Puslapio vaizdai

path, he saw the girl a distance be- whiteness covered the icy brown of hind him. Tip saw her, too. the well-worn roads. The smooth runner-tracks were furrows of gold under the sun of noon, and ribbons of glistening silver in the night. The moon was just coming to the full.

"Look behind you," he said as the boy hurried off, pretending not to have noticed her coming. He did not look back.

As he neared the top of the hill he stopped to knot the rope on his sled. At the beginning of the descent he stopped again, buttoned his coat, slowly pulled down his cap, put on his mittens, and made ready to stoop and pick up the sled. Then, as she came up, he turned suddenly and made believe he was surprised. "Hullo!" he exclaimed. know you was comin'. "M-hm," she said. on your sled?"

"I did n't Goin' home?" "Going down

"Yah," he answered bashfully. He stooped to get the rope. When he straightened up he looked at her, reddened, looked down at his feet, looked up at her again, and said almost voicelessly, "Come on 'n' go down, will you?"

"All right," she said, and without hesitation sat down on the front of the sled. She did everything in the same easy way. Relieved and glad, he pushed off and got on behind, sitting sidewise and steering with one foot. His face was so near her shoulder that it brushed the coal-scuttle bonnet and the braid.

Her thanks were very pleasant as they got up and walked on. When he When he said good-by, it was with more freedom, and he looked her in the face. Yes, he thought as he went up the path between the high, clean, white walls of snow, she was really pretty. This time he wondered why he had not noticed it at the first.

On Sunday and Sunday night more snow fell. In the morning, velvety

On Tuesday morning, as the boy came up, half a dozen of them were standing together on the steps.

"I tell you what," Tip was saying, "we got to have a bob-ride one o' these moonlit nights while the sleighin' 's good. Hey, Nibbs? What do you say?" He gave the new-comer a shove.

The boy began to feel uneasy. He knew a bob-ride meant girls, and he was afraid Tip would say something to make fun of him. Two weeks before, he would have turned away from such a proposal in disgust. Now he secretly hoped Tip would go on. He waited, half-way between fear and desire.

Tip did go on.

"Will you ast your pa whether he'll let you take the big bobs nex' Friday night?" he said to the boy.

The boy hesitated. He had never asked for the horses, and he could n't imagine asking for them for such a purpose as this one.

"Oh, he 'll let you take 'em," Tip urged. "We'll be careful."

The boy could see his father's look of surprise and hear his comment. He was filled with dread.

"I'm afraid to ask him," he said. "Aw, he'll let you," Tip urged again. The boy shook his head.

Tip considered.

"I'll tell you what I'll do with you," he said. "I'll stay all night at your house, and help you hitch up and help take care of 'em when we get back. Will you?"

This was attractive, but did n't wondering, still not daring to let Tip remove the main difficulty. know what was on his mind. He want"I'll go along if you 'll ask him," ed to sit with her. All his imagina

[blocks in formation]

tions of the sleigh-ride centered about his sitting with her. He went over the list again and again in his thoughts, always with the conclusion that he was meant to sit with her, and yet he could not shake off the torment of doubt. When he thought of any other boy beside her in the bob, he felt an alarm that was almost sickening.

Friday night came. Before he had got up from supper he heard Tip's "Yah-oo" in the far distance. He

"All right," his father said, to his great relief; "but you must be careful and not drive too hard, and you must look out for the crossings." "I told you he 'd let us take 'em," lighted the lantern and stepped out. said Tip as they started back.

"Who all 's goin' to go?" the boy asked breathlessly, half-way up the hill.

"Oh, you and me and Bill and Georgie." Tip went over ten or twelve names. The boy kept listening for her name. Tip knew it, and let him wait to the very last. "And then," he came out finally, "there 's your girl." He gave the boy a mischievous poke. "Course 't would n't do to leave her out."

The yell came nearer and nearer. In a few minutes they had harnessed the horses, buckled on the bells, and were hitching up. They filled the box with soft, June-grassy hay and threw in the blankets and the old buffalo-robe, Tip took the lines, and they went jingling up the road. The boy's father and mother stood in the doorway as they went, with a last admonition to be careful at the crossings and not to drive too hard.

The boy could no longer contain the

"Who you talkin' about?" said the anxiety that had possessed him the boy, reddening.

"Oh, of course you don't know," answered Tip, with another poke. "No, I don't," said the boy, stoutly. "Who is it?"

"Oh, I don't have to tell," teased Tip.

"Well, then, don't tell," said the boy. Then, as a final proof of total indifference, he added, "You need n't think I care who 's a-goin'." Nevertheless, he really felt like asking how they were going to sit on the night of the ride.

Tip and Lucy did the inviting. The boy passed the next three days in

last three days. As they slid along in the dark, to the clear, steady music of the bells, he mustered all his courage, and said:

"How we goin' to sit?"

He tried to ask it as if he were unconcerned, as if he had just happened to think of it.

Tip turned his face toward him, with a smile broad enough to be visible even in the dark.

"Gett'n' anxious, are you?" he said. Before the boy could recover from his confusion and find words of protest that would not be downright lying, Tip went on, in a protecting sort of

[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small]

"Well, it looks as if I'd have to sit here," she said cheerfully, and climbed in, sinking down in the hay beside the boy, who was too bashful to say a word beyond the "All right" with which he made room for her. Tip slapped the horses with the lines, the bells struck up a lively tune, and they were off, shouting and singing, and disputing possession of the robes and shawls.

With loud "Whoa's" and whoops, and with Tip's yell, they brought out the various members of the party, laden with shawls and robes and blankets. Every additional one to come seemed to know exactly what place to take. When at last they stopped in front of her house, there was only one place left. It was between the boy and Mamie. All sat in the bottom of the box, facing one another in two long rows. "Where 'll I get in?" asked the girl of laughter. There were intervals as she came up.

