A TRUE BLUE STORY
GENE STRATTON PORTER
LEANDER ELLIOT STRATTON
"The Way to Be Happy Is to Be Good"
I. Little Sister
II. Our Angel Boy
III. Mr. Pryor's Door
IV. The Last Day in Eden
V. The First Day of School
VI. The Wedding Gown
VII. When Sally Married Peter
VIII. The Shropshire and the Crusader
IX. "Even So"
X. Laddie Takes the Plunge
XI. Keeping Christmas Our Way
XII. The Horn of the Hunter
XIII. The Garden of the Lord
XIV. The Crest of Eastbrooke
XV. Laddie, the Princess, and the Pie
XVI. The Homing Pigeon
XVII. In Faith Believing
XVIII. The Pryor Mystery
LADDIE, Who Loved and Asked No Questions.
THE PRINCESS, From the House of Mystery.
LEON, Our Angel Child.
LITTLE SISTER, Who Tells What Happened.
MR. and MRS. STANTON, Who Faced Life Shoulder to Shoulder.
SALLY and PETER, Who Married Each Other.
ELIZABETH, SHELLEY, MAY and Other Stanton Children.
MR. and MRS. PRYOR, Father and Mother of the Princess.
ROBERT PAGET, a Chicago Lawyer.
MRS. FRESHETT, Who Offered Her Life for Her Friend.
CANDACE, the Cook.
MISS AMELIA, the School Mistress.
Interested Relatives, Friends, and Neighbours.
"And could another child-world be my share,
I'd be a Little Sister there."
"Have I got a Little Sister anywhere
in this house?" inquired Laddie at
the door, in his most coaxing voice.
"Yes sir," I answered, dropping the trousers
I was making for Hezekiah,
my pet bluejay, and running
as fast as I could. There was no telling
what minute May might take it into her head that she was a little
sister and reach him first. Maybe he wanted me to do something for
him, and I loved to wait on Laddie.
"Ask mother if you may go with me a while."
"Mother doesn't care where I am, if I come when the supper bell rings."
"All right!" said Laddie.
He led the way around the house, sat on the front step and took me
between his knees.
"Oh, is it going to be a secret?" I cried.
Secrets with Laddie were the greatest joy in life. He was so big and
so handsome. He was so much nicer than any one else in our family, or
among our friends, that to share his secrets, run his errands, and love
was the greatest happiness. Sometimes I disobeyed father
and mother; I minded
Laddie like his right hand.
"The biggest secret yet," he said gravely.
"Tell quick!" I begged, holding
my ear to his lips.
"Not so fast!" said Laddie. "Not so fast! I have doubts about this.
I don't know that I should send you. Possibly you can't find the way.
You may be afraid. Above all, there is never to be a whisper. Not to
any one! Do you understand?"
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"Something serious," said Laddie. "You see, I expected to have an hour
or two for myself this afternoon, so I made an engagement
to spend the
time with a Fairy Princess in our Big Woods. Father and I broke the
it from the shed just now and you know how he is about
I did know how he was about Fairies. He hadn't a particle
with them. A Princess would be the Queen's daughter. My father's
people were English, and I had heard enough talk to understand that. I
was almost wild with excitement.
"Tell me the secret, hurry!" I cried.
"It's just this," he said. "It took me a long time to coax the
Princess into our Big Woods. I had to fix a throne
for her to sit on;
spread a Magic Carpet for her feet, and build a wall to screen
Now, what is she going to think if I'm not there to welcome
she comes? She promised to show me how to make sunshine
on dark days."
"Tell father and he can have Leon help him."
"But it is a secret with the Princess, and it's HERS as much as mine.
If I tell, she may not like it, and then she won't make me her Prince
and send me on her errands."
"Then you don't dare tell a breath," I said.
"Will you go in my place, and carry her a letter to explain why I'm not
coming, Little Sister?"
