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   Chapter 7 THE PICNIC.

The Old Stone House By Constance Fenimore Woolson Characters: 45248

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

"Monday morning, bright and early, what shall we do to-day?" chanted

Gem, as she entered the dining-room.

"Yes; what shall we do?" repeated Tom; "something out of the common run, of course, for it's vacation, and besides, it will be so hot pretty soon that we can't do anything,-and Hugh's going to New York in the fall,-and Sibyl's going to Saratoga before long, and when I enter college, of course I shan't care about such things any more; so I've got to hurry up."

"Bravo, Tom! you've made out a strong case!" said Hugh, laughing,

"Aunt Faith cannot resist such a mountain of arguments!"

"I do not intend to resist anything reasonable," said Aunt Faith, smiling; "what do you wish to do, Tom?"

"Tableaux!" said Gem, excitedly.

"No; I veto that instanter," said Tom, decidedly. "Girls always want to dress up in old feathers and things, and call themselves kings and queens! For my part, I'm tired of being 'Captain John Smith,' and the 'Sleeping Beauty in the Wood.'"

"May I ask when you took the last-named character?" said Hugh.

"He never took it at all," said Gem, indignantly; "Annie Chase was the Princess, and she looked perfectly beautiful with her sister's satin dress, and pearls, and-"

"There you go!" interrupted Tom; "fuss and feathers, silks and satins!

I was the 'Prince,' wasn't I? and that's the very same thing! Besides,

I've been 'Cupid' over and over again, because I'm the only one who

can hang head downward from the clothes-line as though I was flying.

You can't deny that, Gem Morris!"

"You got up one tableau which was really astonishing," said Hugh; "I remember it very well; an inundation, where all the company in clothes-baskets, were paddling with rulers for their very lives. The effect was thrilling!"

"I remember a charade, too, which was really unique," said Sibyl. "The first part was simply little Carrie Fish standing in the middle of the room; the second and last was audible, but not visible, consisting merely of a volley of sneezes behind the scenes. The whole was supposed to be 'Carry-ca-choo,'-or 'Caricature.'"

"It may all be very funny for you people who only have to look on," said Tom; "but I am tired of the whole thing, and I vote for a picnic."

"Oh, Tom!" said Sibyl in dismay, "if tableaux are old, picnics are worn threadbare!"

"I have not had my share in wearing them, then!" said Tom; "I never went to but one picnic in my life, and then I fell in the river, and had to come home before dinner."

"I have attended a great many," said Sibyl, "and the amount of work I have done in washing dishes and drawing water, casts anything but a pleasant reflection. Last year, when we had that mammoth picnic at Long Point, the gentlemen ordered twelve dozen plates, cups, saucers, goblets, spoons, and forks, to be sent out from a crockery store, in order to save trouble; and when I reached the Point in my fresh, white dress, there they were in crates, covered with straw, just as they stood in the warehouse. The guests were expected in half an hour. I was one of the managers, and, after standing a few moments in dismay, we rolled up our sleeves and began. Two gentlemen and two ladies, in gala attire, washing seventy-two dozen dishes in a violent hurry, with a limited supply of water and towels, on an August afternoon with the thermometer at eighty-eight. That is my idea of a picnic!"

The cousins laughed merrily at Sibyl's description, and Bessie said, "I have never been to a 'full-grown picnic,' as Gem calls it. My experience is confined to the days we used to spend out on the lake shore four or five years ago. We no sooner got there, than all the boys disappeared as if by magic, and we had to do all the work, make the fire, draw the water, and cook the dinner, Then the boys would appear on the scene with dripping hair, eat up everything on the table-cloth, like young bears, and off down the bank again until it was time to go home."

"As you are all giving your ideas of a picnic," said Hugh, "I will give you mine. Ride five miles in a jolting wagon in the hot sun, walk five more through tangled underbrush, arrive at the scene; pick up sticks one hour, try to make the fire burn and the kettle boil another hour; and finally sit down very uncomfortably on the ground, with burnt fingers and limp collar, to eat buttered pickles and vinegared bread, and drink muddy coffee; clear everything up, and ruin your clothes with grease-spots, wristbands hopelessly gone; sit down again under a tree, to hear the young lady you don't like read poetry, while the one you do like goes off before your very eyes with your rival; devoured by mosquitoes, gnats and spiders; ice melted and water tepid; another fire to make, more bad coffee, more grease spots, and a silver spoon lost; hunt for the spoon until dark, and then find it was a mistake; walk back five miles through the underbrush, get into the wagon, perfectly exhausted with heat and fatigue; force yourself to sing until you are as hoarse as a frog, and reach home worn out, wrinkled, haggard, parched with thirst, famished for food, and utterly ruined as to common clothes. That is my idea of a picnic!"

Everybody laughed at this cynical picture, and Aunt Faith said, "I remember just after the war, when a number of our Westerton soldier-boys had returned, it was proposed to celebrate the home-coming by a grand picnic. The project, however, came to the ears of the returned volunteers, and I happened to be present when one of them, Lieutenant John Romer, expressed his opinion. 'See here, Katie,' said he to his sister, 'I understand that you young ladies are getting up a picnic to welcome us back from the war. I wish you would gently extinguish the plan. We have had picnic enough for all our lives; the very sight of a camp-fire and a kettle takes away any romance we may have possessed, and as for out-door coffee, it is fairly hateful to us.'"

