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In Orchard Glen

Mary Esther Miller MacGregor

  Produced by Al Haines







  _Copyright, 1918,_

  _By George H. Doran Company_

  _Printed in the United States of America_







  It was on Christina Lindsay's nineteenth birthday that she made thesecond Great Discovery about herself. The first one had been made whenshe was only eleven, and like the second it had proved an unpleasantsurprise.

  It was midsummer holidays, that time when she was only eleven, andraspberry time too, and Christina and her brother Sandy were pickingberries in the "Slash," a wild bit of semi-woodland away up on thehills that divided her home farm from the land of the Grant Sisters.The Grant Girls--they were all three over fifty but everybody rightlycalled them girls,--the Grant Girls were there picking berries too,with Mrs. Johnnie Dunn, and several other friends; and there were manymore groups scattered here and there through the green tangle of bushesand saplings. For a berry-patch was community property, and when thecrop was plentiful, as it was this year, a berry-picking became apleasant social function, where one met friends from near and far, andpicnicked with them under the trees.

  Christina was working with furious speed. She and Sandy had beenracing all morning to see who would be the first to fill a four-quartpail. For Uncle Neil had promised the winner unheard-of wealth, awhole quarter of a dollar to spend as one wished, and Christina wasdetermined that the money should be hers.

  She had found a wonderful patch and was fairly pouring the berries intoher pail in a red and black shower. She was keeping well down behind aclump of alder, too, out of range of Sandy's roving eye. For Sandy hada habit of allowing you to find the best place, and then swooping downupon it like a plague of grasshoppers. She was working so hard thatshe did not notice a group of berry pickers who had taken up theirstation right opposite her on the Grant side of the low fence, and wassuddenly attracted by the discovery that they were discussing her ownfamily.

  "Them Lindsay lassies are that bonnie, I jist like to sit and look atthem, even in church when I ought to be looking at my Bible."

  It was Miss Flora Grant's soft voice that came through the screen ofsumach and alder.

  "They've all taken after their mother's folks." It was Miss Elspie'sstill softer voice. "The MacDonald women of that family was all goodlookin'."

  "Well, my grief! You don't call that long-legged youngest thinggood-lookin', do you?" sang out the loud voice of Mrs. Johnnie Dunn."She's as homely as a day-old colt!"

  The long-legged youngest thing nearly jumped out of her hiding place onthe other side of the bushes. She caught a fleeting glimpse of thelast speaker, her long, thin neck and green sunbonnet sticking up outof a tangle of bushes, like a stinging nettle in a garden.

  "Oh, you mean little Christina," said Flora Grant gently, "I jistdidn't mind about her. No, she's a nice bit lassock, but she's notbonnie. Eh, Sarah, jist look at yon patch over there; the bushes isjist as rid as roses!"

  They all moved away with a sound of tearing briars, and the Lindsaylass that was not bonnie crawled deeper into her leafy hiding-place,making a brave effort to choke back something that was causing herthroat to swell and her eyes to smart. Crying was a luxury neverindulged in, in the Lindsay family, except in the case of a realcalamity like falling out of the hay mow, or tearing your Sunday dress,and Christina dared not run the risk of having Sandy find her in tearsover mere hurt feelings.

  Nevertheless it was a very dreadful thing, quite worth crying over,this discovery that she was homely. She knew it was a tragedy, fromwhat Ellen and Mary said about girls who were not pretty. And theworst of it was that even the Grant Girls, who were her mother's verybest and closest friends, admitted the shameful fact. Mrs. JohnnieDunn would say even Joanna Falls was ugly, just to be mean, but theGrant Girls always said the very best about any one that could be said.Flora Grant had admitted that she was a "Nice bit lassock," but thatwas small comfort. Christina would have preferred to be pronounced themost disagreeable little girl in all the Province of Ontario, providedher accuser had added that she was a beauty. Character might beimproved, but what hope was there for an ugly face?

  The Lindsay habit of industry forbade that she sit long under a bushcovered with berries bewailing her lack of comeliness, for even aperson as homely as a day-old colt might make use of twenty-five cents.So she wiped her eyes on her blue-checked pinafore, and crawling outfrom her hiding-place, set stoically to work.

  She had been following a path led by the ripest and largest fruit, androunding a clump of briars, she came upon some one's dinner basket,tucked away in a cool corner. There was a pink silk sash folded on thetop of the basket, and from underneath peeped the edge of a handmirror. The basket undoubtedly belonged to Joanna Falls, who was herewith a party of girls from the village. Joanna was quite thehandsomest girl in Orchard Glen, and Mrs. Johnnie Dunn said shebelieved she never went even to church without a looking-glass in herpocket. Christina glanced about her guiltily, and then, trembling,took up the little mirror. For the first time in her life she lookedcarefully and critically at her own countenance.

  She saw a thin, little, brown face, framed by a blue sunbonnet, bigblue eyes that made the sunbonnet look faded, some untidy wisps ofstraight fair hair, and a great many freckles scattered over a shapelynose. Christina carefully replaced the mirror and moved on feelinglike a thief.

  Yes, she understood now why she was homely. It was her straight hairand those dreadful freckles. Mary had beautiful long black curls, andEllen had brown wavy hair, and both of them tanned a lovely even brownwith never a spot or blemish. Well, she would cure both maladies, seeif she wouldn't! Mary said Joanna Falls washed her face and handsevery night of her life in tansy and buttermilk. Christina would dothe same, and she would buy some of that pink complexion cure that wasin the corner store window, and which Tilly Holmes, the store-keeper'sdaughter, said would wash anything off your face, even a scar. And shewould put her hair up in curl-papers every night, and best of all, shewould take the twenty-five cents that Uncle Neil would give her, andafter she had paid for the complexion cure, she would buy a yard ofpink satin ribbon and tie up her hair and she would look as fine andhandsome as Joanna Falls herself, and even Mrs. Johnnie Dunn would haveto admit that she was as good-looking as any of the Lindsays!

  And as if to put emphasis upon her vow, she tossed the last cupful ofberries into her pail, and found it heaping full! She had won themoney! She caught up her pail and hurried joyfully to the spot whereshe had last seen Sandy, her spirits rising at every step. She wasalready on the way to beauty and success, by way of tansy andbuttermilk and twenty-five; cents worth of complexion cure and pinkribbon!

  Unmindful of many scratches, she tore through a clump of briars, andalmost tumbled over a small figure crouched in the pathway. It was aboy in a ragged shirt and a pair of trousers many sizes too large forhim. He was kneeling beside an overturned pail, and was strivingdesperately to gather up a mashed heap of berries and sand.

  "Oh," cried Christina, stopping short i
n sympathetic dismay, "oh,Gavin. What did you do?"

  The boy looked up. He was holding his mouth in a tight line, manfullykeeping back the misery his eyes could not hide. "I--I jist fell overthem," he said with a desperate effort at nonchalance.

  Christina put down her pail and tried to help. She had never likedGavin Hume. He was a Scotch boy, whom old Skinflint Jenkins' folks hadadopted from an Orphan Asylum. He was dirty and shy, and at school thegirls laughed at him and the boys teased him. But to-day he was introuble, and rumour had it that Gavin's life was one long period oftrouble, for the Jenkinses were hard people.

  "It's no use," declared Christina at last, examining the dreadful mess,and thinking of what her mother would do with it, "they're too dirty touse, Gavin. Never mind," she added comfortingly, "she won't scold,will she?"

  The boy gave a half-contemptuous gesture. "Scold? I wouldn't careabout that. _He_ said he'd give me the horse-whip when I got home ifit wasn't full."

  Christina shuddered. "But you did fill it," she cried indignantly."Won't he believe you?"

  The boy looked at her as an old man might look at a prattling child.Gavin was only a couple of years older than Christina and no bigger,but there were ages of hardship in his experience, which her shelteredchildhood could not know. But Christina's heart was always far inadvance of her head, and it guessed much. That look told her volumes.Quick as a flash, she righted his pail, caught up her own, and tumbledits fresh rosy wealth into his, heaping it high.

  "Oh, Christine! Oh, you mustn't!" The boy caught her hand to stopher, but Christina jerked away, and ran from him down the twistinggreen pathway. And as she ran she heard Mrs. Skinflint's terriblevoice calling,

  "Gav-_in_! Is that pail not full yet, you lazy lump?" and Gavin'sprompt reply, "Yes'm. It's heapin'."

  And that was some comfort to the homely young person who, with a pailonly half full, and without prospect of either wealth or beauty, waswending her way down the green tangle of the berry patch. Somehow thecomfort seemed to outweigh the misfortune. Gavin's escape from direpunishment gave her a feeling of exultation that even a pink satinribbon would fail to produce.

  A shout from Sandy away down in the green nook where they had lefttheir dinner pail under a log, quickened her footsteps. She found himtrampling down the berry-bushes in a vain search for the refreshments,for Sandy was thirteen and in a chronic state of starvation.

