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Title: Susan Clegg and Her Neighbors' Affairs
Author: Warner, Anne, 1869-1913
Language: English
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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 "Susan Clegg and Her Neighbors' Affairs" ***

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                                Susan Clegg

                                    and

                           Her Neighbors' Affairs

                               By Anne Warner

_Author of "Susan Clegg and her Friend Mrs. Lathrop," "The Rejuvenation
of Aunt Mary," "A Woman's Will," etc._


Boston
Little, Brown, and Company
1906

Copyright, 1904,
By The Red Book Corporation.

Copyright, 1905,
By The Century Company.

Copyright, 1905,
By The Bobbs Merrill Company.

Copyright, 1906,
By Little, Brown, and Company.

_All rights reserved_
Published June, 1906
THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, U. S. A.



[Illustration: "It's a brand-new one, fer the price-tag's still hangin'
on the back."]



_PREFATORY NOTE_


_"Mrs. Lathrop's Love Affair" appeared in "The Century Magazine" in
1905. "The Wolf at Susan's Door" was published in "The Reader's
Magazine" in the early part of the present year, and "Old Man Ely's
Proposal" is printed for the first time in this volume. The original
version of "A Very Superior Man" appeared in "The Red Book."_

       *       *       *       *       *

CONTENTS


MRS. LATHROP'S LOVE AFFAIR
    Part First. The Deacon's Dilemma
    Part Second. The Automobile

OLD MAN ELY'S PROPOSAL

THE WOLF AT SUSAN'S DOOR
    Part First. Miss Clegg's Speculations
    Part Second. Gran'ma Mullins's Woe
    Part Third. Lucy Dill's Wedding
    Part Fourth. Mr. Jilkins's Hat

A VERY SUPERIOR MAN

       *       *       *       *       *



                       MRS. LATHROP'S LOVE AFFAIR



PART FIRST

THE DEACON'S DILEMMA


Miss Clegg was getting her own favorite tea. This always consisted of
itself, toast, and a slice of bacon; and she apparently took as much
pleasure in the preparation of the meal as if it were not the ten
thousandth of its kind which she had cooked and eaten. As she hustled
and bustled here and there, her manner seemed even more sprightly than
usual; and it was only occasionally, when her glance fell upon the light
shining across from her friend's kitchen window opposite, that her
cheerfulness knew any diminution. But there seemed to be some sad
influence in the effect of the rays of Mrs. Lathrop's lamp on this
particular night; and even if its effect on Susan was merely transitory,
it was not the less marked each time that it occurred.

Once, just as she was carrying the tea-pot from the stove to the table,
she voiced her thoughts aloud.

"I shall have to tell her to-night, so I may 's well make up my mind to
it," she said firmly; and then, after drawing up a chair by making a
hook out of one of her feet, she sat down and sought strength for the
ordeal in a more than ordinarily hearty supper.

It was a bleak, cold night in early November, and the wind whistled
drearily outside. There was a chill atmosphere everywhere, and a hint of
coming winter.

"I shall wear my cap an' my cardigan jacket to go over there," the
neighborly disposed Susan reflected as she carefully drank the last of
the tea. "Dear, dear! but it's goin' to be a terrible shock to her, poor
thing!"

Then she arose and carefully and scrupulously put the kitchen back into
its customary order. Having removed the last trace of any one's ever
having cooked or eaten there, she lighted a candle and sought her wraps
in the icy upper regions of the house. As she passed the parlor door she
shivered involuntarily.

"I expect he was cold," she murmured; "I know I was. But I could n't see
my way to sittin' in the kitchen with a caller: I never was one to do
nothin' improper, an' I was n't goin' to begin at my age."

Then she went upstairs and got out the cap and jacket. It was a man's
cap, with ear-tabs, and not at all in keeping with the fair Susan's
features; but she gave no heed to such matters and tied it on with two
firm jerks.

"I jus' do hope," she ejaculated as she struggled into the cardigan, "'t
she won't faint. It'll surely come very sudden on her, too, an' all my
talk 's to the advantage o' stayin' unmarried, an' the times an' times I
've said as we was always goin' to stay jus' so--"

The termination of the jacket-buttoning terminated the soliloquy also.
Miss Clegg went downstairs and warmed her hands at the kitchen stove,
preparatory to locking up. Ten minutes later she was tapping at Mrs.
Lathrop's door.

"I must n't tell her too quick," she reminded herself as she waited to
be let in; "I must lead up to it like they do after a railroad smash.
Mrs. Lathrop ain't what you call over-nervous; still, she has got
feelin's, an' in a time like this they ought to be a little steered out
for. If she saw him comin' in or goin' out, that 'll help some."

Mrs. Lathrop not answering to the tap, the caller knocked again, and
then tried to open the door from without, but found it to be bolted
inside.

"I s'pose she's asleep, with her feet in the oven," Susan said in a
spirit of rebellion and disapproval mixed, and then she battered madly
for entrance.

Mrs. Lathrop was asleep, and did have her feet in the oven. She was
particularly fond of finishing up her daily desultoriness in that
manner. It took time slightly to disturb her slumber, more time yet to
awaken her fully, and still again more time to get her to the door and
open it.

"Well, _Susan_!" she said in a tone of cordial surprise when she saw who
it was; "the idea of--"

"He wanted as I should see you to-night, rain or shine," said the
friend, advancing into the middle of the kitchen.

"Who wanted?"

"The deacon. Did n't you see him this afternoon?"

Mrs. Lathrop furtively rubbed her eyes.

"Oh, yes, yes--I--" she began.

"Well, he wanted as I should come right over an' tell you to-night. An'
I told him 't I would."

"Tell me wh--"

"I shall break it to you as easy as I can, Mrs. Lathrop; but there 's no
denyin' as it 'll come very sharp on you at the end."

Mrs. Lathrop ceased to rub her eyes, and a vague apprehension opened
them effectually instead.

"I presume, if you saw him at all, you saw how long he stayed?"

"Yes, I--"

"All of two hours, an' his talk was as dumfounderin' on me as it will be
on you. I 'd never thought o' any such doin's in this direction. I
always looked on as a complete outsider, did n't you?"

"I don't un--"

Susan had shed her jacket and cap while talking; she now took a chair
and surveyed her friend with the air of one who has pain to inflict and
yet is firm.

Mrs. Lathrop looked frankly troubled.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you 'd ought to know me well enough, after all
these years, to know as I shall make this as easy as I can for you.
Perhaps the best way 'll be to go 'way back to the beginnin' an' speak
o' when Mrs. White died. It'll be a proper leadin' up, for if she had
n't died, he 'd never 'a' come to see me this afternoon, an' I 'd never
'a' come to see you to-night. Howsumsever, she did die; an', bein' dead,
I will say for her husband as you don't find chick or child in town to
deny as a nicer, tidier, more biddable little man never lived; 'n' 's
far as my personal feelin's go, I should think 't any woman might
consider it nothin' but a joy to get a man 's is always so long on the
door-mat 'n' so busy with his tie 's the deacon is. He got some wore out
toward the last o' her illness, for she was give' up in September 'n'
died in July; but even then I 've heard Mrs. Allen say 's it was jus'
pretty to see him putterin' aroun' busy 's a bee, tryin' to keep dusted
up for the funeral any minute." Susan paused to sigh.

"Seems like she did n't die but yesterday," she said reminiscently;
"don't seem like it can possibly be over a year. I never can but
remember them last days: they stand out afore me like a needle in a
camel's eye. Nobody could n't say 's everythin' was n't done; they had
two doctors 'n' a bill 't the drug-store, but the end come at last. She
begin to sink 'n' sink, 'n' young Dr. Brown said that way o' sinkin'
away was always, to his mind, one o' the most unfortunate features o'
dyin'. He said he knowed lots o' people 's 'd be alive 'n' well now if
they could just o' been kept from that sinkin' away. Old Dr. Carter told
Mrs. Jilkins his theory was 't while the pulse beats there 's life; but
even he had to admit 's Mrs. White was about beat out. 'N' it was so,
too; for she died while they was talkin', 'n' the deacon just beginnin'
on cleanin' the pantry shelves. He had to put all the dishes back on top
o' the old papers; 'n' any one could see how hard it was for him, for he
'd counted on havin' everythin' spick 'n' span at the end.

"Well, that was a busy time! It 's too bad you have to miss so much,
Mrs. Lathrop; now, that day at Mrs. White's would 'a' done you a world
o' good. There was a great deal o' company, 'n' the newspaper man led
off, comin' to know what she died of. He explained he had to know right
away, 'cause if she did n't die o' nothin' in particular, they needed
the extra line for stars to show up a cod-liver oil advertisement. I
said the deacon was the one to ask, 'n' we hunted high 'n' low for him
until Mrs. Jilkins remembered 's he'd took them keys Mrs. White always
had under her pillow 'n' gone up attic to see what trunks they fitted.
Mrs. Macy had to holler him down; 'n', my! but he was snappy. He said,
'Ask Dr. Brown,' 'n' then he clumb straight back up his ladder; 'n' Dr.
Brown said 's she died o' the complete seclusion of her aspirational 'n'
bronchoid tubes. I could see 't the newspaper man did n't know how to
spell it, 'n' he told young Dr. Brown any such doin's 'd squeeze the
cod-liver oil over into next week, which could n't be considered for a
minute. 'N' then he went on to say 't if folks want to die o' more 'n
one line, they 've got to do it Tuesday night, or at the very latest
Wednesday afore ten o'clock, if it's to be got in right.

"Well, next come the funeral; 'n' I will say right here 'n' now 't the
way 's the widows closed in around Deacon White was enough to send any
man up a ladder. There was Mrs. Macy 's was actually ready 'n' waitin'
to lay Mrs. White out afore she was dead. 'N' Mrs. Macy is n't one 's
any one 'd rashly set about makin' love to, I should n't suppose. I 've
always understood 's there 's a while 't they sit on laps; 'n' the lap
ain't built 's could take pleasure in holdin' Mrs. Macy. But she was on
hand, all the same, 'n' 's beamin' 's if she stood a show.

"'N' then there was Gran'ma Mullins! I was perfectly dumb did up at the
doin's o' Gran'ma Mullins. I 'd always looked on her 's a very deservin'
mother to Hiram, 'n' one 's any one c'd trust 's to doughnuts for
sociables; but when she come to Mrs. White's funeral with her hair
frizzed, I give up. Gran'ma Mullins--at her age--at the funeral of a
widower's dead wife--'n' her hair frizzed! Well, Mrs. Lathrop, if I was
on my way to my own hangin' I sh'd still say 't to my order o' thinkin'
it wasn't proper mournin'.

"Not 's there was n't others up to the same doin's. The first night Mrs.
Allen sent Polly over with one dish o' ice-cream 'n' one slice o' cake
for the deacon's supper,--'n' me there 's plain 's day sittin' up
alternate with Mr. Jilkins. 'N' Mrs. Allen did n't make no bones about
it, neither; she said frank 'n' open 't her disapp'intment over Sam
Duruy 'd aged Polly right up to where only a elderly man 'd be anywise
fit f'r her, 'n' she said she was teachin' her 'Silver threads among the
gold' 'n' how to read aloud 't the tip-top o' your voice. I did n't
discourage her none. I told her 't there was n't many like the deacon,
'n' that come true right off; fer we heard a awful crash, 'n' it was
then 't he fell through the ceilin' into Phoebe's room 'n' a pretty job
we had sweepin' up his dust.

"The minister come in while we was sweepin'. He certainly does come to
call always at very uncomfortable times; but I suppose everybody 's got
to have a cross, 'n' ours 's him. Anyway, he wanted to know about if it
'd be agreeable to the family to have Mrs. White discoursed on 's a
faithful handmaid, 'cause he did n't want to have to alter her after he
'd got her all copied. He said there was the choice o' a bondwoman o'
the Lord 'n' a light in Israel, too. We had to go 'n' holler the deacon
a long time, 'n' finally we found him out settin' a hen. I did n't think
's he 'd ought to 'a' set a hen the day o' his wife's funeral--I did n't
think much o' settin' hens any time; it's set 'n' set, 'n' then half the
time all you get is a weasel.

"Well, he come in at last, 'n' he would n't hear o' havin' his wife
called a handmaid, 'cause, he said, it was him 's had always done all
the work. The minister said it was astonishin' what 'Liza Em'ly could
get through in a mornin', 'n' then he coughed; 'n' Mrs. Macy said 't
'Liza Em'ly was very helpful for a child o' her age, 'n' then she
coughed; 'n' then the deacon went back to his hen, 'n' the minister
sighed 'n' went, too."

Mrs. Lathrop herself sighed as Susan paused.

"I remember--" she said slowly.

"It was a nice funeral, though," her friend continued; "I never see a
nicer one, even if Mrs. White was n't able to look after nothin'
herself. Mr. Kimball got down to business like it 'd always been his
business, 'n' the way he hustled things through was a lesson to them 's
takes a whole afternoon to one member of a family. He took all the
table-leaves 'n' laid 'em from chair to chair, so 's everybody had a
seat; 'n' then, 's folks come in, he had Billy hand 'em each a fan with
his advertisement on one side 'n' two rows o' readin' on the other, so
's no one got dull waitin'.

"'N' then I never shall forget what a neat job he done with the dove.
You know 's well 's I do 't it 's hard on the dove, 'n' always has been
hard on the dove, to go to every funeral 'n' be the window advertisement
between deaths. I 've told you before how it was freely remarked in the
square, after Mrs. Dill's burial, as the way the dove looked there was
suthin' borderin' on scandalous. He 'd hovered with a motto till his
wings was 's dirty inside 's outside, 'n' they 'd tipped his head back
to look up resurrected or front to look down dejected till at Mrs.
Dill's all he was fit for was to sit on the foot of her 'n' mourn, with
the hat-pins 's held him steady stickin' out in all directions. Some
folks as was really very sorry about Mrs. Dill 'most died when they see
the dove, 'n' Mr. Kimball (he had n't bought the business then) remarked
openly 's his view was as he 'd better go to two or three baptisms afore
he tried another funeral. Such bein' the case, it was no more 'n natural
's we sh'd all feel a little worried thinkin' o' Mrs. White's bein' next
to stand the dove; 'n' Mrs. Sperrit said frank an' open 't to her order
o' thinkin' the deacon 'd ought to jus' forbid it. We all saw the sense
in her view; but even if we did, you know 's well 's I do it 'd be a
pretty delicate matter in this c'mmunity to be the first to deliberately
skip the dove."

"I think he's pret--" said Mrs. Lathrop, musingly.

"I won't say 't I don't think so, too," said Susan; "but I never was one
to turn a blind eye to the dirt on the outside o' nothin',--'s you know
to your cost, Mrs. Lathrop,--'n' such bein' the case, I certainly did
feel to regret 's the dove 'd had such long wear 'n' tear afore it come
Mrs. White's turn to be sat on. I was fond o' Mrs. White; we had n't
spoke in years, owin' to her bein' too deaf to hear, but what I see of
her from the street was always pleasant, 'n' I did n't like to think 's
maybe anythin' 'd be left out o' the last of her. So we let it all go,
'n' we certainly had our reward for so doin' when we see the result; for
Mr. Kimball did a fine job then 'n' there, 'n' when he was dry-cleaned
inside 'n' out, 'n' his beak 'n' feet painted, 'n' new beads for
eyes--well, all I can say is 't I wish you 'd been there to see him,
that 's all. He took his wings completely off, so 's to give him the air
o' bein' folded up; 'n' then he stuck a gilt arrow in his heart 'n' laid
him cornerways on the deacon's cross o' tiger-lilies. 'N' he did n't
stop 't that, neither; he took his wings 'n' sewed 'em to each side of a
red heart left over from a euchre-party, 'n' laid the whole on Mr.
Jilkins's piller o' pansies, so the deacon could n't in conscience feel
't anythin' 's he 'd paid for was wasted. I 've said all along, 'n' I'll
say ag'in here 'n' now, 't it was all one o' the prettiest things I ever
see; 'n' I was n't the only one 's felt that way, for I 've heard lots
o' folks say since 's they 'll want the dove just so for themselves."

Mrs. Lathrop turned a little uneasily; Susan did not appear to notice
the indication of a possible impatience.

"It was all a great success," she went on calmly. "The minister's
discourse was very fine; only when he prayed for consolation we all
knowed he meant 'Liza Em'ly. All but the deacon, that is. I guess the
deacon was thinkin' more o' Gran'ma Mullins 'n any one else 't first;
Mrs. Jilkins told me he asked how old she was, comin' back in the
carriage."

"I allers thought--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"So did a good many people. I don't know 's that was surprisin', either;
for it's a well-known fact 's they was fond o' each other forty or fifty
years back. She 's got a daguerre'type o' him 's is so old 't you can't
be very sure whether it 's him, after all. She says she ain't positive
herself, 'cause she had one o' her cousin 's shot himself by accident on
his way to the war, 'n' the wreath o' flowers stamped on the red velvet
inside was just the same in both cases. You have to go by the light 'n'
tip him a good while to say for sure whether he's got a collar on or
not, 'n' you could n't swear to his havin' on anythin' else if you was
to turn him round 'n' round till doomsday. She had that picture in a box
with her first hair 'n' Hiram's first tooth 'n' a nut 't she said the
deacon did a hole in with his knife when they was children together one
day. She showed 'em all to me one time when I was there; I did n't think
much o' the nut, I must say. But I will say as it seemed to make her
happy, so I jus' remarked 't it was surprisin' how foolish we got 's we
got old, 'n' let it go 't that. It was a while after 's he took her to
Meadville to the circus; it 's a well-known fact 's she was fool enough
to look upon bein' took to a circus 's next thing to bein' asked out 'n'
out. She come up to tell me all about it afterward."

"'N' yet--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"It just shows the vanity o' feelin' sure o' mortal man," continued
Susan. "She was sure, 'n' Mrs. Allen was sure, 'n' the minister had
faith; 'n' then there was Mrs. Macy, too. There was a while when it
looked to me 's if swoopin' down 'n' then pinnin' flat c'd catch
anythin,' 't Mrs. Macy 'd have the deacon, she was so everlastingly on
hand. Why, I never walked by his house but I met her, 'n' that was far
too often to ever by any chance be called a' accident. But she was too
open; my own experience is 't bein' frank 'n' free is time throwed away
on men. If anythin' serious is to be done with a man, it's got to be
done from behind a woodpile. I had some little dealin's with men in the
marryin' line once, 'n' I found 'em very shy; tamin' gophers is sleepin'
in the sun beside grabbin' a man 's dead against bein' grabbed. I don't
say 's it can't be done, but I will say 't it 's hard in the first 'n'
harder in the last, when you 've got him 'n' he's got you, like the
minister 's got his wife."

"But Mrs. Macy ain't--" protested Mrs. Lathrop.

"No; 'n' it's her own fault, too. He told me this afternoon 's the way
she smiled on him right in the first days made the marrow run up 'n'
down his back. He said he c'd 'a' stood lots o' things, but no human
bein' but gets mad bein' forever smiled at. Then she knit him things. He
says she knit him a pair o' snap-on slippers 's Heaven 'll surely
forgive him if he ever see the like of. He said they stuck out 's far
behind 's in front, 'n' all in the world 't he c'd do was to sit
perfectly still in the middle of 'em 'n' content himself with viewin'
'em 's slippers. But he says the worst was, she cooked him things; he
says he won't say what he 's paid young Dr. Brown for advice regardin'
things 's she 's cooked him, not to speak o' that time he cut himself so
bad pryin' at one o' her undercrusts. 'N,' just between you 'n' me, Mrs.
Lathrop, he says it 's a secret 's he will carry to his grave unsealed
as she give him a crock o' gherkins on his birthday, with a pair o'
buttonhole scissors at the bottom.

"He said he jus' felt he 'd enjoy to have the revenge o' stayin' single.
But he said it did n't take him long to see 's stayin' single is a
privilege 's no woman 's goin' to allow to a man whose wife 's dead. He
says the way he 's been chased 's all but killin'. He says there 's Mrs.
Allen firin' Polly at him when he goes over there for his dinner, 'n'
the minister tellin' him every Sunday 'n' prayer-meetin' how 'Liza Em'ly
is shootin' up. He says Gran'ma Mullins is forever referrin' to his
youth, 'n' Mrs. Macy is forever smilin'. He says he could easy keep his
house alone,--he says he understands a house from moth-balls to
quicklime,--but they won't let him. He says he 's not only town
property, but he 's town talk 's well. He says Mrs. Craig stopped him in
the square 'n' asked him point-blank if he'd remembered to put on his
flannels day before yesterday.

"I tell you, Mrs. Lathrop, it's plain 't that man has suffered. If you
'd 'a' seen him, your heart would 'a' softened like mine did. 'N' him
such a neat little bald-headed man without any wishin' o' anybody
anythin'! I give him a lot o' sympathy. I told him 't I'd knowed what it
was to have a lot o' folks seem bound to marry you in the teeth o' your
own will. I told him the whole community was witness to how I was set
upon after father's death 'n' well-nigh drove mad. He said he wished he
had my grit 'n' maybe he'd make a try to fight like I did, but he said
he was beat out. He said if he is n't up 'n' the smoke pourin' out o'
his chimney at six sharp, all the single women in town is lined up in
front to know what's happened. He says if he was married, it goes
without sayin' 's they'd both be allowed to sleep in peace. He says if
he lights a candle at night, he hears of it next day. He said if he gets
a letter in a strange hand, it's all over town 's some strange woman 's
made his acquaintance. He says the whole world feels free to dust his
hat or w'isk his coat if he stops to chat a minute. He says, such bein'
the case, he 's made up his mind 't he's got to get married. He says he
's considered very carefully. He says he knows jus' the kind o' woman.
He says he 's been fretted, 'n' he don't never want to be fretted no
more."

Miss Clegg paused, as if the crisis had arrived. She surveyed her friend
with a meaning eye, and Mrs. Lathrop rather shrunk together and
endeavored to look courageous.

"Up to now 's been all preparin' your mind. Do you feel prepared? Are
you ready?"

"Yes, I--" gasped the victim.

"Left to myself, I sh'd 'a' waited till mornin', but he wanted you to
know to-night. He know's I'm your dearest friend. He said if I didn't
tell you right off, it might get to you some other way 'n' be a' awful
blow. He said he had to go to Meadville to-morrow, so he might mention
it down-town to-night, 'n' 'most any one might let it drop in on you. I
see the p'int o' his reasonin', 'n' so--"

"Susan," said the friend, her feelings completely overflowing all
bounds--"oh, Susan, are you really a-goin' to marry--"

Susan's expression altered triumphantly.

"Why, Mrs. Lathrop," she said, with keen enjoyment, "it ain't me 's he
wants to marry; it 's you!"



PART SECOND

THE AUTOMOBILE


Mrs. Lathrop collapsed backward and downward, her eyes closed, her mouth
opened, her hands fell at her sides, her feet flew out in front of her.
Never in the history of the world were the words "This is so sudden!"
more vividly illustrated.

Susan sat bolt upright opposite and surveyed her friend's emotion with
an expression of calm and interested neutrality.

After a while Mrs. Lathrop's eyes began to open and her mouth to close;
she gathered her hands into her lap, and her feet under her skirt,
saying weakly:

"Well, I never hear nothin' to beat--"

"I ain't surprised 't your takin' it to heart like that," said the
imparter of news. "I may tell you in confidence 't I was nigh to laid out
myself in the first hearin' of it. I looked upon it jus' as you did, an'
jus' as anybody in their common senses naturally would. It was n't no
more 'n was to be expected that me, bein' neat like himself an'
unmarried, too, sh'd 'a' struck him 's just about what he was lookin'
for. I 'm younger 'n Gran'ma Mullins 'n' Mrs. Macy, an' older 'n 'Liza
Em'ly an' Polly Ann. I 've got property, 'n' nobody can 't say 's I have
n't always done my duty by whatever crossed my path, even if was nothin'
but snow in the winter. All the time 't he was talkin' I was thinkin',
'n' I tell you, Mrs. Lathrop, it's pretty hard work to smile 'n' look
interested in a man's meanderin's while you 're tryin' to figure on how
you can will your money safe away from him. I was n't calc'latin' on
havin' Deacon White get any of my money, I c'n tell you, an' I meant to
have that understood right in the beginnin'. Maybe he would n't 'a' liked
it; but if he had n't 'a' liked it, he c'd 'a' give me right square up.
Lord knows, I never was after him with no net; I don't set about gettin'
what I want that way. 'N' I never for one minute have thought o' wantin'
the deacon. I 'm used to lookin' everythin' square in the face, 'n' no
one as has got eyes could look the deacon in the face 'n' want him. 'N'
the more they turned him round 'n' round, the less they'd want him. It
ain't in reason's the friend could be found to deny 't he 's as
bow-legged as they make 'em. An' then there's his ears! A woman could,
maybe, overlook the bow-legs if she held the newspaper high enough; but I
don't believe 's any one in kingdom come could overlook them ears. Mr.
Kimball says Belgian hares an' Deacon White 's both designed to be
catched by their ears. I looked at him to-day 'n' figured on maybe tryin'
to tame 'em in a little with a tape nightcap; but then I says to myself,
I says: 'No; if he 's to be my husband, I 'll probably have so much to
overlook that them ears 'll soon be mice to the mountain o' the rest,'
an' so I give up the idea. I had bother enough with tryin' to see where I
'd put him, fer I certainly would n't consider movin' down to his house
for a minute, 'n' it was a question 's to a stove in father's room or
givin' him double windows for a weddin' present.

"'N' then, all of a sudden, he come out with wantin' you!

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I jumped--I really did. Him so tidy 'n' goin' out
on the porch half a dozen times a day to brush up the seeds under the
bird-cage--'n' wantin' _you_! I couldn't believe my ears at first, 'n'
he talked quite a while, 'n' I did n't hear a word he said. 'N' then,
when I did find my tongue, I jus' sat right down 'n' did my duty by him.
Mrs. Lathrop, you know 's well 's I do how fond I am o' you; but you
know, too, 's well 's I do 't no woman 's calls herself a Christian c'd
sit silent an' let a man keep on supposin' 't he c'd be happy with you.
I talked kind, but I took no fish-bones out 'o the truth. I give him
jus' my own observation, 'n' no more. I told him 't it was n't in me to
try to fool even a deacon; an' so when I said frank and free 't even
your very cats soon give up washin' their faces, he c'd depend upon its
bein' so. I says to him, I says: 'Deacon White, there's lots o' worse
things 'n bein' unmarried, 'n' if you marry Mrs. Lathrop you 'll learn
every last one of 'em. Your first wife was deaf,' I says, ''n' Mrs.
Lathrop c'n hear. She 's a very good hearer, too,' I says (for you know
's I'd never be one to run you down, Mrs. Lathrop); 'but anythin' 's is
more of a' effort than listenin' never gets done in her house. You 're
tidy in your ways, Deacon White,' I says; 'any one as's ever passed when
you was hangin' out your dish-towels 'd swear to that; an' such bein'
the case, how c'd you ever be happy with them 's spreads their wash on
the currant-bushes or lets it blow to the dogs?' Maybe I was a little
hard on him, but I felt 's it was then or never, 'n' I tried my best to
save him. It ain't in nature for them 's goes unhooked to ever realize
what their unhookedness is to them 's hooks, an' so it 'd be hopeless to
try to let you see why my sympathies was so with the deacon; but, to
make a long tale short, he jus' hung on like grim death, 'n' in the end
I had to give up. He said I was your friend, an' he wanted 's I sh'd
explain everythin' to you; an' to-morrow, when he gets back from
Meadville, he 'll come up an' get his answer. He did n't ask 'f I
thought you 'd have him, 'cause o' course he knowed you 'd have him 's
well 's I did. He said 's he sh'd mention it about town to keep any
women from takin' the same train with him. He says he has n't been
anywhere by himself for ever so long. He says jus' as soon 's he 's
married he 's goin' off for a good long trip, all alone."

Susan ceased speaking for a little; Mrs. Lathrop looked dazed and
dubious.

"It's so unex--" she said slowly.

"The beginnin' o' gettin' married always is," said her friend; "but it
's all there is about it 's is even unexpected. It's all cut an' dried
from there on. Once you take a man, nothin' 's ever sudden no more.
Folks expects all sorts o' pleasant surprises; everybody seems to get
married for better, an' then get along for worse. They begin by
imaginin' a lot 'n' then lookin' for the thing to be 'way beyond the
imaginin'; it ain't long afore they see 't their imaginin' was 'way
beyond the thing, 'n' after that they soon have it all on top o' them to
carry till they die."

"I never was no great hand at marryin'," said Mrs. Lathrop, faintly. "I
was propelled into it the first--"

"Well, nobody ain't propellin' you this time," said Miss Clegg. "I 'm
hangin' back on your skirts, with my heels stuck in 's far 's they 'll
go." She rose as she spoke.

"I don 't know what I shall--" began the older woman, looking up at the
younger.

"You 've got all to-morrow to decide. He won't be back till five
o'clock. I should n't worry, 'f I was you. O' course, it 's your last
love affair, probably, 'n' you want to get 's much 's you can out of it;
but I don't see no call to fret any. He ain't frettin'. He 's jus' in a
hurry to get married, 'n' get rid o' Gran'ma Mullins 'n' Mrs. Macy an'
Polly Ann an' 'Liza Em'ly, 'n' get started on that nice long trip he 's
goin' on alone."

"I shall think--" murmured Mrs. Lathrop.

Susan was decking herself for going home.

"I won't be over in the mornin'," she said as she tied on her cap; "I
've got errands down-town; but I 'll come over after dinner."

"Good-by," said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Good-by," said her friend.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was somewhat warmer the next morning. Mrs. Lathrop began the day on a
cup of extra-strong coffee, and continued it in an unusual mood of
clearing up. Her kitchen was really very close to exemplary when two
o'clock arrived, and she took up her knitting to wait for the promised
visitation.

It matured about half-past the hour. The visitor brought her knitting,
too.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop," she said pleasantly on entering, "if it was n't
for the automobile, you 'n' the deacon 'd surely be the talk o' the town
this day."

"Whose aut--?"

"Nobody 's; jus' two men's. One steers in goggles, 'n' the other jumps
in 'n' out 'n' settles for the damages. I see it first on my way
down-town this morning; only, as a matter of fact, I did n't see it, 'n'
it was nigh to tootin' right over me, only I jumped in the nick o' time,
'n' it went over my over-shoe an' split the heel open. I c'n assure you
I was glad I was wearin' father's over-shoes, as c'n come off so easy,
when I saw the split heel; an' them men was as polite 's could be,
churned backward right off, 'n' settled with me for a quarter. I can
easy sew up the heel myself, so I went on down-town feelin' pretty good.
There ain't many things about me 't I can sew up as I would n't split
for a quarter any day. The automobile went on ahead, 'n' by the time I
got to the square it had had time to run down the minister.

"He was crossin' from Mr. Kimball's to Mr. Dill's, an' stopped short for
fear it 'd run over him. Not knowin' the minister's make-up, they 'd
calc'lated on his goin' on when he see a' automobile comin'; an' so it
was all over him in a jiffy. I don' know what his wife'll ever say, f'r
his hat is completely bu'st. However, they settled with him--hat,
feelin's, an' all--for ten dollars, an' he went on over to Mr. Dill's. I
said 't if I was his wife I 'd anchor him in the middle o' the square
'n' let automobiles run up 'n' down him all day long at that price. I
said it to Mrs. Craig; she come up to ask me 'f it was really true about
you an' the deacon. She says no one can believe it o' the deacon. She
says Mr. Jilkins was in town last night, 'n' he was very mad when he
heard of it. He thinks it's a reflection. He says folks 'll say it looks
like his sister was n't wife enough for one man. I told her nobody could
n't say nothin' about it 't I would n't agree to, considerin' your age
an' his ears. I told her 't it did n't seem to me 's marryin' was
anyways necessary to the business o' the world. If mother 'd never
married, neither she nor me 'd ever of had all them years o' work with
father. She says this about you 'n' the deacon was stirrin' up the town
a lot. She says there's a good deal o' bitter feelin'. Seems Mrs. Allen
never charged him nothin' for his meals on account o' Polly, an' Gran'ma
Mullins made him a whole set o' shirts for nothin' on account o' the nut
'n' the daguerre'type, 'n' Mrs. Macy did up all his currants fer nothin'
on account o' herself. She says Mr. Kimball says he wonders what the
deacon 's a-expectin' to get out o' you.

"We went across to look at the automobile together. It was standin'
still in front o' the drug-store, 'n' the men was in buyin' cigarettes
an' gettin' their bottles filled. I guess half the community was
standin' round lookin' at it an' discussin' it. It's a brand-new one,
for the price-tag 's still hangin' on the back. Billy said it was a
bargain, but it struck me 's pretty high. They had a wheel 's 'd come
off hung on behind, 'n' nobody could n't see where it 'd come off of.
Mr. Fisher got down an' crawled in underneath, an' while he was under
there the men come out. They asked what Mr. Fisher was tryin' to do, an'
when Billy told 'em, they laughed.

"They said that wheel was in case o' accidents. John Bunyan spoke right
up an' said, 'Why, does the accidents ever happen to the _automobile_?'
'N' the men laughed some more. Then they got in 'n' started to start,
'n' it would n' start. It snuffed 'n' chuffed to beat the band, but it
would n't budge for love nor money nor the man in goggles. He jerked 'n'
twisted, 'n' then all of a sudden it run backward, 'n' went over Mr.
Dill's dog 's was asleep in the way, 'n' into the lamp-post, 'n' bu'st
the post off short. Well, you never see the beat! They wanted to settle
the dog for the same 's the minister, but Mr. Dill would n't hear to it
for a minute, 'cause he said his dog was worth suthin'. Judge Fitch come
up 'n' said the town 'd want three dollars for the lamp-post, 'n' they
paid that, 'n' then they tried to arbitrate the dog; 'n' in the end Mr.
Dill took eleven dollars an' fifteen cents, 'cause his collar 's still
good. Then they got into the automobile again an' twisted the crank the
other way, an' it kited across the square an' right over Gran'ma
Mullins. She was on her way to ask if it was true about you 'n' the
deacon, an' it was plain 's she wa'n't in no disposition to enjoy bein'
run over by nothin'. I never see her so nigh to bein' real put out; 'n'
even after they 'd settled with her for five dollars, she still did n't
look a bit pleased or happy. Mrs. Craig 'n' me went with her into Mr.
Shores' 'n' helped her straighten her bonnet 'n' take a drink o' water,
'n' then she said she s'posed it was true about you an' the deacon, 'n'
't, so help her Heaven, she never would 'a' believed 's either o' you
had so little sense. She said to tell you 't all she 's got to say is 't
if he deceives you like he 's deceived her, you 'll know how it feels to
have him deceive you 's well 's she knows how it feels to of had him
deceive her. She says she's goin' to take a hammer an' smash that nut
'n' that daguerre'type into a thousand smithereens this very afternoon."

"I 'm sorry 's--" said Mrs. Lathrop, regretfully.

"While we was sittin' there talkin', in come Mrs. Macy, with her cat
over her arm, to ask if there was enough of it left to make a muff.
Seems 't when the automobile headed out o' town they come on the cat
crossin' the road, 'n' afore she knew 's there was a death in the family
they was tryin' to settle the cat at a dollar. Said she never see the
beat o' the way the cat was ironed flat; she jus' stood 'n' stared, 'n'
then they offered her two dollars. She took the two dollars an' come to
town, 'n' 'f there ain't enough for a muff, she 'll have a cap with the
tail over her ear. She wanted to know if it was true about you 'n' the
deacon, an' she tried to swing the cat around 's if she did n't care,
but it was easy seen she did. She said she would n't have the deacon for
a gift, 'n' I told her 's there was others havin' to admit the same
thing. I says to her, I says: 'There's a good many in this town 's won't
have the deacon, but it ain't for lack o' tryin' to get him, Lord
knows.' Jus' then we see the man with the cap 's does the settlin' for
damages tearin' by the window afoot. We run to the door an' sec him grab
Mr. Sweet's bicycle 'n' ride away on it; 'n' it did n't take no great
brains to guess 's suthin' fresh had happened under the automobile. A
little while after the man with goggles an' Mr. Jilkins come walkin'
into the square, a-leadin' Mr. Jilkins's horse. The horse was pretty
well splintered up, 'n' the harness was hangin' all out o' tune; the man
with goggles looked to be upset, 'n' Mr. Jilkins looked like he 'd been
upset 'n' was awful mad over it. Every one went to know what it was; an'
I will say, Mrs. Lathrop, 's I never hear such a story o' unforeseen
miseries pilin' up. Seems 't when Mr. Jilkins went home las' night 'n'
told his wife about you 'n' the deacon, they decided to come to town
right off to-day 'n' try to argue common sense into him. Mr. Jilkins
said 't he was n't afraid o' the property goin' out o' the family,
'cause you 'n' the deacon could n't naturally expect nothin' but
grandchildren at your age; but he said they jus' did n't want him
married, 'n' they was goin' to see 't he did n't get drug into it. So
they took the horse 'n' the colt an' the democrat 'n' started up to town
this mornin', 'n' jus' beyond the bridge they met the automobile warmin'
up from Mrs. Macy 'n' her cat. Mr. Jilkins says his horse ain't afraid
o' nothin' on earth only threshin'-machines, men asleep, 'n' bicycles;
but it never 'd seen a' automobile afore, 'n' it jumped right into it.
Well, him in goggles 'n' his friend in damages jumped right out, 'n' the
automobile run into the fence an' run over the colt, 'n' spilled Mr. and
Mrs. Jilkins 'n' the horse all out. The horse fell down 'n' Mrs. Jilkins
could n't get up, 'n' the man in the cap wanted to settle for five
hundred dollars right on the spot. Then they went to work an' got the
tool-box, 'n' got the horse up, 'n' he seemed to be all right, only
pretty badly marred; an' they backed the automobile out o' the fence an'
give Mrs. Jilkins a drink out o' their bottle, 'n' tucked her up warm in
the seat, an' then set to work on the democrat. They was gettin'
everythin' all straightened out neat 's a pin when, all of a sudden,
Mrs. Jilkins give a yell, an' they looked up to see the automobile
kitin' off up the hill, 'n' her screamin' an' wavin' her hands; 'n' the
next thing they see, she went over the top o' the hill 'n' out o'
sight."

Miss Clegg stopped; Mrs. Lathrop drew in her breath.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, seems to me I never hear nothin' to equal that in
all my born days. Mrs. Jilkins off in a' automobile alone! 'N' the man
in the cap see it jus' 's I did, for he wanted to settle for a thousand,
spot cash, then 'n' there. But Mr. Jilkins would n't settle; there's no
denyin' Mr. Jilkins saw what a good thing he 'd got when his wife went
off in that automobile; so then the man in the cap hustled in town, got
a bicycle, 'n' scurried after her 's fast 's he could paddle."

"Did they find--?" inquired Mrs. Lathrop.

"Not when I come home they had n't. The man in goggles had took Mr.
Jilkins to the hotel for dinner, 'n' Mr. Jilkins was tickled to death,
for he never eat in a hotel in his life before. If he goes off, he
always gets back, or else takes a lunch."

"Are you goin'?" Mrs. Lathrop asked.

"Yes; I 'm goin' down-town again. I 'm goin' right now. I want to know
the end 's Mrs. Jilkins made. 'N' there 's lots o' people 's ain't had
no chance yet to ask me if it's true about you 'n' the deacon."

"When's he a-com--?" Mrs. Lathrop asked.

"On the five-o'clock; 'n' he said 's he sh'd come straight up here to
settle it all. I s'pose you 've turned the subjeck round an' round 'n'
upside down till you 've come out jus' where I said you would at first."

"I guess I'll take--"

"I would 'f I was you. Mr. Kimball says Deacon White 's as good help 's
any woman can hope to get hold o' in a place this size, an' I guess he
's hit that nail square on top. I don't see but what, when all's said
an' done, you can really take a deal o' comfort havin' him so handy. He
likes to keep things clean, 'n' you 'll never let him get a chance to go
to Satan emptyhanded. 'N' we can always send him to bed when we want to
talk, 'cause bein' 's he 'll be your husband, we won't never have to
fuss with considerin' his feelin's any."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop, thoughtfully.

"O' course there would n't be nothin' very romantic in marryin' the
deacon; 'n' yet, when you come right square down to it, I don't see no
good 'n' sufficient reasons for long hair bein' romantic an' big ears
not. Anyway, I sh'd consider 't a man 's can clean a sink, 'n' _will_
clean a sink, was a sight safer to marry 'n one 's whose big hit was
standin' up the ends o' his mustache. 'N' besides, you can have the man
with the sink, 'n' the man with the mustache would n't even turn round
to look at you the first time."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Romance is a nice thing in its place. I 've had my own romances--four
on 'em,--'n' not many women can say that 'n' still be unmarried, I
guess. I 've lived 'n' I 've loved, as the books say; 'n' I 've
survived, as I say myself; 'n' you can believe me or not, jus' as you
please, Mrs. Lathrop, but I ain't got no feelin' toward you this night
but pity. I would n't be you if I could--not now 'n' not never. I 'd
really liefer be the deacon, 'n' Heaven knows 't he 's got little enough
to look forward to hereafter."

"I--" expostulated Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, if you keep me here much longer, I sha'n't get
down-town this afternoon; 'n' when you think how near Mrs. Jilkins 's
comin' to bein' related to you, it certainly will look very strange to
the community."

As she spoke, Miss Clegg rapidly prepared herself for the street, and
with the last words she went toward the door.

"If the deacon gets here afore I come back," she said, pausing with her
hand on the knob, "you 'd better say 's what he told me yesterday in
confidence 'n' what I told him in consequence is still a secret; it 'll
be pleasanter for you both so."

"I--" said Mrs, Lathrop.

"Good-by," said Susan.

Mrs. Lathrop slept some that afternoon and rocked more. She experienced
no very marked flutterings in the region of her heart; indeed, she was
astonished herself at the calmness of her sensations.

The deacon had not come when Susan returned. Susan looked somewhat
puzzled.

"Anybody been here since me?" she inquired, not facing her friend, but
examining the stovepipe with interest.

"No; no--"

"Mrs. Jilkins is all safe," she said next.

"I'm so--"

"That automobile run 'way past Cherry Pond, 'n' their hired man see her
ridin' by 'n' made after her on a mule. The gasolene give out before the
mule did, so he hauled her home, 'n' the man in the cap come 'n' took
the automobile back to town."

"So it's all--"

"They all landed over at the drug-store 'n' got in 'n' started out
fresh. Mr. Jilkins settled for the five hundred, 'n' they went off
feelin' real friendly. They run out across the square, an' then--" Susan
hesitated. "You got a shock yesterday," she said, still not looking at
her friend, but speaking sympathetically, "'n' it seems too bad to give
you another to-day; but you 'll have to know--"

"Heaven pro--" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"They run over the deacon comin' out o' the station. They did n't see
him, an' he did n't see them. He ain't dead."

Mrs. Lathrop was silent.

"Mrs. Allen took him home. Of course that means Polly 'll get him in the
end."

Mrs. Lathrop was silent for a long time. Finally she said very
deliberately:

"Maybe it's just as--"

"It's better," said her friend, with decision; "for the man settled with
the deacon for fifteen hundred."



       *       *       *       *       *



                          OLD MAN ELY'S PROPOSAL



Mrs. Lathrop had been dumbfounded to see a horse and wagon being driven
into her neighbor's yard a little before noon one warm spring day. Her
eyesight was not good enough to identify the horse's driver, but she
hung breathlessly in her kitchen window and peered gaspingly out upon
his boldness and daring during the whole four minutes that it took him
to hitch to a clothes-pole; and then, when the fell deed was
accomplished, she watched him go in by the kitchen door, and waited,
with a confidence born of a very good understanding of her neighbor's
views as to driving in and hitching, to see him cast ignominiously forth
by Miss Clegg.

But even that omniscience of a friend's habits which may be acquired
during a next-door residence for years sometimes fails, and Mrs.
Lathrop, after an hour of more or less active bobbing in the window that
commanded the best view of the rear of the house on the other side of
the fence, was forced to see that the caller, whoever he might be, was
not cast forth, and a further hour's attention showed that he did not
quit the premises either just before or just after dinner. When Mrs.
Lathrop had quite settled the last point to her complete satisfaction
and un-understanding, she decided to give up watching and to go to sleep
as usual. She slept until four in the afternoon, and when she awoke and
hurried to the window the horse and wagon were gone. Susan seemed gone
too, for her house looked very shut up and sounded more than silent. So
Mrs. Lathrop went back forthwith to her chair and slept again, and the
next time she awakened it was her friend's voice that awakened her, as
the latter stood over her and demanded briskly,

"Well, did you see him?"

"I--oh--oh--I--" began Mrs. Lathrop, vaguely.

"I thought you could n't but see him," said Susan, "hitchin' his horse
to one o' my clothes-poles as large as life. If it 'd been any day in
his life but this one I 'd surely of told him frank 'n' open my views on
hitchin' to my clothes-poles, but bein' as it was to-day I only told him
my views on drivin' over my grass."

"But--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"The horse did n't bite the pole," continued Susan; "he said as he
wa'n't no cribber. I told him it wa'n't cribs as was the question, but
clothes-poles, an' I might of spoken some stronger, but just then he
stepped on the edge of the cistern cover 'n' I got such a turn as drove
everythin' else clean out o' my mind. You know how easy it is to turn
that cover, Mrs. Lathrop, 'n' I must say that if he and it had fell in
together there'd have been a fine tale to tell, for the cover always
sinks straight to the bottom, 'n' is no joke to find 'n' fish up,--you
and I both know that. Ever since the brace give way I 've always got it
on my mind to keep the clothes-bars sittin' over it, but now the brace
in the clothes-bars is give way too 'n' as a consequence they won't sit
over nothin' no more. If money was looser I 'd certainly never spare it
gettin' them two braces mended, but money bein' tight and me alone in
the house 'n' the most of my callers them as it 's all one to me whether
I see 'em in the parlor or in the cistern, I ain't botherin'. I was
never one to worry an' scurry unnecessarily, Mrs. Lathrop, an' you know
that as well as I do, 'n' to-day I had my mind all done up in my
curtains anyway, 'n' I was more'n' a little put out over bein'
interrupted, even by a man as come in through the woodshed door, that I
never bolt 'cause it 's a understood thing as woodshed doors is not to
be come in at. The turn he give me when I hear him clutterin' aroun' in
the woodshed!--I thought he was rats, an' then a cat, an' then a rat an'
a cat come together, an' then all of a sudden I see him an' remembered
the cistern cover."

"But who--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

Susan looked surprised.

"Why, I thought you said you seen him," she said; "you certainly give me
that impression, Mrs. Lathrop. I 'd have took any vow anywhere as I
asked you if you seen him 'n' you said you did. It's funny if you did
n't for he drove hisself in 'n' hitched hisself too, 'n' me up in the
garret when he done it, foldin' off my curtains to iron. My, to think
how I did hate the idea o' ironin' them curtains! Mother always ironed
the curtains. She said I was young n' she did n't mind anyhow. I ain't
washed 'em since. I 've been in the habit o' sayin' I was afraid it'd
bring mother over me too much to take 'em down without her. That 's a
thing as this community can easy understand, f'r they leave all their
hard work layin' around for any reason a tall, and although I can't in
reason deny as in most ways they 're as different from me as anything
can be from me, still when it comes to ironin' curtains the stove is as
hot on the just as on the unjust 'n' you can't mention nothin' hotter."

"Did you--" said Mrs. Lathrop, sympathetically.

"Well, I sh'd say I did. What I set out to do I always do whether it's
curtains or Mr. Kimball. Mr. Kimball has got a great idea as to his
sharpness, but I guess if our sharp ends was under a microscope, he 'd
be the needle an' me the bee-sting most every day. It was too bad you
was n't to that lecture, Mrs. Lathrop,--I did learn a great deal. Not
just about the sting, but some very handy things. It seems if you go
among 'em quietly, they 'll let you take the honey out any time 'n' you
can buy the queens by mail in a box 'n' they 'll lay a whole hive alone
by themselves in no time. Mrs. Macy said she thought some of sendin' for
one or two queens 'n' settin' 'em up in business in bushel baskets, but
when she went home 'n' looked the baskets over 'n' thought what work
it'd be to clean the honey out of 'em each fall she give up the idea.
She's going to set out a orange tree in a flower pot instead. It says in
the 'Ladies' Home Diary' as they grow very nicely so."

"But who--" interrupted Mrs. Lathrop, wrinkling up her face somewhat
over the long strain on her eager attentiveness.

"But I thought you said you seen him," said her friend, with a second
recurrence of her surprised expression; "did n't you see him when you
see him drivin' in? He was holdin' the reins at the big end o' the whip,
I should suppose. I can't well see how you saw everythin' else without
seein' him. He was some better dressed 'n' usual but it just shows what
bein' left a widower does for a man. It seems to somehow put new spirit
in 'em 'n' sets 'em to wearin' ties again. Why, do you know when he come
to go he actually asked me to ride a piece with him 'n' show him which
finger-post to turn in to, an' I will say as, where I would n't of
dreamed o' ridin' with him a week ago, I went to-day an' really enjoyed
it. Yes, I did."

"Was it--" cried Mrs. Lathrop, with a sudden gleam of intuition.

Susan looked surprised for the third time.

"Why, of course," she said, "who else could it be?" Then she left her
position near the door, came over nearer to her friend, took a chair and
began to untie her bonnet.

"I don't know as I 'm surprised over your bein' surprised, Mrs.
Lathrop," she continued in a slightly milder tone after a brief pause
for vocal renovation. "I will confess as I was really nothin' but
surprised myself. I supposed as a matter o' course that to-day he was in
Meadville buryin' her, 'n' when I first see him the funeral was so
strong in my mind as I thought he'd druv over to maybe borrow father's
black bow for his front door. I made my mind right up to tell him
straight to his face as he couldn't have it, for I told you once as I
was keepin' that bow for you, Mrs. Lathrop, an' when I promise anybody
anythin' I keep my word, whether it's a receipt or a bow for their own
funeral, an' when I saw old man Ely it didn't take me no two minutes to
keep my word the same as ever,--'n' father's black bow too. But laws, he
was n't after no bow!--I very quickly found out as all as he was after
was the funeral, f'r it seems as they was uncommonly spry with it. He
told me right off as they had it pretty prompt too, for he says when it
comes to buryin' a wife there 's no need for a man to go slow, 'n' so he
had all Meadville up with the lark 'n' out after old Mrs. Ely. He seemed
to feel all of a sudden as it was a little awkward me not havin' been
there, but I saw how he felt 'n' made his mind easy by tellin' him frank
'n' open that it was n't nothin' agin his wife as kept me here, for when
it come right square down to it I did n't know any one as I 'd enjoy
their funeral more 'n gettin' my curtains ironed; an' I may in truth
repeat to you as that 's so, Mrs. Lathrop, for although it may seem hard
at first hearin', still we both know what it is to iron curtains, 'n' my
motto always is as a live lion has rights above a dead dog, and the
proverb says as the dead is always ready to bury the dead anyhow. Old
man Ely seemed to look on it much as I did, for he did n't fiddle about
none with his affairs, but came right to the point an' told me fair an'
square as, not havin' anythin' particular on hand after it was over, an'
seein' clear as he was three miles out of his way anyhow, he 'd thought
he 'd come on as far as Pete Sanderson's 'n' see about a cow as he 'd
heard Pete had, 'n' then after that it looked to him like it was pretty
much a day for odd jobs straight through, so he come over here to get
some graftin's from our grape-vine. He said as father 'd told him once
as he could have some graftin's from the porch-vine if he 'd come and
cut 'em, 'n' so he was come. I told him as when it was n't nothin' more
important than grape-vines father's words was ever my laws; so he went
out 'n' cut some pieces from the Virginia creeper an' come in perfectly
satisfied, 'n' I may in confidence remark as I was satisfied too for I
was n't overpleased to have him meddlin' with the porch-vine. I will
remark, though, as his cuttin' Virginia creeper for grape-vines did
amuse me some, for it's been a well-known fact for years as Mrs. Ely was
Mr. Ely in everythin' but the clothes he wore, 'n' they say the way she
managed to figger-head him through plantin' 'n' harvest, 'n' pasture 'n'
punkins, was nothin' short of genius, bred in the bone 'n' bustin' out
every seam.

"Howsomesoever, he stayed 'n' stayed 'n' I ironed 'n' ironed, 'n' we
talked about the farm 'n' father 'n' how well he remembered father 'n'
what a good daughter I was 'n' what a good wife Mrs. Ely was 'n' how
well he was goin' to bear it, 'n' I begun to wonder when he was
intendin' to go or whether he was thinkin' of stayin' all day, 'n' at
last there was nothin' but to ask him to dinner, 'n' I was n't intendin'
to have no dinner on a'count o' the curtains. It's a very hard thing,
Mrs. Lathrop, when you're not intendin' to have dinner to have to invite
company for it, but there did n't seem no way to help it. I could n't in
decency more than mention as Mrs. Brown was to home an' I knowed as the
Fishers was give to Irish stew on Tuesdays, but no, sir, there he sat
like a bump on a log 'n' in the hind end I could n't but ask him to stay
'n' have just cold pork 'n' beans on a'count o' the funeral. 'N' so he
stayed. I set my irons back with a heavy heart 'n' said it seemed like
some days misfortunes never come single, for I 'd already seen a
water-bug in the kitchen that very mornin'; but he seemed to have
decided to be thick-skinned, so I put on the tea-kettle 'n' brought out
the pork 'n' beans 'n' we sat down to eat."

"Was--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I should think he was," replied Susan. "I never see such a
appetite. He eat pork 'n' beans like he thought they was twins off a
vine, 'n' I had to finally get up 'n' clear away to save any a _tall_. I
set the tea-kettle by him 'n' told him to end by havin' all the tea he
wanted to pour through the leaves by himself, 'n' I went back to my
ironin'. He sat there 'n' drank tea very happy for a long spell. Seemed
like it sort o' thawed him out, 'n' finally he begin to talk about
_her_, 'n' once he got started on that he never quit. I ironed curtains
'n' listened 'n' let him talk. It was n't long afore he begin to show
the disadvantages o' bein' dead, for he said as he was always the
practical one of them both, 'n' he'd never have dared say that with old
Mrs. Ely on top of the earth. I was amused at his sayin' it anyhow, with
the Virginia creeper graftin's there in a tomato-can bearin' witness
agin him, but I didn't say nothin'. He asked me if I'd believe as she
was really a very fair-lookin' girl when they was married. I couldn't
but stop at that 'n' ask him if it was ever possible as her nose was
ever any different, 'n' he had to say 'No, not any different;' 'n' I can
assure you as he set 'n' rubbed his chin with his hand a long time
afterwards 'n' then drew a big breath 'n' said 'No, not any different.'
I felt to respect his feelin's 'n' did n't say nothin', 'n' after a
while he went on an' said that they was very happy married on the whole,
'n' then he rubbed his chin with his hand a nother long while 'n' said
over again 'on the whole.' He asked me then if I ever heard how he came
to marry her first 'n' I said as I always hear as it was to get the
farm. He kind of flared up at that 'n' said there never was nothin' agin
her but her nose, 'n' at that I took a fresh iron 'n' said he asked me a
plain question 'n' I give him a plain answer, which, considerin' his
horse 'n' my clothes-pole 'n' her nose, was all as could in reason be
expected of me. He softened down at that 'n' said as he was n't by no
means meanin' to make light of his dead wife's nose, 'n' I said as,
speakin' o' Mrs. Ely's nose bein' the one thing agin' her, it was the
joy of every other person as met her as it was agin her 'n' not agin
them, for it was a well-known fact as Mr. Kimball had said hunderds of
times as if he had that nose an' leaned over a bridge 'n' see it in the
water he 'd be willin' to let it overbalance him then 'n' there 'n' be
drowned forever. He got pretty meek at that, for it showed as I was in
earnest, 'n' he went on to say as it _was_ large, but he said as afore
she took to that way of kind o' shrinkin' back of it it did n't look so
large, 'n' anyway she was his married 'n' buried wife. I told him I was
certainly glad to know that, seein' as they 'd lived together so many
years, 'n' then he said it 'd really be nothin' but a joy to him to tell
me how he come to marry her, so I said I 'd listen 'n' welcome 'n' he
started in.

"I must say this, Mrs. Lathrop, 'n' that is that I soon see as it was
lucky as I was n't feelin' no special call to talk any myself, for he
set out in a most steady sort of a discouragin' down-pour, kind of
cross-your-legs 'n' clear-your-throat, 'n' I see as I was in for it 'n'
just let him pour, for feelin's catches us all ways 'n' whatever he felt
about old Mrs. Ely it was plain as some one had got to hear it to the
last drop. So I let him drop away, 'n' I will in all fairness say, as a
more steady spout I never see no one under. He never seemed to consider
as how me or any one might perhaps enjoy to maybe make a remark from
time to time, 'n' even when he ain't talkin' he 's got that way o'
rubbin' his chin as makes it seem most impolite to bu'st in on. I didn't
care much, though, 'cause I had the curtains, 'n' besides I may in
confidence state as when I really felt to speak I sailed right in anyhow
'n' spoke what I wanted to. For I never was one to sit by 'n' have my
tail calmly trod on, as you 'n' a great many others knows to your cost,
Mrs. Lathrop, 'n' then, too, each time when I see as he was nigh to
tippin' into the cistern it was really nothin' but a joy to him to know
it in time to hitch away."

"Did--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"In the first place," said Susan, "he asked me if I 'd mind his smokin'
his pipe, 'n' I told him I most certainly would, so that ended that
subjeck right up square at the beginnin'. Then he said he 'd been
married nigh on to forty years 'n' I told him to look out for the
cistern 'n' he hitched along a piece 'n' begin again. 'N' then he seemed
set a-goin' for keeps.

"Seems, Mrs. Lathrop, as he never had no family, but he says he was a
very handsome young fellow for all that. I looked pretty hard at him,
but he stuck to it 'n' I let it go. He went on to say as he growed up
anyhow 'n' drifted to Meadville when he was long about twenty-four, 'n'
went on to the Pearson farm. Oh, my, but he says that was a stony farm!
I tell you but he rubbed his chin with his hand a long while afore he
said all over again, 'but that _was_ a stony farm!' An' the
gophers!--Well, he says whatever the Recordin' Angel has got down he
bets he's skipped some o' them gophers. He says the hairs on your head
is a mere joy to reckon up, 'n' fallin' sparrows too, beside them
gophers. He says savin' a cent in the time o' Egypt 'n' seein' what you
'd have now if you 'd only done it, is nothin' to the way them gophers
on the Pearson farm was give to givin' in marriage. He says as it was a
very stony farm, 'n' in between every two stones was one hole 'n' half a
dozen gophers to a hole, in the _single_ season. He says ploughin' was
like churnin' with nothin' but stones 'n' gophers in the churn. He says
they was that tame they'd run up your legs 'n' up the horses' legs; he
said maybe I would n't believe it, 'n' I told him I certainly would n't,
so then he went on to another subjeck.

"He says he used to plough through them gophers all day 'n' court Tilly
all night. Tilly was old Mrs. Ely. He says she 'd never been courted on
a'count of her nose, but he said he wanted a farm bad enough to be
willin' to never forget to tip his face pretty well crossways. He says
she was so happy bein' courted that at first it made the gophers just
seem like nothin' a tall, 'n' he says as you can't maybe get the full
sense o' that but it's there just the same. I tell you, Mrs. Lathrop,
you can see that man has suffered. I asked him was he afraid of mice
too, 'n' he bristled up pretty sharp 'n' said he wa'n't afraid of
gophers, only they took you so unawares. I had to tell him right there
to look out for the cistern lid, 'n' he hitched over by the table again
'n' then he said, Well, so it went all summer. He said he got so tired
o' gophers, 'n' moonlight, 'n' hittin' her nose hard by accident, times
when he was n't thinkin', as he was nothin' but glad when September come
'round. He says he 'd figgered all along on bein' married in September,
'n' he never for one moment mistrusted as he wouldn't be; but he says of
all the awful things to count on, Tilly Pearson was the worst. Oh! my,
he says, but she was cranky! 'n' then he rubbed his chin with his hand a
long while 'n' then said 'cranky,' over again in a very hard tone. He
says would you believe it that after all his love-makin' along the first
o' September she begin to get terrible uppish 'n' throw her head aroun'
'n' put on airs 'n' he was just dumbfounded at her goin's on."

"What--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Then he says one awful day when he was stackin' straw, Old Pearson told
him flat 'n' plain as if he was n't goin' to marry Tilly, he need n't
count on spendin' the winter as their company. Well, he says you can
maybe realize what a shock that was. He says his nose was just smashed
numb 'n' his sleep was full o' grabbin' at 'em in his dreams 'n' now it
looked like all was for nothin' a _tall_. Still he says he scraped up a
smile 'n' a cheerful look 'n' told Old Pearson as he was more 'n willin'
to marry Tilly for his winter's board but it was Tilly as was makin' the
trouble. He says Old Pearson looked sort of surprised at that, but he
thought a little while 'n' then he told him as if he was smart he 'd
find a way to bring Tilly to her senses, 'cause every woman had some way
to be brought to her senses, 'n' then he went off 'n' left him to think.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can see without any tryin' that that man
suffered. I pretty near stopped 'n' burnt jus' to listen to him. He says
as he sit there plum beside hisself 'n' most cried from not knowin' what
under Heaven's name to do. He says he was placed most awful with winter
starin' him stark in the face 'n' no warm place to stay. He says nobody
knows how it feels to feel like he was forced to feel,--'nless they've
been expectin' to be married 'n' then been discharged themselves
instead. He says he looked about most doleful 'n' wished he was dead or
anythin' that's warm, 'n' then he got down from the stack 'n' set on a
old wagon tongue 'n' jus' tried to figger on if there was n't no way as
he could think up as would make Tilly have him. He says the bitter part
was to reflect as he had to work to make Tilly have him, when it 'd
really ought by all rights to have been the other way. He says to think
o' that nose 'n' then him obliged to work 'n' slave to get hold of it!"

"I--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, he see it different," said Susan; "he says,--'n' I can't in
reason see how any one as knows as little as you, Mrs. Lathrop, can deny
him,--he says as no one as gets married easy at the end of courtin' can
possibly figger on the difficulties of gettin' married hard. He says it
was jus' beyond belief the way he felt as he set there reflectin' on his
wasted summer 'n' Tilly flippin' aroun' all unconcerned over him leavin'
in the end. He says his blood begun to slowly begin to boil as he set
there thinkin', 'n' in the end he jus' up an' hit the wagon-tongue with
his fist 'n' said 'By Jinks!' 'n' he says when he says 'By Jinks,' it
_is_ the end, 'n' don't you forget it.

"He says he 'd no sooner said 'By Jinks' than he thought of a plan, 'n'
he says Lord forgive him if he ever thinks of such another plan. He says
what put it into his head Heaven only knows, only o' course he never
expected as it would work out as it did. He says he thought as she 'd
see what he was up to 'n' stop him along half-way. But Oh, my, he says,
you never can count on a woman, 'n' then he rubbed his chin with his
hand for a long time 'n' said all over again 'never can count on a
woman.'

"Well, he says after he'd thought o' the plan he went right to work to
carry it out. He says it was one o' them plans as dilly-dally is death
on. So he begun by makin' sure as she was pastin' labels on pickle-jars
in the back wood-house 'n' then he went out by the shed 'n' got some old
clothes-line as was hangin' there 'n' come round to where the
bingin'-pole was 'n' whittled notches in it 'n' tied a piece o' the line
hard aroun' the end. He says all the time he was tyin' he was countin'
on her runnin' right out 'n' askin' him what under the sun he was
doin',--but she never budged."

"What--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, if you 'll keep still 'n' let me talk I 'll tell you," said Miss
Clegg; "I had to keep still while he told me, 'n' the Bible 's authority
for sayin' as what man has done woman can always do too if she has a
mind to.--Well, he says then he bent the end of the pole around 'n' tied
it hard to one of the uprights of the shed so it was sprung around in a
terrible dangerous manner 'n' he says when he got it all tied, he looked
up at the window 'n' why she did n't come out he can't to this day see.
But she did n't--just stayed bobbin' around over her labels 'n' pastin'.
Well, he says o' course he wa'n't in no hurry to go on to next part, so
he dragged the grin'stone out in plain view of her 'n' begun 'n'
sharpened a hatchet most awful sharp. He thought as the hatchet would
bring her anyhow, but still she did n't come out,--jus' stuck to her
stickin' there in the window. I can't well see why he looked for her to
come out because my view would be as if you did n't want a man aroun',
the more ropes an' hatchets he was inclined to the more I 'd let him tie
'n' sharpen, but old Mrs. Ely was always another parts o' speech from
me. She never could eat her own chickens, they say, nor sausage her own
pigs, 'n' I s'pose he knowed her tender spots aforehand 'n' was layin'
for 'em. Anyhow, to go back to him 'n' the grin'stone, he says you can't
under no circumstances keep on sharpenin' a hatchet forever, 'n' so
after a while he _had_ to go on to the next part. He says he was
beginnin' to feel kind o' shaky, but he took more line 'n' made a
slip-noose 'n' tied it hard 'n' fast to the pole. He says he looked up
real bright 'n' hopeful then, but still she did n't come out, 'n' he
says he slid it up over his arm two or three times so she could n't but
see as it was a noose too. Oh, my, but he says he did begin to feel mad
at her then,--he says it wa'n't in reason as any man 'd be pleased at a
woman's smilin' out of a window at him fixin' a noose in plain sight. He
says he 'll leave it to any one dead or alive to get into his skin 'n'
enjoy the way he was beginnin' to feel, but o' course he had to keep on
with his plan, 'n' he says next he laid the hatchet handy an' set down
(Oh, my, but he says the ground sent up a cold chill up his back!) 'n'
tied his feet to the other upright. Well, he says that foot-tyin' was no
joke, for he says he must of took fifteen minutes to it, for he was jus'
about wild by this time, not knowin' what he _would_ do if she did n't
come out _now_. He says no one knows what it is to begin a thing as you
count on _surely_ havin' stopped 'n' then not be stopped a _tall_. He
says as the sentiments as he begun to get was too awful for any ordinary
words 'n' he would scorn to use the words as could describe 'em even if
he knowed any such. Well, he says, at last, when he was through tyin'
his feet, he turned 'n' looked at the window 'n' if she wa'n't gone to
put up the jars, so he had no choice but to sit there on that cold
ground 'n' wait for her to come back. He said he hoped I 'd never know
what his feelin's was as he waited 'n' then he rubbed his chin with his
hand a long time 'n' said all over again, 'as he waited.' I told him it
was n't likely as I would, 'n' to look out for the cistern or he 'd know
new feelin's 'n' a new kind of waitin', so he had to hitch back by the
table again 'n' then he took a long breath before goin' on to the next
part.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, he says when she come back from puttin' up the jars
he jus' could n't but feel as his hour was surely come. He says how he
ever done it he never has seen since, but he took up that noose 'n' put
it over his head. He says as he did so he took a quick look at the
window 'n' seen her lookin', 'n' he says he jus' hoped _surely_ she 'd
give a scream _now_ 'n' come runnin' out the kitchen-door. But he says
she 'd disappointed him so often his heart was like lead, 'n he felt
bluer 'n he 's ever felt any other time in his life. He says he fixed
the noose all smooth around his neck for five minutes or so, 'n' then
there was nothin' in the wide world left for him to do but to take up
that awful sharp hatchet.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I vow I was interested in spite of myself. His
voice shook 'n' his hands too jus' with rememberin'. I really felt to
pity him--I did. He says he lifted the hatchet 'n' looked at the window
tryin' to hope fully 'n' securely as _this_ time she 'd _surely_ come
out screamin' 'n' runnin'. 'N' she never screamed 'n' she never run! Oh,
my, but he says he was tremblin' from head to foot 'n' the cold sweat
jus' poured over him. He says he took up the hatchet 'n' held it
quiverin' in his quiverin' hand, 'n' then he made a weak hack at the
rope as tied the pole to the upright. He says he see her nose in the
window as he hacked 'n' then he says no words can ever describe his
feelin's when he suddenly learned as he 'd cut the rope!--He says he
never had no more idea o' hittin' the rope than he had o' hangin'
himself, 'n' he said when he very quickly felt as he 'd done both
nothin' can properly explain him!--He says the newspapers don't have no
idea a _tall_ of how it feels or they 'd never print it so cool 'n'
calm. He says cuttin' the rope let the pole loose 'n' the noose ran up
on him 'n' choked him most terrible. My gracious, he says but carbolic
acid 'n' Rough on Rats is child's play beside that grip on your throat.
He says he never will forget how it felt, not if he lives to be
Methusalem's great-grandfather. He says he got a most awful jerk from
his head to his heels too as nigh to broke his ankles, 'n' a twist in
his wrist from the weight o' the hatchet, but he said he did n't have no
time to take no a'count o' nothin' just then but the way everythin'
turned red 'n' black 'n' run into his ears."

"Did it kill--" cried Mrs. Lathrop, much excited.

"I 'm goin' to tell you.--He says the last thing he knowed was Tilly's
shriek. O' course when he cut the rope she seen he 'd meant it all, 'n'
so she grabbed up a carvin' knife 'n' yelled to her father 'n' run. Old
man Ely says it was good she run, for there was n't a minute to lose.
Old Pearson run too from where he was in the barn but Tilly got there
first. She didn't lose one second in sawin' him free at both ends 'n' he
says he was so nigh to dead that first he thought she was a gopher, 'n'
then an angel. Oh, my, but he says he was dizzy at first, 'n' faint, 'n'
queer in his ears. He sat 'n' thought about it all by himself for a long
while this mornin' afore he went on again. He says no one ever realizes
how close they are to eternity unless they accidentally go 'n' do
suthin' so darn foolish as that.

"Well, he says, after a while, after a long, long while, he felt to get
to the house, 'n' then, he says, come one o' the strangest parts o' the
story--the part as shows how everythin' turns out for the best in the
end. He says it's really most like a fairy-tale, 'n' jus' as if he 'd
planned it all to order. Seems when he tried to get up 'n' walk to the
house Tilly wanted her father to help hold up his other side, 'n' she
could n't see where her father was. She started aroun' the shed to look
for him 'n' there she found him stretched out flat.--Seems when she cut
Ely loose she let the pole fly roun' jus' in time to take her father in
the legs 'n' there he laid, not dead, but in a way as showed right off
as some one else 'd have to run his farm from then on. Well, old man Ely
says you need n't tell him as there ain't no All-wise Providence after
_that_, 'n' he rubbed his chin with his hand a long, long while 'n'
shook his head 'n' then said 'need n't tell _him_' all over again. He
says he joined the church the very next Sunday 'n' him 'n' Tilly was
married in September like he 'd always planned. He says they was very
happy on the whole 'n' after a while Old Pearson got where he got around
pretty well, only for a crazy idea he had as suthin' unexpected was
goin' to hit him sudden. He says he had the idea so strong as he never
was free from it while he was alive 'n' it was a mercy when he died. He
says as he see how good things can turn out, for, Tilly always jus'
loved him half to death 'cause he 'd loved her enough to cut that rope
in two. He says he means her to have a very handsome monument, 'n' if he
ever marries again he shall keep her picture in the parlor just the
same."

"Do--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I think he 'll try to," said Miss Clegg, "but his other wife may
not see it in the same spirit, Mrs. Ely not bein' no great ornament, 'n'
the farm is safe now anyhow."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop, further.

"Yes," said Susan, "I thought so myself but it did n't seem to strike
him that way."



       *       *       *       *       *



                        THE WOLF AT SUSAN'S DOOR



PART FIRST

MISS CLEGG'S SPECULATIONS


Mrs. Lathrop, rocking placidly in her kitchen window, was conscious of a
vague sense of worry as to her friend over the fence. It appeared to her
that Susan was looking more thin and peaked than nature had intended. It
is true that Miss Clegg was always of a bony and nervous outline, but it
seemed slowly but surely borne in upon her older friend that of late she
had been rapidly becoming sharper in every way. Mrs. Lathrop felt that
she ought to speak--that she ought not to lead her next door neighbor
into the false belief that her sufferings were unnoticed by the
affectionate spectacles forever turned her way,--and yet--Mrs. Lathrop
being Mrs. Lathrop--it was only after several days of rocking and
cogitation that the verbal die came to its casting.

That came to be upon a summer evening, and it came to pass across the
barrier-fence where Miss Clegg had come to lean wearily, her shoulders
and the corners of her mouth following the same dejected angle, while
her elderly friend stood facing her with a gaze that was at once
earnest, penetrating, and commiserating, and a clover blossom in her
mouth.

"Susan," said Mrs. Lathrop, in a voice mournful enough to have renovated
Job; "Susan, I--"

Miss Clegg shut her eyes firmly and opened them sharply.

"I 'm glad you have," she said, in a voice whose tone was divided
between relief and reproach,--"I certainly am glad you have. I try to be
close-mouthed 'n' never trouble any one with my affairs, Mrs. Lathrop,
but I will say as I have often wondered at how you could sit 'n' rock in
the face of what I 've been grinnin' 'n' bearin' these last few weeks.
Not that rockin' is any crime, 'n' I always feel it must be fine
exercise for the chair, but it 's hard for one who has the wolf at their
door, 'n' not only at their door, but nigh to bu'stin' it in, to see
their dearest friend rockin' away, like wolf or no wolf she 'd go on
forever."

Mrs. Lathrop looked aggrieved.

"Why, Susan--" she protested.

"That ain't no excuse," the friend said, not harshly but with a cold
distinctness; "you may talk yourself blind if you feel so inclined, 'n'
I don't say but what you really did n't mean nothin', but the fact
remains, 'n' always will remain, as you 've took a deal of comfort
rockin' while I 've been kitin' broadcast tryin' to see if I could keep
soul 'n' body together or whether I 'd have to let one or the other of
'em go."

Mrs. Lathrop opened her mouth and eyes widely.

"I never--" she gasped.

Susan hooked herself on to the fence-rail with both her elbows
preparatory to a lengthy debate; her eyes were bright, her expression
one of unreserved exposition. Mrs. Lathrop continued to keep her eyes
and mouth open, but reasons which will soon be known to the reader
prevented her making another remark for a long time.

"Mrs. Lathrop, I may as well begin by goin' 'way back to the beginnin'
of everythin' 'n' takin' you right in the hide and hair of my whole
troubles. It ain't possible for you to realize what your rockin 's meant
to me unless you understand to the full what I 've been goin' through
'n' crawlin' under these last weeks. I want to spare your feelin's all I
can, for it ain't in me to be unkind to so much as a gooseberry, but I
can't well see how you can keep from bein' some punched by remorse when
you hear how I 've been cleanin' house with a heavy heart 'n' no new
mop. That's what I 've been doin', Mrs. Lathrop, 'n' so help me Heaven,
it's death or a new mop next year. The way that mop has skipped dirt 'n'
dripped water!--well, seein' is the only believin' when it comes to
mops, but all I can say is that you never looked more spotty than I have
since that mop, 'n' you know how lookin' spotty is mortal agony to
me--me not bein' one who can be happy rockin' on top of dirt.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I said I was goin' to begin at the beginnin', so I
will, although the whole town knows as it was that fine scheme of Mr.
Kimball's as set my ball bouncin' down hill. I was n't the only one as
got rolled over 'n' throwed out feet up, but I don't know as bein' one
of a number to lose money makes the money any more fun to lose. Mr. Dill
was sayin' yesterday as he would n't have listened to nothin' but white
for Lucy's weddin'-dress if it had n't been for Mr. Kimball 'n' his
little scheme, but I don't get any great comfort out of knowin' that
Lucy Dill 's got to try 'n' get herself married in her Aunt Samantha
Dill's blue bengaline. The blue bengaline 's very handsome 'n' I never
see a prettier arrangement of beads 'n' fringe, but every one says too
much of Lucy shows at the top 'n' bottom to even be romantic. They _can_
hook it, but Lucy can't stay hooked inside but five minutes at the
outside. I 'm sure I don't see how they 'll ever fix it, 'n' Gran'ma
Mullins says she cries whenever she thinks that at Hiram's weddin' the
bride won't have no weddin'-dress. Polly Allen wanted Lucy to open the
darts 'n' let in puffs like Mary Stuart's husbands always was puffed,
but Lucy never see Mary Stuart 'n' the only picture in town of any of
her husbands has got him in bed with the sheet drawed up to his chin 'n'
his hands folded right on top of where they 'd want to copy the darts.
Such a picture ain't no help a _tall_, so Lucy is still shakin' her head
the same as at first. _My_ idea would be to make no wish-bones about it
'n' just be married in her travelin'-dress 'n' then wear it when she
goes away, but it seems she wants her travelin'-dress for church, 'n'
does n't mean to wear it travelin' anyhow, because she 'n' Hiram is just
wild over the no-one-knowin'-they 're-married idea, 'n' Lucy is goin' to
wear old gloves 'n' some buttons off her shoes, 'n' Hiram is goin' to
wear his mother's spectacles 'n' Mr. Shores' store umbrella. Gran'ma
Mullins feels awful over Hiram's goin' away like that; she says she 's
brought him up so neat 'n' always a vest on Sunday 'n' only
shirt-sleeves in summer, 'n' now to think of him goin' off on his
weddin'-trip in Mr. Shores' umbrella!--but Lucy don't care--nor Hiram
neither--'n' they 're goin' to take along a piece of sand-paper 'n'
sand-paper the shine off the ring on the train. Polly Allen 'n' the
deacon is laughin' to fits over them. Everythin' 's very different with
Polly 'n' the deacon. The deacon says it ain't in reason as a man of
sixty-two can look forward to many more weddin's, 'n' he 's goin' to sit
with his arm around Polly, 'n' he don't care who chooses to suspeck they
're weddin'-trippin'. They 're goin' to be all new clothes right through
to their skins, 'n' Polly 's goin' to have a orange-blossom bunch on her
hat. The deacon says he 'll pay for all the rice folks are willin' to
throw, 'n' it 's a open secret as he 's goin' to give the minister a
gold piece. The minister was smilin' all over town about it until Mr.
Kimball told him he see a gold quarter-of-a-dollar once. He's hopin' for
a five, but Mr. Shores says he knows positive as the deacon got two
two-dollar-and-a-halfs at the bank when his wife died, and he gave one
to the minister then 'n' probably he 's been savin' the other to get
married again with."

Susan paused for breath--a vital necessity--and then went on:

"But dear me, Mrs. Lathrop, all that ain't what I set out to tell you,
'n' even if it's a pleasure to you to hear it, it ain't in reason as I
should take my time to talk to you about other people's affairs. You may
be interested in other people's affairs, but I ain't, 'n' we started to
talk about mine 'n' what I set out to talk about I talk about or else I
stay at home. It was my troubles as I was goin' to make a clean high
breast of, Mrs. Lathrop, 'n' I 'll lay any odds as by the time I get
through you 'll have little feelin' to sleep in you. The Lord says, 'To
him who hath shall be given,' 'n' I will in confidence remark as I 've
just been achin' to give it to you for these many days. You 've always
been poor, but you 've never seemed to mind; now I 'm poor (yes, Mrs.
Lathrop, jump if you like"--for Mrs. Lathrop had started in
surprise--"but it 's so) 'n' _I_ mind; I mind very much, I mind all up
'n' down and kitty-cornered crossways, 'n' if I keep on gettin' poor,
Lord have mercy on you, for I shall certainly not be able to look on
calmly at no great amount of rockin'."

Mrs. Lathrop stared widely--and gasped openly. Susan continued:

"It all began with Mr. Kimball 'n' his gettin' the fever of
speckilation. Mr. Kimball said he thought he 'd rather get rich quick
than not get rich at all. That was the way he put it 'n' it sounded so
sensible 't I felt to agree. Then he begin to unfold how (he had the
newspaper in his hand), 'n' as soon as he was unfolded I read the
advertisement. It was a very nice advertisement an' no patent medicine
could have sounded easier to take in. You buy two rubber trees 'n' then
wait two years 'n' get fifty per cent till you die. Well, Mrs. Lathrop,
I went over that advertisement fifty times to try 'n' see what to do 'n'
yet the more I studied it the less faith I had in it somehow. The
picture of the man who tended the trees was up on top 'n' little
pictures of him made a kind of pearl frame around the whole, 'n' he was
honest enough lookin', as far as I could judge, but--as I told Mr.
Kimball--what was to guarantee us as he 'd stick to the same job steady,
'n' I certainly did n't have no longin' in me to buy a rubber tree in
southeast Peru 'n' then leave it to be hoed around by Tom, Dick, 'n'
Harry. So I shook my head 'n' said 'no' in the end 'n' then we looked up
railway stocks. Mr. Kimball read me a list of millionaires 'n' he asked
me if I would n't like to be called 'Susan Clegg, queen of the Western
Pacific'--but I 'm too old to be caught by any such chaff, 'n' I told
him so to his face, and then it was that we come to his favorite scheme
of the 'Little Flyer in Wheat.' That was what he called it, 'n' I must
say that I think it's a pretty good name, only if I know myself I 'll
buy wheat as never sets down hereafter.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, it took a deal of talkin' 'n' Mr. Kimball had to do
a lot of figgerin' before my eyes afore I was ready to believe him when
he said as five of us could go in together 'n' double our money every
few days for a month or so. He showed me as what he was figgerin' from
was printed in plain letters 'n' red ink in a city paper, 'n' after a
while I opened my mouth 'n' swallowed the whole thing, red ink 'n' all.
Mr. Kimball, Mr. Dill, Mr. Shores, me, 'n' me over again, was the five,
'n' we bought the share right off, fully believin' as we 'd begin the
wheat-flyin' the same way--" Susan paused and set her teeth a little
vigorously for a moment,--then:

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, that was the way it all begun, 'n' I can lay my
hand anywhere 'n' swear as all my bad luck is founded solid on Mr.
Kimball in consequence. The very day after we begun with our fly instid
of doublin' he halved in the mornin' paper 'n' it seemed we 'd got to
buy him all over again or it was good-by Johnny. Me bein' the only one
with money known to be ready 'n' idle they brought the paper to me to
save the share, 'n' I can only say, Mrs. Lathrop, as I wish as you could
have seen their faces when they saw mine. I saw I was a lamb sittin'
among the sharks, but I see, too, as I 'd have to come to time 'n' I got
the money, 'n' then we set down--Mr. Dill, Mr. Shores, 'n' me--to figger
on how much of the share was mine on the new deal. It struck me, 'n' it
strikes me now, 'n' it always will strike me, as any one as owns
two-fifths of a thing and then buys the whole thing over again owns
seven-fifths of it from then on, but Mr. Dill had the face to tell me to
my face as it wa'n't so at all. He figgered the share at 100 'n' us paid
down at 50 'n' me all together as aggravatin' up to 45, 'n' I could only
sit starin' 'n' stark ravin' dumb to see where he would come out after
that. I did n't say nothin' of what I felt to him or Mr. Shores, for the
very good reason as I wanted to save all my feelin's for Mr. Kimball,
but I tell you that a volcano gettin' itself made in the beginnin' is
floatin' lily-pads beside the inside of me that hour.

"I went down-town that afternoon 'n' I aired myself pretty thoroughly
over the whole town, I can assure you. Mr. Allen said I 'd better pocket
my loss 'n' give up dabblin' in stocks, but I did n't see no great sense
in what he said. I did n't have nothin' to pocket, everything was
gone,--'n' so far as dabblin' goes I wa'n't dabblin', I was in up to my
nose. But Mr. Kimball come out as brassy as a bass-drum 'n' showed me a
picture of wheat layin' on his back in bed takin' a tonic with four
doctors doin' up his room work for him. The doctors was all millionaires
on that stock list of railroads 'n' I counted on their knowin' what they
were givin' him, so I come home quite a little easier, 'n' that night I
slept like a ton of hay. But the next day!--my Lord alive, you remember
the next day, don't you, Mrs. Lathrop, 'n' it must have been arsenic as
them four had put in his bottle, for I was up in the garret makin' a
thistle-down pillow 'n' there come Ed tearin' up on his bicycle to tell
me as I must stick in ten dollars more on a margin. 'On a what?' I
hollered from the window. 'On a margin,' he hollered from under the
porch. Well, really, Mrs. Lathrop, I do believe if he had n't been under
the porch I would have throwed something down on him. My, but I was mad!
I come down that garret-ladder like a greased pan 'n' I tied my bonnet
on 'n' walked straight in on Mr. Kimball. That was one time as he did
very little jokin', 'n' in the end he put in five of the ten himself 'n'
then we both sat down 'n' tried to figger out as to how much of that
share we each owned. I will confess as takin' down stoves was lookin'
out of the window beside that job, 'n' in the end he made out as that if
the share was worth the whole of itself I 'd own half, but bein' worth
only what had happened to it there was n't the half in the whole. So I
come home 'n' dreamed nothin' but nightmares runnin' wildly up 'n' down
me.

"You know what happened next!--it was the next mornin', 'n' I was makin'
bread with a very heavy dough when Ed come bouncin' in for three dollars
more margin. Well, I honestly thought I 'd bu'st. I blazed up so quick
'n' so sudden that Ed fell back agin the table, 'n' then I shook till
the window rattled. It was a good minute before I could speak, 'n' when
I spoke, I may in truth remark, Mrs. Lathrop, that I never spoke plainer
nor firmer in my life,--'Edward Andrews'--I says--'Edward Andrews, you
paddle yourself right back to Mr. Kimball 'n' tell him that my patience
is very short 'n' is gettin' shorter each minute, 'n' you may just
casually mention that I ain't got no more money to margin with not now
'n' not never. If a thing as I 've paid nigh to eight-fifths for is
shrunk to less than half of itself Mr. Dill 'n' Mr. Shores can margin
for it from now on--I'm done forever.' 'N' I was done, too--but I never
bargained on what came next!--Mr. Kimball traded that share in wheat for
two in a Refrigerator Trust 'n' never even so much as sneezed about it
to me, 'n' I will say, Mrs. Lathrop, as I consider that the Bible sayin'
'Honor among thieves' ought to apply to me just as much as to any one
else. 'N' there I went into the city as unsuspectin' as a can brimful of
buttermilk 'n' bought a paper to read comin' home on the cars, 'n' what
should I unfold but wheat runnin' up a ladder along with a bull to get
out of the way of a lot of wild-lookin' lambs! The ladder-rungs was
numbered 'n' I was sharp enough to see as them numbers was money 'n'
that wheat had one leg safe on 110; so I kited home to sell out--'n' it
was then I learned about the Refrigerator!

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop!--well, _Mrs_. Lathrop, what do you think was my
feelin's then?--I tell you boilin' lava 'n' India's sunny strand was n't
hotter than me that minute. Me--the backbone of the whole thing 'n' sold
out like I was a mummy while I was in town buyin' darnin'-cotton!"

Miss Clegg shifted her weight to the other foot and drew a long, fresh
breath.

"Mr. Kimball 'n' me has never been the same since," she continued with
warmth;--"we had enough to make us different, Heaven knows, for from
that day on misfortune has just dogged and rabbited me, I know. The
winter was so cold that the only way the Refrigerator Trust could come
out even was to burn up toward spring, 'n' the day it burnt wheat was
sittin' on 140, kissin' his hand to the new crop."

"But Mr. Kim--" interposed Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, well, of course, havin' Mr. Shores fail right opposite brightened
everything for him--I 'd smile myself if any one was to fail right
opposite me, 'n' I said just that very thing to Mr. Shores the mornin'
after. I says,--I says, 'Mr. Shores, you must consider that this is a
world of ups and downs, 'n' that if you don't like to fail your failure
is makin' Mr. Kimball happy 'n' your loss will be his credit.' But Mr.
Shores was too busy to talk, so I bought two skewers to encourage him
'n' come out, 'n' within a week I found to my sorrow as I was pretty
unpleasantly near to a mark-down sale myself."

"It was--" observed Mrs. Lathrop, sadly.

"Yes," said her friend, "that's just when it was,--that very self-same
week. I was in the square listenin' to Gran'ma Mullins' everlastin' tale
of woe over Hiram 'n' Lucy, 'n' up come the blacksmith with a tale of
woe for myself. Now, Mrs. Lathrop, you know me 'n' you 've known me a
long time 'n' you 've heard me tell this a good many times 'n' yet I
want to ask you one time more,--_do_ you think any one but the
blacksmith 'n' Mr. Dill would ever have blamed me for the crick's
washing out back of the blacksmith's 'n' lettin' the anvil 'n' the hind
legs of Mr. Dill's horse slide out sudden? Of course, I own the
blacksmith shop 'n' of course I rent it, but--as I told him 'n' Mr. Dill
both that very day--nobody can't rent common sense nor yet keep track of
men's washouts 'n' horses' hind legs. I knowed all the time I was
walkin' towards the crick that it was goin' to be a bad business, but I
never expected to see nothin' as looked like Mr. Dill's horse, 'n' I
never again shall hope to see nothin' as 'll look like Mr. Dill's looks
as he looked at the horse. Not as his horse was n't worth lookin' at
either. His legs had gone out behind so far 'n' so unexpected that it
seemed like he could n't get them high enough 'n' close enough to suit
him, 'n' he just stood there drawin' them up alternate for all the world
like a fly on fly-paper. Mr. Dill said he felt like if his horse was n't
ever goin' to be able to h'ist his legs no quicker'n that he 'd have to
have damages, 'n' at that word I nigh to sat right down. I tell you
what, Mrs. Lathrop, Mr. Weskin has bred this damage idea too deep into
this town for any comfort. It 's got to where it's better to hurt
yourself most any way than to damage some one else only a little. I
would n't take the chances of sayin' 'shoo' to a hen on a slippery
mornin', 'n' things has come to a pretty pass when you 've got to
consider a hen's back-slidin's. Such bein' the case I felt more 'n a
little troubled when Mr. Dill said damages, but I tried to look on the
bright side, 'n' I told him that it seemed to me that a proper-minded
horse would have hauled in his legs when he felt himself slippin' in
half. Mr. Dill said his horse unfortunately could n't see with his tail
'n' was also brought up to consider anvils as solid. I answered as all I
could say was as it was a great pity as his horse was n't built enough
like the rest of the world to have better hindsight than foresight,--'n'
then I looked at the anvil in the crick--'n' then I come home."

"'N' that--" said Mrs. Lathrop, sadly.

"Yes, that very night!--it was that very night that the lightnin' struck
my house"--Susan halted a moment to turn and look at the house. "I never
will see why the lightnin' had to strike my house, Mrs. Lathrop, with
yours so handy right next door; but it did strike it--'n' me inside
sleepin' the sleep of the nigh to poverty-stricken 'n' done-up, 'n'
never as much as dreamin' of bein' woke by a brick bouncin' out of my
own flesh 'n' blood stove-hole. My heavens alive! what a night that was,
'n' even if nothin' catched fire everythin' in kingdom come rained in,
'n' when mornin' come 'n' I see what a small hole it was after all I
would n't ever have believed it if you 'd swore it till the week after
doomsday."

"And then--" said Mrs. Lathrop, sympathetically.

"Yes, 'n' then come the roof-mendin'. I never can feel to blame myself
there because I did n't want to pay no carpenter, 'n' you know yourself,
Mrs. Lathrop, as it looked just as easy to get up on that roof as to
fall off any other. I hung the shingles around my neck 'n' put the nails
in my mouth 'n' the hammer down my back, 'n' then I went up the lattice
'n' got over the little window on to the ridge-pole. You know, Mrs.
Lathrop, how simple it all seemed from the ground, 'n' I was to just sit
edgeways from the end of the peak right along up to the hole, but you
've heard me remark afore 'n' I will now remark again as no one on the
ground has any notion of ridge-poles as they really are. A ridge-pole
from the ground, Mrs. Lathrop, looks like it could n't be fell off, but
from itself it feels like it could n't be stuck on to, 'n' I thought I
'd swallow the last one of them nails gaspin' afore I got to the hole.
You saw me tryin' to get to the hole, Mrs. Lathrop, 'n' then you saw me
tryin' to get the hammer. I thought I 'd go somer-settin' head over
heels afore I got it fished out 'n' then there was n't no place to lay
it down!

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I never shall be able to look back on that day and
hour without a cold conscience. It was certainly a awful time. I took a
nail out of my mouth 'n' a shingle off my neck 'n' made ready to begin.
I took the hammer 'n'--just then--I looked down--'n' if there was n't
the minister 'n' his wife just turnin' in my gate!

"Well, of course, that came nigh to endin' me ever 'n' ever! No
Christian would ever dream of answering her front-door bell from her
back ridge-pole, 'n' I never was one to do nothin' as folks could talk
of. I see it was do or die right then or there 'n' I made a quick slide
for the porch roof. You know what happened, 'n' I never have felt to
forgive the minister, even if it was n't him as drove that unexpected
nail in my roof. Mrs. Lathrop, we 've spoke of this afore, 'n' I 've
said then, 'n' I 'll say now, that in spite of my likin' for you, _no_
one as rocks forever on a cushion can be able to even surmise what it is
to slide quick over a unexpected nail, 'n' so it was only natural that
even in the first hour I never looked for anything from you but Pond's
Extract. But I may remark further--for it 's right you should know--that
nothin' in my whole life ever rasped me worse the wrong way of my hair
than to watch you rockin' that fortnight that I had my choice to stand
up or go to bed, 'n' even in bed I had to get up 'n' get out if I wanted
to turn over. Mr. Shores told Mrs. Macy as probably it was the sun as
had drawed that nail, 'n' all I can say is that I hope if it was the sun
'n' he ever takes it into his head to draw another of my nails, that he
'll either draw it completely out or leave it completely in, for I know
as I never want to come down from another ridge-pole by way of another
nail--not while I 'm alive anyhow."

A short pause and a long sigh. Mrs. Lathrop sighed, too.

"Then come the bill from the carpenter 'n' from young Doctor Brown, 'n'
for raisin' the anvil, 'n' I was hardly onto _my_ legs before Mr. Dill's
horse quit his hind ones. Mr. Weskin was up 'n' doin' as usual 'n'
advised bringin' a joint suit with the blacksmith for the anvil 'n' me
for the crick, but even if I was helpless the blacksmith wa' n't goin'
to be sued if he could do anything else, 'n' he brung Mr. Dill up to see
if we could n't arbitrate ourselves. Mr. Dill 's always been very nice
to me, but that wheat-fly made him so mad to be paid something by
somebody that it took the blacksmith 'n' me and four glasses of root
beer to bring him to reason. In the end he said if the blacksmith would
shoe everything he owned till it died 'n' if I would put up Lucy's
currants till I died that he 'd call them two legs straight. We wrote a
paper 'n' signed it 'n' I went to bed, 'n' seemed like my trials were
certainly more than any mortal could stand under, particularly when you
consider that a good deal of the time I had n't been able to sit down.

"I don't see why any one should be surprised over me lookin' worried. It
says in the Bible that if you 'n' Mohamet ain't on the mountain you 're
bound to have the mountain 'n' Mohamet both on you, 'n' I must say I
believe it's true. I 've had to take the ten dollars as I never touch,
'n' the ten as I never will touch, 'n' the ten as I never will touch so
help me Heaven--'n' spend 'em all. 'N' I don't know what I am goin' to
do now, I 'm sure. Bein' yourself, Mrs. Lathrop, you can't in reason be
expected to understand what it is to me to have no one but you to turn
to. You 've got your good points, but you ain't no hand to have ideas
nor yet to advise. I 've been slow in comin' to that view of you, but I
've got to it at last, 'n' got over it, 'n' I 'm walkin' alone now on
the further side."

Mrs. Lathrop looked apologetic, but remained tritely silent. Susan
backed away from the fence.

"It 's gettin' damp," she said; "you 've got rheumatism anyway, so you
don't care if you take cold, but I ain't very anxious to, 'n' so I think
we 'd ought to go in."

Mrs. Lathrop nodded, and turned to go.

"I hope I have n't made you feel uneasy, Mrs. Lathrop," Susan said, as
she also turned; "you know me well enough to know as if I come to
starvation it would never be nothin' but a joy to me to see you starve
with me."

Mrs. Lathrop nodded.

Susan nodded.

And thus they parted for the night.



PART SECOND

GRAN'MA MULLINS'S WOE


It was some days later--a summer afternoon. The setting sun was
brightening the western sky, and Susan, with her bonnet on and her
sun-shade leaning beside her, sat on Mrs. Lathrop's porch and discoursed
in a fashion that partook alternately of the lively and of the dejected.
Mrs. Lathrop rocked calmly and listened yet more so.

"Things is goin' worse 'n' worse," said the caller; "I 've had to bring
myself down to doin' my own weedin', so as to save that ten cents a week
I give Augustus, 'n' Lord knows I 'd gladly put up anything for anybody,
but everybody in this town puts up themselves. I don't know how I will
get along if suthin' don't turn up, 'n' I can't see what can turn up
with every one head over ears deep in the weddin's 'n' young Doctor
Brown settin' the whole town mad over the crick. That 's a very strange
thing about the crick, Mrs. Lathrop, 'n' it seems to be pretty generally
admitted now that inside or out the crick 's good for most anything in
anybody, but this new idea as it 's a sure cure for asthma is just doin'
folks up alive. Young Doctor Brown says he's been investigatin' under
his own microscope, 'n' he says there ain't a doubt but the crick
polliwogs can eat up the asthma polliwogs as fast as you can shake 'em
together in a bottle. He 's goin' to Meadville 'n' shake 'em up for old
Doctor Carter, 'n' then he 's goin' to send to the city for a pint of
typhoid fever 'n' a half-pint of diphtheria 'n' let 'em loose on that.
Mr. Kimball asked him if he was positive which side was doin' the
swallowin' 'n' if he had the crick ones wear a band on their left arms
when they went into battle, but young Doctor Brown explained as there
could n't be no mistake, for asthma has got four claws in its tail and
the crick has horns all over. Mrs. Macy says, under them circumstances
she shall make her tea with boiled rain-water hereafter, 'n' she says
she ain't sure as she 's got enough faith left in the crick to even
scrub with it."

"If I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Gran'ma Mullins is a good deal upset," said Susan; "she don't like the
notion of young Doctor Brown's bringin' so much typhoid and diphtheria
into town just as Hiram 's goin' to get married a _tall_. She says she
's got enough to worry over about Hiram without that. She says she 's
feelin' worse over him every day. She can't talk about it without
chokin'. She says she 's got his rattle and his first sock pinned up by
the clock, so every time she looks up at the time she can see 'em 'n'
cry again. She says it ain't in reason as Lucy 'll ever understand
Hiram. She says Hiram 's a very singular disposition, but if you always
ask him to do what you don't want done 'n' to never do what 's got to be
done right off he 's one of the handiest men around the house as she
ever see. She says he eats a lot of sugar 'n' you must n't notice it,
'cause he always says as he never does; and he most never goes to
church, but you must n't tell him so, 'cause he says he goes regular,
'n' she says as he likes to keep molasses candy in his pockets 'n' under
his pillow, 'n' heaven knows, likin' molasses candy ain't no crime, and
yet she 's almost sure Lucy 's goin' to make his life miserable over it.
She says her cup was full enough without no pint of diphtheria added,
'n' I d'n know as I ever see any one more downhearted. Mrs. Macy 'n' me
stayed and shook our heads with her for a while 'n' then we went on t
Mrs. Allen's to look at Polly's weddin' things. Every one in town is
goin' to look at Polly's weddin' things, 'n' you 'd really suppose as
the deacon was any one in the world but the deacon to see how they 've
fixed Polly up to marry him. Four of everythin' 'n' six o' some. Only
not a apron in the whole,--the deacon would n't have it. He said right
out as he wa'n't marryin' Polly to work her to skin 'n' bone, and he
knows how he wants his house kept 'n' his cookin' done, so he 'll just
keep on keepin' 'n' cookin' as usual. He 's fixed up a good deal; the
canary bird 's got a brass hook after all these years o' wooden-peggin',
'n' he 's bought one o' them new style doormats made out o' wire with
'Welcome P. W.' let into it in green marbles. 'P. W.' stands for 'Polly
White,' 'n' Mr. Kimball told Mr. Macy they had a awful time over
sticking the marbles in 'n' a awful time gettin' the letters to suit.
The deacon was for 'P. W.' all along 'n' Polly was for the deacon, but
Mrs. Allen was for Polly's name, because Polly ain't married yet, 'n'
they got P. A. stuck in afore any one knowed how it'd look, 'n' then
they tried to patch it up with a 'W' added 'n' that seemed like it was a
new way to say to be sure 'n' wipe your feet. Mr. Kimball told Mrs. Macy
he nigh to died laughin', 'n' he did n't mind how he broke his nails
pickin' marbles in 'n' out when he could have so much fun. So they
settled for 'P. W.,' 'n' Mrs. Macy 's more than a little bitter over it
all, for she says the deacon 'll soon come to his senses 'n' then it'll
be too late to get that 'P. W.' off of his door-mat again. But the
deacon ain't carin'. He's friskin' around like a colt, 'n' they say he
's got two new suits of clothes 'n' a new hat for the goin' away. He was
always that way though--I recolleck Mr. Kimball's sayin' when Mrs. White
died that the deacon had been dyein' his hair 'n' bein' patient for over
fifteen years.

"Well--about them weddin' things of Polly's!--Mrs. Allen took me
upstairs 'n' I saw 'em all. The weddin' veil is looped along the
lamberquin with a glove pinned to each curtain, the dress hangs on a
frame between against the window shade, 'n' the under things is folded
on a table at one side with the stockin's tied together in a true
lovers'-knot. I must say they 've done it all real tasty, with the
deacon's picture in the middle leanin' up against her shoes. It 's a
open question about the shoes still, 'cause if Polly wears any shoes a
_tall_ it only makes her that much more higher than the deacon, but Mrs.
Allen says, seein' as it 's as it is, she hopes Polly 'll only think o'
how the higher her heels is the more room it 'll give her train to
spread. It 's a very handsome train 'n' they 've measured so 's it 'll
make the next set o' parlor curtains at the Whites'.

"I declare, Mrs. Lathrop, I can't tell you how all these weddin's 'n'
talkin's do blue me up! To see every one spendin' money 'n' me without
any even to save. Mr. Dill asked me yesterday if I did n't want to take
Gran'ma Mullins to board for the honeymoon, an' I suppose I could maybe
do it, but oh my! I can't say as I take to that idea much. I 'm fond o'
Gran'ma Mullins, but these days Hiram is nothin' but a bottomless pit
when she gets at him, 'n' a honeymoon is a long time to hear one person
talk about one person. I can 't say as I ever had anythin' again Hiram
except that time 't he did n't catch Jathrop to lynch him, but all the
same I ain't over fond o' any one as goes around with their mouth
half-open the year through. Mr. Kimball said once as Hiram Mullins was
the best design for a penny bank as he ever saw, 'n' Polly Allen says
she 's more 'n sorry for Lucy, 'cause no matter how hard Lucy was to
try, Polly says it stands to reason as she could n't get more 'n half a
kiss at once. Mrs. Allen giggled, 'n' we all did, too, 'cause the deacon
carries his mouth so tight shut that it's a question if Polly ever gets
a kiss a _tall_.

"Mrs. Brown says Doctor Brown is gettin' surer 'n' surer about the
crick. He 's been paintin' the cat with asthma 'n' then washin' him in
crick water, 'n' Mrs. Brown says he wa'n't dead up to the time he run
away anyhow."

"That big--" queried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, with the yellow eyes. He 's been gone a week, but they don't care.
Mrs. Brown says that cat was so everlastin'ly around that he made her
feel like she was married again, 'n' she was glad to have him light out.
She says he was so like a man it was awful,--wantin' to sit by the fire
'n' think till you was dyin' to empty the tea-kettle over his head, 'n'
forever placidly yawnin' when you was turned a hundred ends at once.
Mrs. Brown says Amelia 's goin' to give a wash-cloth shower for Polly
and Lucy day after to-morrow. She says young Doctor Brown says if he
comes out on top about that crick-cure for asthma Amelia can do anythin'
she pleases. He says this town 'll be a real cure then, 'n' we 'll see
no end of money flow into us,--she says he says we can all take boarders
at fancy prices 'n' serve 'em to the crick at a penny a glass. I don't
know but what I might take a few quiet boarders myself that way. They 'd
be quiet because they could n't be lively, 'n' the asthma 'd choke 'em
to where they could n't eat much."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"I could have 'Liza Em'ly to help me, I presume. I could advertise 'n'
when they answered I could go in town 'n' look at them and take my pick.
I 'd want to be sure as they were quiet, 'n' I 'd want to be sure as
they were sick--I would n't take no chances at havin' one o' these
merry-go-round summer families land on me, I know. Like as not there 'd
be a boy, 'n' you know yourself, Mrs. Lathrop, that while a boy may
perhaps accidentally happen to be a comfort he 's very much more likely
just to be a boy."

"Yes," said Mrs. Lathrop--"I--"

"Yes, o' course," said Susan, "'n' look where he come out! If Jathrop
had been a girl how different everything would have been for him--not to
speak o' the rest of us. You can't deny that, Mrs. Lathrop, 'n' you
can't deny either as Jathrop would have been better off himself if he 'd
been any other thing as God ever made."

"He--" said the mother.

"You thought so," said Susan, "but nobody else ever did. Mothers is
always mothers 'n' the best will in the world don't seem able to help
'em out o' the scrape. There's Gran'ma Mullins just cryin' her eyes out
these days over Hiram, 'n' you 'd think Lucy was a sea-serpent and Hiram
was chained to a rock to hear her go on. She says she 's raised Hiram so
careful to be a comfort to her all these years 'n' she says he promised
her when he was only two 'n' a half years old that he 'd never smoke nor
drink nor get married. She says she 's trusted him all his life 'n' this
is the first time as he ever broke his word to her. She says all his
little ways is just so sweet, but she feels sure Lucy won't never let
him dip his bread in the platter-gravy 'n' Hiram 's so _awful_ fond of
platter-gravy. She says he likes to have the potato-smasher right by his
place at the table 'n' pound the meat to make more juice come out, 'n'
she says it 's been nothin' but a joy to her always to let him, 'cause
his father died when he wa'n't but eleven months old. But she says she
just knows Lucy 'll be death on Hiram's potato-smasher, 'n' she says she
most feels as if Lucy was goin' to be death on Hiram, too. She says she
can't look at Hiram these days without chokin' over thinkin' how Lucy 's
goin' to look at him inside o' three months. She says Hiram 's a very
tender nature, he can't be hurried awake mornin's, 'n' if he wakes up in
the night he _has_ to have gingerbread 'n' whistle till he drops off to
sleep again. She says no one as really loved Hiram would mind such
little trifles as that, but she says she has her doubts as to Lucy's
really lovin' Hiram, 'n' even if she does really love him now, she says
it ain't no reason as she 'll keep on lovin' him long. She says time
alone 'll tell what the end 'll be, 'n' she only hopes 'n' prays that
whatever Lucy does or does n't do, that she 'll never forget as she was
well 'n' richly warned beforehand, for she says she went herself in
streamin' tears 'n' begged her not to marry Hiram, an' she 's kept
straight on till now she 's almost done it."

Susan ceased speaking and took up her parasol.

"Are--" remonstrated Mrs. Lathrop.

"I must," said her neighbor; "I 'm hungry 'n' I want time to beat up
some soda-biscuit. It 's no use your askin' me to stay to supper,
because my heart is set on soda-biscuit 'n' I like my own better than
any one could ever like yours. I don't say that unkindly, Mrs. Lathrop,
for I ain't got a unkind thing about me, 'n' I could n't lay anything up
against you even if I wanted to. Even when I get all at outs with you
over your rockin' I never lay it up against you--we 've been friends too
many years. If you can be happy rockin' through life till some fine day
you rock over backward into your coffin, all I can say is that it won't
be my funeral, 'n' bein' as it will be yours, I shall be too busy that
day to fuss over ifs 'n' ands. I 'm keepin' the board 'n' saw-horses as
father had for you, 'n' the black bow from his door-bell, too, 'n' after
you 're done with them I 'm intendin' to give them to the first needy
'n' deservin' person as comes along in need of 'em."

Susan started down the steps.

"But--" protested Mrs. Lathrop.

"Probably not," said her friend, "but you never can tell. Anyhow I 'm
goin' now. You don't appear to consider how valuable my time is, Mrs.
Lathrop, but that 's another thing as I don't lay up against you."

       *       *       *       *       *

For the next week Miss Clegg's financial difficulties rubbed on in much
the same way. So did the wedding preparations of Polly Allen and Lucy
Dill. Debts and dates are two things which are famous for movement, and
in between her periods of repose in her own house and of activity about
town Susan seized every chance possible to impart the impending state of
every one's affairs to her neighbor.

"The blacksmith was up again last night," she said one sunny morning,
when the need of hanging out her wash had brought her and Mrs. Lathrop
within conversational distance; "he wants to have his rent a little
lowered so as he can bric-à-brac the side of the crick himself. He says
there 's stones enough to do it, only he must hire a man to help him. I
told him I 'd consider it, 'n' goin' out in the dark he fell over the
scraper. I declare I got a damage-suit chill right down my spine 'n' I
run out with a candle, 'n', thank heaven, he had n't broke nothin' but
the scraper. I 've been wonderin' if it would pay to sue him for that,
but I don't believe I will, because folks has been fallin' over it ever
since father nailed it to the front o' the step so 's to let his pet
weasel go back 'n' forth at the side. The weasel 's been dead for ages,
but the scraper 's never been changed. I wish I could remember that
weasel. Father loved him 'n' mother hated him,--she said she was always
findin' him asleep in her shoes and sleeves. I was speakin' about it to
Gran'ma Mullins to-day 'n' she said she remembered comin' to tea at
mother's once 'n' their findin' the weasel in the tea-pot. I guess
that's the first time Gran'ma Mullins has spoken of any livin' soul but
Hiram in six months. She 's feelin' worse than ever over Lucy's decidin'
to be married at home on account o' the blue bengaline. She says that's
a extra turn o' the ice-cream-freezer handle as she never counted on
havin' to submit to. She says she naturally supposed if Hiram got
married as she 'd sit in the front pew for once in her life, 'n' see the
bride's dress good, 'n' hear the answers plain, 'n' now instid her only
child, as she 's loved like a mother ever since he was born, is goin' to
be married in a parlor as private as if he was bein' buried from the
smallpox! She says, oh dear, oh dear, seems like she never will be able
to live down that mirror as she smashed with her head the first time she
saw what she looked like. She says she wa'n't more 'n nine months old
'n' yet that mirror has tagged her right through life ever since. She
says she missed all her school examinations 'n' did n't get the deacon
'n' did get her husband, 'n' as if that wa'n't enough she must needs
lose her husband, 'n' she 's had no choice but to be a widow ever since,
'n' she 's been sprained in all directions 'n' been broke in all
directions 'n' her mince-meat 'most always ferments 'n' Hiram 's been
her one bright spot 'n' now he 's got to get married in a parlor. She
says the worst is as it would draw bread right out of a stone to see how
cheerful Hiram is these days,--she says any one would suppose as Lucy
Dill was goin' to surely make him happy to see how he goes smilin'
around. She says it 's one of the most pathetikest sights as she ever
see to watch Hiram markin' off the days on his calendar, 'n' she cried
when she told me. She says no one need n't tell her as there 's any one
else like Hiram, for she knows him well enough to know as it could n't
possibly be true. And then she cried again. I tell you what, Mrs.
Lathrop, I may be pretty well churned up over my money troubles, but I
can assure you as I feel like a monkey jumpin' through three rings at
once beside Gran'ma Mullins. Mrs. Macy says that when Hiram goes to see
Lucy you can hear her sobbin' way to the crick,--Mrs. Macy says the
first night she thought it was Mr. Jilkins comin' into town with a hot
wheel. I would n't be surprised myself to see Gran'ma Mullins drop dead
when she hears Lucy get Hiram for better for worse. It 's awful to see a
mother suffer so. I don't see how Hiram stands it. If I was him 'n' she
had a stroke at my wedding I should call it a stroke o' luck 'n' nothin'
else. Not that I don't feel kindly disposed towards Gran'ma Mullins, but
I 'm pretty tired hearin' her tale o' woe. Other folks' troubles is
generally more interestin' to other folks than they are to me, and
besides, if it really comes to talkin' of troubles, nobody ain't got no
more to talk about than I have myself. This money question is nippin' me
sharper in the calves every day, and when Mrs. Macy told me yesterday as
her steps was givin' out I felt like sittin' down on 'em when they done
it. Lord knows, I 'd never be one to wave my flag from no post-hole in
the thick of no flight, 'n' you know yourself, Mrs. Lathrop, that as a
general thing I keep a stiff upper-cut through black and blue, but still
if Mrs. Macy's steps really do break down I feel like I shall have no
choice but to Jack-and-Jill it after 'em."

"Maybe--" suggested Mrs. Lathrop, hopefully.

"Well, I ain't a-expectin' it anyhow. I 'm expectin' ruin, 'n' I can
hear it howlin' and nosin' around my house all night long. Somethin' was
swimmin' in the cistern last night, too,--if it made the other side safe
I 'm all right, but if it drowned there 'll be another bill. It ain't no
use your tryin' to cheer me up, Mrs. Lathrop, because I ain't to be
cheered. I know I 'm goin' to the poorhouse, 'n' I don't thank you nor
no other man for tellin' me to my face as what I know ain't so. Gran'ma
Mullins 'n' me is two very sad hearts these days, 'n' Heaven help us
both. To hear her talk you 'd think the Siamese twins was the sun and
moon apart compared to her 'n' Hiram, 'n' now she 's got to give him up
to Lucy Dill. She says Lucy ain't old enough to appreciate Hiram; she
says Lucy 'll expect Hiram to be pleased, 'n' Hiram ain't never pleased;
she says when Hiram keeps still 'n' don't say nothin' he's pleased, 'n'
when he goes to bed 'n' to sleep right off he 's real pleased. She says
Lucy won't understand, 'n' then there 'll be trouble. She says trouble
is a awful thing to have, 'n' she knows all about it 'cause she had it
with her husband. She says the only good o' havin' trouble with your
husband is the comfort you get out o' talkin' about it, 'n' that when
she thinks as Lucy 'll get her comfort out o' talkin' about Hiram she
pretty nearly gets up and goes right out of her mind."

Susan stopped suddenly; she had been standing with her basket in her
hand, in the attitude of one arrested for a moment's inquiry, throughout
this conversation.

"Did you--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, I did. It was n't no great joy, pinched as I am, but I believe in
doin' what you can for people gettin' married--God help 'em--'n' I give
'em each somethin'. I give Lucy a very good pair of scissors as mother
had, as always grabs me in the joint so I can't use 'em, 'n' I give
Polly our best carvin' knife. They was both sharp things, so they each
had to give me a cent to hold on to friendship. I know two cents ain't
much, but it 's better 'n nothin', 'n' I may tell you in confidence,
Mrs. Lathrop, as all my presents 'll be sharp right along from now on."

Mrs. Lathrop raised her eyebrows to testify to the acute perception
which had grasped her friend's point at once.

"Are you--" she asked presently.

"Goin' to the weddin's?--oh, yes. It may make me a little blue to look
at Lucy, but it could n't but cheer anybody to compare themselves with
Gran'ma Mullins. She says it 's goin' to half murder her, 'n' she 's
made Hiram promise as he 'll give her his first husband's kiss. Lucy 's
got the idea as she 'll have a weddin' procession o' Mr. Dill 'n' her,
an' Hiram 'n' his mother, down the stairs 'n' in through the back
parlor. Hiram don't want to, 'cause he 's afraid his mother won't let go
of him when the time comes. Hiram says he ain't lived through these last
weeks o' half stranglin' without knowin' what he 's talkin' about all
right, but Lucy 's dead set on the procession. They 're goin' to try 'n'
keep Polly 'n' the deacon a little back 'n' out o' sight, 'cause there
's a many as thinks as half o' Gran'ma Mullins's tears is for the
deacon, only she can't say so. Mrs. Allen says every one is talkin' that
idea, 'n' Mrs. Sperrit says she hopes to Heaven as it ain't so, for how
the deacon is to be kept a little back God only knows, for he 's so
happy these days that he 's more than ever everlastin'ly on tap. Mrs.
Sperrit 's been very kind; she 's goin' to take Gran'ma Mullins to the
Dills', 'n' she says she 'll take her home afterwards. Gran'ma Mullins
is goin' to carry ammonia 'n' camphor, 'n' be sure an' have the corks
out of 'em both."

"I wish--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, I do, too," said her friend, heartily, "but I 'll come 'n' tell
you about them both right afterwards. I d'n know as I was ever more
curious in my life than I am to see how Lucy is going to claw Hiram free
long enough to marry him. 'N' I 'm interested in Polly's weddin', too.
But there is no use deceivin' you as to one thing, Mrs. Lathrop, 'n'
that is as what interests me the most of all, is what under the sun I 'm
goin' to do myself to get some money. I can't live on bread 'n' water
alone, 'n' even if I could, the flour 'll soon give out if I bread it
along steady for very long. I 've got to get some money somehow, 'n' I
've about made up my mind as to what I 'll have to do. It makes me sick
to think of it, 'cause I hate him so, but I guess I 'll have to come to
it in the end. I 'll go to the weddin's, 'n' then I 'll brace up 'n'
make the leap."

Mrs. Lathrop looked perturbed--even slightly anxious.

"I 'm sorry not to be able to tell you all my plans," Miss Clegg
continued, "but--"

She stopped suddenly--a train-whistle had sounded afar.

"My heavens alive! if that ain't to-day's ten-o'clock comin' from
Meadville, 'n' me solemnly promised to be at Lucy's at half-past nine to
help Mrs. Macy stone raisins! Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I would n't have
believed it of you if I had n't been a eyewitness!--"



PART THIRD

LUCY DILL'S WEDDING


"Well, Lucy has got Hiram!"

There was such a strong inflection of triumphant joy in Miss Clegg's
voice as she called the momentous news to her friend that it would have
been at once--and most truthfully--surmised that the getting of Hiram
had been a more than slight labor.

Mrs. Lathrop was waiting by the fence, impatience written with a
wandering reflection all over the serenity of her every-day expression.
Susan only waited to lay aside her bonnet and mitts and then hastened to
the fence herself.

"Mrs. Lathrop, you never saw nor heard the like of this weddin' day in
all your own ays to be or to come, 'n' I don't suppose there ever will
be anything like it again, for Lucy Dill did n't cut no figger in her
own weddin' a _tall_,--the whole thing was Gran'ma Mullins first, last
'n' forever hereafter. I tell you it looked once or twice as if it would
n't be a earthly possibility to marry Hiram away from his mother, 'n'
now that it 's all over people can't do anything but say as after all
Lucy ought to consider herself very lucky as things turned out, for if
things had n't turned out as they did turn out I don't believe anything
on earth could have unhooked that son, 'n' I 'm willin' to swear that
anywhere to any one.

"Do you know, Mrs. Lathrop, that Gran'ma Mullins was so bad off last
night as they had to put a mustard plaster onto her while Hiram went to
see Lucy for the last time, 'n' Mrs. Macy says as she never hear the
beat o' her memory, for she says she 'll take her Bible oath as Gran'ma
Mullins told her what Hiram said 'n' done every minute o' his life while
he was gone to see Lucy Dill. 'N' she cried, too, 'n' took on the whole
time she was talkin' 'n' said Heaven help her, for nobody else could,
'n' she just knowed Lucy 'd get tired o' Hiram's story 'n' he can't be
happy a whole day without he tells it, 'n' she 's most sure Lucy won't
like his singin' 'Marchin' Through Georgia' after the first month or
two, 'n' it 's the only tune as Hiram has ever really took to. Mrs. Macy
says she soon found she could n't do nothin' to stem the tide except to
drink tea 'n' listen, so she drank an' listened till Hiram come home
about eleven. Oh, my, but she says they had _the_ time then! Gran'ma
Mullins let him in herself, 'n' just as soon as he was in she bu'st into
floods of tears 'n' would n't let him loose under no consideration. She
says Hiram managed to get his back to the wall for a brace 'cause
Gran'ma Mullins nigh to upset him every fresh time as Lucy come over
her, 'n' Mrs. Macy says she could n't but wonder what the end was goin'
to be when, toward midnight, Hiram just lost patience 'n' dodged out
under her arm 'n' ran up the ladder to the roof-room 'n' they could n't
get him to come down again. She says when Gran'ma Mullins realized as he
would n't come down she most went mad over the notion of her only son's
spendin' the Christmas Eve to his own weddin' sleepin' on the floor o'
the attic 'n' she wanted to poke the cot up to him, but Mrs. Macy says
she drew the line at cot-pokin' when the cot was all she 'd have to
sleep on herself, 'n' in the end they poked quilts up, 'n' pillows, 'n'
doughnuts 'n' cider 'n' blankets, 'n' Hiram made a very good bed on the
floor 'n' they all got to sleep about three o'clock.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, what do you think? What _do_ you think? They was so
awful tired that none of 'em woke till Mrs. Sperrit come at eleven next
day to take 'em to the weddin'! Mrs. Macy says she hopes she 'll be put
forward all her back-slidin's if she ever gets such a start again. She
says when she peeked out between the blinds 'n' see Mrs. Sperrit's
Sunday bonnet 'n' realized her own state she nearly had a fit. Mrs.
Sperrit had to come in 'n' be explained to, 'n' the worst of it was as
Hiram could n't be woke no-how. He 'd pulled the ladder up after him 'n'
put the lid on the hole so 's to feel safe, 'n' there he was snug as a
bug in a rug 'n' where no human bein' could get at him. They hollered
'n' banged doors 'n' sharpened the carvin' knife an' poured grease on
the stove 'n' did anything they could think of, but he never budged.
Mrs. Macy says she never was so close to beside herself in all her life
before, for Gran'ma Mullins cried worse 'n ever each minute, 'n' Hiram
seemed like the very dead could n't wake him.

"They was all hoppin' around half crazy when Mr. Sperrit come along on
his way to the weddin' 'n' his wife run out 'n' told him what was the
matter 'n' he come right in 'n' looked up at the matter. It did n't take
long for _him_ to unsettle Hiram, Mrs. Macy says. He got a sulphur
candle 'n' tied it to a stick 'n' h'isted the lid with another stick,
'n' in less 'n two minutes they could all hear Hiram sneezin' an' comin'
to. 'N' Mrs. Macy says when they hollered what time it was she wishes
the whole town might have been there to see Hiram Mullins come down to
earth. Mr. Sperrit did n't hardly have time to get out o' the way 'n' he
did n't give his mother no show for one single grab,--he just bounced
into his room 'n' you could have heard him gettin' dressed on the far
side o' the far bridge.

"O' course, us at Lucy's did n't know anythin' a _tall_ about Mrs.
Macy's troubles. We had our own, Heaven help us, 'n' they was enough,
for the very first thing of all Mr. Dill caught his pocket on the corner
of Mrs. Dill 'n' come within a ace of pullin' her off her easel. That
would have been a pretty beginnin' to Lucy's weddin' day if her father
had smashed her mother's glass to bits, I guess, but it could n't have
made Lucy any worse; for I will say, Mrs. Lathrop, as I never see no one
in all my born life act foolisher than Lucy Dill this day. First she 'd
laugh 'n' then she 'd cry 'n' then she 'd lose suthin' as we 'd _got_ to
have to work with. 'N' when it come to dressin' her!--well, if she 'd
known as Hiram was sleepin' a sleep as next to knowed no wakin' she
could n't have put on more things wrong side out an' hind side before!
She was n't dressed till most every one was there 'n' I was gettin'
pretty anxious, for Hiram was n't there neither, 'n' the more fidgety
people got the more they caught their corners on Mrs. Dill. I just saved
her from Mr. Kimball, 'n' Amelia saw her goin' as a result o' Judge
Fitch 'n' hardly had time for a jump. The minister himself was beginnin'
to cough when, all of a sudden, some one cried as the Sperrits was
there.

"Well, we all squeezed to the window, 'n' such a sight you never saw.
They was gettin' Gran'ma Mullins out 'n' Hiram was tryin' to keep her
from runnin' the color of his cravat all down his shirt while she was
sobbin' 'Hi-i-i-i-ram, Hi-i-i-i-i-ram', in a voice as would wring your
very heart dry. They got her out 'n' got her in an' got her upstairs,
'n' we all sat down 'n' begin to get ready while Amelia played 'Lead,
Kindly Light' and 'The Joyous Farmer' alternate, 'cause she'd mislaid
her Weddin' March.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you never knowed nothin' like it!--we waited, '_n_'
we waited, '_n_' we waited, 'n' the minister most coughed himself into
consumption, 'n' Mrs. Dill got caught on so often that Mr. Kimball told
Ed to stand back of her 'n' hold her to the easel every minute. Amelia
was just beginning over again for the seventeenth time when at last we
heard 'em bumpin' along downstairs. Seems as all the delay come from
Lucy's idea o' wantin' to walk with her father 'n' have a weddin'
procession, instid o' her 'n' Hiram comin' in together like Christians
'n' lettin' Mr. Dill hold Gran'ma Mullins up anywhere. Polly says she
never see such a time as they had of it; she says fightin' wolves was
layin' lambs beside the way they talked. Hiram said frank 'n' open as
the reason he did n't want to walk in with his mother was he was sure
she would n't let him out to get married, but Lucy was dead set on the
procession idea. So in the end they done it so, 'n' Gran'ma Mullins's
sobs fairly shook the house as they come through the dinin'-room door.
Lucy was first with her father 'n' they both had their heads turned
backward lookin' at Hiram 'n' his mother.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, it was certainly a sight worth seein'! The way that
Gran'ma Mullins was glued on! All I can say is as octopuses has got
their backs turned in comparison to the way that Hiram seemed to be all
wrapped up in her. It looked like wild horses, not to speak of Lucy
Dill, would n't never be able to get him loose enough to marry him. The
minister was scared; we was all scared. I never see a worse situation to
be in.

"They come along through the back parlor, Lucy lookin' back, Mr. Dill
white as a sheet, 'n' Hiram walkin' like a snow-plough as is n't sure
how long it can keep on makin' it. It seemed like a month as they was
under way before they finally got stopped in front o' the minister. 'N'
then come _the_ time! Hiram had to step beside Lucy 'n' take her hand
'n' he could n't! We all just gasped. There was Hiram tryin' to get
loose 'n' Mr. Dill tryin' to help him. Gran'ma Mullins's tears dripped
till you could hear 'em, but she hung on to Hiram like he 'd paid for
it. They worked like Trojan beavers, but as fast as they 'd get one side
of him uncovered she 'd take a fresh wind-round. I tell you, we all just
held our breath, 'n' I bet Lucy was sorry she persisted in havin' a
procession when she see the perspiration runnin' off her father 'n' poor
Hiram.

"Finally Polly got frightened 'n' begun to cry, 'n' at that the deacon
put his arm around her 'n' give her a hug, an' Gran'ma Mullins looked up
just in time to see the arm 'n' the hug. It seemed like it was the last
hay in the donkey, for she give a weak screech 'n' went right over on
Mr. Dill. She had such a grip on Hiram that if it had n't been for Lucy
he 'd have gone over, too, but Lucy just hung on herself that time, 'n'
Hiram was rescued without nothin' worse than his hair mussed 'n' one
sleeve a little tore. Mr. Sperrit 'n' Mr. Jilkins carried Gran'ma
Mullins into the dinin'-room, 'n' I said to just leave her fainted till
after we 'd got Hiram well 'n' truly married; so they did.

"I never see the minister rattle nothin' through like that
marriage-service. Every one was on whole papers of pins 'n' needles, 'n'
the minute it was over every one just felt like sittin' right straight
down.

"Mrs. Macy 'n' me went up 'n' watered Gran'ma Mullins till we brought
her to, 'n' when she learned as it was all done she picked up wonderful
'n' felt as hungry as any one, 'n' come downstairs 'n' kissed Lucy 'n'
caught a corner on Mrs. Dill just like she 'd never been no trouble to
no one from first to last. I never see such a sudden change in all my
life; it was like some miracle had come out all over her 'n' there was
n't no one there as was n't rejoiced to death.

"We all went out in the dinin'-room 'n' the sun shone in 'n' every one
laughed over nothin' a _tall_. Mrs. Sperrit pinned Hiram up from inside
so his tear did n't show, 'n' Lucy 'n' he set side by side 'n' looked
like no one was ever goin' to ever be married again. Polly 'n' the
deacon set opposite 'n' the minister 'n' his wife 'n' Mr. Dill 'n'
Gran'ma Mullins made up the table. The rest stood around, 'n' we was all
as lively as words can tell. The cake was one o' the handsomest as I
ever see, two pigeons peckin' a bell on top 'n' Hiram 'n' Lucy runnin'
around below in pink. There was a dime inside 'n' a ring, an' I got the
dime, 'n' they must have forgot to put in the ring for no one got it."

Susan paused and panted.

"It was--" commented Mrs. Lathrop, thoughtfully.

"Nice that I got the dime?--yes, I should say. There certainly was n't
no one there as needed it worse, 'n', although I 'd never be one to call
a dime a fortune, still it is a dime, 'n' no one can't deny it the
honor, no matter how they feel. But, Mrs. Lathrop, what you 'd ought to
have seen was Hiram 'n' Lucy ready to go off. I bet no one knows they
're brides--I bet no one knows _what_ they are,--you never saw the like
in all your worst dreams. Hiram wore spectacles 'n' carpet-slippers 'n'
that old umbrella as Mr. Shores keeps at the store to keep from bein'
stole, 'n' Lucy wore clothes she 'd found in trunks 'n' her hair in
curl-papers, 'n' her cold-cream gloves. They certainly was a sight, 'n'
Gran'ma Mullins laughed as hard as any one over them. Mr. Sperrit drove
'em to the train, 'n' Hiram says he 's goin' to spend two dollars a day
right along till he comes back; so I guess Lucy 'll have a good time for
once in her life. 'N' Gran'ma Mullins walked back with me 'n' not one
word o' Hiram did she speak. She was all Polly 'n' the deacon. She said
it wa'n't in reason as Polly could imagine him with hair, 'n' she said
she was thinkin' very seriously o' givin' her a piece o' his hair as she
's got, for a weddin' present. She said Polly 'd never know what he was
like the night he give her that hair. She said the moon was shinin' 'n'
the frogs were croakin', 'n' she kind o' choked; she says she can't
smell a marsh to this day without seein' the deacon givin' her that
piece of hair. I cheered her up all I could--I told her anyhow he could
n't give Polly a piece of his hair if he died for it. She smiled a weak
smile 'n' went on up to Mrs. Brown's. Mrs. Brown 's asked her to stay
with her a day or two. Mrs. Brown has her faults, but nobody can't deny
as she 's got a good heart,--in fact, sometimes I think Mrs. Brown's
good heart is about the worst fault she's got. I 've knowed it lead her
to do very foolish things time 'n' again--things as I thank my star I 'd
never think o' doin'--not in this world."

Mrs. Lathrop shifted her elbows a little; Susan withdrew at once from
the fence.

"I must go in," she said, "to-morrow is goin' to be a more 'n full day.
There 's Polly's weddin' 'n' then in the evenin' Mr. Weskin is comin'
up. You need n't look surprised, Mrs. Lathrop, because I 've thought the
subject over up 'n' down 'n' hind end foremost 'n' there ain't nothin'
left for me to do. I can't sell nothin' else 'n' I 've got to have
money, so I 'm goin' to let go of one of those bonds as father left me.
There ain't no way out of it; I told Mr. Weskin I 'd expect him at sharp
eight on sharp business, 'n' he 'll come. 'N' I must go as a
consequence. Good night."



PART FOURTH

MR. JILKINS'S HAT


Polly Allen's wedding took place the next day, and Mrs. Lathrop came out
on her front piazza about half past five to wait for her share in the
event.

The sight of Mrs. Brown going by with her head bound up in a white
cloth, accompanied by Gran'ma Mullins with both hands similarly treated,
was the first inkling the stay-at-home had that strange doings had been
lately done.

Susan came next and Susan was a sight! Not only did her ears stand up
with a size and conspicuousness never inherited from either her father
or her mother, but also her right eye was completely closed and she
walked lame.

"The Lord have mercy!" cried Mrs. Lathrop, when the full force of her
friend's affliction effected its complete entrance into her
brain,--"Why, Susan, what--"

"Mrs. Lathrop," said Miss Clegg, "all I can say is I come out better
than the most of 'em, 'n' if you could see Sam Duruy or Mr. Kimball or
the minister you 'd know I spoke the truth. The deacon 'n' Polly is both
in bed 'n' can't see how each other looks, 'n' them as has a eye is
goin' to tend them as can't see at all, an' God help 'em all if young
Dr. Brown an' the mud run dry!" with which pious ejaculation Susan
painfully mounted the steps and sat down with exceeding gentleness upon
a chair.

Mrs. Lathrop stared at her in dumb and wholly bewildered amazement.
After a while Miss Clegg continued.

"It was all the deacon's fault. Him 'n' Polly was so dead set on bein'
fashionable 'n' bein' a contrast to Hiram an Lucy, 'n' I hope to-night
as they lay there all puffed up as they 'll reflect on their folly 'n'
think a little on how the rest of us as did n't care rhyme or reason for
folly is got no choice but to puff up, too. Mrs. Jilkins is awful mad;
she says Mr. Jilkins wanted to wear his straw hat anyhow, 'n' she says
she always has hated his silk hat 'cause it reminds her o' when she was
young 'n' foolish enough to be willin' to go 'n' marry into a family as
was foolish enough to marry into Deacon White. Mrs. Jilkins is extra hot
because she got one in the neck, but my own idea is as Polly Allen's
weddin' was the silliest doin's as I ever see from the beginnin', 'n'
the end wa'n't no more than might o' been expected--all things
considered.

"When I got to the church, what do you think was the first thing as I
see, Mrs. Lathrop? Well, you 'd never guess till kingdom come, so I may
as well tell you. It was Ed 'n' Sam Duruy 'n' Henry Ward Beecher 'n'
Johnny standin' there waitin' to show us to our pews like we did n't
know our own pews after sittin' in 'em for all our life-times! I just
shook my head 'n' walked to my pew, 'n' there, if it was n't looped shut
with a daisy-chain! Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I wish you could have been there
to have felt for me, for I may remark as a cyclone is a caterpillar wove
up in hisself beside my face when I see myself daisy-chained out o' my
own pew by Polly Allen. Ed was behind me 'n' he whispered 'That's
reserved for the family.' I give him one look 'n' I will state, Mrs.
Lathrop, as he wilted. It did n't take me long to break that daisy-chain
'n' sit down in that pew, 'n' I can assure you as no one asked me to get
up again. Mrs. Jilkins's cousins from Meadville come 'n' looked at me
sittin' there, but I give them jus' one look back 'n' they went 'n' sat
with Mrs. Macy themselves. A good many other folks was as surprised as
me over where they had to sit, but we soon had other surprises as took
the taste o' the first clean out o' our mouths.

"Just as Mrs. Davison begin to play the organ, Ed 'n' Johnny come down
with two clothes-lines wound 'round with clematis 'n' tied us all in
where we sat. Then they went back 'n' we all stayed still 'n' could n't
but wonder what under the sun was to be done to us next. But we did n't
have long to wait, 'n' I will say as anythin' to beat Polly's ideas I
never see--no--nor no one else neither.

"'Long down the aisle, two 'n' two, 'n' hand in hand, like they thought
they was suthin' pretty to look at, come Ed 'n' Johnny 'n' Henry Ward
Beecher 'n' Sam Duruy, 'n' I vow 'n' declare, Mrs. Lathrop, I never was
so nigh to laughin' in church in all my life. They knowed they was
funny, too, 'n' their mouths 'n' eyes was tight set sober, but some one
in the back just _had_ to giggle, 'n' when we heard it we knew as things
as was n't much any other day would use us up this day, sure. They
stopped in front 'n' lined up, two on a side, 'n' then, for all the
world like it was a machine-play, the little door opened 'n' out come
the minister 'n' solemnly walked down to between them. I must say we was
all more than a little disappointed at its only bein' the minister, 'n'
he must have felt our feelin's, for he began to cough 'n' clear up his
throat 'n' his little desk all at once. Then Mrs. Davison jerked out the
loud stop 'n' began to play for all she was worth, 'n' the door behind
banged 'n' every one turned aroun' to see.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, we saw,--'n' I will in truth remark as such a
sawin' we 'll never probably get a chance to do again! Mrs. Sweet says
they practised it over four times at the church, so they can't deny as
they meant it all, 'n' you might lay me crossways 'n' cut me into
chipped beef 'n' still I would declare as I would n't have the face to
own to havin' had any hand in plannin' any such weddin'.

"First come 'Liza Em'ly 'n' Rachel Rebecca hand in hand carryin'
daisies--of all things in the world to take to a weddin'--'n' then come
Brunhilde Susan, with a daisy-chain around her neck 'n' her belt stuck
full o' daisies 'n'--you can believe me or not, jus' as you please, Mrs.
Lathrop, 'n' still it won't help matters any--'n' a daisy stuck in every
button down her back, 'n' daisies tangled up in her hair, 'n' a bunch o'
daisies under one arm.

"Well, we was nigh to overcome by Brunhilde Susan, but we drawed some
fresh breath 'n' kept on lookin', 'n' next come Polly 'n' Mr. Allen. I
will say for Mr. Allen as he seemed to feel the ridiculousness of it
all, for a redder man I never see, nor one as looked more uncomfortable.
He was daisied, too--had three in his buttonhole;--but what took us all
was the way him 'n' Polly walked. I bet no people gettin' married ever
zigzagged like that before, 'n' Mrs. Sweet says they practised it by
countin' two 'n' then swingin' out to one side, 'n' then countin' two
'n' swingin' out to the other--she watched 'em out of her attic window
down through the broke blind to the church. Well, all I can say is, that
to my order o' thinkin' countin' 'n' swingin' is a pretty frame o' mind
to get a husband in, but so it was, 'n' we was all starin' our eyes off
to beat the band when the little door opened 'n', to crown everythin'
else, out come the deacon 'n Mr. Jilkins, each with a daisy 'n' a silk
hat, 'n' I will remark, Mrs. Lathrop, as new-born kittens is blood-red
murderers compared to how innocent that hat o' Mr. Jilkins looked. Any
one could see as it was n't new, but he was n't new either as far as
that goes, 'n' that was what struck me in particular about the whole
thing--nothin' 'n' nobody was n't any different only for Polly's
foolishness 'n' the daisies.

"Well, they sorted out 'n' begun to get married, 'n' us all sittin'
lookin' on 'n' no more guessin' what was comin' next than a ant looks
for a mornin' paper. The minister was gettin' most through 'n' the
deacon was gettin' out the ring, 'n' we was lookin' to get up 'n' out
pretty quick, when--my heavens alive, Mrs. Lathrop, I never will forget
that minute--when Mr. Jilkins--poor man, he's sufferin' enough for it,
Lord knows!--when Mr. Jilkins dropped his hat!

"That very next second him 'n' Ed 'n' Brunhilde Susan all hopped 'n'
yelled at once, 'n' the next thing we see was the minister droppin' his
book 'n' grabbin' his arm 'n' the deacon tryin' madly to do hisself up
in Polly's veil. We would 'a' all been plum petrified at such goings on
any other day, only by that time the last one of us was feelin' to hop
and grab 'n' yell on his own account. Gran'ma Mullins was tryin' to slap
herself with the seat cushion, 'n' the way the daisies flew as folks
went over 'n' under that clematis rope was a caution. I got out as quick
as I--"

"But what--" interrupted Mrs. Lathrop, her eyes fairly marble-like in
their redundant curiosity.

"It was wasps!" said Susan. "It was a young wasps' nest in Mr. Jilkins's
hat. Seems they carried their hats to church in their hands 'cause Polly
did n't want no red rings around 'em, 'n' so he never suspected nothin'
till he dropped it. 'N' oh, poor little Brunhilde Susan in them short
skirts of hers--she might as well have wore a bee-hive! I will in
confidence remark as I got off easy, 'n' you can look at me 'n' figger
on what them as got it hard has got on them. Young Dr. Brown went right
to work with mud 'n' Polly's veil 'n' plastered 'em over as fast as they
could get into Mrs. Sweet's. Mrs. Sweet was mighty obligin' 'n' turned
two flower-beds inside out 'n' let every one scoop with her kitchen
spoons, besides runnin' aroun' herself like she was a slave gettin'
paid. They took the deacon 'n' Polly right to their own house. They
can't see one another anyhow, 'n' they was most all married anyway, so
it did n't seem worth while to wait till the minister gets the use of
his upper lip again."

"Why--" interrogated Mrs. Lathrop.

"Young Dr. Brown wanted to," said Susan, "he wanted to fill my ears with
mud, 'n' my eye, too, but I did n't feel to have it done. You can't die
o' wasps' bills, 'n' you can o' young Dr. Brown's--leastways when you
ain't got no money to pay 'em, like I ain't got just at present."

"It 's--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes," said Susan, "it struck me that way, too. This seems to be a very
unlucky town. Anything as comes seems to catch us all in a bunch. The
cow most lamed the whole community 'n' the automobile most broke its
back; time 'll tell what 'll be the result o' these wasps, but there
won't be no church Sunday for one thing, I know.

"'N' it ain't the least o' my woes, Mrs. Lathrop, to think as I 've got
to sit 'n' smile on Mr. Weskin to-night from between two such ears as is
on me, for a man is a man, 'n' it can't be denied as a woman as is
mainly ears ain't beguilin'. Besides, I may in confidence state to you,
Mrs. Lathrop, as the one as buzzed aroun' my head wa'n't really no wasp
a _tall_ in comparison to the one as got under my skirts."

Mrs. Lathrop's eyes were full of sincere condolence; she did not even
imagine a smile as she gazed upon her afflicted friend.

"I must go," said the latter, rising with a groan, "seems like I never
will reach the bottom o' my troubles this year. I keep thinkin' there's
nothin' left 'n' then I get a wasp at each end at once. Well, I 'll come
over when Mr. Weskin goes--if I have strength."

Then she limped home.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was about nine that night that she returned and pounded vigorously on
her friend's window-pane. Mrs. Lathrop woke from her rocker-nap, went to
the window and opened it. Susan stood below and the moon illuminated her
smile and her ears with its most silvery beams.

"He 's just gone!" she announced.

"Yes," said Mrs. Lathrop, rubbing her eyes.

"He's gone; I come over to tell you."

"What--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"I would n't care if my ears was as big as a elephant's now."

"Why--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Mrs. Lathrop, you know as I took them bonds straight after father died
'n' locked 'em up 'n' I ain't never unlocked 'em since?"

Mrs. Lathrop assented with a single rapt nod.

"Well, when I explained to Mr. Weskin as I 'd got to have money 'n' how
was the best way to sell a bond, he just looked at me, 'n' what do you
think he said--what _do_ you think he said, Mrs. Lathrop?"

Mrs. Lathrop hung far out over the window-sill--her gaze was the gaze of
the ever earnest and interested.

Susan stood below. Her face was aglow with the joy of the affluent--her
very voice might have been for once entitled as silvery.

"He said, Mrs. Lathrop, he said, 'Miss Clegg, why don't you go down to
the bank and cut your coupons?'"



       *       *       *       *       *



                          A VERY SUPERIOR MAN



Miss Clegg sat in Mrs. Lathrop's rocking-chair, on Mrs. Lathrop's
kitchen stoop. Mrs. Lathrop sat at her friend's feet, picking over
currants. If she picked over a great many she intended making jelly; if
only a few, the result was to be a pie.

Susan had on her bonnet and mitts and held her sun-umbrella firmly
gripped between her two hands and her two knees. She looked weary and
worn.

"It seems kind o' funny that I bothered to go, now that I come to think
it over," she said, gazing meditatively down upon her friend and her
friend's currant-picking; "I wa'n't no relation of Rufus Timmans, 'n'
although I don't deny as it 's always a pleasure to go to any one's
funeral, still it's a long ways to Meadville, 'n' the comin' back was
most awful, not to speak o' havin' no dinner nowhere. It never makes no
one brisk but a horse to go without eatin', 'n' I must in consequence
say 't I was really very sorry as Rufus was dead durin' the last part of
the drive; but o' course he was a very superior man, 'n' as a
consequence nobody wanted to have it said in after life as they wa'n't
to his buryin'. So I went along with the rest, 'n' Heaven help me now,
for I never was more beat out in all my life. I was up awful early this
mornin' to be sure o' not bein' left, 'n' I may in confidence remark as
I 've thought many times to-day as if I had been left I 'd of been a
sight better off. Long rides is very frisky for them as is young 'n' in
love 'n' likes to drive alternate, but for a woman o' my age, bein'
wedged solid for sixteen miles at a time is most tryin'; 'n' comin' back
some o' them smart Meadville boys had the fine idea o' puttin' walnuts
under the seats, 'n' we rode most of the way thinkin' as they was our
bones till Mr. Dill jus' got up 'n' whopped his cushion over to see if
it 'd feel any different the other side, 'n' I may state as the results
I shall remember till I die."

"Who--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Everybody!" said Susan; "I never knowed how superior Rufus was till I
see how folks turned out for his funeral. Every minister 'n' doctor in
the whole vicinity was there. The Lumbs drove way up from Clightville,
got overturned in the brook by the old knife factory, but come along
just the same. Old Mr. 'n' Mrs. Trumbull started day before yesterday as
soon as they knowed he was dead 'n' ate with relations all the way along
'n' got them to come too whenever they could. They was seven buggies 'n'
two democrats when they arrived at last. Mrs. Macy was waitin' for me in
the square when I got there this mornin' 'n' she told me as a city
reporter had come up to write a account of it 'n' as Dr. Cogswell was
goin' to be there. They say as a live bishop wanted to make the prayer
but Rufus was so advanced in his views it seemed better not to come out
too strong over his dead body. Mrs. Macy said it all showed what a very
superior man he was. She says as she feels as maybe we did n't
appreciate him enough. She says maybe we was prejudiced. Lord knows it's
very hard not to be prejudiced agin' the folks you live among, 'n' I
guess any one as see Rufus mildly stumblin' around losin'
pocket-handkerchiefs 'd of had a hard time regardin' him as superior;
but he _was_ superior, 'n' Mrs. Macy says he _always_ was superior, for
her aunt, old Mrs. Kitts, of Meadville, remembers when he was born, 'n'
Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Kitts always says as he was superior right from the
start. She says as Mrs. Kitts says as Rufus's father was really 'most a
nuisance, talkin' about his superiority even the very first week he was
born. Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Kitts says that his father said right off the
day he was born, as to his order o' thinkin' Rufus was different from
other babies right then 'n' there. He told Mrs. Kitts hisself as he
knowed folks was often fools over their first babies, 'n' he did n't
calcalate to act no such part, but in common honesty he _must_ state as
Rufus was 'way above the ordinary run, not because he was his baby, but
just because it was the plain truth. Mrs. Kitts said she see Rufus
herself when he wa'n't but three days old, 'n' she told Mrs. Macy as she
must in truth confess as he looked then jus' about as he always
looked--kind of too awful wise to have any sense a _tall_. Mrs. Macy
says Mrs. Kitts says the superior thing about Rufus them first days was
the way as his mother looked on him. Mrs. Kitts says Tabitha Timmans was
a mos' remarkable woman, straight up her back 'n' all in 'n' out in
front--one o' them women as is most all teeth--front teeth, 'n' Mrs.
Kitts said whenever she looked at Rufus she was all back teeth too. They
had him in a clothes-basket to keep off draughts, with a quilt to
pervent changes in the weather, 'n' a mosquito-nettin' for fear a fly
might thaw out unexpectedly 'n' get near him. Mrs. Kitts said Tabitha
Timmans was just about wild over him; she told Mrs. Kitts she felt it
gallopin' up 'n' down her spine as how Rufus was surely goin' to grow up
to be a inspector--or mebbe the president; she said any one could see he
was in for bein' suthin' high up 'n' sort o' quiet 'n' important. Tilda
Ann, Sammy Timmans's aunt, was there too. Mrs. Kitts says she always
liked Tilda Ann, what little she see of her, even if she _was n't_
patient. Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Kitts says Tilda Ann never had no real
fault, only her never bein' able to be patient. She says if Tilda Ann
had only had a little patience it 'd of been a great deal better for her
in the end, for if Tilda Ann 'd had a little more patience she 'd never
have come scurryin' home cross-lots that night in the fog 'n' gone
hickety-pickety over the well-curb, thinkin' it was a stone wall. Mrs.
Kitts says she never can help considerin' what a shock Tilda Ann must
have got when she realized as she was over, 'n' so was everythin' else."

"My--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"But she was alive then," continued Susan, "'n' she was there takin'
care o' Tabitha 'n' watchin' over Rufus. Mrs. Kitts said it did n't take
much to see as Tilda Ann had n't no particular admiration for Rufus; she
said right then 'n' there, as to her order o' thinkin,' Tabitha 'd ought
to teach him to quit suckin' his thumb right off,--she said as it was a
most terrible job when they got bigger. Mrs. Kitts said Tabitha said as
not many babies was smart enough to suck their thumbs at Rufus's age,
'n' then Tilda Ann said as not many mothers was fool enough to let 'em.
Mrs. Kitts said Tilda Ann was never one to mince words. She always said
jus' what she thought, 'n' that was a very bad thing for her too, for
afore she died she 'd said jus' what she thought to so many people that
they had great difficulty gettin' a party together to hunt for her that
day as she turned up missin' on a'count of bein' down in the well.

"While we was talkin'--Mrs. Macy 'n' me--up Gran'ma Mullins come 'n' it
turned out from her as we was all three expected to squeeze over to
Meadville on Mr. Jilkins's back seat together. Mrs. Macy 'n' me was far
from pleased at that prospeck, 'n' Gran'ma Mullins did n't look over
rejoiced herself. There is them as can wedge, 'n' them as can't, 'n' we
was all three the kind as can't. I ain't as wide as Mrs. Macy, nor yet
the soft and squashy kind like Gran'ma Mullins, but I will say, Mrs.
Lathrop, as bein' overflowed around for sixteen miles, is to my order o'
thinkin' full as tryin' as to be overflowin' aroun' somebody else."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop, mildly.

"No, you would n't either," said Susan, "I know you better 'n you know
yourself, Mrs. Lathrop, for I know you asleep 'n' awake, 'n' you only
know yourself awake; not as asleep 'n' awake is n't very much the same
thing with you, Mrs. Lathrop; but asleep or awake, the main fact is as I
know most, so you can just keep still till I get done with what I 'm
sayin'."

Mrs. Lathrop kept still.

"Well, after it was settled as, willy-nilly, we'd got to back-seat it to
Meadville together, Gran'ma Mullins begin about what a very superior man
Rufus was 'n' what a very superior boy he used to be. Mrs. Macy did n't
say nothin', 'cause it was easy to see as she 'd really took it a good
deal to heart bein' thirded for sixteen miles; but Gran'ma Mullins went
right on with when she lived in Meadville 'n' taught school that winter
she was seventeen. She said as Rufus was in her middle class that winter
'n' _mos_' superior. He was nine 'n' the oldest o' nine, there bein' two
pairs o' twins; she said it looked like Tabitha 'n' Sammy had took the
Bible about replenishin' the earth right on to their own shoulders.
Gran'ma Mullins said it was suthin' to make any one content to teach
school forever, only to look at 'em; she said she should always think it
was that as made all the men in Meadville so ready to go to the war 'n'
the women so calm over their gettin' killed; she said no one wanted to
get married there, anyhow."

"But she--" interposed Mrs. Lathrop, quickly.

"Well, but she knew he had a bullet in him 'n the Roman fever 'n' a
pension," said Susan, "she knowed she was pretty safe--I would n't blame
her under them circumstances. But that's neither here nor anywhere else,
Mrs. Lathrop, 'n' what with your interruptin' Lord knows when we will
get around to Rufus, for I keep forgettin' he 's dead 'n' rememberin'
him alive, 'n' no one as remembers Rufus Timmans alive could ever tell
anything about him, 'n' you know that as well as I do. Gran'ma Mullins
said herself to-day as he was a great problem to her in school, 'n' she
used to study him out of all comparison to the other children. Every one
admitted as he was superior, 'n' yet no one knowed jus' why. She says he
really _was_ superior in lots o' ways, 'n' he whittled her a open-work
ink-stand once for a Christmas as she 's used for toothpicks ever since,
but she says the inside o' his ideas was surely most amazin'. She says
she had him for two years, 'n' all she could say was as in all them two
years she was mostly struck dumb by him. She says she used to go up 'n'
talk to Tabitha, 'n' Tilda Ann used to come down 'n' talk with her, but
nothin' ever seemed to come of it. Tilda Ann declared up 'n' down as he
was a fool through 'n' through, 'n' poor Tabitha was awful nervous for
fear he 'd invent somethin' in bed some night as would surely blow the
house up. Seems he was so ahead at ten years old that he wanted to study
to be a chemist, 'n' so behind that he spelt it 'kemst,' 'n' him all of
ten years old.

"Gran'ma Mullins said she used to be clean beside herself; he was the
show-boy whenever the board came, 'n' never got his lessons between
times. She says she always knowed he 'd turn out _some way_, but Tilda
Ann never had no opinion of him a _tall_. Not as Tilda Ann's opinion
mattered much, 'cause she climbed into the well just about then, 'n'
Rufus looked out a verse for her tombstone in the Bible. It was a very
good motto for her too,--it was, 'Well done, thou good 'n' faithful
servant'; it made a lot o' talk, 'cause she really never was paid
nothin', but the sentiment about the well was very pretty, 'n' every one
thought Tilda Ann herself would have liked it if she 'd stayed up 'n' so
had any say in the matter.

"Gran'ma Mullins went on to say as she got married soon after, so she
run out of talk, an' Mrs. Macy 'n' me was so tired listenin' to her
anyway that we was all more 'n' content jus' to stand aroun' 'n' wait
till the Jilkinses come drivin' up. Then we all had to up 'n' in
somehow, 'n' I will say, Mrs. Lathrop, as wedgin' Mrs. Macy an' Gran'ma
Mullins was certainly a sight to see. They was for puttin' me in the
middle, but I was flat for a outside so 's I could breathe, 'n' in the
end Mrs. Jilkins set between me 'n' Gran'ma Mullins, 'n' Mrs. Macy set
with Mr. Jilkins--what of her did n't hang over outside."

"What did--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"There was n't no other way to get 'em both there--that's why," said
Susan; "there was them as went on the cars, but that was n't no great
success, for they was so late that Rufus had his lid all on afore they
got there, so they really had very little for their money. 'N' besides,
if we 'd all gone on the cars, how was we to get to the grave? Rufus was
well this side o' Meadville, 'n' the cemetery's some further this way,
'n' whatever your views may be I hope you don't mind my sayin' right out
as other folks' views is always more sensible. You can't be expected to
know much, Mrs. Lathrop, with your few church privileges 'n' your parlor
too small for the sewin' society; but if you was less inclined to talk
'n' more inclined to listen to me I may in confidence remark as you
_might_ learn about the funeral--even if you never learned nothin' else
in this world."

Mrs. Lathrop was again silent forthwith.

"Drivin' over we all talked about Rufus. We had really a very pleasant
ride, for we was all disposed to view him kindly goin' over. Mrs. Macy
told over again what a superior baby he was, 'n' Gran'ma Mullins told
over again what a superior boy he was, 'n' Mrs. Macy said as Mrs. Kitts
said as he was the talk o' the town when he was twenty-one. Gran'ma
Mullins did n't remember much about him then, 'cause she got married
along about that time, 'n' she 's always said that them who gets married
don't need nothin' else to do for one while; but Mrs. Macy said Rufus
was one o' the most superior young men as Mrs. Kitts ever see. She said
as old Mr. Tilley took him right into the heart 'n' soul o' his
drug-store jus' because his mother was his cousin, 'n' even then the
general feelin' was as he was way above the business. Mrs. Macy said as
Mrs. Kitts said she 'd never forget goin' in one day for some salts 'n'
finding Rufus all alone. Why, she said she never had known he was so
head 'n' shoulders above other people! She says she 's told the story a
million times 'n' it 's still fresh in her mind. She said she asked for
simple salts, 'n' he begun right off about a comet. She felt awful
uncomfortable to have to say as she had n't seen no comet, 'n' then it
turned out no wonder, 'cause you could only see it from China an'
Maddygasgar. She said she was awful interested, 'n' he was too, 'n' in
the end he was _so_ interested that he found he had n't poured out o'
the salts bottle a _tall_. It was only just a chance as he remembered as
it was salts she wanted, 'n' she said he was _so_ nice about it, went
under the counter to find a cork to fit, 'n' told her all about how they
get gumarabic while he was under there, 'n' she was so deep in the
subjeck that she never noticed, 'n' he stuck a poison label on, 'n' they
both laughed over that fit to kill themselves. My goodness, Mrs. Macy
said, but Mrs. Kitts said as he was a taking young man. In the end he
wrote the name in Latin across the skull 'n' cross-bones, 'n' she only
had to always remember as 'Sally Simplex' meant 'simple salts' from
then on.

"She went on to say as the biggest thing Rufus ever done long about then
was to down their minister in a open conversation one night callin' at
Deacon Grummel's. She told all about it, 'n' seems as there was some
talk afterwards about gettin' up a subscription to send him to college,
only it never come to nothin' 'cause no one wanted to subscribe. Seems
the minister was Luther Law, him as moved to Chicago afterwards 'n' got
burnt up or out--I forget which--in the fire. Seems he was to Deacon
Grummel's one night, 'n' him 'n' Rufus got to discussin' what we all
come from. Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Grummel said she never hear the like. She
'n' her husband was jus' all of a tremble. She said afterwards that if
it 'd of been any other minister than Luther Law, Rufus _would_ have had
him sure. She said it was just like a lecture hall to hear, upon her
honor. The minister begun by startin' out for our all comin' from Adam
'n' Eve, but Rufus come out flat for our bein' from monkeys. Well, Mrs.
Grummel said she 'n' her husband could n't do no more than feel their
hearts beat at _that_. Rufus jus' argued 'n' kep' on arguin' till he
made the minister admit as there was n't nothin' absolute agin' monkeys,
'n' then--if that young man did n't go him one better 'n' say as he
believed in tadpoles himself. Luther Law was flat agin' tadpoles, but
Rufus never let up till he got him to admit that if the Lord could make
a man out of a monkey He could make him out of a tadpole, too. 'N'
_then_, when he'd got him so far, what _do_ you think, Mrs.
Lathrop,--what do you think!--Mrs. Macy said as Mrs. Kitts said as Mrs.
Grummel said if that young man did n't look right square into Luther's
face 'n' say as to _his_ order o' thinkin' it wasn't what we'd come from
as mattered so much as what we'd develop into _next_. 'That's what I
want to know,' he said to Luther Law, runnin' his hand into himself in
that way as was so fashionable along 'bout then, 'that's what _I_ want
to know, 'n' I can't find no one as has a addykit answer for me.'

"Well, Mrs. Macy said Mrs. Kitts said as up to her deathbed day Mrs.
Grummel _always_ said as that was _the_ minute o' her life. She said
facin' cannon would n't be nothin' to the way she 'n' the deacon felt
over seein' the minister asked a thing like that right on top o' their
own tea! But, lor, you never could stick Luther Law. A minister would
n't be able to be able to be a minister if little things like questions
you can't answer could run him aground. He jus' waited a minute 'n' then
he looked slow 'n' sad, an' lifted up his hand _so_, 'n' pointed _so_,
an' said, 'Young man, how can you ask such a question, with the starry
heaven right on top of your head?'

"Well! Mrs. Grummel said it was like a flash o' thunder splittin' clean
through the air. She said her husband never quit saying to his dying day
as that was the smartest thing as Luther Law ever said, considerin' how
little time he had to think, 'n' it was the only thing in the wide world
as he could of said, too. She said she told that story all over town,
'n' no one could ever decide which was the smartest, Rufus or Luther
Law; 'cause even if Luther Law did find a way out, it was such a
astonishin' thing as he did that Rufus got a sight o' credit out of
comin' as nigh to stickin' him as _he_ did. A good many people begun to
say then as he was too superior for a small town;--old Dr. Lumb said as
to his order o' thinkin' he 'd ought to move near to some place where
he'd have professors to talk to.

"Mrs. Macy said Mrs. Kitts give her to understand, though, as there was
a 'nother side to Rufus even then, 'n' it begun to crop out mighty
young, too. Mrs. Kitts said she would n't mention it only in confidence,
but Mr. Tilley, of the drug-store where Rufus was, told _her_ as he'd be
only too glad to see Rufus move _anywhere_, whether it had professors to
talk to or not. Mr. Tilley said his ideas was far too advanced for a
small town. Mr. Tilley said he could n't find the easiest things after
Rufus had got 'em labelled in Latin, 'n' he said it wasn't practical to
classify no drug-store without a rollin' step-ladder anyhow. Then there
came up the Kelly cat, 'n' on account of the Kellys havin' money the
Kelly cat come nigh to endin' Rufus. I never hear about the Kelly cat
afore, but seems as the Kelly cat was ailin' 'n' the Kellys took it to
Rufus for catnip, 'n' Rufus got to discoursin' with Bessy on how if
you're born under Venus with Mars gettin' up you're bound to marry
whoever you love, 'n' he clean forgot what ailed the cat 'n' tried to
give her ipecac as if she was croupy instead o' bein' droopy. The cat
knowed ipecac even if Rufus did n't, 'n' she bounced out from between
him 'n' Bessy 'n' bounced into the winder 'n' busted the big bottle full
o' green. Rufus said it was a fit, 'n' he got a hair-oil bottle as gives
you a nickel nose of your own for nothin', 'n' he put the nose on the
ipecac 'n' got the whole down the cat so far that she come nigh to
swallowin' the nose. Mrs. Macy said Mrs. Kelly never felt to forgive
Rufus, 'n' it set her deader 'n' ever agin' him, but, lor, Bessy was too
head over heels in love to care about cats or ipecac. She was as sure
Rufus was superior as any one could be, 'n' every one knowed what was up
as well as she 'n' Rufus did. Mrs. Macy said as every one said as a
superior young man must marry money or he could n't in reason stay
superior long, 'n' Rufus was dead set on stayin' superior, so they was
married the next spring 'n' moved to the city, 'n' they did n't come
back till it was plain as Mr. Kelly 'd have to support 'em or let Bessy
starve on Rufus's superiority."

Susan paused abruptly and sighed. Mrs. Lathrop said never a word.
Presently the discourse flowed on again.

"Well, there was n't really no wish to say nothin' but good of Rufus,
but it is a long drive to Meadville an' we had to talk, 'n' you know as
well as I do, Mrs. Lathrop, as it's nigh to impossible to talk long of
people if you 're only to say good of 'em. Rufus was there 'n' dead to
talk about, 'n' while we naturally wished him well, still we was pretty
tired before we got through drivin' sixteen miles to bury him. Gran'ma
Mullins said finally as he was certainly a very superior man, but she
knowed from her niece Hannah as he was trying to live with. She said
Hannah lived with 'em for five years 'n' looked after the children, 'n
cheered Bessy up when she was nigh to wore out with bein' married to
Rufus. Hannah never had no use for Rufus Timmans herself,--she was awful
fond o' Bessy 'n' the boys, but she drawed the line at Rufus, 'n'
Gran'ma Mullins says she never minced matters neither. Gran'ma Mullins
says as Hannah used to walk right in on Rufus 'n' let fly whenever she
felt as the salvation of her soul called on her to speak or bu'st. She
said Hannah said what she could n't stand was the way the general public
seemed to coincide with Rufus's opinion of himself. Hannah used to say
as the general run o' folks did n't have to live with Rufus Timmans an'
she did, 'n' she furthermore used to say if the general run o' folks had
had to live with Rufus Timmans they would n't o' viewed him from no
fancy standpoint no more 'n' she did herself. Hannah used to say as day
in 'n' day out was a terrible lettin' in o' light on dark spots, 'n' for
her part she had n't got no use for a man as had the whole o' the inside
o' the earth by heart 'n' was n't one earthly bit o' good on the outside
of it. Hannah said as all she could say was as she wisht as some o' them
as admired his superior understandin' could just be in her place one
while. Gran'ma Mullins said as there was one time as Hannah never got
over, 'n' that was the cistern, she said as Hannah always got mad
whenever she told it, 'n' she told it so often, her face stayed always
red in the end, jus' from tellin' that story so often.

"Seems as Rufus thought mebbe there was a dead rat in the cistern, so he
had the cistern cleaned out, 'n' the drouth came on, 'n' Monday come on
top o' the drouth, 'n' Hannah pumped her arms most off afore she
realized as there wa'n't no water a _tall_, 'n' then she was that mad as
she walked right in on Rufus 'n' give it to him.

"Gran'ma Mullins said Hannah said it made her mad only to look at him;
he was sittin' in the little shady parlor, jus' softly rockin' back 'n'
forth, readin' a book as told why the Dead Sea 's dead. Well, Hannah
said no words could tell how much madder she got when she got right in
front o' him--to see a able-bodied man rockin' 'n' readin' Dead Seas on
top of a empty cistern. Hannah was never one to keep her own counsel in
the face of her own feelin's, you know, 'n' she jus' went right up in
front of Rufus 'n' said as calm as she could, 'Mr. Timmans, where's the
water for the wash to come from?' Gran'ma Mullins said Hannah always
said as she tried to stay calm but she give out young, 'n' the sight o'
Rufus liftin' his superior eyes jus' did for her. She put her two hands
on her two hips, an' let out right then 'n' there, 'Mr. Timmans,' she
says, 'you was so sure 't there was a rat drowned in the cistern,' she
says, 'that nothin' mus' do but you mus' clean it out,' she says; ''n'
there wa'n't no rat,' she says, ''n' it ain't rained since,' she says,
''n' how're we to wash?' she says,--'n' then she waited to see what he
would say, 'n' she said a lamb would o' begun to hop about 'n' yowl with
mad to see how kind of calm 'n' dazed like 'n' altogether peaceful 'n'
happy he looked up at her. 'N' he says, quite placid 'n' contented,
'Can't you get some water out o' the pond?' he says. 'Out o' the pond!'
says Hannah, high-keyed like,--Gran'ma Mullins says Hannah always went
high-keyed easy,--'out o' that muddy, swampy, slimy, marshy, cow-churned
pond,' says Hannah, 'out o' that nasty, dirty, filthy, green pond,' says
Hannah, gettin' high-keyeder 'n' high-keyeder. 'I can get it clean for
you,' says Rufus, a-openin' the Dead Sea 'n' runnin' his eyes aroun' for
his place,--'jus' say when you want it,' he says. Well, Gran'ma Mullins
said Hannah always said as she never knowed what kept her off him at
that minute, for she was that mad she felt like the righteous judgment
o' the Lord was in the ends of her very finger-nails. '_Now_,' she says,
'right _now_,' she says; 'that's when I want it,' she says. Rufus looked
up 'n' see she was in earnest, 'n' she says the way he sighed like he
was a martyr as led the band was enough to have ended her patience once
'n' for all time if it had n't been for the wash, 'n' then he carefully
turned a leaf down in the Dead Sea 'n' got out o' the rocker 'n' went
'n' got Nathan Lumb 'n' they went off together.

"Well, Gran'ma Mullins said Hannah begun to wait, 'n' Hannah waited
until if Hannah had waited any longer she 'd have gone off like a
rocket, she was that mad again. Gran'ma Mullins said Hannah always got
so red she got purple if she only was rememberin' it after. 'N' in the
end she could n't stand it no longer 'n' she set off for the pond
herself. She always said as she just hoped 'n' prayed as they was both
on 'em drowned all the way there, but the Lord in his mercy was n't
seein' fit to deal out no such luck, 'n' she found the pond there an'
Rufus 'n' Nathan gone.

"'N' what do you suppose she see, Mrs. Lathrop; what _do_ you suppose
she see? You never heard the like, 'n' the whole wagon of us could n't
but feel as it was maybe just as well as we was on our way to Rufus's
funeral, for we _never_ could have faced him in real life after hearin'
such a tale.

"Seems there was the pond 'n' there was the edge o' the pond, 'n' there
was two barrels as Rufus 'n' Nathan had set close to the edge. One o'
the barrels was empty 'n' one was full o' dirty swamp-water, 'n' Rufus's
superior mind had hung a old piece o' carpet from one barrel over into
the other so it could suck up dirty water 'n' drip off clean, 'n' mebbe
if the sun did n't shine too hard Hannah 'd have a pail o' clean water
come Hallowe'en. 'N' the wash waitin'!

"Mr. Jilkins said as that was jus' what might o' been expected o' Rufus.
He'd like to observe the theery 'n' he would n't care about the wash.
Gran'ma Mullins said it did the business for Hannah, though. She never
could make up her mind to take Dr. Lumb before on a'count o' his
swearin' so, but she made up her mind as anythin' as 'd rid her o' Rufus
'n' give her a chance to boss Nathan 'd fill her bill after that, 'n'
she went up that very night 'n' told Dr. Lumb, as if he still wanted
her, she was prepared to be took. He wanted her 'n' he took her, 'n' she
was to the funeral to-day with Nathan 'n' his two boys, all of 'em
brushed so slick you could see with half a eye as Hannah had got a deal
o' satisfaction out o' them all these years since.

"She come over to sit beside Gran'ma Mullins 'n' talked a little while.
She said Bessy Timmans was bearin' Rufus's loss mos' bravely, 'n' her
daughter Betty was come home 'n' brought the baby to comfort her. Hannah
said as Betty was a very sweet young woman. She said she never forgot
the day when she was only four years old, 'n' asked right out why the
family had to be so proud o' Rufus. Hannah said her mother shut her up
quick, but it was plain to be seen as that child had eyes for them as
could hear, 'n' was pretty quick at sizin' up Rufus.

"It was a awful big funeral. Folks was there from all over. I drove out
to the graveyard with old Dr. Lumb 'n' Dr. Cogswell from the city. The
other one was Susy Carter, 'n' she's so deaf all I could do was to
listen to the front seat. Dr. Cogswell said as it was a great pity that
a superior man like Rufus Timmans should have had to live his life out
on highways 'n' edges by circumstances probably beyond his control. Dr.
Lumb said yes, a small community like Meadville could n't never offer
nothin' like a addykit scope to a brain like Rufus's. He said he was
surprised as Rufus's brain had managed to scratch along as well as it
had under the circumstances. He said, with the exception of himself
Rufus had never had no one to really talk to. He said, to be frank, he
would in confidence remark to Dr. Cogswell as Bessy Timmans was a very
inferior person an' no ways up to Rufus. He said as he should n't be
personally surprised to know as her feelin's towards Rufus partook more
of a element of impatience than of admiration. He said as one night when
he was there he was most dumbfounded to see how little attention she
paid with Rufus discoursin' on trilobites 'n their relations to the
cursory strata. Dr. Cogswell sighed 'n' said he was afraid he'd have to
admit as he feared that was mebbe only too likely to be true. He said he
felt a sadness because every trilobite as was related by Rufus was of
profound value to any scientific student. He said Rufus was one at whose
feet them as is learned could easy sit and learn some more. He said
Rufus ought to o' gotten out in the world thirty years ago,--but then he
sighed again, 'n' said probably circumstances as no one knowed nothing
of probably chained him here. It was easy to see as Dr. Lumb had a awful
high opinion o' Rufus, but that 'd be only natural, him bein' married to
Hannah as was so dead set agin' him, 'n' he shook his head then 'n' said
as he believed as Dr. Cogswell had guessed pretty nigh to the truth. He
said he knowed as Bessy was born in Meadville, 'n' as her property was
there 'n' he said his own opinion was that with the shortsightedness
common to her sex she had chained the eagle so as she might stay among
her little circle o' petty friendships, 'n' so the noble bird had worn
his soul away in captivity, so to speak.

"Dr. Cogswell said 'Ah!' 'n' then they both shook their heads together
'n' sighed together.

"Hannah did n't go out to the grave. She stayed with Bessy. She took me
into the pantry afore we left 'n' said as the spirit o' relief hoverin'
in the house was beyond all belief. She said Betty was goin' to take her
mother home with her when she went. She said Betty said as she could
come back to Meadville whenever she liked, but she said as Bessy said
she'd never want to come back. Hannah says Bessy told her as all she
asked was to live out her days some place where she 'd never have to
hear again what a very superior man Rufus was.

"I stood aroun' an' talked with a lot more folks. The general feelin'
was as it was a great honor to be buryin' Rufus, but nobody knowed just
why. I thought about it comin' home a-jouncin' along over them walnuts.
(My, but they was hard!) The truth seems to be as there 's some folks
born to be superior 'n' to know as they're superior, 'n' other folks
born to admire 'em, 'n' neither set sees jus' why."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, as long as you say so I may as well admit as I was thinkin' that
very thing myself," said Susan; "but far be it from me to have said such
a thing myself _of_ myself, Mrs. Lathrop--but as long as _you_ say it I
can't but remark as no one in their senses could deny its bein' true o'
me."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, that's your misfortune," said Miss Clegg, graciously; "there ain't
no need of apologizin' to a old friend like me. 'N' anyway, Mrs.
Lathrop, I guess nobody could n't tell _me_ nothin' about your
inferiorities--not after livin' next to you all the years as I have; but
you know me, 'n' you know as nothin' ever changes my feelin's towards a
friend--not even towards such a friend as you, Mrs. Lathrop."

Mrs. Lathrop was silent.



       *       *       *       *       *



                        Other books by Anne Warner



THE REJUVENATION OF AUNT MARY

     Always amusing and ends in a burst of sunshine.--_Philadelphia
     Ledger_.

     Impossible to read without laughing. A sparkling, hilarious
     tale.--_Chicago Record-Herald_.

     The love story is as wholesome and satisfactory as the fun. In its
     class this book must be accorded the first place.--_Baltimore Sun_.

     The humor is simply delicious.--_Albany Times-Union_.

     Every one that remembers Susan Clegg will wish also to make the
     acquaintance of Aunt Mary. Her "imperious will and impervious
     eardrums" furnish matter for uproarious merriment.... A book to
     drive away the blues and make one well content with the worst
     weather.--_Pittsburg Gazette_.

     Cheerful, crisp, and bright. The comedy is sweetened by a
     satisfying love tale.--_Boston Herald_.



SUSAN CLEGG AND HER FRIEND MRS. LATHROP

     It is seldom a book so full of delightful humor comes before the
     reader. Anne Warner takes her place in the circle of American woman
     humorists, who have achieved distinction so rapidly within recent
     years.--_Brooklyn Eagle_.

     Nothing better in the new homely philosophy style of fiction has
     been written.--_San Francisco Bulletin_.

     Anne Warner has given us the rare delight of a book that is
     extremely funny. Hearty laughter is in store for every
     reader.--_Philadelphia Public Ledger_.

     Susan is a positive contribution to the American characters in
     fiction.--_Brooklyn Times_.

     Susan Clegg is a living creature, quite as amusing and even more
     plausible than Mrs. Wiggs. Susan's human weaknesses are endearing,
     and we find ourselves in sympathy with her.--_New York Evening
     Post_.

     No more original or quaint person than she has ever lived in
     fiction.--_Newark Advertiser_.



A WOMAN'S WILL

     It is a relief to take up a volume so absolutely free from
     stressfulness. The love-making is passionate, the humor of much of
     the conversation is thoroughly delightful. The book is as
     refreshing a bit of fiction as one often finds; there is not a dull
     page in it.--_Providence Journal_.

     It is bright, charming, and intense as it describes the wooing of a
     young American widow on the European Continent by a German musical
     genius.--_San Francisco Chronicle_.

     A deliciously funny book.--_Chicago Tribune_.

     There is a laugh on nearly every page.--_New York Times_.

     Most decidedly an unusual story. The dialogue is nothing if not
     original, and the characters are very unique. There is something
     striking on every page of the book.--_Newark Advertiser_.

     A more vivacious light novel could not be found.--_Chicago
     Record-Herald_.





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