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The Road to Providence By Maria Thompson Daviess Characters: 32329

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

Wednesday morning dawned clear and bright. From over Providence Nob the round red old sun looked jovially and encouragingly down upon Providence, up and stirring at an unusually early hour, for in the mid-week came Sewing Circle day and the usual routine of work must be laid by before the noon meal, and every housewife in condition to forgather at the appointed place on the stroke of one. Mrs. Peavey had aroused the protesting Buck at the peep of dawn, the Pikes were all up and breakfasting by the first rays of light that fell over the Ridge, and the Hoover biscuits had been baked in the Pratt oven and handed across the fence fifteen minutes agone. Down the road Mr. Petway was energetically taking down the store shutters and Mr. Mosbey was building the blacksmith shop fire. Cindy had milked and started breakfast and Mother Mayberry had begun the difficult task of getting the Doctor up and ready for the morning meal. Martin Luther had had a glass of warm milk and was ready for an energetic attack upon his first repast.

Above, in her room under the gables, the singer lady had been awakened by the brushing of a white-capped old locust bough against her casement as it attempted to climb with all its bloom into her dormer window. As she looked through the mist, a long golden shaft of light shot across the white flowers and turned the tender green leaves into a bright yellow. Suddenly a desire to get up and look across at the Nob possessed her, for the arrival of the sun upon the scene of action was a sight that held the decided charm of novelty. And on this particular morning she found it more than worth while. Providence lay at her feet like a great bouquet of lilacs, locust and fruit blossoms. The early mist was shot through with long spears of gold and the pale smoke curled up from the brick chimneys and mingled its pungent wood-odor with the perfume laden air. She drank in great drafts of exhilaration and delighted her eyes with the picture for a number of minutes, until an intoxicating breakfast aroma began to steal up from Cindy's domain. Then, spurred by a positive agony of hunger, it took the singer lady the fewest possible number of minutes to complete a dainty and most ravishing breakfast toilet.

"Why, honey-bird," exclaimed Mother Mayberry as she descended the steps and found them all at breakfast in the wide-open dining-room, "what did you get up so soon for? It's Wednesday and the Sewing Circle meets with me, so Cindy and us must be a-stirring, but I had a breakfast in my mind for you two hours from now. You hadn't oughter done it. Them ain't orders in your prescription."

"I'm so hungry," she pleaded with a most wickedly humble glance at the Doctor, who was busy consuming muffins and chicken gravy. "Can't I have a breakfast now, Doctor-and the other one two hours later? Please!"

"Yes," answered the Doctor, "but don't forget the two glasses of cream and dinner and some of the Sewing Party refreshments, to say nothing of supper-and are you going to make custards for us to eat before seeking our downy couches?"

"The cup custards are going to be part of the Sewing Circle refreshments," his mother answered him. "I want to show off my teaching to the Providence folks. Give the child some chicken, Tom Mayberry, and then you can go to your work. We don't want you underfoot."

"Don't you need my help?" asked the Doctor, as, in a disobedient frame of mind, he lingered at the table to watch the singer lady begin operations on her dainty breakfast.

"Well, you can set here and see that Elinory gets all she wants and more too, but I must be a-doing around. There cames the Deacon! I wonder what the matter is!" And Mother Mayberry hurried out of the house and down to the front gate to meet the Deacon who was coming slowly up the Road.

"Good morning, Sister Mayberry," he said cheerily enough, though there was an expression of anxiety on his gentle old face. "I thought I would find you up, even at this unusually early hour. Your lamp is always burning to meet emergencies. Mrs. Bostick is not well this morning and I came up to see if you could find a moment to step down to see her soon. I also wanted to ask Thomas to stop in for a moment on his way over to Flat Rock. I am sure that she is not at all ill, but I am just overly anxious."

"Why, of course, we will both come right away, Deacon! What did she eat last night for supper? She oughter be careful about her night eating."

