Not Eighteen

I

TRUSTEE WILLIAMSON had come down to Trustee Maguire’s house, to look me over. ‘ Pretty thin — most all eyes,’ I caught after his first look; and after the second, a terrifying, ‘Not eighteen! ‘

I shivered. I felt myself dwindling and shrinking under the hard blue eyes of the huge, hairy trustee, who recognized a letter as his only when he saw that the name on it spanned the width of the envelope — his was the longest name among those of the dozen pioneers in this remote California corner of tumbled hills, of stony, stubborn hills, for all their soft and gentle look. ‘Not eighteen.’ This rough, illiterate giant had some discernment, after all.

I had just been elected to Stony Hollow School. With what consternation the kindly board chairman, who came in person after a late session to bring the good news, had watched me burst into tears on receiving it! How could he hear the little gate of my girlhood closing behind me? How could he know how desperately distant Stony Hollow sounded in my untraveled ears? Or guess my tumultuous questioning of what awaited me at the journey’s end? A week later I had climbed into a cart, and with the reins grasped tightly in one hand had waved the other in gay good-bye to mother. And after two days — days so gloriously gold and blue, despite the thick dust of the rough wagon-roads; days stretching so deliciously from ridge to ridge and valley to valley that I wanted only to go on — I reached the Hollow.

I had been warned as I set off that more important than any mere teaching of spelling and arithmetic to children was the job of converting Trustee Williamson to education. For he sardonically refused to send any of his six boys and girls to the struggling school, which seemed doomed to lapse without them. School? Not for his offspring! That old Southern mammy knew what she was talking about when she said, ‘Lor, chile, when yuh aint got an eddication, yuse jes’ got to use yo brains.’

And now of me, his ‘Not eighteen’! The sharp appraisal was no auspicious beginning. And what of mother, depending on me, if he should press for proof of my age qualification? My grammar-school principal, fatherly friend, had been certain that I would succeed. Our town board had been glad to ignore the lacking year, as they assured me I would succeed. I myself believed I could succeed if left alone with the children. But this first Saturday morning I was shaken with fears.

‘You ‘ll be coming right over to spend the night. You can see the chickens.’ He turned to me with a gruff word of welcome.

This I took more as a command than an invitation, for I knew that intertrustee jealousies would brook no delay in my visiting round.

It had been conceded that Trustee Maguire’s house would be my boarding-place, partly because of its central position, but chiefly because this trustee, with his shock of white hair and stubby white moustache, sent occasional news-items to the Silverado Enterprise. His title of correspondent made the Maguires social dictators of the barren hill-country.

Mrs. Maguire’s hair was as slick and black as her husband’s was white and wiry, and wound in a tight knot at the back of her head; her longish narrow face was as sallow as his round one was ruddy; and her small near-set black eyes were as sharp as his blue ones were twinkling and kindly. But I learned to know that she was, after all, better than her disposition.

‘Begosh, and I hope ye ‘ll make out,’ she had said, as, arms akimbo, she watched me on my arrival trying to settle myself in my tiny lean-to room. ‘ It ‘s, begosh, a long ways you ‘ve come.’ There was no unpacking to be done, for the obvious reason that there was no place to put anything I might unpack; but Mamie and Malvina and Dannie, my pupils, and all three within as many years of my own age, were as cager as their mother to see what my mysterious little wooden trunk held. So, before pushing it under the bed, I spread the contents upon it: the three crisp white blouses, and the bright plaited gingham dress (how mother had worked over folding them), and then — and that was what they were breathlessly waiting for — the party dress. Malvina and Mamie smoothed and shook the full white China silk, my grammar-school graduation dress, with delighted hands. They ran their fingers fondly over the broad shirring around the waist and throat, and I promised to teach them how to shirr. But we were not allowed to linger over the white silk, for Mr. Maguire was calling me, impatiently, from the field. We refolded the treasure, pushed the diminutive trunk under the cot bed, and I hastened outside.

‘You see that hill, yonder,’ — the correspondent pointed across the black adobe flat on which the rough pine house stood, — ‘you go over there and stand at the bottom of it, and I ‘ll go over to this one ‘ — waving toward the opposite slope. ‘All you ‘ve got to do when you get there ‘s listen!’

I struggled wonderingly across the sticky field, shooing off turkeys and patting a horse on my way, and took up my position. From across the flat he motioned me still farther along the hill base; then, satisfied, he stopped, and, after waiting a moment till convinced that I was all attention, lifted his hands to his lips, and I caught faintly, incredulously, from across the clearing, ‘Ship ahoy !’ And then, louder and unmistakably, ‘Ship ahoy !’

I was dazed, but there was no doubting that call. So I cupped my hands and returned with all my might, —

‘Ship ahoy!’

He waved his arms ecstatically. I had heard. And I felt that, in some amazing way, I had made good. We met in the middle of the field, and there I knew his secret. Exiled old mariner that he was, fast anchored here among stony hills, he was consumed night and day with longing for the sea. He did not dare try the neighbors, and family sympathy and interest had long since gone dry. I was the one hope of some easing of his pain. And I had proved to him that a passing ship could still catch his ‘Ship ahoy!’ I would help him to evoke the great spirit of his past.

‘You can teach that school, eighteen or not, ‘ he finished delightedly. ‘You can teach the school.’

And from then on, day after day, when my work was finished, we took our positions on the opposite hill bases and called back and forth across the adobe sea, in the still twilight — ‘Ship ahoy!’

I had never seen the sea. This was my first intimate touch with its mastery over men who give themselves to it. During all my girlhood I had dreamed of it, thinking that I realized its immensity when we sang in Sunday school, —

‘ There ‘s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea’;

thrilling to its adventure and dangers through Drake and Nelson of the school reader, then breathlessly following Ulysses, and finally losing myself in its mystery and enchantment when Keats made of my own rude window-sill a magic casement. And here, among the silent hills, was proof of all I had believed of the sea. More and more I fell under the spell of our game, transported to the dazzling ocean world with its endless processions of passing ships, and, each time as we called, seeing fresh peril averted. ‘Ship ahoy!’ and I could teach the school!

There was another game that we played, and in which, on peaceful evenings, the family joined — the game of unwinding the ball. This was an imaginary ball of yarn held in the correspondent’s hand, the tightly wound chronicle of the day’s events; and, as he told them off one by one, a diminishing ball. Our part in the game consisted in prompting — ‘But don’t you remember, Mag broke her tie-rope’; or, ‘No, it was six o’clock when Ed Jones galloped up with the weekly mail ‘; until the ball was quite unwound and ready to begin rewinding itself with the morrow’s dawn.

II

Yes, I might teach, so far as this ruddy sailor was concerned. But he was only one of three, and day and night I was tormented with the thought of the impending visit to big Bill Williamson’s house. Several times I planned to hitch up the rickety old cart at night, and flee over the hills and safely back to Silverado. But mother!

It was only when shut safely inside the flimsy wooden box set up on pegs, my schoolhouse, with my twelve children, that I forgot all else. I arrived as early as I could, pulse high after my rapid walk through the radiant morning, hurried eagerly up the five steep steps, — carefully skipping the most worn one, through whose wide crack a rattlesnake one day thrust its head, — and stayed as late as I dared. After the last papers and copy books were blueand red-penciled, I stood, until I could no longer see, before the old blackboard, lost in the joy of grappling with a trigonometry problem. I had left home hugging an elementary ‘Trig’ and a first Greek grammar; and when shut in alone, in the gathering dusk, with these two precious red volumes, I was rich and happy beyond compare. Beyond the blackboard I saw college doors swinging to let me in! The fact that there was no high school in the town where I grew up, and that I could hope for no more than my grammar-school course, did not dim that vision. All through those grammar-school years I had said my morning prayers kneeling before a green-shuttered window, looking up through the shutters, as I prayed, at the resplendent cross on top of the high steeple of a Catholic church near by. For me, then, it was quite detached from any religion; it was simply the golden promise of the realization of my university dream.

