Near the gate where the little branch crossed the turnpike was a slight embankment, and two wheels of the phaeton had slipped over the edge and were buried deep in the soft earth. Beside it, sitting indignantly in the water, was an irate lady who had evidently attempted to get out backward and had taken a sudden and unexpected seat. Her countenance was a pure specimen of Gothic architecture; a massive pompadour reared itself above two Gothic eyebrows which flanked a nose of unquestioned Gothic tendencies. Her mouth, with its drooping corners, completed the series of arches, and the whole expression was one of aspiring melancholy and injured majesty.
Kneeling at her side, reassuring her and wiping the water from her hands, was Ruth Nelson.
“God send you ain’t hurt, ma’am!” cried Sandy, arriving breathless.
The girl looked up and shook her head in smiling protest, but the Gothic lady promptly suffered a relapse.
“I am—I know I am! Just look at my dress covered with mud, and my glove is split. Get my smelling-salts, Ruth!”
Ruth, upon whom the lady was leaning, turned to Sandy.
“Will you hand it to me? It is in the little bag there on the seat.”
Sandy rushed to do her bidding. He was rather hazy as to the object of his search; but when his fingers touched a round, soft ball he drew it forth and hastily presented it to the lady’s Roman nose.
She, with closed eyes, was taking deep whiffs when a laugh startled her.
“Oh, Aunt Clara, it’s your powder-puff!” cried Ruth, unable to restrain her mirth.
Mrs. Nelson rose with as much dignity as her draggled condition would permit. “You’d better get me home,” she said solemnly. “I may be internally injured.” She turned to Sandy. “Boy, can’t you get that phaeton back on the road?”
Sandy, whose chagrin over his blunder had sent him to the background, came promptly forward. Seizing the wheel, he made several ineffectual efforts to lift it back to the road.
“It is not moving an inch!” announced the mournful voice from above. “Can’t you take hold of it nearer the back, and exert a little more strength?”
Sandy bit his lip and shot a swift glance at Ruth. She was still smiling. With savage determination he fell upon the wheel as if it had been a mortal foe; he pushed and shoved and pulled, and finally, with a rally of all his strength, he went on his knees in the mud and lifted the phaeton back on the road.
Then came a collapse, and he leaned against the nearest tree and struggled with the deadly faintness that was stealing over him.
“Why—why, you are the boy who was sick!” cried Ruth, in dismay.
Sandy, white and trembling, shook his head protestingly. “It’s me bellows that’s rocky,” he explained between gasps.
Mrs. Nelson rustled back into the phaeton, and taking a piece of money from her purse, held it out to him.