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The Baldwin Library
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A Girl of the Limberlost
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Grosset & Dunlap
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COPYRIGHT, 1909, BY
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES
BY ARRANGEMENT WITH DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY, INC.
all girls of the Limberlost
JEANNETTE HELEN PORTER
I Wherein Elnora Goes to High School and Learns
Many Lessons Not Found in Her Books I
II Wherein Wesley and Margaret Go Shopping, and
Elnora's Wardrobe Is Replenished 17
III Wherein Elnora Visits the Bird Woman and
Opens a Bank Account 26
IV Wherein the Sintons Are Disappointed, and Mrs.
Comstock Learns That She Can Laugh 36
V Wherein Elnora Receives a Warning, and Billy
Appears on the Scene 56
VI Wherein Mrs. Comstock Indulges in "Frills," and
Billy Reappears 68
VII Wherein Mrs. Comstock Manipulates Margaret,
and Billy Acquires a Residence 84
VIII Wherein the Limberlost Tempts Elnora, and Billy
Buries His Father 107
IX Wherein Elnora Discovers a Violin, and Billy
Disciplines Margaret I14
X Wherein Elnora Has More Financial Troubles,
and Mrs. Comstock Again Hears the Song of
the Limberlost 126
XI Wherein Elnora Graduates, and Freckles and the
Angel Send Gifts 143
XII Wherein Margaret Sinton Reveals a Secret, and
Mrs. Comstock Possesses the Limberlost 157
XIII Wherein Mother Love Is Bestowed on Elnora,
and She Finds an Assistant in Moth Hunting 179
XIV Wherein a New Position Is Tendered Elnora, and
Philip Ammon Is Shown Limberlost Violets 193
XV Wherein Mrs. Comstock Faces the Almighty, and
Philip Ammon Writes a Letter 204
XVI Wherein the Limberlost Sings for Philip, and the
Talking Trees Tell Great Secrets .216
XVII Wherein Mrs. Comstock Dances in the Moon-
light, and Elnora Makes a Confession 226
XVIII Wherein Mrs. Comstock Experiments with Reju-
venation, and Elnora Teaches Natural History 239
XIX Wherein Philip Ammon Gives a Ball in Honor of
Edith Carr, and Hart Henderson Appears on
the Scene 248
XX Wherein the Elder Ammon Offers Advice, and
Edith Carr Experiences Regrets .260
XXI Wherein Philip Ammon Returns to the Limber-
lost, and Elnora Studies the Situation 268
XXII Wherein Philip Ammon Kneels to Elnora, and
Strangers Come to the Limberlost 282
XXIII Wherein Elnora Reaches a Decision, and Freckles
and the Angel Appear 297
XXIV Wherein Edith Carr Wages a Battle, and Hart
Henderson Stands Guard 308
XXV Wherein Philip Finds Elnora, and Edith Carr
Offers a Yellow Emperor 319
ELNORA, who collects moths to pay for her education, and lives
the Golden Rule.
PHILIP AMMON, who assists in moth hunting, and gains a new
conception of love.
MRS. COMSTOCK, who lost a delusion and found a treasure.
WESLEY SINTON, who always did his best.
MARGARET SINTON, who "mothers" Elnora.
BILLY, a boy from real life.
EDITH CARR, who discovers herself.
HART HENDERSON, to whom love means all things.
POLLY AMMON, who pays an old score.
TOM LEVERING, engaged to Polly.
TERENCE O'MORE, Freckles grown tall.
MRS. O'MORE, who remained the Angel.
TERENCE, ALICE and LITTLE BROTHER, the O'MORE children.
A Girl of the Limberlost
Wherein Elnora Goes to High School
and Learns Many Lessons Not Found
in Her Books
"ELNORA COMSTOCK, have you lost your senses?" demanded the
angry voice of Katharine Comstock while she glared at her daugh-
"Why, mother !" faltered the girl.
"Don't you 'why, mother' me!" cried Mrs. Comstock. "You
know very well what I mean. You've given me no peace until
you've had your way about this going to school business; I've
fixed you good enough, and you're ready to start. But no child
of mine walks the streets of Onabasha looking like a play-actress
woman. You wet your hair and comb it down modest and decent
and then be off, or you'll have no time to find where you belong."
Elnora gave one despairing glance at the white face, framed in
a most becoming riot of reddish-brown hair, which she saw in the
little kitchen mirror. Then she untied the narrow black ribbon,
wet the comb and plastered the waving curls close to her head,
bound them fast, pinned on the skimpy black hat and opened the
"You've gone so plumb daffy you are forgetting your dinner,"
jeered her mother.
"I don't want anything to eat," replied Elnora.
"You'll take your dinner or you'll not go one step. Are you
crazy? Walk almost three miles and no food from six in the morn-
ing until six at night. A pretty figure you'd cut if you had your
2 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
way! And after I've gone and bought you this nice new pail and
filled it especial to start on!"
Elnora came back with a face still whiter and picked up the
lunch. "Thank you, mother! Good-bye!" she said. Mrs. Con-
stock did not reply. She watched the girl follow the long walk to
the gate and go from sight on the road, in the bright sunshine of
the first Monday of September.
"I bet a dollar she gets enough of it by night!" commented
Elnora walked by instinct, for her eyes were blinded with tears.
She left the road where it turned south at the corner of the Lim-
berlost, climbed a snake fence and entered a path worn by her
own feet. Dodging under willow and scrub oak branches she came
at last to the faint outline of an old trail made in the days when
the precious timber of the swamp was guarded by armed men.
This path she followed until she reached a thick clump of bushes.
From the debris in the end of a hollow log she took a key that un-
locked the padlock of a large weather-beaten old box, inside of
which lay several books, a butterfly apparatus, and a small
cracked mirror. The walls were lined thickly with gaudy butter-
flies, dragonflies, and moths. She set up the mirror and once more
pulling the ribbon from her hair, she shook the bright mass over
her shoulders, tossing it dry in the sunshine. Then she straight-
ened it, bound it loosely, and replaced her hat. She tugged vainly
at the low brown calico collar and gazed despairingly at the gen-
erous length of the narrow skirt. She lifted it as she would have
cut it if possible. That disclosed the heavy high leather shoes, at
sight of which she seemed positively ill, and hastily dropped the
skirt. She opened the pail, removed the lunch, wrapped it in the
napkin, and placed it in a small pasteboard box. Locking the
case again she hid the key and hurried down the trail.
She followed it around the north end of the swamp and then
entered a footpath crossing a farm leading in the direction of the
spires of the city to the northeast. Again she climbed a fence and
was on the open road. For an instant she leaned against the fence
staring before her, then turned and looked back. Behind her lay
the land on which she had been born to drudgery and a mother
ELNORA GOES TO HIGH SCHOOL
who made no pretence of loving her; before her lay the city
through whose schools she hoped to find means of escape and the
way to reach the things for which she cared. When she thought
of how she appeared she leaned more heavily against the fence
and groaned; when she thought of turning back and wearing
such clothing in ignorance all the days of her life, she set her teeth
firmly and went hastily toward Onabasha.
On the bridge crossing a deep culvert at the suburbs she
glanced around, and then kneeling she thrust the lunch box be-
tween the foundation and the flooring. This left her empty-
handed as she approached the big stone high school building. She
entered bravely and inquired her way to the office of the super-
intendent. There she learned that she should have come the pre-
vious week and arranged about her classes. There were many
things incident to the opening of school, and one man unable to
cope with all of them.
"Where have you been attending school?" he asked, while he
advised the teacher of Domestic Science not to telephone for
groceries until she knew how many she would have in her classes;
wrote an order for chemicals for the students of science; and
advised the leader of the orchestra to hire a professional to take
the place of the bass violist, reported suddenly ill.
"I finished last spring at Brushwood school, district number
nine," said Elnora. "I have been studying all summer. I am quite
sure I can do the first year work, if I have a few days to get
"Of course, of course," assented the superintendent. "Almost
invariably country pupils do good work. You may enter first year,
and if it is too difficult, we will find it out speedily. Your teachers
will tell you the list of books you must have, and if you will come
with me I will show you the way to the auditorium. It is now time
for opening exercises. Take any seat you find vacant."
Elnora stood before the entrance and stared into the largest
room she ever had seen. The floor sloped to a yawning stage
on which a band of musicians, grouped around a grand piano,
were tuning their instruments. She had two fleeting impres-
sions. That it was all a mistake; this was no school, but a
4 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
grand display of enormous ribbon bows; and the second, that
she was sinking, and had forgotten how to walk. Then a burst
from the orchestra nerved her while a bevy of daintily clad,
sweet-smelling things that might have been birds, or flowers, or
possibly gaily dressed, happy young girls, pushed her forward.
She found herself plodding across the back of the auditorium,
-praying for guidance, to an empty seat.
As the girls passed her, vacancies seemed to open to meet
them. Their friends were moving over, beckoning and whisper-
ing invitations. Everyone else was seated, but no one paid any
attention to the white-faced girl stumbling half-blindly down the
aisle next the farthest wall. So she went on to the very end facing
the stage. No one moved, and she could not summon courage to
crowd past others to several empty seats she saw. At the end of
the aisle she paused in desperation, while she stared back at the
whole forest of faces most of which were now turned upon her.
In a flash came the full realization of her scanty dress, her
pitiful little hat and ribbon, her big, heavy shoes, her ignorance
of where to go or what to do; and from a sickening wave which
crept over her, she felt she was going to become very ill. Then out
of the mass she saw a pair of big, brown boy eyes, three seats from
her, and there was a message in them. Without moving his body
he reached forward and with a pencil touched the back of the
seat before him. Instantly Elnora took another step which brought
her to a row of vacant front seats.
She heard laughter behind her; the knowledge that she wore
the only hat in the room burned her; every matter of moment,
and some of none at all, cut and stung. She had no books. Where
should she go when this was over? What would she give to be on
the trail going home! She was shaking with a nervous chill when
the music ceased, and the superintendent arose, and coming
down to the front of the flower-decked platform, opened a Bible
and began to read. Elnora did not know what he was reading,
and she felt that she did not care. Wildly she was racking her
brain to decide whether she should sit still when the others left
the room or follow, and ask someone where the Freshmen went
ELNORA GOES TO HIGH SCHOOL 5
In the midst of the struggle one sentence fell on her ear. "Hide
me under the shadow of Thy wings."
Elnora began to pray frantically. "Hide me, O God, hide me,
under the shadow of Thy wings."
Again and again she implored that prayer, and before she
realized what was coming, everyone had arisen and the room was
emptying rapidly. Elnora hurried after the nearest girl and in the
press at the door touched her sleeve timidly.
"Will you please tell me where the Freshmen go?" she asked
The girl gave her one surprised glance, and drew away.
"Same place as the fresh women," she answered, and those
nearest her laughed.
Elnora stopped praying suddenly and the color crept into her
face. "I'll wager you are the first person I meet when I find it,"
she said and stopped short. "Not that! Oh, I must not do that!"
she thought in dismay. "Make an enemy the first thing I do. Oh,
She followed with her eyes as the young people separated in
the hall, some climbing stairs, some disappearing down side halls,
some entering adjoining doors. She saw the girl overtake the
brown-eyed boy and speak to him. He glanced back at Elnora
with a scowl on his face. Then she stood alone in the hall.
Presently a door opened and a young woman came out and
entered another room. Elnora waited until she returned, and
hurried to her. "Would you tell me where the Freshmen are?"
"Straight down the hall, three doors to your left," was the
answer, as the girl passed.
"One minute please, oh please," begged Elnora. "Should I
knock or just open the door?"
"Go in and take a seat," replied the teacher.
"What if there aren't any seats?" gasped Elnora.
"Classrooms are never half-filled, there will be plenty," was the
Elnora removed her hat. There was no place to put it, so she
carried it in her hand. She looked infinitely better without it.
A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
After several efforts she at last opened the door and stepping in-
side faced a smaller and more concentrated battery of eyes.
"The superintendent sent me. He thinks I belong here," she
said to the professor in charge of the class, but she never before
heard the voice with which she spoke. As she stood waiting, the
girl of the hall passed on her way to the blackboard, and sup-
pressed laughter told Elnora that her thrust had been repeated.
"Be seated," said the professor, and then because he saw
Elnora was desperately embarrassed he proceeded to lend her a
book and to ask her if she had studied algebra. She said she had
a little, but not the same book they were using. He asked her if she
felt that she could do the work they were beginning, and she said
That was how it happened, that three minutes after entering
the room she was told to take her place beside the girl who had
gone last to the board, and whose flushed face and angry eyes
avoided meeting Elnora's. Being compelled to concentrate on her
proposition she forgot herself. When the professor asked that all
pupils sign their work she firmly wrote "Elnora Comstock" under
her demonstration. Then she took her seat and waited with white
lips and trembling limbs, as one after another the professor called
the names on the board, while their owners arose and explained
their propositions, or "flunked" if they had not found a correct
solution. She was so eager to catch their forms of expression and
prepare herself for her recitation, that she never looked from the
work on the board, until clearly and distinctly, "Elnora Corn-
stock," called the professor.
The dazed girl stared at the board. One tiny curl added to the
top of the first curve of the m in her name, had transformed it
from a good old English patronymic that any girl might bear
proudly, to Corstock. Elnora sat speechless. When and how did
it happen? She could feel the wave of smothered laughter in the
air around her. A rush of anger turned her face scarlet and her
soul sick. The voice of the professor addressed her directly.
"This proposition seems to be beautifully demonstrated, Miss
Cornstalk," he said. "Surely, you can tell us how you did it."
That word of praise saved her. She could do good work. They
ELNORA GOES TO HIGH SCHOOL 7
might wear their pretty clothes, have their friends and make life
a greater misery than it ever before had been for her, but not one
of them should do better work or be more womanly. That lay
with her. She was tall, straight, and handsome as she arose.
"Of course I can explain my work," she said in natural tones.
"What I can't explain is how I happened to be so stupid as to
make a mistake in writing my own name. I must have been a little
nervous. Please excuse me."
She went to the board, swept off the signature with one stroke,
then rewrote it plainly. "My name is Comstock," she said dis-
tinctly. She returned to her seat and following the formula used
by the others made her first high school recitation.
As Elnora resumed her seat Professor Henley looked at her
steadily. "It puzzles me," he said deliberately, "how you can
write as beautiful a demonstration, and explain it as clearly as
ever has been done in any of my classes and still be so disturbed
as to make a mistake in your own name. Are you very sure you
did that yourself, Miss Comstock?"
"It is impossible that anyone else should have done it," an-
"I am very glad you think so," said the professor. "Being Fresh-
men, all of you are strangers to me. I should dislike to begin the
year with you feeling there was one among you small enough to
do a trick like that. The next proposition, please."
When the hour had gone the class filed back to the study room
and Elnora followed in desperation, because she did not know
where else to go. She could not study as she had no books, and
when the class again left the room to go to another professor for
the next recitation, she went also. At least they could put her out
if she did not belong there. Noon came at last, and she kept with
the others until they dispersed on the sidewalk. She was so ab-
normally self-conscious she fancied all the hundreds of that
laughing throng saw and jested at her. When she passed the
brown-eyed boy walking with the girl of her encounter she knew,
for she heard him say: "Did you really let that gawky piece of
calico get ahead of you?" The answer was indistinct.
Elnora hurried from the city. She intended to get her lunch,
0 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
eat it in the shade of the first tree, and then decide whether she
would go back or go home. She knelt on the bridge and reached
for her box, but it was so very light that she was prepared for the
fact that it was empty, before opening it. There was one thing for
which to be thankful. The boy or tramp who had seen her hide it,
had left the napkin. She would not have to face her mother and
account for its loss. She put it in her pocket, and threw the box
into the ditch. Then she sat on the bridge and tried to think, but
her brain was confused.
"Perhaps the worst is over," she said at last. "I will go back.
What would mother say to me if I came home now?"
So she returned to the high school, followed some other pupils
to the coat room, hung her hat, and found her way to the study
where she had been in the morning. Twice that afternoon, with
aching head and empty stomach, she faced strange professors, in
different branches. Once she escaped notice; the second time the
worst happened. She was asked a question she could not answer.
"Have you not decided on your course, and secured your
books?" inquired the professor.
"I have decided on my course," replied Elnora, "I do not
know where to ask for my books."
"Ask?" the professor was bewildered.
"I understood the books were furnished," faltered Elnora.
"Only to those bringing an order from the township trustee,"
replied the Professor.
"No! Oh no!" cried Elnora. "I will have them tomorrow,"
and gripped her desk for support for she knew that was not true.
Four books, ranging perhaps at a dollar and a half apiece; would
her mother buy them? Of course she would not-could not.
Did not Elnora know the story of old. There was enough land,
but no one to do clearing and farm. Tax on all those acres, re-
cently the new gravel road tax added, the expense of living and
only the work of two women to meet all of it. She was insane to
think she could come to the city to school. Her mother had been
right. The girl decided that if only she lived to reach home, she
would stay there and lead any sort of life to avoid more of this
torture. Bad as what she wished to escape had been, it was noth-
ELNORA GOES TO HIGH SCHOOL 9
ing like this. She never could live down the movement that went
through the class when she inadvertently revealed the fact that
she had expected books to be furnished. Her mother would not
secure them; that settled the question. -.-
But the end of misery is never in a hurry to come; before the
day was over the superintendent entered the room and ex-
plained that pupils from the country were charged a tuition of
twenty dollars a year. That really was the end. Previously Elnora
had canvassed a dozen methods for securing the money for books,
ranging all the way from offering to wash the superintendent's
dishes to breaking into the bank. This additional expense made
her plans so wildly impossible, there was nothing to do but hold
up her head until she was from sight.
Down the long corridor alone among hundreds, down the long
street alone among thousands, out into the country she came at
last. Across the fence and field, along the old trail once trodden
by a boy's bitter agony, now stumbled a white-faced girl, sick at
heart. She sat on a log and began to sob in spite of her efforts at
self-control. At first it was physical breakdown, later, thought
Oh the shame, the mortification! Why had she not known of
the tuition? How did she happen to think that in the city books
were furnished? Perhaps it was because she had read they were in
several states. But why did she not know? Why did not her mother
go with her? Other mothers-but when had her mother ever been
or done anything at all like other mothers? Because she never
had been it was useless to blame her now. Elnora realized she
should have gone to town the week before, called on someone
and learned all these things herself. She should have remembered
how her clothing would look, before she wore it in public places.
Now she knew, and her dreams were over. She must go home to
feed chickens, calves, and pigs, wear calico and coarse shoes, and
with averted head, pass a library all her life. She sobbed again.
"For pity's sake, honey, what's the matter?" asked the voice of
the nearest neighbor, Wesley Sinton, as he seated himself beside
Elnora. "There, there," he continued, smearing tears all over her
face in an effort to dry them. "Was it as bad as that, now? Mag-
IO A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
gie has been just wild over you all day. She's got nervouser every
minute. She said we were foolish to let you go. She said your
clothes were not right, you ought not to carry that tin pail, and
that they would laugh at you. By gum, I see they did!"
"Oh, Uncle Wesley," sobbed the girl, "why didn't she tell me?"
"Well, you see, Elnora, she didn't like to. You got such a way
of holding up your head, and going through with things. She'
thought some way that you'd make it, till you got started, and
then she begun to see a hundred things we should have done. I
reckon you hadn't reached that building before she remembered
that your skirt should have been pleated instead of gathered, your
shoes been low, and lighter for hot September weather, and a new
hat. Were your clothes right, Elnora?"
