The Road To Providence
by Maria Thompson Daviess
I. THE DOCTORS
CHAPTER II. THE
SINGER LADY AND
CHAPTER III. THE
CHAPTER V. THE
LITTLE RAVEN AND
HER COVERED DISH
CHAPTER VI. THE
THE NEST ON
CHAPTER IX. THE
WOMAN OF MANY
CHAPTER X. THE
SONG OF THE
CHAPTER I. THE DOCTORS MAYBERRY,
MOTHER AND SON
"Now, child, be sure and don't mix 'em with a heavy hand! Lightness
is expected of riz biscuits and had oughter be dealt out to 'em by
the mixer from the start. Just this way"
"Mother, oh, Mother," came a perturbed hail in Doctor Mayberry's
voice from the barn door, "Spangles is off the nest againbetter come
"Can't you persuade her some, Tom?" Mother called back from the
kitchen door as she peered anxiously across the garden fence and over
to the gray barn where the Doctor stood holding the door half open,
but ready for a quick close-up in case of an unexpected sally. "My
hands is in the biscuits and I don't want to come now. Just try, Tom!"
"I have tried and I can't do it! She's getting the whole convention
agitated. You'd better come on, Mother!"
"Dearie me," said Mrs. Mayberry, as she rinsed her hands in the
wash-pan on the shelf under tin cedar bucket, "Tom is just as
helpless with the chickens at setting time as a presiding elder is at
a sewing circle; can't use a needle, too stiff to jine the talk and
only good when it comes to the eating, from broilers to frying size.
Just go on and mix the biscuits with faith, honey-bird, for I mistrust
I won't be back for quite a spell."
"Now let me see what all these conniptions is about," she said in a
commanding voice, as she walked boldly in through her son's
cautiously widened door gap.
And a scene of confusion that was truly feminine met her capable
glance. Fuss-and-Feathers, a stylish young spangled Wyandotte, was
waltzing up and down the floor and shrieking an appeal in the
direction of a whole row of half-barrel nests that stretched along
the dark and sequestered side of the feed-room floor, upon which was
established what had a few minutes before been a placid row of
setting hens. Now over the rim of each nest was stretched a black,
white, yellow or gray head, pop-eyed with alarm and reproach. They
were emitting a chorus of indignant squawks, all save a large,
motherly old dominick in the middle barrel who was craning her scaly
old neck far over toward the perturbed young sister and giving forth
a series of reassuring and commanding clucks.
"I didn't do a thing in the world to them, Mother," said Doctor Tom
in a deprecatory tone of voice, as if he were in a way to be blamed
for the whole excitement. "I was across the barn at the corn-crib
when she hopped off her nest and went on the rampage. Just a case of
the modern feminine rebellion, I wager."
"No such thing, sir! They ain't nothing in the world the matter
with her 'cept as bad a case of young-mother skeer as I have ever had
before amongst all my hens. Don't you see, Tom, two of her setting
have pipped they shells and the cheepings of the little things have
skeered the poor young thing 'most to death. Old Dominick have took
in the case and is trying her chicken-sister best to comfort her.
These here pullet spasms over the hatching of the first brood ain't
in no way unusual. The way you have forgot chicken habits since you
have growed up is most astonishing to me, after all the helping with
them I taught you." As she spoke, Mother Mayberry had been
rearranging the deserted nest with practised hand and had tenderly
lifted two feeble, moist little new-borns on her broad palm to show
to the Doctor.
"What are you going to do with them, Mother?" he asked, for though
his education in chicken lore seemed to have been in vain he was none
the less sympathetically interested in his mothers practice of the
"I'm just going to give 'em to Old Dominick to dry out and warm up
for her while I persuade her back on the nest. As she gets used to
hearing the cheepings from under another hen she'll take the next
ones that come with less mistrust." And suiting her actions to her
words Mother Mayberry slipped the two forlorn little mites under a
warm old wing that stretched itself out with gentleness to receive
and comfort them. Some budding instinct had sent the foolish fluff of
stylish feathers clucking at her skirts, so she bent down and with a
gentle and sympathetic hand lifted the young inadequate back on the
"I really oughter put on a cover and make her set on the next," she
said doubtfully, "but it do seem kinder to teach her hovering a
little at a time. Course all women things has got mothering borned
into 'em, but it comes easier to some than to others. I always feel
like giving 'em a helping hand at the start off."
"You have a great deal of faith if you feel sure of that
universally maternal instinct in these days, Mother," said the Doctor
with a teasing smile as he handed her a quart cup of oats from the
bin. "Oh, I know what you're talking about," answered Mother, as she
scattered a little grain in front of each nest and prepared to leave
in peace and quiet the brooding mothers. "It's this woman's rights
and wrongs question. I've been so busy doctoring Providence Road
pains and trying to make a good, proper husband outen you for some
nice girl, what some other woman have been putting licks on to get
ready for you, that I've been too pushed to think about the wrongs
being did to me. But not knowing any more about it than I do, I think
this woman's rumpus all sounds kinder like a hen scratching around in
unlikely and contrary corners for the bread of life, when she knows
they is plenty of crumbs at the kitchen door to be et up. But if
you're going to ride over to Flat Rock this evening you'd better go on
and get back in time for some riz biscuits as Elinory is a-making for
you this blessed minute."
"She's not making them for me," answered the young Doctor with the
color rising under his clear, tanned skin up to his very forelock. As
he spoke he busied himself with bridling his restless young mare.
"Of course she is," answered his mother serenely. "Women don't take
no interest in cooking unless they's a man to eat the fixings. Left
to herself she'd eat store bread and cheese with her head outen the
window for the birds to clean up the crumbs. Stop by and ask after
Mis' Bostick and the Deacon. And if you bring me a little candy from
the store with the letters, maybe I'll eat it to please you. Now be
a-going so as to be a-coming the sooner." With which admonition
Mother took her departure down the garden path.
She was tall and broad, was Mother Mayberry, and in her walk was
left much of the lissome strength of her girlhood to lighten the
matronly dignity of her carriage. Her stiffly starched, gray-print
skirts swept against a budding border of jonquils and the spring
breezes floated an end of her white lawn tie as a sort of challenge
to a young cherry tree, that was trying to snow out under the
influence of the warm sun. Her son smiled as he saw her stoop to lift
a feeble, over-early hop toad back under the safety of the jonquil
leaves, out of sight of a possible savage rooster. He knew what
expression lay in her soft gray eyes that brooded under her Wide,
placid brow, upon which fell abundant and often riotous silver
water-waves. His own eyes were very like them and softened as he
looked at her, a masculine version of one of her quick s quirked at
the corner of his clean-cut mouth.
"The bread of lifeshe's found it," he said to himself musingly as
he slipped the last buckle in his bridle tight.
"Elinory," called Mother Mayberry from the kitchen steps, "come out
here and sense the spring. Everywhere you look they is some young
thing a-peeping up or a-reaching out or a-running over or wobbling or
bleating or calling. Looks like the whole world have done broke out in
blooms and babies."
"I can'tI wish I could," came an answer in a low, beautiful voice
with a queer, husky note. "It's all sticking to my hands, flour and
everything, and I don't know what to do!"
"Dearie me, you've put in the milk a little too liberal! Wait until
I sift on a mite more flour. Now rub it in light! See, it's all
right, and most beautiful dough. Don't be discouraged, for riz
biscuits is most the top test of cooking. Keep remembering back to
those cup custards you made yesterday, what Tom Mayberry ate three of
for supper and then tried to sneak one outen the milk-house to eat
before he went to bed."
"Oh, did he?" asked Miss Wingate with delight shining in her dark
eyes and a beautiful pink rising up in her pale cheeks. "I wish I
COULD do something to please him and make him feel howhow grateful
I amfor the hope he's given me. I was so hopeless and unhappyand
desperate when I came. But I believe my voice is coming back! Every
day it's stronger and you are so good to me and make me so happy that
I'm not afraid any more. You give me faith to hopeas well as to mix
biscuits." And a pearly tear splashed on the rolling- pin.
"Yes, put your trust in the Heavenly Father, child, and some in Tom
Mayberry. Before you know it you'll be singing like the birds out in
the trees; but I can't let myself think about the time's a-coming for
you to fly away to the other people's trees to sing. When Tom told me
about Doctor Stein's wanting to send a great big singer lady, what had
lost her voice, down here to see if he couldn't cure her like he did
that preacher man and the politics speaker, I was skeered for both him
and me, for I knew things was kinder simple with us here and I was
afraid I couldn't make you happy and comfortable. But then I
remembered Doctor Stein had stayed 'most two weeks when he came South
with Tom for a visit and said he had tacked ten years on to the end of
his life by just them few days of Providence junketings and company
feedings, so I made up my mind not to be proud none and to say for you
to come on. I've got faith in my boy's doctoring same as them New York
folks has, and I wanted him to try to cure you. Then I knew you didn't
have no mother to pet up the sick throat none. A little consoling
comfort is a good dose to start healing any kind of trouble with. I
knew I had plenty of that in my heart to prescribe out to help along
with your case; so here you are not three weeks with us, a-mixing riz
biscuits for Tom's supper and like to coax the heart outen both of us.
I told himDearie me, somebody's calling at the front gate!"
"Mis' Mayberry! Oh, Mis' Mayberry!" came a high, quavering old
voice from around the corner of the house, and Squire Tutt hove in
sight. He was panting for breath and trembling with rage as he
ascended the steps and stood in the kitchen door.
Mother hastened to bring him a chair into which he wheezingly
"Why, Squire," she questioned anxiously, "have anything happened?
Is Mis' Tutt tooken with lumbago again?"
"No!" exploded the Squire, "she's wellalways is! I'm the only
really sick folks in Providence, though I don't git no respect for
it. In pain all the time and no respectno respect!"
"Now, Squire, everybody in Providence have got sympathy for your
tisic, and just yesterday Mis' Pike was a-asking me"
"Tisic! I ain't talking about tisic now! It's this pain in my
stomick that that young limb of satan of your'n insulted me about not
a hour ago. Me a-writhing in tormint with nothing less'n a
cancerinsulted me!" As the Squire projected his remark toward Mother
Mayberry he bent double and peered expectantly up into her sympathetic
"Why, what did he do, Squire?" demanded Mother, with a glance at
Miss Wingate, who still stood at the biscuit block cutting out her
dough. She regarded the old man with alarmed wonder.
"Told me to drink two cups of hot water and lie down a hourme in
tormint!" The Squire fairly spit his complaint into the air.
"Dearie me, Tom had oughter known better than that about one of
your spells," said Mother. "Why, I've been a-curing them for years for
you myself with nothing more'n a little drop of spirits, red pepper
and mint. He had oughter told you to take that instead of hot water.
"Oughter told me to take spiritstold me to TAKE spirits! Don't you
know, Mis' Mayberry, a man with a sanctified wife can't TAKE no
spirits; they must be GAVE to him by somebody not a member of the
family. Me a-suffering tormintstwo cups of hot watertormints,
The old man's voice rose to a perfect wail, but came down a note or
two as Mother hastily reached in the press and drew out a tall, old
demijohn and poured a liberal dose of the desired medicine into a
glass. She added a dash of red pepper and a few drops of peppermint.
This treatment of the Squire's dram in Mother's estimation turned a
sinful beverage into a useful medicine and served to soothe her
conscience while it disturbed the Squire's appreciation of her
treatment not at all. He swallowed the fiery dose without as much as
the blink of an eyelid and on the instant subsided into comfortable
"Please forgive Tom for not having more gumption, Squire, and next
time you're took come right over to me same as usual. Course I know
all the neighbors feel as how Tom is young and have just hung out his
shingle here, and I ain't expectin' of 'em to have no confidence in
him. I think it my duty to just go on with my usual doctoring of my
friends. I hope you won't hold this mistake against Tom."
"Well," said the Squire in a mollified tone of voice, "I won't say
no more, but you must tell him to stop fooling with these here
Providence people. Stopped Ezra Pike's wife feeding her baby on pot-
liquor and give it biled milk watered with lime juice. It'll die
"Oh no, Squire, it's a-getting welljest as peart as can be,"
Mother said in a mollifying tone of voice.
"It'll dieit'll die! Cut one er the lights outen Sam Mosbey's
sidecalled it a new fangled impendix namebut he'll diehe'll die!"
"Sam's a-working out there on the barn roof right this minute,
Squire, good and alive," said Mother Mayberry with a good-humored
smile, while Miss Wingate cast a restrained though indignant glance
at the doubting old magistrate.
"And old Deacon Bostick drinking cow-hot milk and sucking raw eggs!
He looks like a mixed calf and shanghai rooster! So old he'd oughter
dieand he'll do it! Hot water and me in tormint! Hot water on his
middle in a rubber bag and nothing inside er him! He'll die-he'll
"Oh no, Squire, the good Lord have gave Deacon Bostick back to us
from the edge of the grave; Tom a-working day and night but under His
guidance. He have gained ten pounds and walks everywhere. It were low
typhus, six weeks running, too! I'm glad it were gave to me to see my
son bring back a saint to earth from the gates themselves. Have you
been by to see him?"
"Yes," answered the Squire as he rose much more briskly than he had
seated himself, and prepared to take his departure. "Yes, and it was
you a-nussing of him that did itmuster slipped him calimilebut I
ain't a-disputing! Play actor, ain't you, girl?" he demanded as he
paused on his way out of the door and peered over at Miss Wingate
with his beetling, suspicious eyes.
"Yes," answered the singer lady as she went on putting her biscuit
into the pan. If her culinary manoeuvers were slow they were at least
sure and the "riz" biscuits looked promising.
"Dearie me," said Mother as she returned from guiding her guest
down the front walk and into the shaded Road, "it do seem that Squire
Tutt gets more rantankerous every day. Poor Mis' Tutt is just wore
out with contriving with him. It's a wonder she feels like she have
got any ease at all, much less a second blessing. Now I must turn to
and make a dish of baked chicken hash for supper to be et with them
feather biscuits of your'n. I want to compliment them by the company
of a extra nice dish. If they come out the oven in time I want to ask
Sam Mosbey to stop in and get some, with a little quince preserves. He
brought his dinner in a bucket, which troubled me, for who's got foot
on my land, two or four, I likes to feed myself. I expected he was
some mortified at your being here. He's kinder shy like in the
noticing of girls."
"That seems to be a failing with the Providence youngwith
Providence people," ventured Miss Wingate with ambiguity.
"Oh, country boys is all alike," answered Mother comfortingly, only
in a measure taking in the tentative observation. "They're all kinder
co'ting tongue-tied. They have to be eased along attentive, all 'cept
Buck Peavey, who'd like to eat Pattie up same as a cannibal, I'm
thinking, and don't mind who knows it. Now the supper is all on the
simmer and can be got ready in no time. Let's me and you walk down to
the front gate and watch for Tom to come around the Nob from Flat Rock
and then we can run in the biscuits. Maybe we'll hear some news; I
haven't hardly seen any folks to-day and I mistrust some mischief are
And Mother Mayberry's well trained intuitions must have been in
unusually good working order, for she met her expected complications
at the very front gate. She was just turning to point out a promise
of an unusually large crop of snowballs on the old shrub by the
gate-post when a subdued sniffling made itself heard and caused her
to concentrate her attention on the house opposite across the Road.
And a sympathy stirring scene met her eyes. Perched along the fence
were all five of the little Pikes clinging to the top board in
forlorn despondency. On the edge of the porch sat Mr. Pike in his
shirt sleeves with his pipe in one hand and the Teether Pike balanced
on his knee. His expression matched that of the children in the matter
of gloom, and like them he glanced apprehensively toward the door as
if expecting Calamity to issue from his very hearthstone.
"Why, what's the matter?" demanded Mother as she hurried to the
edge of the sidewalk followed by the singer lady, whose acquaintance
with the young Pikes had long before ripened to the stage of intimate
friendship. At the sight of her sympathetic face, Eliza, the first
Pike, slipped to the ground and buried her head in her new but valued
friend's dainty muslin skirt. Bud, the next rung of the stair steps
licked out his tongue to dispose of a mortifying tear and little Susie
sobbed outright. At this juncture, just as Mother was about to demand
again an explanation of such united woe, Mrs. Pike came to the door,
and a large spoon and a bottle full of amber, liquid grease made
further inquiry unnecessary.
"Sakes, Mis' Mayberry, I certainly am glad you have came over to
back me up in getting down these doses of oil. Ez," with an indignant
and contemptuous glance at her sullen husband, "don't want me to give
it to 'em. He'd rather they'd up and die than to stand the ruckus, but
I ain't a-going to let my own children perish for a few cherry seeds
with a bottle of oil in the house and Doctor Tom Mayberry's
prescription to give 'em a spoonful all around." Mrs. Pike was short
and stout, but with a martial and determined eye, and as she spoke she
began to measure out a first dose with her glance fixed on young Bud,
who turned white around his little mouth and clung to the fence.
Susie's sobs rose to a wail and Eliza shuddered in Miss Wingate's
"Wait a minute, Mis' Pike," said Mother hurriedly, "are you sure
they have et cherry seeds? Cherries ain't ripe yet, and"
"We didn'twe didn't!" came in a perfect chorus of wails from the
little fence birds.
"Of course they did, Mis' Mayberry!" exclaimed their mother
relentlessly. "It was two jars of cherry preserves that Prissy put up
and clean forgot to seed 'fore she biled 'em, and the children done
took and et 'em on the sly. Now they're going to suffer for it."
"We all spitted the seeds out, and we was so hungry, too!" Eliza
took courage to sob from Miss Wingate's skirt. Bud managed to echo
her statement, while Susie and the two little boys gave confirmation
from their wide-open, terror-stricken eyes.
"Well, now, maybe they did, Mis' Pike," said Mother, coming near to
argue the question. Her hand rested sustainingly on one of the brave
young Bud's knees which jutted out from the fence.
"Can't trust 'em, Mis' Mayberry, fer if they'll steal they'll lie,"
said Mrs. Pike in a voice tinged with the deepest melancholy for the
fallen estate of her family. "They'll have to suffer for both sins
whether they did or didn't," and again the bottle was poised.
"Now hold on, Mis' Pike," again exclaimed Mother Mayberry as her
face illumined with a bright smile. "If they throwed away the cherry
pits they must be where they throwed 'em and they can go find 'em to
prove they character. They ain't nothing fairer than that. Where did
you eat the preserves, children?" she asked, but there was a wild
rush around the corner of the house before her question was answered.
"Now," exclaimed the astonished mother, "I never thought of that
and if they thought to spit out one stone they did the balance. But
Doctor Tom was so kind to tell me about the oil and I paid fifteen
cents down at the store for it, that I'm a mind to give it to 'em
"I'll be blamed if you do," ejaculated her indignant husband as he
shouldered Teether and strode into the house, unable longer to
restrain his rage.
"Ain't that just like him!" said his wife in a resigned voice. "And
I was just going to try to make him take this spoonful I've poured
out. It won't hurt him none and it's a pity to pour it back, it
wastes so. Do either of you all need it?" she asked hospitably.
Miss Wingate was dissenting with an echo of Eliza's shudder and
Mother Mayberry with a laugh, when the reprieved criminals raced back
around the house, each dirty little fist inclosing a reasonable number
of grubby cherry stones.
"Well," assented their mother reluctantly, "I'll let you off this
time, but don't any of you never take nothing to eat again without
asking, and I'm a-going to punish you by making you every one wash
your feet in cold water and go to bed. Now mind me and all stand to
once in the tub by the pump and tell your Paw I say not to touch that
kettle of hot water. I don't want you to have a drop. Go right on and
do as I say."
The threatened punishment had been too great for the youngsters to
mind this lesser and accustomed penalty, so they retired with
cheerfulness and spirits and in a few seconds a chorus of squeals and
splashes came from the back yard.
After an exchange of friendly good-bys Mrs. Pike entered her front
door and Mother and the singer lady returned to their own front gate.
"Dearie me," said Mother in a tone of positive discouragement, "I
don't know what I will do if I have to undo another one of Tom
Mayberry's prescriptions to-day. But you couldn't expect a man to
untangle a children quirk like that; and oil woulder been the thing
for the cherry stones in children's stomachs, but not for ones
throwed on the back walk. I hope the Squire won't hear about it," she
added with a laugh.
"I think," said Miss Wingate with her dark eyes fixed on Mother's
face with positive awe, "I think you are wonderful with everybody.
You know just what to do for them, and what to say to them and"
"Well," interrupted Mother with a laugh, "it are gave to some women
to be called on the Lord's ease mission, and I reckon I'm of that
band. Don't you know I'm the daughter of a doctor, and the wife of a
doctor and the mother of one as good as either of the other two? I
can't remember the time when I didn't project with the healing of
ailments. When I married Doctor Mayberry and come down over the Ridge
from Warren County with him, he had his joke with me about my
herb-basket and a-setting up opposition to him. It's in our blood. My
own cousin Seliny Lue Lovell down at the Bluff follows the calling
just the same as I do. I say the Lord were good to me to give me the
love of it and a father and a husband and now a son to practise with."
"The Doctors Mayberry, Mother and Son, how interesting that sounds,
Mrs. Mayberry," exclaimed Miss Wingate with a delightful laugh, "And
no wonder Doctor Mayberry is so gifted that he gets National
commissions to study Pellagra andand has a troublesome singer lady
sent all the way from New York to patch up."
"Yes, it do look like that Tom Mayberry gets in a good chanct
everywhere he goes. Some folks picks a friend offen every bush they
passes and Tom's one. He was honored considerable in New York and
then sent over to Berlin, Europe, and beyont to study up about
people's skins. And then here he comes back, sent by the Government
right down to Flat Rock, on the other side of Providence Nob, to
study out about that curious corn disease they calls Pellagra, what I
don't think is a thing in the world but itch and can be cured by a
little sulphur and hog lard. But I'm blessing the chanct that brought
him back to me, even if I know it are just for a spell. And, too, he
oughter be happy to have brung his mother such a song bird as you. I'm
so used to you and your helping me with Cindy away to Springfield,
that I don't see how I ever got along without you or ever will." As
she spoke, Mother Mayberry smiled delightedly at the singer girl and
drew her closer. Mother's voice at most times was a delicious mixture
of banter and caress.
"Perhaps I'll stay always," said the singer lady as she drew close
against the gray print shoulder. "When I look around me I feel as if
I had awakened in a beautiful world with no more dirty, smoky cities
that hurt my throat, no more hot, lighted theaters, no noises, and
everything is just a great big bouquet of soft smells and colors."
As she spoke, Elinor Wingate, who was just a tired girl in the
circle of Mother Mayberry's strong arm, let her great dark eyes
wander off across the meadow to where a dim rim of Harpeth Hills
seemed to close in the valley. Her glance returned to the low, wing-
spreading, brick farm-house, which, vine-covered, lilac-hedged and
maple-shaded, seemed to nestle against the breast of Providence Nob,
at whose foot clustered the little settlement of Providence and
around whose side ran the old wilderness trail called Providence
Road. And her face was soft with a light of utter contentment, for
under that low-gabled roof she was finding strength to hope for the
recovery of her lost treasure, without which life would seem a void.
Then for a moment she looked down the village Road, across which the
trees were casting long afternoon shadows and along which was flowing
the tide of late afternoon social life. Women hung over the front
gates to greet men in from the fields or from down the Road, girls
laughed and chaffed one another or the blushing country boys, and the
children played tag and hop-scotch back and forth along the way.
"It's all lovely," she said again with a contented little sigh.
When she spoke softly there was not a trace of the burr in her voice
and it was as sweet as a dove note.
"Days like these we had oughter take the world as a new gift from
God," said Mother musingly. "It were a day like this I come with
Doctor Mayberry along the Road to Providence to live, and stopped
right at this gate under this very maple tree, thirty-five years ago;
and thirty of 'em have I lived lonesome without him. I had a baby at
my breast and Tom by my knee when he went away from us, and I know now
it was the call laid on me to take up his work that saved me. When I
got back from the funeral and had laid the baby on the bed Mis' Jim
Petway come a-running up the road crying that Ellen, her youngest
child, were a-choking to death with croup. I never had a thought but
to take his saddle-bags and follow her, and somehow the good Lord
guided my hand amongst his medicines, and with what I had learned from
him and Pa I fought a good fight and saved the little thing's life,
though it took the night to do it. And in one of them dark hours a
sister-to-woman sense was born in me what I ain't never lost. A
neighbor took Tom and they brought my baby to me and I stayed by Mis'
Petway until they weren't no more danger. Next day it were Squire
Tutt's first wife tooken down with the fever and not the week passed
before that very Sam Mosbey were borned. We was too poor to have a
doctor come and live here and they was a doctor over to Springfield
took up my husband's county practice, so I jest naturally had to do
the healing myself, only a-sending for him in the worst cases. They
was a heap of teethers that summer and it kept me busy looking after
'em. I expect I made mistakes but I kept up me and the patients'
courage by sympathizing and heartening. It didn't cost nobody nothing
and we wasn't so prosperous then that it wasn't a help for me to do
the doctoring when I could, and I mostly were able. I were glad of the
work and did it with a thankful mind; not as they wasn't times when I
felt sick at heart, and in danger of questioning why, but I tried to
steady myself with prayer until I could find the Everlasting Arm to
lean on that is always held out to the widow and the fatherless. And
so a-leaning I have got me and Tom Mayberry along until now."
"And the whole rest of the world leaning on you," said the lovely
lady as she drew nearer and caught Mother Mayberry's strong hand in
her own slender fingers.
"Well," answered Mother, as she shaded her eyes with her other hand
to look far up the Road toward the Ridge over which they were waiting
for the Doctor's horse to appear, "looks like often hands a- reaching
out for help gives strength before they takes any, and a little hope
planted in another body's garden is apt to fly a seed and sprout in
your own patch. There he islet's hurry in the biscuits!"
CHAPTER II. THE SINGER LADY AND THE
"Well, I don't know as I'd like to have her messing around my
kitchen and house, a stranger and a curious one at that. But you
always was kinder soft, Mis' Mayberry," said Mrs. Peavey as she
glanced with provoked remonstrance at Mother Mayberry, who went
calmly on attending to the needs of a fresh hatching of young
chickens. Mrs. Peavey lived next door to the Doctor's house and the
stone wall that separated the two families was not in any way a
barrier to her frequent neighborly and critical visitations. She was
meager of stature and soul, and the victim of a devouring fire of
curiosity which literally licked up the fagots of human events that
came in her way. She was the fly that kicked perpetually in Mother
Mayberry's cruse of placid ointment, but received as full a mead of
that balm of friendship as any woman on the Road.
"Why, she ain't a mite of trouble, but just a pleasure, Hettie
Ann," answered Mother with mild remonstrance in her tone. "I expected
to have a good bit of worry with her, having no cook in my kitchen,
'count of waiting for Cindy to get well and come back to me and
nobody easy to pick up to do the work, but she hadn't been here a
week before she was reaching out and learning house jobs. I think it
takes her mind offen her troubles and I can't say her no if it do
help her, not that I want to, for she's a real comfort."
"Well, if it was me I couldn't take no comfort in a play-acting
girl. I'd feel like locking up what teaspoons I had and a-counting
over everything in my house every day. It's just like you, Mis'
Mayberry, to take her in. And I can't sense the why of you're being
so close-mouthed about her. Near neighbors oughter know all about one
another's doings and not have to ask, I say." Mrs. Peavey sniffed and
assumed an air of injured patience.
"Why, Hettie Ann," Mother hastened to answer, "you know as I always
did hold that the give and take of advice from friends is the
greatest comfort in the world, though at times most confusing, and I
thought I told you all about Elinory."
"Well, you didn't. Muster been Bettie Pratt or Mis' Pike you was a-
talking to when you thought it was me," answered her friend with the
injured note in her voice becoming with every word more noticeable.
"Are she rich or poor? Do you know that much?"
"Well now, come to think of it, I don't," answered Mother promptly.
"Connecting up folks and they money always looks like sticking a
price tag on you to them and them to you. I'd rather charge my
friends to a Heaven-account and settle the bill with friendly
feelings as we go along. This poor child ain't got no mother or
father, that I know. All her young life when most girls ain't got a
thought above a beau or a bonnet, she have been a-training of her
voice to sing great 'cause it were in her to do it. And she done it,
too. Then all to onct when she had got done singing in a great big
town hall they call Convent Garden or something up in New York, she
made the mistake to drink a glass of ice water and it friz up her
throat chords. She haven't been able to sing one single tune since.
She have been a-roaming over the earth a-hunting for some sort of
help and ain't found none. Now she have lit at my door and I've got
her in trying to warm and comfort her to enough strength for Tom to
put her voice back into her."
"Well, you don't expect no such thing of Tom Mayberry as that, do
you?" asked Mrs. Peavey with uncompromising and combative frankness.
"That I do," answered the Doctor's mother, and this time there was
a note of dignity in her voice, as she looked her friend straight in
the face. "You know, because I told you about it, Hettie Ann, how Tom
Mayberry cured that big preacher of a lost voice who was a friend to
this Doctor Stein, while the boy wasn't nothing but serving his term
in the hospital. He wrote a paper about it that made all the doctors
take notice of him and he have done it twice since, though throats are
just a side issue from skins with him. Yes, I'm expecting of him to
cure this child and give her back more'n just her voice, her work in
life. I'm one that believes that the Lord borns all folks with a work
to do and you've got to march on to it, whether it's singing in public
places, carrying saddle- bags to suffering or jest playing your tune
on the wash-board at home. It's a part of his hallelujah chorus in
which we've all got to join."
"Well, I shorely drawed the wash-board fer my instrumint," answered
Mrs. Peavey with a vindictive look across the wall at a line of
clothes fluttering in the breeze.
"And they ain't nobody in Providence that turns out as white a
shirt-song as you do, Hettie Ann. Buck and Mr. Peavey are just looked
at in church Sundays fer the color of they collars," Mother hastened
to say with pride in the glance that followed Mrs. Peavey's across the
wall. "Ain't Tom always a-contriving with you to sneak one of his
shirts into your wash, so as not to hurt me and Cindy's feelings? I
don't see how you get 'em so white."
"Elbow grease and nothing else," answered Mrs. Peavey in a tone of
voice that refused to be mollified. "I've got to be a-going."
"Just wait and look at these chickens; ain't they pretty? Tom sent
all the way to Indiany fer the settin' of eggs fer me and I've just
been a-watching the day for 'em to hatch. I feel they are a-going to
be a credit to me and I'm glad I gave 'em to Ruffle Neck to set on.
She's such a good hoverer and can be depended on to run from the
rain. Now ain't they pretty?" and Mother even looked at Mrs. Peavey
with hope for a word of sympathy in her pleasureafter a thirty
years' experience with her neighbor.
"No," answered her friend, "I don't hold with no fancy chickens.
Just good dominicks is all I've got any faith in and not much in
them. With strange chickens and girls around your house something
misfortunate is a-going to happen to you, Mis' Mayberry, and I see it
a-coming. Don't say I didn't tell you."
