The Project Gutenberg eBook of Cottage on the Curve

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Cottage on the Curve

Author: Mary Lamers

Release date: June 20, 2017 [eBook #54946]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Stephen Hutcheson, Rod Crawford, Dave Morgan
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at



Cottage on the Curve


Hard cover

Title page

Cottage on the Curve


Sketches by the Author

The Bruce Publishing Company

(Second Printing—1947)

Copyright, 1945
By Mary Lamers
Printed in the U. S. A.

To the memory
of my mother




This story was written in time of war, in the memory of peace.

Once upon a time there were happy times like these. There were trips and steaks and tennis balls, and even double-decker ice-cream cones.

But the children who played on the shores of Oak Lake have sailed away. In jungle heat they remember her cool depths. In the hot blare of battle they remember the quiet just as the moon rose over the tamarack swamp.

Come back, long-legged little boys! Come back to the summer days we used to know.

M. M. L.

Summer, 1945. 8



  Foreword 7
1. The Last Day of School 11
2. Who Peppered the Cake 26
3. The Purse in the Trash Pile 38
4. The Turtle Who Towed the Boat 51
5. Grandma Always Brought Presents 63
6. Buick the Detective 74
7. A Trip to Deerpath 94
8. The Fourth Was Full of Fun 104
9. Billy Battles the Storm 116
10. Janie Earns a Dollar 136
11. The Front Seat on the Bus 150
12. The Bear Who Loved Apple Pie 168
13. An Honest Reward 183
14. Dad Finds a Treasure 193
15. Good-by Summer 212 10


Chapter One
The Last Day of School

Chapter One, The Last Day of School

JANE MURRAY walked slowly down the wide corridor. It was the last day of school. Her desk was empty. For the first time since last September her locker stood neat and bare. Gone were the old gym socks, the forgotten rainhat that had been wedged under an old theme cover, the candy bar wrappers, and the umbrella with the split seam.

Patsy and Dor had reached the street ahead of her and were screaming at the top of their lungs.

“Janie, oh, Janie! Hurry! We’re going to have an ice-cream cone.”

12 Janie shook her head regretfully. “Run along with the others, my funny friends. I must go home and put a fresh dressing on Butchie’s paw.”

They were off like race horses. “Perhaps I should have gone,” she thought. The back of her neck was just a little damp under the light brown curly mop. A cone or a swim. Oh boy! I could do with a swim right now, and with her head full of summer dreams she started off down the maple-shaded street.

Springhill was a lovely old town in southern Wisconsin. The houses were set well back from the street. They were large and old-fashioned, with screened porches. Some of them had turrets running up to the third floor level. Janie had read of a famous architect who disapproved of such decorations. “Inverted rutabagas,” he called them, but Janie didn’t care. The turret on the Murray house was enchanted land. From its circular windows they could see all over town, and down the valley to the river. Once they found a gray squirrel’s nest up there, and on rainy days there was the parallel bar for doing stunts.

“Inverted rutabaga, my eye,” said Janie.

“What’s a rutabaga, Janie,” said a small voice at her elbow. She jumped.

“Oh, Robin, it’s you. I must have been talking to myself. It’s old age creeping on.”

13 “How old are you, Janie,” the small voice persisted.

“I’m thirteen.” She picked up the afternoon paper with one hand, ruffled Robin’s hair with the other, and ran up her own front steps.

“Mom, oh Mom,” she called as the screen door slammed behind her. “School’s out, and I’m not even happy about it. Oh Mom, may I make some lemonade?”

Mrs. Murray called from upstairs, “Yes dear, make some for the boys while you’re at it, and don’t spill any sugar on the floor.”

The sugar, lemons, and ice cubes were assembled, but before Jane could finish there was an excited chirping, hopping, and rattling on the back porch.

“Oh Butch, you darling monkey! I almost forgot to fix that bandage.” She gathered the little furry fellow up in her arms. He was the adored pet of the youngest of Jane’s brothers, Davey.

Janie could never forget that windy fall night two years ago when they first saw Butch. Daddy had been working on the case of an organ grinder who became involved in difficulties with the immigration authorities. All pleas failed and Mr. Calento made plans to return to his native Italy, but he couldn’t take his monkey with him. Monkeys catch pneumonia easily, and an Atlantic voyage14 in the stormy month of October would have been dangerous to his health. With tears in his eyes Mr. Calento presented his pet to Daddy as part payment of his fee.

What an uproar that was! Of course the children were enchanted, but Mom was aghast.

“A monkey,” she cried. “My goodness, Jim Murray, are you a lawyer or a zoo-keeper? Supposing your next client owns an elephant?”

Daddy laughed and patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry dear,” he said. “If you don’t want him we’ll take him down to the zoo in the morning.”

“The zoo?” wailed Davey. “Please don’t take him to the zoo.”

Mom was firm. “His place is in the zoo,” she said.

He would have been banished the very next day except that a quarantine had been placed on the zoo because of the illness of some of the larger animals, and no new animals were being admitted. One day led to the next and Butchie stayed on. Mom had to take care of him during the day when the children were at school, and she grew to love him so that by the time the quarantine was lifted the Murrays had a monkey, and that was that.

Jane sat him on the porch sewing table, and ran in to heat the boric solution. He waited patiently, and extended his little paw in perfect15 trust. “Oh, what a good monkey you can be,” murmured Janie as she fastened the fresh bandage. “You could save yourself a lot of trouble, Butch, by keeping your paws off the screen door when the Murrays come thundering home.”

“Eeek Eeek,” chattered Butch, and his little nurse replied gravely, “You’re welcome.”

Mom came down the stairway just as Janie finished.

“Where’s all the lemonade I’ve been hearing about?” she asked.

“In a minute, Mom. I’ve been fixing Butchie’s paw.”

They sat at the kitchen table and took a long drink of the delicious cold lemonade before either spoke.

“What’s this about your not being happy, my child,” said Mom with a teasing glint in her eye.

Janie put her glass down, and rested her cheek on one hand. “Mom,” she replied, “I know you’re right about us staying home with Daddy this summer. I know he has a big case coming up in court, and that if you wouldn’t be here to take care of him he’d stay up half the night working. He wouldn’t eat the way he’s supposed to, and everything would go wrong. I know all these things, but on a warm day like this I just can’t help wishing we could go to the lake like we always used to.”

16 “And what would you say, daughter,” said Mom in the same teasing tone of voice. “What would you say if I told you that we could go to the lake this summer just as we always used to?”

Jane’s eyes grew wide, “Oh Mom, tell me when. Can Daddy come too? Tell me Mom. Oh, Mom, how wonderful!”

Mrs. Murray took a deep breath and laughingly pushed her delighted daughter away. “What muscles,” she said.

“Mom, if you’re not serious, I’ll just die! I would so love to go to the lake. I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon. Blue skies, clear water, little robins singing.” In her happiness Jane waltzed around the kitchen, and Butch clapped his hands together happily from the back porch.

Mrs. Murray laughed and rose to rinse out her lemonade glass. “I can’t tell you any more about it now,” she continued, “but when your father comes home and the boys are all gathered together, we’ll get the story.”

Janie knew her mother well enough to press her no further. Mom was funny. She had her moods. Sometimes, in the morning when they were all getting ready for school, she would whirl in and out among them dancing to the ballet music of Daddy’s early morning radio program. In her yellow sweater and faded blue denim skirt, with17 her hair done in short pig-tails, she was very gay, a real pal. But there was nothing gay about the look in her eye if she’d spy a C on your report card.

In the morning when Dad shaved he would sing at the top of his lungs while he chopped away at his whiskers, and any one who came near him was playfully anointed with his well-lathered brush. Daddy could be gay too but all this spring he had been distracted and busy. He often worked late at the office, and then he’d bring papers home and his light would burn far into the night.

Janie remembered the night she couldn’t sleep and went down to the kitchen for a glass of milk. There was a light in the library, and Daddy sat with papers strewn all over, his hair rumpled, and lines on his forehead making Venetian blinds of worry.

“Daddy! It’s almost one o’clock!”

He looked up in surprise. “Oh, hello there, puss. Why aren’t you asleep?”

“I came down for a glass of milk. I stubbed my toe playing soft ball in the gym, and it was hurting me a little. I woke up, and then I couldn’t go back to sleep.”

“What were you intending to do with the glass of milk, drink it, or bathe your injured toe?”

“Daddy! What a silly thing to say! Drink it, of course. Shall I pour some for you?”

18 “Yes, by all means, but don’t make any noise. If your mother hears us we’ll both be spanked for staying up past our bedtime.”

Janie brought two glasses of milk and sat down opposite her father at the desk. “Daddy, I wish you wouldn’t work so hard. Mom worries about you, too. Couldn’t you let that old case go if it’s such a bother?”

“Perhaps I could if I had no one depending on me, but I have a wife and a dear family, and the man that this case concerns has a wife and family that he loves just as much as I love mine. It’s my particular responsibility to finish this job, even if I’d rather not.”

He arose and came around to where she was sitting. “Come, my broken-toed beauty. It’s high time you were asleep.”

“Will you go to bed too?”

“Yes, I’ll go to bed too.”

For the most part, life in the house with the rutabaga top was happy and serene. There were no shadows in the large old-fashioned kitchen where Mom and Janie worked at preparing the evening meal. Crisp washed lettuce was taken from the refrigerator and tossed in a big wooden bowl. Noodle ring, with cheese and ham sauce,19 fresh string beans, corn-meal muffins, and hidden somewhere and smelling heavenly was a fresh-baked rhubarb pie.

“Yum, pie,” said Jane. “Is it because it’s the last day of school?”

“Yes,” said her mother, “a special celebration.”

“Did you say pie?” asked ten year old James, suddenly appearing at the back door. Mom and Jane laughed for an answer, for there never was a boy with an appetite like James. He was tall and slim and inclined to be awkward. His clothes hung loosely on him. His hair, almost curly, was completely unmanageable. He had a quick, hot temper, a generous heart, and a lovely smile. As he stood there in the doorway, dirty and warm from the baseball lot, he gave his mother one of those quick rare smiles. He interrupted her unspoken greeting to say, “Yes Mom, I’ll wash myself, and I’ll wash the back of my neck and my ears, and I won’t throw my towel on the floor.”

Mom laughed and shook her head, and as Janie filled the water glasses she mused, “Sometimes I think James is Mom’s favorite, and then again perhaps it’s Bill. There’s so much pride in her eyes when she looks at Bill. Of course, Davey is the youngest, and she pets him a lot. Perhaps she loves him the best of all.” Quietly, Mom was there beside her putting the salad on the sideboard, and20 she bent and kissed the busy little waitress.

“Janie, you’re a good girl. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Lo and behold, there was that special, shining look. And this time it was for me,” thought the suddenly glowing Jane. “Mom is funny. She must like each one of us best of all.”

James was sent to fetch Davey who was playing next door with Robin. Bill came next. “Sorry to be so long, Mom,” he said. “Pete and I were swapping stamps, and I stopped at the playground on the way home to see how the ball game came out. Lincoln school beat Hawthorne, 5 to 2.”

The last part of his sentence was muffled in a face towel. Bill was almost twelve, and no longer had to be told about washing his face and combing his hair, although he sometimes had to be reminded, ever so tactfully, about his neck.

They waited for Daddy. Jane and Davey sat on the front steps where they could see far down the street. She read the comic page aloud to him, and her attention wandered.

“And then what, Janie? What happened next?” Janie pulled her thoughts back to the funny strip, but she watched for Daddy out of one eye. Would he never come? At last the familiar green car turned in at the driveway, and the cry went up, “Daddy’s here! Daddy’s here!”

21 Mom had tried to teach the children that they should wait until Daddy had his dinner and a look at the paper before they assailed him with their problems. “Give him a chance to catch his breath,” she used to say. “He has to listen to other people’s troubles all day, and by evening he’s really very tired.”

He didn’t look tired at all when he came in. He wanted to know how everyone had spent the day. He kissed Mom and rubbed flour on Janie’s cheek. He picked up Davey and James at once to show how strong he was, and he admired a boat that Bill was carving.

“Come to dinner,” called Mom, and they were all gathered around the table in a minute. Davey said “Grace.” He still needed practice with some of his prayers, and it gave him a feeling of importance to speak to God personally in the name of the family. There was a brisk clatter of knives and forks until they came to the dessert. By that time the rush of the day was left behind, and the quiet of the June evening seemed to find a place in the hearts of the lively Murray brood. Daddy was blowing smoke rings to amuse Mom, and Janie had almost forgotten that he had something up his sleeve, when he put out his cigarette and announced: “I have a plan for going to Oak Lake in case anyone is interested.”

22 It came as a complete surprise to the boys, and they all talked at once. “Please, children, please,” begged Mom. “One at a time.” Daddy continued: “The case I’ve been working on has been postponed until fall, and your mother and I think that we’ll be able to go to the cottage as usual.”

“What about you, Daddy? Will you be able to come with us?”

“I’ll come out for week-ends. I’ll have to stay in town during the week.”

“What will we do about a car?” asked Billy. “You’ll need the car every day in town, won’t you?”

“That’s true,” said his father, “but if Grandma and Aunt Claire come out for the summer we can use their car. You’ll need a car for shopping and for going to church on Sunday, although how you’ll all squeeze into Aunt Claire’s car, I don’t know.”

“I’ll sit on Grandma’s lap,” said Davey. “I always used to, and I still could.”

“I’ll hang on the rear tire,” said Bill darting a look at Mom who said nothing, but her answering glance said as plain as day, “Oh no, you won’t.”

They talked and talked, and then Daddy pushed back his chair. “Will you youngsters please finish clearing off the table? There are some roses I want your mother to see.”

23 James and Bill cleared the table while Janie washed the glasses and the silverware. It was Davey’s job to dry the knives, forks, and spoons, and put them away. He was a good-natured little boy and he sang while he worked. If the song was lively he hurried in time with the music, but if the melody was slow and dreamy, so were his actions. Janie watched him dawdling through “Old Black Joe.”

“Try ‘Coming ’Round The Mountain’,” she advised, “or you’ll be here all night.”

The boys clattered along at their own rate, stopping every so often to argue or explain but in spite of it they finished and Jane stacked the plates while the boys ran out into the back yard to play ball.

A curving, enclosed stairway ran from the kitchen to the second floor. The oak treads were worn from the tired tread of maid-servants of the past, but Janie’s limber young legs flew up to the second floor two steps at a time, and then down the hall to her room. Pulling and tugging, she managed to open the bottom drawer of the built-in dresser way at the back of her clothes closet. There they were, her lake clothes. She tried on some of them. They felt small and light after wearing the heavy sweaters and woolen skirts during a Wisconsin spring. She stretched out across her bed and listened to the gentle evening sounds of Springhill.24 “This turned out to be a very nice day after all,” she thought. “Tomorrow I must ask Mom about some new playsuits. I’ll need some blue jeans for fishing down at the dam with the boys. I wonder if that old pickerel is still there; this year I’ll surely catch him.” Billy came pounding up the front stairs to his room looking for a catching mitt, and she called,

“Billy, let’s go on an all day boat trip down the canal this summer and really explore it.”

Flushed from play, Billy stood in the doorway between their rooms. He was the oldest Murray boy, and the natural leader in all their games and adventures. Almost as tall as Janie, he was so sturdily built, that when ever they played circus he was always the strong man. He had blue eyes and fat cheeks and pin-point freckles scattered like the milky way across his upturned nose. James would spend hours with a book, but Bill liked people and people liked Bill.

“No,” he said. “The last time we wanted to take an all day boat trip down the canal Davey fell in head first and James got into a mess of poison ivy. Mom said we couldn’t go again. I’d like to build a diving helmet so that I could find treasures on the bottom of the lake, and I’d like to have a hay ride for a birthday party.”

“Birthday party? But your birthday....”

25 “Yes, I know, my birthday is on Christmas eve, and every one is so excited about Christmas that I never have a real party like other kids do, so sometime I’m going to have a hay ride with a man to play the concertina and cases and cases of pop.”

Jane laughed, but she looked at her brother affectionately. “When I’m a millionaire,” she said, “I’ll take you for a hay ride every summer night. Isn’t it funny,” she continued, “how we plan what we’re going to do during the summer, and we never quite do what we plan? Usually something much more exciting happens. I wonder what it will be this year?”


Chapter Two
Who Peppered the Cake

Chapter Two, Who Peppered the Cake

JANIE lay in bed enjoying the grand feeling of the first day of vacation. Doves circled in and out of the poplar hedge across the street. It was still early. The rest of the family was asleep, but lying in bed was a waste of time. Slipping into a playsuit, she tiptoed down the back stairs and into the kitchen.

Butchie set up a delighted “chee—chee” at the sight of her, and she crossed to the porch door and let him in. The organ-grinder man had taught Butch to eat his meals sitting at a little table, and there he was perched with a bib around his neck27 while Jane warmed his porridge. He had some difficulty managing his spoon while he was eating, but Janie encouraged him,

“Never you mind, Butch. All two-year olds spill a little. You’re doing wonderfully well. Keep it up, Butchie, old boy.”

When the porridge dish was empty he had a mug of warmed milk. That was easy. He grasped the mug firmly in his paws and drank the milk in dainty little sips. As a special reward Janie gave him half a banana. He was delighted. He talked monkey language while he ate, and now and then he’d offer some to Janie, but she politely refused.

The rest of the family was awake by now, and she hurried to set the table on the back porch for a surprise for Mom. It was a beautiful morning. The garden was brilliant with iris, day-lilies, and oriental poppies, and the tall old lilac trees were sweet with bloom.

After breakfast the boys sat on the front steps waiting for the mailman. They were always sending out for approval sheets of stamps, and they’d shade their eyes waiting for the mailman like sea captains of old waiting for their ships to come in.

Janie was impatient. “Mom,” she said. “When can we go to the lake? Could we go out next week-end, or will we have to wait until the end of June when Aunt Claire’s school is out?”

28 Mom raised her eyebrows and smiled a smug little smile. “That’s part of the surprise,” she said. “We’re leaving today. I’ve been hoping we could go, and I’ve been getting things ready for the past week.”

The rest of the day was a whirlwind of busy arms and legs and suitcases and paper boxes.

“Now, let’s see,” said Mom with a list in her hand. “I mustn’t forget anything. I must go to the drug store, the bank, and the postoffice, and, oh yes, the library.”

Billy and James packed the trunk of the car. Sheets and towels were stacked neatly in paper cartons. There were boxes of slacks, shirts, and swimming trunks, pillows and quilts, and cotton bed spreads.

“I’ll bring my first-aid box,” said Bill, and that gave James an idea. He came downstairs with his entire stamp collection piled like the leaning Tower of Pisa in his arms.

Janie cocked her chin to one side and put her fists on her hips. “You know that Mom won’t let you bring all that junk along.”

“Junk!” exclaimed James indignantly. “These are my duplicates. I’m going to sort them out this summer.” He set the stack down carefully on the back porch, and the top-most box toppled over and spilled countless little bright-colored squares29 all over the floor. James scooped them all up in a hurry, and tucked the boxes, books, and albums into whatever space he could find in the rear of the car.

When Mom returned from her shopping they went down into the cool basement and carefully packed what was left of the home-preserved fruits and vegetables.

“Bring a lot of pickles,” said Davey. “Lots and lots of pickles.”

By the middle of the afternoon everything was ready. Mom went upstairs for a bath and fresh clothes, and Janie decided to surprise her.

They were going to have a picnic supper, and she felt that it should be something special to celebrate the occasion. She paged through the cook books and the recipe files and lost a little of her courage. I’d better limit myself to a dessert, she thought. The last time I tried a whole meal it didn’t turn out so well. A very handsome three-layer cake took her eye, and she assembled all her ingredients, and then gathered together all the bowls, pans, and spoons she would need.

Davey walked in carrying Butch. Janie dusted the flour off her hands, and raised her eyebrows in an expression of true big-sister superiority.

“I thought, Davey,” she said, “that Mom wanted you to keep Butch outside today.”

30 Davey looked plaintive. “I know,” he grumbled, “but we want to play hide-and-go-seek, and he always runs to where I’m hiding, and then I’m always ‘it’.”

Janie giggled. “Okay, Davey. Leave him here. I’ll take care of him.”

Butch was very interested in the cake baking, but Janie discouraged him. She ordered him out on the back porch. She stamped her foot at him and shoved him, but he’d only come back again. He watched everything she did, and when she bent over to light the oven, he saw his golden opportunity. He jumped up on the table and added his contribution to the cake. He had watched Janie shake a little of this and a little of that into the cake, so he picked up a shaker marked PEPPER and looked at her out of his beady eyes. She was still fussing with the oven, so he quickly shook the can into the cake batter and hurried back to his post of exile at the kitchen door.

With this piece of mischief out of the way, he was content to sit and watch. After the shining flour sifter and the fascinating egg beater had been put away, he ran in to Mom’s chair in the library, and peered over her shoulder offering advice as she wrote letters. Mom bounced him in a hurry.

“Go away, you heathenish creature, or I’ll give you to the zoo.”

31 Jane shook her head and laughed. “You certainly are a problem, Butch. We’ve never had a two year old who caused so much commotion.”

“Or was so much fun,” added Mom.

Janie ran down the street to say good-by to Dor, and when she got back the back porch was half filled with suitcases, packing boxes, bundles of all descriptions, and even house plants.

“Goodness, Mom,” exclaimed Janie. “Where are we going to put all this stuff? Where will we sit?”

“Daddy’s going to hire a trailer for this trip, dear. Now don’t forget to remind me to turn off all the lights, and don’t let’s forget about this big basket. It’s our supper.”

Billy whistled. “Oh boy! Two picnics in one day.”

Butch was just as excited as the children. He hopped from Davey to James and from Billy to Jane. He had his own suitcase. It was an old doll suitcase that used to belong to Jane. Davey had packed it with Butchie’s few little toys and belongings. There was a whistle, a top, a bellboy’s hat, and a toothbrush. You, perhaps, never heard of a monkey with a toothbrush, but Butchie imitated the boys, and his toothbrush was his especial pride.

“Take it easy, old fella,” said Bill. “We won’t leave you behind.”

32 “Chee—chee,” said Butch, as if he meant: “With this scatterbrain family, I’m taking no chances.”

A little after five o’clock Daddy came down the drive with a bright yellow trailer attached to the car, and for the next half an hour everyone worked like a beaver. Daddy superintended the loading, and Mom checked and rechecked the house and garage, the lights, the faucets, the windows, and the doors. At last everything was ready, and they rolled down the driveway and into the street. They passed through the shopping center and over the river and up the hill to the county buildings.

The stop light turned green and they turned out on the road that led to Oak Lake. The distance was only about twenty-five miles, and they usually whisked out there in no time, but with their heavy load they traveled along at a leisurely rate, singing as they went.

The Murrays always sang as they drove. They sang as easily as the birds on the telephone wires, going from one old favorite to the other. They liked to sing rounds, like “Three Blind Mice” and “O The Bull Frog on the Bank.” Someone always started “The Quilting Party,” and Daddy could be counted on for “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” While they warbled along the highway Butch carefully untied Jane’s hair ribbon, and placed it on Billy’s head.

33 Now they were coming to a hill that the Murray children always waited for, because far down at the left was a small lake rimmed with cattails and spruce trees.

Once, long ago, Janie had seen a heron, startled, fly off on his great brown wings, and sometimes in spring it was the resting place for northern bound flocks of loudly crying wild geese. Tonight it lay there, rose colored in the evening light, like a fallen maple leaf. “Our little lake,” said Janie, softly. “I wonder if it has a name.”

Every foot of the way was familiar. The fox farm, the barn they had seen collapse the night of the big wind, the farm that always had such fat little pigs, and then one more hill and the road turned off to the lake.

Daddy drove carefully off the main highway onto the graveled road. They passed the haunted house and turned at the canal, went around the curve and there sparkling in the sunset, lay beautiful Oak Lake.

The planks of the short bridge at the canal rattled under them, and from there they could see the cottage. There was an iron fence with large stone posts at the gate, and as the car stopped all the children seemed to escape at once.

Mom unlocked the door while Dad lowered the awnings, and then they worked quickly to unload34 the trailer. Billy stopped with a carton in his arms.

“You know, Dad,” he said. “I saw a newsreel once of some coolies unloading a ship. They formed a long line and passed the stuff from one to the other. Why don’t we do that? We could be finished sooner.”

Dad knew that they never minded work if it seemed like a game, so a relay it was. Daddy stood at the trailer and Mom was at the end of the line.

When everything was in, Mom called, “Who wants a swim before supper?”

“I do.”

“I do.”

“I’m so hungry I could eat a raw fish.”

“Please don’t.”

“I’m so hungry I could eat grass.”

While the boys talked, Janie raced into her swimming suit. She was the first one ready, and called over the top of the bath house partition: “Last one in is a rotten egg!”





Then a big splash for Mom and a bigger splash for Dad, and the Murrays were in for the first swim of the season.

35 The water was cooler than they expected. Mom called it cold, and Dad called it bracing. Far over on the western shore the sun went down behind the purple woods, and the swallows dipped close to the water and then up again.

“Look at the swallows,” called James. “They’re dive bombing.”

“They’re dive bombing, all right,” said Daddy, “but their targets are only mosquitoes.”

“Last one out is a bum,” called Mom, and her wet brood followed her out like ducklings follow the mother duck.

The contents of the picnic baskets were spread on the long table, and Janie’s cake was the center of attention. It was covered with pale pink frosting, and she had garnished the edge of the plate with pansies and maiden hair fern. They waited expectantly while Janie cut slices for Mom and Dad and the boys and a good sized slice for herself. Mom took the first bite.

“M’m’m, most interesting flavor. What seasoning did you use?”

Daddy looked puzzled and took a second bite. “There’s something different about this cake, Janie. I can’t quite place it.”

Janie tasted it. “It’s pepper,” she cried. “It tastes like pepper.” She glanced immediately at Butch, and squinted her eyes in suspicion. “If36 I hadn’t watched you every minute of the time, I would suspect....”

She didn’t finish her sentence. Butchie, a picture of innocence, was fast asleep.

The boys carried their paper plates down to the lake front and built a fire with them.

“I’m a heap big Indian chief,” chanted Davey. He danced around and around the blaze.

