Part 3 out of 4
Jimmy, an' they was as lively a pair of lovers as ye'd wish ter see. It
looked, too, as if she'd even wheedle the old man 'round ter her side of
"The next thing we knew Jimmy had gone ter New York. He was ter study,
an' at the same time pick up what work he could, ter turn an honest
penny, the Hadleys said. We liked that in him. He was goin' ter make
somethin' of himself, so's he'd be worthy of Bessie Townsend or any
"But't was hard on the Hadleys. Jimmy's lessons cost a lot, an' so did
just livin' there in New York, an' 'course Jimmy couldn't pay fer it
all, though I guess he worked nights an' Sundays ter piece out. Back
home here the Hadleys scrimped an' scrimped till they didn't have half
enough ter eat, an' hardly enough ter cover their nakedness. But they
didn't mind--'t was fer Jimmy. He wrote often, an' told how he was
workin', an' the girl got letters, too; at least, Mis' Hadley said she
did. An' once in a while he'd tell of some picture he'd finished, or
what the teacher said.
"But by an' by the letters didn't come so often. Sam told me about it at
first, an' he said it plagued his wife a lot. He said she thought maybe
Jimmy was gettin' discouraged, specially as he didn't seem ter say much
of anything about his work now. Sam owned up that the letters wan't so
free talkin'; an' that worried him. He was afraid the boy was keepin'
back somethin'. He asked me, kind of sheepish-like, if I s'posed such a
thing could be as that Jimmy had gone wrong, somehow. He knew cities was
awful wicked an' temptin', he said.
"I laughed him out of that notion quick, an' I was honest in it, too.
I'd have as soon suspected myself of goin' ter the bad as Jimmy, an' I
told him so. Things didn't look right, though. The letters got skurser
an' skurser, an' I began ter think myself maybe somethin' was up. Then
come the newspaper.
"It was me that took it over to the Hadleys. It was a little notice in
my weekly, an' I spied it 'way down in the corner just as I thought I
had the paper all read. 'Twan't so much, but to us 'twas a powerful lot;
jest a little notice that they was glad ter see that the first prize had
gone ter the talented young illustrator, James Hadley, an' that he
deserved it, an' they wished him luck.
"The Hadleys were purty pleased, you'd better believe. They hadn't seen
it, 'course, as they wan't wastin' no money on weeklies them days. Sam
set right down an' wrote, an' so did Mis' Hadley, right out of the
fullness of their hearts. Mis' Hadley give me her letter ter read, she
was that proud an' excited; an' 't was a good letter, all brimmin' over
with love an' pride an' joy in his success. I could see just how Jimmy'd
color up an' choke when he read it, specially where she owned up how
she'd been gettin' purty near discouraged 'cause they didn't hear much
from him, an' how she'd rather die than have her Jimmy fail.
"Well, they sent off the letters, an' by an' by come the answer. It was
kind of shy and stiff-like, an' I think it sort of disappointed 'em; but
they tried ter throw it off an' say that Jimmy was so modest he didn't
like ter take praise.
"'Course the whole town was interested, an' proud, too, ter think he
belonged ter us; an' we couldn't hear half enough about him. But as time
went on we got worried. Things didn't look right. The Hadleys was still
scrimpin', still sendin' money when they could, an' they owned up that
Jimmy's letters wan't real satisfyin' an' that they didn't come often,
though they always told how hard he was workin'.
"What was queerer still, every now an' then I'd see his name in my
weekly. I looked fer it, I'll own. I run across it once in the
'Personals,' an' after that I hunted the paper all through every week.
He went ter parties an' theaters, an' seemed ter be one of a gay crowd
that was always havin' good times. I didn't say nothin' ter the Hadleys
about all this, 'course, but it bothered me lots. What with all these
fine doin's, an' his not sendin' any money home, it looked as if the old
folks didn't count much now, an' that his head had got turned sure.
"As time passed, things got worse an' worse. Sam lost two cows, an' Mis'
Hadley grew thinner an' whiter, an' finally got down sick in her bed.
Then I wrote. I told Jimmy purty plain how things was an' what I thought
of him. I told him that there wouldn't be any more money comin' from
this direction (an' I meant ter see that there wan't, too!), an' I
hinted that if that 'ere prize brought anythin' but honor, I should
think 't would be a mighty good plan ter share it with the folks that
helped him ter win it.
"It was a sharp letter, an' when it was gone I felt 'most sorry I'd sent
it; an' when the answer come, I was sorry. Jimmy was all broke
up, an' he showed it. He begged me ter tell him jest how his ma was; an'
if they needed anythin', ter get it and call on him. He said he wished
the prize had brought him lots of money, but it hadn't. He enclosed
twenty-five dollars, however, and said he should write the folks not ter
send him any more money, as he was goin' ter send it ter them now
"Of course I took the letter an' the money right over ter Sam, an' after
they'd got over frettin' 'cause I'd written at all, they took the money,
an' I could see it made 'em look ten years younger. After that you
couldn't come near either of 'em that you didn't hear how good Jimmy was
an' how he was sendin' home money every week.
"Well, it wan't four months before I had ter write Jimmy again. Sam
asked me too, this time. Mis' Hadley was sick again, an' Sam was
worried. He thought Jimmy ought ter come home, but he didn't like ter
say so himself. He wondered if I wouldn't drop him a hint. So I wrote,
an' Jimmy wrote right away that he'd come.
"We was all of a twitter, 'course, then--the whole town. He'd got
another prize--so the paper said--an' there was a paragraph praisin' up
some pictures of his in the magazine. He was our Jimmy, an' we was proud
of him, yet we couldn't help wonderin' how he'd act. We wan't used ter
celebrities--not near to!
"Well, he came. He was taller an' thinner than when he went away, an'
there was a tired look in his eyes that went straight ter my heart.
'Most the whole town was out ter meet him, an' that seemed ter bother
him. He was cordial enough, in a way, but he seemed ter try ter avoid
folks, an' he asked me right off ter get him 'out of it.' I could see he
wan't hankerin' ter be made a lion of, so we got away soon's we could
an' went ter his home.
"You should have seen Mis' Hadley's eyes when she saw him, tall an'
straight in the doorway. And Sam--Sam cried like a baby, he was so proud
of that boy. As fer Jimmy, his eyes jest shone, an' the tired look was
all gone from them when he strode across the room an' dropped on his
knees at his mother's bedside with a kind of choking cry. I come away
then, and left them.
"We was kind of divided about Jimmy, after that. We liked him, 'most all
of us, but we didn't like his ways. He was too stand-offish, an' queer,
an' we was all mad at the way he treated the girl.
"'Twas given out that the engagement was broken, but we didn't believe
't was her done it, 'cause up ter the last minute she'd been runnin'
down ter the house with posies and goodies. Then he came, an' she
stopped. He didn't go there, neither, an', so far as we knew, they
hadn't seen each other once. The whole town was put out. We didn't
relish seein' her thrown off like an old glove, jest 'cause he was
somebody out in the world now, an' could have his pick of girls with
city airs and furbelows. But we couldn't do nothin', 'cause he he
was good ter his folks, an' no mistake, an' we did like that.
"Mis' Hadley got better in a couple of weeks, an' he begun ter talk of
goin' back. We wanted ter give him a banquet an' speeches and a
serenade, but he wouldn't hear a word of it. He wouldn't let us tell him
how pleased we was at his success, either. The one thing he wouldn't
talk about was his work, an' some got most mad, he was so modest.
"He hardly ever left the house except fer long walks, and it was on one
of them that the accident happened. It was in the road right in front of
the field where I was ploughing, so I saw it all. Bessie Townsend, on
her little gray mare, came tearin' down the Townsend Hill like mad.
"Jimmy had stopped ter speak ter me, at the fence, but the next minute
he was off like a shot up the road. He ran an' made a flyin' leap, an' I
saw the mare rear and plunge. Then beast and man came down together, and
I saw Bessie slide to the ground, landin' on her feet.
"When I got there Bessie Townsend was sittin' on the ground, with
Jimmy's head in her arms, which I thought uncommon good of her, seein'
the mortification he'd caused her. But when I saw the look in her eyes,
an' in his as he opened them an' gazed up at her, I reckoned there might
be more ter that love-story than most folks knew. What he said ter her
then I don't know, but ter me he said jest four words, 'Don't--tell--
the--folks,' an' I didn't rightly understand jest then what he meant,
for surely an accident like that couldn't be kept unbeknownst. The next
minute he fell back unconscious.
"It was a bad business all around, an' from the very first there wan't
no hope. In a week 'twas over, an' we laid poor Jimmy away. Two days
after the funeral Sam come ter me with a letter. It was addressed ter
Jimmy, an' the old man couldn't bring himself ter open it. He wanted,
too, that I should go on ter New York an' get Jimmy's things; an' after
I had opened the letter I said right off that I'd go. I was mad over
that letter. It was a bill fer a suit of clothes, an' it asked him purty
sharplike ter pay it.
"I had some trouble in New York findin' Jimmy's boardin'-place. There
had been a fire the night before, an' his landlady had had ter move; but
at last I found her an' asked anxiously fer Jimmy's things, an' if his
pictures had been hurt.
"Jimmy's landlady was fat an' greasy an' foreign-lookin', an' she didn't
seem ter understand what I was talkin' about till I repeated a bit
"'Yes, his pictures. I've come fer 'em.'
"Then she shook her head.
"'Meester Hadley did not have any pictures.'
"'But he must have had 'em,' says I, 'fer them papers an' magazines he
worked for. He made 'em!'
"She shook her head again; then she gave a queer hitch to her shoulders,
and a little flourish with her hands.
"'Oh--ze pictures! He did do them--once--a leetle: months ago.'
"'But the prize,' says I. 'The prize ter James Hadley!'
"Then she laughed as if she suddenly understood.
"Oh, but it is ze grand mistake you are makin',' she cried, in her
silly, outlandish way of talkin'. 'There is a Meester James Hadley, an'
he does make pictures--beautiful pictures--but it is not this one. This
Meester Hadley did try, long ago, but he failed to succeed, so my son
said; an' he had to--to cease. For long time he has worked for me, for
the grocer, for any one who would pay--till a leetle while ago. Then he
left. In ze new clothes he had bought, he went away. Ze old ones--
burned. He had nothing else.'