"Let me see," answered the Deacon thoughtfully, "I think we both had a portion of milk and toast administered by our young sister, Eliza Pike. I recall I pleaded for some of the peaches, still in the jar you gave Mrs. Bostick, but was sternly denied." As he spoke the Deacon beamed with affectionate pride over having been vanquished by the stern Eliza.

Just at this moment from around the corner of the Pike home came the young woman in question, with a pitcher in one hand and a covered dish in the other. Ez followed her with a plate wrapped in a napkin, and Billy brought up the rear with a bucket of cool water which he sloshed over his bare feet with every step.

"Why, Deacon," demanded Eliza sternly, "you ain't gone and et breakfast with Mother Mayberry, when I told you about Maw making light rolls before she went to bed 'cause to-day is Wednesday?"

"No, Eliza," answered the Deacon meekly, with a delighted glance at Mother Mayberry out of the corner of his eye. "Neither Mrs. Bostick nor I would think of breakfasting without your superintendence. I was just starting over to tell you that she felt indisposed and would like to see you and Sister Mayberry, along with the Doctor, later in the day."

"Well," answered Eliza confidently, "I think I can tend to her if Mother Mayberry is too busy to come. I was a-going to watch for Doctor Tom and ask him in anyway. Please come on home, Deacon, 'fore the rolls get cold and the scrambled eggs set. Ez, hold the plate straight or the butter will run outen the rolls! Please come on, Deacon!"

"Yes, Deacon, go along with her right away," answered Mother Mayberry, as her eyes rested on the serious face of the ministering child with a peculiar tenderness tinged with respect. "And, 'Liza, honey, stop by and tell me how Mis' Bostick does when you come back, and let me know if you need me to help you any."

"Yes'm, Mother Mayberry," answered Eliza with a flash of pure joy shining in her devoted little face when she found that she was not to be supplanted in her attendance on her charges. "I was a-coming to see you this morning anyway about the place Mr. Mosbey burned his finger and I tied up last night. Please come on, Deacon!"

"And a little child shall lead them," said Mother Mayberry to herself, as she watched the breakfast party down the road. Martin Luther had come out from the table by this time and now trotted along at the Deacon's heels like a replete and contented puppy. Ez held the plate carefully and Billy seemed about sure of arriving at his destination with at least half the bucket of cool water. "Yes, a little child-but some children are borned with a full-growed heart."

And true to her promise Eliza appeared an hour or two later to hold serious consultation over the blacksmithing finger down the Road.

"'Liza," said Mother Mayberry as she prepared a stall for the finger and poured a cooling lotion in a small bottle for which the child waited eagerly, "you are a-doing the right thing to take nice things to Mis' Bostick and the Deacon and I'm proud of your being so kind and thoughtful. Do they ever ask you where you bring 'em from?"

"I always tell 'em, Mother Mayberry. Deacon said I oughtn't to get things from other folks to bring to 'em, but I told him that you and Mis' Pratt and Mis' Mosbey and Mis' Peavey would be mad at me if I just took things from Maw to 'em and slighted they cooking. I pick out the best things everybody makes. Maw's light rolls, Mis' Pratt's sunshine cake and cream potatoes, Cindy's chicken and Mis' Peavey for baked hash. I took the custards from Miss Elinory to please her; but Mis' Mosbey's is better. I wanted 'em to have the best they is on the Road, 'cause they is old and they is our'n."

"Bless your dear little heart, the best they shall have always!" exclaimed Mother Mayberry, as she hugged her small confrere close against her side and wiped away a tear with a quick gesture. "Now you can go fix up Nath Mosbey's finger to suit your mind, Sister Pike," she added with a laugh as she, bestowed the bottle.

The rest of the morning was filled to the minute for the Mayberry household, which seemed possessed with a frenzy of polishing and garnishing. After Cindy had done her worst with broom and mop, Mother Mayberry with feather duster and cloth, Miss Wingate threw her energies with abandon into the accomplishing of a most artistic scheme of decoration. She set tall jars of white locust blossoms in the hall which shone out mystically in the cool dusk. She mingled lilac and red bud, cherry blossoms and narcissus and trailed long vines of honeysuckle over every possible place.