"No, I'll give you credit for your warning," answered Mother
propitiatingly. "How's that pain in your side?" she hastened to ask,
to change the subject from a disagreeable one to what she knew by
experience would prove at least interesting.
"It's a heap better," answered Mrs. Peavey promptly.
"Oh, I'm so glad," exclaimed Mother, immediately beginning to beam
with pride. "I told you Tom could help it with that new kind of dry
plaster he made for you. Ain't it wonderful?"
"Shoo! I never put that on! It didn't have smell enough to do any
good. I knew that as soon as I unrolled it. I just rubbed myself
heavy with that mixture of kerosine, vinegar and gum camfire you've
been making me for twenty years, and I slept uncommon well."
"Oh," answered Mother Mayberry, "I wish you had tried Tom's
plaster. I feel sure"
"Well, I don'tof anything that a boy like Tom Mayberry knows. If
he lives here a spell and learns from you maybe he'll get some
doctoring sense, but I wouldn't trust him for ten years at the
shortest. But have you heard the news?" A flame of positive joy
flared up in Mrs. Peavey's eyes and flushed her sallow cheeks.
"Why, what is it?" asked Mother with a guarded interest and no
small amount of anxiety, for she was accustomed to the kind of news
that Mrs. Peavey usually took the trouble to spread.
"Well, I knowed what was a-going to happen when I seen Bettie Pratt
setting the chairs straight and marshaling in the orphants at poor
Mis' Hoover's funeral, not but eleven months ago. It'll be a scandal
to this town and had oughter be took notice of by Deacon Bostick and
the Elder. She's got four Turner children and six Pratts and he have
got seven of his own, so Turner, Pratt and Hoover they'll be
seventeen children in the house, all about the same size. Then maybe
moreI call it a disgrace, I do!"
"I don't know," answered Mother, though her eyes did twinkle at the
thought of this allied force of seventeen, "there never was a better
child-raiser than Bettie Pratt and I'll be mighty glad to see them
poor, forlorn little Hoovers turned over to her. They've been on my
mind night and day since they mother died and they ain't a single one
of 'em as peart as it had oughter be. Who told you about it?"
"They didn't nobody tell meI've got eyes of my own! Just yesterday
I seen her hand a pan of biscuits over the fence to Pattie Hoover and
he had a Turner and two Pratts in the wagon with him coming in from
the field last night. But you can't do nothing about itshe have got
the marrying habit. They are other widows in this town that have
mourned respectable to say nothing of Miss Prissy Pike, that have
never had no husband at all and had oughter be gave a chanct. Mr.
Hoover are a nice man and I don't want to see him made noticeable in
no such third-husband way."
"Course it do look a little sudden," said Mother, "and seventeen is
a good lot of children for one family, but if they love each other "
"Love! Shoo! I declare, Mis' Mayberry, looks to me like you swallow
what folks give you in this world whole, pit and all, and never bat a
eye. I've got to go home and put on Buck's and Mr. Peavey's supper and
sprinkle down some of my wash." And without further parley Mrs. Peavey
marched home through a little swinging gate in the wall that had been
for years a gap through which a turbid stream had flowed to trouble
Mother's peaceful waters.
"It do seem Mis' Peavey are a victim of a most pitiful unrest,"
said Mother to herself as she watched with satisfaction Ruffle Neck
tuck the last despised little Hoosier under her soft gray breast.
"Some folks act like they had dyspepsy of the mind. Dearie me, I must
go and take a glass of cream to my honey-bird, for that between-meal
snack that Tom Mayberry are so perticular about." And she started
down toward the spring-house under the hill.
And returning a half hour later with the cool glass in her hand,
she was guided by the sound of happy voices to the front porch, where,
under the purple wistaria vine, she found the singer lady absorbed in
the construction of a most worldly garment for the doll daughter of
Eliza Pike, who was watching its evolution with absorbed interest.
"Pleas'm, Miss Elinory, make it a little bit longer, 'cause I want
her to have a beau," besought the small mother, as she anxiously
watched the measuring of the skirt.
"Want her to have a beau?" asked Miss Wingate with the scissors
suspended over the bit of pink muslin which matched exactly her own
"Yes'm! Pattie Hoover wored shoe-tops all winter and now she's got
foot-dresses and Buck Peavey for a beau."
"Oh, I see," said the singer lady as she smiled down into the eager
little face. "Do you thinker, beaux areare desirable, Eliza?"
"Yes'm, I do," answered the bud of a woman, as she drew nearer and
said with an expression of one bestowing a confidence, "When I'm let
down to my feet I'm going to have Doctor Tom for my beau, if you
don't get him first."
"I'm sure you needn't worry about that, Eliza," Miss Wingate
hastened to exclaim with a rising color. "I wouldn't interfere with
your plans for the worldif I could."
"Well, you take him if you can get him," answered Eliza generously;
"somebody'll grow up by that time for me. But he couldn't make you
take oil, could he?" she asked doubtfully, the memory of yesterday's
escape lurking in her mind and explaining her most unfeminine
Miss Wingate eyed her for a moment with mirth fairly dancing over
her face, "Yes," she said with a laugh, "I believe he could!"
"Elinory, child," said Mother as she came out from the front hall,
"here we are a half hour late with this cream, and both of us under
promise solemn to Tom to have it down by four o'clock. 'Liza, honey,
how's the baby?"
"He have got a new top-tooth and throwed up onct this morning,"
answered Eliza in a practical tone of voice.
"Dearie me," said Mother anxiously, for the Pike teether had up to
this time been the Doctor's prize patient. "I wonder if your Maw
remembered the lime water faithful?"
"I expect she forgot it, for she was whipping Susie for sassing
Aunt Prissy, and Bud for saying fool," answered Eliza, not at all
hesitating to lay bare the iniquities of her family circle.
"I'm sorry they did like that," said Mother with real concern at
the news of such delinquencies.
"Yes'm, Susie told Aunt Prissy Mis' Peavey said she were a-setting
her cap fer Mr. Hoover and it made Bud mad 'cause he fights 'Lias
Hoover and he called her a fool. He hadn't oughter done it, but he's
touchy 'bout Aunt Prissy and so's Paw. There comes Deacon and a
little boy with him."
As she spoke, Mother rose to greet Deacon Bostick who had turned in
the front gate and got as far up the front walk as the second
snowball bush. The Deacon was tall, lean, bent and snow-crowned, with
bright old eyes that rested in a benediction on the group on the porch
that his fine old smile confirmed. By the hand he led a tiny boy who
was clad in a long nondescript garment and topped off by a queer red
fez, pulled down over a crop of yellow curls, a strange little exotic
against the homely background of Mother Mayberry's lilac bushes.
"Sister Mayberry," said the deacon as he paused at the foot of the
steps, "this is Martin Luther Hathaway who was left at my house this
morning by the Circuit Rider, as he came through from Springfield on
his way to Flat Rock, to be delivered to you, along with his letter.
I trust his arrival is not unexpected to you."
"No, indeed, Deacon, I was hoping for him though not exactly
expecting him. A month ago while you was sick, our missionary society
had news of a missionary and his wife down at Springfield who wanted
to go up to Chicagy to study some more about some heathen matter, and
couldn't quite make it with two children. My cousin Seliny Lue down to
the Bluff have took the little girl and we sent five dollars and a
letter saying to send the boy to me for the summer. Come to Mother
Mayberry, sonny," and Mother sat down on the lowest step and stretched
out her arms to the little ward of the church militant.
Martin Luther's big blue eyes, which were set in his head like
those of a Raphael cherub, looked out from under a huge yellow curl
that fell over his forehead, straight into Mother's gray ones for a
moment, and sticking his pink thumb into his mouth, he sidled into
her embrace with a little sigh of evident relief.
"Eat some, thank ma'am, please," he whispered into her ear by way
of a return of the introduction. His little mother tongue had
evidently suffered a slight twist by his birth and sojourn in a
foreign country, but it served to express the normal condition of all
inhabitants of boy-land.
"Of course he's hungry, bless his little heart," answered Mother as
she removed the fez and ruffled up the damp curls. "Run fetch the
tea-cake bucket from the kitchen safe, 'Liza, and won't you come sit
"No, thank you, Sister," answered the Deacon with a glance of real
regret at the comfortable rocker Miss Wingate had hastened to draw
forward into a sunny but sheltered corner of the porch, "I'm on my
way to take tea with Sister Pratt. I'm to meet Mrs. Bostick there.
How's the throat, child?" And his smile up at the singer lady was one
of the most sympathetic interest.
"Better, thank you, I think," said Miss Wingate, answering both
question and smile. "How well you are looking to-day, Deacon!"
"Why, I'm made over new by that boy of a Doctor," said the Deacon,
fairly beaming with enthusiasm. "Your cure will be only a matter of
time, a matter of time, my dearSquire Tutt to the contrary," he
added with a chuckle.
"There, bless my heart, if my ears ain't heard two testimonies to
Tom Mayberry all in one minute!" exclaimed Mother with a delighted
laugh. "Have a cake, won't you, Deacon?" she asked, offering the
She then established Eliza and the small stranger on the edge of
the steps, with an admonition as to the disposal of the crumbs over on
to the grass, and filled both pairs of hands with the crisp discs.
Eliza spread the end of her short blue calico skirt over Martin
Luther's chubby knees, and they both proceeded to eat into the
improvised napkin with the utmost comradeship. Miss Wingate had
strolled down to the gate with the Deacon and had paused on the way
to decorate the buttonhole of his shiny old coat with a bit of the
white lilac nodding over the wall.
"'Liza, child," said Mother as she glanced at Martin Luther with a
contemplative eye, "when you're done eating run over and ask your Maw
to send me a pair of Billy's britches and a shirt. No, maybe young
Ez's 'll be better, and bring 'em and Martin Luther on back to the
kitchen to me." With which she disappeared into the house, leaving the
munchers to finish their feast alone.
And in an incredibly short time the last crumb, even those rescued
from the skirt, had disappeared and Eliza had led Martin Luther down
the walk, across the Road and around the corner of the Pike cottage,
while the Deacon still lingered talking to Miss Wingate at the gate.
Eliza had taken upon herself, with her usual generalship, the
development of Mother Mayberry's plan for the arraying of the young
stranger in what Providence would consider a civilized garb.
And for some minutes Miss Wingate stood leaning over the top rail
of the low gate idly watching a group of Pratts, Turners, Mosbeys,
Hoovers and Pikes playing a mysterious game, which necessitated wild
dashes across a line drawn down the middle of the Road in the white
dust, shrill cries of capture and frequent change of base. The day
had been a long sunshiny one, full of absorbing interests, and as she
stood drinking in the perfume from a spray of lilac she had broken to
choose the bit for the Deacon, she suddenly realized that not one
minute had she found in which to let the horrible dread creep close
and clutch at her throat. Helping along in the construction of a
bucket of tea-cakes, the printing of four cakes of butter, the
simmering of a large pan of horehound syrup and the excitement of
pouring it into the family bottles that Mother was filling against a
sudden night call from some crouper down or across the Road, to say
nothing of a most exciting pie, that had been concocted entirely by
herself from a jar of peaches and frilled around with the utmost
regard for its artistic appearance, to which could be added the
triumph of the long-tailed pink gown for the daughter of young Eliza,
had kept her busy andwith a quick smile she had to admit to herself,
happy. Indeed the remembrance of the rapid disappearance of the pie
and Doctor Mayberry's blush when, after he had eaten two-thirds of it,
his mother had informed him of the authorship, brought a positive glow
of pleasure to her cheeks. Such a serious, gentle, skilful young
Doctor as he wasand "a perfect dear" she went as far as admitting to
herself, this time with a low laugh.
And as if her pondering on his virtues had had power to bring a
materialization, suddenly Doctor Tom stood in front of her on the
other side of the gate. He had come from up the Road while she had
been looking down in the other direction, and in his hand he held a
spray of purple lilacs which he had broken from a large bush that
hung over the fence from the Pratt yard into the Road and also spread
itself a yard or two into Hoover territory.
"Aren't they lovely and plumy?" she asked, as she took the bunch he
offered and laid the purple flowers against the white ones she held
in her hand. "These are so much darker than Mrs. Mayberry's purple
ones. I wonder why."
"Some years they bloom lighter than Mother's and other years still
darkerjust another one of the mysteries," he answered as he leaned
against the gate-post and looked down at her with a smile. He was
tall, and strong, and forceful, with a clean-cut young face which was
lit by Mother Mayberry's very own black-lashed, serene gray eyes, and
his very evident air of a man of affairs had much of the charm of
Mother Mayberry's rustic dignity. His serge coat, blue shirt and soft
gray tie had a decided cut of sophistication and were worn with a most
worldly grace that was yet strangely harmonious with his surroundings.
For with all of his distinctions in appearance and attainments, as a
man he struck no discord when contrasted with Mr. Pike's
shirt-sleeved, butternut-trousers personality and he seemed but the
flowering of Buck Peavey's store- clothes ambitions. The accord of it
all struck Miss Wingate so forcibly that unconsciously she gave voice
to the feeling.
"How at home you are in all thisthis?" she paused and raised her
eyes to his with a hint of helplessness to express herself within
"Simple life," he supplied with a smile that held a bit of banter.
"It's not so simple as one would think to balance a pie plate on
one hand and cut around it with a knife so the edges aren't jaggedto
be all consumed within the hour," she answered with spirit, rising to
the slight challenge in his voice and smile. "And there are other most
complicated things I have discovered that"
But just here she was interrupted by a sally from around the corner
of the Pike house which streamed out across the Road, headed
precisely in their direction. Eliza was in the lead and held little
Teether swung perilously across one slender hip, while she clasped
Martin Luther's chubby fingers in her other hand. And behold, the
transformation of the young stranger was complete beyond belief! His
yellow thatch was crowned by a straw hat, which was circled by a
brand new shoestring, though it gaped across the crown to let out a
peeping curl. Young Ez's garments even had proved a size too large
and the faded blue jeans "britches" were rolled up over his round
little knees and hitched up high under his arms by an improvised pair
of calico "galluses" which were stretched tight over a clean but much
patched gingham shirt. His feet and legs had been stripped in
accordance with the time-ordered custom in Providence that bare feet
could greet May Day, and his little, bare, pink toes curled up with
protest against the roughness of even the dust-softened pike. Susie
May, Billy and young Ez beamed with pride at their share in the
rehabiting of the recent acquisition and waited breathlessly for words
of praise from Miss Wingate and the Doctor.
"Why, who is this?" asked the Doctor quickly with a most gratifying
interest in his big voice, while Miss Wingate came out of the gate on
to the pavement.
"It's the little missionary boy that the Deacon brought Mother
Mayberry. I guess the Lord sent him, for he's too big to come outen a
cabbage," answered Eliza, and as she spoke she settled the hat an inch
farther down over the curls with a motherly gesture. She had failed to
grasp with exactness the situation concerning the advent of Martin
Luther, but was supplying a version of her own that seemed entirely
satisfactory to the youngster's newly acquired friends.
"Spit through teeth," ventured the young stranger, anxious to
display an accomplishment that had been bestowed upon him by Billy
while the "galluses" were in process of construction a few minutes
ago. "Thank ma'am, please," he hastened to add with pathetic loyalty
to some injunction that had been impressed upon his young mind before
his embarkation upon strange seas.
"Let me see you do it," demanded the Doctor, in instant sympathy
with his pride in this newly acquired national accomplishment.
"He hasn't got time to do it now," answered Eliza importantly, as
she hitched Teether a notch higher up on her arm. "I've got to take
him and the baby in to Mother Mayberry to see if his other top-tooth
have come up enough for Maw to rub it through with her thimble."
Though she did not designate Teether as the subject of the operation
the audience understood that it was he and not Martin Luther so
"Oh, no, no!" exclaimed Miss Wingate in horror, and she reached out
and took Teether into protective arms. The day had been a long and
weary one for Teether Pike and he dropped his tired little head over
on the cool pink muslin shoulder and nestled his aching jaw against
the smooth white neck.
"Hold him still just a second as he is," said Doctor Tom quickly,
and in an instant he had whipped a case from his pocket, selected an
instrument and, inserting his finger between the pink lips, he
rendered unnecessary the agony of the maternal thimble. It had been
done so quickly that Teether himself only nestled a bit closer with a
faint moan, and Miss Wingate looked up at the operator with grateful
eyes. She hugged the limp baby closer and started to speak, but was
interrupted by an anxious question from Eliza.
"Did you cut it?" she demanded.
"Yes," answered the Doctor non-committally.
"Well, Maw'll be mighty mad at you, for Mother Mayberry asked her
last night to let you cut it and she said she'd thimbled the rest of
us and she reckoned he could stand it too. If it was me, I'd let you
cut me wide open and sew me up again if you wanted to," and Eliza
beamed upon the Doctor with an affection that was the acme of
idealization. She had forgotten that only a few hours ago she had
renounced her loyalty at the memory of the oil, but Miss Wingate
smiled in appreciation of this display of further feminine
"Shucks," said Billy, "you'd holler 'fore he could cut onct. I'm a-
going to let him fix my next stump toe and 'Lias Hoover have got two
warts he can cut off, if he gives him a piece of catgut string to tie
on fish hooks." And Billy looked as if he expected to see the Doctor
entirely overwhelmed at the prospect of so much practice so easily
"Go take Martin Luther to show Mrs. Mayberry, Eliza," said Miss
Wingate with a laughing smile over the baby's head at the Doctor and
his practice. "I'll come on with the baby." And with Teether still
embraced she strolled up the walk with Doctor Mayberry at her side.
When they reached the front steps she seated herself on the top one
and slowly lowered the drowsy little chap, until his head rested on
her breast and her arms held him cradlewise. She began a low husky
humming as she rocked herself to and fro, watching breathlessly the
fringed lashes sink over his wearied eyes, until they lay like
shadows on the purple circles beneath. She was utterly absorbed in
getting Teether into a comatose condition, and had neither eyes nor
ears for the Doctor; not that he claimed either.
He sat for some moments watching her and listening breathlessly to
the low music that came out through the wonderful throat, as if from
some master instrument with strings uncouthly muted. And as he
looked, the horrible thought clutched at his own heart. Suppose he
should not be able to free her voice for her! Many others had tried-
-the greatestand they had all been baffled by the strange stiffness
of the chords. He knew himself to be, in a way, her last resort. A
world of music lovers awaited the result. He had been obliged to send
out two Press bulletins as to her condition within the weekand she
sat on the steps in the twilight humming Teether Pike to sleep, shut
in by the Harpeth Hills with only him to fight her fight for her. He
almost groaned aloud with the pain of it, when into his consciousness
came Mother Mayberry's placid voice shooing the Pike children home
with promises and admonitions. A line from Doctor Stein's letter
flashed into his mind: "And first and above all I want your mother to
put heart and hope into the girl." The fight was not his alone, thank
God, and he knew just how much he could trust to his mother's
heart-building. Why not? Over the land men were learning to strengthen
the man within before attempting to cure the man without. Hadn't that
always been his mother's unconscious policy out on Harpeth Hills? A
deep calm fell into his troubled spirit and, as the singer lady and
Mother escorted the escort down the walk, he slipped away into his
office for an hour before supper with his reports and microscope.
A half hour later Mother Mayberry came into his office for the
little chat she often took the time for just before the summons to
supper. She seated herself by the open window, through which the
twilight was creeping, and he threw down his pen and came and stood
leaning against the casement.
"Well," she said with a long breath of contentment, "well, I do
feel about ready to get ready to rest. The Pikeses is all in, I heard
Bettie Pratt calling in the Turners and Pratts and Hoovers, Buck have
come home to supper on time, as I know will relieve Hettie Ann's mind,
Squire Tutt just went in the front gate as I come up the walk and I
seen Mis' Bostick light the lamp in the Deacon's study from my kitchen
window a minute ago. They ain't nothing in the world that makes me so
contented as to know that all Providence is a- setting down to meals
at the same time and a-feeding together as one family, though in
different houses. The good Lord will get all the rendered thanks at
the same time and I feel it will please Himours is late on account of
Elinory deciding at the last minute to beat up some clabber cheese
with fresh cream for your supper, like she says they fix it up over in
Europe somewhere she lived while she was a- studying to sing. I come
on out so she could have a swing to herself and not think anybody was
a-hurrying of her. It's a riled woman as generally answers the call of
hurry and I never gives it, lessen it's life or death or a
"But, Mother," remonstrated the Doctor with a very real distress in
his voice, "ought you to let herMiss Wingatedo such thingsso many
things? Are you sure she enjoys it and is not just doing it to help or
because she thinks she ought? Or do you?"
"Well," interrupted Mother decidedly, "it's my opinion they ain't
nothing in the world so heavy as empty hands. She have had to lay
down a music book and I don't know nothing better to offer than a
butter-paddle and a bread-bowl. It's the feeding of folks that counts
in a woman's life, whether it be songs or just bread and butter. If
Elinory's tunes was as much of a success as her riz biscuits have come
to be, I wisht I could have heard her just onct."
"I did, Mother, the first night she sang in Americaand it was very
wonderful. When I think of the great opera house, the lights and the
flowers, the audience mad with joy and the applause andII wonder
how she stands it!"
"Yes," answered Mother, "I reckon wondering how Eve stood things
muster took Adam's mind offen hisself to a very comforting degree.
Courage was the ingredient the good Lord took to start making a woman
with and it's been a-witnessing his spirit in her ever since. I
oughtn't to have to tell you that."
"You don't," Doctor Tom hastened to answer as he smiled down on
Mother. "I only spoke as I did about Miss Wingate because you see she
iswell, what we would call a very great lady and I wouldn't have her
think that I did not realize that-?"
"Well, you can do as you choose," answered Mother placidly as she
prepared to take her departure to see to the finishing up of the
supper, "but I ain't a-letting no foolish pride hold my heart back
from my honey-bird. Love's my bread of life and I offers it free,
high or low. Come on and see how you like that cheese fixing she's
done made for you."
CHAPTER III. THE PEONY-GIRL AND THE
"There's just no doubt about it, if Tom Mayberry weren't my own son
and I had occasion to know better I'd think he had teeth in his
heels, from the looks of his socks. Every week Cindy darns them a
spell and then I take a hand at it. Just look, Elinory, did you ever
see a worser hole than this?" As Mother Mayberry spoke she held up
for Miss Wingate's interested inspection a fine, dark blue sock. They
were sitting on the porch in the late afternoon and the singer lady
was again at work on a bit of wardrobe for the doll daughter of her
"How does he manage suchsuch awful ones?" asked Miss Wingate with
"That you can't never prove by me," answered his mother as she
slipped a small gourd into the top of the sock and drew a thread
through her needle.
"Sometimes I wish the time when I could turn him barefooted from
May to November had never gone by. But a-wishing they children back in
years is a habit most mothers have got in common, I reckon. When he's
away from me I dream him often at all ages, but it's mostly from six
to eleven I seem to want him. When he were six, with Doctor Mayberry
gone, I took to steadying myself by Tom and at eleven I made up my
mind to give him up."
"Give him up?" asked Miss Wingate as she raised her eyes from her
work. "I don't think you seem to have given him up to any serious
extent." And she smiled as she turned her head in the direction of
the office wing, from which came a low whistled tune, jerkily and
"Oh, he don't belong to me no more," answered his mother in a
placid tone of voice as she rocked to and fro with her work. "I fought
out all that fight when I took my resolve. I just figured something
like this, Pa Lovell had been a-doctoring on Harpeth Hills for a
lifetime and Doctor Mayberry had gave all his young-man life to
answering the call, a-carrying the grace of God as his main remedy, so
now I felt like the time had come for a Lovell and a Mayberry to go
out and be something to the rest of the world, and Tom were the one to
carry the flag. I seen that the call were on him since he helped me
through a spell of May pips with over two hundred little chickens
before he were five years old, and he cut a knot out of the Deacon's
roan horse by the direction of a book when he weren't but eleven, as
saved its life. That kinder settled it with me and the Deacon both,
though we talked it back and forth for two more years. Then Deacon
took to teaching of him regular and I set in to save all I could from
the thin peeling of potatoes to worser darnings and patches than this.
Would you think they could be any worser?" And she smiled up over her
glasses at the girl opposite her.
"Tell me about it," demanded the singer lady interestedly. "Where
did you send him to school first?"
"Right down here to the City. You see Doctor Mayberry left me this
home, fifty acres and a small life insurance, so they was a little
something to inch and pinch on. You can't save by trying to peel
nothing, but the smallest potatoes have got a skin, and I peeled
close them days. Tom did his part too and he run the plow deep and
straight when he wasn't much taller than the handles. I had done
talked it over with him and asked him would he, and he looked right
in my eyes in his dependable way and said yes he would. That finished
it and he wasn't but eleven; but I don't want to brag on him to you.
If you listen to mothers' talk the world are full of heroes and
none-suches." Again Miss Wingate received the smile from over Mother
Mayberry's glasses and this time it was tinged with a whimsical pride.
"Please, Mrs., Mayberry, tell me about it; you know I want to
hear," begged the girl, and she moved her chair nearer to Mother's and
picked up the mate of the blue sock off her knee. "How old was he
when he went to college?"
"Just sixteen, big and hearty and with enough in his head to get
through the examinations. I packed him up, and him and the Deacon
started down Providence Road at sun-up in the Deacon's old buggy. He
looked both man and baby to me as he turned around to smile back; but
I stood it out at the gate until they turned the bend, then I come on
back to the house quick like some kind of hurted animal. But, dearie
me, I never got a single tear shed, for there were Mis' Peavey with
Buck in her arms, shaking him upside down to get out a brass button he
hadn't swallowed. By the time we poured him full of hot mustard water
and the button fell outen his little apron pocket, I had done got my
grip on myself."
"I just can't stand it that you had to let him go," Miss Wingate
both laughed and sobbed.
"Yes, but I ain't told you about the commencement, honey-bird.
There's that tear _I_ didn't get to drop a-splashing outen your eyes
on the doll's hat! That day was the most grandest thing that ever
happened to anybody's mother, anywhere in this world. I didn't think
I could go to see him get the diplomy, for with all his saving ways
and working hard in the summer, it had been a pull to make buckle and
tongue meet and there just wasn't nothing left for me to buy no
stylish clothes to wear. I set here a-worrying over it, not that I
minded, but it was hard on the boy to have to make his step-off in
life and his mother not be there to see. And somehow I felt as if it
would hurt Pa Lovell and Doctor Mayberry for me not to be with him.
Then with thinking of Pa Lovell a sudden idea popped into my head.
There was Seliny Lue Lovell right down to the Bluff, on the road to
town, and with Aunt Lovell's fine black silk dress packed away in the
trunk, as good as new, and me and Seliny Lue of almost the same figger
as her mother. That just settled the question and I got up and washed
out my water-waves in a little bluing water to make 'em extra white,
dabbed buttermilk on my face to get off some of the tan and called
over Mis' Peavey and Mis' Pike to let 'em know. The next morning I
started off gay with everybody there to see and sending messages to
"Wasn't it fortunate you thought of the dress and lovely for you to
be able to go right by and get it!" exclaimed Miss Wingate, her eyes
as bright as Mother Mayberry's and her cheeks pink with excitement as
the tale began to unfold its dramatic length.
"Yes, and Seliny Lue was glad enough to see me! We laughed and
talked half the night, was up early, and she took a time to rig me
out. It is a stiff black silk, as anybody would be proud of, cut
liberal with real lace collar and cuffs. Seliny Lue said I looked
fine in it. I wisht she could have gone with me, but they wasn't room
for both of us inside the dress." And Mother laughed merrily at the
memory of her borrowing escapade.
"Did Doctor Mayberry know you were coming?" asked the singer lady,
hurrying on the climax of the recital.
"Not a word! He'd gone off the week before taking it sensible, but
I could see hurt mightily about it. I got to the University Hall late,
and 'most everybody in the world looked like they was there. I stood
at the back and didn't hope to see or hear, just thankful to be near
him, but I seen one of them young usher men a-looking hard at me and
he came up and asked me if I wasn't Mr. Thomas Mayberry's mother. He
had knew me by the favor. I told him yes and he took me up to the
very front just as the singing begun. I soon got me and the silk
dress settled, with the bokay all Providence had sent Tom on my knee,
and looked around me. There next to me was the sweetest young- lady
girl I have 'most ever saw, and she smiled at me real friendly. I was
just about to speak when the music stopped and the addressing began by
a tall thin kinder man. Elinory, child, did you ever hear one of them
young men's life-commencement speeches made?" This time Mother
Mayberry peered over the top of her glasses seriously and her needle
paused suspended over the fast narrowing hole in the sock.
"Yes, but I don't think I ever listened very carefully," admitted
Miss Wingate with a smile.
"Well, I felt that if the Lord had gave it to me to stand up there
and say a word of start-off to all them boys setting solemn and
listening, it wouldn't have been about no combination of things done
by men dead and gone, that didn't seem to prove nothing in particular
on nobody. I woulder read 'em a line of scripture and then talked
honest dealing by one another, the measuring out of work according to
the pay and always a little over, the putting of a shoulder under
another man's pressing burden, the respect of women folks, the respect
of theyselves and the looking to the Lord to see 'em through it all.
That speech made me so mad I'most forgot it was time for Tom's
valediction. Honey-bird, I wisht you coulder seen him and heard him."
"I wish I could," answered Miss Wingate with a flush.
"Dearie me, but he was handsome and he spoke words of sense that
the other gray-haired man seemed to have forgot! And they was a
farewell sadness in it too, what got some of them boys' faces to
working, and I felt a big tear roll down and splash right on the lace
collar. Then he sat down and they was a to-do of hollering and
clapping, but I just sat there too happy to take in the rest of what
was did. Sometimes they is a kinder pride swell in a mother's heart
that rises right up and talks to her soul in psalm words, and I heard
mine that day." Mother's eyes softened and looked far away across to
the blue hills.
"What did he do when he saw you?" asked Miss Wingate gently.
"Oh, I didn't pay much attention to him when he come up to me, or
let on how I felt. That sweet child next to me had done found out I
was his mother, I couldn't help telling her. And then she had sent
for her father, who was the head Dean man, and about the time Tom
came up, he was there shaking hands with me and telling me how proud
the whole University was of Tom and about the great scholarship for
him to go to New York to study he had got, and that he must go. It
didn't take me hardly two seconds to think a mortgage on the house
and fifty acres, the cows and all, so I answered right up on time
that go he should. While I was a-talking Tom had gave the bokay from
Providence to the girl, what he had been knowing all the time at her
father's house. And she had her nose buried in one of Mis' Peavey's
pink peonys, a-blushing as pretty as you please over it at that
country bumpkin of mine with all his fine manners. That Miss Alford
is one of the most sweet girls you ever have saw. She and me have
been friends ever since. She comes out to see me in her ottermobile
sometimes. She ain't down to the City now, for I had a picture card
from some place out West from her, but when she comes back I'm a-
going to ask her to come up and have a stay-a-week-in-the-house party
for you; and she can bring her brother. You might like him. The four
of you can have some nice junketings together. Won't that be fine?"
