“Well, who’s it?” asked Red, glancing at the circle of faces. Three dollars a day was enormous wages in that part of the country. Nobody knew just what to say.
“Oh, well!” cried Red, “let’s everybody run—I reckon I can find something to do for the five of you—are you with me?”
“Yes, sir,” they said promptly.
“Can I borrow a hammer or so off you, old man?” questioned Red of the smith.
“Certainly, sir,” returned the latter heartily. “Take what you want.”
“Much obliged—and the gate hinges are out of whack—Miss Saunders’ place, you know—come over and take a squint at ’em in the near by-and-by, will you? May as well fix it up all at once—come on, boys!”
It was thus that the greatest enterprise that Fairfield had seen in many a day was undertaken. Miss Mattie was simply astounded as the army bore down upon the house.
“Whatever in the world is Cousin Will doing?” said she; but resting strong in the faith that it was necessarily all right, she was content to wait for dinner and an explanation. Not so the post-mistress. The agonies of unrequited curiosity the worthy woman suffered that morning until she at last summoned up her resolution and asked the smith plump out and out what it all meant, would have to be experienced to be appreciated. And the smith kept her hanging for a while, too, saying to himself in justification, that it wasn’t right the way that old gal had to get into everybody’s business. The smith was like some of the rest of us; he could see through a beam if it was in his own eye.
There was a great din of whacking and hammering that morning. Red worked like a horse, now that he had company. A sudden thought struck him and he went into the house.
“Mattie,” said he.
“I see a use for the rest of that nice big roast of beef I smell in the oven—let’s have all these fellers stay to dinner, and give ’em one good feed—what do you say?”
“Why, I’d like to. Will—but I don’t know—where’ll I set them?”
“Couple of boards outside for a table—let them sit on boxes or something—got plates and things enough?”
“My, yes! Plenty of such things, Will.”
“Then if it ain’t too much trouble for you, we’ll let it go.”
“No trouble at all, Will—it will be a regular picnic.”
“Boys, you’ll eat with me this day,” said Red.
They spread the board table beneath an old apple tree, and cleaned up for the repast in the kitchen storm-shed with an apologetic, “Sorry to trouble you, Miss Saunders,” or such a matter as each went in.
Just as Miss Mattie was withdrawing the meat from the oven, there came a knock at the door.
“Goodness, gracious!” she exclaimed. “Who can that be now? Will, will you see who that is? I can’t go.”