IN THE PINES
“WE must go to the woods while you are here,” said Julie’s mother one morning a week or two after Honey Bunch had the experience with the pony.
The weather had been close and hot for many days, but this morning was one of those breezy, cool times that often follow what many people call a “hot spell.” The great blue ocean lay shimmering and sparkling in the sun and the curtains in the dining room billowed in and out because the wind was blowing straight off the water.
“I think this morning will be a good time to go,” continued Aunt Norma, sugaring Honey Bunch’s cereal for her. “We can take the trolley and get off at the crossroads; it’s only a step from there into the pines.”
They started as soon as they had finished breakfast. Julie’s mother said they would be home for lunch, because the woods were not far away and they did not want to spend the day there. They had only to walk a block and a half from the house, and there was the funny little trolley car that ran on a single track. The motorman was the conductor and the conductor was the motorman, Julie had told Honey Bunch when she first came to Glenhaven, and Honey Bunch had never really understood this. But, as she told her daddy, she knew there was only one man to run the car, instead of two as the cars in Barham had.
“Here are the crossroads. We get off here,” said Aunt Norma, after they had ridden a short distance.
Honey Bunch looked around in surprise when she found herself on a country road. The ocean was nowhere to be seen, but in one direction—across the trolley track—stretched the forest. This was “the pines” that Aunt Norma had spoken of at breakfast.
“What great, big trees!” exclaimed Honey Bunch, as they crossed the car track and walked down the road.
They met no one and it was very still. The road was of white sand, and it did not look as though many wagons traveled over it. A small yellow butterfly skimmed ahead of Honey Bunch, and she thought it might be a fairy come to show them the way to the heart of the forest.
“Oh, it’s dark!” cried Honey Bunch, when they left the road and went in among the trees.
It wasn’t dark, but the sun on the white sand had been so bright that just at first it seemed dark under the heavy branches. Straight and tall the pines stood, and there wasn’t a rustle to be heard. The yellow butterfly had disappeared. He preferred to stay outside in the sunshine.
Honey Bunch and Julie ran ahead, and the two mothers followed more slowly. There was a thick covering of dried pine needles on the ground, and this made a slippery surface. Honey Bunch found she could run and slide as she could on the ice in winter.
When they were tired of walking they sat down under one of the trees and rested. Mrs. Morton suggested to Honey Bunch and Julie that they might gather some pine cones to take back with them, and they had a little heap ready when Julie’s mother said suddenly:
“What is it, Norma?” asked Honey Bunch’s mother.
“There it is again,” said Julie’s mother. “I thought I wasn’t mistaken. Listen!”
Honey Bunch listened and her mother listened and Julie stopped counting pine cones and listened.
They heard a low muttering sound, like a dull rumble.
“Thunder!” cried Mrs. Morton, rising so quickly that she spilled all the pine cones out of her lap. “And we must be two miles from the trolley!”
The low rumble sounded again. It grew darker under the trees.
“I think we’d better try to find a shelter of some sort,” said Aunt Norma decidedly. ‘‘There are some houses scattered through the woods. If we can only get to a clearing, we’ll probably find a house there. I believe there are picnic pavilions, too, but I’d rather not try to stay under the trees if we’re going to have a storm.”
That thunderstorm tried its best to hurry! Honey Bunch knew it did, because every time it thundered it sounded louder than the last time. And it grew darker and darker and every bit of breeze died away.
Julie made Honey Bunch laugh. She had hold of her mother’s hand and Honey Bunch had hold of her mother’s hand, and each step they took Julie scolded.
“I never heard of a thunderstorm in the morning!” complained Julie. “We never have thunderstorms in the morning, do we, Mother? And it wasn’t hot to-day, either— it was nice and cool! I don’t see why we have to have a thunderstorm in the morning!”
But in spite of Julie’s scolding, the thunder storm came nearer and nearer. There was even one flash of lightning that made Honey Bunch say, “Oh!”
“I didn’t know it was going to lighten,” she apologized. “I don’t mind lightning, if I know it is going to happen.”
“Thank goodness, there’s a house, though I doubt if it has a rain-tight roof,” said Julie’s mother, pointing ahead.
There, through the trees, they could see a cleared space where the pines had been cut down. A rough-looking house, shabby and untidy, stood in the center of this clearing and there was a woodshed and a well at one side. As they looked a great rain drop spattered Honey Bunch’s nose and made her jump.
“Run!” said the two mothers at once. “Run—it has started to rain!”
Honey Bunch and Julie took hold of hands and raced for the house. They ran faster than their mothers and reached the doorstep first. The door was open, and in they dashed. Two girls, seated at a table near the window, looked at them in surprise.
“Mother!” shouted Honey Bunch, just as a crash of thunder sounded over their heads and the two mothers came into the room breathlessly. “Mother, here’s Jane and Sarah!"