"Y-e-s," answered the singer lady slowly, "but I'm afraid I'm not
able now to interest anybody, and my voice, when I speakIIWill it
be soon?" Her question had a trace of positive anxiety in it and her
joy was most evidently forced.
"Oh, not till June rose time! And your voice now sounds like a
angel's with a bad cold. I'll tell Tom about it, he'll be so pleased.
Her father was such a friend to him and as proud of him now as can
"Did Doctor Mayberry stay in the Cityafter his graduation?" asked
Miss Wingate, a trace of anxiety in her voice.
"That he didn't! He come on home with me that night, got into his
overalls and begun to plow for winter wheat by sun-up the next
morning. We made a good crop that year and the mortgage wasn't but a
few hundred dollars, what we soon paid. We've been going up ever
since. Tom reminds me of a kite, and I must make out to play tail for
him until I can pick him out a wife."
"Have you thought of anybody in particular?" asked the lovely lady
without raising her eyes from her work. She had commenced operations
on the blue sock unnoticed by Mother, who was taken up in the
unfolding of her tale.
"Not yet," answered she cheerfully. "I mustn't hurry. Marrying
ain't no one-day summer junket, but a year round march and the woman
to raise the hymn tune. I take it that after a mother have builded up
a man, she oughter see to it that he's capped off fine with a wife,
and then she can forget all about him. I've got my eyes open about
Tom and I'm going to begin to hunt around soon."
"I wonder just what kind of a wife youyou will select for him,"
murmured Miss Wingate with her eyes still on the sock, which she was
industriously sewing up into a tight knot on the left side of the
"Well, a man oughter marry mostly for good looks and gumption; the
looks to keep him from knowing when the gumption is being used on
him. Tom's so say-nothing and shy with women folks that he won't be
no hard proposition for nobody. But with that way of his'n I'm afraid
of his being spoiled some. I have to be real stern with myself to keep
from being foolish over him."
"But you want his wife toto love him, don't you?" asked Miss
Wingate, as she raised very large and frankly questioning eyes to
Mother Mayberry, who was snipping loose threads from her completed
"Oh she'll do that and no trouble! But a man oughter be allowed to
sense his wife have got plenty of love and affection preserved, only
he don't know where she keeps the jar at. As I say, I don't want Tom
Mayberry spoiled. What did I do with that other sock?" And Mother
began to hunt in her darning bag, in her lap and on the floor.
"Here it is," answered Miss Wingate as she blushed guiltily. "I
darned it." And she handed her handiwork over to Mother Mayberry with
trepidation in voice and expression.
"Well, now," said Mother, as she inspected the tight little wad on
the blue heel. "It was right down kind of you to turn to and help me
like this, but, honey-bird, Tom Mayberry would walk like a hop toad
after he'd done got it on. You have drawn it bad. I don't know no
better time to learn you how to darn your husband's socks than right
now on this one of Tom's. You see you must begin with long cross
stitches in theNow what's all this a-coming!" And Mother Mayberry
rose, looked down the Road and hurried to the sidewalk with the
darning bag under her arm and her thimble still on her finger.
Up the middle of the Road came, in a body, the entire juvenile
population of Providence at a break-neck speed and farther down the
street they were followed by Deacon Bostick, coming as fast as his
feeble old legs would bring him. Eliza Pike headed the party with
Teether hitched high up en her arm and Martin Luther clinging to her
short blue calico skirt. They all drew up in a semicircle in front of
Mother Mayberry and Miss Wingate and looked at Eliza expectantly. On
all occasions of excitement Eliza was both self-constituted and
unanimously appointed spokesman. On this occasion she began in the
dramatic part of the news without any sort of preamble.
"It's a circus," she said breathlessly, "a-moving over from Bolivar
to Springfield and nelephants and camels and roar-lions and tigers
and Mis' Pratt and Deacon and Mr. Hoover and everybody is a-going
over to watch it passand we can'twe can't!" Her voice broke into a
wail, which was echoed by a sob and a howl from across the street just
inside the Pike gate, where Bud and Susie pressed their forlorn little
bodies against the palings and looked out on the world with the
despair of the incarcerated in their eyes.
"Why can't you?" demanded Mother.
"Oh, Maw have gone across the Nob to Aunt Elviry's and left Susie
May and Bud being punished. They can't go outen the gate and I ain't
a-going to no circus with my little brother and sister being
punished, and I won't let Billy and Ez go either." By this time the
whole group was in different stages of grief, for the viewing of a
circus without the company of Eliza Pike had the flavor of dead sea
fruit in all their small mouths. From the heart in Eliza's small
bosom radiated the force that vivified the lives of the whole small-
fry congregation, and a circus not seen through her eyes would be but
a dreary vision.
"Now ain't that too bad!" said Mother Mayberry with compassion and
irritation striving in her voice. "What did they do and just what did
"Susie hurted Aunt Prissy's feelings, by taking the last biscuit
when they wasn't one left for her, and Maw said she would have to
stay in the yard until she learned to be kind and respectful to Paw's
sister, She didn't mean to be bad." And Eliza presented the case of
her small sister with hopelessness in every tone.
"Well, Susie," said Mother Mayberry, "don't you feel kind to her
yet?" There was a note of hope in Mother's voice that silenced all
the wails, and they all fixed large and expectant eyes upon this
friend who never failed them. By this time the Deacon had joined the
group and his gentle old eyes were also fixed on Mother Mayberry's
face, with the same confident hope that the children's expressed.
"I've done been kind to her," sniffed the culprit. "I let her cut
all my finger-nails and wash my ears and never said a word. She have
been working on me all afternoon and it hurt."
"Susie," said Mother Mayberry, "you can go over to the cross-roads
and see that circus with the Deacon. They can't no little girl do
better than that, and your Maw just told you to stay until you
learned that lesson. You are let out! Now, what did you do, Bud?"
"I slid on the lean-to and tored all the back of my britches out.
She couldn't stop to mend 'em and she said I could just stay front
ways to folks until she come home, and they shouldn't nobody mend 'em
for me." Bud choked with grief and mortification and edged back as
little Bettie Pratt started in his direction on an investigating tour.
"Well course, Bud," said Mother with judicial eye, "you can't take
them britches off." She paused and looked at him thoughtfully.
"I ain't a-going a step without him," reiterated the loyal Eliza,
and the rest of the children's faces fell.
"Too bad," murmured the Deacon, and Miss Wingate could see that his
distress at the plight of young Bud was as genuine as that of any of
"But," began Mother Mayberry slowly, having in the last second
weighed the matter and made a decision, "your mother ain't said you
couldn't go outen the yard and she ain't said I couldn't wrap you up
in one of my kitchen aprons. That wouldn't be the same as changing
the britches. She didn't know about this circus and if she was here
you all know she woulder done as I asked her to do about Bud, so he
ain't a-disobeying her and I ain't neither, Run get the apron hanging
behind the door, Susie, and I'll fix him."
"Sister Mayberry," said the Deacon with a delighted smile in his
kind eyes, but a twinkle in their corners, "your decision involves
the interpretation of both the letter and the spirit of the law. I am
glad it, in this case, rested with you."
"Well," answered Mother Mayberry, as she took the apron from Susie
and started across the Road on her rescue mission, "a woman have got
to cut her conscience kinder bias in the dealing with children. If
they're stuffed full of food and kindness they will mostly forget to
be bad, and oughtent to be made to remember they CAN be by being
punished too long. Now, sonny, I'll get you fixed up so stylish with
these pins and this apron that the circus will want to carry you off.
Start on, Deacon, he's a-coming."
"I've got to get the baby's bonnet," said Eliza as the whole party
started away in a trail after the Deacon, who led Martin Luther by
one hand and little Bettie by the other. Over by the store they could
see Mrs. Pratt waiting to marshal the forces on down the Road and Mr.
Hoover stood ready as outstanding escort. He had brought the news of
the passing of the circus train and she had promptly consented to
taking the children and the Deacon over for a view.
"Please, Eliza, please don't take the baby! Leave him with me,"
said Miss Wingate and as she spoke she stretched out her arms to
Teether. Teether was looking worn with the excitement of the day and
his sympathetic friend felt the journey would be too much for him. He
smiled and fell over on her shoulder with a sigh of contentment.
"Don't you think he oughter see them nelephants and things?" asked
Eliza doubtfully, her loyalty to Teether warring with the relief of
having him out of her thin little arms for the journey.
"He won't mind. Let me keep him here on the front porch until you
come back. Now run along and have a good time," and Miss Wingate
started up the front walk, as Eliza darted away to join the others.
"I do declare," said Mother Mayberry, as she watched the expedition
wend its way down the white Road in the direction of the Bolivar
pike, "the way the Deacon do love the children is plumb beautiful,
and sad some too. I don't know what he would do without Jem or they
without him. Seeing 'em together reminds me of that scraggy, old
snowball bush in full bloom, leaning down to the little Stars of
Bethlehem reaching up to it. What that good man have been to me only
my Heavenly Father can know and Tom Mayberry suspicion. I tell you
what I think I'll do; I'll take one of them little pans of rolls what
Cindy have baked for supper, with a jar of peach preserves, and go
down and set with Mis' Bostick while the Deacon are gone. We can run
the pan of rolls in to get hot for him when he comes home and I know
he likes the preserves. I want to stop in to see Mis' Tutt too and
give her a little advice about that taking so much blue-mass. I don't
see how anybody with a bad liver can have any religion at all, much
less a second blessing. I know the Squire have his faults, but others
has failings too. And, too, I'll have to stop in and pacify Miss
Prissy about turning the children loose, before I go down the Road."
"Miss Prissy always seems to be getting the children into trouble.
I wonder why," said the singer lady with a shade of resentment in her
voice. The little Pikes had established themselves firmly in the
heart of this new friend, and she found herself in an attitude of
"I reckon Miss Prissy is what you call a kinder crank," answered
Mother Mayberry as she paused at the foot of the steps. "A married
woman have got to be the hub of a family-wheel, but a old maid can be
the outside crank that turns the whole contraption backwards if she
has a mind to. I wish Miss Prissy had a little more understanding of
the children, 'cause the rub all comes on Mis' Pike, and she's fair
wore out with it. But I must be a-going so as to be the sooner
a-coming. I wisht you would tell Tom Mayberry to go and let you help
him put the hens and little chickens to bed. Feed 'em two quarts of
millet seed, and you both know how to do it right if you have a mind
to. I'm going to compliment you by a-trusting you this once, and don't
let me wish I hadn't! I'll be back in the course of time."
And so it happened that as Doctor Mayberry was in the act of
swinging his microscope over a particularly absorbing new plate, a
very lovely vision framed itself in his office door against the
background of Harpeth Hill, which was composed of the slim singer
girl with the baby nodding over her shoulder. The unexpectedness of
the visit sent the color up under his tan and brought him to his feet
with a delighted smile.
"I don't know how you are going to feel about it, but I bring the
news of an honor which we are to share. Do you suppose, do you, that
we can put the chickens to bed for Mrs. Mayberry? She says we are to
try, and if we don't do it the right way she is never going to
compliment us with her confidence again. Help, please! I'm weighted
down by the responsibility." And as she spoke Miss Wingate's eyes
shone across Teether's bobbing head with delighted merriment.
"Well, let's try," answered the Doctor with the air of being ready
to do or dare, an attitude which a vision such as his eyes rested
upon is apt to incite in any man thus challenged. "Will you take
command? I'm many times proved incompetent on such occasions, and I
feel sure Mother trusted to your generalship." And together they went
through the garden and over into the chicken yard.
"Now," said Miss Wingate, "I think the thing to do is not to let
them know we are afraid of them. Let's just take their going under
the coops as a matter of course, and then, perhaps, they will go
without any remonstrance."
"Sort of a mental influence dodge," answered the Doctor
enthusiastically. "Let's try it on Spangles first. I somehow feel
that she will be more impressionable than Old Dominick. You influence
while I spread the millet seed in front of her coop." And he bent down
in front of the half barrel and carefully laid a tempting evening
meal, with his eye on Fuss-and-Feathers. Spangles hesitated, stood on
one foot, clucked in an affected tone of voice to her huddling babies
and coquettishly turned her head from one side to the other as if
enthusing over his artistic service before accepting his hospitality.
Then, just as she was poising one dainty foot ready for the first step
in advance, and had sounded a forward note to the cheepers around her,
Old Dominick calmly stalked forward, stepped right across the Doctor's
coaxing hand held out to Spangles, and, settling herself in the coop,
began, with her voracious band of little plebeians, to devour the
grain with stolid appreciation.
Miss Wingate laughed merrily, Teether Pike gurgled and the Doctor
looked up with baffled astonishment.
"That was your fault," he accused; "you influenced Dominick while I
was expending my force in beguiling Spangles. Now, you try to get her
in the next coop yourself. I shan't help you further than to spread
the grain in front of all the coops." And in accordance with his
threat the Doctor disposed of the rest of the food and stood with the
empty pan in his hand. And, like the well-trained flock of biddies
that they were, all the rest of the hen mothers clucked and cajoled
their fluffy little families into their accustomed shelters and began
to dispose of their suppers with contented clucks and cheeps. Only
Mrs. Spangles stood afar and eyed the only vacant coop with evident
"I don't know what to do," murmured Miss Wingate pleadingly. But
the Doctor stood firm, and regarded her with maliciously delighted
eyes. Teether bobbed his head over her shoulder and giggled with
ungrateful delight The poor little chicks peeped sleepily, but still
Spangles held her ground. The truth of the matter was that Dominick
had really taken the coop usually occupied by her ladyship, and with
worldly determination, the scion of all the Wyandottes was holding
out against the exchange.
With a glance out of the side of her eyes from under her lowered
lashes in the direction of Doctor Mayberry in his stern attitude, the
singer lady cautiously veered around to the rear of the insulted
grandee, and, grasping her fluffy skirts in her free hand, she shook
them out with a pleading "Shoo!" Instantly a perfect whirlwind of
spangled feathers veered around and faced the cascade of frills, and
a volume of defiant hisses fairly filled the air. Teether squealed
and Miss Wingate retreated to the bounds of the fence. The Doctor
laughed in the most heartless manner, and still Spangles held her
To make matters worse, Mother Mayberry's jovial voice, mingled with
the shrill treble of the combined circus party, who were trying all
at once to tell her the wonders of the adventure, could be distinctly
heard in an increasing volume that told of their rapid approach. The
situation was desperate, and the loss of Mother Mayberry's faith in
her seemed inevitable to the nonplussed singer lady as she leaned
against the fence with Teether over her shoulder. Then the instinct
that is centuries old presented to her the wile that is of equal
antiquity and, raising her purple eyes to the defenseless Doctor, she
murmured in a voice of utter helplessness, into which was judiciously
mingled a tone of perfect confidence:
"Please, sir, get her in for me."
The response to which, being foreordained from the beginning of
time, took Doctor Mayberry just one exciting half-minute grab and
shove to accomplish, at the end of which a ruffled but chastened
Spangles was forced to assemble her family and content herself behind
the bars of the despised coop.
"Well," said Mother Mayberry as she hurried around the corner of
the house with the depleted and milk-hungry Martin Luther trailing at
her skirts, "did you make out to manage 'em? Why, ain't that fine;
every one in and settled and Fuss-and-Feathers in that end coop where
I have been wanting her to be for a week, seeing Dominick have got so
many more chickens and needs that larger barrel. I didn't depend on
Tom Mayberry, but I did on you, Elinory. This just goes to show that
if you put a little trust in people they are mighty apt to rise in the
pan to a occasion. You all look like you've been having a real good
CHAPTER IV. LOVE, THE CURE-ALL
"Eat milk, thank ma'am, please, Mother Lady," demanded Martin
Luther as he stood on the top step in front of Mother Mayberry, who,
with Miss Wingate beside her, sat sewing away the early hours of the
morning. A tiny blue-check shirt was taking shape under Mother's
skilful fingers, and the singer lady was deep in the mysteries of the
fore and aft of a minute pair of jeans trousers. The limitations of
young Ez's wardrobe had necessitated the speedy construction of one
for the little adopt, and Miss Wingate's education along the lines of
needle control was progressing at what she considered a remarkable
"Why, Martin Luther!" She looked down at him over a carefully
poised needle. "How can you be hungry when you ate your breakfast not
two hours ago?" she added with the intent to beguile him from his
"All gone, thank ma'am, please," he answered, looking out from
under his curl with a pathetic cast of his blue eyes, and at the same
time spreading both hands over his entire vital region.
"I reckon maybe we'd better fill him up again," said Mother. "Them
legs still look 'most too much like knitting-needles to suit me, and
I kinder want to feel him to be sure his stomick haven't growed to
his backbone. Anyway, you can't never measure a boy's food by his
size. Please run and get him a glass of buttermilk and a biscuit,
child, while I finish setting in this sleeve. Let me see them
britches legs 'fore you put 'em down. Dearie me, if you ain't gone
and made 'em both for the same leg! Too bad, with all them pretty
"Oh!" gasped Miss Wingate in dismay; "have I ruined them?"
"No, indeed, just turn the left leg inside out and hem it up again
or you might make two more right legs to sew on to these. It would be
a good thing to double one failing mistake up into two successes,
wouldn't it? Often bad luck turned inside out makes a cap that fits
plumb easy. While you fill the boy up, I'll cut out his other legs
for you to baste right this time. Take a peep around the garden
before you come back to see if Spangles have got her chickens in the
wet weeds. I hadn't oughter let her pretty feathers make me distrust
her, but it do." And Mother went placidly on with her sewing as she
watched the girl and the tot go hand-in-hand down the path to the
spring-house under the hill. She had just placed in her sleeve and
was regarding it with entire satisfaction, when the front gate
clicked and she looked up with interest.
"Well, good morning, Mis' Mayberry," came in Bettie Pratt's hearty
voice as she swung up the walk at a brisk pace. On one arm she held a
bobbing baby in a white sunbonnet, a toddler clung to her skirts and a
small boy trailed behind her with a puppy in his arms. She was buxom
and rosy, was the Widow Pratt, with a dangerous dimple over the corner
of her mouth, a decided come-hither in her blue eyes, and a smile that
compelled a response.
"Why, Bettie child, how glad I am to see you!" exclaimed Mother,
rendering the smile from out over her glasses. "I didn't see you all
day yesterday and not the day before, neither. But I put it down to a
work-hold on us both, and didn't worry none. And now here you are,
with some of the little folks! Here's a empty spool for little
Bettie," and she held out the treasure to the toddler, who sidled up
to her knee with confidence to grasp the gift.
"I told Pattie Hoover if she would stay at home this morning and
clean up some like her Pa wants her to that I'd let my Clara May help
her and would bring the baby on up here to get him outen the way.
'Lias come along to get you to look at his puppy's foot, and I want
you to see if you don't think the baby have fatted some since I've
took holt and helped Pattie with the feeding of him."
"He have that," answered Mother heartily. "I can tell it without
even feeling of his legs. You've got the growing hand with babies,
Bettie, and I'm glad you don't hold it back from this little half-
orphant. I don't know what the poor little Hoovers would do without
"That's what poor Mr. Hoover says," answered Bettie with the utmost
unconsciousness. "Show Mis' Mayberry the puppy's foot, 'Lias."
"Why, the pitiful little thing!" exclaimed Mother when a small,
brown, crushed paw was presented to her inspection. "What happened to
"Mr. Petway's horse stepped on ithe didn't care. He just got in
the buggy and went on. I'm a-going to kill him with a gun when I get
one." Tears of rage and grief welled up in 'Lias' eyes, but he choked
them back with a resolution that boded ill for Mr. Petway when the
time of reckoning came.
"You mustn't talk that way, 'Lias, though it are a shame," said
Mother as she looked closely at the injured paw. "The bone's all
crushed. I'll tell you what to do; just take him around to Doctor
Tom's office and he'll fix it in no time for you, in a way I couldn't
never do. He won't even limp, maybe." And Mother Mayberry made the
offer of a piece of skilled surgery with the utmost generosity.
'Lias clasped the puppy closer, looked down and drew one of his
bare toes along a crack in the floor. "I'd rather you'd do it," he
"Now, don't that just beat all!" exclaimed Mother with both
amusement and exasperation in her face. "Looks like I can't even get
Tom a puppy practice."
"Why, 'Lias Hoover, I'm ashamed of you not to want Doctor Tom to
fix his foot, and thank you, too! Didn't Bud Pike tell you last night
how he cut his little brother's mouth and didn't hurt him a bit,
neither? Bud is going to get him to fix his next stubbed toe hisself.
Bud ain't no bigger boy than you, but he knows a good doctor same as
Mis' Mayberry and me does when he sees one." There are ways and ways
of controverting masculine obstinancy, and evidently life had taught
Mrs. Pratt the efficacy of beguilement. Without more reluctance 'Lias
disappeared around the house in the direction of the office wing.
"I'm mighty glad you come along this morning, Bettie," said Mother
Mayberry, as she threaded a new needle with a long thread. Little
Bettie had seated herself on the floor and begun operations with the
spool and a piece of string that vastly amused little Hoover, whom
Mrs. Pratt deposited opposite her within reach of her own balancing
foot, for the baby's age and backbone were both at a tender period.
"I've got a kinder worry on my mind that I'd like to get a little
help from you as to know what to do about. Have you noticed that both
the Deacon and Mis' Bostick look mighty peaky? Course Deacon have been
sick, and she have had a spell of nursing, but they don't neither of
them pick up like they oughter. Mis' Bostick puts me in mind of a
little, withered-up, gray seed pod when all the down have blowed away,
and the Deacon's britches fair flap around his poor thin shanks.
Something or other just makes me sense what is the matter."
"And me, too, Mis' Mayberry. I've been a-feeling of it for some
time, since we all quit out with the nursing and taking 'em
complimentary dishes of truck. They isis hungry." Mrs. Pratt brought
out the statement of the fact in a positively awestruck voice.
"That's what I'm afraid it is, Bettie," answered Mother, "and it
hurts me hard to think how he have served the Lord and helped us all
in our duty to Him and each other, she a-giving us of her bounty of
sister-love, and now, when they's old and feeble, a-feeling the pinch
of need. The young can reach out and help theyselves to they share of
life, but it oughter be handed old folks with thoughtful respect.
We've got to do something about it."
"Course we have," assented the widow heartily. "But how are we a-
going to just give 'em things offen a cold collar? They're both so
proud. With owning the house, the bit the church gives 'em would do
the rest, but the Deacon have tooken that debt no-'count Will Bostick
run off and left down in the City to pay, and it have left 'em at
starvation's door. But that's neither here nor there; we've got to do
something. They don't need much but food, and Mis' Bostick is most too
weak now to cook it if they has the ingredients gave 'em to hand. They
must be did for some way."
"And we've got to do it without a-giving them a single hurt
feeling, either," said Mother. "Enough good-will jelly will hide any
kind of charity pill, I say. Not as what we do for her and the Deacon
can ever be anything but thanks rendered for the blessing of them. But
you get to thinking, Bettie. The knees to my wits are getting old and
"Well, there's a donation party," suggested the widow thoughtfully.
"Everybody could help, and it could be made real pleasant with the
men asked to come in after supper. Everything could be gave from
stovewood to the Deacon some new Sunday pants. We did that once
before, five years ago to his birthday, and they was mighty pleased.
Let's do it again."
"But that was before this disgrace of Will happened, and they
didn't downright need the things thenit were all sort of
complimentary. When needs are gave it's charity, but what you don't
want is just a present. We've got to find a way to do up needs in a
present package for 'em. I declare, I feel right put to know what to
do." Mother Mayberry's voice was actually worried, and she paused with
her scissors ready to snip a bit of the gingham into narrow bands.
"Well, we oughter be thankful we've got the things to give, and
we'll find some sort of way to slip up on the blind side of them
about the taking of them. The Deacon's britches is one pressing
thing. Can't we take some of the church carpet money and get Mr.
Hoover to buy him a pair when he hauls corn to town Monday?"
"Yes, indeed, we can," answered Mother Mayberry, radiant at the
very thought of this relief proposition. "It's a heap more important
to carpet the Deacon with britches than the church floor right now.
Between them and her old bombersine, Mis' Bostick have spent the year
with her patch-thimble on her finger."
"I declare, it hurts me so in church to look at her elbows and back
seams that I can't hardly listen to the Deacon pray. Patching is the
most worrisome job a woman has to do, according to my mind," said the
widow, with an expression of distaste on her beaming face. "I've done
patched two men, and I know what I'm talking about."
"It is a trial," answered Mother Mayberry, "and Mis' Bostick's life
have been a patched one at the best, a-moving in the Methodist wagon
from one station to another and a-trying every time to cut herself
out by a new style to suit each congregation, Anyway, I reckon all
women's lives have wored thin and had to be darned in some places,
but patches on her garment of life ain't going to make no difference
to a woman when she puts it on to meet her Lord, just so it's cut on
the charity mantle pattern. And Mis' Bostick's was hung to cover the
multitude. But a-talking here have made me sprout a idea: 'Liza Pike
have blazed the trail for us, bless her little heart! Her mother
don't never cook a single thing that 'Liza haven't got a dish handy
to beg some for the Deacon and Mis' Bostick. And she don't stop at
her own cook stove, but she's always here looking into what Cindy
cooks with an eye to the old folk's sweet-tooths or chicken-hankers.
I know, too, she gets what she wants from you for them, so there is
our leading. The Deacon loves 'Liza, and she is such a entertainment
to him that he'd eat ten meals a day at her dictation and no
questions asked. And she do beat all with her mothering ways with
them old folks. Last Wednesday night she had Deacon a-leading prayer
meeting with a red flannel band around his throat for his croaks, and
just yesterday she made Mis' Bostick stay in bed half the day, covered
up head and ears, to sweat off a little nose-dripping cold. She's
always a-consulting Tom and leaving me out. I think she's got her eye
on my practice. They never was such a master-hand of a child in
"There you are right," laughed the widow. "It's getting so that
they ain't a child on the Road as will let its own mother look at a
cut finger or a black bruise 'fore 'Liza have done had her say about
what is to be did. I believe it is as you say, Mis' Mayberry, and
'Liza can play raven for us in fine style. I know Mis' Pike will push
it on and more'n do her part in the filling of the child's covered
"That she will," answered Mother Mayberry heartily. "Judy Pike
spends a heap of time turning over life to find for certain which is
the right and wrong of it, but once found, she sticks close to the
top weave. We'll plan it all out at the Sewing Circle, and then get
it down to days who's to send what regular. I'm thankful for this
leading of how to take care of our old folks, and I know you are,
"Couldn't nobody be thankfuller," answered the rosy widow, "and the
filling of that dish is a-going to give me a lot of good pride. But
I'd better be going and seeing after them girls and the house
cleaning. They are both master hands, but if Buck Peavey was to
happen to tie hisself up to the front gate, it would be good-by
dust-pan and mop for Pattie. Not that I don't feel for her in the
liking of that rampaging boy of Mis' Peavey's, and it's mighty hard
not to kinder saunter into a little chat when the men folks call you.
How are Miss Elinory to-day? Ain't she the prettiest and most
stylishest girl you have ever saw? I wonder if she would lend me that
long-tailed waist she wears to get the pattern off to make me and
Clara May and Pattie one?" As she spoke, Mrs. Pratt rose, picked up
little Hoover and set Bettie on her little bare feet.
"I know she will be glad to, and such a head sewer as you are can
copy it most exact. Here she are now! Child, Mis' Pratt have been so
complimenting of your looks and clothes that I'm sorter set up with
pride over you."
"Good morning, Mrs. Pratt," exclaimed the singer lady, as she
appeared in the doorway with the resuscitated Martin Luther at her
side. "The darling babies! You are not going, are you?" The widow and
Miss Wingate had developed a decided attraction for each other, and
their blossoming friendship delighted Mother Mayberry most obviously.
"I wish I didn't have to," answered Mrs. Pratt, beaming with
smiles, which little Bettie echoed as she coquetted around her
mother's skirts with Miss Wingate, "but it's most dinner-pot time, and
I've got mouths to feed when the horn blows."
"Elinory, child, run get that pink, long-tailed waist of your'n to
let Bettie make one by, please," said Mother Mayberry, with total
unconsciousness of that very strong feminine predilection for
exclusiveness of design in wearing apparel. The garment in question
was a very lovely, simply-cut linen affair that bore a distinguished
foreign trade-mark. "I know you feel complimented by her wanting to
make one for herself by it, and maybe Clara May and Pattie, too. They
ain't no worldly feeling as good as having your clothes admired, is
"Indeed there isn't," answered Miss Wingate cordially, and if there
was chagrin in her heart at the thought of seeing Providence in
uniform with the precious pink blouse, her smile belied it. She
immediately ascended to her room, and returned quickly with the
treasure in her hand. "Let me come and see you fit them," she
entreated. "I don't know how to sew one, but I can tell how it ought
"Come spend the day next Monday. We'll all have a good time
together and I'll make you some more of them fritters you liked for
supper the other night." The widow fairly beamed like a headlight at
the thought of the successful impromptu supper party a few nights
before, when Doctor Mayberry had brought Miss Wingate down upon her
unexpectedly with a demand to be invited to stay to supper for that
especial dainty. As she spoke she was half-way down the walk, and
looked back, smiling at them over the baby's bonnet.
"Yes, I heard Tom Mayberry disgraced himself over your maple syrup
jug, Bettie Pratt," called Mother Mayberry after her. "That Hoover
baby surely have growed. Good-by!"
"They ain't nothing in this world so comforting to a woman as good
feeling with her sisters, one and all," Mother Mayberry said as she
watched the last switch of the widow's skirt. "Mother, wife and
daughter love is a institution, but real sistering is a downright
covenant. Me and Bettie have held one betwixt us these many a year.
But you and me have both put a slight on the kitchen since Cindy got
back. Let's go see if dinner ain't most on the table."
And they found that from their neglect the dinner had suffered not
at all. Cindy, a gaunt, black woman with a fire of service and
devotion to Mother Mayberry in her eyes, and apparently nothing else
to excuse existence, had accomplished the meal as a triumph.
She had set the table out on the side porch under the budding
honeysuckle, and as Mother Mayberry and Miss Wingate, followed by
Martin Luther, ever ready to do trencher duty, came out of the back
hall Doctor Tom emerged from his office door.
"Why, I didn't see you come in, Tom," said Mother. "You muster used
wings and lit."
"No, I came from across the fields and in the back way. I've had a
patient and I'm puffed up with pride." As he spoke he smiled at Miss
Wingate and his mother delightedly.
"'Lias Hoover's puppy," said Mother, stating the fact to Miss
Wingate. "Was you able to fix him up, Tom?"
"Oh, yes; his puppyship will navigate normally in ten days, I
think; but this was a real patient."