“Indians used to dance here a hundred years ago,” said Jane. “I know, because we found arrowheads. Do you remember, Billy, when the farmer uncovered all those wonderful Indian relics while he was plowing? The level of the lake was higher then. They must have had happy celebrations just like we do now, and they must have loved this part of the country very much. Just think how filled the lake must have been with fish, and the woods over there on the western shore were filled with deer and rabbits and pheasants, and....”

“Bears,” interrupted James. “Big brown bears. Here comes Dad. Let’s ask him to tell us a story about the Indians who used to live here.”

Dad sat down cross-legged before the dying fire and told them a long story about an Indian who caught a pickerel who could talk. The story went on and on until it was quite dark and the stars came out. Mom came down and chased them off to bed.

37 “There’s going to be a big day tomorrow,” she said. “We have to get the weeds out of the garden.”

Jane came back to the porch after she was ready for bed, and found Mom reading. “Would you like a sandwich,” she asked. “The failure of my cake left me hungry.”

“M’m,” said Mom, without looking up.

“Make one for me too, Petunia,” said Dad.

The kitchen seemed warm, and as Janie opened the window, a robin flew away. “Our friend is back,” called Jane. “That same robin has been making her nest here on the window sill for a long time now. We’ll have to be careful about opening the window. She doesn’t like to be disturbed.”

She finished her sandwiches and carried them back to the porch. “Could I have Katy visit me this year, Mom?”

“Yes, Janie. I’ll ask Katy’s mother the next time I see her. Perhaps she can come out to spend the Fourth of July with us. Does that settle all your problems?”

“Yes, Mom, and I’m so sleepy I can hardly stay awake another minute. Good night Daddy. Goodnight Mom. Oh, but it’s nice to be at the lake again.”


Chapter Three
The Purse in the Trash Pile

Chapter Three, The Purse in the Trash Pile

IT was the twelfth of June. Everyone else was asleep, so Janie dressed quietly and went out into the garden to hoe while it was still cool.

The dew was on the grass, and she surprised a fat little rabbit eating clover. She laughed. He looked so silly when he ran, with his white dab of a tail.

The garden was across the road and way at the back of the lot. It was pleasant there. You could see far off across the fields as far as the swamp where the tamaracks grew. Janie had never been as far as that swamp. Daddy said it was like a jungle. The trees grew so thick you could hardly39 walk through it, and there were snakes and even quicksand. It looked very pretty this morning in the soft light. The tamaracks were like soft green fur.

Janie hoed and weeded and worked away at her share of the garden. After a while Billy came across the road. “Hi, Bill,” she called. “Hurry over here. I have an idea.” He came on the bound, and she laughed to see him run. He’s like that little rabbit I saw a while ago, she thought. He’s good natured and he has fat cheeks.

“What’s your idea, Jane?” demanded Bill.

“I’ve been out here toiling in the corn like old black Joe while you were asleep, and now I’m all tuckered out. Sit down here under this tree, and I’ll tell you all about it. You see that old trash heap there in the next lot? Well, when Mrs. Saunders went back to Chicago last fall, she cleaned house, and she threw away a lot of really good junk. She had a cleaning woman helping her, and they tossed out stuff by the bushel basket. Mom wouldn’t let me take any of it then, because she said we had enough junk of our own to clean up, but I’d just like to poke around and see if there’s anything there we could use.”

“What could we do with it?” asked Billy.

“Don’t you remember the time we found the wheels and made a wagon?”

40 “Yes, but there were only three wheels, so it turned out to be an airplane.”

“Yes, and do you remember the time we found the clock, and how Davey monkeyed with it for weeks, and then one night when we were all asleep it started to strike, and scared us half to death?”

Billy laughed and shook his head. “Poor old clock,” he said. “It struck twenty times in a row, and then it never ticked again.”

They started back down to the cottage for breakfast. There were pancakes and syrup, and cold milk, and a big bowl of fresh strawberries. They ate at a long narrow table placed in front of the open windows at the west end of the porch. Old-fashioned moss roses were in bloom beneath the windows. The lake lay out in front of them, smooth and blue, and a family of tiny wild canaries were very busy with a piece of string in the willow tree.

After breakfast Janie made her bed, and then walked out in the back yard again. The boys were doing their share of the gardening, and with her eyes closed Janie could have guessed what was going on. Any strong interest in gardening usually lasted until a worm was turned over, and then someone would say, “Let’s go fishing.” Whatever cultivation the garden got from there on was accidental.

41 The pattern was slightly different this morning. Davey turned over a flat stepping stone, and found part of an ant colony. He called, “Hey, fellows, look at this,” and hoeing was cheerfully suspended while the boys traced the progress of the ants by turning over stone after stone in the garden path. They lay flat on their stomachs, marveling at the intricate tunnels, and the clever way the little creatures maneuvered loads much larger than themselves.

Janie felt very virtuous, with her share of the weeding finished. “Now,” she said. “If you boys would work as hard as those ants do, we’d have a beautiful garden.” Billy rolled on his back and grinned lazily as he squinted up at the sun.

“Aw,” he said, “it’s too hot to work. Let’s go swimming.”

The four children trailed down through the front yard toward the bathhouse.

“Oh, Mom,” called Janie. “Do you want to come swimming with us?”

Mom came to the screen door. Her hair was tied up in a turban, and she had work gloves on her hands and smudges on her face. “Look at me,” she said. “I’ve been waxing floors, and I don’t have enough ambition left to swim as far as the raft. I’ll sit on the beach and play lifeguard.”

The boys splashed noisily off in the row boat,42 but Janie walked out to the raft. On a quiet day like this you could see all sorts of interesting things in the water. A large school of minnows swam ahead of her as she waded. There were clams on the floor of the lake, and colored rocks. Daddy said that some of these rocks had the imprint of tropical plants, fernlike tracings from the time when the world was still being made. There were turtles sometimes, but no sign of them this morning.

Janie swam the rest of the way out to the raft, and then stretched out in the sun and watched her brothers. The sun felt warm on her back. She waved at Mom on the beach, and then ran to the edge of the raft and dove into the cool water. They swam around for a short while more, and then headed for shore.

While they ate lunch Billy told Mom about the junk pile in the back lot. “I can’t think of any reason why you can’t go over there, if you’re careful not to get hurt,” she said. “Mrs. Saunders surely wouldn’t mind getting rid of some of that trash pile. The only thing is that you must be careful of rusty wire and broken glass, and things like that.”

“We’ll be careful, Mom,” they promised. After lunch Janie helped Mom with the dishes, and the boys started off for the back yard. They wore43 Daddy’s cotton work gloves, and James carried a long stick for prodding around. Mom said that it wouldn’t be a very good place for Butch, so he stayed on the porch.

The first thing that Billy dragged out was the leather-covered seat from an old sofa. “This will be great for landing on when we high jump,” he said.

James was overjoyed when he found a large assortment of old medicine bottles. “I’m going to wash these out,” he said, “and use them for my experiments.”

James was always putting strange things together, and shaking them up in a bottle with varying results. Sometimes the cork would blow off, and the stuff would blow all over the room. Sometimes the magic brew would be forgotten, and it would stand around in the heat until Mom would dump it out gingerly with one hand while she held her nose tight shut with the other. Once he put a mixture of unknown chemicals together, and some of it spilled on the floor. All the varnish came off. The spot is still there, covered up with a rug. Mom was really provoked that time, but James always felt that that was one of his best combinations. He piled the empty bottles into a basket and whistled happily while he worked.

Davey collected just like a crow. There was44 nothing logical in the way he gathered his treasures. Just now he had found the remains of an old parlor lamp, and he was sitting in the grass, taking it apart, “to fix it.” Mom smiled to see him so absorbed, and she shook her head. “I’ll be shaking bits of that old lamp out of his trouser pockets for the next two weeks,” she said. Then she waved at Billy and James and called: “I think you’re all wonderful. Carry on while I find some bean poles.”

Jane walked over to the junk pile and looked around. There certainly was an interesting assortment, but what was that noise? Billy heard it at the same time, and stopped working. It was Butch, chattering and running around in the tall grass.

“Butchie, you’ll cut your paws. Come, Butchie, come back to me,” called Davey.

The little monkey thought that the children were playing with him, and he climbed up on the junk pile. Just as Billy reached down to pick him up, he stuck his paw down among some old dried leaves and picked up a small leather purse. Then, with a shriek and a scurry, he was off again.

“Butch, you naughty monkey, what did you find? Come here, Butch,” called Bill.

Butch was delighted with his prize. He raced off to the little cottage, and there he crawled under the porch, where he buried his loot. He came back45 to the children clapping his paws together in great satisfaction.

Davey picked him up, and carried him back to the cottage porch. “This time be sure and lock the screen door,” called Billy.

“What do you suppose he found in that purse?” said Jane.

“Oh, it was just some old junk.”

“No, it wasn’t old. It was new. I saw it. It was a good purse, and it was filled with something.”

Billy didn’t answer. He stood there looking puzzled, like a fat-cheeked question mark.

“I don’t get you, Janie.”

“Just the same, Bill, I wish that Butch hadn’t taken the trouble to hide it. Do you suppose we could find where he buried it?”

Billy didn’t look so puzzled any more. “Of course we could find it. Butch never buries anything very deep. He just makes a shallow hole, and covers it over loosely with leaves and grass and stuff. I tell you what let’s do. Let’s go down and get Butch, and send him under the little cottage. We’ll tell him to fetch it back for us.”

Jane said: “All right, Billy. We can try it, but I doubt if it will work. I love Butch. I think he’s clever and cute, but he’s so perverse that if he thought we really wanted him to do one thing, he’d do another.”

46 They walked down to the cottage together and found Butch playing the piano. He was delighted to see them so soon after he had been banished, and he seemed to listen very carefully while Billy explained what they wanted him to do.

“You go back under the little cottage,” said Bill, “and bring us the purse you found.” He gave him a playful little push, and then brother and sister lay flat on the grass, watching to see how he would obey their instructions. He made straight for the hiding place, dug for a moment, and then dragged forth the purse. He held it up for their delighted applause.

“Good work, Butchie.”

“Good monkey!”

Even as they spoke there was a wild uproar, and Buick, the neighbor’s dog appeared at the other side of the cottage. He was barking with all the fury that the sight of the monkey always aroused in him.

Butch grabbed his prize to his chest, and raced for the porch pillars. He was up as fast as you could call his name. Once off the ground, he was safe from Buick’s angry barking. He put his purse in a safe place, and then leaned over the porch roof to see what was going on. When the children would beg him to come down he would place both paws over his heart, and roll his eyes,47 as if to say, “Can’t you see that this black, short-legged, bewhiskered monster would tear me to shreds?” The next minute he would wave his little red shirt like a bullfighter at the dog, and grin and prance in glee from his safe perch.

Mom appeared to find out what all the shouting and barking was about. She smiled at Butchie’s predicament, and told Bill to quiet Buick and take him home.

“Okay, Mom. Then I’ll get a ladder and go up and rescue Butch.”

“No, whatever you do, don’t go up on that roof,” said Mrs. Murray seriously. “There’s a loose wire up there that could give you a very bad shock. If Daddy is able to come out this week-end, he’ll go up there and repair it, but in the meantime, don’t any of you go near it.”

Janie’s face fell. She knew what Mom said was true. There was danger of a shock if they crawled up there, but what about the purse? Now they’d have to wait until Saturday to get it. As soon as Billy led Buick away, Butch shinneyed down the porch pillar and Jane carried him to the big cottage.

Mom greeted her with some good news. “I expect Grandma and Aunt Claire out here one of these days, perhaps tomorrow. We’ll have to air out the little cottage, and get it ready for them.”

48 The children were glad. Grandma was a great favorite. She was one of those rare persons who had energy and enthusiasm to spare, and though her curly hair was white, and her knees were a bit stiff, she knew all kinds of tricks and games. She could hold a sick child on her lap, and sing to him and tell him stories until the pain would go away. She could end a quarrel by telling a funny story, and she never forgot a child’s favorite dish.

She always carried a large black purse, and what wonders it contained! There were rolls of caramels and fruit drops, peppermints and gum. There was a coin purse that jingled with pennies and nickels and dimes for children who had been especially good.

Aunt Claire was Grandma’s only daughter, and she lived with her. She was a jolly little person with twinkling brown eyes. She could paint beautiful pictures, and she knew just where to catch big fish. She didn’t invent stories like Daddy did. She read aloud, which pleased the children just as much, and she won the undying respect of her nephews by being able to bait her own hook.

Just at that time the nephews would rather be baiting hooks than preparing for their Aunt’s arrival, but off to the little cottage they marched with brooms and mops and dust cloths.

49 Billy took off a screen and climbed through the window. His brothers followed him. They, might have to clean house, but nothing so common place as walking through a door to do it. Oh no. They dusted with vigor, if not with care. James slyly tripped Billy with a wet mop, and Davey hid under the bed while Mom scolded about it.

In less than an hour everything was bright and clean. Janie ran to the garden and picked a bouquet of pansies to put beside Grandma’s bed and Davey fixed a glass of lemonade to stand beside Aunt Claire’s bed. No one told him that it would be warm and stale by the next day. It was his contribution, and he was seriously praised for his thoughtfulness.

Mom walked out on the pier just as Janie, Billy and James were leaving to go fishing.

“I am the bearer of sad tidings,” she said.

They looked at her blankly.

“Mrs. Saunders’ junk pile,” she explained, “is only half cleaned up. You’ll have to finish it.”

“Yes, Mom,” said Billy soothingly. “As soon as we get back from fishing.”

“No, Billy. The place is the back yard, and the time is now.”

“Janie has to help too,” said Bill. “She thought of it in the first place.”

“That’s just fine with me,” Mom assured him.50 “Now hurry and finish clearing up that mess before Grandma gets here.”

The disgruntled trio started back to Mrs. Saunders’ yard.

“Creepers!” said James. “All we did today was work!”


Chapter Four
The Turtle Who Towed the Boat

Chapter Four, The Turtle Who Towed the Boat

ONE morning Janie awoke to hear the dripping of the leaves and the soft splashing of the rain against her window. She yawned, stretched, and turned over for another nap. How peaceful it was. She squirmed in sheer comfort.

Then she sneezed. Her ear tickled and she scratched it. Her nose tickled again, and all of a sudden she was wide awake and yelling angrily.

“Billy, get out of here! I know you’re behind that dresser. I saw you try to tickle me with your old feather!”

Mrs. Murray appeared at the door and pulled52 Billy out from behind the dresser. “Now, my boy,” she wanted to know, “what are you doing here?” He looked silly, standing there in his pajamas, holding a feather attached to a wand.

“Gee, Mom. I was only trying to wake her, so we could go fishing.”

“All right, then. Back upstairs with you, and finish dressing.” Turning to Jane she said: “Do you think it was worth while to lose your temper for a little tickle like that?”

Janie glowered. Her eyebrows were drawn together and her lower lip stuck out in an angry pout. “Mom, he teases me all the time.”

“All the time, dear?”

“Well, he teases me a lot. Sometimes in the morning he sticks his head in my door and sticks his tongue out at me, just to make me mad!”

“If you didn’t scream so, and make such a fuss, he wouldn’t pay any attention to you. You’ll have to learn to pass off some of the boy’s teasing with a smile. Don’t lose your temper.”

“Well, I’ll try,” grumbled Jane, “but he....”

“Not he,” her mother interrupted, “but I. Billy has to conquer his own faults and you must learn to handle yours. Get up now and let’s all have breakfast. Grandma and Aunt Claire may get here today if they don’t mind a little rain.”

Mother and daughter exchanged a brief smile53 and a brief kiss. Janie sat on the edge of her bed and swung her legs back and forth. All of a sudden she gave a good kick and one slipper hit the ceiling while the other flew into the open closet door. That was the end of her tantrum.

Billy’s head was bent over a huge bowl of corn flakes when Janie came up behind him and surprised him with a kiss.

“I’m sorry, bub.”

He stopped a moment, and then turned around,

“Okay, Okay! Boy, you went off like a fire siren. Do you still want to go fishing?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then hurry up and finish your breakfast, and let’s get out of here.”

Breakfast was out of the way in a hurry, and Mom offered to do the dishes if the children would make the beds.

James offered some of his best fat worms for the expedition, and was invited to go along. Davey decided he’d go without being invited. Looks were exchanged.

Davey was sort of a problem. He was four years younger than James and six years younger than Bill, but he was included in all their games and plans as an equal. That is, he was almost always included. Every so often he had to be told he was too little or too young.

54 Mom was most persuasive. “Butch and I would like to have you stay, dear. It would be lonely all morning without you. I thought, after I finished the dishes, I might walk over and see Mrs. William’s dog. Wouldn’t you like to go along?”

But David only looked woebegone. Billy said: “Aw, let him come along. I’ll take care of him.”

“Yes, Mom,” Janie pleaded, “There’s plenty of room, and I know he’ll be quiet and good.” Mrs. Murray consented and the expedition was on its way.

They wore sou’westers and raincoats. They took apples and cookies and bait and a bottle of water. Billy and James rowed and Davey sat in the front seat. Janie sat on the wide seat at the back and kept an eye on the bait.

“Let’s go over to the pond,” she said. “I have a feeling that they might be biting there.”

“Pond, ahoy,” called James, and they set out for the eastern shore of the lake. There were other boats out, and the children occasionally called out a greeting to a neighbor or a fishing acquaintance.

The boys took great sweeps with the oars, and the boat skimmed over the smooth water. Davey called out a warning about the big submerged rocks at the entrance to the pond, and Bill stood up and maneuvered the boat through the shallow55 rocky channel. Then through the cattails, the boat parted them as a comb parts hair. They swished and fell away at either side, and now, the pond at last.

Every one reached for his fish pole and selected his bait carefully. There was an almost church-like silence, broken only by the plop of the sinkers hitting the water.

James had the first strike, a bass, and his shrill squeal of delight must have been heard half way across the lake. He tossed it across to Janie, who dropped it into the basket.

Bill caught the next bass and Janie got the third. Fishing was really good, and in no time the basket was half full of flopping, slippery bass.

Davey had been lying flat on his stomach across the front of the boat, concentrating on some mysterious bubbles rising beside one of the big flat rocks. All of a sudden he let out a yell, and every one turned to see him pulling for all his might.

“Help! Help! Something is pulling my line away! Help! It’s awfully strong.”

Billy was beside him in an instant and grabbed the line. James fell down beside them and held Davey’s feet to keep him from going overboard, and Janie added to the commotion by jumping up and down and screaming: “Don’t tip the boat! Don’t tip the boat!”

56 Billy and Davey pulled with all their strength, and then out of the water there appeared a great, thrashing rubber-backed turtle!

He was securely hooked at the side of his leathery jaw, and he glared at his captors out of his little beady eyes, and he lashed the water like a twenty pound carp.

“Pull him in! Pull him in,” screamed James.

“No, no,” screamed Janie. “He’ll bite us!”

Bill played out a little more line and said, reasonably, “Every body sit down, and let’s figure out what to do.”

“He’s mine,” said Davey, in almost unbearable excitement. “I caught him, and I’m going to bring him home.”

“Why don’t you let him go?” said James. “That hook must be hurting his mouth.”

“Not so much as you think,” Janie offered. “I’ve heard Daddy say that the skin around a fish’s mouth is very tough, and a turtle’s must be even tougher. Anyway, we can’t get the hook out here, and we can’t cut the line and let him go off by himself with the hook sticking in him. I tell you what! Let’s tow him home!”

“Good idea,” exclaimed Bill, and they set about fastening the monster to the back of the boat. He was about three feet long and two feet across, and not at all agreeable. He tossed and yanked at the57 rope and it took both Billy and David to fasten him to the boat, while Janie rowed carefully out through the rocky channel. James waded behind, urging him along with a stick. They wouldn’t have been able to do anything with him at all, except that they made a sort of harness for him out of a length of clothes line. Billy used his cub scout knots and was quite proud of the result.

When they reached the main body of the lake James had to jump in, and by that time it had stopped raining, and was as steaming hot as could be. Rain coats and hats were quickly shed as they started back across the lake for home.

Old rubber-back tussled away at the line for all he was worth, and Billy was really worried. “You know,” he said, “I’ve read about boats being towed out to sea by giant turtles.”

“Aw shucks, Bill, you read too much,” said James. “Besides that was in the south seas. They have much bigger turtles there.”

“Just the same, I think this guy is pulling us off our course. I tell you what. Let’s haul him in the boat, and then we can make better time.”

“Nix, nix, nothing doing, my friend,” came firmly from Janie. “I promised Mom I’d see that Davey got home safely, and if you two boys start hauling a turtle into the boat, anything might happen.”

58 “Golly, Jane,” said Bill. “We’ll never get home this way. I’m pulling on the oars just as hard as I can, and he pulls as hard as he can in the opposite direction.”

The turtle settled it. Just as they spoke, he gave a lurch that pulled the boat out toward the center of the lake. Janie looked concerned. “Okay,” she said, “but please let’s be careful.”

Davey sat down in his place on the front seat and Janie took the oars, while the two boys knelt on the wide seat at the back, and rolled up their sleeves for the big pull. They braced themselves and pulled for all they were worth, and the old turtle came slowly up until his nose was against the boat. James reached down and grabbed him at one side of his shell and then Bill got the other side, and with a mighty heave they hauled him over the edge, and thrust him back into the boat. There he lay on his back, helpless, with his legs frantically clawing in all directions, and his wicked mouth opening and shutting.

Janie clung to the oars like mad and as the turtle hit the floor boards her feet flew up in the air, and one leg was perched safely at either rail of the boat. Davey was goggle-eyed and Bill was the first to recover his speech. He clapped Janie on the shoulder:

“Relax skipper. You can put your feet down59 now. He won’t bite you. He’s helpless as long as he’s flat on his back.”

“Oh no,” quavered Janie. “I’m taking no chances,” and she pulled her knees up under her chin.

“Well, all right then,” said Bill. “You get up there in front with Davey and I’ll row. It’s going to be hard rowing with so much weight at one end, but there’s no use telling you to walk past ‘old rubber-back’ to get to your seat.”

Janie gratefully gave up her position at the oars and went to sit with Davey at the front. “Golly, Jane,” he said. “What do you think of him? Isn’t he giant?”

“He sure is, honey,” said Jane, patting him on the back. “He sure is.”

They were coming along the eastern shore of the lake now and the steamy heat was making everyone thirsty. “Any water left back there, James?” called Bill.

“No, not a drop. I’m thirsty too.”

Billy took a long look at the distant pier that meant home and wet his lips.

“Boy, I’m thirsty. I tell you what let’s do. There’s a pump in the front yard of the haunted house. Let’s stop there and get a cold drink.”

This suggestion was strongly approved by the others, and Billy turned in at the ramshackle pier60 of the deserted house. Folks around Oak Lake called it the Mott place, but Dad said that no one had lived there for forty or fifty years. Ben, the handy man, said it was haunted, and Janie always shivered a little as she went past it, even on a bright sunny day like this one. It was a full three stories high, with turrets and gables and balconies. The decorations around the eaves looked like the ornamental icing on a wedding cake. It must have been very grand when it was new and nicely cared for. You could still see the outlines of the old gardens, but the flowers were long since choked out by the tall weeds. There was a fountain in the front yard too, rusty and dry. The figure of a little girl stood in the top basin. She was fat and dimpled and she held a protesting duck in her arms ... an iron one, of course. She must have stood there summer and winter for fifty years, and yet, somehow she didn’t look lonesome or unhappy. Ben said there used to be an elaborate group of stables on the place, but they burned down long ago. All that was left of the out-buildings was a small shack covered with tar paper. There was an evergreen windbreak all along the north side of the property, and the branches swayed and sighed in the wind. Janie really shivered this time.

“B’r’r’r,” she said. “This is the lonesomest place I ever saw. Let’s get out of here.”

61 “Aw,” said James, “you always talk just like a girl.” “There’s the pump,” called Bill. “I see it down there in those tall weeds. I’m so thirsty, I could drink a gallon.”

The boat nosed into the pier, and Davey was the first to step ashore. He raced over the wobbly boards and toward the pump calling, “First drink! First drink!”

Janie was at his heels and the boys stopped only long enough to fasten the boat and pick up the water bottle. Janie pumped until the water ran cold, and they splashed their faces with it and took long drinks.

Bill filled the bottle, and they started back for the boat, when suddenly out of the tumble down shack there appeared a big, ragged and dirty man. He waved his arms in the air and shouted at them,

“Get out of here, you trespassers, you! Get out of here or I’ll whale the daylights out of you!”

The children just stood for a moment, too frightened to move. He started toward them, waving a stick and shouting, and Janie said, “The boat! Hurry, we must get to the boat.”

They ran like the wind, and long-legged James got there first and had the boat untied in the wink of an eye.

The horrid man was gaining on them now, still shouting and waving his stick in the air. Janie62 leaped over the turtle and grabbed one oar and Billy took the other. James held Davey.

“Push, James! Push! We’re stuck,” yelled Bill frantically. James reached out to grab the pier and push the boat off, and just then there was a violent commotion in the weeds. Charging down upon them in full fury came a wicked looking goat. His head was lowered and his sharp curled horns were thrust out. James pushed desperately to loosen the boat, and the weight of the goat and the shove were all the rackety old pier could take.

It collapsed into the water with a great splash, and down went the goat in a tangle of horns and whiskers and loose boards. The children gasped and then James screamed,

“Row! Row for your life!” And the boat shot out into the lake and out of reach of the bedraggled goat and the angry man.

They made the distance home in record time, and almost cried with relief when at last they reached their own pier.

“Boy!” said Billy. “That was a close one. I’ll never go near that place again.”


Chapter Five
Grandma Always Brought Presents

Chapter Five, Grandma Always Brought Presents

DAVEY wanted to carry the turtle in single handed, but he was voted down and instead he was given the honor of bringing Mom down to surprise her.

“Old rubber-back” had been turned right side up again, and he sat quietly on the floor boards, all tired out from his struggle. Mom came hurrying down, escorted by the beaming Davey.

“Where’s the turtle?” she called.

“Oh, my goodness, it’s as big as a house!”

“Why it’s immense!”

64 “How did you ever land him?”

“What will Dad say?”