"I remember old Deacon Brown used to say, that when, once in ten years, he went to New York to visit his relatives, the first thing they did was to get up a ride into the country for him," said Hugh laughing. "They did not understand that what he wanted was that very bustle and crowd that annoyed them."

"In the mean time," said Tom impatiently, "what has become of my picnic in all this talk?"

"Oh Tom! do you really insist upon it?" said Sibyl with a sigh.

"Of course I do! and the B. B.'s must all be invited, too."

"No, indeed?" said all the family in a chorus, "that is too much."

"I would as soon go into the woods with a set of pirates," said Sibyl.

"They howl so," said Bessie.

"We could never carry enough for them to eat," said Gem.

"I could not take such a responsibility," said Aunt Faith; "something might happen, they might get into the lake."

"They would be sure to get in; they take to the water like young ducks," said Hugh.

Before this mass of testimony, Tom was obliged to give way. "Well," he said, after a pause, "never mind about the B. B.'s so long as you have the picnic."

"Of course we cannot go to-day," began Sibyl.

"Why not?" interposed Tom; "no time like the present. I'll agree to do all the running round; I can run like a tiger."

Sibyl sighed, and glanced out into the sun-shine with a foreboding of heat and freckles.

"Who shall we have?" said Bessie.

"Mr. Leslie will go, I presume," said Aunt Faith; "I know that clergymen often make a holiday of Monday."

Sibyl's face cleared, and she made no further objection to the plan.

"As I do not like to be hurried," continued Aunt Faith, "I propose that we do not start until after dinner; we will have a tea instead of a dinner in the woods, and come home at twilight."

At first Tom objected to this idea, but as the others liked it, he yielded, and the question of invitations was taken up.

"I propose we leave that to Aunt Faith," said Bessie; "if we once begin discussing it, we shall sit here all the morning, for we never can agree."

"Where shall we go?" said Hugh.

Aunt Faith suggested Oak Grove.

"Oh no!" said Tom, "that is too near town. Let us go somewhere ever so far away, so that we shall feel like Robinson Crusoe on a desert island."

Hugh, who had a secret plan for driving a four-in-hand, seconded Tom's idea, and finally it was decided that they should go to Mossy Pond, a beautiful glen ten miles from Westerton, in a rocky region on the lake shore apart from the farming country. Sibyl took the list, and went out to deliver the invitations which Aunt Faith had wisely confined to the immediate neighbor-hood. Mr. Leslie was the only one who lived at some distance, and immediately after the early dinner, Hugh drove over and brought back, as he said, "vi et armis." "Here is Mr. Leslie, Aunt Faith," he called, as he opened the dining-room door. "Walk in, sir, if you please." Having thus safely accomplished his charge, Hugh disappeared to arrange the means of transportation. Aunt Faith supposed they were to go in two wagons drawn by their own bays, and Mr. Marr's blacks. She little knew the truth!

Mr. Leslie thus unceremoniously introduced into the family circle, took a seat at the table, and watched the proceedings with amused interest. "Surely we do not need all that coffee, Mrs. Sheldon," he said, as Aunt Faith filled a tin box with the fragrant mixture,-ground coffee and egg all prepared for the boiling water.

"My only fear is that it will not be enough," replied Aunt Faith, with a smile.

"And those biscuits! Do you keep stores for an army on hand night and day?"

"Oh, no; I sent to a bakery for these. But, with all my efforts, I have not been able to get enough cold meat."

"You say that in the face of this mountain of cold tongue? Do we, then, turn into gormandizers by going a few miles into the country?"

"I fear we do, Mr. Leslie," said Bessie, as she packed the loaves of fresh cake in a long basket. "I, for one, am always ravenous; I do not remember that I ever had as much as I wanted at a picnic."

At this moment Sibyl entered the dining-room, and the color rose in her face as she saw the young clergyman at the table. He rose and offered his hand, as he said, "Good-morning, Miss Warrington, we are, I trust to be companions for the day; I shall take good care of you in the wilderness."

John Leslie's way of speaking was often a puzzle to Aunt Faith; he seemed so frank, and yet if he had planned each sentence, he could not have contrived words so well adapted to carry their point. He always seemed confident that Sibyl agreed with him, and that their views coincided on all points. He took the lead, and never seemed to have a doubt but that she would follow, and, when he was present, Sibyl generally did follow; it was only when he was absent that the wide difference in the motives which actuated their lives became clearly visible, and Aunt Faith saw worldliness on one side, and unworldliness on the other, with an apparently impassible gulf between. When Mr. Leslie spoke, therefore, Sibyl smiled, and took a seat by his side while she occupied herself in wrapping up the cups and saucers ready for the hamper which Nanny and Bridget were packing on the back piazza.

At two o'clock everything was ready, and the family assembled on the front piazza to wait for the expected guests. "Are they all coming, Sibyl?" asked Aunt Faith.

