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“What a lovely quiet summer we’re going to have, we two,” exclaimed Migwan to Hinpoha, as they stood looking out of the window of their room into the garden, filled with rows of young growing things and bordered by a shallow stony river. Migwan, we remember, had come to spend the summer on the little farm owned by the Bartletts and earn enough money to go to college by selling vegetables. The house in the city had been rented for three months, and her mother, Mrs. Gardiner, and her brother Tom and sister Betty had come to the country with her. Hinpoha was temporarily without a home, her aunt being away on her wedding trip with the Doctor, and she was to stay all summer with Migwan.
“Yes, it will be lovely,” agreed Hinpoha. “I’ve never lived in such a quiet place before. And I’ve never had you to myself for so long.” Migwan replied with a hug, in schoolgirl rapture. She felt a little closer to Hinpoha than she did to the other Winnebagos. As they stood there looking out of the window together they heard the honk of an automobile horn and the sound of a car driving into the yard, and ran out to see who the guests were.
“Gladys Evans!” exclaimed Migwan, spying the new comers. “And Nyoda! Welcome to our city!”
“Please mum,” said Gladys, making a long face, “could ye take in a poor lone orphan what’s got no home to her back?”
“What’s up?” asked Migwan, laughing at Gladys’s tone.
“Mother and father started for Seattle to-day,” replied Gladys, “and from there they are going to Alaska, where they will spend the summer. I hinted that I was a good traveling companion, but they decided that three was a crowd on this trip, and as I had done so well for myself last summer they informed me that it was their intention to put me out to seek my own fortune once more. So, hearing that there were pleasant country places along this road, one in particular, I am looking for a place to board for the summer.”
“Well, of all things!” exclaimed Migwan. “To think that we are to have you with us this vacation after all, after thinking that you were going to disport yourself in California! The guest chamber stands ready; ‘will you walk into my parlor?’ said the Spider to the Fly.”
At this point “Nyoda,” Guardian of the Winnebago Camp Fire group, formally known as Miss Kent, also advanced with a long face, holding her handkerchief to her eyes. “Could you take in a poor shipwrecked sailor,” she sobbed, “one whose ship went right down under her feet and left her nothing to stand on at all?”
“It might even be arranged,” replied Migwan. “What is your tale of woe, my ancient mariner?”
“My cherished landlady’s gone to the Exposition,” said Nyoda, with a fresh burst of grief, “and I can’t live with her and be her boarder this summer! It’s a cruel world! And me so young and tender!”
“Two flies in the guest chamber,” said Migwan, hospitably. “Thomas, my good man, carry the boarders’ bags up to their room, for I see they have brought them right with them.”
“Save the trouble of going back after them,” said Nyoda and Gladys, in chorus. “We knew you couldn’t refuse to take us in.”
“If ever a maiden had a look on her face which said, ‘Come, come to this bosom, my own stricken dear,’” continued Nyoda, “it’s yon poet who is going to seed.”
“Going to seed!” exclaimed Migwan, “and this after I have just opened my hospitable doors to you!”
“By going to seed, my innocent maid, I only meant to express in a veiled and delicate way the fact that you were turning into a farmer,” said Nyoda.
In spite of the fact that Migwan and Hinpoha had just expressed such great pleasure at the prospect of being alone together for the summer, they rejoiced in the arrival of Nyoda and Gladys as only two Winnebagos could at the thought of having two more of their own circle under the same roof with them, and their hearts beat high with anticipation of the coming larks.
Supper was a merry meal indeed that night, eaten out on the screened-in back porch. “We are seven!” exclaimed Nyoda, counting noses at the table. “The mystic number as well as the poetic one. ‘Seven Little Sisters;’ ‘The Seven Little Kids;’ ‘the seventh son of a seventh son.’ All mysterious things take place on the seventh of the month, and something always happens when the clock strikes seven.” As she paused to take breath the old-fashioned clock in the kitchen slowly struck seven. The last stroke was still vibrating when there came a ring at the doorbell. “What did I tell you?” said Nyoda. “Enter the villain.”
The villain proved to be Sahwah. She looked rather astonished to see Nyoda and Gladys at the table with the family. “Oh, Migwan,” she said, “could you possibly take me in for the summer? Mother got a telegram to-day saying that Aunt Mary, that’s her sister in Pennsylvania, had fallen down-stairs and broken both her shoulder blades. Mother packed up and went right away to take care of her and the children. She hasn’t any idea how long she’ll be gone. Father started for a long business trip out west this week and Jim is camping with the Boy Scouts. If you have room——” A shout of laughter interrupted her tale.
“Always room for one more,” said Migwan. “You’re the third weary pilgrim to arrive.”
Sahwah looked at Nyoda and Gladys in astonishment. “You don’t mean that you’re here for the summer, too?” When she heard that this was the truth she twinkled with delight. “It’s going to be almost as much fun as going camping together was last year,” she said, burying her nose in the mug of milk which Migwan hospitably set before her.
