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by [?]

It was about time for the four-o’clock train.

After all, I wonder if it is worth telling,—such a simple, plotless record of a young girl’s life, made up of Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays, like yours or mine. Sharley was so exactly like other people! How can it be helped that nothing remarkable happened to her? But you would like the story?

It was about time for the four-o’clock train, then.

Sharley, at the cost of half a sugar-bowl (never mind syntax; you know I mean the sugar, not the glass), had enticed Moppet to betake himself out of sight and out of mind till somebody should signify a desire for his engaging presence; had steered clear of Nate and Methuselah, and was standing now alone on the back doorsteps opposite the chaise-house. One could see a variety of things from those doorsteps,—the chaise-house, for instance, with the old, solid, square-built wagon rolled into it (Sharley passed many a long “mending morning” stowed in among the cushions of that old wagon); the great sweet-kept barn, where the sun stole in warm at the chinks and filtered through the hay; the well-curb folded in by a shadow; the wood-pile, and the chickens, and the kitchen-garden; a little slope, too, with a maple on it and shades of brown and gold upon the grass; brown and golden tints across the hills, and a sky of blue and gold to dazzle one. Then there was a flock of robins dipping southward. There was also the railroad.

Sharley may have had her dim consciousness of the cosey barn and chicken’s chirp, of brown and gold and blue and dazzle and glory; but you don’t suppose that was what she had outgeneralled Moppet and stolen the march upon Nate and Methuselah for. The truth is, that the child had need of none of these things—neither skies nor dazzle nor glory—that golden autumn afternoon. Had the railroad bounded the universe just then, she would have been content. For Sharley was only a girl,—a very young, not very happy, little girl,—and Halcombe Dike was coming home to spend the Sunday.

Halcombe Dike,—her old friend Halcombe Dike. She said the words over, apologizing a bit to herself for being there to watch that railroad. Hal used to be good to her when she was bothered with the children and more than half tired of life. “Keep up good courage, Sharley,” he would say. For the long summer he had not been here to say it. And to-night he would be here. To-night—to-night! Why should not one be glad when one’s old friends come back?

Mrs. Guest, peering through the pantry window, observed—and observed with some motherly displeasure, which she would have expressed had it not been too much trouble to open the window—that Sharley had put on her barbe,—that black barbe with the pink watered ribbons run through it. So extravagant in Sharley! Sharley would fain have been so extravagant as to put on her pink muslin too this afternoon; she had been more than half inclined to cry because she could not; but as it was not orthodox in Green Valley to wear one’s “best clothes” on week-days, except at picnics or prayer-meetings, she had submitted, sighing, to her sprigged calico. It would have been worth while, though, to have seen her half an hour ago up in her room under the eaves, considering the question; she standing there with the sleeves of her dressing-sack fallen away from her pink, bare arms, and the hair clinging loose and moist to her bare white neck; to see her smooth the shimmering folds,—there were rose-buds on that muslin,—and look and long, hang it up, and turn away. Why could there not be a little more rose-bud and shimmer in people’s lives! “Seems to me it’s all calico!” cried Sharley.