  "Where on earth you been?" he enquired, in mingled relief and wrath."I thought you must be dead and buried. I'm so hungry my back-bone'scomin' out at the front."

  Christina giggled. One could never remember one's troubles in Sandy'sgay presence. She dived into the cool cavern beneath the mossy log andcame out with their dinner. Sandy helped her unpack it feverishly.Mother had put up a very comforting lunch for a starving boy and girl;thick sandwiches of bread and pork, scones soaked in Maple Syrup, ahalf-dozen cookies, a bottle of milk and two generous wedges of pie.

  When Sandy had eaten enough to make speech possible he pointedtriumphantly to his full pail.

  "Say! What do you think? I've beat you!" He cried in amazement, "Idid a perfect moose of a day's work. The quarter's mine!"

  "Well, I've just as much right to it as you have," declared Christina,who did not believe in letting her good deeds waste their sweetness onthe desert air of a berry patch. "I had my pail heaped a dozen times,and shook down too, and Gavin Hume spilled all his on an ant hill, andhe said Old Skinflint would thrash him, so I gave him mine."

  "You did!" Sandy grunted. Christina was always doing things like that."Well you're a silly. Why can't he keep his berries when he picks 'em?Never mind," he added, having reached the pie, and feeling generous,"I'll give you half the money, and we'll get some gum and a box o'paints."

  Christina did not dare confess how she had planned to spend the money,and was not much comforted by his offer. Even paints would notpermanently improve one's complexion.

  "Sandy," she said at last, with much hesitation, "do you,--who do youthink is the prettiest girl in our school?"

  Sandy stared. He belonged to the Stone Age as yet, and knew nothing ofthe decorative, and less about girls. He had no notion that they wereclassified at all, except as little girls and big girls.

  "How do _I_ know?" he enquired, rather indignantly, as though hissister had suspected him of secret knowledge of a crime. "I don't knowany that's good lookin'," he added conclusively.

  "Our Mary's awful pretty," suggested Christina pensively.

  "Is she?" Sandy lay back in gorged content, and gazed up into theswaying green sea of the Maples. "I bet she knows it mighty well,then, let me tell you."

  "I heard the Grant Girls and Mrs. Johnnie Dunn talkin', when I was awayback by Grants' fence. They were talkin' about our girls, and FloraGrant said they were all,--said that Ellen and Mary were sogood-lookin' that she watched them in church."

  Sandy was showing signs of interest. He sat up. "What did they sayabout you?"

  "Flora said I was a 'nice bit lassock,' but Mrs. Johnniesaid,"--Christina could not bring herself to tell the humiliatingtruth--"she said I wasn't like the rest," she finished falteringly.

  Sandy was beginning to wake up to the fact that Christina was indistress. Why any human being should worry about her appearance wassomething far beyond Sandy's comprehension, but he could not endure tosee Christina worried. He caught up a stone and shied it across thesunny tangle at an old Crow perched on a tall black stump.

  "Sugar," he declared. "Who cares for what Mrs. Johnnie says? Shelooks like our old brindle cow herself. Duke Simms says she's gotchilblains on her temper."

  His stormy attack upon the enemy proved very bracing to the one who hadbeen so recently overthrown by her.

  "But the Grant girls said so too," she added, searching for morecomfort.

  "Just as if they knew," scoffed Sandy. "They're a lot of old rainbows,Duke says they are. Looks don't matter anyhow. It don't get you onany faster in school."

  Christina, much encouraged, reflected upon this aspect of the case.

  "I don't care," she decided courageously, making a new resolve, thathad nothing to do with hair or complexion. "I'm going to study awfulhard at school and beat everybody in the class, and then I'm going tocollege some day and be a lady. You'll just see if I don't. And it'llbe far better to be clever than to be good-lookin', won't it, Sandy?"

  That was just eight years ago, and now on her nineteenth birthdayChristina was calling to mind with some amusement the humiliation ofthat day, and with some discouragement, that the high resolve of thatoccasion was far from being realised.

  She came up the path from the barn, where the rays of the early sunmade rosy lanes between the pink and white boughs of the orchard. ForChristina had been born in the joyous May-time, and the whole farm wasbedecked for the occasion. She was tall and straight and carried hertwo pails of milk with easy grace. The light through the orchardboughs touched her fair hair and made it shining gold. Her eyes wereas blue as the strip of sky above her, and her cheeks were as pink asthe apple blossoms. Mrs. Johnnie Dunn's judgment had not been reversedby the years, Christina was still a long way from being one of theLindsay beauties. But she possessed an abundance of that lovelinessthat always accompanies youth and health and a merry heart.