The girl broke into hysterical laughter. "Right!" she cried.
"Right! Uncle Wesley, you should have seen me among them!
I was a picture! They'll never forget me. No, they won't get the
chance, for they'll see me again tomorrow!"
"Now that is what I call spunk, Elnora! Downright grit," said
Wesley Sinton. "Don't you let them laugh you out. You've helped
Margaret and me for years at harvest and busy times, what you've
earned must amount to quite a sum. You can get yourself a good
many clothes with it."
"Don't mention clothes, Uncle Wesley," sobbed Elnora. "I
don't care now how I look. If I don't go back all of them will
know it's because I am so poor I can't buy my books."
"Oh, I don't know as you are so dratted poor," said Sinton
meditatively. "There are three hundred acres of good land, with
fine timber as ever grew on it."
"It takes all we can earn to pay the tax, and mother wouldn't
cut a tree for her life."
"Well then, maybe, I'll be compelled to cut one for her," sug-
gested Sinton. "Anyway, stop tearing yourself to pieces and tell
me. If it isn't clothes, what is it?"
"It's books and tuition. Over twenty dollars in all."
"Humph! First time I ever knew you to be stumped by twenty
dollars, Elnora," said Sinton, patting her hand.
"It's the first time you ever knew me to want money," an-
ELNORA GOES TO HIGH SCHOOL
swered Elnora. "This is different from anything that ever hap-
pened to me. Oh, how can I get it, Uncle Wesley?"
"Drive to town with me in the morning and I'll draw it from
the bank for you. I owe you every cent of it."
"You know you don't owe me a penny, and I wouldn't touch
one from you, unless I really could earn it. For anything that's
past I owe you and Aunt Margaret for all the home life and love
I've ever known. I know how you work, and I'll not take your
"Just a loan, Elnora, just a loan for a little while until you can
earn it. You can be proud with all the rest of the world, but there
are no secrets between us, are there, Elnora?"
"No," said Elnora, "there are none. You and Aunt Margaret
have given me all the love there has been in my life. That is the
one reason above all others why you shall not give me charity.
Hand me money because you find me crying for it! This isn't the
first time this old trail has known tears and heartache. All of us
know that story. Freckles stuck to what he undertook and won
out. I stick, too. When Duncan moved away he gave me all
Freckles left in the swamp, and as I have inherited his property
maybe his luck will come with it. I won't touch your money, but
I'll win some way. First, I'm going home and try mother. It's just
possible I could find second-hand books, and perhaps all the tui-
tion need not be paid at once. Maybe they would accept it quar-
terly. But oh, Uncle Wesley, you and Aint Margaret keep on
loving me! I'm so lonely, and no one else cares!"
Wesley Sinton's jaws met with a click. He swallowed hard on
bitter words and changed what he would have liked to say three
times before it became articulate.
"Elnora," he said at last, "if it hadn't been for one thing I'd
have tried to take legal steps to make you ours when you were
three years old. Maggie said then it wasn't any use, but I've
always held on. You see, I was the first man there, honey, and
there are things you see, that you can't ever make anybody else
understand. She loved him, Elnora, she just made an idol of him.
There was that oozy green hole, with the thick scum broke, and
two or three big bubbles slowly rising that e the breath of his
12 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
body. There she was in spasms of agony, and beside her the great
heavy log she'd tried to throw him. I can't ever forgive her for
turning against you, and spoiling your childhood as she has, but
I couldn't forgive anybody else for abusing her. Maggie has got
no mercy on her, but Maggie didn't see what I did, and I've never
tried to make it very clear to her. It's been a little too plain for
me ever since. Whenever I look at your mother's face, I see what
she saw, so I hold my tongue and say, in my heart, 'Give her a
mite more time.' Some day it will come. She does love you,
Elnora. Everybody does, honey. It's just that she's feeling so
much, she can't express herself. You be a patient girl and wait a
little longer. After all, she's your mother, and you're all she's got,
but a memory, and it might do her good to let her know that she
was fooled in that."
"It would kill her!" cried the girl swiftly. "Uncle Wesley, it
would kill her! What do you mean?"
"Nothing," said Wesley Sinton soothingly. "Nothing, honey.
That was just one of them fool things a man says, when he is try-
ing his best to be wise. You see, she loved him mightily, and
they'd been married only a year, and what she was loving was
what she thought he was. She hadn't really got acquainted with
the man yet. If it had been even one more year, she could have
borne it, and you'd have got justice. Having been a teacher she
was better educated and smarter than the rest of us, and so she
was more sensitive like. She can't understand she was loving a
dream. So I say it might do her good if somebody that knew,
could tell her, but I swear to gracious, I never could. I've heard
her out at the edge of that quagmire calling in them wild spells
of hers off and on for the last sixteen years, and imploring the
swamp to give him back to her, and I've got out of bed when I
was pretty tired, and come down to see she didn't go in herself,
or harm you. What she feels is too deep for me. I've got to re-
spectin' her grief, and I can't get over it. Go home and tell your
ma, honey, and ask her nice and kind to help you. If she won't,
then you got to swallow that little lump of pride in your neck,
and come to Aunt Maggie, like you been a-coming all your
ELNORA GOES TO HIGH SCHOOL
"I'll ask mother, but I can't take your money, Uncle Wesley,
indeed I can't. I'll wait a year, and earn some, and enter next
"There's one thing you don't consider, Elnora," said the man
earnestly. "And that's what you are to Maggie. She's a little like
your ma. She hasn't given up to it, and she's struggling on brave,
but when we buried our second little girl the light went out of
Maggie's eyes, and it's not come back. The only time I ever see a
hint of it is when she thinks she's done something that makes you
happy, Elnora. Now, you go easy about refusing her anything
she wants to do for you. There's times in this world when it's our
bounden duty to forget ourselves, and think what will help other
people. Young woman, you owe me and Maggie all the comfort
we can get out of you. There's the two of our own we can't ever
do anything for. Don't you get the idea into your head that a fool
thing you call pride is going to cut us out of all the pleasure we
have in life beside ourselves."
"Uncle Wesley, you are a dear," said Elnora. "Just a dear! If
I can't possibly get that money any way else on earth, I'll come
and borrow it of you, and then I'll pay it back if I must dig ferns
from the swamp and sell them from door to door in the city. I'll
even plant them, so that they will be sure to come up in the
spring. I have been sort of panic-stricken all day and couldn't
think. I can gather nuts and sell them. Freckles sold moths and
butterflies, and I've a lot collected. Of course, I am going back
tomorrow! I can find a way to get the books. Don't you worry
about me. I am all right!"
"Now, what do you think of that?" inquired Wesley Sinton of
the swamp in general. "Here's our Elnora come back to stay.
Head high and right as a trivet! You've named three ways in
three minutes that you could earn ten dollars, which I figure
would be enough to start you. Let's go to supper and stop worry-
Elnora unlocked the case, took out the pail, put the napkin in
it, pulled the ribbon from her hair, binding it down tightly again
and followed to the road. From afar she could see her mother in
the doorway. She blinked her eyes, and tried to smile as she an-
14 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
swered Wesley Sinton, and indeed she did feel better. She knew
now what she had to expect, where to go, and what to do. Get
the books she must; when she had them, she would show those
city girls and boys how to prepare and recite lessons, how to
walk with a brave heart; and they could show her how to wear
pretty clothes and have good times.
As she neared the door her mother reached for the pail. "I for-
got to tell you to bring home your scraps for the chickens," she
Elnora entered. "There weren't any scraps, and I'm hungry
again as I ever was in my life."
"I thought likely you would be," said Mrs. Comstock, "and
so I got supper ready. We can eat first, and do the work after-
ward. What kept you so? I expected you an hour ago."
Elnora looked into her mother's face and smiled. It was a queer
sort of a little smile, and would have reached the depths with any
"I see you've been bawling," said Mrs. Comstock. "I thought
you'd get your fill in a hurry. That's why I wouldn't go to any ex-
pense. If we keep out of the poorhouse we have to cut the covers
close. It's likely this Brushwood road tax will eat up all we've
saved in years. Where the land tax is to come from I don't know.
It gets bigger every year. If they are going to dredge the swamp
ditch again they'll just have to take the land to pay for it. I can't,
that's all! We'll get up early in the morning and gather and hull
the beans for winter, and put in the rest of the day hoeing the
Elnora again smiled that pitiful smile.
"Do you think I didn't know that I was funny and would be
laughed at?" she asked.
"Funny?" cried Mrs. Comstock hotly.
"Yes, funny! A regular caricature," answered Elnora. "No
one else wore calico, not even one other. No one else wore high
heavy shoes, not even one. No one else had such a funny little
old hat; my hair was not right, my ribbon invisible compared
with the others, I did not know where to go, or what to do, and
I had no books. What a spectacle I made for them!" Elnora
ELNORA GOES TO HIGH SCHOOL
laughed nervously at her own picture. "But there are always two
sides! The professor said in the algebra class that he never had
a better solution and explanation than mine of the proposition he
gave me, which scored one for me in spite of my clothes."
"Well, I wouldn't brag on myself!"
''That was poor taste," admitted Elnora. "But, you see, it is a
case of whistling to keep up my courage. I honestly could see that
I would have looked just as well as the rest of them if I had been
dressed as they were. We can't afford that, so I have to find some-
thing else to brace me. It was rather bad, mother!"
"Well, I'm glad you got enough of it!"
"Oh, but I haven't!" hurried in Elnora. "I just got a start.
The hardest is over. Tomorrow they won't be surprised. They
will know what to expect. I am sorry to hear about the dredge.
Is it really going through?"
"Yes. I got my notification today. The tax will be something
enormous. I don't know as I can spare you, even if you are willing
to be a laughing-stock for the town."
With every bite Elnora's courage returned, for she was a
healthy young thing.
"You've heard about doing evil that good might come from
it," she said. "Well, mother mine, it's something like that with
me. I'm willing to bear the hard part to pay for what I'll learn.
Already I have selected the ward building in which I shall teach
in about four years. I am going to ask for a room with a south
exposure so that the flowers and moths I take in from the swamp
to show the children will do well."
"You little idiot!" said Mrs. Comstock. "How are you going
to pay your expenses?"
"Now that is just what I was going to ask you!" said Elnora.
"You see, I have had two startling pieces of news today. I did
not know I would need any money. I thought the city furnished
the books, and there is an out-of-town tuition, also. I need ten
dollars in the morning. Will you please let me have it?"
"Ten dollars!" cried Mrs. Comstock. "Ten dollars! Why don't
you say a hundred and be done with it! I could get one as easy as
the other. I told you! I told you I couldn't raise a cent. Every
It) A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
year expenses grow bigger and bigger. I told you not to ask for
"I never meant to," replied Elnora. "I thought clothes were
all I needed and I could bear them. I never knew about buying
books and tuition."
"Well, I did!" said Mrs. Comstock. "I knew what you would
run into! But you are so bulldog stubborn, and so set in your
way, I thought I would just let you try the world a little and see
how you liked it!"
Elnora pushed back her chair and looked at her mother.
"Do you mean to say," she demanded, "that you knew, when
you let me go into a city classroom and reveal the fact before all
of them that I expected to have my books handed out to me;
do you mean to say that you knew I had to pay for them?"
Mrs. Comstock evaded the direct question.
"Anybody but an idiot mooning over a book or wasting time
prowling the woods would have known you had to pay. Every-
body has to pay for everything. Life is made up of pay, pay, pay!
It's always and forever pay! If you don't pay one way you do
another! Of course, I knew you had to pay. Of course, I knew
you would come home blubbering! But you don't get a penny! I
haven't one cent, and can't get one! Have your way if you are
determined, but I think you will find the road somewhat rocky."
"Swampy, you mean, mother," corrected Elnora. She arose
white and trembling. "Perhaps some day God will teach me how
to understand you. He knows I do not now. You can't possibly
realize just what you let me go through today, or how you let
me go, but I'll tell you this: You understand enough that if you
had the money, and would offer it to me, I wouldn't touch it now.
And I'll tell you this much more. I'll get it myself. I'll raise it,
and do it some honest way. I am going back tomorrow, the next
day, and the next. You need not come out, I'll do the night work,
and hoe the turnips."
It was ten o'clock when the chickens, pigs, and cattle were
fed, the turnips hoed, and a heap of bean vines was stacked beside
the back door.
Wherein Wesley and Margaret Go
Shopping, and Elnora's Wardrobe
WESLEY SINTON walked down the road half a mile and turned
at the lane leading to his home. His heart was hot and filled with
indignation. He had told Elnora he did not blame her mother,
but he did. His wife met him at the door.
"Did you see anything of Elnora?" she questioned.
"Most too much, Maggie," he answered. "What do you say
to going to town? There's a few things has to be got right away."
"Where did you see her, Wesley?"
"Along the old Limberlost trail, my girl, torn to pieces sobbing.
Her courage always has been fine, but the thing she met today
was too much for her. We ought to have known better than to
let her go that way. It wasn't only clothes; there were books, and
entrance fees for out-of-town people, that she didn't know about;
while there must have been jeers, whispers, and laughing. Maggie,
I feel as if I'd been a traitor to those girls of ours. I ought to
have gone in and seen about this school business. Don't cry,
Maggie. Get me some supper, and I'll hitch up and see what we
can do now."
"What can we do, Wesley?"
"I don't just know. But we've got to do something. Kate Com-
stock will be a handful, while Elnora will be two, but between
us we must see that the girl is not too hard pressed about money,
and that she is dressed so she is not ridiculous. She's saved us
I A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
the wages of a woman many a day, can't you make her some
"Well, I'm not just what you call expert, but I could beat Kate
Comstock all to pieces. I know that skirts should be pleated to the
band instead of gathered, and full enough to sit in, and short
enough to walk in. I could try. There are patterns for sale. Let's
go right away, Wesley."
"Set me a bit of supper, while I hitch up."
Margaret built a fire, made coffee, and fried ham and eggs.
She set out pie and cake and had enough for a hungry man by
the time the carriage was at the door, but she had no appetite.
She dressed while Wesley ate, put away the food while he dressed,
and then they drove toward the city through the beautiful Sep-
tember evening, and as they went they planned for Elnora. The
trouble was, not whether they were generous enough to buy what
she needed, but whether she would accept their purchases, and
what her mother would say.
They went to a drygoods store and when a clerk asked what
they wanted to see neither of them knew, so they stepped aside
and held a whispered consultation.
"What had we better get, Wesley?"
"Dresses," said Wesley promptly.
"But how many dresses, and what kind?"
"Blest if I know!" exclaimed Wesley. "I thought you would
manage that. I know about some things I'm going to get."
At that instant several high school girls came into the store
and approached them.
"There!" exclaimed Wesley breathlessly. "There, Maggie! Like
them! That's what she needs! Buy like they have!"
Margaret stared. What did they wear? They were rapidly
passing; they seemed to have so much, and she could not decide
so quickly. Before she knew it she was among them.
"I beg your pardon, but won't you wait one minute?" she
The girls stopped with wondering faces.
"It's your clothes," explained Mrs. Sinton. "You look just
beautiful to me. You look exactly as I should have wanted to see
WESLEY AND MARGARET GO SHOPPING 19
my girls. They both died of diphtheria when they were little,
but they had yellow hair, dark eyes and pink cheeks, and every-
body thought they were lovely. If they had lived, they'd been near
your age now, and I'd want them to look like you."
There was sympathy on every girl face.
"Why thank you!" said one of them. "We are very sorry for
"Of course you are," said Margaret. "Everybody always has
been. And because I can't ever have the joy of a mother in think-
ing for my girls and buying pretty things for them, there is
nothing left for me, but to do what I can for someone who has
no mother to care for her. I know a girl, who would be just as
pretty as any of you, if she had the clothes, but her mother does
not think about her, so I mother her some myself."
"She must be a lucky girl," said another.
"Oh, she loves me," said Margaret, "and I love her. I want
her to look just like you do. Please tell me about your clothes.
Are these the dresses and hats you wear to school? What kind of
goods are they, and where do you buy them?"
The girls began to laugh and cluster around Margaret. Wesley
strode down the store with his head high through pride in her,
but his heart was sore over the memory of two little faces
under Brushwood sod. He inquired his way to the shoe depart-
"Why, every one of us have on gingham or linen dresses," they
said, "and they are our school clothes."
For a few moments there was a babel of laughing voices ex-
plaining to the delighted Margaret that school dresses should be
bright and pretty, but simple and plain, and until cold weather
they should wash.
"I'll tell you," said Ellen Brownlee, "my father owns this store,
I know all the clerks. I'll take you to Miss Hartley. You tell
her just how much you want to spend, and what you want to buy,
and she will know how to get the most for your money. I've heard
papa say she was the best clerk in the store for people who didn't
know precisely what they wanted."
"That's the very thing," agreed Margaret. "But before you go,
20 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
tell me about your hair. Elnora's hair is bright and wavy, but
yours is silky as hackled flax. How do you do it?"
"Elnora?" asked four girls in concert.
"Yes, Elnora is the name of the girl I want these things for."
"Did she come to the high school today?" questioned one of
"Was she in your classes?" demanded Margaret without reply.
Four girls stood silent and thought fast. Had there been a
strange girl among them, and had she been overlooked and passed
by with indifference, because she was so very shabby? If she
had appeared as much better than they, as she had looked worse,
would her reception have been the same?
"There was a strange girl from the country in the Freshman
class today," said Ellen Brownlee, "and her name was Elnora."
"That was the girl," said Margaret.
"Are her people so very poor?" questioned Ellen.
"No, not poor at all, come to think of it," answered Margaret.
"It's a peculiar case. Mrs. Comstock had a great trouble and she
let it change her whole life and make a different woman of her.
She used to be lovely; now she is forever saving and scared to
death for fear they will go to the poorhouse; but there is a big
farm, covered with lots of good timber. The taxes are high for
women who can't manage to clear and work the land. There
ought to be enough to keep two of them in good shape all their
lives, if they only knew how to do it. But no one ever told Kate
Comstock anything, and never will, for she won't listen. All she
does is droop all day, and walk the edge of the swamp half the
night, and neglect Elnora. If you girls would make life just a little
easier for her it would be the finest thing you ever did."
All of them promised they would.
"Now tell me about your hair," persisted Margaret Sinton.
So they took her to a toilet counter, and she bought the proper
hair soap, also a nail file, and cold cream, for use after windy days.
Then they left her with the experienced clerk, and when at last
Wesley found her she was loaded with bundles and the light of
other days was in her beautiful eyes. Wesley also carried some
WESLEY AND MARGARET GO SHOPPING 21
"Did you get any stockings?" he whispered.
"No, I didn't," she said. "I was so interested in dresses and
hair ribbons and a-a hat- she hesitated and glanced at
Wesley. "Of course, a hat!" prompted Wesley. "-that I forgot
all about those horrible shoes. She's got to have decent shoes, Wes-
"Sure!" said Wesley. "She's got decent shoes. But the man
said some brown stockings ought to go with them. Take a peep,
Wesley opened a box and displayed a pair of thick-soled,
beautifully shaped brown walking shoes of low cut. Margaret
cried out with pleasure.
"But do you suppose they are the right size, Wesley? What
did you get?"
"I just said for a girl of sixteen with a slender foot."
"Well, that's about as near as I could come. If they don't fit
when she tries them, we will drive straight in and change them.
Come on now, let's get home."
All the way they discussed how they should give Elnora their
purchases and what Mrs. Comstock would say.
"I am afraid she will be awful mad," said Margaret.
