The wind was blowing quite keenly from the north, and Miss Stratton had the collar of her coat turned up, as she hurried through the darkness of the avenue. She was talking behind her coat collar, the tips of which brushed her lips. If what Miss Stratton said had been audible to any one beside herself, it would have sounded as if she were talking severely to somebody.
“I don’t see why you can’t throw that evening paper where we can find it!” Miss Stratton was saying under her breath. “We have a broad walk, and there’s plenty of room! I’ve been out in the yard three or four times to-night, and hunted thoroughly, and mother’s been out once. Mother’s eyes are poor, and she likes to have the paper before dark.”
Miss Stratton caught her breath in the cold wind. She hastened by a gas-lamp, climbed the hill, and found her way in darkness up the long steps of a house. She fumbled for the bell and rang it. There was a little stir within, the opening of an interior door to let light into the hall, and then a boy’s step. The front door opened. Miss Stratton looked straight into the boyish face that appeared.
“I want to know where you threw our paper to-night,” she demanded. “I can’t find it anywhere.”
The boy stepped one side so that the light within the farther room might fall on Miss Stratton’s face. He recognized her.
“Oh,” returned the boy, “your paper went up a tree.”
“Up a tree!” exclaimed Miss Stratton, indignantly. “Why didn’t you come in and tell me, so I’d know where to look for it?”
“If I’d had an extra copy with me, I’d have thrown in another,” said the boy–“I’ll get you one.”
He walked back into the sitting-room, glad to escape from the accusing subscriber, whom he had not expected to see following him to his home. Miss Stratton sternly waited. The boy’s sister had come into the hall, and was holding a candle for a light. Her brother came back with the evening paper, and Miss Stratton took it.
“I wish you’d be careful where you throw that paper, Harry,” she admonished him, her indignation cooling. “I’ve spoken to you about that before. I don’t like to have to come away up here for the paper. It isn’t convenient.”
“Yes’m,” answered the boy.
Miss Stratton hurried home. When she arrived there, one of the first things she saw gleaming faintly through the garden’s darkness, was the missing evening paper that Harry had thrown into a pepper tree near the side fence. During Miss Stratton’s absence, the strong wind had shaken the paper down, and it lay at the foot of the tree. “How did he suppose I was going to find that paper up that tree?” questioned Miss Stratton. “I did look up there before dark, but I didn’t see anything.”
The evening paper was easily discoverable for a week or so after this: Then matters went back to their old state and Miss Stratton frequently spent a quarter of an hour finding her evening paper.
“If he’d take the slightest pains he could throw it on this walk that is ten feet wide!” she would tell herself indignantly, as she pushed aside the branches of blue marguerites and the leaves of calla-lilies, and peered into holes on either side of the steps near the front gate, where the watering of the garden had washed away the soil.
Miss Stratton had liked Harry very much, when he first became paper boy. He had a frank manner that made him friends. At first he carefully threw the paper on Miss Stratton’s front piazza. He never skipped an evening, as the former paper boy had sometimes done, and Miss Stratton rejoiced that at last a paper boy who was reliable had been found for the route. Months had passed, and while Harry was as careful at some houses as before, Miss Stratton’s was not among that number. Harry had three ‘customers on that street and he nightly walked only as far toward Miss Stratton’s as would enable him to throw her paper and then, with two or three steps, throw another paper to the neighbor diagonally across the street. A few more steps would have made Harry sure that Miss Stratton’s paper fell every night squarely on the broad front path, but he “fired the paper at her,” as he expressed it, and the result was Miss Stratton’s otherwise unnecessary number of steps hunting after her paper. Yet Harry would have scorned to cheat any customer. He fulfilled the letter of the law. He delivered the paper.