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HOME TO MOTHER’S^ omof % 7 he Strange Adventures of a Single Day—A Story Which Touches the Heart. Another Especially Selected Story From the 0. Henry Memorial Awards Will Be Published in The Star's Magazine Next Sunday. , y>yOWN the grassy, sunlit road all the l B 1 warm Summer afternoon trudged j M m two old women, each carrying a ' M J small bundle. They kept fast hold of hands like two children, and like children they were interested in everything •long the way. Their old faces beamed. Betty was tall and thin, with a rounded kack. Her waist was snugly pinched, and over her blue gingham dress she wore an old-fash ioned basque of black brocaded velvet, the raised flowers effaced in many places to the cot ton back, giving a moth-eaten effect. It but toned close around the neck and flared out below the waistline Jauntily. On her head she wore a black crape bonnet, with a veil draped at the back, of as old a period as the basque. An inch of the parting of her gray hair showed in front. Her feet were trim in narrow shoes and her hands in black lace mitts. Her bundle, wrapped in newspaper and tied with twine, she carried under her right arm, her left being tucked under Janey's right. Janey was squarely and solidly fashioned. She had no observable waistline, and her threadbare coat, gaping between every button, showed a tan-colored shirtwaist underneath, and never met at all over the stomach. Her dingy black skirt was well above_the ankles that supported her body like two thick posts. She wore- men's shoes, flat and shapeless, and on her head a man's cap pulled well down, but leaving a short - fringe of scant white curls at the back of her neck and over her ears to her temples. Her bundle was tied in a square of green cloth, im migrant fashion, and carried in her left hand, while the big blunt fingers of her toil-worn right hand held Betty's slender ones in a firm grasp, and yet it was Betty who led the way they should go. . "Be you sure you kin find it, Betty?” Janey asked. . "Well, if I can’t find my own house, somethin’ must be the matter of me,” was Betty’s cheer ful reply. "I can’t get there any too soon neither. I don’t know what my mother will think of me for stayin’ away so long. I feel guilty, Ido that. Ain't it a pleasant day, though, to be goin’ home?” “Yes, it’s a awful pleasant day, and I do feel thankful to you, Betty, for lettin’ me come along. Oh, look, Betty, there’s a squirrel. Look at ’im go up that tree. The spry crittur!” r J'*HEY stood still for a minute and watched 1 the antics of the squirrel. He jumped from branch to branch and leered down saucily at them. A team of heavy farm horses drawing a load of hay overtook the pair and they retreated as far as they could to the side of the road. “Good afternoon, sisters!” the driver called to them. "Climb up and I’ll give ye a lift to town.” Their happy faces smiled up at him. “He thinks he’s bein’ funny, don’t he?” said Janey. “I could-a done it once, nor waited to be asked!” cried Betty to him. "I don’t doubt but ye could, sister,” the man called back. "A good day to ye and many of ’em.” “He seems well spoken and good-wishin’,” Janey observed. “Did you say your mother’s house was around the turn of the road?” “Yes, I did, Janey. I’ve told you that some thing like six times a-ready. Just around the turn. It’s a small house and it needs paintin’, but it’s home all the same.” “Well, I’ll be glad to be gittin’ there. I’m • little speck breathless.” "We can set down on this here pile of rails •nd rest us,” Betty said. , They sat down, first putting their bundles side by side on the top. “Did you tell me your grandmother was livin’?” Janey questioned. “Yes, she’s always lived along of mother,” •said Betty. “How old is yer grandmother?” There was a sly look in Janey’s eyes, and Betty cast a suspicious glance at her. “Now you think you’ve got me,” she said slowly. “Come to think of it, mebby my grandmother : ain’t there; but if she’s died, none of ’em’s told me about it. I don’t remember her dyin’.” She drew herself up a little and sat kicking her small heels against the rails, looking off at the hills and scattering houses that bordered the town beyond. Janey began to untie her bundle. “I knowed we’d be hungry ’fore we got there,” •he chuckled, “so I put up a bit of lunch. I managed to lay hands on it while the matron wasn’t lookin'. Bhe’s a good woman, but awful 'closelike with her victuals. Now, my mother was never that way. She never turned nobody from her door hungry, my mother didn’t. “Nor my mother, neither,” Betty said, reach ing for the sandwich Janey had produced. • - - “I couldn’t get no butter,” laughed Janey, “but hunger’s a good sauce. Let ’em hide their butter if they want to.” Betty laughed too. “Yes, let ’em! My mother told me she’s havin’ a chicken dinner today, with biscuits and I dunno what all.” “When’d she tell ye?” Janey