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sad, sad visit! She seemed changed-a
The next day, when Mrs. Dow drove
It was ten years before I again visited
"You will be sad to hear that months ago our dear Nelly left us. was a terrible blow to us all. I cannot I wake up write about it yet, I fear.
every morning feeling that I ought to go to her. She went three days after her little boy was born. The baby is a fine child and will live, I think, in spite of everything. He and her little girl, now eight years old, whom she named Margaret, after you, have gone to Mrs. Spinny's. She loves them more than if they were her own. It seems as if already they had made her quite young again. I wish you could see Nelly's children."
Ah, that was what I wanted, to see Nelly's children! The wish came aching from my heart along with the bitter homesick tears; along with a quick, torturing recollection that flashed upon me, as I looked about and tried to collect myself, of how we two had sat in our sunny seat in the corner of the old bare school-room one September afternoon and learned the names of the seven hills together. In that place, at that moment, after so many years, how it all came back to me-the warm sun on my back, the chattering girl beside me, the curly hair, the laughing yellow eyes, the stubby little finger on the page! I felt as if even then, when we sat in the sun with our heads together, it was all arranged, written out like a story, that at this moment I should be sitting among the crumbling bricks and drying grass, and she should be lying in the place I knew so hill far away. well, on that green
MRS. Dow sat with her Christmas sewing
her angel-food cake down to the church
The house sat on a hill, and from behind the geraniums I could see pretty much all of Riverbend, tucked down in the soft snow, and the air above was full of big, loose flakes, falling from a gray sky which betokened settled weather. Indoors the hard-coal burner made a tropical temperature, and glowed a warm orange from its isinglass sides. We sat and visited, the two of us, with a great sense of comfort and completeness. I had reached Riverbend only that morning, and Mrs. Dow, who had been haunted by thoughts of shipwreck and suffering upon wintry seas, kept urging me to draw nearer to the fire and suggesting incidental refreshment. We had chattered all through the winter morning and most of the afternoon, taking up one after another of the Riverbend girls and boys, and agreeing that we had reason to be well satisfied with most of them. Finally, after a long pause in which I had listened to the contented ticking of the clock and the crackle of the coal, I put the question I had until then held back:
And now, Mrs. Dow, tell me about the one we loved best of all. Since I got your letter I've thought of her every day. Tell me all about Scott and Nelly."
The tears flashed behind her glasses, and she smoothed the little pink bag on her knee.
"Well, dear, I 'm afraid Scott proved to be a hard man, like his father. But we must remember that Nelly always had Mrs. Spinny. I never saw anything like the love there was between those two. After Nelly lost her own father and mother, she looked to Mrs. Spinny for everything. When Scott was too unreasonable, his mother could 'most always prevail upon him. She never lifted a hand to fight her own battles with Scott's father, but she was never afraid to speak up for Nelly. And then Nelly took great comfort of her little girl. Such a lovely child!"
"Had she been very ill before the little baby came?"
"No, Margaret; I'm afraid 't was all because they had the wrong doctor. I feel confident that either Doctor Tom or Doctor Jones could have brought her through. But, you see, Scott had offended them both, and they 'd stopped trading at his
store, so he would have young Doctor Fox, a boy just out of college and a stranger. He got scared and did n't know what to do. Mrs. Spinny felt he was n't doing right, so she sent for Mrs. Freeze and me. It seemed like Nelly had got discouraged. Scott would move into their big new house before the plastering was dry, and though 't was summer, she had taken a terrible cold that seemed to have drained her, and she took no interest in fixing the place up. Mrs. Spinny had been down with her back again and was n't able to help, and things was just anyway. We won't talk about that, Margaret; I think 't would hurt Mrs. Spinny to have you know. She nearly died of mortification when she sent for us, and blamed her poor back. We did get Nelly fixed up nicely before she died. I prevailed upon Doctor Tom to come in at the last, and it 'most broke his heart. 'Why, Mis' Dow,' he said, 'if you 'd only have come and told me how 't was, I 'd have come and carried her right off in my arms.'”
"Oh, Mrs. Dow," I cried, "then it need n't have been?"
Mrs. Dow dropped her needle and clasped her hands quickly. "We must n't look at it that way, dear," she said tremulously and a little sternly; "we must n't let ourselves. We must just feel that our Lord wanted her then, and took her to Himself. When it was all over, she did look so like a child of God, young and trusting, like she did on her baptizing night, you remember?"
I felt that Mrs. Dow did not want to talk any more about Nelly then, and, indeed, I had little heart to listen; so I told her I would go for a walk, and suggested that I might stop at Mrs. Spinny's to see the children.
Mrs. Dow looked up thoughtfully at the clock. "I doubt if you'll find little Margaret there now. It's half-past four, and she 'll have been out of school an hour and more. She'll be most likely coasting on Lupton's Hill. She usually makes for it with her sled the minute she is out of the school-house door. You know, it's the old hill where you all used to slide. If you stop in at the church about six o'clock, you'll likely find Mrs. Spinny there with the baby. I promised to go down and help Mrs. Freeze finish up the tree, and Mrs. Spinny said she 'd run in
with the baby, if 't was n't too bitter. She won't leave him alone with the Swede girl. She's like a young woman with her first."
