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- Sara, a Princess - 29/43 -
out of sight around the corner, and was lost to view, "it's dreadful to think I've always got to be a girl, and I may have to live a hundred years."
"Well, my dear, console yourself, then," replied Sara, "for you won't be a girl even ten years longer."
"Now, Sara Olmstead, how do you know that? Oh, yes, you're joking me, somehow; I can see by your eyes, for of course nobody knows when I'm going to stop living."
"How old are you, Molly?"
"Why, I'll be thirteen in eleven months."
"That is," with a laugh," you were twelve last month; now in ten years how old will you be?"
"Let's see," bringing her fingers into play, "aught's an aught, and two's two," marking that down with her index finger in her left palm, "then one and one is two, why, that's twenty-two, isn't it?"
"Really, Molly, I'm ashamed of you to be so slow in adding."
"Well, I never did like addition, it's substraction I'm so smart in."
"Yes, it must be _substraction_, I think," sarcastically.
"Yes, that's it," with entire oblivion of her sister's accent; "and now I begin to see, when I'm twenty-two I won't be a girl?"
"Yes; but I'll be a woman, and that's worse, isn't it? Oh! there's Kathie, and she's got some cookies that are too dry to sell; I'm going to help her eat them," with which laudable purpose away she ran, to forget the limitations of her sex in an operation dear to both.
About a week later came this letter from Morton.
DEAR SARA AND MOLLY,--As I'm all alone, with nothing to do, and the gnats won't let me sleep, and I've got more than we need to eat, so it's no good to hunt or fish, I thought I'd start a letter, and when I get to a post-office again I'll mail it. To begin at the beginning, we launched the Bonny Doon about two o'clock, and at once set sail for the south (we really poled the boat along, for there wasn't a breath of wind, and it was hardly deep enough to keep her afloat; but it sounds better to say "set sail," you know), and were making about four knots an hour, when I saw the professor open a long wooden box I had noticed among the outfit, and take out a gun, all in sections, and begin to put it together. That made me feel better, for I was really afraid he had forgotten how useful a gun is out camping; and I was so taken up watching him fit it together that I almost forgot my poling, till he suddenly sung out, for all the world like a regular sailor, "Hard a-port, lad! Mind your course there, or we'll be swamped," and, sure enough, I had to swing her out into the stream, or we'd have run aground.
But that was the end of the marshes, and then we did rig up our sail, and 'twas a fine old fly, I tell you. My, how I enjoyed it! The breeze had come up a little, and sent us cutting through the water as slick as your big knife cuts through a loaf of bread. We didn't stop at all, till it was time to make camp, and then we had a real good time, for the professor is just like a boy here.
He cut saplings for tent-poles, and showed me how to make the pins, and fasten down the canvas, then we built a nice little fire, and put our camp-stove over it. It is nothing but a big piece of stove-pipe, I should think, with a griddle on top, but works first-rate; and then we got supper together. You ought to see his camp-chest, Sara! It isn't much bigger than that old desk Miss Prue gave you, but it has everything in it, I should think; and there isn't an inch of waste room. I found everything I needed to set the table with, and we had canned things, and biscuit and cheese and coffee, and lots of nice things to eat. Then I washed the dishes (I'm real glad now, that I learned at home, for the professor said I did it as neatly as a girl), and then he went off, poking around with his hammer, and I fished. You don't know much about fishing with a jack-light, do you? It's good fun. I caught enough for breakfast, nice little perch they were, and then we lay down on our blankets, stretched over pine-boughs in the tent, with mosquito-netting over all the openings, and slept like two tops.
Yesterday we had lots of adventures. First thing, I woke up just in time to save our provisions from some hogs which had smelled us out, and came down on us in a regular drove; and they got us so wide awake we concluded to stay up, though it wasn't really morning yet. But you don't know how good our fried fish did taste! I ate till I was ashamed, and then finished the bits in the spider; and I could have eaten as many more, I guess. Then I cleared everything up ready to break camp, while the professor went off again, and then he came back, and we embarked. This was about six bells, I think. We hadn't gone more than two knots when the boat began to slip along so easy and fast I couldn't understand it, till the professor sung out,--
"We're coming to a dam! Put her about, quick!"
