So passed Dolly's Fourth of July; a confused dream of glory and patriotism, of wonderful sights and surprises—but, like a dream, it all melted away.

New England life was too practical and laborious to give more than one day to holiday performances, and with the night of the Fourth the whole pageant vanished. Hiel's uniform, with its gold lace and feathers, returned to the obscurity of Mother Jones's pillow-cases and camphor-gum, and was locked away in secret places; and Hiel was only a simple stage-driver, going forth on his route as aforetime. So with the trappings of the Poganuc Rangers—who the day before had glittered like so many knights-errant in the front of battle—all were laid by in silent waiting, and the Poganuc Rangers rose at four o'clock and put on their working clothes and cow-hide shoes, and were abroad with their oxen. The shoe-maker and the carpenter, who yesterday were transfigured in blue and gold, to-day were hammering shoe-soles and planing boards as if no such thing had happened. In the shadows of the night the cannon had vanished from the village green and gone where it came from; the flag on the Court-house was furled, and the world of Poganuc Center was again the same busy, literal, work-a-day world as ever. Only Liph Kingsbury, who had burned his hand with gunpowder in consequence of carrying too much New England rum in his head, and one or two boys, who had met with a sprain or bruise in the excitement of the day, retained any lasting memorials of the celebration.

It is difficult in this our era of railroads and steam to give any idea of the depths of absolute stillness and repose that brooded in the summer skies over the wooded hills of Poganuc. No daily paper told the news of distant cities. Summer traveling was done in stages, and was long and wearisome, and therefore there was little of that. Everybody staid at home, and expected to stay there the year through. A journey from Poganuc to Boston or New York was more of an undertaking in those days than a journey to Europe is in ours. Now and then some of the great square houses on the street of Poganuc Center received a summer visitor, and then everybody in town knew it and knew all about it. The visitor's family, rank, position in life, probable amount of property, and genealogy to remote ancestors, were freely discussed and settled, till all Poganuc was fully informed. The elect circle of Poganuc called on them, and made stately tea-parties in their honor, and these entertainments pleasantly rippled the placid surface of society. But life went on there with a sort of dreamy stillness. The different summer flowers came out in their successive ranks in the neatly-kept garden; roses followed peonies, and white lilies came and went, and crimson and white phloxes stood ranged in midsummer ranks, and the yellow tribes of marigolds brought up the autumnal season. And over on the woody hills around the town the spring tints deepened and grew dark in summer richness, and then began breaking here and there into streaks and flecks of gold and crimson, foretelling autumn. And there were wonderful golden sunsets, and moonlight nights when the street of Poganuc seemed overshot with a silver network of tracery like the arches of some cathedral. The doors and windows of the houses stood innocently open all night for the moon to shine in, and youths and maidens walked and wandered and sentimentalized up and down the long, dewy street, and nobody seemed to know how fast the short, beautiful summer of those regions was passing away.

As to Dolly, summer was her time of life and joy; but it was not by any means a joy unmixed.

Dolly's education was conducted on the good old-fashioned principle that everyone must do his little part in the battle of life, and that nobody was pretty enough or good enough to be kept merely for ornamental purposes.

She was no curled darling, to be kept on exhibition in white dresses and broad sashes, and she had been sedulously instructed in the orthodoxy of Dr. Watts, that

"Satan finds some mischief still

For idle hands to do."

It was the duty of the good house-mother of those days to be so much in advance of this unpleasant personage that there should be no room for his temptations. Accordingly, any part of the numerous household tasks of the Parsonage that could be trusted to a little pair of hands were turned over to Dolly. In those days were none of the thousand conveniences which now abridge the labors of the housekeeper. Everything came in the rough, and had to be reduced to a usable form in the household.

The delicate, smooth white salt which filled the cellars at the table was prepared by Dolly's manipulation from coarse rock-salt crystals, which she was taught to wash and dry, and pound and sift, till it became of snowy fineness; and quite a long process it was. Then there were spices to be ground, and there was coffee to be browned to the exact and beautiful shade dear to household ideality; and Dolly could do that.

Being a bright, enterprising little body, she did not so much object to these processes, which rather interested her, but her very soul was wearied within her at the drill of the long and varied sewing lessons that were deemed indispensable to her complete education. Pounding salt, or grinding spice, or beating eggs, or roasting coffee, were endurable; but darning stockings and stitching wristbands, and "scratching" gathers, were a weariness unto her spirit. And yet it was only at the price of penances like these, well and truly performed, that Dolly's golden own hours of leisure were given.

