Kit was on lookout duty, and had been for the past hour and a half. The cupola room, with its six windows, commanded a panoramic view of the countryside, and from here she had done sentry duty over the huckleberry patch.
It lay to the northeast of the house, a great, rambling, rocky, ten acre lot that straggled unevenly from the wood road down to the river. To the casual onlooker, it seemed just a patch of underbrush. There were half-grown birches all over it, and now and then a little dwarf spruce tree or cluster of hazel bushes. But to the girls of Greenacres, that ten acre lot represented a treasure trove in the month of August when huckleberries and blueberries were ripe. Shad said knowing the proper time to pick huckleberries was just born in one, so the girls had guarded the old pasture from any marauding youngsters or wayside peddlers.
“You’ve got to keep a good eye out for them this year,” Shad warned them. “Last year wasn’t good for huckleberries, apples or nuts, but this is going to be a regular jubilee harvest. Them bushes up there are hanging so full that you can put up quarts and quarts and quarts of them and send huckleberry pies to the heathen all winter if you want to.”
And he had likewise warned them that that particular berry patch had been famous throughout the countryside ever since the days when Greenacres had belonged to the Trowbridges. Several times when it had happened to be a good year for the huckleberry crop, raiders had swept down and culled the best of the harvest. Not from around the near-by villages had they come, but from the small towns, ten or fifteen miles away.
“Them mill boys and girls,” Shad declared, “just think that the Lord grows things in the country for anybody to come along and pick. They don’t pay no more attention to a ‘No Trespassing’ sign than they would to a woodchuck’s tracks. The only thing to do is watch, and when you see ’em turn in through the bars off the main road, you come down and let me know, and telephone over for Hannibal Hicks to come and ketch ’em. Hannibal ain’t doin’ nothin’ to earn his fifteen dollars a year as constable ’round here, and we ought to help him out if we can.”
So to-day, it was Kit’s turn to watch the huckleberry patch from the cupola room, and along towards three o’clock she beheld a trig-looking red-wheeled, black-bodied wagon, drawn unmistakably by a livery horse, pull up at the pasture bars, and its driver calmly and shamelessly hitch there. He took out of the wagon not a burlap bag, but a tan leather hand bag of generous size, and also something else that looked like a capacious box with a handle to it.
“Camouflage,” said Kit to herself, scornfully. “He’s going to fill them with our berries, and then make believe he’s selling books.”