The long red clay road, winding down from the cabin where the McBirneys lived on their high shelf of Tennyson mountain, was frosted delicately with white, and by the roadside the curious frost flowers lifted their heads, as airy-fine as fern. From the half-hidden cabins all around the semicircle of mountains that skirted the valley of Lee, shafts of smoke arose, showing that the people were about the business of the day. Straight, gray and shadowy these smoke-shafts lifted through the lilac-tinted air; and below in the little town, other shafts of smoke ascended as if in friendly answer. Azalea McBirney, in her dark riding skirt and bright knitted cap and reefer, came running from the cabin with the manner of a girl very much behindhand. ?Ain't he there yet, Zalie?? a voice called from the cabin. ?Ain't Jim brought them ponies around yet?? ?No, mother,? Azalea answered over her shoulder, starting toward the stable. ?Maybe the ponies have been naughty again. I'll go see.? ?You just stay where you be,? commanded James Stuart McBirney from the stable. ?You've got all your work done, ben't you? Well, that's all you have to think about. This here is my job and I mean to do it whatever comes, though these here ponies certainly do act up on a morning like this.?