Most of her household tasks could be performed in the early morning hours before school, and after school Dolly measured the height of the afternoon sun with an avaricious eye. Would there be time enough to explore the woody hills beyond Poganuc River before sundown? and would they let her go?

For oh, those woods! What a world of fairyland, what a world of pure, untold joy was there to Dolly! When she found her face fairly set towards them, with leave to stay till sundown, and with Spring at her heels, Dolly was as blissful, as perfectly happy, as a child can ever be made by any one thing.

The sense of perfect freedom, the wonder, the curiosity, the vague expectation of what she might find or see, made her heart beat with pleasure. First came the race down through the tall, swaying meadow-grass and white-hatted daisies to the Poganuc River—a brown, clear, gurgling stream, wide, shallow, and garrulous, that might be easily crossed on mossy stepping-stones. Here was a world of delight to Dolly. Skipping from stone to stone, or reclining athwart some great rock around which the brown waters rippled, she watched the little fishes come and go, darting hither and thither like flecks of silver. Down under the shade of dark hemlocks the river had worn a deep pool where the translucent water lay dark and still; and Dolly, climbing carefully and quietly to the rocky side, could lean over and watch the slim, straight pickerel, holding themselves so still in the water that the play of their gossamer fins made no ripple,—so still, so apparently unwatchful and drowsy, that Dolly again and again fancied she might slily reach down her little hand and take one out of the water; but the moment the rosy finger-tips touched the wave, with a flash, like a ray of light, the coveted prize was gone. There was no catching a pickerel asleep, however quiet he might appear. Yet, time after time, Dolly tried the experiment, burning with the desire to win glory among the boys by bringing home an actual and veritable pickerel of her own catching.

But there were other beauties, dryad treasures, more accessible. The woods along the moist margin of the river were full of the pink and white azalea, and she gathered besides the fragrant blossoms stores of what were called "honeysuckle apples" that grew upon them—fleshy exudations not particularly nice in flavor, but crisp, cool, and much valued among children. There, too, were crimson wintergreen berries, spicy in their sweetness, and the young, tender leaves of the wintergreen, ranking high as an eatable dainty among little folk. Dolly's basket was sure to fill rapidly when she set herself to gathering these treasures, and the sun would be almost down before she could leave the enchanted shades of the wood and come back to real life again.

But Saturday afternoon was a sort of child's Paradise. No school was kept, and even household disciplinarians recognized a reasonably well-behaved child's right to a Saturday afternoon play-spell.

"Now, Dolly," had Nabby said to her the week before, "you be sure and be a good girl, and do up all your stitching and get the stockings mended afore Saturday comes, and then we'll take Saturday afternoon to go a-huckleberrying up to Pequannock Rock; and we'll stop and see Mis' Persis."

This, let it be known, was a programme to awaken Dolly's ambition. Pequannock Rock was a distance which she never would be permitted to explore alone, and Mis' Persis was to her imagination a most interesting and stimulating personage. She was a widow, and the story ran that her deceased husband had been an Indian—a story which caused Dolly to regard her with a sort of awe, connecting her with Cotton Mather's stories of war-whoops and scalping-knives, and midnight horrors when houses were burned and children carried off to Canada.

Nevertheless, Mis' Persis was an inoffensive and quite useful member of society. She had her little house and garden, which she cultivated with energy and skill. She kept her cow, her pig, her chickens, and contrived always to have something to sell when she needed an extra bit of coin. She was versed in all the Indian lore of roots and herbs, and her preparations of these for medicinal purposes were much in request. Among the farming population around, Mis' Persis was held in respect as a medical authority, and her opinions were quoted with confidence. She was also of considerable repute among the best families of Poganuc as a filler of gaps such as may often occur in household economy. There was nothing wanted to be done that Mis' Persis could not do. She could wash, or iron, or bake, or brew, or nurse the sick, as the case might require. She was, in fact, one of the reserved forces of Poganuc society. She was a member of Dr. Cushing's church, in good and regular standing, and, in her way, quite devoted to her minister and church, and always specially affable and gracious to Dolly.

This particular Saturday afternoon all the constellations were favorable. Dolly was pronounced a good girl, her week's tasks well performed; and never were dinner-dishes more rapidly whirled into place than were Nabby's on that same afternoon; so that before three o'clock the pair were well on their way to the huckleberry-field. There, under the burning August sun, the ground shot up those ardent flower-flames well called fire-lilies, and the wild roses showered their deep pink petals as they pushed through the thickets, and the huckleberry-bushes bent low under the weight of the great sweet berries; and Dolly's cheeks were all a-flame, like the fire-lilies themselves, with heat and enthusiasm as she gathered the purple harvest into her basket. When the baskets were filled and Dolly had gathered fire-lilies and wild roses more than she knew how to carry, it was proposed to stop a little and rest, on the homeward route, at Mis' Persis's cottage.

