The Girls of Silver Spur Ranch

by Grace MacGowan Cooke

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A Package and a Leather-Brown Phaeton

The men stood rigid at little Harvey's announcement. Mrs. Spooner took the envelope from the child's hands, opened it and read aloud:

"Mother died last night. Funeral over before you can get here. Sister."

The boy on the steps wheeled and ran into the house. Grannis turned unwillingly.

"Well--that looks genuine," he muttered with the obstinacy of a high-tempered man. "I won't prosecute him for lifting my pony--But I want you to understand that it's on your account Jennie. I tell you to turn him out. He's a bad lot. If ever he sets foot on the Circle G he'll have me to settle with. If you insist on having him around your place I'll--I'll--" His eye fell on Harvie. "Take the halter there, Tom and tie Baldy on behind. He leads all right."

"Aren't you going to pay him the money you owe him," Mrs. Spooner asked as she saw the men preparing to depart.

Grannis would have paid the money if it had not been for the presence of Tom. He could not let one of his cowboys see a loosening of discipline.

"No, I'll not," he said bluntly and whipped his team around into the drive. "He can't collect a cent off me, and I'm done making concessions on your account."

"Where are the girls?" Mrs. Spooner asked as she and the Babe stood watching the Circle G rig depart.

"They're coming," answered the Babe. "I rode ahead 'cause they were carrying so many things and I could go faster. The man at the telegraph office paid us for bringing the message out. Are you going to keep Roy Lambert here, like Uncle Harvey said you ought not, mother?"

Mrs. Spooner nodded as she went back into the living-room, leaving little Harvie to start the fire in the stove. There she did her best to comfort the poor fellow, facing his first big sorrow.

"I won't go home now--there's no use," he declared, when he could speak. "But I'll never go back to Grannis! If you let me I'll stay here and work for you. And I'd do my best to do for you what a son would. Outside of heaven, I've got no mother now." And once more his grief overwhelmed him.

"I'll be happy to treat a good boy like you as a son," said Mrs. Spooner. "My husband is away with the troops, and we've had a pretty hard time to get along without him. I'm sure my girls will be glad to take you into our household as a brother. Maybe providence sent you to us, to-day. Maybe we need you as much as you need us."

With the relaxing of the terrible strain, and the exhaustion of his grief, the boy seemed to become really ill. She sat beside him, trying to soothe him with tenderly wise words, and bathing his hot forehead hi cool water till at last he slept, and she stole softly out to warn old Jonah, who came stumping in with a basket of cobs for the kitchen fire.

"Make as little noise as you can, Jonah," she whispered. "We have a boy in the house asleep--one of Harvey's cowboys--I'm afraid he has fever."

"O Lord!" groaned Jonah, in a doleful whisper. "Trouble comes double--never knowed it to fail yit! 'T ain't 'nough that you ain't right peart, and the boss gone, and me with the rheumatiz a-ticklin' my right foot ag'in, but we got to have a no-'count cowboy, sweater an' shirk, of course, laid up on us. Poor gals, I feel for 'em!--an' you've got nothin' but gals. Ef you'd 'a' had a right smart mess o' boys, now-- They'll have all the work to do--like enough have to ride and rope and brand, 'fore they are done, besides nussin' this here boy, and me'n you throwed in for good measure. Whyn't Grannis tend to his own sick cowboys? Plenty o' folks at his ranch."

"He's not Harvey's cowboy any longer, Jonah--he's ours, if we need him--and according to that, we do. Now don't say a word, just listen to me--" as the old man opened his mouth to remonstrate very forcibly on the utter folly of taking an unknown person into her home. Then, speaking in subdued tones, she told him the story of the boy from the Grannis ranch.

At the end old Jonah Bean, being tender-hearted if cantankerous, took out his bandanna and blew his nose with hushed vigor.

"If I warn't in the presence of a lady what's his sister, Mis' Spooner," he said with elaborate politeness, "I'd up an' say--Dad rat Harvey Grannis's hide! Manners an' behavior is all prevents me from usin' them same cuss-words."

"Thank you for not saying them, Jonah," approved Mrs. Spooner, gravely, but with twinkling eyes. "Now I'll go out and meet the girls--I hear them coming, and they'll be sure to wake him with their noise, if I don't warn them."

The two girls were riding up the path, and both shouted:

"A letter from Cuba Libre!"