Mrs. Morton had almost forgotten the two girls who had stopped the car that afternoon and offered wild flowers for sale, but she remembered them as soon as she saw them. Jane and Sarah simply stared. Visitors were the last thing they expected, for they had no neighbors.
“Do you live here?” asked Honey Bunch, when she had heard her mother introduce the girls to Mrs. Somerset and had herself told them that Julie was her cousin. “Do you live here all alone?”
Jane was putting down one of the windows where the rain was driving in—it was pouring now—and Sarah answered.
“Sure, we live here,” she said. “Always have.”
“But not alone?” said Honey Bunch’s mother.
“There’s Mother,” replied Sarah. “She’s gone to Glenhaven to get the wash from a boarding house this morning. Last week our well went dry and we couldn’t wash any clothes. But it’s rained since.”
Sarah and Jane were wearing dresses that were worse than those they had worn when Honey Bunch first saw them. Or perhaps the dresses were the same, but more ragged. Their house apparently had only the one room and it was used as a kitchen and a bedroom. A bed stood in one corner and the stove in another.
The thunder was rolling overhead and the rain came down in torrents. Jane put a tin basin under a wet spot that showed in the ceiling.
“Roof leaks,” she said. “You’re lucky you found the house before the storm caught you.”
Julie’s mother said something to Mrs. Morton in a low tone.
“Have you sold any more wild flowers?” asked Honey Bunch, poking Julie to tell her to stop staring at the bed. “I told Daddy to watch for you when he went home, but you weren’t there.”
“We’ve sold some, but they wilt too fast in this weather,” replied Jane. “And it’s awful hard work to walk over to the main road. I tried to sell flowers to the boarding houses and the big hotel in Glenhaven, but most of ’em have gardens of their own.”
“I’m going to have a garden some day,” declared Honey Bunch. “A garden just for me; and you can have my flowers to sell.”
“That’ll be nice,” said Sarah, putting up the window again, for the rain had almost stopped.
“Why does she put a stick under it?” whispered Julie.
“So it won’t fall down,” replied Sarah quickly.
“Have either of you girls ever worked out—I mean ever worked in Glenhaven as so many girls do during the summer?” asked Mrs. Somerset.
“No’m,” answered Sarah. “You have to have references and you have to have clothes.
Besides, every one wants girls who are bigger than we are.”
“Suppose I could arrange about the references and the clothes—and even the question of age—would you be willing to work in Glenhaven steadily?” asked Mrs. Somerset, smiling a little.
“Would we!” Sarah looked at Jane and Jane looked at Sarah. They both beamed.
“You would have to come home at night, because you would not want to let your mother stay alone,” said Mrs. Somerset. “How near are you to the trolley line?”
“Pretty near,” said Sarah. “Could we really get a job?”
“My sister and I will try to arrange it for you,” answered Mrs. Somerset. “She thinks she can get you some plain, neat dresses, and I know many friends who need extra help during the summer. I think you are old enough to wait on table, perhaps, in a small house, or take care of a child for a busy mother. If you’ll come over to-morrow morning, we’ll see what we can do.”
Sarah and Jane were speechless with delight. They listened while Julie’s mother told them how to find her cottage; they took the money Mrs. Morton gave them for carfare; they smiled when Julie and Honey Bunch told them “don’t forget—to-morrow morning.” It was not till the visitors were ready to go that they really found their tongues.
“We’ll show you the way to the trolley,” said Jane.
It was not far, and they caught a car at once. Honey Bunch and Julie stood on the platform and waved to the two girls as long as they were in sight. Then they talked busily about Jane and Sarah—their house—and how it must feel to live in the woods—and what they did in the winter when it snowed and when the cold wind blew.
In another seat, just behind the little cousins, the two mothers were planning ways to help these girls and their mother.
Over and over, that afternoon, Honey Bunch demanded of her mother, of Julie, of her Aunt Norma, of any one who would listen to her:
“Do you think Sarah and Jane will forget to come to-morrow?”
You know, without being told, that Jane and Sarah did not forget to come the next day. Kind Mrs. Morton had worked busily all the previous afternoon and part of the night, making over two of her own pretty gingham dresses to fit the girls. She was able to guess their size very nearly, and the dresses and petticoats made Sarah and Jane “look like new,” as Honey Bunch observed.
Mrs. Somerset had telephoned to two of her friends—she knew practically every one in the summer, as well as the winter, colony at Glenhaven—and succeeded with little trouble in finding a place for Sarah with a family who wanted a girl to take their baby out in his carriage and care for and amuse him on the beach.
Next door to the cottage where this family lived was a small boarding house, and there they wanted a young girl to run errands and set the table and see that the porch was kept in order.
Jane was quite sure she could do this, and she was so glad to be near her sister that Mrs. Somerset said she might try, though if the work was too hard she must not be afraid to come and tell her, and they would try to find something else for her.