A strange look passed over the face of the man behind them. “Blessed if the little kid didn’t take it off his own back,” he muttered. “If any man had ever done that for me—just once—well, maybe, I wouldn’t ha’ been what I am now!”
For a moment, as they reached the top of the hill, bear, boys, and man were outlined blackly against the sky like strange silhouettes. Then they passed over and disappeared in the thick clump of pine-trees, which hid the little cabin from the eyes of the surrounding world.
Ginger and the boys.
In less time than one would think possible, a big fire was roaring in the cabin fireplace, water was steaming in the rusty kettle on the crane, and a pile of hay and old carpet lay in one corner, ready to be made into a bed. Keith had made several trips to the kitchen, and came back each time with his hands full.
Old Daphne, the cook, never could find it in her heart to refuse “Marse Sydney’s” boys anything. They were too much like what their father had been at their age to resist their playful coaxing. She had nursed him when he was a baby, and had been his loyal champion all through his boyhood. Now her black face wrinkled into smiles whenever she heard his name spoken. In her eyes, nobody was quite so near perfection as he, except, perhaps, the fair woman whom he had married.
“Kain’t nobody in ten States hole a can’le to my Marse Sidney an’ his Miss Elise,” old Daphne used to say, proudly. “They sut’n’ly is the handsomest couple evah jined togethah, an’ the free-handedest. In all they travels by sea or by land they nevah fo’gits ole Daphne. I’ve got things from every country undah the shinin’ sun what they done brung me.”
Now, all the services she had once been proud to render them were willingly given to their little sons. When Keith came in with a pitiful tale of a tramp who was starving at their very gates, she gave him even more than he asked for, and almost more than he could carry.
The bear and its masters were so hungry, and their two little hosts so interested in watching them eat, that they forgot all about going back to meet the train. They did not even hear it whistle when it came puffing into the Valley.
As Miss Allison stepped from the car to the station platform, she looked around in vain for the boys who had promised to meet her. Her arms were so full of bundles, as suburban passengers’ usually are, that she could not hold up her long broadcloth skirt, or even turn her handsome fur collar higher over her ears. With a shade of annoyance on her pretty face, she swept across the platform and into the waiting-room, out of the cold.