The Little Silver Heart
The Little Silver Heart
BY JOSEPHINE DASKAM BACON
THE trouble is that ever since it happened Connie hasn't been able to remember so well about the strange thing's at Aunt Betsy's. It all seems to slip away from her, and more and more all the time. It is a very good thing she told Ben and me about it as soon as she got here, because now she will even ask Ben questions, like, "What was it I said when they asked me whether she talked to me?" or, "Where was I sitting when I saw her?"
The reason why Connie went out to Aunt Betsy's was because she had too many dreams at night and recited poetry all the time. It was the doctor himself that sent her there. She used to be his nurse, and he used to spend the summer with her when he was a little boy. It only took an hour on the train and then a long drive, but when you got there it was 'way back in the country.
Aunt Betsy was quite old, and her niece Mrs. Annie took care of her. There was another niece, Mrs. Edward, that took care of Gran'ma Biggs, down in the cottage, and there was Ann Ellen, that was the maid. That is, she was the maid in one way, because she did the washing and other things, but she ate at the table with them and she called Mrs. Annie, "Annie." She had a bad temper, but she sang nice songs, and when she wasn't busy she told Connie stories of the Indian massacres.
You might think it would be lonely there, with nobody to play with, but for a long time, almost a week, Connie didn't think so. To begin with, it was a very interesting house indeed. There was a bookcase in the sitting-room with all kinds of queer books in it; there was a music-box, square, that played four tunes, with a looking-glass in it; and a big tall screen made of white cloth like sheets and pillow-cases. This cloth was entirely covered up with pictures, plain and colored, and little bits of poetry and jokes and photographs and colored birds of all kinds, pasted on to exactly fit each other, so that not a speck of cloth showed except where some had been torn off. It was made by Dr. Welles and his brothers when they were boys, and Connie spent hours reading it: both sides were covered.
There were some queer-looking photographs in there, and a melodeon that Connie used to go in and play on whenever she got the chance, but that wasn't often, because they made her stay outdoors all the time. She was sorry for that, because the melodeon sounded so sad and loud, and it made her think about things long ago that she had nearly forgotten, she said.
She used to hear about Gran'ma Biggs, but for some time she didn't see her, because, though she often went down to the cottage on errands, Mrs. Edward was always in the kitchen, and there didn't seem to be anybody about but Mr. Biggs, her husband, and he never said a word. For two months that she was there Connie never heard him open his mouth but once, and then he only said two words.
Well, one day when Connie went down to get some pickled pears, Mrs. Edward wasn't in the kitchen, and Connie went through into the next room, and it was a bedroom, strange to say. In it was a big high bed with long ruffles like skirts around the bottom, and a great big bureau with glass knobs, and Connie said she didn't believe the windows had been opened for a year. There was a little thin old woman in the bed in a queer white nightcap, just as in old-fashioned pictures. She was very old indeed, with only a few teeth, and she was brown and wrinkled and had very bright eyes. She was staring straight at Connie, so Connie felt she ought to say something, and she said: "How do you do? I hope you're feeling better, Gran'ma Biggs," for she knew who it must be.
"Why," said Gran'ma Biggs, "if it ain't little Lorilla! How air ye, Lorilla, child? I ain't seen ye for weeks. Why ain't ye been down?"
"I'm Constantia Van Cott," said Connie, "and you've never met me before, but I'm glad to know you." Con is always very polite.
Then Gran'ma Biggs began to laugh, such a queer laugh—like a squeaky door, Connie told us.
"Allus up to your monkey tricks," she said. "I never see such a child for games. Seem's if you had to play sump'n different every time you come. Well, come an' shake hands with old gran'ma, anyway."
So Connie went up to the bed, and she says that unless a parrot ever climbed up on your fingers you never will know what it felt like to shake hands with Gran'ma Biggs.
"Ain't you brought Spot?" said gran'ma. "I thought you allers brought her. Didn't I hear her bark?"
"That's old Nig that came up with me," Connie told her; "he has a good many spots, but that's not his name."
Just then Mrs. Edward came running in, all out of breath.
