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It all started just before school was out. One afternoon when I got home mother showed me a letter from Uncle Hieronymous, who lives in the woods back of Baldwin, on the Middle Branch of the Père Marquette River. I never had seen him, but he and mother wrote to each other quite often, and I guess she'd been telling him a good deal about me, that's Binney Jenks, and Mark Tidd and Tallow and Plunk. Of course, Mark Tidd was most important. He always thought us out of scrapes. So what did this letter of his do but invite us all to come up to his place and stay the whole summer if we wanted to?
As soon as I read it I was so excited I had to stand up and prance around the room. I couldn't sit still.
"Can we go, ma? Can we go?" I asked, over and over again, without giving her a chance to answer.
Ma had been thinking it over, because she said yes right off. Ma never says yes to things until she's had a chance to look at them from all sides and knows just what the chances are for my coming out alive. "You can go if the other boys can," she told me, and I didn't wait to hear another word, but went pelting off to Mark's house.
Mark was in the back yard talking to his father when I got there, and I burst right in on them.
"Can you go?" I hollered. "D'you think you can go?"
"L-l-light somewheres," says he. "You're floppin' around l-l-l-like Bill Durfee's one-legged ch-chicken."
"Can you go to my uncle Hieronymous's? We're asked in a letter. The whole kit and bilin' of us. Up in the woods. Right on a trout-stream. In a log cabin." I broke it all up into short sentences like that, I was so anxious. After a while Mark got it all out of me so he understood it, then he turned to his father.
"C-c-can I go, father?" he asked.
Mr. Tidd, though he'd got to be rich, was just as mild and sort of dazed-like and forgetful as everand helpless! You wouldn't believe how helpless he was.
"Way off into the woods?" says he. "Fishin' and sich like? Um-hum. 'S far's I'm concerned, Mark, there hain't a single objection, but, Mark, I calc'late you better see your ma. She sort of looks after the family more'n I do.... And if she lets you go, son, I'll give you a new set of Gibbon's Decline and Fall to take with you. You'll enjoy readin' it evenin's." With that he took out of his pocket a volume of old Gibbon and sat himself down on the back steps to read it. He was always reading that book and telling you things out of it. After I'd known him a year I most knew it by heart.
We went right up-stairs to where Mrs. Tidd was making her husband a shirt on the sewing-machine. She didn't have to make him shirts, because they had money enough from the invention to buy half a dozen to a time if they wanted to. But Mrs. Tidd, she says there ain't any use buying shirts for a dollar and a half when you can make them twice as good for fifty cents and a little work. That was her all over.