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Book one of a series based on stories by L. M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables—for ages 10-12
Sara Stanley, whose mother has died and whose father is working as an artist in Europe, is called 'The Story Girl' because she loves to spin tales. She's staying on Prince Edward Island with her King cousins. Together the children have many questions concerning the existence of God, and they go to church to learn the answers....
Book one of a series based on stories by L. M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables—for ages 10-12
Sara Stanley, whose mother has died and whose father is working as an artist in Europe, is called 'The Story Girl' because she loves to spin tales. She's staying on Prince Edward Island with her King cousins. Together the children have many questions concerning the existence of God, and they go to church to learn the answers.
Two boys arrive for a visit with relatives on Prince Edward Island and have adventures involving a boy's first visit to church, raising funds for a school library, and a miser willing to pay for one of Sara Stanley's captivating stories.
It seemed almost too good to be true. Finally we were going to see the Island where Father had grown up. He had told us so much about it. Soon we would meet our cousins Felicity, Cecily, and Dan. They lived on the old King homestead. Sara Stanley, another cousin of ours, was living on the Island, too. Since her mother died, she had been living with Uncle Roger and Aunt Olivia on a farm next to the King's place.
It was Sara who was called "the Story Girl." We assumed we'd find out soon why she had been given that name. Aunt Olivia's letters about her and the other cousins were always funny, describing all the good times they had together. We couldn't wait to get on the train as it chugged slowly up to the platform.
When Father first told us we were going to the King farm for the summer, we tried not to show too much excitement. Father was sorry he could not go with us to his old home. He had to go to South America to take charge of a new office there. It was a great opportunity for Father that included a promotion and a pay raise. The only problem was he couldn't take us with him right then. Mother had died before we were old enough to remember her, so that meant there would be no one in Toronto to take care of us. In the end, Father decided to send us to our relatives on Prince Edward Island until he could find a home for us in South America.
After bear hugs from Father and a promise to write each week, we were bustled onto the train by Mrs. MacLaren. It was her job to deliver us to Uncle Alec, another of Father's brothers. We would stay at his farm for the summer.
We must have been a handful on the trip. As we were pulling our baggage from the cart, we heard Mrs. MacLaren telling Uncle Alec: "The fat one isn't so bad. He doesn't move as fast and get out of your sight like the thin one can. The only safe way to travel with those young boys would be to have them both tied to you with a short rope-a mighty short rope."
The "fat one" was Felix, and he was very sensitive about his plumpness. He was always doing exercises to try to thin down, but it seemed he always just gained more weight. He said he didn't care, but he did-he cared very much. He frowned at Mrs. MacLaren when she said that. He hadn't liked her since the day she told him he would soon be as broad as he was long. I felt sorry when we said good-bye to her. But by the time we reached the open country, both of us had forgotten all about her. We drove along happily, enjoying Uncle Alec's company. Felix and I loved him from the first moment we met.
Uncle Alec was a small man with thin, delicate features, a close-clipped gray beard, and large, tired blue eyes. He looked just like Father. It was obvious right from the start that Uncle Alec liked children and was glad to welcome "Alan's boys." We felt right at home with him and were not afraid to ask him questions on any subject that came to our minds. By the time we had traveled the twenty-four miles to his house on the King homestead, the three of us had become good friends.
It was dark when we reached Carlisle. We couldn't see much of anything as we drove up the lane to the old King homestead on the hill near the town. Behind us a young moon was hanging over the meadow. All was peaceful in the soft, moist shadows of the May night, as we peered eagerly through the darkness.
"Look, there's the big willow tree, Bev," Felix said as he punched me in the ribs. Bev is my name. It's short for Beverley. And don't you dare laugh. I know it's an unusual name for a boy. But I didn't have anything to do with choosing a name for myself.
I looked where Felix was pointing and sure enough there it was-the tree Grandfather King had planted by accident when he stuck a willow stick in the ground and it grew. We had heard stories from our father about how he and our aunts and uncles played in the shadow of that same big tree. I'm going to climb it tomorrow, I thought.
As we continued up the lane toward the King homestead, we saw the old orchard on our right. Father had told us about that, too. And on the left was the big white farmhouse. A friendly light shone out through an open door. In the doorway was Aunt Janet, a big bustling woman with full-blown rosy cheeks. She'd come to welcome us.
