Part 2 out of 4
an itinerary that embraced the homes of two other cousins, an aunt of
Sarah Ellen's, and the niece of a brother-in-law, the latter being only
three miles from 'his own farmhouse--or rather William's farmhouse, as
he corrected himself bitterly. Before another month had passed, the
round of visits was accomplished, and the little old man and the little
old woman--having been carried to their destination in each case by
their latest host--finally arrived at the farmhouse door. They were
weary, penniless, and half-sick from being feasted and fêted at every
turn, but they were blissfully conscious that of no one had they been
obliged to beg the price of their journey home.
"We didn't write we were comin'," apologized Jeremiah faintly, as he
stumbled across the threshold and dropped into the nearest chair. "We
were goin' ter write from Keziah's, but we were so tired we hurried
right up an' come home. 'Tis nice ter get here; ain't it, Hester?" he
finished, settling back in his chair.
"'Nice'!" cried Hester tremulously, tugging at her bonnet strings.
"'Nice' ain't no name for it, Jeremiah. Why, Sarah Ellen, seems if I
don't want to do nothin' for a whole month but set in my own room an'
jest look 'round all day!"
"You poor dear--and that's all you shall do!" soothed Sarah Ellen; and
Hester sighed, content. For so many, many weeks now she had sat upon
strange chairs and looked out upon an unfamiliar world!
* * * * *
It was midwinter when Jeremiah's last pair of shoes gave out. "An' there
ain't a cent ter get any new ones, Hester," he exclaimed, ruefully eying
the ominously thin place in the sole.
"I know, Jeremiah, but there's William," murmured Hester. "I'm sure he--"
"Oh, of course, he'd give it to me," cried Jeremiah quickly; "but--I--I
sort of hate to ask."
"Pooh! I wouldn't think of that," declared Hester stoutly, but even as
she spoke, she tucked her own feet farther under her chair. "We gave
them the farm, and they understood they was to take care of us, of
"Hm-m, yes, I know, I know. I'll ask him," murmured Jeremiah--but he did
not ask him until the ominously thin place in the sole had become a
hole, large, round, and unmistakable.
"Well, William," he began jocosely, trying to steady his shaking voice,
"guess them won't stand for it much longer!" And he held up the shoe,
"Well, I should say not!" laughed William; then his face changed. "Oh,
and you'll have to have the money for some new ones, of course. By
George! It does beat all how I keep forgetting about that bank!"
"I know, William, I'm sorry," stammered the old man miserably.
"Oh, I can let you have it all right, father, and glad to," assured
William, still frowning. "It's only that just at this time I'm a little
short, and--" He stopped abruptly and thrust his hands into his pockets.
"Hm-m," he vouchsafed after a minute. "Well, I'll tell you what--I
haven't got any now, but in a day or two I'll take you over to the
village and see what Skinner's got that will fit you. Oh, we'll have
some shoes, father, never fear!" he laughed. "You don't suppose I'm
going to let my father go barefoot!--eh?" And he laughed again.
Things wore out that winter in the most unaccountable fashion--at least
those belonging to Jeremiah and Hester did, especially undergarments.
One by one they came to mending, and one by one Hester mended them,
patch upon patch, until sometimes there was left scarcely a thread of
the original garment. Once she asked William for money to buy new ones,
but it happened that William was again short, and though the money she
had asked for came later, Hester did not make that same request again.
There were two things that Hester could not patch very successfully--her
shoes. She fried to patch them to be sure, but the coarse thread knotted
in her shaking old hands, and the bits of leather--cut from still older
shoes--slipped about and left her poor old thumb exposed to the sharp
prick of the needle, so that she finally gave it up in despair. She
tucked her feet still farther under her chair these days when Jeremiah
was near, and she pieced down two of her dress skirts so that they might
touch the floor all round. In spite of all this, however, Jeremiah saw,
one day--and understood.
"Hester," he cried sharply, "put out your foot."
Hester did not hear--apparently. She lowered the paper she was reading
and laughed a little hysterically.
"Such a good joke, Jeremiah!" she quavered. "Just let me read it. A man--"
"Hester, be them the best shoes you've got?" demanded Jeremiah.
And Hester, with a wisdom born of fifty years' experience of that
particular tone of voice, dropped her paper and her subterfuge, and said
gently: "Yes, Jeremiah."
There was a moment's pause; then Jeremiah sprang to his feet, thrust his
hands into his pockets, and paced the tiny bedroom from end to end.
"Hester, this thing's a-killin' me!" he blurted out at last. "Here I'm
seventy-eight years old--an' I hain't got money enough ter buy my wife a
pair of shoes!"
"But the farm, Jeremiah--"
"I tell ye the farm ain't mine," cut in Jeremiah savagely. "Look a-here,
Hester, how do you s'pose it feels to a man who's paid his own way since
he was a boy, bought a farm with his own money an' run it, brought up
his boys an' edyercated 'em--how do ye s'pose it feels fur that man ter
go ter his own son an' say: 'Please, sir, can't I have a nickel ter buy
me a pair o' shoestrings?' How do ye s'pose it feels? I tell ye, Hester,
I can't stand it--I jest can't! I'm goin' ter work."
"Well, I am," repeated the old man doggedly. "You're goin' ter have some
shoes, an' I'm goin' ter earn 'em. See if I don't!" And he squared his
shoulders, and straightened his bent back as if already he felt the
weight of a welcome burden.
Spring came, and with it long sunny days and the smell of green things
growing. Jeremiah began to be absent day after day from the farmhouse.
The few tasks that he performed each morning were soon finished, and
after that he disappeared, not to return until night. William wondered a
little, but said nothing. Other and more important matters filled his
Only Hester noticed that the old man's step grew more languid and his
eye more dull; and only Hester knew that at night he was sometimes too
tired to sleep--that he could not "seem ter hit the bed," as he
It was at about this time that Hester began to make frequent visits to
the half-dozen farmhouses in the settlement about them. She began to be
wonderfully busy these days, too, knitting socks and mittens, or piecing
up quilts. Sarah Ellen asked her sometimes what she was doing, but
Hester's answers were always so cheery and bright that Sarah Ellen did
not realize that the point was always evaded and the subject changed.
It was in May that the inevitable happened. William came home one day to
find an excited, weeping wife who hurried him into the seclusion of
their own room.
"William, William," she moaned, "what shall we do? It's father and
mother; they've--oh, William, how can I tell you!" and she covered her
face with her hands.
William paled under his coat of tan. He gripped his wife's arm with
fingers that hurt.
"What is it--what's happened?" he asked hoarsely. "They aren't hurt or--
"No, no," choked Sarah Ellen. "I didn't mean to frighten you. They're
all right that way. They--they've gone to work! William, what
shall we do?"
Again William Whipple gripped his wife's arm with fingers that hurt.
"Sarah Ellen, quit that crying, for Heaven's sake! What does this mean?
What are you talking about?" he demanded.
Sarah Ellen sopped her eyes with her handkerchief and lifted her head.
"It was this morning. I was over to Maria Weston's," she explained
brokenly. "Maria dropped something about a quilt mother was piecing for
her, and when I asked her what in the world she meant, she looked queer,
and said she supposed I knew. Then she tried to change the subject; but
I wouldn't let her, and finally I got the whole story out of her."
"Yes, yes, go on," urged William impatiently, as Sarah Ellen paused for
"It seems mother came to her a while ago, and--and she went to others,
too. She asked if there wasn't some knitting or patchwork she could do
for them. She said she--she wanted to earn some money." Sarah Ellen's
voice broke over the last word, and William muttered something under his
breath. "She said they'd lost all they had in the bank," went on Sarah
Ellen hurriedly, "and that they didn't like to ask you for money."
"Why, I always let them have--" began William defensively; then he
stopped short, a slow red staining his face.
"Yes, I know you have," interposed Sarah Ellen eagerly; "and I said so
to Maria. But mother had already told her that, it seems. She said that
mother said you were always glad to give it to them when they asked for
it, but that it hurt father's pride to beg, so he'd gone to work to earn
some of his own."
"Father!" exclaimed William. "But I thought you said 'twas mother.
Surely father isn't knitting socks and mittens, is he?"
"No, no," cried Sarah Ellen. "I'm coming to that as fast as I can. You
see, 'twas father who went to work first. He's been doing all sorts of
little odd jobs, even to staying with the Snow children while their
folks went to town, and spading up Nancy Howe's flower beds for her. But
it's been wearing on him, and he was getting all tired out. Only think
of it, William--working out--father and mother! I just can't ever
hold up my head again! What shall we do?"
"Do? Why, we'll stop it, of course," declared William savagely. "I guess
I can support my own father and mother without their working for a
"But it's money, William, that they want. Don't you see?"
"Well, we'll give them money, then. I always have, anyway,--when they
asked for it," finished William in an aggrieved voice.
Sarah Ellen shook her head.
"It won't do," she sighed. "It might have done once--but not now.
They've got to the point where they just can't accept money doled out to
them like that. Why, just think, 't was all theirs once!"
"Well, 'tis now--in a way."
"I know--but we haven't acted as if it were. I can see that now, when
it's too late."
"We'll give it back, then," cried William, his face clearing; "the whole
Sarah Ellen frowned. She shook her head slowly, then paused, a dawning
question in her eyes.
"You don't suppose--William, could we?" she cried with sudden eagerness.
"Well, we can try mighty hard," retorted the man grimly. "But we've got
to go easy, Sarah Ellen,--no bungling. We've got to spin some sort of a
yarn that won't break, nor have any weak places; and of course, as far
as the real work of the farm is concerned, we'll still do the most of
it. But the place'll be theirs. See?--theirs! Working out--good
It must have been a week later that Jeremiah burst into his wife's room.
Hester sat by the window, bending over numberless scraps of blue, red,
and pink calico.