As often as they could, Dora Nash and Dan Maguire, my two brightest pupils, — and, incidentally, both older than I, — stayed on with me for an hour or more after the four-o’clock dismissal. Poor Dan! overgrown, undernourished, yet with fine blue eyes and high forehead; sensitive, silent Dan — how I longed, as I helped him with some simple problems in physics, to be able to lift him out of this stony trap, where no farm had yet paid, and set him down where he might have half a chance.

With Dora, to whom I was glad to teach extra algebra and what little botany I knew, it was different; she would always have a chance. She was strong, breezy, and, despite her thin, straw-colored hair and freckles, good-looking. Her father had not been caught in this implacable corner, but had luckily settled on friendlier ground some distance away. Her mother had died when she was a little girl, so Dora kept the house. After supper, when there was nothing more to be done for the fruit trees, the talk straight-backed old man, with his gentle blue eyes and long white beard, used to sit looking out across the spicy garden at his beehives, while Dora played for him, on the melodeon, hymns he used to sing with her mother. The bees were his delight. He swarmed them without mask or gloves, working among them as successfully as he did fearlessly. ‘They never sting a Christian,’ he asserted with smiling faith.

Because of the melodeon, Dora was my music-master in school, where we gathered about her each morning for our nine-o’clock singing. She was also my mainstay in Sunday school. The Maguires objected to this service; but knowing what it meant to the other isolated families I insisted on keeping the schoolhouse open on Sunday. With Dora to lead the singing and to help teach her week-day classmates, I had all the assistance I needed. Indeed, holding Sunday service was easier for me than the more unfamiliar schoolday task, for the parsonage had been a kind of second home to me. When fifteen, as president of the Junior League, I had been sent out in its interest to cover the district circuit, much as the itinerant preacher did, and speak from successive pulpits during part of the church hour.

Yes, all Sunday mornings were happy ones, and all school mornings and afternoons. And the noontimes! At noon, partly because I could not eat my lunch and the children must not know that I could n’t, and partly for more important reasons, I made a practice of slipping away as soon as they were comfortably settled out of doors, and busy over their lard-can-lunch-pails. I hurried along the curving hill-slope at the left of the rough clearing, watching for rattlesnakes as I went, and when just out of sight of the ugly wooden box turned and climbed straight up the hillside, until I reached a narrow plateau, a field of shimmering white, where myraids of exquisite fragrant little mountain pinks spread their silken corollas in the sun. With a shout I opened my pail, and extracting the daily, thick, underdone, saffron-colored biscuits, with their slice of bacon, flung them as far as I could to the squirrels. Then I sank down deliciously upon this fairy-like, silken bed. Its sheer beauty was rest and refreshment. And, as I lay, it became suddenly the shining magic carpet that lifted up and up through the luminous noontide reaches, high above the rounded hills; and then off we were, and over the blue horizon, just far enough for me to glimpse the grand buildings, — my old Scotch friend had thus described the university, — the grand buildings, with their great doors that opened on the world. Incredible, glistening bower, hung there aloft so lavishly by the same Nature that so grimly denied the stony slope below it!

All would have gone well: I could have stood the frequently stormy nights at the Maguires’ — I still see sensitive Dan’s flushed face as words grew louder and angrier. I could have stood even that dreadful night when coffeepot and rolling-pin went whizzing toward opposite heads. And the rattlesnakes; though when I opened my eyes one dawn upon a particularly long and thick one gliding in over my low window-sill and ran calling for help to Mrs. Maguire, I felt that the snakes would win the victory. Mrs. Maguire flew to the rescue with a kettle of boiling water, and thus another bridge was crossed.