"What are you doing in here?" she asked Connie, quite crossly, and then she said to Gran'ma Biggs, "Mother, I hope you haven't been talking any nonsense."
"Well, I guess not," said gran'ma. "I'm too glad to see Lorilla to talk nonsense. Why ain't you let her down before? Here I've been a-beggin' an' a-prayin' for her, an' you puttin' me off for weeks—or months, for aught I know. But the dear child's come fin'lly to see her gran'ma, all by herself, ain't you, lovey?"
"This ain't Lorilla, mother; it's the little girl Fred sent down—don't you remember I told you?" said Mrs. Edward, very quick and shaking her head at Gran'ma Biggs.
"An' Spot, too—I ain't soon old Spotty for a long time," gran'ma went on.
Mrs. Edward took hold of Connie's arm and just dragged her out of the room.
"That's not Spot, mother; you remember when she died; 'twas ten years ago, an' the pup's thirteen now. You remember little Nig that upset the milk, don't you?" she asked gran'ma, and she tried to shut the door. But Gran'ma Biggs sat right up in bed and shook her fist at her; and Connie said it was dreadful to see her, with her arm all brown and thin and her old hooked nose.
"Then you bring me Lorilla right off," she called out, "and no shenannegin about it! I'll speak to Edward to-night, mind you that."
But by that time the door was shut, and Mrs. Edward walked home with Connie.
"You mustn't mind mother," she told her; "her mind sort o' wanders; you see she's 'most ninety years old. Spot's been dead these ten years."
"And Lorilla," says Connie. "Is she dead, too?"
"I don't see how you ever got in there," said Mrs. Edward; "it beats all how things will go wrong some days. Sick people are a great care."
You see she never answered Connie's question at all. As soon as they got back she sent Connie out to play, and then she called Mrs. Annie and Aunt Betsy, and Connie knew perfectly well that she was telling them about it, from the way they looked out of the window at her.
Well, just about then Connie began to get lonely. She thought how all the girls at Elmbank had somebody to play with, and there she was with only an old spotted dog for a companion. There wasn't any house but the cottage for a long distance, and she began to feel how all alone and deserted everything was—anything might happen to them there, with no telephone. And just then it clouded over and thundered and some drops fell, and Connie thought she might as well begin to cry then and there, she felt so sad and lonesome.
She went into the house by the side door and up the back stairs, and started to go into the little hall that led to her room; but when she pushed in the door it wasn't that little hall at all, but some attic stairs. Connie was so surprised she stopped crying and went on up the stairs. The ceiling sloped down to the floor at each end and it was quite dim, because there were only a few little windows and they were very cobwebby; besides, the rain made things dark. There were one or two old trunks there and some queer bandboxes and a little tin bath-tub, all painted with flowers. There were several broken chairs with painted backs and seats made of that stuff that looks like straw, and a wooden crib that shut up like a camp-chair in the middle. There was a dusty old wire cage for a squirrel, and a whole lot of dried catnip tied up in bunches, and other smelly things.
Connie poked along, to see how small she would have to bow down as the roof got lower and lower, and just as she was going to get on her hands and knees she stumbled over a little trunk. It was so small that she knew it must have been a doll's trunk, and she sat right down and opened it, because, though she never would touch any of the other trunks and boxes for the world, of course she felt that she had a right to see the little-girl things.
The first thing in the trunk was a pile of doll's clothes; they weren't very nice, but they were made just as well as if the cloth had been better, but very old-fashioned. And it must have been a grown-up doll, too, because there were hats for it, with strings like Aunt Betsy's. And there were nightcaps like Gran'ma Biggs's.
Under the clothes were some other playthings—a long string all covered with buttons of many different sorts, a little box with the top all made of shells pasted on close together, and a little cup made of striped shiny wood that had printed on it, Made of wood from Mt. Tom, Massachusetts. In the shell box there was a lock of black curly hair tied with blue ribbon in an envelope, and on it was written, "My dear Spotty's hair when she was six months old." In another envelope was some yellow hair, not real, and that said, "A lock of Estella's old hair that was burned when Fred sent the new wig." You see, that was the doll. There was one more with brown hair, but the writing was all scratched out, so that Connie couldn't read it.
