Part 1 out of 4
This eBook produced by Curtis A. Weyant, Charles Franks,
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ACROSS THE YEARS
ELEANOR H. PORTER
WHEN FATHER AND MOTHER REBELLED
THE AXMINSTER PATH
PHINEAS AND THE MOTOR CAR
THE MOST WONDERFUL WOMAN
THE PRICE OF A PAIR OF SHOES
THE LONG ROAD
A COUPLE OF CAPITALISTS
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF KATY
THE BRIDGE ACROSS THE YEARS
A SUMMONS HOME
THE BLACK SILK GOWNS
A BELATED HONEYMOON
WHEN AUNT ABBY WAKED UP
WRISTERS FOR THREE
THE GIVING THANKS OF CYRUS AND HULDAH
A NEW ENGLAND IDOL
The stories in this volume are here reprinted by the courteous
permission of the publishers of the periodicals in which they first
appeared,--The Ladies' Home Journal, Ainslee's Magazine, The Scrap
Book, The New England Magazine, The Pictorial Review, The Housewife,
The Pacific Monthly, The Arena, Lippincott's Magazine, Harper's Bazar,
The Century Magazine, Woman, Holland's Magazine, The Designer.
When Father and Mother Rebelled
"'Tain't more 'n a month ter Christmas, Lyddy Ann; did ye know it?" said
the old man, settling back in his chair with a curiously resigned sigh.
"Yes, I know, Samuel," returned his wife, sending a swift glance over
the top of her glasses.
If Samuel Bertram noticed the glance he made no sign. "Hm!" he murmured.
"I've got ten neckerchiefs now. How many crocheted bed-slippers you
"Oh, Samuel!" remonstrated Lydia Ann feebly.
"I don't care," asserted Samuel with sudden vehemence, sitting erect in
his chair. "Seems as if we might get somethin' for Christmas 'sides
slippers an' neckerchiefs. Jest 'cause we ain't so young as we once was
ain't no sign that we've lost all our faculty for enj'yment!"
"But, Samuel, they're good an' kind, an' want ter give us somethin',"
faltered Lydia Ann; "and--"
"Yes, I know they're good an' kind," cut in Samuel wrathfully. "We've
got three children, an' each one brings us a Christmas present ev'ry
year. They've got so they do it reg'lar now, jest the same as they--they
go ter bed ev'ry night," he finished, groping a little for his simile.
"An' they put jest about as much thought into it, too," he added grimly.
"My grief an' conscience, Samuel,--how can you talk so!" gasped the
little woman opposite.
"Well, they do," persisted Samuel. "They buy a pair o' slippers an' a
neckerchief, an' tuck 'em into their bag for us--an' that's done; an'
next year they do the same--an' it's done again. Oh, I know I'm
ongrateful, an' all that," acknowledged Samuel testily, "but I can't
help it. I've been jest ready to bile over ever since last Christmas,
an' now I have biled over. Look a-here, Lyddy Ann, we ain't so awful
old. You're seventy-three an' I'm seventy-six, an' we're pert as
sparrers, both of us. Don't we live here by ourselves, an' do most all
the work inside an' outside the house?"
"Yes," nodded Lydia Ann timidly.
"Well, ain't there somethin' you can think of sides slippers you'd like
for Christmas--'specially as you never wear crocheted bed-slippers?"
Lydia Ann stirred uneasily. "Why, of course, Samuel," she began
hesitatingly, "bed-slippers are very nice, an'--"
"So's codfish!" interrupted Samuel in open scorn. "Come," he coaxed,
"jest supposin' we was youngsters again, a-tellin' Santa Claus what we
wanted. What would you ask for?"
Lydia Ann laughed. Her cheeks grew pink, and the lost spirit of her
youth sent a sudden sparkle to her eyes. "You'd laugh, dearie. I ain't
a-goin' ter tell."
"I won't--'pon honor!"
"But it's so silly," faltered Lydia Ann, her cheeks a deeper pink. "Me--
an old woman!"
"Of course," agreed Samuel promptly. "It's bound ter be silly, ye know,
if we want anythin' but slippers an' neckerchiefs," he added with a
chuckle. "Come--out with it, Lyddy Ann."
"It's--it's a tree."
"Dampers and doughnuts!" ejaculated Samuel, his jaw dropping. "A tree!"
"There, I knew you'd laugh," quavered Lydia Ann, catching up her
"Laugh? Not a bit of it!" averred Samuel stoutly. "I--I want a tree
"Ye see, it's just this," apologized Lydia Ann feverishly. "They give us
things, of course, but they never make anythin' of doin' it, not even
ter tyin' 'em up with a piece of red ribbon. They just slip into our
bedroom an' leave 'em all done up in brown paper an' we find 'em after
they're gone. They mean it all kind, but I'm so tired of gray worsted
and sensible things. Of course I can't have a tree, an' I don't suppose
I really want it; but I'd like somethin' all pretty an' sparkly an'--an'
silly, you know. An' there's another thing I want--ice cream. An' I want
to make myself sick eatin' it, too,--if I want to; an' I want little
pink-an'-white sugar pep'mints hung in bags. Samuel, can't you see how
pretty a bag o' pink pep'mints 'd be on that green tree? An'--dearie
me!" broke off the little old woman breathlessly, falling back in her
chair. "How I'm runnin' on! I reckon I am in my dotage."
For a moment Samuel did not reply. His brow was puckered into a
prodigious frown, and his right hand had sought the back of his head--as
was always the case when in deep thought. Suddenly his face cleared.
"Ye ain't in yer dotage--by gum, ye ain't!" he cried excitedly. "An' I
ain't, neither. An' what's more, you're a-goin' ter have that tree--ice
cream, pink pep'mints, an' all!"
"Oh, my grief an' conscience--Samuel!" quavered Lydia Ann.
"Well, ye be. We can do it easy, too. We'll have it the night 'fore
Christmas. The children don't get here until Christmas day, ever, ye
know, so 't won't interfere a mite with their visit, an' 'twill be all
over 'fore they get here. An' we'll make a party of it, too," went on
Samuel gleefully. "There's the Hopkinses an' old Mis' Newcomb, an' Uncle
Tim, an' Grandpa Gowin'--they'll all come an' be glad to."
"Samuel, could we?" cried Lydia Ann, incredulous but joyous. "Could we,
"I'll get the tree myself," murmured Samuel, aloud, "an' we can buy some
o' that shiny stuff up ter the store ter trim it."
"An' I'll get some of that pink-an'-white tarl'tan for bags," chimed in
Lydia Ann happily: "the pink for the white pep'mints, an' the white for
the pink. Samuel, won't it be fun?" And to hear her one would have
thought her seventeen instead of seventy-three.
* * * * *
A week before Christmas Samuel Bertram's only daughter, Ella, wrote this
letter to each of her brothers:
It has occurred to me that it might be an excellent idea if we would
plan to spend a little more time this year with Father and Mother when
we go for our usual Christmas visit; and what kind of a scheme do you
think it would be for us to take the children, and make a real family
reunion of it?
I figure that we could all get there by four o'clock the day before
Christmas, if we planned for it; and by staying perhaps two days after
Christmas we could make quite a visit. What do you say? You see Father
and Mother are getting old, and we can't have them with us many more
years, anyway; and I'm sure this would please them--only we must be
very careful not to make it too exciting for them.
The letters were dispatched with haste, and almost by return mail came
the answers; an emphatic approval, and a promise of hearty cooperation
signed "Frank" and "Ned." What is every one's business is apt to be no
one's business, however, and no one notified Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Bertram
of the change of plan, each thinking that one of the others would attend
"As for presents," mused Ella, as she hurried downtown two days before
Christmas, "I never can think what to give them; but, after all, there's
nothing better than bed-slippers for Mother, and a warm neckerchief for
Father's throat. Those are always good."
The day before Christmas dawned clear and cold. It had been expected
that Ella, her husband, and her twin boys would arrive at the little
village station a full hour before the train from the north bringing
Ned, Mrs. Ned, and little Mabel, together with Frank and his wife and
son; but Ella's train was late--so late that it came in a scant five
minutes ahead of the other one, and thus brought about a joyous greeting
between the reunited families on the station platform itself.
"Why, it's not so bad we were late, after all," cried Ella. "This is
fine--now we can all go together!"
"Jove! but we're a cheery sight!" exclaimed Ned, as he counted off on
his fingers the blooming faces of those about him. "There are ten of
"Only fancy what they'll say at the house when they catch their first
glimpse of us!" chuckled Frank. "The dear old souls! How Father's eyes
will shine and Mother's cap-strings bob! By the way, of course they know
we're coming to-day?"
There was a moment's silence; then Ella flushed. "Why! didn't--didn't
you tell them?" she stammered.
"I? Why, of course not!" cried Frank. "I supposed you were going to. But
maybe Ned-" He paused and turned questioning eyes on his brother.
Ned shook his head. "Not I," he said.
"Why, then--then they don't know," cried Ella, aghast. "They don't know
"Never mind, come on," laughed Ned. "What difference does it make?"
"'What difference does it make'!" retorted Ella indignantly. "Ned
Bertram, do you suppose I'd take the risk of ten of us pouncing down on
those two poor dears like this by surprise? Certainly not!"
"But, Ella, they're expecting six of us tomorrow," remonstrated Frank.
"Very true. But that's not ten of us today."
"I know; but so far as the work is concerned, you girls always do the
most of that," cut in Ned.
"Work! It isn't the work," almost groaned Ella. "Don't you see, boys?
It's the excitement--'twouldn't do for them at all. We must fix it some
way. Come, let's go into the waiting-room and talk it up."
It was not until after considerable discussion that their plans were
finally made and their line of march decided upon. To advance in the
open and take the house by storm was clearly out of the question, though
Ned remarked that in all probability the dear old creatures would be
dozing before the fire, and would not discover their approach. Still, it
would be wiser to be on the safe side; and it was unanimously voted that
Frank should go ahead alone and reconnoiter, preparing the way for the
rest, who could wait, meanwhile, at the little hotel not far from the
The short winter day had drawn almost to a close when Frank turned in at
the familiar gate of the Bertram homestead. His hand had not reached the
white knob of the bell, however, when the eager expectancy of his face
gave way to incredulous amazement; from within, clear and distinct, had
come the sound of a violin.