Everyone answered at once and even Mrs. Landry, their neighbor, came over to see the catch. She volunteered the use of her big wash tub as a temporary tank. A man who was visiting at Williams took the fish hook out of the turtle’s jaw, and after that he seemed quite contented in his new home. They decided to keep him until Daddy could get out to see him.

Everyone raced for the porch when Mom mentioned food. They were sprawled about in comfortable chairs finishing their lunch and laughing and talking, when all of a sudden Janie exclaimed,

“Mom, something awful happened this afternoon.”

Then she told of their adventure at the deserted house. Mom looked serious. “Oh dear, you must never go near that place again. That man is sort of an old hermit. He lives there in a chicken coop with his goat. You must be kind to him, but it would be a good idea to keep out of his way.”

“Don’t worry, Mom, we will,” said Billy, and the others agreed.

By and by the boys drifted out to the front yard to play ball. Mom sat in the lawn swing watching the sunset, and Janie read the evening paper.

Far down the road there appeared a small black65 car. It came closer and closer around the curve, and finally stopped at the Murray gate.

“Toot Toot!”


“Aunt Claire!”

“Daddy rode out with them!”

“We have the little cottage all ready for you!”

In the midst of all the excited greeting Mom said, “Let’s go down to the porch. Janie, you make a pot of tea for your grandmother. Boys, you help with the boxes and bags.”

There never was anything like Grandma and Aunt Claire moving out to the lake for the season. In addition to the normal load the car held a portable sewing machine, a portable phonograph, Aunt Claire’s oil paints and her water colors. There were boxes of yarn for knitting, sewing materials, and stacks of magazines containing serial stories that Grandma hadn’t quite finished reading in town. There was Aunt Claire’s fishing tackle, her camera, and Grandma’s canary bird. There were always presents for everyone, and this time was no exception.

After Grandma had finished her tea and everyone had inspected and admired “old rubber-back”, the family was assembled once more and the presents were handed out. Mom was first. She received a wide brimmed garden hat. Janie got a66 new swimming suit. Billy and James each got an elaborate cowboy holster with toy guns, and David found a catching mitt in his package.

Butch had a present too, but where was he? They looked all over the cottage and couldn’t find him. Davey was getting frightened.

“Oh, I hope he didn’t run out on the road,” he said. “He’ll get run over for sure.”

“Come on folks,” called Dad. “Everybody out for the big monkey hunt.”

The family spread out in the front yard calling, “Butch!” “Oh Butch!”

Davey was the first to hear the answering monkey chatter and he called the rest. There was the missing rascal, sitting on the big turtle and riding round and round in the old wash tub!

It was wonderful to have the whole family together again. In the excitement of catching the turtle and losing Butch, the purse on the cottage roof was almost forgotten, but not quite. James remembered, and his eyes grew large.

“Daddy” he cried. “Daddy! Butchie found a purse, and he hid it up on the roof of the little cottage.”

By that time the children were gathered around Dad and were all talking at once.

“Please get it down for us!”

“Mom wouldn’t let us go up there.”

67 “Please Daddy, can we get it now?”

“Daddy, may I go up with you?”

“Let me, Daddy, please!”

Daddy laughed and put up his arms to defend himself. “Help, help!” he cried. He finally got the story all straightened out, and he was very much interested.

“Just wait till I get some old work pants on,” he said, “and I’ll go up there and look for it while it’s still daylight.”

Billy ran to get a ladder, and the rest of the family gathered around to watch the excitement. Daddy soon came bounding up the rock garden steps in his old work pants. They were frayed and faded and there were spots of at least six different colors of paint, not counting cement, varnish and chair mending glue, but they were Dad’s favorite pants.

He called to Davey. “Send that rascal Butch up here,” he said. He climbed up to the roof of the porch. Butchie scampered up after him, but either he had forgotten where he hid the purse, or else he didn’t want Daddy to find it, because they looked and looked, and Daddy even pried up pieces of roofing, but there was no purse.

“Are you sure he put it up here?” Daddy asked. Billy and Jane said,

“Oh yes, Daddy. It’s surely there, because we68 saw him carry it up, and Mom was here when he came down. He had it going up, and he didn’t have it coming down. It’s surely there.”

“I’ve looked everywhere,” he said in a baffled sort of way. “Here, catch Butch,” he said, “I’m coming down.”

Butch scurried down the drain pipe, disdaining the ladder. Just as Daddy was about to start down, he hesitated and turned back for just one more look.

He walked over to where the roof of the porch joined the walls of the cottage, and he peered up under the eaves. He squinted his eyes and reached up to feel for an opening. Just then there was an angry roaring like the motors of hundreds of tiny airplanes, and Daddy came down the ladder even faster than Butch had come down the drain pipe. He ran for the front cottage like someone possessed.

“Wasps,” he whooped without slackening his speed or turning his head.

He was gone in such a hurry that they all stood gaping after him. Mr. Landry, who had been strolling down the road, stopped still in amazement. He took his pipe out of his mouth and said to Mom, “You know, Mrs. Murray, I didn’t know that a big man like your husband could run that fast.”

69 “He probably did break a record,” Mom said, “but he was urged on by a nest of wasps.”

They hurried down to the cottage to find Daddy safe behind the screen door. His frustrated pursuers had scattered angrily and given up the chase.

“Whew,” he gasped. “I haven’t had so much exercise since the time the Indians chased me out of town.”

“Did the Indians chase you out of town?” asked Davey. “Tell us about it.”

Daddy laughed. “I was only fooling,” he said, “but those wasps weren’t. Boy! Did I have a close shave! I tell you what we’ll do. Wait till the next time I come out, and I’ll get set for those man-eating monsters. If there’s a purse up on that roof, I’ll get it down. But—” and he wagged his finger all around the porch, “don’t any of you try to get up there while I’m gone. You all saw what almost happened to me. It’s much too dangerous.” One by one the faces, all solemn now, nodded in agreement.

The sun slipped down behind the woods on the west shore. Grandma and Aunt Claire went back to the little cottage to unpack.

“Tell us about the time you were chased by Indians, Daddy,” said the persistent David.

“No, Dad,” said Jane. “Please tell us about the deserted house.”

70 “Do you really want to hear about the deserted house?” asked Dad, pulling David off his shoulders. “I think maybe I could tell you a story about that.”

Janie sat at his feet, and David sat on the arm of his chair. “Well,” he began, “it happened a long time ago. Perhaps sixty or seventy years ago. You know, Oak Lake is a modest place. It always has been. But, just that once, while the Motts lived here it had an air of fashion and frivolity, like stardust sprinkled on bread and butter.

“There was a father and a mother, two pretty little girls that always wore handmade dresses that were made in Paris, and one son. Mr. Mott was a wealthy man, but he had no desire for the rush and competition of the great cities, so he brought his family here to Oak Lake to live. I’ve often thought of how amazed the people around here must have been to see that fine mansion rising in their midst. ‘Mott’s Madness’ they called it. There were stables with thoroughbred horses and a private race track, and a house full of servants.

“Even though they were far away from their friends they entertained in grand style. Twice a year they’d have a party, and their guests arrived from the east in a private car. Why, they even had their own school house. It was a comfortable two-story building a little distance away from the main house, and the governess lived in it.

71 “The children used to come there every day to study and to practice. One day the two little girls got off by themselves, and waded out into the lake. They didn’t know how to swim, and they drowned. The governess became frantic when she heard their cries, and in trying to save them, she drowned. It was terrible. The mother and father grieved so that they never wanted to see Oak Lake again. They packed their things, and took their son with them. They just walked out and never came back. Everything is the way they left it. It must be almost fifty years now since they went away, but there are dried roses in a vase in the old parlor. There’s an open book on a sofa, left as it was when the reader was interrupted by the cries from the lake. I’m not sure, but I think that the old man who lives there now is their son. He has had a lot of trouble. The family lost all their money. He’s involved in one law suit after the other. It’s no wonder he hates lawyers. After a long time he came back here to live, but he never lived in the big house. He lives in the chicken coop.”

Janie shivered. “Oh Daddy, how perfectly awful. Couldn’t someone do something for him, so he wouldn’t have to live in a chicken coop?” Dad smiled. “Folks have tried to help him,” he said, “but the old fellow is proud and touchy, and he wants to be left alone.”

72 “He sure does,” exclaimed Billy. “I’ll never forget how he chased us out of there.”

“Keep out of his way,” Daddy said. “That’s the best way to get along with him.” He picked Davey up and carried him to bed. Janie looked at Mom and drew her brows together.

“Mom,” she said. “Do you suppose that’s one of Dad’s stories, or do you suppose that’s really true?”

Mom cut off the end of her thread. “As far as I know,” she said, “that was all absolutely true.”

After a while they wandered back to see how Grandma and Aunt Claire were getting settled. Janie blinked for a moment. The mountainous load was gone and everything was in place.

“Grandma, you’re a wonder,” she exclaimed. “How did you get everything put away so fast?”

Grandma was sitting in her rocking chair, crocheting. The bowl of pansies stood on the table beside her, and her canary chirped over her head. “Petey helped me,” she said, nodding at the canary, “and Aunt Claire helped too.”

Aunt Claire was puzzled about the glass of lemonade beside her bed, and Jane explained.

“Well, it was like this. I picked the pansies for Grandma’s bedside because she likes them so much, and Davey felt that he wanted to do something too. He fixed a glass of lemonade for beside73 your bed, so that you would have a welcoming present too. I think by now it should be quite stale, but he was happy about it.”

Aunt Claire was touched. “Why the darling,” she said. “I’d drink it gladly, but there seems to be just a tiny spider web across the top. I know what we’ll do. We’ll use it to water Grandma’s window box. Lemons are chock full of vitamins. It should do the geraniums a lot of good.”

So, into the geraniums went Davey’s lemonade. All that summer Janie noticed that they did exceptionally well.


Chapter Six
Buick, the Detective

Chapter Six Buick, the Detective

JANE sat on the watching post swinging her legs and braiding clover. A small truck stopped at the Saunders’ place next door, and Ben, the handy man who did odd jobs for Mrs. Saunders, got out and lugged a lawn mower after him.

“Hi, Ben,” called Janie. “Is Mrs. Saunders coming out?”

“Hi there, Janie,” Ben called back, and stopped to get his pipe lit. “Yep,” he said. “My wife got a card from Mis’ Saunders just this morning. Says she’s coming out for a few days, and we should cut the grass and tidy the place up a bit. Don’t see what tidying up there’d be to do. The place hasn’t been touched. Not a soul in it since last fall when she was here last, but womenfolks are always drivin’ a man crazy by thinking up work. Washing75 windows, and cuttin’ grass, and dustin’. Land sakes, it’s enough to kill a man. And me with my back.”

Down the embankment he went with the lawn mower whirring in front of him. Janie couldn’t hear what he was saying, but she could still see the scowl on his face.

“Poor Ben,” she laughed. “If only he didn’t have to work.” She jumped off the watching post, and started off for the garden. “Before I laugh at Ben,” she thought, “I’d better get my own work done.” She weeded four rows of beans, and piled some dry grass cuttings around the base of the tomato plants. Then she sat under the mulberry tree and watched a mother wren dart back and forth feeding her brood on bits of juicy red mulberry. “I guess I’ll try one myself,” she thought. She did, but it was still tart, and not quite ripe.

“Help yourself, Mrs. Wren,” she said. “I hope your babies like them better than I do.”

She wandered back down to the front yard, and held yarn while Grandma wound it into balls. When that was finished she changed into her swimming suit and sat on the pier until it was time to go swimming. Dad and Mom insisted on regular swim periods. The children could go in before lunch in the morning, and again between four and five in the afternoon, but they never could go in76 at odd times by themselves. The swimming always had to be supervised by a grownup.

“You can’t be too careful,” Dad would always say. “You only drown once.”

Ben was busy all morning, and about noon Mrs. Saunders arrived. Mom sent Janie over.

“See if she won’t come over and have lunch with us,” she said.

Mrs. Saunders said “Thank you,” but she was expecting company in the afternoon, and she had a lot of unpacking to do.

The children loved Mrs. Saunders. She was easily the most fabulous neighbor that the Murrays ever had. A quiet, gentle widow, she had inherited a modest sheaf of stocks and bonds from her late husband, but they weren’t ordinary, dry-as-dust stocks and bonds. She owned part of a candy factory.

“Creepers,” Billy exclaimed every time he saw her. “Imagine having all the candy you could eat!”

Mrs. Saunders didn’t come to her lake cottage very often, but when she did, she always brought candy. Not suckers or caramels or fudge, but candy bars. Time was when Janie thought that one candy bar was riches, but Mrs. Saunders always brought a carton at a time. Mom shook her head as Janie returned, smiling from ear to ear, and carrying the familiar carton.

77 “Whoops!” cried the boys, but Mom reached for the box and put it on top of the piano.

“No, you don’t,” she said. “Not until every plate is clean. Eat your vegetables first, and then we’ll see about candy.”

They finished their vegetables in record time, and after the dishes were washed they each had a candy bar to eat down under the willow tree. Butch licked the wrappers.

Grandma was taking a nap in the little cottage, and Mom was sitting cross-legged on the floor of the porch rubbing sandpaper back and forth on an old chair. Dad was home that day. He was trying to think, he explained to the children. He’d make awful faces and run his fingers through his hair. Sometimes his face would light up, and he’d write like fury, and then again he would crumple what he had written into a ball and throw it on the floor. Mom scratched at the chair.

“Elizabeth,” Dad said. “Elizabeth, my dear, dear wife, what are you doing to that chair?”

She looked at him through the rungs. “I’m taking the old finish off,” she answered. “I just know that under these layers of paint, it’s walnut or mahogany, or even cherry.”

Daddy picked up his papers. “Elizabeth,” he said. “You scratch away to your heart’s content. I’m going to do my writing out on the terrace.”

78 “Oh,” said Mom, looking up. “Am I driving you away?”

He made believe he was pulling out his hair. “No,” he gurgled. “You’re driving me cr’razy!”

“I’m so sorry, dear,” said Mom and kept on scratching.

Once established on the terrace, Daddy stretched his legs and started all over again. Buick lay at his feet, sunning himself, and every little while he edged over and licked Daddy’s hand.

“Go home, pooch, beat it!” But Buick only wagged his stump of a tail as if he had heard the music of angels, and he stayed right there. As a matter of fact, he spent so much time with the Murrays that many people weren’t sure whose dog he was.

Things were like that with the Murrays and the Landrys. It was because they were such good friends. There was a gap in the hedge between the two back yards that had never been filled in because someone was always running back and forth. The Murray’s rock garden ran over the lot line and into Landry’s yard, and the flowers flourished there as if they knew they were welcome. Farther down, the pump stood exactly on the lot line and was shared by the two families, and at the water’s edge the Murray bathhouse stood cozily, back to back, with the Landry bathhouse. Bulbs79 and perennials had been shared and swapped until the gardens looked related, and Mr. Landry’s little grandson, Peter, claimed the Murray swing.

But this afternoon Buick was really making a nuisance of himself. He seemed to want Daddy to get out of his chair and follow him, and poor Daddy was trying so hard to write.

“Go away, go on, get out of here,” he would say. “Beat it or I’ll hit you with a flower pot,” but Buick kept coming back again and again. He would tug at Daddy’s sleeve and then run off a little distance and bark in short quick yelps. He kept this up until Daddy finally said, “Now listen to me, I’m not going to get up and play with you. I’m going to sit here and write. Go away! Can’t you see I’m a working man?”

Janie came around the corner just then and she stopped to watch. “Why, Daddy,” she said. “Something is up. Buick never acts like this. He seems to want to tell you something. Let’s follow him and see what he wants.” Daddy sighed and put a loose brick on top of his work for a paper weight.

“All right, all right,” he said. “I may as well. I’ll have no peace or rest until I do.”

Buick dashed up the rock garden steps, and they followed him across the road and into the back lot. He ran under the hedge near the little cottage and barked and barked.

80 “What is it, old fellow?” Daddy asked. “What’s the excitement?”

Buick ran under the hedge again and dug furiously with his short front paws. Then he stopped and picked something up in his mouth and hurried out and dropped it at Daddy’s feet.

“The purse!” Jane cried. “Why Daddy, that’s the purse that Butchie found in Mrs. Saunders’ junk pile. We thought it was up on the roof. How do you suppose it got under the hedge?”

“Butchie must have buried it there,” said Daddy, turning it over in his hands. “The sly little rascal didn’t want us to find it, but Buick outguessed him.”

“Open it! Open it!” Jane cried. “Hurry Daddy, I want to see what’s in it.”

Dad snapped it open and emptied it into Janie’s outstretched hands. It was filled with jewelry. Beautiful, old fashioned jewelry. There were two gold rings and a brooch and a locket. There was a small gold bracelet, such as a child might wear.

“Hm’m’m,” said Daddy. “Quite a little swag that our monkey had tucked away.” Janie was almost too surprised to talk.

“Why, Daddy,” she said, “this must belong to Mrs. Saunders. How do you suppose it got tossed out in the junk that way?”

“I can’t imagine,” Daddy answered. “Come on,81 let’s go and see what she says.” They hurried over and knocked on the door, but she had gone to the bus station to meet her guests and no one was home.

“Let’s show it to Mom,” said Janie, as they walked back to their cottage.

Mom was amazed. The boys were called in and they stood gaping. Grandma came down after taking her nap and she said, “Oh, so that’s what all the barking was about. I wondered what was going on.”

Butchie was terribly excited about finding the purse. He chattered and danced around and stood up and begged in his most persuasive manner. When he finally saw that he wasn’t going to be allowed to keep his treasure, he just plain sulked. Every one watched for Mrs. Saunders to come home and as soon as her car appeared they all ran over.

She was so happy she almost cried. “Why, bless your hearts!” she kept saying, again and again. Then she sat down and spread the jewelry out in her lap. “They were lost last fall when we were cleaning house,” she explained. “I thought they must have been stolen. I had given them up long ago. They were my mother’s rings and I’ve kept them all these years in remembrance of her. It isn’t that any one of them is worth a tremendous82 amount of money. It’s just because she wore them. Why, I can remember her wearing this garnet brooch just as if it were yesterday. It used to nestle in a white frothy ruffle at her throat, and when she sang in church it would twinkle like a star. This little locket was mine when I was a baby. Oh! I’m so thankful and so happy about this. How can I ever thank you?”

“Butchie really found it,” Davey said. “He found it in your trash heap one day early this summer.”

“Yes, but Buick really deserves the credit,” Janie intervened, “because if he hadn’t discovered the hiding place, Butchie would never have given it up, never.”

Mrs. Saunders kissed them all and cried a little, and then she called them into her kitchen. There was a basket of fruit on the table and she gave Butch a big shiny banana. Then she went to the icebox and cut the bones out of two pieces of steak. “Here,” she said, wrapping them up. “Give these to Buick. He’s a fine smart dog. I want each one of you children to have something too.” She opened her purse and before they could say a word she had given each child a crisp, new one-dollar bill. “Oh, thank you, Mrs. Saunders,” Janie said. “But Mom will never let us keep this. I know she won’t.”

83 “Oh, yes she will!” Mrs. Saunders assured her. “You’ll never know what it means to me to have my mother’s jewelry again, and you were very good children and you’ll need some money for buying firecrackers pretty soon.” They thanked her again and hurried home.

Sure enough, Mom was distressed about so much money, but Grandma said, “Don’t feel badly about it, Elizabeth. Mrs. Saunders was happy to get her purse back and it gave her a lot of satisfaction to be able to reward the children. People should be allowed to be a little extravagant once in a while. It’s good for them.”

“What are you going to do with your fortune?” Daddy inquired. Janie shook her head. “I don’t know yet,” she answered, “except that I want to spend it all at once and not let it disappear in little dribbles of nickels and dimes.”

“I’m going to buy some ‘minnies’ for casting,” Bill said. “I’ve been looking at some in the hardware store.”

James declared he was going to spend his for a huge model airplane he had long coveted, and Davey said he was going to give his to Butch. “Because Butch really found the purse,” he said, “and all he got was a banana.”

“Don’t be silly,” said Janie, “What would a monkey do with a dollar bill?” But Daddy gave84 him a hug and said, “That’s right, Davey. You take good care of Butch.”

By four o’clock Aunt Claire’s car came around the bend in the road and sharp-eyed James called out, “Someone is with her, a girl in a white dress. I can see her from here.”

“It’s Katy,” cried Jane, jumping up and down for joy. “It’s Katy. It’s Katherine Pelt.”

The car stopped in the back yard and Billy took Katherine’s suitcase and Janie gave her a quick hug.

Katy was well liked by the Murray children. She was a little older than Janie, small, slim, and dark. The youngest child in a family of six, she was what Daddy called “well socialized.” She was quiet without being shy, jolly without being boisterous, and she never made a nuisance of herself.

“What in the world do you have in that big package?” asked Janie. Katy smiled. “A chicken,” she said. “From my mother to your mother.”

“Hurray!” cried Billy, and David and James began to chant:

“Katy brought a chick-en,
Katy brought a chick-en.”

The little procession came down through the rock garden to the cottage porch. Aunt Claire was amazed to hear about Mrs. Saunders’ purse and she85 was eager to tell Grandma and Mom all that she had seen and heard in town. Jane took Katy to her room, and then they raced for the bathhouse to get into their swimming suits. Daddy and the boys came swimming too, and the boys all but stood on their heads in order to impress the visitor. Mom and Aunt Claire came out to the raft and there was a lot of shouting and leaping and calling back and forth.

Janie rested by floating on her back. Swimming in the same lake with the boys was enough to make any one want to rest. They were like seals, in and out constantly, diving, splashing and churning the water to a froth with their antics. Billy dove and swam as effortlessly as a fish. Angular James cut through the water swiftly, but his diving wasn’t as accomplished as that of his older brother. Davey was the prize. He still swam “dog-fashion,” and panting and dripping he would wriggle his way up on the raft and shout: “Watch me, fellows! I’m going to jump off.” He would close his eyes, grasp his nose with one hand, and then lifting the other arm high over his head and flexing his knees he would give a mighty leap into the air and land with a splash that would all but take his breath away. One or two performances of that kind would exhaust a grown person, but not Davey. He would leap in and out of the water for an hour at a time,86 and then say, “Do I hafta?” when it came time for them to go in.

Katy and Jane slept in the big double bed in the corner bedroom that night. There was so much to talk about. Katy had just returned from a trip through New England and when she described the Witch House at Salem, Janie held her breath and shivered.

“Katy! Weren’t you afraid to go in there?”

“No, not in the beginning. It looked just like any other old house. Our guide opened a door and led us down a dark, narrow stairway. I didn’t like it very well, but it was too late to change my mind, because there wasn’t room to turn around. The stairway led to the dungeon where the witches were kept before they were hanged. It was a big dark cellar room lighted by one small barred window. Br’r’rr, I got back up those stairs again as fast as I could.”

“But Katy, how could anyone be so silly as to believe in witches? I’ve always thought a witch was a Hallowe’en decoration.”

“People used to believe in witches long ago. The trouble in Salem started with Tituba, a slave girl, telling stories to some little girls. She told tales of voodoo and black magic, and she must have frightened the children half out of their wits, because when bedtime came they shuddered and87 screamed and saw things in dark corners. The village doctor was called and he said they were bewitched.”

“But why?” asked Janie. “How could he tell?”

“I don’t know, except that he could see that they didn’t have measles or mumps or anything of that sort, and I suppose he just had to think of something in order to earn his fee. The naughty little girls enjoyed being the center of attention, and when they were questioned they accused Tituba of being a witch, and she was tried and hanged.”

“Oh! How perfectly awful.”

“Yes, but that wasn’t all. The story spread and belief in witchcraft grew until there wasn’t an old lady in Salem who was safe. Even the wife of a minister was accused. When the governor’s wife was suspected the trials came to an end, but not until nineteen persons had been hanged on Gallows Hill and two died in prison.”

“Katy,” quavered Jane. “Turn on the light, and don’t let’s talk about it any more.”

Katy reached for the light switch, and the familiar room clicked into view.

“Now,” said Janie, propping up her pillows, “tell me how you make those little pin curls you have all across the top of your head.”

About ten o’clock Mom opened the door a crack88 and looked them over. “I know you’re both sound asleep,” she said. “And I know you wouldn’t be interested, but just in case you should be awake, there’s a bottle of cold root beer in the refrigerator.” They tumbled out of bed, giggling and paraded to the kitchen.

Grandma and Aunt Claire said “good night” and started back to the little cottage. Mom turned off the porch lights. They sat in darkness watching the shadows and the bright moonlight on the lawn and on the lake. There was no sound but the whispering of the poplar leaves and the gentle slapping of the waves against the shore. Janie leaned back in the wicker rocking chair and sipped her root beer. Strains of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” seemed to float down through the silver night. She wiggled her toes in ecstasy. “It seems a shame to waste a night like this sleeping,” she said. “I’d like to walk forever in the dew and the moonlight.”

Katy broke the spell. She had a deep, sturdy voice, strangely out of place in her slim little body and pixie face. “You’d probably step on a frog,” she said, and they all laughed.

“Rinse out your glasses and run to bed like good children,” said Mom. “There’s going to be a lot of planning to do in the morning. Do you realize that the Fourth of July is only a week off?”

89 “Ooooooooh!” Janie squealed, giving her mother a big hug. “I like the Fourth of July almost as much as Christmas.” Good nights were whispered once more and in a little while everyone was fast asleep.

James woke the family by falling out of bed. He gave out a roar of indignation and began to beat Billy, who by this time was only half awake. “You pushed me!” he cried. “You kicked me out of bed.” Billy blinked and rolled to the other side of the bed to avoid a pillow in the face. Suddenly James stopped dead. He looked astonished and then he burst out laughing. He laughed so that he bent over double and held his sides.

“You didn’t kick me out of bed,” he gasped. “I dreamed I was riding a horse and the horse kicked me, and I guess I just woke up now.”

Mom called from the foot of the stairs. “If you boys are going to have a roughhouse, I wish you’d have it out on the lawn.”

“I was only dreaming,” James called down. Mrs. Murray sighed. “If that was only a dream,” she said, “may heaven preserve us when you get a nightmare.”

Davey wandered out in his pajamas and inquired if any one had seen his shoes. “Butchie had them last,” he said. “He hid them before I went to bed last night.”

