can
we do with him? Doesn't anybody want him?"
"No, of course, nobody wants him," retorted her husband
And at the words a small figure in a yellow-white nightshirt
stopped short. David, violin in hand, had fled from the little
hot room, and stood now just inside the kitchen door.
"Who can want a child that has been brought up in that heathenish
fashion?" continued Simeon Holly. "According to his own story,
even his father did nothing but play the fiddle and tramp through
the woods day in and day out, with an occasional trip to the
mountain village to get food and clothing when they had
absolutely nothing to eat and wear. Of course nobody wants him!"
David, at the kitchen door, caught his breath chokingly. Then he
sped across the floor to the back hall, and on through the long
sheds to the hayloft in the barn--the place where his father
seemed always nearest.
David was frightened and heartsick. NOBODY WANTED HIM. He had
heard it with his own ears, so there was no mistake. What now
about all those long days and nights ahead before he might go,
violin in hand, to meet his father in that far-away country? How
was he to live those days and nights if nobody wanted him? How
was his violin to speak in a voice that was true and pure and
full, and tell of the beautiful world, as his father had said
that it must do? David quite cried aloud at the thought. Then he
thought of something else that his father had said: "Remember
this, my boy,--in your violin lie all the things you long for.
You have only to play, and the broad skies of your mountain home
will be over you, and the dear friends and comrades of your
mountain forests will be all about you." With a quick cry David
raised his violin and drew the bow across the strings.
Back on the porch at that moment Mrs. Holly was saying:--
"Of course there's the orphan asylum, or maybe the poorhouse--if
they'd take him; but--Simeon," she broke off sharply, "where's
that child playing now?"
Simeon listened with intent ears.
"In the barn, I should say."
"But he'd gone to bed!"
"And he'll go to bed again," asserted Simeon Holly grimly, as he
rose to his feet and stalked across the moonlit yard to the barn.
As before, Mrs. Holly followed him, and as before, both
involuntarily paused just inside the barn door to listen. No runs
and trills and rollicking bits of melody floated down the
stairway to-night. The notes were long-drawn, and plaintively
sweet; and they rose and swelled and died almost into silence
while the man and the woman by the door stood listening.
They were back in the long ago--Simeon Holly and his wife--back
with a boy of their own who had made those same rafters ring with
shouts of laughter, and who, also, had played the violin--though
not like this; and the same thought had come to each: "What if,
after all, it were John playing all alone in the moonlight!"
It had not been the violin, in the end, that had driven John
Holly from home. It had been the possibilities in a piece of
crayon. All through childhood the boy had drawn his beloved
"pictures" on every inviting space that offered,--whether it were
the "best-room" wall-paper, or the fly leaf of the big plush
album,--and at eighteen he had announced his determination to be
an artist. For a year after that Simeon Holly fought with all the
strength of a stubborn will, banished chalk and crayon from the
house, and set the boy to homely tasks that left no time for
anything but food and sleep--then John ran away.
That was fifteen years ago, and they had not seen him since;
though two unanswered letters in Simeon Holly's desk testified
that perhaps this, at least, was not the boy's fault.
It was not of the grown-up John, the willful boy and runaway son,
however, that Simeon Holly and his wife were thinking, as they
stood just inside the barn door; it was of Baby John, the little
curly-headed fellow that had played at their knees, frolicked in
this very barn, and nestled in their arms when the day was done.
Mrs. Holly spoke first--and it was not as she had spoken on the
"Simeon," she began tremulously, "that dear child must go to
bed!" And she hurried across the floor and up the stairs,
followed by her husband. "Come, David," she said, as she reached
the top; "it's time little boys were asleep! Come!"
Her voice was low, and not quite steady. To David her voice
sounded as her eyes looked when there was in them the far-away
something that hurt. Very slowly he came forward into the
moonlight, his gaze searching the woman's face long and
"And do you--want me?" he faltered.
The woman drew in her breath with a little sob. Before her stood
the slender figure in the yellow-white gown--John's gown. Into
her eyes looked those other eyes, dark and wistful,--like John's
eyes. And her arms ached with emptiness.
"Yes, yes, for my very own--and for always!" she cried with
sudden passion, clasping the little form close. "For always!"
And David sighed his content.
Simeon Holly's lips parted, but they closed again with no words
said. The man turned then, with a curiously baffled look, and
stalked down the stairs.
On the porch long minutes later, when once more David had gone to
bed, Simeon Holly said coldly to his wife:--
"I suppose you realize, Ellen, just what you've pledged yourself
to, by that absurd outburst of yours in the barn to-night--and
all because that ungodly music and the moonshine had gone to your
"But I want the boy, Simeon. He--he makes me think of--John."
Harsh lines came to the man's mouth, but there was a perceptible
shake in his voice as he answered:--
"We're not talking of John, Ellen. We're talking of this
irresponsible, hardly sane boy upstairs. He can work, I suppose,
if he's taught, and in that way he won't perhaps be a dead loss.
Still, he's another mouth to feed, and that counts now. There's
the note, you know,--it's due in August."
"But you say there's money--almost enough for it--in the bank."
Mrs. Holly's voice was anxiously apologetic.
"Yes, I know" vouchsafed the man. "But almost enough is not quite
"But there's time--more than two months. It isn't due till the
last of August, Simeon."
"I know, I know. Meanwhile, there's the boy. What are you going
to do with him?"
"Why, can't you use him--on the farm--a little?"
"Perhaps. I doubt it, though," gloomed the man. "One can't hoe
corn nor pull weeds with a fiddle-bow--and that's all he seems to
know how to handle."
"But he can learn--and he does play beautifully," murmured the
woman; whenever before had Ellen Holly ventured to use words of
argument with her husband, and in extenuation, too, of an act of
her own!
There was no reply except a muttered "Humph!" under the breath.
Then Simeon Holly rose and stalked into the house.
The next day was Sunday, and Sunday at the farmhouse was a thing
of stern repression and solemn silence. In Simeon Holly's veins
ran the blood of the Puritans, and he was more than strict as to
what he considered right and wrong. When half-trained for the
ministry, ill-health had forced him to resort to a less confining
life, though never had it taken from him the uncompromising rigor
of his views. It was a distinct shock to him, therefore, on this
Sunday morning to be awakened by a peal of music such as the
little house had never known before. All the while that he was
thrusting his indignant self into his clothing, the runs and
turns and crashing chords whirled about him until it seemed that
a whole orchestra must be imprisoned in the little room over the
kitchen, so skillful was the boy's double stopping. Simeon Holly
was white with anger when he finally hurried down the hall and
threw open David's bedroom door.
"Boy, what do you mean by this?" he demanded.
David laughed gleefully.
"And didn't you know?" he asked. "Why, I thought my music would
tell you. I was so happy, so glad! The birds in the trees woke me
up singing, 'You're wanted--you're wanted;' and the sun came
over the hill there and said, 'You're wanted--you're wanted;' and
the little tree-branch tapped on my window pane and said "You're
wanted--you're wanted!' And I just had to take up my violin and
tell you about it!"
"But it's Sunday--the Lord's Day," remonstrated the man sternly.
David stood motionless, his eyes questioning.
"Are you quite a heathen, then?" catechised the man sharply.
"Have they never told you anything about God, boy?"
"Oh, 'God'?--of course," smiled David, in open relief. "God wraps
up the buds in their little brown blankets, and covers the roots
"I am not talking about brown blankets nor roots," interrupted
the man severely. "This is God's day, and as such should be kept
" 'Holy'?"
"Yes. You should not fiddle nor laugh nor sing."
"But those are good things, and beautiful things," defended
David, his eyes wide and puzzled.
"In their place, perhaps," conceded the man, stiffly. "but not on
God's day."
"You mean--He wouldn't like them?"
"Oh!"--and David's face cleared. "That's all right, then. Your
God isn't the same one, sir, for mine loves all beautiful things
every day in the year."
There was a moment's silence. For the first time in his life
Simeon Holly found himself without words.
"We won't talk of this any more, David," he said at last; "but
we'll put it another way--I don't wish you to play your fiddle on
Sunday. Now, put it up till to-morrow." And he turned and went
down the hall.
Breakfast was a very quiet meal that morning. Meals were never
things of hilarious joy at the Holly farmhouse, as David had
already found out; but he had not seen one before quite so somber
as this. It was followed immediately by a half-hour of
Scripture-reading and prayer, with Mrs. Holly and Perry Larson
sitting very stiff and solemn in their chairs, while Mr. Holly
read. David tried to sit very stiff and solemn in his chair,
also; but the roses at the window were nodding their heads and
beckoning; and the birds in the bushes beyond were sending to him
coaxing little chirps of "Come out, come out!" And how could one
expect to sit stiff and solemn in the face of all that,
particularly when one's fingers were tingling to take up the
interrupted song of the morning and tell the whole world how
beautiful it was to be wanted!
Yet David sat very still,--or as still as he could sit,--and only
the tapping of his foot, and the roving of his wistful eyes told
that his mind was not with Farmer Holly and the Children of
Israel in their wanderings in the wilderness.
After the devotions came an hour of subdued haste and confusion
while the family prepared for church. David had never been to
church. He asked Perry Larson what it was like; but Perry only
shrugged his shoulders and said, to nobody, apparently:--"
Sugar! Won't ye hear that, now?"--which to David was certainly no
answer at all.
That one must be spick and span to go to church, David soon found
out--never before had he been so scrubbed and brushed and combed.
There was, too, brought out for him to wear a little clean white
blouse and a red tie, over which Mrs. Holly cried a little as she
had over the nightshirt that first evening.
The church was in the village only a quarter of a mile away; and
in due time David, open-eyed and interested, was following Mr.
and Mrs. Holly down its long center aisle. The Hollys were early
as usual, and service had not begun. Even the organist had not
taken his seat beneath the great pipes of blue and gold that
towered to the ceiling.
It was the pride of the town--that organ. It had been given by a
great man (out in the world) whose birthplace the town was. More
than that, a yearly donation from this same great man paid for
the skilled organist who came every Sunday from the city to play
it. To-day, as the organist took his seat, he noticed a new face
in the Holly pew, and he almost gave a friendly smile as he met
the wondering gaze of the small boy there; then he lost himself,
as usual, in the music before him.
Down in the Holly pew the small boy held his breath. A score of
violins were singing in his ears; and a score of other
instruments that he could not name, crashed over his head, and
brought him to his feet in ecstasy. Before a detaining hand
could stop him, he was out in the aisle, his eyes on the
blue-and-gold pipes from which seemed to come those wondrous
sounds. Then his gaze fell on the man and on the banks of keys;
and with soft steps he crept along the aisle and up the stairs to
the organ-loft.
For long minutes he stood motionless, listening; then the music
died into silence and the minister rose for the invocation. It
was a boy's voice, and not a man's, however, that broke the
"Oh, sir, please," it said, "would you--could you teach ME to do
The organist choked over a cough, and the soprano reached out and
drew David to her side, whispering something in his ear. The
minister, after a dazed silence, bowed his head; while down in
the Holly pew an angry man and a sorely mortified woman vowed
that, before David came to church again, he should have learned
some things.
With the coming of Monday arrived a new life for David--a curious
life full of "don'ts" and "dos." David wondered sometimes why all
the pleasant things were "don'ts" and all the unpleasant ones
"dos." Corn to be hoed, weeds to be pulled, woodboxes to be
filled; with all these it was "do this, do this, do this." But
when it came to lying under the apple trees, exploring the brook
that ran by the field, or even watching the bugs and worms that
one found in the earth--all these were "don'ts."
As to Farmer Holly--Farmer Holly himself awoke to some new
experiences that Monday morning. One of them was the difficulty
in successfully combating the cheerfully expressed opinion that
weeds were so pretty growing that it was a pity to pull them up
and let them all wither and die. Another was the equally great
difficulty of keeping a small boy at useful labor of any sort in
the face of the attractions displayed by a passing cloud, a
blossoming shrub, or a bird singing on a tree-branch.
In spite of all this, however, David so evidently did his best to
carry out the "dos" and avoid the "don'ts," that at four o'clock
that first Monday he won from the stern but would-be-just Farmer
Holly his freedom for the rest of the day; and very gayly he set
off for a walk. He went without his violin, as there was the
smell of rain in the air; but his face and his step and the very
swing of his arms were singing (to David) the joyous song of the
morning before. Even yet, in spite of the vicissitudes of the
day's work, the whole world, to David's homesick, lonely little
heart, was still caroling that blessed "You're wanted, you're
wanted, you're wanted!"
And then he saw the crow.
David knew crows. In his home on the mountain he had had several
of them for friends. He had learned to know and answer their
calls. He had learned to admire their wisdom and to respect their
moods and tempers. He loved to watch them. Especially he loved to
see the great birds cut through the air with a wide sweep of
wings, so alive, so gloriously free!
But this crow--
This crow was not cutting through the air with a wide sweep of
wing. It was in the middle of a cornfield, and it was rising and
falling and flopping about in a most extraordinary fashion. Very
soon David, running toward it, saw why. By a long leather strip
it was fastened securely to a stake in the ground.
"Oh, oh, oh!" exclaimed David, in sympathetic consternation.
"Here, you just wait a minute. I'll fix it."
With confident celerity David whipped out his jackknife to cut
the thong; but he found then that to "fix it" and to say he would
"fix it" were two different matters.
The crow did not seem to recognize in David a friend. He saw in
him, apparently, but another of the stone-throwing, gun-shooting,
torturing humans who were responsible for his present hateful
captivity. With beak and claw and wing, therefore, he fought this
new evil that had come presumedly to torment; and not until David
had hit upon the expedient of taking off his blouse, and throwing
it over the angry bird, could the boy get near enough to
accomplish his purpose. Even then David had to leave upon the
slender leg a twist of leather.
A moment later, with a whir of wings and a frightened squawk that
quickly turned into a surprised caw of triumphant rejoicing, the
crow soared into the air and made straight for a distant
tree-top. David, after a minute's glad surveying of his work,
donned his blouse again and resumed his walk.
It was almost six o'clock when David got back to the Holly
farmhouse. In the barn doorway sat Perry Larson.
"Well, sonny," the man greeted him cheerily, "did ye get yer
weedin' done?"
"Y--yes," hesitated David. "I got it done; but I didn't like
" 'T is kinder hot work."
"Oh, I didn't mind that part," returned David. "What I didn't
like was pulling up all those pretty little plants and letting
them die."
"Weeds--'pretty little plants'!" ejaculated the man. "Well, I'll
be jiggered!"
"But they WERE pretty," defended David, reading aright the scorn
in Perry Larson's voice. "The very prettiest and biggest there
were, always. Mr. Holly showed me, you know,--and I had to pull
them up."
"Well, I'll be jiggered!" muttered Perry Larson again.
"But I've been to walk since. I feel better now."
"Oh, ye do!"
"Oh, yes. I had a splendid walk. I went 'way up in the woods on
the hill there. I was singing all the time--inside, you know. I
was so glad Mrs. Holly--wanted me. You know what it is, when you
sing inside."
Perry Larson scratched his head.
"Well, no, sonny, I can't really say I do," he retorted. "I ain't
much on singin'."
"Oh, but I don't mean aloud. I mean inside. When you're happy,
you know."
"When I'm--oh!" The man stopped and stared, his mouth falling
open. Suddenly his face changed, and he grinned appreciatively.
"Well, if you ain't the beat 'em, boy! 'T is kinder like
singin'--the way ye feel inside, when yer 'specially happy, ain't
it? But I never thought of it before."
"Oh, yes. Why, that's where I get my songs--inside of me, you
know--that I play on my violin. And I made a crow sing, too. Only
HE sang outside."
"SING--A CROW!" scoffed the man." Shucks! It'll take more 'n you
ter make me think a crow can sing, my lad."
"But they do, when they're happy," maintained the boy. "Anyhow,
it doesn't sound the same as it does when they're cross, or
plagued over something. You ought to have heard this one to-day.
He sang. He was so glad to get away. I let him loose, you see."
"You mean, you CAUGHT a crow up there in them woods?" The man's
voice was skeptical.
"Oh, no, I didn't catch it. But somebody had, and tied him up.
And he was so unhappy!"
"A crow tied up in the woods!"
"Oh, I didn't find THAT in the woods. It was before I went up
the hill at all."
"A crow tied up--Look a-here, boy, what are you talkin' about?
Where was that crow?" Perry Larson's whole self had become
suddenly alert.
"In the field 'Way over there. And somebody--"
"The cornfield! Jingo! Boy, you don't mean you touched THAT
"Well, he wouldn't let me TOUCH him," half-apologized David. "He
was so afraid, you see. Why, I had to put my blouse over his head
before he'd let me cut him loose at all."
"Cut him loose!" Perry Larson sprang to his feet. "You did
n't--you DIDn't let that crow go!"
David shrank back.
"Why, yes; he WANTED to go. He--" But the man before him had
fallen back despairingly to his old position.
"Well, sir, you've done it now. What the boss'll say, I don't
know; but I know what I'd like ter say to ye. I was a whole week,
off an' on, gettin' hold of that crow, an' I wouldn't have got
him at all if I hadn't hid half the night an' all the mornin' in
that clump o' bushes, watchin' a chance ter wing him, jest enough
an' not too much. An' even then the job wa'n't done. Let me tell
yer, 't wa'n't no small thing ter get him hitched. I'm wearin'
the marks of the rascal's beak yet. An' now you've gone an' let
him go--just like that," he finished, snapping his fingers
In David's face there was no contrition. There was only
incredulous horror.
"You mean, YOU tied him there, on purpose?"
"Sure I did!"
"But he didn't like it. Couldn't you see he didn't like it?"
cried David.
"Like it! What if he didn't? I didn't like ter have my corn
pulled up, either. See here, sonny, you no need ter look at me in
that tone o' voice. I didn't hurt the varmint none ter speak
of--ye see he could fly, didn't ye?--an' he wa'n't starvin'. I
saw to it that he had enough ter eat an' a dish o' water handy.
An' if he didn't flop an' pull an' try ter get away he needn't
'a' hurt hisself never. I ain't ter blame for what pullin' he
"But wouldn't you pull if you had two big wings that could carry
you to the top of that big tree there, and away up, up in the
sky, where you could talk to the stars?--wouldn't you pull if
somebody a hundred times bigger'n you came along and tied your
leg to that post there?"
The man, Perry, flushed an angry red.
"See here, sonny, I wa'n't askin' you ter do no preachin'. What I
did ain't no more'n any man 'round here does--if he's smart
enough ter catch one. Rigged-up broomsticks ain't in it with a
live bird when it comes ter drivin' away them pesky, thievin'
crows. There ain't a farmer 'round here that hain't been green
with envy, ever since I caught the critter. An' now ter have you
come along an' with one flip o'yer knife spile it all, I--Well,
it jest makes me mad, clean through! That's all."
"You mean, you tied him there to frighten away the other crows?"
"Sure! There ain't nothin' like it."
"Oh, I'm so sorry!"
"Well, you'd better be. But that won't bring back my crow!"
David's face brightened.
"No, that's so, isn't it? I'm glad of that. I was thinking of
the crows, you see. I'm so sorry for them! Only think how we'd
hate to be tied like that--" But Perry Larson, with a stare and
an indignant snort, had got to his feet, and was rapidly walking
toward the house.
Very plainly, that evening, David was in disgrace, and it took
all of Mrs. Holly's tact and patience, and some private pleading,
to keep a general explosion from wrecking all chances of his
staying longer at the farmhouse. Even as it was, David was
sorrowfully aware that he was proving to be a great
disappointment so soon, and his violin playing that evening
carried a moaning plaintiveness that would have been very
significant to one who knew David well.
Very faithfully, the next day, the boy tried to carry out all the
"dos," and though he did not always succeed, yet his efforts were
so obvious, that even the indignant owner of the liberated crow
was somewhat mollified; and again Simeon Holly released David
from work at four o'clock.
Alas, for David's peace of mind, however; for on his walk to-day,
though he found no captive crow to demand his sympathy, he found
something else quite as heartrending, and as incomprehensible.
It was on the edge of the woods that he came upon two boys, each
carrying a rifle, a dead squirrel, and a dead rabbit. The
threatened rain of the day before had not materialized, and David
had his violin. He had been playing softly when he came upon the
boys where the path entered the woods.
"Oh!" At sight of the boys and their burden David gave an
involuntary cry, and stopped playing.
The boys, scarcely less surprised at sight of David and his
violin, paused and stared frankly.
"It's the tramp kid with his fiddle," whispered one to the other
David, his grieved eyes on the motionless little bodies in the
boys' hands, shuddered.
"Are they--dead, too?"
The bigger boy nodded self-importantly.
"Sure. We just shot 'em--the squirrels. Ben here trapped the
rabbits." He paused, manifestly waiting for the proper awed
admiration to come into David's face.
But in David's startled eyes there was no awed admiration, there
was only disbelieving horror.
"You mean, you SENT them to the far country?"
"Sent them. Made them go yourselves--to the far country?"
The younger boy still stared. The older one grinned disagreeably.
"Sure," he answered with laconic indifference. "We sent 'em to
the far country, all right."
"But--how did you know they WANTED to go?"
"Wanted--Eh?" exploded the big boy. Then he grinned again, still
more disagreeably. "Well, you see, my dear, we didn't ask 'em,"
he gibed.
Real distress came into David's face.
"Then you don't know at all. And maybe they DIDn't want to go.
And if they didn't, how COULD they go singing, as father said?
Father wasn't sent. He WENT. And he went singing. He said he
did. But these--How would YOU like to have somebody come along
and send YOU to the far country, without even knowing if you
wanted to go?"
There was no answer. The boys, with a growing fear in their eyes,
as at sight of something inexplicable and uncanny, were sidling
away; and in a moment they were hurrying down the hill, not,
however, without a backward glance or two, of something very like
David, left alone, went on his way with troubled eyes and a
thoughtful frown.
David often wore, during those first few days at the Holly
farmhouse, a thoughtful face and a troubled frown. There were so
many, many things that were different from his mountain home.
Over and over, as those first long days passed, he read his
letter until he knew it by heart--and he had need to. Was he not
already surrounded by things and people that were strange to him?
And they were so very strange--these people! There were the boys
and men who rose at dawn--yet never paused to watch the sun flood
the world with light; who stayed in the fields all day--yet never
raised their eyes to the big fleecy clouds overhead; who knew
birds only as thieves after fruit and grain, and squirrels and
rabbits only as creatures to be trapped or shot. The women--they
were even more incomprehensible. They spent the long hours behind
screened doors and windows, washing the same dishes and sweeping
the same floors day after day. They, too, never raised their eyes
to the blue sky outside, nor even to the crimson roses that
peeped in at the window. They seemed rather to be looking always
for dirt, yet not pleased when they found it--especially if it
had been tracked in on the heel of a small boy's shoe!
More extraordinary than all this to David, however, was the fact
that these people regarded HIM, not themselves, as being strange.
As if it were not the most natural thing in the world to live
with one's father in one's home on the mountain-top, and spend
one's days trailing through the forest paths, or lying with a
book beside some babbling little stream! As if it were not
equally natural to take one's violin with one at times, and learn
to catch upon the quivering strings the whisper of the winds
through the trees! Even in winter, when the clouds themselves
came down from the sky and covered the earth with their soft
whiteness,--even then the forest was beautiful; and the song of
the brook under its icy coat carried a charm and mystery that
were quite wanting in the chattering freedom of summer. Surely
there was nothing strange in all this, and yet these people
seemed to think there was!
Day by day, however, as time passed, David diligently tried to
perform the "dos" and avoid the "don'ts"; and day by day he came
to realize how important weeds and woodboxes were, if he were to
conform to what was evidently Farmer Holly's idea of "playing in,
tune" in this strange new Orchestra of Life in which he found
But, try as he would, there was yet an unreality about it all, a
persistent feeling of uselessness and waste, that would not be
set aside. So that, after all, the only part of this strange new
life of his that seemed real to him was the time that came after
four o'clock each day, when he was released from work.
And how full he filled those hours! There was so much to see, so
much to do. For sunny days there were field and stream and
pasture land and the whole wide town to explore. For rainy days,
if he did not care to go to walk, there was his room with the
books in the chimney cupboard. Some of them David had read
before, but many of them he had not. One or two were old friends;
but not so "Dare Devil Dick," and "The Pirates of Pigeon Cove"
(which he found hidden in an obscure corner behind a loose
board). Side by side stood "The Lady of the Lake," "Treasure
Island," and "David Copperfield"; and coverless and dogeared lay
"Robinson Crusoe," "The Arabian Nights," and "Grimm's Fairy
Tales." There were more, many more, and David devoured them all
with eager eyes. The good in them he absorbed as he absorbed the
sunshine; the evil he cast aside unconsciously--it rolled off,
indeed, like the proverbial water from the duck's back.
David hardly knew sometimes which he liked the better, his
imaginative adventures between the covers of his books or his
real adventures in his daily strolls. True, it was not his
mountain home--this place in which he found himself; neither was
there anywhere his Silver Lake with its far, far-reaching sky
above. More deplorable yet, nowhere was there the dear father he
loved so well. But the sun still set in rose and gold, and the
sky, though small, still carried the snowy sails of its
cloud-boats; while as to his father--his father had told him not
to grieve, and David was trying very hard to obey.
With his violin for company David started out each day, unless he
elected to stay indoors with his books. Sometimes it was toward
the village that he turned his steps; sometimes it was toward the
hills back of the town. Whichever way it was, there was always
sure to be something waiting at the end for him and his violin to
discover, if it was nothing more than a big white rose in bloom,
or a squirrel sitting by the roadside.
