THE dead man found in Farmer Holly's barn created a decided stir
in the village of Hinsdale. The case was a peculiar one for many
reasons. First, because of the boy—Hinsdale supposed it knew
boys, but it felt inclined to change its mind after seeing this
one. Second, because of the circumstances. The boy and his father
had entered the town like tramps, yet Higgins, who talked freely
of his having given the pair a "lift" on that very evening, did
not hesitate to declare that he did not believe them to be
ordinary tramps at all.
As there had been little found in the dead man's pockets, save
the two notes, and as nobody could be found who wanted the
violins, there seemed to be nothing to do but to turn the body
over to the town for burial. Nothing was said of this to David;
indeed, as little as possible was said to David about anything
after that morning when Higgins had given him his father's
letter. At that time the men had
 made one more effort to "get
track of something," as Higgins had despairingly put it. But the
boy's answers to their questions were anything but satisfying,
anything but helpful, and were often most disconcerting. The boy
was, in fact, regarded by most of the men, after that morning, as
being "a little off"; and was hence let severely alone.
Who the man was the town authorities certainly did not know,
neither could they apparently find out. His name, as written by
himself, was unreadable. His notes told nothing; his son could
tell little more—of consequence. A report, to be sure, did come
from the village, far up the mountain, that such a man and boy
had lived in a hut that was almost inaccessible; but even this
did not help solve the mystery.
David was left at the Holly farmhouse, though Simeon Holly
mentally declared that he should lose no time in looking about
for some one to take the boy away.
On that first day Higgins, picking up the reins preparatory to
driving from the yard, had said, with a nod of his head toward
 "Well, how about it, Holly? Shall we leave him here till we find
somebody that wants him?"
"Why, y—yes, I suppose so," hesitated Simeon Holly, with
But his wife, hovering in the background, hastened forward at
"Oh, yes; yes, indeed," she urged. "I'm sure he—he won't be a
mite of trouble, Simeon."
"Perhaps not," conceded Simeon Holly darkly. "Neither, it is safe
to say, will he be anything else—worth anything."
"That's it exactly," spoke up Streeter, from his seat in the
wagon. "If I thought he'd be worth his salt, now, I'd take him
myself; but—well, look at him this minute," he finished, with a
David, on the lowest step, was very evidently not hearing a word
of what was being said. With his sensitive face illumined, he was
again poring over his father's letter.
Something in the sudden quiet cut through his absorption as the
noisy hum of voices had not been able to do, and he raised his
head. His eyes were starlike.
 "I'm so glad father told me what to do," he breathed. "It'll be
Receiving no answer from the somewhat awkwardly silent men, he
went on, as if in explanation:—
"You know he's waiting for me—in the far country, I mean. He
said he was. And when you've got somebody waiting, you don't mind
staying behind yourself for a little while. Besides, I've got to
stay to find out about the beautiful world, you know, so I can
tell him, when I go. That's the way I used to do back home on
the mountain, you see,—tell him about things. Lots of days we'd
go to walk; then, when we got home, he'd have me tell him, with
my violin, what I'd seen. And now he says I'm to stay here."
"Here!" It was the quick, stern voice of Simeon Holly.
"Yes," nodded David earnestly; "to learn about the beautiful
world. Don't you remember? And he said I was not to want to go
back to my mountains; that I would not need to, anyway, because
the mountains, and the sky, and the birds and squirrels and
brooks are really in my violin, you know. And—" But
 with an
angry frown Simeon Holly stalked away, motioning Larson
to follow him; and with a merry glance and a low chuckle Higgins
turned his horse about and drove from the yard. A moment later
David found himself alone with Mrs. Holly, who was looking at him
with wistful, though slightly fearful eyes.
"Did you have all the breakfast you wanted?" she asked timidly,
resorting, as she had resorted the night before, to the everyday
things of her world in the hope that they might make this strange
little boy seem less wild, and more nearly human.
"Oh, yes, thank you." David's eyes had strayed back to the note
in his hand. Suddenly he looked up, a new something in his eyes.
"What is it to be a—a tramp?" he asked. "Those men said daddy
and I were tramps."
"A tramp? Oh—er—why, just a—a tramp," stammered Mrs. Holly.
"But never mind that, David. I—I would n't think any more about
"But what is a tramp?" persisted David, a smouldering fire
beginning to show in his eyes. "Because if they meant thieves—"
 "No, no, David," interrupted Mrs. Holly soothingly. "They never
meant thieves at all."