"She said more, but I didn't even listen. I was back with Jimmy by the
roadside, and his 'Don't--tell--the--folks' was ringin' in my ears. I
understood it then, the whole thing from the beginnin'; an' I felt dazed
an' shocked, as if some one had struck me a blow in the face. I wan't
brought up ter think lyin' an' deceivin' was right.
"I got up by an' by an' left the house. I paid poor Jimmy's bill fer
clothes--the clothes that I knew he wore when he stood tall an' straight
in the doorway ter meet his mother's adorin' eyes. Then I went home.
"I told Sam that Jimmy's things got burned up in the fire--which was the
truth. I stopped there. Then I went to see the girl--an' right there I
got the surprise of my life. She knew. He had told her the whole thing
long before he come home, an' insisted on givin' her up. Jest what he
meant ter do in the end, an' how he meant ter do it, she didn't know;
an' she said with a great sob in her voice, that she didn't believe he
knew either. All he did know, apparently, was that he didn't mean his ma
should find out an' grieve over it--how he had failed. But whatever he
was goin' ter do, it was taken quite out of his hands at the last.
"As fer Bessie, now,--it seems as if she can't do enough fer Sam an'
Mis' Hadley, she's that good ter 'em; an' they set the world by her.
She's got a sad, proud look to her eyes, but Jimmy's secret is safe.
"As I said, I saw old Sam an' his wife in the cemetery to-night. They
stopped me as usual, an' told me all over again what a good boy Jimmy
was, an' how smart he was, an' what a lot he'd made of himself in the
little time he'd lived. The Hadleys are old an' feeble an' broken, an'
it's their one comfort--Jimmy's success."
Uncle Zeke paused, and drew a long breath. Then he eyed me almost
"I ain't sayin' that Jimmy did right, of course; but I ain't sayin'--
that Jimmy did wrong," he finished.
A Summons Home
Mrs. Thaddeus Clayton came softly into the room and looked with
apprehensive eyes upon the little old man in the rocking-chair.
"How be ye, dearie? Yer hain't wanted fer nothin', now, have ye?" she
"Not a thing, Harriet," he returned cheerily. "I'm feelin' real pert,
too. Was there lots there? An' did Parson Drew say a heap o' fine
Mrs. Clayton dropped into a chair and pulled listlessly at the black
strings of her bonnet.
"'T was a beautiful fun'ral, Thaddeus--a beautiful fun'ral. I--I 'most
wished it was mine."
She gave a shamed-faced laugh.
"Well, I did--then Jehiel and Hannah Jane would 'a' come, an' I could
'a' seen 'em."
The horrified look on the old man's face gave way to a broad smile.
"Oh, Harriet--Harriet!" he chuckled, "how could ye seen 'em if you was
"Huh? Well, I--Thaddeus,"--her voice rose sharply in the silent room,--
"every single one of them Perkins boys was there, and Annabel, too. Only
think what poor Mis' Perkins would 'a' given ter seen 'em 'fore she
went! But they waited--waited, Thaddeus, jest as everybody does,
till their folks is dead."
"But, Harriet," demurred the old man, "surely you'd 'a' had them boys
come ter their own mother's fun'ral!"
"Come! I'd 'a' had 'em come before, while Ella Perkins could 'a' feasted
her eyes on 'em. Thaddeus,"--Mrs. Clayton rose to her feet and stretched
out two gaunt hands longingly,--"Thaddeus, I get so hungry sometimes for
Jehiel and Hannah Jane, seems as though I jest couldn't stand it!"
"I know--I know, dearie," quavered the old man, vigorously polishing his
"Fifty years ago my first baby came," resumed the woman in tremulous
tones; "then another came, and another, till I'd had six. I loved 'em,
an' tended 'em, an' cared fer 'em, an' didn't have a thought but was fer
them babies. Four died,"--her voice broke, then went on with renewed
strength,--"but I've got Jehiel and Hannah Jane left; at least, I've got
two bits of paper that comes mebbe once a month, an' one of 'em's signed
'your dutiful son, Jehiel,' an' the other, 'from your loving daughter,
"Well, Harriet, they--they're pretty good ter write letters," ventured
"Letters!" wailed his wife. "I can't hug an' kiss letters, though I try
to, sometimes. I want warm flesh an' blood in my arms, Thaddeus; I want
ter look down into Jehiel's blue eyes an' hear him call me 'dear old
mumsey!' as he used to. I wouldn't ask 'em ter stay--I ain't
unreasonable, Thaddeus. I know they can't do that."
"Well, well, wife, mebbe they'll come--mebbe they'll come this summer;
She shook her head dismally.
"You've said that ev'ry year for the last fifteen summers, an' they
hain't come yet. Jehiel went West more than twenty years ago, an' he's
never been home since. Why, Thaddeus, we've got a grandson 'most
eighteen, that we hain't even seen! Hannah Jane's been home jest once
since she was married, but that was nigh on ter sixteen years ago. She's
always writin' of her Tommy and Nellie, but--I want ter see 'em,
Thaddeus; I want ter see 'em!"
"Yes, yes; well, we'll ask 'em, Harriet, again--we'll ask 'em real
urgent--like, an' mebbe that'll fetch 'em," comforted the old man.
"We'll ask 'em ter be here the Fourth; that's eight weeks off yet, an' I
shall be real smart by then."
Two letters that were certainly "urgent-like" left the New England
farmhouse the next morning. One was addressed to a thriving Western
city, the other to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
In course of time the answers came. Hannah Jane's appeared first, and
was opened with shaking fingers.
Dear Mother [read Mrs. Clayton aloud]: Your letter came two or
three days ago, and I have hurried round to answer it, for you seemed to
be so anxious to hear. I'm real sorry, but I don't see how we can get
away this summer. Nathan is real busy at the store; and, some way, I
can't seem to get up energy enough to even think of fixing up the
children to take them so far. Thank you for the invitation, though, and
we should enjoy the visit very much; but I guess we can't go just yet.
Of course if anything serious should come up that made it necessary--
why, that would be different: but I know you are sensible, and will
understand how it is with us.
Nathan is well, but business has been pretty brisk, and he is in the
store early and late. As long as he's making money, he don't mind; but I
tell him I think he might rest a little sometimes, and let some one else
do the things he does.
Tom is a big boy now, smart in his studies and with a good head for
figures. Nellie loves her books, too; and, for a little girl of eleven,
does pretty well, we think.
I must close now. We all send love, and hope you are getting along all
right. Was glad to hear father was gaining so fast.
Your loving daughter
The letter dropped from Mrs. Clayton's fingers and lay unheeded on the
floor. The woman covered her face with her hands and rocked her body
back and forth.
"There, there, dearie," soothed the old man huskily; "mebbe Jehiel's
will be diff'rent. I shouldn't wonder, now, if Jehiel would come. There,
there! don't take on so, Harriet! don't! I jest know Jehiel'll come."
A week later Mrs. Clayton found another letter in the rural delivery
box. She clutched it nervously, peered at the writing with her dim old
eyes, and hurried into the house for her glasses.
Yes, it was from Jehiel.
She drew a long breath. Her eager thumb was almost under the flap of the
envelope when she hesitated, eyed the letter uncertainly, and thrust it
into the pocket of her calico gown. All day it lay there, save at times--
which, indeed, were of frequent occurrence--when she took it from its
hiding-place, pressed it to her cheek, or gloried in every curve of the
boldly written address.
At night, after the lamp was lighted, she said to her husband in tones
so low he could scarcely hear:
"Thaddeus, I--I had a letter from Jehiel to-day."
"You did--and never told me? Why, Harriet, what--" He paused helplessly.
"I--I haven't read it, Thaddeus," she stammered. "I couldn't bear to,
someway. I don't know why, but I couldn't. You read it!" She held out
the letter with shaking hands.
He took it, giving her a sharp glance from anxious eyes. As he began to
read aloud she checked him.
"No; ter yerself, Thaddeus--ter yerself! Then--tell me."
As he read she watched his face. The light died from her eyes and her
chin quivered as she saw the stern lines deepen around his mouth. A
minute more, and he had finished the letter and laid it down without a
"Thaddeus, ye don't mean--he didn't say--"
"Read it--I--I can't," choked the old man.
She reached slowly for the sheet of paper and spread it on the table
Dear Mother [Jehiel had written]: Just a word to tell you we are
all O. K. and doing finely. Your letter reminded me that it was about
time I was writing home to the old folks. I don't mean to let so many
weeks go by without a letter from me, but somehow the time just gets
away from me before I know it.
Minnie is well and deep in spring sewing and house-cleaning. I know--
because dressmaker's bills are beginning to come in, and every time I go
home I find a carpet up in a new place!
Our boy Fred is eighteen to-morrow. You'd be proud of him, I know, if
you could see him. Business is rushing. Glad to hear you're all right
and that father's rheumatism is on the gain.
As ever, your affectionate and dutiful son, JEHIEL
Oh, by the way--about that visit East. I reckon we'll have to call it
off this year. Too bad; but can't seem to see my way clear.
Harriet Clayton did not cry this time. She stared at the letter long
minutes with wide-open, tearless eyes, then she slowly folded it and put
it back in its envelope.
"Harriet, mebbe-" began the old man timidly.
"Don't, Thaddeus--please don't!" she interrupted. "I--I don't want ter
talk." And she rose unsteadily to her feet and moved toward the kitchen
For a time Mrs. Clayton went about her work in a silence quite unusual,
while her husband watched her with troubled eyes. His heart grieved over
the bowed head and drooping shoulders, and over the blurred eyes that
were so often surreptitiously wiped on a corner of the gingham apron.
But at the end of a week the little old woman accosted him with a face
full of aggressive yet anxious determination.
"Thaddeus, I want ter speak ter you about somethin'. I've been thinkin'
it all out, an' I've decided that I've got ter kill one of us off."
"Well, I have. A fun'ral is the only thing that will fetch Jehiel and--"
"Harriet, are ye gone crazy? Have ye gone clean mad?"
She looked at him appealingly.