Then he grabbed the oars and rowed with all his might for shore. It seemed at first as if we would be swept along in spite of ourselves; but he's got more strength in his arms than I'd thought for, and then, luckily, a great tree had fallen clear out into the stream, which I reached for. I threw myself almost out of the boat, just holding by the toes, and caught hold of a little twig, then a stronger one, and pulled the boat an inch at a time till we were safe alongside in a perfect little haven. Then the professor dropped the oars, took off his helmet, and wiped his face, for he was dreadfully warm; but he only said,--
"That was a little close, Morton; now we'll have to make a portage."
Well, that wasn't so much fun. I hadn't thought, before, we had one thing more than we needed, but now it seemed as if we had a thousand. Sara, it took us four hours to make that portage, and my back hasn't got over aching yet!
We managed to get two men to help us with the boat, but that was only a small lift, it seemed to me; and I was glad enough when the professor said we'd take a rest before we went on. But the dinner braced us up a good deal; one thing we had was some roasted green corn one of the men told us to pick in his field, and it was awfully good, but not up to the fish. Then I stayed to watch camp while the professor went hunting for more stones and things, and then I had the biggest adventure of all. But I'll have to tell you about that in my next letter, if I come across any paper, for this is all I've got.
Morton. It came in due time, fortunately for Molly's welfare and Sara's comfort, as the child was so consumed with curiosity over the adventure that she gave her no rest from questions and conjectures. Here it is:--
DEAR SARA AND MOLLY,--I think I stopped because I was out of paper, and so didn't tell you about the tramps. There were three of them, and I never saw worse looking men.
I was sitting reading one of the books we brought, when I thought I heard something, and looked around just in time to see them come towards me out of the woods. I felt my heart leap right up, for I was all alone, and they did look wicked. The foremost man had a big stick for a cane, and both the others carried long switches they must have cut in the woods. As I jumped to my feet the first fellow said to sit still, sonny, he wasn't going to disturb anybody, and wanted to know where my pard was.
I said, as careless as I could, that he was just down below, hoping they'd think I meant down on the shore; but they didn't, for another spoke up and said he was far enough away, "and don't stop to palaver, I want some grub!" I'd kept backing towards the tent all the time we were talking; and when he said that, I was right in the opening, and one look inside showed me the gun almost where I could reach it, and I knew it was loaded!
I felt a good deal bolder then, so I told them,--
"You'll have to wait till the professor comes back; these are his things;" but the men only laughed in an awful fierce kind of way, and said they "guessed they didn't care about waiting, sonny, they wasn't making formal calls, and they hadn't brought their cards, but they'd leave suthin' to remember 'em by just the same!"
The way they talked fairly froze me up, though 'twas a real hot day. So I ducked inside and grabbed the gun, but they thought I was so scared I was trying to hide; so they went around kicking things over a good deal, and swearing like everything, but I didn't care, for there wasn't much outside the tent anyhow, except the cooking things and some mouldy bread that they were welcome to if they wanted it. When they saw how it was, one of them came up towards me, and called to the rest to come on, they'd have to explore the tent to find what they wanted.
I let him come to about two feet of the opening, then I stuck my gun in his face real quick, and yelled "Halt!" as loud as I could, and he halted.
I told him then he'd better get back, for this might go off, and he ripped out a big swear word, and told me to stop fooling with that gun or somebody'd get shot; and I said I was afraid they would! He kept backing all the time, and saying, "Oh, put it down, put it down, sonny!" but I kinder thought I wouldn't. Then they all stood off, and threw stones at me, and said they'd set fire to the tent, and for me to come out like a man, and they wouldn't hurt me; but I thought as I was just a boy I'd stay where I was. But I told 'em I'd shoot the first man that came near the tent, and their stones didn't amount to much anyhow, for they didn't reach me. But I really did not feel quite so saucy as I talked, for if they hadn't been regular cowards they could have made me lots of trouble, I guess; and when I saw the professor's big white helmet coming through the trees, I tell you I was glad! I called out, "Don't mind the men, sir, I've got 'em covered with the gun!" and at that they gave one look at him, and ran for the woods. He stood still and looked after them as surprised as anything; but when I told him all about it, he laughed and laughed in that still, funny way he has, and said he guessed he didn't make any mistake when he chose his companion; and I thought perhaps he meant to praise me, but I'm not sure. This is all about the tramps.
P.S.--I've torn my pants; but the professor says, "Never mind, there's more where they came from," and he looked at me kinder winkey when he said it, for you know they were made out of his old ones. This time it
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