  She was not quite so gay as usual this morning. She felt that sheought to be grave and dignified, as befitted a person who was so old.It was no joke, this being nineteen, just next-door to twenty, when youwanted still to play with the dog or chase Sandy round the stack. Agemakes one retrospective, too, and she was reflecting how far short shehad come of attaining the great ambition born eight years ago in theraspberry patch. For here she was, on her nineteenth birthday, stillmilking cows and feeding calves, with not even a school teacher'scertificate to her credit.

  She had not failed to put forth every effort to attain, but somehoweach high endeavour had turned out like the race for the quarter dollarin the berry patch; she was always just
about to grasp the prize, whensome unfortunate picker fell across her path with a spilled pail.

  There was that day when she and Mary and Sandy were all ready to go toHigh School together. But Father died that summer, and it was decreedthat the expense of three in the town could not be met. So Christinastayed, partly because the other two were older, but mostly becauseMary cried bitterly at the suggestion that Christina go in her place.

  Then there came a second chance when Sandy had graduated and started toteach school, but Grandpa took very ill and could not bear that sheleave him. The third time proved the charm, for she did get away, andfor a whole year spread her wings gloriously in Algonquin High School.She did wonders, too, taking two years' work in one, but the crops werepoor the next year and Mary had to take her term at the Teachers'Training School, and the expense for two could not be met.

  And so here she was at nineteen, burning to be up and away, and vowingto herself that not another year would pass over her head and find herstill in Orchard Glen milking cows and feeding chickens.

  The world about her did not seem to be in accord with her thoughts. Itwas full of joy and contentment with its beautiful lot. The robins inthe gay orchard boughs were shouting that it was a glorious place tolive in. Away up in the elm tree before the house an oriole wasblowing his little golden trumpet, his flashing coat rivalling the rowof scarlet and golden tulips that bordered the garden path. The littlegreen lawn before the house sparkled under a diamond-spangled web.

  From beyond the pink and white screen of the orchard came the happysounds of the barnyard; the clatter of the bars as Sandy turned thecows into the back lane; Old Sport's bark; Jimmie's high voice scoldingthe calf that was trying to swallow the pail for breakfast; the squealof hungry little pigs; the clatter of hens and many other voices makingup the Barnyard Spring Song.

  Christina's pet kitten, a tiny black blot on the pink and green, camedaintily down the path to meet her, mindful of her two pails of warmmilk. Sport, who had succeeded in putting the cows into their places,came bounding up in a fit of boisterous familiarity, and leaped at thelittle black ball with a gay,

  "Woof! How are you this morning, you useless black mite?"

  Two indignant green spots flamed up in the blackness and the miteitself turned into a fierce little bow, bent to shoot, and in a flash,bow quiver and all shot like lightning up the tree, spitting arrows inall directions.

  Christina forgot all about her ambitions and laughed aloud, and Sportjoined her, leaping around her and laughing silently in his own dogfashion with tongue and tail. It was very hard to remember that onewas nineteen and had never been anywhere nor attained anything,impossible to remember when the orchard was aflame in the sunrise, andthe oriole was shouting from the elm tree. Christina burst into song,just as spontaneously as the robins.

  It was a very foolish song, too, one that Jimmie had brought home fromAlgonquin High School:

  "Oh, Judy O'Toole, It's you that's the fool, For lavin' the county o' Cork. Oh, Judy O'Toole, It's you that's the fool, That iver ye came to New York!"

  Ellen, her eldest sister, was frying the pork and potatoes forbreakfast in the old summer kitchen. She looked through the door asthe singer passed.

  "Christine!" she called reprovingly. "Whatever will that girl singnext?"

  Uncle Neil, who was drying his hands on the roller towel at the door,laughed indulgently.

  "It isn't jist the kind of a hymn that would do for prayer-meeting," hesaid. "Hi, Christine! Is that a new psalm tune you're practisin'?"

  But, Christina and her song had disappeared into the spring house.This was a little stone structure, built into the grassy hill behindthe house. Down beside it, overhung with willows, a little springgushed out of the sand, clear and cold on the hottest summer days. Andso, in the little stone building, Christina's butter was always sweetand hard, like golden bricks.