"Most of them, aunt. We shall have Edith Chase and Annie, Lida Powers,

Walter Hart, Rose Saxon and Graham Marr, Mr. Gay, Gideon Fish, William

Mount, and one of the B. B.'s,-Jim Morse."

"Oh, General Putnam!" said Bessie: "so much the better. He will give a military air to the scene."

"Seventeen in all," said Aunt Faith; "the two wagons will be well loaded."

Bessie turned away her head, but not before Mr. Leslie had seen the smile on her face. "Miss Bessie is laughing at the idea of a possible break down," he said: "but for my part I am quite well able to walk home, and even help draw the wagon if necessary."

"Aunt Faith, how could you put Gideon Fish on the list?" said Bessie, as Sibyl and Mr. Leslie strolled off into the garden.

"Because I think you are somewhat unjust to him, Bessie; he has excellent qualities."

"Well, aunt, if you like him, will you be so kind as to entertain him when he comes?" said Bessie impatiently.

"Hey," said Tom, looking up, "Bess is getting mad! What fun!"

"There's Rose Saxon!" said Bessie; "how do you do, Rose? You are the first and shall have the heartiest welcome."

"What has gone wrong, Bessie? There is a wrinkle between your eyes that betokens something vexatious, I know," said Rose, taking a seat on the step.

"It is Gideon Fish," answered Bessie, in a low tone as Aunt Faith went into the sitting-room for a shawl.

"Is he coming?" exclaimed Rose.

"Yes; he was invited, and of course he will not decline when cake and coffee are in question."

"And when Miss Darrell is in question," said Rose, laughing.

"Do not tease, Rose. I am vexed in earnest this time."

"What do you say to having a little fun out of him, Bessie?"

"By all means, if you can extract it from such material."

"Well, then, I have thought of something. Come down in the arbor and I will tell you about it." The two girls walked away, and Aunt Faith was left alone to welcome the guests as they gradually assembled on the piazza. Mr. Gay, the Boston bachelor, was the last to arrive.

"Now we are all here," said Aunt Faith; "I will tell Hugh to have the wagons brought round."

"I will go, Aunt," said Bessie, and running through the house she went down to the stable-yard where Hugh sat expectant in his car of triumph. Slowly the equipage came round the house and drew up in front of the piazza, it was a circus band-wagon, gayly painted, and drawn by four horses, two bays and two blacks, while Hugh as charioteer sat on the high front-seat and held the reins with a practised hand.

"Hugh Warrington!" exclaimed Aunt Faith, "Four horses! I shall never dare to ride after them!"

"Do you suppose we are going to make spectacles of ourselves in that wagon, Hugh?" asked Sibyl scornfully.

"Yes, I suppose you are," replied Hugh, laughing. "Aunt Faith, I have driven a four-in-hand over and over again, so you need not feel alarmed. And, as to the circus-wagon, I consider it the crowning attraction of the picnic."

"Certainly," said Mr. Gay calmly. "The West is a country of new sensations. I vote for the circus-wagon, by all means."

The majority of the guests agreed with Hugh, and climbed into the decorated chariot with great hilarity. Even the fastidious Miss Chase was pleased to be amused with the idea, and quietly secured the seat nearest the driver, which gentle manoeuvre having been observed by Bessie, that wilful young lady took the very last seat at the extreme end of the wagon, and devoted her entire attention to Mr. Walter Hart. The provisions had been sent out in a cart some time previously, and the merry party laughed and talked all the way to Mossy Pond, amused with the sensation they created on the road, amused with themselves, amused with everything; the four-in-hand carried them safely in spite of Aunt Faith's fears, although one of the leaders showed some signs of restlessness, wishing, Hugh said, to have his share of the fun.

Mossy Pond was a small, deep pool, skirted with moss and shaded with evergreens; the brook which issued from it ran down the glen, jumping over the rocks in a series of waterfalls, reaching the lake a quarter of a mile distant where it disappeared under a sand-bar, after the manner of the streams that ran into the western lakes. On the shore the headland was bold, rugged and treeless, commanding a fine view of the water, but back in the glen the shade was dense, and there was a faint spicy odor in the air, coming from the cedars, a rare tree on the fresh-water seas. Altogether it was a wild, secluded spot, and but few of the company had ever visited it, so that the charm of novelty was added to the other attractions, and parties of explorers scaled the rock, penetrated up the glen or down towards the lake shore, coming back with wild-flowers, vines, cones, and mosses,-treasures of the forest by whose aid they transformed themselves into nymphs and woodmen, not even Aunt Faith escaping without a spray of grasses in her hat.

There were however some disadvantages in the wildness of the locality; as there was no shed for the horses. Hugh and Jonas the man-servant were obliged to unharness them and fasten them as well as they could to the trees, not without misgivings as to the result; but the blacks and bays stood quietly eating their dinner, and, at length, leaving them to the care of Jonas, Hugh went back to the glen to assist in making the fire.