"Why, what--" he cried under his breath, and softly pushed open the
The hall was almost dark, but the room beyond was a blaze of light, with
the curtains drawn, and apparently every lamp the house contained
trimmed and burning. He himself stood in the shadow, and his entrance
had been unnoticed, though almost the entire expanse of the room before
him was visible through the half-open doorway.
In the farther corner of the room a large evergreen tree, sparkling with
candles and tinsel stars, was hung with bags of pink and white tarletan
and festoons of puffy popcorn. Near it sat an old man playing the
violin; and his whole wiry self seemed to quiver with joy to the tune of
his merry "Money Musk." In the center of the room two gray-haired men
were dancing an old-time jig, bobbing, bowing, and twisting about in a
gleeful attempt to outdo each other. Watching them were three old women
and another old man, eating ice cream and contentedly munching
peppermints. And here, there, and everywhere was the mistress of the
house, Lydia Ann herself, cheeks flushed and cap-strings flying, but
plainly in her element and joyously content.
For a time the man by the hall door watched in silent amazement; then
with a low ejaculation he softly let himself out of the house, and
hurried back to the hotel.
"Well?" greeted half a dozen voices; and one added: "What did they say?"
Frank shook his head and dropped into the nearest chair. "I--I didn't
tell them," he stammered faintly.
"Didn't tell them!" exclaimed Ella. "Why, Frank, what was the trouble?
Were they sick? Surely, they were not upset by just seeing you!"
Frank's eyes twinkled "Well, hardly!" he retorted. "They--they're having
"A party!" shrieked half a dozen voices.
"Yes; and a tree, and a dance, and ice cream, and pink peppermints,"
Frank enumerated in one breath.
There was a chorus of expostulation; then Ella's voice rose dominant.
"Frank Bertram, what on earth do you mean?" she demanded. "Who is having
"Father and Mother," returned Frank, his lips twitching a little. "And
they've got old Uncle Tim and half a dozen others for guests."
"But, Frank, how can they be having all this?" faltered Ella. "Why,
Father's not so very far from eighty years old, and--Mabel, Mabel, my
dear!" she broke off in sudden reproof to her young niece, who had come
under her glance at that moment. "Those are presents for Grandpa and
Grandma. I wouldn't play with them."
Mabel hesitated, plainly rebellious. In each hand was a gray worsted
bed-slipper; atop of her yellow curls was a brown neckerchief, cap
There were exclamations from two men, and Ned came forward hurriedly.
"Oh, I say, Ella," he remonstrated, "you didn't get those for presents,
"But I did. Why not?" questioned Ella.
"Why, I got slippers, you see. I never can think of anything else.
Besides, they're always good, anyhow. But I should think you, a
woman, could think of something--"
"Never mind," interrupted Ella airily. "Mother's a dear, and she won't
care if she does get two pairs."
"But she won't want three pairs," groaned Frank; "and I got slippers
There was a moment of dismayed silence, then everybody laughed.
Ella was the first to speak. "It's too bad, of course, but never mind.
Mother'll see the joke of it just as we do. You know she never seems to
care what we give her. Old people don't have many wants, I fancy."
Frank stirred suddenly and walked the length of the room. Then he
"Do you know," he said, a little unsteadily, "I believe that's a
"A mistake? What's a mistake?"
"The notion that old people don't have any--wants. See here. They're
having a party down there--a party, and they must have got it up
themselves. Such being the case, of course they had what they wanted for
entertainment--and they aren't drinking tea or knitting socks. They're
dancing jigs and eating pink peppermints and ice cream! Their eyes are
like stars, and Mother's cheeks are like a girl's; and if you think I'm
going to offer those spry young things a brown neckerchief and a pair of
bed-slippers you're much mistaken--because I'm not!"
"But what--can--we do?" stammered Ella.
"We can buy something else here--to-night--in the village," declared
Frank; "and to-morrow morning we can go and give it to them."
"I haven't the least idea," retorted Frank, with an airy wave of his
hands. "Maybe 'twill be a diamond tiara and a polo pony. Anyway, I know
what 'twon't be--'twon't be slippers or a neckerchief!"
* * * * *
It was later than usual that Christmas morning when Mr. and Mrs. Samuel
Bertram arose. If the old stomachs had rebelled a little at the pink
peppermints and ice cream, and if the old feet had charged toll for
their unaccustomed activity of the night before, neither Samuel nor
Lydia Ann would acknowledge it.
"Well, we had it--that tree!" chuckled Samuel, as he somewhat stiffly
thrust himself into his clothes.
"We did, Samuel,--we did," quavered Lydia Ann joyfully, "an' wa'n't it
nice? Mis' Hopkins said she never had such a good time in all her life
"An' Uncle Tim an' Grandpa Gowin'--they was as spry as crickets, an'
they made old Pete tune up that 'Money Musk' three times 'fore they'd
"Yes; an'--my grief an' conscience, Samuel! 'tis late, ain't it?" broke
off Lydia Ann, anxiously peering at the clock. "Come, come, dear, you'll
have ter hurry 'bout gettin' that tree out of the front room 'fore
the children get here. I wouldn't have 'em know for the world how silly
we've been--not for the world!"
Samuel bridled, but his movements showed a perceptible increase of
"Well, I do' know," he chuckled.
"'T wa'n't anythin' so awful, after all. But, say," he called
triumphantly a moment later, as he stooped and picked up a small object
from the floor, "they will find out if you don't hide these 'ere
The tree and the peppermints had scarcely disappeared from the "front
room" when Frank arrived.
"Oh, they're all coming in a minute," he laughed gayly in response to
the surprised questions that greeted him. "And we've brought the
children, too. You'll have a houseful, all right!"
A houseful it certainly proved to be, and a lively one, too. In the
kitchen "the girls" as usual reigned supreme, and bundled off the little
mother to "visit with the boys and the children" during the process of
dinner-getting, and after dinner they all gathered around the fireplace
for games and stories.
"And now," said Frank when darkness came and the lamps were lighted,
"I've got a new game, but it's a very mysterious game, and you, Father
and Mother, must not know a thing about it until it's all ready." And
forthwith he conducted the little old man and the little old woman out
into the kitchen with great ceremony.
"Say, Samuel, seems as if this was 'most as good as the party,"
whispered Lydia Ann excitedly, as they waited in the dark. "I know it;
an' they hain't asked us once if we was gettin' too tired! Did ye
notice, Lyddy Ann?"
"Yes, an' they didn't make us take naps, either. Ain't it nice? Why,
Samuel, I--I shan't mind even the bed-slippers now," she laughed.
"Ready!" called Frank, and the dining-room door was thrown wide open.
The old eyes blinked a little at the sudden light, then widened in
amazement. Before the fireplace was a low sewing-table with a chair at
each end. The table itself was covered with a white cloth which lay in
fascinating little ridges and hillocks indicating concealed treasures
beneath. About the table were grouped the four eager-eyed grandchildren
and their no less eager-eyed parents. With still another ceremonious bow
Frank escorted the little old man and the little old woman to the
waiting chairs, and with a merry "One, two, three!" whisked off the
For one amazed instant there was absolute silence; then Lydia Ann drew a
"Samuel, Samuel, they're presents--an' for us!" she quavered joyously.
"It's the bed-slippers and the neckerchiefs, an' they did 'em all up in
white paper an' red ribbons just for us."
At the corner of the mantelpiece a woman choked suddenly and felt for
her handkerchief. Behind her two men turned sharply and walked toward
the window; but the little old man and the little old woman did not
notice it. They had forgotten everything but the enchanting array of
mysteries before them.
Trembling old hands hovered over the many-sized, many-shaped packages,
and gently patted the perky red bows; but not until the grandchildren
impatiently demanded, "Why don't you look at 'em?" did they venture to
untie a single ribbon. Then the old eyes shone, indeed, at sight of the
wonderful things disclosed; a fine lace tie and a bottle of perfume; a
reading-glass and a basket of figs; some dates, raisins, nuts, and
candies, and a little electric pocket lantern which would, at the
pressure of a thumb, bring to light all the secrets of the darkest of
rooms. There were books, too, such as Ella and Frank themselves liked to
read; and there was a handsome little clock for the mantel--but there
was not anywhere a pair of bed-slippers or a neckerchief.
At last they were all opened, and there remained not one little red bow
to untie. On the table, in all their pristine glory, lay the presents,
and half-buried in bits of paper and red ribbon sat the amazed, but
blissfully happy, little old man and little old woman. Lydia Ann's lips
parted, but the trembling words of thanks froze on her tongue--her eyes
had fallen on a small pink peppermint on the floor.
"No, no, we can't take 'em," she cried agitatedly. "We hadn't ought to.
We was wicked and ongrateful, and last night we--we--" She paused
helplessly, her eyes on her husband's face. "Samuel, you--you tell," she
Samuel cleared his throat.
"Well, ye see, we--yes, last night, we--we--" He could say no more.
"We--we had a party to--to make up for things," blurted out Lydia Ann.
"And so ye see we--we hadn't ought ter take these--all these!"
Frank winced. His face grew a little white as he threw a quick glance
into his sister's eyes; but his voice, when he spoke, was clear and
strong from sheer force of will.
"A party? Good! I'm glad of it. Did you enjoy it?" he asked.
Samuel's jaw dropped. Lydia Ann stared speechlessly. This cordial
approval of their folly was more incomprehensible than had been the
failure to relegate them to naps and knitting earlier in the afternoon.
"And you've got another party to-night, too; haven't you?" went on Frank
smoothly. "As for those things there"--he waved his hand toward the
table--"of course you'll take them. Why, we picked them out on purpose
for you,--every single one of them,--and only think how we'd feel if you
didn't take them! Don't you--like them?"
