Part 4 out of 5
"I do believe I can get on, with you to help me, Patty," he said,
pressing her arm more closely to his side, and looking down
ardently into her radiant face. "You're a great deal cleverer
than I am, but I have a faculty for the business of the law, so
my father says, and a faculty for money-making, too. And even if
we have to begin in a small way, my salary will be a certainty,
and we'11 work up together. I can see you in a yellow satin
dress, stiff enough to stand alone!"
"It must be white satin, if you please, not yellow! After having
used a hundred and ten yards of shop-worn yellow calico on myself
within two years, I never want to wear that color again. If only
I could come to you better provided, she sighed, with the
suggestion of tears in her voice. "If I'd been a common servant I
could have saved something from my wages to be married on; I
haven't even got anything to be married IN!"
"I'11 get you anything you want in Portland to-morrow."
"Certainly not; I'd rather be married in rags than have you spend
your money upon me beforehand!"
"Remember to have a box of your belongings packed and slipped
under the shed somewhere. You can't be certain what your father
will say or do when the time comes for telling him, and I want
you to be ready to leave on a moment's notice."
"I will; I'll do everything you say, Mark, but are you sure that
we have thought of every other way? I do so hate being
"Every other way! I am more than willing to ask your father, but
we know he would treat me with contempt, for he can't bear the
sight of me! He would probably lock you up and feed you on bread
and water. That being the state of things, how can I tell our
plans to my own father? He never would look with favor on my
running away with you; and mother is, by nature, set upon doing
things handsomely and in proper order. Father would say our
elopement would be putting us both wrong before the community,
and he'd advise me to wait. 'You are both young'--I can hear him
announcing his convictions now, as clearly as if he was standing
here in the road--'You are both young and you can well afford to
wait until something turns up.' As if we hadn't waited and waited
from all eternity!"
"Yes, we have been engaged to be married for at least five
weeks," said Patty, with an upward glance peculiar to her own
sparkling face,--one that always intoxicated Mark. "I am
seventeen and a half; your father couldn't expect a confirmed old
maid like me to waste any more time.
But I never would do this--this--sudden, unrespectable thing, if
there was any other way. Everything depends on my keeping it
secret from Waitstill, but she doesn't suspect anything yet. She
thinks of me as nothing but a child still. Do you suppose Ellen
would go with us, just to give me a little comfort?"
"She might," said Mark, after reflecting a moment. "She is very
devoted to you, and perhaps she could keep a secret; she never
has, but there's always a first time. You can't go on adding to
the party, though, as if it was a candy-pull! We cannot take Lucy
Morrill and Phoebe Day and Cephas Cole, because it would be too
hard on the horse; and besides, I might get embarrassed at the
town clerk's office and marry the wrong girl; or you might swop
me off for Cephas! But I'll tell Ellen if you say so; she's got
plenty of grit."
"Don't joke about it, Mark, don't. I shouldn't miss Waitstill so
much if I had Ellen, and how happy I shall be if she approves of
me for a sister and thinks your mother and father will like me in
"There never was a creature born into the world that wouldn't
love you, Patty!"
"I don't know; look at Aunt Abby Cole!" said Patty pensively.
"Well, it does not seem as if a marriage that isn't good in
Riverboro was really decent! How tiresome of Maine to want all
those days of public notice; people must so often want to get
married in a minute. If I think about anything too long I always
get out of the notion."
"I know you do; that's what I'm afraid of!"--and Mark's voice
showed decided nervousness. "You won't get out of the notion of
marrying me, will you, Patty dear?"
"Marrying you is more than a 'notion,' Mark," said Patty soberly.
"I'm only a little past seventeen, but I'm far older because of
the difficulties I've had. I don't wonder you speak of my
'notions.' I was as light as a feather in all my dealings with
you at first."
"So was I with you! I hadn't grown up, Patty."
"Then I came to know you better and see how you sympathized with
Waitstill's troubles and mine. I couldn't love anybody, I
couldn't marry anybody, who didn't feel that things at our house
can't go on as they are! Father has had a good long trial! Three
wives and two daughters have done their best to live with him,
and failed. I am not willing to die for him, as my mother did,
nor have Waitstill killed if I can help it. Sometimes he is like
a man who has lost his senses and sometimes he is only grim and
quiet and cruel. If he takes our marriage without a terrible
scene, Mark, perhaps it will encourage Waitstill to break her
chains as I have mine."
"There's sure to be an awful row," Mark said, as one who had
forecasted all the probabilities. "It wouldn't make any
difference if you married the Prince of Wales; nothing would suit
your father but selecting the man and making all the
arrangements; and then he would never choose any one who wouldn't
tend the store and work on the farm for him without wages."
"Waitstill will never run away; she isn't like me. She will sit
and sit there, slaving and suffering, till doomsday; for the one
that loves her isn't free like you!"
"You mean Ivory Boynton? I believe he worships the ground she
walks on. I like him better than I used, and I understand him
better. Oh! but I'm a lucky young dog to have a kind, liberal
father and a bit of money put by to do with as I choose. If I
hadn't, I'd be eating my heart out like Ivory!"
"No, you wouldn't eat your heart out; you'd always get what you
wanted somehow, and you wouldn't wait for it either; and I'm just
the same. I'm not built for giving up, and enduring, and
sacrificing. I'm naturally just a tuft of thistle-down, Mark; but
living beside Waitstill all these years I've grown ashamed to be
so light, blowing about hither and thither. I kept looking at her
and borrowing some of her strength, just enough to make me worthy
to be her sister. Waitstill is like a bit of Plymouth Rock, only
it's a lovely bit on the land side, with earth in the crevices,
and flowers blooming all over it and hiding the granite. Oh! if
only she will forgive us, Mark, I won't mind what father says or
"She will forgive us, Patty darling; don't fret, and cry, and
make your pretty eyes all red. I'11 do nothing in all this to
make either of you girls ashamed of me, and I'll keep your father
and mine ever before my mind to prevent my being foolish or
reckless; for, you know, Patty, I'm heels over head in love with
you, and it's only for your sake I'm taking all these pains and
agreeing to do without my own wedded wife for weeks to come!"
"Does the town clerk, or does the justice of the peace give a
wedding-ring, just like the minister?" Patty asked. "I shouldn't
feel married without a ring."
"The ring is all ready, and has 'M.W. to P.B.' engraved in it,
with the place for the date waiting; and here is the engagement
ring if you'11 wear it when you're alone, Patty. My mother gave
it to me when she thought there would be something between
Annabel Franklin and me. The moment I looked at it--you see it's
a topaz stone--and noticed the yellow fire in it, I said to
myself: 'It is like no one but Patty Baxter, and if she won't
wear it, no other girl shall!' It's the color of the tip ends of
your curls and it's just like the light in your eyes when you're
"It's heavenly!" cried Patty. "It looks as if it had been made of
the yellow autumn leaves, and oh! how I love the sparkle of it!
But never will I take your mother's ring or wear it, Mark, till
I've proved myself her loving, dutiful daughter. I'll do the one
wrong thing of running away with you and concealing our marriage,
but not another if I can help it."
"Very well," sighed Mark, replacing the ring in his pocket with
rather a crestfallen air. "But the first thing you know you'll be
too good for me, Patty! You used to be a regular
will-o'-the-wisp, all nonsense and fun, forever laughing and
teasing, so that a fellow could never be sure of you for two
"It's all there underneath," said Patty, putting her hand on his
arm and turning her wistful face up to his. "It will come again;
the girl in me isn't dead; she isn't even asleep; but she's all
sobered down. She can't laugh just now, she can only smile; and
the tears are waiting underneath.
ready to spring out if any one says the wrong word. This Patty is
frightened and anxious and her heart beats too fast from morning
till night. She hasn't any mother, and she cannot say a word to
her dear sister, and she's going away to be married to you,
that's almost a stranger, and she isn't eighteen, and doesn't
know what's coming to her, nor what it means to be married. She
dreads her father's anger, and she cannot rest till she knows
whether your family will love her and take her in; and, oh! she's
a miserable, worried girl, not a bit like the old Patty."
Mark held her close and smoothed the curls under the loose brown
hood. "Don't you fret, Patty darling! I'm not the boy I was last
week. Every word you say makes me more of a man. At first I would
have run away just for the joke; anything to get you away from
the other fellows and prove I was the best man, but now' I'm
sobered down, too. I'll do nothing rash; I'll be as staid as the
judge you want me to be twenty years later. You've made me over,
Patty, and if my love for you wasn't the right sort at first, it
is now. I wish the road to New Hampshire was full of lions and I
could fight my way through them just to show you how strong I
"There'll be lions enough," smiled Patty through her tears,
"though they won't have manes and tails; but I can imagine how
father will roar, and how my courage will ooze out of the heels
of my boots!"
"Just let me catch the Deacon roaring at my wife!" exclaimed Mark
with a swelling chest. "Now, run along, Patty dear, for I don't
want you scolded on my account. There's sure to be only a day or
two of waiting now, and I shall soon see the signal waving from
your window. I'll sound Ellen and see if she's brave enough to
be one of the eloping party. Good-night! Good-night! Oh! How I
hope our going away will be to-morrow, my dearest, dearest
THE snow had come. It had begun to fall softly and steadily at
the beginning of the week, and now for days it had covered the
ground deeper and deeper, drifting about the little red brick
house on the hilltop, banking up against the barn, and shrouding
the sheds and the smaller buildings. There had been two cold,
still nights; the windows were covered with silvery landscapes
whose delicate foliage made every pane of glass a leafy bower,
while a dazzling crust bediamonded the hillsides, so that no eye
could rest on them long without becoming snow-blinded.