Very soon, however, David discovered that there was something to
be found in his wanderings besides squirrels and roses; and that
was--people. In spite of the strangeness of these people, they
were wonderfully interesting, David thought. And after that he
turned his steps more and more frequently toward the village when
four o'clock released him from the day's work.
At first David did not talk much to these people. He shrank
sensitively from their bold stares and unpleasantly audible
comments. He watched them with round eyes of wonder and interest,
however,--when he did not think they were watching him. And in
time he came to know not a little about them and about the
strange ways in which they passed their time.
There was the greenhouse man. It would be pleasant to spend one's
day growing plants and flowers--but not under that hot, stifling
glass roof, decided David. Besides, he would not want always to
pick and send away the very prettiest ones to the city every
morning, as the greenhouse man did.
There was the doctor who rode all day long behind the gray mare,
making sick folks well. David liked him, and mentally vowed that
he himself would be a doctor sometime. Still, there was the
stage-driver--David was not sure but he would prefer to follow
this man's profession for a life-work; for in his, one could
still have the freedom of long days in the open, and yet not be
saddened by the sight of the sick before they had been made
well--which was where the stage-driver had the better of the
doctor, in David's opinion. There were the blacksmith and the
storekeepers, too, but to these David gave little thought or
Though he might not know what he did want to do, he knew very
well what he did not. All of which merely goes to prove that
David was still on the lookout for that great work which his
father had said was waiting for him out in the world.
Meanwhile David played his violin. If he found a crimson rambler
in bloom in a door-yard, he put it into a little melody of pure
delight--that a woman in the house behind the rambler heard the
music and was cheered at her task, David did not know. If he
found a kitten at play in the sunshine, he put it into a riotous
abandonment of tumbling turns and trills--that a fretful baby
heard and stopped its wailing, David also did not know. And once,
just because the sky was blue and the air was sweet, and it was
so good to be alive, David lifted his bow and put it all into a
rapturous paean of ringing exultation--that a sick man in a
darkened chamber above the street lifted his head, drew in his
breath, and took suddenly a new lease of life, David still again
did not know. All of which merely goes to prove that David had
perhaps found his work and was doing it--although yet still again
David did not know.
It was in the cemetery one afternoon that David came upon the
Lady in Black. She was on her knees putting flowers on a little
mound before her. She looked up as David approached. For a moment
she gazed wistfully at him; then as if impelled by a hidden
force, she spoke.
"Little boy, who are you?"
"I'm David."
"David! David who? Do you live here? I've seen you here before."
"Oh, yes, I've been here quite a lot of times." Purposely the boy
evaded the questions. David was getting tired of
questions--especially these questions.
"And have you--lost one dear to you, little boy?"
"Lost some one?"
"I mean--is your father or mother--here?"
"Here? Oh, no, they aren't here. My mother is an angel-mother,
and my father has gone to the far country. He is waiting for me
there, you know."
"But, that's the same--that is--" She stopped helplessly,
bewildered eyes on David's serene face. Then suddenly a great
light came to her own. "Oh, little boy, I wish I could understand
that--just that," she breathed. "It would make it so much
easier--if I could just remember that they aren't here--that
they're WAITING--over there!"
But David apparently did not hear. He had turned and was playing
softly as he walked away. Silently the Lady in Black knelt,
listening, looking after him. When she rose some time later and
left the cemetery, the light on her face was still there, deeper,
more glorified.
Toward boys and girls--especially boys--of his own age, David
frequently turned wistful eyes. David wanted a friend, a friend
who would know and understand; a friend who would see things as
he saw them, who would understand what he was saying when he
played. It seemed to David that in some boy of his own age he
ought to find such a friend. He had seen many boys--but he had
not yet found the friend. David had begun to think, indeed, that
of all these strange beings in this new life of his, boys were
the strangest.
They stared and nudged each other unpleasantly when they came
upon him playing. They jeered when he tried to tell them what he
had been playing. They had never heard of the great Orchestra of
Life, and they fell into most disconcerting fits of laughter, or
else backed away as if afraid, when he told them that they
themselves were instruments in it, and that if they did not keep
themselves in tune, there was sure to be a discord somewhere.
Then there were their games and frolics. Such as were played with
balls, bats, and bags of beans, David thought he would like very
much. But the boys only scoffed when he asked them to teach him
how to play. They laughed when a dog chased a cat, and they
thought it very, very funny when Tony, the old black man, tripped
on the string they drew across his path. They liked to throw
stones and shoot guns, and the more creeping, crawling, or flying
creatures that they could send to the far country, the happier
they were, apparently. Nor did they like it at all when he asked
them if they were sure all these creeping, crawling, flying
creatures wanted to leave this beautiful world and to be made
dead. They sneered and called him a sissy. David did not know
what a sissy was; but from the way they said it, he judged it
must be even worse to be a sissy than to be a thief.
And then he discovered Joe.
David had found himself in a very strange, very unlovely
neighborhood that afternoon. The street was full of papers and
tin cans, the houses were unspeakably forlorn with sagging blinds
and lack of paint. Untidy women and blear-eyed men leaned over
the dilapidated fences, or lolled on mud-tracked doorsteps.
David, his shrinking eyes turning from one side to the other,
passed slowly through the street, his violin under his arm.
Nowhere could David find here the tiniest spot of beauty to
"play." He had reached quite the most forlorn little shanty on
the street when the promise in his father's letter occurred to
him. With a suddenly illumined face, he raised his violin to
position and plunged into a veritable whirl of trills and runs
and tripping melodies.
"If I didn't just entirely forget that I didn't NEED to SEE
anything beautiful to play," laughed David softly to himself.
"Why, it's already right here in my violin!"
David had passed the tumble-down shanty, and was hesitating where
two streets crossed, when he felt a light touch on his arm. He
turned to confront a small girl in a patched and faded calico
dress, obviously outgrown. Her eyes were wide and frightened. In
the middle of her outstretched dirty little palm was a copper
"If you please, Joe sent this--to you," she faltered.
"To me? What for?" David stopped playing and lowered his violin.
The little girl backed away perceptibly, though she still held
out the coin.
"He wanted you to stay and play some more. He said to tell you
he'd 'a' sent more money if he could. But he didn't have it. He
just had this cent."
David's eyes flew wide open.
"You mean he WANTS me to play? He likes it?" he asked joyfully.
"Yes. He said he knew 't wa'n't much--the cent. But he thought
maybe you'd play a LITTLE for it."
"Play? Of course I'll play" cried David. "Oh, no, I don't want
the money," he added, waving the again-proffered coin aside. "I
don't need money where I'm living now. Where is he--the one that
wanted me to play?" he finished eagerly.
"In there by the window. It's Joe. He's my brother." The little
girl, in spite of her evident satisfaction at the accomplishment
of her purpose, yet kept quite aloof from the boy. Nor did the
fact that he refused the money appear to bring her anything but
uneasy surprise.
In the window David saw a boy apparently about his own age, a boy
with sandy hair, pale cheeks, and wide-open, curiously intent
blue eyes.
"Is he coming? Did you get him? Will he play?" called the boy at
the window eagerly.
"Yes, I'm right here. I'm the one. Can't you see the violin?
Shall I play here or come in?" answered David, not one whit less
The small girl opened her lips as if to explain something; but
the boy in the window did not wait.
"Oh, come in. WILL you come in?" he cried unbelievingly. "And
will you just let me touch it--the fiddle? Come! You WILL come?
See, there isn't anybody home, only just Betty and me."
"Of course I will!" David fairly stumbled up the broken steps in
his impatience to reach the wide-open door. "Did you like
it--what I played? And did you know what I was playing? Did you
understand? Could you see the cloud-boats up in the sky, and my
Silver Lake down in the valley? And could you hear the birds, and
the winds in the trees, and the little brooks? Could you? Oh, did
you understand? I've so wanted to find some one that could! But I
wouldn't think that YOU--HERE--" With a gesture, and an
expression on his face that were unmistakable, David came to a
helpless pause.
"There, Joe, what'd I tell you," cried the little girl, in a
husky whisper, darting to her brother's side. "Oh, why did you
make me get him here? Everybody says he's crazy as a loon, and--"
But the boy reached out a quickly silencing hand. His face was
curiously alight, as if from an inward glow. His eyes, still
widely intent, were staring straight ahead.
"Stop, Betty, wait," he hushed her. "Maybe--I think I DO
understand. Boy, you mean--INSIDE of you, you see those things,
and then you try to make your fiddle tell what you are seeing. Is
that it?"
"Yes, yes," cried David. "Oh, you DO understand. And I never
thought you could. I never thought that anybody could that did
n't have anything to look at but him--but these things."
" 'Anything but these to look at'!" echoed the boy, with a sudden
anguish in his voice. "Anything but these! I guess if I could see
ANYTHING, I wouldn't mind WHAT I see! An' you wouldn't,
neither, if you was--blind, like me."
"Blind!" David fell back. Face and voice were full of horror.
"You mean you can't see--anything, with your eyes?"
"Oh! I never saw any one blind before. There was one in a
book--but father took it away. Since then, in books down here,
I've found others--but--"
"Yes, yes. Well, never mind that," cut in the blind boy, growing
restive under the pity in the other's voice. "Play. Won't you?"
"But how are you EVER going to know what a beautiful world it
is?" shuddered David. "How can you know? And how can you ever
play in tune? You're one of the instruments. Father said
everybody was. And he said everybody was playing SOMETHING all
the time; and if you didn't play in tune--"
"Joe, Joe, please," begged the little girl "Won't you let him go?
I'm afraid. I told you--"
"Shucks, Betty! He won't hurt ye," laughed Joe, a little
irritably. Then to David he turned again with some sharpness.
"Play, won't ye? You SAID you'd play!"
"Yes, oh, yes, I'll play," faltered David, bringing his violin
hastily to position, and testing the strings with fingers that
shook a little.
"There!" breathed Joe, settling back in his chair with a
contented sigh. "Now, play it again--what you did before."
But David did not play what he did before--at first. There were
no airy cloud-boats, no far-reaching sky, no birds, or murmuring
forest brooks in his music this time. There were only the
poverty-stricken room, the dirty street, the boy alone at the
window, with his sightless eyes--the boy who never, never would
know what a beautiful world he lived in.
Then suddenly to David came a new thought. This boy, Joe, had
said before that he understood. He had seemed to know that he was
being told of the sunny skies and the forest winds, the singing
birds and the babbling brooks. Perhaps again now he would
What if, for those sightless eyes, one could create a world?
Possibly never before had David played as he played then. It was
as if upon those four quivering strings, he was laying the purple
and gold of a thousand sunsets, the rose and amber of a thousand
sunrises, the green of a boundless earth, the blue of a sky that
reached to heaven itself--to make Joe understand.
"Gee!" breathed Joe, when the music came to an end with a
crashing chord. "Say, wa'n't that just great? Won't you let me,
please, just touch that fiddle?" And David, looking into the
blind boy's exalted face, knew that Joe had indeed--understood.
It was a new world, indeed, that David created for Joe after
that--a world that had to do with entrancing music where once was
silence; delightful companionship where once was loneliness; and
toothsome cookies and doughnuts where once was hunger.
The Widow Glaspell, Joe's mother, worked out by the day,
scrubbing and washing; and Joe, perforce, was left to the
somewhat erratic and decidedly unskillful ministrations of Betty.
Betty was no worse, and no better, than any other untaught,
irresponsible twelve-year-old girl, and it was not to be
expected, perhaps, that she would care to spend all the bright
sunny hours shut up with her sorely afflicted and somewhat
fretful brother. True, at noon she never failed to appear and
prepare something that passed for a dinner for herself and Joe.
But the Glaspell larder was frequently almost as empty as were
the hungry stomachs that looked to it for refreshment; and it
would have taken a far more skillful cook than was the fly-away
Betty to evolve anything from it that was either palatable or
With the coming of David into Joe's life all this was changed.
First, there were the music and the companionship. Joe's father
had "played in the band" in his youth, and (according to the
Widow Glaspell) had been a "powerful hand for music." It was from
him, presumably, that Joe had inherited his passion for melody
and harmony; and it was no wonder that David recognized so soon
in the blind boy the spirit that made them kin. At the first
stroke of David's bow, indeed, the dingy walls about them would
crumble into nothingness, and together the two boys were off in a
fairy world of loveliness and joy.
Nor was listening always Joe's part. From "just touching" the
violin--his first longing plea--he came to drawing a timid bow
across the strings. In an incredibly short time, then, he was
picking out bits of melody; and by the end of a fortnight David
had brought his father's violin for Joe to practice on.
"I can't GIVE it to you--not for keeps," David had explained, a
bit tremulously, "because it was daddy's, you know; and when I
see it, it seems almost as if I was seeing him. But you may take
it. Then you can have it here to play on whenever you like."
After that, in Joe's own hands lay the power to transport himself
into another world, for with the violin for company he knew no
Nor was the violin all that David brought to the house. There
were the doughnuts and the cookies. Very early in his visits
David had discovered, much to his surprise, that Joe and Betty
were often hungry.
"But why don't you go down to the store and buy something?" he
had queried at once.
Upon being told that there was no money to buy with, David's
first impulse had been to bring several of the gold-pieces the
next time he came; but upon second thoughts David decided that he
did not dare. He was not wishing to be called a thief a second
time. It would be better, he concluded, to bring some food from
the house instead.
In his mountain home everything the house afforded in the way of
food had always been freely given to the few strangers that found
their way to the cabin door. So now David had no hesitation in
going to Mrs. Holly's pantry for supplies, upon the occasion of
his next visit to Joe Glaspell's.
Mrs. Holly, coming into the kitchen, found him merging from the
pantry with both hands full of cookies and doughnuts.
"Why, David, what in the world does this mean?" she demanded.
"They're for Joe and Betty," smiled David happily.
"For Joe and--But those doughnuts and cookies don't belong to
you. They're mine!"
"Yes, I know they are. I told them you had plenty," nodded David.
"Plenty! What if I have?" remonstrated Mrs. Holly, in growing
indignation. "That doesn't mean that you can take--" Something
in David's face stopped the words half-spoken.
"You don't mean that I CAN'T take them to Joe and Betty, do you?
Why, Mrs. Holly, they're hungry! Joe and Betty are. They don't
have half enough to eat. Betty said so. And we've got more than
we want. There's food left on the table every day. Why, if YOU
were hungry, wouldn't you want somebody to bring--"
But Mrs. Holly stopped him with a despairing gesture.
"There, there, never mind. Run along. Of course you can take
them. I'm--I'm GLAD to have you," she finished, in a desperate
attempt to drive from David's face that look of shocked
incredulity with which he was still regarding her.
Never again did Mrs. Holly attempt to thwart David's generosity
to the Glaspells; but she did try to regulate it. She saw to it
that thereafter, upon his visits to the house, he took only
certain things and a certain amount, and invariably things of her
own choosing.
But not always toward the Glaspell shanty did David turn his
steps. Very frequently it was in quite another direction. He had
been at the Holly farmhouse three weeks when he found his Lady of
the Roses.
He had passed quite through the village that day, and had come to
a road that was new to him. It was a beautiful road, smooth,
white, and firm. Two huge granite posts topped with flaming
nasturtiums marked the point where it turned off from the main
highway. Beyond these, as David soon found, it ran between
wide-spreading lawns and flowering shrubs, leading up the gentle
slope of a hill. Where it led to, David did not know, but he
proceeded unhesitatingly to try to find out. For some time he
climbed the slope in silence, his violin, mute, under his arm;
but the white road still lay in tantalizing mystery before him
when a by-path offered the greater temptation, and lured him to
explore its cool shadowy depths instead.
Had David but known it, he was at Sunny-crest, Hinsdale's one
"show place," the country home of its one really rich resident,
Miss Barbara Holbrook. Had he also but known it, Miss Holbrook
was not celebrated for her graciousness to any visitors,
certainly not to those who ventured to approach her otherwise
than by a conventional ring at her front doorbell. But David did
not know all this; and he therefore very happily followed the
shady path until he came to the Wonder at the end of it.
The Wonder, in Hinsdale parlance, was only Miss Holbrook's
garden, but in David's eyes it was fairyland come true. For one
whole minute he could only stand like a very ordinary little boy
and stare. At the end of the minute he became himself once more;
and being himself, he expressed his delight at once in the only
way he knew how to do--by raising his violin and beginning to
He had meant to tell of the limpid pool and of the arch of the
bridge it reflected; of the terraced lawns and marble steps, and
of the gleaming white of the sculptured nymphs and fauns; of the
splashes of glorious crimson, yellow, blush-pink, and snowy white
against the green, where the roses rioted in luxurious bloom. He
had meant, also, to tell of the Queen Rose of them all--the
beauteous lady with hair like the gold of sunrise, and a gown
like the shimmer of the moon on water--of all this he had meant
to tell; but he had scarcely begun to tell it at all when the
Beauteous Lady of the Roses sprang to her feet and became so very
much like an angry young woman who is seriously displeased that
David could only lower his violin in dismay.
"Why, boy, what does this mean?" she demanded.
David sighed a little impatiently as he came forward into the
"But I was just telling you," he remonstrated, "and you would not
let me finish."
"Telling me!"
"Yes, with my violin. COULDn't you understand?" appealed the boy
wistfully. "You looked as if you could!"
"Looked as if I could!"
"Yes. Joe understood, you see, and I was surprised when HE did.
But I was just sure you could--with all this to look at."
The lady frowned. Half-unconsciously she glanced about her as if
contemplating flight. Then she turned back to the boy.
"But how came you here? Who are you?" she cried.
"I'm David. I walked here through the little path back there. I
didn't know where it went to, but I'm so glad now I found out!"
"Oh, are you!" murmured the lady, with slightly uplifted brows.
She was about to tell him very coldly that now that he had found
his way there he might occupy himself in finding it home again,
when the boy interposed rapturously, his eyes sweeping the scene
before him:--
"Yes. I didn't suppose, anywhere, down here, there was a place
one half so beautiful!"
An odd feeling of uncanniness sent a swift exclamation to the
lady's lips.
" 'Down here'! What do you mean by that? You speak as if you came
from--above," she almost laughed.
"I did," returned David simply. "But even up there I never found
anything quite like this,"--with a sweep of his hands,--"nor like
you, O Lady of the Roses," he finished with an admiration that
was as open as it was ardent.
This time the lady laughed outright. She even blushed a little.
"Very prettily put, Sir Flatterer" she retorted; "but when you
are older, young man, you won't make your compliments quite so
broad. I am no Lady of the Roses. I am Miss Holbrook; and--and I
am not in the habit of receiving gentlemen callers who are
uninvited and--unannounced," she concluded, a little sharply.
Pointless the shaft fell at David's feet. He had turned again to
the beauties about him, and at that moment he spied the
sundial--something he had never seen before.
"What is it?" he cried eagerly, hurrying forward. "It isn 't
exactly pretty, and yet it looks as if 't were meant
"It is. It is a sundial. It marks the time by the sun."
Even as she spoke, Miss Holbrook wondered why she answered the
question at all; why she did not send this small piece of
nonchalant impertinence about his business, as he so richly
deserved. The next instant she found herself staring at the boy
in amazement. With unmistakable ease, and with the trained accent
of the scholar, he was reading aloud the Latin inscription on the
dial: " 'Horas non numero nisi serenas,' 'I count--no--hours
but--unclouded ones,' " he translated then, slowly, though with
confidence. "That's pretty; but what does it mean--about
Miss Holbrook rose to her feet.
"For Heaven's sake, boy, who, and what are you?" she demanded.
"Can YOU read Latin?"
"Why, of course! Can't you?" With a disdainful gesture Miss
Holbrook swept this aside.
"Boy, who are you?" she demanded again imperatively.
"I'm David. I told you."
"But David who? Where do you live?"
The boy's face clouded.
"I'm David--just David. I live at Farmer Holly's now; but I did
live on the mountain with--father, you know."
A great light of understanding broke over Miss Holbrook's face.
She dropped back into her seat.
"Oh, I remember," she murmured. "You're the little--er--boy whom
he took. I have heard the story. So THAT is who you are," she
added, the old look of aversion coming back to her eyes. She had
almost said "the little tramp boy"--but she had stopped in time.
"Yes. And now what do they mean, please,--those words,-- 'I count
no hours but unclouded ones'?"
Miss Holbrook stirred in her seat and frowned.
"Why, it means what it says, of course, boy. A sundial counts its
hours by the shadow the sun throws, and when there is no sun
there is no shadow; hence it's only the sunny hours that are
counted by the dial," she explained a little fretfully.
David's face radiated delight.
"Oh, but I like that!" he exclaimed.
"You like it!"
"Yes. I should like to be one myself, you know."
"Well, really! And how, pray?" In spite of herself a faint gleam
of interest came into Miss Holbrook's eyes.
David laughed and dropped himself easily to the ground at her
feet. He was holding his violin on his knees now.
"Why, it would be such fun," he chuckled, "to just forget all
about the hours when the sun didn't shine, and remember only the
nice, pleasant ones. Now for me, there wouldn't be any hours,
really, until after four o'clock, except little specks of minutes
that I'd get in between when I DID see something interesting."
Miss Holbrook stared frankly.
"What an extraordinary boy you are, to be sure," she murmured.
"And what, may I ask, is it that you do every day until four
o'clock, that you wish to forget? "
David sighed.
"Well, there are lots of things. I hoed potatoes and corn, first,
but they're too big now, mostly; and I pulled up weeds, too, till
they were gone. I've been picking up stones, lately, and clearing
up the yard. Then, of course, there's always the woodbox to fill,
and the eggs to hunt, besides the chickens to feed,--though I
don't mind THEM so much; but I do the other things, 'specially
the weeds. They were so much prettier than the things I had to
let grow, 'most always."
Miss Holbrook laughed.
"Well, they were; and really" persisted the boy, in answer to the
merriment in her eyes; "now wouldn't it be nice to be like the
sundial, and forget everything the sun didn't shine on? Would
n't you like it? Isn't there anything YOU want to forget?"
Miss Holbrook sobered instantly. The change in her face was so
very marked, indeed, that involuntarily David looked about for
something that might have cast upon it so great a shadow. For a
long minute she did not speak; then very slowly, very bitterly,
she said aloud--yet as if to herself:--
"Yes. If I had my way I'd forget them every one--these hours;
every single one!"
"Oh, Lady of the Roses!" expostulated David in a voice quivering
with shocked dismay. "You don't mean--you can't mean that you
don't have ANY--sun!"
"I mean just that," bowed Miss Holbrook wearily, her eyes on the
somber shadows of the pool; "just that!"
David sat stunned, confounded. Across the marble steps and the
terraces the shadows lengthened, and David watched them as the
sun dipped behind the tree-tops. They seemed to make more vivid
the chill and the gloom of the lady's words--more real the day
that had no sun. After a time the boy picked up his violin and
began to play, softly, and at first with evident hesitation. Even
when his touch became more confident, there was still in the
music a questioning appeal that seemed to find no answer--an
appeal that even the player himself could not have explained.
For long minutes the young woman and the boy sat thus in the
twilight. Then suddenly the woman got to her feet.
"Come, come, boy, what can I be thinking of?" she cried sharply.
"I must go in and you must go home. Good-night." And she swept
across the grass to the path that led toward the house.
David was tempted to go for a second visit to his Lady of the
Roses, but something he could not define held him back. The lady
was in his mind almost constantly, however; and very vivid to him
was the picture of the garden, though always it was as he had
seen it last with the hush and shadow of twilight, and with the
lady's face gloomily turned toward the sunless pool. David could
not forget that for her there were no hours to count; she had
said it herself. He could not understand how this could be so;
and the thought filled him with vague unrest and pain.
Perhaps it was this restlessness that drove David to explore even
more persistently the village itself, sending him into new
streets in search of something strange and interesting. One day
the sound of shouts and laughter drew him to an open lot back of
the church where some boys were at play.
David still knew very little of boys. In his mountain home he had
never had them for playmates, and he had not seen much of them
when he went with his father to the mountain village for
supplies. There had been, it is true, the boy who frequently
brought milk and eggs to the cabin; but he had been very quiet
and shy, appearing always afraid and anxious to get away, as if
he had been told not to stay. More recently, since David had been
at the Holly farmhouse, his experience with boys had been even
less satisfying. The boys--with the exception of blind Joe--had
very clearly let it be understood that they had little use for a
youth who could find nothing better to do than to tramp through
the woods and the streets with a fiddle under his arm.
To-day, however, there came a change. Perhaps they were more used
to him; or perhaps they had decided suddenly that it might be
good fun to satisfy their curiosity, anyway, regardless of
consequences. Whatever it was, the lads hailed his appearance
with wild shouts of glee.
"Golly, boys, look! Here's the fiddlin' kid," yelled one; and the
others joined in the "Hurrah!" he gave.
David smiled delightedly; once more he had found some one who
wanted him--and it was so nice to be wanted! Truth to tell, David
had felt not a little hurt at the persistent avoidance of all
those boys and girls of his own age.
"How--how do you do?" he said diffidently, but still with that
beaming smile.
Again the boys shouted gleefully as they hurried forward. Several
had short sticks in their hands. One had an old tomato can with a
string tied to it. The tallest boy had something that he was
trying to hold beneath his coat.
" 'H--how do you do?' " they mimicked. "How do you do, fiddlin'
"I'm David; my name is David." The reminder was graciously given,
with a smile.
"David! David! His name is David," chanted the boys, as if they
were a comic-opera chorus.
