Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

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

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mrs. Tree's Will" ***

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



                          MRS. TREE'S WILL

                        By Laura E. Richards

    _Author of_ "Captain January," "Melody," "Marie," "Mrs. Tree," etc.


    Boston
    Dana Estes & Company
    Publishers

    _Copyright, 1905_
    BY DANA ESTES & COMPANY

    _All rights reserved_

    MRS. TREE'S WILL

    _COLONIAL PRESS
    Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
    Boston, U.S.A._

    TO
    MY DAUGHTER
    Alice



[Illustration: "'HOMER HOLLOPETER,' SHE SAID, 'WHAT IS THE NAME OF THIS
VILLAGE?'"]



CONTENTS


CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE WILL ITSELF 11

II. WHAT THE MEN SAID 33

III. WHAT THE WOMEN SAID 51

IV. MOSTLY GOSSIP 79

V. IN MISS PENNY'S SHOP 95

VI. THE SORROWS OF MR. HOMER 111

VII. CONCHOLOGY AND OTHER THINGS 130

VIII. MR. PINDAR 147

IX. "QUAND ON CONSPIRE" 164

X. A PLEASANT HOUR 186

XI. SPINNING YARNS 199

XII. MISS WAX AT HOME 224

XIII. THE SORROWS OF MR. PINDAR 240

XIV. THE DRAMATIC MOMENT 255

XV. AFTER ALL! 283

XVI. MARRIAGE BELLS 297

XVII. THE LAST WORD 309


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


PAGE

"'HOMER HOLLOPETER,' SHE SAID, 'WHAT IS THE NAME OF THIS VILLAGE?'"
_FRONTISPIECE_

"'GOOD MORNING, SETH!' SAID THE LITTLE MINISTER" 80

"AS HE HELD THE CANDLE HIGH, ITS WAVERING LIGHT FELL ON THE COUNTENANCE
OF THE STRANGER" 143

"'BILE IN, SALEM!' SAID SETH WEAVER, 'YOU AIN'T FORGOT, HAVE YE?'" 197



MRS. TREE'S WILL



CHAPTER I.

THE WILL ITSELF


"Suppose you tell me all about it, Mr. Hollopeter!" said Mr. Bliss.

Mr. Homer Hollopeter sighed deeply; wiped his brow with a
sky-blue article, evidently under the impression that it was a
pocket-handkerchief; sighed again yet more deeply on perceiving that it
was a necktie; put it back in his pocket, and looked plaintively at the
minister.

"I should be pleased to do so, Mr. Bliss," he said. "It would be--a
relief; a--an unburdening; an--outlet to imprisoned nature."

"You see," the little minister went on soothingly, "our dear old
friend's death occurring while I was away, and I returning only just in
time for the funeral, I have not really heard the particulars yet. I
might--that is--Mrs. Weight kindly called on me last evening, probably
with a view to giving me some information, but I was unable to see her,
and I should prefer to hear from you how it all happened."

"Yes--a--yes!" said Mr. Homer, nervously. "Mrs. Weight is a--a
person--a--in short, she is a person not connected with the family.
Well, Mr. Bliss, the end came very suddenly; very suddenly indeed. It
was a great shock; a great--blow; a great--unsettling of the equilibrium
of daily life. The village has never known such a sensation, sir,
never."

"Mrs. Tree died in the evening, I believe?" said Mr. Bliss.

"At nine o'clock, sir," said Mr. Homer. "Jocko, the parrot, had had some
trifling indisposition, and Cousin Marcia had sent for Miss Penelope
Pardon, who, as you are doubtless aware, has some knowledge of the
feathered tribes and their peculiar ailments. It chanced that I came in
to bring a letter, which would, I fancied, give Cousin Marcia singular
pleasure. It was from little Vesta--I would say from Mrs. Geoffrey
Strong, Mr. Bliss: she has always been a favorite niece--grandniece, I
should say, of Mrs. Tree. I found my cousin somewhat excited; she was
speaking to Miss Pardon with emphasis, and, as I entered, she struck the
floor with her stick and said: 'Cat's foot! don't tell me! folderol!'
and other expressions of that nature, as was her custom when moved.
Seeing me, she turned upon me with some abruptness and addressed me in
the following words: 'Well, Homer, here you are mooning about as usual.
You ought to be in a cage, and have Penny to take care of you. How would
you like this for a cage?' She waved her stick round the room, and then,
grasping it nervously, shook it at me with violence.

"'Homer Hollopeter,' she said, 'what is the name of this village?'

"Somewhat startled at this outburst, I repeated her remark. 'The name,
Cousin Marcia?'

"'The name!' she said, violently. 'The real name! out with it,
ninnyhammer!'

"I replied firmly,--it is a point on which I have always felt strongly,
Mr. Bliss,--'The real name of this village, Cousin Marcia, is Quahaug.'

"Mrs. Tree sat bolt upright in her chair. 'Homer Hollopeter,' she said,
'you have some sense, after all! Hooray for Quahaug!'

"Mr. Bliss, they were her last words. She sat looking at me,
erect, vivacious, the very picture of life; and the next instant
the stick dropped from her hand. She was gone, sir. The spirit
had--departed;--a--removed itself;--a--winged its way to the empyrean."

He paused, half-drew out the blue necktie, then replaced it hurriedly.

"It was a great shock," he said; "I shall never be the same man again,
never! Miss Pardon was most kind and attentive. She supplied me
with--a--volatile salts, and in other ways ministered to my
outer man till I was somewhat restored; but the inner man, sir,
the--a--rainbow-hued spirit, as the poet has it, is--a--bruised;
is--a--battered; is--a--marked with the impress of a grievous blow. At
my age I can hardly hope to recover the equilibrium which--"

"Come! come! Mr. Hollopeter," said the little minister; "you must not be
despondent. Consider, our dear old friend had rounded out her century;
the ripe fruit dropped quietly from the bough. It is true that her loss
is a grievous one to all our community."

"It is, sir! it is, sir!" said Mr. Homer. "To imagine this community
without Cousin Marcia is to imagine the hive without its queen;
the--a--flock without its leader; the--a--finny tribe--but this is not a
metaphor which can be pursued, Mr. Bliss; and, indeed, I see our friends
even now approaching to join in the ceremony--a--the--I may say
solemnity, which we have come hither to observe."

The foregoing conversation was held in Mrs. Tree's parlor. I say Mrs.
Tree's, advisedly, for, though the bright, energetic spirit that had so
lately held sway there was gone, her presence still remained to fill the
room. Indeed, this room, with its dim antique richness, its glimmer of
gold lacquer, its soft duskiness of brocade and damask, its treasures of
rare and precious woods, and, above all, its fragrance of sandalwood and
roses, had always seemed the fit and perfect setting for the ancient
jewel it held. To the poetic imagination of Mr. Homer Hollopeter, Mrs.
Tree had always seemed out of place elsewhere. He had almost grudged the
occasions, rare of late years, when she went abroad in her camel's-hair
shawl and her great velvet bonnet. There seemed no reason why she should
ever stir from her high-backed chair of carved ebony. He saw her in it
at this moment, almost as plainly as he had seen her three days ago; the
tiny satin-clad figure, erect, alert, the little hands resting on the
ebony crutch-stick, the eyes darting black fire, the lips uttering
pungent words that bit like cayenne pepper, yet were wholesome in their
biting,--was it possible that she was no longer there? Mr. Homer had
feared his cousin Marcia more than any earthly thing, but still he had
loved her sincerely; and now the tears were in his mild blue eyes as he
turned from this vision of her to greet the incoming guests. Since the
death of Doctor Stedman and his dear wife the year before, Mr. Homer was
Mrs. Tree's only kinsman living in the village, and Doctor Strong, now
staying at the Blyth house with his wife, had begged him to take up his
quarters at Mrs. Tree's for the present. He had a special reason for
asking it, he said. Mr. Homer would find out later what it was. So,
meekly and sadly, Mr. Homer had brought a limp carpet-bag, and asked
Direxia Hawkes, the old servant, to put him wherever it would be least
inconvenient; and the old woman, half-blind with weeping, had fiercely
made ready the best bedroom, and was trying with bitter energy to feed
him to death.

Who are these who enter the quiet room, greeting Mr. Homer with a silent
nod or a low-toned word or two? We know most of them. First come Dr.
Geoffrey Strong and Vesta, his wife, a noble-looking pair. Geoffrey
holds his head as high, and his eyes are as bright and keen as ever;
and, if a silver thread shows here and there in his crisp brown hair,
Vesta thinks him none the less handsome for that. There is no silver in
Vesta's own hair; the tawny masses are as beautiful as ever. Her figure
is a little fuller, as becomes the mother of four. Geoffrey tells the
children in confidence that their mother is the exact counterpart of the
Venus of Milo, and says he has no doubt that the latter lady had tawny
hair. Vesta has put on a simple black dress, but there is no special
sign of "mourning" about it.

"If anybody puts on crape for me," Mrs. Tree used to say, "I'll get up
and pull it off 'em. So now they know. Nasty, unhealthy stuff! There's a
piece to go on the door. Tommy Candy knows where it is; and that's all
I'll have."

Here is Tommy Candy now, a tall lad of twenty, walking lame and leaning
on a stick; his hair, which used to stand up in stiff spikes all over
his head, is brought under some control, but there is no suppressing the
twinkle in his gray eyes. Even now, when he is in sincere grief for his
best friend, his eyes will twinkle as he looks out of the window and
sees the elephantine form of Mrs. Weight lumbering up the garden path.
And who is this behind her? Talk of crape,--why, here is a figure
literally swathed in it. The heavy veil is only pushed aside to give
play to a handkerchief with an inch-deep black border, which is pressed
to the eyes; a sob shakes the buxom figure. Who is this grief-smitten
lady? Why, this is Mrs. Maria Darracott Pryor, Mrs. Tree's own and only
lawful niece, the Next of Kin. She brushes past Vesta and her husband
with a curt nod, rustles across the room, and lays her head on the arm
of the ebony chair. At this Homer Hollopeter and Geoffrey Strong both
start from their seats. Mr. Homer's gentle eyes gleam with unaccustomed
fire; he opens his mouth to speak, but closes it again; for the intruder
stops--falters--gives a scared look about her, and, tottering back,
subsides on a sofa at the side of the room. Here she sobs ostentatiously
behind her handkerchief, and takes eager note of the rest of the
company.

She was followed by Mrs. Deacon Weight, from across the way, whom
Direxia admitted "this once!" as she said to herself with silent
ferocity; William Jaquith and his lovely wife; finally, the lawyer, a
brisk, dapper little man, who came in quickly, sat down by the
violet-wood table, and proceeded without delay to open his budget.

"I, Marcia Darracott Tree, being of sound mind, which is more than most
folks I know are--"

There was a movement, slight but general, among the company. No one
quite smiled, but the faces of those who had loved Mrs. Tree lightened,
while those of the others stiffened into a rigidity of disapproval. To
one and all it seemed as if the ancient woman were speaking to them. The
little lawyer paused and gave a quick glance around the room.

"It may be well for me to state in the beginning," he said, "that this
instrument, though beyond question irregular in its form of expression,
is--equally beyond question--perfectly regular in its substance; an
entirely valid instrument. To resume: 'of sound mind,'--I need not
repeat the excursus,--'do hereby dispose of my various belongings, all
of which are absolutely and without qualification within my own control
and possession, in the following manner, to wit, namely, and any other
folderol this man may want to put in.' Ahem! My venerable friend was
very pleasant with me while I was drawing up this instrument,--very
pleasant; but she insisted on my writing her exact words.

"'To Vesta Strong I give and bequeath my jewels, with the exceptions
hereinafter specified; my lace; the velvet and satin dresses in the
cedar chests; the camel's-hair shawls; the silver, both Darracott and
Tree; and anything else in the house that she may fancy, with the
exceptions hereinafter mentioned. She'd better not clutter up her house
with too many things; it is full enough already, with Blyth and Meredith
truck.

"'To Geoffrey Strong I give any of my books that he likes, except the
blue Keats; the engraved sapphire ring, and fifty thousand dollars.

"'Homer Hollopeter is to have the blue morocco Keats, presented by the
author to my father, because he has always wanted it and never expected
to get it.'"

The tears brimmed over in Mr. Homer's eyes. "I certainly never did
expect this," he said, with emotion. "I have held the precious volume in
my hands reverently--a--humbly--a--with abasement of spirit, but I never
thought to possess it. I am indeed overcome. Pardon the interruption,
sir, I beg of you."

The lawyer gave Mr. Homer a look, half-quizzical, half-compassionate.
"Your name occurs again in this instrument, Homer," he said; "I will not
say more at present. To resume:

"'To Direxia Hawkes I give five thousand dollars and a home in this
house as long as she lives, on condition that she never cleans more than
one room in it at a time, and that she makes the orange cordial every
year according to my rule, without making any fool changes.'"

Direxia Hawkes, a tiny withered brownie, had been standing by the door
since she admitted the last comer. She now threw her apron over her head
and began to sob. "Did you ever?" she cried. "Tell me that woman is
dead! She's more alive than the hull bilin' of this village, I tell you.
Sixty years I've been trying to get a mite of ginger into that cordial,
and now I never shall. There! I don't want to no more, now she ain't
here to tell me I sha'n't. Oh, dear! Oh, dear!"

Vesta Strong went to the old woman's side and comforted her tenderly.
The sobs died away into sniffs, and the lawyer continued:

"'To William Jaquith I leave twenty thousand dollars and the house he
now occupies; also all the property, real and personal, of my grandson,
Arthur Blyth, deceased.

"'To my niece, Maria Darracott Pryor,'"--the little lawyer paused and
glanced over his spectacles. With each of the bequests enumerated, Mrs.
Pryor had become more and more rigid. The black-edged handkerchief was
forgotten, and she sat with her chin raised and her prominent
short-sighted eyes glancing from one to another of the fortunate
legatees with an expression which, to say the least, was not
affectionate. "From envy, hatred, and malice," Geoffrey had whispered a
moment before.

"Hush, Geoffrey," said Vesta.

But at the mention of her own name, Mrs. Pryor's expression changed; the
rigor yielded to a drooping softness; she heaved a deep sigh and raised
the handkerchief to her eyes again.

"Dearest Cousin Marcia!" she murmured; "she remembered even in her
closing moments that I was her next of kin; so touching. The Darracott
blood--"

"'To my niece, Maria Darracott Pryor, I give and bequeath--the sum
of--three dollars and sixty-seven cents, being the price of a ticket
back where she came from. If she tries to stay in my house, tell her to
remember the _last time_.'

"I greatly regret these discourteous observations," said the little
lawyer, deprecatingly, "but my venerable friend was--a--positively
determined on inserting them, and I had no alternative, I assure you."

He looked with some alarm at Mrs. Pryor as he spoke, and, indeed, that
lady's countenance was dreadful to look upon. Every part of her seemed
to clink and crackle as she rose to her feet, her eyes snapping, her
teeth fairly chattering with rage.

"You call this a will, do you?" she cried. "You call this law, do you?
We'll see about that. We'll see if the next of kin is to be insulted and
trodden upon by a low attorney and a set of beggars on horseback. We'll
see--"

But the little lawyer, who came from the neighboring town, had gone to
the Academy with Maria Darracott, and, though a man of punctilious
courtesy, had no idea of being called a low attorney by any such person.
He therefore interrupted her with scant ceremony.

"We must, I fear, postpone discussion," he said, "until the instrument
has been heard in its entirety by all present. To resume."

Mrs. Pryor glanced about her with challenging eyes and heaving breast,
but, seeing that no one paid much heed to her, all looks being bent on
the reader, she subsided once more into her seat, a statue of vindictive
protest.

"'To Thomas Candy I give five thousand dollars, and another five
thousand dollars on his attaining the age of twenty-five if he shall
have been able by that time to carry out the plan and maintain the
condition now to be specified.'"

The little lawyer paused again and glanced round the expectant circle.
His shrewd brown face was immovable, but his black eyes twinkled in
spite of himself.

"I have already observed," he said, "that this instrument is an
unusual, I may say, a singular one. My venerable friend was most
emphatic in her enunciation of the following--a--condition, which--which
I forbear to characterize." He glanced at the empty chair. One would
have thought that for him it was not empty. Then he went on:

"'The condition now to be specified.

"'To Homer Hollopeter and Thomas Candy I give and bequeath this house
and garden, the furniture, etc. (after Vesta Strong has taken what she
wants), the collections of foreign woods, uncut gems, butterflies,
carved ivories, natural curiosities, shells, coins, etc., etc., etc., to
be held by them in trust, and arranged by them as a museum for the
perpetual benefit of this village; and I give them over and above the
before mentioned legacies two thousand dollars yearly for the
maintenance of this museum and for additions thereto: all this on
condition that this village shall resume and maintain its original and
true name of Quahaug, which it would never have lost if Captain Tree and
I had not been in the South Seas while that old noddy, Melancthon Swain,
was minister here.

"'All the rest and residue of my estate I give and bequeath to the
aforesaid Homer Hollopeter, and I appoint him my residuary legatee, and
I hope there's fuss enough about it.'"

The little lawyer stopped reading and pushed back his chair. In doing
so, he may have inadvertently touched the empty chair, for at that
instant an ebony crutch-stick, which had been leaning against it, fell
forward on the floor with a loud rattle. Mrs. Pryor shrieked and fell
into real and violent hysterics. She was supported out of the room by
Doctor Strong and his wife. Mrs. Weight rolled out after them, snorting
indignant sympathy, and the assembly broke up in confusion.



CHAPTER II.

WHAT THE MEN SAID


I have elsewhere described the village post-office, both as it appeared
at the time of Mr. Homer Hollopeter's election as postmaster and as
later adorned and beautified by him.[1] It had been a labor of love with
Mr. Homer, not only to make the office itself pleasant, to transform it,
as he said, "into a fitting shrine for the genius of epistolary
intercourse," but to make the outside of the building pleasant to the
eye. Clematis and woodbine were trained up the walls and round the
windows, and the once forlorn-looking veranda was a veritable bower of
morning-glory and climbing roses.

[Footnote 1: "Mrs. Tree."]

On this veranda, the day after the reading of Mrs. Tree's will, the
village elders were gathered, as was their custom, awaiting the arrival
of the afternoon mail. They sat in a row, their chairs tilted back
against the wall, their faces set seaward. The faces were all grave, and
a certain solemnity seemed to brood over the little assembly. From time
to time one or another would take his pipe from his mouth, and the
others would look at him doubtfully, as if half-expecting a remark, but
the pipe would be replaced in silence. At length Salem Rock, a massive
gray-haired man of dignified and sober aspect, spoke.

"Well, boys," he said, "somebody's got to say something, and, as nobody
else seems inclined, I s'pose it's up to me as the oldest here. Not but
what I feel like a child to-day,--a little mite of a child. Boys, this
village has met with a great loss."

There was a general murmur of "That's so!" "It has." "That's what it's
met with!"

"I can't seem to sense it!" Salem Rock continued. "I can't seem to make
it anyways real, that Mis' Tree is gone. I can't help but think that if
I went there to that house to-day, as I was free to go any time I wanted
anything as good advice could give--or help either--or anybody else in
this village as ever needed anything--I can't help but think that if I
went there to that house to-day I should find Mis' Tree sittin' in her
chair, chirk as a chipmunk, and hear her say, 'Now, Salem Rock, what
mischief have you been up to?' I was allus a boy to her--we was all
boys."

"That's so!" the chorus murmured again. "That was what we was; boys!"

"And when I think," Salem Rock went on, "that I shall never more so go
and so find her again--sittin' in that chair--nor hear her so speak--I
tell you, boys, it breaks me all up; it doos so."

Again there was a sympathetic murmur; heads were shaken, and feet
shuffled uneasily. The men were all glad to have a voice for their
grief, but all had not the gift of speech.

"I remember"--Salem Rock was still the speaker; he was a slow,
thoughtful man, and gathered momentum as he went on--"the first time
ever I saw Mis' Tree, to remember it. I couldn't ha' been more than six
years old, and I was sittin' in the front dooryard makin' mud pies, and
she came in on some errand to mother. Mother used to spin yarn for her,
same as my woman does now--did, I'm obleeged to say. Wal, she had on her
grand bunnit and shawl, and I had never seen nothin' like her before.
Ma'rm never took me to meetin' till I was seven, and she showed
judgment. Wal, sirs, that ancient woman--she wasn't ancient then, of
course, but yet she wasn't young, and she appeared ancient to me--looked
me over, and spoke up sharp and crisp. 'Stand up, boy,' she says, 'and
take your hat off; quick!'

"I tell ye, there didn't no grass grow under me! I was up fast as my
legs could scramble.

"'That's right!' she says; 'always stand up and take off your hat when a
lady comes into the yard.'

"'Be you a lady?' says I. Lord knows what kind of notion I had; children
don't always know what they are saying.

"'I am the Queen of the Cannibal Islands!' says she.

"I never misdoubted but what she was, and I didn't know what Cannibal
Islands meant.

"'What's your name?' says I.

"'I'll tell you what my husband's name is,' says she. 'His name is

    "'Chingy Fungy Wong,
    Putta-potee da Kubbala Kong,
    Flipperty Flapperty Busky Bong,
    The King of the Cannibal Islands.'

"Then she went into the house, and I stood starin' after her with my
mouth gappin' open. She didn't stay long, and, when she came out again,
up I jumps without waitin' to be told. She looks at me ag'in, that quick
way she had, like a bird. 'Finished your pie?' says she.

"'Yes'm,' says I.

"'Is it a good pie?' says she.

"'I guess so!' says I.

"'I'll buy it,' says she. 'Here's the money!' and she gives me a bright
new ten-cent piece,--it was the first ever I had in my life,--and walked
off quick and light before ever I could say a word. Well, now, sirs, if
children ain't cur'us things! I was a slow child most ways,--ben slow
all my life long, but it come over me then quick as winkin', she had
paid for that pie, and it was hers, and she'd got to have it. I never
said a word, but just toddled after down street, holdin' that mud pie as
if it was Thanksgivin' mince. I couldn't catch up with her; she walked
almighty fast them days, and my legs were short, but I kep' her red
shawl in sight, and I see where she went in. Time I got up to the door
it was shut, but I banged on it in good shape, and D'reckshy Hawkes come
and opened it. She was allus sharp, D'reckshy was, and she couldn't
abide no boys but her two, as she called 'em, Arthur and Willy, and they
weren't neither one of 'em born then.

"'What do you want, boy?' she says, sharp enough.

"'I don't want nothin'!' says I. 'I brung the pie.'

"'What pie?' says she.

"'Her'n,' says I. 'She bought it off'n me; her that went in just now,
with the red shawl.'

"D'reckshy looked me over, and looked at the pie. I make no doubt but
she was just goin' to send me about my business, but before she could
speak I heard Mis' Tree's voice. She had seen me from the window, I
expect.

"'D'reckshy Hawkes,' she says, 'take that pie into the pantry and send
the child to me.'

"'My sakes, Mis' Tree!' said D'reckshy, 'it ain't a pie; it's a _mud_
pie!'

"'Do as I tell you!' says Mis' Tree, and D'reckshy went; but she give me
a shove toward the parlor door, and there I see Mis' Tree sittin' in her
chair. That was the first time. Well, sirs, we are all perishable
clay."

Another silence fell; the pensive pipes puffed; the keen eyes scanned
the prospect.

"Looks as if 'twas tryin' to git up some kind o' weather out there!"
said Seth Weaver.

"Doos so!" responded Ebenezer Hoppin. "It's ben tryin' two-three days,
but it don't seem to have no pertickler _suc_cess."

"Old Mis' Tree hadn't no use for weather," said Jordan Tooke. "Some
women-folks are scairt to death of a rainstorm; you'd think they were
afraid of washin' out themselves, same as they be about their clo'es;
but she wa'n't that kind; rain or snow, shine or shower, she did what
she had a mind to.

"'Weather never took no heed of me,' she used to say, 'and I ain't goin'
to take no heed of it.' No more she did!"

Seth Weaver shook his head, with a reminiscent chuckle. "Ever hear what
she said to that feller that come here one time from Salt Marsh and druv
the ten-cent team a spell?"

The others shook their heads and turned toward him with an air of
relief. Collective sorrow is embarrassing to men.

"There wa'n't much to him," said Seth, "and what there was was full half
the time. He didn't stay here long. This village didn't appreciate him
the way he liked to be appreciated. Wal, it was snowin' one day, quite a
storm it was, and Mis' Tree had sent for him,--Anthony bein' laid up or
somethin'. Ezra Doolittle--that was his name, and it suited him--had bit
off more jobs than he could swaller, and when he got round to Mis'
Tree's he was half an hour late, and she told him so pretty plain. He
had just enough liquor aboard to make him saucy. 'Wal,' he says,
'you're lucky to git me at all. I've druv from Hell to Jerusalem to git
here now.'

"Mis' Tree was all ready for him; she spoke up quick as kindlin':
'You'll git back quicker,' she says, ''cause you know the way.'

"I was just drivin' by on my milk route, and she caught sight of me.

"'Seth,' she says, 'I want to go to Mis' Jaquith's. Can you take me?'

"'I'd be pleased to,' says I, 'if you don't mind the pung, Mis' Tree.'

"She was into that pung before you could say 'sausage!'

"'Whip up!' she says; 'get ahead of that feller!' and I laid into my old
mare, and off we went kingdom-comin' down the ro'd, me in my old red
pung and my buffalo coat, and Mis' Tree in her velvet bunnit and fur
cloak, and that feller standin' in the ro'd with his mouth open, same
as you were, Salem, with your mud pie. Well, sir, that was a meal o'
victuals for me. I sent the old mare along for all she was wuth, and we
got down to Jaquiths' inside of ten minutes. Pretty good time,
considerin' what the ro'd was. Got there, and out that old lady hops
like a girl.

"'Good boy, Seth!' she says.

"She wanted to give me a dollar, 'cause she had taken me off my route,
but I says, 'I guess not, Mis' Tree!' I says. 'I've ben layin' for you
ever since you helped mother when she had the fever, and now I've got my
chance!' So she laughs and says, call for her on my way back, and I did;
but when I found a fourteen-pound turkey sittin' up against my door
Christmas mornin',--I wasn't buyin' turkeys that year myself,--I knowed
where it come from, and no words said. But what took me was the way she
spoke up to that feller. Now some women would have complained, and some
would have scol't, and they'd all have gone with the feller 'cause he
had a covered team,--but not she! 'You'll get back quicker,' she says,
'from knowin' the way!' and into my team like a flash. Gorry! that's the
kind of woman I like to see."

"You'll never see another like her!" said Salem Rock. "The likes of Mis'
Tree never has ben seen and never will be seen, not in this deestrick.
Her tongue was as quick as her heart was kind, and when you say that
you've said all there is to say. I s'pose there ain't one of us but
could tell a dozen stories like yours, Seth. I dunno as it's proper to
tell 'em just now," he paused; "and yet," he continued, "I dunno _but_
it is. She was--so to say--she was all of a piece. You can't think of
her without the sharp way she had."

"That's so," Seth assented; "that's so every time. There wa'n't nobody
thought more of Mis' Tree than what I did, but yet what keeps comin' up
to me ever since she was laid away is them quick, sharp kind o' things
she'd say. Now take what she said to Mis' Nudd, Isril Nudd's widder. You
all know what Isril was; he was mean as dirt and sour as pickles. He'd
scrimped his wife, and he'd half-starved her, and some said he'd beat
her, but I never knew how that was. Anyway, Marthy Nudd had as poor a
time of it as any woman in this village, and everybody knew it. And yet,
when he died she mourned for him as if he was Moses and Simeon and the
Angel Gabriel all in one. Well, she come to Mis' Tree beggin' for the
loan of some shawl or bunnit or toggery to wear, I dunno what; and she
was goin' on about her poor husband, and how she had tried to do her
duty by him, and hoped he knew it now he was in heaven, and all that
kind of talk. Old Mis' Tree let her say about so much and then she
stopped her. You know the way she'd hit the floor with her stick. Rap!
that stick would go, and any one's heart would sit right up in their
boosum.

"'That'll do, Marthy!' she says. 'Now listen to me. You say Isril is in
heaven?'

"'Oh, yes'm, yes, Mis' Tree,' says Marthy. 'He's numbered with the
blest, I don't make no doubt on it.'

"'And you've got the four hundred dollars life insurance that you told
me was due?'

"'Yes'm, that's all safe; my brother's put it in the bank for me.'