* * *
Walking into the kitchen where we would soon have supper, we saw huge hams and slabs of bacon hung from the low, dark ceiling rafters. The kitchen was such a pleasant place that we felt at home right away. We sat across the table from Felicity, Cecily, and Dan-the cousins we had just met. All three of them stared at us when they thought we were busy eating. And both of us stared right back at them when we thought they wouldn't notice. We spent the whole meal catching each other at the staring game and feeling embarrassed.
Dan was the oldest of Uncle Alec's children-thirteen-and was a lean, freckled fellow with long, straight brown hair and the shapely King nose. The Kings were noted for two things about their looks-their noses and their complexions. Dan's mouth, on the other hand, was long and narrow and twisted and not at all attractive. But he grinned in a friendly fashion. Later when Felix and I talked about Dan, we both thought we were going to like him.
Next was Felicity. She was twelve and had been named after Aunt Felicity, our cousin Sara's mother, who was now buried in the old Carlisle graveyard. Cousin Felicity, we had been told, was known as the beauty of the family. When we met her, we were not disappointed. She had lovely dark-blue eyes, soft, feathery golden curls, and the famous pink and white King complexion. Felicity looked adorable in a pink print dress and a frilly apron. Dan said she had "dressed up" in honor of our coming. No girl had ever gone to the trouble of dressing up for us-we felt very important.
Eleven-year-old Cecily was pretty also-or would have been had Felicity not been there. Compared to Felicity all other girls looked pale and thin. But Cecily's hair was smooth and brown and had a satiny shine. Her mild brown eyes had just a hint of shyness in them.
We remembered that Aunt Olivia had said in a letter that Cecily took after the Ward side of the family and that she had no sense of humor. We didn't know what that meant, but we didn't think it was a compliment. Still, we both thought we might like Cecily better than Felicity. Felicity seemed uppity and a little too aware of her good looks. Well... to put it bluntly, she seemed like a snob.
"It's a wonder the Story Girl hasn't come over to see you yet," said Uncle Alec. "She's been very excited about your coming."
"Who is the Story Girl?" asked Felix, for at that point, we had not been told.
"Oh, Sara-Sara Stanley. We call her the Story Girl partly because she tells such wonderful stories and also because there is a girl named Sara Ray, who lives at the foot of the hill. She often comes up to play with us. It's awkward to have two girls with the same name. Besides, Sara Stanley doesn't care for her name. She'd rather be called the Story Girl."
"She hasn't been well all day," explained Cecily. "Aunt Olivia wouldn't let her come out in the night air. She was very disappointed when she had to go to bed instead."
Then Dan, speaking for the first time, said Peter had also been intending to come over but had to go on an errand for his mother.
"Who's Peter?" we asked.
Uncle Alec answered, "He is Uncle Roger and Aunt Olivia's hired handy boy. His name is Peter Craig. He is a real smart boy with lots of mischief in him."
"He wants to be Felicity's boyfriend," said Dan with a sly look at his sister.
"Don't be silly, Dan." Aunt Janet spoke a little more severely than she had intended.
Felicity tossed her golden head and shot a withering glance at her brother. "I wouldn't have a hired boy for a boyfriend," she protested with her nose in the air. She was angry. Evidently she didn't care for Peter, and she was not about to be linked with anyone she considered beneath her. I was beginning to form an opinion about my hoity-toity cousin, and it wasn't pleasant. I wondered what she thought about us-the intruders from Toronto.
We wanted our cousins to like us, but at the moment, I was too tired to worry about it very much. When it was time to go to bed, we were quite willing. Aunt Janet whisked us away upstairs to the very room that had once been Father's. It overlooked the grove of pine trees and was Dan's room now. He slept in his own bed in a corner opposite from ours. On our beds were sweet-smelling sheets and pillows, and each of us had one of Grandmother King's patchwork quilts to cover us.
Through the open window, we heard the frogs singing down in the swamp near Brook Meadow. We had heard frogs sing in Ontario, of course, but it seemed that the Prince Edward Island frogs were more tuneful and mellow. Or was it simply that all the tales we had heard were lending their magic? All the sights and sounds around us made those frogs' songs sound different.
This was Father's home-and now for a time, it was going to be our home! Here under the roof built by our great-grandfather King ninety years ago, we felt cozy and at home. We had not felt that way since our mother died.
"Just think, those are the very frogs Father listened to when he was a little boy," whispered Felix.
"They can hardly be the same frogs," I whispered back. "It's been twenty years since Father left here."