stared in amaze ment. “Why, just yisterday she told me.” Janey smiled indulgently. “I guess you must be dreamin’.” / Betty shook her head, but a vague look had come into her eyes, though she still smiled. A robin was hopping along the top of the fence across the road. An automobile went by, leav ing a cloud of dust behind. “I’m always skeered of them autymubbles,” she said. “So be I,” said Janey. They munched their dry bread, fairly revel ing in the sunshine, giving Joyous little chuckles and cockles now and again. They could see white chickens over in a field. • “My mother keeps white chickens and a cow,” said Betty. “We’ll have real cream in our tea, or would you rather have coffee, Janey?” "Coffee, with two lumps of sugar in it,” Janey decided. “My mother makes her own butter, too. We’ll have plenty of butter. She’ll not hide it like the matron does. I’ll bet a cooky the matron has butter every meal.” “Os course she does,” Janey agreed. “I’m hopin’ the boys will be home,” Betty observed thoughtfully. “The boys?” “Yes, my brothers—Hiram and John and An drew and Joseph—he was always my playmate, only a year younger’n me. I could foller him any place and climb anywhere he dumb.” “Do you think they’ll be there now?” Janey asked. "That’s what I’m hopin’.” Again Betty cast a suspicious glance at her companion, but the latter, smiling like the crescent moon with a caved-in upper lip, was following the antics of a squirrel, as it leaped from branch to branch in a tree across the road. /"YTHER automobiles went by, and nearly everybody in them hodded and smiled at the funny old couple sitting close together on the pile of rails beside the road. “Everybody seems good-natured today,” Janey remarked. “That’s because the sun shines," Betty de clared. “I remember to this day just how I felt once, when I was just a little mite of a girl, and the sun popped out real bright one mornin’, after it had rained a whole week. It made me so happy I most cried.” “You must a-been a thinkin’ child,” said Janey, regarding Betty out of misty gray eyes, all set round with little fine wrinkles. “I ’spose likely I was,” smiled Betty. “Now I wonder if I can break this here cooky in two in the middle. I saved mine las’ night and tucked it inside my dress. There, I’ll give you the biggest piece.” Presently a man came by carrying a scythe. “Hello, aunties! Havin’ a picnic?” he called. “Yes, we be,” Janey replied. “We’re goin’ on a visit home to my grand mother’s,” Betty volunteered, with cheerful as surance. Janey’s eyes widened in some surprise. "Indeed!” said the man. “It’s a fine day for a trip. Is it far to your grandmother's?” “No,” replied Betty. “It ain’t so very far. It’s just down the road a piece, and around a turn and down a little hill—a little house that needs paintin’, but warm and cozy—and it’s home.” She beamed at him. Janey beamed, too, but gave the man a sly wink that he seemed to understand, and whispered, “Her mother’s.” “I guess home is where the heart is,” he said, and his eyes were suspiciously bright. He began to cut the tall weeds along the roadside with the scythe, swinging it with a great deal of energy. “We’d better be movin’ on, or we’ll not get to grandmother’s by dinner time, and we don’t want to keep ’em waitin’,” Betty said. They climbed down, took their bundles, and, hand in hand as before, started off again on their journey. “Good-by!” called the man after them. “I hope you find ’em all well at home.” “Thank you! Good-by!” they cackled mer rily, as they jogged away, Betty with short, mincing steps and Janey ponderous, flat-footed. The man stopped moving for a full minute, gazing after them, his eyes still bright. They trudged along sturdily, though quite unevenly, because they couldn’t by any manner or means keep step together. Still, neither felt secure going it alone. “What makes you step so often?” Janey al most complained. “It’s my way,” Betty returned. “I was always a quick stepper; they used to say a high-step per, too,” and she stepped faster. . “It’s more tiresome to walk slow than fast, and if you’d step quicker, Janey " II ... Caroline venlurj fa I "I can't go no faster,” Janey broke in, "and anyhow I step longer’n you do, so we even up, I guess; but it does seem a long ways to that turn In the road.” “It’s a long road that has no turnin’,” chuckled Betty, and on they plodded. The midafternoon sun .poured Its radiance over them and they seemed to enjoy it. Janey said it was good for her rheumatiz and Betty liked the warm feeling on her back. It was tiresome, though, looking behind for the autos; so they wouldn’t come up on you suddenly and then screech so that you almost jumped out of your shoes. They scrambled to one side as fast as they could, the moment they saw one coming, and waited until it was once more safe to proceed. ‘ It’s funny how heavy a little bundle with nothin’ in it but a nightgown and a clean apron and a few