Anna Balmer Myers.

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emn obligation. Neighbors, friends and relatives gather
to pay respect to the deceased. The death of a member
of the Burkhart family, even the black sheep of the fold,
was the signal for black clothes to be brought out and
preparations made for a " big funeral." Part of the rite



224 THE MADONNA OF THE CURB

was the viewing of the body by the public. Many per-
sons, morbidly curious, came to the house on Main Street
and passed before the casket where rested the remains of
Jeremiah Junior.

" My, ain't he took off a lot ! " was the comment of
several neighbors. Others saw in the death so much sor-
row that they sobbed audibly as they stood in the dark-
ened parlor and looked down at the still face of the man
about whom so much gossip had been rampant. There
he lay, the man who had broken his mother's heart,
caused his father so much shame, darkened the lives of
his sisters with the shadows cast by his misdeeds, sent his
child into a reformatory there he lay ! What a lesson
to heedless youth, the town people said, what an example
of a wasted life !

There were some who came to the house of mourning
for other purposes. Said one woman frankly, " Of
course I'm goin' to that funeral! It wondered me long
a'ready how Burkhart's got their house fixed inside and
now I got a chance once to get in it, parlor and up-stairs
and all."

" Well, I'm not going," said her neighbor. " I don't go
to funerals unless they're so near I got to. I think still
it's bad enough I got to go to my own."

"Ach," came the startling answer, " I go to every one I
can. I think it does abody good to feel sad like at fu-
nerals. I don't often miss one."

Sarah, in the house of mourning, heard the tramp of
the curious who came to gape at the dead and she re-
sented it " Even in death they despise him," she thought
bitterly. " I know Mrs. Roth is saying she is thankful
there never was a criminal in her family ! "

But the ordeal of a small-town funeral did not end at



THE PRODIGAL 225

the services in the house. There was the public service
in the Mennonite meeting house which was packed to the
doors, the harrowing singing of sorrowful hymns, the
long sermon, and the march of the people to the front of
the church to pass by the casket and take a last look at the
remains. Sarah felt that human endurance was taxed to
the breaking point by the experience. She came back to
the house, limp and exhausted. But even then there was
no peace for her. Kindly disposed relatives from out of
town, people she had never seen, had come to do their
duty and see Jeremiah buried and they lingered for a day
or two, turning the funeral occasion into a visit, seizing
the unexpected opportunity to make a round of visits
among the relatives in and near Fair view.

Finally, when the thing was all over and the house once
more quiet, she faced life, changed and sobered by the
experience. Her boasted Irish optimism and good cheer
seemed held in subjection by sadness. She was thankful
to get back to work in the store and try to find partial
forgetfulness in occupation.

Aunt Sybilla decided that black garments were the
proper thing for the daughter to wear. But Sarah dif-
fered.

"I won't wear black for anybody! It's not one bit
more respectful than colors and makes me feel more
somber. Goodness knows people won't feel happier look-
ing at me in black." Her long acquaintance and close
companionship with nature on Sunset Mountain had
taught her to view sanely and reverently the mysteries of
life and death. To her death was not an event to terror-
ize the heart into chaotic darkness, neither was it an occa-
sion for incessant wails. She had learned by analogy
from nature the glorious truth of resurrection and her



226 THE MADONNA OF THE CURB

faith upheld her during the dark hours when her sorrow
seemed heavier than she could bear.

But there were times when her loneliness, the grief at
the death of her father, the pathos of his wasted years,
sent her into weeping. Such a time came to her several
days after he had been laid to rest in the little cemetery
overlooking Fairview. Aunt Sybilla tried to keep the girl
occupied in the hope that the depression would wear off.
She had sent Sarah to the orchard for cherries. With a
tin kettle and a stout hook to fasten it to the branch the
girl climbed up into the tree where the luscious cherries
were red ripe. She picked them dutifully, their dull thud
sounding in the kettle as they fell. A crotch of the tree
afforded a safe resting-place and there were so many
cherries she could pick a great many without changing
position.

Suddenly some vagrant memory of her father's boy-
hood came to her and the grief she had pent up bravely
burst through the flood-gates. She leaned her head
against a friendly branch and cried.

" Sarah ! " The voice of the rector came to her
through the sounds of her own weeping. "What are
you doing? "

" I'm picking cherries," she said, her face still hidden.