"Now, Thaddeus, don't try ter hender me, please. You see it's the only
way. A fun'ral is the--"
"A 'fun'ral'--it's murder!" he shuddered.
"Oh, not ter make believe, as I shall," she protested eagerly. "It's--"
"Why, yes, of course. You'll have ter be the one ter do it,
'cause I'm goin' ter be the dead one, an'--"
"There, there, please, Thaddeus! I've jest got ter see Jehiel and
Hannah Jane 'fore I die!"
"But--they--they'll come if--"
"No, they won't come. We've tried it over an' over again; you know we
have. Hannah Jane herself said that if anythin' 'serious' came up it
would be diff'rent. Well, I'm goin' ter have somethin' 'serious' come
"Now, Thaddeus," begged the woman, almost crying, "you must help me,
dear. I've thought it all out, an' it's easy as can be. I shan't tell
any lies, of course. I cut my finger to-day, didn't I?"
"Why--yes--I believe so," he acknowledged dazedly; "but what has that to
"That's the 'accident,' Thaddeus. You're ter send two telegrams at once--
one ter Jehiel, an' one ter Hannah Jane. The telegrams will say:
'Accident to your mother. Funeral Saturday afternoon. Come at once.'
That's jest ten words."
The old man gasped. He could not speak.
"Now, that's all true, ain't it?" she asked anxiously. "The 'accident'
is this cut. The 'fun'ral' is old Mis' Wentworth's. I heard ter-day that
they couldn't have it until Saturday, so that'll give us plenty of time
ter get the folks here. I needn't say whose fun'ral it is that's goin'
ter be on Saturday, Thaddeus! I want yer ter hitch up an' drive over ter
Hopkinsville ter send the telegrams. The man's new over there, an' won't
know yer. You couldn't send 'em from here, of course."
Thaddeus Clayton never knew just how he allowed himself to be persuaded
to take his part in this "crazy scheme," as he termed it, but persuaded
he certainly was.
It was a miserable time for Thaddeus then. First there was that hurried
drive to Hopkinsville. Though the day was warm he fairly shivered as he
handed those two fateful telegrams to the man behind the counter. Then
there was the homeward trip, during which, like the guilty thing he was,
he cast furtive glances from side to side.
Even home itself came to be a misery, for the sweeping and the dusting
and the baking and the brewing which he encountered there left him no
place to call his own, so that he lost his patience at last and moaned:
"Seems ter me, Harriet, you're a pretty lively corpse!"
His wife smiled, and flushed a little.
"There, there, dear! don't fret. Jest think how glad we'll be ter see
'em!" she exclaimed.
Harriet was blissfully happy. Both the children had promptly responded
to the telegrams, and were now on their way. Hannah Jane, with her
husband and two children, were expected on Friday evening; but Jehiel
and his wife and boy could not possibly get in until early on the
All this brought scant joy to Thaddeus. There was always hanging over
him the dread horror of what he had done, and the fearful questioning as
to how it was all going to end.
Friday came, but a telegram at the last moment told of trains delayed
and connections missed. Hannah Jane would not reach home until nine-
forty the next morning. So it was with a four-seated carryall that
Thaddeus Clayton started for the station on Saturday morning to meet
both of his children and their families.
The ride home was a silent one; but once inside the house, Jehiel and
Hannah Jane, amid a storm of sobs and cries, besieged their father with
The family were all in the darkened sitting-room--all, indeed, save
Harriet, who sat in solitary state in the chamber above, her face pale
and her heart beating almost to suffocation. It had been arranged that
she was not to be seen until some sort of explanation had been given.
"Father, what was it?" sobbed Hannah Jane. "How did it happen?"
"It must have been so sudden," faltered Jehiel. "It cut me up
"I can't ever forgive myself," moaned Hannah Jane hysterically. "She
wanted us to come East, and I wouldn't. 'Twas my selfishness--'twas
easier to stay where I was; and now--now--"
"We've been brutes, father," cut in Jehiel, with a shake in his voice;
"all of us. I never thought--I never dreamed-father, can--can we see--
In the chamber above a woman sprang to her feet. Harriet had quite
forgotten the stove-pipe hole to the room below, and every sob and moan
and wailing cry had been woefully distinct to her ears. With streaming
eyes and quivering lips she hurried down the stairs and threw open the
"Jehiel! Hannah Jane! I'm here, right here--alive!" she cried. "An' I've
been a wicked, wicked woman! I never thought how bad 'twas goin' ter
make you feel. I truly never, never did. 'Twas only myself--I
wanted yer so. Oh, children, children, I've been so wicked--so awful
Jehiel and Hannah Jane were steady of head and strong of heartland joy,
it is said, never kills; otherwise, the results of that sudden
apparition in the sitting-room doorway might have been disastrous.
As it was, a wonderfully happy family party gathered around the table an
hour later; and as Jehiel led a tremulous, gray-haired woman to the seat
of honor, he looked into her shining eyes and whispered:
"Dear old mumsey, now that we've found the way home again, I reckon
we'll be coming every year--don't you?"
The Black Silk Gowns
The Heath twins, Miss Priscilla and Miss Amelia, rose early that
morning, and the world looked very beautiful to them--one does not buy
a black silk gown every day; at least, Miss Priscilla and Miss Amelia
did not. They had waited, indeed, quite forty years to buy this one.
The women of the Heath family had always possessed a black silk gown. It
was a sort of outward symbol of inward respectability--an unfailing
indicator of their proud position as members of one of the old families.
It might be donned at any time after one's twenty-first birthday, and it
should be donned always for funerals, church, and calls after one had
turned thirty. Such had been the code of the Heath family for
generations, as Miss Priscilla and Miss Amelia well knew; and it was
this that had made all the harder their own fate--that their twenty-
first birthday was now forty years behind them, and not yet had either
of them attained this cachet of respectability.
To-day, however, there was to come a change. No longer need the
carefully sponged and darned black alpaca gowns flaunt their wearers'
poverty to the world, and no longer would they force these same wearers
to seek dark corners and sunless rooms, lest the full extent of that
poverty become known. It had taken forty years of the most rigid economy
to save the necessary money; but it was saved now, and the dresses were
to be bought. Long ago there had been enough for one, but neither of the
women had so much as thought of the possibility of buying one silk gown.
It was sometimes said in the town that if one of the Heath twins
strained her eyes, the other one was obliged at once to put on glasses;
and it is not to be supposed that two sisters whose sympathies were so
delicately attuned would consent to appear clad one in new silk and the
other in old alpaca.
In spite of their early rising that morning, it was quite ten o'clock
before Miss Priscilla and Miss Amelia had brought the house into the
state of speckless nicety that would not shame the lustrous things that
were so soon to be sheltered beneath its roof. Not that either of the
ladies expressed this sentiment in words, or even in their thoughts;
they merely went about their work that morning with the reverent joy
that a devoted priestess might feel in making ready a shrine for its
idol. They had to hurry a little to get themselves ready for the eleven
o'clock stage that passed their door; and they were still a little
breathless when they boarded the train at the home station for the city
twenty miles away--the city where were countless yards of shimmering
silk waiting to be bought.
In the city that night at least six clerks went home with an unusual
weariness in their arms, which came from lifting down and displaying
almost their entire stock of black silk. But with all the weariness,
there was no irritation; there was only in their nostrils a curious
perfume as of lavender and old lace, and in their hearts a strange
exaltation as if they had that day been allowed a glad part in a sacred
rite. As for Miss Priscilla and Miss Amelia, they went home awed, yet
triumphant: when one has waited forty years to make a purchase one does
not make that purchase lightly.
"To-morrow we will go over to Mis' Snow's and see about having them made
up," said Miss Priscilla with a sigh of content, as the stage lumbered
through the dusty home streets.
"Yes; we want them rich, but plain," supplemented Miss Amelia,
rapturously. "Dear me, Priscilla, but I am tired!"
In spite of their weariness the sisters did not get to bed very early
that night. They could not decide whether the top drawer of the spare-
room bureau or the long box in the parlor closet would be the safer
refuge for their treasure. And when the matter was decided, and the
sisters had gone to bed, Miss Priscilla, after a prolonged discussion,
got up and moved the silk to the other place, only to slip out of bed
later, after a much longer discussion, and put it back. Even then they
did not sleep well: for the first time in their lives they knew the
responsibility that comes with possessions; they feared--burglars.
With the morning sun, however, came peace and joy. No moth nor rust nor
thief had appeared, and the lustrous lengths of shimmering silk defied
the sun itself to find spot or blemish.
"It looks even nicer than it did in the store, don't it?" murmured Miss
Priscilla, ecstatically, as she hovered over the glistening folds that
she had draped in riotous luxury across the chair-back.
"Yes,--oh, yes!" breathed Miss Amelia. "Now let's hurry with the work so
we can go right down to Mis' Snow's."
"Black silk-black silk!" ticked the clock to Miss
Priscilla washing dishes at the kitchen sink.
"You've got a black silk! You've got a black silk!"
chirped the robins to Miss Amelia looking for weeds in the garden.
At ten o'clock the sisters left the house, each with a long brown parcel
carefully borne in her arms. At noon--at noon the sisters were back
again, still carrying the parcels. Their faces wore a look of mingled
triumph and defeat.
"As if we could have that beautiful silk put into a
plaited skirt!" quavered Miss Priscilla, thrusting the key into
the lock with a trembling hand. "Why, Amelia, plaits always crack!"
"Of course they do!" almost sobbed Miss Amelia. "Only think of it,
Priscilla, our silk--cracked!"
"We will just wait until the styles change," said Miss Priscilla, with
an air of finality. "They won't always wear plaits!"
"And we know all the time that we've really got the dresses, only they
aren't made up!" finished Miss Amelia, in tearful triumph.
So the silk was laid away in two big rolls, and for another year the old
black alpaca gowns trailed across the town's thresholds and down the
aisle of the church on Sunday. Their owners no longer sought shadowed
corners and sunless rooms, however; it was not as if one were
obliged to wear sponged and darned alpacas!
Plaits were "out" next year, and the Heath sisters were among the first
to read it in the fashion notes. Once more on a bright spring morning
Miss Priscilla and Miss Amelia left the house tenderly bearing in their
arms the brown-paper parcels--and once more they returned, the brown
parcels still in their arms. There was an air of indecision about them
"You see, Amelia, it seemed foolish--almost wicked," Miss Priscilla was
saying, "to put such a lot of that expensive silk into just sleeves."
