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ing, and poor Daddy has sickness, and Mother has meet-
ings, and even Miss Lena's got something the matter with
her. I don't know what it is, but I'm afraid she can't sing
in her heart all the time. I don't think Miss Sylvia has
anything wrong with her though. I'm glad she's here,
aren't you ? I guess Miss Sylvia and you are the only per-
sons I know, Mr. Balfour, that hasn't got something the
matter."

She peered at him through the tangle of curls. "Oh, I
do believe you're just perfect, aren't you ?" she exploded.

"Oh, Jenny Melody!" he cried, laughing helplessly. "If
you only guessed how many, many things I've got that are
all wrong!" He grew suddenly grave. For there was
something the matter with him which little Janet could not
guess: something so seriously wrong that it threatened to
spoil his whole life.

But Janet was again on the painful subject of her hair.
"I wonder if it would be very wicked to pray that the Lord
would cut my hair off ? Do you think He wouldn't like me
to ask Him for something Mother didn't want me to have?
What would God do if Mother and I were asking Him for
different things? He'd get all mixed up, wouldn't He?"

Mr. Balfour said it was very hard for God to manage
things unless His servants were of one mind. And that
was one reason why it was especially necessary for people
in the same family to agree on all things. He sighed heavily
when he said this, and Janet echoed the sigh.

"I hardly ever agree with Mother about what I'm to
wear," she confessed sadly. "But I do wish she'd let me
pray to have my hair cut off. I could let it grow again,
when I get big like Miss Lena. Don't you think she has
lovely hair, Mr. Balfour?"



MIDSUMMER MUSIC 259

"Just listen to those little roosters trying to crow, Janet !'*
he cried suddenly, catching at the first means of escaping the
embarrassing question. He drew a breath of relief as,
Janet laughed.

"Why, they're practising," she cried delightedly. "It's
choir practice, and they're learning to sing !"

They certainly needed to practise, for they were a long
way from a respectable crow. One little fellow let forth
a discordant squall; another sounded as if he were choking;
and the noisiest of the choir uttered something like a bad,
consumptive cough.

"They can't sing any better than I can," declared Janet.
"If they ever learn to crow, I don't see why I couldn't learn
to sing; if folks would let me practise as much as they
do."

"Well," said Mr. Balfour, carefully extracting a par-
ticularly stubborn burr, "I'm sure you could do better than
that fellow. He sounds as if he had the whooping cough."

Janet imitated the ridiculous sounds; and Mr. Balfour
stopped hunting for burrs and looked at her with sudden
interest. "Do that again, Janet," he said. Janet did it
again very willingly, many times over; and he cried out
joyously:

"Why, that was perfect! I wouldn't be surprised to
hear you singing as soon as those little fellows learn to
crow."

"Oh, my!" cried Janet, her eyes shining through her
hair. "I'm going to practise, too," and she took to crowing
like the chickens, making such a good imitation that Kirsty
came out, indignantly, to see what all the ructions were
about.

"Never mind, Jenny Melody," Mr. Balfour said comfort-
ingly, when Janet was forced to be siknt though the chick-
ens continued practising louder than ever. "Your ear is
waking up ; and you'll be a singer yet, never fear."

The last burr was extracted after much patient labour;
and, overcome with gratitude, Janet ran away upstairs to
have her hair combed.



260 LITTLE MISS MELODY

"Oh, Mother," she cried joyously, "Mr. Balfour says my
ears are growing. I can crow now, just as well as Buffy's
chickens, and I'm going to learn to sing some day; he says
I will."

When her hair was at last confined in its long heavy braid,
and she had been warned against further excursions among
briars and burrs, Janet burst forth against her chief im-
pediment.

"Mother, don't you think it's awful to have hair like
mine? I'm sure the Lord wouldn't mind if I asked Him
to let me have it cut off ; not if you didn't mind. Would you
care very much, Mother ?" And because her mother had an
unusually busy afternoon ahead of her she answered hur-
riedly :

"Well, well, dear, it will do no harm to pray over it if
you want to; now run away like a good little girl and
practise your scales."

That night Janet prayed fervently that the burden of
her hair might be removed, a prayer that was answered in
a very short time, and in a manner of which she could not
have dreamed.

And the very next day her oft-repeated prayer that she
might be able to sing received the beginning of its answer.
It was at Sunday School that this great event happened.
During the week news of terrible import had been coming
from the Mother Land across the sea. Europe had burst
into flames, and the heat of the conflagration was felt even
in far-off Canada.

On Sunday morning, at the opening of Sunday School,
Willie Beckett spoke to the school about the war, and
Britain's part in it : a part that Canada was sure to uphold.
He spoke solemnly, and the children listened, thrilled and
yet fearful. At the end of his little address, he said : "And
now, we will all stand and sing one verse of 'O Canada !' "

The school rose to its feet. Young, care-free voices were
raised in song. They sang it loudly and cheerfully, as they
had always done; and there fell upon them no faintest
.shadow, no dimmest premonition, that there were gallant



MIDSUMMER MUSIC 261

young hearts raised there in careless song, that would soon
be called to redeem with their life-blood the pledge they
were uttering:

"O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!"

It was absolutely impossible for Janet to stand silent
through this ceremony. Many a time, in school, when they
sang, "O Canada," she had been compelled to put her hands
tight over her mouth to keep back the sound that surged
forth. But to-day nothing could stem its flood. She just
had to sing. She forgot all about her ear and her voice,
and stood up straight and proud, and sang at the top of
her voice.

Miss Lena walked beside her on the way home from
church; and she turned to Mr. Balfour, who was just be-
hind, and said:

"Do you know that Janet sang to-day, right out loud, and
there was scarcely a mistake in the tune ?"

"I knew she could !" he cried, "when I heard her crow the
other day !"

Janet could hardly wait till she got home to put her voice
to the test. Mr. Balfour was almost as excited. He sat
clown at the piano and played a little hymn, and she fol-
lowed carefully.

When she had finished he gave a shout of joy.

"Jenny Melody, you can sing! That was almost true!"

Janet stood perfectly still and looked at him speechless.

"Oh, oh! Was it really truly, sure-enough?" she whis-
pered at last.

It appeared that it really was. Janet did not learn to
sing at once, though she had great hopes of being equal
to Sylvia Ward in a few days. Indeed she did not learn
to follow a tune correctly for a very long time; but she
was capable of learning; her slowly awakened ear had be-
gun to distinguish shades of sound at last. She was so
delighted with her new-found talent, and so anxious to
perfect it, that she assiduously practised scales with her



262 LITTLE MISS MELODY

voice when jhe played them on the piano, and constantly
practised the "Holy City" in the intervals; all of which
caused her mother more worry than Janet's former lack of
musical ability, and often drove Mr. Balfour to shut the
study door and put his hands over his ears to make ser-
monising possible.



CHAPTER XXII
LENNIE STARTS A CHORUS

EARLY one morning, during the last week of the holi-
days, Lennie, in his best blouse and most highly
polished boots, came up the Manse walk to the front door
and rang the bell. Janet, who was up in an apple tree
accompanying Alice on her visit to the Mock Turtle, wit-
nessed this extraordinary formality with amazement. This
must surely be a new kind of play that Lennie had invented ;
and she proceeded to take her place on the stage at once.
She shouted to him to wait; and leaping down from the
tree, she ran round to the kitchen door, and in through the
back hall. And before Kirsty had time to dry her hands,
she was opening the door to Lennie.

He stood there, hat in hand. Janet did not know what
to do next. This was a situation such as she had never met
before, but Lennie gave her her cue.

"Good morning," he said politely. "Is Mrs. Meldrum
in?"

Janet was delighted. It was a play ; she was perfectly at
home now. "I believe she is," she said in a tone that far
outdid his in politeness. "Won't you please walk in?"
Lennie stepped carefully into the hall. He was merely
carrying out his mother's instructions, and was rather over-
come by Janet's manner.

She showed him into the parlour elaborately. "Won't you
please sit down," she said, "and I'll see if Mrs. Meldrum is
in." Then she had a sudden fruitful memory from a book
she and Nellie had found in Marjorie's room, and read on
a rainy day. "I'm not sure if she's back from the opera
yet," she added.

263



264 LITTLE MISS MELODY

She stepped into the hall; but suddenly bounced back,
fired with another inspiration from "The Marriage of
Gwendoline."

"What name shall I say?" she asked.

Lennie was a smart little boy; he suddenly realised that
Janet was playing a part. He, too, had read the "Marriage
of Gwendoline."

"Lord Lionel Barrington," he announced, without wink-
ing an eye.

Janet was so impressed that she forgot her role.

"Oh, goodness me!" she exclaimed in artless admiration.

Encouraged by his success, Lennie dropped his star part
and became stage director.