"Why, who, son? Don't keep me waiting to know, for I'm worried at
the very thought of a Providence pain. Who's down now and what did
you do for 'em?" And Mother bestowed upon the young doctor a glance
of inter-professional inquiry. "Squire Tutt," answered her son
promptly. "I met him up by the store and he asked me what I would do
if a man had a snake bite out in the woods, ten miles from any hot-
water kettle. I diagnosed the situation and prescribed with the help
of Mr. Petway, and I thinkI think, Mother, I've proselyted your
"Now, Tom, don't make fun of the Squire. Them are real pains he
has, and I don't think it is right for a doctor to have a doubting
mind towards a patient. Sympathy will help worry any kinder bad dose
down. You know I want you to do your doctoring in this life with love
to be gave to help smooth all pain." Mother regarded him seriously
over her glasses as she admonished.
"I willI do, Mother," answered the Doctor, and his gray eyes
danced before he veiled them with his black lashes as he looked down
at his plate.
Miss Wingate flushed ever so slightly and busied herself with
spreading butter on a large piece of bread for Martin Luther, an
unnecessary attention, as she had performed that same office for him
just the moment before, and even he had not been able to make an
"I think you are right, Mrs. Mayberry," she said slowly after a
second's rally of her forces. "The sympathy andand regard of one's
physician is very necessary at times andand" She paused, but not so
much as a glance out of the corner of her purple black eyes did she
throw in the direction of the Doctor.
"Course they ain't nothing so encouraging in the world as love, and
I think the sick oughter have it gave to 'em in large and frequent
doses! I'm thankful I've got so much in my heart that I can just
prescribe it liberal when needed. Dearie me, could that shadow be a
chicken-hawk? Just excuse me, children; finish your dinner while I go
out and look after my feather babies." And Mother hurried away through
the kitchen, leaving the singer lady and the Doctor sitting at the
table under the fragrant vine, with the replete Martin Luther nodding
his sleepy head down into his plate between them.
And thus deserted, the flush rose up under Miss Wingate's eyes and
a dimple teased at the corner of her red lips, but she busied herself
with removing the plate from under Martin Luther's yellow mop and
making a pillow of her own bare arm, against which he nestled his
chubby little cheek with a sigh of content, as he drifted off into
his usual after-dinner nap.
The Doctor watched her from under his half-closed eyes, then he lit
a cigarette, leaned his elbow on the table and sat silent for a few
moments, while under her breath she hummed a little sleep song to the
"On the whole," he asked at last, the usual delightful courtesy
with which he always addressed her striving with an unusual trace of
gentle banter in his deep voice, "what do you think of Mother's
"I think," she answered as she ruffled the baby's curls with one
white hand, "they are so true that no wonder they areare more
healing thanthan your medicines."
She raised her eyes to his suddenly and they were filled to the
brim with frank merriment.
"Don't tell me I'm going to lose my one and only star patient,
Teether Pike and the puppy excepted!" he exclaimed with a laugh.
"Yes," she answered slowly, "I'm going to let you operate when the
time comesbut it's your Mother that's healing me. Oh, can't you,
can't you see what she's doing for me?" she turned to him and asked
suddenly, the burr thrown across her voice heavily because of the
passion in her tones. "I came to you a broken instrumentuseless for
ever, perhapsunfit for all I knew of life unless you healed me, and
nownow I can make things and do thingsa pie and a good one, bread to
feed and the butter thereto, and to-day two halves of a pair of
trousers, no the halves of two pairs of trousers. What matter if I
never sing again?" She stretched her white arm across the table and
looked over the head of the sleeping baby straight into his eyes. Hers
were soft with tears, and a divine shyness that seemed to question
He lifted the white hand, with its pink palm upward, gently into
his own brown one, and placed the tip of one of his fingers on a tiny
red scar on her forefinger.
"Do you know the story the drop of blood I took from this prick
this morning told?" he asked with his eyes shining into hers. "A gain
of over thirty percent in red corpuscles in less than a month. Yes, I
admit it; Mother is building, but when she has you readyI'm going to
give it back to you, the wonderful voice. I don't know why I know, but
"And I don't know why I know that you willbut I do," she answered
with lowered voice and eyes. "When all the others tried I knew they
would fail. The horrible thought clutched at my throat always, and
there seemed no help. I don't feel it now at all. I'm too busy," she
added with a catch in her laugh and a sudden mist in her eyes.
"Mother's treatment again," he laughed as he laid her hand gently
back on the table.
"And yourswhen directed by herher philosophies," she ventured
daringly, as she lifted Martin Luther into her arms, with a view to
depositing him upon the haven of Mother's bed to finish his nap.
The Doctor looked at her a second, started to answer, thought
better of it, took the heavy youngster out of her arms into his own
and strode across the hall with him into Mother's room.
The singer lady walked to the edge of the porch, pulled down a
spray of the fragrant vine and looked out through it to the blue hills
beyond the meadows. She hummed a waltz-song this time, and her eyes
were dancing as if she were meditating some further assault on the
Doctor's imperturbability. He came back and stood beside her, and was
just about to make a tentative remark when Mother Mayberry hurried
around the side of the house.
"Children!" she exclaimed, her eyes shining, her cheeks pink with
excitement, and the white curls flying in every direction; "I never
did have such a time in my life! It WERE a chicken-hawk and he were
right down amongst the hens and little chickens. Old Dominick was
spread out like a featherbed over all hers and most of Spangles', and
there Spangles was just a-contending with him over one of her little
black babies. He had it in his claw, but she had him by a beak full of
feathers and was a-swinging on for fare-you-well. Old Dominick was
a-directing of her with squawks, and Ruffle Neck was just squatting
over hers, batting her eyes with skeer, for all the world like she was
a fine lady a-going into a faint. And there stood all four of the
roosters, not a one of 'em a-turning of a feather to help her! They
looked like they was petrified to stone, and I'm a great mind to make
'em every one up into pies and salad and such. They's a heap of men,
come trouble, don't make no show, and the women folks have to lead the
fight. But they might er helped her after she's took holt!"
"The brutes!" exclaimed Doctor Tom with real indignation. "When are
you going to have the pie, Mother?" he added teasingly.
"Well, I've got no intentions of feeding no such coward truck to
you, sir," answered his mother, still flurried with belligerency.
"But the little baby chickenwhat DID become of it?" demanded Miss
Wingate, and she, too, cast a glance of scorn at the Doctor.
"Why, he dropped it and flew away as soon as he caught sight of me.
It ain't hurt a mite, and Spangles have hovered it and all the rest
she could coax out from under Dominick. Now this do settle it! Good
looks don't disqualify a woman from nothing; it's the men that can't
stand extra long tail feathers and fluted combs. I'm a-going to put
'em all four in the pot before Wednesday."
"I apologize; I apologize, with emotion, for all my doubts, both
expressed and unexpressed, of Mrs. Spangles!" the Doctor hastened to
exclaim. "Neck under heel for the whole masculine fraternity and
"Well, it's not as bad as that," answered Mother in a jovially
mollified tone of voice. "Meek, plain-favored men like you may be let
live, with no attention paid 'em. Now go on over to Flat Rock and stop
a-wasting me and my honey-bird's time with your chavering. Come back
early for supper or you won't get none, for all three of us are
a-going to prayer meeting."
"I'll be here, and thank you for-crumbs of attention," answered the
Doctor, and, with a laughing glance at both his mother and Miss
Wingate he took himself off in the direction of the barn, for the
purpose of saddling his horse for his afternoon visit to his patients
beyond the Nob.
"Ain't he good to look at?" asked Mother Mayberry as she watched
his tall figure swing down the garden path. "Good looks in a man can
be a heap of pleasure to a woman, but she mustn't let on to him."
"I believe," said Miss Wingate in an impersonally judicial tone of
voice, "that Doctor Mayberry is the very handsomest man I ever saw.
One would almost call him beautiful. It isn't entirely that he is so
tall and grand and has such eyes, butdo you know I think it is
because he is so like you that he is so lovely." And the singer lady
tucked her hand into Mother Mayberry's with a shy blush.
"Liking folks kinder shines 'em up, same as furniture polish,
honey- bird," laughed Mother Mayberry with delight at the compliment.
"You're a-rubbing some on me and Tom Mayberry. But he were the best
favored baby I 'most ever saw, if I do say it, as shouldn't."
"Oh!" said Miss Wingate delightedly, "I know he must have been
lovely! What was he like?"
"Well," answered Mother reminiscently, "he were about like he are
now. He come so ugly I cried when I seen him first, and Doctor
Mayberry teased me about it to the day of his death. He called Tom
'Ugly' for short. But he mighty soon begun to sprout little pleasing
ways, a-looking up under them black lashes and a-laughing acrost my
breast. His cheeks was rosy, his back broad and his legs straight,
same as now. He teethed easy, walked soon, have never learned to talk
much yet, and had his measles and whooping-cough when his time come. I
just thought he were something 'cause he were mine. All babies is
astonishing miracles to they mothers."
"But I'm sure Doctor Mayberry was really wonderful," said Miss
Wingate, instantly sympathetic. "Had he always such black hair?"
"Borned with it. Now, my little girl had beautiful yellow curls and
I can show you one, by the Lord's mercy I've got it." Mother paused
and an ineffable gentleness came into her lovely old face. "I want to
tell you about it, honey-heart, 'cause it have got a strange sweetness
to it. She wasn't but five years old when she died, tooken sudden with
pneumony cruel bad. Nobody thought to cut me one of her curls before
they laid her away, and when I come to myself I grieved over it more
than I had oughter. But one day when the fall come on and the days was
short and dark; and it looked like nothing couldn't light up the old
house with that sunshine head gone, me almost a- feeling bitter and
questioning why, Tom went out and picked up a robin's nest that had
blowed down from a tree in the yard. And there, wound around inside
it, was the little curl I had cut off in the spring, out on the porch,
what had tagged into her eyes and worried her! The mother bird had
used it to make the nest soft for her babies and now didn't need it no
more. When I looked at it I took it as a message and a sign that my
Lord hadn't forgot me, and I ain't never mistrusted Him again. Come,
let me show it to you."
CHAPTER V. THE LITTLE RAVEN AND HER
Wednesday morning dawned clear and bright. From over Providence Nob
the round red old sun looked jovially and encouragingly down upon
Providence, up and stirring at an unusually early hour, for in the
mid-week came Sewing Circle day and the usual routine of work must be
laid by before the noon meal, and every housewife in condition to
forgather at the appointed place on the stroke of one. Mrs. Peavey
had aroused the protesting Buck at the peep of dawn, the Pikes were
all up and breakfasting by the first rays of light that fell over the
Ridge, and the Hoover biscuits had been baked in the Pratt oven and
handed across the fence fifteen minutes agone. Down the road Mr.
Petway was energetically taking down the store shutters and Mr.
Mosbey was building the blacksmith shop fire. Cindy had milked and
started breakfast and Mother Mayberry had begun the difficult task of
getting the Doctor up and ready for the morning meal. Martin Luther
had had a glass of warm milk and was ready for an energetic attack
upon his first repast.
Above, in her room under the gables, the singer lady had been
awakened by the brushing of a white-capped old locust bough against
her casement as it attempted to climb with all its bloom into her
dormer window. As she looked through the mist, a long golden shaft of
light shot across the white flowers and turned the tender green leaves
into a bright yellow. Suddenly a desire to get up and look across at
the Nob possessed her, for the arrival of the sun upon the scene of
action was a sight that held the decided charm of novelty. And on this
particular morning she found it more than worth while. Providence lay
at her feet like a great bouquet of lilacs, locust and fruit blossoms.
The early mist was shot through with long spears of gold and the pale
smoke curled up from the brick chimneys and mingled its pungent
wood-odor with the perfume laden air. She drank in great drafts of
exhilaration and delighted her eyes with the picture for a number of
minutes, until an intoxicating breakfast aroma began to steal up from
Cindy's domain. Then, spurred by a positive agony of hunger, it took
the singer lady the fewest possible number of minutes to complete a
dainty and most ravishing breakfast toilet.
"Why, honey-bird," exclaimed Mother Mayberry as she descended the
steps and found them all at breakfast in the wide-open dining-room,
"what did you get up so soon for? It's Wednesday and the Sewing
Circle meets with me, so Cindy and us must be a-stirring, but I had a
breakfast in my mind for you two hours from now. You hadn't oughter
done it. Them ain't orders in your prescription."
"I'm so hungry," she pleaded with a most wickedly humble glance at
the Doctor, who was busy consuming muffins and chicken gravy. "Can't
I have a breakfast now, Doctorand the other one two hours later?
"Yes," answered the Doctor, "but don't forget the two glasses of
cream and dinner and some of the Sewing Party refreshments, to say
nothing of supper-and are you going to make custards for us to eat
before seeking our downy couches?"
"The cup custards are going to be part of the Sewing Circle
refreshments," his mother answered him. "I want to show off my
teaching to the Providence folks. Give the child some chicken, Tom
Mayberry, and then you can go to your work. We don't want you
"Don't you need my help?" asked the Doctor, as, in a disobedient
frame of mind, he lingered at the table to watch the singer lady
begin operations on her dainty breakfast.
"Well, you can set here and see that Elinory gets all she wants and
more too, but I must be a-doing around. There cames the Deacon! I
wonder what the matter is!" And Mother Mayberry hurried out of the
house and down to the front gate to meet the Deacon who was coming
slowly up the Road.
"Good morning, Sister Mayberry," he said cheerily enough, though
there was an expression of anxiety on his gentle old face. "I thought
I would find you up, even at this unusually early hour. Your lamp is
always burning to meet emergencies. Mrs. Bostick is not well this
morning and I came up to see if you could find a moment to step down
to see her soon. I also wanted to ask Thomas to stop in for a moment
on his way over to Flat Rock. I am sure that she is not at all ill,
but I am just overly anxious."
"Why, of course, we will both come right away, Deacon! What did she
eat last night for supper? She oughter be careful about her night
"Let me see," answered the Deacon thoughtfully, "I think we both
had a portion of milk and toast administered by our young sister,
Eliza Pike. I recall I pleaded for some of the peaches, still in the
jar you gave Mrs. Bostick, but was sternly denied." As he spoke the
Deacon beamed with affectionate pride over having been vanquished by
the stern Eliza.
Just at this moment from around the corner of the Pike home came
the young woman in question, with a pitcher in one hand and a covered
dish in the other. Ez followed her with a plate wrapped in a napkin,
and Billy brought up the rear with a bucket of cool water which he
sloshed over his bare feet with every step.
"Why, Deacon," demanded Eliza sternly, "you ain't gone and et
breakfast with Mother Mayberry, when I told you about Maw making
light rolls before she went to bed 'cause to-day is Wednesday?"
"No, Eliza," answered the Deacon meekly, with a delighted glance at
Mother Mayberry out of the corner of his eye. "Neither Mrs. Bostick
nor I would think of breakfasting without your superintendence. I was
just starting over to tell you that she felt indisposed and would like
to see you and Sister Mayberry, along with the Doctor, later in the
"Well," answered Eliza confidently, "I think I can tend to her if
Mother Mayberry is too busy to come. I was a-going to watch for
Doctor Tom and ask him in anyway. Please come on home, Deacon, 'fore
the rolls get cold and the scrambled eggs set. Ez, hold the plate
straight or the butter will run outen the rolls! Please come on,
"Yes, Deacon, go along with her right away," answered Mother
Mayberry, as her eyes rested on the serious face of the ministering
child with a peculiar tenderness tinged with respect. "And, 'Liza,
honey, stop by and tell me how Mis' Bostick does when you come back,
and let me know if you need me to help you any."
"Yes'm, Mother Mayberry," answered Eliza with a flash of pure joy
shining in her devoted little face when she found that she was not to
be supplanted in her attendance on her charges. "I was a-coming to see
you this morning anyway about the place Mr. Mosbey burned his finger
and I tied up last night. Please come on, Deacon!"
"And a little child shall lead them," said Mother Mayberry to
herself, as she watched the breakfast party down the road. Martin
Luther had come out from the table by this time and now trotted along
at the Deacon's heels like a replete and contented puppy. Ez held the
plate carefully and Billy seemed about sure of arriving at his
destination with at least half the bucket of cool water. "Yes, a
little childbut some children are borned with a full-growed heart."
And true to her promise Eliza appeared an hour or two later to hold
serious consultation over the blacksmithing finger down the Road.
"'Liza," said Mother Mayberry as she prepared a stall for the
finger and poured a cooling lotion in a small bottle for which the
child waited eagerly, "you are a-doing the right thing to take nice
things to Mis' Bostick and the Deacon and I'm proud of your being so
kind and thoughtful. Do they ever ask you where you bring 'em from?"
"I always tell 'em, Mother Mayberry. Deacon said I oughtn't to get
things from other folks to bring to 'em, but I told him that you and
Mis' Pratt and Mis' Mosbey and Mis' Peavey would be mad at me if I
just took things from Maw to 'em and slighted they cooking. I pick
out the best things everybody makes. Maw's light rolls, Mis' Pratt's
sunshine cake and cream potatoes, Cindy's chicken and Mis' Peavey for
baked hash. I took the custards from Miss Elinory to please her; but
Mis' Mosbey's is better. I wanted 'em to have the best they is on the
Road, 'cause they is old and they is our'n."
"Bless your dear little heart, the best they shall have always!"
exclaimed Mother Mayberry, as she hugged her small confrere close
against her side and wiped away a tear with a quick gesture. "Now you
can go fix up Nath Mosbey's finger to suit your mind, Sister Pike,"
she added with a laugh as she, bestowed the bottle.
The rest of the morning was filled to the minute for the Mayberry
household, which seemed possessed with a frenzy of polishing and
garnishing. After Cindy had done her worst with broom and mop, Mother
Mayberry with feather duster and cloth, Miss Wingate threw her
energies with abandon into the accomplishing of a most artistic scheme
of decoration. She set tall jars of white locust blossoms in the hall
which shone out mystically in the cool dusk. She mingled lilac and red
bud, cherry blossoms and narcissus and trailed long vines of
honeysuckle over every possible place.
"Dearie me," said Mother Mayberry, as she paused in her busy
manoeuvers to take in what Miss Wingate proudly declared to be the
completed effect, "everybody will think they have walked into a
flower show. I'm sorry I never thought of inviting in the outdoors to
any of my parties before. I wonder if some of the meek folks, that our
dear Lord told about being invited in from the byways and hedges,
mightn't a-brought some of the hedge blooms along into the feast with
'em. Thank you, child, the prettiness will feed everybody's eye, I
know, but you'd better run along and get to whipping on that custard
for they stomicks. This here is a Mission Circle, but it have got a
good knife and fork by-law to it. Make a plenty and if we feel well
disposed toward Tom Mayberry, come bedtime, we may feed him a half
And in accordance with time-honored custom the stroke of one found
the Providence matrons grouped along the Road and up Mother
Mayberry's front walk, in the act of assembling for the good work in
"Come in, everybody," exclaimed Mother Mayberry, as she welcomed
them from the front steps. "I'm mighty glad all are on time, for I
have got the best of things to tell, as I have been saving by the
hardest for three days. A woman holding back news is mighty like
root-beer, liable to pop the cork and foam over in spite of all."
"I'm mighty glad to hear something good," said Mrs. Peavey in a
doleful tone. "Looks like the world have got into astonishing misery.
Did you all read in the Bolivar Herald last week about that explode in
a mine in Delyware; a terrible flood in Lottisianny and the man that
killed his wife and six children in Kansas? I don't know what we're
a-coming to. I told Mr. Peavey and Buck this morning, but they ain't
either of 'em got any sympathy. They just went on talking about the
good trade Mr. Hoover made in hogs over to Springfield and the fine
clover stand they have got in the north field."
By this time the assembly had removed their hats, laid them on
Mother Mayberry's snowy bed and settled themselves in rocking-chairs
that had been collected from all over the house for the occasion. Gay
sewing bags had been produced and the armor of thimbles and scissors
had been buckled on. Mother Mayberry still stood in the center of the
room watching to see that all of her guests were comfortably seated.
"Them were mighty bad happenings, Mis' Peavey, and I know we all
feel for such trouble being sent on the Lord's people," said Mother
Mayberry seriously, though a smile quirked at the corners of the
Widow Pratt's pretty mouth and young Mrs. Nath Mosbey bent over to
hunt in her bag for an unnecessary spool of thread. Mrs. Peavey's
nature was of the genus kill-joy, and it was hard to steer her into
the peaceful waters of social enjoyment.
"I don't think any of that is as bad as three divorce cases I read
about in a town paper that Mr. Petway wrapped up some calico for me
in," answered Mrs. Peavey, continuing her lamentations over
conditions in general, which they all knew would get to be over
conditions in particular if something did not intervene to stop the
tide of her dissatisfaction.
"Divorces oughtn't to be allowed by the United States," answered
Mrs. Pike decidedly. "They are too many people in the world that
don't seem to be able to hitch up together, without letting folks
already geared roam loose again. But what's the news, Sister
Mayberry?" There came times when only Judy Pike's uncompromising veto
could lay Mrs. Peavey on the table.
"Well, what do you think! Tom Mayberry have got this Providence
Meeting-house Sewing Circle a good big sewing order from the United
States Government. Night drawers and aprons and chimeses and all
sorts of things and"
"Lands alive, Sister Mayberry, you must be outen your head!"
exclaimed Mrs. Peavey with her usual fear-the-worst manner. "What
earthly use can the United States Government have for night drawers
"Now, Hettie Ann, you didn't let me have my say out," remonstrated
Mother Mayberry as they all laughed merrily at Mrs. Peavey's
scandalized remonstrance. "They are for them poor misfortunates over
at Flat Rock what the Government have sent Tom down here to study
about, so he can find the bug that makes the disease and stop it from
spreading everywhere. While he's a-working with 'em he has to see that
they are provided for; and they condition are shameful. He wants
outfits for the women and children and Mr. Petway have the order to
buy the men's things down in the City for him. He's a-going to pay us
good prices for the work and it will mean a lot of money for the
carpet and the repair fund. A quarter apiece for the little night
drawers without feet to 'em is good money. He wanted to give us fifty
cents but I told him no, I wasn't a-going to cheat my own country for
no little child's night rigging. A quarter is fair to liberal, I say."
"That it is, Mis' Mayberry, and thank Doctor Tom, too, for giving
us the order," answered Widow Pratt heartily. "When can we begin? I'll
cut 'em all out at home, so as to save time, if you'll give me the
goods. I can cut children's clothes out with my eyes shut and sew 'em
with my left hand if needs be."
"Well, if all we hear be true, Bettie Pratt, it's a good thing it
comes easy to you. The sewing for seventeen might be a set-back to
any kind of co'ting, but seeing as you likes it so, why, maybe" Mrs.
Peavey paused and peered at the blushing widow with goading curiosity
in her keen eyes.
"Well, it hasn't been a bit to me and Mr. Hoover, Mis' Peavey," she
answered with dancing eyes and a lovely rose color mounting her
cheeks. "Looks like all the love we have got for each other's orphant
children have mixed itself up into a wedding cake for the family. I
had laid off to tell you all about it this afternoon, and here's a box
of peppermints Mr. Hoover sent everybody. He said to make you say
sweet things about him to me. Have one, Mis' Peavey, and pass the
With which a general laugh and buzz of inquiry went around with the
box of sweets provided by the wily widower.
"Well, we think we'll just build a long, covered porch acrost the
fronts of the two houses to connect 'em up," answered Mrs. Pratt to a
friendly inquiry about her future domestic arrangements.
"I know it will look sorter like a broke-in-two steamboat but I can
put the boys all over into one house and take the girls with me. We
can rent a room in the boys' house to Mr. Petway and he'll look after
them if need be, though 'Lias Hoover and my Henny Turner are getting
big, dependable boys already. I'm so glad the children match out in
pairs. I always did want twins and now I'm going to have eight pairs
and the baby over. I don't think I ever was so happy before." And
pretty Bettie fairly radiated lovingness from her big, motherly heart.
"Bettie Pratt, you are a regular Proverbs, last chapter and tenth
to thirtieth verse woman and your husband's heart is a-going to
'safely rejoice' in you," said Mother Mayberry as she beamed across
the little sleeve she was basting in an apron. "And this brings me to
the mention of another little Bible character we have a-running about
amongst us. It's 'Liza Pike, as should be called one of God's own
little ravens arid you all know why."
"Yes, we do, Sister Mayberry," spoke up Mrs. Mosbey quickly. "And
I've just caught on to her doings, and thankful I am to her for
letting in the light to us before it were too late maybe."
"Why, what have my child been a-doing to be spoke of this way?"
asked her mother with both pride and uneasiness in her tone, for
Eliza, as is the way of all geniuses, especially those of a
philanthropic turn of mind, was apt often to confront those
responsible for her with the unexpected.
"Just seeing what we was failing to notice, that Mis' Bostick and
the Deacon was in need of being tooken care of and, without a word to
anybody, starting out with a covered dish and a napkin to do the
providing for 'em. And in the right spirit, too, walking into each
kitchen and taking the best offen the stoveno left-over scraps in
her offering to the Lord, and she have gave a lesson to grown-ups. We
all love the old folks and was ready to do, but 'Liza have proved that
love must be mixed with a little gumption to make wheels go round. And
ain't she cute about it? She told the Deacon that she had to bring
something from everybody's kitchen or hurt all our feelings. They is a
way of putting what-oughter-be into words that makes it a truth, and
she did it that time." As she delivered her little homily on the
subject of the absent small Sister Pike, Mother Mayberry's face shone
with emotion and there was a mist in her eyes that also dimmed the
vision of some of the others.
"And the way of her," laughed the widow softly. "Told me yesterday
I didn't brown my hoe-cake enough on both sides for the Deacon's
greensthat Mis' Peavey's was better."
"Why, Mis' Pratt, 'Liza oughtn't to speak that way to you; it ain't
manners," her mother hastened to say as they all laughed, even the
misanthrope, who was much pleased over this public acknowledgment of
the superiority of her handiwork.
"Now, Judy honey, don't you say one word to 'Liza about that! She
have got the whole thing fixed up for us now, and it won't do to get
her conscious like in her management of the old folks. The thing for
us to do is to make our engagements for truck with her regular and
take her dictation always about what is sent. Keep it in her mind how
complimented we are to be let give to the Deacon and she'll manage
him, pride and all, in a sorter game. We'll make it a race with her
which pleases him. most. And now," Mother paused and looked from the
face of one hearty country woman to another with a wealth of affection
for each and every one, "let's don't none of us forget to take the
child up to the throne with us each night in the arms of prayer, as
one of His ministers!Well it's time for us to walk out to the
dining-room and see what kind of a set-out Cindy and Elinory have got
for us. Yes, Mis' Nath, did you ever see such a show of decorations?
She must a-kinder sensed the wedding in the air in compliment to you,
Bettie. Come in, one and all!"
And the cheerful company assembled around the hospitable Mayberry
board put into practice the knife and fork by-law of the Circle with
hearty good will. Cindy's austerity relaxed noticeably at the
compliments handed her in return for her offer of the various viands
she had prepared for their delectation, and Miss Wingate blushed and
beamed upon them all with the most rapturous delight when her efforts
met with like commendation. She had insisted on helping Cindy wait on
them and was such a very lovely young Hebe that they could scarcely
eat for looking at her.
"Sakes, Mis' Mayberry," said Mrs. Pike, who had unbent from her
reserve over her second cup of tea to a most remarkable degree, "it
were hard enough to ask Doctor Tom in to pot-luck with my chicken
dumplins, that he carries on over, a-knowing about what you and Cindy
could shake up in the kitchen, but with Miss Elinory's cooking added
I'm a-going to turn him away hungry next time."
"Oh, please don't!" exclaimed Miss Wingate. "Yours is the next
place he has promised to take me to supper. And Bud and Eliza have
both invited me."
"I'll set a day with him this very night," responded Mrs. Judy, all
undone with pride. Nothing in the world could have pleased the
hospitable country women more than the parties that Doctor Tom had
been improvising for the amusement of the singer girl. Before each
visit he openly and boldly made demands of each friend for her CHEF-
D'OEUVRE and consumed the same heartily and with delight in the
stranger's growing appetite.
"If you folks don't stop spoiling Tom Mayberry I won't never be
able to get him a wife. I'll have to take little Bettie to raise and
teach her how to bit and bridle him," laughed Mother Mayberry, as
they all rose and flocked to the front porch.
In the Road in front of the house had congregated the entire school
of small-fry, drawn by the mother lode, but too well trained to think
of making any kind of interruption to the gathering. They were busily
engaged in a tag and tally riot which was led on one side by Eliza and
the other by Henny Turner, whose generalship could hardly be said to
equal that of his younger and feminine opponent. Teether and little
Hoover sat in the Pike wheelbarrow which was drawn up beside the Pike
gate, and attached thereto by long gingham strings were Martin Luther
and little Bettie. They champed the gingham bits drawn through their
mouths and pranced with their little bare feet in the dust, as Eliza
found time every minute or two to call out "whoa" or cut at them with
a switch as she flashed past them. They were distinctly of the game
and were blissfully unconscious of the fact that they were not in it.
This arrangement for keeping them happy, though out of the way, had
been of Eliza's contriving and did credit to her wit in many senses of
At the appearance of their be-hatted parents on Mother Mayberry's
front walk they all swooped over and stood in a circle around the
gate. A mother who has many calls in the life-complicated to take her
out of reach of the children is different from a mother who is always
in the house, kitchen, garden or at a convenient neighbor's, and this
weekly three-hour separation occasionally had disastrous results.
"Have anything happened, 'Liza?" asked her mother, as she ran a
practised eye over her group and detected not a loose end. Eliza and
Bud had rolled over the wheelbarrow, led by the prancing team.
"No'm," answered Eliza, "everybody's been good and the Deacon have
told us three Bible tales, and my side have beat Henny's five catches
and one loose. But Henny played his'n good," she added, with a worthy
victor's generosity to the fallen foe.
"Here's a whole bucket of cakes Cindy and Miss Elinory made in case
we found a good passel of children when the meeting was over," said
Mother Mayberry as she tendered the crisp reward of merit to Bud
Pike, who stood nearest her.
"Thank you, ma'am," answered Bud, mindful of his manners. "Say,
'Liza, let's all go down and set on the pump and eat 'em, and we can
drink water, too, so they will last longer."
"All right," answered Eliza, and she set about unharnessing the
young team, who immediately scampered after the rest. She handed
little Hoover to Mrs. Pratt and was preparing to set off with Teether
in the wake of the cake bucket, when the widow called to her.
"'Liza, honey," she said, "here's some peppermints for you. They
wasn't enough to give some to all the children, but I want you to get
a bite, anyway."