  She set about her work with swift motions. It was necessary to workharder than usual to-day, to get rid of the ache to be away doingsomething else. She set the separator whirling, giving out its droningsong of plenty--the farm Matins and Vespers.

  "Jimmie," she called up the little stone stairway, "hurry down here,Lazybones, and turn the Gramophone."

  A big clumsy boy, whose body was getting ahead of his mind in the racefor maturity, came thumping down the steps with the calves' emptypails. He pulled a loose strand of his sister's hair as he seized thehandle of the separator.

  "Now, Mrs. Johnnie Dunn," he warned, "don't go orderin' your bettersround."

  Their work was brightened with a great deal of merry nonsense. ForChristina always made holiday of all toil, and even Jimmie, who waspassing through the weary period of boyhood, when any effort isinsupportable, found it amusing to work with her.

  "I suppose, now that you're nineteen, you'll be gettin' a fellow," heteased, as he watched her wash the separator and put it out in the sun."It's time you had one."

  "Yes, I was thinking that too," said Christina agreeably. "I wasplanning that I would get Mike Duffy to be my beau, now that you're sosweet on Big Rosie. It would be so nice to be married into the samefamily."

  Jimmie gave a squall of rage and disgust. Rosie Duffy was a hugefreckled-faced girl, to whom, in a moment of generous weakness, he hadgiven a ride from town, and Christina had used the fact to his undoingever since.

  He caught up the calves' pails of milk and fled up into the sunshine.It was never safe to tease Christina, you always got back far worsethan you gave.

  When he came back to the house the family was gathering for itsbreakfast, and a fine big family it was. There were just two absent,the father, who was taking his well-earned rest in the grassy churchyard on the hill, and Allister, the eldest son, who had gone west tenyears ago to make his fortune and had not been home since.

  Uncle Neil MacDonald took his place at the head of the table, where hehad sat ever since the father left it. Uncle Neil was very muchbeloved, but he was in no sense the head of the family. He was a gay,easy-going body, given to singing songs and playing the fiddle, and notat all calculated to keep a virile group of boys and girls in order.So, John, the eldest son at home, was the real head of the family, andhis mother's support. For John was wise and strong and many, manyyears older than Uncle Neil.

  Ellen, the busy housewife, came next. She was just as handsome as whenMiss Flora Grant used to look at her in church, and since she had grownup many other admiring eyes looked her way. Neil, who was going to bea minister, but who was very much of a farmer this morning, sat byJohn. Neil was already in College, and Mr. Sinclair, the minister ofOrchard Glen, who made it his boast that in twenty-five years of hisministry the Orchard Glen church had not been without itsrepresentative in Knox College, declared that not one of the train hadcome up to Neil Lindsay in intellect, and that the world and the churchwould hear of him one day.

  Mary was the family beauty, all pink and white with glossy curls, andSandy was still Christina's chum and confidant, and the last wasJimmie, hovering between boyhood and manhood. There was a plate setfor Grandpa Lindsay, who had not yet appeared. He was rarely quite intime for the early farm breakfast, but he was always on the scenebefore they separated, to conduct family worship. His bedroom was offthe winter kitchen, where the breakfast was laid, and they could hearhim moving about singing and talking to himself.

  Mrs. Lindsay was a little woman with a sweet, strong face covered witha network of wrinkles. Her hands were calloused and discoloured andher back was bent with hard work, but her eyes were bright, and herheart was still as young as her family.

  "And it's nineteen you are to-day, hinny," she cried, looking atChristina fondly.

  Christina made a wry face. "Yes, isn't it awful? I don't want to beso old."

  "Hut, tut, old," laughed Uncle Neil. "Your mother and father were ontheir way from the Old Country when she was nineteen, and Allister wasa baby."

  Christina mentally decided that even crossing the ocean to a strangecountr
y was not at all as bad as staying for nineteen years in the sameplace, but she did not say so.

  "Well, it's pretty nice to be nineteen, isn't it?" said Neil. "If itwasn't seeding time John and I would take a day off and go on a picnic."

  "I wish something would happen," said Christina recklessly, "somethingawfully surprising."

  "You might go out and hoe up that back field of corn," suggested Sandy."That would surprise John and me more than anything."

  "But it wouldn't surprise me a bit and I'm the person concerned.Nothing in the shape of work could possibly surprise me any more. Itwould have to be a spree of some sort."

  "Well," said Ellen, who was always sensible and practical, "be thankfulthat nothing unpleasant is happening. Anybody would think you wouldlike the barn to burn down."

