IT was the evening before the day on which the Story Girl and Uncle Blair were to leave us, and we were keeping our last tryst together in the orchard where we had spent so many happy hours. We had made a pilgrimage to all the old haunts--the hill field, the spruce wood, the dairy, Grandfather King's willow, the Pulpit Stone, Pat's grave, and Uncle Stephen's Walk; and now we foregathered in the sere grasses about the old well and feasted on the little jam turnovers Felicity had made that day specially for the occasion.
"I wonder if we'll ever all be together again," sighed Cecily.
"I wonder when I'll get jam turnovers like this again," said the Story Girl, trying to be gay but not making much of a success of it.
"If Paris wasn't so far away I could send you a box of nice things now and then," said Felicity forlornly, "but I suppose there's no use thinking of that. Dear knows what they'll give you to eat over there."
"Oh, the French have the reputation of being the best cooks in the world," rejoined the Story Girl, "but I know they can't beat your jam turnovers and plum puffs, Felicity. Many a time I'll be hankering after them."
"If we ever do meet again you'll be grown up," said Felicity gloomily.
"Well, you won't have stood still yourselves, you know."
"No, but that's just the worst of it. We'll all be different and everything will be changed."
"Just think," said Cecily, "last New Year's Eve we were wondering what would happen this year; and what a lot of things have happened that we never expected. Oh, dear!"
"If things never happened life would be pretty dull," said the Story Girl briskly. "Oh, don't look so dismal, all of you."
"It's hard to be cheerful when everybody's going away," sighed Cecily.
"Well, let's pretend to be, anyway," insisted the Story Girl. "Don't let's think of parting. Let's think instead of how much we've laughed this last year or so. I'm sure I shall never forget this dear old place. We've had so many good times here."
"And some bad times, too," reminded Felix.
"Remember when Dan et the bad berries last summer?"
"And the time we were so scared over that bell ringing in the house," grinned Peter.
"And the Judgment Day," added Dan.
"And the time Paddy was bewitched," suggested Sara Ray.
"And when Peter was dying of the measles," said Felicity.
"And the time Jimmy Patterson was lost," said Dan. "Gee-whiz, but that scared me out of a year's growth."
"Do you remember the time we took the magic seed," grinned Peter.
"Weren't we silly?" said Felicity. "I really can never look Billy Robinson in the face when I meet him. I'm always sure he's laughing at me in his sleeve."
"It's Billy Robinson who ought to be ashamed when he meets you or any of us," commented Cecily severely. "I'd rather be cheated than cheat other people."
"Do you mind the time we bought God's picture?" asked Peter.
"I wonder if it's where we buried it yet," speculated Felix.
"I put a stone over it, just as we did over Pat," said Cecily.
"I wish I could forget what God looks like," sighed Sara Ray. "I can't forget it--and I can't forget what the bad place is like either, ever since Peter preached that sermon on it."
"When you get to be a real minister you'll have to preach that sermon over again, Peter," grinned Dan.
"My Aunt Jane used to say that people needed a sermon on that place once in a while," retorted Peter seriously.
"Do you mind the night I et the cucumbers and milk to make me dream?" said Cecily.
And therewith we hunted out our old dream books to read them again, and, forgetful of coming partings, laughed over them till the old orchard echoed to our mirth. When we had finished we stood in a circle around the well and pledged "eternal friendship" in a cup of its unrivalled water.
Then we joined hands and sang "Auld Lang Syne." Sara Ray cried bitterly in lieu of singing.
"Look here," said the Story Girl, as we turned to leave the old orchard, "I want to ask a favour of you all. Don't say good-bye to me tomorrow morning."
"Why not?" demanded Felicity in astonishment.
"Because it's such a hopeless sort of word. Don't let's SAY it at all. Just see me off with a wave of your hands. It won't seem half so bad then. And don't any of you cry if you can help it. I want to remember you all smiling."
We went out of the old orchard where the autumn night wind was beginning to make its weird music in the russet boughs, and shut the little gate behind us. Our revels there were ended.
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