III

Yes, the days were bright enough, except for the shadow that fell so persistently across their sunny spaces — the unreasoned dread of the visit to the big trustee’s. Finally, it could not be postponed another day. And as I started for school on a Wednesday morning, I carried a little paper parcel, my visiting-outfit. Mrs. Maguire was almost as unhappy as I oxer this approaching ordeal, and made no attempt to conceal her anxiety. In her eyes big Bill W. was a heathen monster. ‘Begosh, and I hope ye’ll come back all right,’ she said, apprehensively wiping a corner of her eye. As I went through the door, I thought for one incredulous moment that she was going to gather me in her arms. If she had, I probably should n’t have started.

Her sailor husband laughed at us both, and, walking with me a few steps, ‘Now don’t you let that bushy giant see you ‘re afraid of him, for one minute,’ he said. ‘He’s never eaten anybody yet. You argue him; if you can make him send those poor lost children of his to school that ‘ll be the biggest feather you exer stuck in your cap.’ And then, as I rounded the hill, I heard, ‘Ship ahoy!’ and turned to see him waving cheerily.

Fortunately that school day was an especially full one — no time for foolish forebodings. It was past five o’clock when I smoothed down my gingham plaits, tucked my parcel under my arm and started slowly along the Williamson trail. I had not yet seen Mrs. Williamson (Jasmine), or one of the six children; and I hoped, as I followed the winding stony way between hills, that the trustee might be off somewhere, and that I could begin my visit with the others. But no, as I sighted the sagging gate, there he was mightily digging beside it. Mustering courage, I called cheerfully as I approached, —

‘Good-evening, Mr. Williamson!’

‘Well,’ he said, ‘you come at last; thought the chickens would all be to roost ‘fore you got here.’

And without delay he started off with me for the coops and sheds. After I had listened to the ejaculatory story of the perils of chicken-raising in this wild country, which back in Kentucky they had told him was all tamed and soft, he made me count out loud, as he listened delightedly, every hen and chick. These were his fortune. I was, in a way, making a twilight appraisal of it for him. From the chickens themselves we turned to the nests and the eggs, and I do not know how far into the dusk he would have kept me there adding, had not little Minnie come to tell us that supper had been waiting already a long time.

Outside, with the chickens, I could largely forget my terrors; but inside the narrow, high-peaked kitchen, despite the timid greetings of Jasmine and her six children, all pathetically glad to see me, they came flooding back. For all through our supper at the long board table, I felt the family fear of the master: no word from any of the children, except the eldest, twenty-two-year-old Lem, almost as big as his father, and simple-minded. He prattled on like a good-natured baby. Jasmine had done her best with the supper, and she knew how to cook: fried chicken and fluffy biscuits and quince jelly. She was delighted with my compliments; and by fixing our attention entirely on our food, we managed to get through the meal with what must have been distinct success. If only I could have escaped directly afterward!

But when the dishes were washed, we filed into a small splintery-floored room off the kitchen, where there was a primitive stove and some odds and ends of chairs. Jasmine stirred the fire, and then we settled down in a circle to our ‘evening.’

But we were no sooner down than up we got; for big Bill loudly proposed, ‘Hide-and-seek.’ I wondered for a moment if he had divined Jim Maguire’s parting, ‘You argue him,’ and was bent cleverly on checkmating us. But as we dashed from door to door, under beds and behind boxes, I was convinced that he was but following his own bent: he adored ‘Hide-and-seek’ and gave it up only after even the three youngest had sunk back panting within the circle.

‘Spin the plate,’ he quickly proposed.

Lem ran for a pie tin, and we crouched and tumbled and spun, the huge trustee always the most boisterous in the tumbling and the spinning, until he again changed the bill. We ran down his list of romping and guessing games. No arguing; no feather; I saw that quickly. I tried then to do what I could with the children and their mother. When finally both list and players were exhausted, and big Bill announced that he was going to ‘turn in,’ that meant that the rest of us must.