"She'll just rip!" replied Wesley graphically. "But if she wants
to leave the raising of her girl to the neighbors, she needn't get
fractious if they take some pride in doing a good job. From now
on I calculate Einora shall go to school; and she shall have all the
clothes and books she needs, if I go around on the back of Kate
Comstock's land and cut a tree, or drive off a calf to pay for
them. Why I know one tree she owns that would put Elnora in
heaven for a year. Just think of it, Margaret! It's not fair. One-
third of what is there belongs to Elnora by law, and if Kate
Comstock raises a row I'll tell her so, and see that the girl gets
it. You go to see Kate in the morning, and I'll go with you. Tell
her you want Elnora's pattern, that you are going to make her
a dress, for helping us. And sort of hint at a few more things. If
Kate balks, I'll take a hand and settle her. I'll go to law for
Elnora's share of that land and sell enough to educate her."
"Why, Wesley Sinton, you're perfectly wild."
22 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
"I'm not! Did you ever stop to think that such cases are so
frequent there have been laws made to provide for them? I can
bring it up in court and force Kate to educate Elnora, and
board and clothe her till she's of age, and then she can take her
"Wesley, Kate would go crazy!"
"She's crazy now. The idea of any mother living with as sweet
a girl as Elnora, and letting her suffer till I find her crying like
a funeral. It makes me fighting mad. All uncalled for. Not a grain
of sense in it. I've offered and offered to oversee clearing her
land and working her fields. Let her sell a good tree, or a few
acres. Something is going to be done, right now. Elnora's been
fairly happy up to this, but to spoil the school life she's planned,
is to ruin all her life. I won't have it! If Elnora won't take these
things, so help me, I'll tell her what she is worth, and loan her
the money and she can pay me back when she comes of age. I am
going to have it out with Kate Comstock in the morning. Here
we are! You open up what you got while I put away the horses,
and then I'll show you."
When Wesley came from the barn Margaret had four pieces of
crisp gingham, a pale blue, a pink, a gray with green stripes and
a rich brown and blue plaid. On each of them lay a yard and a
half of wide ribbon to match. There were handkerchiefs and a
brown leather belt. In her hands she held a wide-brimmed tan
straw hat, having a high crown banded with velvet strips each of
which fastened with a tiny gold buckle.
"It looks kind of bare now," she explained. "It had three quills
on it here."
"Did you have them taken off?" asked Wesley.
"Yes, I did. The price was two and a half for the hat, and those
things were a dollar and a half apiece. I couldn't pay that."
"It does seem considerable," admitted Wesley, "but will it
look right without them?"
"No, it won't!" said Margaret. "It's going to have quills on it.
Do you remember those beautiful peacock wing feathers that
Phoebe Simms gave me? Three of them go on just where those
came off, and nobody will ever know the difference. They match
WESLEY AND MARGARET GO SHOPPING 23
the hat to a moral, and they are just a little longer and richer than
the ones that I had taken off. I was wondering whether I better
sew them on tonight while I remember how they set, or wait till
"Don't risk it!" exclaimed Wesley anxiously. "Don't you risk
it! Sew them on right now!"
"Open your bundles, while I get the thread," said Margaret.
Wesley unwrapped the shoes. Margaret took them up and
pinched the leather and stroked them.
"My, but they are fine!" she cried.
Wesley picked up one and slowly turned it in his big hands.
He glanced at his foot and back to the shoe.
"It's a little bit of a thing, Margaret," he said softly. "Like
as not I'll have to take it back. It seems as if it couldn't fit."
"It seems as if it didn't dare do anything else," said Margaret.
"That's a happy little shoe to get the chance to carry as fine a
girl as Elnora to high school. Now what's in the other box?"
Wesley looked at Margaret doubtfully.
"Why," he said, "you know there's going to be rainy days,
and those things she has now ain't fit for anything but to drive
up the cows- "
"Wesley, did you get high shoes, too?"
"Well, she ought to have them! The man said he would make
them cheaper if I took both pairs at once."
Margaret laughed aloud. "Those will do her past Christmas,"
she exulted. "What else did you buy?"
"Well sir," said Wesley, "I saw something today. You told
me about Kate getting that tin pail for Elnora to carry to high
school and you said you told her it was a shame. I guess Elnora
was ashamed all right, for tonight she stopped at the old case
Duncan gave her, and took out that pail, where it had been all
day, and put a napkin inside it. Coming home she confessed she
was half starved because she hid her dinner under a culvert,
and a tramp took it. She hadn't had a bite to eat the whole day.
But she never complained at all, she was pleased that she hadn't
lost the napkin. So I just inquired around till I found this, and
I think it's about the ticket."
24 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
Wesley opened the package and laid a brown leather lunch
box on the table. "Might be a couple of books, or drawing tools
or most anything that's neat and genteel. You see, it opens this
It did open, and inside was a space for sandwiches, a little
porcelain box for cold meat or fried chicken, another for salad,
a glass with a lid which screwed on, held by a ring in a corner,
for custard or jelly, a flask for tea or milk, a beautiful little knife,
fork, and spoon fastened in holders, and a place for a napkin.
Margaret was almost crying over it.
"How I'd love to fill it!" she exclaimed.
"Do it the first time, just to show Kate Comstock what love is!"
said Wesley. "Get up early in the morning and make one of
those dresses tomorrow. Can't you make a plain gingham dress
in a day? I'll pick a chicken, and you fry it and fix a little cus-
tard for the cup, and do it up brown. Go on, Maggie, you do it!"
"I never can," said Margaret. "I am slow as the itch about
sewing, and these are not going to be plain dresses when it
comes to making them. There are going to be edgings of plain
green, pink, and brown to the bias strips, and tucks and pleats
around the hips, fancy belts and collars, and all of it takes time."
"Then Kate Comstock's got to help," said Wesley. "Can the
two of you make one, and get that lunch tomorrow?"
"Easy, but she'll never do it!"
"You see if she doesn't!" said Wesley. "You get up and
cut it out, and soon as Elnora is gone I'll go after Kate myself.
She'll take what I'll say better alone. But she'll come, and she'll
help make the dress. These other things are our Christmas gifts to
Elnora. She'll no doubt need them more now than she will then,
and we can give them just as well. That's yours, and this is mine,
or whichever way you choose."
Wesley untied a good brown umbrella and shook out the
folds of a long, brown raincoat. Margaret dropped the hat,
arose and took the coat. She tried it on, felt it, cooed over it and
matched it with the umbrella.
"Did it look anything like rain tonight?" she inquired so
anxiously that Wesley laughed.
WESLEY AND MARGARET GO SHOPPING 25
"And this last bundle?" she said, dropping back in her chair,
the coat still over her shoulders.
"I couldn't buy this much stuff for any other woman and
nothing for my own," said Wesley. "It's Christmas for you, too,
Margaret!" He shook out fold after fold of soft gray satiny goods
that would look lovely against Margaret's pink cheeks and whiten-
"Oh, you old darling!" she exclaimed, and fled sobbing into
But she soon dried her eyes, raked together the coals in the
cooking stove and boiled one of the dress patterns in salt water for
half an hour. Wesley held the lamp while she hung the goods on
the line to dry. Then she set the irons on the stove so they would
be hot the first thing in the morning.
Wherein Elnora Visits the Bird Woman
and Opens a Bank Account
AT FOUR o'clock the following morning Elnora was shelling beans.
At six she fed the chickens and pigs, swept two of the rooms of the
cabin, built a fire, and put on the kettle for breakfast. Then she
climbed the narrow stairs to the attic she had occupied since
a very small child, and dressed in the hated shoes and brown
calico, plastered down her crisp curls, ate what breakfast she
could, and pinning on her hat, started for town.
"There is no sense in your going for an hour yet," said her
"I must try to discover some way to earn those books," replied
Elnora. "I am perfectly positive I shall not find them lying beside
the road wrapped in tissue paper, and tagged with my name."
She went toward the city as on yesterday. Her perplexity as
to where tuition and books were to come from was worse but she
did not feel quite so badly. She never again would have to face
all of it for the first time. There had been times yesterday when
she had prayed to be hidden, or to drop dead, and neither had
happened. "I believe the best way to get an answer to prayer is
to work for it," muttered Elnora grimly.
Again she followed the trail to the swamp, rearranged her hair
and left the tin pail. This time she folded a couple of sandwiches
in the napkin, and tied them in a neat light paper parcel which
she carried in her hand. Then she hurried along the road to
Onabasha and found a bookstore. There she asked the prices of
the list of books that she needed, and learned that six dollars
ELNORA VISITS THE BIRD WOMAN 27
would not quite supply them. She anxiously inquired for second-
hand books, but was told that the only way to secure them was
from the last year's Freshmen. Just then Elnora felt that she
positively could not approach any of those she supposed to be
Sophomores and ask to buy their old books. The only balm the
girl could see for the humiliation of yesterday was to appear that
day with a set of new books.
"Do you wish these?" asked the clerk hurriedly, for the store
was rapidly filling with school children wanting anything from
a dictionary to a pen.
"Yes," gasped Elnora, "Oh, yes! But I cannot pay for them
just now. Please let me take them, and I will pay for them on
Friday, or return them as perfect as they are. Please trust me
for them a few days."
"I'll ask the proprietor," he said. When he came back Elnora
knew the answer before he spoke.
"I'm sorry," he said, "but Mr. Hann doesn't recognize your
name. You are not a customer of ours, and he feels that he can't
take the risk."
Elnora clumped out of the store, the thump of her heavy shoes
beating as a hammer on her brain. She tried two other dealers with
the same result, and then in sick despair came into the street.
What could she do? She was too frightened to think. Should she
stay from school that day and canvass the homes appearing to
belong to the wealthy, and try to sell beds of wild ferns, as she
had suggested to Wesley Sinton? What would she dare ask for
bringing in and planting a clump of ferns? How could she carry
them? Would people buy them? She slowly moved past the hotel
and then glanced around to see if there were a clock anywhere,
for she felt sure the young people passing her constantly were on
their way to school.
There it stood in a bank window in big black letters staring
straight at her:
WANTED: CATERPILLARS. COCOONS. CHRYSALIDES.
PUPAE CASES. BUTTERFLIES. MOTHS. INDIAN RELICS
OF ALL KINDS. HIGHEST SCALE OF PRICES PAID IN CASH
28 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
Elnora caught the wicket at the cashier's desk with both hands
to brace herself against disappointment.
"Who is it wants to buy cocoons, butterflies, and moths?" she
"The Bird Woman," answered the cashier. "Have you some for
"I have some, I do not know if they are what she would want."
"Well, you had better see her," said the cashier. "Do you know
where she lives?"
"Yes," said Elnora. "Would you tell me the time?"
"Twenty-one after eight," was the answer.
She had nine minutes to reach the auditorium or be late.
Should she go to school, or to the Bird Woman? Several girls
passed her walking swiftly and she remembered their faces. They
were hurrying to school. Elnora caught the infection. She would
see the Bird Woman at noon. Algebra came first, and that pro-
fessor was kind. Perhaps she could slip to the superintendent and
ask him for a book for the next lesson, and at noon-"Oh, dear
Lord, make it come true," prayed Elnora, at noon possibly she
could sell some of those wonderful shining-winged things she
had been collecting all her life around the outskirts of the Lim-
As she went down the long hall she noticed the professor of
mathematics standing in the door of his recitation room. When
she passed him he smiled and spoke to her.
"I have been watching for you," he said, and Elnora stopped
"For me?" she questioned.
"Yes," said Professor Henley. "Step inside."
Elnora followed him into the room and closed the door be-
"At teachers' meeting last evening, one of the professors men-
tioned that a pupil had betrayed in class that she had expected
her books to be furnished by the city. I thought possibly it was
you. Was it?"
"Yes," breathed Elnora.
"That being the case," said Professor Henley, "it just occurred
ELNORA VISITS THE BIRD WOMAN 29
to me as you had expected that, you might require a little time to
secure them, and you are too fine a mathematician to fall behind
for want of supplies. So I telephoned one of our Sophomores to
bring her last year's books this morning. I am sorry to say they are
somewhat abused, but the text is all here. You can have them for
two dollars, and pay when you are ready. Would you care to
Elnora sat suddenly, because she could not stand another in-
stant. She reached both hands for the books, and said never
a word. The professor was silent also. At last Elnora arose, hug-
ging those books to her heart as a mother clasps a baby.
"One thing more," said the professor. "You may pay your tui-
tion quarterly. You need not bother about the first installment this
month. Any time in October will do."
It seemed as if Elnora's gasp of relief must have reached the
soles of her brogans.
"Did anyone ever tell you how beautiful you are!" she cried.
As the professor was lank, tow-haired and so nearsighted
that he peered at his pupils through spectacles, no one ever had.
"No," said Professor Henley, "I've waited some time for that;
for which reason I shall appreciate it all the more. Come now,
or we shall be late for opening exercises."
So Elnora entered the auditorium a second time. Her face
was like the brightest dawn that ever broke over the Limberlost.
No matter about the lumbering shoes and skimpy dress. No matter
about anything, she had the books. She could take them home.
In her garret she could commit them to memory, if need be. She
could prove that clothes were not all. If the Bird Woman did
not want any of the many different kinds of specimens she had
collected, she was quite sure now she could sell ferns, nuts, and
a great many things. Then, too, a girl made a place for her that
morning, and several smiled and bowed. Elnora forgot every-
thing save her books, and that she was where she could use them
intelligently-everything except one little thing away back in her
head. Her mother had known about the books and the tuition,
and had not told her when she agreed to her coming.
At noon Elnora took her little parcel of lunch and started to
A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
the home of the Bird Woman. She must know about the speci-
mens first and then she would walk to the suburbs somewhere and
eat a few bites. She dropped the heavy iron knocker on the door
of a big red log cabin, and her heart thumped at the resounding
"Is the Bird Woman at home?" she asked of the maid.
"She is at lunch," was the answer.
"Please ask her if she will see a girl from the Limberlost about
some moths?" inquired Einora.
"I never need ask, if it's moths," laughed the girl. "Orders
are to bring anyone with specimens right in. Come this way."
Elnora followed down the hall and entered a long room with
high paneled wainscoting, old English fireplace with an over-
mantel and closets of peculiar china filling the corners. At a bare
table of oak, yellow as gold, sat a woman Elnora often had
watched and followed covertly around the Limberlost. The Bird
Woman was holding out a hand of welcome.
"I heard!" she laughed. "A little pasteboard box, or just the
mere word 'specimen,' passes you at my door. If it is moths I hope
you have hundreds. I've been very busy all summer and unable
to collect, and I need so many. Sit down and lunch with me,
while we talk it over. From the Limberlost, did you say?"
"I live near the swamp," replied Elnora. "Since it's so cleared
I dare go around the edge in daytime, though we are all afraid at
"What have you collected?" asked the Bird Woman, as she
helped Elnora to sandwiches unlike any she ever before had
tasted, salad that seemed to be made of many familiar things, and
a cup of hot chocolate that would have delighted any hungry
"I am afraid I am bothering you for nothing, and imposing on
you," she said. "That 'collected' frightens me. I've only gathered.
I always loved everything outdoors, so I made friends and play-
mates of them. When I learned that the moths die so soon, I
saved them especially, because there seemed no wickedness in it."
"I have thought the same thing," said the Bird Woman en-
courngingly. Then because the girl could not eat until she learned
ELNORA VISITS THE BIRD WOMAN 31
about the moths, the Bird Woman asked Elnora if she knew what
kinds she had.
"Not all of them," answered Elnora. "Before Mr. Duncan
moved away he often saw me near the edge of the swamp and
he showed me the box he had fixed for Freckles, and gave me the
key. There were some books and things, so from that time on I
studied and tried to take moths right, but I am afraid they are
not what you want."
"Are they the big ones that fly mostly in June nights?" asked
the Bird Woman.
"Yes," said Elnora. "Big gray ones with reddish markings,
pale blue-green, yellow with lavender, and red and yellow."
"What do you mean by 'red and yellow'?" asked the Bird
Woman so quickly that the girl almost jumped.
"Not exactly red," explained Elnora, with tremulous voice. "A
reddish, yellowish brown, with canary-colored spots and gray
lines on their wings."
"How many of them?" It was the same quick question.
"I had over two hundred eggs," said Elnora, "but some of
them didn't hatch, and some of the caterpillars died, but there
must be at least a hundred perfect ones."
"Perfect! How perfect?" cried the Bird Woman.
"I mean whole wings, no down gone, and all their legs and
antenna," faltered Elnora.
"Young woman, that's the rarest moth in America," said the
Bird Woman solemnly. "If you have a hundred of them, they are
worth a hundred dollars according to my list. I can use all that
are not damaged."
"What if they are not pinned right," quavered Elnora.
"If they are perfect, that does not make the slightest difference.
I know how to soften them so that I can put them into any shape
I choose. Where are they? When may I see them?"
"They are in Freckles's old case in the Limberlost," said
Elnora. "I couldn't carry many for fear of breaking them, but
I could bring a few after school."
"You come here at four," said the Bird Woman, "and we will
drive out with some-specimen boxes, and a price list, and see what
32 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
you have to sell. Are they your very own? Are you free to part
"They are mine," said Elnora. "No one but God knows I have
them. Mr. Duncan gave me the books and the box. He told
Freckles about me, and Freckles told him to give me all he left.
He said for me to stick to the swamp and be brave, and my hour
would come, and it has! I know most of them are all right, and
oh, I do need the money!"
"Could you tell me?" asked the Bird Woman softly.
"You see the swamp and all the fields around it are so full,"
explained Elnora. "Every day I felt smaller and smaller, and I
wanted to know more and more, and pretty soon I grew desper-
ate, just as Freckles did. But I am better off than he was, for I have
his books, and I have a mother; even if she doesn't care for me
as other girls' mothers do for them, it's better than no one."
The Bird Woman's glance fell, for the girl was not conscious of
how much she was revealing. Her eyes were fixed on a black
pitcher filled with goldenrod in the center of the table and she
was saying what she thought.
"As long as I could go to the Brushwood school I was happy,
but I couldn't go further just when things were the most interest-
ing, so I was determined I'd come to high school and mother
wouldn't consent. You see there's plenty of land, but father
was drowned when I was a baby, and mother and I can't make
money as men do. The taxes are higher every year, and she said
it was too expensive. I wouldn't give her any rest, until at last
she bought me this dress, and these shoes and I came. It was
"Do you live in that beautiful cabin at the northwest end of
the swamp?" asked the Bird Woman.
"Yes," said Elnora.
"I remember the place and a story about it, now. You entered
the high school yesterday?"
"It was rather bad?"
"Rather bad!" echoed Elnora.
The Bird Woman laughed.
ELNORA VISITS THE BIRD WOMAN 33
"You can't tell me anything about that," she said. "I once
entered a city school straight from the country. My dress was
brown calico, and my shoes were heavy."
The tears began to roll down Elnora's cheeks.
"Did they-?" she faltered.
"They did!" said the Bird Woman. "All of it. I am sure they
did not miss one least little thing."
Then she wiped away some tears that began coursing her
cheeks, and laughed at the same time.
"Where are they now?" asked Elnora suddenly.
"They are widely scattered, but none of them have attained
heights out of range. Some of the rich are poor, and some of the
poor are rich. Some of the brightest died insane, and some of the
dullest worked out high positions; some of the very worst to bear
have gone out, and I frequently hear from others. Now I am
here, able to remember it, and nmingle laughter with what used
to be all tears; for every day I have my beautiful work, and almost
every day God sends someone like you to help me. What is
your name, my girl?"