"'Very well, Marthy Nudd; if you've got Isril into heaven and got four
hundred dollars life insurance on him, that's the best piece of work
ever you done in your life, or ever will do. Cat's foot!' she says;
'folderol!' she says, 'don't talk to me!' and she shoved her out with
her stick and wouldn't hear another word. Gorry! I wouldn't ben Marthy
Nudd--"

"Didn't hurt Marthy none, I expect," said Ebenezer Hoppin. "She's one of
them kind, sorter betwixt putty and Injia rubber; you can double her up
easy, but first thing you know she's out smooth again. Some say she's
liable to marry Elihu Wick, over to the Corner. She'd find him some
different from Isril."

"What kind of feller is he?" asked Jordan Tooke.

"Oh, a string and shingle man. Give him pork and give him sunset, and he
won't ask nothin' more. Marthy won't get no four hundred dollars
insurance on him, but he'll go to heaven all right. There isn't a mite
o' harm in 'Lihu, and Marthy has earned her rest, I will say."

"Speakin' of insurance," said Salem, slowly, "reminds me we ain't said
anything about Mis' Tree's will. It is a sing'lar will, boys."

There was a moment's pause. Heads were shaken and feet were shuffled
uneasily.

"Mighty sing'lar," said Hiram Gray.

"Beats all I ever heard of," said Jordan Tooke.

Seth Weaver kept a loyal silence. Salem gave him a look, and, receiving
a nod in reply, went on:

"Seth and myself was talkin' it over as we came along, kinder takin' our
bearin's, and this is the way it looks to us. Mis' Tree was born in this
village, and lived in it a hundred and two years, and died in it; and
her folks, the Trees and the Darracotts, have lived and died here since
there was a village to die in. Not one of them hundred 'n' two
years--since she was of knowledgeable age,--but she was doin' good--in
her own way--from the first day of January to the last day of December.
Not one of us sittin' here on this piazzy but she's done good _to_, one
way or another. Therefore and thereon-account of--" Salem was obviously
and justifiably proud of this phrase, and repeated it with evident
enjoyment; "therefore and thereon-account of, I say, and Seth says with
me, that if Mis' Tree wanted this village should be called Cat's-foot,
or Fiddlesticks, or Folderol, or Fudge, I for one and he for another
would give our votes to have it so called."

A confusion of tongues ensued, some agreeing, some protesting, but,
while the discussion was at its height, the stage drove up and the day's
session was over.



CHAPTER III.

WHAT THE WOMEN SAID


A few days after this, the Ladies' Society met at the house of Miss
Bethia Wax. There had been much discussion among the members of the
Society as to whether it were fitting to hold a meeting so soon after
the death of the foremost woman of the parish. Mrs. Worritt said she for
one would be loth to be found wanting in respect for one who had been,
as it were, a mile-stone and a beacon-light in that village. Mrs.
Weight, on the other hand, maintained that business was business, and
that the heathen in their blindness needed flannel petticoats just as
much as they did last week. Miss Wax herself, a lady with a strong
sense of the proprieties, was in doubt as to which course would preserve
them most strictly. Finally the matter was submitted to Mrs. Geoffrey
Strong for decision.

"There is only one wish in my mind, Vesta," said Miss Wax, "and that is
to show the highest respect for our venerable friend, and I speak, I am
sure, for the whole Society. The question is, how best _to_ show it."

Vesta Strong reflected a moment. "I think, Miss Wax," she said, "it will
be wisest to hold the meeting. I am quite sure Aunt Marcia would have
wished it. But you might, perhaps, give it a rather special character;
make it something of a memorial meeting. What do you think of that?"

Miss Wax's face brightened.

"Excellent," she said. "Vesta, I do think that would be excellent. I am
real glad I came to you. I will have the room draped in mourning. Tapes
has some nice black bombazine, a little injured by water, but--"

Vesta suppressed a shudder. "Oh, no, Miss Wax!" she said. "I wouldn't do
that. Aunt Marcia did not like display of any kind, you know. Your
pleasant parlors just as they are will be much better, I am sure."

"I do aim at showing my respect!" pleaded Miss Wax. "Perhaps we might
all wear a crape rosette, or streamer. What do you think of that?"

But Vesta did not think well even of this, and Miss Wax reluctantly
abandoned the plan of official mourning, though determined to show her
respect in her own way as regarded her own person. She was a very tall
woman, with a figure which, in youth, had been called willowy, and was
now unkindly termed scraggy. She had been something of a beauty, and
there was a note of the pathetic in her ringlets and the few girlish
trinkets she habitually wore,--a coral necklace, which at sixteen had
set off admirably the whiteness of her neck, but which at fifty did not
harmonize so well with the prevailing sallow tint; a blue enamel locket
on a slender gold chain, etc. She was very fond of pink, and could never
forget, poor lady, that Pindar Hollopeter had once called her a lily
dressed in rose-leaves. But, though a trifle fantastic, Miss Bethia was
as good a soul as ever wore prunella shoes, and her desire to do honor
to Mrs. Tree's memory was genuine and earnest. Her soul yearned for the
black bombazine hangings, but she was loyal to Vesta's expressed wish,
and contented herself with removing certain rose-colored scarfs and
sofa-pillows, which on ordinary occasions of entertainment were the
delight of her eyes. She had gathered all the white flowers she could
find, and had arranged a kind of trophy of silver coffee-spoons on the
mantelpiece, surrounding a black velvet band, on which was worked in
silver tinsel the inscription:

     "HER WE HONOR."

Miss Bethia had meant to have a photograph of Mrs. Tree in the centre of
this sombre glory, but no photograph was to be had. Mrs. Tree had
stoutly refused to be photographed, or to have her portrait painted in
her later years.

"Folderol!" she used to say, when urged by loving friends or relatives.
"When I go, I'm going, all there is of me. I shall leave my gowns,
because they are good satin, but I'm not going to leave my old rags, nor
the likeness of old rags. Cat's foot! don't talk to me!"

So, except the miniature which was Vesta Strong's choicest treasure,
the portrait of the brilliant, flashing little beauty whom Ethan Tree
named the Pocket Venus when first he saw her, and whom he vowed then and
there to woo and win, there was no portrait of Mrs. Tree; but Miss Wax
put a cluster of immortelles above the inscription, and hoped it would
"convey the idea."

In her own person, as has already been said, Miss Bethia felt that she
could brook no dictation, even from Vesta. Accordingly, as the hour of
the meeting approached, she arrayed herself in a trailing robe of black
cashmere, with long bands of crape hanging from the shoulders. Examining
with anxious care her slender stock of trinkets, she selected a mourning
brooch of the size of a small saucer, which displayed under glass an urn
and weeping willow in the choicest style of hair jewelry, and two hair
bracelets, one a broad, massive band clasped with a miniature, the
other a chain of globules not unlike the rockweed bladders that children
love to dry and "pop" between their fingers. Hair jewelry survived in
Elmerton long after it was forgotten in other places. Miss Wax herself
was a skilful worker in it, and might often be seen bending over the
curious little round table, from the centre of which radiated numerous
fine strands of hair, black, brown, or golden, hanging over the edge and
weighted with leaden pellets. To see Miss Bethia's long fingers weaving
the strands into braids or chains was a quaint and pleasant sight.

Her toilet completed, the good lady surveyed herself earnestly in the
oval mirror, gave a gentle sigh, half approval, half regretful
reminiscence, and went down to the parlor. Here she seated herself in
her favorite chair and her favorite attitude. The chair was an ancient
one, of slender and graceful shape; and the attitude--somehow--was a
good deal like the chair. Both were as accurate reproductions as might
be of a picture that hung over Miss Bethia's head as she sat, the
portrait of a handsome young woman with long, black ringlets, arched
eyebrows, and dark, expressive eyes. Miss Bethia had been said to
resemble this portrait of her great-great-aunt, and the resemblance was
one which she was loth to relinquish. Accordingly, she loved to sit
under it, in the same chair that the picture showed, leaning one elbow
on the same little table, her cheek resting on the same fingers of the
same hand,--the index and middle fingers,--while the others curved
outward at a graceful angle. When seated thus, somebody was pretty sure
to call attention to the resemblance, and not the most ill-natured
gossip could grudge Miss Bethia the mild pleasure that beamed in her
eyes whenever it was noted.

There might be a slight resemblance, she would say modestly. It had been
remarked upon, she might say, more than once. The lady was her relative,
and likenesses ran strong in her family.

Tommy Candy had once irreverently named Miss Wax's parlor "the Wax
Works," and the name had stuck, as naughty nicknames are apt to do. It
was indeed quite a little museum in itself of the fruit of bygone
accomplishments. Wax fruit, wax flowers--chiefly roses--in profusion,
all carefully guarded by glass; pictures in worsted work, pictures in
hair work, all in home-made frames of pinked leather, of varnished
acorns, of painted velvet; vases and jars decorated with potichomanie,
with decalcomanie, with spatter-work. One would think that not one, but
seven, Misses Wax had spent their entire lives in adorning this one
room.

But the first guests to arrive on this occasion gave little heed either
to the room or to the attitude of their hostess, even though, as usual,
Miss Wax sat still for a moment, with an air of gentle appeal, before
rising to receive them. Mrs. Deacon Weight is older than when we last
met her, and her surname is even more appropriate than it was then;
three hundred pounds of too, too solid flesh are encased in that brown
alpaca dress, and her inspiration in trimming it with transverse bands
of black velvet was not a happy one. Mrs. Weight was accompanied by Miss
Eliza Goby, a lady whose high complexion and protruding eyes made her
look rather more like a boiled lobster than anything else.

These two ladies, having obeyed the injunction of Miss Wax's handmaid to
"lay off their things" in the best bedroom, entered the parlor with an
eager air.

Miss Wax, after her little pause, came forward to meet them.

"Good afternoon, Malvina," she said; "Eliza, I am pleased to see you, I
am sure. Be seated, ladies, please." She waved her hand gracefully
toward a couple of chairs, and resumed her attitude, though more from
force of habit and a consciousness that others more appreciative were
coming than from any sense of impressing these first comers.

Mrs. Weight seated herself with emphasis, and drew her chair near to
that of her hostess, motioning her companion to do likewise.

"Bethia," she said, "we came early o' purpose, because we were wishful
to see you alone for a minute before folks came. We want to know what
stand you are prepared to take."

"That's it!" said Miss Goby, who had a short, snapping utterance, such
as a lobster might have if it were endowed with powers of speech. "What
stand you are prepared to take!"

"Stand?" repeated Miss Wax. "I do not quite comprehend you, ladies. I
usually rise to receive each guest, and then resume my seat; it seems
less formal and more friendly; and it fatigues me very much to stand
long," added the poor lady, with a glance at the portrait.

"Land!" said Mrs. Weight. "That isn't what we mean, Bethia. We mean
about this will of Mis' Tree's."

"Oh!" said Miss Wax. As she spoke, she sat upright, and the attitude was
forgotten.

"We are wishful to know," said Mrs. Weight, "whether you think that the
name of a place is to be changed back and forth to suit the fancy of
folks as weren't in their right minds, and are dead and buried besides.
What I say is for this room only, ladies. I am not one to spread abroad,
and I should be lawth indeed to speak ill of the dead, and them I've
lived opposite neighbors to for thirty years,--whether neighborly in
their actions or not, I will not say. But what I do say is, there's them
in this village as has been browbeat and gormineered over for the hull
of their earthly sojourn, and _they_ don't propose to be browbeat and
gormineered over from beyond the grave, in which direction forbid it as
a Christian and the widder of a sainted man that I should say."

Before Miss Wax could reply, a murmur of voices was heard in the hall,
and the next moment the Society entered in a body. There were women of
all ages, from old Mrs. Snow, who now stood in the proud position of
oldest inhabitant, down to Annie Lizzie Weight, who was only seventeen.
Miss Penny Pardon was there; Mrs. Pottle, the doctor's wife; and little
Mrs. Bliss from the parsonage. There were perhaps thirty women in all,
representing the best society of Elmerton.

Miss Wax received them with a troubled air, very different from her
usual pensive calm. A red spot burned in the centre of each cheek, and
her eyes were bright with suppressed excitement. Mrs. Pottle, observing
her, decided that she was in for a fever, and cast her mind's eye over
the doctor's engagements for the next few weeks. "She's liable to have a
long run of it!" said Mrs. Pottle to herself. "I'm thankful that Doctor
Strong went back yesterday, so the poor soul will have proper
treatment."

This was not a social, but a working, meeting. Every woman came armed
with thimble and work-bag, and a large basket being produced, flannel
and calico were dealt out by Miss Wax, and all set busily to work. But
Miss Wax, instead of taking up her own needle, exchanged a few words
with Mrs. Bliss. Mrs. Ware, a sweet-faced woman of fifty, invited by a
look, joined them, and there was a low-voiced consultation; then Miss
Wax rose and stood under the portrait and beside the mantelpiece with
its trophy of black and silver.

"Ladies of the Society," she said; her thin treble voice trembled at
first, and she fingered her bead reticule nervously, but she gathered
strength as she went on. "Ladies of the Society, I asked our pastor's
wife to address you, but Mrs. Bliss has a cold and feels unable so to
do. I will therefore say a few words, though well aware how unfitted I
am for such a task." She paused, and touched her lips delicately with a
black-bordered handkerchief.

"This occasion, ladies, is a mournful one to most--I trust I may say to
all--in this village. It is some years since--owing to advancing
years--we have seen Her we honor at the meetings of this Society; but
she was in former years a prop and a pillar of this Society, as she was
of this village; and it is the desire of many, as expressed to me, that
this meeting should be a memorial in honor of--of Her we honor,--Mrs.
Ethan Tree."

She waved her hand toward the trophy with an air of introducing the
ladies to it. For the life of her, little Mrs. Bliss could not help
thinking of the Red Queen's introduction: "Pudding--Alice;
Alice--Pudding!" Most of the ladies had a confused feeling that they
ought to rise, and glanced at each other, half getting their work
together, but Mrs. Bliss remained seated, and they followed her example.
The little minister's wife had loved Mrs. Tree devotedly, but she had a
keen sense of the ludicrous; and, after the unseemly recollections
referred to, she could not help recalling certain words spoken to her in
a clear, incisive voice not so many weeks ago: "Ladies' Society, child?
Bah! Parcel of fools! I get all of their society I want, sitting here in
this chair."

"It would have been my wish," Miss Wax continued, "that the Society
should have testified _as_ a Society to the fact that this was a
memorial meeting; it would have been my wish that each lady should wear
a crape rosette, or the like of that, in token of mourning; but it was
not agreeable to the family, and, if we wear them in our own hearts,
ladies, it may do equally as well, if worn sincerely, which I am sure
most, if not all, do."

She paused again to sigh and lift the handkerchief, with her favorite
delicate action of the third and fourth fingers.

"This small token," she continued, introducing the trophy anew, "is
_but_ a small one, and I could wish that gold instead of silver were
procurable, for gold was the heart of Her we honor, and, though velvet
does not precisely describe her manner, ladies, still well we know that
out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh, and the heart being
golden, the velvet is--a--I am sure--that is to say, velvet and gold are
often associated as tokens of richness, and--and the nature of Her we
honor was rich in goodness, and--"

Here poor Miss Wax became hopelessly involved, and taking refuge in a
fit of coughing, looked imploringly at Mrs. Bliss. Thus silently
adjured, the little lady rose, and in a few quiet words expressed the
hearty sympathy of all present in Miss Wax's feeling, and their
gratitude to her for the graceful tribute she had preferred. A rising
vote of thanks was then passed, and the Society settled to their labors.

For some time nothing was heard but requests for the shears and
wonderings, who cut this gore? and the like; but the same thought was in
all the ladies' minds, and as soon as was practicable the talk began
again. Miss Eliza Goby nudged Miss Luella Slocum, a sharp-nosed lady
with one eye that rolled like a marble and another that bored like a
gimlet.

"You speak, Luella!" she said in a half-whisper. "Speak up and say what
you said to me and Mrs. Weight this morning."

"I think Mrs. Weight ought to speak up herself," replied Miss Slocum, in
the same tone. "She's older than me; it behooves her, a deacon's widow
and all. I don't feel any call to begin, Eliza; though I am ready to
testify when it comes my turn."

Apparently Mrs. Weight was of the same opinion, for she now began the
attack cautiously.

"The Society having expressed its views on this subject, Miss Wax and
ladies, there is another on which I feel we have a call to speak
together. As one of the oldest present, and the widder of a sainted man,
I may have my own opinions, and they may be of consequence, or they may
not; but howbeit, there is them present as has sojourned longer than me
in this earthly pilgrimage, and I should wish to hear from Mrs. Philena
Snow as to what are her sentiments in regards to changing the name of
this village."

Mrs. Snow, an old lady of somewhat bewildered aspect, had learned in the
course of eighty-odd years that a decided opinion was sometimes a
dangerous thing. Replying to Mrs. Weight's request, she said that she
didn't know as it made any perticklar difference to her what the village
was called; she hadn't very much longer to stay in it, she presumed
likely. It used to be Quahaug, but some thought that wasn't a pretty
sounding name, and she didn't know but Elmerton was prettier; and yet
there was others thought--and so the old lady murmured herself away into
silence. A confused hubbub of voices arose, but little Mrs. Bliss,
saying to herself, "Oh, for one hour of Dundee,--one minute of Mrs.
Tree!" rose to the occasion.

"Ladies," she said, "though this village, Elmerton or Quahaug, whichever
it is, has grown to seem like home, and a very dear home, to me, I still
am comparatively speaking a newcomer. I should be very glad if some one
lady would tell me in a few words how and why the change was originally
made. Mrs. Ware, perhaps you will be so good!"

Mrs. Ware's gentle face wore a disturbed look, but she responded
promptly.

"The change was made many years ago, but I remember it distinctly. The
old Indian name was Quahaug, and no one ever thought of any other name
till Mr. Swain came to be pastor here. Mrs. Swain had a poetic turn, and
she thought Quahaug an awkward-sounding name, and made considerable talk
to that effect round the village. A petition to the Legislature was
circulated, and many people signed it, and so the name was changed to
Elmerton. Mrs. Tree was away at the time, on a voyage around the world,
and when she came back she was much incensed, I remember, and expressed
herself strongly. I always thought it a pity myself to change the old
name."

"Phoebe Blyth was for the change," said Miss Eliza Goby. "Phoebe
and I were of one mind on the subject."

"It's the only time you ever were!" thought Miss Wax, but she did not
speak the thought.

"Phoebe Blyth had some peculiar ideas," said Mrs. Weight, "but she
showed her sense that time. Mis' Swain was a beautiful woman, and her
ideas was beautiful simularly. Why, she wrote an elegant poem about it:

    "'Sure ne'er a village 'neath the sun
    More lovely is than Elmerton.'

Those were the first lines. I've got it copied out at home. I never
thought Homer Hollopeter's poetry was a patch on Mis' Swain's."

"Homer was strong against the change," said Miss Wax. "Both Homer and
Pindar, and two more intellectual men this village has never seen. I
don't wish to say anything against Mrs. Swain, but I for one never
thought she had anything like Homer's gift. He was asked to write a poem
on the subject, but he said his Muse scorned such a name as Elmerton."

"It's the first thing ever his Muse did scorn, I guess," retorted Miss
Luella Slocum. "It's my belief Homer would write verses to a scarecrow
if he had nothing else to write about."

"I didn't know he ever wrote any to you, Luella," said Miss Penny
Pardon, her usually gentle spirit roused to anger by this attack on one
whom she considered a great though unappreciated poet.

"Ladies! ladies!" said little Mrs. Bliss, "pray let us keep to the
point. We are not here to discuss Mr. Hollopeter's poetry. Perhaps we
would better change the subject altogether, and confine our conversation
to subjects connected with our work."

"Excuse _me_, Mrs. Bliss!" said Mrs. Weight. "Though well aware that
since the death of the sainted man whose name I bear, I am of no account
in this village, still I _have_ my feelings and I _am_ a human
being,--deny it who can,--and, while I have breath to speak,--which by
reason of spasms growing on me may not be long,--I will protest against
changing the name of this village back to heathen and publican names,
from which it was rescued by them as now fills mansions in the sky. I
would not wish to be understood as reflecting on anybody, and I name no
names; but them as has lived on flowery beds of ease, no matter how
long, cannot expect to gormineer over this village to all eternity; and
so I proclaim,--hear me who will."

Mrs. Weight had risen to her feet, and stood heaving and panting, a
mountain of protest. Mrs. Bliss would have interfered, to pour oil on
the troubled meeting, but before she could speak the tall form of Miss
Bethia Wax had risen, and stood rigid, pointing to the trophy.

"Ladies of the Society," she said, "and our honored pastor's wife: I
cannot sit still and listen to words which are aimed at Her we honor.
This is a memorial meeting, sanctioned as such by the family of Her we
honor. She died as she lived, with this village on her mind and in her
heart, and she has given of her basket and her store, her treasures of
earth and treasures of sea, and gems of purest ray serene; she has given
all, save such as needed by the family, to this village, to have and to
hold till death do them part; and what I say is, shame upon us if we
cannot obey the wishes of Her we honor, our benefactress, who wafts us
from the other shore her parting benediction!"

But neither Mrs. Bliss nor Miss Wax could longer stem the tide of
speech. It ran, swelled, overflowed, a torrent of talk.

"Never in my born days!"

"I'd like to know who had the right if she hadn't!"

"I s'pose we've got some rights of our own, if we ain't rich in this
world's goods."

"I should laugh if we were to change back at this time of day."

"I should like to remind you, Mrs. Weight, that--

    "'While the lamp holds out to burn,
    The vilest sinner may return!'"

"Mrs. Bliss and ladies: I have not lived in this village seventy years
to be called the vilest sinner in it. I appeal to this society if names
is to be called at a meeting where the members are supposed to be
Christians--"

But Mrs. Bliss, though little, could, like Hermia, be fierce, and it
was in a very peremptory tone that she exclaimed:

"The discussion on this subject is closed. Sister Slocum, will you give
out the hymn?" and Miss Luella Slocum, one eye gleaming hatred and the
other malice, announced that the Society would now join in singing
"Blest be the tie that binds!"



CHAPTER IV.

MOSTLY GOSSIP


     "MY DEAR DOCTOR STRONG:--The deed is done! The selectmen met last
     night, and voted to memorialize the Legislature in regard to
     changing the name of the village; and, as the rest is a mere matter
     of business routine, I think we may regard the thing as settled.
     So, as dear Mrs. Tree said, 'Hooray for Quahaug!' The vote was not
     unanimous; that was hardly to be expected. John Peavey was opposed
     to the change, so was George Goby; but the general sentiment was
     strong in favor of carrying out Mrs. Tree's wishes. That, of
     course, is the real issue, and it is beautiful to see the spirit
     of affection and loyalty that animates the majority of our people.
     Surely, our beloved old friend has built herself a monument _ære
     perennio_ in the hearts of her neighbors.

     "I write this hasty line, feeling sure that you and Mrs. Strong
     will be anxious to hear the outcome of the meeting.

     "With kindest regards to both, and affectionate greeting to the
     little flock, believe me always

     "Faithfully yours,

     "JOHN BLISS."

The little minister sealed and addressed his note, then took his hat and
stick and started for the post-office.

"You won't forget my pink worsted, John!" and Mrs. Bliss popped her
pretty head out of the window.

"Certainly not, my dear! certainly not!" said Mr. Bliss, with an air of
collecting his wits hurriedly. "Pink worsted; to be sure! At Miss
Pardon's, I presume?"

"Of course! Saxony; you have the sample in your pocket, pinned into an
envelope. Two skeins, John dear. Now do you think you can get that
right? It is a shame to make you do such things, but I cannot leave
Baby, and he really needs the jacket."

"Of course, Marietta; of course, my dear! You know I am only too glad to
help in little ways; I wish I could do more!"

"It is so little a man can do!" he reflected, as he paced along the
village street; "and Marietta's care is incessant. Motherhood is a
blessed but a most laborious state."

Arrived at the post-office, he found Seth Weaver perched on a ladder,
inspecting the weather-beaten sign-board, which bore the legend,
"Elmerton Post-office."

"Good morning, Seth!" said the little minister.

[Illustration: "'GOOD MORNING, SETH!' SAID THE LITTLE MINISTER"]

"Same to you, Elder!" replied Seth, taking his pipe from his mouth.
"Nice day! I was lookin' to see whether we'd need us a new sign, but I
guess this board'll do, come to scrape and plane it. It's a good pine
board; stood a lot o' weather, this board has. My father painted this."

"Did he so, Seth?" said Mr. Bliss. "I was not aware that your father was
a painter."

"Painter, carpenter, odd-job man, same's me! He learned me all his
trades, and too many of 'em. It would be money in my pocket to-day if I
didn't know the half of 'em."

Seth sat down on the top round of the ladder--it was a short one--and
took out his knife and a bit of soft wood. The minister sighed, thinking
of his sermon at home half-written, but accepted the unspoken
invitation.

"How is that, Seth?" he asked, cheerfully.

Seth settled himself comfortably--it is not every man who can sit
comfortably on a ladder--and, squaring his shoulders, began to whittle
complacently.

"Wal, Elder, it stands to reason," he said. "A man can be one thing, or
he can be two things; but when he starts out to be the hull string of
fish, he ends by not bein' nary one of 'em. It takes all of a thing to
make the hull of it; yes, sir. I don't mean that Father was that way;
Father was a smart man; and I've tried to make a shift to keep up with
the tail of the procession myself; but I tell ye there's ben times when
I've wished I didn't know how to handle a livin' thing except my
paint-brush. Come spring, I tell ye I lose weight, projeckin' round this
village. One wants his blinds painted right off day before yesterday,
and another'll get his everlastin' if his roof isn't mended before
sundown. It's 'Oh, Seth, when be you comin' to hang that bell-wire?' and
'Seth, where was you yesterday when you wasn't mendin' that gate-post?'
and--I dono! sometimes I get so worked up I think I'll do the way Father
did. Father never bothered with 'em. He just laid out his week to suit
himself. Two days he'd paint, and two days he'd odd-job, and two days
he'd fish. Further and moreover, whatever he was doin', he'd do it his
own way. Paintin' days, he'd use the paint he had till he used it up.
Didn't make no difference what folks said to him; he was just that deef
he only heard what he wanted to, and he didn't care. Gorry! I can see
him now, layin' on the blue paint on old Mis' Snow's door, and she
screechin' at him, 'Green! green, I tell ye! I want it green!' Old
Father, he never took no notice, and that door stayed blue till it wore
off. Yes, sir! that was the way to handle 'em; but I can't seem to fetch
it. Guess I was whittled out of a softer stick, kind o' popple stuff,
without no spunk to it. A woman tells me she must have a new spout to
her pump or she'll die, and I'm that kind of fool I think she will, and
leave all else to whittle out that pump-spout. Wal, it takes all kinds.
That was quite a meetin' last night, Elder."

"It was indeed," Mr. Bliss assented. "A notable meeting, Seth. As I have
just been writing to Doctor Strong, it was a great pleasure to find the
feeling so nearly unanimous in regard to carrying out the wishes of our
revered friend."

Seth grinned.

"Yes!" he said. "Me and Salem saw to that."

"Saw to it?" repeated Mr. Bliss.

"We went round and sized folks up, kind of; you know the way, Elder;
same as you do come parish-meetin' time. No offence! There don't
everybody know which way they're goin' to jump till you tell 'em. Most
of 'em was all right enough, and saw reason good, same as we did, for
doin' as Mis' Tree wished done; but there's some poor sticks in every
wood-pile; John Peavey's one of 'em. Gorry! I guess likely he'll be some
further down the ro'd before he gets _his_ shack painted, unless he doos
it himself. That'll be somethin' tangible for him, as Old Man Butters
said."

He paused, and a twinkle came into his eyes; but the minister did not
twinkle back.

"You've heerd of Uncle Ithe's last prayer-meetin'?" said Seth. "No? now
ain't that a sight!"

He came down a round or two, and settled himself afresh, the twinkle
deepening. "Uncle Ithe--Old Man Butters, Buffy Landin' Ro'd--you
remember him, Elder?"

"Surely! surely! I remember Mr. Butters well, but I cannot recall his
having attended a prayer-meeting during my incumbency in Elm--I would
say Quahaug."