They found her sitting on her door-step, knitting. A little wiry, swart, thin woman was she, alert in her movements, and quick and decided of speech. Her black eyes had in them a latent fiery gleam that suggested all the while that though pleased and pleasant at the present moment Mis' Persis might be dangerous if roused, and Dolly was always especially conciliatory and polite in her addresses to her.

On the present occasion Mis' Persis was delightfully hospitable. She installed Dolly in a small splint-bottomed rocking-chair at the door, and treated her to a cup of milk and a crisp cooky.

"Why, what a little girl you are to be so far from home!" she said.

"Oh, I don't mind," said Dolly; "I am never tired. I could pick berries all day."

"But, sakes alive! ain't you afraid of snakes?" said Mis' Persis. "Why, my sister got dreadfully bit by a rattlesnake when she wa'n't much older 'n you," and Mis' Persis shook her head weirdly.

"Oh, dear me! Did it kill her?" said Dolly, in horror.

"No; she lived many a year after," said Mis' Persis, with a reticent air, as one who could say more if properly approached.

"Do, do tell us all about it; do, Mis' Persis. I never saw a rattlesnake. I never heard one. I shouldn't know what it was if I saw one."

"You wouldn't ever forget it if you did," said Mis' Persis, oracularly.

"Oh, please, Mis' Persis, do tell about it," said Dolly, eagerly. "Where were you, and how did it happen?"

"Well," said Mis' Persis, "it was when I was a girl and lived over in Danbury. There's where I come from. My sister Polly and me, we went out to High Ledge one afternoon after huckleberries, and as we was makin' our way through some low bushes we heard the sharpest noise, jest like a locust screechin', right under foot, and jest then Polly she screams out, 'Oh, Sally,' says she, 'somethin's bit me!' and I looked down and saw a great rattlesnake crawlin' off through the bushes—a great big fellow, as big as my wrist.

"'Well,' says I, 'Polly, I must get you home quick as I can;' and we set down our pails and started for home. It was a broilin' hot day, and we hed a'most a mile to walk, and afore we got home I hed to carry her. Her tongue was swelled so that it hung out of her mouth; her neck and throat was all swelled, and spotted like the snake. Oh, it was dreadful! We got her into the house, and on the bed, and sent for the Indian doctor—there ain't nobody knows about them snake-bites but Indians. Well, he come and brought a bag of rattlesnake-weed with him, and he made poultices of it and laid all over her stomach and breast and hands and feet, and he made a tea of it and got some down her throat, and kep' a feedin' on it to her till she got so she could swallow. That's the way she got well."

"Oh, Mis' Persis," said Dolly, after a pause of awe and horror, "what is rattlesnake-weed?"

"Why, it's a worse poison than the snake-bite, and it kills the snake-poison 'cause it's stronger. Wherever the snakes grow, there the rattlesnake-weed grows. The snakes know it themselves, and when they fight and bite each other they go and eat the weed and it cures 'em. Here's some of it," she said, going to the wall of the room which was all hung round with dried bunches of various herbs—"here's some I got over on Poganuc Mountain, if you ever should want any."

"Oh, I hope I never shall," said Dolly. "Nabby, only think! What if there had been a snake in those bushes!"

"Well, you can always know," said Mis' Persis, "if you hear somethin' in the bushes jest like a locust, sharp and sudden—why, you'd better look afore you set your foot down. But we don't hev no rattlesnakes round this way. I've beat all these lots through and never seen tail of one. This 'ere ain't one o' their places; over to Poganuc Mountain, now, a body has to take care how they step."

"Do you suppose, Mis' Persis," said Dolly, after a few moments of grave thought, "do you suppose God made that weed grow on purpose to cure rattlesnake bites?"

"Of course he did," said Mis' Persis, as decidedly as if she had been a trained theologian, "that's what rattlesnake-weed was made fer; any fool can see that."

"It seems to me," said Dolly, "that it would have been better not to have the snakes, and then people wouldn't be bit at all—wouldn't it?"

"Oh, we don't know everything," said Mis' Persis; "come to that, there's a good many things that nobody knows what they's made fer. But the Indians used to say there was some cure grew for every sickness if only our eyes was opened to see it, and I expect it's so."