"Elnora Comstock," answered Elnora. "Yesterday on the board
it changed to Cornstock, and for a minute I thought I'd die,
but I can laugh over that already."
The Bird Woman arose and kissed her. "Finish your lunch,"
she said, "and I will bring my price lists, and make a memoran-
dum of what you think you have, so I will know how many boxes
to prepare. And remember this: What you are lies with you. If
you are lazy, and accept your lot, you may live in it. If you are
willing to work, you can write your name anywhere you choose,
among the only ones who live beyond the grave in this world,
the people who write books that help, make exquisite music,
carve statues, paint pictures, and work for others. Never mind
the calico dress, and the coarse shoes. Work at your books, and
before long you will hear yesterday's tormentors boasting that
they were once classmates of yours. 'I could a tale unfold'- !"
She laughingly left the room and Elnora sat thinking, until
she remembered how hungry she was, so she ate the food, drank
the hot chocolate and began to feel better.
A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
Then the Bird Woman came back and showed Elnora a long
printed slip giving a list of graduated prices for moths, butter-
flies, and dragonflies.
"Oh, do you want them!" exulted Elnora. "I have a few
and I can get more by the thousand, with every color in the
world on their wings."
"Yes," said the Bird Woman, "I will buy them, also the big
moth caterpillars that are creeping everywhere now, and the
cocoons that they will spin just about this time. I have a sneaking
impression that the mystery, wonder, and the urge of their pure
beauty, are going to force me to picture and paint our moths and
put them into a book for all the world to see and know. We
Limberlost people must not be selfish with the wonders God has
given to us. We must share with those poor cooped-up city people
the best we can. To send them a beautiful book, that is the way,
is it not, little new friend of mine?"
"Yes, oh yes!" cried Elnora. "And please God they find a
way to earn the money to buy the books, as I have those I need so
"I will pay good prices for all the moths you can find," said
the Bird Woman, "because you see I exchange them with foreign
collectors. I want a complete series of the moths of America to
trade with a German scientist, another with a man in India, and
another in Brazil. Others I can exchange with home collectors
for those of California and Canada, so you see I can use all you
can raise, or find. The banker will buy stone axes, arrow points,
and Indian pipes. There was a teacher from the city grade schools
here today for specimens. There is a fund to supply the ward
buildings. I'll help you get in touch with that. They want leaves of
different trees, flowers, grasses, moths, insects, birds' nests and
anything about birds."
Elnora's eyes were blazing. "Had I better go back to school or
open a bank account and begin being a millionaire? Uncle Wesley
and I have a bushel of arrow points gathered, a stack of axes,
pipes, skin-dressing tools, tubes and mortars. I don't know how I
ever shall wait three hours."
ELNORA VISITS THE BIRD WOMAN 35
"You must go, or you will be late," said the Bird Woman. "I
will be ready at four."
After school closed Elnora, seated beside the Bird Woman,
drove to Freckles's room in the Limberlost. One at a time the
beautiful big moths were taken from the interior of the old black
case. Not a fourth of them could be moved that night and it was
almost dark when the last box was closed, the list figured, and
into Elnora's trembling fingers were paid fifty-nine dollars and
sixteen cents. Elnora clasped the money closely.
"Oh, you beautiful stuff !" she cried. "You are going to buy the
books, pay the tuition, and take me to high school."
Then because she was a woman, she sat on a log and looked at
her shoes. Long after the Bird Woman drove away Elnora re-
mained. She had her problem, and it was a big one. If she told
her mother, would she take the money to pay the taxes? If she
did not tell her, how could she account for the books, and things
for which she would spend it. At last she counted out what she
needed for the next day, placed the remainder in the farthest
corer of the case, and locked the door. She then filled the front
of her skirt from a heap of arrow points beneath the case and
Wherein the Sintons Are Disappointed,
and Mrs. Comstock Learns That She
WrrH the first streak of red above the Limberlost, Margaret
Sinton was busy with the gingham and the intricate paper
pattern she had purchased. Wesley cooked the breakfast and
worked until he thought Elnora would be gone, then he started
to bring her mother.
"Now you be mighty careful," cautioned Margaret. "I don't
know how she will take it."
"I don't either," said Wesley philosophically, "but she's got to
take it some way. That dress has to be finished by school time
in the morning."
Wesley had not slept well that night. He had been so busy
framing diplomatic speeches to make to Mrs. Comstock that
sleep had little chance with him. Every step nearer to her he
approached his position seemed less enviable. By the time he
reached the front gate and started down the walk between the
rows of asters and lady slippers he was perspiring, and every
plausible and convincing speech had fled his brain. Mrs. Com-
stock helped him. She met him at the door.
"Good morning," she said. "Did Margaret send you for some-
"Yes," said Wesley. "She's got a job that's too big for her, and
she wants you to help."
"Of course I will," said Mrs. Comstock. It was no one's affair
THE SINTONS ARE DISAPPOINTED 37
how lonely the previous day had been, or how the endless hours
of the present would drag. "What is she doing in such a rush?"
Now was his chance.
"She's making a dress for Elnora," answered Wesley. He saw
Mrs. Comstock's form straighten, and her face harden, so he con-
tinued hastily. "You see, Elnora has been helping us at harvest
time, butchering, and with unexpected visitors for years. We've
made out that she's saved us a considerable sum, and as she
wouldn't ever touch any pay for anything, we just went to town
and got a few clothes we thought would fix her up a little for the
high school. We want to get a dress done today mighty bad, but
Margaret is slow about sewing, and she never can finish alone, so
I came after you."
"And it's such a simple little matter, so dead easy, and all so be-
tween old friends like, that you can't look above your boots while
you explain it," sneered Mrs. Comstock. "Wesley Sinton, what
put the idea into your head that Elnora would take things bought
with money, when she wouldn't take the money?"
Then Sinton's eyes came up straightly.
"Finding her on the trail last night sobbing as hard as I ever
saw anyone at a funeral. She wasn't complaining at all, but she's
come to me all her life with her little hurts, and she couldn't hide
how she'd been laughed at, twitted, and run face to face against
the fact that there were books and tuition, unexpected, and noth-
ing will ever make me believe you didn't know that, Kate Com-
"If any doubts are troubling you on that subject, sure I knew
it! She was so anxious to try the world, I thought I'd just let her
take a few knocks and see how she liked them."
"As if she'd ever taken anything but knocks all her life!" cried
Wesley Sinton. "Kate Comstock, you are a heartless, selfish
woman. You've never shown Elnora any real love in her life. If
ever she finds out that thing you'll lose her, and it will serve you
"She knows it now," said Mrs. Comstock icily, "and she'll be
home tonight just as usual."
"Well, you are a brave woman if you dared put a girl of
38 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
Elnora's make through what she suffered yesterday, and will
suffer again today, and let her know you did it on purpose. I
admire your nerve. But I've watched this since Elnora was born,
and I got enough. Things have come to a pass where they go
better for her, or I interfere."
"As if you'd ever done anything but interfere all her life! Think
I haven't watched you? Think I, with my heart raw in my breast,
and too numb to resent it openly, haven't seen you and Mag
Sinton trying to turn Elnora against me day after day? When did
you ever tell her what her father meant to me? When did you
ever try to make her see the wreck of my life, and what I've
suffered? No indeed! Always it's been poor little abused Einora,
and cakes, kissing, extra clothes, and encouraging her to run to
you with a pitiful mouth every time I tried to make a woman of
"Kate Comstock, that's unjust," cried Sinton. "Only last night
I tried to show her the picture I saw the day she was born. I
begged her to come to you and tell you pleasant what she needed,
and ask you for what I happen to know you can well afford to
"I can't!" cried Mrs. Comstock. "You know I can't!"
"Then get so you can!" said Wesley Sinton. "Any day you say
the word you can sell six thousand worth of rare timber off this
place easy. I'll see to clearing and working the fields cheap as dirt,
for Elnora's sake. I'll buy you more cattle to fatten. All you've got
to do is sign a lease, to pull thousands from the ground in oil, as
the rest of us are doing all around you!"
"Cut down Robert's trees!" shrieked Mrs. Comstock. "Tear
up his land! Cover everything with horrid, greasy oil! I'll die
"You mean you'll let Elnora go like a beggar, and hurt and
mortify her past bearing. I've got to the place where I tell you
plain what I am going to do. Maggie and I went to town last
night, and we bought what things Elnora needs most urgent to
make her look a little like the rest of the high school girls. Now
here it is in plain English. You can help get these things ready,
and let us give them to her as we want--"
THE SINTONS ARE DISAPPOINTED 39
"She won't touch them!" cried Mrs. Comstock.
"Then you can pay us, and she can take them as her right--"
"Then I will tell Elnora just what you are worth, what you can
afford, and how much of this she owns. I'll loan her the money
to buy books and decent clothes, and when she is of age she can
sell her share and pay me."
Mrs. Comstock gripped a chair-back and opened her lips, but
no words came.
"And," Sinton continued, "if she is so much like you that she
won't do that, I'll go to the county seat and lay complaint against
you as her guardian before the judge. I'll swear to what you are
worth, and how you are raising her, and have you discharged,
or have the judge appoint some man who will see that she is com-
fortable, educated, and decent looking!"
"You-you wouldn't!" gasped Kate Comstock.
"I won't need to, Kate!" said Sinton, his heart softening the
instant the hard words were said. "You won't show it, but you do
love Elnora! You can't help it! You must see how she needs
things; come help us fix them, and be friends. Maggie and I
couldn't live without her, and you couldn't either. You've got to
love such a fine girl as she is; let it show a little!"
"You can hardly expect me to love her," said Mrs. Comstock
coldly. "But for her a man would stand back of me now, who
would beat the breath out of your sneaking body for the cowardly
thing with which you threaten me. After all I've suffered you'd
drag me to court and compel me to tear up Robert's property.
If I ever go they carry me. If they touch one tree, or put down one
greasy old oil well, it will be over all I can shoot, before they be-
gin. Now, see how quick you can clear out of here!"
"You won't come and help Maggie with the dress?"
For answer Mrs. Comstock looked around swiftly for some ob-
ject on which to lay her hands. Knowing her temper, Wesley
Sinton left with all the haste consistent with dignity. But he
did not go home. He crossed a field, and in an hour brought
another neighbor who was skillful with her needle. With sink-
ing heart Margaret saw them coming.
40 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
"Kate is too busy to help today, she can't sew before to-
morrow," said Wesley cheerfully as they entered.
That quieted Margaret's apprehension a little, though she had
some doubts. Wesley prepared the lunch, and by four o'clock
the dress was finished as far as it possibly could be until it was
fitted on Elnora. If that did not entail too much work, it could
be completed in two hours.
Then Margaret packed their purchases into the big market
basket. Wesley took the hat, umbrella, and raincoat, and they
went to Mrs. Comstock's. As they reached the step, Margaret
spoke pleasantly to Mrs. Comstock, who sat reading just inside the
door, but she did not answer and deliberately turned a leaf with-
out looking up.
Wesley Sinton opened the door and went in followed by
"Kate," he said, "you needn't take out your mad over our
little racket on Maggie. I ain't told her a word I said to you, or
you said to me. She's not so very strong, and she's sewed since
four o'clock this morning to get this dress ready for tomorrow.
It's done and we came down to try it on Elnora."
"Is that the truth, Mag Sinton?" demanded Mrs. Comstock.
"You heard Wesley say so," proudly affirmed Mrs. Sinton.
"I want to make you a proposition," said Wesley. "Wait till
Elnora comes. Then we'll show her the things and see what she
"How would it do to see what she says without bribing her,"
sneered Mrs. Comstock.
"If she can stand what she did yesterday, and will today, she
can bear 'most anything," said Wesley. "Put away the clothes
if you want to, till we tell her."
"Well, you don't take this waist I'm working on," said Mar-
garet, "for I have to baste in the sleeves and set the collar. Put
the rest out of sight if you like."
Mrs. Comstock picked up the basket and bundles, placed them
inside her room and closed the door.
Margaret threaded her needle and began to sew. Mrs. Com-
stock returned to her book, while Wesley fidgeted and raged in-
THE SINTONS ARE DISAPPOINTED 41
wardly. He could see that Margaret was nervous and almost in
tears, but the lines in Mrs. Comstock's impassive face were set
and cold. So they sat while the clock ticked off the time-one
hour, two, dusk, and no Elnora. Just when Margaret and Wesley
were discussing whether he had not better go to town to meet-
Elnora, they heard her coming up the walk. Wesley dropped his
tilted chair and squared himself. Margaret gripped her sewing,
and turned pleading eyes toward the door. Mrs. Comstock
closed her book and grimly smiled.
"Mother, please open the door," called Elnora.
Mrs. Comstock arose and swung back the screen. Elnora
stepped in beside her, bent half double, the whole front of her
dress gathered into a sort of bag filled with a heavy load, and
one arm stacked high with books. In the dim light she did not
see the Sintons.
"Please hand me the empty bucket in the kitchen, mother," she
said. "I just had to bring these arrow points home, but I'm
scared for fear I've spoiled my dress and will have to wash it.
I'm to clean them, and take them to the banker in the morning,
and oh, mother, I've sold enough stuff to pay for my books, my
tuition, and maybe a dress and some lighter shoes besides. Oh,
mother I'm so happy! Take the books and bring the bucket!"
Then she saw Margaret and Wesley. "Oh, glory !" she exulted.
"I was just wondering how I'd ever wait to tell you, and here you
are! It's too perfectly splendid to be true!"
"Tell us, Elnora," said Sinton.
"Well sir," said Elnora, doubling down on the floor and
spreading out her skirt, "set the bucket here, mother. These points
are brittle, and should be put in one at a time. If they are chipped
I can't sell them. Well sir! I've had a time! You know I just
had to have books. I tried three stores, and they wouldn't trust
me, not even three days, I didn't know what in this world I could
do quickly enough. Just when I was almost frantic I saw a sign
in a bank window asking for caterpillars, cocoons, butterflies,
arrow points, and everything. I went in, and it was this Bird
Woman who wants the insects, and the banker wants the stones.
I had to go to school then, but, if you'll believe it"-Elnora
42 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
beamed on all of them in turn as she talked and slipped the
arrow points from her dress to the pail-"if you'll believe it-
but you won't, hardly, until you look at the books-there was the
mathematics teacher, waiting at his door, and he had a set of
books for me that he had telephoned a Sophomore to bring."
"How did he happen to do that, Elnora?" interrupted Sinton.
"It was a fool mistake I made yesterday in thinking books
were just handed out to one. There was a teachers' meeting last
night and the history teacher told about that. Professor Henley
thought of me. You know I told you what he said about my
algebra, mother. Ain't I glad I studied out some of it myself this
summer! So he telephoned and a girl brought the books. Because
they are marked and abused some I get the whole outfit for
two dollars. I can erase most of the marks, paste down the covers,
and fix them so they look better. But I must hurry to the joy part.
I didn't stop to eat, at noon, I just ran to the Bird Woman's, and
I had lunch with her. It was salad, hot chocolate, and lovely
things, and she wants to buy most every old scrap I ever gathered.
She wants dragonflies, moths, butterflies, and he-the banker, I
mean-wants everything Indian. This very night she came to
the swamp with me and took away enough stuff to pay for the
books and tuition, and tomorrow she is going to buy some
Elnora laid the last arrow point in the pail and arose, shaking
leaves and bits of baked earth from her dress. She reached into
her pocket, produced her money and waved it before their
"And that's the joy part!" she exulted. "Put it up in the clock
till morning, mother. That pays for the books and tuition
and-" Elnora hesitated, for she saw the nervous grasp with
which her mother's fingers closed on the bills. Then she continued,
but more slowly and thinking before she spoke.
"What I get tomorrow pays for more books and tuition, and
maybe a few, just a few, things to wear. These shoes are so
dreadfully heavy and hot, and they make such a noise on the
floor. There isn't another calico dress in the whole building,
THE SINTONS ARE DISAPPOINTED 43
not among hundreds of us. Why, what is that? Aunt Margaret,
what are you hiding in your lap?"
She snatched the waist and shook it out, and her face was
beaming. "Have you taken to waists all fancy and buttoned in
the back? I bet you this is mine!"
"I bet you so too," said Margaret Sinton. "You undress
right away and try it on, and if it fits, it will be done for
morning. There are some low shoes, too!"
Elnora began to dance. "Oh, you dear people!" she cried. "I
can pay for them tomorrow night! Isn't it too splendid! I was
just thinking on the way home that I certainly would be com-
pelled to have cooler shoes until later, and I was wondering
what I'd do when the fall rains begin."
"I meant to get you some heavy dress skirts and a coat then,"
said Mrs. Comstock.
"I know you said so!" cried Elnora. "But you needn't now!
I can buy every single stitch I need myself. Next summer I can
gather up a lot more stuff, and all winter on the way to school.
I am sure I can sell ferns, I know I can nuts, and the Bird
Woman says the grade rooms want leaves, grasses, birds' nests,
and cocoons. Oh, isn't this world lovely! I'll be helping with the
tax, next, mother!"
Elnora waved the waist and started for the bedroom. When
she opened the door she gave a little cry.
"What have you people been doing?" she demanded. "I
never saw so many interesting bundles in all my life. I'm 'skeered'
to death for fear I can't pay for them, and will have to give
"Wouldn't you take them, if you could not pay for them,
Elnora?" asked her mother instantly.
"Why, not unless you did," answered Elnora. "People have
no right to wear things they can't afford, have they?"
"But from such old friends as Maggie and Wesley!" Mrs. Com-
stock's voice was oily with triumph.
"From them least of all," cried Elnora stoutly. "From a stranger
sooner than from them, to whom I owe so much more than I
ever can pay now."
44 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
"Well, you don't have to," said Mrs. Comstock. "Maggie just
selected these things, because she is more in touch with the world,
and has got such good taste. You can pay as long as your money
holds out, and if there's more necessary, maybe I can sell the
butcher a calf, or if things are too costly for us, of course, they
can take them back. Put on the waist now, and then you can
look over the rest and see if they are suitable, and what you
Elnora stepped into the adjoining room and closed the door.
Mrs. Comstock picked up the bucket and started for the well
with it. At the bedroom she paused.
"Elnora, were you going to wash these arrow points?"
"Yes. The Bird Woman says they sell better if they are clean,
so it can be seen that there are no defects in them."
"Of course," said Mrs. Comstock. "Some of them seem quite
baked. Shall I put them to soak? Do you want to take them in
"Yes, I do," answered Elnora. "If you would just fill the pail
Mrs. Comstock left the room. Wesley Sinton sat with his back
to the window in the west end of the cabin which overlooked the
well. A suppressed sound behind him caused him to turn quickly.
Then he arose and leaned over Margaret.
"She's out there laughing like a blamed monkey!" he whispered
"Well, she can't help it!" exclaimed Margaret.
"I'm going home!" said Wesley.
"Oh no, you are not!" retorted Margaret. "You are missing
the point. The point is not how you look, or feel. It is to get
these things in Elnora's possession past dispute. You go now, and
tomorrow Elnora will wear calico, and Kate Comstock will re-
turn these goods. Right here I stay until everything we bought is
"What are you going to do?" asked Wesley.
"I don't know yet, myself," said Margaret.
