Chapter III. Carver House

Nyoda was waiting for them on the platform, looking just as she used to, radiant, girlish, enthusiastic, bubbling over with fun. Not a shade of sadness or anxiety in her face betrayed the loneliness in her heart and her longing for the presence of the dear man she had sent forth in the cause of liberty. In respect to sorrows, Nyoda's attitude toward the world had always been, "Those which are yours are mine, but those which are mine are my own."

Encircled by four pairs of Winnebago arms and with eager questions being hurled at her from all sides, it seemed as if the old times had come again indeed.

"Sahwah! Migwan! Hinpoha! Gladys!" she exclaimed joyfully, looking at them with beaming eyes. "My own Winnebagos! But come, I'm dying to show you my new playhouse," and she led the way across the station platform to where her automobile stood waiting.

A swift spin along a quiet avenue bordered with immense old oaks that stood like rows of soldiers at attention, and up quite a steep hill, from which they could look back upon the houses and buildings clustering in the valley, which was the heart of the town, and then they drew up before a very old brick house which stood on the summit of the hill. It had green blinds and a fanlight over the front door, and a brick walk running from the front steps to the street, bordered on each side by a box hedge in a prim, Ladies' Garden effect like one sees in the illustrations of children's poems.

"Oh, Nyoda, how splendid!" cried Hinpoha, her artistic soul delighted beyond measure at the hedge and the walk and the white door with its quaint knocker.

"Wait until you see the inside," replied Nyoda, throwing open the door with the pleased air of a child exhibiting a new and cherished toy.

Cries of admiration and delight filled the air as the Winnebagos entered. The whole house was furnished just as it might have been in the old Colonial days--braided rugs on the floor, candlesticks in glass holders, slender-legged, spindle-backed chairs, quaint mahogany tables, a huge spinning wheel before the fireplace, and, wonder of wonders! between the two end windows of the stately parlor there stood a harp, the late sunshine gleaming in a soft radiance from its gilded frame and slender wires like the glory of a by-gone day. Hinpoha stood enraptured before the instrument.

"I've always been wild to learn to play on a harp," she said, drawing her fingers caressingly over the strings and awaking faint, throbbing tones, too soft to be discords, that echoed through the room like the ghost of a song played years ago, and trembled away until they seemed to mingle with the golden light that flooded the room through the west windows.

"If I had my choice of being any of the fabulous creatures in the mythology book," said Hinpoha musingly, "I think I'd choose to be a harpy."

"A what?" asked Nyoda quizzically.

"A harpy," repeated Hinpoha, touching the strings again. Then, looking up and seeing the twinkle in Nyoda's eye, she added, "Weren't the Harpies beautiful maidens that sat on the rocks and played harps and lured the sailors to destruction with their ravishing songs? Oh, I say, they were too," she finished feebly, amid a perfect shout of laughter from the girls. "Well, what were they, then? Horrible monsters? Oh, what a shame! What a misleading thing the English language is, anyway! You'd naturally expect a harpy to play on a harp. Anyway, you needn't laugh, Sahwah. I remember once you said in class that a peptonoid was a person with a lot of pep, so there!"

Sahwah joined gaily in the laugh that followed at her expense. "So I did," she admitted unblushingly, "and what's more, I only discovered day before yesterday that a trapezoid wasn't a trapeze performer!"

"Oh, Sahwah, you imp, you're making that up," said Gladys in a skeptical tone.

"Nice child," said Nyoda, patting Sahwah approvingly, trying to turn the laugh upon herself, on the principle that the hostess should always break another cut glass tumbler when the guest breaks one."

"Oh dear," said Migwan regretfully, "why did you say that about Harpies, Hinpoha, and make us laugh? I was just thinking how beautiful you looked, leaning over that harp, just like that oil painting in the gallery at home, and was getting into quite a poetical mood over it, when you had to make us laugh and spoil it all. I declare, that was too bad!"

"Serves you right for getting poetical about me," retorted Hinpoha.