I found to my intense relief that I was to have a tiny room alone. It was almost filled by a wide, ugly walnut bedstead, carried along with greatest difficulty in the prairie schooner, more than halfway across the continent — the family altar. Jasmine shyly pressed my hand in good-night, and I heard the children scattering to their cots as I partly undressed. The spectacle of the gamboling giant had not been a calming one, and I found it impossible to commit myself to any unguarded sleep beneath this uncanny roof. I slipped under the quilts, but remained sitting straight up against the walnut headboard.

However, despite my resolve to keep awake, I did fall into sleep, — for how long I do not know, — but only to be violently shaken out of it as I felt the bed rocking, the house lurching. My heart pounded; I clutched the sheet and held my breath in the utter blackness, making a superhuman effort not to scream; for I was sure that this was some diabolical prank of the huge trustee, or worse. Then, amid a loud confusion outside, I heard him shouting, ‘Earthquake!’ and I sank tremblingly, thankfully back, and breathed once again. I had felt only tremors before, never one like this, but earthquakes might come by the dozen; let them come! The shed-house stood the shock, and gradually settled with creakings and cracklings back to quiet. When I crawled out from under the quilts at dawn, big Bill was already with his chickens, and I could quietly and humanely help his wife with the breakfast. Part of her scant stock of dishes, alas, had been smashed in the night.

During breakfast big Bill was taciturn, entirely occupied with the worries of patching up after this shaking. And I did not dare even mention the school of which he was a trustee.

Utterly discouraged, and yet thankful just to be still alive, I started off, promising poor Jasmine that. I would come again, while I urged her to try to get to the schoolhouse Sunday morning. As I started, overgrown, feeble-minded Lem stepped up beside me and took my lunch-pail. He had made up what mind he had; he was going to school! It needed no family council for that; nobody objected; learning could not hurt Lem! And from that day on, Lem was completely dedicated to education and to me. He took his place obediently on the bench with the four little tots in first-reader class, struggled valiantly with ‘The cat ate the rat’; carried water from the well; brought me a rare rose or a wild flower; drove rattlesnakes from under the schoolhouse, hunted them indefatigably all about it; he even once managed to get to the far-distant post-office and surprise me with a letter.

One alarming day, when, raising his hand, he called me by my first name, the whole class was galvanized into fascinated expectation of what teacher would do. But since teacher evidently considered this the most natural occurrence in the world, tension slackened and heads went back to their books. When, after school, I tried to explain to him how he could make my work easier by sticking to the forms, he smiled happily and said he understood. And he partly did, and tried, poor Lem; but with only intermittent success.

I did not win the other children, though they were allowed to attend Sunday School. However, nothing more was said about the age qualification, and the big trustee came with his entire family to the school dance.

‘Don’t be downcast,’ kindly Jim Maguire had said; ‘you ‘ve done more than anyone before you. It ‘s a job for the police.’

But I could not be cheered into forgetting how I had failed those sad children and sadder Jasmine.

IV

To direct the Sunday School was simple; to engineer the schoolhouse dance was formidable. All the guns of the church in which I had been brought up were focused on the evils of dancing. I had never danced; how was I to preside as floor-manager at the most important of the whole term’s events? Perhaps my chief chance of success lay in making this particular party the prettiest picture the Hollow had yet seen. I unfolded my white China silk — yes, it would do. Then began plans with the children. There must be a swift scrubbing of the splintery floor. My platform would be pushed back against the rear wall and embowered in oak boughs, to serve as dais for the three fiddlers. The school benches would follow the walls, which must quite disappear behind latticed greenery (the little children would sleep on these benches); the ceiling became easily a leafy bower; bunches of wild flowers would give brightness to dark corners. But the stove — hideous object — thrusting like a dangerous rock from the middle of the floor: we were in despair over the stove. And yet, when hillsides had been scoured and the few nearby coverts made to contribute their ferns and blossoms, even the stove, transformed into a mossy mound, seemed a part of the general loveliness. The children could scarcely wait until mothers should see and exclaim.