"Of course!" I said stoutly, and then my heart turned right over; for I
never had been in our Big Woods alone, and neither mother nor father
wanted me to go. Passing Gypsies sometimes laid down the fence and
went there to camp. Father thought all the wolves and wildcats were
gone, he hadn't seen any in years, but every once in a while some one
said they had, and he was not quite sure yet. And that wasn't the
beginning of it. Paddy Ryan had come back from the war wrong in his
head. He wore his old army overcoat
summer and winter, slept on the
ground, and ate whatever
he could find. Once Laddie and Leon, hunting
squirrels to make broth for mother on one of her bad days, saw him in
our Big Woods and he was eating SNAKES. If I found Pat Ryan eating a
snake, it would frighten
me so I would stand still and let him eat me,
if he wanted to, and perhaps he wasn't too crazy to see how plump I
was. I seemed to see swarthy, dark faces, big, sleek cats dropping
from limbs, and Paddy Ryan's matted gray hair, the flying rags of the
old blue coat, and a snake in his hands. Laddie was slipping the
letter into my apron pocket. My knees threatened to let me down.
"Must I lift the leaves and hunt for her, or will she come to me?" I
"That's the biggest secret of all," said Laddie. "Since the Princess
entered them, our woods are Enchanted, and there is no telling what
wonderful things may happen any minute. One of them is this: whenever
the Princess comes there, she grows in size until she is as big as, say
our Sally, and she fills all the place with glory, until you are so
blinded you scarcely can see her face."
"What is she like, Laddie?" I questioned, so filled with awe and
interest, that fear was forgotten.
"She is taller than Sally," said Laddie. "Her face is oval, and her
cheeks are bright. Her eyes are big moonlit
pools of darkness, and
silken curls fall over her shoulders. One hair is strong enough for a
lifeline that will draw a drowning man ashore, or strangle an unhappy
one. But you will not see her. I'm purposely sending you early, so
you can do what you are told and come back to me before she even
reaches the woods."
"What am I to do, Laddie?"
"You must put one hand in your apron pocket and take the letter in it,
and as long as you hold it tight, nothing in the world can hurt you.
Go out our lane to the Big Woods, climb the gate and walk straight back
the wagon road to the water. When you reach that, you must turn to
your right and go toward Hoods' until you come to the pawpaw thicket.
Go around that, look ahead, and you'll see the biggest beech tree you
ever saw. You know a beech, don't you?"
"Of course I do," I said indignantly. "Father taught me beech with the
"Well then," said Laddie, "straight before you will be a purple
and under it is the throne
of the Princess, the Magic Carpet, and the
walls I made. Among the beech roots there is a stone hidden
Roll the stone back and there will be a piece of bark. Lift that, lay
the letter in the box you'll find, and scamper
to me like flying. I'll
be at the barn with father."
"Is that all?"
"Not quite," said Laddie. "It's possible that the Fairy Queen may have
set the Princess spinning
silk for the caterpillars to weave their
little houses with this winter; and if she has, she may have left a
letter there to tell me. If there is one, put it in your pocket, hold
it close every step of the way, and you'll be safe coming home as you
were going. But you mustn't let a soul see it; you must slip it into
my pocket when I'm not looking. If you let any one see, then the Magic
will be spoiled, and the Fairy won't come again."
"No one shall see," I promised.
"I knew you could be trusted," said Laddie, kissing and hugging me
hard. "Now go! If anything gets after you that such a big girl as you
really wouldn't be ashamed
to be afraid of, climb on a fence and call.
I'll be listening, and I'll come flying. Now I must hurry. Father
will think it's going to take me the remainder
of the day to find the
bolts he wants."
We went down the front walk between the rows of hollyhocks and
tasselled lady-slippers, out the gate, and followed the road. Laddie
held one of my hands tight, and in the other I gripped the letter in my
pocket. So long as Laddie could see me, and the lane lay between open
fields, I wasn't afraid. I was thinking so deeply about our woods
being Enchanted, and a tiny Fairy growing big as our Sally, because she
was in them, that I stepped out bravely.
Every few days I followed the lane as far back as the Big Gate. This
stood where four fields cornered, and opened into the road leading to
the woods. Beyond it, I had walked on Sunday afternoons with father
while he taught me all the flowers, vines, and bushes he knew, only he
didn't know some of the prettiest ones; I had to have books for them,
and I was studying to learn enough that I could find out. Or I had
ridden on the wagon with Laddie and Leon when they went to bring wood
for the cookstove, outoven, and big fireplace. But to walk! To go all
alone! Not that I didn't walk by myself over every other foot of the
acres and acres of beautiful land my father owned; but plowed fields,
grassy meadows, wood pasture, and the orchard
were different. I played
in them without a thought of fear.