  It was rather a noisy breakfast, for the Lindsays were a bright crowdin spite of much hard work, and Christina and Sandy were always makingmerry over something. They were just finishing when Grandpa came inwith his toddling step and his usual exclamation of pleased surprised,"Eh, well, well, and you're all here!"

  Christina ran for the ancient Bible that lay on the shelf in thecorner, with Grandpa's spectacles upon it. Ellen fetched his old redcushion from the sofa in the corner, and Grandpa sat down slowly andheavily. He had never been heard to complain in all his hard-workedlife, nor in his years of approaching age, but at the morning worshiphe always chose a portion of scripture that accorded with his feelings.So when he read the 103rd psalm, his sister smiled, evidently he feltin accord with the radiant May morning. Grandpa was very deaf andlaboured under the idea that every one else was similarly afflicted, sohe read and prayed in a very loud voice. But the Lindsays were allused to it. This early morning worship set the standard for the day'swork. And led by Grandpa who had travelled far up on the road ofsaintship, it fortified young and old for the day's toil andtemptations.

  When it was over the family hurried away to their tasks. John and thepreacher-farmer went off to the brown fields, Ellen went to her bakingand washing. Jimmie shouldered his books and set off on his Mondaymorning tramp to the High School in Algonquin, from which he would notreturn until Friday night. Sandy put off his farm overalls, and droveup from the barn with the single buggy; and Mary, with a trim dust-coatover her pretty blue dress, came tripping down the orchard path andclimbed into the buggy at his side. Mary taught school at a littlecorner called Greenwood, a couple of miles down the concession, andSandy taught just two miles farther on. So every morning the two droveaway to their schools and returned in the evening. Christina ran downthe lane to open the gate for them.

  "Now, be good, and don't go and do anything very wild just because it'syour birthday," called Sandy.

  "Oh, Christine," cried Mary, "don't let Ellen forget to wash my pinkdress; I got some mud on it yesterday. And if you could iron it like adear, I'd be ever so much obliged."

  Christina promised willingly, and waved them a gay good-bye. She stoodat the gate watching them as they turned down the broad white road.That road could be seen for miles from where she stood, winding awaydown over hill and through wooded hollow. It disappeared in a belt offorest but came into view again running along the margin of Lake Simcoefar off on the horizon, and away beyond her view it ended in a greatcity where Christina had never been. But that road always set herheart beating faster. It was the great highway that led out into theworld, the road she longed to take. And always in the morning when shestood at the gate thus, just before turning back to the tasks that heldher, it seemed to beckon her to come away.

  And then she ran back to the barnyard to feed her chickens, and madethe second Great Discovery about herself.

  Uncle Neil came out of the noisy enclosure where the pigs were fightingwith their morning meal, and helped her throw the feed to herquarrelsome brood. Uncle Neil had for years been a semi-invalid andspent his time doing the lighter work of the farm and garden. Thoughhe had attended school only a few years in his childhood, he had a mindstored with the wealth of years of reading, held by an unfailingmemory. And now that his physical ailments gave him more leisure, hewas reading everything that was worth while that came to his hand. Andhe gave out his wealth generously to Christina as they did their workevery morning in the barnyard.

  They laughed together at one old hen whom Christina had named Mrs.Johnnie Dunn, after the one woman in Orchard Glen who managedeverything and everybody on her farm. Her namesake of the barnyardruled all the other hens and saw to it that she was well providedherself.

  "She never waits for Opportunity's bald spot, now does she?" said UncleNeil, admiringly, as the busy, fussy lady made a leap and caught agrain of corn, in mid-air, while another hen was watching for it tofall upon the ground.

  "What's Opportunity's bald spot?" enquired Christina. "How dare youhave some information you haven't given me?"

  "Don't you know the old story about Opportunity and his bald spot?"enquired Uncle Neil delighted.

  And then he told the ancient tale of Opportunity and his lock of hairthat hung in front, and Christina listened with more than her usualabsorption. She was making her second discovery.

  "There!" she exclaimed, with an energy that sent the hens scurryingaway, alarmed, from her feet. "That's just what's the matter with me.I am always letting Mr. Opportunity walk past and then when I try tograb him I catch hold of his bald spot and he slips away."

  "Well, well," said Uncle Neil, "I don't think he's walked past you veryoften. You're but nineteen to-day."

  "I'm sure that's bad enough. That's nearly twenty, and then you're outof your teens. When I was eleven I made a solemn vow that I'd get agood education and go away off somewhere and attend college and be alady. And here I am at nineteen, still feeding the pigs and milkingthe cows. I guess I haven't any of the Lindsay luck."