While we were busy in the schoolhouse, they were bustling about the ovens. Each vied with her neighbor in the bread-making and cake-making, and in the boiling of the hams and chickens. For neighbors from the hills beyond the hills, whom they rarely saw except at this one social function of the year, would be there. Mrs. McLaughlin, of course, was making a whole row of her sour-milk pies.

Dusk had already fallen when Annie and Katie and I, tired but excited, ran across the adobe flat, and I began helping them to arrange their hair, which had been carefully wound in rags the night before, and to slip into their pink and blue lawns. Mrs. Maguire already had on her black silk, with its full gathered skirt and passementerie trimming, and was packing the ham and chickens in the wash-boiler, and piling up the tin milk-pans in which the sandwiches were to be passed. The cart was out, and Trustee Jim was buckling the last strap of shaggy Maggie’s harness.

There was no time for any special twisting of my own hair, for I must be the first to return to the schoolhouse. I hooked my white silk down the front, and calling good-bye as I threw a little shawl over my shoulders, hurried on ahead through the star-filled evening. And I had no more than reached the school door before my faithful Dora ran panting up the steps.

Very soon, others began to arrive — Bob Brown and his crowd from very far away, of whom I had been warned as the ‘rough ones.’ I watched them tie their horses under a clump of trees and deposit mysterious packages in the undergrowth. With each family group came the clothes-boiler and milk-pans; these were gathered near the sandwich table we had set in the corner beside the platform, where the fiddlers, with their long gray beards and long hair, were already tuning up. Through the open door we could see the fathers building the campfire for the coffeepot.

Every woman had on her black dress, silk or poplin as might be, and her embroidered apron to protect it as she cut sandwiches and cakes; and there were a few coral and garnet necklaces and some pretty old jet and gold earrings— treasures antedating these bitter pioneering days. I had all but forgotten the dancing in my pleasure in their proud happiness over the table they were piling high. And I had not noticed that the young girls had retreated, as one, to a corner, and that all the young men had disappeared. They were outdoors fortifying themselves from the mysterious packages.

Then the first fiddler began beating time with his foot; and as the three bows scraped the catgut, he called the opening quadrille. There was a bold rush up the steps, and a good-natured assault on the solid corner. One by one the girls were pulled out, either by an arm or the waist, and with much stamping of feet and laughter the figures were made and the bowing and crossing and turning begun. Fathers and mothers joined in with great zest. I sank back against the pine boughs — and then turned to arrange sandwiches. From quadrille, to galloping polka and schottische, on and on through the breathless hours we went, with, for midnight climax, a romping Virginia reel.

And now came the event toward which the whole evening had progressed. We had long been catching tantalizing whiffs from the huge coffeepot boiling over the campfire. Lem slipped a stout stick through its handle and brought it steaming to the sandwich table, while we lined up to hold tin cups under it. Mothers called as they passed the heavy milk-pans, ‘That’s Sallie’s chicken sandwich,’ or, ‘Try this ham one, it ‘s Annie’s.’ Innumerable sandwiches were followed by innumerable thick slices of layer cake and wide cuts of pie. Such feasting! And for the fiddlers on their dais, too, of course. By this time all my anxieties had taken wing, for I had supposed all along that the supper ended the party. But now, wide-eyed, I found that we had only begun! One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock; if the first half had been a jolly success, the second half was a riotous one. Reel after reel, till the first silver of dawn flooded the clearing. That was the signal.

The faithful fiddlers sheathed their bows and, with breakfast sandwiches in their hands, led off on the trail. The little children were shaken from their sleep on the benches, boilers and milkpans and coffeepot were loaded into uncertain carts and wagons. I had expected to walk home, but ‘rough’ Bob Brown, whose way lay in quite a different direction, gallantly insisted that I ride his white horse, while he walked beside it as far as the Maguire flat. As he helped me seat myself sidewise on the cross-saddle, I saw that all the others who had horses were falling in behind me. Tired as I was, this friendliness almost brought tears. I remember, too, my delight in riding thus in white silk on a white horse at dawn. I had seen copies of Italian frescoes, and I wondered if, from some far height, Gozzoli or Ghirlandajo might be looking down upon our own rude little cavalcade winding in and out among the young hills.