"That isn't the way to do it at all, Janet," he said, in the
superior way that Lennie had. "You should say, 'Will you
please give me your card ?' "

"But what would you have a card for?" argued Janet.
"Are you playing Christmas?"

"It's a calling card," explained Lennie in disgust. "That's
the way stylish people do it all the time. They never go to
see each other without they give away ever and ever so
many cards."

~*Td like that if they were pretty like Christmas cards
or valentines. Hurrah out, and let's play it in the orchard."

"But I didn't come to play at all," said Lennie, holding
his seat with dignity. "Mother sent me over on a real
errand, and you started pretending."

"Is it something your mother wants to borrow?"

"No, it's something we're all going to do. Oh, something
grand!"

"Oh, my ! Do tell me before Mother, so I can coax her
to let me !"

"Mother said I was to come over and ring the front door
bell, and ask you and your mother and Mr. Balfour if you'd
all come pickin' berries up on the mountain next Tuesday."

Janet began to go up and down on one foot.

"Oh, my! Oh, Lennie! Are you going? Oh, wouldn't
it be grand if I could? What did you mean by keeping



LENNIE STARTS A CHORUS 265

something so lovely waiting such a long time? I thought
maybe you'd come to borrow Mother's preserving kettle!
Oh, oh, I wonder if I can go !"

She wanted Lennie to wait till she found if this good
thing could really be; but Lennie was very busy and very
important. He had to go to all the other houses in the
village; and Janet let him out with very scant ceremony,
in painful contrast to his elaborate reception; and rushed
away to her mother with the news.

The greatest of all functions held in Cherry Hill society
was the blackberry-picking in the late summer. Away back
towards the south of the valley rose a height which was
called The Mountain; the wooded hills from which Janet
and Mr. Balfour had viewed the whole country on one of
their May day drives. Up here was a wild rocky jungle-
like region where the blackberries grew like the leaves in
the forest. It was the most famous berry-patch in the
County of Simcoe. People came even from Algonquin and
West Hampton to garner its purple harvest; and yet its
yield never became exhausted.

Once a year Cherry Hill moved out to the Mountain in
a body for a whole day's picking. It was the custom for
one of the leading ladies of the place to send forth a spy
to look over the land and report. This year Mrs. Caldwell
had sent her husband and eldest son ; and like Joshua and
Caleb, they had returned with glowing reports of its fruit-
age. They brought back their grapes of Eschol, too, a
whole pailful of luscious purple berries of a size to raise
excitement in the whole community.

And so Lennie was going through the village like a young
herald, summoning the population to gather for the great
expedition.

Janet had never been allowed to go to the berry-picking.
Kirsty sometimes went and brought home a couple of pail-
fuls for her shelf of Stand Bys. But Mrs. Meldrum had
never taken part in the annual festival, partly because she
was always too busy, and partly because she felt it was
not very dignified for the minister's wife to go scrambling



266 LITTLE MISS MELODY

over logs and through underbrush in company with Mrs.
Kelly, and the like, for the sake of a few berries ; especially
when one remembered that her father had always kept
two servants.

But Janet had no traditions to live up to; and she felt
that she could never sing in her heart again as long as
she lived, if she could not go to the berry-picking. For Bud
and Nellie and Rosie and everyone else in Cherry Hill
school was going. She began at once to lay siege to her
household. She attacked her mother first, and after much
arguing and coaxing wrung a reluctant half promise that
perhaps, if someone who was grown up and responsible
and would look after her, she might be allowed to go for
the afternoon only. Janet flew to Kirsty as the nearest
responsible person. She found her inexorable. Kirsty
would not confess it for the whole contents of the berry
patch; but her increasing rheumatism made the expedition
impossible.

"Tuts," she declared. "It's jist gittin' to be a sparkin' bee,
this goin' off to the Mountain; a lot o' light-headed idlers
gallivantin' off with empty heads and empty pails. I'm not
goin', so ye can jist hold yer whisht."

Janet was too anxious to wait even to ask what a sparkin'
bee was, but rushed away to Mr. Balfour. She had not
forgotten the promise he had made her on the Mountain
that May Day ; and she now confronted him with it. There
was no difficulty here; he promised at once. Of course he
would take her, if he went; he wouldn't think of going with-
out her; but he was not quite sure of going. Indeed he
had not thought of it. And Janet had to be content with
this. Something would surely happen that would make it
possible for him to go.

She found that she had still to meet objections from her
mother, all of which she parried with fluent arguments;
but between the uncertainty as to whether Mr. Balfour
could go and the dread lest her mother refuse her per-
mission, she lived in a fever of suspense.