The only things to be careful about were a little, shiny, slender
snake, with a head as bright as mother's copper
kettle, and a big thick
one with patterns on its back like those in Laddie's geometry books,
and a whole rattlebox on its tail; not to eat any berry or fruit I
didn't know without first asking father; and always to be sure to
measure how deep the water was before I waded in alone.
But our Big Woods! Leon said the wildcats would get me there. I sat
in our catalpa and watched the Gypsies drive past every summer. Mother
hated them as hard as ever she could hate any one, because once they
some fine shirts, with linen bosoms, that she had made by
hand for father, and was bleaching on the grass. If Gypsies should be
in our west woods to-day and steal me, she would hate them worse than
ever; because my mother loved me now, even if she didn't want me when I
But you could excuse her for that. She had already bathed, spanked,
sewed for, and reared eleven babies so big and strong not one of them
ever even threatened to die. When you thought of that, you could see
she wouldn't be likely to implore
the Almighty to send her another,
just to make her family even numbers. I never felt much hurt at her,
but some of the others I never have forgiven
and maybe I never will.
As long as there had been eleven babies, they should have been so
accustomed to children that they needn't all of them have objected to
me, all except Laddie, of course. That was the reason I loved him so
and tried to do every single thing he wanted me to, just the way he
liked it done. That was why I was facing the only spot on our land
where I was in the slightest afraid; because he asked me to.
If he had told me to dance a jig on the ridgepole of our barn, I would
have tried it.
So I clasped the note, set my teeth, and climbed over the gate. I
walked fast and kept my eyes straight before me. If I looked on either
side, sure as life I would see something I never had before, and be
down digging up a strange flower, chasing a butterfly, or watching a
bird. Besides, if I didn't look in the fence corners that I passed,
maybe I wouldn't see anything to scare me. I was going along finely,
and feeling better every minute as I went down the bank of an old creek
that had gone dry, and started up the other side toward the sugar camp
not far from the Big Woods. The bed was full of weeds and as I passed
through, away! went Something among them.
Beside the camp shed there was corded wood, and the first thing I knew,
I was on top of it. The next, my hand was on the note in my pocket.
My heart jumped until I could see my apron move, and my throat
stiff and dry. I gripped the note and waited.
Father believed God would take care of him. I was only a little girl
and needed help much more than a man; maybe God would take care of me.
There was nothing wrong in carrying a letter to the Fairy Princess. I
thought perhaps it would help if I should kneel on the top of the
woodpile and ask God to not let anything get me.
The more I thought about it, the less I felt like doing it, though,
because really you have no business to ask God to take care of you,
unless you KNOW you are doing right. This was right, but in my heart I
also knew that if Laddie had asked me, I would be shivering on top of
that cordwood on a hot August day, when it was wrong. On the whole, I
thought it would be more honest to leave God out of it, and take the
risk myself. That made me think of the Crusaders, and the little gold
trinket in father's chest till. There were four shells on it and each
one stood for a trip on foot or horseback
to the Holy City when you had
to fight almost every step of the way. Those shells meant that my
father's people had gone four times, so he said; that, although it was
away far back, still each of us had a tiny share of the blood of the
Crusaders in our veins, and that it would make us brave and strong, and
whenever we were afraid, if we would think of them, we never could do a
cowardly thing or let any one else do one before us. He said any one
with Crusader blood had to be brave as Richard the Lion-hearted.
Thinking about that helped ever so much, so I gripped the note and
turned to take one last look at the house before I made a dash for the
gate that led into the Big Woods.
Beyond our land lay the farm of Jacob Hood, and Mrs. Hood always teased
me because Laddie had gone racing after her when I was born. She was
in the middle of Monday's washing, and the bluing settled in the rinse
water and stained her white clothes in streaks it took months to bleach
out. I always liked Sarah Hood for coming and dressing me, though,