The Enchanted Barn (Chapter II, page 1 of 6)


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Shirley walked down the dusty road by the side of the car-track, elation and excitement in her breast. What an adventure! To be walking alone in this strange, beautiful spring country, and nobody to interfere! It was her Father's beautiful out-of-doors, and she had paid her extra nickel to have a right to it for a little while. Perhaps her mother would have been worried at her being alone in the country, but Shirley had no fears. Young people seldom have fears. She walked down the road with a free step and a bright light in her eyes. She had to see that barn somehow; she _just had to_!

She was almost breathless when she reached the bottom of the hill at last, and stood in front of the great barn. The up car passed her just as she got there, and the people looked out at her apathetically as they would at any country girl. She stood still a minute, and watched the car up the hill and out of sight, then picked her way across the track, and entered the field where the fence was broken down, walking up the long grassy slope to the front of the barn and standing still at the top in front of the big double doors, so grim and forbidding.

The barn was bigger than it looked in the distance. She fell very small; yet her soul rejoiced in its bigness. Oh, to have plenty of room for once!

She put her nose close to the big doors, and tried to find a crack to look through; but the doors were tight and fitted well. There was no use trying to see in from there. She turned and ran down the long grassy slope, trying to pretend it was a palatial stairway, then around the side to the back of the barn, and there at last she found a door part way ajar, opening into what must have been the cow-stables, and she slipped joyously in. Some good angel must have been protecting her in her ignorance and innocence, for that dark basement of the barn would have been an excellent hiding-place for a whole regiment of tramps; but she trod safely on her way, and found nothing but a field-mouse to dispute her entrance; and it scurried hastily under the foundation, and disappeared.

The cow-stables evidently had not been occupied for a number of years, for the place was clean and littered with dry straw, as if it had fallen and sifted from the floor above. The stalls were all empty now, and old farm implements, several ploughs, and a rickety wagon occupied the dusty, cobwebby spaces beyond the stalls. There were several openings, rude doorways and crude windows; and the place was not unpleasant, for the back of it opened directly upon a sloping hill which dropped away to the running brook below, and a little stone spring-house, its mossy roof half hidden by a tangle of willows. Shirley stood in a doorway and gazed with delight, then turned back to her investigation. This lower place would not do for human habitation, of course; it was too low and damp, and the floor was only mud. She must penetrate if possible to the floor above.

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