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Title: Narcissa, or the Road to Rome - In Verona
Author: Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe, 1850-1943
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Narcissa, or the Road to Rome - In Verona" ***

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    NARCISSA
    OR
    THE ROAD TO ROME


    IN VERONA


    BY

    LAURA E. RICHARDS

    AUTHOR OF "CAPTAIN JANUARY," "MELODY,"
    "QUEEN HILDEGARDE," ETC.


    ELEVENTH THOUSAND


    BOSTON
    ESTES & LAURIAT
    1894



    _Copyright, 1892_,
    BY THE TWO TALES PUBLISHING CO.

    _Copyright, 1894_,
    BY LAURA E. RICHARDS.

    _Copyright, 1894_,
    BY ESTES AND LAURIAT.


    _All Rights Reserved._


    University Press:
    JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.



CONTENTS.


                             PAGE

    NARCISSA                    3

       I. DREAMING              3

      II. WAKING               21

    IN VERONA                  43



NARCISSA.



NARCISSA.

THE ROAD TO ROME.



Part I.

DREAMING.


Narcissa was sitting in the doorway, feeding the young turkeys. It was
the back door of the old gray house,--no one would have thought of
sitting in the front doorway,--and there were crooked flagstones
leading up to it, cracked and seamed, with grass growing in the
cracks. Close by the door-post, against which the girl was leaning,
stood a great bush of tansy, with waving feathery leaves and yellow
blossoms, like small gold buttons. Narcissa was very fond of this
tansy-bush, and liked to pluck a leaf and crush it in her hands, to
bring out the keen, wholesome smell. She had one in her hand now, and
was wondering if ever any one had a dress of green velvet,
tansy-color, with gold buttons. The minister's wife once had a bow of
green velvet on her black straw bonnet, and Narcissa had loved to look
at it, and to wish it were somewhere else, with things that belonged
to it. She often thought of splendid clothes, though she had never
seen anything finer than the black silk of the minister's wife, and
that always made her think of a newly-blacked stove. When she was
younger, she had made a romance about every scrap of silk or satin in
the crazy-quilt that Aunt Pinker's daughter, the milliner, had sent
her one Christmas. The gown she had had out of that yellow satin--it
did her good to think about it even now!--and there was a scrap of
pale pink silk which came--was it really nothing but fancy?--from a
long, trailing robe, trimmed with filmy lace (the lace in the
story-papers was always filmy), in which she had passed many happy,
dreamy hours.

It never occurred to Narcissa that she needed no fine clothes to set
off her beauty; in truth, she never dreamed that she had any beauty.
Color meant so much to her, that she had always accepted the general
verdict that she was "pindlin'-lookin'," and joined sincerely in the
chorus of praise which always greeted the rosy cheeks and
solid-looking yellow hair of Delilah Parshley, who lived at the next
house below the old gray one.

Yet it was true that Narcissa had no need of finery; and it was a
pretty picture she made, sitting in the doorway, leaning against the
door-post. Her hair was nearly black, with no gloss or sparkle, only a
soft, dusky cloudiness. It curled in little rings about her broad,
low forehead, and round her soft, pale cheeks. Her eyes were dusky,
too, but more gray than brown, and the only vivid color was in the
scarlet line of her lips. There was nothing unhealthy in her clear
pallor, no hint of sallowness, but a soft, white glow. The nostrils of
her little straight nose were cut high, which gave them a look of
being always slightly dilated; this caused the neighbors to say that
Narcissa White was proud, though dear knew what she had to be proud
of. As for her dress, it was of blue jean, a good deal faded, but all
the better for that; and her white apron, though coarse, was spotless
and carefully starched.

The turkeys seemed to approve of her appearance, for they gathered
eagerly round her, trying to get their beaks into the dish she held,
gobbling and fluttering, and making a great commotion. Narcissa was
fond of the turkeys, and had names for all her favorites. The finest
young gobbler was called Black Diamond, and he was apt to take unfair
advantage of his mistress's partiality, and to get more than his
share. So noisy they all were, that Narcissa did not hear the sound of
approaching footsteps, nor know that some one had spoken to her twice
in vain, and was now standing in silent amusement, watching the
struggle for food.

It was a young man who had come so lightly up the steps of the old
house that no sound had been heard. He had gone first to the front
door, but his knock had brought no answer, and catching the flutter
of Narcissa's apron he had come round to the back porch and was
standing within three feet of the girl and her clamorous brood.

A very young man, hardly more than a boy, yet with a steady, manly
look in his blue eyes, which contradicted the boyish curves of cheek
and chin. He was plainly but neatly dressed, and he carried in one
hand a small satchel, such as travelling agents affect. His eyes were
bright and quick, and glanced about with keen interest, taking in
every outline of the house, but coming always back to the girl who sat
in the doorway, and who was unlike any girl he had seen before. The
house was dim and gaunt, with a look of great age. One did not often,
in this part of the country, see such tall doors, such quaint
chimneys, such irregular outlines of roof and gable. The green-painted
front door, with its brass knocker, and its huge, old-world hinges,
seemed to him a great curiosity; so did the high stone steps, whose
forlorn dignity suffered perpetual insult from the malapert weeds and
grasses that laughed and nodded through the cracks and seams.

And in the dim, sunken doorway sat this girl, herself all soft and
shadowy, with a twilight look in her eyes and in her dusky hair. The
turkeys were the only part of it all that seemed to belong to the sort
of life about here, the hard, bustling life of New England
farm-people, such as he had seen at the other houses along the way.
If it were not for the turkeys, he felt that he should hardly find
courage to speak, for fear it might all melt away into the gathering
twilight,--house, maiden, and all,--and leave nothing but the tall
elms that waved their spectral arms over the sunken roofs.

As it was, however,--as the turkeys were making such a racket that the
girl would never become aware of his presence unless he asserted
himself in some way,--he stepped boldly forward and lifted his hat,
for he had been taught good manners, if he was a tree-agent.

"Excuse me, lady," he said. "Is this the road to Rome?"

Narcissa started violently, and came out of her dream. She had
actually been dressed in the green velvet, and was fastening the last
gold button, ready to step into the chariot that was waiting for
her,--she loved the word chariot, though the pictures in the Bible
made her feel uncertain about the manner of riding in one,--and to
drive along the road, the road to Rome. How strange that at this very
moment some one should ask about the road!

She raised her eyes, still shining with the dream-light, and looked
attentively at the stranger.

"Yes, sir," she answered. "This is the road,--the road to Rome. But
it's a long way from here," she added, rousing herself, and rising
from her seat. "Shoo! go away, now;" and she waved a signal of
dismissal with her apron which the turkeys understood, and at sight of
which they withdrew, not without angry cluckings and gobblings
directed at the disturber of their evening meal.

"Won't you set down and rest a spell? It's ben real hot to-day, though
it's some cooler now."

"It has so!" assented the young man, taking off his hat again to wipe
his brow, and dropping his satchel on the doorstep.

"I should be pleased to set a few minutes, if I'm not intruding. And
do you suppose I could have a drink of water, if it wouldn't be too
much trouble?"

Narcissa went away without a word, and brought back the water,
ice-cold and clear as crystal, in a queer brown mug with a twisted
handle, and an inscription in white letters.

"I'm sorry I haven't got a glass," she said. "But the water is good."

The young man drank deeply, and then looked curiously at the mug. "I'd
rather have this than a glass," he said. "It's quite a curiosity,
ain't it? 'Be Merry!' Well, that's a good sentiment, I'm sure. Thank
you, lady. I'm ever so much obliged."

"You no need to," responded Narcissa, civilly.

"I--I don't suppose you want any trees or plants to set out, do you?"
said the stranger. "I am travelling for a house near Portland, and
I've got some first-rate things,--real chances, I call 'em."

"I--guess not," said Narcissa, with an apprehensive glance over her
shoulder. "I only keep house for the man here,--he's my father's
uncle,--and he don't buy such things. I wish"--she sighed, and looked
longingly at the black satchel. "I suppose you've got roses, have you,
and all kinds of flowers?"

"I should think so!" replied the youth, proudly. "Our house is the
greatest one in the State for roses. Let me show you some pictures."
He opened the satchel and took out a black order-book filled with
brilliant pictures.

"Oh!" cried Narcissa, "I--I guess I'd better not look at 'em. I don't
believe he'd like it. Not but what I'm just as much obliged to you,"
she added, hastily.

But the stranger had already opened the book.

"Just look here, lady," he said. "Why, it can't do no manner of hurt
for you to look at them. Just see here! Here's the Jacqueminot rose,
the finest in the world, some folks think. Why, we've got beds and
beds of it. Splendid grower, and sweet--well there! I can't give you
any idea of it. Cornelia Cook! that's a great rose nowadays. And
here's a white blush, that looks for all the world like--"

Here he stopped suddenly; for it was Narcissa's cheek that the rose
was like, he thought, and it came to him suddenly that he did not want
to say such things to this girl.

The girl at the house below, when he had paid her compliments, had
laughed in his face, well pleased, and seemed to ask for more; but she
was an ordinary girl, like other folks. This soft, shadowy maiden
might shrink away, and vanish in the dusky porch, if he should touch
her rudely.

He need have had no fear, for Narcissa would hardly have heard or
understood his compliment. She was gazing with hungry eyes at the
bright pictures, drinking in every shade of crimson and scarlet and
gold.

"Oh, stop!" she cried eagerly. "Oh, may I read about that one? Ain't
it beautiful! May I?"

"Well, I should think you might!" replied the gallant agent, holding
the book toward her. "Here, lean right over me; I'd like to read it
too."

"'This grand rose,'" Narcissa read aloud,"'has created an epoch in
rose-growing. Of free habit and luxurious growth, the plants form the
most splendid ornament of garden or hot-house. The beautiful,
perfectly-shaped flowers show a marvellous blending of colors, in
which a rich apricot predominates, shading into light pink, bright
canary, and pale yellow. The outer petals are grandly recurved,
forming a fine contrast to the Camellia-like inner petals. With its
rare and exquisite fragrance, its bold and beautiful foliage, and the
unparalleled profusion with which its splendid blossoms are borne, we
claim that this rose is absolutely _without a rival_.'"

Narcissa drew a long breath and looked up, her eyes full of awe and
admiration. "Ain't that elegant?" she said simply. "They have great
writers there, don't they?"

The youth smiled, as he thought of little Mr. Bimsey, who "got up" the
catalogues and kept the accounts; then, reminded by this and by the
fading light that he had still a good way to go before nightfall, he
added, rising reluctantly from his seat,--

"I must be going, I guess. You haven't any notion how far it might be
to Rome, have you, lady?"

Narcissa shook her head.

"It's a long way," she said. "When Uncle Pinker goes there with the
turkeys in the fall, it takes him the whole day to go and come."

"You haven't got a map of the county?" persisted the youth. "I'd ought
to have one myself, and I guess I shall have to get me one. I'm a
stranger in these parts."

Narcissa shook her head again. "We haven't got any kind of a map, as I
know of," she said; but next moment her face brightened. "We've got a
picture of Rome," she said,--"a real handsome picture. Would you like
to see it?"

"Well, if it ain't too much trouble."

Narcissa led the way into the house, cautioning the stranger to tread
softly. "Uncle Pinker is asleep," she said. "He's real old, and he
sleeps in the afternoon, most times. He's so deef, he wouldn't hear
you most likely, but you never can count on deef folks. Not but what
he'd be pleased to see you," she added, with a doubtful look at a
closed door as she passed it.

"I'd ought to make you acquainted with my name, seem's though," said
the agent, following her into a dim, dreary room. "My name's
Patten,--Romulus Patten." He paused, and then went on: "Folks always
ask how I got my name, so I get into the way of firing right ahead
before they ask. My mother got it out of the history book. She was a
great hand for history, my mother was. It seems queer, my going to
Rome, don't it? They made consid'able fun about it, down to our place,
but I'm used to that, and don't mind it."

There was no answering gleam in Narcissa's lovely eyes. "Romulus? was
he in the Revolution?" she asked. "I had to leave school before we got
through history. I'd only got as far as the Battle of Lexington, when
Aunt Pinker died, and I had to come and keep house for Uncle Pinker.
It was real interestin'," she added, with a little sigh of regret, "I
wish't I could have finished history."

Romulus Patten flushed with shame and anger,--not at the girl, but at
the sordid people who had kept her in ignorance. He had gone through
General History himself, and having a good memory, considered himself
very well up in such matters. When he came back, he thought, perhaps
he might manage to stop a spell, and tell her a little about things.
Romulus in the Revolution! it was a scandalous shame, and she so sweet
and pretty!

But here was the picture of Rome, and Narcissa turning with gentle
pride to introduce him to it.

"Ain't it handsome?" she cried with enthusiasm. "I do like to look at
it the most of anything, seem's though. I think you're real fortunate
to be going there, Mr.--Mr. Patten."

She was silent, gazing with delight that was fresh every time her eyes
rested on the beloved picture; and Romulus Patten was silent too.

What was it he saw?

A steel engraving, dim and gray, like the house, like the walls on
which it hung; framed in dingy gold, spotted and streaked. Within, as
in a dull mirror, appeared towers and temples, columned porticos and
triumphal arches: the whole seemed to be steeped in pale sunshine; in
the background rose a monstrous shape which Romulus' practised eye,
familiar with the illustrations in the General History, recognized as
the Coliseum. "That's Rome!" said Narcissa, softly. "Ain't it
elegant?"

The young man glanced at her, with a light of sympathetic amusement in
his eyes. This was her little joke; he had hardly thought she would
make jokes, she was so quiet. But the smile faded into a look of
bewilderment, which quickly strove to efface itself; for Narcissa was
not in jest. She was gazing at the picture with a rapt look, with
almost passionate enjoyment. She had forgotten him for the moment, and
had entered the city of her dreams as she so often entered it, robed
in velvet and satin (it was the tansy-colored velvet this time, and
the buttons were very splendid indeed, and she had a bunch of roses in
her hand), riding in a chariot. She was passing under those wonderful
arches; that soft, mysterious sunshine wrapped her in a cloud of
glory. Presently she would meet other beings, splendidly dressed like
herself, who would greet her with smiles, and tell her of other
strange and beautiful things that she was going to see. Ah, to be in
Rome! to be really going there!

"Ain't it handsome?" she repeated, turning her soft eyes on her
companion. "You're real fortunate to be going there."

Romulus Patten stammered. "You--you're sure that is Rome?" he said.
"This same Rome, down east here? It don't hardly seem just like a
down-east place, does it?"

The soft eyes grew wide, and the lips smiled a little. "Why, it says
so!" said Narcissa. "See here, right under the picture, 'ROME.' So it
couldn't be any place else, could it?"

"I--I suppose not," murmured Romulus, hanging his head, like one
found in an unpardonable ignorance.

"I hope to go there some day," the girl went on. "It's never been so I
could, yet; and folks don't go much from about here. Ain't it queer?
They'll go the other way, to Tupham, and Cyrus, and other places
that's just like--like to home here,--" and she gave a little
disparaging glance along the bleak road, with its straggling willows
and birches,--"and there's scarcely anybody goes to Rome. And it like
that!" she added, with another look of loving reverence at the old
picture.

"You said something about your uncle going," suggested Romulus.
"Hasn't he ever told you about the place,--whether it's like the
picture?"

Narcissa shook her head. "I asked him last time he come back," she
said. "I've asked him two or three times; but all he does is nod his
head and laugh, the way he has. He ain't one to talk, Uncle Pinker
ain't. He goes to Rome once every fall, when he kills the turkeys. The
biggest part of 'em goes the other way, to Tupham and on beyond, but
he allers takes some portion to Rome. He says they're great on turkeys
there. I should think they would be, shouldn't you?"

This was a long speech for Narcissa, and she relapsed into silence and
the picture.

"And you live all alone here with a deef old man who don't talk?"
said Romulus Patten. "Excuse _me_, Miss--well, you haven't told me
your name, have you?" and he laughed a little.

"Narcissa," was the reply. "Narcissa White."

"Thank you!" said the well-mannered Romulus. "You live all alone with
him, and don't see no company? It's lonesome for you, ain't it?"

"I--don't--know," Narcissa answered thoughtfully. "I never thought
much about it's bein' lonesome. I have the turkeys, and they're a good
deal of company: and I--I think about things." A faint color stole
into her clear white cheek, as she remembered the velvet gown. She
supposed a man would consider such thoughts "triflin'."

"Don't you see anything of the neighbors?" the young man persisted.
"There's a young lady down at the next house, half a mile below
here,--wide-awake looking girl, with yeller hair and red cheeks, looks
some like a geranium; don't you know her?"

"That's Delilah Parshley!" said Narcissa. "She's real handsome, don't
you think so? No, I don't see her, only to meetin' sometimes. I guess
she don't care to go much with folks up this way. Her friends is
mostly the other way, on the Tupham road. Their house sets on the
corner, you know."

Narcissa did not know--how should she?--that Delilah Parshley and the
other girls of her sort considered her "a little wanting," because she
was silent, and never seemed interested in the doings of the
neighbors, or of such stray travellers as came along the road to Rome.
She felt kindly toward the Parshleys, as toward all the "meetin'
folks;" but she rarely held speech with them, and was "gettin' as dumb
as the old man was deef," the neighbors were beginning to say.

"But haven't you got any folks of your own?" this persistent young man
went on. "I--I hope I'm not too forth-puttin', Miss White, but I'd
like to know."

"I'm sure you're real kind to ask!" replied Narcissa, who was not used
to having any one care to ask her questions.

"Yes, I've got _some_ folks. Father's livin', but he's married again,
and there's more children, and he was glad to have me find a chance;
and it was so that I was glad, too," she added, with no resentment in
her tone, but a touch of sadness, which made the ready color come into
those tell-tale cheeks of Romulus Patten.

"It ain't right," he said hotly. "I'll be switched if it's right.
Ain't there a better chance you could get, somewheres round here, if
you don't feel to go fur away? If you did feel to make a change,
there's lots of chances down our way. I'd be real pleased to be of
assistance, if there was any ways I could; I would, now, Miss White."

Narcissa looked a little alarmed.

"You're real good," she said. "But I ain't thinkin' of any change.
Uncle Pinker means well by me, and the work ain't too hard, 'cept come
hayin' time, and along through the spring, sometimes, when I have to
help in the gardin. I'm sure I'm obliged to _you_!" she added
gratefully, with a shy, sweet look in her eyes that made Romulus feel
as if the day had grown suddenly warm again.

"Well!" he said, with an effort, "I reely must be going, I suppose.
I've had a good rest, and I must be getting on."

But Narcissa was not ready to have him go now. Her heart had been
stirred by the unwonted kindness, the interest which this handsome
stranger with the kind eyes had shown in her, Narcissa White, who was
of no account to any one in the world. Her heart was stirred, and now
she must show her gratitude in such simple wise as she could. She made
him sit down at the table, and brought him doughnuts and milk, and the
prettiest apples she could find in the cellar. In fear and trembling
she took from the cupboard a tumbler of apple jelly, wondering as she
did so what Uncle Pinker would say, and whether he would call it
stealing. She had made the sweetmeat herself, and had earned the money
to buy a half-dozen tumblers, by braiding rugs for Mrs. Parshley. She
had picked the apples, too. Altogether, she thought she had a right to
offer the jelly to the kind stranger.

He was delighted with his little feast, and pronounced the jelly the
best he had ever tasted. She made it herself? he wanted to know! girls
were smart on the road to Rome, he guessed. He drank her health from
the brown mug, and again she apologized for not having a glass to give
him. "There is good glasses," she said with a blush, "but Uncle Pinker
keeps 'em locked up. I broke one when I first come here, two years
ago, and he's never let me touch one sence."

Romulus Patten muttered something in confidence to the brown mug, but
Narcissa did not hear it. She was too happy to think that other people
might consider Uncle Pinker a mean old curmudgeon. She felt a warmth
about the heart, wholly strange to her starved and barren life. It had
been dear and precious to dream, oh, yes! but here was reality. Here
was some one like the people she dreamed about, only real flesh and
blood, instead of shadows. He cared, this wonderful person, really
cared, to be kind to her, to say pleasant words, and smile, and look
at her with his bright, gentle eyes. And he was going to Rome! that
was almost the best part of all, for now she could fancy him there,
and would have some one to speak to, when she made her shadowy
journeys to the Dream City.

She was hardly sorry when, the simple feast over, her new friend rose
to go. It could not last forever, and Uncle Pinker would be waking up
soon, and was apt to be "a little set," as she charitably expressed
it, when he first woke. She made apologies for not having roused the
old man, and was sure he would have been "real pleased" to see Mr.
Patten, if it had been any other time of the day. She was a little
startled when Romulus held out his hand at parting. She had an idea
that people only shook hands at funerals; but she laid her little
brown palm in the warm, strong one held out to her, and felt a cordial
pressure that brought the tears to her eyes,--the sweet, forlorn gray
eyes that never guessed at their own sweetness or sadness! Romulus
Patten looked long into them before he let the little hand go.

"I sha'n't forget you, Miss White," he cried. "You may be sure of
that; and I hope you won't forget me, either, for a spell. I may
stop on my way back, if I don't have to go round another way when I
leave Rome. I'll try my best to fix it so as I can come back this
way, and then--then perhaps you'll let me call you Narcissa.
Good-by--Narcissa!"

"Good-by!" echoed Narcissa; and then she stood on the doorstep and
watched him, her new friend, the first friend she had ever had, as
looking back often, and waving his hand once and twice in sign of
farewell, he passed along down the road to Rome.



Part II.

WAKING.


"Good mornin', sir; can I sell you anything this mornin'?"

It was a strong, clear voice that broke rudely in upon Uncle Pinker's
morning meditations as he sat in the doorway (the same setting that
had framed Narcissa yesterday, but how different a picture!), smoking
his short black pipe.

"Can I sell you anything?" repeated the voice, with an imperious
intonation. Uncle Pinker looked up. The sound was a mere murmur in his
ears; but when he saw the figure before him, he recognized it for one
he had sometimes seen on the road, and knew instinctively what was
wanted. "Ga-a-ah!" said Uncle Pinker.

This remark was a favorite one of the old gentleman's, and though no
one knew its precise derivation, there was no doubt of its being the
quintessence of scornful refusal. He used it constantly, but it never
had such bitter force as when he was asked to spend money. "Ga-a-ah!"
said Uncle Pinker again.

"What might you mean by that?" asked the newcomer, with some asperity.
"That ain't no form of salutation ever I heard yet. Haven't you a
civil tongue to use, old gentleman? You're ancient enough to have
learned manners, if you'll excuse me sayin' so."

The old man snarled again. "I'm stone deef!" he said. "I don't hear
nothin' you say, nor yet I don't want to hear. You needn't waste no
time, fur as I'm concerned."

"Stone deef, be you?" returned the pedlar. "Well, that has its
compensations, too. You wouldn't buy anything if you had the hearin'
of ten, and now I can have the pleasure of tellin' you what I
think of you. You skinny, starved old weasel, you're about the
wickedest-lookin' piece I ever set eyes on. Real old screw, you are,
if ever I saw one. Pity your folks, if you've got any; more likely
you've starved 'em all off, though, and are skeered of dyin' yourself,
fear of havin' another funeral to pay for. The Lord leaves folks like
you for a warnin' to others, understand?--set up, kind of, to show how
ugly a critter can be when he tries. Oh, you needn't snarl at me. I'm
enjoyin' myself real well, I tell you. There's other ways to have a
good time besides sellin', if it is my trade. Guess I'll set down a
spell, uncle, sence you _are_ so pressin'."

Uncle Pinker was almost foaming with rage by this time. He could hear
no distinct words, but the insulting nature of the stranger's speech
was evident from look and gesture. He was just wondering whether his
strength would suffice to throw himself on the intruder, when a new
figure appeared on the scene,--Narcissa, who had been busy in the back
kitchen, and catching some high note of the stranger's scornful
speech, now came hurrying out to see what was the matter.

She found Uncle Pinker quivering in his chair, his lean, veined hands
clutching the arms, his little red eyes starting from his head with
impotent fury; and sitting on the doorstep, looking up into his face
with a smile of calm amusement, was the strangest figure Narcissa had
ever seen.

A person of middle age, with strongly marked features, and a
countenance of keen intelligence, but dressed in a singular manner. A
suit of brown cloth, rather worn, but well-brushed and neat; loose
trousers, and an odd, long-skirted coat, reaching to the knees, both
coat and trousers trimmed with rows of narrow black-velvet ribbon. The
person's hair was cropped short; the person's head was surmounted by a
curious structure, half cap, half helmet, like that worn by Miss
Deborah in "Cranford," only of far humbler materials. Beside the
person, on the doorstep, lay a bag, of the kind affected by pedlars,
lank and shiny, and particularly unattractive in appearance.

Such was the individual at whom Narcissa White was now staring with
eyes very wide open, her stare being returned by a quizzical gaze,
half smiling, and wholly shrewd and observant.

"Mornin', young lady," said the strong, clear voice. "Wonderin' what
I be, are ye? fish or flesh, or red herrin', or what, hey? Well, I'll
put you out of your misery. I'm a woman, that's what I am; the folks
calls me Bloomer Joe. Now, then, do you want to buy anything of me?"

Here her tone changed, and her voice rose and fell in a kind of chant,
dwelling with dramatic emphasis on a telling phrase here and there.

"Buy any lace, threads, or needles, pins--_or_--essences? Here's a
looking-glass to see your face in--prettiest face I've seen along the
road! (I tell that to every girl I see, and most of 'em believe it;
but you ain't that kind, so you shall have the joke instead.) Real
celluloid ivory combs, fit for the President's wife, sure enough. Gold
beads, stockin'-supporters, teeth-brushes,--_and_--stickin'-plaster."

Here she dropped back into a conversational tone, opening her bag as
she did so, and drawing forth some of its treasures.

"Just look at this lace, young lady! strong enough to hang yourself
with, if you was feelin' that way, or to hang the old gentleman here,
if you was feelin' another. I know which way I'd feel, quick enough.
Not your father, is he?" she added, seeing a look of distress in
Narcissa's eyes.

"Oh, no," said Narcissa, speaking for the first time. "But--he's my
uncle,--at least, my father's uncle; and I--guess you'd better not
talk so, please."

"All right," said the stranger. "I won't, not if it is any trouble to
you. It would be meat and potatoes and apple-pie for me, if he was my
uncle, to hear him get his rights for once in a way; but I see you're
one of the soft-hearted ones. Want any salve? Here's a kind that will
cure corns, bunions, rheumatism, croup, sore-throat, backache,
horse-ail, and colic; cure most anything except a broken heart, and
won't do a mite of harm to that. But you don't need any salve, and the
old gentleman, he's past it. Well, then, here's ribbons, all colors of
the rainbow,--red, yeller, blue, see? handsome they are, and cheap as
good counsel. Aha! you'd like to see them, hey?"

Narcissa had indeed changed color at sight of the bright ribbons, and
she now gave an anxious glance at Uncle Pinker, who was still fuming
and snorting in his chair.

"You, Narcissy White, send this critter away, can't ye?" he snarled;
"or else go into the house yourself, and go to work, not stand foolin'
here, with the work all on the floor. Go 'long, d' ye hear? This
woman, or feller, or whatever she calls herself, can talk till she's
hoarse; she won't hurt me, nor she won't get nothin' out of me."

"Could I get a drink of water, do you s'pose?" the pedlar asked
quietly, paying no attention to the angry old man. "Needn't trouble to
bring it out; I'll go right into the house with you, if you've no
objections."

She followed Narcissa into the house before the latter could make any
remonstrance, and shut the door after her.

"He don't reelly disturb me," she said, "not a mite; but we can trade
better in here. Let me try some of the ribbons on your hair. I don't
often see such hair as this on my tramps, and that's no compliment,
but the plain truth."

"Oh!" cried Narcissa, in distress. "You're real kind, but please
don't. I haven't got any money to buy things with, and I couldn't take
your time for nothing. They are handsome, ain't they? Oh, that yellow
is just elegant, isn't it? It's like the buttons; I mean like the
tansy blossoms. I thank you for showin' them to me, I'm sure, but it
ain't any use for you to."

"Don't he pay you for workin' here?" asked the pedlar, with a sharp
glance.

"Yes, he does pay me," Narcissa answered,--"a dollar and a half a
week. But--but I don't get it very reg'lar, sometimes, and I'm saving
up to buy me a dress. I need one bad, to wear to meetin'."

The pedlar frowned. It was against her principles to leave any house
where she knew there was money, without selling at least a box of
salve; but this seemed a hard case.

"A dollar and a half a week!" she muttered scornfully. "The old
caraway seed! he'd better go and live in Rome, and be done with it.
He'll find plenty of company there."

Narcissa looked up with wide-open eyes.

"Why do you say that?" she asked.

"Because Rome is the skinniest place on this round earth," was the
reply; "and I think 'twould suit your uncle down to the ground."

Still the girl gazed. "I guess you're mistaken," she said quietly. "I
guess you never was there, was you?"

"Never till yesterday," replied the woman, "and never want to be there
again. You see, this isn't my own country at all, as you may say. I
belong in another part of the State, and most generally keep to my own
beat, havin' my regular customers, understand? and goin' round amongst
'em. But oncet in a while the fancy takes me to roam a little, and see
other parts; and so I come round through Damascus and Solon, and
passed through Rome yesterday."

"Oh!" cried Narcissa, breathlessly. "You did? do tell me! and wasn't
it elegant? I don't see how you could come away. Did you walk about,
and see all them handsome buildings? and did you see the folks?"

The pedlar gazed at her in wonder. The girl's eyes were like stars,
her whole face alight with enthusiasm. What did it mean?

"Handsome buildin's?" she repeated. "In Rome? I'll tell you what I
saw, child, and then you'll know. I saw the forlornest place on this
earth, I don't care where the next may be. I saw rocks and turkeys,
and turkeys and rocks. The street (if you can call it a street;
'twould be called a hog-wallow, down where I come from) is solid rock
where it ain't mud, and solid mud where it ain't rock. There's a house
here and a house there, and they all look as if they was tryin' to get
away from each other, but didn't darse to move for fear of fallin'
down.

"The folks I saw were as lean as their own turkeys, and I can't say no
further than that. I tried to sell 'em some of my salve; told 'em
'twould heal the skin where 'twas broke with the bones comin' through,
but they was past jokin' with.

"I tell you, child, Rome is the--Why, what's the matter?" The good
woman stopped suddenly, for Narcissa was trembling all over, and her
face shone white in the dim, half-lighted room.

"I--I don't understand you!" she cried wildly. "There's some mistake;
you went to the wrong place, and never saw Rome at all. Look here!"
and she led the way swiftly across the hall, into the other room, the
room into which she had taken Romulus Patten the day before. She
almost ran up to the picture, and motioned the pedlar, with an
imperious gesture, strange in so gentle a creature, to look at it.
"That is Rome!" cried Narcissa. "You went to the wrong place, I tell
you. This--this is Rome!"

The woman drew out a pair of spectacles, and fitted them on her nose
with exasperating deliberation. She took a long look at the picture,
and then turned to the trembling girl, with a kind light of pity in
her eyes struggling with amusement.

"You poor--deluded--child!" she said at length. "Who ever told you
that was Rome, I should like to know?"

"But it says so!" cried Narcissa. "Can't you read? 'ROME.' There it
is, in plain letters; and I--don't--" she wanted to say "I don't
believe you!" but the blue eyes that met hers steadily showed nothing
but truth and kindness.

"So it is Rome, dear!" said the pedlar, speaking now very gently. "But
it's ancient Rome, over in Europe; Italy, they call the country. Where
the ancient Romans lived, don't you know? Julius Cæsar, and all those
fellers who cut up such didoes, hundreds of years ago? Don't tell me
you never went to school, nor learned any history."

"I--I went for a spell!" Narcissa faltered. "I had to leave when I was
fourteen, because I was wanted to home, and we hadn't only got to the
Battle of Lexington in history. I did hope to learn about the
Revolution, to home, but father's wife didn't think much of readin',
and she burned up the book."

There was a silence, and then the good-natured pedlar began fumbling
in her bag.

"It's a livin' shame!" she cried indignantly. "Here--no, it ain't,
neither. Well! I did think, much as could be, that I had two or three
little books here, and I should have been pleased to give you one,
dear, just for keeps, you know. But they don't seem to be here. Well,
never mind! I was goin' to ask if you wouldn't like this piece of
yeller ribbon you seemed to take to. It's a real good piece, and I
should be pleased--I declare, child, I do feel bad to have spoiled
your pretty notion of Rome. I s'pose you thought likely you'd go there
some day, hey? well, well! sit down, and let me put this ribbon on
your hair. You no need to be scairt of me. I act kind o' wild
sometimes, like I did with your uncle, but it's four parts fun. I'm
well known up our way, and anybody'll tell you I come of good stock,
if I am crazy enough to wear sensible clothes, that don't hender me
walkin' nor settin'. Mis' Transom, my name is. And he called you
Narcissy, didn't he? Why, I had a cousin once, name of Narcissy; it's
not a common name either, and I allers thought it was real pretty. Set
down here, dear, and let's talk a spell."

Thus the kind woman rattled on, watching the girl keenly the while.
She was making time for her, giving her a chance to recover from what
was evidently a heavy blow.

But Narcissa scarcely heard her. She was dazed; her dream was
shattered, her glorious city laid in ruins, the beauty and romance of
her whole life dashed away, as a rude touch dashes the dew from the
morning grass.

As she sat, trying to realize it, trying to think that it really was
not so much, that there would be other pleasant things, perhaps, to
fill the barren working days, and gild the grayness of the long lonely
Sabbaths,--as she sat thus, a new thought flashed into her mind,
piercing like the thrust of a sword.

Her friend, Romulus Patten! She had sent him off on a false scent, had
lied to him about the place, the city--she could hardly bear even to
think of its dishonored name now. He had gone there, thinking to find
what she had told him about,--the stately houses, the arches, the soft
sunshine gilding all. What would he think of her when he found it was
all a cheat, a lie? He had been kind to her, had seemed to care about
her as nobody had ever done in her forlorn young life; and this was
how she had repaid him!

She started up, shrinking as if from some cruel sting. "I must go and
tell him!" she cried. "I lied to him, though I didn't know it was a
lie. I must go and find him, and tell him I didn't mean to."

"Tell who?" cried the pedlar, catching her by the arm. "What is it
troubles you so, Narcissy? Who did you lie to, I should like to know?
Don't believe she could tell a decent lie if 'twas to save her own
soul," she added to herself.

But Narcissa did not heed her.

She had taken down her sunbonnet from a nail, and was tying it under
her chin with trembling fingers, with a feverish haste that took no
note of anything.

"Where are you going?" cried Mrs. Transom, now beginning to be
frightened at the girl's distracted looks. "You're never going out of
the house feeling like this? You'll have a fit of sickness, sure as
you're alive, and then where'll you be? and 'tis all foolishness, too,
I'll be bound. I can't understand a word you say. And there's a storm
coming up, too. I see it as I was coming along, and was reckoning on
finding shelter here when I fust stopped to speak to the old
gentleman. There, hear the thunder this very minute! Narcissy! Why,
good land of deliverance, she's gone!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The storm came on very suddenly,--first, a low bank of cloud heaving
in sight on the western horizon, long and misshapen, like the back of
a kraken; then the whole monster revealed, rising across the sky,
tossing monstrous arms about, showing ugly tints of yellow, ugly
depths of purple and black.

There was no lightning at first, only low mutterings of thunder, and
every now and then a pale lifting of the darkness, as if the monster
were opening his cavernous jaws, showing glimpses of dim horror
within. Then, of a sudden, with no note of warning, the whole sky
sprang into flame, the whole air was a roar and a bellow, deafening
the ears, stunning the senses,--and the storm broke over the road to
Rome.

The rain struck aslant, driving a spray before it, as of a mountain
stream. In five minutes no road was to be seen,--only a long stretch
of brown water, hissing and writhing under the scourge of the rain and
wind. A horse came plodding carefully along, crouching together as
well as he could, picking his way through the water. The two men in
the buggy behind him were crouching, too, and trying to hide behind
the rubber boot. It was some comfort to think that they were trying to
keep dry, though both knew that they were already drenched to the
skin.

"It's lucky for me that I met you," said the younger of the two,
shaking himself, and sending a shower of spray in all directions.

"P'r'aps 'tis just as well," replied the other man, with a chuckle.
"You'd hardly have known yourself from a muskrat by this time, if
you'd had to foot it from Rome here. Been stoppin' there?"

"Stopping as long as I cared to," said the youth, who was no other
than our friend Romulus Patten. "I got there last night, and was good
and ready to come away this morning. I'm travelling for Brown's
Nurseries, and there don't seem to be any call for any of our goods in
Rome. Stone-crop's the only plant they raise much of, I guess."

"Well, that's so," said the elder man. "That's so, every time. I never
knew but one man that could make anything grow in Rome, and he carted
all the dirt three miles, over from North Podley, before he could make
a seed grow. Yes, sir, he did so. Mighty poor country up that way.
Some say the Rome folks don't see any garden-truck from year's end to
year's end, and that if you ask a Rome girl to cook you up a mess of
string beans, she takes the store beans and runs 'em on a string, and
boils 'em that way; but I dono. I'm from Vi-enny way myself."

"My gracious! what's that?"

The whole world had turned to livid white for a moment, dazzling and
blinding them; but still they had seen something on the road,
something like a human form, torn and buffeted by the wind and the
furious rain, but staggering on towards them with uncertain steps.

"My God! it's a woman!" cried Romulus Patten. "Stop your horse, and
let me get out. A woman, alone in this storm!"

He sprang to the ground, and holding his arm before his face to keep
off the blinding rain, made his way towards the forlorn figure
splashing through the water, now ankle deep in the road, stumbling,
often on the point of falling.

"Hold up, lady!" he called out, in his cheery voice. "There's friends
here! Hold up just a minute!"

At the sound of his voice the woman stopped and seemed to shudder and
clasp her hands. "I never meant it!" she cried out wildly. "I can't
see you, I'm most blind, but I know your voice. I never meant to lie
to you about Rome. I--thought--'twas all true; and when I found out,
I--came--to tell you. I never meant to send you there on a lie."

"Narcissa!" cried Romulus Patten. "Oh, Lord! Oh, you poor little
thing! and you thought I didn't know? I'd ought to be shot, that's
what I ought to be. Here, you poor little thing, let me take your
hands! They're like wet ice, and you're shivering all over. Oh, dear
me! come with me, and get right into this buggy out of the rain. Oh,
Lord! and I let you go on thinking I didn't know!"

Half leading, half carrying her, he made his way to the buggy, and
then fairly lifted her in his strong young arms to lay her on the
seat; but here an obstacle was interposed in the shape of another arm
as strong as his, and a good deal bigger. "Easy, there!" said the
owner of the buggy. "Seems to me you're makin' yourself rather too
free, young feller. Do you think I'm goin' to have that gal brought in
here, runnin' all the rivers of Babylon? Who in Jerusalem is she,
anyway? Some of your folks?"

Romulus Patten's face was streaming with cold rain, but he flushed as
if a flame had swept over him.

"She's the young lady I'm going to marry," he said. "Will you take
her in, or shall I carry her home this way?"

"Now you're talking!" the stranger said, removing his arm and making
way. "Why didn't you speak up before, sonny? Here, give me a holt of
her!" He lifted Narcissa gently into the buggy, and drew her close to
his side, laying her head well up on his shoulder so that she could
breathe easily. "Family man," he explained. "Gals of my own. Now you
reach under the seat there, and bring out a shawl you'll find."

Romulus obeyed, and half angry, half pleased, watched the stranger as
he deftly wrapped the shawl round the fainting girl, and put her
dripping hair tenderly off her face.

"Allers take a shawl along," he explained further. "Wife enjoys poor
health, and have to be ready for a change of wind. Comes in handy,
don't it? Now get in, young feller, and tell me where to drive to. You
needn't look down in the mouth, either, 'cause you don't know
everything in creation yet. Time enough to learn, and you're likely to
learn easy, I should say.

"And you rest comfortable, my dear," he added, speaking to Narcissa as
if she were a small child. "Here's your friend alongside of you, and
you're just as safe as you would be in the best stuffed chair in the
settin'-room at home. Fetch your breath, like a good girl, and try to
look about you."

But Narcissa heard never a word, for she had fainted.

An hour later, Romulus Patten and Mrs. Transom were sitting by
Narcissa's bedside, watching her. She had fallen into a deep,
childlike sleep, and their low voices did not disturb her.

"The old gentleman was so mad he was all cheesed up," the pedlar was
saying. "There! I was fairly sorry for him, old weasel as he is; so I
let him go on for a spell, till he was clean tuckered out, and then I
e'en took him up and put him to bed, same as if he was a child. Glad
enough he was to get there too, if he was mad. Then I took and made
him some warm drink, and gave him to understand I'd stay by till
Narcissy come back, and here I be. And now, young man," she added,
fixing her keen blue eyes on Romulus's face, "I've got a word to say
to you. You let fall something when you was bringin' this child in--I
won't say that I wasn't mighty glad to see her, and you, too,--but you
let on something about keepin' company with her. Now, I want to know
right here, what you meant, and who you are, and all about it. Oh, you
may look at my pants much as you're a mind to. I come of good folks,
and I dress as seems fit to me, and I don't care in any way, shape, or
manner what folks say or think. I've been snoopin' round some, since I
put that old man to bed, and I found the family Bible; and this child
is the lawful daughter of my cousin, Narcissy Merrill, that I haven't
heard of this twenty years. Bein' so, I'm goin' to stand by her, as is
right and proper; so, now I'll hear what you've got to say. I've as
good a right to do for her as that old skimp-jack in there, if he is
her father's uncle."

Romulus Patten spoke out frankly. He had "taken to" Narcissa from the
first moment he saw her. When was that? Well, it wasn't long ago, it
was true. It was only yesterday; but he wasn't one to change, and he
had never seen a girl yet that he would look twice at. And when she
came, in all that awful storm, just to tell him,--here the young man
choked a little, and the woman liked him the better for it,--he made
up his mind then, he went on, all in a minute, that she should be his
wife; and she should, if so be she was willing. He would go back to
the place and see if he could get a job in the garden; he might have
had one now, but he was some tired and had thought it would rest him
to travel a spell. He would quit travelling now, and had little doubt
that he could have a good place.

He knew of a pleasant rent--in that part of the country a hired
tenement is known as a "rent"--with four rooms, that belonged to a
friend of his, and he could get that, he guessed. In short, the sooner
Narcissa got away from Uncle Pinker the better, in his opinion, and he
was ready to take her, the first day she would go. That was all he
had to say for himself; but he presumed Mr. Brown would give him a
character if he was asked. He had worked for Browns three years, and
had no reason to think they weren't satisfied with him.

When Romulus had finished his little speech, which left him flushed
and tremulous, yet with a brave light in his eyes, and a tender look
as he glanced towards his love where she lay sleeping quietly, Mrs.
Transom gazed at him for a while in silence; then she held out her
hand and grasped his heartily.

"I guess you'll do," she said. "I guess you're the right sort. Now,
I'll tell you what. You go along and get your place, and see about
your rent. Don't engage it, but get the refusal of it, if it belongs
to a friend, as you say. Then you come back here and find your girl
all well and peart again, and you say your say, and let her say hers.
You don't want to take advantage of her being sick and weakly
now--now, you no need to flare up! I say you don't want to, and I mean
it. You'll need a box of my salve, if you're so thin-skinned as all
that comes to.

"You go along, I say, and when you come back, come over to my place,
Tupham Corner, third house from the cross-road, white house with a
yeller door. Everybody knows Mis' Transom's house. You'll find your
gal there, and you'll marry her there, with her mother's cousin to
stand up with her. There, don't be scairt! Pity some gals haven't got
the trick of blushin' as you have, young man. I've got as good a black
silk as any in Tupham or Cyrus, and nobody's goin' to say 'Bloomer
Joe' round where my own folks live, you'd better believe. What say?
Like my idee, or have you got a better one yourself?"

"You're real good!" Romulus cried. "Poor little Narcissa! It does seem
as if she had found all her friends at once, and she never having any
in her life before, as you may say. I tell you, Mis' Transom, I'll
treat her as well as I know how. If she was a queen, she shouldn't
have any more care than what I'll give her. I--I think a sight of
her!" he added simply. "Seems as if she always belonged to me,
somehow."

"That's right!" said Mrs. Transom, who was as romantic as any lady in
silk and satin. "That's right, young man. We'll get her away from this
old rathole, and then I guess it'll be a good while before either you
or I travels this way again, hey?"

"I don't know as I have anything to say against the country," said
Romulus Patten, with another loving look at the sleeper. "It isn't
exactly the place to sell trees, but yet there's good things to be
found on this road,--the road to Rome."



IN VERONA.



IN VERONA.


First of all, let me correct the mistaken impression that my title
cannot fail to make upon the patient reader. On reading the words, "In
Verona," his mind instantly conjures up a vision of white palaces; of
narrow streets across which the tall houses nod at each other, hinting
at the mysteries they dare not reveal; of ancient fountains, embowered
in myrtle and laurel; finally, of Juliet's tomb, and a thousand
memories of the immortal lovers.

All this is natural, but it will not do. Here in Verona are no
fountains, but half a dozen old well-sweeps, and all the rest
cucumber-wood pumps; no palaces, but neat white houses with green
blinds, and flowers in their front-yards; no laurel, but good honest
sunflowers instead; finally, no tomb of Juliet, for our Juliet did not
die; briefly, and to have done with mystery, our Verona is in the
State of Maine.

I have often wondered what manner of men they were, who named the
towns in the good old State. Lyceum teachers for the most part, one
would think,--men who had read books, and whose hearts yearned for
the historic glories of the old world, glories which their narrow
lives might never see. So, disagreeing with this same Juliet in the
matter of names, they did what they could, and not being able to go to
Europe, did their best to bring Europe over into their own new
country. So we have here in Maine Rome and Paris, Palermo and Vi-enny
(miscalled "Vienna" by pedants, and those thinking themselves better
than other people), Berlin Falls and South China,--in fact, half the
continent to choose from, all in our own door-yard, as it were.

You may not find Verona on the county-map; you certainly will not see
it as you flash by on the Maine Central Railway, on your way to Bar
Harbor. But if you travel for a certain length of time on a certain
quiet road, grass-grown for the most part, and with only a few
straggling cottages dotting it here and there,--if, as I say, you
travel long enough, and do not get out of patience and turn back
towards Vi-enny, you will come suddenly round a bend of the road, and
there will be Verona before you, all white and smiling, tucked away
under the great hill-shoulder that curls lovingly round it. The
cleanest, freshest, sleepiest little New England village! No myrtle,
no laurel, not the faintest suggestion of a fountain! Yet here lived
and loved, not so very long ago, Romeo and Juliet.

They were simple young people; they did not even know their own
names, for Juliet answered to the name of Betsy Garlick, while Romeo
was known only as Bije Green; and they worked for the Bute girls.

It is well known that the Bute girls--who might better be spoken of,
if the custom of the country allowed it, as the Misses Bute--did not
speak to each other. They lived in two white cottages, side by side,
on the Indiana road; and though they could not avoid seeing each other
every day, no communication had taken place between them since the
time of their mother's death, some ten years ago. Old Mrs. Bute had
been partly responsible, all the neighbors thought, for this
unfortunate state of things. She was a masterful woman, and never
allowed her daughters to call their souls their own, even when they
were middle-aged women. Though both gifted with strong wills, they
lived in absolute subjection to the small withered autocrat who hardly
ever stirred from her armchair in the chimney-corner.

She persisted in treating her daughters, either of whom could have
picked her up with one hand and set her on the mantelpiece, as if they
were little children; and they accepted the position with meekness.

It was even said that when Mrs. Bute felt called on to die, as we say
in Verona, she insisted on having her daughters' mourning made and
tried on in her presence, that she might be sure of its being
respectable, and fitting properly. "Neither one of you has sense to
know when a gown wrinkles in the back," she said. "I couldn't lay easy
in my grave, and you going round all hitched up between the
shoulders."

So the village dressmaker cut the clothes (black stuff dresses, and
black cambric pelisses lined with flannel), and came in fear and
trembling to try them on. It must have been a grim scene: the two
gaunt, middle-aged women standing meekly before the bed, turning this
way and that at command; the dying woman issuing, in halting whispers,
her directions for "seam and gusset and band," while death had her by
the throat, fitting her for the straight white garment which was
making in the next room. Not till she had seen her daughters arrayed
in the completed costumes, with bonnet and veil to match, would Eliza
Bute turn her face to the wall and go, feeling that she had done her
duty.

Perhaps it was hardly to be wondered at, if, so soon as the iron grasp
was loosened which had held them all their days, the two women went to
the other extreme, and could brook no suggestion of authority from any
one, least of all from each other. Perhaps each was sure that Mother
(awful shade, still hovering on the borders of their life!) would be
of her way of thinking; however it was, the two sisters quarrelled the
day after the funeral. The will was read, and it was found that the
property was to be evenly divided between them. Evenly divided! It was
a dangerous phrase. Miss Duty had her idea of what "even" meant, and
Miss Resigned Elizabeth had hers; and neither was likely to give up to
the other. They listened in grim silence as the lawyer read the will;
and each decided that she knew what Mother meant, and 'twasn't likely
the other did.

The strife that followed was grim, though not loud. No wrangling was
heard; no neighbor was called in to keep the peace; but after three
days, Miss Resigned Elizabeth sent for a man and a wheelbarrow, and
removed with all her goods and chattels to the house next door, which
was hers by right of inheritance from her grandmother.

A neighbor calling on Miss Duty the day after the separation, found
her in the spare chamber, seated before the bed, on which were spread
out divers articles of the personal property which had been her
mother's. There was one black lace mitt, six white stockings and six
gray ones, half of an embroidered apron, ditto of a nankeen waistcoat
in which Father Bute had been married; item, one infant's sock; item,
three left-hand shoes. Here, on what was evidently the half of a green
veil, lay a slender store of trinkets: one mosaic earring, one garnet
one, half of a string of gold beads, and--piteous sight!--half of a
hair bracelet, its strands, roughly cut, already half unbraided, and
sticking out in silent protest against the inhuman treatment they had
received.

The neighbor broke out into indignant inquiry, but was quickly
silenced. Miss Duty was satisfied, and so was her sister; that being
so, she didn't know that the neighbors had any call to be distressed.
Good Mrs. Dill went home in high indignation, and before night all
Verona knew how "ridiklous" the Bute girls had behaved, and joined
with Mrs. Dill in thinking that Old Ma'am Bute had better have left
them a "gardeen," if that was all they knew about how to treat good
stuff, as had cost more money than ever they were likely to earn.

When Bije Green came to work for Miss Duty Bute, he knew nothing of
the feud between the two houses. He was not a Veronese, but came from
that mysterious region known as "out back," meaning the remote
country. When, working in the garden, he saw on the other side of the
fence an old woman (any person above thirty was old to Bije) who
looked almost exactly like the old woman who had hired him, it seemed
the proper thing to say "hullo!" to her, that being the one form of
salutation known to Bije; but instead of an answering "hullo!" he met
a stony stare, which sent him back in confusion to his potatoes.
"She's deef!" said Bije to himself, charitably. "And my old woman's
nigh about dumb,--quite an asylum between 'em." And he whistled "Old
Dog Tray" till Miss Duty came and told him to stop that racket!

Poor Bije! he found life dull, at first, on the Indiana road. He was
shy, and not one to make acquaintances easily, even if Miss Duty had
approved of his running down to the village, which she did not. But he
was used to cheerful conversation at home, and felt the need of it
strongly here. His innocent attempts at entertaining Miss Duty were
generally met with a "H'm!" which did not encourage further remarks.
"Nice day!" he would say in a conciliating manner, when he brought in
the wood in the early morning. "H'm!" Miss Duty would reply, with a
frosty glance in his direction.

"Havin' nice weather right along!"

If he met with any reply to this suggestion, it would be a "H'm!" even
more forbidding; while a third remark, if he ever ventured on one,
would be answered by swift dismissal to the woodshed, with the
admonition not to be "gormin' round here, with all the work to do."

These things being so, Bije was sad at heart, and pined for a certain
corner of the fence at home, and his sister Delilah leaning over it,
talking while he hoed. Delilah was only a girl, but she could be some
company; and what was the use of having a tongue, if you never used
it, 'cept just to jaw people? Jawing never did no good that he could
make out, though he didn't know but he'd ruther be jawed than hear
nothing at all from get up to go to bed.

Such thoughts as these were in Bije's mind one morning, as he
wrestled with the witch-grass on the strip of green near the fence
which divided Miss Duty's lot from her sister's. He did not like
witch-grass; he never could see the use of the pesky stuff. Delilah
was always saying that there was use for everything; Bije wished she
were here, to tell him the use of witch-grass. He guessed--At this
moment the tail of his eye caught a flutter, as of a petticoat, beyond
the dividing fence. Now Miss Resigned Elizabeth's petticoats never
fluttered; they were not full enough. Bije looked up, and saw--a girl.

She was standing in the porch, polishing the milk-pails. She had
curly, fair hair, which she kept shaking back out of her eyes,--blue
eyes, as bright as the little pond at home, when the sun shone on it
in the morning. The red-and-white of her cheeks was so pure and clear,
that Bije thought at once of a snow-apple; and his hand made an
instinctive movement towards his pocket, though it was not near the
time for "snows." There was not much wind, and yet this girl's things
seemed "all of a flutter;" her pink calico gown, her blue-checked
apron, her flying curls,--all were full of life and dancing motion.
The milk-pails twinkled in the morning sun, catching fresh gleams as
she turned them this way and that. They were not common milk-pails, it
appeared, but pure silver, or they could not twinkle so. Also, the sun
was brighter than usual. Bije stood gazing, with no knowledge that his
mouth was open and his brown eyes staring in a very rude way. The
witch-grass took breath, and rested from the fierce assaults of the
hoe. Bije knew nothing of witch-grass. He had never heard of such a
thing. There were only two things in the whole world, so far as he
knew: a milk-pail and Betsy Garlick.

When Betsy looked up, as of course she did in a moment, she saw no
fairy vision, but only a boy: a brown boy, in brown overalls, with his
mouth open, staring as if he had never seen a girl in his life before.
Betsy had seen plenty of boys, and she was not in the least afraid of
them; so she returned Bije's stare with a calm survey which took him
all in, from his conscious head to his awkward heels, and then, with a
toss of her curls and a click of pails, disappeared into the house.

All that day, Bije went about in a dream. When Miss Duty asked him
what he had been doing all the morning, he answered "Milk-pails;" and
when she asked what they used to keep off potato-bugs out his way, he
could only say "Pink calico." At this atrocious statement, Miss Duty
turned sharply on him. "Bijah Green," she said, "if you are goin'
loony, I'll thank you to take yourself off home. I don't want no
naturals round here, so now you know."

Bije was terribly frightened at this. Yesterday it would have been
rather a good joke to be discharged by the old lady, and go home to
the farm with a month's wages in his pocket; to-day, it seemed the
most dreadful calamity that could happen to him; and he hastened to
give such an eloquent description of the potato-bug war, as carried on
in West Athens (pronounced Aythens) that Miss Duty was mollified, and
reckoned she must try paris green herself. When evening came, Bije
went early for his cow, and milked that good beast with undue haste
and trepidation. Then, having carried the brimming pails into the
kitchen, he returned to the shed, and looked about him with gleaming
eyes. Yes, there it was! the knot-hole that he had found the other
day, when he was brushing down the cobwebs,--just opposite the
back-porch of the house across the way. She would be coming out again
in a minute; it wasn't likely that she had done milking yet. He drew
up a broken stool, and seating himself on it, flattened his face
against the rough boards of the shed, and waited. The door of the
house across the way opened, and Miss Resigned Elizabeth came slowly
out. She was younger than Miss Duty, but she looked older, being
near-sighted, and walking with a stoop and a shuffle. She was rather
good-looking, with soft brown hair, and a little autumnal red in her
thin cheeks; but to Bije's distorted vision, she seemed the most
horrible old hag that had ever darkened the earth. Her scant gray
skirt (made out of her half of a dress of Mother Bute's, who wore her
skirts full), her neck-handkerchief, her carpet slippers, all were an
offence to him; and he could hardly resist the impulse to call out to
her to take herself out of his field of vision, and leave it clear for
the desired one. The dreadful old woman! how she stood round, as if
folks wanted to see her, instead of wishing she was in Jericho. She
was actually sitting down, taking out her old knitting! Such things
ought not to be allowed. There ought to be a law against ugly
women--Hark! what was that? Miss Resigned Elizabeth was calling to
somebody,--to somebody in the house. "Betsy! Betsy Garlick! come out
here, will you?"

Why, this was not such a horrid old lady after all. Now he thought of
it, she was rather nice-looking, for an old one. The door was opening,
opening wider. There she came with her pails. The wonderful girl! not
flashing and sparkling, as in the morning light, but with the softness
of twilight in her eyes and her lovely waving hair. What was it the
other lad said, over there in the old Verona, at a minute like this?

    "Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
    Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night
    Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear!"

and so on, in his glowing, tropical way. But Bije could not say
anything of that sort. His heart was as high as Borneo's, and seemed
to be beating in his throat, as he gazed at the fair vision; but he
knew nothing of language, and if he had tried to put his thoughts
into words, he would only have said: "Ain't she slick!" A most
un-Shakespearian Bije! an ordinary, good country-boy! But no fiery
gallant of them all was ever thrilled with purer fire than burned now
in his veins. He wanted to do something, something wonderful, for this
girl. What did all those fellers do, in the story-books Delilah was
everlastingly reading? He wished he had read some of the stories,
instead of laughing at them for girl's fool-talk. She was smiling now;
did anybody ever smile like that before? Of course not! He wished he
were Miss Resigned Elizabeth, to be smiled at in that way; he wondered
what it felt like. But no! the poor old lady was deef! (she was not in
the least deaf, be it said, by the way). Deef, and that girl talking
to her! Poor old lady! It was a dreadful thing to be deef.

And so on, and so on: Ossa on Pelion of rapture and young delight and
wonder, when suddenly a heavy hand was laid on his shoulder. The boy
started as if he had been shot. Miss Duty Bute whirled him round, away
from the opening into Paradise,--I should say the knot-hole,--and
stooping down, applied her eye to the aperture.

The little scene on the porch of the opposite house had no special
charm for Miss Duty: she only saw her sister, Resigned Eliz, as she
had called her in former days, and her hired girl. The butcher had
told her that Resigned Eliz had hired a girl; also, she, Miss Duty,
had rheumatism in her joints, which made stooping painful to her.
Therefore, when she straightened her poor back, and turned once more
upon the trembling Bije, her mood was none of the softest.

Briefly, he was told that if ever she caught him spying upon the other
house, whensoever or howsoever, he would pack off that moment of time.
He had no more to do with the other house than he had with the Plagues
of Egypt, she'd have him to know; and when she wanted spying done, she
could do it herself, without hiring no shif'less, long-legged,
trifling boys to do it for her. Finally, was she to have any
kindling-wood split that night, or was she not?

This was very dreadful, and for some days Bije hardly dared to look
over the fence, much less to loiter in the shed for an instant. But
what says the old song, the Lover's song, that perhaps (who knows?)
may have been sung in the streets when Will Shakespeare was a little
naughty boy?

    "Over the mountain,
      And over the waves;
    Under the fountains,
      And under the graves;
    Under floods that are deepest,
      Which Neptune obey,
    Over rocks that are steepest,
      Love will find out the way."

This being so, what could two elderly ladies, who seldom stirred from
their own door-yards, save to go to meeting--what were they to do
against the all-conquering little god, or against Abijah Green, his
soldier and slave? Bije found out the way, unconscious of any
fluttering wings about him, any mischievous, rosy imp with bow and
arrow.

A posy laid on the fence; then an apple, polished on the coat-sleeve
till it shone again; then two more apples and a posy beside them, to
show that there could be no mistake about it.

Betsy was only eighteen, and if life was dull at Miss Duty's, it was
not exciting at Miss Resigned Elizabeth's. She, too, had been
cautioned to have nothing to do with "that bold-lookin' boy over t'
the other house!" But Betsy did not think the boy was bold-looking.
Anyhow, she hoped (but her hopes were not expressed aloud) she had
manners enough to say thank you, when any one was pretty-behaved. So
she said thank you, first with her eyes (because Miss Resigned
Elizabeth was close by, watering the flower-beds), then with her lips;
and it became evident to Bije that she had the sweetest voice that
ever was heard in the world. The flowers were real pretty! Betsy
thought a sight o' flowers. They had lots of pansies to home, and she
did miss 'em, so these seemed real homelike. Did Mr.--well, there!
some might think 'twas queer for her to be talkin' to him, and never
knowin' what his name was! Bijah Green? Betsy wanted to know! Why, she
had an uncle named Green, over to South Beulah. Not her own uncle--he
married her aunt Phrony; real nice man, he was. She wondered if he was
any relation. But what she was goin' to say? She didn't suppose Mr.
Green cared for southernwood. There was a great root of it round by
the back-door here; 'twas dretful sweet, and she had to set it over,
Miss Bute said. He could have a piece off the root, just as well as
not; only she didn't s'pose he cared for such common doin's as
southernwood.

It appeared that southernwood had been Mr. Green's favorite plant from
his cradle, as one might say. If there was one thing he did hanker
after, it was southernwood; but he couldn't see her grubbin' up things
that way. If he knew where the bush was, he could get it himself, just
as easy--

Betsy would not hear of that! Besides, _she_ was dretful pernickety
about folks comin' into the yard. There! Betsy didn't know what she'd
say this minute, if she was to see her talkin' to him; but for her,
Betsy's, part, she had allers been brought up to be neighborly. Bije
chimed in eagerly. 'Twas dretful lonesome, specially come evenin's. To
see her ("her" in this case meant Miss Duty) settin' there, knittin'
for dear life, and never a word to say to any one--'twas enough to
make any one feel homesick. Not but what she was good, in her way,
only 'twas a tormentin', up-stiff kind o' way. Drivin' the cow, too!
It did seem as though he should fly, sometimes, drivin' that critter
all alone from pasture. His sister allers went with him, to home; he
s'posed that's why it seemed so lonesome now. Where did _she_ (oh, New
England! oh, poor little hard-worked pronouns! this "she" was Miss
Resigned Elizabeth),--where did she keep her cow? Seem's though--

Seems, Bijah? Nay, it is!

What are cows and country roads made for, I should like to know, save
for the pleasure of youths and maidens? Miss Duty's cow was kept in
the humplety field, as the children called it, a mile and more from
Cuttyhunk, the pasture where Miss Resigned Elizabeth's good Brindle
spent her peaceful days; yet it was strange to see the intimacy that
sprung up between these two creatures in the next few weeks.

At a certain turn of the road, Brindle would stop and fall to cropping
the grass by the road-side, swinging her body about and switching the
flies off comfortably; while her driver, loitering a few steps behind,
pulled the early golden-rod or plaited sweet rushes together,
apparently absorbed in her task, and only from time to time casting
shy glances down the other road, which led off, over hill and dale, to
Cuttyhunk. But, by-and-by, down this other road would come another
cow,--not a happy, leisurely cow like Brindle, but a breathless and
much-tormented beast who had been hurried out of all nature ever since
she left the pasture, absolutely goaded along the way by urgent word
and gesture, by shakings of her tail, and apostrophes most
unreasonable.

"Go lang, you old snail! what you gormin' all over the road for? Want
to sleep here, do ye? Of all slow critters ever I see, you're the beat
'em; cold molasses kin gallop, 'longside o' you."

Poor Molly did not understand this kind of thing from one with whom
she had been so friendly-intimate as Bije. She made such haste as she
could, poor beast, and it was a great relief when she saw Brindle's
horns round the corner; for now, she had already learned from
experience, the hurry was over. Now she and her bovine friend could
take their way along the grassy road, as slowly as any cow could wish.
Bijah, who had come panting along the road, breathless with haste and
repeated adjurations, became suddenly compassionate. The poor beasts
were tired, likely. 'Twouldn't do to hurry them; anyhow, 'twas bad for
the cream. Oh, Bijah! Bijah! what would your pious grandmother say, if
she were witness of your barefaced duplicity on these occasions?

But what occasions they were! It was a pretty sight, if one had been
there to see. The road was pretty, to begin with,--the Indiana road,
with its overhanging birches and elms, and the fringe of daisies and
golden-rod along the sides. The evening light was soft and sweet, as
if the sun had put on his tenderest gleam to smile on Betsy; and as
the twilight deepened, in rosy gray softening into amethyst, did not
the moon come up, all clear and silver, just to look at Betsy? The
white light shimmered on the girl's soft hair, and deepened the
dimples in her round cheek, and cast strange gleams into her lovely
eyes. Was the other Juliet fairer, I wonder? Possibly; but, on the
other hand, she could not drive cows, nor milk them, either. Surely
the other Romeo was not more passionate than this dark-eyed boy in his
brown jean overalls, walking so sedately by Juliet's--I should say, by
Betsy's--side. Bije felt as if the whole world were light and fire;
the fire within him, the light without. He thought that Betsy gave
light to the moon, not the moon to Betsy. He did not wish he were a
glove upon that hand, for the little brown hand had never worn a
glove, except once, at the wedding of a friend. The gloves were at
home now, wrapped in silver paper; she meant to wear them at her own
wedding. He did not swear by yonder blessed moon, because he was not
in the habit of swearing. "By gosh!" was the only expletive Bije ever
used, and he would not have thought of using that in a lady's
presence. The fire within burned him; but what sweet pain it was! If
he had only had the gift of language, this poor, dear Bije, what
floods of glowing words he would have poured out! How he would have
praised her, the beloved one, and praised the night, and blessed the
moon, and the stars, and the old cows, and everything that came near
him and his happiness! But if he had spoken, Bije could only have said
that it was a sightly night, and Betsy would have responded that it
was so.

One of these sightly nights Bijah found voice, if not language. They
were pacing slowly along, letting Brindle and Molly have it all their
own way. It was the full of the moon, the harvest-moon, and all the
world lay bathed in silver light. They had been silent for a while,
through sheer peace and content in each other; but suddenly Bije broke
out with, "I wish't I had a snow-apple!"

"Why, how you startled me!" Betsy responded. "Why do you want a
snow-apple now, of all times in the world? They won't be ripe for nigh
onto two months, Bije."

"Do you know what I thought of, first time ever I see you?" the boy
went on, with apparent irrelevance. "Well, I thought of a snow-apple
then, and thought you looked the most like one of anything in the
world."

"Well, of all!" said Betsy.

"I did! There's nothing else as I know of that's so red and white, and
so round, and so--so sweet, Betsy."

"Bijah Green, how you do talk!" Betsy cried. "It's time we was gettin'
home with these cows." But she did not quicken her pace, and Bije
noticed that she did not.

"Do you know what I'd do if you were a snow, Betsy?" Bije came a
little nearer, and his voice grew husky.

"Eat me, presume likely!" said Betsy, with a little laugh that
trembled as if it were full of tears.

"No!" cried the boy. "I'd pick you off the tree, though, and have you
for my own, Betsy. I'd carry you off, and run away with you, sure's
the world. Should--should you mind much, Betsy?"

But for once Betsy had nothing to say. She could only hang her head,
and look more and more like the snow-apple, as Bije's arm stole round
her, and his hand clasped hers. Little Betsy! She was only eighteen;
four years older, it is true, than that creature of fire and perfume
over in the other Verona, but still almost a child, according to New
England ideas. The moon looked down, and probably thought she had seen
the same sort of thing ever since she was an asteroid, and these
children were like all the rest. But what a mistaken old moon she
was,--for there had never been any one like Betsy, and certainly no
one like Bijah, since the world began; and it was all perfectly new
and strange, and--and--they had a very pleasant walk home.

       *       *       *       *       *

"A bird of the air shall carry the matter!" What bird of all that fly
could have had so bad a heart as to tell Miss Resigned Elizabeth of
what was going on? Did a raven come on heavy-flapping wings, and
croak it in her ear? Or was it a magpie, or a chattering jay? Surely
no respectable robin or oriole would think of such a thing! But,
however the news reached her, it was there, and the golden time was
rudely broken in upon.

Coming in one evening all flushed and radiant with her new joy, the
child was met by her mistress (only we do not say "mistress" in New
England; we say "she" or "her," as the case may be),--she was met, I
say, by Miss Resigned Elizabeth, wearing so stern a face that the
blush froze on Betsy's cheek, and the smile fled from the corners of
her mouth, where it always loved to linger.

"Betsy Garlick, where have you been with that cow?"

Betsy faltered. "Been with her, Miss Bute? I've been bringing her back
from pasture, same as I allers do."

"Same as you allers do? And how's that? Betsy Garlick, ain't you
ashamed to look me in the face, and you goin' with that low-lived
feller over t' the other house?"

But at this Betsy caught fire. "He ain't no low-lived feller!" she
cried, the blushes coming back again in an angry flood over cheek and
brow and neck. "You can scold me all you're a mind to, Miss Bute, and
I won't say nothin'; but you ain't no call to abuse Bijah."

"Oh, I ain't, ain't I?" cried Miss Resigned Elizabeth, taking fire in
her turn. "I'm to be shet up in my own house, am I, by a girl from
North Beulah? I'm to have such actions goin' on under my nose, and
never so much as wink at 'em, am I? I should like to know! You go to
your room this minute, Betsy Garlick, and stay there till I tell you
to come out, or you'll find out p'raps more than you like. North
Beulah! Well, of all impudence!"

Betsy fled to her room, and the angry woman followed and turned the
key upon her. Then, returning to her sitting-room, Miss Resigned
Elizabeth sat down and made out her line of action in this domestic
crisis. She sat for some time, her head shaking with indignation over
the iniquities of this generation; then she went to the writing-desk,
so seldom used, and, with stiff, trembling fingers, wrote two notes.
One of the notes was posted, being intrusted to the care of the
travelling baker, who went jingling by just in the nick of time; the
other was thrust in at Miss Duty's door by a withered hand, which held
it unflinchingly till Miss Duty came and took it, wondering greatly,
but not opening the door an inch wider to catch a glimpse of her
sister's face,--the face she had not looked into for ten years.

When the hand was withdrawn, Miss Duty proceeded to decipher the note,
her gray hair bristling with indignation as she did so.

   SISTER DUTY,--Your help has been courting my hired girl, and I
   don't suppose you want any such doings, any more than I do. I
   have shet the girl up in her room till he is gone, and sent for
   her stepmother. So no more from your sister.

        R. E. BUTE.

Who shall paint Miss Duty's wrath? It was more violent than her
sister's, for she was of sterner mould; and it was really a fiery
whirlwind that greeted the delinquent Bijah when he came whistling in
from the barn, cheerfully smiling and at peace with all the world. But
the boy who faced Miss Duty in her fury was a very different person
from the meek, submissive youth whom she had learned to know and
tyrannize over as Bije Green.

This Bije met her torrent of angry words with head held high, and
smiling countenance. Ashamed? No, he wasn't ashamed, not the least
mite in the world. Pick up his duds and go? Why, of course he
would--just as easy! Should he wait to split the kindling-wood and
bring in the water? Just as she said; it didn't make a mite o'
difference to him. Go right off, this minute of time? Ruther go than
eat, any time. One week's pay--thank her kindly, much obliged. The cow
was fed, and he cal'c'lated she'd find everything pretty slick in the
barn. Real pleasant night for a walk--good evenin'!

The consequence of which was--what? Certainly not what Miss Duty had
expected, or Miss Resigned, either.

At daybreak next morning, when the gray heads of these indignant
virgins were still lying on their pillows, taking an interval of peace
with all the world, Bijah was under Betsy's window, like a flame of
fire. Betsy was not asleep. Oh, no! She was crying, poor little soul,
at thought of going back to her stepmother, one of the old-fashioned
kind, and never seeing Bije again. For she would never see him, of
course. Hark! Was that a pebble thrown against the glass? A peep
through the green blinds, up went the little window, softly, softly,
and the dearest girl in the world leaned out, showing her sweet
tear-stained face in the faint gray light,--a sight which made Bije
more fiery than ever. Softly she bade him begone, for she dared not
speak to him. How did he know Miss Bute wasn't looking at him this
minute, out of her window?

It appeared that Bije did not care if twenty Miss Butes were looking
at him, though one was enough to frighten the crows. Betsy was to put
on her bunnit that minute, and come along with him. Door locked? What
did that matter, he should like to know? He should laugh if she was to
be kept shet up there like a mouse in a trap. Send her home to her
stepmother? He'd like to see them try it, that was all. Never mind the
things! Come right along! She'd ben cryin'! He'd like to get hold of
them as made her cry. There'd be _some_ cryin' round, but it wouldn't
be hers. Come! Why didn't Betsy come? They'd take the cows out to
pasture this once more,--he didn't want the dumb critters to suffer,
and 't wasn't likely the old cats could get any help before
night,--and then they'd go. Go where? Now Betsy knew that well enough.
To Friar Laurence, of course (Bije called him parson instead of friar,
and he spelled his name with a _w_ instead of a _u_, but these are
mere trifles of detail), to get married. Where else should they go?
Wasn't she his Betsy, his own girl? Did she think she was goin' to
stay there and be hectored, while he was round? Parson Lawrence was to
home, Bije saw him only last night. Now could she climb down that
grape-vine? He reckoned she could, and he'd be standin' ready to catch
her if her foot should slip.

"Oh, Bije! you take my breath away, you're so dretful speedy. Why, I
can't--no way in the world. What--where should I go then, if--if we
did--do what you say? Not that I can--with no clo'es but what I've got
on. The idea!"

"Go? go home, of course, to mother's. Won't she be glad to see ye?
Won't Delilah half eat ye up, she'll be so pleased? That's all you
know, Betsy. And the help you'll be, and me too! Mother was dretful
onreconciled to my goin' away, but I felt to go and see something of
the world. And now I've seen all I want to, and I'm good and ready to
go home, Betsy; but not alone."

How silver-sweet, indeed, sound lovers' tongues by night! But no
sweeter than now in the early morning, when all the world was as young
and fresh as Betsy, and as full of love and tenderness. In truth, it
was the hour for a bridal. The air was full of bridal-veils: floating
wreaths of silver fog that hung soft on the trees, and shimmered
against the hill-sides, and here and there began to soften into golden
and rosy tints as the light strengthened. They were all over the
grass, too, these bridal-tokens, in tiny webs of purest spun-silver,
diamond-set. A carpet of pearls was spread for Betsy's little feet,
and she would never cry out, as slug-a-bed maidens do, if the pearls
and diamonds wetted her shoes. Is the bride ready?

    "Red as a rose is she.
    Nodding their heads before her goes
    The merry minstrelsy."

Hark to them now! They are tuning their instruments in every branch of
the elm-tree, cheep, twitter, trill; and now they burst out in a
triumphal chorus of song:--

    "O Hymen, Hymenæe!"

and Betsy needs neither Mendelssohn nor Wagner to tell her what a
wedding-march is. In very sooth, are there no young people beside
Betsy and Bijah who know enough to be married in the early morning,
and begin their first day together?

For Betsy can hold out no longer. She retires to put on the pink
calico gown, because Bije will not hear of her being married in any
other. It is a pity that she will put on her best hat, instead of the
pretty sunbonnet; but one cannot expect a girl to be married in a
"slat." She ties up her little bundle with trembling hands, while her
cheeks glow and her heart beats so that she fancies Miss Bute must
hear it in the room below.

Now she peeps out again, but shrinks back, afraid of the fire in the
brown boy's eyes, and the passion of his outstretched arms. O Romeo!
Romeo! But the whisper, "Betsy, _my_ Betsy!" brings her out again,
with a little proud, tearful smile. Yes, she is his Betsy. He is good
and true; he will take care of her. She would trust all the world to
Bijah.

Carefully now! The trellis is strong. (Had not Bijah tested it in the
night, when she was sobbing in her sleep, to see that all was safe for
her?) One foot on this round--so! Now down, slowly, carefully; take
care of this step, for it is a weak one! Drop the bundle--there! Safe
at last! At last! "All the world and we two," nothing else beside. As
Betsy's foot touches the ground, up comes the sun to look at her. A
long shaft of golden light touches her fair head, and lies like a
benediction on her brow. The boy gazes at her, and sees no other sun.
Ah, Juliet! if the measure of thy joy be heap'd like mine, and that
thy skill be more to blazon it, then sweeten with thy breath this
neighbor air, and let rich music's tongue unfold the imagin'd
happiness that both receive in either by this dear encounter. Call
softly, though, softly, so as not to wake the old ladies: "Co'boss!
Co'boss!" Push the mossy gate, and let the good, silent creatures out,
the confidants of our love these many weeks. Come, sweet Capulet!
Come, Betsy, and let us drive the cows to pasture!

       *       *       *       *       *

Great was the wrath in the virgin bosoms of the Misses Bute when the
flight of Betsy and her dark-eyed lover was discovered. Miss Duty
relieved her feelings by a furious bout of house-cleaning, and
scrubbed and scoured as if she were determined to purge the house from
the very memory of Bijah Green. But Miss Resigned Elizabeth had a
touch of rheumatism, and could not take refuge in that solace of
womankind. She could only sit and fret, poor soul, and wish she had
some one to talk it over with. Dear to goodness! Come times like this,
one did feel forsaken. Miss Resigned Elizabeth almost felt that she
could make up with her sister, for the sake of the common cause of
anger they now had. She glanced across the way, as she huddled up in
her shawl, taking the sun on the back-porch. If she had seen any
softness in the lines of Miss Duty's back, as she stood washing
windows on her own porch, Miss Resigned Elizabeth almost felt as if
she could cough, or perhaps even speak, just to pass the time of day.
But Miss Duty's back was as rigid as her principles; and though she
knew well enough that her sister was near, she gave no sign of
consciousness. The younger sister felt forlorn and old, and drew her
shawl closer around her, as if a cold air blew from that stiff figure
on the other porch.

But 'twas warmer here than in the house, anyway.

The house seemed strangely cold and cheerless since Betsy went away.
There was no one singing in the little pantry, or making a cheerful
clatter among the milk-pails. If Miss Resigned Elizabeth had only
known how things were going to turn out, she would never have hired a
girl; but now, it didn't seem as if she could get along without
one,--coming winter, too.

But it was not so easy to get a girl in Verona. "Help is turrible
skurce!" was the answer to all Miss Resigned Elizabeth's inquiries;
nor did Miss Duty fare better in her search for a boy to fill the
place of the delinquent Bijah. They both had to send for old John, the
village chore-man, a surly elder, who grumbled bitterly at the
half-mile walk on the Indiana road, and wanted to know what folks
lived out there in the wilderness for, anyway. A sad time the poor
ladies had now. Their pails were mixed up, because old John saw no
reason for giving way to such foolishness on the part of the Bute
girls, with whom he had gone to school forty years before, and who
had never been so all creation as they thought they were, that he
knew of. The indignant maidens found baskets marked with hostile
initials in the shed; and if old John did not find what he wanted on
the premises of one sister, he coolly took it from the other house,
without so much as "by your leave." They could not even tell whether
they were drinking their own cow's milk, or that of the critter over'n
the next yard; for John drove the cows together to whichever pasture
he happened to fancy, and milked them together, whistling defiance as
he did so. Any remonstrance was met with the announcement that he,
John, was only coming to accommodate, and the sooner they found some
one else to do their putterin', the better he should be pleased.

It was really a dreadful state of things. Why, they might almost as
well be living together again, Miss Duty thought; and Miss Resigned
Elizabeth thought so, too. And so the days wore on, and the weeks, and
made themselves into months; and the Misses Bute mourned in secret for
Betsy Garlick and Bijah Green.

A year passed, as years do, whether people are comfortable or not.
Miss Duty and Miss Resigned Elizabeth were not comfortable; but nobody
seemed to care, and help continued to be "turrible skurce." Summer had
come again, the late summer even, and the harvest-moon. One evening,
just at sunset, as Miss Duty was straining the milk, there came a
sharp knock at the door. Miss Duty did not altogether approve of
people's knocking at her door at any time, and it was a special
outrage just now, when anybody with brains in his head must know that
she was busy; so she set down the pan and waited to see what would
come next. Another knock came next, so imperious that Miss Duty wiped
her hands on her apron and went to the door, outwardly calm, but
inwardly raging.

There stood Calvin Parks, the driver of the Beulah stage, with a straw
in his mouth and a twinkle in his eye.

"Lady out here to see you, Miss Bute," he said. "Very important
business. Good evenin'!"

He was gone before the indignant lady could say a word. If you came to
think of it, this was shameless impudence. A lady indeed! An agent,
likely, selling some trash that wasn't fit for stove-kindlings. At any
rate, Miss Duty must go and give the woman a piece of her mind, comin'
traipsin' round, just when folks was busy. The idea!

Out she went, fire in her eye, thunder ready rolling on her tongue.
Out she went, and found--Betsy Garlick.

Betsy Green, rather; for the maiden Betsy never had this air of
prosperity, this sweet, matronly look; was never dressed like this
young woman, who sat on the boundary-stone that divided Miss Duty's
lot from that of the other house, and smiled,--actually smiled in Miss
Duty's face; and in her sister's too, for Calvin Parks had summoned
Miss Resigned Elizabeth also, and she was approaching with feebler,
slower steps. And who was this, standing by Betsy's side, erect,
beaming, jubilant? Who but the recreant Bijah?

"Oh, Miss Butes!" cried Betsy, lifting her sweet face to one and then
to the other of the sisters. "Please, Bijah and me couldn't pass
through Verony without stoppin' to pass the time of day, and see how
you was gettin' on. We're real sorry we went off and left you that
way, without notice. 'Twan't right, we know that now; but, then, we
couldn't find no other way to fix it, seemed's though. I hope you
don't bear malice, Miss Butes. We've done real well, Bijah and me.
We're goin' now to look at a farm in Cortez't we've heard of. Bijah's
grandmother has left him quite consid'able of means, for us, and we
want to have a place of our own, though no one couldn't be kinder than
Mother Green and Delilah has been. I--I hope you've both been right
smart, this time, and had good help right along?"

Oh, wicked little Betsy! You knew very well that they have _not_ been
right smart. Calvin Parks told you and Bijah all about their forlorn
condition, and how old John bullied them (How did he know? Why, what
is the use of being a stage-driver, if you do not know everything?),
and you have come here with the very slyest scheme in your little head
that ever kindness and cleverness concocted. And now you are going to
play your trump-card, seeing that the two ladies are still silent,
each, perhaps, waiting for the other to speak.

"And another reason we had for stoppin'," says Betsy, looking down at
a great bundle in her lap, from which faint sounds now began to issue.
"Oh, Miss Butes, we--I _did_ feel to have you see Baby, 'cause I don't
believe you ever did see such a darling in this world." With these
words, she drew the shawl aside, and there on her lap lay the child,
all warm and rosy, just waking from his nap, and stretching his little
limbs, and blinking his eyes in the light.

A baby! When had the Bute ladies seen a baby as near as this? Miss
Resigned Elizabeth felt a tugging at her heart-strings; she had always
been fond of children. Miss Duty felt--she hardly knew what; but she
saw the tears on her sister's cheek; saw, too, how old and feeble she
had grown, and what a pitiful look there was in her pale blue eyes.
And yet she had a look of Mother, too!

At this moment the baby gave a crow and a kick, and made a grab at
Miss Duty's dress. In the effort, he nearly rolled off his mother's
lap. Instinctively the two sisters bent down to catch him, and as they
did so their heads came together with a smart crack. Miss Resigned
Elizabeth began to cry, she could not tell why, and Miss Duty laughed.
"You ain't fit to live alone, Resigned Eliz!" she said, and she hardly
recognized her own voice.

"Well, I ain't, sister; that's a fact!" responded Miss Resigned
Elizabeth, meekly. "My eyesight ain't what it was. But he _is_ a
lovely child, Betsy; and--and I'm right glad to see you, Betsy, if you
_didn't_ act quite as you should."

"Why, you're as blind as a mole!" cried the elder sister, in high good
humor. "And you ain't had the sense to get glasses fitted." (Miss Duty
could read the very smallest print, as well as she could twenty years
ago) "The idea! And that thin dress ain't fit for you to wear this
cold day." Miss Duty seemed to meditate. "Bije Green!" she said
sharply, turning for the first time to her quondam "help."

"Yes, ma'am!" said Bije, meekly. He had kept silence till now, having
absolute confidence in Betsy's diplomatic powers; but now he stepped
boldly forward, and met Miss Duty's gaze without flinching.

"You behaved scandalous, Bije Green, when you was here before, as well
you know. But I'm willin' to let bygones be bygones, seein' things is
how they is. You go get the wheelbarrow, and bring it here. Resigned
'Liz," she added, turning to her sister, "go on in, and pack up your
things. I s'pose it's fitting I should see to you, from now on. You
come home, and we'll see. Mebbe I used to be a little cuterin',
sometimes--though you did try me."

"I know I did, sister!" Miss Resigned Elizabeth cried. "Most prob'ly
the fault was mine, though I did feel your cuttin' up the hair
bracelet. But there! I've been dretful lonesome sence Betsy went.
I--I'd be real glad to come home, sister!"

"So that's all there is to it," said Miss Duty, in a final manner. "As
for the other house--"

"Miss Bute!" cried Betsy Green, her eyes sparkling, her breath coming
quickly. "We--we weren't so dretful set on goin' to Cortez. We'd
enough sight ruther find a place nearer home. I never thought--" here
she stopped short, being a truthful Betsy; for she _had_ thought, and
planned, and hoped in her kind little heart, and now here was
everything coming out just as she hoped it would. "I'd ruther live
here than anywhere else in the world!" she said simply. "'Twas here I
saw Bijah first, and all; and you was real kind to me, Miss Bute, and
I do love Brindle."

"Them cows has been treated scand'lous," said Bije, lifting up his
testimony. "Whoever's had the doin' for 'em! All banged about, same as
if the' was yaller dogs. I took a look at 'em as we come along, and I
felt to pity 'em, now I tell you. I could take care of 'em, Miss Bute,
jest as well as not, with what I had of my own, and they wouldn't
suffer none. I think a sight of that red cow, and the other one,
too."

"And I could do for both of you," cried Betsy, "all you'd want
done--me and Bije together. I could run over every mornin' and
afternoon, and clean up if you wasn't feelin' smart, and Bije could do
the chores. And--and there'd be Baby for company!" she added, with a
little downward look of heavenly pride,--the very look, I declare, of
a certain Bellini Madonna, who holds her lovely state in Venice. But
now the baby thought his turn had come, and after a careful scrutiny
of the two elderly women, he held out his arms and fairly shouted at
Miss Resigned Elizabeth.

"You blessed creetur?" cried the poor woman, pouncing upon him with
the pathetic hunger of a woman who was meant for a mother. "Did he
want to come, bless his heart? Well, he should!" and she took the
child up, and hugged and cuddled it "real knowin'," as Betsy said to
herself. Miss Duty looked on in amazement. She had not the mother
nature. "Why, Resigned 'Liz, you're fairly childish. The idea!" She
paused, feeling rebuked, she knew not why, by the joy in her sister's
pinched and faded face. Miss Resigned Elizabeth had not had a joyous
life.

"Well, if 't is to be so," Miss Duty continued, after a pause, during
which Betsy and the younger sister held their breath and Bije thought
about the cows. "If 't is to be so, so it will be, I s'pose. I dono'
but you can go right in, Betsy, if it's so you can stay. My sister
ain't goin' to spend another night there. Perhaps you'll help her lay
her things together. And Bije, if you feel to milk the cows
to-night--I'm free to say I should like to send that John Peaslee
about his business, after the hectorin' he's give us this late. You'll
find the pails--"

But Bijah was already gone, whistling joyously. As if he didn't know
where the milk-pails were!

"Betsy," Miss Duty continued, turning back to instruct the new tenant
as to her course of action. But Betsy was gone, too; flown into the
house with her baby, like a bird into its nest. Only Miss Resigned
Elizabeth remained, looking at her with eyes that seemed to grow more
plaintive and more helpless every minute, as the burden of
responsibility dropped from her tired shoulders.

"You go right in the house this minute, Resigned 'Liz!" said Miss
Duty, severely. "Gettin' your death out here in this night-air! The
idea!" And with a frown that was better than a smile, she went into
the house, driving her sister before her.

"A plague o' both your houses?" Nay! only joy on one side and the
other of the white picket-fence. On the one side, content and peaceful
days, with ten years' gossip to talk over, and the sense of being
cared for, and of having "folks" once more. Happy old age coming
softly, bringing with it grace and gentle words, and ways which their
grim youth had never known; finally, the absolute rest which came from
Betsy's and Bijah's watchful love and care, and the strange pleasure
of being called "aunt" by the baby, and the succeeding babies. Yes,
the Bute girls were happy for the first time in their lives.

And on the other side of the fence? Ah! there it was not the calm
peace of evening, but the fresh joy of morning and of spring. Seeing
that there was no one in the world who could hold a candle to Bijah,
and that Betsy was the best woman there was in these parts, let alone
furrin lands, why should they not have been happy? And beside all
this, had they not the most wonderful children, probably, that had
ever been seen? There was not a doubt of it in Betsy's mind, nor in
Miss Resigned Elizabeth's. Taking these things into consideration,
together with the fact that their cows were most remarkable cows, and
their hens the finest that had ever clucked in Verona, is it to be
wondered at that our little friends were very happy, and the old
ladies so good, and one of 'em an angel if she ever dared to call her
soul her own?

A blessing on both houses! Peace and good-will, and all loving and
tender thoughts! And may the sun, as he rises over the great
hill-shoulder, always cast his brightest beams on the Indiana road.


    THE END.



_Books by Laura E. Richards._


    =Melody.= The Story of a Child. 16mo, cloth,
      50 cents.

      Had there never been a "Captain January," "Melody"
      would easily take first place.--_Boston Times._

      The quaintly pretty, touching, old-fashioned story is told
      with perfect grace, the few persons who belong to it are
      touched in with distinctness and with sympathy.--_Milwaukee
      Sentinel._

    =Captain January.= Square 16mo, cloth (white
      back), 50 cents.

      A charming idyl of New England coast life, whose success
      has been very remarkable. One reads it, is thoroughly
      charmed by it, tells others, and so its fame has been
      heralded by its readers, until to-day it is selling by the
      thousands, constantly enlarging the circle of its delighted
      admirers.

    =Same.= _Illustrated Holiday Edition._ With thirty
      half-tone pictures from drawings by Frank T.
      Merrill. 4to, cloth, $1.25.

    =Narcissa=, and a companion Story, =In Verona=.
      16mo, cloth, 50 cents.

    =When I was Your Age.= 4to, cloth, gilt top,
      $1.25.

      The title most happily introduces the reader to the
      charming home life of Dr. Howe and Mrs. Julia Ward
      Howe, during the childhood of the author.

    =Glimpses of the French Court.= Sketches from
      French History. Illustrated with a series of
      portraits in etching and photogravure. Square
      12mo, cloth, $1.50.

      With true literary touch, she gives us the story of some
      of the salient figures of this remarkable period.

    =Marie.= Square 16mo, 50 cents.


_Estes & Lauriat, Publishers, Boston._

       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's note:

    Minor spelling inconsistencies, mainly hyphenated words, have been
    harmonized. Italic text has been marked with _underscores_. Bold
    text has been marked with =equal signs=. The Advertisement "Books
    by Laura E. Richards" was originally at the front of the book and
    has been moved to the end.





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