David laughed outright.
"Oh, sing it again, sing it again!" he crowed. "That sounded
The boys stared, then sniffed disdainfully, and cast derisive
glances into each other's eyes--it appeared that this little
sissy tramp boy did not even know enough to discover when he was
being laughed at!
"David! David! His name is David," they jeered into his face
again. "Come on, tune her up! We want ter dance."
"Play? Of course I'll play," cried David joyously, raising his
violin and testing a string for its tone.
"Here, hold on," yelled the tallest boy. "The Queen o' the Ballet
ain't ready". And he cautiously pulled from beneath his coat a
struggling kitten with a perforated bag tied over its head.
"Sure! We want her in the middle," grinned the boy with the tin
can. "Hold on till I get her train tied to her," he finished,
trying to capture the swishing, fluffy tail of the frightened
little cat.
David had begun to play, but he stopped his music with a
discordant stroke of the bow.
"What are you doing? What is the matter with that cat?" he
" 'Matter'!" called a derisive voice. "Sure, nothin' 's the
matter with her. She's the Queen o' the Ballet--she is!"
"What do you mean?" cried David. At that moment the string bit
hard into the captured tail, and the kitten cried out with the
pain. "Look out! You're hurting her," cautioned David sharply.
Only a laugh and a jeering word answered. Then the kitten, with
the bag on its head and the tin can tied to its tail, was let
warily to the ground, the tall boy still holding its back with
both hands.
"Ready, now! Come on, play," he ordered; "then we'll set her
David's eyes flashed.
"I will not play--for that."
The boys stopped laughing suddenly.
"Eh? What?" They could scarcely have been more surprised if the
kitten itself had said the words.
"I say I won't play--I can't play--unless you let that cat go."
"Hoity-toity! Won't ye hear that now?" laughed a mocking voice.
"And what if we say we won't let her go, eh?"
"Then I'll make you," vowed David, aflame with a newborn
something that seemed to have sprung full-grown into being.
"Yow!" hooted the tallest boy, removing both hands from the
captive kitten.
The kitten, released, began to back frantically. The can,
dangling at its heels, rattled and banged and thumped, until the
frightened little creature, crazed with terror, became nothing
but a whirling mass of misery. The boys, formed now into a
crowing circle of delight, kept the kitten within bounds, and
flouted David mercilessly.
"Ah, ha!--stop us, will ye? Why don't ye stop us?" they gibed.
For a moment David stood without movement, his eyes staring. The
next instant he turned and ran. The jeers became a chorus of
triumphant shouts then--but not for long. David had only hurried
to the woodpile to lay down his violin. He came back then, on the
run--and before the tallest boy could catch his breath he was
felled by a stinging blow on the jaw.
Over by the church a small girl, red-haired and red-eyed,
clambered hastily over the fence behind which for long minutes
she had been crying and wringing her hands.
"He'll be killed, he'll be killed," she moaned. "And it's my
fault, 'cause it's my kitty--it's my kitty," she sobbed,
straining her eyes to catch a glimpse of the kitten's protector
in the squirming mass of legs and arms.
The kitten, unheeded now by the boys, was pursuing its backward
whirl to destruction some distance away, and very soon the little
girl discovered her. With a bound and a choking cry she reached
the kitten, removed the bag and unbound the cruel string. Then,
sitting on the ground, a safe distance away, she soothed the
palpitating little bunch of gray fur, and watched with fearful
eyes the fight.
And what a fight it was! There was no question, of course, as to
its final outcome, with six against one; but meanwhile the one
was giving the six the surprise of their lives in the shape of
well-dealt blows and skillful twists and turns that caused their
own strength and weight to react upon themselves in a most
astonishing fashion. The one unmistakably was getting the worst
of it, however, when the little girl, after a hurried dash to the
street, brought back with her to the rescue a tall, smooth-shaven
young man whom she had hailed from afar as "Jack."
Jack put a stop to things at once. With vigorous jerks and pulls
he unsnarled the writhing mass, boy by boy, each one of whom,
upon catching sight of his face, slunk hurriedly away, as if glad
to escape so lightly. There was left finally upon the ground only
David alone. But when David did at last appear, the little girl
burst into tears anew.
"Oh, Jack, he's killed--I know he's killed," she wailed. "And he
was so nice and--and pretty. And now--look at him! Ain't he a
David was not killed, but he was--a sight. His blouse was torn,
his tie was gone, and his face and hands were covered with dirt
and blood. Above one eye was an ugly-looking lump, and below the
other was a red bruise. Somewhat dazedly he responded to the
man's helpful hand, pulled himself upright, and looked about him.
He did not see the little girl behind him.
"Where's the cat?" he asked anxiously.
The unexpected happened then. With a sobbing cry the little girl
flung herself upon him, cat and all.
"Here, right here," she choked. "And it was you who saved her--my
Juliette! And I'll love you, love you, love you always for it!"
"There, there, Jill," interposed the man a little hurriedly.
"Suppose we first show our gratitude by seeing if we can't do
something to make our young warrior here more comfortable." And
he began to brush off with his handkerchief some of the
accumulated dirt.
"Why can't we take him home, Jack, and clean him up 'fore other
folks see him?" suggested the girl.
The boy turned quickly.
"Did you call him 'Jack'?"
"And he called you, Jill'?"
"The real 'Jack and Jill' that 'went up the hill'?" The man and
the girl laughed; but the girl shook her head as she answered,--
"Not really--though we do go up a hill, all right, every day. But
those aren't even our own names. We just call each other that
for fun. Don't YOU ever call things--for fun?"
David's face lighted up in spite of the dirt, the lump, and the
"Oh, do you do that?" he breathed. "Say, I just know I'd like to
play to you! You'd understand!"
"Oh, yes, and he plays, too," explained the little girl, turning
to the man rapturously. "On a fiddle, you know, like you."
She had not finished her sentence before David was away, hurrying
a little unsteadily across the lot for his violin. When he came
back the man was looking at him with an anxious frown.
"Suppose you come home with us, boy," he said. "It isn't
far--through the hill pasture, 'cross lots,--and we'll look you
over a bit. That lump over your eye needs attention."
"Thank you," beamed David. "I'd like to go, and--I'm glad you
want me!" He spoke to the man, but he looked at the little
red-headed girl, who still held the gray kitten in her arms.
"Jack and Jill," it appeared, were a brother and sister who lived
in a tiny house on a hill directly across the creek from
Sunnycrest. Beyond this David learned little until after bumps
and bruises and dirt had been carefully attended to. He had then,
too, some questions to answer concerning himself.
"And now, if you please," began the man smilingly, as he surveyed
the boy with an eye that could see no further service to be
rendered, "do you mind telling me who you are, and how you came
to be the center of attraction for the blows and cuffs of six
"I'm David, and I wanted the cat," returned the boy simply.
"Well, that's direct and to the point, to say the least," laughed
the man. "Evidently, however, you're in the habit of being that.
But, David, there were six of them,--those boys,--and some of
them were larger than you."
"Yes, sir."
"And they were so bad and cruel," chimed in the little girl.
The man hesitated, then questioned slowly.
"And may I ask you where you--er--learned to--fight like that?"
"I used to box with father. He said I must first be well and
strong. He taught me jiujitsu, too, a little; but I couldn't
make it work very well--with so many"
"I should say not," adjudged the man grimly. "But you gave them a
surprise or two, I'll warrant," he added, his eyes on the cause
of the trouble, now curled in a little gray bunch of content on
the window sill. "But I don't know yet who you are. Who is your
father? Where does he live?"
David shook his head. As was always the case when his father was
mentioned, his face grew wistful and his eyes dreamy.
"He doesn't live here anywhere," murmured the boy. "In the far
country he is waiting for me to come to him and tell him of the
beautiful world I have found, you know."
"Eh? What?" stammered the man, not knowing whether to believe his
eyes, or his ears. This boy who fought like a demon and talked
like a saint, and who, though battered and bruised, prattled of
the "beautiful world" he had found, was most disconcerting.
"Why, Jack, don't you know?" whispered the little girl
agitatedly. "He's the boy at Mr. Holly's that they took." Then,
still more softly: "He's the little tramp boy. His father died in
the barn."
"Oh," said the man, his face clearing, and his eyes showing a
quick sympathy. "You're the boy at the Holly farmhouse, are you?"
"Yes, sir."
"And he plays the fiddle everywhere," volunteered the little
girl, with ardent admiration. "If you hadn't been shut up sick
just now, you'd have heard him yourself. He plays
everywhere--everywhere he goes."
"Is that so?" murmured Jack politely, shuddering a little at what
he fancied would come from a violin played by a boy like the one
before him. (Jack could play the violin himself a little--enough
to know it some, and love it more.) "Hm-m; well, and what else do
you do? "
"Nothing, except to go for walks and read."
"Nothing!--a big boy like you--and on Simeon Holly's farm?" Voice
and manner showed that Jack was not unacquainted with Simeon
Holly and his methods and opinions.
David laughed gleefully.
"Oh, of course, REALLY I do lots of things, only I don't count
those any more. 'Horas non numero nisi serenas,' you knew," he
quoted pleasantly, smiling into the man's astonished eyes.
"Jack, what was that--what he said?" whispered the little girl.
"It sounded foreign. IS he foreign?"
"You've got me, Jill," retorted the man, with a laughing
grimace. "Heaven only knows what he is--I don't. What he SAID was
Latin; I do happen to know that. Still"--he turned to the boy
ironically--"of course you know the translation of that," he
"Oh, yes. 'I count no hours but unclouded ones'--and I liked
that. 'T was on a sundial, you know; and I'M going to be a
sundial, and not count, the hours I don't like--while I'm pulling
up weeds, and hoeing potatoes, and picking up stones, and all
that. Don't you see?"
For a moment the man stared dumbly. Then he threw back his head
and laughed.
"Well, by George!" he muttered. "By George!" And he laughed
again. Then: "And did your father teach you that, too?" he asked.
"Oh, no,--well, he taught me Latin, and so of course I could read
it when I found it. But those 'special words I got off the
sundial where my Lady of the Roses lives."
"Your--Lady of the Roses! And who is she?"
"Why, don't you know? You live right in sight of her house,"
cried David, pointing to the towers of Sunnycrest that showed
above the trees. "It's over there she lives. I know those towers
now, and I look for them wherever I go. I love them. It makes me
see all over again the roses--and her."
"You mean--Miss Holbrook?"
The voice was so different from the genial tones that he had
heard before that David looked up in surprise.
"Yes; she said that was her name," he answered, wondering at the
indefinable change that had come to the man's face.
There was a moment's pause, then the man rose to his feet.
"How's your head? Does it ache?" he asked briskly.
"Not much--some. I--I think I'll be going," replied David, a
little awkwardly, reaching for his violin, and unconsciously
showing by his manner the sudden chill in the atmosphere.
The little girl spoke then. She overwhelmed him again with
thanks, and pointed to the contented kitten on the window sill.
True, she did not tell him this time that she would love, love,
love him always; but she beamed upon him gratefully and she urged
him to come soon again, and often.
David bowed himself off, with many a backward wave of the hand,
and many a promise to come again. Not until he had quite reached
the bottom of the hill did he remember that the man, "Jack," had
said almost nothing at the last. As David recollected him,
indeed, he had last been seen standing beside one of the veranda
posts, with gloomy eyes fixed on the towers of Sunnycrest that
showed red-gold above the tree-tops in the last rays of the
setting sun.
It was a bad half-hour that David spent at the Holly farmhouse in
explanation of his torn blouse and bruised face. Farmer Holly did
not approve of fights, and he said so, very sternly indeed. Even
Mrs. Holly, who was usually so kind to him, let David understand
that he was in deep disgrace, though she was very tender to his
David did venture to ask her, however, before he went upstairs to
"Mrs. Holly, who are those people--Jack and Jill--that were so
good to me this afternoon?"
"They are John Gurnsey and his sister, Julia; but the whole town
knows them by the names they long ago gave themselves, 'Jack' and
'Jill.' "
"And do they live all alone in the little house?"
"Yes, except for the Widow Glaspell, who comes in several times a
week, I believe, to cook and wash and sweep. They aren't very
happy, I'm afraid, David, and I'm glad you could rescue the
little girl's kitten for her--but you mustn't fight. No good can
come of fighting!"
"I got the cat--by fighting."
"Yes, yes, I know; but--" She did not finish her sentence, and
David was only waiting for a pause to ask another question.
"Why aren't they happy, Mrs. Holly?"
"Tut, tut, David, it's a long story, and you wouldn't understand
it if I told it. It's only that they're all alone in the world,
and Jack Gurnsey isn't well. He must be thirty years old now. He
had bright hopes not so long ago studying law, or something of
the sort, in the city. Then his father died, and his mother, and
he lost his health. Something ails his lungs, and the doctors
sent him here to be out of doors. He even sleeps out of doors,
they say. Anyway, he's here, and he's making a home for his
sister; but, of course, with his hopes and ambitions--But there,
David, you don't understand, of course!"
"Oh, yes, I do," breathed David, his eyes pensively turned toward
a shadowy corner. "He found his work out in the world, and then
he had to stop and couldn't do it. Poor Mr. Jack!"
Life at the Holly farmhouse was not what it had been. The coming
of David had introduced new elements that promised complications.
Not because he was another mouth to feed--Simeon Holly was not
worrying about that part any longer. Crops showed good promise,
and all ready in the bank even now was the necessary money to
cover the dreaded note, due the last of August. The complicating
elements in regard to David were of quite another nature.
To Simeon Holly the boy was a riddle to be sternly solved. To
Ellen Holly he was an everpresent reminder of the little boy of
long ago, and as such was to be loved and trained into a
semblance of what that boy might have become. To Perry Larson,
David was the "derndest checkerboard of sense an' nonsense
goin'"--a game over which to chuckle.
At the Holly farmhouse they could not understand a boy who would
leave a supper for a sunset, or who preferred a book to a toy
pistol--as Perry Larson found out was the case on the Fourth of
July; who picked flowers, like a girl, for the table, yet who
unhesitatingly struck the first blow in a fight with six
antagonists: who would not go fishing because the fishes would
not like it, nor hunting for any sort of wild thing that had
life; who hung entranced for an hour over the "millions of lovely
striped bugs" in a field of early potatoes, and who promptly and
stubbornly refused to sprinkle those same "lovely bugs" with
Paris green when discovered at his worship. All this was most
perplexing, to say the least.
Yet David worked, and worked well, and in most cases he obeyed
orders willingly. He learned much, too, that was interesting and
profitable; nor was he the only one that made strange discoveries
during those July days. The Hollys themselves learned much. They
learned that the rose of sunset and the gold of sunrise were
worth looking at; and that the massing of the thunderheads in the
west meant more than just a shower. They learned, too, that the
green of the hilltop and of the far-reaching meadow was more than
grass, and that the purple haze along the horizon was more than
the mountains that lay between them and the next State. They were
beginning to see the world with David's eyes.
There were, too, the long twilights and evenings when David, on
the wings of his violin, would speed away to his mountain home,
leaving behind him a man and a woman who seemed to themselves to
be listening to the voice of a curly-headed, rosy-cheeked lad who
once played at their knees and nestled in their arms when the day
was done. And here, too, the Hollys were learning; though the
thing thus learned was hidden deep in their hearts.
It was not long after David's first visit that the boy went again
to "The House that Jack Built," as the Gurnseys called their tiny
home. (Though in reality it had been Jack's father who had built
the house. Jack and Jill, however, did not always deal with
realities.) It was not a pleasant afternoon. There was a light
mist in the air, and David was without his violin.
"I came to--to inquire for the cat--Juliette," he began, a little
bashfully. "I thought I'd rather do that than read to-day," he
explained to Jill in the doorway.
"Good! I'm so glad! I hoped you'd come," the little girl welcomed
him. "Come in and--and see Juliette," she added hastily,
remembering at the last moment that her brother had not looked
with entire favor on her avowed admiration for this strange
little boy.
Juliette, roused from her nap, was at first inclined to resent
her visitor's presence. In five minutes, however, she was purring
in his lap.
The conquest of the kitten once accomplished, David looked about
him a little restlessly. He began to wonder why he had come. He
wished he had gone to see Joe Glaspell instead. He wished that
Jill would not sit and stare at him like that. He wished that she
would say something--anything. But Jill, apparently struck dumb
with embarrassment, was nervously twisting the corner of her
apron into a little knot. David tried to recollect what he had
talked about a few days before, and he wondered why he had so
enjoyed himself then. He wished that something would
happen--anything!--and then from an inner room came the sound of
a violin.
David raised his head.
"It's Jack," stammered the little girl--who also had been wishing
something would happen. "He plays, same as you do, on the
"Does he?" beamed David. "But--" He paused, listening, a quick
frown on his face.
Over and over the violin was playing a single phrase--and the
variations in the phrase showed the indecision of the fingers and
of the mind that controlled them. Again and again with irritating
sameness, yet with a still more irritating difference, came the
succession of notes. And then David sprang to his feet, placing
Juliette somewhat unceremoniously on the floor, much to that
petted young autocrat's disgust.
"Here, where is he? Let me show him," cried the boy, and at the
note of command in his voice, Jill involuntarily rose and opened
the door to Jack's den.
"Oh, please, Mr. Jack," burst out David, hurrying into the room.
"Don't you see? You don't go at that thing right. If you'll just
let me show you a minute, we'll have it fixed in no time!"
The man with the violin stared, and lowered his bow. A slow red
came to his face. The phrase was peculiarly a difficult one, and
beyond him, as he knew; but that did not make the present
intrusion into his privacy any the more welcome.
"Oh, will we, indeed!" he retorted, a little sharply. "Don't
trouble yourself, I beg of you, boy."
"But it isn't a mite of trouble, truly," urged David, with an
ardor that ignored the sarcasm in the other's words. "I WANT to
do it."
Despite his annoyance, the man gave a short laugh.
"Well, David, I believe you. And I'll warrant you'd tackle this
Brahms concerto as nonchalantly as you did those six hoodlums
with the cat the other day--and expect to win out, too!"
"But, truly, this is easy, when you know how," laughed the boy.
To his surprise, the man found himself relinquishing the violin
and bow into the slim, eager hands that reached for them. The
next moment he fell back in amazement. Clear, distinct, yet
connected like a string of rounded pearls fell the troublesome
notes from David's bow. "You see," smiled the boy again, and
played the phrase a second time, more slowly, and with deliberate
emphasis at the difficult part. Then, as if in answer to some
irresistible summons within him, he dashed into the next phrase
and, with marvelous technique, played quite through the rippling
cadenza that completed the movement.
"Well, by George!" breathed the man dazedly, as he took the
offered violin. The next moment he had demanded vehemently: "For
Heaven's sake, who ARE you, boy?"
David's face wrinkled in grieved surprise.
"Why, I'm David. Don't you remember? I was here just the other
"Yes, yes; but who taught you to play like that?"
" 'Father'!" The man echoed the word with a gesture of comic
despair. "First Latin, then jiujitsu, and now the violin! Boy,
who was your father?"
David lifted his head and frowned a little. He had been
questioned so often, and so unsympathetically, about his father
that he was beginning to resent it.
"He was daddy--just daddy; and I loved him dearly."
"But what was his name?"
"I don't know. We didn't seem to have a name like--like yours
down here. Anyway, if we did, I didn't know what it was."
"But, David,"--the man was speaking very gently now. He had
motioned the boy to a low seat by his side. The little girl was
standing near, her eyes alight with wondering interest. "He must
have had a name, you know, just the same. Didn't you ever hear
any one call him anything? Think, now."
"No." David said the single word, and turned his eyes away. It
had occurred to him, since he had come to live in the valley,
that perhaps his father did not want to have his name known. He
remembered that once the milk-and-eggs boy had asked what to call
him; and his father had laughed and answered: "I don't see but
you'll have to call me 'The Old Man of the Mountain,' as they do
down in the village." That was the only time David could
recollect hearing his father say anything about his name. At the
time David had not thought much about it. But since then, down
here where they appeared to think a name was so important, he had
wondered if possibly his father had not preferred to keep his to
himself. If such were the case, he was glad now that he did not
know this name, so that he might not have to tell all these
inquisitive people who asked so many questions about it. He was
glad, too, that those men had not been able to read his father's
name at the end of his other note that first morning--if his
father really did not wish his name to be known.
"But, David, think. Where you lived, wasn't there ever anybody
who called him by name?"
David shook his head.
"I told you. We were all alone, father and I, in the little house
far up on the mountain."
"And--your mother?" Again David shook his head.
"She is an angel-mother, and angel-mothers don't live in houses,
you know."
There was a moment's pause; then gently the man asked:--
"And you always lived there?"
"Six years, father said."
"And before that?"
"I don't remember." There was a touch of injured reserve in the
boy's voice which the man was quick to perceive. He took the hint
at once.
"He must have been a wonderful man--your father!" he exclaimed.
The boy turned, his eyes luminous with feeling.
"He was--he was perfect! But they--down here--don't seem to
know--or care," he choked.
"Oh, but that's because they don't understand," soothed the man.
"Now, tell me--you must have practiced a lot to play like that."
"I did--but I liked it."
"And what else did you do? and how did you happen to come--down
Once again David told his story, more fully, perhaps, this time
than ever before, because of the sympathetic ears that were
"But now" he finished wistfully, "it's all, so different, and I'm
down here alone. Daddy went, you know, to the far country; and he
can't come back from there."
"Who told you--that?"
"Daddy himself. He wrote it to me."
"Wrote it to you!" cried the man, sitting suddenly erect.
"Yes. It was in his pocket, you see. They--found it." David's
voice was very low, and not quite steady.
"David, may I see--that letter?"
The boy hesitated; then slowly he drew it from his pocket.
"Yes, Mr. Jack. I'll let YOU see it."
Reverently, tenderly, but very eagerly the man took the note and
read it through, hoping somewhere to find a name that would help
solve the mystery. With a sigh he handed it back. His eyes were
"Thank you, David. That is a beautiful letter," he said softly.
"And I believe you'll do it some day, too. You'll go to him with
your violin at your chin and the bow drawn across the strings to
tell him of the beautiful world you have found."
"Yes, sir," said David simply. Then, with a suddenly radiant
smile: "And NOW I can't help finding it a beautiful world, you
know, 'cause I don't count the hours I don't like."
"You don't what?--oh, I remember," returned Mr. Jack, a quick
change coming to his face.
"Yes, the sundial, you know, where my Lady of the Roses lives."
"Jack, what is a sundial?" broke in Jill eagerly.
Jack turned, as if in relief.
"Hullo, girlie, you there?--and so still all this time? Ask
David. He'll tell you what a sundial is. Suppose, anyhow, that
you two go out on the piazza now. I've got--er-some work to do.
And the sun itself is out; see?--through the trees there. It came
out just to say 'good-night,' I'm sure. Run along, quick!" And he
playfully drove them from the room.
Alone, he turned and sat down at his desk. His work was before
him, but he did not do it. His eyes were out of the window on the
golden tops of the towers of Sunnycrest. Motionless, he watched
them until they turned gray-white in the twilight. Then he picked
up his pencil and began to write feverishly. He went to the
window, however, as David stepped off the veranda, and called
"Remember, boy, that when there's another note that baffles me,
I'm going to send for you."
"He's coming anyhow. I asked him," announced Jill.
And David laughed back a happy "Of course I am!"
It is not to be expected that when one's thoughts lead so
persistently to a certain place, one's feet will not follow, if
they can; and David's could--so he went to seek his Lady of the
At four o'clock one afternoon, with his violin under his arm, he
traveled the firm white road until he came to the shadowed path
that led to the garden. He had decided that he would go exactly
as he went before. He expected, in consequence, to find his Lady
exactly as he had found her before, sitting reading under the
roses. Great was his surprise and disappointment, therefore, to
find the garden with no one in it.
He had told himself that it was the sundial, the roses, the
shimmering pool, the garden itself that he wanted to see; but he
knew now that it was the lady--his Lady of the Roses. He did not
even care to play, though all around him was the beauty that had
at first so charmed his eye. Very slowly he walked across the
sunlit, empty space, and entered the path that led to the house.
In his mind was no definite plan; yet he walked on and on, until
he came to the wide lawns surrounding the house itself. He
stopped then, entranced.
Stone upon stone the majestic pile raised itself until it was
etched, clean-cut, against the deep blue of the sky. The
towers--his towers--brought to David's lips a cry of delight.
They were even more enchanting here than when seen from afar over
the tree-tops, and David gazed up at them in awed wonder. From
somewhere came the sound of music--a curious sort of music that
David had never heard before. He listened intently, trying to
place it; then slowly he crossed the lawn, ascended the imposing
stone steps, and softly opened one of the narrow screen doors
before the wide-open French window.
Once within the room David drew a long breath of ecstasy. Beneath
his feet he felt the velvet softness of the green moss of the
woods. Above his head he saw a sky-like canopy of blue carrying
fleecy clouds on which floated little pink-and-white children
with wings, just as David himself had so often wished that he
could float. On all sides silken hangings, like the green of
swaying vines, half-hid other hangings of feathery, snowflake
lace. Everywhere mirrored walls caught the light and reflected
the potted ferns and palms so that David looked down endless
vistas of loveliness that seemed for all the world like the long
sunflecked aisles beneath the tall pines of his mountain home.
The music that David had heard at first had long since stopped;
but David had not noticed that. He stood now in the center of the
room, awed, and trembling, but enraptured. Then from somewhere
came a voice--a voice so cold that it sounded as if it had swept
across a field of ice.