"Put it up, put it up, Hester," he panted joyously. "Ye hain't got to
sew no more, an' I hain't neither. The farm is ours!"
"Why, Jeremiah, what--how--"
"I don't know, Hester, no more than you do," laughed Jeremiah happily;
"only William says he's tired of runnin' things all alone, an' he wants
me to take hold again. They're goin' ter make out the papers right away;
an' say, Hester,"--the bent shoulders drew themselves erect with an air
of pride,--"I thought mebbe this afternoon we'd drive over ter
Huntersville an' get some shoes for you. Ye know you're always needin'
The Long Road
"Is the house locked up?"
"Are ye sure, now?"
"Why, yes, dear; I just did it."
"Well, won't ye see?"
"But I have seen, father." Jane did not often make so many words about
this little matter, but she was particularly tired to-night.
The old man fell back wearily.
"Seems ter me, Jane, ye might jest see," he fretted. "'T ain't much I'm
askin' of ye, an' ye know them spoons--"
"Yes, yes, dear, I'll go," interrupted the woman hurriedly.
"Yes." The woman turned and waited. She knew quite well what was coming,
but it was the very exquisiteness of her patient care that allowed her
to give no sign that she had waited in that same spot to hear those same
words every night for long years past.
"An' ye might count 'em--them spoons," said the old man.
"An' the forks."
"An' them photygraph pictures in the parlor."
"All right, father." The woman turned away. Her step was slow, but
confident--the last word had been said.
To Jane Pendergast her father had gone with the going of his keen, clear
mind, twenty years before. This fretful, childish, exacting old man that
pottered about the house all day was but the shell that had held the
kernel--the casket that had held the jewel. But because of what it had
held, Jane guarded it tenderly, laying at its feet her life as a willing
There had been four children: Edgar, the eldest; Jane, Mary, and Fred.
Edgar had left home early, and was a successful business man in Boston.
Mary had married a wealthy lawyer of the same city; and Fred had opened
a real estate office in a thriving Southern town.
Jane had stayed at home. There had been a time, it is true, when she had
planned to go away to school; but the death of Mrs. Pendergast left no
one at home to care for Mary and Fred, so Jane had abandoned the idea.
Later, after Mary had married and Fred had gone away, there was still
her father to be cared for, though at this time he was well and strong.
Jane had passed her thirty-fifth birthday, when she became palpitatingly
aware of a pair of blue-gray eyes, and a determined, smooth-shaven chin
belonging to the recently arrived principal of the village school. In
spite of her stern admonition to herself to remember her years and not
quite lose her head, she was fast drifting into a rosy dream of romance
that was all the more enthralling because so belated, when the summons
of a small boy brought her sharply back to the realities.
"It's yer father, miss. They want ye ter come," he panted. "Somethin'
has took him. He's in Mackey's drug store, talkin' awful queer. He ain't
his self, ye know. They thought maybe you could--do somethin'."
Jane went at once--but she could do nothing except to lead gently home
the chattering, shifting-eyed thing that had once been her father. One
after another the village physicians shook their heads--they could do
nothing. Skilled alienists from the city--they, too, could do nothing.
There was nothing that could be done, they said, except to care for him
as one would for a child. He would live years, probably. His
constitution was wonderfully good. He would not be violent--just foolish
and childish, with perhaps a growing irritability as the years passed
and his physical strength failed.
Mary and Edgar had come home at once. Mary had stayed two days and Edgar
five hours. They were shocked and dismayed at their father's condition.
So overwhelmed with grief were they, indeed, that they fled from the
room almost immediately upon seeing him, and Edgar took the first train
out of town.
Mary, shiveringly, crept from room to room, trying to find a place where
the cackling laugh and the fretful voice would not reach her. But the
old man, like a child with a new toy, was pleased at his daughter's
arrival, and followed her about the house with unfailing persistence.
"But, Mary, he won't hurt you. Why do you run?" remonstrated Jane.
Mary shuddered and covered her face with her hands.
"Jane, Jane, how can you take it so calmly!" she moaned. "How can you
There was a moment's pause. A curious expression had come to Jane's
"Some one--has to," she said at last, quietly.
Jane went down to the village the next afternoon, leaving her sister in
charge at home. When she returned, an hour later, Mary met her at the
gate, crying and wringing her hands.
"Jane, Jane, I thought you would never come! I can't do a thing with
him. He insists that he isn't at home, and that he wants to go there. I
told him, over and over again, that he was at home already, but
it didn't do a bit of good. I've had a perfectly awful time."
"Yes, I know. Where is he?"
"In the kitchen. I--I tied him. He just would go, and I couldn't hold
"Oh, Mary!" And Jane fairly flew up the walk to the kitchen door.
A minute later she appeared, leading an old man, who was whimpering
"Home, Jane. I want ter go home."
"Yes, dear, I know. We'll go." And Mary watched with wondering eyes
while the two walked down the path, through the gate and across the
street to the next corner, then slowly crossed again and came back
through the familiar doorway.
"Home!" chuckled the old man gleefully.
"We've come home!"
Mary went back to Boston the next day. She said it was fortunate,
indeed, that Jane's nerves were so strong. For her part, she could not
have stood it another day.
The days slipped into weeks, and the weeks into months. Jane took the
entire care of her father, except that she hired a woman to come in for
an hour or two once or twice a week, when she herself was obliged to
leave the house.
The owner of the blue-gray eyes did not belie the determination of his
chin, but made a valiant effort to establish himself on the basis of the
old intimacy; but Miss Pendergast held herself sternly aloof, and
refused to listen to him. In a year he had left town--but it was not his
fault that he was obliged to go away alone, as Jane Pendergast well
One by one the years passed. Twenty had gone by now since the small boy
came with his fateful summons that June day. Jane was fifty-five now, a
thin-faced, stoop-shouldered, tired woman--but a woman to whom release
from this constant care was soon to come, for she was not yet fifty-six
when her father died.
All the children and some of the grandchildren came to the funeral. In
the evening the family, with the exception of Jane, gathered in the
sitting-room and discussed the future, while upstairs the woman whose
fate was most concerned laid herself wearily in bed with almost a pang
that she need not now first be doubly sure that doors were locked and
spoons were counted.
In the sitting-room below, discussion waxed warm.
"But what shall we do with her?" demanded Mary. "I had meant to give her
my share of the property," she added with an air of great generosity,
"but it seems there's nothing to give."
"No, there's nothing to give," returned Edgar. "The house had to be
mortgaged long ago to pay their living expenses, and it will have to be
"But she's got to live somewhere!" Mary's voice was fretful,
For a moment there was silence; then Edgar stirrad in his chair.
"Well, why can't she go to you, Mary?" he asked.
"Me!" Mary almost screamed the word.
"Why, Edgar!--when you know how much I have on my hands with my great
house and all my social duties, to say nothing of Belle's engagement!"
"Well, maybe Jane could help."
"Help! How. pray?--to entertain my guests?" And even Edgar smiled as he
thought of Jane, in her five-year-old bonnet and her ten-year-old black
gown, standing in the receiving line at an exclusive Commonwealth Avenue
"Well, but--" Edgar paused impotently.
"Why don't you take her?" It was Mary who made the suggestion.
"I? Oh, but I--" Edgar stopped and glanced uneasily at his wife.
"Why, of course, if it's necessary," murmured Mrs. Edgar, with a
resigned air. "I should certainly never wish it said that I refused a
home to any of my husband's poor relations."
"Oh, good Heavens! Let her come to us," cut in Fred sharply. "I reckon
we can take care of our 'poor relations' for a spell yet; eh, Sally?"
"Why, sure we can," retorted. Fred's wife, in her soft Southern drawl.
"We'll be right glad to take her, I reckon." And there the matter
* * * * *
Jane Pendergast had been South two months, when one day Edgar received a
letter from his brother Fred.
Jane's going North [wrote Fred]. Sally says she can't have her in the
house another week. 'Course, we don't want to tell Jane exactly that--
but we've fixed it so she's going to leave.
I'm sorry if this move causes you folks any trouble, but there just
wasn't any other way out of it. You see, Sally is Southern and easy-
going, and I suppose not over-particular in the eyes of you stiff
Northerners. I don't mind things, either, and I suppose I'm easy, too.
Well, great Scott!--Jane hadn't been down here five minutes before she
began to "slick up," as she called it--and she's been "slickin' up" ever
since. Sally always left things round handy, and so've the children; but
since Jane came, we haven't been able to find a thing when we wanted it.
All our boots and shoes are put away, turned toes out, and all our hats
and coats are snatched up and hung on pegs the minute we toss them off.
Maybe this don't seem much to you, but it's lots to us. Anyhow, Jane's
going North. She says she's going to visit Edgar a little while, and I
told her I'd write and tell you she's coming. She'll be there about the
2Oth. Will wire you what train.
Your affectionate brother
As gently as possible Edgar broke to his wife the news of the
prospective guest. Julia Pendergast was a good woman. At least she often
said that she was, adding, at the same time, that she never knowingly
refused to do her duty. She said the same thing now to her husband, and
she immediately made some very elaborate and very apparent changes in
her home and in her plans, all with an eye to the expected guest. At
four o'clock Wednesday afternoon Edgar met his sister at the station.
"Well, I don't see as you've changed much," he said kindly.
"Haven't I? Why, seems as if I must look changed a lot," chirruped Jane.
"I'm so rested, and Fred and Sally were so good to me! Why, they tried
not to have me do a thing--and I didn't do much, only a little puttering
around just to help out with the work."
"Hm-m," murmured Edgar. "Well, I'm glad to see you're--rested."
Julia met them in the hall of the beautiful Brookline residence. Lined
up with her were the four younger children, who lived at home. They made
an imposing array, and Jane was visibly affected.
"Oh, it's so good of you--to meet me--like this!" she faltered.