The Rumbles had come to the dance, despite the fact that I had not yet spent the night with them — Mr. Rumble was the third trustee. Until then I had not seen him. I might be seventeen or nineteen, both were one to him. Between the Maguires and the Rumbles was bitter feud over an ancient fence, and if the Maguires could have prevented it, I should never have visited the Rumbles, school or no school. Their two little freckled, redhaired girls, in my fourth and sixth grades, were encouragingly quiet and obedient, but they had a stepbrother, almost thirty, and the hills echoed with tales of his mad ways. He had finally, some four years before I came, been committed to an asylum, from which he had just been released as cured. But according to the Maguires there existed no cure for such an evil one; and, though I tried in every way to forget him, terror of the ‘released’ shackled my steps as I started on the Monday evening after the dance for the Rumbles. I knew their house was no more than a barn-like, single room. How could I hope to escape him?

And yet they seemed, as they welcomed me, the most crushed and colorless family in the whole district. All through the evening meal, at the plank table near the stove, we chatted easily enough about the dance, the little girls’ lessons, the fruitless struggle to wring anything from this corner of the California whose every acre they had pictured running with milk and honey. And in their talk I heard again the answer to the question I had at first asked myself almost hourly. Economically their struggle was hopeless. For though, as part of a vast Spanish grant, this land had once yielded to the great herds turned loose upon its slopes and fed them well, all later attempts like these to call paying green farms from its hard surfaces it resisted pitilessly. Why was this handful of men and women fighting on? Why was there any school at all; or one trustee, even such a one as Bill Williamson? Part of the answer I now knew. The glamour of the golden hills was upon them. Barren they might be, yet they were flowing with the milk and honey of poetry, and to these enduring pioneers this was compensation.

Always as we talked I kept close watch of the strangely silent ‘released,’ with his carrot-colored hair and trailing moustaches. I noticed with relief that there was a loft built out over a third of the kitchen, with a ladder running up to it; perhaps I was to sleep there. Luckily I was; and soon after supper I climbed the ladder with the two little girls. Yet after we had crawled into our cots and the lamp was out below, it seemed so easy to roll off the unbalustraded platform and down to where lay the ‘mad one,’ that I gripped the cot bars, determined not to loosen my hold. But again I fell asleep, and awakened only when I heard the three grown-ups stirring about the stove. The pump and the tin wash-basin were outside, not far from the door, and after I had let the little girls climb down to get an early turn at the washing, I dressed and followed.

In the doorway I stopped transfixed. The grindstone stood close to the well, and beside it, with a long, sickle-like knife in his hand, which he alternately brandished and pressed against the glittering wheel, stood the ‘released.’ What an ugly knife, and what desperate flourishing of it! Not a word to me, only an intent look — no halt in the knife-waving! How I forced myself forward I do not know, but somehow I reached the pump, and then, trembling from head to foot, got back to the kitchen and the breakfast-making.

It was after that desperate morning picture that I sent word to mother, begging that my brother (he was nine!) be allowed to come to visit me. And as soon as she could despatch him, the blessed child arrived, laden with Sunday-School papers. From that day I experienced a wonderful sense of protection.