"A fat letter--and we want to see what's in it so bad!"

Of course the precious letter was immediately read--that came before anything else; the girls, dismounting, the Babe running out, dish-towel in hand, with Jonah hobbling in the rear, and all grouping around Mrs. Spooner, to hear the news from Cuba.

It was a bravely cheerful letter, containing the best of all news; their father was well, the health of the army was good, there was no prospect of a battle. Then followed long messages to each member of the family, loving and jolly; advice to Jonah Bean about the ranch, winding up with impressive charges to everybody to be "sure and take good care of mother!"

"Three cheers for Cuba Libre--she's taking good care of our boys!" exulted Elizabeth, and Ruth declared fervently: "It's such good news that it makes me right hungry! Let's make muffins for supper Elizabeth, and celebrate."

"Maybe there won't ever be a real truly sure-enough battle like Ivanhoe and King Richard Sour-de-lion and Jonah Bean used to fight," suggested the Babe, hopefully, and Jonah added, sagely:

"I don't know nothin' 'bout them two folks you named over, honey, but I lay you the war o' the sixties was some punkin's! I misdoubt this here Cuban scrimmage is jest a play war."

"Truly, I hope so, Jonah," said Mrs. Spooner. "Now listen, children, I have some more news for you. We can't have father with us, but I believe I have found a 'real, truly sure-enough' brother--a regular big brother, like other girls have."

"O, Mother," put in the Babe, excitedly, "I didn't know that! Is he named after us, if he's going to be our own brother?"

"No, his name is Roy Lambert--but we don't care what it is," she added, hastily, remembering how poor Elizabeth had loved fine-sounding names, "if he is only a good boy, and I think he is."

Then she told them the story of poor Roy.

"I do think Uncle Harvey is the meanest old--" began Ruth, indignantly, but her mother's hand was laid lightly upon her lips, stopping further outburst.

"That's enough, daughter" she said, quietly, "they both did wrong, and I think they're both sorry. It is all over now, and we must try and think as kindly of Uncle Harvey and be as good to poor Roy as ever we can."

"Yes, and I'll lend him my own pony, if his is too bad off for him to ride," added the Babe generously--her own Rosinante being the joke of the ranch. "Uncle Harvey didn't mean to be bad, Ruth--he looked just as sorry when you read the telegram--didn't he, Mother?"

"I think he is sorry," agreed her mother, who wished her children to think as well of their uncle as possible, but Jonah, with a scornful snort, ejaculated: "Sorry--Harvey Grannis? O, Lord, that is a joke!" And muttering his opinion of Harvey Grannis pretty audibly, went stumping away, to his work.

Elizabeth said nothing, only she slipped her hand in that of her foster-mother and whispered: "I think the Lord sent him to you, Mother, because he was in trouble and needed you."

"Well, I hope he'll be a nice boy, and I hope he won't be sick. I'll go in and make up the muffin batter, Elizabeth, while you set the table. I bet he didn't get any muffins at Uncle Harvey's ranch," said Ruth, who believed in ministering to the sick by giving them good things to eat.

They had a very good supper, and the muffins were really gems, but Roy could not touch the dainty tray, saying that it looked awfully good, but he was too tired to eat--he'd be all right in the morning.

But next morning he was in a raging delirium, and Jonah Bean had to ride to Emerald and fetch the doctor, who said the boy was in for a pretty bad spell of fever.

For two weeks the Spooner household nursed him, then came a day of rejoicing when the patient was able to move shakily about, gaunt and hollow-eyed, but cheerfully assuring them he felt dandy! Recovery was swift after that, and it was not long before the boy from the Circle G, the outcast horse-thief, was a valued and almost indispensable member of the Silver Spur household.

"I don't see how we ever got along without him," declared Ruth, positively, as she poked the clothes that were beginning to bubble in the big wash-kettle out in the back yard.

"Particularly now that Jonah's laid up with the rheumatism," agreed Elizabeth, rubbing the white clothes on the wash-board with rhythmic strokes that, somehow, seemed to take a lot of the drudgery away from the task.

Ruth and Elizabeth were doing the week's washing; it wasn't a very hard thing to do, when one went about it with the right spirit--the determination to try, with cheerful energy, to get the clothes as clean as possible in as little time as possible:

"To sweep a room as for God's cause
Makes that and the action fine."

