“Come on, girls, the baskets are full,” called Mabel. “We have to get across Dunbar Brook while we have plenty of light.”
“Why can’t we just go back the way we came? Through the woods, over the stone wall, and up the hill?” asked Helen.
“Coming down with empty baskets was easy,” Mina explained. “Full baskets are harder to carry through the woods, and getting them over the stone wall would make the ferns crush down, spoiling them.”
Lila chimed in, “Besides, maybe we can rest at the mill and see Papa before we go home.”
“Let’s get started,” said Mabel. “Papa has to leave the mill promptly at quitting time because he has to walk way over to Five Corners to get some more Mellin’s Food for our baby brother, Clayton.”
“Remember, the safest spot to cross is where the Hall Brook and Dunbar Brook meet,” said Lila.
With no mishaps they reached the roadside and put the baskets down very carefully.
“Horses! Horses are coming,” Helen shouted.
“How do you know?” Mina asked. “I can’t hear anything but the brook and the birds.”
“If you can’t hear them with your ears, feel them with your feet!” Helen cried, all the while trying to push her sisters away from the road.
“She’s right! I can feel the vibrations in my bare feet,” said Lila. “They are coming from both direction, too, and that could mean trouble.”
Glancing around quickly, the three older girls grabbed the baskets and Helen, moving into the protection of the thin shrubs between the main road and the loop. The “loop” being a short road off the main road, parallel to Dunbar Brook then back to the main road. Loads of logs, destined for the mill, often came down Tilda Hill too fast to make the sharp turn that would take them across the bridge and down to the mill. The loop gave the wagon’s driver a chance to slow down, turn around, and drive back to the mill. Between the bridge and the loop, the road narrowed dangerously, with the brook very close to the road and only two turnouts available.
“Oh, look, it’s Aunt Nettie on her way to our house to visit Mama,” Mabel noted. “We have to stop her or she’ll have a terrible accident with the load of logs if the driver has to use the loop.
Before the girls could flag her down, Aunt Nettie cracked her buggy whip and her horse doubled his speed.
“She’s going to race the load of logs to the bridge,” Mabel shouted.
The girls found themselves racing up the road just in time to see Aunt Nettie rein her horse into an impossibly sharp right hand turn onto the bridge as the load of logs sped down the narrow road directly at them!
“Over here girls, in the turnout. Hurry,” Lila shouted.
Pressed hard against the moist, moss-covered rock wall, the girls watched the load of logs fly by headed for the loop.
Helen said, looking anxiously toward the bridge, “Where is Aunt Nettie? I can’t see the buggy or the horse or anything!”
“You aren’t tall enough yet, to see what we can see,” commented Mina, as the girls hurried toward the bridge.
Helen soon saw the buggy tipped onto its side, one wheel still spinning, but no horse or Aunt Nettie. The girls started across the bridge just as Mama came hurrying down the drive leading a very frightened horse.
“Nettie, Nettie, where are you?” Mama called.
“Down here! Under the bridge! I’m soaking wet, but otherwise, I’m all right,” Aunt Nettie said.
Up the path at the end of the bridge, Aunt Nettie slowly came into view. Helen began to giggle and her sisters were trying to hide smiles.
“Girls!” Mama said, sternly. “This is no laughing matter! Are you sure you’re all right, Nettie?”
“Yes Mary, just thoroughly soaked and suddenly I realize how ridiculous I must look, so don’t blame the girls for seeing the humor in all this,” Aunt Nettie replied, with a smile.