The silence brought John Jay to his senses. He crawled along the aisle and out of the door, blinkling like an owl as he came into the blinding sunshine. Many experiences had convinced him that he was born under an unlucky star. When he went leaping down the hill to the log where he had left his basket, it was with the sickening certainty that some evil had befallen the eggs. He was afraid to look for fear of finding a mass of broken shells strewn over the ground. It was with a feeling of surprise that he saw the white ends of the top layer of eggs peeping out of their bed of bran, just as he had left them. With a sigh of relief he picked up the basket; then whistling gaily as a mockingbird, he set out once more in the direction of Rosehaven.
Something unusual was going on at Rosehaven. Awnings were spread over the lawn, gay colored lanterns were strung all about the grounds, and a stage for outdoor tableaux had been built near the house, where a dark clump of cedars served as a background.
John Jay had orders to take the eggs directly to the cook, but his curiosity kept him standing open-mouthed on the lawn, watching the hanging of the lanterns.
[Illustration: A group of pretty Girls sat on the porch]
A group of pretty girls sat on the porch steps, between the white rose-twined pillars. One of them was tying up the cue of an old-fashioned wig with a black ribbon; another was mending the gold lace on a velvet coat, and the others were busy with the various costumes which they were to wear in the tableaux. Now and then a gay trill or a snatch from some popular song floated out above their laughing chatter. Suddenly one of them looked up and saw John Jay standing in the gravelled drive.
“Look, girls!” she exclaimed. “Here’s the very thing we want for our old Virginia days! Hallie looks like a picture in that lovely brocaded satin of her grandmother’s, and Raleigh Stanford does the cavalier to perfection in that farewell scene. All it lacks is some little Jim Crow to hold his horse, and there is one now. Oh, Hallie! come out here a minute!”
In response to her call, a beautiful dark-haired girl came out on the porch from the hall, carrying a pasteboard shield which she had just finished covering with tinfoil. John Jay’s mouth opened still wider as it flashed a dazzling light into his eyes. He thought it was silver.
“Isn’t it fine?” she asked, waltzing around with it on her arm for them to admire the effect. Then she dropped down on the step above them. “Was it you who called me, Sally Lou?” she asked.
“Yes,” answered the girl, who had finished tying up the cue, and now had the wig pulled coquettishly over her blonde curls. “Look at the little darkey over there. I was just telling the girls that he is all that is needed to complete your cavalier tableau. Call him over here and tell him that he must come to-night.” Just then the boy turned and started on a trot to the kitchen. “Why, it’s John Jay!” exclaimed Hallie. “Old Lucy has been scolding about those eggs for the last two hours. His grandmother promised to send them over immediately after breakfast. I’ll go down and see what kept him so long. He is always getting into trouble.”