The Send-And-Fotch Book Continued….
Nancy picked up the catalogue. “Hold the glass over some writing,” she said eagerly. “I think that’s how you use hit. Thar, now look through the glass.”
The children crowded close. There was a breathless silence. The old man bent low and squinted through the oval. His voice came slow and wondering.
“Praise be to the Lord! I can read. I can see them words like my eyes was young ag’in. Hit’s magic, pure magic. How come this charm to me, Nancy gal?”
Briefly she explained how she’d noticed the glass in the send-and-fotch book.
“Ne’er did I think sech happiness would reach me,” marveled Gran’pappy. “I’m plumb wore out with happiness.” And he sank down on a chair.
When the excitement had subsided Lucy suddenly cried, “Whar’s Nancy’s frock?”
“Why, hain’t it here?” asked the old man anxiously.
Nancy picked up papers busily. “I changed my mind. It was too noisysome a color.”
The children looked at her, perplexed. “But you wanted hit !” Lucy puzzled.
Gran’pappy looked at Nancy searchingly. “I allow with my glass you must ’a’ spent all the money. Didn’t you, gal ?” he asked.
“I reckoned so. You’re the unselfishest gal ever I knowed, Nancy.”
Nancy sent him a quick smile but her lips trembled.
Early in the morning a week later the Davis children started on their journey to Windsor-town. By taking two days for the twenty miles, they could get there easily.
“Now don’t mourn e’en a little grain ’cause I can’t go,” Gran’pappy told them in farewell. “With my reading glass I’m so gladsome that I don’t care ’bout seeing ten governors. Jes’ go on and have a good time.”
Tom and Lucy were in the gayest of spirits, and Nancy had to remind them constantly not to go too fast and get worn out on the first part of the trip. All three wore their old clothes. The new apparel was wrapped in a gunny sack and slung across Nancy’s back. Never before had the Davises been away from their valley, and every twist of the trail was alluring. Although Nancy tried her best to think only of the
frolicking ahead, her thoughts persisted in turning to the red dress. How happy she would be if it were tucked in the roll on her back. Instead she had with her the linsey dress. It was her winter frock. She had woven it from wool that she had dyed in walnut bark. It was a coarse, heavy dress. How uncomfortable she’d look and feel in it on a hot day.
It was very early in the morning when the children entered Windsor-town on the day of the celebration. But already the town was full of people.
“Lookit the big houses,” said Tom, pointing to a small two-story building.
“Lawsy, I never knowed there was so many folks in all Kaintucky,” gasped Nancy
Up and down the street the three went, halting at each tiny store window to inspect the displays with wondering eyes. By nine o’clock the dusty street was milling with people. Soon the crowd began to move toward a vacant lot where stood a great tent. Walking in the midst of the throng, Nancy and the children found themselves pushed into the tent. Grabbing Tom and Lucy, Nancy propelled them up an aisle to a bench directly in front of the platform.
“My, we shore got fine places,” she panted.
“What comes now?” whispered Lucy.
“I heered somebody say the governor talks in here,” said her sister.
Nancy glanced at the women around her. Most of them wore bright-colored calicoes and ginghams. A few even had cheap silks.
“Howdy, Nancy,” said a patronizingly sweet voice.
Directly behind Nancy sat Mary Perkins in a red silk dress with a yellow straw hat atop her yellow curls. Nancy caught her breath at the sight of such finery. She managed a smile. Then she sank down as low as she could so the old winter’s dress wouldn’t show any more than necessary. The dress was terribly hot and Nancy’s face felt red.
Mary leaned forward to say, “I was proud pappy could holp you out by buying that hog. He says hit really wa’n’t worth the money but he aimed to give you a little extry money seeing you hain’t got ary pappy.”
Nancy flushed crimson and opened her lips to answer. But a piano began to bang out the national anthem. There followed speeches by Windsor officials, speeches by politicians from outside towns and more singing. Nancy scarcely heard them all. Why did Mary Perkins have to sit right behind her all dressed up in red silk while she wore her brown winter linsey?
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure and privilege to present the
Honorable George Henderson Williams, governor of the state of Kentucky.”
With a start Nancy realized where she was. She looked up at the tall, handsome manvwith white hair and kindly face. In a strong, compelling voice he spoke.
“No people in the United States have more right to be proud of their ancestry than have you mountain folk of Kentucky. It was your great-grandparents and their parents who first hewed their way through the forests from the Atlantic seaboard.
“The early Kentucky men were brave and courageous. But to me the women were the greatest to be admired. They left security and comfort. They came into the wilderness to fight beside their men, to bear children in deprivation, to care for their families undaunted and tireless. They made their own soap. They ground their own corn. They even spun their own clothes and—”
The voice broke off and Nancy, who had been sitting ereet with glowing, uplifted face, felt the governor’s glance meet hers. He stepped to the edge of the platform. He leaned forward. “Would the little girl with the brown hair and brown dress mind standing up just a moment?”
Nancy looked about her.
“You. I mean you. The little lady in the second row between the two children,” said the governor.
Someone touched Nancy’s shoulder. “He means you,” people said. “Stand up, gal.”
Bewildered, Nancy found herself half lifted to her feet by her neighbors.
“That’s a lovely dress you have on, little girl,” said the speaker. “Isn’t it a handwoven linsey?”
She nodded dumbly.
“I thought so. My grandmother had one. And who wove it?”
“Really! Would you come up here?”
As in a dream Nancy walked up the platform steps. The governor took her hand and turned her to the audience. “I singled this girl out while I was talking, for her dress is a linsey like one my grandmother had. I am glad that the customs of our ancestors are not forgotten. I am glad that our mountain women do not all wear store dresses and that by the light of the open fire one Kentucky girl still weaves her gowns.
“I have visited many cities and seen fine ladies in silks and satins, but to me no dress I saw was as lovely as this homespun brown linsey.” Turning, he clasped Nancy’s hand.
There was tumultuous applause. People stood up as Nancy went down to her seat.
They craned their necks to see the girl who had been honored by the governor. Lucy and Tom gripped her arms tightly, their faces shining. Even Tom was speechless. The governor continued his address, but Nancy’s head was so awhirl that she didn’t hear his words. Toward the end of the program Nancy could not resist looking over her shoulder at Mary Perkins. Mary’s smile was ingratiating and honey sweet. “It’s a lovely dress,” her lips formed the words.
Nancy smiled a wise little smile of triumph to herself. She smoothed the brown linsey over her knees. It was a pretty weave after all. It must be getting cooler all of a sudden, for she now felt very comfortable in the winter dress. It was lucky she hadn’t worn a flimsy store dress like the others.
Lucy plucked at her sleeve. “Hain’t you proud you wore your old frock?” she said.
Nancy nodded. “The red dress was right smart looking,” she whispered back. “But hit was too noisysome a color. A body wouldn’t feel to live with hit long.”