“I didn’t even hear where they lived. I’m afraid I wasn’t interested. Aren’t you glad the fire didn’t bum the cupola? I almost wish they could leave the house that lovely weathered brown tone, instead of painting it white with green blinds again. Dad would like it that way, too. I suppose everybody would say it was flying in the face of tradition, after the Trowbridge place has been white two hundred years.”
“There comes the mail,” called Jean, starting up and running down the drive like a young deer, as the little cart hove in sight. The carrier waved a newspaper and letter at them.
“Nothin’ for you girls, to-day, only a letter for your pa, and weekly newspaper for Hiram. I’ll leave it up at the old place as I go by.” He added as a happy afterthought to relieve any possible anxiety on their part, “It’s from Delphi, Mich.”
Kit stood transfixed with wonder, as he passed on up the hill.
“Jean,” she said, slowly, “there’s something awfully queer about me. I heard Cousin Roxy say once, I was born with a veil, and ought to be able to prognosticate. That letter was from Uncle Cassius Cato Peabody.”
“Well, what if it is?” asked Jean, shaking the needles from her serge skirt as she rose leisurely.
Kit drew on her freshman knowledge of ancient history, and quoted:
“Last night the eagles
circled over Rome,
And Caesar’s destiny——”
Jean laughed and pointed to a line of crows rising leisurely from a clump of pine woods.
“What does it mean when the crows circle over Gilead?”
Kit jammed her velvet “tam” down over one ear adventurously, and started towards the gateway, finishing the quotation as she went:
“—crowned him thrice king!”
THE ORACLE AT DELPHI
It appeared that Uncle Cassius lived strictly up to tradition, for it had been over fifteen years since any word had been received from the oracle at Delphi, as the girls dubbed him from the very first. The letter which broke the long silence was read aloud several times that day, the girls especially searching between its lines for any hidden sentiment or hint of family affection.
“I don’t see why on earth he tries to be generous when he doesn’t know how,” Helen said, musingly. “I wonder if he’s got bushy gray hair and whiskers, like somebody we were studying about yesterday. Who was that, Kit?”
Kit glanced up from Uncle Cassius’ letter with a preoccupied expression.
“Whiskers?” she repeated. “Why, I don’t know; Walt Whitman, Ibsen, Longfellow, Joaquin Miller? Tolstoi had long straggly ones, didn’t he?”
“These were kind of bushy ones. I think it was Carlyle.”
“Wait a minute while I read this thing over carefully again,” Kit warned them. “I think while we’re alone we ought to discuss it freely. Mother just took it as if it were a case of ’Which shall it be, which shall it be, I looked at John, John looked at me.’ It seems to me, since it concerns us vitally, that we ought to have some selection in the matter ourselves.”