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´╗┐Title: Abijah's Bubble - 1909
Author: Smith, F. Hopkinson
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 "Abijah's Bubble - 1909" ***

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ABIJAH'S BUBBLE

By F. Hopkinson Smith

1909


Ezekiel Todd, her dry, tight-fisted, lean father, had named her, bawling
it out so loud that the more suitable, certainly the more euphonious,
"Evangeline," proffered in a timid whisper by her faded and somewhat
romantic mother, was completely smothered.

"I baptize thee, Evang--" began the minister, when Ezekiel's voice rose
clear:

"Abijah, I tell ye, Parson--A-b-i-j-a-h--Abijah!" And Abijah it was.

The women were furious.

"Jes' like Zeke Todd. He's too ornery to live. I come mighty near
speakin' right out, and hadn't been that Martha held on to me I would.
Call her Abbie, for short, Mrs. Todd," exclaimed Deacon Libby's wife,
"and shame him."

Abbie never minded it. She was too little to remember, she always said,
and there were few people in the village of Taylorsville present at the
christening who did.

Old Si Spavey, however, never forgot. "You kin call yourself Abbie if
you choose," he used to say, "and 'tain't none o' my business, but I
was in the meetin'-house and heard Zeke let drive, and b'gosh it sounded
just like a buzz-saw strikin' the butt-end of a log. 'Abijah! _Abijah!_
he hollered. Shet Parson Simmons up same's a steel trap. Gosh, but it
was funny!"

Only twice since the christening had she to face the consequences of
her father's ill temper. This was after his death, when the needs of
the poor mother made a small mortgage imperative and she must sign as a
witness. It came with a certain shock, but there was no help for it, and
she went through the ordeal bravely, dotting the "i" and giving a little
flourish to the tail of the "h".

The second time was when she signed her application for the position of
postmistress of the village. The big mill-owner, Hiram Taylor, brought
her the paper.

"Got to put it all in, Miss Abbie," he said with a laugh. "Shut your
eyes and sign it and then forget it. Awful, ain't it?--but that's the
law, and there ain't no way of getting round it, I guess."

Hiram Taylor had left the village years before, rather suddenly, some
had thought, when he was a strapping young fellow of twenty-two or
three, and had moved West and stayed West until he came back the year
before with a wife and a houseful of children. Then the lawyers in the
village got busy, and pretty soon some builders came down from Boston,
only fifty miles away, and then a lot of bricklayers; and some cars were
switched off on the siding, loaded with lumber and lath and brick, and
next a train-load of machinery, and so the mills were running again
with Hiram sole owner and in full charge. One of the first things he did
after his arrival--the following morning, really--was to look up Abbie's
mother. He gave a littie start when he saw how shabby the cottage
looked; no paint for years--steps rotting--window-blinds broken, with a
hinge loose. He gave a big one when a thin, hollow-chested woman, gray
and spare, opened the door at his knock.

"Hiram!" she gasped, and the two went inside, and the door was shut.

All she said when Abbie came home from school--she was teaching that
year--was: "The new mill-owner came to see me. His name's Taylor."

That same day a heavy-set man with gray hair and beard, and jet-black
eyebrows shading two kindly eyes, got out of his wagon, hitched his
horse to a post in front of the school-house and stepped to Abbie's
desk.

"I'm Hiram Taylor, up to the mills. Going to send one of my girls to
you to-morrow and thought I'd drop in." Then he looked around and said:
"Want another coat of whitewash on these walls, don't you, and--and
a new stove? This don't seem to be drawin' like it ought to. If them
trustees won't get ugly about it, I got a new stove up to the mill I
don't want, and I'll send it down." And he did. The trustees shrugged
their shoulders, but made no objections. If Hiram Taylor wanted to throw
his money away it was none of their business. Abbie Todd never said she
was cold--not as they had "heard on."

When the new school building was finished--a brick structure with stone
trimmings, steam-heated, and varnished desks and seats--the craze for
the new and up-to-date so dominated the board that they paid Abbie a
month's salary in advance and then replaced her with a man graduate from
Concord. Abbie took her dismissal as a matter of course. Nothing good
ever lasted long. When she went up one step she always slid back two. It
had been that way all her life.

Hiram heard of it and came rattling into the village, where he expressed
himself at a town meeting in language distinguished for its clearness
and force. The result was Abbie's application for the position of
postmistress.

This time he didn't consult the trustees or anybody else. He wrote a
private note to the Postmaster-General, who was his friend, and the
appointment came by return mail.

Mr. Taylor would often chat with her through the little window with
which she held converse with the public--he often came himself for his
mail--but she made no mention of her state of mind. She was earning her
living, and she was for the time content. He had helped her and she was
grateful--more than this it was not her habit to dwell upon. One thing
she was convinced of: she wouldn't keep the position long.

Her mother knew her misgivings, and so did a small open wood fire in
the sitting-room. Many a night the two would croon together. The
mother shrivelled and faded; Abbie herself being over thirty--not
so fresh-looking as she had been--not so pretty--never had been very
pretty. Her mother knew, too, how hard she had always struggled to do
something better; how she had studied drawing at the normal school when
she was preparing to be a teacher; and how she had spent weeks in the
elaboration of wall-paper patterns, which she had sent to the Decorative
Art Society in Boston, only to have them returned to her in the same
wrapper in which they had been mailed, with the indorsement "not
suitable." That's why she didn't think she was going to be postmistress
long. Far into the night these talks would continue-long after the other
neighbors had gone to bed--nine o'clock maybe--sometimes as late as
ten--an unheard-of thing in Taylorsville, where everybody was up at
daylight.

Then one day an extraordinary thing happened--extraordinary so far as
her modest post-office was concerned. A poster appeared on the wall of
her office--a huge card, big as the top of a school desk, bearing in
large type this legend: "Rock Creek Copper Company. Keep & Co., Agents,"
and at the bottom, in small type, directions as to the best way of
securing the stock before the lists were closed. She had noticed the
name of the company emblazoned on many of the communications addressed
to people in the village--the richer ones--but here it was in cold
type--"hot type," for that matter, for it was in flaming red--on the
wall, in front of her window.

Abbie lifted her head in surprise when she saw what had been done
without even "By your leave." She had found auction sales, sheriff's
notices and tax warnings opposite her window, but never copper mines.
The longer she looked at it the better she liked it. There was a cheery
bit of color in its blazing letters, and she was partial to bits of
color. That's why she kept plants all winter in the little sitting-room
at home, and nursed one cactus that gave out a scarlet bloom once in so
many months.

It was Miss Maria Furgusson, of Boston--summer boarder at the next
cottage; second floor, six dollars a week, including washing--that
revived, kept alive, in fact, fanned to fever heat, Abbie's first
impression of the poster. Maria called for her mail, and the intimacy
had gone so far that before the week was out "Miss Todd" had been
replaced by "Abbie" and then "Ab," and Miss Furgusson by "Maria"--the
postmistress being too dignified for further abbreviation.

"Oh, there's our lovely copper mine--where did you get it? Who put it
up?"

Maria was a shirt-waisted young woman with a bang and a penetrating
voice. She had charge of the hosiery counter in a department store and
could call "Cash" in tones that brought instant service. This, with her
promptness, had endeared her to many impatient customers--especially
those from out of town who wanted to catch trains. It was through one
of these "hayseeds" that she secured board at so reasonable a price in
Taylorsville during her vacation.

"What do you know about it?" inquired Abbie. Such things were Greek to
her.

"Know? I've got twenty shares, and I'm going to have money to burn
before long."

Abbie bent her head, and took in as much of Miss Furgusson as she could
see through the square hole in her window.

"Who gave it to you?" The idea of a girl like Maria ever having money
enough to buy anything of that kind never occurred to her.

"Nobody; I bought it; paid two dollars a share for it and now it's up
to three, and Mr. Slathers, our floor-walker, says it's going to
twenty-five. I've got a profit of twenty dollars on mine now."

Abbie made a mental calculation; twenty dollars was a considerable part
of her month's salary.

"And everybody in our store has got some. Mr. Slathers has made eight
hundred dollars, and I know for sure that Miss Henders is going to leave
the cloak department and set up a typewriting place, because she told me
so; she's got a brother in the feed business who staked her."

"Staked her? What's that?"

"Loaned her the money," answered Maria, a certain pity in her voice for
one so green and countrified.

"How do you get it?" Abbie's eyes were shining like the disks of a brass
letter scale and almost as large--they were still upon Maria.

"The money?"

"No, the stock."

"Why, send Mr. Keep the money and he buys the stock and sends you back
the certificate. Want to see mine? I've got it pinned in--Here it is."

Abbie opened the door of the glass partition and beckoned to the
shopgirl. She rarely allowed visitors inside, but this one seemed to
hold the key to a new world.

The girl slipped her fingers inside her shirtwaist and drew out a square
piece of paper bearing the inscription of the poster in big letters. At
the bottom of the paper a section of cement drain-pipe poured forth a
steady stream of water, and the whole was underlined by a motto meaning
"Peace and Plenty"--of water, no doubt.

Abbie looked at the beautifully engraved document and a warm glow
suffused her face. Was it as easy as this? Did this little scrap of
paper mean rest and the spreading of wings, and freedom for her
mother? Then she caught her breath. She hadn't any brother in the feed
business---nor anywhere else, for that matter. How would she get the
money? She had only her salary; her mother earned little or nothing--the
interest on the mortgage would be due in a day or so; thank God it was
nearly paid off. Then her heart rose in her throat. Mr. Taylor! Why he
was so kind she never knew--but he was. But if he insisted as he had
with the store and the position in the post-office! No--he had done too
much already. Besides, she could never repay him if anything went wrong.
No--this was not her chance for freedom.

Abbie handed the certificate back. "Queer way of making money," was all
she said as she reached for her hat and shawl, and went home to dinner.

That evening after supper, the two crooning over the fire, Abbie talked
it over with her mother--not the stock--not a word of that--but of how
Maria had made a lot of money, and how she wished she had a little of
her own so she could make some, too. This the mother retailed, the next
morning, to her neighbor, who met the expressman, who thereupon sent it
rolling through the village. In both its diluted and enriched form the
neighbor had helped. The story was as follows:

"That Boston girl who was boardin' up to Skitson's had a thousand
dollars in the bank-made it all in a month--so Abbie Todd, who knew her,
said. It was a dead secret how she made it, but Abbie said if she had
a few hundred dollars she could get rich, too. Beats all how smart some
girls is gettin' to be nowadays."

The next morning Mr. Taylor called for his mail. He generally sent a boy
down from the mill, but this time he came himself.

"If you see anything lying around loose, Miss Abbie, where you can pick
up a few dollars--and you must now and then--so many people going in and
out from Boston and other places--and want a couple of hundred to help
out, let me know. I'll stake you, and glad to."

In answer, Abbie passed his mail through the square window. "Thank you,
Mr. Taylor," was all she said. "I won't forget."

Hiram fingered his mail and hung around for a minute. Then with the
remark: "Guess that expressman was lying--I'll find out, anyway," he got
into his buggy and drove away.

"He'll _stake_ me, will he?" said Abbie thoughtfully. "That's what
the feed man did for Maria's friend." With the stake she could get the
stock, and with the stock the clouds would lift! Perhaps her turn was
coming, after all.

Then she resumed her work pigeon-holing the morning's mail. One was from
Keep & Co., judging from the address in the corner, and was directed to
Maria Furgusson, care Miss Skitson--a thick, heavy letter. This she laid
aside.

"Yes, a big one," she called from the window as she passed it out to
that young woman five minutes later. "About the stock, isn't it!"

The girl tore open the envelope and gave a little scream.

"Oh! Gone up to ten dollars a share! Oh, cracky!--how much does that
make? Here, Ab--do you figure--twenty shares at--Ten! Why, that's two
hundred dollars! What?--it can't be! Yes, it is. Oh, that's splendid!
I'm going right back to answer his letter"--and she was gone.

When the supper things were washed up that night, and the towels hung
before the stove to dry, and the faded old mother was resting in her
chair by the fire, Abbie told her the facts as they existed. She had
seen the certificate with her own eyes--had had it in her hand and she
had read the letter from the broker, Mr. Keep. It was all true--every
word of it. Maria had borrowed forty dollars and now she could pay it
back and have one hundred and sixty dollars left--more than she herself
could earn in three months.

"If I could get somebody to lend me a little money, Mother," she
continued, "I might--"

The girl stopped and stole a look at her mother sitting hunched up in
her chair, her elbows on her knees, the chin resting on the palms of
her hands, the angle of her thin shoulders outlined through the coarse,
worsted shawl--always a pathetic attitude to the daughter:--this
old mother broken with hard work and dulled by a life of continued
disappointment.

"I was saying, Mother, perhaps I might get somebody to lend me a little
money, and then--"

The figure straightened up. "Don't do it, child!" There was a note
almost of terror in her voice. "Don't you ever do it! That was what
ruined my father. Abbie--promise me--promise me, I say! You won't--you
can't."

The girl laid her hand tenderly on her mother's shoulder.'

"Why, Mother, dear--why, what's the matter? You look as if you had seen
a ghost."

Mrs. Todd drew her shawl closer about her shoulders and leaned nearer to
the girl, her voice trembling:

"It's worse than a ghost, child--it's a _debt!_ Debt along of money you
never worked for; money somebody gives you sort o' friendly-like, and
when you can't pay it back, they bite you, like dogs. No--let's sit here
and starve first, child. We can shut the door and nobody 'll know we're
hungry." She straightened up and threw the shawl from her shoulders.
Terror had taken the place of an undefined dread.

"You ain't gettin' discouraged, Abbie, be you?" she continued in a
calmer tone. "Don't get discouraged, child. I got discouraged when I
was younger than you, and I ain't never been happy since. You never knew
why, and I ain't goin' to tell you now, but it's been black night all
these years--all 'cept you. You've been the only thing made me live. If
you get discouraged, child, I can't stand it. Say you ain't, Abbie--let
me hear you say it--please Abbie!"

The girl rose from her chair and stood looking down at her mother. The
sudden outburst, so unusual in one so self-restrained, the unmistakable
suffering in the tones of her voice, thrilled and alarmed her. Her first
impulse was to throw her arms about her mother's neck and weep with her.
This had been her usual custom when the load seemed too heavy for her
mother to bear. Then the more practical side of her nature asserted
itself. It was strength, not sympathy, she wanted. Slipping her hand
under her mother's arm, she raised her to her feet, and in a firm,
decided voice, quite as a hospital nurse would speak to a restless
patient, she said:

"You'd better not sit up any longer, Mother dear. Come, I'll help put
you to bed."

There was no resistance. Whatever suddenly aroused memory had stirred
the outburst, the paroxysm was over now.

"Well, maybe I am tired, child," was all she said, and the two left the
room.

"Poor, dear old Mother! Poor, tired old Mother!" the girl remarked to
herself when she had resumed her place by the dying fire. "Wonder if
I'll get that way when I'm as old as she is!"

Then the hopelessness of the struggle she was making rose before her.
How much longer would this go on? Up at six o'clock; a cup of coffee and
a piece of bread; then the monotonous sorting of letters and papers--the
ceaseless answering of stupid questions; then half an hour for dinner;
then the routine again till train time, and home to the mother and the
two chairs by the fire, only to begin the dreary tread-mil! again the
next morning. And with this the daily growing older--older; her face
thinner and more pinched, the shoulders sharp; her hair gray, head bent,
just as her poor mother's was, and, with all that, hardly money enough
to buy herself a pair of shoes--never enough to give her dear mother the
slightest luxury.

Discouraged! Hadn't she reason to be?

The next morning Hiram walked into the post-office and called to Abbie,
through the square window, to open the door. Once inside he loosened his
fur driving-coat, took out a long, black wallet, picked out a thin slip
of paper and laid it on Abbie's desk.

"I have been thinking over what I told you yesterday. There's a check
drawn to your order for two hundred dollars. All you got to do is to put
your name on the back of it and it's money. It's good--never knew one
that warn't."

The girl started back.

"I didn't ask you for it. I don't--"

"I know you didn't, and when you did it would be too late maybe--got to
catch things sometimes when they're flying past. I don't know whether
it's those town lots they're booming over to Haddam's Corners, and I
don't care, but if that ain't enough there's more where that came from.
Good-day!" and he slammed the glass door behind him. Abbie picked up
the thin slip of paper and studied every line on its face, from the red
number in the upper corner to "Hiram Taylor" in a bold, round hand. Then
her eyes lighted on "Abijah Todd or order."

Yes, it was hers--all of it. Not to spend, but to _make money out of_.
Then her mother's words of warning rang clear: "Worse than a ghost, my
child!" Should she--could she take it? She turned to lay it in a drawer
until she could hand it back to him and her eyes fell upon the poster
framed in by the square of her window. She stopped and shut the drawer.
Was she never to have her chance? Would the treadmill never end? Would
the dear mother's head never be lifted? Folding the check carefully,
she loosened the top button of her dress and pushed it inside. There it
burned like a hot coal.

*****

That night, after putting her mother to bed, she pinned a shawl over her
head, threw her mother's cloak about her shoulders, sneaked into Maria's
house, and crept up into her friend's room like a burglar. What was to
be done must be done quickly, but intelligently.

"I've got some money," she exclaimed to the astonished girl who, half
undressed, sat writing at her table. (It was after nine o'clock--an
unheard-of hour for visiting.) "How much stock can I buy for two hundred
dollars?" and she shook out the check, keeping her finger over the
signature.

"Twenty shares," answered Maria.

"How do I get it?"

"Send the money to Keep & Co. Oh, you got a check! Well, put 'Keep &
Co.' on--here, I'll do it, and you sign your name underneath. And I'll
write 'em a letter and tell 'em I helped sell it to you. Oh, ain't I
glad, Ab. You must be getting awful big pay to have saved all that. Wish
I--"

"How long before I know?" She had not much time to talk--her mother
might wake and call her.

"They'll telephone you. You got a long-distance, ain't you, in the
office? Yes, I seen it."

Abbie took the name of the senior partner, replaced the check, and was
by her own fire again. The mother hadn't stirred.

All the next day she waited for the rattle of the bell. At three o'clock
she sprang to the 'phone.

"This Miss Todd--postmistress?"

"Yes."

"Got your check--bought you twenty Rock Creek at ten---mail you
certificate to-morrow."

The following morning the certificate took the place of the
check--pinned tight. She could feel it crinkle when she walked. All
that day she moved about her office like one dazed. There was no
exaltation--no thrill of triumph. A dull, undefined terror took
possession of her. What if the stock went down in price and she couldn't
pay back the money? Of whom, then, could she borrow? Repay Hiram she
must and would. Again her mother's warning words rang in her ears. Then
came the resolve never to tell her. If it went right she would add to
the dear woman's comforts in silence. If it went wrong--but it couldn't
go wrong: Maria had said so: the papers had said so: the posters said
so--everybody and everything said so.

As the day wore on she became so nervous that she mixed the letters in
their pigeon-holes.

"That ain't for me, Miss Todd," was called out half a dozen times when B
or F or S letters had gone into the wrong box. "Guess you must a-got it
in the B's by mistake. Woolgathering, ain't ye?"

Maria was her only confidante and her only comfort. The Boston girl
laughed when she listened to her fears, and braced her up with fairy
stories of the winnings of Miss Henders and Slathers and the money they
were making; but the relief was only temporary.

Soon the strain began to show itself in her face. "You ain't sick,
Abbie, be you?" asked the mother. "No? Well, you look kind o' peaked.
Don't work too hard, child. Maybe something's worryin' you--something
you ain't told me. No man I don't know about, is there?" and the
mother's sad eyes searched the daughter's.

To all these inquiries the girl only shook her head, adding that the
down mail was late and a big one and she had hurried to sort it.

When the Boston mail arrived the next morning and was dumped from its
bag upon her sorting-table, her own name flamed out on one of Keep &
Co.'s envelopes.

Abbie broke the seal and devoured its contents with bated breath, her
fingers trembling:

We are happy to inform you that the last sales of Rock Creek ranged from
13 to 14 3/4--15 bid at close. We confidently expect the stock will sell
at 20 before the week is out. We shall be glad to receive your further
orders as well as those of any of your friends.

Abbie's heart gave a bound; the blood mounted to the roots of her hair.

"Fifteen--twenty--why--why! that's two hundred dollars for me after
paying Mr. Taylor." The chill of doubt was over now. The fever of hope
had set in. "Two hundred! Two hundred!" she kept repeating, as her
fingers caressed the certificate snuggling close to her heart.

When she swung wide the porch door and threw her arms around her
astonished mother's neck, the refrain was still on her lips. It had
been years since the hard-working girl had given way to any such joyous
outburst.

"Oh, I'm so happy! Don't ask me why--but I am!"

The mother kissed her in reply and patted the girl's shoulder. "There
_is_ somebody," she sighed to herself. "And they've made up again"--and
a prayer trembled on her lips.

Her joy now became contagious. The expressman noticed it; so did Mrs.
Skitson and the storekeeper. So did Mr. Taylor, who stopped his wagon
and leaned half out to shake her hand.

"You do look wholesome this morning, and no mistake, Miss Abbie" (he
always called her so). "Don't forget what I told you--lots more where
that come from"--and he drove on muttering to himself: "Ain't no finer
woman in Taylorsville than Abbie Todd."

Keep & Co. letters arrived now by almost every mail. With these came
a daily stock-list printed on tissue-paper, giving the sales on the
exchange. Rock Creek was still holding its own between 13 and 15. "From
my brokers," she would say with a smile to Maria, falling into the ways
of the rich.

One of these letters, marked "Private and confidential," she took to
Maria. It was in the writer's own hand and signed by the senior member
of the firm. Literally translated into uncommercial language by that
female financier, it meant that Miss Todd, "_on notice from Keep & Co_."
should write her name at the bottom of the transfer blank on the back
of the certificate and mail it to them. This done they would buy her
another ten shares of stock, using her certificate as additional margin.
There was no question that Rock Creek would sell at forty before the
month ended, and they did not want her to be "left" when the "melon was
cut."

Another and a newer and a more vibrant song now rose to her lips. Forty
for Rock Creek meant four--six--yes, eight hundred dollars--with two
hundred to Mr. Taylor! Yes! Six hundred clear! The scrap of paper in
her bosom was no longer a receipt for money paid, but an Aladdin's lamp
producing untold wealth.

That night the music burst from her lips before she had taken off her
cloak and hat.

"You made six hundred dollars, Abbie! _You!_" cried the mother, with a
note of wonder in her voice.

Then the whole story came out; her mother's arms about her, the pale
cheek touching her own, tears of joy streaming from both their eyes.
First Maria's luck, then that of her fellow-clerks; then the letters,
one after another, spread out upon her lap, the lamp held close, so the
dim eyes could read the easier--down to the stake-money of two hundred
dollars.

"And who gave you that, child? Miss Furgusson?" The mother's heart was
still fluttering. After all, the sun was shining.

"No; Mr. Taylor."

The mother put her hands to her head.

"_Hiram!_ You ain't never borrowed any money of Hiram, have you?" she
cried in an agonized voice.

"But, Mother dear, he forced it upon me. He came--"

"Yes, that's what he did to me. Give it back to him, child, now,
'fore you sleep. Don't wait a minute. Borrowed two hundred dollars of
Hiram--and my child, too! Oh, it can't be! It can't be!"

The mother dropped into a chair and rocked herself to and fro. The girl
started to explain, to protest, to comfort her with promises; then she
crossed to where her mother was sitting, and stood patient until the
paroxysm should pass. A sudden fright now possessed her; these attacks
were coming on oftener; was her mother's mind failing? Was there
anything serious? Perhaps it would have been better not to tell her at
all.

The mother motioned Abbie to a chair.

"Sit down, child, and listen to me. I ain't crazy; I ain't out of my
head--I'm only skeered."

"But, Mother dear, I can get the money any day I want it. All I've got
to do is to telephone them and a check comes the next day."

"Yes, I know--I know." She was still trembling, her voice hardly
audible. "But that ain't what skeers me; it's Hiram. He done the same
thing to me last December. Come in here and laid the bills on that table
behind you and begged me to take 'em; he'd heard about the mortgage; he
wanted to fix the house up, too. I put my hands behind my back and got
close to the wall there. I couldn't touch it, and he begged and begged,
and then he went away. Next he went to the school-house, and you know
what he did. That's why you got the post-office."

A light broke in upon the girl. "And you've known him before?"

"Yes, forty years ago. He loved me and I loved him. We had bad luck, and
my father got into trouble. He and Hiram's father were friend's; been
boys together, and Hiram's father loaned him money. I don't know how
much--I never knew, but considerable money. My father couldn't pay, and
then come bad blood. The week before Hiram and I were to be called in
church they struck each other, and when Hiram took my father's part his
father drove him out of his house, and Hiram hadn't nothing, and went
West; and I never heard from him nor saw him till the day he come in
here last fall. Don't you see, child, you got to take him back his
money?"

Abbie squared her shoulders. The blood of the Puritan was in her eyes.
This was a fight for home and freedom. Her flintlock was between the
cracks of her log cabin. The old mother, with the other women and
children, lay huddled together in the far corners. This was no time for
surrender!

"No!" she cried in a firm voice. "I won't give it back, not till I get
good and ready. Mr. Taylor loaned me that two hundred dollars to make
money with, and he won't get it again till I do." She wondered at her
courage, but it seemed the only way to save her mother from herself.
"What happened forty years ago has nothing to do with what's happening
to-day."

The look in the girl's eyes; her courage; the ring of independence in
her voice, the sureness and confidence of her words, began to have their
effect. The Genie of the Lamp was at work: the life-giving power of Gold
was being pumped from her own into the poor old woman's poverty-shrunken
veins.

"And you don't think, child, that it will bring you trouble?"

"Bring trouble!" No!

The cabin was saved; the enemy was in retreat. She could sing once
more! "It will bring nothing but joy and freedom, you precious old
Mother! Do you know what I'm going to do?"

"What, child?"

"I'm going to pay off the mortgage, every cent of it."

She said "I" now; it had been "we" all the years before: Keep rubbing,
dear old Genie. "Then I'll fix up the house and paint it, and get you
some nice clothes, and a new cook stove that isn't all rusted out----"

"You won't resign, will you, Abbie--and leave me?" the mother exclaimed.
The chill of possible desertion suddenly crept over her, (The Genie is
often unmindful of others, especially the poor.)

"Leave you! What, now? You darling Mother. As to resigning, I may later.
But I'm going to Boston when I get my vacation and stay a week with
Maria, and go to the opera if I never do another thing. Oh! just you
wait, Mother, you and I will lead a different life after this."

"And you think, Abbie, you'll make more than six hundred dollars?"
Already the mother's veins were expanding--wonderful elixir, this
Extract of Gold.

"Six hundred! Why, if the stock goes to what they call par--and that's
where they all go, so Maria says--I'll have--have--two thousand, less
Mr. Taylor's two hundred--I'll have eighteen hundred dollars!" The little
fellow in her bosom was rubbing away now with all his might. She could
hear his heart beat against her own.

*****

It was nearly midnight when the two went to bed. Stick after stick had
been thrown on the fire; the logs had flamed and crackled in sympathy
with their own joyous feelings, and had then fallen into piled-up coals,
each heap a castle of delight, rosy in the glow of freshly enkindled
hopes.

And the song in her heart never ceased. Day by day a fresh note was
added; everything she touched; everything she saw was transformed.
The old tumble-down house with its propped-up furniture and makeshift
carpets seemed to have become already the place she planned it to be.
There would be vines over the door and a new summer kitchen at the
back'; and there would be a porch where her mother could sit, flowers
all about her--her dear mother, bent no longer, but fresh and rosy in
her new clothes, smiling at her as she came up the garden path.

And what delight it was just to breathe the air! Never had her step been
so light, or her daily walk to the dingy office--dingy no longer--so
bracing. And the out-of-doors--the sky and drifting clouds; the low
hills, bleak in the winter's gloom--what changes had come over them? Was
it the first blush of the coming spring that had softened their lines,
or had her eyes been blind to all their beauty? Oh! Marvellous elixir
that makes hopes certainty and gilds each cloud!

*****

One morning a man waiting for a letter from an absent son heard
the telephone ring, and saw Abbie drop her letters and catch up the
receiver:

"Yes, I'm Miss Todd.--Oh! Mr. Keep? Yes.--Yes--I've got it here." Her
face grew deathly white. "What! Selling at twelve!" The man feared she
was about to fall. "I thought you told me... A big slump! Well, I don't
want to lose if... Yes, I'll mail it right away... Reach you by the 9.10
to-morrow."

"I hope you ain't got any bad news, have you?" the man asked in a
sympathetic voice.

"No," she answered in a choking voice, as she handed him his letter;
then she turned her back and took the certificate from her bosom.

"Selling at twelve," she kept saying to herself; "perhaps at ten;
perhaps at five. Would it go lower? Suppose it went down to nothing.
What could she say to her mother? How would she pay Mr. Taylor?"
Her breath came short; a dull sense of some impending calamity took
possession of her. Everything seemed slipping from her grasp.

An hour passed--two. In the interim she had indorsed the certificate
and had dropped it into the open mouth of the night-bag. Again the bell
sounded.

"Yes," she answered in a faint voice; her shoulder was against the wall
now for support.

She was ready for the blow; all her life they had come this way.

"Sold your twenty at ten. Mail you check for $190 on receipt of
certificate."

Abbie clutched her bosom as if for relief, but there came no answering
throb. The little devil was gone, and the lamp with him.

"And is it all over, Abbie?" asked her mother, as she drew her shawl
closer about her head. One stick of wood must last them till bedtime
now.

"Yes--all." The girl lay crouched at her feet sobbing, her head in her
mother's lap.

"Can you pay Hiram?"

"I have paid him in full. I gave him Mr. Keep's check and ten dollars of
my pay--paid him this morning. He wouldn't take any interest."

"Oh, that's good--that's good, child!" she crooned.

There came a long pause, during which the two women sat motionless, the
mother looking into the smouldering coals. She had but few tears left
none for disappointments like these.

"And we have got to keep on as we have?"

"Yes." The reply was barely audible.

The mother lifted her thin, worn hand, and laid it on Abbie's head.

"Well, child," she said slowly, "you can thank God for one thing. _You
had your dream_; ain't many even had that."





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