"'Like them'!" cried Lydia Ann, and at the stifled sob in her voice
three men and three women caught their breath sharply and tried to
swallow the lumps in their throats. "We--we just love them!"
No one spoke. The grandchildren stared silently, a little awed. Ella,
Frank, and Ned stirred restlessly and looked anywhere but at each other.
Lydia Ann flushed, then paled. "Of course, if--if you picked 'em
out 'specially for us--" she began hesitatingly, her eyes anxiously
scanning the perturbed faces of her children.
"We did--especially," came the prompt reply.
Lydia Ann's gaze drifted to the table and lingered upon the clock, the
tie, and the bottle of perfume. "'Specially for us," she murmured
softly. Then her face suddenly cleared. "Why, then we'll have to take
them, won't we?" she cried, her voice tremulous with ecstasy. "We'll
just have to--whether we ought to or not!"
"You certainly will!" declared Frank. And this time he did not even try
to hide the shake in his voice.
"Oh!" breathed Lydia Ann blissfully. "Samuel, I--I think I'll take a
It was only after serious consideration that Miss Prue had bought the
little horse, Jupiter, and then she changed the name at once. For a
respectable spinster to drive any sort of horse was bad enough in Miss
Prue's opinion; but to drive a heathen one! To replace "Jupiter" she
considered "Ann" a sensible, dignified, and proper name, and "Ann" she
named him, regardless of age, sex, or "previous condition of servitude."
The villagers accepted the change--though with modifications; the horse
was known thereafter as "Miss Prue's Jupiter Ann."
Miss Prue had said that she wanted a safe, steady horse; one that would
not run, balk, or kick. She would not have bought any horse, indeed, had
it not been that the way to the post office, the store, the church, and
everywhere else, had grown so unaccountably long--Miss Prue was
approaching her sixtieth birthday. The horse had been hers now a month,
and thus far it had been everything that a dignified, somewhat timid
spinster could wish it to be. Fortunately--or unfortunately, as one may
choose to look at it--Miss Prue did not know that in the dim recesses of
Jupiter's memory there lurked the smell of the turf, the feel of the
jockey's coaxing touch, and the sound of a triumphant multitude shouting
his name; in Miss Prue's estimation the next deadly sin to treason and
murder was horse racing.
There was no one in the town, perhaps, who did not know of Miss Prue's
abhorrence of horse racing. On all occasions she freed her mind
concerning it; and there was a report that the only lover of her youth
had lost his suit through his passion for driving fast horses. Even the
county fair Miss Prue had refused all her life to attend--there was the
horse racing. It was because of all this that she had been so loath to
buy a horse, if only the way to everywhere had not grown so long!
For four weeks--indeed, for five--the new horse, Ann, was a treasure;
then, one day, Jupiter remembered.
Miss Prue was driving home from the post office. The wide, smooth road
led straight ahead under an arch of flaming gold and scarlet. The
October air was crisp and bracing, and unconsciously Miss Prue lifted
her chin and drew a long breath. Almost at once, however, she frowned.
From behind her had come the sound of a horse's hoofs, and reluctantly
Miss Prue pulled the right-hand rein.
Jupiter Ann quickened his gait perceptibly, and lifted his head. His
ears came erect.
"Whoa, Ann, whoa!" stammered Miss Prue nervously.
The hoof beats were almost abreast now, and hurriedly Miss Prue turned
her head. At once she gave the reins an angry jerk; in the other light
carriage sat Rupert Joyce, the young man who for weeks had been
unsuccessfully trying to find favor in her eyes because he had already
found it in the eyes of her ward and niece, Mary Belle.
"Good-morning, Miss Prue," called a boyish voice.
"Good-morning," snapped the woman, and jerked the reins again.
Miss Prue awoke then to the sudden realization that if the other's speed
had accelerated, so, too, had her own.
"Ann, Ann, whoa!" she commanded. Then she turned angry eyes on the young
man. "Go by--go by! Why don't you go by?" she called sharply.
In obedience, young Joyce touched the whip to his gray mare: but he did
not go by. With a curious little shake, as if casting off years of dull
propriety, Jupiter Ann thrust forward his nose and got down to business.
Miss Prue grew white, then red. Her hands shook on the reins.
"Ann, Ann, whoa! You mustn't--you can't! Ann, please whoa!" she
supplicated wildly. She might as well have besought the wind not to
On and on, neck and neck, the horses raced. Miss Prue's bonnet slipped
and hung rakishly above one ear. Her hair loosened and fell in
straggling wisps of gray to her shoulders. Her eyeglasses dropped from
her nose and swayed dizzily on their slender chain. Her gloves split
across the back and showed the white, tense knuckles. Her breath came in
gasps, and only a moaning "whoa--whoa" fell in jerky rhythm from her
white lips. Ashamed, frightened, and dismayed, Miss Prue clung to the
reins and kept her straining eyes on the road ahead.
On and on down the long straight road flew Jupiter Ann and the little
gray mare. At door and window of the scudding houses appeared men and
women with startled faces and upraised hands. Miss Prue knew that they
were there, and shuddered. The shame of it--she, in a horse-race, and
with Rupert Joyce! Hurriedly she threw a look at the young man's face to
catch its expression; and then she saw something else: the little gray
mare was a full half-head in the lead of Jupiter Ann!
It was then that a strange something awoke in Miss Prue--a fierce new
something that she had never felt before. Her lips set hard, and her
eyes flashed a sudden fire. Her moaning "whoa--whoa" fell silent, and
her hands loosened instinctively on the reins. She was leaning forward
now, eagerly, anxiously, her eyes on the head of the other horse.
Suddenly her tense muscles relaxed, and a look that was perilously near
to triumphant joy crossed her face--Jupiter Ann was ahead once more!
By the time the wide sweep of the driveway leading to Miss Prue's home
was reached, there was no question of the result, and well in the lead
of the little gray mare Jupiter Ann trotted proudly up the driveway and
came to a panting stop.
Flushed, disheveled, and palpitating, Miss Prue picked her way to the
ground. Behind her Rupert Joyce was just driving into the yard. He, too,
was flushed and palpitating--though not for the same reason.
"I--I just thought I'd drive out and see Mary Belle," he blurted out
airily, assuming a bold front to meet the wrath which he felt was sure
to come. At once, however, his jaw dropped in amazement.
"Mary Belle? I left her down in the orchard gathering apples," Miss Prue
was saying cheerfully. "You might look for her there." And she smiled--
the gracious smile of the victor for the vanquished.
Incredulously the youth stared; then, emboldened, he plunged on
"I say, you know, Miss Prue, that little horse of yours can run!"
Miss Prue stiffened. With a jerk she straightened her bonnet and thrust
her glasses on her nose.
"Ann has been bad--very bad," she said severely. "We'll not talk of it,
if you please. I am ashamed of her!" And he turned haughtily away.
In the barn two minutes later, Miss Prue patted Jupiter Ann on the neck
--a thing she had never done before.
"We beat 'em, anyhow, Ann," she whispered. "And, after all, he's a
pleasant-spoken chap, and if Mary Belle wants him--why--let's let her
The Axminster Path
"There, dear, here we are, all dressed for the day!" said the girl
gayly, as she led the frail little woman along the strip of Axminster
carpet that led to the big chair.
"And Kathie?" asked the woman, turning her head with the groping
uncertainty of the blind.
"Here, mother," answered a cheery voice. "I'm right here by the window."
"Oh!" And the woman smiled happily. "Painting, I suppose, as usual."
"Oh, I'm working, as usual," returned the same cheery voice, its owner
changing the position of the garment in her lap and reaching for a spool
"There!" breathed the blind woman, as she sank into the great chair.
"Now I am all ready for my breakfast. Tell cook, please, Margaret, that
I will have tea this morning, and just a roll besides my orange." And
she smoothed the folds of her black silk gown and picked daintily at the
lace in her sleeves.
"Very well, dearie," returned her daughter. "You shall have it right
away," she added over her shoulder as she left the room.
In the tiny kitchen beyond the sitting-room Margaret Whitmore lighted
the gas-stove and set the water on to boil. Then she arranged a small
tray with a bit of worn damask and the only cup and saucer of delicate
china that the shelves contained. Some minutes later she went back to
her mother, tray in hand.
"'Most starved to death?" she demanded merrily, as she set the tray upon
the table Katherine had made ready before the blind woman. "You have
your roll, your tea, your orange, as you ordered, dear, and just a bit
of currant jelly besides."
"Currant jelly? Well, I don't know,--perhaps it will taste good. 'T was
so like Nora to send it up; she's always trying to tempt my appetite,
you know. Dear me, girls, I wonder if you realize what a treasure we
have in that cook!"
"Yes, dear, I know," murmured Margaret hastily. "And now the tea,
Mother--it's getting colder every minute. Will you have the orange
The slender hands of the blind woman hovered for a moment over the
table, then dropped slowly and found by touch the position of spoons,
plates, and the cup of tea.
"Yes, I have everything. I don't need you any longer, Meg. I don't like
to take so much of your time, dear--you should let Betty do for me."
"But I want to do it," laughed Margaret. "Don't you want me?"
"Want you! That isn't the question, dear," objected Mrs. Whitmore
gently. "Of course, a maid's service can't be compared for an instant
with a daughter's love and care; but I don't want to be selfish--and you
and Kathie never let Betty do a thing for me. There, there! I won't
scold any more. What are you going to do to-day, Meg?"
Margaret hesitated. She was sitting by the window now, in a low chair
near her sister's. In her hands was a garment similar to that upon which
Katherine was still at work.
"Why, I thought," she began slowly, "I'd stay here with you and
Katherine a while."
Mrs. Whitmore set down her empty cup and turned a troubled face toward
the sound of her daughter's voice.
"Meg, dear," she remonstrated, "is it that fancy-work?"
"Well, isn't fancy-work all right?" The girl's voice shook a little.
Mrs. Whitmore stirred uneasily.