"Mr. Warrington, you are not to do anything," said Rose Saxon as he approached; "it is understood that you regard picnics as devices for extracting severe labor from unwilling young men, and we have resolved to convince you of your error. This, sir, is a strong-minded picnic; we are standing upon our rights, and request you to take a back seat upon that log with the other despots, and see us throw off our chains."

On the log, in a row, sat all the gentlemen of the party,-Mr. Gay,

Mr. Leslie, Graham Marr, Walter Hart, William Mount, Tom, and "General

Putman," Hugh gravely joined the band. "When are you going to throw

off the chains, Miss Saxon?" he asked.

"We are throwing them off now. Don't you hear them clank?"

"Not a clank!" said Hugh.

"That is because you do not choose to hear; you will find, sir, that we are no longer down-trodden," said Rose, brandishing a carving-knife which she had just unpacked.

"If there is anything down-trodden here except the grass, I shall like to know it," said Hugh. "For my part I feel quite sorry for the tender little blades under the ruthless tread of fourteen French heels."

Here there was a general laugh, and all the pretty little boots peeping in and out, disappeared as if by magic, all save the sturdy Balmorals of Gem and her friend Annie Chase, darting hither and thither in search of sticks.

The ladies were very busy. They were going to make a fire, and such a fire! They were going to make coffee, and such coffee. The supper was to be altogether unparalleled in picnic annals, and it was to be prepared by feminine hands alone.

"See how glorious it burns!" exclaimed Rose, as the first flame shot up from the pile of sticks.

"See how gloriously it smokes!" said Hugh, as the fickle blaze vanished, and Rose inhaled a puff of the stinging smoke.

"I can make it burn!" said Bessie, coming to the rescue with fresh newspapers. A match,-another blaze,-another cry of exultation,-another failure, and a red burn on Bessie's hand to mark it.

"Let me try," said Edith Chase, kneeling gracefully beside the obstinate pile. More newspapers, more flames, more smoke, ending in another failure, and a grimy mark on Miss Chase's delicate dress.

"Oh ye strong-minded!" said Hugh, jumping up, and lifting the pile of sticks; "don't you know that you cannot start a fire in the sunshine? Down under this stump, now, it will burn like a furnace." So saying, Hugh rearranged the fuel, while Rose coughed, Edith furtively rubbed her dress, and Bessie bound up her burned hand in her handkerchief. At this moment Sibyl came into view, carrying a pail of water. Mr. Leslie got up and took the pail out of her hand in spite of her objections. "It is too heavy for you," he said decidedly; "don't attempt anything of the kind again, I beg."

"The kettle must be hung up," said Lida Powers, coming forward with a tea-kettle in her hand. Will Mount and Walter Hart understood this duty, while Gideon Fish and Mr. Gay laid the cloth, the former eyeing the cake with pleasant anticipation.

"It seems to me, young ladies, that the gentlemen are doing the work after all," said Aunt Faith.

"Of course, aunt," said Hugh, blowing his fire with a scarlet face: "did I not predict we should have to work like slaves."

"The meat! The meat! Turk has got the meat!" cried Gem from a neighboring rock, where she and Annie where making wreaths of wild flowers. There was a general exclamation of dismay as the curly back of the old depredator was seen through the trees making off with the booty. "How did Turk get here?" asked Aunt Faith; "Tom, I suspect you are the culprit!"

"Well, aunt, I just thought I'd let him come out with Jones and the cart; they might be of use, you know, in case of tramps or gipsies."

"They! You do not mean to say all the dogs are here?"

But doubt was soon dispelled by the appearance of Pete Trone in person, attracted by the provisions spread out upon the ground. Too well-bred to snatch,-for, as Tom said, "Pete was a truly gentlemanly dog,"-Pete sat upon his hind legs with fore paws drooping on his breast, eying the company gravely as if to call attention to his polite demeanor. "He certainly is a funny little fellow," said Rose Saxon, as Hugh gave the terrier a fragment of cake.

"He is the wisest dog I ever saw," said Hugh.

"There is no end to his knowledge. I was fishing one day last summer down over the dam at Broad River, and caught a large cat-fish. My line was too slender to haul him up, and I was considering what to do when, much to my astonishment, Pete jumped over, ran out on the stones, and caught the struggling fish in his mouth. That was the first time I ever heard of a dog going fishing."

"The rascal seems to reason, too. Once I belonged to the choir, you remember, and of course I could not allow Pete to go to rehearsals, although he was in the habit of following me almost everywhere else. So, after many futile attempts to send him back, and consequent annoyance at the church, one Saturday before starting, I shut him up in the carriage-house and fastened the door. I looked back several times but saw nothing of Pete, and was congratulating myself upon the success of my plan, when, just before I reached the church, at the corner of Huron and South Streets, there he was waiting for me. He had escaped, gone down town another way, and did not show himself until I was so far from home that he knew I would not take him back. Then, what did he do, as soon as he saw me coming, but up on his hind legs with the most deprecating air, sitting there, a ridiculous little black image on the pavement, so that everybody laughed to see him."

The meal was a merry one although the meat was gone and the cream sour

; there was an abundance of cake, the coffee was strong, and the good spirits of the company supplied the rest.