Then she arose and peered from the window. At the well curb
stood Katherine Comstock. The strain of the day was finding
THE SINTONS ARE DISAPPOINTED 45
reaction. Her chin was in the air, she was heaving, shaking and
strangling to suppress any sound. The word that slipped between
Margaret Sinton's lips shocked Wesley until he dropped on his
chair, and recalled her to her senses. She was fairly composed as
she turned to Elnora, and began the fitting. When she had
pinched, pulled, and patted she called, "Come see if you think
this fits, Kate."
Mrs. Comstock had gone around to the back door and
answered from the kitchen. "You know more about it than I do.
Go ahead! I'm getting supper. Don't forget to allow for what
it will shrink in washing!"
"I set the colors and washed the goods last night; it can be
made to fit right now," answered Margaret.
When she could find nothing more to alter she told Elnora
to heat some water. After she had done that the girl began
The hat came first.
"Mother!" cried Elnora. "Mother, of course, you have seen
this, but you haven't seen it on me. I must try it on."
"Don't you dare put that on your head until your hair is washed
and properly combed," said Margaret.
"Oh!" cried Elnora. "Is that water to wash my hair? I thought
it was to set the color in another dress."
"Well, you thought wrong," said Margaret simply. "Your hair
is going to be washed and brushed until it shines like copper.
While it dries you can eat your supper, and this dress will be
finished. Then you can put on your new ribbon, and your hat.
You can try your shoes now, and if they don't fit, you and Wesley
can drive to town and change them. That little round bundle
on the top of the basket is your stockings."
Margaret sat down and began sewing swiftly, and a little later
opened the machine, and ran several long seams.
Elnora returned in a few minutes holding up her skirts and
stepping daintily in the new shoes.
"Don't soil them, honey, else you're sure they fit," cautioned
"They seem just a trifle large, maybe," said Elnora dubiously,
A G1RL OF THE LIMBERLOST
and Wesley knelt to feel. He and Margaret thought them a fit,
and then Elnora appealed to her mother. Mrs. Comstock ap-
peared wiping her hands on her apron. She examined the shoes
"They seem to fit," she said, "but they are away too fine to
walk country roads."
"I think so, too," said Elnora instantly. "We had better take
these back and get a cheaper pair. "
"Oh, let them go for this time," said Mrs. Comstock. "They
are so pretty, I hate to part with them. You can get cheaper ones
Wesley and Margaret scarcely breathed for a long time.
Then Wesley went to do the feeding. Elnora set the table. When
the water was hot, Margaret pinned a big towel around Elnora's
shoulders and washed and dried the lovely hair according to the
instructions she had been given the previous night. As the hair
began to dry it billowed out in a sparkling sheen that caught the
light and gleamed and flashed.
"Now, the idea is to let it stand naturally, just as the curl
will make it. Don't you do any of that nasty, untidy snarling,
Elnora," cautioned Margaret. "Wash it this way every two weeks
while you are in school, shake it out, and dry it. Then part it in
the middle and turn a front quarter on each side from your face.
You tie the back at your neck with a string-so, and the ribbon
goes in a big, loose bow. I'll show you." One after another
Margaret Sinton tied the ribbons, creasing each of them so they
could not be returned, as she explained that she was trying to
find the color most becoming. Theii she produced the raincoat
which carried Elnora into transports.
Mrs. Comstock objected. "That won't be warm enough for
cold weather, and you can't afford it and a coat, too."
"I'll tell you what I thought," said Elnora. "I was planning on
the way home. These coats are fine because they keep you dry.
I thought I would get one, and a warm sweater to wear under
it cold days. Then I always would be dry, and warm. The sweater
only costs three dollars, so I could get it and the raincoat both for
half the price of a heavy cloth coat."
THE SINTONS ARE DISAPPOINTED 47
"You are right about that," said Mrs. Comstock. "You can
change more with the weather, too. Keep the raincoat, Elnora."
"Wear it until you try the hat," said Margaret. "It will have
to do until the dress is finished."
Elnora picked up the hat dubiously. "Mother, may I wear
my hair as it is now?" she asked.
"Let me take a good look," said Katherine Comstock.
Heaven only knows what she saw. To Wesley and to Margaret
the bright young face of Elnora, with its pink tints, its heavy dark
brows, its bright blue-gray eyes, and its frame of curling reddish-
brown hair was the sweetest sight on earth, and at that instant
Elnora was radiant.
"So long as it's your own hair, and combed back as plain as it
will go, I don't suppose it cuts much ice whether it's tied a'little
tighter or looser," conceded Mrs. Comstock. "If you stop right
there, you may let it go at that."
Elnora set the hat on her head. It was only a wide tan straw
with three exquisite peacock quills at one side. Margaret Sinton
cried out, Wesley slapped his knee and sighed deeply while Mrs.
Comstock stood speechless for a second.
"I wish you had asked the price before you put that on," she
said impatiently. "We never can afford it."
"It's not so much as you think," said Margaret. "Don't you
see what I did? I had them take off the quills, and I put on some
of those Phoebe Simms gave me from her peacocks. The hat will
only cost you a dollar and a half."
She avoided Wesley's eyes, and looked straight at Mrs. Com-
stock. Elnora removed the hat to examine it.
"Why, they are those reddish-tan quills of yours!" she cried.
"Mother, look how beautifully they are set on! I'd much rather
have them than those from the store."
"So would I," said Mrs. Comstock. "If Margaret wants to
spare them, that will make you a beautiful hat; dirt cheap, too!
You must go past Mrs. Simms and show her. She would be
pleased to see them."
Elnora sank into a chair and contemplated her toe. "Landy,
ain't I a queen?" she murmured. "What else have I got?"
48 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
"Just a belt, some handkerchiefs, and a pair of top shoes for
rainy days and colder weather," said Margaret.
"About those high shoes, that was my idea," said Wesley. "Soon
as it rains, low shoes won't do, and by taking two pairs at once I
could get them some cheaper. The low ones are two and the high
ones two-fifty, together three seventy-five. Ain't that cheap?"
"That's a real bargain," said Mrs. Comstock, "if they are good
shoes, and they look it."
"This," said Wesley, producing the last package, "is your
Christmas present from your Aunt Maggie. I got mine, too, but
it's at the house. I'll bring it up in the morning."
He handed Margaret the umbrella, and she passed it over to
Elnora who opened it and sat laughing under its shelter. Then she
kissed both of them. She brought a pencil and a slip of paper to
set down the prices they gave her of everything they had brought
except the umbrella, added the sum, and said laughingly: "Will
you please wait till tomorrow for the money? I will have it then,
"Elnora," said Wesley Sinton. "Wouldn't you-- "
"Elnora, hustle here a minute!" called Mrs. Comstock from
the kitchen. "I need you!"
"One second, mother," answered Elnora, throwing off the coat
and hat, and closing the umbrella as she ran. There were several
errands to do in a hurry, and then supper. Elnora chattered in-
cessantly, Wesley and Margaret talked all they could, while Mrs.
Comstock said a word now and then, which was all she ever did.
But Wesley Sinton was watching her, and time and again he
saw a peculiar little twist around her mouth. He knew that for
the first time in sixteen years she really was laughing over some-
thing. She had all she could do to preserve her usually sober face.
Wesley knew what she was thinking.
After supper the dress was finished, the pattern for the next
one discussed, and then the Sintons went home. Elnora gathered
her treasures. When she started upstairs she stopped. "May I kiss
you good night, mother?" she asked lightly.
"Never mind any slobbering," said Mrs. Comstock. "I should
THE SINTONS ARE DISAPPOINTED 49
think you'd lived with me long enough to know that I don't care
"Well, I'd love to show you in some way how happy I am, and
how I thank you."
"I wonder what for?" said Mrs. Comstock. "Mag Sinton chose
that stuff and brought it here and you pay for it."
"Yes, but you seemed willing for me to have it, and you said
you would help me if I couldn't pay all."
"Maybe I did," said Mrs. Comstock. "Maybe I did. I meant
to get you some heavy dress skirts about Thanksgiving, and I
still can get them. Go to bed, and for any sake don't begin
mooning before a mirror, and make a dunce of yourself."
Mrs. Comstock picked up several papers and blew out the
kitchen light. She stood in the middle of the sitting-room floor
for a time and then went into her room and closed the door. Sit-
ting on the edge of the bed she thought for a few minutes and
then suddenly buried her face in the pillow and again heaved
Down the road plodded Margaret and Wesley Sinton. Neither
of them had words to utter their united thought.
"Done!" hissed Wesley at last. "Done brown! Did you ever
feel like a bloomin', confounded donkey? How did the woman
"She didn't do it!" gulped Margaret through her tears. "She
didn't do anything. She trusted to Elnora's great big soul to bring
her out right, and really she was right, and so it had to bring her.
She's a darling, Wesley! But she's got a time before her. Did you
see Kate Comstock grab that money? Before six months she'll be
out combing the Limberlost for bugs and arrow points to help
pay the tax. I know her."
"Well, I don't!" exclaimed Sinton, "she's too many for me. But
there is a laugh left in her yet! I didn't s'pose there was. Bet you
a dollar, if we could see her this minute, she'd be chuckling over
the way we got left."
Both of them stopped in the road and looked back.
"There's Elnora's light in her room," said Margaret. "The poor
child will feel those clothes, and pore over her books till morning,
50 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
but she'll look decent to go to school, anyway. Nothing is too big
a price to pay for that."
"Yes, if Kate lets her wear them. Ten to one, she makes her
finish the week with that old stuff!"
"No, she won't," said Margaret. "She'll hardly dare. Kate
made some concessions, all right; big ones for her-if she did get
her way in the main. She bent some, and if Elnora proves that she
can walk out barehanded in the morning and come back with
that much money in her pocket, an armful of books, and buy a
turnout like that, she proves that she is of some consideration,
and Kate's smart enough. She'll think twice before she'll do that.
Elnora won't wear a calico dress to high school again. You
watch and see if she does. She may have the best clothes she'll
get for a time, for the least money, but she won't know it until
she tries to buy goods herself at the same rates. Wesley, what
about those prices? Didn't they shrink considerable?"
"You began it," said Wesley. "Those prices were all right. We
didn't say what the goods cost us, we said what they would cost
her. Surely, she's mistaken about being able to pay all that. Can
she pick up stuff of that value around the Limberlost? Didn't
the Bird Woman see her trouble, and just give her the money?"
"I don't think so," said Margaret. "Seems to me I've heard
of her paying, or offering to pay those who would take the money,
for bugs and butterflies, and I've known people who sold that
banker Indian stuff. Once I heard that his pipe collection beat
that of the Government at the Philadelphia Centennial. Those
things have come to have a value."
"Well, there's about a bushel of that kind of valuables piled up
in the woodshed, that belongs to Elnora. At least, I picked them
up because she said she wanted them. Ain't it queer that she'd
take to stones, bugs, and butterflies, and save them. Now they
are going to bring her the very thing she wants the worst. Lord,
but this is a funny world when you get to studying! Looks like
things didn't all come by accident. Looks as if there was a plan
back of it, and somebody driving that knows the road, and how
to handle the lines. Anyhow, Elnora's in the wagon, and when
I get out in the night and the dark closes around me, and I see
THE SINTONS ARE DISAPPOINTED 51
the stars, I don't feel so cheap. Maggie, how the nation did
Kate Comstock do that?"
"You will keep on harping, Wesley. I told you she didn't do it.
Elnora did it! She walked in and took things right out of our
hands. All Kate had to do was to enjoy having it go her way, and
she was cute enough to put in a few questions that sort of guided
Elnora. But I don't know, Wesley. This thing makes me think, too.
S'pose we'd taken Elnora when she was a baby, and we'd heaped
on her all the love we can't on our own, and we'd coddled, petted,
and shielded her, would she have made the woman that living
alone, learning to think for herself, and taking all the knocks Kate
Comstock could give, have made of her?"
"You bet your life!" cried Wesley warmly. "Loving anybody
don't hurt them. We wouldn't have done anything but love her.
You can't hurt a child loving it. She'd have learned to work, to
study, and grown into a woman with us, without suffering like
a poor homeless dog."
"But you don't see the point, Wesley. She would have grown
into a fine woman with us; but as we would have raised her,
would her heart ever have known the world as it does now?
Where's the anguish, Wesley, that child can't comprehend? Seeing
what she's seen of her mother hasn't hardened her. She can
understand any mother's sorrow. Living life from the rough side
has only broadened her. Where's the girl or boy burning with
shame, or struggling to find a way, that will cross Elnora's path
and not get a lift from her? She's had the knocks, but there'll
never be any of the thing you call 'false pride' in her. I guess we
better keep out. Maybe Kate Comstock knows what she's doing.
Sure as you live, Elnora has grown bigger on knocks than she
would on love."
"I don't s'pose there ever was a very fine point to anything
but I missed it," said Wesley, "because I am blunt, rough, and
have no book learning to speak of. Since you put it into words I
see what you mean, but it's dinged hard on Elnora, just the same.
And I don't keep out. I keep watching closer than ever. I got
my slap in the face, but if I don't miss my guess, Kate Comstock
learned her lesson, same as I did. She learned that I was in
52 A GIRL UF THE LIMBERLOST
earnest, that I would haul her to court if she didn't loosen up a
bit, and she'll loosen. You see if she doesn't. It may come hard,
and the hinges creak, but she'll fix Elnora decent after this, if
Elnora doesn't prove that she can fix herself. As for me, I found
out that what I was doing was as much for myself as for Elnora.
I wanted her to take those things from us, and love us for giving
them. It didn't work, and but for you, I'd messed the whole thing
and stuck like a pig in crossing a bridge. But you helped me out;
Elnora's got the clothes, and by morning, maybe I won't grudge
Kate the only laugh she's had in sixteen years. You been show-
ing me the way quite a spell now, ain't you, Maggie?"
In her attic Elnora lighted two candles, set them on her little
table, stacked the books, and put away the precious clothes. How
lovingly she hung the hat and umbrella, folded the raincoat, and
spread the new dress over a chair. She fingered the ribbons, and
tried to smooth the creases from them. She put away the hose
neatly folded, touched the handkerchiefs, and tried the belt. Then
she slipped into her white nightdress, shook down her hair that it
might become thoroughly dry, set a chair before the table, and
reverently opened one of the books. A stiff draft swept the
attic, for it stretched the length of the cabin, and had a window in
each end. Elnora arose and going to the east window closed it.
She stood for a minute looking at the stars, the sky, and the
dark outline of the straggling trees of the rapidly dismantling
Limberlost. In the region of her case a tiny point of light flashed
and disappeared. Elnora straightened and wondered. Was it wise
to leave her precious money there? The light flashed once more,
wavered a few seconds, and died out. The girl waited. She did
not see it again, so she turned to her books.
In the Limberlost the hulking figure of a man sneaked down
"The Bird Woman was at Freckles's room this evening," he
muttered. "Wonder what for?"
He left the trail, entered the enclosure still distinctly outlined,
and approached the case. The first point of light flashed from
the tiny electric lamp on his vest. He took a duplicate key from
his pocket, felt for the padlock and opened it. The door swung
THE SINTONS ARE DISAPPOINTED 53
wide. The light flashed the second time. Swiftly his glance swept
'Bout a fourth of her moths gone. Elnora must have been
with the Bird Woman and given them to her." Then he stood
tense. His keen eyes discovered the roll of bills hastily thrust back
in the bottom of the case. He snatched them up, shut off the
light, relocked the case by touch, and swiftly went down the trail.
Every few seconds he paused and listened intently. Just as he
reached the road, a second figure approached him.
"Is it you, Pete?" came the whispered question.
"Yes," said the first man.
"I was coming down to take a peep, when I saw your flash," he
said. "I heard the Bird Woman had been at the case today.
"Not a thing," said Pete. "She just took away about a fourth
of the moths. Probably had the Comstock girl getting them for her.
Heard they were together. Likely she'll get the rest tomorrow.
Ain't pickin' getting' bare these days?"
"Well, I should say so," said the second man, turning back in
disgust. "Coming home, now?"
"No, I am going down this way," answered Pete, for his eyes
caught the gleam from the window of the Comstock cabin, and
he had a desire to learn why Elnora's attic was lighted at that
He slouched down the road, occasionally feeling the size of
the roll he had not taken time to count.
The attic was too long, the light too near the other end, and
the cabin stood much too far back from the road. He could
see nothing although he climbed the fence and walked back op-
posite the window. He knew Mrs. Comstock was probably awake,
and that she sometimes went to the swamp behind her home at
night. At times a cry went up from that locality that paralyzed
anyone near, or sent them fleeing as if for life. He did not care
to cross behind the cabin. He returned to the road, passed, and
again climbed the fence. Opposite the west window he could see
Elnora. She sat before a small table reading from a book between
two candles. Her hair fell in a bright sheen around her, and with
54 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
one hand she lightly shook, and tossed it as she studied. The
man stood out in the night and watched.
For a long time a leaf turned at intervals and the hair-drying
went on. The man drew nearer. The picture grew more beautiful
as he approached. He could not see so well as he desired, for
the screen was of white mosquito netting, and it angered him. He
cautiously crept closer. The elevation shut off his view. Then he
remembered the large willow tree shading the well and branch-
ing across the window at the west end of the cabin. From child-
hood Elnora had stepped from the sill to a limb and slid down the
slanting trunk of the tree. He reached it and noiselessly swung
himself up. Three steps out on the big limb the man shuddered.
He was within a few feet of the girl.
He could see the throb of her breast under its thin covering
and smell the fragrance of the tossing hair. He could see the
narrow bed with its pieced calico cover, the whitewashed walls
with gay lithographs, and every crevice stuck full of twigs with
dangling cocoons. There were pegs for the few clothes, the old
chest, the little table, the two chairs, the uneven floor covered
with rag rugs and braided corn husk. But nothing was worth a
glance except the perfect face and form within reach by one
spring through the rotten mosquito bar. He gripped the limb
above that on which he stood, licked his lips, and breathed
through his throat to be sure he was making no sound. Elnora
closed the book and laid it aside. She picked up a towel, and
turning the gathered ends of her hair rubbed them across it,
and dropping the towel on her lap, tossed the hair again. Then
she sat in deep thought. By and by words began to come softly.
Near as he was the man could not hear at first. He bent closer and
"-ever could be so happy," murmured the soft voice. "The
dress is so pretty, such shoes, the coat, and everything. I won't
have to be ashamed again, not ever again, for the Limberlost is
full of precious moths, and I always can collect them. The Bird
Woman will buy more tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
When they are all gone, I can spend every minute gathering
cocoons, and hunting other things I can sell. Oh, thank God, for
THE SINTONS ARE DISAPPOINTED 55
my precious, precious money. Why, I didn't pray in vain after all!
I thought when I asked the Lord to hide me, there in that big
hall, that He wasn't doing it, because I wasn't covered from
sight that instant. But I'm hidden now, I feel that." Elnora
lifted her eyes to the beams above her. "I don't know much about
praying properly," she muttered, "but I do thank you, Lord, for
hiding me in your own time and way."
Her face was so bright that it shone with a white radiance.
Two big tears welled from her eyes, and rolled down her smiling
cheeks. "Oh, I do feel that you have hidden me," she breathed.
Then she blew out the lights, and the little wooden bed creaked
under her weight.
Pete Corson dropped from the limb and found his way to the
road. He stood still a long time, then started back to the Limber-
lost. A tiny point of light flashed in the region of the case. He
stopped with an oath.
"Another hound trying to steal from a girl," he exclaimed. "But
it's likely he thinks if he gets anything it will be from a woman
who can afford it, as I did."
He went on, but beside the fences, and very cautiously.
"Swamp seems to be alive tonight," he muttered. "That's
three of us out."