"I know it," sighed her sister.
"Of course I want the dresses just as much as you do," went on Miss
Priscilla, more confidently; "but when I thought of allowing Mis' Snow
to slash into that beautiful silk and just waste it on those great
balloon sleeves, I--I simply couldn't give my consent!--and 'tisn't as
though we hadn't got the dresses!"
"No, indeed!" agreed Miss Amelia, lifting her chin. And so once more the
rolls of black silk were laid away in the great box that had already
held them a year; and for another twelve months the black alpacas, now
grown shabby indeed, were worn with all the pride of one whose garments
are beyond reproach.
When for the third time Miss Priscilla and Miss Amelia returned to their
home with the oblong brown parcels there was no indecision about them;
there was only righteous scorn.
"And do you really think that Mis' Snow expected us to allow that
silk to be cut up into those skimpy little skin-tight bags she called
skirts?" demanded Miss Priscilla, in a shaking voice. "Why, Amelia, we
couldn't ever make them over!"
"Of course we couldn't! And when skirts got bigger, what could we do?"
cried Miss Amelia. "Why, I'd rather never have a black silk dress than
to have one like that--that just couldn't be changed! We'll go on
wearing the gowns we have. It isn't as if everybody didn't know we had
these black silk dresses!"
When the fourth spring came the rolls of silk were not even taken from
their box except to be examined with tender care and replaced in the
enveloping paper. Miss Priscilla was not well. For weeks she had spent
most of her waking hours on the sitting-room couch, growing thiner,
weaker, and more hollow-eyed.
"You see, dear, I--I am not well enough now to wear it," she said
faintly to her sister one day when they had been talking about the black
silk gowns; "but you--" Miss Amelia had stopped her with a shocked
gesture of the hand.
"Priscilla--as if I could!" she sobbed. And there the matter had ended.
* * * * *
The townspeople were grieved, but not surprised, when they learned that
Miss Amelia was fast following her sister into a decline. It was what
they had expected of the Heath twins, they said, and they reminded one
another of the story of the strained eyes and the glasses. Then came the
day when the little dressmaker's rooms were littered from end to end
with black silk scraps.
"It's for Miss Priscilla and Miss Amelia,'" said Mrs. Snow, with tears
in her eyes, in answer to the questions that were asked.
"It's their black silk gowns, you know."
"But I thought they were ill--almost dying!" gasped the questioner.
The little dressmaker nodded her head. Then she smiled, even while she
brushed her eyes with her fingers.
"They are--but they're happy. They're even happy in this!" touching the
dress in her lap. "They've been forty years buying it, and four making
it up. Never until now could they decide to use it; never until now
could they be sure they wouldn't want to--to make it--over." The little
dressmaker's voice broke, then went on tremulously: "There are folks
like that, you know--that never enjoy a thing for what it is, lest
sometime they might want it--different. Miss Priscilla and Miss Amelia
never took the good that was goin'; they've always saved it for
A Belated Honeymoon
The haze of a warm September day hung low over the house, the garden,
and the dust-white road. On the side veranda a gray-haired, erect little
figure sat knitting. After a time the needles began to move more and
more slowly until at last they lay idle in the motionless, withered
"Well, well, Abby, takin' a nap?" demanded a thin-chested, wiry old man
coming around the corner of the house and seating himself on the veranda
The little old woman gave a guilty start and began to knit vigorously.
"Dear me, no, Hezekiah. I was thinkin'." She hesitated a moment, then
added, a little feverishly: "--it's ever so much cooler here than up ter
the fair grounds now, ain't it, Hezekiah?"
The old man threw a sharp look at her face. "Hm-m, yes," he said. "Mebbe
From far down the road came the clang of a bell. As by common consent
the old man and his wife got to their feet and hurried to the front of
the house where they could best see the trolley-car as it rounded a
curve and crossed the road at right angles.
"Goes slick, don't it?" murmured the man.
There was no answer. The woman's eyes were hungrily devouring the last
glimpse of paint and polish.
"An' we hain't been on 'em 't all yet, have we, Abby?" he continued.
She drew a long breath.
"Well, ye see, I--I hain't had time, Hezekiah," she rejoined
"Humph!" muttered the old man as they turned and walked back to their
For a time neither spoke, then Hezekiah Warden cleared his throat
determinedly and faced his wife.
"Look a' here, Abby," he began, "I'm agoin' ter say somethin' that has
been 'most tumblin' off'n the end of my tongue fer mor'n a year. Jennie
an' Frank are good an' kind an' they mean well, but they think 'cause
our hair's white an' our feet ain't quite so lively as they once was,
that we're jest as good as buried already, an' that we don't need
anythin' more excitin' than a nap in the sun. Now, Abby, didn't
ye want ter go ter that fair with the folks ter-day? Didn't ye?"
A swift flush came into the woman's cheek.
"Why, Hezekiah, it's ever so much cooler here, an'--" she paused
"Humph!" retorted the man, "I thought as much. It's always 'nice an'
cool' here in summer an' 'nice an' warm' here in winter when Jennie goes
somewheres that you want ter go an' don't take ye. An' when 't ain't
that, you say you 'hain't had time.' I know ye! You'd talk any way ter
hide their selfishness. Look a' here, Abby, did ye ever ride in them
'lectric-cars? I mean anywheres?"
"Well, I hain't neither, an', by ginger, I'm agoin' to!"
"Oh, Hezekiah, Hezekiah, don't--swear!"
"I tell ye, Abby, I will swear. It's a swearin' matter. Ever since I
heard of 'em I wanted ter try 'em. An' here they are now 'most ter my
own door an' I hain't even been in 'em once. Look a' here, Abby, jest
because we're 'most eighty ain't no sign we've lost int'rest in things.
I'm spry as a cricket, an' so be you, yet Frank an' Jennie expect us ter
stay cooped up here as if we was old--really old, ninety or a hundred,
ye know--an' 't ain't fair. Why, we will be old one of these
"I know it, Hezekiah."
"We couldn't go much when we was younger," he resumed. "Even our weddin'
trip was chopped right off short 'fore it even begun."
A tender light came into the dim old eyes opposite.
"I know, dear, an' what plans we had!" cried Abigail; "Boston, an'
Bunker Hill, an' Faneuil Hall."
The old man suddenly squared his shoulders and threw back his head.
"Abby, look a' here! Do ye remember that money I've been savin' off an'
on when I could git a dollar here an' there that was extra? Well,
there's as much as ten of 'em now, an' I'm agoin' ter spend 'em--all of
'em mebbe. I'm agoin' ter ride in them 'lectric-cars, an' so be
you. An' I ain't goin' ter no old country fair, neither, an' no more be
you. Look a' here, Abby, the folks are goin' again ter-morrer ter the
fair, ain't they?"
Abigail nodded mutely. Her eyes were beginning to shine.
"Well," resumed Hezekiah, "when they go we'll be settin' in the sun
where they say we'd oughter be. But we ain't agoin' ter stay there,
Abby. We're goin' down the road an' git on them 'lectric-cars, an' when
we git ter the Junction we're agoin' ter take the steam cars fer Boston.
What if 'tis thirty miles! I calc'late we're equal to 'em. We'll have
one good time, an' we won't come home until in the evenin'. We'll see
Faneuil Hall an' Bunker Hill, an' you shall buy a new cap, an' ride in
the subway. If there's a preachin' service we'll go ter that. They have
'em sometimes weekdays, ye know."
"Oh, Hezekiah, we--couldn't!" gasped the little old woman.
"Pooh! 'Course we could. Listen!" And Hezekiah proceeded to unfold his
plans more in detail.
It was very early the next morning when the household awoke. By seven
o'clock a two-seated carryall was drawn up to the side-door, and by a
quarter past the carryall, bearing Jennie, Frank, the boys, and the
lunch baskets, rumbled out of the yard and on to the high-way.
"Now, keep quiet and don't get heated, mother," cautioned Jennie,
looking back at the little gray-haired woman standing all alone on the
"Find a good cool spot to smoke your pipe in, father," called Frank, as
an old man appeared in the doorway.
There followed a shout, a clatter, and a cloud of dust--then silence.
Fifteen minutes later, hand in hand, a little old man and a little old
woman walked down the white road together.
To most of the passengers on the trolley-car that day the trip was
merely a necessary means to an end; to the old couple on the front seat
it was something to be remembered and lived over all their lives. Even
at the Junction the spell of unreality was so potent that the man forgot
things so trivial as tickets, and marched into the car with head erect
and eyes fixed straight ahead.
It was after Hezekiah had taken out the roll of bills--all ones--to pay
the fares to the conductor that a young man in a tall hat sauntered down
the aisle and dropped into the seat in front.
"Going to Boston, I take it," said the young man genially.
"Yes, sir," replied Hezehiah, no less genially. "Ye guessed right the
Abigail lifted a cautious hand to her hair and her bonnet. So handsome
and well-dressed a man would notice the slightest thing awry, she
"Hm-m," smiled the stranger. "I was so successful that time, suppose I
try my luck again.--You don't go every day, I fancy, eh?"
"Sugar! How'd he know that, now?" chuckled Hezekiah, turning to his wife
in open glee. "So we don't, stranger, so we don't," he added, turning
back to the man. "Ye hit it plumb right."
"Hm-m! great place, Boston," observed the stranger. "I'm glad you're
going. I think you'll enjoy it."
The two wrinkled old faces before him fairly beamed.
"I thank ye, sir," said Hezekiah heartily. "I call that mighty kind of
ye, specially as there are them that thinks we're too old ter be
enj'yin' of anythin'."
"Old? Of course you're not too old! Why, you're just in the prime to
enjoy things," cried the handsome man, and in the sunshine of his
dazzling smile the hearts of the little old man and woman quite melted
"Thank ye, sir, thank ye sir," nodded Abigail, while Hezekiah offered
"Shake, stranger, shake! An' I ain't too old, an' I'm agoin' ter prove
it. I've got money, sir, heaps of it, an' I'm goin' ter spend it--mebbe
I'll spend it all. We're agoin' ter see Bunker Hill an' Faneuil Hall,
an' we're agoin' ter ride in the subway. Now, don't tell me we don't
know how ter enj'y ourselves!"