"Thanky, ma'am, but I don't like the fresh air taste of 'em in my
mouth," answered Eliza. "But can you give me five of 'em? I want one
for Deacon and Mis' Bostick and I want one for Squire Tutt, 'cause he
do love peppermint so. He wouldn't take the medicine Mother Mayberry
fixes for him if she didn't put peppermint in it. He says so. He's
porely and have got his head all tied up in a shawl, 'cause prayer
meeting day Mis' Tutt sings hymns all the time and music gives him
misery in his ears. I want to give her one, too, and I want one for
"I'll save all in the box for you, sweetie," assented Mrs. Pratt
heartily. "Now run along, for you might get left out of that cake
"No, ma'am, I won't," answered Eliza with confidence; "they won't
begin till I get there. It wouldn't be fair." And she hurried down
the Road to where the group waited impatiently but loyally around the
"Ain't they all the Lord's blessings?" asked Mother Mayberry, as
she looked down the Road at the little swarm with tender pride in her
"That they are," answered the widow, with an echo of the pride in
her own rich voice, "and to think that pretty soon seventeen of 'em
will be mine!"
And it was an hour or two later that the old red sun had
reluctantly departed across the west meadows, just as a soft lady moon
rose languidly over Providence Nob. Providence suppers had all been
served, the day's news discussed with the men folk, jocularly eager
to get the drippings of excitement from the afternoon infair, and the
Road toddlers put to bed, when the soft-toned Meeting-house bell
droned out its call for the weekly prayer meeting. Very soon the Road
was in a gentle hum of conversation as the congregation issued from
their house doors and wended their way slowly toward the little
church, which, back from the Road in an old cedar glade, brooded over
its peaceful yard of graves. The men had all donned their coats and
exchanged field hats for stiff, uncomfortable, straight-brimmed straw,
and their wives still wore the Sewing Circle gala attire. The older
children walked decorously along, each group in wake of the heads of
their own family, though Buck Peavey had managed to annex himself to
the Hoover household.
"Well, I don't know just what to do with you all," said Mother
Mayberry, as she came out on the front porch, sedately bonneted, with
her Bible and hymn-book under her arm and fortified with a huge
palm-leaf fan. "It's my duty to make you both come with Cindy and me
to prayer meeting, but I don't hold with a body using they own duty
as a stick to fray out other folks with. I reckon I'll have to let
you two just set here on the steps and see if you can outshine the
moon in your talk, which you can't, but think you can."
"Oh, we'll come with you! I was just going to get my hat,"
exclaimed the singer lady as she rose from the steps upon which Doctor
Tom kept his seat and puffed a ring of his cigar smoke at his mother
"No, honey-bird, you've had a long day since your sun-up breakfast
and I'll excuse you. I'd LET Tom Mayberry go only I have to make him
stay to keep care of you. Put that lace fascination around your
throat if a breeze blows up! Tom, try to make out, with Elinory's
help, to bring a fresh bucket of water from the spring for the night.
Good-by, both of you; I'm a-going to bring you a blessing!"
"Yourself, mother," called the Doctor after her.
"Honey-fuzzle," called Mother back from the gate. "Better keep it,
son, you'll need it some day."
"Was there ever, ever anybody just like her?" asked Miss Wingate,
as she sank back on the step beside the Doctor.
"I think not," he answered with a hint of tenderness in his voice;
"but then, really, Mother is one of a type. A type one has to get
across a continent from Harpeth Hills to appreciate. She's the result
of the men and women who blazed the wilderness trail into Tennessee,
and she has Huguenot puritanism contending with cavalier graces of
spirit in her nature."
"Well, she's perfectly darling and the little town is just an
exquisite setting for her. Do you know what this soft moonlight
aspect of Providence reminds me of, with those tall poplars down the
Road and the wide-roofed houses and barns? The little village in
Lombardy wherewhere I metmy fate."
"Met your fate?" asked the Doctor quickly after a moment. His face
was in the shadow and not a note in his voice betrayed his anxiety.
"Yes," answered the singer lady in a dreamy, reminiscent voice. The
moon shone full down into her very lovely face, fell across her white
throat and shimmered into the faint rose folds of her dainty gown. Her
close, dark braids showed black against the fragrant wistaria vines
and her eyes were deep and velvety in the soft light. "Yes, it was the
summer I was eighteen and I had gone over with my father for a month
or two of recuperation for him after a long extra session of Congress.
Monsieur LaTour was staying in the little village, also recuperating.
He heard me singing to father, and that night my fate was sealed. It
was a wonderful thing to come to me and I was so young."
"Tell me about it," said the Doctor quietly, and his voice was
perfectly steady, though his heart pounded like mad and his cigar
shook in his fingers.
"My father died at the end of the summer, after only a few day's
illness, and he had grown to believe what LaTour said of my voice,
and to have great confidence in my future. I had no near relatives
and in his will he left me to Monsieur LaTour and Madame, his wife.
She is an American and her father had been in the Senate with father
for years. Monsieur is a very great teacher, perhaps the greatest
living. Madame wanted to come to Providence with me, but Doctor Stein
insisted that I come alone. II'm very glad she didn't, though they
both love me and await" She paused and leaned her flower head back
against the wistaria vine,
And the great breath that Doctor Thomas Mayberry of Providence drew
might have cracked the breast of a giant. In this world no record is
kept of the great moments when a private individual's universe
collides with his far star and of the crash that ensues.
"I rather thought you meant anotheranother kind of fate. I was
preparing for confidences," he managed to say in a very small voice
for so large a man.
"Mais, non, Monsieur, jamaisnever!" she exclaimed quickly. "II
have been tempted to think sometimes I might like that sortof a
fate, but I haven't had the time. It was work, work, sleep, eat, live
for the voice! Andand once or twice it has seemed worth while. My
debut night in Paris when I sang the Juliette waltz-song- just the
moment when I realized I could use it as I would and always more
volumeand the people! And again the night in New York when I had made
it incarnate Elizabeth as she sings to Tannhauserthe night it went
away." And as she spoke she dropped her head on her arms folded across
"Have you picked out the song you are going to sing first when it
comes back?" demanded the very young Doctor with a quick note of
tenderness in his voice, still under a marvelous control.
"Yes," she answered as she turned her head and peeped up at him
with shining eyes, a delicious little burr of a laugh in her throat,
"Rings on my fingers, bells on my toes, for Teether Pike. He is wild
about my humming it, and dances with his absurd, chubby little legs
at the first note. What will he do if I can really sing it? And I'll
sing Beulah Land for Cindy, and I'm sitting on the stile, Mary, for
your mother, perhaps, Oh, the kingdom of my heart for Buck, and Drink
to me only, for Squire Tutt, hymns for the Deaconand a paean for you,
if I have to order one from New York."
"Do you know," said the Doctor after a long pause in which he lit
his cigar and again began to puff rings out into the moonlight, "I'd
like to say that you areare aperfect wonder."
"You may," she answered with a laugh. Then suddenly she stretched
out her hand to him and, as he took it into his, she asked very
quietly with just the one word, "When?"
"In a few weeks, I hope," he answered her just as quietly,
comprehending her instantly.
"I'll be goodand wait," she answered him in a Hone of voice that
would have done credit to little Bettie Pratt. "Let's hurry and get
that bucket of water; don't you hear them singing the doxology?"
CHAPTER VI. THE PROVIDENCE TAG-GANG
"Miss Elinory, do you think getting married and such is ketching,
like the mumps and chickenpox?" asked Eliza Pike as she sat on the
steps at the daintily shod feet of the singer lady, who sat in Mother
Mayberry's large arm-chair, swinging herself and Teether slowly to and
fro, humming happily little vagrant airs that floated into her brain
on the wings of their own melody. Teether's large blue eyes looked
into hers with earnest rapture and his little head swayed on his
slender neck in harmony with her singing.
"Why, Eliza, I'm sure I don't know. Do you think so?" answered Miss
Wingate, as she smiled down into the large eyes raised to hers. The
heart-to-heart communions, which she and Eliza found opportunities to
hold, were a constant source of pleasure to Miss Wingate, and the
child's quaint little personality unfolded itself delightedly in the
sunshine of appreciation from this lady of her adoration.
"Yes'm, I believe I do. Mis' Pratt and Mr. Hoover started it, and
last night Mr. Petway walked home with Aunt Prissy and Maw set two
racking-chairs out on the front porch for 'em. Paw said he was more'n
glad to set in the back yard and smoke his pipe. Maw wouldn't put
Teether to bed, but rocked him in her lap 'cause he might wake up and
disturb 'em. She let me set up with her and Paw and he told tales on
the time he co'ted her. She said hush up, that co'ting was like mumps
and chickenpox and he was about to get a second spell. Does it make
you want a beau too, Miss Elinory?"
"Well," answered Miss Wingate slowly with a candor that would have
been vouched no other soul save the sympathetic Eliza, "it might be
"I thought you would like one," answered Eliza enthusiastically,
"and you know I had done picked out Doctor Tom for you, but since I
saw him dress up so good this morning and go to Bolivar to take the
train to the City and he got the letter from Miss Alford day before
yesterdaythat is, Aunt Prissy says Mr. Petway thinks it was from
herI reckon it won't be fair to get him for you, when she had him
first last summer. Oughtn't you to be fair about taking folk's beaux
just like taking they piece of cake or skipping rope?" Eliza was fast
developing a code of morals that bade fair to be both original and
"Yes," answered Miss Wingate with the utmost gravity and not a
little perturbation in her voice, "yes, of course. When did Doctor
"This morning before you came down-stairs. He give Mother Mayberry
some drops for Mis' Bostick and told me, too, how to give 'em to her.
Mother Mayberry is down there now and I'm a-going to stay with her
this afternoon. But I tell you what we can do, Miss Elinory, there is
Sam MosbeyI believe you can get him easy. He picked up a rose you
dropped when you went in the store to get your letters the other day,
and when Mr. Petway laughed he got red even in his ears. And just this
week he have bought a pair of pink suspenders, some sweet grease for
his hair and green striped socks. He'll look lovely when he gets fixed
up and I hope you will notice him some." Eliza spoke in the most
encouraging of tones of the improvement in appearance of the suitor
she was advocating, and was just about to continue her machinations by
further enthusiasm when, from down the road at the Bosticks, came
Mother Mayberry's voice calling her, and like a little killdee she
darted away to the aid of her confrere.
And for several long minutes Miss Wingate sat perfectly still and
looked across the meadow to the sky-line with intent eyes. Teether
was busily engaged in drawing by degrees his own pink toes up to his
rosy lips in an effort to get his foot into his mouth, an ambition
that sways most mortals from their seventh to tenth month. A thin
wraith of Miss Alford's personality had been drifting through the
singer lady's consciousness for some days, but she was positively
stunned at this sudden materialization. There come moments in the
lives of most women when they get glimpses into the undiscovered land
of their own hearts and are appalled thereby. Suddenly she hugged the
chuckling baby very close and began a rapid rocking to the humming
accompaniment of a rollicking street tune, a seemingly inexplicable
but perfectly natural proceeding.
"Well, I'd like to know which is the oldest, you or the baby,
honey- bird!" exclaimed Mother Mayberry as she came up the steps in
the midst of the frolic. "You and him a-giggling make music like a
nest full of young cat-birds. Did you ever notice how 'most any down-
heart will get up and go a-marching to a laugh tune? I needed just
them chuckles to set me up again." As she finished speaking Mother
Mayberry seated herself on the top step and Miss Wingate slipped down
beside her with the baby in her arms.
"What is the trouble this morning, Mrs. Mayberry?" she asked, as
she moved a little closer, so Teether could reach out and nozzle
against Mother Mayberry's shoulder. "Anybody sick?"
"No, not to say sick much," answered Mother, with a touch of
wistfulness in her gentle eyes, "but it looks like, day by day, I can
see Mis' Bostick slipping away from us, same as one of the white
garden lilies what on the third day just closes up its leaves when
you ain't looking and when you go back is gone."
"She isn't so old she can'tcan't recuperate when the lovely warm
days come to stay this summer, is she?" asked the singer lady with a
quick sympathy in her voice and eyes.
"No, she ain't so old as to die by old age, but what hurts me,
child, is that it is just her broke heart giving out. She have always
been quiet and gentle-smiling, but since the news of Will's running
off with that money came to Providence she have just been fading away.
A mother's heart don't break clean over a child, but gets a jagged
wound that won't often heal. When I think of her suffering it puts a
hitch in my enjoying of that Tom Mayberry." And Mother blinked away
the suspicion of a tear.
"But Mrs. Bostick and the Deacon both are so fond of Doctor
Mayberry that it must be a joy to have him such a comfort to them,"
said Miss Wingate softly, as she carried one of Teether's pink hands
to her lips.
"Yes, child, I know he is all that. Somehow, here in Providence, we
women have all tried to put some of our own sister love for one
another in our young folks. I hold that when the whole world have
learned to cut sister and brother deep enough into they children's
hearts, then His kingdom is a-going to come in about one generation
from them. Now there's a picture that goes on the page with my
remarks! Bettie sure do look pretty with that white sunbonnet on her
head, and count how many Turners, Pratts, Hoovers and Pikes she have
got trailing peacefully behind her, all like full-blood brothers and
sisters. I'm so glad she's a-bringing her sewing to set a spell. Come
in, Bettie, here's a rocker a-holding out arms to you!" Little Hoover
was as usual bobbing in Bettie's arms and he gurgled at the sight of
Teether Pike as if in joy at this encounter with his side partner and
when deposited upon the floor beside him made a brotherly grab at one
of young Pike's pink feet in the most manifest interest.
"Well, if this just ain't filling at the price," said the widow as
she settled herself in the rocker, and Mother Mayberry established
herself in one opposite, while Miss Wingate elected to remain on the
step by the babies. "I left Pattie over to my house helping Clara May
get a little weed-pulling outen 'Lias and Henny in my garden. Buck
Peavey have just passed by looking like the last of pea-time and the
first of frost. I do declare it were right down funny to see Pattie
toss her head at him, and them boys both giggled out loud. He ain't
spoke to Pattie for a week 'cause she sang outen Sam Mosbey's
hymn-book last Wednesday night at prayer meeting. He've got a long-
meter doxology face for sure."
"And he's a-suffering, too," answered Mother Mayberry with the
utmost sympathy in her placid face at the troubles of her favorite,
Buck, the lover. "To some folks love is a kinder inflammatory
rheumatism of the soul and a-deserving of pity."
A vision of a girl at a college commencement with her nose buried
in a pink peony, looking up and smiling, flashed across the
consciousness of the singer lady and she pressed her head between
little Hoover's chubby shoulders, and acknowledged herself a fit
subject for sympathy. To go and not even think of telling her good-
by was cruel, and a forlorn little sob stifled itself in the mite's
"Well, folks," broke in the widow's cheerful voice that somehow
reminded one of peaches and cream, "I come over to-day to get a
little help and encouragement about planning the wedding. I knowed
Miss Elinory would think it up stylish for me and Mis' Mayberry would
lend her head to help fitting notions to what can be did. Mr. Hoover's
clover hay will be laid by next week and he says they ain't nothing
more to keep us back. I've sewed up four bolts of light caliker, two
of domestic, one of blue jeans, and three of gingham into a trousseau
for us all to wear on the wedding trip, and Mr. Petway are a-going to
take measures and bring out new shoes and tasty hats all 'round, next
wagon, trip to town. I think we will make a nice genteel show."
"Are you-going to take everybody on the trip?" asked Miss Wingate,
roused out of her woe by the very idea of the tour in the company of
"That we are," responded the widow heartily, "but not all to onct.
We'll have to make two bites of the cherry. The day after the wedding
we are a-going to take the two-horse team, a trunk and the ten
youngest and go a-visiting over the Ridge at Mr. Hoover's brother's,
Mr. Biggers. We won't stay more'n a week and stop a day or two coming
back to see Andy and Carrie Louise. Then we'll drop the little ones
here on you neighbors and pick up the seven big ones, add Buck for a
compliment and go on down to the City for two days' high jinks. We're
going to take 'em up to the capitol and over the new bridge and we
hope to strike some kind of band music going on somewhere for 'em to
hear. We want a photygraft group of us all, too. We are going to put
up at the Teamsters' Hotel up on the Square and Mr. Hoover have got
party rates. He says he are a-going to get that seven town-broke
anyway, if it costs two acres of corn. Now won't we have a good time?"
The bright face of the prospective bride fairly radiated with joy at
the prospectMiss Wingate could but be sympathetically involved, and
Mother Mayberry beamed with delight at the plan.
"That'll be a junket that they won't never a one of 'em forget,
Bettie!" she exclaimed with approval. "They ain't nothing in the
world so educating as travel. And you can trust a country child to
see further and hear more than any other animal on earth. I wouldn't
trust Tom to go to town now without coming back pop-eyed over the
ottermobiles," and Mother Mayberry laughed at her own fling at the
sophisticated young Doctor. Another dart of agony entered the soul of
the singer lady and this time the vision of the girl and the peony was
placed in a big, red motor-carwhy red she didn't know, except the
intensity of her feelings seemed to call for that color. She was his
patient and courtesy at least demanded that he should tell her of his
intended absence. What could
"Well, to come out with the truth," Mrs. Pratt was going on to say
by the time Miss Wingate brought herself to the point of listening
again, "it's just the wedding itself that have gave me all these
squeems. Why, Mis' Mayberry, how on earth are we a-going to parade
all the seventeen into the Meeting-house without getting the whole
congregation into a regular giggle? I don't care, 'cause I know the
neighbors wouldn't give us a mean laugh, but I can see Mr. Hoover
have got the whole seventeen sticking in his craw at the thought, and
I'm downright sorry for him."
"Yes, Bettie, men have got sensitive gullets when it comes to
swollering a joke on theyselves," said Mother Mayberry, as she joined
in the widow's merry laugh at the plight of the embarrassed widower.
"Looks like when we all can trust Mr. Hoover to be so good and kind to
you and your children, after he have done waded into the marrying of
you, we oughter find some way to save his feelings from being
mortified. Can't you hatch out a idea, Elinory?"
"Oh, yes, I know, I know just what to doit came to me in a flash!"
exclaimed the singer lady with pink-cheeked enthusiasm over the
inspiration that had risen from the depths at the call of Mrs. Pratt
and brought her up to the surface of life with it for a moment
anyway. "I saw a wedding once in rural England. All the children in
the village in a double line along the path to the church, each with
baskets of flowers from which they threw posies in front of the bride
as she came by them! Let's get all the children together and mix them
up and let them stand along the walk to the church door. It will just
make a beautiful picture with nono thought ofof who belongs to
anybody. Everybody from Pattie and Buck down to little Bettie and
Martin Luther! Won't it be lovely? I can show them just how to march,
down the road with their baskets in their arms, and Mrs. Pratt, you
can come from your house with the Deacon and Mr. Hoover can come out
of the back of the storewithwith, who is going to be his groomsman?"
"Lawsy me, I hadn't thought of that," answered the widow. "I'll
tell you, Mr. Pratt's brother is coming over from Bolivar to the
wedding, and as he is a-going to be a kinder relation in law by two
marriages with Mr. Hoover, I think it would be nice to ask him."
"Eryes," assented the singer lady, controlling a desire to smile
at this mix-up of the bride's present and past relations to life.
"The little girls ought to have white dresses and the boyswell, what
could the little boys wear?" Miss Wingate felt reasonably sure that
white dresses for all the feminine youth of Providence would be
forthcoming, but she hesitated at suggesting a costume for the small
"Yes, all the little girls have got white dresses and ribbons and
fixings, but dressing up a herd of boys is another thing," answered
Mother Mayberry. "If just blue jeans britches could be made to do we
might make out to get the top of them rigged out in a white shirt
apiece; couldn't we, Bettie?"
"That we can," answered the bride heartily. "Give me a good day at
the sewing-machine, with somebody to cut and somebody to baste, and I
will get 'em all turned out by sundown. But they feet! Mis' Mayberry,
could we get Jem into shoes, do you reckon? About how many bad stumped
toes is they in Providence now?"
"Well," answered Mother Mayberry reflectively, "I don't know about
but two, but we can ask 'Liza Pike. Thank you for your plan, honey-
bird, and we're a-going to put it through so as to be a credit to
you. Children are sorter going out of style these days and I'm proud
to make a show of our'n. Women's leaving babies outen they
calculations is kinder like cutting buds offen the tree of life, and
I'm glad no sech fashion have struck Harpeth Hills yet."
"Now, ain't that the truth?" exclaimed the Widow Pratt. "Sometimes
when I read some of the truck about what women have took a notion to
turn out and do in the world, I get right skeered about what are a-
going to happen to the babies and men in the time to come."
"Don't worry about 'em, Bettie," laughed Mother Mayberry, with a
quizzical sparkle in her eyes. "Even when women have got that right
to march in the front rank with the men and carry some of the flags,
that they are a-contending for, they'll always be some foolish enough
to lag behind with babies on they breasts, a string of children
following and with always a snack in her pocket to feed the broke down
front-rankers, men or women. You'll find most Providence women in that
tag-gang, I'm thinking; but let's do our part in whooping on the other
sisters that have got wrongs to right."
"I suppose the world really has done women injustice in lots of
ways," said the singer lady plaintively, for she had very lately, for
the first time in her life, felt the sit-still-and-hold-your-
hands-while-he-rides-away grind, and it had struck in deep.
"Yes, I suppose so," answered Mother Mayberry, as she picked up
little Hoover, who was nodding like a top-heavy petunia in a breeze,
and stretched him across her lap for a nap. "But as long as she have
got the spanking of man sprouts from they one to ten years she
oughter make out to get in a vote to suit herself, as time comes
along, especially if she have picked her husband right."
"Sheshe can'tcan't pick her husband," hazarded the singer lady
"Yes, she can, honey-child," answered Mother Mayberry comfortably.
"The smile in her eye and the switch of her skirts is a woman's
borned-vote, and she can elect herself wife to any man she cares to
use 'em on. But what about the collation, Bettie? Everybody is going
to help you with the cooking and fixings, and let's have a never-
forget supper this onct."
"That we are," answered Mrs. Pratt emphatically. "Mr. Hoover says
no hand-around, stand-around for him; he wants a regular laid table
with a knife and fork set-down to it. He says we are a-going to feed
our friends liberal, if it takes three acres of timothy hay to do it,
and he's about right. We'll begin thinking about that and deciding
what the first of the week. But I must be a-going to see that the
dinner horn blows in time. I want to get my sparagrasses extra tender,
for 'Liza have notified me that she is going to stop by to-day with
the covered dish, and I want to fill it tasty for her. Come visiting
soon, Miss Elinory, for I've got something to show you that are too
foolish to speak about to Mis' Mayberry." And the widow gave a
delicious little giggle as she lifted the sleeping baby from Mother
Mayberry's lap and started down the steps.
"Dearie me, Bettie," answered Mother with a laugh, "don't you know
that poking up a woman's curiosity is mighty apt to start a yaller
jacket to buzzing? I'll be by your house sometime before sundown
"Some women's ship of life is a steamboat that stops to take on
passengers at every landing. Bettie's are one of them kind, and
she'll tie up with 'em all in glory when the time comes," remarked
Mother Mayberry as she watched the sturdy widow swing away down the
Road with the baby asleep over her shoulder.
Just at this moment, Cindy found occasion to summon Mother Mayberry
to the chicken yard on account of a dispute that had arisen between
old Dominick and one of the ungallant roosters that had resulted in
an injury to one of the small fry, which lay pitifully cheeping on
the back steps. Dominick, with every feather awry, was holding
command of the bowl of corn-meal while her family feasted, and the
Plymouth rooster stood at a respectful distance with a weather eye on
both the determined mother and Cindy's broom. Retribution in the form
of Mother Mayberry descended upon him swiftly and certainly, and he
lost no time in seeking seclusion under the barn.
And by the time order and peace were restored to the barn-yard,
Mother came in to dinner and spent an hour in interested hen-lore
with the singer lady, who was really fond of hearing about the
feathered families when she saw how her interest in them pleased Mrs.
Mayberry. The subject of the Doctor, his absence and the probable time
of his return was not mentioned by his mother, and for the life of her
Miss Wingate could not muster the courage for a single question. She
felt utterly unable to stand even the most mild eulogy on the
peony-girl and was glad that nothing occurred to turn the conversation
in that direction. She was silent for the most part, and most
assiduous in her attentions to Martin Luther, whose rapidly filling
outlines were making him into a chubby edition of the Raphaelite
angel. Martin had landed in the garden of the gods and was making the
most of the golden days. He bore his order of American boyhood with
jaunty grace, and the curl had assumed a rampant air in place of the
"Martin, do you want me to wash your face and hands and come go
visiting with me?" asked the singer lady, as she stood on the front
steps and watched Mother Mayberry depart in her old buggy on the way
to visit a patient over the Nob. A long, lonely afternoon was more
than she could face just now, and she felt certain that distraction,
if not amusement, could be found in a number of places along the
"Thank, ma'am, please," answered Martin Luther, who still clung to
the formula that he had found to be a perfectly good open sesame to
most of the pleasant things of life, when used as he knew how to use
So, taking her rose-garden hat in one hand and Martin Luther's
chubby fist in the other, Miss Wingate started down Providence Road
for a series of afternoon calls, at the fashionable hour of one-
thirty. She was just passing by Mrs. Peavey's gate with no earthly
thought of going in when she beheld the disconsolate Buck stretched
full length on the grass under a tree, which was screened by a large
syringa bush from the front windows of the maternal residence. A hoe
rested languidly beside him, and it was a plain case of farm hookey.
"Oh, Miss Elinory," called his mother from the side steps, "did
Mis' Mayberry hear about that fire down in town that burned up two
firemen, a police and a woman?" At the sound of his mother's strident
voice, Buck curled up in a tight knot and with a despairing glance
rolled under the bush.
"I don't know, Mrs. Peavey, but I'll tell her," Miss Wingate called
back as she prepared to hasten on for fear Mrs. Peavey would come to
the gate for further parley, and thus discover the exhausted culprit.
"And a man tooken pisen on account of a bank's failing in
Louisville," she added in a still shriller tone, which just did carry
across the distance to Mrs. Pike's front door, through which Miss
Wingate was disappearing. Her prompt flight had saved the day for the
disconsolate lover, who cautiously rolled from under the bush again
and went on with his interrupted nap.
She found Mrs. Pike and Miss Prissy at home, and spent a really
delightful hour in speculating and unfolding possible plans for the
Pratt-Hoover nuptials. Miss Prissy blushed and giggled at an
elephantine attempt at badinage that her sister-in-law directed at
her on the subject of Mr. Petway, and after a while Miss Wingate went
on her way, in a manner comforted by their wholesome merriment. She
hesitated at the front gate of the Tutt residence, but the sight of
the Squire pottering around in a diminutive garden at the side of the
house decided her to enter, for Squire Tutt held the charm for her
that a still-fused fire-cracker holds for a small boy.
"I ain't well at all," he exploded, in answer to her polite
question, asked in the meekest of voices. "Don't you set up to marry
Tom Mayberry, girl, if you don't wanter get a numbskull. Told me to
eat a passel of raw green stuff for my liver, like I was a head of
cattle. I'll die if I follow him. Everybody he doctors'll die. Snake
bite is the only thing he knows how to cure, and snakes don't crawl
until the last of the month. Don't marry him, I say, don't marry
And it took Miss Wingate several minutes after her hurried adieus
to get over the effect of the Squire's inhibitory caution. But the
haven for which she had been instinctively aiming was just across the
Road, and she found a peace and quiet which sank into her perturbed
soul like a benediction. The Deacon sat by Mrs. Bostick's bed with his
Bible across his thin old knees, and Eliza was crouched on the floor
just in front of him, with her knees in her embrace and her eyes fixed
on his gentle face. Little Bettie Pratt lay across Mrs. Bostick's bed,
deep in her afternoon nap, and Henny Turner was stretched out full
length on the floor in front of the window, while 'Lias sat with his
back against the wall with the puppy in his arms. The pale face of the
sweet invalid was lit by a gentle smile, and she held one of the
sleeping child's warm little hands in her frail, knotted, old fingers.
Unnoticed, Miss Wingate and Martin Luther paused a moment at the door.
"Golly, Deacon, but didn't he do him up at one shot, and nothing
but a little piece of rock in the gum-sling!" exclaimed 'Lias in
excitement over the climax of the tale the Deacon had just completed.
"I wisht I was that strong!"
"It was the strength the Lord gived to him, 'Lias Hoover, to
special kill the giant with," said Eliza in an argumentative tone of
voice. "Do you reckon He tooken the strength away from David the next
morning, Deacon, or let him keep it to use all the time?" Eliza's
extreme practicality showed at all times, even in those of deepest
The Deacon was saved the strain of intellect involved in making
reply to this demand by his wife's low exclamation of pleasure as she
caught sight of the girl and the tot in the doorway. She smiled softly
as the singer lady seated herself on the side of the bed and took both
her hand and that of the sleeping baby in a firm, young one. A
peculiar bond of sympathy had arisen between the girl and the gentle
old invalid, both fighting pain and anxiety. Mrs. Bostick would lie
for hours drinking in tales of Miss Wingate's travels in the world,
which she had timidly but eagerly asked for from the beginning of
their friendship. The girl knew that the anxious mother-heart vas
using her descriptions to fare forth on quests for the wanderer into
the wide world beyond the Harpeth Hills, that had all her life bounded
her horizon, and she sat by her long hours, leading the way into the
uttermost parts. After a fatherly greeting, the Deacon departed with
the children to his bench under the trees and left the two alone for
their talk, and the long shadows were stretched across the Road and
the sun sinking beyond the Ridge before the singer lady wended her way
dejectedly home with the play- wearied Martin Luther trailing beside
her. She found Mother Mayberry, much to her relieved astonishment,
placidly rocking in her accustomed place, with her palm-leaf ruffling
the water-waves and a fresh lawn tie blowing in the breeze.
"Come in, honey-hearts," she said eagerly, with bright tenderness
shining in her face for the girl and the barefoot young pilgrim; "I
have been setting here a-missing you both for a hour. With you and my
young mission boy both gone I'm like an old hawk-robbed hen. I knew
you was with Mis' Bostick, and I didn't come for you 'cause somehow
them rocking-chair-bed travels you and her take seems to comfort her.
I wouldn't interrupt one of 'em for the world, though I was getting
plumb lonesome. I was even a-hankering after that Tom Mayberry what I
left not over two hours ago."
"Has the Doctor come back from the City this soon?" demanded the
singer lady, with a queer thump in her cardiac region that almost
smothered her voice.
"Well now, to tell the truth, Tom Mayberry haven't been to no
City," answered his mother with a chuckle as she looked at Miss
Wingate over Martin Luther's head on her shoulder where he had buried
it with a demand for "milk, milk, thank ma'am, please." "I don't think
he wants you to know what he have been having happen to him, but I
can't keep from telling you 'cause I'm tickled clean to my funny
bone. Dave Hanks come over here at daylight wanting a doctor quick,
and I had a cramp in my leg what I forgot to tie a yarn string around
before I went to bed, so I had to let Tom hurry on over there 'count
of the push they was in. Then I got to studying it over and while I
knewed how Tom had had a lot of practice in such things in a hospital,
I thought it was just as well to let him get a little Harpeth
experience along that line and sorter prove his character to Squire
Tutt and the rest. About dinner time, though, I got sorry for him and
hitched up and went over there to see how they was a-getting along,
without telling you or Cindy anything about it. And what did I find?
