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That Little Girl of Miss Eliza’s   By: (1872-1918)

That Little Girl of Miss Eliza’s by Jean K. (Jean Katherine) Baird

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ROCK ISLAND, ILL. Augustana Book Concern

Printed in the United States of America.



"The poorest farming land in all the country," someone called it. "The best crop of stones and stumps, I ever saw," someone else had said. Everyone smiled and drove on, and Shintown and its people passed from their knowledge.

"Shintown? Where in the name of goodness did they get such a name?" the elderly gentleman in the touring car asked his companion.

"Have to use your shins to get here. It used to be that Shank's mare was the only one that could travel the miserable roads. They were mere foot paths. Even the railroads have shot clear of it. See over there."

There was truth in the words. Shintown, which was no town at all, but a few isolated farmhouses, looked down from its heights on one side upon the main line of the Susquehanna Valley, five miles away. On the other side, at a little more than half the distance, the branch of the W. N. P. and P. wound along the edge of the river. Both roads avoided Shintown as though it had the plague. The name was quite enough to discourage anyone. Nature had done its best for the place, the people had done their worst. It stood in the valley, and yet on a higher elevation than the country adjacent, the mountain being twenty miles distant. It was as though a broad table had been set in a wide country, with the mountain peaks as decorous waiters standing at the outer edge.

The houses were sagging affairs. They were well enough at one time, but were now like a good intention gone wrong. The storm had beaten upon them for so many years that all trace of paint was gone. The chimneys sloped as far as the law of gravity allowed. Gates hung on one hinge, and the fences had the same angle as an old man suffering with lumbago.

The corners of the fields were weed ridden. The farmers never had time to plow clear to the corners and turn plumb. The soil had as many stones as it had had twenty years before. The whole countryside was suffering from lack of ambition. Crops were small, and food and clothes were meager. The stock showed the same attributes. It was stunted, dwarfed, far from its natural efficiency in burden bearing, milk giving or egg laying.

There was one place not quite like this the old Wells place at the cross roads. The house was neither so large, nor so rambling as the others. It stood deep among some old purple beeches, and in summer it had yellow roses clambering over one entire side. The color was peculiar, and marked its occupant and owner just a little different from other people in the community. Everyone conceded that point without a question. She was just a little different. The house was all in shades of golden brown; brown that suggested yellow when the sun shone. It was a color that not a man in Shintown or a painter at the Bend or Port would have thought of putting on a house. Who ever thought of painting a house anything but white with green shutters or a good, serviceable drab? Golden browns in several shades! Why, of course, the woman must be peculiar. She did the work herself too. She arose at daylight to paint the upper portion and she quit work when travel on the highway began.

That was another peculiarity which the countryside could not understand; a woman who could be independent enough to choose what color she would, in defiance of all set laws, and yet afraid to let folks see her climbing a ladder to the second story.

If peculiar means being different, Eliza Wells was that. She was thirty, and never blushed at it... Continue reading book >>

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