The Spooner girls had never heard these words of the old poet, but they practiced the spirit of them a good deal in their work.

It was astonishing how much Roy had helped to lighten the work for them, as well as for old Jonah Bean, who declared him to be nothing less than a God-send. For instance, he had filled the kettles and tubs with water, and fetched a big basket of cobs to make a fire under the wash-kettle, all before he had gone to Emerald on what he declared to be a very particular errand of his own.

"I wonder what it is," mused Ruth, curiously, "last week he went--said he had something very particular to do, you remember, and he came back late. He never brought anything back, that I could see."

"My private opinion is," said Elizabeth, confidentially, "that he is fixing up some sort of a surprise for mother's birthday, He heard us say we were looking for a package from father, and that we hoped it would get here in time for her birthday. I noticed it was right after that he went to town on business of his own."

"It would be just like him--he's always trying to think up something to do for us. Say, Elizabeth, I certainly appreciate this shelter he built for us, don't you?"

"I don't see how we ever got along without it: he's certainly a handy boy," declared Elizabeth, gratefully.

Heretofore the girls had washed with the glaring sun beating down upon their unprotected heads, but now Roy had built a shelter for the tubs. Timber was scarce, but he had managed to find enough for the posts and cross-pieces, and there were plenty of tin shingles left from re-shingling the house, so that he had managed to make a very neat job of it, and one that added greatly to their comfort.

"Have you all seen the Babe anywhere?" asked Mrs. Spooner, coming out of the kitchen. "I want her to hunt some eggs for me; I think I'll make some tea-cakes for supper."

"She's down at Jonah's shack--I'll call her," offered Elizabeth, but Mrs. Spooner demurred, saying she would rather go herself.

"I haven't enquired about Jonah's foot, today, and he may think I'm neglecting him," said the gentle mistress of the ranch, who never was known to neglect a living thing upon it, and was particularly solicitous about the welfare of her ancient cowboy.

Jonah Bean was a veteran of the sixties, much given to narrating tales of his own marvelous exploits; he was also a bachelor, who declared himself independent of the whole female sex, inasmuch as he could, if necessary, sew, cook, and "do for himself" generally. Though inclined to be a grumbler, he was really devoted to all the Spooner family, particularly little Harvie, whom he had been the first to nickname "the Babe," and he always found her an eager listener to the tales of adventure he delighted in telling.

Mrs. Spooner found him sitting in the doorway of his shack, which was near the corral, and had originally been intended for a bunk-house, when John Spooner's hand was on the helm, and Silver Spur promised to be a paying ranch. He was patching a pair of overalls and talking animatedly to the Babe, who was, as usual, a rapt listener. "So Giner'l Jackson sez, sez'e: 'Send me the pick o' your men from each company.' And, when he looks us over, he p'ints at me. 'What's that runty, tallow-faced little chap named? And what's he good for?' he asts the cap'n o' my company. And the cap'n ups and 'lows: 'His name's Jonah Bean, Giner'l, and he's a powerful hand at--"

"O, Jonah!" interrupted the Babe, sorrowfully, "Ivanhoe never ran--nor King Richard Sour-de-lion either. Nobody but caitiffs and paynims and folks like that ought ever to run."

"Why you see, honey," explained old Jonah patiently, "what the cap'n meant was that I was like the Irishman's pig--'mighty little but mighty lively', and could git over ground faster'n common."

"O," said the Babe in a relieved tone, "I'm glad you weren't a paynim or a caitiff, Jonah."

"No," hastily denied Jonah, "I warn't--I ain't no kin to none o' them sort of folks; I'm a Tennesseean, me'n all my forefathers before me. Well, the Giner'l calls me up, and sez, sez'e: 'Private Bean, your country is dependin' on you to do some mighty tall runnin' to-day. Kin I depend on you to run so fast the Yankees can't ketch you?'

"I s'luted, and sez I'd do my levelest. Then, as I was a-sayin' he gimme the papers and my orders. 'Twas a long way from the ferry, so's to save time I swum the Jeems river--high water, and twenty-five mile acrost, more or less, I disremember rightly, And then, man, sir! I everlastin' burnt the wind! Minie-balls was a-rainin' like hail, and I jest natchully had to kick the bombshells out'n my way. Right through the enemy's lines till I fetched up at Giner'l Lee's headquarters, s'luted and turned them papers over to him dry as powder--for I'd swum with 'em under my hat."