“What do you call this house by the side of the road?” asked Nyoda after supper, when they were all sitting on the porch. Mrs. Gardiner sat placidly rocking herself, undisturbed by the unexpected addition of three members to her family. This whole summer venture was in Migwan’s hands, and she washed hers of the whole affair. Tom sat on the top step of the porch, unnaturally quiet, with the air of a boy lost among a whole crowd of girls. Betty, fascinated by Nyoda, sat at her feet and watched her as she talked.
“It has no name,” said Migwan, in answer to Nyoda’s question.
“Then we must find one immediately,” said Nyoda. “I refuse to sleep in a nameless place.”
“Did the place where you used to live have a name?” asked Hinpoha, banteringly.
“It certainly did ‘have a name,’” replied Nyoda, with a twinkle in her eye. Gladys caught her eye and laughed. She was more in Nyoda’s confidence than the rest of the girls.
“What was the name?” asked Betty.
“It was Peacock Plaza,” said Nyoda, “painted on a gold sign over the door, where all who read could run.”
“That wasn’t what you called it,” said Gladys.
“No, my beloved,” returned Nyoda, “from the character and appearance of most of the inmates of the Widder Higgins’ establishment, I have been moved to refer to it as ‘The Rookery.’”
“Now,” said Gladys sternly, when the laughter over this title had subsided, “tell the ladies the real reason why you had to seek a new boarding place so abruptly.”
“I told you before,” said Nyoda, “that my venturesome landlady went to the Exposition and left me out in the cold.”
“That’s not the real reason,” said Gladys, severely. “If you don’t tell it immediately, I will!”
“I’ll tell it,” said Nyoda submissively, alarmed at this threat. “You see, it was this way,” she began in a pained, plaintive voice. “This Gladys woman over here came up to take supper with me last night—only she smelled the supper cooking in the kitchen and turned up her nose, whereupon I was moved with compassion to cook supper for her in my chafing-dish unbeknownst to the landlady, who has been known to frown on any attempts to compete with her table d’hôte.”
“I never!” murmured Gladys. “She invited me to a chafing-dish supper in the first place.”
“Well, as I was saying,” continued Nyoda, not heeding this interruption, “to save her from starvation I dragged out my chafing-dish and made shrimp wiggle and creamed peas, and we had a dinner fit for a king, if I do say it as shouldn’t. The crowning glory of the feast was a big onion which Gladys’s delicate appetite required as a stimulant. All went merry as a marriage bell until it came to the disposal of that onion after the feast was over, as there was more than half of it left. We didn’t dare take it down to the kitchen for fear the Widder would pounce on us for cooking in our rooms, and even my stout heart quailed at the thought of sleeping ferninst that fragrant vegetable. Suddenly I had an inspiration.” Here Nyoda paused dramatically.
“Yes,” broke in Gladys, impatient at her pause, “and she calmly chucked it out of the second story window into the street!”
“All would still have been mild and melodious,” continued Nyoda, in a solemn tone which enthralled her hearers, “if it hadn’t been for the fact that the fates had their fingers crossed at me last night. How otherwise could it have happened that at the exact moment when the onion descended the old bachelor missionary should have been prancing up the walk, coming to call on the Widder Higgins? Who but fate could have brought it about that that onion should bounce first on his hat, then on his nose, and then on his manly bosom?”
“And he never waited to see what hit him!” put in Gladys, for whom the recital was not going fast enough. “He ran as if he thought somebody had thrown a bomb at him.”
“And the Widder Higgins was standing behind the lace curtain watching his approach with maidenly reserve,” resumed Nyoda, “and so had a box seat view of the tragedy, and the last act of the drama was a moving one, I can assure you.”
“Oh, Nyoda,” cried Hinpoha and Sahwah and Migwan, pointing their fingers at her, “a nice person you are to be Guardian of the Winnebagos! Fine example you are setting your youthful flock! You need a guardian worse than any of us!”
“Do as you like with me,” said Nyoda, covering her face with her hands in mock shame, whereupon Hinpoha and Migwan and Gladys fell upon her neck with one accord.
“But we haven’t named this house yet,” said Nyoda, uncovering her face and smoothing out her black hair.
“I thought of a name while you were telling about the onion,” said Migwan. “It’s Onoway House.”
“What does that mean?” asked Nyoda.
“It’s a symbolic word, like Wohelo,” said Migwan. “It’s made from the words, Only One Way. You see there was only one way of getting that money to go to college and that was by coming here.”
“I think that is a very good name,” said Nyoda. “It is clever as well as pretty. It sounds like the song, ‘Onaway, awake beloved,’ from Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast.”
“It sounds like the water going over the stones in the river,” said romantic Hinpoha.
And so Onoway House was named.
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