"Then, what is it to be a tramp?"
"Why, it's just to—to tramp," explained Mrs. Holly
desperately;—"walk along the road from one town to another,
and—and not live in a house at all."
"Oh!" David's face cleared. "That's all right, then. I'd love to
be a tramp, and so'd father. And we were tramps, sometimes, too,
'cause lots of times, in the summer, we did n't stay in the cabin
hardly any—just lived out of doors all day and all night. Why, I
never knew really what the pine trees were saying till I heard
them at night, lying under them. You know what I mean. You've
heard them, have n't you?"
"At night? Pine trees?" stammered Mrs. Holly helplessly.
"Yes. Oh, have n't you ever heard them at night?" cried the boy,
in his voice a very genuine sympathy as for a grievous loss.
"Why, then, if you've only heard them daytimes, you don't know a
bit what pine trees really are. But I can tell you. Listen! This
is what they
 say," finished the boy, whipping his violin from its
case, and, after a swift testing of the strings, plunging into a
weird, haunting little melody.
In the doorway, Mrs. Holly, bewildered, yet bewitched, stood
motionless, her eyes half-fearfully, half-longingly fixed on
David's glorified face. She was still in the same position when
Simeon Holly came around the corner of the house.
"Well, Ellen," he began, with quiet scorn, after a moment's stern
watching of the scene before him, "have you nothing better to do
this morning than to listen to this minstrel fellow?"
"Oh, Simeon! Why, yes, of course. I—I forgot—what I was doing,"
faltered Mrs. Holly, flushing guiltily from neck to brow as she
turned and hurried into the house.
David, on the porch steps, seemed to have heard nothing. He was
still playing, his rapt gaze on the distant sky-line, when Simeon
Holly turned upon him with disapproving eyes.
"See here, boy, can't you do anything but fiddle?" he demanded.
Then, as David still
 continued to play, he added sharply: "Did
n't you hear me, boy?"
The music stopped abruptly. David looked up with the slightly
dazed air of one who has been summoned as from another world.
"Did you speak to me, sir?" he asked.
"I did—twice. I asked if you never did anything but play that
"You mean at home?" David's face expressed mild wonder without a
trace of anger or resentment. "Why, yes, of course. I could n't
play all the time, you know. I had to eat and sleep and study my
books; and every day we went to walk—like tramps, as you call
them," he elucidated, his face brightening with obvious delight
at being able, for once, to explain matters in terms that he felt
sure would be understood.
"Tramps, indeed!" muttered Simeon Holly, under his breath. Then,
sharply: "Did you never perform any useful labor, boy? Were your
days always spent in this ungodly idleness?"
Again David frowned in mild wonder.
"Oh, I was n't idle, sir. Father said I must never be that. He
said every instrument was
 needed in the great Orchestra of Life;
and that I was one, you know, even if I was only a little boy.
And he said if I kept still and did n't do my part, the harmony
would n't be complete, and—"
"Yes, yes, but never mind that now, boy," interrupted Simeon
Holly, with harsh impatience. "I mean, did he never set you to
"Work?" David meditated again. Then suddenly his face cleared.
"Oh, yes, sir, he said I had a beautiful work to do, and that it
was waiting for me out in the world. That's why we came down from
the mountain, you know, to find it. Is that what you mean?"
"Well, no," retorted the man, "I can't say that it was. I was
referring to work—real work about the house. Did you never do
any of that?"
David gave a relieved laugh.
"Oh, you mean getting the meals and tidying up the house," he
replied. "Oh, yes, I did that with father, only"—his face grew
wistful—"I'm afraid I did n't do it very well. My bacon was
never as nice and crisp as father's, and the fire was always
spoiling my potatoes."
 "Humph! bacon and potatoes, indeed!" scorned Simeon Holly. "Well,
boy, we call that women's work down here. We set men to something
else. Do you see that woodpile by the shed door?"
"Very good. In the kitchen you'll find an empty woodbox. Do you
think you could fill it with wood from that woodpile? You'll find
plenty of short, small sticks already chopped."
"Oh, yes, sir, I'd like to," nodded David, hastily but carefully
tucking his violin into its case. A minute later he had attacked
the woodpile with a will; and Simeon Holly, after a sharply
watchful glance, had turned away.