"Why, we wished to, I'm sure," returned Mrs. Pendergast, with a half-
stifled sigh. "I hope I understand my duty to my guest and my sister-in-
law sufficiently to know what is her due. I did not allow anything--not
even my committee meeting to-day--to interfere with this call for duty
Jane fell back. All the glow fled from her face.
"Oh, then you did stay at home--and for me! I'm so sorry," she
But Mrs. Pendergast raised a deprecatory hand.
"Say no more. It was nothing. Now come, let me show you to your room.
I've given you Ella's room, and put Ella in Tom's, and Tom in Bert's,
and moved Bert upstairs to the little room over--"
"Oh, don't!" interrupted Jane, in quick distress. "I don't want to put
people out so! Let me go upstairs." Mrs. Pendergast frowned and sighed.
She had the air of one whose kindest efforts are misunderstood.
"My dear Jane, I am sorry, but I shall have to ask you to be as
satisfied as you can be with the arrangements I am able to make for you.
You see, even though this house is large, I am, in a way, cramped for
room. I always have to keep three guest-rooms ready for immediate
occupancy. I am a member of four clubs and six charitable and religious
organizations, besides the church, and there are always ministers and
delegates whom I feel it my duty to entertain."
"But that is all the more reason why I should go upstairs, and not put
all those children out of their rooms," begged Jane.
Mrs. Pendergast shook her head.
"It does them good," she said decidely, "to learn to be self-
sacrificing. That is a virtue we all must learn to practice."
Jane flushed again; then she turned abruptly. "Julia, did you want me
to--to come to see you?" she asked.
"Why, certainly; what a question!" returned Mrs. Pendergast, in a
properly shocked tone of voice. "As if I could do otherwise than to want
my husband's sister to come to us."
Jane smiled faintly, but her eyes were troubled.
"Thank you; I'm glad you feel--that way. You see, at Fred's--I wouldn't
have them know it for the world, they were so good to me--but I
thought, lately, that maybe they didn't want--But it wasn't so, of
course. It couldn't have been. I--I ought not even to think it."
"Hm-m; no," returned Mrs. Pendergast, with noncommittal briefness.
Not six weeks later Mary, in her beautiful Commonwealth Avenue home,
received a call from a little, thin-faced woman, who curtsied to the
butler and asked him to please tell her sister that she wished to speak
Mary looked worried and not over-cordial when she rustled into the room.
"Why, Jane, did you find your way here all alone?" she cried.
"Yes--no--well, I asked a man at the last; but, you know, I've been here
twice before with the others."
"Yes, I know," said Mary.
There was a pause; then Jane cleared her throat timidly.
"Mary, I--I've been thinking. You see, just as soon as I'm strong
enough, I--I'm going to take care of myself, and then I won't be a
burden to--to anybody." Jane was talking very fast now. Her words came
tremulously between short, broken breaths. "But until I get well enough
to earn money, I can't, you see. And I've been thinking;--would you be
willing to take me until--until I can? I'm lots better, already, and
getting stronger every day. It wouldn't be for--long."
"Why, of course, Jane!" Mary spoke cheerfully, and in a tone a little
higher than her ordinary voice. "I should have asked you to come here
before, only I feared you wouldn't be happy here--such a different life
for you, and so much noise and confusion with Belle's wedding coming on,
Jane gave her a grateful glance.
"I know, of course,--you'd think that,--and it isn't that I'm finding
fault with Julia and Edgar. I couldn't do that--they're so good to me.
But, you see, I put them out so. Now, there's my room, for one thing. 'T
was Ella's, and Ella has to keep running in for things she's left, and
she says it's the same with the others. You see, I've got Ella's room,
and Ella's got Tom's, and Tom's got Bert's. It's a regular 'house that
Jack built'--and I'm the'Jack'!"
"I see," laughed Mary constrainedly. "And you want to come here? Well,
you shall. You--you may come a week from Saturday," she added, after a
pause. "I have a reception and a dinner here the first of the week, and
--you'd better stay away until after that."
"Oh, thank you," sighed Jane. "You are so good. I shall tell Julia that
I'm invited here, so she won't think I'm dissatisfied. They're so good
to me--I wouldn't want to hurt their feelings!"
"Of course not," murmured Mary.
* * * * *
The big, fat tire of the touring-car popped like a pistol shot directly
in front of the large white house with the green blinds.
"This is the time we're in luck, Belle," laughed the good-natured young
fellow who had been driving the car. "Do you see that big piazza just
aching for you to come and sit on it?"
"Are we really stalled, Will?" asked the girl.
"Looks like it--for a while. I'll have to telephone Peters to bring
down a tire. Of course, to-day is the day we didn't take it!"
Some minutes later the girl found herself on the cool piazza, in charge
of a wonderfully hospitable old lady, while down the road the good-
looking young fellow was making long strides toward the next house and a
"We are staying at the Lindsays', in North Belton," explained the girl,
when he was gone, "and we came out for a little spin before dinner.
Isn't this Belton? I have an aunt who used to live here somewhere--Aunt
The old lady sat suddenly erect in her chair.
"My dear," she cried, "you don't mean to say that you're Jane
Pendergast's niece! Now, that is queer! Why, this was her very house--we
bought it when the old gentleman died last year. But, come, we'll go
inside. You'll want to see everything, of course!"
It was some time before the young man came back from telephoning, and it
was longer still before Peters came with the new tire, and helped get
the touring-car ready for the road. The girl was very quiet when they
finally left the house, and there was a troubled look deep in her eyes.
"Why, Belle, what's the matter?" asked the young fellow concernedly, as
he slackened speed in the cool twilight of the woods, some minutes
later. "What's troubling you, dear?"
"Will"--the girl's voice shook--"Will, that was Aunt Jane's house. That
old lady--told me."
"Yes, yes--the little gray-haired woman that came to live with us two
months ago. You know her."
"Why, y-yes; I think I've--seen her."
The girl winced, as from a blow.
"Will, don't! I can't bear it," she choked. "It only shows how we've
treated her--how little we've made of her, when we ought to have done
everything--everything to make her happy. Instead of that, we were
brutes--all of us!"
"Belle!"--the tone was an indignant protest.
"But we were--listen! She lived in that house all her life till last
year. She never went anywhere or did anything. For twenty years she
lived with an old man who had lost his mind, and she tended him like a
baby--only a baby grows older all the time and more interesting, while
he--oh, Will, it was awful! That old lady--told me."
"By Jove!" exclaimed the young fellow, under his breath.
"And there were other things," hurried on the girl, tremulously. "Some
way, I never thought of Aunt Jane only as old and timid; but she was
young like us, once. She wanted to go away to school--but she couldn't
go; and there was some one who--loved her--once--later, and she sent
him--away. That was after--after grandfather lost his mind. Mother and
Uncle Edgar and Uncle Fred--they all went away and lived their own
lives, but she stayed on. Then last year grandfather died."
The girl paused and moistened her lips. The man did not speak. His eyes
were on the road ahead of the slow-moving car.
"I heard to-day--how--how proud and happy Aunt Jane was that Uncle Fred
had asked her to come and live with him," resumed the girl, after a
minute. "That old lady told me how Aunt Jane talked and talked about it
before she went away, and how she said that all her life she had taken
care of others, and it would be so good to feel that now some one was
going to look out for her, though, of course, she should do everything
she could to help, and she hoped she could still be of some use."
"Well, she has been, hasn't she?"
The girl shook her head.
"That's the worst of it. We haven't made her think she was. She stayed
at Uncle Fred's for a while, and then he sent her to Uncle Edgar's.
Something must have been wrong there, for she asked mother two months
ago if she might come to us."
"Well, I'm sure you've been--good to her."
"But we haven't!" cried the girl. "Mother meant all right, I know, but
she didn't think. And I've been--horrid. Aunt Jane tried to show her
interest in my wedding plans, but I only laughed at her and said she
wouldn't understand. We've pushed her aside, always,--we've never made
her one of us; and--we've always made her feel her dependence."
"But you'll do differently now, dear,--now that you understand."
Again the girl shook her head.
"We can't," she moaned. "It's too late. I had a letter from mother last
night. Aunt Jane's sick--awfully sick. Mother said I might expect to--to
hear of the end any day."
"But there's some time left--a little!"--his voice broke and choked into
silence. Suddenly he made a quick movement, and the car beneath them
leaped forward like a charger that feels the prick of the spur.
The girl gave a frightened cry, then a tremulous little sob of joy. The
man had cried in her ear, in response to her questioning eyes:
And to them both, at the moment, there seemed to be waiting at the end
of the road a little bent old woman, into whose wistful eyes they were
to bring the light of joy and peace.
A Couple of Capitalists
On the top of the hill stood the big brick house--a mansion, compared to
the other houses of the New England village. At the foot of the hill
nestled the tiny brown farmhouse, half buried in lilacs, climbing roses,
Years ago, when Reuben had first brought Emily to that little brown
cottage, he had said to her, ruefully: "Sweetheart, 'tain't much of a
place, I know, but we'll save and save, every cent we can get, an' by
an' by we'll go up to live in the big house on the hill!" And he kissed
so tenderly the pretty little woman he had married only that morning
that she smiled brightly and declared that the small brown house was the
very nicest place in the world.
But, as time passed, the "big house" came to be the Mecca of all their
hopes, and penny by penny the savings grew. It was slow work, though,
and to hearts less courageous the thing would have seemed an
impossibility. No luxuries--and scarcely the bare necessities of life--
came to the little house under the hill, but every month a tiny sum
found its way into the savings bank. Fortunately, air and sunshine were
cheap, and, if inside the house there was lack of beauty and cheer,
outside there was a riotous wealth of color and bloom--the flowers under
Emily's loving care flourished and multiplied.
The few gowns in the modest trousseau had been turned inside out and
upside down, only to be dyed and turned and twisted all over again. But
what was a dyed gown, when one had all that money in the bank and the
big house on the hill in prospect! Reuben's best suit grew rusty and
seedy, but the man patiently, even gleefully, wore it as long as it
would hang together; and when the time came that new garments must be
bought for both husband and wife, only the cheapest and flimsiest of
material was purchased--but the money in the bank grew.