"But Nyoda," said Gladys, whose eyes had been feasting on the details of the house with every increasing wonder and pleasure, "how does it come that you moved into this little town from Philadelphia, and how do you happen to be living in this wonderful old house?"

"I inherited this place a few months after I was married," replied Nyoda. "It is the old Carver House; built before the Revolution and kept in the family ever since. My mother was a Carver--that's how I happened to inherit it. She died years ago, without ever dreaming that the house would come to me, for she was not a direct heir, being only a third cousin. But the last of the direct line died out with old Uncle Jasper Carver and that left me the only living blood relation. So this beautiful house and everything in it came to me."

"Oh, Nyoda, I should think you would have died of joy!" said Hinpoha in a rapt tone. "I know people who would give their eyebrows to own so much old Colonial furniture."

"This house has seen proud days in its time," went on Nyoda. "The Carvers were staunch patriots, and many a meeting of loyal citizens was held around that table in the dining room. They say that Benjamin Franklin was once a guest here. The history of the Carver family was Uncle Jasper's pet hobby, and he has it all printed up in books which you may see in the library.

"The Carvers have always been a fighting family," she continued, with a flash of pride in her black eyes. "They fought in the Revolution, in the Civil War, and in the Spanish-American War. But now that the country is again calling men to her aid," she finished with a sigh, "there are no more Carver men to answer the call. I am the last of the Carvers, and I am only a woman."

"But you've done all that you could do," said Migwan staunchly. "You've sent your husband."

Nyoda drew herself up unconsciously as her eyes sought the picture of Sherry on the mantelpiece with the silk flag draped over it.

"Yes," she echoed softly, "the last of the Carvers has done her bit."

A dinner bell clanged through the house and Nyoda sprang up with a start. "Dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes, girls," she exclaimed. "Scurry upstairs and remove the stains of travel while I consult the cook."

"Why, Nyoda," said Sahwah in surprise, "I didn't know you had a cook. You told us coming up from the station that you did all your own work because you didn't think it was patriotic to hire servants at this time and take them away from the more essential industries!"

Nyoda looked nonplussed for a moment and then she laughed heartily. "Special occasion," she remarked ceremoniously, and disappeared with a chuckle through a door at the end of the hall.

The four girls went leisurely up the broad staircase with its white spindles and polished mahogany rail to the rooms overhead, furnished with huge curtained four-posters and fascinating chests of drawers with cut-glass knobs.

In fifteen minutes the bell sent its summons through the house again and the Winnebagos responded with alacrity. Nyoda stood in the dining-room doorway to receive them, looking rather mysterious, they thought, and Sahwah's sharp eyes counted a sixth place laid at the table. Nyoda seated them, apparently not noticing the empty place, and then tinkled the little bell that stood on the table at her place. In answer to her tinkle the pantry door opened and in came the cook carrying a tray of dishes. The Winnebagos looked up idly as she came in and the next moment the ancestral Chippendale chairs of the Carver family were shoved back unceremoniously as their occupants joined in a mad scramble to see who could reach the cook first, while Nyoda looked on and laughed gleefully.

"Veronica! Veronica Lehar!" cried the Winnebagos in wonder and ecstasy. "You here!" "How perfectly gorgeous!" "How did you happen to come?"

"By urgent invitation, sweet lambs," replied Nyoda, "just like some other people I could name. She blazed the trail for the Winnebagos by arriving yesterday."

"Oh, you naughty, bad 'Bagos," said Migwan, embracing both Veronica and Nyoda in her delight, "to frame up such a surprise for us! We standing there cool as cucumbers in the front room of the house talking for half an hour and Veronica out in the kitchen all the while, masquerading as cook!"

"You pretty nearly upset the surprise, though, Mistress Sahwah," said Nyoda, "with your suspicions in regard to my having a cook. It's next to impossible to take you in, you eagle-eyed Indian! Come, Veronica, roll down your sleeves and take your rightful place at the table. Now, girls,

  "While we're here let's give a cheer
  And sing to Wohelo!"

And then let's dip our wheatless crusts into our meatless broth for the eternal glory and prosperity of the Winnebagos!"