90 Katy poked Jane in the ribs and Jane dug her head deep into her pillow. “Let’s ask your Mother if we can go in swimming before breakfast. Wake up, sleepy head.” She reached down and tickled the toes of her sleepy victim. With a shriek, Janie was on her feet and wide awake.... The Murrays were off on another day.

Swimming was perfect. The lake was calm as a pond and just cool enough to be bracing. They came in when Mom called “Breakfast,” and raced for the bathhouse, leaving wet foot prints on the boards of the pier. They rubbed each others’ backs vigorously with the big rough towels and ran a comb through their damp curls. “I wish it would be summer all the year round,” said Jane, as she slipped her bare feet into play shoes. She wore a blue cotton skirt and a white blouse. “These are the kind of clothes I like.”

“I don’t know,” said Katherine reasonably. “I like a change. My brother Jim lived in the tropics for two years, and he says that summer all the year round can be very monotonous. I like to bundle up and go tobogganing in the winter, and I like to dress up in a pretty suit and hat for Easter.”

“Yes,” said Janie, “I suppose you’re right.” They hung their towels to dry and walked up to the cottage for breakfast.

Aunt Claire was squeezing orange juice and she91 looked up as the girls came in. “There’s something down at the farmers’ that might interest you,” she said. “I took a walk this morning before breakfast, and you know that old brown cow he’s had in the front pasture? Well, she has a calf, newly born. It has clean, soft fur like a baby deer, and beautiful big brown eyes, and very wobbly legs.”

The children were delighted and right after breakfast they all trooped down the road to inspect the new arrival. Old mother cow stood patiently chewing grass while they hung over the rail and admired her baby.

“Aw, look at him,” murmured Billy. “Isn’t he cute? I wish I could go in there and stroke him.”

“Oh no, you don’t,” said Janie. “That’s why they have glass partitions in nurseries. Look, but mustn’t touch.”

It was James who saw him first. He glanced down the road and then grabbed Janie by the arm. “Look,” he squeaked. “There he is.... Here he comes.... That man!” They all turned, and there, trudging up the road toward them, was the big, dirty old man who had chased them off his lot the day they caught “old rubber-back.”

“Oh boy!” said Billy, “Let’s run!”

“We can’t run home,” said James. “We’d have92 to pass him. Let’s cut down through the lower lot and then go home along the shore.” They ducked across the road and then slid down the steep bank that led to the lower lot. By running along one side of a hedge they kept out of sight until they reached the lake shore, and there they stopped for a moment and took off their shoes and socks. After they caught their breath they waded home in the shallow water.

“Are you kids crazy?” asked Katherine. “Why do you have to run like Indians when you see that man?”

“He chased us one day, and threatened to give us a licking just because we took a drink out of his old well,” said Bill. “Mom said we should be kind to him because he had a lot of trouble, but we’re just going to keep far, far away from him. He’s an old crank.”

They sat on their own pier when they reached home and dried their feet in the sun. Mom called from the cottage, “Does anyone want to ride along? We’re going over to Deerpath and do some shopping.”

“Oh happy day!” cried Janie, and she raced ahead of Katy and the boys. She ran to her room and picked up her piggy bank. By inserting the blade of a smooth table knife and by skillful shaking, she extracted one smooth, new paper dollar,93 a nickel, and three pennies. “My fortune,” she announced proudly. “I’m going to buy fire crackers.”


Chapter Seven
A Trip to Deerpath

Chapter Seven, A Trip to Deerpath

I DON’T know where we’re going to put all of you,” laughed Aunt Claire. “I think this car was originally intended to hold five passengers.”

Grandma got in first, and seated herself comfortably in the back. Billy and Katherine ranged themselves beside her on the seat, and James came panting up at the last minute, carrying a stool and a cushion, so that he could sit on the floor. Grandma counted heads.

“Where’s Davey?” she asked. “Everybody’s here but Davey.”

Just as they called him he came trudging up the95 steps of the rock garden, carrying Butch. Butch was wearing his best suit, red trousers with a bright, yellow cotton blouse, and a little bright red hat cocked over one eye.

Mom groaned. “Oh, Davey,” she said, “why do you have to bring him along? We’re crowded, and he’s so hard to take care of when we get to Deerpath. Don’t you remember all the trouble we had the last time you took him along? Do you remember how he got away from you and started throwing lemons and oranges around in the store?”

Butch put both hands to his heart in an attitude of prayerful entreaty. Everyone laughed, even Mom.

“Well, all right this time,” she said, “but never again.”

Davey settled down blissfully on Grandma’s lap, and Butch sat on Davey’s lap. They looked like a happy three-layer banana cake.

All the way to Deerpath they played White Horse. They were divided into two teams, one for each side of the road. The object was to find white horses and count them. The team with the highest score won. However, if the car passed a cemetery, the team on the same side of the road as the cemetery forfeited its entire score.

Janie was captain of one team, and Billy was captain of the other. The hunting wasn’t very96 good as they drove along. It seemed that all the horses were far back in the fields working. Janie had a score of 3 and Billy had 2 when they reached the top of a hill just at the outskirts of the village.

“Cemetery!” called Aunt Claire, and Billy’s team lost its score.

Janie was jubilant. “We won! We won!” she exulted. But, Grandma, buried under Davey and Butch, spied victory walking down the road toward them.

“Look what’s coming,” she cried. “Two white horses pulling a load of hay.”

“Oh yes,” said James. “But that only gives your side two, and we have three.”

“Look what’s following,” said Grandma smugly. Hitched to the rear of the load were two of the whitest horses you ever saw. There were loud cheers from Billy’s team as they pulled up in front of the village store.

Janie was patronizing. “You were just lucky,” she said. “That wouldn’t happen again in a hundred years.”

Grandma was the last to crawl out of the car. She shook out her skirts ruefully. “And to think,” she said, “that I pressed this dress just before I started out.”

They split up in groups to do the shopping. The boys made straight for the hardware store97 that sold fishing supplies. They didn’t buy anything very often, but they would stand for hours in wistful admiration.

The girls went to the drug store to buy picture postcards to send home to Katy’s folks, and Mom and Aunt Claire went to the grocery store.

Grandma, Davey, and Butch started off down the block to a large old-fashioned country store that sold odd lots of almost everything imaginable. You could buy anything from nuts and bolts to flowered chintz. You could buy rubber boots, embroidery cotton, lemon squeezers, and imitation Christmas trees, and sometimes they would all be piled up on one counter.

Mr. Seaman, the proprietor, remembered Grandma from other summers and welcomed her as an old friend.

“How do you do, Mrs. Murray,” he said. “How have you been all winter, and how is your son and his wife? We have a nice stock of white nurses’ oxfords that you might like.”

“No, Mr. Seaman,” said Grandma politely. “I’d like to see some oilcloth for the kitchen shelves.”

“We have that too,” he said, and led her over to the other side of the store.

David stood before a mirror and tried on winter caps such as farmers wear doing chores. They were all much too large for him, and as he discarded98 them, one by one, Butch would try them on his head, and then throw them on the floor. Grandma looked around and soon put a stop to their foolishness.

Mr. Seaman wrapped her packages, and they started back down the street to the drug store. If the Murrays separated in Deerpath, it was never for long. They always met by common consent at the soda fountain. Billy and James got there first, and they were sitting in a booth reading a comic book and waiting for the others. Just after Grandma walked in with David and Butch, Janie and Katherine arrived. Janie seemed disappointed.

“We’ve looked all over, and they don’t seem to have any fireworks this year.”

Billy waved his hand, as if by that gesture to banish all her difficulties. “Don’t worry,” he promised. “I know where they sell them. It’s a wayside stand on the way home. I’ll get some for you.”

“Oh good.” Janie looked relieved. “I was beginning to worry.”

Mom and Aunt Claire wandered in just then, and Mrs. Skinner came over to take their order. James had a dish of strawberry ice. Davey wanted a chocolate ice-cream cone. Billy ordered a vanilla cone with chocolate “jimmies” sprinkled all over99 the top. Katy had root beer and Janie had a coke. Grandma wanted root beer, and Mom and Aunt Claire had sodas.

After everyone had ordered, Davey ran over next to Mom and whispered in her ear. She nodded and gave him a penny. He took it over to the counter, and offered it to Mrs. Skinner.

“Please, Mrs. Skinner,” he said. “May I have a sucker for my monkey?”

The ride home was complicated with the addition of a great many packages. Mom seemed to have bought enough supplies to feed even the hungry Murrays for a week. The amiable little car took a deep breath and expanded to hold them all.

Billy kept a lookout for the roadside stand he remembered from the year before. “It’s just beyond the second turn in the road,” he said, “after we pass the farmhouse where we buy currants.” There it stood, just as he said. The farmer was out tacking red, white, and blue bunting to the posts as they stopped the car.

“Yes I have fireworks,” he said. “I’m just unpacking them. If you folks will wait a while, I’ll bring the packages down and you’ll be the first to make a selection.” He went back to the farmhouse, and in a short time returned with his arms full of bundles. Billy and James helped him unfasten100 strings, and then the beautiful and colorful display lay before them.

It was hard to choose. Billy decided upon salutes, giraffe crackers, and one Roman candle. James hunted around for his favorite brand, that came in a long narrow box. They were smaller than giraffe crackers, but they were packed much tighter, and they made a much louder explosion. Katy bought lady-crackers quickly and quietly, while David was still spreading out his pennies. Jane was torn between skyrockets, which were flamboyant and expensive, and the more conservative lady-crackers. She stood on one foot and then on the other. Finally, she bought one skyrocket and two packages of lady-crackers.

Davey came back to the car beaming. He had two packages of giraffe crackers and some pin wheels and a flower pot. He was feeling very adult.

“Goodness,” said Aunt Claire, as she looked over his assortment. “You’ll blow us to kingdom come!”

Once more they started off for home. Just as they were about to turn off the main highway, Billy leaned out of the window and shouted and waved at a passenger car. It was Hoyer, he explained, and the Byrnes twins and Johnny Engelhardt. “They’re all kids in my class,” he added. “They’re probably going out to Harwood’s.”

101 Everyone helped to unload the car when they reached the cottage gate. As soon as the perishable food was put away Mom sat down at the table with Grandma and Aunt Claire and began to talk over plans for the week-end holiday.

“It’s rather hard to plan exactly,” she said, “because you never know who is coming.”

“Pshaw,” said Grandma calmly. “Just have a lot. If we have fine weather, plenty of food, and good friends gathered around, the party is a success before it starts.”

“That’s right,” Mom agreed, “and that removes all my uncertainties except the weather.”

There was a pleasant prickly feeling of anticipation in the air. The children were very well behaved. Janie didn’t lose her temper, and Billy didn’t tease. James was rumored to have been seen with a dish towel in his hand after meals, and Davey trotted around like a little lamb. Even Butchie declared a short truce. He was quiet and good.

Thursday was the Fourth of July, and all day Wednesday the Murrays raked and weeded and polished and cleaned. Daddy arrived at sundown and was greeted with joy. Aunt Claire had baked homemade bread, and Mom had baked cakes. Davey had decorated the lake front with flags, and the boys were most anxious to show their father102 a long picnic table they had set up on the terrace. Daddy held his arms up in the air and laughed at their eagerness.

“One at a time, boys,” he said. “I’ll have to have something to eat before I start out on this tour of review. I’ve been so busy all day that I haven’t had a bite since breakfast.”

In a little while he walked around and admired everything. “You certainly have worked hard, and you’ve been very good children,” he said. “And, because you’ve been so good, I’m going to take you over to the firecracker stand and buy you some firecrackers.”

The response to this sounded like a football game, and looked like one too, for that matter. Poor Daddy was literally overwhelmed. Everyone tried to hug him at once, and he fell to the ground with them in a laughing, whirling nigger-pile.

“Hey, Mom,” he called. “Get me out of this. These kids are too much for me.” They pulled him to his feet and brushed him off. Mom waved to them as they started away. “Don’t be too long,” she said. “Remember, tomorrow is a big day.”

They were home again by eight o’clock, and in bed by nine. In spite of the excitement, they were quiet, and they soon fell asleep. When Mom came in to check up before her bed time, she smiled to see Billy fast asleep with a string tied to his wrist.103 It stretched across to the other side of the room, where it was securely tied to Davey’s toe. They had their firecrackers neatly stacked under their beds.

Mom called Grandma and Daddy and Aunt Claire, and they tiptoed up stairs. Daddy laughed and marveled at the plan.

“Good night, folks,” he said. “We’d better sleep while we can. Something tells me that it’s going to be noisy around here tomorrow morning.”


Chapter Eight
The Fourth Was Full of Fun

Chapter Eight, The Fourth Was Full of Fun

IT was.

It sounded like the third day of the battle of Gettysburg. Giraffe crackers and salutes were crashing on all sides. Nigger-chasers danced across the pavement of the terrace with a staccato ticktacktoe. All over the lake people were celebrating. Flags were flying, and there was the intermittent pop and boom of firecrackers all the way from Hawk Point around to Poplar Bay.

Katy and Jane were sitting on the front steps, watching the boys. They’d put their hands over their ears and run whenever Billy would touch off105 a big one. James was barefooted and still wearing his pajama pants when Mom came out, and Davey wore his good trousers.

“Back in the house with you,” ordered Mom. “Get dressed and washed, and sit down to the table and eat breakfast. The company will start coming pretty soon, and I want everyone all cleaned up, and the porch cleared off before they get here.”

Breakfast was wonderful. Waffles with maple syrup and honey. Bacon curls, and melons with raspberries heaped in their scooped out centers. Grandma poured coffee out of a shining bubbling percolator, and the children had cold chocolate milk.

Butchie was having a fine time. He loved noise and excitement. He wasn’t the least bit afraid of the firecrackers, but he had seen the girls put their hands over their ears, and, mimic that he was, he imitated them.

By ten o’clock the first car load of company arrived.

“It’s Uncle George,” called Billy, “and he’s carrying a watermelon. The Davises are with him too. Here comes Grandma Davis and Dorothy and Louise. Margy and the baby came too.”

The Davises were Mom’s family. They didn’t share the Murray boys’ enthusiasm for collecting106 frogs, but they all played a good game of base ball, even Grandma Davis.

Janie reached joyfully for the baby, as the Davis girls emerged from the car. They had swimming suits and base ball bats and cameras and sun glasses.

Louise made a beeline for the bathhouse. “I’ve been waiting for this all week,” she announced. “I’m going to swim all day.”

Dorothy called to Billy and James. “One of the men at the office won a case of soda pop,” she said, “and he gave it to me. It’s in the trunk of the car. Would you like to help me carry it down?”

James’ eyes popped, and his voice rose to a shriek, the way it always did when he got excited:

“A case of soda pop! Great hopping catfish!... A whole case? The most I ever had at one time was the day we went to the wedding, and Uncle George gave me a whole bottle.”

Margie and Mom installed the baby in the tea cart. By removing the glass tray at the top, and lining the inner compartment with pillows, it became a fine emergency baby carriage.

“Why, I can remember when you used to sit in here,” said Mom to Katy. Margie turned to Jane. “I can remember when you used to ride in the tea cart, too. You were fat and bald and sassy.” Janie turned pink and laughed.

107 “Well,” she admitted. “I’m still sassy.”

The neighbors had company, too. There were three cars parked in Landry’s back lot. There must have been thirty people over at Williams. There was a badminton game and horseshoe pitching going on in their lower lot, and young folks in pretty bright clothes were sitting around on the lawn near the house. The crackling of the fireworks kept up. The sun shone bright and the breeze was cool. It was a lovely day.

Margie didn’t want to go swimming with the others, because she couldn’t leave the baby, but Janie had an idea.

“Grandma,” she said. “Why don’t you wear a big hat, and come out as far as the raft in the boat? We’d row you out, and you could hold the baby on your lap. Then Margy could swim with us, and both you and the baby would be close by and you wouldn’t miss any of the fun.”

“Why, I’d be glad to, if Margy would trust me with her baby,” exclaimed Grandma.

Margy laughed. “After all the babies you’ve held in your day? I should say I trust you.”

Everyone went swimming. They had races and they tried all sorts of stunts. The baby was very excited and happy. She squirmed and gurgled and clapped her hands. Uncle George swam over next to the boat and called up to her,

108 “Hi, sweetheart!”

She gave a quick lurch, and as fast as the wink of an eye, she was overboard and in the water. Grandma gasped, but Uncle George caught her firmly by the hem of her little white dress when her body was just at water level. Her arms and legs paddled as naturally as a tadpole. She splashed and squealed in her new found element.

“Anyone can see,” said Uncle George, “that she’s a cousin of the Murrays.”

Grandma Davis was afraid of getting her shoulders sunburned, and she was the first one out of the water. One by one, and two by two, the grownups followed her until only the children were left, and they were the last to leave the raft.

The baby was given a quick rubdown and some dry clothes. Then she was fed her own private lunch of mashed banana and spinach and milk, and she was put to bed for her nap.

The Hansens came, Bob and Dorothy, and their browneyed youngster. The men sat down at the lake front and talked in their deep rumbling voices. The ladies dashed about in a pleasant sort of flurry, getting the dinner ready. Grandma made coffee in the picnic coffee pot. It held two gallons of coffee. It smelled of picnics and hikes and wood fires. Janie never drank coffee, but she loved the memories of a sniff of the fat old coffee pot.

109 Dorothy and Louise cut cakes and shook fancy salads out of star-shaped molds. Aunt Claire sliced homemade bread and arranged some of her crisp, pungent dill pickles on a tray. Margy cut ham, and Mom opened the oven door now and then to look at a huge roasting pan full of brown baked beans. James stuck his nose against the screen door.

“Mom,” he said. “I’m hungry.”

“In just a minute, chum,” said Louise. “I’m about ready to call you in.” As soon as she called the children hurried in, picked up their heaped up plates, and took them to the terrace. Here they ate and gabbled to their hearts’ content while the grownups stayed on the porch.

After dinner James took a book and two bottles of pop and disappeared.

“I know where he is,” said Bill. “Whenever he gets it into his head that he wants to be alone, he climbs up the rain spout at the back of the cottage and lies on the roof. It’s shady there and no one can find him. Daddy always says that James is the family genius. I think he’s crazy.”

Janie laughed. “They both mean the same thing,” she said, flippantly.

David and Billy volunteered to burn all the used paper dishes, and as soon as this was done tireless Davey demanded:

110 “When are we going swimming?”

“You just finished eating,” Mom answered. “Not for two hours, at least.”

“Then let’s play ball.”

“Whew! Why don’t we hitch you up to a power plant? You know, Davey,” she said, “these people have just had their dinner, and they couldn’t run from one base to another if they tried. Better wait a little while.”

Not at all cast down, Davey retired to the pier and shot off firecrackers. He would light them, and then toss them into the water. Sometimes the water would put them out, but almost always he would hear a dull plop, and see a small geyser rise up at the scene of the explosion.

The Landrys were down at the lake front, watching a sailboat race, and Davey called out to them.

“Where’s Buick, Mrs. Landry? I haven’t seen him all day.”

Mrs. Landry shook her head and smiled. “Poor Buick,” she said. “He’s having a bad time of it. He’s on the floor in the farthest corner of my clothes closet with an overcoat over his head.”

“What’s the matter with him?” asked David in alarm. “Is he sick?”

“No,” said Mrs. Landry. “He’s scared to death of firecrackers.”

111 The ladies were sitting on the terrace, playing with the baby and admiring her tricks, when suddenly there was a scraping noise, then a shriek, and James, all whirling arms and legs, descended amongst them. What had been a peaceful family gathering turned into the wildest confusion. Dad picked him up and carried him into the cottage. He was conscious, but he was pale and shaken. His lips were blue.

“My arm,” he said. “It hurts.”

Dad felt the arm swiftly, and scrutinized it carefully.

“I don’t think it’s broken,” he said. “But it should be, with the fall you had. Where did you come from, anyway? Were you up in the tree, or did you drop out of a passing airplane?”

“No,” said James. “I was up on the roof. It slants there at the corner, and I must have fallen asleep, and dropped off.”

“You dropped right into our laps,” said Mom. “Thank heaven you’re safe.”

Aunt Claire made a splint out of the top of a small cheese box, and they wrapped up the injured arm temporarily.

“It will be hard to find a doctor today,” Dad said. “They’re all away from their offices for the holiday. By the way, James, there seems to be some special connection between doctors and holidays112 for you. You were born on Easter. You had measles one Christmas, and whooping cough the next, and now you come flying off the roof on the Fourth of July.”

They tried to reach Dr. Russell, but he wasn’t in. They finally reached Dr. Cordes in Deerpath.

“From your description,” he said, “it isn’t broken. Put him to bed, and keep him quiet. I’ll drop over to see him in the morning.”

James smiled at the news, and made a small face.

Davey was relieved. “Now,” he demanded. “Now can we play ball?”

Everyone laughed, and the tension was broken. Grandma sat with James, and rocked and talked to him quietly. The others trooped out to the back yard for a ball game. Sides were chosen, and Uncle George bawled out, in the style of a big league umpire: “PLAY BALL!”

Grandma Davis made the first home run, and Mom sat on the side lines, fanning herself. “Count me out,” she said. “I’ve had a busy day.”

They batted and ran and stole bases, and cheered for their teammates. They grew warm and dirty, and consumed quarts of soda pop, but they had glorious fun. At six o’clock they all trooped down to the lake for a swim before supper.

James had milk toast. He still looked pale and113 interesting, with one arm stiff and fat in a sling.

“I know why you fell off the roof,” said Billy, peeking in the door. “I’ll bet you lost your balance because you were so full of soda pop!”

After supper Dad played the piano, and they all gathered around to sing. They sang cowboy songs: Red River Valley, and Oh Bury Me Not. They sang sentimental ballads and negro spirituals. Dad’s fingers ran easily from one familiar melody to the next. “How about the Star Spangled Banner,” he asked. They all joined in, even James from his bed, and the baby from the tea cart. Just as the sun sank behind the trees, he turned to Margy and played the opening bars of Now The Day is Over. Her sweet voice rose strong and clear. Everyone was quiet and listened to her. The birds twittered, and it was getting dark.

“That was beautiful,” said Janie. “That was the nicest song of all.”

The popping and crackling of firecrackers had been going on all day, and now that it was dark, splashes of beautifully colored light appeared in the sky on all sides.

“The skyrockets are starting,” cried Bill, and everyone ran down to the lake front to watch. James had fallen asleep, so Mom closed his door and tiptoed off.

It was a beautiful night. The sky was dark blue,114 and far over across the lake someone had started a bonfire. It was yellow and orange against the darkness. The children lit sparklers, and carried one in each hand as they danced like fireflies on the lawn.

One by one, Daddy would help them shoot off their skyrockets. He would fasten them to a tree, and touch the wick with a match. They held their breath as the rocket swept up, up, and up. Whee—eee—eee! Then the giant bubble would burst, and great colored stars would float upon the night.

Davey craned his neck, and held Grandma’s hand. With all his heart he wished that just one star would float down within his grasp, but they vanished like soap bubbles. Just as one fiery arc would disappear, another would take its place. There were pin wheels whirling their light from posts and trees, and now and then they could hear the swift whoosh and flare of a Roman candle. Katy and Jane lay far out on the pier and watched the display.

Gradually the night grew dark again, and the folks went back to the porch. Good nights and good-bys were said. The sleeping baby, the empty cake dishes, and the rattling pop bottles were tucked into the car, and the Davises went back to town.

Janie lay awake until it was very late. The young folks next door were dancing on their front porch.115 Someone played an accordion, and it was pleasant lying there in the darkness, half awake, listening. The music faded away. The dancers called out their good nights and went home. The lights went out, and the Fourth of July was almost over. Janie fell asleep.

Buick emerged from under Landry’s porch, and looked around warily. It was very quiet. The battle was over. He shook himself and stretched, and then trotted down to the lake front and lapped the cool water.


Chapter Nine
Billy Battles the Storm

Chapter Nine, Billy Battles the Storm

THE day after the Fourth of July was clean-up day, and Billy and Davey cleaned the yard. The lawn was littered with scraps of firecrackers, and Davey always stopped to examine them in the hopes that he would find a good one. Butch hopped along with them, making a general nuisance of himself. When, at last, a bushel of scrap had been collected, he delved into the basket and came up with an armful. Davey and Bill yelled and chased him, which only made matters worse. He wove an elaborate pattern all over the lawn, leaving a trail behind him like Hansel and Gretel. When the last confetti like bit had been strewn, he117 climbed a tree, and sat just out of reach of his pursuers. Davey shook a rake at him and Bill scolded, but no one could ever be angry at Butch for long, because at the first sound of an angry voice he would rise up and put both tiny paws over his heart. Pleading, with his head to one side, he looked so forlorn that even the hardest heart would soften toward him.

Dr. Cordes stopped by about eleven o’clock that morning to have a look at the boy who fell off the roof. James was sitting up in bed playing with his stamp album.

“Why, boy,” exclaimed the doctor, tapping him all over. “You must be made of rubber. You’re all right. There isn’t a thing the matter with you.”

Turning to Mom he said, “Keep him in bed for a day or two on a light diet, and we’ll keep that arm in a sling, but otherwise there isn’t anything for me to do around here.” He snapped his bag shut and gave James a piece of gum. He tapped the pockets of his vest. “Black Jack for the boys,” he said, “and Juicy Fruit for the girls. I always carry it with me.” He took off his spectacles and polished them with a very clean handkerchief.

“I have something in the back seat of my car that these children might like.” His eyes ran around the room at the expectant faces. “But only if they’ve been very good.”

118 “We’ve been good! We’ve been good!”

He put his spectacles back on and said: “Very well then, if you’ve been good. Come along out to the car with me and we’ll have a look.” Davey and Jane and Bill ran out with him, and James twitched with impatience.

“Oh, Mom,” he said. “What do you think it will be? A watermelon?”

Mom straightened his bed and thumped his pillow. “My poor starving son,” she said, “don’t you ever think of anything but food?”

The doctor’s car started away, and the three children came down the steps toward the house. Janie had something in her apron. She was holding it tenderly, like a little cradle. The boys held the door for her, and she walked to James’s bed slowly, and carefully laid in his lap two of the prettiest little baby rabbits that you ever saw. One was black and one was white.

James squealed and reached out to stroke them with his good hand. “Oh,” he said. “Aren’t they cute? Where did Dr. Cordes get them?”