But the woodbox, after all, was not filled. At least, it was not
filled immediately; for at the very beginning of gathering the
second armful of wood, David picked up a stick that had long
lain in one position on the ground, thereby disclosing sundry and
diverse crawling things of many legs, which filled David's soul
with delight, and drove away every thought of the empty woodbox.
It was only a matter of some strength and more patience, and
still more time, to overturn
 other and bigger sticks, to find
other and bigger of the many-legged, many-jointed creatures. One,
indeed, was so very wonderful that David, with a whoop of glee,
summoned Mrs. Holly from the shed doorway to come and see.
So urgent was his plea that Mrs. Holly came with hurried
steps—but she went away with steps even more hurried; and David,
sitting back on his woodpile seat, was left to wonder why she
should scream and shudder and say "Ugh-h-h!" at such a beautiful,
interesting thing as was this little creature who lived in her
Even then David did not think of that empty woodbox waiting
behind the kitchen stove. This time it was a butterfly, a big
black butterfly banded with gold; and it danced and fluttered all
through the back yard and out into the garden, David delightedly
following with soft-treading steps, and movements that would not
startle. From the garden to the orchard, and from the orchard
back to the garden danced the butterfly—and David; and in the
garden, near the house, David came upon Mrs. Holly's pansy-bed.
Even the butterfly was
 forgotten then, for down in the path by
the pansy-bed David dropped to his knees in veritable worship.
"Why, you're just like little people," he cried softly. "You've
got faces; and some of you are happy, and some of you are sad.
And you—you big spotted yellow one—you're laughing at me. Oh,
I'm going to play you—all of you. You'll make such a pretty
song, you're so different from each other!" And David leaped
lightly to his feet and ran around to the side porch for his
Five minutes later, Simeon Holly, coming into the kitchen, heard
the sound of a violin through the open window. At the same moment
his eyes fell on the woodbox, empty save for a few small sticks
at the bottom. With an angry frown he strode through the outer
door and around the corner of the house to the garden. At once
then he came upon David, sitting Turk-fashion in the middle of
the path before the pansy-bed, his violin at his chin, and his
whole face aglow.
"Well, boy, is this the way you fill the woodbox?" demanded the
David shook his head.
 "Oh, no, sir, this is n't filling the woodbox," he laughed,
softening his music, but not stopping it. "Did you think that was
what I was playing? It's the flowers here that I'm playing—the
little faces, like people, you know. See, this is that big yellow
one over there that's laughing," he finished, letting the music
under his fingers burst into a gay little melody.
Simeon Holly raised an imperious hand; and at the gesture David
stopped his melody in the middle of a run, his eyes flying wide
open in plain wonderment.
"You mean—I'm not playing—right?" he asked.
"I'm not talking of your playing," retorted Simeon Holly
severely. "I'm talking of that woodbox I asked you to fill."
David's face cleared.
"Oh, yes, sir. I'll go and do it," he nodded, getting cheerfully
to his feet.
"But I told you to do it before."
David's eyes grew puzzled again.
"I know, sir, and I started to," he answered, with the obvious
patience of one who finds himself obliged to explain what should
be a self-evident fact; "but I saw so many beautiful
 things, one
after another, and when I found these funny little flower-people
I just had to play them. Don't you see?"
"No, I can't say that I do, when I'd already told you to fill the
woodbox," rejoined the man, with uncompromising coldness.
"You mean—even then that I ought to have filled the woodbox
"I certainly do."
David's eyes flew wide open again.
"But my song—I'd have lost it!" he exclaimed. "And father said
always when a song came to me to play it at once. Songs are like
the mists of the morning and the rainbows, you know, and they
don't stay with you long. You just have to catch them quick,
before they go. Now, don't you see?"
But Simeon Holly, with a despairingly scornful gesture, had
turned away; and David, after a moment's following him with
wistful eyes, soberly walked toward the kitchen door. Two minutes
later he was industriously working at his task of filling the
That for David the affair was not satisfactorily settled was
evidenced by his thoughtful countenance and preoccupied air,
 nor were matters helped any by the question David put to
Mr. Holly just before dinner.
"Do you mean," he asked, "that because I did n't fill the woodbox
right away, I was being a discord?"
"You were what?" demanded the amazed Simeon Holly.
"Being a discord—playing out of tune, you know," explained
David, with patient earnestness. "Father said—" But again Simeon
Holly had turned irritably away; and David was left with his
perplexed questions still unanswered.