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The Road to Providence

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"Now, child, be sure and don't mix 'em with a heavy hand! Lightness is expected of riz biscuits and had oughter be dealt out to 'em by the mixer from the start. Just this way—"

"Mother, oh, Mother," came a perturbed hail in Doctor Mayberry's voice from the barn door, "Spangles is off the nest again—better come quick!"

"Can't you persuade her some, Tom?" Mother called back from the kitchen door as she peered anxiously across the garden fence and over to the gray barn where the Doctor stood holding the door half open, but ready for a quick close-up in case of an unexpected sally. "My hands is in the biscuits and I don't want to come now. Just try, Tom!"

"I have tried and I can't do it! She's getting the whole convention agitated. You'd better come on, Mother!"

"Dearie me," said Mrs. Mayberry, as she rinsed her hands in the wash-pan on the shelf under tin cedar bucket, "Tom is just as helpless with the chickens at setting time as a presiding elder is at a sewing circle; can't use a needle, too stiff to jine the talk and only good when it comes to the eating, from broilers to frying size. Just go on and mix the biscuits with faith, honey-bird, for I mistrust I won't be back for quite a spell."

"Now let me see what all these conniptions is about," she said in a commanding voice, as she walked boldly in through her son's cautiously widened door gap.

And a scene of confusion that was truly feminine met her capable glance. Fuss-and-Feathers, a stylish young spangled Wyandotte, was waltzing up and down the floor and shrieking an appeal in the direction of a whole row of half-barrel nests that stretched along the dark and sequestered side of the feed-room floor, upon which was established what had a few minutes before been a placid row of setting hens. Now over the rim of each nest was stretched a black, white, yellow or gray head, pop-eyed with alarm and reproach. They were emitting a chorus of indignant squawks, all save a large, motherly old dominick in the middle barrel who was craning her scaly old neck far over toward the perturbed young sister and giving forth a series of reassuring and commanding clucks.

"I didn't do a thing in the world to them, Mother," said Doctor Tom in a deprecatory tone of voice, as if he were in a way to be blamed for the whole excitement. "I was across the barn at the corn-crib when she hopped off her nest and went on the rampage. Just a case of the modern feminine rebellion, I wager."

"No such thing, sir! They ain't nothing in the world the matter with her 'cept as bad a case of young-mother skeer as I have ever had before amongst all my hens. Don't you see, Tom, two of her setting have pipped they shells and the cheepings of the little things have skeered the poor young thing 'most to death. Old Dominick have took in the case and is trying her chicken-sister best to comfort her. These here pullet spasms over the hatching of the first brood ain't in no way unusual. The way you have forgot chicken habits since you have growed up is most astonishing to me, after all the helping with them I taught you." As she spoke, Mother Mayberry had been rearranging the deserted nest with practised hand and had tenderly lifted two feeble, moist little new-borns on her broad palm to show to the Doctor....