Reuben never smoked. While other men used the fragrant weed to calm
their weary brains and bodies, Reuben--ate peanuts. It had been a
curious passion of his, from the time when as a boy he was first
presented with a penny for his very own, to spend all his spare cash on
this peculiar luxury; and the slow munching of this plebeian delicacy
had the same soothing effect on him that a good cigar or an old clay
pipe had upon his brother-man. But from the day of his marriage all
this was changed; the dimes and the nickels bought no more peanuts, but
went to swell the common fund.
It is doubtful if even this heroic economy would have accomplished the
desired end had not a certain railroad company cast envious eyes upon
the level valley and forthwith sent long arms of steel bearing a puffing
engine up through the quiet village. A large tract of waste land
belonging to Reuben Gray suddenly became surprisingly valuable, and a
sum that trebled twice over the scanty savings of years grew all in a
One crisp October day, Mr. and Mrs. Reuben Gray awoke to the fact that
they were a little under sixty years of age, and in possession of more
than the big sum of money necessary to enable them to carry out the
dreams of their youth. They began joyous preparations at once.
The big brick house at the top of the hill had changed hands twice
during the last forty years, and the present owner expressed himself as
nothing loath to part, not only with the house itself, but with many of
its furnishings; and before the winter snow fell the little brown
cottage was sold to a thrifty young couple from the neighboring village,
and the Grays took up their abode in their new home.
"Well, Em'ly, this is livin', now, ain't it?" said Reuben, as he
carefully let himself down into the depths of a velvet-covered chair in
the great parlor. "My! ain't this nice!"
"Just perfectly lovely," quavered the thin voice of his wife, as she
threw a surreptitious glance at Reuben's shoes to see if they were quite
clean enough for such sacred precincts.
It was their first evening in their new abode, and they were a little
weary, for they had spent the entire day in exploring every room,
peering into every closet, and trying every chair that the establishment
contained. It was still quite early when they trudged anxiously about
the house, intent on fastening the numerous doors and windows.
"Dear me!" exclaimed the little woman nervously, "I'm 'most afraid to go
to bed, Reuben, for fear some one will break in an' steal all these nice
"Well, you can sit up if you want to," replied her husband dryly, "but I
shall go to bed. Most of these things have been here nigh on to twenty
years, an' I guess they'll last the night through." And he marched
solemnly upstairs to the big east chamber, meekly followed by his wife.
It was the next morning when Mrs. Gray was washing the breakfast dishes
that her husband came in at the kitchen door and stood looking
thoughtfully at her.
"Say, Emily," said he, "you'd oughter have a hired girl. 'T ain't your
place to be doin' work like this now."
Mrs. Gray gasped--half terrified, half pleased--and shook her head; but
her husband was not to be silenced.
"Well, you had--an' you've got to, too. An' you must buy some new
clothes--lots of 'em! Why, Em'ly, we've got heaps of money now, an' we
hadn't oughter wear such lookin' things."
Emily nodded; she had thought of this before. And the hired-girl hint
must have found a warm spot in her heart in which to grow, for that very
afternoon she sallied forth, intent on a visit to her counselor on all
occasions--the doctor's wife.
"Well, Mis' Steele, I don't know what to do. Reuben says I ought to have
a hired girl; but I hain't no more idea where to get one than anything,
an' I don't know's I want one, if I did."
And Mrs. Gray sat back in her chair and rocked violently to and fro,
eying her hostess with the evident consciousness of having presented a
poser. That resourceful woman, however, was far from being nonplussed;
she beamed upon her visitor with a joyful smile.
"Just the thing, my dear Mrs. Gray! You know I am to go South with May
for the winter. The house will be closed and the doctor at the hotel. I
had just been wondering what to do with Nancy, for I want her again in
the spring. Now, you can have her until then, and by that time you will
know how you like the idea of keeping a girl. She is a perfect treasure,
capable of carrying along the entire work of the household, only"--and
Mrs. Steele paused long enough to look doubtfully at her friend--"she is
a little independent, and won't stand much interference."
Fifteen minutes later Mrs. Gray departed, well pleased though withal a
little frightened. She spent the rest of the afternoon in trying to
decide between a black alpaca and a green cashmere dress.
That night Reuben brought home a large bag of peanuts and put them down
in triumph on the kitchen table.
"There!" he announced in high glee, "I'm goin' to have a bang-up good
"Why, Reuben," remonstrated his wife gently, "you can't eat them things--
you hain't got no teeth to chew 'em with!"
The man's lower jaw dropped.
"Well, I'm a-goin' to try it, anyhow," he insisted. And try he did; but
the way his poor old stomach rebelled against the half-masticated things
effectually prevented a repetition of the feast.
Early on Monday morning Nancy appeared. Mrs. Gray assumed a brave
aspect, but she quaked in her shoes as she showed the big strapping girl
to her room. Five minutes later Nancy came into the kitchen to find Mrs.
Gray bending over an obstinate coal fire in the range--with neither coal
nor range was the little woman in the least familiar.
"There, now," said Nancy briskly, "I'll fix that. You just tell me what
you want for dinner, and I can find the things myself." And she attacked
the stove with such a clatter and din that Mrs. Gray retreated in
terror, murmuring "ham and eggs, if you please," as she fled through the
door. Once in the parlor, she seated herself in the middle of the room
and thought how nice it was not to get dinner; but she jumped nervously
at every sound from the kitchen.
On Tuesday she had mastered her fear sufficiently to go into the kitchen
and make a cottage cheese. She did not notice the unfavorable glances of
her maid-of-all-work. Wednesday morning she spent happily puttering over
"doing up" some handkerchiefs, and she wondered why Nancy kept banging
the oven door so often. Thursday she made a special kind of pie that
Reuben liked, and remarked pointedly to Nancy that she herself never
washed dishes without wearing an extra apron; furthermore, she always
placed the pans the other way in the sink. Friday she rearranged the
tins on the pantry shelves, that Nancy had so unaccountably mussed up.
On Saturday the inevitable explosion came:
"If you please, mum, I'm willin' to do your work, but seems to me it
don't make no difference to you whether I wear one apron or six, or
whether I hang my dish-towels on a string or on the bars, or whether I
wash goblets or kittles first; and I ain't in the habit of havin' folks
spyin' round on me. If you want me to go, I'll go; but if I stay, I want
to be let alone!"
Poor little Mrs. Gray fled to her seat in the parlor, and for the rest
of that winter she did not dare to call her soul her own; but her table
was beautifully set and served, and her house was as neat as wax.
The weeks passed and Reuben began to be restless. One day he came in
from the postoffice fairly bubbling over with excitement.
"Say, Em'ly, when folks have money they travel. Let's go somewhere!"
"Why, Reuben--where?" quavered his wife, dropping into the nearest
"Oh, I dunno," with cheerful vagueness; then, suddenly animated, "Let's
go to Boston and see the sights!"
"But, Reuben, we don't know no one there," ventured his wife doubtfully.
"Pooh! What if we don't? Hain't we got money? Can't we stay at a hotel?
Well, I guess we can!"
And his overwhelming courage put some semblance of confidence into the
more timid heart of his wife, until by the end of the week she was as
eager as he.
Nancy was tremblingly requested to take a two weeks' vacation, and great
was the rejoicing when she graciously acquiesced.
On a bright February morning the journey began. It was not a long one--
four hours only--and the time flew by as on wings of the wind. Reuben
assumed an air of worldly wisdom, quite awe-inspiring to his wife. He
had visited Boston as a boy, and so had a dim idea of what to expect;
moreover, he had sold stock and produce in the large towns near his
home, and on the whole felt quite self-sufficient.
As the long train drew into the station, and they alighted and followed
the crowd, Mrs. Gray looked with round eyes of wonder at the people--she
had not realized that there were so many in the world, and she clung
closer and closer to Reuben, who was marching along with a fine show of
"There," said he, as he deposited his wife and his bags in a seat in the
huge waiting-room; "now you stay right here, an' don't you move. I'm
goin' to find out about hotels and things."
He was gone so long that she was nearly fainting from fright before she
spied his dear form coming toward her. His thin, plain face looked
wonderfully beautiful to her, and she almost hugged him right before all
"Well, I've got a hotel all right; but I hain't been here for so long
I've kinder forgot about the streets, so the man said we'd better have a
team to take us there." And he picked up the bags and trudged off,
closely followed by Emily.
His shrewd Yankee wit carried him safely through a bargain with the
driver, and they were soon jolting and rumbling along to their
destination. He had asked the man behind the news-stand about a hotel,
casually mentioning that he had money--plenty of it--and wanted a "bang-
up good place." The spirit of mischief had entered the heart of the
news-man, and he had given Reuben the name of one of the very highest-
priced, most luxurious hotels in the city.
As the carriage stopped, Reuben marched boldly up the broad steps and
entered the palatial office, with Emily close at his heels. Two bell-
boys sprang forward--the one to take the bags, the other to offer to
show Mrs. Gray to the reception-room.
"No, thank you, I ain't particular," said she sweetly; "I'll wait for
Reuben here." And she dropped into the nearest chair, while her husband
advanced toward the desk. She noticed that men were looking curiously at
her, and she felt relieved when Reuben and the pretty boy came back and
said they would go up to their room.
She stood the elevator pretty well, though she gave a little gasp (which
she tried to choke into a cough) as it started. Reuben turned to the
"Where can I get somethin' to eat?"
"Luncheon is being served in the main dining-room on the first floor,
Visions of a lunch as he knew it in Emily's pantry came to him, and he
looked a little dubious.
"Well, I'm pretty hungry; but if that's all I can get I suppose it will
have to do."