"Well, boy, when you have quite finished your inspection, perhaps
you will tell me to what I am indebted for THIS visit," it said.
David turned abruptly.
"O Lady of the Roses, why didn't you tell me it was like
this--in here?" he breathed.
"Well, really," murmured the lady in the doorway, stiffly, "it
had not occurred to me that that was hardly--necessary."
"But it was!--don't you see? This is new, all new. I never saw
anything like it before; and I do so love new things. It gives me
something new to play; don't you understand?"
"New--to play?"
"Yes--on my violin," explained David, a little breathlessly,
softly testing his violin. "There's always something new in this,
you know," he hurried on, as he tightened one of the strings,
"when there's anything new outside. Now, listen! You see I don't
know myself just how it's going to sound, and I'm always so
anxious to find out." And with a joyously rapt face he began to
"But, see here, boy,--you mustn't! You--" The words died on her
lips; and, to her unbounded amazement, Miss Barbara Holbrook, who
had intended peremptorily to send this persistent little tramp
boy about his business, found herself listening to a melody so
compelling in its sonorous beauty that she was left almost
speechless at its close. It was the boy who spoke.
"There, I told you my violin would know what to say!"
" 'What to say'!--well, that's more than I do" laughed Miss
Holbrook, a little hysterically. "Boy, come here and tell me who
you are." And she led the way to a low divan that stood near a
harp at the far end of the room.
It was the same story, told as David had told it to Jack and Jill
a few days before, only this time David's eyes were roving
admiringly all about the room, resting oftenest on the harp so
near him.
"Did that make the music that I heard?" he asked eagerly, as soon
as Miss Holbrook's questions gave him opportunity. "It's got
"Yes. I was playing when you came in. I saw you enter the window.
Really, David, are you in the habit of walking into people's
houses like this? It is most disconcerting--to their owners."
"Yes--no--well, sometimes." David's eyes were still on the harp.
"Lady of the Roses, won't you please play again--on that?"
"David, you are incorrigible! Why did you come into my house like
"The music said 'come'; and the towers, too. You see, I KNOW the
"You KNOW them!"
"Yes. I can see them from so many places, and I always watch for
them. They show best of anywhere, though, from Jack and Jill's.
And now won't you play?"
Miss Holbrook had almost risen to her feet when she turned
"From--where?" she asked.
"From Jack and Jill's--the House that Jack Built, you know."
"You mean--Mr. John Gurnsey's house?" A deeper color had come
into Miss Holbrook's cheeks.
"Yes. Over there at the top of the little hill across the brook,
you know. You can't see THEIR house from here, but from over
there we can see the towers finely, and the little window--Oh,
Lady of the Roses," he broke off excitedly, at the new thought
that had come to him, "if we, now, were in that little window, we
COULD see their house. Let's go up. Can't we?"
Explicit as this was, Miss Holbrook evidently did not hear, or at
least did not understand, this request. She settled back on the
divan, indeed, almost determinedly. Her cheeks were very red now.
"And do you know--this Mr. Jack?" she asked lightly.
"Yes, and Jill, too. Don't you? I like them, too. DO you know
Again Miss Holbrook ignored the question put to her. "And did you
walk into their house, unannounced and uninvited, like this?" she
"No. He asked me. You see he wanted to get off some of the dirt
and blood before other folks saw me."
"The dirt and--and--why, David, what do you mean? What was
it--an accident?"
David frowned and reflected a moment.
"No. I did it on purpose. I HAD to, you see," he finally
elucidated. "But there were six of them, and I got the worst of
"David!" Miss Holbrook's voice was horrified. "You don't mean--a
"Yes'm. I wanted the cat--and I got it, but I wouldn't have if
Mr. Jack hadn't come to help me."
"Oh! So Mr. Jack--fought, too?"
"Well, he pulled the others off, and of course that helped me,"
explained David truthfully. "And then he took me home--he and
"Jill! Was she in it?"
"No, only her cat. They had tied a bag over its head and a tin
can to its tail, and of course I couldn't let them do that. They
were hurting her. And now, Lady of the Roses, won't you please
For a moment Miss Holbrook did not speak. She was gazing at David
with an odd look in her eyes. At last she drew a long sigh.
"David, you are the--the LIMIT!" she breathed, as she rose and
seated herself at the harp.
David was manifestly delighted with her playing, and begged for
more when she had finished; but Miss Holbrook shook her head. She
seemed to have grown suddenly restless, and she moved about the
room calling David's attention to something new each moment.
Then, very abruptly, she suggested that they go upstairs. From
room to room she hurried the boy, scarcely listening to his
ardent comments, or answering his still more ardent questions.
Not until they reached the highest tower room, indeed, did she
sink wearily into a chair, and seem for a moment at rest.
David looked about him in surprise. Even his untrained eye could
see that he had entered a different world. There were no
sumptuous rugs, no silken hangings; no mirrors, no snowflake
curtains. There were books, to be sure, but besides those there
were only a plain low table, a work-basket, and three or four
wooden-seated though comfortable chairs. With increasing wonder
he looked into Miss Holbrook's eyes.
"Is it here that you stay--all day?" he asked diffidently.
Miss Holbrook's face turned a vivid scarlet.
"Why, David, what a question! Of course not! Why should you think
I did?"
"Nothing; only I've been wondering all the time I've been here
how you could--with all those beautiful things around you
downstairs--say what you did."
"Say what?--when?"
"That other day in the garden--about ALL your hours being cloudy
ones. So I didn't know to-day but what you LIVED up here, same
as Mrs. Holly doesn't use her best rooms; and that was why your
hours were all cloudy ones."
With a sudden movement Miss Holbrook rose to her feet.
"Nonsense, David! You shouldn't always remember everything that
people say to you. Come, you haven't seen one of the views from
the windows yet. We are in the larger tower, you know. You can
see Hinsdale village on this side, and there's a fine view of the
mountains over there. Oh yes, and from the other side there's
your friend's house--Mr. Jack's. By the way, how is Mr. Jack
these days?" Miss Holbrook stooped as she asked the question and
picked up a bit of thread from the rug.
David ran at once to the window that looked toward the House that
Jack Built. From the tower the little house appeared to be
smaller than ever. It was in the shadow, too, and looked
strangely alone and forlorn. Unconsciously, as he gazed at it,
David compared it with the magnificence he had just seen. His
voice choked as he answered.
"He isn't well, Lady of the Roses, and he's unhappy. He's
awfully unhappy."
Miss Holbrook's slender figure came up with a jerk.
"What do you mean, boy? How do you know he's unhappy? Has he said
"No; but Mrs. Holly told me about him. He's sick; and he'd just
found his work to do out in the world when he had to stop and
come home. But--oh, quick, there he is! See?"
Instead of coming nearer Miss Holbrook fell back to the center of
the room; but her eyes were still turned toward the little house.
"Yes, I see," she murmured. The next instant she had snatched a
handkerchief from David's outstretched hand. "No--no--I wouldn't
wave," she remonstrated hurriedly. "Come--come downstairs with
"But I thought--I was sure he was looking this way," asserted
David, turning reluctantly from the window. "And if he HAD seen
me wave to him, he'd have been so glad; now, wouldn't he?"
There was no answer. The Lady of the Roses did not apparently
hear. She had gone on down the stairway.
David had so much to tell Jack and Jill that he went to see them
the very next day after his second visit to Sunnycrest. He
carried his violin with him. He found, however, only Jill at
home. She was sitting on the veranda steps.
There was not so much embarrassment between them this time,
perhaps because they were in the freedom of the wide
out-of-doors, and David felt more at ease. He was plainly
disappointed, however, that Mr. Jack was not there.
"But I wanted to see him! I wanted to see him 'specially," he
"You'd better stay, then. He'll be home by and by," comforted
Jill. "He's gone pot-boiling."
"Pot-boiling! What's that?"
Jill chuckled.
"Well, you see, really it's this way: he sells something to boil
in other people's pots so he can have something to boil in ours,
he says. It's stuff from the garden, you know. We raise it to
sell. Poor Jack--and he does hate it so!"
David nodded sympathetically.
"I know--and it must be awful, just hoeing and weeding all the
"Still, of course he knows he's got to do it, because it's out of
doors, and he just has to be out of doors all he can," rejoined
the girl. "He's sick, you know, and sometimes he's so unhappy! He
doesn't say much. Jack never says much--only with his face. But
I know, and it--it just makes me want to cry."
At David's dismayed exclamation Jill jumped to her feet. It owned
to her suddenly that she was telling this unknown boy altogether
too many of the family secrets. She proposed at once a race to
the foot of the hill; and then, to drive David's mind still
farther away from the subject under recent consideration, she
deliberately lost, and proclaimed him the victor.
Very soon, however, there arose new complications in the shape of
a little gate that led to a path which, in its turn, led to a
footbridge across the narrow span of the little stream.
Above the trees on the other side peeped the top of Sunnycrest's
highest tower.
"To the Lady of the Roses!" cried David eagerly. "I know it goes
there. Come, let's see!"
The little girl shook her head.
"I can't."
"Why not?"
"Jack won't let me."
"But it goes to a beautiful place; I was there yesterday," argued
David. "And I was up in the tower and almost waved to Mr. Jack on
the piazza back there. I saw him. And maybe she'd let you and me
go up there again to-day."
"But I can't, I say," repeated Jill, a little impatiently. "Jack
won't let me even start."
"Why not? Maybe he doesn't know where it goes to."
Jill hung her head. Then she raised it defiantly.
"Oh, yes, he does, 'cause I told him. I used to go when I was
littler and he wasn't here. I went once, after he
came,--halfway,--and he saw me and called to me. I had got
halfway across the bridge, but I had to come back. He was very
angry, yet sort of--queer, too. His face was all stern and white,
and his lips snapped tight shut after every word. He said never,
never, never to let him find me the other side of that gate."
David frowned as they turned to go up the hill. Unhesitatingly he
determined to instruct Mr. Jack in this little matter. He would
tell him what a beautiful place Sunnycrest was, and he would try
to convince him how very desirable it was that he and Jill, and
even Mr. Jack himself, should go across the bridge at the very
first opportunity that offered.
Mr. Jack came home before long, but David quite forgot to speak
of the footbridge just then, chiefly because Mr. Jack got out his
violin and asked David to come in and play a duet with him. The
duet, however, soon became a solo, for so great was Mr. Jack's
delight in David's playing that he placed before the boy one
sheet of music after another, begging and still begging for more.
David, nothing loath, played on and on. Most of the music he
knew, having already learned it in his mountain home. Like old
friends the melodies seemed, and so glad was David to see their
notes again that he finished each production with a little
improvised cadenza of ecstatic welcome--to Mr. Jack's increasing
surprise and delight.
"Great Scott! you're a wonder, David," he exclaimed, at last.
"Pooh! as if that was anything wonderful," laughed the boy. "Why,
I knew those ages ago, Mr. Jack. It's only that I'm so glad to
see them again--the notes, you know. You see, I haven't any
music now. It was all in the bag (what we brought), and we left
that on the way."
"You left it!"
"Yes, 't was so, heavy" murmured David abstractedly, his fingers
busy with the pile of music before him. "Oh, and here's another
one," he cried exultingly. "This is where the wind sighs,
'oou--OOU--OOU' through the pines. Listen!" And he was away again
on the wings of his violin. When he had returned Mr. Jack drew a
long breath.
"David, you are a wonder," he declared again. "And that violin of
yours is a wonder, too, if I'm not mistaken,--though I don't know
enough to tell whether it's really a rare one or not. Was it your
"Oh, no. He had one, too, and they both are good ones. Father
said so. Joe's got father's now."
"Joe Glaspell."
"You don't mean Widow Glaspell's Joe, the blind boy? I didn't
know he could play."
"He couldn't till I showed him. But he likes to hear me play.
And he understood--right away, I mean."
"What I was playing, you know. And he was almost the first one
that did--since father went away. And now I play every time I go
there. Joe says he never knew before how trees and grass and
sunsets and sunrises and birds and little brooks did look, till I
told him with my violin. Now he says he thinks he can see them
better than I can, because as long as his OUTSIDE eyes can't see
anything, they can't see those ugly things all around him, and so
he can just make his INSIDE eyes see only the beautiful things
that he'd LIKE to see. And that's the kind he does see when I
play. That's why I said he understood."
For a moment there was silence. In Mr. Jack's eyes there was an
odd look as they rested on David's face. Then, abruptly, he
"David, I wish I had money. I'd put you then where you belonged,"
he sighed.
"Do you mean--where I'd find my work to do?" asked the boy
"Well--yes; you might say it that way," smiled the man, after a
moment's hesitation--not yet was Mr. Jack quite used to this boy
who was at times so very un-boylike.
"Father told me 't was waiting for me--somewhere."
Mr. Jack frowned thoughtfully.
"And he was right, David. The only trouble is, we like to pick it
out for ourselves, pretty well,--too well, as we find out
sometimes, when we're called off--for another job."
"I know, Mr. Jack, I know," breathed David. And the man, looking
into the glowing dark eyes, wondered at what he found there. It
was almost as if the boy really understood about his own life's
disappointment--and cared; though that, of course, could not be!
"And it's all the harder to keep ourselves in tune then, too, is
n't it?" went on David, a little wistfully.
"In tune?"
"With the rest of the Orchestra."
"Oh!" And Mr. Jack, who had already heard about the "Orchestra
of Life," smiled a bit sadly. "That's just it, my boy. And if
we're handed another instrument to play on than the one we WANT
to play on, we're apt to--to let fly a discord. Anyhow, I am.
But"--he went on more lightly--"now, in your case, David, little
as I know about the violin, I know enough to understand that you
ought to be where you can take up your study of it again; where
you can hear good music, and where you can be among those who
know enough to appreciate what you do."
David's eyes sparkled.
"And where there wouldn't be any pulling weeds or hoeing dirt?"
"Well, I hadn't thought of including either of those pastimes."
"My, but I would like that, Mr. Jack!--but THAT wouldn't be
WORK, so that couldn't be what father meant." David's face fell.
"Hm-m; well, I wouldn't worry about the 'work' part," laughed
Mr. Jack, "particularly as you aren't going to do it just now.
There's the money, you know,--and we haven't got that."
"And it takes money?"
"Well--yes. You can't get those things here in Hinsdale, you
know; and it takes money, to get away, and to live away after you
get there."
A sudden light transfigured David's face.
"Mr. Jack, would gold do it?--lots of little round gold-pieces?"
"I think it would, David, if there were enough of them."
"Many as a hundred?"
"Sure--if they were big enough. Anyway, David, they'd start you,
and I'm thinking you wouldn't need but a start before you'd be
coining gold-pieces of your own out of that violin of yours. But
why? Anybody you know got as 'many as a hundred' gold-pieces he
wants to get rid of?"
For a moment David, his delighted thoughts flying to the
gold-pieces in the chimney cupboard of his room, was tempted to
tell his secret. Then he remembered the woman with the bread and
the pail of milk, and decided not to. He would wait. When he knew
Mr. Jack better--perhaps then he would tell; but not now. NOW
Mr. Jack might think he was a thief, and that he could not bear.
So he took up his violin and began to play; and in the charm of
the music Mr. Jack seemed to forget the gold-pieces--which was
exactly what David had intended should happen.
Not until David had said good-bye some time later, did he
remember the purpose--the special purpose--for which he had come.
He turned back with a radiant face.
"Oh, and Mr. Jack, I 'most forgot," he cried. "I was going to
tell you. I saw you yesterday--I did, and I almost waved to you."
"Did you? Where were you?"
"Over there in the window--the tower window" he crowed
"Oh, you went again, then, I suppose, to see Miss Holbrook."
The man's voice sounded so oddly cold and distant that David
noticed it at once. He was reminded suddenly of the gate and the
footbridge which Jill was forbidden to cross; but he dared not
speak of it then--not when Mr. Jack looked like that. He did say,
"Oh, but, Mr. Jack, it's such a beautiful place! You don't know
what a beautiful place it is."
"Is it? Then, you like it so much?"
"Oh, so much! But--didn't you ever--see it?"
"Why, yes, I believe I did, David, long ago," murmured Mr. Jack
with what seemed to David amazing indifference.
"And did you see HER--my Lady of the Roses?"
"Why, y--yes--I believe so."
"And is THAT all you remember about it?" resented David, highly
The man gave a laugh--a little short, hard laugh that David did
not like.
"But, let me see; you said you almost waved, didn't you? Why did
n't you, quite?" asked the man.
David drew himself suddenly erect. Instinctively he felt that his
Lady of the Roses needed defense.
"Because SHE didn't want me to; so I didn't, of course," he
rejoined with dignity. "She took away my handkerchief."
"I'll warrant she did," muttered the man, behind his teeth. Aloud
he only laughed again, as he turned away.
David went on down the steps, dissatisfied vaguely with himself,
with Mr. Jack, and even with the Lady of the Roses.
On his return from the House that Jack Built, David decided to
count his gold-pieces. He got them out at once from behind the
books, and stacked them up in little shining rows. As he had
surmised, there were a hundred of them. There were, indeed, a
hundred and six. He was pleased at that. One hundred and six were
surely enough to give him a "start."
A start! David closed his eyes and pictured it. To go on with his
violin, to hear good music, to be with people who understood what
he said when he played! That was what Mr. Jack had said a "start"
was. And this gold--these round shining bits of gold--could bring
him this! David swept the little piles into a jingling heap, and
sprang to his feet with both fists full of his suddenly beloved
wealth. With boyish glee he capered about the room, jingling the
coins in his hands. Then, very soberly, he sat down again, and
began to gather the gold to put away.
He would be wise--he would be sensible. He would watch his
chance, and when it came he would go away. First, however, he
would tell Mr. Jack and Joe, and the Lady of the Roses; yes, and
the Hollys, too. Just now there seemed to be work, real work that
he could do to help Mr. Holly. But later, possibly when September
came and school,--they had said he must go to school,--he would
tell them then, and go away instead. He would see. By that time
they would believe him, perhaps, when he showed the gold-pieces.
They would not think he had--STOLEN them. It was August now; he
would wait. But meanwhile he could think--he could always be
thinking of the wonderful thing that this gold was one day to
bring to him.
Even work, to David, did not seem work now. In the morning he was
to rake hay behind the men with the cart. Yesterday he had not
liked it very well; but now--nothing mattered now. And with a
satisfied sigh David put his precious gold away again behind the
books in the cupboard.
David found a new song in his violin the next morning. To be
sure, he could not play it--much of it--until four o'clock in the
afternoon came; for Mr. Holly did not like violins to be played
in the morning, even on days that were not especially the Lord's.
There was too much work to do. So David could only snatch a
strain or two very, very softly, while he was dressing; but that
was enough to show him what a beautiful song it was going to be.
He knew what it was, at once, too. It was the gold-pieces, and
what they would bring. All through the day it tripped through his
consciousness, and danced tantalizingly just out of reach. Yet he
was wonderfully happy, and the day seemed short in spite of the
heat and the weariness.
At four o'clock he hurried home and put his violin quickly in
tune. It came then--that dancing sprite of tantalization--and
joyously abandoned itself to the strings of the violin, so that
David knew, of a surety, what a beautiful song it was.
It was this song that sent him the next afternoon to see his Lady
of the Roses. He found her this time out of doors in her garden.
Unceremoniously, as usual, he rushed headlong into her presence.
"Oh, Lady--Lady of the Roses," he panted. "I've found out, and I
came quickly to tell you."
"Why, David, what--what do you mean?" Miss Holbrook looked
unmistakably startled.
"About the hours, you know,--the unclouded ones," explained David
eagerly. "You know you said they were ALL cloudy to you."
Miss Holbrook's face grew very white.
"You mean--you've found out WHY my hours are--are all cloudy
ones?" she stammered.
"No, oh, no. I can't imagine why they are," returned David, with
an emphatic shake of his head. "It's just that I've found a way
to make all my hours sunny ones, and you can do it, too. So I
came to tell you. You know you said yours were all cloudy."
"Oh," ejaculated Miss Holbrook, falling back into her old
listless attitude. Then, with some asperity: "Dear me, David! Did
n't I tell you not to be remembering that all the time?"
"Yes, I know, but I've LEARNED something," urged the boy;
"something that you ought to know. You see, I did think, once,
that because you had all these beautiful things around you, the
hours ought to be all sunny ones. But now I know it isn't
what's around you; it's what is IN you!"
"Oh, David, David, you curious boy!"
"No, but really! Let me tell you," pleaded David. "You know I
haven't liked them,--all those hours till four o'clock
came,--and I was so glad, after I saw the sundial, to find out
that they didn't count, anyhow. But to-day they HAVE
counted--they've all counted, Lady of the Roses; and it's just
because there was something inside of me that shone and shone,
and made them all sunny--those hours."
"Dear me! And what was this wonderful thing?"
David smiled, but he shook his head.
"I can't tell you that yet--in words; but I'll play it. You see,
I can't always play them twice alike,--those little songs that I
find,--but this one I can. It sang so long in my head, before my
violin had a chance to tell me what it really was, that I sort of
learned it. Now, listen!" And be began to play.
It was, indeed, a beautiful song, and Miss Holbrook said so with
promptness and enthusiasm; yet still David frowned.
"Yes, yes," he answered, "but don't you see? That was telling you
about something inside of me that made all my hours sunshiny
ones. Now, what you want is something inside of you to make yours
sunshiny, too. Don't you see?"
An odd look came into Miss Holbrook's eyes.
"That's all very well for you to say, David, but you haven't
told me yet, you know, just what it is that's made all this
brightness for you."
The boy changed his position, and puckered his forehead into a
deeper frown.
"I don't seem to explain so you can understand," he sighed. "It
isn't the SPECIAL thing. It's only that it's SOMETHING. And it's
thinking about it that does it. Now, mine wouldn't make yours
shine, but--still,"--he broke off, a happy relief in his
eyes,--"yours could be LIKE mine, in one way. Mine is something
that is going to happen to me--something just beautiful; and you
could have that, you know,--something that was going to happen to
you, to think about."
Miss Holbrook smiled, but only with her lips, Her eyes had grown
"But there isn't anything 'just beautiful' going to happen to
me, David," she demurred.
"There could, couldn't there?"
Miss Holbrook bit, her lip; then she gave an odd little laugh
that seemed, in some way, to go with the swift red that had come
to her cheeks.
"I used to think there could--once," she admitted; "but I've
given that up long ago. It--it didn't happen."
"But couldn't you just THINK it was going to?" persisted the
boy. "You see I found out yesterday that it's the THINKING that
does it. All day long I was thinking--only thinking. I wasn't
DOING it, at all. I was really raking behind the cart; but the
hours all were sunny."
Miss Holbrook laughed now outright.
"What a persistent little mental-science preacher you are!" she
exclaimed. "And there's truth--more truth than you know--in it
all, too. But I can't do it, David,--not that--not that. 'T would
take more than THINKING--to bring that," she added, under her
breath, as if to herself.
"But thinking does bring things," maintained David earnestly.
"There's Joe--Joe Glaspell. His mother works out all day; and
he's blind."
"Blind? Oh-h!" shuddered Miss Holbrook.
"Yes; and he has to stay all alone, except for Betty, and she is
n't there much. He THINKS ALL his things. He has to. He can't SEE
anything with his outside eyes. But he sees everything with his
inside eyes--everything that I play. Why, Lady of the Roses, he's
even seen this--all this here. I told him about it, you know,
right away after I'd found you that first day: the big trees and
the long shadows across the grass, and the roses, and the shining
water, and the lovely marble people peeping through the green
leaves; and the sundial, and you so beautiful sitting here in the
middle of it all. Then I played it for him; and he said he could
see it all just as plain! And THAT was with his inside eyes! And
so, if Joe, shut up there in his dark little room, can make his
THINK bring him all that, I should think that YOU, here in this
beautiful, beautiful place, could make your think bring you
anything you wanted it to."
But Miss Holbrook sighed again and shook her head.
"Not that, David, not that," she murmured. "It would take more
than thinking to bring--that." Then, with a quick change of
manner, she cried: "Come, come, suppose we don't worry any more
about MY hours. Let's think of yours. Tell me, what have you been
doing since I saw you last? Perhaps you have been again to--to
see Mr. Jack, for instance."
"I have; but I saw Jill mostly, till the last." David hesitated,
then he blurted it out: "Lady of the Roses, do you know about the
gate and the footbridge?"
Miss Holbrook looked up quickly.
"Know--what, David?"
"Know about them--that they're there?"
"Why--yes, of course; at least, I suppose you mean the footbridge
that crosses the little stream at the foot of the hill over
"That's the one." Again David hesitated, and again he blurted out
the burden of his thoughts. "Lady of the Roses, did you
ever--cross that bridge?"
Miss Holbrook stirred uneasily.
"But you don't MIND folks crossing it?"
"Certainly not--if they wish to."
"There! I knew 't wasn't your blame, " triumphed David.
"MY blame!"
"Yes; that Mr. Jack wouldn't let Jill come across, you know. He
called her back when she'd got halfway over once." Miss
Holbrook's face changed color.
"But I do object," she cried sharply, "to their crossing it when
they DON'T want to! Don't forget that, please."
"But Jill did want to."
"How about her brother--did he want her to?"
"Very well, then. I didn't, either."