Under the box was a book, in a cover made of brown cloth like what is behind furniture sometimes; it was called The Third Reader. They used to learn to read in books like that, but Connie says we'd better be thankful that we don't now, for the stories in this one were silly. They were babyish, and the poetry especially. There was no name in the front, but instead it said, "If my name you wish to see, look on page one hundred and three." She turned to that page, and then it said, "If my name you still would find, look on page marked fifty-nine." So she looked there, and there was the name: "Lorilla Biggs. If on this name you chance to look, think of me and close the book."
And that is just what Connie did. She would have been so glad if Lorilla had been there; it was all she needed to make her contented—somebody to play with, you see. She said it almost seemed as if Lorilla was there, because there were her things and the locks of hair and the writing that said to think of her. It was almost dark, and Connie played that Lorilla was over behind one of the trunks, and that the noise the rain made on the roof was her feet running around. She said afterwards she wouldn't have been surprised if Lorilla had come out any minute. But of course she didn't, and Connie knew well enough that she must either be dead or grown up by this time.
The sound of the rain made her feel sleepy, it was so quiet in there, and the catnip and things smelled so strong, too—such things always make Con sleepy. So she fell asleep, and the water leaked in right over her shoulder, and when she woke up she was quite wet, and the doll's things, too. It was awfully dark and she was scared to death, so she just tumbled the things under the trunk and felt her way down-stairs, and changed her dress quickly so that Mrs. Annie shouldn't be worried, for her throat felt sore.
Well, they were so delighted to see her, they never scolded her a bit, for they'd been out hunting all over for her; they thought she was lost somewhere. And Aunt Betsy kissed her, and they all cried, and Mrs. Edward's husband said, "Well, well!" That's every word she ever heard him say.
Of course she told them where she had been, and then she said, "Was Lorilla your sister, Mrs. Annie?"
Connie says they looked at her and then at each other and never said a word. Then they all began to say something, and all stopped together. Finally Aunt Betsy said: "Well, Annie, there's no need to make a bad matter worse by fightin' the truth. Nobody knows what mother's said, so we might's well out with it."
"All right," said Mrs. Annie; "you're in charge, and what you say goes. I guess the truth's the best myself."
So then she told Connie about little Lorilla. She was their sister Etta's little girl, and her father died when she was a baby, so she was all her mother had, and her mother was dreadful choice of her, Mrs. Annie said. She was pretty and good and a real comfort, and Gran'ma Biggs just worshipped the ground she walked on. She had to play most of the time by herself, because she was the only child, but she was real contented, and she set great store by Spot; they'd play by the hour together, "just like you and old Nig," Mrs. Annie said. She was eleven years old, like Connie, and she had dreadful old-fashioned ways and sewed patchwork just like a woman. She made the quilt in Connie's room.
Well, one morning Spot went off to the river to take a swim, and while she was gone Lorilla said she guessed she'd go out and try to find some closed gentians for her mother, because they were her mother's favorite flower, and September was the month to find them. So they said all right, and her mother said to kiss her good-by. And Lorilla laughed and said she wouldn't be gone long enough for that; but then she changed her mind and came back and kissed her. "I'll kiss you, too, Aunt Annie," she said; and then Aunt Betsy pretended to cry and said, "No kiss for poor old Aunt Betsy?" Then Lorilla nearly cried herself, because she thought Aunt Betsy was in earnest, and she was too tender-hearted to hurt a fly. She went out after she gave her a kiss, too, and shut the door after her very carefully, the way she always did. And they never saw her again.
They hunted and they hunted for weeks and weeks, and poor old Spot used to run around the barn where they used to play together, howling and crying till they had to chain her up, but they never found any sign of her. Dr. Welles's father sent three detectives up there, and everybody for miles around helped them hunt, and they arrested a band of gipsies that was roaming about, a mile away, and thought they had her once, but they couldn't prove that the gipsies had seen her, and they had to let them go. After the gipsies had got away they found out that three or four of them had escaped before the rest were caught, and gone away on a train, and people always thought they were the ones that had little Lorilla.
