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´╗┐Title: Jane Field - A Novel
Author: Freeman, Mary Eleanor Wilkins, 1852-1930
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jane Field - A Novel" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Jane Field

A Novel


Mary E. Wilkins

  Author of "A Humble Romance, and other stories"
  "A New England Nun, and other stories"
  "Young Lucretia, and other stories"


New York

Harper & Brothers Publishers

Chapter I

Amanda Pratt's cottage-house was raised upon two banks above the
road-level. Here and there the banks showed irregular patches of
yellow-green, where a little milky-stemmed plant grew. It had come up
every spring since Amanda could remember.

There was a great pink-lined shell on each side of the front
door-step, and the path down over the banks to the road was bordered
with smaller shells. The house was white, and the front door was dark
green, with an old-fashioned knocker in the centre.

There were four front windows, and the roof sloped down to them; two
were in Amanda's parlor, and two were in Mrs. Field's. She rented
half of her house to Mrs. Jane Field.

There was a head at each of Amanda's front windows. One was hers, the
other was Mrs. Babcock's. Amanda's old blond face, with its folds of
yellow-gray hair over the ears and sections of the softly-wrinkled,
pinky cheeks, was bent over some needle-work. So was Mrs. Babcock's,
darkly dim with age, as if the hearth-fires of her life had always
smoked, with a loose flabbiness about the jaw-bones, which seemed to
make more evident the firm structure underneath.

Amanda was sewing a braided rug; her little veiny hands jerked the
stout thread through with a nervous energy that was out of accord
with her calm expression and the droop of her long slender body.

"It's pretty hard sewin' braided mats, ain't it?" said Mrs. Babcock.

"I don't care how hard 'tis if I can get 'em sewed strong," replied
Amanda, and her voice was unexpectedly quick and decided. "I never
had any feelin' that anything was hard, if I could only do it."

"Well, you ain't had so much hard work to do as some folks. Settin'
in a rockin'-chair sewin' braided mats ain't like doin' the housework
for a whole family. If you'd had the cookin' to do for four
men-folks, the way I have, you'd felt it was pretty hard work, even
if you did make out to fill 'em up."  Mrs. Babcock smiled, and showed
that she did not forget she was company, but her tone was quite

"Mebbe I should," returned Amanda, stiffly.

There was a silence.

"Let me see, how many mats does that make?" Mrs. Babcock asked,
finally, in an amiable voice.

"Like this one?"


"This makes the ninth."

Mrs. Babcock scrutinized the floor. It was almost covered with
braided rugs, and they were all alike.

"I declare I don't see where you'll put another in here," said she.

"I guess I can lay 'em a little thicker over there by the what-not."

"Well, mebbe you can; but I declare I shouldn't scarcely think you
needed another. I shouldn't think your carpet would wear out till the
day of judgment. What made you have them mats all jest alike?"

"I like 'em better so," replied Amanda, with dignity.

"Well, of course, if you do there ain't nothin' to say; it's your
carpet an' your mats," returned Mrs. Babcock, with grim apology.

There were two curious features about Amanda Pratt's parlor: one was
a gentle monotony of details; the other, a certain savor of the sea.
It was like holding a shell to one's ear to enter Amanda's parlor.
There was a faint suggestion of far-away sandy beaches, the breaking
of waves, and the rush of salt winds. In the centre of the
mantel-shelf stood a stuffed sea-gull; on either side shells were
banked. The fire-place was flanked by great branches of coral, and on
the top of the air-tight stove there stood always in summer-time,
when there was no fire, a superb nautilus shell, like a little pearl
vessel. The corner what-not, too, had its shelves heaped with shells
and coral and choice bits of rainbow lava from volcanic islands.
Between the windows, instead of the conventional mahogany cardtable,
stood one of Indian lacquer, and on it was a little inlaid cabinet
that was brought from over seas. The whole room in this little inland
cottage, far beyond the salt fragrance of the sea, seemed like one of
those marine fossils sometimes found miles from the coast. It
indicated the presence of the sea in the lives of Amanda's race. Her
grandfather had been a seafaring man, and so had her father, until
late in life, when he had married an inland woman, and settled down
among waves of timothy and clover on her paternal acres.

Amanda was like her mother, she had nothing of the sea tastes in her
nature. She was full of loyal conservatism toward the marine
ornaments of her parlor, but she secretly preferred her own braided
rugs, and the popular village fancy-work, in which she was quite
skilful. On each of her chairs was a tidy, and the tidies were all
alike; in the corners of the room were lambrequins, all worked after
the same pattern in red worsted and beads. On one wall hung a group
of pictures framed in cardboard, four little colored prints of
crosses twined with flowers, and they were all alike. "Why didn't you
get them crosses different?" many a neighbor had said to her--these
crosses, with some variation of the entwining foliage, had been very
popular in the rural neighborhood--and Amanda had replied with quick
dignity that she liked them better the way she had them. Amanda
maintained the monotony of her life as fiercely as her fathers had
pursued the sea. She was like a little animal born with a rebound to
its own track, from whence no amount of pushing could keep it long.

Mrs. Babcock glanced sharply around the room as she sewed; she was
anxious to divert Amanda's mind from the mats. "Don't the moths ever
git into that stuffed bird over there?" she asked suddenly,
indicating the gull on the shelf with a side-wise jerk of her head.

"No; I ain't never had a mite of trouble with 'em," replied Amanda.
"I always keep a little piece of camphor tucked under his wing

"Well, you're lucky. Mis' Jackson she had a stuffed canary-bird all
eat up with 'em. She had to put him in the stove; couldn't do nothin'
with him. She felt real bad about it. She'd thought a good deal of
the bird when he was alive, an' he was stuffed real handsome, an'
settin' on a little green sprig. She use to keep him on her parlor
shelf; he was jest the right size. It's a pity your bird is quite so
big, ain't it?"

"I s'pose he's jest the way he was made," returned Amanda shortly.

"Of course he is. I ain't findin' no fault with him; all is, I
thought he was kind of big for the shelf; but then birds do perch on
dreadful little places."  Mrs. Babcock, full of persistency in
exposing herself to rebuffs, was very sensitive and easily cowed by
one. "Let me see--he's quite old. Your grandfather bought him, didn't
he?" said she, in a mollifying tone.

Amanda nodded. "He's a good deal older than I am," said she.

"It's queer how some things that ain't of no account really in the
world last, while others that's worth so much more don't," Mrs.
Babcock remarked, meditatively. "Now, there's that bird there,
lookin' jest as nice and handsome, and there's the one that bought
him and brought him home, in his grave out of sight."

"There's a good many queer things in this world," rejoined Amanda,
with a sigh.

"I guess there is," said Mrs. Babcock. "Now you can jest look round
this room, an' see all the things that belonged to your folks that's
dead an' gone, and it seems almost as if they was immortal instead of
them. An' it's goin' to be jest the same way with us; the clothes
that's hangin' up in our closets are goin' to outlast us. Well,
there's one thing about it--this world ain't _our_ abidin'-place."

Mrs. Babcock shook her head resolutely, and began to fold up her
work. She rolled the unbleached cloth into a hard smooth bundle, with
the scissors, thimble, and thread inside, and the needle quilted in.

"You ain't goin'?" said Amanda.

"Yes, I guess I must. I've got to be home by half-past five to get
supper, an' I thought I'd jest look in at Mis' Field's a minute. Do
you s'pose she's to home?"

"I shouldn't wonder if she was. I ain't seen her go out anywhere."

"Well, I dun'no' when I've been in there, an' I dun'no' but she'd
think it was kinder queer if I went right into the house and didn't
go near her."

Amanda arose, letting the mat slide to the floor, and went into the
bedroom to get Mrs. Babcock's bonnet and light shawl.

"I wish you wouldn't be in such a hurry," said she, using the village
formula of hospitality to a departing guest.

"It don't seem to me I've been in much of a hurry. I've stayed here
the whole afternoon."

Suddenly Mrs. Babcock, pinning on her shawl, thrust her face close to
Amanda's. "I want to know if it's true Lois Field is so miserable?"
she whispered.

"Well, I dun'no'. She don't look jest right, but she an' her mother
won't own up but what she's well."

"Goin' the way Mis' Maxwell did, ain't she?"

"I dun'no'. I'm worried about her myself--dreadful worried. Lois is a
nice girl as ever was."

"She ain't give up her school?"

Amanda shook her head.

"I shouldn't think her mother'd have her."

"I s'pose she feels as if she'd got to."  Mrs. Babcock dropped her
voice still lower. "They're real poor, ain't they?"

"I guess they ain't got much."

"I s'pose they hadn't. Well, I hope Lois ain't goin' down. I heard
she looked dreadful. Mis' Jackson she was in yesterday, talkin' about
it. Well, you come over an' see me, Mandy. Bring your sewin' over
some afternoon."

"Well, mebbe I will. I don't go out a great deal, you know."

The two women grimaced to each other in a friendly fashion, then
Amanda shut her door, and Mrs. Babcock pattered softly and heavily
across the little entry, and opened Mrs. Field's door. She pressed
the old brass latch with a slight show of ceremonious hesitancy, but
she never thought of knocking. There was no one in the room, which
had a clean and sparse air. The chairs all stood back against the
walls, and left in the centre a wide extent of faded carpet, full of
shadowy gray scrolls.

Mrs. Babcock stood for a moment staring in and listening.

There was a faint sound of a voice seemingly from a room beyond. She
called, softly, "Mis' Field!"  There was no response. She advanced
then resolutely over the stretch of carpet toward the bedroom door.
She opened it, then gave a little embarrassed grunt, and began
backing away.

Mrs. Field was in there, kneeling beside the bed, praying.
She started and looked up at Mrs. Babcock with a kind of
solemn abashedness, her long face flushed. Then she got up.
"Good-afternoon," said she.

"Good-afternoon," returned Mrs. Babcock. She tried to smile and
recover her equanimity. "I've been into Mandy Pratt's," she went on,
"an' I thought I'd jest look in here a minute before I went home, but
I wouldn't have come in so if I'd known you was--busy."

"Come out in the other room an' sit down," said Mrs. Field.

Mrs. Babcock's agitated bulk followed her over the gray carpet, and
settled into the rocking-chair at one of the front windows. Mrs.
Field seated herself at the other.

"It's been a pleasant day, ain't it?" said she.

"Real pleasant. I told Mr. Babcock this noon that I was goin' to git
out somewheres this afternoon come what would. I've been cooped up
all the spring house-cleanin', an' now I'm goin' to git out. I
dun'no' when I've been anywhere. I ain't been into Mandy's sence
Christmas that I know of--I ain't been in to set down, anyway; an'
I've been meanin' to run in an' see you all winter, Mis' Field."  All
the trace of confusion now left in Mrs. Babcock's manner was a weak

"It's about all anybody can do to do their housework, if they do it
thorough," returned Mrs. Field. "I s'pose you've been takin' up

"Took up every carpet in the house. I do every year. Some folks
don't, but I can't stand it. I'm afraid of moths, too. I s'pose
you've got your cleanin' all done?"

"Yes, I've got it about done."

"Well, I shouldn't think you could do so much, Mis' Field, with your

Mrs. Field's hands lay in her lap, yellow and heavily corrugated, the
finger-joints in great knots, which looked as if they had been tied
in the bone. Mrs. Babcock eyed them pitilessly.

"How are they now?" she inquired. "Seems to me they look worse than
they used to."

Mrs. Field regarded her hands with a staid, melancholy air. "Well, I

"Seems to me they look worse. How's Lois, Mis' Field?"

"She's pretty well, I guess. I dun'no' why she ain't."

"Somebody was sayin' the other day that she looked dreadfully."

Mrs. Field had heretofore held herself with a certain slow dignity.
Now her manner suddenly changed, and she spoke fast. "I dun'no' what
folks mean talkin' so," said she. "Lois ain't been lookin' very well,
as I know of, lately; but it's the spring of the year, an' she's
always apt to feel it."

"Mebbe that is it," replied the other, with a doubtful inflection.
"Let's see, you called it consumption that ailed your sister, didn't
you, Mis' Field?"

"I s'pose it was."

Mrs. Babcock stared with cool reflection at the other woman's long,
pale face, with its high cheek-bones and deep-set eyes and wide,
drooping mouth. She was deliberating whether or not to ask for some
information that she wanted. "Speakin' of your sister," said she
finally, with a casual air, "her husband's father is livin', ain't

"He was the last I knew."

"I s'pose he's worth considerable property?"

"Yes, I s'pose he is."

"Well, I want to know. Somebody was speakin' about it the other day,
an' they said they thought he did, an' I told 'em I didn't believe
it. He never helped your sister's husband any, did he?"

Mrs. Field did not reply for a moment. Mrs. Babcock was leaning
forward and smiling ingratiatingly, with keen eyes upon her face.

"I dun'no' as he did. But I guess Edward never expected he would
much," said she.

"Well, I told 'em I didn't believe he did. I declare! it seemed
pretty tough, didn't it?"

"I dun'no'. I thought of it some along there when Edward was sick."

"I declare, I should have thought you'd wrote to him about it."

Mrs. Field said nothing.

"Didn't you ever?" Mrs. Babcock asked.

"Well, yes; I wrote once when he was first taken sick."

"An' he didn't take any notice of it?"

Mrs. Field shook her head.

"He's a regular old skinflint, ain't he?" said Mrs. Babcock.

"I guess he's a pretty set kind of a man."

"Set! I should call it more'n set. Now, Mis' Field, I'd really like
to know something. I ain't curious, but I've heard so many stories
about it that I'd really like to know the truth of it once. Somebody
was speakin' about it the other day, an' it don't seem right for
stories to be goin' the rounds when there ain't no truth in 'em. Mis'
Field, what was it set Edward Maxwell's father agin' him?"  Mrs.
Babcock's voice sank to a whisper, she leaned farther forward, and
gazed at Mrs. Field with crafty sweetness.

Mrs. Field looked out of the window.

"Well, I s'pose it was some trouble about money matters."

"Money matters?"

"Yes, I s'pose so."

"Mis' Field, _what did he do?"_

Mrs. Field did not reply. She looked out of the window at the green
banks in front. Her face was inscrutable.

Mrs. Babcock drew herself up. "Course I don't want you to tell me
nothin' you don't want to," said she, with injured dignity. "I ain't
pryin' into things that folks don't want me to know about; it wa'n't
never my way. All is, I thought I'd like to know the truth of it,
whether there was anything in them stories or not."

"Oh, I'd jest as soon tell you," rejoined Mrs. Field quietly. "I was
jest a-thinkin'. As near as I can tell you, Mis' Babcock, Edward's
father he let him have some money, and Edward he speculated with it
on something contrary to his advice, an' lost it, an' that made the

"Was that all?" asked Mrs. Babcock, with a disappointed air.

"Yes, I s'pose it was."

"I want to know!"  Mrs. Babcock leaned back with a sigh. "Well,
there's another thing," she said presently. "Somebody was sayin' the
other day that you thought Esther caught the consumption from her
husband. I wanted to know if you did."

Mrs. Field's face twitched. "Well," she replied, "I dun'no'. I've
heard consumption was catchin', an' she was right over him the whole

"Well, I don't know. I ain't never been able to take much stock in
catchin' consumption. There was Mis' Gay night an' day with Susan for
ten years, an' she's jest as well as anybody. I should be afraid
'twas a good deal likelier to be in your family. Does Lois cough?"

"None to speak of."

"Well, there's more kinds of consumption than one."

Mrs. Babcock made quite a long call. She shook Mrs. Field's hand
warmly at parting. "I want to know, does Lois like honey?" said she.

"Yes, she's real fond of it."

"Well, I'm goin' to send her over a dish of it. Ours was uncommon
nice this year. It's real good for a cough."

On her way home Mrs. Babcock met Lois Field coming from school
attended by a little flock of children. Mrs. Babcock stopped, and
looked sharply at her small, delicately pretty face, with its pointed
chin and deep-set blue eyes.

"How are you feelin' to-night, Lois?" she inquired, in a tone of
forcible commiseration.

"I'm pretty well, thank you," said Lois.

"Seems to me you're lookin' pretty slim. You'd ought to take a little
vacation."  Mrs. Babcock surveyed her with a kind of pugnacious pity.

Lois stood quite erect in the midst of the children. "I don't think I
need any vacation," said she, smiling constrainedly. She pushed
gently past Mrs. Babcock, with the children at her heels.

"You'd better take a little one," Mrs. Babcock called after her.

Lois kept on as if she did not hear. Her face was flushed, and her
head seemed full of beating pulses.

One of the children, a thin little girl in a blue dress, turned
around and grimaced at Mrs. Babcock; another pulled Lois' dress.
"Teacher, Jenny Whitcomb is makin' faces at Mis' Babcock," she

"Jenny!" said Lois sharply; and the little girl turned her face with
a scared nervous giggle. "You mustn't ever do such a thing as that
again," said Lois. She reached down and took the child's little
restive hand and led her along.

Lois had not much farther to go. The children all clamored, "Good-by,
teacher!" when she turned in at her own gate.

She went in through the sitting-room to the kitchen, and settled down
into a chair with her hat on.

"Well, so you've got home," said her mother; she was moving about
preparing supper. She smiled anxiously at Lois as she spoke.

Lois smiled faintly, but her forehead was frowning. "Has that Mrs.
Babcock been here?" she asked.

"Yes. Did you meet her?"

"Yes, I did; and I'd like to know what she meant telling me I'd ought
to take a vacation, and I looked bad. I wish people would let me
alone tellin' me how I look."

"She meant well, I guess," said her mother, soothingly. "She said she
was goin' to send you over a dish of her honey."

"I don't want any of her honey. I don't see what folks want to send
things in to me, as if I were sick, for."

"Oh, I guess she thought I'd like some too," returned her mother,
with a kind of stiff playfulness. "You needn't think you're goin' to
have all that honey."

"I don't want any of it," said Lois. The window beside which she sat
was open; under it, in the back yard, was a little thicket of mint,
and some long sprays of sweetbrier bowing over it. Lois reached out
and broke off a piece of the sweetbrier and smelled it.

"Supper's ready," said her mother, presently; and she took off her
hat and went listlessly over to the table.

The table, covered with a white cloth, was set back against the wall,
with only one leaf spread. There were bread and butter and custards
and a small glass dish of rhubarb sauce for supper.

Lois looked at the dish. "I didn't know the rhubarb was grown," said

"I managed to get enough for supper," replied her mother, in a casual

Nobody would have dreamed how day after day she had journeyed stiffly
down to the old garden spot behind the house to watch the progress of
the rhubarb, and how triumphantly she had brought up those green and
rosy stalks. Lois had always been very fond of rhubarb.

She ate it now with a keen relish. Her mother contrived that she
should have nearly all of it; she made a show of helping herself
twice, but she took very little. But it was to her as if she also
tasted every spoonful which her daughter ate, and as if it had the
flavor of a fruit of Paradise and satisfied her very soul.

After supper Lois began packing up the cups and saucers.

"Now you go in the other room an' set down, an' let me take care of
the dishes," said Mrs. Field, timidly.

Lois faced about instantly. "Now, mother, I'd just like to know what
you mean?" said she. "I guess I ain't quite so far gone but what I
can wash up a few dishes. You act as if you wanted to make me out
sick in spite of myself."

"I thought mebbe you was kind of tired," said her mother,

"I ain't tired. I'm jest as well able to wash up the supper dishes as
I ever was."  Lois carried the cups and saucers to the sink with a
resolute air, and Mrs. Field said no more. She went into her bedroom
to change her dress; she was going to evening meeting.

Lois washed and put away the dishes; then she went into the
sitting-room, and sat down by the open window. She leaned her cheek
against the chairback and looked out; a sweet almond fragrance of
cherry and apple blossoms came into her face; over across the fields
a bird was calling. Lois did not think it tangibly, but it was to her
as if the blossom scent and the bird call came out of her own future.
She was ill, poor, and overworked, but she was not unhappy, for her
future was yet, in a way, untouched; she had not learned to judge of
it by hard precedent, nor had any mistake of hers made a miserable
certainty of it. It still looked to her as fair ahead as an untrodden
field of heaven.

She was quite happy as she sat there; but when her mother, in her
black woollen dress, entered, she felt instantly nervous and fretted.
Mrs. Field said nothing, but the volume and impetus of her anxiety
when she saw her daughter's head in the window seemed to actually
misplace the air.

Presently she went to the window, and leaned over to shut it.

"Don't shut the window, mother," said Lois.

"I'm dreadful afraid you'll catch cold, child."

"No, I sha'n't, either. I wish you wouldn't fuss so, mother."

Mrs. Field stood back; the meeting bell began to ring.

"Goin' to meetin', mother?" Lois asked, in a pleasanter voice.

"I thought mebbe I would."

"I guess I won't go. I want to sew some on my dress this evenin'."

"Sha'n't you mind stayin' alone, if I go?"

"Mind stayin' alone? of course I sha'n't. You get the strangest ideas
lately, mother."

Mrs. Field put on her black bonnet and shawl, and started. The bell
tolled, and she passed down the village street with a stiff
steadiness of gait. She felt eager to go to meeting to-night. This
old New England woman, all of whose traditions were purely orthodox,
was all unknowingly a fetich-worshipper in a time of trouble. Ever
since her daughter had been ill, she had had a terrified impulse in
her meeting-going. It seemed to her that if she stayed away, Lois
might be worse. Unconsciously her church attendance became a species
of spell, or propitiation to a terrifying deity, and the wild
instinct of the African awoke in the New England woman.

When she reached the church the bell had stopped ringing, and the
vestry windows were parallelograms of yellow light; the meeting was
in the vestry.

Mrs. Field entered, and took a seat well toward the front. The room
was half filled with people, and the mass of them were elderly and
middle-aged women. There were rows of their homely, faded, and
strong-lined faces set in sober bonnets, a sprinkling of solemn old
men, a few bright-ribboned girls, and in the background a settee or
two of smart young fellows. Right in front of Mrs. Field sat a pretty
girl with roses in her hat. She was about Lois' age, and had been to
school with her.

Mrs. Field, erect and gaunt, with a look of goodness so settled and
pre-eminent in her face that it had almost the effect of a smile, sat
and listened to the minister. He was a young man with boyish
shoulders, and a round face, which he screwed nervously as he talked.
He was vehement, and strung to wiriness with new enthusiasm; he
seemed to toss the doctrines like footballs back and forth before the
eyes of the people.

Mrs. Field listened intently, but all the time it was as if she were
shut up in a corner with her own God and her own religion. There are
as many side chapels as there are individual sorrows in every church.

After the minister finished his discourse, the old men muttered
prayers, with long pauses between. Now and then a young woman played
a gospel tune on a melodeon, and a woman in the same seat with Mrs.
Field led the singing. She was past middle age, but her voice was
still sweet, although once in a while it quavered. She had sung in
the church choir ever since she was a child, and was the prima donna
of the village. The young girl with roses in her hat who sat in front
of Mrs. Field also sang with fervor, although her voice was little
more than a sweetly husky breath. She kept her eyes, at once bold and
timid, fixed upon the young minister as she sang.

When meeting was done, and Mrs. Field arose, the girl spoke to her.
She had a pretty blush on her round cheeks, and she smiled at Mrs.
Field in the same way that she would soon smile at the young

"How's Lois to-night, Mrs. Field?" said she.

"She's pretty well, thank you, Ida."

"I heard she was sick."

"Oh, no, she ain't sick. The spring weather has made her feel kind of
tired out, that's all. It 'most always does."

"Well, I'm glad she isn't sick," said the girl, her radiant absent
eyes turned upon the minister, who was talking with some one at the
desk. "She wasn't out to meeting, and I didn't know but she might

"She thought she wouldn't--" began Mrs. Field, but the girl was gone.
The minister had started down the other aisle, and she met him at the

Several other people inquired for Lois as Mrs. Field made her way
out; some had heard she was ill in bed. She had an errand to do at
the store on her way home; when she reached it she went in, and stood
waiting at the counter.

There were a number of men lounging about the large, rank,
becluttered room, and there were several customers. The village
post-office was in one corner of the store. There were only two
clerks besides the proprietor, who was postmaster as well. Mrs. Field
had to wait quite a while; but at last she had made her purchases,
and was just stepping out the door, when a voice arrested her. "Mis'
Field," it said.

She turned, and saw the postmaster coming toward her with a letter in
his hand. The lounging men twisted about and stared lazily. The
postmaster was a short, elderly man with shelving gray whiskers, and
a wide, smiling mouth, which he was drawing down solemnly.

"Mis' Field, here's a letter I want you to look at; it come this
mornin'," he said, in a low voice.

Mrs. Field took the letter. It was directed, in a fair round hand, to
Mrs. Esther Maxwell; that had been her dead sister's name. She stood
looking at it, her face drooping severely. "It was sent to my
sister," said she.

"I s'posed so. Well, I thought I'd hand it to you."

Mrs. Field nodded gravely, and put the letter in her pocket. She was
again passing out, when somebody nudged her heavily. It was Mrs.
Green, a woman who lived in the next house beyond hers.

"Jest wait a minute," she said, "an' I'll go along with you."

So Mrs. Field stood back and waited, while her neighbor pushed
forward to the counter. After a little she drew the letter from her
pocket and studied the superscription. The post-mark was Elliot. She
supposed the letter to be from her dead sister's father-in-law, who
lived there.

"I may jest as well open it an' see what it is while I'm waitin',"
she thought.

She tore open the envelope slowly and clumsily with her stiff
fingers, and held up the letter so the light struck it. She could not
read strange writing easily, and this was a nearly illegible scrawl.
However, after the first few words, she seemed to absorb it by some
higher faculty than reading. In a short time she had the gist of the
letter. It was from a lawyer who signed himself Daniel Tuxbury. He
stated formally that Thomas Maxwell was dead; that he had left a will
greatly to Esther Maxwell's advantage, and that it would be advisable
for her to come to Elliot at an early date if possible. Inclosed was
a copy of the will. It was dated several years ago. All Thomas
Maxwell's property was bequeathed without reserve to his son's widow,
Esther Maxwell, should she survive him. In case of her decease before
his own, the whole was to revert to his brother's daughter, Flora

Jane Field read the letter through twice, then she folded it,
replaced it in the envelope, and stood erect by the store door. She
could see Mrs. Green's broad shawled back among the customers at the
calico counter. Once in a while she looked around with a beseeching
and apologetic smile.

Mrs. Field thought, "I won't say a word to her about it."  However,
she was conscious of no evil motive; it was simply because she was
naturally secretive. She looked pale and rigid.

Mrs. Green remarked it when she finally approached with her parcel of

"Why, what's the matter, Mis' Field?" she exclaimed. "You ain't sick,
be you?"

"No. Why?"

"Seems to me you look dreadful pale. It was too bad to keep you
standin' there so long, but I couldn't get waited on before. I think
Mr. Robbins had ought to have more help. It's too much for him with
only two clerks, an' the post-office to tend, too. I see you got a
letter."  Mrs. Field nodded. The two women went down the steps into
the street.

"How's Lois to-night?" Mrs. Green asked as they went along.

"I guess she's about as usual. She didn't say but what she was."

"She ain't left off her school, has she?"

"No," replied Mrs. Field, stiffly, "she ain't."

Suddenly Mrs. Green stopped and laid a heavy hand on Mrs. Field's
arm. "Look here, Mis' Field, I dun'no' as you'll thank me for it, but
I'm goin' to speak real plain to you, the way I'd thank anybody to if
'twas my Jenny. I'm dreadful afraid you don't realize how bad Lois
is, Mis' Field."

"Mebbe I don't."  Mrs. Field's voice sounded hard.

The other woman looked perplexedly at her for a moment, then she went

"Well, if you do, mebbe I hadn't ought to said anything; but I was
dreadful afraid you didn't, an' then when you come to, perhaps when
'twas too late, you'd never forgive yourself. She hadn't ought to
teach school another day, Mis' Field."

"I dun'no how it's goin' to be helped," Mrs. Field said again, in her
hard voice.

"Mis' Field, I know it ain't any of my business, an' I don't know but
you'll think I'm interferin'; but I can't help it nohow when I think
of--my Abby, an' how--she went down. _Ain't_ you got anybody that
could help you a little while till she gets better an' able to work?"

"I dun'no' of anybody."

"Wouldn't your sister's husband's father? Ain't he got considerable

Mrs. Field turned suddenly, her voice sharpened, "I've asked him all
I'm ever goin' to--there! I let Esther's husband have fifteen hundred
dollars that my poor husband saved out of his hard earnin's, an' he
lost it in his business; an' after he died I wrote to his father, an'
I told him about it. I thought mebbe he'd be willin' to be fair, an'
pay his son's debts, if he didn't have much feelin'. There was Esther
an' Lois an' me, an' not a cent to live on, an' Esther she was
beginnin' to be feeble. But he jest sent me back my letter, an' he'd
wrote on the back of it that he wa'n't responsible for any of his
son's debts. I said then I'd never go to him agin, and I didn't; an'
Esther didn't when she was sick an' dyin'; an' I never let him know
when she died, an' I don't s'pose he knows she is dead to this day."

"Oh, Mis' Field, you didn't have to lose all that money!"

"Yes, I did, every dollar of it."

"I declare it's wicked."

"There's a good many things that's wicked, an' sometimes I think some
things ain't wicked that we've always thought was. I don't know but
the Lord meant everybody to have what belonged to them in spite of

Mrs. Green stared. "I guess I don't know jest what you mean, Mis'

"I meant everybody ought to have what's their just due, an' I believe
the Lord will uphold them in it. I've about come to the conclusion
that folks ought to lay hold of justice themselves if there ain't no
other way, an' that's what we've got hands for."  Suddenly Mrs.
Field's manner changed. "I know Lois hadn't ought to be teachin'
school as well as you do," said she. "I ain't said much about it, it
ain't my way, but I've known it all the time."

"She'd ought to take a vacation, Mis' Field, an' get away from here
for a spell. Folks say Green River ain't very healthy. They say these
low meadow-lands are bad. I worried enough about it after my Abby
died, thinkin' what might have been done. It does seem to me that if
something was done right away, Lois might get up; but there ain't no
use waitin'. I've seen young girls go down; it seems sometimes as if
there wa'n't nothin' more to them than flowers, an' they fade away in
a day. I've been all through it. Mis' Field, you don't mind my
speakin' so, do you? Oh, Mis' Field, don't feel so bad! I'm real
sorry I said anythin'."

Mrs. Field was shaking with great sobs. "I ain't--blamin' you," she
said, brokenly.

Mrs. Green got out her own handkerchief. "Mis' Field, I wouldn't have
spoken a word, but--I felt as if something ought to be done, if there
could be; an'--I thought--so much about my--poor Abby. Lois always
makes me think of her; she's jest about her build; an'--I didn't know
as you--realized."

"I realized enough," returned Mrs. Field, catching her breath as she
walked on.

"Now I hope you don't feel any worse because I spoke as I did," Mrs.
Green said, when they reached the gate of the Pratt house.

"You ain't told me anything I didn't know," replied Mrs. Field.

Mrs. Green felt for one of her distorted hands; she held it a second,
then she dropped it. Mrs. Field let it hang stiffly the while. It was
a fervent demonstration to them, the evidence of unwonted excitement
and the deepest feeling. When Mrs. Field entered her sitting-room,
the first object that met her eyes was Lois' face. She was tilted
back in the rocking-chair, her slender throat was exposed, her lips
were slightly parted, and there was a glassy gleam between her
half-open eyelids. Her mother stood looking at her.

Suddenly Lois opened her eyes wide and sat up. "What are you standing
there looking at me so for, mother?" she said, in her weak, peevish

"I ain't lookin' at you, child. I've jest come home from meetin'. I
guess you've been asleep."

"I haven't been asleep a minute. I heard you open the outside door."

Mrs. Field's hand verged toward the letter in her pocket. Then she
began untying her bonnet.

Lois arose, and lighted another lamp. "Well, I guess I'll go to bed,"
said she.

"Wait a minute," her mother returned.

Lois paused inquiringly.

"Never mind," her mother said, hastily. "You needn't stop. I can tell
you jest as well to-morrow."

"What was it?"

"Nothin' of any account. Run along."

Chapter II

The next morning Lois had gone to her school and her mother had not
yet shown the letter to her. She went about as usual, doing her
housework slowly and vigorously. Mrs. Field's cleanliness was
proverbial in this cleanly New England neighborhood. It almost
amounted to asceticism; her rooms, when her work was finished, had
the bareness and purity of a nun's cell. There was never any bloom of
dust on Mrs. Field's furniture; there was only the hard, dull glitter
of the wood. Her few chairs and tables looked as if waxed; the paint
was polished in places from her doors and window-casings; her
window-glass gave out green lights like jewels; and all this she did
with infinite pains and slowness, as there was hardly a natural
movement left in her rheumatic hands. But there was in her nature an
element of stern activity that must have its outcome in some
direction, and it took the one that it could find. Jane had used to
take in sewing before her hands were diseased. In her youth she had
learned the trade of a tailoress; when ready-made clothing, even for
children, came into use, she made dresses. Her dresses had been
long-waisted and stiffly boned, with high, straight biases, seemingly
fitted to her own nature instead of her customers' forms; but they
had been strongly and faithfully sewed, and her stitches held fast as
the rivets on a coat of mail. Now she could not sew. She could knit,
and that was all, besides her housework, that she could do.

This morning, while dusting a little triangular what-not that stood
in a corner of her sitting-room, she came across a small box that
held some old photographs. The box was made of a kind of
stucco-work--shells held in place by a bed of putty. Amanda Pratt had
made it and given it to her. Mrs. Field took up this box and dusted
it carefully; then she opened it, and took out the photographs one by

After a while she stopped; she did not take out any more, but she
looked intently at one; then she replaced all but that one, got
painfully up from the low foot-stool where she had been sitting, and
went out of her room across the entry to Amanda's, with the
photograph in her hand.

Amanda sat at her usual window, sewing on her rug. The sunlight came
in, and her shadow, set in a bright square, wavered on the floor; the
clock out in the kitchen ticked. Amanda looked up when Mrs. Field
entered. "Oh, it's you?" said she. "I wondered who was comin'. Set
down, won't you?"

Mrs. Field went over to Amanda and held out the photograph. "I want
to see if you can tell me who this is."

Amanda took the photograph and held it toward the light. She
compressed her lips and wrinkled her forehead. "Why, it's you, of
course--ain't it?"

Mrs. Field made no reply; she stood looking at her.

"Why, ain't it you?" Amanda asked, looking from the picture to her in
a bewildered way.

"No; it's Esther."


"Yes, it's Esther."

"Well, I declare! When was it took?"

"About ten years ago, when she was in Elliot."

"Well, all I've got to say is, if anybody had asked me, I'd have said
it was took for you yesterday. Why, Mis' Field, what's the matter?"

"There ain't anything the matter."

"Why, you look dreadfully."

Mrs. Field's face was pale, and there was a curious look about her
whole figure. It seemed as if shrinking from something, twisting
itself rigidly, as a fossil tree might shrink in a wind that could
move it.

"I feel well 'nough," said she. "I guess it's the light."

"Well, mebbe 'tis," replied Amanda, still looking anxiously at her.
"Of course you know if you feel well, but you do look dreadful white
to me. Don't you want some water, or a swaller of cold tea?"

"No, I don't want a single thing; I'm well enough."  Mrs. Field's
tone was almost surly. She held out her hand for the photograph. "I
must be goin'," she continued; "I ain't got my dustin' done. I jest
come across this, an' I thought I'd show it to you, an' see what you

"Well, I shouldn't have dreamed but what it was yours; but then you
an' your sister did look jest alike. I never could tell you apart
when you first came here."

"Folks always said we looked alike. We always used to be took for
each other when we was girls, an' I think we looked full as much
alike after our hair begun to turn. Mine was a little lighter than
hers, an' that made some difference betwixt us before. It didn't show
when we was both gray."

"I shouldn't have thought 'twould. Well, I must say, I shouldn't
dream but what that picture was meant for you."

Mrs. Field took her way out of the room.

"How's Lois this mornin'?" Amanda called after her.

"About the same, I guess."

"I saw her goin' out of the yard this mornin', an' I thought she
walked dreadful weak."

"I guess she don't walk any too strong."

When Mrs. Field was in her own room she stowed away the photograph in
the shell box; then she got a little broom and brushed the shell-work
carefully; she thought it looked dusty in spite of her rubbing.

When the dusting was done it was time for her to get her dinner
ready. Indeed, there was not much leisure for Mrs. Field all day. She
seldom sat down for long at a time. From morning until night she kept
up her stiff resolute march about her house.

At half-past twelve she had the dinner on the table, but Lois did not
come. Her mother went into the sitting-room, sat down beside a
window, and watched. The town clock struck one. Mrs. Field went
outdoors and stood by the front gate, looking down the road. She saw
a girl coming in the distance with a flutter of light skirts, and she
exclaimed with gladness, "There she is!"  The girl drew nearer, and
she saw it was Ida Starr in a dress that looked like Lois'.

The girl stopped when she saw Mrs. Field at the gate. "Good-morning,"
said she.

"Good-mornin', Ida."

"It's a beautiful day."

Mrs. Field did not reply; she gazed past her down the road, her face
all one pale frown.

The girl looked curiously at her. "I hope Lois is pretty well this
morning?" she said, in her amiable voice.

Mrs. Field responded with a harsh outburst that fairly made her start

"No," she cried out, "she ain't well; she's sick. She wa'n't fit to
go to school. She couldn't hardly crawl out of the yard. She ain't
got home, an' I'm terrible worried. I dun'no' but she's fell down."

"Maybe she just thought she wouldn't come home."

"No; that ain't it. She never did such a thing as that without saying
something about it; she'd know I'd worry."

Mrs. Field craned her neck farther over the gate, and peered down the
road. Beside the gate stood two tall bushes, all white with flowers
that grew in long white racemes, and they framed her distressed face.

"Look here, Mrs. Field," said the girl, "I'll tell you what I'll do.
The school-house isn't much beyond my house; I'll just run over there
and see if there's anything the matter; then I'll come back right
off, and let you know."

"Oh, will you?"

"Of course I will. Now don't you worry, Mrs. Field; I don't believe
it's anything."

The girl nodded back at her with her pretty smile; then she sped away
with a light tilting motion. Mrs. Field stood a few minutes longer,
then she went up the steps into the house. She opened Amanda Pratt's
door instead of her own, and went through the sitting-room to the
kitchen, from whence she could hear the clink of dishes.

"Lois ain't got home yet," said she, standing in the doorway.

Amanda set down the dish she was wiping. "Mis' Field, what do you

"What I say."

"Ain't she got home yet?"

"No, she ain't."

"Why, it's half-past one o'clock! She ain't comin'; it's time for
school to begin. Look here, Mis' Field, I guess she felt kind of
tired, an' thought she wouldn't come."

Mrs. Field shook her head with a sort of remorselessness toward all
comfort. "She's fell down."

"Oh, Mis' Field! you don't s'pose so?"

"The Starr girl's gone to find out."

Mrs. Field turned to go.

"Hadn't you better stay here till she comes?" asked Amanda,

"No; I must go home."  Suddenly Mrs. Field looked fiercely around.
"I'll tell you what 'tis, Mandy Pratt, an' you mark my words! I ain't
goin' to stan' this kind of work much longer! I ain't goin' to see
all the child I've got in the world murdered; for that's what it
is--it's murder!"

Mrs. Field went through the sitting-room with a stiff rush, and
Amanda followed her.

"Oh, Mis' Field, don't take on so--don't!" she kept saying.

Mrs. Field went through the house into her own kitchen. The little
white-laid table stood against the wall; the tea-kettle steamed and
rocked on the stove; the room was full of savory odors. Mrs. Field
set the tea-kettle back where it would not boil so hard. These little
household duties had become to her almost as involuntary as the tick
of her own pulses. No matter what hours of agony they told off, the
pulses ticked; and in every stress of life she would set the
tea-kettle back if it were necessary. Amanda stood in the door,
trembling. All at once there was a swift roll of wheels in the yard
past the window. "Somebody's come!" gasped Amanda. Mrs. Field rushed
to the back door, and Amanda after her. There was a buggy drawn up
close to the step, and a man was trying to lift Lois out.

Mrs. Field burst out in a great wail. "Oh, Lois! Lois! She's
dead--she's dead!"

"No, she ain't dead," replied the man, in a drawling, jocular tone.
"She's worth a dozen dead ones--ain't you, Lois? I found her layin'
down side of the road kind of tuckered out, that's all, and I thought
I'd give her a lift. Don't you be scared, Mis' Field. Now, Lois, you
jest rest all your heft on me."

Lois' pale face and little reaching hands appeared around the wing of
the buggy. Amanda ran around to the horse's head. He did not offer to
start; but she stood there, and said, "Whoa, whoa," over and over, in
a pleading, nervous voice. She was afraid to touch the bridle; she
had a great terror of horses.

The man, who was Ida Starr's father, lifted Lois out, and carried her
into the house. She struggled a little.

"I can walk," said she, in a weakly indignant voice.

Mr. Starr carried her into the sitting-room and laid her down on the
sofa. She raised herself immediately, and sat up with a defiant air.

"Oh, dear child, do lay down," sobbed her mother.

She put her hand on Lois' shoulder and tried to force her gently
backward, but the girl resisted.

"Don't, mother," said she. "I don't want to lie down."

Amanda had run into her own room for the camphor bottle. Now she
leaned over Lois and put it to her nose. "Jest smell of this a
little," she said. Lois pushed it away feebly.

"I guess Lois will have to take a little vacation," said Mr. Starr.
"I guess I shall have to see about it, and let her have a little

He was one of the school committee.

"I don't need any vacation," said Lois, in a peremptory tone.

"I guess we shall have to see about it," repeated Mr. Starr. There
was an odd undertone of decision in his drawling voice. He was a
large man, with a pleasant face full of double curves. "Good-day,"
said he, after a minute. "I guess I must be goin'."

"Good-day," said Lois. "I'm much obliged to you for bringing me

"You're welcome."

Amanda nodded politely when he withdrew, but Mrs. Field never looked
at him. She stood with her eyes fixed upon Lois.

"What are you looking at me so for, mother?" said Lois, impatiently,
turning her own face away.

Mrs. Field sank down on her knees before the sofa. "Oh, my child!"
she wailed. "My child! my child!"

She threw her arms around the girl's slender waist, and clung to her
convulsively. Lois cast a terrified glance up at Amanda.

"Does she think I ain't going to get well?" she asked, as if her
mother were not present.

"Of course she don't," replied Amanda, with decision. She stooped and
took hold of Mrs. Field's shoulders. "Now look here, Mis' Field,"
said she, "you ain't actin' like yourself. You're goin' to make Lois
sick, if she ain't now, if you go on this way. You get up an' make
her a cup of tea, an' get her somethin' to eat. Ten chances to one,
that's all that ailed her. I don't believe she's eat enough to-day to
keep a cat alive."

"I know all about it," moaned Mrs. Field. "It's jest what I expected.
Oh, my child! my child! I have prayed an' done all I could, an' now
it's come to this. I've got to give up. Oh, my child! my child!"

It was to this mother as though her daughter was not there, although
she held her in her arms. She was in that abandon of grief which is
the purest selfishness.

Amanda fairly pulled her to her feet. "Mis' Field, I'm ashamed of
you!" said she, severely. "I should think you were beside yourself.
Here's Lois better--"

"No, she ain't better. I know."

Mrs. Field straightened herself, and went out into the kitchen.

Lois looked again at Amanda, in a piteous, terrified fashion. "Oh,"
said she, "you don't think I'm so very sick, do you?"

"Very sick? No; of course you ain't. Your mother got dreadful nervous
because you didn't come home. That's what made her act so. You look a
good deal better than you did when you first came in."

"I feel better," said Lois. "I never saw mother act so in my life."

"She got all wrought up, waitin'. If I was you, I'd lay down a few
minutes, jest on her account. I think it would make her feel easier."

"Well, I will, if you think I'd better; but there ain't a mite of
need of it."

Lois laid her head down on the sofa arm.

"That's right," said Amanda. "You can jest lay there a little while.
I'm goin' out to tell your mother to make you a cup of tea. That'll
set you right up."

Amanda found Mrs. Field already making the tea. She measured it out
carefully, and never looked around. Amanda stepped close to her.

"Mis' Field," she whispered, "I hope you wa'n't hurt by what I said.
I meant it for the best."

"I sha'n't give way so again," said Mrs. Field. Her face had a
curious determined expression.

"I hope you don't feel hurt?"

"No, I don't. I sha'n't give way so again."  She poured the boiling
water into the teapot, and set it on the stove.

Amanda looked at a covered dish on the stove hearth. "What was you
goin' to have for dinner?" said she.

"Lamb broth. I'm goin' to heat up some for her. She didn't eat hardly
a mouthful of breakfast."

"That's jest the thing for her. I'll get out the kettle and put it on
to heat. I dun'no' of anything that gits cold any quicker than lamb
broth, unless it's love."

Amanda put on a cheerful air as she helped Mrs. Field. Presently the
two women carried in the little repast to Lois.

"She's asleep," whispered Amanda, who went first with the tea.

They stood looking at the young girl, stretched out her slender
length, her white delicate profile showing against the black arm of
the sofa.

Her mother caught her breath. "She's got to be waked up; she's got to
have some nourishment, anyhow," said she. "Come, Lois, wake up, and
have your dinner."

Lois opened her eyes. All the animation and defiance were gone from
her face. She was so exhausted that she made no resistance to
anything. She let them raise her, prop her up with a pillow, and
nearly feed her with the dinner. Then she lay back, and her eyes

Amanda went home, and Mrs. Field went back to the kitchen to put away
the dinner dishes. She had eaten nothing herself, and now she poured
some of the broth into a cup, and drank it down with great gulps
without tasting it. It was simply filling of a necessity the lamp of
life with oil.

After her housework was done, she sat down in the kitchen with her
knitting. There was no sound from the other room.

The latter part of the afternoon Amanda came past the window and
entered the back door. She carried a glass of foaming beer. Amanda
was famous through the neighborhood for this beer, which she
concocted from roots and herbs after an ancient recipe. It was
pleasantly flavored with aromatic roots, and instinct with agreeable
bitterness, being an innocently tonic old-maiden brew.

"I thought mebbe she'd like a glass of my beer," whispered Amanda. "I
came round the house so's not to disturb her. How is she?"

"I guess she's asleep. I ain't heard a sound."

Amanda set the glass on the table. "Don't you think you'd ought to
have a doctor, Mis' Field?" said she.

It seemed impossible that Lois could have heard, but her voice came
shrilly from the other room: "No, I ain't going to have a doctor;
there's no need of it. I sha'n't like it if you get one, mother."

"No, you sha'n't have one, dear child," her mother called back. "She
was always jest so about havin' a doctor," she whispered to Amanda.

"I'll take in the beer if she's awake," said Amanda.

Lois looked up when she entered. "I don't want a doctor," said she,
pitifully, rolling her blue eyes.

"Of course you sha'n't have a doctor if you don't want one," returned
Amanda, soothingly. "I thought mebbe you'd like a glass of my beer."

Lois drank the beer eagerly, then she sank back and closed her eyes.
"I'm going to get up in a minute, and sew on my dress," she murmured.

But she did not stir until her mother helped her to bed early in the

The next day she seemed a little better. Luckily it was Saturday, so
there was no worry about her school for her. She would not lie down,
but sat in the rocking-chair with her needle-work in her lap. When
any one came in, she took it up and sewed. Several of the neighbors
had heard she was ill, and came to inquire. She told them, with a
defiant air, that she was very well, and they looked shocked and
nonplussed. Some of them beckoned her mother out into the entry when
they took leave, and Lois heard them whispering together.

The next day, Sunday, Lois seemed about the same. She said once that
she was going to church, but she did not speak of it again. Mrs.
Field went. She suggested staying at home, but Lois was indignant.

"Stay at home with me, no sicker than I am! I should think you were
crazy, mother," said she.

So Mrs. Field got out her Sunday clothes and went to meeting. As soon
as she had gone, Lois coughed; she had been choking the cough back.
She stood at the window, well back that people might not see her, and
watched her mother pass down the street with her stiff glide. Mrs.
Field's back and shoulders were rigidly steady when she walked; she
might have carried a jar of water on her head without spilling it,
like an Indian woman. Lois, small and slight although she was, walked
like her mother. She held herself with the same resolute stateliness,
when she could hold herself at all. The two women might, as far as
their carriage went, have marched in a battalion with propriety.

Lois felt a certain relief when her mother had gone. Even when Mrs.
Field made no expression of anxiety, there was a covert distress
about her which seemed to enervate the atmosphere, and hinder the
girl in the fight she was making against her own weakness. Lois had a
feeling that if nobody would look at her nor speak about her illness,
she could get well quickly of herself.

As for Mrs. Field, she was no longer eager to attend meeting; she
went rather than annoy Lois. She was present at both the morning and
afternoon services. They still had two services in Green River.

Jane Field, sitting in her place in church through the long sermons,
had a mental experience that was wholly new to her. She looked at the
white walls of the audience-room, the pulpit, the carpet, the pews.
She noted the familiar faces of the people in their Sunday gear, the
green light stealing through the long blinds, and all these
accustomed sights gave her a sense of awful strangeness and
separation. And this impression did not leave her when she was out on
the street mingling with the homeward people; every greeting of an
old neighbor strengthened it. She regarded the peaceful village
houses with their yards full of new green grass and flowering bushes,
and they seemed to have a receding dimness as she neared some awful
shore. Even the click of her own gate as she opened it, the sound of
her own feet on the path, the feel of the door-latch to her hand--all
the little common belongings of her daily life were turned into so
many stationary landmarks to prove her own retrogression and fill her
with horror.

To-day, when people inquired for Lois, her mother no longer gave her
customary replies. She said openly that her daughter was real
miserable, and she was worried about her.

"I guess she's beginning to realize it," the women whispered to each
other with a kind of pitying triumph. For there is a certain
aggravation in our friends' not owning to even those facts which we
deplore for them. It is provoking to have an object of pity balk.
Mrs. Field's assumption that her daughter was not ill had half
incensed her sympathizing neighbors; even Amanda had marvelled
indignantly at it. But now the sudden change in her friend caused her
to marvel still more. She felt a vague fear every time she thought of
her. After Lois had gone to bed that Sunday night, her mother came
into Amanda's room, and the two women sat together in the dusk. It
was so warm that Amanda had set all the windows open, and the room
was full of the hollow gurgling of the frogs--there was some low
meadow-land behind the house.

"I want to know what you think of Lois?" said Mrs. Field, suddenly;
her voice was high and harsh.

"Why, I don't know, hardly, Mis' Field."

"Well, I know. She's runnin' down. She won't ever be any better,
unless I can do something. She's dyin' for the want of a little
money, so she can stop work an' go away to some healthier place an'
rest. She is; the Lord knows she is."  Mrs. Field's voice was solemn,
almost oratorical.

Amanda sat still; her long face looked pallid and quite unmoved in
the low light; she was thinking what she could say.

But Mrs. Field went on; she was herself so excited to speech and
action, the outward tendency of her own nature was so strong, that
she failed to notice the course of another's. "She is," she repeated,
argumentatively, as if Amanda had spoken, or she was acute enough to
hear the voice behind silence; "there ain't any use talkin'."

There was a pause, a soft wind came into the room, the noise of the
frogs grew louder, a whippoorwill called; it seemed as if the wide
night were flowing in at the windows.

"What I want to know is," said Mrs. Field, "if you will take Lois in
here to meals, an' look after her a week or two. Be you willin' to?"

"You ain't goin' away, Mis' Field?"  There was a slow and contained
surprise in Amanda's tone.

"Yes, I be; to-morrow mornin', if I live, on the early train. I be,
if you're willin' to take Lois. I don't see how I can leave her any
other way as she is now. You sha'n't be any loser by it, if you'll
take her."

"Where be you goin', Mis' Field?"

"I don't want you to say anything about it. I don't want it all over

"I sha'n't say anything."

"Well, I'm goin' down to Elliot."

"You be?"

"Yes, I be. Old Mr. Maxwell's dead. I had a letter a night or two

Amanda gasped, "He's dead?"


"What was the matter, do you know?"

"They called it paralysis. It was sudden."

Amanda hesitated. "I s'pose--you know anything about--his property?"
said she.

"Yes; he left it all to my sister."

"Why, Mis' Field!"

"Yes; he left every cent of it to her."

"Oh, ain't it dreadful she's dead?"

"It's all been dreadful right along," said Mrs. Field.

"Of course," said Amanda, "I know she's better off than she'd be with
all the money in the world; it ain't that; but it would do so much
good to the livin'. Why, look here, Mis' Field, I dun'no' anything
about law, but won't you have it if your sister's dead?"

"I'm goin' down there."

"It seems as if you'd ought to have somethin' anyway, after all
you've done, lettin' his son have your money an' everything."

Amanda spoke with stern warmth. She had known about this grievance of
her neighbor's for a long time.

"I'm goin' down there," repeated Mrs. Field.

"I would," said Amanda.

"I hate to leave Lois," said Mrs. Field; "but I don't see any other

"I'll take her," said Amanda, "if you're willin' to trust her with

"I've got to," replied Mrs. Field.

"Well, I'll do the best I can," replied Amanda.

She was considerably shaken. She felt her knees tremble. It was as if
she were working a new tidy or rug pattern. Any variation of her
peaceful monotony of existence jarred her whole nature like heavy
wheels, and this was a startling one.

She wondered how Mrs. Field could bring herself to leave Lois. It
seemed to her that she must have hopes of all the old man's property.

After Mrs. Field had gone home, and she, primly comfortable in her
starched and ruffled dimities, lay on her high feather-bed between
her smooth sheets, she settled it in her own mind that her neighbor
would certainly have the property. She wondered if she and Lois would
go to Elliot to live, and who would live in her tenement. The change
was hard for her to contemplate, and she wept a little. Many a
happiness comes to its object with outriders of sorrows to others.

Poor Amanda bemoaned herself over the changes that might come to her
little home, and planned nervously her manner of living with Lois
during the next week. Amanda had lived entirely alone for over twenty
years; this admitting another to her own territory seemed as grave a
matter to her as the admission of foreigners did to Japan. Indeed,
all her kind were in a certain way foreigners to Amanda; and she was
shy of them, she had so withdrawn herself by her solitary life, for
solitariness is the farthest country of them all.

Amanda did not sleep much, and it was very early in the morning--she
was standing before the kitchen looking-glass, twisting the rosettes
of her front hair--when Mrs. Field came in to say good-by. Mrs. Field
was gaunt and erect in her straight black clothes. She had her black
veil tied over her bonnet to protect it from dust, and the black
frame around her strong-featured face gave her a rigid, relentless
look, like a female Jesuit. Lois came faltering behind her mother.
She had a bewildered air, and she looked from her mother to Amanda
with appealing significance, but she did not speak.

"Well, I've come to say good-by," said Mrs. Field.

Amanda had one side of her front hair between her lips while she
twisted the other; she took it out. "Good-by, Mis' Field," she said.
"I'll do the best I can for Lois. How soon do you s'pose you'll be

"It's accordin' to how I get along. I've been tellin' Lois she ain't
goin' to school to-day. She's afraid Mr. Starr will put Ida in if she
don't; but there ain't no need of her worryin'; mebbe a way will be
opened. I want you to lookout she don't go. There ain't no need of

"I'll do the best I can," said Amanda, with a doubtful glance at

Lois said nothing, but her pale little mouth contracted obstinately.
She and Amanda followed her mother to the door. The departing woman
said good-by, and went down the steps over the terraces. She never
looked back. She went on out the gate, and turned into the long road.
She had a mile walk to the railroad station.

Amanda and Lois went back into the sitting-room.

"When did she tell you she was going?" Lois asked suddenly.

"Last night."

"She didn't tell me till this morning."

Lois held her head high, but her eyes were surprised and pitiful, and
the corners of her mouth drooped. She faced about to the window with
a haughty motion, and watched her mother out of sight, a gaunt, dark
old figure disappearing under low green elm branches.

Chapter III

It was many years since Mrs. Field had taken any but the most trivial
journeys. Elliot was a hundred and twenty miles away. She must go to
Boston; then cross the city to the other depot, where she would take
the Elliot train. This elderly unsophisticated woman might very
reasonably have been terrified at the idea of taking this journey
alone, but she was not. She never thought of it.

The latter half of the road to the Green River station lay through an
unsettled district. There were acres of low birch woods and lusty
meadow-lands. This morning they were covered with a gold-green dazzle
of leaves. To one looking across them, they almost seemed played over
by little green flames; now and then a young birch tree stood away
from the others, and shone by itself like a very torch of spring.
Mrs. Field walked steadily through it. She had never paused to take
much thought of the beauty of nature; to-day a tree all alive and
twinkling with leaves might, for all her notice, have been naked and
stiff with frost.

She did not seem to walk fast, but her long steps carried her over
the ground well. It was long before train-time when she came in sight
of the little station with its projecting piazza roofs. She entered
the ladies' room and bought her ticket, then she sat down and waited.
There were two other women there--middle-aged countrywomen in awkward
wool gowns and flat straw bonnets, with a certain repressed
excitement in their homely faces. They were setting their large,
faithful, cloth-gaitered feet a little outside their daily ruts, and
going to visit some relatives in a neighboring town; they were almost
overcome by the unusualness of it.

Jane Field was a woman after their kind, and the look on their faces
had its grand multiple in the look on hers. She had not only stepped
out of her rut, but she was going out of sight of it forever.

She sat there stiff and silent, her two feet braced against the
floor, ready to lift her at the signal of the train, her black
leather bag grasped firmly in her right hand.

The two women eyed her furtively. One nudged the other. "Know who
that is?" she whispered. But neither of them knew. They were from the
adjoining town, which this railroad served as well as Green River.

Sometimes Mrs. Field looked at them, but with no speculation; the
next moment she looked in the same way upon the belongings of the
little country depot--the battered yellow settees, the time-tables,
the long stove in its tract of littered sawdust, the man's face in
the window of the ticket-office.

"Dreadful cross-lookin', ain't she?" one of the women whispered in
the other's ear.

Jane heard the whisper, and looked at them. The women gave each other
violent pokes, they reddened and tittered nervously, then they tried
to look out of the window with an innocent and absent air. But they
need not have been troubled. Jane, although she heard the whisper
perfectly, did not connect it with herself at all. She never thought
much about her own appearance; this morning she had as little vanity
as though she were dead.

When the whistle of the train sounded, the women all pushed anxiously
out on the platform.

"Is this the train that goes to Boston?" Mrs. Field asked one of the
other two.

"I s'pose so," she replied, with a reciprocative flutter. "I'm goin'
to ask so's to be sure. I'm goin' to Dale."

"I always ask," her friend remarked, with decision.

When the train stopped, Mrs. Field inquired of a brakeman. She was
hardly satisfied with his affirmative answer. "Are you the
conductor?" said she, sternly peering.

The young fellow gave a hurried wave of his hand toward the
conductor, "There he is, ma'am."

Mrs. Field asked him also, then she hoisted herself into the car.
When she had taken her seat, she put the same question to a woman in
front of her.

It was a five-hours' ride to Boston. Mrs. Field sat all the while in
her place with her bag in her lap, and never stirred. There was a
look of rigid preparation about her, as if all her muscles were
strained for an instant leap.

Two young girls in an opposite seat noticed her and tittered. They
had considerable merriment over her, twisting their pretty silly
faces, and rolling their blue eyes in her direction, and then
averting them with soft repressed chuckles.

Occasionally Mrs. Field looked over at them, thought of her Lois, and
noted their merriment gravely. She never dreamed that they were
laughing at her. If she had, she would not have considered it twice.

It was four o'clock when Mrs. Field arrived in Boston. She had been
in the city but once before, when she was a young girl. Still she set
out with no hesitation to walk across the city to the depot where she
must take the cars for Elliot. She could not afford a carriage, and
she would not trust herself in a street car. She knew her own head
and her old muscles; she could allow for their limitations, and
preferred to rely upon them.

Every few steps she stopped and asked a question as to her route,
listening sharply to the reply. Then she went straight enough,
speeding between the informers like guide-posts. This old provincial
threaded the city streets as unappreciatively as she had that morning
the country one. Once in a while the magnificence of some shop
window, a dark flash of jet, or a flutter of lace on a woman's dress
caught her eye, but she did not see it. She had nothing in common
with anything of that kind; she had to do with the primal facts of
life. Coming as she was out of the country quiet, she was quite
unmoved by the thundering rush of the city streets. She might have
been deaf and blind for all the impression it had upon her. Her own
nature had grown so intense that it apparently had emanations, and
surrounded her with an atmosphere of her own impenetrable to the

It was nearly five o'clock when she reached her station, and the
train was ready. It was half-past five when she arrived in Elliot.
She got off the train and stalked, as if with a definite object,
around the depot platform. She did not for one second hesitate or
falter. She went up to a man who was loading some trunks on a wagon,
and asked him to direct her to Lawyer Tuxbury's office. Her voice was
so abrupt and harsh that the man started.

"Cross the track, an' go up the street till you come to it, on the
right-hand side," he answered. Then he stared curiously after her as
she went on.

Lawyer Tuxbury's small neat sign was fastened upon the door of the L
of a large white house. There was a green yard, and some newly
started flower-beds. In one there was a clump of yellow daffodils.
Two yellow-haired little girls were playing out in the yard. They
both stood still, staring with large, wary blue eyes at Mrs. Field as
she came up the path. She never glanced toward them.

She stood like a black-draped statue before the office door, and
knocked. Nobody answered.

She knocked again louder. Then a voice responded "Come in."  Mrs.
Field turned the knob carefully, and opened the door. It led directly
into the room. There was a dull oil-cloth carpet, some beetling cases
of heavy books, a few old arm-chairs, and one battered leather
easy-chair. A great desk stood against the farther wall, and a man
was seated at it, with his back toward the door. He had white hair,
to which the sunlight coming through the west window gave a red-gold

Mrs. Field stood still, just inside the door. Apart from anything
else, the room itself had a certain awe-inspiring quality for her.
She had never before been in a lawyer's office. She was fully
possessed with the rural and feminine ignorance and holy fear of all
legal appurtenances. From all her traditions, this office door should
have displayed a grinning man or woman trap, which she must warily

She eyed the dusty oil-cloth--the files of black books--the
chairs--the man at the desk, with his gilded white head. He wrote on
steadily, and never stirred for a minute. Then he again sang out,
sharply, "Come in."

He was deaf, and had, along with his insensibility to sounds, that
occasional abnormal perception of them which the deaf seem sometimes
to possess. He often heard sounds when none were recognizable to
other people.

Now, evidently having perceived no result from his first response, he
had heard this second knock, which did not exist except in his own
supposition and the waiting woman's intent. She had, indeed, just at
this point said to herself that she would slip out and knock again if
he did not look around. She had not the courage to speak. It was
almost as if the deaf lawyer, piecing out his defective ears with a
subtler perception, had actually become aware of her intention, which
had thundered upon him like the knock itself.

Mrs. Field made an inarticulate response, and took a grating step
forward. The old man turned suddenly and saw her. She stood back
again; there was a shrinking stiffness about her attitude, but she
looked him full in the face.

"Why, good-day!" he exclaimed. "Good-day, madam. I didn't hear you
come in."

Mrs. Field murmured a good-day in return.

"Take a seat, madam."  The lawyer had risen, and was advancing toward
her. He was a small, sharp-eyed man, whose youthful agility had
crystallized into a nervous pomposity. Suddenly he stopped short; he
had passed a broad slant of dusty sunlight which had lain between him
and his visitor, and he could see her face plainly. His own elongated
for a second, his under jaw lopped, and his brows contracted. Then he
stepped forward. "Why, Mrs. Maxwell!" said he; "how do you do?"

"I'm pretty well, thank you," replied Mrs. Field. She tried to bow,
but her back would not bend.

"I am delighted to see you," said the lawyer. "I recognize you
perfectly now. I should have before, if the sun had not been in my
eyes. I never forget a face."

He took her by the hand, and shook it up and down effusively. Then he
pushed forward the leather easy-chair with gracious insinuation. Mrs.
Field sat down, bolt-upright, on the extreme verge of it.

The lawyer drew a chair to her side, seated himself, leaned forward
until his face fronted hers, and talked. His manner was florid,
almost bombastic. He had a fashion of working his face a good deal
when he talked. He conversed quite rapidly and fluently, but was wont
to interlard his conversation with what seemed majestically
reflective pauses, during which he leaned back in his chair and
tapped the arm slowly. In fact his flow of ideas failed him for a
moment, his mind being so constituted that they came in rapid and
temporary bursts, geyser fashion. He inquired when Mrs. Field
arrived, was kindly circumstantial as to her health, touched
decorously but not too mournfully upon the late Thomas Maxwell's
illness and decease. He alluded to the letter which he had written
her, mentioning as a singular coincidence that at the moment of her
entrance he was engaged in writing another to her, to inquire if the
former had been received.

He spoke in terms of congratulation of the property to which she had
fallen heir, and intimated that further discussion concerning it, as
a matter of business, had better be postponed until morning. Daniel
Tuxbury was very methodical in his care for himself, and was loath to
attend to any business after six o'clock.

Mrs. Field sat like a bolt of iron while the lawyer talked to her.
Unless a direct question demanded it, she never spoke herself. But he
did not seem to notice it; he had enough garnered-in complacency to
delight himself, as a bee with its own honey. He rarely realized it
when another person did not talk.

After one of his pauses, he sprang up with alacrity. "Mrs. Maxwell,
will you be so kind as to excuse me for a moment?" said he, and went
out of the office with a fussy hitch, as if he wore invisible
petticoats. Mrs. Field heard his voice in the yard.

When he returned there was an old lady following in his wake. Mrs.
Field saw her before he did. She came with a whispering of silk, but
his deaf ears did not perceive that. He did not notice her at all
until he had entered the office, then he saw Mrs. Field looking past
him at the door, and turned himself.

He went toward her with a little flourish of words, but the old lady
ignored him entirely. She held up her chin with a kind of ancient
pertness, and eyed Mrs. Field. She was a small, straight-backed
woman, full of nervous vibrations. She stood apparently still, but
her black silk whispered all the time, and loose ends of black ribbon
trembled. The black silk had an air of old gentility about it, but it
was very shiny; there were many bows, but the ribbons were limp,
having been pressed and dyed. Her face, yellow and deeply wrinkled,
but sharply vivacious, was overtopped by a bunch of purple flowers in
a nest of rusty black lace and velvet.

So far Mrs. Field had maintained a certain strained composure, but
now her long, stern face began flushing beneath this old lady's gaze.

"I conclude you know this lady," said the lawyer, with a blandly
facetious air to the new-comer.

At that she stepped forward promptly, with a jerk as if to throw off
her irresolution, and a certain consternation. "Yes, I s'pose I do,"
said she, in a voice like a shrill high chirp. "It's Mis' Maxwell,
ain't it--Edward's wife? How do you do, Esther? I hadn't seen you for
so long, I wasn't quite sure, but I see who you are now. How do you

"I'm pretty well, thank you," said Mrs. Field, with a struggle,
putting her twisted hand into the other woman's, extended quiveringly
in a rusty black glove.

"When did you come to town, Esther?"

"Jest now."

"Let me see, where from? I can't seem to remember the name of the
place where you've been livin'. I know it, too."

"Green River."

"Oh, yes, Green River. Well, I'm glad to see you, Esther. You ain't
changed much, come to look at you; not so much as I have, I s'pose. I
don't expect you'd know me, would you?"

"I--don't know as I would."  Mrs. Field recoiled from a lie even in
the midst of falsehood.

The old lady's face contracted a little, but she could spring above
her emotions. "Well, I don't s'pose you would, either," responded
she, with fine alacrity. "I've grown old and wrinkled and yellow,
though I ain't gray," with a swift glance at Mrs. Field's smooth
curves of white hair. "You turned gray pretty young, didn't you,

"Yes, I did."

The old lady's front hair hung in dark-brown spirals, a little bunch
of them against either cheek, outside her bonnet. She set them
dancing with a little dip of her head when she spoke again. "I
thought you did," said she. "Well, you're comin' over to my house,
ain't you, Esther? You'll find a good many changes there. My daughter
Flora and I are all that's left now, you know, I s'pose."

Mrs. Field moved her head uncertainly. This old woman, with her
straight demands for truth or falsehood, was torture to her.

"I suppose you'll come right over with me pretty soon," the old lady
went on. "I don't want to hurry you in your business with Mr.
Tuxbury, but I suppose my nephew will be home, and--"

"I'm jest as much obliged to you, but I guess I'd better not. I've
made some other plans," said Mrs. Field.

"Oh, we are going to keep Mrs. Maxwell with us to-night," interposed
the lawyer. He had stood by smilingly while the two women talked.

"I'm jest as much obliged, but I guess I'd better not," repeated Mrs.
Field, looking at both of them.

The old lady straightened herself in her flimsy silk draperies.
"Well, of course, if you've got other plans made, I ain't goin' to
urge you, Esther," said she; "but any time you feel disposed to come,
you'll be welcome. Good-evenin', Esther. Good-evenin', Mr. Tuxbury."
She turned with a rustling bob, and was out the door.

The lawyer pressed forward hurriedly. "Why, Mrs. Maxwell, weren't you
coming in? Isn't there something I can do for you?" said he.

"No, thank you," replied the old lady, shortly. "I've got to go home;
it's my tea-time. I was goin' by, and I thought I'd jest look in a
minute; that was all. It wa'n't anything. Good-evenin'."  She was
half down the walk before she finished speaking. She never looked

The lawyer turned to Mrs. Field. "Mrs. Henry Maxwell was not any too
much please to see you sitting here," he whispered, with a
confidential smile. "She wouldn't say anything; she's as proud as
Lucifer; but she was considerably taken aback."

Mrs. Field nodded. She felt numb. She had not understood who this
other woman was. She knew now--the mother of the young woman who was
the rightful heir to Thomas Maxwell's property.

"The old lady has been pretty anxious," Mr. Tuxbury went on. "She's
been in here a good many times--made excuses to come in and see if I
had any news. She has been twice as much concerned as her daughter
about it. Well, she has had a pretty hard time. That branch of the
family lost a good deal of property."

Mrs. Field rose abruptly. "I guess I'd better be goin'," said she.
"It must be your tea-time. I'll come in again to-morrow."

The lawyer put up his hand deprecatingly. "Mrs. Maxwell, you will, of
course, stay and take tea with us, and remain with us to-night."

"I'm jest as much obliged to you for invitin' me, but I guess I'd
better be goin'."

"My sister is expecting you. You remember my sister, Mrs. Lowe. I've
just sent word to her. You had better come right over to the house
with me now, and to-morrow morning we can attend to business. You
must be fatigued with your journey."

"I'm real sorry if your sister's put herself out, but I guess I'd
better not stay."

The lawyer turned his ear interrogatively. "I beg your pardon, but I
didn't quite understand. You think you can't stay?"

"I'm--much obliged to your sister an' you for invitin' me, but--I
guess--I'd better--not."

"Why--but--Mrs. Maxwell! Just be seated again for a moment, and let
me speak to my sister; perhaps she--"

"I'm jest as much obliged to her, but I feel as if I'd better be
goin'."  Mrs. Field stood before him, mildly unyielding. She seemed
to waver toward his will, but all the time she abided toughly in her
own self like a willow bough. "But, Mrs. Maxwell, what _can_ you do?"
said the lawyer, his manner full of perplexity, and impatience thinly
veiled by courtesy. "The hotel here is not very desirable, and--"

"Can't I go right up to--the house?"

"The Maxwell house?"

"Yes, sir; if there ain't anything to hinder."

Mr. Tuxbury stared at her. "Why, I don't know that there is really
anything to hinder," he said, slowly. "Although it is rather-- No, I
don't know as there is any actual objection to your going. I suppose
the house belongs to you. But it is shut up. I think you would find
it much pleasanter here, Mrs. Maxwell."  His eyebrows were raised,
his mouth pursed up.

"I guess I'd better go, if I can jest as well as not; if I can get
into the house."  Mrs. Field spoke with deprecating persistency.

Mr. Tuxbury turned abruptly toward his desk, and began fumbling in a
drawer. She stood hesitatingly watchful. "If you would jest tell me
where I'd find the key," she ventured to remark. She had a vague idea
that she would be told to look under a parlor blind for the key, that
being the innocent country hiding-place when the house was left

"I have the key, and I will go to the house with you myself

"I hate to make you so much trouble. I guess I could find it myself,

"I will be ready immediately, Mrs. Maxwell," said the lawyer, in a
smoothly conclusive voice which abashed her.

She stood silently by the door until he was ready. He took her black
bag peremptorily, and they went side by side down the street. He held
his head well back, his lips were still tightly pursed, and he swung
his cane with asperity. His important and irascible nature was oddly
disturbed by this awkwardly obstinate old woman stalking at his side
in her black clothes. Feminine opposition, even in slight matters,
was wont to aggravate him, but in no such degree as this. He found it
hard to recover his usual courtesy of manner, and indeed scarcely
spoke a word during the walk. He could not himself understand his
discomposure. But Mrs. Field did not seem to notice. She walked on,
with her stern, impassive old face set straight ahead. Once they met
a young girl who made her think of Lois, her floating draperies
brushed against her black gown, for a second there was a pale,
innocent little face looking up into her own.

It was not a very long walk to the Maxwell house.

"Here we are," said the lawyer, coldly, and unlatched a gate, and
held it open with stiff courtesy for his companion to pass.

They proceeded in silence up the long curve of walk which led to the
front door. The walk was brown and slippery with pine needles. Tall
old pine trees stood in groups about the yard. There were also elm
and horse-chestnut trees. The horse-chestnuts were in blossom,
holding up their white bouquets, which showed dimly. It was now quite

Back of the trees the house loomed up. It was white and bulky, with
fluted cornices and corner posts, and a pillared porch to the front
door. Mrs. Field passed between the two outstanding pillars, which
reared themselves whitely over her, like ghostly sentries, and stood
waiting while Mr. Tuxbury fitted the key to the lock.

It took quite a little time; he could not see very well, he had
forgotten his spectacles in his impatient departure. But at last he
jerked open the door, and a strange conglomerate odor, the very
breath of the life of the old Maxwell house, steamed out in their

All bridal and funeral feasts, all daily food, all garments which had
hung in the closets and rustled through the rooms, every piece of
furniture, every carpet and hanging had a part in it.

The rank and bitter emanations of life, as well as spices and sweet
herbs and delicate perfumes, went to make up the breath which smote
one in the face upon the opening of the door. Still it was not a
disagreeable, but rather a suggestive and poetical odor, which should
affect one like a reminiscent dream. However, the village people
sniffed at it, and said "How musty that old house is!"

That was what Daniel Tuxbury said now. "The house is musty," he
remarked, with stately nose in the air.

Mrs. Field made no response. She stepped inside at once. "I'm much
obliged to you," said she.

The lawyer looked at her, then past her into the dark depths of the
house. "You can't see," said he, "you must let me go in with you and
get a light."  He spoke in a tone of short politeness. He was in his
heart utterly out of patience with this strange, stiff old woman.

"I guess I can find one. I hate to make you so much trouble."

Mr. Tuxbury stepped forward with decision, and began fumbling in his
pocket for a match. "Of course you cannot find one in the dark, Mrs.
Maxwell," said he, with open exasperation.

She said nothing more, but stood meekly in the hall until a light
flared out from a room on the left. The lawyer had found a lamp, he
was himself somewhat familiar with the surroundings, but on the way
to it he stumbled over a chair with an exclamation. It sounded like
an oath to Mrs. Field, but she thought she must be mistaken. She had
never in her life heard many oaths, and when she did had never been
able to believe her ears.

"I hope you didn't hurt you," said she, deprecatingly, stepping

"I am not hurt, thank you."  But the twinge in the lawyer's ankle was
confirming his resolution to say nothing more to her on the subject
of his regret and unwillingness that she should choose to refuse his
hospitality, and spend such a lonely and uncomfortable night. "I
won't say another word to her about it," he declared to himself. So
he simply made arrangements with her for a meeting at his office the
next morning to attend to the business for which there had been no
time to-night, and took his leave.

"I never saw such a woman," was his conclusion of the story, which he
related to his sister upon his return home. His sister was a widow,
and just then her married daughter and two children were visiting

"I wish you'd let me know she wa'n't comin'," said she. "I cut the
fruit cake an' opened a jar of peach, an' I've put clean sheets on
the front chamber bed. It's made considerable work for nothin'."  She
eyed, as she spoke, the two children, who were happily eating the
peach preserve. She and her brother were both quite well-to-do, but
she had a parsimonious turn.

"I'd like to know what she'll have for supper," she remarked further.

"I didn't ask her," said the lawyer, dryly, taking a sip of his
sauce. He was rather glad of the peach himself.

"I shouldn't think she'd sleep a wink, all alone in that great old
house. I know I shouldn't," observed the children's mother. She was a
fair, fleshy, quite pretty young woman.

"That woman would sleep on a tomb-stone if she set out to," said the
lawyer. His speech, when alone with his own household, was more
forcible and not so well regulated. Indeed, he did not come of a
polished family; he was the only educated one among them. His sister,
Mrs. Low, regarded him with all the deference and respect which her
own decided and self-sufficient character could admit of, and often
sounded his praises in her unrestrained New England dialect.

"She seemed like a real set kind of a woman, then?" said she now.

"Set is no name for it," replied her brother.

"Well, if that's so, I guess old Mr. Maxwell wa'n't so far wrong when
he didn't have her down here before," she remarked, with a judicial
air. Her spectacles glittered, and her harsh, florid face bent
severely over the sugar-bowl and the cups and saucers.

The lamp-light was mellow in the neat, homely dining-room, and there
was a soft aroma of boiling tea all about. The pink and white
children ate their peach sauce in happy silence, with their pretty
eyes upon the prospective cake.

"I suppose there must be some bed made up in all that big house,"
remarked their mother; "but it must be awful lonesome."

Of the awful lonesomeness of it truly, this smiling, comfortable
young soul had no conception. At that moment, while they were
drinking their tea and talking her over, Jane Field sat bolt-upright
in one of the old flag-bottomed chairs in the Maxwell sitting-room.
She had dropped into it when the lawyer closed the door after him,
and she never stirred afterward. She sat there all night.

The oil was low in the lamp which the lawyer had lighted, and left
standing on the table between the windows. She could see distinctly
for a while the stately pieces of old furniture standing in their
places against the walls. Just opposite where she sat was one of
lustreless old mahogany, extending the width of the wall between two
doors, rearing itself upon slender legs, set with multitudinous
drawers, and surmounted by a clock. A piece of furniture for which
she knew no name, an evidence of long-established wealth and
old-fashioned luxury, of which she and her plain folk, with their
secretaries and desks and bureaus, had known nothing. The clock had
stopped at three o'clock. Mrs. Field thought to herself that it might
have been the hour on which old Mr. Maxwell died, reflecting that
souls were more apt to pass away in the wane of the night. She would
have like to wind the clock, and set the hands moving past that
ghostly hour, but she did not dare to stir. She gazed at the large,
dull figures sprawling over the old carpet, at the glimmering satiny
scrolls on the wall-paper. On the mantel-shelf stood a branching gilt
candlestick, filled with colored candles, and strung around with
prisms, which glittered feebly in the low lamp-light. There was a
bulging, sheet-iron wood stove--the Maxwells had always eschewed
coal; beside it lay a little pile of sticks, brought in after the
chill of death had come over the house. There were a few old
engravings--a head of Washington, the Landing of the Pilgrims, the
Webster death-bed scene, and one full-length portrait of the old
statesman, standing majestically, scroll in hand, in a black frame.

As the oil burned low, the indistinct figures upon the carpet and
wall-paper grew more indistinct, the brilliant colors of the prisms
turned white, and the fine black and white lights in the death-bed
picture ran together.

Finally the lamp went out. Mrs. Field had spied matches over on the
shelf, but she did not dare to rise to cross the room to get them and
find another lamp. She did not dare to stir.

After her light went out, there was still a pale glimmer upon the
opposite wall, and the white face of the silent clock showed out
above the cumbersome shadow of the great mahogany piece. The glimmer
came from a neighbor's lamp shining through a gap in the trees. Soon
that also went out, and the old woman sat there in total darkness.

She folded her hands primly, and held up her bonneted head in the
darkness, like some decorous and formal caller who might expect at
any moment to hear the soft, heavy step of the host upon the creaking
stair and his voice in the room. She sat there so all night.

Gradually this steady-headed, unimaginative old woman became
possessed by a legion of morbid fancies, which played like wild fire
over the terrible main fact of the case--the fact that underlay
everything--that she had sinned, that she had gone over from good to
evil, and given up her soul for a handful of gold. Many a time in the
night, voices which her straining fancy threw out, after the manner
of ventriloquism, from her own brain, seemed actually to vibrate
through the house, footsteps pattered, and garments rustled. Often
the phantom noises would swell to a very pandemonium surging upon her
ears; but she sat there rigid and resolute in the midst of it, her
pale old face sharpening out into the darkness. She sat there, and
never stirred until morning broke.

When it was fairly light, she got up, took off her bonnet and shawl,
and found her way into the kitchen. She washed her face and hands at
the sink, and went deliberately to work getting herself some
breakfast. She had a little of her yesterday's lunch left; she
kindled a fire, and made a cup of tea. She found some in a caddy in
the pantry. She set out her meal on the table and drew a chair before
it. She had wound up the kitchen clock, and she listened to its tick
while she ate. She took time, and finished her slight repast to the
last crumb. Then she washed the dishes, and swept and tidied the

When that was done it was still too early for her to go to the
lawyer's office. She sat down at an open kitchen window and folded
her hands. Outside was a broad, green yard, inclosed on two sides by
the Maxwell house and barn. A drive-way led to the barn, and on the
farther side a row of apple-trees stood. There was a fresh wind
blowing, and the apple blossoms were floating about. The drive was
quite white with them in places, and they were half impaled upon the
sharp green blades of grass.

Over through the trees Mrs. Field could see the white top of a market
wagon in a neighboring yard, and the pink dress of a woman who stood
beside it trading. She watched them with a dull wonder. What had she
now to do with market wagons and daily meals and housewifely matters?
That fair-haired woman in the pink dress seemed to her like a woman
of another planet.

This narrow-lived old country woman could not consciously moralize.
She was no philosopher, but she felt, without putting it into
thoughts, as if she had descended far below the surface of all
things, and found out that good and evil were the root and the life
of them, and the outside leaves and froth and flowers were fathoms
away, and no longer to be considered.

At ten o'clock she put on her bonnet and shawl, and set out for the
lawyer's office. She locked the front door, put the key under a
blind, and proceeded down the front walk into the street.

The spring was earlier here than in Green River. She started at a
dancing net-work of leaf shadows on the sidewalk. They were the first
she had seen that season. There was a dewy arch of trees overhead,
and they were quite fully leaved out. Mr. Tuxbury was in his office
when she got there. He rose promptly and greeted her, and pushed
forward the leather easy-chair with his old courtly flourish.

"I suppose that old stick of a woman will be in pretty soon," he had
remarked to his sister at breakfast-time.

"Well, you'll keep on the right side of her, if you know which side
your bread is buttered," she retorted. "You don't want her goin' to
Sam Totten's."

Totten was the other lawyer of Elliot.

"I think I am quite aware of all the exigencies of the case," Daniel
Tuxbury had replied, lapsing into stateliness, as he always did when
his sister waxed too forcible in her advice.

But when Mrs. Field entered his office, every trace of his last
night's impatience had vanished. He inquired genially if she had
passed a comfortable night, and on being assured that she had,
pressed her to drink a cup of coffee which he had requested his
sister to keep warm. This declined, with her countrified courtesy, so
shy that it seemed grim, he proceeded, with no chill upon his
graciousness, to business.

Through the next two hours Mrs. Field sat at the lawyer's desk, and
listened to a minute and wearisome description of her new
possessions. She listened with very little understanding. She did not
feel any interest in it. She never opened her mouth except now and
then for a stiff assent to a question from the lawyer.

A little after twelve o'clock he leaned back in his chair with a
conclusive sigh, and fixed his eyes reflectively upon the ceiling.
"Well, Mrs. Maxwell," said he, "I think that you understand pretty
well now the extent and the limitations of your property."

"Yes, sir," said she.

"It is all straight enough. Maxwell was a good business man; he kept
his affairs in excellent order. Yes, he was a very good business

Suddenly the lawyer straightened himself, and fixed his eyes with
genial interest upon his visitor; business over, he had a mind for a
little personal interview to show his good-will. "Let me see, Mrs.
Maxwell, you had a sister, did you not?" said he.

"Yes, sir."

"Is she living?"

"No, sir."  Mrs. Field said it with a gasping readiness to speak one

"Let me see, what was her name?" asked the lawyer. "No; wait a
moment; I'll tell you. I've heard it."  He held up a hand as if
warding off an answer from her, his face became furrowed with
reflective wrinkles. "Field!" cried he, suddenly, with a jerk, and
beamed at her. "I thought I could remember it," said he. "Yes, your
sister's name was Field. When did she die, Mrs. Maxwell?"

"Two years ago."

There was a strange little smothered exclamation from some one near
the office door. Mrs. Field turned suddenly, and saw her daughter
Lois standing there.

Chapter IV

There Lois stood. Her small worn shoes hesitated on the threshold.
She was gotten up in her poor little best--her dress of cheap brown
wool stuff, with its skimpy velvet panel, her hat trimmed with a fold
of silk and a little feather. She had curled her hair over her
forehead, and tied on a bit of a lace veil. Distinct among all this
forlorn and innocent furbishing was her face, with its pitiful,
youthful prettiness, turning toward her mother and the lawyer with a
very clutch of vision.

Mrs. Field got up. "Oh, it's you, Lois," she said, calmly. "You
thought you'd come too, didn't you?"

Lois gasped out something.

Her mother turned to the lawyer. "I'll make you acquainted with Miss
Lois Field," said she. "Lois, I'll make you acquainted with Mr.

The lawyer was looking surprised, but he rose briskly to the level of
the situation, and greeted the young girl with ready grace. "Your
sister's daughter, I conclude," he said, smilingly, to Mrs. Field.

Mrs. Field set her mouth hard. She looked defiantly at him and said
not one word. There was a fierce resolve in her heart that, come what
would, she would not tell this last lie, and deny her daughter before
her very face.

But the lawyer did not know she was silent. Not having heard any
response, with the vanity of a deaf man, he assumed that she had
given one, and so concealed his uncertainty.

"Yes, so I thought," said he, and went on flourishingly in his track
of gracious reception.

Lois kept her eyes fixed on his like some little timid animal which
suspects an enemy, and watches his eyes for the first impetus of a
spring. Once or twice she said, "Yes, sir," faintly.

"Your niece does not look very strong," Mr. Tuxbury said to Mrs.

"She ain't been feelin' very well this spring. I've been considerable
worried about her," she answered, with harsh decision.

"Ah, I am very sorry to hear that. Well, she will soon recuperate if
she stays here. Elliot is considered a very healthy place. We shall
soon have her so hearty and rosy that her old friends won't be able
to recognize her."  He bowed with a smiling flourish to Lois.

Her lips trembled with a half-smile in response, but she looked more
frightened than ever.

"Now, Mrs. Maxwell," said the lawyer, "you and your niece must
positively remain and dine with us to-day, can't you?"

"I'm afraid it will put your sister out."

"Oh, no, indeed."  The lawyer, however, had a slightly nonplussed
expression. "She will be delighted. I will run over to the house,
then, and tell her that you will stay, shall I not?"

"I hate to make her extra work," said Mrs. Field. That was her rural
form of acceptance.

"You will not, I assure you. Don't distress yourself about that, Mrs.

Nevertheless, he was quite ill at ease as he traversed the yard. In
his life with his sister there were exigencies during which he was
obliged to descend from his platform of superiority. He foresaw the
approach of one now.

Dinner was already served when he entered the dining-room, and his
sister was setting the chairs around the table. They kept no servant.

"They are going to stay to dinner, I expect," he remarked, in a
appealingly confidential tone.

His sister faced him with a jerk. She was very red from bending over
the kitchen fire. "Who's goin' to stay? What do you mean, Daniel?"

"Why, Mrs. Maxwell and her niece."

"Her niece? I didn't know she had any niece. How did she get here?"

"She came this noon; followed along after her aunt, I suppose. I
don't think she knew she was coming. She acted kind of surprised, I

"You don't mean they're comin' in here to dinner?"

"I couldn't very well help asking them, you know."  His tone was soft
and conciliatory, and he kept a nervous eye upon his sister's face.

"Couldn't help askin' 'em! I ruther guess I could 'a' helped askin'

"Jane, I hadn't any idea they'd stay."

"Well, you've gone an' done it, that's all I've got to say. Here they
didn't come last night, when I got all ready for 'em, an' now they're
comin', an' everything we've got is a picked-up dinner; there ain't
enough of anything to go round. Flora!"

Her daughter Flora came in from the kitchen, with the children, in
blue gingham aprons, at her heels.

"What is it, mother?" said she.

"Nothin', only your uncle Daniel has asked that Maxwell woman an' her
niece to dinner, an' they're goin' to stay."

"My goodness! there isn't a thing for dinner!" said Flora, with a
half-giggle. She was so young and healthy and happy that she could
still see the joke in an annoyance.

Her uncle looked at her beseechingly. "Can't you manage somehow?"
said he. "I'll go down to the store and buy something."

"Down to the store!" repeated his sister, contemptuously. "It's one
o'clock now."

He looked at the kitchen clock, visible through the open door, and
saw that it indicated half-past twelve, but he said nothing.

Flora was frowning reflectively, while her cheeks dimpled. "I tell
you what I'll do, mother," said she. "I'll go over to Mrs. Bennett's
and borrow a pie. I think we can get along if we have a pie."

"I ain't goin' round the neighborhood borrowin'; that ain't the way
I'm accustomed to doin'."

"Land, mother! I'd just as soon ask Mrs. Bennett as not. She borrowed
that bread in here the other night."

"There ain't enough steak to go round; there's jest that little piece
we had left from yesterday, an' there ain't enough stew," said her
mother, with persistent wrath.

"Well, if folks come in unexpectedly, they'll have to take what we've
got and make the best of it."  Flora tied a hat on over her light
hair as she spoke. "I don't see any other way for them," she added,
laughingly, going out of the door.

"It's all very well for folks to be easy," said her mother, with a
sniff, "but when she's had as much as I've had, I guess she won't
take it any easier than I do. I s'pose now I've got to take all these
things off, an' put on a clean table-cloth."

"That one doesn't look very bad," ventured her brother, timidly.

"No, I shouldn't think it did! Look at that great coffee stain you
got on it this mornin'! Havin' a couple of perfect strangers come in
to dinner makes more work than a man knows anything about. Children,
you take off the knives, an' pile 'em up on the other table. Be real

"I wonder if the parlor's so I can ask them in there?" Mr. Tuxbury
remarked, edging toward the door.

"I s'pose so. I ain't been in there this mornin'; I s'pose it's all
right unless the children have been in an' cluttered it up."

"No, we ain't, gramma, we ain't," proclaimed the children in a shrill
shout. They danced around the table, removing the knives and forks;
their innocent, pinky faces were full of cherubic glee. This occasion
was, metaphorically speaking, a whole flock of jubilant infantile
larks for them. They loved company with all their souls, and they
also felt always a pleasant titillation of their youthful spirits
when they saw their grandmother in perturbation. Unless, indeed, they
themselves were the cause of it, when it acquired a personal force
which rendered it not so entertaining.

Soon, however, a remark of their grandmother's caused their buoyant
spirits to realize that there was a force of gravitation for all here

"I don't know but you children will have to wait," said she.

There was an instantaneous wail of dismay, the pinky faces elongated,
the blue eyes scowled sulkily. "Oh, gramma, we don't want to wait!
Can't we sit down with the others? Say, gramma, can't we? Can't we
sit down with the others?"

"Of course you can sit down with the others. Don't make such a
racket, children."  That was their mother coming in, good-natured and
triumphant, with the pie.

"I don't know whether they can or not," said their grandmother. "I
ain't put in an extra leaf; this table-cloth wa'n't long enough, an'
I wa'n't goin' to have the big table-cloth to do up for all the
Maxwells in creation."

"Oh, there's room enough," Flora said, easily. "I can squeeze them in
beside me. Put the napkins round, children, and stop teasing. Didn't
I get a beautiful pie?"

"What kind is it?"


"An' our squashes are all gone, an' I've got to buy one to pay her
back. I should have thought you'd known better, Flora."

"It was all the kind she had. I couldn't help it. Squashes don't cost
much, mother."

"They cost something, an' I've got all them dried apples to use up
for pies."

"Have they come in?" asked Flora, with happy unconcern about the cost
of squashes and the utilization of dried apples.

"Yes, I s'pose so. I thought I heard Daniel taking 'em in the front
door. I s'pose they're in the parlor."

"You ought to go in a minute, hadn't you?"

"I s'pose so," replied Mrs. Lowe, with a sigh of fierce resignation.

"I'll finish setting the things on the table, and you go in. Take off
your apron."

"This dress don't look fit."

"Yes, it does, too; it's clean. Run along."

Mrs. Lowe smoothed her sparse hair severely at the kitchen
looking-glass; then she advanced upon the parlor with the air of a
pacific grenadier. The children were following slyly in her wake, but
their mother caught sight of them and pulled them back.

Mr. Tuxbury had been sitting in the parlor with his guests, trying
his best to entertain them. He had gotten out the photograph album
for Lois, and a book of views in the Holy Land for her mother. If he
had felt in considerable haste to escape from his sister's
indignation and return to his visitors, they had been equally anxious
for him to come.

When Mrs. Field and her daughter were left alone in the office, their
first sensation was that of actual terror of each other.

Mrs. Field concealed hers well enough. She sat up without a tremor in
her unbending back, and looked out of the office door, which the
lawyer had left open. Just opposite the door, out on the sidewalk,
two men stood talking. She kept her eyes fastened upon them.

"What time did you start?" said she presently, in a harsh voice,
which seemed to rudely shock the stillness. She did not turn her

"I--came--on the first--train," answered Lois, pantingly. Once in a
while she stole furtive, wildly questioning glances at her mother,
but her mother never met them. She continued to look at the talking
men on the sidewalk.

"Mother," began Lois finally, in a desperate voice. But just then Mr.
Tuxbury had reappeared, and conducted them to his parlor.

The parlor had lace curtains and a Brussles carpet, and looked ornate
to Mrs. Field and Lois. The chairs were covered with green plush. The
two women sat timidly on the yielding cushions, and gazed during the
pauses at the large flower pattern on the carpet. All this fine
furniture was, in fact, Mrs. Lowe's; when she had given up her own
home, and come to live with her brother, she had brought it with her.

Both of the guests arose awkwardly, Mrs. Field first and Lois after
her, when Mrs. Lowe entered, and the lawyer introduced them.

"I'm happy to make your acquaintance," said Mrs. Field.

"I believe I've seen you two or three times when you was here years
ago," said Mrs. Lowe, standing before her straight and tall in her
faded calico gown, which fitted her uncompromisingly like a cuirass.
Mrs. Lowe's gowns, no matter how thin and faded, always fitted her in
that way. Stretched over her long flat-chested figure, they seemed to
acquire the consistency of armor. "You ain't changed any as I can
see," she went on, as she got scarcely any response to her first
remark. "I should have known you anywhere. It's a pleasant day, ain't

"Real pleasant," replied Mrs. Field. Mrs. Lowe sat down in one of the
plush chairs. To seat herself for a few minutes before announcing
dinner was, she supposed, a matter of etiquette. She held up her long
rasped chin with a curt air, and, in spite of herself, her voice also
was curt. She was too thorough a New England woman to play with any
success softening lights over the steel of her character. She
disdained to, and she was also unable to. She was not pleased to
receive these unexpected guests, and she showed it.

As soon as she thought it decently practicable, she gave a
significant look at her brother and arose. "I guess we'll walk out to
dinner now," said she, with solemn embarrassment. Mrs. Lowe had
nothing of her brother's ease of manner; indeed, she entertained a
covert scorn for it. "Daniel _can_ be dreadful smooth an' fine when
he sets out," she sometimes remarked to her daughter. The lawyer's
suave manner seemed to her downrightness to border upon affectation.
She, however, had a certain respect for it as the probable outcome of
his superior education.

She marched ahead stiffly now, and left her brother to his
flourishing seconding of her announcement. Flora and the children
received them beamingly when they entered the dining-room. Flora was
quite sure that she remembered Mrs. Maxwell, she was glad to see her,
and she was glad to see Lois, and they would please sit right "here,"
and "here."  She had taken off the children's pinafores and washed
their faces, and they stood aloof in little starched and embroidered
frocks, with their cheeks pinker than ever.

Flora seated one on each side of her, as she had said. "Now, you must
be good and not tease," she whispered admonishingly, and their blue
eyes stared back at her with innocent gravity, and they folded their
small hands demurely.

Nevertheless, it was through them that the whole dignity of the meal
was lost. If they had not been present, it would have passed off with
a strong undercurrent of uneasiness and discomfort, yet with
composure. Mr. Tuxbury would have helped the guests to beefsteak, and
the rest of the family would have preferred the warmed-up veal stew.
Or had the guests looked approvingly at the stew, the scanty portion
of beefsteak would have satisfied the furthest desires of the family.
But the perfect understanding among the adults did not extend to the
two little girls. They leaned forward, with their red lips parted,
and watched their uncle anxiously as he carved the beefsteak. There
was evidently not much of it, and their anxiety grew. When it was
separated into three portions, two of which were dispensed to the
guests, and the other, having been declined by their grandmother and
mother, was appropriated by their uncle, anxiety lapsed into

"I want some beefsteak!" wailed each, in wofully injured tones.

Mr. Tuxbury set his mouth hard, and pushed his plate with a jerk
toward his niece. Her face was very red, but she took it--she was
aware there was no other course open--divided the meat impartially,
and gave each child a piece with a surreptitious thump.

Mr. Tuxbury, with a moodily knitted forehead and a smiling mouth,
asked the guests miserably if they would have some veal stew. It was
perfectly evident that if they accepted, there would be nothing
whatever left for the family to eat. They declined in terrified
haste; indeed, both Lois and her mother had been impelled to pass
their portions of beefsteak over to the children, but they had not

The children wished for veal stew also, and when they had eaten their
meagre spoonfuls, clamored persistently for more.

"There isn't any more," whispered their mother, with two little
vigorous side-shakes. "If you don't keep still, I shall take you away
from the table. Ain't you ashamed?"

Then the little girls pouted and sniffed, but warily, lest the threat
be carried into effect.

The rest of the family tried to ignore the embarrassing situation and
converse easily with the guests, but it was a difficult undertaking.

Lois bent miserably over her plate, and every question appeared to
shock her painfully. She seemed an obstinately bashful young girl, to
whom it was useless to talk. Mrs. Field replied at length to all
interrogations with a certain quiet hardness, which had come into her
manner since her daughter's arrival, but she never started upon a
subject of her own accord.

It was a relief to every one when the meagre dinner lapsed into the
borrowed pie. Mrs. Low cut it carefully into the regulation six
pieces, while the children as carefully counted the people and
watched the distribution. The result was not satisfactory. The older
little girl, whose sense of injury was well developed, set up a
shrill demand.

"I want a piece of Mis' Bennett's pie," said she. "Mother, I want a
piece of Mis' Bennett's pie!"

The younger, viewing the one piece of pie remaining in the plate and
her clamorous sister, raised her own jealous little pipe. "I want a
piece of Mis' Bennett's pie," she proclaimed, pulling her mother's
sleeve. "Mother, can't I have a piece of Mis' Bennett's pie?"

Flora's face was very red, and her mouth was twitching. She hastily
pushed her own pie to the elder child, and gave the last piece on the
plate to the younger. Their grandmother frowned on them like a rock,
but they ate their pie unconcernedly.

"I think Mis' Bennett's pie is a good deal better than grandma's,"
said the younger little girl, smacking her lips contemplatively; and
Flora gave a half-chuckle, while her mother's severity of mien so
deepened that she seemed to cast an actual shadow.

"Now, Flora, I tell you what 'tis," said she, when the meal was at
last over and the guests were gone--they took their leave very soon
afterward--"if you don't punish them children, I shall."

There was a wail of terror from the little girls. "Oh, mother, you do
it, you do it!" cried they.

Flora giggled audibly.

"You'll just spoil them children," said her mother, severely; "you
ought to be ashamed of yourself, Flora."

Flora tried to draw her face into gravity. "Go right upstairs,
children," said she. "It's so funny, I can't help it," she whispered,
with another furtive giggle.

"I don't see anything very funny in children's actin' the way they
have all dinner-time."

The children thumped merrily over the stairs. It was clear that they
stood in no great fear of their mother's chastisement. They knew by
experience that her hand was very soft, and the force of its fall
tempered by mirth and tender considerateness; their grandmother's
fleshless and muscular old palm was another matter.

Soon after Flora followed them there was a series of arduous cries,
apparently maintained more from a childish sense of the fitness of
things than from any actual stress of pain. They soon ceased.

"She ain't half whipped 'em," Mrs. Lowe, who was listening
downstairs, said to herself.

The lawyer was in his office; he had intrenched himself there as soon
as possible, covering his retreat with the departure of his guests.

Mrs. Field and Lois, removed from it all the distance of tragedy from
comedy, were walking up the street to the Maxwell house. Mrs. Field
stalked ahead with her resolute stiffness; Lois followed after her,
keeping always several paces behind. No matter how often Mrs. Field,
sternly conscious of it, slackened her own pace, Lois never gained
upon her.

When they reached the gate at the entrance of the Maxwell grounds,
and Mrs. Field stopped, Lois spoke up.

"What place is this?" said she, in a defiantly timorous voice.

"The Maxwell house," replied her mother, shortly, turning up the

"Are you going in here?"

"Of course I am."

"Well, I ain't going in one step."

Mrs. Field turned and faced her. "Lois," said she, "if you want to go
away an' desert the mother that's showin' herself willin' to die for
you, you can."

Lois said not another word. She turned in at the gate, with her eyes
fixed upon her mother's face.

"I'll tell you about it when we get up to the house," said her
mother, with appealing conciliation.

Lois slunk mutely behind her again. Her eyes were full of the impulse
of flight when she watched her mother unlock the house door, but she
followed her in.

Her mother led the way into the sitting-room. "Sit down," said she.

And Lois sat down in the nearest chair. She never took her eyes off
her mother.

Mrs. Field took off her bonnet and shawl. She folded the shawl
carefully in the creases, and laid it on the table. She pulled up a
curtain. Then she turned, and confronted steadily her daughter's
eyes. The whole house to her was full of the clamor of their
questioning. "Now, Lois," said Mrs. Field, "I'm goin' to tell you
about this. I s'pose you think it's funny."

"I don't know what to think of it," said Lois, in a dry voice.

"I don't s'pose you do. Well, I'm goin' to tell you. You know, I
s'pose, that Mr. Tuxbury took me for your aunt Esther. You heard him
call me Mis' Maxwell?"

Lois nodded; her dilated eyes never wavered from her mother's face.

"I s'pose you heard what he was sayin' to me when you come in. Lois,
I didn't tell him I was your aunt Esther. The minute I come in, he
took me for her, an' Mis' Henry Maxwell come into his office, an' she
did, and so did Mr. Tuxbury's sister. I wa'n't goin' to tell them I
wa'n't her."

The impulse of flight in Lois' watchful eyes became so strong that it
seemed almost to communicate to her muscles. With her face still
turned toward her mother, she appeared to be fleeing from her.

Mrs. Field stood her ground stanchly. "No, I wa'n't," she went on.
"An' I'll tell you why. I'm goin' to have that fifteen hundred
dollars of your poor father's earnin's that I lent your uncle out of
this property, an' this is all the way to do it, an' I'm goin' to do

"I thought," gasped Lois--"I thought maybe it belonged to us anyway
if Aunt Esther was dead."

"It didn't. The money was all left to old Mr. Maxwell's niece in case
Esther died first."

"Couldn't you have asked the lawyer about the fifteen hundred
dollars? Wouldn't he have given you some? O mother!"

"I was goin' to if he hadn't took me for her, but it wouldn't have
done any good. They wouldn't have been obliged to pay it, an' folks
ain't fond of payin' over money when they ain't obliged to. I'd been
a fool to have asked him after he took me for her."

"Then--you'd got this--all planned?"

Her mother took her up sharply.

"No, I hadn't got it all planned," said she. "I don't deny it come
into my head. I knew how much folks said I looked like Esther, but I
didn't go so far as to plan it; there needn't anybody say I did."

"You ain't going to take the money?"

"I'm goin' to take that fifteen hundred dollars out of it."

"Mother, you ain't going to stay here, and make folks think you're
Aunt Esther?"

"Yes, I am."

Then all Lois' horror and terror manifested themselves in one cry--"O

Mrs. Field never flinched. "If you want to act so an' feel so about
it, you can," said she. "Your mother is some older than you, an' she
knows what is right jest about as well as you can tell her. I've
thought it all over. That fifteen hundred dollars was money your poor
father worked hard to earn. I lent it to your uncle Edward, an' he
lost it. I never see a dollar of it afterward. He never paid me a
cent of interest money. It ain't anything more'n fair that I should
be paid for it out of his father's property. If poor Esther had
lived, the money'd gone to her, an' she'd paid me fast enough. Now
the way's opened for me to get it, I ain't goin' to let it go. Talk
about it's bein' right, if it ain't right to stoop down an' pick up
anybody's just dues, I don't know what right is, for my part."


"What say?"

"You ain't going to live here in this house, and not go back to Green

"I don't see any need of goin' back to Green River. This is a 'nough
sight prettier place than Green River. Now you're down here, I don't
see any sense in layin' out money to go back at all. Mandy'll send
our things down."

"You don't mean to stay right along here in this house, and not go
back to Green River at all?"

"I don't see why it ain't jest as well. You'd better take off your
things an' lay down a little while on that sofa there, an' get

Lois seldom cried, but she burst out now in a piteous wail. "O
mother," sobbed she, "what does it mean? I can't-- What does it mean?
Oh, I'm so frightened! Mother, you frighten me so! What does it

Her mother went up to her, and stood close at her side. "Lois," said
she, with trembling solemnity, "can't you trust mother?"

"O mother, I don't know! I don't know! You frighten me dreadfully."
Lois shrank away from her mother as she wept.

Mrs. Field stood over her, but she did not offer to touch her.
Indeed, this New England mother and daughter rarely or never caressed
each other. "Lois, dear child, mother don't want you to feel so. Oh,
you dear child, you dear child, you don't know what mother's goin'
through. But it ain't anything to you. Lois, you remember that; it
ain't anything you've done. It's all my doin's. I'm jest goin' to get
that money back. An' it's right I should. Don't you worry nothin'
about it. Now take your hat off, an' let mother tuck you up on the

Lois, sobbing still, began pulling off her hat mechanically. Her
mother got a pillow, and she lay down on the sofa, turning her face
to the wall with another outburst of tears. Her mother spread her
black shawl carefully over her.

"Now you lay here still, an' get rested," said she. "I'm goin' out in
the kitchen, an' see if I can't start up a fire an' get something for

Mrs. Field went out of the room. Soon her tall black figure sped
stealthily past the windows out of the yard. She found a grocery
store, and purchased some small necessaries. There were groceries
already in the pantry at the Maxwell house. She had spied them, but
would not touch a single article. She bought some tea, and when she
returned, replaced the drawing she had taken that morning from the
Maxwell caddy.

The old woman's will, always vigorous, never giving place to another
except through its own choice, now whipped by this great stress into
a fierce impetus, carried her daughter's, strong as it was for a
young girl, before it. Lois lay quietly on the sofa. When her mother
called her, she went out in the kitchen and ate her supper.

They retired early. Lois lay on the sofa until her mother came in and
stood over her with a lighted lamp.

"I guess you'd better get up and go to bed now, Lois," said she. "I'm
goin' myself, if it is early. I'm pretty tired."

And Lois stirred herself wearily and got up.

There were two adjoining bedrooms opening out of the sitting-room.
Mrs. Field had prepared the beds that afternoon. "I thought we'd
better sleep in here," said she, leading the way to them.

Lois had the inner room. After the lamp was blown out and everything
was dark, her mother heard a soft stir and the pat of a naked foot in
there, then she heard the door swing to with a cautious creak and the
bolt slide. She knew with a great pang, that Lois had locked her door
against her mother.

Chapter V

Elliot was only a little way from the coast, and sometimes seemed to
be pervaded by the very spirit of the sea. The air would be full of
salt vigor, the horizon sky take on the level, out-reaching blue of a
water distance, and the clouds stand one way like white sails.

The next morning Lois sat on the front door-step of the Maxwell
house, between the pillars of the porch. She bent over, leaning her
elbows on her knees, making a cup of her hands, in which she rested
her little face. She could smell the sea, and also the pines in the
yard. There were many old pine trees, and their soft musical roar
sounded high overhead. The spring air in Green River had been full of
sweet moisture and earthiness from these steaming meadow-lands.
Always in Green River, above the almond scent of the flowering trees
and the live breath of the new grass, came that earthy, moist odor,
like a reminder of the grave. Here in Elliot one smelled the spring
above the earth.

The gate clicked, and a woman came up the curving path with a kind of
clumsy dignity. She was tall and narrow-shouldered, but heavy-hipped;
her black skirt flounced as she walked. She stopped in front of Lois,
and looked at her hesitatingly. Lois arose.

"Good-mornin'," said the woman. Her voice was gentle; she cleared her
throat a little after she spoke.

"Good-morning," returned Lois, faintly.

"Is Mis' Maxwell to home?"

Lois stared at her.

"Is Mis' Maxwell to home? I heard she'd come here to live," repeated
the woman, in a deprecating way. She smoothed down the folds of her
over-skirt. Lois started; the color spread over her face and neck.
"No, she isn't at home," she said sharply.

"Do you know when she will be?"

"No, I don't."

The woman's face also was flushed. She turned about with a little
flirt, when suddenly a door slammed somewhere in the house. The woman
faced about, with a look of indignant surprise.

Lois said nothing. She opened the front door and went into the house,
straight through to the kitchen, where her mother was preparing
breakfast. "There's a woman out there," she said.

"Who is it?"

"I don't know. She wants to see--Mrs. Maxwell."

Lois looked full at her mother; her eyes were like an angel's before
evil. Mrs. Field looked back at her. Then she turned toward the door.

Lois caught hold of her mother's dress. Mrs. Field twitched it away
fiercely, and passed on into the sitting-room. The woman stood there
waiting. She had followed Lois in.

"How do you do, Mis' Maxwell?" she said.

"I'm pretty well, thank you," replied Mrs. Field, looking at her with
stiff inquiry.

The woman had a pale, pretty face, and stood with a sturdy set-back
on her heels. "I guess you don't know me, Mis' Maxwell," said she,
smiling deprecatingly.

Mrs. Field tried to smile, but her lips were too stiff. "I guess
I--don't," she faltered.

The smile faded from the woman's face. She cast an anxious glance at
her own face in the glass over the mantel-shelf; she had placed
herself so she could see it. "I ain't got quite so much color as I
used to have," she said, "but I ain't thought I'd changed much other
ways. Some days I have more color. I know I ain't this mornin'. I
ain't had very good health. Maybe that's the reason you don't know

Mrs. Field muttered a feeble assent.

"I'd know you anywhere, but you didn't have any color to lose to make
a difference. You've always looked jest the way you do now since I've
known you. I lived in this house a whole year with you once. I come
here to live after Mr. Maxwell's wife died. My name is Jay."

Mrs. Field stood staring. The woman, who had been looking in the
glass while she talked, gave her front hair a little shake, and
turned toward her inquiringly.

"Won't you sit down in this rockin'-chair, Mis' Jay?" said Mrs.

"No, thank you, I guess I won't set down, I'm in a little of a hurry.
I jest wanted to see you a minute."

Mrs. Field waited.

"You know Mr. Maxwell's dyin' so sudden made a good deal of a change
for me," Mrs. Jay continued. She took out her handkerchief and wiped
her eyes softly; then she glanced in the glass. "I'd had my home here
a good many years, an' it seemed hard to lose it all in a minute so.
There he came home that Sunday noon an' eat a hearty dinner, an'
before sunset he had that shock, and never spoke afterward. I've
thought maybe there were things he would have said if he could have

Mrs. Jay sighed heavily; her eyes reddened; she straightened her
bonnet absently; her silvered fair hair was frizzed under it.

Mrs. Field stood opposite, her eyes downcast, her face rigid.

"I wanted to speak to you, Mis' Maxwell," the other woman went on. "I
ain't obliged to go out anywheres to live; I've got property; but
it's kind of lonesome at my sister's, where I'm livin'. It's a little
out of the village, an' there ain't much passin'. I like to be where
I can see passin', an' get out to meetin' easy if it's bad weather.
I've been thinkin'--I didn't know but maybe you'd like to have me--I
heard you had some trouble with your hands, an' your niece wa'n't
well--that I might be willin' to come an' stay three or four weeks. I
shouldn't want to promise to stay very long."

"I ain't never been in the habit of keepin' help," returned Mrs.
Field. "I've always done my own work."

The other woman's face flushed deeply; she moved toward the door. "I
don't know as anything was said about keepin' help," said she. "I
ain't never considered myself help. There ain't any need of my goin'
out to live. I've got enough to live on, an' I've got good clothes.
I've got a black silk stiff enough to stand alone; cost three dollars
a yard. I paid seven dollars to have it made up, and the lace on it
cost a dollar a yard. I ain't obliged to be at anybody's beck and

"I hope I ain't said anything to hurt your feelin's," said Mrs.
Field, following her into the entry. "I've always done my own work,

"We won't speak of it again," said Mrs. Jay. "I'll bid you
good-mornin', Mis' Maxwell."  Her voice shook, she held up her black
skirt, and never looked around as she went down the steps.

Mrs. Field returned to the kitchen. Lois sat beside the window, her
head leaning against the sash, looking out. Her mother took some
biscuits out of the stove oven and set them on the table with the
coffee. "Breakfast is ready," said she.

She sat down at the table. Lois never stirred.

"You needn't worry," said Mrs. Field, in a sarcastic voice;
"everything on this table is bought with your own money. I went out
last night and got some flour. There's a whole barrelful in the
buttery, but I didn't touch it."

Lois drew her chair up to the table, and ate a biscuit and drank a
cup of coffee without saying a word. Her eyes were set straight
ahead; all her pale features seemed to point out sharply; her whole
face had the look of a wedge that could pierce fate. After breakfast
she went out of the room, and returned shortly with her hat on.

"Mother," said she.

"What is it?"

"You'd better know what I'm going to do."

"What are you goin' to do?"

"I'm goin' down to that lawyer's office, and--tell him."  Lois turned
toward the door.

"I s'pose you know all you're goin' to do," said her mother, in a
hard voice.

"I'm going to tell the truth," returned Lois, fiercely.

"You're goin' to put your mother in State's prison."

Lois stopped. "Mother, you can't make me believe that."

"It's true, whether you believe it or not. I don't know anything
about law, but I'm sure enough of that."

Lois stood looking at her mother. "Then I'll put you there," said
she, in a cruel voice. "That's where you ought to go, mother."

She went out of the room, and shut the door hard behind her; then she
kept on through the house to the front porch, and sat down. She sat
there all the morning, huddled up against a pillar. Her mother worked
about the house; Lois could hear her now and then, and every time she
shuddered. She had a feeling that the woman in the house was not her
mother. Had she been familiar with the vampire superstition, she
might have thought of that, and had a fancy that some fiend animated
the sober, rigid body of the old New England woman with evil and
abnormal life.

At noon Lois went in and ate some dinner mechanically; then she
returned. Presently, as she sat there, a bell began tolling, and a
funeral procession passed along the road below. Lois watched it
listlessly--the black-draped hearse, the slow-marching bearers, the
close-covered wagons, and the nodding horses. She could see it
plainly through the thin spring branches. It was quite a long
procession; she watched it until it passed. The cemetery was only a
little way below the house, on the same side of the street. By
twisting her head a little, she could have seen the black throng at
the gate.

After a while the hearse and the carriages went past on their
homeward road at a lively pace, the gate clicked, and Mrs. Jane
Maxwell and a young man came up the walk.

Lois stood up shrinkingly as they approached, the door behind her
opened, and she heard her mother's voice.

"Good-afternoon," said Mrs. Field, with rigid ceremony, her mouth
widened in a smile.

"Good-afternoon, Esther," returned Mrs. Maxwell. "I've been to the
funeral, an' I thought I'd jest run in a minute on my way home. I
wanted to ask you an' your niece to come over an' take tea to-morrow.
Flora, she'd come, but she didn't get out to the funeral. This is my
nephew, Francis Arms, my sister's son. I s'pose you remember him when
he was a little boy."

Mrs. Field bowed primly to the young man. The old lady was eying
Lois. "I s'pose this is your niece, Esther? I heard she'd come," she
said, with sharp graciousness.

"This is Miss Lois Field; I'll make you acquainted, Mis' Maxwell,"
replied Mrs. Field.

Mrs. Maxwell reached out her hand, and Lois took it trembling; her
little girlish figure drooped before them all.

"She don't look much like you, Esther. I s'pose she takes after her
mother," said Mrs. Maxwell.

"I think she rather favors her father's folks," said Mrs. Field.

"I heard she wa'n't very well, but seems to me she looks pretty

"She ain't been well at all," returned Mrs. Field, in a quick,
resentful manner.

"Well, I guess she'll pick up here; Elliot's a real healthy place.
She must come over and see us real often. This is my nephew, Francis
Arms, Lois. I shall have to get him to beau you around and show you
the sights."

Lois glanced timidly up at the young man, and returned his bow

"Won't you walk in?" said Mrs. Field.

Lois went into the house with the party; the old lady still held her
hand in her black-mitted one.

"I want you and my nephew to get acquainted," she whispered; "he's a
real nice young man. I'm goin' to have you an' your aunt come over
an' take tea to-morrow."

They all seated themselves in the south front room. Lois sat beside
Mrs. Maxwell on the high black sofa; her feet swung clear from the
floor. The young man, who was opposite, beside the chimney, glanced
now and then kindly across at her.

"Francis didn't have to go to the bank this afternoon," said Mrs.
Maxwell. "I don't know as I told you, Esther, but he's cashier in the
bank; he's got a real good place. Francis ain't never had anything
but a common-school education, but he's always been real smart an'
steady. Lawyer Totten's son, that's been through college, wanted the
place, but they gave it to Francis. Mr. Perry, whose mother was
buried this afternoon, is president of the bank, an' that's why it's
shut up. Francis felt as if he'd ought to go to the funeral, an' I
told him he'd better come in here with me. I suppose you remember
Francis when he was a little boy, Esther?"

"No, I guess I don't."

"Why, I should think you'd be likely to. He lived with me when you
was here. He came right after his father died, an' that was before
you came here. He was quite a big boy. I should think you'd remember
him. You sure you don't, Esther?"

"Yes, I guess I don't."

"Seems to me it's dreadful queer; I guess your memory ain't as good
as mine. I s'pose you're beginnin' to feel kind of wonted here,
Esther? It's a pretty big house, but then it ain't as if you hadn't
been here before. I s'pose it seems kind of familiar to you, if you
ain't seen it for so long; I s'pose it all comes back to you, don't

There was a pause. "No, I'm afraid it don't," said Mrs. Field her
pale severe face fronting the other woman. Although fairly started
forth in the slough of deceit, she still held up her Puritan skirts

"It's kind of queer it don't, ain't it?" returned Mrs. Maxwell. "The
house ain't been altered any, an' the furniture's jest the same.
Thomas, he wouldn't have a thing altered; the carpet in his bedroom
is wore threadbare, but he wouldn't get a new one nohow. Mis' Jay,
she wanted him to get a new cookin'-stove, but he wouldn't hear to
it; much as ever he'd let her have a new broom. And it wa'n't because
he was stingy; it was jest because he was kind of set, an' had got
into the way of thinkin' nothin' had ought to be changed. It wa'n't
never my way; I never believed in hangin' on to old shackly things
because you've always had 'em. There ain't no use tryin' to set down
tables an' chairs as solid as the everlastin' hills. There was Mis'
Perry, she that was buried this afternoon, Mr. Perry's mother, when
she came here to live after her husband died, she sold off every
stick of her old furniture, an' got the handsomest marble-top set
that money could buy for her room. She got some pictures in gilt
frames too, and a tapestry carpet, and vases and images for her
mantel-shelf. She said folks could talk about associations all they
wanted to, she hadn't no associations with a lot of old worm-eaten
furniture; she'd rather have some that was clean an' new. H'm,
anybody to hear folks talk sometimes would think they were
blood-relations to old secretaries and bureaus."

Mrs. Maxwell screwed her face contemptuously, as if the talking folk
were before her, and there was a pause. The young man looked across
at Lois, then turned to her mother, as if about to speak, but his
aunt interposed.

"Esther," said she, "I jest wanted to ask you if there wa'n't two of
them old swell-front bureaus in the north chamber upstairs."

"I guess there is," replied Mrs. Field. She sat leaning forward
toward her callers, with her face fairly strained into hospitable

"Well, I wanted to know. I ain't come beggin', an' I'd 'nough sight
rather have a good clean new one, but I'm kind of short of bureau
drawers, an' I'd kind of like to have it because 'twas Thomas'. I
wonder if you wouldn't jest as soon I'd have one of them bureaus?"

Mrs. Field's face gleamed suddenly. "You can have it jest as well as
not," said she.

"Well, there's another thing. I kind of hate to speak about it. Flora
said I shouldn't; but I said I would, whether or no. I know you'd
rather I would. There's a set of blue china dishes that Nancy, that's
Thomas' wife, you know, always said Flora should have when she got
done with them. Thomas, he never said anything about it after Nancy
died. I didn't know but he might make mention of it in the will. But
we all know how that was. I ain't findin' no fault, an' I ain't
begrudgin' anything."

"You can have the dishes jest as well as not," returned Mrs. Field,

"Well, I didn't know as you'd value them much. I s'posed you'd rather
get some new ones. You can get real handsome ones now for ten
dollars. Silsbee's got an elegant set in his window. Of course folks
that can afford them would rather have them. But I s'pose Flora would
think considerable of that old set because it belonged to her aunt
Nancy. There's one or two other things I was thinkin' of, but it
don't matter about those to-day. It's a beautiful day, ain't it?"

"What be they?" asked Mrs. Field. "If there's anything you want,
you're welcome to it."

Mrs. Maxwell glanced at her nephew. He was looking out of the window,
with his forehead knitted and his lips compressed. Lois had just
thought how cross he looked. "You ain't been out to see anything of
the town, have you, Lois?" asked Mrs. Maxwell, sweetly.

Lois started. "No, ma'am," she said, faintly.

"You ain't been into the graveyard, I s'pose?"

"No, ma'am."

"You'd ought to go in there an' see the Mason monument. Francis,
don't you want to go over there with her an' show her the Mason

Francis rose promptly.

"I guess I'd rather not," Lois said, hurriedly.

"Oh, you run right along!" cried Mrs. Maxwell. "You'll want to see
the flowers on Mis' Perry's grave, too. I never saw such handsome
flowers as they had, an' they carried them all to the grave. Get your
hat, and run right along, it'll do you good."

"You'd better," said the young man, smiling pleasantly down at Lois.

She got up and left the room, and presently returned with her hat on.

"Don't sit down on the damp ground," Mrs. Field said as the two went
out. And her voice sounded more like herself than it had done since
she left Green River.

Lois walked gravely down the street beside Francis Arms. She had
never had any masculine attention. This was the first time she had
ever walked alone with a young man. She was full of that shy
consciousness which comes to a young girl who has had more dreams
than lovers, but her steady, sober face quite concealed it.

Francis kept glancing down at her, trying to think of something to
say. She never looked at him, and kept her shabby little shoes
pointed straight ahead on the extreme inside of the walk, as intently
as if she were walking on a line. Nobody would have dreamed how her
heart, in spite of the terrible exigency in which she was placed, was
panting insensibly with the sweet rhythm of youth. In the midst of
all this trouble and bewilderment, she had not been able to help a
strange feeling when she first looked into this young man's face. It
was as if she were suddenly thrust off her old familiar places, like
a young bird from its nest into space, and had to use a strange new
motion of her soul to keep herself from falling.

But Francis guessed nothing of this. "It's a pleasant day," he
remarked as they walked along.

"Yes, sir," she replied.

The graveyard gates had been left open after the funeral. They
entered, and passed up the driveway along the wheel ruts of the
funeral procession. Pink garlands of flowering-almond arched over the
old graves, and bushes of bridal-wreath sent out white spikes.
Weeping-willows swept over them in lines of gold-green light, and
evergreen trees stood among them as they had stood all winter. In
many of these were sunken vases and bottles of spring flowers, lilacs
and violets.

Lois and Francis Arms went on to the Mason monument.

"This is the one Aunt Jane was speaking about," he said, in a
deferential tone.

Lois looked up at the four white marble women grouped around the
central shaft, their Greek faces outlined against the New England

"It was made by a famous sculptor," said Francis; "and it cost a
great deal of money."

Lois nodded.

"They box it up in the winter, so it won't be injured by the
weather," said Francis.

Lois nodded again. Presently they turned away, and went on to a new
grave, covered with wreaths and floral devices. The fragrance of
tuberoses and carnations came in their faces.

"This is the grave Aunt Jane wanted you to see," said Francis.

"Yes, sir," returned Lois.

They stood staring silently at the long mound covered with flowers.
Francis turned.

"Suppose we go over this way," said he.

Lois followed him as he strode along the little grassy paths between
the burial lots. On the farther side of the cemetery the ground
sloped abruptly to a field of new grass. Francis stooped and felt of
the short grass on the bank.

"It's dry," said he. "I don't think your aunt would mind. Suppose we
sit down here and rest a few minutes?"

Lois looked at him hesitatingly.

"Oh, sit down just a few minutes," he said, with a pleasant laugh.

They both seated themselves on the bank, and looked down into the

"It's pleasant here, isn't it?" said Francis.

"Real pleasant."

The young man looked kindly, although a little constrainedly, down
into his companion's face.

"I hear you haven't been very well," said he. "I hope you feel better
since you came to Elliot?"

"Yes, thank you; I guess I do," replied Lois.

Francis still looked at her. Her little face bent, faintly rosy,
under her hat. There was a grave pitifulness, like an old woman's,
about her mouth, but her shoulders looked very young and slender.

"Suppose you take off your hat," said he, "and let the air come on
your forehead. I've got mine off; it's more comfortable. You won't
catch cold. It's warm as summer."

Lois took off her hat.

"That's better," said Francis, approvingly. "You're going to live
right along here in Elliot with your aunt, aren't you?"

Lois looked up at him suddenly. She was very pale, and her eyes were
full of terror.

"Why, what is the matter? What have I said?" he cried out, in

Lois bent over and hid her face; her back heaved with sobs.

Francis stared at her. "Why, what is the matter?" he cried again.
"Have I done anything?"  He hesitated. Then he put his hand on her
little moist curly head. Lois' hair was not thick, but it curled
softly. "Why, you poor little girl," said he; "don't cry so;" and his
voice was full of embarrassed tenderness.

Lois sobbed harder.

"Now, see here," said Francis. "I haven't known you more than an
hour, and I don't know what the matter is, and I don't know but
you'll think I'm officious, but I'll do anything in the world to help
you, if you'll only tell me."

Lois shook off his hand and sat up. "It isn't anything," said she,
catching her breath, and setting her tear-stained face defiantly

"Don't you feel well?"

Lois nodded vaguely, keeping her quivering mouth firmly set. They
were both silent for a moment, then Lois spoke without looking at

"Do you know if there's any school here that I could get?" said she.

"A school?"

"Yes. I want to get a chance to teach. I've been teaching, but I've
lost my school."

"And you want to get one here?"

"Yes. Do you know of any?"

"Why, see here," said Francis. "It's none of my business, but I
thought you hadn't been very well. Why don't you take a little

"I can't," returned Lois, in a desperate tone. "I've got to do

"Why, won't your aunt--"  He stopped short. The conviction that the
stern old woman who had inherited the Maxwell property was too hard
and close to support her little delicate orphan niece seized upon
him. Lois' next words strengthened it.

"I lost my school," she went on, still keeping her face turned toward
the meadow and speaking fast. "Ida Starr got it away from me. Her
father is school-committee-man, and he said he didn't think I was
able to teach, just because he brought me home in his buggy one day
when I was a little faint. I had a note from him that morning
mother--that morning she came down here. I was just going to school,
and I was a good deal better, when Mr. Starr's boy brought it. He
said he thought it was better for me to take a little vacation. I
knew what that meant. I knew Ida had wanted the school right along. I
told Amanda I was coming down here. She tried to stop me, but I had
money enough. Mr. Starr sent me what was owing to me, and I came. I
thought I might just as well. I thought mother--Amanda was dreadfully
scared, but I told her I was going to come. I can't go back to Green
River; I haven't got money enough."  Lois's voice broke; she hid her
face again.

"Oh, don't feel so," cried Francis. "You don't want to go back to
Green River."

"Yes, I do. I want to get back. It's awful here, awful. I never knew
anything so awful."

Francis stared at her pityingly. "Why, you poor little girl, are you
as homesick as that?" he said.

Lois only sobbed in answer.

"Look here!" said Francis--he leaned over her, and his voice sank to
a whisper--"it's none of my business, but I think you'd better tell
me; it won't go any further--isn't your aunt good to you? Doesn't she
treat you well?"

Lois shook her head vaguely. "I can't go back anyway," she moaned.
"Ida's got my school. I haven't got anything to do there. Don't you
think I can get a school here?"

"I am afraid you can't," said Francis. "You see, the schools have all
begun now. But you mustn't feel so bad. Don't."  He touched her
shoulder gently. "Poor little girl!" said he. "Perhaps I ought not to
speak so to you, but you make me so sorry for you I can't help it.
Now you must cheer up; you'll get along all right. You won't be
homesick a bit after a little while; you'll like it here. There are
some nice girls about your age. My cousin Flora will come and see
you. She's older than you, but she's a real nice girl. She's feeling
rather upset over something now, too. Now come, let's get up and go
and see some more of the monuments. You don't want a school. Your
aunt can lookout for you. I should laugh if she couldn't. She's a
rich woman, and you're all she's got in the world. Now come, let's
cheer up, and go look at some more gravestones."

"I guess I'd rather go home," said Lois, faintly.

"Too tired? Well, let's sit here a little while longer, then. You
mustn't go home with your eyes red, your aunt will think I've been
scolding you."

Francis looked down at her with smiling gentleness. He was a handsome
young man with a pale straight profile, his face was very steady and
grave when he was not animated, and his smile occasioned a certain
pleasant surprise. He was tall, and there was a boyish clumsiness
about his shoulders in his gray coat. He reached out with a sudden
impulse, and took Lois' little thin hand in his own with a warm

"Now cheer up," said he. "See how pleasant it looks down in the

They sat looking out over the field; the horizon sky stretched out
infinitely in straight blue lines; one could imagine he saw it melt
into the sea which lay beyond; the field itself, with its smooth
level of young grass, was like a waveless green sea. A white road lay
on the left, and a man was walking on it with a weary, halting gait;
he carried a tin dinner-pail, which dipped and caught the western
sunlight at every step. A cow lowed, and a pair of white horns tossed
over some bars at the right of the field; a boy crossed it with long,
loping strides and preliminary swishes of a birch stick. Then a
whistle blew with a hoarse musical note, and a bell struck six times.

Lois freed her hand and got up. "I guess I must go," said she. Her
cheeks were blushing softly as she put on her hat.

"Well, I should like to sit here an hour longer, but maybe your aunt
will think it's growing damp for you to be out-of-doors," said
Francis, standing up.

As they went between the graves, he caught her hand again, and led
her softly along. When they reached the gate, he dropped it with a
kindly pressure.

"Now remember, you are going to cheer up," he said, "and you're going
to have real nice times here in Elliot."  When they reached the
Maxwell house, his aunt was coming down the walk.

"Oh, there you are!" she called out. "I was jest goin' home. Well,
what did you think of the Mason monument, Lois?"

"It's real handsome."

"Ain't it handsome? An' wa'n't the flowers on Mis' Perry's grave
elegant? Good-night. I'm goin' to have you an' your aunt come over
an' take tea to-morrow, an' then you can get acquainted with Flora."

"Good-night," said Francis, smiling, and the aunt and nephew went on
down the road. She carried something bulky under her shawl, and she
walked with a curious side-wise motion, keeping the side next her
nephew well forward.

"Don't you want me to carry your bundle, Aunt Jane?" Lois heard him
say as they walked off.

"No," the old woman replied, hastily and peremptorily. "It ain't

When Lois went into the house, her mother gave her a curious look of
stern defiance and anxiety. She saw that her eyes were red, as if she
had been crying, but she said nothing, and went about getting tea.

After tea the minister and his wife called. Green River was a
conservative little New England village; it had always been the
custom there when the minister called to invite him to offer a
prayer. Mrs. Field felt it incumbent upon her now; if she had any
reluctance, she did not yield to it. Just before the callers left she
said, with the conventional solemn drop of the voice, "Mr. Wheeler,
won't you offer a prayer before you go?"

The minister was an elderly man with a dull benignity of manner; he
had not said much; his wife, who was portly and full of gracious
volubility, had done most of the talking. Now she immediately sank
down upon her knees with a wide flare of her skirts, and her husband
then twisted himself out of his chair, clearing his throat
impressively. Mrs. Field stood up, and got down on her stiff knees
with an effort. Lois slid down from the sofa and went out of the
room. She stole through her mother's into her own bedroom, and locked
herself in as usual, then she lay down on her bed. She could hear the
low rumble of the minister's voice for some time; then it ceased. She
heard the chairs pushed back; then the minister's wife's voice in the
gracious crescendo of parting; then the closing of the front door.
Shortly afterward she heard a door open, and another voice, which she
recognized as Mrs. Maxwell's. The voice talked on and on; once in a
while she heard her mother's in brief reply. It grew dark; presently
she heard heavy shuffling steps on the stairs; something knocked
violently against the wall; the side door, which was near her room,
was opened. Lois got up and peered out of the window; her mother and
Mrs. Maxwell went slowly and painfully down the driveway, carrying a
bureau between them.

Chapter VI

Mrs. Maxwell had invited Mrs. Field and Lois to take tea with her the
next afternoon, and had hinted there might be other company. "There's
a good many I should like to ask," she had said, "but I ain't
situated so I can jest now, an' it's a dreadful puzzle to know who to
leave out without offendin' them. I'm goin' to have the minister an'
his wife anyhow, an' Lawyer Tuxbury an' his sister. I should ask
Flora, but if she comes the children have got to, an' I can't have
them anyhow; they're the worst-actin' young ones at the table I ever
saw in my life. There's two or three men I'm goin' to ask. Now you
an' Lois come real early, Esther."

Mrs. Field's ideas of early, when invited to spend the afternoon and
take tea, were primitive. Directly after the dinner dishes were put
away, about one o'clock, she spoke to Lois in the harsh, defiant tone
she now used toward her. "You'd better go an' get ready," said she.
"She wanted us to come early."

A stubborn look came into Lois's face. "I ain't going," said she, in
an undertone.

"What did you say?"

"I ain't going."

"Then you can stay to home, if you want to get your mother into
trouble an' make folks think we're guilty of somethin'."

Mrs. Field went into her bedroom to get ready. Presently Lois went
softly through on her way to her own. Jane Field stood before her
little mirror, brushed her gray hair in smooth curves around her
ears, and pinned her black woollen dress with a gold-rimmed brooch
containing her dead sister's and her husband's hair.

Lois, before her own glass, twisted up her pretty hair carefully; she
pulled a few curly locks loose on her temples, thinking half
indignantly and shamefacedly how she should see that young man again.
Lois was bewildered and terrified, borne down by reflected guilt,
almost as if it were her own. She had a wild dread of this going out
to tea, meeting more strangers, and seeing her mother act out a
further lie; but she could not help being a young girl, and arranging
those little locks on her forehead for Francis Arms to see.

When she and her mother stepped out of the door, a strong wind came
in their faces.

"Wait a minute," said Mrs. Field. She went back into the house and
got Lois's sack. "Put this on," said she.

And Lois put it on.

The wind was from the east, and had the salt smell of the sea. All
the white-flowering bushes in the yards and the fruit trees bowed
toward the west. There was a storm of white petals. Lois, as she and
her mother walked against the wind, kept putting her hand to her
hair, to keep it in place.

Mrs. Maxwell's house was a large cottage with a steep Gothic roof
jutting over a piazza on each side. The house was an old one, and
originally very simple in its design; but there had been evidently at
some time a flood-tide of prosperity in the fortunes of its owner,
which had left marks in various improvements. There was a large
ornate bay-window in front, which contrasted oddly with the severe
white peak of wall above it; the piazzas had railings in elaborate
scroll-work; and the windows were set with four large panes of glass,
instead of the original twelve small ones. The front yard was
inclosed by a fine iron fence. But the highest mark was shown by a
little white marble statue in the midst of it. There was no other in
the village outside of the cemetery. Mrs. Jane Maxwell's house was
always described to inquiring strangers as the one with the statue in
front of it.

Lois, as they went up the walk, looked wonderingly at this marble
girl standing straight and white in the midst of a votive circle of
box. The walk, too, was bordered with box, and there was a strange
pungent odor from it.

Mrs. Field rang the door-bell, and she and Lois stood waiting. Nobody

Mrs. Field rang again and again. "I'm goin' round to the other door,"
she announced finally. "Mebbe they don't use this one."

Lois followed her mother around to the other side of the house to the
door opening on the south piazza. Mrs. Field rang again, and they
waited: then she gave a harder pull. A voice sounded unexpectedly
close to them from behind the blinds of a window:

"You jest walk right in," said the voice, which was at once flurried
and ceremonious. "Open the door an' go right in, an' turn to the
right, an' set down in the parlor. I'll be in in jest a minute. I
ain't quite dressed."

Lois and her mother went in as they were directed, and sat down in
two of the parlor chairs. The room looked very grand to Mrs. Field.
She stared at the red velvet furniture, the tapestry carpet, and the
long lace curtains, and thought, with a hardening heart, how, at all
events, she was not defrauding this other woman of a fine parlor. It
was to her mind much more splendid than the sitting-room in the other
house, with its dim old-fashioned state, and even than the great
north parlor, whose furniture and paper had been imported from
England at great cost nearly a hundred years ago.

Mrs. Maxwell did not appear for a half-hour. Now and then they heard
a scurry of feet, the rattle of dishes, and the closing of a door.
They sat primly waiting. They had not removed their wraps. Lois
looked very pale against the red back of her chair.

"Don't you feel well?" asked her mother.

"Yes, I feel well enough," replied Lois.

"You look sick enough," said her mother harshly.

Lois looked out of the window at the marble girl in the yard, and her
mouth quivered.

Presently Mrs. Maxwell came, in her soft flurry of silk and old
ribbons. She had on a black lace head-dress trimmed with purple
flowers, and she wore her black kid gloves.

"I'm real sorry I had to keep you waitin' so long, Esther," said she;
"but we were kinder late about dinner. Do take off your things. Flora
she'll be down in a few minutes; she's jest gone upstairs to change
her dress an' comb her hair. It's a beautiful day, ain't it?"

The three settled themselves in the parlor. Lois sat beside the
window, her hands folded meekly in her lap; her mother and Mrs.
Maxwell knitted.

"Don't you do any fancy-work, Lois?" asked Mrs. Maxwell.

"No, she don't do much," replied her mother for her.

"Don't she? I'd like to know! Now Flora, she does considerable. She's
makin' a real handsome tidy now. She'll show you how, Lois, if you'd
like to make one. It's real easy an' it don't cost a great deal--but
then cost ain't much object to you."  Mrs. Maxwell laughed an
unpleasant snigger. Then she resumed: "Some tidies would look real
handsome on some of them great bare chairs over to your house; there
ain't one there so far as I know. Thomas he wouldn't never have a new
thing in the house; he was terrible set and notional about it and he
was terrible tight with his money. I don't care if I do say it;
everybody knows it; an' I don't see why it's any worse to say things
that's true about the dead than the livin'. With some folks it's all
'Oh, don't say nothin'; he's dead. Cover it all up; he's buried an'
bury it too, an' set all the roses an' pinks a-growin' over it.'  I
tell you sometimes nettles will sprout, an' when they do, it don't
make it any better to call 'em pinks. Thomas Maxwell was terrible
tight. I ain't forgot how he talked because we bought this parlor
furniture and put big lights in the windows, an' had that iron fence.
Then my poor husband had gone into business with your husband, an'
they seemed to be making money. Why shouldn't he have bought a few
things we'd always done without, I'd like to know? You remember what
a time the old man made when we bought these things, Esther, I

"I can't say as I do," returned Mrs. Field.

"Why, seems to me it's funny you don't. You sure?"

Mrs. Field nodded.

"Well, it's queer you don't. He made an awful time over it; but the
worst of it was over that image out in the yard. I b'lieve he always
thought my poor husband and yours failed up because we bought that
image. There was one thing about it, your husband wa'n't never
extravagant, though, was he? Thomas Maxwell couldn't say his son
wasted his money, whatever else he said. Your husband was always
prudent, wa'n't he, Esther?"

"Yes, I always thought Edward Maxwell was prudent," returned Mrs.

Lois, staring soberly and miserably out of the window, saw just then
a stout girlish figure, leant to one side with the weight of a
valise, pass hurriedly out of the yard. She wondered if it was Flora
Maxwell, and watched the pink flowers in her hat and the blue folds
of her dress out of sight down the street.

"I guess your husband took after his father a little; I guess he was
a little savin'," said Mrs. Maxwell. "I know Edward looked kind of
scared when he came over one night an' saw that image just after we'd
got it set up, an' he asked how much it cost. It did cost
considerable. We didn't ever tell anybody just how much; but I didn't
care; I'd always wanted one; an' I made up my mind I'd rather have
that if I had to go without some other things. An' my husband wanted
it too; he was one of the Maxwells, you know, an' I think they all
had a taste for such things if they wa'n't too tight to get 'em. As
for me, I had to do without all my young days, an' I have to now
except for the few things we got together along then when my poor
husband seemed to be prospering; but I've always been crazy over
images, an' I've always thought one in a front yard was about the
most ornamental thing anybody could have. I've told Flora a good many
times that I believed if I'd had advantages when I was young, I
should have made images. Don't you think that one's handsome,

"Real handsome," said Mrs. Field.

"Some folks have found fault with it because it didn't have more
clothes on, but it ain't as if it was in a cemetery. Of course it
would have to be dressed different if it was. An' it ain't anything
but marble, when you come right down to it. I think there's such a
thing as bein' too particular, for my part, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," replied Mrs. Field, looking out at the marble figure.

"Well, I do. Mis' Jay said, after my husband died, that she should
think I'd like to put up that image for a kind of monument for him. I
didn't feel as if I could put up anything more than stones; but I did
think a little of it, and I knew if I did, I should have to have some
wings made on it, and a cape or a shawl over the neck and arms; but
out here it's different. I look out at it a good many times, an' I'm
thankful it ain't got any more on, clothes do get so out of fashion.
You know how they look in photographs sometimes. I s'pose that's the
reason that the men who make these images don't put any more on.
There! I must show you my photograph album, Esther."

Mrs. Maxwell took a heavy album with gilt clasps from the
centre-table, and drew a chair close to Mrs. Field.

"Now you get a chair, an' come on the other side, Lois," said she,
"an' I can show 'em to both of you."

Lois obeyed, and Mrs. Maxwell turned over the album leaves and
explained the pictures.

"This is a lady I used to know," said she. "She lived in North
Elliot. She's dead now. That's her husband; he's married again. His
second wife's kind of silly. Ain't much like the first one. She was a
real stepper. That's Flora Lowe's baby--the first one--an' that's
Flora. I think it flatters her. That's my Flora. It ain't very good.
She looks terrible sober. There's my poor husband. I s'pose you
remember him, Esther? Of course you know how he used to look. Do you
think it's a good likeness?"

"I don't know. I guess it's pretty good, ain't it?" stammered Mrs.

"Well, some think it is, and some don't. I ain't never liked it very
well myself, but it was all I had. It was taken some years before he
died. I guess jest about the time you was down here. There! I s'pose
you know whose this is?"

It was her own photograph that Mrs. Field leant over and saw, and
Lois on the other side saw it also.

"Yes, I guess I do," she said.

"Was it a pretty good one of your sister?"

There was a strange gulping sound in Mrs. Field's throat. She did not
answer. Mrs. Maxwell thought she did not hear, and repeated her

"No, I don't think 'twas, very," said Mrs. Field hoarsely.

"Well, of course I don't know. I never see her. You remember you gave
this to me when you was here. I always thought you must look alike,
judging from your pictures. I never see pictures so much alike in my
life. I don't know how many folks have thought they were taken for
the same person, an' I've always thought so too. If anything your
sister's picture looks more like you than your own does; but I've
always told which was which by that breast-pin in your sister's. Why,
you've got on that breast-pin now, ain't you, Esther?"

"Yes, I have," said Mrs. Field.

"I s'pose your sister left it to you. Well, Lois wouldn't want to
wear it as I know of. It's rather old for her. Why, Lois, what's the

Lois had gotten up abruptly. "I guess I'll go over to the window,"
said she, in a quick trembling voice.

Mrs. Maxwell looked at her sharply. "Why, you're dreadful pale. You
ain't faint, are you?"

"No, ma'am."

Mrs. Field turned over another page of the album. Her pale face had a
hard, indifferent look. Mrs. Maxwell nudged her, and nodded toward
Lois in the window.

"She looks dreadful," she whispered.

"I don't see as she looks any worse than she's been doin' right
along," said Mrs. Field, without lowering her voice. "What baby is

"It's Mis' Robinson's; it's dead. Hadn't I better get her something
to take? I've got some currant wine. Maybe a little of that would do
her good."

"No, thank you; I don't care for any," Lois interposed quickly.

"Hadn't you better have a little? You look real pale."

"No, thank you."

"Now you needn't mind takin' it, Lois, if you do belong to any
temperance society. It wouldn't go to the head of a baby kitten."

"I'm just as much obliged, but I don't care for any," said Lois.

Mrs. Maxwell turned over a page of the album. "That's Mis' Robinson's
sister. She's dead too. She married a man over at Milton, an' didn't
live a year," she said ostentatiously. "Hadn't I better get her a
little?" she whispered.

"Mebbe it would do her good, if you've got it to spare," Mrs. Field
whispered back.

"Here's the minister's little boy that died," said Mrs. Maxwell. "He
wasn't sick but a day. He ate milk an' cherries. I wonder where Flora
is? She didn't have a thing to do but comb her hair and change her
dress. I guess I'll go call her."

Mrs. Maxwell's face was frowning with innocent purpose, but there was
a sly note in her voice. She hurried out of the room and they heard
her call, "Flora! Flora!" in the entry. Then they heard her footsteps
on the cellar stairs.

Lois turned to her mother. "Mother," said she, "I can't stand it--I
can't stand it anyway in the world."

Her mother turned over another page of the photograph album. She
looked at a faded picture of a middle-aged woman, whose severe and
melancholy face seemed to have betrayed all the sadness and toil of
her whole life to the camera. She noted deliberately the
old-fashioned sweep of the skirt quite across the little card, and
the obsolete sleeves, then she spoke as if she were talking to the
picture: "I'm a-followin' out my own law an' my own right," said she.
"I ain't ashamed of it. If you want to be you can."

"It's awful. Oh, mother, don't!"

"A good many things are awful," said her mother. "Injustice is awful;
if you want to set yourself up against your mother, you can. I've
laid out this road that's just an' right, an' I'm goin' on it; you
can do jest as you're a-mind to. If you want to tell her when she
comes back, you can. I ain't ashamed of it, for I know I'm doin' what
is just an' right."

Mrs. Field noted how the photographed woman's dress was trimmed with
fringe, after the fashion of one she had worn twenty years ago.

Lois looked across the room at her mother's pale, stern face bending
over the album. The garlands on Mrs. Maxwell's parlor carpet might
have been the flora of a whole age, she and her mother seemed so far
apart, with that recession of soul which can cover more than earthly
spaces. To the young girl with her scared, indignant eyes the older
woman seemed actually living and breathing under new conditions in
some strange element.

"Flora, Flora, where be you?" Mrs. Maxwell called out in the entry.

They heard her climbing the chamber stairs; but she soon came into
the parlor with a little glass of currant wine.

"Here, you'd better drink this right down," she said to Lois; "it
won't hurt you. I don't see where Flora is, for my part. She ain't
upstairs. Drink it right down."

Lois drank the little glass of wine without any demur. Her mother
glanced sharply at the album as she took it.

"I can't imagine where Flora is," said Mrs. Maxwell.

"I saw somebody go out of the yard a while ago," said Lois.

"You did? Was she kind of stout with light hair?"

"Yes, 'm."

"It was Flora then. I don't see where she's gone. Mebbe she went down
to the store to get some more thread for her tidy. Now I guess you'll
feel better."

"Who's this a picture of?" asked Mrs. Field.

"Hold it up. Oh, that's Mis' John Robbins! She's dead. Yes, I guess
Flora must have gone after that thread. She'll show you how to make
that tidy, Lois, if you want to learn; it's real handsome. I guess
she'll be here before long."

But when Mrs. Maxwell had shown her guests all the photographs in the
album and a book of views in Palestine, and it was nearly four
o'clock, Flora still had not come.

"Do you see anybody comin'?"  Mrs. Maxwell kept asking Lois at the

Before Mrs. Maxwell spoke, a nervous vibration seemed to seize upon
her whole body. She cleared her throat sharply. It was like a
premonitory click of machinery before motion, and Lois waited, numb
with fear, for what she might say. Suppose she should suddenly
suspect, and should cry out, "Is this woman here Esther Maxwell?"

But all Mrs. Maxwell's thoughts were on her absent daughter. "I don't
see where she is," said she. "Here she's got to make cream-tarter
biscuits for tea, an' it's 'most time for the folks to come."

"I'm afraid we came too early," said Mrs. Field.

"Oh, no, you didn't," returned Mrs. Maxwell politely. "It ain't half
as pleasant goin' as late as they do here when they're asked out to
tea. You don't see anything of 'em; they begin to eat jest as soon as
they come, an' it seems as if that was all they come for. The
old-fashioned way of goin' right after dinner, an' takin' your
sewin's, a good deal better, accordin' to my way of thinkin', but
they ain't done so for years here. Elliot is a pretty fashionable
place. I s'pose it must be very different up in Green River, where
you come from?"

"Yes, I guess 'tis," said Mrs. Field.

The front gate clicked, and Mrs. Maxwell peered cautiously around a
lace curtain. Two ladies in their best black dresses came up the
walk, stepping with a pleasant ceremony.

"There's Mis' Isaac Robbins an' Ann 'Liza White," Mrs. Maxwell
whispered agitatedly. "I shall have to go right out in the kitchen
an' make them biscuits the minute they get here. I don't see what
Flora Maxwell is thinkin' of."

Mrs. Maxwell greeted her friends at the door with a dignified bustle,
showed them into her bedroom to lay aside their bonnets; then she
introduced them to Mrs. Field and Lois in the parlor.

"There!" said she; "now I've got to let you entertain each other a
few minutes. I've got something to see to. Flora she's stepped out,
an' I guess she's forgot how late 'tis."

After Mrs. Maxwell had left the room, the guests sat around with a
kind of solemn primness as if they were in meeting; they seemed
almost hostile. The elder of the new-comers took out her knitting,
and fell to work. She was a tall, pale, severely wrinkled woman, and
a ruffled trimming on her dress gave her high shoulders a curiously
girlish air. Finally the woman who had come with her asked pantingly
how Mrs. Field liked Elliot, and if she thought it changed much. The
color flashed over her little face, with its softly scalloping
profile, as she spoke. Her hair was crimped in even waves. She wore
nice white ruching in her neck and sleeves, and flat satin folds
crossed each other exactly over her flat chest. Her nervous
self-consciousness did not ruffle her fine order, and she did not
smile as she spoke.

"I like it pretty well," replied Mrs. Field. "I dunno as I can tell
whether it's changed much or not."  She knitted fast.

"The meetin'-house has been made over since you was here,"
volunteered the elder woman. She did not look up from her knitting.

Presently Lois, at the window, saw Mr. Tuxbury's sister, Mrs. Lowe,
coming, and the minister's wife, hurrying with a voluminous swing of
her skirts, in her wake. The minister's wife had been calling, but
Mrs. Lowe, who was a little deaf, had not heard her, and it was not
until she shut the iron gate almost in her face that she saw her.
Then the two came up the walk together. Lois watched them. The coming
of all these people was to her like the closing in of a crowd of
witnesses, and for her guilt instead of her mother's. The minister's
wife looked up and nodded graciously to her, setting the bunch of red
and white cherries on her bonnet trembling. Lois inclined her pale
young face soberly in response.

"That girl looks sick," said the minister's wife to Mrs. Lowe.

There was no more silence and primness after the minister's wife
entered. Her florid face beamed on them all with masterly smiles. She
put the glasses fastened to her high satin bosom with a gold chain to
her eyes, and began sewing on a white apron. "I meant to have come
before," said she, "and brought my sewing and had a real sociable
time, but one thing after another has delayed me; and I don't know
when Mr. Wheeler will get here; I left him with a caller. But we have
been delayed very pleasantly in one respect;" she looked smilingly
and significantly at Mrs. Maxwell.

All the other ladies stared. Mrs. Maxwell, standing in their midst,
with a large cambric apron over her dress, and a powder of flour on
one cheek, looked wonderingly back at the minister's wife.

"I suppose you all know what I mean?" said Mrs. Wheeler, still
smiling. "I suppose Mrs. Maxwell has not kept the glad tidings to
herself."  In spite of her smiling face, there was a slight doubt and
hesitancy in her manner.

Mrs. Maxwell's old face suddenly paled, and at the same time grew
alert. Her black eyes, on Mrs. Wheeler's face, were sharply bright.

"Mebbe I have, an' mebbe I ain't," said she, and she smiled too.

"Well," said the minister's wife, "I told Flora that her mother must
be a brave woman to invite company to tea the afternoon her daughter
was married, and I thought we all ought to appreciate it."

The other women gasped. Mrs. Maxwell's face was yellow-white in its
framework of curls; there was a curious noise in her throat, like a
premonitory click of a clock before striking.

"Well," said she, "Flora 'd had this day set for the weddin' for six
months. When her uncle died, we talked a little about puttin' of it
off, but she thought 'twas a bad sign. So it seemed best for her to
get married without any fuss at all about it. An' I thought if I had
a little company to tea, it would do as well as a weddin'."

Mrs. Maxwell's old black eyes travelled slowly and unflinchingly
around the company, resting on each in turn as if she had with each a
bout of single combat. The other women's eyes were full of scared
questionings as they met hers.

"They got off in the three-o'clock train," remarked the minister's
wife, trying to speak easily.

"That was the one they'd talked of," said Mrs. Maxwell calmly. "Now I
guess I shall have to leave you ladies to entertain each other a few

When Mrs. Maxwell had left the room, the ladies stared at each other.

"Do you s'pose she didn't know about it?" whispered Mrs. Lowe.

"I don't know," whispered the minister's wife. "I was very much
afraid she didn't at first. I began to feel very nervous. I knew Mr.
Wheeler would have been much distressed if he had suspected anything

"Did she have a new dress?" asked Mrs. Robbins.

"No," replied the minister's wife; "and that was one thing that made
me suspicious. She wore her old blue one, but George Freeman wore a
nice new suit."

"I heard," said Mrs. Lowe, "that Flora had all her under-clothes made
before old Mr. Maxwell died, an' she hadn't got any of her dresses. I
had it pretty straight. She told my Flora."

"I had heard that the wedding was postponed on account of Mr.
Maxwell's death, and so I was a little surprised when Mr. Wheeler
came to me and said they were in the parlor to be married," said the
minister's wife; "but I put on my dress as quick as I could, and went
in to witness it."

"How did Flora appear?" asked Mrs. Lowe.

"Well, I thought she looked rather sober, but I don't know as she
looked any more so than girls usually do when they're married. I have
seen them come to the parsonage looking more as if they were going to
their own funerals than their weddings, they were so scared and quiet
and sober. Now Flora--"  The minister's wife stopped short, she heard
Mrs. Maxwell coming and she turned the conversation with a jolt of
conscience into another channel. "Yes, it is very dry," said she
effusively; "we need rain very much indeed."

The little woman with the crimped hair colored very painfully.

Mrs. Maxwell made frequent errands into the room, and her daughter's
wedding had to be discussed guardedly. Always after she went out, the
women looked at each other in an agony of inquiry.

"Do you s'pose she knew?" they whispered.

Mrs. Field said nothing; she sat grimly quiet, knitting. Lois looked
silently out of the window. Both of them knew that Mrs. Maxwell had
not known of her daughter's wedding. Presently a man's voice could be
heard out in the kitchen.

"It's Francis," said Mrs. Lowe. "I wonder if he knew?"

Lois started, and blushed softly, but nobody noticed her.

There was a deep silence in the parlor; the women were listening to
the hum of voices in the kitchen.

"Don't you think it's dreadful close here?" said Mrs. Lowe.

"Yes, I think it is," assented the minister's wife.

"I think it would be a good plan to open the door a little ways,"
said Mrs. Lowe, and she opened it cautiously.

Still they could distinguish nothing from the hum of voices out in
the kitchen.

Mrs. Maxwell was in reality speaking low lest they should hear,
although she was clutching her nephew's arm hard, and the veins in
her thin temples and her throat were swelling purple. When he had
entered she had sprung at him. "Did you hear about it? I want to know
if you knew about it," said she, grasping his arm with her wiry
fingers, as if she were trying to wreak her anger on him.

"Knew about what?" said Francis wonderingly. "What is the matter,
Aunt Jane?"

"Did you know Flora went to the minister's and got married this

"No," said Francis slowly, "I didn't; but I knew she would, well

"Did Flora tell you?"

"No, she didn't tell me, but I knew she wouldn't do anything else."

"Knew she wouldn't do anything else? I'd like to know what you're
talkin' about, Francis Arms."

"I knew as long as she was Flora Maxwell, and her wedding was set for
to-day three months ago, it wasn't very likely that old Mr. Maxwell's
dying and not leaving her his money, and your not liking it, was
going to stop her."

"Hadn't it ought to have stopped her? Hadn't the wishes of a mother
that's slaved for her all her life, and didn't want her to get
married without a silk gown to her back to a man that ain't any
prospects of being able to buy her any, ought to have stopped her,
I'd like to know?"

"I guess Flora didn't think much about silk gowns, Aunt Jane," said
Francis, and his face reddened a little. "I guess she didn't think
much about anything but George."

"George! What's George Freeman? What's all the Freemans? I ain't
never liked them. They wa'n't never up to our folks. His mother ain't
never had a black silk dress to her name--never had a thing better
than black cashmere, an' they ain't never had a thing but oil-cloth
in their front entry, an' the Perry's ain't never noticed them
either. I ain't never wanted Flora to go into that family. I never
felt as if she was lookin' high enough, an' I knew George couldn't
get no kind of a livin' jest being clerk in Mason's store. But I felt
different about it before Thomas died, for I thought she'd have money
enough of her own, an' she was gettin' a little on in years, and
George was good-lookin' enough. After Thomas died an' left all his
money to Edward's wife, I hadn't an idea Flora would be such a fool
as to think of marryin' George Freeman. She'd been better off if
she'd never been married. I thought she'd given up all notions of

"Well, don't you worry, Aunt Jane," said Francis in a hearty voice.
"Make the best of it. I guess they'll get along all right. If George
can't buy Flora a silk dress I will. I'd have bought her one anyway
if I'd known."

"You can stand up for her all you want to, Francis Arms," cried his
aunt. "It's nothin' more than I ought to expect. What do you s'pose
I'm goin' to do? Here I am with all these folks to tea an' Flora
gone. She might have waited till to-morrow. Here they are all pryin'
an' suspectin'. But they shan't know if I die for it. They shan't
know that good-for-nothin' girl went off an' got married unbeknown to
me. They've had enough to crow over because we didn't get Thomas
Maxwell's money; they shan't have this nohow. You'll have to lend me
some money, an' I'm goin' to Boston to-morrow an' I'm goin' to buy a
silk dress for Flora an' get it made, so she can go out bride when
she comes home; an' they've got to come here an' board. I might jest
as well have the board-money as them Freemans, an' folks shan't think
we ain't on good terms. Can you let me have some money to-morrow

"Of course I can, Aunt Jane," said Francis soothingly. "I'll make
Flora a wedding-present of it."

"I don't want it for a weddin'-present. I'll pay you back some time.
If you're goin' to give her a weddin'-present, I'd rather you'd give
her somethin' silver that she can show. I ain't goin' to have you
give her clothes for a weddin'-present, as if we was poor as the
Freemans. You didn't have any pride. There ain't anybody in this
family ever had any pride but me, an' I have to keep it up, an'
nobody liftin' a finger to help me. Oh, dear!" the old woman quivered
from head to foot. Her face worked as if she was in silent hysterics.

"Don't, Aunt Jane," whispered her nephew--"don't feel so bad. Maybe
it's all for the best. Why, what is the matter with your wrist?"

"I burned it takin' the biscuit out of the oven," she groaned.

"Why, it's an awful burn. Don't you want something on it?"

"No, I don't mind no burns."

Suddenly Mrs. Maxwell moved away from her nephew. She began arranging
the plates on the table. "You go into the parlor," said she sharply,
"an' don't you let 'em know you didn't know about it. You act kind of
easy an' natural when they speak about it. You go right in; tea won't
be ready quite yet. I've got something a little extra to see about."

Francis went into the parlor and greeted the guests, shaking hands
with them rather boyishly and awkwardly. The minister's wife made
room for him on the sofa beside her.

"I suppose you'd like to hear about your cousin's wedding that I went
to this afternoon," said she, with a blandness that had a covert
meaning to the other women, who listened eagerly.

"Yes, I would," replied Francis, with steady gravity.

"I suppose it wasn't such a surprise to you as it was to us?" said
she directly, and the other women panted.

"No, I suppose it wasn't," said Francis.

Mrs. Lowe and Mrs. Robbins glanced at each other.

"_He_ knew," Mrs. Lowe motioned with her lips, nodding.

"_She_ didn't," Mrs. Robbins motioned back, shaking her head.

Francis sat beside the minister's wife. She talked on about the
wedding, and he listened soberly and assentingly.

"Well, it will be your turn next, Francis," said she, with a sly
graciousness, and the young man reddened, and laughed constrainedly.

Francis seldom glanced at Lois, but it was as if her little figure in
the window was all he saw in the room. She seemed so near his
consciousness that she shut out all else besides. Lois did not look
at him, but once in a while she put up her hand and arranged the hair
on her forehead, and after she had done so felt as if she saw herself
with his eyes. The air was growing cool; presently Lois coughed.

"You'd better come away from that window," said Mrs. Field, speaking
out suddenly.

There was no solicitude in her tone; it was more like harsh command.
Everybody looked at Lois; Francis with an anxious interest. He partly
arose as if to make room for her on the sofa, but she simply moved
her chair farther back. Presently Francis went over and shut the

The minister, Mr. Tuxbury, and Mrs. Robbin's husband all arrived
together shortly afterward. Mrs. Maxwell announced that tea was

"Will you please walk out to tea?" said she, standing at the door, in
a ceremonious hush. And the company arose hesitatingly, looking at
one another for precedence, and straggled out.

"You sit here," said Mrs. Maxwell to Lois, and she pointed to a chair
beside Francis.

Lois sat down and fixed her eyes upon her green and white plate while
the minister asked the blessing.

"It's a pleasant day, isn't it?" said Francis's voice in her ear,
when Mrs. Maxwell began pouring the tea.

"Real pleasant," said Lois.

Mrs. Maxwell had on her black gloves pouring the tea. The women eyed
them surreptitiously. She wore them always in company, but this was
an innovation. They did not know how she had put them on to conceal
the burn in her wrist which she had gotten in her blind fury as she
flew about the kitchen preparing supper, handling all the household
utensils as if they were weapons to attack Providence.

Mrs. Maxwell poured the tea and portioned out the sugar with her
black-gloved hands, and Mrs. Field stiffly buttered her biscuits.
Nobody dreamed of the wolves at the vitals of these two old women.

However, the eyes of the guests from the first had wandered to a cake
in the centre of the table. It was an oblong black cake; it was set
on a plate surrounded thickly with sprigs of myrtle, and upon the top
lay a little bouquet of white flowers and green leaves. Mrs. Lowe and
Mrs. Robbins, who sat side by side, looked at each other. Mrs. Lowe's
eyes said, "_Is_ that a wedding-cake?" and Mrs. Robbin's said: "I
dunno; it ain't frosted. It looks jest like a loaf she's had on

But nothing could exceed the repose and dignity with which Mrs.
Maxwell, at the last stage of the meal, requested her nephew to pass
the cake to her. Nobody could have dreamed as she cut it, every turn
of her burned wrist giving her pain, of the frantic haste with which
she had taken that old fruit cake out of the jar down-cellar, and
pulled those sprigs of myrtle from the bank under the north windows.

"Will you have some weddin'-cake?" said she.

The ladies each took a slice gingerly and respectfully. Mrs. Lowe and
Mrs. Robbins nodded to each other imperceptibly. The cake was not
iced with those fine devices which usually make a wedding-loaf, it
was rather dry, and not particularly rich; but Mrs. Maxwell's perfect
manner as she cut and served it, her acting on her own little
histrionic stage, had swayed them to her will. Mrs. Lowe and Mrs.
Robbins both thought she knew. But the minister's wife still doubted;
and later, when the other women were removed from the spell of her
acting, their old suspicions returned. It was always a mooted
question in Elliot whether or not Mrs. Jane Maxwell had known of her
daughter's marriage. Not all her subsequent behavior, her meeting the
young couple with open arms at the station on their return, and
Flora's appearance at church the next Sunday in the silk dress which
her mother had concocted during her absence, could quite allay the
suspicion, although it prevented it from gaining ground.

All that evening Mrs. Maxwell's courage never flagged. She
entertained her guests as well as a woman of Sparta could have done.
She even had the coolness to prosecute other projects which she had
in mind. She kept Mrs. Field and Lois behind the rest, and walked
home with the mother, that Francis might have the girl to himself.
And she went into the house with Mrs. Field, and slipped a parcel
into her pocket, while the two young people had a parting word at the

Chapter VII

It was a hot afternoon in August. Amanda Pratt had set all her
windows wide open, but no breeze came in, only the fervid breath of
the fields and the white road outside.

She sat at a front window and darned a white stocking; her long, thin
arms and her neck showed faintly through her old loose muslin sacque.
The muslin was white, with a close-set lavender sprig, and she wore a
cameo brooch at her throat. The blinds were closed, and she had to
bend low over her mending in order to see in the green gloom.

Mrs. Babcock came toiling up the bank to the house, but Amanda did
not notice her until she reached the front door. Then she fetched a
great laboring sigh.

"Oh, hum!" said she, audibly, in a wrathful voice; "if I'd had any
idea of it, I wouldn't have come a step."

Then Amanda looked out with a start. "Is that you, Mis' Babcock?" she
called hospitably through the blind.

"Yes, it's me--what's left of me. Oh, hum! Oh, hum!"

Amanda ran and opened the door, and Mrs. Babcock entered, panting.
She had a green umbrella, which she furled with difficulty at the
door, and a palm-leaf fan. Her face, in the depths of her scooping
green barege bonnet, was dank with perspiration, and scowling with
indignant misery. She sank into a chair, and fanned herself with a
desperate air.

Amanda set her umbrella in the corner, then she stood looking
sympathetically at her. "It's a pretty hot day, ain't it?" said she.

"I should think 'twas hot. Oh, hum!"

"Don't you want me to get you a tumbler of water?"

"I dunno. I don't drink much cold water; it don't agree with me very
well. Oh, dear! You ain't got any of your beer made, I s'pose?"

"Oh, no, I ain't. I'm dreadful sorry. Don't you want a swaller of
cold tea?"

"Well, I dunno but I'll have jest a swaller, if you've got some. Oh,
dear me, hum!"

Amanda went out hurriedly, and returned with a britannia teapot and a
tumbler. She poured out some tea, and Mrs. Babcock drank with
desperate gulps.

"I think cold tea is better for anybody than cold water in hot
weather," said Amanda. "Won't you have another swaller, Mis'

Mrs. Babcock shook her head, and Amanda carried the teapot and
tumbler back to the kitchen, then she seated herself again, and
resumed her mending. Mrs. Babcock fanned and panted, and eyed Amanda.

"You look cool enough in that old muslin sacque," said she, in a tone
of vicious injury.

"Yes, it is real cool. I've kept this sacque on purpose for a real
hot day."

"Well, it's dreadful long in the shoulder seams, 'cordin' to the way
they make 'em now, but I s'pose it's cool. Oh, hum! I ruther guess I
shouldn't have come out of the house, if I'd any idea how hot 'twas
in the sun. Seems to me it's hot as an oven here. I should think
you'd air off your house early in the mornin', an' then shut your
windows tight, an' keep the heat out."

"I know some folks do that way," said Amanda.

"Well, I always do, an' I guess 'most everybody does that's good
housekeepers. It makes a sight of difference."

Amanda said nothing, but she sat straighter.

"I s'pose you don't have to make any fire from mornin' till night;
seems as if you might keep cool."

"No, I don't have to."

"Well, I do. There I had to go to work to-day an' cook squash an'
beans an' green corn. The men folks ain't satisfied if they don't
have 'em in the time of 'em. I wish sometimes there wasn't no such
thing as garden sauce. I tell 'em sometimes I guess if they had to
get the things ready an' cook 'em themselves, they'd go without.
Seems sometimes as if the whole creation was like a kitchen without
any pump in it, specially contrived to make women folks extra work.
Looks to me as if pease without pods could have been contrived pretty
easy, and it does seem as if there wasn't any need of havin' strings
on the beans."

"Mis' Green has got a kind of beans without any strings," said
Amanda. "She brought me over some the other day, an' they were about
the best I ever eat."

"Well, I know there is a kind without strings," returned Mrs.
Babcock; "but I ain't got none in my garden, an' I never shall have.
It ain't my lot to have things come easy. Seems as if it got hotter
an' hotter. Why don't you open your front door?"

"Jest as sure as I do, the house will be swarmin' with flies."

"You'd ought to have a screen-door. I made Adoniram make me one five
years ago, an' it's a real nice one; but I know, of course, you ain't
got nobody to make one for you. Once in a while it seems as if men
folks come in kinder handy, an' they'd ought to, when women work an'
slave the way I do to fill 'em up. Mebbe some time when Adoniram
ain't drove, I could get him to make a door for you. Mebbe some time
next winter."

"I s'pose it would be nice," replied Amanda. "You're real kind to
offer, Mis' Babcock."

"Well, I s'pose women that have men folks to do for 'em ought to be
kind of obligin' sometimes to them that ain't. I'll see if I can get
Adoniram to make you a screen-door next winter. Seems to me it does
get hotter an' hotter. For the land sakes, Amanda Pratt! what are you
cuttin' that great hole in that stockin' heel for? Are you crazy?"

Amanda colored. "The other stockin's got a hole in it," said she,
"an' I'm makin' 'em match."

"Cuttin' a great big hole in a stockin' heel on purpose to darn?
Mandy Pratt, you ain't?"

"I am," replied Amanda, with dignity.

"Well, if you ain't a double and twisted old maid!" gasped Mrs.

Amanda's long face and her neck were a delicate red.

Mrs. Babcock laughed a loud, sarcastic cackle. "I never--did!" she

Amanda opened her mouth as if to speak, then she shut it tightly,
remembering the offer of the screen-door. She had had so few gifts in
her whole life that she had a meek impulse of gratitude even if one
were thrust into her hand hard enough to hurt her.

"Well," Mrs. Babcock continued, still sniggering unpleasantly, "I
don't want to hurt your feelin's, Mandy; you needn't color up so; but
I can't help laughin'."

"Laugh, then, if you want to," said Amanda, with a quick flash. She
forgot the screen-door.

Mrs. Babcock drew her face down quickly. "Land, Mandy," said she,
"don't get mad. I didn't mean anything. Anybody knows that old maids
is jest as good as them that gets married. I ain't told you what I
come over here for. I declare I got so terrible heated up, I couldn't
think of nothin'. Look here, Mandy."

Amanda mended on the stocking foot drawn tightly over her left hand,
and did not raise her eyes.

"Mandy, you ain't mad, be you? You know I didn't mean nothin'."

"I ain't mad," replied Amanda, in a constrained tone.

"Well, there ain't nothin' to be mad about. Look here, Mandy, how
long is it since Mis' Field and Lois went?"

"About three months."

"Look here! I dunno what you'll say, but I think Mis' Green thought
real favorable of it. Do you know how cheap you can go down to Boston
an' back now?"

Amanda looked up. "No. Why?" said she.

Mrs. Babcock stopped fanning and leaned forward. "Amanda Pratt, you
can go down to Boston an' back, an' be gone a week, for--three
dollars an' sixty cents."

Amanda stared back at her in a startled way.

"Let's you an' me an' Mis' Green go down an' see Mis' Field an'
Lois," said Mrs. Babcock, in a tragic voice.

Amanda turned pale. "They don't live in Boston," she said, with a
bewildered air.

"We can go down to Boston on the early train," replied Mrs. Babcock,
importantly. "Then we can have all the afternoon to go round Boston
an' see the sights, an' then, toward night, we can go out to Mis'
Field's. Land, here's Mis' Green now! She said she'd come over as
soon as Abby got home from school. I'm jest tellin' her about it,
Mis' Green."

Mrs. Green stood in the doorway, smiling half-shamefacedly. "I s'pose
you think it's a dreadful silly plan, Mandy," said she deprecatingly.

Amanda got up and pushed the rocking-chair in which she had been
sitting toward the new-comer.

"Set down, do," said she. "I dunno, Mis' Green. I ain't had time to
think it over, it's come so sudden."  Amanda's face was collected,
but her voice was full of agitation.

"Well," said Mrs. Green, "I ain't known which end my head is on since
Mis' Babcock come in an' spoke of it. First I thought I couldn't go
nohow, an' I dunno as I can now. Still, it does seem dreadful cheap
to go down to Boston an' back, an' I ain't been down more'n four
times in the last twenty years. I ain't been out gaddin' much, an'
that's a fact."

"The longer you set down in one corner, the longer you can," remarked
Mrs. Babcock. "I believe in goin' while you've got a chance, for my

"I ain't ever been to Boston," said Amanda, and her face had the
wishful, far-away look that her grandfather's might have had when he
thought of the sea.

"It does seem as if you'd ought to go once," said Mrs. Green.

"I say, let's start up an' go!" cried Mrs. Babcock, in an intense

The three women looked at each other.

"Abby could keep house for father a few days," said Mrs. Green, as if
to some carping judge; "an' it ain't goin' to cost much, an' I know
father'd say go."

"Well, I guess I can cook up enough victuals to last Adoniram and the
boys whilst I'm gone," said Mrs. Babcock defiantly; "I guess they can
get along. Adoniram can make rye puddin', an' they can fill up on rye
puddin' an' molasses. I'm a-goin'."

"I dunno," said Amanda, trembling. "I'm dreadful afraid I hadn't
ought to."

"Well, I should think you could go, if Mis' Green an' I could," said
Mrs. Babcock. "Here you ain't got nobody but jest yourself, an' ain't
got to leave a thing cooked up nor nothin'."

"I would like to see Mis' Field an' Lois again, but it seems like a
great undertakin'," sighed Amanda. "Then it's goin' to cost

"It ain't goin' to cost but jest three dollars an' sixty cents," said
Mrs. Babcock. "I guess you can afford that, Mandy. There your
tenement didn't stay vacant two weeks after the Fields went; the
Simmonses came right in. I guess if I had rent-money, an' nobody but
myself, I could afford to travel once in a while."

"Now you'd better make up your mind to go, Mandy," Mrs. Green said.
"I think Mis' Field would be more pleased to see you than anybody in
Green River. That's one thing I think about goin'. I know she'll be
tickled almost to death to see us comin' in. Mis' Field's a real good
woman. There wa'n't anybody in town I set more by than I did by her."

"When did you hear from her last, Mandy?" interposed Mrs. Babcock.

"About a month ago."

"I s'pose Lois is a good deal better?"

"Yes, I guess she is. Her mother said she seemed pretty well for her.
I s'pose it agrees with her better down there."

"I s'pose there was a good deal more fuss made about her when she was
here than there was any need of," said Mrs. Babcock, her whole face
wrinkled upward contemptuously; "a great deal more fuss. There wa'n't
nothin' ailed the girl if folks had let her alone, talkin' an'
scarin' her mother to death. She was jest kind of run down with the
spring weather. Young girls wilt down dreadful easy, an' spring up
again. I've seen 'em. 'Twa'n't nothin'."

"Well, I dunno; she looked dreadfully," Mrs. Green said, with mild

"Well, you can see how much it amounted to," returned Mrs. Babcock,
with a triumphant sniff. "Folks ought to have been ashamed of
themselves, scarin' Mis' Field the way they did about her. Seemed as
if they was determined to have Lois go into consumption whether or
no, an' was goin' to push her in, if they couldn't manage it in no
other way. I s'pose you've sent all Mis' Field's things down there,

"The furniture is all up garret," said Amanda. "All I've sent down
was their clothes. Mis' Field had me pack 'em up in their two trunks,
an' send 'em down to Lois. I didn't see why she didn't have me mark
'em to her."

"I should think it was kind of queer," said Mrs. Green. "Now s'pose
we go, what had we better carry for clothes? We don't need no trunk."

"Of course we don't," said Mrs. Babcock promptly. "We can each carry
a bag. We ain't going to need much."

"I guess, if I went," said Amanda, "that I should carry this sacque
to slip on, if it's as hot weather as 'tis now. I should have to do
it up, but that ain't much work."

Mrs. Babcock eyed it. "Well, I dunno," said she; "it's pretty long in
the shoulders seams. I dunno how much they dress down there where
Mis' Field lives. Mebbe 'twould do."

"There's one thing I've been thinkin' about," Mrs. Green said, with
an anxious air. "If we go down on that early train, an' stay all day
in Boston, we shall have to buy us something to eat; we should get
dreadful faint before we got out to Mis' Field's, and things are
dreadful high in those places."

"Oh, land!" cried Mrs. Babcock in a superior tone. "All we've got to
do is to carry some luncheon with us. I'll make some pies, and you
can bake some cookies, an' then we'll set down in Boston Common an'
eat it. That's the way lots of folks do. That ain't nothin' to worry
about. Well, now, I think it's about time for us to decide whether or
no we're goin'. I've got to go home an' git supper."

"I'll do jest as the rest say," said Mrs. Green. "I s'pose I can go.
I s'pose father'll say I'd better. An' Abby she was all for it, when
I spoke about it to her. She thinks she can have the Fay girl over to
stay with her, an' she wants me to buy her a dress in Boston, instead
of gettin' it here."

"Well," said Amanda, with a sigh--she was quite pale--"I'll think of

"We've got to make up our minds," said Mrs. Babcock sharply. "There
ain't time for much thinkin'. The excursion starts a day after

"I'll have my mind made up to-morrow mornin'," said Amanda. "I've got
to think of it over-night, anyhow. I can't start right up an' say
I'll go, without a minute to think about it."  Her voice trembled
nervously, but decision underlay it.

"I don't see why it ain't time enough if we decide to-morrow morning.
I'd ruther like to think of it a little while longer," said Mrs.

Mrs. Babcock got up. "Well," said she, "I'll send Adoniram round
to-morrow mornin', an' you tell him what you've decided. I guess I
shall go whether or no. I've got three men folks to leave, an' it's a
good deal more of an undertakin' for me than some, but I ain't easy
scart. I b'lieve in goin' once in a while."

"Well, I'll let you know in the mornin'. I jest want to think of it
over-night," repeated Amanda, with dignified apology.

She went to the door with her guests. Mrs. Babcock spread her green
umbrella, and descended the steps with a stiff side-wise motion.

"It is hotter than ever, I do believe," she groaned.

"Well, now, I was jest thinkin' it was a little grain cooler,"
returned Mrs. Green, following in her wake. Her back was meekly bent;
her face, shaded by a black sun-hat, was thrust forward with patient
persistency. "There, I feel a little breeze now," she added.

"I guess all the breeze there is, is in your own motion," retorted
Mrs. Babcock. Her green umbrella bobbed energetically. She fanned at
every step.

"Mebbe it's your fan," said the other woman.

Amanda went into the house and shut the door. She stood in the middle
of the parlor and looked around. There was a certain amaze in her
eyes, as if everything wore a new aspect. "They can talk all they've
a mind to," she muttered, "it's a great undertakin'. S'pose anything
happened? If anything happened to them whilst they were gone, there's
folks enough to home to see to things. S'pose anything happened to
me, there ain't anybody. If I go, I've got to leave this house jest
so. I've got to be sure the bureau drawers are all packed up, an'
things swept an' dusted, so folks won't make remarks. There's other
things, too. Everything's got to be thought of. There's the cat. I
s'pose I could get Abby Green to come over an' feed her, but I
dassen't trust her. Young girls ain't to be depended on. Ten chances
to one she'd get to carryin' on with that Fay girl an' forgit all
about that cat. She won't lap her milk out of anything but a clean
saucer, neither, and I don't believe Abby would look out for that.
She always seemed to me kind of heedless. I dunno about the whole of

Amanda shook her head; her eyes were dilated; there was an anxious
and eager expression in her face. She went into the kitchen, kindled
the fire, and made herself a cup of tea, which she drank absently.
She could not eat anything.

The cat came mewing at the door, and she let her in and fed her. "I
dunno how she'd manage," she said, as she watched her lap the milk
from the clean saucer beside the cooking-stove.

After she had put away the cat's saucer and her own tea-cup, she
stood hesitating.

"Well, I don't care," said she, in a decisive tone; "I'm goin' to do
it. It's got to be done, anyhow, whether I go or not. It's been on my
mind for some time."

Amanda got out her best black dress from the closet, and sat down to
alter the shoulder seams. "I don't care nothin' about this muslin
sacque," said she, "but I ain't goin' to have Mis' Babcock measurin'
my shoulder seams every single minute if I do go, an' they may be
real dressy down where Mis' Field is."

Amanda sewed until ten o'clock; then she went to bed, but she slept
little. She was up early the next morning. Adoniram Babcock came over
about eight o'clock; the windows and blinds were all flung wide open,
the braided rugs lay out in the yard. He put his gentle grizzled face
in at one of the windows. There was a dusty odor. Amanda was sweeping
vigorously, with a white handkerchief tied over her head. Her
delicate face was all of a deep pink color.

"Ann Lizy sent over to see if you'd made up your mind," said

Amanda started. "Good-mornin', Mr. Babcock. Yes, you can tell her I
have. I'm a-goin'."

There was a reckless defiance of faith in Amanda's voice. She had a
wild air as she stood there with the broom in a faint swirl of dust.

"Well, Ann Lizy'll be glad you've made up your mind to. She's gone to
bakin'," said the old man in the window.

"I've got to bake some, too," said Amanda. She began sweeping again.

"I've jest been over to Mis' Green's, an' she says she's goin' if you
do," said Mr. Babcock.

"Well, you tell her I'm goin'," said Amanda, with a long breath.

"I guess you'll have a good time," said the old man, turning away. "I
tell Ann Lizy she can stay a month if she wants to. Me an' the boys
can git along."  He laughed a pleasant chuckle as he went off.

Amanda glanced after him. "I shouldn't care if I had a man to leave
to look after the house," said she.

Amanda toiled all day; she swept and dusted every room in her little
domicile. She put all her bureau drawers and closets in exquisite
order. She did not neglect even the cellar and the garret. Mrs.
Babcock, looking in at night, found her rolling out sugar

"For the land sakes, Mandy!" said she, "what are you cookin' by
lamp-light for this awful hot night?"

"I'm makin' a little short gingerbread for luncheon."

"I don't see what you left it till this time of day for. What you got
them irons on the stove for?"

"I've got to iron my muslin sacque. I've got it all washed and

"Ironin' this time of day! I'd like to know what you've been doin'
ever since you got up?"

"I've been getting everything in order, in case anything happened,"
replied Amanda. She tried to speak with cool composure, but her voice
trembled. Her dignity failed her in this unwonted excitement.

"What's goin' to happen, for the land sake?" cried Mrs. Babcock.

"I dunno. None of us know. Things do happen sometimes."

Mrs. Babcock stared at her, half in contempt, half in alarm. "I hope
you ain't had no forewarnin' that you ain't goin' to live nor
anything," said she. "If you have, I should think you'd better stay
to home."

"I ain't had no more forewarnin' than anybody," said Amanda. "All is,
there ain't nobody in the other part of the house. The Simmonses all
went yesterday to make a visit at her mother's, and in case anything
should happen, I'm goin' to leave things lookin' so I'm willin'
anybody should see 'em."

"Well," said Mrs. Babcock, "I guess you couldn't leave things so
you'd be willin' anybody'd see 'em if you had three men folks afoul
of 'em for three days. I've got to be goin' if I git up for that
four-o'clock train in the mornin'. I've made fifteen pies an' five
loaves of bread, besides bakin' beans, to say nothin' of a great
panful of doughnuts an' some cake. I ain't been up garret nor down
cellar cleanin', an' if anything happens to me, I s'pose folks'll see
some dust and cobwebs, but I've done considerable. Adoniram's goin'
to take us all down in the covered wagon; he'll be round about
half-past four."

Amanda lighted Mrs. Babcock out the front door; then she returned to
her tasks. She did not go to bed that night. She had put her bedroom
in perfect order, and would not disturb it. She lay down on her hard
parlor sofa awhile, but she slept very little. At two o'clock she
kindled a fire, made some tea, and cooked an egg for her breakfast.
Then she arrayed herself in her best dress. She was all ready, her
bag and basket of luncheon packed and her bonnet on, at three
o'clock. She sat down and folded her hands to wait, but presently
started up. "I'm going to do it," said she. "I don't care, I am. I
can't feel easy unless I do."

She got some writing-paper and pen and ink from the chimney cupboard
and sat down at the table. She wrote rapidly, her lips pursed, her
head to one side. Then she folded the paper, wrote on the outside,
and arranged it conspicuously on the top of a leather-covered Bible
on the centre of the table. "There!" said she. "It ain't regular, I
s'pose, an' I ain't had any lawyer, but I guess they'd carry out my
wishes if anything happened to me. I ain't got nobody but Cousin
Rhoda Hill, an' Cousin Maria Bennet; an' Rhoda don't need a cent, an'
Maria'd ought to have it all. This house will make her real
comfortable, an' my clothes will fit her. I s'pose I'd have this
dress on, but my black alpaca's pretty good. I s'pose Mis' Babcock
would laugh, but I feel a good deal easier about goin'."

Amanda waited again; she blew out her lamp, for the early dawnlight
strengthened. She listened intently for wheels, and looked anxiously
at the clock. "It would be dreadful if we got left, after all," she

Suddenly the covered wagon came in sight; the white horse trotted at
a good pace. Adoniram held the reins and his wife sat beside him.
Mrs. Green peered out from the back seat. "Mandy! Mandy!" Mrs.
Babcock called, before they reached the gate. But Amanda was already
on the front door-step, fitting the key in the lock.

"I'm all ready," she answered, "jest as soon as I can get the door

"We ain't got any too much time," cried Mrs. Babcock.

Amanda went down the path with her basket and black valise and
parasol. Adoniram got out and helped her into the wagon. She had to
climb over the front seat. As they drove off she leaned out and gazed
back at the house. Her tortoise-shell cat was coming around the
corner. "I do hope the cat will get along all right," she said
agitatedly. "I've fed her this mornin', an' I've left her enough milk
till I get back--a saucerful for each day--an' Abby said she'd give
her all the scraps off the table, you know, Mis' Green."

Mrs. Babcock turned around. "Now, Amanda Pratt," said she, "I'd like
to know how in creation you've left a saucerful of milk for that cat
for every day till you get back."

"I set ten saucers full of milk down cellar," replied Amanda, still
staring back anxiously at the cat--"one for each day. I got extra
milk last night on purpose. She likes it jest as well if it's sour,
if the saucer's clean."

Amanda looked up with serious wonder at Mrs. Babcock, who was
laughing shrilly. Mrs. Green, too, was smiling, and Adoniram

"For the land sakes, Amanda Pratt!" gasped Mrs. Babcock, "you don't
s'pose that cat is goin' to stint herself to a saucer a day? Why,
she'll eat half of it all up before night."

Amanda stood up in the carriage. "I've got to go back, that's all,"
said she. "I ain't goin' to have that cat starve."

"Land sakes, set down!" cried Mrs. Babcock. "She won't starve. She
can hunt."

"Abby'll feed her, I know," said Mrs. Green, pulling gently at her
companion's arm. "Don't you worry, Mandy."

"Well, I guess I shouldn't worry about a cat with claws to catch mice
in warm weather," said Mrs. Babcock, with a sarcastic titter. "It's
goin' to be a dreadful hot day. Set down, Mandy. There ain't no use
talkin' about goin' back. There ain't any time. Mis' Green an' me
ain't goin' to stay to home on account of a cat."

Amanda subsided weakly. She felt strange, and not like herself. Mrs.
Babcock seemed to recognize it by some subtle intuition. She would
never have dared use such a tone toward her without subsequent
concessions. Amanda had always had a certain dignity and persistency
which had served to intimidate too presuming people; now she had lost
it all.

"I'll write to Abby, jest as soon as I get down there, to give the
cat her milk," whispered Mrs. Green soothingly; and Amanda was

The covered wagon rolled along the country road toward the railroad
station. Adoniram drove, and the three women sat up straight, and
looked out with a strange interest, as if they had never seen the
landscape before. The meadows were all filmy with cobwebs; there were
patches of corn in the midst of them, and the long blades drooped
limply. The flies swarmed thickly over the horse's back. The air was
scalding; there was a slight current of cool freshness from the dewy
ground, but it would soon be gone.

"It ain't goin' to rain," said Mrs. Babcock, "there's cobwebs on the
grass, but it's goin' to be terrible hot."

They reached the station fifteen minutes before the train. After
Adoniram had driven away, they sat in a row on a bench on the
platform, with their baggage around them. They did not talk much;
even Mrs. Babcock looked serious and contemplative in this momentary
lull. Their thoughts reached past and beyond them to the homes they
had left, and the new scenes ahead.

When the whistle of the train sounded they all stood up, and grasped
their valises tightly. Mrs. Green looked toward the coming train; her
worn face under her black bonnet, between its smooth curves of gray
hair, had all the sensitive earnestness which comes from generations
of high breeding. She was, on her father's side, of a race of old New
England ministers.

"Well, I dunno but I've been pretty faithful, an' minded my household
the way women are enjoined to in the Scriptures; mebbe it's right for
me to take this little vacation," she said, and her serious eyes were
full of tears.

Chapter VIII

When Jane Field, in her assumed character, had lived three months in
Elliot, she was still unsuspected. She was not liked, and that made
her secret safer. She was full of dogged resolution and audacity. She
never refused to see a caller nor accept an invitation, but people
never called upon her nor invited her when they could avoid it, and
thus she was not so often exposed to contradictions and
inconsistencies which might have betrayed her. Elliot people not only
disliked her, they were full of out-spoken indignation against her.
The defiant, watchful austerity which made her repel when she
intended to encourage their advances had turned them against her, but
more than that her supposed ill-treatment of her orphan niece.

When Lois, the third week of her stay in Elliot, had gone to a
dressmaker and asked for some sewing to do, the news was well over
the village by night. "That woman, who has all John Maxwell's money,
is too stingy and mean to support her niece, and she too delicate to
work," people said. The dressmaker to whom Lois appealed did not for
a minute hesitate to give her work, although she had already many
women sewing for her, and she had just given some to Mrs. Maxwell's
daughter Flora.

"There!" said she, when Lois had gone out. "I ain't worth five
hundred dollars in the world, I don't know how she'll sew, and I
didn't need any extra help--it's takin' it right out of my pocket,
likely as not--but I couldn't turn off a cat that looked up at me the
way that child did. She looks pinched. I don't believe that old woman
gives her enough to eat. Of all the mean work--worth all that money,
and sending her niece out to get sewing to do! I don't believe but
what she's most starved her."

It was true that Lois for the last week had not had enough to eat,
but neither had her mother. The two had been eking out the remnants
of Lois's school-money as best they might. There were many provisions
in the pantry and cellar of the Maxwell house, but they would touch
none of them. Some money which Mr. Tuxbury had paid to Mrs.
Field--the first instalment from the revenue of her estate--she had
put carefully away in a sugar-bowl on the top shelf of the china
closet, and had not spent a penny of it. After Lois began to sew, her
slender earnings provided them with the most frugal fare. Mrs. Field
eked it out in every way that she could. She had a little vegetable
garden and kept a few hens. As the season advanced, she scoured the
berry pastures, and spent many hours stooping painfully over the low
bushes. Three months from the time at which she came to Elliot, on
the day on which her neighbors started from Green River to visit her,
she was out in the pasture trying to fill her pail with blueberries.
All the sunlight seemed to centre on her black figure like a
burning-glass; the thick growth of sweet-fern around the blueberry
bushes sent a hot and stifling aroma into her face; the wild flowers
hung limply, like delicate painted rags, and the rocks were like
furnaces. Mrs. Field went out soon after dinner, and at half-past
five she was still picking; the berries were not very plentiful.

Lois, at home, wondered why she did not return, and the more because
there was a thunder-storm coming up. There was a heavy cloud in the
northwest, and a steady low rumble of thunder. Lois sat out in the
front yard sewing; her face was pink and moist with the heat; the
sleeves of her old white muslin dress clung to her arms. Presently
the gate clicked, and Mrs. Jane Maxwell's daughter Flora came toward
her over the grass.

"Hullo!" said she.

"Hullo!" returned Lois.

"It's a terrible day--isn't it?"


Lois got up, but Flora would not take her chair. She sat down
clumsily on the pine needles, and fanned herself with the cover of a
book she carried.

"I've just been down to the library, an' got this book," she

"Is it good?"

"They say it's real good. Addie Green's been reading it."

Flora wore a bright blue cambric dress and a brown straw hat. Her
figure was stout and high-shouldered, her dull-complexioned face full
of placid force. She was not very young, and she looked much older
than she was; and people had wondered how George Freeman, who was
handsome and much courted by the girls, as well as younger than she,
had come to marry her. They also wondered how her mother, who had
been so bitterly opposed to the match, had given in, and was now
living so amicably with the young couple; they had been on the alert
for a furious village feud. But when Flora and her husband had
returned from their stolen wedding tour, Mrs. Maxwell had met them at
the depot and bidden them home with her with vociferous ardor, and
the next Sunday Flora had gone to church in the new silk. There had
been a conflict of two wills, and one had covered its defeat with a
parade of victory. Mrs. Maxwell had talked a great deal about her
daughter's marriage and how well she had done.

"There's a thunder-shower coming up," Flora said after a little.
"Where's your aunt?"

"Gone berrying."

"She'll get caught in the shower if she don't look out. What makes
you work so steady this hot day, Lois?"

"I've got to get this done."

"There isn't any need of your working so hard."

Lois said nothing.

"If your aunt ain't willing to do for you it's time you had somebody
else to," persisted Flora. "I wish I had had the money on your
account. I wouldn't have let you work so. You look better than you
did when you came here, but you look tired. I heard somebody else say
so the other day."

Flora said the last with a meaning smile.

Lois blushed.

"Yes, I did," Flora repeated. "I don't suppose you can guess who

Lois said nothing; she bent her hot face closer over her work.

"See here, Lois," said Flora. She hesitated with her eyes fixed
warily on Lois; then she went on: "What makes you treat Francis so
queer lately?"

"I didn't know I had," replied Lois, evasively.

"You don't treat him a bit the way you did at first."

"I don't know what you mean, Flora."

"Well, if you don't, it's no matter," returned Flora. "Francis hasn't
said anything about it to me; you needn't think he has. All is,
you'll never find a better fellow than he is, Lois Field, I don't
care where you go."

Flora spoke with slow warmth. Lois's face quivered. "If you don't
take care you'll never get married at all," said Flora, half

Lois sat up straight. "I shall never get married to anybody," said
she. "That's one thing I won't do. I'll die first."

Flora stared at her. "Why, why not?" said she.

"I won't."

"I never knew what happiness was until I got married," said Flora.
Then she flushed up suddenly all over her steady face.

Lois, too, started and blushed, as if the other girl's speech had
struck some answering chord in her. The two were silent a moment.
Lois sewed; Flora stared off through the trees at the darkening sky.
The low rumble of thunder was incessant.

"George is one of the best husbands that ever a girl had," said
Flora, in a tender, shamed voice; "but Francis would make just as
good a one."

Lois made no reply. She almost turned her back toward Flora as she

"I guess you'll change your mind some time about getting married,"
Flora said.

"No, I never will," returned Lois.

"Well, I suppose if you don't, you'll have money enough to take care
of yourself with some time, as far as that goes," said Flora. Her
voice had a sarcastic ring.

"I shall never have one cent of that Maxwell money," said Lois, with
sudden fire. "I'll tell you that much, once for all!"  Her eyes
fairly gleamed in her delicate, burning face.

"Why, you scare me! What is the matter?" cried Flora.

Lois took a stitch. "Nothing," said she.

"You'd ought to have the money, of course," said Flora, in a
bewildered way. "Who else would have it?"

"I don't know," said Lois. "You are the one that ought to have it."

Flora laughed. "Land, I don't want it!" said she. "George earns
plenty for us to live on. She's your own aunt, and of course she'll
have to leave it to you, if she does act so miserly with it now.
There, I know she's your aunt, Lois, and I don't suppose I ought to
speak so, but I can't help it. After all, it don't make much
difference, or it needn't, whether you have it or not. I've begun to
think money is the very least part of anything in this world, and I
want you to be looking out for something else, too, Lois."

"I can't look out for money, or something else, either. You don't
know," said Lois, in a pitiful voice.

There came a flash, and then a great crash of thunder. The tempest
was about to break.

Flora started up abruptly. "I must run," she shouted through a sudden
gust of wind. "Good-by."

Flora sped out of the yard. Her blue dress, lashing around her feet,
changed color in the ghastly light of the storm. Some flying leaves
struck her in the face. At the gate a cloud of dust from the road
nearly blinded her. She realized in a bewildered fashion that there
were three women on the other side struggling frantically with the

"Does Mis' Jane Field live here?" inquired one of them, breathlessly.

"No," replied Flora; "that isn't her name."

"She don't?"

"No," gasped Flora, her head lowered before the wind.

"Well, I want to know, ain't this the old Maxwell place?"

"Yes," said Flora.

Some great drops of rain began to fall; there was another flash. The
woman struggled mightily, and prevailed over the gate-latch. She
pushed it open. "Well, I don't care," said she, "I'm comin' in,
whether or no. I dunno but my bonnet-strings will spot, an' I ain't
goin' to have my best clothes soaked. It's mighty funny nobody knows
where Mis' Field lives; but this is the old Maxwell house, where she
wrote Mandy she lived, an' I'm goin' in."

Flora stood aside, and the three women entered with a rush. Lois,
standing near the door front, saw them coming through the
greenish-yellow gloom, their three black figures scudding before the
wind like black-sailed ships.

"Land sakes!" shrieked out Mrs. Babcock, "there's Lois now! Lois, how
are you? I'd like to know what that girl we met at the gate meant
telling us they didn't live here. Why, Lois Field, how do you do?
Where's your mother? I guess we'd better step right in, an' not stop
to talk. It's an awful tempest. I'm dreadful afraid my bonnet
trimmin' will spot."

They all scurried up the steps and into the house. Then the women
turned and kissed Lois, and raised a little clamor of delight over
her. She stood panting. She did not ask them into the sitting-room.
Her head whirled. It seemed to her that the end of everything had

But Mrs. Babcock turned toward the sitting-room door. She had pulled
off her bonnet, and was wiping it anxiously with her handkerchief.
"This is the way, ain't it?" she said.

Lois followed them in helplessly. The room was dark as night, for the
shutters were closed. Mrs. Babcock flung one open peremptorily.

"We'll break our necks here, if we don't have some light," she said.
The hail began to rattle on the window-panes.

"It's hailin'!" the women chorussed.

"Are your windows all shut?" Mrs. Babcock demanded of Lois.

And the girl said, in a dazed way, that the bedroom windows were
open, and then went mechanically to shut them.

"Shut the blinds, too!" screamed Mrs. Babcock. "The hail's comin' in
this side terrible heavy. I'm afraid it'll break the glass."  Mrs.
Babcock herself, her face screwed tightly against an onslaught of
wind and hail, shut the blinds, and the room was again plunged in
darkness. "We'll have to stan' it," said she. "Mis' Field don't want
her windows all broke in. That's dreadful sharp."

Thunder shook the house like an explosion. The women looked at each
other with awed faces.

"Where is your mother? Why don't she come in here?" Mrs. Babcock
asked excitedly of Lois returning from the bedroom.

"She's gone berrying," replied Lois, feebly. She sank into a chair.

"Gone berryin'!" screamed Mrs. Babcock, and the other women echoed


"When did she go?"

"Right after dinner."

"Right after dinner, an' she ain't got home yet! Out in this awful
tempest! Well, she'll be killed. You'll never see her again, that's
all. A berry pasture is the most dangerous place in creation in a
thunder-shower. Out berryin' in all this hail an' thunder an'

Mrs. Green pressed close up to Lois. "Ain't you any idea where she's
gone?" said she. "If you have, I'll jest slip off my dress skirt, an'
you give me an old shawl, an' I'll go with you an' see if we can't
find her."

"I'll go, too," cried Amanda. "Don't you know which way they went,

Just then the south side-door slammed sharply.

"She's come," said Lois, in a strained voice.

"Well, I'm thankful!" cried Mrs. Green. "Hadn't you better run out
an' help her off with her wet things, Lois?"

But the sitting-room door opened, and Mrs. Field stood there, a tall
black shadow hardly shaped out from the gloom. The women all arose
and hurried toward her. There was a shrill flurry of greeting. Mrs.
Field's voice arose high and terrified above it.

"Who is it?" she cried out. "Who's here?"

"Why, your old neighbors, Mrs. Field. Don't you know us--Mandy an'
Mis' Green an' Mis' Babcock? We come down on an excursion ticket to
Boston--only three dollars an' sixty cents--an' we thought we'd
surprise you."

"Ain't you dreadful wet, Mis' Field?" interposed Mrs. Green's
solicitous voice.

"You'd better go and change your dress," said Amanda.

"When did you come?" said Mrs. Field.

"Jest now. For the land sakes, Mis' Field, your dress is soppin' wet!
Do go an' change it, or you'll catch your death of cold."

Mrs. Field did not stir. The hail pelted on the windows. "Now, you go
right along an' change it," cried Mrs. Babcock.

"Well," said Mrs. Field vaguely, "mebbe I'd better."  She fumbled her
way unsteadily toward her bedroom door.

"You go help her; it's dark as a pocket," said Mrs. Babcock
imperatively to Lois; and the girl followed her mother.

"They act dreadful queer, seems to me," whispered Mrs. Babcock, when
the bedroom door was closed.

"I guess it's jest because they're so surprised to see us," Mrs.
Green whispered back.

"Well, if I ain't wanted, I can go back to where I come from, if I do
have to throw the money away," Mrs. Babcock said, almost aloud. "I
think they act queer, both on 'em. I should think they might seem a
little mite more pleased to see three old neighbors so."

"Mebbe it's the thunder-shower that's kind of dazed 'em," said
Amanda. She herself was much afraid of a thunder-shower. She had her
feet well drawn up, and her hand over her eyes.

"It's a mercy Mis' Field wa'n't killed out in it," said Mrs. Green.

"I don't see what in creation she stayed out so in it for," rejoined
Mrs. Babcock. "She must have seen the cloud comin' up. This is a
pretty big house, ain't it? An' I should think it was furnished nice,
near's I can see, but it's terrible old-fashioned."

Amanda huddled up in her chair, looked warily at the strange shadows
in this unfamiliar room, and wished she were at home.

The storm increased rather than diminished. When Mrs. Field and Lois
returned, all the women, at Mrs. Babcock's order, drew their chairs
close together in the middle of the room.

"I've always heard that was the safest place," said she. "That was
the way old Dr. Barnes always used to do. He had thirteen children;
nine of 'em was girls. Whenever he saw a thunder-shower comin' up, he
used to make Mis' Barnes an' the children go into the parlor, an'
then they'd all set in the middle of the floor, an' he'd offer
prayer. He used to say he'd do his part an' get in the safest place
he knew of, an' then ask the Lord to help him. Mandy Pratt!"

"What say, Mis' Babcock?" returned Amanda, trembling.

"Have you got your hoop-skirt on?"

Amanda sprang up. "Yes, I have. I forgot it!"

"For the land sakes! I should think you'd thought of that, scared as
you pretend to be in a thunder-shower. Do go in the bedroom an' drop
it off this minute! Lois, you go with her."

While Amanda and Lois were gone there was a slight lull in the storm.

"I guess it's kind of lettin' up," said Mrs. Babcock. "This is a nice
house you've got here, ain't it, Mis' Field?"

"Yes, 'tis," replied Jane Field.

"I s'pose there was a good deal of nice furniture in it, wa'n't


"Was there nice beddin'?"


"I s'pose there was plenty of table-cloths an' such things? Have you
bought any new furniture, Mis' Field?"

"No, I ain't," said Mrs. Field. She moved her chair a little to make
room for Lois and Amanda when they returned. Lois sat next her

"I didn't know but you had. I thought mebbe the furniture was kind of
old-fashioned. Have you--oh, ain't it awful?"

The storm had gathered itself like an animal for a fiercer onset. The
room was lit up with a wild play of blue fire. The thunder crashed
closely in its wake.

"Oh, we hadn't ought to talk of anything but the mercy of the Lord
an' our sins!" wailed Mrs. Babcock. "Don't let's talk of anything
else. That struck somewheres near. There's no knowin' where it'll
come next. I never see such a shower. We don't have any like it in
Green River. Oh, I hope we're all prepared!"

"That's the principal thing," said Mrs. Green, in a solemn trembling

Amanda said nothing. She thought of her will; a vision of the nicely
ordered rooms she had left seemed to show out before her in the flare
of the lightning; in spite of her terror it was a comfort to her.

"We'd ought to be thankful in a time like this that we ain't any of
us got any great wickedness on our consciences," said Mrs. Babcock.
"It must be terrible for them that have, thinkin' they may die any
minute when the next flash comes. I don't envy 'em."

"It must be terrible," assented Mrs. Green, like an amen.

"It's bad enough with the sins we've got on all our minds, the best
of us," continued Mrs. Babcock. "Think how them that's broken God's
commandments an' committed murders an' robberies must feel. I
shouldn't think they could stan' it, unless they burst right out an'
confessed to everybody--should you, Mis' Field?"

"I guess so," said Mrs. Field, in a hard voice.

Mrs. Babcock said no more; somehow she and the others felt repelled.
They all sat in silence except for awed ejaculations when now and
then came a louder crash of thunder. All at once, after a sharp
flash, there was a wild clamor in the street; a bell clanged out.

"It's struck! it's struck!" shrieked Mrs. Babcock.

"Oh, it ain't this house, is it?" Amanda wailed.

They all rushed to the windows and flung open the blinds; a red glare
filled the room; a large barn nearly opposite was on fire. They
clutched each other, and watched the red gush of flame. The barn
burned as if lighted at every corner.

"Are there any cows or horses in it?" panted Mrs. Babcock. "Oh, ain't
it dreadful? Are there any, Mis' Field?"

"I dunno," said Mrs. Field.

She stood like a grim statue, the red light of the fire in her face.
Lois was sobbing. Mrs. Green had put an arm around her.

"Don't, Lois, don't," she kept saying, in a solemn, agitated voice.
"The Lord will overrule it all; it is He speakin' in it."

The women watched while the street filled with people, and the barn
burned down. It did not take long. The storm began to lull rapidly.
The thunder came at long intervals, and the hail turned into a gentle
rain. Finally Mrs. Field went out into the kitchen to prepare supper,
and Lois followed her.

"I never see anything like the way she acts," said Mrs. Babcock

"She always was kind of quiet," rejoined Mrs. Green.

"Quiet! She acts as if she'd had thunder an' lightnin' an' hail an'
barns burnt down every day since she's been here. I never see anybody
act so queer."

"I 'most wish I'd stayed to home," said Amanda.

"Well, I wouldn't be backin' out the minute I'd got here, if I was
you," returned Mrs. Babcock sharply. "It's comin' cooler, that's one
thing, an' you won't need that white sacque. I should think you'd
feel kinder glad of it, for them shoulder seams did look pretty long
to what they wear 'em. An' I dare say folks here are pretty dressy. I
declare I shall be kinder glad when supper's ready. I feel real faint
to my stomach, as if I'd like somethin' hearty. I should have gone
into one of them places in Boston if things hadn't been so awful

But when Mrs. Field finally called them out to partake of the meal
which she had prepared, there was little to satisfy an eager
appetite. Nothing but the berries for which she had toiled so hard, a
few thin slices of bread, no butter, and no tea, so little sugar in
the bowl that the guests sprinkled it sparingly on their berries.

"I'll tell you what 'tis," Mrs. Babcock whispered when they were
upstairs in their chambers that night, "Mis' Field has grown tight
since she got all that money. Sometimes it does work that way. I
believe we should starve to death if we stayed here long. If it
wa'n't for gittin' my money's worth, I should be for goin' home
to-morrow. No butter an' no tea after we've come that long journey. I
never heard of such a thing."

"I don't care anything about the butter and the tea," rejoined
Amanda, "but I 'most feel as if I'd better go home to-morrow."

"If," said Mrs. Babcock, "you want to go home instead of gittin' the
good of that excursion ticket, that you can stay a week on, you can,
Amanda Pratt. I'm goin' to stay now, if it kills me."

Chapter IX

The three women from Green River had been six days in Elliot, they
were going to leave the next morning, and Mrs. Field's secret had not
been discovered. Nothing but her ill favor in the village had saved
her. Nobody except Mrs. Jane Maxwell had come to call. Mrs. Babcock
talked and wondered about it a great deal to Mrs. Green and Amanda.

"It's mighty queer, seems to me, that there ain't a soul but that one
old woman set foot inside this house since we've been here," said
she. "It don't look to me as if folks here thought much of Mis'
Field. I know one thing: there couldn't three strange ladies come
visitin' to Green River without I should feel as if I'd ought to go
an' call an' find out who they was, an' pay 'em a little attention,
if I thought anything at all of the folks they was visitin'. There's
considerable more dress here, but I guess, on the whole, it ain't any
better a place to live in than Green River."

The three women had not had a very lively or pleasant visit in
Elliot. Jane Field, full of grim defiance of her own guilt and misery
and of them, was not a successful entertainer of guests. She fed them
as best she could with her scanty resources, and after her house-work
was done, took her knitting-work and sat with them in her gloomy
sitting-room, while they also kept busy at the little pieces of
handiwork they had brought with them.

They talked desperately of Green River and the people there; they
told Mrs. Field of this one and that one whom she had known, and in
whom she had been interested; but she seemed to have forgotten
everybody and everything connected with her old life.

"Ida Starr is goin' to marry the minister in October," Mrs. Babcock
had said the day but one after their arrival. "You know there was
some talk about it before you went away, Mis' Field. You remember
hearin' about it, don't you?"

"I guess I don't remember it," said Mrs. Field.

"Don't remember it? Why, Mis' Field, I should think you'd remember
that! It was town's talk how she followed him up. Well, she's got
him, an' she's been teachin'--you know she had Lois's school--to get
money for her weddin' outfit. They say she's got a brown silk dress
to be married in, an' a new black silk one too. Should you think the
Starrs could afford any such outlay?"

"I dunno as I should," replied Mrs. Field.

When she went out of the room presently, Mrs. Babcock turned to the
others. "She didn't act as if she cared no more about it than nothin'
at all," she said indignantly. "She don't act to me as if she had any
more interest in Green River than Jerusalem, nor the folks that live
there. I keep thinkin' I won't tell her another thing about it. I
never see anybody so changed as she is."

"Mebbe she ain't well," said Mrs. Green. "I think she looks awfully.
She's as thin as a rail, an' she ain't a mite of color. Lois looks

"Mis' Field never did have any flesh on her bones," Mrs. Babcock
rejoined; "an' as for Lois, nothin' ever did ail her but spring
weather an' fussin'. I guess Mis' Field's well enough, but havin' all
this property left her has made a different woman of her. I've seen
people's noses teeter up in the air when their purses got heavy
before now."

"It ain't that," said Amanda.

"What is it, then?" asked Mrs. Babcock sharply.

"I dunno. I know one thing: home's the best place for everybody if
they've got one."

"I don't think 'tis always. I b'lieve when you're off on an excursion
ticket in makin' the best of things, for my part. To-morrow's Sunday,
an' I expect to enjoy the meetin' an' seein' the folks. I shall be
kinder glad, for my part, not to see exactly the same old bonnets an'
made-over silks that I see every Sunday to home. I like a change
sometimes. It puts new ideas into your head, an' I feel as if I had
spunk enough to stan' it."

On Sunday Mrs. Field led her procession of guests into church; and
they, in their best black gowns and bonnets, sat listening to the
sermon, and looking about with decorous and furtive curiosity.

Mrs. Babcock had a handsome fan with spangles on it, and she fanned
herself airily, lifting her head up with the innocent importance of a

She had quite a fine bonnet, and a new mantle with some beaded fringe
on it; when she stirred, it tinkled. She looked around and did not
see another woman with one as handsome. It was the gala moment of her
visit to Elliot. Afterward she was wont to say that when she was in
Elliot she did not go out much, nobody came to the house nor
anything, but she went to meeting and she enjoyed that.

It was the evening following that Mrs. Jane Maxwell came. Mrs. Field,
sitting with her guests, felt a strange contraction of her heart when
she heard the door open.

"Who's that comin'?" asked Mrs. Babcock.

"I guess it's old Mr. Maxwell's brother Henry's wife," replied Mrs.

She arose. Lois went quickly and softly out of the other door. She
felt sure that exposure was near, and her first impulse was to be out
of sound and hearing of it. She sat there in the dark on the front
door-step awhile, then she went into the house. Sitting there in
doubt, half hearing what might be dreadful to hear, was worse than
certainty. She had at once a benumbing terror and a fierce desire
that her mother should be betrayed, and withal a sudden impulse of
loyalty toward her, a feeling that she would stand by her when
everybody else turned against her.

She crept in and sat down. Mrs. Maxwell was talking to Mrs. Babcock
about the state of the church in Elliot. It was wonderful that this
call was made without exposure, but it was. Twice Mrs. Maxwell called
Jane Field "Esther," but nobody noticed it except Amanda, and she
said nothing. She only caught her breath each time with a little

Mrs. Maxwell addressed herself almost wholly to Mrs. Babcock
concerning her daughter, her daughter's husband, and the people of
Elliot. Mrs. Babcock constantly bore down upon her, and swerved her
aside with her own topics. Indeed, all the conversation lay between
these two. There was a curious similarity between them. They belonged
apparently to some one subdivision of human nature, being as birds of
the same feather, and seemed to instinctively recognize this fact.

They were at once attracted, and regarded each other with a kind of
tentative cordiality, which might later become antagonism, for they
were on a level for either friendship or enmity.

Mrs. Maxwell made a long call, as she was accustomed to do. She was a
frequent visitor, generally coming in the evening, and going home
laden with spoil, creeping from cover to cover like a cat. She was
afraid to have her daughter and nephew know of all the booty she
obtained. She had many things snugly tucked away in bureau drawers
and the depths of closets which she had carried home under her shawl
by night. Jane Field was only too glad to give her all for which she
asked or hinted.

To-night, as Mrs. Maxwell took leave of the three strange women
standing in a prim row, she gave a meaning nod to Mrs. Field, who
followed her to the door.

"I was thinkin' about that old glass preserve-dish," she whispered.
"I don't s'pose it's worth much, but if you don't use it ever, I
s'pose I might as well have it. Flora has considerable company now,
an' ours ain't a very good size."

When Mrs. Maxwell had gone out of the yard with the heavy cut-glass
dish pressed firmly against her side under her black silk shawl, Jane
Field felt like one who had had a reprieve from instant execution,
although she had already suffered the slow torture. She went back to
her guests as steady-faced as ever. She was quite sure none of them
had noticed Mrs. Maxwell's calling her Esther, but her eyes were like
a wary animal's as she entered the room, although not a line in her
long pale face was unsteady.

The time went on and nobody said, "Why did she call you Esther
instead of Jane?"

They seemed as usual. Mrs. Babcock questioned her sharply about Mrs.
Maxwell--how much property she had and if her daughter had married
well. Amanda never looked in her face, and said nothing, but she was
often quiet and engrossed in a new tidy she was knitting.

"They don't suspect," Mrs. Field said to herself.

They were going home the next day but one; she went to bed nearly as
secure as she had been for the last three months. Mrs. Maxwell was to
be busy the next day--she had spoken of making pear sauce--she would
not be in again. The danger of exposure from the coming of these
three women to Elliot was probably past. But Jane Field lay awake all
night. Suddenly at dawn she formed a plan; her mind was settled.
There was seemingly no struggle. It was to her as if she turned a
corner, once turned there was no other way, and no question about it.
When it was time, she got up, dressed herself, and went about the
house, as usual. There was no difference in her look or manner, but
all the morning Lois kept glancing at her in a startled,
half-involuntary way; then she would look away again, seeing nothing
to warrant it, but ere long her eyes turned again toward her mother's
face. It was as if she had a subtle consciousness of something there
which was beyond vision, and to which her vision gave the lie. When
she looked away she saw it again, but it vanished when her eyes were
turned, like a black robe through a door.

After dinner, when the dishes were cleared away, the three visitors
sat as usual in company state with their needle-work. Amanda's bag
upstairs was all neatly packed. She would need to unpack it again
that night, but it was a comfort to her. She had scarcely spoken all
day; her thin mouth had a set look.

"Mandy's gettin' so homesick she can't speak," said Mrs. Babcock.
"She can't hardly wait till to-morrow to start, can you, Mandy?"

"No, I can't," replied Amanda.

Mrs. Field was in her bedroom changing her dress when Lois put on her
hat and went down the street with some finished work for the
dressmaker for whom she sewed.

"Where you goin', Lois?" asked Mrs. Babcock, when she came through
the room with her hat on.

"I'm going out a little ways," answered Lois evasively. She had tried
to keep the fact of her sewing for a living from the Green River
women. She knew how people in Elliot talked about it, and estranged
as she was from her mother, she wanted no more reflections cast upon

But Mrs. Babcock peeped out of a window as Lois went down the path.
"She's got a bundle," she whispered. "I tell you what 'tis, I suspect
that girl is sewin' for somebody to earn money. I should think her
mother would be ashamed of herself."

Lois had a half mile to walk, and she stayed awhile at the
dressmaker's to sew. When she started homeward it was nearly three

It was a beautiful afternoon, the house yards were full of the late
summer flowers, the fields were white and gold with arnica and
wild-carrot instead of buttercups and daisies, the blackberries were
ripe along the road-side, and there were sturdy thickets of weeds
picked out with golden buttons of tansy over the stone walls. Lois
stepped along lightly. She did not look like the same girl of three
months ago. It was strange that in spite of all her terrible distress
of mind and hard struggles since she came to Elliot it should have
been so, but it was. Every life has its own conditions, although some
are poisons. Whether it had been as Mrs. Babcock thought, that the
girl had been afflicted with no real malady, only the languor of the
spring, intensified and fostered in some subtle fashion by her
mother's anxiety, or whether it had been the purer air of Elliot that
had brought about the change, to whatever it might have been due, she
was certainly better.

Lois had on an old pink muslin dress that she had worn many a summer,
indeed the tucks had been let down to accord with her growth, and
showed in bars of brighter pink around the skirt. But the color of
the dress became her well, her young shoulders filled out the thin
fabric with sweet curves that overcame the old fashion of its make;
her slender arms showed through the sleeves; and her small fair face
was set in a muslin frill like a pink corolla. She had to pass the
cemetery on her way home. As she came in sight of its white shafts,
and headstones gleaming out from its dark foliage, she met Francis
Arms. She started when she saw him, and said, "Good-afternoon"
nervously; then was passing on, but he stopped her.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"I was going home."

"See here--I don't know as you want to--but--do you remember how we
went to walk in the cemetery that first day after you came?"

Lois nodded. He could see only the tip of her chin under her broad

"Suppose--if you haven't anything else to do--if you are not
busy--that we go in there now a little ways?" said Francis.

"I guess I'd better not," replied Lois, in a trembling voice.

"It's real cool in there."

"I'm afraid I'd better not."

"Well," said Francis, "of course I won't tease you if you don't want

He tried to make his tone quite unconcerned and to smile. He was
passing on, but Lois spoke.

"I might go in there just a minute," she said.

Francis turned quickly, his face lighted up. They walked along
together to the cemetery gate; he opened it and they entered and
passed slowly down the drive-way.

The yard was largely overhung by evergreen trees, which held in their
boughs cool masses of blue gloom. It was cool there, as Francis had
said, although it was quite a warm day. The flowers on the sunny
graves hung low, unless they had been freshly tended, when they stood
erect in dark circles. Some of the old uncared-for graves were
covered with rank growths of grass and weeds, which seemed fairly
instinct with merry life this summer afternoon. Crickets and cicadas
thrilled through them; now and then a bird flew up. It was like a
resurrection stir.

"Let's go where we went that first day," said Francis; "it's always
pleasant there on the bank."

Lois followed him without a word. They sat down on the grass at the
edge of the terrace, and a cool breeze came in their faces from over
the great hollow of the meadows below. The grass on them had been cut
short, and now had dried and turned a rosy color in the sun. The two
kept their eyes turned away from each other, and looked down into the
meadow as into the rosy hollow of a cup; but they seemed to see each
other's faces there.

"It's cool here, isn't it?" said Francis.

"Real cool."

"It always is on the hottest day. There is always a breeze here, if
there isn't anywhere else."

Francis's words were casual, but his voice was unsteady with a tender
tone that seemed to overweight it.

Lois seemed to hear only this tone, and not the words. It was one of
the primitive tones that came before any language was made, and
related to the first necessities of man. Suddenly she had ears for
that only. She did not say anything. Her hands were folded in her lap
quietly, but her fingers tingled.

"Lois," Francis began; then he stopped.

Lois did not look up.

"See here, Lois," he went on, "I don't know as there is much use in
my saying anything. You've hardly noticed me lately. There was one
spell when I thought maybe-- But-- Well, I'm going to ask you, and
have it over with one way or the other. Lois, do you think--well, do
you feel as if you could ever--marry me some time?"

Lois dropped her head down on her hands.

"Now don't you go to feeling bad if you can't," said Francis. "It
won't be your fault. But if you'd just tell me, Lois."

Lois did not speak.

"If you'd just tell me one way or the other, Lois."

"I can't. I can't anyway!" cried Lois then, with a great sob.

"Well, if you can't, don't cry, little girl. There's nothing to cry
about. I can stand it. All the trouble is, it does seem to me that I
could take care of you better than any other fellow on earth, but
maybe that's my conceit, and you'll find somebody else that will do
better than I. Now don't cry."  Francis pulled her hat off gently,
and patted her head. His face was quite white, but he tried to smile.
"Don't cry, dear," he said again. "It was nothing you could help. I
didn't much suppose you liked me. There's nothing much in me to like.
I'm an ordinary kind of a fellow."

Francis got up and walked off a little way.

Lois sobbed harder. Finally she stole a glance at him between her
fingers. She could see his profile quite pale and stern as he stood
on the edge of the terrace. She made a little inarticulate call, and
he turned quickly.

"What is it, Lois?" he asked, coming toward her.

"I didn't say--I--didn't like you," she whispered faintly.


"I didn't say so."

"Lois, do you? Answer me quick."

She hid her face again.

"Lois, you must answer me now."

"I like you well enough, but I can't marry you."

"Lois, is there any fellow in Green River that wants you? Is that the

She shook her head. "I can't ever marry anybody," she said, and her
voice was suddenly quite firm. She wiped her eyes.

Francis sat down beside her. "O Lois, you do love me, after all?"

"I can't marry you," said she.

"Why not, dear?"

"I can't. You mustn't ask me why."

Francis looked down at her half laughing. "Some dreadful obstacle in
the way?"

She nodded solemnly.

Francis put his arm around her. "Oh, my dear," he said, "don't you
know obstacles go for nothing if you do like me, after all? Wait a
little and you'll find out. O Lois, are you sure you do like me? You
are so pretty."

"I can't," repeated Lois, trembling.

"Suppose this obstacle were removed, dear, you would then?"

"It never can be."

"But if it were, you would? Yes, of course you would. Then I shall
remove it, you depend upon it, I shall, dear. Lois, I liked you the
minute I saw you, and, it's terribly conceited, but I do believe you
liked me a little. Dear, if it ever can be, I'll take care of you all
my life."

The two sat there together, and the long summer afternoon passed
humming and singing with bees and birds, and breathing sweetly
through the pine branches. They themselves were as a fixed heart of
love in the midst of it, and all around them in their graves lay the
dead who had known and gone beyond it all, but nobody could tell if
they had forgotten.

Chapter X

When Lois left home that afternoon her mother had been in her bedroom
changing her dress. When she came out she had on her best black
dress, her black shawl and gloves, and her best bonnet. The three
women stared at her. She stood before them a second without speaking.
The strange look, for which Lois had watched her face, had appeared.

"Why, what is the matter, Mis' Field?" cried Mrs. Babcock. "Where be
you going?"

"I'm goin' out a little ways," replied Mrs. Field. Then she raised
her voice suddenly. "I've got something to say to all of you before I
go," said she. "I've been deceivin' you, and everybody here in
Elliot. When I came down here, they all took me for my sister, Esther
Maxwell, and I let them think so. They've all called me Esther
Maxwell here. That's how I got the money. Old Mr. Maxwell left it to
Flora Maxwell if my sister didn't outlive him. I shouldn't have had a
cent. I stole it. I thought my daughter would die if we didn't have
it an' get away from Green River; but that wa'n't any excuse. Edward
Maxwell had that fifteen hundred dollars of my husband's, an' I never
had a cent of it; but that wa'n't any excuse. I thought I'd jest stay
here an' carry it out till I got the money back; but that wa'n't any
excuse. I ain't spent a cent of the money; it's all put away just as
it was paid in, in a sugar-bowl in the china closet; but that ain't
any excuse. I took it on myself to do justice instead of the Lord,
an' that ain't for any human bein' to do. I ain't Esther Maxwell. I'm
brought up short. I ain't Esther Maxwell!"  Her voice rose to a stern

The three women stared at her, then at each other. Their faces were
white. Amanda was catching her breath in faint gasps. Jane Field
rushed out of the room. The door closed heavily after her.

Three wild, pale faces huddled together in a window watched her out
of the yard. Mrs. Babcock called weakly after her to come back, but
she kept on. She went out of the yard and down the street. At the
first house she stopped, went up to the door and rang the bell. When
a woman answered her ring, she looked at her and said, "I ain't
Esther Maxwell!"  Then she turned and went down the walk between the
rows of marigolds and asters, and the woman stood staring after her
for a minute, then ran in, and the windows filled with wondering

Jane Field stopped at the next house with the same message. After she
left a woman pelted across the yard in a panic to compare notes with
her neighbors. She kept on down the street, and she stopped at every
door and said, "I ain't Esther Maxwell."

Now and then somebody tried to delay her to question her and obtain
an explanation, but she broke away. There was about her a terrible
mental impetus which intimidated. People stood instinctively out of
her way, as before some rushing force which might overwhelm them.

Daniel Tuxbury followed her out to the street; then he fell back.
Mrs. Jane Maxwell caught hold of her dress, but she let go, and
leaned trembling over her iron gate looking after the relentless
black figure speeding to the next door.

She went on and on, all the summer afternoon, and canvassed the
little village with her remorse and confession of crime. Finally the
four words which she said at the doors seemed almost involuntary.
They became her one natural note, the expression of her whole life.
It was as if she had never said any others. At last, going along the
street, she repeated them to everybody she met. Some she had told
before, but she did not know it. She said them to a little girl in a
white frock, with her hair freshly curled, carrying a doll, and she
ran away crying with fright. She said them to three barefooted boys
loping along in the dust, with berry-pails, and they laughed and
turned around and mocked her, calling the words after her. When she
went up the path to the Maxwell house, she said them where the shadow
of a pine-tree fell darkly in front of her like the shadow of a man.
She said them when she stood before the door of the house whose
hospitality she had usurped. There was a little crowd at her heels,
but she did not notice them until she was entering the door. Then she
said the words over to them: "I ain't Esther Maxwell."

She entered the sitting-room, the people following. There were her
three old friends and neighbors, the minister and his wife, Daniel
Tuxbury, his sister and her daughter, Mrs. Jane Maxwell and her
daughter, and her own Lois. She faced them all and said it again: "I
ain't Esther Maxwell."

The lawyer jerked himself forward; his face was twitching. "This
woman's mind is affected," he declared with loud importance. "She is
Esther Maxwell. I will swear to it in any court. I recognize her, and
I never forget a face."

"I ain't Esther Maxwell," said Jane Field, in her voice that was as
remorseless and conclusive as fate.

Lois pressed forward and clung to her.

"Mother!" she moaned; "mother!"

Then for once her mother varied her set speech. "Lois wa'n't to
blame," she said; "I want you to know it, all of you. Lois wa'n't to
blame. She didn't know until after I'd done it. She wanted to tell,
but I told her they'd put me in prison. Lois wa'n't to blame. I ain't
Esther Maxwell."

"O mother, don't, don't!" Lois sobbed.

She hung about her mother's neck, and pressed her lips to that pale
wrinkled face, whose wrinkles seemed now to be laid in stone. Not a
muscle of Jane Field's face changed. She kept repeating at intervals,
in precisely the same tone, her terrible under-chord to all the
excitement about her: "I ain't Esther Maxwell."

Some of the women were crying. Amanda Pratt sat sewing fast, with her
mouth set. She clung to her familiar needle as if it were a rope to
save her from destruction. Francis Arms had come in, and stood close
to Lois and her mother.

Suddenly Jane Maxwell spoke. She was pale, and her head-dress was

"I call this pretty work," said she.

Then Mrs. Babcock faced her. "I should call it pretty work for
somebody else besides poor Mis' Field," she cried. "I'd like to know
what business your folks had takin' her money an' keepin' it. She
wa'n't goin' to take any more than belonged to her, an' she had a
perfect right to, accordin' to my way of thinkin'."

Mrs. Maxwell gasped. Flora laid her hand on her arm when she tried to
speak again.

"I'm goin' to tell her how I've been without a decent dress, an' how
I've been luggin' my own things out of this house, an' now I've got
to lug 'em all back again," she whispered defiantly.

"Mother, you keep still," said Flora.

Mrs. Green went across the room and put her arm around Lois, standing
by her mother. "Let's you an' me get her in her bedroom, an' have her
lay down on the bed, an' try an' quiet her," she whispered. "She's
all unstrung. Mebbe she'll be better."

Mrs. Field at once turned toward her.

"I ain't Esther Maxwell," said she.

"O Mis' Field! oh, poor woman! it ain't for us to judge you,"
returned Mrs. Green, in her tender, inexpressibly solemn voice.
"Come, Lois."

"Yes, that'll be a good plan," chimed in Mrs. Babcock. "She'd better
go in her bedroom where it's quiet, or she'll wind up with a fever.
There's too many folks here."

"I wonder if some of my currant wine wouldn't be good for her?" said
Mrs. Jane Maxwell, with an air of irrepressible virtue.

"She don't want none of your currant wine," rejoined Mrs. Babcock
fiercely. "She's suffered enough by your family."

"I guess you needn't be so mighty smart," returned Mrs. Maxwell,
jerking her arm away from Flora. "I dunno of anything she's suffered.
I should think Flora an' me had been the ones to suffer, an' now we
shan't never go to law, nor make any fuss about it. I ain't goin' to
stay here an' be talked to so any longer if I know, especially by
folks that ain't got any business meddlin' with it, anyway. I suppose
this is my daughter's house, an' I've got a perfect right in it, but
I'm a-goin'."

Mrs. Jane Maxwell went out, her ribbons and silken draperies
fluttering as if her own indignation were a wind, but Flora stayed.

The women led Jane Field into her little bedroom, took off her bonnet
and shawl and dress as if she were dead, and made her lie down. They
bathed her head with camphor, they plied her with soothing arguments,
but she kept on her one strain. She was singularly docile in all but
that. Mrs. Green dropped on her knees beside the bed and prayed. When
she said amen, Jane Field called out her confession as if in the ear
of God. They sent for the doctor and he gave her a soothing draught,
and she slept. The women watched with her, as ever and anon she
stirred and murmured in her sleep, "I ain't Esther Maxwell."  And she
said it when she first awoke in the morning.

"She's sayin' it now," whispered Mrs. Babcock to Mrs. Green, "and I
believe she'll say it her whole life."

And Jane Field did. The stern will of the New England woman had
warped her whole nature into one groove. Gradually she seemed more
like herself, and her mind was in other respects apparently clear,
but never did she meet a stranger unless she said for greeting, "I
ain't Esther Maxwell."

And she said it to her own daughter on her wedding-day, when she came
in her white dress from the minister's with Francis. The new joy in
Lois's face affected her like the face of a stranger, and she turned
on her and said, "I ain't Esther Maxwell."


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