“From the journals, I read about farming and gardening, about housekeeping, and raising all those barn-yard creatures. We are thinking of adding a small family of canaries to our stock; they are much sought after and readily sell. Oh, I could not get on at all without my papers. They are everything to me. Why, just listen to what I know about corn,” she went on, with a proud light in her handsome eyes. “Kentucky was once a leading state in raising corn, and she will be again,” and here followed facts and statistics singularly incongruous from rosy lips to the listening ears of the city girl. “There is nothing, Amelia, that pays like doing a thing well. For instance, our own Kentucky is not famous for well-kept farms, but I could not afford to have my fences down, my fields choked with weeds, and my stock depredating elsewhere.”
“But how do you manage your servants? They are the great bugbear nowadays.”
“By making them respect me and by paying good wages. They should not be expected to give their time and strength at starvation prices. I do have trouble sometimes. In fact I think, first and last, I have done everything but plow. But in the main I get along. The farm is prospering, and a few years hence I mean to have it called a model, not a mortgaged farm.”
“It is all right, of course, my dear, if you like it,” said her city friend, with somewhat unwilling admiration, “but I should think you would get dreadfully tanned and coarse.”
“Do I look so?” asked the country girl, with a happy little challenging laugh. “I was certainly never in better health.”
And the visitor had to admit that there was no lack of womanly beauty in the rich coloring of the young farmer’s rounded cheeks, albeit a few tiny freckles bridged the straight nose.
“But think how utterly you are lost to society! What a sacrifice for a Milford!” lamented the rich man’s wife, to whom life’s hard lessons had not come. “I can never forget the gorgeous entertainment at this old house when we were first home from school. Such flowers! Such music! Such a supper! And, oh, the lovely gowns! I declare, Maggie, you were a beauty that night, and Libbie never looked prettier. It seems a crying shame!”
“Not converted yet?” playfully asked the other, though the quick tears sprang to her eyes at the sudden stab of memory.
“Remember, dear,” she added gently, “we could not have gone out even if we had not decided to give up all idle pleasures. But we are not hermits, I assure you. Our old friends are most kind. Perhaps one day we may live again those happy times.”
“But surely you will marry. A girl like you could never be an old maid.”
At which sally Margaret laughed outright, adding gaily that there would be time enough and to spare for matrimony.
“I am too busy now to even think of it. By and by I shall have the finest of bees and fancy poultry. Already my grape arbor is thriving. I sell quantities of fruit and berries. But my stronghold is farm literature; I devour it at night, while Libbie reads society bits in the village weekly, or cons the city daily. Poor Lib! It goes right hard with her to draggle her skirts in the dewy strawberry beds; but she feels consoled when I fetch up the till! What misers we be, hoarding our strong box!”