"Dearie me," said Mother Mayberry, as she paused in her busy manoeuvers to take in what Miss Wingate proudly declared to be the completed effect, "everybody will think they have walked into a flower show. I'm sorry I never thought of inviting in the outdoors to any of my parties before. I wonder if some of the meek folks, that our dear Lord told about being invited in from the byways and hedges, mightn't a-brought some of the hedge blooms along into the feast with 'em. Thank you, child, the prettiness will feed everybody's eye, I know, but you'd better run along and get to whipping on that custard for they stomicks. This here is a Mission Circle, but it have got a good knife and fork by-law to it. Make a plenty and if we feel well disposed toward Tom Mayberry, come bedtime, we may feed him a half dozen."

And in accordance with time-honored custom the stroke of one found the Providence matrons grouped along the Road and up Mother Mayberry's front walk, in the act of assembling for the good work in hand.

"Come in, everybody," exclaimed Mother Mayberry, as she welcomed them from the front steps. "I'm mighty glad all are on time, for I have got the best of things to tell, as I have been saving by the hardest for three days. A woman holding back news is mighty like root-beer, liable to pop the cork and foam over in spite of all."

"I'm mighty glad to hear something good," said Mrs. Peavey in a doleful tone. "Looks like the world have got into astonishing misery. Did you all read in the Bolivar Herald last week about that explode in a mine in Delyware; a terrible flood in Louisianny and the man that killed his wife and six children in Kansas? I don't know what we're a-coming to. I told Mr. Peavey and Buck this morning, but they ain't either of 'em got any sympathy. They just went on talking about the good trade Mr. Hoover made in hogs over to Springfield and the fine clover stand they have got in the north field."

By this time the assembly had removed their hats, laid them on Mother Mayberry's snowy bed and settled themselves in rocking-chairs that had been collected from all over the house for the occasion. Gay sewing bags had been produced and the armor of thimbles and scissors had been buckled on. Mother Mayberry still stood in the center of the room watching to see that all of her guests were comfortably seated.

"Them were mighty bad happenings, Mis' Peavey, and I know we all feel for such trouble being sent on the Lord's people," said Mother Mayberry seriously, though a smile quirked at the corners of the Widow Pratt's pretty mouth and young Mrs. Nath Mosbey bent over to hunt in her bag for an unnecessary spool of thread. Mrs. Peavey's nature was of the genus kill-joy, and it was hard to steer her into the peaceful waters of social enjoyment.

"I don't think any of that is as bad as three divorce cases I read about in a town paper that Mr. Petway wrapped up some calico for me in," answered Mrs. Peavey, continuing her lamentations over conditions in general, which they all knew would get to be over conditions in particular if something did not intervene to stop the tide of her dissatisfaction.

"Divorces oughtn't to be allowed by the United States," answered Mrs. Pike decidedly. "They are too many people in the world that don't seem to be able to hitch up together, without letting folks already geared roam loose again. But what's the news, Sister Mayberry?" There came times when only Judy Pike's uncompromising veto could lay Mrs. Peavey on the table.

"Well, what do you think! Tom Mayberry have got this Providence Meeting-house Sewing Circle a good big sewing order from the United States Government. Night drawers and aprons and chimeses and all sorts of things and-"

"Lands alive, Sister Mayberry, you must be outen your head!" exclaimed Mrs. Peavey with her usual fear-the-worst manner. "What earthly use can the United States Government have for night drawers and chimeses?"

"Now, Hettie Ann, you didn't let me have my say out," remonstrated Mother Mayberry as they all laughed merrily at Mrs. Peavey's scandalized remonstrance. "They are for them poor misfortunates over at Flat Rock what the Government have sent Tom down here to study about, so he can find the bug that makes the disease and stop it from spreading everywhere. While he's a-working with 'em he has to see that they are provided for; and they condition are shameful. He wants outfits for the women and children and Mr. Petway have the order to buy the men's things down in the City for him. He's a-going to pay us good prices for the work and it will mean a lot of money for the carpet and the repair fund. A quarter apiece for the little night drawers without feet to 'em is good money. He wanted to give us fifty cents but I told him no, I wasn't a-going to cheat my own country for no little child's night rigging. A quarter is fair to liberal, I say."