“From one of his patients,” Jane said, “a lady out in the country who raises them.”

“They’re Flemish Giants,” said Bill impressively. “They grow to be as big as a dog. I saw some once at the State Fair. They’re the biggest rabbits in the whole world.”

119 Janie looked at the little mites on the bed. “They’ll have to eat a lot of carrots and clover before they get that big,” she said. “What shall we call them?”

They thought and thought. “Let’s call them Tar Baby and Snow White,” said Jane.

“Those are sissy names,” said Bill. “Let’s call them King and Queen.”

James cocked his head to one side and studied them as if to draw inspiration from the way they wiggled their ears. “Queen is all right for the white one,” he said, “but the little black fellow doesn’t look like a king to me. He looks scared stiff.”

And, somehow, in spite of all the efforts to give him a high sounding name, he remained Blackie to the end of his days.

Jane felt ambitious. “Come on Bill,” she said. “Let’s build a hutch for them in back of the garage.”

“Oh, no,” said James. “They’re so little and lonesome. Let’s keep them here in the cottage. They’re just babies yet.”

Mom compromised by saying that they could start building the hutch right away, but while James had to lie in bed, he could have them for a short while each day.

“But don’t let Butchie get his hands on them,”120 she warned. “My, my, what’s this house coming to? Grandma has her canary, and Billy is always having bumble bees standing around in fruit jars. Davey has Butch, and now a pair of rabbits. What next?”

The hutch was started right after lunch, with great pounding and sawing and running back and forth. It was a pen enclosed with chicken wire, raised about two feet off the ground, with a little box at one end for a shelter. They gathered clover industriously, and the floor of the pen was carpeted with fresh green leaves and fragrant white blossoms. Bees zoomed in and out of the chicken wire to investigate. Billy placed a crock of cool, fresh water for each rabbit, and Mom smiled.

“Don’t you think that’s a lot of food and drink for just two tiny infants?” she asked.

“Oh, that’s all right, Mom,” said Billy pulling up more clover by the roots. “They’re small now, but they really eat a lot, and they’ll grow.”

Mrs. Landry came through the gap in the hedge to see the new arrivals, and she promised Billy all her carrot tops. “When they grow up, I’ll expect the first fur coat as my share,” she added jokingly.

The air was hot and still, and there were clouds piling up in the west. Before Mom went back to the cottage she warned the children to pick up all the tools, and put them away.

121 “It looks like a storm,” she said. “Don’t leave any thing out that might get wet and rust.”

Billy nailed a small canvas flap to the door of the shelter, and then he wondered if he should take the rabbits down to the cottage for the night. The wind was rising and there were low growls of thunder. He looked into the shelter. They were snug and warm and dry, and they were nestled close to each other, fast asleep. He smiled. Better leave them alone, he thought. Putting the tools away, he snapped the lock on the garage door and hurried down to the front lot.

Janie met him at the door. “Hurry, Bill,” she said, “Mom said we should fasten the boat. It’s pitching around out there.”

The lake turned the color of lead, and the air that had been so warm suddenly turned cold and sharp. Lightning streaked across the sky like a whip followed by a frightening crash of thunder that seemed to make the earth shake. Mom called from the front porch: “Here comes the rain,” and they all turned to watch.

The storm was coming toward them from the northern shore of the lake, and as it advanced it flattened out the waves in its path, until finally the entire lake was a misty gray dimpled carpet. It smacked the children on their hot cheeks, and they squealed and held their arms in the air and122 danced around. Mom called again. “Come in,” she cried, “you’ll be struck by lightning.” They ran for the porch. The rain slashed at their bare legs and the wind slammed the door behind them.

Davey and Butch were sitting on James’ bed, and every time the thunder would roll Butchie would stick his head under the pillow. Mom got the candles out, and Grandma started to boil water for tea.

“Might as well heat it while I can,” she said. “The power will be turned off now, any minute.” As she spoke there was a sudden wild crash followed by a shuddering roar of thunder, and every light went out all the way around the lake.

“Oh well,” said Grandma, “we won’t have tea after all. We’ll have milk. I’m sure it will be better for us.”

In a few moments there was candlelight in the cottage. James ate crackers and milk out of a blue bowl, and the candle made wavering designs on the wall. The flame flickered in the draft, and James snuggled closer in his safe pillows. He imagined he was far out at sea. He was strapped to his bunk in a lunging merchantman, with a bearded pirate guarding the door, holding a great two-edged sword in his teeth.

Just then Billy opened the door, and James roared out: “Avast ye scum! Shiver me timbers123 and nail me mizzen mast if I don’t split ye in two!”

Billy looked startled and then he grinned. “Oh, you’ve been reading Treasure Island again. Better not let Mom catch you reading by candlelight.”

“Abe Lincoln did, and George Washington too, I betcha.”

“Well, maybe they got away with it, but you won’t.” said Bill. “Wait till I have my supper, and we’ll play rummy.”

Supper was spooky, like a Hallowe’en party. There were candles in tall hurricane lamps, and none of the food was hot. The wind howled and rattled at the windows, and the rain beat at the panes and trickled in between the sash and the sill. Whenever the lightning would brighten the sky they would run to the windows to watch the lake.

The raft leaped at its anchor like a frightened horse. Janie pulled her knees up under her chin and hugged her legs.

“I’m glad Daddy isn’t here tonight,” she said. “He always feels sorry for the raft when it’s left out there in the lake all alone during a storm.”

“Humpf,” said Grandma, as she kept right on with her knitting. “What does he want us to do? Bring it right up here on the porch with us?”

Janie giggled, but Billy looked suddenly serious. The rabbits, he thought. How were they? Supposing124 they were wet and cold? He glanced at Mom, but changed his mind without speaking. She wouldn’t let him go out on a night like this.

He fidgeted for a while and then got up and went into the middle bedroom. Without a flashlight it was almost impossible to find anything in the clothes closet, but by rummaging around for a while he managed to find an old leather jacket and a base ball cap. He carefully opened the window and loosened the screen and then dropped down to the terrace.

The wind grabbed him by the shoulders and twirled him around and the rain drenched him. The window had to be closed again and the screen pushed back into place before he started for the back yard.

Crouching like a prize fighter, he fought his way, step by step, up through the rock garden. Small branches and leaves were whirling along through the air, and one branch whacked him on the head as it dropped to the ground. Just as he reached the gate there came a flash of brilliant lightning that for a moment made everything seem like day. The winding black-top road looked like a rushing river, and all the trees and bushes were bent over pointing in the direction of the storm. Then it was dark again, and he started in the direction of the little cottage. The garage was just forty125 feet beyond, but it was so dark it seemed much farther, and just as he got there he slipped and fell full length in the grass. The force of the driving rain seemed to pin him down, and half crawling, stumbling and slipping, he made his way to the rabbit hutch. The chicken wire wall guided him to the shelter. Just then there was another flash of lightning and he saw that the canvas flap had blown off in the wind. He reached inside, and there were the little rabbits huddled together. They were soaking wet, and their hearts were thumping in fright.

“I’ll take you down to the cottage and get you warm and dry again.”

He opened the front of his jacket and tucked them inside. They snuggled up close, and he walked carefully so as not to fall and hurt them. By being very careful to watch every step, he got as far as the road, but the gutter was his downfall. Slip! Splash! Down went Billy, Blackie and Queen. The breath was almost knocked out of him, but the rabbits were safe.

Struggling to his feet, he got as far as the gate post before the next streak of lightning came hurtling down through the night. He crouched instinctively against the big stone post, and then he remembered Daddy’s warning about never leaning against a fence or a tree during a severe storm.126 Cows had been electrocuted because they stood near a fence or a tree when the lightning struck. Rising once more, he pulled his jacket more closely about him and shivered as he hurried down the wet and slippery steps.

Back on the terrace, he breathed easier. If he could only get in quietly, they might never have missed him. Holding the rabbits carefully with one hand, he pulled at the screen with the other. It wouldn’t budge. He tried again. The wind had blown it back into place, and there was no way of getting hold of it to loosen it again.

Then he remembered that James was reading in the bedroom next door. He hurried over and scratched on the screen. There was no response. He knocked, but the storm made so much noise that a gentle knocking could not be heard. He was handicapped by having only one hand to work with, but he managed to turn the buttons that held the screen in place. Then he pried it loose by inserting his finger in the little hole at the side and down it came, right in his face!

James was deep in a book, and he didn’t hear a thing. Even the storm raging overhead seemed far away. He sailed the Spanish Main, and the pirates were boarding his ship. Cruel, bearded men tore up and down the deck, swinging their cutlasses and searching for victims.

127 Just then the window was carefully raised and the wind whistled into the room, almost extinguishing the candle. James looked up in astonishment to behold a bedraggled arm on the sill. He took a deep breath and then screamed for all he was worth. His startled screams tore through the house and brought the whole family to his bedside. Mom got there first. She turned her flashlight to the open window and there stood Bill, as wet and dirty a boy as ever was seen. He carefully put one rabbit down on the foot of the bed and then he reached into his jacket and rescued the other.

“Billy Murray!” cried Mom, her voice rising. “Have you lost your mind? What are you doing out there? Get into the house right this minute before you catch your death of cold.”

“No, no,” she continued, as he tried to boost himself through the window. “Come around to the door!” She ran around to the side of the house and opened the door, and Billy poured in with the rain. He was smeared with mud, and little streams ran from his hands and feet and off the tail of his jacket. Mom spluttered and ran for dry towels. Grandma heated some water on the emergency canned heat stove, so that she could make some hot lemonade for him. Almost before he knew it, the fugitive was warm and dry and clean again, and safely tucked in bed.

128 The storm roared on. A big branch on the poplar tree tore loose and fell to the ground with a crash. When the lightning flashed, they could see that a pool had formed in the low part of the yard.

Billy lay in bed watching Davey say his prayers when Mom came up, carrying a candle in one hand and a shoe box in the other. She came over and sat on the edge of his bed.

“Here you are, Bedivere,” she said, and she placed the shoe box beside him. He looked in and saw Blackie and Queen fast asleep on a bed of cotton batting.

“Thank you, Mom,” he grinned. “Did you call me Bedivere because I had to go to bed?”

“No,” Mom smiled. “I called you Bedivere because you braved all manner of dragons to go to the rescue of the weak and the helpless.”

“Oh,” said Billy. “You mean a knight that rides on a white horse.”

“Yes, one of King Arthur’s knights. You did a fine and brave deed tonight Billy, but do you realize that you might have been hurt out there in the storm? And besides, you almost frightened the wits out of poor James.”

“Yes, Mom,” said Billy. “I’m sorry.”

She kissed him and picked up the candle. “Billy,” she said. “Remember the weak and the helpless, and remember to use your head.”

129 “Yes, Mom,” said Billy again, and he said it sleepily. The candlelight went down, down, down the stairs, and Mom’s shadow walked beside her. Then it was dark, and there was only the rain on the roof and the wind under the eaves. Billy reached out and felt the little rabbits. They were quiet and warm.

“Good night, little guys,” he said, and turned over to go to sleep, but there was a small figure beside his bed.

“Billy,” whispered Davey. “Move over. I want to sleep with you. I’m scared.”

“All right,” said Billy, rolling over to make room for him. “Come on in. I’m Bedivere. I’ll protect you.”

Davey felt around cautiously. “Where are the rabbits?” he whispered.

“In a shoe box, on my dresser,” said Bill.

“Oh,” said Davey, and his disappointment was so evident, even in the dark, that Billy smiled. “I couldn’t have them right here in bed with me,” he explained. “I might roll on them and squash them.”

“Yes, that’s right,” said Davey reluctantly. “Well, good night, Bill. I guess I’ll go back to my own bed now.”

“Hey, hold on. I thought you wanted to sleep with me because you were scared.”

130 “Well,” Davey admitted, “it was partly that, and partly because I wanted to sleep with the rabbits.”

“Ha! Ha!” Billy laughed. “I thought so.”

“Good night, Davey.”

“Good night, Bill.”

By morning the sky was clear and bright. The ground was littered with broken branches, and sure enough, there was a sort of lagoon formed by the rain water in the low part of the front yard. “Let’s make a raft,” said Janie. “We can use some of those long planks down in front.” After breakfast they started out to play, and Grandma called them back. “You’ll get slivers in your feet if you play barefoot on those planks,” she said. “But we’ll get our shoes wet if we wear them,” said Jane. Grandma looked at them over the top of her glasses. “Ever hear of rubber boots?” she asked. They burrowed into the darkest corner of the clothes closet under the stairway and found some tall rubber boots that had belonged to Grandpa. They were much too large and they made a lovely squashy sound when they walked.

There were lots of interesting things to do after the storm. The violence of the wind had driven the raft several hundred yards to the west and it had to be towed back to where it belonged. Before they could get to the raft they had to bale out the131 boat. It was so full of water that it was almost sunk where it lay at the pier. An awning had come loose and Billy climbed up on a stepladder and tacked it back into place. The big branch that had blown off the poplar tree lay there in the yard like a fallen giant. They sat on the smaller branches and sprang up and down like on a diving board.

“Let’s pretend we’re Swiss Family Robinson,” said Jane, “and sail off on our raft.”

“That’s a corking good idea,” said Bill. “I’ll be the father and you be the mother and Davey can be our child.”

“I’ll go and get some lunch,” said Davey, always practical. He was back in no time at all with a brown paper bag full of cookies, and in the other arm he carried the shoe box cradle. “James said we could take the rabbits along,” he said joyfully, “only we shouldn’t drown ’em.”

“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” said Bill. “Let’s rig up a sail and go out and rescue the big raft with this little raft.” They found a piece of wash line to use for a tow rope and they rigged a sail with an old square of canvas that they found in the garage. They had trouble with the mast. It wasn’t fastened securely and it flopped this way and that with the weight of the canvas. Finally, with much pushing and pulling and grunting it was made secure.

132 The surface of the lake was calm, but there was just enough rise and fall to keep the planks awash, so they sat on cracker boxes to keep dry. “We’d better take some oars with us,” Janie said, “so that we can paddle home in case the wind fails us.” “Good idea,” said Bill, and a pair of oars were lashed down to the plank floor.

At last they were ready to start. Davey and Jane sat on the cracker box before the mast. Davey held the rabbits on his lap. Billy sat on the cracker box behind the mast with the paper bag of cookies and the coiled tow rope beside him. He manipulated the sail by pulling guide ropes one way or the other. They waved good-by to the folks on the porch as if they were leaving on an ocean cruise and then they poled their way out of the shallow water in their front yard, into Mrs. Saunders’ front yard, and then out into the open waters of the lake.

There was just enough air moving to catch the sail and they drifted along slowly in the direction of the big raft. The lake was shallow here. The ripples washed over the toes of their rubber boots and Billy sang:

“A life on the ocean wave,
A home on the rolling deep,
Where codfish wiggle their tails
In an ocean two feet deep.”

133 They passed Ben, the handy man, on his way out to the fishing grounds. “Where you kids bound for in that contraption?” he called.

They waved their hands and shouted back at him, “We’re going to rescue our raft. It blew away in the storm last night.”

“Where’s the other one?” he wanted to know. “Where’s James?”

“He’s in bed today,” Janie shouted across the water. “He fell off the roof and sprained his arm.”

“Fell off the roof!” Ben repeated in astonishment. “Land sakes, what are you Murray kids going to try next?” He shook his head in bewilderment and rowed away.

When they reached the raft they fastened it securely to the small raft, and then they all clambered on for inspection. “Let’s bring our cracker boxes up here on the big raft,” said Billy, “and the rabbits too. It’s dry up here.”

They sat and munched cookies and viewed their surroundings. “It’s like a little island,” Janie said.

“I’m glad I’m not shipwrecked here,” said Bill. “It’s all right on a nice morning like this, but not on a night like last night.”

Getting back home wasn’t quite so simple as it seemed to be when they first thought of it. They couldn’t use the sail because what slight breeze there was, was against them. The big raft was an134 awkward thing to tow, and as they struggled with the problem, one of the Landry boys came pop-pop-popping along side in his motor boat.

“What are you kids trying to do now,” he inquired. And then, without waiting for an answer, he said, “Throw me a line and I’ll tow you home.” It was wonderfully simple. The motor boat led the way, then the board raft with Billy on a cracker box, and last of all the big raft with Janie sitting proudly on a cracker box in the center and Davey dragging his feet in the water at the back.

They put the big raft just where it belonged and then pop-popped into shore behind the motor boat. “Thank you, thank you,” they cried as they reached the pier. The Landry boy grinned and waved his arm. “Think nothing of it,” he said. “You can do the same for me some time when I’m ship wrecked.”

The lagoon in the front yard was beginning to dry up, so they dismantled their board raft at the pier. Mom came down to greet them.

“At the risk of being unpopular,” she said, “I’ll have to remind you to put all that stuff back where it came from.”

Janie and Bill groaned. “Can’t we do it after we eat? We’re so hungry!”

“No. Clean up right away, and then you won’t have to come back to it.”

135 Davey didn’t mind. “Let’s get the wheelbarrow,” he said. “We’ll load all the stuff on it, and you can push, Billy, and I’ll ride on top.”

Mom laughed at the dismay on Billy’s face, and she tousled his hair. “No, Davey,” she said. “Billy is the strong man of the family, but he isn’t St. Christopher. If each one of you will take a load back to the garage you’ll be finished in five minutes. I want you to hurry for another reason too. Lunch is ready, and Mrs. Williams sent two freezing trays of ice-cream over for James. Perhaps you could help him eat it.”

“Oh, boy,” said Billy, and he and Jane ran for the wheelbarrow. Davey was given the cracker boxes to take back to the garage, and before ten minutes were up they had finished and were gathered around the table.


Chapter Ten
Janie Earns a Dollar

Chapter Ten, Janie Earns a Dollar

A FAT china pig stood on Jane’s dresser. He made no jingle as she shook him. Billy and James made money cutting grass in the spring and summer, and shoveling snow in the winter. It seemed they could always earn a nickel or a dime, but Janie dearly loved an ice-cream cone or a new hair bow, and her allowance vanished almost as soon as it appeared.

“Piggy, old fellow,” she promised, patting his fat sides. “I’m going to feed you today.”

Mom was down at the farmer’s buying eggs, so Janie talked it over with Grandma.

137 “I suppose I could help weed Mrs. Williams’ garden like the boys do, but it does get so hot, and the mosquitoes are quite bad.”

Grandma said, “Um H’m,” and continued to knit. Janie leaned closer and confided, “You know, I made breakfasts for a while last summer, but I had to give that up. I had so much trouble waking up.”

“How about helping Aunt Claire cut green beans?”

“Oh, please! I just can’t bear to cut green beans,” wailed Jane. “I must find something more ... well ... more interesting.”

Grandma clicked her needles and said: “By the time you’re as old as I am, young lady, you’ll find that most ways of earning money are neither interesting nor easy. You’ll learn that you just grab hold of the job at hand and stick to it till it’s finished.”

Mom came in just then and Janie told her of her great poverty and her dire need. “Why I have just the thing for you, dear. I met Mrs. Peters at church last Sunday, and she said that she and her husband would like to go to the movies Saturday night if they only had someone to take care of Sammy.”

Janie’s eyes lit up. “Oh Mom, I know him. He likes me. I could take care of him easily.”

138 “Yes,” said her mother, carefully putting down the egg basket. “I think you could. Why don’t you run down the road and ask Mrs. Peters right now?”

“Here I go,” said Janie, with enthusiasm.

Sammy was playing in the garden when she got there. He was a dear little boy, about two and a half years old, with big brown eyes and short dark curly hair. He was delighted to see Jane and offered to give her a ride in his wheelbarrow. Jane laughed and said “Oh no, Sammy. I’m much too big for your wheelbarrow. I’d be like Goldilocks and the baby bear’s chair.”

Mrs. Peters came to the door and called “Hello” to Janie and asked her to come in. The cottage was one of the most attractive on Oak Lake, and as Janie looked around her she thought of what fun it would be to spend the evening here.

“Mrs. Peters,” she started, “Mom said that perhaps you might want me to take care of Sammy one of these Saturday evenings while you and Mr. Peters went to the movies.”

Mrs. Peters looked pleased. “Why Janie, that’s so kind of you, but aren’t you quite young for such a responsibility?”

“I’m thirteen,” said Janie proudly. “My mother gives me lots of responsibilities. I take care of my brothers almost as well as she does.”

139 Mrs. Peters smiled. “Yes, I’m sure you do, dear, and you’ll get along splendidly with Sammy, too. He likes you already. Come down Saturday evening about seven, and Mr. Peters and I will take you home again about eleven o’clock. We’ll give you a dollar.”

A DOLLAR! Whew! That was more money than she ever made in one day before. “Oh thank you, Mrs. Peters. I’ll be here at seven o’clock on Saturday. Good-by. Good-by Sammy!”

Janie’s legs flew back down the road. Billy and James were sitting on top of the stone posts waiting for the mailman. When Janie told them her news they looked pleased and impressed. “Golly, Jane. A dollar is real money. What are you going to do with it?”

“It will be the first dollar I ever earned and I’m going to do something special with it. I don’t know what it will be yet, though.”

“Oh, boy!” said James. “Guess I’ll get a job too.”

Mrs. Murray smiled as her daughter’s eager face appeared in the doorway. “So you’re going to take care of Sammy. Congratulations.”

“H’m,” said Grandma still clicking away at her knitting. “I’ll save my congratulations for a while, and in the meantime I’ll wish you good luck.”

Saturday evening came at last, and Janie started140 off down the road. Mom called after her: “Honey, why don’t you take one of the boys with you?”

Jane looked hurt. “Why, Mom! I don’t need any help.”

“All right then. I thought you might be lonely.”

The Peters were ready to leave and Mrs. Peters had prepared a list of instructions and left them on the telephone stand. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Peters,” said Jane confidently. “Everything is going to be just fine.”

Everything was just fine until the car started away, and then young Sammy threw back his head and began to cry. He ran to the garden gate and called after the disappearing car, “Mommy! Daddy! Come back! I want to go with you!” Jane put her arms around him and gave him her brightest smile.

“They’ll come back, Sam. Now, let’s play ball.” Sam’s face cleared just a little and the two of them tossed the ball around on the lawn. Janie wanted to quit after the first few minutes, but not Sammy. He was having a fine time and when Janie sank down on the grass, panting for breath, he urged her on. “No stop, Janie. More ball, more ball!”

“Enough ball” said the amateur nursemaid, drawing him down beside her. “Now, I’ll tell you a story. I’ll tell you a story about Pinocchio.” Sammy’s eyes sparkled. He clapped his hands and141 his short black curls danced as he settled down on Janie’s lap. “Three Bears,” he coaxed. “Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood.” Janie’s mind leaped back nimbly to her not so far distant childhood.

“Once upon a time,” she started, and Sammy relaxed. She rambled on and on. The Three Bears wandered through the legendary forest and Sammy shook his head at the empty porridge bowls. Little Red Riding Hood escaped from the wicked wolf and Sammy rejoiced. This was easy. This was much less strenuous than a ball game. She told of the adventures of Little Black Sambo and Snow White. Sammy was like a lamb.

“More story, Janie,” he begged. “More Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood.”

Janie laughed and patted his hand. “Now I’m going to tell you about Pinocchio. ‘Once upon a time there was a stick of wood.’” Sammy listened. He marveled at the stick that could talk. He laughed at the ridiculous nose. He laughed when Pinocchio ran away. When poor Pinocchio returned from his wanderings and sat down at the fire to dry his feet, he looked expectant. When she told how the wooden feet burned off he rolled on the grass in glee.

Janie was indignant. “Why Sammy, you heartless little wretch. It hurts to have your feet burned142 off. You mustn’t laugh at anything so sad.” Obligingly, Sammy’s face fell. “Poor Pinocchio,” he said, and the tears started down his fat cheeks. Janie hastened to soften his grief. “Geppeto will make him some new feet.” But Sammy was determined to mourn if mourning was called for. In vain Janie tried to change the subject. Sammy wept. He cried until his face was wet with tears and looking up Jane saw her brother Bill at the gate.

“Oh, Billy,” she exclaimed. “I never was so glad to see you. I can’t cheer this child up.”

Billy wore his most impish expression, “I thought you didn’t need any help.”

Janie’s eyes flashed, “Bill Murray,” she exploded. “If you think this is funny, if you think this is any time for one of your jokes....”

Bill entered the yard and gathered the sobbing Sammy up in his arms. “Easy, old girl, easy,” he said. “Remember your temper.”

Janie bit her lip, then she rose up grimly, put one foot in back of her and gave a tremendous kick that sent her shoe flying up in the air. Coming down it lodged in the rain gutter and Billy roared with laughter. Sammy was reminded once more of the ball game.

“More ball, Janie,” he cried. “More ball.”

Janie quickly diverted his attention. “Bed time143 for little boys,” she said. “Sammy is going to put his pajamas on, brush his teeth, say his prayers, and go to bed.” Billy helped get his shoe laces untied, but he wanted to wash his face and hands by himself, and he dawdled for ten minutes brushing his teeth. He made quite an issue of wearing a certain pajama suit with a rabbit embroidered on the pocket, instead of the one his mother had laid out, but at last everything was settled to his satisfaction, and he said his prayers and climbed into bed.

It was quiet for a while. Billy worked at a crossword puzzle and Janie read, but she could hear the creak, creak of the springs as Sammy walked around on his bed. She looked at the instruction sheet once more, as if to draw inspiration from the written words. Mrs. Peters had written: “Bed at 7:30,” and here it was half past eight and Sammy still awake.

“What will I do, Bill? He won’t go to sleep.”

Billy took the matter in hand.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do, Sam,” he said. “If you’ll lie down on your bed and go to sleep, I’ll stand on my head.”

Sammy looked interested, and he lay down expectantly watching his entertainers. Janie sat down on a rocking chair, and Billy proceeded to stand on his head. The performance was a great success.

144 “More, more,” cried bright-eyed Sammy. “More stand on head!”

Billy rubbed his noggin and went back to work, but this time one hand slipped on the rug. As he struggled for his balance one heel caught in a pedestal holding a large Boston fern, and down came Billy, pedestal and fern with a great crash.

Sammy laughed and clapped his hands, but Janie rushed over to where he lay. “Billy! Oh Billy! Are you hurt?”