"King Richard would 'a' made you a knight!" breathed the Babe, in ecstatic admiration.

"They didn't have none o' them in our army, honey, or they mighter. I shore'd 'a' been promoted to sergeant anyhow, if Giner'l Jackson hadn't 'a' been killed before he could send in my recommend." The Babe murmured her regret over the General's untimely taking off.

"Mornin', ma'am," Jonah greeted Mrs. Spooner, who just then came up. "Me'n the Babe, here, was jest a-talkin' over old times. She was a-tellin' me the news from Cuby and I was mentionin' of a few things happened back yander in the sixties. I says this here Cubian war ain't no thin' 'tall but jest chillun's play-war."

"I hope and pray so, Jonah," said Mrs. Spooner, her voice trembling a little. "But--war is war, I'm afraid."

And to this, Jonah, scoffer though he was, could only agree. War, even a play war, meant some danger.

It was after dark when Roy returned from Emerald, and--as he had done the last time, instead of riding up the front way and whistling a signal from the road, he came in at the back, surprising the whole family, who were all gathered in the kitchen.

"Howdy-do, folks! Gee, that fried chicken smells good, Ruth! Mrs. Pratt sent you a quarter of mutton, Mother Spooner--they had just killed a sheep. I hung it up on the peg outside the back door to keep sweet."

He smiled affectionately on the Babe, who was eyeing with much curiosity a big package under his arm. "And this, I reckon, must be that birthday bundle from Cuba; I found it at the express office."

There was a shout of joy from the Babe, and a satisfied exclamation from her sisters, who had about given up hope of the package's arriving on time, the mails from Cuba being very uncertain.

"Day after to-morrow is mother's birthday--just in the nick of time," they exulted. "Don't you dare take one little, little peep till then. Lock it up in your bureau-drawer, Ruth, so she won't have temptation before her eyes," laughed Elizabeth, and Ruth bore off the package, in spite of the Babe's protest that maybe father had sent a little present to Jonah--and he wouldn't like to wait!

"Maybe there's something in it for a little girl or so," laughed her mother, "but I think we can wait. For I'll be forty years old, and it needs pleasant things to make a fortieth birthday happy, I can tell you."

At this the Babe hugged herself in delight, to think there was still another pleasant thing in store for her mother. For to-morrow Elizabeth and Ruth had planned to make a wonderful cake, iced white like a real Christmas cake, which, on the birthday they intended to light with forty tiny pink candles, already bought and hidden away in Elizabeth's trunk. To console herself, she fell to dreaming over the lovely things shut up in the brown paper package--to think of anything real hard was nearly as good as seeing it.

"Mrs. Pratt's Maudie got back from her grandmother's last night," said Roy, as they all sat at supper--except Jonah, who, because of his foot, had had his supper carried to him by the Babe.

"They're planning for a big celebration and a Harvest Home festival in Emerald next week, and she wants the girls to go over and spend a few days. Mrs. Pratt particularly said both, if you can spare them."

"I wonder what Handle's grandmother gave her this time," said Ruth, rather wistfully. "She always has so many pretty things when she comes back from a visit out there. It must be lovely to have a grandmother who is well-off." She sighed a little, thinking of the many-times laundered cotton frocks that served Elizabeth and herself for all dress-up occasions. Maudie, no doubt, would have a challis, or maybe even a summer silk.

Elizabeth said nothing, but at the mention of a well-to-do grandmother she felt a blush of shame creeping over her face. It was such a little while ago that she had indulged in beautiful dreams of unknown and wealthy relations; stately grandmothers with high-piled white hair, gold lorgnettes and rustling silks; and haughtily handsome grandfathers of ancient lineage and great wealth, who would see that she was lavishly supplied with means to buy the beautiful clothes necessary for a girl who would move in the highest circles of society. Dreams that ended in such a sordid awakening--O, poor Elizabeth!

Mrs. Spooner's mother eyes saw what the girl tried so hard to conceal, and she said with quiet emphasis: "I wouldn't give any one of my three girls with their cotton frocks, for a dozen Maudies with a dozen silks apiece!"

It was next morning that Roy explained his mysterious trips to town.