Her mother only lived a year after that; she just pined off, Mrs. Annie said. But she always said Lorilla was dead, and she was the only one that thought that, for everybody else was sure she was living with the gipsies or carried away into another country. Of course that was very exciting and interesting, and Connie asked so many questions that she didn't have time to tell about her throat, and it got sorer all the time. She dreamed about Lorilla all night, and the next morning she went out with old Nig and walked along by the river and pretended that she was going to meet her there, after Lorilla got the gentians, and that they were going to play. Finally she got tired pretending to wait, and she thought all of a sudden that she might just as well pretend Lorilla had come. So she did. She said she felt rather silly when she first said: "Why, here you are at last, Lorilla! I'd about given you up," but after that it was just as easy as anything, and before long she was talking away, first for herself and then for Lorilla, and having quite a nice time. It wasn't nearly so lonely, of course, and it was fun to plan out what Lorilla would have said. At first she used to stop and think, but after a while she answered back very quickly, not stopping at all, and sometimes she would speak so fast that she really didn't know what she was going to say, and it surprised her when she'd said it—if you see what I mean. If you knew Con, you wouldn't be surprised that she got so excited doing this that her head ached, and she never went home till they came to get her for dinner. She wouldn't tell about her throat then, for she wanted to get right back to Lorilla, and she was afraid Mrs. Annie would make her go to bed. So she went directly there and sat down by the river and began to play again.
While she was playing she happened to look behind her and saw somebody walking through the trees. Of course she stopped talking and felt ashamed of herself to be making so much noise all alone, and she was afraid whoever it was would laugh, because she was talking with two voices, one for Lorilla and one for herself. She waited for them to get by, and then she began again. But when she looked around to make sure, she saw somebody step behind a bush, and she could see that it was a woman, for she saw her dress and her sunbonnet. She supposed it was Mrs. Annie coming to see what she was doing, and got up to catch her, but she hid behind some of the bushes and kept so still that Con got very cross and nearly cried, she felt so tired and her head ached so. Finally she called out, "You can hide there all day if you want to; I sha'n't hunt!" and went back to her place. But she only whispered then, partly to tease Mrs. Annie and partly because she hated to have anybody hear her. But she knew that nobody had gone away, for she listened carefully, and suddenly she turned around, and it wasn't Mrs. Annie, after all, but a little girl not much bigger than Connie herself. Connie stared at her for a minute, but she looked very scared, and jumped behind a big tree that was there, and all of a sudden Con got frightened herself, it was so still there, and called Nig and ran home. She looked around once or twice, but she didn't see the little girl, which she was sorry for, because she looked nice, though scared. When she got to the house she asked what little girl lived around there, and Mrs. Annie said, not any.
"Did you see one?" she asked her, and when Connie told her about it she laughed and said that it must be Henry Barber's little girl from Waite's Falls. "Henry comes once a week to see if we want any pot-cheese or buttermilk and get the rags for his wife to make her rugs of," she said, "and I told him last week to bring Josie with him to visit with you. She's dreadful shy, and I guess when she saw you she couldn't come up to the scratch. You oughtn't to 'a' run, though."
Pretty soon Mrs. Edward came over and Mrs. Annie told her about Josie, but Mrs. Edward said that Henry Barber had just driven by and Josie wasn't with him.
"Well, then, he's left her in the woods there, and Connie'd better run right back and hunt her up," said Mrs. Annie; so Connie went back and hunted and called, but for a long time she couldn't find anybody. Once or twice, though, she saw her just ahead, and then she'd call out: "Oh, please wait! Please stay till I catch up, Josie!" One time the little girl waited till Con was quite near, and turned and smiled, but then she looked scared again, and slipped off to one side, where the bushes were thick. Finally Connie thought she'd sit down and pretend not to notice, and see if she'd come up; so she sat down on a big stone and shut her eyes and waited, and when she opened them softly there was the little girl standing quite near, looking at her. Connie kept on sitting still, and by and by the little girl sat down near her and watched her. So then Connie smiled and she smiled, and they smiled back and forth, and at last Connie asked her if she knew that her father had started home without her, and she shook her head.