David frowned. Never had he seen his beloved Lady of the Roses
look like this before. He was reminded of what Jill had said
about Jack: "His face was all stern and white, and his lips
snapped tight shut after every word." So, too, looked Miss
Holbrook's face; so, too, had her lips snapped tight shut after
her last words. David could not understand it. He said nothing
more, however; but, as was usually the case when he was
perplexed, he picked up his violin and began to play. And as he
played, there gradually came to Miss Holbrook's eyes a softer
light, and to her lips lines less tightly drawn. Neither the
footbridge nor Mr. Jack, however, was mentioned again that
It was in the early twilight that Mr. Jack told the story. He,
Jill, and David were on the veranda, as usual watching the towers
of Sunnycrest turn from gold to silver as the sun dropped behind
the hills. It was Jill who had asked for the story.
"About fairies and princesses, you know," she had ordered.
"But how will David like that?" Mr. Jack had demurred. "Maybe he
doesn't care for fairies and princesses."
"I read one once about a prince--'t was 'The Prince and the
Pauper,' and I liked that," averred David stoutly.
Mr. Jack smiled; then his brows drew together in a frown. His
eyes were moodily fixed on the towers.
"Hm-m; well," he said, "I might, I suppose, tell you a story
about a PRINCESS and--a Pauper. I--know one well enough."
"Good!--then tell it," cried both Jill and David. And Mr. Jack
began his story.
"She was not always a Princess, and he was not always a
Pauper,--and that's where the story came in, I suppose," sighed
the man. "She was just a girl, once, and he was a boy; and they
played together and--liked each other. He lived in a little house
on a hill."
"Like this?" demanded Jill.
"Eh? Oh--er--yes, SOMETHING like this," returned Mr. Jack, with
an odd half-smile. "And she lived in another bit of a house in a
town far away from the boy."
"Then how could they play together?" questioned David.
"They couldn't, ALWAYS. It was only summers when she came to
visit in the boy's town. She was very near him then, for the old
aunt whom she visited lived in a big stone house with towers, on
another hill, in plain sight from the boy's home."
"Towers like those--where the Lady of the Roses lives?" asked
"Eh? What? Oh--er--yes," murmured Mr. Jack. "We'll say the towers
were something like those over there." He paused, then went on
musingly: "The girl used to signal, sometimes, from one of the
tower windows. One wave of the handkerchief meant, 'I'm
coming, over'; two waves, with a little pause between, meant,
'You are to come over here.' So the boy used to wait always,
after that first wave to see if another followed; so that he
might know whether he were to be host or guest that day. The
waves always came at eight o'clock in the morning, and very
eagerly the boy used to watch for them all through the summer
when the girl was there."
"Did they always come, every morning?" Asked Jill.
"No; sometimes the girl had other things to do. Her aunt would
want her to go somewhere with her, or other cousins were expected
whom the girl must entertain; and she knew the boy did not like
other guests to be there when he was, so she never asked him to
come over at such times. On such occasions she did sometimes run
up to the tower at eight o'clock and wave three times, and that
meant, 'Dead Day.' So the boy, after all, never drew a real
breath of relief until he made sure that no dreaded third wave
was to follow the one or the two."
"Seems to me," observed David, "that all this was sort of
one-sided. Didn't the boy say anything?"
"Oh, yes," smiled Mr. Jack. "But the boy did not have any tower
to wave from, you must remember. He had only the little piazza on
his tiny bit of a house. But he rigged up a pole, and he asked
his mother to make him two little flags, a red and a blue one.
The red meant 'All right'; and the blue meant 'Got to work'; and
these he used to run up on his pole in answer to her waving 'I'm
coming over,' or 'You are to come over here.' So, you see,
occasionally it was the boy who had to bring the 'Dead Day,' as
there were times when he had to work. And, by the way, perhaps
you would be interested to know that after a while he thought up
a third flag to answer her three waves. He found an old black
silk handkerchief of his father's, and he made that into a flag.
He told the girl it meant 'I'm heartbroken,' and he said it was a
sign of the deepest mourning. The girl laughed and tipped her
head saucily to one side, and said, 'Pooh! as if you really
cared!' But the boy stoutly maintained his position, and it was
that, perhaps, which made her play the little joke one day.
"The boy was fourteen that summer, and the girl thirteen. They
had begun their signals years before, but they had not had the
black one so long. On this day that I tell you of, the girl waved
three waves, which meant, 'Dead Day,' you remember, and watched
until the boy had hoisted his black flag which said, 'I'm
heart-broken,' in response. Then, as fast as her mischievous
little feet could carry her, she raced down one hill and across
to the other. Very stealthily she advanced till she found the boy
bent over a puzzle on the back stoop, and--and he was whistling
"How she teased him then! How she taunted him with 'Heart-broken,
indeed--and whistling like that!' In vain he blushed and
stammered, and protested that his whistling was only to keep up
his spirits. The girl only laughed and tossed her yellow curls;
then she hunted till she found some little jingling bells, and
these she tied to the black badge of mourning and pulled it high
up on the flagpole. The next instant she was off with a run and a
skip, and a saucy wave of her hand; and the boy was left all
alone with an hour's work ahead of him to untie the knots from
his desecrated badge of mourning.
"And yet they were wonderfully good friends--this boy and girl.
From the very first, when they were seven and eight, they had
said that they would marry each other when they grew up, and
always they spoke of it as the expected thing, and laid many
happy plans for the time when it should come. To be sure, as they
grew older, it was not mentioned quite so often, perhaps; but the
boy at least thought--if he thought of it all--that that was only
because it was already so well understood."
"What did the girl think?" It was Jill who asked the question.
"Eh? The girl? Oh," answered Mr. Jack, a little bitterly, "I'm
afraid I don't know exactly what the girl did think, but--it was
n't that, anyhow--that is, judging from what followed."
"What did follow?"
"Well, to begin with, the old aunt died. The girl was sixteen
then. It was in the winter that this happened, and the girl was
far away at school. She came to the funeral, however, but the boy
did not see her, save in the distance; and then he hardly knew
her, so strange did she look in her black dress and hat. She was
there only two days, and though he gazed wistfully up at the gray
tower, he knew well enough that of course she could not wave to
him at such a time as that. Yet he had hoped--almost believed
that she would wave two waves that last day, and let him go over
to see her.
"But she didn't wave, and he didn't go over. She went away. And
then the town learned a wonderful thing. The old lady, her aunt,
who had been considered just fairly rich, turned out to be the
possessor of almost fabulous wealth, owing to her great holdings
of stock in a Western gold mine which had suddenly struck it
rich. And to the girl she willed it all. It was then, of course,
that the girl became the Princess, but the boy did not realize
that--just then. To him she was still 'the girl.'
"For three years he did not see her. She was at school, or
traveling abroad, he heard. He, too, had been away to school, and
was, indeed, just ready to enter college. Then, that summer,
he heard that she was coming to the old home, and his heart sang
within him. Remember, to him she was still the girl. He knew, of
course, that she was not the LITTLE girl who had promised to
marry him. But he was sure she was the merry comrade, the
true-hearted young girl who used to smile frankly into his eyes,
and whom he was now to win for his wife. You see he had
forgotten--quite forgotten about the Princess and the money. Such
a foolish, foolish boy as he was!
"So he got out his flags gleefully, and one day, when his mother
wasn't in the kitchen, he ironed out the wrinkles and smoothed
them all ready to be raised on the pole. He would be ready when
the girl waved--for of course she would wave; he would show her
that he had not forgotten. He could see just how the sparkle
would come to her eyes, and just how the little fine lines of
mischief would crinkle around her nose when she was ready to give
that first wave. He could imagine that she would like to find him
napping; that she would like to take him by surprise, and make
him scurry around for his flags to answer her.
"But he would show her! As if she, a girl, were to beat him at
their old game! He wondered which it would be: 'I'm coming over,'
or, 'You are to come over here.' Whichever it was, he would
answer, of course, with the red 'All right.' Still, it WOULD be a
joke to run up the blue 'Got to work,' and then slip across to
see her, just as she, so long ago, had played the joke on him! On
the whole, however, he thought the red flag would be better. And
it was that one which he laid uppermost ready to his hand, when
he arranged them.
"At last she came. He heard of it at once. It was already past
four o'clock, but he could not forbear, even then, to look toward
the tower. It would be like her, after all, to wave then, that
very night, just so as to catch him napping, he thought. She did
not wave, however. The boy was sure of that, for he watched the
tower till dark.
"In the morning, long before eight o'clock, the boy was ready. He
debated for some time whether to stand out of doors on the
piazza, or to hide behind the screened window, where he could
still watch the tower. He decided at last that it would be better
not to let her see him when she looked toward the house; then his
triumph would be all the more complete when he dashed out to run
up his answer.
"Eight o'clock came and passed. The boy waited until nine, but
there was no sign of life from the tower. The boy was angry then,
at himself. He called himself, indeed, a fool, to hide as he did.
Of course she wouldn't wave when he was nowhere in sight--when
he had apparently forgotten! And here was a whole precious day
"The next morning, long before eight, the boy stood in plain
sight on the piazza. As before he waited until nine; and as
before there was no sign of life at the tower window. The next
morning he was there again, and the next, and the next. It took
just five days, indeed, to convince the boy--as he was convinced
at last--that the girl did not intend to wave at all."
"But how unkind of her!" exclaimed David.
"She couldn't have been nice one bit!" decided Jill.
"You forget," said Mr. Jack. "She was the Princess."
"Huh!" grunted Jill and David in unison.
"The boy remembered it then," went on Mr. Jack, after a
pause,--"about the money, and that she was a Princess. And of
course he knew--when he thought of it--that he could not expect
that a Princess would wave like a girl--just a girl. Besides,
very likely she did not care particularly about seeing him.
Princesses did forget, he fancied,--they had so much, so very
much to fill their lives. It was this thought that kept him from
going to see her--this, and the recollection that, after all, if
she really HAD wanted to see him, she could have waved.
"There came a day, however, when another youth, who did not dare
to go alone, persuaded him, and together they paid her a call.
The boy understood, then, many things. He found the Princess;
there was no sign of the girl. The Princess was tall and
dignified, with a cold little hand and a smooth, sweet voice.
There was no frank smile in her eyes, neither were there any
mischievous crinkles about her nose and lips. There was no
mention of towers or flags; no reference to wavings or to
childhood's days. There was only a stiffly polite little
conversation about colleges and travels, with a word or two about
books and plays. Then the callers went home. On the way the boy
smiled scornfully to himself. He was trying to picture the
beauteous vision he had seen, this unapproachable Princess in her
filmy lace gown,--standing in the tower window and waving--waving
to a bit of a house on the opposite hill. As if that could
"The boy, during those last three years, had known only books. He
knew little of girls--only one girl--and he knew still less of
Princesses. So when, three days after the call, there came a
chance to join a summer camp with a man who loved books even
better than did the boy himself, he went gladly. Once he had
refused to go on this very trip; but then there had been the
girl. Now there was only the Princess--and the Princess didn't
"Like the hours that aren't sunshiny," interpreted David.
"Yes," corroborated Mr. Jack. "Like the hours when the sun does
n't shine."
"And then?" prompted Jill.
"Well, then,--there wasn't much worth telling," rejoined Mr.
Jack gloomily. "Two more years passed, and the Princess grew to
be twenty-one. She came into full control of her property then,
and after a while she came back to the old stone house with the
towers and turned it into a fairyland of beauty. She spent money
like water. All manner of artists, from the man who painted her
ceilings to the man who planted her seeds, came and bowed to her
will. From the four corners of the earth she brought her
treasures and lavished them through the house and grounds. Then,
every summer, she came herself, and lived among them, a very
Princess indeed."
"And the boy?--what became of the boy?" demanded David. "Didn't
he see her--ever?"
Mr. Jack shook his head.
"Not often, David; and when he did, it did not make him
any--happier. You see, the boy had become the Pauper; you must
n't forget that."
"But he wasn't a Pauper when you left him last."
"Wasn't he? Well, then, I'll tell you about that. You see, the
boy, even though he did go away, soon found out that in his heart
the Princess was still the girl, just the same. He loved her, and
he wanted her to be his wife; so for a little--for a very
little--he was wild enough to think that he might work and study
and do great things in the world until he was even a Prince
himself, and then he could marry the Princess."
"Well, couldn't he? "
"No. To begin with, he lost his health. Then, away back in the
little house on the hill something happened--a something that
left a very precious charge for him to keep; and he had to go
back and keep it, and to try to see if he couldn't find that
lost health, as well. And that is all."
"All! You don't mean that that is the end!" exclaimed Jill.
"That's the end."
"But that isn't a mite of a nice end," complained David. "They
always get married and live happy ever after--in stories."
"Do they?" Mr. Jack smiled a little sadly. "Perhaps they do,
David,--in stories."
"Well, can't they in this one?"
"I don't see how."
"Why can't he go to her and ask her to marry him?"
Mr. Jack drew himself up proudly.
"The Pauper and the Princess? Never! Paupers don't go to
Princesses, David, and say, 'I love you.'"
David frowned.
"Why not? I don't see why--if they want to do it. Seems as if
somehow it might be fixed."
"It can't be," returned Mr. Jack, his gaze on the towers that
crowned the opposite hill; "not so long as always before the
Pauper's eyes there are those gray walls behind which he pictures
the Princess in the midst of her golden luxury."
To neither David nor Jill did the change to the present tense
seem strange. The story was much too real to them for that.
"Well, anyhow, I think it ought to be fixed," declared David, as
he rose to his feet.
"So do I--but we can't fix it," laughed Jill. "And I'm hungry.
Let's see what there is to eat!"
It was a beautiful moonlight night, but for once David was not
thinking of the moon. All the way to the Holly farmhouse he was
thinking of Mr. Jack's story, "The Princess and the Pauper." It
held him strangely. He felt that he never could forget it. For
some reason that he could not have explained, it made him sad,
too, and his step was very quiet as he went up the walk toward
the kitchen door.
It was after eight o'clock. David had taken supper with Mr. Jack
and Jill, and not for some hours had he been at the farmhouse. In
the doorway now he stopped short; then instinctively he stepped
back into the shadow. In the kitchen a kerosene light was
burning. It showed Mrs.Holly crying at the table, and Mr. Holly,
white-faced and stern-lipped, staring at nothing. Then Mrs. Holly
raised her face, drawn and tear-stained, and asked a trembling
"Simeon, have you thought? We might go--to John--for--help."
David was frightened then, so angry was the look that came into
Simeon Holly's face.
"Ellen, we'll have no more of this," said the man harshly.
"Understand, I'd rather lose the whole thing and--and starve,
than go to--John."
David fled then. Up the back stairs he crept to his room and left
his violin. A moment later he stole down again and sought Perry
Larson whom he had seen smoking in the barn doorway.
"Perry, what is it?" he asked in a trembling voice. "What has
happened--in there?" He pointed toward the house.
The man puffed for a moment in silence before he took his pipe
from his mouth.
"Well, sonny, I s'pose I may as well tell ye. You'll have ter
know it sometime, seein' as 't won't be no secret long. They've
had a stroke o' bad luck--Mr. an' Mis' Holly has."
"What is it?"
The man hitched in his seat.
"By sugar, boy, I s'pose if I tell ye, there ain't no sartinty
that you'll sense it at all. I reckon it ain't in your class."
"But what is it?"
"Well, it's money--and one might as well talk moonshine to you as
money, I s'pose; but here goes it. It's a thousand dollars, boy,
that they owed. Here, like this," he explained, rummaging his
pockets until he had found a silver dollar to lay on his open
palm. "Now, jest imagine a thousand of them; that's heaps an'
heaps--more 'n I ever see in my life."
"Like the stars?" guessed David.
The man nodded.
"Ex-ACTLY! Well, they owed this--Mr. an' Mis' Holly did--and they
had agreed ter pay it next Sat'day. And they was all right, too.
They had it plum saved in the bank, an' was goin' ter draw it
Thursday, ter make sure. An' they was feelin' mighty pert over
it, too, when ter-day along comes the news that somethin's broke
kersmash in that bank, an' they've shet it up. An' nary a cent
can the Hollys git now--an' maybe never. Anyhow, not 'fore it's
too late for this job."
"But won't he wait?--that man they owe it to? I should think he'd
have to, if they didn't have it to pay."
"Not much he will, when it's old Streeter that's got the mortgage
on a good fat farm like this!"
David drew his brows together perplexedly.
"What is a--a mortgage?" he asked. "Is it anything like a
porte-cochere? I KNOW what that is, 'cause my Lady of the Roses
has one; but we haven't got that--down here."
Perry Larson sighed in exasperation.
"Gosh, if that ain't 'bout what I expected of ye! No, it ain't
even second cousin to a--a-that thing you're a-talkin' of. In
plain wordin', it's jest this: Mr. Holly, he says ter Streeter:
'You give me a thousand dollars and I'll pay ye back on a sartin
day; if I don't pay, you can sell my farm fur what it'll bring,
an' TAKE yer pay. Well, now here 't is. Mr. Holly can't pay, an'
so Streeter will put up the farm fur sale."
"What, with Mr. and Mrs. Holly LIVING here?"
"Sure! Only they'll have ter git out, ye know."
"Where'll they go?"
"The Lord knows; I don't."
"And is THAT what they're crying for--in there?--because they've
got to go?"
"But isn't there anything, anywhere, that can be done to--stop
"I don't see how, kid,--not unless some one ponies up with the
money 'fore next Sat'day,--an' a thousand o' them things don't
grow on ev'ry bush," he finished, gently patting the coin in his
At the words a swift change came to David's face. His cheeks
paled and his eyes dilated in terror. It was as if ahead of him
he saw a yawning abyss, eager to engulf him.
"And you say--MONEY would--fix it?" he asked thickly.
"Ex-ACT-ly!--a thousand o' them, though, 't would take."
A dawning relief came into David's eyes--it was as if he saw a
bridge across the abyss.
"You mean--that there wouldn't ANYTHING do, only silver
pieces--like those?" he questioned hopefully.
"Sugar, kid, 'course there would! Gosh, but you BE a checkerboard
o' sense an' nonsense, an' no mistake! Any money would do the
job--any money! Don't ye see? Anything that's money."
"Would g-gold do it?" David's voice was very faint now.
"Sure!--gold, or silver, or greenbacks, or--or a check, if it had
the dough behind it."
David did not appear to hear the last. With an oddly strained
look he had hung upon the man's first words; but at the end of
the sentence he only murmured, "Oh, thank you," and turned away.
He was walking slowly now toward the house. His head was bowed.
His step lagged.
"Now, ain't that jest like that chap," muttered the man, "ter
slink off like that as if he was a whipped cur. I'll bet two
cents an' a doughnut, too, that in five minutes he'll be what he
calls 'playin' it' on that 'ere fiddle o' his. An' I'll be
derned, too, if I ain't curious ter see what he WILL make of it.
It strikes me this ought ter fetch somethin' first cousin to a
On the porch steps David paused a breathless instant. From the
kitchen came the sound of Mrs. Holly's sobs and of a stern voice
praying. With a shudder and a little choking cry the boy turned
then and crept softly upstairs to his room.
He played, too, as Perry Larson had wagered. But it was not the
tragedy of the closed bank, nor the honor of the threatened
farm-selling that fell from his violin. It was, instead, the swan
song of a little pile of gold--gold which lay now in a chimney
cupboard, but which was soon to be placed at the feet of the
mourning man and woman downstairs. And in the song was the sob of
a boy who sees his house of dreams burn to ashes; who sees his
wonderful life and work out in the wide world turn to endless
days of weed-pulling and dirt-digging in a narrow valley. There
was in the song, too, something of the struggle, the fierce yea
and nay of the conflict. But, at the end, there was the wild
burst of exaltation of renunciation, so that the man in the barn
door below fairly sprang to his feet with an angry:--
"Gosh! if he hain't turned the thing into a jig--durn him! Don't
he know more'n that at such a time as this?"
Later, a very little later, the shadowy figure of the boy stood
before him.
"I've been thinking," stammered David, "that maybe I--could help,
about that money, you know."
"Now, look a-here, boy," exploded Perry, in open exasperation,
"as I said in the first place, this ain't in your class. 'T ain't
no pink cloud sailin' in the sky, nor a bluebird singin' in a
blackb'rry bush. An' you might 'play it'--as you call it--till
doomsday, an' 't wouldn't do no good--though I'm free ter
confess that your playin' of them 'ere other things sounds real
pert an' chirky at times; but 't won't do no good here."
David stepped forward, bringing his small, anxious face full into
the moonlight.
"But 't was the money, Perry; I meant about, the money," he
explained. "They were good to me and wanted me when there wasn't
any one else that did; and now I'd like to do something for them.
There aren't so MANY pieces, and they aren't silver. There's
only one hundred and six of them; I counted. But maybe they 'd
help some. It--it would be a--start." His voice broke over the
once beloved word, then went on with renewed strength. "There,
see! Would these do?" And with both hands he held up to view his
cap sagging under its weight of gold.
Perry Larson's jaw fell open. His eyes bulged. Dazedly he reached
out and touched with trembling fingers the heap of shining disks
that seemed in the mellow light like little earth-born children
of the moon itself. The next instant he recoiled sharply.
"Great snakes, boy, where'd you git that money?" he demanded.
"Of father. He went to the far country, you know."
Perry Larson snorted angrily.
"See here, boy, for once, if ye can, talk horse-sense! Surely,
even YOU don't expect me ter believe that he's sent you that
money from--from where he's gone to!"
"Oh, no. He left it."
"Left it! Why, boy, you know better! There wa'n't a
cent--hardly--found on him."
"He gave it to me before--by the roadside."
"Gave it to you! Where in the name of goodness has it been
"In the little cupboard in my room, behind the books."
"Great snakes!" muttered Perry Larson, reaching out his hand and
gingerly picking up one of the gold-pieces.
David eyed him anxiously.
"Won't they--do?" he faltered. "There aren't a thousand; there's
only a hundred and six; but--"
"Do!" cut in the man, excitedly. He had been examining the
gold-piece at close range. "Do! Well, I reckon they'll do. By
Jiminy!--and ter think you've had this up yer sleeve all this
time! Well, I'll believe anythin' of yer now--anythin'! You can't
stump me with nuthin'! Come on." And he hurriedly led the way
toward the house.
"But they weren't up my sleeve," corrected David, as he tried to
keep up with the long strides of the man. "I SAID they were in
the cupboard in my room."
There was no answer. Larson had reached the porch steps, and had
paused there hesitatingly. From the kitchen still came the sound
of sobs. Aside from that there was silence. The boy, however, did
not hesitate. He went straight up the steps and through the open
kitchen door. At the table sat the man and the woman, their eyes
covered with their hands.
With a swift overturning of his cap, David dumped his burden onto
the table, and stepped back respectfully.
"If you please, sir, would this--help any?" he asked.
At the jingle of the coins Simeon Holly and his wife lifted their
heads abruptly. A half-uttered sob died on the woman's lips. A
quick cry came from the man's. He reached forth an eager hand and
had almost clutched the gold when a sudden change came to his
face. With a stern ejaculation he drew back.
"Boy, where did that money come from?" he challenged.
David sighed in a discouraged way. It seemed that, always, the
showing of this gold mean't questioning--eternal questioning.
"Surely," continued Simeon Holly, "you did not--" With the boy's
frank gaze upturned to his, the man could not finish his
Before David could answer came the voice of Perry Larson from the
kitchen doorway.
"No, sir, he didn't, Mr. Holly; an' it's all straight, I'm
thinkin'--though I'm free ter confess it does sound nutty. His
dad give it to him."
"His--father! But where--where has it been ever since?"
"In the chimney cupboard in his room, he says, sir."
Simeon Holly turned in frowning amazement.
"David, what does this mean? Why have you kept this gold in a
place like that?"
"Why, there wasn't anything else to do wiih it," answered the
boy perplexedly. "I hadn't any use for it, you know, and father
said to keep it till I needed it."
" 'Hadn't any use for it'!" blustered Larson from the doorway.
"Jiminy! Now, ain't that jest like that boy?"
But David hurried on with his explanation.
"We never used to use them--father and I--except to buy things to
eat and wear; and down here YOU give me those, you know."
"Gorry!" interjected Perry Larson. "Do you reckon, boy, that Mr.
Holly himself was give them things he gives ter you?"
The boy turned sharply, a startled question in his eyes.
"What do you mean? Do you mean that--" His face changed suddenly.
His cheeks turned a shamed red. "Why, he did--he did have to buy
them, of course, just as father did. And I never even thought of
it before! Then, it's yours, anyway--it belongs to you," he
argued, turning to Farmer Holly, and shoving the gold nearer to
his hands. "There isn't enough, maybe--but 't will help!"
"They're ten-dollar gold pieces, sir," spoke up Larson
importantly; "an' there's a hundred an' six of them. That's jest
one thousand an' sixty dollars, as I make it."
Simeon Holly, self-controlled man that he was, almost leaped from
his chair.
"One thousand and sixty dollars!" he gasped. Then, to David:
"Boy, in Heaven's name, who are you?"
"I don't know--only David." The boy spoke wearily, with a grieved
sob in his voice. He was very tired, a good deal perplexed, and a
little angry. He wished, if no one wanted this gold, that he
could take it upstairs again to the chimney cupboard; or, if they
objected to that, that they would at least give it to him, and
let him go away now to that beautiful music he was to hear, and
to those kind people who were always to understand what he said
when he played.
"Of course," ventured Perry Larson diffidently, "I ain't
professin' ter know any great shakes about the hand of the Lord,
Mr. Holly, but it do strike me that this 'ere gold comes mighty
near bein' proverdential--fur you."
Simeon Holly fell back in his seat. His eyes clung to the gold,
but his lips set into rigid lines.
"That money is the boy's, Larson. It isn't mine," he said.