"There is no more sugar for your coffee, Mr. Warrington," said Edith

Chase, as she poured out Hugh's second cup.

"Smile on it, please," said Hugh, gayly.

"Now, Miss Chase, if you neglect my cup any longer," said Walter Hart,

"I shall grow desperate; I shall be obliged to give you-"

"Fitz," interrupted Hugh.

"Bad puns are excluded from this picnic," said Rose Saxon; "and, by the way, Mr. Warrington, why do you drop the first syllable of your name?"

"Because it is never pronounced rightly," said Hugh; "it is either called 'Fitz-He-yew,' or 'Fitchew.'"

"Pronunciation is a matter of taste," said Mr. Leslie, laughing. "A lady once asked me if I did not think Walter Scott's Rock-a-by was a 'sweet thing.' At first I supposed she was alluding to some cradle-song with which I was not familiar, and it was sometime before I discovered that she meant Rokeby."

"I have often been puzzled myself with the names of books," said Aunt

Faith. "Years ago there was a book published called Ivar or the

Skujts-boy? I liked it but I never dared to venture on the name."

"And since then," said Mr. Gay, "the names of the heroes and heroines in magazine-stories are really astonishing. The favorite letter, now is 'Y.' They have 'y's' in the most unexpected places. Such names as 'Vivian' and 'Willis,' for instance. They spell them 'Vyvyan' and 'Wyllys'"

The meal over, the company dispersed through the woods. Graham Marr took a book from his pocket. "Miss Warrington," he said, in his slow way, "I have brought out a new poem; if you care to hear it, there is a mossy rock which will make an admirable sofa."

Sibyl smiled and accepted this proposal, seating herself on a heap of shawls, and looking at languid Graham as he read, with much apparent interest.

Mr. Leslie was sitting by Aunt Faith's side under the trees at some distance. "Mrs. Sheldon, I have a plan for yourself and Miss Warrington," he said, after a pause. "You have been kind enough to take an interest in Margaret Brown, and I know you will like to help her through the summer. The warm weather is telling on her strength; she has not been able to sew as steadily as usual, and she needs an entire rest. Do you think you could, between you, advance her a small sum of money? She will repay you with her work in the fall."

"I shall be glad to help her," said Aunt Faith; "I consider it a precious opportunity to help a truly deserving woman."

"And Miss Warrington will aid her also," said Mr. Leslie. Aunt Faith looked towards the rock and caught the smile with which Sibyl received some remark of the reader's.

"I cannot answer for Sibyl," she said gravely; "she is going soon to

Saratoga, and she is much occupied with her preparations."

"To Saratoga?" repeated Mr. Leslie; "I was not aware of that. Will she be long away?"

"It is uncertain how long; she may return home for a short visit before she goes to Washington for the winter," replied Aunt Faith. "I shall miss her, but I must make up my mind to losing her before long. Sibyl is very fond of fashionable life and gayety." Aunt Faith spoke with a purpose; she wished to open the young clergyman's eyes to her niece's faults.

Mr. Leslie did not reply immediately; after a while he rose and stood leaning against a tree. "Mrs. Sheldon," he said, looking down at her with a smile, "you will not lose Sibyl."

"What do you mean, Mr. Leslie?"

"Only this; she will not go to Saratoga," replied the clergyman, walking away towards the ravine.

"Well!" thought Aunt Faith, as she recovered from her astonishment, "if I did not know Sibyl so well, I should be inclined to think Mr. Leslie was right. If any one can break through her worldliness, he can; but I fear it is too strong even for him."

In the meanwhile the rest of the party were loitering in the glen by the brook. Gideon Fish after gorging himself with jelly-cake, was inclined to be sportive.

"Oh!" he cried, throwing himself back upon the moss, "I feel like a child let loose from school! Let us indulge our lighter natures; let us for once give up deep thought! Mr. Leslie, it will do you good also. I remember once when some of my college-mates happened to meet at our house last summer, we were sitting on the piazza talking together, and all unwittingly we got so deep down among the ponderous mysteries of psychology; so wrought with the mighty thoughts evolved from our own brains; so uplifted in grappling with gigantic reasonings, that, fearful for our very sanity, we rushed out upon the lawn like children; we rolled upon the grass; we found a ball and tossed to each other; anything,-anything to keep ourselves down to earth."

"But, Gideon," said Mr. Leslie, smiling, "my reason is in no danger of any such overthrow. I never climbed to such heights as you describe."

"Probably not; very few, if any, mortal minds have ever ascended as high as ours did that afternoon," replied Gideon. "Miss Darrell, I see a delicate little tendril on the other side of the brook. Shall we go over and pluck it?"

"No," said Bessie, shortly; "I don't care for tendrils."

