CHAPTER V. THE ADVENT OF MARY VANCE
“This is just the sort of day you feel as if things might happen,” said Faith, responsive to the lure of crystal air and blue hills. She hugged herself with delight and danced a hornpipe on old Hezekiah Pollock’s bench tombstone, much to the horror of two ancient maidens who happened to be driving past just as Faith hopped on one foot around the stone, waving the other and her arms in the air.
“And that,” groaned one ancient maiden, “is our minister’s daughter.”
“What else could you expect of a widower’s family?” groaned the other ancient maiden. And then they both shook their heads.
It was early on Saturday morning and the Merediths were out in the dew-drenched world with a delightful consciousness of the holiday. They had never had anything to do on a holiday. Even Nan and Di Blythe had certain household tasks for Saturday mornings, but the daughters of the manse were free to roam from blushing morn to dewy eve if so it pleased them. It did please Faith, but Una felt a secret, bitter humiliation because they never learned to do anything. The other girls in her class at school could cook and sew and knit; she only was a little ignoramus.
Jerry suggested that they go exploring; so they went lingeringly through the fir grove, picking up Carl on the way, who was on his knees in the dripping grass studying his darling ants. Beyond the grove they came out in Mr. Taylor’s pasture field, sprinkled over with the white ghosts of dandelions; in a remote corner was an old tumbledown barn, where Mr. Taylor sometimes stored his surplus hay crop but which was never used for any other purpose. Thither the Meredith children trooped, and prowled about the ground floor for several minutes.
“What was that?” whispered Una suddenly.
They all listened. There was a faint but distinct rustle in the hayloft above. The Merediths looked at each other.
“There’s something up there,” breathed Faith.
“I’m going up to see what it is,” said Jerry resolutely.
“Oh, don’t,” begged Una, catching his arm.
“We’ll all go, too, then,” said Faith.
The whole four climbed the shaky ladder, Jerry and Faith quite dauntless, Una pale from fright, and Carl rather absent-mindedly speculating on the possibility of finding a bat up in the loft. He longed to see a bat in daylight.
When they stepped off the ladder they saw what had made the rustle and the sight struck them dumb for a few moments.