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´╗┐Title: Story of Waitstill Baxter
Author: Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith, 1856-1923
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 "Story of Waitstill Baxter" ***

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THE STORY OF WAITSTILL BAXTER

By Kate Douglas Wiggin



CONTENTS

     SPRING

     I.    SACO WATER
     II.   THE SISTERS
     III.  DEACON BAXTER'S WIVES
     IV.   SOMETHING OF A HERO
     V.    PATIENCE AND IMPATIENCE
     VI.   A KISS
     VII.  WHAT DREAMS MAY COME

     SUMMER

     VIII. THE JOINER'S SHOP
     IX.   CEPHAS SPEAKS
     X.    ON TORY HILL
     XI.   A JUNE SUNDAY
     XII.  THE GREEN-EYED MONSTER
     XIII. HAYING TIME
     XIV.  UNCLE BART DISCOURSES
     XV.   IVORY'S MOTHER
     XVI.  LOCKED OUT



     AUTUMN

     XVII.  A BRACE OF LOVERS
     XVIII. A STATE O' MAINE PROPHET
     XIX.   AT THE BRICK STORE
     XX.    THE ROD THAT BLOSSOMED
     XXI.   LOIS BURIES HER DEAD
     XXII.  HARVEST-TIME
     XXIII. AUNT ABBY'S WINDOW
     XXIV.  PHOEBE TRIUMPHS
     XXV.   LOVE'S YOUNG DREAM

     WINTER

     XXVI.  A WEDDING-RING
     XXVII. THE CONFESSIONAL
     XXVIII.PATTY IS SHOWN THE DOOR
     XXIX.  WAITSTILL SPEAKS HER MIND
     XXX.   A CLASH OF WILLS
     XXXI.  SENTRY DUTY
     XXXII. THE HOUSE OF AARON
     XXXIII.AARON'S ROD
     XXXIV. THE DEACON'S WATERLOO
     XXXV.  TWO HEAVENS



THE STORY OF WAITSTILL BAXTER



SPRING



I. SACO WATER

FAR, far up, in the bosom of New Hampshire's granite hills, the Saco has
its birth. As the mountain rill gathers strength it takes

     "Through Bartlett's vales its tuneful way,
     Or hides in Conway's fragrant brakes,
     Retreating from the glare of day."

Now it leaves the mountains and flows through "green Fryeburg's woods
and farms." In the course of its frequent turns and twists and bends, it
meets with many another stream, and sends it, fuller and stronger, along
its rejoicing way. When it has journeyed more than a hundred miles and
is nearing the ocean, it greets the Great Ossipee River and accepts its
crystal tribute. Then, in its turn, the Little Ossipee joins forces,
and the river, now a splendid stream, flows onward to Bonny Eagle, to
Moderation and to Salmon Falls, where it dashes over the dam like a
young Niagara and hurtles, in a foamy torrent, through the ragged defile
cut between lofty banks of solid rock.

Widening out placidly for a moment's rest in the sunny reaches near
Pleasant Point, it gathers itself for a new plunge at Union Falls, after
which it speedily merges itself in the bay and is fresh water no more.

At one of the falls on the Saco, the two little hamlets of Edgewood and
Riverboro nestle together at the bridge and make one village. The stream
is a wonder of beauty just here; a mirror of placid loveliness above
the dam, a tawny, roaring wonder at the fall, and a mad, white-flecked
torrent as it dashes on its way to the ocean.

The river has seen strange sights in its time, though the history of
these two tiny villages is quite unknown to the great world outside.
They have been born, waxed strong, and fallen almost to decay while
Saco Water has tumbled over the rocks and spent itself in its impetuous
journey to the sea.

It remembers the yellow-moccasined Sokokis as they issued from the
Indian Cellar and carried their birchen canoes along the wooded shore.
It was in those years that the silver-skinned salmon leaped in its
crystal depths; the otter and the beaver crept with sleek wet skins
upon its shore; and the brown deer came down to quench his thirst at its
brink while at twilight the stealthy forms of bear and panther and wolf
were mirrored in its glassy surface.

Time sped; men chained the river's turbulent forces and ordered it
to grind at the mill. Then houses and barns appeared along its banks,
bridges were built, orchards planted, forests changed into farms,
white-painted meetinghouses gleamed through the trees and distant bells
rang from their steeples on quiet Sunday mornings.

All at once myriads of great hewn logs vexed its downward course,
slender logs linked together in long rafts, and huge logs drifting down
singly or in pairs. Men appeared, running hither and thither like ants,
and going through mysterious operations the reason for which the river
could never guess: but the mill-wheels turned, the great saws buzzed,
the smoke from tavern chimneys rose in the air, and the rattle and
clatter of stage-coaches resounded along the road.

Now children paddled with bare feet in the river's sandy coves and
shallows, and lovers sat on its alder-shaded banks and exchanged their
vows just where the shuffling bear was wont to come down and drink.

The Saco could remember the "cold year," when there was a black frost
every month of the twelve, and though almost all the corn along its
shores shrivelled on the stalk, there were two farms where the vapor
from the river saved the crops, and all the seed for the next season
came from the favored spot, to be known as "Egypt" from that day
henceforward.

Strange, complex things now began to happen, and the river played its
own part in some of these, for there were disastrous freshets, the
sudden breaking-up of great jams of logs, and the drowning of men who
were engulfed in the dark whirlpool below the rapids.

Caravans, with menageries of wild beasts, crossed the bridge now every
year. An infuriated elephant lifted the side of the old Edgewood Tavern
barn, and the wild laughter of the roistering rum-drinkers who were
tantalizing the animals floated down to the river's edge. The roar of
a lion, tearing and chewing the arm of one of the bystanders, and the
cheers of the throng when a plucky captain of the local militia thrust
a stake down the beast's throat,--these sounds displaced the former
war-whoop of the Indians and the ring of the axe in the virgin forests
along the shores.

There were days, and moonlight nights, too, when strange sights and
sounds of quite another nature could have been noted by the river as it
flowed under the bridge that united the two little villages.

Issuing from the door of the Riverboro Town House, and winding down
the hill, through the long row of teams and carriages that lined the
roadside, came a procession of singing men and singing women. Convinced
of sin, but entranced with promised pardon; spiritually intoxicated by
the glowing eloquence of the latter-day prophet they were worshipping,
the band of "Cochranites" marched down the dusty road and across the
bridge, dancing, swaying, waving handkerchiefs, and shouting hosannas.

God watched, and listened, knowing that there would be other prophets,
true and false, in the days to come, and other processions following
them; and the river watched and listened too, as it hurried on towards
the sea with its story of the present that was sometime to be the
history of the past.

When Jacob Cochrane was leading his overwrought, ecstatic band across
the river, Waitstill Baxter, then a child, was watching the strange,
noisy company from the window of a little brick dwelling on the top of
the Town-House Hill.

Her stepmother stood beside her with a young baby in her arms, but when
she saw what held the gaze of the child she drew her away, saying: "We
mustn't look, Waitstill; your father don't like it!"

"Who was the big man at the head, mother?"

"His name is Jacob Cochrane, but you mustn't think or talk about him; he
is very wicked."

"He doesn't look any wickeder than the others," said the child. "Who was
the man that fell down in the road, mother, and the woman that knelt and
prayed over him? Why did he fall, and why did she pray, mother?"

"That was Master Aaron Boynton, the schoolmaster, and his wife. He only
made believe to fall down, as the Cochranites do; the way they carry on
is a disgrace to the village, and that's the reason your father won't
let us look at them."

"I played with a nice boy over to Boynton's," mused the child.

"That was Ivory, their only child. He is a good little fellow, but his
mother and father will spoil him with their crazy ways."

"I hope nothing will happen to him, for I love him," said the child
gravely. "He showed me a humming-bird's nest, the first ever I saw, and
the littlest!"

"Don't talk about loving him," chided the woman. "If your father should
hear you, he'd send you to bed without your porridge."

"Father couldn't hear me, for I never speak when he's at home," said
grave little Waitstill. "And I'm used to going to bed without my
porridge."



II. THE SISTERS

THE river was still running under the bridge, but the current of time
had swept Jacob Cochrane out of sight, though not out of mind, for he
had left here and there a disciple to preach his strange and uncertain
doctrine. Waitstill, the child who never spoke in her father's presence,
was a young woman now, the mistress of the house; the stepmother was
dead, and the baby a girl of seventeen.

The brick cottage on the hilltop had grown only a little shabbier.
Deacon Foxwell Baxter still slammed its door behind him every morning at
seven o'clock and, without any such cheerful conventions as good-byes to
his girls, walked down to the bridge to open his store.

The day, properly speaking, had opened when Waitstill and Patience had
left their beds at dawn, built the fire, fed the hens and turkeys, and
prepared the breakfast, while the Deacon was graining the horse and
milking the cows. Such minor "chores" as carrying water from the well,
splitting kindling, chopping pine, or bringing wood into the kitchen,
were left to Waitstill, who had a strong back, or, if she had not, had
never been unwise enough to mention the fact in her father's presence.
The almanac day, however, which opened with sunrise, had nothing to do
with the real human day, which always began when Mr. Baxter slammed
the door behind him, and reached its high noon of delight when he
disappeared from view.

"He's opening the store shutters!" chanted Patience from the heights of
a kitchen chair by the window. "Now he's taken his cane and beaten off
the Boynton puppy that was sitting on the steps as usual,--I don't mean
Ivory's dog" (here the girl gave a quick glance at her sister), "but
Rodman's little yellow cur. Rodman must have come down to the bridge
on some errand for Ivory. Isn't it odd, when that dog has all the other
store steps to sit upon, he should choose father's, when every bone
in his body must tell him how father hates him and the whole Boynton
family."

"Father has no real cause that I ever heard of; but some dogs never
know when they've had enough beating, nor some people either." said
Waitstill, speaking from the pantry.

"Don't be gloomy when it's my birthday, Sis!--Now he's opened the door
and kicked the cat! All is ready for business at the Baxter store."

"I wish you weren't quite so free with your tongue, Patty."

"Somebody must talk," retorted the girl, jumping down from the chair
and shaking back her mop of red-gold curls. "I'll put this hateful,
childish, round comb in and out just once more, then it will disappear
forever. This very after-noon up goes my hair!"

"You know it will be of no use unless you braid it very plainly and
neatly. Father will take notice and make you smooth it down."

"Father hasn't looked me square in the face for years; besides, my
hair won't braid, and nothing can make it quite plain and neat, thank
goodness! Let us be thankful for small mercies, as Jed Morrill said when
the lightning struck his mother-in-law and skipped his wife."

"Patty, I will not permit you to repeat those tavern stories; they are
not seemly on the lips of a girl!" And Waitstill came out of the pantry
with a shadow of disapproval in her eyes and in her voice.

Patty flung her arms round her sister tempestuously, and pulled out the
waves of her hair so that it softened her face.--"I'll be good," she
said, "and oh, Waity! let's invent some sort of cheap happiness for
to-day! I shall never be seventeen again and we have so many troubles!
Let's put one of the cows in the horse's stall and see what will happen!
Or let's spread up our beds with the head at the foot and put the chest
of drawers on the other side of the room, or let's make candy! Do you
think father would miss the molasses if we only use a cupful? Couldn't
we strain the milk, but leave the churning and the dishes for an hour or
two, just once? If you say 'yes' I can think of something wonderful to
do!"

"What is it?" asked Waitstill, relenting at the sight of the girl's
eager, roguish face.

"PIERCE MY EARS!" cried Patty. "Say you will!"

"Oh! Patty, Patty, I am afraid you are given over to vanity! I daren't
let you wear eardrops without father's permission."

"Why not? Lots of church members wear them, so it can't be a mortal sin.
Father is against all adornments, but that's because he doesn't want to
buy them. You've always said I should have your mother's coral pendants
when I was old enough. Here I am, seventeen today, and Dr. Perry says I
am already a well-favored young woman. I can pull my hair over my ears
for a few days and when the holes are all made and healed, even father
cannot make me fill them up again. Besides, I'll never wear the earrings
at home!"

"Oh! my dear, my dear!" sighed Waitstill, with a half-sob in her voice.
"If only I was wise enough to know how we could keep from these little
deceits, yet have any liberty or comfort in life!"

"We can't! The Lord couldn't expect us to bear all that we bear,"
exclaimed Patty, "without our trying once in a while to have a good
time in our own way. We never do a thing that we are ashamed of, or that
other girls don't do every day in the week; only our pleasures always
have to be taken behind father's back. It's only me that's ever wrong,
anyway, for you are always an angel. It's a burning shame and you only
twenty-one yourself. I'll pierce your ears if you say so, and let you
wear your own coral drops!"

"No, Patty; I've outgrown those longings years ago. When your mother
died and left father and you and the house to me, my girlhood died, too,
though I was only thirteen."

"It was only your inside girlhood that died," insisted Patty stoutly,
"The outside is as fresh as the paint on Uncle Barty's new ell. You've
got the loveliest eyes and hair in Riverboro, and you know it; besides,
Ivory Boynton would tell you so if you didn't. Come and bore my ears,
there's a darling!"

"Ivory Boynton never speaks a word of my looks, nor a word that father
and all the world mightn't hear." And Waitstill flushed.

"Then it's because he's shy and silent and has so many troubles of his
own that he doesn't dare say anything. When my hair is once up and the
coral pendants are swinging in my ears, I shall expect to hear something
about MY looks, I can tell you. Waity, after all, though we never have
what we want to eat, and never a decent dress to our backs, nor a young
man to cross the threshold, I wouldn't change places with Ivory Boynton,
would you?" Here Patty swept the hearth vigorously with a turkey wing
and added a few corncobs to the fire.

Waitstill paused a moment in her task of bread-kneading. "Well," she
answered critically, "at least we know where our father is."

"We do, indeed! We also know that he is thoroughly alive!"

"And though people do talk about him, they can't say the things they say
of Master Aaron Boynton. I don't believe father would ever run away and
desert us."

"I fear not," said Patty. "I wish the angels would put the idea into his
head, though, of course, it wouldn't be the angels; they'd be above it.
It would have to be the 'Old Driver,' as Jed Morrill calls the Evil One;
but whoever did it, the result would be the same: we should be deserted,
and live happily ever after. Oh! to be deserted, and left with you alone
on this hilltop, what joy it would be!"

Waitstill frowned, but did not interfere further with Patty's
intemperate speech. She knew that she was simply serving as an
escape-valve, and that after the steam was "let off" she would be more
rational.

"Of course, we are motherless," continued Patty wistfully, "but poor
Ivory is worse than motherless."

"No, not worse, Patty," said Waitstill, taking the bread-board and
moving towards the closet. "Ivory loves his mother and she loves him,
with all the mind she has left! She has the best blood of New England
flowing in her veins, and I suppose it was a great come down for her to
marry Aaron Boynton, clever and gifted though he was. Now Ivory has to
protect her, poor, daft, innocent creature, and hide her away from the
gossip of the village. He is surely the best of sons, Ivory Boynton!"

"She is a terrible care for him, and like to spoil his life," said
Patty.

"There are cares that swell the heart and make it bigger and warmer,
Patty, just as there are cares that shrivel it and leave it tired and
cold. Love lightens Ivory's afflictions but that is something you and I
have to do without, so it seems."

"I suppose little Rodman is some comfort to the Boyntons, even if he is
only ten." Patty suggested.

"No doubt. He's a good little fellow, and though it's rather hard for
Ivory to be burdened for these last five years with the support of a
child who's no nearer kin than a cousin, still he's of use, minding Mrs.
Boynton and the house when Ivory's away. The school-teacher says he is
wonderful at his books and likely to be a great credit to the Boyntons
some day or other."

"You've forgot to name our one great blessing, Waity, and I believe,
anyway, you're talking to keep my mind off the earrings!"

"You mean we've each other? No, Patty, I never forget that, day or
night. 'Tis that makes me willing to bear any burden father chooses
to put upon us.--Now the bread is set, but I don't believe I have the
courage to put a needle into your tender flesh, Patty; I really don't."

"Nonsense! I've got the waxed silk all ready and chosen the right-sized
needle and I'll promise not to jump or screech more than I can help.
We'll make a tiny lead-pencil dot right in the middle of the lobe, then
you place the needle on it, shut your eyes, and JAB HARD! I expect to
faint, but when I 'come to,' we can decide which of us will pull the
needle through to the other side. Probably it will be you, I'm such a
coward. If it hurts dreadfully, I'll have only one pierced to-day and
take the other to-morrow; and if it hurts very dreadfully, perhaps I'll
go through life with one ear-ring. Aunt Abby Cole will say it's just odd
enough to suit me!"

"You'll never go through life with one tongue at the rate you use it
now," chided Waitstill, "for it will never last you. Come, we'll take
the work-basket and go out in the barn where no one will see or hear
us."

"Goody, goody! Come along!" and Patty clapped her hands in triumph.
"Have you got the pencil and the needle and the waxed silk? Then bring
the camphor bottle to revive me, and the coral pendants, too, just to
give me courage. Hurry up! It's ten o'clock. I was born at sun-rise, so
I'm 'going on' eighteen and can't waste any time!"



III. DEACON BAXTER'S WIVES

FOXWELL BAXTER was ordinarily called "Old Foxy" by the boys of the
district, and also, it is to be feared, by the men gathered for evening
conference at the various taverns, or at one of the rival village
stores.

He had a small farm of fifteen or twenty acres, with a pasture, a wood
lot, and a hay-field, but the principal source of his income came
from trading. His sign bore the usual legend: "WEST INDIA GOODS AND
GROCERIES," and probably the most profitable articles in his stock were
rum, molasses, sugar, and tobacco; but there were chests of rice, tea,
coffee, and spices, barrels of pork in brine, as well as piles of cotton
and woolen cloth on the shelves above the counters. His shop window,
seldom dusted or set in order, held a few clay pipes, some glass jars of
peppermint or sassafras lozenges, black licorice, stick-candy, and sugar
gooseberries. These dainties were seldom renewed, for it was only a very
bold child, or one with an ungovernable appetite for sweets, who would
have spent his penny at Foxy Baxter's store.

He was thought a sharp and shrewd trader, but his honesty was never
questioned; indeed, the only trait in his character that ever came up
for general discussion was his extraordinary, unbelievable, colossal
meanness. This so eclipsed every other passion in the man, and loomed
so bulkily and insistently in the foreground, that had he cherished a
second vice no one would have observed it, and if he really did possess
a casual virtue, it could scarcely have reared its head in such ugly
company.

It might be said, to defend the fair name of the Church, that Mr.
Baxter's deaconhood did not include very active service in the courts of
the Lord. He had "experienced religion" at fifteen and made profession
of his faith, but all well-brought-up boys and girls did the same
in those days; their parents saw to that! If change of conviction or
backsliding occurred later on, that was not their business! At the
ripe age of twenty-five he was selected to fill a vacancy and became a
deacon, thinking it might be good for trade, as it was, for some years.
He was very active at the time of the "Cochrane craze," since any
defence of the creed that included lively detective work and incessant
spying on his neighbors was particularly in his line; but for many years
now, though he had been regular in attendance at church, he had never
officiated at communion, and his diaconal services had gradually lapsed
into the passing of the contribution-box, a task of which he never
wearied; it was such a keen pleasure to make other people yield their
pennies for a good cause, without adding any of his own!

Deacon Baxter had now been a widower for some years and the community
had almost relinquished the idea of his seeking a fourth wife. This was
a matter of some regret, for there was a general feeling that it would
be a good thing for the Baxter girls to have some one to help with the
housework and act as a buffer between them and their grim and irascible
parent. As for the women of the village, they were mortified that the
Deacon had been able to secure three wives, and refused to believe that
the universe held anywhere a creature benighted enough to become his
fourth.

The first, be it said, was a mere ignorant girl, and he a beardless
youth of twenty, who may not have shown his true qualities so early in
life. She bore him two sons, and it was a matter of comment at the
time that she called them, respectively, Job and Moses, hoping that the
endurance and meekness connected with these names might somehow help
them in their future relations with their father. Pneumonia, coupled
with profound discouragement, carried her off in a few years to make
room for the second wife, Waitstill's mother, who was of different fibre
and greatly his superior. She was a fine, handsome girl, the orphan
daughter of up-country gentle-folks, who had died when she was eighteen,
leaving her alone in the world and penniless.

Baxter, after a few days' acquaintance, drove into the dooryard of the
house where she was a visitor and, showing her his two curly-headed
boys, suddenly asked her to come and be their stepmother. She assented,
partly because she had nothing else to do with her existence, so far as
she could see, and also because she fell in love with the children at
first sight and forgot, as girls will, that it was their father whom she
was marrying.

She was as plucky and clever and spirited as she was handsome, and she
made a brave fight of it with Foxy; long enough to bring a daughter into
the world, to name her Waitstill, and start her a little way on her life
journey,--then she, too, gave up the struggle and died. Typhoid fever it
was, combined with complete loss of illusions, and a kind of despairing
rage at having made so complete a failure of her existence.

The next year, Mr. Baxter, being unusually busy, offered a man a good
young heifer if he would jog about the country a little and pick him
up a housekeeper; a likely woman who would, if she proved energetic,
economical, and amiable, be eventually raised to the proud position of
his wife. If she was young, healthy, smart, tidy, capable, and a good
manager, able to milk the cows, harness the horse, and make good butter,
he would give a dollar and a half a week. The woman was found, and,
incredible as it may seem, she said "yes" when the Deacon (whose ardor
was kindled at having paid three months' wages) proposed a speedy
marriage. The two boys by this time had reached the age of discretion,
and one of them evinced the fact by promptly running away to parts
unknown, never to be heard from afterwards; while the other, a reckless
and unhappy lad, was drowned while running on the logs in the river. Old
Foxy showed little outward sign of his loss, though he had brought the
boys into the world solely with the view of having one of them work on
the farm and the other in the store.

His third wife, the one originally secured for a housekeeper, bore him
a girl, very much to his disgust, a girl named Patience, and great was
Waitstill's delight at this addition to the dull household. The mother
was a timid, colorless, docile creature, but Patience nevertheless was a
sparkling, bright-eyed baby, who speedily became the very centre of the
universe to the older child. So the months and years wore on, drearily
enough, until, when Patience was nine, the third Mrs. Baxter succumbed
after the manner of her predecessors, and slipped away from a life that
had grown intolerable. The trouble was diagnosed as "liver complaint,"
but scarcity of proper food, no new frocks or kind words, hard work, and
continual bullying may possibly have been contributory causes. Dr. Perry
thought so, for he had witnessed three most contented deaths in
the Baxter house. The ladies were all members of the church and had
presumably made their peace with God, but the good doctor fancied that
their pleasure in joining the angels was mild compared with their relief
at parting with the Deacon.

"I know I hadn't ought to put the care on you, Waitstill, and you only
thirteen," poor Mrs. Baxter sighed, as the young girl was watching with
her one night when the end seemed drawing near. "I've made out to live
till now when Patience is old enough to dress herself and help round,
but I'm all beat out and can't try any more."

"Do you mean I'm to take your place, be a mother to Patience, and keep
house, and everything?" asked Waitstill quaveringly.

"I don't see but you'll have to, unless your father marries again. He'll
never hire help, you know that!"

"I won't have another mother in this house," flashed the girl. "There's
been three here and that's enough! If he brings anybody home, I'll take
Patience and run away, as Job did; or if he leaves me alone, I'll wash
and iron and scrub and cook till Patience grows up, and then we'll go
off together and hide somewhere. I'm fourteen; oh, mother, how soon
could I be married and take Patience to live with me? Do you think
anybody will ever want me?"

"Don't marry for a home, Waitstill! Your own mother did that, and so did
I, and we were both punished for it! You've been a great help and I've
had a sight of comfort out of the baby, but I wouldn't go through it
again, not even for her! You're real smart and capable for your age and
you've done your full share of the work every day, even when you were at
school. You can get along all right."

"I don't know how I'm going to do everything alone," said the girl,
forcing back her tears. "You've always made the brown bread, and mine
will never suit father. I suppose I can wash, but don't know how to iron
starched clothes, nor make pickles, and oh! I can never kill a rooster,
mother, it's no use to ask me to! I'm not big enough to be the head of
the family."

Mrs. Baxter turned her pale, tired face away from Waitstill's appealing
eyes.

"I know," she said faintly. "I hate to leave you to bear the brunt
alone, but I must!... Take good care of Patience and don't let her get
into trouble.... You won't, will you?"

"I'll be careful," promised Waitstill, sobbing quietly; "I'll do my
best."

"You've got more courage than ever I had; don't you s'pose you can
stiffen up and defend yourself a little mite?... Your father'd ought to
be opposed, for his own good... but I've never seen anybody that dared
do it." Then, after a pause, she said with a flash of spirit,--"Anyhow,
Waitstill, he's your father after all. He's no blood relation of mine,
and I can't stand him another day; that's the reason I'm willing to
die."



IV. SOMETHING OF A HERO

IVORY BOYNTON lifted the bars that divided his land from the highroad
and walked slowly toward the house. It was April, but there were still
patches of snow here and there, fast melting under a drizzling rain. It
was a gray world, a bleak, black-and-brown world, above and below. The
sky was leaden; the road and the footpath were deep in a muddy ooze
flecked with white. The tree-trunks, black, with bare branches, were
lined against the gray sky; nevertheless, spring had been on the way for
a week, and a few sunny days would bring the yearly miracle for which
all hearts were longing.

Ivory was season-wise and his quick eye had caught many a sign as he
walked through the woods from his schoolhouse. A new and different color
haunted the tree-tops, and one had only to look closely at the elm
buds to see that they were beginning to swell. Some fat robins had been
sunning about in the school-yard at noon, and sparrows had been chirping
and twittering on the fence-rails. Yes, the winter was over, and Ivory
was glad, for it had meant no coasting and skating and sleighing for
him, but long walks in deep snow or slush; long evenings, good for
study, but short days, and greater loneliness for his mother. He could
see her now as he neared the house, standing in the open doorway, her
hand shading her eyes, watching, always watching, for some one who never
came.

"Spring is on the way, mother, but it isn't here yet, so don't stand
there in the rain," he called. "Look at the nosegay I gathered for
you as I came through the woods. Here are pussy willows and red maple
blossoms and Mayflowers, would you believe it?"

Lois Boynton took the handful of budding things and sniffed their
fragrance.

"You're late to-night, Ivory," she said. "Rod wanted his supper early
so that he could go off to singing-school, but I kept something warm for
you, and I'll make you a fresh cup of tea."

Ivory went into the little shed room off the kitchen, changed his muddy
boots for slippers, and made himself generally tidy; then he came back
to the living-room bringing a pine knot which he flung on the fire,
waking it to a brilliant flame.

"We can be as lavish as we like with the stumps now, mother, for spring
is coming," he said, as he sat down to his meal.

"I've been looking out more than usual this afternoon," she replied.
"There's hardly any snow left, and though the walking is so bad I've
been rather expecting your father before night. You remember he
said, when he went away in January, that he should be back before the
Mayflowers bloomed?"

It did not do any good to say: "Yes, mother, but the Mayflowers have
bloomed ten times since father went away." He had tried that, gently and
persistently when first her mind began to be confused from long grief
and hurt love, stricken pride and sick suspense.

Instead of that, Ivory turned the subject cheerily, saying, "Well, we're
sure of a good season, I think. There's been a grand snow-fall, and
that, they say, is the poor man's manure. Rod and I will put in more
corn and potatoes this year. I shan't have to work single-handed very
long, for he is growing to be quite a farmer."

"Your father was very fond of green corn, but he never cared for
potatoes," Mrs. Boynton said, vaguely, taking up her knitting. "I always
had great pride in my cooking, but I could never get your father to
relish my potatoes."

"Well, his son does, anyway," Ivory replied, helping himself plentifully
from a dish that held one of his mother's best concoctions, potatoes
minced fine and put together into the spider with thin bits of pork and
all browned together.

"I saw the Baxter girls to-day, mother," he continued, not because
he hoped she would give any heed to what he said, but from the sheer
longing for companionship. "The Deacon drove off with Lawyer Wilson, who
wanted him to give testimony in some case or other down in Milltown. The
minute Patty saw him going up Saco Hill, she harnessed the old starved
Baxter mare and the girls started over to the Lower Corner to see some
friends. It seems it's Patty's birthday and they were celebrating. I
met them just as they were coming back and helped them lift the rickety
wagon out of the mud; they were stuck in it up to the hubs of the
wheels. I advised them to walk up the Town-House Hill if they ever
expected to get the horse home."

"Town-House Hill!" said Ivory's mother, dropping her knitting. "That was
where we had such wonderful meetings! Truly the Lord was present in
our midst, and oh, Ivory! the visions we saw in that place when Jacob
Cochrane first unfolded his gospel to us. Was ever such a man!"

"Probably not, mother," remarked Ivory dryly.

"You were speaking of the Baxters. I remember their home, and the little
girl who used to stand in the gateway and watch when we came out of
meeting. There was a baby, too; isn't there a Baxter baby, Ivory?"

"She didn't stay a baby; she is seventeen years old to-day, mother."

"You surprise me, but children do grow very fast. She had a strange
name, but I cannot recall it."

"Her name is Patience, but nobody but her father calls her anything but
Patty, which suits her much better."

"No, the name wasn't Patience, not the one I mean."

"The older sister is Waitstill, perhaps you mean her?"--and Ivory sat
down by the fire with his book and his pipe.

"Waitstill! Waitstill! that is it! Such a beautiful name!"

"She's a beautiful girl."

"Waitstill! 'They also serve who only stand and wait.' 'Wait, I say, on
the Lord and He will give thee the desires of thy heart.'--Those were
wonderful days, when we were caught up out of the body and mingled
freely in the spirit world." Mrs. Boynton was now fully started on the
topic that absorbed her mind and Ivory could do nothing but let her tell
the story that she had told him a hundred times.

"I remember when first we heard Jacob Cochrane speak." (This was her
usual way of beginning.) "Your father was a preacher, as you know,
Ivory, but you will never know what a wonderful preacher he was. My
grandfather, being a fine gentleman, and a governor, would not give his
consent to my marriage, but I never regretted it, never! Your father
saw Elder Cochrane at a revival meeting of the Free Will Baptists in
Scarboro', and was much impressed with him. A few days later we went to
the funeral of a child in the same neighborhood. No one who was there
could ever forget it. The minister had made his long prayer when a man
suddenly entered the room, came towards the coffin, and placed his hand
on the child's forehead. The room, in an instant, was as still as
the death that had called us together. The stranger was tall and
of commanding presence; his eyes pierced our very hearts, and his
marvellous voice penetrated to depths in our souls that had never been
reached before."

"Was he a better speaker than my father?" asked Ivory, who dreaded
his mother's hours of complete silence even more than her periods of
reminiscence.

"He spoke as if the Lord of Hosts had given him inspiration; as if the
angels were pouring words into his mouth just for him to utter," replied
Mrs. Boynton. "Your father was spell-bound, and I only less so. When he
ceased speaking, the child's mother crossed the room, and swaying to and
fro, fell at his feet, sobbing and wailing and imploring God to forgive
her sins. They carried her upstairs, and when we looked about after the
confusion and excitement the stranger had vanished. But we found him
again! As Elder Cochrane said: 'The prophet of the Lord can never be
hid; no darkness is thick enough to cover him!' There was a six weeks'
revival meeting in North Saco where three hundred souls were converted,
and your father and I were among them. We had fancied ourselves true
believers for years, but Jacob Cochrane unstopped our ears so that we
could hear the truths revealed to him by the Almighty!--It was all so
simple and easy at the beginning, but it grew hard and grievous
afterward; hard to keep the path, I mean. I never quite knew whether God
was angry with me for backsliding at the end, but I could not always
accept the revelations that Elder Cochrane and your father had!"

Lois Boynton's hands were now quietly folded over the knitting that lay
forgotten in her lap, but her low, thrilling voice had a note in it that
did not belong wholly to earth.

There was a long silence; one of many long silences at the Boynton
fireside, broken only by the ticking of the clock, the purring of the
cat, and the clicking of Mrs. Boynton's needles, as, her paroxysm of
reminiscence over, she knitted ceaselessly, with her eyes on the window
or the door.

"It's about time for Rod to be coming back, isn't it?" asked Ivory.

"He ought to be here soon, but perhaps he is gone for good; it may be
that he thinks he has made us a long enough visit. I don't know whether
your father will like the boy when he comes home. He never did fancy
company in the house."

Ivory looked up in astonishment from his Greek grammar. This was an
entirely new turn of his mother's mind. Often when she was more than
usually confused he would try to clear the cobwebs from her brain by
gently questioning her until she brought herself back to a clearer
understanding of her own thought. Thus far her vagaries had never made
her unjust to any human creature; she was uniformly sweet and gentle in
speech and demeanor.

"Why do you talk of Rod's visiting us when he is one of the family?"
Ivory asked quietly.

"Is he one of the family? I didn't know it," replied his mother
absently.

"Look at me, mother, straight in the eye; that's right: now listen,
dear, to what I say."

Mrs. Boynton's hair that had been in her youth like an aureole of
corn-silk was now a strange yellow-white, and her blue eyes looked out
from her pale face with a helpless appeal.

"You and I were living alone here after father went away," Ivory began.
"I was a little boy, you know. You and father had saved something, there
was the farm, you worked like a slave, I helped, and we lived, somehow,
do you remember?"

"I do, indeed! It was cold and the neighbors were cruel. Jacob Cochrane
had gone away and his disciples were not always true to him. When the
magnetism of his presence was withdrawn, they could not follow all his
revelations, and they forgot how he had awakened their spiritual life
at the first of his preaching. Your father was always a stanch believer,
but when he started on his mission and went to Parsonsfield to help
Elder Cochrane in his meetings, the neighbors began to criticize him.
They doubted him. You were too young to realize it, but I did, and it
almost broke my heart."

"I was nearly twelve years old; do you think I escaped all the gossip,
mother?"

"You never spoke of it to me, Ivory."

"No, there is much that I never spoke of to you, mother, but sometime
when you grow stronger and your memory is better we will talk
together.--Do you remember the winter, long after father went away, that
Parson Lane sent me to Fairfield Academy to get enough Greek and Latin
to make me a schoolmaster?"

"Yes," she answered uncertainly.

"Don't you remember I got a free ride down-river one Friday and came
home for Sunday, just to surprise you? And when I got here I found you
ill in bed, with Mrs. Mason and Dr. Perry taking care of you. You could
not speak, you were so ill, but they told me you had been up in New
Hampshire to see your sister, that she had died, and that you had
brought back her boy, who was only four years old. That was Rod. I took
him into bed with me that night, poor, homesick little fellow, and, as
you know, mother, he's never left us since."

"I didn't remember I had a sister. Is she dead, Ivory?" asked Mrs.
Boynton vaguely.

"If she were not dead, do you suppose you would have kept Rodman with us
when we hadn't bread enough for our own two mouths, mother?" questioned
Ivory patiently.

"No, of course not. I can't think how I can be so forgetful. It's worse
sometimes than others. It 's worse to-day because I knew the Mayflowers
were blooming and that reminded me it was time for your father to come
home; you must forgive me, dear, and will you excuse me if I sit in the
kitchen awhile? The window by the side door looks out towards the road,
and if I put a candle on the sill it shines quite a distance. The lane
is such a long one, and your father was always a sad stumbler in the
dark! I shouldn't like him to think I wasn't looking for him when he's
been gone since January."

Ivory's pipe went out, and his book slipped from his knee unnoticed.

His mother was more confused than usual, but she always was when spring
came to remind her of her husband's promise. Somehow, well used as he
was to her mental wanderings, they made him uneasy to-night. His
father had left home on a fancied mission, a duty he believed to be a
revelation given by God through Jacob Cochrane. The farm did not miss
him much at first, Ivory reflected bitterly, for since his fanatical
espousal of Cochranism his father's interest in such mundane matters
as household expenses had diminished month by month until they had no
meaning for him at all. Letters to wife and boy had come at first,
but after six months--during which he had written from many places,
continually deferring the date of his return-they had ceased altogether.
The rest was silence. Rumors of his presence here or there came from
time to time, but though Parson Lane and Dr. Perry did their best, none
of them were ever substantiated.

Where had those years of wandering been passed, and had they all been
given even to an imaginary and fantastic service of God? Was his father
dead? If he were alive, what could keep him from writing? Nothing but a
very strong reason, or a very wrong one, so his son thought, at times.

Since Ivory had grown to man's estate, he understood that in the
later days of Cochrane's preaching, his "visions," "inspirations," and
"revelations" concerning the marriage bond were a trifle startling from
the old-fashioned, orthodox point of view. His most advanced disciples
were to hold themselves in readiness to renounce their former vows and
seek "spiritual consorts," sometimes according to his advice, sometimes
as their inclinations prompted.

Had Aaron Boynton forsaken, willingly, the wife of his youth, the
mother of his boy? If so, he must have realized to what straits he
was subjecting them. Ivory had not forgotten those first few years of
grinding poverty, anxiety, and suspense. His mother's mind had stood the
strain bravely, but it gave way at last; not, however, until that fatal
winter journey to New Hampshire, when cold, exposure, and fatigue
did their worst for her weak body. Religious enthusiast, exalted and
impressionable, a natural mystic, she had probably always been, far more
so in temperament, indeed, than her husband; but although she left home
on that journey a frail and heartsick woman, she returned a different
creature altogether, blurred and confused in mind, with clouded memory
and irrational fancies.

She must have given up hope, just then, Ivory thought, and her love was
so deep that when it was uprooted the soil came with it. Now hope had
returned because the cruel memory had faded altogether. She sat by the
kitchen window in gentle expectation, watching, always watching.

And this is the way many of Ivory Boynton's evenings were spent, while
the heart of him, the five-and-twenty-year-old heart of him, was longing
to feel the beat of another heart, a girl's heart only a mile or more
away. The ice in Saco Water had broken up and the white blocks sailed
majestically down towards the sea; sap was mounting and the elm trees
were budding; the trailing arbutus was blossoming in the woods; the
robins had come;-everything was announcing the spring, yet Ivory saw
no changing seasons in his future; nothing but winter, eternal winter
there!



V. PATIENCE AND IMPATIENCE

PATTY had been searching for eggs in the barn chamber, and coming down
the ladder from the haymow spied her father washing the wagon by the
well-side near the shed door. Cephas Cole kept store for him at meal
hours and whenever trade was unusually brisk, and the Baxter yard was so
happily situated that Old Foxy could watch both house and store.

There never was a good time to ask Deacon Baxter a favor, therefore this
moment would serve as well as any other, so, approaching him near enough
to be heard through the rubbing and splashing, but no nearer than was
necessary Patty said:--

"Father, can I go up to Ellen Wilson's this afternoon and stay to tea? I
won't start till I've done a good day's work and I'll come home early."

"What do you want to go gallivantin' to the neighbors for? I never saw
anything like the girls nowadays; highty-tighty, flauntin', traipsin',
triflin' trollops, ev'ry one of 'em, that's what they are, and Ellen
Wilson's one of the triflin'est. You're old enough now to stay to home
where you belong and make an effort to earn your board and clothes,
which you can't, even if you try."

Spunk, real, Simon-pure spunk, started somewhere in Patty and coursed
through her blood like wine.

"If a girl's old enough to stay at home and work, I should think she
was old enough to go out and play once in a while." Patty was still too
timid to make this remark more than a courteous suggestion, so far as
its tone was concerned.

"Don't answer me back; you're full of new tricks, and you've got to stop
'em, right where you are, or there'll be trouble. You were whistlin'
just now up in the barn chamber; that's one of the things I won't have
round my premises,--a whistlin' girl."

"'T was a Sabbath-School hymn that I was whistling!" This with a
creditable imitation of defiance.

"That don't make it any better. Sing your hymns if you must make a noise
while you're workin'."

"It's the same mouth that makes the whistle and sings the song, so I
don't see why one's any wickeder than the other."

"You don't have to see," replied the Deacon grimly; "all you have to do
is to mind when you're spoken to. Now run 'long 'bout your work."

"Can't I go up to Ellen's, then?"

"What's goin' on up there?"

"Just a frolic. There's always a good time at Ellen's, and I would so
like the sight of a big, rich house now and then!"

"'Just a frolic.' Land o' Goshen, hear the girl! 'Sight of a big, rich
house,' indeed!--Will there be any boys at the party?"

"I s'pose so, or 't wouldn't be a frolic," said Patty with awful daring;
"but there won't be many; only a few of Mark's friends."

"Well, there ain't goin' to be no more argyfyin'! I won't have any girl
o' mine frolickin' with boys, so that's the end of it. You're kind
o' crazy lately, riggin' yourself out with a ribbon here and a flower
there, and pullin' your hair down over your ears. Why do you want to
cover your ears up? What are they for?"

"To hear you with, father," Patty replied, with honey-sweet voice and
eyes that blazed.

"Well, I hope they'll never hear anything worse," replied her father,
flinging a bucket of water over the last of the wagon wheels.

"THEY COULDN'T!" These words were never spoken aloud, but oh! how Patty
longed to shout them with a clarion voice as she walked away in perfect
silence, her majestic gait showing, she hoped, how she resented the
outcome of the interview.

"I've stood up to father!" she exclaimed triumphantly as she entered the
kitchen and set down her yellow bowl of eggs on the table. "I stood up
to him, and answered him back three times!"

Waitstill was busy with her Saturday morning cooking, but she turned in
alarm.

"Patty, what have you said and done? Tell me quickly!"

"I 'argyfied,' but it didn't do any good; he won't let me go to Ellen's
party."

Waitstill wiped her floury hands and put them on her sister's shoulders.

"Hear what I say, Patty: you must not argue with father, whatever he
says. We don't love him and so there isn't the right respect in our
hearts, but at least there can be respect in our manners."

"I don't believe I can go on for years, holding in, Waitstill!" Patty
whimpered.

"Yes, you can. I have!"

"You're different, Waitstill."

"I wasn't so different at sixteen, but that's five years ago, and I've
got control of my tongue and my temper since then. Sometime, perhaps,
when I have a grievance too great to be rightly borne, sometime when you
are away from here in a home of your own, I shall speak out to father;
just empty my heart of all the disappointment and bitterness and
rebellion. Somebody ought to tell him the truth, and perhaps it will be
me!"

"I wish it could be me," exclaimed Patty vindictively, and with an equal
disregard of grammar.

"You would speak in temper, I'm afraid, Patty, and that would spoil all.
I'm sorry you can't go up to Ellen's," she sighed, turning back to her
work; "you don't have pleasure enough for one of your age; still, don't
fret; something may happen to change things, and anyhow the weather is
growing warmer, and you and I have so many more outings in summer-time.
Smooth down your hair, child; there are straws in it, and it's all rough
with the wind. I don't like flying hair about a kitchen."

"I wish my hair was flying somewhere a thousand miles from here; or at
least I should wish it if it did not mean leaving you; for oh. I'm so
miserable and disappointed and unhappy!"

Waitstill bent over the girl as she flung herself down beside the table
and smoothed her shoulder gently.

"There, there, dear; it isn't like my gay little sister to cry. What is
the matter with you to-day, Patty?"

"I suppose it's the spring," she said, wiping her eyes with her apron
and smiling through her tears. "Perhaps I need a dose of sulphur and
molasses."

"Don't you feel well as common?"

"Well? I feel too well! I feel as if I was a young colt shut up in an
attic. I want to kick up my heels, batter the door down, and get out
into the pasture. It's no use talking, Waity;--I can't go on living
without a bit of pleasure and I can't go on being patient even for
your sake. If it weren't for you, I'd run away as Job did; and I never
believed Moses slipped on the logs; I'm sure he threw himself into the
river, and so should I if I had the courage!"

"Stop, Patty, stop, dear! You shall have your bit of pasture, at least.
I'll do some of your indoor tasks for you, and you shall put on your
sunbonnet and go out and dig the dandelion greens for dinner. Take the
broken knife and a milkpan and don't bring in so much earth with them as
you did last time. Dry your eyes and look at the green things growing.
Remember how young you are and how many years are ahead of you! Go
along, dear!"

Waitstill went about her work with rather a heavy heart. Was life going
to be more rather than less difficult, now that Patty was growing up?
Would she he able to do her duty both by father and sister and keep
peace in the household, as she had vowed, in her secret heart, always to
do? She paused every now and then to look out of the window and wave an
encouraging hand to Patty. The girl's bonnet was off, and her uncovered
head blazed like red gold in the sunlight. The short young grass was
dotted with dandelion blooms, some of them already grown to huge disks
of yellow, and Patty moved hither and thither, selecting the younger
weeds, deftly putting the broken knife under their roots and popping
them into the tin pan. Presently, for Deacon Baxter had finished the
wagon and gone down the hill to relieve Cephas Cole at the counter,
Patty's shrill young whistle floated into the kitchen, but with a
mischievous glance at the open window she broke off suddenly and began
to sing the words of the hymn with rather more emphasis and gusto than
strict piety warranted.

     "There'll be SOMEthing in heav-en for chil-dren to do,
      None are idle in that bless-ed land:
      There'll be WORK for the heart. There'll be WORK for the mind,
      And emPLOYment for EACH little hand.
        "There'll be SOME-thing to do,
         There'll be SOME-thing to do,
      There'll be SOME-thing for CHIL-dren to do!
      On that bright blessed shore where there's joy evermore,
      There'll be SOME-thing for CHIL-DREN to do."

Patty's young existence being full to the brim of labor, this view of
heaven never in the least appealed to her and she rendered the hymn with
little sympathy. The main part of the verse was strongly accented by
jabs at the unoffending dandelion roots, but when the chorus came she
brought out the emphatic syllables by a beat of the broken knife on the
milkpan.