"Well, they're descendants of the frogs he heard," said Felix, "and they're singing in the same swamp. That's close enough for me."
Across the narrow hall was the girls' room. Through our open bedroom door, we could hear them laughing and talking as they got ready for bed. They were talking more loudly than they might have if they had realized how far their voices would carry.
"What do you think of the boys?" asked Cecily.
"Beverley is handsome, but Felix is too fat," answered Felicity promptly.
Felix rolled over and grunted in disgust. I began to think more kindly about Felicity. She can't be all bad, I thought. It might not be altogether her fault she is so full of pride. How can she help but feel good when she looks in the mirror?
"I think they're both fun and good-looking," said Cecily.
Well, that's nice, I thought. I was glad for what she had said, and I hoped Felix had heard it, too.
"I wonder what the Story Girl will think of them?" said Cecily, as if that were the most important thing.
Somehow we thought it was important, too. We felt that if the Story Girl didn't approve of us, it made little difference who else did.
Felix spoke up from his bed. "I wonder if the Story Girl is pretty?"
"No, she isn't," said Dan instantly, from across the room. "But you'll think she is while she's talking to you. Everybody does. It's only when you go away from her that you find out she isn't pretty after all."
The girls' door shut with a bang. Silence fell over the house. We drifted into the land of sleep, wondering if the Story Girl would like us.
We slipped out of bed and dressed without waking Dan. He was still sleeping with his mouth open and his bedclothes kicked off. Everything was very still as we crept downstairs. We could hear someone in the kitchen rattling the stove. Probably Uncle Alec building a fire, I thought. We stopped for a moment in front of the old grandfather clock in the hall. We had never seen one before and thought its mechanism very interesting.
"Look Bev!" my brother exclaimed. "Here are the marks Father made on it." Sure enough, the little door of the clock had a dent in it just as Father had told us. He had kicked it in anger once when he was a little boy. "He must have been really mad!" Felix said.
We quietly opened the front door and stepped out into the early morning beauty of Prince Edward Island. Uncle Roger's house was on the other side of the pine trees that lined the driveway. Father lived there with his younger sister-our Aunt Olivia-and our cousin Sara Stanley. The path that led to their home seemed to have an air of mystery about it.
To the right was the famous King orchard, where Grandfather King had planted the first trees sixty years earlier, soon after he and Grandmother were married. I will never forget the wonderful smell of apple blossoms and blooming plum, cherry, and pear trees. To this day, when I get a whiff of blossoming fruit trees, I am reminded of that place. We knew that all of the fourteen King children had "birth" trees that had been planted in the orchard when they were born. The grandchildren also had trees named in their honor. Father had told us that important visitors to the homestead had trees named for them, too. We were anxious to find our trees.
There was a whitewashed gate that led to the orchard. Just as we reached it and were ready to explore, we noticed a girl. She and a gray cat were standing in the lane that led to Uncle Roger's house. She waved to us and smiled a friendly smile. We knew she must be Sara Stanley, the Story Girl.
As we drew closer, we saw that she was just as Dan had said. She was tall for her fourteen years, slim and straight. Her dark-brown curls were tied in a clever way with red ribbons that framed her long face. Although her mouth seemed a little large for her face, she had bright hazel eyes that were interesting. But no-she wasn't pretty.
Then she said, "Good morning."
We had never heard a voice like hers. I cannot describe it. I might say it was clear; I might say it was sweet. I might say it was lovely and bell-like. All of those things would be true, but they would not give you a true idea of the sound of the Story Girl's voice.
If voices had color, hers would have been a rainbow. It made words live. We instantly felt when she spoke that it was a good morning-the very best morning that had ever happened in this wonderful world.
"You must be Felix and Beverley," she said. She was so different from Felicity and Cecily.
Excerpted from The King Cousins by L. M. Montgomery Copyright © 2004 by The Zondervan Corporation, David Macdonald, trustee and Ruth Macdonald. Excerpted by permission.
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Contents Chapter One Home of Our Fathers 7 Chapter Two Meeting the Story Girl 19 Chapter Three Legends of the Old Orchard 31 Chapter Four The Wedding Veil of the Proud Princess 43 Chapter Five Peter's Patches Go to Church 55 Chapter Six A Picture of God 67 Chapter Seven The Mystery of the Golden Milestone 79 Chapter Eight How Betty Sherman Won a Husband 91