AT last Jack and Mary reached Breezy Meadows. They had heard enthusiastic accounts of Cousin Kate's success in "adopting an abandoned farm" and making an old farmhouse habitable, and they expected to get ideas that might help with their own home.
"Happy is the house that shelters a friend," read Mary aloud, looking at the motto over the doorway leading from the dining-room into the sitting-room of Cousin Kate's farmhouse. "That's what I call real hospitality," she said, turning to Cousin Kate, "printed words of welcome to emphasize the warmth of the spoken ones. I told Jack, when we got your unique letter asking us here, that he would find your home quite as original and interesting as yourself."
"Indeed, it is," chimed in Jack. "We had no sooner left the train than the station agent and postmaster and expressman - "
"Why, Jack!" interrupted Mary, "I only saw one man."
"That was he," admitted Jack, "a very Pooh-Bah of dignities. I shouldn't be surprised if he was also the village constable and barber."
"Nonsense," remarked Cousin Kate. "But he does send paragraphs to the Hilford Gazette, and so waylays all my visitors in order to find out who they are, and where they come from."
"He said," continued Jack, "that you have more company than all the other residents of Russville put together, and that you have spent a powerful lot of money on your farm without getting much out of it, and he guessed you'd had plenty of chances to get married, but just couldn't stand any one bossing you, and - "
"And you have a couple of Japs to do the housework because you don't like women help," interrupted Mary, "and Maurice Connolly has been making his living off you for ten years."
"Mr. Connolly!" commented Cousin Kate, "is my foreman and general manager, and without him I don't know what I should have done. He fights for me and bargains for me just as he would for himself. Before I found him, it was almost impossible to get any work out of the men that I hired. My first overseer - but that is another story. How do you like Breezy Meadows, I mean as you drive up?"
"That's just what it looks like," said Jack. "Meadows that are breezy, and a house of the kind that grandfather used to build, with hewn oak rafters six inches thick - "
"The house was built in 1801, the main part of it, I mean, not the later additions," explained Cousin Kate, "and forty huge pumpkin pies and two barrels of hard cider inspired the neighbors who attended the house-raising."
"That's a fine old fireplace," said Jack, and added, as he examined the ancient gun, and powder horn that hung above it, "I see that you keep your tramp medicine ready."
"It is a fine old fireplace," responded Cousin Kate, not deigning to notice the attempted witticism, "and the ones in the sitting-room and the library almost equal it, but it cost me $200 to save the chimney."
"How's that?" asked Jack, who has a fellow-feeling for any one with fireplace troubles. "Wouldn't it draw?"
"No trouble about the draft," answered Cousin Kate. "But not long after I moved in, the chimney began to settle and had to be shored up with large piers at the corners, and in between."
Cousin Kate's Wigwam.
"I thought these old chimneys rested on solid stone-and-mortar foundations," said Jack, "and were built to withstand time and eternity."
"They often are," said Cousin Kate, "but this one wasn't. This one rested on a floor of four-inch oak planks that rested on twelve-inch beams, and they rested on the foundation. After a little over a century, the oak beams began to crumble and - "
"What a funny little closet," interrupted Mary, who had been using her eyes during the conversation about chimneys. "May I open it?"
"By all means do," assented Cousin Kate. "That is the 'rum closet,' and the door under it opens into what was formerly the brick oven, where all the family baking was done."
"No wonder they used to take such pains with the chimneys in the old Colonial houses," said Jack. "If the fire didn't draw well there was no warmth, and if the oven didn't heat well, there was no bread and no baked beans."
"Why did they call it the rum closet?" asked Mary, having peered curiously into the little brick cell, the door of which was a part of the ancient wood paneling, and almost concealed in it.
"I'm sure I don't know," responded Cousin Kate. "But that's what Deacon Mason told me, from whom I bought the house. He had lived here for fifty years and ought to know. It was he who made Susanna's Pool."
"Where is that?" asked Mary, with an air of excited interest. "I remember the Bible story about 'Susanna and the Elders' and the tapestry at the Museum in South Kensington, but I never associated it with a New England deacon."
"Nor I," said Cousin Kate, leading the way out to the south porch, "until I saw the little pond that the brook makes down there by the roadside, which Deacon Mason said he dug out for his four daughters to bathe in."
"I suppose the local elders - " began Jack.
"Of course, you have mosquitoes," interrupted Mary, noticing the wire screening that enclosed the porch.
"We do," answered Cousin Kate, "but they can't get at us inside the house, or on the porches, or in the skeeter-cheater."
"In what?" exclaimed Mary.
"The skeeter-cheater," repeated Cousin Kate, "the pavilion on the other side of the driveway, built around the old elm. It's screened in all around, and cheats the mosquitoes of what they regard as their legitimate prey. Besides it has khaki curtains, that let down when it rains, on the side it rains from. The first summer after it was built I almost lived in it, until I began to have sciatica and the doctor told me I had better dwell indoors again."
"Isn't she dear?" said Mary to Jack as they drove back to the railway station on Monday morning. "I don't think I ever had a better time, or talked less. I could listen to her forever."