trinkets can git,” Janey commented, and Betty agreed that It was. JN one place they found the whole roadside grown up to sweet clover and they both picked a bunch. Again they rested, this time sitting on a horse block. The house back of it had the look of being empty. “It takes two great ships to move my two great hips,” said Janey, still cheerfully, as she got to her feet again. Betty laughed heart ily at this witticism. They hadn t gone far when a’cloud appeared, moving In the way ahead. “Now, who’s that cornin’?” Janey exclaimed. "Boys!” cried Betty. "No, it ain’t; it’s girls. Well, I never!” “Don’t that beat all you ever see?” cried Janey, stepping a little quicker in her excite ment. "They’ve got pants on.” They came along, kicking up considerable dust, a bunch of girls out on a hike, heads bobbed and hatless, legs encased in knickers, socks and sneaks! laughing, chattering, swing ing along—a camp-cup at each belt and a box or bag of lunch hitched to each girl somewhere. Amazed, the two old travelers stood aside, gaz ing, to let them pass. But the fresh young things stopped short in the road, amazed in their turn. “ ’Lo. grammas!” one greeted—she seemed to be the leader of the bunch—"you hiking, too?” The old ones smiled broadly. "I’m goin’ on a visit to my gran’mother’s,” Betty explained, "and Janey here”—Janey hunched her. “My mother’s, I mean,” Betty corrected—"and Janey here is goin’ with me. My mother lives just a little ways down here, around a turn and down a little hill. Mebby you come by it—a little house it is, with some white hens around in the yard and a rose-bush near the door.” "I think we did pass a little house on that other road,” said the girl leader, pointing back. "I don’t remember the rose-bush, though it might be there—the hens, too, I guess.” “A little house that needed paintin’?” Janey asked. "Yes, I think it did. It had once been white.” "That’s it!” laughed Betty. "Your mother’s house, did you say?” the girl questioned, smiling queerly. "Yes, deary,” said Betty, "and she’ll be won THE SUNDAY STAR, WASHINGTf derin’ why I don't git there. You see, we’ve been trampin’ quite a while, but Janey she ain’t very swift on her feet. It’s been a nice day for walkin’, though,” she hastened to add, seeing Janey’s look of protest. “I’ll be satisfied if I git there by the time the children come home from school. I’ve got two little girls and a little boy. They’ll be lookin’ for me, too.” “Betty dreams a good deal,” Janey whispered loudly to one of the gills. Betty silenced her with a look. "Well, good by,” she said, “me and Janey must hurry along. I hope you’ll have as good a dinner as we will. We’re goin’ to have chicken and biscuits.” "Gcod-by,” laughed the girl leader. ”You’ll find the little house right around the turn and down a little hill.” The girls went their way, laughing back and waving their hands, and the two old women waved and smiled, though their smiles were rather weary by this time. They trudged on toward that turn in the road and at last they reached it, and could look down the little hill. They could see the roof of a house, a little house. ‘ I m glad to cut clear of them autymubbles,” Betty rejoiced, as they made the turn into the narrow road. r J'HE hill was short but rather steep, and get ting down it was no easy task, but there at the bottom stood the alluring little house, the house that Janey, in her inmost heart, had been afraid they wouldn’t find, though Betty had seemed so sure. There it was, and the white hens were there, too, some of them stray ing out in the road. They quite forgot to look for the rosebush, because they were so taken up at sight of a swing in front, with some chil dren playing around it. The swing glided out over the road, but Betty said that didn’t mat ter, because it was a private road. Janey looked at Betty with new-born respect and confidence in her eyes. It appeared that Betty knew what she was talking about, after all. Betty stepped a little quicker and Janey a little longer, and they came abreast of the huge elm tree, to which the swing rope was fastened. Under the tree, set against the trunk and raised on some support to the proper height, was an automobile seat. They managed to get to it and to sink down upon it. “I couldn’t a-walked another step,” groaned Janey. I was just about to the end of my rope , too,” Betty confessed, with a little nervous giggle. ‘ Three children had already grouped them selves before the old couple—a boy of 4 years, with chubby hands clasped over his round stomach, and two girls of 6 and S, one on each side of him, all staring with the greatest curi osity. Betty and Janey smiled, and the children smiled back, recognizing kindred souls, as chil dren will. “Whose little boy be you?” Betty asked, her M voice unsteady with weariness. M “Mamma’s,” the boy replied. H “What’s your name, dearie?” HI “Name Buddie.” “I’ve got a little boy, too,” Betty told him.