" You are doing something very different from picking
cherries," he insisted. " Come down. Look at me."

She lifted her face to let him see. " There, look ! "
She tried. to smile. "Oh, it's mean in you to make me
look at you. Everybody knows that no person is beauti-
ful when they cry. That's why I try to laugh instead,

and generally I can manage it but sometimes " Her

lips trembled.

"Don't you do it!" he said. "Don't do it," he re-



THE PRODIGAL 227

peated tenderly. " Better come down and talk to me," he
suggested.

She climbed down, wondering vaguely why she always
felt a desire to do as he asked her. " You always come
when I cry," she accused him; " have you a barometer to
tell you when that happens ? "

" Just my my intuition," he told her.

" Oh ! " It was half a query.

" Why were you crying this time ? " he asked as they
stood together under the tree.

" Oh, I just felt like it ! I've got a sloppy heart, always
running over. If I'd let it go I'd be crying fifty times a
week, but I twist it around and laugh instead, generally.
But I had to cry just now. I read once that crying clears
the eyes and makes them more glistening." She smiled
and he forbore to question her further.

" I came over to tell you good news," he told her.

" What ? " She was eager.

" Your class in Sunday school is going to rent a cottage
at Mount Gretna in August and spend two weeks there.
I am going to take some of the town boys over at the
same time to Roths' cottage. I spoke to your grandfa-
ther about it and he thinks the change in the mountains
would do you good. He is anxious to have you get away
for a while. You have certainly won his heart. I told
the class I'd speak about it to you for you missed several
Sundays and weren't aware of their plans. The girls
said they hope you will come with them."

" Um, I'll take that with a grain of salt ! Of course
they told you they are dying to have me join them but all
the time they were praying I sprain my ankle or neck or
anything to keep me here! To them I am still that
' heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.' I still have my battle to



228 THE MADONNA OF THE CURB

fight before I get that immense circle drawn. But if
grandpap says I may go I'm going."

" Good ! I thought you would not be intimidated by a
few snobs who do not understand you. It may be an op-
portune time to have them become really acquainted with
you. The girls are going to love you when they know
the real Sarah Burkhart."

She could not speak for a moment, his kindness
touched her. " Sometimes," she said after a little silence,
" I wish I didn't have quite so much Irish in me, for it
makes you so you can be dumped to the pits of purgatory
one minute and shot up straight to the heights of heaven
the next. It takes my breath away."

"Ah, that isn't being Irish, that's Youth, wonderful,
magical Youth, with its recuperative powers and plastic-
ity. Youth, which can be wildly jubilant one minute and
dismally unhappy the next. Youth, which can feel. Dear
girl, only as we carry that youthfulness and capacity to
feel into mature years do we live radiant lives. Many of
us live sober, fruitful lives, but how few emulate the
Pattern and live radiant ones! If I could make people
see that, how much a duty joy is, I'd feel that my minis-
try counted. Be thankful you have that joy fulness in
full measure."

" It just comes natural to me to be so," she said, laugh-
ing her infectious sparkling ripple.

" Favored of the gods," he suggested.

" Well," she retorted gaily, " don't they owe me some-
thing for setting me down in Red Rose Court?" The
next instant she was serious. " I have always felt happy
inside of me, that is, off and on, as they say in Fairview.
They work off and on, have headaches off and on, go to
church off and on "



THE PRODIGAL 229

He laughed. " So you are happy off and on? "

" Yes. I've always been. Even in Red Rose Court I
danced and skipped when the hurdy-gurdy played. And
when I went to the mountain there was so much to be
glad about ! New dresses and shoes, after having had to
pick them out of the ash boxes and trash cans ; a bathtub
and lots of hot water all the year round; a real doll the
teacher gave me; good meals; molasses for my bread
every day ; work to do to win the praise of Miss Hughes ;
the wonderful out-of-doors on a mountain top I couldn't
laugh and skip enough to express all my joy. Then the
things Miss Hughes taught me ! She'd recite Riley to us
until I knew the verses. I can hear her saying now, ' It
hain't no use to grumble and complane; it's jest as cheap
and easy to rejoice.' And then she'd always add, 'And
girls, it's a lot more pleasant for the people who have
to be around us.' "