"No, it--it isn't--in this case," she protested. "Meg, Kathie, I don't
like it. You are young; you should go out more--both of you. I
understand, of course; it's your unselfishness. You stay with me lest I
get lonely; and you play at painting and fancy-work for an excuse. Now,
dearies, there must be a change. You must go out. You must take your
place in society. I will not have you waste your young lives."
"Mother!" Margaret was on her feet, and Katherine had dropped her work.
"Mother!" they cried again.
"I--I shan't even listen," faltered Margaret. "I shall go and leave you
right away," she finished tremulously, picking up the tray and hurrying
from the room.
It was hours later, after the little woman had trailed once more along
the Axminster path to the bed in the room beyond and had dropped asleep,
that Margaret Whitmore faced her sister with despairing eyes.
"Katherine, what shall we do? This thing is killing me!"
The elder girl's lips tightened. For an instant she paused in her work--
but for only an instant.
"I know," she said feverishly; "but we mustn't give up--we mustn't!"
"But how can we help it? It grows worse and worse. She wants us to go
out--to sing, dance, and make merry as we used to."
"Then we'll go out and--tell her we dance."
"But there's the work."
"We'll take it with us. We can't both leave at once, of course, but old
Mrs. Austin, downstairs, will be glad to have one or the other of us sit
with her an occasional afternoon or evening."
Margaret sprang to her feet and walked twice the length of the room.
"But I've--lied so much already!" she moaned, pausing before her sister.
"It's all a lie--my whole life!"
"Yes, yes, I know," murmured the other, with a hurried glance toward the
bedroom door. "But, Meg, we mustn't give up--'twould kill her to know
now. And, after all, it's only a little while!--such a little while!"
Her voice broke with a half-stifled sob. The younger girl shivered, but
did not speak. She walked again the length of the room and back; then
she sat down to her work, her lips a tense line of determination, and
her thoughts delving into the few past years for a strength that might
help her to bear the burden of the days to come.
* * * * *
Ten years before, and one week after James Whitmore's death, Mrs. James
Whitmore had been thrown from her carriage, striking on her head and
When she came to consciousness, hours afterward, she opened her eyes on
midnight darkness, though the room was flooded with sunlight. The optic
nerve had been injured, the doctor said. It was doubtful if she would
ever be able to see again.
Nor was this all. There were breaks and bruises, and a bad injury to the
spine. It was doubtful if she would ever walk again. To the little woman
lying back on the pillow it seemed a living death--this thing that had
come to her.
It was then that Margaret and Katherine constituted themselves a
veritable wall of defense between their mother and the world. Nothing
that was not inspected and approved by one or the other was allowed to
pass Mrs. Whitmore's chamber door.
For young women only seventeen and nineteen, whose greatest
responsibility hitherto had been the selection of a gown or a ribbon,
this was a new experience.
At first the question of expense did not enter into consideration.
Accustomed all their lives to luxury, they unhesitatingly demanded it
now; and doctors, nurses, wines, fruits, flowers, and delicacies were
summoned as a matter of course.
Then came the crash. The estate of the supposedly rich James Whitmore
was found to be deeply involved, and in the end there was only a
pittance for the widow and her two daughters.
Mrs. Whitmore was not told of this at once. She was so ill and helpless
that a more convenient season was awaited. That was nearly ten years
ago--and she had not been told yet.
Concealment had not been difficult at first. The girls had, indeed,
drifted into the deception almost unconsciously, as it certainly was not
necessary to burden the ears of the already sorely afflicted woman with
the petty details of the economy and retrenchment on the other side of
If her own luxuries grew fewer, the change was so gradual that the
invalid did not notice it, and always her blindness made easy the
deception of those about her.
Even the move to another home was accomplished without her realizing it
--she was taken to the hospital for a month's treatment, and when the
month was ended she was tenderly carried home and laid on her own bed;
and she did not know that "home" now was a cheap little flat in Harlem
instead of the luxurious house on the avenue where her children were
She was too ill to receive visitors, and was therefore all the more
dependent on her daughters for entertainment.
She pitied them openly for the grief and care she had brought upon them,
and in the next breath congratulated them and herself that at least they
had all that money could do to smooth the difficult way. In the face of
this, it naturally did not grow any easier for the girls to tell the
truth--and they kept silent.
For six years Mrs. Whitmore did not step; then her limbs and back grew
stronger, and she began to sit up, and to stand for a moment on her
feet. Her daughters now bought the strip of Axminster carpet and laid a
path across the bedroom, and another one from the bedroom door to the
great chair in the sitting-room, so that her feet might not note the
straw matting on the floor and question its being there.
In her own sitting-room at home--which had opened, like this, out of her
bedroom--the rugs were soft and the chairs sumptuous with springs and
satin damask. One such chair had been saved from the wreck--the one at
the end of the strip of carpet.
Day by day and month by month the years passed. The frail little woman
walked the Axminster path and sat in the tufted chair. For her there
were a china cup and plate, and a cook and maids below to serve. For her
the endless sewing over which Katherine and Margaret bent their backs to
eke out their scanty income was a picture or a bit of embriodery,
designed to while away the time.
As Margaret thought of it it seemed incredible--this tissue of
fabrications that enmeshed them; but even as she wondered she knew that
the very years that marked its gradual growth made now its strength.
And in a little while would come the end--a very little while, the
Margaret tightened her lips and echoed her sister's words: "We mustn't
give up--we mustn't!"
Two days later the doctor called. He was a bit out of the old life.
His home, too, had been--and was now, for that matter--on the avenue. He
lived with his aunt, whose heir he was, and he was the only one outside
of the Whitmore family that knew the house of illusions in which Mrs.
His visits to the little Harlem flat had long ceased to have more than a
semblance of being professional, and it was an open secret that he
wished to make Margaret his wife. Margaret said no, though with a
heightened color and a quickened breath--which told at least herself how
easily the "no" might have been a "yes."
Dr. Littlejohn was young and poor, and he had only his profession, for
all he was heir to one of the richest women on the avenue; and Margaret
refused to burden him with what she knew it would mean to marry her. In
spite of argument, therefore, and a pair of earnest brown eyes that
pleaded even more powerfully, she held to her convictions and continued
to say no.
All this, however, did not prevent Dr. Littlejohn from making frequent
visits to the Whitmore home, and always his coming meant joy to three
weary, troubled hearts. To-day he brought a great handful of pink
carnations and dropped them into the lap of the blind woman.
"Sweets to the sweet!" he cried gayly, as he patted the slim hand on the
arm of the chair.
"Doctor Ned--you dear boy! Oh, how lovely!" exclaimed Mrs. Whitmore,
burying her face in the fragrant flowers. "And, doctor, I want to speak
to you," she broke off earnestly. "I want you to talk to Meg and Kathie.
Perhaps they will listen to you. I want them to go out more. Tell them,
please, that I don't need them all the time now."
"Dear me, how independent we are going to be!" laughed the doctor. "And
so we don't need any more attention now, eh?"
"Betty will do."
"Betty?" It was hard, sometimes, for the doctor to remember.
"The maid," explained Mrs. Whitmore; "though, for that matter, there
might as well be no maid--the girls never let her do a thing for me."
"No?" returned the doctor easily, sure now of where he stood. "But you
don't expect me to interfere in this housekeeping business!"
"Somebody must," urged Mrs. Whitmore. "The girls must leave me more. It
isn't as if we were poor and couldn't hire nurses and maids. I should
die if it were like that, and I were such a burden."
"Mother, dearest!" broke in Margaret feverishly, with an
imploring glance toward her sister and the doctor.
"Oh, by the way," interposed the doctor airily, "it has occurred to me
that the very object of my visit to-day is right along the lines of what
you ask. I want Miss Margaret to go driving with me. I have a call to
make out Washington Heights way."
"Oh, but--" began Margaret, and paused at a gesture from her mother.
"There aren't any 'buts' about it," declared Mrs. Whitmore. "Meg shall
"Of course she'll go!" echoed Katherine. And with three against her,
Margaret's protests were in vain.
* * * * *
Mrs. Whitmore was nervous that night. She could not sleep.
It seemed to her that if she could get up and walk, back and forth, back
and forth, she could rest afterward. She had not stepped alone yet, to
be sure, since the accident, but, after all, the girls did little more
than guide her feet, and she was sure that she could walk alone if she
The more she thought of it the more she longed to test her strength.
Just a few steps back and forth, back and forth--then sleep. She was
sure she could sleep then. Very quietly, that she might not disturb the
sleepers in the bedroom beyond, the blind woman sat up in bed and
slipped her feet to the floor.
Within reach were her knit slippers and the heavy shawl always kept at
the head of her bed. With trembling hands she put them on and rose
At last she was on her feet, and alone. To a woman who for ten years had
depended on others for almost everything but the mere act of breathing,
it was joy unspeakable. She stepped once, twice, and again along the
side of her bed; then she stopped with a puzzled frown--under her feet
was the unyielding, unfamiliar straw matting. She took four more steps,
hesitatingly, and with her arms outstretched at full length before her.
The next instant she recoiled and caught her breath sharply; her hands
had encountered a wall and a window--and there should have been no
wall or windows there!
The joy was gone now.
Shaking with fear and weakness, the little woman crept along the wall
and felt for something that would tell her that she was still at home.
Her feet made no sound, and only her hurried breathing broke the
Through the open door to the sitting-room, and down the wall to the
right-on and on she crept.
Here and there a familiar chair or stand met her groping hands and held
them hesitatingly for a moment, only to release them to the terror of an
unfamiliar corner or window-sill.
The blind woman herself had long since lost all realization of what she
was doing. There was only the frenzied longing to find her own. She did
not hesitate even at the outer door of the apartment, but turned the key
with shaking hands and stepped fearlessly into the hall. The next moment
there came a scream and a heavy fall. The Whitmore apartment was just at
the head of the stairs, and almost the first step of the blind woman had
been off into space.
* * * * *
When Mrs. Whitmore regained consciousness she was alone in her own bed.