That Tom Mayberry and Dave Hanks out on the back porch, Dave taking a
drink outen a bottle and Tom with two babies wrapped up in a shawl
showing 'em to a neighbor woman, proud as a peacock over 'em. He most
dropped 'em when he seen me and I promised not to tell you about it at
all, but if you coulder seen him!" And the tried and proven young
AEsculapius' mother fairly rolled in her chair with mirth at the
"Oh," gasped the singer girl, as she sank weakly down upon the top
step and leaned her head against the convenient post. "It was awful-
-II" she caught herself quickly in the expression of the intensity
of her relief.
"No, it wasn't awful," answered Mother Mayberry, fortunately losing
the trend of the exclamation. "They are mighty sweet little babies,
both girls. The joke is mostly on me getting uneasy and following Tom
up. When I pick out his wife, I must be sure and see she are a girl
what don't worry none about what he is up to. A trouble-hunting wife
is a rock sinker to any man, but around a doctor's neck she'll finish
him quick. Don't let on to the shame-faced thing when he comes! He
asked me what you'd been a-doing all day, and I told him I thought
maybe you had a few custards in your mind for him to-night when he
gets back from Flat Rock. Don't you want to beat up some with Cindy's
help? And they is a bunch of pink peonies he sent you from Mis' Hank's
bushes, sticking in a bucket on the back porch. Pin one in your hair
to sorter compliment him after all the trouble he have had this day,
CHAPTER VII. PRETTY BETTIE'S WEDDING
And even old Dame Nature of Harpeth Hills aroused herself for the
occasion and took in hand the wedding day of pretty Bettie Pratt on
Providence Road. In the dark hours before dawn she spread a light
film of clouds over the stars, from which she first puffed a stiff
dust-cleansing breeze and then proceeded to sprinkle a good washing
shower which took away the last trace of wear and tear of the past
hot days, so by the time she brought the sun out for a final shine
up, the village looked like it had been having a most professional
laundering. And after an hour or two of his warm encouragement, the
roses lifted their buds and began to blow out with joyous exuberance.
Mother Mayberry's red-musks tumbled over the wall almost on to the
head of Mrs. Peavey's yellow-cluster, and Judy Pike's pink-cabbage
fairly flung blossoms and buds over into the Road. The widow's own
moss-damask nodded and beckoned hospitably to Mrs. Tutt's Maryland
tea, and Pattie Hoover's Maiden's Blush mingled its sweetness with
that of the dainty white-cluster that climbed around Mrs. Bostick's
window. A haunting perfume from the new-mown clover fields drifted
over it all and the glistening silver poplar leaves danced in the
"Was they ever such a day before!" exclaimed Mother Mayberry as she
stood on the front steps with the singer lady, who was as blooming
herself as any rose on the Road. "And everything is well along
towards ready when it's turned twelve. The children have all been
washed from skin out and just need a last polish-off. I've put 'em
all on honor not to get dirty again and I think every shoe will be on
by marching time."
"The baskets and the tubs of roses are in the milk house, and I
will arrange them at the last minute so they won't wilt," answered
Miss Wingate with enthusiasm that matched Mother Mayberry's. "Do you
suppose there is anything I can do to help anybody anywhere? I never
was so excited before."
"I don't believe they is a loose end to tie up on the Road, child.
Even Bettie herself have finished for the day and have gone over to
set a quiet hour with Mis' Bostack. Clothes is all laid out on beds,
and cold lunch snacks put on kitchen tables. They ain't to be a
dinner cooked on the Road this day 'cept what 'Liza and Cindy are a-
stewing up for the Deacon and Mis' Bostick. Looks like everything is
on greased wheels, andbut there comes the child running now! I do
hope they haven't nothing flew the track."
"Mother Mayberry, please ma'am, tell me what to do about Mis'
Tutt!" Eliza exclaimed with anxiety spread all over her little face,
which was given a comic cast by a row of red flannel rags around her
head over which were rolled prospective curls, due to float out for
the festivities. "She says she won't go to the wedding 'cause it's
prayer meeting night, and it were a sin to put off the Lord's meeting
'till to-morrow night. I didn't know she were a-going to do this way!
I got out her dress for her yesterday. The Squire is so mad he says
tell Doctor Tom to come do something for him quick and not to bring no
hot water kettle neither."
"Dearie me," said Mother Mayberry with mild exasperation in her
voice. "You run along, 'Liza, and don't you worry with Mis' Tutt.
I'll come down there tereckly and see if I can't kinder persuade her
some. Go around there and give that message to Doctor Tom yourself. I
don't take no stock in such doctoring as he does to the Squire these
"Isn't it too bad for Mrs. Tutt to feel that way and miss the
wedding?" asked Miss Wingate with a trace of the same exasperation in
her voice that had sounded in Mother Mayberry's tones.
"It are that," answered Mother regretfully. "Looks like religion
oughter be tooken as a cooling draft to the soul and not stuck on
life like a fly blister. But I think we can kinder fix Mis' Tutt
some. And that reminds me, I want you to undertake a job of using a
little persuading on Tom Mayberry for me. He have got the most lovely
long tail coat, gray britches, gray vest and high silk hat up in his
press, and he says he are a-going to wear his blue Sunday clothes same
as usual, when I asked him careless like about it this morning. I'm
fair dying to behold him just onct in them good clothes he wears out
in the big world and thinks Providence people will make fun of him to
see, but I wouldn't ask him outright to put 'em on for me, not for
"Do you know, Mrs. Mayberry, you reallyreally flirt with the
Doctor?" laughed Miss Wingate as she rubbed her delicate little nose
against Mother Mayberry's shoulder with Teether Pike's exact nozzling
"Well, it's a affair that have been a-going on since the first time
I laid eyes on Ugly, and they ain't nothing ever a-going to stop it
'lessen his wife objects," answered Mother Mayberry as she glanced
down quizzically at the face against her shoulder.
"She's sure toto adore it," answered the singer lady as she buried
her head in Mother's tie so only the rosy back of her neck showed.
"Yes, I think she will understand," answered the Doctor's mother
with a sweet note in her rich voice as she bestowed a little hug on
the slender body pressed close to hers. "You see, child, the tie
twixt a woman and her own man-child ain't like anything on earth, and
I feel it must hold between Mary and her Son in Heaven. I felt it pull
close like steel when mine weren't fifteen minutes old, and it won't
die when I do neither. And that Tom Mayberry are so serious that
a-flirting with him gets him sorter on his blind side and works to a
finish. Can't you try to help me out about that coat and the silk
"Yes," answered Miss Wingate with a dimpling smile, "I'll try. I'll
ask him what I shall wear and then maybemaybe"
"That's the very idea, honey-bird!" exclaimed Mother Mayberry
delightedly. "Tell him you are a-going to put on your best bib and
tucker and it'll start the notion in him to keep you company. If a
woman can just make a man believe his vanity are proper pride, he
will prance along like the trick horse in a circus. Now s'pose you
kinder saunter round careless like to"
"Mis' Mayberry," came in a doleful voice over the wall near the
porch, and Mrs. Peavey's mournful face appeared, framed in the lilac
bushes. "I've just been reading the Tuesday Bolivar Herald, and
Bettie Pratt's own first husband's sister-in-law's child died last
week out in Californy, where she moved when she married the second
time. I hate to tell Bettie and have the wedding stopped, but I feel
it are my duty not to let her pay no disrespect to her Turner
children by having a wedding with some of they law-kin in trouble."
"Well, Hettie Ann, I don't believe I'd tell her, for as bad as that
would be on the Turner children, think how much the Pratts and
Hoovers would lose in pleasure, so as they are the majority, it's
only fair they should rule." Mother Mayberry had for a moment stood
aghast at the idea of the misanthrope's descent upon happy Bettie
with even this long distance shadow to cast across her joy, but
dealing with her neighbor for years had sharpened her wits and she
knew that a sense of fair play was one of Mrs. Peavey's redeeming
traits that could always be counted upon.
"Yes, I reckon that are so," she answered grudgingly. "Then we'll
have to keep the bad news to tell her when she gets back from the
trip. Did you know that spangled Wyandotte hen have deserted all them
little chickens and is a-laying again out in the weeds behind the
barn? Told you them foreign poultry wasn't no good," with which she
disappeared behind the top stone of the wall.
"Poor Spangles! she carried them chickens a week longer than could
be expected and now don't get no credit for it," said Mother
Mayberry, as the singer lady gave vent to the giggle she had been
suppressing for a good many minutes. "Now run on, sweet child, and
use them beguilements on Tom for me, while I go try to rub some
liniment on Mis' Tutt's conscience. Fill up Martin Luther sometime
soon, will you?"
And in accordance with directions, after a few minutes spent before
Mother Mayberry's old-fashioned mirror in tucking three very perfect
red-musk buds in the belt of her white linen gown, the singer lady
descended upon the unwitting victim, in the north wing and began the
machinations according to promise. Doctor Mayberry, unfortunately for
him, showed extravagant signs of delight at the very sight of the
enemy, for it was almost the first voluntary visit she had ever paid
him, and thus he gave her the advantage to start with.
"You aren't busy, are you?" she asked as she glanced around the
book-lined room and into the laboratory beyond. "This is only a
semi-professional consultation. Could I stay just a few minutes?" and
the lift of her dark lashes from her eyes was most effectively unfair.
As she spoke she settled herself in his chair, while he leaned against
the table looking down upon her with a very shy delight in his gray
eyes and a very decided color in his tan cheeks.
"As long as you will," he answered. "I never can prescribe from a
hurried consultation. It always takes several hours for me to locate
anything. I'm very slow, you know."
"Why, I rather thought you treated your patients withwith very
little time spent in consultation," a remark which she, herself, knew
to be a dastardly manoeuver. "You attended to Squire Tutt's trouble in
a very few minutes, it seems," she hastened to add, as she glanced at
a flask that lay on the corner of the table.
"The Squire's trouble is chronic, and simply calls for refilled
prescriptions," he laughed, his generosity giving over the retort
that was his due. "I somehow think this matter of yours will prove
obscure and will call for time."
"It's a wedding dress I want you to prescribe for me," she hazarded
a bit too hurriedly, for before she could catch up with her own words
he had flashed her an answer.
"That depends!" was the victim's most skilful parry.
"Would you wear a white embroidery and lace or a rose batiste? A
rose hat and parasol go with the batiste, but the white is perfectly
delicious. You haven't seen either one, so I want you to choose by
guess." Only the slightest rose signal in her cheeks showed that she
had been pricked by his quick thrust. She had taken one of the damask
buds from her belt and was daintily nibbling at the folded leaves.
Over it, her eyes dared him to follow up his advantage.
"I don't knowI'll have to think about it," he answered her, weakly
capitulating, but still on guard. "If I choose one for to-day, when
will you wear the other? Soon?" he bargained for his forbearance.
"Whenever you want me to if you'd like to see it," she answered
with what he ought to have known was dangerous meekness. "What are you
going to wear?" she asked, putting the direct question with disarming
"Blue serge Sunday-go-to-meetings," he answered carelessly, as if
it were a matter to be dismissed with the statement. "Let's seesay
them over againwhite dress, pink parasol, rose hat, how did they
"Once, not long ago, I was in your room with Mrs. Mayberry hunting
for the kittens the yellow cat had hidden in the house, and I caught
a glimpse of a most beautiful frock coatit made me feel partyfied
then, and I thought of the rose gown I have never worn andand" she
paused to let that much sink in well. "I thought I would ask you," she
ended in a pensive tone, as she kept her eyes fixed on the rose
"You don't have to ask me thingsjust tell me!" he answered with an
exquisite hint of something in his voice which he quickly controlled.
"The frock coat let it beand shall we say the rose gown? Then the
high gods protect Providence when it beholds!" he added with a laugh.
"Oh, will you really?" she asked, overwhelmed with the ease with
which the battle had been won.
"I will," he answered, "only don't let Mother tease me, please!"
At which pathetically ingenuous demand the conquering singer lady
tossed him the rose and laughed long and merrily.
"You and your Mother are perfect" she was observing with delighted
dimples, when Mother Mayberry herself stood in the doorway with
well-concealed eagerness as to the outcome of the mission, in her
"Well," she observed with a laugh, "I'm glad to see somebody that
has time to stand-around, set-around, passing the news of the day.
Did you all know that Bettie Pratt were a-going to get married in
about two hours and a half?"
"We did," answered her son as he drew her a chair close to that of
Miss Wingate. "We were just discussing in what garb we could best
grace the occasion. Did you succeed in getting Mrs. Tutt to change
her mind about honoring the festivities?"
"Oh, yes, she just wanted to be persuaded some. It's a mighty
dried- up mind that can't leaf out in a change onct in a while, and
it's mostly men folks that take a notion, then petrify to stone in it.
But you all oughter see what is a-going on down the Road."
"What?" they both demanded of her at the same second.
"It's that 'Liza Pike again. Just as soon as that child hatches a
idea, the whole town takes to helping her feather it out. She got
Mis' Bostick's bed moved to the front window, and then found that
Nath Mosbey's fence kept her from seeing the Road where the
procession are a-going into the Meeting-house yard. But that didn't
down her none at all, for when I left she had Nath and Buck and Mr.
Petway a-knocking down the two panels of fence, and leaving Mis'
Bostick a clean sweep of view, Did you ever?" and mother Mayberry
chuckled over the small sister's triumph over what to the rest of
Providence would have seemed an insurmountable obstacle.
"It's just like her, the darling!" exclaimed the singer lady
"And she have got the Deacon all tucked out until he is a sight to
behold. She have made Mis' Peavey starch his white tie until it sets
out on both sides like cat whiskers, and have pinned a bokay on his
coat 'most as big as the bride's. Then she have reached his forelock
up on his head so he looks like Martin Luther, and she have got him
a-settin' down, so as not to get out of gear none. Mis' Bostick is
a-wearing a little white rose pinned on her night-gown, and they is
honeysuckle trailed all over the bed. But here am I a-chavering with
you all, with time a-flying and no chance of putting salt on her tail
this day. Please, Tom Mayberry, go down to the store and buy a
nickel's worth of starch, and it's none of your business how I want
to use it. I'm gaing to look a surprise for you myself, before
"Well, how did you get along with him, honeybird?" she asked
eagerly, as they ascended the front steps together, while the Doctor
strode down the Road on his errand.
"Beautifully!" exclaimed the singer lady with enthusiasm and the
very faintest of blushes.
"I thought so from his looks," answered the beguiled young Doctor's
wily mother. "A man always do have that satisfied martyr-smile when
he thinks he are doing something just to please a woman. Now, honey-
child, you ain't got nothing to do but frill out your own sweet self;
and make a job of it while you are about it." With which command
Mother Mayberry dismissed Miss Wingate up the stairs to her
And it is safe to say that no two such teeming hours ever fleeted
their seconds away on Providence Road as did those ensuing. The whole
village buzzed and bumbled and swarmed in and out from house to house
like a colony of clover-drunken bees on an August afternoon. Laughter
floated on the air and mingled with banter and song, while the aroma
of flesh pots and fine spices drifted from huge waiters being
hurriedly carried from down and up the Road and into the Pratt gate.
The wedding supper was being laid on improvised tables in Bettie's
side yard, with Judy Pike in command, seconded by Mrs. Peavey with her
skirts tucked up out of possible harm and her mind on the outlook for
any possible disaster, from the wilting of the jelly mold to a sad
streak in the bride's cake, baked by the bride herself with perfectly
Then on the heels of the excitement came a quiet half-hour devoted
to the completing of all toilets behind closed family doors. A shrill
squeal issuing now and then from an open window told its tale of
tortures being undergone, and a smothered masculine ejaculation added
a like testimony.
At exactly a quarter to five, Miss Wingate issued from her room
after a completely satisfactory seance with her mirror, and from the
front steps looked down in dismay upon a scene of rebellion, that
threatened at any moment to become one of riot.
On the grass beside the porch stood a group of little girls all
starched, frilled, curled and beribboned until they resembled a large
bouquet of cabbage roses themselves. Each one clasped carefully a
gaily decorated basket filled with roses, and from each and every pair
of eyes there danced sparks of rage, aimed at a huddled company of
small boys who were returning their indignation by sullen scorn mixed
with determination in their polished, freckled faces. Half way between
each group stood Eliza Pike, a glorified Eliza, from a halo of curls
to brand new small shoes. She had evidently been carrying on a losing
series of negotiations, for her usually sanguine face had an
expression of utter hopelessness, tinged with some of the others'
"Miss Elinory," she exclaimed as the singer lady came to the edge
of the porch, "I don't know what to make of the boys, they never did
this way before!"
"Why, what is the matter?" asked Miss Wingate, something of Eliza's
panic communicating itself to her own face and voice.
The boys all suddenly found interest in their own feet or the
cracks in the pavement, so Eliza as usual became the spokesman for the
"They say they just won't carry baskets of flowers, because it
makes them look silly like girls. They will march with us if you make
'em do it, but they won't carry no baskets for nobody. I don't want
Mis' Pratt to find out how they is a-acting, for three of 'em are hers
and five Hoovers, and it is they own wedding." Eliza's voice almost
became a wail in which Miss Wingate felt inclined to join.
At this juncture, Martin Luther took it upon himself to create a
further diversion and to add fuel to the flame. By a mistake, and
through a determination to follow instructions, he had clung to
little Bettie's hand, and when she picked up one of the tiny baskets
provided for the two tots, so had he, and thus he found himself
humiliatingly equipped and on the wrong side of the yard and
question. Disengaging himself from the wide-eyed Bettie, he marched
to the center of the middle ground and cast the despised basket upon
"No girlBOY, thank ma'am, please!" he announced with a defiant
glance at the singer lady up from under the rampant curl, and that he
did not fail in his usual shibboleth of courtesy was due to his
habitual use of it, rather than a desire to soften the effect of his
Miss Wingate sank down upon the steps in helpless dismay, and tears
began to drop from Eliza's eyes, when Mother Mayberry appeared upon
the scene of action, stiff and rustling as to black silk gown, capped
with a cobweb of lace over the water-waves and most imposing as to
"Now what's all these conniptions about?" she demanded, and eyed
the boys with an expression of reserving judgment that did her credit,
for a forlorn and surly sight they presented.
And again Eliza stated the case of the culprits in brief and not
"Well, well," said Mother Mayberry, and a most delicious laugh fell
on the overcharged air and in itself began to clear the atmosphere,
"so you empty-handed, cross-faced boys think you look more stylisher
for the wedding than the girls look, do you?"
"No'm, we never said that," answered young Bud with a grin coaxing
at his wide mouth. "We just don't want to carry no baskets. Buck said
he wouldn't, and Sam Mosbey said they had oughter tie a sash around
the middle of all of us for a show. We think the girls look fine," and
he cast an uneasy glance at his sister,
"Well, seeing as you came down as far as to pass a compliment on
'em, I reckon the girls will have to forgive you for talking about
them that way. I am willing to ask Miss Elinory here to give you each
a little bunch of roses to carry in your hand instead of a basket, and
to let you walk along beside the girls, though nobody will look at you
anyway or know you are there. Is that a bargain and is everybody ready
to step into line?"
And almost instantly there was a relieved and amicable settling of
the difficulties, a sorting of bunches from the despised baskets, and
a quick line-up.
"Now start on down! Don't you hear Miss Prissy playing the organ
for you?" exclaimed Mother Mayberry from the steps. "Billy, lift up
your feet, and Henny, you throw the first rose just where Miss Elinory
told you to. Everybody watch Henny and throw a flower whenever he
does. Aim them at the ground and not at each other or the company.
We'll be just behind you. Now, Martin Luther, take Bettie by the hand
and don't go too fast!"
"A little fun poked at the right time will settle most man
conniptions," she added, in an aside to the relieved and admiring
singer lady, as they prepared to follow in the wake of the bridal
And among all the weddings over all the land, that fill to a joyous
overflowing almost every hour of the month of June, none could have
been more lovely or happier than that of pretty Bettie Pratt, and the
embarrassed but adoring Mr. Hoover on Providence Road. The train of
solemn, wide-eyed little flower bearers was received by the wedding
guests, who were assembled around the Meeting-house door, with a
positive wave of rapture and no hint of the previous hurricane of
rebellion showed in their rosy, cherubic countenances. They separated
at the designated point and according to instructions took their stand
along the side of the walk from the gate to the steps. Billy stepped
high, roly-poly little Bettie steered Martin Luther into place and
Eliza had the joy of catching a glimpse of the pale face across the
store-yard, peering out of the window with the greatest interest.
Then from the Pratt home, directly across the Road, came the Deacon
and Bettie, and the enthusiasm at this point boiled up and ran over
in a perfect foam of joy. And, indeed, the pair made a picture
deserving of every thrill, Bettie in her dove gray muslin and the
Deacon bedight according to Eliza's expert opinion of good form. He
beamed like a gentle old cherub himself, while she giggled and
blushed and nodded to the children as she stepped over the rain of
roses, on up to the very door itself. Immediately following the
children, the congregation filed in and settled itself for the long
prayer, that the Deacon always used to open such solemn occasions.
The singer lady found herself seated between Mother Mayberry and
the Doctor on the end of the pew, and out of the corner of her eye she
essayed a view of his magnificence, but caught him in the act of
making the same pass in her direction. They both blushed, and her
smile was wickedly tantalizing, though she kept her eyes fixed on the
Deacon's face as he began to read the words of the service in his
sweet old voice, with its note of tender affection for the pair of
friends for whom he read them. And she never knew why she didn't
realize it or why she thought of permitting it, but as the impressive
words enfolded the pair at the altar, one of her own small hands was
gently possessed in a warm, strong one, and tightly clasped. For
moments the pair of hands rested on the bench between them, hid by a
filmy fold of the rose gown. There was just nothing to be done about
it that the singer lady could see, so she let matters rest as they
were and gave her attention to trying to keep the riot in her own
heart in reasonable bounds. However, it might have been a comfort to
her to know that across the church, Buck had captured five of Pattie's
sunburned fingers, and Mr. Petway was sitting so close to Miss Prissy
that Mr. Pike came very near being irreverent enough to nudge the
devout Judy. Then what a glorious time followed the solemn minutes in
the church! The very twilight fell upon the entire wedding party still
feasting and rejoicing, and it was under the light of the early stars
that the guests had to wend their way home. Mother Mayberry was
surrounded by a court of small boys, each one eager for her words of
commendation on their more than exemplary conduct and she smiled and
joked them as they escorted her to her door-step. Cindy had gone on
ahead and a light shone from the kitchen window, which was answered by
flashes all along and across the Road as the various households
settled down to the business of recovering sufficient equilibrium to
begin the conduct of the ordinary affairs of daily life at the morrow
"Sit down here on the steps just a minute," pleaded the Doctor with
trepidation in his voice, for the rose lady had found the strength of
mind to reprove him for their conduct in church by ignoring him
utterly at the wedding feast, even going to the point of partaking of
her supper in the overwhelmed company of Sam Mosbey, who not for the
life of him could have told from whence came the courage to ask for
such a compliment, and the result of which had been to send him back
later to the table in a half-famished condition; he not having been
able to feast the eyes and the inner man at the same time.
"Can I trust you?" she demanded of the Doctor in a very small and
"If that is a conditionyes," he reluctantly consented, as he
looked up at her in the starlight.
"Thank youyou were very grand," she said after she had settled
herself in what she decided to be an uncompromising distance from
him. "You really graced the occasion."
"Miss Wingate," he said slowly, and he turned his head so that only
his profile showed against the dusk of the wistaria vine, "you
wouldn't really be cruel to a country boy with his heart on his
sleeve and only his pride to protect it, would you?"
"I suppose it was unkind, for he was so hungry and couldn't seem to
eat at all; but I saw Mrs. Pike giving him a glorious supper later,
so please don't worry over him." Which answer was delivered in a meek
tone of voice that it was difficult to hold to its ingenuous note.
The Doctor ignored this feint and went on with the most exquisite
gentleness in his lovely voice that somehow brought her heart into
her throat, and without knowing it she edged an inch or two closer to
him and her hand made an involuntary movement toward his that rested
on the step near her, but which she managed to stop in time. "You
realize, do you not, dear lady, that your friendliness toto us all,
commands my intensest loyalty? You'll just promise to remember always
that I do understand and go on being happy with us, won't youus
country folks of Providence Road?" The note of pride in his voice was
struck with no uncertain sound.
"Oh, but it's you that don'tdon't" the singer lady was about to
commit herself most dreadfully by her exclamation in the low dove
notes that alone had no trace of the disastrous burr, when Mother
Mayberry stepped out of the hall door and came and seated herself
"Well, of course, I know the Bible do say that they won't be no
marriage or giving in marriage in the hereafter, but I do declare we
all might miss such infairs as these, even in Heaven," she observed
jovially. "Didn't everybody look nice and act nice? Course it was
just country doings to you, honey-bird, but I know you enjoyed it
some even if it were." Like all sympathetic natures Mother Mayberry
fell with ease into the current of any thought, and the young Doctor
reached out and took her hand into his with quick appreciation of the
"It was so very lovely that it made memade me want" the daring
with which the singer lady had begun her defiant remark gave out in
the middle and she had to let it trail weakly.
"Well, I hope it made Mr. Petway want Prissy bad enough to ask her,
along about moon-up," said Mother Mayberry in a practical tone of
voice. "Seems like I hear they voices; and if he IS over there I
don't see how he can get out of co'ting some. It's just in the air
to-nightand WE'D better all be a-going to bed so as to get up early
to start off. Tom Mayberry, seems to me as I remember it, you looked
much less plain favored to-day than common. Did you have on some new
clothes? And ain't you a-going to pass a compliment on Elinory and me,
both with new frocks wored to please you?"
The Doctor laughed and as they all rose together he still held his
mother's hand in his and instead of an answer he bent and kissed it
with a most distinctly foreign-acquired grace.
"That's honey-fuzzle again, Tom Mayberry, if not in words, in
acts," she exclaimed with a delighted laugh. "But pass it along to
Elinory if only to keep her from feeling lonesome. Let him kiss your
hand, child, he ain't nothing but a country bumpkin that can't talk
complimentary to save his life. Now, go get your bucket of water,
sonny, and don't let in the cat!"
CHAPTER VIII. THE NEST ON PROVIDENCE
"Why, honey-bird; troubles ain't nothing but tight, ugly little
buds the Lord are a-going to flower out for us all, in His good time;
maybe not until in His kingdom. I hold that fact in my heart always,"
said Mother Mayberry as she looked down over her glasses at the singer
lady sitting on the top step at her feet.
"I know you do," answered Miss Wingate with a new huskiness rather
than the burr in her voice, which made Mother look at her quickly
before she drew another thread through her needle. "But I was just
thinking about Mrs. Bostick and wishingoh! I wish we could in some
way bring her son back to her before it is too late. Yesterday
afternoon when I started home she drew me down and asked me if when-
-when I went out into the world again I would look for him and help
him. Is there nothing that can be done about it?"
"I reckon not, child," answered Mother Mayberry gently. "If Will
was to come back now it would be just to tear up her heart some more.
Last night, when I was a-settling of her for bed, I began to talk
about the other five children she have buried under God's green
grass, each in a different county, as they moved from place to place.
I just collected them little graves together and tried to fill her
heart with 'em, and when I left she was asleep with a smile on her
face I ain't seen for a year. It's as I saya buried baby are a
trouble bud that's a-going to flower out in eternity for a woman. I'll
find a lone blossom and she a little bunch. I'm praying in my heart
that Will's a stunted plant that'll bloom late, but in time to be
sheathed in with the rest. But bless your sweet feeling- heart, child,
and let's keep the smile on our faces for her comfort! Woman must bend
and not break under a sorrow load. Take some of them calcanthuses to
her when you go down for one of them foreign junkets and ask her to
tell you about them little folks of her'n. Start her on the little
girl that favored the Deacon and cut off all his forelock with the
scissors while he were asleep, so he 'most made the congregation over
at Twin Creeks disgrace theyselves with laughing at his shorn plight
the next Sunday. I've got to turn around 'fore sundown for I've got
'most a day's work to straighten out the hen house and settle the
ruckus about nests. The whole sisterhood of 'em have tooken a notion
to lay in the same barrel and have to be persuaded some. Now run on so
as to be back as early as you can before Tom comes." And as Mother
Mayberry spoke, she began to gather together her sewing, preparatory
to a sally into the world of her feathered folk.
But before she had watched the singer lady out of sight down the
Road, with her spray of brown blossoms in her one hand and her garden
hat in the other, she espied young Eliza rapidly approaching from up
the Road and there was excitement in every movement of her slim,
little body and in every swish of her short calico skirts, as well as
in the way her long pigtail swung out behind.
"Mother Mayberry," she exclaimed, as she sank breathless on the top
step, "they is a awful thing happened! Aunt Prissy was 'most
disgraced 'bout a box of soap and Bud and 'Lias and Henny might have
got killed and Buck too, because he sent one to Pattie and wrote what
was on the card. I've been so scared I am in the trembles now, but you
said always pray to the Lord and I did it while I was a- running down
to the store to beg Mr. Petway not to make her jump off from Bee Rock
on the Nob like the lady Mis' Peavey read about in the paper did
because the man wouldn't marry her that she was in love with. Fast as
I were a-running I reckon the Lord made out what I said and beat me to
him and told him"
"'Liza, 'Liza, honey, stop this minute and tell me what you are a-
talking about," demanded Mother Mayberry, with almost as much
excitement in her voice as was trembling in that of the small talking
machine at her feet. "Now begin at the beginning and tell me just what
is the matter with your Aunt Prissy?"
"Nothing now," answered Eliza, taking a fresh breath, "she's
a-going to marry Mr. Petway, only she won't know it until to-night and
I've promised him not to tell her."
"What?" was all that Mother Mayberry managed to demand from the
depths of her astonishment as she sank back in her rocking-chair and
regarded Eliza with positive awe.
"Yes'um, and it were all about them two beautiful boxes of sweet-
smelling soap that he bought in town and have had in the store window
for a week. Buck bought one to send to Pattie for a birthday present
and he wrote, 'When this you see, remember me,' on a card and put it
in the box. I carried it over to her for him and Mr. Hoover jest
laughed, and said Buck meant Pattie didn't keep her face clean. But
Mis' Hoover hugged Pattie and whispered something to her and told Mr.
Hoover to shut up and go see how many children he could get to come in
and be washed up for dinner. Buck was a-waiting for me around the
corner of the store and when I told him how pleased Mis' Hoover and
Pattie were, he"
"But wait a minute, 'Liza," interrupted Mother Mayberry with a
laugh, "them love jinks twixt Buck and Pattie is most interesting,
but I'm waiting to hear about your Aunt Prissy and Mr. Petway. It's
liable to be serious when two folks as old as they isbut go on with
your tale, honey."
"Well, Buck wrote two of them beautiful 'Remember me' verses on
nice pieces of white paper, in them curlycues the Deacon taught him,
before he got one to suit him and he left one on the counter, right
by the cheese box. While we was gone, along come 'Lias and Bud and
Henny and disgraced Aunt Prissy."
