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A Day Of Grace
by [?]

Sunday is the day for courtship on the prairie. It has also the piety of cleanliness. It allows the young man to get back to a self-respecting sweetness of person, and enables the girls to look as nature intended, dainty and sweet as posies.

The change from everyday clothing on the part of young workmen like Ben Griswold was more than change; it approached transformation. It took more than courage to go through the change,–it required love.

Ben arose a little later on Sunday morning than on weekdays, but there were the chores to do as usual. The horses must be watered, fed, and curried, and the cows were to milk, but after breakfast Ben threw off the cares of the hired hand. When he came down from the little garret into which the hot August sun streamed redly, he was a changed creature. Clean from tip to toe, newly shaven, wearing a crackling white shirt, a linen collar and a new suit of store clothes, he felt himself a man again, fit to meet maidens.

His partner, being a married man, was slouching around in his tattered and greasy brown denim overalls. He looked at Ben and grinned.

“Got a tag on y’rself?”

“No, why?”

“Nobod’y know ye, if anything happened on the road. There’s thirty dollars gone to the dogs.” He sighed. “Oh, well, you’ll get over that, just as I did.”

“I hope I won’t get over liking to be clean,” Ben said a little sourly. “I won’t be back to milk.”

“Didn’t expect ye. That’s the very time o’ day the girls are purtiest,–just about sundown. Better take Rock. I may want the old team myself.”

Ben hitched up and drove off in the warm bright morning, with wonderful elation, clean and self-respecting once more. His freshly shaven face felt cool, and his new suit fitted him well. His heart took on a great resolution, which was to call upon Grace.

The thought of her made his brown hands shake, and he remembered how many times he had sworn to visit her, but had failed of courage, though it seemed she had invited him by word and look to do so.

He overtook Milton Jennings on his way along the poplar-lined lane.

“Hello, Milt, where you bound?”

Milton glanced up with a curious look in his laughing eyes. From the pockets of his long linen duster he drew a handful of beautiful scarlet and yellow Siberian crab-apples.

“See them crabs?”

“Yes, I see ’em.”

Milton drew a similar handful out of his left pocket. “See those?”

“What y’ going to do with ’em?”

“Take ’em home again.”

Something in Milton’s voice led him to ask soberly:–

“What did you intend doing with ’em?”

“Present ’em to Miss Cole.”

“Well, why didn’t y’ do it?”

Milton showed his white teeth in a smile that was frankly derisive of himself.

“Well, when I got over there I found young Conley’s sorrel hitched to one post and Walt Brown’s gray hitched to the other. I went in, but I didn’t stay long; in fact, I didn’t sit down. I was afraid those infernal apples would roll out o’ my pockets. I was afraid they’d find out I brought ’em over there for Miss Cole, like the darn fool I was.”

They both laughed heartily. Milton was always as severe upon himself as upon any one else.

“That’s tough,” said Ben, “but climb in, and let’s go to Sunday-school.”

Milton got in, and they ate the apples as they rode along.

The Grove schoolhouse was the largest in the township, and was the only one with a touch of redeeming grace. It was in a lovely spot; great oaks stood all about, and back of it the woods grew thick, and a clear creek gurgled over its limestone bed not far away.

To Ben and Milton there was a wondrous charm about the Grove schoolhouse. It was the one place where the boys and girls met in garments disassociated from toil. Sundays in summer, and on winter nights at lyceums or protracted meetings, the boys came to see the girls in their bright dresses, with their clear and (so it seemed) scornful bright eyes.