"That it is, Mis' Mayberry, and thank Doctor Tom, too, for giving us the order," answered Widow Pratt heartily. "When can we begin? I'll cut 'em all out at home, so as to save time, if you'll give me the goods. I can cut children's clothes out with my eyes shut and sew 'em with my left hand if needs be."

"Well, if all we hear be true, Bettie Pratt, it's a good thing it comes easy to you. The sewing for seventeen might be a set-back to any kind of co'ting, but seeing as you likes it so, why, maybe-" Mrs. Peavey paused and peered at the blushing widow with goading curiosity in her keen eyes.

"Well, it hasn't been a bit to me and Mr. Hoover, Mis' Peavey," she answered with dancing eyes and a lovely rose color mounting her cheeks. "Looks like all the love we have got for each other's orphant children have mixed itself up into a wedding cake for the family. I had laid off to tell you all about it this afternoon, and here's a box of peppermints Mr. Hoover sent everybody. He said to make you say sweet things about him to me. Have one, Mis' Peavey, and pass the box!"

With which a general laugh and buzz of inquiry went around with the box of sweets provided by the wily widower.

"Well, we think we'll just build a long, covered porch acrost the fronts of the two houses to connect 'em up," answered Mrs. Pratt to a friendly inquiry about her future domestic arrangements.

"I know it will look sorter like a broke-in-two steamboat but I can put the boys all over into one house and take the girls with me. We can rent a room in the boys' house to Mr. Petway and he'll look after them if need be, though 'Lias Hoover and my Henny Turner are getting big, dependable boys already. I'm so glad the children match out in pairs. I always did want twins and now I'm going to have eight pairs and the baby over. I don't think I ever was so happy before." And pretty Bettie fairly radiated lovingness from her big, motherly heart.

"Bettie Pratt, you are a regular Proverbs, last chapter and tenth to thirtieth verse woman and your husband's heart is a-going to 'safely rejoice' in you," said Moth

er Mayberry as she beamed across the little sleeve she was basting in an apron. "And this brings me to the mention of another little Bible character we have a-running about amongst us. It's 'Liza Pike, as should be called one of God's own little ravens arid you all know why."

"Yes, we do, Sister Mayberry," spoke up Mrs. Mosbey quickly. "And I've just caught on to her doings, and thankful I am to her for letting in the light to us before it were too late maybe."

"Why, what have my child been a-doing to be spoke of this way?" asked her mother with both pride and uneasiness in her tone, for Eliza, as is the way of all geniuses, especially those of a philanthropic turn of mind, was apt often to confront those responsible for her with the unexpected.

"Just seeing what we was failing to notice, that Mis' Bostick and the Deacon was in need of being tooken care of and, without a word to anybody, starting out with a covered dish and a napkin to do the providing for 'em. And in the right spirit, too, walking into each kitchen and taking the best offen the stove-no left-over scraps in her offering to the Lord, and she have gave a lesson to grown-ups. We all love the old folks and was ready to do, but 'Liza have proved that love must be mixed with a little gumption to make wheels go round. And ain't she cute about it? She told the Deacon that she had to bring something from everybody's kitchen or hurt all our feelings. They is a way of putting what-oughter-be into words that makes it a truth, and she did it that time." As she delivered her little homily on the subject of the absent small Sister Pike, Mother Mayberry's face shone with emotion and there was a mist in her eyes that also dimmed the vision of some of the others.

"And the way of her," laughed the widow softly. "Told me yesterday I didn't brown my hoe-cake enough on both sides for the Deacon's greens-that Mis' Peavey's was better."

"Why, Mis' Pratt, 'Liza oughtn't to speak that way to you; it ain't manners," her mother hastened to say as they all laughed, even the misanthrope, who was much pleased over this public acknowledgment of the superiority of her handiwork.

"Now, Judy honey, don't you say one word to 'Liza about that! She have got the whole thing fixed up for us now, and it won't do to get her conscious like in her management of the old folks. The thing for us to do is to make our engagements for truck with her regular and take her dictation always about what is sent. Keep it in her mind how complimented we are to be let give to the Deacon and she'll manage him, pride and all, in a sorter game. We'll make it a race with her which pleases him most. And now," Mother paused and looked from the face of one hearty country woman to another with a wealth of affection for each and every one, "let's don't none of us forget to take the child up to the throne with us each night in the arms of prayer, as one of His ministers!-Well it's time for us to walk out to the dining-room and see what kind of a set-out Cindy and Elinory have got for us. Yes, Mis' Nath, did you ever see such a show of decorations? She must a-kinder sensed the wedding in the air in compliment to you, Bettie. Come in, one and all!"

And the cheerful company assembled around the hospitable Mayberry board put into practice the knife and fork by-law of the Circle with hearty good will. Cindy's austerity relaxed noticeably at the compliments handed her in return for her offer of the various viands she had prepared for their delectation, and Miss Wingate blushed and beamed upon them all with the most rapturous delight when her efforts met with like commendation. She had insisted on helping Cindy wait on them and was such a very lovely young Hebe that they could scarcely eat for looking at her.

"Sakes, Mis' Mayberry," said Mrs. Pike, who had unbent from her reserve over her second cup of tea to a most remarkable degree, "it were hard enough to ask Doctor Tom in to pot-luck with my chicken dumplins, that he carries on over, a-knowing about what you and Cindy could shake up in the kitchen, but with Miss Elinory's cooking added I'm a-going to turn him away hungry next time."

"Oh, please don't!" exclaimed Miss Wingate. "Yours is the next place he has promised to take me to supper. And Bud and Eliza have both invited me."

"I'll set a day with him this very night," responded Mrs. Judy, all undone with pride. Nothing in the world could have pleased the hospitable country women more than the parties that Doctor Tom had been improvising for the amusement of the singer girl. Before each visit he openly and boldly made demands of each friend for her CHEF-D'OEUVRE and consumed the same heartily and with delight in the stranger's growing appetite.

"If you folks don't stop spoiling Tom Mayberry I won't never be able to get him a wife. I'll have to take little Bettie to raise and teach her how to bit and bridle him," laughed Mother Mayberry, as they all rose and flocked to the front porch.

In the Road in front of the house had congregated the entire school of small-fry, drawn by the mother lode, but too well trained to think of making any kind of interruption to the gathering. They were busily engaged in a tag and tally riot which was led on one side by Eliza and the other by Henny Turner, whose generalship could hardly be said to equal that of his younger and feminine opponent. Teether and little Hoover sat in the Pike wheelbarrow which was drawn up beside the Pike gate, and attached thereto by long gingham strings were Martin Luther and little Bettie. They champed the gingham bits drawn through their mouths and pranced with their little bare feet in the dust, as Eliza found time every minute or two to call out "whoa" or cut at them with a switch as she flashed past them. They were distinctly of the game and were blissfully unconscious of the fact that they were not in it. This arrangement for keeping them happy, though out of the way, had been of Eliza's contriving and did credit to her wit in many senses of the word.

At the appearance of their be-hatted parents on Mother Mayberry's front walk they all swooped over and stood in a circle around the gate. A mother who has many calls in the life-complicated to take her out of reach of the children is different from a mother who is always in the house, kitchen, garden or at a convenient neighbor's, and this weekly three-hour separation occasionally had disastrous results.

"Have anything happened, 'Liza?" asked her mother, as she ran a practised eye over her group and detected not a loose end. Eliza and Bud had rolled over the wheelbarrow, led by the prancing team.

"No'm," answered Eliza, "everybody's been good and the Deacon have told us three Bible tales, and my side have beat Henny's five catches and one loose. But Henny played his'n good," she added, with a worthy victor's generosity to the fallen foe.