"Why, what did them scamps do?" demanded Mother Mayberry, looking
over her glasses in some perturbation as the end of the involved
narration began to dawn upon her.
"They tooken the other box of soap outen the window and put the
verse in it and carried it down to Aunt Prissy and told her Mr.
Petway sent it to her. It was a joke they said, but they was good and
skeered. I got home then and I seen her and Maw laughing about it and
Aunt Prissy was just as pink and pleased and loving looking as Pattie
were and Maw was a-joking of her like Mis' Prattno, Hooverdid Pattie
and all of a sudden I knewed it were them bad boys, 'cause I seen 'em
laughing in a way I knows is badness. Oh, then I was so skeered I
couldn't swoller something in my throat 'cause I thought maybe Aunt
Prissy would jump offen Bee Rock when she found she were so disgraced
with Mr. Petway. I woulder done it myself, for I got right red in my
own face thinking about it." And the blush that was a dawn of the
eternal feminine again rose to the little bud-woman's face.
"It were awful, Eliza child, and I don't blame you for being
mortified over it," said Mother Mayberry with a quick appreciation of
the wound inflicted on the delicacy of the child, and the tale began
to assume serious proportions in her mind as she thought of the
probable result to the incipient affair between the elderly lovers
that had been a subject of prayful hope to her for some time past.
"What did you do?"
"I prayed," answered Eliza in a perfectly practical tone of voice,
"and as I prayed I ran to Mr. Petway as fast as I could. He was
filling molasses cans at the barrel when I got there and they wasn't
nobody in the store, only I seen Bud and Henny peeping from behind
the blacksmith shop and they was right white, they was so skeered by
that time. Then I told him all about it and begged him to let Aunt
Prissy have the box of soap and think he sent it, so her feelings
wouldn't get hurted. I told him I would give him my seventy-five
cents from picking peas to pay for it and that Aunt Prissy cried so
when her feelings was hurted, and she thought so much of him that she
kept her frizzes rolled up all day when she hoped he might be coming
that night to see her and got Maw to bake tea-cakes to pass him out on
the front porch and he MIGHT let her have just that one little box of
"What did he say, child?" asked Mother Mayberry in a voice that was
positively weak from anxiety and suppressed mirth at Eliza's own
account of her management of the outraged lover.
"He didn't say a thing, but he sat down on a cracker box and just
hugged me and laughed until he cried all over my dress and I hugged
back and laughed too, but I didn't know what at. Then he told me that
he didn't ever want Aunt Prissy to know about them bad boys' foolish
joke 'cause he wanted to marry Aunt Prissy and didn't want her to find
out that three young scallawags had to begin his co'ting for him."
"Did he say all that to you, 'Liza honey, are you sure?" asked
Mother Mayberry, beginning to beam with delight at the outcome of the
"Yes'm, he did, and I went out and brought Bud and 'Lias and Henny
in and he talked to 'em serious until 'Lias cried and Bud got choked
trying not to. Then he give them all a bottle of soda pop and they
ain't never anybody a-going to tell anybody else about it. He made
them boys cross they hearts and bodies not to. I didn't cross mine
'cause I knew I had to tell you, but I do it now." And Eliza stood up
and solemnly made the mystic sign, thus locking the barn door of her
secret chambers after having quartered the troublesome steed of
confidence on the ranges of Mother Mayberry's conscience.
"Well, 'Liza, a secret oughter always be wrapped up tight and
dropped down the well inside a person, and suppose you and me do it
to this one. And, child, I want to tell you that you did the right
thing all along this line, and it were the Heavenly Father you asked
to help you out that put the right notion in your heart of what to
"Yes'm, I believe He did, and He got hold of Mr. Petway some too,
to make him kind about wanting to marry Aunt Prissy. He are a-going to
ask her to-night and I promised to keep Paw outen the way for him,
'cause Paw WILL get away from Maw and come talk crops with him
sometimes on the front porch. May I go out to the kitchen and get
Cindy to make a little chicken soup for Mis' Bostick now? I can't get
her to eat much to-day."
"Yes, and welcome, Sister Pike," answered Mother Mayberry heartily,
and she shook with laughter as the end of the blue calico skirt
disappeared in the hall. "The little raven have actually begun to
sprout cupid wings," she said to herself as she went around the
corner of the house toward the Doctor's office. "Co'ting are a
bombshell that explodes in the big Road of life and look out who it
hits," she further observed to herself as she paused to train up a
shoot of the rambler over the office door.
The Doctor had just come from over the Ridge, put up his horse and
made his way through the kitchen and hall into his office where he
found his Mother sitting in his chair by the table. He smiled in a
dejected way and seated himself opposite her, leaned his elbows on
the table and dropped his chin into his hands.
"Now, what's your trouble, Tom Mayberry?" demanded his Mother, as
she gazed across at him with anxiety and tenderness striving in
glance and tone. "You've been a-going around like a dropped-wing
young rooster with a touch of malaria for a week. If it's just moon-
gaps you can keep 'em and welcome, but if it's trouble, I claim my
"I meant to tell you to-day, Mother," he answered slowly. After a
moment's silence he looked up and said steadily, "I've failed with
Miss Wingateand I'm too much of a coward to tell her. I feel sure
now that she'll never be able to use her voice any more than she can
in the speaking tones and sheshe will never sing again." As he spoke
he buried his face in his hands and his arms shook the table they
For a moment Mother Mayberry sat perfectly still and from the
whispered words on her lips her son knew she was praying. "The Lord's
will be done," she said at last in her deep, quiet voice, and she laid
one of her strong hands on her son's arm. "Tell me about it, Tom. You
ain't done no operation yet."
"Yes, Mother, I have," he answered quietly. "All the different
laryngeal treatments she had tried under the greatest specialists.
Her one hope was to be built up to the point of standing a bloodless
operation with the galvanic shock. I have tried three times in the
last week to release the muscles and start life in the nerves that
control the vocal chords. In the two other cases with which I have
succeeded the response was immediate after the first operation. Now I
dare not risk another tear of the muscles. One reason I didn't tell
her is that I had to count on her losing the fear that she wouldn't
gain the control. You know she thinks they have been only preliminary
treatments and you have heard her laugh as I held her white throat in
my hands. She believes completely in the outcome. God, to think I have
"Yes, Tom, He knowsand Mother understands," his Mother answered
"And she must be told right away," said the Doctor as he rose and
walked to the window. "It is only fair. Shall I or you tell her?
Choose, Mother, what will be best for her! But can she stand it?"
"Son," said his Mother, as she also rose and stood facing him with
the late afternoon sun falling straight into her face which, lit by
the light without and a fire within, shone with a wonderful radiance.
"Son, don't you know these old Harpeth Hills have looked down in they
day on many a woman open her arms, take a burden to her heart and
start on a long journey up to the Master's everlasting hills?
Sometimes it have been disgrace, or a lifelong loneliness, or her man
hunted out into the night by the law. I have laid still-born children
into my sisters' arms, and I've washed the blood from the wounds in
women's murdered sons, but I ain't never seen no woman deny her Lord
yet and I don't look to see this little sister of my heart refuse her
cup. I'll tell her, for it's my partbut Tom Mayberry, see that you
stand to her when your time comes, as it surely will."
"Don't you know, Mother, that I would lay down my life to do the
least thing for her?" he asked, with the suffering drawing his young
face into stern, hard lines. "But to do the one thing for her I might
have done has been denied me," he added bitterly.
"No, Tom, there's one thing left to you to give her. Sympathy is
God's box of precious ointment and see that you break yours over her
heart this day. Now, I'm a-going down Providence Road to meet her and
I know the Lord will help me to the right words when the time comes. I
leave His blessing with you, boy!" And she turned and left him with
his softened eyes looking up into her calm face.
Then for a long hour Mother Mayberry worked quietly among her
dependent feather folk and as she worked, her gentle face had its
brooding mother-look and her lips moved as she comforted and
fortified herself with snatches of prayer for the journey through the
deep waters, on which she was to lead this child of her affection.
After the last tangle had been straightened out, each brood settled in
comfortable quarters and the cause of all quarrels arbitrated, she
walked to the front gate and stood looking down the Road.
And up from the Deacon's house came a little procession that made
her smile with a sob clutching at her heart. The singer lady had
taken Teether from the arms of his mother, who stood happily
exchanging the topics of the times with the Hoover bride, who had not
had thus far sufficient opportunity to expatiate on quite all the
adventures of the wedding journey and kept on hand still a small store
of happenings to recount to her sympathetic neighbors as they found
time and opportunity. The rosy rollicking youngster she had perched on
her shoulder and held him steadily thus exalted by his pair of sturdy,
milk-fed legs. Martin Luther, as usual, clung to her skirts, Susie
Pike danced on before her and the Deacon was walking slowly along at
her side, carefully carrying the rose-garden of a hat in both his
hands. He was looking up at her with his gentle face abeam with
pleasure and Mother Mayberry could hear, as they came near, that she
was humming to him as he lined out some quaint, early-church words to
her. It was a never failing source of delight to the old patriarch to
have her thus fit motives from the world's great music to the old,
"Sister Mayberry," he exclaimed with exultation in his old face, "I
never thought to hear in this world these words of my brother,
Charles Wesley, sung to such heavenly strains as my young sister has
put them this day. Never before, I feel, have they had fit rendition.
While I line the verse, sing them again to Sister Mayberry, child,
that her ears may be rejoiced with mine." And Mother Mayberry caught
at the top of the gate as the girl slipped the nodding baby down into
her arms and in her wonderful muted voice hummed the Grail motif while
the Deacon raised his thin old hands and lined out the
"Hail, holy, holy, holy Lord, Whom one in three we know"
on through its verses to its final invocation of the
"Supreme, essential One, adored In co-eternal Three."
"The Lord bless you, child, and make His sun to shine upon you," he
said as the last note died away, while Teether chuckled and nozzled
at Mother Mayberry's shoulder. "I must go on back to sit with Mrs.
Bostick and will deposit this treasure with Sister Mayberry," he
added with a smile as he handed the bouquet-hat over the gate.
"Susie, can't you take Teether over to your Aunt Prissy and tell
her that Mother says please give him his milk right away, for it's
past time, and she will come in a few minutes?" asked the singer lady,
as she handed the reluctant baby to the small girl at her side.
"Milk, thank ma'am, please," demanded Martin Luther quickly, having
no intention of being left out of any lactic deal.
"Run ask Cindy," answered Mother Mayberry, as she started him up
the front walk, and came on more slowly with Miss Wingate at her side.
In her soul she was realizing fully the influence the lovely woman
had thrown over the hearts of the simple Providence folk and the
greatness of her own nature was making her understand something of
the loss to those of the outer world whom the great singer would be
no longer able to call within the spell of her wonderful voice.
"Honey-bird," she said gently, as she drew the girl to the end of
the porch where the wistaria vine, a whispering maple and the crimson
rambler shut them in from the eyes of all the world save the spirit of
Providence Nob, which brooded down over them in a wisp of cloud across
its sun-reddened top, "here's the place and time and heart strength to
tell you that your Lord have laid the hand of affliction on you heavy
and have tooken back from you the beautiful voice He gave you to use
for a time. I'm a-praying for you to be able to say His will be done."
For one instant the singer woman went white to the eyes and swayed
back against the vine, then she asked huskily, "Did HE say so?"
"Yes," answered the Doctor's mother gently with her deep eyes
looking into the girl's very soul. "Them treatments was operations
and they is all he dares to make for fear of your losing the speaking
voice what you have got so beautiful. If they is any love and pity in
my heart after I have stopped giving it to you I'm going to pour some
out on Tom Mayberry, for when a man's got to look sorrow in the eyes
he goes blind and don't know what way to turn, lessen a woman leads
him. But he ain't neither here or there and"
"Where is he?" demanded Miss Wingate in her soft dove notes as she
looked the tragedy-stricken young Doctor's mother straight in the
face, with her dark eyes completely unveiling her heart, woman to
woman. "II want HIM!"
"What's left of him is in the office, and you are welcome to the
pieces," answered his Mother, a comprehensive joy rising above the
sorrow in her eyes. "I reckon I can trust him with you, but if you
need any help, call me," she added, as the singer girl fled down the
steps and around to the office wing.
And they neither one of them ever knew how it really happened,
though she insisted on accusing herself and he claimed always the
entire blame, but he had been sitting where his Mother had left him
for an hour or more with his face in his hands when he suddenly found
himself clasped in soft arms and his eyes pressed close against a bare
white throat and a most wonderful dove voice was murmuring happy,
comforting little words that fell down like jewels into his very heart
of hearts. And his own strong arms held very close a palpitating,
cajoling, flower of a woman, who was wooing for smiles and dimpling
"I don't care, I don't, and please don't you!" she pleaded with her
lips against his black forelock.
"I can't help caring! The one thing I asked of all my years of hard
work was to give the music back to you" and again he buried his face
in the soft lace at her throat.
"You say, do you, that I'll never sing again?" she asked quickly,
and as she spoke she lifted his head in her hands and waited an
instant for the smothered groan with which he answered her.
"Now, listen," she answered him in a voice fairly a-tremble with
joyous passion and as she spoke she laid his ear close over her heart
and held him so an instant. "Does it matter that only you will ever
hear the song, dear?" she whispered, then slipped out of his arms and
across to the other side of the table before he could detain her.
"No, Tom Mayberry," she said as he reached for her, and her tone
was so positive that he stopped with his arms in the air and let them
sink slowly to his side. "We'll have this question out right here and
if I have trouble with you I'llcall your Mother," and she laughed as
she shook away a tear.
"Please!" he pleaded and his face was both so radiant and so worn
that she had to harden her heart against him to be able to hold
herself in hand for what she wanted to say to him.
"No," she answered determinedly, "and you must listen to every word
I say, for I am getting frightened already and may have to stop."
"I want to talk some myself," he said with the very first smile
coming into his grave young eyes. "I want to tell you that I can't
help loving you, and have ever since I first saw you, but that it
won't do at all for you to marrymarry a Providence country bumpkin
with nothing but a doctoring head on his shoulders. I want you to
"Please don't refuse me this way before I've ever asked you," she
said with a trace of the grand dame hauteur in her manner and voice
that he had never seen before. "I thinkI think very suddenly I have
come to realize, Doctor Mayberry, thatthatoh, I'm very frightened,
but I must say it! I wouldn't blame you or your Mother for not wanting
me at all. II somehow, I don't seem very greator real to myself here
in Providence. My training has been all to one enduseless nowand I'm
all unlessoned and unlearned in the real things of life. I seem to
feel that the hot theaters and the crowds that have looked at me
andam I what she has a right to demand in your wife?" And, with a
proud little gesture, she laid her case in his hands.
And though she had not expected anything dramatic from him in the
way of refutation of her speech, she was totally unprepared for the
wonderful, absolute silence that met her heroics. He stood and looked
her full in the eyes with a calm radiance in his face that reminded
her of the dawn-light she had seen that morning come over Providence
Nob and his deep smile gave a young prophet look to his austere mouth.
And as she gazed at him she drew timidly nearer, even around the
corner of the table.
"Your work is so wonderfuland realand you ought to have a wife
who" By this time she had got much nearer and her voice trailed off
into uncertainty. And still he stood perfectly still and looked at
"She loves me and I love her, so that, do you think, I mightI
might learn? Cindy says I'm a wonderand remember the custards," she
finished from somewhere in the region of his collar. "Now that we've
both refused each other do you suppose we can go on and be happy?" she
laughed softly from under his chin.
And the young Doctor held her very close and never answered a word
she said. The strain on him had been very great and he was more
shaken than he wanted her to see. But from the depths of her heart
she understood and pressed closer to him as she gave him a long
silence in which to recover himself. Twilight was coming in the
windows and a fragrant night breeze was ruffling her hair against his
cheek before she stirred in his arms.
"We've got to askto ask Mother beforebefore," she was venturing
to suggest in the smallest of voices in which was both mirth and
tenderness, when a low laugh answered her from the doorway.
"Oh, no you don't," said Mother Mayberry, as she beamed upon them
with the most manifest joy. "I had done picked you out before you had
been here more'n a week, honey-bird. You can have him and welcome if
you can put up with him. He's like Mis' Peavey always says of her own
jam; 'Plenty of it such as it is and good enough what they is of it.'
A real slow-horse love can be rid far and long at a steady gate. He
ain't pretty, but middling smart." And the handsome young Doctor's
mother eyed him with a well-assumed tolerance covering her positive
"Are you sure, sure you're not disappointed aboutabout that peony-
girl?" demanded the singer lady, as she came into the circle of
Mother Mayberry's arm and nozzled her little nose under the white
"Le'me see," answered Mother Mayberry in a puzzled tone of voice.
"I seem to understand you, but not to know what you are talking
"The girl to whom he gave the graduating bouquet with Mrs. Peavey's
peony in it," she whispered, but not so low that the Doctor, who had
come over and put a long arm around them both, couldn't hear.
"Well," answered Mother Mayberry in a judicial tone of voice as she
bestowed a quizzical glance on the Doctor, who blushed to the roots
of his hair at this revelation of the fact of his Mother's indulgence
in personal reminiscence, "I reckon Miss Alford'll be mighty
disappointed to lose him, but I don't know nothing about her riz
biscuits. Happiness and good cooking lie like peas in a pod in a man's
life and I reckon I'll have to give Tom Mayberry, prize, to you."
"Mother!" exclaimed the Doctor.
"Thank you," murmured Miss Wingate with a wicked glance at him from
his Mother's shoulder that brought a hurried embrace down upon them
"Children," said Mother Mayberry, as she suddenly reached put her
strong arms and took them both close to her breast, "looks like the
Lord sometimes hatches out two birds in far apart nests just to give
'em wing-strength to fly acrost river and hill to find each other.
You both kinder wandered foreign some 'fore you sighted one another,
but now you can begin to build your own nest right away, and I offers
my heart as a bush on Providence Nob to put it in."
CHAPTER IX. THE LITTLE HARPETH
WOMAN OF MANY SORROWS
"This here are a curious spell of weather," remarked Mother
Mayberry, as she paused beside the singer lady who was holding Martin
Luther up on the broad window-sill, and with him was looking
disconsolately down the Road. "June's gone to acting like a woman
with nerves that cries just because she can. I'm glad all the chicken
babies are feathered out and can shed rain. Them little Hoosier
pullets have already sprouted tail feathers. They ain't a one of 'em
a-going into the skillet no matter how hungry Tom Mayberry looks after
'em. If I don't hold you and Cindy back from spoiling him with
chicken-fixings three times a day he'll begin to show pin feathers
hisself in no time."
"He likes chicken better than anything else," murmured Miss Wingate
as she buried a blush in Martin Luther's topknot.
"Well, wanting ain't always a reason for being gave to," said the
Doctor's mother with a chuckle as she admired the side view of the
blush. "But, seeing that he about half feeds hisself by looking at me
and you at the table, I reckon I'll have to let him have two chickens
a day to keep up his strength. Honey-fuzzle are a mighty satisfying
diet, though light, for a growed man. Reckon we can persuade him to
try a couple of slices of old ham onct in a while so as to give a few
broilers time to get legs long enough to fry?"
"We can try," answered the singer lady in a doubtful tone of voice,
for the Doctor's penchant for young chicken was very decided.
"Dearie me, it do beat all how some plans of life fall down in the
oven," said the Doctor's mother, as she eyed Miss Wingate with her
most quizzical smile quirking up the corners of her humorous mouth.
"Here I put myself to all manner of troubles to go out into the big
world to get a real managing wife for Tom Mayberry and I might just
as well have set cross-handed and waited for Susie Pike or little
Bettie to grow up to the spoiling of him. I thought seeing that you'd
been raised with a silver spoon in your mouth and handed life on a
fringed napkin, so to speak, you would make him stand around some, but
for all I can see you're going to make another Providence wife. Ain't
you got none of the suffering-women new notions at all?"
"I can't help it," answered the singer lady, ducking her head
behind Martin Luther again, but smiling up out of the corners of her
"Are you just going to drop over into being a poor, down-trodden,
miserable, man-bossed Harpeth Hill's wife, without trying a single
new-fashioned husband remedy on him, with so many receipts for
managing 'em being written down by ladies all over the world, mostly
single ones?" demanded Mother Mayberry, fairly bubbling over with
glee at the singer lady's abashment.
"Yes, I am," answered Miss Wingate sturdily. "I want him to have
just what he wants."
"This are worse and more of it," exclaimed the Doctor's delighted
Mother. "You are got a wrong notion, child! Marriage ain't no slow,
plow-team business these days; it's hitched at opposite ends and
pulling both ways for dear life. Don't you even hope you will be;
able to think up no kind of tantrums to keep Tom Mayberry from being
"I don't want to," laughed the infatuated bride prospective.
"Then I reckon I'll have to give up and let you settle down into
being one of these here regular old-fashioned, primping-for-a-man,
waiting kind of wives. I thought I'd caught a high-faluting bird of
Paradise for him and you ain't a thing in the world but a meadow
dove. But there comes Bettie scooting through the rain with little
Hoover under her shawl. Providence folks have got duck blood, all of
'em, and the more it pours out they paddles. Come in and shake your
"Howdy all," exclaimed the rosy Mrs. Hoover. "This here rain on the
corn is money in everybody's pocket. I just stopped in to show you
this pink flowered shirt-waist I have done finished for Miss Prissy
Pike. Ain't it stylish?"
"It surely are, Bettie!" exclaimed Mother Mayberry. "I'm so glad
you got it pink."
"And it don't run neither. I tried it," said the proud designer of
the admired garment.
"That's a good sign for the wedding. You can rub happiness that's
fast dyed through any kinder worry suds and it'll come out with the
color left. Any news along the Road?" asked Mother Mayberry, as she
handled the rosy blouse with careful hands.
"Well, Henny Turner says that Squire Tutt are in bed covered up
head and ears with the quilts, but 'Lias says that it are just 'cause
Mis' Tutt have got a happy spell on her and have been exorting of
him. She called all three of them boys in, Bud and Henny and 'Lias,
and made 'em learn a Bible verse a-piece, and I was grateful to her
for her interest, but the Squire cussed so to 'em while she went to
get 'em a cake that I'm afraid the lesson were spoiled for the
"I don't reckon it were, Bettie. Good salts down any day, while
Evil don't ever keep long. But I do wish we could get the Squire and
Mis' Tutt to be a little more peaceably with one another. It downright
grieves me to have 'em so spited here in they old age." And Mother
Mayberry's eyes took on a regretful look and she peered over her
glasses at the happy bride. On her buoyant heart she ever carried the
welfare of every soul in Providence and the crabbed old couple down
the Road was a constant source of trouble to her.
"You shan't worry over 'em, Mis' Mayberry," answered pretty Bettie
quickly, "You get every Providence trouble landed right on your
shoulders as soon as one comes. You don't get a chance to do nothing
but deal out ease to other people's bodies and souls, too."
"Well, a cup of cold water held to other folks' mouths is a mighty
good way to quench your own thirst, Bettie child, and I'm glad if it
are gave to me to label out the blessing of ease. But have you been
in to the Deacon's this morning?"
"No'm, I'm a-going to stop as I go along home," answered Bettie. "I
have seed the little raven paddling back and forth, so I guess they
is all right. I must hurry on now, for I see Miss Prissy at the
window looking for me. Ain't my baby a-growing?" she asked, as she
picked little Hoover off of the floor and again enveloped the bobbing
head under her own shawl.
"Yes, it are, and Mr. Hoover's a-smiling hisself fat by the day,
child," answered Mother Mayberry with a smile. "Do you pass on the
word to Elinory here that Providence husbands wear good, both warp
"That they do, Miss Elinory, and I never seed nothing like 'em in
my travels," called back the bride from the door, as she reefed in her
skirts and sailed out in the downpour.
"Well, your mind oughter be satisfied, child, for Bettie muster
seen a good deal of the world in that three weeks' bridal trip in the
farm wagon," laughed Mother Mayberry at the singer lady by the
window. "Now I'm a-going to swim out to gather eggs and I'll be back
if I don't drown." With which she left the girl and the tot to resume
their watch down the Road for a horse and rider due in not over two
And indeed the last of old June's days seemed in danger of dripping
away from her in tears of farewell. Rain clouds hung low over Harpeth
Hills and drifted down to the very top of Providence Nob. A steady
downpour had begun in the night and held on into the day and seemed to
increase in volume as the hours wore away. The tall maples were
standing depressed-boughed and dripping and the poplar leaves hung
sodden and wet, refusing a glimpse of their silver lining. A row of
bleeding-hearts down the walk were turning faint pink and drooping to
the ground, while every rose in the yard was shattered and wasted
"Rain, rain!" wailed Martin Luther under his breath, as he pressed
his cheek to the window-pane and looked without interest at a forlorn
rooster huddled with a couple of hens under the snowball bush.
"Don't you want a cake and some milk?" asked the singer lady, as
she gave him a comforting hug and essayed consolation by the offer of
a material distraction.
"No milk, no cake; L-i-z-a, thank ma'am, please" he sobbed a
disconsolate demand for what he considered a good substitute sunbeam.
"There she comes now, darling," exclaimed the singer lady, with as
much pleasure coming into her face as lit the doleful cherub's at her
side. And from the Pike front door there had issued a small figure,
also enveloped in an old shawl, which made its way across the puddles
with splashing, bare feet. She had her covered dish under her arm and
a bucket dangled from one hand. She answered Martin Luther's hail with
a flash of her white teeth and sped across the front porch.
And in the course of just ten minutes the experienced young
pacifier had established the small boy as driver to Mother Mayberry's
large rocking-chair, mounted him on the foot of the bed with snapping
switch to crack and thus secured a two-hour reign of peace for his
"Miss Elinory," she said, as she came and stood close to the singer
lady seated in the deep window, "I'm mighty glad you got Doctor Tom;
and it were fair to the other lady, too. He couldn't help loving you
best, 'cause you are got a sick throat and she ain't. Do you reckon
she'll be satisfied to take Sam Mosbey when she comes again? I'm
sorry for her."
"So am I, Eliza," laughed Miss Wingate softly, as the rose blush
stole up over her cheeks, "but I don't believe she'll need Mr.
Mosbey. Don't you suppose shethatisthere must be some one down in
the City whom she likes a lot."
"Yes'm, I reckon they is. Then I'll just take Sam myself when I
grow up if nobody else wants him," answered Eliza comfortably. "I'm
sorry to be glad that your throat didn't get well, but Mis' Peavey
says that you never in the world woulder tooken Doctor Tom if you
coulder gone away and made money singing to people. I don't know what
me or him or Mother Mayberry woulder done without you, but we
couldn'ter paid you much to stay. You won't never go now, will you?"
"Never," answered the singer lady, as she drew the little ingenue
close to her side. "And let me whisper something to you, ElizaI
neverwouldhavegoneanyway. I love you too much, you and Mother
Mayberryand Doctor Tom."
"And Mis' Bostick and Deacon," exclaimed the loyal young raven.
"Miss Elinory, I get so scared about Mis' Bostick right here," she
added, laying her hand on her little throat. "She won't eat nothing
and she can't talk to me to-day. Maw and Mis' Nath Mosbey are there
now and waiting for Doctor Tom to come back. They said not to tell
Mother Mayberry until the rain held up some, but they want her, too.
Can't loving people do nothing for 'em, Miss Elinory?" and with big,
wistful eyes the tiny woman put the question, which has agonized
hearts down the ages.
"Oh, darling, theloving itself helps," answered the singer lady
quickly with the mist over her eyes.
"I believe it do," answered Eliza thoughtfully.
"I hold the Deacon's other hand when he sets by Mis' Bostick! He
wants me, and she smiles at us both. I don't like to leave 'em for
one single minute. I have to wait now for Cindy to get the dinner
done, but then I'm a-going to run. Why, there goes Mother Mayberry
outen the gate under a umbrella! And Aunt Prissy asked me to get a
spool of number fifty thread from her to sew some lace on a petticoat
Mis' Hoover have done finished for her. If I was to go to get married
I'd make some things for my husband, too, and not so much for myself.
I wouldn't want so many skirts unless I knewed he had enough shirts."
"But, Eliza," remonstrated Miss Wingate, slightly shocked at this
rather original idea of providing a groom with a trousseau, "perhaps
he would rather get things for himself."
"No'm, he wouldn't," answered Eliza positively. "I ain't a-going to
say anything to Aunt Prissy about it 'cause you never can tell what
will hurt her feelings, but I want you to get Mis' Hoover to show you
how and make three nice shirts for Doctor Tom, so you can wash one
while he wears the other and keep one put away for Sunday. That is the
way Maw does for Paw and all the other folks on the Road does the same
for they men. Mis' Peavey can show you how to iron them nice, for she
does the Deacon's for me and Mother Mayberry is too busy to bother
with such things 'count of always having to go to sick folks even over
to the other side of the Nob. Cindy don't starch good. You'll do for
Doctor Tom nice, now you've got him, won't you?"
"Yes, Eliza, I will," answered the singer lady meekly, as this
prevision of the life domestic rose up and menaced her. She even had
a queer little thrill of pleasure at the thought of performing such
superhuman tasks for what was to be her individual responsibility
among Providence men along the Road. The certainty that she would
never be allowed to perform such offices at machine and tub actually
depressed her, for the thought had brought a primitive sense of
possession that she was loath to dismiss; the passion for service to
love being an instinct that sways the great lady and her country
sister alike. "Do you think hewill let me?" she asked of her
"Just go on and do it and don't ask him," was the practical answer.
"There he comes now leading his horse and he have been to see Mis'
Bostick. I can get the dinner and run on to meet him and hear how he
thinks she are," she exclaimed as she seized her dish and bucket and
disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.
And a few minutes later, as Doctor Mayberry was unsaddling his
horse in the barn a lithe figure enveloped as to head and shoulders in
one of Cindy's kitchen aprons darted under the dripping eaves and
stood breathless and laughing in the wide door.
"I saw you come up the Road," said the singer lady, as she divested
herself of the gingham garment, "and I was dying to get out in the
rain, much to Cindy's horror. You are late."
"Not much," answered the young Doctor, slipping out of his rain
coat and coming over to stand beside her in the door. "What have you
been doing all morning?"
"I've been beingbeing lectured," she answered, as she looked up in
his face with dancing dark eyes.
"Who did it to you?" he asked, taking her fingers into his and
drawing her farther back from the splash of the rain drops.
"Your Mother and then Eliza Pike," she answered with a low laugh.
"Eliza is afraid I won't 'do for you' in proper Providence style and
I'm very humble andII want to learn. She thinks I ought to begin on
somesome shirts for you right now and I'm going to. What color do you
"Horrors!" exclaimed the Doctor, positively blushing at the thought
of the very lovely lady engaged in such a clothing mission.