"He's give it to ye."
Simeon Holly shook his head.
"David is nothing but a child, Perry. He doesn't realize at all
what he is doing, nor how valuable his gift is."
"I know, sir, but you DID take him in, when there wouldn't
nobody else do it," argued Larson. "An', anyhow, couldn't you
make a kind of an I O U of it, even if he is a kid? Then, some
day you could pay him back. Meanwhile you'd be a-keepin' him, an'
a-schoolin' him; an' that's somethin'."
"I know, I know," nodded Simeon Holly thoughtfully, his eyes
going from the gold to David's face. Then, aloud, yet as if to
himself, he breathed: "Boy, boy, who was your father? How came he
by all that gold--and he--a tramp!"
David drew himself suddenly erect. His eyes flashed.
"I don't know, sir. But I do know this: he didn't STEAL it!"
Across the table Mrs. Holly drew a quick breath, but she did not
speak--save with her pleading eyes. Mrs. Holly seldom spoke--save
with her eyes--when her husband was solving a knotty problem. She
was dumfounded now that he should listen so patiently to the man,
Larson,--though she was not more surprised than was Larson
himself. For both of them, however, there came at this moment a
still greater surprise. Simeon Holly leaned forward suddenly, the
stern lines quite gone from his lips, and his face working with
emotion as he drew David toward him.
"You're a good son, boy,--a good loyal son; and--and I wish you
were mine! I believe you. He didn't steal it, and I won't steal
it, either. But I will use it, since you are so good as to offer
it. But it shall be a loan, David, and some day, God helping me,
you shall have it back. Meanwhile, you're my boy, David,--my
"Oh, thank you, sir," rejoiced David. "And, really, you know,
being wanted like that is better than the start would be, isn't
"Better than--what?"
David shifted his position. He had not meant to say just that.
"N--nothing," he stammered, looking about for a means of quick
escape. "I--I was just talking," he finished. And he was
immeasurably relieved to find that Mr. Holly did not press the
matter further.
In spite of the exaltation of renunciation, and in spite of the
joy of being newly and especially "wanted," those early September
days were sometimes hard for David. Not until he had relinquished
all hope of his "start" did he fully realize what that hope had
meant to him.
There were times, to be sure, when there was nothing but
rejoicing within him that he was able thus to aid the Hollys.
There were other times when there was nothing but the sore
heartache because of the great work out in the beautiful world
that could now never be done; and because of the unlovely work at
hand that must be done. To tell the truth, indeed, David's entire
conception of life had become suddenly a chaos of puzzling
To Mr. Jack, one day, David went with his perplexities. Not that
he told him of the gold-pieces and of the unexpected use to which
they had been put--indeed, no. David had made up his mind never,
if he could help himself, to mention those gold-pieces to any one
who did not already know of them. They meant questions, and the
questions, explanations. And he had had enough of both on that
particular subject. But to Mr. Jack he said one day, when they
were alone together:--
"Mr. Jack, how many folks have you got inside of your head?"
"Eh--what, David?"
David repeated his question and attached an explanation.
"I mean, the folks that--that make you do things."
Mr. Jack laughed.
"Well," he said, "I believe some people make claims to quite a
number, and perhaps almost every one owns to a Dr. Jekyll and a
Mr. Hyde."
"Who are they?"
"Never mind, David. I don't think you know the gentlemen, anyhow.
They're only something like the little girl with a curl. One is
very, very good, indeed, and the other is horrid."
"Oh, yes, I know them; they're the ones that come to me,"
returned David, with a sigh. "I've had them a lot, lately."
Mr. Jack stared.
"Oh, have you?"
"Yes; and that's what's the trouble. How can you drive them
off--the one that is bad, I mean?"
"Well, really," confessed Mr. Jack, "I'm not sure I can tell. You
see--the gentlemen visit me sometimes."
"Oh, do they?"
"I'm so glad--that is, I mean," amended David, in answer to Mr.
Jack's uplifted eyebrows, "I'm glad that you understand what I'm
talking about. You see, I tried Perry Larson last night on it, to
get him to tell me what to do. But he only stared and laughed. He
didn't know the names of 'em, anyhow, as you do, and at last he
got really almost angry and said I made him feel so 'buggy' and
'creepy' that he wouldn't dare look at himself in the glass if I
kept on, for fear some one he'd never known was there should jump
out at him."
Mr. Jack chuckled.
"Well, I suspect, David, that Perry knew one of your gentlemen by
the name of 'conscience,' perhaps; and I also suspect that maybe
conscience does pretty nearly fill the bill, and that you've been
having a bout with that. Eh? Now, what is the trouble? Tell me
about it."
David stirred uneasily. Instead of answering, he asked another
"Mr. Jack, it is a beautiful world, isn't it?"
For a moment there was no, answer; then a low voice replied:--
"Your father said it was, David."
Again David moved restlessly.
"Yes; but father was on the mountain. And down here--well, down
here there are lots of things that I don't believe he knew
"What, for instance?"
"Why, lots of things--too many to tell. Of course there are
things like catching fish, and killing birds and squirrels and
other things to eat, and plaguing cats and dogs. Father never
would have called those beautiful. Then there are others like
little Jimmy Clark who can't walk, and the man at the Marstons'
who's sick, and Joe Glaspell who is blind. Then there are still
different ones like Mr. Holly's little boy. Perry says he ran
away years and years ago, and made his people very unhappy.
Father wouldn't call that a beautiful world, would he? And how
can people like that always play in tune? And there are the
Princess and the Pauper that you told about."
"Oh, the story?"
"Yes; and people like them can't be happy and think the world is
beautiful, of course."
"Why not?"
"Because they didn't end right. They didn't get married and
live happy ever after, you know."
"Well, I don't think I'd worry about that, David,--at least, not
about the Princess. I fancy the world was very beautiful to her,
all right. The Pauper--well, perhaps he wasn't very happy. But,
after all, David, you know happiness is something inside of
yourself. Perhaps half of these people are happy, in their way."
"There! and that's another thing," sighed David. "You see, I
found that out--that it was inside of yourself--quite a while
ago, and I told the Lady of the Roses. But now I--can't make it
work myself."
"What's the matter?"
"Well, you see then something was going to happen--something that
I liked; and I found that just thinking of it made it so that I
didn't mind raking or hoeing, or anything like that; and I told
the Lady of the Roses. And I told her that even if it wasn't
going to happen she could THINK it was going to, and that that
would be just the same, because 't was the thinking that made my
hours sunny ones. It wasn't the DOING at all. I said I knew
because I hadn't DONE it yet. See?"
"I--think so, David."
"Well, I've found out that it isn't the same at all; for now
that I KNOW that this beautiful thing isn't ever going to happen
to me, I can think and think all day, and it doesn't do a mite
of good. The sun is just as hot, and my back aches just as hard,
and the field is just as big and endless as it used to be when I
had to call it that those hours didn't count. Now, what is the
Mr. Jack laughed, but he shook his head a little sadly.
"You're getting into too deep waters for me, David. I suspect
you're floundering in a sea that has upset the boats of sages
since the world began. But what is it that was so nice, and that
isn't going to happen? Perhaps I MIGHT help on that."
"No, you couldn't," frowned David; "and there couldn't anybody,
either, you see, because I wouldn't go back now and LET it
happen, anyhow, as long as I know what I do. Why, if I did, there
wouldn't be ANY hours that were sunny then--not even the ones
after four o'clock; I--I'd feel so mean! But what I don't see is
just how I can fix it up with the Lady of the Roses."
"What has she to do with it?"
"Why, at the very first, when she said she didn't have ANY
sunshiny hours, I told her--"
"When she said what?" interposed Mr. Jack, coming suddenly erect
in his chair.
"That she didn't have any hours to count, you know."
"Yes; it was the sundial. Didn't I tell you? Yes, I know I
did--about the words on it--not counting any hours that weren't
sunny, you know. And she said she wouldn't have ANY hours to
count; that the sun never shone for her."
"Why, David," demurred Mr. Jack in a voice that shook a little,
"are you sure? Did she say just that? You--you must be
mistaken--when she has--has everything to make her happy."
"I wasn't, because I said that same thing to her
myself--afterwards. And then I told her--when I found out myself,
you know--about its being what was inside of you, after all, that
counted; and then is when I asked her if she couldn't think of
something nice that was going to happen to her sometime."
"Well, what did she say?"
"She shook her head, and said 'No.' Then she looked away, and her
eyes got soft and dark like little pools in the brook where the
water stops to rest. And she said she had hoped once that this
something would happen; but that it hadn't, and that it would
take something more than thinking to bring it. And I know now
what she meant, because thinking isn't all that counts, is it?"
Mr. Jack did not answer. He had risen to his feet, and was pacing
restlessly up and down the veranda. Once or twice he turned his
eyes toward the towers of Sunnycrest, and David noticed that
there was a new look on his face.
Very soon, however, the old tiredness came back to his eyes, and
he dropped into his seat again, muttering "Fool! of course it
couldn't be--that!"
"Be what?" asked David.
Mr. Jack started.
"Er--nothing; nothing that you would understand, David. Go
on--with what you were saying."
"There isn't any more. It's all done. It's only that I'm
wondering how I'm going to learn here that it's a beautiful
world, so that I can--tell father."
Mr. Jack roused himself. He had the air of a man who determinedly
throws to one side a heavy burden.
"Well, David," he smiled, "as I said before, you are still out on
that sea where there are so many little upturned boats. There
might be a good many ways of answering that question."
"Mr. Holly says," mused the boy, aloud, a little gloomily, "that
it doesn't make any difference whether we find things beautiful
or not; that we're here to do something serious in the world."
"That is about what I should have expected of Mr. Holly" retorted
Mr. Jack grimly. "He acts it--and looks it. But--I don't believe
you are going to tell your father just that."
"No, sir, I don't believe I am," accorded David soberly.
"I have an idea that you're going to find that answer just where
your father said you would--in your violin. See if you don't.
Things that aren't beautiful you'll make beautiful--because we
find what we are looking for, and you're looking for beautiful
things. After all, boy, if we march straight ahead, chin up, and
sing our own little song with all our might and main, we shan't
come so far amiss from the goal, I'm thinking. There! that's
preaching, and I didn't mean to preach; but--well, to tell the
truth, that was meant for myself, for--I'm hunting for the
beautiful world, too."
"Yes, sir, I know," returned David fervently. And again Mr. Jack,
looking into the sympathetic, glowing dark eyes, wondered if,
after all, David really could--know.
Even yet Mr. Jack was not used to David; there were "so many of
him," he told himself. There were the boy, the artist, and a
third personality so evanescent that it defied being named. The
boy was jolly, impetuous, confidential, and delightful--plainly
reveling in all manner of fun and frolic. The artist was nothing
but a bunch of nervous alertness, ready to find melody and rhythm
in every passing thought or flying cloud. The third--that
baffling third that defied the naming--was a dreamy, visionary,
untouchable creature who floated so far above one's head that
one's hand could never pull him down to get a good square chance
to see what he did look like. All this thought Mr. Jack as he
gazed into David's luminous eyes.
In September David entered the village school. School and David
did not assimilate at once. Very confidently the teacher set to
work to grade her new pupil; but she was not so confident when
she found that while in Latin he was perilously near herself (and
in French--which she was not required to teach--disastrously
beyond her!), in United States history he knew only the barest
outlines of certain portions, and could not name a single battle
in any of its wars. In most studies he was far beyond boys of his
own age, yet at every turn she encountered these puzzling spots
of discrepancy, which rendered grading in the ordinary way out of
the question.
David's methods of recitation, too, were peculiar, and somewhat
disconcerting. He also did not hesitate to speak aloud when he
chose, nor to rise from his seat and move to any part of the room
as the whim seized him. In time, of course, all this was changed;
but it was several days before the boy learned so to conduct
himself that he did not shatter to atoms the peace and propriety
of the schoolroom.
Outside of school David had little work to do now, though there
were still left a few light tasks about the house. Home life at
the Holly farmhouse was the same for David, yet with a
difference--the difference that comes from being really wanted
instead of being merely dutifully kept. There were other
differences, too, subtle differences that did not show, perhaps,
but that still were there.
Mr. and Mrs. Holly, more than ever now, were learning to look at
the world through David's eyes. One day--one wonderful day--they
even went to walk in the woods with the boy; and whenever before
had Simeon Holly left his work for so frivolous a thing as a walk
in the woods!
It was not accomplished, however, without a struggle, as David
could have told. The day was a Saturday, clear, crisp, and
beautiful, with a promise of October in the air; and David fairly
tingled to be free and away. Mrs. Holly was baking--and the birds
sang unheard outside her pantry window. Mr. Holly was digging
potatoes--and the clouds sailed unnoticed above his head.
All the morning David urged and begged. If for once, just this
once, they would leave everything and come, they would not regret
it, he was sure. But they shook their heads and said, "No, no,
impossible!" In the afternoon the pies were done and the potatoes
dug, and David urged and pleaded again. If once, only this once,
they would go to walk with him in the woods, he would be so
happy, so very happy! And to please the boy--they went.
It was a curious walk. Ellen Holly trod softly, with timid feet.
She threw hurried, frightened glances from side to side. It was
plain that Ellen Holly did not know how to play. Simeon Holly
stalked at her elbow, stern, silent, and preoccupied. It was
plain that Simeon Holly not only did not know how to play, but
did not even care to find out.
The boy tripped ahead and talked. He had the air of a monarch
displaying his kingdom. On one side was a bit of moss worthy of
the closest attention; on another, a vine that carried allurement
in every tendril. Here was a flower that was like a story for
interest, and there was a bush that bore a secret worth the
telling. Even Simeon Holly glowed into a semblance of life when
David had unerringly picked out and called by name the spruce,
and fir, and pine, and larch, and then, in answer to Mrs. Holly's
murmured: "But, David, where's the difference? They look so much
alike!" he had said:--
"Oh, but they aren't, you know. Just see how much more pointed
at the top that fir is than that spruce back there; and the
branches grow straight out, too, like arms, and they're all
smooth and tapering at the ends like a pussy-cat's tail. But the
spruce back there--ITS branches turned down and out--didn't you
notice?--and they're all bushy at the ends like a squirrel's
tail. Oh, they're lots different! That's a larch 'way ahead--that
one with the branches all scraggly and close down to the ground.
I could start to climb that easy; but I couldn't that pine over
there. See, it's 'way up, up, before there's a place for your
foot! But I love pines. Up there on the mountains where I lived,
the pines were so tall that it seemed as if God used them
sometimes to hold up the sky."
And Simeon Holly heard, and said nothing; and that he did say
nothing--especially nothing in answer to David's confident
assertions concerning celestial and terrestrial
architecture--only goes to show how well, indeed, the man was
learning to look at the world through David's eyes.
Nor were these all of David's friends to whom Mr. and Mrs. Holly
were introduced on that memorable walk. There were the birds, and
the squirrels, and, in fact, everything that had life. And each
one he greeted joyously by name, as he would greet a friend whose
home and habits he knew. Here was a wonderful woodpecker, there
was a beautiful bluejay. Ahead, that brilliant bit of color that
flashed across their path was a tanager. Once, far up in the sky,
as they crossed an open space, David spied a long black streak
moving southward.
"Oh, see!" he exclaimed. "The crows! See them?--'way up there?
Wouldn't it be fun if we could do that, and fly hundreds and
hundreds of miles, maybe a thousand?"
"Oh, David," remonstrated Mrs. Holly, unbelievingly.
"But they do! These look as if they'd started on their winter
journey South, too; but if they have, they're early. Most of them
don't go till October. They come back in March, you know. Though
I've had them, on the mountain, that stayed all the year with
"My! but I love to watch them go," murmured David, his eyes
following the rapidly disappearing blackline. "Lots of birds you
can't see, you know, when they start for the South. They fly at
night--the woodpeckers and orioles and cuckoos, and lots of
others. They're afraid, I guess, don't you? But I've seen them.
I've watched them. They tell each other when they're going to
"Oh, David," remonstrated Mrs. Holly, again, her eyes reproving,
but plainly enthralled.
"But they do tell each other," claimed the boy, with sparkling
eyes. "They must! For, all of a sudden, some night, you'll hear
the signal, and then they'll begin to gather from all directions.
I've seen them. Then, suddenly, they're all up and off to the
South--not in one big flock, but broken up into little flocks,
following one after another, with such a beautiful whir of wings.
Oof--OOF--OOF!--and they're gone! And I don't see them again till
next year. But you've seen the swallows, haven't you? They go in
the daytime, and they're the easiest to tell of any of them. They
fly so swift and straight. Haven't you seen the swallows go?"
"Why, I--I don't know, David," murmured Mrs. Holly, with a
helpless glance at her husband stalking on ahead. "I--I didn't
know there were such things to--to know."
There was more, much more, that David said before the walk came
to an end. And though, when it did end, neither Simeon Holly nor
his wife said a word of its having been a pleasure or a profit,
there was yet on their faces something of the peace and rest and
quietness that belonged to the woods they had left.
It was a beautiful month--that September, and David made the most
of it. Out of school meant out of doors for him. He saw Mr. Jack
and Jill often. He spent much time, too, with the Lady of the
Roses. She was still the Lady of the ROSES to David, though in
the garden now were the purple and scarlet and yellow of the
asters, salvia, and golden glow, instead of the blush and perfume
of the roses.
David was very much at home at Sunnycrest. He was welcome, he
knew, to go where he pleased. Even the servants were kind to him,
as well as was the elderly cousin whom he seldom saw, but who, he
knew, lived there as company for his Lady of the Roses.
Perhaps best, next to the garden, David loved the tower room;
possibly because Miss Holbrook herself so often suggested that
they go there. And it was there that they were when he said,
dreamily, one day:--
"I like this place--up here so high, only sometimes it does make
me think of that Princess, because it was in a tower like this
that she was, you know."
"Fairy stories, David?" asked Miss Holbrook lightly.
"No, not exactly, though there was a Princess in it. Mr. Jack
told it." David's eyes were still out of the window.
"Oh, Mr. Jack! And does Mr. Jack often tell you stories?"
"No. He never told only this one--and maybe that's why I remember
it so."
"Well, and what did the Princess do?" Miss Holbrook's voice was
still light, still carelessly preoccupied. Her attention,
plainly, was given to the sewing in her hand.
"She didn't do and that's what was the trouble," sighed I David.
"She didn't wave, you know."
The needle in Miss Holbrook's fingers stopped short in mid-air,
the thread half-drawn.
"Didn't--wave!" she stammered. "What do you--mean?"
"Nothing," laughed the boy, turning away from the window. "I
forgot that you didn't know the story."
"But maybe I do--that is--what was the story?" asked Miss
Holbrook, wetting her lips as if they had grown suddenly very
"Oh, do you? I wonder now! It wasn't 'The PRINCE and the
Pauper,' but the PRINCESS and the Pauper," cited David; "and they
used to wave signals, and answer with flags. Do you know the
There was no answer. Miss Holbrook was putting away her work,
hurriedly, and with hands that shook. David noticed that she even
pricked herself in her anxiety to get the needle tucked away.
Then she drew him to a low stool at her side.
"David, I want you to tell me that story, please," she said,
"just as Mr. Jack told it to you. Now, be careful and put it all
in, because I--I want to hear it," she finished, with an odd
little laugh that seemed to bring two bright red spots to her
"Oh, do you want to hear it? Then I will tell it," cried David
joyfully. To David, almost as delightful as to hear a story was
to tell one himself. "You see, first--" And he plunged headlong
into the introduction.
David knew it well--that story: and there was, perhaps, little
that he forgot. It might not have been always told in Mr. Jack's
language; but his meaning was there, and very intently Miss
Holbrook listened while David told of the boy and the girl, the
wavings, and the flags that were blue, black, and red. She
laughed once,--that was at the little joke with the bells that
the girl played,--but she did not speak until sometime later when
David was telling of the first home-coming of the Princess, and
of the time when the boy on his tiny piazza watched and watched
in vain for a waving white signal from the tower.
"Do you mean to say," interposed Miss Holbrook then, almost
starting to her feet, "that that boy expected--" She stopped
suddenly, and fell back in her chair. The two red spots on her
cheeks had become a rosy glow now, all over her face.
"Expected what?" asked David.
"N--nothing. Go on. I was so--so interested," explained Miss
Holbrook faintly. "Go on."
And David did go on; nor did the story lose by his telling. It
gained, indeed, something, for now it had woven through it the
very strong sympathy of a boy who loved the Pauper for his sorrow
and hated the Princess for causing that sorrow.
"And so," he concluded mournfully, "you see it isn't a very nice
story, after all, for it didn't end well a bit. They ought to
have got married and lived happy ever after. But they didn't."
Miss Holbrook drew in her breath a little uncertainly, and put
her hand to her throat. Her face now, instead of being red, was
very white.
"But, David," she faltered, after a moment, "perhaps
he--the--Pauper--did not--not love the Princess any longer."
"Mr. Jack said that he did."
The white face went suddenly pink again.
"Then, why didn't he go to her and--and--tell her?"
David lifted his chin. With all his dignity he answered, and his
words and accent were Mr. Jack's.
"Paupers don't go to Princesses, and say "I love you.'"
"But perhaps if they did--that is--if--" Miss Holbrook bit her
lips and did not finish her sentence. She did not, indeed, say
anything more for a long time. But she had not forgotten the
story. David knew that, because later she began to question him
carefully about many little points--points that he was very sure
he had already made quite plain. She talked about it, indeed,
until he wondered if perhaps she were going to tell it to some
one else sometime. He asked her if she were; but she only shook
her head. And after that she did not question him any more. And a
little later David went home.
For a week David had not been near the House that Jack Built, and
that, too, when Jill had been confined within doors for several
days with a cold. Jill, indeed, was inclined to be grieved at
this apparent lack of interest on the part of her favorite
playfellow; but upon her return from her first day of school,
after her recovery, she met her brother with startled eyes.
"Jack, it hasn't been David's fault at all," she cried
remorsefully. "He's sick."
"Yes; awfully sick. They've had to send away for doctors and
"Why, Jill, are you sure? Where did you hear this?"
"At school to-day. Every one was talking about it."
"But what is the matter?"
"Fever--some sort. Some say it's typhoid, and some scarlet, and
some say another kind that I can't remember; but everybody says
he's awfully sick. He got it down to Glaspell's, some say,--and
some say he didn't. But, anyhow, Betty Glaspell has been sick
with something, and they haven't let folks in there this week,"
finished Jill, her eyes big with terror.
"The Glaspells? But what was David doing down there?"
"Why, you know,--he told us once,--teaching Joe to play. He's
been there lots. Joe is blind, you know, and can't see, but he
just loves music, and was crazy over David's violin; so David
took down his other one--the one that was his father's, you
know--and showed him how to pick out little tunes, just to take
up his time so he wouldn't mind so much that he couldn't see.
Now, Jack, wasn't that just like David? Jack, I can't have
anything happen to David!"
"No, dear, no; of course not! I'm afraid we can't any of us, for
that matter," sighed Jack, his forehead drawn into anxious
lines. "I'll go down to the Hollys', Jill, the first thing
tomorrow morning, and see how he is and if there's anything we
can do. Meanwhile, don't take it too much to heart, dear. It may
not be half so bad as you think. School-children always get
things like that exaggerated, you must remember," he finished,
speaking with a lightness that he did not feel.
To himself the man owned that he was troubled, seriously
troubled. He had to admit that Jill's story bore the earmarks of
truth; and overwhelmingly he realized now just how big a place
this somewhat puzzling small boy had come to fill in his own
heart. He did not need Jill's anxious "Now, hurry, Jack," the
next morning to start him off in all haste for the Holly
farmhouse. A dozen rods from the driveway he met Perry Larson and
stopped him abruptly.
"Good morning, Larson; I hope this isn't true--what I hear--that
David is very ill."
Larson pulled off his hat and with his free hand sought the one
particular spot on his head to which he always appealed when he
was very much troubled.
"Well, yes, sir, I'm afraid 't is, Mr. Jack--er--Mr. Gurnsey, I
mean. He is turrible sick, poor little chap, an' it's too
bad--that's what it is--too bad!"
"Oh, I'm sorry! I hoped the report was exaggerated. I came down
to see if--if there wasn't something I could do."
"Well, 'course you can ask--there ain't no law ag'in' that; an'
ye needn't be afraid, neither. The report has got 'round that
it's ketchin'--what he's got, and that he got it down to the
Glaspells'; but 't ain't so. The doctor says he didn't ketch
nothin', an' he can't give nothin'. It's his head an' brain that
ain't right, an' he's got a mighty bad fever. He's been kind of
flighty an' nervous, anyhow, lately.
"As I was sayin', 'course you can ask, but I'm thinkin' there
won't be nothin' you can do ter help. Ev'rythin' that can be done
is bein' done. In fact, there ain't much of anythin' else that is
bein' done down there jest now but, tendin' ter him. They've got
one o' them 'ere edyercated nurses from the Junction--what wears
caps, ye know, an' makes yer feel as if they knew it all, an' you
didn't know nothin'. An' then there's Mr. an' Mis' Holly
besides. If they had THEIR way, there wouldn't neither of, em
let him out o' their sight fur a minute, they're that cut up
about it."
"I fancy they think a good deal of the boy--as we all do,"
murmured the younger man, a little unsteadily.
Larson winkled his forehead in deep thought.
