Wee Janet was half way to Aunt Nancy’s when not far up the road she beheld Mr. Mason’s red cow eating grass outside instead of inside the fence.
“Oh, the hooking cow!” exclaimed the child, almost dropping her pail of buttermilk.
At that moment the red cow lifted her head. It is possible she thought that Janet was a big clover blossom. Anyway, on came the cow lowing gently. Mr. Mason always said the cow was harmless.
Janet, too frightened to stir, screamed in terror. That scream brought a barefooted boy running over the fields. That boy was Pete.
“What’s the matter, Weejan?” he called.
At that moment Pete looked beautiful to Wee Janet. It seemed to her that she never saw a finer looking boy than Pete, the ragged, when he picked up a stick and made the cow turn around and go the other way.
[Illustration: “Janet screamed in terror.”]
“Come on, Weejan,” called Pete. “I won’t let her hurt yez. I’ll drive her back in her pasture and lock the gate. Yez see if I don’t!”
After the cow was in her pasture Pete insisted upon going to Aunt Nancy’s with Wee Janet. “Yer might see a rattler,” he explained, as if such a thing were probable.
“Now I’ll take yer home,” the boy observed when Wee Janet found him waiting at the gate. “Yer too little to be out alone.”
Janet’s mother thanked Pete for taking care of her small daughter. Then she gave him a piece of gingerbread. After that she showed him Wee Janet’s robin’s nest and told him all about how the mother robin worked to build the nest, and how long she sat upon the eggs before the little nestlings were hatched. Father Robin scolded the boy so vigorously Wee Janet was afraid Pete’s feelings might be hurt. “You see,” she explained, “he knows that you’re a stranger. Now, Father Robin, don’t make such a fuss. If Pete took care of me, he’d take care of your babies, too. Wouldn’t you, Pete.
“Sure!” Pete replied with a broad grin.
From that hour there was a change in Pete. He told Wee Janet’s mother that he never knew anything about birds before; whereupon he was invited to come every day to visit all of Wee Janet’s birds’ nests and to read her bird books.
[Illustration: The Robin’s Nest]
Before the end of the year even the little girls in the Primer Class forgot, or appeared to forget, that Pete was ever a bad boy. He is in high school now, in town, and his mother never looks discouraged when she speaks of her eldest son, Peter.
As for Wee Janet, to this day she sometimes wonders how it all came about.
Bertha Gilbert was fourteen years of age, and had just come home from boarding school, where she had finished her first year—a very nice, pleasant school, of about thirty girls, besides the day-scholars; and Mrs. Howard made it, as she promised, a kind of social family, giving each one her personal attention and care. Bertha had improved a great deal in her studies and deportment, and was a very lady-like, agreeable girl.