It was a very simple matter after that. On the one hand were infinite
tact and skill; on the other, innocence, ignorance, and an overwhelming
gratitude for this sympathetic companionship.
Long before Boston was reached Mr. and Mrs. Warden and "Mr. Livingstone"
were on the best of terms, and when they separated at the foot of the
car-steps, to the old man and woman it seemed that half their joy and
all their courage went with the smiling man who lifted his hat in
farewell before being lost to sight in the crowd.
"There, Abby, we're here!" announced Hezekiah with an exultation that
was a little forced. "Gorry! There must be somethin' goin' on ter-day,"
he added, as he followed the long line of people down the narrow passage
between the cars.
There was no reply. Abigail's cheeks were pink and her bonnet-strings
untied. Her eyes, wide opened and frightened, were fixed on the swaying,
bobbing crowds ahead. In the great waiting-room she caught her husband's
"Hezekiah, we can't, we mustn't ter-day," she whispered. "There's such a
crowd. Let's go home an' come when it's quieter."
"But, Abby, we--here, let's set down," Hezekiah finished helplessly.
Near one of the outer doors Mr. Livingstone--better known to his friends
and the police as "Slick Bill"--smiled behind his hand. Not once since
he had left them had Mr. and Mrs. Hezekiah Warden been out of his sight.
"What's up, Bill? Need assistance?" demanded a voice at his elbow.
"Jim, by all that's lucky!" cried Livingstone, turning to greet a dapper
little man in gray. "Sure I need you! It's a peach, though I doubt if we
get much but fun, but there'll be enough of that to make up. Oh, he's
got money--'heaps of it,' he says," laughed Livingstone, "and I saw a
roll of bills myself. But I advise you not to count too much on that,
though it'll be easy enough to get what there is, all right. As for the
fun, Jim, look over by that post near the parcel window."
"Great Scott! Where'd you pick 'em?" chuckled the younger man.
"Never mind," returned the other with a shrug. "Meet me at Clyde's in
half an hour. We'll be there, never fear."
Over by the parcel-room an old man looked about him with anxious eyes.
"But, Abby, don't ye see?" he urged. "We've come so fer, seems as though
we oughter do the rest all right. Now, you jest set here an' let me go
an' find out how ter git there. We'll try fer Bunker Hill first, 'cause
we want ter see the munurmunt sure."
He rose to his feet only to be pulled back by his wife.
"Hezekiah Warden!" she almost sobbed. "If you dare ter stir ten feet
away from me I'll never furgive ye as long as I live. We'd never find
each other ag'in!"
"Well, well, Abby," soothed the man with grim humor, "if we never found
each other ag'in, I don't see as 'twould make much diff'rence whether ye
furgived me or not!"
For another long minute they silently watched the crowd. Then Hezekiah
squared his shoulders.
"Come, come, Abby," he said, "this ain't no way ter do. Only think how
we wanted ter git here an' now we're here an' don't dare ter stir. There
ain't any less folks than there was--growin' worse, if anythin'--but I'm
gittin' used ter 'em now, an' I'm goin' ter make a break. Come, what
would Mr. Livin'stone say if he could see us now? Where'd he think our
boastin' was about our bein' able ter enj'y ourselves? Come!" And once
more he rose to his feet.
This time he was not held back. The little woman at his side adjusted
her bonnet, tilted up her chin, and in her turn rose to her feet.
"Sure enough!" she quavered bravely. "Come, Hezekiah, we'll ask the way
ter Bunker Hill." And, holding fast to her husband's coat sleeve, she
tripped across the floor to one of the outer doors.
On the sidewalk Mr. and Mrs. Hezekiah Warden came once more to a halt.
Before them swept an endless stream of cars, carriages, and people.
Above thundered the elevated railway cars.
"Oh-h," shuddered Abigail and tightened her grasp on her husband's coat.
It was some minutes before Hezekiah's dry tongue and lips could frame
his question, and then his words were so low-spoken and indistinct that
the first two men he asked did not hear. The third man frowned and
pointed to a policeman. The fourth snapped: "Take the elevated for
Charlestown or the trolley-cars, either;" all of which served but to
puzzle Hezekiah the more.
Little by little the dazed old man and his wife fell back before the
jostling crowds. They were quite against the side of the building when
Livingstone spoke to them.
"Well, well, if here aren't my friends again!" he exclaimed cordially.
There was something of the fierceness of a drowning man in the way
Hezekiah took hold of that hand.
"Mr. Livin'stone!" he cried; then he recollected himself. "We was
jest goin' ter Bunker Hill," he said jauntily.
"Yes?" smiled Livingstone. "But your luncheon--aren't you hungry? Come
with me; I was just going to get mine."
"But you--I--" Hezekiah paused and looked doubtingly at his wife.
"Indeed, my dear Mrs. Warden, you'll say 'Yes,' I know," urged
Livingstone suavely. "Only think how good a nice cup of tea would taste
"I know, but--" She glanced at her husband.
"Nonsense! Of course you'll come," insisted Livingstone, laying a gently
compelling hand on the arm of each.
Fifteen minutes later Hezekiah stood looking about him with wondering
"Well, well, Abby, ain't this slick?" he cried.
His wife did not reply. The mirrors, the lights, the gleaming silver and
glass had filled her with a delight too great for words. She was vaguely
conscious of her husband, of Mr. Livingstone, and of a smooth-shaven
little man in gray who was presented as "Mr. Harding." Then she found
herself seated at that wonderful table, while beside her chair stood an
awesome being who laid a printed card before her. With a little ecstatic
sigh she gave Hezekiah her customary signal for the blessing and bowed
"There!" exulted Livingstone aloud. "Here we--" He stopped short. From
his left came a deep-toned, reverent voice invoking the divine blessing
upon the place, the food, and the new friends who were so kind to
strangers in a strange land.
"By Jove!" muttered Livingstone under his breath, as his eyes met those
of Jim across the table. The waiter coughed and turned his back. Then,
the blessing concluded, Hezekiah raised his head and smiled.
"Well, well, Abby, why don't ye say somethin'?" he asked, breaking the
silence. "Ye hain't said a word. Mr. Livin'stone'll be thinkin' ye don't
Mrs. Warden drew a long breath of delight.
"I can't say anythin', Hezekiah," she faltered. "It's all so beautiful."
Livingstone waited until the dazed old eyes had become in a measure
accustomed to the surroundings, then he turned a smiling face on
"And now, my friend, what do you propose to do after luncheon?" he
"Well, we cal'late ter take in Bunker Hill an' Faneuil Hall sure,"
returned the old man with a confidence that told of new courage imbibed
with his tea. "Then we thought mebbe we'd ride in the subway an' hear
one of the big preachers if they happened ter be holdin' meetin's
anywheres this week. Mebbe you can tell us, eh?"
Across the table the man called Harding choked over his food and
"Well," began Livingstone slowly.
"I think," interrupted Harding, taking a newspaper from his pocket, "I
think there are services there," he finished gravely, pointing to the
glaring advertisement of a ten-cent show, as he handed the paper across
"But what time do the exercises begin?" demanded Hezekiah in a troubled
voice. "Ye see, there's Bunker Hill an'--sugar! Abby, ain't that
pretty?" he broke off delightedly. Before him stood a slender glass into
which the waiter was pouring something red and sparkling.
The old lady opposite grew white, then pink. "Of course that ain't wine,
Mr. Livingstone?" she asked anxiously.
"Give yourself no uneasiness, my dear Mrs. Warden," interposed Harding.
"It's lemonade--pink lemonade."
"Oh," she returned with a relieved sigh. "I ask yer pardon, I'm sure.
You wouldn't have it, 'course, no more'n I would. But, ye see, bein'
pledged so, I didn't want ter make a mistake."
There was an awkward silence, then Harding raised his glass.
"Here's to your health, Mrs. Warden!" he cried gayly. "May your trip----"
"Wait!" she interrupted excitedly, her old eyes alight and her cheeks
flushed. "Let me tell ye first what this trip is ter us, then ye'll have
a right ter wish us good luck."
Harding lowered his glass and turned upon her a gravely attentive face.
"'Most fifty years ago we was married, Hezekiah an' me," she began
softly. "We'd saved, both of us, an' we'd planned a honeymoon trip. We
was comin' ter Boston. They didn't have any 'lectric-cars then nor any
steam-cars only half-way. But we was comin' an' we was plannin' on
Bunker Hill an' Faneuil Hall, an' I don't know what all."
The little lady paused for breath and Harding stirred uneasily in his
chair. Livingstone did not move. His eyes were fixed on a mirror across
the room. Over at the sideboard the waiter vigorously wiped a bottle.
"Well, we was married," continued the tremulous voice, "an' not half an
hour later mother fell down the cellar stairs an' broke her hip. Of
course that stopped things right short. I took off my weddin' gown an'
put on my old red caliker an' went ter work. Hezekiah came right there
an' run the farm an' I nursed mother an' did the work. 'T was more'n a
year 'fore she was up 'round, an' after that, what with the babies an'
all, there didn't never seem a chance when Hezekiah an' me could take
"If we went anywhere we couldn't seem ter manage ter go tergether, an'
we never stayed fer no sight-seein'. Late years my Jennie an' her
husband seemed ter think we didn't need nothin' but naps an' knittin',
an' somehow we got so we jest couldn't stand it. We wanted ter go
somewhere an' see somethin', so."
Mrs. Warden paused, drew a long breath, and resumed. Her voice now had a
ring of triumph.
"Well, last month they got the 'lectric-cars finished down our way. We
hadn't been on 'em, neither of us. Jennie an' Frank didn't seem ter want
us to. They said they was shaky an' noisy an' would tire us all out. But
yesterday, when the folks was gone, Hezekiah an' me got ter talkin' an'
thinkin' how all these years we hadn't never had that honeymoon trip,
an' how by an' by we'd be old--real old, I mean, so's we couldn't take
it--an' all of a sudden we said we'd take it now, right now. An' we did.