Seth chuckled. "No more you would," he said. "No more he did. 'Twas
before you come, in Mr. Peake's time. Elder Peake, he was a good man;
I've nothin' to say against him; he meant well, every time. But he was
one of those kind o' men, he had his two-foot rule in his pants pocket,
and, if you squared with that, you was all right, and, if you didn't,
you was all wrong. Now some folks is like a two-foot rule, and some is
like a kedge-anchor, and the Lord made 'em both, I expect; but Elder
Peake, he couldn't see it that way, and he took it into his head that
Uncle Ithe warn't doin' as he should. Old Uncle Ithe--I dono! he had a
kind o' large way with him, as you might say; swore some, and made too
free with Scripture, some thought; did pretty much as he was a mind to,
but cal'lated to live square, and so did--'cordin' to his idees, and
mine. You might say Uncle Ithe was like--wal, like this hammer. He
couldn't rule a straight line, mebbe, but he'd hit the nail every time.
Wal, Elder Peake met up with him one day, and spoke to him about his way
of life. 'I'd like to see things a trifle different with you, Mr.
Butters,' he says; 'man of your age and standin',' he says, 'ought to be
an example,' he says. You know the way they talk--excuse me, Elder. Some
of 'em, I would say. Nothin' personal, you understand."

"I understand, Seth; pray go on."

"'What do ye mean?' says Uncle Ithe. 'What have I been a-doin' of,
Elder?'

"'Oh, nothin' tangible,' says Mr. Peake, 'nothin' tangible, Mr.
Butters. I hear things now and again that don't seem just what they
should be in regards to your spiritual condition,--man of your age and
standin', you understand,--but nothin' tangible, nothin' tangible!' And
he waved himself off, a way he had, as if he was tryin' to fly before
his time.

"Old Uncle Ithe, he never said a word, only grunted, and worked his
eyebrows up and down, the way _he_ had; but come next prayer-meetin',
there he was, settin' up in his pew, stiff as a bobstay, with his eye on
the elder. Elder Peake was tickled to death to think he'd got the old
man out, and when he'd had his own say, he sings out: 'Brother Butters,
we should be pleased to hear a few remarks from you.'

"Old Uncle Ithe, he riz up kind o' slow, a j'int at a time, till he
stood his full hei'th. Gorry! I can see him now; he seemed to fill the
place. He looks square at Elder Peake, and he says: 'Darn your old
prayer-meetin'!' he says. 'There's somethin' tangible for ye!' he says;
and off he stumped out the room, and never set foot in it ag'in. I tell
ye, he was a case, old Uncle Ithe."

"I think he was, Seth!" said Mr. Bliss, laughing. "I am rather glad, do
you know, that I only knew him later, when age had--in a
degree--mellowed his disposition."

At this moment Will Jaquith put his head out of the post-office window.

"Good morning, Mr. Bliss!" he said. "There's another story about Old Man
Butters that Seth must tell you, if you have not already heard it,--
about the trouble with his second wife."

Seth twinkled more than ever. "Sho!" he said. "That's last year's
p'tetters. I make no doubt Elder Bliss has heard that a dozen times."

"Not once, I assure you, Seth," said Mr. Bliss. "I shall be glad to hear
it, and then I really must--" he checked himself. Was not this an
opportunity, come to him unsought? Seth Weaver was not as regular at
church as could be wished.

"Pray let me hear the anecdote!" he said, heartily. "And yet," he added
to himself, "I caution my people against listening to gossip,--life is a
tangled skein."

"That was before I was born or thought of," said Seth. "Uncle Ithe's
second wife was Drusilly Sharp (his fust was a Purrington), and she was
a Tartar. Gra'm'ther Weaver told me this; she was own sister to Uncle
Ithe. Gra'm'ther used to say there warn't another man under the canopy
could have lived with Drusilly Sharp only her brother Ithuriel. As I was
sayin' a spell back, he had a kind o' large way of lookin' at things.
Gra'm'ther says to him once: 'I don't see how you stand it, Ithuriel,'
she says. 'I don't stand it,' says Uncle Ithe. 'I git out from under
foot, and wait till the clouds roll by,' he says. 'Spells she gets out
of breath, and them's the times I come into the kitchen. There's where a
farmer has the pull,' he says. 'Take a city man, and when he's in the
house he's in it, and obleeged to stay there. But take a farmer, and, if
it's hot in the kitchen, he's got the wood-shed, and, when you're
choppin', you can't hear what she's sayin',' he says. 'Somebody's got to
put up with Drusilly,' he says, 'and I'm used to it, same as I am red
pepper on my hash.'

"Wal, one day Uncle Ithe come home, and she warn't there. He found a
note on the dresser, sayin' she warn't comin' back, she couldn't stand
it no longer. Land knows what _she_ had to stand! She had baked bread
and pies, she said (she was a master good cook), and the beans was in
the oven, and that was all there was to it, from his truly Drusilly
Butters.

"Wal, Uncle Ithe studied over it a spell, and then he sot down and _he_
wrote a note, and this was the way it read:

"'Whereas my wife Drusilly has left my bed and board while I was down to
Tupham diggin' clams, and whereas I never give her reason good for so
doin', resolved that all persons is warned to pay no bills of her
contractin' from now on; but the cars will run just the same.'

"Signed his name out in full, and sent it to the paper. I got it now to
home, in Gra'm'ther's scrap-book. Yes, sir, that was Uncle Ithe all
over."

"And what was the outcome of it, Seth?" asked Mr. Bliss.

"Oh, she come back! He knew she would. She stayed with her folks a
spell, and they reasoned with her; and then she saw the notice in the
paper, and that made her so mad she run all the way home. Uncle Ithe was
settin' in the kitchen smokin' his pipe, at peace with all mankind, when
she run in, all out of breath, and mad as hops. 'You take that notice
out the paper, Ithuriel Butters!' she hollers. 'You're the meanest
actin' man ever I see in my life, and the ugliest, and so I've come to
tell you.' And then she couldn't say another word, she'd run that fast
and was that mad.

"Uncle Ithe took his pipe out of his mouth, and turned round and give
her a look, and then put it back.

"'How do, Drusilly?' he says. 'I was lookin' for you,' he says. 'I'm on
the last pie now.' And that was every word he said about it, or she,
either."



CHAPTER V.

IN MISS PENNY'S SHOP


The Reverend John Bliss walked homeward, revolving many things. Seth's
stories, the vexed question of prayer-meetings, the Second Epistle to
the Hebrews, from which his text was taken, Mrs. Tree's will, and the
New England character (Mr. Bliss was a Minnesota man) made an intricate
network of thought which so absorbed his mind that his feet carried him
whithersoever they would.

"A tangled skein!" he said aloud, shaking his head; "a tangled skein!"
and then he stopped abruptly, looked about him, and began to retrace his
steps hurriedly. He had forgotten the pink worsted.

The little minister entered Miss Penny Pardon's shop with an air of
nervous apology, and an inward shiver. He hated women's shops; he was
always afraid of seeing crinoline, or hair-curlers, or some other
reprehensibly feminine article.

"Why will they?" he murmured to himself, as even now his unwilling eye
lighted on a "Fluffy Fedora." "Why will--oh, good morning, Miss Pardon;
a beautiful morning after the rain."

"Good mornin', Mr. Bliss!" said Miss Penny, with a beaming smile.
"You're quite a stranger, ain't you? Yes, sir, 'tis elegant weather; and
the rain, too, so seasonable yesterday. I think weather most always _is_
seasonable right along; far as I've noticed, that is. Pleasant to see
spring comin', isn't it, Mr. Bliss? Not but what I've enjoyed the
winter, too, real well. I think the snow's real pretty, specially _in_
winter. That's right; yes, sir, we should be thankful for all. Was there
anything I could do for you to-day, Mr. Bliss?"

"Yes! yes, Miss Pardon," said Mr. Bliss, nervously. "I--that is--Mrs.
Bliss desired some pink--pink--worsted, I think it was. Yes, I am quite
positive it was pink worsted. Have you the article?"

He looked relieved, and met Miss Penny's eye almost hardily.

"Worsted, sir? Yes, indeed, we keep it. What kind did she wish, Mr.
Bliss? Single zephyr, do you think it was, or Germantown?"

Miss Penny's tone was warmly sympathetic; she always felt for gentlemen
who came on such errands.

"They feel like a fish on a sidewalk," she would say; "real homesick!"

Mr. Bliss pondered. "I--I think it _was_ a German town," he said,
slowly. "I am almost positive it was a German town,--or province; the
exact name escapes me. Hanover, perhaps? Nassau? Saxe-Coburg? I incline
to think it was Saxe-Coburg, Miss Pardon. Have you the article?"

It was Miss Penny's turn to look puzzled. "We don't keep that, sir," she
said. "I don't know as I ever heard of it. All we keep is Germantown and
Saxony, and--"

"That is it!" cried the little minister. "Saxony! to be sure! Saxony, of
course. And--yes, I have a sample--somewhere!"

He felt in his pockets, and produced a parish circular, a calendar, a
note-book, a fishing-line, and finally the envelope containing the
sample.

Miss Penny beamed at sight of it. "Yes, sir, we have it," she announced,
joyfully.

"Mis' Bliss got it here only last week. How much did she say, Mr.
Bliss?"

"Two pounds," said Mr. Bliss, promptly and decidedly.

"Two--" Miss Penny looked aghast. "Why, we don't generally--I doubt if
we have that much in the store, Mr. Bliss. Was she goin' to make a
slumber robe?"

"It was--I think--for an infant's jacket," Mr. Bliss hazarded, looking
sidelong at the door. These things were hard to bear; harder than
Marietta knew; yet how gladly should he do it for her, on that very
account. He turned an appealing glance on Miss Penny. "An infant's
jacket would not, you think, require two pounds?" he asked.

"A jacket for your little Beauty Darlin', to be sure! She bought a
pattern, too, I remember, a shell border, and then--don't you believe
p'r'aps it was skeins she said, Mr. Bliss, instead of pounds? I presume
most likely it was." Her voice was tender now, as if addressing a little
child.

"You are probably right, Miss Penelope," said the minister, dejectedly.
"I seem to have singularly little faculty for these matters. Two
skeins--ah, yes! I perceive it is so written here on the envelope. I beg
your pardon, Miss Penelope!"

"You've no need to, Mr. Bliss, not a mite!" cried Miss Penny. "We all
make mistakes, and, if you never done anything worse than this, you'd be
sure of the Kingdom. Not but what you are anyways, I expect. Gentlemen
don't have any call to know about fancy work as a rule, especially a
pastor, whose mind on higher things is set; you remember the hymn. There
is those, though, that finds comfort in it, same as a woman doos. I knew
a gentleman once who used to come and get his worsted of me just as
regular! _He_ crocheted for his nerves; helped him to sleep, so he
thought, and it _is_ real soothin', but he's dead and buried now. I
often think, times when I hear of a man bein' nervous and crotchety
about the house, there! I think, if he'd only set down and crochet a
spell, or knit, one of the two, what a comfort it would be to him and
his folks. We're made as we are, though; that's right. Was there
anything more, Mr. Bliss? Twenty cents; thank _you_, sir. Real pleased
you came in; call again, won't you? _Good_ morning!"

Miss Penny looked anxiously after the minister as he walked away. "I do
hope he'll get that home safe!" she said. "I set out to ask him if he
didn't think he'd better put it in his pocket, but I was afraid he might
think me forth-puttin'. Like as not he'll forget every single thing
about it, and drop it right in the street. There! I don't see _why_
men-folks is so forgetful, do you, Sister? Not that they are all alike,
of course."

"Some ways they are," said Miss Prudence.

Miss Prudence was invisible, but the door between the shop and her
sanctum was always ajar, for she liked to hear what was going on.

"I never see the man yet that I'd trust to carry a parcel home; not a
small parcel, that is. If it's a whole dress, he'll take it all right,
if he takes it at all; but give him a small parcel that wants to be
carried careful, and he'll drop it, or else scrunch it up in his pocket
and forget it. I've got to run up these brea'ths now; Miss Wax is comin'
at eleven to try on."

There was a silence, broken only by the cheerful whir of the
sewing-machine, and the still more cheerful voice of Miss Penny cooing
to her birds. She hopped from one cage to another, feeding, stroking,
caressing.

"You're lookin' dumpy to-day, darlin'," she said, addressing a rather
battered-looking mino bird. "There! the fact is, you ain't so young as
once you was. You're like the rest of us, only you don't know it, and we
do--some of us! Here's a nice bit of egg for you, Beauty; that'll shine
you up some, though I do expect you've seen your best days. Luella
Slocum told me she expected me to make this bird over as good as new,
Sister. I told her I guessed what ailed him was the same as did the rest
of us. Stop the clock tickin', I told her, and she'd stop his trouble
and hers as well. She was none too well pleased. She'd just got her a
new front from Miss Wax, and not a scrap of gray in it. She'd ought to
sing 'Backward, turn backward,' if anybody ought. There!" The
exclamation had a note of dismay in it.

"What's the matter?" asked Miss Prudence; the machine had stopped, and
her mouth was apparently full of pins.

"Why, I never thought to ask Mr. Bliss how Mr. Homer was, and he just
the one to tell us. Now did you ever! Fact is, when he come in, I hadn't
got my face straight after that woman askin' for mesmerized petticoats.
I was shakin' still when I see Mr. Bliss comin', and my wits flew every
which way like a scairt hen. But speakin' of petticoats reminds me,
Tommy Candy was in this mornin' while you was to market, and _he_ said
Mr. Homer was re'l slim. 'Pestered with petticoats' was what he said,
and I said, 'What do you mean, Tommy Candy?' and he said, 'Just what I
say, Miss Penny,' he said. 'I guess you and Miss Prudence are the only
single or widder women in Quahaug that ain't settin' their caps for Mr.
Homer,' he said. And I said, 'Tommy Candy, that's no way for you to
talk, if you _have_ had money left you!' I said. He said he knew it
wasn't, but yet he couldn't help it, and you and I had always ben good
to him sence his mother died. He has a good heart, Tommy has, only he
doos speak up so queer, and love mischief. But he says it's a fact, they
do pester Mr. Homer, Sister. There! it made me feel fairly ashamed.
'Don't tell me Miss Bethia Wax is one of 'em,' I said, 'because I
shouldn't believe you if you did,' I said. 'Well, I won't,' he said,
'for she ain't; she's a lady.' But some, he said, was awful, and he
means to stand between; he don't intend Mr. Homer should marry anybody
except he wants to, and it's the right one. Seemed to have re'l good
_i_deas, and he thinks the world of Mr. Homer. I like Tommy; he has a
re'l pleasant way with him."

"You'd make cream cheese out of 'most any skim-milk, Sister," said Miss
Prudence, kindly. "Not but what Tommy has improved a vast deal to what
he was. It's his lameness, I expect."

"That's right!" cried little Miss Penny, the tears starting to her round
brown eyes. "That's it, Sister, and that's what turns my heart to the
boy, I expect. So young, and to be lame for life; it is pitiful."

"He did what he had a mind to do," said Miss Prudence, grimly. "He had
no call to climb that steeple, as I know of."

"Oh, Sister, there's so many that has no call to do _as_ they do, and
yet many times they don't seem to get their come-uppance, far as we can
see; I expect they do, though, come to take it in the yard _or_ the
piece. But, howsoever, Mis' Tree has done handsome by Tommy, and he has
a grateful heart, and means to do his part by Mr. Homer and the
_Mu_seum, I feel sure of that. Sister, do you suppose Pindar Hollopeter
is alive? Seem's though if he was, he'd come home now, at least for a
spell: Homer in affliction, as you may say, and left with means and all.
How long is it since he went away?"

"Thirty years," said Miss Prudence. "I always thought it was a good
riddance to bad rubbidge when Pindar went away."

"Why, Sister, he was an elegant man, flighty, but re'l elegant; at
least, so he appeared to me; I was a child then. Why did he go, Sister?
I never rightly understood about it."

"He went from flightiness," said Miss Prudence. "Him and Homer was both
crazy about Mary Ashton, and Pindar asked her to have him. She'd as soon
have had the meetin'-house weathercock, and when she told him so,--I
don't mean them words; Mary would have spoke pleasant to the Father of
Evil."

"Why, Sister!"

"Well, she would. Anyhow, when she said no, he made sure she was going
to have Homer, and off he went, and never come back. So that's _his_
story."

"I want to know!" said Miss Penny. "But she never--"

"She never cast a look at ary one of 'em. She give her heart to George
Jaquith to break, and he done it; and now he's dead, and so is she. But
Homer is alive, and so is Pindar, for all I know. He never liked here as
Homer did; he always wanted to get away, from a boy. Old Mis' Hollopeter
run a great resk, I always thought, the way she brought up those two
boys, fillin' their heads with poetry and truck. If she had learned 'em
a good trade, now, it would be bread in their mouths this day; not that
Homer is ever likely to want now. I wish't he'd marry Bethia Wax."

"I don't know, Sister Prudence," said Miss Penny, who was romantic.
"Some is cut out for a single life, and I think's it's real pretty to
see a man faithful to the ch'ice of his youth."

"Ch'ice of his grandmother!" retorted Miss Prudence, sharply. "Don't
talk foolishness, Penny! A woman can get along single, and oftentimes do
better, and it's meant some of 'em should, or there wouldn't be so many
extry; but leave a man alone all his life, and either he dries up or
else he sploshes out, and either way he don't amount to what he should.
They ain't got enough _to_ 'em, someways. There! this is ready to try
on, and Miss Wax ain't here. She said she'd be here by eleven."

"I see her comin' now," cried Miss Penny. "It's just on the stroke;
she's 'most always punctual. She has a re'l graceful, pretty walk. _I_
think Miss Wax is a fine-lookin' woman, though a little mite more flesh
would set good on her."

"Her clo'es would set better on her if she had it," said Miss Prudence.
"I know that. I don't know but I'd sooner fit a bolster than a
bean-pole."

"Hush, Sister, for pity's sake! Good mornin', Miss Wax. You're right on
the dot, ain't you? I was just sayin' to Sister how punctual you always
was. Yes'm, we're smart; the same old story, peace and poverty. You can
go right in, Miss Wax; Sister's expectin' you."



CHAPTER VI.

THE SORROWS OF MR. HOMER


"Morning, Direxia," said Will Jaquith. "How is Mr. Homer this morning?
Better, I hope, than he was feeling yesterday."

Direxia Hawkes laid down her duster, and turned a troubled face to the
visitor. "There!" she said, "I'm glad you've come, Willy. I can't do
nothin' with that man. He ain't eat a thing this day, only just a mossel
of toast and a sosser of hominy. It's foolishness, I will say. Mis' Tree
may have had her ways,--I expect we all do, if all was known,--but I
will say she eat her victuals and relished 'em. I don't see why or
wherfore I was left if there ain't anybody ever going to eat anythin'
in this house again; there! I don't."

"Oh, Dexy, don't be foolish!" said Will. "I'm coming out this minute to
get a doughnut. You will have to live till my wife learns to make as
good ones as yours, and that will be some time. Just wait till I see Mr.
Homer a minute, and then I'll come out and make love to you, you dear
old thing."

Direxia brightened. "Don't she make 'em good?" she asked. "Well, she's
young yet. I dono as I had just the hang of 'em when I was her age.
Doughnuts is a thing you've got to have the hang of, I've always said."

She retired, beaming, to heap goodies on fine china dishes for her
darling, and Jaquith turned his steps toward "the Captain's room." This
was a small room looking out over the harbor, and had been Captain
Tree's special sanctum. It was fitted like a ship's cabin, with lockers
and swinging shelves, all in teak-wood and brass. On the walls were
ranged telescopes, spyglasses, and speaking-trumpets of all sizes and
varieties, and over the desk hung a picture of the good ship _Marcia D._
of Quahaug, Ethan Tree, master. This picture was a triumph of Japanese
embroidery, having been done in colored silks while the ship lay in the
harbor of Nagasaki, and, next to his wife's miniature, it was the
Captain's most precious possession. The year after it was made, the
_Marcia D._ had gone down in a typhoon in the South Seas: all hands were
saved, to be tossed about for three days on a life-raft, and then tossed
ashore on a wild island. The bright shells which framed the picture had
been picked up by his wife on the shore, where she watched all day for a
coming sail, while master and mariners caught fish and turtles, and
gathered strange fruits for her, their lady and their queen. Ethan Tree
used to say that that week on the island was one of the best in his
life, even though he had lost his ship.

"True blue!" he would murmur, looking up at the picture. "She showed her
colors that time. She never flinched, little Marcia. Her baby coming,
and not a woman or a doctor within a thousand miles; but she never
flinched. Only her cheeks flew the flag and her eyes signalled, when I
sung out, 'Sail ho!' True blue, little wife!"

Now, instead of the stalwart figure of Captain Tree, the slender form of
Mr. Homer Hollopeter occupied, but did not fill, the chair beneath the
picture. The little gentleman sat huddled disconsolately over some
papers, and it was a melancholy face that he lifted in response to Will
Jaquith's cheery "How are you, Mr. Homer? pretty well this morning?"

Mr. Homer sighed. "I thank you, William, I thank you!" he
said. "My corporal envelope is, I am obliged to you,
robust;--a--vigorous;--a--exempt for the moment from the ills that flesh
is heir to--Shakespeare; we perceive that even our greatest did not
disdain upon occasion to conclude a phrase with a preposition, though
the practice is one generally reprehended;--a--condemned;--a--denied the
sanction of the critics of our own day. I trust you find yourself in
health and spirits, William?"

"Capital!" said Will. "Lily and I and the boy, all as well as can be. I
have brought the mail, Mr. Homer. I thought you might not feel like
coming down this morning, as you were not well yesterday."

As he spoke, he laid the mail-bag on the table, and, seating himself,
proceeded to unlock it. Mr. Homer's eyes brightened in spite of
himself; his face grew animated. "That was kind of you, William!" he
said. "That was--a--considerate; that was--a--benevolent. I am greatly
obliged to you; greatly obliged to you."

He opened the bag with trembling fingers, and began to sort the letters
it contained.

"The occupation of twenty years," he continued, plaintively, "is not to
be relinquished lightly. If I did not feel that I was leaving it in
worthy hands, I--ah! here is a letter for Susan Jennings, from her son.
There is an enclosure, William. Probably Jacob is doing better, and is
sending his mother a little money. She is a worthy woman, a worthy
woman; I rejoice for Susan. A dutiful son, sir, is an oasis in the
desert; a--fountain in a sandy place; a--a number of gratifying things
which I cannot at this moment name. You were a dutiful son, William.
That must be an unspeakable satisfaction to you, now that your sainted
mother has--a--departed; has--a--gone from us; has--a--ascended on wings
of light to the empyrean. You were a dutiful son, sir."

William Jaquith colored high. "Not always, Mr. Homer," he said. "In
thinking of these late happy years, you must not forget the others that
went before. I should be dead, or a castaway, this day, but for Mrs.
Tree."

"I rejoice at it, my dear sir!" cried Mr. Homer, his gentle eyes
kindling. "That is to say--I would not wish to be understood as--but I
am sure you apprehend me, William. I would say that my respect,
my--a--reverence, my--a--affection and admiration for my cousin Marcia,
sir, are enhanced a hundredfold by the knowledge of what she did for
you. It cheers me, sir; it--a--invigorates me; it--a--causes a bud of
spring to blow in a bosom which--a--was sealed, as I may say, with ice
of--a--in short, with ice:--a--what is that pink envelope, William?"

"For Joe Breck, sir; from S. E. Willow, South Verona. That is Sophy, I
suppose?"

Mr. Homer quivered with pleasure as he took the long, slim note in his
hand. "This is from Sophia!" he said. "Sophia Willow is a sweet
creature, William;--a--dewy flower, as the lamented Keats has it;
a--milk-white lamb that bleats for man's protection, as he also
observes. And Joseph Breck, sir, is a worthy youth. He has 'sighed and
looked and sighed again' (Dryden, sir! a great poet, though unduly
influenced by the age in which he lived) these two years past, I have
had reason to think. Of late his letters to Sophia have been more
frequent; there was one only yesterday, if you remember, a bulky one,
probably containing--a--remarks of a tender nature;--a--outpourings
of an ardent description. This is the response. Its rosy hue
leads me to hope that it is a favorable one, William. The shape,
too: a square envelope has always something of self-assertion
about it; but this long, slender, graceful note has in its
very appearance something--a--yielding; something--a--acquiescent;
something--a--indicative of the budding of the tender passion. I augur
happily from the aspect of this note. A--I trust your sentiments accord
with mine, William?"

"Yes, indeed, sir," said Will, heartily. "I am sure Sophy would not have
the heart to say 'no' on such pretty paper as this; not that I think she
ever meant to. But here is a letter for you, Mr. Homer, and this is a
long envelope, too, only it is green instead of pink. Postmark Bexley."

Mr. Homer started. "Not Bexley, William!" he said, nervously. "I trust
you are mistaken; look again, if you will be so good. I cannot conceive
why I should receive a letter from Bexley."

"I'm sorry, sir," replied Will, "but Bexley it is. Would you like me to
open it, Mr. Homer?"

Mr. Homer cast a glance of aversion at the green envelope; it certainly
was somewhat vivid in tint, and was rather liberally than delicately
scented.

"I should be glad if you would do so, William," he said. "I seem to
feel--a--less vigorous than when you first came in. I should be obliged
if you would look it over, William."

With a glance wherein compassion struggled with amusement, Jaquith
opened the letter and glanced through it.

"From Mrs. Pryor," he said, briefly.

Mr. Homer moved uneasily in his seat. "I--a--apprehended as much," he
said. "Go on, William."

With another compassionate twinkle, Will complied, and read as follows:

     "'MY DEAREST HOMER:'"

Mr. Homer winced, and wiped his forehead nervously.

     "'Ever since that dreadful day which I _will not name_, I have been
     _prostrated_ with grief and mortification; grief on my own account;
     mortification--I blush to say it--for the sake of one whose present
     condition _seals my lips_. Need I say that I allude to Aunt Marcia?
     For some time I felt that all relations between me and Elmerton
     must be _closed forever_.'"

Mr. Homer looked up.

     "'But in the end a more Christian spirit prevailed.'"

Mr. Homer looked down again.

     "'I have conquered my pride; you can imagine what a struggle it
     was, for you know what the Darracott pride _is_, though the
     Hollopeters only intermarried with us in your grandfather's time. I
     came out of the struggle a _physical wreck_.'"

Mr. Homer looked up once more.

     "'But with me, as all who know me are aware, _flesh_ is _nothing,
     spirit_ is _all_! I have resolved to let bygones be bygones, Homer;
     to put all this sad and shocking business behind me, and strive to
     forget that it ever existed. In this spirit, my dear cousin, I
     write to offer you the _affection_ of a _sister_.'"

Mr. Homer uttered a hollow groan, and dropped his head in his hands.

     "'We are both alone, Homer. My girls are married; and, though the
     greater portion of my heart is _in the grave_ with Mr. Pryor,
     enough of it yet breathes to keep a _warm corner_ for you, my
     nearest _living relative_. The extraordinary and iniquitous
     document, which I will not further describe, has laid a heavy
     burden on your shoulders; and I feel it a _duty_ to give you all
     the aid in my power in the work of arranging and classifying the
     collection of worldly trifles by which our late unhappy relative
     set such store. _I_, Homer, have _outgrown_ such matters. It is for
     Aunt Marcia's own sake that I feel, as you must, the necessity of
     something like an equitable arrangement in regard to all this
     trumpery. My _duty to my children_ obliges me, much against my
     will, to protest against Vesta Strong's having all the lace and
     jewelry. If she had any sense of decency, she would not accept what
     was clearly the raving of _senile dementia_. As to the grasping and
     mercenary spirit shown by her and her husband, I say nothing: let
     their consciences deal with them, if they _own such an article; I_
     am _above_ it.

     "'Let me know, dearest Homer, when you are ready for me, and I will
     come to you on the instant. I will bring an excellent maidservant
     to replace the old creature, whom I trust you have dismissed ere
     this. If not, let me urge you strongly to get rid of her at once.
     She is not a fit person to have charge of you. I feel that the
     _sooner_ I come to you the _better_; let us lose no time, so pray
     write at once, dear Homer, to

     "'Your loving cousin,

     "'MARIA DARRACOTT PRYOR.'"

Will's eyes were twinkling as he folded up the letter, but they were
very tender as he turned them on Mr. Homer, sitting crumpled like a
withered leaf in his chair.

"Cheer up, Mr. Homer!" said the young postmaster. "Look up, my dear
friend. You don't suppose we are going to let her come, do you? She
shall not put her foot inside the door, I promise you."

Mr. Homer groaned again. "She will come, William!" he said. "I feel it;
I know it. She will come, and she will stay. I have not strength to
resist her. Oh, Cousin Marcia, Cousin Marcia, you little thought what
you were doing when you laid this burden on me. I don't think I can bear
it, William! I will go away; I will leave the village. I
do--not--think--I can bear it!"

"Oh, I think you can, sir," said Will Jaquith. "Consider the wishes of
our dear old friend. Think how hard it would be for us all to see
strangers in this house, so full of memories of her. I hope that after
awhile you can grow to feel at home, and to be happy here. Then, too,
the work will be of a kind that will interest you. The arrangement of
all these rare and curious objects, the formation of a museum,--why, Mr.
Homer, you are made for the work, and the work for you. Cheer up, my
good friend!"

Mr. Homer sighed heavily. "I thank you, William," he said. "I thank you.
You are always sympathetic and comforting to me. Your words are--are as
balm; as--as dew upon Hermon; as--oil which runs down--" The poor
gentleman broke off, and looked piteously at his companion. "My metaphor
misleads me," he said. "It is often the case at the present time. I--I
am apprehensive that my mind is not what it was; that I am in danger of
loss of the intellect; of the--a--power of thought; of the--a--chair,
where Reason sits--or in happier days did sit--enthroned. I am a wreck,
William, a wreck."

He sighed again, hesitated, and went on. "All you say is true, my
friend, and I could, I think, find much interest and even inspiration in
the task entrusted to me by my venerated and deplored relative, if--I
could do it in my own way: but--I am hampered, sir. I am--trammelled; I
am--a--set upon behind and before. The ladies--a--in short--Hark! what
is that?"

He started nervously as a knock was heard at the front door, and
clutched Will Jaquith's coat with a feverish grasp. "Don't leave me,
William!" he cried. "On no account leave me! It is a woman. I--I--cannot
be left alone with them. They come about me--like locusts, William!
Listen!"

A wheezy, unctuous voice was heard:

"Mr. Hollopeter feelin' any better to-day?"

"No, he ain't," came the reply in Direxia's crisp accents.

"I'm real sorry. I've brought him a little relish to eat with his
supper. I made it myself, and it's nourishin' and palatable. Shall I
take it in to him?"

"I'll take it," said Direxia. "He won't tetch it, I can tell you that."

"You never can tell," said the voice. "Sometimes a new hand will give
victuals a freshness. Besides, Homer must be real lonesome. I'm comin'
in to set with him a spell, and maybe read him a chapter. I've ben
through affliction myself, Direxia, well you know, and the sufferin'
seeks their like. You let me in now! You ain't no right to keep me out,
Direxia Hawkes. This ain't your house, and I'll take no sarce from you,
so now I tell you."

Mr. Homer started from his seat with a wild look, but Will Jaquith laid
a quiet hand on his shoulder.

"Sit still, sir!" he said. "I'll take charge of this one, and Tommy
will be back soon. Cheer up, Mr. Homer!"

He passed out. Mr. Homer, listening feverishly, heard a few words spoken
in a cheerful, decided voice; then the door closed. Mr. Homer drew a
long breath, but started again nervously as Direxia's brown head popped
in at the door.

"Mis' Weight brung some stuff," she said, briefly. "Looks like skim-milk
blue-monge bet up with tapioky. Want it?"

"No!" cried Mr. Homer, with something as near a snarl as his gentle
voice could compass.

"Well, you needn't take my head off!" said Direxia. "I didn't make it.
I'll give it to the parrot; he's rugged."

She vanished, and Mr. Homer's head dropped in his hands again.

"Like locusts!" he murmured. "Like locusts! Oh, Cousin Marcia, how could
you?"



CHAPTER VII.

CONCHOLOGY AND OTHER THINGS


The two trustees had had a busy day. They had just begun upon the
collection of shells which for years had lain packed away in boxes in
the attic. There were thousands of them, and now as they lay spread out
on long tables in the workshop, the glass-covered room where the Captain
used to keep his tools and his turning-lathe, Mr. Homer's mind was
divided between admiration of their beauty, and dismay at the clumsiness
of the names which Tommy Candy read out--painfully, with finger on the
page and frequent moppings of an anxious brow, for the polysyllabic was
still something of a nightmare to Tommy, spite of his twenty years and
his Academy diploma.

"Look at this, Thomas," said Mr. Homer, carefully polishing on his
sleeve a whorl of rosy pearl. "Observe this marvel of nature, Thomas!
This should have a name of beauty, to match its aspect; a name
of--a--poetry; of--divine affluence. 'Aurora's Tear' would, I am of
opinion, fitly express this exquisite object. Number 742: how does it
stand in the volume, Thomas?"

"Spiral Snork," said Thomas.

Mr. Homer sighed, and laid the shell down. "This is sad, Thomas," he
said. "This is--a--painful; this is--a--productive of melancholy. I have
never been of the opinion--though it is matter of distress to disagree
in any opinion with the immortal Bard of Avon--that 'a rose by any other
name'--you are doubtless familiar with the quotation, Thomas. To my
mind there is much in a name--much. 'Snork!' The title is repellent;
is--a--in a manner suggestive of swine. Pork--snort--snork! the
connotation is imperative, I am of opinion. How, why, I ask you, Thomas,
should such a name be applied to this exquisite object?"

"Named for Simeon Snork, mariner, who first brought it to England," said
Tommy, his finger on the paragraph. "Rare: value ten pounds sterling."

The little gentleman sighed again. "We must put the name down, Thomas,"
he said. "We must write it clearly and legibly; duty compels us so to
do. But do you think that we should be violating our trust if we
suggested--possibly in smaller type--the alternative, 'sometimes known
as Aurora's Tear'? There could be no harm in that, I fancy, Thomas? It
_is_ known as Aurora's Tear to me. I can never bring myself to think of
this delicate production of--nature's loom--as 'Spiral--a--Snork.' My
spirit rebels;--a--revolts;--a--"

"Jibs?" suggested Tommy Candy.

"I was about to say 'rises up in opposition,'" said Mr. Homer, gently.
"Your expression is terse, Thomas, but--a--more colloquial than I
altogether--but it is terse, and perhaps expressive. You see no
objection to writing the alternative, Thomas?"

"None in life!" said Tommy. "Have ten of 'em if you like, Mr. Homer;
give folks their choice."

"A--I think not, Thomas," said Mr. Homer. "I am of opinion that that
would be unadvisable. We will put the single alternative, if you please.
I thank you. Now to proceed. Here again."

He selected another shell, breathed on it, and rubbed it on his
coat-sleeve.

"Here again is an exquisite--a--emanation from nature's loo--I would
rather say from nature's workshop. Observe, Thomas, the rich blending of
hues, violet and crimson, in this beautiful object. I trust that we
shall be more fortunate this time in the matter of nomenclature. Number
743, Thomas. How is it set down in the book?"

"Hopkins's Blob," said Tommy.

"Dear! dear!" said Mr. Homer. "This is sad, Thomas; this is sad, indeed.
Blob! a most unlovely word. And yet"--he paused for a moment--"it
rhymes--it rhymes with 'sob.' Do me the favor to pause an instant,
Thomas. I have an idea: a--an effluence;--a--an abstraction of the
spirit into the realms of poesy."

He was silent, while Tommy Candy watched him with twinkling gray eyes.
At first the little gentleman's face wore a look of intense gravity;
but soon it lightened. He passed his hand twice or thrice across his
brow, and sighed, a long, happy sigh; then he turned a beaming look on
his companion.

"I do not know, my young friend," he said, mildly, "whether you have
ever given much thought to--a--the Muse; but it may interest you to note
the manner in which she occasionally wings her flight. A moment ago,
this gracious object"--he waved the shell gently--"was, so far as we are
aware, unsung;--a--uncelebrated;--a--lacking its meed of mellifluous
expression. Now--but you shall judge, sir. In this brief moment of
silence, the following lines crystallized in my brain. Ahem!"

He leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and folded his hands
meekly; then began to recite in a kind of runic chant:

    "The poet-heart doth sigh,
    The poet-soul doth sob,
        To see a sight
        Of beauty bright
    Oppressed by name of 'blob'!

    "O cacophonic crowd!
    O unmellifluous mob!
        The poet's lip
        Would nectar sip,
    But scorns to browse on 'blob'!

The expression is condensed," said Mr. Homer, with modest pride; "but I
am of opinion that condensation often lends strength;--a--are you also
of that opinion, Thomas?"

"Every time!" said Tommy Candy.

Mr. Homer looked bewildered, but bowed gently, accepting the
commendation expressed in Tommy's voice. "I am glad that my little
effusion meets with your approval, Thomas," he said. "It is the first
effort I have been able to make since the death of my lamented
relative. A--a simple movement, sir, of the Muse's wing; a--a--"

"Flap?" suggested Tommy Candy.

Mr. Homer looked still more bewildered, but bowed again, waving his
hands with a gesture of mingled protest and deprecation.

"I am of opinion, Thomas," he said, "that prose is the vehicle in which
your thoughts are most apt to find expression. The wings of the Muse do
not, in my opinion,--a--a--flap. But it is a matter--a--scarcely germane
to the occasion. We will pursue our researches, if you please."

The next names were more fortunate. The Golden Gem was followed by the
Mermaid's Comb, and Mr. Homer glowed with poetic joy as he placed the
pretty things on the shelves of the cabinet that awaited them.

"I foresee, Thomas," he exclaimed, joyfully, "a resuscitation of the
poetic faculty. I feel that, surrounded by these shapes of beauty, and
not oppressed by such inappropriate cacophonies as Blork and Snob--I
would say Snork and Blob--I shall often joyfully, as well as strictly,
meditate the--I find myself unable to characterize the Muse as
'thankless,' in spite of my profound admiration for the immortal Milton.
My spirit will, I feel it, once more sing, and--wing, sir! 'Mermaid's
Comb!' In gazing on this symmetrical shape, my young friend, may we not
in our mind's eye, Horatio--I would say Thomas--the remark is Hamlet's,
as you are without doubt aware--behold it in the hand of some fair
nymph, or siren, or--or person of that description--and behold her
'sleeking her soft alluring locks,' in Milton's immortal phrase?
A--candor compels me to state, Thomas, that on the few--the very
few--occasions when--when I have seen the locks of the fair sex in a
state of--a--dampness;--of--humidity;--a--of--moisture, I have not
thought" (Mr. Homer blushed very red) "that the condition was one which
enhanced; which--a--added to, the charms with which that sex is--in a
large number of cases--endowed."

"That's so!" said Tommy. "Take 'em after a shampoo, and they're a sight,
even the good-lookin' ones."

Mr. Homer blushed still redder, and took out his handkerchief. "I have
never,--" he began, and then coughed, and waved the subject delicately
away.

"It is probable," he said, "that if--a--such semi-celestial individuals
as those described by the poet existed--a--possessed a corporal
envelope--a--were endowed with a local habitation and a
name--Shakespeare--they would not be subject to conditions which--which
tend to the--a--obscuration of beauty; but we will proceed, if you
please, Thomas. Hark! was that a knock at the door?"

They listened. There was a silence; then, beyond question, came a knock
on the outer door; a loud, imperative rap, with a suggestion of rhythm,
almost of flourish, in its repetition. "Rat-ta-tat, rat-ta-tat,
rat-ta-tat!" Then silence again.

"Direxia is in bed," said Tommy Candy. "I'll go."

"Wait; wait a moment, Thomas!" said Mr. Homer, nervously. "Do you
think--it is near nine o'clock--do you think that courtesy absolutely
demands our opening the door?"

Tommy looked at him in amazement.

"It--it is probably a lady!" said Mr. Homer, piteously. "She is without
doubt bringing me--a--food;--a--bodily pabulum;--a--refreshment for the
inner man. Thomas, I--I do not feel as if I _could_ receive another
dish at present. I have received four--have I not?--assaults--a--I would
say, gifts, to-day, all tending to--overtax the digestive powers, even
if Direxia's friendly ministrations did not invite--or more properly
demand--all the powers of that description which I possess."

"Pineapple cream, Miss Wax," replied Tommy Candy, briefly. "That was
good; I ate it myself. Lobster salad, Miss Goby; claws round it; might
have boiled her own for a garnish; calf's-foot jelly, Widder Ketchum;
plum cake, Mis' Pottle. Seth Weaver says that when Doctor Pottle is
short of patients, the old lady always bakes a batch of fruit-cake and
sends it round. It's sure to fetch somebody; you could ballast a
schooner with it, Seth says. Yes, that makes four, sir. But maybe this
isn't a woman, Mr. Homer. I don't think it sounds like one, and anyhow,
I wouldn't let one in, noways. You'd better let me go, sir."

The knock sounded again, still more imperative; and now a voice was
heard, a man's voice, thin and high, crying, impatiently: "Within there!
house! what ho! within!"

Mr. Homer gasped, and loosened his necktie convulsively.

"My mind is probably failing," he said. "That voice--is probably a
hallucination;--a--an aberration; a--you hear no voice, I should
surmise, Thomas?"

He gazed eagerly at Tommy, who, really alarmed for his friend's reason,
stared at him in return.

"Of course I hear it, sir," he said. "He's hollering fit to raise the
roof. Riled, I expect; you'd better let me go, Mr. Homer."

Mr. Homer relaxed his hold. "Thomas," he said, solemnly, "I think it
improbable that you will find any corporal substance at that door:
nevertheless, open it, if you will be so good! open it, Thomas!"

Greatly wondering, Tommy Candy ran to the door and flung it wide open.
There on the threshold stood a man, his hand raised in the act of
knocking again. A little man, in a flyaway cloak, with a flyaway necktie
and long, fluttering mustaches; a little man who looked in the dim light
like a cross between a bat and the Flying Dutchman.

"House!" said the little man. "Within there!"

"Well," said Tommy, slowly, "I never said it was a monument!"

The stranger made a gesture of brushing him away.

"Minion," he said, "bandy no words, but straightway tell me, does Homer
Hollopeter lurk within?"

"Did you wish to see him?" inquired Tommy, civilly yet cautiously. A
backward glance over his shoulder gave him a curious impression. Mr.
Homer's shadow, as he stood just within the parlor door, was thrown on
the pale shining wood of the hall floor; this shadow seemed to flutter,
with motions singularly like those of the stranger. Another moment, and
the little gentleman came forward, carrying a candle. He was trembling
violently, and, as he held the candle high, its wavering light fell on
the countenance of the stranger.

[Illustration: "AS HE HELD THE CANDLE HIGH, ITS WAVERING LIGHT FELL ON
THE COUNTENANCE OF THE STRANGER"]

"Gee whiz!" muttered Tommy Candy. "It's himself over again in black."

"It is my brother Pindar!" cried Mr. Homer, dropping the candle. "It is
my only brother, whom I thought dead--a--defunct;--a--wafted to--my dear
fellow, my dear brother, how are you? This is a joyful moment; this
is--a--an auspicious occasion; this is--a--an oasis in the arid plains
which--"

"Encircle us!" said Mr. Pindar. "Precisely! Homer, embrace me!"

He flung his arms abroad, and the batlike cloak fluttered out to its
fullest width. Mr. Homer seemed to shrink together, and it was himself
he embraced, with a frightened gesture.

"Oh, quite so!" he cried, hurriedly. "Very much so, indeed, my dear
brother. The spirit, Pindar, the spirit, returns your proffered salute;
but foreign customs, sir, have never obtained in Quahaug. I bid you
heartily, heartily welcome, my dear brother. Come in, come in!"

Mr. Pindar flung up his hand with a lofty gesture. "My benison upon this
house!" he cried. "The wanderer returns. The traveller--a--sets foot
upon his native heath--I would say door-step. Flourish and exeunt. Set
on!"

The two brothers vanished. Tommy Candy, still standing on the threshold,
stared after them with his mouth wide open, and slowly rumpled his hair
till it stood on end in elfish spikes, as it had done in his childhood.

"I swan!" said Tommy Candy. "I swan to everlastin' gosh! the Dutch is
beat this time!"



CHAPTER VIII.

MR. PINDAR


Tommy Candy was about to reënter the house, when something seemed to
attract his attention. He gazed keenly through the soft darkness at the
house opposite; then he uttered a low whistle, and, leaning on his stick
(for Miss Penny was right; poor Tommy was very lame, and had climbed his
last steeple), made his way down the garden-path to the gate. "Annie
Lizzie, is that you?" he asked, in a low tone.

"Hush!" the answer came in a soft voice. "Yes, Tommy. How you scared me!
I didn't think there was any one up. Ma thought she heard something,
and wanted I should look out and see if there was any one round."

"You tell her the Sheriff has come to get Isaac," said Tommy, "and he's
stopping with us overnight. He'll be over in the morning, tell her, with
the handcuffs, bright and early."

"Oh, hush, Tommy! you hadn't ought to talk so!" said the soft voice, and
a slender figure slipped across the road in the dark, and came to the
gate. "Honest, Tommy, I wish you wouldn't talk so about Isaac and the
rest of 'em. It don't seem right."

"Annie Lizzie," said Tommy, "I never said a word against ary one of 'em,
so long as I thought they was your kin; but since I found out that you
was only adopted, why, I don't see no reason why or wherefore I
shouldn't give 'em as good as they deserve, now I don't."

"Well, they did adopt me," said Annie Lizzie. "Don't, Tommy, please! Ma
says--"

"She ain't your Ma!" interrupted Tommy; "and I don't want you should
call her so, Annie Lizzie; there!"

"Well, she says I would have gone on the town only for them," the soft
voice went on. "You wouldn't want I should be ungrateful, would you,
Tommy?"

"No, I wouldn't," said Tommy, grimly. "I'm willing you should be
grateful for all the chance you've had to wash and scrub and take care
of them Weight brats. But this ain't what I called you over for, Annie
Lizzie. Say, there did some one come just now; Mr. Homer's brother!"

"I want to know!" said Annie Lizzie. In the darkness, Tommy could almost
see her glow with gentle wonder and curiosity. "What is he like, Tommy?
I didn't know Mr. Homer had a brother, nor any one belongin' to him
nearer than Mis' Strong."

"No more did I," said Tommy. "But here he is, as like Mr. Homer as two
peas, only he's a black one."

"For gracious' sake, Tommy Candy! you don't mean a colored man?"

"No, no! I mean dark-complected, with black eyes. You make an errand
over to-morrow, and you'll see him. He looks to be a queer one, I tell
you!"

"If he's as good as Mr. Homer," said Annie Lizzie, "I shouldn't care how
queer he was."

"No more should I," cried Tommy, warmly; "but he'd have to work pretty
hard to ketch up with Mr. Homer in goodness. Say, Annie Lizzie, come a
mite nearer, can't you?"

"I can't, Tommy. I must go home this minute; Ma will be wonderin' where
I am. There! do let me go, Tommy!"

A window was raised in the house opposite, and the wheezy voice of Mrs.
Weight was heard:

"Annie Lizzie, where are you? Don't you l'iter there now, and me
ketchin' my everlastin' hollerin' for you. Come in this minute, do you
hear?"

There was a soft sound that was not a voice; and Annie Lizzie slipped
back like a shadow across the road.

"I'm comin', Ma!" she said. "It's real warm and pleasant out, but I'm
comin' right in."

"Do you see any one round?" asked the Deacon's widow.

Annie Lizzie shut her eyes tight, for she was a truthful girl. "No'm,"
she said; "I don't."

In the Captain's room, Mr. Homer's favorite apartment, the two brothers
stood and looked each other in the face. As Tommy said, the likeness was
intimate, spite of the difference in color: the same figure, the same
gestures, the same general effect of waviness in outline, of flutter in
motion; yet, to speak in paradox, with a difference in the very
likeness. There was an abruptness of address in the newcomer, foreign to
the gentle ambiguous flow of Mr. Homer's speech; where Mr. Homer waved,
Mr. Pindar jerked; where Mr. Homer fluttered feebly, his brother
fluttered vivaciously. They fluttered now, both of them, as they stood
facing each other. For a moment neither found words, but it was Mr.
Pindar who spoke first.

"I have surprised you, brother!" he cried; "confess it! Surprise, chief
tidbit at the Feast of Life! Alarums and excursions! enter King Henry,
with forces marching. You did not expect to see the Wanderer?"

"I certainly did not, my dear brother!" cried Mr. Homer, the tears
standing in his mild eyes. "I have not even felt sure, Pindar, of your
being alive in these latter years. Why, why have you kept this silence,
my dear fellow? think how many years it is since I have heard a word
from you!"

Mr. Pindar fluttered vivaciously; he was certainly more like a bat than
the Flying Dutchman. "I apologize!" he cried. "I have been at fault,
Homer, I admit it. To own him wrong, the haughty spirit bows--no more of
it! The past"--he swept it away with one wing--"is buried. This night
its obsequies! Hung be the heavens with black; a pickaxe and a spade, a
spade; other remarks of a similar nature. Homer, our cousin Marcia loved
me not!" (it was true. "I can stand a beetle," Mrs. Tree was used to
say, "or I can stand a bat; but a bat-beetle, and a dancing one at that,
is more than I can abide. Cat's foot! don't talk to me!").

"Yet when I heard--through the medium of the public prints--that she was
no more, I felt a pang, sir, a pang. I would have assisted at the
funeral solemnities; it would have been a pleasure to me to compose a
dirge; the first strophe even suggested itself to me. 'Ta-ta, tarum,
tarum' (muffled drums); 'ta tee, ta tidol' (trombones); but these things
require time, sir, time."

"Surely!" said Mr. Homer, with a meek bow; "surely; and indeed,
Pindar, the ceremonies were of the simplest description, in accordance
with the wishes of our revered and deceased relative. But sit
down, my dear brother; sit down, and let me procure some
refreshment;--a--sustenance;--a--bodily pabulum, for you. Have you come
far, may I ask?"

"From the metropolis, sir; from New York!" replied Mr. Pindar, seating
himself and throwing back his little batlike cloak.

"By rail to the Junction; the evening stage, a jolt, a rattle, and a
crawl,--behold me! A crust, Homer, a crust! no disturbance of domestic
equilibrium. A consort lurks within?"

"I beg your pardon, Brother!" said Mr. Homer, with a bewildered look.

"A wife, sir, a wife!" said Mr. Pindar. "Are you married, Homer?"

"Oh, no; no, indeed, my dear brother!" said Mr. Homer, hastily, and
blushing very red. "Nothing of the kind, I assure you. And you?"

"Perish the thought!" said Mr. Pindar; and he waved the Sex out of
existence.

Mr. Homer looked troubled, but hastened out of the room, and, after some
ineffective appeals to Tommy, who, as we know, was talking with Annie
Lizzie at the gate, foraged for himself, and returned with crackers and
cheese, doughnuts and cider. Seated together at this simple feast, the
two brothers looked at each other once more, and both rubbed their hands
with precisely the same gesture.

"Food!" cried Mr. Pindar, vivaciously; "and drink! necessities, base if
you will, but grateful, sir, grateful! Brother, I pledge you!"

"Brother, I drink to you!" cried Mr. Homer, filling his glass with a
trembling hand. "To our reunion, sir! the--the rekindling of--of
affection's torch, my dear brother. Long may it--"

"Blaze!" cried Mr. Pindar, with a sudden skip in his chair. "Snap!
crackle! flame! crepitate! Pindar to Homer shall, bright glass to
glass--enough!" He ceased suddenly, and fell upon the crackers and
cheese with excellent appetite.

Mr. Homer watched him in anxious and bewildered silence: once or twice
he opened his lips as if about to speak, but closed them each time with
a sigh and a shake of the head. The visitor was the first to speak,
beginning, when the last cracker had disappeared, as suddenly as he had
left off.

"Brother," he said, "why am I here?"

Mr. Homer repeated the words vaguely: "Why are you here, my dear
brother? I doubt not that affection's call, the--voice of sympathy,
of--a--brotherhood, of--consanguinity,--a--sounded in your ears--"

"Trumpets!" Mr. Pindar struck a sonorous note, and nodded thrice with
great solemnity. "Alarums and excursions; enter long-lost brother,
centre. You are right, Homer; but this was not all. The Dramatic Moment,
sir, had struck."

With these words, he folded his arms, and, dropping his head on his
breast, gazed up through his eyebrows in a manner which Mr. Homer found
highly disconcerting.

"Oh, indeed!" said Mr. Homer, with vague politeness.

"Struck!" repeated Mr. Pindar, nodding solemnly. "Sounded. Knelled--no!
tolled--not precisely! larumed, sir, larumed!"

"'Larumed' is a fine word," said Mr. Homer, meekly, "but I fail to
apprehend your precise meaning, Brother Pindar."

"You know what 'dramatic' means, I suppose, Homer," replied Mr. Pindar,
testily, "though you never had an atom of the quality in your
composition. And you know what a moment is. The Dramatic Moment--I
repeat it--in your life and the life of this village--has larumed, sir.
Listen to it, Homer; look upon it, sir; grasp it! The old order--gone!"
he swept it away. "The new--its foot upon the threshold!" he beckoned
toward the door, and Mr. Homer looked round nervously. "Usher it in, to
sound of trump and drum. We must celebrate, Homer, celebrate. To that
end, behold me!"

Mr. Homer passed his hand across his brow and sighed wearily. "My dear
brother," he said, "you must excuse me if I do not yet altogether
understand,--a--comprehend,--a--accord the hospitality of the intellect,
to--to the idea that you desire to convey. I feel little if any
resemblance at this moment to a watcher of the skies--Keats, as I need
not remind you; but I cannot feel that this is a time for rejoicing,
Pindar."

"For celebration, sir! for celebration!" cried Mr. Pindar, eagerly.
"The words are not synonymous, as you are no doubt aware. Let the
mysteries be solemn, if you will, the sable scarf of cinerary pomp, the
muffled drum, and wail of deep bassoon; but this was my idea, sir; thus
the vision rose before my mind's eye, Horatio,--I would say, Homer. A
procession, sir. Maidens, white-clad, flower-crowned, scattering roses;
matrons, in kirtle and gown, twirling the distaff; village elders,
in--in--our native costume is ill adapted, I confess, but suitable robes
might be obtained at trifling cost, sir, at trifling cost. You in the
midst, crowned with bays, the poet's robe your manly limbs enfolding.
Following,--or preceding, as you will,--musicians, with brass
instruments. You write an ode, I set it to music. Rhymes will readily
suggest themselves: 'jog,' no! 'clog;' hardly! 'agog;' precisely!

    "Ta-ta, ta-ta, with joy agog;
    Quahaug! (bang!) Quahaug! (bang!) Quahaug!

Kettledrums, you understand; cymbals; superb effect! You see it, Homer?
you take it in?"

He paused, and gazed on his brother with kindling eyes, his arms
extended, the little cloak fluttering from them; certainly nothing human
ever looked so like a bat.

"A goblin!" said Mr. Homer to himself. "My only brother is a goblin!"

He sighed again, yet more wearily, and once more passed his hand across
his brow.

"My dear brother," he said, "the hour is late. I find myself incapable
of--of thought. The weary pinion of the brain--I find myself incapable
even of metaphor, sir. You must excuse me. To-morrow--"

"To fresh fields and pastures new!" cried Mr. Pindar, rising with a
batlike wave. "Precisely! Enter attendants with torches. The minion
waits without?"

"Oh!" said Mr. Homer, "not exactly, Pindar. Direxia Hawkes
has--a--retired to rest; has--a--sought the sleep which--which--"

"Knits up the ravelled sleeve of care!" suggested Mr. Pindar.

"Oh, very much so!" cried Mr. Homer. "You surely remember Direxia,
brother, and will no doubt agree with me that the term 'minion' cannot
properly be applied to Cousin Marcia's old and faithful retainer.
And--the youth who--who admitted you, is Thomas Candy, my friend and
fellow trustee. Thomas is an invaluable person, Pindar; he is like a son
to me, I assure you. You will, I am sure, value Thomas. I will suggest
to him the advisability of bringing candles. Oh, here he is! Thomas,
this is my brother Pindar, my only brother, returned after the lapse of
many years to--to his native heath, if I may so express myself. Thomas
Candy, my dear brother!"

"Son of Silas?" cried Mr. Pindar. "Ha! 'tis well. Stripling, thy hand!
lives yet thy father, ha?"

Tommy grinned, and rumpled his hair with an elfish look eminently
unfitting a trustee.

"You are the one he used to play ghost with, and scare the Weightses,"
he said. "I've heard of you, sir. Father isn't livin', but Mis' Tree
told me about it. Glad to see you, sir!"



CHAPTER IX.

"_QUAND ON CONSPIRE_"


Mr. Pindar Hollopeter slept long and late the next morning, as became a
gentleman of metropolitan habits; he had not yet made his appearance
when Will Jaquith came swinging along the street and turned in at the
gate. Tommy Candy was at work in the garden, trimming the roses, as Will
himself had been used to do before he was a family man and a postmaster,
and at sight of him Will stopped.

"Just the man I was looking for, Tom!" he said. "I want to consult you."

"Same here!" said Tommy, straightening himself and looking over the
sweetbriar bush. "What's up your way?"

"This!" said Will, taking a postal card from his pocket. "I don't make a
practice of reading postal cards, Tom, but I thought I'd better do it
this time, as I recognized the handwriting;" and he read aloud: "'Expect
me to-morrow at eleven, for the day. M. DARRACOTT PRYOR.'"

"Gee!" said Tommy Candy.

"Whiz!" said Will Jaquith. "Exactly. Now what are we to do? I promised
Mr. Homer that she should not torment him."

"And I promised Her," said Tommy, slowly ("Her" was Mrs. Tree, once and
for all time, with Tommy Candy), "that that woman should never stay in
this house. Didn't I tell you? It was the last time ever I was sittin'
with her. I'll never forget it; she knew she hadn't long to stay, for as
brisk and chirk as she was; she knew it right enough. 'Tommy,' she
says, 'when I'm gone, I look to you to keep cats off the place; do you
hear?' She couldn't abide cats, you know. I says, 'There sha'n't any cat
come on the place if I can help it, Mis' Tree,' I says, 'and I expect I
can.' I didn't have no _i_dea at first what she meant. She raps her
stick and looks at me. Gorry! when she looked at you, she hadn't hardly
no need to speak; her eyes did the talkin'. 'Cats!' she says.
'Four-legged cats, two-legged cats. Cats that say "miaouw!" cats that
say "Maria!" keep 'em off, Tommy! worry 'em, Tommy! Worry 'em! do you
hear?'

"'I hear, Mis' Tree,' I says, 'and I'll do it.'

"'Good boy, Tommy!' she says; and she pulls out the table-drawer, same
as she always did--Gorry! I can't talk about it!" His voice faltered,
and he turned away. "She was my best friend!" he said, brokenly; "she
was the best friend ever a fellow had."

"Mine, too, Tommy," said Will, laying his hand kindly on the lad's
shoulder. "We'll think of her together, boy, and we'll carry out her
wishes if it takes a--"

He checked himself, with a glance at the stick that never left Tommy's
side; but Tommy finished the sentence simply:

"A leg! that's what we'll do. I'd give my good leg, let alone the poor
one; I shouldn't have had that if it hadn't been for her; if she hadn't
sent for Doctor Strong that day. Old Pottle was going to take it off,
you know. 'I'll take off your ears first!' she says, and 'rap' goes her
stick. 'Ninnyhammer!' she says; 'noodle!' she says; 'send for Geoffrey
Strong.' That rap was the first thing I heard; I believe it brought me
back, too, from--from wherever there is. Gorry! I wish't I could bring
her back!"

"We cannot do that, Tommy," said Will Jaquith, sadly; "but what we can
do, we will. Now about this--lady!"

"Look-a-here!" said Tommy, eagerly. "I don't believe but what this fays
in with what has been goin' on here. Last night--" and he told briefly
of the advent of Mr. Pindar.

"He's plum crazy," he added, "crazy as a loon; but yet it's a knowin'
kind of crazy, and I don't believe but what he could help us."

Will pondered. "I should not wonder if he could, Tom," he said at
length. "I'd like to see him, anyhow. Where is he, and where is Mr.
Homer?"

"Mr. Homer's gone for a walk," said Tommy. "He was all worked up about
his brother's comin', and some kind of rinktum he wants to get up, here
in the village; kind of crazy circus, near as I could make out from the
little he said. He didn't eat hardly any breakfast, and Direxia was in a
caniption, so I got him to go for a walk in the woods, to ca'm him down.
That ca'ms him down better than 'most anything, generally, unless it's
Miss Wax's barrel-organ, and she's busy mornin's. Come in, Will. The
other one wasn't down when I come out, but I presume likely he is now. I
tell you he's a queer one!"

They went in; and, sure enough, Mr. Pindar was in the dining-room,
eating toast and marmalade, and holding forth to Direxia Hawkes, who
stood in the doorway, half-admiring, half-distrustful. Her early opinion
of Pindar Hollopeter had been unfavorable, but he certainly had an
elegant way with him, and used beautiful language.

"The orange," he was saying, as he waved a spoonful of the translucent
sweetmeat, "has ever been the friend of man; unless, indeed, we share
the view of those who hold that it was the original Apple of Discord.
The answer to this theory would appear to lie in the fact that it is not
an apple at all. But soft! whom have we here? A stranger! alarums and
entrances. Enter mysterious individual, r. u. e."

"It's Willy Jaquith and Tommy," said Direxia. "I'll go now; if you want
more toast, you can ring the bell."

"Good morning, sir!" said Tommy, advancing. "I hope you slept well. Let
me make you acquainted with Mr. Jaquith; this is Mr. Homer's brother,
Will, that I was telling you about."

"I am glad to meet you, sir!" said Will. "Mr. Homer is a great friend of
mine."

Mr. Pindar rose, and held out his hand with a superb gesture.

"My brother's friends," he said, "find safe asylum in this rugged
breast. Sir, I salute you. Can I offer you refreshment--the wheaten
loaf, the smooth, unrifled egg, the bland emollience of the butter-pat?
No?"

"Thanks!" said Will. "I have breakfasted, Mr. Hollopeter; but don't let
me interrupt you. Thanks." He seated himself in response to a
magnificent wave. "Pray finish your breakfast, sir!"

But Mr. Pindar had apparently finished, and was besides in a
communicative mood. After explaining to them at great length the theory
of Até's apple, he gave them a brief disquisition on the proper boiling
of eggs, touched lightly on the use of butter among the Hebrews, and
then, to their great delight, proceeded to advert to his own coming. It
was a sudden inspiration, he informed them. Some thirty years had
blossomed o'er his head since his foot had trod the soil from which he
sprang. He left, a stripling in his early flower; he returned--"what you
see!" His gesture transformed the little shabby bat-cloak into an ermine
mantle. "A son of Thespis, gentlemen, at your command!"

Tommy opened wide eyes at this, having always heard that Mr. Hollopeter
senior had rejoiced in the name of Ecclesiastes Nudd; but Will bowed
respectfully in response to the wave. "An actor, sir?" he asked,
deferentially.

Mr. Pindar bowed and waved again. "Actor, dramatist, musician, composer!

    "By many names men know me,
      In many lands I dwell;
    Well Philadelphia knows me,
      Manhattan knows me well.

A man of cities, sir, of cities! I have come to assist at the
celebration of the New Order, and shall be glad to count you among my
aids." Here Mr. Pindar bowed profoundly, twirled his mustaches,
fluttered his wings, and proceeded to unfold his scheme of a
Processional Festival Jubilee, matrons, maidens, distaffs, and all. He
declared that Will was the very figure of Apollo, and that Tommy, on
account of his lameness, was evidently created for the part of Vulcan.

"A disparity of years, I grant you, my young friend," he said,
graciously; "but what! the gods were young when time was. The Boy
Hephæstos! what say you?"

Tommy Candy, probably for the first time in his young life, found
nothing to say; but Will pronounced the scheme a most interesting one.
Before going fully into it, however, he said, he was anxious to consult
Mr. Pindar on a matter connected with his brother.

Mr. Pindar bowed again, still more profoundly, and crossing his arms on
his breast, nodded thrice, each time more impressively than the last.

"Concerning Homer!" he said. "My father's son; my mother's fair-haired
joy; in short, my brother. Gentles, say on; my ears are all your own."

"We have--learned," Will began cautiously, "that a visitor is coming
here this morning whom we think Mr. Homer would greatly prefer not to
see. The lady is a cousin of yours, sir; Mrs. Pryor, formerly Miss
Darracott--"

He stopped, for Mr. Pindar fixed him with a gleaming eye and an
outstretched forefinger, and uttered one word.

"Maria?"

"The same!" said Will.

"Maria!" repeated Mr. Pindar. "Ye gods! Strike home, young man! my bosom
to the knife--strike home!"

"Mr. Homer has dreaded her coming," said Will, taking courage; "and Mrs.
Tree--a--did not--was not fond of her, we will say. We thought that you
might possibly help us, sir, in devising some plan by which, without
being uncivil, we might spare Mr. Homer the distress which--which an
interview with this lady could hardly fail to give him."

Mr. Pindar still looked fixedly at him. "Maria!" he muttered once more.
"My boyhood's knotted scourge! the most horrid child that ever--What
does she want?"

"She desires to be a sister to Mr. Homer, sir," said Will, simply.

Mr. Pindar recoiled. "Perish the thought!" he exclaimed. "Sepulchred
deep the curst conception lie! and you? ye seek assistance, ha?"

"We thought you might be able to help us out, sir," said Will.

"I bet you could fix her!" said Tommy.

Mr. Pindar's eyes flashed. "Your hands!" he cried. "The Dramatic Moment
strikes. Ding dong! But soft; we must dissemble!"

Mr. Pindar laid his finger on his lips, and rolled his eyes on his
visitors with a warning glance. Then rising, he stole with measured and
elaborately noiseless steps to the door, and listened at the keyhole,
then to the window, and peered out with dramatic caution; then, still
with his finger on his lips, he turned to his companions.

"All is well!" he said; he waved the little bat-cloak, and then drew it
round him with a flap of mystery.

"Approach!" he whispered, beckoning the two friends toward him,
"Conspiracy is the soul of Drama: approach, friends, and give--or rather
receive--the counter-sign!"

It was a pleasant sight to see Mr. Pindar Hollopeter, his eyes gleaming
with dramatic fire, yet with a twinkle in the black depths of them,
waving his arms abroad (the gesture so like his brother's, yet so
unlike), expounding, suggesting, illustrating. It was pleasant, too, to
see the responsive twinkle that danced and deepened in the blue and gray
eyes as they met his.

"I said you would fix it, sir!" cried Tommy Candy, smiting his thigh.

"That will be capital, sir!" said Will. "Your coming seems really
providential just at this time. Of course we could not have shown any
incivility to a member of your family; but if you can arrange this--"

"Sir," said Mr. Pindar, dropping his head forward, and gazing up through
his eyebrows. "I know not 'if.' Regard the thing as done!"

Punctually at eleven o'clock, Mrs. Pryor bustled and crackled up the
garden path, and rang a defiant peal at the bell. She had brought no
luggage with her; this was a preliminary skirmish, so to speak, merely
to try her ground and assert her rights; but she was prepared to do
fierce battle with Direxia Hawkes or any one else who might attempt to
impede her progress in the Path of Duty. Accordingly, when she heard
footsteps approaching along the hall, she stood with heaving breast and
glittering eye, ready and determined to effect an entrance the instant a
crack of the door should be opened.

But there was no question of a crack this time. The door swung open to
its fullest extent, and, instead of the small and warlike figure of
Direxia Hawkes, it was Tommy Candy who stood on the threshold, with
subdued and sorrowful looks.

"How do you do, Mis' Pryor?" he said. "I'm rejoiced you have come. I
took the liberty of reading your postal, and it seemed as though I
couldn't hardly wait till eleven o'clock came. We need you here, the
wust way, Mis' Pryor."

Mrs. Pryor's bristling panoply smoothed itself, and she even gave an
approving look at the youth, who certainly was a good-looking youth, and
had probably been subjected to evil influences in his childhood.

"I am glad that I have come at the right moment, Tommy," she said,
benignly. "People sometimes say that when I come, it is apt to be the
right moment, but we will not speak of that now. What is wrong? Have you
had difficulty in getting rid of the old woman? I will attend to that
with pleasure; it is my duty." And she stepped into the hall, Tommy
making way for her with alacrity.

"Oh, no'm," said Tommy. "It wasn't that; I don't suppose you could hire
Direxia to stay--now!"

"What do you mean?" asked the visitor. "What has happened? Mr. Homer is
not ill? nothing contagious, I--" and she made a step backward.

"Oh, no'm!" said Tommy, mournfully. "No, I never heard of its bein'
contagious, any more than a person couldn't stand it long; but now you
have come, you will see to everything, I expect, and how thankful shall
we be. This way, mum!" and he opened the parlor door.

"There can't but one go in at a time," he whispered. "It excites him too
much; but he's been pretty quiet this last hour or so; I guess there
won't be no danger, not for a spell at least."

"What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Pryor, in alarm. "Tell me at once what
has happened, Thomas Candy!"

Tommy shook his head sadly, and turned away with something like a sob.
"You'll find out soon enough!" he murmured. "There's things you don't
care to put into words. I'm real glad you've come, Mis' Pryor."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I can't tell you all he said," said Tommy over the garden gate that
evening, "for I wasn't in the room. I couldn't hear only a scrap now and
again, when he'd give a kind of screech; but you'd sworn, to look at
him, it was Mr. Homer gone crazy. He looks like him, anyway, and he put
on one of his co'ts and blue neckties, and sort of flopped his hair down
over his forehead,--I tell ye, he was complete! and of course she never
suspicioned anything about the other--Mr. Pindar--bein' in the land of
the livin', or this part of it anyway. We had the room darkened, and he
sot there hunched up in a big chair with his back to the light, sort o'
mutterin' to himself, when I shew her in.

"I kinder prepared her mind, just as he told me, and she felt a mite
scary, I guess; well, Annie Lizzie, he did the rest; I had no part or
lot in it. I tell you he's a circus, that man! I heard him ask her right
off the first thing would she marry him, and be his young gazelle: that
pleased her, and yet she was took aback a mite, and said: 'Oh, Homer,
this is very sudden!'

"'We'll be married by candle-light,' he says, 'and go off in a balloon,
by registered mail. The Emperor of China is expecting us to tea; we are
to wear our skulls outside, and cross-bones in our clustering locks.
Hark to the wedding knell! tzing boom! tzing boom! cymbals and bass
drum!'

"I heard that plain, but then he went on muttering for a spell, and I
couldn't make out a word, till she said, kinder sharp and twittery: 'I
must go now, Homer; I have an important engagement;' and she said
something about coming back soon. But he hollers out:

    "'Black sperits and white,
    Red sperits and gray,
    Mingle, mingle, mingle,
    Ye that mingle may!'

And I heard them fussin' round, as if she was tryin' to get out the room
and he was keepin' between her and the door. At last and finally, he
must have got right up close't the door, for I heard him as plain as I
do you. 'Rats and bears! rats and bears!' he says, 'all over the room!
all over the room! look at 'em! look at 'em!' She let one yell out--that
was the one you heard--and come runnin' out, and he come as fur as the
door after her, flappin' his arms and hoppin' up and down--great Jonas!
I expect she'd ben runnin' now if she hadn't have caught the down
stage. I tell ye, I won't forget that one while."

"Oh, Tommy!" said Annie Lizzie, in her soft, reproachful voice. "I think
'twas awful mean to scare a lady that way, now I do. I don't think you'd
oughter have done it; 'twasn't pretty actin', no way, shape, or manner,
don't tell me it was."

"Annie Lizzie," said Tommy, "you don't know Mis' Pryor; you warn't
nothin' but a child when she was here before. There's some folks you
_have_ to scare; it's the only way to git red of 'em, and we _had_ to
git red of her. Let alone what Mis' Tree said to me the last time ever I
saw her,--though that was enough for me, and what she said goes, as long
as I live,--but let that alone, do you think we was goin' to let that
woman set right down on Mr. Homer, and smother him with sarce? I guess
not. If Prov'dence hadn't sent his brother right in the nick of time,
Will and me'd have had to do it ourselves, and like as not made a mess
of it, and Mr. Homer found out, and ben worked up worse than what he is
now; but, as it was, it was all done in the family, and there warn't a
word said but what was polite, if 'twas crazy. He couldn't do no more
than ask her to marry him, could he?"

"Oh, well, Tommy, you can always talk!" said Annie Lizzie.

"There's other things I can do besides talk," said Tommy Candy; and he
did one of them.

"Tommy!" said Annie Lizzie. "How you act!"



CHAPTER X.

A PLEASANT HOUR


One of the spots I have always liked best in Quahaug (it is hard for me
even now not to say "Elmerton," though I highly approve the change) is
Salem Rock's back yard. The front yard is the special province of Mrs.
Rock, a person whose mind runs to double petunias, and coleus; but the
back premises are Salem's own, and quaint and homely as himself. A neat
path of oyster shells pounded fine runs straight from the back porch to
the little pier where the white dory lies sunning herself, and the
sailboat dips and rises on the ripple. On either side of the path is a
square space of green, with a few ancient apple-trees here and there, a
white lilac-bush, and a little round summer-house so overgrown with
honeysuckle and clematis, and so clustered round by bees that it looks
like a quaint flowering beehive itself. There are real beehives, too,
six of them, set along the wall; and in a narrow border that runs all
round the yard are the flowers that bees like best, sweet rocket and
foxglove, mignonette and sweet alyssum, and a dozen others. All these
pleasant things may be found in other back yards, but there are some
things that belong to this alone. In the exact centre of one green space
is a ship's spar, set upright, with a tiny flag fluttering from its top;
in the other stand two life-size figures, facing each other; the figures
of a man and a woman. The man is in the dress of the thirties, high
stock and collar, shirt-frill and frock-coat; the lady in flowing
classical draperies; the man is painted in lively colors, his coat and
wig (it is certainly a wig!) a bright snuff-brown, his eyes and
waistcoat sky-blue, his cheeks and stock a vivid crimson; but the lady
is all white, cheeks, lips, robes and all; she might be marble, if she
were less palpably wood. The most singular thing about this singular
pair is that they seem to be coming up out of the earth; to have got out
as far as their knees, and then to have given it up and stopped. It is
evident that they are not coming any farther, for the grass grows close
about them, and a wild convolvulus has crept up into the lady's lap and
round her arm, making the prettiest of bracelets; while, actually, a
yellow warbler has built his nest in the gentleman's shirt-frill, and
sings there all summer long.

There the two stand, facing each other, with cheerful looks; and there
they have stood for fifty years.

On a certain pleasant morning, about the time of which I am writing,
Salem Rock and Seth Weaver were having what they called their annual
spree. Seth had brought his brushes and a variety of paint-pots; Salem,
according to custom, had provided tobacco, and a great stone pitcher
containing ginger, molasses, and water, with plenty of ice tinkling in
it. This pitcher was set down between the two images, within reach of
either man: Seth was at work on the white lady, while Salem, with
infinite and loving care, went over the gentleman's attire, picking out
the waistcoat pattern, and doing wonderful things to the buttons with a
tiny brush dipped in gold leaf.

"Old Sir's goin' to look tasty this time, now I tell ye!" he said,
drawing back, with his head on one side, to study the effect. "I've
give him a yeller sprig to his vest, see? I expect Old Marm'll say 'yes'
this time, for as long as she's held out."

"Yes!" grumbled Seth, pipe in mouth. "You never let me have a chanst at
him, nor yet you won't let me brisk the Old Lady up to match. Give her a
pink dress now, and hair her up some, and she'd be a fine-lookin' woman
as there is in this village. I'll do it, too, some night; you'll see."

"No, you don't!" said Salem, slowly, as he drew a scarlet line down the
seams of "Old Sir's" coat. "White Old Marm begun, and white she'll stay.
Wal, you was beginnin' to tell me about this ruction up to Home's. What
is it Pindar's after? I ain't seen him yet."

"He's after a strait-weskit, and he'll get it, don't you have no fears!"
replied Seth. "He calls it a Pro-cessional Festival Jubilee. He's hired
the band from the Corners, and he's got the women-folks churned up till
they don't know whether they're butter or cheese. They're routin' out
all their old clo'es from up attic, and tryin' of 'em on, and
cacklin'--there! I thought I'd heerd hens before; but this mornin' I was
in to Penny's store, and there was a passel of 'em in there talkin' it
over, and I tell you there ain't a hen-yard in this State to ekal it. I
come away without my bird seed. Gorry! there's times when it feels good
to be a single man."

"That may be so, Seth," replied Mr. Rock, soberly; "but there's other
times--meal-times, and rheumatiz, and such--when it ain't so handy. How
does Homer feel about all this ran-tan?"

"Poor old Home!" said Seth, shaking his head. "He's pooty well broke up.
He was jest beginnin' to take notice, and get used to things the new
way, and sense it that it warn't goin' to kill him to have money in the
bank; and now comes Pindar, flappin' and squeakin' like a
ravin'-distracted June-bug, and stands him on his head, and he don't
know where he is again; Home don't, I mean. He never could stand up
against Pindar, you know. You remember at school we used to call 'em
Loony and Moony; Homer was Moony. We used to call after 'em--

    "'Loony and Moony,
    Both got spoony,
    Dance for Mame when she plays 'em a toony.'

There! I ain't thought o' that for thirty years, I don't believe. There
never was a single mite o' harm in Homer that I could see."

"I left school before they come," said Salem. "I was on my fust voyage
with Cap'n time they got there. But I ric'llect old Mis' Hollopeter,
and the way she used to ride round in that old carryall of her'n. I can
see her now, settin' straight as a broomstick, holdin' up that little
mite of a green parasol. Covered carryall, too; I remember I used to
wonder what on airth she wanted with that parasol."

"Mebbe 'twas charity for the neighbors," said Seth. "She didn't handsome
much, old Mis' Hollopeter didn't. I rec'llect the carryall, too. When
the boys got big enough, one of them would drive her, and she'd set
there and pour poetry into him like corn into a hopper. Home asked me to
go one day, and I was so scairt I like t' ha' died. Not but what the old
lady meant well, for she did; but what I mean is, them boys never had no
chanst to _be_ boys--not like other boys do. Who's this comin'?"

There was a flutter of pink beside the great mallow-bush at the corner
of the house; a slender girl appeared, and paused bashfully, with a
doubtful smile.

"'Tis Annie Lizzie!" said Salem Rock. "Nice little gal! Come in, Annie
Liz, come in! there's no one here only Seth and me. What can we do for
ye? Want me to touch up them cheeks with a mite of this red paint?
'Pears to me they ain't quite so rosy as common."

Both men looked approvingly at the girl as she came slowly toward them
across the grass. Annie Lizzie never seemed in haste; she was in fact
rather slow, but it was a soft, graceful slowness, and her motions were
so pretty that one could not wish to hurry them. Everything about the
girl was soft, gentle, leisurely; she had little to say, but that little
was so pleasantly said, and her soft voice lingered so sweetly over the
vowels, that one was sorry when she had done speaking.

She smiled very sweetly on the two middle-aged men. "Good mornin', Mr.
Rock," she said. "'Mornin', Mr. Weaver! Ma sent me on an errand to you,
Mr. Weaver; I went to the shop fust, and then I thought likely you might
be here, so I come along down."

"Yes!" said Seth. "You knew it was about time for all the foolishness
there is in Salem Rock to bust out in paint. Look at the figuree he's
makin' out of Old Sir there!"

"Yay-us!" said Annie Lizzie, admiringly. "Don't he look nice? I think
he's real handsome, Mr. Rock."

Salem Rock nodded, and gave a grunt of satisfaction. "Seth's jealous,"
he said. "Don't you take no notice of him, Annie Lizzie!"

"She'll hev to take notice of me," said Seth, "or she won't get what
she come for. What does your Ma want, little gal?"

"She wanted to know if you was comin' to paint the stairs to-morrow.
This festival comin' on and all, she says she's ashamed to have 'em look
as they doos."

"The festival ain't goin' up her back stairs, is it?" asked Seth. "I
wish it was, and out the back winder and across lots to Tom Fool's
Pastur, where it come from."

"Why, Mr. Weaver, how you talk!" said Annie Lizzie, in soft reproach. "I
think it'll be elegant. I'm jest as excited about it!"

"Think likely!" grunted Seth. "What kind o' figuree is Pindar goin' to
make out of you, young un? Psyche? Wal, it takes all kinds! You tell
your Ma them stairs'll have to wait a spell. There's too many folks
wantin' the outside o' their cups and platters done up, tell her, for me
to 'tend to the insides yet awhile. I'll get round to it bumby, tell
her; if ever I get done with this job!" he added, tilting back on his
heels, and surveying the white lady. "I s'pose you've got to have three
co'ts on her, Sale?"

"That's what!" said Salem. "I'd never skimp Old Marm in her co'ts, not
if I had to go in my shirt-sleeves to do it."

"Mr. Rock," said Annie Lizzie, "you promised me you'd tell me some day
about those images, and you never. What do they represent, may I ask?
They ain't man and wife, be they?"

"I guess not!" said Seth, with a chuckle. "I never heard 'em jaw each
other, many times as I've been over 'em. Tell her about 'em, Sale. Annie
Lizzie, you set down, and he'll tell the stories now, or, if he won't, I
will."

"Sho!" said Salem Rock. "What's the use of rakin' up old stories? These
two figgers have set here so long they don't need no stories; they jest
belong here, same as the trees doos."

"But I _love_ stories, Mr. Rock!" said Annie Lizzie, in her soft,
pleading voice. "Do tell me, Mr. Rock, now please!"

She sat down on the grass, and gathered her pink skirts round her: she
might have been a great, soft rose dropped on the green.

"Bile in, Salem!" said Seth Weaver. "You ain't forgot, have ye?"

[Illustration: "'BILE IN, SALEM!' SAID SETH WEAVER, 'YOU AIN'T FORGOT,
HAVE YE?'"]



CHAPTER XI.

SPINNING YARNS


"No, I ain't forgot," said the older man, slowly; "nor like to forget."

He laid his brush down carefully after a critical glance at "Old Sir's"
buttons.

"I guess mebbe I'll let them buttons dry a spell before I put on the
last co't," he said. "No, I ain't forgot, Seth; but it takes a kind of a
h'ist to get back into things that seems so long ago you kinder think
they must have happened to somebodys else beside yourself.

"Wal, little gal, these two figgers is figgerheads, you see: kem off two
ships I sailed in long before your two bright eyes opened on to this
world of sin and--"

"Deestruction!" said Seth Weaver. "Chirk up a mite, Salem! This ain't a
funeral, is it?"

"I dono but 'tis, kind of," said Salem Rock, soberly. "It's amazin' how
many folks is dead and buried nowadays. Howsoever, them was two good
ships, the _Merchant Cap'n_ and the _White Lady_. Old Sir here, he come
off the _Cap'n_; they made her over into a barge, and I begged for him,
and they let me have him. The builder meant him for a kind of compliment
to Cap'n Tree; sing'lar compliment, _I_ used to think. Cap'n Tree was a
pictur' of a man, if ever I sot eyes on one, and Old Sir always
resembled a wooden image, and no special reason why he shouldn't.

"Wal, I took my fust voyage in the _Merchant Cap'n_; I was cabin-boy,
and Mis' Tree was along; it was the last voyage but one they took
together, him and her, and I was along on both. Wal, sir, I tell you
'twas a sight to see them two sail a ship together. He'd taught her
navigation, and she took to it like them bees to that rocket yonder. She
was as good a navigator as ever I see. We was tradin' round Borneo ways,
and had laid in a cargo of spices and truck, and started on the homeward
voyage. Come up a hurricane, and blowed us clear'n out of our course;
went on blowin', and kep' us hitherin' and thitherin' for three days,
till we didn't know where we was, nor hardly whether we was in this
world at all, or that part of the next that we wasn't anyways particklar
_about_ bein' in. The third night of it was the wust, and, gorry! I tell
ye 'twas awful! and then all of a suddin, like takin' off your hat, it
fell dead calm. When mornin' broke, 'twas wuss yet, for there was land
dead ahead, and the _Merchant Cap'n_ driftin' on to it as fast as tide
could take her. Wal, Mis' Tree had jest come up-stairs, and I tumbled up
behind her, cur'us as a monkey, same as all boys be. She looks at the
land, and then up at Cap'n, that quick way she had, like a bird. 'What
is it?' she says; and Cap'n says, 'Solomon Islands!'

"I hadn't no notion what that meant; I thought from the sound it might
be some extry fine place, like the Bible, ye know, cedars of Lebanon,
and Queens of Sheby, and like that; but Cap'n's voice had a queer sound
to it, and I looked at him, and he was the color of her there!" he
nodded toward the white image.

"Little Mis' Tree, she never turned a hair, though she knew what I
didn't, that them islands was cannibal, the wust sort, and no white man
had ever come off 'em inside his own skin. She never turned a hair,
only slid her mite of a hand into his, and said, quiet-like: 'We're both
here, Ethan!' Cap'n give a kind of groan. 'I'd give my soul, Marshy,' he
says, 'if you was safe to home!' She stood up straight--Jerusalem! I can
see her now; 'twas like a flame risin', near as I can put it--and looks
him in the face. 'I be to home!' she says; that was every word she said.

"Wal, word got round what land it was,--some of the crew had been that
way before,--and I tell ye we was a pooty sick-lookin' crew. There
warn't a breath o' wind, nor the shadow of a breath; and we kep' on
a-driftin', till pooty soon we could see the shore plain, and black
savages runnin' up and down, hollerin', and wavin' their arms. They see
us, and were all ready for us; and pooty soon we could make out that
they was pilin' up logs o' wood, makin' fires--Seth, what in time made
you start me in on this yarn? 'Tain't no kind o' thing for this gal to
hear."

Annie Lizzie's eyes were like brown stars, her cheeks like Old Sir's
carmine stock. "Oh, Mr. Rock!" she cried, "if Mis' Tree could bear it, I
guess I can. Please go on! I _have_ to hear the rest. And besides," she
added, naïvely, "of course I know you wasn't all--"

She paused.

"No, we wasn't eat," said Salem Rock; "but I tell ye, little gal, we was
as near it as a person is anyways desirous to come. We was that near, we
see them critters grinnin' their white teeth at us, and heard their
devils' screechin' and chatterin'. When it got to that, Cap'n called the
crew aft, and told 'em, quiet and easy, how things was.

"'If the wind comes up within ten minutes,' he says, 'we are safe; if
not, then we've had our time in this world,' he says, 'and behoves us
be ready for another. I see no reason, and Mis' Tree sees no reason, why
we should go in that beastly fashion yonder,' he says, pointin' to the
yellin' savages; 'and therefore I have give my orders, and before we
touch that shore the doctor will serve an extry grog, that will take you
through sleep to the presence of your Maker, and may He have mercy on
your souls and mine!'

"'Amen!' says Mis' Tree, clear and crisp; and I see she had a little
bottle in her hand, holdin' it tight, and the other hand in Cap'n's.
Jerusalem! she had grit!

"Wal, there was no words said. 'Twas a good crew, 'most all of 'em
Quahaug men; your father was one of 'em, Seth."

Seth nodded gravely.

"But we got together forrard, and watched the shore, and Cap'n and Mis'
Tree stood aft and kep' their eye on the wind.

"That shore come nearer; it come nearer than was anyways comfortable. I
warn't nothin' but a boy, and I can remember wonderin' whether the folks
to home would ever know, and whether Cap'n would write the story and put
it in a bottle, same as in books I'd read; and what'd become of the
ship, and the little monkey I was tamin' for my sister. And then--then
somebody sung out somethin', and I turned round; and there stood Cap'n
Tree, with the tears runnin' over his face, and his arm up, p'intin' at
the pennon on the masthead.

"'Bout ship!' he says; and that same moment come a puff o' wind from the
shore; and then pooty soon another; and then the land-breeze set in good
and steady.

"The helmsman put her about, and she come round with a dip and a sweep
like a dancin' lady, and went curtseyin' off over the waves--you never
see a sight like that, little gal, nor never will see.

"'Let us give thanks to Almighty God!' says Cap'n Tree; and we give 'em,
kneelin' on the deck."

Salem Rock drew a long breath, and took up his brush again.

"There!" he said. "You've had your story, Annie Lizzie. I dono as it's a
very pooty one, but truth ain't allers pooty, I've noticed."

"Oh, it's a wonderful story, Mr. Rock!" cried little Annie Lizzie. "I
thank you a thousand times for tellin' me. But ain't you goin' to tell
the other one, too, about the lady? Please, Mr. Rock!"

"I guess not!" said Salem. "I guess I'm jaw-weary for this time."

"No, you ain't," said Seth Weaver. "Take more'n that to jaw-weary you,
Sale, with the practice you have," and he cast a cautious glance at the
house. "Let the little gal hev the other story if she wants it. Fust
thing we know you and me'll be to Kingdom Come, and who's to tell the
stories then? The young folks ought to know 'em, too; this one special.
Bile in, old hoss!"

Salem Rock drew another long breath. "You tell her about the spar
yonder," he said, "while I third-co't these buttons; I've got to give my
mind to 'em. I ain't the only man ever was to sea, Annie Lizzie: you
sick him on to spin you that yarn, and then we'll see."

"Sho!" said Seth. "Ain't no story _to_ that. All about it, Sale and me
was both shipwrecked one time,--'twas after Cap'n Tree was dead,--and us
two and that spar was all that come ashore. Now go 'long, and let her
hear about the _White Lady_, and let the buttons go to Tinkham and see
the sights."

Salem Rock cast a glance of affectionate comprehension at his companion.
It was little less than heroic for Seth Weaver, the best story-teller in
Quahaug, thus to break and knot up his favorite yarn, the proper
spinning of which took a good half-hour; but it was very rarely that
Salem Rock could be brought to tell these two sea tales, and Seth was a
good friend and a good listener.

So, when he repeated "Go 'long!" Salem nodded, and laid down his brush
again.

"It's easy to see you're doin' this job by the day," he said. "I dono as
Mis' Weight'll ever get them stairs done at this rate. Wal, if I've
gotter, I've gotter, I s'pose. Up anchor and square away, hey? Wal, her
there," he nodded toward the White Lady, "was figgerhead and likeness,
fur as I know, to the _White Lady of Avenel_, full-rigged ship, seven
hundred and fifty tons, Ethan Tree master and owner. She was a clipper,
the _White Lady_ was, if ever such sailed the seas. Old Marm here is a
fine-appearin' woman, fur as she goes,"--he indicated by a wave of his
hand the incompleteness which marred the perfect symmetry of the
figure,--"but she ain't to be named within a week of the vessel herself.
Mis' Tree named her out of a book she'd ben readin',--she was a great
reader,--and had her all painted white, not a dark spot on her; I tell
ye, she was a sightly vessel. So we sailed for Singapore, and I was
second mate then, and prouder than ary peacock ever strutted, because I
was young for the berth, ye see, and Cap'n promoted me for efficiency,
so he said. Had a good voyage, and discharged our cargo, and loaded up
again with coffee and raw silk, and off for home. Wal, sir, all went as
it should the fust few weeks, though I was none too well pleased with
the make-up of the crew. That is to say, most of 'em was all right, or
would have ben if they'd ben let alone; but two of 'em was strangers,
picked up at Singapore, where two of our men died of jungle fever; and
the fust mate broke his leg, ridin' a fool four-legged hoss, and had to
be left in hospital; so we was both short-handed and left-handed, as you
might say.

"Still we got on, and mebbe we might have come through all right, but
then Cap'n took sick. I think he got some kind o' malaria p'ison ashore,
and Mis' Tree thought so, too: anyway, he was terrible sick, and she
nussed him, and run the ship, her and me together. She was allers good
to me, ever sence she bought my mud pie when I was no more'n a baby; and
we had good weather, and so things went from day to day after a
fashion.

"But them two strangers, they was ugly, grumble-groan kind of fellers,
lookin' for trouble. You mind me, Annie Lizzie; a man that's lookin' for
trouble will find it, if he has to break the eggs from under a settin'
hen to get at it. The minute these two fellers heard Cap'n was sick,
they see their chance, and they commenced workin' on the men, talkin' of
'em round, and makin' 'em think they was abused. You mind this, too,
little gal; you tell a man often enough that he's got a crick in his
back, and he'll come to think it's broke, and go hollerin' to raise the
roof for a plaster to mend it. Same way with our men: some of 'em, that
is. There was others that was all right, and stayed all right, but yet,
you know how 'tis: when there's two-three bad ones in a crew, it makes
trouble all through, someways."

Seth nodded sympathetically. "Same as a drop o' paint'll rile a hull
pail o' water; or take it t'other way round, a spoonful o' water'll
spile a hull can o' paint."

"That's so!" said Salem Rock, gravely. "Ile and water, good and evil;
the Lord can mix 'em so they'll make a good wearin' color, but the hand
of man cannot so do. Wal, come one day, Cap'n was so bad, Mis' Tree
didn't leave his side all the mornin'; and I was busy with the log, and
one thing and another, and, all about it, these fellers thought they see
their chance to hatch up a mutiny. There was a big feller in the crew,
Bob Moon his name was; a good seaman, but he warn't more'n half there in
his upper story. He'd had a block drop on his head, and it kind o' mixed
his idees so they never got straight. He was sort o' gormin' and gappin'
most of the time, and he'd go anyways any person had a mind to head him,
and go hard, for he had the stren'th of a bull and the mule-headedness
of a--of a mule. Wal, these fellers--Faulkner and Higgins their names
was--they got holt of Bob and two-three others, and give 'em to
understand now was their time. Cap'n sick, and her tendin' of him, and
me nothin' but second mate; and they allowed they'd ruther stop at the
Azores and drop us three there, and go off with the vessel, tradin' on
their own account. See? quite a pooty plot they hatched up; might ha'
ben a story-book. But they got holt of the wrong stick when they tackled
Ben Gray, the ship's carpenter. Ben was a straight stick of white pine
timber as ever I see. He give 'em a smooth answer; said he'd think it
over, and let 'em know, and he shouldn't be surprised if there was
considerable in what they said, and like that; and then he come hotfoot
and told me every word, and what should we do? I took him straight down
to the cabin, and called Mis' Tree to the door and told her. She looked
us right through, as if she was countin' the j'ints in our back-bones.
'Are most of the men straight?' she says. So we told her how 'twas, most
of 'em was all right at bottom, but yet they'd got sorter warpled
through these fellers workin' on 'em, and we was feared there might be
trouble. She studied a bit, still sarchin' us with them black eyes of
her'n--gorry! seemed as though I could feel my soul rustlin' round
uneasy inside me. Then she give us our orders, quick and quiet, and not
too many of 'em; and we went off, and l'itered up on deck separate, and
I sot down behind one of the bo'ts, nigh hand to the companion, and
coiled rope. It was Bob Moon's watch on deck, and he was hunchin' round,
mutterin' and growlin', and I could see he was workin' himself up to
somethin'. 'Twarn't a gre't while before up comes Ben Gray, and with
him Faulkner, one of the two grumble-groans, talkin' mighty earnest.
'Here!' says Ben. 'Here's Bob Moon this minute. He's safe, ain't he?'

"'Bet yer life,' says Faulkner. 'He's all pie for us!' he says; 'ain't
yer, Bob?' and Bob hunches himself and rubs his big hands, and allows
he'll fix things to beat creation once he gits started.

"'You tell him, then,' says Ben, 'what you've jest told me, and mebbe we
can run it off to-night,' he says.

"Moon was sittin' on the hatchway, with his back to the stairs, and
Faulkner squats down beside him and commences dealin' out to him what he
proposed; and Gray stood back a leetle mite, and I peeked round the eend
of the bo't.

"Then--we never heerd a sound; but, all in a minute, there was Mis' Tree
standin' behind them two, close up. They was both men that had hair,
Bob with a curl on him like a mattress, and t'other a kind o' thick
tousle like a yeller dog's. That little woman never spoke, but she took
those two by the hair--twisted her little hands in and got a good
holt--and brought their two heads together with a crack--Jerusalem!
'twas like a pistol-shot! Every man on board jumped, and come runnin' to
see what was up; but them two never stirred, jest sot there: their wits
was clean jarred out of 'em. Then Mis' Tree spoke up, clear and crisp;
she never hollered, she no need, her voice carried like a trumpet.

"'Mr. Rock,' she says, 'put this man in irons, and George Higgins the
same. Bob Moon, you come with me; I want you to nurse Cap'n for me. The
rest go to your quarters.'

"She took holt of Bob's collar--he was nearer seven foot than six, and
had the brea'th of an ox--and give a little h'ist, and he come up like
he was a rag dolly. 'Come along, Bob,' she says, 'Cap'n wants you,' and
she marched him off like Mary had a little lamb, and he nussed Cap'n
like his own mother from that hour. Further and moreover, he got his
wits back likewise from that hour. Yes, sir, he did so. 'Peared as if
one blow had shook his brains one way, and the next shook 'em back the
other; I expect there wasn't enough of 'em to fill his head solid, so
they wouldn't travel. And that man nussed Cap'n, and follered Mis' Tree
like a span'el dog the rest of the voyage."

"But what become of those two mean men, Mr. Rock?" asked Annie Lizzie,
who had followed the story with breathless interest. "Did they make any
more trouble?"

"Not a mite!" said Salem Rock. "They was put in irons, and so remained
till we come to the Azores, and there we left 'em, though not so
agreeable to their wishes as the way they had planned. It seemed they
belonged there, and was wanted for various causes; so we left 'em in the
calaboose and come away. But for Cap'n's bein' so poorly, I'd never ask
for a better voyage. The men was like pie, every man Jack of 'em, and if
Mis' Tree wanted to wipe her shoes, there warn't ary one but would have
ben proud to be her door-mat. Yes, sir; that was a great voyage--till it
come to the eend."

He was silent; and Annie Lizzie, thinking the tale was over, made a
motion to rise, but Seth checked her with a silent gesture.

"Go on, Sale," he said, quietly. "Finish up, now you're about it."

"There ain't but a little more," said the old sailor, speaking half to
himself. "It behoved to be a good voyage, for it was the last. Cap'n
fit hard, and she fit for him, but 'twas not so to be. The p'ison, or
whatever 'twas, had got too strong a holt on him; he couldn't shake it.
But yet for awhile, when we was nearin' home, he seemed to gain up a
mite, and would come up on deck, and set and see her take the
observation, and pass the time of day with the boys. Looked like his
shadow, he did, and white as his shirt under the tan; but his courage
was good, and he was allers sayin' he'd get well so soon as he was to
home.

"'Home, Marshy!' he'd say. 'We'll be there soon, little woman!'

"And she'd nod and smile, and say they would so, sure enough; and Bob
Moon'd go off and cry behind a bo't. I punched his head good every time
I co't him at it, fear they'd notice, but I don't think they did, they
was wropped up in each other.

"Wal, at last and finally, sure enough we sighted Quahaug P'int. It was
a fine day, I ric'llect, south by west, clear and warm; pretty a day as
ever I see. Cap'n was on deck, and he was mighty weak that day. His
voice was no more'n a whisper, but yet cheerful, you understand, and he
had a word for every one that come by, and we all made out _to_ come by,
one errant or another. She was sittin' beside him, fannin' him, and
talkin' away easy and pleasant, tellin' how that they'd be in soon now,
and Lucy--that was Mis' Blyth, their daughter, Arthur's mother--would be
comin' from the West to visit 'em, and all; and Cap'n listened, and
seemed real pleased, and put in a word now and again.

"I was standin' close by, makin' believe tinker somethin',--I was allers
nigh hand them days, case o' need,--when the lookout says, 'Quahaug
P'int in sight, Cap'n! 'and we looked, and there it was, sure enough,
and the sun goin' down behind it, and the water all the likeness of gold
in between. Cap'n raised his head, and begun to talk sudden and quick.
'Marshy,' he says, 'I couldn't find a pineapple this mornin',' he says;
'but here's custard-apples and turtles' eggs; we'll manage to make out a
breakfast,' he says. I looked up at him, and his eyes were bright as
lamps, and his cheeks like fire. Mis' Tree put her hand on his arm,
quiet like. 'That's just as good, Ethan,' she says. 'Them's beautiful,'
she says; 'I was gettin' kinder tired of pineapples.' Then he goes on,
sort o' like talkin' to himself. 'True blue, little Marshy!' he says.
'True blue, little wife! we'll get home yet; safe home, safe home!'

"Then all of a suddent he riz up to his feet, stood up every inch of
him,--he was a tall man,--and stands lookin' out forrard. 'Sail ho!' he
says, 'sail ho! we'll see home again, home!' and he dropped back in her
arms, and his sperit passed."



CHAPTER XII.

MISS WAX AT HOME


Miss Bethia Wax was at work one afternoon, bending over her little round
table, busily plaiting a hair chain, when she heard her front door open.
She looked up in some disturbance, for Phoebe, the little maid, was
out, and there were few visitors, since Mrs. Stedman died, with whom she
was on "run-in" terms: her disturbance was not lessened when the billowy
form of Mrs. Malvina Weight appeared in the doorway.

"Good afternoon, Malvina," said Miss Wax, rather coldly. "I heard no
knock; I trust you have not been kept waiting. My domestic is out."

"Yes, I see her go past the house," said the visitor, "and I thought I'd
jest make a run-in. How are you feelin', Bethia? You're lookin' re'l
poorly. I noticed it in meetin' last Sabbath. I said to myself, 'That
woman is goin' jest the way all her fam'ly has, and she the last of 'em.
As a friend _of_ the fam'ly,' I said, 'it's my dooty to warn her'; and
so I do."

Mrs. Weight sat down, and fanned herself with a small and rather dingy
pocket-handkerchief.

"I am much obliged to you," said Miss Bethia. "I am in my usual health,
Malvina, though I am never very robust. I was always delicate, as you
may say, but yet I don't know but I have held my own with others of my
age. Flesh isn't always a sign of health," she added, not without a
touch of gentle malice.

"I expect I am aware of that!" cried Mrs. Weight. "I expect there's few
knows the frailness that comes with layin' on flesh. What I suffer
nights is beyond the power of tongue to tell. But all the more it
behoves me, as the widder of a sainted man and deacon of this parish, to
do my dooty by others; and I ask you, Bethia Wax, if you are doctorin'
any."

"I am not," said Miss Bethia, dryly.

"Well, you ought so to do," said Mrs. Weight, impressively. "It come to
me right in meetin', when I ought to have ben listenin' to the
sermon,--though the land knows I have hard work _to_ listen sometimes,
the sort o' talk Elder Bliss gives us: Gospel's well enough, but a
person wants _some_ doctrine, and it don't set good, any way, shape, or
manner, for a man of his years to be the everlastin' time tellin' them
as might be his mothers that they'd oughter do thus and so. I was
leadin' in prayer when Elder Bliss was a bottle-baby, at least he looks
it if ever I see one. But what I started in to say was, it come over me
all of a suddent that what you wanted was a bottle of my spring
med'cine, and so I brought you one."

She produced a bottle from under her shawl, and set it on the table with
a defiant air.

"I am much obliged to you, Malvina," Miss Wax began; but Mrs. Weight
went on impressively.

"Now you want to _take_ that med'cine, Bethia Wax! You want to take a
gre't spoonful with your victuals, and in between your victuals. You
take three bottles of that remedy, and you won't know yourself for the
same woman. If you're a mind to pay me fifty cents for this bottle and
sixty for the next two (that's thirty cents apiece, three spoonfuls for
a cent, less than half what you'd pay for any boughten stuff), you may,
and, if not, it's all ekal to me; the Lord will provide. He feeds the
ravens when they call, and I've never had no doubts of bein' one, far as
_I'm_ concerned."

Mrs. Weight here drew a long and deep breath, settled herself deeper in
her chair, and took a fresh start.

"So now _that's_ off my mind, and my dooty done, whether it's ordered
that you should remain, or pass away same as your folks has done. Now,
there's another thing I come to speak about. Be you goin' to march in
this procession?"

Miss Wax colored painfully. "I have not decided, Malvina," she said. "I
am considering the matter. Mr. Pindar Hollopeter has invited me to
appear as--as Minerva--"

"There!" exclaimed Mrs. Weight. "I knew it. I felt it in these bones!"
She indicated the spaces which veiled her anatomy. "I felt certing to my
inwards that this would end in pagan blasphemy, and so it has. Oh, that
I should live to see jedgment on this village, as I've lived in, and my
fathers before me, sence--"

"I do not understand you, Malvina," Miss Wax interrupted, with some
warmth. "The Mr. Hollopeters are Christian men, I believe; at least, I
know Homer is, and I've never heard anything to the contrary about
Pindar."

"Have you ever heard anything about Pindar, anyway?" cried Mrs. Weight,
her little eyes gleaming. "Do you, or doos any one in this village know,
how or where that man has ben livin' these thirty years past? He never
was one to hide his light under a booshel, if he had any to hide. Don't
tell me, Bethia Wax! For thirty years Pindar Hollopeter has ben livin'
let them know how as he serves, and never a cent, nor so much as a
breathin' word for the place that give him birth. But direckly he hears
that Mis' Tree has passed away, and left her money to Homer, and Satan's
own words and works in regards to changin' the name of this--"

Miss Bethia interrupted her again, promptly. "Malvina," she said,
firmly, "I have told you before, and I tell you again, that no word
disrespectful to Mrs. Tree shall be spoken in this house. There is no
need of bringing her into this matter at all; but I should like to know
why you call the Festival Procession pagan."

"And ain't it pagan?" cried Mrs. Weight, leaning forward, her hands on
her knees. "Ain't you jest told me with your own lips, Bethia Wax, that
he asked you, a church-member in reg'lar standin', to strut and stomp
as a heathen goddess, in heathen clo'es? Ain't that enough? Hasn't he
got all the girls in this village takin' their Mas' best sheets and
table-cloths and sewin' of 'em up to make toonics for muses and graces
and all sich pagan trollops? Ain't that enough? Do you think sheets is
fit and suitable clo'es for church-members? or table-cloths? And 'tain't
as if he hadn't ben shown a better path. 'Pindar,' I said, when he come
to see about Annie Lizzie, 'you get up an Old Folks' Concert,' I says,
'and I'll be the Goddess of Liberty for ye,' I says. I had that red,
white, and blue buntin', you know, that we hired for the Centennial.
Some of it was damaged, and the man wouldn't take it back, and it's ben
in my attic ever sence; and I thought 'twould be a good way to use it
up, and help him out at the same time. Why, Bethia, that man looked at
me--why, I believe he's ravin' distracted; he poured out a string o'
stuff that hadn't no sense or meanin' in it; and then said,
'Shakespeare,' as if that made it any better. Deacon never would have
Shakespeare's works in the house; he said they was real vulgar, and that
was enough for me. So he see I was real indignant, and he blinked his
eyes and spoke up and said I might be a Roman matron if I was a mind to.
But I says, 'No, sir!' I says. 'I am an American lady, and the widder of
a sainted man, and _I_ am not goin' travellin' and traipsin' in heathen
and publican clo'es, whatever others may do!' and so I come away, and
left him flappin' there on the door-steps. He's ravin' crazy, Pindar
Hollopeter is; he'd oughter be shut up. And I told Annie Lizzie she
shouldn't have anything to do with it in any way, shape, or manner.
She's ben bawlin' all day about it, but I tell her I didn't take her out
of the street to have her rigged out with wings. If she'd think of her
end, I tell her, and how she can aim a pair to walk the golden streets
with, it would set _her_ better. Well, I must be goin', Bethia; I only
run in jest for a minute. Now I hope you'll take that med'cine reg'lar,
and benefit by it. I couldn't answer to Deacon when I meet him in glory
if I hadn't done my dooty to them as is neighbors to me, specially when
they look as gashly as you do, Bethia; but I'm in hopes we've taken it
in time, and you may be spared. _Good_ day!"

The visitor gone, Miss Wax heaved a sigh of relief, and tried to settle
to her work again; but it would not do. Her mind had been disturbed,
and, as she often said, her profession required calm. The hand must be
steady, the nerves tranquil, or the delicate strands would twist and
knot; and now her long, slim fingers were trembling, and the silken
threads danced before her eyes. "I must give it up for to-day," said
Miss Bethia, sadly; and she put away the little table, and took out a
clean silk duster.

A parlor must be dusted twice in the day, according to Miss Wax's
theory: once in the morning, to remove the night's accumulation of dust,
and again toward evening, to take up such particles of the evil thing as
had settled during the day on chair or table, book or ornament. The
morning task was an anxious one, and apt to be complicated by fears of
the coffee's boiling over; but the afternoon dusting was one of the good
lady's pleasures, and she took her time over it. She loved to linger
over the glass cases, polishing them, admiring the treasures they
protected, and recalling the circumstances of their making. It was
pleasant to accompany her, as one was sometimes permitted to do, on one
of these friendly rounds.

"These pond-lilies," she would say, "were a wedding present to my cousin
Cilissa Vinton, deceased. They were admired by some; Cilissa thought
they were real, and wished to wear them in her hair. After her lamented
death (of spasms), the family returned them to me as a memento. That
spray of roses is made of feathers, the breast-feathers of the domestic
goose. I never allowed them to be plucked from the living bird, my dear!
I used to wear them in my hair; some thought the contrast pretty." And
Miss Bethia would sigh gently, and glance at the long mirror, which
reflected her tall and angular gentility.

But this afternoon the good lady's thoughts were not reminiscent. As she
stood before the rosewood "what-not," lifting each article, wiping it,
and replacing it with delicate nicety (I can see them all: the two
mandarins, the china baby in the bath-tub,--you could take him out! the
whole thing would go into a walnut-shell,--the pink-and-gold Dresden
shepherd and shepherdess, the Chinese puzzles, and all the other quaint
pleasantnesses), it was of to-day rather than yesterday that Miss Bethia
was thinking. Should she--_could_ she--walk in a public procession
attired as Minerva? She put aside with an inward shudder Mrs. Weight's
characterization of the possible performance. She, Bethia Wax, could not
"strut and stomp" if she tried. Her walk was graceful, as she was well
aware; in her youth she had been said to glide.

    "As a swan o'er the water,
    Quahaug's fairy daughter
    In majesty maiden doth glide;
    May the day Wax and wane
    When the sighs of her swain
    May waft her to bliss as a bride!"

Homer Hollopeter had written that in her album at a time when she and
Pindar were--oh, no! not engaged, certainly not; only very good
friends. Homer, she was aware, had regarded her as a sister, had
wished--but she never laid it up against Mary; no, indeed! Who could
wonder at any one's falling in love with Mary?

And now, after all the years, Pindar had come back; still an elegant
man, Miss Wax thought, though nervous, to be sure, sadly nervous. "But
perhaps it is his emotions," she said. "No doubt he feels it, coming
back after thirty years, and all so changed." And he had pressed her
hand, and murmured, "Ye gods!" which was almost profane, Miss Bethia
feared,--yet not quite, she hoped; and had asked her to represent
Minerva, goddess of wisdom, in the Festival Procession. He was coming
this very evening for her answer; what should it be?

Miss Bethia glanced again at the long mirror. The angular, yet not
ungraceful, figure, the long, oval face with its delicate features and
arched eyebrows, the glossy bands of hair, still jet-black,--the whole
reflection was familiar, friendly, not--Miss Wax modestly hoped--not
wholly unpleasing. She tried to imagine the figure clad in flowing
draperies; there was a rose-colored slip under the spare room spread;
sateen always draped prettily; pink was her color, and she could not
somehow feel that sheets would be quite--quite what she would wish to be
seen in. And--on her head, now! Would a helmet be necessary? There was
not such an article in the village, but she presumed with silver
paper--and yet, a wreath would be so much more becoming; the
feather-work roses, for example! She took them from under their round
glass case, and laid them against her hair, then put them back with a
sigh. The contrast certainly used to be thought becoming, but
somehow--and after all was it suitable? What would Phoebe and Vesta
Blyth--what would Mrs. Tree have said?

With the thought, a vision rose before Miss Wax's eyes: a little figure
seated in a high-backed chair, leaning on an ebony crutch-stick; black
eyes gleaming with merriment, lips curving in a shrewd yet kindly
smile--

Miss Wax glanced at the trophy of silver coffee-spoons which still
adorned the mantelpiece; sighed again, and turned away from the glass.
"After all," murmured dear Miss Bethia, and this time she smiled, though
it was a rather wan smile; "after all, Minerva was the goddess of
wisdom!"



CHAPTER XIII.

THE SORROWS OF MR. PINDAR


It must not be supposed that Mr. Pindar Hollopeter's path was altogether
set with roses at this time; on the contrary, many a thorn and bramble
arrested his progress, and the poor gentleman's enthusiasm received many
a prickly wound. He had been able to wave Mrs. Weight away with a lofty,
"Off, woman, off! this hour is mine!" but there were others who could
not be so dismissed. Mrs. Ware had gently but firmly declined to lead
the band of Roman Matrons; and Salem Rock, when approached in regard to
leading the Village Elders, had expressed his mind with massive
finality.

"Pindar," he said, "I don't exactly know what you mean by robes, but my
gen'al idee of 'em is somethin' white and flappin'. Now I wore a
christenin' robe when I was a baby, and I expect to wear a burial robe
when I'm laid out; but, betwixt them two, I expect co't and pants will
have to do me. Jest as much obleeged to you," he added, kindly, seeing
Mr. Pindar's look of disappointment.

Again, Mr. Pindar was amazed and distressed by the lack of youth and
beauty in the village. It did seem unfortunate that Sophy Willow and the
three pretty Benton girls were away, and that Villa Nudd's mother was
ill and could not spare her. Beautiful Lily Jaquith could not leave her
new baby, and Vesta Strong wrote that she should have been delighted to
be Juno, but _all_ the children had just come down with chicken-pox. On
the other hand, Mr. Pindar found to his dismay that the line between
youth and middle age was less closely drawn in the village than in the
theatres of the metropolis. That very morning, Miss Luella Slocum had
come simpering up to him in the street, and had given him to understand
that she would have no objection to taking the part of Psyche "to
accommodate," as she heard that Annie Lizzie Weight was not to be
allowed to walk in the Procession. Now Miss Luella would never see
forty-five again, and her eyes, as has already been intimated, took
widely divergent views of things in general; but she had always had a
"theatrical turn," she informed Mr. Pindar, and had taken the part of
Mrs. Jarley when they had the Wax Works.

"And I do love to accommodate!" said Miss Luella, blandly. "I know what
it is to have folks set back and keep out of things, Mr. Hollopeter. I
don't know but Mis' Weight is right about Annie Lizzie; she's too young
to be dressin' up and comin' forward in public, and besides, she's had
no experience, as you may say. You couldn't expect her to have the
_air_, like a person that's had experience. That's what I always say;
you have to have the air, or you can't do it as it should be done. Don't
say a word, Mr. Hollopeter; I shall be real pleased to help out, and I
have a flowered Cretan that I'd like to have you call and see if 'twill
do."

"I wonder if he _is_ a little wantin'," said Miss Luella, in telling
Miss Eliza Goby of the incident afterward. "He didn't hardly say a word,
only give a kind of groan, and flapped his cloak, and begun walkin' off
backwards in the most sing'lar way. I'm goin' to take this Cretan in to
Prudence this afternoon, and see if she can make it over; it's Princess
shape, and that's always stylish, I think; and I thought put on pink
silk reveres would kind of liven it up: Psyche wants to look kind of
youthful, I presume. The sleeves are a mite snug, but I don't know as
that matters; I sha'n't have to raise my arms. What are you goin' to
wear, Eliza?"

"White muslin," said Miss Eliza Goby, "and a blue sash, or green, I
haven't decided which; green is my color, but I have that blue Roman
sash, you know. I think Pindar _is_ queer, Luella. One thing, he doesn't
seem to have hardly any knowledge about this village; I don't know as he
takes the paper even. Why, he thought I was married, and wanted I should
walk with the married ladies; matrons, he called 'em; the _i_dea! I told
him I'd never ben married, and didn't hardly know as I should; anyways,
I warn't thinking of it at present, and I'd go with the rest of the
girls."

"And what did he say?" asked Miss Slocum.

"I don't believe that man is well," said Miss Goby, gravely. "He made
pretty much the same answer as he did you, sort of groaned and flapped.
I think he had a pain in--in his digestion, and didn't like to speak of
it. He's a perfect gentleman, if he is a mite flighty. That man had
ought to have him a home, and some one to look after him, that's the
fact; him and Homer, too."

"That's so!" said Miss Slocum.

But the unkindest cut of all was administered by the hand of Miss
Prudence Pardon. It was Mrs. Bliss who advised him to take counsel with
Miss Prudence in regard to costumes in general, and the little lady was
smitten with remorse afterward for having done so.

"It was base of me, John, I know," she said; "but I simply _could_ not
tell him myself; he was so hopeful and confiding, and so--so pitiful,
somehow, John. I don't think he is a bit more crazy than other
people,--I believe I am a little cracked myself on some subjects, and I
_know_ you are,--only his craziness is in a different line, that we know
nothing about. And when he blinks at me with his nice brown doggy eyes,
and flaps his little bat-cloak, and says, 'The Dramatic Moment, Mrs.
Bliss!' I want to be a Roman Matron, and a Village Elder, and everything
else, just to please him. I would, too, if you would let me, John. I
don't believe that man had enough to eat before he came here; he's a
perfect skeleton."

"I do not precisely see the connection, Marietta, my dear," said the
Reverend John, mildly.

"You never do, dear!" replied his wife. "Talk of bats! but--well, so I
just told him that I should have _loved_ to if I hadn't been a
minister's wife, but that you were a cruel tyrant and wouldn't let me;
and then I advised him to go to Miss Prudence, because she would know
all about tunics and togas and everything else. I knew, you see, that
she was all ready to give him a piece of her mind, because she gave me
just a scrap the other day, when I was trying on my blue dimity. It's
going to be perfectly sweet, John. Oh, I do hope she will not hurt his
poor dear funny feelings _too_ much: she can be frightfully severe."

But even while Mrs. Bliss was speaking, Miss Prudence Pardon,
Rhadamanthus in a black alpaca apron, was laying down the law to Mr.
Pindar, and emphasizing her points with a stiffly extended pair of
shears. Miss Prudence had sat on the same bench at school with the
Hollopeter boys, and saw no reason for mincing matters.

"Pindar," she said, "if you hadn't have come to me, I should have held
my peace; but seeing as you have come, and asked my opinion, you shall
have it, without fear or favor. I think this whole thing is ridic'lous
nonsense; and I think if you go on with it as you've begun, you will
prove yourself, if I must use such an expression, what I call a gonoph."

Mr. Pindar shrank for an instant before the epithet, but gathered
himself together with a protesting wave.

"Madam!" he cried, "you fail to comprehend--"

"Excuse _me_!" said Miss Prudence, waving the shears in return. "I
expect if there's any one in this village as ought to comprehend, it's
me, with all I've ben through this week. Do you see that pile of truck?"
She pointed stiffly with the shears at a mass of drapery piled high on
the haircloth sofa. "There's thirty whole dresses there, let alone odd
skirts and polonays. There's full sleeves and snug sleeves, and gored
skirts and full skirts, and ruffles and box-plaits, and more styles than
ever you heard of in your life, and every material from more antique to
sarsnet cambric. I am expected to make all them over into toonics and
togas, and the hens only know what other foolery; and I tell you,
Pindar, it can't be done, nor I ain't going to try to do it."

She paused for a moment, for Mr. Pindar was waving his arms and flapping
his cloak in fervid assent.

"My dear madam," he cried; "my dear Prudence, if I may take the liberty
of an old schoolmate, I agree with you fully, entirely. I have
endeavored to point out to the ladies with whom I have conversed, that a
harmony of costume is absolutely imperative; that flowing drapery--the
classic, Prudence, the classic!--is what the occasion demands. A glance
at statuary will readily convince you--"

Miss Prudence pointed the shears rigidly. "Pindar Hollopeter," she said,
"I have seen considerable statuary in the course of my life, both Parian
and wax, and I say this to you: I never see a statue yet with clothes
that I would say fitted,--where there was any!" she added, grimly, and
compressed her lips. "As to hanging sheets and the like of that on human
beings, as if they was clo'es-horses," she went on, "it's no part of the
trade I was brought up to, and I've no idee of beginning at my time of
life, and so I tell you. Now my advice to you is this: give up all this
foolishness of a procession, and have a reception at the house, or the
_mu_seum, or whatever it is to be called from now on. Have it a pink
tea, if you like, and I'll get up some real tasty dresses for the girls,
the few there is, and the ladies can receive. That'll part the cats
from the kittens, and I dunno's there's anything else will. The _i_dea
of 'Lize Goby in white muslin! She'd look like lobster and white of egg,
and so I told her.

"The fact is, Pindar," Miss Prudence went on, more gently, laying down
the shears for an instant, "you and Homer was both brought up real
peculiar, and you're feeling it now. I don't mean to set in jedgment on
your Ma, far from it; but look at the way it has worked out. Homer is a
poet; well, luckily for him, he got into the post-office, where it
didn't do a mite of harm. Homer is well liked and respected by all in
this village," she added, benevolently, "and there was no one but
rejoiced at his being left well off. But you, Pindar, took to the
Drayma. Well, I've nothing to say against the Drayma, either, because
I've had no experience of it, nor wished to have, only this: it never
had any holt in this village, and when you try to bring it here, you
make a big mistake. What is it, P'nel'pe?"

Miss Penny, kindest soul in the village where so many are kind, had been
hovering uneasily about the door during this interview. She respected
Sister Prudence's judgment highly, and her own cheerful common sense
forced her to agree with it in this instance; and yet her heart ached to
see Mr. Pindar--such an elegant man!--sitting forlorn and dejected, with
drooping head and wings, he who had entered with so jaunty a stride,
Importance throned on his brow and the Dramatic Moment flapping in his
cloak. She did wish Sister Prudence had not been quite so severe.

But now Miss Penny looked in, with anxious eyes and heightened color.
"Excuse _me_," she said. "I see some of the ladies comin', Sister, and I
thought likely they was comin' to try on. I didn't know but Mr.
Hollopeter would wish--" She paused to listen, and then hurried back,
for already the little shop was full of voices.

"Is Prudence in, Penny? Has she got that polonay ready to try on,
think?"

"Penny, I want to know if you've got any linin's to match this pink
cheese-cloth; it don't hardly show over white."

"Penny, I found this up attic, and I've come to show it to Prudence. See
here! don't you think it'll make an elegant toonic, take and piecen it
out with a Spanish flounce, and cut off this postilion? Shall I go--"

Mr. Pindar sprang to his feet and looked wildly about him. Miss Prudence
spoke no word, but, raising the shears, pointed toward the red-curtained
glass door that opened into the little back garden.

"--right in?" The door from the shop opened, and admitted Mrs. Pottle,
her massive arms filled with polka-dotted purple merino.

"How are you, Prudence?" said Mrs. Pottle. "You look feverish."

"I'm as well as common, thank you," said Miss Prudence, grimly. "Won't
you be seated?"



CHAPTER XIV.

THE DRAMATIC MOMENT


Mr. Pindar, as has already been said, was to call on Miss Wax that
evening for her answer; but Mr. Homer was before him, for this was
Friday evening, which the little gentleman invariably spent with his
life-long friend. Punctually at a quarter before eight he appeared, and
found Miss Wax ready for him, sitting under the portrait, with her elbow
resting on the little table. Her silk dress, of the kind called _chiné_,
displayed bunches of apple-blossoms on a pale purple ground; she wore a
scarf of rose-colored crape, and a profusion of hair jewelry. Mr. Homer,
as he advanced to greet her, made his usual mental comment that she was
an elegant female, and pressed her hand cordially; Miss Bethia returned
the pressure, and inquired anxiously for his health. "I trust you are
feeling better, Homer," she said, kindly; "all this excitement is very
disturbing to you, I am sure. But it will soon be over now."

Mr. Homer sighed, as he took his accustomed seat. "Either it or I must
soon be over, Miss Bethia," he said, mournfully. "I feel that I cannot
much longer cope with--a--the present circumstances. I am aware that I
should have more fortitude; more--a--longanimity; but--as the lamented
Keats has it, 'Misery most drowningly doth sing in my lone ear.' The cup
of joy, Miss Bethia, has become a poisoned chalice. The firmament
outblackens Erebus; the brooks utter a gorgon voice. Many phrases which
I have formerly considered as mere poetical ebullitions,--a--wafts of
the Wings of Poesy, if I may so express myself,--now seem to me the fit
expression,--a--realization,--a--I may say concretion,--of my present
state of mind. I thought I appreciated the great Keats before, but--" He
waved his hands and shook his head in speechless emotion.

"Can you not dismiss the subject from your mind for a time, Homer?"
asked Miss Bethia, soothingly. "Your studies have always sustained you,
and have been of great benefit, I am sure, to your friends as well as
yourself. Have you written any more of the Epic, the 'Death of
Heliogabalus'? I was in hopes you might have another scene to read to me
this evening."

Mr. Homer shook his head. "I have not touched the Epic," he said,
"since--since the events which have recently concatenated, if I may so
express myself. I sometimes think that I shall never touch it again,
Miss Bethia."

"Oh, don't say that, Homer!" Miss Wax protested; but the little
gentleman went on, with an agitated wave.

"I sometimes feel as if the Muse had deserted me; had--a--ceased to gild
with her smile the--shall I say the peaks of my fancy? I have endeavored
to woo her back. My brother Pindar is most anxious that I should write
an--an ode--for this celebration which he is planning; but the numbers
in which I have been in the habit of lisping, and which--I may
say to you, my valued friend--were wont in happier days to
flow,--to--a--meander,--to--a--babble o'er Pirene's sands, with ease
and--and alacrity, now hesitate;--a--reluctate;--a--refuse the meed of
melody which--which the occasion demands. My brother Pindar,--you have
seen him, Miss Bethia?"

"Oh, yes!" said Miss Wax, softly. "He was here yesterday. He asked--he
was so good as to invite me to appear in the Festival Procession as--as
Minerva."

Mr. Homer looked up eagerly. "And you replied?" he asked.

"I asked for time to consider," said Miss Wax, looking down. "I need not
say to you, Homer, that it is not easy to refuse Pindar's first request,
after so many years of absence;" she sighed gently; "but--but reflection
has convinced me that it would not be altogether--shall I say suitable?
I have never appeared in public, Homer, and I hardly feel--"

She paused, for Mr. Homer was waving his hands and opening and shutting
his mouth in great agitation.

"Precisely so!" he cried. "Oh, very much so indeed, my dear friend. It
is an unspeakable consolation to find that you share my sentiments on
this subject. May I, Miss Bethia,--with friendship's key,--unlock, so to
speak, the counsels of my--my bleeding breast? We are old friends: we
twa--if I may quote Burns in this connection--ha' paidl't i' the
burn,--I speak metaphorically, my dear lady, as I need not assure
you,--frae mornin' sun till dine; the poets refuse occasionally the
bonds of grammar, and both rhyme and metre require the verb in this
instance, as you will readily perceive, even though--"

Mr. Homer waved the subject to its conclusion, and hurried on: "You have
also known Pindar from childhood, and have always felt--may I not say
kindly, toward the wayward but high-souled lad?"

"Oh, yes!" murmured Miss Bethia, softly, with another gentle sigh.

"This being so," Mr. Homer went on, "I may say to you without hesitation
that this whole matter of the celebration is a--is a nightmare to me! I
have led a secluded life, Bethia, as befits a votary of the Muse. Blest
with a limited but sufficient number of congenial friends, principally
ladies,--though William Jaquith and Thomas Candy have been as sons to me
of late, as sons,--I have kept, Miss Bethia, the noiseless tenor of my
way,--the expression is Gray's, as you are well aware, and is commonly
misquoted, _even_ tenor being the customary, though wholly incorrect
version;--a--where was I? Oh, yes, as I was about to say, I have kept
the noiseless tenor of my way, in peace and pleasantness, hitherto.

"'For indeed,' as the lamented Keats observes in an early poem which is
too little known:

    "'For indeed, 'tis a sweet and peculiar pleasure,
    (And blissful is he who such happiness finds,)
    To possess but a span of the hour of leisure
    In elegant, pure, and aerial minds.'

That peculiar pleasure, Miss Bethia, has been mine up to the present
time. My brother Pindar's course has been far different. At an early
age, as you are aware, he sought the maddening throng; the--a--busy hum;
the--a--in short, the roaring mart. I understand that much of his time
has been devoted to music, and the remainder to histrionic art. He is
permanently employed, as I understand, at a--a metropolitan place of
amusement, where he occasionally takes part in Shakespearian
representations (he has played the Ghost in 'Hamlet,' he tells me), and
at other times performs upon the--in short, the kettledrums. You will
readily perceive, my dear friend, that such a life conduces to the
development of ideas which are discrepant;--a--divergent
from,--a--devoid of commensurability with, the _genius loci_, the spirit
which hovers, or has hitherto hovered, over Elm--I would say Quahaug.
Miss Bethia, we are not a dramatic community. With the exception of Mrs.
Jarley's Wax Works, some thirty years ago, and an Old Folks' Concert at
a somewhat later period, I am unable to recall any occurrence of a--of
a histrionic nature in our--shall I say midst? And now,--Miss Bethia,
I love my brother tenderly, and am anxious, deeply anxious, to
respond to the feeling, the--a--propendency, the--kindling of
affection's torch, which has led him to seek his early home. I also
respect,--a--revere,--a--entertain the loftiest sentiments in regard to
the Muse; but when I am asked to appear in public, clad in draperies
which--in short, of domestic origin,"--he waved further detail
delicately away,--"and crowned with bays, I--Miss Bethia, I assure you
my spirit faints within me. Nor can I feel that the proposed
demonstration would in any way have commended itself to my cousin
Marcia. It is borne in upon me--strenuously, I may say--that, if my
cousin Marcia were present at this time in the--a--fleshly tabernacle,
she would receive this whole matter in a spirit of--levity;
of--a--derision; of--a--contumely. Am I wrong in this supposition, Miss
Bethia?"

"I feel positive that you are right, Homer!" said Miss Wax. "I speak
with conviction. In fact, it was the thought of--of Her we honor,"--she
glanced at the trophy with an introductory wave,--"that brought me to a
decision on the point. I do feel for you, Homer, and share with you the
distress of having to--to deny Pindar anything he desires. He will be
here soon, and perhaps if we speak to him gently on the subject, he may
see it in the light in which it presents itself to us. Probably this
side has not been suggested to him." (Has it not? Oh, Miss Prudence!
Miss Prudence!) "I think that if we compose our thoughts to a greater
degree of calm, we may have more effect. A little music, Homer?"

Mr. Homer put his hand to his head with a sigh. "Miss Bethia," he said,
"a little music would be balm to the thirsty soul;--a--wings to the
rainbow-hued spirit; a--oil which runs down the--" He waved the rest of
the simile away. "I thank you, my elegant and valued friend. May I
conduct you to the instrument?"

It was a pleasant sight to see Mr. Homer conducting Miss Bethia Wax to
the instrument. After a profound bow (his feet in the first position in
dancing), he held out his hand; she laid the tips of her long fingers
delicately in it, and, thus supported, glided across the room; a
courtesy of thanks, a bow of acknowledgment, and she sank gracefully on
the music-stool, while Mr. Homer returned to his favorite chair, drew a
long breath, and sank back with folded hands and closed eyes.

Miss Wax's instrument was one of Mr. Homer's chief sources of
inspiration, and I must give it a word of description, for perhaps there
never was another precisely like it. Tommy Candy called it a
barrel-organ, and indeed it was not wholly unlike an idealized barrel of
polished rosewood, standing erect on four slender legs. The front was
decorated with flutings of red silk; the wood was inlaid with flowers
and arabesques in mother-of-pearl. Beneath the silk flutings appeared an
ivory handle, and it was by turning this handle that Miss Bethia
"performed." "Cecilia's Bouquet" was the name inscribed on the front in
flourishing gilt letters; and Miss Bethia had often been told that, when
playing on the instrument, she reminded her hearers of the saint of that
name. It was perhaps on this account that she was in the habit of
assuming a rapt expression at such times, her head thrown back, her eyes
raised to the level of the cornice. Thus seated and performing, Miss
Bethia was truly a pleasant sight; and the melodies that came faltering
out from the old music-box (for really it was nothing else!) were as
pensive, mild, and innocent as the good lady herself. "The Maiden's
Prayer," "The Sorrowful Shepherd," "Cynthia's Roundelay," and "The
Princess Charlotte's Favorite;" these were among them, I remember, but
there were twelve airs, and it took quite half an hour to play them all
through.

On this occasion, long before the half-hour was over, Mr. Homer's brow
had cleared, and his face grown as placid as Miss Bethia's own. "The
Princess Charlotte's Favorite" was also his (a most melancholy air I
always thought it, as if the poor princess had foreseen her early death,
and bewailed it, a Jephthah's Daughter in hoop and powder), and he
followed it with pensive pleasure, bowing his head and waving his hands
in time to the music, and occasionally joining in the melody with a thin
but sweet falsetto. "Ta-ta, ta-tee, ta-ta, ta-tum!" warbled Mr. Homer,
and Miss Bethia's gentle heart rejoiced to hear him.

The two friends were so absorbed that they did not hear the
door-bell,--indeed, it rang in the kitchen, and was a subdued tinkle at
that,--nor Peggy's steps as she went to answer the call; and it was only
when the "Princess Charlotte's Favorite" had faltered to its dismal
conclusion that Mr. Homer, chancing to raise his eyes, saw his brother
standing in the doorway. The vision was a disconcerting one. Mr. Pindar
stood with his arms folded in his little cloak, his head bent forward,
peering up through his eyebrows with a keen and suspicious look. Thus he
stood for an instant; but, on meeting his brother's eyes, he flung up
both arms as if in invocation,--whether of blessing or malediction was
not clear to Mr. Homer's perturbed gaze,--the cloak fluttered in batlike
sweeps, and he was gone.

Mr. Homer sprang to his feet with an exclamation of dismay; and Miss
Bethia, whose back had been turned to the door, rose also in wonder and
distress. "What is the matter, Homer?" she asked. "You appear disturbed.
Is--is any one there?" she added, seeing his look still fixed on the
empty doorway.

"It was my brother!" replied Mr. Homer. "It was Pindar. He was
apparently--moved;--a--agitated;--a--under stress of emotion. I fear he
is ill, Miss Bethia; I must hasten after him."

"Pindar ill!" cried Miss Bethia. "Oh, Homer, bring him back, will you
not? bring him back, and let me give him some of my Raspberry
Restorative! Do hasten!"

Mr. Homer promised to return if it were possible, and hurried away,
leaving his hostess wringing her hands and uttering plaintive murmurs.
He hastened along the quiet street. The moon was up, and he could see a
figure fluttering on ahead of him, with waving cloak and hasty,
disordered steps.

"Pindar!" cried Mr. Homer. "My dear brother! wait for me, I implore you.
It is I, Homer; I entreat you to pause!"

The figure wavered, halted; finally turned round, and stood with folded
arms till Mr. Homer hurried up, anxious and breathless.

"Are you ill, Pindar?" cried the little gentleman. "Some sudden seizure,
my dear brother? I am truly distressed: let me support you!"

But Mr. Pindar waved him aside with a lofty gesture. "I require no
support, Brother!" he said. "My corporal envelope is robust, I am
obliged to you."

"Then why--why this sudden appearance and disappearance?" asked Mr.
Homer, bewildered. "Miss Wax was expecting you; we were both expecting
you, sir!"

"Were you?" said Mr. Pindar, bitterly. "I should hardly have thought it.
I judged that I intruded, sir. It appeared to me that tender passages
were in progress. I inferred that the advent of the Wanderer was
unwelcome, sir, unwelcome."

Mr. Homer attempted to speak, but Mr. Pindar waved him off, and hurried
on, a real feeling struggling through the pompous structure of his
sentences. "It would appear that I was in error, sir, when I requested
you to compose an ode. I should have demanded an epithalamium; flute and
clarionet, sir:

    "Tweedle, tweedle, toodle turn,
    Clash the cymbal, bang the drum!
    Cupid and his antic choir
    Sing for Homer and Bethia!

But you might have told me, Homer; you might have told me, sir!"

Mr. Homer Hollopeter blushed very red all over; if it is discreet even
to allude to Mr. Homer's toes, I am quite sure that even they must have
grown rosy. He looked gravely at his brother, who was waving his cloak
in great excitement.

"My dear brother," he said, slowly, "it--I--I fail to find words in
which to express the--the--_enormousness_ of your misconception. I
regard Miss Wax, sir, as a sister, an esteemed and valued sister."

At the place where Mr. Homer had overtaken his brother, stood a
watering-trough, a hollowed section of a huge oak-tree, through which
ran a tiny crystal stream. The companion oak, still vigorous,
overshadowed the trough, making a pleasant circle of shade, and around
this oak ran a rustic seat. It was a favorite gathering-place of the
village boys, but now the boys were in bed, and all was still save for
the gurgle of the little rill as it babbled along the trough.

To Mr. Homer's utter amazement and discomfiture, Mr. Pindar now flung
himself down upon this seat, and, pulling out a large blue cotton
handkerchief, buried his face in it and burst into tears.

"Nobody is glad to see me!" cried Mr. Pindar, sobbing violently.
"Everybody thinks I am mad. Prudence Pardon called me a--a gonoph, and
refused to make tunics for the Village Elders. A horrible fat
woman--rightly named Weight--_horresco referens!_--wished to be Goddess
of Liberty, and, when I shrank appalled, she robbed me of the pretty
child who should have been my Psyche. I am--unappreciated, sir. I am
mocked at and derided. The little dogs and all, Tray, Blanche, and
Sweetheart--I returned to benefit my native heath: to cause--blossoms of
histrionic art to spring up in the--arid pathways--oyster shells!"--he
indicated by a wave the white and glittering paths which led to one and
another silent house, and which are indeed the pride of the village. "I
have piped to everybody, and nobody will dance, except--hideous persons
who squint. I came for comfort and sympathy to Bethia Wax, the playmate
of my early days; I found--" He waved his arms with a gesture of
despair. "And I am so tired of playing the kettledrum!" said the poor
gentleman; and he wept afresh.

Mr. Homer sat down by his brother's side, and laid his hand on his
shoulder. "Don't cry!" he said. "Don't cry, Pindy! Mother wouldn't like
to have you cry."

His voice, faltered on the long-unspoken diminutive; but, at the sound
of it, Mr. Pindar, still holding the handkerchief to his eyes with his
right hand, held out his left; Mr. Homer grasped it, and the two sat
silent, hand in hand, while the little stream trickled cheerfully along,
and the black leaf-shadows flickered on the white road.

Mr. Homer opened and shut his mouth several times, and patted his
brother's hand, before he spoke again. At length he said, very gently:

"My dear boy, my dear fellow, you are unnerved. Compose yourself,
compose yourself! I also have been sadly unnerved, Pindy. An hour ago I
could have mingled my tears with yours freely, sir, freely. But music
hath charms, as you are aware, to soothe the--Savagery is far from my
breast at the present time, sir, but the quotation is too familiar to
require elucidation. Our friend Miss Wax has been performing upon the
instrument, and an hour spent in her society, when thus employed, is
invariably soothing to the wounded spirit. I wish, my dear brother, that
you had come earlier in the evening."

Mr. Pindar groaned, and dried his eyes, but made no reply. Mr. Homer,
pausing, looked carefully about him, as if struck by a sudden thought.

"Pindar," he said, in an altered tone, "do you know where we are
sitting? Look about you!"

Mr. Pindar looked around, then up at the tree which bent friendly over
them. "It is the oak-seat!" he exclaimed. "The oak-seat and the
watering-trough. Muffled drums! Enter Homeless Wanderer, weeping."

"Do you remember the day when Silas Candy ducked Ephraim Weight?" said
Mr. Homer, disregarding the last remark. "We were sitting here, Pindar,
and we did not interfere. I have sometimes reflected that it was a--an
error, sir; a--a faltering in the way; a--a dereliction from
the--a--star-y-pointing path; but we were young, sir, and Ephraim
was--shall I say unattractive? But--Pindy, when Silas came along--I
remember it as if it were yesterday--I had just been cutting some
initials in the tree. Upon my word, they are here still!" With a
trembling finger he pointed out some half-obliterated letters. "B. H.,
sir; do you see them? Bethia Hollopeter!"

Mr. Pindar nodded gloomily, and, putting away the blue handkerchief,
crossed his arms on his breast. "I see them, sir," he said. "Why turn
the dagger in the wound? I see them!"

"What was my thought, Brother," Mr. Homer went on, growing more and more
animated, "when I made those letters; when I--a--wounded the oaken
breast which--which--not precisely nourished, but certainly cheered and
comforted me? Brother, I fancied Bethia as your bride. Stay! hear me!"
as Mr. Pindar made a hasty gesture of dissent. "I knew later that--that
your affections, like my own, were placed elsewhere; but--but Fate, sir,
planted an arrow, of a highly barbed description, in our twin breasts.
No more of that. Miss Bethia Wax, sir, has been the friend, the elegant
and valued friend, of my entire life. Since the lamented death of our
cousins, Phoebe and Vesta, and recently the irreparable loss I have
sustained in the death of Cousin Marcia, we--Miss Bethia and I--have
been brought into yet closer and more sympathetic companionship. Aside
from the devoted tenderness of Thomas and William, and the--the
faithful, if occasionally violent ministrations of Direxia Hawkes, Miss
Bethia has been my chief stay and comfort in these troublous days. But I
assure you, sir, with my hand on my heart,"--Mr. Homer suited the action
to the word,--"that nothing of a tender nature has ever passed, or will
ever pass, between me and my elegant and valued friend. Yet once more
hear me, Brother! It is my firm belief, Pindar, that one image, and one
only, has remained since youth implanted in--in that bosom, sir, to
which I allude with the highest respect; that image, sir, I believe to
be yours!"

Mr. Homer paused, much moved. Mr. Pindar waved his cloak in protest, but
his countenance brightened perceptibly.

"Not so!" he murmured. "Not so! Thunder. Exit Homeless Wanderer, pursued
by furies. Brother, I will return to my hated task. Enough! I thank you,
but I go."

"Brother, I implore you not so to do!" cried Mr. Homer, earnestly. "I
believe that other and happier things are in store for you. I have a
vision, sir, of a home replete with elegant comfort. Miss Bethia, though
not opulent, is possessed of a comfortable competence--though Mammon is
far from my thoughts!" cried Mr. Homer, blushing again. "A home, I say,
sir, brightened by the society of--of Woman, and by every evidence of a
refined and cultivated taste. My dear brother, return with me now to
the--the bower, if I may so express myself, of our esteemed and valued
friend. Miss Bethia urged, I may say, implored, me to bring you back."

"Not so!" murmured Mr. Pindar. "Alarums and excursions. Exit--"

But Mr. Homer interrupted him, a sudden fire shining in his mild eyes.
"Brother Pindar," he cried, "you have many times alluded, since your
return, to the Dramatic Moment; you have commented upon the absence of
the dramatic element in my composition. But, sir, it is borne in upon me
strongly at this instant that a Dramatic Moment is now striking in--in
your life and that of our esteemed and valued friend. As you yourself
would observe, hark to it, sir! it strikes;--a--resounds;--a--larums,
sir, larums."

The two brothers had risen, and stood facing each other in the
moonlight. They waved their arms with an identical gesture; never had
they looked so alike. "It larums!" repeated Mr. Pindar, solemnly.
Suddenly he seized his brother's hand, and motioned him forward.

"Flourish and a sennet!" he cried. "Possible joy-bells! Brother, set
on!"



CHAPTER XV.

AFTER ALL!


And after all, as every one said, everything went off so beautifully
that people need not have been disturbed. The Processional Festival
Jubilee was given up (really, I think, to Mr. Pindar's relief as well as
that of every one else,--except Miss Luella Slocum), and a reception
substituted for it; not a Pink Tea, but a dignified and really charming
occasion. Mrs. Bliss and Will Jaquith planned it, and the whole village
helped to carry it out. The day was perfection, the very crown jewel of
the summer: the house was thrown open, and the guests were met in the
hall by a Reception Committee, consisting of the Messrs. Hollopeter,
Mr. and Mrs. Bliss, Miss Wax and Mrs. Ware, and Dr. Geoffrey Strong.
First, Doctor Strong made a brief address of welcome, which put every
one into a holiday humor of twinkling anticipation; and then there were
tableaux, framed in the wide low arch of the dining-room door,
illustrating the history of the village since the first Darracott,
Timothy Philo, settled here in 1680. The First Service, the Indian
Massacre (Mr. Pindar superb as King Philip, in full war-paint and
feathers, flourishing a real tomahawk from the Collection over the
prostrate form of Tommy Candy), the departure of the Quahaug Company of
Patriot Militia for Lexington, the women of Quahaug praying for the
success of Washington's arms, and so on down to the last, when the
Guardian Spirit of the village was represented as mourning for the death
of Mrs. Tree. This was dear Miss Wax's idea, and she besought the
Committee so earnestly to carry it out, "as a token of respect for Her
we honor," that they had not the heart to refuse. Mrs. Bliss was
secretly afraid that it might make people smile; and so it might have
done if Annie Lizzie had not looked so sweet, in her white dress and
drooping wings (she got them, after all!), that everybody cried instead.

Between the scenes the band, stationed in the garden, "discoursed
acceptable strains," as the paper said next day; and, after the final
scene, Mr. Homer made a little speech. He had been most unwilling to
speak, but everybody insisted that he, and no one else, must actually
open the Museum. So the dear gentleman got up, very pink and fluttering,
and said that joy and sorrow had woven a mingled wreath to crown this
day, but that it was the proudest one of his life, and that the
proudest action of that life was to open the Captain and Mrs. Ethan Tree
Museum of Quahaug.

And then--then every one sang the Ode. Mr. Homer had written the words,
and Mr. Pindar set them to music, and words and music were printed on
white silk and distributed as souvenirs. The two brothers did not know
that, when the music began, they took hold of hands, and stood so all
through, waving their free arms and bowing their heads in time to the
melody, and opening and shutting their mouths; but the rest of the
company knew it, and cried so that they could hardly sing.

These are the words:

                     ODE

    FOR THE OPENING OF THE CAPTAIN AND MRS.
       ETHAN TREE MUSEUM OF QUAHAUG

    As smooth the bivalve opes its jaws,
      Admitting crystal flood,
    So opes our own Museum its doors
      To all of native blood.
    On honored bier we drop the tear,
      And then, with joy agog,
    Our village proud doth cry aloud,
      Quahaug! (bang!) Quahaug! (bang!) Quahaug!

    Our patroness we fondly bless,
      And likewise honor him
    Who filled so free this treasury,
      Then sought the cherubim.
    Of objects fair, so rich and rare,
      Description would but clog;
    So let us sing till welkin ring,
      Quahaug! (bang!) Quahaug! (bang!) Quahaug!

    Captain and Mrs. Ethan Tree
      We honor so this day,
    As Muses nine, with fire divine,
      Alone could fitly say.
    Yet still each heart would bear its part,
      With this for epilogue:
    While life remains we'll praise thy plains,
      Quahaug! (bang!) Quahaug! (bang!) Quahaug!

(The "bangs" were not printed on the souvenirs, but without them one
does not get the effect of the cymbals, which really were superb.)

And then the Museum was open, and the village flowed in through the
rooms, examining, wondering, praising. It was really a fine collection,
and beautifully arranged. Mr. Homer and Tommy Candy had been at work for
a month, with much help from the Jaquiths and Annie Lizzie, and
everything was classified and marked, and displayed to the best
advantage. In one room, the "Captain's room," were the samples of wood,
smooth little slabs of ebony, satinwood, violet, leopard, dragon,
sandal, and every other known wood, polished till they shone like wooden
mirrors. In another were the minerals: rough crystals, rose and
amethyst, smoky yellow and clouded brown; nuggets of gold, of silver, of
copper; uncut gems of every variety, from the great ruby that Captain
Tree took from the Malay pirate's turban down to the pink and lilac
pearls found in our own oysters and mussels in Quahaug harbor.

The carved crystal, jade, ivory, and amber, and the enamels, were
displayed in the parlor, and were so skilfully arranged that the
character of the room was not changed, only the dim richness
accentuated. The light fell softly on bowls and cups of translucent
green, on the rounded backs of ivory elephants, on exquisite shapes of
agate, jasper, and chalcedony, on robes stiff with gold and crusted with
gems; but still it was Mrs. Tree's own parlor, and still the principal
thing in it was the ebony chair, with the crutch-stick leaning against
it.

The shells, in glass cases, lined the sides of the long room known as
the Workshop; and, as Seth said, "Gosh! if they didn't beat the
everlastin' Dutch!"

"Why," he said, turning to Salem Rock, who was behind him in the slowly
moving throng that filled the room, "you wouldn't think, to look at all
these, that that man had done anything all his life only pick up
shells."

"He certingly was the darndest!" replied Salem, soberly.

"I wouldn't use language, Pa!" said Mrs. Rock, who rustled beside him in
her best black silk.

"I expect you would, Ma," retorted her husband, "if things came home to
you as they do to me this day. They had that way with 'em, both Cap'n
and Mis' Tree, that when we had shore leave, and they said: 'Pick up
some shells, will you, boys?' that was every livin' thing any man aboard
that ship desired to do. Jerusalem! I can feel the crick in my back
still, stoopin' over them blazin' beaches, pickin' up--Here, Ma! look at
this beauty, with the pink and yeller stripes. See them sharp spines,
and one of 'em broke off? Wal, that broke off in my foot. It was wropped
up in seaweed, and I trod square on it. I don't know as it would be real
becomin' to repeat what I said, here and now."

"I don't know as it would be real improvin' to hear it, either, Pa!"
replied his consort, calmly. "Let's us move on a mite further, shall
we?"

Refreshments were served in the dining-room and on the broad piazza
outside it, and here Direxia Hawkes was in her glory. The ladies might
sit at the tables, and did so, Miss Bethia Wax pouring tea, Mrs. Bliss
coffee, while Miss Slocum and Miss Goby simpered and bridled, twin
sirens of the lemonade table; but Direxia's Dramatic Moment had struck,
and she was taking full advantage of it. She had assumed the rigid
little bonnet and cape, which were her badge of equality with anybody in
the land except "the Family," and she moved among the guests, apparent
queen. Annie Lizzie, all smiles and roses, came and went at her bidding,
with a tendency to gravitate toward the piazza railing, on which Tommy
Candy sat, beaming good-will to all mankind, ladling out frozen pudding
and ice-cream from the great freezers.

"Annie Lizzie, Miss Wax ain't eatin' a thing. You tell her to let the
folks wait for their tea a spell, and have somethin' herself. Here! take
her this orange cream, and tell her I made it, and I expect her to eat
it. And--Annie Lizzie, look here! you tell Mr. Homer I don't want he
should touch that frozen puddin'. It's too rich, tell him; but he can
have all the strawberry and vanilla he wants. I ain't goin' to have him
sick after this, all worked up as he is."

There were forty-seven different kinds of cake, all "named varieties,"
as the flower catalogues say. Every housewife in the village had sent
her "specialty," from Miss Wax's famous harlequin round down to the
Irish christening loaf of good old Mrs. Flanagan, the laundress, who was
helping Diploma Crotty wash cups and plates in the kitchen. Mrs.
Flanagan refused to come in, spite of Mr. Homer's urgent invitation.

"I thank ye, dear!" she said. "I thank ye kindly, but I'll not come in
among the Quality. I wish ye well, Mr. Homer. May no dog ever bite ye
but mine, and I'll kape a cat!"

Through the crowd, here and there, moved Mr. Homer and Mr. Pindar,
bowing and smiling, waving and flapping, happiest of all the happy
throng. Under the genial sun of cheer and encouragement that had been
shining on him during the last two weeks, since the Procession had been
given up, Mr. Pindar had grown less and less abrupt and jerky, and more
and more like his brother; and the village readily accorded him a share
of the benevolent affection with which they regarded Mr. Homer.

"I always said there warn't a mite of harm in Home," said Seth Weaver,
"and I begin to think there ain't none in Pindar, either. They come out
the same nest, and I expect they're the same settin' of aigs, if they be
speckled different. Hatched out kinder queer chicks, old Mis' Hollopeter
did, but, take 'em all round, I dunno but they're full as good as
barn-door fowls, and they certingly do better when it comes to crowin'."

"That's right!" said Salem Rock.

And when at last it was over, and, with hand-shakings and
congratulations, the tide of visitors had flowed out through the door
and down the garden path, the two brothers stood and looked at each
other with happy eyes.

"It has been a great occasion, Brother Pindar!" said Mr. Homer.

"It has!" said Mr. Pindar, fervently. "Flourish of trumpets. Enter
Herald proclaiming victory. It has been a Dramatic Moment, sir."

"It has been the happiest occasion of my life!" Mr. Homer went on. "I
wish Mother could have been present, Pindar; it would have been a
gratification to her;--a--an oblectation;--a--a--but where are you
going, my dear brother?"

Mr. Pindar, before replying, cast a glance toward the garden gate,
through which at that moment a tall, slender figure was passing slowly,
almost lingeringly; then he met his brother's eye hardily.

"Brother Homer," he said, and, though he blushed deeply, his voice was
firm and cheerful, "I am going to see Bethia home!"



CHAPTER XVI.

MARRIAGE BELLS


The village certainly had never seen a summer like this. People had not
stopped talking of the Celebration, when the news of Miss Wax's
engagement to Mr. Pindar Hollopeter set the ball of conversation rolling
again. Everybody was delighted; and Mrs. Weight was not the only lady in
the village who secretly hoped that, now Pindar had set him the example,
Homer would see his way to following it, and would provide him with a
helpmeet, "one who had ben through trouble and knew how to feel for
him."

Mr. Pindar was an ardent wooer, and pressed for an early marriage;
indeed, there seemed no reason for delay. They were to live at the "Wax
Works," and Mr. Pindar was to give lessons in elocution, and also on the
flute and hautboy, if pupils could be found. Miss Bethia sighed gently,
and told Mr. Pindar he was too impetuous; but she finally yielded, and
they were married quietly one day, in the quaint, pleasant parlor, the
bride dignified and gracious in lavender satin, and the bridegroom
resplendent in white waistcoat and pearl-colored tie. He had a brand-new
flyaway cloak for the occasion, and could hardly be persuaded to lay it
aside during the ceremony, for, as he said, it assisted him in
expression, sir, in expression.

Mr. Homer was best man, and never was that usually lugubrious part more
radiantly filled. He accompanied the whole service in dumb show, bowing
and waving in response to every clause; and Geoffrey Strong declares
that when he came forward to give the bride away, he heard Mr. Homer
murmur "until death do us part," in happy echo of his brother's
response.

Then the bridal pair went off on a bridal trip, and the village shouted
and cheered after them; and Mr. Homer went home and wept tears of joy on
the back porch.

Amid the general rejoicing, one face was grave, or smiled only a
perfunctory smile when occasion required it; this was the face of Thomas
Candy. It was such an extraordinary thing for Tommy to be grave on any
festive occasion that Mr. Homer noticed it, and took him gently to task,
as they sat on the aforesaid porch that evening. "Thomas," said the
little gentleman, "you appear pensive. You have not seemed to enjoy, as
I expected, this festival; this--a--halcyon, I might almost say,
millennial day. Is there any oppression on your spirits, my dear young
friend?"

Tommy rumpled his black hair, and cast a look at Mr. Homer,
half-whimsical, half-sorrowful. "I s'pose it's all right, sir!" he said,
slowly. "Of course it's all right if you say so; but--the fact is, I'd
planned otherwise myself, and I s'pose there ain't any one but thinks
his own plan is the best. The fact is, Mr. Homer, I hoped to see Miss
Wax in this house, instead of Mr. Pindar bein' in hers."

"Indeed, Thomas!" said Mr. Homer. "How so?"

"There's no harm in speakin' of it now, as I see," said Tommy. "Fact is,
Mr. Homer, you need somebodys else in this house beside Direxia; some
woman, I mean, to make things as they should be for you. Direxia's fine,
and I think everything of her, but she's old, and--well, there! there'd
oughter be somebodys else, that's all, if 'twas only to keep the rest of
'em off; and there was only one in this village that I could see anyways
suitable, and that was Miss Wax. So I picked her out, and got my mind
made up and all, and then along come Mr. Pindar and whisked her off
under our noses, so to say. I've nothin' against Mr. Pindar, he's all
right; but it was a disappointment, Mr. Homer, and I can't make believe
it wasn't. There ain't another woman in this village that Mis' Tree
would see set over this house," said Tommy Candy, with simple finality.

Mr. Homer smiled, and patted Tommy's arm cheerfully. "Things are much
better as they are, Thomas," he said; "far better, I assure you.
Besides, I have other thoughts--a--fancies--a--conceptions, in regard to
this house; thoughts which, I fancy, would not have been disapproved
by--as my brother's bride says, by Her we honor. I have felt as you do,
my young friend, the want of--a--gracious and softening influence,--in
short, the influence of Woman, sir, in this house; but this influence
has suggested itself to me in the guise of youth--of--a--beauty;
of--a--the morning of life, sir, the morning of life. I have
thought--fancied--in short,--how would you like, sir, to see our
charming neighbor across the way established in this house?"

Tommy looked at him, stupefied. "Mrs. Weight!" he cried.

But Mr. Homer waved the thought away indignantly. "No, no, Thomas! how
could you suppose--not for an instant!--in fact, it was partly with a
view to removing her from--sordid and sinister surroundings, that this
idea suggested itself to me. What would you say to Annie Lizzie,
Thomas?"

Mr. Homer beamed, and bent forward, rubbing his hands gently, and
trying to see Tommy's face through the gathering dusk.

Tommy grew very pale.

"Annie Lizzie!" he said, slowly.

"Annie Lizzie!" repeated Mr. Homer, with animation. "I have watched that
young person, Thomas, since her early childhood. I have seen her come up
as a flower, sir, in an arid waste; as a jewel of gold in a--But I would
not be discourteous. To remove this sweet creature from uncongenial
surroundings; to transplant the blossom to more grateful soil, if I may
so express myself; to beds of amaranth and moly--I speak in metaphor,
sir; to see it unfold its vermeil tints beneath the mellow rays
of--a--the tender passion--would give me infinite gratification. It
would be my study, sir, to make her happy. What do you--how does this
strike you, my dear young friend? But perhaps I have been too sudden,
Thomas. Take time, sir. Consider it a little."

Thomas Candy rose slowly and painfully. "Thank you, sir!" he said,
speaking slowly and steadily. "I will take a little time, if you please.
It is--rather sudden, as you say."

Leaning heavily on his stick, the young man walked slowly down the
garden path, and stood by the garden gate, looking across the way.

Annie Lizzie! Annie Lizzie marry Mr. Homer! the thought was monstrous.
Annie Lizzie, only seventeen, a little soft, sweet rose, his own little
sweetheart. Good heavens! could such a thing exist even as a dream in
any human brain?

Then other thoughts came; ugly thoughts, which forced their way to the
front in spite of him. Mr. Homer was rich now, rich and kind and
generous. Women liked money, people said: Annie Lizzie had been bitter
poor all her life, had never had a penny to call her own; might she be
tempted? And, if she were, had he the right to stand in her way? Was he
sure, sure, that her love for him, the love that he had taken for
granted as he took the sunlight, would stand the test?

Faster and uglier came the hateful thoughts; he could almost see them as
visible forms, with wicked, sneering faces. Was this why she had been so
attentive to Mr. Homer of late, running in and out of the house on this
or that pretended errand, coaxing Direxia to let her help with the work,
begging a flower from the garden, a root from the vegetable border? He
had never doubted that it was on his own account she came. Was she false
and shallow, as well as sweet and soft and and--

Tommy Candy never knew how long he stood there at the garden gate,
watching the house across the way, where a slender shape flitted to and
fro in the lamplight. But by and by he struck his stick into the gravel
and came back with a white set face, and stood before Mr. Homer, who was
rocking happily in his chair and repeating the "Ode to a Nightingale."

"Mr. Homer," he said, and at the sound of his voice the little gentleman
stopped rocking and looked up in alarm: "when it comes to things like
this, it's man to man, I expect. If Annie Lizzie wants to marry you, I
won't stand in her way. I'll take myself and my stick off out o' sight
somewheres, where she'll never hear of neither one of us again. But
if--"

He stopped short; for Mr. Homer had risen to his feet in great
agitation, and was waving his hands and blinking painfully through the
dusk.

"My dear young friend!" he cried. "My dear but mistaken young friend,
you distress me infinitely. You do not think--it cannot be possible that
you think that this poor child has--has formed any such--such monstrous
conception? If I thought so, I should resign my being,--a--cease upon
the midnight, not without pain, but unspeakably the reverse. It is a
most extraordinary thing that twice within a single summer I should have
been exposed, sir, to a misapprehension of this amazing,
this--a--portentous, this--a--unspeakably inauspicious description. I am
not a marrying man, Thomas. Though regarding the Sex with the deepest
veneration, sir, I have for many years regarded it across a gulf, if I
may so express myself; a chasm, sir; a--a--maelstrom of separation, to
speak strongly. Your suggestion fills me with pain; with--anguish;
with--a--gorgons and chimera dire--meaning no disparagement to the
young person in question. I had thought, Thomas,--I had conceived,--I
had formed the apprehension, sir, that she was attached to you, and that
you admitted the soft impeachment; that your heart responded to
the--a--soft flutings of the tender passion. I thought to see you
wedded, and sharing my home, being as son and daughter to me. I--I--I--"

Mr. Homer's voice faltered. But Tommy Candy caught the distressedly
waving hands in his.

"Mr. Homer," he cried, with a broken laugh, "don't, sir! don't take on!
I'm a fool, that's all, the biggest fool the world holds this minute.
I've loved Annie Lizzie ever since I was ten years old, and I believe
she has me."



CHAPTER XVII.

THE LAST WORD


"Come back, have they?" said Seth Weaver. Seth was painting the outside
of Miss Penny Pardon's shop, and Miss Penny was hopping in and out,
hovering about the door like a lame robin, dividing her attention
between Seth and the birds.

"Wal, have 'em a good time, did they?"

"Elegant!" replied Miss Penny, joyously. "They had them an elegant time,
Seth. Miss Wax--There! look at me! and I said 'Mis' Hollopeter' just as
slick when she come in! She was in this mornin', to tell Sister about
the latest styles. I thought 'twas real kind of her, with all she had
to think of in her golden joy. Folks _is_ so kind, I don't see how it
comes to be such a wicked world as some calls it. Well, she told us all
about it. They went to Niag'ry Falls first. He was wishful to take her
to Washin'ton, but she said Nature come first in her eyes, even before
Gov'ment; she has fine thoughts, and an elegant way of expressin' 'em, I
always think. There! she said the Falls was handsome! 'twas beyond the
power of thought, she said. Ain't you gettin' jest a dite too much red
in that trimmin', Seth?"

"I guess not!" said Seth. "You don't want it to look like you was
advertisin' a new brand of mustard, do ye? Where else did they go?"

"They went to New York," said Miss Penny. "It was there she see the
styles. Went to the theatre, and to Central Park, and walked down Fifth
Avenue; and his friends give them a testimonial dinner, and--oh, it was
lovely to hear her tell about it. I declare, I should like to go to New
York some day myself. Big sleeves is comin' in again; not that you care
about that, Seth, but Sister was real pleased to know it. And Mr. Pindar
has commenced to flesh up some already, Mis' Hollopeter says. He was as
poor as a split flounder, you know: hadn't ben nourished good for years,
she thinks. There! Men-folks don't know how to feed themselves, seems
though, no more nor birds doos. Take that parrot there; you'd think he'd
know by this time that fresh paint don't agree with him real well, yet
he'll get at it and chaw it every chance he gets, and then has to come
to me for doctorin'; it's the same with men-folks, the best of 'em. But
Mr. Pindar'll get the best of victuals from now on!" Miss Penny
concluded with an emphatic nod.

"She don't want to feed him too high all of a suddin," said Seth,
drawing his brush carefully round a window-casing. "He might go the way
of Job Joralemon's hoss."

"What way was that?" asked Miss Penny, pausing with a cage in her hand.
"Who is Job Joralemon? I don't know as I ever heard of him."

"He was a man over to Tinkham Corners," said Seth. "Meanest man in them
parts, where they get the gold medal for meanness every year, some say.
Come along a man one day, travellin' man, lookin' for a hoss to buy. His
hoss had died, or run away, or ben stole, or somethin', I dono what.
Anyways, he heard Job had a hoss to sell, and come to look at him. He
warn't much of a one to look at,--the hoss, I mean, though Job warn't no
Venus, neither; but this man, he thought likely he could fat him up and
drive him a spell, till he got through his business, and then sell him
for a mite more than he give for him. Wal, he took the hoss--he was
stayin' at Rowe's Tavern over there--and give him a good solid feed, hay
and grain, and then started out to drive on to the next town. Wal,
sir,--ma'am, I should say,--quick as he got out the yard, that hoss
started on the dead run; man couldn't hold him any more than you could a
yearlin' steer. He run like wild-fire a little ways, and then he clum
over a fence, buggy and all,--stump-fence it was,--and then he fell
down, and rolled over, and died, then and there. The man collected
himself out of the kindlin's, and looked round, and see old Rowe, the
tavern-keeper, comin' up, grinnin' all over.

"'What does this mean?' the man hollers out, mad as hops. 'What kind of
a hoss do you call this?' he says.

"Old Rowe kinder grunts. 'I call that a sawdust hoss,' he says.

"'Sawdust Granny!' says the man. 'What d'ye mean by that?'

"'Wal!' says old Rowe. 'Fact is, Job's ben in the habit of feedin'
sawdust to that hoss, and keepin' green goggles on him so's he'd think
'twas grass. Come to give him a good feed, ye see, and 'twas too much
for him, and car'd him off.'

"So what I say is, you tell Mis' Hollopeter she wants to be careful how
she feeds Pindar up, that's all."

"Seth Weaver, if you ain't the beat!" exclaimed Miss Penny. "I believe
you made that up right here and now. Ain't you ashamed to tell such
stories?"

"Not a mite! not a mite!" said Seth, comfortably. "Take more'n that to
shame me. Ask Annie Lizzie if it don't. Here she comes along now. Ain't
she a pictur'?"

Annie Lizzie came blossoming along the street in her pink calico dress;
her pink sunbonnet was hanging on her shoulders, and her soft dark hair
curled round her face just for the pleasure of it. She was swinging a
bright tin pail in her hand; altogether the street seemed to lighten as
she came along it.

"Hello, Annie Lizzie!" said Seth, as she came up to the shop. "Comin' to
see me, ain't ye?"

"I guess not!" said Miss Penny. "I expect she's come to see me, ain't
you, Annie Lizzie? I've got a new piece of ribbin in, jest matches your
dress, and your cheeks, too."

Annie Lizzie dimpled and smiled shyly. "I'd love to see it, Miss Penny,"
she said; "but first I come with a message for Mr. Weaver."

"Then I'll go and feed the rest of them birds," said Miss Penny.
"There! hear 'em hollerin' the minute I say 'feed'? They are the
cutest!"

She vanished into the shop, and Seth looked up at the young girl with a
friendly twinkle. "Back stairs again, Annie Liz?" he asked. "I expect to
get at 'em to-morrow, honest I do."

"No, sir, 'twasn't the stairs this time," said Annie Lizzie, looking
down. "Ma didn't know I was comin', or she might have said something. I
come with a message from Tommy, Mr. Weaver. He wanted to know could you
spare him some white paint."

"What does he want of white paint?" asked Seth.

"Wants to paint the front gate," replied Annie Lizzie.

"Sho!" said Seth. "The front gate was painted only last fall. There
ain't no need to paint it ag'in for three years."

"I know!" said the girl, patiently. "But all the same he's goin' to
paint it, and he wants you should put somethin' in it so's it won't
dry."

"So's it _will_ dry, you mean!" corrected Seth. "Tell him I won't do it.
Hastenin' white paint's like hastenin' a mud-turtle; it's bad for his
constitution, and _then_ he don't get anywheres. White paint has to dry
slow, or it's no good. You tell Tommy that, and tell him he'd oughter
know it, much as he's hung round my shop."

"He doos know it!" said Annie Lizzie, in her cooing voice. "He don't
want it to dry, Mr. Weaver."

"Don't want it to dry!" repeated Seth.

"No, sir. He said I might tell you, so's you'd understand; he knew you
wouldn't let it go no further, Mr. Weaver. Fact is, he wants to keep
folks away for a spell, so's Mr. Homer can get rested up. He's real
wore out with all these celebrations and goin's on, and he has so many
callers he don't have no chance to live hardly. So Tommy thought if he
could paint the gate, and keep on paintin' it, with a good paint that
lasted wet, you see, it would--Well, what he means is,--there couldn't
anybody get in but what had pants on. It's a narrow gate, you know."

"I know," said Seth, with a grim twinkle. "I see. That's Tommy Candy all
over. Tell him I'll fix him up an article will do the business; he
needn't have no fears. But how about them little pink petticuts of
yourn, Annie Lizzie? I dono as Tommy is so special anxious to keep them
out, is he?"

The pink of Annie Lizzie's dress was surely not a fast color, for it
seemed to spread in a rosy cloud over her soft cheeks, up, up, to the
soft rings of hair against her forehead.

"Direxia's real good to me," she said, simply. "She lets me come in the
back gate."


THE END.

       *       *       *       *       *

By LAURA E. RICHARDS

    MRS. TREE'S WILL
    MRS. TREE
    GEOFFREY STRONG
    FOR TOMMY
    LOVE AND ROCKS
    CAPTAIN JANUARY





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mrs. Tree's Will" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home