Ten minutes later an officious head waiter, whom Emily looked upon with
timid awe, was seating them in a superbly appointed dining-room. Reuben
looked at the menu doubtfully, while an attentive, soft-voiced man at
his elbow bent low to catch his order. Few of the strange-looking words
conveyed any sort of meaning to the poor hungry man. At length spying
"chicken" halfway down the card, he pointed to it in relief.
"I guess I'll take some of that," he said, briefly; then he added, "I
don't know how much it costs--you hain't got no price after it."
The waiter comprehended at once.
"The luncheon is served in courses, sir; you pay for the whole--whether
you eat it or not," he added shrewdly. "If you will let me serve you
according to my judgment, sir, I think I can please you."
And there the forlorn little couple sat, amazed and hungry, through six
courses, each one of which seemed to their uneducated palate one degree
worse than the last.
Two hours later they started for a long walk down the wonderful,
fascinating street. Each marvelous window display came in for its full
share of attention, but they stood longest before bakeries and
restaurants. Finally, upon coming to one of the latter, where an
enticing sign announced "Boiled Dinner To-day, Served Hot at All
Hours," Reuben could endure it no longer.
"By Jinks, Em'ly, I've just got to have some of that. That stodged-up
mess I ate at the hotel didn't go to the spot at all. Come on, let's
have a good square meal."
The hotel knew them just one night. The next morning before breakfast
Reuben manfully paid his--to him astounding--bill and departed for more
congenial quarters, which they soon found on a neighboring side street.
The rest of the visit was, of course, delightful, only the streets were
pretty crowded and noisy, and they couldn't sleep very well at night;
moreover, Reuben lost his pocketbook with a small sum of money in it;
so, on the whole, they concluded to go home a little before the two
When spring came Nancy returned to her former mistress, and her vacant
throne remained unoccupied. Little by little the dust gathered on the
big velvet chairs in the parlor, and the room was opened less and less.
When the first green things commenced to send tender shoots up through
the wet, brown earth, Reuben's restlessness was very noticeable. By and
by he began to go off very early in the morning, returning at noon for a
hasty dinner, then away again till night. To his wife's repeated
questioning he would reply, sheepishly, "Oh, just loafin', that's all."
And Emily was nervous, too. Of late she had taken a great fancy to a
daily walk, and it always led in one direction--down past the little
brown house. Of course, she glanced over the fence at the roses and
lilacs, and she couldn't help seeing that they all looked sadly
neglected. By and by the weeds came, grew, and multiplied; and every
time she passed the gate her throat fairly choked in sympathy with her
Evenings, she and Reuben spent very happily on the back stoop, talking
of their great good fortune in being able to live in such a fine large
house. Somehow they said more than usual about it this spring, and
Reuben often mentioned how glad he was that his wife didn't have to dig
in the garden any more; and Emily would reply that she, too, was glad
that he was having so easy a time. Then they would look down at the
little brown farmhouse and wonder how they ever managed to get along in
so tiny a place.
One day, in passing this same little house, Emily stopped a moment and
leaned over the gate, that she might gain a better view of her favorite
She evinced the same interest the next two mornings, and on the third
she timidly opened the gate and walked up the old path to the door. A
buxom woman with a big baby in her arms, and a bigger one hanging to her
skirts, answered her knock.
"How do you do, Mis' Gray. Won't you come in?" said she civilly, looking
"No, thank you--yes--I mean--I came to see you," stammered Emily
"You're very good," murmured the woman, still standing in the doorway.
"Your flowers are so pretty," ventured Mrs. Gray, unable to keep the
wistfulness out of her voice.
"Do you think so?" carelessly; "I s'pose they need weedin'. What with my
babies an' all, I don't get much time for posies."
"Oh, please,--would it be too much trouble to let me come an' putter
around in the beds?" queried the little woman eagerly. "Oh, I would like
it so much!"
The other laughed heartily.
"Well, I really don't see how it's goin' to trouble me to have you
weedin' my flowers; in fact, I should think the shoe would be on the
other foot." Then the red showed in her face a little. "You're welcome
to do whatever you want, Mis' Gray."
"Oh, thank you!" exclaimed Emily, as she quickly pulled up an enormous
weed at her feet.
It took but a few hours' work to bring about a wonderfully happy change
in that forlorn garden, and then Mrs. Gray found that she had a big pile
of weeds to dispose of. Filling her apron with a portion of them, she
started to go behind the house in search of a garbage heap. Around the
corner she came face to face with her husband, hoe in hand.
"Why, Reuben Gray! Whatever in the world are you doing?"
For a moment the man was crushed with the enormity of his crime; then he
caught sight of his wife's dirt-stained fingers.
"Well, I guess I ain't doin' no worse than you be!" And he turned his
back and began to hoe vigorously.
Emily dropped the weeds where she stood, turned about, and walked
through the garden and up the hill, pondering many things.
Supper was strangely quiet that night. Mrs. Gray had asked a single
question: "Reuben, do you want the little house back?"
A glad light leaped into the old man's eyes.
"Em'ly--would you be willin' to?"
After the supper dishes were put away, Mrs. Gray, with a light shawl
over her head, came to her husband on the back stoop.
"Come, dear; I think we'd better go down to-night."
A few minutes later they sat stiffly in the best room of the farmhouse,
while the buxom woman and her husband looked wonderingly at them.
"You wan't thinkin' of sellin', was ye?" began Reuben insinuatingly.
The younger man's eyelid quivered a little. "Well, no,--I can't hardly
say that I was. I hain't but just bought."
Reuben hitched his chair a bit and glanced at Emily.
"Well, me and my wife have concluded that we're too old to transplant--
we don't seem to take root very easy--and we've been thinkin'--would you
swap even, now?"
* * * * *
It must have been a month later that Reuben Gray and his wife were
contentedly sitting in the old familiar kitchen of the little brown
"I've been wondering, Reuben," said his wife--"I've been wondering if
'twouldn't have been just as well if we'd taken some of the good things
while they was goin'--before we got too old to enjoy 'em."
"Yes--peanuts, for instance," acquiesced her husband ruefully.
In the Footsteps of Katy
Only Alma had lived--Alma, the last born. The other five, one after
another, had slipped from loving, clinging arms into the great Silence,
leaving worse than a silence behind them; and neither Nathan Kelsey nor
his wife Mary could have told you which hurt the more,--the saying of a
last good-bye to a stalwart, grown lad of twenty, or the folding of
tiny, waxen hands over a heart that had not counted a year of beating.
Yet both had fallen to their lot.
As for Alma--Alma carried in her dainty self all the love, hopes,
tenderness, ambitions, and prayers that otherwise would have been
bestowed upon six. And Alma was coming home.
"Mary," said Nathan one June evening, as he and his wife sat on the back
porch, "I saw Jim Hopkins ter-day. Katy's got home."
"Hm-m,"--the low rocker swayed gently to and fro,--"Katy's been ter
college, same as Alma, ye know."
"Yes; an'--an' that's what Jim was talkin' 'bout He was feelin' bad-
"Bad!"--the rocker stopped abruptly. "Why, Nathan!"
"Yes; he--" There was a pause, then the words came with the rush of
desperation. "He said home wan't like home no more. That Katy was as
good as gold, an' they was proud of her; but she was turrible upsettin'.
Jim has ter rig up nights now ter eat supper--put on his coat an' a
b'iled collar; an' he says he's got so he don't dast ter open his head.
They're all so, too--Mis' Hopkins, an' Sue, an' Aunt Jane--don't none of
'em dast ter speak."
"Why, Nathan!--why not?" "'Cause of--Katy. Jim says there don't nothin'
they say suit Katy--'bout its wordin', I mean. She changes it an' tells
'em what they'd orter said."
"Why, the saucy little baggage!"--the rocker resumed its swaying, and
Mary Kelsey's foot came down on the porch floor with decided, rhythmic
The man stirred restlessly.
"But she ain't sassy, Mary," he demurred. "Jim says Katy's that sweet
an' pleasant about it that ye can't do nothin'. She tells 'em she's
kerrectin' 'em fur their own good, an' that they need culturin'. An' Jim
says she spends all o' meal-time tellin' 'bout the things on the table,
--salt, an' where folks git it, an' pepper, an' tumblers, an' how folks
make 'em. He says at first 'twas kind o' nice an' he liked ter hear it;
but now, seems as if he hain't got no appetite left ev'ry time he sets
down ter the table. He don't relish eatin' such big words an' queer
"An' that ain't all," resumed Nathan, after a pause for breath. "Jim
can't go hoein' nor diggin' but she'll foller him an' tell 'bout the
bugs an' worms he turns up,--how many legs they've got, an' all that.
An' the moon ain't jest a moon no more, an' the stars ain't stars.
They're sp'eres an' planets with heathenish names an' rings an' orbits.
Jim feels bad--powerful bad--'bout it, an' he says he can't see no way
out of it. He knows they hain't had much schooling any of 'em, only
Katy, an' he says that sometimes he 'most wishes that--that she hadn't,
Nathan Kelsey's voice had sunk almost to a whisper, and with the last
words his eyes sent a furtive glance toward the stoop-shouldered little
figure in the low rocker. The chair was motionless now, and its occupant
sat picking at a loose thread in the gingham apron.
"I--I wouldn't 'a' spoke of it," stammered the man, with painful
hesitation, "only--well, ye see, I--you-" he stopped helplessly.
"I know," faltered the little woman. "You was thinkin' of--Alma."
"She wouldn't do it--Alma wouldn't!" retorted the man sharply, almost
before his wife had ceased speaking.
"No, no, of course not; but--Nahtan, ye don't think Alma'd ever
be--ashamed of us, do ye?"
"'Course not!" asserted Nathan, but his voice shook. "Don't ye worry,
Mary," he comforted. "Alma ain't a-goin' ter do no kerrectin' of us."