"You know your mother can't walk much," he said, "and she can't ride a pony, like we do. So when I saw a second-hand phaeton for sale I made up my mind to buy it for her birthday gift. Shasta works fine in harness, so I rode her to town, hooked her up to the old phaeton, and, last week, brought it home and hid it out in the corral shed, where I've been putting in odd minutes painting it, while Jonah's cutting down the harness to fit Shasta. It's just shreds and patches now, and a mile too big. The phaeton's pretty rickety as to looks, so I went yesterday and got some cloth and fringe for the top, and you girls must help me fix up the curtains so's I'll get it done in time for her to take a drive on her birthday."

"I do think you are a wonder, Roy," admired Elizabeth, with sparkling eyes. "The very thing she needed most--and had no idea she'd get till father comes home."

"A package from Cuba, and a cake and a phantom!" exulted the Babe, who was present. "That's a cossal thing, Roy."

"She means colossal," explained Elizabeth, as Roy turned a bewildered look on her. And Ruth added: "She gets them out of books, those long words that she can't pronounce. I wish Mother could send her to school--she reads too much."

"People can't read too much, Ruth," said the Babe severely. "Some time, when I go to school I'm going to learn to read well enough to read all the books in the round world. Jonah says there ain't nothin' like eddication!"

"Sure--I agree with Jonah," laughed Roy. "Sorry I can't have a fine 'eddication,' I'd like it the best sort. But come on and let's have a look at the phantom."

It was a pretty rickety phaeton--as to cover and cushions; Roy had already made it spruce with a good many coats of leather-brown paint. He showed the girls the fringe and the lining he had bought to renovate the canopy-top.

"We'll cover the cushions right away," said Ruth, viewing the dilapidated affairs that had, in the distant past, been spick and spandy leather cushions.

"There, now--I knew I'd never recollect everything!" said Roy, ruefully. "I just got enough brown stuff to line the top--I clean forgot the cushions."

Elizabeth, as usual, solved the difficulty.

"Mother has an old brown broadcloth skirt she doesn't wear. It'll make perfect cushion-covers, just the right shade. I'll take the measures now and stitch up the covers in no time."

"Elizabeth always did have a head on her shoulders!" admired Ruth. "I'm willing enough, but I never could do anything but just cook. Anyway, I'll make the birthday cake."

"And I'll beat the eggs--I can beat eggs go nice and soap-suddy," boasted the Babe.

"That'll be a great help. We don't want any hit-or-miss cake. Everything's got to be properly weighed and measured and beaten. Now let's go see how Jonah's coming on with the harness."

Jonah, with the harness in a big cotton-basket which could be hidden from sight by throwing a horse-blanket over it if Mrs. Spooner happened along, was seated indoors, busily snipping and stitching and patching away at the rusty-looking leather.

"Now don't you-all come a-frustratin' me till I git th'ough with my job," fumed the old man, rather crossly, "'course, you'll 'low 'tain't much to look at--which I ain't a-denyin'--but jest wait till me'n the boy gits done--then jedge by ree-sults."

Roy sighed a little bit wistfully. "I did want to get something better, but my money barely held out for this."

"Something better?" scolded the girls, "who wants anything better?"

"A lovely, low-hung, leather-brown phaeton," added Elizabeth, alliteratively, "is a thing of beauty. Add brown cushions, brown harness and a perfectly-matching brown pony and it'll be too stylish for anything."

"That's sure 'seeing things', Elizabeth," laughed Roy. "Glad you believe in us. I'll work at the phaeton and try to have it looking as much as possible like your fancy picture by to-morrow. Jonah'll boss the harness job, and you girls can transform the cushions."

There were great preparations going on that day, right under Mrs. Spooner's unsuspecting eyes. The girls had ironed the clothes the day before, insisting that they required mending immediately, much to their mother's surprise, for they didn't usually bother about the mending.

There was indeed plenty of it to do, and, since Mr. Spooner's absence, very little money to buy new clothes, so that the best the patient mother could do was to mend and darn and patch, till, like the Cotter's wife, she "made old clothes look almost as well as new."

She sat on the front porch and darned and mended busily, while in the kitchen Ruth and the Babe--who did beat the whites into most wonderful soap-suds, made a marvelous silver-cake, which they iced thick and white--a regular Christmas-cake. And Elizabeth ripped up the old brown skirt, sponged and pressed the cloth, and made the cushions as neatly as any upholsterer could have done. Roy and Jonah Bean, at the same time, were transforming the harness and phaeton, to have it all done by the next morning. Roy, having his own and Jonah's work to do, had to snatch odd moments to rub down the paint and re-cover the ancient top.