Meanwhile all the rest of Cherry Hill was getting ready.



LENNIE STARTS A CHORUS 267

Sylvia Ward was at the Sinclairs' on one of her frequent
visits ; and she announced at once that she would surely go.
She had not been picking berries since she was a little girl
at Grandfather's. Immediately all the young folk of the
village lost their objection to picking berries and planned
to go also.

Fred Gillespie and John Gibbie Gibson each promised to
take a car-load of girls. Sarah Kennedy got Mrs. Murphy
to keep an eye on her mother for the day. Archie McDuff
closed the blacksmith shop. Peter MacKay closed the store.
The farmer left the field and his wife left the kitchen. And
even Kelly, , Senior, left his idling for a day; and hiring
a horse, he hitched it to the remains of a light wagon that
had served the Kelly hens as a nesting place for years ; and
the whole family prepared to migrate.

And then, just the afternoon before the great day, Mr.
Balfour discovered that his work was really going to allow
him to get away. He and Janet would take a couple of
barrels, he declared, and bring them home full.

Janet was in the midst of loud rejoicings over this news,
capering up and down the veranda with Pepper, when a
car stopped at the gate. It was Sam Sinclair's ; and in the
back seat were his two sisters and his cousin Sylvia. The
three young ladies alighted; and Janet flew to the gate to
meet them, shrieking her good news.

"Yes, we're coming in," said Miss Lena, in answer to
Janet's pressing invitation. "Sam has to go to the mill;
and we'll have a little visit with your mother till he gets
back."

They all sat on the veranda, their pretty su-mmer dresses
making it look like a flower garden ; and Janet sat at Miss
Lena's feet, and looked up at her adoringly. Her glance
sometimes showed a loving anxiety; for she could not help
feeling that Miss Lena looked even sadder than usual. Per-
haps her low spirits came from the grievous fact that she
was not to be one of the berry-pickers. There was too
much work at home for Mother, she said, when Janet pro-
tested; and someone must stay home and do it. Indeed,



268 LITTLE MISS MELODY

Miss Sylvia seemed the only one who was very happy. She
laughed and chatted, and played with Pepper, as she sat
in the hammock, the sunlight through the vines playing
on her pretty hat and her shining hair.

Janet was sent to the kitchen for lemonade; and Kirsty
sent out the second-best glasses and the kitchen tray, when
she heard that Sylvia Ward was of the party. Kirsty did
not approve of Sylvia. She pronounced her too light and
dressy and given to fol-de-rols.

When Janet returned with the tray Mr. Balfour was
there, sitting on the steps at Miss Sylvia's feet. He had
just returned from the Post Office, and had an open letter
in his hand.

"There's no doubt the ministers of Algonquin have a
spite at me ; or they wouldn't have called me to this meeting
to-morrow," he was saying.

"Don't go," advised Sylvia. "Those troublesome parsons
will be foregathering all next winter, when there are no
berries to pick; and you can go and have protracted meet-
ings with them."

He smiled up at her. In Sylvia's presence it was hard
to take life seriously.

"But I must," he declared, looking resolutely away. "I
can get home in time to go out to the woods for supper.
After all, that's the important part isn't it, Janet? Why,
Janet !" he turned to the little girl in dismay. "What about
Janet?" he asked, looking towards her mother.

Janet was looking at him as if he had announced that he
was going to India that very moment, never to return.

"I cannot let Janet go," declared Mrs. Meldrum, in that
tone which Janet well knew was final. "I could never trust
her away alone with all those children."

Janet jumped up from her seat on the steps.

"Oh, Mother," she groaned in unbelieving dismay, "you
surely can't mean it."

"I would let her go if you were going, Lena," said Mrs.
Meldrum, looking very worried. "But unless some grown



LENNIE STARTS A CHORUS 269

person were directly responsible for her, I could not think
of such a thing."

Sylvia Ward looked at the despairing little face. "Poor
Kiddy, we just can't leave you at home," she cried. "I'll be
responsible for her, Mrs. Meldrum. I'm not going to pick
many berries, you may be sure ; and Janet and I will stay
on the edge of the jungle until Mr. Balfour comes; and I'll
hand him over the responsibility.

Janet flung herself upon her mother with entreaties which
she could not resist. "I hesitate to burden you, Sylvia,"
Mrs. Meldrum said. "Janet is so heedless; she will need
to be kept close to you all the time. But I cannot tell you
how grateful I am, and I do hope," she added, turning to
the little girl, "that you will be very good and not trouble
Miss Sylvia. Think how kind she is to offer to take you."