"Nathan, I--I think that's 'co-rectin','" suggested the woman, a little
The man turned and gazed at his wife without speaking. Then his jaw
"Well, by sugar, Mary! You ain't a-goin' ter begin it, be ye?" he
"Why, no, 'course not!" she laughed confusedly. "An'--an' Alma
"'Course Alma wouldn't," echoed her husband. "Come, it's time ter shut
up the house."
The date of Alma's expected arrival was yet a week ahead.
As the days passed, there came a curious restlessness to the movements
of both Nathan and his wife. It was on the last night of that week of
waiting that Mrs. Kelsey spoke.
"Nathan," she began, with forced courage, "I've been over to Mis'
Hopkins's--an' asked her what special things 'twas that Katy set such
store by. I thought mebbe if we knew 'em beforehand, an' could do 'em,
"That's jest what I asked Jim ter-day, Mary," cut in Nathan excitedly.
"Nathan, you didn't, now! Oh, I'm so glad! An' we'll do 'em, won't we?--
jest ter please her?"
"'Course we will!"
"Ye see it's four years since she was here, Nathan, what with her
"Sugar, now! Is it? It hain't seemed so long."
"Nathan," interposed Mrs. Kelsey, anxiously, "I think that 'hain't'
ain't--I mean aren't right. I think you'd orter say, 'It haven't
seemed so long.'"
The man frowned, and made an impatient gesture.
"Yes, yes, I know," soothed his wife; "but,--well, we might jest as well
begin now an' git used to it. Mis' Hopkins said that them two words,
'hain't an' 'ain't, was what Katy hated most of anythin'."
"Yes; Jim mentioned 'em, too," acknowledged Nathan gloomily. "But he
said that even them wan't half so bad as his riggin' up nights. He said
that Katy said that after the 'toil of the day' they must 'don fresh
garments an' come ter the evenin' meal with minds an' bodies
"Yes; an', Nathan, ain't my black silk--"
"Ahem! I'm a-thinkin' it wa'n't me that said 'ain't' that time,"
"Dear, dear, Nathan!--did I? Oh, dear, what will Alma say?"
"It don't make no diff'rence what Alma says, Mary. Don't ye fret,"
returned the man with sudden sharpness, as he rose to his feet. "I guess
Alma'll have ter take us 'bout as we be--'bout as we be."
Yet it was Nathan who asked, just as his wife was dropping off to sleep
"Mary, is it three o' them collars I've got, or four?--b'iled ones, I
At five o'clock the next afternoon Mrs. Kelsey put on the treasured
black silk dress, sacred for a dozen years to church, weddings, and
funerals. Nathan, warm and uncomfortable in his Sunday suit and stiff
collar, had long since driven to the station for Alma. The house,
brushed and scrubbed into a state of speckless order, was thrown wide
open to welcome the returning daughter. At a quarter before six she
"Mother, you darling!" cried a voice, and Mrs. Kelsey found herself in
the clasp of strong young arms, and gazing into a flushed, eager face.
"Don't you look good! And doesn't everything look good!" finished the
"Does it--I mean, do it?" quavered the little woman excitedly.
"Oh, Alma, I am glad ter see ye!"
Behind Alma's back Nathan flicked a bit of dust from his coat. The next
instant he raised a furtive hand and gave his collar and neckband a
At the supper-table that night ten minutes of eager questioning on the
part of Alma had gone by before Mrs. Kelsey realized that thus far their
conversation had been of nothing more important than Nathan's
rheumatism, her own health, and the welfare of Rover, Tabby, and the
mare Topsy. Commensurate with the happiness that had been hers during
those ten minutes came now her remorse. She hastened to make amends.
"There, there, Alma, I beg yer pardon, I'm sure. I hain't--er--I
haven't meant ter keep ye talkin' on such triflin' things, dear.
Now talk ter us yer self. Tell us about things--anythin'--anythin' on
the table or in the room," she finished feverishly.
For a moment the merry-faced girl stared in frank amazement at her
mother; then she laughed gleefully.
"On the table? In the room?" she retorted. "Well, it's the dearest room
ever, and looks so good to me! As for the table--the rolls are feathers,
the coffee is nectar, and the strawberries--well, the strawberries are
just strawberries--they couldn't be nicer."
"Oh, Alma, but I didn't mean----"
"Tut, tut, tut!" interrupted Alma laughingly. "Just as if the cook
didn't like her handiwork praised! Why, when I draw a picture--oh, and I
haven't told you!" she broke off excitedly. The next instant she was on
her feet. "Alma Mead Kelsey, Illustrator; at your service," she
announced with a low bow. Then she dropped into her seat again and went
"You see, I've been doing this sort of thing for some time," she
explained, "and have had some success in selling. My teacher has always
encouraged me, and, acting on his advice, I stayed over in New York a
week with a friend, and took some of my work to the big publishing
houses. That's why I didn't get here as soon as Kate Hopkins did. I
hated to put off my coming; but now I'm so glad I did. Only think! I
sold every single thing, and I have orders and orders ahead."
"Well, by sugar!" ejaculated the man at the head of the table.
"Oh-h-h!" breathed the little woman opposite. "Oh, Alma, I'm so glad!"
In spite of Mrs. Kelsey's protests that night after supper, Alma tripped
about the kitchen and pantry wiping the dishes and putting them away. At
dusk father, mother, and daughter seated themselves on the back porch.
"There!" sighed Alma. "Isn't this restful? And isn't that moon
Mrs. Kelsey shot a quick look at her husband; then she cleared her
"Er--yes," she assented. "I--I s'pose you know what it's made of, an'
how big 'tis, an'--an' what there is on it, don't ye, Alma?"
Alma raised her eyebrows.
"Hm-m; well, there are still a few points that I and the astronomers
haven't quite settled," she returned, with a whimsical smile.
"An' the stars, they've got names, I s'pose--every one of 'em,"
proceeded Mrs. Kelsey, so intent on her own part that Alma's reply
Alma laughed; then she assumed an attitude of mock rapture, and quoted:
"'Scintillate, scintillate, globule vivific,
Fain would I fathom thy nature specific;
Loftily poised in ether capacious,
Strongly resembling the gem carbonaceous.'"
There was a long silence. Alma's eyes were on the flying clouds.
"Would--would you mind saying that again, Alma?" asked Mrs. Kelsey at
Alma turned with a start.
"Saying what, dearie?--oh, that nonsensical verse? Of course not! That's
only another way of saying 'twinkle, twinkle, little star.' Means just
the same, only uses up a few more letters to make the words. Listen."
And she repeated the two, line for line.
"Oh!" said her mother faintly. "Er--thank you."
"I--I guess I'll go to bed," announced Nathan Kelsey suddenly.
The next morning Alma's pleadings were in vain. Mrs. Kelsey insisted
that Alma should go about her sketching, leaving the housework for her
own hands to perform. With a laughing protest and a playful pout, Alma
tucked her sketchbook under her arm and left the house to go down by the
river. In the field she came upon her father.
"Hard at work, dad?" she called affectionately. "Old Mother Earth won't
yield her increase without just so much labor, will she?"
"That she won't," laughed the man. Then he flushed a quick red and set a
light foot on a crawling thing of many legs which had emerged from
beneath an overturned stone.
"Oh!" cried Alma. "Your foot, father--your're crushing something!"
The flush grew deeper.
"Oh, I guess not," rejoined the man, lifting his foot, and giving a
curiously resigned sigh as he sent an apprehensive glance into the
"Dear, dear! isn't he funny?" murmured the girl, bending low and giving
a gentle poke with the pencil in her hand. "Only fancy," she added,
straightening herself, "only fancy if we had so many feet. Just picture
the size of our shoe bill!" And she laughed and turned away.
"Well, by gum!" ejaculated the man, looking after her. Then he fell to
work, and his whistle, as he worked, carried something of the song of a
bird set free from a cage.
A week passed.
The days were spent by Alma in roaming the woods and fields, pencil and
paper in hand; they were spent by her mother in the hot kitchen over a
hotter stove. To Alma's protests and pleadings Mrs. Kelsey was deaf.
Alma's place was not there, her work was not housework, declared Alma's
On Mrs. Kelsey the strain was beginning to tell. It was not the work
alone--though that was no light matter, owing to her anxiety that Alma's
pleasure and comfort should find nothing wanting--it was more than the
Every night at six the anxious little woman, flushed from biscuit-baking
and chicken-broiling and almost sick with fatigue, got out the black
silk gown and the white lace collar and put them on with trembling
hands. Thus robed in state she descended to the supper-table, there to
confront her husband still more miserable in the stiff collar and black
Nor yet was this all. Neither the work nor the black silk dress
contained for Mrs. Kelsey quite the possibilities of soul torture that
were to be found in the words that fell from her lips. As the days
passed, the task the little woman had set for herself became more and
more hopeless, until she scarcely could bring herself to speak at all,
so stumbling and halting were her sentences.
At the end of the eighth day came the culmination of it all. Alma, her
nose sniffing the air, ran into the kitchen that night to find no one in
the room, and the biscuits burning in the oven. She removed the
biscuits, threw wide the doors and windows, then hurried upstairs to her
Mrs. Kelsey stood before the glass, a deep flush on her cheeks and tears
rolling down her face. Two trembling hands struggled with the lace at
her throat until the sharp point of a pin found her thumb and left a
tiny crimson stain on the spotlessness of the collar. It was then that
Mrs. Kelsey covered her face with her hands and sank into the low chair
by the bed.
"Why, mother!" cried Alma again, hurrying across the room and dropping
on her knees at her mother's side.
"I can't, Alma, I can't!" moaned the woman. "I've tried an' tried; but
I've got ter give up, I've got ter give up."
"Can't what, dearie?--give up what?" demanded Alma.
Mrs. Kelsey shook her head. Then she dropped her hands and looked
fearfully into her daughter's face.
"An' yer father, too, Alma--he's tried, an' he can't," she choked.
