“Foo! Shoo! Go ’way, pussy! Settle yourself down and we’ll pound our ear for another forty miles. I like you first rate when you don’t walk on my face.” He stretched and yawned enormously. “Yes sir! Mattie’s all right,” said he. “A-a-a-ll ri-” and Chantay Seeche Red was in the land of dreams. Here, back in God’s country, within twenty miles of the place where he was born, the wanderer laid him down again, and in spite of raid and foray, whisky and poker-cards, wear-and-tear, hard times, and hardest test of all, sudden fortune, he was much the same impulsive, honest, generous, devil-may-care boy who had left there twenty-four years ago.
The next morning when Red awoke, arrows of gold were shooting through the holes in the old barn, and outside, the bird life, the twittering and chirping, the fluent whistle and the warble, the cackle and the pompous crow, were in full chorus.
“Where am I at, this time?” said he, as he took in the view. “Oh, I remember!” and his heart leapt. “I’m in my own home, by the Lord!”
He went down to the brook and washed, drying hands and face on the silk neckerchief, which is meant for use as well as for decoration.
In the meantime, Miss Mattie had awakened, with a sense of something delightful at hand, the meaning of which escaped her for the time. And then she remembered, and sprang out of bed like a girl. She went to the window, threw open the shutters and let the stirring morning air flow in. This had been her habit for a long time. The window faced away from the road, and no one could see who was not on Miss Mattie’s own premises.
But this morning Red had wandered around. Stopping at the rose bushes he picked a bud.
“That has the real old-time smell,” he said, as he held it to his nose. “Sweetbriars are good, and I don’t go back on ’em, but they ain’t got the fram these fellers have.”
Bud in hand he walked beneath Miss
Mattie’s windows, and he was the first thing her
eye fell upon.
Her startled exclamation made him look up before she had time to withdraw.
“Hello there!” he called joyfully. “How do you open up this day? You look pretty well!” he added with a note of admiration. Miss Mattie had the wavy hair which is never in better order than when left to its own devices. Her idea of coiffure was not the most becoming that could have been selected, as she felt that a “young” style of hair dressing was foolish for a single woman of her years. Now, with the pretty soft hair flying, her eyes still humid with sleep, and a touch of color in her face from the surprise, relieved against the fleecy shawl she had thrown about her shoulders, she was incontestably both a discreet and pretty picture. Yet Miss Mattie could not forget the bare feet and night-gown, although they were hidden from masculine eyes by wood and plaster, and she was embarrassed. Still, with all the super-sensitive fancies, Miss Mattie had a strong back-bone of New England common-sense. She answered that she felt very well indeed, and, to cover any awkwardness, inquired what he had in his hand.