Town-House Hill was not as well travelled as many others, and
Deacon Baxter had often to break his own road down to the store,
without waiting for the help of the village snow-plough to make
things easier for him. Many a path had Waitstill broken in her
time, and it was by no means one of her most distasteful
tasks--that of shovelling into the drifts of heaped-up whiteness,
tossing them to one side or the other, and cutting a narrow,
clean-edged track that would pack down into the hardness of
There were many "chores" to be done these cold mornings before
any household could draw a breath of comfort. The Baxters kept
but one cow in winter, killed the pig,--not to eat, but to
sell,--and reduced the flock of hens and turkeys; but Waitstill
was always as busy in the barn as in her own proper domain. Her
heart yearned for all the dumb creatures about the place,
intervening between them and her father's scanty care; and when
the thermometer descended far below zero she would be found
stuffing hay into the holes and cracks of the barn and hen-house,
giving the horse and cow fresh beddings of straw and a mouthful
of extra food between the slender meals provided by the Deacon.
It was three o'clock in the afternoon and a fire in the Baxters'
kitchen since six in the morning had produced a fairly temperate
climate in that one room, though the entries and chambers might
have been used for refrigerators, as the Deacon was as
parsimonious in the use of fuel as in all other things, and if
his daughters had not been hardy young creatures, trained from
their very birth to discomforts and exposures of every sort, they
would have died long ago.
The Baxter kitchen and glittered in all its accustomed
cleanliness and order. Scrubbing and polishing were cheap
amusements, and nobody grudged them to Waitstill. No tables in
Riverboro were whiter, no tins more lustrous, no pewter brighter,
no brick hearths ruddier than hers. The beans and brown bread and
Indian pudding were basking in the warmth of the old brick oven,
and what with the crackle and sparkle of the fire, the gleam of
the blue willow-ware on the cupboard shelves, and the scarlet
geraniums blooming on the sunny shelf above the sink, there were
few pleasanter place to be found in the village than that same
Baxter kitchen. Yet Waitstill was ill at ease this afternoon; she
hardly knew why. Her father had just put the horse into the pung
and driven up to Milliken's Mills for some grain, and Patty was
down at the store instructing Bill Morrill (Cephas Cole's
successor) in his novel task of waiting on customers and learning
the whereabouts of things; no easy task in the bewildering
variety of stock in a country store; where pins, treacle,
gingham, Epsom salts, Indian meal, shoestrings, shovels, brooms,
sulphur, tobacco, suspenders, rum, and indigo may be demanded in
Patty was quiet and docile these days, though her color was more
brilliant than usual and her eyes had all their accustomed
sparkle. She went about her work steadily, neither ranting nor
railing at fate, nor bewailing her lot, but even in this
Waitstill felt a sense of change and difference too subtle to be
put in words. She had noted Patty's summer flirtations, but
regarded them indulgently, very much as if they had been the
irresponsible friskings of a lamb in a meadow. Waitstill had more
than the usual reserve in these matters, for in New England at
that time, though the soul was a subject of daily conversation,
the heart was felt to be rather an indelicate topic, to be
alluded to as seldom as possible. Waitstill certainly would never
have examined Patty closely as to the state of her affections,
intimate as she was with her sister's thoughts and opinions about
life; she simply bided her time until Patty should confide in
her. She had wished now and then that Patty's capricious fancy
might settle on Philip Perry, although, indeed, when she
considered it seriously, it seemed like an alliance between a
butterfly and an owl. Cephas Cole she regarded as quite beneath
Patty's rightful ambitions, and as for Mark Wilson, she had grown
up in the belief, held in the village generally, that he would
marry money and position, and drift out of Riverboro into a
gayer, larger world. Her devotion to her sister was so ardent,
and her admiration so sincere, that she could not think it
possible that Patty would love anywhere in vain; nevertheless,
she had an instinct that her affections were crystallizing
somewhere or other, and when that happened, the uncertain and
eccentric temper of her father would raise a thousand obstacles.
While these thoughts coursed more or less vagrantly through
Waitstill's mind, she suddenly determined to get her cloak and
hood and run over to see Mrs. Boynton. Ivory had been away a good
deal in the woods since early November chopping trees and helping
to make new roads. He could not go long distances, like the other
men, as he felt constrained to come home every day or two to look
after his mother and Rodman, but the work was too lucrative to be
altogether refused. With Waitstill's help, he had at last
overcome his mother's aversion to old Mrs. Mason, their nearest
neighbor; and she, being now a widow with very slender resources,
went to the Boyntons' several times each week to put the forlorn
household a little on its feet.
It was all uphill and down to Ivory's farm, Waitstill reflected,
and she could take her sled and slide half the way, going and
coming, or she could cut across the frozen fields on the crust.
She caught up her shawl from a hook on the kitchen door, and,
throwing it over her head and shoulders to shield herself from
the chill blasts on the stairway, ran up to her bedroom to make
herself ready for the walk.
She slipped on a quilted petticoat and warmer dress, braided her
hair freshly, while her breath went out in a white cloud to meet
the freezing air; snatched her wraps from her closet, and was
just going down the stairs when she remembered that an hour
before, having to bind up a cut finger for her father, she had
searched Patty's bureau drawer for an old handkerchief, and had
left things in disorder while she ran to answer the Deacon's
impatient call and stamp upon the kitchen floor.
"Hurry up and don't make me stan' here all winter!" he had
shouted. "If you ever kept things in proper order, you wouldn't
have to hunt all over the house for a piece of rag when you need
Patty was very dainty about her few patched and darned
belongings; also very exact in the adjustment of her bits of
ribbon, her collars of crocheted thread, her adored coral
pendants, and her pile of neat cotton handkerchiefs, hem-stitched
by her own hands. Waitstill, accordingly, with an exclamation at
her own unwonted carelessness, darted into her sister's room to
replace in perfect order the articles she had disarranged in her
haste. She knew them all, these poor little trinkets,--humble,
pathetic evidences of Patty's feminine vanity and desire to make
her bright beauty a trifle brighter.
Suddenly her hand and her eye fell at the same moment on
something hidden in a far corner under a white "fascinator," one
of those head-coverings of filmy wool, dotted with beads, worn by
the girls of the period. She drew the glittering, unfamiliar
object forward, and then lifted it wonderingly in her hand. It
was a string of burnished gold beads, the avowed desire of
Patty's heart; a string of beads with a brilliant little stone in
the fastening. And, as if that were not mystery enough, there was
something slipped over the clasped necklace and hanging from it,
as Waitstill held it up to the light--a circlet of plain gold, a
Waitstill stood motionless in the cold with such a throng of
bewildering thoughts, misgivings, imaginings, rushing through her
head that they were like a flock of birds beating their wings
against her ears. The imaginings were not those of absolute dread
or terror, for she knew her Patty. If she had seen the necklace
alone she would have been anxious, indeed, for it would have
meant that the girl, urged on by ungoverned desire for the
ornament, had accepted present from one who should not have given
it to her secretly; but the wedding-ring meant some-thing
different for Patty,-- something more, something certain,
something unescapable, for good or ill. A wedding-ring could
stand for nothing but marriage. Could Patty be married? How,
when, and where could so great a thing happen without her
knowledge? It seemed impossible. How had such a child surmounted
the difficulties in the path? Had she been led away by the
attractions of some stranger? No, there had been none in the
village. There was only one man who had the worldly wisdom or the
means to carry Patty off under the very eye of her watchful
sister; only one with the reckless courage to defy her father;
and that was Mark Wilson. His name did not bring absolute
confidence to Waitstill's mind. He was gay and young and
thoughtless; how had he managed to do this wild thing?--and had
he done all decently and wisely, with consideration for the
girl's good name? The thought of all the risks lying in the train
of Patty's youth and inexperience brought a wail of anguish from
Waitstill's lips, and, dropping the beads and closing the drawer,
she stumbled blindly down the stairway to the kitchen, intent
upon one thought only--to find her sister, to look in her eyes,
feel the touch of her hand, and assure herself of her safety.
She gave a dazed look at the tall clock, and was beginning to put
on her cloak when the door opened and Patty entered the kitchen
by way of the shed; the usual Patty, rosy, buoyant, alert, with a
kind of childlike innocence that could hardly be associated with
the possession of wedding-rings.
"Are you going out, Waity? Wrap up well, for it's freezing cold.
Waity, Waity, dear! What's the matter?" she cried, coming closer
to her sister in alarm.
Waitstill's face had lost its clear color, and her eyes had the
look of some dumb animal that has been struck and wounded. She
sank into the flag-bottomed rocker by the window, and leaning
back her head, uttered no word, but closed her eyes and gave one
long, shivering sigh and a dry sob that seemed drawn from the
very bottom of her heart.
"WAITY, I know what it is; you have found out about me! Who has
been wicked enough to tell you before I could do so--tell me,
"Oh, Patty, Patty!" cried Waitstill, who could no longer hold
back her tears. "How could you deceive me so? How could you shut
me out of your heart and keep a secret like this from me, who
have tried to be mother and sister in one to you ever since the
day you were born? God has sent me much to bear, but nothing so
bitter as this--to have my sister take the greatest step of her
life without my knowledge or counsel!"
"Stop, dear, stop, and let me tell you!"
"All is told, and not by you as it should have been. We've never
had anything separate from each other in all our lives, and when
I looked in your bureau drawer for a bit of soft cotton--it was
nothing more than I have done a hundred times--you can guess now
what I stumbled upon; a wedding-ring for a hand I have held ever
since it was a baby's. My sister has a husband, and I am not even
sure of his name!
"Waity, Waity, don't take it so to heart!" and Patty flung
herself on her knees beside Waitstill's chair. "Not till you hear
everything! When I tell you all, you will dry your eyes and smile
and be happy about me, and you will know that in the whole world
there is no one else in my love or my life but you and my--my
"Who is the husband?" asked Waitstill dryly, as she wiped her
eyes and leaned her elbow on the table.
"Who could it be but Mark? Has there ever been any one but Mark?"
"I should have said that there were several, in these past few
Waitstill's tone showed clearly that she was still grieved and
hurt beyond her power to conceal.
"I have never thought of marrying any one but Mark, and not even
of marrying him till a little while ago," said Patty. "Now do not
draw away from me and look out of the window as if we were not
sisters, or you will break my heart. Turn your eyes to mine and
believe in me, Waity, while I tell you everything, as I have so
longed to do all these nights and days. Mark and I have loved
each other for a long, long time. It was only play at first, but
we were young and foolish and did not understand what was really
happening between us."
"You are both of you only a few months older than when you were
'young and foolish,'" objected Waitstill.
"Yes, we are--years and years! Five weeks ago I promised Mark
that I would marry him; but how was I ever to keep my word
publicly? You have noticed how insultingly father treats him of
late, passing him by without a word when he meets him in the
street? You remember, too, that he has never gone to Lawyer
Wilson for advice, or put any business in his hands since
"The Wilsons are among father's aversions, that is all you can
say; it is no use to try and explain them or rebel against them,"
Waitstill answered wearily.
"That is all very well, and might be borne like many another
cross; but I wanted to marry this particular 'aversion,"' argued
Patty. Would you have helped me to marry Mark secretly if I had
confided in you?"
"Never in the world--never!"
"I knew it," exclaimed Patty triumphantly. "We both said so! And
what was Mark to do? He was more than willing to come up here and
ask for me like a man, but he knew that he would be ordered off
the premises as if he were a thief. That would have angered Mr.
and Mrs. Wilson, and made matters worse. We talked and talked
until we were hoarse; we thought and thought until we nearly had
brain fever from thinking, but there seemed to be no way but to
take the bull by the horns."
"You are both so young, you could well have bided awhile."
"We could have bided until we were gray, nothing would have
changed father; and just lately I couldn't make Mark bide,"
confessed Patty ingenuously. "He has been in a rage about
father's treatment of you and me. He knows we haven't the right
food to eat, nothing fit to wear, and not an hour of peace or
freedom. He has even heard the men at the store say that our very
lives might be in danger if we crossed father's will, or angered
him beyond a certain point. You can't blame a man who loves a
girl, if he wants to take her away from such a wretched life. His
love would be good for nothing if he did not long to rescue her!"
"I would never have left you behind to bear your slavery alone,
while I slipped away to happiness and comfort--not for any man
alive would I
I have done it!" This speech, so unlike Waitstill in its
ungenerous reproach, was repented of as soon as it left her
tongue. "Oh, I did not mean that, my darling!" she cried. "I
would have welcomed any change for you, and thanked God for it,
if only it could have come honorably and aboveboard."
"But, don't you see, Waity, how my marriage helps everything?
That is what makes me happiest; that now I shall have a home and
it can be yours. Father has plenty of money and can get a
housekeeper. He is only sixty-five, and as hale and hearty as a
man can be. You have served your time, and surely you need not be
his drudge for the rest of your life. Mark and I thought you
would spend half the year with us."
Waitstill waived this point as too impossible for discussion.
"When and where were you married, Patty?" she asked.
"In Allentown, New Hampshire, last Monday, the day you and father
went to Saco. Ellen went with us. You needn't suppose it was much
fun for me! Girls that think running away to be married is
nothing but a lark, do not have to deceive a sister like you, nor
have a father such as mine to reckon with afterwards."
"You thought of all that before, didn't you, child?"
"Nobody that hasn't already run away to be married once or twice
could tell how it was going to feel! Never did I pass so unhappy
a day! If Mark was not everything that is kind and gentle, he
would have tipped me out of the sleigh into a snowbank and left
me by the roadside to freeze. I might have been murdered instead
of only married, by the way I behaved; but Mark and Ellen
understood. Then, the very next day, Mark's father sent him up to
Bridgton on business, and he had to go to Allentown first to
return a friend's horse, so he couldn't break the news to father
at once, as he intended."
"Does a New Hampshire marriage hold good in Maine?" asked
Waitstill, still intent on the bare facts at the bottom of the
"Well, of course," stammered Patty, some-what confused, "Maine
has her own way of doing things, and wouldn't be likely to fancy
New Hampshire's. But nothing can make it wicked or anything but
according to law. Besides, Mark considered all the difficulties.
He is wonderfully clever, and he has a clerkship in a Portsmouth
law office waiting for him; and that's where we are going to
live, in New Hampshire, where we were married, and my darling
sister will come soon and stay months and months with us."
"When is Mark coming back to arrange all this?"
"Late to-night or early to-morrow morning.
"Where did you go after you were married?"
"Where did I go?" echoed Patty, in a childish burst of tears.
"Where could I go? It took all day to be married--all day long,
working and driving hard from sunrise to seven o'clock in the
evening. Then when we reached the bridge, Mark dropped me, and I
walked up home in the dark, and went to bed without any supper,
for fear that you and father would come back and catch me at it
and ask why I was so late."
"My poor, foolish dear!" sighed Waitstill.
Patty's tears flowed faster at the first sound of sympathy in
Waitstill's voice, for self-pity is very enfeebling. She fairly
sobbed as she continued:--
"So my only wedding-journey was the freezing drive back from
Allentown, with Ellen crying all the way and wishing that she
hadn't gone with us. Mark and I both say we'll never be married
again so long as we live!"
"Where have you seen your husband from that day to this?"
"I haven't laid eyes on him!" said Patty, with a fresh burst of
woe. "I have a certificate-thing, and a wedding-ring and a
beautiful frock and hat that Mark bought in Boston, but no real
husband. I'm no more married than ever I was! Don't you remember
I said that Mark was sent away on Tuesday morning? And this is
Thursday. I've had three letters from him; but I don't know, till
we see how father takes it, when we can tell the Wilsons and
start for Portsmouth. We shan't really call ourselves married
till we get to Portsmouth; we promised each other that from the
first. It isn't much like being a bride, never to see your
bridegroom; to have a father who will fly into a passion when he
hears that you are married; not to know whether your new family
will like or despise you; and to have your only sister angered
with you for the first time in her life!"
Waitstill's heart melted, and she lifted Patty's tear-stained
face to hers and kissed it. "Well, dear, I would not have had you
do this for the world, but it is done, and Mark seems to have
been as wise as a man can be when he does an unwise thing. You
are married, and you love each other. That's the comforting thing
"We do," sobbed Patty. "No two people ever loved each other
better than we; but it's been all spoiled for fear of father."
"I must say I dread to have him hear the news"; and Waitstill
knitted her brows anxiously. "I hope it may be soon, and I think
I ought to be here when he is told. Mark will never under-stand
or bear with him, and there may be trouble that I could avert."
"I'll be here, too, and I'm not afraid! And Patty raised her head
defiantly. "Father can unmarry us, that's why we acted in this
miserable, secret, underhanded way. Somehow, though I haven't
seen Mark since we went to Allentown, I am braver than I was last
week, for now I've got somebody to take my part. I've a good mind
to go upstairs and put on my gold beads and my wedding-ring, just
to get used to them and to feel a little more married.--No: I
can't, after all, for there is father driving up the hill now,
and he may come into the house. What brings him home at this
"I was expecting him every moment"; and Waitstill rose and
stirred the fire." He took the pung and went to the Mills for
"He hasn't anything in the back of the pung--and, oh, Waity! he
is standing up now and whipping the horse with all his might. I
never saw him drive like that before: what can be the matter? He
can't have seen my wedding-ring, and only three people in all the
world know about my being married."
Waitstill turned from the window, her heart beating a little
faster." What three people know, three hundred are likely to know
sooner or later. It may be a false alarm, but father is in a fury
about something. He must not be told the news until he is in a
PATTY IS SHOWN THE DOOR
DEACON BAXTER drove into the barn, and flinging a blanket over
the wheezing horse, closed the door behind him and hurried into
the house without even thinking to lay down his whip.
Opening the kitchen door and stopping outside long enough to kick
the snow from his heavy boots, he strode into the kitchen and
confronted the two girls. He looked at them sharply before he
spoke, scanning their flushed faces and tear-stained eyes; then
he broke out savagely:--
"Oh! you're both here; that's lucky. Now stan' up and answer to
me. What's this I hear at the Mills about Patience,--common talk
outside the store?"
The time had come, then, and by some strange fatality, when Mark
was too far away to be of service.
"Tell me what you heard, father, and I can give you a better
answer," Patty replied, hedging to gain time, and shaking
"Bill Morrill says his brother that works in New Hampshire
reports you as ridin' through the streets of Allentown last
Monday with a young man."
There seemed but one reply to this, so Patty answered
tremblingly: "He says what's true; I was there."
"WHAT!" And it was plain from the Deacon's voice that he had
really disbelieved the rumor. A whirlwind of rage swept through
him and shook him from head to foot.
"Do you mean to stan' there an' own up to me that you was thirty
miles away from home with a young man?" he shouted.
"If you ask me a plain question, I've got to tell you the truth,
father: I was."
"How dare you carry on like that and drag my name into scandal,
you worthless trollop, you? Who went along with you? I'll skin
the hide off him, whoever 't was!"
Patty remained mute at this threat, but Waitstill caught her hand
and whispered: "Tell him all, dear; it's got to come out. Be
brave, and I'11 stand by you."
"Why are you interferin' and puttin' in your meddlesome oar?" the
Deacon said, turning to Waitstill. "The girl would never 'a' been
there if you'd attended to your business. She's nothin' but a
fool of a young filly, an' you're an old cart-horse. It was your
job to look out for her as your mother told you to. Anybody might
'a' guessed she needed watchin'!"
"You shall not call my sister an old cart-horse! I'll not permit
it!" cried Patty, plucking up courage in her sister's defence,
and as usual comporting herself a trifle more like a spitfire
than a true heroine of tragedy.
"Hush, Patty! Let him call me anything that he likes; it makes no
difference at such a time."
"Waitstill knew nothing of my going away till this afternoon,"
continued Patty. "I kept it secret from her on purpose, because I
was afraid she would not approve. I went with Mark Wilson,
and--and--I married him in New Hampshire because we couldn't do
it at home without every-body's knowledge. Now you know all."
"Do you mean to tell me you've gone an' married that reckless,
wuthless, horse-trottin', card-playin' sneak of a Wilson boy
that's courted every girl in town? Married the son of a man that
has quarrelled with me and insulted me in public? By the Lord
Harry, I'll crack this whip over your shoulders once before I'm
done with you! If I'd used it years ago you might have been an
honest woman to-day, instead of a--"
Foxwell Baxter had wholly lost control of himself, and the
temper, that had never been governed or held in check, lashed
itself into a fury that made him for the moment unaccountable for
his words or actions.
Waitstill took a step forward in front of Patty. "Put down that
whip, father, or I'll take it from you and break it across my
knee!" Her eyes blazed and she held her head high. "You've made
me do the work of a man, and, thank God, I've got the muscle of
one. Don't lift a finger to Patty, or I'11 defend her, I promise
you! The dinner-horn is in the side entry and two blasts will
bring Uncle Bart up the hill, but I'd rather not call him unless
you force me to."
The Deacon's grasp on the whip relaxed, and he fell back a little
in sheer astonishment at the bravado of the girl, ordinarily so
quiet and self-contained. He was speechless for a second, and
then recovered breath enough to shout to the terrified Patty: "I
won't use the whip till I hear whether you've got any excuse for
your scandalous behavior. Hear me tell you one thing: this little
pleasure-trip o' yourn won't do you no good, for I'11 break the
marriage! I won't have a Wilson in my family if I have to empty a
shot-gun into him; but your lies and your low streets are so
beyond reason I can't believe my ears. What's your excuse, I
"Stop a minute, Patty, before you answer, and let me say a few
things that ought to have been said before now," interposed
Waitstill. "If Patty has done wrong, father, you've no one but
yourself to thank for it, and it's only by God's grace that
nothing worse has happened to her. What could you expect from a
young thing like that, with her merry heart turned into a lump in
her breast every day by your cruelty? Did she deceive you? Well,
you've made her afraid of you ever since she was a baby in the
cradle, drawing the covers over her little head when she heard
your step. Whatever crop you sow is bound to come up, father;
that's Nature's law, and God's, as well."
"You hold your tongue, you,--readin' the law to your elders an'
betters," said the old man, choking with wrath. "My business is
with this wuthless sister o' yourn, not with you!--You've got
your coat and hood on, miss, so you jest clear out o' the house;
an' if you're too slow about it, I'll help you along. I've no
kind of an idea you're rightly married, for that young Wilson
sneak couldn't pay so high for you as all that; but if it amuses
you to call him your husband, go an' find him an' stay with him.
This is an honest house, an' no place for such as you!"
Patty had a good share of the Baxter temper, not under such
control as Waitstill's, and the blood mounted into her face.
"You shall not speak to me so!" she said intrepidly, while
keeping a discreet eye on the whip. "I'm not a--a--caterpillar to
be stepped on, I'm a married woman, as right as a New Hampshire
justice can make me, with a wedding-ring and a certificate to
show, if need be. And you shall not call my husband names! Time
will tell what he is going to be, and that's a son-in-law any
true father would be proud to own!"
"Why are you set against this match, father? " argued Waitstill,
striving to make him hear reason. "Patty has married into one of
the best families in the village. Mark is gay and thought-less,
but never has he been seen the worse for liquor, and never has he
done a thing for which a wife need hang her head. It is something
for a young fellow of four-and-twenty to be able to provide for a
wife and keep her in comfort; and when all is said and done, it
is a true love-match."
Patty seized this inopportune moment to forget her father's
presence, and the tragic nature of the occasion, and, in her
usual impetuous fashion, flung her arms around Waitstill's neck
and gave her the hug of a young bear.
"My own dear sister," she said. "I don't mind anything, so long
as you stand up for us."
"Don't make her go to-night, father," pleaded Waitstill. "Don't
send your own child out into the cold. Remember her husband is
away from home."
"She can find another up at the Mills as good as he is, or
better. Off with you, I say, you trumpery little baggage, you!"
"Go, then, dear, it is better so; Uncle Bart will keep you
overnight; run up and get your things"; and Waitstill sank into a
chair, realizing the hopelessness of the situation.
"She'11 not take anything from my house. It's her husband's
business to find her in clothes."
"They'll be better ones than ever you found me," was Patty's
No heroics for her; no fainting fits at being disowned; no
hysterics at being turned out of house and home; no prayers for
mercy, but a quick retort for every gibe from her father; and her
defiant attitude enraged the Deacon the more.
"I won't speak again," he said, in a tone that could not be
mistaken. "Into the street you go, with the clothes you stand up
in, or I'11 do what I said I'd do."
"Go, Patty, it's the only thing to be done. Don't tremble, for
nobody shall touch a hair of your head. I can trust you to find
shelter to-night, and Mark will take care of you to-morrow."
Patty buttoned her shabby coat and tied on her hood as she walked
from the kitchen through the sitting-room towards the side door,
her heart heaving with shame and anger, and above all with a
child's sense of helplessness at being parted from her sister.
"Don't tell the neighbors any more lies than you can help,"
called her father after her retreating form; "an' if any of 'em
dare to come up here an' give me any of their imperdence, they'll
be treated same as you. Come back here, Waitstill, and don't go
to slobberin' any good-byes over her. She ain't likely to get out
o' the village for some time if she's expectin' Mark Wilson to
take her away."
"I shall certainly go to the door with my sister," said Waitstill
coldly, suiting the action to the word, and following Patty out
on the steps. "Shall you tell Uncle Bart everything, dear, and
ask him to let you sleep at his house?"
Both girls were trembling with excitement; Waitstill pale as a
ghost, Patty flushed and tearful, with defiant eyes and lips that
"I s'pose so," she answered dolefully; "though Aunt Abby hates
me, on account of Cephas. I'd rather go to Dr. Perry's, but I
don't like to meet Phil. There doesn't seem to be any good place
for me, but it 's only for a night. And you'11 not let father
prevent your seeing Mark and me to-morrow, will you? Are you
afraid to stay alone? I'11 sit on the steps all night if you say
"No, no, run along. Father has vented his rage upon you, and I
shall not have any more trouble. God bless and keep you, darling.
"And you're not angry with me now, Waity? You still love me? And
you'll forgive Mark and come to stay with us soon, soon, soon?"
"We'll see, dear, when all this unhappy business is settled, and
you are safe and happy in your own home. I shall have much to
tell you when we meet to-morrow."
WAITSTILL SPEAKS HER MIND
Patty had the most ardent love for her elder sister, and
something that resembled reverence for her unselfishness, her
loyalty, and her strength of character; but if the truth were
told she had no great opinion of Waitstill's ability to feel
righteous wrath, nor of her power to avenge herself in the face
of rank injustice. It was the conviction of her own superior
finesse and audacity that had sustained patty all through her
late escapade. She felt herself a lucky girl, indeed, to achieve
liberty and happiness for herself, but doubly lucky if she had
chanced to open a way of escape for her more docile and dutiful
She would have been a trifle astonished had she surmised the
existence of certain mysterious waves that had been sweeping
along the coasts of Waitstill's mind that afternoon, breaking
down all sorts of defences and carrying her will along with them
by sheer force: but it is a truism that two human beings can live
beside each other for half a century and yet continue strangers.
Patty's elopement with the youth of her choice, taking into
account all its attendant risks, was Indeed an exhibition of
courage and initiative not common to girls of seventeen; but
Waitstill was meditating a mutiny more daring yet--a mutiny, too,
involving a course of conduct most unusual in maidens of puritan
She walked back into the kitchen to find her father sitting
placidly in the rocking-chair by the window. He had lighted his
corn-cob pipe, in which he always smoked a mixture of dried
sweet-fern as being cheaper than tobacco, and his face wore
something resembling a smile--a foxy smile--as he watched his
youngest-born ploughing down the hill through the deep snow,
while the more obedient Waitstill moved about the room, setting
supper on the table.
Conversation was not the Deacon's forte, but it seemed proper for
some one to break the ice that seemed suddenly to be very thick
in the immediate vicinity.
"That little Jill-go-over-the-ground will give the neighbors a
pleasant evenin' tellin' 'em 'bout me," he chuckled. "Aunt Abby
Cole will run the streets o' the three villages by sun-up
to-morrer; but nobody pays any 'tention to a woman whose tongue
is hung in the middle and wags at both ends. I wa'n't intending
to use the whip on your sister, Waitstill," continued the Deacon,
with a crafty look at his silent daughter, "though a trouncin'
would 'a' done her a sight o' good; but I was only tryin' to
frighten her a little mite an' pay her up for bringin' disgrace
on us the way she's done, makin' us the talk o' the town. Well,
she's gone, an' good riddance to bad rubbish, say I! One less
mouth to feed, an' one less body to clothe. You'll miss her jest
at first, on account
o' there bein' no other women-folks on the hill, but 't won't
last long. I'll have Bill Morrill do some o' your outside chores,
so 't you can take on your sister's work, if she ever done any."
This was a most astoundingly generous proposition on the Deacon's
part, and to tell the truth he did not himself fully understand
his mental processes when he made it; but it seemed to be drawn
from him by a kind of instinct that he was not standing well in
his elder daughter's books. Though the two girls had never made
any demonstration of their affection in his presence, he had a
fair idea of their mutual dependence upon each other. Not that he
placed the slightest value on Waitstill's opinion of him, or
cared in the smallest degree what she, or any one else in the
universe, thought of his conduct; but she certainly did appear to
advantage when contrasted with the pert little hussy who had just
left the premises. Also, Waitstill loomed large in his household
comforts and economies, having a clear head, a sure hand, and
being one of the steady-going, reliable sort that can be counted
on in emergencies, not, like Patty, going off at half-cock at the
smallest provocation. Yes, Waitstill, as a product of his
masterly training for the last seven years, had settled down,
not without some trouble and friction, into a tolerably
dependable pack-horse, and he intended in the future to use some
care in making permanent so valuable an aid and ally. She did not
pursue nor attract the opposite sex, as his younger daughter
apparently did; so by continuing his policy of keeping all young
men rigidly at a distance he could count confidently on having',
Waitstill serve his purposes for the next fifteen or twenty
years, or as long as he, himself, should continue to ornament and
enrich the earth. He would go to Saco the very next day, and cut
Patty out of his will, arranging his property so that Waitstill
should be the chief legatee as long as she continued to live
obediently under his roof. He intended to make the last point
clear if he had to consult every lawyer in York County; for he
wouldn't take risks on any woman alive.
If he must leave his money anywhere--and it was with a bitter
pang that he faced the inexorable conviction that he could
neither live forever, nor take his savings with him to the realms
of bliss prepared for members of the Orthodox Church in good and
regular standing--if he must leave his money behind him, he would
dig a hole in the ground and bury it, rather than let it go to
any one who had angered him in his lifetime.
These were the thoughts that caused him to relax his iron grip
and smile as he sat by the window, smoking his corn-cob pipe and
taking one of his very rare periods of rest.
Presently he glanced at the clock. "It's only quarter-past four,"
he said. "I thought 't was later, but the snow makes it so light
you can't jedge the time. The moon fulls to-night, don't it? Yes;
come to think of it, I know it does. Ain't you settin' out supper
a little mite early, Wait still? "This was a longer and more
amiable speech than he had made in years, but Waitstill never
glanced at him as she said: "It is a little early, but I want to
get it ready before I leave."
"Be you goin' out? Mind, I won't have you follerin' Patience
round; you'll only upset what I've done, an' anyhow I want you to
keep away from the neighbors for a few days, till all this blows
He spoke firmly, though for him mildly, for he still had the
uneasy feeling that he stood on the brink of a volcano; and, as a
matter of fact, he tumbled into it the very next moment.
The meagre supper was spread; a plate of cold; soda biscuits, a
dried-apple pie, and the usual brown teapot were in evidence; and
as her father ceased speaking Waitstill opened the door of the
brick oven where the bean-pot reposed, set a chair by the table,
and turning, took up her coat (her mother's old riding-cloak, it
was), and calmly put it on, reaching then for her hood and her
"You are goin' out, then, spite o' what I said?" the Deacon
"Did you really think, father, that I would sleep under your roof
after you had turned my sister out into the snow to lodge with
whoever might take her in--my seventeen year-old-sister that your
wife left to my care; my little sister, the very light of my
Waitstill's voice trembled a trifle, but other-wise she was quite
calm and free from heroics of any sort.
The Deacon looked up in surprise. "I guess you're kind o'
hystericky," he said. "Set down--set down an' talk things over. I
ain't got nothin' ag'in' you, an' I mean to treat you right. Set
The old man was decidedly nervous, and intended to keep his
temper until there was a safer chance to let it fly.
Waitstill sat down. "There's nothing to talk over," she said. "I
have done all that I promised my stepmother the night she died,
and now I am going. If there's a duty owed between daughter and
father, it ought to work both ways. I consider that I have done
my share, and now I intend to seek happiness for myself. I have
never had any, and I am starving for it."
"An' you'd leave me to git on the best I can, after what I've
done for you?" burst out the Deacon, still trying to hold down
his growing passion.
"You gave me my life, and I'm thankful to you for that, but
you've given me little since, father."
"Hain't I fed an' clothed you?"
"No more than I have fed and clothed you. You've provided the raw
food, and I've cooked and served it. You've bought and I have
made shirts and overalls and coats for you, and knitted your
socks and comforters and mittens. Not only have I toiled and
saved and scrimped away my girlhood as you bade me, but I've
earned for you. Who made the butter, and took care of the hens,
and dried the apples, and 'drew in' the rugs? Who raised and
ground the peppers for sale, and tended the geese that you might
sell the feathers? No, father, I don't consider that I'm in your
A CLASH OF WILLS
DEACON FOXWELL BAXTER was completely non-plussed for the first
time in his life. He had never allowed "argyfyin'" in his
household, and there had never been a clash of wills before this
when he had not come off swiftly and brutally triumphant. This
situation was complicated by the fact that he did not dare to
apply the brakes as usual, since there were more issues involved
than ever before. He felt too stunned to deal properly with this
daughter, having emptied all the vials of his wrath upon the
other one, and being, in consequence, somewhat enfeebled. It was
always easy enough to cope with Patty, for her impertinence
evoked such rage that the argument took care of itself; but this
grave young woman was a different matter. There she sat
composedly on the edge of her wooden chair, her head lifted high,
her color coming and going, her eyes shining steadily, like fixed
stars; there she sat, calmly announcing her intention of leaving
her father to shift for himself; yet the skies seemed to have no
thought of falling! He felt that he must make another effort to
assert his authority.
"Now, you take off your coat," he said, the pipe in his hand
trembling as he stirred nervously in his chair. "You take your
coat right off an' set down to the supper-table, same as usual,
do you hear? Eat your victuals an' then go to your bed an' git
over this crazy fit that Patience has started workin' in you. No
more nonsense, now; do as I tell you!"
"I have made up my mind, father, and it's no use arguing. All who
try to live with you fail, sooner or later. You have had four
children, father. One boy ran away; the other did not mind being
drowned, I fear, since life was so hard at home. You have just
turned the third child out for a sin of deceit and disobedience
she would never have committed--for her nature is as clear as
crystal--if you had ever loved her or considered her happiness.
So I have done with you, unless in your old age God should bring
you to such a pass that no one else will come to your assistance;
then I'd see somehow that you were cared for and nursed and made
comfortable. You are not an old man; you are strong and healthy,
and you have plenty of money to get a good house-keeper. I should
decide differently, perhaps, if all this were not true."
"You lie! I haven't got plenty of money!" And the Deacon struck
the table a sudden blow that made the china in the cupboard
rattle. "You've no notion what this house costs me, an' the feed
for the stock, an' you two girls, an' labor at the store, an' the
hay-field, an' the taxes an' insurance! I've slaved from sunrise
to sunset but I ain't hardly been able to lay up a cent. I s'pose
the neighbors have been fillin' you full o' tales about my
mis'able little savin's an' makin' 'em into a fortune. Well, you
won't git any of 'em, I promise you that!"
"You have plenty laid away; everybody knows, so what's the use of
denying it? Anyway, I don't want a penny of your money, father,
so good-bye. There's enough cooked to keep you for a couple of
days"; and Waitstill rose from her chair and drew on her mittens.
Father and daughter confronted each other, the secret fury of the
man met by the steady determination of the girl. The Deacon was
baffled, almost awed, by Waitstill's quiet self-control; but at
the very moment that he was half-uncomprehendingly glaring at
her, it dawned upon him that he was beaten, and that she was
mistress of the situation.
Where would she go? What were her plans?--for definite plans she
had, or she could not meet his eye with so resolute a gaze. If
she did leave
him, how could he contrive to get her back again, and so escape
the scorn of the village, the averted look, the lessened trade?
"Where are you goin' now?" he asked, and though he tried his best
he could not for the life of him keep back one final taunt. "I
s'pose, like your sister, you've got a man in your eye?" He chose
this, to him, impossible suggestion as being the most insulting
one that he could invent at the moment.
"I have," replied Waitstill, "a man in my eye and in my heart. We
should have been husband and wife before this had we not been
kept apart by obstacles too stubborn for us to overcome. My way
has chanced to open first, though it was none of my contriving."
Had the roof fallen in upon him, the Deacon could not have been
more dumbfounded. His tongue literally clove to the roof of his
mouth; his face fell, and his mean, piercing eyes blinked under
his shaggy brows as if seeking light.
Waitstill stirred the fire, closed the brick oven and put the
teapot on the back of the stove, hung up the long-handled dipper
on its accustomed nail over the sink, and went to the door.
Her father collected his scattered wits and pulled himself to his
feet by the arms of the high-backed rocker. "You shan't step
outside this 306
room till you tell me where you're goin'," he said when he found
"I have no wish to keep it secret: I am going to see if Mrs.
Mason will keep me to-night. To-morrow I shall walk down river
and get work at the mills, but on my way I shall stop at the
Boyntons' to tell Ivory I am ready to marry him as soon as he's
ready to take me."
This was enough to stir the blood of the Deacon into one last
"I might have guessed it if I hadn't been blind as a bat an' deaf
as an adder!" And he gave the table another ringing blow before
he leaned on it to gather strength. "Of course, it would be one
o' that crazy Boynton crew you'd take up with," he roared.
"Nothin' would suit either o' you girls but choosin' the biggest
enemies I've got in the whole village!"
"You've never taken pains to make anything but enemies, so what
could we do?"
"You might as well go to live on the poor-farm! Aaron Boynton was
a disrep'table hound; Lois Boynton is as crazy as a loon; the boy
is a no-body's child, an' Ivory's no better than a common
"Ivory's a brave, strong, honorable man, and a scholar, too. I
can work for him and help him earn and save, as I have you."
"How long's this been goin' on?" The Deacon was choking, but he
meant to get to the bottom of things while he had the chance.
"It has not gone on at all. He has never said a word to me, and I
have always obeyed your will in these matters; but you can't hide
love, any more than you can hide hate. I know Ivory loves me, so
I'm going to tell him that my duty is done here and I am ready to
"Goin' to throw yourself at his head, be you?" sneered the
Deacon. "By the Lord, I don' know where you two girls got these
loose ways o' think-in' an' acting mebbe he won't take you, an'
then where'll you be? You won't git under my roof again when
you've once left it, you can make up your mind to that!"
"If you have any doubts about Ivory's being willing to take me,
you'd better drive along behind me and listen while I ask him."
Waitstill's tone had an exultant thrill of certainty in it. She
threw up her head, glorying in what she was about to do. If she
laid aside her usual reserve and voiced her thoughts openly, it
was not in the hope of convincing her father, but for the bliss
of putting them into words and intoxicating herself by the sound
"Come after me if you will, father, and watch the welcome I shall
get. Oh! I have no fear of being turned out by Ivory Boynton. I
can hardly wait to give him the joy I shall be bringing! It 's
selfish to rob him of the chance to speak first, but I'11 do it!"
And before Deacon Baxter could cross the room, Waitstill was out
of the kitchen door into the shed, and flying down Town-House
Hill like an arrow shot free from the bow.
The Deacon followed close behind, hardly knowing why, but he was
no match for the girl, and at last he stood helpless on the steps
of the shed, shaking his fist and hurling terrible words after
her, words that it was fortunate for her peace of mind she could
"A curse upon you both!" he cried savagely. "Not satisfied with
disobeyin' an' defyin' me, you've put me to shame, an' now you'll
be settin' the neighbors ag'in' me an' ruinin' my trade. If you
was freezin' in the snow I wouldn't heave a blanket to you! If
you was starvin' I wouldn't fling either of you a crust! Never
shall you darken my doors again, an' never shall you git a penny
o' my money, not if I have to throw it into the river to spite
Here his breath failed, and he stumbled out into the barn
whimpering between his broken sentences like a whipped child.
"Here I am with nobody to milk, nor feed the hens; nobody to
churn to-morrow, nor do the chores; a poor, mis'able creeter,
deserted by my children, with nobody to do a hand's turn 'thout
bein' paid for every step they take! I'11 give 'em what they
deserve; I don' know what, but I'll be even with 'em yet." And
the Deacon set his Baxter jaw in a way that meant his
determination to stop at nothing.
IVORY BOYNTON drove home from the woods that same afternoon by
way of the bridge, in order to buy some provisions at the brick
store. When he
was still a long distance from the bars that divided the lane
from the highroad, he espied a dark-clad little speck he knew to
be Rodman leaning over the fence, waiting and longing as usual
for his home-coming, and his heart warmed at the thought of the
boyish welcome that never failed.
The sleigh slipped quickly over the hard-packed, shining road,
and the bells rang merrily in the clear, cold air, giving out a
joyous sound that had no echo in Ivory's breast that day. He had
just had a vision of happiness through another man's eyes. was he
always to stand out-side the banqueting-table, he wondered, and
see others feasting while he hungered
Now the little speck bounded from the fence, flew down the road
to meet the sleigh, and jumped in by the driver's side.
"I knew you'd come to-night," Rodman cried eagerly. "I told Aunt
Boynton you'd come."
"How is she, well as common?"
"No, not a bit well since yesterday morning, but Mrs. Mason says
it's nothing worse than a cold. Mrs. Mason has just gone home,
and we've had a grand house-cleaning to-day. She's washed and
ironed and baked, and we've put Aunt Boynton in clean sheets and
pillow-cases, and her room's nice and warm, and I carried the eat
in and put it on her bed to keep her company while I came to
watch for you. Aunt Boynton let Mrs. Mason braid her hair, and
seemed to like her brushing it. It's been dreadful lonesome, and
oh! I am glad you came back, Ivory. Did you find any more spruce
gum where you went this time?"
"Pounds and pounds, Rod; enough to bring me in nearly a hundred
dollars. I chanced on the greatest place I've found yet. I
followed the wake of an old whirlwind that had left long furrows
in the forest,--I've told you how the thing works,--and I tracked
its course by the gum that had formed wherever the trees were
wounded. It's hard, lonely work, Rod, but it pays well."
"If I could have been there, maybe we could have got more. I'm
good at shinning up trees."
"Yes, sometime we'11 go gum-picking together. We'll climb the
trees like a couple of cats, and take our knives and serape off
the precious lumps that are worth so much money to the druggists.
You've let down the bars, I see."
"'Cause I knew you'd come to-night," said Rodman. "I felt it in
my bones. We're going to have a splendid supper."
"Are we? That's good news." Ivory tried to make his tone bright
and interested, though his heart was like a lump of lead in his
breast. "It's the least I can do for the poor little chap," he
thought, "when he stays as caretaker in this lonely spot.--I
wonder if I hadn't better drive into the barn, Rod, and leave the
harness on Nick till I go in and see mother? Guess I will."
"She's hot, Aunt Boynton is, hot and restless, but Mrs. Mason
thinks that's all."
Ivory found his mother feverish, and her eyes were unnaturally
bright; but she was clear in X mind and cheerful, too, sitting up
in bed to r^ breathe the better, while the Maltese eat snuggled
under her arm and purred peacefully
"The cat is Rod's idea," she said smilingly but in a very weak
voice. "He is a great nurse I should never have thought of the
eat myself but she gives me more comfort than all the medicine."
Ivory and Rodman drew up to the supper table, already set in the
kitchen, but before Ivory took his seat he softly closed the door
that led into the living-room. They ate their beans and brown
bread and the mince pie that had been the "splendid" feature of
the meal, as reported by the boy; and when they had finished, and
Rodman was clearing the table, Ivory walked to the window,
lighting his pipe the while, and stood soberly looking out on the
snowy landscape. One could scarcely tell it was twilight, with
such sweeps of whiteness to catch every gleam of the dying day.
"Drop work a minute and come here, Rod," he said at length. "Can
you keep a secret?"
"'Course I can! I'm chock full of 'em now, and nobody could dig
one of 'em out o' me with a pickaxe!"
"Oh, well! If you're full you naturally couldn't hold another!"
"I could try to squeeze it in, if it's a nice one," coaxed the
"I don't know whether you'11 think it's a nice one, Rod, for it
breaks up one of your plans. I'm not sure myself how nice it is,
but it's a very big, unexpected, startling one. What do you
think? Your favorite Patty has gone and got married."
"Patty! Married!" cried Rod, then hastily putting his hand over
his mouth to hush his too-loud speaking.
"Yes, she and Mark Wilson ran away last Monday, drove over to
Allentown, New Hampshire, and were married without telling a
soul. Deacon Baxter discovered everything this afternoon, like
the old fox that he is, and turned Patty out of the house."
"Mean old skinflint!" exclaimed Rod excitedly, all the incipient
manhood rising in his ten-year-old breast. "Is she gone to live
with the Wilsons?"
"The Wilsons don't know yet that Mark is married to her, but I
met him driving like Jehu, just after I had left Patty, and told
him everything that had happened, and did my best to cool him
down and keep him from murdering his new father-in-law by showing
him it would serve no real purpose now."
"Did he look married, and all different?" asked Rod curiously.
"Yes, he did, and more like a man than ever he looked before in
his life. We talked everything over together, and he went home at
once to break the news to his family, without even going to take
a peep at Patty. I couldn't bear to have them meet till he had
something cheerful to say to the poor little soul. When I met her
by Uncle Bart's shop, she was trudging along in the snow like a
draggled butterfly, and crying like a baby."
Sympathetic tears dimmed Rodman's eyes. "I can't bear to see
girls cry, Ivory. I just can't bear it, especially Patty."
"Neither can I, Rod. I came pretty near wiping her eyes, but
pulled up, remembering she wasn't a child but a married lady.
Well, now we come to the point."
"Isn't Patty's being married the point?"
"No, only part of it. Patty's being sent away from home leaves
Waitstill alone with the Deacon, do you see? And if Patty is your
favorite, Waitstill is mine--I might as well own up to that."
"She's mine, too," cried Rod. "They're both my favorites, but I
always thought Patty was the suitablest for me to marry if she'd
wait for me. Waitstill is too grand for a boy!"
"She's too grand for anybody, Rod. There isn't a man alive that's
worthy to strap on her skates."
"Well, she's too grand for anybody except--" and here Rod's shy,
wistful voice trailed off into discreet silence.
"Now I had some talk with Patty, and she thinks Waitstill will
have no trouble with her father just at present. She says he
lavished so much rage upon her that there'll be none left for
anybody else for a day or two. And, moreover, that he will never
dare to go too far with Waitstill, because she's so useful to
him. I'm not afraid of his beating or injuring her so long as he
keeps his sober senses, if he's ever rightly had any; but I don't
like to think of his upbraiding her and breaking her heart with
his cruel talk just after she's lost the sister that's been her
only companion." And Ivory's hand trembled as he filled his pipe.
He had no confidant but this quaint, tender-hearted,
old-fashioned little lad, to whom he had grown to speak his mind
as if he were a man of his own age; and Rod, in the same way, had
gradually learned to understand and sympathize.
"It's dreadful lonesome on Town-House Hill," said the boy in a
"Dreadful lonesome," echoed Ivory with a sigh; "and I don't dare
leave mother until her fever dies down a bit and she sleeps. Now
do you remember the night that she was taken ill, and we shared
Rodman held his breath. " Do you mean you 're going to let me
help just as if I was big? " he asked, speaking through a great
lump in his throat.
"There are only two of us, Rod. You're rather young for this
piece of work, but you're trusty--you 're trusty!"
"Am I to keep watch on the Deacon?"
"That's it, and this is my plan: Nick will have had his feed; you
're to drive to the bridge when it gets a little darker and hitch
in Uncle Bart's horse-shed, covering Nick well. You're to go into
the brick store, and while you're getting some groceries wrapped
up, listen to anything the men say, to see if they know what's
happened. When you've hung about as long as you dare, leave your
bundle and say you'll call in again for it. Then see if Baxter's
store is open. I don't believe it will be, and if it Isn't, look
for a light in his kitchen window, and prowl about till you know
that Waitstill and the Deacon have gone up to their bedrooms.
Then go to Uncle Bart's and find out if Patty is there."
Rod's eyes grew bigger and bigger: "Shall I talk to her?" he
asked; "and what'll I say?"
"No, just ask if she's there. If she's gone, Mark has made it
right with his family and taken her home. If she hasn't, why, God
knows how that matter will be straightened out. Anyhow, she has a
husband now, and he seems to value her; and Waitstill is alone on
the top of that wind-swept hill!"
"I'll go. I'll remember everything," cried Rodman, in the seventh
heaven of delight at the responsibilities Ivory was heaping upon
"Don't stay beyond eight o'clock; but come back and tell me
everything you've learned. Then, if mother grows no worse, I'll
walk back to Uncle Bart's shop and spend the night there,
just--just to be near, that's all."
"You couldn't hear Waitstill, even if she called," Rod said.
"Couldn't I? A man's ears are very sharp under certain
circumstances. I believe if Waitstill needed help I could hear
her--breathe! Besides, I shall be up and down the hill till I
know all's well; and at sunrise I'11 go up and hide behind some
of Baxter's buildings till I see
him get his breakfast and go to the store. Now wash your dishes";
and Ivory caught up his cap from a hook behind the door.
"Are you going to the barn? " asked Rodman.
"No, only down to the gate for a minute. Mark said that if he had
a good chance he'd send a boy with a note, and get him to put it
under the stone gate-post. It's too soon to expect it, perhaps,
but I can't seem to keep still."
Rodman tied a gingham apron round his waist, carried the
tea-kettle to the sink, and poured the dishpan full of boiling
water; then dipped the cups and plates in and out, wiped them and
replaced them on the table' gave the bean-platter a special
polish, and set the half mince pie and the butter-dish in the
"A boy has to do most everything in this family!" He sighed to
"I don't mind washing dishes, except the nasty frying-pan and the
sticky bean-pot; but what I'm going to do to-night is different."
Here he glowed and tingled with anticipation. "I know what they
call it in the story-books--it's sentry duty; and that's braver
work for a boy than dish-washing!"
Which, however, depends a good deal upon circumstances, and
somewhat on the point of view.
THE HOUSE OF AARON
A FEELING that the day was to bring great things had dawned upon
Waitstill when she woke that morning, and now it was coming true.
Climbing Saco Hill was like climbing the hill of her dreams; life
and love beckoned to her across the snowy slopes.
At rest about Patty's future, though troubled as to her sorry
plight at the moment, she was conscious chiefly of her new-born
freedom. She revelled in the keen air that tingled against her
cheek, and drew in fresh hope with every breath. As she trod the
shining pathway she was full of expectancy, her eyes dancing, her
heart as buoyant as her step. Not a vestige of confusion or
uncertainty vexed her mind. She knew Ivory for her true mate, and
if the way to him took her through dark places it was lighted by
a steadfast beacon of love.
At the top of the hill she turned the corner breathlessly, and
faced the length of road that led to the Boynton farm. Mrs.
Mason's house was beyond, and oh, how she hoped that Ivory would
be at home, and that she need not wait another day to tell him
all, and claim the gift she knew was hers before she asked it.
She might not have the same exaltation to-morrow, for now there
were no levels in her heart and soul. She had a sense of mounting
from height to height and lighting fires on every peak of her
being. She took no heed of the road she was travelling; she was
conscious only of a wonderful inward glow.
The house was now in sight, and a tall figure was issuing from
the side door, putting on a fur cap as it came out on the steps
and down the lane. Ivory was at home, then, and, best of all, he
was unconsciously coming to meet her--although their hearts had
been coming to meet each other, she thought, ever since they
first began to beat.
As she neared the bars she called Ivory's name. His hands were in
the pockets of his great-coat, and his eyes were fixed on the
ground. Sombre he was, distinctly sombre, in mien and gait; could
she make him smile and flush and glow, as she was smiling and
flushing and glowing? As he heard her voice he raised his head
quickly and uncomprehendingly.
"Don't come any nearer," she said, "until I have told you
something!" His mind had been so full of her that the sight of
her in the flesh, standing twenty feet away, bewildered him.
She took a few steps nearer the gate, near enough now for him to
see her rosy face framed in a blue hood, and to catch the
brightness of her eyes under their lovely lashes. Ordinarily they
were cool and limpid and grave, Waitstill's eyes; now a sunbeam
danced in each of them. And her lips, almost always tightly
closed, as if she were holding back her natural speech,--her lips
were red and parted, and the soul of her, free at last, shone
through her face, making it luminous with a new beauty.
"I have left home for good and all," she said. "I'll tell you
more of this later on, but I have left my father's house with
nothing to my name but the clothes I stand in. I am going to look
for work in the mills to-morrow, but I stopped here to say that
I'm ready to marry you whenever you want me--if you do want me."
Ivory was bewildered, indeed, but not so much so that he failed
to apprehend, and instantly, too, the real significance of this
He took a couple of long strides, and before Waitstill had any
idea of his intentions he vaulted over the bars and gathered her
in his arms.
"Never shall you go to the mills, never shall you leave my sight
for a single hour again, my one-woman-in-all-the-world! Come to
me, to be loved and treasured all your life long! I've worshipped
you ever since I was a boy; I've kept my heart swept and
garnished for you and no other, hoping I might win you at last."
How glorious to hear all this delicious poetry of love, and to
feel Ivory's arms about her, making the dream seem surer!
"Oh, how like you to shorten the time of my waiting!" he went on,
his words fairly chasing one another in their eagerness to be
How like you to count on me, to guess my hunger for your love, to
realize the chains that held me back, and break them yourself
with your own dear, womanly hands! How like you, oh, wonderful
Ivory went on murmuring phrases that had been lying in his heart
unsaid for years, scarcely conscious of what he was saying,
realizing only that the miracle of miracles had happened.
Waitstill, for her part, was almost dumb with joy to be lying so
close to his heart that she could hear it beating; to feel the
passionate tenderness of his embrace and his kiss falling upon
"I did not know a girl could be so happy!" she whispered. "I've
dreamed of it, but it was nothing like this. I am all a-tremble
Ivory held her off at arm's length for a moment, reluctantly,
grudgingly. "You took me fairly off my feet, dearest," he said,
"and forgot everything but the one supreme fact you were telling
me. Had I been on guard I should have told you that I am no
worthy husband for you, Waitstill. I haven't enough to offer such
a girl as you."
"You're too late, Ivory! You showed me your heart first, and now
you are searching your mind for bugbears to frighten me."
"I am a poor man."
"No girl could be poorer than I am."
"After what you've endured, you ought to have rest and comfort."
"I shall have both--in you!" This with eyes, all wet, lifted to
"My mother is a great burden--a very dear and precious, but a
"She needs a daughter. It is in such things that I shall be your
"Will not the boy trouble you and add to your cares?"
"Rod? I love him; he shall be my little brother."
"What if my father were not really dead?--I think of this
sometimes in the night!--What if he should wander back, broken in
spirit, feeble in body, empty in purse?"
"I do not come to you free of burdens. If my father is deserted
by all, I must see that he is made comfortable. He never treated
me like a daughter, but I acknowledge his claim."
"Mine is such a gloomy house!"
"Will it be gloomy when I am in it?" and Waitstill, usually so
grave, laughed at last like a care-free child.
Ivory felt himself hidden in the beautiful shelter of the girl's
love. It was dark now, or as dark as the night ever is that has
moonlight and snow. He took Waitstill in his arms again
reverently, and laid his cheek against her hair. "I worship God
as well as I know how," he whispered; "worship him as the maker
of this big heaven and earth that surrounds us. But I worship you
as the maker of my little heaven and earth, and my heart is
saying its prayers to you at this very moment!"
"Hush, my dear! hush! and don't value me too much, or I shall
lose my head--I that have never known a sweet word in all my life
save those that my sister has given me.--I must tell you all
about Patty now."
"I happen to know more than you, dear. I met her at the bridge
when I was coming home from the woods, and I saw her safely to
Uncle Bart's door.--I don't know why we speak of it as Uncle
Bart's when it is really Aunt Abby's!--I next met Mark, who had
fairly flown from Bridgton on the wings of love, arriving hours
ahead of time. I managed to keep him from avenging the insults
heaped upon his bride, and he has driven to the Mills to confide
in his father and mother. By this time Patty is probably the
centre of the family group, charming them all as is her custom."
"Oh, I am so glad Mark is at home! Now I can be at rest about
Patty. And I must not linger another moment, for I am going to
ask Mrs. Mason to keep me overnight," cried Waitstill, bethinking
herself suddenly of time and place.
"I will take you there myself and explain everything. And the
moment I've lighted a fire in Mrs. Mason's best bedroom and
settled you there, what do you think I am going to do? I shall
drive to the town clerk's house, and if he is in bed, rout
him out and have the notice of our intended marriage posted
in a public place according to law. Perhaps I shall save a day
out of the fourteen I've got to wait for my wife. 'Mills,'
indeed! I wonder at you, Waitstill! As if Mrs. Mason's house was
not far enough away, without your speaking of 'mills.'"
"I only suggested mills in case you did not want to marry me,"
"Walk up to the door with me," begged Ivory.
"The horse is all harnessed, and Rod will slip him into the
sleigh in a jiffy."
"Oh, Ivory! do you realize what this means?"--and Waitstill clung
to his arm as they went up the lane together--"that whatever
sorrow, whatever hardship comes to us, neither of us will ever
have to bear it alone again?"
"I believe I do realize it as few men could, for never in my
five-and-twenty years have I had a human creature to whom I could
pour myself out, in whom I could really confide, with whom I
could take counsel. You can guess what it will be to have a
comprehending woman at my side. Shall we tell my mother? Do say
'yes'; I believe she will understand.--Rod, Rod! come and see
who's stepping in the door this very minute!"
Rodman was up in his bedroom, attiring himself elaborately for
sentry duty. His delight at seeing Waitstill was perhaps slightly
tempered by the thought that flashed at once through his
mind,--that if she was safe, he would not be required to stand
guard in the snow for hours as he had hoped. But this grief
passed when he fully realized what Waitstill's presence at the
farm at this unaccustomed hour really meant. After he had been
told, he hung about her like the child that he was,--though he
had a bit of the hero in him, at bottom, too,--embracing her
waist fondly, and bristling with wondering questions.
"Is she really going to stay with us for always, Ivory?" he
"Every day and all the days; every night and all the nights.
'Praise God from whom all blessings flow!'" said Ivory, taking
off his fur cap and opening the door of the living-room. "But
we've got to wait for her a whole fortnight, Rod. Isn't that a
ridiculous snail of a law?"
"Patty didn't wait a fortnight."
"Patty never waited for anything," Ivory responded with a smile;
"but she had a good reason, and, alas! we haven't, or they'11 say
that we haven't. And I am very grateful to the same dear little
Patty, for when she got herself a husband she found me a wife!"
Rodman did not wholly understand this, but felt that there were
many mysteries attending the love affairs of grown-up people that
were too complicated for him to grasp; and it did not seem to be
just the right moment for questions.
Waitstill and Ivory went into Mrs. Boynton's room quietly, hand
in hand, and when she saw Waitstill she raised herself from her
pillow and held out her arms with a soft cry of delight.
"I haven't had you for so long, so long!" she said, touching the
girl's cheek with her frail hand.
"You are going to have me every day now, dear," whispered
Waitstill, with a sob in her voice; for she saw a change in the
face, a new transparency, a still more ethereal look than had
been there before.
"Every day?" she repeated, longingly. Waitstill took off her
hood, and knelt on the floor beside the bed, hiding her face in
the counterpane to conceal the tears.
"She is coming to live with us, dear.--Come in, Rod, and hear me
tell her.--Waitstill is coming to live with us: isn't that a
beautiful thing to happen to this dreary house?" asked Ivory,
bending to take his mother's hand.
"Don't you remember what you thought the first time I ever came
here, mother?" and Waitstill lifted her head, and looked at Mrs.
Boynton with swimming eyes and lips that trembled. "Ivory is
making it all come true, and I shall be your daughter!"
Mrs. Boynton sank farther back into her pillows, and closing her
eyes, gave a long sigh of infinite content. Her voice was so
faint that they
had to stoop to catch the words, and Ivory, feeling the strange
benediction that seemed to be passing from his mother's spirit to
theirs, took Rod's hand and knelt beside Waitstill.
The verse of a favorite psalm was running through Lois Boynton's
mind, and in a moment the words came clearly, as she opened her
eyes, lifted her hands, and touched the bowed heads. "Let the
house of Aaron now say that his mercy endureth forever!" she
said, slowly and reverently; and Ivory, with all his heart,
Ivory stirred in a sleep that had been troubled by too great
happiness. To travel a dreary path alone, a path leading
seemingly nowhere, and then suddenly to have a companion by one's
side, the very sight of whom enchanted the eye, the very touch of
whom delighted the senses--what joy unspeakable! Who could sleep
soundly when wakefulness brought a train of such blissful
He was fully awake now, for he knew his mother's voice. In all
the years, ever thoughtful of his comfort and of the constant
strain upon his strength, Lois had never wakened her son at
"Coming, mother, coming!" he said, when he realized she was
calling him; and hastily drawing on some clothing, for the night
was bitterly cold, he came out of his room and saw his mother
standing at the foot of the stairway, with a lighted candle in
"Can you come down, Ivory? It is a strange hour to call you but I
have something to tell you; something I have been piecing
together for weeks; something I have just clearly remembered."
"If it's something that won't keep till morning, mother, you
creep back into bed and we'll hear it comfortably," he said,
coming downstairs and leading her to her room. "I'll smooth the
covers, so; beat up the pillows,--there, and throw another log on
the sitting-room fire. Now, what's the matter? Couldn't you
"All summer long I have been trying to remember something;
something untrue that you have been believing, some falsehood for
which I was responsible. I have pursued and pursued it, but it
has always escaped me. Once it was clear as daylight, for Rodman
read me from the Bible a plain answer to all the questions that
"That must have been the night that she fainted," thought Ivory.
"When I awoke next morning from my long sleep, the old puzzle had
come back, a thousand times worse than before, for then I knew
that I had held the clue in my own hand and had lost it. Now,
praise God! I know the truth, and you, the only one to whom I can
tell it, are close at hand."
Ivory looked at his mother and saw that the veil that had
separated them mentally seemed to five vanished in the night that
had passed. Often and often it had blown away, as it were, for
the fraction of a moment and then blown back again. Now her eyes
met his with an altogether new clearness that startled him, while
her health came with ease and she seemed stronger than for many
"You remember the winter I was here at the farm alone, when you
were at the Academy?"
"Yes; it was then that I came home and found you so terribly ill.
Do you think we need go back to that old time now, mother dear?"
"Yes, I must, I must! One morning I received a strange letter,
bearing no signature, in which the writer said that if I wished
to see my husband I had only to go to a certain address in
Brentville, New Hampshire. The letter went on to say that Mr.
Aaron Boynton was ill and longed for nothing so much as to speak
with me; but there were reasons why he did not wish to return to
Edgewood,--would I come to him without delay."
Ivory now sat straight in his chair and listened keenly, feeling
that this was to be no vague, uncertain, and misleading memory,
but something true and tangible.
"The letter excited me greatly after your father's long absence
and silence. I knew it could mean nothing but sorrow, but
although I was half ill at the time, my plain duty was to go, so
I thought, and go without making any explanation in the village."
All this was new to Ivory and he hung upon his mother's words,
dreading yet hoping for the light that they might shed upon the
"I arrived at Brentville quite exhausted with the journey and
weighed down by anxiety and dread. I found the house mentioned in
the letter at seven o'clock in the evening, and knocked at the
door. A common, hard-featured woman answered the knock and,
seeming to expect me, ushered me in. I do not remember the room;
I remember only a child leaning patiently against the window-sill
looking out into the dark, and that the place was bare and
"I came to call upon Mr. Aaron Boynton,' I said, with my heart
sinking lower and lower as I spoke. The woman opened a door into
room and when I walked in, instead of seeing your father, I
confronted a haggard, death-stricken young woman sitting up in
bed, her great eyes bright with pain, her lips as white as her
hollow cheeks, and her long, black hair streaming over the
pillow. The very sight of her struck a knell to the little hope I
had of soothing your father's sick bed and forgiving him if he
had done me any wrong.
"'Well, you came, as I thought you would,' said the girl, looking
me over from head to foot in a way that somehow made me burn with
shame. 'Now sit down in that chair and hear what I've got to say
while I've got the strength to say it. I haven't the time nor the
desire to put a gloss on it. Aaron Boynton isn't here, as you
plainly see, but that's not my fault, for he belongs here as much
as anywhere, though he wouldn't have much interest in a dying
woman. If you have suffered on account of him, so have I and you
haven't had this pain boring into you and eating your life away
for months, as I have.'
"I pitied her, she seemed so distraught, but I was in terror of
her all the same, and urged her to tell her story calmly and I
would do my best to hear it in the same way.
"'Calm,' she exclaimed, 'with this agony tearing me to pieces!
Well, to make beginning and end in one, Aaron Boynton was my
husband for three years.'
"I caught hold of the chair to keep myself from falling and
cried: 'I do not believe it!' 'Believe it or not, she answered
scornfully, 'it makes no difference to me, but I can give you
twenty proofs in as many seconds. We met at a Cochrane meeting
and he chose me from all the others as his true wife. For two
years we travelled together, but long before they came to an end
there was no happiness for either of us. He had a conscience--not
much of a one, but just enough to keep him miserable. At last I
felt he was not believing the doctrines he preached and I caught
him trying to get news of you and your boy, just because you were
out of reach, and neglecting my boy and me, who had given up
everything to wander with him and live on whatever the brethren
and sisters chose to give us.'
"'So there was a child, a boy,' I gasped. 'Did--did he live?'
'He's in the next room,' she answered, 'and it's him I brought
you here for. Aaron Boynton has served us both the same. He left
you for me and me for Heaven knows who. If I could live I
wouldn't ask any favors, of you least of all, but I haven't a
penny in the world, though I shan't need one very long. My friend
that's nursing me hasn't a roof to her head and she wouldn't
share it with the boy if she had--she's a bigoted Orthodox.'
"'But what do you expect me to do?' I asked angrily, for she was
stabbing me with every word.
"'The boy is your husband's child and he always represented you
as a saint upon earth. I expect you to take him home and provide
for him. He doesn't mean very much to me--just enough so that I
don't relish his going to the poorhouse, that's all.'
"'He'll go to something very like that if he comes to mine,' I
"'Don't worry me with talk, for I can't stand it,' she wailed,
clutching at her nightgown and flinging back her hair. 'Either
you take the child or I send somebody to Edgewood with him,
somebody to tell the whole story. Some of the Cochranites can
support him if you won't; or, at the worst, Aaron Boynton's town
can take care of his son. The doctor has given me two days to
live. If it's a minute longer I've warned him and I warn you,
that I'll end it myself; and if you don't take the boy I'll do
the same for him. He's a good sight better off dead than knocking
about the world alone; he's innocent and there's no sense in his
being punished for the sins of other folks.'"
"I see it all! Why did I never think of it before; my poor, poor
Rod!" said Ivory, clenching his hands and burying his head in
"Don't grieve, Ivory; it has all turned out so much better than
we could have hoped; just listen to the end. She was frightful to
hear and to look at, the girl was, though all the time I could
feel that she must have had a gipsy beauty and vigor that
answered to something in your father.
"'Go along out now,' she cried suddenly. 'I can't stand anybody
near. The doctor never gives me half enough medicine and for the
hour before he comes I fairly die for lack of it--though little
he cares! Go upstairs and have your sleep and to-morrow you can
make up your mind.'
"'You don't leave me much freedom to do that,' I tried to answer;
but she interrupted me, rocking her body to and fro. 'Neither of
us wi11 ever see Aaron Boynton again; you no more than I. He's in
the West, and a man with two families and no means of providing
for them doesn't come back where he's known.--Come and take her
away, Eliza! Take her away, quick!' she called.
"I stumbled out of the room and the woman waved me upstairs. 'You
mustn't mind Hetty,' she apologized; 'she never had a good
disposition at the best, but she's frantic with the pain now, and
good reason, too. It's about over and I'11 be thankful when it
is. You'd better swallow the shame and take the child; I can't
and won't have him and it'11 be easy enough for you to say he
belongs to some of your own folks.'
"By this time I was mentally bewildered. When the iron first
entered my soul, when I first heard the truth about your father,
at that moment my mind gave way--I know it now."
"Poor, poor mother! My poor, gentle little mother!" murmured
Ivory brokenly, as he asked her hand.
"Don't cry, my son; it is all past; the sorrow and the bitterness
and the struggle. I will just finish the story and then we'11
close the book forever. The woman gave me some bread and tea, and
I flung myself on the bed without undressing. I don't know how
long afterward it was, but the door opened and a little boy stole