This rendition of a Sabbath-School classic did not meet Waitstill's
ideas of perfect propriety, but she smiled and let it pass, planning
some sort of recreation for a stolen half-hour of the afternoon. It
would have to be a walk through the pasture into the woods to see what
had grown since they went there a fortnight ago. Patty loved people
better than Nature, but failing the one she could put up with the other,
for she had a sense of beauty and a pagan love of color. There would
be pale-hued innocence and blue and white violets in the moist places,
thought Waitstill, and they would have them in a china cup on the
supper-table. No, that would never do, for last time father had knocked
them over when he was reaching for the bread, and in a silent protest
against such foolishness got up from the table and emptied theirs into
the kitchen sink.

"There's a place for everything," he said when he came back, "and the
place for flowers is outdoors."

Then in the pine woods there would be, she was sure, Star of Bethlehem,
Solomon's Seal, the white spray of groundnuts and bunchberries. Perhaps
they could make a bouquet and Patty would take it across the fields
to Mrs. Boynton's door. She need not go in, and thus they would not
be disobeying their father's command not to visit that "crazy Boynton
woman."

Here Patty came in with a pan full of greens and the sisters sat down in
the sunny window to get them ready for the pot.

"I'm calmer," the little rebel allowed. "That's generally the way it
turns out with me. I get into a rage, but I can generally sing it off!"

"You certainly must have got rid of a good deal of temper this morning,
by the way your voice sounded."

"Nobody can hear us in this out-of-the-way place. It's easy enough to
see that the women weren't asked to say anything when the men settled
where the houses should be built! The men weren't content to stick them
on the top of a high hill, or half a mile from the stores, but put them
back to the main road, taking due care to cut the sink-window where
their wives couldn't see anything even when they were washing dishes."

"I don't know that I ever thought about it in that way"; and Waitstill
looked out of the window in a brown study while her hands worked with
the dandelion greens. "I've noticed it, but I never supposed the men did
it intentionally."

"No, you wouldn't," said Patty with the pessimism of a woman of ninety,
as she stole an admiring glance at her sister. Patty's own face,
irregular, piquant, tantalizing, had its peculiar charm, and her
brilliant skin and hair so dazzled the masculine beholder that he took
note of no small defects; but Waitstill was beautiful; beautiful even
in her working dress of purple calico. Her single braid of hair, the
Foxwell hair, that in her was bronze and in Patty pale auburn, was wound
once around her fine head and made to stand a little as it went across
the front. It was a simple, easy, unconscious fashion of her own, quite
different from anything done by other women in her time and place, and
it just suited her dignity and serenity. It looked like a coronet, but
it was the way she carried her head that gave you the fancy, there was
such spirit and pride in the poise of it on the long graceful neck. Her
eyes were as clear as mountain pools shaded by rushes, and the strength
of the face was softened by the sweetness of the mouth.

Patty never let the conversation die out for many seconds at a time and
now she began again. "My sudden rages don't match my name very well,
but, of course, mother didn't know how I was going to turn out when she
called me Patience, for I was nothing but a squirming little bald, red
baby; but my name really is too ridiculous when you think about it."

Waitstill laughed as she said: "It didn't take you long to change it!
Perhaps Patience was a hard word for a baby to say, but the moment you
could talk you said, 'Patty wants this' and 'Patty wants that."'

"Did Patty ever get it? She never has since, that's certain! And look
at your name: it's 'Waitstill,' yet you never stop a moment. When you're
not in the shed or barn, or chicken-house, or kitchen or attic, or
garden-patch, you are working in the Sunday School or the choir."

It seemed as if Waitstill did not intend to answer this arraignment of
her activities. She rose and crossed the room to put the pan of greens
in the sink, preparing to wash them.

Taking the long-handled dipper from the nail, she paused a moment before
plunging it into the water pail; paused, and leaning her elbow on a
corner of the shelf over the sink, looked steadfastly out into the
orchard.

Patty watched her curiously and was just going to offer a penny for
her thoughts when Waitstill suddenly broke the brief silence by saying:
"Yes, I am always busy; it's better so, but all the same, Patty, I'm
waiting,--inside! I don't know for what, but I always feel that I am
waiting!"



VI. A KISS

"SHALL we have our walk in the woods on the Edgewood side of the river,
just for a change, Patty?" suggested her sister. "The water is so high
this year that the river will be splendid. We can gather our flowers in
the hill pasture and then you'll be quite near Mrs. Boynton's and can
carry the nosegay there while I come home ahead of you and get supper.
I'll take to-day's eggs to father's store on the way and ask him if he
minds our having a little walk. I've an errand at Aunt Abby's that would
take me down to the bridge anyway."

"Very well," said Patty, somewhat apathetically. "I always like a walk
with you, but I don't care what becomes of me this afternoon if I can't
go to Ellen's party."

The excursion took place according to Waitstill's plan, and at four
o'clock she sped back to her night work and preparations for supper,
leaving Patty with a great bunch of early wildflowers for Ivory's
mother. Patty had left them at the Boyntons' door with Rodman, who was
picking up chips and volunteered to take the nosegay into the house at
once.

"Won't you step inside?" the boy asked shyly, wishing to be polite,
but conscious that visitors, from the village very seldom crossed the
threshold.

"I'd like to, but I can't this afternoon, thank you. I must run all the
way down the hill now, or I shan't be in time to supper."

"Do you eat meals together over to your house?" asked the boy.

"We're all three at the table if that means together."

"We never are. Ivory goes off early and takes lunch in a pail. So do
I when I go to school. Aunt Boynton never sits down to eat; she just
stands at the window and takes a bite of something now 'and then. You
haven't got any mother, have you?"

"No, Rodman."

"Neither have I, nor any father, nor any relations but Aunt Boynton
and Ivory. Ivory is very good to me, and when he's at home I'm never
lonesome."

"I wish you could come over and eat with sister and me," said Patty
gently. "Perhaps sometime, when my father is away buying goods and we
are left alone, you could join us in the woods, and we would have
a picnic? We would bring enough for you; all sorts of good things;
hard-boiled eggs, doughnuts, apple-turnovers, and bread spread with
jelly."

"I'd like it fine!" exclaimed Rodman, his big dark eyes sparkling with
anticipation. "I don't have many boys to play with, and I never went to
a picnic Aunt Boynton watches for uncle 'most all the time; she doesn't
know he has been away for years and years. When she doesn't watch, she
prays. Sometimes she wants me to pray with her, but praying don't come
easy to me."

"Neither does it to me," said Patty.

"I'm good at marbles and checkers and back-gammon and jack-straws,
though."

"So am I," said Patty, laughing, "so we should be good friends. I'll try
to get a chance to see you soon again, but perhaps I can't; I'm a good
deal tied at home."

"Your father doesn't like you to go anywheres, I guess," interposed
Rodman. "I've heard Ivory tell Aunt Boynton things, but I wouldn't
repeat them. Ivory's trained me years and years not to tell anything, so
I don't."

"That's a good boy!" approved Patty. Then as she regarded him more
closely, she continued, "I'm sorry you're lonesome, Rodman, I'd like to
see you look brighter."

"You think I've been crying," the boy said shrewdly. "So I have, but
not because I've been punished. The reason my eyes are so swollen up is
because I killed our old toad by mistake this morning. I was trying to
see if I could swing the scythe so's to help Ivory in haying-time. I've
only 'raked after' and I want to begin on mowing soon's I can. Then
somehow or other the old toad came out from under the steps; I didn't
see him, and the scythe hit him square. I cried for an hour, that's what
I did, and I don't care who knows it except I wouldn't like the boys
at school to hector me. I've buried the toad out behind the barn, and I
hope Ivory'll let me keep the news from Aunt Boynton. She cries enough
now without my telling her there's been a death in the family. She set
great store by the old toad, and so did all of us."

"It's too bad; I'm sorry, but after all you couldn't help it."

"No, but we should always look round every-wheres when we're cutting;
that's what Ivory says. He says folks shouldn't use edged tools till
they're old enough not to fool with 'em."

And Rodman looked so wise and old-fashioned for his years that Patty
did not know whether to kiss him or cry over him, as she said: "Ivory's
always right, and now good-bye; I must go this very minute. Don't forget
the picnic."

"I won't!" cried the boy, gazing after her, wholly entranced with
her bright beauty and her kindness. "Say, I'll bring something,
too,--white-oak acorns, if you like 'em; I've got a big bagful up
attic!"

Patty sped down the long lane, crept under the bars, and flew like a
lapwing over the high-road.

"If father was only like any one else, things might be so different!"
she sighed, her thoughts running along with her feet. "Nobody to make
a home for that poor lonesome little boy and that poor lonesome big
Ivory.... I am sure that he is in love with Waitstill. He doesn't know
it; she doesn't know it; nobody does but me, but I'm clever at guessing.
I was the only one that surmised Jed Morrill was going to marry
again.... I should almost like Ivory for myself, he is so tall and
handsome, but of course he can never marry anybody; he is too poor and
has his mother to look after. I wouldn't want to take him from Waity,
though, and then perhaps I couldn't get him, anyway.... If I couldn't,
he'd be the only one! I've never tried yet, but I feel in my bones,
somehow, that I could have any boy in Edgewood or Riverboro, by just
crooking my forefinger and beckoning to him.. .. I wish--I wish--they
were different! They don't make me want to beckon to them! My forefinger
just stays straight and doesn't feel like crooking!... There's Cephas
Cole, but he's as stupid as an owl. I don't want a husband that keeps
his mouth wide open whenever I'm talking, no matter whether it's sense
or nonsense. There's Phil Perry, but he likes Ellen, and besides he's
too serious for me; and there's Mark Wilson; he's the best dressed,
and the only one that's been to college. He looks at me all the time in
meeting, and asked me if I wouldn't take a walk some Sunday afternoon. I
know he planned Ellen's party hoping I'd be there!--Goodness gracious,
I do believe that is his horse coming behind me! There's no other in the
village that goes at such a gait!"

It was, indeed, Mark Wilson, who always drove, according to Aunt Abby
Cole, "as if he was goin' for a doctor." He caught up with Patty almost
in the twinkling of an eye, but she was ready for him. She had taken
off her sunbonnet just to twirl it by the string, she was so warm with
walking, and in a jiffy she had lifted the clustering curls from her
ears, tucked them back with a single expert movement, and disclosed two
coral pendants just the color of her ear-tips and her glowing cheeks.

"Hello, Patty!" the young man called, in brusque country fashion, as he
reined up beside her. "What are you doing over here? Why aren't you on
your way to the party? I've been over to Limington and am breaking my
neck to get home in time myself."

"I am not going; there are no parties for me!" said Patty plaintively.
"Not going! Oh! I say, what's the matter? It won't be a bit of fun
without you! Ellen and I made it up expressly for you, thinking your
father couldn't object to a candy-pull!"

"I can't help it; I did the best I could. Wait-still always asks father
for me, but I wouldn't take any chances to-day, and I spoke to him
myself; indeed I almost coaxed him!"

"He's a regular old skinflint!" cried Mark, getting out of the wagon and
walking beside her.

"You mustn't call him names," Patty interposed with some dignity. "I
call him a good many myself, but I'm his daughter."

"You don't look it," said Mark admiringly. "Come and have a little ride,
Won't you?"

"Oh, I couldn't possibly, thank you. Some one would be sure to see us,
and father's so strict."

"There isn't a building for half a mile! Just jump in and have a spin
till we come to the first house; then I'll let you out and you can walk
the rest of the way home. Come, do, and make up to me a little for my
disappointment. I'll skip the candy-pull if you say the word."

It was an incredibly brief drive, at Mark's rate of speed; and as
exciting and blissful as it was brief and dangerous, Patty thought.
Did she imagine it, or did Mark help her into the wagon differently
from--old Dr. Perry, for instance?

The fresh breeze lifted the gold thread of her curls and gave her cheeks
a brighter color, while her breath came fast through her parted lips and
her eyes sparkled at the unexpected, unaccustomed pleasure. She felt so
grown up, so conscious of a new power as she sat enthroned on the little
wagon seat (Mark Wilson always liked his buggies "courtin' size" so the
neighbors said), that she was almost courageous enough to agree to make
a royal progress through the village; almost, but not quite.

"Come on, let's shake the old tabbies up and start 'em talking, shall
we?" Mark suggested. "I'll give you the reins and let Nero have a flick
of the whip."

"No, I'd rather not drive," she said. "I'd be afraid of this horse, and,
anyway, I must get out this very minute; yes, I really must. If you hold
Nero I can just slip down between the wheels; you needn't help me."

Mark alighted notwithstanding her objections, saying gallantly, "I don't
miss this pleasure, not by a jugful! Come along! Jump!"

Patty stretched out her hands to be helped, but Mark forestalled her by
putting his arms around her and lifting her down. A second of time only
was involved, but in that second he held; her close and kissed her warm
cheek, her cheek that had never felt the touch of any lips but those of
Waitstill. She pulled her sunbonnet over her flaming face, while Mark,
with a gay smile of farewell, sprang into the wagon and gave his horse a
free rein.

Patty never looked up from the road, but walked faster and faster, her
heart beating at breakneck speed. It was a changed world that spun past
her; fright, triumph, shame, delight, a gratified vanity swam over her
in turn.

A few minutes later she heard once more the rumble of wheels on the
road. It was Cephas Cole driving towards her over the brow of Saco Hill.
"He'll have seen Mark," she thought, "but he can't know I've talked and
driven with him. Ugh! how stupid and common he looks!" "I heard your
father blowin' the supper-horn jest as I come over the bridge," remarked
Cephas, drawing up in the road. "He stood in the door-yard blowin' like
Bedlam. I guess you 're late to supper."

"I'll be home in a few minutes," said Patty, "I got delayed and am a
little behindhand."

"I'll turn right round if you'll git in and lemme take you back-along a
piece; it'll save you a good five minutes," begged Cephas, abjectly.

"All right; much obliged; but it's against the rules and you must drop
me at the foot of our hill and let me walk up."

"Certain; I know the Deacon 'n' I ain't huntin' for trouble any more'n
you be; though I 'd take it quick enough if you jest give me leave! I
ain't no coward an' I could tackle the Deacon to-morrow if so be I had
anything to ask him."

This seemed to Patty a line of conversation distinctly to be discouraged
under all the circumstances, and she tried to keep Cephas on the subject
of his daily tasks and his mother's rheumatism until she could escape
from his over-appreciative society.

"How do you like my last job?" he inquired as they passed his father's
house. "Some think I've got the ell a little mite too yaller. Folks that
ain't never handled a brush allers think they can mix paint better 'n
them that knows their trade."

"If your object was to have everybody see the ell a mile away, you've
succeeded," said Patty cruelly. She never flung the poor boy a civil
word for fear of getting something warmer than civility in return.

"It'll tone down," Cephas responded, rather crestfallen. "I wanted a
good bright lastin' shade. 'T won't look so yaller when father lets me
paint the house to match, but that won't be till next year. He makes
fun of the yaller color same as you; says a home's something you want
to forget when you're away from it. Mother says the two rooms of the
ell are big enough for somebody to set up housekeepin' in. What do you
think?"

"I never think," returned Patty with a tantalizing laugh. "Good-night,
Cephas; thank you for giving me a lift!"



VII. "WHAT DREAMS MAY COME"

SUPPER was over and the work done at last; the dishes washed, the beans
put in soak, the hens shut up for the night, the milk strained and
carried down cellar. Patty went up to her little room with the
one window and the slanting walls and Waitstill followed and said
good-night. Her father put out the lights, locked the doors, and came up
the creaking stairs. There was never any talk between the sisters before
going to bed, save on nights when their father was late at the store,
usually on Saturdays only, for the good talkers of the village, as well
as the gossips and loafers, preferred any other place to swap stories
than the bleak atmosphere provided by old Foxy at his place of business.

Patty could think in the dark; her healthy young body lying not
uncomfortably on the bed of corn husks, and the patchwork comforter
drawn up under her chin. She could think, but for the first time she
could not tell her thoughts to Waitstill. She had a secret; a dazzling
secret, just like Ellen Wilson and some of the other girls who were
several years older. Her afternoon's experience loomed as large in her
innocent mind as if it had been an elopement.

"I hope I'm not engaged to be married to him, EVEN IF HE DID--" The
sentence was too tremendous to be finished, even in thought. "I don't
think I can be; men must surely say something, and not take it for
granted you are in love with them and want to marry them. It is what
they say when they ask that I should like much better than being
married, when I'm only just past seventeen. I wish Mark was a little
different; I don't like his careless ways! He admires me, I can tell
one; that by the way he looks, but he admires himself just as much, and
expects me to do the same; still, I suppose none of them are perfect,
and girls have to forgive lots of little things when they are engaged.
Mother must have forgiven a good many things when she took father.
Anyway, Mark is going away for a month on business, so I shan't have
to make up my mind just yet!" Here sleep descended upon the slightly
puzzled, but on the whole delightfully complacent, little creature,
bringing her most alluring and untrustworthy dreams.

The dear innocent had, indeed, no need of haste! Young Mr. Marquis de
Lafayette Wilson, Mark for short, was not in the least a gay deceiver or
ruthless breaker of hearts, and, so far as known, no scalps of village
beauties were hung to his belt. He was a likable, light-weight young
chap, as indolent and pleasure-loving as the strict customs of the
community would permit; and a kiss, in his mind, most certainly
never would lead to the altar, else he had already been many times a
bridegroom. Miss Patience Baxter's maiden meditations and uncertainties
and perplexities, therefore, were decidedly premature. She was a
natural-born, unconsciously artistic, highly expert, and finished
coquette. She was all this at seventeen, and Mark at twenty-four was by
no means a match for her in this field of effort, yet!--but sometimes,
in getting her victim into the net, the coquette loses her balance and
falls in herself. There wasn't a bit of harm in Marquis de Lafayette,
but he was extremely agile in keeping out of nets!

Waitstill was restless, too, that night, although she could not have
told the reason. She opened her window at the back of the house and
leaned out. The evening was mild with a soft wind blowing. She could
hear the full brook dashing through the edge of the wood-lot, and even
the "ker-chug" of an occasional bull-frog. There were great misty stars
in the sky, but no moon.

There was no light in Aunt Abby Cole's kitchen, but a faint glimmer
shone through the windows of Uncle Bart's joiner's shop, showing that
the old man was either having an hour of peaceful contemplation with
no companion but his pipe, or that there might be a little group of
privileged visitors, headed by Jed Morrill, busily discussing the
affairs of the nation.

Waitstill felt troubled and anxious to-night; bruised by the little
daily torments that lessened her courage but never wholly destroyed it.
Any one who believed implicitly in heredity might have been puzzled,
perhaps, to account for her. He might fantastically picture her as
making herself out of her ancestors, using a free hand, picking
and choosing what she liked best, with due care for the effect of
combinations; selecting here and there and modifying, if advisable,
a trait of Grandpa or Grandma Foxwell, of Great-Uncle or Great-Aunt
Baxter; borrowing qualities lavishly from her own gently born and
gently bred mother, and carefully avoiding her respected father's
Stock, except, perhaps, to take a dash of his pluck and an ounce of his
persistence. Jed Morrill remarked of Deacon Baxter once: "When Old Foxy
wants anything he'll wait till hell freezes over afore he'll give up."
Waitstill had her father's firm chin, but there the likeness ended. The
proud curve of her nostrils, the clear well-opened eye with its deep
fringe of lashes, the earnest mouth, all these came from the mother who
was little more than a dim memory.

Waitstill disdained any vague, dreary, colorless theory of life and
its meaning. She had joined the church at fifteen, more or less because
other girls did and the parson had persuaded her; but out of her hard
life she had somehow framed a courageous philosophy that kept her erect
and uncrushed, no matter how great her difficulties. She had no idea
of bringing a poor, weak, draggled soul to her Maker at the last day,
saying "Here is all I have managed to save out of what you gave me!"
That would be something, she allowed, immeasurably something; but
pitiful compared with what she might do if she could keep a brave,
vigorous spirit and march to the last tribunal strengthened by battles,
struggles, defeats, victories; by the defense of weaker human creatures,
above all, warmed and vitalized by the pouring out and gathering in of
love.

Patty slept sweetly on the other side of the partition, the
contemplation of her twopenny triumphs bringing a smile to her childish
lips: but even so a good heart was there (still perhaps in the process
of making), a quick wit, ready sympathy, natural charm; plenty, indeed,
for the stronger sister to cherish, protect, and hold precious, as she
did, with all her mind and soul.

There had always been a passionate loyalty in Waitstill's affection,
wherever it had been bestowed. Uncle Bart delighted in telling an
instance of it that occurred when she was a child of five. Maine had
just separated amicably from her mother, Massachusetts, and become an
independent state. It was in the middle of March, but there was no snow
on the ground and the village boys had built a bonfire on a plot of
land near Uncle Bart's joiner's shop. There was a large gathering in
celebration of the historic event and Waitstill crept down the hill with
her homemade rag doll in her arms. She stood on the outskirts of the
crowd, a silent, absorbed little figure clad in a shabby woollen coat,
with a blue knit hood framing her rosy face. Deborah, her beloved, her
only doll, was tightly clasped in her arms, for Debby, like her parent,
had few pleasures and must not be denied so great a one as this.
Suddenly, one of the thoughtless young scamps in the group, wishing to
create a new sensation and add to the general excitement, caught the
doll from the child's arms, and running forward with a loud war-whoop,
flung it into the flames. Waitstill did not lose an instant. She gave
a scream Of anguish, and without giving any warning of her intentions,
probably without realizing them herself, she dashed through the little
crowd into the bonfire and snatched her cherished offspring from the
burning pile. The whole thing was over in the twinkling of an eye, for
Uncle Bart was as quick as the child and dragged her out of the imminent
danger with no worse harm done than a good scorching.

He led the little creature up the hill to explain matters and protect
her from a scolding. She still held the doll against her heaving breast,
saying, between her sobs: "I couldn't let my Debby burn up! I couldn't,
Uncle Bart; she's got nobody but me! Is my dress scorched so much I
can't wear it? You'll tell father how it was, Uncle Bart, won't you?"

Debby bore the marks of her adventure longer than her owner, for she had
been longer in the fire, but, stained and defaced as she was, she was
never replaced, and remained the only doll of Waitstill's childhood. At
this very moment she lay softly and safely in a bureau drawer ready
to be lifted out, sometime, Waitstill fancied, and shown tenderly to
Patty's children. Of her own possible children she never thought. There
was but one man in the world who could ever be the father of them and
she was separated from him by every obstacle that could divide two human
beings.



SUMMER



VIII. THE JOINER'S SHOP

VILLAGE "Aunts" and "Uncles" were elected to that relationship by the
common consent of the community; their fitness being established by
great age, by decided individuality or eccentricity of character, by
uncommon lovableness, or by the possession of an abundant wit and humor.
There was no formality about the thing; certain women were always called
"Aunt Sukie," or "Aunt Hitty," or what not, while certain men were
distinguished as "Uncle Rish," or "Uncle Pel," without previous
arrangement, or the consent of the high contracting parties.

Such a couple were Cephas Cole's father and mother, Aunt Abby and Uncle
Bart. Bartholomew Cole's trade was that of a joiner; as for Aunt Abby's,
it can only be said that she made all trades her own by sovereign
right of investigation, and what she did not know about her neighbor's
occupations was unlikely to be discovered on this side of Jordan. One of
the villagers declared that Aunt Abby and her neighbor, Mrs. Abel Day,
had argued for an hour before they could make a bargain about the method
of disseminating a certain important piece of news, theirs by exclusive
right of discovery and prior possession. Mrs. Day offered to give Mrs.
Cole the privilege of Saco Hill and Aunt Betty-Jack's, she herself to
take Guide-Board and Town-House Hills. Aunt Abby quickly proved the
injustice of this decision, saying that there were twice as many
families living in Mrs. Day's chosen territory as there were in that
allotted to her, so the river road to Milliken's Mills was grudgingly
awarded to Aunt Abby by way of compromise, and the ladies started on
what was a tour of mercy in those days, the furnishing of a subject of
discussion for long, quiet evenings.

Uncle Bart's joiner's shop was at the foot of Guide-Board Hill on the
Riverboro side of the bridge, and it was the pleasantest spot in
the whole village. The shop itself had a cheery look, with its
weather-stained shingles, its small square windows, and its hospitable
door, half as big as the front side of the building. The step was an
old millstone too worn for active service, and the piles of chips
and shavings on each side of it had been there for so many years that
sweet-williams, clove pinks, and purple phlox were growing in among them
in the most irresponsible fashion; while a morning-glory vine had crept
up and curled around a long-handled rake that had been standing against
the front of the house since early spring. There was an air of cosy
and amiable disorder about the place that would have invited friendly
confabulation even had not Uncle Bart's white head, honest, ruddy face,
and smiling welcome coaxed you in before you were aware. A fine Nodhead
apple tree shaded the side windows, and underneath it reposed all summer
a bright blue sleigh, for Uncle Bart always described himself as being
"plagued for shed room" and kept things as he liked at the shop, having
a "p'ison neat" wife who did exactly the opposite at his house.

The seat of the sleigh was all white now with scattered fruit blossoms,
and one of Waitstill's earliest remembrances was of going downhill with
Patty toddling at her side; of Uncle Bart's lifting them into the sleigh
and permitting them to sit there and eat the ripe red apples that had
fallen from the tree. Uncle Bart's son, Cephas (Patty's secret adorer),
was a painter by trade, and kept his pots and cans and brushes in a
little outhouse at the back, while Uncle Bart himself stood every day
behind his long joiner's bench almost knee-deep in shavings. How the
children loved to play with the white, satiny rings, making them into
necklaces, hanging them to their ears and weaving them into wreaths.

Wonderful houses could always be built in the corner of the shop, out of
the little odds and ends and "nubbins" of white pine, and Uncle Bart was
ever ready to cut or saw a special piece needed for some great purpose.

The sound of the plane was sweet music in the old joiner's ears. "I
don't hardly know how I'd a made out if I'd had to work in a mill,"
he said confidentially to Cephas. "The noise of a saw goin' all day,
coupled with your mother's tongue mornin's an' evenin's, would 'a' been
too much for my weak head. I'm a quiet man, Cephas, a man that needs a
peaceful shop where he can get away from the comforts of home now and
then, without shirkin' his duty nor causin' gossip. If you should ever
marry, Cephas,--which don't look to me likely without you pick out a
dif'rent girl,--I 'd advise you not to keep your stock o' paints in the
barn or the shed, for it's altogether too handy to the house and the
women-folks. Take my advice and have a place to yourself, even if it's
a small one. A shop or a barn has saved many a man's life and reason
Cephas, for it's ag'in' a woman's nature to have you underfoot in the
house without hectorin' you. Choose a girl same's you would a horse
that you want to hitch up into a span; 't ain't every two that'll stan'
together without kickin'. When you get the right girl, keep out of her
way consid'able an' there'll be less wear an' tear."

It was June and the countryside was so beautiful it seemed as if no
one could be unhappy, however great the cause. That was what Waitstill
Baxter thought as she sat down on the millstone step for a word with the
old joiner, her best and most understanding friend in all the village.

"I've come to do my mending here with you," she said brightly, as she
took out her well-filled basket and threaded her needle. "Isn't it a
wonderful morning? Nobody could look the world in the face and do a
wrong thing on such a day, could they, Uncle Bart?"

The meadows were a waving mass of golden buttercups; the shallow water
at the river's edge just below the shop was blue with spikes of
arrow-weed; a bunch of fragrant water-lilies, gathered from the
mill-pond's upper levels, lay beside Waitstill's mending-basket, and
every foot of roadside and field within sight was swaying with
long-stemmed white and gold daisies. The June grass, the friendly,
humble, companionable grass, that no one ever praises as they do the
flowers, was a rich emerald green, a velvet carpet fit for the feet of
the angels themselves. And the elms and maples! Was there ever such a
year for richness of foliage? And the sky, was it ever so blue or so
clear, so far away, or so completely like heaven, as you looked at its
reflection in the glassy surface of the river?

"Yes, it's a pretty good day," allowed Uncle Bart judicially as he took
a squint at his T-square. "I don' know's I should want to start out an'
try to beat it! The Lord can make a good many kinds o' weather in the
course of a year, but when He puts his mind on to it, an' kind o' gives
Himself a free hand, He can turn out a June morning that must make the
Devil sick to his stomach with envy! All the same, Waity, my cow ain't
behavin' herself any better'n usual. She's been rampagin' since sun-up.
I've seen mother chasin' her out o' Mis' Day's garden-patch twice
a'ready!--It seems real good an' homey to see you settin' there sewin'
while I'm workin' at the bench. Cephas is down to the store, so I s'pose
your father's off somewheres?"

Perhaps the June grass was a little greener, the buttercups yellower,
the foliage more lacey, the sky bluer, because Deacon Baxter had
taken his luncheon in a pail under the wagon seat, and departed on
an unwilling journey to Moderation, his object being to press the
collection of some accounts too long overdue. There was something
tragic in the fact, Waitstill thought, that whenever her father left
the village for a whole day, life at once grew brighter, easier, more
hopeful. One could breathe freely, speak one's heart out, believe in the
future, when father was away.

The girls had harbored many delightful plans at early breakfast. As it
was Saturday, Patty could catch little Rod Boynton, if he came to the
bridge on errands as usual; and if Ivory could spare him for an hour
at noon they would take their luncheon and eat it together on the
river-bank as Patty had promised him. At the last moment, however,
Deacon Baxter had turned around in the wagon and said: "Patience, you go
down to the store and have a regular house-cleanin' in the stock-room.
Git Cephas to lift what you can't lift yourself, move everything in the
place, sweep and dust it, scrub the floor, wash the winder, and make
room for the new stuff that they'll bring up from Mill-town 'bout noon.
If you have any time left over, put new papers on the shelves out front,
and clean up and fix the show winder. Don't stand round gabbin' with
Cephas, and see't he don't waste time that's paid for by me. Tell him he
might clean up the terbaccer stains round the stove, black it, and cover
it up for the summer if he ain't too busy servin' cust'mers."

"The whole day spoiled!" wailed Patty, flinging herself down in the
kitchen rocker. "Father's powers of invention beat anything I ever saw!
That stock-room could have been cleaned any time this month and it's
too heavy work for me anyway; it spoils my hands, grubbing around those
nasty, sticky, splintery boxes and barrels. Instead of being out
of doors, I've got to be shut up in that smelly, rummy, tobacco-y,
salt-fishy, pepperminty place with Cephas Cole! He won't have a pleasant
morning, I can tell you! I shall snap his head off every time he speaks
to me."

"So I would!" Waitstill answered composedly. "Everything is so clearly
his fault that I certainly would work off my temper on Cephas! Still,
I can think of a way to make matters come out right. I've got a great
basket of mending that must be done, and you remember there's a choir
rehearsal for the new anthem this afternoon, but anyway I can help a
little on the cleaning. Then you can make Rodman do a few of the odd
jobs, it will be a novelty to him; and Cephas will work his fingers
to the bone for you, as you well know, if you treat him like a human
being."

"All right!" cried Patty joyously, her mood changing in an instant.
"There's Rod coming over the bridge now! Toss me my gingham apron and
the scrubbing-brush, and the pail, and the tin of soft soap, and
the cleaning cloths; let's see, the broom's down there, so I've got
everything. If I wave a towel from the store, pack up luncheon for
three. You come down and bring your mending; then, when you see how I'm
getting on, we can consult. I'm going to take the ten cents I've saved
and spend it in raisins. I can get a good many if Cephas gives me
wholesale price, with family discount subtracted from that. Cephas
would treat me to candy in a minute, but if I let him we'd have to ask
him to the picnic! Good-bye!" And the volatile creature darted down the
hill singing, "There'll be something in heaven for children to do," at
the top of her healthy young lungs.



IX. CEPHAS SPEAKS

THE waving signal, a little later on, showed that Rodman could go to the
picnic, the fact being that he was having a holiday from eleven o'clock
until two, and Ivory was going to drive to the bridge at noon, anyway,
so his permission could then be asked.

Patty's mind might have been thought entirely on her ugly task as she
swept and dusted and scrubbed that morning, but the reverse was true.
Mark Wilson had gone away without saying good-bye to her. This was not
surprising, perhaps, as she was about as much sequestered in her hilltop
prison as a Turkish beauty in a harem; neither was it astonishing that
Mark did not write to her. He never had written to her, and as her
father always brought home the very infrequent letters that came to the
family, Mark knew that any sentimental correspondence would be fraught
with danger. No, everything was probably just as it should be, and
yet,--well, Patty had expected during the last three weeks that
something would happen to break up the monotony of her former existence.
She hardly knew what it would be, but the kiss dropped so lightly on her
cheek by Mark Wilson still burned in remembrance, and made her sure that
it would have a sequel, or an explanation.

Mark's sister Ellen and Phil Perry were in the midst of some form of
lover's quarrel, and during its progress Phil was paying considerable
attention to Patty at Sabbath School and prayer-meeting, occasions, it
must be confessed, only provocative of very indirect and long-distance
advances. Cephas Cole, to the amazement of every one but his
(constitutionally) exasperated mother, was "toning down" the ell of the
family mansion, mitigating the lively yellow, and putting another fresh
coat of paint on it, for no conceivable reason save that of pleasing the
eye of a certain capricious, ungrateful young hussy, who would probably
say, when her verdict was asked, that she didn't see any particular
difference in it, one way or another.

Trade was not especially brisk at the Deacon's emporium this sunny June
Saturday morning. Cephas may have possibly lost a customer or two by
leaving the store vacant while he toiled and sweated for Miss Patience
Baxter in the stockroom at the back, overhanging the river, but no
man alive could see his employer's lovely daughter tugging at a keg of
shingle nails without trying to save her from a broken back, although
Cephas could have watched his mother move the house and barn without
feeling the slightest anxiety in her behalf. If he could ever get the
"heft" of the "doggoned" cleaning out of the way so that Patty's mind
could be free to entertain his proposition; could ever secure one
precious moment of silence when she was not slatting and banging,
pushing and pulling things about, her head and ears out of sight under a
shelf, and an irritating air of absorption about her whole demeanor;
if that moment of silence could ever, under Providence, be simultaneous
with the absence of customers in the front shop, Cephas intended to
offer himself to Patience Baxter that very morning.

Once, during a temporary lull in the rear, he started to meet his fate
when Rodman Boynton followed him into the back room, and the boy was at
once set to work by Patty, who was the most consummate slave-driver
in the State of Maine. After half an hour there was another Heavensent
chance, when Rodman went up to Uncle Bart's shop with a message for
Waitstill, but, just then, in came Bill Morrill, a boy of twelve, with a
request for a gallon of molasses; and would Cephas lend him a stone jug
over Sunday, for his mother had hers soakin' out in soap-suds 'cause 't
wa'n't smellin' jest right. Bill's message given, he hurried up the road
on another errand, promising to call for the molasses later.

Cephas put the gallon measure under the spigot of the molasses hogshead
and turned on the tap. The task was going to be a long one and he grew
impatient, for the stream was only a slender trickle, scarcely more than
the slow dripping of drops, so the molasses must be very never low, and
with his mind full of weightier affairs he must make a note to tell the
Deacon to broach a new hogshead. Cephas feared that he could never make
out a full gallon, in which case Mrs. Morrill would be vexed, for she
kept mill boarders and baked quantities of brown bread and gingerbread
and molasses cookies for over Sunday. He did wish trade would languish
altogether on this particular morning. The minutes dragged by and again
there was perfect quiet in the stock-room. As the door opened, Cephas,
taking his last chance, went forward to meet Patty, who was turning down
the skirt of her dress, taking the cloth off her head, smoothing her
hair, and tying on a clean white ruffed apron, in which she looked as
pretty as a pink.

"Patty!" stammered Cephas, seizing his golden opportunity, "Patty, keep
your mind on me for a minute. I've put a new coat o' paint on the ell
just to please you; won't you get married and settle down with me? I
love you so I can't eat nor drink nor 'tend store nor nothin'!"

"Oh, I--I--couldn't, Cephas, thank you; I just couldn't,--don't ask me,"
cried Patty, as nervous as Cephas himself now that her first offer had
really come; "I'm only seventeen and I don't feel like settling down,
Cephas, and father wouldn't think of letting me get married."

"Don't play tricks on me, Patty, and keep shovin' me off so, an' givin'
wrong reasons," pleaded Cephas. "What's the trouble with me? I know
mother's temper's onsartain, but we never need go into the main house
daytimes and father'd allers stand up ag'in' her if she didn't treat
you right. I've got a good trade and father has a hundred dollars o' my
savin's that I can draw out to-morrer if you'll have me."

"I can't, Cephas; don't move; stay where you are; no, don't come any
nearer; I'm not fond of you that way, and, besides,--and, besides--"

Her blush and her evident embarrassment gave Cephas a new fear.

"You ain't promised a'ready, be you?" he asked anxiously; "when there
ain't a feller anywheres around that's ever stepped foot over your
father's doorsill but jest me?"

"I haven't promised anything or anybody,"

Patty answered sedately, gaining her self-control by degrees, "but I
won't deny that I'm considering; that's true!"

"Considerin' who?" asked Cephas, turning pale.

"Oh,--SEVERAL, if you must know the truth"; and Patty's tone was cruel
in its jauntiness.

"SEVERAL!" The word did not sound like ordinary work-a-day Riverboro
English in Cephas's ears. He knew that "several" meant more than one,
but he was too stunned to define the term properly in its present
strange connection.

"Whoever 't is wouldn't do any better by you'n I would. I'd take a
lickin' for you any day," Cephas exclaimed abjectly, after a long pause.

"That wouldn't make any difference, Cephas," said Patty firmly, moving
towards the front door as if to end the interview. "If I don't love you
UNlicked, I couldn't love you any better licked, now, could I?--Goodness
gracious, what am I stepping in? Cephas, quick! Something has been
running all over the floor. My feet are sticking to it."

"Good Gosh! It's Mis' Morrill's molasses!" cried Cephas, brought to his
senses suddenly.

It was too true! Whatever had been the small obstruction in the tap,
it had disappeared. The gallon measure had been filled to the brim ten
minutes before, and ever since, the treacly liquid had been overflowing
the top and spreading in a brown flood, unnoticed, over the floor.
Patty's feet were glued to it, her buff calico skirts lifted high to
escape harm.

"I can't move," she cried. "Oh! You stupid, stupid Cephas, how could you
leave the molasses spigot turned on? See what you've done! You've wasted
quarts and quarts! What will father say, and how will you ever clean up
such a mess? You never can get the floor to look so that he won't notice
it, and he is sure to miss the molasses. You've ruined my shoes, and I
simply can't bear the sight of you!"

At this Cephas all but blubbered in the agony of his soul. It was bad
enough to be told by Patty that she was "considering several," but
his first romance had ended in such complete disaster that he saw in
a vision his life blasted; changed in one brief moment from that of a
prosperous young painter to that of a blighted and despised bungler,
whose week's wages were likely to be expended in molasses to make good
the Deacon's loss.

"Find those cleaning-cloths I left in the hack room," ordered Patty with
a flashing eye. "Get some blocks, or bits of board, or stones, for me to
walk on, so that I can get out of your nasty mess. Fill Bill Morrill's
jug, quick, and set it out on the steps for him to pick up. I don't know
what you'd do without me to plan for you! Lock the front door and hang
father's sign that he's gone to dinner on the doorknob. Scoop up all the
molasses you can with one of those new trowels on the counter. Scoop,
and scrape, and scoop, and scrape; then put a cloth on your oldest
broom, pour lots of water on, pail after pail, and swab! When you've
swabbed till it won't do any more good, then scrub! After that, I
shouldn't wonder if you had to fan the floor with a newspaper or it'll
never get dry before father comes home. I'll sit on the flour barrel a
little while and advise, but I can't stay long because I'm going to a
picnic. Hurry up and don't look as if you were going to die any minute!
It's no use crying over spilt molasses. You don't suppose I'm going to
tell any tales after you've made me an offer of marriage, do you? I'm
not so mean as all that, though I may have my faults."

It was nearly two o'clock before the card announcing Deacon Baxter's
absence at dinner was removed from the front doorknob, and when the
store was finally reopened for business it was a most dejected clerk who
dealt out groceries to the public. The worst feature of the affair was
that every one in the two villages suddenly and contemporaneously wanted
molasses, so that Cephas spent the afternoon reviewing his misery by
continually turning the tap and drawing off the fatal liquid. Then, too,
every inquisitive boy in the neighborhood came to the back of the store
to view the operation, exclaiming: "What makes the floor so wet? Hain't
been spillin' molasses, have yer? Bet yer have! Good joke on Old Foxy!"



X. ON TORY HILL

It had been a heavenly picnic the little trio all agreed as to that; and
when Ivory saw the Baxter girls coming up the shady path that led along
the river from the Indian Cellar to the bridge, it was a merry group and
a transfigured Rodman that caught his eye. The boy, trailing on behind
with the baskets and laden with tin dippers and wildflowers, seemed
another creature from the big-eyed, quiet little lad he saw every day.
He had chattered like a magpie, eaten like a bear, is torn his jacket
getting wild columbines for Patty, been nicely darned by Waitstill, and
was in a state of hilarity that rendered him quite unrecognizable.

"We've had a lovely picnic!" called Patty; "I wish you had been with
us!"

"You didn't ask me!" smiled Ivory, picking up Waitstill's mending-basket
from the nook in the trees where she had hidden it for safe-keeping.

"We've played games, Ivory," cried the boy. "Patty made them up herself.
First we had the 'Landing of the Pilgrims,' and Waitstill made believe
be the figurehead of the Mayflower. She stood on a great boulder and
sang:--

       'The breaking waves dashed high
       On a stern and rock-bound coast'--

and, oh! she was splendid! Then Patty was Pocahontas and I was Cap'n
John Smith, and look, we are all dressed up for the Indian wedding!"

Waitstill had on a crown of white birch bark and her braid of hair,
twined with running ever-green, fell to her waist. Patty was wreathed
with columbines and decked with some turkey feathers that she had put
in her basket as too pretty to throw away. Waitstill looked rather
conscious in her unusual finery, but Patty sported it with the reckless
ease and innocent vanity that characterized her.

"I shall have to run into father's store to put myself tidy," Waitstill
said, "so good-bye, Rodman, we'll have another picnic some day. Patty,
you must do the chores this afternoon, you know, so that I can go to
choir rehearsal."

Rodman and Patty started up the hill gayly with their burdens, and Ivory
walked by Waitstill's side as she pulled off her birch-bark crown and
twisted her braid around her head with a heightened color at being
watched.

"I'll say good-bye now, Ivory, but I'll see you at the meeting-house,"
she said, as she neared the store. "I'll go in here and brush the pine
needles off, wash my hands, and rest a little before rehearsal. That's a
puzzling anthem we have for to-morrow."

"I have my horse here; let me drive you up to the church."

"I can't, Ivory, thank you. Father's orders are against my driving out
with any one, you know."

"Very well, the road is free, at any rate. I'll hitch my horse down here
in the woods somewhere and when you start to walk I shall follow and
catch up with you. There's luckily only one way to reach the church from
here, and your father can't blame us if we both take it!"

And so it fell out that Ivory and Waitstill walked together in the cool
of the afternoon to the meeting-house on Tory Hill. Waitstill kept the
beaten path on one side and Ivory that on the other, so that the width
of the country road, deep in dust, was between them, yet their nearness
seemed so tangible a thing that each could feel the heart beating in
the other's side. Their talk was only that of tried friends, a talk
interrupted by long beautiful silences; silences that come only to a
man and woman whose understanding of each other is beyond question and
answer. Not a sound broke the stillness, yet the very air, it seemed
to them, was shedding meanings: the flowers were exhaling a love
secret with their fragrances, the birds were singing it boldly from the
tree-tops, yet no word passed the man's lips or the girl's. Patty would
have hung out all sorts of signals and lures to draw the truth from
Ivory and break through the walls of his self-control, but Waitstill,
never; and Ivory Boynton was made of stuff so strong that he would not
speak a syllable of love to a woman unless he could say all. He was only
five-and-twenty, but he had been reared in a rigorous school, and had
learned in its poverty, loneliness, and anxiety lessons of self-denial
and self-control that bore daily fruit now. He knew that Deacon Baxter
would never allow any engagement to exist between Waitstill and himself;
he also knew that Waitstill would never defy and disobey her father if
it meant leaving her younger sister to fight alone a dreary battle for
which she was not fitted. If there was little hope on her side there
seemed even less on his. His mother's mental illness made her peculiarly
dependent upon him, and at the same time held him in such strict bondage
that it was almost impossible for him to get on in the world or even to
give her the comforts she needed. In villages like Riverboro in those
early days there was no putting away, even of men or women so demented
as to be something of a menace to the peace of the household; but Lois
Boynton was so gentle, so fragile, so exquisite a spirit, that she
seemed in her sad aloofness simply a thing to be sheltered and shielded
somehow in her difficult life journey. Ivory often thought how sorely
she needed a daughter in her affliction. If the baby sister had only
lived, the home might have been different; but alas! there was only a
son,--a son who tried to be tender and sympathetic, but after all was
nothing but a big, clumsy, uncomprehending man-creature, who ought to
be felling trees, ploughing, sowing, reaping, or at least studying law,
making his own fortune and that of some future wife. Old Mrs. Mason, a
garrulous, good-hearted grandame, was their only near neighbor, and her
visits always left his mother worse rather than better. How such a girl
as Waitstill would pour comfort and beauty and joy into a lonely house
like his, if only he were weak enough to call upon her strength and put
it to so cruel a test. God help him, he would never do that, especially
as he could not earn enough to keep a larger family, bound down as he
was by inexorable responsibilities. Waitstill, thus far in life, had
suffered many sorrows and enjoyed few pleasures; marriage ought to bring
her freedom and plenty, not carking care and poverty. He stole long
looks at the girl across the separating space that was so helpless to
separate,--feeding his starved heart upon her womanly graces. Her quick,
springing step was in harmony with the fire and courage of her
mien. There was a line or two in her face,--small wonder; but an
"unconquerable soul" shone in her eyes; shone, too, in no uncertain
way, but brightly and steadily, expressing an unshaken joy in living.
Valiant, splendid, indomitable Waitstill! He could never tell her, alas!
but how he gloried in her!

It is needless to say that no woman could be the possessor of such a
love as Ivory Boynton's and not know of its existence. Waitstill never
heard a breath of it from Ivory's lips; even his eyes were under control
and confessed nothing; nor did his hand ever clasp hers, to show by a
tell-tale touch the truth he dared not utter; nevertheless she felt that
she was beloved. She hid the knowledge deep in her heart and covered it
softly from every eye but her own; taking it out in the safe darkness
sometimes to wonder over and adore in secret. Did her love for Ivory
rest partly on a sense of vocation?--a profound, inarticulate divining
of his vast need of her? He was so strong, yet so weak because of the
yoke he bore, so bitterly alone in his desperate struggle with life,
that her heart melted like wax whenever she thought of him. When she
contemplated the hidden mutiny in her own heart, she was awestruck
sometimes at the almost divine patience of Ivory's conduct as a son.

"How is your mother this summer, Ivory?" she asked as they sat down on
the meeting-house steps waiting for Jed Morrill to open the door. "There
is little change in her from year to year, Waitstill.--By the way, why
don't we get out of this afternoon sun and sit in the old graveyard
under the trees? We are early and the choir won't get here for half an
hour.--Dr. Perry says that he does not understand mother's case in the
least, and that no one but some great Boston physician could give a
proper opinion on it; of course, that is impossible at present."

They sat down on the grass underneath one of the elms and Waitstill took
off her hat and leaned back against the tree-trunk.

"Tell me more," she said; "it is so long since we talked together
quietly and we have never really spoken of your mother."

"Of course," Ivory continued, "the people of the village all think and
speak of mother's illness as religious insanity, but to me it seems
nothing of the sort. I was only a child when father first fell ill with
Jacob Cochrane, but I was twelve when father went away from home on
his 'mission,' and if there was any one suffering from delusions in our
family it was he, not mother. She had altogether given up going to the
Cochrane meetings, and I well remember the scene when my father told her
of the revelation he had received about going through the state and into
New Hampshire in order to convert others and extend the movement. She
had no sympathy with his self-imposed mission, you may be sure, though
now she goes back in her memory to the earlier days of her married life,
when she tried hard, poor soul, to tread the same path that father was
treading, so as to be by his side at every turn of the road.

"I am sure" (here Ivory's tone was somewhat dry and satirical) "that
father's road had many turns, Waitstill! He was a schoolmaster in Saco,
you know, when I was born but he soon turned from teaching to preaching,
and here my mother followed with entire sympathy, for she was intensely,
devoutly religious. I said there was little change in her, but there is
one new symptom. She has ceased to refer to her conversion to Cochranism
as a blessed experience. Her memory of those first days seems to
have faded, As to her sister's death and all the circumstances of her
bringing Rodman home, her mind is a blank. Her expectation of father's
return, on the other hand, is much more intense than ever."

"She must have loved your father dearly, Ivory, and to lose him in this
terrible way is much worse than death. Uncle Bart says he had a great
gift of language!"

"Yes, and it was that, in my mind, that led him astray. I fear that the
Spirit of God was never so strong in father as the desire to influence
people by his oratory. That was what drew him to preaching in the first
place, and when he found in Jacob Cochrane a man who could move an
audience to frenzy, lift them out of the body, and do with their spirits
as he willed, he acknowledged him as master. Whether his gospel was a
pure and undefiled religion I doubt, but he certainly was a master of
mesmeric control. My mother was beguiled, entranced, even bewitched at
first, I doubt not, for she translated all that Cochrane said into her
own speech, and regarded him as the prophet of a new era. But Cochrane's
last 'revelations' differed from the first, and were of the earth,
earthy. My mother's pure soul must have revolted, but she was not strong
enough to drag father from his allegiance. Mother was of better family
than father, but they were both well educated and had the best schooling
to be had in their day. So far as I can judge, mother always had more
'balance' than father, and much better judgment,--yet look at her now!"

"Then you think it was your father's disappearance that really caused
her mind to waver?" asked Waitstill.

"I do, indeed. I don't know what happened between them in the way of
religious differences, nor how much unhappiness these may have caused. I
remember she had an illness when we first came here to live and I was
a little chap of three or four, but that was caused by the loss of a
child, a girl, who lived only a few weeks. She recovered perfectly, and
her head was as clear as mine for a year or two after father went away.
As his letters grew less frequent, as news of him gradually ceased to
come, she became more and more silent, and retired more completely into
herself. She never went anywhere, nor entertained visitors, because she
did not wish to hear the gossip and speculation that were going on
in the village. Some of it was very hard for a wife to bear, and she
resented it indignantly; yet never received a word from father with
which to refute it. At this time, as nearly as I can judge, she was
a recluse, and subject to periods of profound melancholy, but nothing
worse. Then she took that winter journey to her sister's deathbed,
brought home the boy, and, hastened by exposure and chill and grief, I
suppose, her mind gave way,--that's all!" And Ivory sighed drearily
as he stretched himself on the greensward, and looked off towards the
snow-clad New Hampshire hills. "I've meant to write the story of the
'Cochrane craze' sometime, or such part of it as has to do with my
family history, and you shall read it if you like. I should set down my
child-hood and my boyhood memories, together with such scraps of village
hearsay as seem reliable. You were not so much younger than I, but I
was in the thick of the excitement, and naturally I heard more than
you, having so bitter a reason for being interested. Jacob Cochrane has
altogether disappeared from public view, but there's many a family in
Maine and New Hampshire, yes, and in the far West, that will feel his
influence for years to come."

"I should like very much to read your account. Aunt Abby's version, for
instance, is so different from Uncle Bart's that one can scarcely find
the truth between the two; and father's bears no relation to that of any
of the others."

"Some of us see facts and others see visions," replied Ivory, "and these
differences of opinion crop up in the village every day when anything
noteworthy is discussed. I came upon a quotation in my reading last
evening that described it:

     'One said it thundered... another that an angel spake'"

"Do you feel as if your father was dead, Ivory?"

"I can only hope so! That thought brings sadness with it, as one
remembers his disappointment and failure, but if he is alive he is a
traitor."

There was a long pause and they could see in the distance Humphrey
Barker with his clarionet and Pliny Waterhouse with his bass viol
driving up to the churchyard fence to hitch their horses. The sun was
dipping low and red behind the Town-House Hill on the other side of the
river.

"What makes my father dislike the very mention of yours?" asked
Waitstill. "I know what they say: that it is because the two men had
high words once in a Cochrane meeting, when father tried to interfere
with some of the exercises and was put out of doors. It doesn't seem as
if that grievance, seventeen or eighteen years ago, would influence his
opinion of your mother, or of you."

"It isn't likely that a man of your father's sort would forget or
forgive what he considered an injury; and in refusing to have anything
to do with the son of a disgraced man and a deranged woman, he is well
within his rights."

Ivory's cheeks burned red under the tan, and his hand trembled a little
as he plucked bits of clover from the grass and pulled them to pieces
absent-mindedly. "How are you getting on at home these days, Waitstill?"
he asked, as if to turn his own mind and hers from a too painful
subject.

"You have troubles enough of your own without hearing mine, Ivory, and
anyway they are not big afflictions, heavy sorrows, like those you have
to bear. Mine are just petty, nagging, sordid, cheap little miseries,
like gnat-bites;--so petty and so sordid that I can hardly talk to God
about them, much less to a human friend. Patty is my only outlet and
I need others, yet I find it almost impossible to escape from the
narrowness of my life and be of use to any one else." The girl's
voice quivered and a single tear-drop on her cheek showed that she was
speaking from a full heart. "This afternoon's talk has determined me in
one thing," she went on. "I am going to see your mother now and then. I
shall have to do it secretly, for your sake, for hers, and for my own,
but if I am found out, then I will go openly. There must be times when
one can break the lower law, and yet keep the higher. Father's law, in
this case, is the lower, and I propose to break it."

"I can't have you getting into trouble, Waitstill," Ivory objected.
"You're the one woman I can think of who might help my mother; all the
same, I would not make your life harder; not for worlds!"

"It will not be harder, and even if it was I should 'count it all joy'
to help a woman bear such sorrow as your mother endures patiently day
after day"; and Waitstill rose to her feet and tied on her hat as one
who had made up her mind.

It was almost impossible for Ivory to hold his peace then, so full of
gratitude was his soul and so great his longing to pour out the feeling
that flooded it. He pulled himself together and led the way out of the
churchyard. To look at Waitstill again would be to lose his head, but to
his troubled heart there came a flood of light, a glory from that lamp
that a woman may hold up for a man; a glory that none can take from him,
and none can darken; a light by which he may walk and live and die.



XI. A JUNE SUNDAY

IT was a Sunday in June, and almost the whole population of
Riverboro and Edgewood was walking or driving in the direction of the
meeting-house on Tory Hill.

Church toilettes, you may well believe, were difficult of attainment by
Deacon Baxter's daughters, as they had been by his respective helpmates
in years gone by. When Waitstill's mother first asked her husband to buy
her a new dress, and that was two years after marriage, he simply said:
"You look well enough; what do you want to waste money on finery for,
these hard times? If other folks are extravagant, that ain't any
reason you should be. You ain't obliged to take your neighbors for an
example:--take 'em for a warnin'!"

"But, Foxwell, my Sunday dress is worn completely to threads," urged the
second Mrs. Baxter.

"That's what women always say; they're all alike; no more idea o' savin'
anything than a skunk-blackbird! I can't spare any money for gew-gaws,
and you might as well understand it first as last. Go up attic and open
the hair trunk by the winder; you'll find plenty there to last you for
years to come."

The second Mrs. Baxter visited the attic as commanded, and in turning
over the clothes in the old trunk, knew by instinct that they had
belonged to her predecessor in office. Some of the dresses were neat,
though terribly worn and faded, but all were fortunately far too short
and small for a person of her fine proportions. Besides, her very soul
shrank from wearing them, and her spirit revolted both from the insult
to herself and to the poor dead woman she had succeeded, so she came
downstairs to darn and mend and patch again her shabby wardrobe.
Waitstill had gone through the same as her mother before her, but in
despair, when she was seventeen, she began to cut over the old garments
for herself and Patty. Mercifully there were very few of them, and they
had long since been discarded. At eighteen she had learned to dye yarns
with yellow oak or maple bark and to make purples from elder and sumac
berries; she could spin and knit as well as any old "Aunt" of the
village, and cut and shape a garment as deftly as the Edgewood
tailoress, but the task of making bricks without straw was a hard one,
indeed.

She wore a white cotton frock on this particular Sunday. It was starched
and ironed with a beautiful gloss, while a touch of distinction was
given to her costume by a little black sleeveless "roundabout" made
out of the covering of an old silk umbrella. Her flat hat had a single
wreath of coarse daisies around the crown, and her mitts were darned in
many places, nevertheless you could not entirely spoil her; God had used
a liberal hand in making her, and her father's parsimony was a sort of
boomerang that flew back chiefly upon himself.

As for Patty, her style of beauty, like Cephas Cole's ell had to be
toned down rather than up, to be effective, but circumstances had been
cruelly unrelenting in this process of late. Deacon Baxter had given the
girls three or four shopworn pieces of faded yellow calico that had been
repudiated by the village housewives as not "fast" enough in color
to bear the test of proper washing. This had made frocks, aprons,
petticoats, and even underclothes, for two full years, and Patty's
weekly objurgations when she removed her everlasting yellow dress from
the nail where it hung were not such as should have fallen from the lips
of a deacon's daughter. Waitstill had taken a piece of the same yellow
material, starched and ironed it, cut a curving, circular brim from it,
sewed in a pleated crown, and lo! a hat for Patty! What inspired Patty
to put on a waist ribbon of deepest wine color, with a little band of
the same on the pale yellow hat, no one could say.

"Do you think you shall like that dull red right close to the yellow,
Patty?" Waitstill asked anxiously.

"It looks all right on the columbines in the Indian Cellar," replied
Patty, turning and twisting the hat on her head. "If we can't get a peek
at the Boston fashions, we must just find our styles where we can!"

The various roads to Tory Hill were alive with vehicles on this bright
Sunday morning. Uncle Bart and Abel Day, with their respective wives on
the back seat of the Cole's double wagon, were passed by Deacon Baxter
and his daughters, Waitstill being due at meeting earlier than others by
reason of her singing in the choir. The Deacon's one-horse, two-wheeled
"shay" could hold three persons, with comfort on its broad seat, and
the twenty-year-old mare, although she was always as hollow as a gourd,
could generally do the mile, uphill all the way, in half an hour, if
urged continually, and the Deacon, be it said, if not good at feeding,
was unsurpassed at urging.

Aunt Abby Cole could get only a passing glimpse of Patty in the depths
of the "shay," but a glimpse was always enough for her, as her opinion
of the girl's charms was considerably affected by the forlorn condition
of her son Cephas, whom she suspected of being hopelessly in love
with the young person aforesaid, to whom she commonly alluded as "that
red-headed bag-gage."

"Patience Baxter's got the kind of looks that might do well enough at a
tavern dance, or a husking, but they're entirely unsuited to the Sabbath
day or the meetin'-house," so Aunt Abby remarked to Mrs. Day in the
way of backseat confidence. "It's unfortunate that a deacon's daughter
should be afflicted with that bold style of beauty! Her hair's all but
red; in fact, you might as well call it red, when the sun shines on it:
but if she'd ever smack it down with bear's grease she might darken it
some; or anyhow she'd make it lay slicker; but it's the kind of hair
that just matches that kind of a girl,--sort of up an' comin'! Then her
skin's so white and her cheeks so pink and her eyes so snappy that she'd
attract attention without half trying though I guess she ain't above
makin' an effort."

"She's innocent as a kitten," observed Mrs. Day impartially.

"Oh, yes, she's innocent enough an' I hope she'll keep so! Waitstill's
a sight han'somer, if the truth was told; but she's the sort of girl
that's made for one man and the rest of em never look at her. The other
one's cut out for the crowd, the more the merrier. She's a kind of
man-trap, that girl is!--Do urge the horse a little mite, Bartholomew!
It makes me kind o' hot to be passed by Deacon Baxter. It's Missionary
Sunday, too, when he gen'ally has rheumatism too bad to come out."

"I wonder if he ever puts anything into the plate," said Mrs. Day. "No
one ever saw him, that I know of."

"The Deacon keeps the Thou Shalt Not commandments pretty well," was Aunt
Abby's terse response. "I guess he don't put nothin' into the plate,
but I s'pose we'd ought to be thankful he don't take nothin' out. The
Baptists are gettin' ahead faster than they'd ought to, up to the Mills.
Our minister ain't no kind of a proselyter, Seems as if he didn't care
how folks got to heaven so long as they got there! The other church is
havin' a service this afternoon side o' the river, an' I'd kind o' like
to go, except it would please 'em too much to have a crowd there to
see the immersion. They tell me, but I don't know how true, that that
Tillman widder woman that come here from somewheres in Vermont wanted to
be baptized to-day, but the other converts declared THEY wouldn't be, if
she was!"

"Jed Morrill said they'd have to hold her under water quite a spell to
do any good," chuckled Uncle Bart from the front seat.

"Well, I wouldn't repeat it, Bartholomew, on the Sabbath day; not if he
did say it. Jed Morrill's responsible for more blasphemious jokes
than any man in Edgewood. I don't approve of makin' light of anybody's
religious observances if they're ever so foolish," said Aunt Abby
somewhat enigmatically. "Our minister keeps remindin' us that the
Baptists and Methodists are our brethren, but I wish he'd be a little
more anxious to have our S'ceity keep ahead of the others."

"Jed's 'bout right in sizin' up the Widder Tillman," was Mr. Day's timid
contribution to the argument. "I ain't a readin' man, but from what
folks report I should think she was one o' them critters that set on
rocks bewilderin' an' bedevilin' men-folks out o' their senses--SYREENS,
I think they call 'em; a reg'lar SYREEN is what that woman is, I guess!"

"There, there, Abel, you wouldn't know a syreen if you found one in your
baked beans, so don't take away a woman's character on hearsay." And
Mrs. Day, having shut up her husband as was her bounden duty as a wife
and a Christian, tied her bonnet strings a little tighter and looked
distinctly pleased with herself.

"Abel ain't startin' any new gossip," was Aunt Abby's opinion, as she
sprung to his rescue. "One or two more holes in a colander don't make
much dif'rence.--Bartholomew, we're certainly goin' to be late this
mornin'; we're about the last team on the road"; and Aunt Abby glanced
nervously behind. "Elder Boone ain't begun the openin' prayer, though,
or we should know it. You can hear him pray a mile away, when the wind's
right. I do hate to be late to meetin'. The Elder allers takes notice;
the folks in the wing pews allers gapes an' stares, and the choir peeks
through the curtain, takin' notes of everything you've got on your back.
I hope to the land they'll chord and keep together a little mite better
'n they've done lately, that's all I can say! If the Lord is right in
our midst as the Bible says, He can't think much of our singers this
summer!"

"They're improvin', now that Pliny Waterhouse plays his fiddle," Mrs.
Day remarked pacifically. "There was times in the anthem when they kept
together consid'able well last Sunday. They didn't always chord, but
there, they chorded some!--we're most there now, Abby, don't fret!
Cephas won't ring the last bell till he knows his own folks is crossin'
the Common!"

Those were days of conscientious church-going and every pew in the house
was crowded. The pulpit was built on pillars that raised it six feet
higher than the floor; the top was cushioned and covered with red velvet
surmounted by a huge gilt-edged Bible. There was a window in the tower
through which Cephas Cole could look into the church, and while tolling
the bell could keep watch for the minister. Always exactly on time, he
would come in, walk slowly up the right-hand aisle, mount the pulpit
stairs, enter and close the door after him. Then Cephas would give
one tremendous pull to warn loiterers on the steps; a pull that meant,
"Parson's in the pulpit!" and was acted upon accordingly. Opening the
big Bible, the minister raised his right hand impressively, and saying,
"Let us pray," the whole congregation rose in their pews with a great
rustling and bowed their heads devoutly for the invocation.


Next came the hymn, generally at that day one of Isaac Watts's. The
singers, fifteen or twenty in number, sat in a raised gallery opposite
the pulpit, and there was a rod in front hung with red curtains to
hide them when sitting down. Any one was free to join, which perhaps
accounted for Aunt Abby's strictures as to time and tune. Jed Morrill,
"blasphemious" as he was considered by that acrimonious lady, was the
leader, and a good one, too. There would be a great whispering and
buzzing when Deacon Sumner with his big fiddle and Pliny Waterhouse with
his smaller one would try to get in accord with Humphrey Baker and
his clarionet. All went well when Humphrey was there to give the sure
key-note, but in his absence Jed Morrill would use his tuning-fork. When
the key was finally secured by all concerned, Jed would raise his
stick, beat one measure to set the time, and all joined in, or fell in,
according to their several abilities. It was not always a perfect thing
in the way of a start, but they were well together at the end of the
first line, and when, as now, the choir numbered a goodly number of
voices, and there were three or four hundred in the pews, nothing more
inspiring in its peculiar way was ever heard, than the congregational
singing of such splendid hymns as "Old Hundred," "Duke Street," or
"Coronation."

Waitstill led the trebles, and Ivory was at the far end of the choir in
the basses, but each was conscious of the other's presence. This morning
he could hear her noble voice rising a little above, or, perhaps from
its quality, separating itself somehow, ever so little, from the others.
How full of strength and hope it was, her voice! How steadfast to the
pitch; how golden its color; how moving in its crescendos! How the words
flowed from her lips; not as if they had been written years ago, but
as if they were the expression of her own faith. There were many in the
congregation who were stirred, they knew not why, when there chanced to
be only a few "carrying the air" and they could really hear Waitstill
Baxter singing some dear old hymn, full of sacred memories, like:--

   "While Thee I seek, protecting Power,
     Be my vain wishes stilled!
   And may this consecrated hour
     With better hopes be filled."

"There may be them in Boston that can sing louder, and they may be able
to run up a little higher than Waitstill, but the question is, could any
of 'em make Aunt Abby Cole shed tears?" This was Jed Morrill's tribute
to his best soprano.

There were Sunday evening prayer-meetings, too, held at "early
candlelight," when Waitstill and Lucy Morrill would make a duet of "By
cool Siloam's Shady Rill," or the favorite "Naomi," and the two fresh
young voices, rising and falling in the tender thirds of the old tunes,
melted all hearts to new willingness of sacrifice.

   "Father, whate'er of earthly bliss
     Thy sov'reign will denies,
   Accepted at Thy Throne of grace
     Let this petition rise!

   "Give me a calm, a thankful heart,
     From every murmur free!
   The blessing of Thy grace impart
     And let me live to Thee!"

How Ivory loved to hear Waitstill sing these lines! How they eased his
burden as they were easing hers, falling on his impatient, longing heart
like evening dew on thirsty grass!



XII. THE GREEN-EYED MONSTER

"WHILE Thee I seek, protecting Power," was the first hymn on this
particular Sunday morning, and it usually held Patty's rather vagrant
attention to the end, though it failed to do so to-day. The Baxters
occupied one of the wing pews, a position always to be envied, as one
could see the singers without turning around, and also observe everybody
in the congregation,--their entrance, garments, behavior, and especially
their bonnets,--without being in the least indiscreet, or seeming to
have a roving eye.

Lawyer Wilson's pew was the second in front of the Baxters in the same
wing, and Patty, seated decorously but unwillingly beside her father,
was impatiently awaiting the entrance of the family, knowing that Mark
would be with them if he had returned from Boston. Timothy Grant, the
parish clerk, had the pew in between, and afforded a most edifying
spectacle to the community, as there were seven young Grants of a
church-going age, and the ladies of the congregation were always
counting them, reckoning how many more were in their cradles at home
and trying to guess from Mrs. Grant's lively or chastened countenance
whether any new ones had been born since the Sunday before.

Patty settled herself comfortably, and put her foot on the wooden
"cricket," raising her buff calico a little on the congregation side,
just enough to show an inch or two of petticoat. The petticoat was
as modestly long as the frock itself, and disclosing a bit of it was
nothing more heinous than a casual exhibition of good needlework.
Deacon Baxter furnished only the unbleached muslin for his daughters'
undergarments; but twelve little tucks laboriously done by hand,
elaborate inch-wide edging, crocheted from white spool cotton, and days
of bleaching on the grass in the sun, will make a petticoat that can be
shown in church with some justifiable pride.

The Wilsons came up the aisle a moment later than was their usual
habit, just after the parson had ascended the pulpit. Mrs. Wilson always
entered the pew first and sat in the far end. Patty had looked at her
admiringly, and with a certain feeling of proprietorship, for several
Sundays. There was obviously no such desirable mother-in-law in the
meeting-house. Her changeable silk dress was the latest mode; her shawl
of black llama lace expressed wealth in every delicate mesh, and her
bonnet had a distinction that could only have emanated from Portland or
Boston. Ellen Wilson usually came in next, with as much of a smile to
Patty in passing as she dared venture in the Deacon's presence, and
after her sidled in her younger sister Selina, commonly called "Silly,"
and with considerable reason.

Mark had come home! Patty dared not look up, but she felt his approach
behind the others, although her eyes sought the floor, and her cheeks
hung out signals of abashed but certain welcome. She heard the family
settle in their seats somewhat hastily, the click of the pew door and
the sound of Lawyer Wilson's cane as he stood it in the corner; then
the parson rose to pray and Patty closed her eyes with the rest of the
congregation.

Opening them when Elder Boone rose to announce the hymn, they
fell--amazed, resentful, uncomprehending--on the spectacle of Mark
Wilson finding the place in the book for a strange young woman who sat
beside him. Mark himself had on a new suit and wore a seal ring that
Patty had never observed before; while the dress, pelisse, and hat
of the unknown were of a nature that no girl in Patty's position, and
particularly of Patty's disposition, could have regarded without a
desire to tear them from her person and stamp them underfoot; or better
still, flaunt them herself and show the world how they should be worn!

Mark found the place in the hymn-book for the--creature, shared it with
her, and once, when the Grant twins wriggled and Patty secured a better
view, once, Mark shifted his hand on the page so that his thumb touched
that of his pretty neighbor, who did not remove hers as if she found
the proximity either unpleasant or improper. Patty compared her own
miserable attire with that of the hated rival in front, and also
contrasted Lawyer Wilson's appearance with that of her father; the
former, well dressed in the style of a gentleman of the time, in
broadcloth, with fine linen, and a tall silk hat carefully placed on the
floor of the pew; while Deacon Baxter wore homespun made of wool from
his own sheep, spun and woven, dyed and finished, at the fulling-mill in
the village, and carried a battered felt hat that had been a matter of
ridicule these dozen years. (The Deacon would be buried in two coats,
Jed Morrill always said, for he owned just that number, and would be too
mean to leave either of 'em behind him!)

The sermon was fifty minutes long, time enough for a deal of thinking.
Many a housewife, not wholly orthodox, cut and made over all her
children's clothes, in imagination; planned the putting up of her fruit,
the making of her preserves and pickles, and arranged her meals for
the next week, during the progress of those sermons. Patty watched the
parson turn leaf after leaf until the final one was reached. Then came
the last hymn, when the people stretched their aching limbs, and rising,
turned their backs on the minister and faced the choir. Patty looked
at Waitstill and wished that she could put her throbbing head on her
sisterly shoulder and cry,--mostly with rage. The benediction was said,
and with the final "Amen" the pews were opened and the worshippers
crowded into the narrow aisles and moved towards the doors.

Patty's plans were all made. She was out of her pew before the Wilsons
could possibly leave theirs, and in her progress down the aisle securely
annexed her great admirer, old Dr. Perry, as well as his son Philip.
Passing the singing-seats she picked up the humble Cephas and carried
him along in her wake, chatting and talking with her little party while
her father was at the horse-sheds, making ready to go home between
services as was his habit, a cold bite being always set out on the
kitchen table according to his orders. By means of these clever
manoeuvres Patty made herself the focus of attention when the Wilson
party came out on the steps, and vouchsafed Mark only a nonchalant nod,
airily flinging a little greeting with the nod,--just a "How d'ye do,
Mark? Did you have a good time in Boston?"

Patty and Waitstill, with some of the girls who had come long distances,
ate their luncheon in a shady place under the trees behind the
meeting-house, for there was an afternoon service to come, a service
with another long sermon. They separated after the modest meal to walk
about the Common or stray along the road to the Academy, where there was
a fine view.

Two or three times during the summer the sisters always went quietly
and alone to the Baxter burying-lot, where three grassgrown graves lay
beside one another, unmarked save by narrow wooden slabs so short that
the initials painted on them were almost hidden by the tufts of clover.
The girls had brought roots of pansies and sweet alyssum, and with a
knife made holes in the earth and planted them here and there to make
the spot a trifle less forbidding. They did not speak to each other
during this sacred little ceremony; their hearts were too full when they
remembered afresh the absence of headstones, the lack of care, in the
place where the three women lay who had ministered to their father,
borne him children, and patiently endured his arbitrary and loveless
rule. Even Cleve Flanders' grave,--the Edgewood shoemaker, who lay
next,--even his resting-place was marked and, with a touch of some one's
imagination marked by the old man's own lapstone twenty-five pounds in
weight, a monument of his work-a-day life.

Waitstill rose from her feet, brushing the earth from her hands, and
Patty did the same. The churchyard was quiet, and they were alone with
the dead, mourned and unmourned, loved and unloved.

"I planted one or two pansies on the first one's grave," said Waitstill
soberly. "I don't know why we've never done it before. There are no
children to take notice of and remember her; it's the least we can do,
and, after all, she belongs to the family."

"There is no family, and there never was!" suddenly cried Patty. "Oh!
Waity, Waity, we are so alone, you and I! We've only each other in all
the world, and I'm not the least bit of help to you, as you are to me!
I'm a silly, vain, conceited, ill-behaved thing, but I will be better,
I will! You won't ever give me up, will you, Waity, even if I'm not like
you? I haven't been good lately!"

"Hush, Patty, hush!" And Waitstill came nearer to her sister with a
motherly touch of her hand. "I'll not have you say such things; you
that are the helpfullest and the lovingest girl that ever was, and the
cleverest, too, and the liveliest, and the best company-keeper!"

"No one thinks so but you!" Patty responded dolefully, although she
wiped her eyes as if a bit consoled.

It is safe to say that Patty would never have given Mark Wilson a second
thought had he not taken her to drive on that afternoon in early May.
The drive, too, would have quickly fled from her somewhat fickle memory
had it not been for the kiss. The kiss was, indeed, a decisive factor
in the situation, and had shed a rosy, if somewhat fictitious light of
romance over the past three weeks. Perhaps even the kiss, had it never
been repeated, might have lapsed into its true perspective, in due
course of time, had it not been for the sudden appearance of the
stranger in the Wilson pew. The moment that Patty's gaze fell upon that
fashionably dressed, instantaneously disliked girl, Marquis Wilson's
stock rose twenty points in the market. She ceased, in a jiffy, to weigh
and consider and criticize the young man, but regarded him with wholly
new eyes. His figure was better than she had realized, his smile more
interesting, his manners more attractive, his eyelashes longer; in
a word, he had suddenly grown desirable. A month ago she could have
observed, with idle and alien curiosity, the spectacle of his thumb
drawing nearer to another (feminine) thumb, on the page of the Watts and
Select Hymn book; now, at the morning service, she had wished nothing so
much as to put Mark's thumb back into his pocket where it belonged, and
slap the girl's thumb smartly and soundly as it deserved.

The ignorant cause of Patty's distress was a certain Annabel Franklin,
the daughter of a cousin of Mrs. Wilson's. Mark had stayed at the
Franklin house during his three weeks' visit in Boston, where he had
gone on business for his father. The young people had naturally seen
much of each other and Mark's inflammable fancy had been so kindled by
Annabel's doll-like charms that he had persuaded her to accompany him to
his home and get a taste of country life in Maine. Such is man, such is
human nature, and such is life, that Mark had no sooner got the whilom
object of his affections under his own roof than she began to pall.

Annabel was twenty-three, and to tell the truth she had palled before,
more than once. She was so amiable, so well-finished,--with her smooth
flaxen hair, her neat nose, her buttonhole of a mouth, and her trim
shape,--that she appealed to the opposite sex quite generally and
irresistibly as a worthy helpmate. The only trouble was that she began
to bore her suitors somewhat too early in the game, and they never
got far enough to propose marriage. Flaws in her apparent perfection
appeared from day to day and chilled the growth of the various young
loves that had budded so auspiciously. She always agreed with everybody
and everything in sight, even to the point of changing her mind on the
instant, if circumstances seemed to make it advisable. Her instinctive
point of view, when she went so far as to hold one, was somewhat cut and
dried; in a word, priggish. She kept a young man strictly on his good
behavior, that much could be said in her favor; the only criticism that
could be made on this estimable trait was that no bold youth was ever
tempted to overstep the bounds of discretion when in her presence. No
unruly words of love ever rose to his lips; his hand never stole out
involuntarily and imprudently to meet her small chilly one; the sight of
her waist never even suggested an encircling arm; and as a fellow never
desired to kiss her, she was never obliged to warn or rebuke or strike
him off her visiting list. Her father had an ample fortune and some
one would inevitably turn up who would regard Annabel as an altogether
worthy and desirable spouse. That was what she had seemed to Mark Wilson
for a full week before he left the Franklin house in Boston, but there
were moments now when he regretted, fugitively, that he had ever removed
her from her proper sphere. She did not seem to fit in to the conditions
of life in Edgewood, and it may even be that her most glaring fault
had been to describe Patty Baxter's hair at this very Sunday dinner
as "carroty," her dress altogether "dreadful," and her style of beauty
"unladylike." Ellen Wilson's feelings were somewhat injured by these
criticisms of her intimate friend, and in discussing the matter
privately with her brother he was inclined to agree with her.

And thus, so little do we know of the prankishness of the blind god,
thus was Annabel Franklin working for her rival's best interests; and
instead of reviling her in secret, and treating her with disdain in
public, Patty should have welcomed her cordially to all the delights of
Riverboro society.



XIII. HAYING-TIME

EVERYBODY in Riverboro, Edgewood, Milliken's Mills, Spruce Swamp, Duck
Pond, and Moderation was "haying." There was a perfect frenzy of haying,
for it was the Monday after the "Fourth," the precise date in July when
the Maine farmer said good-bye to repose, and "hayed" desperately and
unceasingly, until every spear of green in his section was mowed down
and safely under cover. If a man had grass of his own, he cut it, and
if he had none, he assisted in cutting that of some other man, for "to
hay," although an unconventional verb, was, and still is, a very active
one, and in common circulation, although not used by the grammarians.

Whatever your trade, and whatever your profession, it counted as naught
in good weather. The fish-man stopped selling fish, the meat-man ceased
to bring meat; the cobbler, as well as the judge, forsook the bench; and
even the doctor made fewer visits than usual. The wage for work in the
hay-fields was a high one, and every man, boy, and horse in a village
was pressed into service.

When Ivory Boynton had finished with his own small crop, he commonly
went at once to Lawyer Wilson, who had the largest acreage of hay-land
in the township. Ivory was always in great demand, for he was a mighty
worker in the field, and a very giant at "pitching," being able to pick
up a fair-sized hay-cock at one stroke of the fork and fling it on
to the cart as if it were a feather. Lawyer Wilson always took a hand
himself if signs of rain appeared, and Mark occasionally visited the
scene of action when a crowd in the field made a general jollification,
or when there was an impending thunderstorm. In such cases even women
and girls joined the workers and all hands bent together to the task of
getting a load into the barn and covering the rest.

Deacon Baxter was wont to call Mark Wilson a "worthless, whey-faced,
lily-handed whelp," but the description, though picturesque, was
decidedly exaggerated. Mark disliked manual labor, but having imbibed
enough knowledge of law in his father's office to be an excellent clerk,
he much preferred travelling about, settling the details of small cases,
collecting rents and bad bills, to any form of work on a farm. This sort
of life, on stage-coaches and railway trains, or on long driving trips
with his own fast trotter, suited his adventurous disposition and gave
him a sense of importance that was very necessary to his peace of mind.
He was not especially intimate with Ivory Boynton, who studied law with
his father during all vacations and in every available hour of leisure
during term time, as did many another young New England schoolmaster.
Mark's father's praise of Ivory's legal ability was a little too warm
to please his son, as was the commendation of one of the County Court
judges on Ivory's preparation of a brief in a certain case in the Wilson
office. Ivory had drawn it up at Mr. Wilson's request, merely to show
how far he understood the books and cases he was studying, and he had no
idea that it differed in any way from the work of any other student; all
the same, Mark's own efforts in a like direction had never received any
special mention. When he was in the hay-field he also kept as far as
possible from Ivory, because there, too, he felt a superiority that
made him, for the moment, a trifle discontented. It was no particular
pleasure for him to see Ivory plunge his fork deep into the heart of a
hay-cock, take a firm grasp of the handle, thrust forward his foot to
steady himself, and then raise the great fragrant heap slowly, and swing
it up to the waiting haycart amid the applause of the crowd. Rodman
would be there, too, helping the man on top of the load and getting
nearly buried each time, as the mass descended upon him, but doing his
slender best to distribute and tread it down properly, while his young
heart glowed with pride at Cousin Ivory's prowess.

Independence Day had passed, with its usual gayeties for the young
people, in none of which the Baxter family had joined, and now, at
eleven o'clock on this burning July morning, Waitstill was driving the
old mare past the Wilson farm on her way to the river field. Her father
was working there, together with the two hired men whom he took on for a
fortnight during the height of the season. If mowing, raking, pitching,
and carting of the precious crop could only have been done at odd times
during the year, or at night, he would not have embittered the month
of July by paying out money for labor: but Nature was inexorable in the
ripening of hay and Old Foxy was obliged to succumb to the inevitable.
Waitstill had a basket packed with luncheon for three and a great
demijohn of cool ginger tea under the wagon seat. Other farmers
sometimes served hard cider, or rum, but her father's principles were
dead against this riotous extravagance. Temperance, in any and all
directions, was cheap, and the Deacon was a very temperate man, save in
language.

The fields on both sides of the road were full of haymakers and
everywhere there was bustle and stir. There would be three or four men,
one leading, the others following, slowly swinging their way through a
noble piece of grass, and the smell of the mown fields in the sunshine
was sweeter than honey in the comb. There were patches of black-eyed
Susans in the meadows here and there, while pink and white hardhack grew
by the road, with day lilies and blossoming milkweed. The bobolinks were
fluting from every tree; there were thrushes in the alder bushes and
orioles in the tops of the elms, and Waitstill's heart overflowed with
joy at being in such a world of midsummer beauty, though life, during
the great heat and incessant work of haying-time, was a little more
rigorous than usual. The extra food needed for the hired men always
kept her father in a state of mind closely resembling insanity. Coming
downstairs to cook breakfast she would find the coffee or tea measured
out for the pot. The increased consumption of milk angered him beyond
words, because it lessened the supply of butter for sale. Everything
that could be made with buttermilk was ordered so to be done, and
nothing but water could be used in mixing the raised bread. The corncake
must never have an egg; the piecrust must be shortened only with lard,
or with a mixture of beef-fat and dripping; and so on, and so on,
eternally.

When the girls were respectively seventeen and thirteen, Waitstill
had begged a small plot of ground for them to use as they liked, and
beginning at that time they had gradually made a little garden, with a
couple of fruit trees and a thicket of red, white, and black currants
raspberry and blackberry bushes. For several summers now they had sold
enough of their own fruit to buy a pair of shoes or gloves, a scarf or
a hat, but even this tiny income was beginning to be menaced. The Deacon
positively suffered as he looked at that odd corner of earth, not any
bigger than his barn floor, and saw what his girls had done with no
tools but a spade and a hoe and no help but their own hands. He had
no leisure (so he growled) to cultivate and fertilize ground for small
fruits, and no money to pay a man to do it, yet here was food grown
under his very eye, and it did not belong to him! The girls worked in
their garden chiefly at sunrise in spring and early summer, or after
supper in the evening; all the same Waitstill had been told by her
father the day before that she was not only using ground, but time, that
belonged to him, and that he should expect her to provide "pie-filling"
out of her garden patch during haying, to help satisfy the ravenous
appetites of that couple of "great, gorming, greedy lubbers" that he was
hiring this year. He had stopped the peeling of potatoes before boiling
because he disapproved of the thickness of the parings he found in the
pig's pail, and he stood over Patty at her work in the kitchen until
Waitstill was in daily fear of a tempest of some sort.

Coming in from the shed one morning she met her father just issuing from
the kitchen where Patty was standing like a young Fury in front of the
sink. "Father's been spying at the eggshells I settled the coffee with,
and said I'd no business to leave so much good in the shell when I broke
an egg. I will not bear it; he makes me feel fairly murderous! You'd
better not leave me alone with him when I'm like this. Oh! I know that
I'm wicked, but isn't he wicked too, and who was wicked first?"

Patty's heart had been set on earning and saving enough pennies for a
white muslin dress and every day rendered the prospect more uncertain;
this was a sufficient grievance in itself to keep her temper at the
boiling point had there not been various other contributory causes.
Waitstill's patience was flagging a trifle, too, under the stress of the
hot days and the still hotter, breathless nights. The suspicion crossed
her mind now and then that her father's miserliness and fits of temper
might be caused by a mental malady over which he now had little or no
control, having never mastered himself in all his life. Her power of
endurance would be greater, she thought, if only she could be certain
that this theory was true, though her slavery would be just as galling.

It would be so easy for her to go away and earn a living; she who had
never had a day of illness in her life; she who could sew, knit, spin,
weave, and cook. She could make enough money in Biddeford or Portsmouth
to support herself, and Patty, too, until the proper work was found for
both. But there would be a truly terrible conflict of wills, and such
fierce arraignment of her unfilial conduct, such bitter and caustic
argument from her father, such disapproval from the parson and the
neighbors, that her very soul shrank from the prospect. If she could go
alone, and have no responsibility over Patty's future, that would be a
little more possible, but she must think wisely for two.

And how could she leave Ivory when there might perhaps come a crisis in
his life where she could be useful to him? How could she cut herself off
from those Sundays in the choir, those dear fugitive glimpses of him in
the road or at prayer-meeting? They were only sips of happiness,
where her thirsty heart yearned for long, deep draughts, but they were
immeasurably better than nothing. Freedom from her father's heavy yoke,
freedom to work, and read, and sing, and study, and grow,--oh! how she
longed for this, but at what a cost would she gain it if she had to
harbor the guilty conscience of an undutiful and rebellious daughter,
and at the same time cut herself off from the sight of the one being she
loved best in all the world.

She felt drawn towards Ivory's mother to-day. Three weeks had passed
since her talk with Ivory in the churchyard, but there had been no
possibility of an hour's escape from home. She was at liberty this
afternoon--relatively at liberty; for although her work, as usual, was
laid out for her, it could be made up somehow or other before nightfall.
She could drive over to the Boynton's place, hitch her horse in the
woods near the house, make her visit, yet be in plenty of time to go up
to the river field and bring her father home to supper. Patty was over
at Mrs. Abel Day's, learning a new crochet stitch and helping her to
start a log-cabin quilt. Ivory and Rodman, she new, were both away in
the Wilson hay-field; no time would ever be more favorable; so instead
of driving up Town-House Hill when she returned to the village she kept
on over the bridge.



XIV. UNCLE BART DISCOURSES

UNCLE BART and Cephas were taking their nooning hour under the Nodhead
apple tree as Waitstill passed the joiner's shop and went over the
bridge.

"Uncle Bart might somehow guess where I am going," she thought, "but
even if he did he would never tell any one."

"Where's Waitstill bound this afternoon, I wonder?" drawled Cephas,
rising to his feet and looking after the departing team. "That reminds
me, I'd better run up to Baxter's and see if any-thing's wanted before I
open the store."

"If it makes any dif'rence," said his father dryly, as he filled his
pipe, "Patty's over to Mis' Day's spendin' the afternoon. Don't s'pose
you want to call on the pig, do you? He's the only one to home."

Cephas made no remark, but gave his trousers a hitch, picked up a chip,
opened his jack-knife, and sitting down on the greensward began idly
whittling the bit of wood into shape.

"I kind o' wish you'd let me make the new ell two-story, father; 't
wouldn't be much work, take it in slack time after hayin'."

"Land o' Liberty! What do you want to do that for, Cephas? You 'bout
pestered the life out o' me gittin' me to build the ell in the first
place, when we didn't need it no more'n a toad does a pocketbook. Then
nothin' would do but you must paint it, though I shan't be able to have
the main house painted for another year, so the old wine an' the
new bottle side by side looks like the Old Driver, an' makes us a
laughin'-stock to the village;--and now you want to change the thing
into a two-story! Never heerd such a crazy idee in my life."

"I want to settle down," insisted Cephas doggedly.

"Well, settle; I'm willin'! I told you that, afore you painted the ell.
Ain't two rooms, fourteen by fourteen, enough for you to settle down in?
If they ain't, I guess your mother'd give you one o' the chambers in the
main part."

"She would if I married Phoebe Day, but I don't want to marry Phoebe,"
argued Cephas. "And mother's gone and made a summer kitchen for herself
out in the ell, a'ready. I bet yer she'll never move out if I should
want to move in on a 'sudden."

"I told you you was takin' that risk when you cut a door through from
the main part," said his father genially. "If you hadn't done that, your
mother would 'a' had to gone round outside to git int' the ell and mebbe
she'd 'a' stayed to home when it stormed, anyhow. Now your wife'll have
her troopin' in an' out, in an' out, the whole 'durin' time."

"I only cut the door through to please so't she'd favor my gittin'
married, but I guess 't won't do no good. You see, father, what I was
thinkin' of is, a girl would mebbe jump at a two-story, four-roomed ell
when she wouldn't look at a smaller place."

"Pends upon whether the girl's the jumpin' kind or not! Hadn't you
better git everything fixed up with the one you've picked out, afore you
take your good savin's and go to buildin' a bigger place for her?"

"I've asked her once a'ready," Cephas allowed, with a burning face. "I
don't s'pose you know the one I mean?"

"No kind of an idee," responded his father, with a quizzical wink that
was lost on the young man, as his eyes were fixed upon his whittling.
"Does she belong to the village?"

"I ain't goin' to let folks know who I've picked out till I git a little
mite forrarder," responded Cephas craftily. "Say, father, it's all right
to ask a girl twice, ain't it?

"Certain it is, my son. I never heerd there was any special limit to
the number o' times you could ask 'em, and their power o' sayin' 'No' is
like the mercy of the Lord; it endureth forever.--You wouldn't consider
a widder, Cephas? A widder'd be a good comp'ny-keeper for your mother."

"I hain't put my good savin's into an ell jest to marry a comp'ny-keeper
for mother," responded Cephas huffily. "I want to be number one with my
girl and start right in on trainin' her up to suit me."

"Well, if trainin' 's your object you'd better take my advice an' keep
it dark before marriage, Cephas. It's astonishin' how the female sect
despises bein' trained; it don't hardly seem to be in their nature to
make any changes in 'emselves after they once gits started."

"How are you goin' to live with 'em, then?" Cephas inquired, looking up
with interest coupled with some incredulity.

"Let them do the training," responded his father, peacefully puffing out
the words with his pipe between his lips. "Some of 'em's mild and gentle
in discipline, like Parson Boone's wife or Mis' Timothy Grant, and
others is strict and firm like your mother and Mis' Abel Day. If you
happen to git the first kind, why, do as they tell you, and thank the
Lord 't ain't any worse. If you git the second kind, jest let 'em put
the blinders on you and trot as straight as you know how, without shying
nor kickin' over the traces, nor bolting 'cause they've got control o'
the bit and 't ain't no use fightin' ag'in' their superior strength.--So
fur as you can judge, in the early stages o' the game, my son,--which
ain't very fur,--which kind have you picked out?"

Cephas whittled on for some moments without a word, but finally, with a
sigh drawn from the very toes of his boots, he responded gloomily,--

"She's awful spunky, the girl is, anybody can see that; but she's a
young thing, and I thought bein' married would kind o' tame her down!"

"You can see how much marriage has tamed your mother down," observed
Uncle Bart dispassionately; "howsomever, though your mother can't be
called tame, she's got her good p'ints, for she's always to be counted
on. The great thing in life, as I take it, Cephas, is to know exactly
what to expect. Your mother's gen'ally credited with an onsartin
temper, but folks does her great injustice in so thinking for in a long
experience I've seldom come across a temper less onsartin than your
mother's. You know exactly where to find her every mornin' at sun-up and
every night at sundown. There ain't nothin' you can do to put her out
o' temper, cause she's all out aforehand. You can jest go about your
reg'lar business 'thout any fear of disturbin' her any further than
she's disturbed a'ready, which is consid'rable. I don't mind it a mite
nowadays, though, after forty years of it. It would kind o' gall me to
keep a stiddy watch of a female's disposition day by day, wonderin'
when she was goin' to have a tantrum. A tantrum once a year's an awful
upsettin' kind of a thing in a family, my son, but a tantrum every
twenty-four hours is jest part o' the day's work." There was a moment's
silence during which Uncle Bart puffed his pipe and Cephas whittled,
after which the old man continued: "Then, if you happen to marry a
temper like your mother's, Cephas, look what a pow'ful worker you
gen'ally get! Look at the way they sweep an' dust an' scrub an' clean!
Watch 'em when they go at the dish-washin', an' how they whack the
rollin'-pin, an' maul the eggs, an' heave the wood int' the stove, an'
slat the flies out o' the house! The mild and gentle ones enough, will
be settin' in the kitchen rocker read-in' the almanac when there ain't
no wood in the kitchen box, no doughnuts in the crock, no pies on the
swing shelf in the cellar, an' the young ones goin' round without a
second shift to their backs!"

Cephas's mind was far away during this philosophical dissertation on the
ways of women. He could see only a sunny head fairly rioting with curls;
a pair of eyes that held his like magnets, although they never gave him
a glance of love; a smile that lighted the world far better than the
sun; a dimple into which his heart fell headlong whenever he looked at
it!

"You're right, father; 'tain't no use kickin' ag'in 'em," he said as he
rose to his feet preparatory to opening the Baxter store. "When I said
that 'bout trainin' up a girl to suit me, I kind o' forgot the one I've
picked out. I'm considerin' several, but the one I favor most-well,
I believe she'd fire up at the first sight o' training and that's the
gospel truth."

"Considerin' several, be you, Cephas?" laughed Uncle Bart. "Well, all
I hope is, that the one you favor most--the girl you've asked once
a'ready--is considerin' you!"

Cephas went to the pump, and wetting a large handkerchief put it in the
crown of his straw hat and sauntered out into the burning heat of the
open road between his father's shop and Deacon Baxter's store.

"I shan't ask her the next time till this hot spell's over," he thought,
"and I won't do it in that dodgasted old store ag'in, neither; I ain't
so tongue-tied outdoors an' I kind o' think I'd be more in the sperit of
it after sundown, some night after supper!"



XV. IVORY'S MOTHER

WAITSTILL found a cool and shady place in which to hitch the old mare,
loosening her check-rein and putting a sprig of alder in her headstall
to assist her in brushing off the flies.

One could reach the Boynton house only by going up a long grass-grown
lane that led from the high-road. It was a lonely place, and Aaron
Boynton had bought it when he moved from Saco, simply because he secured
it at a remarkable bargain, the owner having lost his wife and gone
to live in Massachusetts. Ivory would have sold it long ago had
circumstances been different, for it was at too great a distance from
the schoolhouse and from Lawyer Wilson's office to be at all convenient,
but he dreaded to remove his mother from the environment to which she
was accustomed, and doubted very much whether she would be able to care
for a house to which she had not been wonted before her mind became
affected. Here in this safe, secluded corner, amid familiar and
thoroughly known conditions, she moved placidly about her daily tasks,
performing them with the same care and precision that she had used from
the beginning of her married life. All the heavy work was done for her
by Ivory and Rodman; the boy in particular being the fleetest-footed,
the most willing, and the neatest of helpers; washing dishes, sweeping
and dusting, laying the table, as deftly and quietly as a girl. Mrs.
Boynton made her own simple dresses of gray calico in summer, or dark
linsey-woolsey in winter by the same pattern that she had used when
she first came to Edgewood: in fact there were positively no external
changes anywhere to be seen, tragic and terrible as had been those that
had wrought havoc in her mind.

Waitstill's heart beat faster as she neared the Boynton house. She had
never so much as seen Ivory's mother for years. How would she be met?
Who would begin the conversation, and what direction would it take? What
if Mrs. Boynton should refuse to talk to her at all? She walked slowly
along the lane until she saw a slender, gray-clad figure stooping over
a flower-bed in front of the cottage. The woman raised her head with a
fawn-like gesture that had something in it of timidity rather than fear,
picked some loose bits of green from the ground, and, quietly turning
her back upon the on coming stranger, disappeared through the open front
door.

There could be no retreat on her own part now, thought Waitstill. She
wished for a moment that she had made this first visit under Ivory's
protection, but her idea had been to gain Mrs. Boynton's confidence and
have a quiet friendly talk, such a one as would be impossible in the
presence of a third person. Approaching the steps, she called through
the doorway in her clear voice: "Ivory asked me to come and see you one
day, Mrs. Boynton. I am Waitstill Baxter, the little girl on Town House
Hill that you used to know."

Mrs. Boynton came from an inner room and stood on the threshold. The
name "Waitstill" had always had a charm for her ears, from the time she
first heard it years ago, until it fell from Ivory's lips this summer;
and again it caught her fancy.

"'WAITSTILL!"' she repeated softly; "'WAITSTILL!' Does Ivory know you?"

"We've known each other for ever so long; ever since we went to the
brick school together when we were girl and boy. And when I was a child
my stepmother brought me over here once on an errand and Ivory showed me
a humming-bird's nest in that lilac bush by the door."

Mrs. Boynton smiled "Come and look!" she whispered. "There is always a
humming-bird's nest in our lilac. How did you remember?"

The two women approached the bush and Mrs. Boynton carefully parted the
leaves to show the dainty morsel of a home thatched with soft gray-green
and lined with down. "The birds have flown now," she said. "They were
like little jewels when they darted off in the sunshine."

Her voice was faint and sweet, as if it came from far away, and her eyes
looked, not as if they were seeing you, but seeing something through
you. Her pale hair was turned back from her paler face, where the
veins showed like blue rivers, and her smile was like the flitting of a
moonbeam. She was standing very close to Waitstill, closer than she
had been to any woman for many years, and she studied her a little,
wistfully, yet courteously, as if her attention was attracted by
something fresh and winning. She looked at the color, ebbing and flowing
in the girl's cheeks; at her brows and lashes; at her neck, as white
as swan's-down; and finally put out her hand with a sudden impulse and
touched the knot of wavy bronze hair under the brimmed hat.

"I had a daughter once," she said. "My second baby was a girl, but she
lived only a few weeks. I need her very much, for I am a great care to
Ivory. He is son and daughter both, now that Mr. Boynton is away from
home.--You did not see any one in the road as you turned in from the
bars, I suppose?"

"No," answered Waitstill, surprised and confused, "but I didn't really
notice; I was thinking of a cool place for my horse to stand."

"I sit out here in these warm afternoons," Mrs. Boynton continued,
shading her eyes and looking across the fields, "because I can see so
far down the lane. I have the supper-table set for my husband already,
and there is a surprise for him, a saucer of wild strawberries I picked
for him this morning. If he does not come, I always take away the plate
and cup before Ivory gets here; it seems to make him unhappy."

"He doesn't like it when you are disappointed, I suppose," Waitstill
ventured. "I have brought my knitting, Mrs. Boynton, so that I needn't
keep you idle if you wish to work. May I sit down a few minutes? And
here is a cottage cheese for Ivory and Rodman, and a jar of plums for
you, preserved from my own garden."

Mrs. Boynton's eyes searched the face of this visitor from a world she
had almost forgotten and finding nothing but tenderness there, said with
just a trace of bewilderment: "Thank you yes, do sit down; my workbasket
is just inside the door. Take that rocking-chair; I don't have another
one out here because I have never been in the habit of seeing visitors."

"I hope I am not intruding," stammered Waitstill, seating herself and
beginning her knitting, to see if it would lessen the sense of strain
between them.

"Not at all. I always loved young and beautiful people, and so did my
husband. If he comes while you are here, do not go away, but sit with
him while I get his supper. If Elder Cochrane should be with him,
you would see two wonderful men. They went away together to do some
missionary work in Maine and New Hampshire and perhaps they will come
back together. I do not welcome callers because they always ask so many
difficult questions, but you are different and have asked me none at
all."

"I should not think of asking questions, Mrs. Boynton."

"Not that I should mind answering them," continued Ivory's mother,
"except that it tires my head very much to think. You must not imagine I
am ill; it is only that I have a very bad memory, and when people ask me
to remember something, or to give an answer quickly, it confuses me the
more. Even now I have forgotten why you came, and where you live; but I
have not forgotten your beautiful name."

"Ivory thought you might be lonely, and I wanted so much to know you
that I could not keep away any longer, for I am lonely and unhappy too.
I am always watching and hoping for what has never come yet. I have no
mother, you have lost your daughter; I thought--I thought--perhaps we
could be a comfort to each other!" And Waitstill rose from her chair
and put out her hand to help Mrs. Boynton down the steps, she looked
so frail, so transparent, so prematurely aged. "I could not come very
often--but if I could only smooth your hair sometimes when your head
aches, or do some cooking for you, or read to you, or any little thing
like that, as I would fer my own mother--if I could, I should be so
glad!"

Waitstill stood a head higher than Ivory's mother and the glowing health
of her, the steadiness of her voice, the warmth of her hand-clasp must
have made her seem like a strong refuge to this storm-tossed derelict.
The deep furrow between Lois Boynton's eyes relaxed a trifle, the blood
in her veins ran a little more swiftly under the touch of the young hand
that held hers so closely. Suddenly a light came into her face and her
lip quivered.

"Perhaps I have been remembering wrong all these years," she said. "It
is my great trouble, remembering wrong. Perhaps my baby did not die as I
thought; perhaps she lived and grew up; perhaps" (her pale cheek burned
and her eyes shone like stars) "perhaps she has come back!"

Waitstill could not speak; she put her arm round the trembling figure,
holding her as she was wont to hold Patty, and with the same protective
instinct. The embrace was electric in its effect and set altogether
new currents of emotion in circulation. Something in Lois Boynton's
perturbed mind seemed to beat its wings against the barriers that had
heretofore opposed it, and, freeing itself, mounted into clearer air and
went singing to the sky. She rested her cheek on the girl's breast with
a little sob. "Oh! let me go on remembering wrong," she sighed, from
that safe shelter. "Let me go on remembering wrong! It makes me so
happy!"

Waitstill gently led her to the rocking-chair and sat down beside her
on the lowest step, stroking her thin hand. Mrs. Boynton's eyes were
closed, her breath came and went quickly, but presently she began to
speak hurriedly, as if she were relieving a surcharged heart.

"There is something troubling me," she began, "and it would ease my mind
if I could tell it to some one who could help. Your hand is so warm and
so firm! Oh, hold mine closely and let me draw in strength as long
as you can spare it; it is flowing, flowing from your hand into mine,
flowing like wine.... My thoughts at night are not like my thoughts by
day, these last weeks.... I wake suddenly and feel that my husband has
been away a long time and will never come back.... Often, at night, too,
I am in sore trouble about something else, something I have never told
Ivory, the first thing I have ever hidden from my dear son, but I think
I could tell you, if only I could be sure about it."

"Tell me if it will help you; I will try to understand," said Waitstill
brokenly.

"Ivory says Rodman is the child of my dead sister. Some one must have
told him so; could it have been I? It haunts me day and night, for
unless I am remembering wrong again, I never had a sister. I can call to
mind neither sister nor brother."

"You went to New Hampshire one winter," Waitstill reminded her gently,
as if she were talking to a child. "It was bitter cold for you to take
such a hard journey. Your sister died, and you brought her little boy,
Rodman, back, but you were so ill that a stranger had to take care of
you on the stage-coach and drive you to Edgewood next day in his own
sleigh. It is no wonder you have forgotten something of what happened,
for Dr. Perry hardly brought you through the brain fever that followed
that journey."

"I seem to think, now, that it is not so!" said Mrs. Boynton, opening
her eyes and looking at Waitstill despairingly. "I must grope and grope
in the dark until I find out what is true, and then tell Ivory. God will
punish false speaking! His heart is closed against lies and evil-doing!"

"He will never punish you if your tired mind remembers wrong," said
Waitstill. "He knows, none better, how you have tried to find Him and
hold Him, through many a tangled path. I will come as often as I can and
we will try to frighten away these worrying thoughts."

"If you will only come now and then and hold my hand," said Ivory's
mother,--"hold my hand so that your strength will flow into my weakness,
perhaps I shall puzzle it all out, and God will help me to remember
right before I die."

"Everything that I have power to give away shall be given to you,"
promised Waitstill. "Now that I know you, and you trust me, you shall
never be left so alone again,--not for long, at any rate. When I stay
away you will remember that I cannot help it, won't you?"

"Yes, I shall think of you till I see you again I shall watch the long
lane more than ever now. Ivory sometimes takes the path across the
fields but my dear husband will come by the old road, and now there will
be you to look for!"



XVI. LOCKED OUT

AT the Baxters the late supper was over and the girls had not sat at the
table with their father, having eaten earlier, by themselves. The hired
men had gone home to sleep. Patty had retired to the solitude of her
bedroom almost at dusk, quite worn out with the heat, and Waitstill sat
under the peach tree in the corner of her own little garden, tatting,
and thinking of her interview with Ivory's mother. She sat there until
nearly eight o'clock, trying vainly to put together the puzzling details
of Lois Boynton's conversation, wondering whether the perplexities that
vexed her mind were real or fancied, but warmed to the heart by the
affection that the older woman seemed instinctively to feel for her.
"She did not know me, yet she cared for me at once," thought Waitstill
tenderly and proudly; "and I for her, too, at the first glance."

She heard her father lock the barn and shed and knew that he would be
going upstairs immediately, so she quickly went through the side yard
and lifted the latch of the kitchen door. It was fastened. She went to
the front door and that, too, was bolted, although it had been standing
open all the evening, so that if a breeze should spring up, it might
blow through the house. Her father supposed, of course, that she was
in bed, and she dreaded to bring him downstairs for fear of his anger;
still there was no help for it and she rapped smartly at the side
door. There was no answer and she rapped again, vexed with her own
carelessness. Patty's face appeared promptly behind her screen of
mosquito netting in the second story, but before she could exchange a
word with her sister, Deacon Baxter opened the blinds of his bedroom
window and put his head out.

"You can try sleepin' outdoors, or in the barn to-night," he called. "I
didn't say anything to you at supper-time because I wanted to see where
you was intendin' to prowl this evenin'."

"I haven't been 'prowling' anywhere, father," answered Waitstill; "I've
been out in the garden cooling off; it's only eight o'clock."

"Well, you can cool off some more," he shouted, his temper now fully
aroused; "or go back where you was this afternoon and see if they'll
take you in there! I know all about your deceitful tricks! I come home
to grind the scythes and found the house and barn empty Cephas said
you'd driven up Saco Hill and I took his horse and followed you and saw
where you went Long's you couldn't have a feller callin' on you here to
home, you thought you'd call on him, did yer, you bold-faced hussy?"

"I am nothing of the sort," the girl answered him quietly; "Ivory
Boynton was not at his house, he was in the hay-field. You know it, and
you know that I knew it. I went to see a sick, unhappy woman who has no
neighbors. I ought to have gone long before. I am not ashamed of it, and
I don't regret it. If you ask unreasonable things of me, you must expect
to be disobeyed once in a while.

"Must expect to be disobeyed, must I?" the old man cried, his face
positively terrifying in its ugliness. "We'll see about that! If you
wa'n't callin' on a young man, you were callin' on a crazy woman, and I
won't have it, I tell you, do you hear? I won't have a daughter o' mine
consortin' with any o' that Boynton crew. Perhaps a night outdoors will
teach you who's master in this house, you imperdent, shameless girl!
We'll try it, anyway!" And with that he banged down the window and
disappeared, gibbering and jabbering impotent words that she could hear
but not understand.

Waitstill was almost stunned by the suddenness of this catastrophe. She
stood with her feet rooted to the earth for several minutes and then
walked slowly away out of sight of the house. There was a chair beside
the grindstone under the Porter apple tree and she sank into it, crossed
her arms on the back, and bowing her head on them, burst into a fit of
weeping as tempestuous and passionate as it was silent, for although her
body fairly shook with sobs no sound escaped.

The minutes passed, perhaps an hour; she did not take account of time.
The moon went behind clouds, the night grew misty and the stars faded
one by one. There would be rain to-morrow and there was a great deal of
hay cut, so she thought in a vagrant sort of way.

Meanwhile Patty upstairs was in a state of suppressed excitement and
terror. It was a quarter of an hour before her father settled him-self
in bed; then an age, it seemed to her, before she heard his heavy
breathing. When she thought it quite safe, she slipped on a print
wrapper, took her shoes in her hand, and crept noiselessly downstairs,
out through the kitchen and into the shed. Lifting the heavy bar that
held the big doors in place she closed them softly behind her, stepped
out, and looked about her in the darkness. Her quick eye espied in the
distance, near the barn, the bowed figure in the chair, and she flew
through the wet grass without a thought of her bare feet till she
reached her sister's side and held her in a close embrace.

"My darling, my own, own, poor darling!" she cried softly, the tears
running down her cheeks. "How wicked, how unjust to serve my dearest
sister so! Don't cry, my blessing, don't cry; you frighten me! I'll take
care of you, dear! Next time I'll interfere; I'll scratch and bite; yes,
I'll strangle anybody that dares to shame you and lock you out of the
house! You, the dearest, the patientest, the best!"

Waitstill wiped her eyes. "Let us go farther away where we can talk,"
she whispered.

"Where had we better sleep?" Patty asked. "On the hay, I think, though
we shall stifle with the heat"; and Patty moved towards the barn.

"No, you must go back to the house at once, Patty dear; father might
wake and call you, and that would make matters worse. It's beginning to
drizzle, or I should stay out in the air. Oh! I wonder if father's mind
is going, and if this is the beginning of the end! If he is in his sober
senses, he could not be so strange, so suspicious, so unjust."

"He could be anything, say anything, do anything," exclaimed Patty.
"Perhaps he is not responsible and perhaps he is; it doesn't make much
difference to us. Come along, blessed darling! I'll tuck you in, and
then I'll creep back to the house, if you say I must. I'll go down and
make the kitchen fire in the morning; you stay out here and see what
happens. A good deal will happen, I'm thinking, if father speaks to
me of you! I shouldn't be surprised to see the fur flying in all
directions; I'll seize the first moment to bring you out a cup of coffee
and we'll consult about what to do. I may tell you now, I'm all for
running away!"

Waitstill's first burst of wretchedness had subsided and she had
recovered her balance. "I'm afraid we must wait a little longer, Patty,"
she advised. "Don't mention my name to father, but see how he acts in
the morning. He was so wild, so unlike himself, that I almost hope he
may forget what he said and sleep it off. Yes, we must just wait."

"No doubt he'll be far calmer in the morning if he remembers that, if he
turns you out, he faces the prospect of three meals a day cooked by me,"
said Patty. "That's what he thinks he would face, but as a matter of
fact I shall tell him that where you sleep I sleep, and where you eat
I eat, and when you stop cooking I stop! He won't part with two unpaid
servants in a hurry, not at the beginning of haying." And Patty, giving
Waitstill a last hug and a dozen tearful kisses, stole reluctantly back
to the house by the same route through which he had left it.

Patty was right. She found the fire lighted when she went down into the
kitchen next morning, and without a word she hurried breakfast on to the
table as fast as she could cook and serve it. Waitstill was safe in the
barn chamber, she knew, and would be there quietly while her father was
feeding the horse and milking the cows; or perhaps she might go up in
the woods and wait until she saw him driving away.

The Deacon ate his breakfast in silence, looking and acting very much
as usual, for he was generally dumb at meals. When he left the house,
however, and climbed into the wagon, he turned around and said in his
ordinary gruff manner: "Bring the lunch up to the field yourself to-day,
Patience. Tell your sister I hope she's come to her senses in the course
of the night. You've got to learn, both of you, that my 'say-so' must be
law in this house. You can fuss and you can fume, if it amuses you any,
but 't won't do no good. Don't encourage Waitstill in any whinin' nor
blubberin'. Jest tell her to come in and go to work and I'll overlook
what she done this time. And don't you give me any more of your
eye-snappin' and lip-poutin' and head-in-the-air imperdence! You're
under age, and if you don't look out, you'll get something that's good
for what ails you! You two girls jest aid an' abet one another that's
what you do, aid an' abet one another, an if you carry it any further
I'll find some way o' separatin' you, do you hear?"

Patty spoke never a word, nor fluttered an eyelash. She had a proper
spirit, but now her heart was cold with a new fear, and she felt, with
Waitstill, that her father must be obeyed and his temper kept within
bounds, until God provided them a way of escape.

She ran out to the barn chamber and, not finding Waitstill, looked
across the field and saw her coming through the path from the woods.
Patty waved her hand, and ran to meet her sister, joy at the mere fact
of her existence, of being able to see her again, and of hearing her
dear voice, almost choking her in its intensity. When they reached the
house she helped her upstairs as if she were a child, brought her cool
water to wash away the dust of the haymow, laid out some clean clothes
for her, and finally put her on the lounge in the darkened sitting-room.

"I won't let anybody come near the house," she said, "and you must have
a cup of tea and a good sleep before I tell you all that father said.
Just comfort yourself with the thought that he is going to 'overlook it'
this time! After I carry up his luncheon, I shall stop at the store and
ask Cephas to come out on the river bank for a few minutes. Then I shall
proceed to say what I think of him for telling father where you went
yesterday afternoon."

"Don't blame Cephas!" Waitstill remonstrated. "Can't you see just how
it happened? He and Uncle Bart were sitting in front of the shop when I
drove by. When father came home and found the house empty and the horse
not in the stall, of course he asked where I was, and Cephas probably
said he had seen me drive up Saco Hill. He had no reason to think that
there was any harm in that."

"If he had any sense he might know that he shouldn't tell anything to
father except what happens in the store," Patty insisted. "Were you
frightened out in the barn alone last night, poor dear?"

"I was too unhappy to think of fear and I was chiefly nervous about you,
all alone in the house with father."

"I didn't like it very much, myself! I buttoned my bedroom door and sat
by the window all night, shivering and bristling at the least sound.
Everybody calls me a coward, but I'm not! Courage isn't not being
frightened; it's not screeching when you are frightened. Now, what
happened at the Boyntons'?"

"Patty, Ivory's mother is the most pathetic creature I ever saw!" And
Waitstill sat up on the sofa, her long braids of hair hanging over her
shoulders, her pale face showing the traces of her heavy weeping. "I
never pitied any one so much in my whole life! To go up that long, long
lane; to come upon that dreary house hidden away in the trees; to feel
the loneliness and the silence; and then to know that she is living
there like a hermit-thrush in a forest, without a woman to care for her,
it is heart-breaking!"

"How does the house look,--dreadful?"

"No: everything is as neat as wax. She isn't 'crazy,' Patty, as we
understand the word. Her mind is beclouded somehow and it almost seems
as if the cloud might lift at any moment. She goes about like somebody
in a dream, sewing or knitting or cooking. It is only when she talks,
and you notice that her eyes really see nothing, but are looking beyond
you, that you know there is anything wrong."

"If she appears so like other people, why don't the neighbors go to see
her once in a while?"

"Callers make her unhappy, she says, and Ivory told me that he dared not
encourage any company in the house for fear of exciting her, and making
her an object of gossip, besides. He knows her ways perfectly and that
she is safe and content with her fancies when she is alone, which is
seldom, after all."

"What does she talk about?" asked Patty.

"Her husband mostly. She is expecting him to come back daily. We knew
that before, of course, but no one can realize it till they see her
setting the table for him and putting a saucer of wild strawberries by
his plate; going about the kitchen softly, like a gentle ghost."

"It gives me the shudders!" said Patty. "I couldn't bear it! If she
never sees strangers, what in the world did she make of you? How did you
begin?"

"I told her I had known Ivory ever since we were school children. She
was rather strange and indifferent at first, and then she seemed to take
a fancy to me."

"That's queer!" said Patty, smiling fondly and giving Waitstill's hair
the hasty brush of a kiss.

"She told me she had had a girl baby, born two or three years after
Ivory, and that she had always thought it died when it was a few weeks
old. Then suddenly she came closer to me--

"Oh! Waity, weren't you terrified?"

"No, not in the least. Neither would you have been if you had been
there. She put her arms round me and all at once I understood that the
poor thing mistook me just for a moment for her own daughter come back
to life. It was a sudden fancy and I don't think it lasted, but I didn't
know how to deal with it, or contradict it, so I simply tried to soothe
her and let her ease her heart by talking to me. She said when I left
her: 'Where is your house? I hope it is near! Do come again and sit with
me. Strength flows into my weakness when you hold my hand!' I somehow
feel, Patty, that she needs a woman friend even more than a doctor. And
now, what am I to do? How can I forsake her; and yet here is this new
difficulty with father?"

"I shouldn't forsake her; go there when you can, but be more careful
about it. You told father that you didn't regret what you had done, and
that when he ordered you to do unreasonable things, you should disobey
him. After all, you are not a black slave. Father will never think of
that particular thing again, perhaps, any more than he ever alluded to
my driving to Saco with Mrs. Day after you had told him it was necessary
for one of us to go there occasionally. He knows that if he is too hard
on us, Dr. Perry or Uncle Bart would take him in hand. They would have
done it long ago if we had ever given any one even a hint of what we
have to endure. You will be all right, because you only want to do kind,
neighborly things. I am the one that will always have to suffer, because
I can't prove that it's a Christian duty to deceive father and steal off
to a dance or a frolic. Yet I might as well be a nun in a convent for
all the fun I get! I want a white book-muslin dress; I want a pair of
thin shoes with buckles; I want a white hat with a wreath of yellow
roses; I want a volume of Byron's poems; and oh! nobody knows--nobody
but the Lord could understand--how I want a string of gold beads."

"Patty, Patty! To hear you chatter anybody would imagine you thought of
nothing but frivolities. I wish you wouldn't do yourself such injustice;
even when nobody hears you but me, it is wrong."

"Sometimes when you think I'm talking nonsense it's really the gospel
truth," said Patty. "I'm not a grand, splendid character, Waitstill,
and it's no use your deceiving yourself about me; if you do, you'll be
disappointed."

"Go and parboil the beans and get them into the pot, Patty. Pick up some
of the windfalls and make a green-apple pie, and I'll be with you in the
kitchen myself before long. I never expect to be disappointed in you,
Patty, only continually surprised and pleased."

"I thought I'd begin making some soft soap to-day," said Patty
mischievously, as she left the room. "We have enough grease saved up. We
don't really need it yet, but it makes such a disgusting smell that
I'd rather like father to have it with his dinner. It's not much of a
punishment for our sleepless night."



AUTUMN



XVII. A BRACE OF LOVERS

HAYING was over, and the close, sticky dog-days, too, and August was
slipping into September. There had been plenty of rain all the season
and the countryside was looking as fresh and green as an emerald. The
hillsides were already clothed with a verdant growth of new grass and

     "The red pennons of the cardinal flowers
      Hung motionless upon their upright staves."

How they gleamed in the meadow grasses and along the brooksides like
brilliant flecks of flame, giving a new beauty to the nosegays that
Waitstill carried or sent to Mrs. Boynton every week.

To the eye of the casual observer, life in the two little villages by
the river's brink went on as peacefully as ever, but there were subtle
changes taking place nevertheless. Cephas Cole had "asked" the second
time and again had been refused by Patty, so that even a very idiot for
hopefulness could not urge his father to put another story on the ell.

"If it turns out to be Phoebe Day," thought Cephas dolefully, "two rooms
is plenty good enough, an' I shan't block up the door that leads from
the main part, neither, as I thought likely I should. If so be it's got
to be Phoebe, not Patty, I shan't care whether mother troops out 'n' in
or not." And Cephas dealt out rice and tea and coffee with so languid an
air, and made such frequent mistakes in weighing the sugar, that he drew
upon himself many a sharp rebuke from the Deacon.

"Of course I'd club him over the head with a salt fish twice a day under
ord'nary circumstances," Cephas confided to his father with a valiant
air that he never wore in Deacon Baxter's presence; "but I've got a
reason, known to nobody but myself, for wantin' to stan' well with the
old man for a spell longer. If ever I quit wantin' to stan' well with
him, he'll get his comeuppance, short an sudden!"

"Speakin' o' standin' well with folks, Phil Perry's kind o' makin' up to
Patience Baxter, ain't he, Cephas?" asked Uncle Bart guardedly. "Mebbe
you wouldn't notice it, hevin' no partic'lar int'rest, but your
mother's kind o got the idee into her head lately, an' she's turrible
far-sighted."

"I guess it's so!" Cephas responded gloomily. "It's nip an' tuck 'tween
him an' Mark Wilson. That girl draws 'em as molasses does flies! She
does it 'thout liftin' a finger, too, no more 'n the molasses does. She
just sets still an' IS! An' all the time she's nothin' but a flighty
little red-headed spitfire that don't know a good husband when she sees
one. The feller that gits her will live to regret it, that's my opinion!"
And Cephas thought to himself: "Good Lord, don't I wish I was
regrettin' it this very minute!"

"I s'pose a girl like Phoebe Day'd be consid'able less trouble to live
with?" ventured Uncle Bart.

"I never could take any fancy to that tow hair o' hern! I like the color
well enough when I'm peeling it off a corn cob, but I don't like it on a
girl's head," objected Cephas hypercritically. "An' her eyes hain't
got enough blue in 'em to be blue: they're jest like skim-milk. An' she
keeps her mouth open a little mite all the time, jest as if there wa'n't
no good draught through, an' she was a-tryin' to git air. An' 't was
me that begun callin' her 'Feeble Phoebe in school, an' the scholars'll
never forgit it; they'd throw it up to me the whole 'durin' time if I
should go to work an' keep company with her!"

"Mebbe they've forgot by this time," Uncle Bart responded hopefully;
"though 't is an awful resk when you think o' Companion Pike! Samuel he
was baptized and Samuel he continued to be, 'till he married the Widder
Bixby from Waterboro. Bein' as how there wa'n't nothin' partic'ly
attractive 'bout him,--though he was as nice a feller as ever
lived,--somebody asked her why she married him, an' she said her cat
hed jest died an' she wanted a companion. The boys never let go o' that
story! Samuel Pike he ceased to be thirty year ago, an' Companion Pike
he's remained up to this instant minute!"

"He ain't lived up to his name much," remarked Cephas. "He's to home for
his meals, but I guess his wife never sees him between times."

"If the cat hed lived mebbe she'd 'a' been better comp'ny on the
whole," chuckled Uncle Bart. "Companion was allers kind o' dreamy
an' absent-minded from a boy. I remember askin' him what his wife's
Christian name was (she bein' a stranger to Riverboro) an' he said he
didn't know! Said he called her Mis' Bixby afore he married her an' Mis'
Pike afterwards!"

"Well, there 's something turrible queer 'bout this marryin' business,"
and Cephas drew a sigh from the heels of his boots. "It seems's if a man
hedn't no natcheral drawin' towards a girl with a good farm 'n' stock
that was willin' to have him! Seems jest as if it set him ag'in' her
somehow! And yet, if you've got to sing out o' the same book with a girl
your whole lifetime, it does seem's if you'd ought to have a kind of a
fancy for her at the start, anyhow!"

"You may feel dif'rent as time goes on, Cephas, an' come to see
Feeble--I would say Phoebe--as your mother does. 'The best fire don't
flare up the soonest,' you know." But old Uncle Bart saw that his son's
heart was heavy and forbore to press the subject.

Annabel Franklin had returned to Boston after a month's visit and to her
surprise had returned as disengaged as she came. Mark Wilson, thoroughly
bored by her vacuities of mind, longed now for more intercourse with
Patty Baxter, Patty, so gay and unexpected; so lively to talk with, so
piquing to the fancy, so skittish and difficult to manage, so temptingly
pretty, with a beauty all her own, and never two days alike.

There were many lions in the way and these only added to the zest
of pursuit. With all the other girls of the village opportunities
multiplied, but he could scarcely get ten minutes alone with Patty. The
Deacon's orders were absolute in regard to young men. His daughters were
never to drive or walk alone with them, never go to dances or "routs" of
any sort, and never receive them at the house; this last mandate
being quite unnecessary, as no youth in his right mind would have gone
a-courtin' under the Deacon's forbidding gaze. And still there were
sudden, delicious chances to be seized now and then if one had his
eyes open and his wits about him. There was the walk to or from the
singing-school, when a sentimental couple could drop a few feet,
at least, behind the rest and exchange a word or two in comparative
privacy; there were the church "circles" and prayer-meetings, and the
intervals between Sunday services when Mark could detach Patty a moment
from the group on the meeting-house steps. More valuable than all
these, a complete schedule of Patty's various movements here and there,
together with a profound study of Deacon Baxter's habits, which were
ordinarily as punctual as they were disagreeable, permitted Mark many
stolen interviews, as sweet as they were brief. There was never a second
kiss, however, in these casual meetings and partings. The first, in
springtime, had found Patty a child, surprised, unprepared. She was a
woman now; for it does not take years to achieve that miracle; months
will do it, or days, or even hours. Her summer's experience with Cephas
Cole had wonderfully broadened her powers, giving her an assurance sadly
lacking before, as well as a knowledge of detail, a certain finished
skill in the management of a lover, which she could ably use on any one
who happened to come along. And, at the moment, any one who happened to
come along served the purpose admirably, Philip Perry as well as Marquis
Wilson.

Young Perry's interest in Patty, as we have seen, began with his
alienation from Ellen Wilson, the first object of his affections, and
it was not at the outset at all of a sentimental nature. Philip was a
pillar of the church, and Ellen had proved so entirely lacking in the
religious sense, so self-satisfied as to her standing with the heavenly
powers, that Philip dared not expose himself longer to her society,
lest he find himself "unequally yoked together with an unbeliever," thus
defying the scriptural admonition as to marriage.

Patty, though somewhat lacking in the qualities that go to the making
of trustworthy saints, was not, like Ellen, wholly given over to the
fleshpots and would prove a valuable convert, Philip thought; one who
would reflect great credit upon him if he succeeded in inducing her to
subscribe to the stern creed of the day.

Philip was a very strenuous and slightly gloomy believer, dwelling
considerably on the wrath of God and the doctrine of eternal punishment.
There was an old "pennyroyal" hymn much in use which describes the
general tenor of his meditation:--

   "My thoughts on awful subjects roll,
      Damnation and the dead.
    What horrors seize the guilty soul
      Upon a dying bed."

(No wonder that Jacob Cochrane's lively songs, cheerful, hopeful,
militant, and bracing, fell with a pleasing sound upon the ear of the
believer of that epoch.) The love of God had, indeed, entered Philip's
soul, but in some mysterious way had been ossified after it got there.
He had intensely black hair, dark skin, and a liver that disposed him
constitutionally to an ardent belief in the necessity of hell for most
of his neighbors, and the hope of spending his own glorious immortality
in a small, properly restricted, and prudently managed heaven. He was
eloquent at prayer-meeting and Patty's only objection to him there was
in his disposition to allude to himself as a "rebel worm," with frequent
references to his "vile body." Otherwise, and when not engaged in
theological discussion, Patty liked Philip very much. His own father,
although an orthodox member of the fold in good and regular standing,
had "doctored" Phil conscientiously for his liver from his youth up,
hoping in time to incite in him a sunnier view of life, for the doctor
was somewhat skilled in adapting his remedies to spiritual maladies. Jed
Morrill had always said that when old Mrs. Buxton, the champion convert
of Jacob Cochrane, was at her worst,--keeping her whole family awake
nights by her hysterical fears for their future,--Dr. Perry had given
her a twelfth of a grain of tartar emetic, five times a day until she
had entire mental relief and her anxiety concerning the salvation of her
husband and children was set completely at rest.

The good doctor noted with secret pleasure his son's growing fondness
for the society of his prime favorite, Miss Patience Baxter. "He'll
begin by trying to save her soul," he thought; "Phil always begins that
way, but when Patty gets him in hand he'll remember the existence of
his heart, an organ he has never taken into consideration. A love affair
with a pretty girl, good but not too pious, will help Phil considerable,
however it turns out."

There is no doubt but that Phil was taking his chances and that under
Patty's tutelage he was growing mellower. As for Patty, she was only
amusing herself, and frisking, like a young lamb, in pastures where she
had never strayed before. Her fancy flew from Mark to Phil and from Phil
back to Mark again, for at the moment she was just a vessel of emotion,
ready to empty herself on she knew not what. Temperamentally, she would
take advantage of currents rather than steer at any time, and it would
be the strongest current that would finally bear her away. Her idea
had always been that she could play with fire without burning her own
fingers, and that the flames she kindled were so innocent and mild that
no one could be harmed by them. She had fancied, up to now, that she
could control, urge on, or cool down a man's feeling forever and a day,
if she chose, and remain mistress of the situation. Now, after some
weeks of weighing and balancing her two swains, she found herself
confronting a choice, once and for all. Each of them seemed to be
approaching the state of mind where he was likely to say, somewhat
violently: "Take me or leave me, one or the other!" But she did not wish
to take them, and still less did she wish to leave them, with no other
lover in sight but Cephas Cole, who was almost, though not quite, worse
than none.

If matters, by lack of masculine patience and self-control, did come to
a crisis, what should she say definitely to either of her suitors? Her
father despised Mark Wilson a trifle more than any young man on the
river, and while he could have no objection to Phil Perry's character
or position in the world, his hatred of old Dr. Perry amounted to a
disease. When the doctor had closed the eyes of the third Mrs. Baxter,
he had made some plain and unwelcome statements that would rankle in
the Deacon's breast as long as he lived. Patty knew, therefore, that the
chance of her father's blessing falling upon her union with either
of her present lovers was more than uncertain, and of what use was an
engagement, if there could not be a marriage?

If Patty's mind inclined to a somewhat speedy departure from her
father's household, she can hardly be blamed, but she felt that she
could not carry any of her indecisions and fears to her sister for
settlement. Who could look in Waitstill's clear, steadfast eyes and
say: "I can't make up my mind which to marry"? Not Patty. She felt,
instinctively, that Waitstill's heart, if it moved at all, would rush
out like a great river to lose itself in the ocean, and losing itself
forget the narrow banks through which it had flowed before. Patty knew
that her own love was at the moment nothing more than the note of a
child's penny flute, and that Waitstill was perhaps vibrating secretly
with a deeper, richer music than could ever come to her. Still, music
of some sort she meant to feel. "Even if they make me decide one way or
another before I am ready," she said to herself, "I'll never say 'yes'
till I'm more in love than I am now!"

There were other reasons why she did not want to ask Waitstill's advice.
Not only did she shrink from the loving scrutiny of her sister's eyes,
and the gentle probing of her questions, which would fix her own motives
on a pin-point and hold them up unbecomingly to the light; but she had
a foolish, generous loyalty that urged her to keep Waitstill quite aloof
from her own little private perplexities.

"She will only worry herself sick," thought Patty. "She won't let me
marry without asking father's permission, and she'd think she ought not
to aid me in deceiving him, and the tempest would be twice as dreadful
if it fell upon us both! Now, if anything happens, I can tell father
that I did it all myself and that Waitstill knew nothing about it
whatever. Then, oh, joy! if father is too terrible, I shall be a married
woman and I can always say: 'I will not permit such cruelty! Waitstill
is dependent upon you no longer, she shall come at once to my husband
and me!'"

This latter phrase almost intoxicated Patty, so that there were moments
when she could have run up to Milliken's Mills and purchased herself a
husband at any cost, had her slender savings permitted the best in the
market; and the more impersonal the husband the more delightedly Patty
rolled the phrase under her tongue.

"I can never be 'published' in church," she thought, "and perhaps nobody
will ever care enough about me to brave father's displeasure and insist
on running away with me. I do wish somebody would care 'frightfully'
about me, enough for that; enough to help me make up my mind; so that I
could just drive up to father's store some day and say: 'Good afternoon,
father! I knew you'd never let me marry--'" (there was always a dash
here, in Patty's imaginary discourses, a dash that could be filled in
with any Christian name according to her mood of the moment)"'so I just
married him anyway; and you needn't be angry with my sister, for she
knew nothing about it. My husband and I are sorry if you are displeased,
but there's no help for it; and my husband's home will always be open to
Waitstill, whatever happens.'"

Patty, with all her latent love of finery and ease, did not weigh the
worldly circumstances of the two men, though the reflection that she
would have more amusement with Mark than with Philip may have crossed
her mind. She trusted Philip, and respected his steady-going, serious
view of life; it pleased her vanity, too, to feel how her nonsense and
fun lightened his temperamental gravity, playing in and out and over it
like a butterfly in a smoke bush. She would be safe with Philip always,
but safety had no special charm for one of her age, who had never
been in peril. Mark's superior knowledge of the world, moreover, his
careless, buoyant manner of carrying himself, his gay, boyish audacity,
all had a very distinct charm for her;--and yet--

But there would be no "and yet" a little later. Patty's heart would
blaze quickly enough when sufficient heat was applied to it, and Mark
was falling more and more deeply in love every day. As Patty vacillated,
his purpose strengthened; the more she weighed, the more he ceased to
weigh, the difficulties of the situation; the more she unfolded herself
to him, the more he loved and the more he respected her. She began by
delighting his senses; she ended by winning all that there was in him,
and creating continually the qualities he lacked, after the manner of
true women even when they are very young and foolish.



XVIII. A STATE O' MAINE PROPHET

SUMMER was dying hard, for although it had passed, by the calendar,
Mother Nature was still keeping up her customary attitude.

There had been a soft rain in the night and every spear of grass was
brilliantly green and tipped with crystal. The smoke bushes in the
garden plot, and the asparagus bed beyond them, looked misty as the sun
rose higher, drying the soaked earth and dripping branches. Spiders'
webs, marvels of lace, dotted the short grass under the apple trees.
Every flower that had a fragrance was pouring it gratefully into the
air; every bird with a joyous note in its voice gave it more joyously
from a bursting throat; and the river laughed and rippled in the
distance at the foot of Town House Hill. Then dawn grew into full
morning and streams of blue smoke rose here and there from the Edgewood
chimneys. The world was alive, and so beautiful that Waitstill felt like
going down on her knees in gratitude for having been born into it and
given a chance of serving it in any humble way whatsoever.

Wherever there was a barn, in Riverboro or Edgewood, one could have
heard the three-legged stools being lifted from the pegs, and then
would begin the music of the milk-pails; first the resonant sound of the
stream on the bottom of the tin pail, then the soft delicious purring of
the cascade into the full bucket, while the cows serenely chewed their
cuds and whisked away the flies with swinging tails. Deacon Baxter was
taking his cows to a pasture far over the hill, the feed having grown
too short in his own fields. Patty was washing dishes in the kitchen and
Waitstill was in the dairy-house at the butter-making, one of her chief
delights. She worked with speed and with beautiful sureness, patting,
squeezing, rolling the golden mass, like the true artist she was, then
turning the sweet-scented waxen balls out of the mould on to the big
stone-china platter that stood waiting. She had been up early and for
the last hour she had toiled with devouring eagerness that she might
have a little time to herself. It was hers now, for Patty would be busy
with the beds after she finished the dishes, so she drew a folded
paper from her pocket, the first communication she had ever received in
Ivory's handwriting, and sat down to read it.


MY DEAR WAITSTILL:--

Rodman will take this packet and leave it with you when he finds
opportunity. It is not in any real sense a letter, so I am in no danger
of incurring your father's displeasure. You will probably have heard new
rumors concerning my father during the past few days, for Peter Morrill
has been to Enfield, New Hampshire, where he says letters have been
received stating that my father died in Cortland, Ohio, more than five
years ago. I shall do what I can to substantiate this fresh report as I
have always done with all the previous ones, but I have little hope of
securing reliable information at this distance, and after this length
of time. I do not know when I can ever start on a personal quest myself,
for even had I the money I could not leave home until Rodman is much
older, and fitted for greater responsibility. Oh! Waitstill, how you
have helped my poor, dear mother! Would that I were free to tell you how
I value your friendship! It is something more than mere friendship! What
you are doing is like throwing a life-line to a sinking human being.
Two or three times, of late, mother has forgotten to set out the supper
things for my father. Her ten years' incessant waiting for him seems to
have subsided a little, and in its place she watches for you. [Ivory
had written "watches for her daughter" but carefully erased the last two
words.] You come but seldom, but her heart feeds on the sight of you.
What she needed, it seems, was the magical touch of youth and health and
strength and sympathy, the qualities you possess in such great measure.

If I had proof of my father's death I think now, perhaps, that I might
try to break it gently to my mother, as if it were fresh news, and see
if possibly I might thus remove her principal hallucination. You see
now, do you not, how sane she is in many, indeed in most ways,--how
sweet and lovable, even how sensible?

To help you better to understand the influence that has robbed me of
both father and mother and made me and mine the subject of town and
tavern gossip for years past, I have written for you just a sketch of
the "Cochrane craze"; the romantic story of a man who swayed the
wills of his fellow-creatures in a truly marvellous manner. Some local
historian of his time will doubtless give him more space; my wish is to
have you know something more of the circumstances that have made me
a prisoner in life instead of a free man; but prisoner as I am at the
moment, I am sustained just now by a new courage. I read in my copy of
Ovid last night: "The best of weapons is the undaunted heart." This will
help you, too, in your hard life, for yours is the most undaunted heart
in all the world.

IVORY BOYNTON


The chronicle of Jacob Cochrane's career in the little villages near
the Saco River has no such interest for the general reader as it had for
Waitstill Baxter. She hung upon every word that Ivory had written and
realized more clearly than ever before the shadow that had followed him
since early boyhood; the same shadow that had fallen across his mother's
mind and left, continual twilight there.

No one really knew, it seemed, why or from whence Jacob Cochrane had
come to Edgewood. He simply appeared at the old tavern, a stranger, with
satchel in hand, to seek entertainment. Uncle Bart had often described
this scene to Waitstill, for he was one of those sitting about the great
open fire at the time. The man easily slipped into the group and
soon took the lead in conversation, delighting all with his agreeable
personality, his nimble tongue and graceful speech. At supper-time the
hostess and the rest of the family took their places at the long table,
as was the custom, and he astonished them by his knowledge not only of
town history, but of village matters they had supposed unknown to any
one.

When the stranger had finished his supper and returned to the bar-room,
he had to pass through a long entry, and the landlady, whispering to her
daughter, said:--

"Betsy, you go up to the chamber closet and get the silver and bring it
down. This man is going to sleep there and I am afraid of him. He must
be a fortune-teller, and the Lord only knows what else!"

In going to the chamber the daughter had to pass through the bar-room.
As she was moving quietly through, hoping to escape the notice of the
newcomer, he turned in his chair, and looking her full in the face,
suddenly said:--

"Madam, you needn't touch your silver. I don't want it. I am a
gentleman."

Whereupon the bewildered Betsy scuttled back to her mother and told her
the strange guest was indeed a fortune-teller.

Of Cochrane's initial appearance as a preacher Ivory had told Waitstill
in their talk in the churchyard early in the summer. It was at a child's
funeral that the new prophet created his first sensation and there,
too, that Aaron and Lois Boynton first came under his spell. The whole
countryside had been just then wrought up to a state of religious
excitement by revival meetings and Cochrane gained the benefit of this
definite preparation for his work. He claimed that all his sayings
were from divine inspiration and that those who embraced his doctrine
received direct communication from the Almighty. He disdained formal
creeds and all manner of church organizations, declaring sectarian names
to be marks of the beast and all church members to be in Babylon. He
introduced re-baptism as a symbolic cleansing from sectarian stains, and
after some months advanced a proposition that his flock hold all things
in common. He put a sudden end to the solemn "deaconing-out" and droning
of psalm tunes and grafted on to his form of worship lively singing
and marching accompanied by clapping of hands and whirling in circles;
during the progress of which the most hysterical converts, or the most
fully "Cochranized," would swoon upon the floor; or, in obeying their
leader's instructions to "become as little children," would sometimes go
through the most extraordinary and unmeaning antics.

It was not until he had converted hundreds to the new faith that he
added more startling revelations to his gospel. He was in turn bold,
mystical, eloquent, audacious, persuasive, autocratic; and even when his
self-styled communications from the "Almighty" controverted all that his
hearers had formerly held to be right, he still magnetized or hypnotized
them into an unwilling assent to his beliefs. There was finally a
proclamation to the effect that marriage vows were to be annulled when
advisable and that complete spiritual liberty was to follow; a liberty
in which a new affinity might be sought, and a spiritual union begun
upon earth, a union as nearly approximate to God's standards as faulty
human beings could manage to attain.

Some of the faithful fell away at this time, being unable to accept the
full doctrine, but retained their faith in Cochrane's original power to
convert sinners and save them from the wrath of God. Storm-clouds began
to gather in the sky however, as the delusion spread, month by month
and local ministers everywhere sought to minimize the influence of the
dangerous orator, who rose superior to every attack and carried
himself like some magnificent martyr-at-will among the crowds that now
criticized him here or there in private and in public.

"What a picture of splendid audacity he must have been," wrote Ivory,
"when he entered the orthodox meeting-house at a huge gathering where
he knew that the speakers were to denounce his teachings. Old Parson
Buzzell gave out his text from the high pulpit: Mark XIII, 37, 'AND WHAT
I SAY UNTO YOU I SAY UNTO ALL, WATCH!' Just here Cochrane stepped in at
the open door of the church and heard the warning, meant, he knew, for
himself, and seizing the moment of silence following the reading of
the text, he cried in his splendid sonorous voice, without so much as
stirring from his place within the door-frame: "'Behold I stand at the
door and knock. If any man hear my voice I will come in to him and will
sup with him,--I come to preach the everlasting gospel to every one that
heareth, and all that I want here is my bigness on the floor.'"

"I cannot find," continued Ivory on another page, "that my father or
mother ever engaged in any of the foolish and childish practices which
disgraced the meetings of some of Cochrane's most fanatical followers
and converts. By my mother's conversations (some of which I have
repeated to you, but which may be full of errors, because of her
confusion of mind), I believe she must have had a difference of opinion
with my father on some of these views, but I have no means of knowing
this to a certainty; nor do I know that the question of choosing
spiritual consorts' ever came between or divided them. This part of the
delusion always fills me with such unspeakable disgust that I have never
liked to seek additional light from any of the older men and women who
might revel in giving it. That my mother did not sympathize with my
father's going out to preach Cochrane's gospel through the country, this
I know, and she was so truly religious, so burning with zeal, that had
she fully believed in my father's mission she would have spurred him on,
instead of endeavoring to detain him."

"You know the retribution that overtook Cochrane at last," wrote Ivory
again, when he had shown the man's early victories and his enormous
influence. "There began to be indignant protests against his doctrines
by lawyers and doctors, as well as by ministers; not from all sides
however; for remember, in extenuation of my father's and my mother's
espousal of this strange belief, that many of the strongest and wisest
men, as well as the purest and finest women in York county came under
this man's spell for a time and believed in him implicitly, some of them
even unto the end.

"Finally there was Cochrane's arrest and examination, the order for him
to appear at the Supreme Court, his failure to do so, his recapture and
trial, and his sentence of four years imprisonment on several counts, in
all of which he was proved guilty. Cochrane had all along said that the
Anointed of the Lord would never be allowed to remain in jail, but
he was mistaken, for he stayed in the State's Prison at Charlestown,
Massachusetts, for the full duration of his sentence. Here (I am again
trying to plead the cause of my father and mother), here he received
much sympathy and some few visitors, one of whom walked all the way from
Edgewood to Boston, a hundred and fifteen miles, with a petition for
pardon, a petition which was delivered, and refused, at the Boston State
House. Cochrane issued from prison a broken and humiliated man, but
if report says true, is still living, far out of sight and knowledge,
somewhere in New Hampshire. He once sent my father an epitaph of his own
selection, asking him to have it carved upon his gravestone should he
die suddenly when away from his friends. My mother often repeats it, not
realizing how far from the point it sounds to us who never knew him in
his glory, but only in his downfall.

   "'He spread his arms full wide abroad
       His works are ever before his God,
     His name on earth shall long remain,
       Through envious sinners fret in vain.'"

"We are certain," concluded Ivory, "that my father preached with
Cochrane in Limington, Limerick, and Parsonsfield; he also wrote from
Enfield and Effingham in New Hampshire; after that, all is silence.
Various reports place him in Boston, in New York, even as far west as
Ohio, whether as Cochranite evangelist or what not, alas! we can never
know. I despair of ever tracing his steps. I only hope that he died
before he wandered too widely, either from his belief in God or his
fidelity to my mother's long-suffering love."

Waitstill read the letter twice through and replaced it in her dress
to read again at night. It seemed the only tangible evidence of Ivory's
love that she had ever received and she warmed her heart with what she
felt that he had put between the lines.

"Would that I were free to tell you how I value your friendship!" "My
mother's heart feeds on the sight of you!" "I want you to know something
of the circumstances that have made me a prisoner in life, instead of a
free man." "Yours is the most undaunted heart in all the world!" These
sentences Waitstill rehearsed again and again and they rang in her ears
like music, converting all the tasks of her long day into a deep and
silent joy.



XIX. AT THE BRICK STORE

THERE were two grand places for gossip in the community; the old tavern
on the Edgewood side of the bridge and the brick store in Riverboro. The
company at the Edgewood Tavern would be a trifle different in character,
more picturesque, imposing, and eclectic because of the transient guests
that gave it change and variety. Here might be found a judge or lawyer
on his way to court; a sheriff with a handcuffed prisoner; a farmer or
two, stopping on the road to market with a cartful of produce; and
an occasional teamster, peddler, and stage-driver. On winter nights
champion story-tellers like Jed Morrill and Rish Bixby would drop in
there and hang their woollen neck-comforters on the pegs along the
wall-side, where there were already hats, topcoats, and fur mufflers,
as well as stacks of whips, canes, and ox-goads standing in the corners.
They would then enter the room, rubbing their hands genially, and,
nodding to Companion Pike, Cephas Cole, Phil Perry and others, ensconce
themselves snugly in the group by the great open fireplace. The landlord
was always glad to see them enter, for their stories, though old to him,
were new to many of the assembled company and had a remarkable greet on
the consumption of liquid refreshment.

On summer evenings gossip was languid in the village, and if any
occurred at all it would be on the loafer's bench at one or the other
side of the bridge. When cooler weather came the group of local wits
gathered in Riverboro, either at Uncle Bart's joiner's shop or at
the brick store, according to fancy. The latter place was perhaps the
favorite for Riverboro talkers. It was a large, two-story, square, brick
building with a big-mouthed chimney and an open fire. When every house
in the two villages had six feet of snow around it, roads would always
be broken to the brick store, and a crowd of ten or fifteen men would be
gathered there talking, listening, betting, smoking, chewing, bragging,
playing checkers, singing, and "swapping stories."

Some of the men had been through the War of 1812 and could display
wounds received on the field of valor; others were still prouder of
scars won in encounters with the Indians, and there was one old codger,
a Revolutionary veteran, Bill Dunham by name, who would add bloody
tales of his encounters with the "Husshons." His courage had been so
extraordinary and his slaughter so colossal that his hearers marvelled
that there was a Hessian left to tell his side of the story, and Bill
himself doubted if such were the case.

"'T is an awful sin to have on your soul," Bill would say from his place
in a dark corner, where he would sit with his hat pulled down over his
eyes till the psychological moment came for the "Husshons" to be trotted
out. "'T is an awful sin to have on your soul,--the extummination of
a race o' men; even if they wa'n't nothin' more 'n so many ignorant
cockroaches. Them was the great days for fightin'! The Husshons was
the biggest men I ever seen on the field, most of 'em standin' six feet
eight in their stockin's,--but Lord! how we walloped 'em! Once we had a
cannon mounted an' loaded for 'em that was so large we had to draw the
ball into it with a yoke of oxen!"

Bill paused from force of habit, just as he had paused for the last
twenty years. There had been times when roars of incredulous laughter
had greeted this boast, but most of this particular group had heard the
yarn more than once and let it pass with a smile and a wink, remembering
the night that Abel Day had asked old Bill how they got the oxen out of
the cannon on that most memorable occasion.

"Oh!" said Bill, "that was easy enough; we jest unyoked 'em an' turned
'em out o' the primin'-hole!"

It was only early October, but there had been a killing frost, and Ezra
Simms, who kept the brick store, flung some shavings and small wood on
the hearth and lighted a blaze, just to induce a little trade and start
conversation on what threatened to be a dull evening. Peter Morrill,
Jed's eldest brother, had lately returned from a long trip through the
state and into New Hampshire, and his adventures by field and flood were
always worth listening to. He went about the country mending clocks, and
many an old time-piece still bears his name, with the date of repairing,
written in pencil on the inside of its door.

There was never any lack of subjects at the brick store, the
idiosyncrasies of the neighbors being the most prolific source of
anecdote and comment. Of scandal about women there was little, though
there would be occasional harmless pleasantries concerning village love
affairs; prophecies of what couple would be next "published" in the
black-walnut frame up at the meeting-house; a genial comment on the
number and chances of Patience Baxter's various beaux; and whenever all
else failed, the latest story of Deacon Baxter's parsimony, in which the
village traced the influence of heredity.

"He can't hardly help it, inheritin' it on both sides," was Abel Day's
opinion. "The Baxters was allers snug, from time 'memorial, and Foxy's
the snuggest of 'em. When I look at his ugly mug an' hear his snarlin'
voice, I thinks to myself, he's goin' the same way his father did. When
old Levi Baxter was left a widder-man in that house o' his'n up river,
he grew wuss an' wuss, if you remember, till he wa'n't hardly human
at the last; and I don't believe Foxy even went up to his own father's
funeral."

"'T would 'a' served old Levi right if nobody else had gone," said Rish
Bixby. "When his wife died he refused to come into the house till the
last minute. He stayed to work in the barn until all the folks had
assembled, and even the men were all settin' down on benches in the
kitchen. The parson sent me out for him, and I'm blest if the old skunk
didn't come in through the crowd with his sleeves rolled up,--went to
the sink and washed, and then set down in the room where the coffin was,
as cool as a cowcumber."

"I remember that funeral well," corroborated Abel Day. "An' Mis' Day
heerd Levi say to his daughter, as soon as they'd put poor old Mrs.
Baxter int' the grave: 'Come on, Marthy; there 's no use cryin' over
spilt milk; we'd better go home an' husk out the rest o' that corn.'
Old Foxy could have inherited plenty o' meanness from his father, that's
certain, an' he's added to his inheritance right along, like the thrifty
man he is. I hate to think o' them two fine girls wearin' their fingers
to the bone for his benefit."

"Oh, well! 't won't last forever," said Rish Bixby. "They're the
handsomest couple o' girls on the river an' they'll get husbands afore
many years. Patience'll have one pretty soon, by the looks. She never
budges an inch but Mark Wilson or Phil Perry are follerin' behind, with
Cephas Cole watchin' his chance right along, too. Waitstill don't seem
to have no beaux; what with flyin' around to keep up with the Deacon,
an' bein' a mother to Patience, her hands is full, I guess."

"If things was a little mite dif'rent all round, I could prognosticate
who Waitstill could keep house for," was Peter Morrill's opinion.

"You mean Ivory Boynton? Well, if the Deacon was asked he'd never give
his consent, that's certain; an' Ivory ain't in no position to keep
a wife anyways. What was it you heerd 'bout Aaron Boynton up to New
Hampshire, Peter?" asked Abel Day.

"Consid'able, one way an' another; an' none of it would 'a' been any
comfort to Ivory. I guess Aaron 'n' Jake Cochrane was both of 'em more
interested in savin' the sisters' souls than the brothers'! Aaron was a
fine-appearin' man, and so was Jake for that matter, 'n' they both had
the gift o' gab. There's nothin' like a limber tongue if you want to
please the women-folks! If report says true, Aaron died of a fever out
in Ohio somewheres; Cortland's the place, I b'lieve. Seems's if he hid
his trail all the way from New Hampshire somehow, for as a usual thing,
a man o' book-larnin' like him would be remembered wherever he went.
Wouldn't you call Aaron Boynton a turrible larned man, Timothy?"

Timothy Grant, the parish clerk, had just entered the store on an
errand, but being directly addressed, and judging that the subject under
discussion was a discreet one, and that it was too early in the evening
for drinking to begin, he joined the group by the fireside. He had
preached in Vermont for several years as an itinerant Methodist
minister before settling down to farming in Edgewood, only giving up
his profession because his quiver was so full of little Grants that a
wandering life was difficult and undesirable. When Uncle Bart Cole
had remarked that Mis' Grant had a little of everything in the way
of baby-stock now,--black, red, an' yaller-haired, dark and light
complected, fat an' lean, tall an' short, twins an' singles,--Jed
Morrill had observed dryly: "Yes, Mis' Grant kind o' reminds me of
charity."

"How's that?" inquired Uncle Bart.

"She beareth all things," chuckled Jed.

"Aaron Boynton was, indeed, a man of most adhesive larnin'," agreed
Timothy, who had the reputation of the largest and most unusual
vocabulary in Edgewood. "Next to Jacob Cochrane I should say Aaron had
more grandeloquence as an orator than any man we've ever had in these
parts. It don't seem's if Ivory was goin' to take after his father that
way. The little feller, now, is smart's a whip, an' could talk the tail
off a brass monkey."

"Yes, but Rodman ain't no kin to the Boyntons," Abel reminded him. "He
inhails from the other side o' the house."

"That's so; well, Ivory does, for certain, an' takes after his mother,
right enough, for she hain't spoken a dozen words in as many years, I
guess. Ivory's got a sight o' book-knowledge, though, an' they do say he
could talk Greek an' Latin both, if we had any of 'em in the community
to converse with. I've never paid no intention to the dead languages,
bein' so ocker-pied with other studies."

"Why do they call 'em the dead languages, Tim?" asked Rish Bixby.

"Because all them that ever spoke 'em has perished off the face o' the
land," Timothy answered oracularly. "Dead an' gone they be, lock, stock,
an' barrel; yet there was a time when Latins an' Crustaceans an' Hebrews
an' Prooshians an' Australians an' Simesians was chatterin' away in
their own tongues, an' so pow'ful that they was wallopin' the whole
earth, you might say."

"I bet yer they never tried to wallop these here United States,"
interpolated Bill Dunham from the dark corner by the molasses hogs-head.

"Is Ivory in here?" The door opened and Rodman Boynton appeared on the
threshold.

"No, sonny, Ivory ain't been in this evening," replied Ezra Simms. "I hope
there ain't nothin' the matter over to your house?"

"No, nothing particular," the boy answered hesitatingly; "only Aunt
Boynton don't seem so well as common and I can't find Ivory anywhere."

"Come along with me; I'll help you look for him an' then I'll go as fur
as the lane with yer if we don't find him." And kindly Rish Bixby took
the boy's hand and left the store.

"Mis' Boynton had a spell, I guess!" suggested the storekeeper, peering
through the door into the darkness. "'T ain't like Ivory to be out
nights and leave her to Rod."

"She don't have no spells," said Abel Day. "Uncle Bart sees consid'able
of Ivory an' he says his mother is as quiet as a lamb.--Couldn't you git
no kind of a certif'cate of Aaron's death out o' that Enfield feller,
Peter? Seems's if that poor woman'd oughter be stopped watchin' for a
dead man; tuckerin' herself all out, an' keepin' Ivory an' the boy all
nerved up."

"I've told Ivory everything I could gether up in the way of information,
and give him the names of the folks in Ohio that had writ back to
New Hampshire. I didn't dialate on Aaron's goin's-on in Effingham an'
Portsmouth, cause I dassay 't was nothin' but scandal. Them as hates
the Cochranites'll never allow there's any good in 'em, whereas I've met
some as is servin' the Lord good an' constant, an' indulgin' in no kind
of foolishness an' deviltry whatsoever."

"Speakin' o' Husshons," said Bill Dunham from his corner, "I remember--"

"We wa'n't alludin' to no Husshons," retorted Timothy Grant. "We was
dealin' with the misfortunes of Aaron Boynton, who never fit valoriously
on the field o' battle, but perished out in Ohio of scarlit fever, if
what they say in Enfield is true."

"Tis an easy death," remarked Bill argumentatively. "Scarlit fever don't
seem like nothin' to me! Many's the time I've been close enough to
fire at the eyeball of a Husshon, an' run the resk o' bein' blown to
smithereens!--calm and cool I alters was, too! Scarlit fever is an easy
death from a warrior's p'int o' view!"

"Speakin' of easy death," continued Timothy, "you know I'm a great one
for words, bein' something of a scholard in my small way. Mebbe you
noticed that Elder Boone used a strange word in his sermon last Sunday?
Now an' then, when there's too many yawnin' to once in the congregation,
Parson'll out with a reg'lar jaw-breaker to wake 'em up. The word as
near as I could ketch it was 'youthinasia.' I kep' holt of it till
noontime an' then I run home an' looked through all the y's in the
dictionary without findin' it. Mebbe it's Hebrew, I thinks, for Hebrew's
like his mother's tongue to Parson, so I went right up to him at
afternoon meetin' an' says to him: 'What's the exact meanin' of
"youthinasia"? There ain't no sech word in the Y's in my Webster,' says
I. 'Look in the E's, Timothy; "euthanasia"' says he, 'means easy death';
an' now, don't it beat all that Bill Dunham should have brought that
expression of 'easy death' into this evenin's talk?"

"I know youth an' I know Ashy," said Abel Day, "but blessed if I know
why they should mean easy death when they yoke 'em together." "That's
because you ain't never paid no 'tention to entomology," said Timothy.
"Aaron Boynton was master o' more 'ologies than you could shake a stick
at, but he used to say I beat him on entomology. Words air cur'ous
things sometimes, as I know, hevin' had consid'able leisure time to read
when I was joggin' 'bout the country an' bein' brought into contack with
men o' learnin'. The way I worked it out, not wishin' to ask Parson any
more questions, bein' something of a scholard myself, is this: The youth
in Ashy is a peculiar kind o' youth, 'n' their religion disposes 'em to
lay no kind o' stress on huming life. When anything goes wrong with
'em an' they get a set-back in war, or business, or affairs with
women-folks, they want to die right off; so they take a sword an' stan'
it straight up wherever they happen to be, in the shed or the barn, or
the henhouse, an' they p'int the sharp end right to their waist-line,
where the bowels an' other vital organisms is lowcated; an' then they
fall on to it. It runs 'em right through to the back an' kills 'em like
a shot, and that's the way I cal'late the youth in Ashy dies, if my
entomology is correct, as it gen'ally is."

"Don't seem an easy death to me," argued Okra, "but I ain't no scholard.
What college did thou attend to, Tim?"

"I don't hold no diaploma," responded Timothy, "though I attended to
Wareham Academy quite a spell, the same time as your sister was goin' to
Wareham Seminary where eddication is still bein' disseminated though of
an awful poor kind, compared to the old times."

"It's live an' larn," said the storekeeper respectfully. "I never
thought of a Seminary bein' a place of dissemination before, but you can
see the two words is near kin."

"You can't alters tell by the sound," said Timothy instructively.
"Sometimes two words'll start from the same root, an' branch out
diff'rent, like 'critter' an' 'hypocritter.' A 'hypocritter' must
natcherally start by bein' a 'critter,' but a critter ain't obliged to
be a 'hypocritter' 'thout he wants to."

"I should hope not," interpolated Abel Day, piously. "Entomology must be
an awful interest-in' study, though I never thought of observin' words
myself, kept to avoid vulgar language an' profanity."

"Husshon's a cur'ous word for a man," inter-jected Bill Dunham with a
last despairing effort. "I remember seein' a Husshon once that--"

"Perhaps you ain't one to observe closely, Abel," said Timothy, not
taking note of any interruption, simply using the time to direct a
stream of tobacco juice to an incredible distance, but landing it neatly
in the exact spot he had intended. "It's a trade by itself, you might
say, observin' is, an' there's another sing'lar corraption! The Whigs
in foreign parts, so they say, build stone towers to observe the evil
machinations of the Tories, an' so the word 'observatory' come into
general use! All entomology; nothin' but entomology."

"I don't see where in thunder you picked up so much larnin', Timothy!"
It was Abel Day's exclamation, but every one agreed with him.



XX. THE ROD THAT BLOSSOMED

IVORY BOYNTON had taken the horse and gone to the village on an errand,
a rare thing for him to do after dark, so Rod was thinking, as he sat
in the living-room learning his Sunday-School lesson on the same evening
that the men were gossiping at the brick store. His aunt had required
him, from the time when he was proficient enough to do so, to read
at least a part of a chapter in the Bible every night. Beginning with
Genesis he had reached Leviticus and had made up his mind that the Bible
was a much more difficult book than "Scottish Chiefs," not withstanding
the fact that Ivory helped him over most of the hard places. At the
present juncture he was vastly interested in the subject of "rods"
as unfolded in the book of Exodus, which was being studied by his
Sunday-School class. What added to the excitement was the fact that
his uncle's Christian name, Aaron, kept appearing in the chronicle, as
frequently as that of the great lawgiver Moses himself; and there were
many verses about the wonder-working rods of Moses and Aaron that had a
strange effect upon the boy's ear, when he read them aloud, as he loved
to do whenever he was left alone for a time. When his aunt was in the
room his instinct kept him from doing this, for the mere mention of the
name of Aaron, he feared, might sadden his aunt and provoke in her that
dangerous vein of reminiscence that made Ivory so anxious.

"It kind o' makes me nervous to be named 'Rod,' Aunt Boynton," said the
boy, looking up from the Bible. "All the rods in these Exodus chapters
do such dreadful things! They become serpents, and one of them swallows
up all the others: and Moses smites the waters with a rod and they
become blood, and the people can't drink the water and the fish die!
Then they stretch a rod across the streams and ponds and bring a plague
of frogs over the land, with swarms of flies and horrible insects."

"That was to show God's power to Pharaoh, and melt his hard heart to
obedience and reverence," explained Mrs. Boynton, who had known the
Bible from cover to cover in her youth and could still give chapter and
verse for hundreds of her favorite passages.

"It took an awful lot of melting, Pharaoh's heart!" exclaimed the boy.
"Pharaoh must have been worse than Deacon Baxter! I wonder if they ever
tried to make him good by being kind to him! I've read and read, but I
can't find they used anything on him but plagues and famines and boils
and pestilences and thunder and hail and fire!--Have I got a middle
name, Aunt Boynton, for I don't like Rod very much?"

"I never heard that you had a middle name; you must ask Ivory," said his
aunt abstractedly.

"Did my father name me Rod, or my mother?'

"I don't really know; perhaps it was your mother, but don't ask
questions, please."

"I forgot, Aunt Boynton! Yes, I think perhaps my mother named me.
Mothers 'most always name their babies, don't they? My mother wasn't
like you; she looked just like the picture of Pocahontas in my History.
She never knew about these Bible rods, I guess."

"When you go a little further you will find pleasanter things about
rods," said his aunt, knitting, knitting, intensely, as was her habit,
and talking as if her mind were a thousand miles away. "You know they
were just little branches of trees, and it was only God's power that
made them wonderful in any way."

"Oh! I thought they were like the singing-teacher's stick he keeps time
with."

"No; if you look at your Concordance you'll finds it gives you a
chapter in Numbers where there's something beautiful about rods. I have
forgotten the place; it has been many years since I looked at it.
Find it and read it aloud to me." The boy searched his Concordance and
readily found the reference in the seventeenth chapter of Numbers.

"Stand near me and read," said Mrs. Boynton. "I like to hear the Bible
read aloud!"

Rodman took his Bible and read, slowly and haltingly, but with clearness
and understanding:

1. AND THE LORD SPAKE UNTO MOSES, SAYING,

2. SPEAK UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, AND TAKE OF EVERY ONE OF THEM
A ROD ACCORDING TO THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS, OF ALL THEIR PRINCES
ACCORDING TO THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS TWELVE RODS: WRITE THOU EVERY
MAN'S NAME UPON HIS ROD.

Through the boy's mind there darted the flash of a thought, a sad
thought. He himself was a Rod on whom no man's name seemed to be
written, orphan that he was, with no knowledge of his parents!

Suddenly he hesitated, for he had caught sight of the name of Aaron in
the verse that he was about to read, and did not wish to pronounce it in
his aunt's hearing.

"This chapter is most too hard for me to read out loud, Aunt Boynton,"
he stammered. "Can I study it by myself and read it to Ivory first?" "Go
on, go on, you read very sweetly; I can not remember what comes and I
wish to hear it."

The boy continued, but without raising his eyes from the Bible.

3. AND THOU SHALT WRITE AARON'S NAME UPON THE ROD OF LEVI: FOR ONE ROD
SHALL BE FOR THE HEAD OF THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS.

4. AND THOU SHALT LAY THEM UP IN THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION
BEFORE THE TESTIMONY, WHERE I WILL MEET WITH YOU.

5. AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS THAT THE MAN'S ROD, WHOM I SHALL CHOOSE,
SHALL BLOSSOM: AND I WILL MAKE TO CEASE FROM ME THE MURMURINGS OF THE
CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, WHEREBY THEY MURMUR AGAINST YOU.

Rodman had read on, absorbed in the story and the picture it presented
to his imagination. He liked the idea of all the princes having a rod
according to the house of their fathers; he liked to think of the little
branches being laid on the altar in the tabernacle, and above all he
thought of the longing of each of the princes to have his own rod chosen
for the blossoming.

6. AND MOSES SPOKE UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, AND EVERY ONE OF THEIR
PRINCES GAVE HIM A ROD A PIECE, FOR EACH PRINCE ONE, ACCORDING TO THEIR
FATHER'S HOUSES, EVEN TWELVE RODS; AND THE ROD OF AARON WAS AMONG THEIR
RODS.

Oh! how the boy hoped that Aaron's branch would be the one chosen to
blossom! He felt that his aunt would be pleased, too; but he read on
steadily, with eyes that glowed and breath that came and went in a very
palpitation of interest.

7. AND MOSES LAID UP THE RODS BEFORE THE LORD IN THE TABERNACLE OF
WITNESS.

8. AND IT CAME TO PASS, THAT ON THE MORROW MOSES WENT INTO THE
TABERNACLE OF WITNESS; AND, BEHOLD, THE ROD OF AARON WAS BUDDED AND
BROUGHT FORTH BUDS, AND BLOOMED BLOSSOMS, AND YIELDED ALMONDS.

It was Aaron's rod, then, and was an almond branch! How beautiful,
for the blossoms would have been pink; and how the people must have
marvelled to see the lovely blooming thing on the dark altar; first
budding, then blossoming, then bearing nuts! And what was the rod chosen
for? He hurried on to the next verse.

9. AND MOSES BROUGHT OUT ALL THE RODS FROM BEFORE THE LORD UNTO ALL THE
CHILDREN OF ISRAEL: AND THEY LOOKED, AND TOOK EVERY MAN HIS ROD.

10. AND THE LORD SAID UNTO MOSES, BRING AARON'S ROD AGAIN BEFORE THE
TESTIMONY TO BE KEPT FOR A TOKEN AGAINST THE REBELS; AND THOU SHALT
QUITE TAKE AWAY THEIR MURMURINGS FROM ME, THAT THEY DIE NOT.

"Oh! Aunt Boynton!" cried the boy, "I love my name after I've heard
about the almond rod! Aren't you proud that it's Uncle's name that was
written on the one that blossomed?"

He turned swiftly to find that his aunt's knitting had slipped on the
floor; her nerveless hands drooped by her side as if there were no life
in them, and her head had fallen against the back of her chair. The boy
was paralyzed with fear at the sight of her closed eyes and the deathly
pallor of her face. He had never seen her like this before, and Ivory
was away. He flew for a bottle of spirit, always kept in the kitchen
cupboard for emergencies, and throwing wood on the fire in passing, he
swung the crane so that the tea-kettle was over the flame. He knew only
the humble remedies that he had seen used here or there in illness,
and tried them timidly, praying every moment that he might hear Ivory's
step. He warmed a soapstone in the embers, and taking off Mrs. Boynton's
shoes, put it under her cold feet. He chafed her hands and gently poured
a spoonful of brandy between her pale lips. Then sprinkling camphor on
a handkerchief he held it to her nostrils and to his joy she stirred in
her chair; before many minutes her lids fluttered, her lips moved, and
she put her hand to her heart.

"Are you better, Aunt dear?" Rod asked in a very wavering and tearful
voice.

She did not answer; she only opened her eyes and looked at him. At
length she whispered faintly, "I want Ivory; I want my son."

"He's out, Aunt dear. Shall I help you to bed the way Ivory does? If
you'll let me, then I'll run to the bridge 'cross lots, like lightning,
and bring him back."

She assented, and leaning heavily on his slender shoulder, walked feebly
into her bedroom off the living-room. Rod was as gentle as a mother
and he was familiar with all the little offices that could be of any
comfort; the soapstone warmed again for her feet, the bringing of her
nightgown from the closet, and when she was in bed, another spoonful
of brandy in hot milk; then the camphor by her side, an extra homespun
blanket over her, and the door left open so that she could see the open
fire that he made into a cheerful huddles contrived so that it would not
snap and throw out dangerous sparks in his absence.

All the while he was doing this Mrs. Boynton lay quietly in the bed
talking to herself fitfully, in the faint murmuring tone that was
habitual to her. He could distinguish scarcely anything, only enough to
guess that her mind was still on the Bible story that he was reading to
her when she fainted. "THE ROD OF AARON WAS AMONG THE OTHER RODS," he
heard her say; and, a moment later, "BRING AARON'S ROD AGAIN BEFORE THE
TESTIMONY."

Was it his uncle's name that had so affected her, wondered the boy,
almost sick with remorse, although he had tried his best to evade her
command to read the chapter aloud? What would Ivory, his hero, his
pattern and example, say? It had always seen Rod's pride to carry his
little share of every burden that fell to Ivory, to be faithful and
helpful in every task given to him. He could walk through fire without
flinching, he thought, if Ivory told him to, and he only prayed that he
might not be held responsible for this new calamity.

"I want Ivory!" came in a feeble voice from the bedroom.

"Does your side ache worse?" Rod asked, tip-toeing to the door.

"No, I am quite free from pain."

"Would you be afraid to stay alone just for a while if I lock both doors
and run to find Ivory and bring him back?"

"No, I will sleep," she whispered, closing her eyes. "Bring him quickly
before I forget what I want to say to him."

Rod sped down the lane and over the fields to the brick store where
Ivory usually bought his groceries. His cousin was not there, but one of
the men came out and offered to take his horse and drive over the bridge
to see if he were at one of the neighbors' on that side of the river.
Not a word did Rod breathe of his aunt's illness; he simply said that
she was lonesome for Ivory, and so he came to find him. In five minutes
they saw the Boynton horse hitched to a tree by the road-side, and in a
trice Rod called him and, thanking Mr. Bixby, got into Ivory's wagon to
wait for him. He tried his best to explain the situation as they drove
along, but finally concluded by saying: "Aunt really made me read the
chapter to her, Ivory. I tried not to when I saw Uncle's name in most
every verse, but I couldn't help it."

"Of course you couldn't! Now you jump out and hitch the horse while I
run in and see that nothing has happened while she's been left alone.
Perhaps you'll have to go for Dr. Perry."

Ivory went in with fear and trembling, for there was no sound save the
ticking of the tall clock. The fire burned low upon the hearth, and the
door was open into his mother's room. He lifted a candle that Rod
had left ready on the table and stole softly to her bedside. She was
sleeping like a child, but exhaustion showed itself in every line of her
face. He felt her hands and feet and found the soapstone in the bed; saw
the brandy bottle and the remains of a cup of milk on the light-stand;
noted the handkerchief, still strong of camphor on the counterpane, and
the blanket spread carefully over her knees, and then turned approvingly
to meet Rod stealing into the room on tiptoe, his eyes big with fear.

"We won't wake her, Rod. I'll watch a while, then sleep on the
sitting-room lounge."

"Let me watch, Ivory! I'd feel better if you'd let me, honest I would!"

The boy's face was drawn with anxiety. Ivory's attention was attracted
by the wistful eyes and the beauty of the forehead under the dark
hair. He seemed something more than the child of yesterday--a care and
responsibility and expense, for all his loving obedience; he seemed all
at once different to-night; older, more dependable, more trustworthy; in
fact, a positive comfort and help in time of trouble.

"I did the best I knew how; was anything wrong?" asked the boy, as Ivory
stood regarding him with a friendly smile.

"Nothing wrong, Rod! Dr. Perry couldn't have done any better with what
you had on hand. I don't know how I should get along without you, boy!"
Here Ivory patted Rod's shoulder. "You're not a child any longer, Rod;
you're a man and a brother, that's what you are; and to prove it I'll
take the first watch and call you up at one o'clock to take the second,
so that I can be ready for my school work to-morrow! How does that suit
you?"

"Tip-top!" said the boy, flushing with pride. "I'll lie down with my
clothes on; it's only nine o'clock and I'll get four hours' sleep;
that's a lot more than Napoleon used to have!"

He carried the Bible upstairs and just before he blew out his candle
he looked again at the chapter in Numbers, thinking he would show it to
Ivory privately next day. Again the story enchanted him, and again, like
a child, he put his own name and his living self among the rods in the
tabernacle.

"Ivory would be the prince of our house," he thought. "Oh! how I'd like
to be Ivory's rod and have it be the one that was chosen to blossom and
keep the rebels from murmuring!"



XXI. LOIS BURIES HER DEAD

THE replies that Ivory had received from his letters of inquiry
concerning his father's movements since leaving Maine, and his possible
death in the West, left no reasonable room for doubt. Traces of Aaron
Boynton in New Hampshire, in Massachusetts, in New York, and finally
in Ohio, all pointed in one direction, and although there were gaps and
discrepancies in the account of his doings, the fact of his death seemed
to be established by two apparently reliable witnesses.

That he was not unaccompanied in his earliest migrations seemed clear,
but the woman mentioned as his wife disappeared suddenly from the
reports, and the story of his last days was the story of a broken-down,
melancholy, unfriended man, dependent for the last offices on strangers.
He left no messages and no papers, said Ivory's correspondent, and never
made mention of any family connections whatsoever. He had no property
and no means of defraying the expenses of his illness after he was
stricken with the fever. No letters were found among his poor effects
and no article that could prove his identity, unless it were a small
gold locket, which bore no initials or marks of any kind, but which
contained two locks of fair and brown hair, intertwined. The tiny
trinket was enclosed in the letter, as of no value, unless some one
recognized it as a keepsake. Ivory read the correspondence with a heavy
heart, inasmuch as it corroborated all his worst fears. He had sometimes
secretly hoped that his father might return and explain the reason of
his silence; or in lieu of that, that there might come to light
the story of a pilgrimage, fanatical, perhaps, but innocent of evil
intention, one that could be related to his wife and his former friends,
and then buried forever with the death that had ended it.

Neither of these hopes could now ever be realized, nor his father's
memory made other than a cause for endless regret, sorrow, and shame.
His father, who had begun life so handsomely, with rare gifts of mind
and personality, a wife of unusual beauty and intelligence, and while
still young in years, a considerable success in his chosen profession.
His poor father! What could have been the reasons for so complete a
downfall?

Ivory asked Dr. Perry's advice about showing one or two of the briefer
letters and the locket to his mother. After her fainting fit and the
exhaustion that followed it, Ivory begged her to see the old doctor, but
without avail. Finally, after days of pleading he took her hands in his
and said: "I do everything a mortal man can do to be a good son to you,
mother; won't you do this to please me, and trust that I know what is
best?" Whereupon she gave a trembling assent, as if she were agreeing
to something indescribably painful, and indeed this sight of a former
friend seemed to frighten her strangely.

After Dr. Perry had talked with her for a half-hour and examined her
sufficiently to make at least a reasonable guess as to her mental and
physical condition, he advised Ivory to break the news of her husband's
death to her.

"If you can get her to comprehend it," he said, "it is bound to be a
relief from this terrible suspense."

"Will there be any danger of making her worse? Mightn't the shock Cause
too violent emotion?" asked Ivory anxiously.

"I don't think she is any longer capable of violent emotion," the doctor
answered. "Her mind is certainly clearer than it was three years ago, but
her body is nearly burned away by the mental conflict. There is scarcely
any part of her but is weary; weary unto death, poor soul. One cannot
look at her patient, lovely face without longing to lift some part of
her burden. Make a trial, Ivory; it's a justifiable experiment and
I think it will succeed. I must not come any oftener myself than is
absolutely necessary; she seemed afraid of me."

The experiment did succeed. Lois Boynton listened breathlessly, with
parted lips, and with apparent comprehension, to the story Ivory told
her. Over and over again he told her gently the story of her husband's
death, trying to make it sink into her mind clearly, so that there
should be no consequent bewilderment She was calm and silent, though her
face showed that she was deeply moved. She broke down only when Ivory
showed her the locket.

"I gave it to my husband when you were born, my son!" she sobbed. "After
all, it seems no surprise to me that your father is dead. He said he
would come back when the Mayflowers bloomed, and when I saw the autumn
leaves I knew that six months must have gone and he would never stay
away from us for six months without writing. That is the reason I have
seldom watched for him these last weeks. I must have known that it was
no use!"

She rose from her rocking-chair and moved feebly towards her bedroom.
"Can you spare me the rest of the day, Ivory?" she faltered, as she
leaned on her son and made her slow progress from the kitchen. "I must
bury the body of my grief and I want to be alone at first... If only
I could see Waitstill! We have both thought this was coming: she has a
woman's instinct... she is younger and stronger than I am, and she said
it was braver not to watch and pine and fret as I have done... but to
have faith in God that He would send me a sign when He was ready.... She
said if I could manage to be braver you would be happier too... ."
Here she sank on to her bed exhausted, but still kept up her murmuring
faintly and feebly, between long intervals of silence.

"Do you think Waitstill could come to-morrow?" she asked. "I am so much
braver when she is here with me.... After supper I will put away your
father's cup and plate once and for all, Ivory, and your eyes need never
fill with tears again, as they have, sometimes, when you have seen me
watching.... You needn't worry about me; I am remembering better these
days, and the bells that ring in my ears are not so loud. If only the
pain in my side were less and I were not so pressed for breath, I should
be quite strong and could see everything clearly at last. ... There is
something else that remains to be remembered. I have almost caught it
once and it must come to me again before long.... Put the locket under
my pillow, Ivory; close the door, please, and leave me to myself.... I
can't make it quite clear, my feeling about it, but it seems just as if
I were going to bury your father and I want to be alone."



XXII. HARVEST-TIME

NEW ENGLAND'S annual pageant of autumn was being unfolded day by day in
all its accustomed splendor, and the feast and riot of color, the almost
unimaginable glory, was the common property of the whole countryside,
rich and poor, to be shared alike if perchance all eyes were equally
alive to the wonder and the beauty.

Scarlet days and days of gold followed fast one upon the other; Saco
Water flowing between quiet woodlands that were turning red and russet
and brown, and now plunging through rocky banks all blazing with
crimson.

Waitstill Baxter went as often as she could to the Boynton farm, though
never when Ivory was at home, and the affection between the younger
and the older woman grew closer and closer, so that it almost broke
Waitstill's heart to leave the fragile creature, when her presence
seemed to bring such complete peace and joy.

"No one ever clung to me so before," she often thought as she was
hurrying across the fields after one of her half-hour visits. "But the
end must come before long. Ivory does not realize it yet, nor Rodman,
but it seems as if she could never survive the long winter. Thanksgiving
Day is drawing nearer and nearer, and how little I am able to do for a
single creature, to prove to God that I am grateful for my existence! I
could, if only I were free, make such a merry day for Patty and Mark and
their young friends. Oh! what joy if father were a man who would let me
set a bountiful table in our great kitchen; would sit at the head and
say grace, and we could bow our heads over the cloth, a united family!
Or, if I had done my duty in my home and could go to that other where I
am so needed--go with my father's blessing! If only I could live in that
sad little house and brighten it! I would trim the rooms with evergreen
and creeping-Jenny; I would put scarlet alder berries and white
ever-lastings and blue fringed gentians in the vases! I would put the
last bright autumn leaves near Mrs. Boynton's bed and set out a tray
with a damask napkin and the best of my cooking; then I would go out to
the back door where the woodbine hangs like a red waterfall and blow the
dinner-horn for my men down in the harvest-field! All the woman in me is
wasting, wasting! Oh! my dear, dear man, how I long for him! Oh! my own
dear man, my helpmate, shall I ever live by his side? I love him, I want
him, I need him! And my dear little unmothered, unfathered boy, how
happy I could make him! How I should love to cook and sew for them all
and wrap them in comfort! How I should love to smooth my dear mother's
last days,--for she is my mother, in spirit, in affection, in desire,
and in being Ivory's!"

Waitstill's longing, her discouragement, her helplessness, overcame her
wholly, and she flung herself down under a tree in the pasture in a very
passion of sobbing, a luxury in which she could seldom afford to indulge
herself. The luxury was short-lived, for in five minutes she heard
Rodman's voice, and heard him running to meet her as he often did when
she came to their house or went away from it, dogging her footsteps or
Patty's whenever or wherever he could waylay them.

"Why, my dear, dear Waity, did you tumble and hurt yourself?" the boy
cried.

"Yes, dreadfully, but I'm better now, so walk along with me and tell me
the news, Rod."

"There isn't much news. Ivory told you I'd left school and am studying
at home? He helps me evenings and I'm 'way ahead of the class."

"No, Ivory didn't tell me. I haven't seen him lately."

"I said if the big brother kept school, the little brother ought to keep
house," laughed the boy.

"He says I can hire out as a cook pretty soon! Aunt Boynton's 'most
always up to get dinner and supper, but I can make lots of things now,--
things that Aunt Boynton can eat, too."

"Oh, I cannot bear to have you and Ivory cooking for yourselves!"
exclaimed Waitstill, the tears starting again from her eyes. "I must
come over the next time when you are at home, Rod, and I can help you
make something nice for supper.

"We get along pretty well," said Rodman contentedly. "I love
book-learning like Ivory and I'm going to be a schoolmaster or a
preacher when Ivory's a lawyer. Do you think Patty'd like a schoolmaster
or a preacher best, and do you think I'd be too young to marry her by
and by, if she would wait for me?"

"I didn't think you had any idea of marrying Patty," laughed Waitstill
through her tears. "Is this something new?"

"It's not exactly new," said Rod, jumping along like a squirrel in the
path. "Nobody could look at Patty and not think about marrying her.
I'd love to marry you, too, but you re too big and grand for a boy. Of
course, I'm not going to ask Patty yet. Ivory said once you should never
ask a girl until you can keep her like a queen; then after a minute
he said: 'Well, maybe not quite like a queen, Rod, for that would mean
longer than a man could wait. Shall we say until he could keep her like
the dearest lady in the land?' That 's the way he said it.--You do cry
dreadfully easy to-day, Waity; I'm sure you barked your leg or skinned
your knee when you fell down.--Don't you think the 'dearest lady in the
land' is a nice-sounding sentence?"

"I do, indeed!" cried Waitstill to herself as she turned the words over
and over trying to feed her hungry heart with them.

"I love to hear Ivory talk; it's like the stories in the books. We have
our best times in the barn, for I'm helping with the milking, now. Our
yellow cow's name is Molly and the red cow used to be Dolly, but we
changed her to Golly, 'cause she's so troublesome. Molly's an easy cow
to milk and I can get almost all there is, though Ivory comes after me
and takes the strippings. Golly swishes her tail and kicks the minute
she hears us coming; then she stands stiff-legged and grits her teeth
and holds on to her milk HARD, and Ivory has to pat and smooth and coax
her every single time. Ivory says she's got a kind of an attachment
inside of her that she shuts down when he begins to milk."

"We had a cross old cow like that, once," said Waitstill absently,
loving to hear the boy's chatter and the eternal quotations from his
beloved hero.

"We have great fun cooking, too," continued Rod. "When Aunt Boynton was
first sick she stayed in bed more, and Ivory and I hadn't got used to
things. One morning we bound up each other's burns. Ivory had three
fingers and I two, done up in buttery rags to take the fire out. Ivory
called us 'Soldiers dressing their Wounds after the Battle.' Sausages
spatter dreadfully, don't they? And when you turn a pancake it flops on
top of the stove. Can you flop one straight, Waity?"

"Yes, I can, straight as a die; that's what girls are made for. Now run
along home to your big brother, and do put on some warmer clothes under
your coat; the weather's getting colder."

"Aunt Boynton hasn't patched our thick ones yet, but she will soon, and
if she doesn't, Ivory'll take this Saturday evening and do them himself;
he said so."

"He shall not!" cried Waitstill passionately. "It is not seemly for
Ivory to sew and mend, and I will not allow it. You shall bring me those
things that need patching without telling any one, do you hear, and I
will meet you on the edge of the pasture Saturday afternoon and give
them back to you. You are not to speak of it to any one, you understand,
or perhaps I shall pound you to a jelly. You'd make a sweet rosy jelly
to eat with turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, you dear, comforting little
boy!"

Rodman ran towards home and Waitstill hurried along, scarcely noticing
the beauties of the woods and fields and waysides, all glowing masses
of goldenrod and purple frost flowers. The stone walls were covered
with wild-grape and feathery clematis vines. Everywhere in sight the
cornfields lay yellow in the afternoon sun and ox carts heavily loaded
with full golden ears were going home to the barns to be ready for
husking.

A sudden breeze among the orchard boughs as she neared the house was
followed by a shower of russets, and everywhere the red Baldwins gleamed
on the apple-tree boughs, while the wind-falls were being gathered and
taken to the cider mills. There was a grove of maples on the top of
Town-House Hill and the Baxters' dooryard was a blaze of brilliant
color. To see Patty standing under a little rock maple, her brown
linsey-woolsey in I one with the landscape, and the hood of her brown
cape pulled over her bright head, was a welcome for anybody. She looked
flushed and excited as she ran up to her sister and said, "Waity,
darling, you've been crying! Has father been scolding you?"

"No, dear, but my heart is aching to-day so that I can scarcely bear
it. A wave of discouragement came over me as I was walking through
the woods, and I gave up to it a bit. I remembered how soon it will be
Thanksgiving Day, and I'll so like to make it happier for you and a few
others that I love."

Patty could have given a shrewd guess as to the chief cause of the
heartache, but she forebore to ask any questions. "Cheer up, Waity," she
cried. "You never can tell; we may have a thankful Thanksgiving, after
all! Who knows what may happen? I'm 'strung up' this afternoon and in
a fighting mood. I've felt like a new piece of snappy white elastic
all day; it's the air, just like wine, so cool and stinging and full
of courage! Oh, yes, we won't give up hope yet awhile, Waity, not until
we're snowed in!"

"Put your arms round me and give me a good hug, Patty! Love me hard,
HARD, for, oh! I need it badly just now!"

And the two girls clung together for a moment and then went into the
house with hands close-locked and a kind of sad, desperate courage in
their young hearts. What would either of them have done, each of them
thought, had she been forced to endure alone the life that went on day
after day in Deacon Baxter's dreary house?



XXIII. AUNT ABBY'S WINDOW

MRS. ABEL DAY had come to spend the afternoon with Aunt Abby Cole and
they were seated at the two sitting-room windows, sweeping the landscape
with eagle eyes in the intervals of making patchwork.

"The foliage has been a little mite too rich this season," remarked Aunt
Abby. "I b'lieve I'm glad to see it thinin' out some, so 't we can have
some kind of an idee of what's goin' on in the village."

"There's plenty goin' on," Mrs. Day answered unctuously; "some of it
aboveboard an' some underneath it."

"An' that's jest where it's aggravatin' to have the leaves so thick and
the trees so high between you and other folks' houses. Trees are good
for shade, it's true, but there's a limit to all things. There was a
time when I could see 'bout every-thing that went on up to Baxters',
and down to Bart's shop, and, by goin' up attic, consid'able many things
that happened on the bridge. Bart vows he never planted that plum tree
at the back door of his shop; says the children must have hove out plum
stones when they was settin' on the steps and the tree come up of its
own accord. He says he didn't take any notice of it till it got quite a
start and then 't was such a healthy young bush he couldn't bear to root
it out. I tell him it's kind O' queer it should happen to come up jest
where it spoils my view of his premises. Men folks are so exasperatin'
that sometimes I wish there was somebody different for us to marry, but
there ain't,--so there we be!"

"They are an awful trial," admitted Mrs. Day. "Abel never sympathizes
with my head-aches. I told him a-Sunday I didn't believe he'd mind if I
died the next day, an' all he said was: 'Why don't you try it an' see,
Lyddy?' He thinks that's humorous."

"I know; that's the way Bartholomew talks; I guess they all do. You can
see the bridge better 'n I can, Lyddy; has Mark Wilson drove over sence
you've been settin' there? He's like one o' them ostriches that hides
their heads in the sand when the bird-catchers are comin' along,
thinkin' 'cause they can't see anything they'll never BE seen! He knows
folks would never tell tales to Deacon Baxter, whatever the girls done;
they hate him too bad. Lawyer Wilson lives so far away, he can't keep
any watch o' Mark, an' Mis' Wilson's so cityfied an' purse-proud nobody
ever goes to her with any news, bad or good; so them that's the most
concerned is as blind as bats. Mark's consid'able stiddier'n he used to
be, but you needn't tell me he has any notion of bringin' one o' that
Baxter tribe into his family. He's only amusin' himself."

"Patty'll be Mrs. Wilson or nothin'," was Mrs. Day's response. "Both o'
them girls is silk purses an' you can't make sows' ears of 'em. We
ain't neither of us hardly fair to Patty, an' I s'pose it 's because she
didn't set any proper value on Cephas."

"Oh, she's good enough for Mark, I guess, though I ain't so sure of his
intentions as you be. She's nobody's fool, Patty ain't, I allow that,
though she did treat Cephas like the dirt in the road. I'm thankful he's
come to his senses an' found out the diff'rence between dross an' gold."

"It's very good of you to put it that way, Abby," Mrs. Day responded
gratefully, for it was Phoebe, her own offspring, who was alluded to as
the most precious of metals. "I suppose we'd better have the publishing
notice put up in the frame before Sunday? There'll be a great crowd out
that day and at Thanksgiving service the next Thursday too!"

"Cephas says he don't care how soon folks hears the news, now all's
settled," said his mother. "I guess he's kind of anxious that the
village should know jest how little truth there is in the gossip 'bout
him bein' all upset over Patience Baxter. He said they took consid'able
notice of him an' Phoebe settin' together at the Harvest Festival last
evenin'. He thought the Baxter girls would be there for certain, but I
s'pose Old Foxy wouldn't let 'em go up to the Mills in the evenin', nor
spend a quarter on their tickets."

"Mark could have invited Patty an' paid for her ticket, I should think;
or passed her in free, for that matter, when the Wilsons got up the
entertainment; but, of course, the Deacon never allows his girls to go
anywheres with men-folks."

"Not in public; so they meet 'em side o' the river or round the corner
of Bart's shop, or anywhere they can, when the Deacon's back's turned.
If you tied a handkerchief over Waitstill's eyes she could find her way
blindfold to Ivory Boynton's house, but she's good as gold, Waitstill
is; she'll stay where her duty calls her, every time! If any misfortune
or scandal should come near them two girls, the Deacon will have no-body
but himself to thank for it, that's one sure thing!"

"Young folks can't be young but once," sighed Mrs. Day. "I thought we
had as handsome a turn-out at the entertainment last evenin' as any
village on the Saco River could 'a' furnished: an' my Phoebe an' your
Cephas, if I do say so as shouldn't, was about the best-dressed an'
best-appearin' couple there was present. Also, I guess likely, they're
startin' out with as good prospects as any bride an' groom that's walked
up the middle aisle o' the meetin'-house for many a year.... How'd you
like that Boston singer that the Wilsons brought here, Abby?--Wait a
minute, is Cephas, or the Deacon, tendin' store this after-noon?"

"The Deacon; Cephas is paintin' up to the Mills."

"Well, Mark Wilson's horse an' buggy is meanderin' slowly down Aunt
Betty-Jack's hill, an' Mark is studyin' the road as if he was lookin'
for a four-leafed clover."

"He'll hitch at the tavern, or the Edgewood store, an' wait his chance
to get a word with Patience," said Aunt Abby. "He knows when she takes
milk to the Morrills', or butter to the parsonage; also when she eats
an' drinks an' winks her eye an' ketches her breath an' lifts her
foot. Now he's disappeared an' we'll wait.. .. Why, as to that Boston
singer,--an' by the way, they say Ellen Wilson's goin' to take lessons
of her this winter,--she kind o' bewildered me, Lyddy! Of course, I
ain't never been to any cities, so I don't feel altogether free to
criticise; but what did you think of her, when she run up so high there,
one time? I don't know how high she went, but I guess there wa'n't no
higher to go!"

"It made me kind o' nervous," allowed Mrs. Day.

"Nervous! Bart' an' I broke out in a cold sweat! He said she couldn't
hold a candle to Waitstill Baxter. But it's that little fly-away Wilson
girl that'll get the lessons, an' Waitstill will have to use her voice
callin' the Deacon home to dinner. Things ain't divided any too well in
this world, Lyddy."

"Waitstill's got the voice, but she lacks the trainin'. The Boston
singer knows her business, I'll say that for her," said Mrs. Day.

"She's got good stayin' power," agreed Aunt Abby. "Did you notice how
she held on to that high note when she'd clumb where she wanted to git?
She's got breath enough to run a gristmill, that girl has! And how'd she
come down, when she got good and ready to start? Why, she zig-zagged an'
saw-toothed the whole way! It kind o' made my flesh creep!"

"I guess part o' the trouble's with us country folks," Mrs. Day
responded, "for folks said she sung runs and trills better'n any woman
up to Boston."

"Runs an' trills," ejaculated Abby scornfully. "I was talkin' 'bout
singin' not runnin'. My niece Ella up to Parsonfield has taken three
terms on the pianner an' I've heerd her practise. Scales has got to be
done, no doubt, but they'd ought to be done to home, where they belong;
a concert ain't no place for 'em... . There, what did I tell yer?
Patience Baxter's crossin' the bridge with a pail in her hand. She's got
that everlastin' yeller-brown, linsey-woolsey on, an' a white 'cloud'
wrapped around her head with con'sid'able red hair showin' as usual. You
can always see her fur's you can a sunrise! And there goes Rod Boynton,
chasin' behind as usual. Those Baxter girls make a perfect fool o' that
boy, but I don't s'pose Lois Boynton's got wit enough to make much fuss
over the poor little creeter!"

Mark Wilson could certainly see Patty Baxter as far as he could a
sunrise, although he was not intimately acquainted with that natural
phenomenon. He took a circuitous route from his watch-tower, and,
knowing well the point from which there could be no espionage from
Deacon Baxter's store windows, joined Patty in the road, took the pail
from her hand, and walked up the hill beside her. Of course, the village
could see them, but, as Aunt Abby had intimated, there wasn't a man,
woman, or child on either side of the river who wouldn't have taken the
part of the Baxter girls against their father.



XXIV. PHOEBE TRIUMPHS

MEANTIME Feeble Phoebe Day was driving her father's horse up to the
Mills to bring Cephas Cole home. It was a thrilling moment, a sort of
outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual tie, for their
banns were to be published the next day, so what did it matter if the
community, nay, if the whole universe, speculated as to why she was
drawing her beloved back from his daily toil? It had been an eventful
autumn for Cephas. After a third request for the hand of Miss Patience
Baxter, and a refusal of even more than common decision and energy,
Cephas turned about face and employed the entire month of September in a
determined assault upon the affections of Miss Lucy Morrill, but with no
better avail. His heart was not ardently involved in this second wooing,
but winter was approaching, he had moved his mother out of her summer
quarters back to the main house, and he doggedly began papering the ell
and furnishing the kitchen without disclosing to his respected parents
the identity of the lady for whose comfort he was so hospitably
preparing.

Cephas's belief in the holy state of matrimony as being the only one
proper for a man, really ought to have commended him to the opposite
(and ungrateful) sex more than it did, and Lucy Morrill held as
respectful an opinion of the institution and its manifold advantages as
Cephas himself, but she was in a very unsettled frame of mind and not at
all susceptible to wooing. She had a strong preference for Philip Perry,
and held an opinion, not altogether unfounded in human experience, that
in course of time, when quite deserted by Patty Baxter, his heart might
possibly be caught on the rebound. It was only a chance, but Lucy would
almost have preferred remaining unmarried, even to the withering age
of twenty-five, rather than not be at liberty to accept Philip Perry in
case she should be asked.

Cephas therefore, by the middle of October, could be picturesquely and
alliteratively described as being raw from repeated rejections.
His bruised heart and his despised ell literally cried out for the
appreciation so long and blindly withheld. Now all at once Phoebe
disclosed a second virtue; her first and only one, hitherto, in the eyes
of Cephas, having been an ability to get on with his mother, a feat in
which many had made an effort and few indeed had succeeded. Phoebe, it
seems, had always secretly admired, respected, and loved Cephas Cole!
Never since her pale and somewhat glassy blue eye had opened on life had
she beheld a being she could so adore if encouraged in the attitude.

The moment this unusual and unexpected poultice was really applied to
Cephas's wounds, they began to heal. In the course of a month the most
ordinary observer could have perceived a physical change in him. He
cringed no more, but held his head higher; his back straightened; his
voice developed a gruff, assertive note, like that of a stern Roman
father; he let his moustache grow, and sometimes, in his most reckless
moments, twiddled the end of it. Finally he swaggered; but that was only
after Phoebe had accepted him and told him that if a girl traversed the
entire length of the Saco River (which she presumed to be the longest in
the world, the Amazon not being familiar to her), she could not hope to
find his equal as a husband.

And then congratulations began to pour in! Was ever marriage so
fortuitous! The Coles' farm joined that of the Days and the union
between the two only children would cement the friendship between the
families. The fact that Uncle Bart was a joiner, Cephas a painter, and
Abel Day a mason and bricklayer made the alliance almost providential in
its business opportunities. Phoebe's Massachusetts aunt sent a complete
outfit of gilt-edged china, a clock, and a mahogany chamber set. Aunt
Abby relinquished to the young couple a bedroom and a spare chamber in
the "main part," while the Days supplied live-geese feathers and table
and bed-linen with positive prodigality. Aunt Abby trod the air like one
inspired. "Balmy" is the only adjective that could describe her.

"If only I could 'a' looked ahead," smiled Uncle Bart quizzically to
himself, "I'd 'a' had thirteen sons and daughters an' married off one
of 'em every year. That would 'a' made Abby's good temper kind o'
permanent."

Cephas was content, too. There was a good deal in being settled and
having "the whole doggoned business" off your hands. Phoebe looked a
very different creature to him in these latter days. Her eyes were just
as pale, of course, but they were brighter, and they radiated love
for him, an expression in the female eye that he had thus far been
singularly unfortunate in securing. She still held her mouth slightly
open, but Cephas thought that it might be permissible, perhaps after
three months of wedded bliss, to request her to be more careful in
closing it. He believed, too, that she would make an effort to do so
just to please him; whereas a man's life or property would not be safe
for a single instant if he asked Miss Patience Baxter to close her
mouth, not if he had been married to her for thirty times three months!

Cephas did not think of Patty any longer with bitterness, in these days,
being of the opinion that she was punished enough in observing his own
growing popularity and prosperity.

"If she should see that mahogany chamber set going into the ell I guess
she'd be glad enough to change her tune!" thought Cephas, exultingly;
and then there suddenly shot through his mind the passing fancy--"I
wonder if she would!" He promptly banished the infamous suggestion
however, reinforcing his virtue with the reflection that the chamber
set was Phoebe's, anyway, and the marriage day appointed, and the
invitations given out, and the wedding-cake being baked, a loaf at a
time, by his mother and Mrs. Day.

As a matter of fact Patty would have had no eyes for Phoebe's
magnificent mahogany, even had the cart that carried it passed her on
the hill where she and Mark Wilson were walking. Her promise to marry
him was a few weeks old now, and his arm encircled her slender waist
under the brown homespun cape. That in itself was a new sensation and
gave her the delicious sense of belonging to somebody who valued her
highly, and assured her of his sentiments clearly and frequently, both
by word and deed. Life, dull gray life, was going to change its hue for
her presently, and not long after, she hoped, for Waitstill, too! It
needed only a brighter, a more dauntless courage; a little faith that
nettles, when firmly grasped, hurt the hand less, and a fairer future
would dawn for both of them. The Deacon was a sharper nettle than she
had ever meddled with before, but in these days, when the actual contact
had not yet occurred, she felt sure of herself and longed for the moment
when her pluck should be tested and proved.

The "publishing" of Cephas and his third choice, their dull walk up the
aisle of the meeting-house before an admiring throng, on the Sunday when
Phoebe would "appear bride," all this seemed very tame as compared with
the dreams of this ardent and adventurous pair of lovers who had gone
about for days harboring secrets greater and more daring, they thought,
than had ever been breathed before within the hearing of Saco Water.



XXV. LOVE'S YOUNG DREAMS

IT was not an afternoon for day-dreams, for there was a chill in the air
and a gray sky. Only a week before the hills along the river might have
been the walls of the New Jerusalem, shining like red gold; now the
glory had departed and it was a naked world, with empty nests hanging to
boughs that not long ago had been green with summer. The old elm by the
tavern, that had been wrapped in a bright trail of scarlet woodbine, was
stripped almost bare of its autumn beauty. Here and there a maple showed
a remnant of crimson, and a stalwart oak had some rags of russet still
clinging to its gaunt boughs. The hickory trees flung out a few yellow
flags from the ends of their twigs, but the forests wore a tattered and
dishevelled look, and the withered leaves that lay in dried heaps upon
the frozen ground, driven hither and thither by every gust of the north
wind, gave the unthinking heart a throb of foreboding. Yet the glad
summer labor of those same leaves was finished according to the law
that governed them, and the fruit was theirs and the seed for the coming
year. No breeze had been strong enough to shake them from the tree till
they were ready to forsake it. Now they had severed the bond that had
held them so tightly and fluttered down to give the earth all their
season's earnings. On every hillside, in every valley and glen, the
leaves that had made the summer landscape beautiful, lay contentedly:

   "Where the rain might rain upon them,
    Where the sun might shine upon them,
    Where the wind might sigh upon them,
    And the snow might die upon them."

Brown, withered, dead, buried in snow they might be, yet they were
ministering to all the leaves of the next spring-time, bequeathing to
them in turn the beauty that had been theirs; the leafy canopies for
countless song birds, the grateful shade for man and beast.

Young love thought little of Nature's miracles, and hearts that beat
high and fast were warm enough to forget the bleak wind and gathering
clouds. If there were naked trees, were there not full barrels of apples
in every cellar? If there was nothing but stubble in the frozen fields,
why, there was plenty of wheat and corn at the mill all ready for
grinding. The cold air made one long for a cheery home and fireside, the
crackle of a hearth-log, the bubbling of a steaming kettle; and Patty
and Mark clung together as they walked along, making bright images of a
life together, snug, warm, and happy.

Patty was a capricious creature, but all her changes were sudden and
endearing ones, captivating those who loved her more than a monotonous
and unchanging virtue. Any little shower, with Patty, always ended with
a rainbow that made the landscape more enchanting than before. Of late
her little coquetries and petulances had disappeared as if by magic. She
had been melted somehow from irresponsible girlhood into womanhood, and
that, too, by the ardent affection of a very ordinary young man who had
no great gift save that of loving Patty greatly. The love had served its
purpose, in another way, too, for under its influence Mark's own manhood
had broadened and deepened. He longed to bind Patty to him for good and
all, to capture the bright bird whose fluttering wings and burnished
plumage so captured his senses and stirred his heart, but his longings
had changed with the quality of his love and he glowed at the thought
of delivering the girl from her dreary surroundings and giving her the
tenderness, the ease and comfort, the innocent gayety, that her nature
craved.

"You won't fail me, Patty darling?" he was saying at this moment. "Now
that our plans are finally made, with never a weak point any where as
far as I can see, my heart is so set upon carrying them out that every
hour of waiting seems an age!"

"No, I won't fail, Mark; but I never know the day that father will go
to town until the night before. I can always hear him making his
preparations in the barn and the shed, and ordering Waitstill here
and there. He is as excited as if he was going to Boston instead of
Milltown."

"The night before will do. I will watch the house every evening till you
hang a white signal from your window."

"It won't be white," said Patty, who would be mischievous on her
deathbed; "my Sunday-go-to-meetin' petticoat is too grand, and
everything else that we have is yellow."

"I shall see it, whatever color it is, you can be sure of that!" said
Mark gallantly. "Then it's decided that next morning I'll wait at the
tavern from sunrise, and whenever your father and Waitstill have driven
up Saco Hill, I'll come and pick you up and we 'll be off like a streak
of lightning across the hills to New Hampshire. How lucky that Riverboro
is only thirty miles from the state line!--It looks like snow, and how
I wish it would be something more than a flurry; a regular whizzing,
whirring storm that would pack the roads and let us slip over them with
our sleigh-bells ringing!"

"I should like that, for they would be our only wedding-bells. Oh! Mark!
What if Waitstill shouldn't go, after all: though I heard father tell
her that he needed her to buy things for the store, and that they
wouldn't be back till after nightfall. Just to think of being married
without Waitstill!"

"You can do without Waitstill on this one occasion, better than you can
without me," laughed Mark, pinching Patty's cheek. "I've given the town
clerk due notice and I have a friend to meet me at his office. He is
going to lend me his horse for the drive home, and we shall change back
the next week. That will give us a fresh horse each way, and we'll fly
like the wind, snow or no snow, When we come down Guide Board Hill that
night, Patty, we shall be man and wife; isn't that wonderful?"

"We shall be man and wife in New Hampshire, but not in Maine, you say,"
Patty reminded him dolefully. "It does seem dreadful that we can't be
married in our own state, and have to go dangling about with this secret
on our minds, day and night; but it can't be helped! You'll try not to
even think of me as your wife till we go to Portsmouth to live, won't
you?"

"You're asking too much when you say I'm not to think of you as my
wife, for I shall think of nothing else, but I've given you my solemn
promise," said Mark stoutly, "and I'll keep it as sure as I live. We'll
be legally married by the laws of New Hampshire, but we won't think of
it as a marriage till I tell your father and mine, and we drive away
once more together. That time it will be in the sight of everybody, with
our heads in the air. I've got the little house in Portsmouth all ready,
Patty: it's small, but it's in a nice part of the town. Portsmouth is a
pretty place, but it'll be a great deal prettier when it has Mrs. Mark
Wilson living in it. We can be married over again in Maine, afterwards,
if your heart is set upon it. I'm willing to marry you in every state of
the Union, so far as I am concerned."

"I think you've been so kind and good and thoughtful, Mark dear," said
Patty, more fondly and meltingly than she had ever spoken to him before,
"and so clever too! I do respect you for getting that good position
in Portsmouth and being able to set up for yourself at your age. I
shouldn't wonder a bit if you were a judge some day, and then what a
proud girl I shall be!"

Patty's praise was bestowed none too frequently, and it sounded very
sweet in the young man's ears.

"I do believe I can get on, with you to help me, Patty," he said,
pressing her arm more closely to his side, and looking down ardently
into her radiant face. "You're a great deal cleverer than I am, but I
have a faculty for the business of the law, so my father says, and a
faculty for money-making, too. And even if we have to begin in a small
way, my salary will be a certainty, and we'll work up together. I can
see you in a yellow satin dress, stiff enough to stand alone!"

"It must be white satin, if you please, not yellow! After having used
a hundred and ten yards of shop-worn yellow calico on myself within two
years, I never want to wear that color again. If only I could come to
you better provided," she sighed, with the suggestion of tears in her
voice. "If I'd been a common servant I could have saved something from
my wages to be married on; I haven't even got anything to be married
IN!"

"I'll get you anything you want in Portland to-morrow."

"Certainly not; I'd rather be married in rags than have you spend your
money upon me beforehand!"

"Remember to have a box of your belongings packed and slipped under the
shed somewhere. You can't be certain what your father will say or do
when the time comes for telling him, and I want you to be ready to leave
on a moment's notice."

"I will; I'll do everything you say, Mark, but are you sure that we have
thought of every other way? I do so hate being underhanded."

"Every other way! I am more than willing to ask your father, but we know
he would treat me with contempt, for he can't bear the sight of me! He
would probably lock you up and feed you on bread and water. That being
the state of things, how can I tell our plans to my own father? He never
would look with favor on my running away with you; and mother is, by
nature, set upon doing things handsomely and in proper order. Father
would say our elopement would be putting us both wrong before the
community, and he'd advise me to wait. 'You are both young'--I can hear
him announcing his convictions now, as clearly as if he was standing
here in the road--'You are both young and you can well afford to wait
until something turns up.' As if we hadn't waited and waited from all
eternity!"

"Yes, we have been engaged to be married for at least five weeks," said
Patty, with an upward glance peculiar to her own sparkling face,--one
that always intoxicated Mark. "I am seventeen and a half; your father
couldn't expect a confirmed old maid like me to waste any more time.
But I never would do this--this--sudden, unrespectable thing, if there
was any other way. Everything depends on my keeping it secret from
Waitstill, but she doesn't suspect anything yet. She thinks of me as
nothing but a child still. Do you suppose Ellen would go with us, just
to give me a little comfort?"

"She might," said Mark, after reflecting a moment. "She is very devoted
to you, and perhaps she could keep a secret; she never has, but there's
always a first time. You can't go on adding to the party, though, as
if it was a candy-pull! We cannot take Lucy Morrill and Phoebe Day and
Cephas Cole, because it would be too hard on the horse; and besides,
I might get embarrassed at the town clerk's office and marry the wrong
girl; or you might swop me off for Cephas! But I'll tell Ellen if you
say so; she's got plenty of grit."

"Don't joke about it, Mark, don't. I shouldn't miss Waitstill so much if
I had Ellen, and how happy I shall be if she approves of me for a sister
and thinks your mother and father will like me in time."

"There never was a creature born into the world that wouldn't love you,
Patty!"

"I don't know; look at Aunt Abby Cole!" said Patty pensively. "Well, it
does not seem as if a marriage that isn't good in Riverboro was really
decent! How tiresome of Maine to want all those days of public notice;
people must so often want to get married in a minute. If I think about
anything too long I always get out of the notion."

"I know you do; that's what I'm afraid of!"--and Mark's voice showed
decided nervousness. "You won't get out of the notion of marrying me,
will you, Patty dear?"

"Marrying you is more than a 'notion,' Mark," said Patty soberly.
"I'm only a little past seventeen, but I'm far older because of the
difficulties I've had. I don't wonder you speak of my 'notions.' I was
as light as a feather in all my dealings with you at first."

"So was I with you! I hadn't grown up, Patty."

"Then I came to know you better and see how you sympathized with
Waitstill's troubles and mine. I couldn't love anybody, I couldn't marry
anybody, who didn't feel that things at our house can't go on as they
are! Father has had a good long trial! Three wives and two daughters
have done their best to live with him, and failed. I am not willing to
die for him, as my mother did, nor have Waitstill killed if I can help
it. Sometimes he is like a man who has lost his senses and sometimes
he is only grim and quiet and cruel. If he takes our marriage without a
terrible scene, Mark, perhaps it will encourage Waitstill to break her
chains as I have mine."

"There's sure to be an awful row," Mark said, as one who had forecasted
all the probabilities. "It wouldn't make any difference if you married
the Prince of Wales; nothing would suit your father but selecting the
man and making all the arrangements; and then he would never choose any
one who wouldn't tend the store and work on the farm for him without
wages."

"Waitstill will never run away; she isn't like me. She will sit and sit
there, slaving and suffering, till doomsday; for the one that loves her
isn't free like you!"

"You mean Ivory Boynton? I believe he worships the ground she walks on.
I like him better than I used, and I understand him better. Oh! but I'm
a lucky young dog to have a kind, liberal father and a bit of money put
by to do with as I choose. If I hadn't, I'd be eating my heart out like
Ivory!"

"No, you wouldn't eat your heart out; you'd always get what you wanted
somehow, and you wouldn't wait for it either; and I'm just the same. I'm
not built for giving up, and enduring, and sacrificing. I'm naturally
just a tuft of thistle-down, Mark; but living beside Waitstill all
these years I've grown ashamed to be so light, blowing about hither and
thither. I kept looking at her and borrowing some of her strength, just
enough to make me worthy to be her sister. Waitstill is like a bit of
Plymouth Rock, only it's a lovely bit on the land side, with earth in
the crevices, and flowers blooming all over it and hiding the granite.
Oh! if only she will forgive us, Mark, I won't mind what father says or
does."

"She will forgive us, Patty darling; don't fret, and cry, and make your
pretty eyes all red. I'll do nothing in all this to make either of you
girls ashamed of me, and I'll keep your father and mine ever before my
mind to prevent my being foolish or reckless; for, you know, Patty, I'm
heels over head in love with you, and it's only for your sake I'm taking
all these pains and agreeing to do without my own wedded wife for weeks
to come!"

"Does the town clerk, or does the justice of the peace give a
wedding-ring, just like the minister?" Patty asked. "I shouldn't feel
married without a ring."

"The ring is all ready, and has 'M.W. to P.B.' engraved in it, with the
place for the date waiting; and here is the engagement ring if you'll
wear it when you're alone, Patty. My mother gave it to me when she
thought there would be something between Annabel Franklin and me. The
moment I looked at it--you see it's a topaz stone--and noticed the
yellow fire in it, I said to myself: 'It is like no one but Patty
Baxter, and if she won't wear it, no other girl shall!' It's the color
of the tip ends of your curls and it's just like the light in your eyes
when you're making fun!"

"It's heavenly!" cried Patty. "It looks as if it had been made of the
yellow autumn leaves, and oh! how I love the sparkle of it! But never
will I take your mother's ring or wear it, Mark, till I've proved myself
her loving, dutiful daughter. I'll do the one wrong thing of running
away with you and concealing our marriage, but not another if I can help
it."

"Very well," sighed Mark, replacing the ring in his pocket with rather
a crestfallen air. "But the first thing you know you'll be too good for
me, Patty! You used to be a regular will-o'-the-wisp, all nonsense and
fun, forever laughing and teasing, so that a fellow could never be sure
of you for two minutes together."

"It's all there underneath," said Patty, putting her hand on his arm and
turning her wistful face up to his. "It will come again; the girl in me
isn't dead; she isn't even asleep; but she's all sobered down. She
can't laugh just now, she can only smile; and the tears are waiting
underneath, ready to spring out if any one says the wrong word. This
Patty is frightened and anxious and her heart beats too fast from
morning till night. She hasn't any mother, and she cannot say a word to
her dear sister, and she's going away to be married to you, that's
almost a stranger, and she isn't eighteen, and doesn't know what's
coming to her, nor what it means to be married. She dreads her father's
anger, and she cannot rest till she knows whether your family will love
her and take her in; and, oh! she's a miserable, worried girl, not a bit
like the old Patty."

Mark held her close and smoothed the curls under the loose brown hood.
"Don't you fret, Patty darling! I'm not the boy I was last week. Every
word you say makes me more of a man. At first I would have run away just
for the joke; anything to get you away from the other fellows and prove
I was the best man, but now' I'm sobered down, too. I'll do nothing
rash; I'll be as staid as the judge you want me to be twenty years
later. You've made me over, Patty, and if my love for you wasn't the
right sort at first, it is now. I wish the road to New Hampshire was
full of lions and I could fight my way through them just to show you how
strong I feel!"

"There'll be lions enough," smiled Patty through her tears, "though they
won't have manes and tails; but I can imagine how father will roar, and
how my courage will ooze out of the heels of my boots!"

"Just let me catch the Deacon roaring at my wife!" exclaimed Mark with
a swelling chest. "Now, run along, Patty dear, for I don't want you
scolded on my account. There's sure to be only a day or two of waiting
now, and I shall soon see the signal waving from your window. I'll sound
Ellen and see if she's brave enough to be one of the eloping party.
Good-night! Good-night! Oh! How I hope our going away will be to-morrow,
my dearest, dearest Patty!"



WINTER



XXVI. A WEDDING-RING

THE snow had come. It had begun to fall softly and steadily at the
beginning of the week, and now for days it had covered the ground deeper
and deeper, drifting about the little red brick house on the hilltop,
banking up against the barn, and shrouding the sheds and the smaller
buildings. There had been two cold, still nights; the windows were
covered with silvery landscapes whose delicate foliage made every
pane of glass a leafy bower, while a dazzling crust bediamonded the
hillsides, so that no eye could rest on them long without becoming
snow-blinded.

Town-House Hill was not as well travelled as many others, and Deacon
Baxter had often to break his own road down to the store, without
waiting for the help of the village snow-plough to make things easier
for him. Many a path had Waitstill broken in her time, and it was by
no means one of her most distasteful tasks--that of shovelling into the
drifts of heaped-up whiteness, tossing them to one side or the other,
and cutting a narrow, clean-edged track that would pack down into the
hardness of marble.

There were many "chores" to be done these cold mornings before any
household could draw a breath of comfort. The Baxters kept but one cow
in winter, killed the pig,--not to eat, but to sell,--and reduced the
flock of hens and turkeys; but Waitstill was always as busy in the
barn as in her own proper domain. Her heart yearned for all the dumb
creatures about the place, intervening between them and her father's
scanty care; and when the thermometer descended far below zero she
would be found stuffing hay into the holes and cracks of the barn
and hen-house, giving the horse and cow fresh beddings of straw and a
mouthful of extra food between the slender meals provided by the Deacon.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon and a fire in the Baxters' kitchen
since six in the morning had produced a fairly temperate climate in
that one room, though the entries and chambers might have been used for
refrigerators, as the Deacon was as parsimonious in the use of fuel
as in all other things, and if his daughters had not been hardy young
creatures, trained from their very birth to discomforts and exposures of
every sort, they would have died long ago.

The Baxter kitchen and glittered in all its accustomed cleanliness and
order. Scrubbing and polishing were cheap amusements, and nobody grudged
them to Waitstill. No tables in Riverboro were whiter, no tins more
lustrous, no pewter brighter, no brick hearths ruddier than hers. The
beans and brown bread and Indian pudding were basking in the warmth of
the old brick oven, and what with the crackle and sparkle of the fire,
the gleam of the blue willow-ware on the cupboard shelves, and the
scarlet geraniums blooming on the sunny shelf above the sink, there were
few pleasanter place to be found in the village than that same Baxter
kitchen. Yet Waitstill was ill at ease this afternoon; she hardly knew
why. Her father had just put the horse into the pung and driven up
to Milliken's Mills for some grain, and Patty was down at the store
instructing Bill Morrill (Cephas Cole's successor) in his novel task
of waiting on customers and learning the whereabouts of things; no easy
task in the bewildering variety of stock in a country store; where
pins, treacle, gingham, Epsom salts, Indian meal, shoestrings, shovels,
brooms, sulphur, tobacco, suspenders, rum, and indigo may be demanded in
rapid succession.

Patty was quiet and docile these days, though her color was more
brilliant than usual and her eyes had all their accustomed sparkle. She
went about her work steadily, neither ranting nor railing at fate, nor
bewailing her lot, but even in this Waitstill felt a sense of change and
difference too subtle to be put in words. She had noted Patty's summer
flirtations, but regarded them indulgently, very much as if they had
been the irresponsible friskings of a lamb in a meadow. Waitstill had
more than the usual reserve in these matters, for in New England at that
time, though the soul was a subject of daily conversation, the heart
was felt to be rather an indelicate topic, to be alluded to as seldom as
possible. Waitstill certainly would never have examined Patty closely
as to the state of her affections, intimate as she was with her sister's
thoughts and opinions about life; she simply bided her time until
Patty should confide in her. She had wished now and then that Patty's
capricious fancy might settle on Philip Perry, although, indeed, when
she considered it seriously, it seemed like an alliance between a
butterfly and an owl. Cephas Cole she regarded as quite beneath Patty's
rightful ambitions, and as for Mark Wilson, she had grown up in the
belief, held in the village generally, that he would marry money and
position, and drift out of Riverboro into a gayer, larger world. Her
devotion to her sister was so ardent, and her admiration so sincere,
that she could not think it possible that Patty would love anywhere
in vain; nevertheless, she had an instinct that her affections were
crystallizing somewhere or other, and when that happened, the uncertain
and eccentric temper of her father would raise a thousand obstacles.

While these thoughts coursed more or less vagrantly through Waitstill's
mind, she suddenly determined to get her cloak and hood and run over
to see Mrs. Boynton. Ivory had been away a good deal in the woods since
early November chopping trees and helping to make new roads. He could
not go long distances, like the other men, as he felt constrained to
come home every day or two to look after his mother and Rodman, but the
work was too lucrative to be altogether refused. With Waitstill's help,
he had at last overcome his mother's aversion to old Mrs. Mason,
their nearest neighbor; and she, being now a widow with very slender
resources, went to the Boyntons' several times each week to put the
forlorn household a little on its feet.

It was all uphill and down to Ivory's farm, Waitstill reflected, and
she could take her sled and slide half the way, going and coming, or she
could cut across the frozen fields on the crust. She caught up her shawl
from a hook on the kitchen door, and, throwing it over her head and
shoulders to shield herself from the chill blasts on the stairway, ran
up to her bedroom to make herself ready for the walk.

She slipped on a quilted petticoat and warmer dress, braided her hair
freshly, while her breath went out in a white cloud to meet the freezing
air; snatched her wraps from her closet, and was just going down the
stairs when she remembered that an hour before, having to bind up a cut
finger for her father, she had searched Patty's bureau drawer for an old
handkerchief, and had left things in disorder while she ran to answer
the Deacon's impatient call and stamp upon the kitchen floor.

"Hurry up and don't make me stan' here all winter!" he had shouted. "If
you ever kept things in proper order, you wouldn't have to hunt all over
the house for a piece of rag when you need it!"

Patty was very dainty about her few patched and darned belongings;
also very exact in the adjustment of her bits of ribbon, her collars of
crocheted thread, her adored coral pendants, and her pile of neat cotton
handkerchiefs, hem-stitched by her own hands. Waitstill, accordingly,
with an exclamation at her own unwonted carelessness, darted into
her sister's room to replace in perfect order the articles she
had disarranged in her haste. She knew them all, these poor little
trinkets,--humble, pathetic evidences of Patty's feminine vanity and
desire to make her bright beauty a trifle brighter.

Suddenly her hand and her eye fell at the same moment on something
hidden in a far corner under a white "fascinator," one of those
head-coverings of filmy wool, dotted with beads, worn by the girls of
the period. She drew the glittering, unfamiliar object forward, and then
lifted it wonderingly in her hand. It was a string of burnished gold
beads, the avowed desire of Patty's heart; a string of beads with
a brilliant little stone in the fastening. And, as if that were not
mystery enough, there was something slipped over the clasped necklace
and hanging from it, as Waitstill held it up to the light--a circlet of
plain gold, a wedding-ring!

Waitstill stood motionless in the cold with such a throng of bewildering
thoughts, misgivings, imaginings, rushing through her head that they
were like a flock of birds beating their wings against her ears. The
imaginings were not those of absolute dread or terror, for she knew her
Patty. If she had seen the necklace alone she would have been anxious,
indeed, for it would have meant that the girl, urged on by ungoverned
desire for the ornament, had accepted present from one who should not
have given it to her secretly; but the wedding-ring meant some-thing
different for Patty,--something more, something certain, something
unescapable, for good or ill. A wedding-ring could stand for nothing but
marriage. Could Patty be married? How, when, and where could so great a
thing happen without her knowledge? It seemed impossible. How had such a
child surmounted the difficulties in the path? Had she been led away
by the attractions of some stranger? No, there had been none in the
village. There was only one man who had the worldly wisdom or the means
to carry Patty off under the very eye of her watchful sister; only one
with the reckless courage to defy her father; and that was Mark Wilson.
His name did not bring absolute confidence to Waitstill's mind. He
was gay and young and thoughtless; how had he managed to do this wild
thing?--and had he done all decently and wisely, with consideration for
the girl's good name? The thought of all the risks lying in the train
of Patty's youth and inexperience brought a wail of anguish from
Waitstill's lips, and, dropping the beads and closing the drawer, she
stumbled blindly down the stairway to the kitchen, intent upon one
thought only--to find her sister, to look in her eyes, feel the touch of
her hand, and assure herself of her safety.

She gave a dazed look at the tall clock, and was beginning to put on her
cloak when the door opened and Patty entered the kitchen by way of the
shed; the usual Patty, rosy, buoyant, alert, with a kind of childlike
innocence that could hardly be associated with the possession of
wedding-rings.

"Are you going out, Waity? Wrap up well, for it's freezing cold. Waity,
Waity, dear! What's the matter?" she cried, coming closer to her sister
in alarm.

Waitstill's face had lost its clear color, and her eyes had the look
of some dumb animal that has been struck and wounded. She sank into the
flag-bottomed rocker by the window, and leaning back her head, uttered
no word, but closed her eyes and gave one long, shivering sigh and a dry
sob that seemed drawn from the very bottom of her heart.



XXVII. THE CONFESSIONAL

"WAITY, I know what it is; you have found out about me! Who has been
wicked enough to tell you before I could do so--tell me, who?"

"Oh, Patty, Patty!" cried Waitstill, who could no longer hold back her
tears. "How could you deceive me so? How could you shut me out of your
heart and keep a secret like this from me, who have tried to be mother
and sister in one to you ever since the day you were born? God has sent
me much to bear, but nothing so bitter as this--to have my sister take
the greatest step of her life without my knowledge or counsel!"

"Stop, dear, stop, and let me tell you!"

"All is told, and not by you as it should have been. We've never had
anything separate from each other in all our lives, and when I looked in
your bureau drawer for a bit of soft cotton--it was nothing more than
I have done a hundred times--you can guess now what I stumbled upon;
a wedding-ring for a hand I have held ever since it was a baby's. My
sister has a husband, and I am not even sure of his name!

"Waity, Waity, don't take it so to heart!" and Patty flung herself on
her knees beside Waitstill's chair. "Not till you hear everything! When
I tell you all, you will dry your eyes and smile and be happy about me,
and you will know that in the whole world there is no one else in my
love or my life but you and my--my husband."

"Who is the husband?" asked Waitstill dryly, as she wiped her eyes and
leaned her elbow on the table.

"Who could it be but Mark? Has there ever been any one but Mark?"

"I should have said that there were several, in these past few months."

Waitstill's tone showed clearly that she was still grieved and hurt
beyond her power to conceal. "I have never thought of marrying any one
but Mark, and not even of marrying him till a little while ago," said
Patty. "Now do not draw away from me and look out of the window as if we
were not sisters, or you will break my heart. Turn your eyes to mine and
believe in me, Waity, while I tell you everything, as I have so longed
to do all these nights and days. Mark and I have loved each other for
a long, long time. It was only play at first, but we were young and
foolish and did not understand what was really happening between us."

"You are both of you only a few months older than when you were 'young
and foolish,'" objected Waitstill.

"Yes, we are--years and years! Five weeks ago I promised Mark that I
would marry him; but how was I ever to keep my word publicly? You
have noticed how insultingly father treats him of late, passing him by
without a word when he meets him in the street? You remember, too, that
he has never gone to Lawyer Wilson for advice, or put any business in
his hands since spring?"

"The Wilsons are among father's aversions, that is all you can say;
it is no use to try and explain them or rebel against them," Waitstill
answered wearily.

"That is all very well, and might be borne like many another cross; but
I wanted to marry this particular 'aversion,'" argued Patty. "Would you
have helped me to marry Mark secretly if I had confided in you?"

"Never in the world--never!"

"I knew it," exclaimed Patty triumphantly. "We both said so! And what
was Mark to do? He was more than willing to come up here and ask for me
like a man, but he knew that he would be ordered off the premises as if
he were a thief. That would have angered Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, and made
matters worse. We talked and talked until we were hoarse; we thought and
thought until we nearly had brain fever from thinking, but there seemed
to be no way but to take the bull by the horns."

"You are both so young, you could well have bided awhile."

"We could have bided until we were gray, nothing would have changed
father; and just lately I couldn't make Mark bide," confessed Patty
ingenuously. "He has been in a rage about father's treatment of you and
me. He knows we haven't the right food to eat, nothing fit to wear, and
not an hour of peace or freedom. He has even heard the men at the store
say that our very lives might be in danger if we crossed father's will,
or angered him beyond a certain point. You can't blame a man who loves
a girl, if he wants to take her away from such a wretched life. His love
would be good for nothing if he did not long to rescue her!"

"I would never have left you behind to bear your slavery alone, while I
slipped away to happiness and comfort--not for any man alive would I
I have done it!" This speech, so unlike Waitstill in its ungenerous
reproach, was repented of as soon as it left her tongue. "Oh, I did not
mean that, my darling!" she cried. "I would have welcomed any change for
you, and thanked God for it, if only it could have come honorably and
aboveboard."

"But, don't you see, Waity, how my marriage helps everything? That
is what makes me happiest; that now I shall have a home and it can be
yours. Father has plenty of money and can get a housekeeper. He is only
sixty-five, and as hale and hearty as a man can be. You have served your
time, and surely you need not be his drudge for the rest of your life.
Mark and I thought you would spend half the year with us."

Waitstill waived this point as too impossible for discussion. "When and
where were you married, Patty?" she asked.

"In Allentown, New Hampshire, last Monday, the day you and father went
to Saco. Ellen went with us. You needn't suppose it was much fun for me!
Girls that think running away to be married is nothing but a lark, do
not have to deceive a sister like you, nor have a father such as mine to
reckon with afterwards."

"You thought of all that before, didn't you, child?"

"Nobody that hasn't already run away to be married once or twice could
tell how it was going to feel! Never did I pass so unhappy a day! If
Mark was not everything that is kind and gentle, he would have tipped me
out of the sleigh into a snowbank and left me by the roadside to
freeze. I might have been murdered instead of only married, by the way I
behaved; but Mark and Ellen understood. Then, the very next day,
Mark's father sent him up to Bridgton on business, and he had to go to
Allentown first to return a friend's horse, so he couldn't break the
news to father at once, as he intended."

"Does a New Hampshire marriage hold good in Maine?" asked Waitstill,
still intent on the bare facts at the bottom of the romance.

"Well, of course," stammered Patty, some-what confused, "Maine has
her own way of doing things, and wouldn't be likely to fancy New
Hampshire's. But nothing can make it wicked or anything but according
to law. Besides, Mark considered all the difficulties. He is wonderfully
clever, and he has a clerkship in a Portsmouth law office waiting for
him; and that's where we are going to live, in New Hampshire, where we
were married, and my darling sister will come soon and stay months and
months with us."

"When is Mark coming back to arrange all this?"

"Late to-night or early to-morrow morning. Where did you go after
you were married?"

"Where did I go?" echoed Patty, in a childish burst of tears. "Where
could I go? It took all day to be married--all day long, working and
driving hard from sunrise to seven o'clock in the evening. Then when we
reached the bridge, Mark dropped me, and I walked up home in the dark,
and went to bed without any supper, for fear that you and father would
come back and catch me at it and ask why I was so late."

"My poor, foolish dear!" sighed Waitstill.

Patty's tears flowed faster at the first sound of sympathy in
Waitstill's voice, for self-pity is very enfeebling. She fairly sobbed
as she continued:--

"So my only wedding-journey was the freezing drive back from Allentown,
with Ellen crying all the way and wishing that she hadn't gone with us.
Mark and I both say we'll never be married again so long as we live!"

"Where have you seen your husband from that day to this?"

"I haven't laid eyes on him!" said Patty, with a fresh burst of woe. "I
have a certificate-thing, and a wedding-ring and a beautiful frock and
hat that Mark bought in Boston, but no real husband. I'm no more married
than ever I was! Don't you remember I said that Mark was sent away on
Tuesday morning? And this is Thursday. I've had three letters from him;
but I don't know, till we see how father takes it, when we can tell
the Wilsons and start for Portsmouth. We shan't really call ourselves
married till we get to Portsmouth; we promised each other that from the
first. It isn't much like being a bride, never to see your bridegroom;
to have a father who will fly into a passion when he hears that you are
married; not to know whether your new family will like or despise you;
and to have your only sister angered with you for the first time in her
life!"

Waitstill's heart melted, and she lifted Patty's tear-stained face to
hers and kissed it. "Well, dear, I would not have had you do this for
the world, but it is done, and Mark seems to have been as wise as a man
can be when he does an unwise thing. You are married, and you love each
other. That's the comforting thing to me."

"We do," sobbed Patty. "No two people ever loved each other better than
we; but it's been all spoiled for fear of father."

"I must say I dread to have him hear the news"; and Waitstill knitted
her brows anxiously. "I hope it may be soon, and I think I ought to be
here when he is told. Mark will never under-stand or bear with him, and
there may be trouble that I could avert."

"I'll be here, too, and I'm not afraid!" And Patty raised her head
defiantly. "Father can unmarry us, that's why we acted in this
miserable, secret, underhanded way. Somehow, though I haven't seen Mark
since we went to Allentown, I am braver than I was last week, for now
I've got somebody to take my part. I've a good mind to go upstairs and
put on my gold beads and my wedding-ring, just to get used to them and
to feel a little more married.--No: I can't, after all, for there is
father driving up the hill now, and he may come into the house. What
brings him home at this hour?"

"I was expecting him every moment"; and Waitstill rose and stirred the
fire. "He took the pung and went to the Mills for grain."

"He hasn't anything in the back of the pung--and, oh, Waity! he is
standing up now and whipping the horse with all his might. I never saw
him drive like that before: what can be the matter? He can't have seen
my wedding-ring, and only three people in all the world know about my
being married."

Waitstill turned from the window, her heart beating a little faster.
"What three people know, three hundred are likely to know sooner or
later. It may be a false alarm, but father is in a fury about something.
He must not be told the news until he is in a better humor!"



XXVIII. PATTY IS SHOWN THE DOOR

DEACON BAXTER drove into the barn, and flinging a blanket over the
wheezing horse, closed the door behind him and hurried into the house
without even thinking to lay down his whip.

Opening the kitchen door and stopping outside long enough to kick the
snow from his heavy boots, he strode into the kitchen and confronted
the two girls. He looked at them sharply before he spoke, scanning their
flushed faces and tear-stained eyes; then he broke out savagely:--

"Oh! you're both here; that's lucky. Now stan' up and answer to me.
What's this I hear at the Mills about Patience,--common talk outside the
store?"

The time had come, then, and by some strange fatality, when Mark was too
far away to be of service.

"Tell me what you heard, father, and I can give you a better answer,"
Patty replied, hedging to gain time, and shaking inwardly.

"Bill Morrill says his brother that works in New Hampshire reports you
as ridin' through the streets of Allentown last Monday with a young
man."

There seemed but one reply to this, so Patty answered tremblingly: "He
says what's true; I was there."

"WHAT!" And it was plain from the Deacon's voice that he had really
disbelieved the rumor. A whirlwind of rage swept through him and shook
him from head to foot.

"Do you mean to stan' there an' own up to me that you was thirty miles
away from home with a young man?" he shouted.

"If you ask me a plain question, I've got to tell you the truth, father:
I was."

"How dare you carry on like that and drag my name into scandal, you
worthless trollop, you? Who went along with you? I'll skin the hide off
him, whoever 't was!"

Patty remained mute at this threat, but Waitstill caught her hand and
whispered: "Tell him all, dear; it's got to come out. Be brave, and I'll
stand by you."

"Why are you interferin' and puttin' in your meddlesome oar?" the Deacon
said, turning to Waitstill. "The girl would never 'a' been there if
you'd attended to your business. She's nothin' but a fool of a young
filly, an' you're an old cart-horse. It was your job to look out for
her as your mother told you to. Anybody might 'a' guessed she needed
watchin'!"

"You shall not call my sister an old cart-horse! I'll not permit it!"
cried Patty, plucking up courage in her sister's defence, and as usual
comporting herself a trifle more like a spitfire than a true heroine of
tragedy.

"Hush, Patty! Let him call me anything that he likes; it makes no
difference at such a time."

"Waitstill knew nothing of my going away till this afternoon," continued
Patty. "I kept it secret from her on purpose, because I was afraid she
would not approve. I went with Mark Wilson, and--and--I married him in
New Hampshire because we couldn't do it at home without every-body's
knowledge. Now you know all."

"Do you mean to tell me you've gone an' married that reckless, wuthless,
horse-trottin', card-playin' sneak of a Wilson boy that's courted every
girl in town? Married the son of a man that has quarrelled with me and
insulted me in public? By the Lord Harry, I'll crack this whip over your
shoulders once before I'm done with you! If I'd used it years ago you
might have been an honest woman to-day, instead of a--"

Foxwell Baxter had wholly lost control of himself, and the temper, that
had never been governed or held in check, lashed itself into a fury that
made him for the moment unaccountable for his words or actions.

Waitstill took a step forward in front of Patty. "Put down that whip,
father, or I'll take it from you and break it across my knee!" Her eyes
blazed and she held her head high. "You've made me do the work of a
man, and, thank God, I've got the muscle of one. Don't lift a finger to
Patty, or I'll defend her, I promise you! The dinner-horn is in the side
entry and two blasts will bring Uncle Bart up the hill, but I'd rather
not call him unless you force me to."

The Deacon's grasp on the whip relaxed, and he fell back a little in
sheer astonishment at the bravado of the girl, ordinarily so quiet
and self-contained. He was speechless for a second, and then recovered
breath enough to shout to the terrified Patty: "I won't use the whip
till I hear whether you've got any excuse for your scandalous behavior.
Hear me tell you one thing: this little pleasure-trip o' yourn won't do
you no good, for I'll break the marriage! I won't have a Wilson in my
family if I have to empty a shot-gun into him; but your lies and your
low streets are so beyond reason I can't believe my ears. What's your
excuse, I say?"

"Stop a minute, Patty, before you answer, and let me say a few things
that ought to have been said before now," interposed Waitstill. "If
Patty has done wrong, father, you've no one but yourself to thank for
it, and it's only by God's grace that nothing worse has happened to her.
What could you expect from a young thing like that, with her merry heart
turned into a lump in her breast every day by your cruelty? Did she
deceive you? Well, you've made her afraid of you ever since she was a
baby in the cradle, drawing the covers over her little head when she
heard your step. Whatever crop you sow is bound to come up, father;
that's Nature's law, and God's, as well."

"You hold your tongue, you,--readin' the law to your elders an'
betters," said the old man, choking with wrath. "My business is with
this wuthless sister o' yourn, not with you!--You've got your coat and
hood on, miss, so you jest clear out o' the house; an' if you're too
slow about it, I'll help you along. I've no kind of an idea you're
rightly married, for that young Wilson sneak couldn't pay so high for
you as all that; but if it amuses you to call him your husband, go an'
find him an' stay with him. This is an honest house, an' no place for
such as you!"

Patty had a good share of the Baxter temper, not under such control as
Waitstill's, and the blood mounted into her face.

"You shall not speak to me so!" she said intrepidly, while keeping a
discreet eye on the whip. "I'm not a--a--caterpillar to be stepped on,
I'm a married woman, as right as a New Hampshire justice can make me,
with a wedding-ring and a certificate to show, if need be. And you shall
not call my husband names! Time will tell what he is going to be, and
that's a son-in-law any true father would be proud to own!"

"Why are you set against this match, father?" argued Waitstill, striving
to make him hear reason. "Patty has married into one of the best
families in the village. Mark is gay and thought-less, but never has he
been seen the worse for liquor, and never has he done a thing for
which a wife need hang her head. It is something for a young fellow
of four-and-twenty to be able to provide for a wife and keep her in
comfort; and when all is said and done, it is a true love-match."

Patty seized this inopportune moment to forget her father's presence,
and the tragic nature of the occasion, and, in her usual impetuous
fashion, flung her arms around Waitstill's neck and gave her the hug of
a young bear.

"My own dear sister," she said. "I don't mind anything, so long as you
stand up for us."

"Don't make her go to-night, father," pleaded Waitstill. "Don't send
your own child out into the cold. Remember her husband is away from
home."

"She can find another up at the Mills as good as he is, or better. Off
with you, I say, you trumpery little baggage, you!"

"Go, then, dear, it is better so; Uncle Bart will keep you overnight;
run up and get your things"; and Waitstill sank into a chair, realizing
the hopelessness of the situation.

"She'll not take anything from my house. It's her husband's business to
find her in clothes."

"They'll be better ones than ever you found me," was Patty's response.

No heroics for her; no fainting fits at being disowned; no hysterics at
being turned out of house and home; no prayers for mercy, but a quick
retort for every gibe from her father; and her defiant attitude enraged
the Deacon the more.

"I won't speak again," he said, in a tone that could not be mistaken.
"Into the street you go, with the clothes you stand up in, or I'll do
what I said I'd do."

"Go, Patty, it's the only thing to be done. Don't tremble, for nobody
shall touch a hair of your head. I can trust you to find shelter
to-night, and Mark will take care of you to-morrow."

Patty buttoned her shabby coat and tied on her hood as she walked from
the kitchen through the sitting-room towards the side door, her heart
heaving with shame and anger, and above all with a child's sense of
helplessness at being parted from her sister.

"Don't tell the neighbors any more lies than you can help," called her
father after her retreating form; "an' if any of 'em dare to come up
here an' give me any of their imperdence, they'll be treated same as
you. Come back here, Waitstill, and don't go to slobberin' any good-byes
over her. She ain't likely to get out o' the village for some time if
she's expectin' Mark Wilson to take her away."

"I shall certainly go to the door with my sister," said Waitstill
coldly, suiting the action to the word, and following Patty out on the
steps. "Shall you tell Uncle Bart everything, dear, and ask him to let
you sleep at his house?"

Both girls were trembling with excitement; Waitstill pale as a ghost,
Patty flushed and tearful, with defiant eyes and lips that quivered
rebelliously.

"I s'pose so," she answered dolefully; "though Aunt Abby hates me, on
account of Cephas. I'd rather go to Dr. Perry's, but I don't like to
meet Phil. There doesn't seem to be any good place for me, but it 's
only for a night. And you'll not let father prevent your seeing Mark and
me to-morrow, will you? Are you afraid to stay alone? I'll sit on the
steps all night if you say the word."

"No, no, run along. Father has vented his rage upon you, and I shall not
have any more trouble. God bless and keep you, darling. Run along!"

"And you're not angry with me now, Waity? You still love me? And you'll
forgive Mark and come to stay with us soon, soon, soon?"

"We'll see, dear, when all this unhappy business is settled, and you are
safe and happy in your own home. I shall have much to tell you when we
meet to-morrow."



XXIX. WAITSTILL SPEAKS HER MIND

Patty had the most ardent love for her elder sister, and something that
resembled reverence for her unselfishness, her loyalty, and her strength
of character; but if the truth were told she had no great opinion of
Waitstill's ability to feel righteous wrath, nor of her power to avenge
herself in the face of rank injustice. It was the conviction of her own
superior finesse and audacity that had sustained patty all through her
late escapade. She felt herself a lucky girl, indeed, to achieve liberty
and happiness for herself, but doubly lucky if she had chanced to open a
way of escape for her more docile and dutiful sister.

She would have been a trifle astonished had she surmised the existence
of certain mysterious waves that had been sweeping along the coasts of
Waitstill's mind that afternoon, breaking down all sorts of defences
and carrying her will along with them by sheer force: but it is a truism
that two human beings can live beside each other for half a century and
yet continue strangers.

Patty's elopement with the youth of her choice, taking into account all
its attendant risks, was Indeed an exhibition of courage and initiative
not common to girls of seventeen; but Waitstill was meditating a mutiny
more daring yet--a mutiny, too, involving a course of conduct most
unusual in maidens of puritan descent.

She walked back into the kitchen to find her father sitting placidly in
the rocking-chair by the window. He had lighted his corn-cob pipe, in
which he always smoked a mixture of dried sweet-fern as being cheaper
than tobacco, and his face wore something resembling a smile--a foxy
smile--as he watched his youngest-born ploughing down the hill through
the deep snow, while the more obedient Waitstill moved about the room,
setting supper on the table.

Conversation was not the Deacon's forte, but it seemed proper for
some one to break the ice that seemed suddenly to be very thick in the
immediate vicinity.

"That little Jill-go-over-the-ground will give the neighbors a pleasant
evenin' tellin' 'em 'bout me," he chuckled. "Aunt Abby Cole will run the
streets o' the three villages by sun-up to-morrer; but nobody pays any
'tention to a woman whose tongue is hung in the middle and wags at both
ends. I wa'n't intending to use the whip on your sister, Waitstill,"
continued the Deacon, with a crafty look at his silent daughter, "though
a trouncin' would 'a' done her a sight o' good; but I was only tryin'
to frighten her a little mite an' pay her up for bringin' disgrace on
us the way she's done, makin' us the talk o' the town. Well, she's gone,
an' good riddance to bad rubbish, say I! One less mouth to feed, an' one
less body to clothe. You'll miss her jest at first, on account o' there
bein' no other women-folks on the hill, but 't won't last long. I'll
have Bill Morrill do some o' your outside chores, so 't you can take on
your sister's work, if she ever done any."

This was a most astoundingly generous proposition on the Deacon's part,
and to tell the truth he did not himself fully understand his mental
processes when he made it; but it seemed to be drawn from him by a kind
of instinct that he was not standing well in his elder daughter's books.
Though the two girls had never made any demonstration of their affection
in his presence, he had a fair idea of their mutual dependence upon each
other. Not that he placed the slightest value on Waitstill's opinion of
him, or cared in the smallest degree what she, or any one else in
the universe, thought of his conduct; but she certainly did appear to
advantage when contrasted with the pert little hussy who had just left
the premises. Also, Waitstill loomed large in his household comforts
and economies, having a clear head, a sure hand, and being one of the
steady-going, reliable sort that can be counted on in emergencies, not,
like Patty, going off at half-cock at the smallest provocation. Yes,
Waitstill, as a product of his masterly training for the last seven
years, had settled down, not without some trouble and friction, into a
tolerably dependable pack-horse, and he intended in the future to use
some care in making permanent so valuable an aid and ally. She did not
pursue nor attract the opposite sex, as his younger daughter apparently
did; so by continuing his policy of keeping all young men rigidly at
a distance he could count confidently on having', Waitstill serve
his purposes for the next fifteen or twenty years, or as long as he,
himself, should continue to ornament and enrich the earth. He would go
to Saco the very next day, and cut Patty out of his will, arranging his
property so that Waitstill should be the chief legatee as long as she
continued to live obediently under his roof. He intended to make the
last point clear if he had to consult every lawyer in York County; for
he wouldn't take risks on any woman alive.

If he must leave his money anywhere--and it was with a bitter pang that
he faced the inexorable conviction that he could neither live forever,
nor take his savings with him to the realms of bliss prepared for
members of the Orthodox Church in good and regular standing--if he must
leave his money behind him, he would dig a hole in the ground and
bury it, rather than let it go to any one who had angered him in his
lifetime.

These were the thoughts that caused him to relax his iron grip and smile
as he sat by the window, smoking his corn-cob pipe and taking one of his
very rare periods of rest.

Presently he glanced at the clock. "It's only quarter-past four," he
said. "I thought 't was later, but the snow makes it so light you can't
jedge the time. The moon fulls to-night, don't it? Yes; come to think
of it, I know it does. Ain't you settin' out supper a little mite early,
Waitstill?" This was a longer and more amiable speech than he had
made in years, but Waitstill never glanced at him as she said: "It is a
little early, but I want to get it ready before I leave."

"Be you goin' out? Mind, I won't have you follerin' Patience round;
you'll only upset what I've done, an' anyhow I want you to keep away
from the neighbors for a few days, till all this blows over."

He spoke firmly, though for him mildly, for he still had the uneasy
feeling that he stood on the brink of a volcano; and, as a matter of
fact, he tumbled into it the very next moment.

The meagre supper was spread; a plate of cold; soda biscuits, a
dried-apple pie, and the usual brown teapot were in evidence; and as her
father ceased speaking Waitstill opened the door of the brick oven where
the bean-pot reposed, set a chair by the table, and turning, took up
her coat (her mother's old riding-cloak, it was), and calmly put it on,
reaching then for her hood and her squirrel tippet.

"You are goin' out, then, spite o' what I said?" the Deacon inquired
sternly.

"Did you really think, father, that I would sleep under your roof after
you had turned my sister out into the snow to lodge with whoever might
take her in--my seventeen year-old-sister that your wife left to my
care; my little sister, the very light of my life?"

Waitstill's voice trembled a trifle, but other-wise she was quite calm
and free from heroics of any sort.

The Deacon looked up in surprise. "I guess you're kind o' hystericky,"
he said. "Set down--set down an' talk things over. I ain't got nothin'
ag'in' you, an' I mean to treat you right. Set down!"

The old man was decidedly nervous, and intended to keep his temper until
there was a safer chance to let it fly.

Waitstill sat down. "There's nothing to talk over," she said. "I have
done all that I promised my stepmother the night she died, and now I am
going. If there's a duty owed between daughter and father, it ought to
work both ways. I consider that I have done my share, and now I intend
to seek happiness for myself. I have never had any, and I am starving
for it."

"An' you'd leave me to git on the best I can, after what I've done
for you?" burst out the Deacon, still trying to hold down his growing
passion.

"You gave me my life, and I'm thankful to you for that, but you've given
me little since, father."

"Hain't I fed an' clothed you?"

"No more than I have fed and clothed you. You've provided the raw food,
and I've cooked and served it. You've bought and I have made shirts and
overalls and coats for you, and knitted your socks and comforters and
mittens. Not only have I toiled and saved and scrimped away my girlhood
as you bade me, but I've earned for you. Who made the butter, and took
care of the hens, and dried the apples, and 'drew in' the rugs? Who
raised and ground the peppers for sale, and tended the geese that you
might sell the feathers? No, father, I don't consider that I'm in your
debt!"



XXX. A CLASH OF WILLS

DEACON FOXWELL BAXTER was completely non-plussed for the first time in
his life. He had never allowed "argyfyin'" in his household, and there
had never been a clash of wills before this when he had not come off
swiftly and brutally triumphant. This situation was complicated by the
fact that he did not dare to apply the brakes as usual, since there
were more issues involved than ever before. He felt too stunned to deal
properly with this daughter, having emptied all the vials of his wrath
upon the other one, and being, in consequence, somewhat enfeebled. It
was always easy enough to cope with Patty, for her impertinence evoked
such rage that the argument took care of itself; but this grave young
woman was a different matter. There she sat composedly on the edge of
her wooden chair, her head lifted high, her color coming and going,
her eyes shining steadily, like fixed stars; there she sat, calmly
announcing her intention of leaving her father to shift for himself;
yet the skies seemed to have no thought of falling! He felt that he must
make another effort to assert his authority.

"Now, you take off your coat," he said, the pipe in his hand trembling
as he stirred nervously in his chair. "You take your coat right off
an' set down to the supper-table, same as usual, do you hear? Eat
your victuals an' then go to your bed an' git over this crazy fit that
Patience has started workin' in you. No more nonsense, now; do as I tell
you!"

"I have made up my mind, father, and it's no use arguing. All who try to
live with you fail, sooner or later. You have had four children, father.
One boy ran away; the other did not mind being drowned, I fear, since
life was so hard at home. You have just turned the third child out for
a sin of deceit and disobedience she would never have committed--for her
nature is as clear as crystal--if you had ever loved her or considered
her happiness. So I have done with you, unless in your old age God
should bring you to such a pass that no one else will come to your
assistance; then I'd see somehow that you were cared for and nursed and
made comfortable. You are not an old man; you are strong and healthy,
and you have plenty of money to get a good house-keeper. I should decide
differently, perhaps, if all this were not true."

"You lie! I haven't got plenty of money!" And the Deacon struck the
table a sudden blow that made the china in the cupboard rattle. "You've
no notion what this house costs me, an' the feed for the stock, an' you
two girls, an' labor at the store, an' the hay-field, an' the taxes an'
insurance! I've slaved from sunrise to sunset but I ain't hardly been
able to lay up a cent. I s'pose the neighbors have been fillin' you full
o' tales about my mis'able little savin's an' makin' 'em into a fortune.
Well, you won't git any of 'em, I promise you that!"

"You have plenty laid away; everybody knows, so what's the use of
denying it? Anyway, I don't want a penny of your money, father, so
good-bye. There's enough cooked to keep you for a couple of days"; and
Waitstill rose from her chair and drew on her mittens.

Father and daughter confronted each other, the secret fury of the man
met by the steady determination of the girl. The Deacon was baffled,
almost awed, by Waitstill's quiet self-control; but at the very moment
that he was half-uncomprehendingly glaring at her, it dawned upon him
that he was beaten, and that she was mistress of the situation.

Where would she go? What were her plans?--for definite plans she had,
or she could not meet his eye with so resolute a gaze. If she did leave
him, how could he contrive to get her back again, and so escape the
scorn of the village, the averted look, the lessened trade?

"Where are you goin' now?" he asked, and though he tried his best he
could not for the life of him keep back one final taunt. "I s'pose,
like your sister, you've got a man in your eye?" He chose this, to him,
impossible suggestion as being the most insulting one that he could
invent at the moment.

"I have," replied Waitstill, "a man in my eye and in my heart. We should
have been husband and wife before this had we not been kept apart by
obstacles too stubborn for us to overcome. My way has chanced to open
first, though it was none of my contriving."

Had the roof fallen in upon him, the Deacon could not have been more
dumbfounded. His tongue literally clove to the roof of his mouth; his
face fell, and his mean, piercing eyes blinked under his shaggy brows as
if seeking light.

Waitstill stirred the fire, closed the brick oven and put the teapot on
the back of the stove, hung up the long-handled dipper on its accustomed
nail over the sink, and went to the door.

Her father collected his scattered wits and pulled himself to his feet
by the arms of the high-backed rocker. "You shan't step outside this
306 room till you tell me where you're goin'," he said when he found his
voice.

"I have no wish to keep it secret: I am going to see if Mrs. Mason will
keep me to-night. To-morrow I shall walk down river and get work at the
mills, but on my way I shall stop at the Boyntons' to tell Ivory I am
ready to marry him as soon as he's ready to take me."

This was enough to stir the blood of the Deacon into one last fury.

"I might have guessed it if I hadn't been blind as a bat an' deaf as an
adder!" And he gave the table another ringing blow before he leaned on
it to gather strength. "Of course, it would be one o' that crazy Boynton
crew you'd take up with," he roared. "Nothin' would suit either o' you
girls but choosin' the biggest enemies I've got in the whole village!"

"You've never taken pains to make anything but enemies, so what could we
do?"

"You might as well go to live on the poor-farm! Aaron Boynton was a
disrep'table hound; Lois Boynton is as crazy as a loon; the boy is a
no-body's child, an' Ivory's no better than a common pauper."

"Ivory's a brave, strong, honorable man, and a scholar, too. I can work
for him and help him earn and save, as I have you."

"How long's this been goin' on?" The Deacon was choking, but he meant to
get to the bottom of things while he had the chance.

"It has not gone on at all. He has never said a word to me, and I have
always obeyed your will in these matters; but you can't hide love, any
more than you can hide hate. I know Ivory loves me, so I'm going to tell
him that my duty is done here and I am ready to help him."

"Goin' to throw yourself at his head, be you?" sneered the Deacon.
"By the Lord, I don' know where you two girls got these loose ways o'
think-in' an' acting mebbe he won't take you, an' then where'll you be?
You won't git under my roof again when you've once left it, you can make
up your mind to that!"

"If you have any doubts about Ivory's being willing to take me, you'd
better drive along behind me and listen while I ask him."

Waitstill's tone had an exultant thrill of certainty in it. She threw
up her head, glorying in what she was about to do. If she laid aside her
usual reserve and voiced her thoughts openly, it was not in the hope of
convincing her father, but for the bliss of putting them into words and
intoxicating herself by the sound of them.

"Come after me if you will, father, and watch the welcome I shall get.
Oh! I have no fear of being turned out by Ivory Boynton. I can hardly
wait to give him the joy I shall be bringing! It 's selfish to rob him
of the chance to speak first, but I'll do it!" And before Deacon Baxter
could cross the room, Waitstill was out of the kitchen door into the
shed, and flying down Town-House Hill like an arrow shot free from the
bow.

The Deacon followed close behind, hardly knowing why, but he was no
match for the girl, and at last he stood helpless on the steps of the
shed, shaking his fist and hurling terrible words after her, words that
it was fortunate for her peace of mind she could not hear.

"A curse upon you both!" he cried savagely. "Not satisfied with
disobeyin' an' defyin' me, you've put me to shame, an' now you'll
be settin' the neighbors ag'in' me an' ruinin' my trade. If you was
freezin' in the snow I wouldn't heave a blanket to you! If you was
starvin' I wouldn't fling either of you a crust! Never shall you darken
my doors again, an' never shall you git a penny o' my money, not if I
have to throw it into the river to spite you!"

Here his breath failed, and he stumbled out into the barn whimpering
between his broken sentences like a whipped child.

"Here I am with nobody to milk, nor feed the hens; nobody to churn
to-morrow, nor do the chores; a poor, mis'able creeter, deserted by my
children, with nobody to do a hand's turn 'thout bein' paid for every
step they take! I'll give 'em what they deserve; I don' know what, but
I'll be even with 'em yet." And the Deacon set his Baxter jaw in a way
that meant his determination to stop at nothing.



XXXI. SENTRY DUTY

IVORY BOYNTON drove home from the woods that same afternoon by way of
the bridge, in order to buy some provisions at the brick store. When he
was still a long distance from the bars that divided the lane from
the highroad, he espied a dark-clad little speck he knew to be
Rodman leaning over the fence, waiting and longing as usual for his
home-coming, and his heart warmed at the thought of the boyish welcome
that never failed.

The sleigh slipped quickly over the hard-packed, shining road, and the
bells rang merrily in the clear, cold air, giving out a joyous sound
that had no echo in Ivory's breast that day. He had just had a vision
of happiness through another man's eyes. Was he always to stand outside
the banqueting-table, he wondered, and see others feasting while he
hungered.

Now the little speck bounded from the fence, flew down the road to meet
the sleigh, and jumped in by the driver's side.

"I knew you'd come to-night," Rodman cried eagerly. "I told Aunt Boynton
you'd come."

"How is she, well as common?"

"No, not a bit well since yesterday morning, but Mrs. Mason says it's
nothing worse than a cold. Mrs. Mason has just gone home, and we've had
a grand house-cleaning to-day. She's washed and ironed and baked, and
we've put Aunt Boynton in clean sheets and pillow-cases, and her room's
nice and warm, and I carried the eat in and put it on her bed to keep
her company while I came to watch for you. Aunt Boynton let Mrs. Mason
braid her hair, and seemed to like her brushing it. It's been dreadful
lonesome, and oh! I am glad you came back, Ivory. Did you find any more
spruce gum where you went this time?"

"Pounds and pounds, Rod; enough to bring me in nearly a hundred dollars.
I chanced on the greatest place I've found yet. I followed the wake of
an old whirlwind that had left long furrows in the forest,--I've told
you how the thing works,--and I tracked its course by the gum that had
formed wherever the trees were wounded. It's hard, lonely work, Rod, but
it pays well."

"If I could have been there, maybe we could have got more. I'm good at
shinning up trees."

"Yes, sometime we'll go gum-picking together. We'll climb the trees like
a couple of cats, and take our knives and serape off the precious lumps
that are worth so much money to the druggists. You've let down the bars,
I see."

"'Cause I knew you'd come to-night," said Rodman. "I felt it in my
bones. We're going to have a splendid supper."

"Are we? That's good news." Ivory tried to make his tone bright and
interested, though his heart was like a lump of lead in his breast.
"It's the least I can do for the poor little chap," he thought, "when
he stays as caretaker in this lonely spot.--I wonder if I hadn't better
drive into the barn, Rod, and leave the harness on Nick till I go in and
see mother? Guess I will."

"She's hot, Aunt Boynton is, hot and restless, but Mrs. Mason thinks
that's all."

Ivory found his mother feverish, and her eyes were unnaturally bright;
but she was clear in her mind and cheerful, too, sitting up in bed to
breathe the better, while the Maltese cat snuggled under her arm and
purred peacefully.

"The cat is Rod's idea," she said smilingly but in a very weak voice.
"He is a great nurse I should never have thought of the cat myself but
she gives me more comfort than all the medicine."

Ivory and Rodman drew up to the supper table, already set in the
kitchen, but before Ivory took his seat he softly closed the door that
led into the living-room. They ate their beans and brown bread and the
mince pie that had been the "splendid" feature of the meal, as reported
by the boy; and when they had finished, and Rodman was clearing the
table, Ivory walked to the window, lighting his pipe the while, and
stood soberly looking out on the snowy landscape. One could scarcely
tell it was twilight, with such sweeps of whiteness to catch every gleam
of the dying day.

"Drop work a minute and come here, Rod," he said at length. "Can you
keep a secret?"

"'Course I can! I'm chock full of 'em now, and nobody could dig one of
'em out o' me with a pickaxe!"

"Oh, well! If you're full you naturally couldn't hold another!"

"I could try to squeeze it in, if it's a nice one," coaxed the boy.

"I don't know whether you'll think it's a nice one, Rod, for it breaks
up one of your plans. I'm not sure myself how nice it is, but it's a
very big, unexpected, startling one. What do you think? Your favorite
Patty has gone and got married."

"Patty! Married!" cried Rod, then hastily putting his hand over his
mouth to hush his too-loud speaking.

"Yes, she and Mark Wilson ran away last Monday, drove over to Allentown,
New Hampshire, and were married without telling a soul. Deacon Baxter
discovered everything this afternoon, like the old fox that he is, and
turned Patty out of the house."

"Mean old skinflint!" exclaimed Rod excitedly, all the incipient
manhood rising in his ten-year-old breast. "Is she gone to live with the
Wilsons?"

"The Wilsons don't know yet that Mark is married to her, but I met him
driving like Jehu, just after I had left Patty, and told him everything
that had happened, and did my best to cool him down and keep him from
murdering his new father-in-law by showing him it would serve no real
purpose now."

"Did he look married, and all different?" asked Rod curiously.

"Yes, he did, and more like a man than ever he looked before in his
life. We talked everything over together, and he went home at once
to break the news to his family, without even going to take a peep at
Patty. I couldn't bear to have them meet till he had something cheerful
to say to the poor little soul. When I met her by Uncle Bart's shop,
she was trudging along in the snow like a draggled butterfly, and crying
like a baby."

Sympathetic tears dimmed Rodman's eyes. "I can't bear to see girls cry,
Ivory. I just can't bear it, especially Patty."

"Neither can I, Rod. I came pretty near wiping her eyes, but pulled up,
remembering she wasn't a child but a married lady. Well, now we come to
the point."

"Isn't Patty's being married the point?"

"No, only part of it. Patty's being sent away from home leaves Waitstill
alone with the Deacon, do you see? And if Patty is your favorite,
Waitstill is mine--I might as well own up to that."

"She's mine, too," cried Rod. "They're both my favorites, but I always
thought Patty was the suitablest for me to marry if she'd wait for me.
Waitstill is too grand for a boy!"

"She's too grand for anybody, Rod. There isn't a man alive that's worthy
to strap on her skates."

"Well, she's too grand for anybody except--" and here Rod's shy, wistful
voice trailed off into discreet silence.

"Now I had some talk with Patty, and she thinks Waitstill will have no
trouble with her father just at present. She says he lavished so much
rage upon her that there'll be none left for anybody else for a day
or two. And, moreover, that he will never dare to go too far with
Waitstill, because she's so useful to him. I'm not afraid of his beating
or injuring her so long as he keeps his sober senses, if he's ever
rightly had any; but I don't like to think of his upbraiding her and
breaking her heart with his cruel talk just after she's lost the sister
that's been her only companion." And Ivory's hand trembled as he
filled his pipe. He had no confidant but this quaint, tender-hearted,
old-fashioned little lad, to whom he had grown to speak his mind as if
he were a man of his own age; and Rod, in the same way, had gradually
learned to understand and sympathize.

"It's dreadful lonesome on Town-House Hill," said the boy in a hushed
tone.

"Dreadful lonesome," echoed Ivory with a sigh; "and I don't dare leave
mother until her fever dies down a bit and she sleeps. Now do you
remember the night that she was taken ill, and we shared the watch?"

Rodman held his breath. "Do you mean you 're going to let me help just
as if I was big?" he asked, speaking through a great lump in his throat.

"There are only two of us, Rod. You're rather young for this piece of
work, but you're trusty--you 're trusty!"

"Am I to keep watch on the Deacon?"

"That's it, and this is my plan: Nick will have had his feed; you 're
to drive to the bridge when it gets a little darker and hitch in Uncle
Bart's horse-shed, covering Nick well. You're to go into the brick
store, and while you're getting some groceries wrapped up, listen to
anything the men say, to see if they know what's happened. When you've
hung about as long as you dare, leave your bundle and say you'll call
in again for it. Then see if Baxter's store is open. I don't believe it
will be, and if it Isn't, look for a light in his kitchen window, and
prowl about till you know that Waitstill and the Deacon have gone up to
their bedrooms. Then go to Uncle Bart's and find out if Patty is there."

Rod's eyes grew bigger and bigger: "Shall I talk to her?" he asked; "and
what'll I say?"

"No, just ask if she's there. If she's gone, Mark has made it right with
his family and taken her home. If she hasn't, why, God knows how that
matter will be straightened out. Anyhow, she has a husband now, and he
seems to value her; and Waitstill is alone on the top of that wind-swept
hill!"

"I'll go. I'll remember everything," cried Rodman, in the seventh heaven
of delight at the responsibilities Ivory was heaping upon him.

"Don't stay beyond eight o'clock; but come back and tell me everything
you've learned. Then, if mother grows no worse, I'll walk back to Uncle
Bart's shop and spend the night there, just--just to be near, that's
all."

"You couldn't hear Waitstill, even if she called," Rod said.

"Couldn't I? A man's ears are very sharp under certain circumstances. I
believe if Waitstill needed help I could hear her--breathe! Besides,
I shall be up and down the hill till I know all's well; and at sunrise
I'll go up and hide behind some of Baxter's buildings till I see him
get his breakfast and go to the store. Now wash your dishes"; and Ivory
caught up his cap from a hook behind the door.

"Are you going to the barn?" asked Rodman.

"No, only down to the gate for a minute. Mark said that if he had a
good chance he'd send a boy with a note, and get him to put it under the
stone gate-post. It's too soon to expect it, perhaps, but I can't seem
to keep still."

Rodman tied a gingham apron round his waist, carried the tea-kettle to
the sink, and poured the dishpan full of boiling water; then dipped the
cups and plates in and out, wiped them and replaced them on the table'
gave the bean-platter a special polish, and set the half mince pie and
the butter-dish in the cellar-way.

"A boy has to do most everything in this family!" He sighed to himself.
"I don't mind washing dishes, except the nasty frying-pan and the sticky
bean-pot; but what I'm going to do to-night is different." Here he
glowed and tingled with anticipation. "I know what they call it in the
story-books--it's sentry duty; and that's braver work for a boy than
dish-washing!"

Which, however, depends a good deal upon circumstances, and somewhat on
the point of view.



XXXII. THE HOUSE OF AARON

A FEELING that the day was to bring great things had dawned upon
Waitstill when she woke that morning, and now it was coming true.

Climbing Saco Hill was like climbing the hill of her dreams; life and
love beckoned to her across the snowy slopes.

At rest about Patty's future, though troubled as to her sorry plight
at the moment, she was conscious chiefly of her new-born freedom. She
revelled in the keen air that tingled against her cheek, and drew in
fresh hope with every breath. As she trod the shining pathway she was
full of expectancy, her eyes dancing, her heart as buoyant as her step.
Not a vestige of confusion or uncertainty vexed her mind. She knew Ivory
for her true mate, and if the way to him took her through dark places it
was lighted by a steadfast beacon of love.

At the top of the hill she turned the corner breathlessly, and faced
the length of road that led to the Boynton farm. Mrs. Mason's house was
beyond, and oh, how she hoped that Ivory would be at home, and that she
need not wait another day to tell him all, and claim the gift she knew
was hers before she asked it. She might not have the same exaltation
to-morrow, for now there were no levels in her heart and soul. She had a
sense of mounting from height to height and lighting fires on every peak
of her being. She took no heed of the road she was travelling; she was
conscious only of a wonderful inward glow.

The house was now in sight, and a tall figure was issuing from the side
door, putting on a fur cap as it came out on the steps and down the
lane. Ivory was at home, then, and, best of all, he was unconsciously
coming to meet her--although their hearts had been coming to meet each
other, she thought, ever since they first began to beat.

As she neared the bars she called Ivory's name. His hands were in the
pockets of his great-coat, and his eyes were fixed on the ground. Sombre
he was, distinctly sombre, in mien and gait; could she make him smile
and flush and glow, as she was smiling and flushing and glowing? As he
heard her voice he raised his head quickly and uncomprehendingly.

"Don't come any nearer," she said, "until I have told you something!"
His mind had been so full of her that the sight of her in the flesh,
standing twenty feet away, bewildered him.

She took a few steps nearer the gate, near enough now for him to see her
rosy face framed in a blue hood, and to catch the brightness of her
eyes under their lovely lashes. Ordinarily they were cool and limpid and
grave, Waitstill's eyes; now a sunbeam danced in each of them. And her
lips, almost always tightly closed, as if she were holding back her
natural speech,--her lips were red and parted, and the soul of her, free
at last, shone through her face, making it luminous with a new beauty.

"I have left home for good and all," she said. "I'll tell you more of
this later on, but I have left my father's house with nothing to my name
but the clothes I stand in. I am going to look for work in the mills
to-morrow, but I stopped here to say that I'm ready to marry you
whenever you want me--if you do want me."

Ivory was bewildered, indeed, but not so much so that he failed to
apprehend, and instantly, too, the real significance of this speech.

He took a couple of long strides, and before Waitstill had any idea of
his intentions he vaulted over the bars and gathered her in his arms.

"Never shall you go to the mills, never shall you leave my sight for
a single hour again, my one-woman-in-all-the-world! Come to me, to be
loved and treasured all your life long! I've worshipped you ever since I
was a boy; I've kept my heart swept and garnished for you and no other,
hoping I might win you at last."

How glorious to hear all this delicious poetry of love, and to feel
Ivory's arms about her, making the dream seem surer!

"Oh, how like you to shorten the time of my waiting!" he went on, his
words fairly chasing one another in their eagerness to be spoken. "How
like you to count on me, to guess my hunger for your love, to realize
the chains that held me back, and break them yourself with your own
dear, womanly hands! How like you, oh, wonderful Waitstill!"

Ivory went on murmuring phrases that had been lying in his heart unsaid
for years, scarcely conscious of what he was saying, realizing only that
the miracle of miracles had happened.

Waitstill, for her part, was almost dumb with joy to be lying so close
to his heart that she could hear it beating; to feel the passionate
tenderness of his embrace and his kiss falling upon her hair.

"I did not know a girl could be so happy!" she whispered. "I've dreamed
of it, but it was nothing like this. I am all a-tremble with it."

Ivory held her off at arm's length for a moment, reluctantly,
grudgingly. "You took me fairly off my feet, dearest," he said, "and
forgot everything but the one supreme fact you were telling me. Had I
been on guard I should have told you that I am no worthy husband for
you, Waitstill. I haven't enough to offer such a girl as you."

"You're too late, Ivory! You showed me your heart first, and now you are
searching your mind for bugbears to frighten me."

"I am a poor man."

"No girl could be poorer than I am."

"After what you've endured, you ought to have rest and comfort."

"I shall have both--in you!" This with eyes, all wet, lifted to Ivory's.

"My mother is a great burden--a very dear and precious, but a grievous
one."

"She needs a daughter. It is in such things that I shall be your
helpmate."

"Will not the boy trouble you and add to your cares?"

"Rod? I love him; he shall be my little brother."

"What if my father were not really dead?--I think of this sometimes in
the night!--What if he should wander back, broken in spirit, feeble in
body, empty in purse?"

"I do not come to you free of burdens. If my father is deserted by
all, I must see that he is made comfortable. He never treated me like a
daughter, but I acknowledge his claim."

"Mine is such a gloomy house!"

"Will it be gloomy when I am in it?" and Waitstill, usually so grave,
laughed at last like a care-free child.

Ivory felt himself hidden in the beautiful shelter of the girl's love.
It was dark now, or as dark as the night ever is that has moonlight and
snow. He took Waitstill in his arms again reverently, and laid his cheek
against her hair. "I worship God as well as I know how," he whispered;
"worship him as the maker of this big heaven and earth that surrounds
us. But I worship you as the maker of my little heaven and earth, and my
heart is saying its prayers to you at this very moment!"

"Hush, my dear! hush! and don't value me too much, or I shall lose my
head--I that have never known a sweet word in all my life save those
that my sister has given me.--I must tell you all about Patty now."

"I happen to know more than you, dear. I met her at the bridge when I
was coming home from the woods, and I saw her safely to Uncle Bart's
door.--I don't know why we speak of it as Uncle Bart's when it is really
Aunt Abby's!--I next met Mark, who had fairly flown from Bridgton on the
wings of love, arriving hours ahead of time. I managed to keep him from
avenging the insults heaped upon his bride, and he has driven to
the Mills to confide in his father and mother. By this time Patty is
probably the centre of the family group, charming them all as is her
custom."

"Oh, I am so glad Mark is at home! Now I can be at rest about Patty. And
I must not linger another moment, for I am going to ask Mrs. Mason to
keep me overnight," cried Waitstill, bethinking herself suddenly of time
and place.

"I will take you there myself and explain everything. And the moment
I've lighted a fire in Mrs. Mason's best bedroom and settled you there,
what do you think I am going to do? I shall drive to the town clerk's
house, and if he is in bed, rout him out and have the notice of our
intended marriage posted in a public place according to law. Perhaps
I shall save a day out of the fourteen I've got to wait for my wife.
'Mills,' indeed! I wonder at you, Waitstill! As if Mrs. Mason's house
was not far enough away, without your speaking of 'mills.'"

"I only suggested mills in case you did not want to marry me," said
Waitstill.


"Walk up to the door with me," begged Ivory.

"The horse is all harnessed, and Rod will slip him into the sleigh in a
jiffy."

"Oh, Ivory! do you realize what this means?"--and Waitstill clung to his
arm as they went up the lane together--"that whatever sorrow, whatever
hardship comes to us, neither of us will ever have to bear it alone
again?"

"I believe I do realize it as few men could, for never in my
five-and-twenty years have I had a human creature to whom I could pour
myself out, in whom I could really confide, with whom I could take
counsel. You can guess what it will be to have a comprehending woman
at my side. Shall we tell my mother? Do say 'yes'; I believe she will
understand.--Rod, Rod! come and see who's stepping in the door this very
minute!"

Rodman was up in his bedroom, attiring himself elaborately for sentry
duty. His delight at seeing Waitstill was perhaps slightly tempered
by the thought that flashed at once through his mind,--that if she was
safe, he would not be required to stand guard in the snow for hours
as he had hoped. But this grief passed when he fully realized what
Waitstill's presence at the farm at this unaccustomed hour really
meant. After he had been told, he hung about her like the child that he
was,--though he had a bit of the hero in him, at bottom, too,--embracing
her waist fondly, and bristling with wondering questions.

"Is she really going to stay with us for always, Ivory?" he asked.

"Every day and all the days; every night and all the nights. 'Praise God
from whom all blessings flow!'" said Ivory, taking off his fur cap and
opening the door of the living-room. "But we've got to wait for her a
whole fortnight, Rod. Isn't that a ridiculous snail of a law?"

"Patty didn't wait a fortnight."

"Patty never waited for anything," Ivory responded with a smile; "but
she had a good reason, and, alas! we haven't, or they'll say that we
haven't. And I am very grateful to the same dear little Patty, for when
she got herself a husband she found me a wife!"

Rodman did not wholly understand this, but felt that there were many
mysteries attending the love affairs of grown-up people that were too
complicated for him to grasp; and it did not seem to be just the right
moment for questions.

Waitstill and Ivory went into Mrs. Boynton's room quietly, hand in hand,
and when she saw Waitstill she raised herself from her pillow and held
out her arms with a soft cry of delight.

"I haven't had you for so long, so long!" she said, touching the girl's
cheek with her frail hand.

"You are going to have me every day now, dear," whispered Waitstill,
with a sob in her voice; for she saw a change in the face, a new
transparency, a still more ethereal look than had been there before.

"Every day?" she repeated, longingly. Waitstill took off her hood, and
knelt on the floor beside the bed, hiding her face in the counterpane to
conceal the tears.

"She is coming to live with us, dear.--Come in, Rod, and hear me tell
her.--Waitstill is coming to live with us: isn't that a beautiful
thing to happen to this dreary house?" asked Ivory, bending to take his
mother's hand.

"Don't you remember what you thought the first time I ever came here,
mother?" and Waitstill lifted her head, and looked at Mrs. Boynton with
swimming eyes and lips that trembled. "Ivory is making it all come true,
and I shall be your daughter!"

Mrs. Boynton sank farther back into her pillows, and closing her eyes,
gave a long sigh of infinite content. Her voice was so faint that
they had to stoop to catch the words, and Ivory, feeling the strange
benediction that seemed to be passing from his mother's spirit to
theirs, took Rod's hand and knelt beside Waitstill.

The verse of a favorite psalm was running through Lois Boynton's mind,
and in a moment the words came clearly, as she opened her eyes, lifted
her hands, and touched the bowed heads. "Let the house of Aaron now say
that his mercy endureth forever!" she said, slowly and reverently; and
Ivory, with all his heart, responded, "Amen!"



XXXIII. AARON'S ROD

"IVORY! IVORY!"

Ivory stirred in a sleep that had been troubled by too great happiness.
To travel a dreary path alone, a path leading seemingly nowhere, and
then suddenly to have a companion by one's side, the very sight of whom
enchanted the eye, the very touch of whom delighted the senses--what joy
unspeakable! Who could sleep soundly when wakefulness brought a train of
such blissful thoughts?

"Ivory! Ivory!"

He was fully awake now, for he knew his mother's voice. In all the
years, ever thoughtful of his comfort and of the constant strain upon
his strength, Lois had never wakened her son at night.

"Coming, mother, coming!" he said, when he realized she was calling him;
and hastily drawing on some clothing, for the night was bitterly cold,
he came out of his room and saw his mother standing at the foot of the
stairway, with a lighted candle in her hand.

"Can you come down, Ivory? It is a strange hour to call you but I have
something to tell you; something I have been piecing together for weeks;
something I have just clearly remembered."

"If it's something that won't keep till morning, mother, you creep back
into bed and we'll hear it comfortably," he said, coming downstairs
and leading her to her room. "I'll smooth the covers, so; beat up the
pillows,--there, and throw another log on the sitting-room fire. Now,
what's the matter? Couldn't you sleep?"

"All summer long I have been trying to remember something; something
untrue that you have been believing, some falsehood for which I was
responsible. I have pursued and pursued it, but it has always escaped
me. Once it was clear as daylight, for Rodman read me from the Bible a
plain answer to all the questions that tortured me."

"That must have been the night that she fainted," thought Ivory.

"When I awoke next morning from my long sleep, the old puzzle had come
back, a thousand times worse than before, for then I knew that I had
held the clue in my own hand and had lost it. Now, praise God! I know
the truth, and you, the only one to whom I can tell it, are close at
hand."

Ivory looked at his mother and saw that the veil that had separated them
mentally seemed to five vanished in the night that had passed. Often and
often it had blown away, as it were, for the fraction of a moment and
then blown back again. Now her eyes met his with an altogether new
clearness that startled him, while her health came with ease and she
seemed stronger than for many days.

"You remember the winter I was here at the farm alone, when you were at
the Academy?"

"Yes; it was then that I came home and found you so terribly ill. Do you
think we need go back to that old time now, mother dear?"

"Yes, I must, I must! One morning I received a strange letter, bearing
no signature, in which the writer said that if I wished to see my
husband I had only to go to a certain address in Brentville, New
Hampshire. The letter went on to say that Mr. Aaron Boynton was ill and
longed for nothing so much as to speak with me; but there were reasons
why he did not wish to return to Edgewood,--would I come to him without
delay."

Ivory now sat straight in his chair and listened keenly, feeling that
this was to be no vague, uncertain, and misleading memory, but something
true and tangible.

"The letter excited me greatly after your father's long absence and
silence. I knew it could mean nothing but sorrow, but although I was
half ill at the time, my plain duty was to go, so I thought, and go
without making any explanation in the village."

All this was new to Ivory and he hung upon his mother's words, dreading
yet hoping for the light that they might shed upon the past.

"I arrived at Brentville quite exhausted with the journey and weighed
down by anxiety and dread. I found the house mentioned in the letter
at seven o'clock in the evening, and knocked at the door. A common,
hard-featured woman answered the knock and, seeming to expect me,
ushered me in. I do not remember the room; I remember only a child
leaning patiently against the window-sill looking out into the dark, and
that the place was bare and cheerless.

"I came to call upon Mr. Aaron Boynton,' I said, with my heart sinking
lower and lower as I spoke. The woman opened a door into the next room
and when I walked in, instead of seeing your father, I confronted a
haggard, death-stricken young woman sitting up in bed, her great eyes
bright with pain, her lips as white as her hollow cheeks, and her long,
black hair streaming over the pillow. The very sight of her struck a
knell to the little hope I had of soothing your father's sick bed and
forgiving him if he had done me any wrong.

"'Well, you came, as I thought you would,' said the girl, looking me
over from head to foot in a way that somehow made me burn with shame.
'Now sit down in that chair and hear what I've got to say while I've got
the strength to say it. I haven't the time nor the desire to put a gloss
on it. Aaron Boynton isn't here, as you plainly see, but that's not my
fault, for he belongs here as much as anywhere, though he wouldn't have
much interest in a dying woman. If you have suffered on account of him,
so have I and you haven't had this pain boring into you and eating your
life away for months, as I have.'

"I pitied her, she seemed so distraught, but I was in terror of her all
the same, and urged her to tell her story calmly and I would do my best
to hear it in the same way.

"'Calm,' she exclaimed, 'with this agony tearing me to pieces! Well, to
make beginning and end in one, Aaron Boynton was my husband for three
years.'

"I caught hold of the chair to keep myself from falling and cried: 'I do
not believe it!' 'Believe it or not, she answered scornfully, 'it
makes no difference to me, but I can give you twenty proofs in as many
seconds. We met at a Cochrane meeting and he chose me from all the
others as his true wife. For two years we travelled together, but long
before they came to an end there was no happiness for either of us.
He had a conscience--not much of a one, but just enough to keep him
miserable. At last I felt he was not believing the doctrines he preached
and I caught him trying to get news of you and your boy, just because
you were out of reach, and neglecting my boy and me, who had given up
everything to wander with him and live on whatever the brethren and
sisters chose to give us.'

"'So there was a child, a boy,' I gasped. 'Did--did he live?' 'He's
in the next room,' she answered, 'and it's him I brought you here for.
Aaron Boynton has served us both the same. He left you for me and me
for Heaven knows who. If I could live I wouldn't ask any favors, of you
least of all, but I haven't a penny in the world, though I shan't need
one very long. My friend that's nursing me hasn't a roof to her head
and she wouldn't share it with the boy if she had--she's a bigoted
Orthodox.'

"'But what do you expect me to do?' I asked angrily, for she was
stabbing me with every word.

"'The boy is your husband's child and he always represented you as a
saint upon earth. I expect you to take him home and provide for him.
He doesn't mean very much to me--just enough so that I don't relish his
going to the poorhouse, that's all.'

"'He'll go to something very like that if he comes to mine,' I said.

"'Don't worry me with talk, for I can't stand it,' she wailed, clutching
at her nightgown and flinging back her hair. 'Either you take the child
or I send somebody to Edgewood with him, somebody to tell the whole
story. Some of the Cochranites can support him if you won't; or, at the
worst, Aaron Boynton's town can take care of his son. The doctor has
given me two days to live. If it's a minute longer I've warned him and I
warn you, that I'll end it myself; and if you don't take the boy I'll do
the same for him. He's a good sight better off dead than knocking
about the world alone; he's innocent and there's no sense in his being
punished for the sins of other folks.'"

"I see it all! Why did I never think of it before; my poor, poor Rod!"
said Ivory, clenching his hands and burying his head in them.

"Don't grieve, Ivory; it has all turned out so much better than we could
have hoped; just listen to the end. She was frightful to hear and to
look at, the girl was, though all the time I could feel that she must
have had a gipsy beauty and vigor that answered to something in your
father.

"'Go along out now,' she cried suddenly. 'I can't stand anybody near.
The doctor never gives me half enough medicine and for the hour before
he comes I fairly die for lack of it--though little he cares! Go
upstairs and have your sleep and to-morrow you can make up your mind.'

"'You don't leave me much freedom to do that,' I tried to answer; but
she interrupted me, rocking her body to and fro. 'Neither of us will
ever see Aaron Boynton again; you no more than I. He's in the West, and
a man with two families and no means of providing for them doesn't come
back where he's known.--Come and take her away, Eliza! Take her away,
quick!' she called.

"I stumbled out of the room and the woman waved me upstairs. 'You
mustn't mind Hetty,' she apologized; 'she never had a good disposition
at the best, but she's frantic with the pain now, and good reason, too.
It's about over and I'll be thankful when it is. You'd better swallow
the shame and take the child; I can't and won't have him and it'll be
easy enough for you to say he belongs to some of your own folks.'

"By this time I was mentally bewildered. When the iron first entered my
soul, when I first heard the truth about your father, at that moment my
mind gave way--I know it now."

"Poor, poor mother! My poor, gentle little mother!" murmured Ivory
brokenly, as he asked her hand.

"Don't cry, my son; it is all past; the sorrow and the bitterness and
the struggle. I will just finish the story and then we'll close the book
forever. The woman gave me some bread and tea, and I flung myself on the
bed without undressing. I don't know how long afterward it was, but the
door opened and a little boy stole in; a sad, strange, dark-eyed little
boy who said: 'Can I sleep up here? Mother's screaming and I'm afraid.'
He climbed to the couch. I covered him with a blanket, and I soon heard
his deep breathing. But later in the night, when I must have fallen
asleep myself, I suddenly awoke and felt him lying beside me. He had
dragged the blanket along and crept up on the bed to get close to my
side for the warmth I could give, or the comfort of my nearness. The
touch of him almost broke my heart; I could not push the little creature
away when he was lying there so near and warm and confiding--he, all
unconscious of the agony his mere existence was to me. I must have slept
again and when the day broke I was alone. I thought the presence of the
child in the night was a dream and I could not remember where I was, nor
why I was there."

"Mother, dear mother, don't tell me any more to-night. I fear for your
strength," urged Ivory, his eyes full of tears at the remembrance of her
sufferings.

"There is only a little more and the weight will be off my heart and on
yours, my poor son. Would that I need not tell you! The house was still
and I thought at first that no one was awake, but when I opened the
sitting-room door the child ran towards me and took my hand as the woman
came in from the sick-room. 'Go into the kitchen, Rodman,' she said,
'and lace up your boots; you're going right out with this lady. Hetty
died in the night,' she continued impassively. 'The doctor was here
about ten o'clock and I've never seen her so bad. He gave her a big dose
of sleeping powder and put another in the table drawer for me to mix for
her towards morning. She was helpless to move, we thought, but all the
same she must have got out of bed when my back was turned and taken
the powder dry on her tongue, for it was gone when I looked for it. It
didn't hasten things much and I don't blame her. If ever there was a
wild, reckless creature it was Hetty Rodman, but I, who am just the
opposite, would have done the same if I'd been her.'

"She hurriedly gave me a cup of coffee, and, putting a coat and a cap
on the boy, literally pushed me out of the house. 'I've got to report
things to the doctor,' she said, 'and you're better out of the way. Go
down that side street to the station and mind you say the boy belonged
to your sister who died and left him to you. You're a Cochranite, ain't
you? So was Hetty, and they're all sisters, so you'll be telling no
lies. Good-bye, Rodman, be a good boy and don't be any trouble to the
lady.'

"How I found the station I do not know, nor how I made the journey, nor
where I took the stage-coach. The snow began to fall and by noon there
was a drifting storm. I could not remember where I was going, nor
who the boy was, for just as the snow was whirling outside, so it was
whirling in my brain."

"Mother, I can hardly bear to hear any more; it is too terrible!" cried
Ivory, rising from his chair and pacing the floor.

"I can recall nothing of any account till I awoke in my own bed weeks
afterwards. The strange little boy was there, but Mrs. Day and Dr. Perry
told me what I must have told them--that he was the child of my dead
sister. Those were the last words uttered by the woman in Brentville;
I carried them straight through my illness and brought them out on the
other side more firmly intrenched than ever."

"If only the truth had come back to you sooner!" sighed Ivory, coming
back to her bedside. "I could have helped you to bear it all these
years. Sorrow is so much lighter when you can share it with some one
else. And the girl who died was called Hetty Rodman, then, and she
simply gave the child her last name?"

"Yes, poor suffering creature. I feel no anger against her now; it
has burned itself all away. Nor do I feel any bitterness against your
father. I forgot all this miserable story for so long, loving and
watching for him all the time, that it is as if it did not belong to
my own life, but had to do with some unhappy stranger. Can you forgive,
too, Ivory?"

"I can try," he answered. "God knows I ought to be able to if you can!"

"And will it turn you away from Rod?"

"No, it draws me nearer to him than ever. He shall never know the
truth--why should he? Just as he crept close to you that night, all
unconscious of the reason you had for shrinking from him, so he has
crept close to me in these years of trial, when your mind has been
wandering."

"Life is so strange. To think that this child, of all others, should
have been a comfort to you. The Lord's hand is in it!" whispered Mrs.
Boynton feebly.

"His boyish belief in me, his companionship, have kept the breath of
hope alive in me--that's all I can say."

"The Bible story is happening over again in our lives, then. Don't you
remember that Aaron's rod budded and blossomed and bore fruit, and that
the miracle kept the rebels from murmuring?"

"This rebel never will murmur again, mother," and Ivory rose to leave
the room. "Now that you have shed your burden you will grow stronger
and life will be all joy, for Waitstill will come to us soon and we can
shake off these miseries and be a happy family once more."

"It is she who has helped me most to find the thread; pouring sympathy
and strength into me, nursing me, loving me, because she loved my
wonderful son. Oh! how blest among women I am to have lived long enough
to see you happy!"

And as Ivory kissed his mother and blew out the candle, she whispered to
herself: "Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly!"



XXXIV. THE DEACON'S WATERLOO

MRS. MASON'S welcome to Waitstill was unexpectedly hearty--much heartier
than it would have been Six months before, when she regarded Mrs.
Boynton as little less than a harmless lunatic, of no use as a neighbor;
and when she knew nothing more of Ivory than she could gather by his
occasional drive or walk past her door with a civil greeting. Rodman
had been until lately the only member of the family for whom she had a
friendly feeling; but all that had changed in the last few weeks, when
she had been allowed to take a hand in the Boyntons' affairs. As to this
newest development in the life of their household, she had once been
young herself, and the veriest block of stone would have become human
when the two lovers drove up to the door and told their exciting story.

Ivory made himself quickly at home, and helped the old lady to get a
room ready for Waitstill before he drove back for a look at his mother
and then on to carry out his impetuous and romantic scheme of routing
out the town clerk and announcing his intended marriage. 345

Waitstill slept like the shepherd boy in "The Pilgrim's Progress," with
the "herb called Heart's Ease" in her bosom. She opened her eyes next
morning from the depths of Mrs. Mason's best feather bed, and looked
wonderingly about the room, with all its unaccustomed surroundings.
She heard the rattle of fire-irons and the flatter of dishes below; the
first time in all her woman's life that preparations for breakfast had
ever greeted her ears when she had not been an active participator in
them.

She lay quite still for a quarter of an hour, tired in body and mind,
but incredibly happy in spirit, marvelling at the changes wrought in
her during the day preceding, the most eventful one in her history. Only
yesterday her love had been a bud, so closely folded that she scarcely
recognized its beauty or color or fragrance; only yesterday, and now
she held in her hand a perfect flower. When and how had it grown, and by
what magic process?

The image of Ivory had been all through the night in the foreground of
her dreams and in her moments of wakefulness, both made blissful by the
heaven of anticipation that dawned upon her. Was ever man so wise,
so tender and gentle, so strong, so comprehending? What mattered the
absence of worldly goods, the presence of care and anxiety, when n woman
had a steady hand to hold, a steadfast heart to trust, a man who would
love her and stand by her, whate'er befell?

Then the face of Ivory's mother would swim into the mental picture; the
pale face, as white as the pillow it lay upon; the face with its aureole
of ashen hair, and the wistful blue eyes that begged of God and her
children some peace before they closed on life.

The vision of her sister was a joyful one, and her heart was at peace
about her, the plucky little princess who had blazed the way out of the
ogre's castle.

She saw Patty clearly as a future fine lady, in velvets and satins and
furs, bewitching every-body by her gay spirits, her piquant vivacity,
and the loving heart that lay underneath all the nonsense and gave it
warmth and color.

The remembrance of her father alone on the hilltop did indeed trouble
Waitstill. Self-reproach, in the true sense of the word, she did not,
could not, feel. Never since the day she was born had she been fathered,
and daughterly love was absent; but she suffered when she thought of
the fierce, self-willed old man, cutting himself off from all possible
friendships, while his vigor was being sapped daily and hourly by his
terrible greed of money.

True housewife that Waitstill was, her mind reverted to every separate
crock and canister in her cupboards, every article of her baking or
cooking that reposed on the swing-sheh in the cellar, thinking how long
her father could be comfortable without her ministrations, and so, how
long he would delay before engaging the u inevitable housekeeper. She
revolved the number of possible persons to whom the position would be
offered, and wished that Mrs. Mason, who so needed help, might be the
chosen one: but the fact of her having been friendly to the Boyntons
would strike her at once from the list.

When she was thankfully eating her breakfast with Mrs. Mason a little
later, and waiting for Ivory to call for them both and take them to the
Boynton farm, she little knew what was going on at her old home in these
very hours, when to tell the truth she would have liked to slip in, had
it been possible, wash the morning dishes, skim the cream, do the
week's churning, make her father's bed, and slip out again into the dear
shelter of love that awaited her.

The Deacon had passed a good part of the night in scheming and
contriving, and when he drank his self-made cup of muddy coffee at
seven o'clock next morning he had formed several plans that were to
be immediately frustrated, had he known it, by the exasperating and
suspicious nature of the ladies involved in them.

At eight he had left the house, started Bill Morrill at the store,
and was on the road in search of vengeance and a housekeeper. Old Mrs.
Atkins of Deerwander sniffed at the wages offered. Miss Peters, of Union
Falls, an aged spinster with weak lungs, had the impertinence to tell
him that she feared she couldn't stand the cold in his house; she had
heard he was very particular about the amount of wood that was burned.
A four-mile drive brought him to the village poetically named the Brick
Kiln, where he offered to Mrs. Peter Upham an advance of twenty-five
cents a week over and above the salary with which he had sought to tempt
Mrs. Atkins. Far from being impressed, Mrs. Uphill, being of a high
temper and candid turn of mind, told him she'd prefer to starve at home.
There was not another free woman within eight miles, and the Deacon was
chafing under t e mortification of being continually obliged to state
the reason for his needing a housekeeper. The only hope, it seemed, lay
in going to Saco and hiring a stranger, a plan not at all to his liking,
as it was sure to involve him in extra expense.

Muttering threats against the universe in general, he drove home by way
of Milliken's Mills, thinking of the unfed hens, the unmilked cow, the
unwashed dishes, the unchurned cream and above all of his unchastened
daughters; his rage increasing with every step until it was nearly at
the white heat of the night before.

A long stretch of hill brought the tired old mare to a slow walk, and
enabled the Deacon to see the Widow Tillman clipping the geraniums that
stood in tin cans on the shelf of her kitchen window.

Now, Foxwell Baxter had never been a village Lothario at any age, nor
frequented the society of such. Of late years, indeed, he had frequented
no society of any kind, so that he had missed, for instance, Abel
Day's description of the Widow Tillman as a "reg'lar syreen," though he
vaguely remembered that some of the Baptist sisters had questioned the
authenticity of her conversion by their young and attractive minister.
She made a pleasant picture at the window; she was a free woman (a
little too free, the neighbors would have said; but the Deacon didn't
know that); she was a comparative newcomer to the village, and her
mind had not been poisoned with feminine gossip--in a word, she was a
distinctly hopeful subject, and, acting on a blind and sudden impulse,
he turned into the yard, 'dung the reins over the mare's neck, and
knocked at the back door.

"Her character 's no worse than mine by now if Aunt Abby Cole's on the
road," he thought grimly, "an' if the Wilsons see my sleigh inside of
widder's fence, so much the better; it'll give 'em a jog.--Good morning
Mis' Tillman," he said to the smiling lady. "I'll come to the p'int at
once. My youngest daughter has married Mark Wilson against my will, an'
gone away from town, an' the older one's chosen a husband still less to
my likin'. Do you want to come and housekeep for me?"

"I surmised something was going on," re-turned Mrs. Tillman. "I saw
Patty and Mark drive away early this morning, with Mr. and Mrs. Wilson
wrapping the girl up and putting a hot soapstone in the sleigh, and
consid'able kissing and hugging thrown in."

This knowledge added fuel to the flame that was burning fiercely in the
Deacon's breast. "Well, how about the housekeeping he asked, trying
not to show his eagerness, and not recognizing himself at all in the
enterprise in which he found himself indulging.

"I 'm very comfortable here," the lady responded artfully, "and I don't
know 's I care to make any change, thank you. I didn't like the village
much at first, after living in larger places, but now I'm acquainted, it
kind of gains on me."

Her reply was carefully framed, for her mind worked with great rapidity,
and she was mistress of the situation almost as soon as she saw the
Deacon alighting from his sleigh. He was not the sort of man to be
a casual caller, and his manner bespoke an urgent errand. She had a
pension of six dollars a month, but over and above that sum her living
was precarious. She made coats, and she had never known want, for she
was a master hand at dealing with the opposite sex. Deacon Baxter,
according to common report, had ten or fifteen thousand dollars stowed
away in the banks, so the situation would be as simple as possible under
ordinary circumstances; it was as easy to turn out one man's pockets as
all-other's when he was a normal human being; but Deacon Baxter was a
different proposition.

"I wonder how long he's likely to live," she thought, glancing at him
covertly, out of the tail of her eye. "His evil temper must have driven
more than one nail in his coffin. I wonder, if I refuse to housekeep,
whether I 'll get--a better offer. I wonder if I could manage him if
I got him! I'd rather like to sit in the Baxter pew at the Orthodox
meeting-house after the way some of the Baptist sisters have snubbed me
since I come here."

Not a vestige of these incendiary thoughts showed in her comely
countenance, and her soul might have been as white as the high-bibbed
apron that covered it, to judge by her genial smile.

"I'd make the wages fair," urged the Deacon, looking round the clean
kitchen, with the break-fast-table sitting near the sunny window and the
odor of corned beef and cabbage issuing temptingly from a boiling pot on
the fire. "I hope she ain't a great meat-eater," he thought, "but it's
too soon to cross that bridge yet a while."

"I've no doubt of it," said the widow, wondering if her voice rang true;
"but I've got a pension, and why should I leave this cosy little home?
Would I better myself any, that's the question? I'm kind of lonesome
here, that's the only reason I'd consider a move."

"No need o' bein' lonesome down to the Falls," said the Deacon. "And I'm
in an' out all day, between the barn an' the store."

This, indeed, was not a pleasant prospect, but Jane Tillman had faced
worse ones in her time.

"I'm no hand at any work outside the house," she observed, as if
reflecting. "I can truthfully say I'm a good cook, and have a great
faculty for making a little go a long ways." (She considered this a
master-stroke, and in fact it was; for the Deacon's mouth absolutely
watered at this apparently unconscious comprehension of his
disposition.) "But I'm no hand at any chores in the barn or shed," she
continued. "My first husband would never allow me to do that kind of
work."

"Perhaps I could git a boy to help out; I've been kind o' thinkin' o'
that lately. What wages would you expect if I paid a boy for the rough
work?" asked the Deacon tremulously. "Well, to tell the truth, I don't
quite fancy the idea of taking wages. Judge Dickinson wants me to go to
Alfred and housekeep for him, and I'd named twelve dollars a month. It's
good pay, and I haven't said 'No'; but my rent is small here, I'm my own
mistress, and I don't feel like giving up my privileges."

"Twelve dollars a month!" He had never thought of approaching that sum;
and he saw the heap of unwashed dishes growing day by day, and the cream
souring on the milk-pans. Suddenly an idea sprang full-born into the
Deacon's mind (Jed Morrill's "Old Driver" must have been close at
hand!). Would Jane Tillman marry him? No woman in the three villages
would be more obnoxious to his daughters; that in itself was a distinct
gain. She was a fine, robust figure of a woman in her early forties,
and he thought, after all, that the hollow-chested, spindle-shanked kind
were more ex-pensive to feed, on the whole, than their better-padded
sisters. He had never had any difficulty in managing wives, and thought
himself quite equal to one more bout, even at sixty-five, though he
had just the faintest suspicion that the high color on Mrs. Tillman's
prominent cheek-bones, the vigor shown in the coarse black hair and
handsome eyebrows, might make this task a little more difficult than his
previous ones. But this fear vanished almost as quickly as it appeared,
for he kept saying to himself: "A judge of the County Court wants her at
twelve dollars a month; hadn't I better bid high an' git settled?

"If you'd like to have a home o' your own 'thout payin' rent, you've
only got to say the word an' I'll make you Mis' Baxter," said the
Deacon. "There'll be nobody to interfere with you, an' a handsome legacy
if I die first; for none o' my few savin's is goin' to my daughters, I
can promise you that!"

The Deacon threw out this tempting bait advisedly, for at this moment he
would have poured his hoard into the lap of any woman who would help him
to avenge his fancied wrongs.

This was information, indeed! The "few savings" alluded to amounted to
some thousands, Jane Tillman knew. Had she not better burn her ships
behind her, take the risks, and have faith in her own powers? She was
getting along in ears, and her charms of person were lessening with
every day that passed over her head. If the Deacon's queer ways grew
too queer, she thought an appeal to the doctor and the minister might
provide a way of escape and a neat little income to boot; so, on the
whole, the marriage, though much against her natural inclinations,
seemed to be providentially arranged.

The interview that succeeded, had it been reported verbatim, deserved
to be recorded in local history. Deacon Baxter had met in Jane Tillman a
foeman more than worthy of his steel. She was just as crafty as he, and
in generalship as much superior to him as Napoleon Bonaparte to Cephas
Cole. Her knowledge of and her experiences with men, all very humble, it
is true, but decidedly varied, enabled her to play on every weakness of
this particular one she had in hand, and at the same time skilfully to
avoided alarming him.

Heretofore, the women with whom the Deacon had come in contact had
timidly steered away from the rocks and reefs in his nature, and had
been too ignorant or too proud to look among them for certain softer
places that were likely to be there--since man is man, after all, even
when he is made on a very small pattern.

If Jane Tillman became Mrs. Baxter, she intended to get the whip hand
and keep it; but nothing was further from her intention than to make the
Deacon miserable if she could help it. That was not her disposition; and
so, when the deluded man left her house, he had made more concessions in
a single hour than in all the former years of his life.

His future spouse was to write out a little paper for his signature;
just a friendly little paper to be kept quite private and confidential
between themselves, stating that she was to do no work outside of the
house; that her pension was to be her own; that she was to have five
dollars in cash on the first of every month in lieu of wages; and that
in ease of his death occurring first she was to have a third of his
estate, and the whole of it if at the time of his decease he was still
pleased with his bargain. The only points in this contract that the
Deacon really understood were that he was paying only five dollars a
month for a housekeeper to whom a judge had offered twelve; that, as he
had expected to pay at least eight, he could get a boy for the remaining
three, and so be none the worse in pocket; also, that if he could keep
his daughters from getting his money, he didn't care a hang who had
it, as he hated the whole human race with entire impartiality. If Jane
Tillman didn't behave herself, he had pleasing visions of converting
most of his fortune into cash and having it dropped off the bridge
some dark night, when the doctor had given him up and proved to his
satisfaction that death would occur in the near future.

All this being harmoniously settled, the Deacon drove away, and caused
the announcement of his immediate marriage to be posted directly below
that of Waitstill and Ivory Boynton.

"Might as well have all the fat in the fire to once," he chuckled.
"There won't be any house-work done in this part of the county for a
week to come. If we should have more snow, nobody'll have to do any
shovellin', for the women-folks'll keep all the paths in the village
trod down from door to door, travellin' round with the news."

A "spite match," the community in general called the Deacon's marriage;
and many a man, and many a woman, too, regarding the amazing publishing
notice in the frame up at the meeting-house, felt that in Jane Tillman
Deacon Baxter had met his Waterloo.

"She's plenty good enough for him," said Aunt Abby Cole, "though I know
that's a terrible poor compliment. If she thinks she'll ever break into
s'ciety here at the Falls, she'll find herself mistaken! It's a mystery
to me why the poor deluded man ever done it; but ain't it wonderful the
ingenuity the Lord shows in punishin' sinners? I couldn't 'a' thought
out such a good comeuppance myself for Deacon Baxter, as marryin' Jane
Tillman! The thing that troubles me most, is thinkin' how tickled the
Baptists'll be to git her out o' their meetin' an' into ourn!"



XXXV. TWO HEAVENS

AT the very moment that Deacon Baxter was I starting out on his quest
for a housekeeper, Patty and Mark drove into the Mason dooryard and the
sisters flew into each other's arms. The dress that Mark had bought
for Patty was the usual charting and unsuitable offering of a man's
spontaneous affection, being of dark violet cloth with a wadded cape
lined with satin. A little brimmed hat of violet velvet tied under her
chin with silk ribbons completed the costume, and before the youthful
bride and groom had left the ancestral door Mrs. Wilson had hung her own
ermine victorine (the envy of all Edgewood) around Patty's neck and put
her ermine willow muff into her new daughter's hands; thus she was as
dazzling a personage, and as improperly dressed for the journey, as she
could well be.

Waitstill, in her plain linsey-woolsey, was entranced with Patty's
beauty and elegance, and the two girls had a few minutes of sisterly
talk, of interchange of radiant hopes and confidences before Mark tore
them apart, their cheeks wet with happy tears.

As the Mason house faded from view, Patty having waved her muff until
the last moment, turned in her seat and said:--

"Mark, dear, do you think your father would care if I spent the
twenty-dollar gold-piece he gave me, for Waitstill? She will be married
in a fortnight, and if my father does not give her the few things she
owns she will go to her husband more ill-provided even than I was. I
have so much, dear Mark, and she so little."

"It's your own wedding-present to use as you wish," Mark answered, "and
it's exactly like you to give it away. Go ahead and spend it if you want
to; I can always earn enough to keep you, without anybody's help!" and
Mark, after cracking the whip vaingloriously, kissed his wife just over
the violet ribbons, and with sleigh-bells jingling they sped over the
snow towards what seemed Paradise to them, the New Hampshire village
where they had been married and where--

So a few days later, Waitstill received a great parcel which relieved
her of many feminine anxieties and she began to shape and cut and stitch
during all the hours she had to herself. They were not many, for every
day she trudged to the Boynton farm and began with youthful enthusiasm
the household tasks that were so soon to be hers by right.

"Don't waste too much time and strength here, my dearest," said Ivory.
"Do you suppose for a moment I shall keep you long on this lonely farm?
I am ready for admission to the Bar or I am fitted to teach in the best
school in New England. Nothing has held me here but my mother, and in
her present condition of mind we can safely take her anywhere. We will
never live where there are so many memories and associations to sadden
and hamper us, but go where the best opportunity offers, and as soon as
may be. My wife will be a pearl of great price," he added fondly, "and I
intend to provide a right setting for her!"

This was all said in a glow of love and joy, pride and ambition, as
Ivory paced up and down before the living-room fireplace while Waitstill
was hanging the freshly laundered curtains.

Ivory was right; Waitstill Baxter was, indeed, a jewel of a woman. She
had little knowledge, but much wisdom, and after all, knowledge stands
for the leaves on a tree and wisdom for the fruit. There was infinite
richness in the girl, a richness that had been growing and ripening
through the years that she thought so gray and wasted. The few books
she owned and loved had generally lain unopened, it is true, upon her
bedroom table, and she held herself as having far too little learning to
be a worthy companion for Ivory Boynton; but all the beauty and cheer
a comfort that could ever be pressed into the arid life of the Baxter
household had come from Waitstill's heart, and that heart had grown in
warmth and plenty year by year.

Those lonely tasks, too hard for a girl's hands, those unrewarded
drudgeries, those days of faithful labor in and out of doors, those
evenings of self-sacrifice over the mending-basket; the quiet avoidance
of all that might vex her father's crusty temper, her patience with his
miserly exactions; the hourly holding back of the hasty word,--all these
had played their part; all these had been somehow welded into a strong,
sunny, steady, life-wisdom, there is no better name for it; and so
she had unconsciously the best of all harvests to bring as dower to
a husband who was worthy of her. Ivory's strength called to hers and
answered it, just as his great need awoke such a power of helpfulness in
her as she did not know she possessed. She loved the man, but she loved
the task that beckoned her, too. The vision of it was like the breath
of wind from a hill-top, putting salt and savor into the new life that
opened before her.

These were quietly happy days at the farm, for Mrs. Boynton took a new,
if transient, hold upon life that deceived even the doctor. Rodman
was nearly as ardent a lover as Ivory, hovering about Waitstill and
exclaiming, "You never stay to supper and it's so lonesome evenings
without you! Will it never be time for you to come and live with us,
Waity dear? The days crawl so slowly!" At which Ivory would laugh, push
him away and draw Waitstill nearer to his own side, saying: "If you are
in a hurry, you young cormorant, what do you think of me?" And Waitstill
would look from one to the other and blush at the heaven of love that
surrounded her on every side.

"I believe you are longing to begin on my cooking, you two big greedy
boys!" she said teasingly. "What shall we have for New Year's dinner,
Rod? Do you like a turkey, roasted brown and crispy, with giblet gravy
and cranberry jelly? Do you fancy an apple dumpling afterwards,--an
apple dumpling with potato crust,--or will you have a suet pudding with
foamy sauce?"

"Stop, Waitstill!" cried Ivory. "Don't put hope into us until you are
ready to satisfy it; we can't bear it!"

"And I have a box of goodies from my own garden safely stowed away in
Uncle Bart's shop," Waitstill went on mischievously. "They were to be
sold in Portland, but I think they'll have to be my wedding-present
to my husband, though a very strange one, indeed! There are peaches
floating in sweet syrup; there are tumblers of quince jelly; there are
jars of tomato and citron preserves, and for supper you shall eat them
with biscuits as light as feathers and white as snowdrifts."

"We can never wait two more days, Rod; let us kidnap her! Let us take
the old bob-sled and run over to New Hampshire where one can be married
the minute one feels like it. We could do it between sunrise and
moonrise and be at home for a late supper. Would she be too tired to
bake the biscuits for us, do you think? What do you say, Rod, will
you be best man?" And there would be youthful, unaccustomed laughter
floating out from the kitchen or living-room, bringing a smile of
content to Lois Boynton's face as she lay propped up in bed with her
open Bible beside her. "He binds up the broken-hearted," she whispered
to herself. "He gives unto them a garland for ashes; the oil of joy for
mourning; the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."

The quiet wedding was over. There had been neither feasting, nor finery,
nor presents, nor bridal journey; only a home-coming that meant deep and
sacred a joy, as fervent gratitude as any four hearts ever contained
in all the world. But the laughter ceased, though the happiness flowed
silently underneath, almost forgotten in the sudden sorrow that overcame
them, for it fell out that Lois Boynton had only waited, as it were, for
the marriage, and could stay no longer.

  "... There are two heavens...
   Both made of love,--one, inconceivable
   Ev'n by the other, so divine it is;
   The other, far on this side of the stars,
   By men called home."

And these two heavens met, over at Boyntons', during these cold, white,
glistening December days.

Lois Boynton found hers first. After a windy moonlit night a morning
dawned in which a hush seemed to be on the earth. The cattle huddled
together in the farmyards and the fowls shrank into their feathers. The
sky was gray, and suddenly the first white heralds came floating down
like scouts seeking for paths and camping-places.

Waitstill turned Mrs. Boynton's bed so that she could look out of
the window. Slope after slope, dazzling in white crust, rose one upon
another and vanished as they slipped away into the dark green of the
pine forests. Then,

   "... there fell from out the skies
    A feathery whiteness over all the land;
    A strange, soft, spotless something, pure as light."

It could not be called a storm, for there had been no wind since
sunrise, no whirling fury, no drifting; only a still, steady, solemn
fall of crystal flakes, hour after hour, hour after hour.

Mrs. Boynton's Book of books was open on the bed and her finger marked a
passage in her favorite Bible-poet.

"Here it is, daughter," she whispered. "I have found it, in the same
chapter where the morning stars sing together and the sons of God shout
for joy. The Lord speaks to Job out of the whirlwind and says: 'HAST
THOU ENTERED INTO THE TREASURES OF THE SNOW? OR HAST THOU SEEN THE
TREASURES OF THE HAIL?' Sit near me, Waitstill, and look out on the
hills. 'HAST THOU ENTERED INTO THE TREASURES OF THE SNOW?' No, not yet,
but please God, I shall, and into many other treasures, soon"; and she
closed her eyes.

All day long the air-ways were filled with the glittering army of the
snowflakes; all day long the snow grew deeper and deeper on the ground;
and on the breath of some white-winged wonder that passed Lois Boynton's
window her white soul forsook its "earth-lot" and took flight at last.

They watched beside her, but never knew the moment of her going; it was
just a silent flitting, a ceasing to be, without a tremor, or a flutter
that could be seen by mortal eye. Her face was so like an angel's in its
shining serenity that the few who loved her best could not look upon her
with anything but reverent joy. On earth she had known nothing but the
"broken arcs," but in heaven she would find the "perfect round"; there
at last, on the other side of the stars, she could remember right, poor
Lois Boynton!


For weeks afterwards the village was shrouded in snow as it had never
been before within memory, but in every happy household the home-life
deepened day by day. The books came out in the long evenings; the
grandsires told old tales under the inspiration of the hearth-fire: the
children gathered on their wooden stools to roast apples and pop corn;
and hearts came closer together than when summer called the housemates
to wander here and there in fields and woods and beside the river.

Over at Boyntons', when the snow was whirling and the wind howling round
the chimneys of the high-gabled old farmhouse; when every window had its
frame of ermine and fringe of icicles, and the sleet rattled furiously
against the glass, then Ivory would throw a great back log on the bank
of coals between the fire-dogs, the kettle would begin to sing, and
the eat come from some snug corner to curl and purr on the braided
hearth-rug.

School was in session, and Ivory and Rod had their textbooks of an
evening, but oh! what a new and strange joy to study when there was a
sweet woman sitting near with her workbasket; a woman wearing a shining
braid of hair as if it were a coronet; a woman of clear eyes and tender
lips, one who could feel as well as think, one who could be a man's
comrade as well as his dear love.

Truly the second heaven, the one on "this side of the stars, by men
called home," was very present over at Boyntons'.

Sometimes the broad-seated old haircloth sofa would be drawn in front of
the fire, and Ivory, laying his pipe and his Greek grammar on the table,
would take some lighter book and open it on his knee. Waitstill would
lift her eyes from her sewing to meet her husband's glance that spoke
longing for her closer companionship, and gladly leaving her work, and
slipping into the place by his side, she would put her elbow on his
shoulder and read with him.

Once, Rod, from his place at a table on the other side of the room,
looked and looked at them with a kind of instinct beyond his years, and
finally crept up to Waitstill, and putting an arm through hers, nestled
his curly head on her shoulder with the quaint charm and grace that
belonged to him.

It was a young and beautiful shoulder, Waitstill's, and there had always
been, and would always be, a gracious curve in it where a child's head
might lie in comfort. Presently with a shy pressure, Rod whispered:
"Shall I sit in the other room, Waitstill and Ivory?--Am I in the way?"

Ivory looked up from his book quietly shaking his head, while Waitstill
put her arm around the boy and drew him closer.

"Our little brother is never in the way," she said, as she bent and
kissed him.


Men may come and men may go; Saco Water still tumbles tumultuously over
the dam and rushes under the Edgewood bridge on its way to the sea;
and still it listens to the story of to-day that will sometime be the
history of yesterday.

On midsummer evenings the windows of the old farmhouse over at Boyntons'
gleam with unaccustomed lights and voices break the stillness, lessening
the gloom of the long grass-grown lane of Lois Boynton's watching in
days gone by. On sunny mornings there is a merry babel of children's
chatter, mingled with gentle maternal warnings, for this is a new brood
of young things and the river is calling them as it has called all
the others who ever came within the circle of its magic. The fragile
harebells hanging their blue heads from the crevices of the rocks;
the brilliant columbines swaying to and fro on their tall stalks; the
patches of gleaming sand in shallow places beckoning little bare feet
to come and tread them; the glint of silver minnows darting hither
and thither in some still pool; the tempestuous journey of some
weather-beaten log, fighting its way downstream;--here is life in
abundance, luring the child to share its risks and its joys.

When Waitstill's boys and Patty's girls come back to the farm, they play
by Saco Water as their mothers and their fathers did before them. The
paths through the pine woods along the river's brink are trodden smooth
by their restless, wandering feet; their eager, curious eyes search the
waysides for adventure, but their babble and laughter are oftenest heard
from the ruins of an old house hidden by great trees. The stones of
the cellar, all overgrown with blackberry vines, are still there; and
a fragment of the brick chimney, where swallows build their nests from
year to year. A wilderness of weeds, tall and luxuriant, springs up to
hide the stone over which Jacob Cochrane stepped daily when he issued
from his door; and the polished stick with which three-year-old Patty
beats a tattoo may be a round from the very chair in which he sat,
expounding the Bible according to his own vision. The thickets of sweet
clover and red-tipped grasses, of waving ferns and young alder bushes
hide all of ugliness that belongs to the deserted spot and serve as a
miniature forest in whose shade the younglings foreshadow the future
at their play of home-building and housekeeping. In a far corner,
altogether concealed from the passer-by, there is a secret treasure, a
wonderful rosebush, its green leaves shining with health and vigor. When
the July sun is turning the hay-fields yellow, the children part the
bushes in the leafy corner and little Waitstill Boynton steps cautiously
in, to gather one splendid rose, "for father and mother."

Jacob Cochrane's heart, with all its faults and frailties has long been
at peace. On a chill, dreary night in November, all that was mortal of
him was raised from its unhonored resting-place not far from the ruins
of his old abode, and borne by three of his disciples far away to
another state. The gravestones were replaced, face downward, deep, deep
in the earth, and the sod laid back upon them, so that no man thence
forward could mark the place of the prophet's transient burial amid the
scenes of his first and only triumphant ministry.

"It is a sad story, Jacob Cochrane's," Waitstill said to her husband
when she first discovered that her children had chosen the deserted spot
for their play; "and yet, Ivory, the red rose blooms and blooms in the
ruins of the man's house, and perhaps, somewhere in the world, he has
left a message that matches the rose."





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