"Yes; an' that's what beats me," he answered slowly; " 'bout
HIM,--Mr. Holly, I mean. 'Course we'd 'a' expected it of
HER--losin' her own boy as she did, an' bein' jest naturally so
sweet an' lovin'-hearted. But HIM--that's diff'rent. Now, you
know jest as well as I do what Mr. Holly is--every one does, so I
ain't sayin' nothin' sland'rous. He's a good man--a powerful good
man; an' there ain't a squarer man goin' ter work fur. But the
fact is, he was made up wrong side out, an' the seams has always
showed bad--turrible bad, with ravelin's all stickin' out every
which way ter ketch an' pull. But, gosh! I'm blamed if that, ere
boy ain't got him so smoothed down, you wouldn't know, scursely,
that he had a seam on him, sometimes; though how he's done it
beats me. Now, there's Mis' Holly--she's tried ter smooth 'em,
I'll warrant, lots of times. But I'm free ter say she hain't
never so much as clipped a ravelin' in all them forty years
they've lived tergether. Fact is, it's worked the other way with
her. All that HER rubbin' up ag'in' them seams has amounted to is
ter git herself so smoothed down that she don't never dare ter
say her soul's her own, most generally,--anyhow, not if he
happens ter intermate it belongs ter anybody else!"
Jack Gurnsey suddenly choked over a cough.
"I wish I could--do something," he murmured uncertainly.
"'T ain't likely ye can--not so long as Mr. an' Mis' Holly is on
their two feet. Why, there ain't nothin' they won't do, an'
you'll believe it, maybe, when I tell you that yesterday Mr.
Holly, he tramped all through Sawyer's woods in the rain, jest
ter find a little bit of moss that the boy was callin' for. Think
o' that, will ye? Simeon Holly huntin' moss! An' he got it, too,
an' brung it home, an' they say it cut him up somethin' turrible
when the boy jest turned away, and didn't take no notice. You
understand, 'course, sir, the little chap ain't right in his
head, an' so half the time he don't know what he says."
"Oh, I'm sorry, sorry!" exclaimed Gurnsey, as he turned away, and
hurried toward the farmhouse.
Mrs. Holly herself answered his low knock. She looked worn and
"Thank you, sir," she said gratefully, in reply to his offer of
assistance, "but there isn't anything you can do, Mr. Gurnsey.
We're having everything done that can be, and every one is very
kind. We have a very good nurse, and Dr. Kennedy has had
consultation with Dr. Benson from the Junction. They are doing
all in their power, of course, but they say that--that it's going
to be the nursing that will count now."
"Then I don't fear for him, surely" declared the man, with
"I know, but--well, he shall have the very best possible--of
"I know he will; but isn't there anything--anything that I can
She shook her head.
"No. Of course, if he gets better--" She hesitated; then lifted
her chin a little higher; "WHEN he gets better," she corrected
with courageous emphasis, "he will want to see you."
"And he shall see me," asserted Gurnsey. "And he will be better,
Mrs. Holly,--I'm sure he will."
"Yes, yes, of course, only--oh, Mr. Jack, he's so sick--so very
sick! The doctor says he's a peculiarly sensitive nature, and
that he thinks something's been troubling him lately." Her voice
"Poor little chap!" Mr. Jack's voice, too, was husky.
She looked up with swift gratefulness for his sympathy.
"And you loved him, too, I know" she choked. "He talks of you
often--very often."
"Indeed I love him! Who could help it?"
"There couldn't anybody, Mr. Jack,--and that's just it. Now,
since he's been sick, we've wondered more than ever who he is.
You see, I can't help thinking that somewhere he's got friends
who ought to know about him--now."
"Yes, I see," nodded the man.
"He isn't an ordinary boy, Mr. Jack. He's been trained in lots
of ways--about his manners, and at the table, and all that. And
lots of things his father has told him are beautiful, just
beautiful! He isn't a tramp. He never was one. And there's his
playing. YOU know how he can play."
"Indeed I do! You must miss his playing, too."
"I do; he talks of that, also," she hurried on, working her
fingers nervously together; "but oftenest he--he speaks of
singing, and I can't quite understand that, for he didn't ever
sing, you know."
"Singing? What does he say?" The man asked the question because
he saw that it was affording the overwrought little woman real
relief to free her mind; but at the first words of her reply he
became suddenly alert.
"It's 'his song,' as he calls it, that he talks about, always. It
isn't much--what he says--but I noticed it because he always
says the same thing, like this: I'll just hold up my chin and
march straight on and on, and I'll sing it with all my might and
main.' And when I ask him what he's going to sing, he always
says, 'My song--my song,' just like that. Do you think, Mr. Jack,
he did have--a song?"
For a moment the man did not answer. Something in his throat
tightened, and held the words. Then, in a low voice he managed to
"I think he did, Mrs. Holly, and--I think he sang it, too." The
next moment, with a quick lifting of his hat and a murmured "I'll
call again soon," he turned and walked swiftly down the driveway.
So very swiftly, indeed, was Mr. Jack walking, and so
self-absorbed was he, that he did not see the carriage until it
was almost upon him; then he stepped aside to let it pass. What
he saw as he gravely raised his hat was a handsome span of black
horses, a liveried coachman, and a pair of startled eyes looking
straight into his. What he did not see was the quick gesture with
which Miss Holbrook almost ordered her carriage stopped the
minute it had passed him by.
One by one the days passed, and there came from the anxious
watchers at David's bedside only the words, "There's very little
change." Often Jack Gurnsey went to the farmhouse to inquire for
the boy. Often, too, he saw Perry Larson; and Perry was never
loath to talk of David. It was from Perry, indeed, that Gurnsey
began to learn some things of David that he had never known
"It does beat all," Perry Larson said to him one day, "how many
folks asks me how that boy is--folks that you'd never think knew
him, anyhow, ter say nothin' of carin' whether he lived or died.
Now, there's old Mis' Somers, fur instance. YOU know what she
is--sour as a lemon an' puckery as a chokecherry. Well, if she
didn't give me yesterday a great bo-kay o' posies she'd growed
herself, an' said they was fur him--that they berlonged ter him,
"'Course, I didn't exactly sense what she meant by that, so I
asked her straight out; an' it seems that somehow, when the boy
first come, he struck her place one day an' spied a great big red
rose on one of her bushes. It seems he had his fiddle, an' he,
played it,--that rose a-growin' (you know his way!), an' she
heard an' spoke up pretty sharp an' asked him what in time he was
doin'. Well, most kids would 'a' run,--knowin' her temper as they
does,--but not much David. He stands up as pert as ye please, an'
tells her how happy that red rose must be ter make all that
dreary garden look so pretty; an' then he goes on, merry as a
lark, a-playin' down the hill.
"Well, Mis' Somers owned up ter me that she was pretty mad at the
time, 'cause her garden did look like tunket, an' she knew it.
She said she hadn't cared ter do a thing with it since her
Bessie died that thought so much of it. But after what David had
said, even mad as she was, the thing kind o' got on her nerves,
an' she couldn't see a thing, day or night, but that red rose
a-growin' there so pert an' courageous-like, until at last, jest
ter quiet herself, she fairly had ter set to an' slick that
garden up! She said she raked an' weeded, an' fixed up all the
plants there was, in good shape, an' then she sent down to
the Junction fur some all growed in pots, 'cause 't was too late
ter plant seeds. An, now it's doin' beautiful, so she jest could
n't help sendin' them posies ter David. When I told Mis' Holly,
she said she was glad it happened, 'cause what Mis' Somers needed
was somethin' ter git her out of herself--an' I'm free ter say
she did look better-natured, an' no mistake,--kind o' like a
chokecherry in blossom, ye might say."
"An' then there's the Widder Glaspell," continued Perry, after a
pause." 'Course, any one would expect she'd feel bad, seein' as
how good David was ter her boy--teachin' him ter play, ye know.
But Mis' Glaspell says Joe jest does take on somethin' turrible,
an' he won't tech the fiddle, though he was plum carried away
with it when David was well an' teachin' of him. An' there's the
Clark kid. He's lame, ye know, an' he thought the world an' all
of David's playin'.
" 'Course, there's you an' Miss Holbrook, always askin' an'
sendin' things--but that ain't so strange, 'cause you was
'specially his friends. But it's them others what beats me.
Why, some days it's 'most ev'ry soul I meet, jest askin' how he
is, an' sayin' they hopes he'll git well. Sometimes it's kids
that he's played to, an' I'll be triggered if one of 'em one day
didn't have no excuse to offer except that David had fit
him--'bout a cat, or somethin'--an' that ever since then he'd
thought a heap of him--though he guessed David didn't know it.
Listen ter that, will ye!
"An' once a woman held me up, an' took on turrible, but all I
could git from her was that he'd sat on her doorstep an' played
ter her baby once or twice;--as if that was anythin'! But one of
the derndest funny ones was the woman who said she could wash her
dishes a sight easier after she'd a-seen him go by playin'. There
was Bill Dowd, too. You know he really HAS got a screw loose in
his head somewheres, an' there ain't any one but what says he's
the town fool, all right. Well, what do ye think HE said?"
Mr. Jack shook his head.
"Well, he said he did hope as how nothin' would happen ter that
boy cause he did so like ter see him smile, an' that he always
did smile every time he met him! There, what do ye think o'
"Well, I think, Perry," returned.Mr. Jack soberly, "that Bill
Dowd wasn't playing the fool, when he said that, quite so much
as he sometimes is, perhaps."
"Hm-m, maybe not," murmured Perry Larson perplexedly. "Still, I'm
free ter say I do think 't was kind o' queer." He paused, then
slapped his knee suddenly. "Say, did I tell ye about
Streeter--Old Bill Streeter an' the pear tree?"
Again Mr. Jack shook his head.
"Well, then, I'm goin' to," declared the other, with gleeful
emphasis. "An', say, I don't believe even YOU can explain this--I
don't! Well, you know Streeter--ev'ry one does, so I ain't sayin'
nothin' sland'rous. He was cut on a bias, an' that bias runs ter
money every time. You know as well as I do that he won't lift his
finger unless there's a dollar stickin' to it, an' that he hain't
no use fur anythin' nor anybody unless there's money in it for
him. I'm blamed if I don't think that if he ever gits ter heaven,
he'll pluck his own wings an' sell the feathers fur what they'll
"Oh, Perry!" remonstrated Mr. Jack, in a half-stifled voice.
Perry Larson only grinned and went on imperturbably.
"Well, seein' as we both understand what he is, I'll tell ye what
he DONE. He called me up ter his fence one day, big as life, an'
says he, 'How's the boy?' An' you could 'a' knocked me down with
a feather. Streeter--a-askin' how a boy was that was sick! An' he
seemed ter care, too. I hain't seen him look so longfaced
since--since he was paid up on a sartin note I knows of, jest as
he was smackin' his lips over a nice fat farm that was comin' to
"Well, I was that plum puzzled that I meant ter find out why
Streeter was takin' sech notice, if I hung fur it. So I set to on
a little detective work of my own, knowin', of course, that 't
wa'n't no use askin' of him himself. Well, an' what do you s'pose
I found out? If that little scamp of a boy hadn't even got round
him--Streeter, the skinflint! He had--an' he went there often,
the neighbors said; an' Streeter doted on him. They declared that
actually he give him a cent once--though THAT part I ain't
swallerin' yet.
"They said--the neighbors did--that it all started from the pear
tree--that big one ter the left of his house. Maybe you remember
it. Well, anyhow, it seems that it's old, an' through bearin' any
fruit, though it still blossoms fit ter kill, every year, only a
little late 'most always, an' the blossoms stay on longer'n
common, as if they knew there wa'n't nothin' doin' later. Well,
old Streeter said it had got ter come down. I reckon he suspected
it of swipin' some of the sunshine, or maybe a little rain that
belonged ter the tree t'other side of the road what did bear
fruit an' was worth somethin'! Anyhow, he got his man an' his
axe, an' was plum ready ter start in when he sees David an' David
sees him.
"'T was when the boy first come. He'd gone ter walk an' had
struck this pear tree, all in bloom,--an' 'course, YOU know how
the boy would act--a pear tree, bloomin', is a likely sight, I'll
own. He danced and laughed and clapped his hands,--he didn't
have his fiddle with him,--an' carried on like all possessed.
Then he sees the man with the axe, an' Streeter an' Streeter sees
"They said it was rich then--Bill Warner heard it all from
t'other side of the fence. He said that David, when he found out
what was goin' ter happen, went clean crazy, an' rampaged on at
such a rate that old Streeter couldn't do nothin' but stand an'
stare, until he finally managed ter growl out: 'But I tell ye,
boy, the tree ain't no use no more!'
"Bill says the boy flew all to pieces then. 'No use--no use!' he
cries; 'such a perfectly beautiful thing as that no use! Why, it
don't have ter be any use when it's so pretty. It's jest ter look
at an' love, an' be happy with!' Fancy sayin' that ter old
Streeter! I'd like ter seen his face. But Bill says that wa'n't
half what the boy said. He declared that 't was God's present,
anyhow, that trees was; an' that the things He give us ter look
at was jest as much use as the things He give us ter eat; an'
that the stars an' the sunsets an' the snowflakes an' the little
white cloud-boats, an' I don't know what-all, was jest as
important in the Orchestra of Life as turnips an' squashes. An'
then, Billy says, he ended by jest flingin' himself on ter
Streeter an' beggin' him ter wait till he could go back an' git
his fiddle so he could tell him what a beautiful thing that tree
"Well, if you'll believe it, old Streeter was so plum befuzzled
he sent the man an' the axe away--an' that tree's a-livin'
ter-day--'t is!" he finished; then, with a sudden gloom on his
face, Larson added, huskily: "An' I only hope I'll be sayin' the
same thing of that boy--come next month at this time!"
"We'll hope you will," sighed the other fervently.
And so one by one the days passed, while the whole town waited
and while in the great airy "parlor bedroom" of the Holly
farmhouse one small boy fought his battle for life. Then came the
blackest day and night of all when the town could only wait and
watch--it had lost its hope; when the doctors shook their heads
and refused to meet Mrs. Holly's eyes; when the pulse in the slim
wrist outside the coverlet played hide-and-seek with the cool,
persistent fingers that sought so earnestly for it; when Perry
Larson sat for uncounted sleepless hours by the kitchen stove,
and fearfully listened for a step crossing the hallway; when Mr.
Jack on his porch, and Miss Holbrook in her tower widow, went
with David down into the dark valley, and came so near the
rushing river that life, with its petty prides and prejudices,
could never seem quite the same to them again.
Then, after that blackest day and night, came the dawn--as the
dawns do come after the blackest of days and nights. In the
slender wrist outside the coverlet the pulse gained and steadied.
On the forehead beneath the nurse's fingers, a moisture came. The
doctors nodded their heads now, and looked every one straight in
the eye. "He will live," they said. "The crisis is passed." Out
by the kitchen stove Perry Larson heard the step cross the hall
and sprang upright; but at the first glimpse of Mrs. Holly's
tear-wet, yet radiant face, he collapsed limply.
"Gosh!" he muttered. "Say, do you know, I didn't s'pose I did
care so much! I reckon I'll go an' tell Mr. Jack. He'll want ter
David's convalescence was picturesque, in a way. As soon as he
was able, like a king he sat upon his throne and received his
subjects; and a very gracious king he was, indeed. His room
overflowed with flowers and fruit, and his bed quite groaned with
the toys and books and games brought for his diversion, each one
of which he hailed with delight, from Miss Holbrook's sumptuously
bound "Waverley Novels" to little crippled Jimmy Clark's bag of
Only two things puzzled David: one was why everybody was so good
to him; and the other was why he never could have the pleasure of
both Mr. Jack's and Miss Holbrook's company at the same time.
David discovered this last curious circumstance concerning Mr.
Jack and Miss Holbrook very early in his convalescence. It was on
the second afternoon that Mr. Jack had been admitted to the
sick-room. David had been hearing all the latest news of Jill and
Joe, when suddenly he noticed an odd change come to his visitor's
The windows of the Holly "parlor bedroom" commanded a fine view
of the road, and it was toward one of these windows that Mr.
Jack's eyes were directed. David, sitting up in bed, saw then
that down the road was approaching very swiftly a handsome span
of black horses and an open carriage which he had come to
recognize as belonging to Miss Holbrook. He watched it eagerly
now till he saw the horses turn in at the Holly driveway. Then he
gave a low cry of delight.
"It's my Lady of the Roses! She's coming to see me. Look! Oh, I'm
so glad! Now you'll see her, and just KNOW how lovely she is.
Why, Mr. Jack, you aren't going NOW!" he broke off in manifest
disappointment, as Mr. Jack leaped to his feet.
"I think I'll have to, if you don't mind, David," returned the
man, an oddly nervous haste in his manner. "And YOU won't mind,
now that you'll have Miss Holbrook. I want to speak to Larson. I
saw him in the field out there a minute ago. And I guess I'll
slip right through this window here, too, David. I don't want to
lose him; and I can catch him quicker this way than any other,"
he finished, throwing up the sash.
"Oh, but Mr. Jack, please just wait a minute," begged David. "I
wanted you to see my Lady of the Roses, and--" But Mr. Jack was
already on the ground outside the low window, and the next
minute, with a merry nod and smile, he had pulled the sash down
after him and was hurrying away.
Almost at once, then, Miss Holbrook appeared at the bedroom door.
"Mrs. Holly said I was to walk right in, David, so here I am,"
she began, in a cheery voice. "Oh, you're looking lots better
than when I saw you Monday, young man!"
"I am better," caroled David; "and to-day I'm 'specially better,
because Mr. Jack has been here."
"Oh, has Mr. Jack been to see you to-day?" There was an
indefinable change in Miss Holbrook's voice.
"Yes, right now. Why, he was here when you were driving into the
Miss Holbrook gave a perceptible start and looked about her a
little wildly.
"Here when--But I didn't meet him anywhere--in the hall."
"He didn't go through the hall," laughed David gleefully. "He
went right through that window there."
"The window!" An angry flush mounted to Miss Holbrook's
forehead. "Indeed, did he have to resort to that to escape--" She
bit her lip and stopped abruptly.
David's eyes widened a little.
"Escape? Oh, HE wasn't the one that was escaping. It was Perry.
Mr. Jack was afraid he'd lose him. He saw him out the window
there, right after he'd seen you, and he said he wanted to speak
to him and he was afraid he'd get away. So he jumped right
through that window there. See?"
"Oh, yes, I--see," murmured Miss Holbrook, in a voice David
thought was a little queer.
"I wanted him to stay," frowned David uncertainly. "I wanted him
to see you."
"Dear me, David, I hope you didn't tell him so."
"Oh, yes, I did. But he couldn't stay, even then. You see, he
wanted to catch Perry Larson."
"I've no doubt of it," retorted Miss Holbrook, with so much
emphasis that David again looked at her with a slightly disturbed
"But he'll come again soon, I'm sure, and then maybe you'll be
here, too. I do so want him to see you, Lady of the Roses!"
"Nonsense, David!" laughed Miss Holbrook alittle nervously.
"Mr.--Mr. Gurnsey doesn't want to see me. He's seen me dozens of
"Oh, yes, he told me he'd seen you long ago," nodded David
gravely; "but he didn't act as if he remembered it much."
"Didn't he, indeed!" laughed Miss Holbrook, again flushing a
little. "Well, I'm sure, dear, we wouldn't want to tax the poor
gentleman's memory too much, you know. Come, suppose you see what
I've brought you," she finished gayly.
"Oh, what is it?" cried David, as, under Miss Holbrook's swift
fingers, the wrappings fell away and disclosed a box which, upon
being opened, was found to be filled with quantities of oddly
shaped bits of pictured wood--a jumble of confusion.
"It's a jig-saw puzzle, David. All these little pieces fitted
together make a picture, you see. I tried last night and I could
n't do it. I brought it down to see if you could."
"Oh, thank you! I'd love to," rejoiced the boy. And in the
fascination of the marvel of finding one fantastic bit that
fitted another, David apparently forgot all about Mr. Jack--which
seemed not unpleasing to his Lady of the Roses.
It was not until nearly a week later that David had his wish of
seeing his Mr. Jack and his Lady of the Roses meet at his
bedside. It was the day Miss Holbrook brought to him the
wonderful set of handsomely bound "Waverley Novels." He was still
glorying in his new possession, in fact, when Mr. Jack appeared
suddenly in the doorway.
"Hullo my boy, I just--Oh, I beg your pardon. I supposed you
were--alone," he stammered, looking very red indeed.
"He is--that is, he will be, soon--except for you, Mr. Gurnsey,"
smiled Miss Holbrook, very brightly. She was already on her feet.
"No, no, I beg of you," stammered Mr. Jack, growing still more
red. "Don't let me drive--that is, I mean, don't go, please. I
didn't know. I had no warning--I didn't see--Your carriage was
not at the door to-day."
Miss Holbrook's eyebrows rose the fraction of an inch.
"I sent it home. I am planning to walk back. I have several calls
to make on the way; and it's high time I was starting. Good-bye,
"But, Lady, of the Roses, please, please, don't go," besought
David, who had been looking from one to the other in worried
dismay. "Why, you've just come!"
But neither coaxing nor argument availed; and before David really
knew just what had happened, he found himself alone with Mr.
Even then disappointment was piled on disappointment, for Mr.
Jack's visit was not the unalloyed happiness it usually was. Mr.
Jack himself was almost cross at first, and then he was silent
and restless, moving jerkily about the room in a way that
disturbed David very much.
Mr. Jack had brought with him a book; but even that only made
matters worse, for when he saw the beautifully bound volumes that
Miss Holbrook had just left, he frowned, and told David that he
guessed he did not need his gift at all, with all those other
fine books. And David could not seem to make him understand that
the one book from him was just exactly as dear as were the whole
set of books that his Lady of the Roses brought.
Certainly it was not a satisfactory visit at all, and for the
first time David was almost glad to have Mr. Jack go and leave
him with his books. The BOOKS, David told himself, he could
understand; Mr. Jack he could not--to-day.
Several times after this David's Lady of the Roses and Mr. Jack
happened to call at the same hour; but never could David persuade
these two friends of his to stay together. Always, if one came
and the other was there, the other went away, in spite of David's
protestations that two people did not tire him at all and his
assertions that he often entertained as many as that at once.
Tractable as they were in all other ways, anxious as they seemed
to please him, on this one point they were obdurate: never would
they stay together.
They were not angry with each other--David was sure of that, for
they were always very especially polite, and rose, and stood, and
bowed in a most delightful fashion. Still, he sometimes thought
that they did not quite like each other, for always, after the
one went away, the other, left behind, was silent and almost
stern--if it was Mr. Jack; and flushed-faced and nervous--if it
was Miss Holbrook. But why this was so David could not
The span of handsome black horses came very frequently to the
Holly farmhouse now, and as time passed they often bore away
behind them a white-faced but happy-eyed boy on the seat beside
Miss Holbrook.
"My, but I don't see how every one can be so good to me!"
exclaimed the boy, one day, to his Lady of the Roses.
"Oh, that's easy, David," she smiled. "The only trouble is to
find out what you want--you ask for so little."
"But I don't need to ask--you do it all beforehand," asserted
the, boy. "you and Mr. Jack, and everybody."
"Really? That's good." For a brief moment Miss Holbrook
hesitated; then, as if casually, she asked: "And he tells you
stories, too, I suppose,--this Mr. Jack,--just as he used to,
doesn't he?"
"Well, he never did tell me but one, you know, before; but he's
told me more now, since I've been sick."
"Oh, yes, I remember, and that one was 'The Princess and the
Pauper,' wasn't it? Well, has he told you any more--like--that?"
The boy shook his head with decision.
"No, he doesn't tell me any more like that, and--and I don't
want him to, either."
Miss Holbrook laughed a little oddly.
"Why, David, what is the matter with that?" she queried.
"The ending; it wasn't nice, you know."
"Oh, yes, I--I remember."
"I've asked him to change it," went on David, in a grieved voice.
"I asked him just the other day, but he wouldn't."
"Perhaps he--he didn't want to." Miss Holbrook spoke very
quickly, but so low that David barely heard the words.
"Didn't want to? Oh, yes, he did! He looked awful sober, and as
if he really cared, you know. And he said he'd give all he had in
the world if he really could change it, but he couldn't."
"Did he say--just that?" Miss Holbrook was leaning forward a
little breathlessly now.
"Yes--just that; and that's the part I couldn't understand,"
commented David. "For I don't see why a story--just a story made
up out of somebody's head--can't be changed any way you want it.
And I told him so."
"Well, and what did he say to that?"
"He didn't say anything for a minute, and I had to ask him
again. Then he sat up suddenly, just as if he'd been asleep, you
know, and said, 'Eh, what, David?' And then I told him again what
I'd said. This time he shook his head, and smiled that kind of a
smile that isn't really a smile, you know, and said something
about a real, true-to-life story's never having but one ending,
and that was a logical ending. Lady of the Roses, what is a
logical ending?"
The Lady of the Roses laughed unexpectedly. The two little red
spots, that David always loved to see, flamed into her cheeks,
and her eyes showed a sudden sparkle. When she answered, her
words came disconnectedly, with little laughing breaths between.
"Well, David, I--I'm not sure I can--tell you. But perhaps I--can
find out. This much, however, I am sure of: Mr. Jack's logical
ending wouldn't be--mine!"
What she meant David did not know; nor would she tell him when he
asked; but a few days later she sent for him, and very gladly
David--able now to go where he pleased--obeyed the summons.
It was November, and the garden was bleak and cold; but in the
library a bright fire danced on the hearth, and before this Miss
Holbrook drew up two low chairs.