"I will go with you, Mr. Fish," said Rose Saxon rising, and of course Gideon was obliged to accompany her, although she was not the companion he preferred. As Rose turned away, she looked meaningly at Bessie, who started, and then smiled to herself. After five or ten minutes when the tendril-hunters had disappeared on the other side of the glen, Bessie suddenly proposed that they should all cross over, and, after some persuasion, she succeeded in getting the whole party across the brook. Then she lured them on slowly, turning here and there, until she caught the sound of voices. "Hush!" she said, "what is that?" They all stopped, and distinctly heard Rose Saxon's voice, somewhat louder than usual, coming from behind some high bushes. "No, Mr. Fish!" she said, emphatically, "it can never be. I must request you to say no more; this subject must be set at rest forever." Then they heard Gideon; "Excuse me Miss Saxon, but-" "Not another word, Mr. Fish!" interrupted Rose, cutting short his sentence. "I would not wound you needlessly, but we are not suited to each other. I have long known your secret,-I have tried to ward off this avowal,-I beg you to say no more."

"Miss Saxon, I assure you-" began Gideon, in an agitated voice, but Rose stopped him again; "Mr. Fish, if you will persist in speaking, I must leave you," she said, pushing aside the bushes and disclosing the party on the other side to her companion's gaze. "What, Bessie!-all of you here? How very embarrassing!" Gideon Fish gave one look at the company and then turned and retreated down the glen; when he was out of hearing, the two girls ran away into the wood to indulge in a hearty laugh. They made no confessions to the others, but every one suspected the truth, and when poor Gideon returned to take them aside, one by one, and assure them that he had "no idea what Miss Saxon meant," that he "admired her exceedingly, but as for anything serious the thought had never occurred to him," that he was "speaking to her of the tendrils, when suddenly, without any connection, she began talking in the most singular way," his auditors would laugh merrily and turn away, leaving Gideon more miserable than ever.

"My good fellow," said Hugh gravely, when his turn came, "let me give you a piece of advice. Don't try to back out of it now. We all heard you; and we all feel for you. Miss Saxon is a charming young lady, but if she does not like you, you must bear it like a man."

"But I never intended,-I never thought of such a thing,-it is all a mistake!" stammered the unfortunate Gideon.

"Of course it was a mistake," replied Hugh. "You thought she liked you and she didn't. If I was you I wouldn't say any more about it."

So poor Gideon got but cold comfort in his trouble. He wandered about looking half-angry, half-perplexed; he almost began to think he had said something to Rose, after all!

"The mighty thoughts evolved from his brain are in some confusion, I fear," whispered Bessie to Rose; "he will have no trouble in keeping himself down to earth this afternoon, I think."

After some hours, the party assembled in the glen to join in a round game. "It is very dark," said Aunt Faith, looking up through the thick foliage; "I fear we are going to have a storm."

"Let us run down to the lakeshore and look," said Bessie, and several of the young people started down the glen, followed by the rest of the party at a slower pace; all but Sibyl who still remained on the rock with Graham Marr.

When they reached the beach, a threatening expanse of sky and water met their gaze; the lake was unusually still, but its blue changed into a leaden gray, and out in the west a white streak followed by a black line told of the approaching squall. In the south, and east, the sky was clear and summer-like, but from the north-west great clouds came rolling up, looking black and menacing, and the air was oppressively close.

"A thunder-storm!" said Hugh, "and close upon us too!"

"Oh, I am so terribly afraid of thunder!" said Edith Chase, turning pale. "What shall we do?"

"Why did we not notice the storm before?" said Aunt Faith, in dismay; "it must have been some time coming up."

"No, Aunt," said Bessie; "probably not more than ten minutes. That is what I mean when I call the western lakes treacherous; the changes are so sudden."

"You are right, Miss Darrell," said Mr. Gay, looking over the dark water with an uneasy expression in his face; "I don't think much of these fresh water mill-ponds. On the ocean, now, we know what to expect."

"Isn't there some house near by, Hugh?" asked Aunt Faith.

"No, Aunt. I selected this place because it was so solitary, you remember; there is no house within two miles."

"Could we not get there, by driving rapidly, before the storm reaches us?" said Mr. Gay, mindful of his rheumatism.

"I am afraid not, sir," replied Hugh: "it would take some time to harness the horses, and besides, the house is not on the road, but across the fields towards the south."

"What shall we do?" said Edith Chase, as the sullen water began to break with a low sound on the beach at her feet.

"The lake is beginning to growl already," said Hugh. "Come, Aunt Faith, let us go back to the woods; we will make the best shelter we can for you, all. A summer thunder-storm is not such a terrible disaster after all."

"We can't trim up the wagon with all the beautiful wreaths we made," lamented Gem. "It's too bad!"

"The shower will prevent the show," said Hugh, laughing.

"Why is Hugh like Tennyson's Brook," said Rose Saxon, as the party made their way back to the glen.

"Because he is idyl," said Bessie.

"Good, but not correct. Because he,-

'Chatters, chatters, as he goes,

Till all our nerves do quiver,-

For we may talk, or we may stop,

But Hugh puns on forever,


Hugh puns on forever.'"

sang Rose, taking up the well-known air as she sprang over the rocks in advance of the rest.

"We shall have to make an impromptu wigwam under the shelter of those rocks and beech-trees," said Mr. Leslie, collecting the shawls and water-proof cloaks; "the foliage of the beech is very thick, and the rock will protect you from the west, in which direction the storm is coming. Mr. Marr, please throw down those shawls."

