Chapter XIII. An Old Proverb With A New Meaning
 

IT was half-past five when we boys got up the next morning. We were joined on the stairs by Felicity, yawning and rosy.

"Oh, dear me, I overslept myself. Uncle Roger wanted breakfast at six. Well, I suppose the fire is on anyhow, for the Story Girl is up. I guess she got up early to knead the bread. She couldn't sleep all night for worrying over it."

The fire was on, and a flushed and triumphant Story Girl was taking a loaf of bread from the oven.

"Just look," she said proudly. "I have every bit of the bread baked. I got up at three, and it was lovely and light, so I just gave it a right good kneading and popped it into the oven. And it's all done and out of the way. But the loaves don't seem quite as big as they should be," she added doubtfully.

"Sara Stanley!" Felicity flew across the kitchen. "Do you mean that you put the bread right into the oven after you kneaded it without leaving it to rise a second time?"

The Story Girl turned quite pale.

"Yes, I did," she faltered. "Oh, Felicity, wasn't it right?"

"You've ruined the bread," said Felicity flatly. "It's as heavy as a stone. I declare, Sara Stanley, I'd rather have a little common sense than be a great story teller."

Bitter indeed was the poor Story Girl's mortification.

"Don't tell Uncle Roger," she implored humbly.

"Oh, I won't tell him," promised Felicity amiably. "It's lucky there's enough old bread to do to-day. This will go to the hens. But it's an awful waste of good flour."

The Story Girl crept out with Felix and me to the morning orchard, while Dan and Peter went to do the barn work.

"It isn't any use for me to try to learn to cook," she said.

"Never mind," I said consolingly. "You can tell splendid stories."

"But what good would that do a hungry boy?" wailed the Story Girl.

"Boys ain't always hungry," said Felix gravely. "There's times when they ain't."

"I don't believe it," said the Story Girl drearily.

"Besides," added Felix in the tone of one who says while there is life there is yet hope, "you may learn to cook yet if you keep on trying."

"But Aunt Olivia won't let me waste the stuff. My only hope was to learn this week. But I suppose Felicity is so disgusted with me now that she won't give me any more lessons."

"I don't care," said Felix. "I like you better than Felicity, even if you can't cook. There's lots of folks can make bread. But there isn't many who can tell a story like you."

"But it's better to be useful than just interesting," sighed the Story Girl bitterly.

And Felicity, who was useful, would, in her secret soul, have given anything to be interesting. Which is the way of human nature.

Company descended on us that afternoon. First came Aunt Janet's sister, Mrs. Patterson, with a daughter of sixteen years and a son of two. They were followed by a buggy-load of Markdale people; and finally, Mrs. Elder Frewen and her sister from Vancouver, with two small daughters of the latter, arrived.

"It never rains but it pours," said Uncle Roger, as he went out to take their horse. But Felicity's foot was on her native heath. She had been baking all the afternoon, and, with a pantry well stocked with biscuits, cookies, cakes, and pies, she cared not if all Carlisle came to tea. Cecily set the table, and the Story Girl waited on it and washed all the dishes afterwards. But all the blushing honours fell to Felicity, who received so many compliments that her airs were quite unbearable for the rest of the week. She presided at the head of the table with as much grace and dignity as if she had been five times twelve years old, and seemed to know by instinct just who took sugar and who took it not. She was flushed with excitement and pleasure, and was so pretty that I could hardly eat for looking at her--which is the highest compliment in a boy's power to pay.

The Story Girl, on the contrary, was under eclipse. She was pale and lustreless from her disturbed night and early rising; and no opportunity offered to tell a melting tale. Nobody took any notice of her. It was Felicity's day.

After tea Mrs. Frewen and her sister wished to visit their father's grave in the Carlisle churchyard. It appeared that everybody wanted to go with them; but it was evident that somebody must stay home with Jimmy Patterson, who had just fallen sound asleep on the kitchen sofa. Dan finally volunteered to look after him. He had a new Henty book which he wanted to finish, and that, he said, was better fun than a walk to the graveyard.

"I think we'll be back before he wakes," said Mrs. Patterson, "and anyhow he is very good and won't be any trouble. Don't let him go outside, though. He has a cold now."

We went away, leaving Dan sitting on the door-sill reading his book, and Jimmy P. snoozing blissfully on the sofa. When we returned--Felix and the girls and I were ahead of the others--Dan was still sitting in precisely the same place and attitude; but there was no Jimmy in sight.

"Dan, where's the baby?" cried Felicity.

Dan looked around. His jaw fell in blank amazement. I never say any one look as foolish as Dan at that moment.

"Good gracious, I don't know," he said helplessly.

"You've been so deep in that wretched book that he's got out, and dear knows where he is," cried Felicity distractedly.

"I wasn't," cried Dan. "He must be in the house. I've been sitting right across the door ever since you left, and he couldn't have got out unless he crawled right over me. He must be in the house."

"He isn't in the kitchen," said Felicity rushing about wildly, "and he couldn't get into the other part of the house, for I shut the hall door tight, and no baby could open it--and it's shut tight yet. So are all the windows. He must have gone out of that door, Dan King, and it's your fault."

"He didn't go out of this door," reiterated Dan stubbornly. "I know that."

"Well, where is he, then? He isn't here. Did he melt into air?" demanded Felicity. "Oh, come and look for him, all of you. Don't stand round like ninnies. We must find him before his mother gets here. Dan King, you're an idiot!"

Dan was too frightened to resent this, at the time. However and wherever Jimmy had gone, he was gone, so much was certain. We tore about the house and yard like maniacs; we looked into every likely and unlikely place. But Jimmy we could not find, anymore than if he had indeed melted into air. Mrs. Patterson came, and we had not found him. Things were getting serious. Uncle Roger and Peter were summoned from the field. Mrs. Patterson became hysterical, and was taken into the spare room with such remedies as could be suggested. Everybody blamed poor Dan. Cecily asked him what he would feel like if Jimmy was never, never found. The Story Girl had a gruesome recollection of some baby at Markdale who had wandered away like that--

"And they never found him till the next spring, and all they found was--his skeleton, with the grass growing through it," she whispered.

"This beats me," said Uncle Roger, when a fruitless hour had elapsed. "I do hope that baby hasn't wandered down to the swamp. It seems impossible he could walk so far; but I must go and see. Felicity, hand me my high boots out from under the sofa, there's a girl."

Felicity, pale and tearful, dropped on her knees and lifted the cretonne frill of the sofa. There, his head pillowed hardly on Uncle Roger's boots, lay Jimmy Patterson, still sound asleep!

"Well, I'll be--jiggered!" said Uncle Roger.

"I knew he never went out of the door," cried Dan triumphantly.

When the last buggy had driven away, Felicity set a batch of bread, and the rest of us sat around the back porch steps in the cat's light and ate cherries, shooting the stones at each other. Cecily was in quest of information.

"What does 'it never rains but it pours' mean?"

"Oh, it means if anything happens something else is sure to happen," said the Story Girl. "I'll illustrate. There's Mrs. Murphy. She never had a proposal in her life till she was forty, and then she had three in the one week, and she was so flustered she took the wrong one and has been sorry ever since. Do you see what it means now?"

"Yes, I guess so," said Cecily somewhat doubtfully. Later on we heard her imparting her newly acquired knowledge to Felicity in the pantry.

"'It never rains but it pours' means that nobody wants to marry you for ever so long, and then lots of people do."