He entered a deep place at the northwest corner, sat on the
ground and taking a pencil from his pocket, he tore a leaf from
a little notebook, and laboriously wrote a few lines by the light
he carried. Then he went back to the region of the case and
waited. Before his eyes swept the vision of the slender white
creature with tossing hair. He smiled, and worshiped it, until
a distant rooster faintly announced dawn.
Then he unlocked the case again, and replaced the money, laid
the note upon it, and went back to concealment, where he re-
mained until Elnora came down the trail in the morning, ap-
pearing very lovely in her new dress and hat.
Wherein Elnora Receives a Warning,
and Billy Appears on the Scene
IT WOULD be difficult to describe how happy Elnora was that
morning as she hurried through her work, bathed and put on the
neat, dainty gingham dress, and the tan shoes. She had a struggle
with her hair. It crinkled, billowed, and shone, and she could not
avoid seeing the becoming frame it made around her face. But
in deference to her mother's feelings the girl set her teeth, and
bound her hair closely to her head with a shoestring. "Not to be
changed at the case," she told herself.
That her mother was watching she was unaware. Just as she
Picked up the beautiful brown ribbon Mrs. Comstock spoke.
"You had better let me tie that. You can't reach behind your-
self and do it right."
Elnora gave a little gasp. Her mother never before had pro-
posed to do anything for the girl that by any possibility she could
do herself. Her heart quaked at the thought of how her mother
would arrange that bow, but Elnora dared not refuse. The offer
was too precious. It might never be made again.
"Oh, thank you!" said the girl, and sitting down she held out
Her mother stood back and looked at her critically.
"You haven't got that like Mag Sinton had it last night,"
she announced. "You little idiot! You've tried to plaster it down to
suit me, and you missed it. I liked it away better as Mag fixed
It, after I saw it. You didn't look so peeled."
ELNORA RECEIVES A WARNING 57
"Oh mother, mother!" laughed Elnora, with a half sob in her
"Hold still, will you?" cried Mrs. Comstock. "You'll be late,
and I haven't packed your dinner yet."
She untied the string and shook out the hair. It rose with
electricity and clung to her fingers and hands. Mrs. Comstock
jumped back as if bitten. She knew that touch. Her face grew
white, and her eyes angry.
"Tie it yourself," she said shortly, "and then I'll put on the
ribbon. But roll it back loose like Mag did. It looked so pretty
Almost fainting Elnora stood before the glass, divided off the
front parts of her hair, and rolled them as Mrs. Sinton had
done; tied it at the nape of her neck, then sat while her mother
arranged the ribbon.
"If I pull it down till it comes tight in these creases where she
had it, it will be just right, won't it?" queried Mrs. Comstock,
and the amazed Elnora stammered, "Yes."
When she looked in the glass the bow was perfectly tied, and
how the gold tone of the brown did match the lustre of the shining
hair! "That's pretty," commented Mrs. Comstock's soul, but her
stiff lips had said all that could be forced from them for once.
Just then Wesley Sinton came to the door.
"Good morning," he cried heartily. "Elnora, you look a pic-
ture! My, but you're sweet! If any of the city boys get sassy youl
tell your Uncle Wesley, and he'll horsewhip them. Here's your
Christmas present from me." He handed Elnora the leather lunch
box, with her name carved across the strap in artistic lettering.
"Oh, Uncle Wesley!" was all Elnora could say.
"Your Aunt Maggie filled it for me for a starter," he said,
"Now, if you are ready, I'm going to drive past your way and
you can ride almost to Onabasha with me, and save the new shoes
Elnora was staring at the box. "Oh, I hope it isn't impolite to
open it before you," she said. "I just feel as if I must see inside."
"Don't you stand on formality with the neighbors," laughed
Sinton. "Look in your box if you want to!"
5t A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
Elnora slipped the strap and turned back the lid.
This disclosed the knife, fork, napkin, and spoon, the milk
flask, and the interior packed with dainty sandwiches wrapped
in tissue paper, and the little compartments for meat, salad, and
the custard cup.
"Oh, mother!" cried Elnora. "Oh, mother, isn't it fine? What
made you think of it, Uncle Wesley? How will I ever thank you?
No one will have a finer lunch box than I. Oh, I do thank you!
That's the nicest gift I ever had. How I love Christmas in
"It's a mighty handy thing," assented Mrs. Comstock, taking
in every detail with sharp eyes. "I guess you are glad now you
went and helped Mag and Wesley when you could, Elnora?"
"Deedy, yes," laughed Elnora, "and I'm going again first time
they have a big day if I stay from school to do it."
"You'll do no such thing!" said the delighted Sinton. "Come
now, if you're going!"
"If I ride, can you spare me time to run into the swamp to my
box a minute?" asked Elnora.
The light she had seen the previous night troubled her.
"Sure," said Wesley largely. So they drove away and left a
white-faced woman watching them from the door, her heart a
little sorer than usual.
"I'd give a pretty to hear what he'll say to her!" she com-
mented bitterly. "Always sticking in, always doing things I can't
ever afford. Where on earth did he get that thing and what did
Then she entered the cabin and began the day's work, but
mingled with the brooding bitterness of her soul was the vision of
a sweet young face, glad with a gladness never before seen on it,
and over and over she repeated: "I wonder what he'll say to
What he said was that she looked as fresh and sweet as a posy,
and to be careful not to step in the mud or scratch her shoes
when she went to the case.
Elnora found her key and opened the door. Not where she had
placed it, but conspicuously in front lay her little heap of bills,
ELNORA RECEIVES A WARNING 59
and a crude scrawl of writing beside it. Elnora picked up the note
the lord mighty is hiding you all right done you ever dout it
this money of yourn was took for some time las nite but it is
returned with intres for god sake done ever come to the swamp
at nite or late evnin or morning or far in any time sompin worse
an you know could git you
Elnora began to tremble. She hastily glanced around. The
damp earth before the case had been trodden by large, roughly
shod feet. She caught up the money and the note, thrust them
into her guimpe, locked the case, and ran to the road.
She was so breathless and her face so white Sinton noticed it.
"What in the world's the matter, Elnora?" he asked.
"I am half afraid!" she panted.
"Tut, tut, child!" said Wesley Sinton. "Nothing in the world
to be afraid of. What happened?"
"Uncle Wesley," said Elnora, "I had more money than I
brought home last night, and I put it in my case. Someone has
been there. The ground is all trampled, and they left this note."
"And took your money, I'll wager," said Sinton angrily.
"No," answered Elnora. "Read the note, and oh, Uncle Wesley,
tell me what it means!"
Sinton's face was a study. "I don't know what it means," he
said. "Only one thing is clear. It means some beast who doesn't
really want to harm you has got his eye on you, and he is telling
you plain as he can, not to give him a chance. You got to keep
along the roads, in the open, and not let the biggest moth that
ever flew toll you out of hearing of us, or your mother. It means
that, plain and distinct."
"Just when I can sell them! Just when everything is so lovely
on account of them! I can't! I can't stay away from the swamp.
The Limberlost is going to buy the books, the clothes, pay the
tuition, and even start a college fund. I just can't!"
"You've got to," said Sinton. "This is plain enough. You go
far in the swamp at your own risk, even in daytime."
60 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
"Uncle Wesley," said the girl, "last night before I went to bed,
I was so happy I tried to pray, and I thanked God for hiding
me 'under the shadow of His wing.' But how in the world could
anyone know it?"
Wesley Sinton's heart leaped in his breast. His face was whiter
than the girl's now.
"Were you praying out loud, honey?" he almost whispered.
"I might have said words," answered Elnora. "I know I do
sometimes. I've never had anyone to talk with, and I've played
with and talked to myself all my life. You've caught me at it often,
but it always makes mother angry when she does. She says it's
silly. I forget and do it, when I'm alone. But Uncle Wesley, if
I said anything last night, you know it was the merest whisper,
because I'd have been so afraid of waking mother. Don't you
see? I sat up late, and studied two lessons."
Sinton was steadying himself. "I'll stop and examine the case
as I come back," he said. "Maybe I can find some clue. That
other-that was just accidental. It's a common expression. All
-the preachers use it. If I tried to pray, that would be the very
first thing I'd say."
The color returned to Elnora's face.
"Did you tell your mother about this money, Elnora?" he asked.
"No, I didn't," said Elnora. "It's dreadful not to, but I was
afraid. You see, they are clearing the swamp so fast. Every year
it grows more difficult to find things, and Indian stuff becomes
scarcer. I want to graduate, and that's four years unless I can
double on the course. That means twenty dollars tuition each
year, and new books, and clothes. There won't ever be so much
at one time again, that I know. I just got to hang to my money. I
was afraid to tell her, for fear she would want it for taxes, and
she really must sell a tree or some cattle for that, mustn't she,
"On your life, she must!" said Wesley. "You put your little
wad in the bank all safe, and never mention it to a living soul.
It doesn't seem right, but your case is peculiar. Every word you
say is a true word. Each year you will find less in the swamp,
and things everywhere will be scarcer. If you ever get a few
ELNORA RECEIVES A WARNING
dollars ahead, that can start your college fund. You know you are
going to college, Elnora!"
"Of course I am," said Elnora. "I settled that as soon as I
knew what a college was. I will put all my money in the bank,
except what I owe you. I'll pay that now."
"If your arrows are heavy," said Wesley, "I'll drive on to
Onabasha with you."
"But they are not. Half of them were nicked, and this little box
held all the good ones. It's so surprising how many are spoiled
when you wash them."
"What does he pay?"
"Ten cents for any common perfect one, fifty for revolvers, a
dollar for obsidian, and whatever is right for enormous big ones."
"Well, that sounds fair," said Sinton. "You can come down
Saturday and wash the stuff at our house, and I'll take it in when
we go marketing in the afternoon."
Elnora jumped from the carriage. She soon found that with her
books, her lunch box, and the points she had a heavy load. She
had almost reached the bridge crossing the culvert when she heard
distressed screams of a child. Across an orchard of the suburbs
came a small boy, after him a big dog, urged by a man in the
background. Elnora's heart was with the small fleeing figure in
any event whatever. She dropped her load on the bridge, and with
practiced hand flung a stone at the dog. The beast curled double
with a howl. The boy reached the fence, and Elnora was there
to help him over. As he touched the top she swung him to the
ground, but he clung to her, clasping her tightly, sobbing with
fear. Elnora helped him to the bridge, and sat with him in her
arms. For a time his replies to her questions were indistinct, but
at last he became quieter and she could understand.
He was a mite of a boy, nothing but skin-covered bones, his
burned, freckled face in a mortar of tears and dust, his clothing
unspeakably dirty, one great toe in a festering mass from a broken
nail, and sores all over the visible portions of the small body.
"You won't let the mean old thing make his dog get me!"
"Indeed no," said Elnora, holding him closely.
62 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
"You wouldn't set a dog on a boy for just taking a few old
apples when you fed 'em to pigs with a shovel every day, would
"No, I would not," said Elnora hotly.
"You'd give a boy all the apples he wanted, if he hadn't any
breakfast, and was so hungry he was all twisty inside, wouldn't
"Yes, I would," said Elnora.
"If you had anything to eat you would give me something
right now, wouldn't you?"
"Yes," said Elnora. "There's nothing but just stones in the
package. But my dinner is in that case. I'll gladly divide."
She opened the box. The famished child gave a little cry and
reached both hands. Elnora caught them back.
"Did you have any supper?"
"Any dinner yesterday?"
"An apple and some grapes I stole."
"Whose boy are you?"
"Old Tom Billings's."
"Why doesn't your father get you something to eat?"
"He does most days, but he's drunk now."
"Hush, you must not!" said Elnora. "He's your father!"
"He's spent all the money to get drunk, too," said the boy, "and
Jimmy and Belle are both crying for breakfast. I'd 'a' got out all
right with an apple for myself, but I tried to get some for them
and the dog got too close. Say, you can throw, can't you?"
"Yes," admitted Elnora. She poured half the milk into the
cup. "Drink this," she said, holding it to him.
The boy gulped the milk and swore joyously, gripping the cup
with shaking fingers.
"Hush!" cried Elnora. "That's dreadful!"
"To say such awful words."
"Huh! Pa says worser 'an that every breath he draws."
Elnora saw that the child was older than she had thought. He
might have been forty judging by his hard, unchildish expression.
ELNORA RECEIVES A WARNING 63
"Do you want to be like your father?"
"No, I want to be like you. Couldn't a angel be prettier 'an
you. Can I have more milk?"
Elnora emptied the flask. The boy drained the cup. He drew
a breath of satisfaction as he gazed into her face.
"You wouldn't go off and leave your little boy, would you?"
"Did someone go away and leave you?"
"Yes, my mother went off and left me, and left Jimmy and
Belle, too," said the boy. "You wouldn't leave your little boy,
The boy looked eagerly at the box. Elnora lifted a sandwich
and uncovered the fried chicken. The boy gasped with delight.
"Say, I could eat the stuff in the glass and the other box and
carry the bread and the chicken to Jimmy and Belle," he offered.
Elnora silently uncovered the custard with preserved cherries
on top and handed it and the spoon to the child. Never did food
disappear faster. The salad went next, and a sandwich and half
a chicken breast followed.
"I better leave the rest for Jimmy and Belle," he said, "they're
'ist fighting' hungry."
Elnora gave him the remainder of the carefully prepared lunch.
The boy clutched it and ran with a sidewise hop like a wild thing.
She covered the dishes and cup, polished the spoon, replaced it,
and closed the case. She caught her breath in a tremulous
"If Aunt Margaret knew that, she'd never forgive me," she
said. "It seems as if secrecy is literally forced upon me, and I
hate it. What shall I do for lunch? I'll have to sell my arrows
and keep enough money for a restaurant sandwich."
So she walked hurriedly into town, sold her points at a good
price, deposited her funds, and went away with a neat little bank
book and the note from the Limberlost carefully folded inside.
Elnora passed down the hall that morning, and no one paid the
slightest attention to her. The truth was she looked so like every-
one else that she was perfectly inconspicuous. But in the coat room
A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
there were members of her class. Surely no one intended it, but
the whisper was too loud.
"Look at the girl from the Limberlost in the clothes that
woman gave her!"
Elnora turned on them. "I beg your pardon," she said un-
steadily, "I couldn't help hearing that! No one gave me these
clothes. I paid for them myself."
Someone muttered, "Pardon me," but incredulous faces greeted
Elnora felt driven. "Aunt Margaret selected them, and she
meant to give them to me," she explained, "but I wouldn't take
them. I paid for them myself." There was silence.
"Don't you believe me?" panted Elnora.
"Really, it is none of our affair," said another girl. "Come on,
Elnora stepped before the girl who had spoken. "You have
made this your affair," she said, "because you told a thing which
was not true. No one gave me what I am wearing. I paid for my
clothes myself with money I earned selling moths to the Bird
Woman. I just came from the bank where I deposited what I
did not use. Here is my credit." Elnora drew out and offered the
little red book. "Surely you will believe that," she said.
"Why, of course," said the girl who first had spoken. "We met
such a lovely woman in Brownlee's store, and she said she wanted
our help to buy some things for a girl, and that's how we came
"Dear Aunt Margaret," said Elnora, "it was like her to ask
you. Isn't she splendid?"
"She is indeed," chorused the girls. Elnora set down her lunch
box and books, unpinned her hat, hanging it beside the others,
and taking up the books she reached to set the box in its place and
dropped it. With a little cry she snatched at it and caught the
strap on top. That pulled from the fastening, the cover unrolled,
the box fell away as far as it could, two porcelain lids rattled on
the floor, and the one sandwich rolled like a cartwheel across
the room. Elnora lifted a ghastly face. For once no one laughed.
She stood an instant staring.
ELNORA RECEIVES A WARNING 65
"It seems to be my luck to be crucified at every point of the
compass," she said at last. "First two days you thought I was a
pauper, now you will think I'm a fraud. All of you will believe
I bought an expensive box, and then was too poor to put any-
thing but a restaurant sandwich in it. You must stop till I prove to
you that I'm not."
Elnora gathered up the lids, and kicked the sandwich into
"I had milk in that bottle, see! And custard in the cup. There
was salad in the little box, fried chicken in the large one, and nut
sandwiches in the tray. You can see the crumbs of all of them.
A man set a dog on a child who was so starved he was stealing
apples. I talked with him, and I thought I could bear hunger
better, he was such a little boy, so I gave him my lunch, and got
the sandwich at the restaurant."
Elnora held out the box. The girls were laughing by that time.
"You goose," said one, "why didn't you give him the money,
and save your lunch?"
"He was such a little fellow, and he really was hungry," said
Elnora. "I often go without anything to eat at noon in the fields
and woods, and never think of it."
She closed the box and set it beside the lunches of other country
pupils. While her back was turned, into the room came the girl
of her encounter on the first day, walked to the rack, and with an
exclamation of approval took down Elnora's hat.
"Just the thing I have been wanting!" she said. "I never saw
such beautiful quills in all my life. They match my new broad-
cloth to perfection. I've got to have that kind of quills for my hat.
I never saw the like! Whose is it, and where did it come
No one said a word, for Elnora's question, the reply, and her
answer, had been repeated. Everyone knew that the Limberlost
girl had come out ahead and Sadie Reed had not been amiable,
when the little flourish had been added to Elnora's name in the
algebra class. Elnora's swift glance was pathetic, but no one
helped her. Sadie Reed glanced from the hat to the faces around
her and wondered.
66 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
"Why, this is the Freshman section, whose hat is it?" she asked
again, this time impatiently.
"That's the tassel of the corstock," said Elnora with a forced
The response was genuine. Everyone shouted. Sadie Reed
blushed, but she laughed also.
"Well, it's beautiful," she said, "especially the quills. They are
exactly what I want. I know I don't deserve any kindness from
you, but I do wish you would tell me at whose store you found
"Gladly!" said Elnora. "You can't buy quills like those at a
store. They are from a living bird. Phcebe Simms gathers them
in her orchard as her peacocks shed them. They are wing quills
from the males."
Then there was perfect silence. How was Elnora to know that
not a girl there would have told that?
"I haven't a doubt but I can get you some," she offered. "She
gave Aunt Margaret a large bunch, and those are part of them.
I am quite sure she has more, and would spare some."
Sadie Reed laughed shortly. "You needn't trouble," she said.
"I was fooled. I thought they were expensive quills. I wanted
them for a twenty-dollar velvet toque to match my new suit. If
they are gathered from the ground, really, I couldn't use them."
"Only in spots!" said Elnora. "They don't just cover the earth.
Phcebe Simms's peacocks are the only ones within miles of
Onabasha, and they moult but once a year. If your hat cost
only twenty dollars, it's scarcely good enough for those quills. You
see, the Almighty made and colored those Himself; and He
puts the same kind on Phoebe Simms's peacocks that He put on
the head of the family in the forests of Ceylon, away back in
the beginning. Any old manufactured quill from New York or
Chicago will do for your little twenty-dollar hat. You should
have something infinitely better than that to be worthy of quills
that are made by the Creator."
How those girls did laugh! One of them walked with Elnora
to the auditorium, sat beside her during exercises, and tried to
talk whenever she dared, to keep Elnora from seeing the curious
ELNORA RECEIVES A WARNING 67
and admiring looks bent upon her. For the brown-eyed boy
whistled, and there was pantomime of all sorts going on behind
Elnora's back that day. Happy with her books, no one knew how
much she saw, and from her absorption in her studies it was
evident she cared too little to notice.