"What is the matter, Mr. Leslie?" said Sibyl, descending from her perch.

"A thunder-storm!" said Hugh, "and close upon us, too!"

"Surely, then, you are not thinking of remaining here under the trees," said Graham Marr, hastily putting on his water-proof coat.

"The ladies will be in more danger from the drenching rain, than from the lightning," replied Mr. Leslie, breaking down branches for his wigwam. "Here, Jonas! Jonas! have you a hatchet there?"

But Jonas did not answer, and Hugh, upon going up to the platform, discovered that he had started homeward with his cart, having first harnessed the four-in-hand. The horses were standing tied to the trees, but they looked uneasy, and one of the leaders pawed the ground restlessly. "I shall have to stay here with them," thought Hugh, "or they may break away when the storm strikes them." He ran back and called over the edge of the cliff. "Jonas has gone home, Mr. Leslie, and I shall be obliged to stay with the horses; but here is the hatchet."

"Very well!" said the clergyman, catching the hatchet with the dexterity of an Indian as Hugh threw it down; "go back to the horses, Mr. Warrington. We can attend to the ladies."

Under his direction an impromptu wigwam was speedily built of long boughs, with the high rock as a background; this was thatched with bushes, and the shawls and cloaks spread over the whole as the first muttering of thunder was heard. "Oh!" said Edith Chase, "what shall I do? I cannot stand the lightning!"

"Come inside with me!" said Aunt Faith; "you can hide your head in my lap."

The ladies hurried inside the wigwam, Aunt Faith, Sibyl, Rose Saxon,

Edith Chase, Lida Powers, Bessie, Annie Chase and Gem.

"I see there is room for the gentlemen, too," said Gideon Fish, creeping in.

"I really think we had better all be together," said Graham Marr, following his example.

"Tom!" called Aunt Faith, pulling aside a cloak that formed part of the wall, "come inside directly."

"Oh, Aunt Faith! we've found a splendid cave up here; it holds Jim and me first-rate," answered a voice from above.

"They've squeezed themselves into a little cranny in the rock, Mrs. Sheldon," said Mr. Leslie, looking up and laughing to see the 'splendid cave;' "I think they will keep dry by force of compression."

"Aren't you coming inside, Mr. Mount?" said Lida Powers.

"No. I shall go and help Hugh with the horses; you had better come too, Walter. We may have some trouble with them."

"Mr. Leslie, you will join us, I hope?" said Rose Saxon, peeping out from between the leaves.

"I think not, Miss Rose. I am hardened, you know; I have camped out in winter storms too many times to dread a July shower. But I insist upon Mr. Gay's going inside. The 'Boston man' will now have an opportunity; he can 'to a wigwam with a squaw go,'" quoted Mr. Leslie, helping the old bachelor under the overhanging branches.

In a few moments the storm was upon them; first a tornado of wind, then intense and almost continuous lightning, followed by heavy rolling thunder. Edith Chase trembled, and buried her face in her hands.

"This war of the elements affects my nerves," whispered Graham to

Sibyl, by whose side he was crouching.

"Does it?" she replied coldly; "I was not aware you were so timid."

Then came the rain, falling in sheets, the drenching torrent of a summer thunder-shower. In spite of the foliage, the wet began to penetrate the wigwam; Sibyl, who sat on the outside of the huddled circle, felt the drops on her shoulder through her light dress.

"Take this coat, Miss Warrington," said Mr. Leslie, stooping down and parting the branches.

"Oh no!" replied Sibyl; "you need it more than I do."

But the coat was thrown around her, and Mr. Leslie was gone before she could remonstrate.

At last, after half an hour, the fury of the storm was over, but the rain still fell steadily.

"I am afraid it will not clear immediately," said Mr. Leslie, coming to the wigwam entrance; "I have been down to the lake, and the sky looks as though we should have a wet night."

"How dark it is!" said Aunt Faith; "What time is it?"

"Half-past seven," said Mr. Leslie, looking at his watch.

"Oh, how shall we ever get home?" sighed Edith Chase.

"We had better start immediately, I think," said Mr. Gay; "it will be very unpleasant to ride in the darkness as well as in the rain."

"And the horses!" said Lida Powers; "I hope they will be quiet. That black was inclined to dance a little when we came out."

"Now, ladies!" said Mr. Leslie, coming towards the wigwam again, "I have been up on the plateau; the horses are ready, and the sooner we start the better, as more black clouds are gathering in the west. Mrs. Sheldon, let me help you up the bank."

"Oh, Mr. Leslie, how wet you are!" exclaimed Aunt Faith, as she emerged from the wigwam. "Where is your coat?"

"Miss Warrington has it," he replied; "I made her take it."

"Here it is, Mr. Leslie," said Sibyl, stepping from under cover.

"Keep it, Sibyl," said the clergyman in a low tone. "It gives me pleasure to see you protected."

"It is still raining steadily, I perceive," said Graham Marr, peeping out from the sheltering branches; "don't you think we had better remain here awhile longer, ladies?"

"The rain won't wash us away, Graham," said his cousin Rose.