Out in the sitting-room, Margaret, Katherine, and the doctor talked
together in low tones. At last the girls hurried into the kitchen, and
the doctor turned and entered the bedroom. With a low ejaculation he
Mrs. Whitmore flung out her arm and clutched his hand; then she lay back
on the pillow and closed her eyes.
"Doctor," she whispered, "where am I?"
"At home, in your own bed."
"Where is this place?"
Dr. Littlejohn paled. He sent an anxious glance toward the sitting-room
door, though he knew very well that Margaret and Katherine were in the
kitchen and could not hear.
"Where is this place?" begged the woman again.
"Why, it--it--is--" The man paused helplessly.
Five thin fingers tightened their clasp on his hand, and the low voice
again broke the silence.
"Doctor, did you ever know--did you ever hear that a fall could give
Dr. Littlejohn started and peered into the wan face lying back on the
pillow. Its impassiveness reassured him.
"Why, perhaps--once or twice," he returned slowly, falling back into his
old position, "though rarely--very rarely."
"But it has happened?"
"Yes, it has happened. There was a case recently in England. The shock
and blow released the pressure on the optic nerve; but--"
Something in the face he was watching brought him suddenly forward in
his chair. "My dear woman, you don't mean--you can't--"
He did not finish his sentence. Mrs. Whitmore opened her eyes and met
his gaze unflinchingly. Then she turned her head.
"Doctor," she said, "that picture on the wall there at the foot of the
bed--it doesn't hang quite straight."
"Mrs. Whitmore!" breathed the man incredulously, half rising from his
"Hush! Not yet!" The woman's insistent hand had pulled him back. "Why am
I here? Where is this place?"
There was no answer.
"Doctor, you must tell me. I must know."
Again the man hesitated. He noted the flushed cheeks and shaking hands
of the woman before him. It was true, she must know; and perhaps, after
all, it was best she should know through him. He drew a long breath and
plunged straight into the heart of the story.
Five minutes later a glad voice came from the doorway.
"Mother, dearest--then you're awake!" The doctor was conscious of a low-
breathed "Hush, don't tell her!" in his ears; then, to his amazement, he
saw the woman on the bed turn her head and hold out her hand with the
old groping uncertainty of the blind.
"Margaret! It is Margaret, isn't it?"
Days afterward, when the weary, painracked body of the little mother was
forever at rest, Margaret lifted her head from her lover's shoulder,
where she had been sobbing out her grief.
"Ned, I can't be thankful enough," she cried, "that we kept it from
Mother to the end. It's my only comfort. She didn't know."
"And I'm sure she would wish that thought to be a comfort to you, dear,"
said the doctor gently. "I am sure she would."
Phineas and the Motor Car
Phineas used to wonder, sometimes, just when it was that he began to
court Diantha Bowman, the rosy-cheeked, golden-haired idol of his
boyhood. Diantha's cheeks were not rosy now, and her hair was more
silver than gold, but she was not yet his wife.
And he had tried so hard to win her! Year after year the rosiest apples
from his orchard and the choicest honey from his apiary had found their
way to Diantha's table; and year after year the county fair and the
village picnic had found him at Diantha's door with his old mare and his
buggy, ready to be her devoted slave for the day. Nor was Diantha
unmindful of all these attentions. She ate the apples and the honey, and
spent long contented hours in the buggy; but she still answered his
pleadings with her gentle: "I hain't no call to marry yet, Phineas," and
nothing he could do seemed to hasten her decision in the least. It was
the mare and the buggy, however, that proved to be responsible for what
was the beginning of the end.
They were on their way home from the county fair. The mare, head
hanging, was plodding through the dust when around the curve of the road
ahead shot the one automobile that the town boasted. The next moment the
whizzing thing had passed, and left a superannuated old mare looming
through a cloud of dust and dancing on two wabbly hind legs.
"Plague take them autymobiles!" snarled Phineas through set teeth, as he
sawed at the reins. "I ax yer pardon, I'm sure, Dianthy," he added
shamefacedly, when the mare had dropped to a position more nearly
normal; "but I hain't no use fur them 'ere contraptions!"
Diantha frowned. She was frightened--and because she was frightened she
was angry. She said the first thing that came into her head--and never
had she spoken to Phineas so sharply.
"If you did have some use for 'em, Phineas Hopkins, you wouldn't be
crawlin' along in a shiftless old rig like this; you'd have one yourself
an' be somebody! For my part, I like 'em, an' I'm jest achin' ter ride
in 'em, too!"
Phineas almost dropped the reins in his amazement. "Achin' ter ride in
'em," she had said--and all that he could give her was this "shiftless
old rig" that she so scorned. He remembered something else, too, and his
face flamed suddenly red. It was Colonel Smith who owned and drove that
automobile, and Colonel Smith, too, was a bachelor. What if--Instantly
in Phineas's soul rose a fierce jealousy.
"I like a hoss, myself," he said then, with some dignity. "I want
somethin' that's alive!"
Diantha laughed slyly. The danger was past, and she could afford to be
"Well, it strikes me that you come pretty near havin' somethin' that
wa'n't alive jest 'cause you had somethin' that was!" she
retorted. "Really, Phineas, I didn't s'pose Dolly could move so fast!"
"Dolly knew how ter move--once," he rejoined grimly. "'Course nobody
pretends ter say she's young now, any more 'n we be," he finished with
some defiance. But he drooped visibly at Diantha's next words.
"Why, I don't feel old, Phineas, an' I ain't old, either. Look at
Colonel Smith; he's jest my age, an' he's got a autymobile. Mebbe I'll
have one some day."
To Phineas it seemed that a cold hand clutched his heart.
"Dianthy, you wouldn't really--ride in one!" he faltered.
Until that moment Diantha had not been sure that she would, but the
quaver in Phineas's voice decided her.
"Wouldn't I? You jest wait an' see!"
And Phineas did wait--and he did see. He saw Diantha, not a week later,
pink-cheeked and bright-eyed, sitting by the side of Colonel Smith in
that hated automobile. Nor did he stop to consider that Diantha was only
one of a dozen upon whom Colonel Smith, in the enthusiasm of his new
possession, was pleased to bestow that attention. To Phineas it could
mean but one thing; and he did not change his opinion when he heard
Diantha's account of the ride.
"It was perfectly lovely," she breathed. "Oh, Phineas, it was jest like
"'Flyin'!'" Phineas could say no more. He felt as if he were choking,--
choking with the dust raised by Dolly's plodding hoofs.
"An' the trees an' the houses swept by like ghosts," continued Diantha.
"Why, Phineas, I could 'a' rode on an' on furever!"
Before the ecstatic rapture in Diantha's face Phineas went down in
defeat. Without one word he turned away--but in his heart he registered
a solemn vow: he, too, would have an automobile; he, too, would make
Diantha wish to ride on and on forever!
Arduous days came then to Phineas. Phineas was not a rich man. He had
enough for his modest wants, but until now those wants had not included
an automobile--until now he had not known that Diantha wished to fly.
All through the autumn and winter Phineas pinched and economized until
he had lopped off all of the luxuries and most of the pleasures of
living. Even then it is doubtful if he would have accomplished his
purpose had he not, in the spring, fallen heir to a modest legacy of a
few thousand dollars. The news of his good fortune was not two hours old
when he sought Diantha.
"I cal'late mebbe I'll be gettin' me one o' them 'ere autymobiles this
spring," he said, as if casually filling a pause in the conversation.
At the awed joy in Diantha's voice the man's heart glowed within him.
This one moment of triumph was worth all the long miserable winter with
its butterless bread and tobaccoless pipes. But he carefully hid his joy
when he spoke.
"Yes," he said nonchalantly. "I'm goin' ter Boston next week ter pick
one out. I cal'late on gettin' a purty good one."
"Oh, Phineas! But how--how you goin' ter run it?"
Phineas's chin came up.
"Run it!" he scoffed. "Well, I hain't had no trouble yet steerin' a
hoss, an' I cal'late I won't have any more steerin' a mess o' senseless
metal what hain't got no eyes ter be seein' things an' gittin' scared! I
don't worry none 'bout runnin' it."
"But, Phineas, it ain't all steerin'," ventured Diantha, timidly.
"There's lots of little handles and things ter turn, an' there's some
things you do with your feet. Colonel Smith did."
The name Smith to Phineas was like a match to gunpowder. He flamed
instantly into wrath.
"Well, I cal'late what Colonel Smith does, I can," he snapped.
"Besides"--airily--"mebbe I shan't git the feet kind, anyhow; I want the
best. There's as much as four or five kinds, Jim Blair says, an' I
cal'late ter try 'em all."
"Oh-h!" breathed Diantha, falling back in her chair with an ecstatic
sigh. "Oh, Phineas, won't it be grand!" And Phineas, seeing the joyous
light in her eyes, gazed straight down a vista of happiness that led to
wedding bells and bliss.
Phineas was gone some time on his Boston trip. When he returned he
looked thin and worried. He started nervously at trivial noises, and his
eyes showed a furtive restlessness that quickly caused remark.
"Why, Phineas, you don't look well!" Diantha exclaimed when she saw him.
"Well? Oh, I'm well."
"An' did you buy it--that autymobile?"
"I did." Phineas's voice was triumphant. Diantha's eyes sparkled.
"Where is it?" she demanded.
"An' did you try 'em all, as you said you would?"
Phineas stirred; then he sighed.
"Well, I dunno," he acknowledged. "I hain't done nothin' but ride in 'em
since I went down--I know that. But there's such a powerful lot of 'em,
Dianthy; an' when they found out I wanted one, they all took hold an'
showed off their best p'ints--'demonstatin',' they called it. They raced
me up hill an' down hill, an' scooted me round corners till I didn't
know where I was. I didn't have a minute ter myself. An' they went fast,
Dianthy-powerful fast. I ain't real sure yet that I'm breathin'
"But it must have been grand, Phineas! I should have loved it!"
"Oh, it was, 'course!" assured Phineas, hastily.
"An' you'll take me ter ride, right away?" If Phineas hesitated it was
for only a moment.