Mrs. Spooner was allowed to open her package from Cuba on her birthday morning, with the three girls crowding round to see--the Babe quivering with eager anticipation.

Mrs. Spooner unwrapped from its folds of tissue-paper the gift they all knew to be hers--a shawl or scarf of black, heavily-woven silk, embroidered in most wonderfully natural pansies; a regular Cuban mantilla, exquisitely made.

The girls were so delighted, draping their mother in its soft folds, and admiring the effect, that they quite forgot a smaller package which was still unopened--all but the Babe, who continued to gaze upon it with fascinated eyes.

"O, Mother, please open the little bundle," she begged at last. "I'm--I'm just on ten-pins to see what's in it!"

"Now where'd she get that word? What on earth does it mean?" laughed Ruth, who was often puzzled over her little sister's expressions.

"Tenterhooks," translated Elizabeth. "Only she got 'hooks' mixed up with pins and needles. Do open it, mother, and relieve the 'ten-pins'!"

"I'll let the Babe open it herself. I'm sure she can pick out her own present," smiled the mother, as she gave the smaller package to the child.

With awed delight the Babe removed the tissue-paper slowly, as befitting a solemn rite: three tantalizing little bundles were disclosed, tightly wrapped. She opened the first; it contained a painted Spanish fan.

"This must be for Elizabeth," concluded the Babe, with decision, and handed over the fan to Elizabeth, who waved it with languid grace, imagining herself to be a Spanish Senorita.

The next parcel held a pretty handkerchief, with a wide border of Mexican drawn-work; this the Babe promptly turned over to Ruth. "I don't want that--I can borrow mother's," she said, with fine assurance.

"O, but I do! I never had a real pretty handkerchief in my life. I don't believe even Maudie Pratt has one as pretty as this," exclaimed Ruth, happily.

On this little ranch where things were hard to get at best, the thrifty mother always cut up the flour sacks into neat squares, which she hemmed on the machine; these when washed and ironed were piled neatly in each girl's little handkerchief-box, for every-day use. For Sundays and extra occasions there was a little square of muslin, hemstitched and bordered with narrow lace. No Spooner ever dreamed of possessing a better handkerchief. No wonder that Ruth exulted over her gift.

The third was a little white box. When the Babe removed the lid she hugged the box to her bosom and pranced joyously about the room.

"My beads, my beads!" she crowed, ecstatically. "My own dear, beautiful pink necklace!" she held out a string of coral before her family's admiring eyes. "Put it on for me, Elizabeth, so I can run show it to Roy and Jonah," she begged. "O, mother--" with a sudden look of consternation, "suppose I didn't guess right?"

"You guessed exactly right," reassured her mother, "but Elizabeth, child, what are you pinning my hat on for?"

"Just walk out in front and behold another birthday gift," said Elizabeth, busily pinning on the hat. "There, now, you're all ready--hat, shawl and everything."

Wondering, her mother obeyed, and beheld drawn up at the door a spick and spandy looking little low phaeton, painted a beautiful leather brown; its fringed canopy-top fresh and neat, its cushions upholstered in handsome brown broadcloth, and harnessed to a perfectly-matching brown pony, in neatly fitting brown harness, already for taking a drive.

"O, my dears!" there was consternation in Mrs. Spooner's voice. "Did you go and buy a phaeton! How in the world did you manage? You know we simply must not go in debt."

A chorus of protest reassured her. The gift was none of theirs--they had not gone in debt. Roy had bought it for her with his own money.

"For just nothing at all, Mother Spooner," he hastened to assure her. "It was just junk. We, Jonah, the girls and I, fixed it up for you, so it's really a family gift. And you'll find Shasta gentle as a kitten. Now you and the Babe get in, and and Jonah and I'll escort you in style--we are going to take you over the ranch and come back in time for the birthday dinner Ruth and Elizabeth are going to fix up."

As the procession clattered down the driveway and out into the trail along the prairie, the Babe nestled close to her mother and sighed blissfully--she had in mind another surprise that was to help make the fortieth birthday a pleasant one. A big, Christmassy cake, iced white as snow and covered with forty tiny pink candles.

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