Saturday afternoons I helped Mamie herd the turkeys. She was chiefly responsible for a roving flock of forty. This was genuine sport, for, except where we ran upon certain old Indian paths, the hillsides were trailless and covered with a thick undergrowth of chemisal and manzanita; and the halfwild birds scattered far. No matter how often repeated, I always started on a hunt with zest. For it we had two mongrel horses, but no saddles; and to stick on, bareback, as we dashed through and over and under the dense brushwood required vigilant balancing. The search greatly excited the horses, and with every gobble I had to take an extra grip with my knees. It was astonishing that anything short of a big-game hunt could hold so many thrills and suspenses. Once I was thrown backward, but, fortunately, early in the ride, while my thick braids were still bound across the back of my head and acted as a shock-absorber. Mamie was badly frightened; for some minutes she thought me dead; but I was soon astride again and we were off, shoulder-deep in brush.

One by one we frightened the big birds out from under cover and pursued their flapping wings down the slope, until they seemed safely on their way to the roost — a clump of straggling trees on the outskirts of the black clearing. Of course, some of them always turned back and the scurrying and shooing had to be repeated. It was often deep dusk before, red-cheeked and with hair streaming, — no pins were proof against this riding, — we reined our sweating horses on the flat. As we leaped to the ground and began twisting our hair, Mrs. Maguire would appear in the doorway, thrusting back her own black wisps and shaking a fist at the turkey trees.

‘Begosh, and I ‘d like to see ivery evil neck of thim wrung; next time may the coyotes get thim!’ Then, peering, as Mamie and I started for the roost, she called sharply, ‘Sure you got all, Mamie? Count right!’

If luck were good and the count tallied, we quickly rubbed down our horses, and then began a meticulous search for woodticks — it was just as well to forestall their unpleasant practice of burrowing with their heads into soft flesh. That over, unless it was quite dark, I hurried for a dip in a stream a half-hour away; then supper, which we ate with gusto, no matter how under-baked or over-fried.

After the first hunt Mamie and I were pals. In the house and at school she had seemed just palely fat and silent, but out scurrying over the hillsides she wakened into life. We talked of other adventuring, of the world beyond the myriad hills. Mamie was twenty, and had never seen a railway train. When, one day, I said that somehow I was going to manage to borrow the cart and take her the two days’ journey (forty miles) to the nearest track and show her a train, her eyes, usually so expressionless, shone with excitement. Could I? Would I? We kept our prodigious plan a secret until the hour was ripe. Then, one bright holiday morning, I boldly announced it; and before the family could catch its breath, we were off, behind shaggy old Maggie, in a cloud of dust.

It was pleasant to see Mamie’s face as we caught our first glimpse of the golden wheat-fields of San Jacinto Valley; and again, the second day, as we rounded the shoulder of Mt. May, and the lovelier expanse of Silverado Valley lay spread out below us. And then, as we dropped down, and I saw the first railway tracks not far ahead, I pulled Maggie to a stop, praying for a train. Mamie stood up in the cart in her excitement, straining her eyes. And lo, my prayer was answered! I sighted a line of faded-red freight-cars slowly approaching; crawling, they seemed to me to be, but not to Mamie. She sank down close beside me. ‘Let’s back up,’ she begged, as she took my hand. I pulled farther away. And then to her gasping terror and delight the terrific monster, with its amazing retinue, rolled by. It was about the slowest freight I had ever seen. Watching Mamie, I wondered what would have happened to her had her first experience been an express.

She continued to hold my hand tightly, silently, as our eyes followed along the shining rails until the mighty live thing had shrunk to only the thinnest line, and then was blotted out against the blue. In Mamie’s soul something stirred. All the long way home she plied me with questions. How far was it going? To what kind of country? What was this freight that it carried? For Mamie market sources and outlets were the adobe flat on which she had grown up. Was the whole round earth striped with these marvelous silver bands? And the flying passenger train — was it like a shooting star? Would she ever have a chance to get on one? Would she dare? And above all (as old Mag’s own particular snorting told us we were nearing the barn) would I take her again, to see just one more train go by?

Poor Mamie, how I longed to; but there was no further opportunity that term. And then I was moved far across the hills to a larger district. And finally, on a great day, I climbed to the platform of a train bearing southward, toward the grand buildings with the doors that opened on the world. And I thought of Mamie.