CHAPTER I.

  very pleasing picture as she stood
  in the doorway of the schoolmas-
  ter's house and looked wistfully out to-
  ward the river.
     She was a slender little witch, with
  wide, fawn-like eyes and a frowzy shock
  of short lint-white hair not crisp enough
  to curl, yet too soft and fine to lie
  smoothly when tangled by every passing
  breeze.  Her face wore the pallor of heat,
  for May in the Province of Carolina in
  the year 1748 was-as it is to-day in the
  same region-a very enervating month.
    The little girl felt listless and weary,
  and did not know what ailed her, nor
  were her elders any wiser as to why she
  and they alike were out of sorts.  Ma-


  dame Dutarque, the schoolmaster's wife,
  had called Catharine lazy, and Monsieur
  Dutarque himself had just rebuked his
  wife for "temper" in a tone not over-
  mild.  There seemed to be an undercur-
  rent of unpleasantness in and about the
  house.  It was no doubt the climate that
  affected them all, each in a different way.
    More than the climate, however, affect-
  ed little Catharine.  About a year before,
  her mother, a young widow, Mistress
  Lydia Chicken, had been married to Mr.
  Elias Ball, who was very wealthy, and
  whom she had known quite well when
  they were children together, before she
  had ever met her first husband, Captain
  George Chicken.
    Mr. Elias Ball had taken his wife and
  little Catharine to live at Kensington-a
  beautiful place miles away from Childbury
  -in which was the school, and miles
  away from Luckins Plantation, her
  grandfather's home, where the child had
  always lived with her dear, pretty mother.
     As Catharine stood in the schoolmas-
  ter's door she fancied she could see the
  tree-tops of dear Luckins across the river.
  Indeed, this child, not yet eight years old,
  knew not what troubled her as she gazed
  on the trees and forgot the long seam in

        LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.            7
  her hands that Madame Dutarque had
  given her to sew as a punishment.
    Catharine perfectly remembered her
  father, Captain George Chicken, and the
  thrilling stories he had been wont to tell
  her about the exploits of his father,
  Colonel George.  Chicken, who had been
  Commissioner on Indian Affairs for the
  Province, and one of the bravest and
  most active of the Goose Creek militia-
  men, who had driven the Yemassee In-
  dians out of Carolina far down into the
  Everglades of Florida.
    Catharine's other grandfather, Mr.
  Isaac Child, was a very rich man, and
  had owned almost the whole of the town
  of Childbury.  It had been given to him
  by his father, Mr. James Child, the
  founder, who had also given an educa-
  tional endowment to the inhabitants of
  the Parish of St. John's, Berkeley.  This
  gift, or "foundation," included land up-
  on which to build a chapel and school,
  with money to assist in supporting both.
  He had also given the town a pretty
  grove near the river.  This was called
  "Colledge Square," because he had in-
  tended that a college should be built
     The college had not been built.  All


  the rich Carolina planters of those days
  sent their sons "home" to England to be
  educated, and then for "the grand tour"
  on the continent of Europe, from which
  they returned full of French phrases and
  Parisian airs.  So there appeared no need
  for a college in Childbury town.
    The public gifts of her Grandfather
  Child, the military renown of her Grand-
  father Chicken, the wealth of her step-
  father and her mother, and the wide con-
  nections of her family with the Carolina
  aristocracy made Catharine a much more
  important little figure in,the community
  than she guessed herself to be.
    Until her mother had remarried and
  taken her to Kensington, Catharine had
  thought that Mistress Lydia belonged to
  her alone, and she wept many tears on
  the breast of her mauma Amy because
  she wanted her mother all to herself
  again.  But all that, even including the
  tears, had been happiness compared with
  what came on the day when her mother
  told her that she was to leave Kensing-
  ton, to go to school at Monsieur Du-
  tarque's, and board there!  This was the
  horrible part of it.
    To be away from that sweet mother all
  the day as well as all the night-to be

        LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.            9

  away from the kittens, the pony, the
  calves and the puppies, from Dido and
  Judy and Ephraim and Amy, her mau-
  ma, from all the dear delights of planta-
  tion life-this was exile indeed!
    More than this, baby though she was,
  Catharine had felt keenly the force of
  Maum' Amy's expostulation: "Eh, eh,
  Mis' Lyddy, Mis' Cat'rin' ain' no po'
  buckra! Y' ain' gwine put she on no
  foundation,' sho' 'nough, lak Mis' Green
  da'ter, is yer?"
    Catharine wondered why her mother
  had flushed up and straightened her
  throat so, as she replied:
    "Hold your tongue, Amy; you know
  nothing about it," and had clasped her
  little girl close to her breast, and left a
  warm kiss and a tear together on her
    Not very long after Catharine had
  come to board at Monsieur Dutarque's
  house her new father, Mr. Elias Ball, had
  ridden down from Kensington to tell her
  that she had a baby sister who was to be
  named Elizabeth.  At first she had been
  delighted; but when Betty Green, the
  other child who boarded at Monsieur Du-
  tarquels, had said, "Now your nose is out
  of joint," Catharine had cried for half an


  hour, and had almost hated the new baby
  ever since.
  Several of Catharine's cousins were
  taught by Monsieur Dutarque; but she
  could not understand why she alone
  must board there she-and Mrs. Green's
  daughter I Surely she had money enough
  to do as she chose; for little Catharine
  had been always treated like a princess,
  and bad thought the world was but a
  pretty place made for her to play in.
  Now she found it a bigger and sadder
  place than she had fancied.
   Still the child was not yet eight years
  old; so it is not to be supposed that she
  had any very deep or connected thoughts
  as she stood there in the door of the
  schoolmaster's house, with that long seam
  Madame Dutarque had bidden her sew
  hanging limply from her little hand.
  Something in the sight of the burgeoning
  beauty outside the dim little schoolhouse
  gave a singular swelling to her heart.
   By craning her neck out from the
  doorway, Catharine could see straight
  between the mulberry-trees of Craven
  Street, down the steep slope at the bot-
  tom of which the river lay.  If she
  looked across Craven Street, Strawberry
  Chapel confronted her, with its graveyard

        LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.          11

  bounded out by locust-trees and a cedar
    Strawberry was a Chapel-of-Ease, as
  they called it in those days, built for the
  convenience of the neighboring planters,
  who lived at a long distance from the
  parish church of Biggin-to which, how-
  ever, they were obliged by law to resort
  on high feast days, such as Christmas,
  Easter Sunday, and Whitsunday.
    There were few houses to obstruct
  Catharine's view of Childbury town-
  only fifteen beside the chapel, the school,
  and the tavern.  When she turned her
  head the other way the view was alto-
  gether changed; for looking eastward,
  one might see straight to where the mar-
  ket-or "merket" as the old plats have
  it-stood right in the center of the town.
    This was Saturday, one of the regular
  market days.  So the market square was
  thronged with hawkers, peddlers, and
  petty chapmen or "dusty-foot" traders,
  as wandering pedestrian merchants were
    Catharine delighted in the bright pic-
  ture they made in their motley garb,
  slipping in and out between the crowding
  cattle and horses, with their packs of mer-
  chandise, their little carts of grain or


  victuals, and their panniers of brightly-
  colored West Indian fruit.  The little
  girl forgot her languor as she gazed.
    Once, at some remarkable antics of a
  negro boy in livery, who held a high-
  mettled bay mare by the bridle, Catharine
  clapped her hands and laughed aloud.
  This negro was Cupid, her Aunt Sarah
  Harleston's "boy," and she felt very sure
  his antics were intended to amuse her.
  The sound of her own laugh recalled the
  little girl to her surroundings'
    Slowly she gathered up her work and
  prepared to go within.  But oh, the house
  looked so dim and homely after the glory
  without!  How could she go back to
  Madame Dutarque's sharp tongue, Mon-
  sieur Dutarque's long face, and that
  dreadful, dreary seam!
    Madame Dutarque had gone to mar-
  ket, followed by her "boy" with an enor-
  mous basket, else Catharine could never
  have had the chance to idle as long as
  this.  As for Monsieur Dutarque, he was
  holding his ugly head up by one lean
  hand over a ponderous Latin volume in
  a room above, and had forgotten the
  child's existence.
     Catharine sighed, and put her hand in
  her pocket for her thimble.  It was not

        LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.            13

  there; but something else was which
  caused her eyes to dilate with rapture.
  She drew out a tiny "cooter," or terrapin,
  about the size of a shilling-the only pet
  she had ventured to bring with her from
  Kensington when she had parted from
  her dear, pretty mother two weary
  months before.
    She had pleaded hard for her kitten
  or her Chickasaw pony, but they told
  her that Monsieur Dutarque did not like
  pets, and she had brought the cooter by
    Down went the long seam again, and
  with a faint color touching her pale
  cheeks the little girl got down on her
  knees and set her cooter quietly out into
  the grass.
    Her new father, Mr. Elias Ball, had
  named the little tortoise "Flying Chil-
  ders,"after a famous fast horse,"because
  it was so slow,"he said.  Catharine re-
  membered how deeply vexed she had been
  with her dear mother because she had
  laughed as if this were a very funny joke.
  The little girl could see no joke about it.
    The cooter, feeling the soft earth be-
  neath it, put forth its black claws and its
  odd, snakelike head, and began to trot off,
  not in a manner to justify its name, yet