"I knew you wouldn't have any confidence in them" answered Miss
Wingate mournfully, "and I haven't myself, but still I was willing to
"Oh, yes, I have!" the young Doctor hastened to exclaim. "Better
make them suitable for traveling, for I've got marching orders in the
noon mail. Are you ready to start to Italy on short notice and then on
"What?" demanded the singer lady with alarmed astonishment.
"Yes," answered the young Doctor coolly. "The Commission writes
that my reports on Pellagra down here are complete enough now for them
to send some chap down to continue them, while I go on to Southern
Italy for a study of similar conditions there and then on to India
for a still more exhaustive examination. The Government is determined
to stamp this scourge out before it gets a hold, and it's work to put
out the fire before it spreads. Better hurry the shirts and pack up
your own fluff."
"But I'm not going a step or a wave," answered the singer girl
defiantly. "I'm too busy here now. I don't ever intend to leave
Mother as long as I live. I don't see how you can even suggest such a
thing to me."
"Do you know what leaving Mother is like?" asked the young Doctor,
as he looked down on her with tenderness in his gray eyes and Mother
Mayberry's own quizzical smile on his lips. "It's like going to sleep
at night with a last look at Providence Nob,you wake up in the
morning and find it more there than ever. She was THERE on sunny
mornings over in Berlin and THERE on gray days in London and I had
her on long hard hospital nights in New York. Just come with me on
this trip and I promise she and Old Harpeth will be here when we get
"I don't know," answered Miss Wingate in a small voice as she
rubbed her cheek against the arm of his coat. "I'm in love with Tom
Mayberry of Providence Road. I don't know that I want to go traveling
with a distinguished physician on an important Government mission and
attend Legation dinners and banquets andI don't want to leave my
Mother," and there was a real catch in the laugh she smothered in his
"Dearie girl," he exclaimed, looking down with delight at a small
section of blush left visible against the rough blue serge of his
coat, "you and Mother are"
"Sakes, you folks, I wish you'd try to listen when you are called
at!" came in a sharp voice as Mrs. Peavey looked down upon them from
over the wall near the barn. "One of them foolish Indiany chickens
are stretched out kicking most drowned in a puddle right by the barn
door, and there you both stand doing nothing for it. Tom Mayberry,
pick it up this minute and give it to me! I'm a-going to put it
behind my stove until Mis' Mayberry comes home. I've got some feeling
for her love of chickens, _I_ have."
"Oh, I didn't see it!" exclaimed Miss Wingate, in an agony of
regret. "The dear little thing! Give it to me and I'll take care of
"Fiddlesticks! Chickens ain't 'dear little things,' and I wouldn't
trust neither one of you to take care of a flea of mine, with your
philandering. Hand it here to me, Tom Mayberry, like I tell you!" And
the Doctor hastened to pick up the little gasping bunch of drenched
feathers, which Mrs. Peavey tucked in the corner of her shawl "Did you
all hear that a car busted into another one down in the City day
before yesterday and throwed the driver and broke a lady's arm and cut
a baby's leg shameful? It was in the morning paper I saw down to the
store; and a wind storm blew off a man's roof too."
"I haven't read the paper yet," answered the singer lady in the
subdued voice she always used in addressing Mother Mayberry's
"Well, you oughter take interest in accidents if you are a-going to
be a Doctor's wife. It'll be all in the family then and you can hear
it all straight and maybe see some folks mended" answered Mrs.
Peavey, and she failed to notice Miss Wingate's horrified expression
at such a prospect. "How's Mis' Bostick, Tom? That is, how do your
Mother say she are, for I couldn't trust your notion in such a case
"I think Mother feels worried over her to-day," answered the Doctor
gently, with not a trace of offense at his neighbor's outspoken
question. "Her heart is very weak and it is impossible to stimulate
her further. Mother is up there now and I'll come tell you what she
says when she comes home to dinner."
"Well, I'm always thankful for news, bad as it mostly are,"
answered Mrs. Peavey in gloomy gratitude for his offer of a report
from Mother Mayberry. "You all had better go on in the house now and
put Miss Elinory's wet feet in the stove, for they won't be no use in
her dying on Mis' Mayberry's hands with pneumony at this busy time of
the year. Them slippers is too foolish to look at." With which the
shawled head disappeared from the top of the wall.
"Do you know, I had a strange dream last night," said the singer
lady, as the Doctor hung up his bridle and shut the feed-room door
preparatory to following out Mrs. Peavey's injunction as to carrying
Miss Wingate away to be dry shod. "I dreamed that I was singing to
Mrs. Bostick and the Deacon, REALLY singing, and just as it rose
clear and strong Mrs. Peavey called to me to 'shut up' and it stopped
so suddenly that I waked upand the strange part of it is that I
heard, really heard, I thought, my own voice die away in an echo up in
the eaves. For a second I seemed awake and listeningand it was
"Dear," said the Doctor, as he took her hand in his and held it
against his breast, "I would give all life has to offer me to get it
back for you. I will hope against hope! I haven't written Doctor
Stein yet. I can't make myself write. Perhaps we will find some one
on this trip who has some theory or treatment or something to offer.
I've been praying that help will come!"
"Would youlike me any better if I had it back?" she asked with a
happy little laugh as she laid her cheek against their clasped hands.
"Would you want L'ELEONORE more than you do just plain Elinor Wingate,
care Mother Mayberry, Providence, Tennessee?"
"I'm going to carry you in the house so you can put on dry
stockings," answered the Doctor with a spark in his gray eyes that
scorned her question, and without any discussion he picked her up,
strode through the rain with her and deposited her in the kitchen
And over by the long window they found Mother Mayberry standing
with her hand on Cindy's shoulder, who sat with her head bowed in her
apron sobbing quietly, while Martin Luther stood wide-eyed and
questioning, with his little hand clutching Mother's skirts.
"Children," said Mother quietly as she came and stood beside them
in the doorway, while Martin Luther nestled up to Doctor Tom, "I've
come down the Road to tell you that it are all over up at the
Deacon's. It were very beautiful, for Mis' Bostick just give us a
smile and went to meet her Lord with the love of us all a-shining on
her face. We didn't hardly sense it at first, for she had just spoke
to 'Liza, and the Deacon were over by the window. I ain't got no
tears to shed for her and Deacon are so stunned he don't need 'em
"Mother," exclaimed the Doctor, as he took her hand in his, while
the singer lady crept close and rested against her strong shoulder.
"Yes, son," answered his Mother gently, "it come so sudden I
couldn't even send for you, but go on up there now and see what you
can do for Deacon. He'll want you for the comfort of your presence,
you and 'Liza."
"And Eliza!" exclaimed Miss Wingate with a sob, "it'll break her
"They never was such a child as 'Liza Pike in the world," said
Mother Mayberry softly and for the first time a film of tears spread
over her eyes. "She have never said a word, but just stands pressed
up close with her arm 'round the Deacon's shoulders as he sits with
his Good Book acrost his knees. She give one little moan when she
understood, but she ain't made a mite of child-fuss, just shed her
baby tears like a woman growed to sorrow. Her little bucket and dish
of dinner is a-setting cold on the table and a little draggled rose
she had brung in not a hour back is still in Mis' Bostick's fingers,
and the other one pinned on the Deacon's coat. When Judy and Betty
wanted to begin to fix things she understood without a word, led the
Deacon out into the hall and are just a-standing there a-keeping him
up in his daze by the courage in her own loving little heart. The
good Lord bless and keep the child! Now, go on, Tom, and see what you
can do! Yes, Cindy will run right over and tell Mis' Peavey. And stop
in and see Squire Tutt, for Henny Turner says he are down to- day and
a-asking for you. Come into my room, honey-bird, I've got to look for
"Somehow, I don't feel about dying as lot of folks do," she
remarked to the singer lady, as she stood in front of the tall old
chest of drawers in her own room a few minutes later. "Death ain't
nothing but laying down one job of work and going to answer the Master
when He calls you to come take up another. Mis' Bostick have worked in
His vineyard early and late, through summer sun and winter wind, and
now He have summoned her in for some other purpose. He'll find her
well-tried and seasoned to go on with whatever plans He have for her
in His Kingdom."
"It's wonderful to believe that," answered the singer girl through
her tears. "It seems to supply a reason for what happens to us here-
-if we can go on with it later."
"Course we can," answered Mother Mayberry, as she began to search
in her top drawer for something. "I hope He have got some good big job
cut out for Tom Mayberry and me; but course it will have to be
something different, for they won't be no more sickness or death or
sorrowing for us doctors to tend on. But Pa Lovell and Doctor
Mayberry have found something by this time and maybe it will be for
me and Tom to work at it alongside of 'em. It might be you will have
the beautiful voice back and come sing for us all, as have never
heard you in this world. Then, too, I believe He'll give it to little
Sister Pike to tend on the prophets and maybe I'll be there to see!"
"This is the first time I ever could taketake any interest in
Heaven at all," confessed Miss Wingate, lifting large, comforted eyes
to Mother Mayberry's face. "When I was so desperate and didn't know
what to do, before I came and found out that there was a place for me
in this world even if I couldn't sing any more, I used to dread the
thought of Heaven, even if I might some day be good enough to go
"Well, a stand-around, set-around kind of Heaven may be for some
people as wants it, but a come-over-and-help-us kind is what I'm
hoping for. I want to have a good lot of honest acts to pack up and
take into the judgment seat to prove my character by and then be
honored with some kind of telling labor to do. I'm looking for
something white to put at Mis' Bostick's neck, for we are a-going to
lay her in her grave in the old dress with its honorable patches, but
with a little piece of fine white to match her sweet soul. Here it
"Will you let me know if I can do anything for anybody or the
Deacon later?" asked the singer lady gently.
"I know you will be a comfort to him, child, after a while. You can
look after my chickens and things for me, for Cindy's a-going with me
and that leaves you to feed the two boys, Tom and Martin Luther, for
dinner. And don't you never forget that you are the apple-core of your
Mother Mayberry's heart and she's a-going to hold you to her tender,
even unto them Glory days we've been a-planning for, with Death here
in the midst of Life."
CHAPTER X. THE SONG OF THE MASTER'S
"In all my long life it have never been gave to me to see anything
like Deacon Bostick and his Providence children," said Mother
Mayberry, as she stood on the end of the porch with the singer girl's
hand in hers. "He are a-setting on his bench under the tree right by
her window, like he always did to listen for her, and every child in
the Road is a-huddled up against him like a forlorn lot of little
motherless chickens. He have got little Bettie and Martin Luther on
his knees and the rest are just crowded up all around him. He don't
seem to notice any of the rest of us, but looks to 'Liza for
everything. She got him to go to bed at nine o'clock and when Buck and
Mr. Petway went to set up for the night they found she'd done made
'Lias and Henny and Bud all lie down by him, one on each side and Bud
acrost the foot. He wanted 'em to stay and the men let 'em do it. Judy
says she were up by daylight and gone down the Road to see about his
breakfast and things. And now she are just a- standing by him waiting
for the bell to toll for the funeral. The Deacon have surely followed
his Master in the suffering of little children to draw close to him in
this life and now he are becoming as one of 'em before entering the
"This soft, misty, sun-veiled day seems just made for Mrs.
Bostick," said Miss Wingate with unshed tears in her voice.
"It may be just a notion of mine, honey-bird, but it looks like up
here in Harpeth Hills the weather have got a sympathy with us folks.
Look how Providence Nob have drawed a mist of tears 'twixt it and the
faint sun. When troubles are with us I've seen clouds boil up over the
Ridge and on the other hand we ain't scarcely ever had rain on a
wedding or church soshul day. I like to feel that maybe the good Lord
looks special after us of His children living out in the open fields
and we have got His word that He tempers the winds. People in the big
cities can crowd up and keep care of one another, but out here we are
all just in the hollow of His hand. Here comes Mis' Peavey. I asked
her to go along to the funeral with me and you. It are most time now."
"Howdy, all," said Mrs. Peavey in an utterly gray tone of voice.
"Mis' Mayberry, that Circuit Rider have never come from Bolivar yet.
Do you reckon his horse have throwed him or is it just he don't care
for us Providence folks and don't think it worth his while to come
say the words over Sister Bostick?"
"Oh, he come 'most a half-hour ago, Hettie Ann," answered Mother
Mayberry quickly. "Bettie had a little snack laid out for him 'count
of his having to make such a early start to get here. He was most
kind to the Deacon and professed much sorrow for us all. How are your
side this morning?"
"I got out that foolish dry plaster Tom made me more'n a month ago
and put it on last night, 'cause I didn't want to disturb you, and to
my surprise they ain't a mite of pain hit me since. But I guess it are
mostly the clearing weather that have stopped it."
"Maybe a little of both," answered the Doctor's mother with a
smile, "but anyway, it's good that you ain't a-suffering none. We must
all take good care of each other's pains from now on, 'cause we are
most valuable one to another. Friends is one kind of treasure you
don't want to lay up in Heaven."
"I spend most of my time thinking about folks' accidents and hurts
and pains," answered Mrs. Peavey in all truth. "Miss Elinory, did you
gargle your throat with that slippery-ellum tea I thought about to
make for you last week?"
"Yes, Mrs. Peavey, I did," answered Miss Wingate quickly, for she
had performed that nauseous operation actuated by positive fear of
Mrs. Peavey if she should discover a failure to follow her
"It'll cure you, maybe," answered the gratified neighbor. "There's
the bell and let's all go on slow and respectful."
And the sweet-toned old Providence Meeting-house bell was tolling
its notes for the passing of the soul of the gentle little Harpeth
woman of many sorrows as her friends and neighbors walked quietly
down the Road, along the dim aisle and took their places in the old
pews with a fitting solemnity on their serious faces. The young
Circuit Rider spoke to them from a full heart in sympathetically
simple words and Pattie Hoover led the congregation from behind the
little cabinet organ in a few of the Deacon's favorite hymns.
Then the little procession wound its way among the graves over to a
corner under an old cedar tree, where the stout young farmers laid
their frail burden down for its long sleep. The Deacon stood close by
and the children clung around his thin old legs, to his hands, and
reached to grasp at a corner of his coat. Eliza laid her head against
his shoulder and Henny and 'Lias crowded close on the other side,
while Bud held the old black hat he had taken from off his white hair,
in careful, shaking little hands. The singer lady, with the Doctor at
her side and her hand in Mother Mayberry's, stood just opposite and
the others came near.
The simple service that the Church has instituted for the
committing of its dead to the grave had been read by the Circuit
Rider, the last prayer offered, and as a long ray of sunlight came
through the mist and fell across the little assembly, he turned
expectantly to Pattie Hoover, who stood between her father and Buck at
the other end of the grave. He had read the first lines of the hymn
and he expected her to raise the tune for the others to follow. But
when a woman's heart is very young and tender, and attuned to that of
another which is throbbing emotionally close by, her own feelings are
apt to rise in a tidal wave of tears, regardless of consequences; and
as Buck Peavey choked off a sob, Pattie turned and buried her head on
her father's arm. There was a long pause and nobody attempted to start
the singing. They were accustomed to depend on Pattie or her organ and
their own throats were tight with tears. The unmusical young preacher
was helpless and looked from one to another, then was about to raise
his hands for the benediction, when a little voice came across the
"Ain't nobody going to sing for Mis' Bostick?" wailed Eliza, as her
head went down on the Deacon's arm in a shudder of sobs.
Then suddenly a very wonderful and beautiful thing happened in that
old churchyard of Providence Meeting-house under Harpeth Hills, for
the great singer lady stepped toward the Deacon a little way, paused,
looked across at the old Nob in the sunlight, and high and clear and
free-winged like that of an archangel, rose her glorious voice in the
"Hail, holy, holy, holy Lord,"
which she had set for him and the gentle invalid to the wonderful
motif of the Song of the Master's Grail. Love and sorrow and a flood
of tears had relieved a pressure somewhere, the balance had been
recovered and her muted voice freed. And on through the verses to the
very end she sang it, while the little group of field people held
their breath in awe and amazement. Then, while they all stood with
bowed heads for the benediction, she turned and walked away through
the graves, out of the churchyard and on up Providence Road, with an
instinct to hide from them all for a moment of realization.
"And here I have to come and hunt the little skeered miracle out of
my own feather pillows," exclaimed Mother Mayberry a little later
with laughter, tears, pride and joy in her voice, as she bent over
the broad expanse of her own bed and drew the singer girl up in her
strong arms. "Daughter," she said, with her cheek pressed to the
flushed one against her shoulder, "what the Lord hath given and
taketh away we bless Him for and none the less what He giveth back,
blessed be His name. That's a jumble, but He understands me. You
don't feel in no ways peculiar, do you?" and as she asked the
question the Doctor's mother clasped the slender throat in one of her
"Not a bit anywhere," answered Miss Wingate, with the burr all gone
from her soft voice. "Is it true?"
"Dearie me, I can't hardly stand it to hear you speak, it are so
sweet!" exclaimed Mother Mayberry in positive rapture and again the
tears filled her eyes, while her face crinkled up into a dimpled
smile. "Don't say nothing where the mocking-birds will hear you,
please, 'cause they'll begin to hatch out a dumb race from plumb
discouragement. Come out on the porch where it ain't so hot, but I'm
a-holding on to you to keep you from flying up into one of the trees.
I'm a-going to set about building a cage for you right"
"Now, didn't I tell you about that slippery-ellum!" came in a
positively triumphant voile to greet them as they stepped out of the
front door. Mrs. Peavey was ascending the steps all out of breath,
her decorous hat awry, and her eyes snapping with excitement. "Course
I don't think this can be no positive cure and like as not you'll wake
up to-morrow with your voice all gone dry again, but it were the
slippery-ellum that done it!"
"I think it must have helped some," answered the singer lady in the
clear voice that still held its wonted note of meekness to her
"Course it did! Tom Mayberry's experimenting couldn'ter done it no
real good. His mother have been giving that biled bark for sore
throat for thirty years and it was me that remembered it. But it were
a pity you done it at the grave; that were Mis' Bostick's funeral and
not your'n. Now look at everybody a-coming up the Road with no
grieving left at all."
"Oh, Hettie Ann," exclaimed Mother Mayberry in quick distress, "it
are a mean kind of sorrow that can't open its arms to hold joy
tender. Think what it do mean to the child andLook at Bettie!"
And indeed it was a sight to behold the pretty mother of the
seventeen sailing up the front walk like a great full-rigged ship.
Miss Wingate flew down the steps to meet her and in a few seconds was
enveloped and involved with little Hoover in an embrace that
threatened to be disastrous to all concerned. Judy Pike was close
behind and, making a grab on her own part, stood holding the end of
the singer lady's sash in her one hand while Teether, from her other
arm, caught at the bright ribbons and squealed with delight. The
abashed Pattie hung over the front gate and Buck grinned in the rear.
"Lawsy me, child," Mrs. Hoover laughed and sobbed as she patted the
singer lady on the back, little Hoover anywhere he came upmost and
included Teether and Judy also in the demonstration, "I feel like it
would take two to hold me down! You sure sing with as much style as
you dress! And to think such a thing have happened to all of us here
in Providence. We won't never need that phonygraph we all are a-
hankering after now. Speak up to the child, Judy Pike!"
"I don't need to," answered the more self-contained Sister Pike,
"she knows how I'm a-rejoicing for her. Just look at Mr. Hoover and
Ez Pike a-grinning acrost the street at her and here do come the
Squire and Mis' Tutt walking along together for the first time I
almost ever seed 'em."
"Wheeuh," wheezed the Squire, "I done come up here to give up on
the subject of that Tom Mayberry! He don't look or talk like he have
got any sense, girl, but he are the greatest doctor anywhere from
Harpeth Hills to Californy or Alasky. He have got good remedies for
all. I reckon you are one of the hot water kind, but he can give
bitters too. You'd better keep him to the bitters though for safety."
"There now! You all have done heard the top testimony for Tom
Mayberry," exclaimed Mother, fairly running over with joy.
"Glory!" was the one word that rose to the surface of Mrs. Tutt's
emotions, but it expressed her state of beatitude and caused the
Squire to peer at her with uneasiness as if expecting an outburst of
exhortation on the next breath. Mrs. Peavey's experienced eye also
caught the threatened downpour and she hastened to admonish the group
"Sakes, you all!" she exclaimed, untying the strings of her bonnet
energetically, "they won't be a supper cooked on the Road if we don't
go get about it. A snack dinner were give the men and such always
calls for the putting on of the big pot and the little kettle for
supper. Miss Elinory will be here for you all to eat up to- morrow
morning, 'lessen something happens to her in the night, like a wind
storm. Go on everybody!"
"Oh," exclaimed Mother Mayberry, as she stood on the top step
looking down at them all, "look how the sun have come out on us all,
with its happiness after the sorrow we have known this day. I thank
you, one and all, for your feeling with me and my daughter Elinory.
The rejoicing of friends are a soft wind to folks' spirit wings and
we're all flying high this night. Get the children bedded down early,
for they have had a long day and need good sleep. Bettie, let Mis'
Tutt walk along with you and the Squire can come on slow. Don't nobody
forget that it are Sewing Circle with Mis' Mosbey to-morrow."
And, with more congratulations to the singer lady, laughs with
Mother Mayberry, and the return of a shot or two with Mrs. Peavey,
the happy country women dispersed to their own roof trees. The sorrow
that had come they had endured for the night and now they were ready
to rise up and meet joy for the morning. In the children of nature the
emotions maintain their elemental balance and their sense of the
proportions of life is instinctively true.
"Look, honey-bird, who's coming!" said Mother Mayberry, just as she
was turning to seat herself in her rocking-chair, tired out as she
was with the strain of the long day. "Run, meet 'em at the gate!" And
up Providence Road came the old Deacon and Eliza hand in hand, with
Martin Luther trailing wearily behind them. When she saw Miss Wingate
at the gate, Eliza, for the first time during the day, loosed her hold
on her old charge and darted forward to hide her head on the singer
lady's breast as her thin little arms clasped around her convulsively.
"Now," she wailed, "Mis' Bostick are dead and you'll be goned away
too. Can't you stay a little while, till we can stand to let you go?
Poor Doctor Tom! Please, oh, please!"
"Darling, darling, I'm never going to leave you!" exclaimed Miss
Wingate, as she hugged the small implorer as closely as possible and
held out one hand to the Deacon as he came up beside them. "I'm going
to stay and sing for you and the Deacon whenever you want me if it
"Child," said the old patriarch, with an ineffable sweetness
shining from his sad old face, "out of my affliction I come to add my
blessing to what the Lord has given to you this day. And I take this
mercy as a special dispensation to me and to her, as it came when you
were performing one of His offices for us. No sweeter strain could
come from the Choir Invisible that she hears this night, and if she
knows she rejoices that it will be given at other times to me, to feed
my lonely soul."
"The songs are yours when you want them, Deacon," said the singer
girl in her sweet low voice as she held his hand in hers gently.
"And it are true what the Deacon says, they ain't no help like
music," said Mother Mayberry who had come down the walk and stood
leaning against the gate near them. "A song can tote comfort from
heart to heart when words wouldn't have no meaning. It's a high
calling, child, and have to be answered with a high life."
"I know Pattie and Buck and Aunt Prissy will let you always sing in
the choir if Deacon asks 'em," said Eliza in a practical voice as she
again took hold of the Deacon's hand, "and Mr. Petway are a- going to
buy a piano for Aunt Prissy when they get married and sometimes you
can sing by it if Doctor Tom can't save up enough to get you one. But
I want Deacon to come home now, 'cause he are tired." And without more
ado she departed with her docile charge, leaving the tired Martin
Luther with his hands clasped in Mother Mayberry's.
"Mother," faltered Miss Wingate as she and Mother Mayberry were
slowly ascending the steps, assisting the almost paralyzed young
missionary to mount between them, "where do you supposeHE is?" For
some minutes back the singer lady had been growing pale at the
realization that the Doctor had not come to her since she had left
his side in the churchyard and her eyes were beginning to show a deep
"I don't know, Elinory, and I've been a-wondering," answered Mother
Mayberry as she sank down on the top step and took the tired child in
"Oh," said Miss Wingate as she stood before her on the lower step
and clasped her white hands against her breast, "do you suppose he is
going toto hurt me now?"
"Child," answered the Doctor's mother quietly, with a quick sadness
spreading over her usually bright face, "they ain't nothing in the
world that can be as cruel as true love when it goes blind. Tom
Mayberry is a good man and I borned, nursed and raised him, but I
won't answer for him about no co'ting conniptions. A man lover are a
shy bird and they can't nothing but a true mate keep him steady on
any limb. You ain't showed a single symptom of managing Tom yet, but
somehow I've got confidence in you if you just keep your head now."
"But what can the matter be?" demanded Miss Wingate in a voice that
shook with positive terror.
"Well," answered Mother Mayberry slowly, "I sorter sense the
trouble and I'll tell you right out and out for your good. Loving a
woman are a kinder regeneration process for any man, and a good one
like as not comes outen it humbler than a bad most times. Tom have
wrapped you around with some sorter pink cloud of sentiments, tagged
you with all them bokays the world have give you for singing so
grand, turned all them lights on you he first seen you acrost and now
he's afraid to come nigh you. I suspect him of a bad case of
chicken-heart and I'm a-pitying of him most deep. He's just lying
down at your feet waiting to be picked up."
"I wonder where he is!" exclaimed Miss Wingate as a light flashed
into her eyes and a trace of color came back to her cheeks.
"You'll find him," answered the Doctor's mother comfortably, "and
when you do I want you to promise me to put him through a good course
of sprouts. A wife oughtn't to stand on no pedestal for a man, but she
have got no call to make squaw tracks behind him neither. Go on and
find him! A woman have got to come out of the pink cloud to her
husband some time, but she'd better keep a bit to flirt behind the
rest of her life. Look in the office!"
"Well; Martin Luther," remarked Mother a few minutes later, as she
lifted the absolutely dead youngster in her arms and rose to take him
into the house, "life are all alike from Harpeth Hills to Galilee. A
woman can shape up her dough any fancy way she wants and it's likely
to come outen the oven a husband. All Elinory's fine songs are about
to end in little chorus cheeps with Tom under Mother Mayberry's wings,
the Lord be praised!"
And over in the office wing the situation was about as Mother
Mayberry's experienced intuitions had predicted. Miss Wingate found
the young Doctor sitting in the deep window and looking out at
Providence Nob, which the last rays of the sun were dying blood red,
with his strong young face set and white. The battle was still on and
his soul was up in arms.
"Where have you been?" she asked quietly as she came and stood
against the other side of the casement. The pain in his gray eyes set
her heart to throbbing, but she had herself well in hand.
"When I came up the Road the others were all here and I waited to
see you until they were gone," he answered her, just as quietly and
in just as controlled a voice and with possibly just as wild a throb
in his heart "I have been writing to Doctor Stein and there are the
Press bulletins, subject to your approval," He pointed to some
letters on the table which she never deigned to notice. She had drawn
herself to her slim young height and looked him full in the face with
a beautiful stateliness in her manner and glance. Her dark eyes never
left his and she seemed waiting for him to say something further to
"You know without my telling you how very glad I am for you," he
said gently and his hand trembled on the window ledge.
"Are you?" she asked in a low tone, still with her eyes fixed on
his face, but her lips pressed close with a sharp intake of breath.
"Yes," he answered quickly, and this time the note of pain would
sound clearly in his voice. "Yes, no matter what it means to me!"
The pain of it, the haggard gray eyes, the firm young mouth and the
droop of the broad shoulders were too much for the singer girl and
she smiled shakily as she held out her arms.
"Tom Mayberry," she pleaded with a little laugh, "please, please
don't treat me this way. I promised your mother to be stern with you
butI can't! Don't you see that it can only mean to me what it means
to your happinessifdo you, could you possibly think it would make
any difference to me? Do you suppose for all the wide world I would
throw away what I have found here in Providence under Harpeth Hillsmy
Mother and you? Ah, Tom, I'll be good, I'll go to Italy and India with
you! I'llI'll 'do for' you just the best I can!"
"But, dear, it isn't right at all," whispered the young Doctor to
the back of the singer lady's head, as he laid his cheek against the
dark braids. "Your voice belongs to the worldthere must be no giving
it up. I can't let youI"
"Listen," said the singer girl as she raised her head and looked up
into his face. "For all your life you will have to go where pain and
grief call you, won't you? Can't you take my voice with you and use
itas one of yourremedies? Your Mother says songs can comfort where
words fail; let me go with you! Your father brought her and her herb
basket to Providence, won't you take me and my songs out into the
world with you? Don't send me back to sing in the dreadful crowded
theaters to people who pay to hear me. Let me give it all my lifelong,
as she has given herself here in Providence. Please, Tom, please!" And
again she buried her head against his coat.
And as was his wont, the silent young doctor failed to answer a
single word but just held her close and comforted. And how long he
would have held her, there is no way to know, because the strain had
been too great on Mother Mayberry and in a few minutes she stood
calmly in the door and looked at the pair of children with happy but
"It's just as well you got Tom Mayberry straightened out quick,
Elinory," she remarked in her most jovial tone. "I've been getting
madder and madder as I put Martin Luther to bed and though I ain't
never had to whip him yet, I'd just about made up my mind to ask him
out in the barn and dress him down for onct. Now are you well over
your tantrum, sir?" she demanded as she eyed the shamefaced young
"Mother!" he exclaimed as he turned his head away and the color
rose under his tan.
"Have you done made up your mind to travel from town to town with
Elinory and take in the tickets at the door and make yourself useful
to her the rest of your life? Are you a-going to follow her peaceable
all over Europe, Asia and Africa?" And her eyes fairly over-danced
themselves with delight.
"Mother!" and this time the exclamation came from Miss Wingate as
she came over to rest her cheek against Mother Mayberry's arm. She
also blushed, but her eyes danced with an echo of the young Doctor's
mother's laugh as she beheld his embarrassment.
"Yes," answered the Doctor, rallying at last, "yes, I'm ready to go
with her. Will you go too, Mother, as retained physician?"
"Well, I don't know about that," answered his Mother with a laugh;
"not till 'Liza Pike have growed up to take my place here. But I'm
mighty glad to see you take your dose of humble pie so nice, Tom, and
I reckon I'll have to tell you how happy I am about my child here. It
was kinder smart of you to cure her and then claim her sweet self as a
fee, wasn't it?"
"I do feel that way, Mother, and I don't see how I can let her make
the sacrifice. Her future is so brilliant and II"
"Son," said Mother Mayberry with the banter all gone from her rich
voice and the love fairly radiating from her face as she laid a
tender hand on the singer lady's dark head on her shoulder, "I don't
have to ask my honey-bird the choice she have made. A woman don't
want to wear her life-work like no jewelry harness nor yet no
sacrificial garment, but she loves to clothe herself in it like it
were a soft-colored, homespun dress to cover the pillow of her breast
and the cradle of her arms to hold the tired folks against. Take her
to India's coral strand if you must, for it's gave a wife to follow
the husband-star. Long ago I vowed you to the Master's high call and
now with these words I dedicates my daughter the same. She have waded
through much pain and sorrow, but do it matter along how hard a Road
folks travels if at last they come to they Providence?"