"Tried what? What do you mean?"
With her eyes on Alma's troubled, amazed face, Mrs. Kelsey made one last
effort to gain her lost position. She raised her shaking hands to her
throat and fumbled for the pin and the collar.
"There, there, dear, don't fret," she stammered. "I didn't think what I
was sayin'. It ain't nothin'--I mean, it aren't nothin'--it
am not--oh-h!" she sobbed; "there, ye see, Alma, I can't, I
can't. It ain't no more use ter try!" Down went the gray head on Alma's
strong young shoulder.
"There, there, dear, cry away," comforted Alma, with loving pats. "It
will do you good; then we'll hear what this is all about, from the very
And Mrs. Kelsey told her--and from the very beginning. When the telling
was over, and the little woman, a bit breathless and frightened, sat
awaiting what Alma would say, there came a long silence.
Alma's lips were close shut. Alma was not quite sure, if she opened
them, whether there would come a laugh or a sob. The laugh was uppermost
and almost parted the firm-set lips, when a side glance at the quivering
face of the little woman in the big chair turned the laugh into a half-
stifled sob. Then Alma spoke.
"Mother, dear, listen. Do you think a silk dress and a stiff collar can
make you and father any dearer to me? Do you think an 'ain't' or a
'hain't' can make me love either of you any less? Do you suppose I
expect you, after fifty years' service for others, to be as careful in
your ways and words as if you'd spent those fifty years in training
yourself instead of in training six children? Why, mother, dear, do you
suppose that I don't know that for twenty of those years you have had no
thoughts, no prayers, save for me?--that I have been the very apple of
your eye? Well, it's my turn, now, and you are the apple of my eye--you
and father. Why, dearie, you have no idea of the plans I have for you.
There's a good strong woman coming next week for the kitchen work. Oh,
it's all right," assured Alma, quickly, in response to the look on her
mother's face. "Why, I'm rich! Only think of those orders! And then you
shall dress in silk or velvet, or calico--anything you like, so long as
it doesn't scratch nor prick," she added merrily, bending forward and
fastening the lace collar. "And you shall----"
"Ma-ry?" It was Nathan at the foot of the back stairway.
"Ain't it 'most supper-time?"
"Bless my soul!" cried Mrs. Kelsey, springing to her feet.
"Hain't I got a collar--a b'iled one, on the bureau up there?"
"No," called Alma, snatching up the collar and throwing it on the bed.
"There isn't a sign of one there. Suppose you let it go to-night, dad?"
"Well, if you don't mind!" And a very audible sigh of relief floated up
the back stairway.
The Bridge Across the Years
John was expected on the five o'clock stage. Mrs. John had been there
three days now, and John's father and mother were almost packed up--so
Mrs. John said. The auction would be to-morrow at nine o'clock, and with
John there to see that things "hustled"--which last was really
unnecessary to mention, for John's very presence meant "hustle"--with
John there, then, the whole thing ought to be over by one o'clock, and
they off in season to 'catch the afternoon express.
And what a time it had been--those three days!
Mrs. John, resting in the big chair on the front porch, thought of those
days with complacency--that they were over. Grandpa and Grandma Burton,
hovering over old treasures in the attic, thought of them with terrified
dismay--that they had ever begun.
I am coming up on Tuesday [Mrs. John had written]. We have been thinking
for some time that you and father ought not to be left alone up there on
the farm any longer. Now don't worry about the packing. I shall bring
Marie, and you won't have to lift your finger. John will come Thursday
night, and be there for the auction on Friday. By that time we shall
have picked out what is worth saving, and everything will be ready for
him to take matters in hand. I think he has already written to the
auctioneer, so tell father to give himself no uneasiness on that score.
John says he thinks we can have you back here with us by Friday night,
or Saturday at the latest. You know John's way, so you may be sure there
will be no tiresome delay. Your rooms here will be all ready before I
leave, so that part will be all right.
This may seem a bit sudden to you, but you know we have always told you
that the time was surely coming when you couldn't live alone any longer.
John thinks it has come now; and, as I said before, you know John, so,
after all, you won't be surprised at his going right ahead with things.
We shall do everything possible to make you comfortable, and I am sure
you will be very happy here.
Good-bye, then, until Tuesday. With love to both of you.
That had been the beginning. To Grandpa and Grandma Burton it had come
like a thunderclap on a clear day. They had known, to be sure, that son
John frowned a little at their lonely life; but that there should come
this sudden transplanting, this ruthless twisting and tearing up of
roots that for sixty years had been burrowing deeper and deeper--it was
almost beyond one's comprehension.
And there was the auction!
"We shan't need that, anyway," Grandma Burton had said at once. "What
few things we don't want to keep I shall give away. An auction, indeed!
Pray, what have we to sell?"
"Hm-m! To be sure, to be sure," her husband had murmured; but his face
was troubled, and later he had said, apologetically: "You see, Hannah,
there's the farm things. We don't need them."
On Tuesday night Mrs. John and the somewhat awesome Maria--to whom
Grandpa and Grandma Burton never could learn not to curtsy--arrived; and
almost at once Grandma Burton discovered that not only "farm things,"
but such precious treasures as the hair wreath and the parlor--set were
auctionable. In fact, everything the house contained, except their
clothing and a few crayon portraits, seemed to be in the same category.
"But, mother, dear," Mrs. John had returned, with a laugh, in response
to Grandma Burton's horrified remonstrances, "just wait until you see
your rooms, and how full they are of beautiful things, and then you'll
"But they won't be--these," the old voice had quavered.
And Mrs. John had laughed again, and had patted her mother-in-law's
cheek, and had echoed-but with a different shade of meaning--"No, they
certainly won't be these!"
In the attic now, on a worn black trunk, sat the little old man, and
down on the floor before an antiquated cradle knelt his wife.
"They was all rocked in it, Seth," she was saying,--"John and the twins
and my two little girls; and now there ain't any one left only John--and
"I know, Hannah, but you ain't usin' that nowadays, so you don't
really need it," comforted the old man. "But there's my big chair now--
seems as though we jest oughter take that. Why, there ain't a day goes
by that I don't set in it!"
"But John's wife says there's better ones there, Seth," soothed the old
woman in her turn, "as much as four or five of 'em right in our rooms."
"So she did, so she did!" murmured the man. "I'm an ongrateful thing; so
I be." There was a long pause. The old man drummed with his fingers on
the trunk and watched a cloud sail across the skylight. The woman gently
swung the cradle to and fro. "If only they wan't goin' ter be--sold!"
she choked, after a time. "I like ter know that they're where I can look
at 'em, an' feel of 'em, an'--an' remember things. Now there's them
quilts with all my dress pieces in 'em--a piece of most every dress I've
had since I was a girl; an' there's that hair wreath--seems as if I jest
couldn't let that go, Seth. Why, there's your hair, an' John's, an' some
of the twins', an'--"
"There, there, dear; now I jest wouldn't fret," cut in the old man
quickly. "Like enough when you get used ter them other things on the
wall you'll like 'em even better than the hair wreath. John's wife says
she's taken lots of pains an' fixed 'em up with pictures an' curtains
an' everythin' nice," went on Seth, talking very fast. "Why, Hannah,
it's you that's bein' ongrateful now, dear!"
"So 'tis, so 'tis, Seth, an' it ain't right an' I know it. I ain't a-
goin' ter do so no more; now see!" And she bravely turned her back on
the cradle and walked, head erect, toward the attic stairs.
John came at five o'clock. He engulfed the little old man and the little
old woman in a bearlike hug, and breezily demanded what they had been
doing to themselves to make them look so forlorn. In the very next
breath, however, he answered his own question, and declared it was
because they had been living all cooped up alone so long--so it was; and
that it was high time it was stopped, and that he had come to do it!
Whereupon the old man and the old woman smiled bravely and told each
other what a good, good son they had, to be sure!
Friday dawned clear, and not too warm--an ideal auction-day. Long before
nine o'clock the yard was full of teams and the house of people. Among
them all, however, there was no sign of the bent old man and the erect
little old woman, the owners of the property to be sold. John and Mrs.
John were not a little disturbed--they had lost their father and mother.
Nine o'clock came, and with it began the strident call of the
auctioneer. Men laughed and joked over their bids, and women looked on
and gossiped, adding a bid of their own now and then. Everywhere was the
son of the house, and things went through with a rush. Upstairs, in the
darkest corner of the attic--which had been cleared of goods--sat, hand
in hand on an old packing-box, a little old man and a little old woman
who winced and shrank together every time the "Going, going, gone!"
floated up to them from the yard below.
At half-past one the last wagon rumbled out of the yard, and five
minutes later Mrs. John gave a relieved cry.
"Oh, there you are! Why, mother, father, where have you been?"
There was no reply. The old man choked back a cough and bent to flick a
bit of dust from his coat. The old woman turned and crept away, her
erect little figure looking suddenly bent and old.
"Why, what--" began John, as his father, too, turned away. "Why, Edith,
you don't suppose--" He stopped with a helpless frown.
"Perfectly natural, my dear, perfectly natural," returned Mrs. John
lightly. "We'll get them away immediately. It'll be all right when once
they are started."
Some hours later a very tired old man and a still more tired old woman
crept into a pair of sumptuous, canopy-topped twin beds. There was only
"Why, Seth, mine ain't feathers a mite! Is yours?"
There was no reply. Tired nature had triumphed--Seth was asleep.
They made a brave fight, those two. They told themselves that the chairs
were easier, the carpets softer, and the pictures prettier than those
that had gone under the hammer that day as they sat hand in hand in the
attic. They assured each other that the unaccustomed richness of window
and bed hangings and the profusion of strange vases and statuettes did
not make them afraid to stir lest they soil or break something. They
insisted to each other that they were not homesick, and that they were
perfectly satisfied as they were. And yet--
When no one was looking Grandpa Burton tried chair after chair, and
wondered why there was only one particular chair in the whole world that
just exactly "fitted;" and when the twilight hour came Grandma Burton
wondered what she would give to be able just to sit by the old cradle
and talk with the past.