"We'd better start on and see if we can catch him," Connie said. "Come on!" and she jumped up, but that frightened the little girl, and she was up like lightning and running away. She ran so quick and so soft that the leaves rustling covered up the footsteps, and once Connie lost track of her she couldn't get her again. By this time poor Con was pretty tired, and she was so disappointed she began to cry; and when she got back they had to get her some cookies and milk before she could stop. Mrs. Annie was awfully cross with Josie for being so silly, and told Connie never to mind; she'd take her up to the Barbers' and teach Josie manners if her own mother couldn't.
"She'll come round all right," she said; "those black eyes o' hers 'll snap when she sees what I've brought her—I know what she likes."
"Her eyes aren't black—they're gray," said Connie; "and if she doesn't like me, she needn't, so there!"
"What you talkin' about, child? her eyes are black as ink," said Mrs. Edward.
Then Connie lost her temper and pushed away the cooky, which didn't taste very good, anyway, and contradicted dreadfully.
"Her eyes are not black—they are as gray as mine," she said, very crossly.
"There, there!" Mrs. Annie said; "don't mind the child; she's tired to death, and she looks to me as if she'd caught a chill besides."
She made Connie change her stockings and gave her some milk toast for supper; but it didn't taste good, but bitter, like the cooky, and Connie was glad to go to bed. But she woke up in the middle of the night, and couldn't get to sleep again for a long time. She thought about little Lorilla, and how nice it would have been if she had been at Aunt Betsy's, and how they would have played together and told stories and slept in the same room, and it seemed to her she simply couldn't bear it to stay there alone much longer. She thought maybe she'd go to sleep if she could count a few stars, which she'd heard makes you sleepy, and she got up and sat on the window-sill and looked out. It was so still she could hear the leaves rustle on trees a long way off, and Gran'ma Biggs's cottage and the barn at the end of the lane behind it looked like pictures of houses, all flat. Just as she started to count the stars on top of the barn she saw something move beside it, and when she looked down near the ground she saw it was a person, stealing quietly around the corner of the barn, and she knew by the sunbonnet and the apron that it was the little girl. At first she couldn't believe it, but the more she looked the more she was sure, and then she leaned out of the window and waved her hand, hoping to get her attention and then go down and let her in. The little girl didn't seem to dare to go very far from the barn, because as soon as she had taken a few steps she'd turn around and run behind it again, just the way she did by the river. But Connie kept on waving—of course she didn't dare call out loud—and pretty soon she thought the little girl saw her, for she tipped her bonnet high as though she was looking up, and started along toward the cottage. In a moment she was by it, and then she came into the lane, and pretty soon she was quite near Aunt Betsy's house. Then Connie was sure she saw her, for she waved her hand and hurried faster, when all of a sudden, just as she reached the well, Nig began to bark and howl. It was a dreadful noise, coming when everything was so still, and it frightened Connie so that she screamed and nearly fell out of the window. It frightened the little girl still more, for she turned right around and ran back to the barn, and disappeared behind it.
Of course that woke up Mrs. Annie, and she came running to Connie's room, and when Connie told her that the little girl hadn't found her father, after all, but was hiding behind the barn and too afraid to come out, Mrs. Annie stared at her in the strangest way and said: "Child, you're dreaming. There's no little girl there. You've been walking in your sleep."
"I think I know a person when I see one," said Connie, half crying, "and she waved her hand to me, too. You go down behind the barn and you'll see."
"Oh, nonsense!" said Mrs. Edward. "Look here, child; Josie Barber's down with the measles, and how could she be here? Henry told me so himself; he stopped in after you went to bed."
"Then it's some other little girl," said Connie, "and she's out all alone behind the barn," but they put her back into bed and said that there wasn't any little girl that it could be, and made her go to sleep.