"It washes out dyes, however? and shows us all in our true colors," whispered Bessie to Lida Powers. "Look at Graham! He looks like a faded ray!"

"He always was a fair-weather piece of goods," answered Lida; "high color, you know, don't stand soaking."

Reaching the wagon, the company climbed inside, the cushions had been kept dry, but the floor was wet, and the rain still fell with the persistence that betokens what farmers call a "steady soaker." Edith Chase sat with Aunt Faith at the rear end of the wagon, but Bessie in Edith's old place, felt her spirits rising with every plunge of the restless leaders.

"Do you think you can manage them, Hugh?" she whispered, just before they started.

"I hope so," he replied confidently. But the blacks had had their nerves tried by the flies, the thunder, and the lightning; besides, they had never been driven four-in-hand before, and they had their doubts as to what the bays were doing behind them. For the first mile or two they kept the road, and then they whirled suddenly round to the left, and stood still.

"Oh!" cried Edith Chase, "we shall all be killed!"

However, after some persuasion, the blacks started on again as suddenly as they had stopped, for wonderful are the ways of balky horses. But the increasing darkness brought new terror; black clouds settled down over the earth and the narrow, winding road grew invisible before them. After several more miles a flash of lightning and a peal of thunder startled the party, the leaders veered round again, jumping violently, and carrying the wagon perilously near the gully. William Mount and Walter Hart sprang to the horses' heads, while the ladies screamed in concert. Aunt Faith was an arrant coward where riding was concerned. "I would rather get out and walk all the way home than sit in this wagon a moment longer," she said, earnestly.

"Take me with you, aunt," said Gem, who was crying aloud.

"I will go, too," said Edith Chase, climbing down with alacrity; "it cannot be very far, now."

"We are still four miles from Westerton," said Hugh. "There is no danger, Aunt Faith; do get in again. The horses are only a little balky; they will be quiet soon."

"Do you call that quiet?" said Rose Saxon, as a flash of lightning revealed the plunging leaders with William Mount and Walter Hart at their heads.

"By all means, let us walk," said Graham Marr, getting out quickly.

"Of course if the ladies insist upon walking, it is our duty to accompany them," said Gideon Fish, following his example.

"Mrs. Sheldon," said Mr. Gay, "if you will walk, pray take my arm."

"Miss Darrell, I shall be happy to help you down," said Gideon Fish.

"Thank you, but I shall stay where I am; I am not at all afraid," replied Bessie.

After a few moments, the horses started again; and the walking party plodded along behind; Hugh drove very slowly so as to keep near them, and, in the darkness, Bessie climbed up on the driver's seat beside him. "Bravo, little woman! I knew you would not be afraid," said Hugh.

"Afraid, Hugh! With you!" exclaimed Bessie.

At the other end of the wagon sat Sibyl and Mr. Leslie, who also preferred the wagon to the road. The rain still fell, and the wind had grown cold, but although Sibyl still wore the coat, her companion did not seem to notice his uncovered shoulders. They talked earnestly together in low tones all the way, and when at last the lights of Westerton appeared in the darkness ahead, and the pedestrians, emboldened by these signs of civilization, took their seats in the wagon again, Sibyl's face was so bright that Aunt Faith noticed it. "You do not look at all cold, my dear," she said, as the light from the first street lamps fell across the wagon, "and yet the air is very chilly."

"I fear I shall have an attack of dumb-ague," said Graham Marr, shivering.

Edith Chase sat on the edge of the seat, ready to spring, watching the leaders with intent gaze; as they approached the old stone house she heaved a deep sigh of relief. "I am so glad it is over," she said, audibly.

"I hope you will all come in and have a cup of hot coffee after the exposure," said Aunt Faith, as, one by one, the tired guests climbed down from the circus-wagon.

"We are all so wet, I think we had better go directly home," said

Lida Powers.

"Thank you, Mrs. Sheldon," said Edith Chase, "but we really must go directly home; come, Annie."

"Excuse me, Mrs. Sheldon," said Mr. Gay, "but my seventy years require hot flannels. Good-night."

Mr. Leslie had accompanied Sibyl up the long walk to the piazza in order to take back his coat when she was under shelter. All the other guests made their excuses at the gate, all but Gideon Fish, and when Bessie saw him lingering, she pretended to be very obtuse. "Well, as you won't any of you come in, I will say 'good-night' to all of you," she said, closing the gate and turning away. "I couldn't help it, Aunt Faith," she whispered, as they went up the walk; "Gideon wanted some of your coffee, but we have had enough of him for one day, I think." Mr. Leslie, however, put on his coat and took his coffee with the cousins as though unconscious of his wet clothes; Hugh made up a bright wood fire on the hearth, and they all talked over the incidents of the day, and laughed over its disasters together. It is always amusing to look back on discomfort when it is well over.

"Where now is your beautiful 'Monday morning, bright and early,' Tom?" said Aunt Faith, remembering the conversation at the breakfast-table.

"Sic transit gloria Monday!" said Hugh.

"Incorrigible," said Mr. Leslie, laughing as he said good-night.

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