  "The Lindsay luck was always spelled with a p in front, my lass, and acapital P at that. You can have all of that ye want."

  They went back up the blossoming orchard path, stopping at the pump,which was mid-way to the house, to take up a pail of water. They leftit at the back door under the vines, and Uncle Neil went round to thegarden at the other side of the old rambling house, to help his sisterwith her onions. Christina ran round to the side door where Grandpawas sitting in the sun on the old sloping porch. The old man saw hercoming and drew back behind the vines. As she shot round the corner ofthe house he poked out his head suddenly with a loud and alarming "Boo!"

  Christina jumped back with a scream that set the old man laughingheartily and kept him chuckling for an hour afterwards. Every morningof her life Grandpa played this little trick upon her from some corner,and Christina never forgot to scream in terror, and Grandpa's amusementwas never abated.

  She slapped him for frightening her, adding hugely to his enjoyment,and ran on into the kitchen. Ellen was almost ready to put the clotheson the line and Christina gave her a helping hand before going on withher own work, reminding her meanwhile of the pink dress that must beready before the evening.

  "We'll have to hire a woman to do the baking, and I guess Grandpa'llhave to do the washing when you leave," declared Christina. "I'd makea bargain with Bruce, if I were you, that he's to do the washinghimself, before I'd marry him."

  Ellen laughed gaily. She and Bruce McKenzie had been sweethearts eversince their public school days, and the next Christmas they were goingto start life together on Bruce's farm. Ellen was very radiant thesedays and Christina's warnings were a source of amusement.

  When the snowy array was hung in the sunshine, Christina went down intothe cool spring house to her churning. She stood at the door, whirlingthe dasher and looking up into the blossoming orchard, but seeing noneof it. She was really very much concerned over this bald spot of Mr.Opportunity. She had surely let him slip past her many a time, andhere she was at nineteen and who knew if he would come again?

  "I just _won't_ stay here working at you forever, now, mind that," shecried, slapping the butter vicio
usly with her wooden paddle. "Just letMr. Opportunity come along once more, and see if I let him go! Neveragain!"

  And then she made a daring resolution. She would dress up, even if itwas Monday morning, and go away down to the village, and see if someevent wouldn't happen. Something told her that a great adventure wasawaiting her just out there on the road if she would only go to meet it.

  She packed away the butter in its firm golden bars, and went into thehouse. As she crossed the grassy open space, an old-fashioned doublebuggy went rattling down the road. Some one in the back seat waved agay parasol at her, and Christina responded with a flap of her apron.

  It was two of the three Miss Grants going to town with their adoptednephew, Gavin Hume, who was now Gavin Grant. For the very summer thatChristina had given her berries to the abused little orphan, the Grantsisters had rescued him from the dire possibility of being taken Westby the Skinflint Jenkinses who were moving to the prairies. Gavin hadgrown very dear to the old ladies, and indeed it was the joke of theneighbourhood how much they petted him.

  "There's Oor Gavie with two of his Aunties," called Christina to Ellen,who was looking through the door to see who was passing. "I guess theyare taking him to town to help him choose a new necktie."

  Ellen laughed. The Grant Girls, as they were still called, werecertainly foolish enough over Gavin to do it. They were still Mrs.Lindsay's closest friends, and "Oor Gavie's" virtues were well known inthe Lindsay family.

  "I'm all done now," declared Christina, standing in the middle of thekitchen, and waving her apron vigorously. "And as it is my birthday, Ithink I'll go off and look for an adventure. I feel as if something'sgot to happen to-day, or I'll set fire to the house."

  Her elder sister turned from her pie-baking to look at her. "Well, mygoodness," she exclaimed, "sometimes I think you're not in your rightmind." Ellen was staid and steady and well behaved and could nevercomprehend Christina's restlessness. "Whatever do you want now?"

  "I want to go to the University; that's the exact truth. But as Ican't go before dinner, I believe I'll walk down into the villageinstead, and see if I can meet Mr. Opportunity."

  "Mr. What?" asked Ellen in alarm. If Christina had any smallest notionof dressing up and parading the village street when the young men camedown to the corner, as some of the girls did, she, Ellen, would lookafter her right thoroughly. "Who's he?"

  Christina laughed uproariously. "Oh, I must tell Uncle Neil!" shecried. "Don't worry, he's awfully old and bald, so there's no danger."