She looked away from him then, deep in retrospect,
while he regarded her face, expressive, beautiful in its
animation and eagerness. He wondered how he had
thought her rather plain when she came to Fairview.
Why, with that expression she was magnificent ! He ran
over her list of things about which she had been grate-
ful a bathtub, molasses, cheap clothes, then he re-
membered pampered children he had met who were never
satisfied, to whom expensive toys were merely boredom,
spoiled children satiated with life before they tasted it,
every desire gratified long before maturity

"And since I'm here," her voice claimed his attention,
" I have so much to make me happier than Stevenson's
kings that I ought to be shaken if I ever complain. I'm
ashamed of myself when I cry. I must be getting to be a
regular old granny, like the woman Aunt Mary tells me



230 THE MADONNA OF THE CURB

about. She cries at funerals, at christenings, at weddings,
entertainments, public celebrations every place is satu-
rated with her tears. But when you are nice to me I
want to cry the worst way. It makes me feel like I did
the day I discovered I had a conscience and how it
worked. I'll never forget that dreadful hurt in my
throat ! You make me feel it all over again when you are
nice to me." She looked at him as a child might have
done, innocent admiration in her eyes.

" Why shouldn't I be nice to you ? Aren't we neighors
and haven't you told me many things about Red Rose
Court and Sunset Mountain, things which enlightened
me ! Aren't we friends ? "

" / hope so."

"I know so!"

" Then I'll finish picking my cherries since we have
settled that ! " she said, a bit confused by his direct speak-
ing.

" I'll help you."

In a moment they were up in the same tree picking
cherries into the tin pail. Sarah stole glances at him
from time to time. How different he seemed from the
man who read the prayers in St. Paul's or walked sol-
emnly into the chapel in his long black gown! And yet
how like him! She felt very glad to know he was her
friend.



CHAPTER XIV

MOUNT GRETNA

IN the beautiful South Mountains of Pennsylvania lies
the famous summer resort, Mount Gretna. Several hun-
dred cottages, ranging from those of simplest structure
to picturesque bungalows, are scattered under the tower-
ing trees of the mountains. Vacationists find Mount
Gretna an ideal spot of sylvan rest, energetic colonists
delight in the mountain climbing and bathing in beautiful
Lake Conewago which lies in the arm of the tower-
ing Governor Dick Mountain. A tract of many acres is
owned by the government and used for national encamp-
ment purposes, which adds to the life and gaiety of the
place.

The summer arrivals had come in great numbers that
August when Sarah and the other members of her class,
chaperoned by Mrs. Roth, arrived in Mount Gretna.
Sarah knew that she was the one unwelcome person in
the party but some power seemed to tug at her and force
her to come. The girls, still unacquainted with the new
member, were cool in their manner, but she steeled her
heart and allowed the snubs to glance from her like
arrows from armor. The girls soon found that Sarah
was immune to snubs, entered heartily into every sport,
did her share of the work in the cottage, and after the
manner of youth, they forgot some of their prejudice and
treated her more kindly.

Mrs. Roth considered it a great charity to chaperone
3 crowd of which Sarah made one. She still thanked



heaven devoutly that her family escutcheon was un-
stained. Of necessity she swallowed her unfriendliness
as well as she could and assumed a self-righteous air.
She would try to improve the daughter of Jeremiah
Burkhart, while she vowed extreme vigilance that the
reformatory girl could not exert any evil influence upon
the dear girls who had been reared so carefully. Poor
martyred Mrs. Roth anticipated a trying time at the
mountain resort.

Fortunately Sarah gained some slight prestige because
of her ability to cook. Most of the girls were accustomed
to help with the housework. One or two frankly stated
they knew nothing about cooking and managed to shift
their burdens upon other shoulders. Sarah's were the
shoulders upon which most of the shifting was done.

" You're such a dear," they told her, " you don't mind
sweeping the porch while I run down for the mail. I
know mother will send me a note to-day."

" Certainly I'm a dear, I don't mind," would be Sarah's
answer and her winsome smile disarmed suspicion. Be-
hind their backs she twisted her face into a grimace and
whispered, " I'm dead easy now, but I have an axe to
grind. Sarah isn't as stupid as she looks."

But, though burdened with more than her share of the
tasks about the cottage, she found time to run to the lake
in her bathing suit and swim about with the others.
It was her first trial in the water, really her first vaca-
tion! To the other girls the days at Mount Gretna were
a mere lark and good time, to Sarah they were an event.