Lupton's Hill was at the other end of town, and when I got there the dusk was thickening, drawing blue shadows over the snowy fields. There were perhaps twenty children creeping up the hill or whizzing down the packed sled-track. When I had been watching them for some minutes, I heard a lusty shout, and a little red sled. shot past me into the deep snow-drift beyond. The child was quite buried for a moment, then she struggled out and stood dusting the snow from her short coat and red woolen comforter. She wore a brown fur cap, which was too big for her and of an old-fashioned shape, such as girls wore long ago, but I would have known her without the cap. Mrs. Dow had said a beautiful child, and there would not be two like this in Riverbend. She was off before I had time to speak to her, going up the hill at a trot, her sturdy little legs plowing through the trampled snow. When she reached the top she never paused to take breath, but threw herself upon her sled and came down with a whoop that was quenched only by the deep drift at the end.
"Are you Margaret Spinny?" I asked as she struggled out in a cloud of snow.
"Yes, 'm." She approached me with frank curiosity, pulling her little sled behind her. "Are you the strange lady staying at Mrs. Dow's?" I nodded, and she began to look my clothes over with respectful interest.
"Your grandmother is to be at the church at six o'clock, is n't she?"
"Well, supposé we walk up there now. It 's nearly six, and all the other children are going home." She hesitated, and looked up at the faintly gleaming track on the hill-slope. "Do you want another slide? Is that it?" I asked.
"Do you mind?" she asked shyly. "No. I'll wait for you. Take your time; don't run."
Two little boys were still hanging about the slide, and they cheered her as she came down, her comforter streaming in the wind.
"Now," she announced, getting up out of the drift, "I'll show you where the church is."
"Shall I tie your comforter again?"
"No, 'm, thanks. I'm plenty warm." She put her mittened hand confidingly in mine and trudged along beside me.
Mrs. Dow must have heard us tramping up the snowy steps of the church, for she met us at the door. Every one had gone except the old ladies. A kerosene lamp flickered over the Sunday-school chart, with the lesson-picture of the Wise Men, and the little barrel-stove threw out a deep glow over the three white heads that bent above the baby. There the three friends sat, patting him, and smoothing his dress, and playing with his hands, which made theirs look so brown.
"You ain't seen nothing finer in all your travels," said Mrs. Spinny, and they all laughed.
They showed me his full chest and how strong his back was; had me feel the golden fuzz on his head, and made him look at me with his round, bright eyes. He laughed and reared himself in my arms as I took him up and held him close to me. He was so warm and tingling with life, and he had the flush of new beginnings, of the new morning and the new rose. He seemed to have come so lately from his mother's heart! It was as if I held her youth and all her young joy. As I put my cheek down against his, he spied a pink flower in my hat, and making a gleeful sound, he lunged at it with both fists.
"Don't let him spoil it," murmured Mrs. Spinny. "He loves color so-like Nelly."
Drawn by Alfred Brennan
N the country it is a simple matter to make a garden of a sort. There Mother Nature is a complaisant, if occasionally stern, old deity, and the hampering petticoats of conventionality, as it were, are short enough to enable our worthy mother to get about comfortably. She can do something in the garden herself; and, despite the mistakes and misdemeanors of gardeners, something is fairly sure to grow. Besides, she has hordes of poor retainers over the fence ready to come in and eat up the feast if the bidden guests are in the least reluctant.
In the city it is different. Here a tall sky-scraper cuts off the light, there gaspipes poison the soil; and Mother Nature, no longer complaisant, sits aloof and eyes the would-be gardener coldly and askance. Such conditions are not of her making. If he can get a garden out of them, he is welcome; but as for her coöperation, she will wait and see, being quite of the worthy Franklin's opinion that Heaven should help only those who help themselves, assistance being thrown away on the other kind.
The city gardener has not only difficulties, but enemies. First of these is the domestic cat. Now, the cat is to the city gardener's endeavor as the uncloistered hen to the flower-beds of the farmer's wife. He exhibits the same diabolical interest in freshly sown seeds, in newly and most correctly planted bulbs; also he is dowered with a cunning and craftiness far beyond the reach of any hen. The cat is indeed
an enemy. If the gardener is clever enough, he can frustrate the invader and make his yard a very Gibraltar against feline attempts; if he is not, he will have but a meager garden.
In the matter of planting, there are breakers ahead. Far more than the country-place garden does that in the city yard need careful consideration, and rarely does it get it. There is so small a space wherein to make mistakes, and mistakes, when made, are so embarrassingly apparent! The city gardener sows in hope the easy flowers which will bloom for any one in the country; but these are usually those that need full sunshine, which, if they grow at all, are brown and depressed when he returns in the autumn. His roses during the long winter months are clad in straw or wrapped in unhandsome burlap, princesses in disguise, perhaps, but so completely disguised that there is little joy in their presence; while at the time when he most craves a bit of color and a breath of the springtime loveliness in his little garden, it shows only narrow plots of bare soil, brown and uninspiring, with no glimpse whatever of the good, gigantic smile that brown earth ought to wear. It is undeniably difficult for the city gardener.
But between what is difficult and what is impossible is a difference, slight, but certain—the difference between a perilous harbor and no harbor at all; and even city gardening may be managed well enough if one only faces squarely existing conditions, looks carefully at every obstacle to