We left a note fer the children, an'--an' we're here!"
There was a long silence. Over at the side-board the waiter still
polished his bottle. Livingstone did not even turn his head. Finally
Harding raised his glass.
"We'll drink to honeymoon trips in general and to this one in
particular," he cried, a little constrainedly.
Mrs. Warden flushed, smiled, and reached for her glass. The pink
lemonade was almost at her lips when Livingstone's arm shot out. Then
came the tinkle of shattered glass and a crimson stain where the wine
trailed across the damask.
"I beg your pardon!" exclaimed Livingstone, while the other men lowered
their glasses in surprise. "That was an awkward slip of mine, Mrs.
Warden. I must have hit your arm."
"But, Bill," muttered Harding under his breath, "you don't mean--"
"But I do," corrected Livingstone quietly, looking straight into
Harding's amazed eyes.
"Mr. and Mrs. Warden are my guests. They are going to drive to Bunker
Hill with me by and by."
When the six o'clock accommodation train pulled out from Boston that
night it bore a little old man and a little old woman, gray-haired,
weary, but blissfully content.
"We've seen 'em all, Hezekiah, ev'ry single one of 'em," Abigail was
saying. "An' wan't Mr. Livingstone good, a-gittin' that carriage an'
takin' us ev'rywhere; an' it bein' open so all 'round the sides, we
didn't miss seein' a single thing!"
"He was, Abby, he was, an' he wouldn't let me pay one cent!" cried
Hezekiah, taking out his roll of bills and patting it lovingly. "But,
Abby, did ye notice? 'Twas kind o' queer we never got one taste of that
pink lemonade. The waiter-man took it away."
When Aunt Abby Waked Up
The room was very still. The gaunt figure on the bed lay motionless save
for a slight lifting of the chest at long intervals. The face was turned
toward the wall, leaving a trail of thin gray hair-wisps across the
pillow. Just outside the door two physicians talked together in low
tones, with an occasional troubled glance toward the silent figure on
"If there could be something that would rouse her," murmured one;
"something that would prick her will-power and goad it into action! But
this lethargy--this wholesale giving up!" he finished with a gesture of
"I know," frowned the other; "and I've tried--day after day I've tried.
But there's nothing. I've exhausted every means in my power. I didn't
know but you--" He paused questioningly.
The younger man shook his head.
"No," he said. "If you can't, I can't. You've been her physician for
years. If anyone knows how to reach her, you should know. I suppose
you've thought of--her son?"
"Oh, yes. Jed was sent for long ago, but he had gone somewhere into the
interior on a prospecting trip, and was very hard to reach. It is
doubtful if word gets to him at all until--too late. As you know,
perhaps, it is rather an unfortunate case. He has not been home for
years, anyway, and the Nortons--James is Mrs. Darling's nephew--have
been making all the capital they can out of it, and have been
prejudicing her against him--quite unjustly, in my opinion, for I think
it's nothing more nor less than thoughtlessness on the boy's part."
"Hm-m; too bad, too bad!" murmured the other, as he turned and led the
way to the street door.
Back in the sick-room the old woman still lay motionless on the bed. She
was wondering--as she had wondered so often before--why it took so long
to die. For days now she had been trying to die, decently and in order.
There was really no particular use in living, so far as she could see.
Ella and Jim were very kind; but, after all, they were not Jed, and Jed
was away--hopelessly away. He did not even want to come back, so Ella
and Jim said.
There was the money, too. She did not like to think of the money. It
seemed to her that every nickel and dime and quarter that she had
painfully wrested from the cost of keeping soul and body together all
these past years lay now on her breast with a weight that crushed like
lead. She had meant that money for Jed. Ella and Jim were kind, of
course, and she was willing they should have it; yet Jed--but Jed was
And she was so tired. She had ceased to rouse herself, either for the
medicine or for the watery broths they forced through her lips. It was
so hopelessly dragged out--this dying; yet it must be over soon. She had
heard them tell the neighbors only yesterday that she was unconscious
and that she did not know a thing of what was passing around her; and
she had smiled--but only in her mind. Her lips, she knew, had not moved.
They were talking now--Ella and Jim--out in the other room. Their
voices, even their words, were quite distinct, and dreamily,
indifferently, she listened.
"You see," said Jim, "as long as I've got ter go ter town ter-morrer,
anyhow, it seems a pity not ter do it all up at once. I could order the
coffin an' the undertaker--it's only a question of a few hours, anyway,
an' it seems such a pity ter make another trip--jest fer that!"
In the bedroom the old woman stirred suddenly. Somewhere, away back
behind the consciousness of things, something snapped, and sent the
blood tingling from toes to fingertips. A fierce anger sprang instantly
into life and brushed the cobwebs of lethargy and indifference from her
brain. She turned and opened her eyes, fixing them upon the oblong patch
of light that marked the doorway leading to the room beyond where sat
Ella and Jim.
"Jest fer that," Jim had said, and "that" was her death. It was not
worth, it seemed, even an extra trip to town! And she had done so much--
so much for those two out there!
"Let's see; ter-day's Monday," Jim went on. "We might fix the fun'ral
for Saturday, I guess, an' I'll tell the folks at the store ter spread
it. Puttin' it on Sat'day'll give us a leetle extry time if she
shouldn't happen ter go soon's we expect--though there ain't much fear
o' that now, I guess, she's so low. An' it'll save me 'most half a day
ter do it all up this trip. I ain't--what's that?" he broke off sharply.
From the inner room had seemed to come a choking, inarticulate cry.
With a smothered ejaculation Jim picked up the lamp, hurried into the
sick-room, and tiptoed to the bed. The gaunt figure lay motionless, face
to the wall, leaving a trail of thin gray hair-wisps across the pillow.
"Gosh!" muttered the man as he turned away.
"There's nothin' doin'-but it did give me a start!"
On the bed the woman smiled grimly--but the man did not see it.
It was snowing hard when Jim got back from town Tuesday night. He came
blustering into the kitchen with stamping feet and wide-flung arms,
scattering the powdery whiteness in all directions.
"Whew! It's a reg'lar blizzard," he began, but he stopped short at the
expression on his wife's face. "Why, Ella!" he cried.
"Jim--Aunt Abby sat up ten minutes in bed ter-day. She called fer toast
Jim dropped into a chair. His jaw fell open.
"S-sat up!" he stammered.
"But she--hang it all, Herrick's comin' ter-morrer with the coffin!"
"Well, I can't help it! You know how she was this mornin'," retorted Jim
sharply. "I thought she was dead once. Why, I 'most had Herrick
come back with me ter-night, I was so sure."
"I know it," shivered Ella, "but you hadn't been gone an hour 'fore she
began to stir an' notice things. I found her lookin' at me first, an' it
give me such a turn I 'most dropped the medicine bottle in my hand. I
was clearin' off the little table by her bed, an' she was followin' me
around with them big gray eyes. 'Slickin' up?' she asks after a minute;
an' I could 'a' dropped right there an' then, 'cause I was
slickin' up, fer her fun'ral. 'Where's Jim?' she asks then. 'Gone ter
town,' says I, kind o' faint-like. 'Umph!' she says, an' snaps her lips
tight shet. After a minute she opens 'em again. 'I think I'll have some
tea and toast,' she says, casual-like, jest as if she'd been callin' fer
victuals ev'ry day fer a month past. An' when I brought it, if she
didn't drag herself up in bed an' call fer a piller to her back, so's
she could set up. An' there she stayed, pantin' an' gaspin', but
settin' up--an' she stayed there till the toast an' tea was
"Gosh!" groaned Jim. "Who'd 'a' thought it? 'Course 't ain't that I grudge
the old lady's livin'," he added hurriedly, "but jest now it's so--
unhandy, things bein' as they be. We can't very well--" He stopped, a
swift change coming to his face. "Say, Ella," he cried, "mebbe it's jest
a spurt 'fore--'fore the last. Don't it happen some-times that way--when
folks is dyin'?"
"I don't know," shuddered Ella. "Sh-h! I thought I heard her." And she
hurried across the hall to the sitting-room and the bedroom beyond.
It did not snow much through the night, but in the early morning it
began again with increased severity. The wind rose, too, and by the time
Herrick, the undertaker, drove into the yard, the storm had become a
"I calc'lated if I didn't git this 'ere coffin here purty quick there
wouldn't be no gettin' it here yet awhile," called Herrick cheerfully,
as Jim came to the door.
Jim flushed and raised a warning hand.
"Sh-h! Herrick, look out!" he whispered hoarsely. "She ain't dead yet.
You'll have ter go back."
"Go back!" snorted Herrick. "Why, man alive, 'twas as much as my life's
worth to get here. There won't be no goin' back yet awhile fer me nor no
one else, I calc'late. An' the quicker you get this 'ere coffin in out
of the snow, the better't will be," he went on authoritatively as he
leaped to the ground.
It was not without talk and a great deal of commotion that the untimely
addition to James Norton's household effects was finally deposited in
the darkened parlor; neither was it accomplished without some echo of
the confusion reaching the sick-room, despite all efforts of
concealment. Jim, perspiring, redfaced, and palpably nervous, was
passing on tiptoe through the sitting-room when a quavering voice from
the bedroom brought him to a halt.
"Jim, is that you?"
"Yes, Aunt Abby."
Jim's face grew white, then red.
"C-ome?" he stammered.
"Yes, I heard a sleigh and voices. Who is it?"
"Why, jest-jest a man on--on business," he flung over his shoulder, as
he fled through the hall.
Not half an hour later came Ella's turn. In accordance with the sick
woman's orders she had prepared tea, toast, and a boiled egg; but she
had not set the tray on the bed when the old woman turned upon her two
"Who's in the kitchen, Ella, with Jim?"
Ella started guiltily.
"Why, jest a--a man."
"Who is it?"
Ella hesitated; then, knowing that deceit was useless, she stammered out
"Why, er--only Mr. Herrick."
"Not William Herrick, the undertaker!" There was apparently only pleased
surprise in the old woman's voice.
"Yes," nodded Ella feverishly, "he had business out this way, and--and
got snowed up," she explained with some haste.
"Ye don't say," murmured the old woman. "Well, ask him in; I'd like ter
"Aunt Abby!"--Ella's teeth fairly chattered with dismay.