Several mornings after arrival in the woods she was
sweeping the porch. She had risen early; the clamber-
ing of chipmunks and squirrels upon the roof of the cot-
tage had wakened her before daylight. She had set the



MOUNT GRETNA 233

cottage in order, then went out to the porch and stood
drinking in the fresh ozone of the mountains. The
beauty of the morning thrilled her. Birds were caroling
in the great trees that canopied the entire colony of cot-
tages. A shower during the night had drenched the
leaves with fragrance and the pines exuded their whole-
some odor. Jays screamed in strident voices but even
their discordant sounds seemed so much a part of the
woods that Sarah loved them, quarrelsome blue trouble-
makers though they were.

" Race you sweeping the porch ! " challenged a voice.

She looked down the woodland street and there, several
doors below by a rambling cottage, stood the Reverend
James Snavely, broom in hand.

" Why," she said as he came to meet her, " when did
you come? Mrs. Roth thought you'd be here to-day."

" We came in late last night. Had a chance to come
up in a car and the boys were anxious to get here so we
came. There are four of us, Dan Roth, two others and
myself."

" Going to do your own cooking? "

" Yes, for a time. The boys think it will be a lark but
we'll probably end by doing as the old Indian said, ' I
cook myself, I eat myself.' "

Sarah laughed. "If it gets too bad drop in here for a
meal. Mrs. Roth won't mind so long as her darling boy
is in the crowd."

" Thank you. We may have to take advantage of your
offer. But we'll try cooking for a few days until the
boys tire of it. One of them says he knows how to cook
and we are going to make him prove it."

The arrival of the rector and the boys from Fairview
added great interest to the stay at Mount Gretna, thought



234 THE MADONNA OF THE CURB

the other girls under Mrs. Roth's chaperonage.; Of
course the rector, they reasoned, was too old to be con-
sidered a real companion. His thirty-odd years seemed
well-nigh ancient compared to their eighteen. But Dan
and the younger boys were lively and jolly and a good
time was anticipated.

Dan sought out Sarah the very first day. The smiles
of the other girls were passed with mere recognition and
Sarah singled from the crowd to receive the signal favor
of his attentions, greatly to the dismay of his mother.
Later, when she could manage a private talk with her
son she called him to sharp account. " Dan," she tried
to be diplomatic, " I can't have any of you boys paying
special attention to any one girl."

" Darn it, mother," he retorted, " if I singled out the
right one, Mary Becker for instance, you'd never say a
word. I tell you Sarah has the others skinned a mile!
She's a peach ! "

" But not for you to pick ! Remember that ! She
isn't your stripe of a girl. I'd never call her my daughter.
She has a past that can't be lived down. Thank
heaven "

" Oh, mother, cut the dramatics ! " he said flippantly.
" Quit thanking heaven in public ; it isn't done these days,
you know ! I'm going to have a bad case on Sarah so
you might as well make the best of it. Suppose I'll get
over it as I got over the measles without any after-ef-
fects. Darn her, though, she's as high strung as a real
aristocrat ; wonder who she thinks she is ! "

However, Sarah, greatly to Dan's surprise, received his
attentions more calmly than she had done in the little
town. She walked with Dan, went swimming with him,
attended the movies with him, occasionally danced with



MOUNT GRETNA 235

him shades of her Mennonite ancestors! but she held
him just where she wanted him. As soon as he waxed
sentimental she grew irresponsive and he soon divined
that the only way to gain any attention from her was to
be friendly but nothing more.

As the rector watched the coupling of the two his
heart was troubled. Something akin to dismay came to
him. What did a boy like Dan want with a girl like
Sarah? Why, she was fathoms too deep for the shallow
youth ! Too fine, lovely could it be that ulterior motives
prompted the girl ? Then he put such visionary surmises
down as unfair to her. She was probably amusing her-
self, after the manner of thoughtless youth. He tried
to view matters from that angle and called himself a
meddling, jealous creature when he felt little pangs as
he saw Dan and Sarah strolling off to the lake or bound
for maidenhair ferns or wild flowers. What did it mat-
ter to him? Why was he so concerned about it? Of
course he had found the little neighbor intensely inter-
esting and different from the general run of girls or
women he knew, but he never analyzed his feelings more
minutely than that. Then once in the quiet of the woods
as he stretched prone under a pine tree where the brown
needles made a cushion fragrant and inviting, he studied
over the matter. What was his feeling for the girl next
door? The laughing, crying child- woman whose heart
was so big and full of sympathy that it constantly had
an overflow. Sarah, from whose childish lips had fallen
oaths and rude speech that no other girl in Fairview had
ever heard; Sarah, whose father had narrowly escaped
death in a prison cell; Sarah, against whose record was
chalked, marked with indelible strokes, six YEARS IN A
REFORMATORY what a girl she was! How keen an in-