He shook his head groggily, and bits of jardiniere clattered to the floor. “No,” he said. “I’m all right, but I surely made a mess.” He started downstairs to get a broom and a dust pan, pulling Boston fern out of his hair as he went.

Sammy tried to climb out of bed, but Janie persuaded him to lie down again. “Go to sleep now,” she said gently, and she started to leave the room, but Sammy had another idea.

“Sammy want a drink.”

“I’ll get one for you right away,” promised Jane, and returned with a small glass of water.

“Sammy want a big drink.”

“Try this first, and if you’re still thirsty, I’ll bring some more.” Jane held the glass to his lips, but he bobbed as he stepped forward on the mattress, and part of the drink dribbled on the front of his pajamas.

145 “Oh!” she gasped. “Sit down for a moment while I get something dry for you to sleep in.”

By nine o’clock he was back in bed, and Janie was sitting in the room with him rocking and singing lullabies. It was warm and quiet, and Janie was very sleepy, but not Samuel. Whenever she faltered he urged her on. “More Humpty Dumpty, Janie. More Rockaby Baby.” Wearily Jane complied.

Billy had been reading downstairs and holding a wet towel to his head. Now, thinking that Sammy had dropped off to sleep, he tiptoed up the stairs. “Creak!” went a loose board. Sammy sat bolt upright.

“Mommy!” he cried. “Mommy’s home.”

Billy’s round face appeared at the top of the stairs and Sammy screamed in disappointment.

“Oh!” he cried. “I want my Mommy,” and he turned on his guardians with infantile rage. “Go home Janie. Billy, go home!”

Janie tried to quiet him, but he was over tired and over stimulated, and he threw his pillow on the floor and sobbed.

“I’ll go home,” said Bill. “I guess I wasn’t much help. Good-by, Sammy, old fella. Good-by, Jane.”

Jane gathered Sammy up in her arms and smoothed his bed. All the fight was out of him. He snuggled up against her with a tired sigh, and146 was asleep almost as soon as she put him back on the pillow.

Mom looked up curiously as Billy walked in. He had a bump on his head, and bits of fern and plant dirt still stuck to his hair.

“What in the world happened to you?”

“I’ve been down at the Peters helping Jane take care of Sammy, but I was thrown out.”

“Did Jane send you home?”

“No, Sammy did.”

Mom was on her feet in an instant, all concern. “Why that poor child,” she said. “Down there all alone taking care of him.” She reached for a sweater and started out the door. Billy trotted along at her side.

“I helped her, Mom. I did everything I could think of.”

Arriving at the Peters’ cottage, Mom pushed the gate open and hurried up the walk. She knocked and Janie appeared, completely unruffled.

“Janie,” cried Mom. “What happened? What’s wrong with little Sam. Is he feverish?”

“No, Mom,” Jane answered calmly. “It was just a tantrum. I put him back to bed and he’s fast asleep.”

Standing there, one step below her daughter on the steps Mom suddenly felt completely inadequate.

147 “You run along home, Mom,” said Jane, much as she would have spoken to one of the children. “I’ll be all right.”

Billy and Mom started back home, and Janie sank down on one of the big chairs. She looked at the inviting stacks of magazines that she had planned to read during the evening. It was cold and she was very sleepy. Mrs. Peters had said that she should find a lunch in the refrigerator, but she was too tired to be hungry. A hoot owl shrieked in the trees outside, and shivering, she wished that she hadn’t been so lofty in refusing Mom’s offer of company and assistance.

It was ten-thirty. How the time dragged. She went upstairs and peeked in at Sammy. He was sound asleep. Back down stairs again, she tuned in the radio, but there was nothing but the blare of dance bands, strident and unfamiliar. Her jaws ached with yawning. Would they never come home? She curled up at one end of the davenport, and pulled the afghan around her. It was so quiet she could almost hear the lapping of the waves on the shore. One by one, a few late cars whizzed by, but still the Peters didn’t come. Her head dropped lower and lower, and then with a jerk, she was awake again.

“Mustn’t go to sleep, Janie,” she said aloud. “Remember, you’re responsible here.”

148 She walked up and down for a while, but it made echoing sounds.

“Oh, dear. I wish I had let Mom stay.”

At last a car slowed down for the curve, and coasted into the Peters’ entrance. Janie flew to the door.

“Hello!” she called eagerly. “Hello!”

“Hi,” called the Peters pleasantly. “How is everything?”

“Fine, just fine,” said Janie in her relief to see them again.

“Get your sweater, dear,” said Mrs. Peters, “and I’ll take you home. How did you get along? Is Sammy asleep?”

“Oh yes, he went to sleep. I sang to him and told him stories,” and then she remembered the Boston fern.

“Oh, Mrs. Peters,” she choked, and all the strain of the evening hit her at once and she was crying.

“Billy stood on his head, and broke your fern!”

Mrs. Peters looked puzzled, amused, and sympathetic all at once. She patted Janie on the shoulders as they started out the door. “Accidents will happen,” she said, “and boys will be boys, but I’m glad that you didn’t have any trouble with Sammy. He’s such a dear, good boy. I looked in at him sleeping just now. He looked just like an angel.”

149 Janie heard it all in a daze of weariness. “Oh yes,” she agreed drowsily. “A little angel.”

As they reached the Murrays’ gate, Mrs. Peters thanked her again, and pressed a dollar bill into her hand. Janie said “Goodnight” and walked wearily down the stone steps through the rock garden, and then up the brick steps to the porch.

Mom was waiting up for her. “Come in, baby,” she said. “I have your bed open and your pajamas laid out. You can sleep late tomorrow morning.”

Janie thanked her, and then sank down on her bed, almost too tired to take off her shoes, but in her right hand she grasped a crisp one-dollar bill.

She reached for her piggybank, and patted his sleek flower-decorated sides. “Piggy,” she said, “if you knew how hard it was for me to earn this money, you’d be really grateful.” She stuffed the dollar in the slot. “Here you are,” she whispered. “I promised I’d feed you, and don’t say that Janie doesn’t keep her promises.”


Chapter Eleven
The Front Seat on the Bus

Chapter Eleven, The Front Seat on the Bus

THE storm was followed by three weeks of clear, hot weather. The lake was soft and clean, like rain water. The garden thrived in the heat, and the little rabbits grew sleek and fat, and kept everyone busy gathering clover for them.

One morning Janie awoke to hear the clop-clop of the farmer’s horses as they walked down the road. They were drawing an elaborate machine painted bright red and yellow, like a circus wagon. The farmer, all in faded blue, looked drab by comparison.

“Mom,” she called. “Look at the fancy wagon the farmer has this morning. What is he going to do with that?”

151 Mom raised her shade, and the boys popped their heads out of the upstairs windows.

“That is a brand new reaper,” she answered. “My, doesn’t it glisten! This must be the first time he’s had it out. That machine cuts the grain, then ties it into sheaves. He’ll stack them in yellow shocks all over the field, and Aunt Claire will sunburn her nose while she puts it all on canvas.”

Janie wriggled her way back to the middle of the bed, and reached down to the floor for her slippers. Harvesting meant August, and August meant hayfever. Hayfever meant going to town to the doctor’s office for shots. She made a face, but it wasn’t so bad, really. Just a quick little pinch, like getting caught with a pin.

“Mom,” she called again. “When do I go to town for my shots?”

Mrs. Murray was brushing her teeth, and the answer sounded a little bubbly at first. “You can start any time now,” she answered. “How would you like to go in tomorrow morning?”

Jane looked puzzled. “Daddy won’t be here. Who would take me?”

“You can go in on the bus, and come back with Daddy.”

All by herself on the bus! Janie glowed. Billy asked if he couldn’t go along, but Mom said, “Not this time, Billy. I need you to help cut grass.”

152 Janie thought about the trip all day. She washed her hair, and put it up in pin curls all over her head, pressed her blue dress, and brushed her hat. She put some pink polish on her fingernails. Mom offered to let her take one of her prettiest handkerchiefs, but what Grandma loaned her was the best of all.

“Come here, Janie,” she said, and she unfastened her wrist watch. “You’ll be needing a watch to tell the time, what with having to meet a bus, and keep an appointment at the doctor’s and all. I want you to take my watch.” Janie’s eyes popped.

“But, mind you take good care of it, and don’t let it drop.”

“Oh, thank you, Grandma,” said Jane, kissing her. “Thank you. I’ll take ever so good care of it. I’ll be just as careful as I know how.” She slept that night with the little watch near her ear. It seemed to talk to her in a fast small voice. “Going to town on the bus,” it said over and over again. “Going to town on the bus.”

She slept late the next morning. By the time she was dressed the boys were off fishing, and Grandma and Mom were finishing their coffee on the porch.

“Hurry up, sleepy head,” Mom said. “It’s nine o’clock now, and the bus leaves at ten minutes after ten. You’ll just about have time to eat your breakfast153 and gather your things together before it’s time to leave.”

Janie drank her milk and decided against the cereal. She reached for a piece of coffee cake, all crumbly with powdered sugar on the top, but Grandma changed her mind for her.

“If I were you, Lady Jane,” she said, “I’d eat my cereal. You have a long day ahead of you, and besides, how would a fashionable creature like you look with powdered sugar all over the front of her dress?” Jane giggled and dug into her corn flakes.

“Is there anything I can buy for you, Grandma? Do you want me to telephone for you while I’m in town?”

The senior Mrs. Murray cocked her head and thought. “Not unless it would be some embroidery cotton,” she said. She searched through a large paper box that must have contained hundreds of skeins of bright-colored embroidery cotton. “Here, this is it.” She extracted a few strands of salmon colored thread. “Put this in your purse, and see if you can match it for me. Here,” she added, pressing a coin into the palm of Janie’s hand, “buy something for yourself.”

“Grandma! That’s too much money.”

“Well then, buy an extra hair ribbon to match your yellow sweater.” Janie laughed. She dropped the money and the thread into her purse, and ran154 to get her hat. She was driving over to the station with Mrs. Williams. When Mrs. Williams took her husband down to the bus station in the morning, everyone who wanted to go to town that day seemed to be jammed into the car with her. She tooted at the gate, and Janie kissed her mother and Grandmother hastily, and ran up the garden steps.

“Hello, Mrs. Williams,” she said, a little out of breath. “Do you think we’ll be on time?” Mrs. Williams smiled as she eased the shiny, dark car into second gear. “Of course we’ll be on time,” she said. Her voice was deep and rich, and when she said “of course”, it sounded like “of coss.” Janie never tired of looking at her and listening to her talk. She was so pretty, and she could play the piano just like someone you’d hear at a concert. She had crossed the ocean half a dozen times. She had gone to the opera in Paris, and she had climbed a mountain in Switzerland. She had flown to South America. It was no wonder she said “Of coss” about meeting a bus. Janie sighed with joy, and shifted a little on the seat.

They came to the place where the railroad used to be, and then they turned onto the main highway, and Mrs. Williams faced the direction from which the bus would come. There were other people waiting to go to town. A young woman carried a little baby on one arm, and a black, oilcloth155 covered bag on the other. The day was warm, but the baby was wrapped from head to foot in a thick pink blanket. Even his little face was pink. When I have a baby, Jane thought, I’ll let him stay uncovered in the summer. Poor little fellow. He looks like a boiled shrimp.

A stout lady in a summery print dress held a parasol over her head, and squinted down the road every so often to see if the bus was coming. A boy, about fourteen years old, sat on a large stone at the roadside. He was dressed in a Boy Scout uniform, and he carried a shoe box, which he handled gingerly. I’ll bet it’s eggs, thought Jane. I’ll bet it’s two dozen eggs that he’s taking into town for someone.

Mrs. Williams looked out of the window. “Here it comes,” she cried. “It will be here in just a minute.” Jane hugged her purse. The fifty cents in her hand made a sharp red ring where she held it tight.

Jane was out of the car and over at the side of the road with the others before she knew it. “Good-by, Mrs. Williams,” she called. “Thank you for the ride.”

The boy scout waited for the lady with the pink baby to get on ahead of him. The stout lady with the parasol came next. Janie clutched her purse and her hat and climbed the rubber covered steps,156 and the boy scout was right behind her, still balancing his eggs. She dropped her fifty cents into the glass box, and looked around for a seat. “That will be fifty-five cents, Miss,” said the driver. “Oh dear,” said Janie, and she searched quickly through her purse for a nickel. She found one, and the bus began to roar and tremble as it turned out on the highway.

The seats were pretty well taken by the time it came to Oak Lake, but there was one seat that Janie had always wanted, and glory be, it was vacant now. Perhaps none of the grown folks wanted that seat. It was right up in front, across from the driver. It faced the aisle instead of facing forward the way the others did, but Janie didn’t mind. She sat side ways and leaned her arms on the window sill. It was glorious. They gained speed as they rolled along through the gentle Wisconsin hills. Farmers were at work everywhere, busy with harvesting the grain. It would be a fine day for playing White Horse.

Now the houses were much closer together. They were nearing the city. Janie knew every landmark well. She had been traveling this road ever since she was a baby, but things looked different from the front seat of the big bus, just as the trees in the yard looked different when you crawled up and sat on the157 roof, and then they rolled down a busy shopping street.

They passed through the outskirts of the city. They stopped near a ladies’ dress shop to wait for the light to change. There was a woman in the show window, busily draping a manikin. The figure was beautifully gowned and had an expression of great hauteur. Everything was perfect, except her head, and that was shining bald. At her feet lay a carefully arranged blond wig. The woman was still draping the skirt as the bus started on through the intersection. Janie grinned to herself. “I must remember,” she thought, “never to go out without my wig.”

People were beginning to leave the bus now. Janie was going all the way down to the terminal. They had to travel much more slowly, now that the traffic was heavy, and once they had to stop while a bridge went up, and a long coal boat slid through on its way up the river. Once over the bridge, they threaded their ponderous way down a hill and over a lot of railroad tracks, and then the driver turned and turned at his wheel, and they cut sharply into the long dark tunnel at the terminal building. There were other big busses lined up, and they nosed into the ramp just as a boat eases up to a pier.

By now Jane felt like a seasoned traveler. She picked up her purse and walked into the waiting158 room with the others. She made straight for the public telephones, and put her purse on the little shelf in front of her. She put a nickel in the slot, and dialed the doctor’s number slowly and carefully. “This is Jane Murray,” she said as the office girl answered. “What time would you like to have me come out?”

“The doctor can see you at four, Jane.”

“Thank you, Miss Clark. Good-by.”

The little watch said half past eleven. She left the terminal, and walked slowly down the busy street. The shop windows were fascinating. There were stores that sold wallpaper and paint, and there were shops that sold nothing but baby clothes. One little place, about the size of the pantry at home, sold nothing but nuts. There was a pan of fresh-roasted nuts slowly revolving in the window. An imitation squirrel looked at them greedily out of his imitation eyes.

A newsboy shouted at the corner, something about “Wuxtra, Wuxtra!” He shouted so that he got red in the face. Just as Janie got close to him, he stopped to draw a breath, and she looked at him in surprise. He wasn’t excited at all. His eyes were as matter of fact as her own. Only his voice was wrought up so. Pigeons circled far overhead. They lived in the balconies and towers at the top of the tall buildings.

159 A policeman blew his whistle at the street crossing near a big department store, and Janie marched across with the crowd. She pushed on the revolving door until her little cubicle swung her right into the store. My, but it smelled good. No wonder, she was in the perfume department. She walked to the notions department, and bought the skein of salmon colored thread for Grandma. Notions department ... what a funny name, she thought. I wonder if they call it that because ladies say: “I have a notion to buy this, or I have a notion to buy that.” I must remember to ask someone about it sometime.

A river ran close to the building, and Jane walked over to the windows to look out. A sign read:

Eat Your Lunch In Our Sky Room

Jane squinted up. It wasn’t above the clouds, really, but something in her imaginative heart responded to the invitation. She looked in her purse. There was the one dollar bill she had earned taking care of Sammy, and Mom had given her thirty-five cents for lunch and car fare. “That’s where I’m going to eat my lunch,” she said. “That’s how I’ll spend my dollar.”

She walked over to the row of elevators. A160 pretty lady in a neat gray uniform clicked a little snapper that she had in her hand, and that was a signal for the elevator to climb. They went up, up, and up, past dresses and hats and chairs and mixing bowls. They passed long rolls of carpeting that looked like giant crayons laying side by side on the floor. “Call your floor please,” the operator sang out, and at each stop people would squeeze out, and new people would squeeze in. They passed dress materials and lamps and luggage.

At last they came to the top floor, and Janie stepped out into what was called a lounge. It looked like a large living room, and people sat on the chairs and davenports waiting to meet their friends, or perhaps they were just resting.

A tall lady who seemed to be the hostess stood at the entrance and smiled and bowed as the people came in. She smiled very sweetly at Jane. “Good afternoon,” she said. “Where would you like to sit?” The large room seemed crowded, but along one side of the room ran a sort of porch, a long narrow balcony overlooking the river. It had a curved glass roof, like a conservatory.

“Oh,” said Jane eagerly. “Could I sit out there?”

“Yes, you could,” said the lady. “Come along with me,” and she led Jane to a small table next to one of the windows. The river was eight stories161 straight down, and on all sides the buildings rose even higher than Jane’s balcony. From where she sat, she could see three bridges. It was interesting to see that they crossed the river at an angle instead of in a businesslike straightforward way. Then she remembered a story that Grandma used to tell. It seemed that over one hundred years ago, when the city was first founded, it was really three separate towns. The people on the west side of the river quarreled with the people on the east bank, and vowed never to have anything to do with them. When the streets were laid out they were careful to see that they did not line up with the streets across the river. They wanted to make it inconvenient ever to build a bridge. Now there were many bridges, a little askew perhaps, but happily making one big friendly town out of the little squabbling villages.

Jane was so absorbed in the view that she forgot to order until a smiling waitress reminded her. Then she remembered she was hungry. Breakfast was so long ago. She read everything on the long menu, and mentally counted her money. This was to be something different, something special. No ham sandwich and a glass of milk this time. She finally decided upon an elaborate chicken mixture in a potato basket, and a chocolate ice-cream sundae for dessert.

162 The food was delicious, and Janie was engrossed. Once, as she lifted a spoonful of ice cream, she looked up to see a sea gull watching her from his perch just out side the window. He wasn’t nearly so pretty close up as he was from a distance. He was quite awkward and ugly looking, except for his eyes. They were like clear, red glass. Janie smiled at him, but he only looked at her bleakly. “Greedy,” he seemed to say. “There you sit, eating chicken and ice cream, while I have to scour the river for my dinner.” With that unhappy observation he was gone.

“Grouch,” Jane said, and continued to enjoy her lunch.

A noisy tug chortled up the river leaving a wake of foam. It was small enough to scuttle under the bridges, and the bridge tender only waved his arm in salute, instead of having to turn all the machinery as he did for the big boats.

The clock in one of the tall buildings across the river chimed and Janie looked up. Goodness! It was one o’clock. The waitress brought the check, and Janie extracted her crisp one dollar bill and laid it on the slip of paper. She wasn’t quite sure of what to do next, but grown people always put something on the tray for the waitress. She added a dime and a nickel from her rapidly dwindling supply.

163 An exquisite creature, dressed in the very latest fashion, walked slowly up and down the aisles between the tables. Every curl was in place. Her face had the pleasantly blank expression of a wax doll. Her posture was faultless, and she moved so very gracefully and formally, it was almost like dancing. Janie held her breath. In spite of all that Mom had taught her, she stared. She had never seen anything so beautiful in all her life, even on circus posters.

She rose to leave, but her eyes wouldn’t come away from the beautiful lady. She walked backwards, and missing the entrance, bumped into a palm tree.

The hostess at the entrance looked as if she hadn’t seen the mishap, but her eyes were sparkling.

“Would you like to be a model when you grow up, dear?”

“Oh yes,” said Jane blissfully walking away on air. All the way down to the street floor she studied her reflection in the tiny mirror at the elevator operator’s elbow. She held her chin very high, and lowered her eyelashes. That was better. With her eyes half closed she looked just right.

“Main floor,” the operator called. “Main floor, watch your step, please.”

Jane floated out with her nose in the air, and164 tripped on the ledge. Down she went, full length, on the floor. Half a dozen people helped her up, and were very solicitous.

“Are you hurt, little girl?”

“Did you trip?”

“Let me brush you off.”

“Dear me, such a fall!”

“Can I get you a drink of water?”

“Perhaps you’d better sit down for a moment.”

Janie was embarrassed, but otherwise quite all right. “Thank you,” she said to each one who wanted to help her. “Thank you, but I’m not hurt. I’m all right now. I only stumbled.”

She started off by herself once more, and this time she didn’t lower her eyelashes, and she didn’t float. “I’ll wait till I get home,” she thought. “I’ll practice that walk in my room.”

She looked at her watch once more. It was early in the afternoon, only one-fifteen. Two hours stretched before her to do with as she pleased. She decided to go to the stamp store. All the Murrays except Mom collected stamps, and they had worn a beaten path to the stamp store. Mom would have none of it. “I collect stamps, all right,” she said. “I collect them off the floor and under the beds. I shouldn’t be surprised if I’d brush stamps out of my hair!”

The stamp man was glad to see her. He was165 small and gray and stooped. He always seemed absorbed in something he was peering at through a magnifying glass. He was like a kindly absent-minded gnome. Janie sat on a stool at the counter, and pushed off her hat. It was good to sit down after the hot walk up the street. A fly buzzed on the screen at the window, and the clock ticked. That was the only sound as the old man and the young girl pored over the bright-colored paper squares. She looked and looked, and at last decided upon three stamps, one for each of the boys. She opened her purse and reached for her money, but the money was gone. She searched again, and turned the purse upside down and shook it, but there was nothing in it but a handkerchief and two skeins of embroidery cotton.

“Oh, Mr. Marckus,” she wailed. “What will I do? I’ve lost my money.”

“Eh? What’s that you say?”

“I’ve lost my money. It must have fallen out of my purse when I fell getting out of the elevator. I wanted to buy these stamps for the boys, and now I’ve lost my money.”

Mr. Marckus carefully put a stamp down with a pair of tiny tweezers. He squinted at her distressed face.

“How much do you need,” he asked.

“Oh, I don’t really need anything. I can walk166 from here to the doctor’s office, and I’m getting a ride back to the lake with Daddy, but I spent a whole dollar on myself, and now I wish that I could buy something for the boys.”

“Well, you can’t charge anything here,” said Mr. Marckus in his dry, dusty, little voice. “If I gave credit to all the young ones who came in here, I’d never be able to make enough to pay my rent.”

Janie’s cheeks burned. “I didn’t mean,” she started to say.

“I know you didn’t,” said Mr. Marckus. “Your whole family, from your Grandmother down have always been good customers of mine. Here, take the stamps, and we’ll say they’re a birthday present. You have a birthday pretty soon, don’t you?”

“No,” said Janie, looking happy again. “Not until September.”

“Makes no difference,” he said. “A present’s a present.”

He went back to his magnifying glass, and seemed to pay no attention to Janie’s delighted thanks as she prepared to leave.

The twenty-two blocks to the doctor’s office seemed very long indeed. When she got there the waiting room was crowded and she was thirsty and tired. When Daddy called for her at five o’clock she thought she had never been so glad to see him.

167 “Well, chickie,” he said, pinching her nose. “Did you have a good day? Did you have a fine time spending your hard-earned dollar?”

She settled back in the front seat gratefully, and the car headed for the lake. “Daddy,” she confessed. “I had fun. It was a good day, but I spent my whole dollar on a fancy meal. I ate so much that I felt uneasy all afternoon, and now my money is gone and I have nothing to show for it, not even a new hair ribbon.”

Daddy chuckled. “That’s all right, Janie, my girl,” he said. “We all learn our little lessons.”


Chapter Twelve
The Bear Who Loved Apple Pie

Chapter Twelve, The Bear Who Loved Apple Pie

IT was cool that night at the lake front. The boys built a fire with some old boards that had washed up on the shore and begged Daddy for a story.

“Please tell us a story about Indians, Daddy,” said Davey. Bill ran to gather some dry willow twigs to get the fire off to a blazing start.

“I want a bear story,” James insisted. “Mom knows a good one about a big brown bear. It’s a true story, too. She told it to me a long time ago, when I was real little.”

Dad laughed. “It would appear,” he said, “that169 I’m being ousted as the storyteller of the evening. Janie, run and get your mother.”

Mom was standing on the stepladder tacking paper edging on the cupboard shelves. She had a hammer in one hand and a handful of tacks in the other. “Me?” she asked, gesturing with a hammer. “You’ve got the champion storyteller of McWade county down there right now. Why don’t you have him entertain you?”

“It’s James,” said Jane patiently. “He’s got it into his head that he wants to hear your story about the big brown bear, and I was sent to fetch you.”

“Why,” said Mom. “I’m flattered. I’ll find my sweater and be right with you.”

“Welcome to the powwow,” said Daddy rising and bowing low. “These mighty braves,” he explained, “would like to hear an Indian story and a bear story.”

Mom joined in the play. She wrapped her sweater around her shoulders, making believe it was an Indian blanket, and accepted a cushion near the fire.

“I think I know the story that James is referring to. It’s a true story about Indians that your Grandmother told to me.” She leaned back against the willow tree, and made designs in the sand with a willow twig as she talked.

“It was about a hundred years ago when the170 Murrays first moved to Wisconsin. Your Great-grandfather bought a farm up in Door county. I shouldn’t say a farm, because it was really a forest. Before it could be a farm they had to chop the trees down, uproot the stumps, and carry off the stones. They built a little cabin in the clearing, and there they lived and worked.

“You’ve seen pictures of Great-grandmother in Grandma’s album. She looks very prim and sedate in her stiff silk dress, and her little children look as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, but they were just the same sort of people that we are now. I think that Great-grandfather must often have been tired and discouraged at the end of the day, and Great-grandmother must have been frightened and lonely at times, but they worked on and on and lived to see the forest disappear and beautiful cherry orchards bloom in its place.

“There were no neighbors near by, but the Indians were friendly. One of their trails led past the cabin, and the Murrays used to watch them padding along on their way to the settlement at Sturgeon Bay. Great-grandfather knew two of the braves.

