COAXING THE WILDERNESS
The first part of April was unusually mild. A sort of balmy hush seemed to lie over the barren land, as though spring had chosen to steal upon it sleeping. Doris brought in the first violets on the fifteenth, with a few wisps of saxifrage and ragged robin. Shad brought up a load of lumber from the mill the same day, and started to make the flooring for the tents.
Second-hand army tents had been secured, and almost daily something was added to the store of supplies for the summer venture. The next problem to be solved was finding the occupants for the tents, and here it was Jean who helped out.
“You don’t want to get a lot of people,” she wrote, “who will be expecting all the comforts of a typical summer resort or the excitement of the boardwalk. You want nature-lovers, the kind of people who really and truly want to rest and invite their souls. So I suggest my spreading the glad tidings among the art students here of Greenacre Farms. They are sure to pass it along to their friends. Make your prices, sisters mine, attractive and alluring, and I know the world will make a pathway to your door, as some famous hermit remarked. I am going to sketch a few wonderful placards announcing the golden opportunity.”
The next surprise that came was a visit from Piney Hancock, one Saturday afternoon in May. The girls had gone up after wild flowers into the wood-lot. Here Shad and Mr. Robbins had been cutting birches for nearly a week. Helen wandered through the violet-carpeted glades in a perfect day-dream. The warmth and glow had fallen on the land so unexpectedly after days of rain, and now the whole woodland was athrill with the songs of birds and the chirp and chatter of brooding things.
“I wonder just who Helen is making believe she is now,” Doris said, reflectively, as she watched the sauntering figure in the misty distance.
“Probably Fair Rosamond, or Blanchefleur,” Kit replied, down on her hands and knees after a little patch of flag-root that bordered the bed of a brook. “You know, this fall I’m going to take a whole sack of bulbs and come up here through these woods and plant whole clumps of crocus and narcissus and hyacinths broadcast. Just imagine poet’s narcissus underneath those drooping hemlocks.”
“I think there’s a deer breaking through that path,” Helen called to them softly, “with long, spreading antlers!”
The girls listened and caught the unmistakable sound of some large animal pushing its way through the overgrown cow path, but instead of an antlered head, Molly’s white nose showed, and Piney called to them gaily from her perch on the old mare’s back:
“I had to ride over the minute I got the letter. Who on earth do you suppose, girls, wants to rent one of your tents for the whole summer?”
She slipped off the saddle and held up an envelope, and every one of the three girls guessed the same name: