HE IS COME
One Sunday afternoon Barefoot, according to her custom, was leaning against the door-post of the house and gazing dreamily out before her, when Coaly Mathew’s grandson came running up the street, beckoning to her from afar and crying:
“He is come, Barefoot! He is come!”
Barefoot felt her knees tremble, and she cried in a broken voice:
“Where is he? Where?”
“At my grandfather’s, in Mossbrook Wood!”
“Where? Who? Who sent you?”
“Your Damie—he’s down yonder in the woods.”
Barefoot was obliged to sit down on the stone bench in front of the house; but only for a minute. Then she pulled herself together and stood up stiffly with the words:
“My brother? My Damie?”
“Yes, Barefoot’s Damie,” said the boy, bluntly; “and he promised that you would give me a kreutzer if I would run and tell you. So now give me a kreutzer.”
“My Damie will give you three.”
“Oh, no!” said the boy, “he’s been whimpering to my grandfather because he hadn’t a kreutzer left.”
“I haven’t one now either,” said Barefoot, “but I’ll promise you one.”
She went quickly into the house and begged the second maid to milk the cows for her that evening, in case she should not get back, for she had an errand to do immediately. Then, with a heart now full of anger at Damie, now full of sorrow for him and his awkwardness, again full of vexation on account of his coming back, and then again full of self-reproach that she should be going to meet her only brother in such a way, Barefoot wended her way out into the fields and down the valley to Mossbrook Wood.
There was no mistaking the way to Coaly Mathew’s, even if one were to wander off from the foot-path. The smell of burning charcoal led one to him infallibly.
How the birds are rejoicing in the trees! And beneath them a sad maiden is passing, thinking how unhappy it must make her brother to see all these things again, and how badly things must have gone with him, if he had no other resource but to come home and live upon her earnings.
“Other sisters are helped by their brothers,” she thought to herself, “and I—but I shall show you this time, Damie, that you must stay where I put you, and that you dare not stir!”
Such were Barefoot’s thoughts as she hurried along; and at last she arrived at Coaly Mathew’s. But there she saw only Coaly Mathew himself, who was sitting by the kiln in front of his log cabin, and holding his wooden pipe with both hands as he smoked it; for a charcoal-burner is like a charcoal kiln, in that he is always smoking.
“Has anybody been playing a trick on me?” Barefoot asked herself. “Oh, that would be shameful! What have I done to people that they should make a fool of me? But I shall soon find out who did it—and he shall pay for it.”