So Connie went to sleep, and she dreamed that she and little Lorilla were playing in the barn, and the hay got into her nose and choked her, and she was dying, and Lorilla shook her and said, "Wake up! wake up!" and she woke up with a jump, all hot and stuffy and choking.
Well, I suppose you'll think she was crazy, but she got up out of bed and put on her wrapper and her shoes and stockings, and opened the door softly and started down-stairs. She said she had to go and find that little girl. She just had to. And she was so hot besides, she thought it would be cooler outdoors. Her head felt very big, and she says that she skipped down the stairs just like dancing, as you do in dreams. She went out by the kitchen door very softly, and it was beautiful in the yard, almost light, with only one big star and the sky a kind of white. You could see everything very plainly, and she wasn't a bit afraid. It smelled so good that she felt very happy, and she ran along the path to the barn, in that dancing kind of way, so quickly that she got there in a moment, though it was really quite a long way.
And there was the little girl waiting for her, just as she knew she would be. She wasn't a bit shy by that time, and they began to play directly. Connie meant to ask her why she didn't go home to bed, and where she lived, but she forgot all about it somehow, and her head felt so big and queer that she couldn't remember much of anything. We've often asked Connie what they played, but it made her very cross after a while, because at first she used to say, "Oh, we just played, that's all," and finally she had to own up that she couldn't remember, but they had a beautiful time. We asked her what the little girl talked about, and at first she used to say, "Oh, everything, you know—just different things"; but when Ben asked her to tell one thing—just some one thing that the little girl said—she thought very hard and finally said that she couldn't remember one word, really; but of course she must have talked, or they couldn't have played, could they?
After a while Con got sleepy and wanted the little girl to come in and go to bed, but she wouldn't go so far from the barn: she'd run behind it if she heard a noise, and once when the black rooster, that always woke up first, began to crow, she ran in and made Connie hunt a long time before she found her. That made Connie cross and her head ached terribly, and she felt dizzy, too, so she said she was going back to the house unless the little girl told her the secret place she hid in. Then the little girl put her fingers on her lips and looked very wise, and beckoned to Connie to come and see something, and not make any noise; and Con went softly after her. She knelt down and swept away some hay from the back of the floor and caught her finger nail into a little kind of crack in the board and lifted the board up and pointed down. And there was a lovely little place under the floor, just big enough to hide in, and the board would drop back, and nobody would ever in the world guess you were there. Then Con was ashamed for being so cross and begged the little girl's pardon, the place was so fine; and she smiled very kindly, and took off her neck a blue ribbon with a silver heart strung on it and held it out to Connie. Connie put out her hand for it, but before she touched it the little girl let go of it and it dropped into the secret place and the board fell back, and there it was—gone.
"Look out! Look out!" Connie called, very loud, and the little girl gave a jump and Connie fell down, and when she got up the little girl was gone. Connie said she felt as if she'd been asleep and just waked up, and she knew she was sick or something, her head was so queer and her legs shook. She ran out of the barn and stumbled along to the house and fell asleep right on the kitchen floor, and Mrs. Annie found her there when she came down.
Now, what do you think? When Connie told them where she went and about the little girl, they just looked at each other and told her she dreamed it. They said she had walked in her sleep to the kitchen door and never gone any farther.
And Aunt Betsy said: "Annie, I'm going to write for Fred this minute. You get the quinine now. It's chills 'n' fever."
Well, that was too much for poor Con to bear, and she burst out crying and couldn't stop.
"Go out to the barn, then, if you don't believe me, and get into the secret place and find the silver heart she gave me—then you'll see!" she told them, sobbing and crying.
Hardly had she said that, when Aunt Betsy put her hand up to her belt and tumbled over in her chair, and Mrs. Annie and Mrs. Edward stared at Connie and swallowed in their throats; and Mrs. Annie whispered:
"The heart? The silver heart? Which one? Tell me, deary; tell Aunt Annie."
So Connie told them, and Mrs. Edward got up and said: "The Lord help poor Etta, girls—she's seen Lorilla's locket! I'm going for Mr. Weed, an' you look after Betsy."