"'Course," he promised. "Er--there's a man, he's comin' with it, an'
he's goin' ter stay a little, jest ter--ter make sure everything's all
right. After he goes I'll come. An' ye want ter be ready--I'll show ye a
thing or two!" he finished with a swagger that was meant to hide the
shake in his voice.
In due time the man and the automobile arrived, but Diantha did not have
her ride at once. It must have taken some time to make sure that
"everything was all right," for the man stayed many days, and while he
was there, of course Phineas was occupied with him. Colonel Smith was
unkind enough to observe that he hoped it was taking Phineas Hopkins
long enough to learn to run the thing; but his remark did not reach
Diantha's ears. She knew only that Phineas, together with the man and
the automobile, started off early every morning for some unfrequented
road, and did not return until night.
There came a day, however, when the man left town, and not twenty-four
hours later, Phineas, with a gleaming thing of paint and polish, stood
at Diantha's door.
"Now ain't that pretty," quavered Diantha excitedly. "Ain't that awful
"Purty slick, I think myself," he acknowledged.
"An' green is so much nicer than red," cooed Diantha.
Phineas quite glowed with joy--Colonel Smith's car was red. "Oh, green's
the thing," he retorted airily; "an' see!" he added; and forthwith he
burst into a paean of praise, in which tires, horns, lamps, pumps,
baskets, brakes, and mud-guards were the dominant notes. It almost
seemed, indeed, that he had bought the gorgeous thing before him to look
at and talk about rather than to use, so loath was he to stop talking
and set the wheels to moving. Not until Diantha had twice reminded him
that she was longing to ride in it did he help her into the car and make
ready to start.
It was not an entire success--that start. There were several false moves
on Phineas's part, and Diantha could not repress a slight scream and a
nervous jump at sundry unexpected puffs and snorts and snaps from the
throbbing thing beneath her. She gave a louder scream when Phineas, in
his nervousness, sounded the siren, and a wail like a cry from the
spirit world shrieked in her ears.
"Phineas, what was that?" she shivered, when the voice had moaned into
Phineas's lips were dry, and his hands and knees were shaking; but his
pride marched boldly to the front.
"Why, that's the siren whistle, 'course," he chattered. "Ain't it great?
I thought you'd like it!" And to hear him one would suppose that to
sound the siren was always a necessary preliminary to starting the
They were off at last. There was a slight indecision, to be sure,
whether they would go backward or forward, and there was some hesitation
as to whether Diantha's geranium bed or the driveway would make the best
thoroughfare. But these little matters having been settled to the
apparent satisfaction of all concerned, the automobile rolled down the
driveway and out on to the main highway.
"Oh, ain't this grand!" murmured Diantha, drawing a long but somewhat
Phineas did not answer. His lips were tense, and his eyes were fixed on
the road ahead. For days now he had run the car himself, and he had been
given official assurance that he was quite capable of handling it; yet
here he was on his first ride with Diantha almost making a failure of
the whole thing at the start. Was he to be beaten--beaten by a senseless
motor car and Colonel Smith? At the thought Phineas lifted his chin and
put on more power.
"Oh, my! How f-fast we're goin'!" cried Diantha, close to his ear.
"Who wants ter crawl?" he shouted; and the car leaped again at the touch
of his hand.
They were out of the town now, on a wide road that had few turns.
Occasionally they met a carriage or a wagon, but the frightened horses
and the no less frightened drivers gave the automobile a wide berth--
which was well; for the parallel tracks behind Phineas showed that the
car still had its moments of indecision as to the course to pursue.
The town was four miles behind them when Diantha, who had been for some
time vainly clutching at the flying ends of her veil, called to Phineas
The request took Phineas by surprise. For one awful moment his mind was
a blank--he had forgotten how to stop! In frantic haste he turned and
twisted and shoved and pulled, ending with so sudden an application of
the brakes that Diantha nearly shot head first out of the car as it
"Why, why--Phineas!" she cried a little sharply.
Phineas swallowed the lump in his throat and steadied himself in his
"Ye see I--I can stop her real quick if I want to," he explained
jauntily. "Ye can do 'most anythin' with these 'ere things if ye only
know how, Dianthy. Didn't we come slick?"
"Yes, indeed," stammered Diantha, hastily smoothing out the frown on her
face and summoning a smile to her lips--not for her best black silk gown
would she have had Phineas know that she was wishing herself safe at
home and the automobile back where it came from.
"We'll go home through the Holler," said Phineas, after she had retied
her veil and they were ready to start. "It's the long way round, ye
know. I ain't goin' ter give ye no snippy little two-mile run, Dianthy,
like Colonel Smith did," he finished gleefully.
"No, of course not," murmured Diantha, smothering a sigh as the
automobile started with a jerk.
An hour later, tired, frightened, a little breathless, but valiantly
declaring that she had had a "beautiful time," Diantha was set down at
her own door.
That was but the first of many such trips. Ever sounding in Phineas
Hopkins's ears and spurring him to fresh endeavor, were Diantha's words,
"I could 'a' rode on an' on furever"; and deep in his heart was the
determination that if it was automobile rides that she wanted, it was
automobile rides that she should have! His small farm on the edge of the
town--once the pride of his heart--began to look forlorn and deserted;
for Phineas, when not actually driving his automobile, was usually to be
found hanging over it with wrench and polishing cloth. He bought little
food and less clothing, but always--gasolene. And he talked to any one
who would listen about automobiles in general and his own in particular,
learnedly dropping in frequent references to cylinders, speed, horse
power, vibrators, carburetors, and spark plugs.
As for Diantha--she went to bed every night with thankfulness that she
possessed her complement of limbs and senses, and she rose every morning
with a fear that the coming night would find some of them missing. To
Phineas and the town in general she appeared to be devoted to this
breathless whizzing over the country roads; and wild horses could not
have dragged from her the truth: that she was longing with an
overwhelming longing for the old days of Dolly, dawdling, and peace.
Just where it all would have ended it is difficult to say had not the
automobile itself taken a hand in the game--as automobiles will
sometimes--and played trumps.
It was the first day of the county fair again, and Phineas and Diantha
were on their way home. Straight ahead the road ran between clumps of
green, then unwound in a white ribbon of dust across wide fields and
"Tain't much like last year, is it, Dianthy?" crowed Phineas, shrilly,
in her ear--then something went wrong.
Phineas knew it instantly. The quivering thing beneath them leaped into
new life--but a life of its own. It was no longer a slave, but a master.
Phineas's face grew white. Thus far he had been able to keep to the
road, but just ahead there was a sharp curve, and he knew he could not
make the turn--something was the matter with the steering-gear.
"Look out--she's got the bits in her teeth!" he shouted. "She's bolted!"
There came a scream, a sharp report, and a grinding crash--then silence.
* * * * *
From away off in the dim distance Phineas heard a voice.
Something snapped, and he seemed to be floating up, up, up, out of the
black oblivion of nothingness. He tried to speak, but he knew that he
made no sound.
The voice was nearer now, so near that it seemed just above him. It
sounded like--With a mighty effort he opened his eyes; then full
consciousness came. He was on the ground, his head in Diantha's lap.
Diantha, bonnet crushed, neck-bow askew, and coat torn, was bending over
him, calling him frantically by name. Ten feet away the wrecked
automobile, tip-tilted against a large maple tree, completed the
With a groan Phineas closed his eyes and turned away his head.
"She's all stove up--an' now you won't ever say yes," he moaned. "You
wanted ter ride on an' on furever!"
"But I will--I don't--I didn't mean it," sobbed Diantha incoherently.
"I'd rather have Dolly twice over. I like ter crawl. Oh, Phineas,
I hate that thing--I've always hated it! I'll say yes next week--to-
morrow--to-day if you'll only open your eyes and tell me you ain't
Phineas was not dying, and he proved it promptly and effectually, even
to the doubting Diantha's blushing content. And there their rescuers
found them a long half-hour later--a blissful old man and a happy old
woman sitting hand in hand by the wrecked automobile.
"I cal'lated somebody'd be along purty soon," said Phineas, rising
stiffly. "Ye see, we've each got a foot that don't go, so we couldn't
git help; but we hain't minded the wait--not a mite!"
The Most Wonderful Woman
And a Great Man who proves himself truly great
It was Old Home Week in the little village, and this was to be the
biggest day. From a distant city was to come the town's one really Great
Man, to speak in the huge tent erected on the Common for just that
purpose. From end to end the village was aflame with bunting and astir
with excitement, so that even I, merely a weary sojourner in the place,
felt the thrill and tingled pleasantly.
When the Honorable Jonas Whitermore entered the tent at two o'clock that
afternoon I had a good view of him, for my seat was next the broad
aisle. Behind him on the arm of an usher came a small, frightened-
looking little woman in a plain brown suit and a plainer brown bonnet
set askew above thin gray hair. The materials of both suit and bonnet
were manifestly good, but all distinction of line and cut was hopelessly
lost in the wearing. Who she was I did not know; but I soon learned, for
one of the two young women in front of me said a low something to which
the other gave back a swift retort, woefully audible: "His wife?
That little dowdy thing in brown? Oh, what a pity! Such an ordinary
My cheeks grew hot in sympathy with the painful red that swept to the
roots of the thin gray hair under the tip-tilted bonnet. Then I glanced
at the man.
Had he heard? I was not quite sure. His chin, I fancied, was a trifle
higher. I could not see his eyes, but I did see his right hand; and it
was clenched so tightly that the knuckles were white with the strain. I
thought I knew then. He had heard. The next minute he had passed on up
the aisle and the usher was seating the more-frightened-than-ever little
wife in the roped-off section reserved for important guests.
It was then that I became aware that the man on my right was saying
"I beg your pardon, but-did you speak--to me?" I asked, turning to him
The old man met my eyes with an abashed smile.