"Here's a whole bucket of cakes Cindy and Miss Elinory made in case we found a good passel of children when the meeting was over," said Mother Mayberry as she tendered the crisp reward of merit to Bud Pike, who stood nearest her.

"Thank you, ma'am," answered Bud, mindful of his manners. "Say, 'Liza, let's all go down and set on the pump and eat 'em, and we can drink water, too, so they will last longer."

"All right," answered Eliza, and she set about unharnessing the young team, who immediately scampered after the rest. She handed little Hoover to Mrs. Pratt and was preparing to set off with Teether in the wake of the cake bucket, when the widow called to her.

"'Liza, honey," she said, "here's some peppermints for you. They wasn't enough to give some to all the children, but I want you to get a bite, anyway."

"Thanky, ma'am, but I don't like the fresh air taste of 'em in my mouth," answered Eliza. "But can you give me five of 'em? I want one for Deacon and Mis' Bostick and I want one for Squire Tutt, 'cause he do love peppermint so. He wouldn't take the medicine Mother Mayberry fixes for him if she didn't put peppermint in it. He says so. He's porely and have got his head all tied up in a shawl, 'cause prayer meeting day Mis' Tutt sings hymns all the time and music gives him misery in his ears. I want to give her one, too, and I want one for Cindy."

"I'll save all in the box for you, sweetie," assented Mrs. Pratt heartily. "Now run along, for you might get left out of that cake eating."

"No, ma'am, I won't," answered Eliza with confidence; "they won't begin till I get there. It wouldn't be fair." And she hurried down the Road to where the group waited impatiently but loyally around the town pump.

"Ain't they all the Lord's blessings?" asked Mother Mayberry, as she looked down the Road at the little swarm with tender pride in her eyes.

"That they are," answered the widow, with an echo of the pride in her own rich voice, "and to think that pretty soon seventeen of 'em will be mine!"

And it was an hour or two later that the old red sun had reluctantly departed across the west meadows, just as a soft lady moon rose languidly over Providence Nob. Providence suppers had all been served, the day's news discussed with the men folk, jocularly eager to get the drippings of excitement from the afternoon infair, and the Road toddlers put to bed, when the soft-toned Meeting-house bell droned out its call for the weekly prayer meeting. Very soon the Road was in a gentle hum of conversation as the congregation issued from their house doors and wended their way slowly toward the little church, which, back from the Road in an old cedar glade, brooded over its peaceful yard of graves. The men had all donned their coats and exchanged field hats for stiff, uncomfortable, straight-brimmed straw, and their wives still wore the Sewing Circle gala attire. The older children walked decorously along, each group in wake of the heads of their own family, though Buck Peavey had managed to annex himself to the Hoover household.

"Well, I don't know just what to do with you all," said Mother Mayberry, as she came out on the front porch, sedately bonneted, with her Bible and hymn-book under her arm and fortified with a huge palm-leaf fan. "It's my duty to make you both come with Cindy and me to prayer meeting, but I don't hold with a body using they own duty as a stick to fray out other folks with. I reckon I'll have to let you two just set here on the steps and see if you can outshine the moon in your talk, which you can't, but think you can."

"Oh, we'll come with you! I was just going to get my hat," exclaimed the singer lady as she rose from the steps upon which Doctor Tom kept his seat and puffed a ring of his cigar smoke at his mother daringly.

"No, honey-bird, you've had a long day since your sun-up breakfast and I'll excuse you. I'd LET Tom Mayberry go only I have to make him stay to keep care of you. Put that lace fascination around your throat if a breeze blows up! Tom, try to make out, with Elinory's help, to bring a fresh bucket of water from the spring for the night. Good-by, both of you; I'm a-going to bring you a blessing!"

"Yourself, mother," called the Doctor after her.

"Honey-fuzzle," called Mother back from the gate. "Better keep it, son, you'll need it some day."

"Was there ever, ever anybody just like her?" asked Miss Wingate, as she sank back on the step beside the Doctor.