   with sufficient speed to fill Catharine with
   a fear of losing it.  Off it went, stealing
   in and out of the red partridge-berries,
   and the short grass and the ragged weeds
   and the fallen buds of yellow jessamine,
   and off went Catharine in pursuit.
   The bit of checkered linen she had been
   trying to sew trailed behind her, for the
   thread was still attached to the needle,
   which she had stuck into the bosom of
   her gown.
    It was wonderful how clever Flying
   Childers was in concealing himself.
   Twice Catharine thought she had lost
   him, and both times she finally descried
   him still gliding on, like a moving ink-
   spot, across the clear patches of sunshine,
   and anon losing himself among the shad-
   ows of the leaves.
    Up Craven Street, round through
   Church Street, down Ferry Street to
   Mulberry went Catharine, pursuing the
   cooter.  She pounced upon him just
   where Bay Street clings along the top
   of the bluff overlooking the river.
     The checkered linen had fallen from
   the needle long ago carrying with it the
   long white thread; and when Catharine
   dropped down under a great live-oak
   and gathered her treasured cooter close


  in both hands, she had forgotten alike
  the schoolmaster and the seam.  She had
  even forgotten that she was a truant.
    There was nothing to rouse her con-
  science under the oak.  Like many an
  older sinner, Catharine was simply drift-
  ing, not consciously doing wrong.
    Below her lay the ferry, with the lum-
  bering ferry-boat, freighted with many
  passengers, heavily lurching across the
  river. that ferry belonged to her mother,
  Catharine knew; and she knew, too, that
  every passenger had to pay a royal, or
  riall, to cross, except on Sunday, or in
  times of alarm, when they might cross
  free of charge.
    Everybody was at the market, and
  Catharine, lying with her head against
  the oak's mossy root, felt quite alone in
  the world.  One little tear gathered in
  either soft gray eye as she gazed over
  there where the trees grew so thick
  around her beloved Luckins Plantation,
  and longed for her dear, pretty mother.
  Little Catharine, with her black, unre-
  sponsive pet close clasped in one hot
  hand, knew not what ailed her, but was
  sad and heartsick and angry and wistful
  by turns, though unable to formulate the
  grievances that so oppressed her heart.


   A flat, wide-bottomed Pettiauger hove
  into sight down the river, and she
  spelled out the red letters painted upon
  it, "Elias Ball, Coming T." Then she
  sat up, with her hair clinging in moist
  rings to her forehead, and her lips a little
  parted with the excitement of a sudden
    She adjusted her little mob-cap firmly
  on her head.  Over there, next to Luck
  ins's, was Coming T-a fine old planta-
  tion, owned by the father of the gentle-
  man her mother had last married.  Might
  she not get there before night by walking
  very fast along the little path that led
  through Luckins?  The big house was
  empty, for old Mr. Ball now lived in
  town, but she knew Cato and Fortune
  and Eneas and January, his house serv-
  ants, very well.
     Surely they would let her stay there
  until her mother should come for her, as
  she certainly would when she should learn
  how very unhappy she was at school.  Or
  if they would not, might she not find com-
  fort at Fish Pond, which was the very
  next plantation, with her Aunt Hannah
  and her Uncle John Harleston?
     It was at Fish Pond that she always
  went to spend her Saturdays and Sun-

        LITTLE MISTRESS CHICKEN.        17

  days-only-to-day-alas!  She remem-
  bered.  She had been kept in to-day as
  a punishment for idleness, and told to sew
  that interminable seam.
    Now the child looked about her with
  a growing fear.  Doubts, born of all these
  recent revelations of the untoward possi-
  bilities of life, began to throng her mind.
  What if she should go, and her mother
  should not come for her, after all, but
  should send her back to be dealt with by
  Madame Dutarque?
    Or-as she instinctively marked the
  mellowing light slanting through the cur-
  tains of moss that hung between her and
  the western sky-what if she were to lose
  her way through Luckins?  She might
  even meet with a bear or an Indian; or
  worse still, with the Ghost of the Robin-
  tation Tree.
    Poor little Catharine arose, trembling
  with the terror of her thoughts.  Well
  might she tremble, poor mite!  For what
  was this that approached, lowering upon
  her from behind the oak?
Contents Chapter II