"Yes, I'd like ter see him," repeated the old woman with cordial
interest. "Call him in."
And Ella could do nothing but obey.
Herrick, however, did not stay long in the sick-room. The situation was
uncommon for him, and not without its difficulties. As soon as possible
he fled to the kitchen, telling Jim that it gave him "the creeps" to
have her ask him where he'd started for, and if business was good.
All that day it snowed and all that night; nor did the dawn of Friday
bring clear skies. For hours the wind had swept the snow from roofs and
hilltops, piling it into great drifts that grew moment by moment deeper
and more impassable.
In the farmhouse Herrick was still a prisoner.
The sick woman was better. Even Jim knew now that it was no momentary
flare of the candle before it went out. Mrs. Darling was undeniably
improving in health. She had sat up several times in bed, and had begun
to talk of wrappers and slippers. She ate toast, eggs, and jellies, and
hinted at chicken and beefsteak. She was weak, to be sure, but behind
her, supporting and encouraging, there seemed to be a curious strength--
a strength that sent a determined gleam to her eyes, and a grim
tenseness to her lips.
At noon the sun came out, and the wind died into fitful gusts. The two
men attacked the drifts with a will, and made a path to the gate. They
even attempted to break out the road, and Herrick harnessed his horse
and started for home; but he had not gone ten rods before he was forced
to turn back.
"'T ain't no use," he grumbled. "I calc'late I'm booked here till the
crack o' doom!"
"An' ter-morrer's the fun'ral," groaned Jim. "An' I can't git nowhere--
nowhere ter tell 'em not ter come!"
"Well, it don't look now as if anybody'd come--or go," snapped the
Saturday dawned fair and cold. Early in the morning the casket was moved
from the parlor to the attic.
There had been sharp words at the breakfast table, Herrick declaring
that he had made a sale, and refusing to take the casket back to town;
hence the move to the attic; but in spite of their caution, the sick
woman heard the commotion.
"What ye been cartin' upstairs?" she asked in a mildly curious voice.
Ella was ready for her.
"A chair," she explained smoothly; "the one that was broke in the front
room, ye know." And she did not think it was necessary to add that the
chair was not all that had been moved. She winced and changed color,
however, when her aunt observed:
"Humph! Must be you're expectin' company, Ella."
It was almost two o'clock when loud voices and the crunch of heavy teams
told that the road-breakers had come. All morning the Nortons had been
hoping against hope that the fateful hour would pass, and the road be
still left in unbroken whiteness. Someone, however, had known his duty
too well--and had done it.
"I set ter work first thing on this road," said the man triumphantly to
Ella as he stood, shovel in hand, at the door. "The parson's right
behind, an' there's a lot more behind him. Gorry! I was afraid I
wouldn't git here in time, but the fun'ral wan't till two, was it?"
Ella's dry lips refused to move. She shook her head.
"There's a mistake," she said faintly. "There ain't no fun'ral. Aunt
The man stared, then he whistled softly.
"Gorry!" he muttered, as he turned away.
If Jim and Ella had supposed that they could keep their aunt from
attending her own "funeral"--as Herrick persisted in calling it--they
soon found their mistake. Mrs. Darling heard the bells of the first
"I guess mebbe I'll git up an' set up a spell," she announced calmly to
Ella. "I'll have my wrapper an' my slippers, an' I'll set in the big
chair out in the settin'-room. That's Parson Gerry's voice, an' I want
ter see him."
"But, Aunt Abby--" began Ella, feverishly.
"Well, I declare, if there ain't another sleigh drivin' in," cried the
old woman excitedly, sitting up in bed and peering through the little
window. "Must be they're givin' us a s'prise party. Now hurry, Ella, an'
git them slippers. I ain't a-goin' to lose none o' the fun!" And Ella,
nervous, perplexed, and thoroughly frightened, did as she was bid.
In state, in the big rocking-chair, the old woman received her guests.
She said little, it is true, but she was there; and if she noticed that
no guest entered the room without a few whispered words from Ella in the
hall, she made no sign. Neither did she apparently consider it strange
that ten women and six men should have braved the cold to spend fifteen
rather embarrassed minutes in her sitting-room--and for this last both
Ella and Jim were devoutly grateful. They could not help wondering about
it, however, after she had gone to bed, and the house was still.
"What do ye s'pose she thought?" whispered Jim.
"I don't know," shivered Ella, "but, Jim, wan't it awful?--Mis' Blair
brought a white wreath--everlastin's!"
One by one the days passed, and Jim and Ella ceased to tremble every
time the old woman opened her lips. There was still that fearsome thing
in the attic, but the chance of discovery was small now.
"If she should find out," Ella had said, "'twould be the end of
the money--fer us."
"But she ain't a-goin' ter find out," Jim had retorted. "She can't last
long, 'course, an' I guess she won't change the will now--unless some
one tells her; an' I'll be plaguy careful there don't no one do that!"
The "funeral" was a week old when Mrs. Darling came into the sitting-
room one day, fully dressed.
"I put on all my clo's," she said smilingly, in answer to Ella's shocked
exclamation. "I got restless, somehow, an' sick o' wrappers. Besides, I
wanted to walk around the house a little. I git kind o' tired o' jest
one room." And she limped across the floor to the hall door.
"But, Aunt Abby, where ye goin' now?" faltered Ella.
"Jest up in the attic. I wanted ter see--" She stopped in apparent
surprise. Ella and Jim had sprung to their feet.
"The attic!" they gasped.
"But you mustn't!--you ain't strong enough!--you'll fall!--there's
nothin' there!" they exclaimed wildly, talking both together and
"Oh, I guess 't won't kill me," said the old woman; and something in the
tone of her voice made them fall back. They were still staring into each
other's eyes when the hall door closed sharply behind her.
"It's all--up!" breathed Jim.
Fully fifteen minutes passed before the old woman came back. She entered
the room quietly, and limped across the floor to the chair by the
"It's real pretty," she said. "I allers did like gray."
"Gray?" stammered Ella.
"Yes!--fer coffins, ye know." Jim made a sudden movement, and started to
speak; but the old woman raised her hand. "You don't need ter say
anythin'," she interposed cheerfully. "I jest wanted ter make sure where
'twas, so I went up. You see, Jed's comin' home, an' I thought he might
feel--queer if he run on to it, casual-like."
The old woman smiled oddly.
"Oh, I didn't tell ye, did I? The doctor had this telegram yesterday,
an' brought it over to me. Ye know he was here last night. Read it." And
she pulled from her pocket a crumpled slip of paper. And Jim read:
Shall be there the 8th. For God's sake don't let me be too late.
J. D. DARLING
Wristers for Three
The great chair, sumptuous with satin-damask and soft with springs,
almost engulfed the tiny figure of the little old lady. To the old lady
herself it suddenly seemed the very embodiment of the luxurious ease
against which she was so impotently battling. With a spasmodic movement
she jerked herself to her feet, and stood there motionless save for the
wistful sweep of her eyes about the room.
A level ray from the setting sun shot through the window, gilding the
silver of her hair and deepening the faint pink of her cheek; on the
opposite wall it threw a sharp silhouette of the alert little figure--
that figure which even the passage of years had been able to bend so
very little to its will. For a moment the lace kerchief folded across
the black gown rose and fell tumultuously; then its wearer crossed the
room and seated herself with uncompromising discomfort in the only
straight-backed chair the room contained. This done, Mrs. Nancy
Wetherby, for the twentieth time, went over in her mind the whole
For two weeks, now, she had been a member of her son John's family--two
vain, unprofitable weeks. When before that had the sunset found her
night after night with hands limp from a long day of idleness? When
before that had the sunrise found her morning after morning with a mind
destitute of worthy aim or helpful plan for the coming twelve hours?
Not in her girlhood, not even in her childhood, had there been days of
such utter uselessness--rag dolls and mud pies need some care! As
for her married life, there were Eben, the babies, the house, the
church--and how absolutely necessary she had been to each one!
The babies had quickly grown to stalwart men and sweet-faced women who
had as quickly left the home nest and built new nests of their own. Eben
had died; and the church--strange how long and longer still the walk to
the church had grown each time she had walked it this last year! After
all, perhaps it did not matter; there were new faces at the church, and
young, strong hands that did not falter and tremble over these new ways
of doing things. For a time there had been only the house that needed
her--but how great that need had been! There were the rooms to care for,
there was the linen to air, there were the dear treasures of picture and
toy to cry and laugh over; and outside there were the roses to train and
the pansies to pick.
Now, even the house was not left. It was October, and son John had told
her that winter was coming on and she must not remain alone. He had
brought her to his own great house and placed her in these beautiful
rooms--indeed, son John was most kind to her! If only she could make
some return, do something, be of some use!
Her heart failed her as she thought of the grave-faced, preoccupied man
who came each morning into the room with the question, "Well, mother, is
there anything you need to-day?" What possible service could she
render him? Her heart failed her again as she thought of John's
pretty, new wife, and of the two big boys, men grown, sons of dear dead
Molly. There was the baby, to be sure; but the baby was always attended
by one, and maybe two, white-capped, white-aproned young women. Madam
Wetherby never felt quite sure of herself when with those young women.
There were other young women, too, in whose presence she felt equally
ill at ease; young women in still prettier white aprons and still
daintier white caps; young women who moved noiselessly in and out of the
halls and parlors and who waited at table each day.
Was there not some spot, some creature, some thing, in all that place
that needed the touch of her hand, the glance of her eye? Surely the day
had not quite come when she could be of no use, no service to her kind!
Her work must be waiting; she had only to find it. She would seek it
out--and that at once. No more of this slothful waiting for the work to
come to her! "Indeed, no!" she finished aloud, her dim eyes alight, her
breath coming short and quick, and her whole frail self quivering with
courage and excitement.
It was scarcely nine o'clock the next morning when a quaint little
figure in a huge gingham apron (slyly abstracted from the bottom of a
trunk) slipped out of the rooms given over to the use of John Wetherby's
mother. The little figure tripped softly, almost stealthily, along the
hall and down the wide main staircase. There was some hesitation and
there were a few false moves before the rear stairway leading to the
kitchen was gained; and there was a gasp, half triumphant, half
dismayed, when the kitchen was reached.
The cook stared, open-mouthed, as though confronted with an apparition.
A maid, hurrying across the room with a loaded tray, almost dropped her
burden to the floor. There was a dazed moment of silence, then Madam
Wetherby took a faltering step forward and spoke.
"Good-morning! I--I've come to help you."
"Ma'am!" gasped the cook.
"To help--to help!" nodded the little old lady briskly, with a sudden
overwhelming joy at the near prospect of the realization of her hopes.
"Pare apples, beat eggs, or--anything!"
"Indeed, ma'am, I--you--" The cook stopped helplessly, and eyed with
frightened fascination the little old lady as she crossed to the table
and picked up a pan of potatoes.
"Now a knife, please,--oh, here's one," continued Madam Wetherby
happily. "Go right about something else. I'll sit over there in that
chair, and I'll have these peeled very soon."
When John Wetherby visited his mother's rooms that morning he found no
one there to greet him. A few sharp inquiries disclosed the little
lady's whereabouts and sent Margaret Wetherby with flaming cheeks and
tightening lips into the kitchen.
"Mother!" she cried; and at the word the knife dropped from the
trembling, withered old fingers and clattered to the floor. "Why,
"I--I was helping," quavered a deprecatory voice.
Something in the appealing eyes sent a softer curve to Margaret
"Yes, mother; that was very kind of you," said John's wife gently. "But
such work is quite too hard for you, and there's no need of your doing
it. Nora will finish these," she added, lifting the pan of potatoes to
the table, "and you and I will go upstairs to your room. Perhaps we'll
go driving by and by. Who knows?"
In thinking it over afterwards Nancy Wetherby could find no fault with
her daughter-in-law. Margaret had been goodness itself, insisting only
that such work was not for a moment to be thought of. John's wife was
indeed kind, acknowledged Madam Wetherby to herself, yet two big tears
welled to her eyes and were still moist on her cheeks after she had
It was perhaps three days later that John Wetherby's mother climbed the
long flight of stairs near her sitting-room door, and somewhat timidly
entered one of the airy, sunlit rooms devoted to Master Philip Wetherby.
The young woman in attendance respectfully acknowledged her greeting,
and Madam Wetherby advanced with some show of courage to the middle of
"The baby, I--I heard him cry," she faltered.
"Yes, madam," smiled the nurse. "It is Master Philip's nap hour."
Louder and louder swelled the wails from the inner room, yet the nurse
did not stir save to reach for her thread.
"But he's crying--yet!" gasped Madam Wetherby.
The girl's lips twitched and an expression came to her face which the
little old lady did not in the least understand.
"Can't you--do something?" demanded baby's grandmother, her voice
"No, madam. I--" began the girl, but she did not finish. The little
figure before her drew itself to the full extent of its diminutive
"Well, I can," said Madam Wetherby crisply. Then she turned and hurried
into the inner room.
The nurse sat mute and motionless until a crooning lullaby and the
unmistakable tapping of rockers on a bare floor brought her to her feet
in dismay. With an angry frown she strode across the room, but she
stopped short at the sight that met her eyes.
In a low chair, her face aglow with the accumulated love of years of
baby-brooding, sat the little old lady, one knotted, wrinkled finger
tightly elapsed within a dimpled fist. The cries had dropped to sobbing
breaths, and the lullaby, feeble and quavering though it was, rose and
swelled triumphant. The anger fled from the girl's face, and a queer
choking came to her throat so that her words were faint and broken.
"Madam--I beg pardon--I'm sorry, but I must put Master Philip back on
"But he isn't asleep yet," demurred Madam Wetherby softly, her eyes
"But you must--I can't--that is, Master Philip cannot be rocked,"
faltered the girl.
"Nonsense, my dear!" she said; "babies can always be rocked!" And again
the lullaby rose on the air.
"But, madam," persisted the girl--she was almost crying now--"don't you
see? I must put Master Philip back. It is Mrs. Wetherby's orders. They--
they don't rock babies so much now."
For an instant fierce rebellion spoke through flashing eyes, stern-set
lips, and tightly clutched fingers; then all the light died from the
thin old face and the tense muscles relaxed.
"You may put the baby back," said Madam Wetherby tremulously, yet with a
sudden dignity that set the maid to curtsying. "I--I should not want to
cross my daughter's wishes."
Nancy Wetherby never rocked her grandson again, but for days she haunted
the nursery, happy if she could but tie the baby's moccasins or hold his
brush or powder-puff; yet a week had scarcely passed when John's wife
said to her:
"Mother, dear, I wouldn't tire myself so trotting upstairs each day to
the nursery. There isn't a bit of need--Mary and Betty can manage quite
well. You fatigue yourself too much!" And to the old lady's denials
John's wife returned, with a tinge of sharpness: "But, really, mother,
I'd rather you didn't. It frets the nurses and--forgive me-but you know
you will forget and talk to him in 'baby-talk'!"
The days came and the days went, and Nancy Wetherby stayed more and more
closely to her rooms. She begged one day for the mending-basket, but her
daughter-in-law laughed and kissed her.
"Tut, tut, mother, dear!" she remonstrated. "As if I'd have you wearing
your eyes and fingers out mending a paltry pair of socks!"
"Then I--I'll knit new ones!" cried the old lady, with sudden
"Knit new ones--stockings!" laughed Margaret Wetherby. "Why, dearie,
they never in this world would wear them--and if they would, I couldn't
let you do it," she added gently, as she noted the swift clouding of the
eager face. "Such tiresome work!"
Again the old eyes filled with tears; and yet--John's wife was kind, so
It was a cheerless, gray December morning that John Wetherby came into
his mother's room and found a sob-shaken little figure in the depths of
the sumptuous, satin-damask chair. "Mother, mother,--why, mother!"
There were amazement and real distress in John Wetherby's voice.
"There, there, John, I--I didn't mean to--truly I didn't!" quavered the
little old lady.
John dropped on one knee and caught the fluttering fingers. "Mother,
what is it?"
"It--it isn't anything; truly it isn't," urged the tremulous voice.
"Is any one unkind to you?" John's eyes grew stern. "The boys, or--
The indignant red mounted to the faded cheek. "John! How can you ask?
Every one is kind, kind, so very kind to me!"
"Well, then, what is it?"
There was only a sob in reply. "Come, come," he coaxed gently.
For a moment Nancy Wetherby's breath was held suspended, then it came in
a burst with a rush of words.
"Oh, John, John, I'm so useless, so useless, so dreadfully useless!
Don't you see? Not a thing, not a person needs me. The kitchen has the
cook and the maids. The baby has two or three nurses. Not even this room
needs me--there's a girl to dust it each day. Once I slipped out of bed
and did it first--I did, John; but she came in, and when I told her, she
just curtsied and smiled and kept right on, and--she didn't even skip
one chair! John, dear John, sometimes it seems as though even my
own self doesn't need me. I--I don't even put on my clothes alone;
there's always some one to help me!"
"There, there, dear," soothed the man huskily. "I need you, indeed I do,
mother." And he pressed his lips to one, then the other, of the
wrinkled, soft-skinned hands.
"You don't--you don't!" choked the woman. "There's not one thing I can
do for you! Why, John, only think, I sit with idle hands all day, and
there was so much once for them to do. There was Eben, and the children,
and the house, and the missionary meetings, and--"
On and on went the sweet old voice, but the man scarcely heard. Only one
phrase rang over and over in his ears, "There's not one thing I can do
for you!" All the interests of now--stocks, bonds, railroads--fell from
his mind and left it blank save for the past. He was a boy again at his
mother's knee. And what had she done for him then? Surely among all the
myriad things there must be one that he might single out and ask her to
do for him now! And yet, as he thought, his heart misgave him.
There were pies baked, clothes made, bumped foreheads bathed, lost
pencils found; there were--a sudden vision came to him of something warm
and red and very soft--something over which his boyish heart had
exulted. The next moment his face lighted with joy very like that of the
years long ago.
"Mother!" he cried. "I know what you can do for me. I want a pair of
wristers--red ones, just like those you used to knit!"
* * * * *
It must have been a month later that John Wetherby, with his two elder
sons, turned the first corner that carried him out of sight of his
house. Very slowly, and with gentle fingers, he pulled off two bright
red wristers. He folded them, patted them, then tucked them away in an
"Bless her dear heart!" he said softly. "You should have seen her eyes
shine when I put them on this morning!"
"I can imagine it," said one of his sons in a curiously tender voice.
The other one smiled, and said whimsically, "I can hardly wait for
mine!" Yet even as he spoke his eyes grew dim with a sudden moisture.
Back at the house John's mother was saying to John's wife: "Did you see
them on him, Margaret?--John's wristers? They did look so bright and
pretty! And I'm to make more, too; did you know? Frank and Edward want
some; John said so. He told them about his, and they wanted some right
away. Only think, Margaret," she finished, lifting with both hands the
ball of red worsted and pressing it close to her cheek, "I've got two
whole pairs to make now!"
The Giving Thanks of Cyrus and Huldah
For two months Cyrus Gregg and his wife Huldah had not spoken to each
other, yet all the while they had lived under the same roof, driven to
church side by side, and attended various festivities and church prayer-
The cause of the quarrel had been an insignificant something that
speedily lost itself in the torrent of angry words that burst from the
lips of the irate husband and wife, until by night it would have been
difficult for either the man or the woman to tell exactly what had been
the first point of difference. By that time, however, the quarrel had
assumed such proportions that it loomed in their lives larger than
anything else; and each had vowed never to speak to the other until that
other had made the advance.
On both sides they came of a stubborn race, and from the first it was a
battle royally fought. The night of the quarrel Cyrus betook himself in
solitary state to the "spare-room" over the parlor. After that he slept
on a makeshift bed that he had prepared for himself in the shed-chamber,
hitherto sacred to trunks, dried corn, and cobwebs.
For a month the two sat opposite to each other and partook of Huldah's
excellent cooking; then one day the woman found at her plate a piece--of
brown paper on which had been scrawled:
If I ain't worth speakin' to I ain't worth cookin' for. Hereafter I'll
take care of myself.