"I think not," he answered with a hint of tenderness in his voice; "but then, really, Mother is one of a type. A type one has to get across a continent from Harpeth Hills to appreciate. She's the result of the men and women who blazed the wilderness trail into Tennessee, and she has Huguenot puritanism contending with cavalier graces of spirit in her nature."

"Well, she's perfectly darling and the little town is just an exquisite setting for her. Do you know what this soft moonlight aspect of Providence reminds me of, with those tall poplars down the Road and the wide-roofed houses and barns? The little village in Lombardy where-where I met-my fate."

"Met your fate?" asked the Doctor quickly after a moment. His face was in the shadow and not a note in his voice betrayed his anxiety.

"Yes," answered the singer lady in a dreamy, reminiscent voice. The moon shone full down into her very lovely face, fell across her white throat and shimmered into the faint rose folds of her dainty gown. Her close, dark braids showed black against the fragrant wistaria vines and her eyes were deep and velvety in the soft light. "Yes, it was the summer I was eighteen and I had gone over with my father for a month or two of recuperation for him after a long extra session of Congress. Monsieur LaTour was staying in the little village, also recuperating. He heard me singing to father, and that night my fate was sealed. It was a wonderful thing to come to me-and I was so young."

"Tell me about it," said the Doctor quietly, and his voice was perfectly steady, though his heart pounded like mad and his cigar shook in his fingers.

"My father died at the end of the summer, after only a few day's illness, and he had grown to believe what LaTour said of my voice, and to have great confidence in my future. I had no near relatives and in his will he left me to Monsieur LaTour and Madame, his wife. She is an American and her father had been in the Senate with father for years. Monsieur is a very great teacher, perhaps the greatest living. Madame wanted to come to Providence with me, but Doctor Stein insisted that I come alone. I-I'm very glad she didn't, though they both love me and await-" She paused and leaned her flower head back against the wistaria vine.

And the great breath that Doctor Thomas Mayberry of Providence drew might have cracked the breast of a giant. In this world no record is kept of the great moments when a private individual's universe collides with his far star and of the crash that ensues.

"I rather thought you meant another-another kind of fate. I was preparing for confidences," he managed to say in a very small voice for so large a man.

"Mais, non, Monsieur, jamais-never!" she exclaimed quickly. "I-I-have been tempted to think sometimes I might like that sort-of a-fate, but I haven't had the time. It was work, work, sleep, eat, live for the voice! And-and once or twice it has seemed worth while. My debut night in Paris when I sang the Juliette waltz-song-just the moment when I realized I could use it as I would and always more volume-and the people! And again the night in New York when I had made it incarnate Elizabeth as she sings to Tannhauser-the night it went away." And as she spoke she dropped her head on her arms folded across her knees.

"Have you picked out the song you are going to sing first when it comes back?" demanded the very young Doctor with a quick note of tenderness in his voice, still under a marvelous control.

"Yes," she answered as she turned her head and peeped up at him with shining eyes, a delicious little burr of a laugh in her throat, "Rings on my fingers, bells on my toes, for Teether Pike. He is wild about my humming it, and dances with his absurd, chubby little legs at the first note. What will he do if I can really sing it? And I'll sing Beulah Land for Cindy, and I'm sitting on the stile, Mary, for your mother, perhaps, Oh, the kingdom of my heart for Buck, and Drink to me only, for Squire Tutt, hymns for the Deacon-and a paean for you, if I have to order one from New York."

"Do you know," said the Doctor after a long pause in which he lit his cigar and again began to puff rings out into the moonlight, "I'd like to say that you are-are a-perfect wonder."

"You may," she answered with a laugh. Then suddenly she stretched out her hand to him and, as he took it into his, she asked very quietly with just the one word, "When?"

"In a few weeks, I hope," he answered her just as quietly, comprehending her instantly.

"I'll be good-and wait," she answered him in a Hone of voice that would have done credit to little Bettie Pratt. "Let's hurry and get that bucket of water; don't you hear them singing the doxology?"

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