Connie said that after that nobody seemed to pay any attention to her, and when they did they stared at her and didn't pet her at all, and she felt bad, too. Aunt Betsy cried and cried, and the coffee boiled all over the stove and smelled dreadfully, and Connie took a great big cup, and they never said a word. It made her feel very well and her head got small again. She had to sit in the room with Aunt Betsy, and nobody did a thing till Mr. Weed came, and then she had to tell him the whole thing over again. And he shook his head and asked her to describe the locket; and when she said it was on a blue ribbon, Aunt Betsy cried harder than ever.
"Come out with me to the barn, my child," said Mr. Weed, and they went, and some other people that Connie had never seen before, and Mr. Barber and the hired man and Ann Ellen. And Connie went right to the place and pushed away the hay, and the board wasn't there at all, but smaller ones, all nailed down tight. It had been changed, and now she knew they wouldn't believe her, and she began to cry.
"You see, my child," said Mr. Weed, and he looked very sadly at her, "you have made a great deal of pain for these poor sisters, and to no purpose. There is no board here such as you describe."
"But there was, there was!" Connie cried out; "it was as wide as three of these boards and loose at the end, and dark brown. And now some one has covered it up, and I can't get my locket, and the little girl gave it to me."
Just then Henry, the hired man, stepped out and coughed and said: "This here floor ain't only been laid but eight years, Mis' Edward, since I come, and the old boards was like she says. It was laid right on top o' the other."
Then Mr. Weed looked very sharply at Henry, and Mrs. Annie gave a scream and ran to the place and began to pick at the nails.
"Oh, Mr. Weed! Oh, poor Etta!" she cried out. "I remember now. That's what Lorilla meant. She told me one day that if ever the Indians sh'd come again they'd never get her, for she knew a place they'd never find in a hundred years. I'll be safe there, Aunt Annie,' says she, 'you'll see;' but she never'd tell me. It was under there—my poor baby, 'twas under there!"
Connie couldn't move a step, her legs shook so, and Mr. Weed held her hand so tight.
"My friends," he said, "out of the mouths of babes and sucklings a strange matter has been disclosed to us. Let some one bring a chisel and a hammer!"
Henry went away, and suddenly Aunt Betsy sat right down on the floor and made motions to Mrs. Annie.
"Annie," she said, very hoarse, just as if she had caught cold,—"Annie. 'Twas the day she went away that we had the hay in!"
When Henry came back there were more people with him, and it was so still you could hear the long nails squeak when he knocked the boards up. When he had got them off—he broke them at the other end—Connie pulled her hand away and ran. "There's my board," she said, "and here's where you put your finger nail," and she fitted her nail in and pulled the board back a little way. "I told you somebody had covered it up," she said, "now I'll find my locket," and she started to look in, but Mr. Weed pulled her back.
"Hush, my child!" he said, and Connie says his hand was cold as ice; "go back with the women. I will look."
He looked down and jumped back, and then he looked again, with his hand out behind him so nobody could come.
Everybody was crying but Connie, and she was feeling queerer and queerer.
"My friends," he said, very gentle and still, "let us pray."
Then he made a prayer and everybody knelt down, and Connie can't remember what he said except the end: "who in Thine own good time revealest everything, so that we may be at peace. Amen."
"And now please give me my locket," says Connie, who tried to be polite while he was praying, "for my throat is so sore."
And he leaned down over the secret place and put down his hand a moment, and then he held it out, and there, tied to an old grayish kind of string, was a little silver heart.
Mrs. Annie gave a long sigh, like when you hold your breath, and then, Connie says, the floor sank down under her and left her standing in the air, and she seemed to forget everything after that, but somebody carried her away. And when she got well she was at home, and Ben and I came to see her.
She has never seen them again, Mrs. Annie and Mrs. Edward and Gran'ma Biggs, and nobody would tell her anything about them, so she has nearly forgotten, now; but Ben thinks that nothing in any book is more wonderful than this story of little Lorilla.