  She darted out to the garden to share the joke with Uncle Neil, andthen she slipped into the house, unnoticed, and up to her own room.She felt as excited as if she were planning to run away. She dressedvery carefully in her afternoon gingham of blue that looked pale besidethe colour of her eyes. She made a coronal of her heavy golden brownbraids, winding them round her shapely head, making a face at herselfin the glass because the hair was so straight and her nose was sofreckled. And then she slipped down the stairs like a thief and randown the path behind the spring house. She would not have confessedit, even for a college course, but she was wondering if, in this wildexpedition to meet Mr. Opportunity, one might not meet one's DreamKnight riding out there on the highway. For though Christina had neverhad a lover, she had her true Knight, who rode just beyond the horizon.And why shouldn't she meet him to-day? Anything wonderful was liableto happen on a May morning when you were just nineteen and were runningaway from the beaten track in search of adventure.

  The path that ran down behind the spring house and across the corner ofthe clover field was the Short Cut to the village. It ran into alittle grove, and there Sandy had made a very primitive stile to enableMary to get over the fence without spoiling her Sunday clothes. Allthe fields were bordered with a fringe of feathery green bushes, fromwhich rose the sweet roundelays of the song sparrows. The meadow larkssoared and called to each other over the green-brown carpet of theearth, and away up against the dazzling blue of the sky thebob-o'-links danced and trilled. Christina gave a joyous skip as sheentered the little grove. There the sunlight lay on the underbrush ingreat golden splashes, and the White Throat called "Canada, Canada,Canada," as if he could never leave off.

  She ran joyously down the pathway that led to the road, and there, justat the edge of the stile, under the low bushes, her sharp eye caughtsomething white. Her heart gave a leap; here, surely, was the GreatAdventure waiting for her. She ran forward and found a basket hiddenaway under the stile. It was covered carefully with a newspaper, and,wonder of wonders, bore a card with her name, "Miss Christina Lindsay."She pulled it out breathlessly and tore off the cover. Beneath was aperfect glory of garden flowers, great crimson and golden tulips,narcissi, waxy white with golden hearts, purple hyacinths, filling thewoods with their perfume, and such a wealth of daffodils as would takeaway the breath.

  Christina stood with her arms full, and looked at them with a feelingthat was very much like dismay. There was only one garden in thetownship that could produce a basket like that, and it belonged to hermother's friends, the Grant Girls, but Christina well knew they had notsent her the birthday gift. In a corner of the card was written invery small letters, "From G. G."

  Though Christina was nineteen she had never had what was termed inOrchard Glen society, "a fellow." There was no girl having reachedsuch an age without the pleasant experience of a special notice fromsome young man, but must stop and ask herself the reason. Christinahad long ago put her poverty down to her lack of beauty. But she wasnot very much troubled over it, for her Dream Knight still rode gailyjust beyond the horizon, and who knew when he might not ride up to herdoor? But though his outlines were very hazy, Christina knew in herheart that he was altogether and entirely unlike Gavin Grant.

  Gavin was shy and awkward, and had lived so long away on the backconcession with his Aunties, where the grass grew in the middle of thecorduroy road, that he had grown as queer and old-fashioned as theywere. But ever since the day Christina had saved him from SkinflintJenkins' horse-whip, he had shown a tendency to follow her withadoringly humble eyes. He had made no further attempt to attract herattention until now. And here was his first gift! And worst of all hemust have told his Aunts about it! Christina hastily pushed the basketback, and seating herself upon the stile, looked down at it.

  The first offering from Love's treasure house could not but make theheart beat faster; but what a disappointment that it should comethrough Gavin Grant of all people! How Jimmie would tease her, and howMary would laugh--Mary, who had so many beaux sending her presents thatshe did not know what to do with them all. And Sandy,--no, Sandy wouldnot laugh. Sandy liked Gavin and said he was one of the best fellowshe knew. But his virtues were not the sort that a Dream Knightpossessed, especially when you were only nineteen and out on the roadfor adventure.

  Christina sat on the stile and gazed down the road that crossed thelittle brown stream and then became the village street. She could seethe church spire above the orchard trees, and hear the "cling clung" ofMark Falls' blacksmith shop, and the shouts of the school children outfor their morning recess. But there was no smallest sign of anadditional adventure. Evidently this was the announcement of her fate.And as she sat there, filled with restless longing, a car appeared in acloud of dust away on the hilltop at the other end of the village, andeven in the midst of her disappointment Opportunity was speedingtowards her on rapid wheels.