After school she went again to the home of the Bird Woman,
and together they visited the swamp and carried away more
specimens. This time Elnora asked the Bird Woman to keep the
money until noon of the next day, when she would call for it and
have it added to her bank account. She slowly walked home, for
the visit to the swamp had brought back full force the experience
of the morning. Again and again she examined the crude little
note, for she did not know what it meant, yet it bred vague
fear. The only thing of which Elnora knew herself afraid was
her mother; when with wild eyes and ears deaf to childish plead-
ing, she sometimes lost control of herself in the night and
visited the pool where her husband had sunk before her, calling
his name in unearthly tones and begging of the swamp to give
back its dead.
Wherein Mrs. Comstock Indulges in
"Frills," and Billy Reappears
IT WAS Wesley Sinton who really wrestled with Elnora's prob-
lem while he drove about his business. He was not forced to ask
himself what it meant; he knew. The old Corson gang was still
holding together. Elder members who had escaped the law had
been joined by a younger brother of Jack's, and they met in the
thickest of the few remaining fast places of the swamp to drink,
gamble, and loaf. Then suddenly, there would be a robbery in
some country house where a farmer that day had sold his wheat
or corn and not paid a visit to the bank; or in some neighboring
The home of Mrs. Comstock and Elnora adjoined the swamp.
Sinton's land lay next, and not another residence or man easy to
reach in case of trouble. Whoever wrote that note had some hu-
man kindness in his breast, but the fact stood revealed that he
feared his strength if Elnora were delivered into his hands. Where
had he been the previous night when he heard that prayer? Was
that the first time he had been in such proximity? Sinton drove
fast, for he wished to reach the swamp before Elnora and the Bird
Woman would go there.
At almost four he came to the case, and dropping on his knees
studied the ground, every sense alert. He found two or three little
heel prints. Those were made by Elnora or the Bird Woman.
What Sinton wanted to learn was whether all the remainder
were the footprints of one man. It was easily seen, they were
MRS. COMSTOCK INDULGES IN FRILLS
not. There were deep, even tracks made by fairly new shoes, and
others where a well-worn heel cut deeper on the inside of the
print than at the outer edge. Undoubtedly some of Corson's old
gang were watching the case, and the visits of the women to it.
There was no danger that anyone would attack the Bird Woman.
She never went to the swamp at night, and on her trips in the
daytime, everyone knew that she carried a revolver, understood
how to use it, and pursued her work in a fearless manner.
Elnora, prowling around the swamp and lured into the in-
terior by the flight of moths and butterflies; Elnora, without
father, money, or friends save himself, to defend her-Elnora was
a different proposition. For this to happen just when the Limber-
lost was bringing the very desire of her heart to the girl, it was too
Sinton was afraid for her, yet he did not want to add the bur-
den of fear to Katharine Comstock's trouble, or to disturb the joy
of Elnora in her work. He stopped at the cabin and slowly went
up the walk. Mrs. Comstock was sitting on the front steps with
some sewing. The work seemed to Sinton as if she might be en-
gaged in putting a tuck in a petticoat. He thought of how Mar-
garet had shortened Elnora's dress to the accepted length for girls
of her age, and made a mental note of Mrs. Comstock's occupa-
She dropped her work on her lap, laid her hands on it and
looked into his face with a sneer.
"You didn't let any grass grow under your feet," she said.
Sinton saw her white, drawn face and comprehended.
"I went to pay a debt and see about this opening of the ditch,
"You said you were going to prosecute me."
"Good gracious, Kate!" cried Sinton. "Is that what you have
been thinking all day? I told you before I left yesterday that I
would not need do that. And I won't! We can't afford to quarrel
over Elnora. She's all we've got. Now that she has proved that
if you don't do just what I think you ought by way of clothes
and schooling, she can take care of herself, I put that out of my
head. What I came to see you about is a kind of scare I've had
70 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
today. I want to ask you if you ever see anything about the
swamp that makes you think the old Corson gang is still at
"Can't say that I do," said Mrs. Comstock. "There's kind of
dancing lights there sometimes, but I supposed it was just people
passing along the road with lanterns. Folks hereabout are none
too fond of the swamp. I hate it like death. I've never stayed
here a night in my life without Robert's revolver, clean and
loaded, under my pillow, and the shotgun, same condition, by
the bed. I can't say that I'm afraid here at home. I'm not. I can
take care of myself. But none of the swamp for me!"
"Well, I'm glad you are not afraid, Kate, because I must tell
you something. Elnora stopped at the case this morning, and
somebody had been into it in the night."
"Broke the lock?"
"No. Used a duplicate key. Today I heard there was a man
here last night. I want to nose around a little."
Sinton went to the east end of the cabin and looked up at the
window. There was no way anyone could have reached it with-
out a ladder, for the logs were hewed and mortar filled the cracks
even. Then he went to the west end, the willow faced him as he
turned the corner. He examined the trunk carefully. There was no
mistake about small particles of black swamp muck adhering to
the sides of the tree. He reached the low branches and climbed
the willow. There was earth on the large limb crossing Elnora's
window. He stood on it, holding the branch as had been done
the night before, and looked into the room. He could see very
little, but he knew that if it had been dark outside and sufficiently
light for Elnora to study inside he could have seen vividly. He
brought his face close to the netting, and he could see the bed
with its head to the east, at its foot the table with the candles and
the chair before it, and then he knew where the man had been
who had heard Elnora's prayer.
Mrs. Comstock had followed around the corner and stood
watching him. "Do you think some slinking hulk was up there
peekin' in at Elnora?" she demanded indignantly.
"There is muck on the trunk, and plenty on the limb," said
MRS. COMSTOCK INDULGES IN FRILLS 71
Sinton. "Hadn't you better get a saw and let me take this branch
"No, I hadn't," said Mrs. Comstock. "First place, Elnora's
climbed from that window on that limb all her life, and it's hers.
Second place, no one gets ahead of me after I've had warning.
Any crow that perches on that roost again will get its feathers
somewhat scattered. Look along the fence, there, and see if you
can find where he came in."
The place was easy to find as was a trail leading for some dis-
tance west of the cabin.
"You just go home, and don't fret yourself," said Mrs. Com-
stock. "I'll take care of this. If you should hear the dinner bell at
any time in the night you come down. But I wouldn't say any-
thing to Elnora. She better keep her mind on her studies, if she's
going to school."
When the work was finished that night Elnora took her books
and went to her room to prepare some lessons, but every few min-
utes she looked toward the swamp to see if there were lights near
the case. Mrs. Comstock raked together the coals in the cooking
stove, got out the lunch box, and sitting down she studied it
grimly. At last she arose.
"Wonder how it would do to show Mag Sinton a frill or two,"
She went to her room, knelt before a big black-walnut chest
and hunted through its contents until she found an old-fashioned
cook book. She tended the fire as she read and presently was in
action. She first sawed an end from a fragrant, juicy, sugar-cured
ham and put it to cook. Then she set a couple of eggs boiling, and
after long hesitation began creaming butter and sugar in a crock.
An hour later the odor of the ham, mingled with some of the
richest spices of "happy Araby," in a combination that could
mean nothing save spice cake, crept up to Elnora so strongly that
she lifted her head and sniffed amazedly. She would have given
all her precious money to have gone down and thrown her arms
around her mother's neck, but she did not dare move.
Mrs. Comstock was up early, and without a word handed
Elnora the case as she left the next morning.
72 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
"Thank you, mother," said Elnora, and went on her way.
She walked down the road looking straight ahead until she
came to the corner, where she usually entered the swamp. She
paused, glanced that way and smiled. Then she turned and looked
back. There was no one coming in any direction. She followed
the road until well around the corner, then she stopped and sat
on a grassy spot, laid her books beside her and opened the lunch
box. Last night's odors had in a measure prepared her for what
she would see, but not quite. She scarcely could believe her senses.
Half the bread compartment was filled with dainty sandwiches
of bread and butter sprinkled with the yolk of egg and the re-
mainder with three large slices of the most fragrant spice cake
imaginable. The meat dish contained shaved cold ham, of which
she knew the quality, the salad was tomatoes and celery, and the
cup held preserved pear, clear as amber. There was milk in the
bottle, two tissue-wrapped cucumber pickles in the folding drink-
ing-cup, and a fresh napkin in the ring. No lunch was ever
daintier or more palatable; of that Elnora was perfectly sure. And
her mother had prepared it for her! "She does love me!" cried
the happy girl. "Sure as you're born she loves me; only she hasn't
found it out yet!"
She touched the papers daintily, and smiled at the box as if it
were a living thing. As she began closing it a breath of air swept
by, lifting the covering of the cake. It was like an invitation, and
breakfast was several hours away. Elnora picked up a piece and
ate it. That cake tasted even better than it looked. Then she tried
a sandwich. How did her mother come to think of making them
that way. They never had any at home. She slipped out the fork,
sampled the salad, and one-quarter of pear. Then she closed the
box and started down the road nibbling one of the pickles and
trying to decide exactly how happy she was, but she could find
no standard high enough for a measure.
She was to go to the Bird Woman's after school for the last
load from the case. Saturday she would take the arrow points and
specimens to the bank. That would exhaust her present supplies
and give her enough money ahead to pay for books, tuition, and
clothes for at least two years. She would work early and late
MRS. COMSTOCK INDULGES IN FRILLS 73
gathering nuts. In October she would sell all the ferns she could
find. She must collect specimens of all tree leaves before they fell,
gather nests and cocoons later, and keep her eyes wide open for
anything the grades could use. She would see the superintend-
ent that night about selling specimens to the ward buildings.
She must be ahead of anyone else if she wanted to furnish these
things. So she approached the bridge.
That it was occupied could be seen from a distance. As she
came up she found the small boy of yesterday awaiting her with
a confident smile.
"We brought you something!" he announced without greet-
ing. "This is Jimmy and Belle-and we brought you a present."
He offered a parcel wrapped in brown paper.
"Why, how lovely of you!" said Elnora. "I supposed you had
forgotten me when you ran away so fast yesterday."
"Naw, I didn't forget you," said the boy. "I wouldn't forget
you, not ever! Why, I was ist a-hurrying to take them things to
Jimmy and Belle. My, they was glad!"
Elnora glanced at the children. They sat on the edge of the
bridge, obviously clad in a garment each, very dirty and un-
kept, a little boy and a girl of about seven and nine. Elnora's
heart began to ache.
"Say," said the boy. "Ain't you going to look what we have
"I thought it wasn't polite to look before people," answered
Elnora. "Of course, I will, if you would like to have me."
Elnora opened the package. She had been presented with a
quarter of a stale loaf of baker's bread, and a big piece of ancient
"But don't you want this yourselves?" she asked in surprise.
"Gosh, no! I mean ist no," said the boy. "We always have it.
We got stacks this morning. Pa's come out of it now, and he's so
sorry he got more 'an ever we can eat. Have you had any before?"
"No," said Elnora, "I never did!"
The boy's eyes brightened and the girl moved restlessly.
"We thought maybe you hadn't," said the boy. "First you
ever have, you like it real well; but when you don't have any-
A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
thing else for a long time, years an' years, you git so tired." He
hitched at the string which held his trousers and watched Elnora
"I don't s'pose you'd trade what you got in that box for ist old
bread and bologna now, would you? Mebby you'd like it! And I
know, I ist know, what you got would taste like heaven to Jimmy
and Belle. They never had nothing like that! Not even Belle, and
she's most ten! No, sir-ee, they never tasted things like you got!"
It was in Elnora's heart to be thankful for even a taste in time,
as she knelt on the bridge, opened the box and divided her lunch
into three equal parts, the smaller boy getting most of the milk.
Then she told them it was school time and she must go.
"Why don't you put your bread and bologna in the nice box?"
asked the boy.
"Of course," said Elnora. "I didn't think."
When the box was arranged to the children's satisfaction all of
them accompanied Elnora to the corner where she turned toward
the high school.
"Billy," said Elnora, "I would like you much better if you
were cleaner. Surely, you have water! Can't you children get
some soap and wash yourselves? Gentlemen are never dirty. You
want to be a gentleman, don't you?"
"Is being clean all you have to do to be a gentleman?"
"No," said Elnora. "You must not say bad words, and you
must be kind and polite to your sister."
"Must Belle be kind and polite to me, else she ain't a lady?"
"Then Belle's no lady!" said Billy succinctly.
Elnora could say nothing more just then, and she bade them
good-bye and started them home.
"The poor little souls!" she mused. "I think the Almighty put
them in my way to show me real trouble. I won't be likely to
spend much time pitying myself while I can see them." She
glanced at the lunch box. "What on earth do I carry this for? I
never had anything that was so strictly ornamental! One sure
thing! I can't take this stuff to the high school. You never seem
MRS. COMSTOCK INDULGES IN FRILLS 75
to know exactly what is going to happen to you while you are
As if to provide a way out of her difficulty a big dog arose from
a lawn, and came toward the gate wagging his tail. "If those
children ate the stuff, it can't possibly kill him!" thought Elnora,
so she offered the bologna. The dog accepted it graciously, and
being a beast of pedigree he trotted around to a side porch and
laid the bologna before his mistress. The woman snatched it,
screaming: "Come, quick! Someone is trying to poison Pedro!"
Her daughter came running from the house. "Go see who is on
the street. Hurry!" cried the excited mother.
Ellen Brownlee ran and looked. Elnora was half a block away,
and no one nearer. Ellen called loudly, and Elnora stopped. Ellen
came running toward her.
"Did you see anyone give our dog something?" she cried as
Elnora saw no escape.
"I gave it a piece of bologna myself," she said. "It was fit to
eat. It wouldn't hurt the dog."
Ellen stood and looked at her. "Of course, I didn't know it
was your dog," explained Elnora. "I had something I wanted to
throw to some dog, and that one looked big enough to manage
Ellen had arrived at her conclusions. "Pass over that lunch
box," she demanded.
"I will not!" said Elnora.
"Then I will have you arrested for trying to poison our dog,"
laughed the girl as she took the box.
"One chunk of stale bread, one half mile of antique bologna
contributed for dog feed; the remains of cake, salad and preserves
in an otherwise empty lunch box. One ham sandwich yesterday.
I think it's lovely you have the box. Who ate your lunch today?"
"Same," confessed Elnora, "but there were three of them this
"Wait, until I run back and tell mother about the dog, and
get my books."
76 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
Elnora waited. That morning she walked down the hall and
into the auditorium beside one of the very nicest girls in Ona-
tasha, and it was the fourth day. But the surprise came at noon
when Ellen insisted upon Elnora lunching at the Brownlee home,
and convulsed her parents and family, and overwhelmed Elnora
with a greatly magnified, but moderately accurate history of her
"Gee! but it's a box, daddy!" cried the laughing girl. "It's
carved leather and fastens with a strap that has her name on it.
Inside are trays for things all complete, and it bears evidence of
having enclosed delicious food, but Elnora never gets any. She's
carried it two days now, and both times it has been empty before
she reached school. Isn't that killing?"
"It is, Ellen, in more ways than one. No girl is going to eat
breakfast at six o'clock, walk three miles, and do good work with-
out her lunch. You can't tell me anything about that box. I sold
it last Monday night to Wesley Sinton, one of my good country
customers. He told me it was a present for a girl who was worthy
of it, and I see he was right."
"He's so good to me," said Elnora. "Sometimes I look at him
and wonder if a neighbor can be so kind to one, what a real
father would be like. I envy a girl with a father unspeakably."
"You have cause," said Ellen Brownlee. "A father is the very
dearest person in the whole round world, except a mother, who
is just a dear." The girl, starting to pay tribute to her father, saw
that she must include her mother, and said the thing before she
remembered what Mrs. Sinton had told the girls in the store. She
stopped in dismay. Elnora's face paled a trifle, but she smiled
"Then I'm fortunate in having a mother," she said.
Mr. Brownlee lingered at the table after the girls had excused
themselves and returned to school.
"There's a girl Ellen can't see too much of, in my opinion,"
he said. "She is every inch a lady, and not a foolish notion or
action about her. I can't understand just what combination of
circumstances produced her in this day."
"It has been an unusual case of repression, for one thing. She
MRS. COMSTOCK INDULGES IN FRILLS 77
waits on her elders and thinks before she speaks," said Mrs.
"She's mighty pretty. She looks so sound and wholesome, and
she's neatly dressed."
"Ellen says she was a fright the first two days. Long brown
calico dress almost touching the floor, and big, lumbering shoes.
Those Sinton people bought her clothes. Ellen was in the store,
and the woman stopped her crowd and asked them about their
dresses. She said the girl was not poor, but her mother was selfish
and didn't care for her. But Elnora showed a bank book the next
day, and declared that she paid for the things herself, so the Sin-
ton people must just have selected them. There's something pe-
culiar about it, but nothing wrong, I am sure. I'll encourage Ellen
to ask her again."
"I should say so, especially if she is going to keep on giving
away her lunch."
"She lunched with the Bird Woman one day this week."
"Yes, she lives out by the Limberlost. You know the Bird
Woman works there a great deal, and probably knows her that
way. I think the girl gathers specimens for her. Ellen says she
knows more than the teachers about any nature question that
comes up, and she is going to lead all of them in mathematics,
and make them work in any branch."
When Elnora entered the coat room after having had lunch.
eon with Ellen Brownlee there was such a difference in the at-
mosphere that she could feel it.
"I am almost sorry I have these clothes," she said to Ellen.
"In the name of sense, why?" cried the astonished girl.
"Everyone is so nice to me in them, it sets me to wondering
if in time I could have made them be equally friendly in the
Ellen looked at her introspectively. "I believe you could," she
announced at last. "But it would have taken time and heartache,
and your mind would have been less free to work on your studies.
No one is happy without friends, and I just simply can't study
when I am unhappy."
78 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
That night the Bird Woman made the last trip to the swamp.
Every specimen she possibly could use had been purchased at a
fair price, and three additions had been made to the bank book,
carrying the total a little past two hundred dollars. There re-
mained the Indian relics to sell on Saturday, and Elnora had se-
cured the order to furnish material for nature work for the grades.
Life suddenly grew very full. There was the most excitingly in-
teresting work for every hour, and that work was to pay high
school expenses and start the college fund. There was one little
rift in her joy. All of it would have been so much better if she
could have told her mother, and given the money into her keep-
ing; but the struggle to get a start had been so terrible, Elnora
was afraid to take the risk. When she reached home, she only told
her mother that the last of the things had been sold that eve-
"I think," said Mrs. Comstock, "that we will ask Wesley to
move that box over here back of the garden for you. There you
are apt to get tolled farther into the swamp than you intend to go,
and you might mire or something. There ought to be just the
same things in our woods, and along our swampy places, as there
are in the Limberlost. Can't you hunt your stuff here?"
"I can try," said Elnora. "I don't know what I can find until
I do. Our woods are undisturbed, and there is a possibility they
might be even better hunting than the swamp. But I wouldn't
have Freckles's case moved for the world. He might come back
some day, and not like "t. I've tried to keep his room the best I
could, and taking out the box would make a big hole in one side
of it. Store boxes don't cost much. I will have Uncle Wesley buy
me one, and set it up wherever hunting looks the best, early in the
spring. I would feel safer at home."
"Shall we do the work or have supper first?"
"Let's do the work," said Elnora. "I can't say that I'm hungry
now. Doesn't seem as if I ever could be hungry again with such
a lunch. I am quite sure no one carried more delicious things to
eat than I."
Mrs. Comstock was pleased. "I put in a pretty good hunk of
cake. Did you divide it with anyone?"