236 THE MADONNA OF THE CURB

sight she had ! He remembered how he had winced un-
der her searching gaze and the declaration that he, too,
thought her a " heretic, rebel, a thing to flout/' certainly
not a thing to love. She was right; he had thought her
as one needing help, aye, reformation. He had seen in
her an errant child unfortunate in so many ways, the
victim of environment, and he had offered her church and
Sunday school as a solution of her troubles when what
she had craved most was companionship. He had prayed
for her soul when a walk through the country lanes and
a friendly talk on life, nature, and the like, would have
helped her infinitely more. What did her influence mean
to him? What was the import of the power she was
certainly exerting upon him, unconsciously to her-
self, he was certain. Was he beginning to care for her
as he had never cared for any woman before ? Hitherto
he had seen many women he admired but none to whom
he could give his love. None of them had ever been able
to grip his heart strings and play the music there that
Sarah's presence could. What was he thinking of ? Cer-
tainly he, a clergyman, could not consider marriage with
a reformatory girl ! It was out of the question ! Yet he
despised himself for the thought. Sane, deliberate think-
ing showed him clearly that if he ever married it would
have to be a girl of impeccable character, whose past
would admit a searchlight of investigation. The wife of
a clergyman could not hope to escape microscopic dis-
sections of her past, so much he knew of the ways of the
world. And yet, even as he convinced his heart that his
reasoning was correct, there came to him the strong, ir-
resistible truth that the child of Red Rose Court had
come unscathed through experiences that would have
submerged and contaminated a weaker nature. He had



MOUNT GRETNA 237

to admit that each new experience to the Irish-Dutch
neighbor had but enriched and broadened her vision, ex-
panded her capacity to feel. Never would a creature in
need appeal to her in vain. The whimpering of the chil-
dren of pestilential Red Rose Court would echo in the
cry of every other child she ever heard ; the remembrance
of the shadows sin had cast into her life would set her
heart throbbing with sympathy for all degraded, unhappy
mortals. Her sorrows had, indeed, brought her an
" eagle-sight of God."

The rector recognized the truth but the world-old
demarcations between man-made standards of right and
wrong seemed ineradicable. In the eyes of the world
Sarah Burkhart was not suitable for the wife of any min-
ister of the Gospel. And in the heart of the Reverend
James Snavely raged the ancient battle between duty and
desire.

The cooking experiment in the bachelor cottage soon
ran the experimenters into deep water. The girls
shrieked with laughter one of the first days when the
boys recounted their experiences in the kitchen. They
were all sitting on the porch of the girls' house, Mrs.
Roth very much in evidence as befitted a faithful watcher.

" Say," began the narrator of the tale, " this was rice
day at our house."

" Rice day! What's that?" came the query he hoped
for.

" I'll tell you ! It was my turn to cook. I thought I'd
give them a treat for dessert, not pie from the boarding-
house any simp can do that! I'd cook some rice and
serve it with milk, sugar and bananas. So I asked all the
fellows and they voted for it. Well, I counted four of
us and doubled that for second helpings and a few more



238 THE MADONNA OF THE CURB

in case any asked for third, then I measured out ten
saucers of rice, heaping full, no skimping when I cook !
I put it on to boil. Bless me, in a little while it was go-
ing over the stove, put the fire out! I put half in an-
other kettle and lighted another burner and started them
off. I watched them and right then died the old saying
that a watched pot never boils. They boiled and boiled
and came near spilling rice over the stove again. So I
had to find a third pot and divide the contents of the
two, and when the operation was completed we had three
huge mounds of rice. It'll be rice for breakfast, dinner
and supper for a week. How was I to know the thing
swells like a sponge in water ! "

The girls laughed at the story and promptly called the
boy Ricey. So sped the days in the mountains, care-
free, filled with walks and swims or idle resting under
the trees. To Sarah they were one long holiday. The
charm of her personality gradually attracted the girls.
Her sense of humor, quick repartee, big-hearted kind-
ness, won for her first admiration, then real affection.


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