"I guess I'm the party what had ought to be askin' pardon, stranger," he
apologized. "I talk to myself so much I kinder furgit sometimes, and do
it when folks is round. I was only sayin' that I wondered why 'twas the
good Lord give folks tongues and forgot to give 'em brains to run 'em
with. But maybe you didn't hear what she said," he hazarded, with a jerk
of his thumb toward the young woman in front.
"About Mrs. Whitermore? Yes, I heard."
His face darkened.
"Then you know. And she heard, too! 'Ordinary woman,' indeed! Humph! To
think that Betty Tillington should ever live to hear herself called an
'ordinary woman'! You see, I knew her when she was Betty
"Did you?" I smiled encouragingly. I was getting interested, and I hoped
he would keep on talking. On the platform the guest of honor was holding
a miniature reception. He was the picture of polite attention and
punctilious responsiveness; but I thought I detected a quick glance now
and then toward the roped-off section where sat his wife and I wondered
again--had he heard that thoughtless comment?
From somewhere had come the rumor that the man who was to introduce the
Honorable Jonas Whitermore had been delayed by a washout "down the
road," but was now speeding toward us by automobile. For my part, I fear
I wished the absentee a punctured tire so that I might hear more of the
heart-history of the faded little woman with the bonnet askew.
"Yes, I knew her," nodded my neighbor, "and she didn't look much then
like she does now. She was as pretty as a picture and there wa'n't a
chap within sight of her what wa'n't head over heels in love with her.
But there wa'n't never a chance for but two of us and we knew it: Joe
Whitermore and a chap named Fred Farrell. So, after a time, we just sort
of stood off and watched the race--as pretty a race as ever you see.
Farrell had the money and the good looks, while Whitermore was poor as a
church mouse, and he was homely, too. But Whitermore must have had
somethin'--maybe somethin' we didn't see, for she took him.
"Well, they married and settled down happy as two twitterin' birds, but
poor as Job's turkey. For a year or so she was as pretty and gay as ever
she was and into every good time goin'; then the babies came, one after
another, some of 'em livin' and some dyin' soon after they came.
"Of course, things was different then. What with the babies and the
housework, Betty couldn't get out much, and we didn't see much of her.
When we did see her, though, she'd smile and toss her head in the old
way and say how happy she was and didn't we think her babies was the
prettiest things ever, and all that. And we did, of course, and told her
"But we couldn't help seein' that she was gettin' thin and white and
that no matter how she tossed her head, there wa'n't any curls there to
bob like they used to, 'cause her hair was pulled straight back and
twisted up into a little hard knot just like as if she had done it up
when some one was callin' her to come quick."
"Yes, I can imagine it," I nodded.
"Well, that's the way things went at the first, while he was gettin' his
start, and I guess they was happy then. You see, they was pullin' even
them days and runnin' neck and neck. Even when Fred Farrell, her old
beau, married a girl she knew and built a fine house all piazzas and
bow-winders right in sight of their shabby little rented cottage, I
don't think she minded it; even if Mis' Farrell didn't have anythin' to
do from mornin' till night only set in a white dress on her piazza, and
rock, and give parties, Betty didn't seem to mind. She had her Joe.
"But by and by she didn't have her Joe. Other folks had him and his
business had him. I mean, he'd got up where the big folks in town begun
to take notice of him; and when he wa'n't tendin' to business, he was
hobnobbin' with them, so's to bring more business. And--of course
she, with her babies and housework, didn't have no time for that.
"Well, next they moved away. When they went they took my oldest girl,
Mary, to help Betty; and so we still kept track of 'em. Mary said it was
worse than ever in the new place. It was quite a big city and just
livin' cost a lot. Mr. Whitermore, of course, had to look decent, out
among folks as he was, so he had to be 'tended to first. Then what was
left of money and time went to the children. It wa'n't long, too, before
the big folks there begun to take notice, and Mr. Whitermore
would come home all excited and tell about what was said to him and what
fine things he was bein' asked to do. He said 'twas goin' to mean
everythin' to his career.
"Then come the folks to call, ladies in fine carriages with dressed-up
men to hold the door open and all that; but always, after they'd gone,
Mary'd find Betty cryin' somewhere, or else tryin' to fix a bit of old
lace or ribbon on to some old dress. Mary said Betty's clo's were awful,
then. You see, there wa'n't never any money left for her things.
But all this didn't last long, for very soon the fine ladies stopped
comin' and Betty just settled down to the children and didn't try to fix
her clo's any more.
"But by and by, of course, the money begun to come in--lots of it--and
that meant more changes, naturally. They moved into a bigger house, and
got two more hired girls and a man, besides Mary. Mr. Whitermore said he
didn't want his wife to work so hard now, and that, besides, his
position demanded it. He was always talkin' about his position those
days, tryin' to get his wife to go callin' and go to parties and take
her place as his wife, as he put it.
"And Mary said Betty did try, and try hard. Of course she had nice clo's
now, lots of 'em; but somehow they never seemed to look just right. And
when she did go to parties, she never knew what to talk about, she told
Mary. She didn't know a thing about the books and pictures and the plays
and quantities of other things that everybody else seemed to know about;
and so she just had to sit still and say nothin'.
"Mary said she could see it plagued her and she wa'n't surprised when,
after a time, Betty begun to have headaches and be sick party nights,
and beg Mr. Whitermore to go alone--and then cry because he did go
alone. You see, she'd got it into her head then that her husband was
ashamed of her."
"And was--he?" demanded I.
"I don't know. Mary said she couldn't tell exactly. He seemed worried,
sometimes, and quite put out at the way his wife acted about goin' to
places. Then, other times, he didn't seem to notice or care if he did
have to go alone. It wa'n't that he was unkind to her. It was just that
he was so busy lookin' after himself that he forgot all about her. But
Betty took it all as bein' ashamed of her, no matter what he did; and
for a while she just seemed to pine away under it. They'd moved to
Washington by that time and, of course, with him in the President's
Cabinet, it was pretty hard for her.
"Then, all of a sudden, she took a new turn and begun to study and to
try to learn things--everything: how to talk and dress and act, besides
stuff that was just book-learnin'. She's been doin' that for quite a
spell and Mary says she thinks she'd do pretty well now, in lots of
ways, if only she had half a chance--somethin' to encourage her, you
know. But her husband don't seem to take no notice, now, just as if he's
got tired expectin' anythin' of her and that's made her so scared and
discouraged she's too nervous to act as if she did know anythin'.
An' there 't is.
"Well, maybe she is just an ordinary woman," sighed the old man, a
little sternly, "if bein' 'ordinary' means she's like lots of others.
For I suspect, stranger, that, if the truth was told, lots of other big
men have got wives just like her--women what have been workin' so tarnal
hard to help their husbands get ahead that they hain't had time to see
where they themselves was goin'. And by and by they wake up to the fact
that they hain't got nowhere. They've just stayed still, 'way behind.
"Mary says she don't believe Betty would mind even that, if her husband
only seemed to care--to--to understand, you know, how it had been with
her and how--Crickey! I guess they've come," broke off the old man
suddenly, craning his neck for a better view of the door.
From outside had sounded the honk of an automobile horn and the wild
cheering of men and boys. A few minutes later the long-delayed programme
It was the usual thing. Before the Speaker of the Day came other
speakers, and each of them, no matter what his subject, failed not to
refer to "our illustrious fellow townsman" in terms of highest eulogy.
One told of his humble birth, his poverty-driven boyhood, his strenuous
youth. Another drew a vivid picture of his rise to fame. A third dilated
upon the extraordinary qualities of brain and body which had made such
achievement possible and which would one day land him in the White House
Meanwhile, close to the speaker's stand sat the Honorable Jonas
Whitermore himself, for the most part grim and motionless, though I
thought I detected once or twice a repetition of the half-troubled,
half-questioning glances directed toward his wife that I had seen
before. Perhaps it was because I was watching him so closely that I saw
the sudden change come to his face. The lips lost their perfunctory
smile and settled into determined lines. The eyes, under their shaggy
brows, glowed with sudden fire. The entire pose and air of the man
became curiously alert, as if with the eager impatience of one who has
determined upon a certain course of action and is anxious only to be up
and doing. Very soon after that he was introduced, and, amid deafening
cheers, rose to his feet. Then, very quietly, he began to speak.
We had heard he was an orator. Doubtless many of us were familiar with
his famous nickname "Silver-tongued Joe." We had expected great things
of him--a brilliant discourse on the tariff, perhaps, or on our foreign
relations, or yet on the Hague Tribunal. But we got none of these. We
got first a few quiet words of thanks and appreciation for the welcome
extended him; then we got the picture of an everyday home just like
ours, with all its petty cares and joys so vividly drawn that we thought
we were seeing it, not hearing about it. He told us it was a little home
of forty years ago, and we began to realize, some way, that he was
speaking of himself.
"I may, you know, here," he said, "for I am among my own people. I am at
Even then I didn't see what he was coming to. Like the rest I sat
slightly confused, wondering what it all meant. Then, suddenly, into his
voice there crept a tense something that made me sit more erect in my
"My indomitable will-power? My superb courage? My
stupendous strength of character? My undaunted persistence and
marvelous capacity for hard work?" he was saying. "Do you think it's to
that I owe what I am? Never! Come back with me to that little home of
forty years ago and I'll show you to what and to whom I do owe it. First
and foremost I owe it to a woman--no ordinary woman, I want you to
understand--but to the most wonderful woman in the world."
I knew then. So did my neighbor, the old man at my side. He jogged my
elbow frantically and whispered:--
"He's goin' to--he's goin' to! He's goin' to show her he does
care and understand! He did hear that girl. Crickey! But ain't he
the cute one to pay her back like that, for what she said?"
The little wife down front did not know--yet, however. I realized that,
the minute I looked at her and saw her drawn face and her frightened,
staring eyes fixed on her husband up there on the platform--her husband,
who was going to tell all these people about some wonderful woman whom
even she had never heard of before, but who had been the making of him,
"My will-power?" the Honorable Jonas Whitermore was saying then.