MRS. COMSTOCK INDULGES IN FRILLS 79
"Why, yes, I did," admitted Elnora.
This was becoming uncomfortable. "I ate the biggest piece
myself," said Elnora, "and gave the rest to a couple of boys
named Jimmy and Billy and a girl named Belle. They said it was
the very best cake they ever tasted in all their lives."
Mrs. Comstock sat straight. "I used to be a master hand at
spice cake," she boasted. "But I'm a little out of practice. I must
get to work again. With the very weeds growing higher than our
heads, we should raise plenty of good stuff to eat on this land, if
we can't afford anything else but taxes."
Elnora laughed and hurried upstairs to change her dress. Mar-
garet Sinton came that night bringing a beautiful blue one in its
place, and carried away the other to launder.
"Do you mean to say those dresses are to be washed every two
days?" questioned Mrs. Comstock.
"They have to be, to look fresh," replied Margaret. "We want
our girl sweet as a rose."
"Well, of all things!" cried Mrs. Comstock. "Every two days!
Any girl who can't keep a dress clean longer than that is a dirty
girl. You'll wear the goods out and fade the colors with so much
"We'll have a clean girl, anyway."
"Well, if you like the job you can have it," said Mrs. Comstock.
"I don't mind the washing, but I'm so inconvenient with an
Elnora sat late that night working over her lessons. The next
morning she put on her blue dress and ribbon and in those she
was a picture. Mrs. Comstock caught her breath with a queer
stirring around her heart, and looked twice to be sure of what
she saw. As Elnora gathered her books her mother silently gave
her the lunch box.
"Feels heavy," said Elnora gaily. "And smelly! Like as not I'll
be called upon to divide again."
"Then you divide!" said Mrs. Comstock. "Eating is the one
thing we don't have to economize on, Elnora. Spite of all I can
do food goes to waste in this soil every day. If you can give some
80 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
of those city children a taste of the real thing, why, don't be
Elnora went down the road thinking of the city children with
whom she probably would divide. Of course, the bridge would be
occupied again. So she stopped and opened the box.
"I don't want to be selfish," murmured Elnora, "but it really
seems as if I can't give away this lunch. If mother did not put love
into it, she's substituted something that's likely to fool me."
She almost felt her steps lagging as she approached the bridge.
A very hungry dog had been added to the trio of children. Elnora
loved all dogs, and as usual, this one came to her in friendliness.
The children said "Good morning!" with alacrity, and another
paper parcel lay conspicuous.
"How are you this morning?" inquired Elnora.
"All right!" cried the three, while the dog sniffed ravenously at
the lunch box, and beat a perfect tattoo with his tail.
"How did you like the bologna?" questioned Billy eagerly.
"One of the girls took me to lunch at her home yesterday," an-
Dawn broke beautifully over Billy's streaked face. He caught
the package and thrust it toward Elnora.
"Then maybe you'd like to try the bologna today!"
The dog leaped in glad apprehension of something, and Belle
scrambled to her feet and took a step forward. The look of fam-
ished greed in her eyes was more than Elnora could endure. It
was not that she cared for the food so much. Good things to eat
had been in abundance all her life. She wanted with this lunch
to try to absorb what she felt must be an expression of some sort
from her mother, and if it were not a manifestation of love, she
did not know what to think it. But it was her mother who had
said "be generous." She knelt on the bridge. "Keep back the
dog!" she warned the elder boy.
She opened the box and divided the milk between Billy and
the girl. She gave each a piece of cake leaving one and a sand-
wich. Billy pressed forward eagerly, bitter disappointment on his
face, and the elder boy forgot his charge.
"Aw, I thought they'd be meat!" lamented Billy.
MRS. COMSTOCK INDULGES IN FRILLS
Elnora could not endure that.
"There is!" she said gladly. "There is a little pigeon bird. I
want a teeny piece of the breast, for a sort of keepsake, just one
bite, and you can have the rest among you."
Elnora drew the knife from its holder and cut off the wish-
bone. Then she held the bird toward the girl.
"You can divide it," she said. The dog made a bound and
seizing the squab sprang from the bridge and ran for life. The
girl and boy hurried after him. With awful eyes Billy stared and
swore tempestuously. Elnora caught him and clapped her hand
over the little mouth. A delivery wagon came tearing down the
street, the horse running full speed, passed the fleeing dog with
the girl and boy in pursuit, and stopped at the bridge. High school
girls began to roll from all sides of it.
"A rescue! A rescue!" they shouted.
It was Ellen Brownlee and her crowd, and every girl of them
carried a big parcel. They took in the scene as they approached.
The fleeing dog with something in its mouth, the half-naked girl
and boy chasing it told the story. Those girls screamed with laugh-
ter as they watched the pursuit.
"Thank goodness, I saved the wishbone!" said Elnora. "As
usual, I can prove that there was a bird." She turned toward
the box. Billy had improved the time. He had the last piece of
cake in one hand, and the last bite of salad disappeared in one
great gulp. Then the girls shouted again.
"Let's have a sample ourselves," suggested one. She caught
up the box and handed out the remaining sandwich. Another
girl divided it into bites each little over an inch square, and then
she lifted the cup lid and deposited a preserved strawberry on
each bite. "One, two, three, altogether now!" she cried.
"You old mean things!" screamed Billy.
In an instant he was down in the road and handfuls of dust
began to fly among them. The girls scattered before him.
"Billy!" cried Elnora. "Billy! I'll never give you another bite,
if you throw dust on anyone!"
Then Billy dropped the dust, bored both fists into his eyes, and
fled sobbing into Elnora's new blue skirt. She stooped to meet
82 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
him and consolation began. Those girls laughed on. They
screamed and shouted until the little bridge shook.
"Tomorrow might as well be a clear day," said Ellen, pass-
ing around and feeding the remaining berries to the girls as they
could compose themselves enough to take them. "Billy, I admire
your taste more than your temper."
Elnora looked up. "The little soul is nothing but skin and
bones," she said. "I never was really hungry myself; were any of
"Well, I should say so," cried a plump, rosy girl. "I'm fam-
ished right now. Let's have breakfast immediate!"
"We got to refill this box first!" said Ellen Brownlee. "Who's
got the butter?" A girl advanced with a wooden tray.
"Put it in the preserve cup, a little strawberry flavor won't
hurt it. Next!" called Ellen.
A loaf of bread was produced and Ellen cut off a piece which
filled the sandwich box.
"Next!" A bottle of olives was unwrapped. The grocer's boy
who was waiting opened that, and Ellen filled the salad dish.
A bag of macaroons was produced and the cake compartment
"I don't suppose this will make quite as good dog feed as a
bird," laughed a girl holding open a bag of sliced ham while
Ellen filled the meat dish.
A box of candy was handed her and she stuffed every corer
of the lunch box with chocolates and nougat. Then it was closed
and formally presented to Elnora. The girls each helped them-
selves to candy and olives, and gave Billy the remainder of the
food. Billy took one bite of ham, and approved. Belle and Jimmy
had given up chasing the dog, and angry and ashamed, stood
waiting half a block away.
"Come back!" cried Billy. "You great big dunces, come back!
They's a new kind of meat, and cake and candy."
The boy delayed, but the girl joined Billy. Ellen wiped her fin-
MRS. COMSTOCK INDULGES IN FRILLS 83
gers, stepped to the cement abutment and began reciting "Ho-
ratio at the Bridge!" substituting Elnora wherever the hero ap-
peared in the lines.
Elnora gathered up the sacks, and gave them to Belle, telling
her to take the food home, cut and spread the bread, set things on
the table, and eat nicely.
Then Elnora was taken into the wagon with the girls, and
driven on the run to the high school. They sang a song begin-
"Elnora, please give me a sandwich.
I'm ashamed to ask for cake"
as they went. Elnora did not know it, but that was her initiation.
She belonged to "the crowd." She only knew that she was happy,
and vaguely wondered what her mother and Aunt Margaret
would have said about the proceedings.
Wherein Mrs. Comstock Manipulates
Margaret, and Billy Acquires a Residence
SATURDAY morning Elnora helped her mother with the work.
When she had finished Mrs. Comstock told her to go to Sintons'
and wash her Indian relics, so that she would be ready to accom-
pany Wesley to town in the afternoon. Elnora hurried down the
road and was soon at the cistern with a tub busily washing arrow
points, stone axes, tubes, pipes, and skin-cleaning implements.
Then she went home, dressed and was waiting when the car-
riage reached the gate. She stopped at the bank with the box, and
Sinton went to do his marketing and some shopping for his wife.
At the drygoods store Mr. Brownlee called to him: "Hello,
Sinton! How do you like the fate of your lunch box?" Then he
*began to laugh.
"I always hate to see a man laughing alone," said Sinton. "It
looks so selfish! Tell me the fun, and let me help you."
Mr. Brownlee wiped his eyes.
"I supposed you knew, but I see she hasn't told."
Then the three days' history of the lunch box was repeated
with particulars which included the dog.
"Now laugh!" concluded Mr. Brownlee.
"Blest if I see anything funny!" replied Wesley Sinton. "And
if you had bought that box and furnished one of those lunches
yourself, you wouldn't either. I call such a work a shame! I'll
have it stopped."
"Someone must see to that, all right. They are little leeches.
MRS. COMSTOCK AND MARGARET 85
Their father earns enough to support them, but they have no
mother, and they run wild. I suppose they are crazy for cooked
food. But it is funny, and when you think it over you will see it, if
you don't now."
"About where would a body find that father?" inquired Wesley
Sinton grimly. Mr. Brownlee told him and he started, locating the
house with little difficulty. House was the proper word, for of
home there was no sign. Just a small empty house with three un-
kept little children racing through and around it. The girl and
the elder boy hung back, but dirty little Billy greeted Sinton with:
"What you want here?"
"I want to see your father," said Sinton.
"Well, he's asleep," said Billy.
"Where?" asked Sinton.
"In the house," answered Billy, "and you can't wake him."
"Well, I'll try," said Wesley.
Billy led the way. "There he is!" he said. "He is drunk again."
On a dirty mattress in a corner lay a man who appeared to be
strong and well. Billy was right. You could not awake him. He
had gone the limit, and a little beyond. He was now facing eter-
nity. Sinton went out and closed the door.
"Your father is sick and needs help," he said. "You stay here,
and I will send a man to see him."
"If you just let him 'lone, he'll sleep it off," volunteered Billy.
"He's that way all the time, but he wakes up and gets us some-
thing to eat after awhile. Only waiting' twists you up inside pretty
The boy wore no air of complaint. He was merely stating facts.
Wesley Sinton looked intently at Billy. "Are you twisted up in-
side now?" he asked.
Billy laid a grimy hand on the region of his stomach and the
filthy little waist sank close to the backbone. "Bet yer life, boss,"
he said cheerfully.
"How long have you been twisted?" asked Sinton.
Billy appealed to the others. "When was it we had the stuff on
"Yesterday morning," said the girl.
86 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
"Is that all gone?" asked Sinton.
"She went and told us to take it home," said Billy ruefully,
"and 'cos she said to, we took it. Pa had come back, he was
drinking some more, and he ate a lot of it-almost the whole
thing, and it made him sick as a dog, and he went and wasted
all of it. Then he got drunk some more, and now he's asleep
again. We didn't get hardly none."
"You children sit on the steps until the man comes," said Sin-
ton. "I'll send you some things to eat with him. What's your
"Billy," said the boy.
"Well, Billy, I guess you better come with me. I'll take care
of him," Sinton promised the others. He reached a hand to Billy.
"I ain't no baby, I'm a boy!" said Billy, as he shuffled along
beside Sinton, taking a kick at every movable object without
regard to his battered toes.
Once they passed a Great Dane dog lolling after its master,
and Billy ascended Sinton as if he were a tree, and clung to him
with trembling hot hands.
"I ain't afraid of that dog," scoffed Billy, as he was again
placed on the walk, "but onc't he took me for a rat or somepin'
and his teeth cut into my back. If I'd 'a' done right, I'd 'a' took the
law on him."
Sinton looked down into the indignant little face. The child
was bright enough, he had a good head, but oh, such a body!
"I 'bout got enough of dogs," said Billy. "I used to like 'em,
but I'm getting pretty tired. You ought to seen the lickin' Jimmy
and Belle and me give our dog when we caught him, for taking a
little bird she gave us. We waited till he was asleep 'nen laid a
board on him and all of us jumped on it to onc't. You could 'a'
heard him yell a mile. Belle said mebbe we could squeeze the
bird out of him. But, squeeze nothing! He was holler as us, and
that bird was lost long 'fore it got to his stummick. It was ist a
little one, anyway. Belle said it wouldn't 'a' made a bite apiece
for three of us nohow, and the dog got one good swaller. We
didn't get much of the meat, either. Pa took most of that. Seems
like pas and dogs gets everything."
MRS. COMSTOCK AND MARGARET 87
Billy laughed dolefully. Involuntarily Wesley Sinton reached
his hand. They were coming into the business part of Onabasha
and the streets were crowded. Billy understood it to mean that he
might lose his companion and took a grip. That little hot hand
clinging tight to his, the sore feet recklessly scouring the walk,
the hungry child panting for breath as he tried to keep even, the
brave soul jesting in the face of hard luck, caught Sinton in a
tender, empty spot.
"Say, son," he said. "How would you like to be washed clean,
and have all the supper your skin could hold, and sleep in a good
"Aw, gee!" said Billy. "I ain't dead yet! Them things is in
heaven! Poor folks can't have them. Pa said so."
"Well, you can have them if you want to go with me and get
them," promised Sinton.
"Crost yer heart?"
"Yes," said Sinton.
"Kin I take some to Jimmy and Belle?"
"If you'll come with me and be my boy, I'll see that they have
"What will pa say?"
"Your pa is in that kind of sleep now where he won't wake
up, Billy," said Sinton. "I am pretty sure the law will give you
to me, if you want to come."
"When people don't ever wake up they're dead," announced
Billy. "Is my pa dead?"
"Yes, he is," answered Sinton.
"And you'll take care of Jimmy and Belle, too?"
"I can't adopt all three of you," said Sinton. "I'll take you,
and see that they are well provided for. Will you come?"
"Yep, I'll come," said Billy. "Let's eat, first thing we do."
"All right," agreed Sinton. "Come into this restaurant." He
lifted Billb to the lunch counter and ordered the clerk to give
him as many glasses of milk as he wanted, and a biscuit. "I think
88 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
there's going to be fried chicken when we get home, Billy," he
said, "so you just take the edge off now, and fill up later."
While Billy lunched Sinton called up the different departments
and notified the proper authorities ending with the Women's Re-
lief Association. He sent a basket of food to Belle and Jimmy,
bought Billy a pair of trousers, and a shirt, and went to bring
"Why, Uncle Wesley!" cried the girl. "Where did you find
"I've adopted him for the time being, if not longer," replied
"Where did you get him?"
"Well, young woman," said Wesley Sinton, "Mr. Brownlee told
me the history of your lunch box. It didn't seem so funny to me
as it does to the rest of them; so I went to look up the father of
Billy's family, and make him take care of them, or allow the law
to do it for him. It will have to be the law."
"He's deader than anything!" broke in Billy. "He can't ever
take all the meat any more."
"Billy!" gasped Elnora.
"Never you mind!" said Sinton. "A child doesn't say such
things about a father who loved and raised him right. When it
happens, the father alone is to blame. You won't hear Billy talk
like that about me when I cross over."
"You don't mean you are going to take him to keep!"
"I'll soon need help," said Wesley. "Billy will come in just
about right ten years from now, and if I raise him I'll have him
the way I want him."
"But Aunt Margaret doesn't like boys," objected Elnora.
"Well, she likes me, and I used to be a boy. Anyway, as I
remember she has had her way about everything at our house
ever since we were married. I am going to please myself about
Billy. Hasn't she always done just as she chose so far as you know?
"Honest!" replied Elnora. "You are beautiful to all of us,
Uncle Wesley; but Aunt Margaret won't like Billy. She won't
want him in her home."
MRS. COMSTOCK AND MARGARET 8Q
"In our home," corrected Wesley.
"What makes you want him?" marveled Elnora.
"God only knows," said Sinton. "Billy ain't so beautiful, and
he ain't so smart, I guess it's because he's so human. My heart
goes out to him."
"So did mine," said Elnora. "I love him. I'd rather see him eat
my lunch than have it myself any time."
"What makes you like him?" asked Wesley.
"Why, I don't know," pondered Elnora. "He's so little, he
needs so much, he's got such splendid grit, and he's perfectly
unselfish with his brother and sister. But we must wash him be-
fore Aunt Margaret sees him. I wonder if mother- "
"You needn't bother. I'm going to take him home the way he
is," said Sinton. "I want Maggie to see the worst of it."
"I'm afraid- began Elnora.
"So am I," said Wesley, "but I won't give him up. He's taken
a sort of grip on my heart. I've always been crazy for a boy. Don't
let him hear us."
"Don't let him be killed!" cried Elnora. During their talk Billy
had wandered to the edge of the walk and barely escaped the
wheels of a passing automobile in an effort to catch a stray kitten
that seemed in danger.
Wesley drew Billy back to the walk, and held his hand closely.
"Are you ready, Elnora?"
"Yes; you were gone a long time," she said.
Wesley glanced at a package she carried. "Have to have
another book?" he asked.
"No, I bought this for mother. I've had such splendid luck
selling my specimens, I didn't feel right about keeping all the
money for myself, so I saved enough from the Indian relics to get
a few things I wanted. I would have liked to have gotten her a
dress, but I didn't dare, so I compromised on a book."
"What did you select, Elnora?" asked Wesley wonderingly.
"Well," said she, "I have noticed mother always seemed
interested in anything Mark Twain wrote in the newspapers, and
I thought it would cheer her up a little, so I just got his 'Inno-
90 A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST
cents Abroad.' I haven't read it myself, but I've seen mention
made of it all my life, and the critics say it's genuine fun."
"Good!" cried Sinton. "Good! You've made a splendid
choice. It will take her mind off herself a lot. But she will scold
"Of course," assented Elnora. "But possibly she will read it,
and feel better. I'm going to serve her a trick. I am going to hide
it until Monday, and set it on her little shelf of books the last
thing before I go away. She must have all of them by heart. When
she sees a new one she can't help being glad, for she loves to read,
and if she has all day to become interested, maybe she'll like it
so she won't scold so much."
"We are both in for it, but I guess we are prepared. I don't
know what Margaret will say, but I'm going to take Billy home
and see. Maybe he can win with her, as he did with us."
Elnora had doubts, but she did not say anything more. When
they started home Billy sat on the front seat. He drove with the
hitching strap tied to the railing of the dashboard, flourished the
whip, and yelled with delight. At first Sinton laughed with him,
but'by the time he left Elnora with several packages at her gate,
he was looking serious enough.
Margaret was at the door as they drove up the lane. Wesley
left Billy in the carriage, hitched the horses and went to explain
to her. He had not reached her before she cried, "Look, Wesley,
that child! You'll have a runaway!"
Wesley looked and ran. Billy was standing in the carriage slash-
ing the mettlesome horses with the whip.
"See me make 'em go!" he shouted as the whip fell a second
He did make them go. They took the hitching posts and a few
fence palings, which scraped the paint from a wheel. Sinton
missed the lines at the first effort, but the dragging post impeded
the horses, and he soon caught them. He led them to the barn,
and ordered Billy to remain in the carriage while he unhitched.
Then leading Billy and carrying his packages he entered the yard.
"You run play a few minutes, Billy," he said. "I want to talk
to the nice lady."