She looked particularly pretty, David thought. The rich red of
her dress had apparently brought out an answering red in her
cheeks. Her eyes were very bright and her lips smiled; yet she
seemed oddly nervous and restless. She sewed a little, with a bit
of yellow silk on white--but not for long. She knitted with two
long ivory needles flashing in and out of a silky mesh of
blue--but this, too, she soon ceased doing. On a low stand at
David's side she had placed books and pictures, and for
a time she talked of those. Then very abruptly she asked:--
"David, when will you see--Mr. Jack again--do you suppose?"
"Tomorrow. I'm going up to the House that Jack Built to tea, and
I'm to stay all night. It's Halloween--that is, it isn't really
Halloween, because it's too late. I lost that, being sick, you
know. So we're going to pretend, and Mr. Jack is going to show me
what it is like. That is what Mr. Jack and Jill always do; when
something ails the real thing, they just pretend with the
make-believe one. He's planned lots of things for Jill and me to
do; with nuts and apples and candles, you know. It's to-morrow
night. so I'll see him then."
"To-morrow? So--so soon?" faltered Miss Holbrook. And to David,
gazing at her with wondering eyes, it seemed for a moment almost
as if she were looking about for a place to which she might run
and hide. Then determinedly, as if she were taking hold of
something with both hands, she leaned forward, looked David
squarely in the eyes, and began to talk hurriedly, yet very
"David, listen. I've something I want you to say to Mr. Jack, and
I want you to be sure and get it just right. It's about the--the
story, 'The Princess and the Pauper,' you know. You can remember,
I think, for you remembered that so well. Will you say it to
him--what I'm going to tell you--just as I say it?"
"Why, of course I will!" David's promise was unhesitating, though
his eyes were still puzzled.
"It's about the--the ending," stammered Miss Holbrook. "That is,
it may--it may have something to do with the ending--perhaps,"
she finished lamely. And again David noticed that odd shifting of
Miss Holbrook's gaze as if she were searching for some means of
escape. Then, as before, he saw her chin lift determinedly, as
she began to talk faster than ever.
"Now, listen," she admonished him, earnestly.
And David listened.
The pretended Halloween was a great suceess. So very excited,
indeed, did David become over the swinging apples and popping
nuts that he quite forgot to tell Mr. Jack what the Lady of the
Roses had said until Jill had gone up to bed and he himself was
about to take from Mr. Jack's hand the little lighted lamp.
"Oh, Mr. Jack, I forgot," he cried then. "There was something I
was going to tell you."
"Never mind to-night, David; it's so late. Suppose we leave it
until to-morrow," suggested Mr. Jack, still with the lamp
extended in his hand.
"But I promised the Lady of the Roses that I'd say it to-night,"
demurred the boy, in a troubled voice.
The man drew his lamp halfway back suddenly.
"The Lady of the Roses! Do you mean--she sent a message--to ME?"
he demanded.
"Yes; about the story, 'The Princess and the Pauper,' you know."
With an abrupt exclamation Mr. Jack set the lamp on the table and
turned to a chair. He had apparently lost his haste to go to bed.
"See here, David, suppose you come and sit down, and tell me just
what you're talking about. And first--just what does the Lady of
the Roses know about that--that 'Princess and the Pauper'?"
"Why, she knows it all, of course," returned the boy in surprise.
"I told it to her."
"You--told--it--to her!" Mr. Jack relaxed in his chair. "David!"
"Yes. And she was just as interested as could be."
"I don't doubt it!" Mr. Jack's lips snapped together a little
"Only she didn't like the ending, either."
Mr. Jack sat up suddenly.
"She didn't like--David, are you sure? Did she SAY that?"
David frowned in thought.
"Well, I don't know as I can tell, exactly, but I'm sure she did
n't like it, because just before she told me WHAT to say to you,
she said that--that what she was going to say would probably have
something to do with the ending, anyway. Still--" David paused in
yet deeper thought. "Come to think of it, there really isn't
anything--not in what she said--that CHANGED that ending, as I
can see. They didn't get married and live happy ever after,
"Yes, but what did she say?" asked Mr. Jack in a voice that was
not quite steady. "Now, be careful, David, and tell it just as
she said it."
"Oh, I will," nodded David. "SHE said to do that, too."
"Did she?" Mr. Jack leaned farther forward in his chair. "But
tell me, how did she happen to--to say anything about it? Suppose
you begin at the beginning--away back, David. I want to hear it
David gave a contented sigh, and settled himself more
"Well, to begin with, you see, I told her the story long ago,
before I was sick, and she was ever so interested then, and asked
lots of questions. Then the other day something came up--I've
forgotten how--about the ending, and I told her how hard I'd
tried to have you change it, but you wouldn't. And she spoke
right up quick and said probably you didn't want to change it,
anyhow. But of course I settled THAT question without any
trouble," went on David confidently, "by just telling her how you
said you'd give anything in the world to change it."
"And you told her that--just that, David?" cried the man.
"Why, yes, I had to," answered David, in surprise, "else she
wouldn't have known that you DID want to change it. Don't you
"Oh, yes! I--see--a good deal that I'm thinking you don't,"
muttered Mr. Jack, fallig back in his chair.
"Well, then is when I told her about the logical ending--what you
said, you know,--oh, yes! and that was when I found out she did
n't like the ending, because she laughed such a funny little
laugh and colored up, and said that she wasn't sure she could
tell me what a logical ending was, but that she would try to find
out, and that, anyhow, YOUR ending wouldn't be hers--she was
sure of that."
"David, did she say that--really?" Mr. Jack was on his feet now.
"She did; and then yesterday she asked me to come over, and she
said some more things,--about the story, I mean,--but she didn't
say another thing about the ending. She didn't ever say anything
about that except that little bit I told you of a minute ago."
"Yes, yes, but what did she say?" demanded Mr. Jack, stopping
short in his walk up and down the room.
"She said: 'You tell Mr. Jack that I know something about that
story of his that perhaps he doesn't. In the first place, I know
the Princess a lot better than he does, and she isn't a bit the
kind of girl he's pictured her."
"Yes! Go on--go on!"
" 'Now, for instance,' she says, 'when the boy made that call,
after the girl first came back, and when the boy didn't like it
because they talked of colleges and travels, and such things, you
tell him that I happen to know that that girl was just hoping and
hoping he'd speak of the old days and games; but that she could
n't speak, of course, when he hadn't been even once to see her
during all those weeks, and when he'd acted in every way just as
if he'd forgotten.' "
"But she hadn't waved--that Princess hadn't waved--once!"
argued Mr. Jack; "and he looked and looked for it."
"Yes, SHE spoke of that," returned David. "But SHE said she
shouldn't think the Princess would have waved, when she'd got to
be such a great big girl as that--WAVING to a BOY! She said that
for her part she should have been ashamed of her if she had!"
"Oh, did she!" murmured Mr. Jack blankly, dropping suddenly into
his chair.
"Yes, she did," repeated David, with a little virtuous uplifting
of his chin.
It was plain to be seen that David's sympathies had unaccountably
met with a change of heart.
"But--the Pauper--"
"Oh, yes, and that's another thing," interrupted David. "The Lady
of the Roses said that she didn't like that name one bit; that
it wasn't true, anyway, because he wasn't a pauper. And she
said, too, that as for his picturing the Princess as being
perfectly happy in all that magnificence, he didn't get it right
at all. For SHE knew that the Princess wasn't one bit happy,
because she was so lonesome for things and people she had known
when she was just the girl."
Again Mr. Jack sprang to his feet. For a minute he strode up and
down the room in silence; then in a shaking voice he asked:--
"David, you--you aren't making all this up, are you? You're
saying just what--what Miss Holbrook told you to?"
"Why, of course, I'm not making it up," protested the boy
aggrievedly. "This is the Lady of the Roses' story--SHE made it
up--only she talked it as if 't was real, of course, just as you
did. She said another thing, too. She said that she happened to
know that the Princess had got all that magnificence around her
in the first place just to see if it wouldn't make her happy,
but that it hadn't, and that now she had one place--a little
room--that was left just as it used to be when she was the girl,
and that she went there and sat very often. And she said it was
right in sight of where the boy lived, too, where he could see it
every day; and that if he hadn't been so blind he could have
looked right through those gray walls and seen that, and seen
lots of other things. And what did she mean by that, Mr. Jack?"
"I don't know--I don't know, David," half-groaned Mr. Jack.
"Sometimes I think she means--and then I think that can't
"But do you think it's helped it any--the story?" persisted the
boy. "She's only talked a little about the Princess. She didn't
really change things any--not the ending."
"But she said it might, David--she said it might! Don't you
remember?" cried the man eagerly. And to David, his eagerness did
not seem at all strange. Mr. Jack had said before--long ago--that
he would be very glad indeed to have a happier ending to this
tale. "Think now," continued the man. "Perhaps she said something
else, too. Did she say anything else, David?"
David shook his head slowly.
"No, only--yes, there was a little something, but it doesn't
CHANGE things any, for it was only a 'supposing.' She said: 'Just
supposing, after long years, that the Princess found out about
how the boy felt long ago, and suppose he should look up at the
tower some day, at the old time, and see a ONE--TWO wave, which
meant, "Come over to see me." Just what do you suppose he would
do?' But of course, THAT can't do any good," finished David
gloomily, as he rose to go to bed, "for that was only a
'supposing.' "
"Of course," agreed Mr. Jack steadily; and David did not know
that only stern self-control had forced the steadiness into that
voice, nor that, for Mr. Jack, the whole world had burst suddenly
into song.
Neither did David, the next morning, know that long before eight
o'clock Mr. Jack stood at a certain window, his eyes unswervingly
fixed on the gray towers of Sunnycrest. What David did know,
however, was that just after eight, Mr. Jack strode through the
room where he and Jill were playing checkers, flung himself into
his hat and coat, and then fairly leaped down the steps toward
the path that led to the footbridge at the bottom of the hill.
"Why, whatever in the world ails Jack?" gasped Jill. Then, after
a startled pause, she asked. "David, do folks ever go crazy for
joy? Yesterday, you see, Jack got two splendid pieces of news.
One was from his doctor. He was examined, and he's fine, the
doctor says; all well, so he can go back, now any time, to the
city and work. I shall go to school then, you know,--a young
ladies' school," she finished, a little importantly.
"He's well? How splendid! But what was the other news? You said
there were two; only it couldn't have been nicer than that was;
to be well--all well!"
"The other? Well, that was only that his old place in the city
was waiting for him. He was with a firm of big lawyers, you know,
and of course it is nice to have a place all waiting. But I can't
see anything in those things to make him act like this, now. Can
"Why, yes, maybe," declared David. "He's found his work--don't
you see?--out in the world, and he's going to do it. I know how
I'd feel if I had found mine that father told me of! Only what I
can't understand is, if Mr. Jack knew all this yesterday, why did
n't he act like this then, instead of waiting till to-day?"
"I wonder," said Jill.
David found many new songs in his violin those early winter days,
and they were very beautiful ones. To begin with, there were all
the kindly looks and deeds that were showered upon him from every
side. There was the first snowstorm, too, with the feathery
flakes turning all the world to fairy whiteness. This song David
played to Mr. Streeter, one day, and great was his disappointment
that the man could not seem to understand what the song said.
"But don't you see?" pleaded David. "I'm telling you that it's
your pear-tree blossoms come back to say how glad they are that
you didn't kill them that day."
"Pear-tree blossoms--come back!" ejaculated the old man. "Well,
no, I can't see. Where's yer pear-tree blossoms?"
"Why, there--out of the window--everywhere," urged the boy.
"THERE! By ginger! boy--ye don't mean--ye CAN'T mean the SNOW!"
"Of course I do! Now, can't you see it? Why, the whole tree was
just a great big cloud of snowflakes. Don't you remember? Well,
now it's gone away and got a whole lot more trees, and all the
little white petals have come dancing down to celebrate, and to
tell you they sure are coming back next year."
"Well, by ginger!" exclaimed the man again. Then, suddenly, he
threw back his head with a hearty laugh. David did not quite like
the laugh, neither did he care for the five-cent piece that the
man thrust into his fingers a little later; though--had David but
known it--both the laugh and the five-cent piece gift were--for
the uncomprehending man who gave them--white milestones along an
unfamiliar way.
It was soon after this that there came to David the great
surprise--his beloved Lady of the Roses and his no less beloved
Mr. Jack were to be married at the beginning of the New Year. So
very surprised, indeed, was David at this, that even his violin
was mute, and had nothing, at first, to say about it. But to Mr.
Jack, as man to man, David said one day:--
"I thought men, when they married women, went courting. In
story-books they do. And you--you hardly ever said a word to my
beautiful Lady of the Roses; and you spoke once--long ago--as if
you scarcely remembered her at all. Now, what do you mean by
And Mr. Jack laughed, but he grew red, too,--and then he told it
all,--that it was just the story of "The Princess and the
Pauper," and that he, David, had been the one, as it happened, to
do part of their courting for them.
And how David had laughed then, and how he had fairly hugged
himself for joy! And when next he had picked up his violin, what
a beautiful, beautiful song he had found about it in the vibrant
It was this same song, as it chanced, that he was playing in his
room that Saturday afternoon when the letter from Simeon Holly's
long-lost son John came to the Holly farmhouse.
Downstairs in the kitchen, Simeon Holly stood, with the letter in
his hand.
"Ellen, we've got a letter from--John," he said. That Simeon
Holly spoke of it at all showed how very far along HIS unfamiliar
way he had come since the last letter from John had arrived.
"From--John? Oh, Simeon! From John?"
Simeon sat down and tried to hide the shaking of his hand as he
ran the point of his knife under the flap of the envelope. "We'll
see what--he says." And to hear him, one might have thought that
letters from John were everyday occurrences.
DEAR FATHER: Twice before I have written [ran the letter], and
received no answer. But I'm going to make one more effort for
forgiveness. May I not come to you this Christmas? I have a
little boy of my own now, and my heart aches for you. I know how
I should feel, should he, in years to come, do as I did.
I'll not deceive you--I have not given up my art. You told me
once to choose between you and it--and I chose, I suppose; at
least, I ran away. Yet in the face of all that, I ask you again,
may I not come to you at Christmas? I want you, father, and I
want mother. And I want you to see my boy.
"Well?" said Simeon Holly, trying to speak with a steady coldness
that would not show how deeply moved he was. "Well, Ellen?"
"Yes, Simeon, yes!" choked his wife, a world of mother-love and
longing in her pleading eyes and voice. "Yes--you'll let it
"Uncle Simeon, Aunt Ellen," called David, clattering down the
stairs from his room, "I've found such a beautiful song in my
violin, and I'm going to play it over and over so as to be sure
and remember it for father--for it is a beautiful world, Uncle
Simeon, isn't it? Now, listen!"
And Simeon Holly listened--but it was not the violin that he
heard. It was the voice of a little curly-headed boy out of the
When David stopped playing some time later, only the woman sat
watching him--the man was over at his desk, pen in hand.
John, John's wife, and John's boy came the day before Christmas,
and great was the excitement in the Holly farmhouse. John was
found to be big, strong, and bronzed with the outdoor life of
many a sketching trip--a son to be proud of, and to be leaned
upon in one's old age. Mrs. John, according to Perry Larson, was
"the slickest little woman goin'." According to John's mother,
she was an almost unbelievable incarnation of a long-dreamed-of,
long-despaired-of daughter--sweet, lovable, and charmingly
beautiful. Little John--little John was himself; and he could not
have been more had he been an angel-cherub straight from
heaven--which, in fact, he was, in his doting grandparents' eyes.
John Holly had been at his old home less than four hours when he
chanced upon David's violin. He was with his father and mother at
the time. There was no one else in the room. With a sidelong
glance at his parents, he picked up the instrument--John Holly
had not forgotten his own youth. His violin-playing in the old
days had not been welcome, he remembered.
"A fiddle! Who plays?" he asked.
"Oh, the boy. You say you--took him in? By the way, what an odd
little shaver he is! Never did I see a BOY like HIM." Simeon
Holly's head came up almost aggressively.
"David is a good boy--a very good boy, indeed, John. We think a
great deal of him."
John Holly laughed lightly, yet his brow carried a puzzled frown.
Two things John Holly had not been able thus far to understand:
an indefinable change in his father, and the position of the boy
David, in the household-- John Holly was still remembering his
own repressed youth.
"Hm-m," he murmured, softly picking the strings, then drawing
across them a tentative bow. "I've a fiddle at home that I play
sometimes. Do you mind if I--tune her up?"
A flicker of something that was very near to humor flashed from
his father's eyes.
"Oh, no. We are used to that--now." And again John Holly
remembered his youth.
"Jove! but he's got the dandy instrument here," cried the player,
dropping his bow after the first half-dozen superbly vibrant
tones, and carrying the violin to the window. A moment later he
gave an amazed ejaculation and turned on his father a dumfounded
"Great Scott, father! Where did that boy get this instrument? I
KNOW something of violins, if I can't play them much; and this--!
Where DID he get it?"
"Of his father, I suppose. He had it when he came here, anyway."
" 'Had it when he came'! But, father, you said he was a tramp,
and--oh, come, tell me, what is the secret behind this? Here I
come home and find calmly reposing on my father's sitting-room
table a violin that's priceless, for all I know. Anyhow, I do
know that its value is reckoned in the thousands, not hundreds:
and yet you, with equal calmness, tell me it's owned by this boy
who, it's safe to say, doesn't know how to play sixteen notes on
it correctly, to say nothing of appreciating those he does play;
and who, by your own account, is nothing but--" A swiftly
uplifted hand of warning stayed the words on his lips. He turned
to see David himself in the doorway.
"Come in, David," said Simeon Holly quietly. "My son wants to
hear you play. I don't think he has heard you." And again there
flashed from Simeon Holly's eyes a something very much like
With obvious hesitation John Holly relinquished the violin. From
the expression on his face it was plain to be seen the sort of
torture he deemed was before him. But, as if constrained to ask
the question, he did say:--
"Where did you get this violin, boy?"
"I don't know. We've always had it, ever since I could
remember--this and the other one."
"The OTHER one!"
"Oh!" He hesitated; then, a little severely, he observed: "This
is a fine instrument, boy,--a very fine instrument."
"Yes," nodded David, with a cheerful smile. "Father said it was.
I like it, too. This is an Amati, but the other is a
Stradivarius. I don't know which I do like best, sometimes, only
this is mine."
With a half-smothered ejaculation John Holly fell back limply.
"Then you--do--know?" he challenged.
"The value of that violin in your hands."
There was no answer. The boy's eyes were questioning.
"The worth, I mean,--what it's worth."
"Why, no--yes--that is, it's worth everything--to me," answered
David, in a puzzled voice.
With an impatient gesture John Holly brushed this aside.
"But the other one--where is that?"
"At Joe Glaspell's. I gave it to him to play on, because he had
n't any, and he liked to play so well."
"You GAVE it to him--a Stradivarius!"
"I loaned it to him," corrected David, in a troubled voice.
"Being father's, I couldn't bear to give it away. But Joe--Joe
had to have something to play on."
" 'Something to play on'! Father, he doesn't mean the River
Street Glaspells?" cried John Holly.
"I think he does. Joe is old Peleg Glaspell's grandson." John
Holly threw up both his hands.
"A Stradivarius--to old Peleg's grandson! Oh, ye gods!" he
muttered. "Well, I'll be--" He did not finish his sentence. At
another word from Simeon Holly, David had begun to play.
From his seat by the stove Simeon Holly watched his son's
face--and smiled. He saw amazement, unbelief, and delight
struggle for the mastery; but before the playing had ceased, he
was summoned by Perry Larson to the kitchen on a matter of
business. So it was into the kitchen that John Holly burst a
little later, eyes and cheek aflame.
"Father, where in Heaven's name DID you get that boy?" he
demanded. "Who taught him to play like that? I've been trying to
find out from him, but I'd defy Sherlock Holmes himself to make
head or tail of the sort of lingo he talks, about mountain homes
and the Orchestra of Life! Father, what DOES it mean?"
Obediently Simeon Holly told the story then, more fully than he
had told it before. He brought forward the letter, too, with its
mysterious signature.
"Perhaps you can make it out, son," he laughed. "None of the rest
of us can, though I haven't shown it to anybody now for a long
time. I got discouraged long ago of anybody's ever making it
"Make it out--make it out!" cried John Holly excitedly; "I should
say I could! It's a name known the world over. It's the name of
one of the greatest violinists that ever lived."
"But how--what--how came he in my barn?" demanded Simeon Holly.
"Easily guessed, from the letter, and from what the world knows,"
returned John, his voice still shaking with excitement. "He was
always a queer chap, they say, and full of his notions. Six or
eight years ago his wife died. They say he worshiped her, and for
weeks refused even to touch his violin. Then, very suddenly, he,
with his four-year-old son, disappeared--dropped quite
out of sight. Some people guessed the reason. I knew a man who
was well acquainted with him, and at the time of the
disappearance he told me quite a lot about him. He said he was
n't a bit surprised at what had happened. That already half a
dozen relatives were interfering with the way he wanted to bring
the boy up, and that David was in a fair way to be spoiled, even
then, with so much attention and flattery. The father had
determined to make a wonderful artist of his son, and he was
known to have said that he believed--as do so many others--that
the first dozen years of a child's life are the making of the
man, and that if he could have the boy to himself that long he
would risk the rest. So it seems he carried out his notion until
he was taken sick, and had to quit--poor chap!"
"But why didn't he tell us plainly in that note who he was,
then?" fumed Simeon Holly, in manifest irritation.
"He did, he thought," laughed the other. "He signed his name, and
he supposed that was so well known that just to mention it
would be enough. That's why he kept it so secret while he was
living on the mountain, you see, and that's why even David
himself didn't know it. Of course, if anybody found out who he
was, that ended his scheme, and he knew it. So he supposed all he
had to do at the last was to sign his name to that note, and
everybody would know who he was, and David would at once be sent
to his own people. (There's an aunt and some cousins, I believe.)
You see he didn't reckon on nobody's being able to READ his
name! Besides, being so ill, he probably wasn't quite sane,
"I see, I see," nodded Simeon Holly, frowning a little. "And of
course if we had made it out, some of us here would have known
it, probably. Now that you call it to mind I think I have heard
it myself in days gone by--though such names mean little to me.
But doubtless somebody would have known. However, that is all
past and gone now."
"Oh, yes, and no harm done. He fell into good hands, luckily.
You'll soon see the last of him now, of course."
"Last of him? Oh, no, I shall keep David," said Simeon Holly,
with decision.
"Keep him! Why, father, you forget who he is! There are friends,
relatives, an adoring public, and a mint of money awaiting that
boy. You can't keep him. You could never have kept him this long
if this little town of yours hadn't been buried in this
forgotten valley up among these hills. You'll have the whole
world at your doors the minute they find out he is here--hills or
no hills! Besides, there are his people; they have some claim."
There was no answer. With a suddenly old, drawn look on his face,
the elder man had turned away.
Half an hour later Simeon Holly climbed the stairs to David's
room, and as gently and plainly as he could told the boy of this
great, good thing that had come to him.
David was amazed, but overjoyed. That he was found to be the son
of a famous man affected him not at all, only so far as it seemed
to set his father right in other eyes--in David's own, the man
had always been supreme. But the going away--the marvelous going
away--filled him with excited wonder.
"You mean, I shall go away and study--practice--learn more of my
"Yes, David."
"And hear beautiful music like the organ in church, only
"I suppose so.".
"And know people--dear people--who will understand what I say
when I play?"
Simeon Holly's face paled a little; still, he knew David had not
meant to make it so hard.
"Why, it's my 'start'--just what I was going to have with the
gold-pieces," cried David joyously. Then, uttering a sharp cry of
consternation, he clapped his fingers to his lips.
"Your--what?" asked the man.
"N--nothing, really, Mr. Holly,--Uncle Simeon,--n--nothing."
Something, either the boy's agitation, or the luckless mention of
the gold-pieces sent a sudden dismayed suspicion into Simeon
Holly's eyes.
"Your 'start'?--the 'gold-pieces'? David, what do you mean?"
David shook his head. He did not intend to tell. But gently,
persistently, Simeon Holly questioned until the whole piteous
little tale lay bare before him: the hopes, the house of dreams,
the sacrifice.
David saw then what it means when a strong man is shaken by an
emotion that has mastered him; and the sight awed and frightened
the boy.
"Mr. Holly, is it because I'm--going--that you care--so much? I
never thought--or supposed--you'd--CARE," he faltered.
There was no answer. Simeon Holly's eyes were turned quite away.
"Uncle Simeon--PLEASE! I--I think I don't want to go, anyway.
I--I'm sure I don't want to go--and leave YOU!"
Simeon Holly turned then, and spoke.
"Go? Of course you'll go, David. Do you think I'd tie you here to
me--NOW?" he choked. "What don't I owe to you--home, son,
happiness! Go?--of course you'll go. I wonder if you really think
I'd let you stay! Come, we'll go down to mother and tell her. I
suspect she'll want to start in to-night to get your socks all
mended up!" And with head erect and a determined step, Simeon
Holly faced the mighty sacrifice in his turn, and led the way
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The friends, the relatives, the adoring public, the mint of
money--they are all David's now. But once each year, man grown
though he is, he picks up his violin and journeys to a little
village far up among the hills. There in a quiet kitchen he plays
to an old man and an old woman; and always to himself he says
that he is practicing against the time when, his violin at his
chin and the bow drawn across the strings, he shall go to meet
his father in the far-away land, and tell him of the beautiful
world he has left.

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