* * * * *
The newspapers said it was a most marvelous escape for the whole family.
They gave a detailed account of how the beautiful residence of the
Honorable John Burton, with all its costly furnishings, had burned to
the ground, and of how the entire family was saved, making special
mention of the honorable gentleman's aged father and mother. No one was
injured, fortunately, and the family had taken up a temporary residence
in the nearest hotel. It was understood that Mr. Burton would begin
rebuilding at once.
The newspapers were right--Mr. Burton did begin rebuilding at once; in
fact, the ashes of the Burton mansion were not cold before John Burton
began to interview architects and contractors.
"It'll be 'way ahead of the old one," he confided to his wife
Mrs. John sighed.
"I know, dear," she began plaintively; "but, don't you see? it won't be
the same--it can't be. Why, some of those things we've had ever since we
were married. They seemed a part of me, John. I was used to them. I had
grown up with some of them--those candlesticks of mamma's, for instance,
that she had when I was a bit of a baby. Do you think money can buy
another pair that--that were hers?" And Mrs. John burst into
"Come, come, dear," protested her husband, with a hasty caress and a
nervous glance at the clock--he was due at the bank in ten minutes."
Don't fret about what can't be helped; besides"-and he laughed
whimsically--"you must look out or you'll be getting as bad as mother
over her hair wreath!" And with another hasty pat on her shoulder he was
Mrs. John suddenly stopped her crying. She lowered her handkerchief and
stared fixedly at an old print on the wall opposite. The hotel--though
strictly modern in cuisine and management--was an old one, and prided
itself on the quaintness of its old-time furnishings. Just what the
print represented Mrs. John could not have told, though her eyes did not
swerve from its face for five long minutes. What she did see was a
silent, dismantled farmhouse, and a little old man and a little old
woman with drawn faces and dumb lips.
Was it possible? Had she, indeed, been so blind?
Mrs. John rose to her feet, bathed her eyes, straightened her neck-bow,
and crossed the hall to Grandma Burton's room.
"Well, mother, and how are you getting along?" she asked cheerily.
"Jest as nice as can be, daughter,--and ain't this room pretty?"
returned the little old woman eagerly. "Do you know, it seems kind of
natural like; mebbe it's because of that chair there. Seth says it's
almost like his at home."
It was a good beginning, and Mrs. John made the most of it. Under her
skillful guidance Grandma Burton, in less than five minutes, had gone
from the chair to the old clock which her father used to wind, and from
the clock to the bureau where she kept the dead twins' little white
shoes and bonnets. She told, too, of the cherished parlor chairs and
marble-topped table, and of how she and father had saved and saved for
years to buy them; and even now, as she talked, her voice rang with
pride of possession--though only for a moment; it shook then with the
remembrance of loss.
There was no complaint, it is true, no audible longing for lost
treasures. There was only the unwonted joy of pouring into sympathetic
ears the story of things loved and lost--things the very mention of
which brought sweet faint echoes of voices long since silent.
"There, there," broke off the little old woman at last, "how I am
runnin' on! But, somehow, somethin' set me to talkin' ter-day. Mebbe't
was that chair that's like yer father's," she hazarded.
"Maybe it was," agreed Mrs. John quietly, as she rose to her feet.
The new house came on apace. In a wonderfully short time John Burton
began to urge his wife to see about rugs and hangings. It was then that
Mrs. John called him to one side and said a few hurried but very earnest
words--words that made the Honorable John open wide his eyes.
"But, Edith," he remonstrated, "are you crazy? It simply couldn't be
done! The things are scattered over half a dozen townships; besides, I
haven't the least idea where the auctioneer's list is--if I saved it at
"Never mind, dear; I may try, surely," begged Mrs. John. And her husband
laughed and reached for his check-book.
"Try? Of course you may try! And here's this by way of wishing you good
luck," he finished, as he handed her an oblong bit of paper that would
go far toward smoothing the most difficult of ways.
"You dear!" cried Mrs. John. "And now I'm going to work."
It was at about this time that Mrs. John went away. The children were at
college and boarding-school; John was absorbed in business and house-
building, and Grandpa and Grandma Burton were contented and well cared
for. There really seemed to be no reason why Mrs. John should not go
away, if she wished--and she apparently did wish. It was at about this
time, too, that certain Vermont villages--one of which was the Honorable
John Burton's birthplace--were stirred to sudden interest and action. A
persistent, smiling-faced woman had dropped into their midst--a woman
who drove from house to house, and who, in every case, left behind her a
sworn ally and friend, pledged to serve her cause.
Little by little, in an unused room in the village hotel there began to
accumulate a motley collection--a clock, a marble-topped table, a
cradle, a patchwork quilt, a bureau, a hair wreath, a chair worn with
age and use. And as this collection grew in size and fame, only that
family which could not add to it counted itself abused and unfortunate,
so great was the spell that the persistent, smiling-faced woman had cast
Just before the Burton house was finished Mrs. John came back to town.
She had to hurry a little about the last of the decorations and
furnishings to make up for lost time; but there came a day when the
place was pronounced ready for occupancy.
It was then that Mrs. John hurried into Grandpa and Grandma Burton's
rooms at the hotel.
"Come, dears," she said gayly. "The house is all ready, and we're going
"Done? So soon?" faltered Grandma Burton, who had not been told very
much concerning the new home's progress. "Why, how quick they have built
There was a note of regret in the tremulous old voice, but Mrs. John did
not seem to notice. The old man, too, rose from his chair with a long
sigh--and again Mrs. John did not seem to notice.
* * * * *
"Yes, dearie, yes, it's all very nice and fine," said Grandma Burton
wearily, half an hour later as she trudged through the sumptuous parlors
and halls of the new house; "but, if you don't mind, I guess I'll go to
my room, daughter. I'm tired--turrible tired."
Up the stairs and along the hall trailed the little procession--Mrs.
John, John, the bent old man, and the little old woman. At the end of
the hall Mrs. John paused a moment, then flung the door wide open.
There was a gasp and a quick step forward; then came the sudden
illumination of two wrinkled old faces.
"John! Edith!"--it was a cry of mingled joy and wonder.
There was no reply. Mrs. John had closed the door and left them there
with their treasures.
Uncle Zeke's pipe had gone out--sure sign that Uncle Zeke's mind was not
at rest. For five minutes the old man had occupied in frowning silence
the other of my veranda rocking-chairs. As I expected, however, I had
not long to wait.
"I met old Sam Hadley an' his wife in the cemetery just now," he
"Yes?" I was careful to express just enough, and not too much, interest:
one had to be circumspect with Uncle Zeke.
"Hm-m; I was thinkin'--" Uncle Zeke paused, shifted his position, and
began again. This time I had the whole story.
"I was thinkin'--I don't say that Jimmy did right, an' I don't say that
Jimmy did wrong. Maybe you can tell. 'Twas like this:
"In a way we all claimed Jimmy Hadley. As a little fellow, he was one of
them big-eyed, curly-haired chaps that gets inside your heart no matter
how tough't is. An' we was really fond of him, too,--so fond of him that
we didn't do nothin' but jine in when his pa an' ma talked as if he was
the only boy that ever was born, or ever would be--an' you know we must
have been purty daft ter stood that, us bein' fathers ourselves!
"Well, as was natural, perhaps, the Hadleys jest lived fer Jimmy. They'd
lost three, an' he was all there was left. They wasn't very well-to-do,
but nothin' was too grand fer Jimmy, and when the boy begun ter draw
them little pictures of his all over the shed an' the barn door, they
was plumb crazy. There wan't no doubt of it--Jimmy was goin' ter be
famous, they said. He was goin' ter be one o' them painter fellows, an'
make big money.
"An' Jimmy did work, even then. He stood well in his studies, an' worked
outside, earnin' money so's he could take drawin' lessons when he got
bigger. An' by and by he did get bigger, an' he did take lessons down
ter the Junction twice a week.
"There wan't no livin' with Mis' Hadley then, she was that proud; an'
when he brought home his first picture, they say she never went ter bed
at all that night, but jest set gloatin' over it till the sun came in
an' made her kerosene lamp look as silly as she did when she saw 'twas
mornin'. There was one thing that plagued her, though: 'twan't painted--
that picture. Jimmy called it a 'black an' white,' an' said 'twan't
paintin' that he wanted ter do, but 'lustratin'--fer books and
magazines, you know. She felt hurt, an' all put out at first: but Jimmy
told her 'twas all right, an' that there was big money in it; so she got
'round contented again. She couldn't help it, anyhow, with Jimmy, he was
that lovin' an' nice with her. He was the kind that's always bringin'
footstools and shawls, an' makin' folks comfortable. Everybody loved
Jimmy. Even the cats an' dogs rubbed up against him an' wagged their
tails at sight of him, an' the kids--goodness, Jimmy couldn't cross the
street without a dozen kids makin' a grand rush fer him.
"Well, time went on, an' Jimmy grew tall an' good lookin'. Then came the
girl--an' she was a girl, too. 'Course, Jimmy, bein' as how he'd
had all the frostin' there was goin' on everythin' so fur, carried out
the same idea in girls, an' picked out the purtiest one he could find--
rich old Townsend's daughter, Bessie.
"To the Hadleys this seemed all right--Jimmy was merely gettin' the
best, as usual; but the rest of us, includin' old man Townsend, begun
ter sit up an' take notice. The old man was mad clean through. He had
other plans fer Bessie, an' he said so purty plain."
"But it seems there didn't any of us--only Jimmy, maybe--take the girl
herself into consideration. For a time she was a little skittish, an'
led Jimmy a purty chase with her dancin' nearer an' nearer, an' then
flyin' off out of reach. But at last she came out fair an' square fur