"Oh, you just look around, and you'll find a place," Lucy laughingly answered from beside Tip, in the front of the box. "Take any place you want. No extra charge."

Everybody laughed and laughed again, for any reason and for no reason at all. The boys shouted, and the girls screamed. There were choruses of shouting and screaming and gales

when there was a story or a riddle or a joke, and the choruses and the gales rose again. There were songs. They sang "A Life on the Ocean Wave," "Good Night, Ladies," "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean," and "There 's

a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea." They sang "There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood," "Beulah Land," "Onward, Christian Soldiers," and "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing." They sang in the same way in which they shouted and laughed, with a heartiness and a wholesomeness that brought smiling faces to windows and doorways as they passed. And back of all the noisy medley sounded the clear jingle of the bells.

"I always liked that," said Lucy, "ever since I was in second reader. And I like that other one, too, about the moon when it 's new:

'You moon! Have you done something wrong in heaven,

That God has hidden your face? I hope, if you have, you will soon be forgiven,

And shine again in your place';

only, I used to think it was 'bitten' instead of 'hidden.'

The merriment revived, but was less sustained. At the end of an hour Tip turned the horses' heads homeward.

Having for the time sung themselves out, the more spirited of the boys got to their feet in mock declamation or speech, while Tip whipped up and sent them sprawling among the laughing, yelling, screaming mass. The venturesome jumped out and defied him to get away from them, finally catching up and tumbling over the end-board, to find their places occupied by mischievous friends. "Oh, look!" suddenly cried Lucy, in appetite for fun. They began to feel the midst of it all.

"What? What?" they shouted. There was a lull. Far away, through a ragged line of trees on the horizon, a ruddy rim of light appeared.

"The moon! The moon!" they cried. A scoffer mimicked them with, "Oh, dear me, dew tell!" but they all grew quieter, and watched the great planet gradually rise until it swung clear of the ground, a disk of old-gold crisscrossed with stems and branches. "Oh, is n't it just as lovely as it can be!" exclaimed Lucy.

"Your pa 'll never let us take 'em again if we 're gone too long," he said to the boy.

The singing and shouting and laughing and screaming and struggling and tumbling had dulled the edge of their

the chill of the frosty night. They
drew the robes higher and wrapped the
blankets closer. There were
were arms
that reached around to draw the shawl
about a shoulder and did not return to
their owners' sides. There were hands
that timidly made little explorations
in search of other hands, and found
them at no great distance. There
were hoods that rested very close
against caps. There were hoods and
caps that jokingly disappeared and
reappeared. There were jests and
banter and bursts of merriment.

For a little while it was still. The Once in a while there was another new girl was the first to speak:

"Lady Moon, Lady Moon, where are you roving?"

"Over the sea."

"Lady Moon, Lady Moon, whom are you loving?"

"All who love me."

song. The horses were less willing to trot. It was a tinkling now instead of a jingling that was heard in the intervals.

The boy had followed the general example and had wrapped the girl and himself about in her shawl and

drawn the robe up to their chins. Their heads alone appeared. No one could tell when his arm became locked with hers or how her hand came to lie in his. He himself did not know just how it came about; but it seemed very natural and very easy for both of them. He sat in silent happiness.

When the last stop had been made and the last good night answered, and the horses pricked up their ears and were trotting briskly off toward the stable they longed for, Tip turned a mocking face to the boy.

"Oh," he said, "you don't like girls!" The boy had been expecting it. He felt his cheeks getting warm.

"Aw, go on!" he said.

They unhitched, led the old bays into the stable and unharnessed them, filled their mangers, went out to the straw-stack and brought them in big forkfuls of bedding, gave them sundry vigorous slaps on the neck by way of gratitude and good night, latched the door, and went to the house. The sitting-room was warm, and a light, turned low, stood waiting on the sewing-machine. They left their boots and stockings behind the stove, and the boy took the lamp and led the way up-stairs to the north room, with its bare walls and deep-frosted window-panes.

There was a great creaking of bedcords as they climbed in and settled themselves. Their teeth chattered; they were speechless with shivering. But it was not for long. The boy got close up against Tip, and put his arm over his side.

"Well, 'd you have a good time?" asked Tip, giving him a nudge.

The boy was embarrassed and afraid of saying too much.

He dreaded it, and yet he wanted Tip to say something more.

"Well, now I s'pose you see how it is, don't you?" Tip said. They turned and lay on their backs. The window was a pale gray, and the ceiling faintly visible. Tip continued, "A month ago you was always makin' a deuce of a fuss if a felluh looked at a girl or saw her home or anythin', and now you 're stuck on one of 'em yourself."

The boy was humble, and he was pleased. Tip was n't scolding; his voice was full of good-will. He gave the boy a harder nudge. "And what's more, you 're all solid, too," he concluded. That was the way they expressed it in that country in those days.

The boy could not speak. He felt, without being told, that it was true, but Tip's confirmation was double happiness. He wanted to be told again. Gathering all his courage, he finally stammered:

"Do you think I 'm-do you think she-do you think it's all right—all solid, I mean?"

Tip gave a good-natured snort. "Well, I should cough up a duck!" he said. "You ain't got nothin' to worry over."

The boy's heart swelled. Now he felt altogether sure. And he loved Tip now more than ever. The two months of partial estrangement were at an end. There was nothing to divide them longer.

Tip yawned audibly.

"Gosh, but I'm tired!" he said. "I'm goin' to sleep." He turned on his side. "Good-by; see you later."

The boy turned, too. He put his arm over Tip's side and pressed close to him. They fell asleep in the peace of love, which passeth all under

"Yah," he answered, and waited. standing.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »