Skip to main content

Full text of "A New England nun, and other stories"

See other formats


Q>^sn 



A NEW ENGLAND NUN 



AND OTHER STORIES 



MARY E. WILKINS 

AUTHOR OF "A HUMBLE ROMANCE" ETC. 





NEW YORK AND LONDON 
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS 



PS 

nil 
N4 

Ij20 



A New ENGiiAND Nun 
Copyright. 1891. 19^^ Harper & Brother. 
C^ait. 1919. by Mary E. Wilkxns ireexnau 
^^'^^'td in the United States of Amenca 



LIST OF STORIES. 



PACK 

A NEW ENGLAND NUN 1 

A VILLAGE SINGER l8 

A GALA DRESS 37 

THE TWELFTH GUEST 54 

SISTER LIDDY 8 1 

CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH 99 

A WAYFARING COUPLE 121 

A POETESS 140 

CHRISTMAS JENNY 160 

A POT OF GOLD 1 78 

THE SCENT OF THE ROSES I98 

A SOLITARY 215 

A GENTLE GHOST 234 

A DISCOVERED PEARL 253 

A VILLAGE LEAR 268 

AMANDA AND LOVE 288 

UP PRIMROSE HILL 305 

A STOLEN CHRISTMAS 32 1 

LIFE EVERLASTIN' 338 



LIST OF STORIES. 

TKCm 

AN INNOCENT GAMESTER 3^3 

384 



LOUISA 

A CHURCH MOUSE. . 

A KITCHEN COLONEL 4^7 

THE REVOLT OF '' MOTHER 



if 



407 



448 



A NEW ENGLAND NUN. 

It was late in the afternoon, and the light was waning. 
There was a difference in the look of the tree shadows out 
in the yard. Somewhere in the distance cows were lowing 
and a little bell was tinkling; now and then a farm-wagon 
tilted by, and the dust flew; some blue-shirted laborers with 
shovels over their shoulders plodded past; little swarms of 
flies were dancing up and down before the peoples' faces 
in the soft air. There seemed to be a gentle stir arising 
over everything for the mere sake of subsidence — a ver) 
premonition of rest and hush and night. 

This soft diurnal commotion was over Louisa Ellis also. 
She had been peacefully sewing at her sitting-room window 
all the afternoon. Now she quilted her needle carefully 
into her work, which she folded precisely, and laid in a 
basket with her thimble and thread and scissors. Louisa 
Ellis could not remember that ever in her life she had mis- 
laid one of these little feminine appurtenances, which had 
become, from long use and constant association, a very part 
of her personality. 

Louisa tied a green apron round her waist, and got out a 
flat straw hat with a green ribbon. Then she went into the 
garden with a little blue crockery bowl, to pick some cur- 
rants for her tea. After the currants were picked she sal 
I 



2 A NEW ENGLAND NUN. 

on the back door-step and stemmed them, collecting the 
stems carefully in her apron, and afterwards throwing them 
into the hen-coop. She looked sharply at the grass beside 
the step to see if any had fallen there. 

Louisa was slow and still in her movements ; it took her 
a long time to prepare her tea; but when ready it was 
set forth with as much grace as if she had been a veritable 
guest to her own self. The little square table stood exactly 
in the centre of the kitchen, and was covered with a starched 
linen cloth whose border pattern of flowers glistened. 
Louisa had a damask napkin on 'ler tea-tray, where were 
arranged a ':ut-glao3 tumbler full of teaspoons, a silver 
cream-pitcher, a china sugar-bowl, and one pink china cup 
and saucer. Louise used china every day — something 
which none of her neighbors did. They whispered about 
.^t among themselves. Their daily tables were laid with 
common crockery, their sets of best china stayed in the par- 
lor closet, and Louisa Ellis was no richer nor better bred 
than they. Still she would use the china. She had for 
her supper a glass dish full of sugared currants, a plate of 
littlfe cakes, and one of light white biscuits. Also a leaf or 
two of lettuce, which she cut up daintily. Louisa was very 
fond of lettuce, which she raised to perfection in her little 
garden. She ate quite heartily, though in a delicate, peck- 
ing way; it seemed almost surprising that any considerable 
bulk of the food should vanish. 

After tea she filled a plate with nicely baked thin corn- 
cakes, and carried them out into the back-yard. 

'' Caesar !" she called. " Caesar ! Caesar !" 

There was a little rush, and the clank of a chain, and a large 
yellow-and-white dog appeared at ihe door of h)s tiny hut, 
which was half hidden among the tall grasses and flowers. 



A NEW ENGLAND NUN. 3 

Louisa patted him and gave him the corn-cakes. Then 
she returned to the house and washed the tea-things, pol- 
ishing the china carefully. The twilight had deepened ; the 
chorus of the frogs floated in at the open window wonder- 
fully loud and shrill, and once in a while a long sharp drone 
from a tree-toad pierced it. Louisa took off her green 
gingham apron, disclosing a shorter one of pink and white 
print. She lighted her lamp, and sat down again with her 
sewing. 

In about half an I our Joe Dagget came. She heard his 
heavy step on the walk, and rose and took off her pink-and- 
white apron. Under that was still another — white linen 
with a little cambric edging on the bottom ; that was Louisa's 
company apron. She never wore it without her calico sew- 
ing apron over it unless she had a guest. She had barely 
folded the pink and white one with methodical haste and 
laid it in a table-drawer when the door opened and Joe 
Dagget entered. 

He seemed to fill up the whole room. A little yellow 
canary that had been asleep in his green cage at the south 
window woke up and fluttered wildly, beating his little yel- 
low wings against the wires. He always did so when Joe 
Dagget came into the room. 

" Good-evening," said Louisa. She extended her hand 
with a kind of solemn cordiality. 

" Good - evening, Louisa," returned the man, in a loud 
voice. 

She placed a chair for him, and they sat facing each other, 
with the table between them. He sat bolt-upright, toeing 
out his heavy feet squarely, glancing with a good-humored 
uneasiness around the room. She sat gently erect, folding 
her slender hands in her white-linen lap. 



4 A NEW ENGLAND NUN. 

" Been a pleasant day," remarked Dagget 

"Real pleasant," Louisa assented, softly. "Have you 
been haying?" she asked, after a little while. 

" Yes, I've been haying all day, down in the ten-acre lot 
Pretty hot work." 

"It must be." 

" Yes, it's pretty hot work in the sun." 

" Is your mother well to-day ?" 

" Yes, mother's pretty well." 

" I suppose Lily Dyer's with her now ?" 

Dagget colored. " Yes, she's with her," he answered, 
slowly. 

He was not very young, but there was a boyish look about 
his large face. Louisa was not quite as old as he, her face 
was fairer and smoother, but she gave people the impression 
of being older. 

" I suppose she's a good deal of help to your mother," 
she said, further. 

" I guess she is ; I don't know how mother'd get along 
without her," said Dagget, with a sort of embarrassed warmth. 

" She looks like a real capable girl. She's pretty-looking 
too," remarked Louisa. 

"Yes, she is pretty fair looking." 

Presently Dagget began fingering the books on the table. 
There was a square red autograph album, and a Young 
Lady's Gift-Book which had belonged to Louisa's mother. 
He took them up one after the other and opened them ; 
then laid them down again, the album on the Gift-Book. 

Louisa kept eying them with mild uneasiness. Finally 
she rose and changed the position of the books, putting the 
album underneath. That was the way they had been ar- 
ranged in the first place. 



A NEW ENGLAND NUN. 5 

Dagget gave an awkward little laugh. " Now what dif- 
ference did it make which book was on top ?" said he. 

Louisa looked at him with a deprecating smile. " I al- 
ways keep them that way," murmured she. 

"You do beat everything," said Dagget, trying to laugh 
again. Plis large face was flushed. 

He remained about an hour longer, then rose to take 
leave. Going out, he stumbled over a rug, and trying to 
recover himself, hit Louisa's work-basket on the table, and 
knocked it on the floor. 

He looked at Louisa, then at the rolling spools; he 
ducked himself awkwardly toward them, but she stopped 
him. " Never mind," said she ; " I'll pick them up after 
you're gone." 

She spoke with a mild stiffness. Either she was a little 
disturbed, or his nervousness affected her, and made her 
seem constrained in her effort to reassure him. 

When Joe Dagget was outside he drew in the sweet evening 
air with a sigh, and felt much as an innocent and perfectly 
well-intentioned bear might after his exit from a china shop. 

Louisa, on her part, felt much as the kind-hearted, long- 
suffering owner of the china shop might have done after 
the exit of the bear. 

She tied on the pink, then the green apron, picked up all 
the scattered treasures and replaced them in her work- 
basket, and straightened the rug. Then she set the lamp 
on the floor, and began sharply examining the carpet. She 
even rubbed her fingers over it, and looked at them. 

" He's tracked in a good deal of dust," she murmured. 
" I thought he must have." 

Louisa got a dust-pan and brush, and swept Joe Dagget's 
track carefully. 



6 A NEW ENGLAND NUN. 

If he could have known it, it would have increased his 
perplexity and uneasiness, although it would not have dis- 
turbed his loyalty in the least. He came twice a week to 
see Louisa Ellis, and every time, sitting there in her deli« 
cately sweet room, he felt as if surrounded by a hedge of 
lace. He was afraid to stir lest he should put a clumsy 
foot or hand through the 'airy web, and he had always the 
consciousness that Louisa /ao >vatching fearfully lest he 
should. 

Still the lace and Louisa commanded perforce his per- 
fect respect and patience and loyalty. They were to be 
married in a month, after a singular courtship which had 
lasted for a matter of fifteen years. For fourteen out of 
the fifteen years the two had not once seen each other, and 
they had seldom exchanged letters. Joe had been all those 
years in Australia, where he had gone to make his fortune, 
and where he had stayed until he made it. He would have 
stayed fifty years if it had taken so long, and come home 
feeble and tottering, or never come home at all, to marry 
Louisa. 

But the fortune had been made in the fourteen years, 
and he had come home now to marry the woman who had 
been patiently and unquestioningly waiting for him all that 
time. 

Shortly after they were engaged he had announced to 
Louisa his determination to strike out into new fields, and 
secure a competency before they should be married. She 
had listened and assented with the sweet serenity which 
never failed her, not even when her lover set forth on that 
long and uncertain journey. Joe, buoyed up as he was by 
his sturdy determination, broke down a little at the last, 
but Louisa kissed him with a mild blush, and said good-by. 



A NEW ENGLAND NUN, 7 

" It won't be for long,** poor Joe had said, huskily ; but 
it was for fourteen years. 

In that length of time much had happened. Louisa's 
mother and brother had died, and she was all alone in the 
world. But greatest happening of all — a subtle happening 
which both were too simple to understand — Louisa's feet 
had turned into a path, smooth maybe under a calm, serene 
sky, but so straight and unswerving that it could only meet 
a check at her grave, and so narrow that there was no room 
for any one at her side. 

Louisa's first emotion when Joe Dagget came home (he 
had not apprised her of his coming) was consternation, al- 
though she would not admit it to herself, and he never 
dreamed of it. Fifteen years ago she had been in love 
with him — at least she considered herself to be. Just at 
that time, gently acquiescing with and falling into the nat- 
ural drift of girlhood, she had seen marriage ahead as a 
reasonable feature and a probable desirability of life. She 
had listened with calm docility to her mother's views upon 
the subject. Her mother was remarkable for her cool 
sense and sweet, even temperament. She talked wisely to 
her daughter when Joe Dagget presented himself, and 
Louisa accepted him with no hesitation. He was the first 
lover she had ever had. 

She had been faithful to him all these years. She had 
never dreamed of the possibility of marrying any one else. 
Her life, especially for the last seven years, had been full 
of a pleasant peace, she had never felt discontented nor 
impatient over her lover's absence ; still she had always 
looked forward to his return and their marriage as the in- 
evitable conclusion of things. However, she had fallen 
»nto a way of placing it so far in the future that it was al- 



8 A NEW ENGLAND NUN. 

most equal to placing it over the boundaries of another 
life. 

When Joe came she had been expecting him, and ex- 
pecting to be married for fourteen years, but she was as 
much surprised and taken aback as if she had never 
thought of it. 

Joe's consternation came later. He eyed Louisa with 
an instant confirmation of his old admiration. She had 
changed but little. She still kept her pretty manner and 
soft grace, and was, he considered, every whit as attractive 
as ever. As for himself, his stent was done ; he had turned 
his face away from fortune-seeking, and the old winds of 
romance whistled as loud and sweet as ever through his 
ears. All the song which he had been wont to hear in 
them was Louisa ; he had for a long time a loyal be- 
lief that he heard it still, but finally it seemed to him that 
although the winds sang always that one song, it had an- 
other name. But for Louisa the wind had never more than 
murmured ; now it had gone down, and everything was still. 
She listened for a little while with half-wistful attention j 
then she turned quietly away and went to work on her 
wedding clothes. 

Joe had made some extensive and quite magnificent 
alterations in his house. It was the old homestead ; the 
newly-married couple would live there, for Joe could not 
desert his mother, who refused to leave her old home. 
So Louisa must leave hers. Every morning, rising and 
going about among her neat maidenly possessions, she felt 
as one looking her last upon the faces of dear friends. It 
was true that in a measure she could take them with her, but, 
robbed of their old environments, they would appear in such 
new guises that they would almost cease to be themselves. 



A NEW ENGLAND NUN, 9 

Then there were some peculiar features of her happy soli- 
tary life which she would probably be obliged to relinquish 
altogether. Sterner tasks than these graceful but half- 
needless ones would probably devolve upon her. There 
would be a large house to care for; there would be com- 
pany to entertain ; there would be Joe's rigorous and feeble 
old mother to wait upon ; and it would be contrary to all 
thrifty village traditions for her to keep more than one ser- 
vant. Louisa had a little still, and she used to occupy her- 
self pleasantly in summer weather with distilling the sweet 
and aromatic essences from roses and peppermint and spear- 
mint. By-and-by her still must be laid away. Her store of 
essences was already considerable, and there would be no 
time for her to distil for the mere pleasure of it. Then 
Joe's mother would think it foolishness ; she had already 
hinted her opinion in the matter. Louisa dearly loved to 
sew a linen seam, not always for use, but for the simple, 
mild pleasure which she took in it. She would have been 
loath to confess how more than once she had ripped a seam 
for the mere delight of sewing it together again. Sitting 
at her window during long sweet afternoons, drawing her 
needle gently through the dainty fabric, she was peace itself. 
But there was small chance of such foolish comfort in the 
future. Joe's mother, domineering, shrewd old matron that 
she was even in her old age, and very likely even Joe him* 
self, with his honest masculine rudeness, would laugh and 
frown down all these pretty but senseless old maiden ways. 
Louisa had almost the enthusiasm of an artist over the 
mere order and cleanliness of her solitary home. She had 
throbs of genuine triumph at the sight of the window-panes 
which she had polished until they shone like jewels. She 
gloated gently over her orderly bureau-drawers, with their 



L.,. 



lo A NEW ENGLAND NUN, 

exquisitely folded contents redolent with lavender and 
sweet clover and very purity. Could she be sure of the 
endurance of even this ? She had visions, so startling that 
she half repudiated them as indelicate, of coarse masculine 
belongings strewn about in endless litter ; of dust and dis- 
order arising necessarily from a coarse masculine presence 
in the midst of all this delicate harmony. 

Among her forebodings of disturbance, not the least \yas 
with regard to Caesar. Caesar was a veritable hermit of a 
dog. For the greater part of his life he had dwelt in his 
secluded hut, shut out from the society of his kind and all 
innocent canine joys. Never had Caesar since his early 
youth watched at a woodchuck's hole ; never had he known 
the delights of a stray bone at a neighbor's kitchen door. 
And it was all on account of a sin committed when hardly 
out of his puppyhood. No one knew the possible depth 
of remorse of which this mild-visaged, altogether innocent- 
Jooking old dog might be capable ; but whether or not he 
had encountered remorse, he had encountered a full meas- 
ure of righteous retribution. Old Caesar seldom lifted up 
his voice in a growl or a bark ; he was fat and sleepy \ 
there were yellow rings which looked like spectacles around 
his dim old eyes ; but there was a neighbor who bore on 
his hand the imprint of several of Caesar's sharp white 
youthful teeth, and for that he had lived at the end of a 
chain, all alone in a little hut, for fourteen years. The 
neighbor, who was choleric and smarting with the pain of 
his wound, had demanded either Caesar's death or complete 
ostracism. So Louisa's brother, to whom the dog had be- 
longed, had built him his little kennel and tied him up. 
It was now fourteen years since, in a flood of youthful 
spirits, he had inflicted that memorable bite, and with the 



A NEW ENGLAND NUN. H 

exception of short excursions, always at the end of the 
chain, under the strict guardianship of his master or Louisa, 
the old dog had remained a close prisoner. It is doubtful 
if, with his limited ambition, he took much pride in the fact, 
but it is certain that he was possessed of considerable 
cheap fame. He was regarded by all the children in the 
village and by many adults as a very monster of ferocity. 
St. George's dragon could hardly have surpassed in evil 
repute Louisa Ellis's old yellow dog. Mothers charged 
their children with solemn emphasis not to go too near to 
him, and the children listened and believed greedily, with a 
fascinated appetite for terror, and ran by Louisa's house 
stealthily, with many sidelong and backward glances at the 
terrible dog. If perchance he sounded a hoarse bark, 
there was a panic. Wayfarers chancing into Louisa's yard 
eyed him with respect, and inquired if the chain were stout. 
Caesar at large might have seemed a very ordinary dog, 
and excited no comment whatever; chained, his reputation 
overshadowed him, so that he lost his own proper outlines 
and looked darkly vague and enormous. Joe Dagget, 
however, with his good-humored sense and shrewdness, saw 
him as he was. He strode valiantly up to him and patted 
him on the head, in spite of Louisa's soft clamor of warn- 
ing, and even attempted to set him loose. Louisa grew so 
alarmed that he desisted, but kept announcing his opinion 
in the matter quite forcibly at intervals. "There ain't a 
better-natured dog in town," he would say, " and it's down- 
right cruel to keep him tied up there. Some day I'm going 
to take him out." 

Louisa had very little hope that he would not, one of 
these days, when their interests and possessions should be 
more completely fused in one. She pictured to herself 



12 A NEW ENGLAND NUN. 

Caesar on the rampage through the quiet and unguarded 

village. She saw innocent children bleeding in his path. 
She was herself very fond of the old dog, because he had 
belonged to her dead brother, and he was always very gentle 
with her; still she had great faith in his ferocity. She al- 
ways warned people not to go too near him. She fed hiro 
on ascetic fare of corn-mush and cakes, and never fired his 
dangerous temper with heating and sanguinary diet of flesh 
and bones. Louisa looked at the old dog munching his 
simple fare, and thought of her approaching marriage and 
trembled. Still no anticipation of disorder and confusion 
in lieu of sweet peace and harmony, no forebodings of 
Caesar on the rampage, no wild fluttering of her little yellow 
canary, were sufficient to turn her a hair's-breadth. Joe 
Dagget had been fond of her and working for her all these 
years. It was not for her, whatever came to pass, to prove 
untrue and break his heart. She put the exquisite little 
stitches into her wedding-garments, and the time went on 
until it was only a week before her wedding-day. It was a 
Tuesday evening, and the wedding was to be a week from 
Wednesday. 

There was a full moon that night. About nine o'clock 
Louisa strolled down the road a little way. There were 
harvest-fields on either hand, bordered by low stone walls. 
Luxuriant clumps of bushes grew beside the wall, and trees 
— wild cherry and old apple-trees — at intervals. Presently 
Louisa sat down on the wall and looked about her with 
mildly sorrowful reflectiveness. Tall shrubs of blueberry 
and meadow-sweet, all woven together and tangled with 
blackberry vines and horsebriers, shut her in on either 
side. She had a little clear space between them. Oppo- 
site her, on the other side of the road, was a spreading tree j 



A NEW ENGLAND NUN. I3 

the moon shone between its boughs, and the leaves twinkled 
like silver. The road was bespread with a beautiful shift- 
ing dapple of silver and shadow ; the air was full of a mys- 
terious sweetness. " I wonder if it's wild grapes ?" mur- 
mured Louisa. She sat there some time. She was just 
thinking of rising, when she heard footsteps and low voices, 
and remained quiet. It was a lonely place, and she felt a 
little timid. She thought she would keep still in the shadow 
and let the persons, whoever they might be, pass her. 

But just before they reached her the voices ceased, and 
the footsteps. She understood that their owners had also 
found seats upon the stone wall. She was wondering if 
she could not steal away unobserved, when the voice broke 
tht stillness. It was Joe Dagget's. She sat still and 
listened. 

The voice was announced by a loud sigh, which was as 
familiar as itself "Well," said Dagger, " you've made up 
your mind, then, I suppose ?" 

" Yes," returned another \foice ; " I'm going day after 
to-morrow." 

"That's Lily Dyer," thought Louisa to herself. The 
voice embodied itself in her mind. She saw a girl tall and 
full-figured, with a firm, fair face, looking fairer and firmer 
in the moonlight, her strong yellow hair braided in a close 
knot. A girl full of a calm rustic strength and bloom, with 
a masterful way which might have beseemed a princess. 
Lily Dyer >,ms a favorite with the village folk ; she had just 
the qualities to arouse the admiration. Shie was good and 
handsome and smart. Louisa had often heard her praises 
sounded. 

"Well," said Joe Dagget, " I ain't got a word to say." 

" I don't know what you could say," returned Lily Dyer. 



14 A NEW ENGLAND NUN. 

"Not a word to say," repeated Joe, drawing out the 
words heavily. Then there was a silence. " I ain't sorry,* 
he began at last, " that that happened yesterday — that we 
kind of let on how we felt to each other. I guess it's just as 
well we knew. Of course I can't do anything any different. 
I'm going right on an* get married next week. I ain't going 
back on a woman that's waited for me fourteen years, an' 
break her heart." 

" If you should jilt her to-morrow, I wouldn't have you," 
spoke up the girl, with sudden vehemence. 

" Well, I ain't going to give you the chance," said he ; 
" but I don't believe you would, either." 

" You'd see I wouldn't. Honor's honor, an' right's right. 
An' I'd never think anything of any man that went against 
em for me or any other girl ; you'd find that out, Joe Dagget." 

" Well, you'll find out fast enough that I ain't going 
against 'em for you or any other girl," returned he. Theii 
voices sounded almost as if they were angry with eacl 
other. Louisa was listening eagerly. 

" I'm sorry you feel as if you must go away," said Joe, 
"but I don't know but it's best." 

" Of course it's best. I hope you and I have got com- 
mon-sense." 

"Well, I suppose you're right." Suddenly Joe's voice 
got an undertone of tenderness. " Say, Lily," said he, " I'll 
get along well enough myself, but I can't bear to think — 
You don't suppose you're going to fret much over it?" 

" I guess you'll find out I sha'n't fret much over a mar- 
ried man." 

" Well, I hope you won't — I hope you won't, Lily. God 
knows I do. And — I hope — one of these days — you'll 
— come across somebody else — " 



A NEW ENGLAND NUN. 15 

•*I don't see any reason why I shouldn't." Suddenly 
her tone changed. She spoke in a sweet, clear voice, so 
loud that she could have been heard across the street. 
" No, Joe Dagget," said she, " I'll never marry any other 
man as long as I live. I've got good sense, an' I ain't 
going to break my heart nor make a fool of myself ; but I'm 
never going to be married, you can be sure of that. I ain't 
that sort of a girl to feel this way twice." 

Louisa heard an exclamation and a soft commotion be- 
hind the bushes ; then Lily spoke again — the voice sounded 
as if she had risen. "This must be put a stop to," said 
she. *' We've stayed here long enough. I'm going home." 

Louisa sat there in a daze, listening to their retreating 
steps. After a while she got up and slunk softly home 
herself. The next day she did her housework methodically ; 
that was as much a matter of course as breathing ; but she 
did not sew on her wedding-clothes. She sat at her win- 
dow and meditated. In the evening Joe came. Louisa 
Ellis had never known that she had any diplomacy in her, 
but when she came to look for it that night she found it, 
although meek of its kind, among her little feminine weap- 
ons. Even now she could hardly believe that she had 
heard aright, and that she would not do Joe a terrible in- 
jury should she break her troth-plight. She wanted to 
sound him without betraying too soon her own inclinations 
in the matter. She did it successfully, and they finally 
came to an understanding ; but it was a difficult thing, for 
he was as afraid of betraying himself as she. 

She never mentioned Lily Dyer. She simply said that 
while she had no cause of complaint against him, she had 
lived so long in one way that she shrank from making a 
change. 



1 6 A NEW ENGLAND NUN. 

"Well, I never shrank, Louisa," said Dagget. "I*m 
going to be honest enough to say that I think maybe it's 
better this way ; but if you'd wanted to keep on, I'd have 
stuck to you till my dying day. I hope you know that." 

" Yes, I do," said she. 

That night she and Joe parted more tenderly than they 
had done for a long time. Standing in the door, holding 
each other's hands, a last great wave of regretful memory 
swept over them. 

" Well, this ain't the way we've thought it was all going 
to end, is it, Louisa ?" said Joe. 

She shook her head. There was a little quiver on her 
placid face. 

" You let me know if there's ever anything I can do for 
you," said he. " I ain't ever going to forget you, Louisa." 
Then he kissed her, and went down the path. 

Louisa, all alone by herself that night, wept a little, she 
hardly knew why ; but the next morning, on waking, she 
felt like a queen who, after fearing lest her domain be 
wrested away from her, sees it firmly insured in her pos- 
session. 

Now the tall weeds and grasses might cluster around 
Caesar's little hermit hut, the snow might fall on its roof 
year in and year out, but he never would go on a rampage 
through the unguarded village. Now the little canary might 
turn itself into a peaceful yellow ball night after night, and 
have no need to wake and flutter with wild terror against 
its bars. Louisa could sew linen seams, and distil roses, 
and dust and polish and fold away in lavender, as long as 
she listed. That afternoon she sat with her needle-work at 
the window, and felt fairly steeped in peace. Lily Dyer, 
tall and erect and blooming, went past; but she felt no 



A NEW ENGLAND NUN. 1 7 

qualm. If Louisa Ellis had sold her birthright she did not 
know it. the taste of the pottage was so delicious, and had 
been her sole satisfaction for so long. Serenity and placid 
narrowness had become to her as the birthright itself. She 
gazed ahead through a long reach of future days strung to- 
gether like pearls in a rosary, every one like the others, 
and all smooth and flawless and innocent, and her heart 
went up in thankfulness. Outside was the fervid summer 
afternoon ; the air was filled with the sounds of the busy 
harvest of men and birds and bees; there were halloos, 
metallic clatterings, sweet calls, and long hummings. 
Louisa sat, prayerfully numbering her days, like an un- 
cloistered nun. 
2 



A VILLAGE SINGER. 

The trees were in full leaf, a heavy south wind was blow- 
ing, and there was a loud murmur among the new leaves. 
The people noticed it, for it was the first time that year that 
ihe trees had so murmured in the wind. The spring had 
come with a rush during the last few days. 

The murmur of the trees sounded loud in the village 
church, where the people sat waiting for the service to be- 
gin. The windows were open ; it was a very warm Sunday 
for May. 

The church was already filled with this soft sylvan music 
— the tender harmony of the leaves and the south wind, and 
the sweet, desultory whistles of birds — when the choir arose 
and began to sing. 

In the centre of the row of women singers stood Alma 
Way. All the people stared at her, and turned their ears 
critically. She was the new leading soprano. Candace 
Whitcomb, the old one, who had sung in the choir for forty 
years, had lately been given her dismissal. The audience 
considerec that her voice had grown too cracked and un- 
certain on the upper notes. There had been much com- 
plaint, and after long deliberation the church-officers had 
made known their decision as mildly as possible to the old 
singer. She had sung for the last time the Sunday before. 



A VILLAGE SINGER. 



19 



and Alma Way had been engaged to take her place. With 
the exception of the organist, the leading soprano was the 
only paid musician in the large choir. The salary was very 
modest, still the village people considered it large for a 
young woman. Alma was from the adjoining village of East 
Derby; she had quite a local reputation as a singer. 

Now she fixed her large solemn blue eyes ; her long, deli- 
cate face, which had been pretty, turned paler ; the blue 
flowers on her bonnet trembled ; her little thin gloved 
hands, clutching the singing-book, shook perceptibly; but 
she sang out bravely. That most formidable mountain- 
height of the world, self-distrust and timidity, arose before 
her, but her nerves were braced for its ascent. In the midst 
of the hymn she had a solo ; her voice rang out piercingly 
sweet; the people nodded admiringly at each other; but 
suddenly there was a stir ; all the faces turned toward the 
windows on the south side of the church. Above the din 
of the wind and the birds, above Alma Way's sweetly strain- 
ing tones, arose another female voice, singing another hymn 
to another tune. 

" It's her," the women whispered to each other; they were 
half aghast, half smiling. 

Candace Whitcomb's cottage stood close to the south side 
of the church. She was playing on her parlor organ, and 
singing, to drown out the voice of her rival. 

Alma caught her breath ; she almost stopped ; the hymn- 
book waved like a fan ; then she went on. But the long 
husky drone of the parlor organ and the shrill clamor of the 
other voice seemed louder than anything else. 

When the hymn was finished. Alma sat down. She felt 
faint; the woman next her slipped a peppermint into her 
hand. " It ain't worth minding," she whispered, vigorously. 



20 A VILLAGE SINGER. 

Alma tried to smile ; down in the audience a young man 
was watching her with a kind of fierce pity. 

In the last hymn Alma had another solo. Again the par- 
lor organ droned above the carefully delicate accompani- 
ment of the church organ, and again Candace Whitcomb's 
voice clamored forth in another tune. 

After the benediction, the other singers pressed around 
Alma. She did not say much in return for their expressions 
of indignation and sympathy. She wiped her eyes furtively 
once or twice, and tried to smile. William Emmons, the 
choir leader, elderly, stout, and smooth-faced, stood over 
her, and raised his voice. He was the old musical digni- 
tary of the village, the leader of the choral club and the 
singing-schools. "A most outrageous proceeding," he said. 
People had coupled his name with Candace Whitcomb's. 
The old bachelor tenor and old maiden soprano had been 
wont to walk together to her home next door after the Sat- 
urday night rehearsals, and they had sung duets to the par- 
lor organ. People had watched sharply her old face, on 
which the blushes of youth sat pitifully, when William Em- 
mons entered the singing- seats. They wondered if he 
would ever ask her to marry him. 

And now he said further to Alma Way that Candace 
Whitcomb's voice had failed utterly of late, that she sang 
shockingly, and ought to have had sense enough to know it. 

When Alma went down into the audience -room, in the 
midst of the chattering singers, who seemed to have de- 
scended, like birds, from song flights to chirps, the minister 
approached her. He had been waiting to speak to her. 
He was a steady-faced, fleshy old man, who had preached 
from that one pulpit over forty years. He told Alma, in his 
iicjvv way, how much he regretted the annoyance to which she 



A VILLAGE SINGER. 21 

had been subjected, and intimated that he would endeavor 
to prevent a recurrence of it. " Miss Whitcomb — must be — 
reasoned with," said he ; he had a slight hesitation of speech, 
not an impediment. It was as if his thoughts did not slide 
readily into his words, although botli were present. He 
walked down the aisle with Alma, and bade her good-morn- 
ing when he saw Wilson Ford waiting for her in the door- 
way. Everybody knew that Wilson Ford and Alma were 
lovers ; they had been for the last ten years. 

Alma colored softly, and made a little imperceptible mo- 
tion with her head ; her silk dress and the lace on her man- 
tle fluttered, but she did not speak. Neither did Wilson, 
although they had not met before that day They did not 
look at each other's faces — they seemed to see each other 
without that — and they walked along side by side. 

They reached the gate before Candace Whitcomb's little 
house. Wilson looked past the front yard, full of pink and 
white spikes on flowering bushes, at the lace-curtained win- 
dows ; a thin white profile, stiffly inclined, apparently over a 
book, was visible at one of them. Wilson gave his head a 
shake. He was a stout man, with features so strong that 
they overcame his flesh. " Fm going up home with you, 
Alma," said he ; " and then — Fm just coming back, to give 
Aunt Candace one blowing up." 

"Oh, don't, Wilson." 

" Yes, I shall. If you want to stand this kind of a thing 
you may ; I sha'n't." 

" There's no need of your talking to her. Mr. Pollard's 
going to." 

" Did he say he was ?" 

"Yes. I think he's going in before the afternoon meet- 
ing, from what he said." 



22 A VILLAGE SINGER, 

" Well, there^s one thing about it, if she does that thing 
again this afternoon, I'll go in there and break that old or- 
gan up into kindling-wood." Wilson set his mouth hard, 
and shook his head again. 

Alma gave little side glances up at him, her tone was 
deprecatory, but her face was full of soft smiles. " I sup- 
pose she does feel dreadfully about it," said she. " I can't 
help feeling kind of guilty, taking her place." 

*' I don't see how you're to blame. It's outrageous, her 
acting so." 

"The choir gave her a photograph album last week, 
didnUthey?" 

" Yes. They went there last Thursday night, and gave her 
an album and a surprise-party. She ought to behave herself" 

" Well, she's sung there so long, I suppose it must be 
dreadful hard for her to give it up," 

Other people going home from church were very near 
Wilson and Alma. She spoke softly that they might not 
hear ; he did not lower his voice in the least. Presently 
Alma stopped before a gate. 

*.' What are you stopping here for?" asked Wilson. 

" Minnie Lansing wanted me to come and stay with her 
this noon." 

" You're going home with me." 

"I'm afraid I'll put your mother out." 

" Put mother out ! I told her you were coming, this 
morning. She's got all ready for you. Come along j don't 
stand here." 

He did not tell Alma of the pugnacious spirit with which 
his mother had received the announcement of her coming, 
nnd how she had stayed at home to prepare the dinner, and 
make a parade of her hard work and her injury. 



A VILLAGE SINGER. 23 

Wilson's mother was the reason why he did not marry 
Alma. He would not take his wife home to live with her, 
and was unable to support separate establishments. Alma 
was willing enough to be married and put up with Wilson's 
mother, but she did not complain of his decision. Her deli- 
cate blond features grew sharper, and her blue eyes more 
hollow. She had had a certain fine prettiness, but now she 
was losing it, and beginning to look old, and there was 
a prim, angular, old maiden carriage about her narrow 
shoulders. 

Wilson never noticed it, and never thought of Alma as 
not possessed of eternal youth, or capable of losing or re- 
gretting it. 

" Come along, Alma," said he ; and she followed meekly 
after him down the street. 

Soon after they passed Candace Whitcomb's house, the 
minister went up the front walk and rang the bell. The 
pale profile at the window had never stirred as he opened 
the gate and came up the walk. However, the door was 
promptly opened, in response to his ring. "Good-morning, 
Miss Whitcomb," said the minister. 

" G^^^d^-morning." Candace gave a sweeping toss of her 
head as she spoke. There was a fierce upward curl to her 
thin nostrils and her lips, as if she scented an adversary. 
Her black eyes had two tiny cold sparks of fury in them, 
like an enraged bird's. She did not ask the minister to 
enter, but he stepped lumberingly into the entry, and she 
retreated rather than led the way into her little parlor. He 
settled into the great rocking-chair and wiped his face. 
Candace sat down again in her old place by the window. 
She was a tall woman, but very slender and full of pliable 
motions, like a blade of grass. 



24 



A VILLAGE SINGER. 



" It's a — very pleasant day," said the minister. 

Candace made no reply. She sat still, with her head 
drooping. The wind stirred the looped lace-curtains j a 
tall rose-tree outside the window waved ; soft shadows 
floated through the room. Candace's parlor organ stood in 
front of an open window that faced the church ; on the 
corner was a pitcher with a bunch of white lilacs. The whole 
room was scented with them. Presently the minister looked 
over at them and sniffed pleasantly. 

"You have — some beautiful — lilacs there." 

Candace did not speak. Every line of her slender figure 
looked flexible, but it was a flexibility more resistant than 
rigor. 

The minister looked at her. He filled up the great rock- 
ing-chair ; his arms in his shiny black coat-sleeves rested 
squarely and comfortably upon the hair-cloth arms of the 
chair. 

*' Well, Miss Whitcomb, I suppose I — may as well come 
to — the point. There was — a little — matter I wished to 
speak to you about. I don't suppose you were — at least I 
can't suppose you were — aware of it, but — this morning, 
during the singing by the choir, you played and — sung a lit- 
tle too — loud. That is, with — the windows open. It — dis- 
turbed us — a little. I hope you won't feel hurt — my dear 
Miss Candace, but I knew you would rather I would speak 
of it, for I knew — you would be more disturbed than any- 
body else at the idea of such a thing." 

Candace did not raise her eyes ; she looked as if his 
words might sway her through the window. " I ain't dis- 
turbed at it," said she. " I did it on purpose ; I meant to." 

The minister looked at her. 

" You needn't look at me. I know jest what I'm about. 



A VILLAGE SINGER. 35 

I sung the way I did on purpose, an' I'm goin' to do it again, 
an' I'd like to see you stop me. I guess I've got a right to 
set down to my own organ, an' sing a psalm tune on a Sab- 
bath day, 'f I want to; an' there ain't no amount of talkin' 
an' palaverin' a-goin' to stop me. See there !" Candace 
swung aside her skirts a little. " Look at that !" 

The minister looked. Candace's feet were resting on a 
large red-plush photograph album. 

" Makes a nice footstool, don't it .?" said she. 

The minister looked at the album, then at her ; there was 
a slowly gathering alarm in his face ; he began to think she 
was losing her reason. 

Candace had her eyes full upon him now, and her head 
up. She laughed, and her laugh was almost a snarl. " Yes ; 
I thought it would make a beautiful footstool," said she. 
"I've been wantin' one for some time." Her tone was full 
of vicious irony. 

" Why, miss — " began the minister; but she interrupted 
him : 

" I know what you're a-goin' to say, Mr. Pollard, an' now 
I'm goin' to have my say ; I'm a-goin' to speak. I want to 
know what you think of folks that pretend to be Christians 
treatin' anybody the way they've treated me t Here I've 
sung in those singin'-seats forty year. I 'ain't never missed 
a Sunday, except when I've been sick, an' I've gone an' sung 
a good many times when I'd better been in bed, an' now I'm 
turned out without a word of warnin'. My voice is jest as 
good as ever 'twas ; there can't anybody say it ain't. It 
wa'n't ever quite so high-pitched as that Way girl's, mebbe ; 
but she flats the whole durin' time. My voice is as good an' 
high to-day as it was twenty year ago ; an' if it wa'n't, I'd 
like to know where the Christianity comes in. I'd like to 



26 A VILLAGE SINGER, 

know if it wouldn't be more to the credit of folks in a church 
to keep an old singer an' an old minister, if they didn't sing 
an' hold forth quite so smart as they used to, ruther than 
turn 'em off an' hurt their feelin's. I guess it would be full 
as much to the glory of God. S'pose the singin' an' the 
preachin' wa'n't quite so good, what difference would it make ? 
Salvation don't hang on anybody's hittin' a high note, that 
I ever heard of. Folks are gettin' as high-steppin' an' 
fussy in a meetin'-house as they are in a tavern, nowadays. 
S'pose they should turn you off, Mr. Pollard, come an' give 
you a photograph album, an' tell you to clear out, how'd you 
like it ? I ain't findin' any fault with your preachin' ; it was 
always good enough to suit me ; but it don't stand to reason 
folks '11 be as took up with your sermons as when you was a 
young man. You can't expect it. S'pose they should turn 
you out in your old age, an' call in some young bob squirt, 
how'd you feel ? There's William Emmons, too ; he's three 
years older'n I am, if he does lead the choir an' run all the 
singin' in town. If my voice has gi'en out, it Stan's to rea- 
son his has. It ain't, though. William Emmons sings jest 
as Well as he ever did. Why don't they turn him out the 
way they have me, an' give him a photograph album ? I 
dun know but it would be a good idea to send everybody, 
as soon as they get a little old an' gone by, an' young folks 
begin to push, onto some desert island, an' give 'em each a 
photograph album. Then they can sit down an' look at 
pictures the rest of their days. Mebbe government '11 take 
it up. 

" There they come here last week Thursday, all the choir, 
jest about eight o'clock in the evenin', an' pretended they'd 
come to give me a nice little surprise. Surprise ! h'm ! 
Brought cake an' oranges, an' was jest as nice as they could 



A VILLAGE SINGER. 27 

be, an' I was real tickled. I never had a surprise-party be- 
fore in my life. Jenny Carr she played, an' they wanted me 
to sing alone, an' I never suspected a thing. I've been mad 
ever since to think what a fool I was, an' how they must 
have laughed in their sleeves. 

" When they'd gone I found this photograph album on the 
table, all done up as nice as you please, an' directed to Miss 
Candace Whitcomb from her many friends, an' I opened it, 
an' there was the letter inside givin' me notice to quit. 

" If they'd gone about it any decent way, told me right 
out honest that they'd got tired of me, an' wanted Alma 
Way to sing instead of me, I wouldn't minded so much ; I 
should have been hurt 'nough, for I'd felt as if some that 
had pretended to be my friends wa'n't ; but it wouldn't have 
been as bad as this. They said in the letter that they'd al- 
ways set great value on my services, an' it wa'n't from any 
lack of appreciation that they turned me off, but they thought 
the duty was gettin' a little too arduous for me. H'm ! I 
hadn't complained. If they'd turned me right out fair an' 
square, showed me the door, an' said, * Here, you get out,' 
but to go an' spill molasses, as it were, all over the thresh- 
old, tryin' to make me think it's all nice an' sweet — 

" I'd sent that photograph album back quick's I could 
pack it, but I didn't know who started it, so I've used it 
for a footstool. It's all it's good for, 'cordin' to my way 
of thinkin'. An' I ain't been particular to get the dust off 
my shoes before I used it neither." 

Mr. Pollard, the minister, sat staring. He did not look 
at Candace ; his eyes were fastened upon a point straight 
ahead. He had a look of helpless solidity, like a block of 
granite. This country minister, with his steady, even tem- 
perament, treading with heavy precision his one track for 



28 A VILLAGE SINGER. 

over forty years, having nothing new in his life except the 
new sameness of the seasons, and desiring nothing new, was 
incapable of understanding a woman like this, who had lived 
as quietly as he, and all the time held within herself the ele- 
ments of revolution. He could not account for such vio- 
lence, such extremes, except in a loss of reason. He had a 
conviction that Candace was getting beyond herself. He 
himself was not a typical New-Englander ; the national ele- 
ments of character were not pronounced in him. He was 
aghast and bewildered at this outbreak, which was tropical, 
and more than tropical, for a New England nature has a 
floodgate, and the power which it releases is an accumula- 
tion. Candace Whitcomb had been a quiet woman, so deli- 
cately resolute that the quality had been scarcely noticed in 
her, and her ambition had been unsuspected. Now the reso- 
lution and the ambition appeared raging over her whole 
self. 

She began to talk again. " I've made up my mind that 
I'm goin' to sing Sundays the way I did this mornin', an' I 
don't care what folks say," said she. *' I've made up my 
mind that I'm goin' to take matters into my own hands. 
I'm goin' to let folks see that I ain't trod down quite flat, 
that there's a little rise left in me. I ain't goin' to give up 
beat yet a while ; an' I'd like to see anybody stop me. If 
I ain't got a right to play a psalm tune on my organ an' 
sing, I'd like to know. If you don't like it, you can move 
the meetin'-house." 

Candace had had an inborn reverence for clergymen. She 
had always treated Mr. Pollard with the utmost deference. 
Indeed, her manner toward all men had been marked by a 
certain delicate stiffness and dignity. Now she was talking 
to the old minister with the homely freedom with which she 



A VILLAGE SINGER. 29 

might have addressed a female gossip over the back fence. 
He could not say much in return. He did not feel compe- 
tent to make headway against any such tide of passion ; all 
he could do was to let it beat against him. He made a few 
expostulations, which increased Candace's vehemence ; he 
expressed his regret over the whole affair, and suggested 
that they should kneel and ask the guidance of the Lord in 
the matter, that she might be led to see it all in a different 
light. 

Candace refused flatly. " I don't see any use prayin* 
about it," said she. " I don't think the Lord's got much to 
do with it, anyhow." 

It was almost time for the afternoon service when the 
minister left. He had missed his comfortable noontide rest, 
through this encounter with his revolutionary parishioner. 
After the minister had gone, Candace sat by the window 
and waited. The bell rang, and she watched the people 
file past. When her nephew Wilson Ford with Alma ap- 
peared, she grunted to herself. " She's thin as a rail," said 
she ; " guess there won't be much left of her by the time 
Wilson gets her. Little soft-spoken nippin' thing, she 
wouldn't make him no kind of a wife, anyway. Guess it's 
jest as well." 

When the bell had stopped tolling, and all the people en- 
tered the church, Candace went over to her organ atid 
seated herself She arranged a singing-book before her, 
and sat still, waiting. Her thin, colorless neck and temples 
were full of beating pulses ; her black eyes were bright and 
eager ; she leaned stiffly over toward the music-rack, to hear 
better. When the church organ sounded out she straight- 
ened herself; her long skinny fingers pressed her own organ- 
keys with nervous energy. She worked the pedals with all 



3© A VILLAGE SINGER. 

her strength ; all her slender body was in motion. When 
the first notes of Alma's solo began, Candace sang. She 
had really possessed a fine voice, and it was wonderful how 
little she had lost it. Straining her throat with jealous fury, 
her notes were still for the main part true. Her voice filled 
the whole room ; she sang wit'i wonderful fire and expres- 
sion. That, at least, mild little Alma Way could never emu- 
late. She was full of steadfastness and unquestioning 
constancy, but there were in her no smouldering fires of am- 
bition and resolution. Music was not to her what it had 
been to her older rival. To this obscure woman, kept re- 
lentlessly by circumstances in a narrow track, singing in the 
village choir had been as much as Italy was to Napoleon 
— and now on her island of exile she was still showing 
fight. 

After the church service was done, Candace left the or- 
gan and went over to her old chair by the window. Her 
knees felt weak, and shook under her. She sat down, and 
leaned back her head. There were red spots on her cheeks. 
Pretty soon she heard a quick slam of her gate, and an im- 
petuous tread on the gravel-walk. She looked up, and there 
was her nephew Wilson Ford hurrying up to the door. She 
cringed a little, then she settled herself more firmly in her 
chair. 

Wilson came into the room with a rush. He left the door 
open, and the wind slammed it to after him. 

" Aunt Candace, where are you ?" he called out, in a loud 
voice. 

She made no reply. He looked around fiercely, and his 
eyes seemed to pounce upon her. 

" Look here, Aunt Candace," said he, " are you crazy ?" 
Candace said nothing. " Aunt Candace !" She did not 



A VILLAGE SINGER, 31 

seem to see him. " If you don't answer me," said Wilson, 
" ril just go over there and pitch that old organ out of the 
window !" 

" Wilson Ford !" said Candace, in a voice that was almost 
a scream. 

" Well, what say ! What have you got to say for your- 
self, acting the way you have ? I tell you what 'tis, Aunt 
Candace, I won't stand it." 

" I'd like to see you help yourself." 

" I will help myself. I'll pitch that old organ out of the 
window, and then I'll board up the window on that side of 
your house. Then we'll see." 

" It ain't your house, and it won't never be." 

"Who said it was my house? You're my aunt, and I've 
got a little lookout for the credit of the family. Aunt Can- 
dace, what are you doing this way for ?" 

" It don't make no odds what I'm doin' so for. I ain't 
bound to give my reasons to a young fellar like you, if you 
do act so mighty toppin'. But I'll tell you one thing, Wilson 
Ford, after the way you've spoke to-day, you sha'n't never 
have one cent of my money, an' you can't never marry that 
Way girl if you don't have it. You can't never take her 
home to live with your mother, an' this house would have 
been mighty nice an' convenient for you some day. Now 
you won't get it. I'm goin' to make another will. I'd made 
one, if you did but know it. Now you won't get a cent of 
my money, you nor your mother neither. An' I ain't goin' 
to live a dreadful while longer, neither. Now I wish you'd 
go home ; I want to lay down. I'm 'bout sick." 

Wilson could not get another word from his aunt. His 
indignation had not in the least cooled. Her threat of dis- 
inheriting him did not cow him at all ; he had too much 



32 A VILLAGE SINGER. 

rough independence, and indeed his aunt Candace's house 
had always been too much of an air-castle for him to con- 
template seriously. Wilson, with his burly frame and his 
headlong common-sense, could have little to do with air- 
castles, had he been hard enough to build them over graves. 
Still, he had not admitted that he never could marry Alma. 
All his hopes were based upon a rise in his own fortunes, 
not by some sudden convulsion, but by his own long and 
steady labor. Some time, he thought, he should have saved 
enough for the two homes. 

He went out of his aunt's house still storming. She 
arose after the door had shut behind him, and got out into 
the kitchen. She thought that she would start a fire and 
make a cup of tea. She had not eaten anything all day. 
She put some kindling-wood into the stove and touched a 
match to it ; then she went back to the sitting-room, and settled 
down again into the chair by the window. The fire in the 
kitchen-stove roared, and the light wood was soon burned 
out. She thought no more about it. She had not put on 
the teakettle. Her head ached, and once in a while she 
shivered. She sat at the window while the afternoon waned 
and the dusk came on. At seven o'clock the meeting bell 
rang again, and the people flocked by. This time she did 
not stir. She had shut her parlor organ. She did not need 
to out-sing her rival this evening ; there was only congrega- 
tional singing at the Sunday-night prayer-meeting. 

She sat still until it was nearly time for meeting to be 
done ; her head ached harder and harder, and she shivered 
more. Finally she arose. " Guess I'll go to bed," she mut- 
tered. She went about the house, bent over and shaking, to 
lock the doors. She stood a minute in the back door, look- 
ing over the fields to the woods. There was a red light over 



A VILLAGE SINGER. 33 

there. "The woods are on fire," said Candace. She watched 
with a dull interest the flames roll up, withering and destroy- 
ing the tender green spring foliage. The air was full ol 
smoke, although the fire was half a mile away. 

Candace locked the door and went in. The trees with 
their delicate garlands of new leaves, with the new nests of 
song birds, might fall, she was in the roar of an intenser 
fire ; the growths of all her springs and the delicate wonted- 
ness of her whole life were going down in it. Candace went 
to bed in her little room off the parlor, but she could not 
sleep. She lay awake all night. In the morning she crawled 
to the door and hailed a little boy who was passing. She bade 
him go for the doctor as quickly as he could, then to Mrs. 
Ford's, and ask her to come over. She held on to the door 
while she was talking. The boy stood staring wonderingly 
at her. The spring wind fanned her face. She had drawn 
on a dress skirt and put her shawl over her shoulders, and 
her gray hair was blowing over her red cheeks. 

She shut the door and went back to her bed. She never 
arose from it again. The doctor and Mrs. Ford came and 
looked after her, and she lived a week. Nobody but herself 
thought until the very last that she would die ; the doctor 
called her illness merely a light run of fever ; she had her 
senses fully. 

But Candace gave up at the first. " It's my last sickness," 
she said to Mrs. Ford that morning when she first entered; 
and Mrs. Ford had laughed at the notion ; but the sick 
woman held to it. She did not seem to suffer much physi- 
cal pain ; she only grew weaker and weaker, but she was 
distressed mentally. She did not talk much, but her eyes 
followed everybody with an agonized expression. 

On Wednesday William Emmons came to inquire for her. 



34 A VILLAGE SINGER. 

Candace heard him out in the parlor. She tried to raise 
herself on one elbow that she might listen better to his 
voice. 

" William Emmons come in to ask how you was," Mrs. 
Ford said, after he was gone. 

" I — heard him," replied Candace. Presently she spoke 
again. "Nancy," said she, "where's that photograph 
album ?" 

" On the table," replied her sister, hesitatingly. 

" Mebbe — you'd better — brush it up a little." 

" Well." 

Sunday morning Candace wished that the minister should 
be asked to come in at the noon intermission. She had 
refused to see him before. He came and prayed with her, 
and she asked his forgiveness for the way she had spoken 
the Sunday before. " I — hadn't ought to — spoke so," said 
she. " I was — dreadful wrought up." 

" Perhaps it was your sickness coming on," said the min- 
ister, soothingly. 

Candace shook her head. " No — it wa'n't. I hope the 
Lord will — forgive me." 

After the minister had gone, Candace still appeared un- 
happy. Her pitiful eyes followed her sister everywhere with 
the mechanical persistency of a portrait. 

" What is it you want, Candance ?" Mrs. Ford said at last. 
She had nursed her sister faithfully, but once in a while her 
impatience showed itself. 

" Nancy !" 

" What say ?" 

" I wish — you'd go out when — meetin's done, an* — head 
off Alma an' Wilson, an' — ask 'em to come in. I feel as if — 
I'd like to — hear her sing." 



A VILLAGE SINGER. 35 

Mrs. Ford stared. " Well," said she. 

The meeting was now in session. The windows were all 
open, for it was another warm Sunday. Candace lay listen- 
ing to the music when it began, and a look of peace came 
over her face. Her sister had smoothed her hair back, and 
put on a clean cap. The white curtain in the bedroom 
window waved in the wind like a white sail. Candace al- 
most felt as if she were better, but the thought of death 
seemed easy. 

Mrs. Ford at the parlor window watched for the meeting 
to be out. When the people appeared, she ran down the 
walk and waited for Alma and Wilson. When they came 
sh-e told them what Candace wanted, and they all went in 
together, 

" Here's Alma an' Wilson, Candace," said Mrs. Ford, 
leading them to the bedroom door. 

Candace smiled. "Come in," she said, feebly. And 
Alma and Wilson entered and stood beside the bed. Can- 
dace continued to look at them, the smile straining her 
lips. 

" Wilson !" 

" What is it, Aunt Candace ?" 

"I ain't altered that— will. You an' Alma can — come 
here an' — live — when I'm — gone. Your mother won't mind 
livin' alone. Alma can have — all — my things." 

" Don't, Aunt Candace." Tears were running over Wil- 
son's cheeks, and Alma's delicate face was all of a quiver. 

'* I thought — maybe — Alma 'd be willin' to — sing for me," 
said Candace. 

" What do you want me to sing?" Alma asked, in a trem- 
bling voice. 

" * Jesus, lover of my soul.' '* 



36 ^ VILLAGE SINGER. 

Alma, standing there beside Wilson, began to sing. At 
first she could hardly control her voice, then she sang 
sweetly and clearly. 

Candace lay and listened. Her face had a holy and ra- 
diant expression. When Alma stopped singing it did not 
disappear, but she looked up and spoke, and it was like a 
secondary glimpse of the old shape of a forest tree through 
the smoke and flame of the transfiguring fire the instant 
before it falls. "You flatted a little on — soul," said Can- 
dace. 



A GALA DRESS. 

"I don't care anything about goin' to that Fourth ot 
July picnic, 'Liz'beth." 

" I wouldn't say anything more about it, if I was you, 
Em'ly. rd get ready an' go." 

" I don't really feel able to go, 'Liz'beth." 

" I'd like to know why you ain't able." 

" It seems to me as if the fire-crackers an' the tootin' on 
those horns would drive me crazy ; an' Matilda Jennings 
says they're goin' to have a cannon down there, an' fire it 
off every half-hour. I don't feel as if I could stan' it. You 
know my nerves ain't very strong, 'Liz'beth." 

Elizabeth Babcock uplifted her long, delicate nose with 
its transparent nostrils, and sniffed. Apparently her sister's 
perverseness had an unacceptable odor to her. " I wouldn't 
talk so if I was you, Em'ly. Of course you're goin'. It's 
your turn to, an' you know it. I went to meetin' last Sab- 
bath. You just put on that dress an' go." 

Emily eyed her sister. She tried not to look pleased. 
"I know you went to meetin' last," said she, hesitatingly; 
"but — a Fourth of July picnic is — a little more of — a rarity.* 
She fairly jumped, her sister confronted her with such sud- 
den vigor. 

"Rarity? Well, I hope a Fourth of July picnic ain't 



38 A GALA DRESS. 

quite such a treat to me that I'd ruther go to it than meet- 
in' I I should think you'd be ashamed of yourself speakin' 
so, Em'ly Babcock." 

Emily, a moment before delicately alert and nervous like 
her sister, shrank limply in her limp black muslin. " I — 
didn't think how it sounded, 'Liz'beth." 

" Well, I should say you'd better think. It don't sound 
very becomin' for a woman of your age, an' professin' what 
you do. Now you'd better go an' get out that dress, an' rip 
the velvet off, an' sew the lace on. There won't be any too 
much time. They'll start early in the mornin'. I'll stir up 
a cake for you to carry, when I get tea." 

" Don't you s'pose I could get along without a cake ?** 
Emily ventured, tremulously. 

" Well, I shouldn't think you'd want to go, an' be be- 
holden to other folks for your eatin' ; I shouldn't." 

"I shouldn't want anything to eat." 

" I guess if you go, you're goin' like other folks. I ain't 
goin' to have Matilda Jenningrs peekin' an' pryin' an' tellin' 
things, if I know it. You'd better get out that dress." 

" Well," said Emily, with a long sigh of remorseful satis- 
faction. She arose, showing a height that would have ap- 
proached the majestic had it not been so wavering. The 
sisters were about the same height, but Elizabeth usually 
impressed people as being the taller. She carried herself 
with so much decision that she seemed to keep every inch 
of her stature firm and taut, old woman although she was. 

"Let's see that dress a minute," she said, when Emily 
returned. She wiped her spectacles, set them firmly, and 
began examining the hem of the dress, holding it close to 
her eyes. "You're gettin' of it all tagged out," she de- 
clared, presently " I thought you was. I thought I see 



i 



A GALA DRESS. 39 

some ravellin's hangin* the other day when I had it on. 
It's jest because you don't stan' up straight. It ain't any 
longer for you than it is for me, if you didn't go all bent 
over so. There ain't any need of it." 

Emily oscillated wearily over her sister and the dress. 
" I ain't very strong in my back, an' you know I've got a 
weakness in my stomach that henders me from standin' up 
as straight as you do," she rejoined, rallying herself for a 
feeble defence. 

'* You can stan' up jest as well as I can, if you're a 
mind to." 

" I'll rip that velvet off now, if you'll let me have the 
dress, 'Liz'beth." 

Elizabeth passed over the dress, handling it gingerly. 
"Mind you don't cut it rippin' of it off," said she. 

Emily sat down, and the dress lay in shiny black billows 
over her lap. The dress was black silk, and had been in 
its day very soft and heavy ; even now there was consider- 
able wear left in it. The waist and over-skirt were trimmed 
with black velvet ribbon. Emily ripped off the velvet ; then 
she sewed on some old-fashioned, straight-edged black lace 
full of little embroidered sprigs. The sisters sat in their 
parlor at the right of the front door. The room was very 
warm, for there were two west windows, and a hot after- 
noon sun was beating upon them. Out in front of the 
house was a piazza, with a cool uneven brick floor, and a 
thick lilac growth across the western end. The sisters 
might have sat there and been comfortable, but they would 
not. 

" Set right out in the face an' eyes of all the neighbors !" 
they would have exclaimed with dismay had the idea been 
suggested. There was about these old women and all their 



40 A GALA DRESS. 

n 
belongings a certain ^ntl'e and deprecatory reticence. One 
felt it immediately upon entering their house, or indeed 
upon coming in sight of it. There were never any heads 
at the windows ; the blinds were usually closed. Once in 
a while a passer-by might see an old woman, well shielded 
by shawl and scooping sun-bonnet, start up like a timid 
spirit in the yard, and softly disappear through a crack in 
the front door. Out in the front yard Emily had a little 
bed of flowers — of balsams and nasturtiums and portu- 
lacas ; she tended them with furtive glances toward the 
road. Elizabeth came out in the early morning to sweep 
the brick floor of the piazza, and the front door was left 
ajar for a hurried flitting should any one appear. 

This excessive shyness and secrecy had almost the as- 
pect of guilt, but no more guileless and upright persons 
could have been imagined than these two old women. 
They had over their parlor windov/s full, softly-falling, old 
muslin curtains, and they looped them back to leave bare 
the smallest possible space of glass. The parlor chairs re- 
treated close to the walls, the polish of the parlor table lit 
up a dim corner. There were very few ornaments in sight ; 
the walls were full of closets and little cupboards, and in 
them all superfluities were tucked away to protect them 
from dust and prying eyes. Never a door in the house 
stood open, every bureau drawer was squarely shut. A 
whole family of skeletons might have been well hidden in 
these guarded recesses ; but skeletons there were none, ex- 
cept, perhaps, a little innocent bone or two of old-womanly 
pride and sensitiveness. 

The Babcock sisters guarded nothing more jealously 
than the privacy of their meals. The neighbors considered 
that there was a decided reason for this. " The Babcock 



A GALA DRESS. 



41 



girls have so little to eat that they're ashamed to let folks 
see it," people said. It was certain that the old womei 
regarded intrusion at their meals as an insult, but it wau 
doubtful if they would not have done so had their table 
been set out with all the luxuries of the season instead of 
scanty bread and butter and no sauce. No sauce for tea 
was regarded as very poor living by the village women. 

To-night the Babcocks had tea very soon after the lace 
was sewed on the dress. They always had tea early. 
They were in the midst of it when the front-door opened, 
and a voice was heard calling out in the hall. 

The sisters cast a dismayed and indignant look at each 
other ; they both arose ; but the door flew open, and their 
little square tea-table, with its green-and-white china pot of 
weak tea, its plate of bread and little glass dish of butter, 
its two china cups, and thin silver teaspoons, was displayed 
to view. 

" My !" cried the visitor, with a little backward shuffle. 
" I do hope you'll sense me ! I didn't know you was eatin* 
supper. I wouldn't ha' come in for the world if I'd known. 
I'll go right out ; it wa'n't anything pertickler, anyhow." 
All the time her sharp and comprehensive gaze was on the 
tea-table. She counted the slices of bread, she measured 
the butter, as she talked. The sisters stepped forward with 
dignity. 

" Come into the other room," said Elizabeth ; and the 
visitor, still protesting, with her backward eyes upon the 
tea-table, gave way before her. 

But her eyes lighted upon something in the parlor more 
eagerly than they had upon that frugal and exclusive table. 
The sisters glanced at each other in dismay. The black 
silk dress lay over a chair. The caller, who was their 



42 



A GALA DRESS. 



neighbor Matilda Jennings, edged toward it as she talked. 
" I thought I'd jest run over an' see if you wa'n't goin' to 
the picnic to-morrow," she was saying. Then she clutched 
the dress and diverged. "Oh, you've been fixin' yout 
dress !" she said to Emily, with innocent insinuation. In- 
sinuation did not sit well upon Matilda Jennings, none of 
her bodily lines were adapted to it, and the pretence was 
quite evident. She was short and stout, with a hard, sal- 
low rotundity of cheek, her small black eyes were bright- 
pointed under fleshy brows. 

"Yes, I have," replied Emily, with a scared glance at 
Elizabeth. 

" Yes," said Elizabeth, stepping firmly into the subject, 
and confronting Matilda with prim and resolute blue eyes. 
" She has been fixin' of it. The lace was ripped off, an* 
she had to mend it." 

" It's pretty lace, ain't it } I had some of the same kind 
on a mantilla once when I was a girl. This makes me 
think of it. The sprigs in mine was set a little closer. Let 
me see, 'Liz'beth, your black silk dress is trimmed with vel- 
vet, ain't it ?" 

Elizabeth surveyed her calmly. "Yes; I've always worn 
black velvet on it," said she. 

Emily sighed faintly. She had feared that Elizabeth 
could not answer desirably and be truthful. 

"Let me see," continued Matilda, "how was that velvet 
put on your waist .'"' 

" It was put on peaked." 

" In one peak or two ?" 

"One." 

" Now I wonder if it would be too much trouble for you 
jest to let me see it a minute. I've been thinkin' of fixin' 



A GALA DRESS. 43 

over my old alpaca a little, an' I've got a piece of black 
velvet ribbon I've steamed over, an' it looks pretty good. 
I thought mebbe I could put it on like yours." 

Matilda Jennings, in her chocolate calico, stood as re- 
lentlessly as any executioner before the Babcock sisters. 
They, slim and delicate and pale in their flabby black mus- 
lins, leaned toward each other, then Elizabeth straightened 
herself. " Some time when it's convenient I'd )est as soon 
show it as not," said she. 

" Well, I'd be much obleeged to you if you would," re- 
turned Matilda. Her manner was a trifle overawed, but 
there was a sharper gleam in her eyes. Pretty soon she 
went home, and ate her solitary and substantial supper of 
bread and butter, cold potatoes, and pork and beans. Ma- 
tilda Jennings was as poor as the Babcocks. She had never, 
like them, known better days. She had never possessed 
any fine old muslins nor black silks in her life, but she had 
always eaten more. 

The Babcocks had always delicately and unobtrusively 
felt themselves above her. There had been in their lives a 
faint savor of gentility and aristocracy Their father had 
been college-educated and a doctor. Matilda's antecedents 
had been humble, even in this humble community. She 
had come of wood sawyers and garden-laborers. In their 
youth, when they had gone to school and played together, 
they had always realized their height above Matilda, and 
even old age and poverty and a certain friendliness could 
not do away with it. 

The Babcocks owned their house and a tiny sum in the 
bank, upon the mterest of which they lived. Nobody knew 
how much it was, nobody would ever know while they lived. 
They might have had more if they would have sold or mort- 



44 



A GALA DRESS. 



gaged their house, but they would have died first. They 
starvea daintily and patiently on their little income. They 
mended their old muslins and Thibets, and wore one dress 
between them for best, taking turns in going out. 

It seemed inconsistent, but the sisters were very fond of 
society, and their reserve did <iot interfere with their pleas* 
ure in the simple village outings. They were more at ease 
abroad than at home, perhaps because there were not pres* 
ent so many doors which could be opened into their secrecy. 
But they had an arbitrary conviction that their claims to 
respect and consideration would be forever forfeited should 
they appear on state occasions m anything but black silk. 
To their notions of etiquette, black silk was as sacr2d a 
necessity as feathers at the English court. They could not 
go abroad and feel any self-respect in those flimsy muslins 
and rusty woollens, which were very flimsy and rusty. The 
old persons in the village could hardly remember when the 
Babcocks had a new dress. The damty care with which 
they had made those tender old fabrics endure so long was 
wonderful. They held up their skirts primly when they 
walked ; they kept their pointed elbows clear of chairs and 
tables. The black silk in particular was taken off the min- 
ute its wearer entered her own house. It was shaken soft- 
ly, folded, and laid away in a linen sheet. 

Emily was dressed in it on the Fourth of July morning 
when Matilda Jennings called for her. Matilda came in 
her voluminous old alpac i, with her tin lunch-pail on her 
arm. She looked at Emily in the black silk, and her coun- 
tenance changed. " My ! you ain^t goin' to wear that black 
silk trailin' round in the woods, are you ?" said she. 

" I guess she won't trail around much," spoke up Eliza* 
beth. " She's got to go lookin' decent." 



A GALA DRESS. 45 

Matilda's poor old alpaca had many a threadbare streak 
and mended slit m its rusty folds, the elbows were patched, 
it was hardly respectable. But she gave the skirt a defiant 
switch, and jerked the patched elbows. " Well, I allers be- 
lieved in goin' dressed suitable for the occasion," said she, 
sturdily, and as if that was her especial picnic costume out 
of a large wardrobe. However, her bravado was not deep>- 
ly seated, all day long she manoeuvred to keep her patches 
and darns out of sight, she arranged the skirt nervously 
every time she changed her position, she held her elbows 
close to her sides, and she made many little flings at Emily's 
black silk. 

The festivities were nearly over, the dinner had been 
eaten, Matilda had devoured with relish her brown-bread 
and cheese and cold pork, and Emily had nibbled daintily 
at her sweet-cake, and glanced with inward loathing at her 
neighbor's grosser fare. The speeches by the local celebri- 
ties were delivered, the cannon had been fired every half- 
hour, the sun was getting low in the west, and a golden 
mist was rising among the ferny undergrowth in the grove. 
"It's gettin' damp, I can see it risin'," said Emily, who 
was rheumatic , " I guess we'd better walk 'round a little, 
an' then go home." 

" Well," replied Matilda, " I'd jest as soon. You'd bet- 
ter hold up your dress." 

The two old women adjusted themselves stiffly upon their 
feet, and began ranging the grove, stepping warily over the 
slippery pine-needles. The woods were full of merry calls ; 
the green distances fluttered with light draperies. Every 
little while came the sharp bang of a fire-cracker, the crash 
of cannon, or the melancholy hoot of a fish-horn. Now 
and then blue gunpowder smoke curled up with the golden 



46 A GALA DRESS. 

Steam from the dewy ground. Emily was near-sighted; 
she moved on with innocently peering eyes, her long neck 
craned forward. Matilda had been taking the lead, but 
she suddenly stepped aside. Emily walked on unsuspect- 
ingly, holding up her precious black silk. There was a 
quick puff of smoke, a leap of flame, a volley of vicious lit- 
tle reports, and poor Emily Babcock danced as a martyr at 
her fiery trial might have done ; her gentle dignity com- 
pletely deserted her. " Oh, oh, oh !" she shrieked. 

Matilda Jennings pushed forward \ by that time Emily 
was standing, pale and quivering, on a little heap of ashes. 
" You stepped into a nest of fire-crackers," said Matilda ; 
" a boy jest run ; I saw him. What made you stan' there 
in 'em ? Why didn't you get out ?" 

"I — couldn't," gasped Emily; she could hardly speak. 

" Well, I guess it ain't done much harm ; them boys 
ought to be prosecuted. You don't feel as if you was burned 
anywhere, do you, Em'ly ?" 

" No — I guess not." 

" Seems to me your dress — Jest let me look at your 
dress, Em'ly. My ! ain't that a wicked shame ! Jest look 
at all them holes, right in the flouncin', where it '11 show !" 

It was too true. The flounce that garnished the bottom 
of the black silk was scorched in a number of places. Emily 
looked at it and felt faint. " I must go right home," she 
moaned. " Oh, dear !" 

" Mebbe you can darn it, if you're real pertickler about 
it," said Matilda, with an uneasy air. 

Emily said nothing ; she went home. Her dress switched 
the dust off the wayside weeds, but she paid no attention to 
it ; she walked so fast that Matilda could hardly keep up 
with her. When she reached her own gate she swung it 



A GALA DRESS. 47 

swiftly to before Matilda's face, then she fled into the 
house. 

Elizabeth came to the parlor door with a letter in her 
hand. She cried out, when she saw her sister's face, 
" What is the matter, Em'ly, for pity sakes ?" 

" You can't never go out again, 'Liz'beth ; you can't ! 
you can't !" 

" Why can't I go out, I'd like to know ? What do you 
mean, Em'ly Babcock ?" 

"You can't, you never can again. I stepped into some 
fire-crackers, an' I've burned some great holes right in the 
flouncin'. You can't never wear it without folks knowin'. 
Matilda Jennings will tell. Oh, 'Liz'beth, what will you 
do?" 

" Do r said Elizabeth. " Well, I hope I ain't so set on 
goin' out at my time of life as all that comes to. Let's see 
it. H'm, I can mend that." 

"No, you can't. Matilda would see it if you did. Oh, 
dear ! oh, dear !" Emily dropped into a corner and put 
her slim hands over her face. 

" Do stop actin' so," said her sister. " I've jest had a 
letter, an' Aunt 'Liz'beth is dead." 

After a little Emily looked up. "When did she die.^" 
she asked, in a despairing voice. 

" Last week." 

" Did they ask us to the funeral ?" 

" Of course they did ; it was last Friday, at two o'clock 
in the afternoon. They knew the letter couldn't get to us 
till after the funeral ; but of course they'd ask us." 

"What did they say the matter was?" 

" Old age, I guess, as much as anything. Aunt Xiz beth 
was a good deal over eighty." 



48 A GALA DRESS, 

Emily sat reflectively ; she seemed to be listening while 
her sister related more at length the contents of the letter. 
Suddenly she interrupted. " 'Liz'beth." 

" Well r 

"I was thinkin', 'Liz'beth — you know those crape veils 
we wore when mother died?" 

" Well, what of 'em ?" 

" I — don't see why — you couldn't — make a flounce of 
those veils, an' put on this dress when you wore it ; then 
she wouldn't know." 

" I'd like to know what I'd wear a crape flounce for?" 

" Why, mournin' for Aunt 'Liz'beth." 

" Em'ly Babcock, what sense would there be in my wear- 
in' mournin' when you didn't?" 

"You was named for her, an' it's a very different thing. 
You can jest tell folks that you was named for your aunt 
that jest died, an' you felt as if you ought to wear a little 
crape on your best dress." 

" It '11 be an awful job to put on a diff*erent flounce every 
time we wear it." 

"I'll do it ; I'm perfectly wilUn' to do it. Oh, 'Liz'beth, 
I shall die if you ever go out again an' wear that dress." 

" For pity sakes, don't, Em'ly ! I'll get out those veils 
after supper an' look at 'em." 

The next Sunday Elizabeth wore the black silk garnished 
with a crape flounce to church. Matilda Jennings walked 
home with her, and eyed the new trimming sharply. "Got 
a new flounce, ain't you ?" said she, finally. 

"I had word last week that my aunt 'Liz'beth Taylor 
was dead, an' I thought it wa'n't anything more'n fittin' 
that I should put on a little crape," replied Elizaoeth, with 
dignity. 






A GALA DRESS, 49 

"Has Em'ly put on mournin' too?" 

" Em'ly ain't any call to. She wa'n't named after her, 
as I was, an' she never saw her but once, when she was a 
little girl. It ain't more'n ten year since I saw her. She 
lived out West. I didn't feel as if Em'ly had any call to 
wear crape." 

Matilda said no more, but there was unquelled suspicion 
in her eye as they parted at the Babcock gate. 

The next week a trunk full of Aunt Elizabeth Taylor's 
clothes arrived from the West. Her daughter had sent 
them. There was in the trunk a goodly store of old wom- 
an's finery, two black silks among the other gowns. Aunt 
Elizabeth had been a dressy old lady, although she died in 
her eighties. It was a great surprise to the sisters. They 
had never dreamed of such a thing. They palpitated with 
awe and delight as they took out the treasures. Emily 
clutched Elizabeth, the thin hand closing around the thin 
arm. 

" 'Liz'beth !" 

"What is it?'* 

" We — won't say — anything about this to anybody. We'll 
jest go together to meetin' next Sabbath, an' wear these 
black silks, an' let Matilda yennings j<f<?." 

Elizabeth looked at Emily. A gleam came into her dim 
blue eyes ; she tightened her thin lips. " Well^ we will" 
said she. 

The following Sunday the sisters wore the black silks to 
church. During the week they appeared together at a sew- 
ing meeting, then at church again. The wonder and curios- 
ity were certainly not confined to Matilda Jennings. The 
eccentricity which the Babcock sisters displayed in not go- 
ing into society together had long been a favorite topic in 
4 



5© A GALA DRESS. 

the town. There had been a great deal of speculation over 
it. Now that they had appeared together three consecutive 
times, there was much talk. 

On the Monday following the second Sunday Matilda 
Jennings went down to the Babcock house. Her cape- 
bonnet was on one-sided, but it was firmly tied. She 
opened the door softly, when her old muscles were strain- 
ing forward to jerk the latch. She sat gently down in the 
proffered chair, and displayed quite openly a worn place 
over the knees in her calico gown. 

" We had a pleasant Sabbath yesterday, didn't we ?" said 
she. 

" Real pleasant," assented the sisters. 

" I thought we had a good discourse.'* 

The Babcocks assented again. 

"I heerd a good many say they thought it was a good 
discourse," repeated Matilda, like an emphatic chorus. 
Then she suddenly leaned forward, and her face, in the 
depths of her awry bonnet, twisted into a benevolent smile. 
" I was real glad to see you out together," she whispered, 
with meaning emphasis. 

The sisters smiled stiffly. 

Matilda paused for a moment ; she drew herself back, as 
if to gather strength for a thrust ; she stopped smiling. " I 
was glad to see you out together, for I thought it was too 
bad the way folks was talkin'," she said. 

Elizabeth looked at her. " How were they talkin' ?" 

"Well, I don' know as there's any harm in my tellin' 
you. I've been thinkin' mebbe I ought to for some time. 
It's been round consider'ble lately that you an' Em'ly 
didn't get along well, an' that was the reason you didn't go 
out more together. I told 'em I hadn't no idea 'twas so, 



A GALA DRESS. 51 

though, of course, I couldn't really tell. I was real glad to 
see you out together, 'cause there's never any knowin' how 
folks do get along, an' 1 was real glad to see you'd settled 
it if there had been any trouble." 

''There ain't been any trouble." 

" Well, I'm glad if there ain't been any, an' if there has, 
I'm glad to see it settled, an' I know other folks will be 
too." 

Elizabeth stood up. " If you want to know the reason 
why we haven't been out together, I'll tell you," said she. 
"You've been tryin' to find out things every way you could, 
an' now I'll tell you. You've drove me to it. We had just 
one decent dress between us, an' Em'ly an' me took turns 
wearin' it, an' Em'ly used to wear lace on it, an' I used to 
rip off the lace an' sew on black velvet when I wore it, so 
folks shouldn't know it was the same dress. Em'ly an' me 
never had a word in our lives, an' it's a wicked lie for folks 
to say we have." 

Emily was softly weeping in her handkerchief; there was 
not a tear in Elizabeth's eyes ; there were bright spots on 
her cheeks, and her slim height overhung Matilda Jennings 
imposingly. 

*' My aunt 'Liz'beth, that I was named for, died two or 
three weeks ago," she continued, " an' they sent us a trunk 
full of her clothes, an* there was two decent dresses among 
'em, an' that's the reason why Em'ly an' me have been out 
together sence. Now, Matilda Jennings, you have found 
out the whole story, an' I hope you're satisfied." 

Now that the detective instinct and the craving inquisi- 
tiveness which were so strong in this old woman were satis- 
fied, she should have been more jubilant than she was. She 
had suspected what nobody else in town had suspected : 



5» 



A GALA DRESS. 



she had verified her suspicion, and discovered what the 
secrecy and pride of the sisters had concealed from the 
whole village, still she looked uneasy and subdued. "I 
sha'n't tell anybody," said she. 

"You can tell nobody you're a mind to." 

"I sha'n't tell nobody." Matilda Jennings arose; she 
had passed the parlor door, when she faced about. "I 
s'pose I kinder begretched you that black silk," said she, 
"or I shouldn't have cared so much about findin' out. I 
never had a black silk myself, nor any of my folks that I 
ever heard of. I ain't got nothin' decent to wear any- 
way." 

There was a moment's silence. " We sha'n't lay up any- 
thing," said Elizabeth then, and Emily sobbed responsively. 
Matilda passed on, and opened the outer door. Elizabeth 
whispered to her sister, and Emily nodded, eagerly. " You 
tell her," said she. 

" Matilda," called Elizabeth. Matilda looked back. " I 
was jest goin' to say that, if you wouldn't resent it, it got 
burned some, but we mended it nice, that you was perfectly 
welcome to that — black silk. Em'ly an' me don't really 
need it, and we'd be glad to have you have it." 

There were tears in Matilda Jennings's black eyes, but 
she held them unwinkingly. "Thank ye," she said, in a 
gruff voice, and stepped along over the piazza, down the 
steps. She reached Emily's flower garden. The peppery 
sweetness of the nasturtiums came up in her face ; it was 
quite early in the day, and the portulacas were still out in 
a splendid field of crimson and yellow. Matilda turned 
about, her broad foot just cleared a yellow portulaca which 
had straggled into the path, but she did not notice it. The 
homely old figure pushed past the flowers and into the house 



A GALA DRESS. jj 

again. She stood before Elizabeth and Emily. "Look 
here," said she, with a fine light struggling out of her coarse 
old face, "1 want to tell you — I see tfum Jirc-crackirs a-sit- 
zUtn' before Em'ly stepped in '««,'* 



THE TWELFTH GUEST. 

" I don't see how it happened, for my part," Mrs, Childs 
said. " Paulina, you set the table." 

" You counted up yesterday how many there'd be, and 
you said twelve ; don't you know you did, mother ? So I 
didn't count to-day. I just put on the plates," said Paulina, 
smilingly defensive. 

Paulina had something of a helpless and gentle look when 
she smiled. Her mouth was rather large, and the upper 
jaw full, so the smile seemed hardly under her control. 
She was quite pretty ; her complexion was so delicate and 
her eyes so pleasant. 

"Well, I don't see how I made such a blunder," her 
mother remarked further, as she went on pouring the tea. 

On the opposite side of the table were a plate, a knife 
and fork, and a little dish of cranberry sauce, with an empty 
chair before them. There was no guest to fill it. 

" It's a sign somebody's comin' that's hungry," Mrs. 
Childs' brother's wife said, with soft effusiveness which was 
out of proportion to the words. 

The brother was carving the turkey. Caleb Childs, the 
host, was an old man, and his hands trembled. Moreover, 
no one, he himself least of all, ever had any confidence in 
his ability in such directions. Whenever he helped him- 



I 



THE TWELFTH GUEST. 55 

self to gravy, his wife watched anxiously lest he should spil'i 
it, and he always did. He spilled some to-day. There 
was a great spot on the beautiful clean table-cloth. Caleb 
set his cup and saucer over it quickly, with a little clatter 
because of his unsteady hand. Then he looked at his wife. 
He hoped she had not seen, but she had. 

" You'd better have let John give you the gravy," she 
said, in a stern aside. 

John, rigidly solicitous, bent over the turkey. He carved 
slowly and laboriously, but everybody had faith in him. 
The shoulders to which a burden is shifted have the credit 
of being strong. His wife, in her best black dress, sat 
smilingly, with her head canted a little to one side. It was 
a way she had when visiting. Ordinarily she did not as- 
sume it at her sister-in-law's house, but this was an extra 
occasion. Her fine manners spread their wings involun- 
tarily. When she spoke about the sign, the young woman 
next her sniffed. 

" I don't take any stock in signs," said she, with a blunt- 
ness which seemed to crash through the other's airiness 
with such force as to almost hurt itself. She was a distant 
cousin of Mr. Childs. Her husband and three children 
were with her. 

Mrs. Childs' unmarried sister, Maria Stone, made up the 
eleven at the table. Maria's gaunt face was unhealthily 
red about the pointed nose and the high cheek-bones ; 
her eyes looked with a steady sharpness through her spec- 
tacles. 

" Well, it will be time enough to believe the sign when 
the twelfth one comes," said she, with a summary air. She 
had a judicial way of speaking. She had taught school 
ever since she was sixteen, and now she was sixty. She 



56 THE TWELFTH GUEST. 

had just given up teaching. It was to celebrate that, and 
her final home-coming, that her sister was giving a Christ- 
mas dinner instead of a Thanksgiving one this year. The 
school had been m session during Thanksgiving week. 

Maria Stone had scarcely spoken when there was a knock 
on the outer door, which led directly into the room. They 
all started. They were a plain, unimaginative company, 
but for some reason a thrill of superstitious and fantastic 
expectation ran through them. No one arose. They were 
all silent for a moment, listening and looking at the empty 
chair in their midst. Then the knock came again. 

" Go to the door, Paulina," said her mother. 

The young girl looked at her half fearfully, but she rose 
at once, and went and opened the door. Everybody 
stretched around to see. A girl stood on the stone step 
looking into the room. There she stood, and never said a 
word. Paulina looked around at her mother, with her in- 
nocent, half-involuntary smile. 

" Ask her what she wants," said Mrs. Childs. 

", What do you want ?" repeated Paulina, like a sweet echa 

Still the girl said nothing. A gust of north wind swept 
into the room. John's wife shivered, then looked around 
to see if any one had noticed it. 

" You must speak up quick an' tell what you want, so we 
can shut the door; it's cold," said Mrs. Childs. 

The girl's small sharp face was sheathed in an old wors- 
ted hood ; her eyes glared out of it like a frightened cat's. 
Suddenly she turned to go. She was evidently abashed by 
the company. 

" Don't you want somethin' to eat?" Mrs. Childs asked, 
speaking up louder. 

" It ain't — no matter." She just mumbled it. 



I 



THE TWELFTH GUEST 57 

"What?" 

She would not repeat it She was quite off the step by 
this time. 

"You make her come in, Paulina," said Maria Stone, 
suddenly. "She wants something to eat, but she's half 
scared to death. You talk to her." 

" Hadn't you better come in, and have something to eat ?" 
said Paulina, shyly persuasive. 

"Tell her she can sit right down here by the stove, where 
it's warm, and have a good plate of dinner," said Maria. 

Paulina fluttered softly down to the stone step. The 
chilly snow-wind came right in her sweet, rosy face. " You 
can have a chair by the stove, where it's warm, and a good 
plate of dinner," said she. 

The girl looked at her. 

" Won't you come in ?" said Paulina, of her own accord, 
and always smiling. 

The stranger made a little hesitating movement forward. 

" Bring her in, quick ! and shut the door," Maria called 
out then. And Paulina entered with the girl stealing tim- 
idly in her wake. 

"Take off your hood an' shawl," Mrs. Childs said, "an' 
sit down here by the stove, an' I'll give you some dinner." 
She spoke kindly. She was a warm-hearted woman, but 
she was rigidly built, and did not relax too quickly into 
action. 

But the cousin, who had been observing, with head alertly 
raised, interrupted. She cast a mischievous glance at 
John's wife — the empty chair was between them. " For 
pity's sake !" cried she ; " you ain't goin' to shove her off in 
the corner? Why, here's this chair. She's the twelfth 
one. Here's where she ought to sit" There was a mix- 



58 THE TWELFTH GUEST. 

ture of heartiness and sport in the young woman's manner. 
She pulled the chair back from the table. " Come right 
over here," said she. 

There was a slight flutter of consternation among the 
guests. They were all narrow-lived country people. Their 
customs had made deeper grooves in their roads ; they were 
more fastidious and jealous of their social rights than many 
in higher positions. They eyed this forlorn girl, in her 
faded and dingy woollens which fluttered airily and showed 
their pitiful thinness. 

Mrs. Childs stood staring at the cousin. She did not 
think she could be in earnest. 

But she was. " Come," said she ; " put some turkey in 
this plate, John." 

" Why, it's jest as the rest of you say," Mrs. Childs said, 
finally, with hesitation. She looked embarrassed and doubt- 
ful. 

" Say ! Why, they say just as I do," the cousin went on. 
"Why shouldn't they? Come right around here." She 
tapped the chair impatiently. 

The girl looked at Mrs. Childs. "You can go an' sit 
down there where she says," she said, slowly, in a con- 
strained tone. 

" Come," called the cousin again. And the girl took the 
empty chair, with the guests all smiling stiffly. 

Mrs. Childs began filling a plate for the new-comer. 

Now that her hood was removed, one could see her face 
more plainly. It was thin, and of that pale brown tint 
which exposure gives to some blond skins. Still there was 
a tangible beauty which showed through all that. Her fair 
hair stood up softly, with a kind of airy roughness which 
caught the light. She was apparently about sixteen. 



THE TWELFTH GUEST. 59 

" What's your name ?" inquired the school-mistress sister, 
suddenly. 

The girl started. " Christine," she said, after a second. 

" What ?" 

" Christine." 

A little thrill ran around the table. The company looked 
at each other. They were none of them conversant with 
the Christmas legends, but at that moment the universal 
sentiment of them seemed to seize upon their fancies. The 
~^ay, the mysterious appearance of the girl, the name, which 
was strange to their ears — all startled them, and gave them 
a vague sense of the supernatural. They, however, strug- 
gled against it with their matter-of-fact pride, and threw it 
off directly. 

"Christine what?" Maria asked further. 

The girl kept her scared eyes on Maria's face, but she 
made no reply. 

" What's your other name ? Why don't you speak ?" 

Suddenly she rose. 

" What are you goin' to do ?" 

" I'd — ruther — go, I guess." 

" What are you goin' for ? You ain't had your din- 
ner." 

" I — can't tell it," whispered the girl. 

"Can't tell your name.?" 

She shook her head. 

" Sit down, and eat your dinner," said Maria. 

There was a strong sentiment of disapprobation among 
the company. But when Christine's food was actually be- 
fore her, and she seemed to settle down upon it, like a bird, 
they viewed her with more toleration. She was evidently 
half starved. Their discovery of that fact gave them at 



(5o THE TWELFTH GUEST. 

once a fellow-feeling toward her on this feast-day, and a 

complacent sense of their own benevolence. 

As the dinner progressed the spirits of the party ap- 
peared to rise, and a certain jollity which was almost hilar- 
ity prevailed. Beyond providing the strange guest plen- 
tifully with food, they seemed to ignore her entirely. Still 
nothing was more certain than the fact that they did not 
Every outburst of merriment was yielded to with the most 
thorough sense of her presence, which appeared in some 
subtle way to excite it. It was as if this forlorn twelfth 
guest were the foreign element needed to produce a state 
of nervous effervescence in those staid, decorous people who 
surrounded her. This taste of mystery and unusualness, 
once fairly admitted, although reluctantly, to their unaccus- 
tomed palates, served them as wine with their Christmas 
dinner. 

It was late in the afternoon when they arose from the 
table. Christine went directly for her hood and shawl, and 
put them on. The others, talking among themselves, were 
stealthily observant of her. Christine began opening the 
door! 

" Are you goin' home now ?" asked Mrs. Childs. 

"No, marm." 

"Why not.?" 

" I ain't got any." 

" Where did you come from ?" 

The girl looked at her. Then she unlatched the door. 

"Stop!" Mrs. Childs cried, sharply. "What are you 
goin' for ? Why don't you answer?" 

She stood still, but did not speak. 

" Well, shut the door up, an' wait a minute," said Mrs. 
Childs. 



THE TWELFTH GUEST. 6l 

She stood close to a window, and she stared out scruti- 
nizingly. There was no house in sight. First came a great 
yard, then wide stretches of fields ; a desolate gray road 
curved around them on the left. The sky was covered with 
still, low clouds; the sun had not shone out that day. The 
ground was all bare and rigid. Out in the yard some gray 
hens were huddled together in little groups for warmth ; 
their red combs showed out. Two crows flew up, away 
over on the edge of the field. 

" It's goin' to snow," said Mrs. Childs. 

"I'm afeard it is," said Caleb, looking at the girl. He 
gave a sort of silent sob, and brushed some tears out of his 
old eyes with the back of his hands. 

" See here a minute, Maria," said Mrs. Childs. 

The two women whispered together ; then Maria stepped 
in front of the girl, and stood, tall and stiff and impres- 
sive. 

" Now, see here," said she ; " we want you to speak up 
and tell us your other name, and where you came from, and 
not keep us waiting any longer." 

" I — can^tr They guessed what she said from the motion 
of her head. She opened the door entirely then and step- 
ped out. 

~ Suddenly Maria made one stride forward and seized her 
by her shoulders, which felt like knife-blades through the 
thin clothes. " Well," said she, " we've been fussing long 
enough ; we've got all these dishes to clear away. It's bit- 
ter cold, and it's going to snow, and you ain't going out of 
this house one step to-night, no matter what you are. You'd 
ought to tell us who you are, and it ain't many folks that 
would keep you if you wouldn't ; but we ain't goin' to have 
you found dead in the road, for our own credit. It ain't on 



62 THE TWELFTH GUEST. 

your account. Now you just take those things off again, 
and go and sit down in that chair." 

Christine sat in the chair. Her pointed chin dipped 
down on her neck, whose poor little muscles showed above 
her dress, which sagged away from it. She never looked 
up. The women cleared off the table, and cast curious 
glances at her. 

After the dishes were washed and put away, the company 
were all assembled in the sitting-room for an hour or so ; 
then they went home. The cousin, passing through the 
kitchen to join her husband, who was waiting with his team 
at the door, ran hastily up to Christine. 

" You stop at my house when you go to morrow morn- 
ing," said she. " Mrs. Childs will tell you where 'tis — half 
a mile below here." 

When the company were all gone, Mrs. Childs called 
Christine into the sitting-room. "You'd better come in 
here and sit now," said she. " I'm goin' to let the kitchen 
fire go down; I ain't goin' to get another regular meal; 
I'm jest goin' to make a cup of tea on the sittin'-room stove 
by-an'-by." 

The sitting-room was warm, and restrainedly comfortable 
with its ordinary village furnishings — its ingrain carpet, its 
little peaked clock on a corner of the high black shelf, its 
red-covered card-table, which had stood in the same spot 
for forty years. There was a little newspaper-covered 
stand, with some plants on it, before a window. There was 
one red geranium in blossom. 

Paulina was going out that evening. Soon after the com- 
pany went she commenced to get ready, and her mother 
and aunt seemed to be helping her. Chiistine was alone 
in the sitting-room for the greater part of an hour. 



THE TWELFTH GUEST. 63 

Finally the three women came in, and Paulina stood be- 
fore the sitting-room glass for a last look at herself. She 
had on her best red cashmere, with some white lace around 
her throat. She had a red geranium flower with some 
leaves in her hair. Paulina's brown hair, which was rather 
thin, was very silky. It was apt to part into little soft 
strands on her forehead. She wore it brushed smoothly 
back. Her mother would not allow her to curl it. 

The two older women stood looking at her. " Don't you 
think she looks nice, Christine ?" Mrs. Childs asked, in a 
sudden overflow of love and pride, which led her to ask 
sympathy from even this forlorn source. 

" \es, marm." Christine regarded Paulina, in her red 
cashmere and geranium flower, with sharp, solemn eyes. 
When she really looked at any one, her gaze was as un- 
flinching as that of a child. 

There was a sudden roll of wheels in the yard. 

" VVillard's come !" said Mrs. Childs. " Run to the door 
an' tell him you'll be right out, Paulina, an' I'll get your 
things ready." 

After Paulina had been helped into her coat and hood, 
and the wheels had bowled out of the yard with a quick 
dash, the mother turned to Christine. 

"My daughter's gone to a Christmas tree over to the 
church," said she. '• That was Willard Morris that came 
for her. He's a real nice young man that lives about a 
mile from here." 

Mrs. Childs' tone was at once gently patronizing and 
elated. 

When Christine was shown to a little back bedroom that 
night, nobody dreamed how many times she was to occupy 
it. Maria and Mrs. Childs, who after the door was closed 



54 THE TWELFTH GUEST 

set a table against it softly and erected a tiltlish pyramid 
of milkpans, to serve as an alarm signal in case the strange 
guest should try to leave her room with evil intentions, were 
fully convinced that she would depart early on the follow- 
ing morning. 

" I dun know but I*ve run an awful risk keeping her," 
Mrs. Childs said. " I don't like her not tellin' where she 
come from. Nobody knows but she belongs to a gang of 
burglars, an' they've kind of sent her on ahead to spy out 
things an' unlock the doors for 'em." 

" I know it," said Maria. " I wouldn't have had her stay 
for a thousand dollars if it hadn't looked so much like snow. 
Well, I'll get up an' start her off early in the morning." 

But Maria Stone could not carry out this resolution. The 
next morning she was ill with a sudden and severe attack 
of erysipelas. Moreover, there was a hard snow-storm, the 
worst of the season ; it would have been barbarous to have 
turned the girl out-of-doors on such a morning. Moreover, 
she developed an unexpected capacity for usefulness. She 
assisted Pauline about the housework with timid alacrity, 
and Mrs. Childs could devote all her time to her sister. 

" She takes right hold as if she was used to it," she told 
Maria. " I'd rather keep her a while than not, if I only 
knew a little more about her.'* 

" I don't believe but what I could get it out of her after 
a while if I tried," said Maria, with her magisterial air, which 
illness could not subdue. 

However, even Maria, with all her well-fostered imperi- 
ousness, had no effect on the girl's resolution ; she contin- 
ued as much of a mystery as ever. Still the days went on, 
then the weeks and months, and she remained in the Childs 
family. 



THE TWELFTH GUEST, 65 

None of them could tell exactly how it had been brought 
about. The most definite course seemed to be that her ar- 
rival had apparently been the signal for a general decline 
of health in the family. Maria had hardly recovered when 
Caleb Childs was laid up with the rheumatism ; then Mrs. 
Childs had a long spell of exhaustion from overwork in 
nursing. Christine proved exceedingly useful in these 
emergencies. Their need of her appeared to be the dom- 
inant, and only outwardly evident, reason for her stay ; still 
there was a deeper one which they themselves only famtly 
realized — this poor young girl, who was rendered almost 
repulsive to these honest downright folk by her persistent 
cloak of mystery, had somehow, in a very short time, melted 
herself, as it were, into their own lives. Christine asleep 
of a night in her little back bedroom, Christine of a day 
stepping about the house in one of Paulina's old gowns, 
became a part of their existence, and a part which was not 
far from the nature of a sweetness to their senses. 

She still retained her mild shyness of manner, and rarely 
spoke unless spoken to. Now that she was warmly shel- 
tered and well fed, her beauty became evident. She grew 
prettier every day. Her cheeks became softly dimpled ; 
her hair turned golden. Her language was rude and illit- 
erate, but its very uncouthness had about it something of a 
soft grace. 

She was really prettier than Paulina. 

The two young girls were much together, but could hardly 
be said to be intimate. There were few confidences between 
them, and confidences are essential for the intimacy of young 
girls. 

Willard Morris came regularly twice a week to see Pau- 
lina, and everybody spoke of them as engaged to each other. 



66 THE TWELFTH GUEST. 

Along in August Mrs. Childs drove over to town one af- 
ternoon and bought a piece of cotton cloth and a little em- 
broidery and lace. Then some fine sewing went on, but 
with no comment in the household. Mrs. Childs had sim- 
ply said, " I guess we may as well get a few things made up 
for you, Paulina, you're getting rather short." And Pauli- 
na had sewed all day long, with a gentle industry, when 
the work was ready. 

There was a report that the marriage was to take place 
on Thanksgiving Day. But about the first of October Wil- 
lard Morris stopped going to the Childs house. There was 
no explanation. He simply did not come as usual on Sun- 
day night, nor the following Wednesday, nor the next Sun- 
day. Paulina kindled her little parlor fire, whose sticks 
she had laid with maiden preciseness ; she arrayed herself 
in her best gown and ribbons. When at nine o'clock Wil- 
lard had not come, she blew out the parlor lamp, shut up 
the parlor stove, and went to bed. Nothing was said be- 
fore her, but there was much talk and surmise between 
Mrs. Childs and Maria, and a good deal of it went on be- 
fore Christine. 

It was a little while after the affair of Cyrus Morris's 
note, and they wondered if it could have anything to do 
with that. Cyrus Morris was Willard's uncle, and the note 
affair had occasioned much distress in the Childs family 
for a month back. The note was for twenty-five hundred 
dollars, and Cyrus Morris had given it to Caleb Childs. 
The time, which was two years, had expired on the first of 
September, and then Caleb could not find the note. 

He had kept it in his old-fashioned desk, which stood in 
one corner of the kitchen. He searched there a day and 
half a night, pulling all the soiled, creasy old papers out 



THE TWELFTH GUEST. 67 

of the drawers and pigeon-holes before he would answer 
his wife's inquiries as to what he had lost. 

Finally he broke down and told. " I've lost that note 
of Morris's," said he. " I dun know what I'm goin' to do." 

He stood looking gloomily at the desk with its piles of 
papers. His rough old chin dropped down on his breast. 

The women were all in the kitchen, and they stopped 
and stared. 

"Why, father," said his wife, "where have you put it.?" 

" I put it here in this top drawer, and it ain't there." 

*■' Let me look," said Maria, in a confident tone. But 
even Maria's energetic and self-assured researches failed. 
" Well, it ain't here," said she. " I don't know what you've 
done with it." 

" I don't believe you put it in that drawer, father," said 
his wife. 

" It was in there two weeks ago. I see it." 

" Then you took it out afterwards." 

" I ain't laid hands on't." 

" You must have ; it couldn't have gone off without hands. 
You know you're kind of forgetful, father." 

" I guess I know when I've took a paper out of a drawer. 
I know a leetle somethin' yit." 

" Well, I don't suppose there'll be any trouble about it, will 
there?" said Mrs. Childs. "Of course he knows he give 
the note, an' had the money." 

" I dun know as there'll be any trouble, but I'd ruther 
give a hundred dollar than had it happen." 

After dinner Caleb shaved, put on his other coat and hat, 
and trudged soberly up the road to Cyrus Morris's. Cyrus 
Morris was an elderly man, who had quite a local reputa- 
tion for wealth and business shrewdness. Caleb, who was 



68 THE TWELFTH GUEST. 

lowly-natured and easily impressed by another's importance, 
always made a call upon him quite a formal affair, and 
shaved and dressed up. 

He was absent about an hour to-day. When he returned 
he went into the sitting-room, where the women sat with 
their sewing. He dropped into a chair, and looked straight 
ahead, with his forehead knitted. 

The women dropped their work and looked at him, and 
then at each other. 

"What did he say, father?" Mrs. Childs asked at length. 

" Say ! He's a rascal, that's what he is, an' I'll tell him 
so, too." 

" Ain't he goin' to pay it ?" 

" No, he ain't." 

" Why, father, I don't believe it 1 You didn't get hold 
of it straight," said his wife. 

"You'll see." 

" Why, what did he say ?'* 

" He didn't say anything." 

" Doesn't he remember he had the money and gave the 
note, and has been paying interest on it.?" queried Maria. 

" He jest laughed, an' said 'twa'n't accordin' to law to 
pay unless I showed the note an' give it up to him. He 
said he couldn't be sure but I'd want him to pay it over 
ag'in. / know inhere that note is P^ 

Caleb's voice had deep meaning in it. The women 
stared at him. 

" Where .?" 

" It's in Cyrus Morrises desk — thafs where it is,** 

" Why, father, you're crazy !" 

"No, I ain't crazy, nuther. I know what I*ra talkin 
about. I—" 



THE TWELFTH GUEST. 6g 

"It*s just where you put it," interrupted Maria, taking 
up her sewing with a switch ; " and I wouldn't lay the blame 
onto anybody else." 

" You'd ought to ha' looked out for a paper like that," 
said his wife. " I guess I should if it had been me. If 
you've gone an' lost all that money through your careless- 
ness, you've done it, that's all I've got to say. I don't see 
what we're goin' to do." 

Caleb bent forward and fixed his eyes upon the women. 
He held up his shaking hand impressively, "^you'll stop 
talkin' just a minute," said he, " I'll tell you what I was 
goin' to. Now I'd like to know just one thing : Wa^rCt 
Cyrus Morris alone in that kitchen as much as fifteen minutes 
a week ago to-day 1 Didnt you leave him there while you 
went to look arter me ? Wa''nt the key in the desk J Answer 
me that P 

His wife looked at him with cold surprise and severity. 
" I wouldn't talk in any such way as that if I was you, fa- 
ther," said she. " It don't show a Christian spirit. It's 
jest layin' the blame of your own carelessness onto some- 
body else. You're all the one that's to blame. An' when 
it comes to it, you'd never ought to let Cyrus Morris have 
the money anyhow. I could have told you better. I knew 
what kind of a man he was." 

" He's a rascal," said Caleb, catching eagerly at the first 
note of foreign condemnation in his wife's words. " He'd 
ought to be put in state's-prison. I don't think much of his 
relations nuther. I don't want nothin' to do with 'em, an' 
I don't want none of my folks to." 

Paulina's soft cheeks flushed. Then she suddenly spoke 
out as she had never spoken in her life. 

" It doesn't make it out because he's a bad man that his 



70 THE TWELFTH GUEST. 

relations are," said she. " You haven't any right to speak 
so, father. And I guess you won't stop me having any- 
thing to do with them, if you want to." 

She was all pink and trembling. Suddenly she burst out 
crying, and ran out of the room. 

" You'd ought to be ashamed of yourself, father," ex- 
claimed Mrs. Childs. 

" I didn't think of her takin' on it so," muttered Caleb, 
humbly. " I didn't mean nothin.' " 

Caleb did not seem like himself through the following 
days. His simple old face took on an expression of strained 
thought, which made it look strange. He was tottering on 
a height of mental effort and worry which was almost above 
the breathing capacity of his innocent and placid nature. 
Many a night he rose, lighted a candle, and tremulously 
fumbled over his desk until morning, in the vain hope of 
finding the missing note. 

One night, while he was so searching, some one touched 
him softly on the arm. 

He jumped and turned. It was Christine. She had 
stolen in silently. 

"Oh, it's you!" said he. 

"Ain't you found it.?" 

" Found it ? No ; an' I sha'n't, nuther." He turned away 
from her and pulled out another drawer. The girl stood 
watching him wistfully. "It was a big yellow paper," the 
old man went on — "a big yellow paper, an' I'd wrote on 
the back on't, ' Cyrus Morris's note.* An' the interest he'd 
paid was set down on the back on't, too." 

" It's too bad you can't find it," said she. 

" It ain't no use lookin' ; it ain't here, an' that's the hull 
on't. It's in his desk. I ain't got no more doubt on't 
than nothin' at all." 



THE TWELFTH GUEST. 7J 

*' Where — does he keep his desk ?" 

" In his kitchen ; it's jest like this one." 

" Would this key open it ?" 

" I dun know but 'twould. But it ain't no use. I s'pose 
I'll have to lose it." Caleb sobbed silently and wiped his 
eyes. 

A few days later he came, all breathless, into the sitting- 
room. He could hardly speak ; but he held out a folded 
yellow paper, which fluttered and blew in his unsteady hand 
like a yellow maple-leaf in an autumn gale. 

" Look-a-here !" he gasped — " look-a-here !" 

" Why, for goodness' sake, what's the matter ?" cried Ma- 
ria. She and Mrs. Childs and Paulina were there, sewing 
peacefully. 

"Jest look-a->^^r^./" 

" Why, for mercy's sake, what is it, father ? Are you 
crazy V 

"It's— the ;z^/^/" 

" What note ? Don't get so excited, father." 

" Cyrus Morris's note. That's what note 'tis. Look-a- 
here !" 

The women all arose and pressed around him, to look at it. 

" Where did you find it, father ?" asked his wife, who was 
quite pale. 

"I suppose it was just where you put it," broke in Ma- 
ria, with sarcastic emphasis. 

"No, it wa'n't. No, it wa'n't, nuther. Don't you go 
to crowin' too quick, Maria. That paper was just where 
I told you 'twas. What do you think of that, hey ?" 

" Oh, father, you didn't !" 

"It was layin' right there in his desk. That's where 
'twas. Jest where I knew — " 



ya THE TWELFTH GUEST. 

"Father, you didn't go over there an' take it!" 

The three women stared at him with dilated eyes. 

" No, I didn't." 

" Who did ?" 

The old man jerked his head towards the kitchen door. 
" She." 

"Who?" 

" Christiny." 

" How did she get it ?" asked Maria, in her magisterial 
manner, which no astonishment could agitate. 

" She saw Cyrus and Mis' Morris ride past, an' then 
she run over there, an' she got in through the window 
an' got it j that's how." Caleb braced himself like 
a stubborn child, in case any exception were taken to it 
all. 

" It beats everything I ever heard," said Mrs. Childs, 
faintly. 

" Next time you'll believe what I tell you I" said Caleb. 

The whole family were in a stale of delight over the re> 
covery of the note ; still Christine got rather hesitating 
gratitude. She was sharply questioned, and rather re- 
proved than otherwise. 

This theft, which could hardly be called a theft, aroused 
the old distrust of her. 

" It served him just right, and it wasn't stealing, because 
it didn't belong to him ; and I don't know what you would 
have done if she hadn't taken it," said Maria ; '* but, for all 
that, it went all over me." 

" So it did over me," said her sister. " I felt just as you 
did, an' I felt as if it was real ungrateful too, when the 
poor child did it just for us." 

But there were no such misgivings for poor Caleb, with 



THE TWELFTH GUEST 73 

his money, and his triumph over iniquitous Cyrus Morris. 
He was wholly and unquestioningly grateful. 

" It was a blessed day when we took that little girl in," 
he told his wife. 

" I hope it '11 prove so," said she. 

Paulina took her lover's desertion quietly. She had just 
as many soft smiles for every one ; there was no alteration 
in her gentle, obliging ways. Still her mother used to listen 
at her door, and she knew that she cried instead of sleep- 
ing many a night. She was not able to eat much, either, 
although she tried to with pleasant willingness when her 
mother urged her. 

After a while she was plainly grown thin, and her pretty 
color had faded. Her mother could not keep her eyes 
from her. 

" Sometimes I think I'll go an' ask Willard myself what 
this kind of work means," she broke out with an abashed 
abruptness one afternoon. She and Paulina happened to 
be alone in the sitting-room. 

"You'll kill me if you do, mother," said Paulina. Then 
she began to cry. 

"Well, I won't do anything you don't want me to, of 
course," said her mother. She pretended not to see that 
Paulina was crying. 

Willard had stopped coming about the first of Oc- 
tober ; the time wore on until it was the first of December, 
and he had not once been to the house, and Paulina 
had not exchanged a word with him in the mean- 
time. 

One night she had a fainting- spell. She fell heavily 
while crossing the sitting-room floor. They got her on to 
the lounge, and she soon revived ; but her mother had lost 



74 THE TWELFTH GUEST. 

all control of herself. She came out into the kitchen and 
paced the floor. 

''Oh, my darlin'!" she wailed. "She's goin' to die. 
What shall I do? All the child I've got in the world. 
An' he's killed her ! That scamp ! I wish I could get my 
hands on him. Oh, Paulina, Paulina, to think it should 
come to this !" 

Christine was in the room, and she listened with eyes 
dilated and lips parted. She was afraid that shrill wail 
would reach Paulina in the next room. 

" She'll hear you," she said, finally. 

Mrs. Childs grew quieter at that, and presently Maria 
called her into the sitting-room. 

Christine stood thinking for a moment. Then she got 
her hood and shawl, put on her rubbers, and went out. 
She shut the door softly, so nobody should hear. When 
she stepped forth she plunged knee-deep into snow. It 
was snowing hard, as it had been all day. It was a cold 
storm, too ; the wind was bitter. Christine waded out of 
the yard and down the street. She was so small and light 
that she staggered when she tried to step firmly in some 
tracks ahead of her. There was a full moon behind the 
clouds, and there was a soft white light in spite of the storm. 
Christine kept on down the street, in the direction of Wil- 
lard Morris's house. It was a mile distant. Once in a 
while she stopped and turned herself about, that the terri- 
ble wind might smite her back instead of her face. When 
she reached the house she waded painfully through the 
yard to the side-door and knocked. Pretty soon it opened, 
and Willard stood there in the entry, with a lamp in his 
hand. 

" Good-evening," said he, doubtfully, peering out. 






THE TWELFTH GUEST. 75 

" Good-even in'." The light shone on Christine's face. 
The snow clung to her soft hair, so it was quite white. 
Her cheeks had a deep, soft color, like roses ; her blue 
eyes blinked a little in the lamp-light, but seemed rather to 
flicker like jewels or stars. She panted softly through her 
parted lips. She stood there, with the snow-flakes driving 
in light past her, and " She looks like an angel," came 
swiftly into Willard Morris's head before he spoke. 

" Oh, it's you," said he. 

Christine nodded. 

Then they stood waiting. "Why, won't you come in?" 
said Willard, finally, with an awkward blush. " I declare 
I never thought. I ain't very polite." 

She shook her head. " No, thank you," said she. 

"Did — you want to see mother?" 

" No." 

The young man stared at her in increasing perplexity. 
His own fair, handsome young face got more and more 
flushed. His forehead wrinkled. " Was there anything 
you wanted ?" 

"No, I guess not," Christine replied, with a slow soft- 
ness. 

Willard shifted the lamp into his other hand and sighed. 
"It's a pretty hard storm," he remarked, with an air of 
forced patience. 

"Yes." 

" Didn't you find it terrible hard walking?" 

" Some." 

Willard was silent again. " See here, they're all well 
down at your house, ain't they?" said he, finally. A look 
of anxious interest had sprung into his eyes. He had be- 
gun to take alarm. 



76 THE TWELFTH GUEST 

"I guess so." 

Suddenly he spoke out impetuously. " Say, Christine, 
I don't know what you came here for ; you can tell me af- 
terwards. I don't know what you'll think of me, but — 
Well, I want to know something. Say — well, I haven't 
been 'round for quite a while. You don't — suppose — 
they've cared much, any of them ?" 

"1 don't know." 

"Well, I don't suppose you do, but — you might have 
noticed. Say, Christine, you don't think she — you know 
whom I mean — cared anything about my coming, do you?" 

" I don't know," she said again, softly, with her eyes 
fixed warily on his face. 

" Well, I guess she didn't ; she wouldn't have said what 
she did if she had." 

Christine's eyes gave a sudden gleam. "What did she 
say?" 

" Said she wouldn't have anything more to do with me," 
said the young man, bitterly. " She was afraid I would be 
up to just such tricks as my uncle was, trying to cheat her 
father. That was too much for me. I wasn't going to 
stand that from any girl." He shook his head angrily. 

" She didn't say it." 

" Yes, she did ; her own father told my uncle so. Mother 
was in the next room and heard it." 

" No, she didn't say it," the girl repeated. 

" How do you know ?" 

" I heard her say something different." Christine told 
him. 

" I'm going right up there," cried he, when he heard that. 
" Wait a minute, and I'll go along with you." 

" I dun know as you'd better — to-night," Christine said, 



M 



THE TWELFTH GUEST, 77 

looking out towards the road, evasively. " She — ain't been 
very well to-night." 

"Who? Paulina? What's the matter?" 

" She had a faintin'-spell jest before I came out," an- 
swered Christine, with stiff gravity. 

" Oh ! Is she real sick T 

" She was some better." 

" Don't you suppose I could see her just a few minutes ? 
I wouldn't stay to tire her," said the young man, eagerly. 

"I dun know." 

** I must, anyhow." 

Christine fixed her eyes on his with a solemn sharpness. 
" What makes you want to ?" 

" What makes me want to ? Why, I'd give ten years to 
see her five minutes." 

"Well, mebbe you could come over a few minutes." 

"Wait a minute," cried Willard. " I'll get my hat." 

" I'd better go first, I guess. The parlor fire '11 be to 
light." 

"Then had I better wait?" 

" I guess so." 

"Then I'll be along in about an hour. Say, you haven't 
said what you wanted." 

. Christine was off the step. " It ain't any matter," mur- 
mured she. 

" Say— she didn't send you ?" 

"No, she didn't." 

" I didn't mean that. I didn't suppose she did," said 
Willard, with an abashed air. " What did you want, Chris- 
tine?" 

"There's somethin' I want you to promise," said she, 
suddenly. 



78 THE TWELFTH GUEST. 

"What's that?" 

" Don't you say anything about Mr. Childs." 

" Why, how can I help it ?" 

" He's an old man, an' he was so worked up he didn't 
know what he was sayin'. They'll all scold him. Don't 
say anything." 

" Well, I won't say anything. I don't know what I'm 
going to tell her, though." 

Christine turned to go. 

" You didn't say what 'twas you wanted," called Willard 
again. 

But she made no reply. She was pushing through the 
deep snow out of the yard. 

It was quite early yet, only a few minutes after seven. 
It was eight when she reached home. She entered the 
house without any one seeing her. She pulled off her 
snowy things, and went into the sitting-room. 

Paulina was alone there. She was lying on the lounge. 
She was very pale, but she looked up and smiled when 
Christine entered. 

Christine brought the fresh out-door air with her. Pau- 
lina noticed it. " Where have you been ?" whispered she. 

Then Christine bent over her, and talked fast in a low 
tone. 

Presently Paulina raised herself and sat up. " To-night ?" 
cried she, in an eager whisper. Her cheeks grew red. 

"Yes; I'll go make the parlor fire." 

*' It's all ready to light." Suddenly Paulina threw her 
arms around Christine and kissed her. Both girls blushed. 

" I don't think I said one thing to him that you wouldn't 
have wanted me to," said Christine. 

" You didn't — ask him to come ?" 



THE TWELFTH GUEST, 79 

" No, I didn't, honest." 

When Mrs. Childs entered, a few minutes later, she found 
her daughter standing before the glass. 

"Why, Paulina!" cried she. 

" I feel a good deal better, mother," said Paulina. 

" Ain't you goin' to bed ?" 

" I guess I won't quite yet." 

" I've got it all ready for you. I thought you wouldn't 
feel like sittin' up." 

" I guess I will ; a little while." 

Soon the door-bell rang with a sharp peal. Everybody 
jumped — Paulina rose and went to the door. 

Mrs. Childs and Maria, listening, heard Willard's familiar 
voice, then the opening of the parlor door. 

" It's him r gasped Mrs. Childs. She and Maria looked 
at each other. 

It was about two hours before the soft murmur of voices 
in the parlor ceased, the outer door closed with a thud, and 
Paulina came into the room. She was blushing and smil- 
ing, but she could not look in any one's face at first. 

*' Well," said her mother, "who was it?" 

"Willard. it's all right." 

It was not long before the fine sewing was brought out 
again, and presently two silk dresses were bought for Pauli- 
na. It was known about that she was to be married on 
Christmas Day. Christine assisted in the preparation. All 
the family called to mind afterwards the obedience so ready 
as to be loving which she yielded to their biddings during 
those few hurried weeks. She sewed, she made cake, she 
ran of errands, she wearied herself joyfully for the happiness 
of this other young girl. 

About a week before the wedding, Christine, saying good- 



8o THE TWELFTH GUEST. 

night when about to retire one evening, behaved strangely. 
They remembered it afterwards. She went up to Paulina 
and kissed her when saying good-night. It was something 
which she had never before done. Then she stood in the 
door, looking at them all. There was a sad, almost a sol' 
emn, expression on her fair girlish face. 

" Why, what's the matter ?" said Maria. 

" Nothin'," said Christine. " Good-night." 

That was the last time they ever saw her. The next 
morning Mrs. Childs, going to call her, found her room va- 
cant. There was a great alarm. When they did not find 
her in the house nor the neighborhood, people were aroused, 
and there was a search instigated. It was prosecuted 
eagerly, but to no purpose. Paulina's wedding evening 
came, and Christine was still missing. 

Paulina had been married, and was standing beside her 
husband, in the midst of the chattering guests, when Caleb 
stole out of the room. He opened the north door, and 
stood looking out over the dusky fields. "Christiny!" he 
called, "Christiny!" 

Presently he looked up at the deep sky, full of stars, and 
called again — " Christiny ! Christiny!" But there was no 
answer save in light. When Christine stood in the sitting- 
room door and said good-night, her friends had their last 
sight and sound of her. Their Twelfth Guest had departed 
from their hospitality forever. 



SISTER LIDDY. 

There were no trees near the almshouse ; it stood in its 
bare, sandy lot, and there were no leaves or branches to 
cast shadows on its walls. It seemed like the folks whom 
it sheltered, out in the full glare of day, without any little 
kindly shade between itself and the dull, unfeeling stare of 
curiosity. The almshouse stood upon rising ground, so 
one could see it for a long distance. It was a new build- 
ing, Mansard-roofed and well painted. The village took 
pride in it : no town far or near had such a house for the 
poor. It was so fine and costly that the village did not feel 
able to give its insane paupers separate support in a regu- 
lar asylum ; so they lived in the almshouse with the sane 
paupers, and there was a padded cell in case they waxed 
too violent. 

Around the almshouse lay the town fields. In summer 
they were green with corn and potatoes, now they showed 
ugly plough ridges sloping over the uneven ground, and 
yellow corn stubble. Beyond the field at the west of the 
almshouse was a little wood of elms and oaks and wild 
apple-trees. The yellow leaves had all fallen from the 
elms and the apple-trees, but most of the brown ones stayed 
on the oaks. 

Polly Moss stood at the west window in the women's 
6 



82 SISTER LIDDY, 

sitting-room and gazed over at the trees. " It's cur'us how 
them oak leaves hang on arter the others have all fell off," 
she remarked. 

A tall old woman sitting beside the stove looked around 
suddenly. She had singular bright eyes, and a sardonic 
smile around her mouth. "It's a way they allers have," 
she returned, scornfully. " Guess there ain't nothin' very 
cur'us about it. When the oak leaves fall off an' the others 
hang on, then you can be lookin' for the end of the world ; 
that's goin' to be one of the signs." 

" Allers a-harpin' on the end of the world," growled an- 
other old woman, in a deep bass voice. " I've got jest 
about sick on't. Seems as if I should go crazy myself, 
hearin' on't the whole time." She was sewing a seam in 
coarse cloth, and she sat on a stool on the other side of 
the stove. She was short and stout, and she sat with a 
heavy settle as if she were stuffed with lead. 

The tall old woman took no further notice. She sat 
rigidly straight, and fixed her bright eyes upon the top of 
the .door, and her sardonic smile deepened. 

The stout old woman gave an ugly look at her ; then she 
sewed with more impetus. Now and then she muttered 
something in her deep voice. 

There were, besides herself, three old women in the room 
— Polly Moss, the tall one, and a pretty one in a white cap 
and black dress. There was also a young woman ; she sat 
in a rocking-chair and leaned her head back. She was 
handsome, but she kept her mouth parted miserably, and 
there were ghastly white streaks around it and her nostrils. 
She never spoke. Her pretty black hair was rough, and 
her dress sagged at the neck. She had been living out at 
a large farm, and had overworked. She had no friends or 



SISTER LIDDY. 83 

relatives to take her in ; so she had come to the almshouse 
to rest and try to recover. She had no refuge but the alms- 
house or the hospital, and she had a terrible horror of a 
hospital. Dreadful visions arose in her ignorant childish 
mind whenever she thought of one. She had a lover, but 
he had not been to see her since she came to the alms- 
house, six weeks before ; she wept most of the time over 
that and her physical misery. 

Polly Moss stood at the window until a little boy trudged 
into the room, bringing his small feet down with a clapping 
noise. He went up to Polly and twitched her dress. She 
looked around at him. " Well, now, Tommy, what do ye 
want ?" 

" Come out-doors an' play hide an' coot wis me, Polly." 

Tommy was a stout little boy. He wore a calico tier 
that sagged to his heels in the back, and showed in front 
his little calico trousers. His round face was pleasant and 
innocent and charming. 

Polly put her arms around the boy and hugged him, 
" Tommy's a darlin','' she said ; '' can't he give poor Polly 
a kiss ?" 

Tommy put up his lips. " Come out-doors an' play hide 
an' coot wis me," he said again, breathing the words ou> 
with the kiss. 

" Now, Tommy, jest look out of the winder. Don't he 
see that it's rainin', hey ?" 

The child shook his head stubbornly, although he was 
looking straight at the window, which revealed plainly 
enough that long sheets of rain were driving over the fields. 
" Come out-doors and play hide an' coot wis me, Polly." 

" Now, Tommy, jest listen to Polly. Don't he know he 
can't go out-doors when it's rainin' this way ? He'd get all 



84 SISTER LIDDY. 

wet, an' Polly too. But Til tell you what Polly an' Tom- 
my can do. We'll jest go out in the hall an' we'll roll the 
ball. Tommy go run quick an' get his ball." 

Tommy raised a shout, and clapped out of the room ; 
his sweet nature was easily diverted. Polly followed him. 
She had a twisting limp, and was so bent that she was not 
much taller than Tommy, her little pale triangular face 
seemed to look from the middle of her flat chest. 

"The wust-lookin' objeck," growled the stout old woman 
when Polly was out of the room : " looks more like an old 
cat that's had to aim it's own livin' than a human bein'. 
It 'bout makes me sick to look at her." Her deep tones 
travelled far ; Polly, out in the corridor waiting for Tommy, 
heard every word. 

" She is a dretful-lookin' cretur," assented the pretty old 
woman. As she spoke she puckered her little red mouth 
daintily, and drew herself up with a genteel air. 

The stout old woman surveyed her contemptuously. 
" Well, good looks don't amount to much, nohow," said 
she, " if folks ain't got common-sense to balance 'em. I'd 
enough sight ruther know a leetle somethin' than have a 
dolly-face myself." 

" Seems to me she is about the dretfulest-lookin' cretur 
that I ever did see," repeated the pretty old woman, quite 
unmoved. Aspersions on her intellect never aroused her 
in the least. 

The stout old woman looked baffled. "Jest turn your 
head a leetle that way, will you. Mis' Handy?" she said, 
presently. 

The pretty old woman turned her head obediently. 
'* What is it ?" she inquired, with a conscious simper. 

"Jest turn your head a leetle more. Yes, it's funny 



■ 



SISTER LIDDY. 85 

ain't never noticed it afore. Your nose is a leetle grain 
crooked — ain't it, Mis' Handy ?" 

Mrs. Handy's face turned a deep pink— even her little 
ears and her delicate old neck were suffused ; her blue 
eyes looked like an enraged bird's. '' Crooked ! H'm ! I 
shouldn't think that folks that's got a nose like some folks 
had better say much about other folks' noses. There can't 
nobody tell me nothin' about my nose ; I know all about 
it. Folks that wouldn't wipe their feet on some folks, nor 
look twice at 'em, has praised it. My nose ain't crooked 
an' never was, an' if anybody says so it's 'cause they're so 
spity, 'cause they're so mortal homely themselves. Guess 
I know." She drew breath, and paused for a return shot, 
but she got none. The stout old woman sewed and chuckled 
to herself, the tall one still fixed her eyes upon the top of 
the door, and the young woman leaned back with her lips 
parted, and her black eyes rolled. 

The pretty old woman began again in defence of her 
nose ; she talked fiercely, and kept feeling of it. Finally 
she arose and went out of the room with a flirt. 

Then the stout old woman laughed. " She's gone to 
look at her nose in the lookin'-glass, an' make sure it ain't 
crooked : if it ain't a good joke !" she exclaimed, delight- 
edly. 

But she got no response. The young woman never 
stirred, and the tall old one only lowered her gaze from 
the door to the stove, which she regarded disapprovingly. 
" I call it the devil's stove," she remarked, after a while. 

The stout old woman gave a grunt and sewed her seam ; 
she was done with talking to such an audience. The shouts 
of children out in the corridor could be heard. "Pesky 
young ones !" she muttered. 



86 SISTER LIDDY, 

In the corridor Polly Moss played ball with the children. 
She never caught the ball, and she threw it with weak, 
aimless jerks; her back ached, but she was patient, and 
her face was full of simple childish smiles. There were 
two children besides Tommy — his sister and a little boy. 

The corridor was long ; doors in both sides led into the 
paupers' bedrooms. Suddenly one of the doors flew open, 
and a little figure shot out. She went down the corridor 
with a swift trot like a child. She had on nothing but a 
woollen petticoat and a calico waist ; she held her head 
down, and her narrow shoulders worked as she ran ; her 
mop of soft white hair flew out. The children looked 
around at her ; she was a horrible caricature of themselves. 

The stout old woman came pressing out of the sitting- 
room. She went directly to the room that the running 
figure had left, and peered in ; then she looked around sig- 
nificantly. " I knowed it," she said ; " it's tore all to pieces 
agin. I'd jest been thinkin' to myself that Sally was dret- 
ful still, an' I'd bet she was pullin' her bed to pieces. 
There 'tis, an' made up jest as nice a few minutes ago! 
I'm goin' to see Mis' Arms." 

Mrs. Arms was the matron. The old woman went off 
with an important air, and presently she returned with her. 
The matron was a large woman with a calm, benignant, and 
weary face. 

Polly Moss continued to play ball, but several other old 
women had assembled, and they all talked volubly. They 
demonstrated that Sally had torn her bed to pieces, that it 
had been very nicely made, and that she should be pun- 
ished. 

The matron listened ; she did not say much. Then she 
returned to the kitchen, where she was preparing dinner. 



I 



SISTER LIDDY. 87 

Some of the paupers assisted her. An old man, with his 
baggy trousers hitched high, chopped something in a tray, 
an old woman peeled potatoes, and a young one washed 
pans at the sink. The young woman, as she washed, kept 
looking over her shoulder and rolling her dark eyes at the 
other people in the room. She was mindful of every mo- 
tion behind her back. 

Mrs. Arms herself worked and directed the others. When 
dinner was ready the old man clanged a bell in the corridor, 
and everybody flocked to the dining-room except the young 
woman at the kitchen sink ; she still stood there washing 
dishes. The dinner was coarse and abundant. The pau- 
pers, with the exception of the sick young woman, ate with 
gusto. The children were all hearty, and although the 
world had lost all its savor for the hearts and minds of the 
old ones, it was still somewhat salt to their palates. Now 
that their thoughts had ceased reaching and grasping, they 
could still put out their tongues, for that primitive instinct 
of life with which they had been born still survived and 
gave them pleasure. In this world it is the child only that 
is immortal. 

The old people and the children ate after the same man- 
ner. There was a loud smacking of lips and gurgling 
noises. The rain drove against the windows of the dining- 
room, with its bare floor, its board tables and benches, and 
rows of feeding paupers. The smooth yellow heads of the 
children seemed to catch all the light in the room. Once 
in a while they raised imperious clamors. The overseer 
sat at one end of the table and served the beef. He was 
stout, and had a handsome, heavy face. 

The meal was nearly finished when there was a crash of 
breaking crockery, a door slammed, and there was a wild 



88 SISTER LIDDY. 

shriek out in the corridor. The overseer and one of the old 
men who was quite able-bodied sprang and rushed out of 
the room. The matron followed, and the children tagged 
at her heels. The others continued feeding as if nothing 
had happened. "That Agnes is wuss agin," remarked the 
stout old woman. " I've seed it a-comin' on fer a couple 
of days. They'd orter have put her in the cell yesterday ; 
I told Mis' Arms so, but they're allers puttin' off, an' put- 
tin' off." 

" They air a-takin' on her up to the cell now," said the 
pretty old woman ; and she brought around her knifeful of 
cabbage with a sidewise motion, and stretched her little 
red mouth to receive it. 

Out in the corridor shriek followed shriek ; there were 
loud voices and scuffling. The children were huddled in 
the doorway, peeping, but the old paupers continued to eat. 
The sick young woman laid down her knife and fork and 
wept. 

Presently the shrieks and the scuffling grew faint in the 
distance ; the children had followed on. Then, after a 
little, they all returned and the dinner was finished. 

After dinner, when the women paupers had done their 
share of the clearing away, they were again assembled in 
their sitting-room. The windows were cloudy with fine 
mist ; the rain continued to drive past them from over the 
yellow stubbly fields. There was a good fire in the stove, 
and the room was hot and close. The stout old woman 
sewed again on her coarse seam, the others were idle. 
There were now six old women present ; one of them was 
the little creature whom they called Sally. She sat close 
to the stove, bent over and motionless. Her clothing hardly 
covered her. The sick young woman ws absent ; she was 



ii 



SISTER LIDDY. 89 

lying down on the lounge in the matron's room, and the 
children too were in there. 

Polly Moss sat by the window. The old women began 
talking among themselves. The pretty old one had taken 
off her cap and had it in her lap, perking up the lace and 
straightening it. It was a flimsy rag, like a soiled cobweb. 
The stout old woman cast a contemptuous glance at it. 
She raised her nose and her upper lip scornfully. " I don't 
see how you can wear that nasty thing nohow, Mis' Handy," 
said she. 

Mrs. Handy flushed pink again. She bridled and began 
to speak, then she looked at the little soft soiled mass in 
her lap, and paused. She had not the force of character 
to proclaim black white while she was looking at it. Had 
the old cap been in the bureau drawer, or even on her head, 
she might have defended it to the death, but here before 
her eyes it silenced her. 

But after her momentary subsidence she aroused herself; 
her blue eyes gleamed dimly at the stout old woman. " It 
was a handsome cap when it was new, anyhow !" said she ; 
"better'n some folks ever had, I'll warrant. Folks that 
ain't got no caps at all can't afford to be flingin' at them 
that has, if they ain't quite so nice as they was. You'd 
orter have seen the cap I had when my daughter was mar- 
ried ! All white wrought lace, an' bows of pink ribbon, an' 
long streamers, an' some artificial roses on't. I don't s'pose 
you ever see anythin' like it, Mis' Paine." 

The stout woman was Mrs. Paine. "Mebbe I ain't," 
said she, sarcastically. 

The tall old woman chimed in suddenly ; her thin, ner- 
vous voice clanged after the others like a sharply struck 
bell. " I ain't never had any caps to speak of," she pro- 



90 SISTER LIDDY. 

claimed ; " never thought much of 'em, anyhow ; heatiri 
things ; an' I never heard that folks in heaven wore caps. 
But I have had some good clothes. I've got a piece of 
silk in my bureau drawer. That silk would stand alone. 
An' I had a good thibet ; there was rows an' rows of velvet 
ribbon on it. I always had good clothes ; my husband, he 
wanted I should, an' he got 'em fer me. I aimed some 
myself, too. I 'ain't got any now, an' I dunno as I care if 
I ain't, fer the signs are increasin'." 

" Allers a-harpin' on that," muttered the stout old woman. 

*' I had a handsome blue silk when I was marri'd," 
vouchsafed Mrs. Handy. 

" I've seen the piece of it," returned the tall one ; " it 
ain't near so thick as mine is." 

The old woman who had not been present in the morn- 
ing now spoke. She had been listening with a superior air. 
She was the only one in the company who had possessed 
considerable property, and had fallen from a widely differ- 
ing estate. She was tall and dark and gaunt ; she towered 
up .next the pretty old woman like a scraggy old pine be- 
side a faded lily. She was a single woman, and she had 
lost all her property through an injudicious male relative. 
"Well," she proclaimed, "everybody knows I've had things 
if I ain't got 'em now. There I had a whole house, with 
Brussels carpets on all the rooms except the kitchen, an' 
stuifed furniture, an' beddin' packed away in chists, an* 
bureau drawers full of things. An' I ruther think I've had 
silk dresses an' bunnits an' caps." 

" I remember you had a real handsome blue bunnit once, 
but it warn't so becomin' as some you'd had, you was so 
dark-complected," remarked the pretty old woman, in a 
soft, spiteful voice. "I had a white one, drawn silk, an' 



J 



SISTER LIDDY. 91 

white feathers on't, when I was married, and they all said it 
was real becomin'. I was allers real white myself. I had 
a white muslin dress with a flounce on it, once, too, an' a 
black silk spencer cape." 

" I had a fitch tippet an' muff that cost twenty-five dol- 
lars," remarked the stout old woman, emphatically, "^z«' a 
cashmire shawl." 

" I had two cashmire shawls, an' my tippet cost fifty dol- 
lars," retorted the dark old woman, with dignity. 

" My fust baby had an elegant blue cashmire cloak, all 
worked with silk as deep as that," said Mrs. Handy. She 
now had the old cap on her head, and looked more as- 
sertive. 

" Mine had a little wagon with a velvet cushion to ride 
in; an' I had a tea-set, real chiny, with a green sprig on't,'* 
said the stout old woman. 

" I had a Brittany teapot," returned Mrs. Handy. 

" I had gilt vases as tall as that on my parlor mantel- 
shelf," said the dark old woman. 

" I had a chiny figger, a girl with a basket of flowers on 
her arm, once," rejoined the tall one ; " it used to set side 
of the clock. An' when I was fust married I used to live 
in a white house, with a flower-garden to one side. I can 
smell them pinks an' roses now, an' I s'pose I allers shall, 
jest as far as I go." 

" I had a pump in my kitchen sink, an' things real 
handy," said the stout old one ; " an' I used to look as 
well as anybody, an' my husband too, when we went to 
meetin'. I remember one winter I had a new brown alpaca 
with velvet buttons, an' he had a new great-coat with a 
velvet collar." 

Suddenly the little cowering Sally raised herself and gave 



92 SISTER LIDDY, 

testimony to her own little crumb of past comfort. Her 
wits were few and scattering, and had been all her days, 
but the conversation of the other women seemed to set 
some vibrating into momentary concord. She laughed, and 
her bleared blue eyes twinkled. " I had a pink caliker 
gownd once," she quavered out. " Mis' Thompson, she gin 
it me when I lived there." 

" Do hear the poor cretur," said the pretty old woman, 
with an indulgent air. 

Now everybody had spoken but Polly Moss. She sat 
by the misty window, and her little pale triangular face 
looked from her sunken chest at the others. This conver- 
sation was a usual one. Many and many an afternoon the 
almshouse old women sat together and bore witness to their 
past glories. Now they had nothing, but at one time or 
another they had had something over which to plume them- 
selves and feel that precious pride of possession. Their 
present was to them a state of simple existence, they 
regarded their future with a vague resignation ; they were 
none of them thinkers, and there was no case of rapturous 
piety among them. In their pasts alone they took real 
comfort, and they kept, as it were, feeling of them to see 
If they were not still warm with life. 

The old women delighted in these inventories and com- 
paring of notes. Polly Moss alone had never spoken. She 
alone had never had anything in which to take pride. She 
had been always deformed and poor and friendless. She 
had worked for scanty pay as long as she was able, and had 
then drifted and struck on the almshouse, where she had 
grown old. She had not even a right to the charity of this 
particular village : this was merely the place where her 
working powers had failed her; but no one could trace 



( 



SISTER LIDDY. 93 

her back to her birthplace, or the town which was respon- 
sible for her support. Polly Moss herself did not know — 
she went humbly where she was told. All her life the world 
had seemed to her simply standing-ground ; she had gotten 
little more out of it. 

Every day, when the others talked, she listened admiring- 
ly, and searched her memory for some little past treasure of 
her own, but she could not remember any. The dim image 
of a certain delaine dress, with bright flowers scattered over 
it, which she had once owned, away back in her girlhood, 
sometimes floated before her eyes when they were talking, 
and she had a half- mind to mention that, but her heart 
would fail her. She feared that it was not worthy to be com- 
pared with the others' fine departed gowns ; it paled before 
even Sally's pink calico. Polly's poor clothes, covering her 
pitiful crookedness, had never given her any firm stimulus 
to gratulation. So she was always silent, and the other old 
women had come to talk at her. Their conversation ac- 
quired a gusto from this listener who could not join in. 
When a new item of past property was given, there was 
always a side-glance in Polly's direction. 

None of the old women expected to ever hear a word from 
Polly, but this afternoon, when they had all, down to Sally, 
testified, she spoke up : 

"You'd orter have seen my sister Liddy," said she > her 
voice was very small, it sounded like the piping of a feeble 
bird in a bush. 

There was a dead silence. The other old women looked 
at each other. " Didn't know you ever had a sister Liddy," 
the stout old woman blurted out, finally, with an amazed air. 

" My sister Liddy was jest as handsome as a pictur'," 
Polly returned. 



94 SISTER LIDDY. 

The pretty old woman flushed jealously. " Was she fair 
complected ?" she inquired. 

" She was jest as fair as a lily — a good deal fairer than 
you ever was, Mis' Handy, an* she had long yaller curls 
a-hangin' clean down to her waist, an' her cheeks were jest 
as pink, an' she had the biggest blue eyes I ever see, an* 
the beautifulest leetle red mouth." 

" Lor' !" ejaculated the stout old woman, and the pretty 
old woman sniffed. 

But Polly went on ; she was not to be daunted ; she had 
been silent all this time ; and now her category poured forth, 
not piecemeal, but in a flood, upon her astonished hearers. 

" Liddy, she could sing the best of anybody anywheres 
around," she continued ; " nobody ever heerd sech singin'. 
It was so dretful loud an' sweet that you could hear it 'way 
down the road when the winders was shut. She used to 
sing in the meetin'-house, she did, an' all the folks used to 
sit up an' look at her when she begun. She used to wear a 
black silk dress to meetin', an' a white cashmire shawl, an' a 
bunnit with a pink wreath around the face, an' she had white 
kid gloves. Folks used to go to that meetin'-house jest to 
hear Liddy sing an' see her. They thought 'nough sight 
more of that than they did of the preachin'. 

" Liddy had a feather fan, an' she used to sit an' fan her 
when she wa'n't singin', an' she allers had scent on her hand- 
kercher. An' when meetin' was done in the evenin' all the 
young fellars used to be crowdin' 'round, an' pushin' and 
bowin' an' scrapin', a-tryin' to get a chance to see her home. 
But Liddy she wouldn't look at none of them ; she married 
a real rich fellar from Bostown. He was jest as straight as 
an arrer, an' he had black eyes an' hair, an' he wore a beauti- 
ful coat an' a satin vest, an' he spoke jest as perlite. 



SISTER LIDDY. ^15 

" When Liddy was married she had a whole chistful of 
clothes, real fine cotton cloth, all tucks an' laid-work, an' she 
had a pair of silk stockin's, an' some white shoes. An' her 
weddin' dress was white satin, with a great long trail to it, 
an' she had a lace veil, an' she wore great long ear-drops 
that shone like everythin'. ArC she come out bride in a 
blue silk dress, an' a black lace mantilly, an' a white bunnft 
trimmed with lutestring ribbon." 

" Where did your sister Liddy live arter she was married T 
inquired the pretty old woman, with a subdued air. 

"She lived in Bostown, an' she had a great big house with 
a parlor an' settin'-room, an' a room to eat in besides the 
kitchen. An' she had real velvet carpets on all the floors 
down to the kitchen, an' great pictur's in gilt frames a-hangin' 
on all the walls. An' her furnitur' was all stuffed, an' kiv- 
ered with red velvet, an' she had a planner, an' great big 
marble images a-settin'on her mantel-shelf An' she had a 
coach with lamps on the sides, an' blue satin cushings, to 
ride in, an' four horses to draw it, an' a man to drive. An' she 
allers had a hired girl in the kitchen. I never knovved Liddy 
to be without a hired girl. 

" Liddy's husband, he thought everythin' of her ; he never 
used to come home from his work without he brought her 
somethin', an' she used to run out to meet him. She was 
allers dretful lovin', an' had a good disposition. Liddy, she 
had the beautifulest baby you ever see, an' she had a cradle 
lined with blue silk to rock him in, an' he had a white silk 
cloak, an' a leetle lace cap — " 

" I shouldn't think your beautiful sister Liddy an' her hus- 
band would let you come to the poor-house," interrupted the 
dark old woman. 

" Liddy's dead, or she wouldn't." 



SISTER LIDDY, 

" Are her husband an' the baby dead, too ?" 

" They're all dead," responded Polly Moss. She looked 
out of the window again, her face was a burning red, and 
there were tears in her eyes. 

There was silence among the other old women. They 
were at once overawed and incredulous. Polly left the room 
before long, then they began to discuss the matter. "I 
dun know whether to believe it or not," said the dark old 
woman. 

"Well, I dun know, neither; I never knowed her to tell 
anythin^ that wa'n't so," responded the stout old one, doubt- 
fully. 

The old women could not make up their minds whether 
to believe or disbelieve. The pretty one was the most in- 
credulous of any. She said openly that she did not believe 
it possible that such a " homely cretur" as Polly Moss could 
have had such a handsome sister. 

But, credulous or not, their interest and curiosity were 
lively. Every day Polly Moss was questioned and cross- 
cxanriined concerning her sister Liddy. She rose to the oc- 
casion ; she did not often contradict herself, and the glories 
of her sister were increased daily. Old Polly Moss, her 
little withered face gleaming with reckless enthusiasm, sang 
the praises of her sister Liddy as wildly and faithfully as any 
minnesinger his angel mistress, and the old women listened 
with ever-increasing bewilderment and awe. 

It was two weeks before Polly Moss died with pneumo- 
nia that she first mentioned her sister Liddy, and there was 
not one afternoon until the day when she was taken ill that 
she did not relate the story, with new and startling additions, 
to the old women. 

Polly was not ill long, she settled meekly down under the 



I 



SISTER LIDDY. 97 

disease: her little distorted frame had no resistance in it. 
She died at three o'clock in the morning. The afternoon 
before, she seemed better ; she was quite rational, and she 
told the matron that she wanted to see her comrades, the 
old women. " I've got somethin' to tell 'em, Mis' Arms," 
Polly whispered, and her eyes were piteous. 

So the other old women came into the room. They stood 
around Polly's little iron bed and looked at her. " 1 — want 
to — tell you — somethin'," she began. But there was a soft 
rush, and the sick young woman entered. She pressed 
straight to the matron; she disregarded the others. Her 
wan face seemed a very lamp of life — to throw a light over 
and above all present darkness, even of the grave. She 
moved nimbly; she was so full of joy that her sickly body 
seemed permeated by it, and almost a spiritual one. She 
did not appear in the least feeble. She caught the matron's 
arm. '* Charley has come, Mis' Arms !" she cried out. 
" Charley has come ! He's got a house ready. He's goin' 
to marry me, an' take me home, an' take care of me till I 
get well. I'm goin' right away !" 

The old women all turned away from Polly and stared at 
the radiant girl. The matron sent her away, with a promise 
to see her in a few minutes. " Polly's dyin'," she whispered, 
and the girl stole out with a hushed air, but the light in her 
face was not dimmed. What was death to her, when she 
had just stepped on a height of life where one can see be- 
yond it? 

''Tell them what you wanted to, now, Polly," said the 
matron. 

"I — want to tell you — somethin'," Polly repeated. "I 
s'pose I've been dretful wicked, but I ain't never had 
nothin' in my whole life. I — s'pose the Lord orter have 
7 



98 SISTER LIDDY. 

been enough, but it's dretful hard sometimes to keep holt of 
him, an' not look anywheres else, when you see other folks 
a-clawin' an' gettin' other things, an' actin' as if they was 
wuth havin'. I ain't never had nothin' as fur as them other 
things go ; I don't want nothin' else now. I've — got past 
'em. I see I don't want nothin' but the Lord. But I used 
to feel dretful bad an' wicked when I heerd you all talkin' 
'bout things you'd had, an' I hadn't never had nothin', so — " 
Polly Moss stopped talking, and coughed. The matron sup- 
ported her. The old women nudged each other; their 
awed, sympathetic, yet sharply inquiring eyes never left her 
face. The children were peeping in at the open door ; old 
Sally trotted past — she had just torn her bed to pieces. As 
soon as she got breath enough, Polly Moss finished what 
she had to say. "I — s'pose I — was dretful wicked," she 
whispered ; " but — I never had any sister Liddy." 



CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH. 

" Mis' Newhall !" 

The tall, thin figure on the other side of the street pushed 
vigorously past. It held it's black -bonneted head baclj 
stiffly, and strained its green-and-black woollen shawl tightei 
across its slim shoulders. 

"Mis'iV^^hall!" 

The figure stopped with a jerk. "Oh, it's you, Marthy. 
Pleasant afternoon, ain't it ?" 

" Ain't you comin' in ?" 

"Well, I don't jest see how I can this afternoon. I was 
goin' up to Ellen's." 

"Can't you jest come over a minute and see my calla- 
lilies ?" 

" Well, I don't see how I can. I can see 'em up to the 
window. Beautiful, ain't they?" 

"You can't see nuthin' of 'em out there. Why can't you 
come in jest a minute? There ain't a soul been in to see 
*em this week, and 'tain't often they blow out this way." 

" Who's in there ?— anybody ?" 

"No ; there ain't a soul but me to home. Hannah's 
gone over to Wayne. Can't you come in ?" 

" Well, I dunno but I'll come over jest a minute ; but I 
can't stay. I hadn't ought to stop at all." 



lOO CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH. 

Martha Wing waited for her in the door ; she was quiv- 
ering with impatience to show her the lilies. "Come 
right in," she cried, when the visitor came up the walk. 

When she turned to follow her in she limped painfully; 
one whole side seemed to succumb so nearly that it was 
barely rescued by a quick spring from the other. 

" How's your lameness V asked Mrs. Newhall. 

"Martha's soft withered face flushed, "Here air the 
lilies," she said, shortly. 

" My ! ain't they beautiful !" 

"'Tain't often you see seven lilies and two buds to- 
gether." 

" Well, 'tain't, that's a fact. Ellen thought hers was pret- 
ty handsome, but it can't shake a stick at this. Hers ain't 
got but three on it. I'd like to know what you do to it, 
Marthy ?" 

" I don't do nuthin'. Flowers Ml grow for some folks, 
and that's all there is about it. I allers had jest sech luck." 
Martha stood staring at the lilies. A self-gratulation that 
had something noble about it was in her smiling old face. 

"I tell Hannah," she went on, " if I be miser'ble in 
health, an' poor, flowers '11 blow for me, and that's more 
than they'll do for some folks, no matter how hard they 
cry. Look at Mis' Walker over there. I can't help think 
in' of it sometimes when I see her go nippin' past with her 
ruffles and gimcracks. She's young an' good-lookin', but 
she's had her calla-lily five year, an' she ain't had but one 
bud, and that blasted." 

" Well, flowers is a good deal of company." 

" I guess they air. They're most as good as folks. Mis* 
Newhall, why don't Jennie come in an' see Hannah some 
times?" 



J 



CALLA-LJLIES AND HANNAH, lOi 

All the lines in Mrs. Newhall's face lengthened. She 
looked harder at the callas. "Well, I dunno, Marihy ; 
Jenny don't go much of anywhere. Those lilies are beau- 
tiful. You'd ought to have 'em carried into the meeting- 
house next Sunday, an' set in front of the pulpit." 

Martha turned white. Her voice quavered up shrilly. 
'There's one lily I could mention 's been took out of that 
meetin'-house, Maria Newhall, an' there ain't no more of 
mine goin' to be took in, not if I know it." 

" Now, Marthy, you know I didn't mean a thing. I no 
more dreamed of hurtin' your feelin's than the dead." 

" No, I don't s'pose you did ; an' I don't s'pose your 
Jenny an' the other girls mean anything by stayin' away 
an' never comin' near Hannah. They act as if they was 
afraid of her ; but I guess she wouldn't hurt 'em none. She's 
as good as any of 'em, an' they'll find it out some day." 

" Now, Marthy—" 

" You needn't talk. I know all about it. I've heerd a 
good deal of palaver, but I kin see through it. I — " 

"Well, I guess I'll have to be goin', Marthy. Good- 
afternoon." 

Martha suddenly recovered her dignity. "Good-after- 
noon, Mis' Newhall," said she, and relapsed into silence. 

After the door had closed behind her guest, she sat 
down at the window with her knitting. She had an old 
shawl over her shoulders ; the room was very chilly. She 
pursed up her lips and knitted very fast, a lean, homely 
figure in the clean, bare room, with its bulging old satin- 
papered walls. A square of pale sunlight lay on the thin, 
dull carpet, and the pot of calla-lilies stood in the window. 

Before long Hannah came. She entered without a 
word, and stood silently taking off her wraps. 



I02 CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH. 

" Did you git your pay, Hannah ?" 

"Yes." 

When Hannah laid aside her thick, faded shawl, she 
showed a tall young figure in a clinging old woollen gown 
of a drab color. She stooped a little, although the stoop 
did not seem anything but the natural result of her tallness, 
and was thus graceful rather than awkward. It was as if 
her whole slender body bent from her feet, lily fashion. 
She got a brush out of a little chimney cupboard and be- 
gan smoothing her light hair, which her hood had rumpled 
a little. She had a full, small face; there was a lovely 
delicate pink on her cheeks. People said of Hannah, 
"She is delicate-looking," They said " delicate " in the 
place of pretty ; it suited her better. 

"Why don't you say somethin'?" Martha asked, queru- 
lously. 

" What do you want me to say ?" 

" Where's your bundle of boots ?" 

"I haven't got any." 

V Ain't got no boots ?" 

" No." 

"Didn't Mr. Allen give you any?" 

" No." 

" Ain't he going to ?" 

" No." 

"Why not?" 

Hannah went on brushing her hair, and made no answer. 

" Has— he heard of— that?" 

" I suppose so." 

"What did he say.?" M 

" Said he couldn't trust me to take any more boots™ 
home." One soft flush spread over Hannah's face as she 



CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH. 1 03 

said that, then it receded. She knelt down by the air-tight 
stove and began poking the fire. 

" Course he'd heerd, then. What air you goin* to do, 
Hannah?" 

" I don't know." 

" You take it easy 'nough, I hope. Ef you don't hev 
work, I don't see what's goin' to keep a roof over us." 

Hannah, going out into the kitchen, half turned in 
the doorway. " Don't worry, I'll get some work some- 
where, I guess," she said. 

But Martha kept on calling out her complaint in a shriller 
voice, so Hannah could hear as she stepped about in the 
other room. " I don't see what you're goin' to do ; I'm 
'bout discouraged. Mis' Newhall, she's been in here, pre- 
tended she wanted to see my caller, but she give me no end 
of digs, the way she allers does. This kind of work is killin' 
me. Here's this calla-lily's been blowed out the way it has 
lately, an' not a soul comin' in to see it. Hannah Redman, 
I don't see what possessed you to do such a thing." 

No answering voice came from the kitchen. 

"You did do it, didn't you, Hannah ? You wouldn't let 
folks go on in this way if you hadn't." 

Hannah said nothing. Martha broke into a fit of loud 
weeping. She held her hands over her face, and rocked 
herself back and forth in her chair. " Oh me ! Oh me !" 
she wailed, shrilly. 

Hannah paid no attention. She went about getting tea 
ready. It was a frugal meal, bread and butter and weak 
tea, but she fried a bit of ham and put it on Martha's plate. 
The old woman liked something hearty for supper. 

"Come," she said at length — "come, Martha, tea*s 
ready." 



I04 



CALLA- LILIES AND HANNAH, 



" I don't want nothin'," wailed the old woman. But she 
sat sniffing down at the table, and ate heartily. 

After tea Hannah got her hood and shawl and went out 
again. It was a chilly March night ; the clouds were flying 
wildly, there was an uncertain moon, the ground was cov- 
ered with melting snow. Hannah held up her skirts and 
stepped along through the slush. The snow-water pene- 
trated her old shoes ; she had no rubbers. 

Presently she stopped and rang a door-bell. The wom- 
an who answered it stood eying her amazedly a minute 
before she spoke. " Good-evenin', Hannah," she said, 
stiffly, at length. 

" Good-evening, Mrs. Ward. Are your boarders in ?" 

"Y-e-s." 

" Can I see them ?" 

" Well — I guess so. Mis' Mellen, she's been pretty busy 
all day. Come in, won't you ?" 

Hannah followed her into the lighted sitting-room. A 
young, smooth-faced man and a woman who looked older 
and stronger were in there. Mrs. Ward introduced them 
in an embarrassed way to Hannah. " Mis' Mellen, this is 
Miss Redman," said she, " an' Mr. Mellen." 

Hannah opened at once upon the subject of her errand. 
She had heard that the Mellens wished to begin house- 
keeping, and were anxious to hire a tenement. She pro- 
posed that they should hire her house; she and Martha 
would reserve only two rooms for themselves. The rent 
which she suggested was very low. The husband and wife 
looked at each other. 

" We might — go and look at it — to-morrow," he said, 
hesitatingly, with his eyes on his wife. 

*' We'll come in some time to-morrow and see how it 



i 



CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH, I05 

suits," said she, in a crisp voice. " Perhaps — " She 
stopped suddenly. Mrs. Ward had given her a violent 
nudge. But she looked wonderingly at her and kept on. 
" We should want — " said she. 

" It ain't anything you want, Mis' Mellen," spoke up Mrs. 
Ward. 

" Why, what's the trouble ?'* 

"You don't want it; 'twon't suit you." Mrs. Ward 
nodded significantly. 

Hannah looked at one and the other. The delicate color 
in her cheeks deepened a little, but she spoke softly. 
" There are locks and keys on the doors," said she. 

Mrs. Ward colored furiously. " I didn't mean — " she 
began. Then she stopped. 

Hannah arose. " If you want to come and look at the 
rooms, I'll be glad to show them," said she. She stood 
waiting with a dignity which had something appealing 
about it. 

'' Well, I'll see," said Mrs. Mellen. 

After Hannah had gone she turned eagerly to Mrs. 
Ward. " What is the matter ?" said she. 

"'Tain't safe for you to go there, unless— you want all 
your things — stoU^ 

"Why, does she—" 

" She stole some money from John Arnold up here a 
year ago. That's a fact." 

" You don't mean it !" 

" Yes. She was sewin' up there. He left it on the sit- 
tin'-room table a minute, an' when he came back it was 
gone. There hadn't been anybody but her in the room, so 
of course she took it." 

** Did he get the money back ?" 



lo6 CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH. 

" That was the queer part of it. Nobody could ever find 
out what she did with the money." 

" Didn't they take her up ?" 

" No ; they made a good deal of fuss about it at first, but 
Mr. Arnold didn't prosecute her. I s'pose he thought they 
couldn't really prove anything, not findin' the money. And 
then he's a deacon of the church ; he'd hate to do such a 
thing, anyway. But everybody in town thinks she took it, 
fast enough. Nobody has anything to do with her. She used 
to go out sewin' for folks, but they say she stole lots of pieces. 
I heard she took enough black silk here and there to make 
a dress. Nobody has her now, that I know of. You don't 
want anybody in your house that you can't trust." 

" Of course you don't.'' 

" She was a church member, an' it came up before the 
church, an' they dismissed her. They asked her if it was 
so, an' she wouldn't answer one word, yes or no. They 
couldn't get a thing out of her." 

" WelK of course if she hadn't taken it she'd said so." 

." It's likely she would." 

" I'm real glad you told me. I'd hated awfully to have 
gone in there with anybody like that." 

" I thought you would. I felt as if I ought to tell you, 
seein' as you was strangers here. I kind of pity her. I 
s'pose she thought she could raise a littte money that way. 
I guess she's havin' a pretty hard time. She can^t get no 
work anywhere. She's been sewin' boots for Allen over in J 
Wayne, but I heard the other day he was goin' to shut 
down on her. She's gettin' some of her punishment in 
this world. Folks said Arnold's son George had a notion 
of goin' with her once, but I guess it put a stop to that 
pretty quick. He's down East somewhere." 



CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH, 107 

Hannah, plodding along out in the windy, moonlit night, 
knew as well what they were saying as if she had been at 
their elbows. The wind sung in her ears, the light clouds 
drove overhead ; those nearest the moon had yellow edges. 
Hannah kept looking up at them. 

She had five dollars and fifty cents in her pocket, and 
no prospect of more. She had herself and a helpless old 
relative to support. All the village, every friend and ac- 
quaintance she had ever had, were crying out against her. 
That was the case of Hannah Redman when she entered 
her silent house that night ; but she followed her old rela- 
tive to bed, and went to sleep like a child. 

The next morning she got out an old blue cashmere of 
hers and began ripping it. 

*' What are you goin' to do ?" asked Martha, who had 
been eying her furtively all the morning. 

" I'm going to make over this dress. I haven't got a 
thing fit to wear." 

'* I shouldn't think you'd feel much like fixin' over 
dresses. I don't see what's goin' to become of us. I don't 
s'pose a soul will be in to see my calla-lily to-day. It's kill- 
in' me." 

Hannah said nothing, but she worked steadily on the 
dress all day. She turned it, and it looked like new. 

The next day was Sunday. Hannah, going to church in 
her remodelled dress, heard distinctly some one behind her 
say, " See, Hannah Redman's got a new dress, I do believe. 
I shouldn't think she'd feel much like it, should you ?" 

Hannah sat alone in the pew, where her father and 
mother had sat before her. They had all been church- 
going people. Hannah herself had been a member ever 
since her childhood. Not one Sunday had she missed of 



fo8 CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH, 

Stepping modestly up the aisle in her humble Sunday best, 
and seating herself with gentle gravity. The pew was a 
conspicuous one beside the pulpit, at right angles with the 
others. Hannah was in full view of the whole congrega- 
tion. She sat erect and composed in her pretty dress. 
The delicate color in her cheeks was the same as ever; 
her soft eyes were as steady. She found the hymns and 
sang ; she listened to the preaching. 

Women looked at her, then at one another. Hannah 
knew it. Still it had never been as bad since that first 
Sunday after her dismissal from the church. 

There had been a tangible breeze then that had whistled 
in her ears. Nobody had dreamed that she would come to 
meeting, but she came. 

There was no question but that Hannah's unshaken de- 
meanor brought somewhat harder judgment upon herself. 
A smile in an object of pity is a grievance. The one claim 
which Hannah now had upon her friends she did not extort, 
consequently she got nothing. She showed no need of pity, 
and was, if anything, more condemned for that than for her 
actual fault. 

" If she wasn't so dreadful bold," they said. " If she 
acted as if she felt bad about it." 

In one of the foremost body-pews sat John Arnold, a 
large, fair-faced old man, who wore his white hair like a ton- 
sure. He never looked at Hannah. He had a gold-headed 
cane. He clasped both hands around it, and leaned 
heavily forward upon it as he listened. It was a habit of 
his. He settled himself solemnly into this attitude at his 
entrance. People watched him respectfully. John Arnold 
was the one wealthy man in this poor country church. 
Over across the aisle a shattered, threadbare old grandfa- 



I 



CALLA'LILIES AND HANNAH. 1 09 

ther leaned impressively upon his poor pine stick in the 
same way that John Arnold did. He stole frequent, studious 
glances at him. He was an artist who made himself into a 
caricature. 

There was a communion-service to-day. After the ser- 
mon Hannah arose quietly and went down the aisle with the 
non-communicants. She felt people looking at her, but 
when she turned, their eyes were somewhere else. No one 
spoke to her. 

" Did anybody speak to you ?" old Martha asked whew 
she got home. 

"No," said Hannah. 

" I don't see how you stand it. I should think it would 
kill you, an' you don't look as if it wore on you a bit. Han- 
nah, what made you do sech a thing.-*" 

Hannah said nothing. 

" I should think, after the way your father an' mother 
brought you up — Well, it's killin' me. I've been most 
crazy the whole forenoon thinkin' on't. What air you goin' 
to do if you can't git no work, Hannah ?" 

"I guess I can get some, perhaps." 

" I don't see where." 

The next morning Hannah went over to East Wayne, a 
town about four miles away. There was a new boot-and- 
shoe manufactory there, and she thought she might get 
some employment. The overseer was a pleasant young 
fellow, who treated her courteously. They had no work 
just then, but trade was improving. He told her to come 
again in a month. 

" I rather guess I can get some work over at the new 
shop in East Wayne," she said to Martha when she got 
home. 



no CALLA'LILIES AND HANNAH. 

" They'll hear on't, an' then you'll lose it, jest the way 
you've done before," was Martha's reply. 

But Hannah lived on the hope of it for a month. She 
literally lived on little else. They had some potatoes and 
a few apples in the cellar. Hannah ate them. With her 
little stock of money she bought food for Martha. 

At the end of the month she walked over to East Wayne 
again. The overseer remembered her. He greeted her 
very pleasantly, but his honest young face flushed. 

"I'm real sorry," he stammered, "but — I'm afraid we 
can't give you any work." 

Hannah turned white. He had heard. 

" As far as I am concerned," he went on, " I would ; but 
it don't depend on me, you know." He stood staring irres- 
olutely at Hannah. 

" See here, wait a minute," said he, " I'll speak to the 
boss." 

Pretty soon he returned with a troubled look. " It's no 
use," said he ; " he says he hasn't got any work." 

"Will he have any by-and-by ?" asked Hannah, feebly. 

'" I'm afraid not," replied the young man, pitifully. He 
opened the door for her. " Good-by," he said ; " don't get 
down-hearted." 

Hannah looked at him, then the tears sprang to her eyes. 
" Thank you," she said. 

When she got past the shop she sat down on a stone be- 
side the road and cried. " I wish he hadn't spoken kind to 
me," she whispered, sobbingly, to herself- 
hadn't." 

The road was bordered with willow bushes \ they were 
just beginning to bud. The new grass was springing, and 
there was a smell of it in the air. Presently Hannah rose 



ken kind to _ 
I wish he I 



CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH. HI 

and walked on. She had ten cents in her pocket. She 
stopped at a store on her way home and bought with it a 
herring and a couple of fresh biscuit for Martha's supper. 
She ate nothing herself. She said she was not hungry. 

" I knew they'd hear on't," Martha said, when she told 
her of her disappointment. 

The next day Hannah tried to raise some money on her 
house. It was a large cottage, somewhat out of repair ; it 
was worth some twenty-five hundred dollars. 

Hannah could not obtain a loan of a cent upon it. 
There was no bank in the village, and only one wealthy 
man, John Arnold. She would not apply to him, and the 
others, close-fisted, narrow-minded farmers, were afraid of 
some trap, they knew not what, in the transaction. 

"How do I know you'll pay me the interest regular?'* 
asked one man. 

" If I don't, you can take the house," said Hannah. 

" How do I know I can ?" The man looked after her 
with an air of dull triumph as she went away, drooping 
more than ever. She was faint from want of food. Still, 
the look of delicate resolution had not gone from her face. 
She went home, got out a heavy gold watch-chain which 
had belonged to her father, took it over to Wayne, and 
offered it to a jeweller. He looked at her and it curiously. 
The chain was an old one, but heavy and solid. 

"What's your name !" asked the jeweller. 

"Hannah Redman." 

He pushed it towards her. " No, I guess I can't take it. 
We have to be pretty careful about these things, you know. 
If any question should come up — " 

Hannah put the chain in her pocket and went home. 
Old Martha greeted her fretfully. 



ii2 CALLA'LILIES AND HANNAH. 

" I've been dretful lonesome," said she. " There's an- 
other lily blowed out, an' there ain't a soul been in to see it.'* 

Hannah sat looking at her moodily. If it were not for 
this old woman she would lock her house and leave the 
village this very night. It must be that she would find 
toleration somewhere in the great world. Some of her 
kind would be willing to let her live. But here was Martha, 
whom she would not leave ; Martha and her calla-lily, 
which to a fiinciful mind might well seem a very part of 
her ; maybe the grace and beauty which her querulous old 
age lacked came to her in this form. At all events it recom- 
pensed her for them in a measure. Martha plus her calla- 
lily might equal something almost beautiful — who knew.? 

Looking at this helpless old creature, something stronger 
than love took possession of Hannah — a spirit of fierce 
protection and faithfulness. 

"Why don't you take your things off?" Martha groaned. 

"Fm going out again." 

When Hannah gathered herself up and went out she had 
a fixed purpose ; she was going to get some supper for 
Martha. There was not a morsel in the house. Martha 
must have something to eat. There was nothing desperate 
in her mind, only that fixed intention — the food she would 
have, she did not know how, but she would have it. 

She was so weak from fasting that she could scarcely 
step herself, but she did not think of that. " It's awful for 
an old woman to go hungry," she muttered, going down the 
street. 

There was some kindly women in the village ; they would 
give her food if they knew of her terrible need, she was sure 
of it ; she had only to ask. She paused at several gates ; 
once she laid her hand on a latch, then she moved on. 



CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH. 1x3 

She could not beg with this stigma upon her. Suddenly 
in her weakness a half delirious fancy took possession of 
her. She seemed to be thinking other people's thoughts 
of herself instead of her own. " There's that Hannah Red- 
man," she thought; " the girl that stole. Now she's gone 
to begging. Who wants to give to a girl like that ? What's 
the sense of her begging ? She's down as low as she can 
be ; if she wants anything, why doesn't she steal ? It's all 
over with her. People can't think any worse of her than 
they do now." 

Hannah came to the post-office, and entered mechani- 
cally. The post-office merely occupied a corner of the 
large country store. The postmaster dealt out postage- 
stamps or cheeses to demand. When Hannah entered 
there was no one in the great rank room. The proprietor 
had gone to tea ; the two clerks were out in the back yard 
unloading a team. It was not the hour for customers. 

Hannah glanced about. A great heap of fresh loaves 
was on the counter near the door. She leaned over and 
smelled of them hungrily, then — she snatched one, hid it 
under her shawl, and went out. 

" Hannah Redman has been stealing again," she thought, 
with those thoughts of others, as she went down the street. 

She made the bread into some toast for Martha, and the 
old woman ate it complainingly. " I'd ha' relished a leetle 
bit of bacon," she muttered. 

" Hannah Redman might just as well have stolen some 
bacon while she was about it," she thought. She could not 
touch the bread herself. She looked badly to-night ; her 
soft eyes glittered, the delicate fineness of her color had 
deepened. Even Martha noticed it. 

" What makes you look so queer, Hannah ?" she asked. 
8 



114 CALLA'LILIES AND HANNAH. 

" Nothing." 

" Don't you feel well ? You ain't eatin' a thing. I guess 
you'd relished a leetle bit of meat." 

'Tm all right," said Hannah. 

After the supper was cleared away, and old Martha had 
gone to bed, Hannah sat down by one of the front windows. 
It was dusk ; she could just discern the dark figures pass- 
ing in the street, but could not identify them. Presently 
one paused at her gate, unfastened it, and entered. Han- 
nah heard steps on the gravel walk. Then there was a 
knock on the door. 

"They've missed it," Hannah thought. She wondered 
that she did not care more. " Martha's had her supper, 
anyhow," she chuckled, fiercely. 

She opened the door. " Hannah," said a man's voice. 

" Oh !" she gasped. " George Arnold ! Go away ! go 
away !" 

" Hannah, what's the matter? Oh, you poor girl, have I 
frightened you to death, after all the rest.^ Hannah- 
there ; lean against me, dear. You feel better now, don't 
you } Don't shake so. Come, let's go in and light a lamp, 
and I'll get you some water." 

" Oh, go away !" 

" I guess I sha'n't ^o away till — O Lord ! Hannah, I 
never knew what you'd been through till five minutes ago. 
I've just heard. Hannah, I'd lie down and die at your feet 
if it would do any good. Oh, you poor girl !" 

The man's voice was all rough and husky. Hannah 
leaned against the door, gasping faintly, while he struck 
match and lit a lamp. She never offered to help him. He 
went out in the kitchen and brought her a glass of water. 
SIi6 pushed it avvay. 



CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH. 1 15 

"No," she motioned with silent lips. 

" Do take it, dear ; you look dreadfully. You frighten 
me. Take it just to please me." 

She took it then, and drank. 

" There, that's a good girl. Now sit down here while I 
talk to you." 

She sat down in the chair he placed for her, and he 
drew another beside her. He sat for a minute looking at 
her, then suddenly he reached forward and seized her 
hands. He held them tightly while he talked. " Han- 
nah, look here ; you knew I took that money, didn't you T^ 

She nodded. 

" And you let everybody think you did it ; you never said 
a word to clear yourself. Hannah Redman, there never 
was a woman like you in the whole world ! To think of 
everybody's being down on you, and — your being turned out 
of the church 1 Oh, Lord ! Hannah, I can't bear it." 

The poor fellow fairly sobbed for a minute. Hannah sat 
still, looking straight ahead. 

" See here," he went on, " I want to tell you the whole 
story, how I came to do it. It wasn't quite so bad as it 
looked. It was my money, really ; it came from the sale of 
some woodland that one of my uncles gave me when I was 
a child, before my mother died. Father sold the land when 
I was about ten, and put the money in the bank. I knew 
about it, and I'd ask father a good many times to let me 
have it, but he never would. You know what father is 
about money matters. He'd put it in under his name. 
Well, I wanted a little money dreadfully. There was a 
good chance — I've made it pay since, too — but father 
wouldn't give me any. Hannah, father never gave me a 
dollar to help me in business, and he's a rich man too. 



n6 CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH. 

Well, I don^t know what possessed him, but the day I was 
going away he drew that money out of the bank ; he wanted 
to invest it somewhere. I saw it ; he was counting it over, 
and he had the bank-book. I asked him for it again, but 
he wouldn't let me have a dollar of it. Then — I never 
knew him to be so careless before ; I don't see how it hap- 
pened — but he laid that money in a roll on the sitting-room 
table. I saw it when I came in to say good-by to you, and 
I took it, and crammed it into my pocket. All of a sudden 
I thought to myself, ' It's my own money, and I'll have it.* 
You were looking right at me when I took it, but I knew 
you'd think it was mine, I was so cool about it. You did, 
didn't you ?" 

"Yes." 

" I went down to the depot, expecting every minute I'd 
hear father behind me, but I got off. I wrote to father 
after a while and owned up, though I thought he'd know I 
took it anyway. I never dreamed of his making any fuss 
about it. I didn't think he'd mention it to a soul ; and as 
for suspecting you — 

" Father wrote me an awful letter, but he didn't say a 
word about that. He told me I needn't come home again. 
I ain't stopping there now. He must have known after 
they accused you, but he never said a word. He knew I 
liked you, too. Well, I'll clear you, I'll clear you, dear. 
Every soul in town shall know just what you are, and just 
what you've done, and then I'm going to take you away 
from the whole of them, out of the reach of their tongues. 
I'll do all I can to make it up to you, Hannah." 

" Oh, go away, George, please go !" 

" Hannah, what do you mean ?'* 

"It's all over." 



CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH. n; 

"Hannah!" 

" I wish you'd go away ; I can't bear any more.'* 

His face turned pale and rigid as he sat watching her. 
" Look here,"' he said, slowly, " I ought to have thought — 
Of course I'll go right away and never come near you 
again. I might have known you wouldn't want a fellow 
that stole. Til go, Hannah, and I won't say another word." 

He rose, and was half-way to the door when he turned. 
" Good-by," he said. 

" Don't, don't ! oh, don't ! George, you don't know ! It's 
dreadful ! I've got to tell you !" 

Hannah was beside him, clinging to his arm. All her 
composure was gone. Her voice rose into a shrill clamor. 

" George, George ! Oh, what shall I do ! what shall I 
do!" 

" Hannah, you'll kill yourself! You mustn't!" 

" I can't help it ! It isn't you ! it isn't you ! It was right 
for you to take it. But it's me ! it's me ! Oh, what shall I 
do?" 

" Hannah, are you crazy ?" 

" No ; but it's all over. It wasn't true before, but it is 
now." 

" What do you mean ?'' 

" I stole. I did. George, I did !" 

"When? You didn't either. You've been dwelling on 
this till you don't know what you have done." 

" Yes, I do. I stole. I did !" 

" What did you steal ?" 

"A loaf of bread." 

" Hannah !" 

" Martha didn't have anything for supper. Oh, what shall 
I do?" 



Il8 CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH. 

" Hannah Redman, you don't mean it's come to this?'* 

" They wouldn't give me any work ; they couldn't trust 
me, you know, because Fd stole. I never have given up, 
but now I've got to." 

" When — did you have anything to— eat ?" 

" Yesterday. I didn't eat any of that — bread." 

The young man looked at her a moment, then he led 
her back to her seat. 

" See here, Hannah, you sit here a minute till I come 
back. I won't be gone long." 

She sat down weakly. She suddenly felt too exhausted to 
speak, and leaned her head back and closed her eyes. She 
hardly knew when George returned. 

Presently he came to her with a glass of milk. " Here, 
drink this, dear," he said. 

He held the glass while she drank. In the midst of it 
she stopped and looked at him piteously. 

"What is it, dear?" 

" Have you been down to the store ?" 

" Yes." 

" Do they know ? Have they found it out yet ?" 

His tender face grew stern. " No, they hadn't. Don't 
you think of that again. I've paid them for the bread." 

" But they ought to know I — stole it." 

" No, you didn't. Hannah, never think of this again. 
They're paid." 

" Did you tell them— I took it ?" 

" Yes, I told them — all that was necessary. Hannah, 
dear, don't ever speak of this again, or think of it. Finish 
your milk now ; then I want you to eat some cakes I've got 
for you. Oh, you poor girl ; it seems to me I can't live 
through this myself. Here I've had plenty to eat, and you—'* 



CALLA-LILIES AND HANNAH. 119 

A week from the next Sunday Hannah wore a white dress 
to the meeting. It was an old muslin, but she had washed 
and ironed it nicely, and sewed some lace in the neck and 
sleeves. She had trimmed her straw bonnet with white rib- 
bons. Everybody stared when she came up the aisle. 
George Arnold entered at the same time and seated him- 
self beside her in her pew. The women rustled and whis- 
pered. John Arnold was not present to-day. The old 
grandfather looked across at his empty pew uneasily. 

After the service, the minister, an itinerant one — this 
poor parish had no settled preacher — in a solemn voice re- 
quested the congregation to be seated. Then he added — 
he was an old man, with a certain dull impressiveness of 
manner — " You are requested to remain a moment. One 
of your number, a young man whom I this morning joined 
in the bands of holy wedlock, has something which he 
wishes to communicate to you." 

There was a deathly calm. George Arnold arose. He 
was a tall, fair man, like his father. His yellow, curled 
head towered up bravely ; the light from the pulpit window 
settled on it. He was very pale. ** I wish to make a state- 
ment in the presence of this congregation," he said, in a 
loud, clear voice. *' The lady beside me, who is now my 
wife, has been accused of theft from my father. The accu- 
sation was a false one. I stole the money myself. She 
has borne what she has had to bear from you all to shield 
me." 

Before he had quite finished Hannah rose ; she caught 
hold of his arm and leaned her cheek against it before them 
all. They sat down side by side, and waited while the con- 
gregation went out. A carriage stood before the church. 
The bridal couple were to leave town that day. A few 



120 CALLA'LILIES AND HANNAH. 

stood staring at a distance as George Arnold assisted his 
bride into the carriage after the crowd had dispersed. 

They drove straight to Hannah's house. There was an 
old figure waiting at the gate. Beside her stood a great 
pot of calla-lilies. 

" You jest lift in them lilies first, afore I git in," said she, 
" an' be real keerful you don't break 'em. The stalks is ten' 
der." 



A WAYFARING COUPLE. 

A LONG row of little cheap houses stretched on each side 
of the narrow, dusty street. There was not a tree in the 
whole length of it except in front of David May's house. 
A slim young maple, carefully boxed in around the trunk, 
stood close to his gate. 

These poor little houses were all alike ; they had been 
built expressly for the operatives in the Saunders Cotton 
Mills. There was a little square of ground fenced in before 
each cottage. Some were miniature vegetable gardens. 
Araminta May, David's wife, had hers all planted with 
fiowers. They were coarse and gaudy, rather than delicate ; 
her taste ran that way. The flower garden was divided into 
little fantastic beds edged with cobble-stones, and the nar- 
row footpath leading through the midst of it to the door 
had on each side a fence of bent willow boughs. 

Some morning-glory vines were climbing up on strings 
towards the two front windows ; Araminta's great ambition 
was to have them thickly screened. 

" Folks can't look in an' see us eat then," she said. 

They could now. Passers-by might look directly in on 
the little table set between the windows for tea. The six- 
o'clock whistle had blown, and the men and girls were com- 
ing home from the shops. They straggled along, the men 



122 A WAYFARING COUPLE 

in their calico shirt-sleeves, the girls in their soiled dresses, 
turning into this yard and that with an air of content. 

Araminta had worked in the shop, too, before she was 
married. Afterwards, David would not let her. " His wife 
might do his washing and ironing and cooking," he said, 
" but she should not work for other people as long as he 
had his two hands.'* 

Every cent that he could spare went to " rig Minty up," 
as he put it. He could not bear to see her in a poor gown ; 
she dressed as punctiliously as if she had been a fine lady 
" against Davy comes home." 

She had not a fine taste, and admired the cheaply gor- 
geous. To-night she had on a flimsy blue muslin with a 
good many flowers, and a deal of wide cotton lace. She 
was a handsome young woman. She had a long face, with 
full red lips and an exquisite florid complexion. She flushed 
pink easily from forehead to throat, but the pink was as fine 
as a rose's. She had flaxen hair, which she parted and 
combed straight back. 

Araminta's father had been a country minister on a piti- 
ful salary. Her mother had died first, and then her father 
in his little parish, when she was but a child. Since then 
she had shifted as best she could. She had lived around 
in various families, partly dependent, partly working her 
way, until she was eighteen. Then she came to Saunders- 
ville to work in the mills, and there she met David May, 
and was married to him. 

Araminta had not wholly escaped the suspicions liable 
to attach themselves to a handsome unprotected girl in 
a humble position. People had said she was a pretty 
wild kind of a girl, with a meaning look, before she was 
married. 



A WAYFARING COUPLE. 1 23 

She had watched for David anxiously to-night She had 
a little extra tea — a pie and some hot biscuits. 

" I'm awful glad you've come," she said, when the stout, 
curly-headed young fellow loomed up in the doorway. 
" The biscuits are all gettin' cold. What made you so late j 
it ain't pay-night ?" 

" No," said David, " it's turnin'-off night." 

" Now, David May, what do you mean .?" 

"Just what I say. It's turnin'-off night. I've got turned 
off." 

He dropped down on a chair with that and rested his 
elbows on his knees and held his head in his two hands — 
the attitude most indicative of a person's sympathy with his 
own tired soul. 

" Now, Davy, honest an' true, ain't you jokin* ?'* 

" No, I ain't jokin'. Wish to the Lord I was, for your 
sake !" 

" But what have you got turned off fur, Davy ? I declare, 
I'm all upset. They ain't out of work, are they ?" 

" No ; there's work enough. It's some of that Lem 
Wheelock's doin's. If any feller but him had been fore- 
man, I'd ha' kept my place. He's always had a spite 
again' me, and I'll be hanged if I know why." 

"What did they say was the reason they turned you 
off?" 

" Didn't give me no reason. The boss jest called me 
into his office, an' told me they wouldn't need my services no 
more, an' paid me what was owin' me, an' that was jest ten 
dollars. I tried to talk, but he kep' on writin' in a book an' 
didn't seem to hear me, an' I quit when I found out I might 
jest as well be talkin' to a stone wall. I dunno what Whee- 
lock's been tellin' him, and I don't care. Ef he wants me 



124 ^ WAYFARING COUPLE. 

to go, 1*11 go. I ain't goin' to whine, and tease him fur work. 
I've got a little feelin', ef I ain't one of the upper crust !" 

"That's so, Davy. I'd see him Down East first." 

" The worst of it is, Minty, I dunno how we're going to 
live, or where I'll get work. It's mighty dull times now. 
It's a mean kind of a box I've got you into." 

*' Now, don't you go to talkin' like that, David May ! I 
don't want to hear it. Git up an' wash you now, and eat 
your supper ; the biscuits are all gettin' cold." 

The poor fellow got up, threw his arms around his wife's 
waist, and leaned his head on his wife's shoulder. She was 
as tall as he. 

" Oh, Minty, I didn't know but you'd be fur goin' back 
on me, an' blamin' me, 'cause I'd hed such bad luck. Some 
women do." 

" I ain't some women then ; but I will be, if you go to 
suspectin' me of such a thing again, an' if you don't hurry 
and wash, an' eat them biscuits before they git cold — " 

" Well, mebbe we can weather it. I guess I can find 
some work pretty soon, an' you'll have enough to eat and 
wear. I guess we shall git along." 

"I'd laugh if we couldn't." 

A little later people passing by could look in and see the 
two at supper just as usual, David's calico shirt-sleeves at 
one end of the little white-covered table plying vigorously, 
and Minty's blue-draped arms at the other. 

After tea they were standing out in the yard, when Minty 
caught a glimpse of Lemuel Wheelock, the foreman, coming. 
She was standing close to her husband, clinging to his arm, 
when he got up in front of the house ; just when he had 
his eyes fixed full on her she even leaned her head against 
David's shoulder. She knew why she did, though her hus- 



A WAYFARING COUPLE. 125 

band did not ; she knew also why this foreman nad turned 
him off, and this was her method of stabbing him for it. 

It was effectual, too. Lemuel VVheeiock, who was a hand- 
some young man, with a thin black beard, who threw his 
shoulders well back when he walked, turned pale, gave a 
stiff nod, and went by quickly. 

" Confound him !" growled David. Minty said nothing 
for a minute — then she went on with the talk which he had 
interrupted. 

They formed a plan for the future which they set at once 
to carrying out. 

Three days later, early in the morning, before any of the 
neighbors were up, Minty and David started forth on a 
hundred-mile tramp. 

Coming through her little dewy garden, Minty stopped 
and picked an enormous bouquet of zinnias and marigolds 
and balsams. Then she swiftly pulled up the finest of the 
others by their roots. 

"There," she said, "the new folks sha'n't have my flow- 
ers! They sha'n't!" 

" Why, Minty !" cried David, aghast. 

" I don't care. I'd pull up that maple-tree if I could, 
and you'd carry it." 

"I'd look kinder queer startin' out on a hundred-mile 
tramp with a maple-tree over my shoulder," said David with 
a chuckle. 

Minty could not help laughing. Besides her basket of 
flowers she carried a basket with some eatables in it. In 
the pocket of her blue dress were her chief treasures — her 
little stock of cheap jewelry and her two keepsakes which 
she had for remembrances of her father and mother. These 
hst were a Greek Testament and a tiny pincushion made 



126 A WAYFARING COUPLE. 

of a bit of her mother's wedding-dress. Of course she could 
not read a word of the Greek Tesament, but she kept it 
lovingly. She called it "father's book." 

David carried the few clothes which they could not do with- 
out in a carpet-bag. He had about ten dollars in money. 
He had tried to persuade Minty to use it to defray her ex- 
penses by rail, while he made the journey on foot, alone, but 
she would not hear to it. White River, the town where they 
hoped to find work, was a hundred miles distant ; if not 
successful there, they would go fifty miles farther to Water- 
bury, and they must save their little stock of money for 
food. She laughed at the idea of the journey's hurting her; 
it would be fun, she said. 

They got out of the village into the woody road before 
any one was astir. Saundersville was a tiny rural manu- 
facturing town, skirted very closely by forests. It was a 
cool morning, though it was midsummer ; they went along 
the dark, dewy road gayly enough. They were not half as 
sad as they had thought they would be. Now they were 
fairly on the mountain of their affliction, they found out 
there were flowers on it. 

They were young and strong, and walking was a pleas- 
ure. It was enough sight better than being cooped up in 
the shop, David said, looking ahead between the green, 
dewy boughs. And Minty said she was glad not to be in 
the house washing dishes such a splendid morning. 

She even began to sing as they went along, a Sunday- 
school tune. The Saundersville folk sang that kind of 
music principally. Mr. Saunders kept a little church and 
Sunday-school running vigorously in his domain. David 
would not sing, but he listened to his wife sympathizingly. 
She had a strong soprano voice, and was not afraid to let it out. 



A WAYFARING COUPLE. 1 27 

They walked about twenty miles that day. They ate 
their dinner and supper from their basket by the roadside, 
and slept that night in an isolated barn, on a pile of fresh hay. 

The next morning they were a little tired and stiff, but 
they were too young and healthy to mind it much, and they 
rose and went on. 

That day they stopped in a village on their way and 
spent, cautiously, a portion of their ten dollars for food — 
bread and crackers. They could pick plenty of black- 
berries to eat with them along the road. 

So they kept on. When they reached White River David 
could find no work there ; the shops were full. There was 
nothing to do but go farther, to Waterbury. So far their 
courage had not failed them, but when they reached Water- 
bury and found no work there, they did not dare to look 
each other in the face. 

They sat down disconsolately to rest on a stone wall on 
the edge of a pasture, a little out of the village. It was 
getting late in the afternoon. 

" We've got to find some place or other to stay to-night," 
said David, moodily. 

Minty said nothing. She sat staring straight ahead. 
There were dark hollows under her eyes. 

They rose wearily after a little while, and kept on. They 
hoped to find a barn somewhere which would shelter them 
for the night. But they walked some miles farther along 
the country road without finding any kind of a building by 
the way. 

At last, about sunset, they reached a cleared space and a 
house on the east side of the road. No one lived in it j 
there was no mistaking that. Its desolateness looked out 
of its windows as plainly as faces. Where the glass in the 



128 A WAYFARING COUPLE 

front windows was not broken out, it reflected the sunset in 
blotches of red and gold. 

It was a large square building ; it had never been painted, 
and the walls as well as the roof were shingled. The shin- 
gles were scaling off now, and a great many of them had a 
green film of moss on them. The front door stood open 
with a dreary show of hospitality. 

Minty looked in wistfully, when she and David stood on 
the old door-stone. 

" S'pose we had some folks in there waitin' for us, an* 
supper was ready," said she. 

" Be pretty nice, wouldn't it, darlin' ?" 

" S'pose there were curtains to the windows, an' there was 
a bed made up white and clean — but there ain't no use 
talkin' this way. It kinder come over me, that's all." 

Minty went in then, laughing. She and David explored 
the old house, going through all the dingy, echoing rooms. 
There was not much in them but old rubbish. There 
was a great barn, which had once sheltered many head of 
cattle, adjoining the house. Minty and David found a few 
old rusty tools m there, a heap of hay on one of the dusty 
scaffolds, and the very phantom of an old sulky. There it 
stood, tottering on its two half-spokeless wheels, which had 
borne it over so many of the steep New England hill-roads 
in its day. Its seat was gone ; its covering hung in ribbons ; it 
looked as if it would crumble to dust in a moment, if drawn 
out of its stall, like an old skeleton if lifted out of its coffin. 

" My, what an awful lookin' old carriage," said Minty, peer- 
ing at it. 

'• Guess I'd better hitch up, an' we'll go to ride," said 
David, and they both laughed merrily at the poor joke. 

Back of the house had stretched the vegetable garden 



A WAYFARING COUPLE. 



T29 



and apple orchards. A great sweet apple-tree stood close 
to the kitchen door ; some of its branches brushed the roof. 
The tree had deteriorated like the house; some of its limbs 
were dead, and its apples were not the fair, large things 
that they had been. They were small and knotty. Still 
they were eatable, and they were just ripe now. The short 
grass back of the house was covered with them. The for- 
lorn young couple gathered up some, and carried them into 
one of the front rooms. They sat down on a heap of hay, 
which David had brought in from the barn, and supped off 
sweet apples and crackers. 

Before Minty began to eat she pulled her father's book 
and her mother's pincushion out of her pocket and laid 
them down beside her. She looked at David and laughed, 
and flushed pink as she did so. 

"What on earth are you doin' that fur, Minty .^" 

She flushed pinker. "Oh, dear, I don't know; I jest 
took a notion — I felt kinder lonesome. I declare, Davy, I 
wish to gracious that I had some folks or you had. They'd 
be mighty handy jest now." 

" That's so,'* said David slowly. He stopped eating, and 
his face took on a pitiful expression. " Oh, Minty, I did an 
awful mean thing marryin' you ; an' you a minister's daugh- 
ter, and so good-lookin'. You'd never been where you are 
if it hadn't been for me." 

" David May, you jest quit.*' 

" I wasn't half good enough for you — " 

Minty faced him passionately ; she was very white. 
" Now, David May, you were good enough for me, once fur 
all, don't you forget. You were good enough fur me ! You 
were good enough, I'm tellin' you the truth, you were ! 
Don't you dare to say you wa'n't again !" 
9 



13© A WAYFARING COUPLE. 

" Why, Minty, don't look at me so, darlin*, cause I won't 
if you feel like that ; but I can't help thinkin' — " 

" Don't you think it ! I'll leave you if you think it !" 

" Well, I won't think it. Why, Minty !" She fairly fright- 
ened him ; he did not know what to think of her. But she 
began to eat, and was talking of something else with her old 
manner in a minute, and he thought no more about it. 

There never was the least danger of David May's know- 
ing anything which other people did not want him to know. 
There was nothing of the detective element in him. The 
motives underlying people's actions were to him as the geo- 
logical strata beneath the surface of the earth. He simply 
went along through life looking at the snow or the flowers 
which happened to be in sight, and thinking nothing about 
the fire or the gold underneath them. 

That night they used their heap of hay for a bed ; they 
slept soundly on it, too. The next morning they ate more 
sweet apples and crackers ; then David started for Bassets, 
a little town three miles distant, in search of work. A man 
in Waterbury had told him that there was a tub factory in 
Bassets, and he thought of it now as a forlorn hope. 

Minty did not go with him. He came back about noon, 
bringing some eggs and a pound or so of salt pork, bought 
with his scanty remaining store of money, but his full, young 
face looked leaden. 

No work in Bassets. 

Minty tried to cheer him. She kindled a fire in the wide 
old fireplace in the kitchen ; she scoured an old frying-pan 
which she had found in the attic, and fried pork and eggs 
for dinner. 

But David could not eat much. His simple heart had 
taken to desparing more entirely from its very simplicity. 



A WAYFARING COUPLE. 13I 

He had very little imagination, and consequently little hope, 
to which he could resort. He sat with his head in his hands 
the rest of the day. Minty scolded and vexed, but she 
could not rouse him. 

Discouragement had developed an obstinacy in him of 
which he had never before seemed capable. 

The next morning he was sick — chilly and feverish — and 
could not get up. His pitiful, helpless look at Minty was 
hard to be seen. 

" Oh, Minty, I'm sick ; I can't get up. What will you 
do?" 

" I'll do well enough ; just you lay still and not worry. 
You'll be better by noon." 

But he was not. Minty brewed for him a tea of green 
peppermint leaves which she found near the house ; covered 
him up warm to induce perspiration, and did everything 
that she could, yet without much effect. 

As the day passed he grew no better. He did not seem 
violently or alarmingly ill, but the fever did not leave him, 
and he steadily lost strength and flesh. Their pitiable 
destitution pressed them harder and harder. They would 
have been reduced to a choice between beggary and starva- 
tion if Minty had not found a way out of the difficulty. She 
took it, right or wrong. She felt at the time very few scru- 
ples about the matter ; she did later, but she would have 
done the same thing again, probably, under the same cir- 
cumstances. 

Two or three broad meadows away from the old house 
there were several cows pastured. They belonged to some 
farmer. Miniy went there every night before the cows went 
home, and milked them one and another. She used an old 
earthen jar of a graceful shape, which she had found, for a 



132 ^ WAYFARING COUPLE. 

milking-pail. She strode home with it like a guilty thing, 
across the fields. She brushed through the sweet fern, 
knee deep, with the tall jar half-poised on her right hip, 
carrying her strong, beautiful figure like an Eastern woman. 

Minty kept thinking every day that the next day she 
must call on some one for assistance, have a doctor. But 
when the next day came David would think that he felt a 
little better, perhaps, and she would put it off. She had a 
fierce dislike of asking for charity. She thought it would 
be equivalent to knocking at an almshouse door, as it 
probably would have been. She kept all signs of the habi- 
tation of the old home resolutely from the few passers-by. 

She never looked out of a window without due caution. 
Her greatest terror was that she should be caught stealing 
the milk. She used so much art in milking from one cow 
and another, that she hardly thought the diminution in 
quantity would betray her, for a while anyway. But she 
started at every sound on her way to and from the pasture. 

She did not tell David how she got the milk. She 
laughed when he asked her, and said it was all right, it was 
a secret ; when he got well he should know. He was easily 
enough put off; he did not trouble himself much over that 
or anything else before long. He grew weaker and weaker. 
Finally one day he lay most of the time muttering in a half- 
delirium. He would not move himself much unless Minty 
left him for a moment. Then he would call after her, 
" Minty, Minty, Minty," every second until she came back. 

Returning from her milking expedition, she could hear 
him before she reached the house. His greatest fear seemed 
to be that she would leave him. 

" You won't go off and leave me, will you, Minty ?" he 
would say. 



A WAYFARING COUPLE. 133 

"Leave you? Oh, Davy, I guess I won't." 

He asked her that question over and over. Her assur- 
ances only satisfied him for the moment. The delirious 
fear kept springing up again in his weak brain. 

The next morning Minty watched the pale light coming 
in at the windows with a new resolution. " Somethin' has 
got to be done to-day," she whispered to herself. " Some- 
thin' shall be done." 

After the sun was up she tried to talk with David, and he 
seemed to rouse. She sat down on the floor beside him, 
and took his head in her lap, bending down and leaning 
her cheek against it 

" Davy, dear, I've got somethin' to tell you, an' I want 
you to listen jest a minute — " 

" Oh, Minty, don't you leave me ! Don't you go an' leave 
me!" 

" No; I won't — I ain't goin' to, Davy. Leastways not fur 
more'n two or three minutes. See here, Davy, darlin', I've got 
to go and git a doctor tocome and see you. I've got to go jestup 
here to Bassets, you know, and I needn't have to be gone — " 

" Oh, Minty ! Don't leave me ; don't, don't, don't !" 

" Oh, jest for two or three minutes ; won't you let me, 
dear ? I want to get the doctor, so he can give you some 
medicine to get you well. Don't you know, Davy ? 

"Oh, Minty, don't leave me! Oh, Minty, darlin', don't 
leave me; don't, don't, don't !" 

She reasoned with him, and coaxed him for a long time, 
but it was of no use. All she could get in return was that 
one despairing cry, *' Don't leave me !" 

Finally she gave it up, and sat looking straight ahead, her 
beautiful face held rigid with thought. " There's somethin' 
got to be done," she muttered. 



134 A WAYFARING COUPLE. 

After a little she rose. He clutched at her dress and set 
up his pitiful cry again. 

"There, there, dear, I ain't goin'. I ain't goin' to Bas- 
sets. I'm jest goin' to step out of the room a second. I'll 
leave the door open." 

She ran out of the house to the barn ; his cry followed 
her. There stood the old sulky which she and David had 
laughed at on the night of their arrival. She took hold of 
the shafts and pulled it out through the wide doors into the 
green yard. It was light, and she did it easily enough. 
She was very strong. 

" I can do it," she said, with a nod of her head. 

She dragged the sulky along into the road and stopped 
close to the front door. 

Then she ran in, laughing. " Come, Davy, darlin', you're 
goin' to ride ! The carriage is ready." 

"Oh, Minty, don't leave me." 

" Course I ain't goin' to leave you. I'm goin' with you. 
Don't you worry a bit, darlin'. Jest let me get your clothes 
on, an' you'll have a beautiful ride." 

She got the poor fellow into his clothes, talking merrily 
to him all the time. Then she helped him out of the house 
and into the sulky. She had fixed up a bed of hay in it, 
and she covered him with her shawl. 

He was so exhausted, and near fainting, that at first he 
hardly noticed anything. When she placed herself between 
the shafts, and began dragging him slowly out of the yard, 
however, he set up, from behind, a pitiful, sobbing cry : 

" Oh, Minty, you ain't a draggin' me 1 Let me git out. 
I won't have it ! Oh, Minty, I ain't come to this ! Minty, 
stop — you must stop. Don't you hear me ?" 

She turned around and looked at him. "David May, 



A WAYFARING COUPLE. 1 35 

you jest keep still. You don't weigh no more'n a feather ; 
it ain't nothin'. I'm only goin' to take you up to Bassets to 
see the doctor." 

" Minty, stop !" 

" Look here, Davy — if you don't lay back an' keep still, 
I'll — leave you." 

He did lie back at that and said no more. Indeed, he 
was too weak to prolong the struggle. The momentary 
strength which the sight of Minty in the shafts had given 
him died away. Minty pressed along. Her pretty face 
was a deep pink all over ; the perspiration rolled down her 
cheeks ; her fair hair clung to her temples. It was a warm 
day. The flowering bushes which bordered the road were 
swarming with bees, and the air was full of those rasping and 
humming sounds which seem to be the very voices of the heat. 

It was three miles to Bassets. There was not one house 
all the way, and the road was not much travelled. Minty 
did not meet any one. 

After a little David seemed asleep, or in a stupor. He 
lay very still, at any rate, and never spoke. Every little 
while Minty looked around at him to see if he was safe. 
When she did so her face was wonderful with the love and 
strong patience shining through it. Those days of watch- 
ing over this honest, distressed soul, whose love for her was 
so unquestioning, had caused all the good elements in her 
nature to work out a change in it. This was Minty's true 
flower time. Everything worthy in her was awake and astir 
and glowing. She, dragging her sick husband over the 
rough country road, like a beast of burden, was as perfect a 
woman as she ever would be in this world. She seemed to 
rise triumphant by this noble abasement from any lower 
level where she might have been. 



1^6 ^ WAYFARING COUPLE. 

She hastened along as fast as she was able. She was 
not conscious of any great fatigue, though occasionally she 
stopped to rest a moment. 

She reached Bassets about noon. She drew the sulky 
into the yard of a large white house, the first which she 
came to, and knocked on the door. 

" Can you — tell me — where — the doctor lives ?" she asked 
the man who opened it. 

She was leaning against the house, panting ; her face was 
almost purple. 

The man stood staring. He was old and large, with a 
sunburnt face and white hair. 

"What in creation," said he at last, "does this mean? 
Who air ye, anyway "i W hat ails him T* pointing at David 
lying back with deathly face, in the sulky. 

Minty told him their pitiful little story in a few panting 
words. Then she asked again where the doctor lived. 
She felt almost as if her strength were failing her, now that 
the struggle was so far over. 

" You don't mean to say," said the man, " that you dragged 
that sulky all the way here? It's a good three miles." 

"Yes; it wa'n't much." 

" Good Lord ! Mother, come here 1" 

His wife and daughter, who had been peeping, came then 
to the door with wondering faces. 

"Just look here, mother! This young woman's come all 
the way from the old Shaw house down below here. Dragged 
her sick husband in that 'ere sulky to see the doctor, she says." 

" Won't you please tell me where the doctor lives i"' asked 
poor Minty. 

** What's your name?" questioned the old woman. 

"May." 



A WAYFARING COUPLE, 137 

" They've come over a hundred mile, lookin' arter work, 
she says," the man went on, " an' he got sick, and they've 
been livin' down there, in the old Shaw house ; an' she 
wanted to get the doctor, and he wouldn't let her leave him, 
so she's dragged him all the way here in the sulky." 

"Does the doctor live fur from here?" asked Minty, 
piteously. 

" He's asleep, ain't he?" said the woman. 

" I guess so — I want to git to the doctor's." 

"An' you dragged him all the way yourself?" 

" Yes—" 

All of a sudden the woman stepped forward towards 
Minty, and away, as it were, from her New England suspi- 
cion and curiosity. 

"You poor thing," said she, with the tears streaming 
down her sallow cheeks, and her wide, thin mouth working, 
" I never heerd anythin' like it in my life !" 

" You come right in, an* we'll get him in, an' then Cyrus 
shall go fur the doctor. Mary, you go an' git the bed in the 
spare room ready." 

The daughter went in, wiping her eyes. She was thin 
and sallow, like her mother, and wore a black calico gown. 
Her own husband was dead, and she had come here to live 
with her father and mother. While she was making up the 
bed in the best bedroom, her tears dropped down on the 
white sheets. 

" I would ha' done as much for him if I'd had any need 
to whilst he was alive," she sobbed to herself 

In a little while poor David May was lying comfortable 
in that clean, cool bed. Minty was resting ; and they had 
sent for the doctor. He was a skilful man for a country 
town, and he did his best for David for his wife's sake. 



138 ^ WAYFARING COUPLE. 

The story of the journey in the sulky spread fast through 
Bassets. Whatever there was of sweet romance, what- 
ever there was of sweet human pity in those simple, some- 
what contracted country folks, was awakened. Poor, pretty, 
faulty Minty dragging the sulky with her sick husband in it, 
three miles to Bassets in the heat and dust, was to figure 
henceforth as the heroine of one of the unwritten folk-lore 
songs which are handed down from mother to daughter. 

Everybody was kind to the poor young couple. When 
David began to mend, and there was more opportunity for 
them, there was no end to the kindly services which were 
proffered. 

One day, when they had been there about five weeks, and 
David was decidedly convalescent, Mrs. Marsh, the woman 
who had taken them in, was standing at her door, talking 
to a neighbor, who had just brought over some custard for 
the sick man. 

" Yes," said she, " he's got through the worst on't now, ef 
he's careful." 

"You are goin' to keep 'em a while longer?" 

*' Keep 'em ? I guess I am ! I'm goin' to keep 'm till 
he gits real strong. She's the gratefulest thing you ever 
see, an' dretful afraid of makin' trouble. She keeps sayin' 
she guesses he's 'most well enough for 'em to be startin'. 
But I tell her, no ; you're goin' to stay jest where you are 
till he's able to git out." 

*' I heard Sampson was goin' to let him have work in the 
tub factory soon's he gets well." 

" Yes ; he came over 'bout it. If they wa'n't tickled. 
They're goin' to live up-stairs in Mis' Eaton's house. 
They've got some things they left in the place they used to 
live in, an' they're goin' to send for 'em. He keeps frettin' 



A WAYFARING COUPLE. I39 

'cause she ain't got any more clothes here. He seems to 
think a sight on her ; wants her to have everythin' and be 
dressed up. They seem jest as happy as the day is long, 
now. Hark, there she is, singin'." 

Minty's voice rang out from the best bedroom, clear and 
sweet, in a joyful psalm tune. The women stood, listening. 

" I declare," said the neighbor, finally, '' she's got a pretty 
voice, ain't she? All I kin think of is a bluebird singin', 
when he first comes back in the spring." 



A POETESS. 

The garden-patch at the right of the house was all a 
gay spangle with sweet-peas and red-flowering beans, and 
flanked with feathery asparagus. A woman in blue was 
moving about there. Another woman, in a black bonnet, 
stood at the front door of the house. She knocked and 
waited. She could not see from where she stood the blue- 
clad woman in the garden. The house was very close to 
the road, from which a tall evergreen hedge separated it, 
and the view to the side was in a measure cut off". 

The front door was open ; the woman had to reach to 
knock on it, as it swung into the entry. She was a small 
woman and quite young, with a bright alertness about her 
which had almost the effect of prettiness. It was to her 
what greenness and crispness are to a plant. She poked 
her little face forward, and her sharp pretty eyes took in the 
entry and a room at the left, of which the door stood open. 
The entry was small and square and unfurnished, except 
for a well-rubbed old card-table against the back wall. The 
room was full of green light from the tall hedge, and brist- 
ling with grasses and flowers and asparagus stalks. 

*' Betsey, you there ?" called the woman. When she 
spoke, a yellow canary, whose cage hung beside the front 
door, began to chirp and twitter. 



A POETESS. 141 

"Betsey, you there?" the woman called again. The 
bird's chirps came in a quick volley ; then he began to trill 
and sing. 

" She ain't there," said the woman. She turned and went 
out of the yard through the gap in the hedge ; then she 
looked around. She caught sight of the blue figure in the 
garden. " There she is," said she. 

She went around the house to the garden. She wore a 
gay cashmere-patterned calico dress with her mourning bon- 
net, and she held it carefully away from the dewy grass and 
vines. 

The other woman did not notice her until she was close 
to her and said, " Good-mornin', Betsey." Then she start- 
ed and turned around. 

" Why, Mis' Caxton ! That you ?" said she. 

" Yes. I've been standin' at your door for the last half- 
hour. I was jest goin' away when I caught sight of you 
out here." 

In spite of her brisk speech her manner was subdued. 
She drew down the corners of her mouth sadly. 

"I declare I'm dreadful sorry you had to stan' there so 
long !" said the other woman. 

She set a pan partly filled with beans on the ground, 
wiped her hands, which were damp and green from the wet 
vines, on her apron, then extended her right one with a 
solemn and sympathetic air. 

" It don't make much odds, Betsey," replied Mrs. Caxton. 
" I ain't got much to take up my time nowadays." She 
sighed heavily as she shook hands, and the other echoed her. 

"We'll go right in now. I'm dreadful sorry you stood 
there so long," said Betsey. 

"You'd better finish pickin' your beans." 



142 A POETESS. 

" No ; I wa'n't goin' to pick any more. I was jest goin' 
in." 

"I declare, Betsey Dole, I shouldn't think you'd got 
enough for a cat !" said Mrs. Caxton, eying the pan. 

*' I've got pretty near all there is. I guess I've got more 
flowerin' beans than eatin' ones, anyway." 

" I should think you had," said Mrs. Caxton, surveying 
the row of bean-poles topped with swarms of delicate red 
flowers. " I should think they were pretty near all flowerin' 
ones. Had any peas ?" 

" I didn't have more'n three or four messes. I guess I 
planted sweet-peas mostly. I don't know hardly how I 
happened to." 

" Had any summer squash V* 

" Two or three. There's some more set, if they ever get 
ripe. I planted some gourds. I think they look real pret- 
ty on the kitchen shelf in the winter." 

" I should think you'd got a sage bed big enough for the 
whole town." 

" Well, I have got a pretty good-sized one. I always 
liked them blue sage-blows. You'd better hold up your 
dress real careful goin' through here, Mis' Caxton, or youTj 
get it wet." 

The two women picked their way through the dewy grass, 
around a corner of the hedge, and Betsey ushered her vis- 
itor into the house. 

" Set right down in the rock in -chair," said she. " I'll 
jest carry these beans out into the kitchen." 

" I should think you'd better get another pan and string 
'era, or you won't get 'em done for dinner." 

"Well, mebbe I will, if you'll excuse it. Mis' Caxton. 
The beans had ought to boil quite a while ; they're pretty old." 



A POETESS. 



M3 



Betsey went into the kitchen and returned with a pan 
and an old knife. She seated herself opposite Mrs. Caxton, 
and began to string and cut the beans. 

" If I was in your place I shouldn't feel as if I'd got 
enough to boil a kettle for," said Mrs. Caxton, eying the 
beans. " I should 'most have thought when you didn't 
have any more room for a garden than you've got that 
you'd planted more real beans and peas instead of so 
many flowerin' ones. I'd rather have a good mess of 
green peas boiled with a piece of salt pork than all 
the sweet-peas you could give me. I like flowers well 
enough, but I never set up for a butterfly, an' I want some- 
thing else to live on." She looked at Betsey with pensive 
superiority. 

Betsey was near-sighted ; she had to bend low over the 
beans in order to string them. She was fifty years old, but 
she wore her streaky light hair in curls like a young girl. 
The curls hung over her faded cheeks and almost concealed 
them. Once in a while she flung them back with a child- 
ish gesture which sat strangely upon her. 

" I dare say you're in the right of it," she said, meekly. 

" I know I am. You folks that write poetry wouldn't 
have a single thing to eat growin' if they were left alone. 
And that brings to mind what I come for. I've been 
thinkin' about it ever since — our — little Willie — left us." 
Mrs. Caxton's manner was suddenly full of shamefaced dra- 
matic fervor, her eyes reddened with tears. 

Betsey looked up inquiringly, throwing back her curls. 
Her face took on unconsciously lines of grief so like the 
other woman's that she looked like her for the minute. 

" I thought maybe," Mrs. Caxton went on, tremulously, 
" you'd be willin' to — write a few lines." 



144 ^ POETESS. 

" Of course I will, Mis' Caxton. I'll be glad to, if I can 
do 'em to suit you," Betsey said, tearfully. 

" I thought jest a few — lines. You could mention how 
— handsome he was, and good, and I never had to punish 
him but once in his life, and how pleased he was with his 
little new suit, and what a sufferer he was, and — how we 
hope he is at rest — in a better land." 

" I'll try, Mis' Caxton, I'll try," sobbed Betsey. The two 
women wept together for a few minutes. 

"It seems as if — I couldn't have it so sometimes," Mrs. 
Caxton said, brokenly. "I keep thinkin' he's in the other 
— room. Every time I go back home when I've been away 
it's like — losin' him again. Oh, it don't seem as if I could 
go home and not find him there— it don't, it don't! Oh, 
you don't know anything about it, Betsey. You never had 
any children !" 

"I don't s'pose I do, Mis' Caxton; I don't s'pose I do." 

Presently Mrs. Caxton wiped her eyes. " I've been 
thinkin'," said she, keeping her mouth steady with an ef- 
fort, " that it would be real pretty to have — some lines 
printed on some sheets of white paper with a neat black 
border. I'd like to send some to my folks, and one to the 
Perkinses in Brigham, and there's a good many others I 
thought would value 'em." 

" I'll do jest the best I can, Mis' Caxton, an' be glad to. 
It's little enough anybody can do at such times." 

Mrs. Caxton broke out weeping again. " Oh, it's true, 
it's true, Betsey !" she sobbed. " Nobody can do anything, 
and nothin' amounts to anything — poetry or anything else 
— when he's gone. Nothin' can bring him back. Oh, what 
shall I do, what shall I do?" 

Mrs. Caxton dried her tears again, and arose to take 



A POETESS. 



^45 



leave, "Well, I must be goin', or Wilson won't have any 
dinner," she said, with an effort at self-control. 

" Well, I'll do jest the best I can with the poetry," said 
Betsey. " I'll write it this afternoon." She had set down 
her pan of beans and was standing beside Mrs. Caxton. 
She reached up and straightened her black bonnet, which 
had slipped backward. 

*' I've got to get a pin," said Mrs. Caxton, tearfully. " I 
can't keep it anywheres. It drags right off my head, the 
veil is so heavy," 

Betsey went to the door with her visitor. " It's dreadful 
dusty, ain't it?" she remarked, in that sad, contemptuous 
tone with which one speaks of discomforts in the presence 
of affliction. 

" Terrible," replied Mrs. Caxton. " I wouldn't wear my 
black dress in it nohow; a black bonnet is bad enough. 
This dress is 'most too good. It's enough to spoil every- 
thing. Well, I'm much obliged to you, Betsey, for bein' 
willin' to do that." 

" I'll do jest the best I can. Mis' Caxton." 

After Betsey had watched her visitor out of the yard she 
returned to the sitting-room and took up the pan of beans. 
She looked doubtfully at the handful of beans all nicely 
strung and cut up. " I declare I don't know what to do," 
said she. " Seems as if I should kind of relish these, but 
it's goin' to take some time to cook 'em, tendin' the fire an' 
everything, an' I'd ought to go to work on that poetry. 
Then, there's another thing, if I have 'em to-day, I can't 
to-morrow. Mebbe I shall take more comfort thinkin' 
about 'em. I guess I'll leave 'em over till to-morrow." 

Betsey carried the pan of beans out into the kitchen and 
set them away in the pantry. She stood scrutinizing the 



146 ^ FOEJ'ESS. 

shelves like a veritable Mother Hubbard. There was a 
plate containing three or four potatoes and a slice of cold 
boiled pork, and a spoonful of red jelly in a tumbler; that 
was all the food in sight. Betsey stooped and lifted the 
lid from an earthen jar on the floor. She took out two 
slices of bread. "There f* said she. " I'll have this bread 
and that jelly this noon, an' to-night I'll have a kind of din- 
ner-supper with them potatoes warmed up with the pork. 
An' then I can sit right down an' go to work on that poetry." 

It was scarcely eleven o'clock, and not time for dinner. 
Betsey returned to the sitting-room, got an old black port- 
folio and pen and ink out of the chimney cupboard, and 
seated herself to work. She meditated, and wrote one line, 
then another. Now and then she read aloud what she had 
written with a solemn intonation. She sat there thinking 
and writing, and the time went on. The twelve-o'clock bell 
rang, but she never noticed it ; she had quite forgotten the 
bread and jelly. The long curls drooped over her cheeks ; 
her thin yellow hand, cramped around the pen, moved 
slowly and fitfully over the paper. The light in the room 
was dim and green, like the light in an arbor, from the tall 
hedge before the windows. Great plumy bunches of aspar- 
agus waved over the tops of the looking-glass ; a framed 
sampler, a steel engraving of a female head taken from 
some old magazine, and sheaves of dried grasses hung on 
or were fastened to the walls ; vases and tumblers of flow- 
ers stood on the shelf and table. The air was heavy and 
sweet. 

Betsey in this room, bending over her portfolio, looked 
like the very genius of gentle, old-fashioned, sentimental 
poetry. It seemed as if one, given the premises of herself 
and the room, could easily deduce what she would write, 



A POETESS. 



147 



and read without seeing those lines wherein flowers rhymed 
sweetly with vernal bovvers, home with beyond the tomb, 
and heaven with even. 

The summer afternoon wore on. It grew warmer and 
closer ; the air was full of the rasping babble of insects, 
with the cicadas shrilling over them; now and then a team 
passed, and a dust cloud floated over the top of the hedge ; 
the canary at the door chirped and trilled, and Betsey wrote 
poor little Willie Caxton's obituary poetry. 

Tears stood in her pale blue eyes ; occasionally they 
rolled down her cheeks, and she wiped them away. She 
kept her handkerchief in her lap with her portfolio. When 
she looked away from the paper she seemed to see two 
childish forms in the room — one purely human, a boy clad 
in his little girl petticoats, with a fair chubby face ; the 
other in a little straight white night-gown, with long, shin- 
ing wings, and the same face. Betsey had not enough im« 
agination to change the face. Little Willie Caxton's ange^ 
was still himself to her, although decked in the parapher- 
nalia of the resurrection. 

" I s'pose I can't feel about it nor write about it anything 
the way I could if I'd had any children of my own an' lost 
'em. I s'pose it would have come home to me different," 
Betsey murmured once, sniffing. A soft color flamed up 
under her curls at the thought. For a second the room 
seemed all aslant with white wings, and smiling with the 
faces of children that had never been. Betsey straightened 
herself as if she were trying to be dignified to her inner 
consciousness. " That's one trouble I've been clear of, any- 
how," said she ; " an' I guess I can enter into her feelin's 
considerable." 

She glanced at a great nink shell on the shelf, and re- 



148 A POETESS. 

membered how she had often given it to the dead child to 
play with when he had been in with his mother, and how tie 
had put it to his ear to hear the sea. 

" Dear little fellow !" she sobbed, and sat awhile with her 
handkerchief at her face. 

Betsey wrote her poem upon backs of old letters and odd 
scraps of paper. She found it difficult to procure enough 
paper for fair copies of her poems when composed ; she was 
forced to be very economical with the first draft. Her 
portfolio was piled with a loose litter of written papers when 
she at length arose and stretched her stiff limbs. It was 
near sunset; men with dinner-pails were tramping past the 
gate, going home from their work. 

Betsey laid the portfolio on the table. " There ! I've 
wrote sixteen verses," said she, " an' I guess I've got every- 
thing in. I guess she'll think that's enough. I can copy 
it off nice to-morrow. I can't see to-night to do it, any- 
how." 

There were red spots on Betsey's cheeks ; her knees 
were unsteady when she walked. She went into the kitchen 
and made a fire, and set on the tea-kettle. " I guess I won't 
warm up them potatoes to-night," said she ; " I'll have the 
bread an' jelly, an' save 'em for breakfast. Somehow I 
don't seem to feel so much like 'em as I did, an' fried po- 
tatoes is apt to lay heavy at night." 

When the kettle boiled, Betsey drank her cup of tea and 
soaked her slice of bread in it ; then she put away her cup 
and saucer and plate, and went out to water her garden. 
The weather was so dry and hot it had to be watered every 
night. Betsey had to carry the water from a neighbor's 
well ; her own was dry. Back and forth she went in the 
deepening twilight, her slender body strained to one side 



A POETESS. 149 

with the heavy water-pail, until the garden-mould looked 
dark and wet. Then she took in the canary-bird, locked 
up her house, and soon her light went out. Often on these 
summer nights Betsey went to bed without lighting a lamp 
at all. There was no moon, but it was a beautiful starlight 
night. She lay awake nearly all night, thinking of her poem. 
She altered several lines in her mind. 

She arose early, made herself a cup of tea, and warmed 
over the potatoes, then sat down to copy the poem. She 
wrote it out on both sides of note-paper, in a neat, cramped 
hand. It was the middle of the afternoon before it was 
finished. She had been obliged to stop work and cook the 
beans for dinner, although she begrudged the time. When 
the poem was fairly copied, she rolled it neatly and tied it 
with a bit of black ribbon ; then she made herself ready to 
carry it to Mrs. Caxton's. 

It was a hot afternoon. Betsey went down the street in 
her thinnest dress — an old delaine, with delicate bunches 
of faded flowers on a faded green ground. There was a 
narrow green belt ribbon around her long waist. She wore 
a green barege bonnet, stiffened with rattans, scooping over 
her face, with her curls pushed forward over her thin cheeks 
in two bunches, and she carried a small green parasol with 
a jointed handle. Her costume was obsolete, even in the 
little country village where she lived. She had worn it 
every summer for the last twenty years. She made no 
more change in her attire than the old perennials in her 
garden. She had no money with which to buy new clothes, 
and the old satisfied her. She had come to regard them as 
being as unalterably a part of herself as her body. 

Betsey went on, setting her slim, cloth-gaitered feet daint- 
ily in the hot sand of the road. She carried her roll of 



150 A POETESS. 

poetry in a black-mitted hand. She walked rather slowly. 
She was not very strong; there was a limp feeling in her 
knees ; her face, under the green shade of her bonnet, was 
pale and moist with the heat. 

She was glad to reach Mrs. Caxton's and sit down in her 
parlor, damp and cool and dark as twilight, for the blinds 
and curtains had been drawn all day. Not a breath of the 
fervid out-door air had penetrated it. 

" Come right in this way ; it's cooler than the sittin - 
room," Mrs. Caxton said ; and Betsey sank into the hair- 
cloth rocker and waved a palm-leaf fan. 

Mrs. Caxton sat close to the window in the dim light, and 
read the poem. She took out her handkerchief and wiped 
her eyes as she read. " It's beautiful, beautiful," she said, 
tearfully, when she had finished. " It's jest as comfortin' 
as it can be, and you worked that in about his new suit so 
nice. I feel real obliged to you, Betsey, and you shall have 
one of the printed ones when they're done. I'm goin' to 
see to it right off." 

Betsey flushed and smiled. It was to her as if her poem 
had been approved and accepted by one of the great maga- 
zines. She had the pride and self-wonderment of recog- 
nized genius. She went home buoyantly, under the wilting 
sun, after her call was done. When she reached home 
there was no one to whom she could tell her triumph, but 
the hot spicy breath of the evergreen hedge and the fervent 
sweetness of the sweet-peas seemed to greet her like the 
voices of friends. 

She could scarcely wait for the printed poem. Mrs. Cax- 
ton brought it, and she inspected it, neatly printed in its 
black border. She was quite overcome with innocent 
prides 



A POETESS. 151 

" Well, I don't know but it does read pretty well," said 
she. 

" It's beautiful," said Mrs. Caxton, fervently. " Mr. White 
said he never read anything any more touchin', when I car- 
ried it to him to print. I think folks are goin' to think a 
good deal of havin' it. I've had two dozen printed." 

It was to Betsey like a large edition of a book. She had 
written obituary poems before, but never one had been 
printed in this sumptuous fashion. " I declare I think it 
would look pretty framed !" said she. 

"Well, I don't know but it would," said Mrs. Caxton. 
*' Anybody might have a neat little black frame, and it 
would look real appropriate." 

"I wonder how much it would cost.?" said Betsey. 

After Mrs. Caxton had gone, she sat long, staring admir- 
ingly at the poem, and speculating as to the cost of a frame. 
"There ain't no use ; I can't have it nohow, not if it don't 
cost more'n a quarter of a dollar," said she. 

Then she put the poem away and got her supper. No- 
body knew how frugal Betsey Dole's suppers and break- 
fasts and dinners were. Nearly all her food in the summer 
came from the scanty vegetables which flourished between 
the flowers in her garden. She ate scarcely more than her 
canary-bird, and sang as assiduously. Her income was al- 
most infinitesimal : the interest at a low per cent, of a tiny 
sum in the village savings-bank, the remnant of her father's 
little hoard after his funeral expenses had been paid. Betsey 
had lived upon it for twenty years, and considered herself 
well-to-do. She had never received a cent for her poems ; 
she had not thought of such a thing as possible. The ap- 
pearance of this last in such shape was worth more to her 
than its words reoresented in as many dollars. 



152 A POETESS, 

Betsey kept the poem pinned on the wall under the look- 
ing-glass ; if any one came in, she tried with delicate hints 
to call attention to it. It was two weeks after she received 
it that the downfall of her innocent pride came. 

One afternoon Mrs. Caxton called. It was raining hard. 
Betsey could scarcely believe it was she when she went to 
the door and found her standing there. 

" Why, Mis' Caxton !" said she. " Ain't you wet to your 
skin ?" 

" Yes, I guess I be, pretty near. I s'pose I hadn't ought 
to come 'way down here in such a soak ; but I went into 
Sarah Rogers's a minute after dinner, and something she 
said made me so mad, I made up my mind I'd come down 
here and tell you about it if I got drowned." Mrs. Caxton 
was out of breath ; rain-drops trickled from her hair over 
her face ; she stood in the door and shut her umbrella 
with a vicious shake to scatter the water from it. " I don't 
know what you're goin' to do with this," said she ; " it's 
drippin'." 

*' I'll take it out an' put it in the kitchen sink." 

"Well, I'll take off my shawl here too, and you can hang 
it out in the kitchen. I spread this shawl out. I thought 
it would keep the rain off me some. I know one thing, I'm 
goin' to have a waterproof if I live." 

When the two women were seated in the sitting-room, 
Mrs. Caxton was quiet for a moment. There was a hesi- 
tating look on her face, fresh with the moist wind, with 
strands of wet hair clinging to the temples. 

" I don't know as I had ought to tell you," she said, 
doubtfully. 

" Why hadn't you ought to ?" 

" Well, I don't care ; I'm goin' to, anyhow. I think you'd 



A POETESS. 153 

ought to know, an' it ain't so bad for you as it is for me. 
It don't begin to be. I put considerable money into 'em. 
I think Mr. White was pretty high, myself." 

Betsey looked scared. " What is it ?" she asked, in a 
weak voice. 

'' Sarah Rogers says that the minister told her Ida that that 
poetry you wrote was jest as poor as it could be, an it was in 
dreadful bad taste to have it printed an' sent round that way. 
What do you think of that?" 

Betsey did not reply. She sat looking at Mrs. Caxton 
as a victim whom the first blow had not killed might look 
at her executioner. Her face was like a pale wedge of ice 
between her curls. 

Mrs. Caxton went on. "Yes, she said that right to my 
face, word for word. An' there was something else. She 
said the minister said that you had never wrote anything 
that could be called poetry, an' it was a dreadful waste of 
time. I don't s'pose he thought 'twas comin' back to you. 
You know he goes with Ida Rogers, an' I s'pose he said it 
to her kind of confidential when she showed him the poetry. 
There! I gave Sarah Rogers one of them nice printed 
ones, an' she acted glad enough to have it. Bad taste ! 
H'm ! If anybody wants to say anything against that 
beautiful poetry, printed with that nice black border, they 
can. I don't care if it's the minister, or who it is. I don't 
care if he does write poetry himself, an' has had some 
printed in a magazine. Maybe his ain't quite so fine as he 
thinks 'tis. Maybe them magazine folks jest took his for 
lack of something better. I'd like to have you send that 
poetry there. Bad taste ! I jest got right up. ' Sarah 
Rogers,' says I, ' I hope you won't never do anything your- 
self in any worse taste.' I trembled so I could hardly 



154 ^ POETESS. 

speak, and I made up my mind I'd come right straight 
over here." 

Mrs. Caxton went on and on. Betsey sat listening, and 
saying nothing. She looked ghastly. Just before Mrs. 
Caxton went home she noticed it. " Why, Betsey Dole," 
she cried, "you look as white as a sheet. You ain't takin' 
it to heart as much as all that comes to, I hope. Good- 
ness, I wish I hadn't told you !" 

" I'd a good deal ruther you told me," replied Betsey, 
with a certain dignity. She looked at Mrs. Caxton. Her 
back was as stiff as if she were bound to a stake. 

"Well, I thought you would," said Mrs. Caxton, uneasily; 
" and you're dreadful silly if you take it to heart, Betsey, 
that's all I've got to say. Goodness, I guess I don't, and 
it's full as hard on me as 'tis on you !" 

Mrs. Caxton arose to go. Betsey brought her shawl and 
umbrella from the kitchen, and helped her off. Mrs. Cax- 
ton turned on the door-step and looked back at Betsey's 
white face. " Now don't go to thinkin' about it any more," 
said she. " I ain't goin' to. It ain't worth mindin'. Every- 
body knows what Sarah Rogers is. Good-by." 

"Good-by, Mis' Caxton," said Betsey. She went back 
into the sitting-room. It was a cold rain, and the room 
was gloomy and chilly. She stood looking out of the win- 
dow, watching the rain pelt on the hedge. The bird-cage 
hung at the other window. The bird watched her with his 
head on one side ; then he begun to chirp. 

Suddenly Betsey faced about and began talking. It was 
not as if she were talking to herself; it seemed as if she 
recognized some other presence in the room. " I'd like to 
know if it's fair," said she. "I'd like to know if you think 
it's fair. Had I ought to have been born with the wantin' 



A POETESS. 155 

to write poetry if I couldn't write it — had I ? Had I ouglit 
to have been let to write all my life, an' not know before 
there wa'n't any use in it ? Would it be fair if that canary- 
bird there, that ain't never done anything but sing, should 
turn out not to be singin' ? Would it, I'd like to know? 
S'pose them sweet-peas shouldn't be smellin' the right 
way? I ain't been dealt with as fair as they have, I'd like 
to know if I have." 

The bird trilled and trilled. It was as if the golden 
down on his throat bubbled. Betsey went across the room 
to a cupboard beside the chimney. On the shelves were 
neatly stacked newspapers and little white rolls of writing- 
paper. Betsey began clearing the shelves. She took out 
the newspapers first, got the scissors, and cut a poem neat- 
ly out of the corner of each. Then she took up the clipped 
poems and the white rolls in her apron, and carried them 
into the kitchen. She cleaned out the stove carefully, re- 
moving every trace of ashes ; then she put in the papers, 
and set them on fire. She stood watching them as their 
edges curled and blackened, then leaped into flame. Her 
face twisted as if the fire were curling over it also. Other 
women might have burned their lovers' letters in agony of 
heart. Betsey had never had any lover, but she was burn- 
ing all the love-letters that had passed between her and 
life. When the flames died out she got a blue china sugar- 
bowl from the pantry and dipped the ashes into it with one 
of her thin silver teaspoons; then she put on the cover and 
set it away in the sitting-room cupboard. 

The bird, who had been silent while she was out, began 
chirping again. Betsey went back to the pantry and got a 
lump of sugar, which she stuck between the cage wires. 
She looked at the clock on the kitchen shelf as she went 



156 A POETESS. 

by. It was after six. " I guess I don't want any supper 
to-night," she muttered. 

She sat down by the window again. The bird pecked 
at his sugar. Betsey shivered and coughed. She had 
coughed more or less for years. People said she had the 
old-fashioned consumption. She sat at the window until it 
was quite dark ; then she went to bed in her little bedroom 
out of the sitting-room. She shivered so she could not hold 
herself upright crossing the room. She coughed a great 
deal in the night. 

Betsey was always an early riser. She was up at five the 
next morning. The sun shone, but it was very cold for the 
.season. The leaves showed white in a north wind, and the 
flowers looked brighter than usual, though they were bent 
with the rain of the day before. Betsey went out in the 
garden to straighten her sweet-peas. 

Coming back, a neighbor passing in the street eyed her 
curiously. " Why, Betsey, you sick .^" said she. 

" No ; I'm kinder chilly, that's all," replied Betsey. 

But the woman went home and reported that Betsey Dole 
looked dreadfully, and she didn't believe she'd ever see an- 
other summer. 

It was now late August. Before October it was quite 
generally recognized that Betsey Dole's life was nearly 
over. • She had no relatives, and hired nurses were rare in 
this little village. Mrs. Caxton came voluntarily and took 
care of her, only going home to prepare her husband's meals. 
Betsey's bed was moved into the sitting-room, and the neigh- 
bors came every day to see her, and brought little delica- 
cies. Betsey had talked very little all her life ; she talked 
less now, and there was a reticence about her which some- 
what intimidated the other women. They would look pity- 



A POETESS. x$f 

ingly and solemnly at her, and whisper in the entry when 
they went out. 

Betsey never complained ; but she kept asking if the 
minister had got home. He had been called away by his 
mother's illness, and returned only a week before Betsey died. 

He came over at once to see her. Mrs. Caxton ushered 
him in one afternoon. 

" Here's Mr. Lang come to see you, Betsey," said she, in 
the tone she would have used towards a little child. She 
placed the rocking-chair for the minister, and was about to 
seat herself, when Betsey spoke : 

"Would you mind goin' out in the kitchen jest a few 
minutes, Mis' Caxton ?" said she. 

Mrs. Caxton arose, and went out with an embarrassed 
trot. Then there was silence. The minister was a young 
man — a country boy who had worked his way through a 
country college. He was gaunt and awkward, but sturdy in 
his loose clothes. He had a homely, impetuous face, with 
a good forehead. 

He looked at Betsey's gentle, wasted face, sunken in the 
pillow, framed by its clusters of curls ; finally he began to 
speak in the stilted fashion, yet with a certain force by 
reason of his unpolished honesty, about her spiritual wel- 
fare. Betsey listened quietly ; now and then she assented. 
She had been a church member for years. It seemed now 
to the young man that this elderly maiden, drawing near the 
end of her simple, innocent life, had indeed her lamp, which 
no strong winds of temptation had ever met, well trimmed 
and burning. 

When he paused, Betsey spoke. "Will you go to the 
cupboard side of the chimney and bring me the blue sugar- 
bowl on the top shelf?" said she, feebly. 



ijg A POETESS. 

The young man stared at her a minute ; then he went to 
the cupboard, and brought the sugar-bowl to her. He held 
it, and Betsey took off the lid with her weak hand. "Do 
you see what's in there V said she. 

" It looks like ashes." 

" It's — the ashes of all — the poetry I — ever wrote." 

" Why, what made you burn it, Miss Dole ?" 

" I found out it wa'n't worth nothin'." 

The minister looked at her in a bewildered way. He be- 
gan to question if she were not wandering in her mind. He 
did not once suspect his own connection with the matter. 

Betsey fastened her eager, sunken eyes upon his face. 
"What I want to know is — if you'll 'tend to — havin' this — 
buried with me." 

The minister recoiled. He thought to himself that she 
certainly was wandering. 

" No, I ain't out of my head," said Betsey. " I know 
what I'm sayin'. Maybe it's queer soundin', but it's a no- 
tion I've took. If you'll — 'tend to it, I shall be — much 
obliged. I don't know anybody else I can ask." 

"Well, I'll attend to it, if you wish me to, Miss Dole," 
said the minister, in a serious, perplexed manner. She re- 
placed the lid on the sugar-bowl, and left it in his hands. 

" Well, I shall be much obliged if you will 'tend to it j 
an' now there's something else," said she. 

" What is it, Miss Dole .>" 

She hesitated a moment. "You write poetry, don't 
you ?" 

The minister colored. " Why, yes ; a little sometimes." 

" It's good poetry, ain't it ? They printed some in a 
magazine." 

The minister laughed confusedly. " Well, Miss Dole, I 



A POETESS. 159 

don't know how good poetry it may be, but they did print 
some in a magazine." 

Betsey lay looking at him. "I never wrote none that 
was — good," she whispered, presently ; " but I've been 
thinkin' — if you would jest write a few — lines about me — 
afterward — I've been thinkin' that — mebbe my — dyin* 
was goin' to make me — a good subject for — poetry, if I 
never wrote none. If you would jest write a few lines." 

The minister stood holding the sugar-bowl ; he was quite 
paie with bewilderment and sympathy. " I'll — do the best 
I can, Miss Dole," he stammered. 

" I'll be much obliged," said Betsey, as if the sense of 
grateful obligation was immortal like herself. She smiled, 
and the sweetness of the smile was as evident through the 
drawn lines of her mouth as the old red in the leaves of a 
withered rose. The sun was setting ; a red beam flashed 
softly over the top of the hedge and lay along the opposite 
wall ; then the bird in his cage began to chirp. He chiroed 
faster and faster until he trilled into a triumphant song. 



CHRISTMAS JENNY. 

The day before there had been a rain and a thaw, then 
in the night the wind had suddenly blown from the north, 
and it had grown cold. In the morning it was very clear 
and cold, and there was the hard glitter of ice over every- 
thing. The snow-crust had a thm coat of ice, and all the 
open fields shone and flashed. The tree boughs and 
trunks, and all the little twigs, were enamelled with ice. 
The roads were glare and slippery with it, and so were the 
door-yards. In old Jonas Carey's yard the path that sloped 
from the door to the well was like a frozen brook. 

Quite early in the morning old Jonas Carey came out 
with a pail, and went down the path to the well. He went 
slowly and laboriously, shuffling his feet, so he should not 
fall. He was tall and gaunt, and one side of his body 
seemed to slant towards the other, he settled so much more 
heavily upon one foot. He was somewhat stiff and lame 
from rheumatism. 

He reached the well in safety, hung the pail, and began 
pumping. He pumped with extreme slowness and steadi- 
ness ; a certain expression of stolid solemnity, which his face 
wore, never changed. 

When he had filled his pail he took it carefully from the 
pump spout, and started back to the house, shuffling as be* 



CHRISTMAS JENNY, X6l 

fore. He was two thirds of the way to the door, when he 
came to an extremely slippery place. Just there some roots 
from a little cherry-tree crossed the path, and the ice made 
a dangerous little pitch over them. 

Old Jonas lost his footing, and sat down suddenly; the 
water was all spilled. The house door flew open, and an 
old woman appeared. 

" Oh, Jonas, air you hurt ?" she cried, blinking wildly and 
terrified ly in the brilliant light. 

The old man never said a word. He sat still and looked 
straight before him, solemnly. 

" Oh, Jonas, you ain't broke any bones, hev you .?" The 
old woman gathered up her skirts and began to t.^^t, off 
the door-step, with trembling knees. 

Then the old man raised his voice. " Stay where you 
be," he said, imperatively. " Go back into the house !'* 

He began to raise himself, one joint at a time, and the 
old woman went back into the house, and looked out of the 
window at him. 

When old Jonas finally stood upon his feet it seemed as 
if he had actually constructed himself, so piecemeal his ris- 
ing had been. He went back to the pump, hung the pail 
under the spout, and filled it. Then he started on the re- 
turn with more caution than before. When he reached the 
dangerous place his feet fiew up again, he sat down, and the 
water was spilled. 

The old woman appeared in the door; her dim blue 
eyes were quite round, her delicate chin was dropped. 
"Oh, Jonas!" 

" Go back !" cried tlie old man, with an imperative jerk of 
his head towards her, and she retreated. This tim.e he arose 
more quickly, and made quite a lively shuffle back to the pump. 
II 



l62 CHRISTMAS JENNY, 

But when his pail was filled and he again started on the 
return, his caution was redoubled. He seemed to scarcely 
move at all. When he approached the dangerous spot his 
progress was hardly more perceptible than a scaly leaf- 
slug's. Repose almost lapped over motion. The old 
woman in the window watched breathlessly. 

The slippery place was almost passed, the shuffle quick- 
ened a little — the old man sat down again, and the tin pail 
struck the ice with a clatter. 

The old woman appeared. " Oh, Jonas !" 

Jonas did not look at her ; he sat perfectly motionless. 

"Jonas, air you hurt? Do speak to me for massy sake !" 
Jonas did not stir. 

Then the old woman let herself carefully off the step. 
She squatted down upon the icy path, and hitched along to 
Jonas. She caught hold of his arm — "Jonas, you don't 
feel as if any of your bones were broke, do you ?" Her 
voice was almost sobbing, her small frame was all of a trem- 
ble. 

" Go back !" said Jonas. That was all he would say. 
The old woman's tearful entreaties did not move him in the 
least. Finally she hitched herself back to the house, and 
took up her station in the window. Once in a while she 
rapped on the pane, and beckoned piteously. 

But old Jonas Carey sat still. His solemn face was in- 
scrutable. Over his head stretched the icy cherry-branches, 
full of the flicker and dazzle of diamonds. A woodpecker 
flew into the tree and began tapping at the trunk, but the 
ice-enamel was so hard that he could not get any food. 
Old Jonas sat so still that he did not mind him. A jay 
flew on the fence within a few feet of him \ a sparrow pecked 
at some weeds piercing the snow-crust beside the door. 



CHRISTMAS JENNY. 163 

Over in the east arose the mountain, covered with frosty 
foliage full of silver and blue and diamond lights. The air 
was stinging. Old Jonas paid no attention to anything. 
He sat there. 

The old woman ran to the door again. " Oh, Jonas, 
you'll freeze, settin' there!" she pleaded. "Can't you git 
up ? Your bones ain't broke, air they ?" Jonas was silent. 

"Oh, Jonas, there's Christmas Jenny comin' down the 
road — what do you s'pose she'll think ?" 

Old Jonas Carey was unmoved, but his old wife eagerly 
watched the woman coming down the road. The woman 
looked oddly at a distance : like a broad green moving 
bush ; she was dragging something green after her, too. 
When she came nearer one could see that she was laden 
with evergreen wreaths — her arms were strung with them ; 
long sprays of ground-pine were wound around her shoul- 
ders, she carried a basket trailing with them, and holding 
also many little bouquets of bright-colored everlasting flow- 
ers. She dragged a sled, with a small hemlock-tree bound 
upon it. She came along sturdily over the slippery road. 
When she reached the Carey gate she stopped and looked 
over at Jonas. "Is he hurt?" she sang out to the old 
woman. 

" I dunno — he's fell down three times." 

Jenny came through the gate, and proceeded straight to 
Jonas. She left her sled in the road. She stooped, brought 
her basket on a level with Jonas's head, and gave him a 
little push with it. "What's the matter with ye?" Jonas 
did not wink. "Your bones ain't broke, are they ?" 

Jenny stood looking at him for a moment. She wore 
a black hood, her large face was weather-beaten, deeply 
tanned, and reddened. Her features were strong, but 



l64 CHRISTMAS JENNY. 

heavily cut. She made one think of those sylvan faces 
with features composed of bark-wrinkles and knot-holes, 
that one can fancy looking out of the trunks of trees. She 
was not an aged woman, but her hair was iron-gray, and 
crinkled as closely as gray moss. 

Finally she turned towards the house. *' I'm comin' in a 
minute," she said to Jonas's wife, and trod confidently up 
the icy steps. 

"Don't you slip," said the old woman, tremulously. 

"I ain't afraid of slippin'." When they were in the house 
she turned around on Mrs. Carey, " Don't you fuss, he ain't 
hurt." 

" No, I don't s'pose he is. It's jest one of his tantrums. 
But I dunno what I am goin' to do. Oh, dear me suz, I 
dunno what I am goin' to do with him sometimes 1" 

" Leave him alone — let him set there." 

"Oh, he's tipped all that water over, an' I'm afeard he'll 
— freeze down. Oh, dear !" 

"Let him freeze ! Don't you fuss, Betsey." 

" I was jest goin' to git breakfast. Mis' Gill she sent us 
in two sassage-cakes. I was goin' to fry 'em, an' I jest 
asked him to go out an' draw a pail of water, so's to fill up 
the tea-kittle. Oh, dear !" 

Jenny sat her basket in a chair, strode peremptorily out 
of the house, picked up the tin pail which lay on its side 
near Jonas, filled it at the well, and returned. She wholly 
ignored the old man. When she entered the door his eyes 
relaxed their solemn stare at vacancy, and darted a swift 
glance after her. 

" Now fill up the kittle, an' fry the sassages," she said to 
Mrs. Carey. 

"Oh, I'm afeard he won't git up, an' they'll be cold! 



CHRISTMAS JENNY. 165 

Sometimes his tantrums last a consider'ble while. You see 
he sot down three times, an' he's awful mad." 

" I don't see who he thinks he's spitin'." 

"I dunno, 'less it's Providence." 

"I reckon Providence don't care much where he sets." 

"Oh, Jenny, I'm dreadful afeard he'll freeze down." 

" No, he won't. Put on the sassages." 

Jonas's wife went about getting out the frying-pan, croon- 
ing over her complaint all the time. " He's dreadful fond 
of sassages,'' she said, when the odor of the frying sausages 
became apparent in the room. 

"He'll smell 'em an' come in," remarked Jenny, dryly. 
"He knows there ain't but two cakes, an' he'll be afeard 
you'll give me one of 'em." 

She was right. Before long the two women, taking sly 
peeps from the window, saw old Jonas lumberingly getting 
up. " Don't say nothin' to him about it when he comes in," 
whispered Jenny. 

When the old man clumped into the kitchen, neither of the 
women paid any attention to him. His wife turned the 
sausages, and Jenny was gathering up her wreaths. Jonas 
let himself down into a chair, and looked at them uneasily. 
Jenny laid down her wreaths. " Goin' to stay to breakfast?" 
said the old man. 

"Well, I dunno," replied Jenny. "Them sassages do 
smell temptin'." 

All Jonas's solemnity had vanished, he looked foolish 
and distressed. 

" Do take off your hood, Jenny," urged Betsey. " I ain't 
very fond of sassages myself, an' I'd jest as liv's you'd have 
my cake as not." 

Jenny laughed broadly and good-naturedly, and began 



1 66 CHRISTMAS JENNY. 

gathering up her wreaths again. " Lor', I don't want your 
sassage-cake," said she. " I've had my breakfast I'm 
goin' down to the village to sell my wreaths." 

Jonas's face lit up. "Pleasant day, ain't it.?" he re- 
marked, affably. 

Jenny grew sober. "I don't think it's a very pleasant 
day; guess you wouldn't if you was a woodpecker or a 
blue-jay," she replied. 

Jonas looked at her with stupid inquiry. 

"They can't git no breakfast," said Jenny. " They can't 
git through the ice on the trees. They'll starve if there 
ain't a thaw pretty soon. I've got to buy 'em somethin' 
down to the store. I'm goin' to feed a few of 'em. I ain't 
goin' to see 'em dyin' in my door-yard if I can help it. 
I've given 'em all I could spare from my own birds this 
mornin'," 

" It's too bad, ain't it .?" 

"I think it's too bad. I was goin' to buy me a new 
caliker dress if this freeze hadn't come, but I can't now. 
What it would cost will save a good many lives. Well, I've 
got to hurry along if I'm goin' to git back to-day." 

Jenny, surrounded with her trailing masses of green, had 
to edge herself through the narrow doorway. She went 
straight to the village and peddled her wares from house to 
house. She had her regular customers. Every year, the 
week before Christmas, she came down from the mountain 
with her evergreens. She was popularly supposed to earn 
quite a sum of money in that way. In the summer she 
sold vegetables, but the green Christmas traffic was re- 
garded as her legitimate business — it had given her her 
name among the villagers. However, the fantastic name 
may have arisen from the popular conception of Jenny's 



CHRISTMAS JENNY. 167 

character. She also was considered somewhat fantastic, al- 
though there was no doubt of her sanity. In her early 
youth she had had an unfortunate love affair, that was sup- 
posed to have tinctured her whole life with an alien ele- 
ment. " Love-cracked," people called her. 

''Christmas Jenny's kind of love-cracked," they said. 
She was Christmas Jenny in midsummer, when she came 
down the mountain laden with green peas and string-beans 
and summer squashes. 

She owned a little house and a few acres of cleared land 
on the mountain, and in one way or another she picked up 
a living from it. 

It was noon to-day before she had sold all her evergreens 
and started up the mountain road for home. She had laid 
in a small stock of provisions, and she carried them in the 
basket which had held the little bunches of life-everlasting 
and amaranth flowers and dried grasses. 

The road wound along the base of the mountain. She 
had to follow it about a mile ; then she struck into a cart- 
path which led up to the clearing where her house was. 

After she passed Jonas Carey's there were no houses and 
no people, but she met many living things that she knew. 
A little field-mouse, scratching warily from cover to cover, 
lest his enemies should spy him, had appreciative notice 
from Jenny Wrayne. She turned her head at the call of a 
jay, and she caught a glimmer of blue through the dazzling 
white boughs. She saw with sympathetic eyes a wood- 
pecker drumming on the ice-bound trunk of a tree. Now 
and then she scattered, with regretful sparseness, some 
seeds and crumbs from her parcels. 

At the point where she left the road for the cart-path 
^here was a gap in the woods, and a clear view of the vil- 



1 68 CHRISTMAS JENNY. 

lage below. She stopped and looked back at it. It was 
quite a large village ; over it hung a spraying net-work of 
frosty branches ; the smoke arose straight up from the 
chimneys. Down in the village street a girl and a young 
man were walking, talking about her, but she did not know 
that. 

The girl was the minister's daughter. She had just be- 
come engaged to the young man, and was walking with him 
in broad daylight with a kind of shamefaced pride. When- 
ever they met anybody she blushed, and at the same time 
held up her head proudly, and swung one arm with an airy 
motion. She chattered glibly and quite loudly, to cover her 
embarrassment. 

"Yes," she said, in a sweet, crisp voice, "Christmas 
Jenny has just been to the house, and we've bought some 
wreaths. We're going to hang them in all the front win- 
dows. Mother didn't know as we ought to buy them of her, 
there's so much talk, but I don't believe a word of it, for my 
part." 

" What talk .?" asked the young man. He held himself 
very stiff and straight, and never turned his head when he 
shot swift, smiling glances at the girl's pink face. 

" Why, don't you know ? It's town-talk. They say she's 
got a lot of birds and rabbits and things shut up in cages, 
and 'half starves them ; and then that little deaf-and-dumb 
boy, you know — they say she treats him dreadfully. They're 
going to look into it. Father and Deacon Little are going 
up there this week." 

"Are they?" said the young man. He was listening to 
the girl's voice with a sort of rapturous attention, but he had 
little idea as to what she was saying. As they walked, they 
faced the mountain. 



CHRISTMAS JENNY. 169 

It was only the next day when the minister and Deacon 
Little made the visit. They started up a flock of sparrows 
that were feeding by Jenny's door; but the birds did not 
fly very far — they settled into a tree and watched. Jenny's 
house was hardly more than a weather-beaten hut, but there 
was a grape-vine trained over one end, and the front yard 
was tidy. Just before the house stood a tall pine-tree. 
At the rear, and on the right, stretched the remains of 
Jenny's last summer's garden, full of plough -ridges and 
glistening corn-stubble. 

Jenny was not at home. The minister knocked and got 
no response. Finally he lifted the latch, and the two men 
walked in. The room seemed gloomy after the brilliant 
light outside ; they could not see anything at first, but they 
could hear a loud and demonstrative squeaking and chirp- 
ing and twittering that their entrance appeared to excite. 

At length a small pink-and-white face cleared out of the 
gloom in the chimney-corner. It surveyed the visitors with 
no fear nor surprise, but seemingly with an innocent amia- 
bility. 

" That's the little deaf-and-dumb boy," said the minister, 
in a subdued voice. The minister was an old man, narrow- 
shouldered, and clad in long-waisted and wrinkly black. 
Deacon Little reared himself in his sinewy leanness until his 
head nearly touched the low ceiling. His face was sallow 
and severely corrugated, but the features were handsome. 

Both stood staring remorselessly at the little deaf-and- 
dumb boy, who looked up in their faces with an expression 
of delicate wonder and amusement. The little boy was 
dressed like a girl, in a long blue gingham pinafore. He 
sat in the midst of a heap of evergreens, which he had been 
twining into wreaths ; his pretty, soft, fair hair was damp, 



lyo CHRISTMAS JENNY. 

and lay in a very flat and smooth scallop over his full white 
forehead. 

" He looks as if he was well cared for," said Deacon 
Little. Both men spoke in hushed tones — it was hard for 
them to realize that the boy could not hear, the more so be- 
cause every time their lips moved his smile deepened. He 
was not in the least afraid. 

They moved around the room half guiltily, and surveyed 
everything. It was unlike any apartment that they had ever 
entered. It had a curious sylvan air; there were heaps 
of evergreens here and there, and some small green trees 
leaned in one corner. All around the room — hung on the 
walls, standing on rude shelves — were little rough cages and 
hutches, from which the twittering and chirpmg sounded. 
They contained forlorn little birds and rabbits and field- 
mice. The birds had rough feathers and small, dejected 
heads, one rabbit had an injured leg, one field-mouse seemed 
nearly dead. The men eyed them sharply. The minister 
drew a sigh ; the deacon's handsome face looked harder. 
But they did not say what they thought, on account of the 
little deaf-and-dumb boy, whose pleasant blue eyes never 
left their faces. When they had made the circuit of the 
room, and stood again by the fireplace, he suddenly set up 
a cry. It was wild and inarticulate, still not wholly dis- 
sonant, and it seemed to have a meaning of its own. It 
united with the cries of the little caged wild creatures, and 
it was all like a soft clamor of eloquent appeal to the two 
visitors, but they could not understand it. 

They stood solemn and perplexed by the fireplace. 
" Had we better wait till she comes ?" asked the minister. 

" I don't know," said Deacon Little. 

Back of them arose the tall mantel-shelf. On it were a 



CHRISTMAS JENNY. 171 

clock and a candlestick, and regularly laid bunches of brill- 
iant dried flowers, all ready for Jenny to put in her basket 
and sell. 

Suddenly there was a quick scrape on the crusty snow 
outside, the door flew open, and Jonas Carey's wife came in. 
She had her shawl over her head, and she was panting for 
breath. 

She stood before the two men, and a sudden crust of shy 
formality seemed to form over her. " Good-arternoon," 
she said, in response to their salutations. 

She looked at them for a moment, and tightened her 
shawl-pin ; then the restraint left her. " I knowed you 
was here," she cried, in her weak, vehement voice ; " I 
knowed it. I've heerd the talk. I knowed somebody was 
goin' to come up here an' spy her out. I was in Mis' 
Gregg's the other day, an' her husband came home ; he'd 
been down to the store, an' he said they were talkin' 'bout 
Jenny, an' sayin' she didn't treat Willy and the birds well, 
an' the town was goin' to look into it. I knowed you was 
comin' up here when I seed you go by. I told Jonas so. 
An' I knowed she wa'n't to home, an' there wa'n't nothin' 
here that could speak, an' I told Jonas I was comin'. I 
couldn't Stan' it nohow. It's dreadful slippery. I had 
to go on my hands an' knees in some places, an' I've sot 
down twice, but I don't care. I ain't goin' to have you 
comin' up here to spy on Jenny, an' nobody to home that's 
got any tongue to speak for her." 

Mrs. Carey stood before them like a ruffled and defiant 
bird that was frighting herself as well as them with her 
temerity. She palpitated all over, but there was a fierce 
look in her dim blue eyes. 

The minister began a deprecating murmur, which the 



172 CHRISTMAS JENNY. 

deacon drowned. "You can speak for her all you want 
to, Mrs. Carey," said he. " We ain't got any objections to 
hearin' it. An' we didn't know but what she was home. 
Do you know what she does with these birds and things?" 

" Does with 'em ? Well, I'll tell you what she does with 
'em. She picks 'em up in the woods when they're starvin' 
an' freezin' an' half dead, an' she brings 'em in here, an' 
takes care of 'em an' feeds 'em till they git well, an' then 
she lets 'em go again. That's what she does. You see 
that rabbit there ? Well, he's been in a trap. Somebody 
wanted to kill the poor little cretur. You see that robin? 
Somebody fired a gun at him an' broke his wing. 

"That's what she does. I dunno but it 'mounts to jest 
about as much as sendin' money to missionaries. I dunno 
but what bein' a missionary to robins an' starvin' chippies 
an' little deaf-an'-dumb children is jest as good as some other 
kinds, an' that's what she is. 

" I ain't afeard to speak ; I'm goin' to tell the whole story. 
I dunno what folks mean by talkin' about her the way they 
do. There, she took that little dumbie out of the poor- 
house. Nobody else wanted him. He don't look as if he 
was abused very bad, far's I can see. She keeps him jest as 
nice an' neat as she can, an' he an' the birds has enough to 
eat, if she don't herself 

" i guess I know 'bout it. Here she is goin' without a 
newcaliker dress, so's to git somethin' for them birds that 
can't git at the trees, 'cause there's so much ice on 'em. 

"You can't tell me nothin'. When Jonas has one of his 
tantrums she can git him out of it quicker'n anybody I 
ever see. She ain't goin' to be talked about and spied upon 
if I can help it. They tell about her bein' love-cracked. 
H'm. I dunno what they call love-cracked. I know that An- 



CHRISTMAS JENNY. 173 

derson fellar went off an' married another girl, when Jenny 
jest as much expected to have him as could be. He 
ought to ha' been strung up. But 1 know one thing — if she 
did git kind of twisted out of the reg'lar road of lovin', she's 
in another one, that's full of little dumbies an' siarvin' chip- 
pies an' lame rabbits, an' she ain't love-cracked no more'n 
other folks." 

Mrs. Carey, carried away by affection and indignation, al- 
most spoke in poetry. Her small face glowed pink, her blue 
eyes were full of fire, she waved her arms under her shawl. 
The little meek old woman was a veritable enthusiast. 

The two men looked at each other. The deacon's hand- 
some face was as severe and grave as ever, but he waited 
for the minister to speak. When the minister did speak 
it was apologetically. He was a gentle old man, and the 
deacon was his mouthpiece in matters of parish discipline. 
If he failed him he betrayed how feeble and kindly a pipe 
was his own. He told Mrs. Carey that he did not doubt 
everything was as it should be ; he apologized for their 
presence ; he praised Christmas Jenny. Then he and the 
deacon retreated. They were thankful to leave that small, 
vociferous old woman, who seemed to be pulling herself up 
by her enthusiasm until she reached the air over their 
heads, and became so abnormal that she was frightful. In- 
deed, everything out of the broad, common track was a 
horror to these men and to many of their village fellows. 
Strange shadows, that their eyes could not pierce, lay upon 
such, and they were suspicious. The popular sentiment 
against Jenny Wrayne was originally the outcome of this 
characteristic, which was a remnant of the old New Eng- 
land witchcraft superstition. More than anything else, 
Jenny's eccentricity, her possibly uncanny deviation from 



174 CHRISTMAS JENNY. 

the ordinary ways of life, had brought this inquiry upon 
her. In actual meaning, although not even in self-acknowl- 
edgment, it was a witch-hunt that went up the mountain road 
that December afternoon. 

They hardly spoke on the way. Once the minister 
turned to the deacon. " I rather think there's no occasion 
for interference," he said, hesitatingly. 

" I guess there ain't any need of it," answered the deacon. 

The deacon spoke again when they had nearly reached 
his own house. " I guess I'll send her up a little somethin' 
Christmas," said he. Deacon Little was a rich man. 

" Maybe it would be a good idea," returned the minister. 
" I'll see what I can do." 

Christmas was one week from that day. On Christmas 
morning old Jonas Carey and his wife, dressed in their 
best clothes, started up the mountain road to Jenny 
Wrayne's. Old Jonas wore his great-coat, and had his 
wife's cashmere scarf wound twice around his neck. Mrs. 
Carey wore her long shawl and her best bonnet. They 
walked along quite easily. The ice was all gone now; 
there had been a light fall of snow the day before, but it 
was not shoe-deep. The snow was covered with the little 
tracks of Jenny's friends, the birds and the field-mice and 
the rabbits, in pretty zigzag lines. 

Jonas Carey and his wife walked along comfortably until 
they reached the cart-path, then the old man's shoestring 
became loose, and he tripped over it. He stooped and 
tied it laboriously ; then he went on. Pretty soon he 
stopped again. His wife looked back. " What's the mat- 
ter?" said she. 

" Shoestring untied," replied old Jonas, in a half inarticu- 
late grunt. 



CHRISTMAS JENNY. 175 

" Don't you want me to tie it, Jonas ?" 

Jonas said nothing more ; he tied viciously. 

They were in sight of Jenny's house when he stopped 
again, and sat down on the stone wall beside the path. 
"Oh, Jonas, what is the matter?" 

Jonas made no reply. His wife went up to him, and saw 
that the shoestring was loose again. "Oh, Jonas, do let 
me tie it ; I'd just as soon as not. Sha'n't I, Jonas?" 

Jonas sat there in the midst of the snowy blackberry 
vines, and looked straight ahead with a stony stare. 

His wife began to cry. " Oh, Jonas," she pleaded, " don't 
you have a tantrum to-day. Sha'n't I tie it ? I'll tie it real 
strong. Oh, Jonas !" 

The old woman fluttered around the old man in his great- 
coat on the wall, like a distressed bird around her mate. 
Jenny Wrayne opened her door and looked out ; then she 
came down the path. " What's the matter ?" she asked. 

"Oh, Jenny, I dunno what to do. He's got another — 
tantrum !" 

" Has he fell down ?" 

" No ; that ain't it. His shoestring's come untied three 
times, an' he don't like it, an' he's sot down on the wall. I 
dunno but he'll set there all day. Oh, dear me suz, when 
we'd got most to your house, an' I was jest thinkin' we'd 
come 'long real comfort'bie ! I want to tie it for him, but 
he won't let me, an' I don't darse to when he sets there 
like that. Oh, Jonas, jest let me tie it, won't you? I'll tie 
it real nice an' strong, so it won't undo again." 

Jenny caught hold of her arm. "Come right into the 
house," said she, in a hearty voice. She quite turned her 
back upon the figure on the wall. 

" Oh, Jenny, I can't go in an' leave him a-settin' there. 



176 CHRISTMAS JENNY. 

I shouldn't wonder if he sot there all day. You don't 
know nothin' about it. Sometimes i have to stan' an' 
argue with him for hours afore he'll stir." 

" Come right in. The turkey's most done, an' we'll set 
right down as soon as 'tis. It's 'bout the fattest turkey I 
ever see. I dunno where Deacon Little could ha' got it. 
The plum-puddin's all done, an' the vegetables is 'most 
ready to take up. Come right in, an' we'll have dinner in 
less than half an hour." 

After the two women had entered the house the figure 
on the wall cast an uneasy glance at it without turning 
his head. He sniffed a little. 

It was quite true that he could smell the roasting turkey, 
and the turnip and onions, out there. 

In the house, Mrs. Carey laid aside her bonnet and 
shawl, and put them on the bed in Jenny's little bedroom. 
A Christmas present, a new calico dress, which Jenny had 
received the night before, lay on the bed also. Jenny showed 
it with pride. " It's that chocolate color I've always liked," 
said she. " I don't see what put it into their heads." 

" It's real handsome," said Mrs. Carey. She had not 
told Jenny about her visitors ; but she was not used to 
keeping a secret, and her possession of one gave a curious 
expression to her face. However, Jenny did not notice it 
She- hurried about preparing dinner. The stove was cov- 
ered with steaming pots ; the turkey in the oven could 
be heard sizzling. The little deaf-and-dumb boy sat in 
his chimney-corner, and took long sniffs. He watched 
Jenny, and regarded the stove in a rapture, or he exam- 
ined some treasures that he held in his lap. There were 
picture-books and cards, and boxes of candy, and oranges. 
He held them all tightly gathered into his pinafore. The 



CHRISTMAS JENNY. I'j'j 

little caged wild things twittered sweetly and pecked at 
their food. Jenny laid the table with the best table- 
cloth and her mother's flowered china. The mountain 
farmers, of whom Jenny sprang, had had their little de- 
cencies and comforts, and there were china and a linen 
table-cloth for a Christmas dinner, poor as the house was. 

Mrs. Carey kept peering uneasily out of the window at 
her husband on the stone wall. 

" If you want him to come in you'll keep away from 
the window," said Jenny ; and the old woman settled into a 
chair near the stove. 

Very soon the door opened, and Jonas came in. Jenny 
was bending over the potato kettle, and she did not look 
around. "You can put his great-coat on the bed, if you've 
a mind to, Mrs. Carey," said she. 

Jonas got out of his coat, and sat down with sober 
dignity ; he had tied his shoestring very neatly and firmly. 
After a while he looked over at the little deaf-and-dumb 
boy, who was smiling at him, and he smiled back again. 

The Careys stayed until evening. Jenny set her candle 
in the window to light them down the cart-path. Down 
in the village the minister's daughter and her betrothed 
were out walking to the church, where there was a Christ- 
mas-tree. It was quite dark. She clung closely to his 
arm, and once in a while her pink cheek brushed his 
sleeve. The stars were out, many of them, and more 
were coming. One seemed suddenly to flash out on the 
dark side of the mountain. 

"There's Christmas Jenny's candle," said the girl. And 
it was Christmas Jenny's candle, but it was also something 
more. Like all common things, it had, and was, its own 
poem, and that was — a Christmas star. 

12 



A POT OF GOLD. 

The moon came up over the mountain, and suddenly the 
shadows of the trees grew darker and more distinct. There 
were four great elm-trees in the Amesbury yard. Over 
across the road was a cemetery ; back of that flowed the 
river ; on the opposite bank of the river arose the mountain. 
The mountain was wooded to its summit. There were 
patches of silver on it, where some of the tree-tops waved 
in the moonlight. 

Jonas Amesbury and his mother sat on the door-step ; 
neither of them noticed the beautiful moonlight night much. 
Once the old woman remarked that the moon made it as 
bright as day, and Jonas did not even trouble himself to as- 
sent. 

Jonas looked hardly more than a boy ; his curly head 
had the blond lightness of a baby's ; his round face was 
smooth and delicate. He sat on the lower door-stone, rest- 
ing his elbows on his knees ; his mother, a dark, sallow 
figure, sat on the upper one. She held herself rigidly, and 
did not lean against the door-casing. She was very tired, 
but her will would not let her old bones and muscles relax. 
Jane Amesbury never " lopped," as she termed it. She was, 
in her way, a student of human nature and a philosopher. 
She divided women into two classes : those who " lopped " 



A POT OF GOLD. ly^ 

and those who did not, " I wa'n't never one of the kind 
that lop," she used to say, with a backward lift of her head 
so forcible that it seemed as if her neck muscles were made 
of steel, and one listened for the click, " an' I ain't never 
thought much of them women that do lop." 

One looking at her easily realized the truth of the state- 
ment. Old as she was now, it was quite evident that Jane 
Amesbury had no more leaning necessity than a hardy 
tree over on the mountain. She required for her growth 
and support only a rude, stanch soil and a sky. 

Her son Jonas seemed different ; still, he had something 
of his mother's character. It was evident in a certain dig- 
nity and self-restraint with which he bore himself to-night. 
He was very unhappy. His mother was looking down 
upon him with tenderness and a kind of indignation. They 
had been silent for quite a while ; when the moon arose it 
seemed a signal to them. It was with Jonas as if the 
shadows in his own soul deepened out, and it seemed as if 
his mother also saw them, for she began at once : " There 
ain't no use talkin' 'bout it," said she ; " there ain't no 
sense in a fellar's settin' right down an' givin' up, 'cause he 
can't git one particular girl. Marryin' ain't everything there 
is in the world nohow, if folks do act as if 'twas. Folks 
act like poor fools sometimes. I guess I know." 

The old woman gave her head a shake of rage and wis- 
dom. Jonas said nothing. His face, in the moonlight, looked 
as fair and pretty as a girl's. 

Presently his mother began again ; she seemed to have 
a subtle ear for her son's thoughts, and to answer them like 
spoken arguments. 

" I know she's a good-lookin' girl 'nough," said she, " an' 
she's smart 'nough. I dun know as there is anybody 'round 



i8o A POT OF GOLD. 

here that quite comes up to her; but that don't make no 
difference. Looks ain't everything, an' smartness ain't 
everything. There's plenty of girls that's good 'nough, if 
they can't tear the airth up or set the river on fire. These 
dretful smart, handsome folks are just the ones that flax out 
sometimes. They ain't nothin' more'n Fourth of July fire- 
works ; there's more sputter an' fizzle than anything else 
when you come to find out. 1 don't think I should give up 
eatin' an' sleepin', an' go round lookin' as if I'd lost my last 
friend, on account of one girl, when there's plenty more that 
would have me. There's Emma Jane Monk — " 

Then the young man aroused himself " I guess," said he, 
" when you see me going with Emma Jane Monk you'll 
know it." 

" Well, you can turn up your nose at Emma Jane Monk 
all you want to ; she's as good as Rose Tenney any day." 

" Mother I" 

"What is it?" 

" You can talk all you want to, but it ain't going to do 
any good. I suppose I ain't showing much spunk about it, 
and I know it ain't any worse for me than for other folks, 
and I ain't the first one that couldn't get the one he wanted. 
But I can't bear it, and I ain't going to ; that's all there is 
about it." 

" What you goin* to do ?" asked his mother, in a stern voice 
that had in it a frightened inflection. 

" I don't know any more than a tree in the wind. I 
ain't doing anything ; I'm being done with." 

" Jonas Amesbury, you make me mad talkin' such stuff. 
I don't see where you got such notions ; for my part I know 
you didn't git 'em from me. Rose Tenney — h'm ! S'pose 
she does curl her hair over her forehead, an' wear her dresses 



A POT OF GOLD. i8i 

all girt in round her waist, an' act so dreadful soft an' sweet ! 
her folks ain't much, an' everybody knows it ; everybody 
knows what old Joe Tenney is — stole all that land that be- 
longed to his brother ; everybody knowed he did it, if they 
couldn't prove it. I don't think Rose Tenney's got so very 
much to brag of nohow." 

"I'd like to know what good you think it does talking 
that way, mother .?" 

" Oh, I don't s'pose it does any good. I s'pose if all Rose 
Tenney's relations were strung up on the gallows in a row, 
you'd want her just the same." 

" Yes, I would," said Jonas, in a fervent tone, tossing back 
his head like his mother, with a defiant air. He could fancy 
himself wedding Rose under the shadow of her swinging 
relatives, and see nothing ridiculous ; he was in such an in- 
tense mood that humor was entirely barred out 

" Yes, I s'pose you would ; it would be just like you," re- 
turned his mother, sarcastically. Then she arose. " Well, 
I'm goin' in to set the bread a-risin'," said she. " I s'pose 
the bread might jest as well be riz, if you can't git Rose 
Tenney." 

Jonas did not reply; he got up and went strolling off 
across the yard. His mother entered the house — the door 
opened directly into the kitchen. It was dark except for the 
moonlight. Jane spoke as she stepped over the threshold. 

" You there ?" said she. 

" Yes." 

"Where beyer?" 

" Over here by the winder." 

" Oh, yes, I see yer." 

Jane stepped over to the window, where another woman 
was sitting, and peered out into the yard. 



1 82 A POT OF GOLD. 

" He's gone out of the yard," said the sitting woman. 

" You don't s'pose he's goin' down there, do ye ?" 

" No ; he headed up the other way. I see him." 

Jane then sat down in a chair near the other woman, 
who was her unmarried sister. Her name was Elvira Slaw- 
son. Elvira was ten years younger than her sister ; her 
blond hair was scarcely gray ; she wore it in twisted loops 
over her ears ; she was tall and thin, and her clothes were 
so loose that all her outlines seemed wavering ; one shoul- 
der was a little higher than the other ; she had a slow, high- 
pitched voice. 

Jane looked at her \ she was in the shadow herself. " I 
s'pose you heard me talkin' to him, didn't ye ?" she re- 
marked. 

" I heard a little on't ; I couldn't help it. I was settin* 
right here." 

** Well, I dun know what he's goin' to do. I think it's a 
pretty piece of work, for my part." 

" You don't s'pose he'll do anything desprit, do ye ?" 

"Desprit? — no. If he does, I'll shake him. Desprit! I 
ain't got no patience with sech kind of work. Ready to 
pull the house down, 'bout a girl. I s'pose it's what they 
call — love! H'm ! it's 'nough to make anybody sick! 
Love!'' Jane's voice as she said "love" had a contempt- 
uous' drawl. 

Elvira, with her head gently inclined to one side, looked 
doubtfully at her sister. Being supposed to have no ac- 
quaintance with love, she had more respect for him. " Well, 
I s'pose men do pretty desprit things sometimes on account 
of love," she said, in a shamefaced way. She was exceed- 
ingly timid about alluding to such matters before her sister. 

" Desprit things ! Well, I s'pose some that's poor fooU 



A POT OF GOLD. 1 83 

dc an' I guess it's good riddance to 'em. Folks that can't 
see nothin' in this world but the one sugar-plum they aint 
able to git had better git out of it. LoveP' 

Jane arose ; she went to the shelf and struck a match. 
" Goin' to mix up bread ?" asked her sister. 

"Yes, I s'pose so. I thought I'd have some riz biscuit 
in the mornin', Jonas thinks so much of 'em ; but I don't 
s'pose he'll tech 'em even if I make 'em. He ain't eat 
enough to-day to feed a fly." 

The light flared out ; Jane bent her brows over it to see 
if it were trimmed squarely. Then she went into the pantry 
for her mixing-bowl and flour. There was now and then a 
click as her heels struck the floor ; the floor was worn into 
little hillocks, and the nails frequently protruded ; one could 
see here and there one sparkle in the lamp-light. This was 
an old house ; the underpinning sagged in places, and the 
rooms were full of crooked lines ; not a door or window was 
straight. 

Elvira watched her sister mix the bread. Jane did not 
lose a grain of flour in the process ; her knotty fingers were 
deft and delicate from faithful practice. She left the mix- 
ing-bowl polished quite clean when she finally deposited 
the dough in the pans. There was little treasure in the 
Amesbury house, but none would be left clinging to the 
sides of it. Jane had made an appendix to the decalogue 
to suit her own exigencies ; one of the new sins was waste- 
fulness. She did all the housework j she privately be- 
lieved Elvira to be nothing of a housekeeper. Elvira 
knitted a great deal of lace edging, and she sold yards 
of it to people in the village. She also furnished a store 
with some. She had quite a local reputation for her knitted 
lace, and was looked upon somewhat in the line of an 



1 84 A POT OF GOLD. 

artist. It was even rumored that she devised new patterns 
out of her own head. Her sister gave her her board, 
and all the money she spent was the proceeds of her lace- 
making. She knitted incessantly, and always had her lace 
with her in a little bag. Pretty soon she drew her chair up 
to the table where her sister was making the bread, and 
drew out her knitting. 

" You ain't goin' to knittin' to-night ?" remarked Jane, dis- 
approvingly. 

" I'm jest goin' to make one scallop." 

This lace was considered Elvira's masterpiece, being very 
broad and intricate. She bent over it, and knitted with a 
frowning forehead. The light was not very good. She wore 
spectacles. 

" You countin' ?" said Jane presently. 

" No." 

" I'd like to know the hull truth of it 'bout Rose Tenney." 

Elvira kept her eyes on her lace. " Do you s'pose she 
wouldn't have him ?" she queried, timidly. 

" I dun know ; but I do know one thing : it wa'n't her 
fault if she wouldn't. I know a thing or two. I've had my 
eyes open. If that girl don't think 'nough of Jonas I'll miss 
my guess. I've seen her when he was round. A girl don't 
light up like a rainbow when she sees a fellar comin' if 
there ain't somethin' in the wind. She thinks 'nough of him. 
Old Joe Tenney's at the bottom of it. He don't think 
there's quite 'nough money here. I know him. Since he's 
got a little money himself, everybody else that ain't got it 
ain't any more than the dirt under his feet. Joe Tenney 
always thought more of money than anything else in the 
world. Cheated his own brother for the sake of it. I 
shouldn't think he'd want to say much." 



A POT OF GOLD. 185 

Elvira still kept her eyes upon her lace ; a red flush 
mounted on her soft, flabby cheeks. " There didn't nobody 
really know he cheated him," said she. 

** Yes, they did know, too, well's they wanted to. Where 
did the deeds for that land go to, I'd like to know.? They 
couldn't prove nothin', 'cause they wa'n't registered, but 
there wa'n't no doubt 'bout it." 

"I s'pose he thought that land belonged to him anyhow. 
You know they said he'd lent Henry consider'ble money. 
I guess some thought Henry'd agreed to give him them 
deeds, an' then backed out." 

" Elvira Slawson, if you want to stan' up for old Joe 
Tenney, you can. I should think you was 'bout old 'nough 
to be off" the notion of that by this time." 

"I — dun know what you mean, Jane." 

" I know what I mean. Well, I s'pose it's — love.^'' 

Elvira said no more. She kept her meek suffused face 
close to her lace. It was quite true that years ago there 
had been a love aff"air between herself and Joseph Tenney, 
and it had come to naught. Her sister had never done 
twitting her with it: all the prickles in her nature seemed 
turned against sentiment, perhaps because of its fancied 
softness, which made her indignant. She had nursed 
Elvira faithfully through the severe illness which her disap- 
pointment had brought upon her, and then had tried a 
system of mental cauterization to cure the wound. Any 
symptoms that led her to believe the cure was not com- 
plete caused her to apply the iron anew. Now she kept 
glancing sharply at Elvira over her lace ; her lips were 
compressed, her nose was elevated sarcastically. But soon 
her anxiety over her son drew her thoughts away from her 
lister. 



1 86 A POT OF GOLD. 

" I don't see where he is," she said, standing in the door, 
after the bread was set away. 

" Mebbe he's gone up to Jake Manson's." 

" I don't think he has, this time of night. Oh, there he 
is!" 

Neither of the women said anything to Jonas when he 
entered the kitchen, but they watched him furtively. He 
went across the room to the mantel-shelf and lighted a 
candle. " Goin' to bed V asked his mother then. 

Jonas gave an affirmative grunt. He looked as if he 
had been walking fast, his face was flushed, and his fair hair 
lay damp and flat on the temples. 

Pretty soon the women heard his steps on the stairs. 
" It's the greatest work I ever see," said Jane. She went 
about and slammed to the doors and locked them ; Elvira 
put up her lace-work. Then they went to bed in the little 
bedroom that opened out of the kitchen — they slept to- 
gether. 

A little after midnight Elvira awoke her sister — "Jane, 
Jane, wake up !" she whispered, fearfully. The dark seemed 
to loom over her and make her voice echo like a mountain. 
Jane did not awaken very easily, she had to speak again 
and shake her a little. When Jane finally aroused it was 
with a jerk. She sat straight up in bed. "What's the 
matter?" asked she, in a loud, determined voice. 

" Oh, Jane, lay down again ; don't be scart. I've jest had 
the queerest dream." 

" Elvira Slawson, you don't mean to say you made all 
this row an' waked me up out of a sound sleep for a 
dream !" 

"You jest wait till you hear it. You lay down an' I'll 
tell you what 'twas." 



A POT OF GOLD, 187 

**I don't want to hear it, an' I ain't goin' to. I ain't 
goin' to listen to any such tomfoolery — wakin' me up out 
of a sound sleep ! I thought the house was afire, or some- 
body was gittin' in." 

'' i won't take but jest a minute, Jane." 

" I ain't goin' to hear it, an' that's all there is about it." 
Jane lay down with a thud that made the feather-bed arise 
in billows. 

Elvira begged hard, but she would not let her tell the 
dream. " If you don't stop carryin' on so FU go in the 
spare bedroom an' leave you alone," said she ; " I ain't 
goin' to be broke of my rest this way." 

That threat silenced Elvira. All her life she had been 
afraid of the dark if she were alone in it. 

With daylight she began again, but Jane was obdurate. 
She would not hear the dream at all. She did not believe 
in dreams. She had always had a contempt for them, and 
she held the opinion that repeating them caused one to 
dream more. 

So Elvira carried about her dream all day, like a poet his 
unsung song. She would have told it to Jonas, but he was 
away all day haying in a distant field. The Amesburys 
owned this small farm, but their own haying was so meagre 
that it was done long ago. Now Jonas was hiring out to 
one of the neighbors. It was a relief to his mother to have 
him away all day ; his miserable face stirred her to keenest 
agony and wrath. She was utterly distressed and despair- 
ing over his misery, and furious with him that he yielded 
to it. 

" I don't see as he looked a mite different when he came 
home to supper," she told Elvira that night, " and he hadn't 
eat half what I give him for dinner." 



l88 A POT OF GOLD. 

" I wish you'd let me tell you that dream," returned 
Elvira, eagerly and mysteriously. 

*' Elvira Slawson, if you don't quit talkin' 'bout that 
dream I shall go ravin' crazy. I've got enough to stan' up 
under without that." 

The two women were preparing for bed again, and Jane 
took the hair-pins out of her knot of hair with a conclusive 
air. Her hair hanging about her face gave her a fierce, 
haggard look. 

" Well, of course I ain't a-goin' to tell it to you if you don't 
want to hear it," returned Elvira, with some trace of dignity. 

" Well, I don't want to hear it, an' I hope you'll remem- 
ber it." 

But again Jane was awakened. This time Elvira clutched 
her desperately. "Jane," she called, "wake up, for massy 
sake ! 7W dreamed it again. ^^ 

Jane sat up, took hold of her sister, and laid her down 
peremptorily. Elvira in her excitement had raised herself, 
and was bending over her. "Now," said she, "you jest 
listen. I'm a-goin' to lay down again, an' if you speak an- 
other word I'm a-goin' into the spare bedroom. As for 
bein' broke of my rest again to-night, I won't." 

Elvira gave a little gasp, but she said nothing more. 
Soon Jane began to breathe regularly. It was three o'clock 
in the morning when Elvira aroused her again. This time 
Elvira had a firm clutch on her arm ; her voice was quite 
loud and decisive. 

"Jane!" 

"What do you mean actin' so.?" Jane asked, feebly. 
She was now quite alarmed. 

" I'm a-goin' to tell you my dream. Tve dreanua it 
again."** 



A POT OF GOLD, 189 

** Well, do tell it, for massy sakes. I never see sech work." 

"Jane, I've dreamed three times that I found a pot of gold 
in our field that joins Joe Tenney's oat field. It was under 
an apple-tree. I dug under it, and I found it." 

"H'm!" 

"It was an iron pot with a cover, like the one you boil 
beans in, an' it was chock-full of gold dollars." 

"That all?" 

"Jane, where you dream about the same thing three 
times, it comes true. I've always heard it did." 

" I s'pose you believe it." 

" I dun know as I really believe, but I've heard lots of 
folks say there was somethin' in it. Don't you remember 
how mother dreamed three times runnin' how father was 
goin' on a journey, before he died ?" 

''Well, if you want to believe sech stuff you can. I wish 
you'd stop talkin'. I've been broke of my rest 'bout all I 
want to be. I dun know but I'll go into the spare bedroom 
anyhow. I s'pose jest as I git fairly to sleep again you'll 
dream it over again an' grab me." 

"Jane, don't you think it means somethin'?" 

"It means I'm goin' into the spare bedroom, an' I ain't 
goin' to lay here talkin' 'bout it." 

" Don't, Jane ; I won't speak another word." 

"You mind you don't, then." 

Elvira kept her word. She said no more that night, nor did 
she the next morning. She never alluded to the dream. She 
assisted about the dish-washing after breakfast ; then she sat 
down with her lace. After a while Jane went out to feed the 
hens. When she returned she caught a glimpse of Elvira 
stealing around the corner of the house. " Where you goin' ?** 
she called. 



X90 



A POT OF GOLD. 



" I ain't goin' far," answered Elvira, in a trembling voice. 
Jane strode after her, the hens' dough-dish in her hand. 
Elvira hustled along, but she soon caught up with her, and 
saw that she was carrying the shovel. 

"Where are you going with that shovel?" asked Jane. 

Suddenly Elvira faced her ; she held the shovel like a 
staff. ^^ Tm — a-goin^ to dig.'^ 

"Elvira Slawson, I never thought you was quite sech a 
perfect fool." 

" I don't care what you say, Jane, I'm goin' to be sure 
that pot of gold ain't there." 

" Well, you ain't goin' to dull up that new shovel diggin', 
nohow." 

" I jest as soon take the old one." 

Elvira went back and got the old shovel. Her sis- 
ter sneered and argued all the way, but she paid no 
heed. There was on her mild face a kind of rapt ex- 
pression, like a higher determination. She had gotten 
her revelation, however petty by comparison, Joan of Arc 
fashion, and was not to be turned back by banners and 
spears. Her mission was not to fight, but to dig, and she 
would dig. 

She went forth with her shovel, and left Jane still talk- 
ing. She did not return until noon ; then her face was all 
flushed with the heat ; she tried not to pant. There was a 
cup of tea and some bread and butter for dinner ; they did 
not have a regular dinner when Jonas was not at home, and 
Jonas was still haying for the neighbor. 

After dinner Elvira put on her sun-bonnet again. 

" Then you ain't found the pot of gold yet ?" remarked 
her sister, in a sweet, stinging voice. She had not spoken 
before except concerning food at the table. 



A POT OF GOLD. 



X91 



"No," said Elvira, " I ain't found it yet." 

" I should think you'd want to finish that lace you was 
workin' on some time. I should think you'd lose more 
money than you'll find in the wonderful pot." 

" I can finish the lace to-morrow," replied Elvira, going 
out the door. She had left her shovel in the field. The 
afternoon passed, and she did not return. Jane got sup- 
per ready, and she had not come. Jane did not expect 
Jonas until late, and there was no one but herself at home 
for supper. She kept going to the road and looking. 
Finally she put on her sun-bonnet, and went down the 
road. It was not far to the field of Elvira's dream. On 
the farther side a stone wall divided it from Joseph Ten- 
ney's land • in the distance she could see the Tenney house 
— white-painted and piazzaed, a village mansion. The bars 
at the entrance of the field were let down ; she passed 
through. There were five old apple-trees in the field. 
Around four of them were heaps of loose earth where El- 
vira had been digging. The fifth tree stood close to the 
wall that marked the Tenney land ; its branches reached 
over it. Under this tree crouched Elvira, examining some- 
thing. Her shovel lay beside her on the ground. Jane 
approached stealthily. Just as she reached the tree she 
heard a quick rustle on the other side of the wall ; she 
looked, and saw Joseph Tenney's face through branches 
of pink dog-bane and over masses of poison-ivy. It was a 
handsome old face, clean-shaven and blue-eyed, but it was 
deathly pale. Elvira saw him too. She and Jane looked 
at him, and he looked at them ; then he turned about 
and went homeward across the wet field, with a step like a 
slow march. If it was a retreat, it was a dignified one. 

The minute Joseph Tenney went away, Elvira sprang up 



192 A POT OF GOLD. 

and grasped the shovel. Jane peered around her. " What 
you got there ?" she asked. Then she repeated the question 
in an excited tone : " Why, what is it ? what have you 
found ?" She had seen a small iron-bound chest, with 
loam clinging to it ; it was open, and overflowing with un- 
folded papers. She stepped forward, but Elvira was be- 
fore her in the path. She held the shovel uplifted. "Z>^i 
you go near it P^ 

" Course I'm goin' near it. I'd like to know what you 
mean ; I guess I've got jest as good a right to know what 
'tis as you have. I should laugh." 

^*^ If you come one step nearer Pll kill you /" Elvira's eyes 
were gleaming ; there seemed to be sharp lights like steel 
in them ; her face was white and resolute. 

Jane started back : she was frightened. " Well, you can 
keep your old box if you want to," said she. Then she 
went off across the field. Her sun-bonnet was tilted until it 
looked of itself aggressive and rampant ; she never turned 
around. 

She had not been home long when Elvira returned, lean- 
ing upon the shovel. She could scarcely walk, she was so 
exhausted. When she sat down at the supper-table she 
turned faint ; she laid her head down on the table with a 
low groan. Jane sprang and brought some water. "It's 
the greatest piece of work I ever did see," she said, bathing 
her sister's forehead. 

Elvira began to weep. " Oh, Jane, I didn't mean to say 
such a dreadful thing to you !" she sobbed, weakly. " But I 
couldn't show it to you, nohow; I couldn't." 

" We won't say nothin' more 'bout it," said Jane, shortly. 
"You'll be sick next. I don't care nothin' 'bout the old 
box." 



A POT OF GOLD. 



193 



After Elvira had had her tea, Jane made her go to bed 
She said nothing about the matter to Jonas when he re- 
turned. She thought he seemed more depressed than ever. 

The next day, in the afternoon, Jane went down to the 
store for a little shopping. She had a plan to buy some 
gray flannel and make a nice shirt for Jonas to do haying 
in. She thought that might perhaps please him and cheer 
him a little. She was gone an hour. When she returned 
she found Elvira sitting on the door-step knitting her lace. 
There was a grape-vine around the door, and some of the 
light green sprays hung down over Elvira's head. Her 
face, bent over her lace-work, looked fair and peaceful. 
Her old muslin dress fell around her in soft folds. She 
was sixty years old, but she looked maidenly. When Jane 
stood before her she smiled up at her. Jane sank down on 
the door-step. " It's a dreadful hot day," she sighed. She 
eyed Elvira sharply. She felt irascible, and as if she must 
let go her tongue. Her face was glossy with perspiration, 
her hands were black from her cotton gloves. She sus- 
pected that the flannel was a poor bargain. She eyed 
Elvira a minute, then she spoke. " There wa'n't no need 
of your bein' so mighty private 'bout that box. I knowed 
well 'nough what 'twas all the time." 

Elvira dropped the lace and looked at her. 

" Mebbe you don't b'lieve it. Well, I'll tell you what 
'twas: it was them deeds. ^^ 

Elvira was trembling violently. "Well, there ain't no 
harm in it if it was." 

" Mebbe there ain't ; but that's what was in that box — 
them deeds, ^' 

" His brother's dead now, an' they're his anyway. You 
can't do nothin'." 



194 



A POT OF GOLD. 



"Oh, I ain't goin' to do nothin'. I wouldn't stir a step 
to tell it to a livin' soul. You needn't worry 'bout that. 
I ain't afeared but he'll git punishment 'nough some way. 
I sha'n't do nothin' to bring it on him." 

Elvira looked fixedly at her sister : her soft, drawling 
voice became quite firm. "Jane, he didn't do nothin' 
wrong 'bout that. He's told me all 'bout it.*' 

"Told you 'bout it? When?" 

" Just now — this afternoon." 

" Has Joe Tenney been here?" 

"Yes." 

" Come over 'cause he was scart, I s'pose." 

"No, he didn't. He was goin' by, and I called him in. 
I wanted to tell him where I put it." 

"Where did you put it?" 

" Under the stone wall, on his side. He told me all 
'bout it ; jest how it was." 

" I'd like to know how he 'counted for hidin' the deeds.'* 

"I can't tell you; I said I wouldn't; but he wa'n't one 
mite to blame." 

" Well, mebbe you believe it." 

" Course 1 believe it." 

Jane surveyed her blackened hands. Her right knee 
ached ; she was rheumatic. " P'rhaps he'll have you yet, 
if you stick up for him so," said she. 

Elvira quivered and shrank ; her eyes suddenly looked 
red and weak. "Jane, you know I'm past all that. There 
ain't no call for you to say sech things as that. Sech a 
thing ain't never entered into his head. He's been married 
to a real nice woman, an' he ain't thought of me once a 
year. 'T wa'n't ever much to him anyway ; he wa'n't noth- 
in* but a boy. He don't want me, an* I wouldn't have 



A POT OF GOLD. 195 

him if he did. I ain't no fit person for him. He can git 
somebody that's younger an' smarter if he wants anybody. 
I ain't nothin' to be married, an' I know it well 'nough." 

" You can talk that way all you want to ; you'd have 
him fast enough if you had the chance." 

Elvira looked quite solemnly at her sister. **Look 
a-here, Jane," said she, " mebbe you dun know jest what I 
mean ; but it seems to me as if bein' sure that anybody was 
all right an' honest was the completest kind of bein' mar- 
ried that anybody could have." 

Jane stared at her for a moment ; then she looked away ; 
she did not say any more. 

Elvira knitted for a few minutes ; then she looked up. 
" I ruther guess," said she, " that it will come out all right 
'bout Jonas an' Rose." 

" What do you mean ?" 

"We talked it over some. I guess he thought Jonas 
hadn't got much, an' there wa'n't much sense in it, in the 
first place, an' he told Rose she's got to give him up ; but 
I shouldn't wonder if he was kinder thinkin' better of 
it." 

" S'pose he's afraid we'll tell if he don't" 

" No, that ain't it. If you knew what I know you wouldn't 
say so." 

" Well, I dun know what you know, but you've got more 
faith in him than I have." 

Elvira's face was lifted ; she looked past her sister with 
an expression as if she were looking at a shrine. " I know 
Joe Tenney is a good man," said she. 

The next day Jonas was at home working in the garden. 
In the afternoon a neighbor drove into the yard and called 
to him. He had brought a letter to him from the post-office. 



196 A POT OF GOLD. 

Jane was peeping curiously from the window. "What is 
it?" she called out, after the neighbor had driven away. 

Jonas stood out in the yard staring at the letter. " Oh, 
nothing much," he answered. But smiles were playing all 
over his face. He went back to the garden, and whistled 
35 he worked. 

After tea he went up-stairs, and was gone quite a while. 
" I believe he*s goin' somewhere," Jane said to Elvira. " He 
washed him real particular, an' he's shaved him. I don't 
believe but he's goin' down there." 

When Jonas came down-stairs he had on his best suitj 
his curly hair was damp and trained in careful locks over 
his smooth young forehead ; his cheeks were fresh and rosy; 
he held his neck stiffly in his clean collar and white necktie. 

He stood in the kitchen and brushed his hat carefully. 
His mother and aunt were in the sitting-room, and he 
stepped softly, hoping they would not come out ; but his 
mother looked out into the kitchen. " Where you goin' ?'* 
she inquired. 

Jonas blushed beautifully like a girl. Then he laughed. 
" Oh, I ain't goin' far," he replied, putting on his hat and 
passing out under the grape-vine. 

Jane and Elvira sat up until he returned, although it was 
quite late. They heard his step out in the yard, and were 
alert' when he came in. He was radiant. He stood in the 
door looking at them and smiling " Well," said his mother. 

"I guess it's all right," said Jonas. " I shouldn't wonder 
if one of these days you had a daughter." His face was 
all pink and glowing, his yellow hair was dry, and the 
fluffy curls stood out around his forehead and caught the 
light. Elvira began to cry. His mother laughed and 
frowned together. 



A POT OF GOLD. 197 

"Well, I hope you'll behave yourself an' eat somethin' 
now," said she. 

After he had gone up-stairs she went out into the kitchen 
to mix bread. *' I guess I'll have some riz biscuit for break- 
fast," she said to Elvira. " He didn't eat none of them 
others, but I s'pose he'll eat these fast 'nough. It beats me, 
but I s'pose it's — love.'" She tried to say " love " as if it 
were a clod of mud, but in spite of herself she saia it as if it 
were a jeweL 



THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 

Clarissa May's kitchen table was heaped with rose 
leaves. She was filling a large brown far with layers of 
rose leaves and salt. She sprinkled in various spices too, 
then sniffed at the mixture daintily. 

" Needs a little more cinnamon," she murmured. 

" I wish you'd let the cinnamon alone," said a quick, 
sweet voice — '* the cinnamon, and the rose leaves, and the 
salt, and the whole of it. I'd like to fling it into the fire." 

"Don't talk so, Anne." 

Anne stood in the door. She had just come down from 
her chamber. She was all ready to go to the picnic. She 
wore a broad-brimmed white straw hat, trimmed with fine 
pink flowers. Her ruflled, pink-flowered muslin gown flut- 
tered crisply. She had pinned some pink rose-buds at her 
throat. 

Anne and Clarissa were wonderfully alike, but the com- 
parison would have been less derogatory for Clarissa had 
they been different. The resemblance brought the regret 
and humiliation of loss to her. Anne showed what Clarissa 
had been. She was the rose of this spring, her sister was 
one of last. If both of them had not been roses, the last 
year's flower would not have seemed so forlorn. 

Clarissa's dull blond hair was brushed smoothly around 



THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. i^t, 

her ears ; Anne's was crinkled, and there were gold lights 
in it. Clarissa's skin was tintless and faintly lined ; her sis- 
ter's was warm and rosy and smooth. Clarissa's lips were 
thin ; Anne's, full and red. One's figure showed angles ; the 
other's, curves. 

Clarissa, replying with her mild, deprecating voice, gazed 
admiringly at her sister. " You look real nice," she added. 

" Sometimes I don't care whether I look nice or not. 
You do make me so out of patience !" 

" Why, Anne, how you talk !" 

" I don't care — you do. The idea of you shutting your- 
self up here, packing a mess of rose leaves into a jar! 
There isn't any sense in it." 

" You know I'd rather stay at home." 

"I don't care if you had. It's real nice for me going 
alone !" 

" Ellen Pierson's going, isn't she ?" 

" I don't care if she is. Sometimes anybody *d like their 
own sister." 

" I fee) as if I was so much older." 

" Older ! You're not any older than dozens of girls that 
go all the time. YouVe not any older than Addie Leach 
or Abby Dutton ; and I guess they'd be mad enough if any- 
body was to tell them they were too old to go." 

*' There's a lock of hair loose. Come round here and let 
me fix it." 

** I don't care if it is," said Anne. But she stepped over 
to her sister, nevertheless, and Clarissa tucked up the golden 
lock carefully. 

" P'rhaps I'll go next time," said she, appeasingly. "All 
is, I don't feel much like it, you know. People don't, I sup- 
pose, as they grow older." 



200 THE SCENT OF THE ROSES, 

" If they get up a party to go on West Mountain next week, 
will you go ?" 

" I'll see about it." 

" I'll crimp your hair, and we'll fix over your blue dress.** 

"YouMl be late, if you don't run along." 

" Do I look all right ?" 

" Yes. I guess your hair'll stay up now." 

After Anne h,ad danced out with a crisp swish of muslin 
skirts, Clarissa went on with her work. She gathered up the 
soft rose leaves with her little thin veiny hands, and laid 
them in the jar with the greatest care. 

She was soon interrupted again, however. "Oh, here 
you are!" said another voice. There was a contemptuous 
inflection in it. A tall, pale woman stood in the door. She 
held out a package of letters and a little white box stiffly 
in one hand. 

" Oh, is it you, Aunt Joanna .?" 

"Yes, it's me. Why ain't you gone to the picnic?'* 

" I didn't feel like it." 

"Didn't feel like it ! I s'pose you felt more like putter- 
in' over rose leaves. Clarissa May, I b'lieve you're jest 
about a fool." 

" I don't know what you mean." Clarissa glanced at the 
letters, and her hands trembled. 

" Yes, you do know what. I mean. I came in the front 
way, an' went up-stairs. I wanted a piece of brown cam- 
bric to line my sleeves, an' I thought I'd see if you hadn't 
got any. An' I found these things in your bottom bureau 
drawer, tucked away in the corner out of sight. I'd like to 
know why you've kept these old letters of Oilman Lane's so 
dreadful choice for all this time. They were wrote much as 
ten year ago, some of 'em." 



THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 20I 

" Aunt Joanna, give me those letters, please." 

Clarissa trembled so she could scarcely speak. She felt 
as if all the light in the world was shining on her heart and 
showing it forth pitilessly, dispelling all its innocent shadows, 
which had seemed like guilty ones to her. 

" I never see such a mess of nonsense in my life : all 
* darling ' an' ' dear.' It's enough to make anybody sick." 

" Aunt Joanna, you haven't read them ?" 

" I guess I have read 'em, every line. I rather think I 
had a right to, as long as you're my sister's daughter. I 
s'pose he give you this breast-pin too, eh ?" 

"Aunt Joanna!" 

" You needn't look so toppin'. When you've been doin* 
the way you have late years, never stirrin' out of the house 
except to meetin', an' actin' as if you'd give up the world, 
it's about time you was looked out after. Now I jest want 
to know if Oilman Lane give you the mitten, an' if that's what 
ails you ?" 

" Aunt Joanna, if you'll give me those letters — " 

" If he has, he's a mean scamp, an' you're an awful fool, 
that's all I've got to say. Before I'd spend my whole life 
frettin' over one feller !" 

" Aunt Joanna, you haven't any right to come here talking 
to me so." 

" I guess I've got as good a right as anybody. I guess 
you won't find anybody that thinks much more of you, or is 
more interested in you, than me. Clarissa May, what I 
want to know is this — was you engaged to Oilman Lane ?" 

" No," said Clarissa, shortly. Then she turned her face 
obstinately away, and went to work on her rose leaves again, 
and would not speak another word. Her aunt questioned 
and reproved a while longer ; then finding that she could 



202 THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 

get no further response, threw the letters and box down on 
the table, and left. 

"If I had such soft letters lying around I'd burn 'em. I 
wouldn't leave 'em where folks could get 'em," said she. 
She turned around as she went out of the door. *' I took 
that piece of brown cambric you had in your blue box, but 
I don' know as it's enough." 

Clarissa had been intending to use the cambric herself, 
but she said not a word. After her aunt had gone she car- 
ried the letters up-stairs, and put them in their old place ; 
then returned to her work. 

She filled the jar quite full, then tidied up her kitchen. 
When the noon bells were ringing, her Aunt Joanna ap- 
peared again. She had a covered plate in her hand. She 
had brought over some warm dinner. Clarissa thanked her, 
and took it. Neither of the women alluded to the letters. 
But the niece looked after her aunt as she went out of the 
yard, and if she could have smitten her with a total loss of 
memory, she would have done it in her shame and distress. 

Clarissa May knew every line of those old letters by 
heart. She knew whereabouts the lines stood on the pages, 
and the words in the lines. The few fond adjectives shone 
out like jewels among them. Now she thought them all 
over, she recounted one after another, and she said to her- 
self, "Aunt Joanna has seen this, and this." 

She set away the dinner untasted, put on her afternoon 
dress, and sat down with her sewing at the sitting-room 
window. 

Anne found her there when she returned from the picnic. 
Anne had lost a little of her crisp daintiness of the morn- 
ing. Her yellow hair was tumbled, her cheeks were hot, and 
her musliii dress was crumpled. 



THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 



303 



She sat down in the first chair with a sigh. " Oh," said she, 
" I'm glad to get in where it's cool ! It's terrible out in the sun." 

She looked around the room and at her sister approv- 
ingly. There were a certain patience and tranquillity about 
Clarissa, as she sat there sewing, which were cool and re- 
freshing of themselves. 

"You look real cool and comfortable," said Anne. 

Clarissa had on an old-fashioned cotton gown of a mixed 
green-and-white pattern, which suited her soft faded face. 
This cool old summer-gown had served her mother before 
her. The daughter wore it with very little alteration in the 
straight full skirt and long prim body. It came out of its 
winter seclusion every June and seemed as if it would 
never be worn out. Clarissa regarded it with gratitude 
and thankfulness. She wanted Anne to have all the new 
summer dresses. 

The sisters had their small income of one hundred and 
fifty dollars besides their house. This one hundred and 
fifty, eked out with a little sewing which Clarissa did, bought 
their food and clothes. Clarissa was a good manager, she 
made a little go so far, and she was very careful. There 
was a good deal of fine darning on the sitting-room carpet, 
but it took close scrutiny to see it among those faded, 
whitish-drab scrolls. The room was sweet with roses — 
living ones, which grew close to the open windows, and dead 
ones, which lay conserved with salt and spices in Clarissa's 
jars. She had converted every unused dish in the house 
into a receptacle for her rose leaves. Old china teapots 
stood about, and sugar bowls, and earthen jars, all exhaling 
spicy sweetness. They were in every room in the house. 
The amusements which life held for Clarissa seemed to be 
concentrated into this one gentle, erratic one of conserving 



204 



THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 



rose leaves. And the amusement was of such long stand- 
ing that it was almost like a duty to her. It is doubtful if she 
did not unconsciously think it wrong to let a rose leaf en- 
tirely perish, with all its sweetness, while she could save it. 

Years ago Oilman Lane had taught her how to make her 
first pot-pourri. " You ought to save all those roses," he 
had said one far-off summer day. " My Aunt Celia packs 
*em in a jar with salt. I'll show you how." 

The two had packed a little blue ginger jar with those old 
rose leaves. It stood on the shelf in the best parlor now, 
with the same ones in it. 

Something stronger than any rose fragrance floated from 
it to Clarissa every time she entered the room. It was the 
fragrance of the old memory, which was better conserved 
than the rose leaves, and formed the lasting element of that 
first pot-pourri. 

" I should think you'd fill up that jar new," Anne said 
often. She had no sense for that wonderful sweetness 
which her elder sister got from it. 

Anne sat still for quite a while to-day She did not talk 
as she usually did on a return from a merrymaking. She 
leaned her head back in her chair and stared at the oppo- 
site wall. There was a thoughtful look in her eyes, but her 
mouth was half smiling. 

" Did you have a good time ?" Clarissa asked, finally. 

" Real good," Anne said. Then she hesitated. Her 
conscious smile grew more distinct ; the red on her cheeks 
deepened. " You used to know Oilman Lane, didn't you, 
Clarissa ?" she went on. " Why, what is the matter?" 

" Nothing." 

" Yes there is, too ; you're awful white. Oh, Clarissa, don*t 
you feel well ?" 



THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 205 

"Just as well as I ever did. Go on. What were you 
saying? Oh, about Oilman Lane." 

'•' He was there, you know. He's got back from Cali- 
lornia, v;here he's been ten years. I didn't remember him. 
I was nothing but a little girl when he went away, anyhow. 
Vou used to know him, didn't you V 

"Yes, some." 

" He's real handsome. Ellen introduced him to me \ 
he's a sort of a cousin of hers, you know. She says he's 
splendid. He's older than I am. Why, didn't he go to 
school with you, Clarissa ?" 

"Yes, I believe he did." 

" Why, it seems to me I remember his coming here some- 
times, now I think of it. Didn't he used to?" 

" Yes, he used to run in once in a while, I guess.' 

" I declare, I do remember it ; but I never would have 
known him. He's splendid-looking." 

Anne rose and took off her bonnet slowly. " How soon 
are you going to have tea, Clarissa!*" 

" We'll have it now, if you want it." 

"Well, I don't know but we'd better, and get it out of the 
way." Anne stood laughing and fingering her bonnet 
strings. "To tell you the truth, I shouldn't wonder a bit 
if he was up here to-night. What is the matter? I know 
you're sick, Clarissa." 

" No, I ain't. I guess I'd better go and get tea right 
away, then." 

" It was a great joke on the other girls, you know. They 
were all teasing Ellen to introduce them, but he never looked 
at one of them. P'rhaps he won't come ; but I shouldn't be 
a bit surprised." 

Oilman Lane did come. His tall, muscular figure passed 



2o6 THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 

at dusk that night between the descendants of those old roses, 
up to the front-door porch, which was overgrown with them. 

Anne answered his knock. She was aglow with modest 
delight. She looked up in his face with innocent admira- 
tion, which he was foolish not to see. No wonder that this 
man outshone the gentle village boys in her eyes ! Oilman 
Lane had always been handsome. He v/as roughened and 
browned now by his California life, but that only accentuated 
his beauty to a country girl like Anne, who thought natu- 
rally of men as antipodes of flowers and women. 

"Good-evening, Mr. Lane," said she, primly, her cheeks 
pink, her eyes shyly radiant. " Won't you walk in .?" 

Clarissa, up in her room, heard the l^nock, the opening 
door in response, and the firm, manly tread across the entry 
floor. Then she heard the murmur of voices in the best 
parlor. She sat on the edge of her little bed, listening. 
She was rigid ; her hands were cold as ice. 

In a half-hour or so she heard Anne's step on the stairs, 
and rose hurriedly. She was lighting a candle when her 
sister entered. 

" Come down-stairs," Anne whispered , " he wants to see 
you." 

" I can't. I was just going over to Aunt Joanna's." 

"Come along." 

" He doesn't want to see me." 

"Yes, he does. He asked if you were at home. He 
said he used to know you, and he would like to see you. 
Come along down. If you don't, he'll think you don't want 
him to come here, or something." 

Clarissa, following her imperious young sister down-stairs, 
went weakly, like an old woman ; but Anne, in her joyful in- 
petuosity, never noticed it. 



THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 



207 



Lane rose as the two entered the parlor, and came across the 
room. He stumbled over a mat in his progress, and colored. 
He always managed his great frame a little clumsily. 

"Well, how do you do, Clarissa?" said he. His voice 
was loud and hearty, with a little hesitation in it. 

" How do you do. Oilman ?" It was that freedom of old 
days lapsed into formality which is the most chilling of all. 

They shook hands ; then seated themselves. Clarissa 
was mute. She felt herself trembling, and wondered if he 
saw it. He did not ; he was thinking to himself how very 
cool and stiff she was. 

He tried to make some conversation. " YouVe changed 
some, Clarissa, like all the rest of us," he said, laughing 
awkwardly. There was a real flush on his brown face. 

" I suppose I have," said Clarissa, delicate and pale and 
outwardly composed. She smiled faintly in his direction. 

" I guess you're a little thinner than you used to be, and 
you haven't got quite so much color. You're well, aren't 
you ?" 

There was an odd tone in his voice then that made Anne 
stare wonderingly at him. 

"Very well, thank you," Clarissa said. 

" It was a good deal of a joke on me, but I declare when 
I first saw your sister to-day I thought it was you. She 
looks just the way you used to, doesn't she V 

" Everybody says she does." 

" She does, sure enough. Why didn't you go to the pic- 
nic to-day, Clarissa?" 

" I don't go out a great deal." 

" She'd rather stay in the house and fill old sugar bowls 
and jars with rose leaves," Anne interrupted, with laughing 
pettishness. " I've been telling him about it" 



2o8 THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 

" I noticed it the minute I came into the house," said 
Lane. " I wondered what it was that smelt so sweet." 

" Good reason why," laughed Anne ; " there are four things 
full of rose leaves in here, besides that blue ginger-jar on the 
shelf. They're old in that, and don't smell much. Why 
don't you fill that one new, Clarissa ?" 

Lane looked at it gravely. " You ought to," said he ; 
"that's a real pretty jar." 

He had forgotten all about it. Whatever consciousness 
his heart held of those old days did not include that. His 
man's memory could not keep such small precious things. 

" I thought I had about enough," said Clarissa, trying to 
speak easily. She looked over at the jar. For a moment 
it seemed more valuable to her than the man who had for- 
gotten it and its storied sweetness. "It's all I've got left 
of anything," flashed through her mind. She wanted to 
seize it and cry over it. The forgetting and slighting this 
poor little jar made it harder for her to control herself. 
She could scarcely keep the tears back. But no one would 
have guessed it as she sat there pale and slender and prim. 

She excused herself before long. She had to go over to 
her aunt Joanna's, she said, and pleaded some housewifely 
errand. 

Joanna Emmons was a widow. She kept house with her 
daughter, also a widow, and two unmarried sons. 

The family were all in bed, but the doors were never 
locked. Clarissa went straight in, and groped her way across 
the dusky kitchen to her aunt's bedroom door. 

" Aunt Joanna !" she called, softly. 

" Who is it ?" said her aunt, sitting up in bed suddenly. 
She had not yet fallen asleep. 

" It's Clarissa. Say, Aunt Joanna — '* 



THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 209 

" What are you over here for this time of night ? Anne 
ain't sick, is she?" 

"No. I wanted to see you a minute. Aunt Joanna, I 
wanted to tell you something, and I mean it. It's — about 
— those letters. If you ever tell Anne or anybody else any- 
thing about them, I'll go away somewhere where you'll never 
see me again, nor any one else either." 

" Clarissa May, what do you mean ?" 

"What I say. You've got to promise me you won't." 

" 'Tain't very likely I'm goin' all round town tellin' what 
a fool my sister's daughter made of herself." 

" Aunt Joanna, you've got to promise me." 

"Clarissa May, let go of my hands! You're crazy. 
You scare me 'most to death !" 

" Promise." 

"Well, I'll promise. I won't speak of 'em to a soul 
There !" 

"Then I'll go home. Don't you forget." 

" Clarissa, come back here !" her aunt called after her, as 
she sped across the kitchen ; but she was gone. 

Anne was in the sitting-room when she reached home. 
" He went right after you did, " said she, smiling consciously. 
"I don't think you treated him very well, Clarissa." 

" I don't see why," said Clarissa, in a timid way. 

" You acted as stiflf as a poker. He thought it was awful 
funny that you didn't go out any more. You've got to go up 
West Mountain next week, anyhow." 

Poor Clarissa went. She dragged herself wearily up 
those steep inclines, trying all the time to smile with the 
rest of the merry party. When they reached the summit 
her face was damp and pale with the heat ; her lustreless 
hair clung close to her forehead. Anne was all rosy and 
14 



2IO THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 

glowing. Gilman Lane was at her side all day. Several 
times he tried to talk with Clarissa, but she avoided him, 
keeping close to some of the older young women, her mates. 

"Gilman Lane is dead in love with Anne May," she 
overheard one say, with a furtive glance at her. Some of 
them remembered that years ago there had been a similar 
report in connection with the older sister. 

" He's perfectly splendid," Anne said that night. " Why 
don't you say more to him, Clarissa ? I'm afraid he'll think 
you don't want him to come." 

So the next time that Gilman called, Clarissa made an 
effort to be cordial and talkative. She also remained in the 
room a little longer. 

The summer passed, the autumn, and the winter ; then the 
spring came again. Gilman Lane still called nearly every 
week at the May's. 

People said, *' Gilman Lane is going with Anne." Still he 
hardly fulfilled, in their opinions, all the conditions of court- 
ship. He did not come regularly on Sunday evenings, 
neither did he remain late. Clarissa always saw him during 
a few minutes of every call. Anne insisted upon it. 

*' He acts just as if he thought you didn't want him to 
come and see me, if you don't," said she. " He said once 
he guessed my sister didn't like to have him calling so 
often." 

Clarissa did not have a doubt as to how it would all end. 
She was certain that Gilman was fond of Anne. She thought 
also that her sister liked him, although she had her pretty, 
smart way about it, as she did about everything else, and 
laughed rather than sighed. 

So Clarissa in her patient certainty overlooked it all. 
There was one thing which she dreaded : that was any al- 



THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 211 

Jusion to the past. She had a constant fear lest she should 
chance to see Oilman when her sister was not there. Several 
times she did not answer his knock when Anne was away. 

Finally the roses were in blossom again. Clarissa's bushes 
were wonderful this year. The front yard was full of them. 
The vegetable garden behind the house had a broad walk 
edged with them, too. 

Clarissa went at her old work again. She moved among 
the rose-trees, a prim, delicate figure, in her old green-and- 
white gown, and cut every loose rose carefully. She was 
bent, in her graceful parsimoniousness, on saving all that 
she could of the sweetness of the world ; no matter how 
poorly she might live herself, her delight in this would not 
forsake her. She had lost love and youth and beauty, but 
she still got a little comfort out of her unselfishness and her 
roses. One is not entirely desolate while one can follow his 
instincts. 

Anne laughed at her. " She's gone to filling jars for the 
neighbors this year," said Anne. " She filled one for Mrs. 
Lamson yesterday." She and Oilman were in the parlor 
that afternoon. Oilman laughed. Then he looked out of 
the window soberly. Clarissa was in the front yard tending 
her roses. 

" It's real good of her," said he. 

"Of course it is. Clarissa never does anything that 
isn't good, but she is so funny." 

The next day Oilman came over with a great bunch of 
roses from his brother's garden. They were a different 
variety from any of Clarissa's, and very sweet. 

The two sisters were in the garden behind the house. 
He hunted about until he found them. He held out the 
roses awkwardly to Clarissa. 



212 THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 

"I thought maybe you'd like 'em," said he. "I guess 
they're different from yours." 

"You haven't got any like them, have you, Clarissa?" 
said Anne, eagerly. *' My ! I never saw any so sweet." 

Clarissa thanked him. " I haven't got any like them," 
said she. Her voice was a little unsteady. 

Presently she carried the roses into the house. Oilman 
turned to Anne. " Look here," said he, " I want to ask you 
something." 

Anne glanced at him. Then she turned her head so 
that he could barely see the pink curve of one cheek. 
She began pulling some roses busily. " I guess I'll pick 
some to put in the parlor vases," said she. " What is it you 
wanted to ask .?" 

*' I want to know — I've been coming here pretty near a 
whole year, and I don't seem to be a bit nearer finding out 
anything than I was when I started. Now I'm going to ask 
you point-blank." 

*'Oh, Oilman I" Anne murmured. She moved a little 
farther from him, then she came back. She dropped some 
of her roses. 

" I don't see as I can ask anybody but you. I can't see 
her alone a minute, no matter how hard I try. Oh, Anne, 
doesn't she ever tell you anything ? Don't you know if she 
cares anything at all about me ?" 

"Who?" 

" Why, Clarissa. Doesn't she ever tell you anything, 
Anne?" 

Anne turned her face farther away. She was very white. 
Her round young limbs were trembling. " Why don't you 
go into the house and ask her?" she said, with sweet, shrill 
incisiveness. " I should say that was the quickest way." 



THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 213 

" She'll run if she sees me coming. She doesn't act as 
if she wanted me to. Oh, Anne, don't you know anything 
about it ?" 

" No, I don't know a thing." 

" You knew we used to go together some, years ago ?" 

" No, I didn't." 

" We weren't engaged, but it was sort of understood, I'd 
always thought. It was before I went to California. Father'd 
lost his money, and mother was sick, and I thought I'd got 
to stir around and do something before I said much about 
getting married. 

" We wrote to each other quite a while. Then I got kind of 
discouraged. I wasn't doing very well, and I didn't see as I 
was ever coming home. I had to send every dollar I could 
save to father, and I began to think I couldn't get married 
till I was an old man, and I didn't know but it was sort of 
silly to say anything about it. 

" I dare say my letters showed how I felt. Anyhow, she 
didn't write quite so often, and then I heard she'd got a 
beau. That settled me. I should have been home three 
years ago if I hadn't supposed she was married. I didn't 
have the courage to ask. I did make up my mind to write 
and ask mother, though, finally. I thought I could bear it, 
and might as well know. 

"When I found out she wasn't, I came straight here. 
But she acted so cold and offish the first time I saw her 
that I thought sure she'd got over thinking anything of me. 
But once in a while she'd seem a little different, and I 
couldn't tell. Anne, didn't you ever hear her say anything 
about me t Sometimes I think I'm a fool to expect she'd 
remember anything so long ago. I wish I could see her just 
a minute. I'd like to tell her why I stopped writing, any- 



a 14 THE SCENT OF THE ROSES. 

how, though I never supposed she cared much. Her let- 
ters had begun to sound rather cool." 

" I'll go in and tell Clarissa that you want to speak to 
her," said Anne. " I don't see any need of so much fuss." 
Her voice sounded sweet and crisp. She swung her blue 
muslin skirts between the rose-bushes with an air. Her 
yellow head was proudly erect. 

" She looks just the way Clarissa used to," Oilman thought, 
as he stared after her. 

Presently she reappeared at the entrance of the garden 
walk. " Go right in," she called out. Then she went around 
to the front of the house. " They'll see I ain't shut up in 
my room, crying," she thought to herself. 

She sauntered about among the bushes, pulling roses here 
and there. She heard voices behind the parlor blinds. 
Her face was still pale, but her mouth began to tremble a 
little at the corners. Anne had a sweet nature. " It's a 
great joke on me," she whispered to herself. Then she 
laughed, with the most unselfish amusement, in the midst 
of her girlish chagrin and sorrow. 

There was a bush of beautiful pink roses down by the gate. 
Anne stood there picking them when her friend, Ellen Pier- 
son, came down the road, and stopped, leaning her slender 
elbows on the gate. " What are you picking so many roses 
for?" asked she. 

" I don't know but I shall go to filling up jars with them, 
like Clarissa,'^ said Anne. 



A SOLITARY. 

It was snowing hard, as it had been for twenty-four hours. 
The evergreen-trees hung low with the snow. Nicholas 
Gunn's little house was almost hidden beneath it. The 
snow shelved out over the eaves, and clung in damp masses 
to the walls. Nicholas sat on his door-step, and the snow 
fell upon him. His old cap had become a tall white crown ; 
there was a ridge of snow upon his bent shoulders. He 
sat perfectly still ; his eyes were fixed upon the weighted 
evergreens across the road, but he did not seem to see 
them. He looked as calmly passive beneath the storm as 
a Buddhist monk. 

There were no birds stirring, and there was no wind. All 
the sound came from the muffled rustle of the snow on the 
trees, and that was so slight as to seem scarcely more than 
a thought of sound. The road stretched to the north and 
south through the forest of pine and cedar and hemlock. 
Nicholas Gunn's was the only house in sight. 

Stephen Forster came up the road from the southward. 
He bent his head and struggled along ; the snow was above 
his knees, and at every step he lifted his feet painfully, as 
from a quicksand. He advanced quite noiselessly until he 
began to cough. The cough was deep and rattling, and 
he had to stand still in the snow while it was upon him. 



2i6 A SOLITARY. 

Nicholas Gunn never looked up. Stephen bent himself 
almost double, the cough became a strangle, but Nicholas 
kept his calm eyes fixed upon the evergreens. 

At last Stephen righted himself and kept on. He was 
very small ; his clothes were quite covered with snow, and 
patches of it clung to his face. He looked like some little 
winter-starved, white-furred animal, creeping painfully to 
cover. When he came opposite the house he half halted, 
but Nicholas never stirred nor looked his way, and he kept 
on. It was all that he could do to move, the cough had 
exhausted him ; he carried a heavy basket, too. 

He had proceeded only a few paces beyond the house 
when his knees bent under him, he fairly sank down into 
the snow. He groaned a little, but Nicholas did not turn 
his head. 

After a little, Stephen raised himself, lifted his basket, 
and went staggering back. "Mr. Gunn," said he. 

Nicholas turned his eyes slowly and looked at him, but 
he did not speak. 

"Can't I go into your house an' set down an* rest a fev 
minutes? I'm 'most beat out." 

" No, you can't," replied Nicholas Gunn. 

" I dun' know as I can git home." 

Nicholas made no rejoinder. He turned his eyes away. 
Stephen stood looking piteously at him. His sharply cut 
delicate face gleamed white through the white fall of the 
snow. 

" If you'd jest let me set there a few minutes,*' he said. 

Nicholas sat immovable. 

Stephen tried to walk on, but suddenly another coughing- 
fit seized him. He stumbled across the road, and propped 
himself against a pine-tree, setting the basket down in the 



A SOLITARY. 217 

snow. He twisted himself about the snowy tree trunk, and 
the coughs came in a rattling volley. 

Nicholas Gunn looked across at him, and waited until 
Stephen got his breath. Then he spoke. " Look a-here !" 
said he. 

"What say?'* 

" If you want to set in the house a few minutes, you can. 
There ain't no fire there." 

" Thank ye." 

It was some time before Stephen Forster gathered 
strength enough to return across the road to the house. 
He leaned against the tree, panting, the tears running down 
his cheeks. Nicholas did not offer to help him. When at 
last Stephen got across the road, he arose to let him pass 
through the door ; then he sat down again on the door-step. 

Stephen Forster set his basket on the floor, and staggered 
across the room to a chair. He leaned his head back 
against the wall and panted. The room was bitterly cold; 
the snow drifted in through the open door where Nicholas 
sat. There was no furniture except a cooking-stove, a cot 
bed, one chair, and a table ; but there were ornaments. 
Upon the walls hung various little worsted and cardboard 
decorations. There was a lamp-mat on the table, and in 
one corner was a rude bracket holding a bouquet of wax 
flowers under a tall glass shade. There was also a shelf 
full of books beside the window. 

Stephen Forster did not notice anything. He sat with 
his eyes closed. Once or twice he tried feebly to brush the 
snow off his clothes, that was all. Nicholas never turned 
his head. He looked like a stone image there in the door- 
way. In about twenty minutes Stephen arose, took his 
basket up, and went timidly to the door. 



ai8 A SOLITARY. 

" I'm much obleeged to ye, Mr. Gunn," said he. " I guess 
I can git along now." 

Nicholas got up, and the snow fell from his shoulders in 
great cakes. He stood aside to let Stephen pass. Stephen, 
outside the door, paused, and looked up at him. 

" I'm much obleeged to ye," he said again. " I guess I 
can git home now. I had them three coughin'-spells after 
I left the store, and I got 'most beat out." 

Nicholas grunted, and sat down again. Stephen looked 
at him a minute, then he smiled abashedly and went away, 
urging his feeble little body through the storm. Nicholas 
watched him, then he turned his head with a stiff jerk. 

" If he wants to go out in such weather, he can. I don't 
care," he muttered. 

It was nearly four o'clock in the afternoon, the snow was 
gradually ceasing. Presently a yellow light could be seen 
through the woods in the west. Some birds flew into one 
of the snowy trees, a wood-sled creaked down the road, the 
driver stared at Nicholas in the doorway, he turned his head 
and stared again. It was evident that he was not one of the 
village people. They had witnessed the peculiarities of 
Nicholas Gunn for the last six years. They still stared, but 
not as assiduously. 

The driver of the wood-sled, as soon as he went down 
the slope in the road, and could no longer see Nicholas, be- 
gan to whistle. The whistle floated back like a wake of 
merry sound. 

Presently Nicholas arose, took oflf his cap, and beat it 
against the door-post to rid it of its dome of snow ; then 
he shook himself like a dog, and stamped ; then he went 
into the house, and stood looking irresolutely at the cold 
stove. 



A SOLITARY, 219 

" Should like a fire to heat up my hasty-puddin' mighty 
well, so — I won't have it," said he. 

He took a wooden bucket, and went with it out of doors, 
around the house, over a snow-covered path, to a spring. 
The water trickled into its little basin from under a hood 
of snow. Nicholas plunged in his bucket, withdrew it 
filled with water, and carried it back to the house. The 
path led through the woods ; all the trees and bushes were 
white arcs. Some of the low branches bowed over the path, 
and Nicholas, passing under them, had to stoop. 

Nicholas, back in his house, got a bowl out of a rude 
closet ; it was nearly full of cold hasty-pudding. He stood 
there and swallowed it in great gulps. 

The light was waning fast, although it lasted longer than 
usual on account of the snow, which, now the clouds were 
gone, was almost like a sheet of white light. 

Nicholas, when he had finished his supper, plunged 
out again into this pale dusk. He tramped, knee-deep, 
down the road for a long way. He reached the little 
village centre, left it behind, and went on between white 
meadow-lands and stretches of woods. Once in a while he 
met a man plodding down to the store, but there were few 
people abroad, the road would not be cleared until morn- 
ing. 

Finally Nicholas turned about, and went back until he 
reached the village store. Its windows and glass door were 
full of yellow light, in which one could see many heads 
moving. When Nicholas opened the clanging door and 
went in, all the heads turned towards him. There was 
hardly a man there as tall as he. He went across the store 
with a kind of muscular shamble ; his head, with its wild 
light beard, had a lofty lift to it. The lounging men watched 



2 20 A SOLITARY. 

him furtively as he bought some Indian meal and matches 
at the counter. When he had gone our with his purchases 
there was a burst of laughter. The store-keeper thrust a 
small sharp face over the counter. 

" If a man is such a darned fool as to live on meal and 
matches, I ain't got nothin' to say, so long as he pays me 
the money down," said he. He had a hoarse cold, and his 
voice was a facetious whisper. 

There was another shout of laughter; Nicholas could 
hear it as he went down the street. The stranger who had 
driven the wood-sled past Nicholas's house was among the 
men. He was snow-bound overnight in the village. He 
was a young fellow, with innocent eyes and a hanging jaw. 
He nudged the man next him. 

" What in creation ails the fellar, anyhow?" said he. " I 
seed him a-settin' on his door-step this afternoon, and the 
snow a-drivin* right on him." 

" He ain't right in his upper story," replied the man. 
" Somethin' went again him ; his wife run off with another 
fellar, or somethin', an' he's cracked." 

" Why don't they shet him up .>" 

" He ain't dangerous. Reckon he won't hurt nobody 
but himself. If he wants to set out in a drivin' snow-storm, 
and tramp till he's tuckered out, it ain't nothin' to nobody 
else but himself. There ain't no use bringin' that kind^of 
crazy on the town." 

*''Twouldn't cost the town much," chimed in another 
man. " He's worth property. Shouldn't be surprised if he 
was worth three thousand dollars. And there he is a-livin* 
on corn meal and water." 

An old man, in a leather-cushioned arm-chair beside the 
stove, turned his grizzly quizzical face toward the others, and 



A SOLITARY, 221 

cleared his throat. They all bent forward attentively. He 
had a reputation for wit. 

"Makes me think of old Eph Huntly, and the story 
Squire Morse used to tell about him," said he. He paused 
impressively, and they waited. Then he went on. " Seems 
old Eph got terrible hard up one time. One thing after an* 
other went again him. He'd been laid up with the rheu- 
matiz all winter ; then his wife she'd been sick, an' they was 
'most eat up with medicine an' doctors' bills. Then his hay 
crop had failed, an' his pertaters had rotted, an' finally, to 
cap the climax, his best cow died, an' the intVest money 
was due on the mortgage, an' he didn't have a cent to 
pay it with. Well, he couldn't raise the money nohow, 
an' the day come when he s'posed the farm would have to 
go. Lawyer Holmes he held the mortgage, an' he expected 
to see him drive into the yard any time. Well, old Eph he 
jest goes out in the yard, an' he ketches a nice fat crower, 
an' he kills him, an' picks him. Then he takes him in to his 
wife. She was takin' on terrible 'cause she thought the 
farm had got to go, an' sez he, * Sukey Ann, I want you to 
go an* cook this crower jest as good as you know how.' 
*0h, Lor'!' sez she, *I don't want no crower,' an' she boo- 
hooed right out. But old Eph he made her go an' stuff 
that crower, an' cook him, an' bile onions, turnips, an' 
squash, an' all the fixin's. He said he never felt so bad in 
his life, an' he never got to sech a desprit pitch, an' he was 
goin' to have a good dinner anyhow. Well, it so happened 
that Lawyer Holmes he driv into the yard jest as old Eph 
an' his wife were settin' down to dinner, an' he see that 
nice baked crower an' the fixin's all set out, an' he didn't 
know what to make on't. It seemed to him Eph couldn't 
be so dreadful bad off, or he wouldn't have any heart for 



222 A SOLITARY.* - 

extra dinners, an* mebbe he had some way of raisin' the 
money in prospect. Then Lawyer Holmes he was mighty 
fond of his victuals himself, an' the upshot of it was, he sot 
down to the table, an' eat a good meal of the crower an' 
fixin's, an' there wa'n't no mortgage foreclosed that day, 
an' before long Eph he managed to raise the money some- 
how. Now if Nicholas Gunn jest had a leetle grain of old 
Eph's sense, he'd jest git better victuals the wuss he felt, an' 
let one kinder make up for t'other, instead of livin' on Injun 
meal an' matches. I ruther guess I wouldn't take to no 
meal an' matches if my Ann Lizy left me. I'd live jest as 
high as I could to keep my spirits up." 

There was a burst of applause. The old man sat wink- 
ing and grinning complacently. 

*' Nicholas Gunn is a darned fool, or else he's cracked," 
said the storekeeper in his hoarse whisper. 

Meanwhile Nicholas Gunn went home. He put his 
meal away in the closet ; he lighted a candle with one of 
his matches ; he read awhile in the Bible ; then he went to 
bed. He did not sleep in the cot bed ; that was too luxurious 
for him. He slept, rolled in a blanket, on the bare floor. 

Nicholas Gunn, whether his eccentricities arose from 
mystical religious fervor or from his own personal sorrows, 
would have been revered and worshipped as a saintly as- 
cetic among some nations ; among New-Englanders he met 
with the coarse ridicule of the loafers in a country store. 
Idle meditation and mortification of the flesh, except for 
gain, were among them irreconcilable with sanity. Nicholas 
would have had more prestige had he fled to the Himalayas 
and built himself a cell in some wild pass ; however, prestige 
was not what he sought. 

The next morning a wind had arisen ; it blew stifi" and 



A SOLITARY. 213 

cold from the north. The snow was drifted into long 
waves, and looked like a frozen sea. A flock of sparrows 
had collected before Nicholas Gunn's door, and he stood 
watching them. They were searching for crumbs ; this 
deep snow had shortened their resources wofully ; all their 
larders were buried. There were no crumbs before this 
door; but they searched assiduously, with their feathers 
ruffled in the wind. Stephen Forster came up the road 
with his market-basket ; it was all he could do to face the 
wind. His thin coat was buttoned tight across his narrow 
shoulders; his old tippet blew out. He advanced with a 
kind of sidewise motion, presenting his body like a wedge 
to the wind ; he could not walk fairly against it. 

When he was opposite Nicholas, the sparrows flew up 
at his feet ; he paused, and shifted his basket. " Good- 
mornin', Mr. Gunn," said he, in a weak voice. 

Nicholas nodded. Stephen's face was mottled with pur- 
ple ; his nose and mouth looked shrunken ; his shoes were 
heavy with snow. 

" If you want to go in an' set down a few minutes, you 
can," said Nicholas. 

Stephen moved forward eagerly. " Thank ye, Mr. Gunn, I 
am kinder beat out, an' I'd like to set a few minutes," he said. 

He went in and sat down. The wind rushed in great 
gusts past the open door. Stephen began to cough. 
Nicholas hesitated, his face was surly, then he shut the 
door with a bang. 

While Stephen rested himself in the house, Nicholas 
marched up and down before it like a sentinel. He did 
not seem to see Stephen when he came out, but he stood 
before him in his track. 

" I'm much obleeged, Mr. Gunn," said he. 



224 



A SOLITARY, 



Nicholas nodded. Stephen hesitated a minute, then he 
went on up the road. The snow blew up around him in a 
dazzling cloud, and almost hid him from sight. 

" It's the last time I do it," muttered Nicholas. 

But it was not. Every morning, storm or shine, Stephen 
Forster toiled painfully over the road with his market- 
basket, and every morning Nicholas Gunn invited him into 
his fireless hermitage to resf A freezing hospitality, but 
he offered it, and Stephen accepted it with a fervent grati- 
tude. 

It grew apparently more and more necessary. Stephen 
crept more and more feebly over the road ; he had to keep 
setting his basket down. Nicholas never asked him if he 
were ill, he never questioned him at all, although he knew 
nothing about him but his name. Nicholas did not know 
the names even of many ot the village people ; he had never 
offered nor invited confidences. Stephen also did not 
volunteer any information as to his circumstances during 
his morning calls upon Nicholas ; indeed, he was too ex- 
hausted ; he merely gave his gentle and timid thanks for the 
hospitality. 

There came a night in January when the cold reached 
the greatest intensity of the season. The snow creaked 
underfoot, the air was full of sparkles, there were noises 
like guns in the woods, for the trees were almost freezing 
The moon was full, and seemed like a very fire of death, 
radiating cold instead of heat. 

Nicholas Gunn, stern anchorite that he was, could not 
sleep for the cold. He got up and paced his room. He 
would not kindle a fire in the stove. He swung his arms 
and stamped. Suddenly he heard a voice outside. It 
sounded almost like a child's. " Mr. Gunn 1" it cried. 



A SOLITARY. 22% 

Nicholas stopped and listened. It came agaih — " Mr 
— Gunn !" 

" Who's there ?" Nicholas sung out, gruffly. 

" It's— me." 

Then Nicholas knew it was Stephen Forster. He opened 
the door, and Stephen stood there in the moonlight. 

" What are ye out for this time of night ?" asked Nicho- 
las. 

Stephen chattered so that he could hardly speak. He 
cowered before Nicholas ; the moonlight seemed to strike 
his little, shivering form like a broadside of icy spears. 
" I'm 'fraid I'm freezin','' he gasped. " Can't ye take me 
in?" 

" What are ye out for this time of night ?" repeated Nicho- 
las, in a rough, loud tone. 

" I had to. I'll tell you when I git a leetle warmer. I 
dun' know but — I'm freezin'." 

Stephen's voice, indeed, sounded as if ice were forming* 
over it, muffling it. Nicholas suddenly grasped him by one 
arm. 

"Come in, then, if ye've got to," he growled. 

He pulled so suddenly and strongly that Stephen made 
a run into the house, and his heels flew up weakly. Nicho- 
las whirled him about and seated him on his cot bed. 

" Now lay down here," he ordered, " and I'll cover ye up." 

Stephen obeyed. Nicholas pulled off his boots, gave his 
feet a fierce rub, and fixed the coverings over him with 
rough energy. Then he began pacing the room again. 

Presently he went up to the bed. "Warmer?" 

"I guess — so." Stephen's shivering seemed to shake the 
room. 

Nicholas hustled a coat off of a peg, and put it over Ste- 
15 



226 A SOLITARY. 

phen. Then he paced again. Stephen began to cough. 
Nicholas made an exclamation, and stamped angrily out of 
the house. There was a little lean-to at the back, and there 
was some fuel stored in it. Nicholas came back quickly 
with his arms full of wood. He piled it into the stove, set 
a match to it, and put on a kettle of water. Then he 
dragged the cot bed, with Stephen on it, close to the stove, 
and began to rub him under the bedclothes. His face was 
knit savagely, but he rubbed with a tender strength. 

" Warmer.?" said he. 

" Yes, I — be," returned Stephen, gratefully. 

The fire burned briskly ; the sharp air began to soften. 
Soon the kettle steamed. Nicholas got a measure of meal 
out of his cupboard, and prepared some porridge in a little 
stewpan. When it began to boil, he bent over the stove 
and stirred carefully, lest it should lump. When it was 
thick enough, he dished it, salted it, and carried it to Ste- 
phen. 

" There, eat it," said he. " It's the best I've got ; it '11 
warm ye some. I ain't got no spirits ; never keep any in 
the house." 

" I guess I ain't — very hungry, Mr. Gunn," said Stephen, 
feebly. 

"Eat it." 

Stephen raised himself, and drained the bowl with con- 
vulsive gulps. Tears stood in his eyes, and he gasped 
when he lay back again. However, the warm porridge 
revived him. Presently he looked at Nicholas, who was 
putting more wood on the fire. 

" I s'pose you think it's terrible queer that I come here 
this way," said he; "but there wa'n't no other way. I 
dun' know whether you know how I've been livin' or not." 



A SOLITARY, 



227 



"No, I don V 

** Well, I've been livin' with my half-sister, Mis' Morri- 
son. Mebbe you've heard of her ?" 

" No, I ain't." 

" She keeps boarders. We ain't lived in this town 
more'n three years ; we moved here from Jackson. Mis' 
Morrison's husband's dead, so she keeps boarders. She's 
consider'ble older'n me. I ain't never been very stout, but 
I used to tend in a store till I got worse. I coughed so, it 
used to plague the customers. Then I had to give it up, 
and when Mis' Morrison's husband died, and she come 
here, I come with her ; she thought there'd be some chores 
1 could do for my board. An' I've worked jest as hard as 
I could, an' I ain't complained. I've been down to the 
store to get meat for the boarders' dinner when I couldn't 
scarcely get along over the ground. But I cough so bad 
nights that the boarders they complain, an' Mis' Morrison 
says I must go to — the poor-house. I heard her talkin' with 
the hired girl about it. She's goin' to get the selectmen to 
the house to-morrow mornin'. An' — I ain't a-goin' to the 
poor-house ! None of my folks have ever been there, an' I 
ain't goin' ! I'll risk it but what I can get some work to 
do. I ain't quite so fur gone yet. I waited till the house 
was still, an' then I cut. I thought if you'd take me in till 
mornin', I could git down to the depot, an' go to Jackson 
before the selectmen come. I've got a little money — 
enough to take me to Jackson — I've been savin' of it up 
these three years, in case anything happened. It's some I 
earned tendin' store. I'm willin' to pay you for my night's 
lodgin'." 

Nicholas nodded grimly. He had stood still, listening to 
the weak, high-pitched voice from the bed. 



228 ^ SOLITARY. 

" It's in my vest pocket, in my pocketbook," said Ste- 
phen. " If you'll come here, I'll give it to you, and you 
can take what you think it's worth. I pinned the pocket 
up, so's to be sure I didn't lose it." 

Stephen began fumbling at his vest. Nicholas lifted a 
cover from the stove. 

" I don't want none of your money," said he. " Keep 
your money." 

" I've got enough to pay you, an' take me to Jackson." 

" I tell ye, stop talkin' about your money." 

Stephen said no more ; he looked terrified. The air 
grew warmer. Everything was quiet, except for the de- 
tonations of the frost in the forest outside, and its sharp 
cracks in the house walls. Soon Stephen fell asleep, 
and lay breathing short and hard. Nicholas sat beside 
him. 

It was broad daylight when Stephen aroused himself. 
He awoke suddenly and completely, and began to get out 
of bed. " I guess it's time I was goin'," said he. '* I'm 
much obleeged to you, Mr. Gunn." 

"You lay still." 

Stephen looked at him. 

"You lay still," repeated Nicholas. 

Stephen sank back irresolutely ; his timid, bewildered 
eyes followed Nicholas, who was smoothing his hair and 
beard before a little looking-glass near the window. There 
was a good fire m the cooking-stove, and the room was 
quite warm, although it was evidently a very cold day. 
The two windows were thickly coated with frost, and the 
room was full of dim white light. One of the windows 
faced towards the east, but the sun was still hidden by the 
trees across the road. 



A SOLITARY. 229 

Nicholas smoothed his hair and his wild beard slowly and 
punctiliously. 

Stephen watched him. " Mr. Gunn," he said, at length. 

" What say .?' 

" I'm afraid — I sha'n't get to the depot before the train 
goes if I don't start pretty soon." 

Nicholas went on smoothing his beard. At length he 
laid his comb down and turned around. " Look a-here !" 
said he ; "you might jest as well understand it. You ain't 
a-goin' to any depot to-day, an' you ain't a-goin' to any 
train, an' you ain't a-goin' to any depot to-morrow nor any 
train, an' you ain't a-goin' the next day, nor the next, nor 
the next, nor the next after that" 

"What be I a-goin' to do?" 

" You are a-goin' to stay jest where you are. I've fought 
against your comin' as long as I could, an' now you've 
come, an' I've turned the corner, you are a-goin' to stay. 
When I've been walkin' in the teeth of my own will on one 
road, an' havin' all I could do to breast it, I ain't a-goin' 
to do it on another. I've give up, an' I'm a-goin to stay 
give up. You lay still." 

Stephen's small anxious face on the pillow looked almost 
childish. His helplessness of illness seemed to produce 
the same expression as the helplessness of infancy. His 
hollow, innocent blue eyes were fixed upon Nicholas with 
blank inquiry. "Won't Mis' Morrison be after me.?" he 
asked, finally. 

" No, she won't. Don't you worry. I'm a-goin' over to 
see her. You lay still." Nicholas shook his coat before 
he put it on ; he beat his cap against the wall, then ad- 
justed it carefully. " Now," said he, " I'm a-goin'. I've 
left enough wood in the stove, an' I guess it '11 keep warm 



23© ^ SOLITARY. 

till I get back. I sha'n't be gone any longer than I can 
help." 

*' Mr. Gunn 1" 

" What say ?" 

"I ruther guess I'd better be a-goin'." 

Nicholas looked sternly at Stephen. "You lay still," he 
repeated. " Don't you try to get up whilst I'm gone ; you 
ain't fit to. Don't you worry. I'm goin' to fix it all right. 
I'm goin' to bring you something nice for breakfast. You 
lay still." 

Stephen stared at him, his thin shoulders hitched un- 
easily under the coverlid. 

"You're goin' to lay still, ain't you.?" repeated Nicholas. 

"Yes; I will, if you say so," replied Stephen. He 
sighed and smiled feebly. 

The truth was that this poor cot in the warm room 
seemed to him like a couch under the balsam-dropping 
cedars of Lebanon, and all at once he felt that divine rest 
which comes from leaning upon the will of another. 

"Well, I do say so," returned Nicholas. He looked at 
the fire again, then he went out. He turned in the door- 
way, and nodded admonishingly at Stephen. " Mind you 
don't try to get up," he said again. 

Nicholas went out of sight down the road, taking long 
strides over the creaking snow. He was gone about a 
half-hour. When he returned, his arms were full of pack- 
ages. He opened the door, and looked anxiously at the 
bed. Stephen twisted his face towards him and smiled. 
Nicholas piled the packages up on the table, and lifted a 
stove-cover. 

" I've seen Mis' Morrison, and it's all right," said he. 

" What did she say V asked Stephen, in an awed voice. 



A SOLITARY. 



231 



" Well, she didn*t say much of anything. She was fryin' 
griddle-cakes for the boarders' breakfasts. She said she 
felt real bad about lettin' you go, but she didn't see no 
other way, an' she'd be glad to have you visit me jest as 
long as you wanted to. She's goin' to pack up your clothes." 

" I ain't got many clothes. There's my old coat an' 
vest an' my other pants, but they're 'most worn out. I 
ain't got but one real good shirt besides this one I've got 
on. That was in the wash, or I'd brought it." 

" Clothes enough," said Nicholas. 

He crammed the stove with wood, and began undoing 
tha packages. There were coffee, bread, and butter, some 
little delicate sugar cookies, some slices of ham, and eggs. 
There were also a pail of milk and a new tin coffee-pot. 

Nicholas worked busily. He made coffee, fried the ham 
and eggs, and toasted slices of bread. When everything 
was ready, he carried a bowl of water to Stephen for him to 
wash his hands and face before breakfast. He even got his 
comb, and smoothed his hair. 

Then he set the breakfast out on the table, and brought 
it up to the bedside. He had placed a chair for himself, 
and was just sitting down, when he stopped suddenly. "I 
don't know as it's just fair for me not to tell you a little 
something about myself before we really begin livin' to- 
gether," said he. "It won't take but a minute. I don't 
know but you've heard stories about me that I wa'n't quite 
right. Well, I am ; that is, I s'pose I am. All is, I've had 
lots of trouble, an' it come mainly through folks I set by ; 
an' I figured out a way to get the better of it. I figured 
out that if I didn't care anything for anybody, I shouldn't 
have no trouble from 'em ; an' if I didn't care anything for 
myself, I shouldn't have any from myself. I 'bout made 



232 A SOLITARY. 

up my mind that all the trouble an' wickedness in this 
world come from carin' about yourself or somebody else, 
so I thought I'd quit it. I let folks alone, an' I wouldn't 
do anything for 'em ; an' I let myself alone as near as 1 
could, an' didn't do anything for myself. I kept cold when 
I wanted to be warm, an' warm when I wanted to be cold. 
I didn't eat anything I liked, an' I left things around that 
hurt me to see. My wife she made them wax flowers an* 
them gimcracks. Then I used to read the Bible, 'cause I 
used to believe in it an' didn't now, an' it made me feel 
worse. I did about everything I could to spite myself, an' 
get all the feelin' out of me, so I could be a little easier in 
my mind." 

Nicholas paused a moment. Stephen was looking at 
him with bewildered intensity. 

" Well, I was all wrong," Nicholas went on. " I've give 
it all up. I've got to go through with the whole of it like 
other folks, an' I guess I've got grit enough. I've made up 
my mind that men's tracks cover the whole world, and 
there ain't standin'-room outside of 'em. I've got to go 
with the rest. Now we'll have breakfast." 

Nicholas ate heartily ; it was long since he had tasted such 
food ; even Stephen had quite an appetite. Nicholas pressed 
the food upon him ; his face was radiant with kindness and 
delight. Stephen Forster, innocent, honest, and simple^ 
hearted, did not in the least understand him, but that did not 
matter. There is a higher congeniality than that of mutual 
understanding; there is that of need and supply. 

After breakfast Nicholas cleared away the dishes and 
washed them. The sun was so high then that it struck 
the windows, and the frost-work sparkled like diamonds. 

Nicholas opened the door; he was going down to the spring 



A SOLITARY. 



233 



for more water ; he saw a flock of sparrows in the bushes 
across the road, and stopped ; then he set his pail down 
noiselessly and went back for a piece of bread. He broke 
it and scattered the crumbs before the door, then went off a 
little way and stood watching. When the sparrows settled 
down upon the crumbs he laughed softly, and went on to- 
wards the spring over the shinine crust of snow. 



A GENTLE GHOST. 

Out in front of the cemetery stood a white horse and a 
covered wagon. The horse was not tied, but she stood 
quite still, her four feet widely and ponderously planted, 
her meek white head hanging. Shadows of leaves danced 
on her back. There were many trees about the cemetery, 
and the foliage was unusually luxuriant for May. The four 
women who had come in the covered wagon remarked it. 
" I never saw the trees so forward as they are this year, 
seems to me," said one, gazing up at some magnificent 
gold-green branches over her head. 

" I was sayin' so to Mary this morninV' rejoined another. 
"They're uncommon forward, I think." 

They loitered along the narrow lanes between the lots — 
four homely, middle-aged women, with decorous and sub- 
dued enjoyment in their worn faces. They read with peace- 
ful curiosity and interest the inscriptions on the stones; 
they turned aside to look at the tender, newly blossomed 
spring bushes— the flowering almonds and the bridal 
wreaths. Once in a while they came to a new stone, 
which they immediately surrounded with eager criticism. 
There was a solemn hush when they reached a lot where 
some relatives of one of the party were buried. She put a 
bunch of flowers on a grave, then she stood looking at it 



A GENTLE GHOST. 235 

with red eyes. The others grouped themselves deferentially 
aloof. 

They did not meet any one in the cemetery until just be- 
fore they left. When they had reached the rear and oldest 
portion of the yard, and were thinking of retracing their 
steps, they became suddenly aware of a child sitting in a 
lot at their right. The lot held seven old, leaning stones, 
dark and mossy, their inscriptions dimly traceable. The 
child sat close to one, and she looked up at the staring 
knot of women with a kind of innocent keenness, like a 
baby He»- face was small and fair and pinched. The 
women stood eying her. 

"What's your name, little girl ?" asked one. She had a 
bright flower in her bonnet and a smart lift to her chin, 
and seemed the natural spokeswoman of the party. Her 
name was Holmes. The child turned her head sideways 
and murmured somethmg. 

"What.? We can't hear. Speak up; don't be afraid! 
What's your name ?" The woman nodded the bright flower 
over her, and spoke with sharp pleasantness. 

" Nancy Wren," said the child, with a timid catch of her 
breath. 

" Wren ?'' 

The child nodded. She kept her little pink, curving 
fnouth parted. 

*' It's nobody I know," remarked the questioner, reflec- 
tively. " I guess she comes from — over there." She made 
a significant motion of her head towards the right. " Where 
do you live, Nancy ?" she asked. 

The child also motioned towards the right. 

" I thought so," said the woman. " How old are you ?" 

"Ten." 



236 A GENTLE GHOST. 

The women exchanged glances. "Are you sure you're 
tellin' the truth ?" 

The child nodded. 

" I never saw a girl so small for her age if she is," said 
one woman to another. 

" Yes," said Mrs. Holmes, looking at her critically ; " she 
is dreadful small. She's considerable smaller than my 
Mary was. Is there any of your folks buried in this lot ?" 
said she, fairly hovering with affability and determined gra- 
ciousness 

The child's upturned face suddenly kindled. She began 
speaking with a soft volubility that was an odd contrast to 
her previous hesitation 

" That's mother," said she, pointing to one of the stones, 
" an' that's father, an' there's John, an' Marg'ret, an' Mary, 
an' Susan, an' the baby, and here's — Jane." 

The women stared at her m amazement. " Was it your — " 
began Mrs. Holmes ; but another woman stepped forward, 
stoutly impetuous 

" Land ! it's the Blake lot !" said she. *' This child can't 
be any relation to 'em. You hadn't ought to talk so, 
Nancy." 

" It's so," said the child, shyly persistent. She evidently 
hardly grasped the force of the woman's remark. 

They eyed her with increased bewilderment. " It can't 
be," said the woman to the others. " Every one of them 
Blakes died years ago." 

" I've seen Jane," volunteered the child, with a candid 
smile in their faces. 

Then the stout woman sank down on her knees beside 
pane's stone, and peered hard at it. 

" She died forty year ago this May," said she, with a gasp. 



A GENTLE GHOST. 237 

** I used to know her when I was a child. She was ten 
years old when she died. You ain't ever seen her. You 
hadn't ought to tell such stories," 

"I ain't seen her for a long time," said the little girl. 

"What made you say you'd seen her at all.?'' said Mrs. 
Holmes, sharply, thinking this was capitulation. 

"I did use to see her a long time ago, an' she used to 
wear a white dress, an' a wreath on her head. She used to 
come here an' play with me." 

The women looked at each other with pale, shocked 
faces ; one nervous ; one shivered. '•' She ain't quite right," 
she whispered. "Let's go." The women began filing 
away. Mrs. Holmes, who came last, stood about for a part- 
ing word to the child. 

*' You can't have seen her," said she, severely, " an' you 
are a wicked girl to tell such stories. You mustn't do it 
again, remember." 

Nancy stood with her hand on Jane's stone, looking at 
her. " She did," she repeated, with mild obstinacy. 

" There's somethin' wrong about her, I guess," whispered 
Mrs. Holmes, rustling on after the others. 

" I see she looked kind of queer the minute I set eyes on 
her," said the nervous woman. 

When the four reached the front of the cemetery they sat 
down to rest for a few minutes. It was warm, and they had 
still quite a walk, nearly the whole width of the yard, to the 
other front corner where the horse and wagon were. 

They sat down in a row on a bank ; the stout woman 
wiped her face; Mrs. Holmes straightened her bonnet. 
Directly opposite across the street stood two houses, so 
close to each other that their walls almost touched. One 
was a large square building, glossily white, with green 



238 A GENTLE GHOST. 

blinds ; the other was low, with a facing of whitewashed 
stone-work reaching to its lower windows, which somehow 
gave it a disgraced and menial air ; there were, moreover, 
no blinds. 

At the side of the low building stretched a wide ploughed 
field, where several halting old figures were moving about 
planting. There was none of the brave hope of the sower 
about them. Even across the road one could see the fee- 
ble stiffness of their attitudes, the half-palsied fling of their 
arms. 

" I declare I shouldn't think them old men over there 
would ever get that field planted," said Mrs. Holmes, en- 
ergetically watchful. In the front door of the square white 
house sat a girl with bright hair. The yard was full of 
green light from two tall maple-trees, and the girl's hair 
made a brilliant spot of color in the midst of it. 

"That's Flora Dunn over there on the door-step, ain't 
it ?" said the stout woman. 

" Yes. I should think you could tell her by her red hair.*' 

" I knew it. I should have thought Mr. Dunn would 
have hated to have had their house so near the poor-house. 
I declare I should !" 

" Oh, he wouldn't mind," said Mrs. Holmes ; " he*s as 
easy as old Tilly. It wouldn't have troubled him any if 
they'd set it right in his front yard. But I guess she minded 
some. I heard she did. John said there wa'n't any need 
of it. The town wouldn't have set it so near, if Mr. Dunn 
had set his foot down he wouldn't have it there. I s'pose 
they wanted to keep that big field on the side clear ; but 
chey would have moved it along a little if he'd made a fuss. 
I tell you what 'tis, I've 'bout made up my mind — I dun 
know as it's Scripture, but I can't help it — if folks don't 



A GENTLE GHOST. 239 

make a fuss they won't get their rights in this world. If 
you jest lay still an' don't rise up, you're goin' to get stepped 
on. If people like to be, they can ; I don't." 

"I should have thought he'd have hated to have the 
poor-house quite so close," murmured the stout woman. 

Suddenly Mrs. Holmes leaned forward and poked her 
head among the other three. She sat on the end of the 
row. " Say," said she, in a mysterious whisper, " I want 
to know if you've heard the stories 'bout the Dunn house?" 

" No ; what ?" chorussed the other women, eagerly. They 
bent over towards her till the four faces were in a knot. 

"Well," said Mrs. Holmes, cautiously, with a glance at 
the bright-headed girl across the way — " I heard it pretty 
straight — they say the house is haunted." 

The stout woman sniffed and straightened herself. 
" Haunted !" repeated she. 

" They say that ever since Jenny died there's been queer 
noi&es *round the house that they can't account for. You 
see that front chamber over there, the one next to the poor- 
house ; well, that's the room, they say." 

The women all turned and looked at the chamber win- 
dows, where some ruffled white curtains were fluttering. 

"That's the chamber where Jenny used to sleep, you 
know," Mrs. Holmes went on ; " an' she died there. Well, 
they said that before Jenny died, Flora had always slept 
there with her, but she felt kind of bad about goin' back 
there, so she thought she'd take another room. Well, there 
was the awfulest moanin' an' takin' on up in Jenny's room, 
when she did, that Flora went back there to sleep." 

" I shouldn't thought she could," whispered the nervous 
woman, who was quite pale. 

"The moanin' stopped jest as soon as she got in there 



240 A GENTLE GHOST. 

with a light. You see Jenny was always terrible timid an 
afraid to sleep alone, an' had a lamp burnin' all night, an' 
it seemed to them jest as if it really was her, I s'pose." 

*' I don't believe one word of it," said the stout woman, 
getting up. " It makes me all out of patience to hear peo- 
ple talk such stuff, jest because the Dunns happen to live 
opposite a graveyard." 

" I told it jest as I heard it," said Mrs. Holmes, stiffly. 

" Oh, I ain't blamin' you ; it's the folks that start such 
stories that I ain't got any patience with. Think of that 
dear, pretty little sixteen-year-old girl hauntin' a house !" 

" Well, I've told it jest as I heard it," repeated Mrs. 
Holmes, still in a tone of slight umbrage. " I don't ever 
take much stock in such things myself." 

The four women strolled along to the covered wagon 
and climbed in. " I declare," said the stout woman, con- 
ciliatingly, " I dun know when I've had such an outin'. I 
feel as if it had done me good. I've been wantin' to come 
down to the cemetery for a long time, but it's most more'n 
I want to walk. I feel real obliged to you, Mis' Holmes." 

The others climbed in. Mrs. Holmes disclaimed all ob- 
ligations gracefully, established herself on the front seat, 
and shook the reins over the white horse. Then the party 
jogged along the road to the village, past outlying farm^ 
houses and rich green meadows, all freckled gold with dan- 
delions. Dandelions were in their height ; the buttercups 
had not yet come. 

Flora Dunn, the girl on the door-step, glanced up when 
they started down the street ; then she turned her eyes on 
her work ; she was sewing with nervous haste. 

" Who were those folks, did you see, Flora ?" called her 
mother, out of the sitting-room. 



A GENTLE GHOST. 



241 



"I didn't notice," replied Flora, absently. 

Just then the girl whom the women had met came lin- 
geringly out of the cemetery and crossed the street. 

"There's that poor little Wren girl," remarked the voice 
in the sitting-room. 

"Yes," assented Flora. After a while she got up and 
entered the house. Her mother looked anxiously at her 
when she came into the room. 

*' I'm all out of patience with you, Flora," said she. 
"You're jest as white as a sheet. You'll make yourself 
sick. You're actin' dreadful foolish." 

Flora sank into a chair and sat staring straight ahead 
with a strained, pitiful gaze. "I can't help it; I can't do 
any different," said she. " I shouldn't think you'd scold me, 
mother." 

" Scold you ; I ain't scoldin' you, child ; but there ain't 
any sense in your doin' so. You'll make yourself sick, an' 
you're all I've got left. I cant have anything happen to 
you, Flora." Suddenly Mrs. Dunn burst out in a low wail, 
hiding her face in her hands. 

" I don't see as you're much better yourself, mother," 
said Flora, heavily. 

"I don't know as I am," sobbed her mother; "but I've 
got you to worry about besides — everything else. Oh, 
dear ! oh, dear, dear !" 

" I don't see any need of your worrying about me." 
Flora did not cry, but her face seemed to darken visibly 
with a gathering melancholy like a cloud. Her hair was 
beautiful, and she had a charming delicacy of complexion ; 
but she was not handsome, her features were too sharp, her 
expression too intense and nervous. Her mother looked 
like her as to the expression ; the features were widely dif- 
t6 



242 



A GENTLE GHOST. 



ferent. It was as if both had passed through one corrod- 
ing element which had given them the similarity of scars. 
Certainly a stranger would at once have noticed the strong 
resemblance between Mrs. Dunn's large, heavy-featured face 
and her daughter's thin, delicately outlined one — a resem- 
blance which three months ago had not been perceptible. 

" I see, if you don't," returned the mother. " 1 ain't blind." 

"I don't see what you are blaming me for." 

" I ain't blamin' you, but it seems to me that you might 
jest as well let me go up there an' sleep as you." 

Suddenly the girl also broke out into a wild cry. " I 
ain't going to leave her. Poor little Jenny ! poor little 
Jenny ! You needn't try to make me, mother ; I won't !" 

" Flora, don't !" 

" I won't ! I won't ! I won't ! Poor little Jenny ! Oh, 
dear ! oh, dear !" 

"What if it is so.> What if it \s—her? Ain't she got 
me as well as you ? Can't her mother go to her ?" 

" I won't leave her. I won't I I won't !" 

Suddenly Mrs. Dunn's calmness seemed to come upper- 
most, raised in the scale by the weighty impetus of the 
other's distress. " Flora," said she, with mournful solemnity, 
"you mustn't do so; it's wrong. You mustn't wear your- 
self all out over something that maybe you'll find out wasn't 
so some time or other." 

" Mother, don't you think it is — don't you ?" 

" I don't know what to think, Flora." Just then a door 
shut somewhere in the back part of the house. " There's 
father," said Mrs. Dunn, getting up; "an' the fire ain't 
made." 

Flora rose also, and went about helping her mother to 
get supper. Both suddenly settled into a rigidity of com' 



A GENTLE GHOST. 243 

posure ; their eyes were red, but their lips were steady. 
There was a resolute vein in their characters ; they man- 
aged themselves with wrenches, and could be hard even 
with their grief. They got tea ready for Mr. Dunn and his 
two hired men ; then cleared it away, and sat down in the 
front room with their needlework. Mr. Dunn, a kmdly, 
dull old man, was in there too, over his newspaper. Mrs. 
Dunn and Flora sewed intently, never taking their eyes 
from their work. Out in the next room stood a tall clock, 
which ticked loudly; just before it struck the hours it made 
always a curious grating noise. When it announced in this 
way the striking of nine, Mrs. Dunn and Flora exchanged 
glances ; the girl was pale, and her eyes looked larger. 
She began folding up her work. Suddenly a low moaning 
cry sounded through the house, seemingly from the room 
overhead. " There it is !" shrieked Flora. She caught up 
a lamp and ran. Mrs. Dunn was following, when her hus- 
band, sitting near the door, caught hold of her dress with a 
bewildered air ; he had been dozing. "What's the matter?" 
said he, vaguely. 

" Don't you hear it ? Didn't you hear it, father ?" 

The old man let go of her dress suddenly. " I didn't 
hear nothinV'said he. 

" Hark !" 

But the cry, in fact, had ceased. Flora could be heard 
moving about in the room overhead, and that was all. In 
a moment Mrs. Dunn ran up-stairs after her. The old man 
sat staring. " It's all dum foolishness," he muttered, under 
his breath. Presently he fell to dozing again, and his va- 
cantly smiling face lopped forward. Mr. Dunn, slow- 
brained, patient, and unimaginative, had had his evening 
naps interrupted after this manner for the last three months, 



244 



A GENTLE GHOST. 



and there was as yet no cessation of his bewilderment. He 
dealt with the simple, broad lights of life ] the shadows 
were beyond his speculation. For his consciousness his 
daughter Jenny had died and gone to heaven ; he was not 
capable of listening for her ghostly moans in her little 
chamber overhead, much less of hearing them with any 
:redulity. 

When his wife came down-stairs finally she looked at 
him, sleeping there, with a bitter feeling. She felt as if set 
about by an icy wind of loneliness. Her daughter, who was 
after her own kind, was all the one to whom she could 
look for sympathy and understanding in this subtle per- 
plexity which had come upon her. And she would rather 
have dispensed with that sympathy, and heard alone those 
piteous, uncanny cries, for she was wild with anxiety about 
Flora. The girl had never been very strong. She looked 
at her distressfully when she came down the next morning. 

** Did you sleep any last night .?" said she. 

" Some," answered Flora. 

Soon after breakfast they noticed the little Wren girl 
stealing across the road to the cemetery again. " She goes 
over there all the time," remarked Mrs. Dunn. " I b'lieve 
she runs away. See her look behind her." 

"Yes," said Flora, apathetically. 

It was nearly noon when they heard a voice from the 
next house calling, " Nancy ! Nancy ! Nancy Wren !" The 
voice was loud and imperious, but slow and evenly modu- 
lated. It indicated well its owner. A woman who could 
regulate her own angry voice could regulate other people. 
Mrs. Dunn and Flora heard it undei standingly. 

" That poor little thing will catch it when she gets home," 
said Mrs. Dunn. 



A GENTLE GHOST. 245 

"Nancy! Nancy! Nancy Wren !" called the voice again. 

"I pity the child if Mrs. Gregg has to go after her. 
Mebbe she's fell asleep over there. Flora, why don't you 
run over there an' get her ?" 

The voice rang out again. Flora got her hat and stole 
across the street a little below the house, so the calling wom- 
an should not see her. When she got into the cemetery 
she called in her turn, letting out her thin sweet voice cau- 
tiously. Finally she came directly upon the child. She 
was in the Blake lot, her little slender body, in its ding)' 
cotton dress, curled up on the ground close to one of the 
graves. No one but Nature tended those old graves now, 
and she seemed to be lapsing them gently back to her own 
lines, at her own will. Of the garden shrubs which had 
been planted about them not one was left but an old low- 
spraying white rose-bush, which had just gotten its new 
leaves. The Blake lot was at the very rear of the yard, 
where it verged upon a light wood, which was silently steal- 
ing its way over its own proper boundaries. At the back 
of the lot stood a thicket of little thin trees, with silvery 
twinkling leaves. The ground was quite blue with hous- 
tonias. 

The child raised her little fair head and stared at Flora, 

as if just awakened from sleep. She held her little pink 

mouth open, her innocent blue eyes had a surprised look, 

as if she were suddenly gazing upon a new scene. 

, "Where's she gone ?" asked she, in her sweet, feeble pipe. 

" Where's who gone ?" 

"Jane." 

" I don't know what you mean. Come, Nancy, you must 
go home now." 

"Didn't you see her?" 



246 A GENTLE GHOST. 

" I didn't see anybody," answered Flora, impatiently. 
'Come!" 

" She was right here." 

" What do you mean ?" 

"Jane was standin' right here. An' she had her white 
dress on, an' her wreath." 

Flora shivered, and looked around her fearfully. The 
fancy of the child was overlapping her own nature. 
'* There wasn't a soul here. YouVe been dreaming, child. 
Come !" 

" No, I wasn't. I've seen them blue flowers an' the 
leaves winkin' all the time. Jane stood right there." The 
child pointed with her tiny finger to a spot at her side. 
" She hadn't come for a long time before," she added. 
" She's stayed down there." She pointed at the grave near- 
est her. 

" You mustn't talk so," said Flora, with tremulous severity. 
*' You must get right up and come home. Mrs. Gregg has 
been calling you and calling you. She won't like it." 

Nancy turned quite pale around her little mouth, and 
sprang to her feet. "Is Mis' Gregg comin'?" 

" She will come if you don't hurry." 

The child said not another word. She flew along ahead 
through the narrow paths, and was in the almshouse door 
before Flora crossed the street. 

" She's terrible afraid of Mrs. Gregg," she told her mother 
when she got home. Nancy had disturbed her own brood- 
ing a little, and she spoke more like herself. 

" Poor little thing ! I pity her," said Mrs. Dunn. Mrs. 
Dunn did not like Mrs. Gregg. 

Flora rarely told a story until she had ruminated awhile 
over it herself. It was afternoon, and the two were in the 



A GENTLE GHOST. 247 

front room at their sewing, before she told her mother about 
"Jane." 

" Of course she must have been dreaming," Flora said. 
" She must have been," rejoined her mother. 
But the two looked at each other, and their eyes said 
more than their tongues. Here was a new marvel, new 
evidence of a kind which they had heretofore scented at, 
these two rigidly walking New England souls ; yet walking, 
after all, upon narrow paths through dark meadows of mys- 
ticism. If they never lost their footing, the steaming damp 
of the meadows might come in their faces. 

This fancy, delusion, superstition, whichever one might 
name it, of theirs had lasted now three months — ever since 
young Jenny Dunn had died. There was apparently no 
reason why it should not last much longer, if delusion it 
were ; the temperaments of these two women, naturally 
nervous and imaginative, overwrought now by long care and 
sorrow, would perpetuate it. 

If it were not delusion, pray what exorcism, what spell 
of book and bell, could lay the ghost of a little timid child 
who was afraid alone in the dark? 

The days went on, and Flora still hurried up to her 
chamber at the stroke of nine. If she were a moment late, 
|| sometimes if she were not, that pitiful low wail sounded 
|; through the house. 

ll The strange story spread gradually through the village. 
tj Mrs. Dunn and Flora were silent about it, but Gossip is her- 
I., self of a ghostly nature, and minds not keys nor bars. 

There was quite an excitement over it. People affected 
\\ with morbid curiosity and sympathy came to the house. 
ll One afternoon the minister came and offered a prayer. Mrs. 
ti Dunn and Flora received them all with a certain reticence ; 



248 A GENTLE GHOST. 

they did not concur in their wishes to remain and hear 
the mysterious noises for themselves. People called them 
" dreadful close." They got more satisfaction out of Mr. 
Dunn, who was perfectly ready to impart all the information 
in his power and his own theories in the matter. 

" I never heard a thing but once," said he, " an' then it 
sounded more like a cat to me than anything. I guess 
mother and P'lora air kinder nervous." 

The spring was waxing late when Flora went up-stairs 
one night with the oil low in her lamp. She had neglected 
filling it that day. She did not notice it until she was un- 
dressed ; then she thought to herself that she must blow it 
out. She always kept a lamp burning all night, as she had 
in timid little Jenny's day. Flora herself was timid now. 

So she blew the light out. She had barely laid her head 
upon the pillow when the low moaning wail sounded through 
the room. Flora sat up in bed and listened, her hands 
clinched. The moan gathered strength and volume ; little 
broken words and sentences, the piteous ejaculations of ter- 
ror and distress, began to shape themselves out of it. 

Flora sprang out of bed, and stumbled towards her west 
window — the one on the almshouse side. She leaned her 
head out, listening a moment. Then she called her mother 
with wild vehemence. But her mother was already at the 
door with a lamp. When she entered, the moans ceased. 

" Mother," shrieked Flora, " it ain't Jenny. It's some- 
body over there — at the poor-house. Put the lamp out in 
the entry, and come back here and listen." 

Mrs. Dunn set out the lamp and came back, closing the 
door. It was a few minutes first, but presently the cries 
recommenced. 

**I'm goin' right over there," said Mrs. Daim. "I'm 



A GENTLE GHOST. 



249 



goin' to dress myself an' go over there. I'm goin' to have 
this affair sifted now." 

" I'm going too," said Flora. 

It was only half-past nine when the two stole into the 
almshouse yard. The light was not out in the room on the 
ground-floor, which the overseer's family used for a sitting- 
room. When they entered, the overseer was there asleep 
in his chair, his wife sewing at the table, and an old woman 
in a pink cotton dress, apparently doing nothing. They 
all started, and stared at the intruders. 

"Good-eveninV said Mrs. Dunn, trying to speak com- 
posedly. "We thought we'd come in; we got kind of 
started. Oh, there 'tis now ! What is it. Mis' Gregg .?" 

In fact, at that moment, the wail, louder and more dis- 
tinct, was heard. 

"Why, it's Nancy," replied Mrs. Gregg, with dignified 
surprise. She was a large woman, with a masterly placid- 
ity about her. " I heard her a few minutes ago," she went 
on ; " an' I was goin' up there to see to her if she hadn't 
stopped." 

Mr. Gregg, a heavy, saturnine old man, with a broad 
bristling face, sat staring stupidly. The old woman in pink 
calico surveyed them all with an impersonal grin. 

"Nancy!" repeated Mrs. Dunn, looking at Mrs. Gregg. 
She had not fancied this woman very much, and the two 
had not fraternized, although they were such near neigh- 
bors. Indeed, Mrs. Gregg was not of a sociable nature, 
and associated very little with anything but her own duties. 

"Yes; Nancy Wren," she said, with gathering amaze- 
ment. " She cries out this way 'most every night. She's 
ten years old, but she's as afraid of the dark as a baby. She's 
a queer child. I guess mebbe she's nervous. I don't know 



250 A GENTLE GHOST. 

but she's got notions into her head, stayin' over in the 
graveyard so much. She runs away over there every chance 
she can get, an' she goes over a queer rigmarole about 
playin' with Jane, and her bein' dressed in white an' a 
wreath. I found out she meant Jane Blake, that's buried 
in the Blake lot. I knew there wa'n't any children round 
here, an' I thought I'd look into it. You know it says 
'Our Father,' an' 'Our Mother,' on the old folks' stones. 
An* there she was, callin' them father an' mother. You'd 
thought they was right there. I've got 'most out o' patience 
with the child. I don't know nothin' about such kind of 
folks." The wail continued. "I'll go right up there," 
said Mrs. Gregg, determinately, taking a lamp. 

Mrs. Dunn and Flora followed. When they entered the 
chamber to which she led them they saw little Nancy sit- 
ting up in bed, her face pale and convulsed, her blue eyes 
streaming with tears, her little pink mouth quivering. 

"Nancy — " began Mrs. Gregg, in a weighty tone. But 
Mrs. Dunn sprang forward and threw her arms around the 
child. 

"You got frightened, didn't you?" whispered she; and 
Nancy clung to her as if for life. 

A great wave of joyful tenderness rolled up in the heart 
of the bereaved woman. It was not, after all, the lonely 
and fearfully wandering little spirit of her dear Jenny ; she 
was peaceful and blessed, beyond all her girlish tumults 
and terrors ; but it was this little living girl. She saw it all 
plainly now. Afterwards it seemed to her that any one but 
a woman with her nerves strained, and her imagination 
unhealthily keen through watching and sorrow, would have 
seen it before. 

She held Nancy tight, and soothed her. She felt almost 



A gelxtle ghost. 251 

as if she held her own Jenny. " I guess I'll take her home 
with me, if you don't care," she said to Mrs. Gregg. 

"Why, I don't know as I've got any objections, if 
you want to," answered Mrs. Gregg, with cold stateliness. 
"Nancy Wren has had everything done for her that I was 
able to do," she added, when Mrs. Dunn had wrapped up 
the child, and they were all on the stairs. " I ain't coaxed 
an' cuddled her, because it ain't my way. I never did with 
my own children." 

" Oh, I know you've done all you could," said Mrs. Dunn, 
with abstracted apology. " I jest thought I'd like to take 
her home to-night. Don't you think I'm blamin' you. Mis' 
Gregg." She bent down and kissed the little tearful face 
on her shoulder : she was carrying Nancy like a baby. 
Flora had hold of one of her little dangling hands. 

"You shall go right up -stairs an' sleep with Flora," 
Mrs. Dunn whispered in the child's ear, when they were go- 
ing across the yard ; " an' you shall have the lamp burnin' 
all night, an' I'll give you a piece of cake before you go." 

It was the custom of the Dunns to visit the cemetery and 
carry flowers to Jenny's grave every Sunday afternoon. 
Next Sunday little Nancy went with them. She followed 
happily along, and did not seem to think of the Blake lot. 
That pitiful fancy, if fancy it were, which had peopled her 
empty childish world with ghostly kindred, which had led 
into it an angel playmate in white robe and crown, might 
lie at rest now. There was no more need for it. She had 
found her place in a nest of living hearts, and she was get- 
ting her natural food of human love. 

They had dressed Nancy in one of the little white frocks 
which Jenny had worn in her childhood, and her hat was 



252 A GENTLE GHOST. 

trimmed with some ribbon and rose-buds which had adorned 

one of the dead young girl's years before. 

It was a beautiful Sunday. After they left the cemetery 
they strolled a little way down the road. The road lay be- 
tween deep green meadows and cottage yards. It was not 
quite time for the roses, and the lilacs were turning gray. 
The buttercups in the meadows had blossomed out, but the 
dandelions had lost their yellow crowns, and their filmy 
skulls appeared. They stood like ghosts among crowds of 
golden buttercups ; but none of the family thought of that ; 
their ghosts were laid in peace. 



A DISCOVERED PEARL. 

"Wonder what's goin' on in the church?" 

Oilman Marlow stopped and stared slowly over at the 
church. It was a little white building with five pointed 
windows on each side. The windows were all streaming 
with light now, and the bright light showed from the door 
too, for it was open, and people were going in. 

Opposite the church, where Marlow stood, the road was 
lined with thickly set hemlock and pine trees. Behind 
them was the graveyard : one peering between the branches 
could see the white stones. The gap for the entrance was 
a little beyond. There had been a heavy snowfall the day 
before, and all the trees were loaded with snow now ; the 
boughs bent down heavily ; the lowest ones touched the 
ground. 

Marlow stood among the white branches awhile, and 
looked over at the church with a sort of dull curiosity ; 
then he kept on up the street. He met many little hurry- 
ing groups, and he turned out for them readily, plunging 
into the deep snow at the side of the cleared path. 

Some of the people turned and stared after him. " Whc 
was that ?" he heard some one say. " I don't know," said 
another. 

" I guess you don't," muttered Marlow, with a faint chuckle. 



254 ^ DISCOVERED PEARL. 

When he came in front of a lighted window anywhere, he 
showed up large and burly, an old rough great-coat shrugged 
tightly around him, an old fur cap pulled down to his ears. 
He limped badly. 

About a quarter of a mile from the church there was a 
large white farm-house. The great square front yard was 
full of smooth snow. Some old rose-bushes under the house 
walls pricked softly through it, but there was not a foot-track 
anywhere. All the windows in the house were dark. Mar- 
low stood looking up at the house. A great clod of damp 
snow struck on his shoulders. It had fallen from a maple- 
tree which reached out over his head. He shook it off. 

"Guess I'll go round to the back door an' see if I can 
raise anybody,'^ said he, out loud. 

" There ain't anybody livin' in that house now," said a 
voice. 

Marlow looked around. A small woman stood beside 
him ; her little upturned face stood out of the dark with its 
soft paleness, but he could not distinguish the features. 

** Is that so ?" said he. 

"Yes; there ain't anybody been livin' there for some 
time." The woman caught her breath as she talked. 

"Then the old man's dead." 

" Jle died more'n three years ago. The place has been 
shut up ever since." 

" I wonder if I could get in there ? I s'pose somebody's 
got the key. You don't happen to know who, do you ? I'm 
Marlow's son. I don't know who you are, but I don't s'pose 
it's likely you're anybody that knows me." 

"Oilman, is that you ?" 

" I s'pose it is." 

** I knew you the minute you spoke." 



A DISCOVERED PEARL, 255 

" You did ? Well, I'm glad of it. I didn't count on any- 
body in the whole town rememberin' the sound of my voice. 
But I'll own I can't say as much for myself." 

" Don't you know — I live in the next house." 

The man hesitated. " It ain't Lucy — well I don't know 
as it is Lucy Glynn, now." He ended with a little uncertain 
laugh. 

" Yes, it is." 

Marlow saw, to his great amazement, that the woman was 
crying. She was shaken all over with her sobs. She 
leaned up against the snowy fence. He looked at the 
house, then at her. He did not know what to do. He had 
no idea what she was crying about. " I'm real glad to see 
you, Lucy," said he, finally, in a nervous, apologetic tone. 
She made no reply. " Is your father livin'?" 

" Yes, father's livin'." 

Marlow shuffled his feet in the snow. He looked at 
Lucy, then at the house. " Anything I can do for you ?" 
he said at last, in an embarrassed, solemn way. His face 
felt hot. 

"No." Suddenly the woman straightened herself. "I've 
got the key to the house," said she, in a tremulous voice, 
which caught at every word to recover itself. 

" Oh, you have !" 

" Yes ; it's been left at our house ever since he died. If 
you'll go back with me — '* 

" All right." 

The woman went on ahead, her dark skirts dabbled in 
the snow. Marlow followed, his eyes on her little narrow 
shoulders, which had somehow a meek air about them. 
She gathered her gray shawl up primly on her two arms, 
and kept it tightly pulled around her. She walked with a 



256 A DISCOVERED PEARL, 

little nervous scud. Marlow tramped heavily after hel 
They had but a little way to go. 

" What's goin' on in the church to-night ?" said he. " I 
saw it was all lighted up when I came by." 

"They're havin' a Christmas tree there." 

" I declare, it is the night before Christmas, ain't it?" 

"Didn't you know it?" 

"Well, I guess I'd kind of lost my reckonin'. I haven't 
thought much about Christmas lately. Folks make a great 
deal more account of it than they used to, anyhow." 

" Yes, they do." 

The two front windows of the small house in the next lof 
were golden with light. Some green plants showed in them ; 
the white curtains were drawn only over the upper sashes. 

Lucy turned into the gate. As she did so she glanced 
around at Marlow, and noticed for the first time how he 
limped. " Why, you're lame,'* she said. 

" Yes. I hurt my knee awhile ago, and then the rheu- 
matism got into it. I've been in the hospital a spell." 

The woman gave a little cry. " The hospital !" 

"Yes." 

" Let me help you up the steps." 

"You!" 

" I'm real strong." 

" Oh, I can get up the steps well enough. It ain't very 
bad now ; I've got kind of used to it. I'd feel lonesome 
without it, you know. Well, it's better to have an ache 
stick to you than nothin', I s'pose." Marlow chuckled 
feebly. 

Lucy opened the outer door, then an inner one. The 
entry was so small that she had to step out of it into the 
room before her guest could enter at all. There came a 



A DISCOVERED PEARL, 



257 



rush of warm air, sweet with heliotrope and oleander, and 
pungent with geraniums. 

Marlow snuffed it in, and blinked in the light. " I'll wait 
here," said he. " You'd better shut your door or you'll cold 
your house all off." 

" Why, you're comin' in ?" 

" No, thank ye ; it wouldn't pay. I'll just stand here 
till you get the key." 

" Ain't you comin' in, just to get warm a minute ?" 

"No, thank ye; I guess I won't. I'll come some other 
time. I'll take the key now and go — well, I don't know as 
I'll say home — over there." He waved his hand towards 
the dark mass of buildings at the left. Lucy stood looking 
at him a minute. 

" Why don't you shet the door.? — you're coldin' the house 
all off," called a voice out of the light and warmth. " Hey!" 
called the voice again, " why don't you shet the door t Is 
that you V 

Then Lucy swung to the inner door and stepped up to 
Marlow. "You must come in. I don't see what you're 
thinkin' of. Here's that house all cold and dark. It ain't 
fit to go into ; it's been shut up. You'll catch your death 
of cold ; and you're lame ; and there ain't — anybody — there." 
Her voice sounded weakly sharp ; at the end it broke into a 
sob again. 

'• Great heavens! she can't want me to come in as bad as 
that," he said to himself. "I'll get along well enough," he 
said, ardently, after a minute \ " I'm used to 'most every^ 
thing. 'T wouldn't be worth while for me to come in." 

" I was goin' to get you some supper." 

" Oh, thank ye ; but it don't make any difference to me 
whether i have any supper or not." 



258 A DISCOVERED PEARL. 

" It ain't any trouble," Lucy said, faintly. 

Marlow stood looking irresolutely at her. He could not 
believe that she was in earnest about wanting him to enter. 
" I'll track the snow all over your clean house," he said, 
finally. 

That signified that he was coming in. "That ain't any 
matter," said Lucy, and again threw open the sitting-room 
door. 

Marlow stamped heavily on the door-step, and shook his 
shoulders ; then he went in clumsily. The room was small. 
Out of his very humility and meekness he saw himself 
larger than he was ; there was a swift multiplication, in his 
own estimation, of his rough clothes and his rough figure. 
He held his cap in his hand, and did not dare to stir for a 
moment. In the corner near him was a great pot with an 
oleander-tree, its spraying top all pink with blossoms. 
There was a little yellow stand with pots of geranium and 
heliotrope on it. Take a step forward, and there was an 
old man warming his feet at an air-tight stove. 

" Here's somebody come to see us, father," said Lucy. 

The old man shrank back. He ignored Marlow, who 
held out his hand, and mumbled something. *' I dun know 
who 'tis," he said, turning to his daughter. 

"Why, it's Mr. Marlow, father — Oilman Marlow. He 
used to live next door — don't you know ?" 

" 'Tain't, nuther ; he's dead." The old man set his lips 
together like a child. 

" Yes, father, old Mr. Marlow's dead ; he died three 
years ago. But this ain't him ; this is his son Oilman. 
Don't you remember him ?" 

"The one that sort of slumped through.?" 

Lucy started pitifully. Marlow colored ; then he grinned. 



^ 



A DISCOVERED PEARL. 259 

"Yes, I reckon that just fits my case,' said he, with a sort 
of embarrassed and shamefaced rairthfulness. " I'm the 
one. IVe slumped through ever since I come mto the world." 

" Father, can't you shake hands with Oilman ?" 

The old man reached out his hand. His thin mouth 
curved up at the corners, the wrinkles around his eyes 
deepened. He would have looked quizzical had he not 
looked so feeble. Marlow grasped the old hand ; then he 
gave Lucy his cap and coat, and seated himself in the 
chair which she had proffered him. It was a calico-covered 
rocker. He sat in it stiffly. It seemed to him that it 
would be indecorous to relax himself into comfort. 

Something brushed his head. He looked up, and it was 
a soft spray of the oleander blossoms. He moved his chair 
quickly. Lucy had gone out ; he could hear her stepping 
about in the next room. He wondered vaguely what she 
was doing. He had no longer any feeling of resistance to 
her plans. He was nearly exhausted. He was just out of 
the hospital, and he had walked five miles through the snow 
that day. His knee began to pain him now. His large, 
rough-complexioned face was pale. 

The old man eyed him intently. He had something 
which looked like a brown cashmere dress across his knees, 
and another part of it lay on a chair beside him. "What's 
she a-doin' on?" he asked Marlow. 

" I don't know." 

" Lucy 1" called her father ; " Lucy !" 

" What is it, father V called Lucy back from the other 
room. 

"What air you a-doin' of?" 

" Makin' a little tea for Mr. Marlow." 

"What air you a-makin' tea for him for?" There was 



260 -4 DISCOVERED PEARL. 

no reply. " What is she a-makin' tea for you for ?" asked 
the old man of Marlow. 

"I don't know." 

" She never makes any for me this time o' night. 
'Twouldn't do me no harm, nuther, a cup on't warm afore I 
went to bed." Suddenly the old man caught up the brown 
cashmere on his lap and threw it over to Marlow. " There," 
said he, " you kin pick the bastin's out o' that while you're 
settin'. I've got to pick 'em out of the waist on't." 

Marlow looked at the brown cashmere in bewilderment. 
"What?" 

" Pick the bastin's out — them long white stitches in the 
seams. Lucy dress-makes, an' I hev to pick out all the 
bastin's. It's ruther more'n I want to do some days. You 
might jest as well take holt while you air a-settin'." 

Marlow began awkwardly pulling at the white thread. 

Presently Lucy opened the door. " I've got some tea 
made," said she, with gentle stiffness. There was a delicate 
meagreness about the little figure in the best black silk 
gown. She wore a full white ruche around her slender 
neck ; she held her thin chin erect above it, but her whole 
head seemed to droop a little. There were bright spots on 
her cheeks, which were thin, but still softly curved. 

Marlow eyed her with admiration, which was the only 
distinct sentiment which shaped itself out of his bewilder- 
ment and fatigue. Lucy had been very pretty, and was 
now ; still she was not as pretty nor as young as she 
looked to him. He viewed her in the same glass in which 
he saw himself reflected. Her face beside his own, which 
thrilled him with humility, got a wonderful beauty of con- 
trast. He eyed his poor clothes, then her nice black silk ; 
the black gloss of it on her shoulders, the cunning loopino:s, 



A DISCOVERED PEARL. 26 1 

a flutter of black lace on the over-skirt, filled him with re- 
spect and awe. 

" VVa'n't you goin' out somewhere ?" he asked, with feeble 
politeness. He got up clumsily, and let the brown cashmere 
slide to the floor. 

"No; I was just goin' to look in at the Christmas tree 
a minute. I wa'n't goin' to stay. Father, what have you 
done ?" 

She picked up the dress, and looked at him and Marlow. 

" I ain't done nothin' but set him pickin' out a few 
bastin's," said the old man, defiantly. " He might jest as 
well be workin' as me." 

" Oh, father, you hadn't ought to !'* 

" I didn't mind," said Marlow, stupidly. 

"Father's real feeble and childish," Lucy whispered, 
when she and her guest were in the other room. " I set 
him pickin' out bastin's to keep him contented. He frets 
about doin' it, but he likes it. He's just as uneasy as he 
can be if he gets out of work." 

" It's a great deal better for him, I should think," Marlow 
assented. 

The fragrance of the tea stole into his nostrils. The 
nicely piled white bread gave out a sweet odor of its own. 

Lucy had set out her mother's china cups and saucers — 
white, with a little green vine on the rims. She offered him 
her best damson sauce and her fruit cake. Marlow ate 
without tasting. He was trying to remember something. 
He remembered it better and better ; it was quite clear in 
his mind by the time he was left to himself in the little 
sleeping-room up-stairs. It was Lucy's, which she had 
given up to him. She would sleep on the sitting-room 
lounge. A little picture hung over the bed. It caught his 



262 'i DISCOVERED PEARL. 

attention ; it had a familiar look : then he recollected. He 
had given it to Lucy Glynn twenty years ago \ they had 
thought they were in love with each other, though little had 
been said about it. It was just before he went away. 
Gradually he recalled some words, a kiss or two. He had 
almost forgotten. Now the memory came, it was sweet. 
He felt as if he were thrusting back his head, old and 
weary and grizzled, out of this wintry misery into some 
sweet old spring which he had passed. He looked back at 
it with pitiful regret. 

"Why didn't I marry Lucy," he said to himself, "and 
stay at home, and settle down, and behave myself?" 

The next day was Christmas. It snowed again heavily. 
Marlow got his key and tramped over to his old home 
through the snow-drifts. So far as he knew, the place was 
all his. It was quite a little fortune to him, this substan- 
tial house, with its environment of sixty acres of meadow 
and woodland. He could not believe in the reality of it ; a 
whimsical doubt as to the rightfulness of his claim pos- 
sessed him. He felt as if he were extending his hand for 
a gift which was begrudged. It was natural enough that 
he should feel so ; he could not remember his father as 
ever giving him anything willingly. If Gilman Marlow had 
led a hard life, there had been no parental love and soft- 
ness to point at as the cause of it. Marlow had a few 
cents in his pocket. These seemed to him a much more 
tangible property than this solid estate which he was ex- 
amining. He walked through the bitter cold rooms with a 
feeling as if he intruded. His father, dead, became to him 
a more certain possessor than if living. He saw his father's 
coat and hat hanging on a peg in the kitchen, and he turn- 
ed away like a culprit. 



A DISCOVERED FEAKL. 26.^ 

After a little he went out in the storm again. He thought 
he might as well see the man who Lucy had told hin. had 
charge of the estate. His name was Nelson ; he was one 
of the selectmen. Marlow had to pass the church and 
the graveyard to reach his house. The evergreen branches 
hung lower than ever ; the new snow-flakes softly bent down 
the long slim sprays of the graveyard bushes until they lay 
on the ground ; the mildewed fronts of the slanting old 
gravestones were hung with irregular, shifting snow-garlands. 
Marlow stopped and looked in the solemn while en- 
! closure. The snow settled softly upon him. There was 
no wind ; everything was very still. Somewhere over there 
was his father's grave. He brushed away some tears with 
the back of his hand. " Good Lord," he muttered, " I ain't 
got much, an' that's a fact." Then he went on. It was a 
quarter of a mile farther to the selectman's house. 

It was noon when he returned along the same road. 
The snow had gathered a good deal, but he seemed to 
walk with greater ease — at any rate, he walked faster. 

He passed his father's house, and went straight to the 

Glynns'. He knocked, and the old man shuffled to the 

door. " Lucy's gone," he said, querulously. *' She's been 

gone all the forenoon, an' I dun know whar she is. It's 

dinner-time now, an' thar ain't a pertater on, nor nothin'; 

I an' I've been a-pickin' out bastin's ever since daylight. I 

i wish you'd find out whar she's gone, an' send her home." 

I "Well, I'll see," said Marlow. Then he plodded around 

to the side door of his own house. It opened directly into 

the kitchen. There was a good fire in the stove, and Lucy 

stood beside it cooking some eggs. A pot with potatoes 

was steaming and bubbling over. The table was set out, 

with a white cloth on it. 



2 64 ^ DISCOVERED PEARL. 

"Why, you here?" said Marlow. 

Lucy bent over her frying eggs. " I thought I'd get you 
a little somethin' to eat, seein* you wa'n't willin' to come 
to our house again. There's a couple of pies in the oven, 
an — 

" Lucy," said Marlow, suddenly, " what made you pay up 
the interest on that mortgage ?" 

Lucy suddenly turned white. " What do you mean ?" she 
stammered. 

"Nelson told me all about it. What made you do it?" 

" Mr. Nelson said he wouldn't tell." 

** He didn't mean to. I guessed it from somethin' he 
said, an' then I made him tell me. I think I ought to 
know it. Lucy, he said you'd put a mortgage on your 
house to pay up that back interest-money, so it shouldn't 
be foreclosed. Did you ?" 

" It ain't worth talkin' about." 

"An' then you've paid the interest an' taxes ever since, 
so I shouldn't lose the place. I don't see how you did it." 

" I've had all the dress-makin' I could do." Lucy lifted 
the frying-pan off the stove. Her hands trembled. 

" Stop workin' a minute, an' let's talk," said Marlow. 

Lucy set the pan on the hearth, and stood waiting. She 
cast her eyes down ; her face twitched nervously. 

" Look here, Lucy, what made you do it ?'* 

" You — was away, an' you didn't know about it." 

" How did you know it was worth while — that I'd ever 
come back ?" 

" I thought you might." 

"You didn't know." 

" Mr. Nelson said you would. He got news that you was 
livin' once ; somebody'd seen you ; then he lost track of you.** 



A DISCOVERED PEARL, jOj 

"What made you do it?" 

** I thought you hadn't ought to lose the place." 

" Well, you shall have the money part of it made up to 
you." Marlow was silent for a moment. "Lucy," said he, 
finally, " I never was so beat in my life as I was when Nelson 
told me that this mornin.' I've been thinkin' — Look here, 
didn't we go together a little once, years and years ago?" 

Lucy turned paler. "There ain't any use in bringin' 
that up," she said, with a certain dignity. 

" I want to know about it. Lucy, did I treat you mean ? 
We wa'n't much more'n children, were we? We didn't talk 
about gettin' married, did we ? We just thought we liked 
each other, an' kept round together a little while before I 
went away. That was all, wa'n't it?" 

"Yes," whispered Lucy, faintly. Suddenly she put her 
hands up to her face. 

Marlow took a step towards her; then he went back. 
" Don't cry," said he. " Lucy, see here, I'm goin' to ask you 
somethin'. Didn't you forget, all this time ? Lucy, tell me." 

She shook her head. 

Marlow shut his mouth tight. He partly turned his head 
away. Then he spoke again. " Look here, Lucy, I'm goin' 
to tell you the truth ; I hadn't remembered as well as you 
had." 

" I didn't — suppose you had." She turned with a little 
state, and tried to move towards the door. 

" Don't go ; I've got somethin' I want to say." He hesi- 
tated a moment ; then he went on. His face was hot. He 
bad an honest, embarrassed air, like a boy. " I wanted to 
say that — Well, I thank you more'n I ever thanked any 
human bein' in my life. I'd lay down an* die, if it could 
do you any good, to show you that I did. An' — if— I'd conae 



266 A DISCOVERED PEARL. 

home different, if I'd got rich, or if I'd even come home de- 
cent — if I'd behaved myself, and if I looked fit and was fit 
to be seen beside you — I'd ask you to marry me. an' do all 
I could to pay you for thinkin' of me all this time; but as 
'tis, there ain't any use speakin' of that. All I can say is, 
I wish the last twenty years was to live over." 

Lucy gathered a shawl about her, and turned to go. 
"I've got to go home and get father's dinner," she said, 
brokenly. "There ain't any use in bringin' all this up." 

" I don't s'pose there is much, but I kind of wanted to 
speak of it," said Marlow, blushing deeper. ** Thank you 
for gettin' my dinner." 

"That's nothin'." 

He watched her going with a sinking heart. 

" She wouldn't think of havin' me now," he said to himself. 

Lucy was half out of the yard, when she turned and came 
back. Marlow opened the door quickly. There she stood, 
her knees trembling. She gasped for breath between her 
words. 

"There's — one thing — I didn't mean you to think — I 
didn't — want — ^you to think that it would — make any dif- 
ference to me because — you wa'n't rich or — " 

" Lucy, you don't mean to say that you'd have me as I 
am now ?" Marlow took hold of one of her thin arms and 
pulled her in softly. He led her back to the stove ; then 
he stood looking at her again. " Good Lord, Lucy !" he 
said, "you can't think anything of me, the way I am now!" 

" I don't see why you ain't just as well as you ever was.** 

" I ain't worth this," said Marlow. He put his arm 
around Lucy and kissed her forehead. 

She stood stiffly ; then she released herself, and went over 
and looked out of a window. 



A DISCOVERED PEARL, 267 

"Tm afraid you don't think enough of me," she said, 
presently, without looking around. 

"I guess you needn't woriy about that. I know I ain't 
been thinkin' about you all these years, as much as you 
have, accordin' to what you say about me. But — I'll put it 
this way." He colored and half laughed. These little 
flights of fancy were natural to him ; he took them in his 
most honest moments ; but he was always a little shame- 
faced about it. " Well, s'pose some day — you know I've 
been round foreign countries an' on sea-shores a good deal 
— s'pose some day I'd come across a pearl caught into 
some sea-weeds, where I hadn't no idea of findin' it. Well, 
I guess it wouldn't have made much difference to me 
whether or no I'd been thinkin' about that pearl for twenty 
years, or whether Fd ever seen it an' forgotten it. There'd 
been the pearl, an' Td been the man that had it„ I'll think 
enough of you — 3'ou needn't bother about that. I don't 
know what I'd be made of if I didn't. Good Lord ! to think 
of me havin'^<7«/" 

After Lucy had been home and attended to her father's 
wants, she returned and spent all the afternoon making the 
house comfortable for Marlow. 

It was sunset when she went home the last time. It had 
stopped snowing, and there was a clear, yellow sky in the 
west A flock of sparrows flew whistling around one of the 
maples. A sled loaded with Christmas greens was creak- 
ipg down the road. One could hear children's voices in 
the distance. Lucy Glynn sped along. Whether wisely or 
not, she was full of all Christmas joy. She had given at 
last her Christmas gift, which she had been treasuring fox 
twenty years. 



A VILLAGE LEAR. 

"Jest wait a minute, Sary." The old man made a sly 
backward motion of his hand ; his voice was a cautious 
whisper. 

Sarah Arnold stood back and waited. She was a large, 
fair young woman in a brown calico dress. She held a 
plate of tapioca pudding that she had brought for the old 
man's dinner, and she was impatient to give it to him and 
be off; but she said nothing. The old man stood in the 
shop door ; he had in one hand a stick of red-and-white 
peppermint candy, and he held it out enticingly towards a 
little boy in a white frock. The little boy had a sweet, rosy 
face, and his glossy, fair hair was carefully curled. He stood 
out in the green yard, and there were dandelions blooming 
around his feet. It was May, and the air was sweet and 
warm ; over on one side of the yard there was some linen 
laid out to bleach in the sun. 

The little boy looked at the old man and frowned, yet he 
seemed fascinated. 

The old man held out the stick of candy, and coaxed, in 
his soft, cracked voice. " Jest look a-here, Willy !" said he ; 
"jest look a-here! See what gran'pa's got: a whole stick 
of candy ! He bought it down to the store on purpose for 
Willy, an' he can have it if he'll jest come here an' give 



A VILLAGE LEAR, 269 

gran'pa a kiss. Does Willy want it, hey ? — Willy want it V' 
The old man took a step forward. 

But the child drew back, and shook his head violently, 
while the frown deepened. " No, no," said he, with baby 
vehemence. 

The old man stepped back and began again. It was as 
if he were enticing a bird. "Now, Willy," said he, "jest 
look a-here ! Don't Willy like candy ?" 

The child did not nod, but his blue, solemn eyes were 
riveted on the candy. 

" Well," the grandfather went on, " here's a whole stick 
of candy come from the store, real nice pep'mint candy, 
an' Willy shall have it if he'll jest come here an' give gran'- 
pa a kiss." 

The child reached out a desperate hand. "Gimme!" he 
cried, imperatively. 

" Yes, Willy shall have it jest as soon as he gives gran'pa 
a kiss." The old man waved the stick of candy ; his sunken 
mouth was curved in a sly smile "Jest look at it ! Willy, 
see it ! Red-an'-white candy, real sweet an' nice, with pep'- 
mint in it. An' it's all twisted ! Willy want it ?" 

The child began to take almost imperceptible steps for- 
ward, his eyes still fixed on the candy. His grandfather 
stood motionless, while his smile deepened. Once he rolled 
his eyes delightedly around at Sarah. The child advanced 
with frequent halts. 

Suddenly the old man made a spring forward. " Now 
I've got ye !" he cried. He threw his arms around the boy 
and hugged him tight. 

The child struggled. " Lemme go I — lemme go !" he half 
sobbed. 

" Yes, Willy shall go jest as soon as he gives gran'pa the 



270 ^ VILLAGE LEAR. 

kiss," said the old man. " Give gran'pa the kiss, and then 
he shall have the candy an' go." 

The child put up his pretty rosy face and pursed his lips 
sulkily. The grandfather bent down and gave him an 
ecstatic kiss. 

" There ! Now Willy shall have the candy, 'cause he's 
kissed gran'pa. He's a good boy, an' gran'pa '11 let him 
have the candy right off. He sha'n't wait no longer." 

The child snatched the candy and fled across the yard. 

The old man laughed, and his laugh was a shrill, rapt- 
urous cackle, like the high notes of an old parrot. He 
turned to the young woman. "I knowed I could toll him 
in," he said ; " I knowed I could. The little fellar likes 
candy, I tell ye." 

Sarah smiled sympathetically and extended the plate of 
pudding. " I brought you over a little of our pudding," 
said she. " Mother thought you might relish it." 

The old man took it quite eagerly. "Brought a spoon 
in't, didn't ye ?" 

"Yes ; I thought maybe you'd like to eat it out here." 

"Well, I guess I may jest as well eat it out here, an' not 
carry it into the house. Viny might kinder git the notion 
that it would clutter up some. I'll jest set down here an' 
eat this, an' then I won't want no dinner in the house. I 
guess they're goin' to have beef, an' I don't relish beef 
much lately. I'd ruther have soft victuals ; but Viny she 
don't cook much soft victuals j the folks in the house don't 
care much about 'em." 

The old man held the plate of pudding, but did not at 
once begin to eat ; his eyes still followed the little boy, 
who stood aloof under a blooming apple-tree and sucked 
his candy. 



A VILLAGE LEAR, 27 1 

"Jest look at him," he said, admiringly. " I tell ye what 
'tis, Sary, that little fellar does like candy. I can allers toll 
him in with a stick of candy. He's dreadful kind o' bash- 
ful. I s'pose Ellen she don't jest like to have him round 
in the shop here much. She dresses him up real nice an* 
clean in them little white frocks, an' she's afeard he'll get 
somethin' on 'em ; so I guess she tells him he must keep 
away, an' it makes him kind of afeard. I s'pose she thinks 
I ain't none too clean nuther to be a-handlin' of him, an' I 
dun know as I be, but I allers wash my hands real pertick- 
ler afore I tech him. I've got my tin wash-dish there on 
the bench, an' I'm real pertickler 'bout it." 

The old man waved his hand towards a rusty tin wash- 
basin on the old shoemaker's bench under the window. 
There was a smoky curtain over the window ; the plastered 
walls and the ceiling were dark with smoke; the place was 
full of brown lights. Sarah, in her brown dress, with her 
fair rosy face, stood waiting until the old man should finish 
talking. 

" Well, I must go now," said she. " I haven't been to 
dinner myself." 

"You jest wait a minute," whispered the old man, with 
a mysterious air. In the little shop, beside the old shoe- 
maker's bench, was a table that was brown and dark with 
age and dirt, and it was heaped with litter. There was a 
drawer in it, and this the old man opened with an effort ; 
it stuck a little. " Look a-here," he whispered — " look 
a-here, Sary." 

Sarah came close, and peered around his elbow. 

The old man took a little parcel from the midst of the 
leather chips and waxed threads and pegs that half filled 
the drawer. He unrolled it carefully. " Look a-here," he 



272 A VILLAGE LEAR. 

said again, with a chuckle. He held up a stick of pink 
candy. " There," he went on, winking an old blue eye at 
Sarah, " I ain't goin' to give that to him till to-morrer. To- 
morrer I'll jest toll him in with that, don't ye see } Hey ?" 

" That's checkerberry, ain't it ?" 

" Yes, that's checkerberry, an' the tother was pep'mint. 
I got two sticks of candy down to the store this mornin', 
one checkerberry an' the tother pep'mint. Ye see, I put a 
patch on a shoe for the Briggs boy last week, an' he give 
me ten cents for't. I'd kinder calkilated to lay it out in 
terbacker — I ain't had none lately — but the more I thought 
'bout it the more I thought I'd git a leetle candy. Ye never 
see sech a chap fer candy as he is ; he'll hang off, an' hang 
off, but he can't stan' it to lose the candy nohow. I dun 
know but the Old Nick could toll him in with a stick of 
candy, he's in such a takin' for't ; never see sech a fellar 
fer candy." The old man raised his cackling laugh again, 
and Sarah laughed too, going out the back door of the 
shop. "I'm real obleeged to your mother, Sary ; you tell 
her," he called after her. 

He replaced the candy in the drawer, still chuckling to 
himself; then he sat down to his pudding. He sat on his 
shoemaker's bench, well back from the door, and ate. He 
smacked his lips loudly ; he liked this soft, sweet food. 

Barney Swan was a small, frail old man ; he stooped 
weakly, and did not look much larger than a child, sitting 
there on his bench. His face, too, was like a child's ; his 
sunken mouth had an innocent, infantile expression, and his 
eyes had that blank, fixed gaze, with an occasional twinkle 
of shrewdness, that babies' eyes have. His thin white hair 
hung to his shoulders, and he had no beard. He owned 
only one decent coat, and that he kept for Sundays : he 



A VILLAGE LEAR. 



«73 



always went to meeting. On week-days he wore his brown 
calico shirt sleeves and his old sagging vest. His bag- 
ging, brownish black trousers were hauled high around his 
waist, and his ankles showed like a little boy's. 

Old Barney Swan had sat upon that shoemaker's bench 
the greater part of his time for sixty years. His father be- 
fore him had been a shoemaker and cobbler ; he had learned 
the trade when a child, and been faithful to it all his life. 
Now not only his own powers had failed, but hand shoe- 
making and cobbling were at a discount. There were two 
thriving boot and shoe factories in the town, and the new 
boots and shoes were finer to see than the old coarsely cob- 
bled ones. Old Barney was too old to go to work in the 
shoe factory, but it is doubtful if he would have done so in 
any case. He had always had a vein of childish obstinacy 
in spite of his mildness, and it had not decreased with age. 
" If folks want to wear them manufactured shoes, they can," 
he would say, with a sudden stiffening of his bent back ; " old 
shackly things ! You'd orter seen them shoes the Briggs 
boy brought in here t'other day ; they wa'n't wuth treein' 
up, an' they never had been." 

Although now old Barney's revenue was derived from 
the Briggs boy and sundry other sturdy, stubbed urchins, 
whose shoe-leather demanded the cheapest and most thor- 
ough repairs to be had, he had accumulated quite a little 
property through his faithful toil on that leathern seat on 
the end of that old bench. But it had seemed easier for 
him to accumulate property than to care for it. His great- 
est talent was for patient, unremitting labor and economy; 
his financial conceptions were limited to them. Ten years 
before, he had made a misadventure and lost a few hun- 
dred dollars, and was so humbled and dejected over it that 



274 ^ VILLAGE LEAR. 

he had made his property over to his daughters on consid- 
eration of a life support. They had long been urging him 
to make such an arrangement. He had two daughters, 
Malvina and Ellen. His wife had died when they were 
about twenty. The wife had been a delicate, feeble woman, 
yet with a certain spirit of her own. In her day the daugh- 
ters had struggled hard for the mastery of the little house- 
hold, but with only partial success; after her death they 
were entirely victorious. Barney had always thought his 
daughters perfect ; they had their own way in everything, 
with the exception of the money. He clung to that for a 
while. He was childishly fond of the few dollars he had 
earned all by himself and stowed away in his house and 
acres of green meadow-land and the village savings-bank. 
He was fond of the dollars for themselves ; the sense of 
treasure pleased him. He did not care to spend for him- 
self; there were few things that he wished for except a 
decent meeting-coat and a little tobacco. The tobacco 
was one point upon which he displayed his obstinacy ; his 
daughters had never been able entirely to do away with 
that, although they waged constant war upon it. He would 
still occasionally have his little comforting pipe, and chew 
in spite of all berating and disgust. But the tobacco was 
sadly curtailed since the property had changed hands ; he 
had only his little earnings with which to purchase it. The 
daughters gave him no money to spend. They argued that 
" father ain't fit to spend money." So his most urgent ne- 
cessities were doled out to him. 

When the property was divided, Malvina, the elder 
daughter, had for her share the homestead and a part of 
the money in the bank ; Ellen, the younger, had the larger 
portion of the bank money and some wooded property. 



A VILLAGE LEAR. 275 

Malvina stipulated to furnish a home and care for the old 
man as long as he lived, and Ellen was to pay her sister a 
certain sum towards his support. Both daughters were mar- 
ried at the time; Malvina had one daughter of her own. 
Malvina had remained at her old home after her marriage, 
but Ellen had removed to a town some twenty miles away. 
Her father had visited there several times, but he never liked 
to remain long. He would never have gone had not Malvina 
insisted upon it. She considered that her sister ought to 
share her burden, and sometimes give her a relief So Bar- 
ney would go,although with reluctance; in fact, his little shoe- 
shop was to him his beloved home, his small solitary nest, 
where he could fold his old wings in peace. Nobody knew 
how regretfully he thought of it during his visits at Ellen's. 
While there he sat mostly in her kitchen, by the cooking- 
stove, and miserably pored over the almanac or the relig- 
ious paper. Occasionally he would steal out behind the 
barn and smoke a pipe, but there was always a hard reck- 
oning with Ellen afterwards, and it was a dearly purchased 
pleasure. Ellen was a small, fair woman ; she was deli- 
cate, much as her mother had been, and her weakness and 
nervousness made her imperious will less evident but more 
potent. Old Barney stood more in awe of her than of Mal- 
vina. He was anxiously respectful towards her husband, 
who was a stout, silent man, covering his own projects and 
his own defeats with taciturnity. He was a steady grubber 
on a farm, and very close with old Barney's money, of 
which, however, his wife understood that she had full con- 
trol. She had had out of it a set of red plush parlor furni- 
ture and a new silk dress. Once in a while old Barney, 
while on a visit, would stand on the parlor threshold and 
gaze admiringly in at the furniture; but did he venture to 



276 ^ VILLAGE LEAR. 

Step over, his daughter would check him. " Now don't go 
in there, father," she would cry out ; " you'll track in some- 
thin'." 

" No, I ain't a-goin' in, Ellen," Barney would reply, and 
meekly shuffle back. 

Old Barney was intensely loyal towards both of his daugh- 
ters ; not even to himself would he admit anything to their dis- 
advantage. He always spoke admiringly of them, and would 
acknowledge no preference for one above the other. Still 
he undoubtedly preferred Malvina. She was a large, stout 
woman, but some people thought that she looked like her 
father. When the property was divided, Malvina had had 
every room in the house newly painted and papered ; then 
she stood before them like a vigilant watch-dog. She had 
been neat before, but with her new paint and paper and a 
few new carpets her neatness became almost a monomania. 
She was fairly fierce, and her voice sounded like a bark 
sometimes when old Barney, with shoes heavy with loam 
and clothes stained with tobacco juice, shuffled into her 
spotless house. However, in a certain harsh way she did 
her duty by her simple old father. She saw to it'that his 
clothes were comfortably warm and mended, and he had 
enough to eat, although his own individual tastes were never 
consulted. Still, he was scrupulously bidden to meals, and 
his plate was well filled. She did not like to have him in 
the house, and showed that she did not, but she had no 
compunctions upon that point, for he preferred the shop. 
She never gave him spending-money, for she did not con- 
sider that he was capable of spending money judiciously. 
She bought all that he had herself. She was a good finan- 
cier, and made a little go a long way. 

Malvina's husband was dead, and her daughter was now 



A VILLAGE LEAR, 277 

eighteen years old. Her name was Annie. She was a 
pretty girl, and had a lover. She was to be married soon. 
They had not told old Barney about it, but he found it out 
two weeks before the wedding. He stood in his shop door 
one morning and called cautiously to Sarah Arnold. (The 
Arnolds lived in the next house, and Sarah was out in the 
yard picking some roses.) " Sary, come here a minute,' 
he called. And Sarah came, with her roses in her hand. 
The old man beckoned her mysteriously into the shop. 
He drew well back from the door, after having peered 
sharply at the house windows. Then he began: "Ye 
heard on't, Sary," whispered he — "what's goin' on in 
there? Hey?" He gave his hand a backward jerk tow- 
ards the house. 

Sarah laughed. " I suppose so," said she. 
" How long ye known it ? Hey ?" 
" Well, I've heard 'twas coming off before long.'* 
"The weddin's goin' to be in two weeks. Did ye know 
that? Hey?" 
"I heard so." 

" Well, it's the first I've heard on't. I knew that young 
fellar'd been shinin' round there consider'ble, an' I spos'd 
'twas comin' off some time or other, but I didn't have.no idee 
'twas goin' to be so soon. Look a-here, Sary " — Sarah, 
placid and fair and pleasant, holding her roses, gazed atten- 
tively at him — " rm — a-goin' to — give her somethin^ r 
"What are you going to give her?" 

" Ye'll see. I've got some money laid up, an' I know a 
way to raise a leetle more. Ye'll see when the time comes 
— ye'll see." The old man raised his pleasant cackle, then 
he hushed it suddenly, with a wary glance towards the house. 
"You mind you don't say nothin' about it, Sary," said he. 



278 A VILLAGE LEAR. 

" No, I won't say a word about it," returned Sarah. Then 
she went home with her roses and her own thoughts. She 
herself was to be married soon, but there would be no such 
commotion over her wedding as over Annie's. The Arnolds 
were very humble folk, according to the social status of the 
village, and were not on very intimate terms with their 
neighbors. Old Mr. Arnold took care of people's gardens 
and sawed wood for a living, and Mrs. Arnold and Sarah 
sewed, and even went out for extra work when some of the 
more prosperous village people had company. However, 
Sarah was going to marry a young man who had saved 
quite a sum of money. He was building a new house on 
a cross street at the foot of a meadow that lay behind Bar- 
ney Swan's shop. Sarah had told Barney all about it, and 
he often strolled down the meadow and watched the work- 
men on the new house with a wise and interested air. He 
was very fond of Sarah. Sarah had her own opinion about 
Annie and the old man's daughters, but she was calm about 
expressing it even to her mother. She was a womanly 
young girl. However, once in a while her indignation grew 
warm. 

" I think it's a shame," she told her mother, when she 
carried her roses into the house, "that they haven't told 
Grandpa Swan about Annie's going to be married, and the 
poor old man's planning to give her a present." The tears 
stood in Sarah's blue eyes. She crowded the roses into a 
tumbler. 

It was only the next day that old Barney called her into 
the shop to display the present. He had been so eager 
about it that he was not able to wait. However, the idea 
that the gift must not be presented to his granddaughter 
until her wedding-day was firmly fixed in his mind. He 



A VILLAGE LEAR. 279 

had obtained in some way this notion of etiquette, and he 
was resolved to abide by it, no matter how impatient he 
might be. " I've got it here all ready, but I ain't a-goin' 
to give it to her till the day she's married, ye know," he told 
Sarah while he was fumbling in the table-drawer (that was 
his poor little treasure-box). There he kept his surrepti- 
tious quids of tobacco and his pipe and his small hoards 
of pennies. His hands trembled as he drew out a little 
square parcel. He undid it with slow pains. " Look 
a-here !" In a little jeweller's box, on a bed of pink cotton, 
lay a gold-plated brooch with a red stone in the centre. 
The old man stood holding it, and looking at Sarah with a 
speechless appeal for admiration. 

" Why, ain't it handsome !" said she ; " it's just as pretty 
as it can be !'' 

Old Barney still did not speak ; he stood holding the 
box, as silent as a statue whose sole purpose is to pose for 
admiration. 

"Where did you get it?" asked Sarah. 

The old man ushered in his words with an exultant 
chuckle. " Down to Bixby's ; an' 'twas jest about the 
pertiest thing he had in his hull store. It cost con- 
sider'ble ; I ain't a-goin' to tell ye how much, but I didn't 
pay no ninepence for't, I can tell ye. But I had a leetle 
somethin' laid up, an' there was some truck I traded off. I 
was bound I'd git somethin' wuth somethin' whilst I was 
about it." 

As Barney spoke, Sarah noticed that his old silver watch- 
chain was gone, and a suspicion as to the " truck " seized 
her, but she did not speak of it. She admired the brooch 
to Barney's full content, and he stowed it away in the drawer 
with pride and triumph. He was true to his resolution not 



28o A VILLAGE LEAR. 

to mention the present to his granddaughter, but he could 
not help throwing out sundry sly hints to the effect that one 
was forthcoming. However, no one paid any attention to 
them ; they knew too well the state of Barney's exchequer 
to have any great expectations, and all the family were in 
the habit of disregarding the old man's chatter. He always 
talked a great deal, and asked many questions ; and they 
seemed to look upon him much in the light of a venerable 
cricket, constantly chirping upon their hearth, which for 
some obscure religious reasons they were bound to harbor. 

The question of old Barney's appearance at the marriage 
was quite a serious one. The wedding was to be a brilliant 
affair for the village, and the old man was not to be consid- 
ered in the light of an ornament. Still the idea of not al- 
lowing him to be present could not decently be entertained, 
and Malvina began training him to make the best appear^ 
ance possible. She instructed him as to his deportment, 
and had even made a new black silk stock for him to wear 
at the wedding. He was so delighted that he wanted to 
take possession at once, and hide it away in his table-drawer, 
but she would not allow it. She had planned how he should 
be well shaven and thoroughly brushed, and his pockets 
searched for tobacco, on the wedding morning. " I should 
feel like goin' through the floor if your grandfather should 
come in lookin' the way he does sometimes," she told her 
daughter Annie. 

Annie concerned herself very little about it. She was a 
young girl of a sweet, docile temperament. She was some- 
what delicate physically, and was indolent, partly from that, 
partly from her nature. Now her mother was making her 
work so hard over her wedding clothes that she was half ill ; 
her little forefinger was all covered with needle-pricks, and 



A VILLAGE LEAR. 281 

there were hollows under her eyes. Malvina had always 
been a veritable queen mother to Annie. 

Ellen and her little boy visited Malvina for several weeks 
before the wedding. Ellen assisted about the sewing ; she 
was a fine sewer. 

Old Barney did not dare stay much in the house, but he 
wandered about the yard, and absurdly peeped in at the 
doors and windows. Back in his second childhood, he had 
all the delighted excitement of a child over a great occasion. 
It was perhaps a poor and pitiful happiness, but he was as") 
happy in his own way as Annie was over her coming mar- ^ 
riage, and, after all, happiness is only one's own heartful. J 

But three days before the wedding old Barney was at- 
tacked with a severe cold, and all his anticipations came to 
naught. The cold grew worse, and his daughters promptly 
decided that he could not be present at the wedding. 
"There ain't no use talkin' 'bout it, father," said Malvina; 
"you can't go. You'd jest cough an' sneeze right through 
it, an' we can't have such work." 

The old man pleaded, even with tears, but with no avail ; 
on the wedding day he was almost forcibly exiled to his lit- 
tle shop in the yard. The excitement in the house reached 
a wild height, and he was not allowed to enter after break- 
fast ; his dinner of bread and butter and tea was brought 
down to the shop. He sat in the door and watched the 
house and the hurrying people. He called Sarah Arnold 
over many times ; he was in a panic over his present. 
"How am I goin' to give her that breastpin, if they don't 
let me go to the weddin' ?" he queried, with sharp anxiety. 
"There sha'n't nobody else give her that pin nohow." 

" I guess you'll have a chance," Sarah said, comfortingly. 

When it was time for the people to come to the wedding, 



28a A VILLAGE LEAR, 

Ellen, in her silk dress, with her hair finely crimped, came 
rustling out to the shop, and ordered old Barney away from 
the door. 

" Do keep away from the door, father," said she, " for 
mercy sakes. Such a spectacle as you are, an' the folks 
beginnin' to come 1 I should think you'd know better." 
Ellen's forehead was all corrugated with anxious lines ; she 
was nervous and fretful. She even pushed her father away 
from the door with one long, veiny hand ; then she shut the 
door with a clash. 

Then Barney stood at the window and watched. He held 
the little jewelry-box tightly clutched in his hand. The 
window-panes were all clouded and cobwebbed ; it was hard 
for his dim old eyes to see through them, but he held back 
the stained curtain and peered as sharply as he could. 

He saw the neighbors come to the wedding. Several 
covered wagons were hitched out in the yard. When the 
ministe . came into the yard he could scarcely keep himself 
from rushing to the door. 

"There he is!" he said out loud to himself. "There he 
is ! He's come to marry 'em !" 

The hubbub of voices in the house reached old Barney's 
ears. A little after the minister arrived there was a hush. 
" He's marryin' of 'em !" ejaculated Barney. He danced 
up and down before the window. 

After the hush the voices swelled out louder than before. 
Barney kept his eyes riveted upon the house. It was some 
two hours before people began to issue from the doors. 

" The weddin's over !" shouted Barney. He looked quite 
wild ; he gave himself a little shake, and opened the shop 
door and took up his stand there. Everybody could see 
him in his brown calico shirt-sleeves, and his slouching, un- 



A VILLAGE LEAR. 283 

tidy vest and trousers. His white locks straggled over his 
shoulders ; his face was not very clean. Suddenly Ellen, 
standing and smirking in the house door, spied him. 
Presently she came across the yard, swaying her rattling 
skirts with a genteel air. She smiled all the way, and old 
Barney innocently smiled back at her when she reached 
him. But he jumped, her voice was so fierce. 

"You go right in there this minute, father, an' keep that 
door shut^^ she said between her smiling lips. 

She shut the door upon Barney, but she had no sooner 
reached the house than he opened it again and stood there. 
He still held the box. 

The bridal pair were to set up housekeeping in a village 
ten miles away. They were to drive over that night. When 
at last the bridegroom and the bride appeared in the door, 
old Barney leaned forward, breathless. The bridegroom's 
glossy buggy and bay horse stood in the yard ; the horse 
was restive, and a young man was holding him by the bridle. 

Old Barney did not venture to step outside his shop door. 
Malvina and Ellen were both in the yard, but it was as if 
his soul were feeling for ways to approach the young couple. 
He leaned forward, his eyes were intent and prominent, the 
hand that held the jewelry-box shook with long, rigid motions. 

The bride, at her husband's side, stepped across the green 
yard to the buggy. This was a simple country wedding, 
and Annie rode in her wedding dress to her new home. 
The wedding dress was white muslin, full of delicate frills 
and loops of ribbons that the wind caught. Annie, coming 
across the yard, was blown to one side like a white flower. 
Her slender neck and arms showed pink through the mus- 
lin, and she wore her wedding bonnet, which was all white, 
with bows of ribbon and plumes. Her cheeks were very red- 



284 ^ VILLAGE LEAR. 

Old Barney opened his mouth wide. " Good Lord !" said 
he, with one great gasp of admiration. He laughed in a 
kind of rapture ; he forgot for a minute his wedding present. 
" Look at 'em ! — ^jest look at 'em !" he repeated. Suddenly 
he called out, " Annie! Annie ! jest look a-here 1 See what 
gran'pa's got for ye." 

Annie stopped and looked. She hesitated, and seemed 
about to approach Barney, when the horse started ; the 
young man had hard work to hold him. The bridegroom 
lifted the bride into the carriage as soon as the horse was 
quiet enough, sprang in after her, and they flew out of the 
yard, with everybody shouting merrily after them. Old 
Barney's piteous cry of " Annie ! Annie ! jest come here a 
minute !" was quite lost. 

The old man went into the shop and closed the door of 
his own accord. Then he replaced the little box in the 
table-drawer. Then he settled down on his old shoe-bench, 
and dropped his head on his hands. Soon he had a severe 
coughing-spell. Nobody came near him until it was quite 
dark ; then Malvina came and asked him, in a hard, absent 
way, if he were not coming into the house to have any sup- 
per that night. 

Old Barney arose and shuffled after her into the house ; 
he ate the supper that she gave him ; then he went to bed. 
He never took Annie's gold brooch out of the drawer again. 
He never spoke of it to Sarah Arnold nor any one else. 
He had the grieved dignity that pertains to the donor of a 
scorned gift. As the weeks went on, his cold grew no bet- 
ter \ he coughed harder and harder. Once Malvina bought 
some cough medicine for him, but it did no good. The old 
man grew thinner and weaker, but she did not realize that; 
the cough arrested her attention ; it tired her to hear it so 



A VILLAGE LEAR. 285 

constantly. She told him that there was no need of his 
coughing so much. 

Sarah Arnold was married in August. She and her hus- 
band went to live in their new house across the meadow 
from old Barney's shop. 

Sarah had been married a few weeks when one night old 
Barney came toddling down the meadow to her house. He 
was so weak that he tottered, but he almost ran. The short 
growth of golden-rod brushing his ankles seemed enough to 
throw him over. He waded through it as through a golden 
sea that would soon throw him from his footing and roll 
over him, but he never slackened his pace until he reached 
Sarah's door. She had seen him coming, and ran to meet 
him. 

"Why, what is the matter?" she cried. Old Barney's 
face was pale and wild. He looked at her and gasped. 
She caught him by the arm and dragged him into the house, 
and set him in a chair. "What is the matter?" she asked 
again. She looked white and frightened herself. 

Old Barney did not reply for a minute ; he seemed to be 
collecting breath. Then he burst out in a great sobbing 
cry : " My shop ! my shop ! She's goin' to have my shop 
tore down ! They're goin' to begin to-morrer. They're 
movin' my bench. Oh I oh !" 

Sarah stood close to him and patted his head. "Who's 
goin' to have it torn down ?" 
. "Mai— viny." 

" When did she say so ?" 

"Jest — now — come out an' told me. Says the — old — 
thing looks dreadful bad out — in the yard, an' she wants it 
'—tore down. She's goin' to have me — go to Ellen's an' 
>tay — all winter. Puttin' my bench up — in the garret I 



286 A VILLAGE LEAR. 

ain't — a-goin' to have the — bench to set on — no longer, I 
ain't. Oh, hum !" 

Sarah's pleasant mouth was set hard. She made old 
Barney lie down on her sitting-room lounge, and got him a 
cup of tea. It was evident that the old man was completely 
exhausted ; he could not have walked home had he tried. 
Sarah sat down beside him and heard his complaint, and 
tried to comfort him. When her husband came home to 
tea she told him the story, and he went up across the 
meadow to the shop before he took off his coat. 

" It's so," he growled, when he returned. "They're lug- 
ging the things out. It's a blasted shame. Poor old man !" 

Sarah's husband had a brown boyish face and a set chin ; 
he took off his coat and began washing his hands at the 
kitchen sink with such energy that the leather stains might 
have been the ingratitude of the world. 

" Did you say anything about his being down here ?" 
asked Sarah. 

" No, I didn't. Let 'em hunt." 

About nine o'clock that evening Malvina, holding her 
skirts up well, came striding over the meadow. She had 
missed her father, and traced him to Sarah's. Sarah and 
her husband had put him to bed in their pretty little spare 
ch-amber when Malvina came in. It was evident that the 
old man was very ill ; he was wandering a little, and he had 
terrible paroxysms of coughing ; his breath was labored. 
Malvina stood looking at him ; Sarah's husband kept open- 
ing his mouth to speak, and his wife kept nudging him to be 
silent. Finally he spoke — 

" He's all upset because his shop's going to be torn down," 
said he ; but his voice was not as bold as his intentions. 

" 'Tain't that," replied Malvina. " He's dretful careless ; 



A VILLAGE LEAR. 287 

he's been goin' round in his stockin'-feet, an' he's got more 
cold. I dun know what's goin' to be done. I don't see 
how I can get him home to-night." 

" He can stay here just as well as not," said Sarah, nudg- 
ing her husband again. 

" Well, I'll come over an' git him home in the mornin','* 
Malvina said. 

But she could not get him home when she came over in 
the morning. Old Barney never went home agam. He 
died the second day after he came to Sarah's. Both of his 
daughters came to see him, and did what they could, out he 
did not seem to notice them much. An hour before he died 
he called Sarah. She ran into the room. Just then there 
was nobody else in the house. Old Barney sat up in bed, 
and he was pointing out of the window over the meadow. 
His pointing forefinger shook, his face was ghastly, but there 
was a strange, childish delight in it. 

"Look a-there, Sary — ^jest look a-there," said old Barney. 
*' Over in the meader — look. There's Ellen a-comin', an' 
Viny, an' they look jest as they did when they was young ; 
an' Ellen she's a-bringin' me some tea, an' Viny she's 
a-bringin' me some custard puddin'. An' there's Willy 
a-dancin along. Jest see the leetle fellar a-comin' to see 
gran'pa all of his own accord. An' there's Annie all in her 
white dress, jest as pretty as a pictur', a-comin' arter her 
breastpin. Jest see 'em, Sary." The old man laughed. 
Out of his ghastly, death-stricken features shone the ex- 
pression of a happy child. "Jest look at 'em, Sary," he 
repeated. 

Sarah looked, and she saw only the meadow covered with 
a short waving crop of golden-rod, and over it the Septem- 
ber sky. 



AMANDA AND LOVE. 

Amanda sewed with a diligence wiiich seemed almost 
fierce. She jerked out her right elbow at sharp angles, and 
the stout thread made a rasping sound. She was making 
a braided rug, which lay stiff and heavy over her knees. 
Love sat at the other front window. She held some white 
crotchet-work, but she kept looking away from it out of the 
window. The cherry-tree and the rose-bushes in the yard 
were bowing in a light wind. There were no leaves on 
them, but it was near spring, and the twigs had a red glis- 
ten as they moved in the wind. 

Now and then Amanda's pale eyes shot a swift, steady 
glance at Love. " You won't get that tidy done to-night if 
you keep lookin' out of the window," she remarked presently. 

Love started, and colored softly. " I'm goin' to work 
on.it," said she. Then she crocheted steadily, and did 
not look away from her work for a long time. Love would 
have been pretty had not her features been too thin and 
sharply accentuated. She was like a too boldly traced 
pencil sketch ; the beauty of design could not show through 
such force of outline. Her hair was too heavy for her deli- 
cate little head. It was not very tidy ; when she bent her 
head over her crochet-work the great slipping knot showed 
more plainly. 



AMANDA AND LOVE. 389 

** It does seem as if you might twist up your hair a little 
tighter : it don't look neat," said Amanda. 

" I can't make it stay up anyhow," returned Love, with 
meek apology. 

" I guess I could make it stay up." 

Amanda's light hair was parted and brushed so smoothly 
that there were lines of pale gloss on the sides of her head ; 
the small knot at the back of it was compact and immova- 
ble as one on a statue. 

After a while Amanda arose. " I'm goin' out to take in 
the clothes," said she. " I guess they must be dry by this 
time. I ain't goin' to have 'em beatin' in this wind any 
longer, anyhow." 

" I'll go," said Love. 

" No ; you stay jest where you are, an' do your tidy. 
You've got some cold, an' I ain't goin' to have you out in 
the wind handlin' damp clothes." 

When Amanda's tall, slim figure erected itself and moved 
across the room, it had a kind of stiff majesty about it. Her 
back and neck were absolutely unbending, there was one 
unbroken line from her head to her heels, even her dress 
skirt did not swing, but hung rigidly. 

As soon as Amanda had gone. Love let her work fall in 
her lap, leaned her head back, and looked out of the win- 
dow again. There was the little front yard, with its green- 
gray mat of grass and glistening tree and bushes ; before 
it stretched the road ; once in a while a team passed, or a 
woman pushed by with her garments flying back in the wind. 
Love, looking directly at it all, saw nothing. She had come 
to a place in her life where the future closed around her so 
plainly that, whether she would or not, she could see noth- 
ing else. Possibilities seemed near enough to sing in her 
19 



390 



AMANDA AND LOVE. 



ears, and all her dreams were turned to giants. No one 
but herself could see them; she was innocently ashamed 
and terrified to look; but no work and no play could di- 
vert her eyes. 

When Love heard her sister coming back, she took up 
her work hurriedly, and began to crochet. Her little thin 
face looked quite sober and intent ; she did not even glance 
at her sister when she entered. Amanda's face was red- 
dened by the wind, but her hair was not roughened. She 
held her chilly fingers over the stove, and looked at Love. 

** Got the tidy 'most done ?" she asked. 

" Pretty near." 

" Goin' to get it done to-night ?" 

" I don't know as I can get it quite done. The last rows 
take longer, you know.'* 

Amanda went suddenly across to Love. " Let me see 
it," said she. 

Love extended the tidy nervously. Amanda scruti- 
nized it. 

" Now I want to know jest how much you've worked on 
this since I went out." 

" I don't know as I can tell, Mandy." 

" You can tell pretty near. Have you done half a row?" 

" I — don't know as I have." 

" Have you done quarter of one ?" 

" I guess not quite." 

" Have you done anything at all ?" 

" Yes, I've done a little." 

" I don't believe you've made more'n three shells. Have 
you ?" 

Love looked shamefacedly at the tidy, and made no reply. 

" You'd ought to be ashamed of yourself," said Amanda. 



AMANDA AND LOVE. 2gt 

* It's much as ever you do anything at all lately. I don't 
see what you think you're comin' to, sittin' all day doin' 
nothin* at all, starin' out of the window. You act as \i you 
was in a brown study. I'd like to know what ails you." 

Love murmured something, and twisted herself away tow- 
ards the window. Amanda surveyed her imperturbably ; 
her words had been impatient, but her manner of delivery 
calm. She stood over her sister implacably benignant, like 
an embodied duty. 

" Now, Love, I want to know — an' I think you'd ought 
to tell me — what are you thinkin' about when you set doin' 
nothin' so?" 

Love quivered. Secret thoughts have more sensitive 
surfaces than burns, and it seemed to Love that hers were 
laid bare. " Don't, Mandy. I don't know," she faltered. 

" If you are thinkin' about what I think you are," Aman- 
da went on, inexorably, " it's about time you stopped. If 
you've got any proper pride that a girl ought to have, you 
won't waste time thinkin' about anybody till you're pretty 
sure they want you to." 

Love turned on her sister with a look as if she were feel- 
ing for the claws which nature had denied her. " I never 
said I was thinkin' about anybody," said she. Then she 
suddenly put her hands up to her face and began to cry. 

" There's nothin' for you to cry about," said Amanda, 
"nor to get mad about. I'm older than you, an' I know 
more about the world, an' I'm goin' to look out for you as 
faithful as I know how, an' that's all there is about it. Now 
you'd better work on that tidy if you ever want to get it 
done, while I get supper ready." 

Amanda, as she went out of the room, had a look of de- 
fiant embarrassment, and her face was flushed. She had 



292 AMANDA AND LOVE. 

not flinched, but she was a New England woman, and sl^e 
discussed all topics except purely material ones shame- 
facedly with her sister. She felt as if she had injured her 
own delicacy as well as her sister's. 

Amanda, out in the kitchen, got supper, and Love, in the 
sitting-room, wiped her eyes and worked on her tidy. It 
was really necessary it should be finished ; she was going 
to sell it, and she needed the money. The proceeds of 
Love's little mats and tidies and pincushions all went for 
her own clothes, while Amanda's heavier and homelier 
work bought the food, fuel, and her own scanty wardrobe. 
Love had many a dainty little feature in her attire which 
Amanda had not, and never fairly knew that she had not. 
Love's little beribboned gowns and flower-wreathed hats 
were to Amanda as her own. She never thought of herself 
as being without them. Love on a Sunday, in her pretty, 
best attire, was, in a sweet and subtle fashion, Amanda's 
looking-glass. The elder sister, in her sober shawl and 
staid bonnet, walking beside her to meeting, saw all the 
time herself in this younger and fairer guise. 

Amanda was old enough to be Love's mother ; the two 
had been left alone in the world when Love was a baby. 
They had only their little house and an acre or two of land, 
but Amanda had the head of a financier. She had man- 
aged her pennies as firmly and carefully as dollars. She 
made every inch of their land pay. She sold hay and vege- 
tables. She did heavy tasks in needlework for the neigh- 
bors — quilts and braided rugs and rag carpets. She had 
a little sum at interest in the savings-bank. 

While adnering to the letter of her principles in bringing 
up Love, Amanda had spared her in every possible way. 
No rough tasks had been imposed upon this little, slender- 



AMANDA AND LOVE. 



293 



armed sister. Amanda bought pretty silks and wools and 
fine threads, and had her taught to do dainty fancy-work, 
for which she found quite a market among the village women 
and the storekeepers in a neighboring large town. There 
were always finished articles on exhibition in the sisters' 
little front room, which was a studio on an exceedingly 
small and humble scale. Love's delicately wrought tidies 
and scarfs decorated the walls on all sides ; the table was 
covered with mats and pin-cushions. Nothing couid ex- 
ceed Amanda's pride in the display. Love had lately fin- 
ished a silk patchwork bedquilt, which was draped over the 
mantelshelf like a triumphal banner. Amanda invited peo- 
ple in to see it. She believed it a work of genius. 

Love crocheted fast when she kept herself to it. There 
was quite a piece done on the tidy when Amanda called 
her out to supper. Amanda had made some milk toast. 
Love was very fond of it. The two ate their suppers peace- 
fully in the little kitchen. Amanda gave Love the lower- 
most and best-soaked slices of toast, and Love, whose eyes 
were still red, ate them meekly. 

After supper, when the dishes were cleared away, it was 
quite dark. Love lighted a lamp, and started to go up-stairs 
to her chamber. 

** Where you goin' ?" asked Amanda. 

" Up stairs." 

" What for ?" 
■ " I — thought maybe I'd — better change my dress." 

" What are you goin' to change your dress for?" 

" I — didn't know but — someboriy might come in." 

" I'd like to know who's goin' to come that that brown 
dress you've got on ain't good enough for } Who do you 
expect ?" 



294 



AMANDA AND LOVE. 



" I — don't know as I expect anybody." 

" I s'pose you think maybe he'W be in." 

" I don't know as anybody'!! come. I just tliouglit — I'd 
cliange my dress." Love, slight and flat-chested, her shoul- 
der-blades showing through the back of her brown dress, 
stood before Amanda. She held the lamp unsteadily in 
both her little bony hands. 

" That dress is plenty good enough whoever comes. I 
don't care if it's the President," said Amanda. "An' I 
can tell you one thing — if you've got any pride, an' any 
sense of what's proper, you won't go to dressin' up in that 
blue dress with all that velvet trimmin' on it, if you think 
anybody's comin'. If you really want to show anybody you 
like them before you know whether he likes you or not, you 
can go an' dress up for them. If anybody's got common- 
sense, they can read it just like ABC. You'd better go 
an' set down an' finish that t'dy." 

Love obeyed. She seated herself at the parlor table with 
her crochet-work. Once, when her sister was out of the 
room for a moment, she got up stealthily and looked at her- 
self in the glass behind the table. She smoothed back her 
hair as well as she could, and adjusted the little brooch at 
her throat. Then she darted swiftly and noiselessly across 
the room to the chimney cupboard. A little bottle of co- 
logne stood on the middle shelf. Love sprinkled some on 
her handkerchief; then she flew back to her chair. She 
hardly gained it before Amanda entered, and almost at the 
same moment there was a knock on the front door. Love 
gave a great start, and half arose. Amanda looked at 
her. 

" I'll go," said she, sternly. Love sat down. 

Amanda had reached the sitting room door, when she 



AMANDA AND LOVE. 295 

turned around and sniffed sharply. " What's that I smell ?" 
said she. 

Love said nothing. 

" Have you been puttin' some of that cologne on your 
handkerchief?" 

" A little." 

"You're a silly girl." 

Love crocheted with her heart beating loudly, while her 
sister opened the front door and let in the visitor. She 
could hear Amanda's voice and a subdued masculine one. 
Amanda was asking the visitor to lay aside his hat and coat 
in very much the same way that she might have asked an 
enemy to lay down his arms. 

Amanda preceded a young man into the sitting-room. 
She set the lamp on the shelf and blew it out. Love half 
arose. She and the young man looked at each other; they 
extended their hands, then drew them back. Love sank 
into her chair with a soft, bashful titter, and the young man 
sat gravely and stiffly down on the sofa. Amanda seated 
herself at the table with her braided rug. She got it in 
place, and began sewing. 

*' How's your mother ?" she asked the young man, in a 
dry, constrained voice. 

" She's pretty well, thank you," he replied. 

He was young and very tall. His feet, in their well- 
blacked shoes, sprawled far out from the sofa. His hand- 
some face was red with embarrassment, but his blue eyes 
looked at Amanda quite sturdily and steadily. 

" Has she begun on her cleanin' yet?" said Amanda. 

" No, ma'am ; I guess not." 

" I s'pose you can help her some about the carpets." 

" Yes, ma'am." 



296 A MAN-DA AND LOVE. 

Amanda sewed, and Love crocheted on her tidy. The 
young man drew his feet farther in. 

" It's a pleasant evening out," he remarked, after a while. 

Amanda nodded, with cold acquiescence. 

" Yes, I s'pose 'tis," said she. Love smiled softly, with- 
out looking up. 

There was a long silence. The sisters worked steadily. 
The visitor sat on the sofa, with his unoccupied masculine 
hands on his knees. Now and then he glanced at Love's 
bowed head. There was a calla-lily in a big pot behind 
her, and the broad leaves threw shadows over her. Love 
herself looked like a flower which for some reason was not 
giving out its natural fragrance. It seemed as if she needed 
to be stirred and shaken. 

The time went on. Once in a while Amanda, vouchsafed 
an abrupt question, and the young man replied. Love never 
spoke until he arose to take leave. Then she started and 
looked up. 

" It ain't late," said she, and the blushes flamed over her 
cheeks. 

" I guess I must be goin'," said he. There was some- 
thing pitiful about the young fellow, in his Sunday suit and 
light necktie, with his shiny shoes and curly hair dampened 
and brushed as smoothly as possible. All these little hum- 
ble masculine furbishings had gone for naught, and he was 
going home disappointed and hurt after a painfully dull 
evening. However, he held up his head like a man, and 
there was a stiffness in his way of taking leave which be- 
tokened resentment as well as dejection. 

Amanda went to the door with him, and watched him put 
on his coat and hat. " Remember me to your mother," 
said she, when he went out. 



AMANDA AND LOVE. 297 

When Amanda returned to the sitting-room, Love bad 
her head bent very low over her work. 

"You hadn't ought to have said it wa'n't late when he 
got up to go," said Amanda. " It looked dreadful forward, 
as if you wanted him to stay whether or no. I was sur- 
prised at you." 

Love put her hands over her face, and her shoulders 
twitched^ 

" What is the natter?" asked Amanda. 

" I don't believe he'll — ever — come again as long as he 
lives." 

" I'd like to know why he won't come ?" 

Love made no reply. She sobbed convulsively. 

" Come, you'd better go to bed," said Amanda. " You're 
actin' dreadful silly. Ain't you got any pride at all? I 
guess before I'd sit and cry because I was afraid a fellow 
wouldn't come to see me — An' he'll come again fast 
enough. I'll go an' heat a flat-iron to put to your feet. 
It'll be kind of chilly up-stairs to-night." 

Amanda got Love into bed with the hot flat-iron at her 
feet, and herself lay half the night listening to hear if she 
were awake crying. The sisters slept in the two cottage 
chambers ; Love had the large sunny front one. There 
were muslin curtains at Love's windows ; she had a clean, 
faded woollen carpet, a large looking-glass over her bureau, 
and the best feather-bed. Amanda's little room was as 
bare and poor as could well be, her tiny looking-glass was 
blurred, and her bed was hard and lumpy. 

If Love lay awake weeping, she wept so softly that her 
sister did not hear her. This was a Wednesday night. 
Love's admirer had been calling upon her occasionally on 
Wednesday evenings for some time. The next Wednesday 



,98 AMANDA AND LOVE. 

evening he did not come, nor the next, nor the next. The 
sisters said nothing to each other about it. Love did not 
attempt to change her dress and make herself smart for 
him again. Her fancy-work dragged more tlian ever, but 
she always tried to be industrious when Amanda was in the 
room. One afternoon a neighbor called and asked Aman- 
da out in the entry, when she was taking leave, if her sis- 
ter was well. 

" She always did look dreadful delicate," said she, " but 
now she looks to me as if you could see the light through 
her if you held her the right way. I should think you'd 
better get her something strength'nin' to take, Amanda. 
You know her mother died of the consumption." 

" I guess she's well enough," returned Amanda, shortly. 
" She's always thin as a rail." 

But when she went back into the sitting-room she saw 
Love with the neighbor's eyes ; before, she had seen her 
with her own, to which her desires had been like soft-hued 
spectacles. That night she tried to get something for sup- 
per that Love would relish, but the girl scarcely tasted it. 
She only pecked at it like a little thin bird. Amanda made 
up her mind to get some medicine for her, as the neighbor 
had advised, and the next day she did, and Love took it, 
with no perceptible effect. 

Five weeks from the Wednesday on which the young man 
had called, Amanda heard that he had procured some work 
in another village, and left town. She hesitated whether 
or not to tell Love. Finally she decided to. Love had 
just lighted her lamp to go to bed one night when she told 
her. 

•* They say he's left town an' gone to Sharon," said she, 
in a harsh, constrained voice. 



AMANDA AXD LOVE. 



299 



Love did not make a sound, but her face moved as if she 
screamed. She went weakly up-stairs with her lamp, and 
Amanda sat down in the parlor and thought. It was mid- 
night before she went up-stairs. 

She listened a minute at Love's door, then she tiptoed in 
and bent over her. Love was asleep ; her little face had a 
peaceful look, but her skin was dank and pale with perspi- 
ration ; great beads stood on her forehead. 

"That's the way mother used to look when she was 
asleep," Amanda said to herself. 

Suddenly Love opened her eyes. She did not seem 
startled, but she turned away from Amanda and the light. 

" Now, Love, I want to know what all this means," said 
Amanda. " Are you frettin' yourself sick because that fel- 
low don't come?" 

Love did not reply ; her face was hidden, but her slender 
shoulders heaved convulsively. 

"Well," said Amanda, slowly, " it beats all. Tve heard 
of such things, but I never knew they were true." She 
smoothed out the bedclothes over Love and straightened 
her pillow. " Now you'd better stop cryin', an' go to sleep," 
said she. " He'll come again fast enough, don't you worry." 

Amanda went out with the light. She did not sleep at 
all that night. She lay in her little chamber and wrestled 
for another with a problem of nature which she had never 
had to face for herself 

The next day was Saturday. In the afternoon Amanda 
dressed herself to go out. " I'm goin' out a little ways, it's 
so pleasant," she told Love, when she went into the sitting- 
room with her bonnet and shawl on. 

Love smiled listlessly. She was at the window with her 
fancy-work as usual. Amanda glanced back as she went 



300 AMANDA AND LOVE. 

down the path to the front gate, but Love did not look after 
her ; her head was bent over her work. 

Amanda went down the road until she reached a large 
white cottage set in a deep yard. There were four front 
windows. Amanda saw a head at one of them, but it dis- 
appeared when she turned in at the gate. She drew her 
old cashmere shawl tightly over her shoulders, and went, 
slim and stately, up the front walk. There was a strong 
sweet odor of pine-apple in the air; it came from an odd 
brown flowering bush near the gate. It might have been 
gunpowder, and Amanda might have been marching up to 
hostile guns, from her feelings. She felt a pair of inimical 
female eyes upon her behind a closed blind, but she set her 
face steadily ahead, went up to the door, and knocked. 

She waited a long time, but no one came. She knocked 
again and again. Finally she compressed her lips and 
tried the door. It was not locked. She went into the en- 
try, and knocked on the sitting-room door. No one came. 
She opened the door and walked in. Directly the opposite 
door closed with a bang. Amanda walked across to that 
door and opened it. There stood an elderly woman in a 
little entry between the sitting-room and kitchen. She 
looked at Amanda with a kind of defiant embarrassment. 
Her handsome fleshy face was quite red. 

" Good-afternoon, Mis' Dale," said Amanda. 

" Good-afternoon." 

There was a pause. " I want to speak to you a minute," 
said Amanda. 

" Well, come into the sitting-room." 

Amanda began at once when she and Mrs. Dale were 
seated opposite each other. " I wanted to ask you," said 
she, " how your son was." 



AMANDA AND LOVE. 301 

" He's well as common." 

" I heard he'd left town." 

"Yes, he has." 

"Does he ever come home?" 

" Sometimes." 

" Well, some time when he does come, I should be hap- 
py to have him call at our house." 

Mrs. Dale's face grew redder, her round eyes gave out a 
blue glare. " Well, I'll tell you one thing right to your face, 
Amandy Perry, an' I ain't afraid to neither. My son ain't 
comin' over to your house again to be snubbed, not if I can 
help it. I guess he's full as good as your sister— full as 
good." 

" It wa'n't that, Mis' Dale." 

" I'd like to know what it was, then." 

" I rather guess I talked to Love, an* said some things 
that made her act kind of bashful. I ain't never had a 
thing against your son. I've always thought he was one 
of the likeliest young men in town." 

" I ruther guess my son is full as good as anybody that 
little meachin' thing is likely to get — full as good. I don't 
know what you think you are, nor where you come from : 
folks that have had to live from hand to mouth the way 
you have, an' never have had any parlor. My folks have 
always had parlors an' sittin'-rooms, an' I guess some of 'em 
would have thought my son was stoopin' if they'd known." 

The channel in which Mrs. Dale's ideas ran was so nar- 
row that it had to be well cleared of one set before others 
could enter. She was a kindly enough woman, but just 
now she was possessed of maternal resentment to the ex- 
clusion of everything else. Mrs. Dale was like an enraged 
mother bird with one note, she screamed it over and over in 



302 AMANDA AND LOVE. 

Amanda's ears in spite of all she could say. Finally Aman- 
da arose to go, and Mrs. Dale followed her to the door, still 
talking. Amanda noticed a hat on the entry table. " He's 
come home to spend Sunday," she thought, but she said 
nothing. 

Mrs. Dale closed the door after her with a bang, and 
Amanda went slowly down the path, looking on either hand. 
Over in the field south of the house there was a low red fire 
leaping in the dry grass, and a man's figure moving about, 
knee-deep in curling smoke. Amanda went straight across 
to the field and up to the man. She held her skirts close 
around her, and stepped unflinchingly over the blackened 
ground. 

" Good- afternoon, Willis," said she. 

" Good-afternoon," the young man returned, stiffly. 

" Come to spend Sunday ?" 

*' Yes, ma'am." 

" Why don't you come over and see us ? You ain't been 
for a long time." 

Willis stood straight and tall before Amanda ; his eyes 
looked like his mother's. " Because I ain't goin' anywhere 
where I'm shown so plain I ain't wanted," said he. 

"You're wanted enough. We should be real glad to see 
you any time. I s'pose I'm kind of stiff sometimes, but I 
don't mean to be ; an' Love is a little quiet an' bashful, but 
you mustn't think we mean to act offish. If you ain't goin' 
anywheres to-morrow night, we'd be glad to see you. Love, 
she ain't very well." 

Willis moved around and beat a little at the burning grass. 

"Love, she ain't very well, an' I guess she's kind of fret- 
tin' because she thinks you're put out," said Amanda, in a 
pilifyi voice. 



AMANDA AND LOVE. 303 

"Well, maybe I'll come if you'd like to have me," said 
Willis, hesitatingly. 

"We'll be happy to have you." Amanda started off; 
then she turned. " What — are you going to do to-night?" 
she asked, timidly. 

"To-night?" 

" Yes." 

" Nothing particular that I know off." 

" Can't you come to-night ?" 

" I — don't know but I can," Willis said, in a bewildered 
way. 

Amanda went home in the early spring afternoon. Her 
limbs trembled ; her face had a shocked, desperate expres- 
sion. She was full of a solemn shame and terror at what 
she had done. People when they overstep their bounds of 
conduct are apt to step high and wide ; poor Amanda had 
cleared hers well. The frogs were singing in a stretch of 
low meadow-land that she passed. They would have seemed 
to her like the chorus of a Greek tragedy had she ever 
heard of one. 

When she got home she sat down with Love and sewed 
until supper-time. She said nothing about Willis Dale. 
She got supper early, and cleared it away. Then she got 
a brush and comb and basin of water, and called Love 
out into the kitchen. " Come here a minute, Love," said 
she. 

Love crept out obediently. 

" I'm goin' to see if I can't make your hair look neat for 
once," said Amanda, in a resolute tone. 

She dampened Love's pretty wild hair, brushed it ener- 
getically, and twisted it tight and hard on the top of her 
head. Love's thin childish face looked strange and severe 



304 AMANDA AND LOVE. 

with her hair in flat dark curves around her temples. Aman- 
da surveyed her approvingly. 

" There," said she. " Now you'd better go an* put on 
your other dress ; I want to fix that place that's ripped in 
this one." 

" I thought I'd go to bed pretty soon," said Love. 

" No, you ain't goin' to bed, neither. Now go an' put on 
your dress. You look nice an' neat for once in your life." 

Willis came at eight o'clock. Amanda let him in, and 
left him with Love in the sitting-room. She herself sat 
down at the kitchen window in the deepening dusk, and 
stared out over the shadowy fields. She could hear the 
voices of her sister and her lover, now fairly started upon 
that path of love which was as strange to this rigid-lived 
single woman as that of death, and whither she was far less 
able to follow. Amanda sat there, and wept patiently, lean- 
ing her head against the window-casing. 



UP PRIMROSE HILL. 

" We can, Mis' Rowe ; this winder ain't fastened. I can 
slide it up easy 'nough." 

" Where does it go to ?" 

" Into the kitchen. I declare, there's the tea-kittle on the 
stove ; an' I should think the door was open into the butt'ry. 
Yes, 'tis. Mis' Rowe, the dishes are settin' on the shelves 
jest the way they were left." 

" Can you see 'em ?" 

" Yes, I can. I don't b'lieve there's one speck of harm 
in our gettin' in an' lookin' round a little." 

"Oh, Mis' Daggett, do you think we'd ought to?'* 

" I'd like to know what harm 'twould do." 

" S'pose they should find it out ?" 

" I don't see who they is. There ain't one of the Prim- 
roses left but Maria, an' it ain't likely she'll be round here 
to find it out very soon." 

" It's awful 'bout her, ain't it ?" 

" I dun know as I think it's very awful ; it ain't any 
more than she deserves for treatin' Abel Rice the way she 
did." 

" I've heard her husband had spent 'most all her money." 

" Guess it's true 'nough. They said once she was goin' 
to leave him." 
20 



3o6 UP PRIMROSE HILL. 

" I never really believed he struck her the way they said 
he did ; did you ?" 

" Guess it's true 'nough. I tell you what it is, Mis' Rowe, 
I b'lieve folks get their desarts in this world sometimes. — 
We can get in here jest as easy as not, if we are a mind to." 

" Oh, Mis' Daggett, I dun know 'bout it." 

"There ain't a bit of harm in't," said Mrs. Daggett, who 
was long and vigorous and sinewy. Then with no more ado 
she pushed up the grating old window. 

Mrs. Rowe, who was a delicate little body, stood timor- 
ously aloof in a bed of mint that had grown up around the 
kitchen door of the old Primrose house. There was a small 
wilderness of mint and sweetbrier and low pink-flowering 
mallow around the door. All the old foot-tracks were con- 
cealed by them. 

The window was not very high ; Mrs. Daggett put one 
knee on the sill and climbed in easily enough. Mrs. Rowe 
watched her with dilated eyes ; occasionally she peered be- 
hind her ; she had a sideway poise like a deer. It was 
perfectly evident that if she were to see any one approach- 
ing she would fly and leave her companion to her fate. 

" Come, you get in now," said Mrs. Daggett. Her harsh, 
yellow old face peered out of the window ; back of it was a 
dark green gloom. All the windows but that were closed 
and blinded. 

" Oh, Mis' Daggett, I dun know as I darse to !" 

" Come along !" 

" I don't b'lieve I can get in." 

** Yes, you can ; it ain't high." 

Mrs. Rowe approached slowly ; she lifted one feeble knee. 
"It's no use, I can't noway," said she. 

Mrs. Daggett caught hold of her arms and pulled. " Now 
you climb while I pull !" she cried. 



UP PRIMROSE HILL. 307 

" Oh, I can't noway, Mis' Daggett ! You'll pull my arms 
out by the roots. I guess you'd better stop." 

" I'll get out an' boost you in," Mrs. Daggett said, briskly, 
and strode over the window-sill. 

But the " boosting" was not successful ; finally little Mrs. 
Rowe recoiled in terror. " I'm afraid you'll make me go 
in there head-first," said she. " I guess you'd better stop. 
Mis' Daggett. You go in an' look round, an' I'll wait here 
for you." 

"I'll tell you what we can do: I'll set out a chair; you 
can climb in jest as easy as not, then." 

Mrs. Daggett again climbed in, set out one of the dusty 
kitchen chairs, and Mrs. Rowe with many quavers made 
her entry. For a moment the two women stood close to- 
gether, looking about them ; Mrs. Rowe was quite pale, 
Mrs. Daggett shrewdly observant. "I'm goin' to open 
them other blinds an' have a little more light," she declared 
at length. 

"Oh, do you s'pose you'd better?" 

" I'd like to know what harm it can do." Mrs. Daggett 
forced up the old windows, and defiantly threw open the 
blinds. 

The kitchen was a large one, with an old billowy floor 
and the usual furnishings. Mrs. Daggett lifted the tea- 
kettle and examined it. " It's all one bed of rust," said she ; 
" set up with water in't, most likely ; that Mis* Loomis that 
was here when old Mr. Primrose died wa'n't no kind of a 
housekeeper. I'm a-goin' into the butt'ry." 

" Oh, do you think we'd better ?" 

"I'd like to know what harm it can do." 

Mrs. Daggett advanced with virtuous steadfastness, and 
the other woman, casting fearful backward glances, followed 



3o8 UP PRIMROSE HILL, 

hesitatingly in her wake. They entered the pantry, which 
was as large as a small room, and stood with their chins 
tipped, scanning the shelves. " There's a whole set of white 
ware," said Mrs. Daggett, " an' there's some blue packed 
away on the top shelf. I s'pose there's a chiny closet in 
the parlor, where the chiny is : they must have had some 
chiny dishes. Ain't that a nice platter? That's jest what 
I want, a platter that size. What's in here ?" 

" Oh, don't, Mis' Daggett ; seems to me I wouldn*t !" 

" What's the harm, I'd like to know ?" 

Mrs. Daggett lifted the cover from a small jar. "It's 
quince sauce, sure's you live," said she, sniflSng cautiously. 
" It don't look to me as if it was hurt one mite. I'm goin* 
to taste of it." 

" Oh, Mis' Daggett !" 

" I am." Mrs. Daggett found a knife, and plunged it de- 
fiantly into the quince sauce. " It's jest as good as ever 
'twas ; it ain't worked one mite. You taste of it, Mis' Rowe." 

" Oh, I don't b'lieve I'd better, Mis' Daggett." Mrs. 
Rowe looked with tremulous longing at the sauce which 
her friend held towards her on the tip of the knife. 

"Land sakes ! take it! What harm can it do?" Mrs. 
Daggett gave the knife a shove nearer, and Mrs. Rowe 
opened her mouth. 

" It is good, ain't it ?" she said, after tasting reflectively. 

" I don't see why it ain't. Have some more." 

" I guess I hadn't better." 

" I'm goin' to. Might just as well ; it's only spoilin' here." 
Mrs. Daggett helped herself to some generous dips of the 
sauce, and Mrs. Rowe also took sundry tastes between her 
remonstrances. They found nothing else that was edible, 
exccDt some spices. Mrs. Daggett took a pinch of the 



UP PRIMROSE HILL. 309 

cinnamon. "Ain't lost its strength one mite," she re- 
marked ; "thought I'd like to see if it had." 

The Primrose house was a large, old-fashioned edifice. 
It had been the mansion-house of this tiny village, and its 
owners had been the grandees. The town was named for 
them ; they had been almost like feudal lords of the little 
settlement. Now they all were dead with the exception of 
one daughter, and she had not been near her old home for 
twenty years. The house had been shut up since her 
father's death, five years ago. The great square rooms 
were damp and musty, and even the furniture seemed to 
have acquired an air of distance and reserve. 

When the two curious women penetrated the statelier 
and more withdrawn recesses of the house, Mrs. Rowe eyed 
every chair as if it were alive and drawing up itself haught- 
ily before interlopers. But Mrs. Daggett had no such feel- 
ings. She investigated everything unsparingly. She be- 
gan opening a bureau drawer in one of the front chambers. 
Mrs. Rowe, watching her, fairly danced with weak and fas- 
cinated terror. "Oh, don't. Mis' Daggett — don't you open 
them drawers ! You scare me dreadfully !" she cried. 

" I'd like to know what harm it can do." Mrs. Daggett 
pulled out the drawer with a jerk. " Oh, my !" she ex- 
claimed ; "ain't this elegant!" 

Mrs. Rowe tremblingly slid towards her and peeped around 
her shoulder, and just then came a loud peal of the door- 
bell. Mrs. Rowe clutched Mrs. Daggett : " Oh, Mis' Dag- 
gett, come — come quick, for mercy sake ! That's the door- 
bell ! Oh, Mis' Daggett, they'll ketch us here — they will ! 
they will !" 

"Keep still f returned Mrs. Daggett. "No, they won't 
ketch us, neither. I dun know as we're doin' any harm if 



3IO 



UP PRIMROSE HILL, 



they did." She gave the bureau drawer a shove to, and led 
the retreat. " Come on down the back stairs," she said. 
" Don't break your neck ; there's time 'nough." 

When they were half-way down the stairs the bell rang 
again. "Oh!" gasped Mrs. Rowe — "oh, Mis' Daggett, 
they'll ketch us !" 

" No, they won't, neither ; come along." Mrs. Daggett 
climbed first out of the kitchen window. She thought that 
she could assist her friend better in that way. ** I'll stand 
outside here and lift you down," she said. " Don't hurry 
so ; you'll fall an' break your bones." 

Mrs. Rowe mounted a chair with frantic haste, and got 
into the window. Mrs. Daggett extended both arms, and 
she jumped. " Mercy sakes ! I'm ketched onto somethin' !" 
she screamed. " Oh, Mis' Daggett !" In fact, Mrs. Rowe's 
skirt had caught on something inside, and she pitched 
helplessly against her friend. " I hear 'em a-comin'," she 
groaned. " Oh, what shall I do ! what shall I do !" 

" Can't you hang here a minute, till I reach in an' un- 
hitch it ?" 

" Oh, I can't ! — I can't ! Don't you let go of me, Mis' 
Daggett — don't you ! I shall fall and break my bones if 
you do. Oh, I hear 'em a-comin' ! Oh, Mis' Daggett, you 
pujl as hard as you can ! It's my alpacky dress. I ain't 
had it but three years, but I don't care nothin' 'bout that. 
Oh, Mis' Daggett!" 

Mrs. Rowe struggled wildly, and Mrs. Daggett pulled ; 
finally the alpaca skirt gave way. Mrs. Rowe as she turned 
and fled cast one despairing glance at it. " It's spoilt 1" 
she groaned ; " a great three-cornered piece gouged out of 
it. Oh, Mis' Daggett, do hurry !" 

Mrs. Daggett paused to shut the window ; then she over- 



UP PRIMROSE HILL. 3II 

took her friend with long, vigorous strides. " I wasn't goin' 
to leave that window up," she remarked, " not if I knew it." 

The women skirted the house well to the right, and 
passed into the road. 

" Now I'm goin' to walk by an' see who 'tis," said Mrs. 
Daggett. 

*'0h, don't, Mis' Daggett ; let's go right home." 

" I'm jest goin' to walk up by the path where I can see 
in. Come along ; they won't know we've been in the 
house." 

Mrs. Daggett fairly pushed her timid friend in the direc- 
tion that she wished. 

The Primrose house was thickly surrounded by trees, and 
stood far back from the road ; one could only get an unin- 
terrupted view of the front door by looking directly up the 
walk. 

Mrs. Daggett took a cautious glance as she passed the 
gate ; then she stopped short. " Good land !" she ex- 
claimed, " it ain't anybody but Abel Rice. If we ain't a 
passel of fools !" She could see between the trees a tall 
man with a yellow beard leaning against the front door of 
the Primrose house. 

" Are you sure it's him ?" quavered Mrs. Rowe. 

" Course I'm sure. Don't you s'pose I know Abel Rice t 
If it ain't the greatest piece of work ! There, I knew all 
about his goin' there an' ringin' the bell." 

" I never knew as he did really." 

" Well, I knew he did. Mrs. Adoniram White said she'd 
seen him time an' time again. To think of our runnin' 
away for a luny like Abel Rice !" 

" It's awful 'bout his goin* there, ain't it ?" 

" Yes, 'tis awful. They say they've talked an' talked to 



312 UP PRIMROSE HILL, 

him, but they can't make him b'lieve Maria Primrose don't 
live there ; an' every once in a while, no matter what he's 
doin', hoein' potatoes or what, he'll steal off an' go up there 
an' ring the door-bell. I wish Maria could see him some- 
times, an' realize what she did when she jilted him for that 
rich feller she married." 

" It would serve her jest right ; don't you think 'twould ?** 

" Yes, I do think it would serve her jest right." 

The two were now walking along the sidewalk, leaving 
the Primrose house out of sight. Presently they came to 
the house where Mrs. Rowe lived, and she turned in at the 
gate. " Good-afternoon, Mis' Daggett," said she. 

*' Good-afternoon. Say, Mis' Rowe, look here a minute." 

Mrs. Rowe stepped back obediently. Mrs. Daggett ap- 
proached her lips to her ear and dropped her voice to a 
whisper : " If — I was you, I wouldn't say nothin' about our 
goin' in there to Marthy" 

" I ain't goin' to," rejoined Mrs. Rowe, with a wise air ; 
"you needn't be afraid of that, Mis' Daggett." 

" I ain't done nothin' I'm ashamed of, but it's jest as well 
not to tell everything you know. I'm dreadful sorry you 
tore your dress so, Mis' Rowe." 

The rent in Mrs. Rowe's black alpaca dress attracted 
immediate attention when she entered the house ; she turned 
herself cautiously, but her sister, Mrs. Joy, noticed it at 
once. " Why, Hannah, how did you tear your dress so ?" 
said she. 

" I ketched it," replied Mrs. Rowe, with a meek sigh, 
turning her head to look at the three-cornered rent. 

" Why, I should think you did ! I guess you'll have one 
job mendin' it. What did you ketch it onto?" 

** On a nail. I see Abel Rice a-standin' ringin' the front- 



UP primkose hill, 313 

door bell at the Primrose house when I come by. * Mrs. 
Rowe had very little diplomacy in her nature, but she could 
fly as skittishly as any other woman from a distasteful sub- 
ject. 

" I want to know !" said Mrs. Joy, with ready interest. 
" I never really knew whether to b'lieve them stories about 
his ringin' that bell or not." 

" I see him with my own eyes." Mrs. Rowe was laying 
aside her bonnet and shawl, uncovering her small gray head 
and her narrow alpaca shoulders, which had a deprecating 
slope to them. One could judge more correctly of her 
character from her shoulders than from her face, which was 
shifty, reflecting lights and shadows from others; her shoul- 
ders were the immovable sign of herself. 

Mrs. Joy did not resemble her in the least ; she was 
larger and stouter, with a rosy face whose lines were all 
drawn with decision. When she was talking she surveyed 
one steadily with her full bright eyes that seldom winked. 
People called her a handsome woman. Her daughter An- 
nie, who sat at the window with her crochet-work, resem- 
bled her, only she was young and girlishly slim, her bright, 
clear eyes were blue instead of black, and her hair was 
vight. There was a brilliant color on her rather thin 
cheeks. She crocheted some scarlet worsted very rapidly, 
making her slender fingers fly. Her mother had a signifi- 
cant side tone for her in her voice when she spoke again. 

" Well, there's no use talkin', Abel Rice couldn't have had 
any brains to speak of, or he wouldn't have lost *em so 
easy," said she. " This goin' crazy for love is something I 
don't put much stock in, for my part. Folks must have a 
weak spot somewhere, or it would take something more 
than love to tip 'em over. I guess none of the Rices axe 



314 ^P PRIMROSE HILL. 

any too smart, when it comes right down to it. It ain't % 
family I should want to get into." 

Annie never said a word ; she crocheted faster. 

Mrs. Rowe had dropped her shawl-pin, and had been 
hunting for it. Just then she found it, and rose up. "I 
should be kind of afraid if Frank Rice had any — such kind 
of trouble, it might affect him the same way. Shouldn't 
you ?" said she. 

She fairly jumped when her sister replied : '* Afraid of 
it? No, I guess I shouldn't be afraid of it. I guess there 
don't many folks get crazy for — love." Mrs. Joy pro- 
nounced " love " with an affectedly sweet drawl. 

Mrs. Rowe colored shamefacedly. "I s'pose Abel did; 
don't you ?" 

" No, I don't, neither. Most likely he'd got crazy any- 
way ; it was in him." 

" Well, I dun know." Mrs. Rowe always departed from 
an argument with a mild profession of ignorance. She 
stood in awe of her sister. 

When she left the room to put away her bonnet, Mrs. Joy 
turned to Annie: "Ain't you goin' to see him to-night?" 
she asked. 

" I — haven't made up my mind." 

"I should think it was about time you did. There's the 
picnic comin' off to-morrow.'* 

" No, it isn't, either." 

"When is it, I'd like to know?" 

" The day after to-morrow." 

"Well, you ain't got any too much time; you'd ought to 
let him know a little beforehand, so he can get somebody 
else. I should think you'd better see him when he goes 
home to-night ; it will do jest as well as any way." 



UP PRIMROSE HILL, 315 

Annie kept her eyes upon her crocheting ; her cheeks 
grew redder. " I've — about made up my mind that I shall 
go with him, anyway," she muttered. 

"What?" 

" I've about made up my mind to go with Frank the way 
I said I would." 

Mrs. Joy's eyes snapped. " Well, if you do, you'll have 
to give up all thoughts of Henry Simpson, that's all," said 
she. " If he sees you at that picnic with Frank Rice, he'll 
think it's all decided, an' he'll let you alone." 

" Sometimes I think I'd rather wish he would." 

"I'd like to know what you mean." 

" I've made up my mind that I don't want him, anyway." 

" H'm ! I'd like to know why." 

Annie crocheted silently for a minute. " Well, I suppose 
that I like Frank the best," she murmured, with a shame- 
faced air. 

" Oh ! Well, I s'pose that's all that's necessary, then. I 
s'pose if you — love him, there ain't anything more to be 
said." 

The manner with which her mother's voice lingered upon 
love made it seem at once shameful and ridiculous to the 
girl ; but she raised a plea in her own defence. 

" I don't care," said she ; " I don't think it's right to get 
finarried unless you do love the one you marry." 

" I guess you'll find out that there's something besides 
love if you do get married to Frank Rice, or I'll miss my 
guess. When you get settled down there in that little 
cooped-up house with his father and mother and crazy 
uncle, an' don't have enough money to buy you a calico 
■dress, you'll find out it ain't all — love" 

" He'd build a piece on to the house." 



3i6 UP PRIMROSE HILL, 

" An* ran in debt for it ; you know he ain't got a cent 
Well, Annie Joy, I've said all I'm goin' to. You know how 
things are jest as well as I can tell you. You know how 
IVe dug an' scrimped all my life, an' you know how we're 
situated now ; it's jest all we can do to get along, an' your 
father's an old man. If you marry Frank Rice you'll have 
to live jest as I've done, only you won't be so well off, if 
anything ; your father had a good house, all paid for, when 
we started. You'll have to work an' slave, an' never go 
anywhere nor have anything ; you'll have to make up your 
mind to it. An' if you have Henry Simpson, you'll live 
over in Lennox, an' have everything nice, an' people will 
look up to you. You'll have to take your choice, that's all 
I've got to say." 

Mrs. Joy got up and went out of the room with a heavy 
flourish. On the threshold she turned: "Ain't it most 
time for him to go by .?" 

Annie nodded. Soon after her mother left the room she 
saw at a swift glance the young man of whom they had been 
speaking coming down the sidewalk. She looked quickly 
away, and never raised her eyes from her crocheting when 
he went by. 

*' Has he been past ?" asked her mother when she came 
in. 

"Yes." 

Mrs. Joy compressed her lips. " Well, you can do jest 
as you are a mind to," said she. 

Yet she continued to talk and advance arguments. If 
Annie did not go to the picnic with Frank, she had little 
doubt that matters would be brought to a favorable climax 
with regard to the other young man, who had lately paid 
her much attention. She was making a new dress for 



UP PRIMROSE HILL. 317 

Annie to wear, and she sewed and reasoned with her all 
that evening and during the next day. 

In the afternoon a young girl, an acquaintance of Annie's, 
came in. She had just returned from Lennox, where she 
had been shopping. Lennox was a large village — the city 
for this little hamlet of Primrose Hill. 

" I saw somebody there," said the girl, with a significant 
smile at Annie, "and he looked real handsome. He was 
driving a beautiful horse, and he's got one of those new- 
style carriages. If I was some folks I should feel pretty 
fine." 

" Alice would give all her old shoes to get a chance like 
you," remarked Mrs. Joy after the visitor had gone. 

" I don't believe she'd treat another fellow mean to get 
it," said Annie. She had looked doubtfully pleased at the 
girl's joking. 

" I don't see as your treatin' him mean if you let him 
know beforehand. I guess you ain't the only girl that 
changes her mind. Mebbe he'll take up with Alice. I 
should think she'd make him a real good wife." 

" He won't : I can tell you that much. He can't bear 
her." 

" Well, he'll find somebody. It's 'most time for him to 
go by, ain't it?" 

"I suppose so," replied Annie, coldly. 

It was late in the afternoon. An hour ago Mrs. Daggett 
had called for Mrs. Rowe, and the two old women had 
sauntered up the street together. " I didn't tell you what I 
see in that bureau drawer," Mrs. Daggett had whispered 
when they started forth ; " it was the handsomest black 
satin I ever laid my eyes on. I — mean to see it again-^* 

" Oh, Mis' Daggett !" 



3i8 UP PRIMROSE HILL. 

" I'd like to know what harm it can do." 

The two, in their homely black gowns, had moved on 
towards the Primrose house. Frank Rice would have to 
pass it on his way home from his work : he lived a half- 
mile beyond. 

Mrs. Joy, as she talked to Annie, kept her face turned 
towards the road, watching for him. " There he is," she 
said, presently. Annie bent over her work. " Do you 
hear?" her mother repeated, sharply. 

"Yes, I hear." Suddenly Annie sat up straight and 
looked in her mother's eyes. *' I can't do it," said she. 

"I'd like to know why not. Hurry, or he'll be gone by." 

Annie sat quite still for a minute ; her eyes were staring 
and her mouth set hard. Then she arose and went out of 
the front door and down the walk. The man reached the 
gate just as she did. She started, and turned a white face 
back towards the window ; it was Frank Rice's uncle Abel, 
who, people said, had lost his wits because Maria Primrose 
had jilted him. He passed, and Annie clung to the gate. 
An awful voice of prophetic denunciation seemed to cry 
through all her weakness and ignoble ambition. Her 
mother appeared in the door, and drew back hastily ; she 
had seen Frank Rice coming, following in the track of his 
uncle. She remarked for the first time a strong resem- 
blance between the two men, and it thrilled her with a 
strange horror. She went back into the sitting-room, and 
peered around a corner of a window. When Frank reached 
the gate, she saw Annie step forward. She saw them stand 
and talk for a few minutes ; then they walked slowly up the 
street together. 

"What's she doin' that for?" muttered her mother with 
a bewildered air ; she felt singularly shocked and subdued. 



UP PRIMROSE HILL, 319 

Annie and Frank went out of sight in the direction of the 
Primrose house. 

It might have been an hour later when a woman came 
slowly up the hill which gave its name to the little settle- 
ment. She had walked from Lennox; she had not money 
enough to pay her fare in the coach which ran between the 
two villages. It rattled past her on the road ; the passen- 
gers thrust out their heads and stared at her. " I declare, 
I believe that's Maria Primrose," said one woman to an- 
other. Maria Primrose, to call her as her old neighbors did 
by her maiden name, toiled slowly up Primrose Hill. She 
was a middle-aged woman, with a slender figure like a girl's ; 
but her face, which had been handsome, had not kept its 
youth so well ; one on passing her saw it with a certain dis- 
appointment. Her black clothes had an elegant and al- 
most foreign air ; some of the rich silk pleatings were frayed, 
but that did not hurt the general effect. 

When she had come within half a mile of the Primrose 
house she saw a man at work in a potato field on the left 
of the road. She stopped and looked at him. Everything 
was very dusty, and the wind blew ; great clouds of dust 
rolled up from the road, and passed like smoke over the 
fields ; now the setting sun shone through it and gave it a 
gold color. Maria saw the man through a cloud of golden 
dust. 

He threw down his hoe and came towards her, and she 
stood waiting. When he was near enough, on the other 
side of the stone wall, she looked in his face. His large 
blue eyes looked straight at her with a gentle and indiffer- 
ent stare, his yellow-bearded mouth smiled pleasantly and 
vacantly. 

Maria went on. Presently she heard a quick shuffle be- 



320 UP PRIMROSE HILL. 

hind her, and Abel Rice passed, never turning his head ; 
he was soon out of sight. When Maria Primrose went up 
the path to her old home, he stood straight and gaunt be- 
fore the door ; he had pulled the bell, and he was listening. 
When he saw Maria he shuffled off the end of the piazza, 
and disappeared among the trees. She looked after him 
for a second, then she unlocked the door. 

There was a scream and a patter of feet up in the second 
story, then a scramble over the back stairs ; Mrs. Daggett 
and Mrs. Rowe were making their escape from the house. 
Annie Joy and Frank Rice were also fleeing from the pre- 
cincts of the Primrose house. Its front piazza had looked 
quiet and isolated, and they had strolled up there and 
seated themselves. They arose and went away when Abel 
Rice came and rang the bell to summon his lost sweet- 
heart j they held each other's hands, and sped along be- 
tween the trees. They saw Maria, and quickened their 
pace ; but before they had passed out into the road, Frank 
cast a hasty glance around, and the two kissed each other. 

Maria Primrose entered her old home to pass the re- 
mainder of her life in lonely and unavailing regret and a 
dulness which was not peace ; the two curious old women 
hustled guiltily out of the kitchen window ; Abel Rice went 
his solemn and miserable way ; and the young lovers passed 
happily forth, starting up before her like doves. There had 
been a wreck, and the sight of it had prevented another. 



1 



A STOLEN CHRISTMAS. 

"I don't s'pose you air goin' to do much Christmas 
over to your house." 

Mrs. Luther Ely stood looking over her gate. There 
was a sweet, hypocritical smile on her little thin red mouth. 
Her old china-blue eyes stared as innocently as a baby's, 
although there was a certain hardness in them. Her soft 
wrinkled cheeks were pink and white with the true blond 
tints of her youth, which she had never lost. She was now 
an old woman, but people still looked at her with admiring 
eyes, and probably would until she died. All her life long 
her morsel of the world had had in it a sweet savor of ad- 
miration, and she had smacked her little feminine lips over 
it greedily. She expected every one to contribute tow- 
ards it, even this squat, shabby, defiant old body standing 
squarely out in the middle of the road. Marg'ret Poole 
had stopped unwillingly to exchange courtesies with Mr& 
Luther Ely. She looked aggressive. She eyed with a side- 
wise glance the other woman's pink, smirking face. 

"'Tain't likely we be," she said, in a voice which age 
had made gruff instead of piping. Then she took a step 
forward. 

" Well, we ain't goin* to do much," continued Mrs. Ely, 
with an air of subdued loftiness. " We air jest goin' to hev 

21 



322 A STOLEN CHRISTMAS. 

a little Christmas tree for the children. Flora's goin' to 
git a few things. She says there's a very nice 'sortment up 
to White's." 

Marg'ret gave a kind of affirmative grunt ; then she tried 
to move on, but Mrs. Ely would not let her. 

" I dun know as you have noticed our new curtains," said 
she. 

Had she not ! Poor Marg'ret Poole, who had only green 
paper shades in her own windows, had peeped slyly around 
the corner of one, and watched mournfully, though not 
enviously, her opposite neighbor tacking up those elegant 
Nottingham-lace draperies, and finally tying them back 
with bows of red ribbon. 

Marg'ret would have given much to have scouted scorn- 
fully the idea, but she was an honest old woman, if not a 
sweet one. 

" Yes, I see 'em," said she, shortly. 

" Don't you think they're pretty .?" 

" Well 'nough," replied Marg'ret, with another honest rigor. 

"They cost consider'ble. I told Flora I thought she 
was kind of extravagant ; but then Sam's airnin' pretty 
good wages. I dun know but they may jest as well have 
things. Them white cotton curtains looked dreadful kind 
of gone by." 

Marg'ret thought of her green paper ones. She did not 
hate this other old woman ; she at once admired and de- 
spised her ; and this admiration of one whom she despised 
made her angry with herself and ashamed. She was never 
at her ease with Mrs. Luther Ely. 

Mrs. Ely had run out of her house on purpose to inter- 
cept her and impress her with her latest grandeur — the 
curtains and the Christmas tree. She was sure of it. Stili^ 



A STOLEN CHRISTMAS, 323 

she looked with fine appreciation at the other's delicate 

pinky face, her lace cap adorned with purple ribbons, her 
black gown with a flounce around the bottom. The gown 
was rusty, but Marg'ret did not notice that ; her own was 
only a chocolate calico. Black wool of an afternoon was 
sumptuous to her. She thought how genteel she looked in 
it. Mrs. Ely still retained her slim, long-waisted effect. 
Marg'ret had lost every sign of youthful grace ; she was 
solidly square and stout. 

Mrs. Ely had run out, in her haste, without a shawl ; 
indeed, the weather was almost warm enough to go without 
one. It was only a week before Christmas, but there was 
no snow, and the grass was quite bright in places. There 
were green lights over in the field, and also in the house 
yards. There was a soft dampness in the air, which brought 
spring to mind. It almost seemed as if one, by listening 
intently, might hear frogs or bluebirds. 

Now Marg'ret stepped resolutely across the street to her 
little house, which was shingled, but not painted, except 
on the front. Some one had painted that red many years 
before. 

Mrs. Ely, standing before her glossy white cottage, which 
had even a neat little hood over its front door, cried, patron- 
izingly, after her once again : 

" I'm comin' over to see you as soon as I can," said she, 
" arter Christmas. We air dretful busy now." 
- " Well, come when ye can," Marg'ret responded, shortly. 
Then she entered between the dry lilac bushes, and shut 
the door with a bang. 

Even out in the yard she had heard a shrill clamor of 
children's voices from the house; when she stood in the 
little entry it was deafening. 



324 ^ STOLEN CHRISTMAS. 

"Them children is raisin' Cain," muttered she. Then 
she threw open the door of the room where they where. 
There were three of them in a little group near the window. 
Their round yellow heads bobbed, their fat little legs and 
arms swung wildly. " Granny ! granny !" shouted they. 

" For the land sake, don't make such a racket I Mis' 
Ely can hear you over to her house," said Marg'ret. 

" Untie us. Ain't ye goin' to untie us now ? Say, 
Granny." 

" I'll untie ye jest as soon as I can get my things off 
Stop hollerin'." 

In the ceiling were fixed three stout hooks. A strong 
rope was tied around each child's waist, and the two ends 
fastened securely around a hook. The ropes were long 
enough to allow the children free range of the room, but 
they kept them just short of one dangerous point — the 
stove. The stove was the fiery dragon which haunted 
Marg'ret's life. Many a night did she dream that one of 
those little cotton petticoats had whisked too near it, and 
the flames were roaring up around a little yellow head. 
Many a day, when away from home, the same dreadful 
pictures had loomed out before her eyes ; her lively fancy 
had untied these stout knots, and she had hurried home in 
a panic. 

Marg'ret took off her hood and shawl, hung them care- 
fully in the entry, and dragged a wooden chair under a 
hook. She was a short woman, and she had to stretch up 
on her tiptoes to untie those hard knots. Her face turned 
a purplish red. 

This method of restriction was the result of long thought 
and study on her part. She had tried many others, which 
had proved ineffectual. Willy, the eldest, could master 



« 



A STOLEN CHRISTMAS. 325 

knots like a sailor. Many a time the grandmother had 
returned to find the house empty. Willy had unfastened 
his own knot and liberated his little sisters, and then all 
three had made the most of their freedom. But even Willy, 
with his sharp five-year-old brain and his nimble little fin- 
gers, could not untie a knot whose two ends brushed the 
ceiling. Now Marg'ret was sure to find them all where 
she left them. 

After the children were set at liberty she got their sup- 
per, arranging it neatly on the table between the windows. 
There was a nice white table cover, and the six silver tea- 
spoons shone. The teaspoons were the mark of a flood- 
tide of Marg'ret's aspirations, and she had had aspirations 
all her life. She had given them to her daughter, the chil- 
dren's mother, on her marriage. She herself had never 
owned a bit of silver, but she determined to present her 
daughter with some. 

" I'm goin' to have you have things like other folks," 
she had said. 

Now the daughter was dead, and she had the spoons. 
She regarded the daily use of them as an almost sinful 
luxury, but she brought them out in their heavy glass tum- 
bler every meal. 

" I'm goin' to have them children learn to eat off silver 
spoons," she said, defiantly, to their father , " they'll think 
more of themselves." 

The father, Joseph Snow, was trying to earn a living in 
the city, a hundred miles distant. He was himself very 
young, and had not hitherto displayed much business ca- 
pacity, although he was good and willing. They had been 
very poor before his wife died ; ever since he had not been 
able to do much more than feed and clothe himself. He 



326 A STOLEN CHRISTMAS. 

had sent a few dollars to Marg'ret from time to time — dol- 
lars which he had saved and scrimped pitifully to accumu- 
late — but the burden of their support had come upon her. 

She had sewed carpets and assisted in spring cleanings 
— everything to which she could turn a hand. Marg'ret 
was a tailoress, but she could now get no employment at 
her trade. The boys all wore "store clothes" in these 
days. She could only pick up a few cents at a time ; still 
she managed to keep the children in comfort, with a roof 
over their heads and something to eat. Their cheeks were 
fat and pink ; they were noisy and happy, and also pretty. 

After the children were in bed that night she stood in 
her kitchen window and gazed across at Mrs. Luther Ely's 
house. She had left the candle in the children's room — 
the little things were afraid without it — and she had not 
yet lighted one for herself; so she could see out quite 
plainly, although the night was dark. There was a light 
in the parlor of the opposite house ; the Nottingham-lace 
curtains showed finely their pattern of leaves and flow- 
ers. Marg'ret eyed them. "'Tain't no use my tryin' to 
git up a notch," she muttered. " 'Tain't no use for some 
folks. They ain't worked no harder than I have; Louisa 
Ely ain't never begun to work so hard ; but they can have 
lace curtains an' Christmas trees." 

The words sounded envious. Still she was hardly that; 
subsequent events proved it. Her " tryin' to git up a notch " 
explained everything. Mrs. Luther Ely, the lace-curtains, 
and the Christmas tree were as three stars set on that higher 
" notch " which she wished to gain. If the other woman 
had dressed in silk instead of rusty wool, if the lace dra- 
peries had been real, Marg'ret would hardly have wasted 
one wistful glance on them. But Mrs. Luther Ely had 



A STOLE JV CHRISTMAS. 327 

been all her life the one notch higher, which had seemed 
almost attainable. In that opposite house there was only 
one carpet ; Marg'ret might have hoped for one carpet. 
Mrs. Ely's son-in-law earned only a comfortable living for 
his family ; Marg'ret's might have done that. Worst of all, 
each woman had one daughter, and Marg'ret's had died. 

Marg'ret had been ambitious all her life. She had made 
struggle after struggle. The tailoress trade was one of 
them. She made up her mind that she would have things 
like other people. Then she married, and her husband 
spent her money. One failure came after another. She 
slipped back again and again on the step to that higher 
notch. And here she was to-night, old and poor, with 
these three helpless children dependent upon her. 

But she felt something besides disappointed ambition as 
she stood gazing out to-night. 

" There's the children," she went on ; " can't have nuthin' 
for Christmas. I ain't got a cent I can spare. If I git 'em 
enough to eat, I'm lucky." 

Presently she turned away and lighted a lamp. She had 
some sewing to do for the children, and was just sitting 
down with it, when she paused suddenly and stood reflect- 
ing. 

" I've got a good mind to go down to White's an' see 
what he's got in for Christmas," said she. " Mebbe Jo- 
seph '11 send some money 'long next week, an' if he does, 
mebbe I can git 'em some little thing. It would be a good 
plan for me to kind of price 'em." 

Marg'ret laid her work down, got her hood and shawl, 
and went out, fastening the house securely, and also the 
door of the room where the stove was. 
y To her eyes the village store which she presently entered 



328 A STOLEN CHRISTMAS. 

was a very emporium of beauty and richness. She stared 
at the festoons of evergreens, the dangling trumpets and 
drums, the counters heaped with cheap toys, with awe and 
longing. She asked respectfully the price of this and that, 
some things less pretentious than the others. But it was 
all beyond her. She might as well have priced diamonds 
and bronzes. As she stood looking, sniffing in the odor 
of evergreen and new varnish, which was to her a very 
perfume of Christmas, arising from its fulness of peace and 
merriment, Flora Trask, Mrs. Ely's daughter, entered. Mar- 
g'ret went out quickly. " She'll see I ain't buyin' any- 
thing," she thought to herself. 

But Marg'ret Poole came again the next day, and the 
next, and the next — morning, afternoon, and evening. "I 
dun know but I may want to buy some things by-an'-by," 
she told the proprietor, apologetically, "an' I thought I'd 
kind of like to price 'em." 

She stood about, eying, questioning, and fingering ten- 
derly. No money-letter came from Joseph. She inquired 
anxiously at the post-office many times a day. She tried 
to get work to raise a little extra money, but she could get 
none at this time of the year. She visited Mrs. White, the 
storekeeper's wife, and asked with forlorn hope if she had 
no tailor-work for her. There were four boys in that fam- 
ily. But Mrs. White shook her head. She was a good 
woman. " I'm sorry," said she, " but I haven't got a mite. 
The boys wouldn't wear home-made clothes." 

She looked pitifully at Marg'ret's set, disappointed face 
when she went out. 

Finally those animals of sugar and wood, those pink-faced, 
straight-bodied dolls, those tin trumpets and express wag- 
ons, were to Marg'ret as the fair apples hanging over the 



A STOLEN CHRISTMAS 



329 



garden wall were to Christiana's sons in the Pilgrim's Prog- 
ress. She gazed and gazed, until at last the sight and 
the smell of them were too much for her. 

The evening before Christmas she went up to the post- 
office. The last mail was in, and there was no letter for 
her. Then she kept on to the store. It was rather early, 
and there were not as yet many customers. Marg'ret began 
looking about as usual. She might have been in the store 
ten minutes when she suddenly noticed a parcel on the 
corner of a counter. It was nicely tied. It belonged 
evidently to one of the persons who were then trading in 
the store or was to be delivered outside later. Mr. White 
was not in ; two of his sons and a boy clerk were waiting 
upon the customers. 

Marg'ret, once attracted by this parcel, could not take 
i her eyes from it long. She pored over the other wares 
i with many sidelong glances at it. Her thoughts centred 
i upon it, and her imagination. What could be in it ? To 
sj whom could it belong ? 

I Marg'ret Poole had always been an honest woman. She 
ij had never taken a thing which did not belong to her in her 
ij whole life. She suddenly experienced a complete moral 
' revulsion. It was as if her principles, whose weights were 
made shifty by her long watching and longing, had suddenly 
gyrated in a wild somersault. While they were reversed, 
Marg'ret, warily glancing around, slipped that parcel under 
her arm, opened the door, and sped home. 
I It was better Christmas weather than it had been a week 
ago. There was now a fine level of snow, and the air was 
clear and cold. Marg'ret panted as she walked. The 
snow creaked under her feet. She met many people hurry- 
ing along in chattering groups. She wondered if they 



330 A STOLEN CHRISTMAS. 

could see the parcel under her shawl. It was quite a large 
one. 

When she got into her own house she hastened to strike 
a light. Then she untied the parcel. There were in it some 
pink sugar cats and birds, two tin horses and a little wagon, 
a cheap doll, and some bright picture-books, besides a 
paper of candy. 

" My land !" said Marg'ret, " won't they be tickled !" 

There was a violent nervous shivering all over her stout 
frame. " Why can't I keep still ?" said she. 

She got out three of the children's stockings, filled them, 
and hung them up beside the chimney. Then she drew a 
chair before the stove, and went over to the bureau to get 
her Bible : she always read a chapter before she went to bed. 
Marg'ret was not a church member, she never said anything 
about it, but she had a persistent, reticent sort of religion. 
She took up the Bible ; then laid it down ; then she took it 
up again with a clutch. 

"I don't care," said she, " I ain't done nothin' so terrible 
out of the way. What can't be aimed, when anybody's 
willin' to work, ought to be took. I'm goin' to wait till 
arter Christmas ; then I'm jest goin' up to Mis' Whitens 
some arternoon, an' I'm goin' to say, ' Mis' White,' says I, 
*'the day before Christmas I went into your husband's store, 
an' I see a bundle a-layin' on the counter, an' I took it, an' 
said nothin' to nobody. I shouldn't ha' done such a thing 
if you'd give me work, the way I asked you to, instead of 
goin' outside an' buyin' things for your boys, an' robbin* 
honest folks of the chance to aim. Now, Mis' White, I'll 
tell you jest what I'm willin' to do : you give me somethin* 
to do, an' I'll work out twice the price of them things I 
took, an* we'll call it even. If you don't, all is, your hus- 



A STOLE N^ CHRISTMAS. 33 1 

band will have to lose it.' I wonder what sheUl say to 
that/' 

Marg'ret said all this with her head thrown back, in a 
tone of indescribable defiance. Then she sat down with 
her Bible and read a chapter. 

The next day she watched the children's delight over 
their presents with a sort of grim pleasure. 

She charged them to say nothing about them, although 
there was little need of it. Marg'ret had few visitors, and 
the children were never allowed to run into the neighbors'. 

Two days after Christmas the postmaster stopped at Mar- 
garet's house : his own was just beyond. 

He handed a letter to her. " This came Christmas morn- 
ing," said he. " I thought I'd bring it along on my way 
home. I knew you hadn't been in for two or three days, 
and I thought you were expecting a letter." 

"Thank ye," said Marg'ret. She pulled the letter open, 
and saw there was some money in it. She turned very 
white. 

" Hope you ain't got any bad news," said the postmaster. 

" No, I ain't." After he had gone she sat down and read 
der letter with her knees shaking. 

Joseph Snow had at last got a good situation. He was 
arning fifty dollars a month. There were twenty dollars 
Q the letter. He promised to send her that sum every 
month. 

"Five dollars a week !" gasped Marg'ret. "My land! 
■Ain' Vvt— stole /" 

She sat there looking at the money in her lap. It was 
luite late ; the children had been in bed a long time. 
Mnally she put away the money, and went herself. She did 
lot read in her Bible that night. 



332 A ."iTOLEN CHRISTMAS. 

She could not go to sleep. It was bitterly cold. The 
old timbers of the house cracked. Now and then there 
was a sharp report like a pistol. There was a pond near 
by, and great crashes came from that. Marg'ret might 
have been, from the noise, in the midst of a cannonade, to 
which her own guilt had exposed her. 

'* 'Tain't nothin' but the frost," she kept saying to herself. 

About three o'clock she saw a red glow on the wall 
opposite the window. 

" I'm 'maginin* it," muttered she. She would not turn 
over to look at the window. Finally she did. Then she 
sprang, and rushed towards it. The house where Mrs. Lu- 
ther Ely lived was on fire. 

MargVet threw a quilt over her head, unbolted her front 
door, and flew. " Fire ! fire r she yelled. " Fire ! fire ! 
Oh, Mis' Ely, where be you ? Fire ! fire ! Sam — Sam 
Trask, you're all burnin' up ! Flora ! Oh ! fire ! fire I" 

By the time she got out in the road she saw black groups 
moving in the distance. Hoarse shouts followed her cries. 
Then the church bell clanged out. 

Flora was standing in the road, holding on to her chil- 
dren. They were all crying. " Oh, Mis' Poole 1" sobbed 
she, "ain't it dreadful ? ain't it awful ?" 

" Have you got the children all out ?" asked Marg'ret. 

" Yes ; Sam told me to stand here with *em." 

"Where's your mother?" 

" I don't know. She's safe. She waked up first." The 
young woman rolled her wild eyes towards the burning 
house. " There she is !" cried she. 

Mrs. Ely was running out of the front door with a box in 
her hand. Her son-in-law staggered after her with a table 
on his shoulder. 



A STOLEN CHRISTMAS, 



333 



" Don't you go in again, mother," sard he. 

There were other men helping to carry out the goods, 
and they chimed in. " No," cried they ; " 'tain't safe. 
Don't you go in again. Mis' Ely !" 

Margret ran up to her. " Them curtains," gasped she, 
" an' the parlor carpet, have they got them out ?" 

"Oh, I dun know — I dun know! I'm afraid they am't. 
Oh, they ain't got nothin' out! Everything all burnin' up i 
Oh, dear me ! oh, dear ! Where be you goin'?" 

Marg'ret had rushed past her into the house. She was 
going into the parlor, when a man caught hold of her. 
"Where are you going?" he shouted. " Clear out of this." 

"I'm a-goin' to git out them lace curtains an' the carpet." 

" It ain't any use. We stayed in there just as long as we 
could, trying to get the carpet up; but we couldn't stand 
it any longer ; it's chock full of smoke." The man shouted 
it out, and pulled her along with him at the same time. 
" There !" said he, when they were out in the road ; " look 
at that." There was a flicker of golden fire in one of 
the parlor windows. Then those lace curtains blazed. 
"There!" said the man again : "I told you it wasn't any 
use." 

Marg'ret turned on him. There were many other men 
within hearing. " Well, I wouldn't tell of it," said she, in 
a loud voice. " If I was a pack of stout, able-bodied men, 
and couldn't ha' got out them curtains an' that carpet afore 
they burnt up, I wouldn't tell of it." 

Flora and the children had been taken into one of the 
neighboring houses. Mrs. Ely still stood out in the rreez- 
ing air, clutching her box and wailing. Her son-in-law 
was trying hard to persuade her to go into the house where 
her daughter was. 



334 ^ STOLEN CHRISTMAS. 

Marg'ret joined them. " I would go if I was you, Misf 
Ely," said she. 

" No, I ain't goin'. I don't care where I be. I'll stay 
right here in the road. Oh, dear me !" 

"Don't take on so." 

" I ain't got a thing left but jest my best cap here. I 
did git that out. Oh, dear ! oh, dear ! everything's burnt up 
but jest this cap. It's all I've got left. I'll jest put it on 
an' set right down here in the road an' freeze to death. 
Nobody '11 care. Oh, dear ! dear! dear!" 

"Oh, don't, Mis' Ely." Marg'ret, almost rigid herself 
with the cold, put her hand on the other woman's arm. 
Just then the roof of the burning house fell in. There was 
a shrill wail from the spectators. 

" Do come, mother," Sam begged when they stood staring 
for a moment. 

"Yes, do go. Mis' Ely," said Marg'ret. "You mustn't 
feel so." 

" It's easy 'nough to talk," said Mrs. Ely. " 'Tain't your 
house ; an' if 'twas, you wouldn't had much to lose — nothin* 
but a passel of old wooden cheers an' tables." 

" I know it," said Marg'ret. 

Finally Mrs. Ely was started, and Marg'ret hurried home. 
She thought suddenly of the children and the money. But 
the children had not waked in all the tumult, and the 
money was where she had left it. She did not go to bed 
again, but sat over the kitchen stove thinking, with her 
elbows on her knees, until morning. When morning came 
she had laid out one plan of action. 

That afternoon she took some of her money, went up to 
Mr. White's store, and bought some Nottingham-lace cur- 
tains like the ones her neighbors had lost. They Were off 
the same piece. 



A STOLEN CHRISTMAS. 335 

That evening she went to call on Mrs. Ely, and presented 
them. She had tried to think that she might send the par- 
cel anonj'mously — leave it on the door-step ; but she could 
not. 

" 'Twon't mortify me so much as 'twill the other way," 
said she, " an' I'd ought to be mortified." 

So she carried the curtains, and met with a semblance 
of gratitude and a reality of amazement and incredulity 
which shamed her beyond measure. 

After she got home that night she took up the Bible, then 
laid it down. " Here I've been talkin' and worryin' about 
gettin' up a higher notch," said she, *' an' kind of despisin' 
Mis' Ely when I see her on one. Mis' Ely wouldn't have 
stole. I ain't nothin' 'side of her now, an' I never can be." 

The scheme which Marg'ret had laid to confront Mrs. 
White was never carried out. Her defiant spirit had failed 
her. 

One day she was there and begged for work again. 
" I'm willin' to do 'most anything," said she. " I'll come 
an' do your washin', or anything, an' I don't want no pay." 

Mrs. White was going away the next day, and she had no 
work to give the old woman ; but she offered her some fuel 
and some money. 

Marg'ret looked at her scornfully. "I've got money 
enough, thank ye," said she. " My son sends me five dol- 
lars a week." 

The other woman stared at her with amazement. She 
told her husband that night that she believed Marg'ret 
Poole was getting a little unsettled. She did not know 
what to make of her. 

Not long after that Marg'ret went into Mr. White's store, 
and slyly laid some money on the counter. She knew it 



336 A STOLEN CHRISTMAS. 

to be enough to cover the cost of the articles she had stolen. 
Then she went away and left it there. 

That night she went after her Bible. " I declare I will 
read it to-night," muttered she. "I've paid for 'em." She 
stood eying it. Suddenly she began to cry. "Oh, dear!" 
she groaned; "I can't There don't anything do any 
good— the lace curtains, nor payin' for 'em, nor nothin'. I 
dun know what I shall do." 

She looked at the clock. It was about nine. "He 
won't be gone yet," said she. She stood motionless, think- 
ing. " If I'm goin' to-night, I've got to," she muttered. 
Still she did not start for a while longer. When she did, 
there was no more hesitation. No argument could have 
stopped Marg'ret Poole, in her old hood and shawl, pushing 
up the road, fairly started on her line of duty. When she 
got to the store she went in directly. The heavy door 
slammed to, and the glass panels clattered. Mr. White was 
alone in the store. He was packing up some goods pre- 
paratory to closing. Marg'ret went straight up to him, and 
laid a package before him on the counter. 

" I brought these things back," said she ; " they belong 
to you." 

" Why, what is it ?" said Mr. White, wonderingly. 

•" Some things I stole last Christmas for the children." 

"What!" 

" I stole 'em." 

She untied the parcel, and began taking out the things 
one by one. " They're all here but the candy," said she ; 
"the children ate that up; an' Aggie bit the head off this 
pink cat the other day. Then they've jammed this little 
horse consider'ble. But I brought 'em all back." 

Mr. White was an elderly, kind-faced man. He seemed 



A STOLEN CHRISTMAS. 337 

slowly paling with amazement as he stared at her and the 
articles she was displaying. 

" You say you stole them ?" said he. 

" Yes ; I stole 'em." 

" When ?" 

" The night afore Christmas." 

" Didn't Henry give 'em to you?" 

"No." 

"Why, I told him to," said Mr. White, slowly. "I did 
the things up for you myself that afternoon. I'd seen you 
looking kind of wishful, you know, and I thought I'd make 
you a present of them. I left the bundle on the counter 
when I went to supper, and told Henry to tell you to take 
it, and I supposed he did." 

Marg'ret stood staring. Her mouth was open, her hands 
were clinched. " I dun know — what you mean," she gasped 
out at length. 

" I mean you ain't been stealing as much as you thought 
you had," said Mr. White. " You just took your own bun- 
dle." 
t22 



LIFE-EVERLASTIN*. 

** Ain't that your sister goin' 'long the other side of the 
street, Mis' Ansel ?" 

Mrs. Ansel peered, scowling — the sun was in her face. 
"Yes, that's her." 

" She's got a basket. I guess she's been somewheres." 

" She's been somewheres after life-everlastin' blossoms. 
They keep forever, you know. She's goin' to make a pil- 
low for old Oliver Weed's asthma ; he's real bad off." 

*' So I've heard. I declare it makes me all out of pa- 
tience, folks that have got as much money as them Weeds 
have, not havin' a doctor an* havin' something done. I 
don't believe his wife amounts to much in sickness either." 

" I guess she don't either. I could tell a few things if it 
wa'n't for talkin' against my neighbors. I tell Luella if 
she's mind to be such a fool as to slave for folks that's got 
plenty to do for themselves with, she can. I want to know, 
now, Mis' Slate, if you think this bonnet is big enough for 
me. Does it set fur enough onto my head .^" 

" It sets jest as fur on as the fashion, Mis' Ansel, an' a 
good deal further on than some. I wish you could see 
some of 'em." 

" Well, I s'pose this ain't a circumstance to some, but it 
looks dreadful odd to me." 



J 



LIFE-EVERLASTIAT. 339 

" Of course it looks a little odd at first, you've wore your 
bonnets so much further forward. You might twist up 
your hair a little higher if you was a mind to ; that would 
tip it forward a little ; but it ain't a mite too fur back for 
the fashion." 

*' Land ! I can't do my hair any different from what I 
always do it, bonnet or no bonnet." 

"You might friz your hair a little more in front; the 
hair ought to be real fluffy an' careless with this kind of a 
bonnet. Let me fix it a little." 

Mrs. Ansel stood still before the glass while Mrs. Slate 
fixed her hair. She smiled a faint, foolish smile, and her 
homely face had the same expression as a pretty one on 
seeing itself in a new bonnet. Mrs. Ansel had never 
known that her face was homely. She was always pleased 
and satisfied with anything that was her own, ind posses- 
sion was to her the law of beauty. 

Mrs. Slate, the milliner, was shorter than she. She 
stretched up, cocked her head, and twisted her mouth to 
one side with a superior air while she arranged her cus- 
tomer's thin front locks. Finally they lay tossed loose- 
ly over her flat, shiny forehead. "There," said the milli- 
ner; "that looks a good deal better. You see what you 
think." 

Mrs. Ansel surveyed herself in the glass ; her smile deep- 
ened. "Yes, it does look better, I guess." 
" " It's what I call a real stylish bonnet. You wouldn't 
be ashamed to wear it to meetin' anywhere, I don't care if 
it was in Boston or New York. I tell you what 'tis, Mis' 
Ansel, your sister would look nice in this kind of a bon- 
net" The milliner's prominent nose sloped her profile out 
sharply in the centre, like the beak of a bird ; her little 



340 



LIFE-E VERLASTIN' 



hands were skinny as claws, and restless; she always 
smiled, and her voice was subdued. 

Mrs. Ansel still looked fondly at herself, but her tone 
changed ; she sighed. " Yes, Luella would look good in 
it," said she. " I don't know as it would be quite so be- 
comin' to her as it is to me ; she never looked so well with 
anything that set back ; but I guess she'd look pretty good 
in it. But I don't know when Luella's had a new bonnet, 
Mis' Slate. Of course she don't need any, not goin' to 
meetin' or anything." 

" She don't ever go to meetin', does she ?" 

" No ; she ain't been for twenty-five years. I feel bad 
'nough about it. It seems to me sometimes if Luella 
would jest have a pretty new bonnet, an' go to meetin' 
Sabbath-days like other folks, I wouldn't ask for anything 
else." 

" It must be a dreadful trial to you, Mis' Ansel." 

"You don't know anything about it, Mis' Slate. You 
think there's bows enough on it, don't you ?" 

"Oh, plenty. I was speakin' to Jennie the other day 
about your sister — " 

" An' the strings ain't too long ?" 

"Not a mite. You ain't never had a bonnet that be- 
come you any better than this does. Mis' Ansel. To tell 
the truth, I think you look a little better in it than you did 
in your summer one." 

Mrs. Ansel began taking off the new bonnet, untying the 
crisp ribbon strings tenderly. "Well, I don't know but it's 
all right," said she. 

" I'll get some paper an' do it up," said the milliner. 
" I ain't 'fraid but what you'll like it when you get used to 
it. You've always got to get used to anything new." 



LIFE-EVERLASTIir. 341 

When Mrs. Ansel had gone down the street, delicately 
holding the new bonnet in its soft tissue wrapper, the mil- 
liner went into her little back room. There was one win- 
dow in the room, and a grape-vine hung over it. A girl 
with fair hair and a delicately severe profile sat sewing by 
the window, with the grape-vine for a background. 

"Well, I'm thankful that woman has gone," said the 
milliner. " I never saw such a fuss." 

The girl said nothing. She nodded a little coldly, that 
was all. 

" Are you puttin' in that linin' full enough ?" 

"It's all she brought." 

"Oh, well, you can't do any better, then, of course. 
P'rhaps I hadn't ought to speak so about Mis' Ansel ; she's 
a real nice woman ; all is, she's kind of tryin' sometimes 
when anybody feels nervous. It's as hard work to get a 
bonnet onto her head that suits her as it would be if she 
was a queen ; but after she once gets it she's settled on 
it, that's one comfort. She's a real nice woman, and I 
shouldn't want you to repeat what I said, Clara." 

" I sha'n't say anything." There was a kind of mild 
hauteur about the girl that made the milliner color and 
twitch embarrassingly. She took a bonnet off the table 
and fell to work ; but soon some one entered the shop, and 
she arose again. 

Presently she was whispering over the counter to the 
customer that she had Clara Vinton working for her now ; 
that she was a nice girl, but she'd acted dreadful kind of 
stiff somehow ever since the minister had been going with 
her, and she wasn't much company for her ; but she didn't 
want her to say anything about it, for she was a real nice 
girl. 



I 



342 LIFE-EVERLASTIN\ 

"I see Mis' Ansel goin' home with her new bonnet/ 
remarked the customer. 

" Yes ; she jest went out with it." 

When she reached home she found her sister, Luella 
Norcross, sitting on the door-step. 

Luella followed her sister into the house. It was quite 
a smart house. Mrs. Ansel loved to furbish it, and she 
had a little income of her own. There were no dull colors 
anywher-e ; the walls gleamed with gold paper, and the car- 
pets were brilliant. 

Luella sat in the sitting-room and waited, while her sis- 
ter went for a sheet which she had promised her. The 
mantel-shelf was marble, and there were some tall gilded 
glass vases on it. The stove shone like a mirror ; there 
was a bright rug before it, and over on the table stood a 
lamp, whose shade was decorated with roses. 

Luella plunged her hand down into the mass of everlast- 
ing flowers in her basket ; the soft, healing fragrance came 
up in her face. " TheyVe packed pretty solid," she mut- 
tered. "I guess there's enough." 

When Mrs. Ansel returned with the sheet she was frown- 
ing. "There," said she, "I can't hunt no more to-night. 
I've had every identical thing out of that red chist, an^ 
that's all I can seem to see. I don't know whether there's 
any more or not ; if there is, you'll have to wait till I ain't 
jest home from down street, and can hunt better'n I can 
to-night. " 

Luella unfolded the sheet and examined it "Oh, well, 
this is pretty good ; it '11 make three, I guess. I'll wait, 
and maybe you'll come across the others some time." 

" You'll have to wait if you have 'em. Did you see the 
new lamp ?" 



L1FE'EVERLASTIN\ 343 

" Well, no, I didn't notice it, as I know of. That it ?' 

"You ain't been sittin' right here an' never seen that 
new lamp ?" 

" I guess I must have been lookin* at somethin' else." 

"I never see such a woman ! Anything like that sittin' 
right there before your face an' eyes, an' you never pay any 
attention to it! I s'pose if I had Bunker Hill Monument 
posted up here in the middle of the sittin'-room, you'd set 
right down under it an' think, an' never notice there was 
anything uncommon." 

"It's a pretty lamp — ain't it?" 

" It's real handsome." Luella arose and gathered her 
shawl about her; she had laid the folded sheet over the 
top of her basket. 

"Wait a minute," said Mrs. Ansel; "you ain't seen my 
new bonnet." 

Luella rested her basket on the chair, and stood pa- 
tiently while her sister took the bonnet out of the wrapper 
and adjusted it before the looking-glass. 

"There!" said she, turning around, "what do you think 
ofit.>" 

" I should think it was real pretty." 

" You don't think it sets too far back, do you ?" 

"I shouldn't think it did." 

" Shouldn't you rather have this changeable ribbon than 
plain ?" 

" Seems to me I should." Luella's voice had unmis- 
takably an abstracted drawl. 

Her sister turned on her. "You don't act no more as 
if you cared anything about my new bonnet than you would 
if I was the pump with a new tin dipper on the top of it," 
said she. " If I was you I'd act a little more like other 



344 LIFE-E VERLASTIN\ 

folks, or I'd give up. It's bad enough for you to go 'round 
lookin' like a scarecrow yourself; you might take a little 
interest in what your own sister has to wear." 

Luella said nothing ; she gathered up her basket of ever- 
lasting blossoms again. 

Her sister paused and eyed her fiercely for a second ; 
then she continued : " For my part, I'm ashamed," said 
she — " mortified to death. It was only this afternoon that 
I heard somebody speakin' about it. Here you've been 
wearin' that old black bonnet, that you had when father 
died, all these years, an' never goin' to meetin'. If you'd 
only have a decent new bonnet — I don't know as you'd 
want one that sets quite so far back as this one — an' 
go to meetin' like other folks, there'd be some sense 
in it." 

Luella, her basket on her arm, started for the door. Al- 
though her shoulders were round, she carried her hand- 
some head in a stately fashion. "We've talked this over 
times enough," said she. 

" Here you are roamin' the woods an' pastures Sabbath- 
days in that old bonnet, an' jest as likely as not to meet all 
the folks goin' to meetin'. What do you s'pose I care about 
havin' a new bonnet if I meet you gettin' along in that old 
thing — my own sister?" 

Luella marched out of the house. When she was nearly 
out of the yard her sister ran to the door and called after 
her. "Luella," said she. 

The stately figure paused, but did not turn around. 
"What is it?" 

"Look here a minute," said Mrs. Ansel, mysteriously; 
■' I want to tell you something." 

Luella stepped back, her sister bent forward—she still 



LIFE-EVERLASTIir, 345 

had on the new bonnet—" I went into Mis* Plum's on my 
way down street," said she, "an' she said the minister 
wanted to marry the Vinton girl, but she won't have him, 
'cause there ain't no parsonage, an' she don't think there's 
'nough to live on. Mis' Plum says she thinks she shows 
her sense ; he don't have but four hundred a year, an' 
there'd be a lot of children, the way there always is in 
poor ministers' families, an' nothin' to keep 'em on. Mis' 
Plum says she heard he applied to the church to see if they 
wouldn't give him a parsonage ; he didn't know but they'd 
hire that house of yours that's next to the meetin'-house ; 
but they wouldn't ; they say they can't afford it." 

" I shouldn't think four hundred dollars was much if 
preachin' was worth anything," remarked Luella. 

"Oh, well, it does very well for you to talk when you 
don't give anything for preachin'." 

Luella again went out of the yard. She was in the 
street when her sister called her again. 

"Look 'round here a minute." 

Luella looked. 

" Do you think it sets too far back?" 

" No, I don't think it does," Luella answered, loudly, 
then she kept on down the road. She had not far to go. 
The house where she lived stood at the turn of the road, 
on a gentle rise of ground ; next to it was the large un- 
occupied cottage which she owned ; next to tnat was the 
church. Luella lived in the old Norcross homestead ; her 
grandfather had built it. It was one of those old build- 
ings which aped the New England mansion-houses without 
once approaching their solid state. It settled unevenly 
down into its place. Its sparse front yard was full of ever- 
greens, lilac bushes, and phlox ,: its windows, gleaming with 



34j6 LIFE-EVERLASTIN\ 

green lights, were awry, and all its white clapboards were 
out of plumb. 

Luella went around to the side door : the front one was 
never used — indeed, it was swollen and would not open — 
and the front walk was green. The side door opened into 
a little square entry. On one side was the sitting-room, on 
the other the kitchen. Luella went into the kitchen, and 
an old woman rose up from a chair by the stove. She was 
small as a child, but her muscles were large, her flaxen hair 
was braided lightly, her round blue eyes were filmy, and 
she grinned constantly without speaking. 

"Got the cleanin' done, 'Liza.?" asked Luella. The old 
woman nodded, and her grin widened. She was called 
foolish ; her humble capabilities could not diffuse them- 
selves, but were strong in only one direction : she could 
wash and scrub, and in that she took delight. Luella har- 
bored her, fed and clothed her, and let her practise her one 
little note of work. 

After Luella had taken off her bonnet and shawl, she 
went to work preparing supper. The old woman was not 
smart enough to do that. She sat watching her. When 
Luella set the tea-pot on the stove and cut the bread, she 
fairly crowed like a baby. 

•" Maria offered me a piece of her new apple-pie an' a 
piece of sage-cheese," remarked Luella, " but I wouldn't 
take it. If I'm a mind to stint myself and pay up Joe 
Perry's rent it's nobody's business, but I ain t goin' to be 
mean enough to live on other folks to do it." 

The old woman grinned as she ate. Luella had fallen 
into the habit of talking quite confidentially to her, unre- 
ciprocative as she was. 

After supper Luella put away the tea-things^ -that was 



LIFE-E VERLASTIN\ 347 

too fine work for the old woman — then she lighted her sit- 
ting-room lamp, and sat down there to make the case for 
the life-everlasting pillow. The old woman crept in after 
her, and sat by the stove in a little chair, holding her sod- 
den hands in her lap. 

" I hope to goodness this pillow will help him some," 
said Luella. "They're real good for asthma. Mother 
used to use 'em." She sewed with strong jerks. The old 
man for whom she was making the pillow was rich in the 
village sense, and miserly. Ill as he sometimes was, he 
and his wife would not call in a doctor on account of the 
expense ; they scarcely kept warm and fed themselves. 
Public opinion was strong against them ; very little pity 
was given to the feeble old man ; but Luella viewed it all 
with a broad charity which was quite past the daily horizon 
of the village people. " I don't care if they are rich an' 
able to buy things themselves, we hadn't ought to let 'em 
suffer," she argued. " Mebbe they can't help bein' close 
any more'n we can help somethin' we've got. It's a failin', 
and folks ought to help folks with failin's, I don't care what 
they are." So Luella Norcross made broth and gruel, and 
carried them in to old Oliver Weed, and even gave him 
some of her dry cedar-wood ; and people said she was as 
foolish as old Eliza. All the bwrly whining tramps, and 
beseeching pedlars of unsalable wares, who came to the 
village, flocked to her door, sure of a welcome. 

On a summer's day the tramps sat on her door-step, and 
ate their free lunches, in winter they ate them comfortably 
by the kitchen fire. Many a time her barn and warm hay- 
mow harbored them over a cold stormy night. 

" Might jest as well stick out a sign, * Tramps' Tavern,' 
on the barn, an' done with it," Mrs. Ansel said. " If you 



54^ 



LIFE-E VERLASTIN\ 



don't get set on fire some night by them miserable sneakirf 
tramps, I miss my guess." 

But she never did, and the tramp slouched peaceably 
out of her yard, late in the frosty morning, after she had 
given him a good breakfast in the warm kitchen. 

There was an old pedlar of essences who came regularly, 
and she always bought of him, although his essences were 
poor, and her cake scantily flavored in consequence. Him 
she often lodged in her nice spare chamber, although she 
distrusted his cleanliness, and she and old Eliza had much 
scrubbing to do thereafter. 

Luella even traded faithfully with a sly- eyed Italian 
woman, who went about, bent to one side by a great basket 
of vases and plaster images. " You'd ought to be ashamed 
of yourself encouragin' such folks," Mrs. Ansel remon- 
strated, " she's jest as miserable an' low as she can be." 

" I don't care how low she is," said Luella. " She's 
keepin' one commandment sellin' plaster images to get 
her livin', an' I'm a-goin' to help her." 

And Luella crowded the little plaster flower girls and 
fruit boys together on the sitting-room shelf, to make room 
for the new little shepherdess. 

This very day she had been visited by an old broken- 
down minister, who often stood at her door, tall and trem- 
ulous in his shiny black broadcloth, with a heavy bag of 
undesirable books. There were some hanging shelves in 
Luella's sitting-room which were filled with these books, 
but to-day she had bought another. 

"There ain't room on the shelves for another one, but I 
s'pose I can stow it away somewhere," she told Eliza, after 
he had gone. " I've give away all I can seem to. The 
book ain't very interestin'." 



LIFE-E VERLAST1N\ 



349 



Luella usually lodged the book agent over night, when 
he came to the village, although he also had his failings. 
Many a night she was awakened by the creaking of the 
cellar-stairs, when the old minister crept down stealthily, 
a lamp balanced unsteadily in his shaking hand, to the 
cider-barrel. She would listen anxiously until she heard 
him return to his room, then get up and look about and 
sniff for fire. 

There was not a woman in the village who had so many 
blessings, worth whatever they might be, offered to her. If 
she was not in full orthodox flavor among the respectable 
part of the town, her fame was bright among the poor 
and maybe lawless element, whom she befriended. They 
showed it by their shuffling footprints thick in her yard, 
and the frequency of their petitions at her door. It was 
the only way in which they could show it. The poor can 
show their love and gratitude only by the continual out- 
reaching of their hands. 

This evening, while Luella sewed on her life-everlasting 
pillow, and the old woman sat grinning in the corner, there 
was a step in the yard. Luella laid down her work, and 
I looked at Eliza, and listened. The step came steadily up the 
\ drive ; the shoes squeaked. Luella took up her work again. 
.! " I know who 'tis," said she. " It's the book man ; his 

S shoes squeak just that way, an' I told him he'd better come 
back here to-night an' stay over. It saves him payin' for 
I iQdgin'." 
1 There came a sharp knock on the side door. 

"You go let him in, 'Liza," said Luella. 
j The old woman patted out of the room. Presently she 
d looked in again, and her grin was a broad laugh. " It's 
'I the minister," she chuckled. 



350 LIFE-EVERLAST1N\ 

Luella arose and went herself. There in the entry stood 
a young man, short and square-shouldered, with a pleasant 
boyish face. He looked bravely at Luella, and tried to 
speak with suave fluency, but his big hands twitched at the 
ends of his short coat sleeves. 

" Good-evening, Miss Norcross, good-evening," said he. 

" Oh, it's you, Mr. Sands !" said Luella. " Good-evenin*. 
Walk in an' be seated." 

Luella herself was a little stiff. She pushed forward the 
big black-covered rocking-chair for the minister, then she 
sat down herself, and took up her sewing. 

" It is a charming evening," remarked the minister. 

" I thought it seemed real pleasant when I looked out 
after supper," said Luella. 

She and the minister spoke about the conditions of 
several of the parish invalids, they spoke about a fire 
and a funeral which had taken place that week, and all 
the time there was a constraint in their manners. Finally 
there was a pause ; then the minister burst out. A blush 
flamed out to the roots of his curly hair. He tried to make 
his voice casual, but it slipped into his benediction ca' 
dences. 

" I don't see you at church very often. Miss Norcross," 
said he. 

" You don't see me at all," returned Luella. 

The minister tried to smile. " Well, maybe that is a lit- 
tle nearer the truth, Miss Norcross." 

Luella sewed a few stitches on her life-everlasting pillow ; 
then she laid it down in her lap, straightened herself, and 
looked at the minister. Her deep-set blue eyes seemed to 
see every atom of him ; her noble forehead even, from 
which the gray hair was pulled well back, and which was 



LIFE'E VERLASTIN\ 35 1 

scarcely lined, seemed to front him with a kind of visual 
power of its own. 

" I may just as well tell you the truth, Mr. Sands," said 
she, "an' we may just as well come to the point at once. 
I know what you've come for ; my sister told me you was 
comin' to see about my not going to meetin'. Well, I'll 
tell you once for all, I'm just as much obliged to you, but 
it won't do any good. I've made up my mind I ain't goin' 
to meetin', an' I've got good reasons." 

" Would you mind giving them, Miss Norcross ?" 

"I ain't going to argue." 

" But just giving me a few of your reasons wouldn't be ar- 
guing." The young man had now acquired the tone which 
he wished. He smiled on Luella with an innocent patronage, 
and crossed his legs. Luella thought he looked very young. 

" The fact is," said she, " I'm not a believer, an' I won't 
be a hypocrite. That's all there is about it." 

The minister looked at her. It was the first time he had 
encountered an outspoken doubter, and it was for a minute 
to him as if he faced one of the veritable mediaeval dragons 
of the church. This simple and untutored village agnostic 
filled him with amazement and terror. When he spoke it 
was not to take up the argument for the doctrine, but to 
turn its gold side, as it were, towards his opponent, in 
order to persuade belief. " Your soul's salvation — do you 
never think of that?" he queried, solemnly. "You know 
heaven and your soul's salvation depend upon it." 

" I ain't never worried much about my soul's salvation," 
said Luella. " I've had too many other souls to think 
about. An' it seems to me I'd be dreadful piggish to make 
goin' to heaven any reason for believin' a thing that ain't 
Teasonable." 



352 LIFE-EVERLASTIir, 

The minister made a rally ; he remembered one of the 
things he had planned to say. " But you've read the New 
Testament, Miss Norcross," said he, " and you must admit 
that ' never man spake like this man.' When you read the 
words of Christ you must see that there was never any man 
like him." 

" I know there wa'n't," said Luella, " that's jest the rea- 
son why the whole story don't seem sensible." 

The minister gave a kind of a gasp. "But you believe 
in God, don't you, Miss Norcross ?" said he. 

" I ain't a fool," replied Luella. She arose with a de- 
cided air. "Do you like apples, Mr. Sands?" said she. 

The minister gasped again, and assented. 

" I've got some real nice sweet ones and some Porters," 
said Luella, in a cheerful tone, " an' I'm goin' to get you a 
plate of 'em, Mr. Sands." 

Luella went out and got the plate of apples, and the 
minister began eating them. He felt uneasily that it 
was his duty to reopen the argument. " If you believe in 
God — " he began. 

But Luella shook her head at him as if she were his 
mother. " I'd rather not argue any more," said she. " Try 
that big Porter ; I guess it's meller." And the minister ate 
his apples with enjoyment. Luella filled his pockets with 
some when he went home. " He seems like a real good 
young man," she said to old Eliza after the minister had 
gone; "an' that Vinton girl would make him jest the kind 
of a wife he'd ought to have. She's real up an' comin , an' 
she'd prop him up firm on his feet. I s'pose if I let him 
have that house he'd be tickled 'most to death. I'd kind 
of 'lotted on the rent of it, but I s'pose I could get along." 

The old woman grinned feebly. She had been asleep in 



LIFE-EVERLASTIN\ 353 

her corner, and her blue eyes looked dimmer than ever. 
She comprehended not a word ; but that did not matter to 
Luella, who had fallen into the habit of utilizing her as 
a sort of spiritual lay-figure upon which to drape her own 
ideas. 

The next morning, about nine o'clock, she carried the 
pillow, which she had finished and stuffed with the life 
everlasting blossoms, to old Oliver Weed's. The house 
stood in a wide field, and there were no other houses very 
near. The grass was wet with dew, and all the field was 
sweet in the morning freshness. Luella, carrying her life- 
everlasting pillow before her, went over the fragrant path 
to the back door. She noticed as she went that the great 
barn doors were closed. 

" Queer the barn ain't open," she thought to herself. " I 
wonder what John Gleason's about, late as this in the 
mornin'?" 

John Gleason was old Oliver Weed's hired man. He had 
been a tramp. Luella herself had fed him, and let him sleep 
off a drunken debauch in her barn once. People had won- 
dered at Oliver Weed's hiring him, but he had to pay him 
much less than the regular price for farm hands. 

Luella heard the cows low in the barn as she opened the 
kitchen door. "Where — did all that — blood come from?" 
said she. 

She began to breathe in quick gasps ; she stood clutching 
her pillow, and looking. Then she called: "Mr. Weed! 
Mr. Weed ! Where be you ? Mis' Weed ! Is anything the 
matter? Mis' Weed !" The silence seemed to beat ao^ainst 
her ears. She went across the kitchen to the bedroom. 
Here and there she held back her dress. She reached the 
bedroom door, and looked in. 
23 



354 LIFE'EVERLASTIN\ 

Luella pressed back across the kitchen into the yard. She 
went out into the road, and turned towards the village. She 
still carried the life-everlasting pillow, but she carried it as 
if her arms and that were all stone. She met a woman 
whom she knew, and the woman spoke ; but Luella did not 
notice her ; she kept on. The woman stopped and looked 
after her. 

Luella went to the house where the sheriff lived, and 
knocked. The sheriff himself opened the door. He was 
a large, pleasant man. He began saying something facetious 
about her being out calling early, but Luella stopped him. 

" You'd — better go up to the — Weed house," said she, in 
a dry voice. " There's some — trouble." 

The sheriff started. " Why, what do you mean, Luella?'* 

" The old man an' his wife are — both killed. I went in 
there to carry this, an* — I saw them." 

" My God !" said the sheriff. He caught up his hat, and 
started on a run to the barn for his horse. 

The sheriff's wife and daughter pressed forward and plied 
Luella with horrified questions ; they urged her to come in 
and rest, she looked so pale ; but she said little, and turned 
towards home. Flying teams passed her on the road ; men 
rushed up behind her and questioned her. When she 
reached the Weed house the field seemed black with people. 
When she got to her own house she went into the sitting- 
room and sat down. She felt faint. She did not think of 
lying down ; she never did in the daytime. She leaned her 
head back in her chair and turned her face towards the yard. 
Everything out there, the trees, the grass, the crowding ranks 
of daisies, the next house, looked strange, as if another light 
than that of the sun was on them. But she somehow no- 
ticed even then how a blind on the second floor of the house 



LIFE'EVERLASTIN\ 355 

was shut that had been open. " I wonder how that come 
shut?" she muttered, feebly. 

Pretty soon her sister, Mrs. Ansel, came hurrying in. She 
was wringing her hands. "Oh, ain't it awful? ain't it aw- 
ful ?" she cried. " Good land, Luella, how you look ! You'll 
faint away. I'm goin' to mix you up some peppermint be- 
fore I do another thing." 

Mrs. Ansel made a cup of hot peppermint tea for her, and 
she drank it. 

" Now tell me all about it," said Mrs. Ansel. " What did 
you see first ? What was you goin' in there for ?" 

" To carry the pillow," said Luella, pointing to it. " I 
can't talk about it, Maria." 

Mrs. Ansel went over to the lounge and took up the pil- 
low. " Mercy sakes ! what's that on it ?" she cried, in 
horror. 

" I — s'pose I — hit it against the wall somehow," replied 
Luella. "I can't talk about it, Maria." 

Mrs. Ansel could not learn much from her sister. Pres- 
ently she left, and lingered slowly past the Weed house, to 
which her curiosity attracted her, but which her terror and 
horror would not let her approach closely. 

The peppermint revived Luella a little. After a while 
she got up and put on the potatoes for dinner. Old Eliza 
was scrubbing the floor. When dinner was ready she ate 
all the potatoes, and Luella sat back and looked at her. 

■AH the afternoon people kept coming to the bouse and 
questioning her, and exclaiming with horror. It seemed to 
Luella that her own horror was beyond exclamations. There 
was no doubt in the public mind that the murderer was the 
hired man, John Gleason. He was nowhere to be found j 
the constables and detectives were searching fiercely for himc 



356 LIFE-EVERLASTIN\ 

That night when Luella went to bed she stood at hei- 
chamber window a minute, looking out. It was bright 
moonlight. Her window faced the unoccupied house, and 
she noticed again how the blind was shut. 

"It's queer," she thought, "for that blind wouldn't stay 
shut ; the fastenin' wa'n't good." As she looked, the blind 
swung slowly open. " The wind is jest swingin' it back and 
forth," she thought. Then she saw distinctly the chamber 
window open, a dark arm thrust out, and the blind closed 
again. 

^^ He's in there,^' said Luella. She had put out her lamp. 
She went down-stairs in the dark, and made sure that all the 
doors and windows were securely fastened. She even put 
chairs and tables against them. Then she went back to her 
chamber, dressed herself, and watched the next house. She 
did not stir until morning. The next day there was a cold 
rain. The search for John Gleason continued, the whole 
village was out, and strange officials were driving through 
the streets. Everybody thought that the murderer had es- 
caped to Canada, taking with him the money which he had 
stolen from the poor old man's strong-box under his bed. 

All the day long Luella watched the next house through 
the gray drive of the rain. About sunset she packed a 
bisket with food, stole across to the house, and set it in the 
corner of the door. She got back before a soul passed on 
the road. She had set Eliza at a task away from the 
windows. 

The moon rose earlj\ After supper Luella sat again in 
her chamber without any lamp and watched. About nine 
o'clock she saw the door of the next house swing open a lit- 
tle, and the basket was drawn in. 

** jfir<f'j in there" said Luella. She went down and fastened 



LIFE'EVERLASTIN\ 



357 



up the house as she had done the night before. Old Eliza 
went peacefully to bed, and she watched again. She put a 
coverlid over her shoulders, and sat, all huddled up, peer- 
ing out. The rain had stopped ; the wall of the next house 
shone like silver in the moonlight. She watched until the 
moon went down and until daylight came ; then she went to 
bed, and slept an hour. 

After breakfast that morning she set old Eliza at a task, 
and went up to her chamber again. She sank down on her 
knees beside the bed. " O God," said she, " have I got to 
give him up — have I? Have I got to give him up to be 
hung? What's goin' to become of him then? Wherell he 
go to when he's been so awful wicked ? Oh, what shall I 
do ? Here he is a-takin' my vittles, an' comin' to my house, 
an' a-trustin' me !" Luella lifted her arms ; her face was all 
distorted. She seemed to see the whole crew of her pitiful 
dependents crowding around her, and pleading for the poor 
man who had thrown himself upon her mercy. She saw the 
old drunken essence man, the miserable china women, all 
the wretched and vicious tramps and drunkards whom she 
had befriended, pressing up to her, and pleading her to keep 
faith with their poor brother. 

The thought that John Gleason had trusted her, had taken 
that food when he knew that she might in consequence be- 
tray him to the gallows, filled her with a pity that was al- 
most tenderness, and appealed strongly to her loyalty and 
honor. 

On the other hand, she remembered what she had seen in 
the Weed house. The poor old man and woman seemed 
calling to her for help. She reflected upon what she had 
heard the day before : that the detectives were after John 
Gleason for another murder ; this was not the first. She 



358 LIFE-EVERLASTIN\ 

called to mind the danger that other helpless people woulc 
be in if this murderer were at large. Would not their blooc 
be upon her hands? She called to mind the horrible de 
tails of what she had seen, the useless cruelty, and the hor 
ror of it. 

Once she arose with a jerk, and got her bonnet out of the 
closet. Then she put it back, and threw herself down bj 
the bed again. " Oh !" she groaned, " I don't know wha 
to do !" 

Luella shut herself in her own room nearly all day. Sh( 
went down and got the meals, then returned. The sodder 
old woman did not notice anything unusual. At dusk sh( 
watched her chance, and carried over more food, and sh( 
watched and saw it taken in again. 

This night she did not lock the house. All she fastenec 
was old Eliza's bedroom door ; that she locked securely, anc 
hid the key. All the other doors and windows were unfast 
ened, and when she went up-stairs she set the side dooi 
partly open. She set her lamp on the bureau, and lookec 
at her face in the glass. It was white and drawn, and there 
was a desperate look in her deep-set eyes. " Mebbe it's the 
last time I shall ever see my face," said she. " I don'l 
know but I'm awful wicked to give him the chance to dc 
another murder, but I can't give him up. If he comes in 
an' kills me, I sha'n't have to, an' maybe he'll jest take the 
money an' go, an' then I sha'n't have to." 

Luella had two or three hundred dollars in an old wallet 
between her feather-bed and the mattress. She took it out 
and opened it, spreading the bills. Then she laid it on the 
bureau. She took a gold ring off her finger, and unfastened 
her ear-rings and laid them beside it, and a silver watch that 
had belonged to her father. Down-stairs she had arranged 



LIFE-EVERLASTIN\ 359 

the teaspoons and a little silver cream-jug in full sight on 
the kitchen table. 

After the preparations were all made she blew out her 
lamp, folded back the bed-spread, lay down in her clothes, 
and pulled it over her smoothly. She folded her hands and 
lay there. There was not a bolt or a bar between her and 
the murderer next door. She closed her eyes and lay still. 
Every now and then she thought she heard him down-stairs ; 
but the night wore on, and he did not come. At daylight 
Luella arose. She was so numb and weak that she could 
scarcely stand. She put away the money and the jewelry, 
then she went down-stairs and kindled the kitchen fire and 
got breakfast. The silver was on the table just as she had 
left it, the door half open, and the cold morning wind com- 
ing in. Luella gave one great sob when she shut the door. 
" He must have seen it," she said, " but he wouldn't do 
nothin' to hurt me, an' I've got to give him up." 

She said no more after that ; she was quite calm getting 
breakfast. After the meal was finished and the dishes 
cleared away she told old Eliza to put on her other dress 
and her bonnet and shawl. She had made up her mind to 
take the old creature with her ; she was afraid to leave her 
alone in the house, with the murderer next door to spy out 
her own departure. 

When the two women were ready they went out of the 
yard, and Luella felt the eyes of John Gleason upon her. 
They went down the road to the village, old Eliza keeping 
3 little behind her mistress. Luella aimed straight for the 
sheriff's house. He drove into the yard as she entered ; he 
had been out all night on a false scent. He stopped when 
he saw Luella, and she came up to him. "John Gleason is 
in that vacant house of mine," said she. He caught at the 



36o LIFE-E VERLASTIN\ 

reins, but she stopped him. "YouVe got to wait long 
enough to give me time to get home, so I sha'n't be right in 
the midst of it, if you've got any mercy," said she, in a loud, 
strained voice. Then she turned and ran. She stopped 
only long enough to tell old Eliza to follow her straight 
home and go at once into the house. She ran through the 
village street like a girl. People came to the windows and 
stared after her. Every minute she fancied she heard 
wheels behind her ; but the sheriff did not come until after 
she had been in the house fifteen minutes, and old Eliza 
also was at home. 

Luella was crouching at her chamber window, peering 
around the curtain, when the sheriff and six men came into 
the yard and surrounded the next house. She had a wild 
hope that John Gleason might not be there, that he might 
have escaped during the night. She watched. The men 
entered, there was the sound of a scuffle and loud voices, 
and then she saw John Gleason dragged out. 

Presently Luella went down-stairs ; she had to keep hold 
of the banister. Old Eliza was gaping at the kitchen win- 
dow. " Come away from that window, 'Liza," said Luella, 
"and wash up the floor right away." Then Luella began 
cleaning potatoes and beets for dinner. 

The next Sunday Luella went to church for the first time 
in twenty-five years. Old Eliza also went shuffling smil- 
ingly up the aisle behind her mistress. Everybody stared. 
Luella paused at her sister's pew, and her brother-in-law 
sat a little while looking at her before he arose to let her in. 

Mrs. Ansel was quite flushed. She pulled her new bon- 
net farther on her head ; she glanced with agitated hauteur 
across her sister at old Eliza ; then her eyes rolled towards 
her sister's bonnet. 



LIFE'EVERLASTIN\ 361 

Presently she touched Luella. " What possessed you to 
bring her, an' come out lookin' so ?" she whispered. " Why 
didn't you get a new bonnet before you came to meetin' ?" 

Luella looked at her in a bewildered fashion for a minute, 
then she set her face towards the pulpit. She listened to 
the sermon ; it had in it some innocent youthful conceits, 
and also considerable honest belief and ardent feeling. 
The minister saw Luella, and thought with a flush of pride 
that his arguments had convinced her. The night before, 
he had received a note from her tendering him the use of 
her vacant house. After the service he pressed forward to 
speak to her. He thanked her for her note, said that he 
was glad to see her out to meeting, and shook her hand 
vehemently. Then he joined Clara Vinton quite openly, 
and the two walked on together. There was quite a little 
procession passing up the street. The way led between 
pleasant cottages with the front yards full of autumn flowers 
— asters and pansies and prince's- feathers. Presently they 
passed a wide stretch of pasture-land where life-everlasting 
flowers grew. Luella walked with an old woman with a 
long, saintly face ; old Eliza followed after. 

Luella's face looked haggard and composed under her 
flimsy black crape frillings. She kept her eyes, with a 
satisfied expression, upon the young minister and the tall 
girl who walked beside him with a grave, stately air. 

" I hear they're goin' to be married," whispered the old 
woman. 

" I guess they are," replied Luella. 
I Just then Clara turned her face, and her fine, stern profile 
showed. 

" She'll make him a good wife, I guess," said the old 
jWoman. She turned to Luella, and her voice had an in- 



362 LIFE'EVERLASTIN\ 

describably shy and caressing tone. "I was real glad to 
see you to meetin' to-day," she whispered. " I knew you'd 
feel like comin' some time; I always said you would." 
She flushed all over her soft old face as she spoke. 

Luella also flushed a little, but her voice was resolute. 
" I ain't got much to say about it, Mis' Alden," said she, 
"but I'm goin' to say this much — it ain't no more'n right I 
should, though I don't believe in a lot of palaver about 
things like this — I've made up my mind that I'm goin' to 
believe in Jesus Christ. I ain't never, but I'm goin' to now, 
for" — Luella's voice turned shrill with passion — ^^ I don'i 
see any other way out of it J or yohn Gleason /" 



I 



AN INNOCENT GAMESTER. 



"Don't stan' there lookin' at me that way, Charlotte." 

" Why, Aunt Lucinda !" 

Lucinda Moss put her slender red fingers over her face. 
"I — didn't think it was — anything out of the — way," she 
sniffed, weakly. 

Charlotte stood before her as relentless and handsome as 
an accusing angel. Her full, strong young figure seemed to 
tower over her aunt ; her firm, rosy face and clear blue eyes 
seemed to spy out her inmost weaknesses like sunlight. *' I 
must say I am surprised," said Charlotte. Her voice was 
loud and even and sweet. Charlotte, no matter how indig- 
nant she might be, never altered her voice. 

" I didn't think it was anything so much out of the way, 
Charlotte." 

" Well, I must say, Aunt Lucinda, I never thought, from 
all I've known of you, that you'd do such a thing as to sit 
down and play cards." 

' Lucinda's eyes, all pink and watery, rested appealingly on 
pharlotte, then on the table before her. Charlotte had on 
1 light cambric gown that displayed a rigor of starch and 
cleanliness. She had worn her white apron in school all 
{iay, but it still flared as stiffly as when she had put it on in 
^he morning. Her brown hair was brushed until it shone ; 



364 ^^ INNOCENT GAMESTER, 

there was not a stray lock anywhere. All this perfect order 
and nicety made her seem more pitiless to her aunt. Lucinda 
shrank weakly down in her chair. She was lean and deli- 
cate, in flimsy old black muslin and a shiny old black silk 
apron. She wore a tumbled muslin kerchief around her 
neck, and had lax, faded curls behind her ears. She looked 
from Charlotte to the table. There was a printed red cloth 
on it, and a row of books piled up against the wall under 
the gilt-framed glass. There was an old-fashioned work-box 
with a gilt ball on each corner, and a little china vase with 
some violets in it. But Lucinda eyed ruefully the objects 
directly before her on the corner of the table. There lay a 
pack of little old-fashioned cards and a large green-covered 
Bible. The cards were scattered about, and some of them 
were tucked under the Bible. 

*' And for you to try to hide the cards under the Bible I" 
continued Charlotte. " I shouldn't have thought you could 
have done that, Aunt Lucinda." 

"It was layin' right there. Fd jest been readin' some in 
it." Lucinda's voice took on a sharper tone. There is a 
wall of limitation for all human patience, and she was being 
crowded against hers. She stood against it, and displayed 
what small defensive powers she had, although her defence 
was principally appeal and excuse. *' I didn't have anything 
to do," she proceeded — "not anything. Td been knittin' 
till I got cramps, an' I read a chapter, an' then I thought 
I'd jest get out the cards. It's dreadful dull sometimes, 
Charlotte." 

" I should think you could find some amusement in your 
own mind," replied Charlotte, with no abatement of se- 
verity. 

Lucinda eyed her in a bewildered way, as if called upon 



• 



AN INNOCENT GAMESTER. 365 

to consider an argument based upon some unknown equa- 
tion. 

" I know perfectly well," continued Charlotte, " that it 
isn't my place to dictate to you, for you are my aunt, and a 
good deal older than I am. But I must say it surprised me 
a good deal to come in and find you playing cards, for I 
wasn't brought up to see them in the house." 

Lucinda sat bolt-upright ; there were hot red spots on her 
cheeks ; one near enough could have seen pulses beating 
here and there through the delicate skin on her neck and 
forehead. " I wa'n't playin' cards," said she. 

*' Why, what were you doing, then 1 I don't know what 
you mean, Aunt Lucinda." 

"Well, I was — I s'pose you'll think I'm dreadful silly, 
Charlotte, but I ain't had much to 'muse me, an' I've kinder 
got in the way of it." 

" For pity's sake, Aunt Lucinda, what are you coming at ?" 
j Charlotte stared at her, and wrinkled her fair high forehead 

in a way she had when perplexed. 
j ** I didn't mean to do anything out of the way, but I s'pose 
I you'll think it was dreadful silly, Charlotte. I was jest tell- 
in' my fortune." 
' "What.?" 

The tears stood in the old woman's eyes. She shook visi- 
bly. In her simple life her little foolishnesses had come to 
I take the place of sins, and she was shamefaced over them 
: as such. " I was jest — tellin' my fortune." 

" I don't believe I know what you mean, Aunt Lucinda." 
1 Charlotte's blue eyes were raised, her round rosy face was 
all furrowed with those lines of perplexity. 

"Why, don't you know, Charlotte.? You can tell your 
fortune with cards. There's a way of doin' it. I learnt it 



366 AN INNOCENT GAMESTER. 

when I was a girl. Didn't you know it?" asked Lucinda, 
with tremulous eagerness. 

" I've heard of it." 

" I s'pose it is kind of silly ; but it's kind of 'musin' some- 
times, when I'm feelin' dull, you know." Lucinda trembled, 
and still kept her eyes fastened upon her niece's face, which 
expressed a calm contempt. 

Presently Lucinda began again, with more stress of ap- 
peal : "I was jest tellin' my fortune, Charlotte; I didn't 
s'pose there was any harm in it. Once in a while I take a 
notion to tell it, jest for the fun of it, you know." 

"I shouldn't think it would be much fun." 

" Well, I dun know as 'tis, Charlotte ; but it's kind of 
'musin' sometimes." 

Charlotte still gazed at her aunt with that look of con- 
temptuous perplexity, and the old woman could not take her 
eyes from her face. 

" It's jest because it's kind of 'musin'," she pleaded again. 
"An' when anybody ain't had any more change than I've 
had 'most all their life, it's kind of comfortin' to spread out 
the cards an' try to calculate if there ain't somethin' differ* 
ent comin'. It don't never come, an' I don't s'pose it's ever 
goin' to ; course I don't put any faith in it, but it's kind of 
'musin'." 

Charlotte turned away, and put her face down to the little 
bunch of violets on the table : one of her scholars had 
brought them to her. " Well, I can't stop to talk any more 
about it," said she. " I must go out and get supper." 

Charlotte righted herself and went out of the room with 
a firm step, and proceeded to get supper ready. She had 
her own ideas about supper, and indeed about all the other 
meals. Lucinda Moss's household plan had been revolu- 



A/^ INNOCENT GAMESTER. 367 

donized since her niece had come to live with her. She had 
no longer any voice in anything, and she had come almost 
to forget what her own original note had been. She was 
growing deprecatory and shamefaced about herself, and she 
no longer openly confessed in many cases her preferences. 
It took some new emergency, like this of the cards, to arouse 
her at all. 

Lucinda had always liked a bit of cold pork, some left- 
over dinner vegetables, some little savory relish, for supper, 
but now she ate a slice of bread-and-butter and a spoonful 
of sauce, and drank a glass of milk. Charlotte had de- 
creed that that was better for her. Lucinda had not even 

i her cup of tea since Charlotte reigned. 

Lucinda had been fond of a rich cup-cake, which she had 
also enjoyed stirring up once a week for herself. She had 
taken an innocent pride in its excellence, and she had 
treated her few callers to it. She had liked a slice of it be- 

; tween meals. But that was now all done away with ; there 

i was no cake baked in the house. " That rich cake is not 
fit for you to eat, Aunt Lucinda," Charlotte had said. "I 
think we had better not have any more of it." And poor 
Lucinda came gently down to her niece's views on diet, and 
put cup-cake and cold pork and vegetables away from her 
like devices of Satan. She concealed from herself her long- 
ing for them ; and she felt the most sincere love and grati- 
tude to Charlotte for her interest in her welfare. Indeed, 
Charlotte did everything from the purest motives. She had 
meant to do her very best by her old aunt Lucinda when 
she had come to live with her, after her father's death, from 
a sense of duty. She had given up her school in her native 

j village, and taken another, that she did not like nearly as 
well, here in Foster. She had found Lucinda old and fee- 



368 AN INNOCENT GAMESTER. 

ble, and at once set to work about taking care of her and 
relieving her from all her household labors. 

Charlotte had not much time out of school, but she kept 
the house, and would have only a modicum of assistance 
from her aunt. Lucinda soon did not venture to prepare a 
meal nor set away a dish, she met with such kind and de- 
termined remonstrances from her niece. Charlotte was so 
determined, when she set about being good and doing her 
whole duty, that she was quite capable of tyrannizing over 
goodness itself And then it was undeniably better that an 
old and feeble woman like her aunt Lucinda should not 
eat rich cup-cake between meals, nor wear herself out at 
house-work, although Lucinda had never worn herself out 
at house-work. There was considerable scandal of a mod- 
est kind about her in the village. There was a rumor that 
Lucinda Moss had not taken up her sitting room carpet for 
ten years, nor her parlor carpet within the memory of man, 
and that she deliberately shut up one or two chambers, and 
let them stay so, with no application of broom or duster, 
year after year. But Charlotte had every carpet in the house 
taken up spring and fall. She hung all the feather-beds out 
of the windows, and dusted in all the dark corners. Poor old 
Lucinda sometimes felt as if there was so much cleanliness 
that she was almost chilly. But she never remonstrated 
about anything, unless it was for a moment, when she hap- 
pened to be taken by surprise, as in the matter of the cards. 
She seemed quite to fall in with Charlotte's views that her 
own tastes were not to be considered when they interfered 
with her own good, and that most of them did so interfere. 

When she came out to supper that night she looked 
meekly and unquestioningly at the cold milk, the bread- 
and-bv>*ter, and sauce. Her very soul thirsted for a cud of 



AH INNOCENT GAMESTER. 369 

tea, and she felt as guilty as any wine-bibber that it should 

be so. Charlotte had said that it was as bad to drink tea 

as to drink strong liquor, and that it was very unhealthy 

for her. 

It did not take long for them to eat supper ; they never 
i dallied over their meals. Charlotte did not dally over any- 
j thing ; indeed, she could not, with so much on her hands. 
■ She sent Lucinda into the sitting-room while she put away 

the supper dishes. When that was done she went into the 
I sitting-room herself, and sat down with some needle-work 
I at the window opposite her aunt. There was still an hour 
' of daylight left. 

There was a cunning look in Lucinda's face ; she was 

smiling and quite talkative. She spoke about the weather, 

and the neighbors, and Charlotte's school ; then she gave a 
j sudden sharp glance at her niece. " Charlotte ?" 
"What say, Aunt Lucinda?" 
" Charlotte." The old woman was smiling hard, and her 

voice was soft and tremulously sweet. " Did you ever have 

your fortune told ?" 
' "No, I never did." 

" Well, now, Charlotte, don't you want me to tell it ?" 

Lucinda twisted her face up towards her niece, and her smile 

was as bland and cunning as a witch's. 

" No, thank you. Aunt Lucinda," Charlotte replied, stiffly. 
j " It's real remarkable how they do turn out sometimes, 

Charlotte. I might tell you somethin' 'bout — who you was 
I goin' to marry, you know." 

I " I haven't any wish to try it, and I am never going to 
I marry anybody." Charlotte blushed, but she looked with 
I dignified scorn at her aunt*s delicate old face, that still 
j smirked up at her. "To say just what I think, Aunt Lu- 
' 24 



37© AN INNOCENT GAMESTER. 

cinda," she continued, "it seems to me very silly, and I 
should think the cards would be better in the fire than 
anywhere else." 

" rd kind of hate to burn 'em, Charlotte. I've had 'em 
ever since I was a girl." 

Charlotte made no reply. Lucinda watched her pitifully. 
The cunning smile had faded entirely from her face. She 
seemed to sit lower in her chair. 

" Well, mebbe I had ought to burn 'em," she remarked, 
finally, with a hard breath. Pretty soon she arose. " I 
guess I'll go to bed," said she. 

" Why, it isn't dark yet," responded Charlotte. 

" I know it ain't, but I'm kind of tired somehow." Lu- 
cinda went across the room with a weak shuffle. Charlotte 
looked after her, and thought to herself that she aged rap- 
idly. She did not think any more about the cards and the 
fortune-telling. She could not treat any subject lightly, and 
had to bring her mind down with a heavy step upon all mat- 
ters, however trivial, that it stopped to consider. She knew 
quite well that her gentle, weak old aunt's whim for fortune- 
telling was not a subject for very serious controversy. She 
expressed her opinion strongly, as was her v/ont ; then let 
the matter slip away entirely from her thoughts. 

The days went on, and nothing more was said about the 
cards. Charlotte did not know whether they were burned, 
as she had advised, or not. She thought no more about 
them. She noticed that her aunt ate even less than usual, 
and seemed more spiritless. She thought also that she 
grew thin. 

" What's the matter. Aunt Lucinda \ don't you feel well ?" 
she asked one night when the old woman announced her 
intention of eoing to bed immediately after supper. 



I 



AN INNOCENT GAMESTER, 371 

Lucinda paused in her onward shuffle. "Well, I dun 
know," said she; "I guess I'm well 'nough, but I feel kind 
of poorly. I've been thinkin' if I had some of that root- 
beer I used to make, it might kind of set me up." 

*' Milk is a good deal better for you," said Charlotte, 
promptly. "You don't drink enough milk." 

" Well, I dun know \ I drink considerable, Charlotte." 

" How much did you drink to-night?" 

" Well, I dun know , 'most a cupful, I guess." 

Charlotte went to the table and poured out a cup quite 
full of m Ik. " Now, Aunt Lucinda, you just drink this down 
before you go to bed," said she. 

" Oh, Charlotte, I dun know as I can." 

" Yes, you can, too \ it's good for you." 

Lucinda put out her hand for the milk ; then she drew it 
back. " Oh, Charlotte, I can't, noways in the world." 

Charlotte held the milk quite under her nose, and her 
face contracted with disgust when she looked down at it. 
** Drink it right down," said Charlotte. 

The old woman took the cup, and drank down the milk 
with desperate gulps. When she had finished she gave the 
cup to Charlotte and clapped her hand over her mouth. 

"That's right," said Charlotte, in a commendatory tone. 
"It'll do you good. You don't drink half enough milk." 

Lucinda gave her head an unmeaning shake. She was 
quite speechless. She kept her hand pressed tightly to her 
mouth all the way out of the room. 

The next morning Charlotte made her drink two cups of 
Hiilk for breakfast, and she did so more easily. Lucinda 
looked quite alert that morning, and Charlotte thought to 
herself that she was improving. 

" You feel better, don't you. Aunt Lucinda ?" she said. 



372 AN INNOCENT GAMESTER. 

" Well, I dun know ; I ruther guess I do feel a little rest- 
ed," answered Lucinda. 

She had an odd expression that morning. Charlotte kept 
regarding her ; she could not think what made her look so 
strange. Finally she decided that it was because her aunt 
had her hair pushed back a little farther than usual from 
her temples. It took away from her expression of gentle 
weakness, and gave her something of a wild air. Charlotte 
was not nervous; after she had decided as to the cause of 
it, her aunt's strange look no longer dwelt in her mind. She 
taught school placidly all the forenoon. But when she came 
home at noon, and could find Lucinda nowhere in the house, 
that odd look of hers started up afresh in her memory. After 
she had hunted through the house and garden, and inquired 
at the neighbors', she stood in the middle of the sitting- 
room, and that strange face swam before her eyes. "It 
meant something," she said to herself; "she meant to do 
something." 

Some of the neighbors came running in. There were 
three men (two old ones and one young one), two middle- 
aged women, and two girls. They had just risen from their 
dinner-tables ; the women were in calico gowns and aprons, 
and the men in their shirt sleeves — all except the young 
man ; he had stopped to put on his coat. 

"Oh, have you found her?" two or three of the women 
gasped out as they entered ; the others stared in breathless 
inquiry. Charlotte shook her head. The neighbors circled 
around her and asked questions. Nobody knew what to do 
first. "The trouble is, there don't seem to be anywhere 
that there's any sense in to look for her," said one of the 
women, with a sage air. And it was quite true. There was 
no reasonable place outside of her own house in which to 



AN- INiVOCENT GAMESTER. 3^3 

look for her. Lucinda might almost have been regarded 
as a gentle and timid crustacean, and that house in which 
she had been born and lived her whole life as her shell. 
She never stirred out of it, except into her little garden, 
from one week's end to the other. She never went into a 
neighbor's. It had seemed a mere farce to inquire ot one. 
It was almost impossible to imagine Lucinda outside of her 
own house ; the very windows seemed full of her to people 
on the street, and the neighbors were bewildered, standing 
there in the sitting-room and trying to think of her as away. 

The young man in the company surveyed Charlotte with 
anxious, honest eyes. He was tall, and his fair curly head 
overtopped all the others. He was the brother of one of 
the girls. Charlotte never looked at him. The talk and 
speculation went on ; then finally the young man made a start. 
" I'll go and put my horse in the buggy," he said, in a de- 
termined tone, " and I'll go a piece on all the roads, and see 
if anybody has seen anything of her " 

" I'll go an' help you harness," returned one of the old 
men, promptly. 

Then Charlotte and the others searched the house again 
from garret to cellar. Charlotte was not easily timorous 
nor imaginative, but fearful imaginations could come to her, 
as to all human beings, and when they did come they had 
weighty presences. Charlotte probably would never see a 
ghost, but if she ever did it would come with a mighty march 
upon her. After the second fruitless search through the 
house was finished, she turned upon the people with her. 
*' Something dreadful has happened," said she, in a quick, 
strained tone. 

'* Oh, mebbe there ain't," one of the women said, sooth- 
ingly ; but her eyes were wild and scared. 



374 



AN INNOCENT GAMESTER. 



"Yes, there has." 

They all stood in the side entry, where they had come 
irom the second story. Charlotte looked from one to the 
other ; then she set her mouth hard, and went out into the 
yard. In the middle of the yard there was a well with an 
old-fashioned sweep. Charlotte went with rigid strides 
straight to the well, and the people followed her, the young 
girls hanging back a little. Charlotte stretched herself up, 
leaned over the curb, and looked down ; the others crowded 
close to her, and did the same. They could see nothing 
but their own faces in the far-away dark water. They gazed 
down at the youiig rosy faces and the old ones, with the 
flecks of sunlight around them, but they could see nothing 
beyond. It was that reflection of life which is all that one 
sees upon the farthest point of investigation. 

" We can't see nothin' but ourselves," said one of the 
women. " Father, you'd better get a pole somewhere, an' 
poke down there." 

" Where can I git a pole ?" asked the old man, who was 
the woman's husband. He had an important, solemn 
voice ; his wife, no matter how great her awe, was always 
sharply vociferous. 

One of the young girls clutched the other by the arm 
when the pole was mentioned. Charlotte and the old man 
went into the garden, where there was a pile of last year's 
bean-poles, and he spliced some together with clumsy pains. 
They all stood back when he stepped up and began prob- 
ing the well. He had bent a nail in the end of the pole, 
and he poked about warily. Finally he turned about on 
his spectators. He had a large face, and he carried himself 
pompously. 

" There ain't nothin' there," said he. There was a slight 

I 



AN INNOCENT GAMESTER. 375 

savor of disappointment in his tone. He had a natural 
scent for glory, but he was like an animal reared at a dis- 
tance from his native prey, and had little opportunity to 
exercise it. He wished no harm to have befallen poor Lu- 
cinda ; but if there had, he would have liked that distinc- 
tion which belonged to the discoverer of it. 

" Are you sure ?" asked his wife. 

" Course I'm sure. There ain't no use standin* pokin' 
any longer," The old man stepped down and stood in a 
stately attitude, with a pole at his side like a spear. "There 
ain't any other well, is there ?" he inquired of Charlotte. 

"No." 

" No cistern nor nothin' ? There wa'n't nothin' covered 
up that she could have stepped into?" 

" No, there wasn't," said Charlotte. She struck out of 
the yard as she spoke. 

" Where you goin' ?" one of the women asked. 

" Down to the salt-meadow." 

Charlotte kept on down the street, and they all straggled 
after her. Others joined them, with eager questions, as 
they progressed. It was quite a crowd that reached the 
marsh that the Foster people called the salt-meadow. High 
tides flooded it. The rest of the time it lay a bare level, 
burned by the sun and swept by the salt wind. Here and 
there were pools of sea-water quite deep. Charlotte had 
I thought of them. 

Away over to the eastward there was a blue line between 
i the marsh and a white cloudy sky ; that was the sea. The 
f' people ran about here and there over the marsh; they 
I' looked taller than they were. There were now many 
t boys in the company, and when they got into the distance, 
\. and showed up against the sky, they looked like men on 



376 A^ INNOCENT GAMESTER. 

Ae level meadow. They whooped and hallooed. Char- 
lotte never spoke a word. She went from pool to pool, 
and the old man with the pole weni with her. Here and 
there lay great mats of long and sunburnt marsh-grass. 
They looked like fleeces of wild animals. Charlotte eyed 
one with a desire to lift it up and see if her aunt were not 
lying hidden beneath it. Charlotte, neither knowing why, 
nor fully understandmg that she was, began to be tortured 
by remorse. Lucinda had never spoken to blame her, but 
there was no need, for silence and absence will grind with 
accusing voices. Charlotte's ears were full of the voices, 
although she could not yet understand what they said. 

She did not until that evening. When she returned from 
her fruitless search on the marsh she found the house and 
yard quite full of people. Some of the kindly women had 
been getting supper. They had brought in of their own 
stores. The hygienic food in the house looked rather poor 
to them. They agreed that Lucinda must have been pretty 
well pinched. The table was loaded with hot biscuits, cake, 
and cold meats, and there was a pot of strong tea. Char- 
lotte would not eat anything, although the women urged 
her. Finally they sat down and drank the tea themselves. 
After supper, the house cleared gradually. Two of the 
women volunteered to stay with Charlotte all night, and 
the young girl, sister of the fair-haired young man, was to 
sleep with her. The two older women went home for a 
(ittle while to mix some bread and fold clothes, and the 
young girl and Charlotte were alone in the sitting-room. 

Now and then they could hear voices out in the street. 
Charlotte kept going to the door to listen. Once, as she 
returned, she hit Lucinda's little old work-box that stood 
on the corner of the table, and knocked it to the floor. All 



APT INNOCENT GAMESTER. 37^ 

the things fell out ; Charlotte groaned. It seemed as if she 
hurt her lost aunt. The girl came to her aid, and they be- 
gan picking up the things and replacing them. Suddenly 
Charlotte gave a cry, and took something to the light and 
examined it closely. Then she sank into a chair, and 
rocked herself to and fro, and cried. 

"Oh, dear! oh, dear ! poor Aunt Lucinda ! poor Aunt 
Lucinda ! What shall I do? what shall I do?" she wailed. 

The girl arose, and stood regarding her in a frightened 
way. She had a sweet, homely face, and was very small, 
much smaller than Charlotte. She had always been rather 
afraid of Charlotte, she was so large and handsome and 
peremptory. Finally she went up to her timidly "Why, 
what is it ?" she asked ; " what is the matter, Charlotte ?" 

Charlotte held out something. " Look at that," she said, 
convulsively. 

The girl took it and looked at it curiously. It was a play- 
ing-card, the jack of hearts, and one corner was scorched 
and shrivelled by fire. " Why, it's a card," said she, vague- 
ly ; " and it's been burnt." 

Charlotte uncovered her face, and showed it wet and 
swollen and distorted. " Yes," said she, " it's a card. And 
I'll tell you what I did, I'll tell you all about it. I've 
been wicked \ I've been dreadful wicked and cruel. I found 
her trying to tell her fortune with those cards one day, and 
I scolded her for it, and I told her she ought to burn them 
up. She was telling her fortune, and trying to get a little 
bit of comfort and amusement out of it, and she's never 
had much in her life. She was cooped up here in this house 
all the best part of her life with her mother, that was ner- 
vous and half crazy, and had to be taken care of like i 
baby. She never went anywhere nor had anything, and 



378 AN INNOCENT GAMESTER. 

she got a little bit of comfort out of the cards telling her 
fortune, and I told her to burn them. And she tried to. 
Oh, she tried to! — she tried to! Poor Aunt Lucinda ! I 
can see it, just how it was. She put them into the fire, and 
she felt dreadfully to see them burn. She'd had them ever 
since she was a girl, and she'd taken so much comfort with 
them! It was just like burning up all the little hope she 
had left. And she just pulled out this card, when it was 
all afire, and saved it. I remember she had burned her 
fingers, and she wouldn't tell me how. That was how she 
did it. Oh, poor Aunt Lucinda! poor Aunt Lucinda!" 

The other girl looked from her to the card with a puz- 
zled and distressed air. " Don't feel so bad," she ventured, 
hesitatingly. 

"Oh, I've got to feel bad 1 I've got to! I've got to all 
my life ! The cards ain't all. Oh, I can tell you things — 
things that I never knew before. They all come up now. 
I haven't let her have tea when she wanted it, nor cake, 
nor cold pork and potatoes for supper, nor anything be- 
tween meals. And she wanted some root-beer last night, 
and I said she couldn't have it. I've been setting myself 
up, because I thought I knew more ; and I knew the things 
weren't good for her perhaps, but they were all her little 
comforts, all she had, and nobody ought to have taken them 
away but God. Oh, I've been doing a dreadful thing ! I've 
been stealing from her. And I've done more than that. 
Oh, I have! I have! I've been stealing her. I've been 
taking the self out of her. Oh, poor Aunt Lucinda ! poor 
Aunt Lucinda! What shall I do? what shall I do.?" 

The girl was quite pale ; she held her lips parted. She 
did not comprehend it at all, nor know what to say. Sud- 
denly there was a touch on her shoulder, and she looked 



AN INNOCENT GAMESTER, 3^5 

around. It was her brother ; he had been standing in the 
room a minute or two, but they had not noticed him. 

"What's the matter with her?" he asked his sister in a 
whisper. 

Charlotte went on wailing. Both of them had an odd 
feeling that she was not fairly there, and that they could 
speak of her. 

" She feels awfully. She thinks she hasn't treated her 
well." 

"What stuff!" The young man hesitated a moment; 
his face flushed ; he looked at his sister. Finally he went 
up to Charlotte, knelt down on the floor beside her, and 
slid his arm around her waist. " Don't take on so — don't ; 
you mustn't," he whispered. " Fll find her. I'm going 
now to give my horse his supper, and then I'm going to 
get a fresh one at Joe Grayson's, and I'm going to start 
out again. I'll find her before morning, and bring her back 
safe and sound. Don't take on so." 

But Charlotte never hushed her wail. She did not seem 
to notice that his arm was around her. 

The young man arose ; he did not meet his sister's eye 
when he spoke to her. " I'm going home, and will send 
toother over right away," said he. 

" She's coming as soon as she's folded the clothes," 
teplied the sister. 

" She's got to come now." 

His steps sounded heavy and quick on the front walk. 
In spite of his pity he had an odd feeling of elation. He 
also had been rather afraid of Charlotte ; she had seemed 
like a goddess in armor. He had now a feeling that he 
had caught her outside of her panoply. 

He lived only three houses away, and his mother came 



380 AN INNOCENT GAMESTER. 

running over in a few minutes. She was a woman with as 
weighty a will as Charlotte's, although her softness and 
slowness of manner disguised it. Her will to Charlotte's 
was as feathers to steel, but the weight was there. She 
made Charlotte drink a bowl of sage tea and go to bed. 
She and the other woman sat up all night in the sitting- 
room, and listened and watched. They felt as if dreadful 
tidings might arrive at any moment, but none did. When 
Charlotte came down-stairs in the morning nothing more 
was known about her aunt than when she had gone to bed. 
Charlotte had not slept any, but she was quite calm. All 
her old repose of manner had returned, but there was no 
longer any strength in it. She did not stand as erect, with 
her shoulders back, as formerly. She looked ten years 
younger. Charlotte was quite a young girl, but everybody 
had considered her older. 

The search for Lucinda continued: the roads were 
scoured for miles around, every well and pool was dragged, 
a close watch was kept upon the sea-shore ; but nothing 
was seen of her until five o'clock in the afternoon. Then 
she came walking into the house. She entered at the side 
door, and went straight into the sitting-room. There were 
some women there with Charlotte. They all sat about 
the room like mourners. When they saw Lucinda they 
screamed with shrill voices, and more women came in from 
the kitchen. Charlotte did not speak nor scream. She 
went over to her aunt and clutched her arm hard. 

Lucinda looked about with a bewildered air. Her cheeks 
were quite pink, her eyes shone, her curls were all untwisted 
and lay on her shoulders. Her bonnet, which was flat and 
old-fashioned, had slipped far back, her cashmere shawl 
with a green centre was pinned on one side, and the point 



AN INNOCENT GAMESTER. 381 

trailed. But with all her disorder and bewilderment she 
was full of gentle but triumphant assertion. 

"What are they all in here for this way?" she asked 
Charlotte, quite openly. 

" Oh, Aunt Lucinda, where have you been ?" 

Lucinda looked about on them all with a sort of mild 
dignity. She stood quite straight. " I've been a-visitin'.'* 

" What ?" 

"I've been a-visitin'." 

" Oh, Aunt Lucinda, where ?'* 

"I've been to Denham." 

" Denham ?" 

" Yes ; it's forty mile away, an' I've been on the cars. 
I've been a-visitin' my cousin on my mother's side that 
lives there — Mary Ellen Taylor. She's livin' with her old- 
est son, an' she's situated real pleasant. I hadn't seen her 
for twenty-five year." 

" Oh ! how did you get there ?" 

" I went on the steam-cars," replied Lucinda, with a lofty 
air. 

" But how t Nobody saw you. How did you get started. 
Aunt Lucinda i*" 

Lucinda surveyed her niece with a look of pleasant cun- 
ning. " I jest went down 'cross-lots an' got on. I didn't 
see nobody," said she. 

It was quite true, and had been quite feasible, as every- 
body saw. There was no regular depot at Foster, nothing 
but a little rude shed with a bench, where passengers, if there 
were any, waited. That day there had been none, and the 
road was lonely, Lucinda had been quite unseen and 
unmolested in her journey across-Iots and her waiting at 
the station. Now that she had appeared, it seemed strange 



jSj an innocent gamester. 

that no one had thought of such a solution of her dis- 
appearance. But people would have dreamed as soon of a 
marsh-flower taking to the railroad as of Lucinda Moss. 
She had been so long in one place that it seemed that it 
must be with her as with the flower, and that nothing baf 
the wind of death could take her away. 

Fhe women had stood about, astonished and panic- 
stricken. Finally one spoke up. " Well," said she, '' I 
know one thing : if I was to say what I thought, it would 
be somethin' pretty plain. All this go-round — " 

Charlotte interposed. She stepped before her aunt, who 
had begun to shrink. " Don't you say a word to blame 
her , 1 won't have it," said she. 

" Well, if you want to excuse it, after all the trouble and 
worry we've had and you've had — " 

" I won't hear a word," repeated Charlotte. 

After a while the neighbors had one by one departed, 
and Charlotte and Lucinda were alone together. Charlotte 
went directly about getting supper. When she called out 
Lucinda there was a fine array on the table • plenty of cake 
and pie, and some cold meat and vegetables. The room 
was full of the fragrance of tea. Charlotte poured out a 
cup, and passed it to Lucinda. " I thought we'd have tea 
to-night," said she. " And I've been thinking — this cake 
is some the neighbors brought in, but I don't think it is 
nearly as good as that cup-cake you used to make, and I 
wish you'd make some to-morrow, Aunt Lucinda, if you feel 
like it." 

" I'd jest as lief as not." Lucinda's face was all trem- 
bling with smiles. 

The next night, when Charlotte came home from school, 
she had a little parcel that she handed to Lucinda. '' Here's 



AN INNOCENT GAMESTER. 383 

something I bought for you, Aunt Lucinda," said she. Lu- 
cinda opened the parcel. It was a pack of cards. " I don't 
know but ril let you tell my fortune, after all, if you'd like 
to," observed Charlotte, after a while. 

After supper that evening Lucinda moved the things on 
the table back, and spread out the cards. She bent over 
them, and her face took on a wise and important expression. 
"Well," said she, finally, in a meditative voice, " there's a 
light-complected man right close to you, Charlotte, an' a 
weddin'-nng, for the first thingj — " 



LOUISA, 

" I don't see what kind of ideas youVe got in your head, 
for my part." Mrs. Britton looked sharply at her daughter 
Louisa, but she got no response. 

Louisa sat in one of the kitchen chairs close to the 
door. She had dropped into it when she first entered. 
Her hands were all brown and grimy with garden-mould ; 
it clung to the bottom of her old dress and her coarse 
shoes. 

Mrs. Britton, sitting opposite by the window, waited, 
looking at her. Suddenly Louisa's silence seemed to strike 
her mother's will with an electric shock ; she recoiled, with 
an angry jerk of her head. " You don't know nothin' about 
it. You'd like him well enough after you was married to 
him," said she, as if in answer to an argument. 

Louisa's face looked fairly dull ; her obstinacy seemed 
to cast a film over it. Her eyelids were cast down ; she 
leaned her head back against the wall. 

" Sit there like a stick if you want to !" cried her mother 

Louisa got up. As she stirred, a faint earthy odor dif- 
fused itself through the room. It was like a breath from 
a ploughed field. 

Mrs. Britton's little sallow face contracted more forcibly. 
" I s'pose now you're goin' back to your potater patch," 



LOUISA. 385 

said she. "Plantin' potaters out there jest like a man, lor 
all the neighbors to see. Pretty sight, I call it." 

" If they don't like it, they needn't look," returned Louisa, 
She spoke quite evenly. Her young back was stiff with 
bending over the potatoes, but she straightened it rigor- 
ously. She pulled her old hat farther over her eyes. 

There was a shuffling sound outside the door and a fum- 
ble at the latch. It opened, and an old man came in, scrap- 
ing his feet heavily over the threshold. He carried an 
old basket. 

" What you got in that basket, father ?" asked Mrs. 
Britton. 

The old man looked at her. His old face had the round 
outlines and naive grin of a child. 

"Father, what you got in that basket?" 

Louisa peered apprehensively into the basket. "Where 
did you get those potatoes, grandfather?" said she. 

" Digged 'em." The old man's grin deepened. He 
chuckled hoarsely. 

" Well, I'll give up if he ain't been an' dug up all them 
potaters you've been plantin' !" said Mrs. Britton. 

" Yes, he has," said Louisa. " Oh, grandfather, didn't 
you know I'd jest planted those potatoes?" 

The old man fastened his bleared blue eyes on her face, 
and still grinned. 

" Didn't you know better, grandfather?" she asked again. 

~ But the old man only chuckled. He was so old that he 

had come back into the mystery of childhood. His motives 

were hidden and inscrutable ; his amalgamation with the 

human race was so much weaker. 

" Land sakes ! don't waste no more time talkin' to him," 
said Mrs. Britton. " You can't make out whether he knows 
25 



386 LOUISA. 

what he's doin* or not. I've give it up. Father, you jest set 
them pertaters down, an' you come over here an' set down 
in the rockin'-chair ; you've done about 'nough work to-day." 

The old man shook his head with slow mutiny. 

" Come right over here." 

Louisa pulled at the basket of potatoes. " Let me have 
'em, grandfather," said she. " I've got to have 'em." 

The old man resisted. His grin disappeared, and he 
set his mouth. Mrs. Britton got up, with a determined air, 
and went over to him. She was a sickly, frail-looking wom- 
an, but the voice came firm, with deep bass tones, from 
her little lean throat. 

" Now, father," said she, " you jest give her that basket, 
an' you walk across the room, and you set down in that 
rockin'-chair." 

The old man looked down into her little, pale, wedge-shaped 
face. His grasp on the basket weakened. Louisa pulled 
it away, and pushed past out of the door, and the old man 
followed his daughter sullenly across the room to the rock- 
ing-chair. 

The Brittons did not have a large potato field ; they had 
only an acre of land in all. Louisa had planted two thirds 
of her potatoes; now she had to plant them all over again. 
She had gone to the house for a drink of water ; her mother 
had detained her, and in the meantime the old man had 
undone her work. She began putting the cut potatoes 
back in the ground. She was careful and laborious about 
it. A strong wind, full of moisture, was blowing from the 
east. The smell of the sea was in it, although this was 
some miles inland. Louisa's brown calico skirt blew out 
in it like a sail. It beat her in the face when she raised 
her head. 



LOUISA. 387 

" I've got to get these in to-day somehow," she muttered. 

''* It '11 rain to-morrow." 

She worked as fast as she could, and the afternoon wore 
on. About five o'clock she happened to glance at the 
road — the potato field lay beside it — and she saw Jonathan 
Nye driving past with his gray horse and buggy. She 
turned her back to the road quickly, and listened until the 
rattle of the wheels died away. At six o'clock her mother 
looked out of the kitchen window and called her to supper. 

" I'm comin' in a minute," Louisa shouted back. Then 
she worked faster than ever. At half-past six she went 
into the house, and the potatoes were all in the ground. 

" Why didn't you come when I called you?" asked her 
mother. 

" I had to get the potatoes in.'* 

" I guess you wa'n't bound to get 'em all in to-night. It's 
kind of discouragin' when you work, an' get supper all ready, 
to have it stan' an hour, I call it An' you've worked 'bout 
long enough for one day out in this damp wind, I should 
say." 

Louisa washed her hands and face at the kitchen sink, 
and smoothed her hair at the little glass over it. She had 
wet her hair too, and made it look darker: it was quite a 
light brown. She brushed it in smooth straight lines back 
from her temples. Her whole face had a clear bright look 
from being exposed to the moist wind. She noticed it her- 
self, and gave her head a little conscious turn. 

When she sat down to the table her mother looked at 
her with admiration, which she veiled with disapproval. 

" Jest look at your face," said she ; " red as a beet 
You'll be a pretty-lookin' sight before the summer's out, 
at this rate." 



388 LOUISA. 

Louisa thought to herself that the light was not very 
strong, and the glass must have flattered her. She could 
not look as well as she had imagined. She spread some 
butter on her bread very sparsely. There was nothing for 
supper but some bread and butter and weak tea, though 
the old man had his dish of Indian-meal porridge. He 
could not eat much solid food. The porridge was covered 
with milk and molasses. He bent low over it, and ate 
large spoonfuls with loud noises. His daughter had tied 
a towel around his neck as she would have tied a pinafore 
on a child. She had also spread a towel over the table- 
cloth in front of him, and she watched him sharply lest he 
should spill his food. 

" I wish I could have somethin' to eat that I could relish 
the way he does that porridge and molasses," said she. 
She had scarcely tasted anything. She sipped her weak 
tea laboriously. 

Louisa looked across at her mother's meagre little figure 
in its neat old dress, at her poor small head bending over 
the tea-cup, showing the wide parting in the thin hair. 

" Why don't you toast your bread, mother ?" said she. 
" I'll toast it for you." 

" No, I don't want it. I'd jest as soon have it this way 
as any. I don't want no bread, nohow. I want somethin* 
to relish — a herrin', or a little mite of cold meat, or some- 
thin'. I s'pose I could eat as well as anybody if I had as 
much as some folks have. Mis' Mitchell was sayin' the 
other day that she didn't believe but what they had butch- 
er's meat up to Mis' Nye's every day in the week. She 
said Jonathan he went to Wolfsborough and brought home 
great pieces in a market-basket every week. I guess they 
have everything." 



LOUISA. 389 

Louisa was not eating much herself, but now she took 
another slice of bread with a resolute air. " I guess some 
folks would be thankful to get this," said she. 

" Yes, I s'pose we'd ought to be thankful for enough to 
keep us alive, anybody takes so much comfort livinV' re- 
turned her mother, with a tragic bitterness that sat oddly 
upon her, as she was so small and feeble. Her face worked 
and strained under the stress of emotion ; her eyes were full 
of tears ; she sipped her tea fiercely. 

" There's some sugar," said Louisa. " We might have 
had a little cake." 

The old man caught the word. " Cake ?" he mumbled, 
with pleased inquiry, looking up, and extending his grasp- 
ing old hand. 

" I guess we ain't got no sugar to waste in cake," re- 
turned Mrs. Britton. " Eat your porridge, father, an' stop 
teasin'. There ain't no cake." 

After supper Louisa cleared away the dishes ; then she 
put on her shawl and hat. 

" Where you goin' ?" asked her mother. 

" Down to the store." 

"What for?" 

" The oil's out. There wasn't enough to fill the lamps 
this mornin'. I ain't had a chance to get it before." 

It was nearly dark. The mist was so heavy it was al- 
most rain. Louisa went swiftly down the road with the oil- 
can. It was a half-mile to the store where the few staples 
were kept that sufficed the simple folk in this little settle- 
ment. She was gone a half-hour. When she returned, 
she had besides the oil-can a package under her arm. 
She went into the kitchen and set them down. The 
old man was asleep in the rocking-chair. She heard voices 



390 



LOUISA. 



in the adjoining room. She frowned, and stood still, lis- 
tening. 

"Louisa!" called her mother. Her voice was sweet, 
and higher pitched than usual. She sounded the / in Louisa 
long. 

" What say ?" 

" Come in here after you've taken your things off." 

Louisa knew that Jonathan Nye was in the sitling-room. 
She flung off her hat and shawl. Her old dress was 
damp, and had still some earth stains on it ; her hair was 
roughened by the wind, but she would not look again in 
the glass ; she went into the sitting-room just as she was. 

" It's Mr. Nye, Louisa," said her mother, with effusion. 

" Good-evenin', Mr. Nye," said Louisa. 

Jonathan Nye half arose and extended his hand, but 
she did not notice it. She sat down peremptorily in a chair 
at the other side of the room. Jonathan had the one rock- 
ing-chair ; Mrs. Britton's frail little body was poised anx- 
iously on the hard rounded top of the carpet-covered lounge. 
She looked at Louisa's dress and hair, and her eyes were 
stony with disapproval, but her lips still smirked, and she kept 
her voice sweet. She pointed to a glass dish on the table. 

" See what Mr. Nye has brought us over, Louisa," said 
she. 

Louisa looked indifferently at the dish. 

" It's honey," said her mother ; " some of his own bees 
made it. Don't you want to get a dish an* taste of it? 
One of them little glass sauce dishes." 

" No, I guess not," replied Louisa. " I never cared 
much about honey. Grandfather Ml like it." 

The smile vanished momentarily from Mrs. Britton's lips, 
but she recovered herself. She arose and went across the 



LOUISA. 391 

room to the china closet. Her set of china dishes was on 
the top shelves, the lower were filled with books and papers. 
" I've got somethin' to snow you, Mr. Nye," said she. 

This was scarcely more than a hamlet, but it was incor- 
porated, and had its town books. She brought forth a pile 
of them, and laid them on the table beside Jonathan Nye. 
*' There," said she, " I thought mebbe you'd like to look at 
these." She opened one and pointed to the school report. 
This mother could not display her daughter's accomplish- 
ments to attract a suitor, for she had none. Louisa did 
not own a piano or organ ; she could not paint ; but she 
had taught school acceptably for eight years — ever since 
she was sixteen — and in every one of the town books was 
testimonial to that effect, intermixed with glowing eulogy. 
Jonathan Nye looked soberly through the books ; he was 
a slow reader. He was a few years older than Louisa, tall 
and clumsy, long-featured and long-necked. His face was 
a deep red with embarrassment, and it contrasted oddly 
with his stiff dignity of demeanor. 

Mrs. Britton drew a chair close to him while he read. 
*' You see, Louisa taught that school for eight year," said 
she ; " an' she'd be teachin' it now if Mr. Mosely's daugh- 
ter hadn't grown up an' wanted somethin' to do, an' he put 
her in. He was committee, you know. I dun' know as I'd 
ought to say so, an' I wouldn't want you to repeat it, but 
they do say Ida Mosely don't give very good satisfaction, 
an' I guess she won't have no reports like these in the town 
books unless her father writes 'em. See this one." 

Jonathan Nye pondered over the fulsome testimony to 
Louisa's capability, general worth, and amiability, while she 
sat in sulky silence at the farther corner of the room. Once 
in a while her mother, after a furtive glance at Jonathan, 



392 LOUISA. 

engrossed in a town book, would look at her and gesticu- 
late fiercely for her to come over, but she did not stir. Her 
eyes were dull and quiet, her mouth closely shut ; she looked 
homely. Louisa was very pretty when pleased and animated, 
at other times she had a look like a closed flower. One 
could see no prettiness in her. 

Jonathan Nye read all the school reports ; then he arose 
heavily. "They're real good," said he. He glanced at 
Louisa and tried to smile ; his blushes deepened. 

"Now don't be in a hurry," said Mrs. Britton. 

"I guess Fd better be goin'; mother's alone." 

" She won't be afraid ; it's jest on the edge of the eveninV* 

" I don't know as she will. But I guess I'd better be 
goinV He looked hesitatingly at Louisa. 

She arose and stood with an indifferent air. 

"You'd better set down again," said Mrs. Britton. 

" No ; I guess I'd better be goin'." Jonathan turned 
towards Louisa. " Good-evenin'," said he. 

"Good-evenin'." 

Mrs. Britton followed him to the door. She looked back 
and beckoned imperiously to Louisa, but she stood still. 
"Now come again, do," Mrs. Britton said to the departing 
caller. " Run in any time ; we're real lonesome evenin's. 
Father he sets an' sleeps in his chair, an' Louisa an' me 
often wish somebody 'd drop in ; folks round here ain't none 
too neighborly. Come in any time you happen to feel like 
it, an' we'll both of us be glad to see you. Tell your mother 
I'll send home that dish to-morrer, an' we shall have a real 
feast off that beautiful honey." 

When Mrs. Britton had fairly shut the outer door upon 
Jonathan Nye, she came back into the sitting-room as if 
her anger had a propelling power like steam upon her body. 



LOUISA, 393 

"Now, Louisa Britton," said she, "you'd ought to be 
ashamed of yourself — ashamed of yourself! You've treated 
him like a — hog!" 

" I couldn't help it." 

" Couldn't help it ! I guess you could treat anybody de- 
cent if you tried. I never saw such actions ! I guess you 
needn't be afraid of him. I guess he ain't so set on you 
that he means to ketch you up an' run off. There's other 
girls in town full as good as you an' better-lookin'. Why 
didn't you go an' put on your other dress? Comin' into 
the room with that old thing on, an' your hair all in a frowse I 
I guess he won't want to come again." 

" I hope he won't," said Louisa, under her breath. She 
was trembling all over. 

" What say ?" 

'' Nothin'." 

" I shouldn't think you'd want to say anything, treatin* 
him that way, when he came over and brought all that 
beautiful honey ! He was all dressed up, too. He had on 
a real nice coat — cloth jest as fine as it could be, an' it was 
kinder damp when he come in. Then he dressed all up 
to come over here this rainy night an' bring this honey." 
Mrs. Britton snatched the dish of honey and scudded into 
the kitchen with it. " Savin' you didn't like honey after 
he took all that pains to bring it over !" said she. " I'd 
said I liked it if I'd lied up hill and down." She set the 
dish in the pantry. " What in creation smells so kinder 
strong an' smoky in here ?" said she, sharply. 

" I guess it's the herrin'. I got two or three down to 
the store." 

" I'd like to know what you got herrin' for?" 

" I thought maybe you'd relish 'em." 



394 LOUISA. 

" I don't want no herrin's, now we've got this honey. 
But I don't know that you've got money to throw away." She 
shook the old man by the stove into partial wakefulness, 
and steered him into his little bedroom off the kitchen. She 
herself slept in one off the sitting-rooms ; Louisa's room was 
up-stairs. 

Louisa lighted her candle and went to bed, her mother's 
scolding voice pursuing her like a wrathful spirit. She 
cried when she was in bed in the dark, but she soon went 
to sleep. She was too healthfully tired with her out-door 
work not to. All her young bones ached with the strain 
of manual labor as they had ached many a time this last 
year since she had lost her school. 

The Brittons had been and were in sore straits. All 
they had in the world was this little house with the acre 
of land. Louisa's meagre school money had bought their 
food and clothing since her father died. Now it was al- 
most starvation for them. Louisa was struggling to wrest 
a little sustenance from their stony acre of land, toiling like 
a European peasant woman, sacrificing her New England 
dignity. Lately she had herself split up a cord of wood 
which she had bought of a neighbor, paying for it in instal- 
ments with work for his wife. 

" Think of a school-teacher goin' into Mis* Mitchell's 
house to help clean !" said her mother. 

She, although she had been of poor, hard-working people 
all her life, with the humblest surroundings, was a born aris- 
tocrat, with that fiercest and most bigoted aristocracy which 
sometimes arises from independent poverty. She had the 
feeling of a queen for a princess of the blood about her 
school-teacher daughter ; her working in a neighbor's kitch- 
en was as galling and terrible to her. The projected mar 



LOUISA. 395 

riage with Jonathan Nye was like a royal alliance for the 
good of the state. Jonathan Nye was the only eligible 
young man in the place \ he was the largest land-owner ; 
he had the best house. There were only himself and his 
mother; after her death the property would all be his. 
Mrs. Nye was an older woman than Mrs. Britton, who for- 
got her own frailty in calculating their chances of life. 

"Mis' Nye is considerable over seventy," she said often 
to herself; "an' then Jonathan will have it all." 

She saw herself installed in that large white house as 
reigning dowager. All the obstacle was Louisa's obsti- 
nacy, which her mother could not understand. She could 
see no fault in Jonathan Nye. So far as absolute approval 
went, she herself was in love with him. There was no 
more sense, to her mind, in Louisa's refusing him than 
there would have been in a princess refusing the fairy prince 
and spoiling the story. 

" I'd like to know what you've got against him," she said 
often to Louisa. 

" I ain't got anything against him." 

"Why don't you treat him different, then, I want to 
know?" 

" I don't like him." Louisa said " like " shamefacedly, 
for she meant love, and dared not say it. 

^^ Like/ Well, I don't know nothin' about such likin's 
as some pretend to, an' I don't want to. If I see anybody 
is good an' worthy, I like 'em, an' that's all there is about it." 

" I don't — believe that's the way you felt about — father," 
^said Louisa, softly, her young face flushed red. 

"Yes, it was. I had some common-sense about it." 

And Mrs. Britton believed it. Many hard middle-aged 
l^ars lay between her and her own love-time, and nothing 



396 LOUISA. 

is so changed by distance as the realities of youth. She 
believed herself to have been actuated by the same calm 
reason in marrying young John Britton, who had had fair 
prospects, which she thought should actuate her daughter 
in marrying Jonathan Nye. 

Louisa got no sympathy from her, but she persisted in 
her refusal. She worked harder and harder. She did not 
spare herself in doors or out. As the summer wore on her 
face grew as sunburnt as a boy's, her hands were hard and 
brown. When she put on her white dress to go to meeting 
on a Sunday there was a white ring around her neck where 
the sun had not touched it. Above it her face and neck 
showed browner. Her sleeves were rather short, and there 
were also white rings above her brown wrists. 

" You look as if you were turnin' Injun by inches," said 
her mother. 

Louisa, when she sat in the meeting-house, tried slyly to 
pull her sleeves down to the brown on her wrists ; she gave 
a little twitch to the ruffle around her neck. Then she 
glanced across, and Jonathan Nye was looking at her. 
She thrust her hands, in their short-wristed, loose cotton 
gloves, as far out of the sleeves as she could ; her brown 
wrists showed conspicuously on her white lap. She had 
never heard of the princess who destroyed her beauty that 
she might not be forced to wed the man whom she did not 
love, but she had something of the same feeling, although 
she did not have it for the sake of any tangible lover. Lou- 
isa had never seen anybody whom she would have preferred 
to Jonathan Nye. There was no other marriageable young 
man in the place. She had only her dreams, which she 
had in common with other girls. 

That Sunday evening before she went to meeting her 



LOUISA. 39^ 

mother took some old wide lace out of her bureau drawer. 
"There," said she, " I'm goin' to sew this in your neck an' 
sleeves before you put your dress on. It '11 cover up a little ; 
it's wider than the ruffle." 

" I don't want it in," said Louisa. 

" I'd like to know why not ? You look like a fright. I 
was ashamed of you this mornin'." 

Louisa thrust her arms into the white dress sleeves per- 
emptorily. Her mother did not speak to her all the way 
to meeting. After meeting, Jonathan Nye walked home 
with them, and Louisa kept on the other side of her mother. 
He went into the house and stayed an hour. Mrs. Britton 
entertained him, while Louisa sat silent. When he had 
gone, she looked at her daughter as if she could have used 
bodily force, but she said nothing. She shot the bolt of 
the kitchen door noisily. Louisa lighted her candle. The 
old man's loud breathing sounded from his room ; he had 
been put to bed for safety before they went to meeting ; 
through the open windows sounded the loud murmur of the 
summer night, as if that, too, slept heavily. 

"Good-night, mother," said Louisa, as she went up-stairs; 
but her mother did not answer. 

The next day was very warm. This was an exception- 
ally hot summer. Louisa went out early ; her mother would 
not ask her where she was going. She did not come home 
until noon. Her face was burning ; her wet dress clung to 
her arms and shoulders. 

" Where have you been ?" asked her mother. 

"Oh, I've been out in the field." 

"What field?" 

"Mr. Mitchell's.'* 

" What have you been doin' out there ?" 



398 LOUISA. 

" Rakin' hay." 

" Rakin' hay with the men ?" 

"There wasn't anybody but Mr. Mitchell iind Johnny. 
Don't, mother !" 

Mrs. Britton had turned white. She sank into a chair. 
" I can't Stan' it nohow," she moaned. " All the daughter 
I've got." 

" Don't, mother ! I ain't done any harm. What harm 
is it ? Why can't I rake hay as well as a man ? Lots of 
women do such things, if nobody round here does. He's 
goin' to pay me right off, and we need the money. Don't, 
mother !" Louisa got a tumbler of water. " Here, mother, 
drink this." 

Mrs. Britton pushed it away. Louisa stood looking anx- 
iously at her. Lately her mother had grown thinner than 
ever > she looked scarcely bigger than a child. Presently 
she got up and went to the stove. 

" Don't try to do anything, mother ; let me finish getting 
dinner," pleaded Louisa. She tried to take the pan of bis- 
cuits out of her mother's hands, but she jerked it away. 

The old man was sitting on the door-step, huddled up 
loosely in the sun, like an old dog. 

" Come, father," Mrs. Britton called, in a dry voice, 
"dinner's ready — what there is of it !" 

The old man shuffled in, smiling. 

There was nothing for dinner but the hot biscuits and 
tea. The fare was daily becoming more meagre. All Lou- 
isa's little hoard of school money was gone, and her earn- 
ings were very uncertain and slender. Their chief depend* 
ence for food through the summer was their garden, but 
that had failed them in some respects. 

One day the old man had come in radiant, with his shak- 



I 



toi 



LOUISA. 399 

ing hands full of potato blossoms ; his oM eyes twinkled 
over them like a mischievous child's. Reproaches were 
useless ; the little potato crop was sadly damaged. Lately, 
in spite of close watching, he had picked the squash blos- 
soms, piling them in a yellow mass beside the kitchen aoor. 
Still, it was nearly time for the pease and beans and beets ; 
they would keep them from starvation while they lasted. 

But when they came, and Louisa could pick plenty of 
green food every morning, there was still a difficulty : Mrs. 
Britton's appetite and digestion were poor ; she could not 
live upon a green-vegetable diet ; and the old man missed 
his porridge, for the meal was all gone. 

One morning in August he cried at the breakfast-table 
like a baby, because he wanted his porridge, and Mrs. Brit- 
ton pushed away her own plate with a despairing gesture. 
There ain't no use," said she. " I can't eat no more 

rden-sauce nohow. I don't blame poor father a mite, 
ou ain't got no feelin' at all." 

" I don't know what I can do ; I've worked as hard as I 
can," said Louisa, miserably. 

" I know what you can do, and so do you." 

"No, I don't, mother," returned Louisa, with alacrity. 
" He ain't been here for two weeks now, and I saw him 
with my own eyes yesterday carryin' a dish into the Mose- 
lys\ and I knew 'twas honey. I think he's after Ida." 

"Carryin' honey into the Moselys' ? I don't believe it." 

" He was ; I saw him." 

" Well, I don't care if he was. If you're a mind to act 
decent now, you can bring him round again. He was dead 
set on you, an' I don't believe he's changed round to that 
Mosely girl as quick as this." 

" You don't want me to ask him to come back here, do you ?* 



400 LOUISA. 

" I want you to act decent. You can go to meetin* to- 
night, if you're a mind to— I sha'n't go ; I ain't got strength 
*nough — an' 'twouldn't hurt you none to hang hack a little 
after meetin', and kind of edge round his way. 'T wouldn't 
take more'n a look." 

" Mother 1" 

" Well, I don't care. Twouldn't hurt you none. It*s 
the way more'n one girl does, whether you believe it or not. 
Men don't do all the courtin' — not by a long shot. 'Twon't 
hurt you none. You needn't look so scart." 

Mrs. Britton's own face was a burning red. She looked 
angrily away from her daughter's honest, indignant eyes. 

" I wouldn't do such a thing as that for a man I liked," 
said Louisa; "and I certainly sha'n't for a man I don't 
like." 

** Then me an' your grandfather '11 starve," said her moth- 
er ; " that's all there is about it. We can't neither of us 
Stan' it much longer." 

"We could—" 

"Could what?" jj 

" Put a— little mortgage on the house." 

Mrs. Britton faced her daughter. She trembled in every 
inch of her weak frame. " Put a mortgage on this house, 
an' by-an'-by not have a roof to cover us 1 Are you crazy? 
I tell you what 'tis, Louisa Britton, we may starve, your 
grandfather an' me, an' you can follow us to the graveyard 
over there, but there's only one way I'll ever put a mort- 
gage on this house. If you have Jonathan Nye, I'll ask 
him to take a little one to tide us along an' get your wed- 
din' things." 

" Mother, I'll tell you what I'm goin' to do." 

"What?" 



LOUISA. 40f 

" I am goin' to ask Uncle Solomon." 

" I guess when Solomon Mears does anythin' for us 
you'll know it. He never forgave your father about that 
wood lot, an' he's hated the whole of us ever since. When 
I went to his wife's funeral he never answered when I spoke 
to him. I guess if you go to him you'll take it out in 
goin'." 

Louisa said nothing more. She began clearing away the 
breakfast dishes and setting the house to rights. Her 
mother was actually so weak that she could scarcely stand, 
and she recognized it. She had settled into the rocking- 
chair, and leaned her head back. Her face looked pale 
and sharp against the dark calico cover. 

When the house wa? in order, Louisa stole up-stairs to 
her own chamber. She put on her clean old blue muslin 
and her hat, then she went slyly down and out the front 
way. 

It was seven miles to her uncle Solomon Mears's, and 
she had made up her mind to walk them. She walked 
quite swiftly until the house windows were out of sight, 
then she slackened her pace a little. It was one of the 
fiercest dog-days, A damp heat settled heavily down upon 
the earth ; the sun scalded. 

At the foot of the hill Louisa passed a house where one 
of her girl acquaintances lived. She was going in the gate 
with a pan of early apples. " Hullo, Louisa," she called. 

" Hullo, Vinnie." 

" Where you goin' ?" 

"Oh, I'm goin' a little way." 

"Ain't it awful hot? Say, Louisa, do you know Ida 
Mosely's cuttin' you out?" 

" She's welcome." 
26 



402 LOUISA, 

The other girl, who was larger and stouter than Louisa, 
with a sallow, unhealthy face, looked at her curiously. "I 
don't see why you wouldn't have him," said she. " I should 
have thought you'd jumped at the chance." 

"Should you if you didn't like him, I'd like to know?" 

" I'd like him if he had such a nice house and as much 
money as Jonathan Nye," returned the other girl. 

She offered Louisa some apples, and she went along the 
road eating them. She herself had scarcely tasted food 
that day. 

It was about nine o'clock ; she had risen early. She 
calculated how many hours it would take her to walk the 
seven miles. She walked as fast as she could to hold out. 
The heat seemed to increase as the sun stood higher. She 
had walked about three miles when she heard wheels be- 
hind her. Presently a team stopped at her side. 

" Good-mornin'," said an embarrassed voice. 

She looked around. It was Jonathan Nye, with his gray 
horse and light wagon. 

"Good-mornin'," said she. 

"Goin' far?" 

" A little ways." 

"Won't you— ride?" 

■" No, thank you. I guess I'd rather walk.** 

Jonathan Nye nodded, made an inarticulate noise in his 
throat, and drove on. Louisa watched the wagon bowling 
lightly along. The dust flew back. She took out her 
handkerchief and wiped her dripping face. 

It was aoout noon when she came in sight of her uncle 
Solomon Mears's house in Wolfsborough. It stood far back 
from the road, behind a green expanse of untrodden yard. 
The blinds on the great square front were all closed; it 



LOUISA. 



403 



IcKjked as if everybody were away. Louisa went around 
to the side door. It stood wide open. There was a thin 
blue cloud of tobacco smoke issuing from it. Solomon 
Mears sat there in the large old kitchen smoking his pipe. 
On the table near him was an empty bowl ; he had just 
eaten his dinner of bread and milk. He got his own din- 
ner, for he had lived alone since his wife died. He looked 
at Louisa. Evidently he did not recognize her. 

" How do you do, Uncle Solomon ?" said Louisa. 

"Oh, it's John Britton's daughter! How d'ye do?" 

He took his pipe out of his mouth long enough to speak, 
then replaced it. His eyes, sharp under their shaggy brows, 
were fixed on Louisa ; his broad bristling face had a look 
of stolid rebuff like an ox ; his stout figure, in his soiled far- 
mer dress, surged over his chair. He sat full in the door- 
way. Louisa standing before him, the perspiration trick- 
ling over her burning face, set forth her case with a certain 
dignity. This old man was her mother's nearest relative. 
He had property and to spare. Should she survive hin\, 
it would be hers, unless willed away. She, with her unso- 
phisticated sense of justice, had a feeling that he ought to 
help he.'. 

The old man listened. When she stopped speaking he 
took the pipe out of his mouth slowly, and stared gloom- 
ily past her at his hay field, where the grass was now a green 
stubble. 

" I ain't got no money I can spare jest now," said he. 
" I s'pose you know your father cheated me out of con- 
sider'ble once ?" 

" We don't care so much about money, if you have got 
something you could spare to — eat. We ain't got anything 
but garden-stuff." 



404 LOUISA. 

Solomon Mears still frowned past her at the hay field. 
Presently he arose slowly and went across the kitchen. 
Louisa sat down on the door-step and waited. Her uncle 
was gone quite a while. She, too, stared over at the field, 
which seemed to undulate like a lake in the hot light. 

" Here's some things you can take, if you want 'em," said 
her uncle, at her back. 

She got up quickly. He pointed grimly to the kitchen 
table. He was a deacon, an orthodox believer ; he recog- 
nized the claims of the poor, but he gave alms as a soldier 
might yield up his sword. Benevolence was the result of 
warfare with his own conscience. 

On the table lay a ham, a bag of meal, one of flour, and 
a basket of eggs. 

" I'm afraid I can't carry 'em all," said Louisa. 

"Leave what you can't then." Solomon caught up his 
hat and went out. He muttered something about not 
spending any more time as he went. 

Louisa stood looking at the packages. It was utterly 
impossible for her to carry them all at once. She heard 
her uncle shout to some oxen he was turning out of the 
barn. She took up the bag of meal and the basket of eggs 
and carried them out to the gate ; then she returned, got the 
flour and ham, and went with them to a point beyond. Then 
she returned for the meal and eggs, and carried them past 
the others. In that way she traversed the seven miles home. 
The heat increased. She had eaten nothing since morning 
but the apples that her friend had given her. Her head was 
swimming, but she kept on. Her resolution was as immov- 
able under the power of the sun as a rock. Once in a while 
she rested for a moment under a tree, but she soon arose 
and went on. It was like a pilgrimage, and the Mecca a* 



LOUISA. 405 

the end of the burning, desert-like road was her own maiden 
independence. 

It was after eight o'clock when she reached home. Her 
mother stood in the doorway watching for her, straining her 
eyes in the dusk. 

" For goodness sake, Louisa Britton ! where have you 
been ?" she began \ but Louisa laid the meal and eggs 
down on the step. 

" I've got to go back a little ways," she panted. 

When she returned with the flour and ham, she could 
hardly get into the house. She laid them on the kitchen 
table, where her mother had put the other parcels, and sank 
into a chair. 

" Is this the way you've brought all these things home?'* 
asked her mother. 

Louisa nodded. 

" All the way from Uncle Solomon's ?'* 

"Yes." 

Her mother went to her and took her hat off. "It's a 
mercy if you ain't got a sunstroke," said she, with a sharp 
tenderness. " I've got somethin' to tell you. What do you 
s'pose has happened ? Mr. Mosely has been here, an' he 
wants you to take the school again when it opens next week. 
He says Ida ain't very well, but I guess that ain't it. They 
think she's goin' to get somebody. Mis' Mitchell says so. 
She's been in. She says he's carryin' things over there the 
whole time, but she don't b'lieve there's anything settled 
yet. She says they feel so sure of it they're goin' to have 
Ida give the school up. I told her I thought Ida would 
make him a good wife, an' she was easier suited than some 
girls. What do you s'pose Mis' Mitchell says ? She says 
old Mis' Nye told her that there was one thing; about it : if 



4o6 LOUISA. 

Jonathan had you, he wa'n't goin' to have me an* father 
hitched on to him ; he'd look out for that. I told Mis' 
Mitchell that I guess there wasn't none of us willin' to hitch, 
you nor anybody else. I hope she'll tell Mis' Nye. Now I'm 
a-goin' to turn you out a tumbler of milk — Mis' Mitchell she 
brought over a whole pitcherful ; says she's got more'n they 
can use — they ain't got no pig now — an' then you go an* 
lay down on the sittin'-room lounge, an' cool off; an' I'll 
stir up some porridge for supper, an' boil some eggs. Fa- 
ther '11 be tickled to death. Go right in there. I'm dread- 
ful afraid you'll be sick. I never heard of anybody doin' 
such a thing as you have." 

Louisa drank the milk and crept into the sitting-room. 
It was warm and close there, so she opened the front door 
and sat down on the step. The twilight was deep, but there 
was a clear yellow glow in the west. One great star had 
come out in the midst of it. A dewy coolness was spread- 
ing over everything. The air was full of bird calls and 
children's voices. Now and then there was a shout of laugh- 
ter. Louisa leaned her head against the door-post. 

The house was quite near the road. Some one passed 
— a man carrying a basket. Louisa glanced at him, and 
recognized Jonathan Nye by his gait. He kept on down 
the road toward the Moselys', and Louisa turned again from 
him to her sweet, mysterious, girlish dreams. 



A CHURCH MOUSE. 

•* I NEVER heard of a woman's bein' saxton." 
** I dun' know what difference that makes; I don't see why 
they shouldn't have women saxtons as well as men saxtons, 
for my part, nor nobody else neither. They'd keep dusted 
'nough sight cleaner. I've seen the dust layin' on my pew 
thick enough to write my name in a good many times, an' 
ain't said nothin' about it. An' I ain't goin' to say nothin' 
now again Joe Sowen, now he's dead an' gone. He did jest 
as well as most men do. Men git in a good many places 
where they don't belong, an' where they set as awkward as 
a cow on a hen-roost, jest because they push in ahead of 
women. I ain't blamin' 'em ; I s'pose if I could push in I 
should, jest the same way. But there ain't no reason that I 
can see, nor nobody else neither, why a woman shouldn't be 
saxton." 

Hetty Fifield stood in the rowen hay-field before Caleb 
Gale. He was a deacon, the chairman of the selectmen, 
and the rich and influential man of the village. One look- 
ing at him would not have guessed it. There was nothing 
imposing about his lumbering figure in his calico shirt and 
baggy trousers. However, his large face, red and moist 
with perspiration, scanned the distant horizon with a stiff 
and reserved air j he did not look at Hetty. 



I 



4o8 A CHURCH MOUSE. 

" How'd you go to work to ring the bell ?" said he. ** It 
would have to be tolled, too, if anybody died." 

" I'd jest as lief ring that little meetin'-house bell as to 
Stan* out here an' jingle a cow-bell," said Hetty; "an* as 
for tollin*, I'd jest as soon toll the bell for Methusaleh, if he 
was livin' here ! I'd laugh if I ain't got strength 'nough for 
that." 

" It takes a kind of a knack." 

" If I ain't got as much knack as old Joe Sowen ever bad, 
ril give up the ship." 

"You couldn't tend the fires." 

" Couldn't tend the fires — when I've cut an* carried in all 
the wood I've burned for forty year ! Couldn't keep the 
fires a-goin' in them two little wood-stoves !" 

" It's consider'ble work to sweep the meetin'-house." 

" I guess I've done 'bout as much work as to sweep that 
little meetin'-house, I ruther guess I have." 

"There's one thing you ain't thought of." 

" What's that ?" 

" Where'd you live ? All old Sowen got for bein* saxton 
was twenty dollar a year, an' we couldn't pay a woman so 
much as that. You wouldn't have enough to pay for your 
livin' anywheres." 

"Where am I goin' to live whether I'm saxton or not?" 

Caleb Gale was silent. 

There was a wind blowing, the rowen hay drifted round 
Hetty like a brown-green sea touched with ripples of blue 
and gold by the asters and golden-rod. She stood in the 
midst of it like a May-weed that had gathered a slender 
toughness through the long summer; her brown cotton 
gown clung about her like a wilting leaf, outlining her harsh 
little form. She was as sallow as a squaw, and she had 



A CHURCH MOUSE, 4O9 

pretty black eyes ; they were bright, although she was old. 
She kept them fixed upon Caleb. Suddenly she raised her- 
self upon her toes ; the wind caught her dress and made it 
blow out ; her eyes flashed. " I'll tell you where I'm goin* 
to live," said she. "/'w goin^ to live in the meetin^- housed 

Caleb looked at her. " Goin' to live in the meetin' -house T 

" Yes, I be." 

** Live in the meetin'-house !" 

** I'd like to know why not." 

**Why — you couldn't — live in the meetin*-house. You're 
crazy." 

Caleb flung out the rake which he was holding, and drew 
it in full of rowen. Hetty moved around in front of him, 
he raked imperturbably ; she moved again right in the path 
of the rake, then he stopped. " There ain't no sense in such 
Ulk." 

" All I want is jest the east corner of the back gall'ry, 
where the chimbly goes up. I'll set up my cookin'-stove 
there, an' my bed, an' I'll curtain it off with my sunflower 
quilt, to keep off the wind." 

" A cookin'-stove an' a bed in the meetin'-house 1" 

" Mis' Grout she give me that cookin'-stove, an' that bed 
I've allers slept on, before she died. She give *em to me 
before Mary Anne Thomas, an' I moved 'em out. They air 
settin' out in the yard now, an' if it rains that stove an* that 
bed will be spoilt. It looks some like rain now, I guess 
you'd better give me the meetin'-house key right off." 

"You don't think you can move that cookin'-stove an' 
that bed into the meetin'-house — I ain't goin' to stop to 
hear such talk." 

" My worsted-work, all my mottoes I've done, an' my 
wool flowers, air out there in the yard." 



4IO 



A CHURCH MOUSE. 



Caleb raked. Hetty kept standing herself about until he 
was forced to stop, or gather her in with the rowen hay. He 
looked straight at her, and scowled ; the perspiration trickled 
down his cheeks. " If I go up to the house can Mis' Gale 
git me the key to the meetin'-house?" said Hetty. 

" No, she can't." 

"Be you goin' up before long.?" 

"No, I ain't." Suddenly Caleb's voice changed : it had 
been full of stubborn vexation, now it was blandly argu- 
mentative. " Don't you see it ain't no use talkin' such non- 
sense, Hetty ? You'd better go right along, an' make up 
your mind it ain't to be thought of." 

"Where be I goin' to-night, then?" 

"To-night?" 

"Yes ; where be I a-goin' ?" 

" Ain't you got any place to go to ?" 

"Where do you s'pose I've got any place ? Them folks 
air movin' into Mis' Grout's house, an' they as good as told 
me to clear out. I ain't got no folks to take me in. I 
dun' know where I'm goin' ; mebbe I can go to your house ?" 

Caleb gave a start. "We've got company to home," said 
he, hastily. " I'm 'fraid Mis' Gale wouldn't think it was 
convenient." 

Hetty laughed. " Most everybody in the town has got 
company," said she. 

Caleb dug his rake into the ground as if it were a hoe, 
then he leaned on it, and stared at the horizon. There was 
a fringe of yellow birches on the edge of the hay-field ; be- 
yond them was a low range of misty blue hills. " You ain*t 
got no place to go to, then ?" 

" I dun' know of any. There ain't no poor-house here, an' 
I jin't got no folks." 



A CHURCH MOUSE. 41I 

Caleb stood like a statue. Some crows flew cawing over 
the field. Hetty waited. " I s'pose that key is where Mis' 
Gale can find it?" she said, finally. 

Caleb turned and threw out his rake with a jerk. " She 
knows where 'tis ; it's hangin' up behind the settin'-room 
door. I s'pose you can stay there to-night, as long as you ain't 
got no other place. We shall have to see what can be done." 

Hetty scuttled off across the field. "You mustn't take 
no stove nor bed into the meetin'-house," Caleb called after 
fier ; " we can't have that, nohow." 

Hetty went on as if she did not hear. 

The golden-rod at the sides of the road was turning 
brown ; the asters were in their prime, blue and white ones ; 
here and there were rows of thistles with white tops. The 
dust was thick ; Hetty, when she emerged from Caleb's 
house, trotted along in a cloud of it. She did not look to 
the right or left, she kept her small eager face fixed straight 
ahead, and moved forward like some little animal with tht 
purpose to which it was born strong within it. 

Presently she came to a large cottage-house on the right 
of the road ; there she stopped. The front yard was full of 
furniture, tables and chairs standing among the dahlias and 
clumps of marigolds. Hetty leaned over the fence at one 
corner of the yard, and inspected a little knot of household 
goods set aside from the others. There were a small cook- 
ing-stove, a hair trunk, a yellow bedstead stacked up against 
the fence, and a pile of bedding. Some children in the yard 
stood in a group and eyed Hetty. A woman appeared in 
the door — she was small, there was a black smutch on her 
face, which was haggard with fatigue, and she scowled in 
the sun as she looked over at Hetty. " Well, got a place to 
stay in ?" said she, in an unexpectedly deep voice. 



4ia A CHURCH MOUSE. 

" Yes, I guess so," replied Hetty. 

" I dun' know how in the world I can have you. All the 
beds will be full — I expect his mother some to-night, an* 
I'm dreadful stirred up anyhow." 

" Everybody's havin' company ; I never see anything like 
it." Hetty's voice was inscrutable. The other woman 
looked sharply at her. 

" You've got a place, ain*t you ?" she asked, doubtfully. 

"Yes, I have." 

At the left of this house, quite back from the road, was a 
little unpainted cottage, hardly more than a hut. There 
was smoke coming out of the chimney, and a tall youth 
lounged in the door. Hetty, with the woman and children 
staring after her, struck out across the field in the little foot- 
path towards the cottage. " I wonder if she's goin' to stay 
there?" the woman muttered, meditating. 

The youth did not see Hetty until she was quite near 
him, then he aroused suddenly as if from sleep, and tried 
to slink off around the cottage. But Hetty called after him. 
" Sammy," she cried, *' Sammy, come back here, I want you !" 

"What d'ye want?" 

" Come back here !" 

The youth lounged back sulkily, and a tall woman came 
to the door. She bent out of it anxiously to hear Hetty. 

" I want you to come an' help me move my stove an* 
things," said Hetty. 

" Where to .?" 

" Into the meetin'-house." 

•* The meetin'-house ?" 

"Yes, the meetin'-house." 

The woman in the door had sodden hands ; behind her 
arose the steam of a wash-tub. She and the youth stared 



A CHURCH MOUSE. 



413 



at Hetty, but surprise was too strong an emotion for them 
to grasp firmly. 

" I want Sammy to come right over an' help me," said 
Hetty. 

" He ain't strong enough to move a stove," said the 
woman. 

" Ain't strong enough !" 

" He's apt to git lame." 

"Most folks are. Guess I've got lame. Come right 
along, Sammy !" 

" He ain't able to lift much." 

" I s'pose he's able to be lifted, ain't he ?" 

" I dun' know what you mean." 

"The stove don't weigh nothin'," said Hetty; "I could 
carry it myself if I could git hold of it. Come, Sam- 
my !" 

Hetty turned down the path, and the youth moved a 
little way after her, as if perforce. Then he stopped, and 
cast an appealing glance back at his mother. Her face 
was distressed. " Oh, Sammy, I'm afraid you'll git sick," 
said she. 

"No, he ain't goin' to git sick," said Hetty. "Come, 
Sammy." And Sammy followed her down the path. 

It was four o'clock then. At dusk Hetty had her gay 
sunflower quilt curtaining off the chimney-corner of the 
church gallery ; her stove and little bedstead were set up, 
and she had entered upon a life which endured successfully 
for three months. All that time a storm brewed ; then it 
broke ; but Hetty sailed in her own course for the three 
months. 

It was on a Saturday that she took up her habitation in 
the meeting-house. The next morning, when the boy who 



414 



A CHURCH MOUSE. 



had been supplying the dead sexton's place canae and shook 
the door, Hetty was prompt on the other side. " Deacon 
Gale said for you to let me in so I could ring the bell," 
called the boy. 

"Go away," responded Hetty. "I'm goin' to ring the 
bell ; I'm saxton." 

Hetty rang the bell with vigor, but she made a wild, irreg- 
ular jangle at first ; at the last it was better. The village 
people said to each other that a new hand was ringing. 
Only a few knew that Hetty was in the meeting-house. 
When the congregation had assembled, and saw that gaudy 
tent pitched in the house of the Lord, and the resolute 
little pilgrim at the door of it, there was a commotion. 
The farmers and their wives were stirred out of their Sab- 
bath decorum. After the service was over, Hetty, sitting 
in a pew corner of the gallery, her little face dark and 
watchful against the flaming background of her quilt, saw 
the people below gathering in groups, whispering, and look- 
ing at her. 

Presently the minister, Caleb Gale, and the other deacon 
came up the gallery stairs. Hetty sat stiffly erect. Caleb 
Gale went up to the sunflower quilt, slipped it aside, and 
looked in. He turned to Hetty with a frown. To-day his 
dignity was supported by important witnesses. "Did you 
bring that stove an' bedstead here .?" 

Hetty nodded. 

"What made you do such a thing?" 

"What was I goin' to do if I didn't? How's a woman 
as old as me goin' to sleep in a pew, an' go without a cup 
of tea ?" 

The men looked at each other. They withdrew to an- 
other corner of the gallery and conferred in low tones; 



A CHURCH MOUSE. 415 

then they went down-stairs and out of the church. Hetty 
smiled when she heard the door shut. When one is hard 
pressed, one, however simple, gets wisdom as to vantage- 
points. Hetty comprehended hers perfectly. She was the 
propounder of a problem ; as long as It was unguessed, she 
was sure of her foothold as propounder. This little village 
in which she had lived all her life had removed the shelter 
from her head ; she being penniless, it was beholden to 
provide her another; she asked it what When the old 
woman with whom she had lived died, the town promptly 
seized the estate for taxes — none had been paid for years. 
Hetty had not laid up a cent ; indeed, for the most of the 
time she had received no wages. There had been no money 
in the house ; all she had gotten for her labor for a sickly, 
impecunious old woman was a frugal board. When the 
old woman died, Hetty gathered in the few household arti- 
cles for which she had stipulated, and made no complaint. 
She walked out of the house when the new tenants came 
in ; all she asked was, " What are you going to do with 
me?" This little settlement of narrow-minded, prosperous 
farmers, however hard a task charity might be to them, 
^ould not turn an old woman out into the fields and high- 
ways to seek for food as they would a Jersey cow. They 
had their Puritan consciences, and her note of distress 
would sound louder in their ears than the Jersey's bell 
echoing down the valley in the stillest night. But the 
question as to Hetty Fifield's disposal was a hard one to 
answer. There was no almshouse in the village, and no 
private family was willing to take her in. Hetty was strong 
and capable ; although she was old, she could well have 
paid for her food and shelter by her labor ; but this could 
not secure her an entrance even among this hard-working 



41 6 A CHURCH MOUSE, 

and thrifty people, who would ordinarily grasp quickly 
enough at service without wage in dollars and cents. Hetty 
had somehow gotten for herself an unfortunate name in 
the village. She was held in the light of a long-thorned 
brier among the beanpoles, or a fierce little animal with 
claws and teeth bared. People were afraid to take her into 
their families ; she had the reputation of always taking her 
own way, and never heeding the voice of authority. " I'd 
take her in an' have her give me a lift with the work," said 
one sickly farmer's wife; "but, near's I can find out, I 
couldn't never be sure that I'd get rnolasses in the beans, 
nor saleratus in my sour-milk cakes, if she took a notion 
not to put it in. I don't dare to risk it.'* 

Stories were about concerning Hetty's authority over the 
old woman with whom she had lived. "Old Mis' Grout 
never dared to say her soul was her own," people said. 
Then Hetty's sharp, sarcastic sayings were repeated ; the 
justice of them made them sting. People did not want a 
tongue like that in their homes. 

Hetty as a church sexton was directly opposed to all 
their ideas of church decorum and propriety in general; 
her pitching her tent in the Lord's house was almost sacri- 
lege ; but what could they do.^ Hetty jangled the Sabbath 
bells for the three months ; once she tolled the bell for an 
old man, and it seemed by the sound of the bell as if his 
long, calm years had swung by in a weak delirium ; but 
people bore it. She swept and dusted the little meeting- 
house, and she garnished the walls with her treasures of 
worsted-work. The neatness and the garniture went far to 
quiet the dissatisfaction of the people. They had a crude 
taste. Hetty's skill in fancy-work was quite celebrated. 
Her wool flowers were much talked of, and young girls 



A CHURCH MOUSE. 41; 

tried to copy them. So these wreaths and clusters of red 
and blue and yellow wool roses and lilies hung as accepta- 
bly between the meeting-house windows as pictures of saints 
in a cathedral. 

Hetty hung a worsted motto over the pulpit ; on it she 
set her chiefest treasure of art, a white wax cross with an 
ivy vine trailing over it, all covered with silver frost-work. 
Hetty always surveyed this cross with a species of awe ; she 
felt the irresponsibility and amazement of a genius at his 
own v^ork. 

When she set it on the pulpit, no queen casting her rich 
robes and her jewels upon a shrine could have surpassed 
her in generous enthusiasm. "I guess when they see that 
they won't say no more," she said. 

But the people, although they shared Hetty's admiration 
for the cross, were doubtful. They, looking at it, had a 
double vision of a little wax Virgin upon an altar. They 
wondered if it savored of popery. But the cross remained, 
and the minister was mindful not to jostle it in his gestures. 

It was three months from the time Heity took up her 
abode in the church, and a week before Christmas, when 
the problem was solved. Hetty herself precipitated the 
solution. She prepared a boiled dish in the meeting-house, 
upon a Saturday, and the next day the odors of turnip and 
cabbage were strong in the senses of the worshippers. They 
sniffed and looked at one another. This superseding the 
legitimate savor of the sanctuary, the fragrance of pepper- 
mint lozenges and wintergreen, the breath of Sunday clothes, 
by the homely week-day odors of kitchen vegetables, was too 
much for the sensibilities of the people. They looked in- 
dignantly around at Hetty, sitting before her sunflower 
hanging, comfortable from her good dinner of the day be- 



4i8 A CHURCH MOUSE. 

fore, radiant with the consciousness of a great plateful of 
cold vegetables in her tent for her Sabbath dinner. 

Poor Hetty had not many comfortable dinners. The se- 
lectmen doled out a small weekly sum to her, which she 
took with dignity as being her hire ; then she had a mild 
forage in the neighbors' cellars and kitchens, of poor apples 
and stale bread and pie, paying for it in teaching her art of 
worsted-work to the daughters. Her Saturday's dinner had 
been a banquet to her: she had actually bought a piece of 
pork to boil with the vegetables ; somebody had given her 
a nice little cabbage and some turnips, without a thought of 
the limitations of her housekeeping. Hetty herself had not 
a thought. She made the fires as usual that Sunday morn- 
ing ; the meeting-house was very clean, there was not a 
speck of dust anywhere, the wax cross on the pulpit glis- 
tened in a sunbeam slanting through the house. Hetty, 
sitting in the gallery, thought innocently how nice it looked. 

After the meeting, Caleb Gale approached the other dea- 
con. " Somethin's got to be done," said he. And the other 
deacon nodded. He had not smelt the cabbage until his 
wife nudged him and mentioned it ; neither had Caleb Gale. 

In the afternoon of the next Thursday, Caleb and the 
other two selectmen waited upon Hetty in her tabernacle, 
fhey stumped up the gallery stairs, and HeVty emerged 
from behind the quilt and stood looking at them scared 
and defiant. The three men nodded stiffly ; there was a 
pause ; Caleb Gale motioned meaningly to one of the oth- 
ers, who shook his head ; finally he himself had to speak. 
" I'm 'fraid you find ic pretty cold here, don't you, Hetty T^ 
said he. 

" No, thank ye ; it*s very comfortable,'' replied Hetty, po* 
lite and wary. 



A CHURCH MOUSE. 41^ 

" It ain't very convenient for you to do your cookin' here, 

I guess." 

" It's jest as convenient as I want. I don't find no fault" 

"I guess it's rayther lonesome here nights, ain't it?" 

" Yd 'nough sight ruther be alone than have comp'ny, any 
day/' 

" It ain't fit for an old woman like you to be livin' alone 
here this way." 

" Well, I dun' know of anything that's any fitter ; mebbe 
you do." 

Caleb looked appealingly at his companions; they stood 
siitF and irresponsive. Hetty's eyes were sharp and watch- 
ful upon them all. 

" Well, Hetty," said Caleb, " we've found a nice, comforta- 
ble place for you, an' I guess you'd better pack up your 
things, an' I'll carry you right over there." Caleb stepped 
back a little closer to the other men. Hetty, small and 
trembling and helpless before them, looked vicious. She 
was like a little animal driven from its cover, for whom there 
is nothing left but desperate warfare and death. 

" Where to ?" asked Hetty. Her voice shrilled up into a 
squeak. 

Caleb hesitated. He looked again at the other selectmen. 
There was a solemn, far-away expression upon their faces. 
" Well," said he, " Mis' Radway wants to git somebody, 
an'—" 

"You ain't goin* to take me to that woman's!" 

" You'd be real comfortable — " 

"I ain't goin'." 

" Now, why not, I'd like to know ?" 

" I don't like Susan Radway, hain't never liked her, an' 
I ain't goin' to live with her." 



420 A CHURCH MOUSE. 

" Mis' Radway's a good Christian woman. You hadn't 
ought to speak that way about her." 

" You know what Susan Radway is, jest as well's I do ; an' 
everybody else does too. 1 ain't goin' a step, an' you might 
jest as well make up your mind to it." 

Then Hetty seated herself in the corner of the pew near- 
est her tent, and folded her hands in her lap. She looked 
over at the pulpit as if she were listening to preaching. She 
panted, and her eyes glittered, but she had an immovable 
air. 

" Now, Hetty, you've got sense enough to know you can't 
stay here,'' said Caleb. "You'd better put on your bon- 
net, an' come right along before dark. You'll have a nice 
ride." 

Hetty made no response. 

The three men stood looking at her. " Come, Hetty," 
said Caleb, feebly; and another selectman spoke. "Yes, 
you'd better come," he said, in a mild voice. 

Hetty continued to stare at the pulpit. 

The three men withdrew a little and conferred. They 
did not know how to act. This was a new emergency in 
their simple, even lives. They were not constables ; these 
three steady, sober old men did not want to drag an old 
woman by main force out of the meeting-house, and thrust 
her into Caleb Gale's buggy as if it were a police wagon. 

Finally Caleb brightened. " I'll go over an' git mother,** 
said he. He started with a brisk air, and went down the 
gallery stairs ; the others followed. They took up their 
stand in the meeting-house yard, and Caleb got into his 
buggy and gathered up the reins. The wind blew cold 
over the hill. " Hadn't you better go inside and wait out 
of the wind ?" said Caleb. 



A CHURCH MOUSE. 42 1 

" I guess we'll wait out here," replied one ; and the othet 
nodded. 

" Well, I sha'n't be gone long," said Caleb. " Mother'll 
know how to manage her." He drove carefully down the 
hill ; his buggy wings rattled in the wind. The other men 
pulled up their coat collars, and met the blast stubbornly. 

" Pretty ticklish piece of business to tackle,'' said one, in 
a low grunt. 

" That's so," assented the other. Then they were silent, 
and waited for Caleb. Once in a while they stamped their 
feet and slapped their mittened hands. They did not hear 
Hetty slip the bolt and turn the key of the meeting-house 
door, nor see her peeping at them from a gallery window. 

Caleb returned in twenty minutes ; he had not fa«^ to go. 
His wife, stout and handsome and full of vigor, sat beside 
him in the buggy. Her face was red with the cold wind; 
her thick cashmere shawl was pinned tightly over her broad 
bosom. " Has she come down yet ?" she called out, in an 
imperious way. 

The two selectmen shook their heads. Caleb kept the 
horse quiet while his wife got heavily and briskly out of the 
buggy. She went up the meeting-house steps, and reached 
out confidently to open the door. Then she drew back and 
looked around. " Why," said she, " the door's locked ; she's 
locked the door. I call this pretty work !" 

She turned again quite fiercely, and began beating on the 
door. " Hetty !" she called ; " Hetty, Hetty Fifield ! Let 
me in ! What have you locked this door for ?" 

She stopped and turned to her husband. 

" Don't you s'pose the barn key would unlock it ?" sbc 
asked. 

"I don't brieve 'twould." 



422 



A CHURCH MOUSE. 



" Well, you'd better go home and fetch it." 

Caleb again drove down the hill, and the other men 
searched their pockets for keys. One had the key of his 
corn-house, and produced it hopefully ; but it would not un- 
lock the meeting-house door. 

A crowd seldom gathered in the little village for anything 
short of a fire ; but to-day in a short time quite a number 
of people stood on the meeting-house hill, and more kept 
coming. When Caleb Gale returned with the barn key his 
daughter, a tall, pretty young girl, sat beside him, her little 
face alert and smiling in her red hood. The other select- 
men's wives toikd eagerly up the hill, with a young daugh- 
ter of one of them speeding on ahead. Then the two young 
girls stood close to each other and watched the proceedings. 
Key after key was tried ; men brought all the large keys 
they could find, running importantly up the hill, but none 
would unlock the meeting-house door. After Caleb had 
tried the last available key, stooping and screwing it anx- 
iously, he turned around. "There ain't no use in it, any 
way," said he ; " most likely the door's bolted." 

" You don't mean there's a bolt on that door ?" cried his 
wife. 
. "Yes, there is." 

" Then you might jest as well have tore 'round for hen's 
feathers as keys. Of course she's bolted it if she's got any 
wit, an' I guess she's got most as much as some of you men 
that have been bringin' keys. Try the windows." 

But the windows were fast. Hetty had made her sacred 
castle impregnable except to violence. Either the door 
would have to be forced or a window broken to gain an 
entrance. 

The people conferred with one another. Some were fot 



i 



A CHURCH MOUSE. 423 

retreating, and leaving Hetty in peaceful possession until 
time drove her to capitulate. " She'll open it to-morrow," 
they said. Others were for extreme measures, and their im- 
petuosity gave them the lead. The project of forcing the 
door was urged ; one man started for a crow-bar. 

'• They are a parcel of fools to do such a thing," said 
Caleb Gale's wife to another woman. " Spoil that good 
door ! They'd better leave the poor thing alone till to-mor- 
row. I dun' know what's goin' to be done with her when they 
git in. I ain't goin' to have father draggin' her over to Mis' 
Radway's by the hair of her head." 

" That's jest what I say," returned the other woman. 

Mrs. Gale went up to Caleb and nudged him. "Don't 
you let them break that door down, father," said she. 

" Well, well, we'll see," Caleb replied. He moved away 
a little ; his wife's voice had been drowned out lately by a 
masculine clamor, and he took advantage of it. 

All the people talked at once ; the wind was keen, and 
all their garments fluttered ; the two young girls had their 
arms around each other under their shawls; the man with 
the crow-bar came stalking up the hill. 

" Don't you let them break down that door, father," said 
Mrs. Gale. 

" Well, well," grunted Caleb. 

Regardless of remonstrances, the man set the crow-bar 
against the door ; suddenly there was a cry, " There she is !" 
Everybody looked up. There was Hetty looking out of a 
igallery window. 

Everybody was still. Hetty began to speak. Her dark 
old face, peering out of the window, looked ghastly ; the 
wind blew her poor gray locks over it. She extended her 
little wrinkled hands. "Jest let me say one word," said 



424 ^ CHURCH MOUSE. 

she ; "jest one word." Her voice shook. All her cool- 
ness was gone. The magnitude of her last act of defiance 
had caused it to react upon herself like an overloaded gun. 

" Say all you want to, Hetty, an' don't be afraid," Mrs. 
Gale called out. 

*' I jest want to say a word," repeated Hetty. " Can't I 
stay here, nohow ? It don't seem as if I could go to Mis* 
Radway^s. I ain't nothin' again' her. I s'pose she's a 
good woman, but she's used to havin' her own way, and 
I've been livin' all my life with them that was, an' I've had 
to fight to keep a footin* on the earth, an' now I'm gittin' 
too old for't. If I can jest stay here in the meetin'-house, 
I won't ask for nothin' any better. I sha'n't need much to 
keep me, I wa'n't never a hefty eater ; an' I'll keep the 
meetin'-house jest as clean as I know how. An' I'll make 
some more of them wool flowers. I'll make a wreath to 
go the whole length of the gallery, if I can git wool 'nough. 
Won't you let me stay ? I ain't complainin', but I've always 
had a dretful hard time ; seems as if now I might take a 
little comfort the last of it, if I could stay here. I can't go 
to Mis' Radway's nohow." Hetty covered her face with 
her hands ; her words ended in a weak wail. 

Mrs. Gale's voice rang out clear and strong and irre- 
pressible. "Of course you can stay in the meetin'-house," 
said she ; " I should laugh if you couldn't. Don't you worry 
another mite about it. You sha'n't go one step to Mis' 
Radway's ; you couldn't live a day with her. You can stay 
jest where you are ; you've kept the meetin'-house enough 
sight cleaner than I've ever seen it. Don't you worry an- 
other mite, Hetty." 

Mrs. Gale stood majestically, and looked defiantly around j 
tears were in her eyes. Another woman edged up to her. 



A CHURCH MOUSE. 425 

"Why couldn't she have that little room side of the pulpit, 
where the minister hangs his hat?" she whispered. "He 
could hang it somewhere else." 

" Course she could," responded Mrs. Gale, with alacrity, 
"jest as well as not. The minister can have a hook in the 
entry for his hat. She can have her stove an' her bed in 
there, an' be jest as comfortable as can be. I should laugh 
if she couldn't. Don't you worry, Hetty." 

The crowd gradually dispersed, sending out stragglers 
down the hill until it was all gone. Mrs. Gale waited until 
the last, sitting in the buggy in state. When her husband 
gathered up the reins, she called back to Hetty: "Don't 
you worry one mite more about it, Hetty. I'm comin' up 
to see you in the mornin'!" 

It was almost dusk when Caleb drove down the hill ; he 
was the last of the besiegers, and the feeble garrison was 
left triumphant. 

The next day but one was Christmas, the next night 
Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve Hetty had reached 
what to her was the flood-tide of peace and prosperity. 
Established in that small, lofty room, with her bed and her 
stove, with gifts of a rocking-chair and table, and a goodly 
store of food, with no one to molest or disturb her, she had 
nothing to wish for on earth. All her small desires were 
satisfied. No happy girl could have a merrier Christmas 
than this old woman with her little measure full of gifts. 
That Christmas Eve Hetty lay down under her sunflower 
quilt, and all her old hardships looked dim in the distance, 
like far-away hills, while her new joys came out like stars. 

She was a light sleeper ; the next morning she was up 
early. She opened the meeting-house door and stood look- 
ing out. The smoke from the village chimneys had not 



I 



426 A CHURCH MOUSE. 

yet begun to rise blue and rosy in the clear frosty air. 
There was no snow, but over all the hill there was a silver 
rime of frost ; the bare branches of the trees glistened. 
Hetty stood looking. " Why, it's Christmas mornin'," she 
said, suddenly. Christmas had never been a gala-day to 
this old woman. Christmas had not been kept at all in 
this New England village when she was young. She was 
led to think of it now only in connection with the dinner 
Mrs. Gale had promised to bring her to-day. 

Mrs. Gale had told her she should have some of her 
Christmas dinner, some turkey and plum-pudding. She 
called it to mind now with a thrill of delight. Her face 
grew momentarily more radiant. There was a certain 
beauty in it. A finer morning light than that which lit up 
the wintry earth seemed to shine over the furrows of her 
old face. "I'm goin' to have turkey an' plum-puddin' to- 
day," said she ; " it's Christmas." Suddenly she started, 
and went into the meeting-house, straight up the gallery 
stairs. There in a clear space hung the bell-rope. Hetty 
grasped it. Never before had a Christmas bell been rung 
in this village ; Hetty had probably never heard of Christ- 
mas bells. She was prompted by pure artless enthusiasm 
and grateful happiness. Her old arms pulled on the rope 
with a will, the bell sounded peal on peal. Down in the 
village, curtains rolled up, letting in the morning light, 
happy faces looked out of the windows. Hetty had awak* 
ened the whole village to Christmas Day. 



4 



A KITCHEN COLONEL. 

Back of the kitchen proper in the Lee house there was 
another shed-kitchen, unplastered and unpainted, that was 
used for rough work like soap-boiling and washing. Each 
kitchen had its own door opening directly into the green 
yard on the north side of the house. 

Abel Lee sat in the door of the back kitchen cleaning 
dandelion greens. His long limbs in stiff blue cotton 
overalls sprawled down over the low wooden step into the 
grass. His white head showed out against the dark un- 
painted interior at his back. He had a tin pan full of 
dande'/ions between his knees, and he was scraping them 
assiduously with an old shoe-knife, and throwing them into 
another pan on the step beside him. 

That morning the narrow green yard that stretched along 
the north side of the house had been all thickly set with 
yellow dandelion disks ; now there were very few left, for 
Abel had dug them up for dinner. 

It was early in May, and the air was full of sudden sweet 
calls of birds and delicate rustles of flowering boughs. In 
Ephraim Cole's next-door yard, on the other side of the 
gray picket-fence, stood three blossoming peach-trees. They 
jwere young and symmetrical trees, they stood in a line, 
and were in full pink bloom. Every time they stirred in 
the wind they gave out a stronger almond fragrance. 



428 A KITCHEN COLONEL. 

Abel, as he cleaned his dandelions, breathed it in with 
out noticing. He had been out there all the morning, anc 
had become accustomed to it, as it seems one would to the 
air of paradise. Moreover, he had seen seventy-eight sea 
sons of blooming peach-trees, and a spring had become 
like an old and familiar picture on his wall ; it had no ne^^ 
meaning for him. And, too, he was harnessed, as it were, 
with his head down, to dandelions. 

Always as he sat there he could hear a heavy creaking 
step in the forward kitchen. Back and forth it went, and 
there were also loud rattling and clinking noises of dishes 
and iron kettles. 

Suddenly, as he worked on the dandelions, the step and 
the noises ceased, and a voice took their place. It was a 
naturally soft and weak voice that had been strained into 
hard shrillness. "You mind you clean them dandelions 
thorough, father." 

" I'm takin' all the pains I can with 'em," replied the old 
man. He examined one which he held in hand at the mo- 
ment with great solicitude. He could not see the woman, 
but her eyes were upon him through the crack in the blind 
She was at the window nearest the door. 

" Well, you mind you do," she repeated. " How near 
done air they?" 

The old man surveyed the pans with grave considera- 
tion. " 'Bout half, I guess." 

"Half) Good land! An' you've been quiddlin' ouli 
there all the mornin'." 

" It's considerable work to dig 'em, mother." 

" Work — talk about work ! You dun know what work is. 
If you'd made the pies that I have since I got up from th| 
breakfast-table you might think you'd done somethio'. Vk 



I 



A KITCHEN COLONEL, 429 

ihem greens ain't done in half an hour I can't get 'em 
boiled for dinner." 

" J guess I can git 'em done in half an hour." 

" Guess — there ain't no guess about it ! You've got to 
if I git 'em done for dinner, an' I've got to have somethin' 
to eat with all them boarders. I want you to git them 
done, an' then wash up the breakfast dishes. I ain't had 
a minute. Now don't, for the land's sake, putter so long 
over that one; it's clean 'nough." 

The voice ceased and the step began. Abel labored 
with diligence at his dandelion greens. After a while an- 
other old man came stiffly sauntering across the next-dooi 
yard, and took up a stand the other side of the picket-fence, 
He was small, with sharp features and a high forehead. He 
had very white hair and a long white beard, and he was 
smiling to himself. He stood between two of the bloom- 
ing peach-trees, and looked smilingly at Abel, who toiled 
over his greens, and did not appear to see him. 

" Well, Abel, how air ye ?" said the old man finally. His 
smile deepened, his old blue eyes took on a hard twinkle, 
like blue beads, and stared straight into Abel's face. 

" Well, I'm pooty fair, Ephraim. How air you ?" Abel 
had not started when the other spoke ; he merely glanced 
up from his greens with a friendly air. 

"Well, I'm 'bout as usual, Abel." The old man paused 
for a second. When he spoke again it was more cautiously. 
He was near Abel, and also very near the kitchen window 
whence the sound of footsteps and dishes came. " Kitchen 
colonel this mornin', Abel ?" he queried, in a soft and insin- 
uating voice. His venerable white beard seemed to take 
nuirks and curls like a satyr's ; he gave a repressed chuckle. 

" I dun' know what you call it," replied Abel, with a pa« 



430 -4 KITCHEN COLONEL. 

tient gravity. He took another dandelion out of the pan 
and examined it minutely. 

"Goin' to the meetin' this arternoon ?" 

"What meetin'?" 

" The town meetin : ain't ye heerd of it ?'* 

« No, I ain't." 

" It's a special town meetin' 'bout the water-works they're 
talkin' 'bout puttin' in. There's notices up on all the trees 
down street. I should ha' thought you'd seen 'em, if you'd 
had eyes." 

" Well, I ain't happened to somehow." 

Ephraim cast a glance at the kitchen window, and again 
cautiously lowered his voice. " Been too busy in the kitch- 
en, ain't ye ?" 

"Well, I dun know 'bout that." 

" I s'pose a kitchen colonel wouldn't git shot if he run 
for't ; but he might git the pots an' kittles throwed at him." 
Ephraim doubled over the fence with merriment at his own 
humor. 

Abel's face was imperturbable ; he kept close at work 
on the greens. 

"Well, I s'pose you'll go to the meetin'," continued 
Ephraim. 

" I dun know." 

" I should think you'd want to go, if you was a man, an' 
have a leetle voice in things. Here they air talkin' 'bout 
puttin' in them water-works, an' raisin' our taxes four per 
cent, to pay for't. I've got a good well, an' so've you, an' 
we don't want no water-works." 

"There's some that ain't got wells," observed Abel, 
shortly. 

" Well, that ain't anything to us, is it } We've got *ero. 



i 



A KITCHEN COLONEL. 43 1 

A.nyway, I should think you'd want to go to the meetin', 
an' see what was bein' done, if you was a man." 

Abel said nothing. He began to gather up himself and 
his pans stiffly. The dandelions were all picked over. 
Ephraim, still smiling, leaned on the fence and watched 
him. 

" What ye goin' to do now, Abel ?" 

Abel did not seem to hear. When he stood up, one 
could see how tall he was, although there was a stoop in 
his gaunt square shoulders. His spare face was pale, and 
his sharp handsome features had a severe downward cast, 
although their principal effect was gentle patience. He 
looked like a Roman senator turned begging friar as he 
stood there in his overalls holding his dandelion pans. 

" Got the dishes washed, Abel ?" 

" No, I ain't yet," replied Abel, with a mixture of em- 
barrassment and dignity in his tone. He turned on his 
heel, but Ephraim would not let him go. 

"Stop a minute," said he. "Where's Fanny?" 

" She's gone to school." 

" Hm !" Ephraim, as he sniffed, cocked his head, and 
rolled his eyes towards the pink top of a peach-tree, as if 
in a spasm of contempt. " I rayther think if Fanny Lee 
was my granddaughter she'd quit school-teachin', an' stay 
to home an' help about the house-work, an' I'd quit bein' 
kitchen colonel ; I rayther think I would." 

Ephraim raised his voice incautiously ; a woman's head 
appeared in the window. 

"What's that?^' she inquired, sharply. 

"Oh, nothing replied Ephraim. "I was jest talkin' to 
Abel, Mis' Lee." Ephraim straightened himself from his 
lounge over the fence, and turned about with a deprecatory 



432 A KITCHEN COLONEL. 

swiftness ; but the woman's sharp old voice followed him 
up like a long-lashed whip. 

" Well," said she, " if you aia't got anything better to do 
than to Stan' leanin' on the fence talkin' nothin' to my hus- 
band all the forenoon, you had better come in here an' 
help me. I'll give you somethin' to do." Ephraim said 
nothing ; he was in full retreat, and had passed the line of 
peach-trees. " You'd better go home an' help Mis' Coles 
carry in the water for her washin'," the woman's voice went 
on. " I see her carryin' in a pail jest now, an' she was 
bent over 'most double." Seeing that she could get no 
response, she stood looking after Ephraim with a comical 
expression that savored of malice and amusement. She 
turned around when Abel with the dandelions shuffled into 
the room. " Now, father, what air you bringin' that pan 
that you've put the scrapin's of the greens in in here for? 
Don't you know no better.? I should think you'd knowed 
enough to took 'em down to the hens, many times as I've 
told ye. They're shut up now, an' they like green things." 

" I'll take 'em down now." 

" Take 'em down now ! It does seem sometimes, father, 
as if you didn't have no sense at all. If I set you to doin' 
a piece of work, you're always takin' hold on't wrong end 
first. Take them greens down to the hens ! I should 
think you'd know better, father." 

Mrs. Lee was a small and frail-looking old woman, but 
she seemed always to have through her a strong quiver as 
of electric wires. It was as if she had an electric battery 
at the centre of her nervous system. Abel stood droop- 
ingly before her, his face full of mild dejection and bewil- 
derment. 

" Ain't I told you, father," she went on, " that them dan- 



I 



A KITCHEN- COLONEL, 433 

delion greens wouldn't get done for dinner if they wa'n't 
on ? an' ain't they got to be washed ? You know you ain't 
washed 'em, an' they ain't ready to put in the kittle, an' 
here you air talkin' 'bout goin' to the hen-coop ! I ruther 
guess the hens can wait." 

" I didn't know jest what you meant, mother." 

"You don't act as if you knew what anything meant 
sometimes. It does seem to me as if you might have a 
leetle more sconce, father, with all I've got to do." 

Abel set the pan of greens in the sink, and pumped 
water on them with vigor. 

" Mind you git 'em clean," charged his wife. She was 
baking pies, and she moved about with such quickness that 
her motions seemed full of vibrations, and as if one could 
hear a hum, as with a bird. If she had about her any of 
the rustiness and clumsiness of age, she propelled herself 
with such energy that no hitches nor squeaks were appar- 
ent. She stepped heavily for so small a woman ; it seemed 
impossible that her bodily weight could account for such 
heavy footsteps, and as if her character must add its own 
gravity to them. Mrs. Lee was but two years younger than 
her husband ; but her light hair had not turned gray — it 
had only faded — and she did not wear a cap. She had 
been a very pretty woman, and there was still a suggestion 
of the prettiness in her face. She had withered complete, 
as some flowers do on their stalks, keeping all their original 
shapes, and fading into themselves, not scattering any of 
their graces abroad. 

Everybody called Mrs. Abel Lee a very smart woman, 

and a very wonderful woman for one of her age. The house 

in which she lived had been left to her by her father. Abel 

had mortgaged it heavily, and she had taken boarders and 

28 



434 ^ KITCHEN COLONEL. 

nearly cleared it. Abel Lee had been a very unfortunate 
and unsuccessful man through his whole life. He had 
worked hard, and failed in everything that he had under- 
taken. Now he was an old man of seventy-eight, and his 
wife was taking boarders to support the family and clear 
the mortgage, and he was helping her about the housework. 
It seemed to be all that he could do. 

The Lees had had one son, who had apparently inherited 
his father's ill-fortune. He had a sad life, and died with- 
out a dollar, leaving his daughter Fanny to the care of his 
old parents. Fanny was about eighteen now, and she 
taught school. Her school-house was a mile away, and 
she did not come home to dinner. However, Mrs. Lee's 
boarders all came, punctually at twelve o'clock. The 
boarders were four women, not very young, who worked in 
the shoe factory. When they got home, dingy and dull- 
faced, they always found dinner on the table — plenty of 
good food. Mrs. Lee was a splendid cook, after the vil- 
lage model. She did the helping with alacrity, and Abel 
had his portion after the boarders. He had a small allow- 
ance of greens to-day; they were the first of the season, 
and the boarders were hungry for them. The four women 
could not grasp many of the pleasures of life, and had to 
make the most of those that hung low enough for them. 
They took a deal of comfort in eating. 

After dinner Abel hurried to clear off the table and wash 
the dishes. He was usually a long time about it, for he 
was hopelessly clumsy, although he was so faithful at such 
work. Abel at the dish-tub with one of his wife's aprons 
pinned around his waist was a piteous object. He bent to 
the task with a hopeless and dejected air, and mopped the 
plates with melancholy fussiness. But to-day he rattled 



A KITCHEN COLONEL, 435 

the dishes quite like a woman. " Don't you rattle them 
plates round so ; you'll nick *em," his wife remarked once, 
and Abel obediently tempered his movements. Still, the 
dinner dishes were washed much sooner than usual. After 
they were set away, Abel took up a stand at the pantry 
door ; he leaned against it, and regarded his wife with a 
hesitating air. Once in a while he opened his mouth as if 
to speak, then seemed to change his mind. Finally Mrs. 
Lee turned sharply on him. " Why don't you git the broom 
an' sweep up the kitchen, father," said she. "What air 
you standin' there for?" 

Abel did not answer for a moment ; he looked across 
the room at the broom on its nail, then at his wife — " I 
kinder thought — mebbe — I'd go to — that town meetin' this 
afternoon." 

His wife faced about on him with a spoon in her hand. 
'' What town meetin' .?" 

"The one they've 'p'inted about the water-works. I 
thought mebbe I'd better go an' kinder look into it a leetle." 

" Look into it — a great difference it '11 m^ke your lookin' 
into it ! I should think you'd got about all the town meet- 
in' you could attend to to home, without goin' traipsin' off 
there. Here's the churnin' to be done, an' I ain't got no 
time nor strength for't. I shouldn't think you'd talk 'bout 
town meetin's, father." 

" Well, I dun' know as I'd better go," said Abel, and 
went across for the broom. However, he swept with more 
despatch than usual, and when he sat down to the churn it 
was with a forlorn hope that the butter might come in sea- 
son for him to go to the town meeting. But the butter did 
not come until the meeting had been long dispersed, and 
not until Fanny came home from school. Abel was just 



I 



436 A KITCHEN COLONEL. 

lifting out the dasher when she appeared in the kitchen 
door with her dinner basket on her arm. " Well, grandpa, 
has the butter come ?" said she. 

" I guess you've brought it ; it's been all the afternoon 
gittin' here." Abel surveyed her with adoration. Fanny 
was a pretty young girl. She looked at her grandparents 
and smiled radiantly, but evidently the smiles were about 
something that they did not understand. 

"What air you lookin' so awful tickled about?" asked 
Mrs. Lee. 

" Oh, nothing. Did you have any pudding left from din- 
ner? I'm most starved." 

" There's a saucer under the yellow bowl on the pantry 
shelf." 

Fanny was still smiling when she sat down at the kitchen 
table with the pudding. " What does ail you ?" Mrs. Lee 
asked again. She was at the other end of the table rolling 
out biscuits for tea. 

" Oh, nothing, grandma. What makes you think there's 
anything?" Fanny ate her pudding with apparent uncon- 
cern, but all the time her eyes danced, and the corners of 
her mouth curved upward. " I didn't have to walk home 
to-night," she remarked, finally. 
■ " Didn't have to walk home ? Why not?" 

"Well, Charley Page came along just about the time 
school was out, and — he brought me home in his buggy." 

" Well, I never !" Mrs. Lee's sharp old face softened ; 
she surveyed her granddaughter with admiring smiles. 
"That's the second time within a week, ain't it." 

Fanny nodded, and bent lower over the pudding. She 
was blushing pink, and she could not keep the smiles back. 
Abel, who was starting the fire, stood stock-still, and stared 



1 



A KITCHEN COLONEL. 437 

with delighted wonder at her and his wife. "That young 
Page is one of the smartest fellars in town," he volun- 
teered; "an' his father's wuth a good deal of property." 

Abel was so pleased that he paid little attention when, 
on carrying his basket around to the shed door for more 
light wood, Ephraim again hailed him from the fence. 
" Hullo, Abel !" he called ; " I didn't see you to the town 
meetin'." 

" No ; I wa'n't there." 

" Kitchen colonel again ?" 

Abel picked up wood vigorously. Ephraim surveyed him 
with a dissatisfied expression. " Who was that I see your 
Fanny a-ridin' horae with ?" he asked. 

Abel straightened himself, and looked over at Ephraim. 
"That was the young Page fellar," he said, proudly. 

" John Page's son ?" 

"Yes." 

"H'm!" 

In a moment Ephraim turned about and walked oflEl He 
had a daughter of his own who was about Fanny's age, and 
she was very plain-looking and unattractive, and was not 
liked by the young men. 

Fanny was much sought for, she was so pretty, and she 
had such pleasant ways. She dressed nicely too; her 
grandmother encouraged her to spend her school money 
for clothes. Her grandparents had always petted her, 
and exacted very little from her. She did not help much 
about the house. To-night, after tea, she stood looking 
irresolutely at her pretty gray dress and her grandparents. 
"Don't you want me to take off my dress and help about 
Mie dishes ?" said she. 

" Land, no !" answered her grandmother. " Go 'long ; it 



438 A KITCHEN COLONEL. 

ain't wuth while to change your dress for this little passel 
of dishes. Father's goin' to wash 'em while I'm mixin' up 
the bread." 

" Yes, you go right along an' set down in the parlor an' 
git rested, Fanny," chimed in Abel. " I ain't got a thing 
to do but the dishes, an' they ain't wuth talkin' about.'* 
Abel shuffled cheerfully around, gathering up the dishes 
from the tea-table. 

Fanny went into the parlor as she was bidden ; she had 
about her a sweet docility, and she would have changed her 
dress and washed the dishes just as readily. Fanny would 
always perform all the duties that she was told to, but prob- 
ably not so very many others. She had little original di- 
rective power in the matter of duties, although she had a 
perfect willingness and sweetness in their execution. 

She sat down at a parlor window with some fancy-work, 
and rocked to and fro comfortably. She could look out on 
the front yard full of green grass, with a blossoming cherry^ 
tree, and a yellow-flowering bush down near the gate. The 
four women boarders were in the sitting-room, but she did 
not think of joining them, nor they her. Fanny's grand- 
mother always insinuated her into the parlor when the 
tjoarders were in the sitting-room. In her heart she did 
not consider that these four dingy-handed shop-girls were 
fit associates for her granddaughter. 

Fanny herself had no such feeling in the matter ; she 
would have gone into the sitting-room and fraternized with 
the boarders, had her grandmother wished her to do so. 
But they rather repulsed her, and held themselves aloof 
with an awkward dignity, and Fanny was timid and easily 
rebuffed. They were quite acute enough to understand 
that Mrs. Lee did not consider them proper company for her 



A KITCHEN COLONEL. 439 

granddaughter, and they felt injured and covertly resentful. 
They were also righteously indignant because Fanny was 
so petted by her grandparents, and did not help them more. 
To-night the four women in the sitting-room whispered to- 
gether about Fanny; how she was sitting all dressed up in 
the parlor while her poor old grandparents were working in 
the kitchen. They thought that she ought to give up her 
school and stay at home and help. She was not earning 
much anyway, and it all went on to her back ; she need not 
dress so fine. 

While they whispered, Fanny, small and dainty, putting 
pretty stitches in her fancy-work, sat at the parlor window. 
When it was too dark for her to sew, she leaned her head 
against the window-casing and looked out. The yellow 
bush in the yard still showed out brightly in the dusk ; the 
cherry-tree looked like a mist. Over in the east, beyond 
everything else, was a soft rise of shadow \ that was Eagle 
Mountain. 

It grew darker. After a while her grandmother came 
into the room, feeling her way. " Don't you want me to 
light a lamp, grandma?" asked Fanny, in a soft, absent 
voice. 

" No ; I don't want none. I'd jest as soon set down in 
the dark a few minutes ; then I'm goin' to bed. Father's 
gone." The old woman fumbled into a chair at the other 
window. " Have you seen anything about your hat yet .?" 
she asked Fanny, after they both had sat still a little 
while. 

" Yes ; I went into Miss Loring's on my way to school 
this morning." 

" What you goin' to have ?" 

" That brown straw I've been talking about I'm going 



440 A KITCHEN COLONEL, 

to have it trimmed with some brown velvet and yellow 
daisies." 

" It '11 be real handsome. When you goin' to have it ?" 

" Next week — Friday. I've got to have it then, for I 
haven't a thing to wear if we go up the mountain Saturday." 

The old woman's face was invisible in the dusk, but her 
voice took on a pleased and significant tone, and she laughed 
softly. " I s'pose that Page fellar will be goin', won't he ?" 

" I don't know. He was invited." Fanny also laughed 
with pleased confusion. She had been climbing the moun- 
tain with young Page for the last hour in a dream, and she 
had worn the brown straw hat with the brown velvet and 
yellow daisies. 

*' Well, I guess he'll go, fast enough. I see his father 
down to the store the other day, an' he stopped an' shook 
hands an' asked how I was, and looked dreadful smilin' an' 
knowin'. I guess he's heerd how his son's been carryin' 
you home from school. Well, I guess he's a good, likely 
young fellar, an' that's wuth more'n his father's money." 
The old woman spoke the last words of her remark in a 
la^gging and drowsy voice. The two were silent again. 
Presently there came a long heavy breath from the grand- 
mother's corner. 

".Grandma!" called Fanny. 

" What ?" the old woman responded, faintly. 

" Wake up ; you're goin' to sleep." 

" Well, I dun know but I be. I guess I'd better rouse 
up an' go to bed. I wouldn't set up much longer if I was 
you, Fanny." 

" I ain't going to." But Fanny sat there and dreamed 
quite a while after her grandmother had fumbled out of the 
room. 



A KITCHEN- COLONEL, 44 1 

That was on Thursday. It was the next day but one, 
Saturday, when old Ephraim Coles came to the fence and 
hailed Abel as he was paring potatoes at the kitchen door. 
" Hullo, Abel ! how air ye ?" 

" 'Bout as usual," answered Abel. 

" Kitchen colonel this mornin' ?" 

" I dun know what you call it." Abel was cutting the 
specks from the potatoes with clumsy pains. He sat on the 
door-step with the pan between his knees. Ephraini stood 
watching him. He had an important look, and his smile 
was different from his usual one. 

Presently he leaned over the fence. " Abel !" said he, in 
a confidential whisper. 

" What .?" 

" Come here a minute. Want to tell ye somethin'." 

Abel hesitated ; he peered uneasily around at the kitchen 
window. Then he set down the potatoes, arose, and slowly 
shuffled over to the fence. Ephraim reached over and caught 
him by the sleeve when he came near enough. " You know 
Maria an' me own two share in the railroad, don't ye ?" he 
whispered. Abel nodded. "Well," continued Ephraim, 
" next Saturday there's a stockholder meetin' to Boston, an' 
Maria she don't care nothin' 'bout goin', 'cause she's goin' 
to have company, an' Abby she doa't want to, an' so if you 
want to go on Maria's stock you cany 

Abel stared at him in gentle bewilderment. " Go to Bos- 
ton ?" 

" Of course — go to Boston for nothin' ; 'twon't cost ye a 
cent An' I'll stan' the dinner. We'll go in somewhere an' 
git somethin' to eat. An' we'll go round an' see the sights. 
What d'ye say to't ?" 

Ephraim looked at Abel with the air of an emperor ten- 



442 A KITCHEl^ COLONEL. 

dering a royal bounty. He drew himself up, put his hands 
in his pockets, and smiled. 

Abel looked pleased and eager. " Thank ye," said he — 
" thank ye, Ephraim. I'd like to go fust-rate if — there ain't 
nothin' to hender." 

" I'd like to know what there is to hender ! I guess you 
can quit bein' kitchen colonel for one day. The meetin' 
comes a week from to-day, an' that's Saturday, an' Fanny 
she'll be home to help Mis' Lee." 

"Yes, she will," assented Abel, thoughtfully. "Well, I 
must go an' finish them pertaters now, an' I'll see what 
mother says to it, an' let yer know." 

Abel pared the potatoes with greater pains than ever ; he 
washed them faithfully, and carried them into the kitchen, 
and tremblingly broached the subject of the Boston trip to 
his wife. To his great delight it was favorably received. 
Mrs. Lee said she did not see any reason why he could 
not go. She had entirely forgotten about Fanny's moun- 
tain party. 

All the next week old Abel was in a tremor of delight. 
He had long conferences with Ephraim over the fence ; de- 
lightful additions to the regular programme were planned; 
every day some new scheme was talked over. Abel had 
nx)t had an outing for many years ; he was like a child over 
this one. Still he did not neglect his household tasks ; he 
worked with anxious zeal, he was so afraid that his wife 
might see so much to be done that she would veto the plan 
at the last moment. He was so anxious and nervous over 
it that he did not say much about it at home, for fear of 
having some damper cast upon him. Abel had not much 
shrewdness, but he had learned that a casual acceptance of 
a situation was much more likely than an eager one to make 






A KITCHEN COLONEL, 



443 



it lasting when his wife was concerned. Friday night at 
sunset both of the old men stood out in the yard with up- 
lifted faces and scrutinized the heavens. 

" It ain't goin' to be foul weather to-morrow," said Ephra- 
im, judicially ; "not if I know anything about signs." 

" Ain't you afraid the wind ain't in jest the right quarter ?" 
Abel asked, anxiously. 

" H'm ! I don't care nothin' about the wind. Every- 
thing p'ints square to fair weather, 'cordin' to my reck'- 
nin'." 

Ephraim was right. The next day was beautiful. Abel 
looked out of the window in the morning, and his face was 
like a boy's. Directly after breakfast he shaved himself at 
the kitchen glass and blacked his boots. Then he went 
into his bedroom to put on his Sunday clothes. 

He was nearly ready — clean collar and best stock and 
all — when he heard Fanny's voice and Ephraim's daughter 
Abby's out in the yard. He did not pay much attention at 
first; then he stood still and listened with a lengthening 
face. " No, I can't go any way in the world," Fanny was 
saying. Her voice was perfectly sweet and uncomplaining, 
but there was a sad injflection in it. " Grandma forgot all 
about it, and she says poor grandpa has been counting on 
going to Boston with your father for a whole week, and it 
would be real cruel to keep him at home ; and it's baking- 
day, and she's got the sitting-room carpet to put down, and 
she can't get along alone. Of course I'm kind of sorry 
about it. I'd been counting on going ; but I wouldn't keep 
grandpa at home for anything, and there isn't anything else 
for me to do but to stay myself." 

"Well, I hope that pretty Rogers girl that's visiting up 
to Rhoda Emerson's won't cut you out with Charley Page. 



444 ^ KITCHEN COLONEL, 

I saw him talking to her in the post-office last night," Abby 
said. Her voice was like her father's. 

Abel unwound his stock, and painfully unbuttoned his 
stiff collar. Presently he appeared in the kitchen, and he 
had on his old clothes. His wife faced around on him. 
" For niercy's sakes, father, ain't you changed your clothes 
yet?" 

" I ain't goin', after all, I guess." 

" Ain't goin' ! why not ?" 

Fanny was standing at the sink washing dishes, and she 
stopped and stared. 

" Well," said Abel, " I've been thinkin' on't over, an' I've 
made up my mind I'd better not go, on several 'counts." 

" I'd like to know what." 

" Well, one thing is, it's kinder cheatin', I've got to go 
as Maria Coles, an' I ain't Maria Coles. That's what it 
says in the stiffikit. I've got to show the conductor * Maria 
Coles.' An' it ain't jest square, 'cordin' to my notions. I 
ain't thought 'twas all the time." 

" Well, I think you air dreadful silly, father." 

"Well, I don't think 'twould amount to much goin' any- 
how, to tell the truth." 

"I would go, grandpa," said Fanny. 

But Abel stood fast in his position. His wife, and Fanny, 
who was anxious to acquit herself honorably in the matter, 
pleaded with him to no purpose. He was proof against 
even Ephraim's reproaches and sarcasms. "Well, stay to 
home, an' be a kitchen colonel all your life, if you want to," 
shouted Ephraim, as he strode out of the yard ; " it's all 
you're fit for, 'cordin' to my way of thinkin'." 

Abel went into the house and pushed Fanny away from 
the sink. " If there's anything else you want to do,^ Fanny," 



A KITCHEN COLONEL. 445 

said he, "you'd better go an' do it. I ain't got another 
thing to set my hand to now." 

Fanny looked at her grandmother. 

" If he ain't goin', you might jest as well go an' get ready," 
said Mrs. Lee. 

In a few minutes Abel heard Fanny's voice calling over 
to Abby : " Abby, Abby, wait for me ! I'm goin', after all. 
It won't take me but a minute to get ready." And Fanny's 
voice sounded sweeter than a bird's to her grandfather at 
the kitchen sink. 

Abel had a hard day of it. Putting down the sitting- 
room carpet was painful work for his old joints, and then 
there was churning to be done. When Fanny came home 
he sat in the old rocking-chair in the kitchen, with his head 
back, fast asleep. Presently his wife came out and aroused 
hitn. "Wake up, father," said she; "I want to tell you 
somethin'." Abel looked heavily up at her. " I — ruther 
guess Fanny an' that Page fellar have settled it betwixt 
'em," whispered Mrs. Lee. 

Abel's head was up in a minute, and he was looking at 
her, all alert. " You don't say so, mother !" Suddenly the 
old man put his hand up to his eyes and sobbed. 

"Why, how silly you are, father!" said his wife. Then 
she went over to a window with a brisk step and stood 
there as if looking out. When she turned around her eyes 
were red. " I think you'd better go to bed, father, an' not 
set there dozin' in that chair any longer," said she, sharply ; 
"you're all tuckered out." 

The next day, when Abel had to stand a running fire 
relative to the Boston trip from Ephraim, he gave one coun- 
ter-shot — the announcement of Fanny's engagement. He 
listened while Ephraim related the pleasures of his excursion 



446 A KITCHEN COLONEL. 

and berated Kim ; then he turned on him with an artful- 
ness born of patience. " S'pose you've heard the news ?" 
said he. 

" What news ?" 

"Well, I s'pose our Fanny an' John Page's son have 
'bout concluded to make a match on't." 

"H'm!" Ephraim stood looking at him. "When they 
goin' to git married?" 

" Well, I dun know. Mother was saying she thought 
mebbe some time in the fall." 

" H'm ! Well, there's slips. Mebbe she won't git him, 
arter all. It's best not to be too sure 'bout it." 

But Ephraim turned on his heel and went home across 
the yard, and left Abel to his Sunday peace. 

Abel had to work harder than usual that summer. It 
was Fanny's vacation time, and she had been accustomed 
to assist some about the house-work, so Abel's labors had 
been lightened a little during hot weather. But this sum- 
mer Fanny was sewing, getting ready to be married in the 
fall, and she could not do much else, so her grandfather 
got no respite in his kitchen work through the long hot days. 
He grew thinner and older, but he never complained even to 
himself. He was radiant over Fanny. She was going to 
make a match that would lift her out of all his own struggles 
and hardships. Poor old Abel, in the midst of his hard, 
pitiful little whirlpool, watched Fanny joyously making her 
way out of it, and no longer thought of himself. 

Fanny was married in October. There was quite a large 
evening wedding, and Mrs. Lee had wedding-cake and 
pound-cake and tea and coffee passed around for refresh- 
ments. Fanny and her bridegroom were standing before 
the minister, who had already begun the ceremony. Fanny, 



•I 



A KITCHEN COLONEL, 447 

all in white, bent her head delicately under her veil ; her 
cheeks showed through it like roses. The bridegroom kept 
his handsome boyish face upon the minister with a brave 
and resolute air. Abel and his wife stood near with solemn 
and tearful faces. The four boarders stood together in a 
corner. The rooms were crowded with people in creaking 
silks and Sunday coats, and the air was heavy with cake 
and coffee and flowers. 

Suddenly, in the midst of the ceremony, Mrs. Lee nudged 
Abel. " The milk is burnin', father," she whispered ; " go 
out quick an* lift it off." 

Abel looked at her. " Be quick," she whispered again ; 
" the milk for the coffee is burnin*. Don't stan' there look- 
in', for mercy's sake !" 

Abel tiptoed out solemnly, with his best boots creaking. 

When he returned, Fanny was married, and the people 
were crowding around her. He felt a heavy poke in his 
side, and there was Ephraim. " Had to go out an' be 
kitchen colonel, didn't ye, Abel ?" said he, quite loud. 

The bridal couple drove away, and the guests dispersed 
^adually. Mrs. Lee had to stay in the parlor until the last 
3f them disappeared ; but as soon as Fanny and her hus- 
band had gone, Abel changed his clothes and went into the 
kitchen. Things needed to be set to rights a little before 
morning. 

The happy bridal pair rode away through the October 
night, the wedding guests chattered merrily in the parlor 
md flocked gayly down the street, and the kitchen colonel 
fought faithfully in his humble field, where maybe he would 
some day win a homely glory all his own. 



THE REVOLT OF "MOTHER.'^ 

" Father !" 

" What is it ?" 

" What are them men diggin' over there in the field forT 

There was a sudden dropping and enlarging of the lower 
part of the old man's face, as if some heavy weight had set- 
tled therein ; he shut his mouth tight, and went on harness^ 
ing the great bay mare. He hustled the collar on to her 
neck with a jerk. 

"Father!" 

The old man slapped the saddle upon the mare's back. 

" Look here, father, J want to know what them men are 
diggin' over in the field for, an' I'm goin' to know." 

" I wish you'd go into the house, mother, an* 'tend to your 
own affairs," the old man said then. He ran his words 
together, and his speech was almost as inarticulate as a 
growl. 

But the woman understood ; it was her most native tongue. 
" I ain't goin' into the house till you tell me what them men 
are doin' over there in the field," said she. 

Then she stood waiting. She was a small woman, short 
and straight-waisted like a child in her brown cotton gown. 
Her forehead was mild and benevolent between the smooth 
curves of gray hair ; there were meek downward lines about 



THE REVOLT OF ''MOTHER:' 449 

her nose and mouth ; but her eyes, fixed upon the old man, 
looked as if the meekness had been the result of her own 
will, never of the will of another. 

They were in the barn, standing before the wide open 
doors. The spring air, full of the smell of growing grass 
and unseen blossoms, came in their faces. The deep yard 
in front was littered with farm wagons and piles of wood ; 
on the edges, close to the fence and the house, the grass 
was a vivid green, and there were some dandelions. 

The old man glanced doggedly at his wife as he tightened 
the last buckles on the harness. She looked as immovable 
to him as one of the rocks in his pasture-land, bound to the 
earth with generations of blackberry vines. He slapped the 
reins over the horse, and started forth from the barn. 

'' Father r said she. 

The old man pulled up. " What is it ?" 

" I want to know what them men are diggin' over there in 
that field for." 

"They're diggin' a cellar, I s'pose, if youVe got to 
know." 

*' A cellar for what ?" 

" A barn." 

" A barn t You ain't goin' to build a barn over there 
where we was goin' to have a house, father ?" 

The old man said not another word. He hurried the 
horse into the farm wagon, and clattered out of the yard, 
jouncing as sturdily on his seat as a boy. 

The woman stood a moment looking after him, then she 
went out of the barn across a corner of the yard to the 
house. The house, standing at right angles with the great 
barn and a long reach of sheds and out-buildings, was in- 
€nitesimal compared with them. It was scarcely as com- 

2Q 



450 



THE REVOLT OF '' MOTHERr 



modious for people as the little boxes under the barn eave? 
were for doves. 

A pretty girl's face, pink and delicate as a flower, was 
looking out of one of the house windows. She was watch- 
ing three men who were digging over in the field which 
bounded the yard near the road line. She turned quietif 
•>hen the woman entered. 

" What are they diggmg for, mother ?" said she. " Did he 
tell you ?" 

" They're diggin* for — a cellar ior a new barn." 

" Oh, mother, he ain't going to build another barn ?" 

"That's what he says." 

A boy stood before the kitchen glass combing his hair. 
He combed slowly and painstakingly, arranging his brown 
hair in a smooth hillock over his forehead. He did not 
seem to pay any attention to the conversation. 

" Sammy, did you know father was going to build a new 
barn ?" asked the girl. 

The boy combed assiduously. 

" Sammy !" 

He turned, and showed a face like his father's under his 
smooth crest of hair. " Yes, I s'pose I did," he said, re- 
luctantly. 
• " How long have you known it ?" asked his mother. 

" 'Bout three months, I guess." 

" Why didn't you tell of it ?" 

" Didn't think 'twould do no good." 

" I don't see what father wants another barn for," said 
the girl, in her sweet, slow voice. She turned again to the 
window, and stared out at the digging men in the field. Her 
tender, sweet face was full of a gentle distress. Her fore- 
head was as bald and innocent as a baby's, with the light 



THE REVOLT OF ''MOTHER:' 451 

hair strained back from it in a row of curl-papers. She was 
quite large, but her soft curves did not look as if they cov- 
ered muscles. 

Her mother looked sternly at the boy. "Is he goin' to 
buy more cows ?" said she. 

The boy did not reply ; he was tying his shoes. 

" Sammy, I want you to tell me if he's goin' to buy more 
cows." 

" I s'pose he is." 

"How many?" 

" Four, I guess." 

His mother said nothing more. She went into the pan- 
try, and there was a clatter of dishes. The boy got his cap 
from a nail behind the door, took an old arithmetic from 
the shelf, and started for school. He was lightly built, but 
clumsy. He went out of the yard with a curious spring in 
the hips, that made his loose home-made jacket tilt up in 
the rear. 

The girl went to the sink, and began to wash the dishes 
that were piled up there. Her mother came promptly out 
of the pantry, and shoved her aside. " You wipe 'em," said 
she ; " I'll wash. There's a good many this mornin'." 

The mother plunged her hands vigorously into the water, 
the girl wiped the plates slowly and dreamily. *' Mother," 
said she, " don't you think it's too bad fathers going to build 
that new barn, much as we need a decent house to live in ?'' 

Her mother scrubbed a dish fiercely. " You ain't found 
out yet we're women-folks, Nanny Penn," said she. " You 
ain't seen enough of men-folks yet to. One of these days 
you'll find it out, an' then you'll know that we know only 
what men-folks think we do, so far as any use of it goes, an' 
how we'd ought to reckon men-folks in with Providence, an' 



452 



THE REVOLT OF ''MOTHER: 



not complain of what they do any more than we do of the 
vveather." 

"I don't care; I don't believe George is anything like 
that, anyhow," said Nanny. Her delicate face flushed pink, 
her lips pouted softly, as if she were going to cry. 

"You wait an' see. I guess George Eastman ain't no 
better than other men. You hadn't ought to judge father, 
though. He can't help it, 'cause he don't look at things 
jest the way we do. An' we've been pretty comfortable 
here, after all. The roof don't leak — ain't never but once 
—that's one thing. Father's kept it shingled right up." 

" I do wish we had a parlor." 

" I guess it won't hurt George Eastman any to come to 
see you in a nice clean kitchen. I guess a good many girls 
don't have as good a place as this. Nobody's ever heard 
me complain." 

*' I ain't complained either, mother." 

"Well, I don't think you'd better, a good father an' a 
good home as you've got. S'pose your father made you go 
out an' work for your livin' ? Lots of girls have to that 
ain't no stronger an' better able to than you be." 

Sarah Penn washed the frying-pan with a conclusive air. 
She scrubbed the outside of it as faithfully as the inside. 
She was a masterly keeper of her box of a house. Her one 
living-room never seemed to have in it any of the dust 
which the friction of life with inanimate matter produces. 
She swept, and there seemed to be no dirt to go before the 
broom; she cleaned, and one could see no difference. She 
was like an artist so perfect that he has apparently no art 
To-day she got out a mixing bowl and a board, and rolled 
some pies, and there was no more flour upon her than upon 
her daughter who was doing finer work. Nanny was to be 



1 



THE REVOLT Ot » MOTHERS ^^^ 

married in the fall, and she was sewing on some white cam- 
bric and embroidery. She sewed industriously while her 
mother cooked, her soft milk-white hands and wrists showed 
whiter than her delicate work. 

" We must have the stove moved out in the shed before 
long," said Mrs. Penn. " Talk about not havin' things, it's 
been a real blessin' to be able to put a stove up in that shed 
in hot weather. Father did one good thing when he fixed 
that stove-pipe out there." 

Sarah Penn's face as she rolled her pies had that expres- 
sion of meek vigor which might have characterized one of 
the New Testament saints. She was making mince-pies. 
Her husband, Adoniram Penn, liked them better than any 
other kind. She baked twice a week. Adoniram often 
liked a piece of pie between meals. She hurried this morn- 
ing. It had been later than usual when she began, and she 
wanted to have a pie baked for dinner. However deep a 
resentment she might be forced to hold against her hus- 
band, she would never fail in sedulous attention to his 
wants. 

Nobility of character manifests itself at loop-holes when 
it is not provided with large doors. Sarah Penn's showed 
itself to-day in flaky dishes of pastry. So she made the 
pies faithfully, while across the table she could see, when 
she glanced up from her work, the sight that rankled in her 
patient and steadfast soul — the digging of the cellar of the 
new barn in the place where Adoniram forty years ago had 
promised her their new house should stand. 

The pies were done for dinner. Adoniram and Sammy 
were home a few minutes after twelve o'clock. The dinner 
was eaten with serious haste. There was never much con- 
versation at the table in the Penn family. Adoniram asked 



454 "^^^ REVOLT Oi '* mother:* 

a blessing, and they ate promptly, then rose up and went 
about their work. 

Sammy went back to school, taking soft sly lopes out of 
the yard like a rabbit. He wanted a game of marbles be- 
fore school, and feared his father would give him some 
chores to do. Adoniram hastened to the door and called 
after him, but he was out of sight. 

" I don't see what you let him go for, mother," said he. 
"I wanted him to help me unload that wood." 

Adoniram went to work out in the yard unloading wood 
from the wagon. Sarah put away the dinner dishes, while 
Nanny took down her curl-papers and changed her dress. 
She was going down to the store to buy some more em- 
broidery and thread. 

When Nanny was gone, Mrs. Penn went to the door, 
" Father 1" she called. 

" Well, what is it !" 

" I want to see you jest a minute, father." 

" I can't leave this wood nohow. I've got to git it un- 
loaded an' go for a load of gravel afore two o'clock. Sammy 
had ought to helped me. You hadn't ought to let him go 
io school so early." 

" I want to see you jest a minute." 
' " I tell ye I can't, nohow, mother." 

" Father, you come here." Sarah Penn stood in the door 
like a queen ; she held her head as if it bore a crown ; there 
was that patience which makes authority royal in her voice. 
Adoniram went. 

Mrs. Penn led the way into the kitchen, and pointed to a^ 
chair. " Sit down, father," said she ; " I've got somethin* 
I want to say to you." 

He sat down heavily; his face was quite stolid, but h< 



THE REVOLT OF *' MOTHER,"* 455 

looked at her with restive eyes. " Well, what is it, moth- 
er?" 

** I want to know what youVe buildin' that new barn for, 
father?" 

" 1 ain't got nothin' to say about it." 

" It can't be you think you need another barn ?" 

** I tell ye I ain't got nothin' to say about it, mother ; an' 
I ain't goin' to say nothin'." 

" Be you goin* to buy more cows ?'* 

Adoniram did not reply ; he shut his mouth tight. 

** I know you be, as well as I want to. Now, father, look 
here" — Sarah Penn had not sat down ; she stood before 
her husband in the humble fashion of a Scripture woman — 
'* Vm goin' to talk real plain to you ; I never have sence I 
married you, but I'm goin' to now. I ain't never complained, 
an* I ain't goin' to complain now, but I'm goin' to talk plain. 
You see this room here, father ; you look at it well. You 
see there ain't no carpet on the floor, an' you see the paper 
is all dirty, an* droppin' off the walls. We ain't had no new 
paper on it for ten year, an' then I put it on myself, an' it 
didn't cost but ninepence a roll. You see this room, father ; 
it's all the one I've had to work in an* eat in an* sit in sence 
we was married. There ain't another woman in the whole 
town whose husband ain't got half the means you have but 
what's got better. It*s all the room Nanny's got to have 
her company in ; an* there ain't one of her mates but what's 
got better, an' their fathers not so able as hers is. It's all 
the room she'll have to be married in. What would you 
have thought, father, if we had had our weddin' in a room 
no better than this ? I was married in my mother's 
parlor, with a carpet on the floor, an' stuffed furniture, 
an' a mahogany card -table. An' this is all the room 



456 THE REVOLT OF ''MOTHERS 

ny daughter will have to be married in. Look here, 
father !" 

Sarah Penn went across the room as though it were a 
tragic stage. She flung open a door and disclosed a tiny 
bedroom, only large enough for a bed and bureau, with a 
path between. " There, father," said she — " there's all the 
room I've had to sleep in forty year. All my children were 
born there — the two that died, an' the two that's livin'. I 
was sick with a fever there." 

She stepped to another door and opened it It led into 
the small, ill-lighted pantry. " Here," said she, " is all the 
buttery I've got — every place I've got for my dishes, to set 
away my victuals in, an' to keep my milk-pans in. Father, 
I've been takin' care of the milk of six cows in this place, 
an' now you're goin' to build a new barn, an' keep more 
cows, an' give me more to do in it." 

She threw open another door. A narrow crooked flight 
of stairs wound upward from it. " There, father," said she, 
" I want you to look at the stairs that go up to them two 
unfinished chambers that are all the places our son an* 
daughter have had to sleep in all their lives. There ain't a 
prettier girl in town nor a more ladylike one than Nanny, 
an' that's the place she has to sleep in. It ain't so good as 
your horse's stall ; it ain't so warm an' tight." 

Sarah Penn went back and stood before her husband. 
"Now, father," said she, "I want to know if you think 
you're doin' right an' accordin' to what you profess. Here, 
when we was married, forty year ago, you promised me 
faithful that we should have a new house built in that lot 
over in the field before the year was out. You said you had 
money enough, an' you wouldn't ask me to live in no such 
place as this. It is forty year now, an' you've been makin' 



I 



THE REVOLT OF *^ MOTHER." 457 

more money, an' I've been savin' of it for you ever since, 
an' you ain't built no house yet. You've built sheds an' 
cow>houses an' one new barn, an' now you're goin' to build 
another. Father, I want to know if you think it's right. 
You're lodgin' your dumb beasts better than you are your 
own flesh an' blood. I want to know if you think it's right" 

" I ain't got nothin' to say." 

"You can't say nothin' without ownin' it ain't right, 
father. An' there's another thing — I ain't complained ; 
I've got along forty year, an' I s'pose I should forty more, 
i it wa'n't for that — if we don't have another house. Nanny 
|he can't live with us after she's married. She'll have to go 
somewheres else to live away from us, an' it don't seem as 
if I could have it so, noways, father. She wa'n't ever 
strong. She's got considerable color, but there wa'n't never 
any backbone to her. I've always took the heft of every- 
thing off her, an' she ain't fit to keep house an' do every- 
thing herself. She'll be all worn out inside of a year. 
Think of her doin' all the washin' an' ironin' an' bakin' with 
them soft white hands an' arms, an' sweepia' ! I can't have 
it so, noways, father." 

Mrs. Penn's face was burning ; her mild eyes gleamed. 
She had pleaded her little cause like a Webster ; she had 
ranged from severity to pathos ; but her opponent employed 
that obstinate silence which makes eloquence futile with 
mocking echoes. Adoniram arose clumsily. 

" Father, ain't you got nothin' to say ?" said Mrs. Penn. 

" I've got to go off after that load of gravel. I can't 
Stan' here talkin' all day.'* 

" Father, won't you think it over, an' have a house built 
there instead of a barn ?" 

" I ain't got nothin' to say.'* 



458 THE REVOLT OF ''MOTHERS 

Adoniram shuffled out. Mrs. Penn went into her bed* 
room. When she came out, her eyes were red. She had a 
roll of unbleached cotton cloth. She spread it out on the 
kitchen table, and began cutting out some shirts tor her 
husband. The men over in the field had a team to help 
them this afternoon ; she could hear their halloos. She 
had a scanty pattern for the shirts ; she had to plan and 
piece the sleeves. 

Nanny came home with her embroidery, and sat down 
with her needlework. She had taken down her curl-papers, 
and there was a soft roll of fair hair like an aureole over her 
forehead ; her face was as delicately fine and clear as porce- 
lain. Suddenly she looked up, and the tender red flamed 
all over her face and neck. " Mother," said she. 

*' What say ?" 

" I've been thinking — I don't see how we're goin' to have 
any — wedding in this room. I'd be ashamed to have his 
folks come if we didn't have anybody else." 

" Mebbe we can have some new paper before then ; I 
can put it on. I guess you won't have no call to be 
ashamed of your belongin's." 

" We might have the wedding in the new barn," said Nan- 
ny, with gentle pettishness. "Why, mother, what makes 
you look so ?" 

Mrs. Penn had started, and was staring at her with a curi- 
ous expression. She turned again to her work, and spread 
out a pattern carefully on the cloth. "Nothin'," said she. 

Presently Adoniram clattered out of the yard in his two- 
wheeled dump cart, standing as proudly upright as a Romanl 
charioteer. Mrs. Penn opened the door and stood there a* 
minute looking out ; the halloos of the men sounded louder. 

It seemed to her all through the spring months that she 



I 



THE REVOLT OF ''MOTHERS 459 

heard nothing but the halloos and ihe noises of saws and 
hammers. The new barn grew fast. It was a fine edifice 
for this little village. Men came on pleasant Sundays, in 
their meeting suits and clean shirt bosoms, and stood around 
it admiringly. Mrs. Penn did not speak of it, and Adoni- 
ram did not mention it to her, although sometimes, upon are- 
turn from inspecting it, he bore himself with injured dignity. 

"It's a strange thing how your mother feels about the 
new barn," he said, confidentially, to Sammy one day. 

Sammy only grunted after an odd fashion for a boy; he 
had learned it from his father. 

The barn was all completed ready for use by the third 
week in July. Adoniram had planned to move his stock 
in on Wednesday; on Tuesday he received a letter which 
changed his plans. He came in with it early in the morn- 
ing. "Sammy's been to the post-office," said he, "an' I've 
got a letter from Hiram." Hiram was Mrs. Penn's brother, 
who lived in Vermont. 

"Well," said Mrs. Penn, "what does he say about the 
folks ?" 

" I guess they're all right. He says he thinks if I come 
up country right off there's a chance to buy jest the kind of 
a horse I want." He stared reflectively out of the window 
at the new barn. 

Mrs. Penn was making pies. She went on clapping the 
rolling-pin into the crust, although she was very pale, and 
her heart beat loudly. 

" I dun' know but what I'd better go," said Adoniram. " I 
hate to go off jest now, right in the midst of hayin', but the 
ten-acre lot's cut, an' I guess Rufus an' the others can git 
along without me three or four days. I can't get a horse 
«^und here to suit me, nohow, an' I've got to have another 



46o THE REVOLT OF ''MOTHER:'' 

for all that wood-haulin' in the fall. I told Hiram to watch' 
out, an' if he got wind of a good horse to let me know. I 
guess I'd better go." 

" I'll get out your clean shirt an' collar," said Mrs. Penn 
calmly. 

She laid out Adoniram's Sunday suit and his clean 
ciothes on the bed in the little bedroom. She got his shav- 
ing-water and razor ready. At last she buttoned on his 
collar and fastened his black cravat. 

Adoniram never wore his collar and cravat except on ex- 
tra occasions. He held his head high, with a rasped dignity. 
When he was all ready, with his coat and hat brushed, 
and a lunch of pie and cheese in a paper bag, he hesitated 
on the threshold of the door. He looked at his wife, and 
his manner was defiantly apologetic, "^them cows come 
to-day, Sammy can drive 'em into the new barn," said he; 
" an' when they bring the hay up, they can pitch it in there." 

" Well," replied Mrs. Penn. 

Adoniram set his shaven face ahead and started. When 
he had cleared the door-step, he turned and looked back 
with a kind of nervous solemnity. "I shall be back by 
Saturday if nothin' happens," said he. 

" Do be careful, father," returned his wife. 

•She stood in the door with Nanny at her elbow and 
watched him out of sight. Her eyes had a strange, doubt- 
ful expression in them ; her peaceful forehead was con- 
tracted. She went in, and about her baking again. Nanny 
sat sewing. Her wedding-day was drawing nearer, and 
she was getting pale and thin with her steady sewing. Her 
mother kept glancing at her. 

" Have you got that pain in your side this mornin* ?" she 
asked. 



THE REVOLT OF ''MOTHERS 46 1 

« A little." 

Mrs. Penn's face, as she worked, changed, her perplexed 
forehead smoothed, her eyes were steady, her lips firmly set. 
She formed a maxim for herself, although incoherently with 
her unlettered thoughts. " Unsolicited opportunities are the 
guide-posts of the Lord to the new roads of life," she repealed 
in effect, and she made up her mind to her course of action. 

" S'posin' I had wrote to Hiram," she muttered once, 
when she was in the pantry — " s'posin' I had wrote, an' 
asked him if he knew ot any horse? But I didn't, an' 
father's goin' wa'n't none of my doin'. It looks like a 
providence." Her voice rang out quite loud at the last 

" What you talkin' about, mother ?" called Nanny. 

"Nothin\" 

Mrs. Penn hurried her baking ; at eleven o'clock it was 
all done. The load of hay from the west field came slowly 
down the cart track, and drew up at the new barn. Mrs. 
Penn ran out. " Stop !" she screamed — " stop 1" 

The men stopped and looked ; Sammy upreared from the 
top of the load, and stared at his mother. 

" Stop 1" she cried out again. " Don't you put the hay 
in that barn • put it in the old one." 

"Why, he said to put it in here," returned one of the hay- 
makers, wonderingly. He was a young man, a neighbor's 
son, whom Adoniram hired by the year to help on the farm. 

" Don't you put the hay in the new barn ; there's room 
enough in the old one, ain't there?" said Mrs. Penn. 

" Room enough," returned the hired man, in his thick, 
rustic tones. " Didn't need the new barn, nohow, far as 
room's concerned. Well, I s'pose he changed his mind." 
He took hold of the horses' bridles. 

K/s. Penn went back to the house. Soon the kitchen 



462 THE REVOLT OF ''MOTHER:' 

windows were darkened, and a fragrance like warm honey 
came into the room. 

Nanny laid down her work. " I thought father wanted 
them to put the hay into the new barn.?" she said, won- 
deringly. 

" It's all right," replied her mother. 

Sammy slid down from the load of hay, and came in to 
see if dinner was ready. 

"I ain't gcin' to get a regular dinner to-day, as long as 
father's gone," said his mother. " I've let the fire go out. 
You can have some bread an' milk an' pie. I thought we 
could get along." She set out some bowls of milk, some 
bread, and a pie on the kitchen table. *' You'd better eat 
your dinner now," said she. " You might jest as well get 
through with it. I want you to help me afterward." 

Nanny and Sammy stared at each other. There was 
something strange in their mother's manner. Mrs. Penn 
did not eat anything herself She went into the pantry, 
and they heard her moving dishes while they ate. Present- 
ly she came out with a pile of plates. She got the clothes- 
basket out of the shed, and packed them in it. Nanny and 
Sammy watched. She brought out cups and saucers, and 
put them in with the plates. 

"What you goin' to do, mother?" inquired Nanny, in a 
timid voice. A sense of something unusual made her trem- 
ble, as if it were a ghost. Sammy rolled his eyes over his pie. 

"You'll see what I'm goin' to do," replied Mrs. Penn. 
"If you're through, Nanny, I want you to go up-stairs an* 
pack up your things ; an' I want you, Sammy, to help me 
take down the bed in the bedroom." 

" Oh, mother, what for ?" gasped Nanny. 

"You'll see." 

Durino: the next few hours a feat was performed by this 



I 



THE REVOLT OF ''MOTHER.'^ 463 

simple, pious New England mother which was equal in its 
way to Wolfe's storming of the Heights of Abraham. It 
took no more genius and audacity of bravery for Wolfe to 
cheer his wondering soldiers up those steep precipices, un- 
der the sleeping eyes of the enemy, than for Sarah Penn, at 
the head of her children, to move all their little household 
goods into the new barn while her husband was away. 

Nanny and Sammy followed their mother's instructions 
without a murmur ; indeed, they were overawed. There is a 
certain uncanny and superhuman quality about all such 
purely original undertakings as their mother's was to them. 
Nanny went back and forth with her light loads, and Sam- 
my tugged with sober energy. 

At five o'clock in the afternoon the little house in which 
the Penns had lived for forty years had emptied itself into 
the new barn. 

Every builder builds somewhat for unknown purposes, 
and is in a measure a prophet. The architect of Adoni- 
ram Penn's barn, while he designed it for the comfort of 
four-footed animals, had planned better than he knew for 
the comfort of humans. Sarah Penn saw at a glance its 
possibilities. Those great box-stalls, with quilts hung before 
them, would make better bedrooms than the one she had 
occupied for forty years, and there was a tight carriage- 
room. The harness-room, with its chimney and shelves, 
would make a kitchen of her dreams. The great middle 
space would make a parlor, by-and-by, fit for a palace. 
Up stairs there was as much room as down. With parti- 
tions and windows, what a house would there be ! Sarah 
looked at the row of stanchions before the allotted space for 
cows, and reflected that she would have her front entry there. 

At six o'clock the stove was up in the harness-room, 
the kettle was boiling, and the table set for tea. It looked 



464 "^^E REVOLT OF *' MOTHER," 

almost as home-like as the abandoned house across the 
yard had ever done. The young hired man milked, and 
Sarah directed him calmly to bring the milk to the new 
barn. He came gaping, dropping little blots of foam from 
the brimming pails on the grass. Before the next morning 
he had spread the story of Adoniram Penn's wife moving 
into the new barn all over the little village. Men assembled 
in the store and talked it over, women with shawls over 
their heads scuttled into each other's houses before their 
work was done. Any deviation from the ordinary course 
of life in this quiet town was enough to stop all progress iD 
it. Everybody paused to look at the staid, independent 
figure on the side track. There was a difference of opinion 
with regard to her. Some held her to be insane ; some, of 
a lawless and rebellious spirit. 

Friday the minister went to see her. It was in the 
forenoon, and she was at the barn door shelling pease for 
dinner. She looked up and returned his salutation with 
dignity, then she went on with her work. She did not 
invite him in. The saintly expression of her face remained 
fixed, but there was an angry flush over it. 

The minister stood awkwardly before her, and talked. 
She handled the pease as if they were bullets. At last she 
looked up, and her eyes showed the spirit that her meek 
front had covered for a lifetime. 

" There ain't no use talkin', Mr. Hersey," said she. " I've 
thought it all over an' over, an' I believe I'm doin' what's 
right. I've made it the subject of prayer, an' it's betwixt 
me an' the Lord an' Adoniram. There ain't no call for 
nobody else to worry about it." 

" Well, of course, if you have brought it to the Lord ii> 
prayer, and feel satisfied that you are doing right, Mrs. 
Penn," said the minister, helplessly. His thin gray-bearded 



i! 



THE REVOLT OF ''MOTHERS 465 

face was pathetic. He was a sickly man ; his youthful 
confidence had cooled ; he had to scourge himself up to 
some of his pastoral duties as relentlessly as a Catholic 
ascetic, and then he was prostrated by the smart 

•' I think it's right jest as much as I think it was right 
for our forefathers to come over from the old country 'cause 
they didn't have what belonged to 'em," said Mrs. Penn. 
Siie arose. The barn threshold might have been Plymouth 
Rock from her bearing. " I don't doubt you mean well, 
Mr. Hersey," said she, " but there are things people hadn't 
ought to interfere with. I've been a member of the church 
for over forty year. I've got my own mind an' my own 
feet, an' I'm goin' to think my own thoughts an' go my own 
ways, an' nobody but the Lord is goin' to dictate to me 
unless I've a mind to have him. Won't you come in an' 
set down ? How is Mis' Hersey .?" 

" She is well, I thank you," replied the minister. He 
added some more perplexed apologetic remarks; then he 
retreated. 

He could expound the intricacies of every character 
study in the Scriptures, he was competent to grasp the 
Pilgrim Fathers and all historical innovators, but Sarah 
Penn was beyond him. He could deal with primal cases, 
but parallel ones worsted him. But, after all, although it 
was aside from his province, he wondered more how Adoni- 
ram Penn would deal with his wife than how the Lord 
would. Everybody shared the wonder. When Adoniram's 
four new cows arrived, Sarah ordered three to be put in 
the old barn, the other in the house shed where the cook- 
ing-stove had stood. That added to the excitement. It was 
i whispered that all four cows were domiciled in the house. 

Towards sunset on Saturday, when Adoniram was cx- 
3« 



466 THE REVOLT OF '^ MOTHER:' 

pected home, there was a knot of men in the road near the 
new barn. The hired man had milked, but he still hun^r 
around the premises. Sarah Penn had supper all ready. 
There were brown-bread and baked beans and a custard 
pie ; it was :he supper that Adoniram loved on a Saturday 
night. She had on a clean calico, and she bore herself 
imperturbably. Nanny and Sammy kept close at her heels. 
Their eyes were large, and Nanny was full of nervous 
tremors. Still there was to them more pleasant excite- 
ment than anything else. An inborn confidence in their 
mother over their father asserted itself. 

Sammy looked out of the harness-room window. " There 
he is," he announced, in an awed whisper. He and Nanny 
peeped around the casing. Mrs. Penn kept on about her 
work. The children watched Adoniram leave the new horse 
standing in the drive while he went to the house door. It 
was fastened. Then he went around to the shed. That 
door was seldom locked, even when the family was away. 
The thought how her father would be confronted by the cow 
flashed upon Nanny. There was a hysterical sob in her 
throat. Adoniram emerged from the shed and stood look- 
ing about in a dazed fashion. His lips moved ; he was 
saying something, but they could not hear what it was. 
The hired man was peeping around a corner of the old 
barn, but nobody saw him. 

Adoniram took the new horse by the bridle and led him 
across the yard to the new barn. Nanny and Sammy slunk 
close to their mother. The barn doors rolled back, and 
there stood Adoniram, with the long mild face of the great 
Canadian farm horse looking over his shoulder. 

Nanny kept behind her mother, but Sammy stepped sud- 
denly forward, and stood in front of her. 

Adoniram stared at the group. " What on airth you all 



A 



THE RE VOL T OF '• MO THERr 467 

down here for ?" said he. " What's the matter over to the 

house ?" 

"We've come here to live, father," said Sammy, His 
shrill voice quavered out bravely. 

"What" — Adoniram sniffed — "what is it smells like 
cookin ?" said he. He stepped forward and looked in the 
open door of the harness-room. Then he turned to his 
wife. His old bristling face was pale and frightened. *' What 
on airth does this mean, mother ?" he gasped. 

"You come in here, father," said Sarah. She led the 
way into the harness-room and shut the door. " Now, 
father," said she, "you needn't be scared. I ain't crazy. 
There ain't nothin' to be upset over. But we've come here 
to live, an' we're goin' to live here. We've got jest as good 
a right here as new horses an' cows. The house wa'n't fit 
for us to live in any longer, an' I made up my mind I wa'n't 
goin' to stay there. I've done my duty by you forty year, 

' I'm goin' to do it now ; but I'm goin' to live here. 
You've got to put in some windows and partitions ; an' 
you'll have to buy some furniture." 

"Why, mother!" the old man gasped. 

" You'd better take your coat off an' get washed — there^s 
the wash-basin— an' then we'll have supper." 

"W%, mother!" 

Sammy went past the window, leading the new horse to 
the old barn. The old man saw him, and shook his head 
speechlessly. He tried to take off his coat, but his arms 
seemed to lack the power. His wife helped him. She 
poured some water into the tin basin, and put in a piece 
of soap. She got the comb and brush, and smoothed his 
thin gray hair after he had washed. Then she put the 
bcaos, hot bread, and tea on the table. Sammy came in, 



468 THE REVOLT OF ''MOTHER:' 

and the family drew up. Adoniram sat looking dazedly at 
his plate, and they waited. 

"Ain't you goin' to ask a blessin', father?" said Sarah. 

And the old man bent his head and mumbled. 

All through the meal he stopped eating at intervals, and 
stared furtively at his wife ; but he ate well. The home 
food tasted good to him, and his old frame was too sturdily 
healthy to be affected by his mind. But after supper he 
went out, and sat down on the step of the smaller door at 
the right of the barn, through which he had meant his Jer- 
seys to pass in stately file, but which Sarah designed for 
her front house door, and he leaned his head on his hands. 

After the supper dishes were cleared away and the milk- 
pans washed, Sarah went out to him. The twilight was 
deepening. There was a clear green glow in the sky. Be- 
fore them stretched the smooth level of field ; in the dis- 
tance was a cluster of hay-stacks like the huts of a village j 
the air was very cool and calm and sweet. The landscape 
might have been an ideal one of peace. 

Sarah bent over and touched her husband on one of his 
thin, sinewy shoulders. " Father !" 

The old man's shoulders heaved : he was weeping. 

" Why, don't do so, father," said Sarah. 

"I'll — put up the — partitions, an' — everything you — 
want, mother." 

Sarah put her apron up to her face ; she was overcome 
by her own triumph. 

Adoniram was like a fortress whose walls had no active 
resistance, and went down the instant the right besieging 
tools were used. "Why, mother," he said, hoarsely, "I 
hadn't no idee you was so set on't as all this comes to." 



5 



.g-U-^ 



THE END. 

1. 



I 



PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE 
CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET 



UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LIBRARY 



PS Freenan, I-aiy Elear.or 

1712 (Wilkins) 

^'^ A New England nun 

1920