Janet fairly grovelled to Sylvia in the extremity of her
gratitude. She went to bed that night thinking that she
was surely the most fortunate little girl in the world, and
that if Mr. Balfour and Miss Lena, her mother and Molly
were only going with her, life would have nothing more
to ask.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE LOST SONG

THE day set for the berry-picking was a perfect mid-
August day. There was a sense of peace in the warm
air, and of work well done. Old Mother Earth had given
her children a bountiful harvest; and now she lay smiling
in the sunshine, enjoying a well-earned rest.

The long morning shadows of the mountain ash trees
still stretched across the lawns; and the dew lay heavy on
the golden-rod, when the berry-pickers left the village.

Those who went in buggies started while the pink dawn
was beginning to kindle over the hills ; and everyone said
that the stars were still shining when the Kelly wagon clat-
tered down the street and away out into the dewy country.

Janet had worn the gate almost off its hinges, when at
last the Sinclair car stopped before the house and bore her
away. She sat in the front seat with Sam, and teetered
up and down with ecstasy at each new beauty of the road.
For the summer highway was, for Janet, filled with as
much interest and variety as Broadway to the devotee of
the city. The golden-rod and the aster fringed the way-
side; the black-eyed Susans, and the flaming fire-weed
brightened the fence corners ; and the stately mullen stalks,
summer's golden candlesticks, lit up the path by the road.

Many of the fields were shorn smooth and brown, and
their bounty packed away into barns. But here and there
a harvester rode on his humming binder; and the grain
swayed and writhed and fell before his advance.

The golden-winged flickers shouted and drummed in the
tree-tops; the squirrels shot along the fences; the broad-
winged hawk soared over the brown fields, alert, watching ;

270



THE LOST SONG 271

and the bright little goldfinches sailed the amber air, in
their pretty waving motion, singing "Bay-bee! Bay-bee!"
sweet and clear.

The Kelly wagon was half-way up the last, long, wind-
ing hill, when the Sinclair car went storming past it. They
had stopped to rest the heaving, old horse where a spring
bubbled out of the hillside ; and all the Kelly children were
paddling in the cool little stream.

Janet stood up and shouted to Bud as she whirled past.
She envied the Kellys quite frankly. It must be so much
more fun to walk up the hill as Bud and Rosie were doing;
and to scramble up the cliff for flowers ; and drink out of
the crystal spring that was tumbling out among the ferns.
And the Kellys looked after Janet, riding past in the car
that slipped up the hill so easily, and envied her; which is
the way of the world.

The big car turned off the road at the top of the hill, and
ran into an open, grassy space that lay between the road
and the woods. Beyond it stretched a wild tangle of under-
brush and briars, stumps and fallen trees, shrubs and vines,
tall trees and huge rocks, all tumbled together in glorious
confusion, as though some frolicsome giant had made the
place his playground.

Parties began to arrive by twos and threes. The cars
and buggies were drawn up to one side; the horses were
unhitched; pails and cups rattled merrily; and the wilder-
ness rang with gay voices.

Before entering the green tangle of underbrush, the chil-
dren were all warned solemnly not to stray away. The
"Patch" covered many acres, and below the hill it merged
into a great swamp that stretched on and on, some said, as
far as the Georgian Bay. It was a place where it would
be easy to lose oneself; and the Kellys were admonished
by their mother not to dare to get out of her sight, or she'd
go home and leave them to be lost forever.

A tall blackened stump was chosen as ihe centre of the
camp ; and Tim Kelly swarmed up it ; and tied his mother's
old shawl around it. It was bright red ; and made a stand-



272 LITTLE MISS MELODY

ard which everyone was warned to note; and from which
all were to get their bearings.

At first there was no need for any landmarks; for the
berries were plentiful at the edge of the patch ; and during
the forenoon no one went far beyond the green glade where
the camp was established.

The young people gathered about Sylvia Ward ; and just
as naturally, the children collected around Janet. All her
especial friends were there; Nellie and Kitty, and Susie
Beckett, Lennie and Bud, and all the rest of the Kellys, ex-
cept Molly. Janet was sure this was the most glorious time
she had ever experienced ; and if it were not for the ham-
pering fact that she had to keep an eye on Miss Sylvia,
and that Miss Sylvia had to keep an eye on her, she would


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Online LibraryMarian KeithLittle Miss Melody → online text (page 20 of 23)