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Edith looked him over, aghast. “Theodore, those are your church clothes!”
“I had overalls over them and a jacket, but I’m going up to change now to take the children out.”
Kermit jumped up and rushed after him, shouting, “Father’s going out to play. Father’s going out to play.”
Alice emerged from her room where she had been stowing away her Christmas presents, and in the nursery Ethel hastily put her doll to bed and flew out.
“May we climb trees, Father?” she asked.
“Not today. It’s too damp and cold. Today we’ll play in the barn.”
Archie woke up then and came trudging after his father. “Are you going to shave, Father? May we watch you shave?”
“No, I’m not going to shave. Find your coat and cap. Mame’s asleep and Mother’s busy with the baby. Ted! Where are you? This expedition is about to start. Overshoes for everybody. Bring yours in here, Archie, and I’ll buckle them for you.”
It was Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite march, over the yard and out through the fences to the old barn that he had sentimentally left standing when he built Sagamore Hill because, he told himself, it had such a nice big haymow. When he had pushed forward with his men at San Juan Hill, struggling through thorny brush where poisonous snakes lurked, slipping and sliding over the matted vegetation, he had had the same feeling of leading a troop of 31trusting souls as he had now, propping the heavy barn door open till the last straggler panted through.
“I speak to play cowboy,” shouted Ted.
“You need outdoors for cowboys,” Alice objected, “and horses!”
“Can’t we have the pony out, Father?” Ted begged. “Grant hasn’t had any exercise today.”
“No, I promised Mother we’d play inside. It’s fairly warm in here. Who’ll be first up the ladder?”
“Me!” shrilled adventurous Ethel. “But we can’t climb with these overshoes on. They’re too slippery.”
“Stack them all here neatly. And nobody is to turn and jump back down that ladder,” their father ordered.
“She did one day,” declared Kermit, “she landed right on my stomach.”
“You had your stomach in the way of my feet.” Ethel flashed quickly up the ladder. The others came after, Theodore taking the rear to help Archie, who had to be lifted up the last steps. The mow above was high and lighted by a dusty window. The roof had chinks here and there between the aged shingles, letting in pale beams of light that showed the ragged mounds of hay with a pitchfork sticking up out of one stack.