“‘That’s Ninnecons,’ he would point out. ‘He has no fingers on his left hand. He says that a bear bit them off, but most likely he got them caught in a beaver trap. The tall one is Shabeno.171 He’s a good Indian. They’re walking down to the settlement to sell those baskets you see piled on the squaws’ heads.’

“Summer was a busy time. The entire family helped to grow and gather food for the winter. The children helped in the garden patch, and little Nick pulled trout out of the brook as fast as he could bait his hook. Blackberries as big as thimbles glistened in the sun at the edge of the clearing, and thick clusters of wild grapes gave promise of being jelly in the fall. There were raspberries in the woods, but Great-grandfather didn’t want them to go picking berries without him.

“‘A big brown bear lives in the neighborhood,’ he said. ‘He has a sweet tooth. Remember how he stole the wild honey you wanted, Mother? He likes raspberries. You’d most likely meet him in the berry patch.’

“‘He wouldn’t hurt us,’ said Great-grandmother. ‘He might like raspberries. He might even make off with a lamb or a young pig, but he wouldn’t hurt a person.’

“‘I wouldn’t be too sure about that,’ said Great-grandfather. ‘Folks around here say that he’s the one who bit off Ninnecons’ fingers.’

“Great-grandmother laughed and turned back to her work. There was always work to be done in the little clearing. She made her own soap out of172 ashes and lye and waste fat, and she dipped candles and grew herbs in a tiny garden at the side of the cabin, so that she could make some of her own medicines.

“When the summer turned to fall the air was fragrant with the odor of smoked hams and slabs of bacon. Pumpkins were gathered, and dried corn hung from the rafters like ripe bananas. The forest turned scarlet and yellow and orange, and the slender birch trees at the outskirts looked like a lady’s white fingers held up to the blaze. Indian summer was a little breath of quiet and content, a Thanksgiving at the end of a meal. Just a moment of drowsing in the sun, listening to the ripened nuts falling from the trees and to the partridge rising, and then fall was over, and the northern winter roared in across the Great Lakes.

“During the winter the men worked in the woods cutting down the tall trees, and the women spent most of their time indoors. There was always a fire in the fireplace, and Great-grandmother would sit there spinning and knitting. She taught the children and entertained them, and she cooked and mended and baked and kept the cabin tidy. She sprinkled crumbs for the birds, and once when the snow was deep they tamed a chipmunk.

“Often, on moonlit nights, they looked out to see deer feeding in their garden. The gentle creatures173 would dig down into the snow with their dainty hooves and nibble at the frozen stumps of cabbages and the remains of corn and chard.”

“Why did they eat that old stuff?” asked Davey.

“Because they were hungry,” said Bill. “Very hungry. Deer almost starve in the wintertime.”

“That’s right,” said Mom. “All the creatures in the forest were hungry, but the wolves sounded hungriest of all. When they howled at night it seemed that they were right on the edge of the clearing, and Great-grandmother would pull the pieced quilt up over her head and shiver.”

“How did the children play in winter,” asked Bill. “Could they go coasting and skating like we do?”

“Yes, but they had neither skates nor sleds as we have now. Nick coasted on barrel staves and he had his own trap line, but Katy and Nell spent most of their time inside the cabin playing with calico dolls.

“One day Great-grandmother looked out to see Ninnecons and Shabeno filing past. They were followed by their patient wives who had baskets piled on their heads and papooses strapped on their backs.

“‘Oh,’ she said. ‘I feel so sorry for those poor women and for those little babies. How cold they must be. I’m going to ask them to come in to get174 warm.’ She threw a shawl over her head and ran to the door.

“‘Ninnecons,’ she called. ‘Shabeno, won’t you stop for a while and get warm?’

“Without answering the four of them turned off the trail and started up the path to the cabin. Nelly and Katy darted under the beds like frightened rabbits, and the baby started to cry, but Great-grandmother and Nick stood there as if they were giving a reception, and the braves walked in. The squaws stopped at the door and unfastened their papooses.”

Mom paused and looked around at the faces in the firelight.

“Do you know what they did then?” she asked.

Three mouths made circles saying “No.”

But James knew the answer. “I know, Mom,” he said with his eyes sparkling. “I remember now. They parked them outside in the snowbank.”

“That’s right,” said Mom smiling. “The squaws propped their children against the side of the cabin and followed the braves inside. The men walked over close to the fire and sat on the floor without saying a word. Great-grandmother offered chairs to the women, but they declined modestly and sat on the floor near the door. You’ve often heard the expression, ‘Like a wooden Indian.’ Well, that’s just what they were like. They sat there absorbing175 the heat without moving a muscle. After a while the girls picked up courage and edged out from under the bed. Little Nick was braver than the others. He came over and stood beside his mother and looked and looked. At last his curiosity got the better of his good manners. Pointing to the fingerless hand, he said to Ninnecons,

“‘Did a bear do that?’

“‘Ugh,’ said Ninnecons, ‘bear.’

“That was the extent of the conversation. In another few minutes the braves got up and walked out. The squaws picked up their baskets and babies and followed them down to the trail and then away through the silent forest.

“Many times before spring came, the Indians passed that way, but they never needed another invitation to come in to get warm. They just walked in. They weren’t being impolite. They were really being very logical and reasonable. If the white squaw wanted them in on one cold day, why not on any cold day? Great-grandmother would hear the latch click, and she’d look up from her spinning to see her brown-skinned friends glide in. Occasionally she gave them something to eat, hot tea and corn bread. Sometimes they gave her a present in return. Once she got a basket, and toward spring there were gifts of maple sugar that delighted the children.

176 “Great-grandmother longed for spring. She watched the buds grow large on the maple trees. Morning came earlier and evening stayed longer. One day she looked out to see a great flock of geese, with their necks outstretched, flying in perfect formation to the Canadian lakes. She called to the children to watch them.

“‘See,’ she said. ‘Spring is here at last.’

“The snow melted and it rained. It rained and rained. The road to the settlement was impassible. It was so muddy that the oxen would have bogged down at every step. Great-grandmother didn’t mind except that the sugar barrel was empty. The flour barrel was almost empty too. There was a little tea in the canister over the fireplace, and part of a slab of bacon hung from the rafters.

“‘We won’t be hungry for another week or so,’ said Great-grandmother as she poured corn meal into a bowl and stirred away at the all too familiar johnnycake.”

“What’s a johnnycake, Mom?” asked Davey.

“It’s another name for corn bread,” said Mom and she kept right on with her story.

“At the side of the cabin rose a brown hump of earth with a wooden ventilator sticking out of the top. It looked like a fat brown man sleeping with a pipe in his mouth. Do any of you children know what it was?”

177 They looked puzzled, but Janie had a gleam in her eye. “I think I know,” she said. “It must have been a root cellar. We saw them in New Salem where Abraham Lincoln once lived. Weren’t they used for storing potatoes and things like that?”

“That’s right,” said Mom. “It was a root cellar. Great-grandmother searched carefully, but the potatoes were gone, and the carrot bin was empty. The last of the turnips and pumpkins had been used in March. There never was a root cellar that looked more like Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. She picked up her candle and started to leave when she spied a crock jar in a far corner.

“‘Why they’re apples,’ she exclaimed. ‘Enough dried apples to make a pie, if only I had some sugar.’ She didn’t tell her husband about what she had found. I’ll wait until the sugar barrel comes, she thought, and surprise him.

“At last the rain stopped and the sun and the wind dried the fields and the trails. The road to Sturgeon Bay was open, and Great-grandfather started off with the ox team and the big-wheeled wagon. The trip took two days, and on the evening of the second day the creaking of the wagon wheels and the lowing of the oxen announced his return.

“How happy they were to be all together again.178 Great-grandfather picked the children up and swung them in the air. The little girls each got a stick of striped peppermint candy and Nick got a mouth organ. Great-grandmother got a length of calico for a new dress.

“After supper they sat in the dooryard enjoying the mild spring evening. Nick almost learned to play Yankee Doodle, and he entertained them while his father talked of the news at the settlement.

“‘I saw a Boston paper,’ he said. ‘The Texas treaty of annexation has been signed. Tyler will find himself in trouble over that. The Mexican government says it means war. The Indians have pulled out of the country along the shore of Lake Superior, and the white men are moving in fast. Bob McIntyre says that iron has been discovered at Marquette and copper at Kewanaw Point.’

“Great-grandfather leaned over and knocked the bowl of his pipe against a rock. ‘I heard something amusing, Mother,’ he said. ‘Folks say that a dentist in Hartford, Connecticut, has discovered a painless method of pulling teeth. Laughing gas, they call it. Ha! Ha! Did you ever hear of anything so far fetched?’

“‘What are they reading?’ asked Great-grandmother with her hand on her cheek.

“‘Reading, indeed,’ said her husband. ‘Sure,179 and they’re all too busy for that, but if it was reading they had time for it would be a book by a Frenchman, Alexander Dumas.’

“‘Yes,’ said Great-grandmother, leaning forward. ‘What is the name of the book?’

“‘It’s a novel,’ said Great-grandfather, ‘by the name of “The Count of Monte Cristo”, but that,’ he continued, ‘is of no real importance. Something wonderful and strange has happened that will conquer the space of loneliness of this great country more than anything that has happened so far. A man by the name of Morse has built a telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington. Imagine that, over forty miles.’

“‘Did he send a message?’ asked Great-grandmother. ‘What did he say?’

“Great-grandfather looked up at the first star. He said, ‘What hath God wrought?’

“Bright and early the next morning Great-grandmother took a hatchet and opened the sugar barrel. She sent Nick to the root cellar for a crock of dried apples, and she worked busily at her pie. The children stood around and watched her. My! it smelled good.

“Just as it was time for the pie to come out of the oven there was a click of the latch and who should walk in but Ninnecons and Shabeno. Oh bother, thought Great-grandmother. They will180 sit here all day unless I give them some, and if I cut it up there won’t be enough for Johnny when he comes home for his dinner. There are no apples to make another. Perhaps it will go around if I give them extra small pieces. She bent over the oven and lifted out the most luscious, mouth-watering apple pie that you ever saw. The Indians had never smelled anything half so good. Their nostrils widened, and their black beady eyes shone.

“Great-grandmother carried it proudly over to the open window, and placed it on the sill. ‘You mustn’t come too close,’ she warned the eager children. ‘It’s very hot, and you might burn yourselves.’

“‘Oh please, Mother. When may we have some?’

“‘When your father comes in from the fields at noon.’

“The Indians sat against the wall and smoked silently, and the children played on the floor. Suddenly little Katy pointed and screamed and Mom rushed to the window. There facing her, was a great, shaggy, brown bear! He stood up on his hind legs, and right before her astonished eyes he picked up the pie in his paws and ran off with it.

“Now, your pioneer ancestor didn’t stop to think of the bear as a dangerous animal. All that she knew was that a thief was making off with her precious pie.

181 “‘Stop!’ she cried, picking up her rolling pin. ‘Don’t you dare run off with my pie!’

“The solemn Indians and the goggle-eyed children followed her outside. Across the clearing they raced, the great upright bear with the pie in his paws, and the angry little woman brandishing her rolling pin.

“‘Stop! Stop!’ she called out. ‘Put that pie down this instant!’

“Then something wonderful happened. The heat of the pie tin penetrated the thick leathery paws of the bear and burned him. With a roar of fright, he dropped the pie and disappeared into the woods at the edge of the clearing.

“Triumphantly, Great-grandmother picked up the pie with the edges of her apron, and bore it back to her admiring family and friends. She cut a small piece for each of the Indians and they went their way. When her husband came in for dinner he roared with laughter.

“‘Janey, Janey,’ he cried, slapping his knee with the palm of his hand. ‘What a wonder you are! I knew that you had complete mastery over me and the children, but I didn’t know that the wild beasts of the forest obeyed you!’

“Ninnecons and Shabeno were profoundly impressed. The story spread through all that part of the country, and from then on, when the Indians182 spoke of Great-grandmother, they called her Wee-a-gon-hee-meechie, which means ‘small squaw who chased large bear.’”

The fire was almost out. The children stirred sleepily. Daddy rose and helped Mom to her feet.

“Thank you, my dear. That was a very fine story. How does it happen that you know so much about my family?”

“Why that’s very easily explained,” answered Mom. “During the long summer evenings when Grandma and I are sitting on the porch she tells me everything of interest that has happened to the family as far back as she can remember.”


Chapter Thirteen
An Honest Reward

Chapter Thirteen, An Honest Reward

IT was Saturday morning and James lay full length on the wicker davenport reading Boy’s Life and yearning for a really sharp pocketknife so that he could whittle. “Just look at those penguins,” he said to Jane. “Boy, I’d surely like to make some like that.”

Mom was sitting at the end of the long table. She was making her grocery list. “I’ll give a prize,” she announced, “to whichever side has the cleanest bathhouse, the boys or the girls.”

“What is it going to be,” demanded James. “Candy?” Mom continued to write, and answered without raising her eyes. “I don’t know yet what184 it’s going to be, but I do know that if it’s going to be, there’ll be a clean bathhouse first. My prize goes to the cleanest side.”

“Oh boy,” said Jane. “This is easy. I’ve got the cleanest side to start out with, because Mom and Aunt Claire don’t toss stuff on the floor like you boys do.”

“That’s no fair,” yelled James. “It’s a cheat!”

“It’s not a cheat,” retorted Jane. “I had all sorts of company on my side during the week and they left hairpins and face powder all over the place.”

Mom finished her grocery list and stood up to leave. “Well,” she said. “I’m still offering a prize. If you two would rather argue about it than win it, I’ll give the job to Davey and Bill instead.”

“No, no, Mom. We’ll take it. We’ll go right away,” and they ran in the direction of the bathhouse.

Jane opened the door and got to work. She swept the floor, wiped off the bench and even polished the mirror. While she was hanging fresh towels she called to James.

“Why don’t you hurry? Mom will be back from shopping, and I’ll win.”

“Aw, I could win with both hands tied behind my back. I can clean mine in five minutes and still win.”

He lay flat on the pier, idly kicking the boat185 back and forth, but all of a sudden he realized that his boasting wouldn’t take him much farther, because Jane had almost finished with her side and he still had everything to do. He sauntered over to the bathhouse, being careful to give the impression of great leisure, just as Jane emerged.

“I’ll win,” she said cockily. “You haven’t got a chance. You started too late.”

“Pooh, pooh,” said the master mind, but the minute her back was turned, he hurried as fast as he could. He was almost finished when Mom returned from shopping. All that was left was a pile of dust in the middle of the floor. Jane had taken the dust pan back to the cottage with her. If he swept it out on the brick steps he would be disqualified. He could pick it up in his hands and stuff it in his pockets, but there were no pockets in this suit. Mom was on her way across the lawn for inspection right this minute.

“Aha,” he thought, in a burst of pure mischief, and as quick as a wink he swept the remaining dust under the partition and over to the girl’s side. Broom in hand and eyes dancing, he stepped outside and bowed to Mom.

“Everything is in order, Mom,” he said. “I get the prize.”

Mom stepped inside the boy’s side and looked around carefully. “Very good,” she said. Then186 she stepped out and walked around to the girl’s side. She looked around carefully again. James giggled, expecting her to see the joke, but her face was grave as she noticed the dust spread fan-wise from under the partition.

“You have the cleanest bathhouse, James,” she said. “You win the prize,” and she gave him a candy bar.

James gulped. “But Mom....”

She looked at him in a funny sort of way, but she didn’t say any more, and then she walked up toward the house.

Janie was getting ready to go to Deerpath with the Landrys when the prize was announced, so her normal surprise and protest were somewhat muffled in the mild excitement of leaving.

That was the end of it. James felt baffled. He walked around with the candy bar in his hand. What was the matter with Mom? Couldn’t she see a joke?

The rest of the afternoon passed in a dull sort of way. Mom was busy with preparations for Sunday and she didn’t seem to pay any attention to him. Billy and Davey were fishing at the dam and Janie wasn’t home. He walked around with his face squinted up in a frown, kicking at tufts of grass.

“Maybe tonight I can finish my sunset,” he muttered.

187 Early in the season Aunt Claire gave James a piece of canvas and some tubes of oil paint.

“Paint the sunset,” she encouraged him. “You draw well and we have such beautiful sunsets out here. See what you can do.”

Every evening, as the sun sank, James hauled forth his canvas and brushes. He’d get everything organized for painting. The sun got splashed in the middle of the horizon, an oily red blob surrounded by sausage-like clouds in a glazed blue sky. His nose would wrinkle in a distressed sort of way.

“This isn’t the way Aunt Claire’s sunsets look.”

By the time he had mixed the right shade of purple for the low-banked clouds the sun had disappeared and he’d put everything away until the next evening. The next evening the clouds that had been fat and fluffy were long and wispy, and the rose colored sky of the night before would be changed to gold.

Hurriedly mixing his colors, he’d attempt to change his canvas to match the changed sunset, but again the magic colors eluded him and darkness came before he was finished.

“Creepers, I never can work fast enough. I’ll never finish this thing.”

As the days went by the canvas became more and more covered with paint, but James wasn’t cast188 down. He was always certain that the next night would see the finished picture.

On this Saturday night there was no sunset, only a solid bank of black storm clouds.

“Make everything fast,” called Dad. “We’re going to have a blow,” and then the sun appeared between a crack in the clouds.

“Hurry, boy, hurry,” called Dad. “Finish your picture.”

James ran for the paints. The many-colored clouds of previous attempts were hastily covered with black and gray. The sun peeped through as always, and a few quick strokes with a clean brush made a golden halo. The trees at the horizon were greenish black, and he finished the broad sweeps of leaden gray that were the lake just as the first rain hit him.

“Hurray,” he exulted. “I’ve got it! I’ve got it,” as he ran for the cottage holding the masterpiece over his head.

“That’s wonderful,” beamed Aunt Claire. “You’ve got real stick-to-it-iveness. You have talent, too, but persistence is more important. Let’s prop your sunset here on the floor against the wall so that everyone can see it.”

All evening James heard nothing but praise and admiration for his black sunset. By bed time he was beginning to feel pretty good, but then he189 reached his hand in his pocket and felt that old candy bar.

Sunday was always a quiet time at the lake. The grown folks sat around reading and taking naps, and even the children quieted down. Jane drove to church with Daddy and Aunt Claire. She wore her white dress, and her wide-brimmed floppy hat. All the way along there were folks going to church. Cars slid out of side roads and chortled and wheezed down farm lanes. They streamed up hill and down on the road to Deerpath. It would be fun, thought Jane, to watch them from a plane. They would look like a procession of shiny-backed beetles.

The church was crowded with summer people, and Daddy stopped at the door to speak to some folks he knew. Inside, it was dark and cool. The altars were filled with beautiful garden flowers. There were roses during June, and larkspur, then white gladioli and lilies, making the air heavy with their perfume. When the phlox and asters appeared Janie always knew it was time to start thinking about going back to town.

The windows were swung open, and inquisitive sparrows came to the ledge and looked in. Sometimes a fat bee would lumber about in the roses, and then take off, heavily, for the summer world outside. Janie thought of the psalm:

“I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of Thy house,
And the place where Thy glory dwelleth.”

This must be the place, she thought, looking around her, here in a country church, with the doors and windows flung wide, filled with music, and fragrant with the flowers of a country garden.

On the way home they stopped at the drug store to buy a paper. Later breakfast was served on the terrace at the back of the cottage. It was another one of Mom’s romantic ideas. It wasn’t entirely practical. You see, the terrace wasn’t screened. Birds and butterflies entered at their will, also dogs and mosquitos and ordinary flies.

Buick, the neighbor’s dog, always enjoyed having breakfast on the terrace with the Murrays. He strolled over on this particular morning looking around for his old enemy, Butch. Not seeing him, he made straight for Janie’s chair. She absently gave him a piece of her coffee cake, and went on reading the funnies. Aunt Claire was always generous, so Buick looked pathetic and waited. Another piece of coffee cake dropped into his jaws, and he said “Thank-you” in dog fashion, and strolled over to Daddy’s chair.

Now, Daddy didn’t like dogs in general and Buick in particular. Not that he would ever hurt a dog, or even a fly for that matter. He just insulted them by ignoring them, and he was ignoring191 Buick completely just now. Deep in the sport page, he read with perfect concentration. Buick waited patiently, but no gifts were forthcoming. There was a lovely curled strip of bacon getting cold while Daddy read. It was so close to his moist black nose he could almost touch it. It smelled so good he quivered. Suddenly there was a black streak of flying dog, and a murderous roar out of Daddy. Buick and the bacon were gone.

“Bah!” Daddy fumed, shaking his paper in mock rage. “Butch is right in his instincts about that pup. He’s nothing but a low down bacon snitcher.”

In the afternoon Davey took Butch down to the lake front where they watched “old rubber-back” paddle about in his tub. The boys lay on the pier watching a sailboat race, and Janie took a pillow, an apple, and a book and made for her favorite perch. It was up in the branches of the old willow tree, right at the shore of the lake. The branches were as thick as a man’s arm, and worn smooth with the clambering of the Murray children. Ever since they were little Janie and the boys had played up there. You could see all over the lake. It was cool and quiet, and if you knew just how to prop your pillow, it was comfortable too. She took a big bite of apple and sighed contentedly. This is the kind of a Sunday afternoon I like, she thought.

192 James walked under her tree perch and glanced up.

“Can I come up, too, if I get a book?”

“You can, but may you?”


Jane laughed. “Come ahead. There’s room for the whole family.”

James ran for the cottage to get an apple and a book. The door of his room was closed. It was a pretty nice room, and he was very proud of it. It was always a comfortable place to come back to. As he opened the door he noticed that the radio was turned on and the windows were open. The pillows were plumped up in just the right way for reading. The bedspread was neatly drawn across the bed and the books had been restacked, and ... right in the middle of the room stood an enormous pile of dust!

He turned and ran to the front yard and climbed the tree where Jane was sitting. Much to her astonishment, he handed her a wrinkled, slightly melted candy bar.


Chapter Fourteen
Dad Finds a Treasure

Chapter Fourteen, Dad Finds a Treasure

BILLY and Jane sat on the big stone posts at the gate swinging their legs and watching for the mailman. They tried to guess what he would bring.

“James will get his usual letter from that stamp dealer down east,” said Jane. “He will say: ‘Dear Mr. Murray, I received your want list, but you failed to include your money’ or he’ll say: ‘Dear Mr. Murray, I received your dollar and three cents, but you failed to include your want list. Please advise, etc.’” They laughed merrily at absent-minded194 James and his difficulties, and then Jane heard the familiar squeal of the mailman’s brakes.

“Here he comes,” she cried. “I’ll race you to the mailbox!” They jumped off the posts and ran across the road. Jane had the shorter distance, but Billy won by throwing himself full length on the grass and sliding to touch the post.

“Really, Billy,” panted Jane. “Sometimes you use the foulest and the most unfairest means....”

Billy hooted. “Foulest and unfairest!” Then, imitating her angry voice, he said, “Really, Jane, you use the most unusual adjectives!”

She threw a shoe at him, and he ran away laughing.

The mailman’s car slid in close to the mailbox. He had a brown face, all wrinkled from smiling. He was an usher at the little church in Deerpath, and when he passed the collection plate to Janie on Sunday his eyes crinkled up in a smile just as they did now when he passed the letters from box to box at the lake.

“Here you are, young lady,” he said. “Letters for everybody today.” There was “Popular Mechanics” for the boys, and a letter for Mom from a dress shop. There were some letters for Daddy in long business envelopes and a post card for Davey. At the bottom of the heap was a square envelope addressed to:


Miss Jane Murray,
Oak Lake, Wisconsin.
R. R. 1

“From Dor,” Janie exclaimed, and sat down on the grass to read it.

Hi, Janie,

How are you? I am fine. My mother is going to Michigan tomorrow, and I’d like to come to visit you for a few days. I will come on the five o’clock bus,

Your loving friend,

Janie gathered her mail together and ran down to the cottage with her news. “Here you are, my wonderful family,” she said. “Mail for all of you.” Mom sat down to glance at her letter and the boys tore the wrapper from their magazine. Davey’s post card was from a school friend, and he chuckled at the picture on the cover. It was a garish scene of an over-sized fish leaping into a row boat with a frightened fisherman. “Look,” he said, “at the big fish Greenie caught.”

Janie waited for Mom to finish, and then she burst out with, “May Dor come? I have a letter from her. May she come tomorrow?”

Mom blinked at the suddenness of it all, and put her glasses on the table. “Why yes, of course. I’d196 be glad to have her. What does she say?” Jane handed her the letter, and she glanced through it quickly. Then she smiled.

“It’s not tomorrow,” she said. “It’s today. This letter was written yesterday. She’ll be out on the five o’clock bus this afternoon.”

The boys were deeply absorbed in a marvelous invention that would make an iceboat out of an old baby carriage. Jane grinned and put her finger to her lips. “Don’t tell them,” she said to Mom. “They weren’t paying attention to what we said.”

She held out her arms for Butch. “Come, my little brown friend. Let’s go down to the pier and catch flies.” She stretched out on the hot boards and dreamed in the sun. Butchie scrambled around on the braces under the pier, snatching at shadows and frightening schools of timid minnows. In a little while the boys came down and jumped into the boat and rowed away. Janie stretched lazily. Two weeks from today, she thought, I’ll be back in school. It doesn’t seem possible. Why the summer has just begun. I don’t like to leave this. The sky will be just as blue when we’re gone, and the water will be just as warm. Of course school won’t be too bad, and this year there’ll be dancing class. I’ll waltz and waltz (she dreamed), in a pink tulle gown, with pale pink ostrich feathers in my hair.

197 Bump.... The boys banged into the pier full force with the boat and Janie sat straight up.

“Hey, hey!” she yelled. “What are you trying to do, break the pier down? Why are you back so soon? I thought you were going fishing.”

The boys laughed at her confusion. “We caught something right away,” said Billy, “so we brought it back. Hold it up James.”

It was a small green turtle. His curved green legs pawed the air as James held him up, and his under shell was red, green, and yellow in a most interesting pattern.

“I’m going to bring him back to town and give him to Robin,” said James. “He can keep him in his bathtub.”

“I guess his Grandmother will have something to say about that,” said Jane primly.

“Well,” James argued, “why should she care if the turtle stays in the bathtub? Turtles are clean. They’re almost the cleanest creatures in the whole world, and she could lift him up if someone wanted to take a bath, couldn’t she?”