"Come, Dolly," said Nabby, "the sun is gettin' pretty low; I must hurry home to get supper."

Just then the bell of the distant meeting-house gave three tolling strokes, whereat all the three stopped talking and listened intently.

Of all the old Puritan customs none was more thrillingly impressive than this solemn announcement of a death, and this deliberate tolling out of the years of a finished life.

It was a sound to which every one, whether alone or in company, at work or in play, stopped to listen, and listened with a nervous thrill of sympathy.

"I wonder who that is?" said Nabby.

"Perhaps it's Lyddy Bascom," said Mis' Persis, "she's been down with typhus fever."

The bell now was rapidly tolling one, two, three, four, and all the company counted eagerly up to sixteen, seventeen, when Mis' Persis interposed.

"No, 'taint Lyddy; it's goin' on," and they counted and counted, and still the bell kept tolling till it had numbered eighty. "It's old Granny Moss," said Mis' Persis decisively; "she's ben lyin' low some time. Well, she's in heaven now; the better for her."

"Ah, I'm glad she's in heaven," said Dolly, with a shivering sigh; "she's all safe now."

"Oh, yes, she's better off," said Nabby, getting up and shaking her dress as if to shake off the very thought of death. A warm, strong, glowing creature she was, as full of earth-life as the fire-lilies they had been gathering. She seemed a creature made for this world and its present uses, and felt an animal repulsion to the very thought of death.

"Come, Dolly," she said, briskly, as she counted the last toll, "we can't wait another minute."

"Well, Dolly," said Mis' Persis, "tell your mother I'm a comin' this year to make up her candles for her, and the work sha'n't cost her a cent. I've been tryin' out a lot o' bayberry wax to put in 'em and make 'em good and firm."

"I'm sure you are very good," said Dolly, with instinctive politeness.

"I want to do my part towards supportin' my minister," said Mis' Persis, "and that's what I hev to give."

"I'll tell my mother, and I know she'll thank you," answered Dolly, as they turned homeward.

The sun was falling lower and lower toward the west. The long shadows of the two danced before them on the dusty road.

After walking half a mile they came to a stone culvert, where a little brawling stream crossed the road. The edges of the brook were fringed with sweet-flag blades waving in the afternoon light, and the water gurgled and tinkled pleasantly among the stones.

"There, Dolly," said Nabby, seating herself on a flat stone by the brook, "I'm goin' to rest a minute, and you can find some of them sweet-flag 'graters' if you want." This was the blossom-bud of the sweet flag, which when young and tender was reckoned a delicacy among omnivorous children.

"Why, Nabby, I thought you were in such a hurry to get home," said Dolly, gathering the blades of sweet-flag and looking for the "graters."

"No need of hurry," said Nabby, "the sun's an hour and a half high," and she leaned over the curb of the bridge and looked at herself in the brook. She took off her sun-bonnet and fanned herself with it. Then she put a bright spotted fire-lily in her hair and watched the effect in the water. It certainly was a brilliant picture, framed by the brown stones and green rushes of the brook.

"Oh, Nabby," cried Dolly, "look! There's the stage and Hiel coming down the hill!"

"Sure e-nough!" said Nabby, in a tone of proper surprise, as if she had expected anything else to happen on that road at that time of the afternoon. "As true as I live and breathe it is Hiel and the stage," she added, "and not a creature in it. Now, we'll get a ride home."

Nabby's sun-bonnet hung on her arm; her hair fell in a tangle of curls around her flushed cheeks as she stood waiting for Hiel to come up. Altogether she was a picture.

That young man took in the points of the view at once and vowed in his heart that Nabby was the handsomest girl upon his beat.

"Waitin' for me to come along?" he said as he drew up.

"Well, you're sort o' handy now and then," said Nabby. "We've been huckleberrying all the afternoon, and are tired."

Hiel got down and opened the stage door and helped the two to get in with their berries and flowers.

"You owe me one for this," said Hiel when he handed in Nabby's things.

"Well, there's one," said Nabby, laughing and striking him across the eyes with her bunch of lilies.

"Never mind, miss. I shall keep the account," said Hiel; and he gathered up the reins, resumed his high seat, made his grand entrance into Poganuc, and drew up at the parson's door.

For a week thereafter it was anxiously discussed in various circles how Nabby and Dolly came to be in that stage. Where had they been? How did it happen? The obscurity of the event kept Hiel on the brain of several damsels who had nothing better to talk about.

And the day closed with a royal supper of huckleberries and milk. So went a specimen number of Dolly's Saturday afternoons.

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