"Not mine, but the will-power of a woman who did not know the meaning of
the word 'fail.' Not my superb courage, but the courage of one who, day
in and day out, could work for a victory whose crown was to go, not to
herself, but to another. Not my stupendous strength of character, but
that of a beautiful young girl who could see youth and beauty and
opportunity nod farewell, and yet smile as she saw them go. Not my
undaunted persistence, but the persistence of one to whom the goal is
always just ahead, but never reached. And last, not my marvelous
capacity for hard work, but that of the wife and mother who bends her
back each morning to a multitude of tasks and cares that she knows night
will only interrupt--not finish."
My eyes were still on the little brown-clad woman down in front, so I
saw the change come to her face as her husband talked. I saw the terror
give way to puzzled questioning, and that, in turn, become surprise,
incredulity, then overwhelming joy as the full meaning came to her that
she herself was that most wonderful woman in the world who had been the
making of him. I looked then for just a touch of the old frightened,
self-consciousness at finding herself thus so conspicuous; but it did
not come. The little woman plainly had forgotten us. She was no longer
Mrs. Jonas Whitermore among a crowd of strangers listening to a great
man's Old-Home-Day speech. She was just a loving, heart-hungry, tired,
all-but-discouraged wife hearing for the first time from the lips of her
husband that he knew and cared and understood.
"Through storm and sunshine, she was always there at her post, aiding,
encouraging, that I might be helped," the Honorable Jonas Whitermore was
saying. "Week in and week out she fought poverty, sickness, and
disappointments, and all without a murmur, lest her complaints distract
me for one precious moment from my work. Even the nights brought her no
rest, for while I slept, she stole from cot to cradle and from cradle to
crib, covering outflung little legs and arms, cooling parched little
throats with water, quieting fretful whimpers and hushing threatening
outcries with a low 'Hush, darling, mother's here. Don't cry! You'll
wake father--and father must have his sleep.' And father had it--that
sleep, just as he had the best of everything else in the house: food,
clothing, care, attention--everything.
"What mattered it if her hands did grow rough and toil-worn? Mine were
left white and smooth--for my work. What mattered it if her back and her
head and her feet did ache? Mine were left strong and painless--for my
work. What mattered her wakefulness if I slept? What mattered her
weariness if I was rested? What mattered her disappointments if my aims
were accomplished? Nothing!"
The Honorable Jonas Whitermore paused for breath, and I caught mine and
held it. It seemed, for a minute, as if everybody all over the house was
doing the same thing, too, so absolutely still was it, after that one
word--"nothing." They were beginning to understand--a little. I could
tell that. They were beginning to see this big thing that was taking
place right before their eyes. I glanced at the little woman down in
front. The tender glow on her face had grown and deepened and broadened
until her whole little brown-clad self seemed transfigured. My own eyes
dimmed as I looked. Then, suddenly I became aware that the Honorable
Jonas Whitermore was speaking again.
"And not for one year only, nor two, nor ten, has this quintessence of
devotion been mine," he was saying, "but for twice ten and then a score
more--for forty years. For forty years! Did you ever stop to think how
long forty years could be--forty years of striving and straining, of
pinching and economizing, of serving and sacrificing? Forty years of
just loving somebody else better than yourself, and doing this every
day, and every hour of the day for the whole of those long forty years?
It isn't easy to love somebody else always better than yourself,
you know! It means the giving up of lots of things that you want.
You might do it for a day, for a month, for a year even--but for forty
years! Yet she has done it--that most wonderful woman. Do you wonder
that I say it is to her, and to her alone, under God, that I owe all
that I am, all that I hope to be?"
Once more he paused. Then, in a voice that shook a little at the first,
but that rang out clear and strong and powerful at the end, he said:
"Ladies, gentlemen, I understand this will close your programme. It will
give me great pleasure, therefore, if at the adjournment of this meeting
you will allow me to present you to the most wonderful woman in the
I wish I could tell you what happened then. The words--oh, yes, I could
tell you in words what happened. For that matter, the reporters at the
little stand down in front told it in words, and the press of the whole
country blazoned it forth on the front page the next morning. But really
to know what happened, you should have heard it and seen it, and felt
the tremendous power of it deep in your soul, as we did who did see it.
There was a moment's breathless hush, then to the canvas roof there rose
a mighty cheer and a thunderous clapping of hands as by common impulse
the entire audience leaped to its feet.
For one moment only did I catch a glimpse of Mrs. Jonas Whitermore,
blushing, laughing, and wiping teary eyes in which the wondrous glow
still lingered; then the eager crowd swept down the aisle toward her.
"Crickey!" breathed the red-faced old man at my side. "Well, stranger,
even if it does seem sometimes as if the good Lord give some folks
tongues and forgot to give 'em brains to run 'em with, I guess maybe He
kinder makes up for it, once in a while, by givin' other folks the
brains to use their tongues so powerful well!"
I nodded dumbly. I could not speak just then--but the young woman in
front of me could. Very distinctly as I passed her I heard her say:
"Well, now, ain't that the limit, Sue? And her such an ordinary woman,
The Price of a Pair of Shoes
For fifty years the meadow lot had been mowed and the side hill ploughed
at the nod of Jeremiah's head; and for the same fifty years the plums
had been preserved and the mince-meat chopped at the nod of his wife's--
and now the whole farm from the meadowlot to the mince-meat was to pass
into the hands of William, the only son, and William's wife, Sarah
"It'll be so much nicer, mother,--no care for you!" Sarah Ellen had
"And so much easier for you, father, too," William had added. "It's time
you rested. As for money--of course you'll have plenty in the savings-
bank for clothes and such things. You won't need much, anyhow," he
finished, "for you'll get your living off the farm just as you always
So the matter was settled, and the papers were made out. There was no
one to be considered, after all, but themselves, for William was the
only living son, and there had been no daughters.
For a time it was delightful. Jeremiah and Hester Whipple were like
children let out of school. They told themselves that they were people
of leisure now, and they forced themselves to lie abed half an hour
later than usual each day. They spent long hours in the attic looking
over old treasures, and they loitered about the garden and the barn with
no fear that it might be time to get dinner or to feed the stock.
Gradually, however, there came a change. A new restlessness entered
their lives, a restlessness that speedily became the worst kind of
homesickness--the homesickness of one who is already at home.
The extra half-hour was spent in bed as before--but now Hester lay with
one ear listening to make sure that Sarah Ellen did let the cat
in for her early breakfast; and Jeremiah lay with his ear listening for
the squeak of the barn door which would tell him whether William was
early or, late that morning. There were the same long hours in the attic
and the garden, too--but in the attic Hester discovered her treasured
wax wreath (late of the parlor wall); and in the garden Jeremiah found
more weeds than he had ever allowed to grow there, he was sure.
The farm had been in the hands of William and Sarah Ellen just six
months when the Huntersville Savings Bank closed its doors. It was the
old story of dishonesty and disaster, and when the smoke of Treasurer
Hilton's revolver cleared away there was found to be practically nothing
for the depositors. Perhaps on no one did the blow fall with more
staggering force than on Jeremiah Whipple.
"Why, Hester," he moaned, when he found himself alone with his wife,
"here I'm seventy-eight years old--an' no money! What am I goin' ter
"I know, dear," soothed Hester; "but 't ain't as bad for us as 'tis for
some. We've got the farm, you know; an'--"
"We hain't got the farm," cut in her husband sharply. "William an' Sarah
Ellen's got it."
"Yes, I know, but they--why, they're us, Jeremiah," reminded
Hester, trying to keep the quaver out of her voice.
"Mebbe, Hester, mebbe," conceded Jeremiah; but he turned and looked out
of the window with gloomy eyes.
There came a letter to the farmhouse soon after this from Nathan Banks,
a favorite nephew, suggesting that "uncle and aunt" pay them a little
"Just the thing, father!" cried William. "Go--it'll do you both good!"
And after some little talk it was decided that the invitation should be
Nathan Banks lived thirty miles away, but not until the night before the
Whipples were to start did it suddenly occur to Jeremiah that he had now
no money for railroad tickets. With a heightened color on his old cheeks
he mentioned the fact to William.
"Ye see, I--I s'pose I'll have ter come ter you," he apologized. "Them
won't take us!" And he looked ruefully at a few coins he had pulled from
his pocket. "They're all the cash I've got left."
William frowned a little and stroked his beard.
"Sure enough!" he muttered. "I forgot the tickets, too, father. 'T is
awkward--that bank blowing up; isn't it? Oh, I'll let you have it all
right, of course, and glad to, only it so happens that just now I--er,
how much is it, anyway?" he broke off abruptly.
"Why, I reckon a couple of dollars'll take us down, an' more, mebbe,"
stammered the old man, "only, of course, there's comin' back, and--"
"Oh, we don't have to reckon on that part now," interrupted William
impatiently, as he thrust his hands into his pockets and brought out a
bill and some change. "I can send you down some more when that time
comes. There, here's a two; if it doesn't take it all, what's left can
go toward bringing you back."
And he handed out the bill, and dropped the change into his pocket.
"Thank you, William," stammered the old man. "I--I'm sorry--"
"Oh, that's all right," cut in William cheerfully, with a wave of his
two hands. "Glad to do it, father; glad to do it!"
Mr. and Mrs. Whipple stayed some weeks with their nephew. But, much as
they enjoyed their visit, there came a day when home--regardless of
weeds that were present and wax wreaths that were absent--seemed to them
the one place in the world; and they would have gone there at once had
it not been for the railroad fares.
William had not sent down any more money, though his letters had been
kind, and had always spoken of the warm welcome that awaited them any
time they wished to come home.
Toward the end of the fifth week a bright idea came to Jeremiah.
"We'll go to Cousin Abby's," he announced gleefully to his wife. "Nathan
said last night he'd drive us over there any time. We'll go to-morrow,
an' we won't come back here at all--it'll be ten miles nearer home
there, an' it won't cost us a cent ter get there," he finished
triumphantly. And to Cousin Abby's they went.
So elated was Jeremiah with the result of his scheming that he set his
wits to work in good earnest, and in less than a week he had formulated