“Maybe it’s a snapper,” said Jane. “You wouldn’t like it if Robin’s Grandmother had her finger snapped off by a turtle, would you?”

“Aw,” said James in disgust. “You’re always thinking of something like that,” and gathering his turtle and his fishing tackle up in his arms, he198 started away. Just as he left the pier he turned and narrowed his eyes. With just one word he summed up what he thought of Jane, her arguments, her ideas, and her contemporaries.

“Dames ...” he said, witheringly.

Janie turned and hid her face in her arms, and laughed until she shook. Then she gathered up Butchie and ran for the cottage.

Grandma was peeling green apples for pie. “Grandma,” she said. “Have you noticed that this summer has been much too short?”

“Yes, Jane. Every summer seems a little shorter than the last. When I was a little girl the summer days seemed to stretch in front of me like years. Now I have so much to do and so much to think about that the years fly past like days.” A long green peeling fell to the floor in the shape of a treble clef, and Grandma’s sharp little paring knife twinkled around another apple. “Your mother had a telephone message,” she said. “It seems that your friend Dor is coming out on the five o’clock bus.”

“Oh goody, oh wonderful, Grandma!” She gave her a hug that sent the little green apples flying all over the porch.

“You wild one,” said Grandma, straightening her glasses. Jane was down on her hands and knees searching for the runaways.

199 “I’m so sorry,” she said. “Just for that I’ll stay here and help you peel them.”

The afternoon passed quickly, and at five o’clock Mom drove down to the bus station with Janie beside her and the three curious boys in the back. The passengers got off on the other side of the bus, so they saw their feet and legs first. It was easy to identify Mr. Williams by his brief case. The bus driver helped an old lady off with her suitcase and then a pair of sun-tanned legs swung off the steps and Dor appeared around the corner of the bus.

“It’s Dorothy Dreyer,” cried Billy.

“Dreyer,” squealed James, “with her braces off! Boy! what teeth! A smile like a movie star.” Everybody laughed at that, and they started back for the cottage.

“Oh,” said Janie, “I’m so glad you could come. Let me hold some of your things. What in the world do you have in this one? It’s heavy.”

“Worms,” said the practical Miss Dreyer. “I knew the ground would be dry now, and you’d be running out of bait, so I brought my own bait.” Mom looked a trifle dashed, but the boys beamed on her.

“Dreyer,” said Bill. “You would have made a swell boy.”

They laughed and joked as they carried her stuff200 down to the cottage. Everyone seemed to feel lighthearted and gay. They sat around the table talking until it was almost dark. Someone started to sing, and they all joined in. Daddy played the piano, and the children made so much noise that Buick heard them next door and started to howl.

After the commotion died down the two girls strolled down to the pier, and sat there dipping their toes in the water and watching the reflection of the stars.

“Do you know what?” Dor asked.

“No, what?”

“I’m going to be a vet.”

“A what?”

“A vet. You know, a horse doctor. I just love horses and dogs, and I’m really very good at taking care of them. I’ve decided to devote my life to them.”

“Pooh,” said Janie inelegantly. “What about the ballet? Last year you said you were going to be a ballerina, and spend the rest of your life on your tiptoes.”

“That was last year,” said Dor patiently. “A lot can happen to a girl’s life in a year.”

“Yes, that’s true,” Janie agreed. Dor stretched out and lay on her back on the pier, looking at the stars overhead.

“What are you going to be, Janie?”

201 “I’m going to be a frozen corpse if I don’t go into the house and get a sweater. I’m beginning to sneeze.” She started for the cottage. “Do you want to come in or shall I bring a sweater for you?”

“Never mind about a sweater,” Dor said, “but send Billy down with a flashlight. We’ll go hunting frogs.”

Janie curled up on the davenport with an apple and a book. Now and then she would glance up to see the light flash on and off along the shore as Dor and Billy and James pursued their favorite pastime.

“What are those children doing down there?” asked Grandma.

“They’re catching frogs,” Mom answered.

“Catching frogs? Lands sakes! What for?”

“Just for fun. They let them go again.”

Grandma looked puzzled. “They’re really entertaining Dor,” Mom went on. “If she couldn’t have a frog hunt when she came out here for a visit, I’m sure she’d be disappointed.”

Soon after daybreak Billy scratched on Janie’s screen. There was no response. He called softly. Still no response. Then he shouted: “If you lazy girls don’t get up and come fishing with us we’ll go alone.” Janie grunted and Dor stirred. “And,” Billy continued, “we’ll take the worm can, and we’ll use up all the worms.” That helped.

202 “Wait for us. We’ll be right out.”

They had breakfast at the kitchen sink, and Davey heard them and demanded to go along. Five was a crowd for the row boat, but he looked so eager it was hard to refuse him. “All right,” Billy said, “but sit tight, and don’t catch any turtles.”

They pushed off in the mist. Billy and James took the oars, the girls sat on the back seat, and Davey sat in the front. They decided to try the pond first. Fishing was fair. By nine o’clock they had about a dozen blue gills. Dor was in favor of staying, but the Murrays knew they could do better than that.

“Let’s go to the dam,” said Bill, and they started down along the eastern shore.

They rowed along quietly until Janie pointed to the shore and said, “Look! Look at the smoke! The old man’s lot is on fire!” There was just enough breeze to fan the flames and while they watched the fire spread rapidly.

“Golly,” said Bill. “It’s getting close to the shack. It’s been so dry the last couple of weeks that if the fire gets over there near those old dry boards, everything will go.”

Just then the old man appeared at the door of his shack and saw the grass fire. He grabbed a shovel and began to thump at the flames vigorously.203 He couldn’t quite catch up with them. As fast as he would get one patch extinguished, another would creep around behind him.

“What are we sitting here for,” asked Dor getting to her feet. “Come on, let’s help him put that fire out.”

Bill looked at Janie, and Janie looked perplexed. James blurted out, “He doesn’t like us. He chased us out of there once, and Daddy and Mom told us to keep out of his way.”

Dor was indignant. “Do you mean to say that your Dad and Mom wouldn’t even let you go in there and throw a pail of water on a fire? Do you mean to say that you’d sit here and watch that old man’s house burn down?” Dor was angry. Janie was angry too.

“His house isn’t burning down. It’s just an old grass fire, and he can see us plain enough. If he wanted us to help he’d say so.”

Almost as if he had heard their words, the old man turned and shouted at them, “Hey there, you young fella in the boat, come in here and help me put this fire out. Can’t you see that it’s getting away from me? Get a move on you!”

Dor answered for the Murrays, “Here we come!” and they pulled for shore with all their might.

Billy and James ran for the pump to get water, and Dor and Janie picked up some loose boards204 as they ran and beat at the rapidly spreading flames. The heat was intense and the smoke choked them, but they stomped and smothered with all their strength. Davey was sent back to the pump. “You keep pumping,” Billy yelled, “and we’ll run back and forth with the buckets.”

The smoke kept getting in Janie’s eyes, and it hurt so that the tears ran. Her face burned, and she could even feel the heat through the soles of her thin summer shoes. Oh, why didn’t somebody come? They’d all burn up in this dreadful fire. She had forgotten all about her fear of the old man. In the excitement they pounded away at the fire, side by side.

Suddenly she turned and looked up at him. He had stopped and was holding his side. He had a queer expression on his face. He reached out as if to grab something, and then fell at her feet.

“Help! Help!” screamed Janie. “Dor, James, Billy! He’s fainted.”

Dor came leaping over the burned stubble. Her face was a black smudge, and she had a wild look in her eye.

“Throw water on him,” she cried. “Get him out of here!” Billy and James reached under his shoulders, and Janie and Dor caught hold of the strong leather belt at his waist. They pulled and tugged with all their might. He was awfully heavy. Davey205 yelled from behind them, “Hey kids, the fire is getting bad again.” There was no choice. They dropped the unconscious man and raced back to the fire.

“Davey!” Billy shouted. “You get out of here! Run to the nearest house and get help, and then run home and get Daddy!”

Davey’s short legs disappeared through the smoke, and Janie’s heart sank. One less to pump and to carry water. The old man lay just where they left him. He seemed dead. There was so much smoke in the air they could hardly see each other, and as the flames raced up the tall weed stalks bits of burning grass would fall on their arms and hands. James was sobbing as he pounded away with the flat side of his shovel. Billy was coughing and gasping.

“One more patch,” Dor called out. “This is the last bad spot! If we can put this one out, the others aren’t so bad. It’s reached the lake on one side, and it’s almost at the road on the other.”

They beat at the fire valiantly, and little by little, it gave way. The roaring and the crackling died down. It had almost burned itself out. The smoke was as bad as ever as they raced back to the old man’s side. He was awake now, but he didn’t seem able to move. They tugged and pulled at him and got him to the door of the shack. Billy206 looked around for a bed, but there was none. There was a cot in the corner, and they pulled it over close to the door and helped him to lie down. Dor found a towel and wiped his face. He smiled at her. He had a sort of nice face when he smiled. “Thank you, young lady,” he said, and looked at her kindly.

“Don’t talk, Mr. Mott,” said Janie. “Lie still and rest. My daddy is coming, and he’ll get a doctor.”

“Doctor? Rest? Pshaw! I never had a doctor in my life. I don’t need to rest. I’m fine now. Fit as a fiddle. I just swallowed a might too much smoke, I guess. I’m fine now, fine.” He tried to get to his feet, but it didn’t work so well, for he faltered and then settled back on the cot again. “I’m fine,” he insisted.

The inside of the shack was poor and incredibly dirty. There was a cook stove in the middle of the floor that smoked. It must have been smoking for years, because the ceiling and walls were black and covered with soot. There were no curtains on the windows. The floor was black, and there was a heap of tools in one corner and a pile of wood in the other. There were a few chairs that looked like the antique chairs that Mom had in the bedrooms at home, but they had no seats and the wood was dark and furry with dirt. Half a207 loaf of bread stood on a small table together with an empty meat wrapper, half a pound of lard, and a dirty frying pan. A cup and a plate and a knife stood by, looking as if they had been used again and again without washing. Janie groaned as she thought of how she hated to wash dishes. “Dear Lord,” she prayed. “If You get us out of this mess, I’ll never complain about washing dishes again. I never loved and appreciated a clean house as much as I do this minute.”

What a relief to hear Dad’s hearty voice in the yard! Davey scampered along beside him, feeling important. “Well, well, Mr. Mott. You had quite a fire, I see.” He looked at his black-faced children in amazement. “What happened?” he asked. They all started to answer at once.

“Just a minute,” he said, “let Dor tell me.” Dor took a breath and recited what had happened from the first wisp of smoke to the face washing. When she finished Dad looked very serious. “Mom is waiting for you children in the car,” he said. “She’ll drive you home.” They said “Good-by,” and hurried off.

Daddy turned to Mr. Mott. “I think you should have a doctor,” he said. “Will you let me call one for you?” The old man looked feeble lying there, and suddenly he seemed shrunken and pathetic.

“The fact is,” he said, “I haven’t any money.208 I have no money to call a doctor, and I won’t take charity. My father lived on this land, and now I’m going to lose it because I can’t pay my taxes. It’s a dang shame, that’s what it is.” He blew his nose fiercely.

“Now, Mr. Mott, don’t worry about that now. Lie still and rest a bit.”

“I feel fine now. Pshaw, I just lost my breath in the smoke. It does me good to talk, Mr. Murray. I don’t mind talking.” He sat up on the cot. “I tell you, sir, it isn’t right. They can’t do this to a man. We used to own a whole section of land, and now all I have left is this little piece around the house. I’m going to lose this too, because I can’t pay my taxes. Why, my father owned the finest house in the hereabouts. He owned a good deal of land too. I’ve got some papers over there on the desk I wish you’d look at. They’ll prove what I say is true.” He pointed to a heap of messy looking rubbish piled up on a flat topped desk in the corner. “Right there you’ll find a letter that my father got from the governor of the state in 1852.” Mr. Murray hesitated. “Go on,” urged Mr. Mott. “Find it. I want you to read it.”

The papers were yellow with age, calenders and advertisements for patent medicines were unclassified. There were old bread wrappers and samples of unused wall paper. Finally Mr. Murray found209 the letter. He took it over to the door and looked at it carefully. He didn’t read it. He just looked at it, and his excitement grew, for marching across the top of the envelope were three dark blue one-cent stamps. There was a portrait of George Washington in the center of each one. The cancellation marks were not heavy, and though they were dusty and old, they were in good condition.

“Mr. Mott,” he said. “Never mind about the letter. I think we’ve found the solution to your problem right here on the envelope.” He pointed to the stamps. “These are valuable,” he said. “I happen to know that they have a catalogue value of one hundred and fifty dollars apiece. You won’t get full value for them, of course, but you’ll get enough money to pay your back taxes, and you’ll save your land. You’ll even have a little money left over.”

Mr. Mott rose up and took the letter and looked at it. He blinked. “Are you sure, Mr. Murray?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” he replied. “If you look through your old papers carefully, you may find some more of them. I tell you what we’ll do. As soon as you feel well enough I’ll drive you into town. We’ll go to the stamp dealer who buys these old stamps, and I’m sure he’ll be interested. He’ll most likely pay you a good price. What do you say?”

The old man sat holding the letter in his hands.210 He turned it around and around. He peered at the stamps closely. “Well, I’ll be jiggered,” he said.

Dad laughed and patted him on the shoulder. “That was just the tonic you needed,” he said. “You look much better already.”

Mr. Mott stood up. His clothes were dirty, but his shoulders squared back and he held his chin up. “The Motts aren’t licked yet,” he said. “Thanks to you, sir, the Motts still own land.”

As Dad started out the door he met the goat coming in. He looked astonished, and stepped to one side. “That’s Mirandy,” said Mr. Mott. “She won’t hurt ye none. You know,” he continued, as the goat ate crumbs from the floor, “you folks have been mighty kind to me, and I’m not going to forget it. No sir, I’m not. I’m going to give you a fine present.”

Dad looked a little flustered. “Why, no, Mr. Mott,” he said. “It wasn’t anything at all that you wouldn’t have done for a neighbor.”

“No sirree, you did me a good turn, and one of these days you’re going to get a present.”

Dad shook hands for good-by, and chuckled as he started off down the road for home. He was still chuckling when he talked to Mom about it. “The old gentleman perked right up. He even wanted to give me a present, although what he could spare, I can’t imagine.”

211 “Perhaps he’ll give you one of his old stamps,” said Billy.

Dad looked pleased, but he tried hard not to show it. “Here we go again,” he said, “getting romantic. I wouldn’t mind having some of the stuff he’s got. I’d like to go through that scrap heap of his more carefully.”


Chapter Fifteen
Good-by Summer

Chapter Fifteen, Good-by Summer

SUMMER was almost over. The winding country roads were banked with golden rod and purple asters. The hidden silk of the milkweed floated like fairy wings on the still air. Mom canned peaches and tomatoes, and Aunt Claire pushed and coaxed crooked little pickles into jars.

Martins gathered on the telephone wires at the side of the road. There were mothers and fathers and uncles and aunts and many, many children. They chirped and twittered without end. The young ones darted about constantly as if to say:

“Enough of this talk, and these endless plans.213 Come, let us be off. See what a fine flier I am. See how cleverly I use my wings.”

The braggart would circle and dip, but he’d soon be back pushing his brothers about rudely to make a place for himself. Sometimes they all started off at once, and the sky was filled with the rushing of wings. Janie strained her eyes after them and sighed,

“If I could only fly along. What sights they must see! What wonderful adventures they must have! Good-by, good-by, until next summer.”

They disappeared in the distance, but early the next morning they were back again, like a bar of music against the sky. One day, of course, they would really leave.

The stove was squat and shiny, like a little old lady in a black taffeta dress. It crackled and glowed, and the curved sheet iron back got slightly pink. The copper tea-kettle on top quivered and spit like an angry cat. Mist hung over the lake and the grass was wet with dew. Uncle Jim, who had lived in China, always described the weather as a one-coat day or a two-coat day. Late August mornings at Oak Lake were one-coat. Breakfast time was one sweater, and by nine o’clock it was hot and clear with shivers and sweaters forgotten.

Mr. Murray took Mr. Mott to the stamp dealer who was pleased as he could be about the rare214 old stamps. He paid him one hundred and fifty dollars for the three that Daddy found the day of the fire, and offered to buy any more that might turn up. The old man was overjoyed. He paid his delinquent taxes and bought a coaster wagon full of provisions at the store. Everyone ran to the gate to watch him come down the road. Mirandy was hitched to the wagon, and she tripped along with her head high and her whisker waving in the breeze. Her eyelashes dropped demurely, and a stranger looking at her would never have guessed that she was as temperamental as an opera singer and as wicked as sin. Mr. Mott wore a new shirt, violently plaid.

“Good morning,” he called, bowing and smiling. “Good morning Mrs. Murray, good morning folks! Mighty fine weather we’re having.”

The Murrays laughed and waved and called out to him.

“He has a gold mine in that little old chicken coop of his,” said Mom. “He came down here last night with another stack of letters. Daddy figured that the stamps on them should be worth about six hundred dollars, and he found a certificate of stock that might still be sold for a tidy little sum.”

“Oh, Mom,” said Janie. “Do you suppose he’ll move back into the big house and fix it all up again the way it used to be?”

215 “No, I don’t think he ever would. He’s an old man now, and he’s content to leave things pretty much as they are. I hope he’ll clean up that shack of his. He didn’t say anything about that, although he did speak of having a vacation.” Billy sat on one stone post and Janie sat on the other. “Doesn’t he look grand Bill?” asked Janie as they admired the retreating procession. “He turned out to be quite nice after all. Do you remember how we used to run at the sight of him? I used to shiver at the very mention of his name, and all the time he was just a harmless old man.” Billy smiled and shook his head.

“It’s funny,” he said, “how just being kind to a person will improve his disposition. I wonder what he’ll give Daddy for a present.”

“Billy,” Jane exclaimed. “It isn’t polite to wonder what people are going to give you for a present, and besides, it will probably be a stamp. He must know that Daddy is just crazy about stamps, even if he doesn’t collect any more.”

Billy shaded his eyes as he looked across the road. “Yes,” he said. “It will probably be a stamp. What’s that moving under the little cottage?” He jumped off the post and ran. “Queenie is out again. That’s the second time this week she got out.”

“Better catch her in a hurry,” called Jane. “The216 last time she got out she ate Mr. Landry’s petunias, and Mom said the next time we’d have fried rabbit.”

“Murder,” growled Bill. “She gets in there under the foundation, and I can’t get in after her, then the minute I go away she’ll come out and run away.”

“Come on, Queenie,” called Jane. “Better to be in your cage than in the frying pan.”

“Stop that blood-thirsty talk,” said Billy making a face. “You know Mom was only fooling.”

Jane giggled. “Maybe she was, but don’t tell Queenie. She’s been a naughty girl, and she needs discipline.”

“This isn’t funny,” grumbled Billy. “You get on the other side of the house, and catch her when she comes out. I’ll chase her out with this long stick.” Jane looked dubious, and he continued: “And don’t let her slip through your fingers!” He waved his branch, and out streaked Queenie, right through Janie’s outstretched hands and into Landry’s flower bed. There she sat nibbling on asters, and every time they would get close enough to lay hands on her, she would dash off to another corner of the yard.

“I know what I’ll do,” said Billy. “You stay here and keep an eye on her, and I’ll catch her with my landing net.” Back he came in a few minutes with217 his long-handled net, but Queenie was gone. “Billy, I’m so sorry, I just couldn’t help it. I was looking right at her and she just disappeared.”

They scouted around the neighborhood, but no sign of a white rabbit.

“Maybe a dog ate her,” said Billy mournfully.

“Maybe she was run over by a car,” brooded Jane. They walked slowly out to the end of the lot where the hutch stood, and then they both stood open-mouthed in astonishment. There, on her bed of clover, sat Queenie eating a carrot!

“Well, mow me down,” said Billy when he could get his breath.

“She’s a witch,” said Jane.

Leaving the cottage at the end of the season always came as a surprise. It seemed that everything would be as usual one day, and the next morning the air would be full of preparations for going home. The boats had to be taken in and turned upside down to dry out. The raft never came in until the last afternoon of their stay, but screens had to come off, and awnings had to be taken down. Janie always felt a little pang of sadness at the thought of going back to town. Life in Springhill was exciting and interesting, but the long summer days at the lake were so much fun.

Grandma and Aunt Claire went back to town early, but the Murrays stayed until the last day218 before school started. Dad had the trailer again, and this time it was piled up higher than ever.

On the last morning Janie waded through a maze of packing boxes and suitcases on the porch. Davey was feeding Butch, and Mom was doing her best to persuade James that he could not bring a large fish into town to be mounted.

“But, Mom,” said James, “it’s the biggest fish I ever caught.”

“I’m sorry, my boy. You should have thought of that while he was still fresh, and not after he had been left down at the pier for two days.”

“But, Mom,” James repeated. “He’s the biggest fish I ever caught.”

Mom didn’t say anything. She just squinted her eyes and pinched her nose shut between her first finger and her thumb. James looked at her for a moment, and then he said,

“All right, all right,” and he took the fish out and buried it.

Dad and Bill were stacking packing boxes in the trailer. Jane ate breakfast in a hurry off the edge of the kitchen sink, and then she made the rounds to see that all the windows were fastened securely. Billy had fixed a covered market basket for Blackie and Queen and he set out for the back yard to get them started on the journey. He came back with his eyes bulging.

219 “What do you suppose that Queenie did now?”

Mom sat down on a packing box and looked desperate. “If she ran away again,” she said, “she can stay away. I’m not going to stop everything now and go looking for her.”

“But, Mom,” said Billy.

“Don’t ‘But, Mom’ me! I’ll not start looking for her again this morning.”

“But, Mom, she didn’t run away.”

“She didn’t run away? Then what are you talking about?”

“She had puppies. I mean rabbits. Babies. Lots of them.”

The whole family let out one big shout and ran for the back yard. True enough, Queen and Blackie were the parents of a large and handsome family. Mom and Daddy laughed so hard they leaned against the garage. “Let’s get out of here,” Mom said, “while we still can. The longer we stay here the more complicated things get.”

They went back to the cottage and hunted for something warm to wrap the baby rabbits in. Everything had been packed away, but Davey volunteered an old blanket of Butchie’s, and the infants were made ready for their first long trip.

The trailer was pretty well packed when Janie spied Mr. Mott and Mirandy coming down the road. “Hey, hey,” she cried. “Here comes Mr.220 Mott with Daddy’s present. He said he was coming, and here he comes.”

“Janie,” said her father. “Don’t talk like that. You children have made all this talk about a present sound like something that it never was intended to be. What I did for Mr. Mott was no more than one neighbor would do for another. I didn’t expect a reward, and I don’t expect one now.”

“Maybe you don’t expect one, Daddy,” said James, “but you’re going to get one.”

“Good morning, folks,” said Mr. Mott. “I see you’re getting ready to leave, and I came to say good-by.”

“Don’t say good-by yet,” said Mom. “We’ll be out for week-ends all during the nice fall weather.”

“City folks always say that,” said the old man, “but when the time comes they get busy in town, and they stay there. Labor Day is usually the end of things out here.”

“What do you do out here all winter,” asked Mr. Murray.

Mr. Mott patted Mirandy on the back. “Time was when I used to do a lot of hunting and fishing, but I’m getting a little old for that. I cleared a nice little heap of money on my stamps, and I figured that this year I’d spend the winter in Florida. I’ve heard the fishing is real good down there.”

221 “Good for you,” said Dad with a sort of surprised look on his face.

“Yes,” said Mr. Mott blowing his nose. “I’ve been mighty lucky, and you folks have been the cause of it all. I’ve been figuring and figuring what I could do for you and I’ve settled on Mirandy. She’s the finest thing I own. She’s smart, and she’s gentle, and she’d make a good pet for your children.”

Mom looked dazed, and Dad kept saying “But, Mr. Mott....”

“I’ll just tuck her right in here in the trailer beside the bicycle. A little grass and some water is all she needs. Now don’t you thank me,” he said as Dad started to protest. “You did me a good turn, and I want you to have Mirandy. I really do.”

A gentle rain began to fall. The baby rabbits were asleep in Janie’s lap in the back seat of the car. King and Queenie were in a market basket under Billy’s feet. Davey was balancing a bowl of goldfish, and Butch, terribly excited, was pointing and making impolite noises at the creature with the chin whisker who stood in the trailer and looked bored. Mr. Mott wrung Mr. Murray’s hand in farewell, and he walked down the road toward the bus station. The car began to move down around the curve and the children looked back at the snug little cottage.

222 “Good-by summer,” they called. “Good-by. We’ll be back again next year.”

Mary Lamers
The author of
Cottage on the Curve

Cottage on the Curve

Cottage on the Curve

Janie Murray and her brothers, Billy, James, and Davey were all excited. School was over and they were getting ready to spend the summer at their cottage at Oak Lake. Something exciting always happened for there was swimming and a raft, fishing and hiking, and—a HAUNTED HOUSE!

Wouldn’t you like to meet the Murrays? Fun-loving Dad brought the organ grinder’s monkey home to live with them. To Mom, each child was her favorite. Billy, the oldest of the children, liked to tease sister Jane (as older brothers like to); Jane loved her Mom and Dad and her brothers; she went fishing with them and baited her own hook (she liked hair ribbons, too). James liked to mix things together in bottles and you never knew what might come out of them; Davey, the youngest, collected anything and everything for no reason at all.

The Murrays were constantly getting pets in the strangest way. Butch, the monkey, was part payment of Dad’s fee for a case he worked on. When the doctor visited James who had fallen off the roof, he presented the children with two rabbits—one white and the other coal black. Buick was the next door neighbor’s dog—he was at the Murrays so often, however, people didn’t know to whom he belonged. BUT—wait until you see what, the Murrays got from the cross old hermit who belonged to the haunted house and lived in a chicken coop!

Mystery, excitement, suspense, and action always accompany the Murrays—why not let boys and girls from nine to twelve years accompany them, too?

Dust jacket

Transcriber’s Note

Punctuation and hyphenation have been standardised, including changing numerous semicolons when commas appeared to have been intended, and removing apostrophes from the plural form of proper nouns unless ownership was apparent.

Other changes have been made as follows: