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Title: From the Land of the Snow-Pearls - Tales from Puget Sound
Author: Higginson, Ella
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 "From the Land of the Snow-Pearls - Tales from Puget Sound" ***

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SNOW-PEARLS ***



FROM THE LAND OF THE SNOW-PEARLS

[Illustration]



                            FROM THE LAND OF
                             THE SNOW-PEARLS

                         TALES FROM PUGET SOUND

                           By ELLA HIGGINSON.

                                NEW YORK
                          THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                      LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.
                                  1902

                           Copyright, 1896, by
                           THE CALVERT COMPANY

                           Copyright, 1897, by
                          THE MACMILLAN COMPANY



TO RUSSELL CARDEN HIGGINSON


Some of the stories in this book appeared originally in _McClure’s_,
_Lippincott’s_, _Leslie’s Weekly_, _Short Stories_, _The Black Cat_ and
_The New Peterson_. I am indebted to the publishers of those periodicals
for the kind permission to reprint them.

                                                                    E. H.

This book was first published under the title of “The Flower that Grew in
the Sand.” To the present edition, two stories have been added.

                                                        _The Publishers._

Puget Sound lies in its emerald setting like a great blue sapphire, which
at sunset, draws to its breast all the marvelous and splendid coloring
of the fire-opal. Around it, shining through their rose-colored mists
like pearls upon the soft blue or green of the sky, are linked the great
snow-mountains, so beautiful and so dear, that those who love this land
with a proud and passionate love, have come to think of it, fondly and
poetically, as “the land of the snow-pearls.”



CONTENTS


                                                       PAGE

    THE FLOWER THAT GREW IN THE SAND                      1

    ESTHER’S “FOURTH”                                    21

    THE BLOW-OUT AT JENKINS’S GROCERY                    31

    THE TAKIN’ IN OF OLD MIS’ LANE                       41

    THE MANEUVERING OF MRS. SYBERT                       67

    A POINT OF KNUCKLING-DOWN                            79

    THE CUTTIN’-OUT OF BART WINN                        141

    ZARELDA                                             183

    IN THE BITTER ROOT MOUNTAINS                        207

    PATIENCE APPLEBY’S CONFESSING-UP                    217

    THE MOTHER OF “PILLS”                               243

    MRS. RISLEY’S CHRISTMAS DINNER                      263



THE FLOWER THAT GREW IN THE SAND



THE FLOWER THAT GREW IN THE SAND


Demaris opened the gate and walked up the narrow path. There was a low
hedge of pink and purple candytuft on each side. Inside the hedges were
little beds of homely flowers in the shapes of hearts, diamonds and
Maltese crosses.

Mrs. Eaton was stooping over a rosebush, but she arose when she heard the
click of the gate. She stood looking at Demaris, with her arms hanging
stiffly at her sides.

“Oh,” she said, with a grim smile; “you, is it?”

“Yes,” said the girl, blushing and looking embarrassed. “Ain’t it a nice
evenin’?”

“It is that; awful nice. I’m tyin’ up my rosebushes. Won’t you come in
an’ set down a while?”

“Oh, my, no!” said Demaris. Her eyes went wistfully to the pink rosebush.
“I can’t stay.”

“Come fer kindlin’ wood?”

“No.” She laughed a little at the worn-out joke. “I come to see ’f you
had two or three pink roses to spare.”

“Why, to be sure, a dozen if you want. Just come an’ help yourself. My
hands ain’t fit to tech ’em after diggin’ so.”

She stood watching the girl while she carefully selected some half-open
roses. There was a look of good-natured curiosity on her face.

“Anything goin’ on at the church to-night?”

“No; at least not that I know of.”

“It must be a party then.”

“No—not a party, either.” She laughed merrily. Her face was hidden as she
bent over the roses, but her ears were pink under the heavy brown hair
that fell, curling, over them.

“Well, then, somebody’s comin’ to see you.”

“No; I’ll have to tell you.” She lifted a glad, shy face. “I’m goin’ on
the moonlight excursion.”

“Oh, now! Sure? Well, I’m reel glad.”

“So’m I. I never wanted to go anywheres so much in my life. I’ve been
’most holdin’ my breath for fear ma’d get sick.”

“How is your ma?”

“Well, she ain’t very well; she never is, you know.”

“What ails her?”

“I do’ know,” said Demaris, slowly. “We’ll get home by midnight. So ’f
she has a spell come on, pa can set up with her till I get home, and
then I can till mornin’.”

“Should think you’d be all wore out a-settin’ up two or three nights a
week that way.”

Demaris sighed. The radiance had gone out of her face and a look of care
was upon it.

“Well,” she said, after a moment, “I’ll have a good time to-night,
anyhow. We’re goin’ to have the band along. They’re gettin’ so’s they
play reel well. They play ‘Annie Laurie’ an’ ‘Rocked ’n the Cradle o’ the
Deep,’ now.”

The gate clicked. A child came running up the path.

“Oh, sister, sister! Come home quick!”

“What for?” said Demaris. There was a look of dread on her face.

“Ma’s goin’ right into a spell. She wants you quick. She thinks she’s
took worse ’n usual.”

There was a second’s hesitation. The girl’s face whitened. Her lips
trembled.

“I guess I won’t want the roses after gettin’ ’em,” she said. “I’m just
as much obliged, though, Mis’ Eaton.”

She followed the child to the gate.

“Well, if that don’t beat all!” ejaculated Mrs. Eaton, looking after her
with genuine sympathy. “It just seems as if she had a spell to order
ev’ry time that girl wants to go anywheres. It’s nothin’ but hysterics,
anyway. I’d like to doctor her for a while. I’d souze a bucket o’ cold
water over her! I reckon that ’u’d fetch her to ’n a hurry.”

She laughed with a kind of stern mirth and resumed her work.

Demaris hurried home. The child ran at her side. Once she took her hand
and gave her an upward look of sympathy.

She passed through the kitchen, laying her roses on the table. Then she
went into her mother’s room.

Mrs. Ferguson lay on a couch. A white cloth was banded around her head,
coming well down over one eye. She was moaning bitterly.

Demaris looked at her without speaking.

“Where on earth you been?” She gave the girl a look of fierce reproach.
“A body might die, fer all the help you’d be to ’em. Here I’ve been
a-feelin’ a spell a-comin’ on all day, an’ yet you go a-gaddin’ ’round to
the neighbors, leavin’ me to get along the best way I know how. I believe
this is my last spell. I’ve got that awful pain over my right eye ag’in,
till I’m nearly crazy. My liver’s all out o’ order.”

Demaris was silent. When one has heard the cry of “wolf” a hundred times,
one is inclined to be incredulous. Her apathetic look angered her mother.

“What makes you stand there a-starin’ like a dunce? Can’t you help a
body? Get the camfire bottle an’ the tincture lobelia an’ the box o’
goose grease! You know’s well’s me what I need when I git a spell. I’m so
nervous I feel’s if I c’u’d fly. I got a horrible feelin’ that this’ll be
my last spell—an’ yet you stand there a-starin’ ’s if you didn’t care a
particle!”

Demaris moved about the room stiffly, as if every muscle in her body were
in rebellion. She took from a closet filled with drugs the big camphor
bottle with its cutglass stopper, the little bottle labeled “tinc.
lobelia,” and the box of goose grease.

She placed a chair at the side of the couch to hold the bottle. “Oh, take
that old split-bottom cheer away!” exclaimed her mother. “Everything
upsets on it so! Get one from the kitchen—the one that’s got cherries
painted on the back of it. What makes you ac’ so? You know what cheer I
want. You’d tantalize the soul out of a saint!”

The chair was brought. The bottles were placed upon it. Demaris stood
waiting.

“Now rub my head with the camfire, or I’ll go ravin’ crazy. I can’t think
where ’t comes from!”

The child stood twitching her thin fingers around a chair. She watched
her mother in a matter-of-course way. Demaris leaned over the couch in an
uncomfortable position and commenced the slow, gentle massage that must
continue all night. She did not lift her eyes. They were full of tears.

For a long time there was silence in the room. Mrs. Ferguson lay with
closed eyes. Her face wore a look of mingled injury and reproach.

“Nellie,” said Demaris, after a while, “could you make a fire in the
kitchen stove? Or would you rather try to do this while I build it?”

“Hunh-unh,” said the child, shaking her head with emphasis. “I’d ruther
build fires any time.”

“All right. Put two dippers o’ water ’n the tea-kettle. Be sure you get
your dampers right. An’ I guess you might wash some potatoes an’ put ’em
in to bake. They’ll be done by time pa comes, an’ he can stay with ma
while I warm up the rest o’ the things. Ma, what could you eat?”

“Oh, I do’ know”—in a slightly mollified tone. “A piece o’ toast,
mebbe—’f you don’t get it too all-fired hard.”

“Well, I’ll try not.”

Nellie went out, and there was silence in the room. The wind came in
through the open window, shaking little ripples of perfume into the room.
The sun was setting and a broad band of reddish gold sunk down the wall.

Demaris watched it sinking lower, and thought how slowly the sun was
settling behind the straight pines on the crests of the blue mountains.

“Oh,” said Mrs. Ferguson, “what a wretched creature I am! Just
a-sufferin’ day an’ night, year in an’ year out, an’ a burden on them
that I’ve slaved fer all my life. Many’s the night I’ve walked with you
’n my arms till mornin’, Demaris, an’ never knowed what it was to git
sleepy or tired. An’ now you git mad the minute I go into a spell.”

Demaris stood upright with a tortured look.

“Oh, ma,” she exclaimed. Her voice was harsh with pain. “I ain’t mad.
Don’t think I’m mad. I can’t cry out o’ pity ev’ry time you have a spell,
or I’d be cryin’ all the time. An’ besides, to-night I’m so—disappointed.”

“What you disappointed about?”

“Why, you know.” Her lips trembled. “The excursion.”

Mrs. Ferguson opened her eyes.

“Oh, I’d clean fergot that.”

She looked as if she were thinking she would really have postponed the
spell, if she had remembered. “That’s too bad, Demaris. That’s always
the way.” She began to cry helplessly. “I’m always in the way. Always
mis’rable myself, an’ always makin’ somebody else mis’rable. I don’t see
what I was born fer.”

“Never you mind.” Demaris leaned over suddenly and put her arms around
her mother. “Don’t you think I’m mad. I’m just disappointed. Now don’t
cry. You’ll go and make yourself worse. An’ there comes pa; I hear him
cleanin’ his boots on the scraper.”

Mr. Ferguson stumbled as he came up the steps to the kitchen. He was very
tired. He was not more than fifty, but his thin frame had a pitiable
stoop. The look of one who has struggled long and failed was on his brown
and wrinkled face. His hair and beard were prematurely gray. His dim blue
eyes had a hopeless expression that was almost hidden by a deeper one of
patience. He wore a coarse flannel shirt, moist with perspiration, and
faded blue overalls. His boots were wrinkled and hard; the soil of the
fields clung to them. “Sick ag’in, ma?” he said.

“Sick ag’in! Mis’rable creature that I am! I’ve got that awful pain over
my right eye ag’in. I can’t think where it comes from. I’m nearly crazy
with it.”

“Well, I guess you’ll feel a little better after you git some tea. I’ll
go an’ wash, an’ then rub your head, while Demaris gits a bite to eat.
I’ve plowed ever since sun-up, an’ I’m tired an’ hungry.”

He returned in a few minutes, and took Demaris’s place. He sighed deeply,
but silently, as he sat down.

Demaris set the table and spread upon it the simple meal which she had
prepared. “I’ll stay with ma while you an’ pa eat,” said Nellie, with a
sudden burst of unselfishness.

“Well,” said Demaris, wearily.

Mr. Ferguson sat down at the table and leaned his head on his hand. “I’m
too tired to eat,” he said; “hungry’s I am.” He looked at the untempting
meal of cold boiled meat, baked potatoes and apple sauce.

Demaris did not lift her eyes as she sat down. She felt that she ought
to say something cheerful, but her heart was too full of her own
disappointment. She despised her selfishness even while yielding to it.

“It does beat all about your ma,” said her father. “I can’t see where she
gits that pain from. It ain’t nothin’ danger’s or it ’u’d a-killed her
long ago. It almost seems ’s if she jests gits tired o’ bein’ well, an’
begins to git scared fer fear that pain’s a-comin’ on—an’ then it comes
right on. I’ve heard her say lots o’ times that she’d been well a whole
week now, but that she w’u’dn’t brag or that pain ’u’d come on—an’ inside
of an hour it ’ud up an’ come on. It’s awful discouragin’.”

“I wish I was dead!” said Demaris.

Her father did not speak. His silence reproached her more than any words
could have done.

When she went into the bedroom again she found her mother crying
childishly.

“Demaris, did I hear you say you wished you was dead?”

“I guess so. I said it.”

“Well, God Almighty knows I wish I was! You don’t stop to think what
’u’d become o’ me ’f it wa’n’t fer you. Your pa c’u’dn’t hire anybody,
an’ he’s gittin’ too old to set up o’ nights after workin’ hard all day.
You’d like to see ’t all come on your little sister, I reckon.”

Demaris thought of those slim, weak wrists, and shivered. Her mother
commenced to sob—and that aggravated the pain.

Demaris stooped and put her arms around her and kissed her.

“I’m sorry I said it,” she whispered. “I didn’t mean it. I’m just tired
an’ cross. You know I didn’t mean it.”

Her father came in heavily.

“Demaris,” he said, “Frank Vickers is comin’ ’round to the front door.
I’ll take keer o’ your ma while you go in an’ see him.”

It was a radiant-faced young fellow that walked into Demaris’s little
parlor. He took her hand with a tenderness that brought the color beating
into her cheeks.

“What?” he said. “An’ you ain’t ready? Why, the boat leaves in an hour,
an’ it’s a good, long walk to the wharf. You’ll have to hurry up,
Demaris.”

“I can’t go.”

“You can’t go? Why can’t you?”

She lifted her eyes bravely. Then tears swelled into them very slowly
until they were full. Not one fell. She looked at him through them. He
felt her hand trembling against the palm of his own.

“Why can’t you, Demaris?”

“My mother’s sick—just hear her moanin’ clear in here.”

Young Vickers’s face was a study.

“Why, she was sick last time I wanted to take you som’ers—to a dance,
wasn’t it?”

“Yes—I know.”

“An’ time before that, when I wanted you to go to a church sociable up’n
String Town.”

“Yes.”

“Why, she must be sick near onto all the time, accordin’ to that.”

“She is—pretty near.” She withdrew her hand. There was a stiff-looking
lounge in one corner of the room. It was covered with Brussels carpet,
and had an uncomfortable back, but it was dear to Demaris’s heart. She
had gathered and sold strawberries two whole summers to pay for it. She
sat down on it now and laid her hands together on her knees.

The young man followed and sat down beside her.

“Why, my dear,” he said, very quietly, “you can’t stand this sort of
thing—it’s wearin’ you out. You never did look light an’ happy like other
girls o’ your age; an’ lately you’re gettin’ a real pinched look. I feel
as if ’t was time for me to interfere.” He took her hand again.

It was dim twilight in the room now. Demaris turned her head aside. The
tears brimmed over and fell fast and silently.

“Interferin’ won’t do no good,” she said, resolutely. “There’s just two
things about it. My mother’s sick all the time, an’ I have to wait on
her. There’s nobody else to do it.”

“Well, as long ’s you stay at home it’ll all come on you. You ain’t able
to carry sech a load.”

“I’ll have to.”

“Demaris, you’ll just have to leave.”

“What!” said the girl. She turned to look at him in a startled way.
“Leave home? I couldn’t think of doin’ that.”

He leaned toward her and put his arm around her, trembling strongly. “Not
even to come to my home, Demaris? I want you, dear; an’ I won’t let you
kill yourself workin’, either. I ain’t rich, but I’m well enough off to
give you a comfortable home an’ some one to do your work for you.”

There was a deep silence. Each felt the full beating of the other’s
heart. There was a rosebush under the window, an old-fashioned one. Its
blooms were not beautiful, but they were very sweet. It had flung a slim,
white spray of them into the room. Demaris never smelled their fragrance
afterward without a keen, exquisite thrill of passion, as brief as it was
delicious.

“I can’t, Frank.” Her tone was low and uncertain. “I can’t leave my
mother. She’s sick an’ gettin’ old. I can’t.”

“Oh, Demaris! That’s rank foolishness!”

“Well, I guess it’s the right kind of foolishness.” She drew away and sat
looking at him. Her hands were pressed together in her lap.

“Why, it ain’t expected that a girl ’ad ought to stay an’ take care o’
her mother forever, is it? It ain’t expected that she ought to turn
herself into a hospital nurse, is it?”

Her face grew stern.

“Don’t talk that way, Frank. That ain’t respectful to my mother. She’s
had a hard life an’ so’s my father. You know I want to come, but I can’t.
It’s my place to stay an’ take care o’ her. I’m goin’ to do it—hard ’s
it is. My leavin’ ’em ’u’d just take the heart out of both of ’em. An’
there’s Nellie, too.”

“Demaris—” he spoke slowly; his face was pale—“I’m goin’ to say somethin’
to you I never thought I’d say to any girl alive. But the fact is, I
didn’t know till right now how much I think o’ you. You marry me, an’
we’ll all live together?”

Her face softened. She leaned a little toward him with uncontrollable
tenderness. But as he made a quick movement, she drew back.

“No, Frank. I can’t—I can’t! It won’t do. Such things is what breaks
women’s hearts!”

“What things, dear?”

“Folks livin’ together that way. There’s no good ever comes of it. I’d
have to set up with mother just the same, an’ you’d be worryin’ all the
time for fear it ’u’d make me sick, an’ you’d be wantin’ to set up with
’er yourself.”

“Of course,” he said, stoutly. “I’d expect to. That’s what I mean. I’d
take some o’ your load off o’ you.”

Demaris smiled mournfully. “You don’t know what it is, Frank. It’s all
very well to talk about it, but when it comes to doin’ it you’d be tired
out ’n a month. You’d wish you hadn’t married me—an’ that ’u’d kill me!”

“I wouldn’t. Oh, Demaris, just you try me. I’ll be good to all your
folks—just as good’s can be, dear. I swear it.”

She leaned toward him again with a sob. He took her in his arms. He felt
the delicious warmth of her body. Their lips trembled together.

After a while she drew away slowly and looked at him earnestly in the
faint light.

“If I thought you wouldn’t change,” she faltered. “I know you mean it
now, but oh—”

“Sister,” called a thin, troubled voice from the hall; “can’t you come
here just a minute?”

Demaris went at once, closing the door behind her.

The child threw her slim arms around her sister’s waist, sobbing.

“Oh, sister, I forgot to get the kindlin’ wood, an’ now it’s so dark down
cellar. I’m afraid. Can’t you come with me?”

“Wait a few minutes, dear, an’ I will. Frank won’t stay long to-night.”

“Oh, won’t he? I’m so glad.” Her voice sunk to a whisper. “I hate to
have him here, sister. He takes you away from us so much, an’ ev’rything
goes wrong when you ain’t here. Ma’s offul bad to-night, an’ pa looks so
tired! Don’t let him stay long, sister. He don’t need you as bad ’s we
do.”

She tiptoed into the kitchen. Demaris stood still in the hall. The moon
was coming, large and silver, over the hill. Its soft light brought her
slender figure out of the dark, and set a halo above her head bending on
its fair neck, like a flower on its stem. Her lips moved, but the prayer
remained voiceless in her heart.

A moan came from her mother’s room.

“Oh, paw, you hurt my head! Your hand’s terrable rough! Is that girl
goin’ to stay in there forever?”

Demaris lifted her head and walked steadily into the poor little parlor.
“I’ll have to ask you to go now, Frank; my mother needs me.”

“Well, dear.” He reached his strong young arms to her. She stood back,
moving her head from side to side.

“No, Frank. I can’t marry you, now or ever. My mother comes first.”

“But you ain’t taken time to make up your mind, Demaris. I’ll wait fer ’n
answer.”

“It’s no use. I made up my mind out ’n the hall. You might as well go.
When I make up my mind it’s no use in tryin’ to get me to change it. I
hadn’t made it up before.”

He went to her and took her hands.

“Demaris,” he said, and all his heart-break was in his voice, “do you
mean it? Oh, my dear, I’ll go if you send me; but I’ll never come back
again; never.”

She hesitated but a second. Then she said very gently, without
emotion—“Yes, go. You’ve been good to me; but it’s all over. Good-bye.”

He dropped her hands without a word, and went.

She did not look after him, or listen to his footsteps. She went to the
cellar with Nellie, to get the kindling wood, which she arranged in the
stove, ready for the match in the morning.

Then she went into her mother’s room. She looked pale in the flickering
light of the candle.

“I’ll take care of ma, now, pa,” she said. “You get to bed an’ rest. I
know you’re all tired out—plowin’ ever since sun-up! An’ don’t you get up
till I call you. I ain’t a bit sleepy. I couldn’t sleep if I went to bed.”

She moistened her fingers with camphor and commenced bathing her mother’s
brow.



ESTHER’S “FOURTH”



ESTHER’S “FOURTH”


It was the fourth day of July, and the fourth hour of the day. Long,
beryl ribbons of color were streaming through the lovely Grand Ronde
valley when the little girl awoke—so suddenly and so completely that it
seemed as if she had not been asleep at all.

“Sister!” she cried in a thin, eager voice. “Ain’t it time to get up?
It’s just struck four.”

“Not yet,” said the older girl drowsily. “There’s lots o’ time, Pet.”

She put one arm under the child affectionately and fell asleep again.
The little girl lay motionless, waiting. There was a large cherry tree
outside, close to the tiny window above her bed, and she could hear the
soft turning of the leaves, one against the other, and the fluttering of
the robins that were already stealing the cherries. Innocent thieves that
they were, they continually betrayed themselves by their shrill cries of
triumph.

Not far from the tiny log-cabin the river went singing by on its way
through the green valley; hearing it, Esther thought of the soft glooms
under the noble balm trees, where the grouse drummed and butterflies
drifted in long level flight. Esther always breathed softly while she
watched the butterflies—she had a kind of reverence for them—and she
thought there could be nothing sweeter, even in heaven, than the scents
that the wind shook out of the balms.

She lay patiently waiting with wide eyes until the round clock in the
kitchen told her that another hour had gone by. “Sister,” she said then,
“oh, it must be time to get up! I just _can’t_ wait any longer.”

The older girl, with a sleepy but sympathetic smile, slipped out of
bed and commenced dressing. The child sprang after her. “Sister,” she
cried, running to the splint-bottomed chair on which lay the cheap but
exquisitely white undergarments. “I can’t hardly wait. Ain’t it good of
Mr. Hoover to take me to town? Oh, I feel as if I had hearts all over me,
an’ every one of ’em beating so!”

“Don’t be so excited, Pet.” The older sister smiled gently at the child.
“Things never are quite as nice as you expect them to be,” she added,
with that wisdom that comes so soon to starved country hearts.

“Well, this can’t help bein’ nice,” said the child, with a beautiful
faith. She sat on the strip of rag carpeting that partially covered the
rough floor, and drew on her stockings and her copper-toed shoes. “Oh,
sister, my fingers shake so I can’t get the strings through the eyelets!
Do you think Mr. Hoover might oversleep hisself? It can’t help bein’
nice—nicer’n I expect. Of course,” she added, with a momentary regret, “I
wish I had some other dress besides that buff calico, but I ain’t, an’
so—it’s reel pretty, anyways, sister, ain’t it?”

“Yes, Pet,” said the girl gently. There was a bitter pity for the child
in her heart.

“To think o’ ridin’ in the Libraty Car!” continued Esther, struggling
with the shoe strings. “Course they’ll let me, Paw knows the
store-keeper, and Mr. Hoover kin tell ’em who I am. An’ the horses, an’
the ribbons, an’ the music—an’ all the little girls my age! Sister, it’s
awful never to have any little girls to play with! I guess maw don’t know
how I’ve wanted ’em, or she’d of took me to town sometimes. I ain’t never
been anywheres—except to Mis’ Bunnels’s fun’ral, when the minister prayed
so long,” she added, with a pious after-thought.

It was a happy child that was lifted to the back of the most trustworthy
of the plow-horses to be escorted to the celebration by “Mr. Hoover,” the
hired man. The face under the cheap straw hat, with its wreath of pink
and green artificial flowers, was almost pathetically radiant. To that
poor little heart so hungry for pleasure, there could be no bliss so
supreme as a ride in the village “Libraty Car”—to be one of the states,
preferably “Oregon!” To hear the music and hold a flag, and sit close to
little girls of her own age who would smile kindly at her and, perhaps,
even ask her name shyly, and take her home with them to see their dolls.

“Oh,” she cried, grasping the reins in her thin hands, “I’m all of a
tremble! Just like maw on wash days! Only I ain’t tired—I’m just glad.”

There were shifting groups of children in front of the school house.
Everything—even the white houses with their green blinds and neat
door-yards—seemed strange and over-powering to Esther. The buoyancy with
which she had surveyed the world from the back of a tall horse gave way
to sudden timidity and self-consciousness.

Mr. Hoover put her down in the midst of the children. “There, now,” he
said cheerfully, “play around with the little girls like a nice body
while I put up the horses.”

A terrible loneliness came upon Esther as she watched him leading away
the horses. All those merry children chattering and shouting, and not one
speaking to her or taking the slightest notice of her. She realized with
a suddenness that dazed her and blurred everything before her country
eyes that she was very, very different from them—why, every one of the
little girls was dressed in pure, soft white, with a beautiful sash and
bows; all wore pretty slippers. There was not one copper-toed shoe among
them!

Her heart came up into her thin, little throat and beat and beat there.
She wished that she might sit down and hide her shoes, but then the dress
was just as bad. _That_ couldn’t be hidden. So she stood awkwardly in
their midst, stiff and motionless, with a look in her eyes that ought to
have touched somebody’s heart.

Then the “Liberty Car” came, drawn by six noble white horses decorated
with flags, ribbons and rosettes, and stepping out oh, so proudly in
perfect time with the village band. Esther forgot her buff calico dress
and her copper-toed shoes in the exquisite delight of that moment.

The little girls were placed in the car. Each carried a banner on which
was painted the name of a state. What graceful, dancing little bodies
they were, and how their feet twinkled and could not be quiet! When
“Oregon” went proudly by, Esther’s heart sank. She wondered which state
they would give to her.

The band stopped playing. All the girls were seated; somehow there seemed
to be no place left for another. Esther went forward bravely and set one
copper-toed shoe on the step of the car. The ladies in charge looked at
her; then, at each other.

“Hello, Country!” cried a boy’s shrill voice behind her suddenly. “My
stars! She thinks she’s goin’ in the car. What a jay!”

Esther stood as if petrified with her foot still on the step. She felt
that they were all looking at her. What terrible things human eyes can
be! A kind of terror took hold of her. She trembled. There seemed to be a
great stillness about her.

“Can’t I go?” she said to one of the ladies. Her heart was beating so
hard and so fast in her throat that her voice sounded far away to her.
“My paw knows Mr. Mallory, the store-keeper. We live down by the river
on the Nesley place. We’re poor, but my paw alwus pays his debts. I come
with Mr. Hoover; he’s gone to put up the horses.”

It was spoken—the poor little speech, at once passionate and despairing
as any prayer to God. Then it was that Esther learned that there are
silences which are harder to bear than the wildest tumult.

But presently one of the ladies said, very kindly—“Why, I am so sorry,
little girl, but you see—er—all the little girls who ride in the car
must—er—be dressed in white.”

Esther removed her foot heavily from the step and stood back.

“Oh, look!” cried “Oregon”, leaning from the car. “She wanted to ride
_in here_! In a yellow calico dress and copper-toed shoes!”

Then the band played, the horses pranced and tossed their heads, the
flags and banners floated on the breeze, and the beautiful car moved away.

Esther stood looking after it until she heard Mr. Hoover’s voice at her
side. “W’y, what a funny little girl! There the car’s gone, an’ she
didn’t go an’ git in it, after all! Did anybody ever see sech a funny
little girl? After gittin’ up so airly, an’ hurryin’ everybody so for
fear she’d be late, an’ a-talkin’ about ridin’ in the Libraty Car for
months—an’ then to go an’ not git in it after all!”

Esther turned with a bursting heart. She threw herself passionately into
his arms and hid her face on his breast.

“I want to go home,” she sobbed. “Oh, I want to go home!”



THE BLOW-OUT AT JENKINS’S GROCERY



THE BLOW-OUT AT JENKINS’S GROCERY


The hands of the big, round clock in Mr. Jenkins’s grocery store pointed
to eleven. Mr. Jenkins was tying a string around a paper bag containing a
dollar’s worth of sugar. He held one end of the string between his teeth.
His three clerks were going around the store with little stiff prances
of deference to the customers they were serving. It was the night before
Christmas. They were all so worn out that their attempts at smiles were
only painful contortions.

Mr. Jenkins looked at the clock. Then his eyes went in a hurried glance
of pity to a woman sitting on a high stool close to the window. Her feet
were drawn up on the top rung, and her thin shoulders stooped over her
chest. She had sunken cheeks and hollow eyes; her cheek-bones stood out
sharply.

For two hours she had sat there almost motionless. Three times she had
lifted her head and fixed a strained gaze upon Mr. Jenkins and asked,
“D’yuh want to shet up?” Each time, receiving an answer in the negative,
she had sunk back into the same attitude of brute-like waiting.

It was a wild night. The rain drove its long, slanting lances down the
window-panes. The wind howled around corners, banged loose shutters,
creaked swinging sign-boards to and fro, and vexed the telephone wires
to shrill, continuous screaming. Fierce gusts swept in when the door was
opened.

Christmas shoppers came and went. The woman saw nothing inside the store.
Her eyes were set on the doors of a brightly lighted saloon across the
street.

It was a small, new “boom” town on Puget Sound. There was a saloon on
every corner, and a brass band in every saloon. The “establishment”
opposite was having its “opening” that night. “At home” cards in square
envelopes had been sent out to desirable patrons during the previous
week. That day, during an hour’s sunshine, a yellow chariot, drawn by six
cream-colored horses with snow-white manes and tails, had gone slowly
through the streets, bearing the members of the band clad in white and
gold. It was followed by three open carriages, gay with the actresses who
were to dance and sing that night on the stage in the rear of the saloon.
All had yellow hair and were dressed in yellow with white silk sashes,
and white ostrich plumes falling to their shoulders. It was a gorgeous
procession, and it “drew.”

The woman lived out in the Grand View addition. The addition consisted
mainly of cabins built of “shakes” and charred stumps. The grand view was
to come some ten or twenty years later on, when the forests surrounding
the addition had taken their departure. It was a full mile from the store.

She had walked in with her husband through the rain and slush after
putting six small children to bed. They were very poor. Her husband was
shiftless. It was whispered of them by their neighbors that they couldn’t
get credit for “two bits” except at the saloons.

A relative had sent the woman ten dollars for a Christmas gift. She had
gone wild with joy. Ten dollars! It was wealth. For once the children
should have a real Christmas—a good dinner, toys, candy! Of all things,
there should be a wax doll for the little girl who had cried for one
every Christmas, and never even had one in her arms. Just for this one
time they should be happy—like other children; and she should be happy in
their happiness—like other mothers. What did it matter that she had only
two calico dresses and one pair of shoes, half-soled at that, and capped
across the toes?

Her husband had entered into her childish joy. He was kind and
affectionate—when he was sober. That was why she had never had the heart
to leave him. He was one of those men who are always needing, pleading
for—and, alas receiving—forgiveness; one of those men whom their women
love passionately and cling to forever.

He promised her solemnly that he would not drink a drop that Christmas—so
solemnly that she believed him. He had helped her to wash the dishes and
put the children to bed. And he had kissed her.

Her face had been radiant when they came into Mr. Jenkins’s store. That
poor, gray face with its sunken cheeks and eyes! They bought a turkey—and
with what anxious care she had selected it, testing its tenderness,
balancing it on her bony hands, examining the scales with keen, narrowed
eyes when it was weighed; and a quart of cranberries, a can of mince meat
and a can of plum pudding, a head of celery, a pint of Olympia oysters,
candy, nuts—and then the toys! She trembled with eagerness. Her husband
stood watching her, smiling good-humoredly, his hands in his pockets. Mr.
Jenkins indulged in some serious speculation as to where the money was
coming from to pay for all this “blow-out”. He set his lips together and
resolved that the “blow-out” should not leave the store, under any amount
of promises, until the cash paying for it was in his cash-drawer.

Suddenly the band began to play across the street. The man threw up his
head like an old war-horse at the sound of a bugle note. A fire came
into his eyes; into his face a flush of excitement. He walked down to
the window and stood looking out, jingling some keys in his pocket. He
breathed quickly.

After a few moments he went back to his wife. Mr. Jenkins had stepped
away to speak to another customer.

“Say, Molly, old girl,” he said affectionately, without looking at her,
“yuh can spare me enough out o’ that tenner to git a plug o’ tobaccer for
Christmas, can’t yuh?”

“W’y—I guess so,” said she slowly. The first cloud fell on her happy face.

“Well, jest let me have it, an’ I’ll run out an’ be back before yuh’re
ready to pay for these here things. I’ll only git two bits’ worth.”

She turned very pale.

“Can’t yuh git it here, Mart?”

“No,” he said in a whisper; “his’n ain’t fit to chew. I’ll be right back,
Molly—honest.”

She stood motionless, her eyes cast down, thinking. If she refused, he
would be angry and remain away from home all the next day to pay her
for the insult. If she gave it to him—well, she would have to take the
chances. But oh, her hand shook as she drew the small gold piece from her
shabby purse and reached it to him. His big, warm hand closed over it.

She looked up at him. Her eyes spoke the passionate prayer that her lips
could not utter.

“Don’t stay long, Mart,” she whispered, not daring to say more.

“I won’t, Molly,” he whispered back. “I’ll hurry up. Git anything yuh
want.”

She finished her poor shopping. Mr. Jenkins wrapped everything up neatly.
Then he rubbed his hands together and looked at her, and said: “Well,
there now, Mis’ Dupen.”

“I—jest lay ’em all together there on the counter,” she said
hesitatingly. “I’ll have to wait till Mart comes back before I can pay
yuh.”

“I see him go into the saloon over there,” piped out the errand boy
shrilly.

At the end of half an hour she climbed upon the high stool and fixed her
eyes upon the saloon opposite and sat there.

She saw nothing but the glare of those windows and the light streaming
out when the doors opened. She heard nothing but the torturing blare of
the music. After awhile something commenced beating painfully in her
throat and temples. Her limbs grew stiff—she was scarcely conscious that
they ached. Once she shuddered strongly, as dogs do when they lie in the
cold, waiting.

At twelve o’clock Mr. Jenkins touched her kindly on the arm. She looked
up with a start. Her face was gray and old; her eyes were almost wild in
their strained despair.

“I guess I’ll have to shet up now, Mis’ Dupen,” he said apologetically.
“I’m sorry—”

She got down from the stool at once. “I can’t take them things,” she
said, almost whispering. “I hate to of put yuh to all that trouble of
doin’ ’em up. I thought—but I can’t take ’em. I hope yuh won’t mind—very
much.” Her bony fingers twisted together under her thin shawl.

“Oh, that’s all right,” said Mr. Jenkins in an embarrassed way. She moved
stiffly to the door. He put out the lights and followed her. He felt
mean, somehow. For one second he hesitated, then he locked the door, and
gave it a shake to make sure that it was all right.

“Well,” he said, “good night. I wish you a mer—”

“Good night,” said the woman. She was turning away when the doors of the
saloon opened for two or three men to enter. The music, which had ceased
for a few minutes, struck up another air—a familiar air.

She burst suddenly into wild and terrible laughter. “Oh, my Lord,” she
cried out, “they’re a-playin’ ‘Home, Sweet Home!’ _In there!_ Oh, my
Lord! _Wouldn’t that kill yuh!_”



THE TAKIN’ IN OF OLD MIS’ LANE



THE TAKIN’ IN OF OLD MIS’ LANE


“Huhy! Huhy! Pleg take that muley cow! Huhy!”

“What she doin’, maw?”

“Why, she’s just a-holdin’ her head over the bars, an’ a-bawlin’! Tryin’
to get into the little correll where her ca’f is! I wish paw ’d of done
as I told him an’ put her into the up meadow. If there’s anything on
earth I abominate it’s to hear a cow bawl.”

Mrs. Bridges gathered up several sticks of wood from the box in the
corner by the stove, and going out into the yard, threw them with
powerful movements of her bare arm in the direction of the bars. The
cow lowered her hornless head and shook it defiantly at her, but held
her ground. Isaphene stood in the open door, laughing. She was making a
cake. She beat the mixture with a long-handled tin spoon while watching
the fruitless attack. She had reddish brown hair that swept away from
her brow and temples in waves so deep you could have lost your finger in
any one of them; and good, honest gray eyes, and a mouth that was worth
kissing. She wore a blue cotton gown that looked as if it had just left
the ironing-table. Her sleeves were rolled to her elbows.

“It don’t do any good, maw,” she said, as her mother returned with a
defeated air. “She just bawls an’ shakes her head right in your face.
Look at her!”

“Oh, I don’t want to look at her. It seems to me your paw might of drove
her to the up meadow, seein’s he was goin’ right up by there. It ain’t
like as if he’d of had to go out o’ his way. It aggravates me offul.”

She threw the last stick of wood into the box, and brushed the tiny
splinters off her arm and sleeves.

“Well, I guess I might as well string them beans for dinner before I
clean up.”

She took a large milkpan, filled with beans, from the table and sat down
near the window.

“Isaphene,” she said, presently, “what do you say to an organ, an’ a
horse an’ buggy? A horse with some style about him, that you could ride
or drive, an’ that ’u’d always be up when you wanted to go to town!”

“What do I say?” The girl turned and looked at her mother as if she
feared one of them had lost her senses; then she returned to her
cake-beating with an air of good-natured disdain.

“Oh, you can smile an’ turn your head on one side, but you’ll whistle
another tune before long—or I’ll miss my guess. Isaphene, I’ve been
savin’ up chicken an’ butter money ever since we come to Puget Sound;
then I’ve always got the money for the strawberry crop, an’ for the geese
an’ turkeys, an’ the calves, an’ so on. Your paw’s been real good about
such things.”

“I don’t call it bein’ good,” said Isaphene. “Why shouldn’t he let you
have the money? You planted, an’ weeded, an’ picked the strawberries; an’
you fed an’ set the chickens, an’ gethered the eggs; an’ you’ve had all
the tendin’ of the geese an’ turkeys an’ calves—to say nothin’ of the
cows bawlin’ over the bars,” she added, with a sly laugh. “I’d say you
only had your rights when you get the money for such things.”

“Oh, yes, that’s fine talk.” Mrs. Bridges nodded her head with an air of
experience. “But it ain’t all men-folks that gives you your rights; so
when one does, I say he deserves credit.”

“Well, I wouldn’t claim anybody’d been good to me just because he give me
what I’d worked for an’ earned. Now, if he’d give you all the money from
the potato patch every year, or the hay meadow, or anything he’d done
all the workin’ with himself—I’d call that good in him. He never done
anything like that, did he?”

“No, he never,” replied Mrs. Bridges, testily. “An’ what’s more, he ain’t
likely to—nor any other man I know of! If you get a man that gives you
all you work for an’ earn, you’ll be lucky—with all your airs!”

“Well, I guess I’ll manage to get my rights, somehow,” said Isaphene,
beginning to butter the cake-pan.

“Somebody’s comin’!” exclaimed her mother, lowering her voice to a
mysterious whisper.

“Who is it?” Isaphene stood up straight, with that little quick beating
of mingled pleasure and dismay that the cry of company brings to country
hearts.

“I can’t see. I don’t want to be caught peepin’. I can see it’s a woman,
though; she’s just passin’ the row of hollyhocks. Can’t you stoop down
an’ peep? She won’t see you ’way over there by the table.”

Isaphene stooped and peered cautiously through the wild cucumber vines
that rioted over the kitchen window.

“Oh, it’s Mis’ Hanna!”

“My goodness! An’ the way this house looks! You’ll have to bring her out
here ’n the kitchen, too. I s’pose she’s come to spend the day—she’s got
her bag with her, ain’t she?”

“Yes. What’ll we have for dinner? I ain’t goin’ to cut this cake for her.
I want this for Sund’y.”

“Why, we’ve got corn beef to boil, an’ a head o’ cabbage; an’ these here
beans; an’, of course, potatoes; an’ watermelon perserves. An’ you can
make a custerd pie. I guess that’s a good enough dinner for her. There!
She’s knockin’. Open the door, can’t you? Well, if I ever! Look at that
grease-spot on the floor!”

“Well, I didn’t spill it.”

“Who did, then, missy?”

“Well, _I_ never.”

Isaphene went to the front door, returning presently with a tall, thin
lady.

“Here’s Mis’ Hanna, maw,” she said, with the air of having made a
pleasant discovery. Mrs. Bridges got up, greatly surprised, and shook
hands with her visitor with exaggerated delight.

“Well, I’ll declare! It’s really you, is it? At last! Well, set right
down an’ take off your things. Isaphene, take Mis’ Hanna’s things. My!
ain’t it warm, walkin’?”

“It is so.” The visitor gave her bonnet to Isaphene, dropping her black
mitts into it after rolling them carefully together. “But it’s always
nice an’ cool in your kitchen.” Her eyes wandered about with a look of
unabashed curiosity that took in everything. “I brought my crochet with
me.”

“I’m glad you did. You’ll have to excuse the looks o’ things. Any news?”

“None perticular.” Mrs. Hanna began to crochet, holding the work close
to her face. “Ain’t it too bad about poor, old Mis’ Lane?”

“What about her?” Mrs. Bridges snapped a bean-pod into three pieces, and
looked at her visitor with a kind of pleased expectancy—as if almost any
news, however dreadful, would be welcome as a relief to the monotony of
existence. “Is she dead?”

“No, she ain’t dead; but the poor, old creature ’d better be. She’s got
to go to the poor-farm, after all.”

There was silence in the big kitchen, save for the rasp of the crochet
needle through the wool and the snapping of the beans. A soft wind came
in the window and drummed with the lightest of touches on Mrs. Bridges’s
temples. It brought all the sweets of the old-fashioned flower-garden
with it—the mingled breaths of mignonette, stock, sweet lavender, sweet
peas and clove pinks. The whole kitchen was filled with the fragrance.
And what a big, cheerful kitchen it was! Mrs. Bridges contrasted it
unconsciously with the poor-farm kitchen, and almost shivered, warm
though the day was.

“What’s her childern about?” she asked, sharply.

“Oh, her childern!” replied Mrs. Hanna, with a contemptuous air. “What
does her childern amount to, I’d like to know.”

“Her son’s got a good, comf’table house an’ farm.”

“Well, what if he has? He got it with his wife, didn’t he? An’ M’lissy
won’t let his poor, old mother set foot inside the house! I don’t say she
is a pleasant body to have about—she’s cross an’ sick most all the time,
an’ childish. But that ain’t sayin’ her childern oughtn’t to put up with
her disagreeableness.”

“She’s got a married daughter, ain’t she?”

“Yes, she’s got a married daughter.” Mrs. Hanna closed her lips tightly
together and looked as if she might say something, if she chose, that
would create a sensation.

“Well, ain’t she got a good enough home to keep her mother in?”

“Yes, she has. But she got _her_ home along with her husband, an’ he
won’t have the old soul any more ’n M’lissy would.”

There was another silence. Isaphene had put the cake in the oven. She
knelt on the floor and opened the door very softly now and then, to see
that it was not browning too fast. The heat of the oven had crimsoned her
face and arms.

“Guess you’d best put a piece o’ paper on top o’ that cake,” said her
mother. “It smells kind o’ burny like.”

“It’s all right, maw.”

Mrs. Bridges looked out the window.

“Ain’t my flowers doin’ well, though, Mis’ Hanna?”

“They are that. When I come up the walk I couldn’t help thinkin’ of poor,
old Mis’ Lane.”

“What’s that got to do with her?” Resentment bristled in Mrs. Bridges’s
tone and look.

Mrs. Hanna stopped crocheting, but held her hands stationary, almost
level with her eyes, and looked over them in surprise at her questioner.

“Why, she ust to live here, you know.”

“She did! In this house?”

“Why, yes. Didn’t you know that? Oh, they ust to be right well off in
her husband’s time. I visited here consid’rable. My! the good things she
always had to eat. I can taste ’em yet.”

“Hunh! I’m sorry I can’t give you as good as she did,” said Mrs. Bridges,
stiffly.

“Well, as if you didn’t! You set a beautiful table, Mis’ Bridges, an’,
what’s more, that’s your reputation all over. Everybody says that about
you.”

Mrs. Bridges smiled deprecatingly, with a slight blush of pleasure.

“They do, Mis’ Bridges. I just told you about Mis’ Lane because you’d
never think it now of the poor, old creature. An’ such flowers as she
ust to have on both sides that walk! Lark-spurs, an’ sweet-williams, an’
bach’lor’s-buttons, an’ mournin’-widows, an’ pumgranates, an’ all kinds.
Guess you didn’t know she set out that pink cabbage-rose at the north end
o’ the front porch, did you? An’ that hop-vine that you’ve got trained
over your parlor window—set that out, too. An’ that row o’ young alders
between here an’ the barn—she set ’em all out with her own hands; dug the
holes herself, an’ all. It’s funny she never told you she lived here.”

“Yes, it is,” said Mrs. Bridges, slowly and thoughtfully.

“It’s a wonder to me she never broke down an’ cried when she was visitin’
here. She can’t so much as mention the place without cryin’.”

A dull red came into Mrs. Bridges’s face.

“She never visited here.”

“Never visited here!” Mrs. Hanna laid her crochet and her hands in her
lap, and stared. “Why, she visited ev’rywhere. That’s how she managed
to keep out o’ the poor-house so long. Ev’rybody was reel consid’rate
about invitin’ her. But I expect she didn’t like to come here because she
thought so much o’ the place.”

Isaphene looked over her shoulder at her mother, but the look was not
returned. The beans were sputtering nervously into the pan.

“Ain’t you got about enough, maw?” she said. “That pan seems to be
gettin’ hefty.”

“Yes, I guess.” She got up, brushing the strings off her apron, and set
the pan on the table. “I’ll watch the cake now, Isaphene. You put the
beans on in the pot to boil. Put a piece o’ that salt pork in with ’em.
Better get ’em on right away. It’s pretty near eleven. Ain’t this oven
too hot with the door shet?”

Then the pleasant preparations for dinner went on. The beans soon
commenced to boil, and an appetizing odor floated through the kitchen.
The potatoes were pared—big, white fellows, smooth and long—with a sharp,
thin knife, round and round and round, each without a break until the
whole paring had curled itself about Isaphene’s pretty arm almost to the
elbow. The cabbage was chopped finely for the cold-slaw, and the vinegar
and butter set on the stove in a saucepan to heat. Then Mrs. Bridges
“set” the table, covering it first with a red cloth having a white border
and fringe. In the middle of the table she placed an uncommonly large,
six-bottled caster.

“I guess you’ll excuse a red tablecloth, Mis’ Hanna. The men-folks get
their shirt-sleeves so dirty out in the fields that you can’t keep a
white one clean no time.”

“I use red ones myself most of the time,” replied Mrs. Hanna, crocheting
industriously. “It saves washin’. I guess poor Mis’ Lane’ll have to see
the old place after all these years, whether she wants or not. They’ll
take her right past here to the poor-farm.”

Mrs. Bridges set on the table a white plate holding a big square of
yellow butter, and stood looking through the open door, down the path
with its tall hollyhocks and scarlet poppies on both sides. Between the
house and the barn some wild mustard had grown, thick and tall, and was
now drifting, like a golden cloud, against the pale blue sky. Butterflies
were throbbing through the air, and grasshoppers were crackling
everywhere. It was all very pleasant and peaceful; while the comfortable
house and barns, the wide fields stretching away to the forest, and
the cattle feeding on the hillside added an appearance of prosperity.
Mrs. Bridges wondered how she herself would feel—after having loved the
place—riding by to the poor-farm. Then she pulled herself together and
said, sharply:

“I’m afraid you feel a draught, Mis’ Hanna, a-settin’ so clost to the
door.”

“Oh, my, no; I like it. I like lots o’ fresh air. Can’t get it any too
fresh for me. If I didn’t have six childern an’ my own mother to keep,
I’d take her myself.”

“Take who?” Mrs. Bridges’s voice rasped as she asked the question.
Isaphene paused on her way to the pantry, and looked at Mrs. Hanna with
deeply thoughtful eyes.

“Why, Mis’ Lane—who else?—before I’d let her go to the poor-farm.”

“Well, I think her childern ought to be _made_ to take care of her!” Mrs.
Bridges went on setting the table with brisk, angry movements. “That’s
what I think about it. The law ought to take holt of it.”

“Well, you see the law _has_ took holt of it,” said Mrs. Hanna, with
a grim smile. “It seems a shame that there ain’t somebody in the
neighborhood that ’u’d take her in. She ain’t much expense, but a good
deal o’ trouble. She’s sick, in an’ out o’ bed, nigh onto all the time.
My opinion is she’s been soured by all her troubles; an’ that if somebody
’u’d only take her in an’ be kind to her, her temper’ment ’u’d emprove
up wonderful. She’s always mighty grateful for ev’ry little chore you do
her. It just makes my heart ache to think o’ her a-havin’ to go to the
poor-house!”

Mrs. Bridges lifted her head; all the softness and irresolution went out
of her face.

“Well, I’m sorry for her,” she said, with an air of dismissing a
disagreeable subject; “but the world’s full o’ troubles, an’ if you
cried over all o’ them you’d be a-cryin’ all the time. Isaphene, you
go out an’ blow that dinner-horn. I see the men-folks ’av’ got the
horses about foddered. What did you do?” she cried out, sharply. “Drop a
smoothin’-iron on your hand? Well, my goodness! Why don’t you keep your
eyes about you? You’ll go an’ get a cancer yet!”

“I’m thinkin’ about buyin’ a horse an’ buggy,” she announced, with stern
triumph, when the girl had gone out. “An’ an organ. Isaphene’s been
wantin’ one most offul. I’ve give up her paw’s ever gettin’ her one.
First a new harrow, an’ then a paten’ rake, an’ then a seed-drill—an’
then my mercy”—imitating a masculine voice—“he ain’t got any money left
for silliness! But I’ve got some laid by. I’d like to see his eyes when
he comes home an’ finds a bran new buggy with a top an’ all, an’ a horse
that he can’t hetch to a plow, no matter how bad he wants to! I ain’t
sure but I’ll get a phaeton.”

“They ain’t so strong, but they’re handy to get in an’ out of—’specially
for old, trembly knees.”

“I ain’t so old that I’m trembly!”

“Oh, my—no,” said Mrs. Hanna, with a little start. “I was just thinkin’
mebbe sometimes you’d go out to the poor-farm an’ take poor, old Mis’
Lane for a little ride. It ain’t more’n five miles from here, is it? She
ust to have a horse an’ buggy o’ her own. Somehow, I can’t get her off
o’ my mind at all to-day. I just heard about her as I was a-startin’ for
your house.”

The men came to the house. They paused on the back porch to clean their
boots on the scraper and wash their hands and faces with water dipped
from the rain-barrel. Their faces shone like brown marble when they came
in.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was five o’clock when Mrs. Hanna, with a sigh, began rolling the lace
she had crocheted around the spool, preparatory to taking her departure.

“Well,” she said, “I must go. I had no idy it was so late. How the
time does go, a-talkin’. I’ve had a right nice time. Just see how well
I’ve done—crocheted full a yard since dinner-time! My! how pretty that
hop-vine looks. It makes awful nice shade, too. I guess when Mis’ Lane
planted it she thought she’d be settin’ under it herself to-day—she took
such pleasure in it.”

The ladies were sitting on the front porch. It was cool and fragrant
out there. The shadow of the house reached almost to the gate now. The
bees had been drinking too many sweets—greedy fellows!—and were lying in
the red poppies, droning stupidly. A soft wind was blowing from Puget
Sound and turning over the clover leaves, making here a billow of dark
green and there one of light green; it was setting loose the perfume of
the blossoms, too, and sifting silken thistle-needles through the air.
Along the fence was a hedge, eight feet high, of the beautiful ferns
that grow luxuriantly in western Washington. The pasture across the lane
was a tangle of royal color, being massed in with golden-rod, fire-weed,
steeple-bush, yarrow, and large field-daisies; the cotton-woods that
lined the creek at the side of the house were snowing. Here and there the
sweet twin-sister of the steeple-bush lifted her pale and fluffy plumes;
and there was one lovely, lavender company of wild asters.

Mrs. Bridges arose and followed her guest into the spare bedroom.

“When they goin’ to take her to the poor-farm?” she asked, abruptly.

“Day after to-morrow. Ain’t it awful? It just makes me sick. I couldn’t
of eat a bite o’ dinner if I’d stayed at home, just for thinkin’ about
it. They say the poor, old creature ain’t done nothin’ but cry an’ moan
ever since she knowed she’d got to go.”

“Here’s your bag,” said Mrs. Bridges. “Do you want I should tie your
veil?”

“No, thanks; I guess I won’t put it on. If I didn’t have such a big
fam’ly an’ my own mother to keep, I’d take her in myself before I’d see
her go to the poor-house. If I had a small fam’ly an’ plenty o’ room, I
declare my conscience wouldn’t let me sleep nights.”

A deep red glow spread over Mrs. Bridges’s face.

“Well, I guess you needn’t to keep a-hintin’ for me to take her,” she
said, sharply.

“_You!_” Mrs. Hanna uttered the word in a tone that was an unintentional
insult; in fact, Mrs. Bridges affirmed afterward that her look of
astonishment, and, for that matter, her whole air of dazed incredulity
were insulting. “I never once thought o’ _you_,” she said, with an
earnestness that could not be doubted.

“Why not o’ me?” demanded Mrs. Bridges, showing something of her
resentment. “What you been talkin’ an’ harpin’ about her all day for, if
you wasn’t hintin’ for me to take her in?”

“I never thought o’ such a thing,” repeated her visitor, still looking
rather helplessly dazed. “I talked about it because it was on my mind,
heavy, too; an’, I guess, because I wanted to talk my conscience down.”

Mrs. Bridges cooled off a little and folded her hands over the bedpost.

“Well, if you wasn’t hintin’,” she said, in a conciliatory tone, “it’s
all right. You kep’ harpin’ on the same string till I thought you was;
an’ it riles me offul to be hinted at. I’ll take anything right out to
my face, so’s I can answer it, but I won’t be hinted at. But why”—having
rid herself of the grievance she at once swung around to the insult—“why
_didn’t_ you think o’ me?”

Mrs. Hanna cleared her throat and began to unroll her mitts.

“Well, I don’t know just why,” she replied, helplessly. She drew the
mitts on, smoothing them well up over her thin wrists. “I don’t know why,
I’m sure. I’d thought o’ most ev’rybody in the neighborhood—but you never
come into my head _onct_. I was as innocent o’ hintin’ as a babe unborn.”

Mrs. Bridges drew a long breath noiselessly.

“Well,” she said, absent-mindedly, “come again, Mis’ Hanna. An’ be sure
you always fetch your work an’ stay the afternoon.”

“Well, I will. But it’s your turn to come now. Where’s Isaphene?”

“I guess she’s makin’ a fire ’n the cook-stove to get supper by.”

“Well, tell her to come over an’ stay all night with Julia some night.”

“Well—I will.”

Mrs. Bridges went into the kitchen and sat down, rather heavily, in a
chair. Her face wore a puzzled expression.

“Isaphene, did you hear what we was a-sayin’ in the bedroom?”

“Yes, most of it, I guess.”

“Well, what do you s’pose was the reason she never thought o’ me
a-takin’ Mis’ Lane in? Says she’d thought o’ ev’rybody else.”

“Why, you never thought o’ takin’ her in yourself, did you?” said
Isaphene, turning down the damper of the stove with a clatter. “I don’t
see how anybody else ’u’d think of it when you didn’t yourself.”

“Well, don’t you think it was offul impadent in her to say that, anyhow?”

“No, I don’t. She told the truth.”

“Why ought they to think o’ ev’rybody takin’ her exceptin’ me, I’d like
to know.”

“Because ev’rybody else, I s’pose, has thought of it theirselves. The
neighbors have all been chippin’ in to help her for years. You never done
nothin’ for her, did you? You never invited her to visit here, did you?”

“No, I never. But that ain’t no sayin’ I wouldn’t take her as quick ’s
the rest of ’em. They ain’t none of ’em takin’ her in very fast, be they?”

“No, they ain’t,” said Isaphene, facing her mother with a steady look.
“They ain’t a one of ’em but ’s got their hands full—no spare room, an’
lots o’ childern or their folks to take care of.”

“Hunh!” said Mrs. Bridges. She began chopping cold boiled beef for hash.

“I don’t believe I’ll sleep to-night for thinkin’ about it,” she said,
after a while.

“I won’t neither, maw. I wish she wasn’t goin’ right by here.”

“So do I.”

After a long silence Mrs. Bridges said—“I don’t suppose your paw’d hear
to us a-takin’ her in.”

“I guess he’d hear to ’t if we would,” said Isaphene, dryly.

“Well, we can’t do’t; that’s all there is about it,” announced Mrs.
Bridges, with a great air of having made up her mind. Isaphene did not
reply. She was slicing potatoes to fry, and she seemed to agree silently
with her mother’s decision. Presently, however, Mrs. Bridges said, in a
less determined tone—“There’s no place to put her in, exceptin’ the spare
room—an’ we can’t get along without that, noways.”

“No,” said Isaphene, in a non-committal tone.

Mrs. Bridges stopped chopping and looked thoughtfully out of the door.

“There’s this room openin’ out o’ the kitchen,” she said, slowly. “It’s
nice an’ big an’ sunny. It ’u’d be handy ’n winter, bein’ right off o’
the kitchen. But it ain’t furnished up.”

“No,” said Isaphene, “it ain’t.”

“An’ I know your paw’d never furnish it.”

Isaphene laughed. “No, I guess not,” she said.

“Well, there’s no use a-thinkin’ about it, Isaphene; we just can’t take
her. Better get them potatoes on; I see the men-folks comin’ up to the
barn.”

The next morning after breakfast Isaphene said suddenly, as she stood
washing dishes—“Maw, I guess you’d better take the organ money an’
furnish up that room.”

Mrs. Bridges turned so sharply she dropped the turkey-wing with which she
was polishing the stove.

“You don’t never mean it,” she gasped.

“Yes, I do. I know we’d both feel better to take her in than to take in
an organ”—they both laughed rather foolishly at the poor joke. “You can
furnish the room real comf’table with what it ’u’d take to buy an organ;
an’ we can get the horse an’ buggy, too.”

“Oh, Isaphene, I’ve never meant but what you should have an organ. I know
you’d learn fast. You’d soon get so’s you could play ‘Lilly Dale’ an’
‘Hazel Dell;’ an’ you might get so’s you could play ‘General Persifer F.
Smith’s Grand March.’ No, I won’t never spend that money for nothin’ but
an organ—so you can just shet up about it.”

“I want a horse an’ buggy worse, maw,” said Isaphene, after a brief but
fierce struggle with the dearest desire of her heart. “We can get a horse
that I can ride, too. An’ we’ll get a phaeton, so’s we can take Mis’
Lane to church an’ around.” Then she added, with a regular masterpiece of
diplomacy—“We’ll show the neighbors that when we do take people in, we
take ’em in all over!”

“Oh, Isaphene,” said her mother, weakly, “wouldn’t it just astonish ’em!”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was ten o’clock of the following morning when Isaphene ran in and
announced that she heard wheels coming up the lane. Mrs. Bridges paled a
little and breathed quickly as she put on her bonnet and went out to the
gate.

A red spring-wagon was coming slowly toward her, drawn by a single, bony
horse. The driver was half asleep on the front seat. Behind, in a low
chair, sat old Mrs. Lane; she was stooping over, her elbows on her knees,
her gray head bowed.

Mrs. Bridges held up her hand, and the driver pulled in the unreluctant
horse.

“How d’you do, Mis’ Lane? I want that you should come in an’ visit me a
while.”

The old creature lifted her trembling head and looked at Mrs. Bridges;
then she saw the old house, half hidden by vines and flowers, and her dim
eyes filled with bitter tears.

“We ain’t got time to stop, ma’am,” said the driver, politely. “I’m a
takin’ her to the county,” he added, in a lower tone, but not so low that
the old woman did not hear.

“You’ll have to make time,” said Mrs. Bridges, bluntly. “You get down an’
help her out. You don’t have to wait. When I’m ready for her to go to the
county, I’ll take her myself.”

Not understanding in the least, but realizing, as he said afterwards,
that she “meant business” and wasn’t the kind to be fooled with, the man
obeyed with alacrity.

“Now, you lean all your heft on me,” said Mrs. Bridges, kindly. She put
her arm around the old woman and led her up the hollyhock path, and
through the house into the pleasant kitchen.

“Isaphene, you pull that big chair over here where it’s cool. Now, Mis’
Lane, you set right down an’ rest.”

Mrs. Lane wiped the tears from her face with an old cotton handkerchief.
She tried to speak, but the sobs had to be swallowed down too fast. At
last she said, in a choked voice—“It’s awful good in you—to let me see
the old place—once more. The Lord bless you—for it. But I’m most sorry I
stopped—seems now as if I—just _couldn’t_ go on.”

“Well, you ain’t goin’ on,” said Mrs. Bridges, while Isaphene went to
the door and stood looking toward the hill with drowned eyes. “This is
our little joke—Isaphene’s an’ mine. This’ll be your home as long as
it’s our’n. An’ you’re goin’ to have this nice big room right off o’ the
kitchen, as soon ’s we can furnish it up. An’ we’re goin’ to get a horse
an’ buggy—a _low_ buggy, so’s you can get in an’ out easy like—an’ take
you to church an’ all around.”

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, after Mrs. Bridges had put Mrs. Lane to bed and said
good-night to her, she went out on the front porch and sat down; but
presently, remembering that she had not put a candle in the room, she
went back, opening the door noiselessly, not to disturb her. Then she
stood perfectly still. The old creature had got out of bed and was
kneeling beside it, her face buried in her hands.

“Oh, Lord God,” she was saying aloud, “bless these kind people—bless ’em,
oh, Lord God! Hear a poor, old mis’rable soul’s prayer, an’ bless ’em!
An’ if they’ve ever done a sinful thing, oh, Lord God, forgive ’em for
it, because they’ve kep’ me out o’ the poor-house—”

Mrs. Bridges closed the door, and stood sobbing as if her heart must
break.

“What’s the matter, maw?” said Isaphene, coming up suddenly.

“Never you mind what’s the matter,” said her mother, sharply, to conceal
her emotion. “You get to bed, an’ don’t bother your head about what’s the
matter of me.”

Then she went down the hall and entered her own room; and Isaphene heard
the key turned in the lock.



THE MANEUVERING OF MRS. SYBERT



THE MANEUVERING OF MRS. SYBERT


“Why, mother, where are you a-goin’, all dressed up so?”

Mr. Sybert stood in the bedroom door and stared at his wife’s ample back.
There was a look of surprise in his blue eyes. Mrs. Sybert stooped before
the bureau, and opened the middle drawer, taking hold of both handles and
watching it carefully as she drew it toward her. Sometimes it came out
crookedly; and every one knows that a drawer that opens crookedly, will,
in time, strain and rub the best bureau ever made. From a red pasteboard
box that had the picture of a pretty actress on the cover, Mrs. Sybert
took a linen handkerchief that had been ironed until it shone like
satin. After smoothing an imaginary wrinkle out of it, she put it into
her pocket, set her bonnet a little further over her forehead, pushing
a stray lock sternly where it belonged, adjusted her bonnet-strings,
which were so wide and so stiff that they pressed her ears away from her
head, giving her a bristling appearance, and buttoned her gloves with a
hair-pin; then, having gained time and decided upon a reply, she said,
cheerfully, “What’s that, father?”

“Well, it took you a right smart spell to answer, didn’t it? I say, where
are you a-goin’, all dressed up so?”

Mrs. Sybert took her black silk bag with round spots brocaded upon it,
and put its ribbons leisurely over her arm. “I’m a-goin’ to see Mis’
Nesley,” she said.

Her husband’s face reddened. “What’s that you say, mother? You’re a-goin’
to do _what_? I reckon I’m a-goin’ a little deef.”

“I’m a-goin’ to see Mis’ Nesley.” Mrs. Sybert spoke calmly. No one would
have suspected that she was reproaching herself for not getting out of
the house ten minutes sooner. “He never’d ’a’ heard a thing about it,”
she was thinking; but she looked straight into his eyes. Her eyelids did
not quiver.

The red in Mr. Sybert’s face deepened. He stood in the door, so she could
not pass. Indeed, she did not try. Mrs. Sybert had not studied signs for
nothing during the thirty years she had been a wife. “I reckon you’re
a-foolin’, mother,” he said. “Just up to some o’ your devilment!”

“No, I ain’t up to no devilment, father,” she said, still calmly. “You’d
best let me by, now, so’s I can go; it’s half after two.”

“D’ you mean to say that you’re a-ne’rnest? A-talkin’ about goin’ to see
that _hussy_ of a Mis’ Nesley?”

“Yes, I’m a-ne’rnest,” said Mrs. Sybert, firmly. “She ain’t a hussy, as I
know of. What you got agin ’er, I’d like to know?”

“_I_ ain’t got anything agin ’er. Now, what’s the sense o’ you’re
a-pretendin’ you don’t know the talk about ’er, mother?” Mr. Sybert’s
tone had changed slightly. He did not like the poise of his wife’s body;
it bespoke determination—a fight to the finish if necessary. “You know
she’s be’n the town talk fer five years. Your own tawngue hez run on
about ’er like’s if ’t was split in the middle an’ loose at both en’s.
There wa’n’t a woman in town that spoke to ’er”——

“There was men, though, that did,” said Mrs. Sybert, calmly. “I rec’lect
bein’ in at Mis’ Carney’s one day, an’ seein’ you meet ’er opposite an’
take off your hat to ’er—bowin’ an’ scrapin’ right scrumptious like.”

Mr. Sybert changed his position uneasily, and cleared his throat. “Well,
that’s diff’rent,” he said. “I ust to know ’er before ’er husband died”——

“Well, I ust to know ’er, then, too,” said Mrs. Sybert, quietly.

“Well, you hed to stop speakin’ to ’er after she got to actin’ up so, but
it wa’n’t so easy fer me to stop biddin’ ’er the time o’ day.”

“Why not?” said Mrs. Sybert, stolidly.

“Why not!” repeated her husband, loudly; he was losing his temper.
“What’s the sense o’ your actin’ the fool so, mother? Why, if I’d ’a’ set
myself up as bein’ too virtjus to speak to ’er ev’ry man in town ’u’d ’a’
be’n blagg’ardin’ me about bein’ so mighty good!”

“Why _sh’u’dn’t_ you be so mighty good, father? You expect me to be, I
notice.”

Mr. Sybert choked two or three times. His face was growing purplish.

“Oh, _damn_!” he burst out. Then he looked frightened. “Now, see here,
mother! You’re aggravatin’ me awful. You know as well as me that men
ain’t expected to be as good all their lives as women”——

“Why ain’t they expected to?” Mrs. Sybert’s tone and look were stern.

“I don’t know why they ain’t, mother, but I know they _ain’t_ expected
to—an’ I know they ain’t as _good_, ’ither.” This last was a fine bit of
diplomacy. But it was wasted.

“They ain’t as good, aigh? Well, the reason they ain’t as good is just
because they ain’t expected to be! That’s just the reason. You can’t get
around that, can you, father?”

Evidently he could not.

“An’ now,” continued Mrs. Sybert, “that she’s up an’ married Mr. Nesley
an’ wants to live a right life, I’m a-goin’ to see her.”

“How d’you know she wants to live a right life?”

“I don’t know it, father. I just _reckon_ she does. When you wanted I
sh’u’d marry you, my father shook his head, an’ says—‘Lucindy, I do’ know
what to say. John’s be’n a mighty fast young fello’ to give a good girl
to fer the askin’,’ but I says—‘Well, father, I reckon he wants to start
in an’ live a right life now.’ An’ so I reckon that about Mis’ Nesley.”

“God A’mighty, mother!” exclaimed Mr. Sybert, violently. “That’s
diff’rent. Them things ain’t counted the same in men. Most all men
nowadays sow their wild oats an’ then settle down, an’ ain’t none the
worse for it. It just helps ’em to appreciate good women, an’ to make
good husbands.”

“Well, I reckon Mis’ Nesley knows how to appreciate a good man by this
time,” said Mrs. Sybert, with unintentional irony. “I reckon she’s got
all her wild oats sowed, an’ is ready to settle down an’ make a good
wife. So I’m goin’ to see ’er. Let me by, father. I’ve fooled a ha’f an
hour away now, when I’d ort to ’a’ be’n on the road there.”

“Now, see here, mother. You ain’t goin’ a step. The whole town’s excited
over a nice man like Mr. Nesley a-throwin’ hisself away on a no-account
woman like her, an’ you sha’n’t be seen a-goin’ there an’ upholdin’ her.”

Mrs. Sybert looked long and steadily into her husband’s eyes. It was
her policy to fight until she began to lose ground, and then to quietly
turn her forces to maneuvering. “I reckon,” she was now reflecting; “it’s
about time to begin maneuv’rin’.”

“Well, father,” she said, mildly; “I’ve made up my mind to go an’ see
Mis’ Nesley an’ encourage her same’s I w’u’d any man that wanted to live
better. An’ I’m a-goin’.”

“You _ain’t_ a-goin’!” thundered Mr. Sybert. “I forbid you to budge a
step! You sha’n’t disgrace yourself, Mrs. Sybert, if you do want to,
while you’re my wife!”

Mrs. Sybert untied her bonnet strings, and laid her bag on the foot of
the bed. “All right, father,” she said, “I won’t go till you tell me I
can. I always hev tried to do just as you wanted I sh’u’d.”

She went into another room to take off her best dress. Mr. Sybert stood
staring after her, speechless. He had the dazed look of a cat that
falls from a great height and alights, uninjured, upon its feet. The
maneuvering had commenced.

Mr. Sybert spent the afternoon at the postoffice grocery store. It was
a pleasant place to sit. There was always a cheerful fire in the rusty
box-stove in the back room, and there were barrels and odds and ends
of chairs scattered around, whereon men who had an hour to squander
might sit and talk over the latest scandal. Men, as it is well known,
are above the petty gossip as to servants and best gowns which women
enjoy; but, without scruple or conscience, they will talk away a woman’s
character, even when they see her struggling to live down a misfortune or
sin and begin a new life. There are many characters talked away in the
back rooms of grocery stores.

It was six o’clock when he went home. As he went along the narrow plank
walk, he thought of the good supper that would be awaiting him, and his
heart softened to “mother.”

“I reckon I was too set,” he reflected. “There ain’t many women as good
an’ faithful as mother. I don’t see what got it into her head to go to
see that Mis’ Nesley—an’ to talk up so to me. She never done that afore.”

The door was locked. In surprise he fumbled about in the dark for the
seventh flower-pot in the third row, where mother always hid the key.
Yes, it was there. But his knees shook a little as he entered the house.
He could not remember that he had ever found her absent at supper time
since the children were married. Some of the neighbors must be sick. In
that case she would have left a note; and he lighted the kitchen candle,
and searched for it. It was pinned to a cushion on the bureau in the
bedroom. The house was cold, but he did not wait to kindle a fire. He
sat down by the bureau, and with fingers somewhat clumsier than usual,
adjusted his spectacles over his high, thin nose. Then, leaning close to
the candle, he read the letter, the composition of which must have given
“mother” some anxious hours. It was written with painful precision.

    “DEAR FATHER: You will find the coald meat in the safe out on
    the back porch in the stun crock covered up with a pie pan. The
    apple butter is in the big peory jar down in the seller with
    a plate and napkeen tied over it. Put them back on when you
    get some out so the ants wont get into. There’s a punkin pie
    on the bottom shelf of the pantree to the right side of the
    door as you go in, and some coffy in the mill all ground. I’m
    offul sorry I hadent time to fix supper. I hev gone to Johns
    and Marias to stay tell you come after me and I don’t want that
    you shud come tell you change your mind bout Mis Nesley, if it
    takes till dumesday to change it. I aint never gone against you
    in anythin before, but I haf to this time. Im goin to stay at
    Johns and Marias tell you come of yourself and get me. You dont
    haf to say nothin before John and Maria except just well mother
    Ive come after you. Then I’ll know you meen I can go and see
    Mis Nesley.

    “Well father I reckon youll be surprised but Ive been thinkin
    bout that poor woman and us not givin her a chanse after what
    Christ said bout castin the first stun. He didnt make no
    difrence between mens and womens sins and I dont perpose to.
    There aint a woman alive thats worse than haff the men are when
    they conclud to settle down and live right and if you give men
    a chanse youve got to give women a chanse too. They both got
    soles an I reckon thats what Gods thinkin bout. I married you
    and give you a chanse and I reckon youd best do as much fer Mis
    Nesley.

    “If you dont come fer me Ill live at Johns and Marias and I
    want that you shud keep all the things but the hit and miss rag
    carpet. I dont think I cud get along without that. Marias are
    all wove in stripes and look so comon. And my cloze and one
    fether bed and pillow. Well thats all.

                                                          “MOTHER.”

    “I laid out your clean undercloze on the foot of the bed and
    your sox with them.”

One fine afternoon the following week Mrs. Sybert, looking through the
geraniums in Maria’s kitchen window, saw her husband drive up to the
gate. She did not look surprised.

“Here’s father come to get me, Maria,” she said, lifting her voice.

Maria came out of the pantry with flour on her hands and arms and stood
waiting. Mr. Sybert came in, stamping, and holding his head high and
stiffly. He had a lofty and condescending air.

“Well, mother,” he said, “I’ve come after you.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Sybert, “set down till I get on my things. I’ve had
a right nice vis’t, but I’m glad to get home. Did you find the apple
butter?”

On the road home Mrs. Sybert talked cheerfully about John and Maria and
their domestic affairs. Mr. Sybert listened silently. He held his body
erect, looking neither to the right nor to the left. He did not speak
until they approached Mr. Nesley’s gate. Then he said, with firmness and
dignity:

“Mother, I’ve b’en thinkin’ that you’d best go an’ see Mis’ Nesley, after
all. I changed my mind down at the postoffice groc’ry store that same
afternoon an’ went home, meanin’ to tell you I wanted you sh’u’d go an’
see ’er—but you was gone to John’s an’ Maria’s. I reckon you’d best stop
right now an’ have it over.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Sybert.

She descended meekly over the front wheel. There was not the slightest
air of triumph about her until she got inside the gate. Then a smile went
slowly across her face. But her husband did not see it. He was looking
out of the corners of his eyes at the house across the road. Mrs. Deacon,
the druggist’s wife, and all her children had their faces flattened
against the window.

Mr. Sybert’s determination kept his head high, but not his spirit.

“God A’mighty!” he groaned. “The whole town’ll know it to-morrow. I’d
rather die than face that groc’ry store—after the way I’ve went on about
people upholdin’ of her!”



A POINT OF KNUCKLING-DOWN



A POINT OF KNUCKLING-DOWN

IN THREE PARTS


PART I

Emarine went along the narrow hall and passed through the open door.
There was something in her carriage that suggested stubbornness. Her
small body had a natural backward sway, and the decision with which she
set her heels upon the floor had long ago caused the readers of character
in the village to aver that “Emarine Endey was contrairier than any mule.”

She wore a brown dress, a gray shawl folded primly around her shoulders,
and a hat that tried in vain to make her small face plain. There was a
frill of white, cheap lace at her slender throat, fastened in front with
a cherry ribbon. Heavy gold earrings with long, shining pendants reached
almost to her shoulders. They quivered and glittered with every movement.

Emarine was pretty, in spite of many freckles and the tightness with
which she brushed her hair from her face and coiled it in a sleek knot at
the back of her head. “Now, be sure you get it just so slick, Emarine,”
her mother would say, watching her steadily while she combed and brushed
and twisted her long tresses.

As Emarine reached the door her mother followed her down the hall from
the kitchen. The house was old, and two or three loose pieces in the
flooring creaked as she stepped heavily upon them.

“Oh, say, Emarine!”

“Well?”

“You get an’ bring home a dollar’s worth o’ granylated sugar, will you?”

“Well.”

“An’ a box o’ ball bluin’. Mercy, child! Your dress-skirt sags awful in
the back. Why don’t you run a tuck in it?”

Emarine turned her head over her shoulder with a birdlike movement, and
bent backward, trying to see the offensive sag.

“Can’t you pin it up, maw?”

“Yes, I guess. Have you got a pin? Why, Emarine Endey! If ever I see in
all my born days! What are you a-doin’ with a red ribbon on you—an’ your
Uncle Herndon not cold in his grave yet! A fine spectickle you’d make o’
yourself, a-goin’ the length an’ the breadth o’ the town with that thing
a-flarin’ on you. You’ll disgrace this whole fambly yet! I have to keep
watch o’ you like a two-year-old baby. Now, you get an’ take it right
off o’ you; an’ don’t you let me ketch you a-puttin’ it on again till a
respectful time after he’s be’n dead. I never hear tell o’ such a thing.”

“I don’t see what a red ribbon’s got to do with Uncle Herndon’s bein’
dead,” said Emarine.

“Oh, you don’t, aigh? Well, _I_ see. You act as if you didn’t have no
feelin’.”

“Well, goin’ without a red ribbon won’t make me feel any worse, will it,
maw?”

“No, it won’t. Emarine, what does get into you to act so tantalizin’? I
guess it’ll look a little better. I guess the neighbors won’t talk quite
so much. You can see fer yourself how they talk about Mis’ Henspeter
because she wore a rose to church before her husband had be’n dead a
year. All she had to say fer herself was that she liked flowers, an’
didn’t sense it ’u’d be any disrespect to her husband to wear it—seein’s
he’d always liked ’em, too. They all showed her ’n a hurry what they
thought about it. She’s got narrow borders on all her han’kachers, too,
a’ready.”

“Why don’t you stay away from such people?” said Emarine. “Old gossips!
You know I don’t care what the neighbors say—or think, either.”

“Well, _I_ do. The land knows they talk a plenty even without givin’ ’em
anything to talk about. You get an’ take that red ribbon off o’ you.”

“Oh, I’ll take it off if you want I sh’u’d.” She unfastened it
deliberately and laid it on a little table. She had an exasperating air
of being unconvinced and of complying merely for the sake of peace.

She gathered her shawl about her shoulders and crossed the porch.

“Emarine!”

“Well?”

“Who’s that a-comin’ over the hill path? I can’t make out the dress. It
looks some like Mis’ Grandy, don’t it?”

Emarine turned her head. Her eyelids quivered closer together in an
effort to concentrate her vision on the approaching guest.

“Well, I never!” exclaimed her mother, in a subdued but irascible tone.
“There you go—a-lookin’ right square at her, when I didn’t want that she
sh’u’d know we saw her! It does seem to me sometimes, Emarine, that you
ain’t got good sense.”

“I’d just as soon she knew we saw her,” said Emarine, unmoved. “It’s Miss
Presly, maw.”

“Oh, land o’ goodness! That old sticktight? She’ll stay all day if she
stays a minute. Set an’ set! An’ there I’ve just got the washin’ all out
on the line, an’ she’ll tell the whole town we wear underclo’s made out
o’ unbleached muslin! Are you sure it’s her? It don’t look overly like
her shawl.”

“Yes, it’s her.”

“Well, go on an’ stop an’ talk to her, so ’s to give me a chance to red
up some. Don’t ferget the ball bluin’, Emarine.”

Emarine went down the path and met the visitor just between the two tall
lilac trees, whose buds were beginning to swell.

“Good mornin’, Miss Presly.”

“Why, good mornin’, Emarine. Z’ your maw to home?”

“Yes ’m.”

“I thought I’d run down an’ set a spell with her, an’ pass the news.”

Emarine smiled faintly and was silent.

“Ain’t you goin’ up town pretty early fer washday?”

“Yes ’m.”

“I see you hed a beau home from church las’ night.”

Emarine’s face flushed; even her ears grew rosy.

“Well, I guess he’s a reel nice young man, anyways, Emarine. You needn’t
to blush so. Mis’ Grandy was a-sayin’ she thought you’d done offul well
to git him. He owns the house an’ lot they live in, an’ he’s got five
hunderd dollars in the bank. I reckon he’ll have to live with the ol’
lady, though, when he gits married. They do say she’s turrable hard to
suit.”

Emarine lifted her chin. The gold pendants glittered like diamonds.

“It don’t make any difference to me whuther she’s hard to suit or easy,”
she said. “I’ll have to be goin’ on now. Just knock at the front door,
Miss Presly.”

“Oh, I can go right around to the back, just as well, an’ save your maw
the trouble o’ comin’ to the door. If she’s got her washin’ out, I can
stoop right under the clo’s line.”

“Well, we like to have our comp’ny come to the front door,” said Emarine,
dryly.

It was a beautiful morning in early spring. The alders and the maples
along the hill were wrapped in reddish mist. The saps were mounting
through delicate veins. Presently the mist would quicken to a pale
green as the young leaves unfolded, but as yet everything seemed to be
waiting. The brown earth had a fresh, woody smell that caused the heart
to thrill with a vague sense of ecstasy—of some delight deep hidden and
inexplicable. Pale lavender “spring beauties” stood shyly in groups or
alone, in sheltered places along the path. There was even, here and
there, a trillium—or white lily, as the children called it—shivering on
its slender stem. There were old stumps, too, hollowed out by long-spent
flames into rustic urns, now heaped to their ragged rims with velvet
moss. On a fence near a meadow-lark was pouring out its few, but full and
beautiful, notes of passion and desire. Emarine paused to listen. Her
heart vibrated with exquisite pain to the ravishment of regret in those
liquid tones.

“Sounds as if he was sayin’—‘_Sweet—oh—Sweet—my heart is breaking!_’” she
said; and then with a kind of shame of the sentiment in such a fancy, she
went on briskly over the hill. Her heels clicked sharply on the hard road.

Before she reached the long wooden stairs which led from the high plateau
down to the one street of Oregon City, Emarine passed through a beautiful
grove of firs and cedars. Already the firs were taking on their little
plushy tufts of pale green, and exuding a spicy fragrance. Occasionally
a last year’s cone drew itself loose and sunk noiselessly into a bed of
its own brown needles. A little way from the path a woodpecker clung to
a tree, hammering into the tough bark with its long beak. As Emarine
approached, it flew heavily away, the undersides of its wings flashing a
scarlet streak along the air.

As her eyes ceased following its flight, she became aware that some one
was standing in the path, waiting. A deep, self-conscious blush swept
over her face and throat. “Emarine never does anything up by halves,”
her mother was wont to declare. “When she blushes, she _blushes_!”

She stepped slowly toward him with a sudden stiff awkwardness.

“Oh—you, is it, Mr. Parmer?” she said, with an admirable attempt—but an
attempt only—at indifference.

“Yes, it’s me,” said the young fellow, with an embarrassed laugh. With a
clumsy shuffle he took step with her. Both faces were flaming. Emarine
could not lift her eyes from their contemplation of the dead leaves in
her path—yet she passed a whole company of “spring beauties” playing
hide-and-seek around a stump, without seeing them. Her pulses seemed
full of little hammers, beating away mercilessly. Her fingers fumbled
nervously with the fringes on her shawl.

“Don’t choo want I sh’u’d pack your umberell fer yuh?” asked the young
man, solemnly.

“Why—yes, if you want.”

It was a faded thing she held toward him, done up rather baggily, too;
but he received it as reverently as if it had been a twenty-dollar silk
one with a gold handle.

“Does your mother know I kep’ yuh comp’ny home from church last night?”

“Unh-hunh.”

“What ’id she say?”

“She didn’t say much.”

“Well, what?”

“Oh, not much.” Emarine was rapidly recovering her self-possession. “I
went right in an’ up an’ told her.”

“Well, why can’t choo tell me what she said? Emarine, yuh can be the
contrairiest girl when yuh want.”

“Can I?” She flashed a coquettish glance at him. She was quite at her
ease by this time, although the color was still burning deep in her
cheeks. “I sh’u’dn’t think you’d waste so much time on contrairy people,
Mr. Parmer.”

“Oh, Emarine, go on an’ tell me!”

“Well”—Emarine laughed mirthfully—“she put the backs of her hands on
her hips—this way!” She faced him suddenly, setting her arms akimbo,
the shawl’s fringes quivering over her elbows; her eyes fairly danced
into his. “An’ she looked at me a long time; then she says—‘Hunh!
_You—leetle—heifer!_ You think you’re some pun’kins, don’t you? A-havin’
a beau home from meetin’.”

Both laughed hilariously.

“Well, what else ’id she say?”

“I don’t believe you want to know. Do you—sure?”

“I cross my heart.”

“Well—she said it c’u’dn’t happen more’n ev’ry once ’n so often.”

“Pshaw!”

“She did.”

The young man paused abruptly. A narrow, unfrequented path led through
deeper woods to the right.

“Emarine, let’s take this catecornered cut through here.”

“Oh, I’m afraid it’s longer—an’ it’s washday, you know,” said Emarine,
with feeble resistance.

“We’ll walk right fast. Come on. George! But it’s nice and sweet in here,
though!”

They entered the path. It was narrow and the great trees bent over and
touched above them.

There was a kind of soft lavender twilight falling upon them. It was very
still, save for the fluttering of invisible wings and the occasional
shrill scream of a blue-jay.

“It _is_ sweet in here,” said Emarine.

The young man turned quickly, and with a deep, asking look into her
lifted eyes, put his arms about her and drew her to him. “Emarine,” he
said, with passionate tenderness. And then he was silent, and just stood
holding her crushed against him, and looking down on her with his very
soul in his eyes. Oh, but a man who refrains from much speech in such an
hour has wisdom straight from the gods themselves!

After a long silence Emarine lifted her head and smiled trustfully into
his eyes. “It’s washday,” she said, with a flash of humor.

“So it is,” he answered her, heartily. “An’ I promised yuh we’d hurry
up—an’ I alwus keep my promises. But first—Emarine—”

“Well?”

“Yuh must say somethin’ first.”

“Say what, Mr. Parmer?”

“‘_Mr. Parmer!_’” His tone and his look were reproachful. “Can’t choo say
Orville?”

“Oh, I can—if you want I sh’u’d.”

“Well, I do want choo sh’u’d, Emarine. Now, yuh know what else it is I
want choo sh’u’d say before we go on.”

“Why, no, I don’t—hunh-unh.” She shook her head, coquettishly.

“Emarine”—the young fellow’s face took on a sudden seriousness—“I want
choo to say yuh’ll marry me.”

“Oh, my, no!” cried Emarine. She turned her head on one side, like a
bird, and looked at him with lifted brows and surprised eyes. One would
have imagined that such a thought had never entered that pretty head
before.

“What, Emarine! Yuh won’t?” There was consternation in his voice.

“Oh, my, no!” Both glance and movement were full of coquettishness. The
very fringes of the demure gray shawl seemed to have taken on new life
and vivacity.

Orville Palmer’s face turned pale and stern. He drew a long breath
silently, not once removing that searching look from her face.

“Well, then,” he said, calmly, “I want to know what choo mean by up an’
lettin’ me kiss yuh—if yuh don’t mean to marry me.”

This was an instant quietus to the girl’s coquetry. She gave him a
startled glance. A splash of scarlet came into each cheek. For a moment
there was utter silence. Then she made a soft feint of withdrawing from
his arms. To her evident amazement, he made no attempt to detain her.
This placed her in an awkward dilemma, and she stood irresolutely, with
her eyes cast down.

Young Palmer’s arms fell at his sides with a movement of despair.
Sometimes they were ungainly arms, but now absence of self-consciousness
lent them a manly grace.

“Well, Emarine,” he said, kindly, “I’ll go back the way I come. Goodby.”

With a quick, spontaneous burst of passion—against which she had been
struggling, and which was girlish and innocent enough to carry a man’s
soul with it into heaven—Emarine cast herself upon his breast and flung
her shawl-entangled arms about his shoulders. Her eyes were earnest and
pleading, and there were tears of repentance in them. With a modesty
that was enchanting she set her warm, sweet lips tremblingly to his, of
her own free will.

“I didn’t mean it,” she whispered. “I was only a—a-foolin’.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The year was older by a month when one morning Mrs. Endey went to the
front door and stood with her body swaying backward, and one rough hand
roofing the rich light from her eyes.

“Emarine ’ad ought to ’a’ got to the hill path by this time,” she said,
in a grumbling tone. “It beats me what keeps her so! I reckon she’s
a-standin’ like a bump on a lawg, watchin’ a red ant or a tumble-bug, or
some fool thing! She’d leave her dish-washin’ any time an’ stand at the
door a-ketchin’ cold in her bare arms, with the suds a-drippin’ all over
her apron an’ the floor—a-listenin’ to one o’ them silly meadow-larks
hollerin’ the same noise over ’n over. Her paw’s women-folks are all just
such fools.”

She started guiltily and lowered her eyes to the gate which had clicked
sharply.

“Oh!” she said. “That you, Emarine?” She laughed rather foolishly. “I was
lookin’ right over you—lookin’ _fer_ you, too. Miss Presly’s be’n here,
an’ of all the strings she had to tell! Why, fer pity’s sake! Is that a
dollar’s worth o’ coffee?”

“Yes, it is; an’ I guess it’s full weight, too, from the way my arm
feels! It’s just about broke.”

“Well, give it to me, an’ come on out in the kitching. I’ve got somethin’
to tell you.”

Emarine followed slowly, pinning a spray of lilac bloom in her bosom as
she went.

“Emarine, where’s that spring balance at? I’m goin’ to weigh this coffee.
If it’s one grain short, I’ll send it back a-flyin’. I’ll show ’em they
can’t cheat this old hen!”

She slipped the hook under the string and lifted the coffee cautiously
until the balance was level with her eyes. Then standing well back on her
heels and drawing funny little wrinkles up around her mouth and eyes, she
studied the figures earnestly, counting the pounds and the half-pounds
down from the top. Finally she lowered it with a disappointed air.
“Well,” she said, reluctantly, “it’s just it—just to a ’t.’ They’d ought
to make it a leetle over, though, to allow fer the paper bag. Get the
coffee-canister, Emarine.”

When the coffee had all been jiggled through a tin funnel into the
canister, Mrs. Endey sat down stiffly and began polishing the funnel
with a cloth. From time to time she glanced at Emarine with a kind of
deprecatory mystery. At last she said—“Miss Presly spent the day down’t
Mis’ Parmer’s yesterday.”

“Did she?” said Emarine, coldly; but the color came into her cheeks.
“Shall I go on with the puddin’?”

“Why, you can if you want. She told me some things I don’t like.”

Emarine shattered an egg-shell on the side of a bowl and released the
gold heart within.

“Miss Presly says once Mis’ Parmer had to go out an’ gether the eggs an’
shet up the chickens, so Miss Presly didn’t think there’d be any harm in
just lookin’ into the drawers an’ things to see what she had. She says
she’s awful short on table cloths—only got three to her name! An’ only
six napkeens, an’ them coarse ’s anything! When Mis’ Parmer come back in,
Miss Presly talked around a little, then she says—‘I s’pose you’re one o’
them spic an’ span kind, Mis’ Parmer, that alwus has a lot o’ extry table
cloths put away in lavender.’”

Emarine set the egg-beater into the bowl and began turning it slowly.

“Mis’ Parmer got mighty red all of a sudden; but she says right out—‘No,
I’m a-gettin’ reel short on table cloths an’ things, Miss Presly, but
I ain’t goin’ to replenish. Orville’s thinkin’ o’ gettin’ married this
year, an’ I guess Emarine’ll have a lot o’ extry things.’ An’ then she
ups an’ laughs an’ says—‘I’ll let her stock up the house, seein’s she’s
so anxious to get into it.’”

Emarine had turned pale. The egg-beater fairly flew round and round. A
little of the golden foam slipped over the edge of the bowl and slid down
to the white table.

“Miss Presly thinks a good deal o’ you, Emarine, so that got her spunk
up; an’ she just told Mis’ Parmer she didn’t believe you was dyin’ to go
there an’ stock up her drawers fer her. Says she—‘I don’t think young
people ’ad ought to live with mother-in-laws, any way.’ Said she thought
she’d let Mis’ Parmer put that in her pipe an’ smoke it when she got
time.”

There was a pulse in each side of Emarine’s throat beating hard and full.
Little blue, throbbing cords stood out in her temples. She went on mixing
the pudding mechanically.

“Then Mis’ Parmer just up an’ said with a tantalizin’ laugh that if
you didn’t like the a-commodations at her house, you needn’t to come
there. Said she never did like you, anyways, ner anybody else that set
their heels down the way you set your’n. Said she’d had it all out
with Orville, an’ he’d promised her faithful that if there was any
knucklin’-down to be done, you’d be the one to do it, an’ not her!”

Emarine turned and looked at her mother. Her face was white with
controlled passion. Her eyes burned. But her voice was quiet when she
spoke.

“I guess you’d best move your chair,” she said, “so ’s I can get to the
oven. This puddin’ ’s all ready to go in.”

When she had put the pudding in the oven she moved about briskly,
clearing the things off the table and washing them. She held her chin
high. There was no doubt now about the click of her heels; it was ominous.

“I won’t marry him!” she cried at last, flinging the words out. “He can
have his mother an’ his wore-out table cloths!” Her voice shook. The
muscles around her mouth were twitching.

“My mercy!” cried her mother. She had a frightened look. “Who cares what
his mother says? I w’u’dn’t go to bitin’ off my nose to spite my face, if
I was you!”

“Well, I care what he says. I’ll see myself knucklin’-down to a
mother-in-law!”

“Well, now, don’t go an’ let loose of your temper, or you’ll be sorry fer
it. You’re alwus mighty ready a-tellin’ me not to mind what folks say,
an’ to keep away from the old gossips.”

“Well, you told me yourself, didn’t you? I can’t keep away from my own
mother very well, can I?”

“Well, now, don’t flare up so! You’re worse ’n karosene with a match set
to it.”

“What ’id you tell me for, if you didn’t want I sh’u’d flare up?”

“Why, I thought it ’u’d just put you on your mettle an’ show her she
c’u’dn’t come it over you.” Then she added, diplomatically changing her
tone as well as the subject—“Oh, say, Emarine, I wish you’d go up in the
antic an’ bring down a bunch o’ pennyrile. I’ll watch the puddin’.”

She laughed with dry humor when the girl was gone. “I got into a pickle
that time. Who ever ’d ’a’ thought she’d get stirred up so? I’ll have to
manage to get her cooled down before Orville comes to-night. They ain’t
many matches like him, if his mother _is_ such an old scarecrow. He ain’t
so well off, but he’ll humor Emarine up. He’d lay down an’ let her walk
on him, I guess. There’s Mis’ Grisley b’en a-tryin’ fer months to get
him to go with her Lily—_Lily_, with a complexion like sole-leather!—an’
a-askin’ him up there all the time to dinner, an’ a-flatterin’ him up to
the skies. I’d like to know what they always name dark-complected babies
Lily fer! Oh, did you get the pennyrile, Emarine? I was laughin’ to
myself, a-wond’rin’ what Mis’ Grisley’s Lily’ll say when she hears you’re
goin’ to marry Orville.”

Emarine hung a spotless dish-cloth on two nails behind the stove, but did
not speak.

Mrs. Endey turned her back to the girl and smiled humorously.

“That didn’t work,” she thought. “I’ll have to try somethin’ else.”

“I’ve made up my mind to get you a second-day dress, too, Emarine. You
can have it any color you want—dove-color ’d be awful nice. There’s a
hat down at Mis’ Norton’s milliner’ store that ’u’d go beautiful with
dove-color.”

Emarine took some flat-irons off the stove, wiped them carefully with a
soft cloth and set them evenly on a shelf. Still she did not speak. Mrs.
Endey’s face took on an anxious look.

“There’s some beautiful artaficial orange flowers at Mis’ Norton’s,
Emarine. You can be married in ’em, if you want. They’re so reel they
almost smell sweet.”

She waited a moment, but receiving no reply, she added with a kind of
desperation—“An’ a veil, Emarine—a long, white one a-flowin’ down all
over you to your feet—one that ’u’d just make Mis’ Grisley’s Lily’s mouth
water. What do you say to that? You can have that, too, if you want.”

“Well, I don’t want!” said Emarine, fiercely. “Didn’t I say I wa’n’t
goin’ to marry him? I’ll give him his walking-chalk when he comes
to-night. I don’t need any help about it, either.”

She went out, closing the door as an exclamation point.

Oregon City kept early hours. The curfew ringing at nine o’clock on
summer evenings gathered the tender-aged of both sexes off the street.

It was barely seven o’clock when Orville Palmer came to take Emarine out
for a drive. He had a high top-buggy, rather the worse for wear, and
drove a sad-eyed, sorrel horse.

She was usually ready to come tripping down the path, to save his tying
the horse. To-night she did not come. He waited a while. Then he whistled
and called—“Oh, Emarine!”

He pushed his hat back and leaned one elbow on his knee, flicking his
whip up and down, and looking steadily at the open door. But she did not
come. Finally he got out and, tying his horse, went up the path slowly.
Through the door he could see Emarine sitting quietly sewing. He observed
at once that she was pale.

“Sick, Emarine?” he said, going in.

“No,” she answered, “I ain’t sick.”

“Then why under the sun didn’t choo come when I hollowed?”

“I didn’t want to.” Her tone was icy.

He stared at her a full minute. Then he burst out laughing. “Oh, say,
Emarine, yuh can be the contrariest girl I ever see! Yuh do love to tease
a fellow so. Yuh’ll have to kiss me fer that.”

He went toward her. She pushed her chair back and gave him a look that
made him pause.

“How’s your mother?” she asked.

“My mother?” A cold chill went up and down his spine. “Why—oh, she’s all
right. Why?”

She took a small gold ring set with a circle of garnets from her finger
and held it toward him with a steady hand.

“You can take an’ show her this ring, an’ tell her I ain’t so awful
anxious to stock her up on table cloths an’ napkeens as she thinks I am.
Tell her yuh’ll get some other girl to do her knucklin’-down fer her. I
ain’t that kind.”

The young man’s face grew scarlet and then paled off rapidly. He looked
like a man accused of a crime. “Why, Emarine,” he said, feebly.

He did not receive the ring, and she threw it on the floor at his feet.
A whole month she had slept with that ring against her lips—the bond of
her love and his! Now, it was only the emblem of her “knuckling-down” to
another woman.

“You needn’t to stand there a-pretendin’ you don’t know what I mean.”

“Well, I don’t, Emarine.”

“Yes, you do, too. Didn’t you promise your mother that if there was any
knucklin’-down to be did, I’d be the one to do it, an’ not her?”

“Why—er—Emarine—”

She laughed scornfully.

“Don’t go to tryin’ to get out of it. You know you did. Well, you can
take your ring, an’ your mother, an’ all her old duds. I don’t want any
o’ you.”

“Emarine,” said the young man, looking guilty and honest at the same
time, “the talk I had with my mother didn’t amount to a pinch o’ snuff.
It wa’n’t anything to make yuh act this way. She don’t like yuh just
because I’m goin’ to marry yuh”—

“Oh, but you ain’t,” interrupted Emarine, with an aggravating laugh.

“Yes, I am, too. She kep’ naggin’ at me day an’ night fer fear yuh’d be
sassy to her an’ she’d have to take a back seat.”

“I’ll tell you what’s the matter with her!” interrupted Emarine. “She’s
got the big-head. She thinks ev’ry body wants to rush into her old house,
an’ marry her son, an’ use her old things! She wants to make ev’rybody
toe _her_ mark.”

“Emarine! She’s my mother.”

“I don’t care if she is. I w’u’dn’t tech her with a ten-foot pole.”

“She’ll be all right after we’re married, Emarine, an’ she finds out
how—how nice yuh are.”

His own words appealed to his sense of the ridiculous. He smiled. Emarine
divined the cause of his reluctant amusement and was instantly furious.
Her face turned very white. Her eyes burned out of it like two fires.

“You think I ain’t actin’ very nice now, don’t you? I don’t care what you
think, Orville Parmer, good or bad.”

The young man stood thinking seriously.

“Emarine,” he said, at last, very quietly, “I love yuh an’ yuh know
it. An’ yuh love me. I’ll alwus be good to yuh an’ see that choo ain’t
emposed upon, Emarine. An’ I think the world an’ all of yuh. That’s all
I got to say. I can’t see what ails yuh, Emarine.... When I think o’
that day when I asked yuh to marry me.... An’ that night I give yuh the
ring”—the girl’s eyelids quivered suddenly and fell. “An’ that moonlight
walk we took along by the falls.... Why, it seems as if this can’t be the
same girl.”

There was such a long silence that Mrs. Endey, cramping her back with
one ear pressed to the keyhole of the door, decided that he had won and
smiled dryly.

At last Emarine lifted her head. She looked at him steadily. “Did you, or
didn’t you, tell your mother I’d have to do the knucklin’-down?”

He shuffled his feet about a little.

“Well, I guess I did, Emarine, but I didn’t mean anything. I just did it
to get a little peace.”

The poor fellow had floundered upon an unfortunate excuse.

“Oh!” said the girl, contemptuously. Her lip curled. “An’ so you come an’
tell me the same thing for the same reason—just to get a little peace! A
pretty time you’d have a-gettin’ any peace at all, between the two of us!
You’re chickenish—an’ I hate chickenish people.”

“Emarine!”

“Oh, I wish you’d go.” There was an almost desperate weariness in her
voice.

He picked up the ring with its shining garnet stars, and went.

Mrs. Endey tiptoed into the kitchen.

“My back’s about broke.” She laughed noiselessly. “I swan I’m proud o’
that girl. She’s got more o’ me in her ’n I give her credit fer. The
idee o’ her a-callin’ him chickenish right out to his face! That done me
good. Well, I don’t care such an awful lot if she don’t marry him. A girl
with that much spunk deserves a _gov’nor_! An’ that mother o’ his’n ’s a
case. I guess her an’ me ’d ’a’ fit like cats an’ dogs, anyhow.” Her lips
unclosed with reluctant mirth.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning Emarine arose and went about her work as usual. She had
not slept. But there were no signs of relenting, or of regret, in her
face. After the first surreptitious look at her, Mrs. Endey concluded
that it was all settled unchangeably. Her aspiring mind climbed from a
governor to a United States senator. There was nothing impossible to a
girl who could break her own heart at night and go about the next morning
setting her heels down the way Emarine was setting hers.

Mrs. Endey’s heart swelled with triumph.

Emarine washed the dishes and swept the kitchen. Then she went out
to sweep the porch. Suddenly she paused. A storm of lyric passion
had burst upon her ear; and running through it she heard the
words—“_Sweet—oh—Sweet—my heart is breaking!_”

The girl trembled. Something stung her eyes sharply.

Then she pulled herself together stubbornly. Her face hardened. She went
on sweeping with more determined care than usual.

“Well, I reckon,” she said, with a kind of fierce philosophy, “it ’u’d
’a’ been breaking a good sight worse if I’d ’a’ married him an’ that
mother o’ his’n. That’s some comfort.”

But when she went in she closed the door carefully, shutting out that
impassioned voice.


PART II

It was eight o’clock of a June morning. It had rained during the night.
Now the air was sweet with the sunshine on the wet leaves and flowers.

Mrs. Endey was ironing. The table stood across the open window, up which
a wild honey-suckle climbed, flinging out slender, green shoots, each
topped with a cluster of scarlet spikes. The splendor of the year was at
its height. The flowers were marching by in pomp and magnificence.

Mrs. Endey spread a checked gingham apron on the ironing cloth. It was
trimmed at the bottom with a ruffle, which she pulled and smoothed with
careful fingers.

She selected an iron on the stove, set the wooden handle into it with a
sharp, little click, and polished it on a piece of scorched newspaper.
Then she moved it evenly across the starched apron. A shining path
followed it.

At that moment some one opened the gate. Mrs. Endey stooped to peer
through the vines.

“Well, ’f I ever ’n all my natcherl life!” she said, solemnly. She set
the iron on its stand and lifted her figure erect. She placed one hand on
her hip, and with the other rubbed her chin in perplexed thought. “If
it ain’t Orville Parmer, you may shoot me! That beats me! I wonder ’f he
thinks Emarine’s a-dyin’ o’ love fer him!”

Then a thought came that made her feel faint. She fell into a chair,
weakly. “Oh, my land!” she said. “I wonder ’f that _ain’t_ what’s the
matter of her! I never’d thought o’ that. I’d thought o’ ev’rything _but_
that. I wonder! There she’s lied flat o’ her back ever sence she fell out
with him a month ago. Oh, my mercy! I wonder ’f that is it. Here I’ve
b’en rackin’ my brains to find out what ails ’er.”

She got up stiffly and went to the door. The young man standing there had
a pale, anxious face.

“Good-mornin’, Mis’ Endey,” he said. He looked with a kind of entreaty
into her grim face. “I come to see Emarine.”

“Emarine’s sick.” She spoke coldly.

“I know she is, Mis’ Endey.” His voice shook, “If it wa’n’t fer her bein’
sick, I w’u’dn’t be here. I s’pose, after the way she sent me off, I
ain’t got any spunk or I w’u’dn’t ’a’ come anyway; but I heard—”

He hesitated and looked away.

“What ’id you hear?”

“I heard she wa’n’t a-goin’ to—get well.”

There was a long silence.

“Is she?” he asked, then. His voice was low and broken.

Mrs. Endey sat down. “I do’ know,” she said, after another silence. “I’m
offul worried about her, Orville. I can’t make out what ails ’er. She
won’t eat a thing; even floatin’ island turns agi’n ’er—an’ she al’ays
loved that.”

“Oh, Mis’ Endey, can’t I see ’er?”

“I don’t see ’s it ’u’d be any use. Emarine’s turrable set. ’F you hadn’t
went an’ told your mother that if there was any knucklin’-down to be
did between her an’ Emarine, Emarine ’u’d have to do it, you an’ her’d
’a’ b’en married by this time. I’d bought most ha’f her weddin’ things
a’ready.”

The young man gave a sigh that was almost a groan. He looked like one
whose sin has found him out. He dropped into a chair, and putting his
elbows on his knees, sunk his face into his brown hands.

“Good God, Mis’ Endey!” he said, with passionate bitterness. “Can’t
choo ever stop harpin’ on that? Ain’t I cursed myself day an’ night
ever sence? Oh, I wish yuh’d help me!” He lifted a wretched face. “I
didn’t mean anything by tellin’ my mother that; she’s a-gettin’ kind o’
childish, an’ she was afraid Emarine ’u’d run over ’er. But if she’ll
only take me back, she’ll have ev’rything her own way.”

A little gleam of triumph came into Mrs. Endey’s face. Evidently the
young man was rapidly becoming reduced to a frame of mind desirable in a
son-in-law.

“Will you promise that, solemn, Orville Parmer?” She looked at him
sternly.

“Yes, Mis’ Endey, I will—solemn.” His tone was at once wretched and
hopeful. “I’ll promise anything under the sun, ’f she’ll only fergive me.
I can’t _live_ without ’er—an’ that’s all there is about it. Won’t choo
ask her to see me, Mis’ Endey?”

“Well, I do’ know,” said Mrs. Endey, doubtfully. She cleared her throat,
and sat looking at the floor, as if lost in thought. He should never
have it to say that she had snapped him up too readily. “I don’t feel
much like meddlin’. I must say I side with Emarine. I do think”—her tone
became regretful—“a girl o’ her spir’t deserves a gov’nor.”

“I know she does,” said the young man, miserably. “I alwus knew _I_
wa’n’t ha’f good enough fer ’er. But Mis’ Endey, I know she loves me.
Won’t choo—”

“Well!” Mrs. Endey gave a sigh of resignation. She got up very slowly,
as if still undecided. “I’ll see what she says to ’t. But I’ll tell you
right out I sha’n’t advise ’er, Orville.”

She closed the door behind her with deliberate care. She laughed dryly
as she went up stairs, holding her head high. “There’s nothin’ like
makin’ your own terms,” she said, shrewdly.

She was gone a long time. When Orville heard her coming lumbering back
down the stairs and along the hall, his heart stopped beating.

Her coming meant—everything to him; and it was so slow and so heavy it
seemed ominous. For a moment he could not speak, and her face told him
nothing. Then he faltered out—“Will she? Oh, don’t choo say she won’t!”

“Well,” said Mrs. Endey, with a sepulchral sigh, “she’ll see you, but I
don’t know ’s anything ’ll come of it. Don’t you go to bracin’ up on that
idee, Orville Parmer. She’s set like a strip o’ calico washed in alum
water.”

The gleam of hope that her first words had brought to his face was
transitory. “You can come on,” said Mrs. Endey, lifting her chin solemnly.

Orville followed her in silence.

The little room in which Emarine lay ill was small and white, like
a nun’s chamber. The ceiling slanted on two sides. There was white
matting on the floor; there was an oval blue rug of braided rags at the
side of the bed, and another in front of the bureau. There was a small
cane-seated and cane-backed rocker. By the side of the bed was a high,
stiff wooden chair, painted very black and trimmed with very blue roses.

There were two or three pictures on the walls. The long curtains of snowy
butter-cloth were looped high.

The narrow white bed had been wheeled across the open window, so
Emarine could lie and look down over the miles of green valley, with
the mellifluous Willamette winding through it like a broad silver-blue
ribbon. By turning her head a little she could see the falls; the great
bulk of water sliding over the precipice like glass, to be crushed into
powdered foam and flung high into the sunlight, and then to go seething
on down to the sea.

At sunrise and at sunset the mist blown up in long veils from the falls
quickened of a sudden to rose and gold and purple, shifting and blending
into a spectral glow of thrilling beauty. It was sweeter than guests to
Emarine.

The robins were company, too, in the large cherry tree outside of her
window; and sometimes a flight of wild canaries drifted past like a
yellow, singing cloud. When they sank, swiftly and musically, she knew
that it was to rest upon a spot golden with dandelions.

Outside the door of this room Mrs. Endey paused. “I don’t see ’s it ’u’d
be proper to let you go in to see ’er alone,” she said, sternly.

Orville’s eyes were eloquent with entreaty. “Lord knows there w’u’dn’t be
any harm in ’t,” he said, humbly but fervently. “I feel jest as if I was
goin’ in to see an angel.”

Mrs. Endey’s face softened; but at once a smile came upon it—one of
those smiles of reluctant, uncontrollable humor that take us unawares
sometimes, even in the most tragic moments. “She’s got too much spunk fer
an angel,” she said.

“Don’t choo go to runnin’ of her down!” breathed Orville, with fierce and
reckless defiance.

“I wa’n’t a-runnin’ of her down,” retorted Mrs. Endey, coldly. “You don’t
ketch me a-runnin’ of my own kin down, Orville Parmer!” She glowered at
him under drawn brows. “An’ I won’t stand anybody else’s a-runnin’ of
’em down or a-walkin’ over ’em, either! There ain’t no call fer _you_ to
tell me not to run ’em down.” Her look grew blacker. “I reckon we’d best
settle all about your mother before we go in there, Orville Parmer.”

“What about ’er?” His tone was miserable; his defiance was short-lived.

“Why, there’s no use ’n your goin’ in there unless you’re ready to
promise that you’ll give Emarine the whip-hand over your mother. You best
make up your mind.”

“It’s _made_ up,” said the young fellow, desperately. “Lord Almighty,
Mis’ Endey, it’s made up.”

“Well.” She turned the door-knob. “I know it ain’t the thing, an’ I’d
die if Miss Presley sh’u’d come an’ find out—the town w’u’dn’t hold her,
she’d talk so! Well! Now, don’t stay too long. ’F I see anybody a-comin’
I’ll cough at the foot o’ the stairs.”

She opened the door and when he had passed in, closed it with a bitter
reluctance. “It ain’t the proper thing,” she repeated; and she stood for
some moments with her ear bent to the keyhole. A sudden vision of Miss
Presley coming up the stairs to see Emarine sent her down to the kitchen
with long, cautious strides, to keep guard.

Emarine was propped up with pillows. Her mother had dressed her in a
white sacque, considering it a degree more proper than a night-dress.
There was a wide ruffle at the throat, trimmed with serpentine edging.
Emarine was famous for the rapidity with which she crocheted, as well as
for the number and variety of her patterns.

Orville went with clumsy noiselessness to the white bed. He was holding
his breath. His hungry eyes had a look of rising tears that are held
back. They took in everything—the girl’s paleness and her thinness;
the beautiful dark hair, loose upon the pillow; the blue veins in her
temples; the dark lines under her languid eyes.

He could not speak. He fell upon his knees, and threw one arm over her
with compelling passion, but carefully, too, as one would touch a flower,
and laid his brow against her hand. His shoulders swelled. A great sob
struggled from his breast. “Oh, Emarine, Emarine!” he groaned. Then there
was utter silence between them.

After a while, without lifting his head, he pushed her sleeve back a
very little and pressed trembling, reverent lips upon the pulse beating
irregularly in her slim wrist.

“Oh, Emarine!” he said, still without lifting his head. “I love yuh—I
love yuh! I’ve suffered—oh, to think o’ you layin’ here sick, night after
night fer a whole month, an’ me not here to do things fer yuh. I’ve
laid awake imaginin’ that yuh wanted a fresh drink an’ c’u’dn’t make
anybody hear; or that yuh wanted a cool cloth on your forrid, or a little
jell-water, or somethin’. I’ve got up ’n the middle o’ the night an’ come
an’ stood out at your gate tell I’d see a shado’ on the curt’n an’ know
yuh wa’n’t alone.... Oh, Emarine, Emarine!”

She moved her hand; it touched his throat and curved itself there,
diffidently. He threw up his head and looked at her. A rush of
passionate, startled joy stung through him like needles, filling his
throat. He trembled strongly. Then his arms were about her and he had
gathered her up against his breast; their lips were shaking together,
after their long separation, in those kisses but one of which is worth a
lifetime of all other kisses.

Presently he laid her back very gently upon her pillow, and still knelt
looking at her with his hand on her brow. “I’ve tired yuh,” he said, with
earnest self-reproach. “I won’t do ’t ag’in, Emarine—I promise. When I
looked ’n your eyes an’ see that yuh’d fergive me; when I felt your hand
slip ’round my neck, like it ust to, an’ like I’ve b’en _starvin’_ to
feel it fer a month, Emarine—I c’u’dn’t help it, nohow; but I won’t do ’t
ag’in. Oh, to think that I’ve got choo back ag’in!”

He laid his head down, still keeping his arm thrown, lightly and tenderly
as a mother’s, over her.

The sick girl looked at him. Her face settled into a look of
stubbornness; the exaltation that had transfigured it a moment before
was gone. “You’ll have to promise me,” she said, “about your mother, you
know. I’ll have to be first.”

“Yuh shall be, Emarine.”

“You’ll have to promise that if there’s any knucklin’-down, she’ll do ’t,
an’ not me.”

He moved uneasily. “Oh, don’t choo worry, Emarine. It’ll be all right.”

“Well, I want it settled now. You’ll have to promise solemn that you’ll
stand by ev’rything I do, an’ let me have things my way. If you don’t,
you can go back the way you come. But I know you’ll keep your word if you
promise.”

“Yes,” he said, “I will.”

But he kept his head down and did not promise.

“Well?” she said, and faint as she was, her voice was like steel.

But still he did not promise.

After a moment she lifted her hand and curved it about his throat again.
He started to draw away, but almost instantly shuddered closer to her and
fell to kissing the white lace around her neck.

“Well,” she said, coldly, “hurry an’ make your choice. I hear mother
a-comin’.”

“Oh, Emarine!” he burst out, passionately. “I promise—I promise yuh
ev’rything. My mother’s gittin’ old an’ childish, an’ it ain’t right, but
I can’t give you up ag’in—I _can’t_! I promise—I swear!”

Her face took on a tenderness worthy a nobler victory. She slipped her
weak, bare arm up around him and drew his lips down to hers.

An hour later he walked away from the house, the happiest man in Oregon
City—or in all Oregon, for that matter. Mrs. Endey watched him through
the vines. “Well, he’s a-walkin’ knee-deep in _promises_,” she reflected,
with a comfortable laugh, as she sent a hot iron hissing over a newly
sprinkled towel. “I guess that mother o’ his’n’ll learn a thing er two if
she tries any o’ her back-sass with Emarine.”

Emarine gained strength rapidly. Orville urged an immediate marriage,
but Mrs Endey objected. “I won’t hear to ’t tell Emarine gits her spunk
back,” she declared. “When she gits to settin’ her heels down the way she
ust to before she got sick, she can git married. I’ll know then she’s got
her spunk back.”

Toward the last of July Emarine commenced setting her heels down in the
manner approved by her mother; so, on the first of August they were
married and went to live with Mrs. Palmer. At the last moment Mrs. Endey
whispered grimly—“Now, you mind you hold your head high.”

“Hunh!” said Emarine. She lifted her chin so high and so suddenly that
her long earrings sent out flashes in all directions.

       *       *       *       *       *

They had been married a full month when Mrs. Endey went to spend a day at
the Palmer’s. She had a shrewd suspicion that all was not so tranquil
there as it might be. She walked in unbidden and unannounced.

It was ten o’clock. The sun shown softly through the languid purple haze
that brooded upon the valley. Crickets and grasshoppers crackled through
the grasses and ferns. The noble mountains glimmered mistily in the
distance.

Mrs. Palmer was sewing a patch on a tablecloth. Emarine was polishing
silverware. “Oh!” she said, with a start. “You, is ’t?”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Endey, sitting down, “me. I come to spen’ the day.”

“I didn’t hear yuh knock,” said Mrs. Palmer, dryly. She was tall and
stoop-shouldered. She had a thin, sour face and white hair. One knew,
only to look at her, that life had given her all its bitters and but few
of its sweets.

“I reckon not,” said Mrs. Endey, “seein’ I didn’t knock. I don’t knock
at my own daughter’s door. Well, forever! Do you patch table-cloths,
Mis’ Parmer? I never hear tell! I have see darnt ones, but I never see a
patched one.” She laughed aggravatingly.

“Oh, that’s nothin’,” said Emarine, over her shoulder, “we have ’em made
out o’ flour sacks here, fer breakfas’.”

Then Mrs. Palmer laughed—a thin, bitter laugh. Her face was crimson.
“Yaas,” she said, “I use patched table-cloths, an’ table-cloths made out
o’ flour sacks; but I never did wear underclo’s made out o’ unbleached
muslin in _my_ life.”

Then there was a silence. Emarine gave her mother a look, as much as to
say—“What do you think of that?” Mrs. Endey smiled. “Thank mercy!” she
said. “Dog-days’ll soon be over. The smoke’s liftin’ a leetle. I guess
you an’ Orville’ll git your house painted afore the fall rain comes on,
Emarine? It needs it turrable bad.”

“They ain’t got the paintin’ of it,” said Mrs. Palmer, cutting a thread
with her teeth. “It don’t happen to be their house.”

“Well, it’s all the same. It’ll git painted if Emarine wants it sh’u’d.
Oh, Emarine! Where’d you git them funny teaspoons at?”

“They’re Orville’s mother’s.” Emarine gave a mirthful titter.

“I want to know! Ain’t them funny? Thin’s no name fer ’m. You’d ought to
see the ones my mother left me, Mis’ Parmer—thick, my! One ’u’d make the
whole dozen o’ you’rn. I’ll have ’em out an’ ask you over to tea.”

“I’ve heerd about ’em,” said Mrs. Palmer, with the placidity of a
momentary triumph. “The people your mother worked out fer give ’em to
her, didn’t they? My mother got her’n from her gran’mother. She never
worked out. She never lived in much style, but she al’ays had a plenty.”

“My-_O_!” said Mrs. Endey, scornfully.

“I guess I’d best git the dinner on,” said Emarine. She pushed the silver
to one side with a clatter. She brought some green corn from the porch
and commenced tearing off the pale emerald husks.

“D’you want I sh’u’d help shuck it?” said her mother.

“No; I’m ust to doin’ ’t alone.”

A silence fell upon all three. The fire made a cheerful noise; the kettle
steamed sociably; some soup-meat, boiling, gave out a savory odor. Mrs.
Endey leaned back comfortably in her rocking-chair. There was a challenge
in the very fold of her hands in her lap.

Mrs. Palmer sat erect, stiff and thin. The side of her face was toward
Mrs. Endey. She never moved the fraction of an inch, but watched her
hostilely out of the corner of her eye, like a hen on the defensive.

It was Mrs. Endey who finally renewed hostilities. “Emarine,” she said,
sternly, “what are you a-doin’? Shortenin’ your biscuits with _lard_?”

“Yes.”

Mrs. Endey sniffed contemptuously. “They won’t be fit to eat! You
feathered your nest, didn’t you? Fer mercy’s sake! Can’t you buy butter
to shorten your biscuits with? You’ll be makin’ patata soup next!”

Then Mrs. Palmer stood up. There was a red spot on each cheek.

“Mis’ Endey,” she said, “if yuh don’t like the ’comadations in this
house, won’t you be so good ’s to go where they’re better? I must say I
never wear underclo’s made out o’ unbleached muslin in _my_ life! The
hull town’s see ’em on your clo’s line, an’ tee-hee about it behind your
back. I notice your daughter was mighty ready to git in here an’ shorten
biscuits with lard, an’ use patched table-cloths, an’—”

“_Oh, mother!_”

It was her son’s voice. He stood in the door. His face was white and
anxious. He looked at the two women; then his eyes turned with a
terrified entreaty to Emarine’s face. It was hard as flint.

“It’s time you come,” she said, briefly. “Your mother just ordered my
mother out o’ doors. Whose house is this?”

He was silent.

“Say, Orville Parmer! whose house is this?”

“Oh, Emarine!”

“Don’t you ‘oh, Emarine’ me! You answer up!”

“Oh, Emarine, don’t let’s quar’l. We’ve only b’en married a month. Let
them quar’l, if they want—”

“You answer up. Whose house is this?”

“It’s mine,” he said in his throat.

“You’rn! Your mother calls it her’n.”

“Well, it is,” he said, with a desperation that rendered the situation
tragic. “Oh, Emarine, what’s mine’s her’n. Father left it to me, but o’
course he knew it ’u’d be her’n, too. She likes to call it her’n.”

“Well, she can’t turn my mother out o’ doors. I’m your wife an’ this is
my house, if it’s you’rn. I guess it ain’t hardly big enough fer your
mother an’ me, too. I reckon one o’ us had best git out. I don’t care
much which, only I don’t knuckle-down to nobody. I won’t be set upon by
nobody.”

“Oh, Emarine!” There was terror in his face and voice. He huddled into a
chair and covered his eyes with both hands. Mrs. Palmer, also, sat down,
as if her limbs had suddenly refused to support her. Mrs. Endey ceased
rocking and sat with folded hands, grimly awaiting developments.

Emarine stood with the backs of her hands on her hips. She had washed the
flour off after putting the biscuits in the oven, and the palms were pink
and full of soft curves like rose leaves; her thumbs were turned out at
right angles. Her cheeks were crimson, and her eyes were like diamonds.

“One o’ us’ll have to git out,” she said again. “It’s fer you to say
which ’n, Orville Parmer. I’d just as soon. I won’t upbraid you, ’f you
say me.”

“Well, I won’t upbraid choo, if yuh say me,” spoke up his mother. Her
face was gray. Her chin quivered, but her voice was firm. “Yuh speak up,
Orville.”

Orville groaned—“Oh, mother! Oh, Emarine!” His head sunk lower; his
breast swelled with great sobs—the dry, tearing sobs that in a man are
so terrible. “To think that you two women sh’u’d both love me, an’ then
torcher me this way! Oh, God, what can I do er say?”

Suddenly Emarine uttered a cry, and ran to him. She tore his hands
from his face and cast herself upon his breast, and with her delicate
arms locked tight about his throat, set her warm, throbbing lips
upon his eyes, his brow, his mouth, in deep, compelling kisses. “I’m
your wife! I’m your wife! I’m your wife!” she panted. “You promised
ev’rything to get me to marry you! Can you turn me out now, an’ make me
a laughin’-stawk fer the town? Can you give _me_ up? You love me, an’ I
love you! Let me show you how I love you—”

She felt his arms close around her convulsively.

Then his mother arose and came to them, and laid her wrinkled, shaking
hand on his shoulder. “My son,” she said, “let _me_ show yuh how _I_ love
yuh. I’m your mother. I’ve worked fer yuh, an’ done fer yuh all your
life, but the time’s come fer me to take a back seat. Its be’n hard—it’s
be’n offul hard—an’ I guess I’ve be’n mean an’ hateful to Emarine—but
it’s be’n hard. Yuh keep Emarine, an’ I’ll go. Yuh want her an’ I want
choo to be happy. Don’t choo worry about me—I’ll git along all right. Yuh
won’t have to decide—I’ll go of myself. That’s the way _mothers_ love, my
son!”

She walked steadily out of the kitchen; and though her head was shaking,
it was carried high.


PART III

It was the day before Christmas—an Oregon Christmas. It had rained
mistily at dawn; but at ten o’clock the clouds had parted and moved away
reluctantly. There was a blue and dazzling sky overhead. The rain-drops
still sparkled on the windows and on the green grass, and the last roses
and chrysanthemums hung their beautiful heads heavily beneath them; but
there was to be no more rain. Oregon City’s mighty barometer—the Falls of
the Willamette—was declaring to her people by her softened roar that the
morrow was to be fair.

Mrs. Orville Palmer was in the large kitchen making preparations for the
Christmas dinner. She was a picture of dainty loveliness in a lavender
gingham dress, made with a full skirt and a shirred waist and big
leg-o’-mutton sleeves. A white apron was tied neatly around her waist.

Her husband came in, and paused to put his arm around her and kiss her.
She was stirring something on the stove, holding her dress aside with one
hand.

“It’s goin’ to be a fine Christmas, Emarine,” he said, and sighed
unconsciously. There was a wistful and careworn look on his face.

“Beautiful!” said Emarine, vivaciously. “Goin’ down-town, Orville?”

“Yes. Want anything?”

“Why, the cranberries ain’t come yet. I’m so uneasy about ’em. They’d
ought to ’a’ b’en stooed long ago. I like ’em cooked down an’ strained to
a jell. I don’t see what ails them groc’rymen! Sh’u’d think they c’u’d
get around some time before doomsday! Then, I want—here, you’d best set
it down.” She took a pencil and a slip of paper from a shelf over the
table and gave them to him. “Now, let me see.” She commenced stirring
again, with two little wrinkles between her brows. “A ha’f a pound o’
citron; a ha’f a pound o’ candied peel; two pounds o’ cur’nts; two
pounds o’ raisins—git ’em stunned, Orville; a pound o’ sooet—make ’em
give you some that ain’t all strings! A box o’ Norther’ Spy apples; a
ha’f a dozen lemons; four-bits’ worth o’ walnuts or a’monds, whichever’s
freshest; a pint o’ Puget Sound oysters fer the dressin’, an’ a bunch o’
cel’ry. You stop by an’ see about the turkey, Orville; an’ I wish you’d
run in ’s you go by mother’s an’ tell her to come up as soon as she can.
She’d ought to be here now.”

Her husband smiled as he finished the list. “You’re a wonderful
housekeeper, Emarine,” he said.

Then his face grew grave. “Got a present fer your mother yet, Emarine?”

“Oh, yes, long ago. I got ’er a black shawl down t’ Charman’s. She’s b’en
wantin’ one.”

He shuffled his feet about a little. “Unh-hunh. Yuh—that is—I reckon yuh
ain’t picked out any present fer—fer my mother, have yuh, Emarine?”

“No,” she replied, with cold distinctness. “I ain’t.”

There was a silence. Emarine stirred briskly. The lines grew deeper
between her brows. Two red spots came into her cheeks. “I hope the rain
ain’t spoilt the chrysyanthums,” she said then, with an air of ridding
herself of a disagreeable subject.

Orville made no answer. He moved his feet again uneasily. Presently he
said: “I expect my mother needs a black shawl, too. Seemed to me her’n
looked kind o’ rusty at church Sunday. Notice it, Emarine?”

“No,” said Emarine.

“Seemed to me she was gittin’ to look offul old. Emarine”—his voice
broke; he came a step nearer—“it’ll be the first Christmas dinner I ever
eat without my mother.”

She drew back and looked at him. He knew the look that flashed into her
eyes, and shrank from it.

“You don’t have to eat this ’n’ without ’er, Orville Parmer! You go an’
eat your dinner with your mother, ’f you want! I can get along alone. Are
you goin’ to order them things? If you ain’t, just say so, an’ I’ll go
an’ do ’t myself!”

He put on his hat and went without a word.

Mrs. Palmer took the saucepan from the stove and set it on the hearth.
Then she sat down and leaned her cheek in the palm of her hand, and
looked steadily out of the window. Her eyelids trembled closer together.
Her eyes held a far-sighted look. She saw a picture; but it was not the
picture of the blue reaches of sky, and the green valley cleft by its
silver-blue river. She saw a kitchen, shabby, compared to her own,
scantily furnished, and in it an old, white-haired woman sitting down to
eat her Christmas dinner alone.

After a while she arose with an impatient sigh. “Well, I can’t help it!”
she exclaimed. “If I knuckled-down to her this time, I’d have to do ’t
ag’in. She might just as well get ust to ’t, first as last. I wish she
hadn’t got to lookin’ so old an’ pitiful, though, a-settin’ there in
front o’ us in church Sunday after Sunday. The cords stand out in her
neck like well-rope, an’ her chin keeps a-quiv’rin’ so I can see Orville
a-watchin’ her——”

The door opened suddenly and her mother entered. She was bristling with
curiosity. “Say, Emarine!” She lowered her voice, although there was no
one to hear. “Where d’ you s’pose the undertaker’s a-goin’ up by here?
Have you hear of anybody——”

“No,” said Emarine. “Did Orville stop by an’ tell you to hurry up?”

“Yes. What’s the matter of him? Is he sick?”

“Not as I know of. Why?”

“He looks so. Oh, I wonder if it’s one o’ the Peterson childern where the
undertaker’s a-goin’! They’ve all got the quinsy sore throat.”

“How does he look? I don’t see ’s he looks so turrable.”

“Why, Emarine Parmer! Ev’rybody in town says he looks _so_! I only hope
they don’t know what ails him!”

“What _does_ ail him?” cried out Emarine, fiercely. “What are you hintin’
at?”

“Well, if you don’t know what ails him, you’d ort to; so I’ll tell you.
He’s dyin’ by inches ever sence you turned his mother out o’ doors.”

Emarine turned white. Sheet lightning played in her eyes.

“Oh, you’d ought to talk about my turnin’ her out!” she burst out,
furiously. “After you a-settin’ here a-quar’l’n’ with her in this very
kitchen, an’ eggin’ me on! Wa’n’t she goin’ to turn you out o’ your own
daughter’s home? Wa’n’t that what I turned her out fer? I didn’t turn her
out, anyhow! I only told Orville this house wa’n’t big enough fer his
mother an’ me, an’ that neither o’ us ’u’d knuckle-down, so he’d best
take his choice. You’d ought to talk!”

“Well, if I egged you on, I’m sorry fer ’t,” said Mrs. Endey, solemnly.
“Ever sence that fit o’ sickness I had a month ago, I’ve feel kind o’ old
an’ no account myself, as if I’d like to let all holts go, an’ just rest.
I don’t spunk up like I ust to. No, he didn’t go to Peterson’s—he’s gawn
right on. My land! I wonder ’f it ain’t old gran’ma Eliot; she had a bad
spell—no, he didn’t turn that corner. I can’t think where he’s goin’ to!”

She sat down with a sigh of defeat.

A smile glimmered palely across Emarine’s face and was gone. “Maybe if
you’d go up in the antic you could see better,” she suggested, dryly.

“Oh, Emarine, here comes old gran’ma Eliot herself! Run an’ open the door
fer ’er. She’s limpin’ worse ’n usual.”

Emarine flew to the door. Grandma Eliot was one of the few people she
loved. She was large and motherly. She wore a black dress and shawl and a
funny bonnet, with a frill of white lace around her brow.

Emarine’s face softened when she kissed her. “I’m so glad to see you,”
she said, and her voice was tender.

Even Mrs. Endey’s face underwent a change. Usually it wore a look of
doubt, if not of positive suspicion, but now it fairly beamed. She shook
hands cordially with the guest and led her to a comfortable chair.

“I know your rheumatiz is worse,” she said, cheerfully, “because you’re
limpin’ so. Oh, did you see the undertaker go up by here? We can’t think
where he’s goin’ to. D’ you happen to know?”

“No, I don’t; an’ I don’t want to, neither.” Mrs. Eliot laughed
comfortably. “Mis’ Endey, you don’t ketch me foolin’ with undertakers
till I have to.” She sat down and removed her black cotton gloves. “I’m
gettin’ to that age when I don’t care much where undertakers go to so
long ’s they let _me_ alone. Fixin’ fer Christmas dinner, Emarine dear?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Emarine in her very gentlest tone. Her mother had
never said “dear” to her, and the sound of it on this old lady’s lips was
sweet. “Won’t you come an’ take dinner with us?”

The old lady laughed merrily. “Oh, dearie me, dearie me! You don’t guess
my son’s folks could spare me now, do you? I spend ev’ry Christmas there.
They most carry me on two chips. My son’s wife, Sidonie, she nearly runs
her feet off waitin’ on me. She can’t do enough fer me. My, Mrs. Endey,
you don’t know what a comfort a daughter-in-law is when you get old an’
feeble!”

Emarine’s face turned red. She went to the table and stood with her back
to the older woman; but her mother’s sharp eyes observed that her ears
grew scarlet.

“An’ I never will,” said Mrs. Endey, grimly.

“You’ve got a son-in-law, though, who’s worth a whole townful of most
son-in-laws. He was such a good son, too; jest worshipped his mother;
couldn’t bear her out o’ his sight. He humored her high an’ low. That’s
jest the way Sidonie does with me. I’m gettin’ cranky ’s I get older, an’
sometimes I’m reel cross an’ sassy to her; but she jest laffs at me, an’
then comes an’ kisses me, an’ I’m all right ag’in. It’s a blessin’ right
from God to have a daughter-in-law like that.”

The knife in Emarine’s hand slipped, and she uttered a little cry.

“Hurt you?” demanded her mother, sternly.

Emarine was silent, and did not turn.

“Cut you, Emarine? Why don’t you answer me? Aigh?”

“A little,” said Emarine. She went into the pantry, and presently
returned with a narrow strip of muslin which she wound around her finger.

“Well, I never see! You never will learn any gumption! Why don’t you look
what you’re about? Now, go around Christmas with your finger all tied up!”

“Oh, that’ll be all right by to-morrow,” said Mrs. Eliot, cheerfully.
“Won’t it, Emarine? Never cry over spilt milk, Mrs. Endey; it makes a
body get wrinkles too fast. O’ course Orville’s mother’s comin’ to take
dinner’ with you, Emarine.”

“Dear me!” exclaimed Emarine, in a sudden flutter. “I don’t see why them
cranberries don’t come! I told Orville to hurry ’em up. I’d best make
the floatin’ island while I wait.”

“I stopped at Orville’s mother’s as I came along.”

“How?” Emarine turned in a startled way from the table.

“I say, I stopped at Orville’s mother’s as I come along, Emarine.”

“Oh!”

“She well?” asked Mrs. Endey.

“No, she ain’t; shakin’ like she had the Saint Vitus dance. She’s failed
harrable lately. She’d b’en cryin’; her eyes was all swelled up.”

There was quite a silence. Then Mrs. Endey said—“What she b’en cryin’
about?”

“Why, when I asked her she jest laffed kind o’ pitiful, an’ said: ‘Oh,
only my tomfoolishness, o’ course.’ Said she always got to thinkin’ about
other Christmases. But I cheered her up. I told her what a good time I
always had at my son’s, and how Sidonie jest couldn’t do enough fer me.
An’ I told her to think what a nice time she’d have here ’t Emarine’s
to-morrow.”

Mrs. Endey smiled. “What she say to that?”

“She didn’t say much. I could see she was thankful, though, she had a
son’s to go to. She said she pitied all poor wretches that had to set
out their Christmas alone. Poor old lady! she ain’t got much spunk left.
She’s all broke down. But I cheered her up some. Sech a _wishful_ look
took holt o’ her when I pictchered her dinner over here at Emarine’s. I
can’t seem to forget it. Goodness! I must go. I’m on my way to Sidonie’s,
an’ she’ll be comin’ after me if I ain’t on time.”

When Mrs. Eliot had gone limping down the path, Mrs. Endey said: “You got
your front room red up, Emarine?”

“No; I ain’t had time to red up anything.”

“Well, I’ll do it. Where’s your duster at?”

“Behind the org’n. You can get out the wax cross again. Mis’ Dillon was
here with all her childern, an’ I had to hide up ev’rything. I never see
childern like her’n. She lets ’em handle things so!”

Mrs. Endey went into the “front room” and began to dust the organ.
She was something of a diplomat, and she wished to be alone for a few
minutes. “You have to manage Emarine by contrairies,” she reflected. It
did not occur to her that this was a family trait. “I’m offul sorry I
ever egged her on to turnin’ Orville’s mother out o’ doors, but who’d
’a’ thought it ’u’d break her down so? She ain’t told a soul either. I
reckoned she’d talk somethin’ offul about us, but she ain’t told a soul.
She’s kep’ a stiff upper lip an’ told folks she al’ays expected to live
alone when Orville got married. Emarine’s all worked up. I believe the
Lord hisself must ’a’ sent gran’ma Eliot here to talk like an angel
unawares. I bet she’d go an’ ask Mis’ Parmer over here to dinner if she
wa’n’t afraid I’d laff at her fer knucklin’-down. I’ll have to aggravate
her.”

She finished dusting, and returned to the kitchen. “I wonder what gran’ma
Eliot ’u’d say if she knew you’d turned Orville’s mother out, Emarine?”

There was no reply. Emarine was at the table mixing the plum pudding. Her
back was to her mother.

“I didn’t mean what I said about bein’ sorry I egged you on, Emarine. I’m
glad you turned her out. She’d _ort_ to be turned out.”

Emarine put a handful of floured raisins into the mixture and stirred it
all together briskly.

“Gran’ma Eliot can go talkin’ about her daughter-in-law Sidonie all she
wants, Emarine. You keep a stiff upper lip.”

“I can ’tend to my own affairs,” said Emarine, fiercely.

“Well, don’t flare up so. Here comes Orville. Land, but he does look
peakid!”

       *       *       *       *       *

After supper, when her mother had gone home for the night, Emarine put on
her hat and shawl.

Her husband was sitting by the fireplace, looking thoughtfully at the bed
of coals.

“I’m goin’ out,” she said, briefly. “You keep the fire up.”

“Why, Emarine, its dark. Don’t choo want I sh’u’d go along?”

“No; you keep the fire up.”

He looked at her anxiously, but he knew from the way she set her heels
down that remonstrance would be useless.

“Don’t stay long,” he said, in a tone of habitual tenderness. He loved
her passionately, in spite of the lasting hurt she had given him when she
parted him from his mother. It was a hurt that had sunk deeper than even
he realized. It lay heavy on his heart day and night. It took the blue
out of the sky, and the green out of the grass, and the gold out of the
sunlight; it took the exaltation and the rapture out of his tenderest
moments of love.

He never reproached her, he never really blamed her; certainly he never
pitied himself. But he carried a heavy heart around with him, and his few
smiles were joyless things.

For the trouble he blamed only himself. He had promised Emarine solemnly
before he married her that if there were any “knuckling-down” to be
done, his mother should be the one to do it. He had made the promise
deliberately, and he could no more have broken it than he could have
changed the color of his eyes. When bitter feeling arises between two
relatives by marriage, it is the one who stands between them—the one who
is bound by the tenderest ties to both—who has the real suffering to
bear, who is torn and tortured until life holds nothing worth the having.

Orville Palmer was the one who stood between. He had built his own cross,
and he took it up and bore it without a word.

Emarine hurried through the early winter dark until she came to the
small and poor house where her husband’s mother lived. It was off the
main-traveled street.

There was a dim light in the kitchen; the curtain had not been drawn.
Emarine paused and looked in. The sash was lifted six inches, for the
night was warm, and the sound of voices came to her at once. Mrs. Palmer
had company.

“It’s Miss Presly,” said Emarine, resentfully, under her breath. “Old
gossip!”

“—goin’ to have a fine dinner, I hear,” Miss Presly was saying. “Turkey
with oyster dressin’, an’ cranberries, an’ mince an’ pun’kin pie, an’
reel plum puddin’ with brandy poured over ’t an’ set afire, an’ wine dip,
an’ nuts, an’ raisins, an’ wine itself to wind up on. Emarine’s a fine
cook. She knows how to get up a dinner that makes your mouth water to
think about. You goin’ to have a spread, Mis’ Parmer?”

“Not much of a one,” said Orville’s mother. “I expected to, but I
c’u’dn’t get them fall patatas sold off. I’ll have to keep ’em till
spring to git any kind o’ price. I don’t care much about Christmas,
though”—her chin was trembling, but she lifted it high. “It’s silly for
anybody but childern to build so much on Christmas.”

Emarine opened the door and walked in. Mrs. Palmer arose slowly, grasping
the back of her chair. “Orville’s dead?” she said, solemnly.

Emarine laughed, but there was the tenderness of near tears in her voice.
“Oh, my, no!” she said, sitting down. “I run over to ask you to come to
Christmas dinner. I was too busy all day to come sooner. I’m goin’ to
have a great dinner, an’ I’ve cooked ev’ry single thing of it myself! I
want to show you what a fine Christmas dinner your daughter-’n-law can
get up. Dinner’s at two, an’ I want you to come at eleven. Will you?”

Mrs. Palmer had sat down, weakly. Trembling was not the word to describe
the feeling that had taken possession of her. She was shivering. She
wanted to fall down on her knees and put her arms around her son’s wife,
and sob out all her loneliness and heartache. But life is a stage; and
Miss Presly was an audience not to be ignored. So Mrs. Palmer said:
“Well, I’ll be reel glad to come, Emarine. It’s offul kind o’ yuh to
think of ’t. It ’u’d ’a’ be’n lonesome eatin’ here all by myself, I
expect.”

Emarine stood up. Her heart was like a thistle-down. Her eyes were
shining. “All right,” she said; “an’ I want that you sh’u’d come just at
eleven. I must run right back now. Good-night.”

“Well, I declare!” said Miss Presly. “That girl gits prettier ev’ry day
o’ her life. Why, she just looked full o’ _glame_ to-night!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Orville was not at home when his mother arrived in her rusty best dress
and shawl. Mrs. Endey saw her coming. She gasped out, “Why, good grieve!
Here’s Mis’ Parmer, Emarine!”

“Yes, I know,” said Emarine, calmly. “I ast her to dinner.”

She opened the door, and shook hands with her mother-in-law, giving her
mother a look of defiance that almost upset that lady’s gravity.

“You set right down, Mother Parmer, an’ let me take your things. Orville
don’t know you’re comin’, an’ I just want to see his face when he comes
in. Here’s a new black shawl fer your Christmas. I got mother one just
like it. See what nice long fringe it’s got. Oh, my, don’t go to cryin’!
Here comes Orville.”

She stepped aside quickly. When her husband entered his eyes fell
instantly on his mother, weeping childishly over the new shawl. She was
in the old splint rocking-chair with the high back. “_Mother!_” he cried;
then he gave a frightened, tortured glance at his wife. Emarine smiled at
him, but it was through tears.

“Emarine ast me, Orville—she ast me to dinner o’ herself! An’ she give me
this shawl. I’m—cryin’—fer—joy——”

“I ast her to dinner,” said Emarine, “but she ain’t ever goin’ back
again. She’s goin’ to _stay_. I expect we’ve both had enough of a lesson
to do us.”

Orville did not speak. He fell on his knees and laid his head, like a
boy, in his mother’s lap, and reached one strong but trembling arm up to
his wife’s waist, drawing her down to him.

Mrs. Endey got up and went to rattling things around on the table
vigorously. “Well, I never see sech a pack o’ loonatics!” she exclaimed.
“Go an’ burn all your Christmas dinner up, if I don’t look after
it! Turncoats! I expect they’ll both be fallin’ over theirselves to
knuckle-down to each other from now on! I never see!”

But there was something in her eyes, too, that made them beautiful.



THE CUTTIN’-OUT OF BART WINN



THE CUTTIN’-OUT OF BART WINN


“Lavin-ee!”

“Well?”

Mrs. Vaiden came to the foot of the stairs.

“You up there?” she said.

“Yes, maw. What you want?”

“Somebody’s comin’,” said Mrs. Vaiden, lowering her voice to a tone of
important mystery.

“I guess not here,” said Lavinia, lightly. She sat down on the top step
and smiled at her mother.

“Yes, it is here, too,” retorted Mrs. Vaiden, with some irritation. “If
you couldn’t conterdict a body ’t wouldn’t be you! You’re just like your
paw!” She paused, and then added: “It’s a man a-foot. He’s comin’ up the
path slow, a-stoppin’ to look at the flowers.”

“Maybe it’s the minister,” said the girl, still regarding her mother with
a good-natured, teasing smile.

“No, it ain’t the minister, either. As if I didn’t know the minister when
I see him! You do aggravate me so! It’s a young fello’, an’ he’s all
dressed up. You’ll have to go to the door.”

“Oh, maw!” cried Lavinia, reproachfully. “I just can’t! In this short
dress?”

She stood up, with a look of dismay, and began pulling nervously at her
fresh gingham skirt. It was short, showing very prettily-arched insteps
and delicate ankles.

“Well, you just can, an’ haf to,” said Mrs. Vaiden, shortly. “I’ve told
you often enough to put a ruffle on the bottom o’ that dress, an’ I’m
glad you’re caught. Mebbe you’ll do’s I tell you after this—”

She started guiltily as a loud rap sounded upon the door behind her,
and began to tiptoe heavily down the hall toward the kitchen. The girl
looked after her in mingled amusement and chagrin. Then she leaned
forward slightly, drawing the skirt back closely on both sides, and
looked at her feet, with her head turned on one side like a bird. When
the cessation of her mother’s labored breathing announced silently that
she had reached the kitchen in safety, Lavinia shrugged her beautiful
shoulders—which no gown could conceal—and opened the door. A young man in
a light traveling-suit stood before her. In his hand was a bunch of her
own sweet-peas.

At sight of her he whisked off his hat in a way that brought a lovely
color to her face and throat. For a little while it seemed as if he were
not going to say or do anything but just look at her. She was well worth
looking at. She had the rare beauty of velvet eyes of a reddish-brown
color, hair wavy and brown, with red glints in it, and a clear
complexion, unfreckled and of exquisite coloring.

Lavinia’s eyes went to the sweet-peas, and then, with a deeper blush
under them, to his face.

“Won’t you come in?” she said.

“Why, yes, if you’ll let me.” The young man smiled, and Lavinia found
her lips and eyes responding, in all the lightness of youth and a clear
conscience.

“I couldn’t help taking some of your sweet-peas,” he said, following
her into the parlor. It was a large, solemn-looking room. The blinds
were lowered over the windows, but the girl raised one slightly, letting
a splash of pale autumnal sunshine flicker across the hit-and-miss
rag carpet. There was an organ in one corner and a hair-cloth sofa in
another. Eight slender-legged hair-cloth chairs were placed at severely
equal distances around the room, their backs resting firmly against the
walls. All tipped forward slightly, their front legs being somewhat
shorter than the others. On the back of each was a small, square
crocheted tidy. There were some family portraits on the walls, in oval
gilt frames; and there was a large picture of George Washington and
family, on their stateliest behavior; another, named in large letters
“The Journey of Life,” of an uncommonly roomy row-boat containing at
least a dozen persons, who were supposed to represent all ages from the
cradle to the grave; in the wide, white margin beneath this picture were
two verses of beautiful, descriptive poetry, and in one corner appeared,
with apparent irrelevancy, the name of an illustrated newspaper. There
was also a chromo of a scantily-attired woman clinging to a cross which
was set in the midst of dashing sea-waves; and there was a cheerful
photograph, in a black cloth frame, of flowers—made into harps, crosses,
anchors and hearts—which had been sent at some time of bereavement by
sympathetic but misguided friends. A marble-topped centre-table held a
large plush album, a scrap book, a book of autographs, a lamp with a
pale-green shade, and a glass case containing a feather-wreath.

“Oh, we’ve got lots of sweet-peas,” said Lavinia, adjusting the blind
carefully. Then she looked at him.

“May I see Mrs. Vaiden?” he asked, easily.

“She’s—busy,” said Lavinia, with a look of embarrassment. “But I’ll see—”

“Oh, don’t,” interrupted the young man lightly. “They told me at the
postoffice she took boarders sometimes, and I came to see if there was a
chance for me.” He handed a card to the girl with an air of not knowing
that he was doing it. Her very eyelids seemed to blush as she looked at
it and read the name—Mr. C. Daun Diller. “I am writing up the Puget Sound
country for a New York paper, and I should like to make my headquarters
here at Whatcom, but I can’t stand the hotels in your new towns. It’s the
most amazing thing!” he went on, smiling at her as she stood twisting
the card in her fingers, not knowing exactly what to do with it. “You
go to sleep at night in a Puget Sound village with the fronts of the
stores painted green, blue and red, spasmodic patches of sidewalk here
and there, dust ankle deep, and no street-lights—and you wake in the
morning in a _city_! A city with fine stone blocks and residences, stone
pavements, electric lights and railways, gas, splendid water-works,”—he
was checking off now, excitedly, on his fingers,—“sewerage, big mills,
factories, canneries, public schools that would make the East stare,
churches, libraries”—he stopped abruptly, and, dropping his arms limply
to his sides, added—“and not a hotel! Not a comfortable bed or a good
meal to be had for love or money!”

“Yes, that’s so,” said Lavinia, reluctantly. “But you can’t expect us
to get everything all at onct. Why, Whatcom’s boom only started in six
months ago.”

Mr. C. Daun Diller looked amused. “Oh, if it were this town only,” he
said, sitting down on one of the hair-cloth chairs and feeling himself
slide gently forward, “I shouldn’t have mentioned it. But the truth is,
there are only three decent hotels in the whole Puget Sound country. But
I know”—here he smiled at her again—“that it’s not safe to breathe a word
against Puget Sound to a Puget-Sounder.”

“No, it ain’t,” said the girl, responding to the smile and the
respectfully bantering tone. Then she moved to the door. “Well, I’ll see
what maw says to it,” she said, and vanished.

Mr. C. Daun Diller stood up and pushed his hands down into his pockets,
whistling softly. He walked over to the organ and looked at the music.
There were three large books: “The Home Circle,” “The Golden Chord,” and
“The Family Treasure;” a “simplified” copy of “The Maiden’s Prayer,” and
a book of “Gospel Songs.”

The young man smiled.

“All the same,” he said, as if in answer to a disparaging remark made by
some one else, “she’s about the handsomest girl I ever saw. I’m getting
right down anxious to see myself what ‘maw’ will ‘say to it.’”

After a long while Mrs. Vaiden appeared in a crisply-starched gingham
dress and a company manner—both of which had been freshly put on for the
occasion. Mr. Diller found her rather painfully polite, and he began to
wonder, after paying his first week’s board, whether he could endure two
or three months of her; but he was quite, quite sure that he could endure
a full year of the daughter.

A couple of evenings later he was sitting by the window in his quaint but
exquisitely neat room, writing, when a light rap came upon his door. Upon
opening it he found Lavinia standing, bashfully, a few steps away. There
was a picturesque, broad-brimmed hat set coquettishly on her splendid
hair.

“Maw wanted I sh’u’d ask you if you’d like to see an Indian canoe-race,”
she said.

“_Would_ I?” he ejaculated, getting into a great excitement at once.
“Well, I should say so! Awfully good of your mother to think—but where is
it—when is it? How can I see it?”

“It’s down by the viaduck—right now,” said Lavinia. Then she added,
shyly, pretending to be deeply engrossed with her glove: “I’m just goin’.”

“Oh, are you?” said Diller, seizing his hat and stick and coming eagerly
out to her. “And may I go with you? Will you take me in hand? I haven’t
the ghost of an idea where the viaduct is.”

“Oh, yes, I’ll show you,” she said, with a glad little laugh, and they
went swiftly down the stairs and out into the sweet evening.

“You know,” she said, as he opened the gate for her with a deference to
which she was not accustomed, and which gave her a thrill of innocent
exultation, “the Alaska Indians are just comin’ back from hop-pickin’
down around Puyallup an’ Yakima an’ Seattle, an’ they alwus stop here an’
have races with the Lummies an’ the Nooksacks.”

Mr. Diller drew a deep breath.

“Do you know,” he said, “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything—not
for anything I can think of. And yet I should if it hadn’t been for”—he
hesitated, and then added—“your mother.” They looked into each other’s
eyes and laughed, very foolishly and happily.

The sun was setting—moving slowly, scarlet and of dazzling brilliancy,
down the western sky, which shaded rapidly from pale blue to salmon, and
from salmon to palest pea-green. Beneath, superbly motionless, at full
tide, the sound stretched mile on mile away to Lummi peninsula, whose
hills the sun now touched—every fir-tree on those noble crests standing
out against that burnished background. A broad, unbroken path of gold
stretched from shore to shore. Some sea-gulls were circling in endless,
silvery rings through the amethystine haze between sea and sky. The
old, rotten pier running a mile out to sea shone like a strip of gold
above the deep blue water. It was crowded with people, indifferent to
danger in their eagerness to see the races. Indeed, there seemed to be
people everywhere; on the high banks, the piers, and the mills scattered
over the tide-flats, and out in row boats. Two brass bands were playing
stirring strains alternately. There was much excitement—much shouting,
hurrying, running. The crowd kept swaying from the viaduct over to the
pier, and from the pier back to the viaduct. Nobody seemed to be quite
sure where the start would be; even the three judges, when asked, yelled
back, as they clambered down to their row-boat: “We don’t know. Wait and
see!”

“What accommodating persons,” said Mr. Diller, cheerfully. “Shall we go
over to the pier? The tide seems to be running that way.”

“Oh, the tide’s not running now,” said Lavinia. “It’s full.”

Diller looked amused. “I meant the people,” he said.

The girl laughed and looked around on the pushing crowd. “I guess we’d
best stop right here on the viaduck; here’s just where they started last
year an’ the year before. Oh, see, here’s the Alaskas camped pretty near
under us!”

As she lifted her voice a little Diller saw a young man standing near
start and turn toward her with a glad look of recognition; but at once
his glance rested on Diller, and his expression changed to a kind of
puzzled bewilderment. The girl was leaning over the railing and did not
see him, but he never took his eyes away from her and Diller.

There was a long wait, but the crowd did not lose its patience or its
good humor. There was considerable betting going on, and there was the
same exciting uncertainty about the start. The sun went down and a bank
of apricot-colored clouds piled low over the snow crest of Mount Baker
in the East. The pier darkened and the path of gold faded, but splashes
of scarlet still lingered on the blue water. A chill, sweet wind started
up suddenly, and some of the girl’s bronze curls got loose about her
white temples. Diller put her wrap around her carefully, and she smiled
up at him deliciously. Then she cried out, “Oh, they’re gettin’ into the
boat! They’re goin’ to start. Oh, I’m so glad!” and struck her two hands
together gleefully, like a child.

The long, narrow, richly-painted and carven canoe slid down gracefully
into the water. Eleven tall, supple Alaskan Indians, bare to the waist,
leaped lightly to their places. They sat erect, close to the sides of
the boat, holding their short paddles perpendicularly. At a signal the
paddles shot straight down into the water, and, with a swift, magnificent
straining and swelling of muscles in the powerful bronze arms and
bodies, were pushed backward and withdrawn in lightning strokes. The
canoe flashed under the viaduct and appeared on the other side, and
a great shout belched from thousands of throats. From camping-places
farther up the shore the other boats darted out into the water and headed
for the viaduct.

“Oh, good! good!” cried Lavinia in a very ecstasy of excitement. “They’re
goin’ to start right under us. We’re just in _the_ place!”

“Twenty dollars on the Nooksacks!” yelled a blear-eyed man in a carriage.
“Twenty! Twenty ag’inst ten on the Nooksacks!”

The band burst into “Hail, Columbia!” with beautiful irrelevancy. The
crowd came surging back from the pier. Diller was excited, too. His face
was flushed and he was breathing heavily. “Who’ll you bet on?” he asked,
laughing, and thinking, even at that moment, how ravishingly lovely she
was with that glow on her face and the loose curls blowing about her face
and throat.

“Oh, the _Alaskas_!” cried the girl, striking little blows of impatience
on the railing with her soft fists. “They’re so tall an’ fine-lookin’!
They’re so strong an’ grand! Look at their muscles—just like ropes! Oh,
I’ll bet on the Alaskas! I _love_ tall men!”

“Do you?” said Diller. “I’m tall.”

They looked into each other’s eyes again and laughed. Then a voice spoke
over their shoulders—a kind, patient voice. “Oh, Laviny,” it said; “I
wouldn’t bet if I was you.”

Lavinia gave a little scream. Both turned instantly. The young man who
had been watching them stood close to them. He wore working-clothes—a
flannel shirt and cheap-faded trousers and coat. He had a good, strong,
honest face, and there was a tenderness in the look he bent on the girl
that struck Diller as being almost pathetic.

The glow in Lavinia’s face turned to the scarlet of the sunset.

“_Oh!_” she said, embarrassedly. “That you, Bart? I didn’t know you was
back.”

“I just got back,” he replied, briefly. “I got to go back again in the
mornin’. I was just on my way up to your house. I guess I’ll go on. I’m
tired, an’ I’ve seen lots o’ c’noe races.” He looked at her wistfully.

“Well,” she said, after a moment’s hesitation. “You go on up, then. Maw
an’ paw’s at home, an’ I’ll come as soon ’s the race ’s over.”

“All right,” he said, with a little drop in his voice, and walked away.

“Oh, _dear_!” cried Lavinia. “We’re missin’ the start, ain’t we?”

The canoes were lying side by side, waiting for the signal. Every Indian
was bent forward, holding his paddle suspended above the water in both
hands. There was what might be termed a rigid suppleness in the attitude.
The dark outlines of the paddles showed clearly in the water, which had
turned yellow as brass. Suddenly the band ceased playing and the signal
rang across the sunset. Thirty-three paddles shot into the water, working
with the swift regularity of piston-rods in powerful engines. The crowds
cheered and yelled. The canoes did not flash or glide now, but literally
plowed and plunged through the water, which boiled and seethed behind
them in white, bubbled foam that at times completely hid the bronze
figures from sight. There was no shouting now, but tense, breathless
excitement. People clung motionless, in dangerous places and stared with
straining eyes, under bent brows, after the leaping canoes. The betting
had been high. The fierce, rhythmic strokes of the paddles made a noise
that was like the rapid pumping of a great ram. To Diller, who stood,
pale, with compressed lips, it sounded like the frantic heart-beat of a
nation in passionate riot. Mingled with it was a noise that, once heard,
cannot be forgotten—a weird, guttural chanting on one tone, that yet
seemed to hold a windy, musical note; a sound, regular, and rhythmic as
the paddle-strokes, that came from deep in the breasts of the rigidly
swaying Indians and found utterance through locked teeth.

A mile out a railroad crossed the tide-lands, and this was the turning
point. The Nooksacks made it first, closely followed by the Alaskans, and
then, amid wild cheering, the three canoes headed for the viaduct. Faster
and faster worked those powerful arms; the paddles whizzed more fiercely
through the air; the water spurted in white sheets behind; the canoes
bounded, length on length, out of the water; and louder and faster the
guttural chant beat time. The Alaskans and the Nooksacks were coming in
together, carven prow to carven prow, and the excitement was terrific.
Nearer and nearer, neither gaining, they came. Then, suddenly, there
burst a mad yell of triumph, and the Alaskan boat arose from the water
and leaped almost its full length ahead of the Nooksack’s; and amidst
waving hats and handkerchiefs, and almost frantic cheering—the race was
won.

“By the eternal!” said Diller, beginning to breathe again and wiping the
perspiration from his brow. “If that isn’t worth crossing the plains
to see, I don’t know what is!” But his companion did not hear. She was
alternately waving her kerchief to the victors and pounding her small
fists on the railing in an ecstasy of triumph.

“Lavin-_ee_!”

“Well?”

“You come right down hyeer an’ help me em’ty this renchin’-water. I’d
like to know what’s got into you! A-stayin’ upstairs half your time, an’
just a-mopin’ around when you are down. You ain’t b’en worth your salt
lately!”

The girl came into the kitchen slowly. “What you jawin’ about now, maw?”
she said, smiling.

“I’ll show you what I’m a-jawin’ about, as you call it. Take holt o’ this
tub an’ help me em’ty this renchin’-water.”

“Well, don’t holler so; Mr. Diller’ll hear you.”

“I don’t care ’f he _does_ hear me. I can give him his come-up’ans if he
goes to foolin’ around, listenin’. I don’t care ’f he does write for a
paper in New York! You’ve got to take holt o’ the work more’n you’ve b’en
lately. A-traipsin’ around all over the country with him, a-showin’ him
things to write about an’ make fun of! I sh’u’d think Bart Winn had just
about got enough of it.”

“I wish you’d keep still about Bart Winn,” said Lavinia, impatiently.

“Well, I ain’t a-goin’ to keep still about him.” Mrs. Vaiden poured the
dish-water into the sink and passed the dish-cloth round and round the
pan, inside and outside with mechanical care, before she opened the
back door and hung it out on the side of the house. “I guess I don’t haf
to ask _you_ when I want to talk. There you was—gone all day yeste’day
a-huntin’ star-fish, an’ that renchin’-water a-settin’ there a-ruinin’
that tub because I couldn’t em’ty it all myself. Just as if he never saw
star-fish where he come from. An’ then to-day—b’en gone all the mornin’
a-ketchin’ crabs! How many crabs ’d you ketch, I’d like to know!”

“We didn’t ketch many,” said Lavinia, with a soft, aggravating laugh.
“The water wa’n’t clear enough to see ’em.”

“No, I guess the water _wa’n’t_ clear enough to see ’em!” The
rinsing-water had been emptied, and Mrs. Vaiden was industriously wiping
the tub. “I’ve got all the star-fishin’ an’ the crab-ketchin’ I want, an’
I’m a-goin’ to tell that young man that he can go some’ers else for his
board. He’s b’en here a month, an’ he’s just about made a fool o’ you.
Pret’ soon you’ll be a-thinkin’ you’re too good for Bart Winn.”

“Oh, no,” said Bart Winn’s honest voice in the doorway; “I guess Laviny
won’t never be a-thinkin’ that.”

“Mercy!” cried Mrs. Vaiden, starting and coloring guiltily. “That you?
How you scairt me! I’m all of a-trimble.”

Bart advanced to Lavinia and kissed her with much tenderness; but
instead of blushing, she paled.

“When ’d you come?” she asked, briefly, drawing away, while her mother,
muttering something about the sour cream and the spring-house, went out
discreetly.

“This mornin’,” said Bart. “I’m a-goin’ to stay home now.”

The girl sat down, taking a pan of potatoes on her lap. “I wonder where
the case-knife is,” she said, helplessly.

“I’ll get it,” said Bart, running into the pantry and returning with the
knife. “I love to wait on you, Laviny,” he added, with shining eyes. “I
guess I’ll get to wait on you a sight, now. I see your paw ’s I come up
an’ he said as how I could board hyeer. I’ll do the shores for you—an’
glad to. An’, oh, Laviny! I ’most forgot. I spoke for a buggy ’s I come
up, so’s I can take you a-ridin’ to-night.”

“I guess I can’t go,” said Lavinia, holding her head down and paring
potatoes as if her life depended upon getting the skins off.

“You can’t? Why can’t you?”

“I—why, I’m goin’ a salmon-spearin’ up at Squalicum Creek, I guess.
Salmon’s a-runnin’ like everything now. ’Most half the town goes there
soon ’s it gets dark.”

“That a fact?” said Bart, shifting from one foot to the other and
looking interested. “I want to know! Well”—his face brightened—“I’ll
go down an’ tell ’em I’ll take the rig to-morro’ night, an’ I’ll go
a-spearin’ with you. Right down in front o’ Eldridge’s?”

“Yes.” A pulse began thumping violently in the girl’s throat. Her eyelids
got so heavy she could not lift them. “I guess—that is, I—why, you see,
Bart, I got comp’ny.”

“Well, I guess the girls won’t object to my goin’ along o’ you.”

“It ain’t girls,” said Lavinia, desperately. “It’s—a—it’s Mr. Diller; the
gentleman that boards here.”

“Oh,” said Bart, slowly. Then there was a most trying silence, during
which the ticking of the clock and the beating of her own heart were the
only sounds Lavinia heard. At last she said, feebly: “You see he writes
for a New York newspaper—one o’ the big ones. He’s a-writin’ up the
whole Puget Sound country. An’ he don’t know just what he’d ort to see,
nor just how to see it, unless somebody shows him about—an’ I’ve b’en
a-showin’ him.”

“Oh!” said Bart again, but quite in another tone, quite cheerfully.
“That’s it, is ’t, Laviny? Well, that’s all right. But I’ll be
hanged if you didn’t take my breath away for a minute. I thought you
meant—Laviny!”—a sudden seriousness came into his tone and look—“I guess
you don’t know how much I think o’ you. My heart’s just _set_ on you,
my girl—my whole life’s wrapped up in you.” He paused, but Lavinia did
not speak or look at him, and he added, very slowly and thoughtfully—“I
reckon it ’u’d just about kill me, ’f anything happened to you.”

“I guess nothin’ ’s a-goin’ to happen.” She dropped one potato into a pan
of cold water and took up another.

“No, I guess not.” He took on a lighter tone. “But I’ll tell you what,
Laviny! If that’s all, he ain’t comp’ny at all; so you can just tell him
I’m a-goin’, too.” He came closer and laid a large but very gentle hand
on her shoulder. “You might even tell him I’ve got a right to go, Laviny.”

The girl shrank, and glanced nervously at the door.

“I wouldn’t like to do that, Bart. After his arrangin’ to go, an’
a-hirin’ the skiff hisself. _I_ don’t know but what he’s got somebody
else to go along of us.”

“Why, does he ever?”

“Well, I don’t recollect that he ever has; but then he might of, this
time, I say, for all I know.”

There was another silence. Then the big hand patted the girl’s shoulder
affectionately and the honest eyes bent on her the look of patient
tenderness that Diller had considered pathetic.

“All right, Laviny; you go along of him, just by yourself, an’ I’ll stop
home with your paw an’ your maw. I want you to know, my girl, that I
trust you, an’ believe every word you say to me. I ain’t even thought
o’ much else besides you ever sence I saw you first time at the liberry
sociable, an’ I won’t ever think o’ much else, I don’t care what happens.
Bein’ afraid to trust a body ’s a poor way to show how much you think
about ’em, is my religion; so you go an’ have a good time, an’ don’t
you worry about me.” He tucked one of her runaway curls behind her ear
awkwardly. “I’ll slip down to the liv’ry stable now, an’ tell ’em about
the rig.”

“All right,” said Lavinia.

Her mother came in one door, after a precautionary scraping of her feet
and an alarming paroxysm of coughing, and looked rather disappointed to
see Bart going out at the other, and to realize that her modest warnings
had been thrown away. “Well, ’f I _ever_!” she exclaimed. “Laviny Vaiden,
whatever makes you _look_ so? You look just ’s if you’d seen a spook!
You’re a kind o’ yellow-gray—just like you had the ja’ndice! What _ails_
you?”

“I got a headache,” said the girl; and then, somehow, the pan slid down
off her lap, and the potatoes and the parings went rolling and sprawling
all over the floor; Lavinia’s head went down suddenly on the table, and
she was sobbing bitterly.

Her mother looked at her keenly, without speaking, for a moment; then she
said dryly, “Why, I guess you must have an awful headache. Come on kind
o’ sudden like, didn’t it? I guess you’d best go up and lay down, an’
I’ll bring a mustard plaster up an’ put on your head. Ain’t nothin’ like
a plaster for a headache—’specially that kind of a headache.”

Bart Winn walked into the livery stable with an air of indifference put
on so stiffly that it deceived no one. It was not that he did not feel
perfectly satisfied with Lavinia’s explanation, but he was a trifle
uneasy lest others should not see the thing with his eyes.

“I guess I won’t want that rig to-night, Billy,” he said, pulling a head
of timothy out of a bale of hay that stood near. “I’ll take it to-morro’
night.”

“All right,” said the young fellow, with a smile that Bart did not like.
“Girl sick, aigh?”

“No,” said Bart, softly stripping the fuzz off the timothy.

“Well, I guess I understan’,” said Billy, winking one eye, cheerfully.
“I’ve b’en there myself. Girls is as much alike ’s peas—_sweet_-peas”—he
interjected with a hearty laugh—“in a pod, the world over. It ain’t
never safe for a fellow to come home, after bein’ away a good spell, an’
engage a buggy before findin’ out if the girl ain’t engaged to some other
fello’—it ain’t noways _safe_. I smiled in my sleeve when you walked in
so big an’ ordered your’n.”

Bart Winn was slow to anger, but now a dull red came upon his face and
neck, and settled there as if burnt into the flesh. His eyes looked
dangerous, but he spoke quietly. “I guess you don’t know what you’re
talkin’ about, Billy. I guess you hadn’t best go any furder.”

Billy came slowly toward him, nettled by his tone—by its very
calm, in fact. “D’ you mean to say that Laviny Vaiden ain’t goin’
a-salmon-spearin’ to-night with that dandy from New York?”

Bart swallowed once or twice.

“I don’t mean to say anything that’s none o’ your business,” he said.

“Well, she’s been a-spearin’ with him ev’ry night sence the salmon’s b’en
a-runnin’, anyway.”

The strong, powerful trembling of a man who is trying to control himself
now seized Bart Winn.

“If you’re goin’ to put on airs with me,” continued Billy, obtusely,
“I’ll just tell you a few _fax_! They don’t burn any torch in their boat,
an’ they don’t spear any salmon! That’s just a blind. They go off by
theirselves—clear away from the spearers, an’ they don’t come back till
they see the torches a-goin’ out an’ know that we all’s a-goin’ home.
It’s the town talk. Not that they say anything wrong, for we’ve all
knowed Laviny sence she was a baby; but it’s as plain as the nose on a
man’s face that you ain’t in it there since that dood come.”

A panorama of colors flamed over Bart’s face; his hands clenched till the
nails cut into the flesh and the blood spurted; who has seen the look in
the eyes of the lion that cowers and obeys under the terrible lash of the
trainer will know the look that was in the man’s eyes while the lash of
his own will conquered him; his broad chest swelled and sunk. At last he
spoke, in a deep, shaking voice. “Billy,” he said, “you’re a liar—a liar!
_Damn you!_” He struggled a moment longer with himself, and then turned
and hurried away as if possessed of the devil.

But Billy followed him to the door and called after him—“Oh, damn me,
aigh? Now, I don’t want I sh’u’d have a fight with you, Bart. I was
tryin’ to do you a favor. If you think I’m a liar, it’s a mighty easy
thing for you to go down there to-night an’ see for yourself. That’s all
_I_ ask.”

Bart went on in a passion of contending emotions. “He’s a liar! He’s a
liar!” he kept saying, deep in his throat; but all the time he had the
odd feeling that somebody, or something, was contradicting him. A warm
wind had arisen, and it beat against his temples so persistently that
they felt numb by the time he reached the Vaiden’s. He cleaned his boots
on the neat mat of gunny-sacking laid at the door for that purpose, and
entered the kitchen. “Where’s Laviny?” he asked.

“She’s upstairs with a headache,” replied Mrs. Vaiden, promptly.

“It must ’a’ come on sudden.”

“Yes, I guess it must.” Mrs. Vaiden spoke cautiously. She was sure there
had been a quarrel, and she was afraid her own remark, overheard by Bart,
had brought it on.

“Well, I want to see her.”

“Right away?”

“Yes,” said Bart, after a little hesitation, “right away, I reckon.”

Mrs. Vaiden went upstairs, and returned presently, followed by Lavinia.
The girl looked pale; a white kerchief bound about her brow increased her
pallor; her eyes were red. She sat down weakly in a splint-bottom chair
and crossed her hands in her lap.

At sight of the girl’s suffering, Bart knew instantly that he had been
doubting her without realizing it, because his faith in her came back
with such a strong rush of tenderness.

“Sick, Laviny?” he asked, in a tone that was a caress of itself—it was so
very gentle a thing to come from so powerful a man.

“I got a headache,” said Lavinia, looking at the floor. “It came on right
after you left. It aches awful.”

Bart went to her and laid his hand on her shoulder. It was a strong hand
to be shaking so.

“Laviny, I’m a brute to get you up out o’ bed; but I’m more of a brute
to ’a’ believed”—He stopped, and she lifted her eyes, fearfully, to his
face. “I’ve been listenin’ to things about you.”

“What things?” She looked at the floor again.

“Well, I ain’t goin’ to so much as ask you ’f it’s so; but I’m goin’ to
tell you how _mean_ I’ve b’en to listen to ’t an’ to keep a-wonderin’ if
it c’u’d be so,—an’ then see if you can forgive me. I’ve b’en hearin’
that you don’t light no torch nor ketch no salmon when you go a-spearin’,
but that you an’ him go off by yourselves an’ stay—an’ that he—he”—the
words seemed to stick in his throat—“he’s cut me out.”

After a little Lavinia said—“Is that all?”

“All! Yes. Ain’t that enough?”

“Yes, it’s enough—plenty for you to ’a’ believed about me. I wouldn’t
’a’ believed that much about you.” The humor of this remark seemed to
appeal to her, for she smiled a little. Then she got up. “But it’s all
right, Bart. I ain’t mad. If that’s all, I guess I’ll go back to bed. You
tell maw I couldn’t put them roastin’-ears on—my head feels so.”

He caught her to his breast and kissed her several times, with something
like a prayer in his eyes, and with a strong, but sternly controlled
passion that left him trembling and staggering like a drunken man when
she was gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

After Lavinia and Diller were gone that night Bart sat out on the kitchen
steps, smoking his pipe. He stooped forward, his elbows resting on his
knees. His right hand held the pipe, and the left supported his right
arm. His eyes looked straight before him into the purple twilight. The
wind had gone down, but now and then a little gust of perfume came around
the corner from the wild clover, still in delicate pink blossom on the
north side of the house. The stars came out, one by one, in the deep blue
spaces above, and shrill mournful outcries came from winged things in the
green depths of the ferns. Already the torches of the salmon-spearers
were beginning to flare out from the shadow of the cliffs across the bay.
Mr. Vaiden was not at home, but Mrs. Vaiden was walking about heavily in
the kitchen, finishing the evening work.

Mrs. Vaiden was not quite easy in her mind. She really liked Bart Winn,
but, to be unnecessarily and disagreeably truthful, she liked even better
his noble donation claim, which he was now selling off in town lots. Time
and time again during the past month she had cautioned Lavinia to not “go
galivantin’ ’round with that Diller so much;” and on numerous occasions
she had affirmed that “she’d _bet_ Laviny would fool along till she let
Bart Winn slip through her fingers, after all.” Still, it had been an
unconfessed satisfaction to her to observe Mr. Diller’s frank admiration
for her daughter—to feel that Lavinia could “have her pick o’ the best
any day.” She knew how this rankled in some of the neighbors’ breasts.
She wished now that she had been more strict. She said to herself, as she
went out to the spring-house: “I wish I’d ’a’ set my foot right down on
his goin’ a step with her. An’ there I started it myself, a-sendin’ her
off to that c’noe race with him, just to tantalize Mis’ Bentley an’ her
troop o’ girls. But land knows I never dreamt o’ its goin’ on this way.
What’s a newspaper fello’ compared to a donation claim, _I’d_ like to
know?”

At nine o’clock she went to the door and said, in that tone of
conciliatory tenderness which comes from a remorseful conscience: “Well,
Bart, I guess I’ll go to bed. I’m tired. You goin’ to set up for Laviny?”

“Yes,” said Bart; “good-night.”

“Well, good-night, Bart.” She stood holding a lighted candle in one hand,
protecting its flame from the night air with the other. “I reckon they’ll
be home by ten.”

“I reckon so.”

At the top of the stairs Mrs. Vaiden remembered that the parlor windows
were open, and she went back to close them. The wind was rising again,
and as she opened the parlor door it puffed through the open windows and
sent the curtains streaming out into the room; then it went whistling on
through the house, banging the doors.

After a while quiet came upon the house. Bart sat smoking silently. The
Vaidens lived on a hill above the town, and usually he liked to watch the
chains of electric lights curving around the bay; but to-night he watched
the torches only. Suddenly he flung his pipe down with a passionate
movement and stood up, reaching inside the door for his hat. But he sat
down again as suddenly, shaking himself like a dog, as if to fling off
something that was upon him. “No; I’m damned if I will!” he said in his
throat. “I _won’t_ watch her! She said it wa’n’t so, an’ I believe her.”
But he did not smoke again, and he breathed more heavily as the moments
ticked by and she did not come. At half-past ten Mrs. Vaiden came down in
a calico wrapper and a worsted shawl.

“Why, ain’t she come _yet_?” she asked, holding the candle high and
peering under it at the back of the silent figure outside.

“No,” said Bart quietly; “she ain’t.”

“Why, it’s half-after ten! She never’s b’en out this a-way before. D’you
think anything c’u’d ’a’ hapened?”

“No,” said Bart, slowly; “I guess they’ll be along.”

“Well, I don’t want that she sh’u’d stay out till this time o’ night with
anybody but you. She’s old enough to know better. It don’t look well.”

“It looks all right, as fur as that goes,” said Bart.

“Oh, if _you_ think so.”

Mrs. Vaiden lowered the candle huffily.

Bart arose and came inside. He was pale but he spoke calmly, and he
looked her straight in the eyes.

“It’s all right as fur as she goes; I’d trust her anywheres. But how
about him? What kind of a man is he?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Mrs. Vaiden, weakly. “How d’ you expect me
to know what kind of a _man_ he is? He’s a nice-appearin’, polite sort
of a fello’, an’ he writes for a newspaper ’n New York—one o’ them big
ones. But he don’t seem to me to have much backbone or stand-upness about
him. I sh’u’d think he’s one o’ them that never _intends_ to do anything
wrong, but does it just because it’s pleasant for the time bein’, and
then feels sorry for ’t afte’ards.”

Bart’s brows bent together blackly.

“But I must say”—Mrs. Vaiden’s tone gathered firmness—“you might pattern
after him a little in politeness, Bart. I think Laviny likes it. He’s
alwus openin’ gates for her, an’ runnin’ to set chairs for her when
she comes into a room, an’ takin’ off his hat to her, an’ carryin’ her
umberella, an’ fetchin’ her flow’rs; an’ I b’lieve he’d most die before
he’d walk on the inside o’ the sidewalk or go over a crossin’ ahead o’
her. An’ I can see Laviny likes them things.”

She put the candle on the table and huddled down into a chair.

The look of anger on the man’s face gave place to one of keen dismay.

“I didn’t know she liked such things. I never thought about ’em. I wa’n’t
brought up to such foolishness.”

“Well, she likes ’em, anyhow. I guess most women do.” Mrs. Vaiden sighed
unconsciously. “Why, Bart, it’s a quarter of, an’ she ain’t here yet. D’
you want I sh’u’d go after her?”

“No, I don’t want you sh’u’d go after her. I want you sh’u’d let her
alone, an’ show her we got confidence in her. She’s just the same as my
wife, an’ I don’t want her own mother sh’u’d think she’d do anything she
hadn’t ort to.”

Mrs. Vaiden’s feelings were sensitive and easily hurt; and she sat now in
icy silence, looking at the clock. But when it struck eleven she thawed,
being now thoroughly frightened.

“Oh, Bart, I do think we’d best look in her room. She might ’a’ got in
someway without our hearin’ her—an’ us settin’ hyeer like a couple o’
bumps on a lawg.”

“She might ’a’,” said Bart, as if struck by the suggestion. “You get
me a candle an’ I’ll go up and see. You stay here,” he added, over his
shoulder, as he took the candle and started.

“Look out!” she cried, sharply, as the blue flame plowed a gutter down
one side of the candle. “Don’t hold it so crooked! You’ll spill the sperm
onto the stair-carpet!”

It was with a feeling of awe that Bart went into the dainty little room.
There were rosebuds on the creamy wall-paper, and the ceiling, slanting
down on one side, was pale, pale blue, spangled with silver stars; the
windows were closed, and thin, soft curtains fell in straight folds over
them; the rag carpet was woven in pink-and-cream stripes; there was a
dressing-table prettily draped in pink. For a moment the man’s love was
stronger than his anxiety; the prayer came back to his eyes as he looked
at the narrow, snowy bed.

Then he went to the dressing-table and saw a folded slip of paper with
his name upon it.

       *       *       *       *       *

After a while he became conscious that he had read the letter a dozen
times, and still had not grasped its meaning. He stooped closer to the
candle and read it again, his lips moving mechanically:

    “DEAR BART:—I’m goin’ away. I’m goin’ with him. I told you what
    wa’n’t so this mornin’. I do like him the best. I couldn’t
    have you after knowin’ him. I feel awful bad to treat you this
    a-way, but I haf to.

                                                          “LAVINY.”

    “P. S.—I want that you sh’u’d marry somebody else as soon as
    you can, an’ be happy.”

A querulous call came from the hall below. He took the candle in one
hand and the letter in the other and went down, stumbling clumsily on
the stairs. A great many noises seemed to be ringing in his head, and
the sober paper with which the walls of the hall were covered to have
suddenly taken on great scarlet spots. He felt helpless and uncertain in
his movements, as if he had no will to guide him. He must have carried
the candle very crookedly, for Mrs. Vaiden, who was watching him from
below, cried out, petulantly: “There, you _are_ spillin’ the sperm! Just
look at you!” But she stopped abruptly when she saw his face.

“Why, whatever on this earth!” she exclaimed, solemnly. “What you got
there? A letter?”

“Yes.” He set the candle on the table and held the letter toward her.
“It’s from Laviny.”

“From Laviny! Why, what on earth did she write to you about?”

He burst into wild, terrible laughter. “She wants I sh’u’d marry somebody
else as soon as I can, an’ be happy.” These words, at least, seemed to
have written themselves on his brain. He groped about blindly for his
hat, and went out into the shrill, whistling night. The last torch had
burnt itself out, and everything was black save the electric lights,
winking in the wind, and one strip of whitening sky above Mount Baker,
where presently the moon would rise, silver and cool.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was seven o’clock in the morning when he came back. He washed his
hands and face at the sink on the porch, and combed his hair before a
tiny mirror, in which a dozen reflections of himself danced. Mrs. Vaiden
was frying ham. At sight of him she began to cry, weakly and noiselessly.
“Where you been?” she sniffled. “You look forty year old. I set up till
one o’clock, a-waitin’ for you.”

“Mrs. Vaiden,” said Bart, quietly, “I’m in great trouble. I’ve walked
all night, tryin’ to make up my mind to ’t. I’ve done it at last; but I
cu’dn’t ’a’ come back tell I did. I’m sorry you waited up.”

“Oh, I don’t mind that as long as you’re gettin’ reconciled to ’t, Bart.”
Mrs. Vaiden spoke more hopefully. “You set right down an’ have a bite to
eat.”

“I don’t want anything,” he replied; but he sat down and took a cup
of coffee. It must have been very hot, for suddenly great tears came
into his eyes and stood there. Mrs. Vaiden sat down opposite to him and
leaned her elbow on the table and her head on her hand. “Bart,” she said,
solemnly, “I don’t want you sh’u’d think I ever winked at this. It never
entered my head. My heart’s just broke. To see a likely girl, that c’u’d
’a’ had her pick anywheres, up an’ run away with a no-account newspaper
fello’—when she c’u’d ’a’ had you!” The man’s face contracted. “Whatever
on earth the neighbors’ll say I don’t know.”

“Who cares what neighbors say?”

“Oh, that’s all very well for you to say; you ain’t her mother.”

“No,” said Bart, with a look that made her quail; “I ain’t. I wish to God
I was! Mebbe ’twouldn’t _hurt_ so!”

“Well, it ’ad ort to hurt more!” retorted the lady, with spirit. “Just ’s
if you felt any worse ’n I do!” He laid his head on his hand and groaned.
“Oh, I know it’s gone deep, Bart”—her tone softened—“but ’s I say, you
ain’t her mother. You’ll get over it an’ marry again—like Laviny wanted
that you sh’u’d. It was good o’ her to think o’ that. I will say that
much for her.”

“Yes,” said Bart; “it was good of her.” Then there came a little silence,
broken finally by Mrs. Vaiden. Her voice held a note of peevish regret.
“There’s that fine house o’ your’n ’most finished—two story an’ a ell!
An’ that liberry across the front hall from the parlor! When I think how
vain Laviny was o’ that liberry! What’ll you do with the house, now,
Bart?”

“Sell it!” he answered, between his teeth.

“An’ there’s all that fine furnitur’ that Laviny an’ you picked out. She
fairly danced when she told me about it. All covered with satin—robin-egg
green, wa’n’t it?”

“Blue.” The word dropped mechanically from his white lips.

“Well, blue, then. What’ll you do with it?”

“I guess they’ll take it back by my losin’ my first payment,” he
answered, with a kind of ghastly humor.

“Well, there’s your new buggy—all paid for. They won’t take that back.”

“I’ll give that to you,” he said, with a bitter smile.

“Oh, you!” exclaimed Mrs. Vaiden, throwing out her large hand at him in a
gesture of mingled embarrassment and delight. “As if I’d take it, after
Laviny’s actin’ up this a-way!”

He did not reply, and presently she broke out, angrily, with:

“The huzzy! The ungrateful, deceitful jade! To treat a body so. How do we
know whether he’s got anything to keep a wife on? I’ll admit, though, he
was alwus genteel-dressed. I do think, Bart, you might ’a’ took pattern
’n that. ’Twa’n’t like as if you wa’n’t able to wear good clo’es—an’
Laviny liked such things.”

“I wish you’d ’a’ told me a good spell ago what she liked, Mrs. Vaiden.”

“Well, that’s so. There ain’t much use ’n lockin’ the stable door after
the horse ’s gone. Oh, that makes me think about your offerin’ me that
buggy—’s if I w’u’d!”

“I guess you’ll have to. I’m goin’ to leave on the train, an’ I’ll order
it sent to you.”

“Oh, you! Why, where you goin’, Bart?”

“I’m goin’ to follow _him_!” he thundered, bringing his fist down on
the table in a way that made every dish leap out of its place. “I ain’t
goin’ to hurt him—unless talk hurts—but I’m goin’ to say some _things_
to him. I ain’t had a thought for three year that that girl ain’t b’en
in! I ain’t made a plan that she ain’t b’en in. I’ve laid awake night
after night just too happy to sleep. An’ now to have a—a _thing_ like him
take her from me in one month. But that ain’t the worst!” he burst out,
passionately. “We don’t know how he’ll treat her, an’ she’ll be too proud
to complain—”

“I can’t see why you care how he treats her,” said Mrs. Vaiden, “after
the way she’s treated you.”

“No,” he answered, with a look that ought to have crushed her, “I didn’t
s’pose you c’u’d see. I didn’t expect you to see that, or anything else
but your own feelin’s—the way the thing affex you. But that’s what I’m
goin’ to follow him for, Mrs. Vaiden. An’ when I find him—I’m goin’
to tell him”—there was an awful calm in his tone now—“that if he ever
misuses her, now that he’s married her, I’ll kill him. I’ll shoot him
down like a dawg!”

“My Lord!” broke in Mrs. Vaiden, with a new thought. “What if he ain’t
married her! She never said so ’n her letter. Oh, Bart!” beginning to
weep hysterically. “Mebbe you c’u’d get her back.”

He leaped to his feet panting like an animal; his great breast swelled in
and out swiftly, his hands clenched, his eyes burned at her.

“What!” he said. “Do you _dare_? _Her mother!_ Oh, you—you—God! but I
wish you was a man!”

The whistle of a coming train broke across the morning stillness. He
turned, seized his hat and crushed it on his head. Then he came back and
took up the chair in which he had been sitting.

“Mrs. Vaiden,” he said, quietly, “d’ you see this chair? Well, if he
ain’t married her—”

With two or three movements of his powerful wrists he wrenched the chair
into as many pieces and dropped them on the floor.

       *       *       *       *       *

After a while Mrs. Vaiden emerged from the stupefaction into which his
last words had thrown her, and resumed her breakfast.

“Well,” she said, stirring her coffee until it swam round and round
in a smooth eddy in the cup, “if I ever see his beat! Whoever’d ’a’
thought he’d take his cuttin’-out that a-way? I never ’d ’a’ thought it.
Worryin’ about her, after the way she’s up and used him! A body ’d think
he’d be glad if she was treated shameful, and hatto lead a mis’rable life
a-realizin’ what she’d threw away. But not him. Well, they say still
water runs deep. Mebbe it’s ungrateful to think it after his givin’ me
that fine buggy—(How Mis’ Bentley will stare when I drive roun’ to see
her!” she interjected with a smile of anticipation.) “But after seein’
how he showed up his temper just now I ain’t sure but Laviny’s head was
level when she took the other ’n. ’F _only_ he had a donation claim!”



ZARELDA



ZARELDA


“’Reldy! Say, ’Reldy Za-_rel_-dy!”

The girl was walking rapidly, but she stopped at once and turned. She
wore a cheap woolen dress of a dingy brown color. The sleeves were
soiled at the wrists, but the narrow, inexpensive ruffle at the neck was
white and fresh. Her thick brown hair was well brushed and clean. It was
woven into a heavy, glistening braid which was looped up and tied with a
rose-colored ribbon. Her shoes were worn out of shape and “run down” at
the heels, and there were no gloves on the roughened hands clasped over
the handle of her dinner-bucket.

“Oh, you?” she said, smiling.

“Yes, me,” said the other girl, with a high color, as she joined Zarelda.
They walked along briskly together. “I’ve been tryin’ to ketch up with
you for three blocks. Ain’t you early?”

“No; late. Heard the whistle blow ’fore I left home. Didn’t you hear it?
Now own up, Em Brackett.”

“No, I didn’t—honest,” said the other girl, laughing. “I set the clock
back las’ night an’ forgot to turn it ahead ag’in this mornin’.”

This young woman’s dress and manner differed from her companion’s. Her
dress was cheap, but of flimsy, figured goods that under close inspection
revealed many and large grease spots; the sleeves were fashionably
puffed; and there were ruffles and frills and plaitings all over it. At
the throat was a bit of satin ruffling that had once been pale blue.
Half her hair had been cut off, making what she called her “bangs,” and
this was tightly frizzed over her head as far back as her ears. Her back
hair—coarse and broken from many crimpings—was braided and looped up
like Zarelda’s, and tied with a soiled blue ribbon. She wore much cheap
jewelry, especially amethysts in gaudy settings. She carried herself with
an air and was popularly supposed by the young people of factory society
to be very much of a belle and a coquette.

Zarelda turned and looked at her with sudden interest.

“What in the name o’ mercy did you turn the clock back for?”

Em tossed her head, laughing and blushing.

“Never you mind what for, ’Reldy Winser. It ain’t any o’ your funeral, I
guess, if I did turn it back. I had occasion to—that’s all. You wasn’t at
the dance up at Canemah las’ night, was you?” she added suddenly.

“No, I wasn’t. I didn’t have anybody to go with. You didn’t go, either,
did you?”

“Unh-hunh; I did.”

Em nodded her head, looking up the river to the great Falls, with dreamy,
remembering eyes. “We had a splendid time, an’ the walk home along the
river was just fine.”

“Well, I could of gone with you if I’d of knew you was goin’. Couldn’t I?
Maw was reel well las’ night, too.”

She waited for a reply, but receiving none, repeated rather
wistfully—“Couldn’t I?”

Em took her eyes with some reluctance away from the river and looked
straight before her.

“Why, I guess,” she said, slowly and with slight condescension. “At
least, I wouldn’t of cared if my comp’ny wouldn’t; an’ I guess”—with a
beautiful burst of generosity—“he wouldn’t of minded much.”

“Oh,” said Zarelda, “you had comp’ny, did you?”

“W’y, of course. You didn’t s’pose I went up there all alone of myself,
did you?”

“You an’ me ust to go alone places, without any fellow, I mean,” said
Zarelda. A little color came slowly into her face. She felt vaguely hurt
by the other’s tone. “I thought mebbe you went with some o’ the other
girls.”

“I don’t go around that way any more.” Em lifted her chin an inch higher.
“When I can’t have an—escort”—she uttered the word with some hesitation,
fearing Zarelda might laugh at it—“I’ll stay home.”

Then she added abruptly in a reminiscent tone—“Maw acted up awful over
my goin’ with him. Thought for a spell I wouldn’t get to go. But at last
I flared all up an’ told her if I couldn’t go I’d just up an’ leave for
good. That brought her around to the whipple-trees double quick, I can
tell you. I guess she won’t say much agen my goin’ with him another time.”

“Goin’ with who?” said Zarelda. Em looked at her, smiling.

“For the land o’ love! D’ you mean to say you don’t know? I thought you’d
of guessed. W’y, that’s what made maw so mad—she was just hoppin’, I tell
you. That’s what made her act up so. Said all the neighbors ’u’d say I
was tryin’ to get him away from you.”

In an instant the blood had flamed all over Zarelda’s face and neck.

“Get who away from me, Em Brackett?”

“As if there was so many to get!” said Em, laughing.

“Who are you a-talkin’ about?” said Zarelda, sternly. Her face was paling
now. “What of I got to do with you an’ your comp’ny an’ your maw’s
actin’-ups, I’d like to know. Who _was_ your comp’ny?”

“Jim Sheppard; he”—

“Jim Sheppard!” cried Zarelda, furiously. She turned a white face to her
companion, but her eyes were blazing. “What do I care for Jim Sheppard?
Aigh? What do I care who he takes to dances up at Canemah? Aigh? You
tell your maw, Em Brackett, that she needn’t to trouble to act up on my
account. She can save her actin’-ups for somebody that needs ’em! You
tell her that, will you?”

“Well, I will,” said Em, unmoved. “I’m glad you don’t mind, ’Reldy. I
felt some uneasy myself, seein’ ’s how stiddy he’d been goin’ with you.”

“Well, that don’t hender his goin’ with somebody else, does it? I ain’t
very likely to keep him from pleasin’ hisself, am I?”

“Don’t go to workin’ yourself up so, ’Reldy. If you don’t care, there’s
no use in flarin’ up so. My! Just look at this em’rald ring in at
Shindy’s. Ain’t that a beaut’?”

“I ain’t got time.” Zarelda walked on with her head up. “Don’t you see
we’re late a’ready? The machin’ry’s all a-goin’, long ago.”

The two girls pushed through the swinging gate and ran up the half-dozen
steps to the entrance of the big, brick woolen mills. A young man in a
flannel shirt and brown overalls was passing through the outer hall. He
was twirling a full, crimson rose in his hand.

As the girls hurried in, he paused and stood awkwardly waiting for them,
with a red face.

“Good mornin’,” he said, looking first at Em and then, somewhat
shamefacedly, at Zarelda.

“Good mornin’, Jim,” said Zarelda, coolly. She was still pale, but she
smiled as she pressed on into the weaving-room. The many-tongued roar
of the machinery burst through the open door to greet her. Em lingered
behind a moment; and when she passed Zarelda’s loom there was a crimson
rose in her girdle and two more in her cheeks.

Five hours of monotonous work followed. Zarelda stood patiently by her
loom, unmindful of the toilers around her and the deafening noise; she
did not lift her eyes from her work. She was the youngest weaver in the
factory and one of the most careful and conscientious.

The marking-room was in the basement, and in its quietest corner was
a large stove whereon the factory-girls were permitted to warm their
lunches. When the whistle sounded at noon they ceased work instantly,
seized their lunch baskets, and sped—pushing, laughing, jostling—down the
stairs to the basement. There was a small, rickety elevator at the rear
of the factory, and some of the more reckless ones leaped upon it and let
themselves down with the rope.

Zarelda was timid about the elevator; but that noon she sprang upon
it and giving the rope a jerk went spinning down to the ground. As
she entered the marking-room one of the overseers saw her. “What!” he
exclaimed, “Did you come down that elevator, ’Reldy? I thought you had
more sense ’n some o’ the other girls. Why, it ain’t safe! You’re liable
to get killed on it.”

“I don’t care,” said Zarelda, with a short, contemptuous laugh. “I’d just
as soon go over the falls in an Indian dug-out.”

“You must want to shuffle off mighty bad,” said the overseer. Then he
added kindly, for he and all the other overseers liked her—“What’s got
into you, ’Reldy? Anything ail you?”

“No,” said the girl; “nothin’ ails me.” But his kind tone had brought
sudden, stinging tears to her eyes.

She went on silently to the stove and set her bucket upon it. It
contained thick vegetable soup, which, with soda crackers, constituted
her dinner. She sat down to watch it, stirring it occasionally with a tin
spoon. Twenty other girls were crowding around the stove. Em was among
them. Zarelda saw the big red rose lolling in her girdle. She turned her
eyes resolutely away from it, only to find them going back again and
again.

“Hey! Where ’d you get your rose at, Em Brackett?” cried one of the
girls.

“Jim Sheppard gave it to her,” trebled another, before Em could reply. “I
see him have it pinned onto his flannel shirt before the whistle blew.”

“_Jim Sheppard!_ Oh, my!”

There was a subdued titter behind Zarelda’s back. She stirred the soup
without lifting her eyes. “She went livid, though, an’ then she went
white!” one of the girls who read yellow novels declared afterward,
tragically.

“Well,” said Matt Wilson, sitting down on a bench and commencing to eat a
great slice of bread thinly covered with butter, “who went to the dance
up at Stringtown las’ night?”

All the girls but two flung unclean hands above their heads. There was a
merry outcry of “I did! I did!”

“Well, I didn’t,” said Matt. “My little lame sister coaxed me to wheel
her down town, an’ then it was too late.”

“Why wasn’t you there, Zarelda Winser?” cried Belle Church, opening her
dinner-bucket and examining the contents with the air of an epicurean.

For a second or two Zarelda wished honestly that she had a lame sister or
an invalid mother. Then she said, quite calmly—“I didn’t have any body to
go with. That’s why.” She turned and faced them all as she spoke.

With a fine delicacy which was certainly not acquired by education,
every girl except Matt looked away from Zarelda’s face. Matt, not having
been to the dance, was not in the secret.

But Zarelda did not change countenance. She sat calmly eating her soup
from the bucket with the tin spoon. She took it noisily from the point of
the spoon; it was so thick that it was like eating a vegetable dinner.

“Didn’t have anybody to go with?” repeated Matt, laughing loudly. “I
call that good. A girl that’s had steady comp’ny for a year! Comp’ny
that’s tagged her closer ’n her shadder! An’ I did hear”—she shattered
the shell of a hard-boiled egg by hammering it on the bench, and began
picking off the pieces—“that your maw was makin’ you up a whole trunkful
o’ new underclo’s—all trimmed up with tattin’ an’ crochet an’ serpentine
braid—with insertin’ two inches wide on ’em, too. You didn’t have anybody
to go with, aigh? What’s the matter with Jim Sheppard?”

Zarelda set her eyes on the red rose, as if that gave her courage.

“He took Em Brackett.”

“Not much!” said Matt, turning sharply. “Honest? Well, then, he only took
her because you couldn’t go an’ ast him to take her instid.”

“Why, the idee!” exclaimed Em, coloring angrily and fluttering until the
rose almost fell out of her girdle. “Zarelda Winser, you tell her that
ain’t so!”

“No, it ain’t so,” said Zarelda, composedly, finishing her soup and
beginning on a soda cracker. “He didn’t ask me at all. He asked Em
hisself.”

“My!” said Net Carter, who had not been giving attention to the
conversation. “What larrapin’ good lunches you do have, Em Brackett.
Chicken sandwich, an’ spiced cur’nts, an’ cake! My!”

Em Brackett looked out of the cobwebbed window at a small dwelling
between the factory and the river. “I wonder why Mis’ Allen don’t hide
up that ugly porch o’ her’n with vines,” she said, frostily. In factory
society “larrapin” was not considered a polite word and a snub invariably
awaited the unfortunate young woman who used it. The line must be drawn.

When the whistle blew the girls started leisurely for the stairs. There
would be fifteen minutes during which they might stand around the halls
and talk to the young men. Zarelda fell back, permitting all to precede
her. Em looked back once or twice to see where she was.

“Well, if that ’Reldy Winser ain’t grit!” whispered Nell Curry to Min
Aster. “Just as good as acknowledgin’ he’s threw off on her, an’ her
a-holdin’ up her head that way. There ain’t another girl in the factory
c’u’d do that—without flinchin’, too.”

When Zarelda reached the first hall she looked about her deliberately
for Jim Sheppard. It had been his custom to meet her at the head of the
stairs and going with her to one of the windows overlooking the Falls, to
talk until the second whistle sent them to their looms. With a resolute
air she joined Em Brackett, who was looking unusually pretty with a flush
of excitement on her face and a defiant sparkle in her eyes.

In a moment Jim Sheppard came in. He hesitated when he saw the two girls
together. A dull red went over his face. Then he crossed the hall and
deliberately ignoring Zarelda, smiled into Em’s boldly inviting eyes and
said, distinctly—“Em, don’t you want to take a little walk? There’s just
time.”

“Why, yes,” said Em, with a flash of poorly concealed triumph. “’Reldy,
if you’re a-goin’ on upstairs, would you just as lieve pack my bucket up?”

“I’d just as lieve.” Zarelda took the bucket, and the young couple walked
away airily.

This was the way the factory young men had of disclosing their
preferences. It was considered quite proper for a young man and a young
woman to “go together” for months, or even years, and for one to “throw
off” on the other, when attracted by a fresher face, with no explanation
or apology.

“Well,” whispered Belle Church, “I guess there ain’t one of us but’s
been threw off on some time or other, so we know how it feels. But this
is worse. He’s been goin’ with her more’n a year—an then to stop off so
sudden!”

“It’s better to stop off sudden than slow,” said Matt Wilson, with an air
of grim wisdom. “It hurts worse, but it don’t hurt so long. Well, if I
ever! Just look at that!”

Out of sheer pity Frank Haddon had sidled out of a group of young men and
made his way hesitatingly to Zarelda. “’Reldy,” he said, “don’t you want
to—want to—take a walk, too?”

The girl’s eyes flamed at him. She knew that he was pitying her, and she
was not of a nature to accept pity meekly. “No!” she flashed out, with
scorn. “I don’t want to—want to”—mimicking his tone—“take a walk, too. If
I did, I guess I know the road.”

She went upstairs, holding her head high.

When Zarelda went home that evening she found the family already at the
supper table. The Winsers were not very particular about their home
manners.

“We don’t wait on each other here,” Mrs. Winser explained, frequently,
with pride, to her neighbors. “When a meal’s done, on the table it goes
in a jiffy, an’ such of us as is here, eat. I just put the things back in
the oven an’ keep ’em hot for them that ain’t on hand.”

Zarelda was compelled to pass through the kitchen to reach the stairs.

“Well, ’Reldy,” said her mother, “you’re here at last, be you? Hurry up
an’ wash yourself. Your supper’s in the oven, but I guess the fire’s
about out. It does beat all how quick it goes out. Paw, I do wish you’d
hump yourself an’ git some dry wood. It ’u’d try the soul of a saint to
cook with that green stuff. Sap fairly _oozes_ out of it!”

“I don’t want any supper, maw,” said Zarelda.

“You don’t want any supper! What ails you? Aigh?”

“I don’t feel hungry. I got a headache.”

She passed the table without a glance and went upstairs. Her mother
arose, pushing back her chair with decision and followed her. When she
reached Zarelda’s room, the girl was on her knees before her trunk. She
had taken out a small writing-desk and was fitting a tiny key in the
lock. Her hat was still on her head, but pushed back.

She started when the door opened, and looked over her shoulder, flushing
with embarrassment and annoyance. Then, without haste or nervousness,
she replaced the desk and closing the trunk, stood up calmly and faced
her mother.

“Why don’t you want any supper?” Mrs. Winser took in the trunk, the desk,
and the blush at one glance. “Be you sick?”

“I got a headache.” Zarelda took off her hat and commenced drawing the
pins out of her hair. She untied the red ribbon and rolled it tightly
around three fingers to smooth out the creases.

“Well, you wasn’t puttin’ your headache ’n your writin’-desk, was you?”

“No, I wasn’t.”

“Now, see here, ’Reldy,” said Mrs. Winser, very kindly, coming closer and
resting one large hand on the bureau; “there’s somethin’ ails you besides
a headache, an’ you ain’t a-goin’ to pull any wool over my eyes. You’ve
hed lots an’ lots o’ headaches an’ et your supper just the same. What
ails you?”

“Nothin’ ails me, maw.”

“There does, too, somethin’ ail you. I guess I know. Now, what is it? You
might just as well spit it right out an’ be done with it.”

Zarelda was silent. She began brushing her hair with a dingy brush from
which tufts of bristles had been worn in several places. Her mother
watched her patiently for a few moments, then she said—“Well, ’Reldy, be
you goin’ to tell me what ails you?”

Still there was no reply.

“You ain’t turned off in the fact’ry, be you?”

Zarelda shook her head.

“Well, then,” said Mrs. Winser slowly, as if reluctantly admitting a
thought that she had been repelling, “it’s somethin’ about Jim Sheppard.”

The girl paled and brushed her hair over her face to screen it from her
mother’s searching gaze.

“Have you fell out with him?”

“No, I ain’t fell out with him. Hadn’t you best eat your supper before it
gets cold, maw?”

“No, I hadn’t best. I ain’t a-goin’ to budge a blessed step out o’ this
here room tell I know what ails you. Not if I have to stay here tell
daylight.” After a brief reflection she added—“Now, don’t you tell me
he’s been cuttin’ up any! I always said he was a fine young man, an’ I
say so still.”

“He ain’t been cuttin’ up any,” said Zarelda. “At least, not as I know
of.”

She laid down the brush and pushing her hair all back with both hands,
fronted her mother suddenly, pale but resolute.

“If you want to know so bad,” she said, “I’ll tell you. He’s threw off on
me.”

Mrs. Winser sunk helplessly into a chair. “Threw off on you!” she gasped.

“Yes, threw off on me.” Zarelda kept her dry, burning eyes on her
mother’s face. “D’ you feel any better for makin’ me tell it?”

Certainly her revenge for the persecution was all that heart could
desire. Her mother sat limp and motionless, save for the slow, mechanical
sliding back and forth of one thumb on the arm of her chair.

After a while Zarelda resumed the hair-brushing, calmly. Then her mother
revived.

“Who—who in the name of all that’s merciful has he took up with now?” she
asked, weakly.

“Em Brackett.”

“What!” Mrs. Winser almost screamed. “That onery hussy! ’Reldy Winser, be
you a-tellin’ me the truth?”

“Yes, maw. He took her to the dance up at Canemah las’ night, an’ she
told me about it this mornin’!”

“The deceitful jade. Smiled sweet as honey at me when she went by. You’d
of thought sugar wouldn’t melt in her mouth. I answered her ’s short as
lard pie-crust—I’m glad of it now. Has he took her any place else?”

“He took her walkin’ at noontime. Stepped right up when she was standin’
alongside o’ me an’ never looked at me, an’ ast her—right out loud so’s
all of ’em could hear, too.”

“Well, he’d ought to be ashamed of hisself! After bein’ your stiddy
comp’ny for more’n a year—well onto two years—an’ a-lettin’ all of us
think he was serious!”

“He never said he was, maw.”

“He never said he was, aigh? ’Reldy Winser, you ain’t got enough spunk to
keep a chicken alive, let alone a woman! ‘He never said he was,’ aigh?
Well, ain’t he been a-comin’ here three nights a week nigh onto two year,
an’ a-takin’ you every place, an’ never a-lookin’ at any other girl? An’
didn’t he give you an amyfist ring las’ Christmas, an’ a reel garnet pin
on your birthday? An’ didn’t he come here one evenin’, a-laffin’ an’
a-actin’ up foolish in a great way an’ holler out—‘Hello, maw Winser?’
Now, don’t you go a-tellin’ me he never meant anything serious.”

“Well, he never said so,” said the girl, stubbornly.

“I don’t care if he _never_ said so. He acted so. Why, for pity’s
sake! You’ve got a grease-spot on your dress. I never see you with a
grease-spot before—you’re so tidy. How’d you get it on?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Benzine’ll take it out. Well—I’m a-goin’ to give him a piece o’ my mind!”

Zarelda lifted her body suddenly. She looked tall. Her eyes flamed out
their proud fire.

“Now, see here, maw,” she said, “you don’t say a word to him—not a word.
This ain’t your affair; it’s mine. It’s the fashion in fact’ry society
for a girl an’ a fellow to go together, an’ give each other things,
without bein’ real engaged; an’ she has to take her chances o’ some other
girl gettin’ him away from her. If he wants to throw off on her, all he’s
got to do ’s to take some other girl to a dance or out walkin’. An’ then,
if he’s give her a ring or anything, it’s etiquette for her to send it
back to him, an’ he’ll most likely give it to the other girl. I don’t
think it’s right, an’ I don’t say but what it’s hard—” her voice trembled
and broke, but she conquered her emotion stubbornly and went on—“but it’s
the way in fact’ry society. There ain’t a girl in the fact’ry but what’s
had to stand it some time or other, an’ I guess I can. You don’t want me
to be a laffin’-stawk, do you?”

“No, I don’t.” Her mother looked at her in a kind of admiring despair.
“But I never hear tell of such fashions an’ such doin’s in all my born
days. It’s shameful. Your paw an’ me ’d set our minds on your a-marryin’
him an’ gettin’ a home o’ your own. It’s been a burden off o’ our minds
for a year past—”

“Oh, maw!”

“Just to feel that you’d be fixed so’s you could take care o’ your little
sisters in case we dropped off. An’ there I’ve went an’ made up all them
underclo’s!” She leaned her head upon her hand and sat looking at the
floor with a forlornly reminiscent expression. “An’ put tattin’ on three
sets, an’ crochet lace on three, an’ serpentine edgin’ on three. An’
inserting on all of ’em! That ain’t the worst of it. I’ve _worked his
initial in button-hole stitch_ on every blessed thing!”

“Oh, maw, you never did that, did you?”

“Yes, I did. An’ what’s more, I showed ’em all to old Miss Bradley, too.”

“You might just as well of showed ’em to the whole town!” said poor
Zarelda, bitterly.

“They looked so nice I had to show ’em to somebody.”

“Sister,” piped a little voice at the foot of the stairs, “Mis’ Riley’s
boy’s come to find out how soon you’re a-comin’ over to set up with the
sick baby.”

“Oh, I’d clear forgot.” Zarelda braided her hair rapidly. “Tell him I’ll
be over ’n a few minutes.”

“Now, see here, ’Reldy,” said her mother, getting up and laying her hand
affectionately on the girl’s arm, “you ain’t a-goin’ to budge a single
step over there to-night. You just get to bed an’ put an arnicky plaster
on your forehead—”

Zarelda laughed in a kind of miserable mirth.

“Oh, you can laff, but it’ll help lots. I’ll go over an’ set up with that
baby myself.”

“No, you won’t, maw.” She slipped the last pin in her hair and set her
hat firmly on the glistening braids. “I said I’d set up with the baby,
an’ I will. I ain’t goin’ to shirk just because I’m in trouble.”

She went out into the cool autumn twilight. Her mother followed her and
stood looking after her with sympathetic eyes. At last she turned and
went slowly into the poor and gloomy house; as she closed the door she
put all her bitterness and disappointment into one heavy sigh.

The roar of the Falls came loudly to Zarelda as she walked along
rapidly. The dog-fennel was still in blossom, and its greenish snow
was drifted high on both sides of her path. Still higher were billows
of everlasting flowers, undulating in the soft wind. The fallen leaves
rustled mournfully as she walked through them. Some cows were feeding on
the commons near by; she heard their deep breathing on the grass before
they tore and crushed it with their strong teeth; she smelled their warm,
fragrant breaths.

She came to a narrow bridge under the cotton-woods where she saw the
Willamette, silver and beautiful, moving slowly and noiselessly between
its emerald walls. The slender, yellow sickle of the new moon quivered
upon its bosom.

Zarelda stood still. The noble beauty of the night—all its tenderness,
all its beating passion—shook her to the soul. Her life stretched out
before her, hard and narrow as the little path running through the
dog-fennel—a life of toil and duty, of clamor and unrest, of hurried
breakfasts, cold lunches and half-warm suppers, of longing for knowledge
that would never be hers—the hard and bitter treadmill of the factory
life.

A sob came up into her dry throat, but it did not reach her lips.

“I won’t!” she said, setting her teeth together hard. “I hate people who
whine after what they can’t have, instead o’ makin’ the best o’ what
they’ve got.”

She lifted her head and went on. Her face was beautiful; something
sweeter than moonlight shone upon it. She walked proudly and the dry
leaves whirled behind her.



IN THE BITTER ROOT MOUNTAINS



IN THE BITTER ROOT MOUNTAINS


“Go slow, boys, for God’s sake! If we miss this landing, we are lost. The
rapids begin just around that bend.”

Four men stood upon a rude raft, and with roughly-made oars and long
fir poles were trying to guide it out of the current of the swollen
Clearwater River into a small sheltered inlet.

Both shores of the river rose abruptly to steep and terrible mountains.
Not far above was the snow-line.

The men’s faces were white and haggard, their eyes anxious, half
desperate. Huddled upon a stretcher at one end of the raft was a young
man, little more than a boy, whose pallid, emaciated face was turned
slightly to one side. His eyes were closed; the long black lashes
lay like heavy shadows upon his cheeks. The weak November sunshine,
struggling over the fierce mountains, shone through his thin nostrils,
turning them pink, and giving an unearthly look to the face. A collie
crouched close beside him, shivering with fear, yet ever and anon licking
the cold hand lying outside the gray blanket; occasionally he lifted his
head and uttered a long, mournful howl. Each time the four men shuddered
and exchanged looks of despair,—so humanly appealing was it, and so
deeply did it voice the terrible dread in their own hearts.

It was now two months since they had left Seattle on a hunting expedition
in the Bitter Root Mountains in Idaho. For six weeks they had been lost
in those awful snow fastnesses. Their hunting dogs had been killed by
wild beasts. Their twelve pack-ponies had been left to starve to death
when, finding further progress on land impossible on account of the snow,
they constructed a raft and started on their perilous journey down the
Clearwater.

The cook had been sick almost the entire time, and their progress had
been necessarily slow and discouraging. They had now reached a point
where the river was so full of boulders and so swift that they could
proceed no farther on the raft.

For several days the cook had been unconscious, lying in a speechless
stupor; but when they had, with much danger and excitement, landed and
made him comfortable in a protected nook, he suddenly spoke,—faintly but
distinctly.

“Polly,” he said, with deep tenderness, “lay your hand on my head. I
guess it won’t ache so, then.”

The four men, looking at him, grew whiter. They could not look at each
other. The dog, having already taken his place beside him, lifted his
head and looked at him with pitiable eagerness.

“Oh, Polly!”—there was a heart-break in the voice,—“you don’t know what
I’ve suffered! The cold, and then the fever! The pain has been awful.
Oh, I’ve wanted you so, Polly—I’ve wanted you so!... But it’s all right,
now that I’m home again.... Where’s the baby, Polly? Oh, the nights that
I’ve laid, freezing and suffering in the snow, just kept alive by the
thought o’ you an’ the little man! I knew it ’u’d kill you ’f I died—so I
_w’u’dn’t_ give up! An’ now I’m here ’t home again. Polly——”

“We must fix some supper, boys,” said Darnell, roughly, turning away to
hide his emotion. “Let’s get the fire started.”

“We’ve just got enough for one more good meal,” said Roberts, in a
tremulous voice. “There’s no game around here, either. Guide, you must
try to find a way out of this before dark, so we can start early in the
morning.”

Without speaking, the guide obeyed. It was dark when he returned. The men
were sitting by the camp-fire, eating their supper. The dog still lay by
his master, from whom even hunger could not tempt him.

The three men looked at the guide. He sat down and took his cup of
coffee in silence. “Well,” said Darnell, at last, “can we go on?”

“Yes,” said the guide, slowly; “we can. In some places there’ll be only
a few inches’ foothold; an’ we’ll hev to hang on to bushes up above us,
with the river in some places hundreds o’ feet below; but we can do it,
’f we don’t get rattled an’ lose our heads.”

There was a deep and significant silence. Then Brotherton said, with
white lips, “Do you mean that we can’t take _him_?”

“That’s what I mean.” The guide spoke deliberately. He could not lift his
eyes. Some of the coffee spilled as he lifted the cup to his lips. “We
can’t take a thing, ’cept our hands and feet,—not even a blanket. It’ll
be life an’ death to do it, then.”

There was another silence. At last Darnell said: “Then it is for us to
decide whether we shall leave him to die alone while we save ourselves,
or stay and die with him?”

“Yes,” said the guide.

“There is positively not the faintest chance of getting him out with us?”

“By God, no!” burst forth the guide, passionately. “It seems like puttin’
the responsibility on me, but you want the truth, an’ that’s it. He can’t
be got out. It’s leave him an’ save ourselves, or stay with him an’
starve.”

After a long while Roberts said, in a low voice: “He’s unconscious. He
wouldn’t know we had gone.”

“He cannot possibly live three days, under any circumstances,” said
Brotherton. “Mortification has already begun in his legs.”

“Good God!” exclaimed Darnell, jumping up and beginning to walk rapidly
forth and back, before the fire. “I must go home, boys! My wife—when I
think of her, I am afraid of losing my reason! When I think what she is
suffering——”

Brotherton looked at him. Then he sunk his face into both his hands. He,
too, had a wife. The guide put down his coffee; large tears came into his
honest eyes. He had no wife, but there was one——

Roberts got up suddenly. He had the look of a tortured animal in his
eyes. “Boys,” he said, “my wife is dead. My life doesn’t matter so much,
but—I’ve three little girls! I _must_ get back, somehow!”

The sick man spoke. They all started guiltily, and looked toward him.
“Yes, yes, Polly,” he said, soothingly, “I know how you worried about
me. I know how you set strainin’ your eyes out the window day an’ night,
watchin’ fer me. But now I’m home again, an’ it’s all right. I guess you
prayed, Polly; an’ I guess God heard you.... There’s a boy fer you! He
knows me, too.”

The silence that fell upon them was long and terrible. The guide arose at
last, and, without speaking, made some broth from the last of the canned
beef, and forced it between the sick man’s lips. When he came back to the
fire, Darnell took a silver dollar out of his pocket.

“Boys,” he said, brokenly, “I don’t want to be the one to settle this,
and I guess none of you do. It is an awful thing to decide. I shall throw
this dollar high into the air. If it falls heads up, we go; tails—we
stay.”

The men had lifted their heads and were watching him. They were all very
white; they were all trembling.

“Are you willing to decide it in this way?”

Each answered, “Yes.”

“I swear,” said Darnell, slowly and solemnly, “that I will abide by this
decision. Do you all swear the same?”

Each, in turn, took the oath. Trembling now perceptibly, Darnell lifted
his hand slowly and cast the piece of silver into the air. Their eyes
followed its shining course. For a second it disappeared; then it came
singing to the earth.

Like drunken men they staggered to the spot where it had fallen, and fell
upon their knees, staring with straining eyes and bloodless lips.

“It is heads,” said Darnell. He wiped the cold perspiration from his brow.

At that moment the dog lifted his head and sent a long, mournful howl to
die in faint echoes in the mountains across the river.

       *       *       *       *       *

At daylight they were ready to start. Snow lay on the ground to a depth
of six inches. But a terrible surprise awaited them. At the last moment
they discovered that the cook was conscious.

“You’re not going—to leave me?” he said, in a whisper. His eyes seemed to
be leaping out of their hollow sockets with terror.

“Only for a few hours,” said Brotherton, huskily. “Only to find a way out
of this,—to make a path over which we can carry you.”

“Oh,” he said, faintly; “I thought—— but you wouldn’t. In the name o’
God, don’t leave me to die alone!”

They assured him that they would soon return. Then, making him as
comfortable as possible, they went,—without hesitation, without one
backward look. There was no noise. The snow fell softly and silently
through the firs; the river flowed swiftly through its wild banks. The
sick man lay with closed eyes, trustfully. But the dog knew. For the
first time he left his master. He ran after them, and threw himself
before them, moaning. His lifted eyes had a soul in them. He leaped
before them, and upon them, licking their hands and clothing; he cast
himself prone upon their feet, like one praying. No human being ever
entreated for his life so passionately, so pathetically, as that dog
pleaded for his master’s.

At last, half desperate as they were, they kicked him savagely and flung
him off. With a look in his eyes that haunted them as long as they lived,
he retreated then to his master’s side, and lay down in a heavy huddle of
despair, still watching them. As they disappeared, he lifted his head,
and for the last time they heard that long, heart-breaking howl.

It was answered by a coyote in the canyon above.

       *       *       *       *       *

A week later the Associated Press sent out the following dispatch:

    “The Darnell party, who were supposed to have perished in the
    Bitter Root Mountains, returned last night. Their hardships and
    sufferings were terrible. There is great rejoicing over their
    safe return. They were compelled to leave the cook, who had
    been sick the entire time, to die in the mountains. But for
    their determined efforts to bring him out alive, they would
    certainly have returned a month earlier.”

The world read the dispatch and rejoiced with those rejoicing. But one
woman, reading it, fell, as one dead, beside her laughing boy.



PATIENCE APPLEBY’S CONFESSING-UP



PATIENCE APPLEBY’S CONFESSING-UP


“It must be goin’ to rain! My arm aches me so I can hardly hold my
knitting needles.”

“Hunh!” said Mrs. Wincoop. She twisted her thread around her fingers two
or three times to make a knot; then she held her needle up to the light
and threaded it, closing one eye entirely and the other partially, and
pursing her mouth until her chin was flattened and full of tiny wrinkles.
She lowered her head and looking at Mrs. Willis over her spectacles with
a kind of good-natured scorn, said—“Is that a sign o’ rain?”

“It never fails.” Mrs. Willis rocked back and forth comfortably. “Like as
not it begins to ache me a whole week before it rains.”

“I never hear tell o’ such a thing in all my days,” said Mrs. Wincoop,
with unmistakable signs of firmness, as she bent over the canton flannel
night-shirt she was making for Mr. Wincoop.

“Well, mebbe you never. Mebbe you never had the rheumatiz. I’ve had it
twenty year. I can’t get red of it, anyways. I’ve tried the Century
liniment—the one that has the man riding over snakes an’ things—and the
arnicky, and ev’ry kind the drug-store keeps. I’ve wore salt in my shoes
tell they turned white all over; and I kep’ a buckeye in my pocket tell
it wore a hole and fell out. But I never get red o’ the rheumatiz.”

Mrs. Wincoop took two or three stitches in silence; then she
said—“Patience, now, she _can_ talk o’ having rheumatiz. She’s most bent
in two with it when she has it—and that’s near all the time.”

The rocking ceased abruptly. Mrs. Willis’s brows met, giving a look of
sternness to her face.

“That’s a good piece o’ cotton flannel,” she said. “Hefty! Fer pity’s
sake! D’ you put ruffles on the bottom o’ Mr. Wincoop’s night-shirt?
Whatever d’you do that fer?”

“Because he likes ’em that way,” responded Mrs. Wincoop, tartly. “There’s
no call fer remarks as I see, Mis’ Willis. You put a pocket ’n Mr.
Willis’s, and paw never’d have that—never!” firmly.

“Well, I never see ruffles on a man’s night-shirt before,” said Mrs.
Willis, laughing rather aggravatingly. “But they do look reel pretty,
anyways.”

“The longer you live the more you learn.” Mrs. Wincoop spoke
condescendingly. “But talking about Patience—have you see her lately?”

“No, I ain’t.” Mrs. Willis got up suddenly and commenced rummaging about
on the table; there were two red spots on her thin face. “I’d most fergot
to show you my new winter underclo’s. Ain’t them nice and warm, though?
They feel so good to my rheumatiz. I keep thinking about them that can’t
get any. My, such hard times! All the banks broke, and no more prospect
of good times than of a hen’s being hatched with teeth! It puts me all of
a trimble to think o’ the winter here and ev’rybody so hard up. It’s a
pretty pass we’ve come to.”

“I should say so. I don’t see what Patience is a-going to live on this
winter. She ain’t fit to do anything; her rheumatiz is awful. She ain’t
got any fine wool underclo’s.”

Mrs. Willis sat down again, but she did not rock; she sat upright,
holding her back stiff and her thin shoulders high and level.

“I guess this tight spell’ll learn folks to lay by money when they got
it,” she said, sternly. “I notice we ain’t got any mortgage on our place,
and I notice we got five thousand dollars invested. We got some cattle
besides. We ain’t frittered ev’rything we made away on foolishness, like
some that I know of. We have things good and comf’terble, but we don’t
put on any style. Look at that Mis’ Abernathy! I caught her teeheeing
behind my back when I was buying red checked table clo’s. Her husband a
bookkeeper! And her a-putting on airs over me that could buy her up any
day in the week! Now, he’s lost his place, and I reckon she’ll come down
a peg or two.”

“She’s been reel good to Patience, anyways,” said Mrs. Wincoop.

Mrs. Willis knitted so fast her needles fairly rasped together.

“She takes her in jell and perserves right frequent. You mind Patience
always liked sweet things even when her ’n’ Lizy was girls together,
Eunice.”

It was so unusual for one of these two women to speak the other’s name
that they now exchanged quick looks of surprise. Indeed, Mrs. Wincoop
seemed the more surprised of the two. But the hard, matter-of-fact
expression returned at once to each face. If possible, Mrs. Willis looked
more grim and sour than before the unwonted address had startled her out
of her composure.

“Well,” she said, scarcely unclosing her thin lips, “I reckon she had all
the sweet things she was a-hankering after when she was a girl. I reckon
she had a plenty and to spare, and I expect they got to tasting pretty
bitter a good spell ago. Too much sweet always leaves a bit’rish taste
in the mouth. My religion is—do what’s right, and don’t wink at them that
does wrong. I’ve stuck to my religion, I reckon you can’t get anybody
to stand up and put their finger on anything wrong I’ve done—nor any of
my fambly, either.” Mrs. Wincoop put her hand on her chest and coughed
mournfully. “Let them that’s _sinned_,” went on Mrs. Willis, lifting her
pale, cold eyes and setting them full on her visitor, “make allowance fer
sinners, say I. Mis’ Abernathy, or Mis’ Anybody Else, can pack all the
clo’s and all the sweet things they’ve got a mind to over to Patience
Appleby; mebbe they’ve sinned, too—_I_ don’t know! But I do know that I
ain’t, and so I don’t pack things over to her, even if she is all doubled
up with the rheumatiz,” unconsciously imitating Mrs. Wincoop’s tone. “And
I don’t make no allowance for her sins, either, Mis’ Wincoop.”

A faint color came slowly, as if after careful consideration, to Mrs.
Wincoop’s face.

“There wa’n’t no call fer you a-telling that,” she said, with a great
calmness. “The whole town knows you wouldn’t fergive a sin, if your
fergiving it ’u’d save the sinner hisself from being lost! The whole town
knows what your religion is, Mis’ Willis. You set yourself up and call
yourself perfeck, and wrap yourself up in yourself—”

“There come the men—sh!” said Mrs. Willis. Her face relaxed, but with
evident reluctance. She began to knit industriously. But the temptation
to have the last word was strong.

“It ain’t my religion, either,” she said, her voice losing none of its
determination because it was lowered. “I’d of fergive her if she’d
a-confessed up. We all tried to get her to. I tried more ’n anybody. I
told her”—in a tone of conviction—“that nobody but a brazen thing ’u’d
do what she’d done and not confess up to ’t—and it never fazed her. She
_wouldn’t_ confess up.”

The men were scraping their feet noisily now on the porch, and Mrs.
Willis leaned back with a satisfied expression, expecting no reply. But
Mrs. Wincoop surprised her. She was sewing the last pearl button on Mr.
Wincoop’s night-shirt, and as she drew the thread through and fastened
it with scrupulous care, she said, without looking up—“I don’t take
much stock in confessings myself, Mis’ Willis. I don’t see just how
confessings is good for the soul when they hurt so many innocent ones as
well as the guilty ones. Ev’ry confessing affex somebody else; and so I
say if you repent and want to atone you can do ’t without confessing and
bringing disgrace on others. It’s nothing but curiosity that makes people
holler out—‘Confess-up now! Confess-up now.’ It ain’t anybody’s business
but God’s—and I reckon _He_ knows when a body’s sorry he’s sinned and
wants to do better, and I reckon He helps him just as much as if he got
up on a church tower and kep’ a-hollering out—‘Oh, good grieve, I’ve
sinned! I’ve sinned!’—so’s the whole town could run and gap’ at him! Mis’
Willis, if some confessing-ups was done in this town that I know of,
some people ’u’d be affected that ’u’d surprise you.” Then she lifted up
her voice cheerfully—“That you, father? Well, d’ you bring the lantern?
I reckon we’d best go right home; it’s getting latish, and Mis’ Willis
thinks, from the way her arm aches her, that it’s going to rain.”

Mrs. Willis sat knitting long after Mr. Willis had gone to bed. Her face
was more stern even than usual. She sat uncomfortably erect and did not
rock. When the clock told ten, she arose stiffly and rolled the half
finished stocking around the ball of yarn, fastening it there with the
needles. Then she laid it on the table and stood looking at it intently,
without seeing it. “I wonder,” she said, at last, drawing a deep breath,
“what she was a-driving at! I’d give a pretty to know.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“Mother, where’s my Sund’y pulse-warmers at?”

“_I_ don’t know where your Sund’y pulse-warmers are at. Father, you’d
aggravate a body into her grave! You don’t half look up anything—and then
begin asking me where it’s at. What’s under that bunch o’ collars in your
drawer? Looks some like your Sund’y pulse-warmers, don’t it? This ain’t
Sund’y, anyways. Wa’n’t your ev’ryday ones good enough to wear just to a
church meeting?”

Mr. Willis had never been known to utter an oath; but sometimes he looked
as if his heart were full of them.

“I reckon you don’t even know where your han’ke’cher’s at, father.”

“Yes, I do, mother. I guess you might stop talking, an’ come on now—I’m
all ready.”

He preceded his wife, leaving the front door open for her to close and
lock. He walked stiffly, holding his head straight, lest his collar
should cramp his neck or prick his chin. He had a conscious, dressed-up
air. He carried in one hand a lantern, in the other an umbrella. It
was seven o’clock of a Thursday evening and the bell was ringing for
prayer-meeting. There was to be a church meeting afterward, at which the
name of Patience Appleby was to be brought up for membership. Mrs. Willis
breathed hard and deep as she thought of it.

She walked behind her husband to receive the full light of the lantern,
holding her skirts up high above her gaiter-tops which were so large and
so worn as to elastic, that they fairly ruffled around her spare, flat
ankles. Her shadow danced in piece-meal on the picket fence. After a
while she said—

“Father, I wish you wouldn’t keep swinging that lantern so! A body can’t
see where to put their feet down. Who’s that ahead o’ us?”

“I can’t make out yet.”

“No wonder—you keep swinging that lantern so! Father, what does _possess_
you to be so aggravating? If I’d of asked you to swing it, you couldn’t
of b’en _drug_ to do it!”

Mrs. Willis was guiltless of personal vanity, but she did realize the
importance of her position in village society, and something of this
importance was imparted to her carriage as she followed Mr. Willis up the
church aisle. She felt that every eye was regarding her with respect, and
held her shoulders so high that her comfortable shawl fell therefrom in
fuller folds than usual. She sat squarely in the pew, looking steadily
and unwinkingly at the wonderful red velvet cross that hung over the
spindle-legged pulpit, her hands folded firmly in her lap. She had never
been able to understand how Sister Wirth who sat in the pew in front
of the Willises, could always have her head a-lolling over to one side
like a giddy, sixteen-year-old. Mrs. Willis abominated such actions in a
respectable, married woman of family.

Mr. Willis crouched down uneasily in the corner of the seat and sat
motionless, with a self-conscious blush across his weak eyes. His
umbrella, banded so loosely that it bulged like a soiled-clothes bag,
stood up against the back of the next pew.

At the close of prayer-meeting no one stirred from his seat. An ominous
silence fell upon the two dozen people assembled there. The clock ticked
loudly, and old lady Scranton, who suffered of asthma, wheezed with every
breath and whispered to her neighbor that she was getting so phthisicy
she wished to mercy they’d hurry up or she’d have to go home without
voting. At last one of the deacons arose and said with great solemnity
that he understood sister Wincoop had a name to propose for membership.

When Mrs. Wincoop stood up she looked pale but determined. Mrs. Willis
would not turn to look at her, but she caught every word spoken.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Wincoop, “I want to bring up the name of Patience
Appleby. I reckon you all know Patience Appleby. She was born here,
and she’s always lived here. There’s them that says she done wrong
onct, but I guess she’s about atoned up for that—if any mortal living
has. I’ve know her fifteen year, and I don’t know any better behaving
woman anywheres. She never talks about anybody”—her eyes went to Mrs.
Willis’s rigid back—“and she never complains. She’s alone and poor, and
all crippled up with the rheumatiz. She wants to join church and live a
Christian life, and I, fer one, am in favor o’ us a-holding out our hand
to her and helping her up.”

“Amen!” shrilled out the minister on one of his upper notes. There was
a general rustle of commendation—whispers back and forth, noddings of
heads, and many encouraging glances directed toward sister Wincoop.

But of a sudden silence fell upon the small assembly. Mrs. Willis had
arisen. Her expression was grim and uncompromising. At that moment sister
Shidler’s baby choked in its sleep, and cried so loudly and so gaspingly
that every one turned to look at it.

In the momentary confusion Mr. Willis caught hold of his wife’s dress and
tried to pull her down; but the unfortunate man only succeeded in ripping
a handful of gathers from the band. Mrs. Willis looked down at him from
her thin height.

“You let my gethers be,” she said, fiercely. “You might of knew you’d
tear ’em, a-taking holt of ’em that way!”

Then quiet was restored and the wandering eyes came back to Mrs. Willis.
“Brothers and sisters,” she said, “it ain’t becoming in me to remind you
all what Mr. Willis and me have done fer this church. It ain’t becoming
in me to remind you about the organ, and the new bell, and the carpet fer
the aisles—let alone our paying twenty dollars more a year than any other
member. I say it ain’t becoming in me, and I never ’d mention it if it
wa’n’t that I don’t feel like having Patience Appleby in this church. If
she does come in, _I_ go out.”

A tremor passed through the meeting. The minister turned pale and stroked
his meagre whiskers nervously. He was a worthy man, and he believed in
saving souls. He had prayed and plead with Patience to persuade her to
unite with the church, but he had not felt the faintest presentiment that
he was quarreling with his own bread and butter in so doing. One soul
scarcely balances a consideration of that kind—especially when a minister
has six children and a wife with a chronic disinclination to do anything
but look pretty and read papers at clubs and things. It was small wonder
that he turned pale.

“I want that you all should know just how I feel about it,” continued
Mrs. Willis. “I believe in doing what’s right yourself and not excusing
them that does wrong. I don’t believe in having people like Patience
Appleby in this church; and she don’t come in while _I’m_ in, neither.
That’s all I got to say. I want that you all should understand plain that
her coming in means my going out.”

Mrs. Willis sat down, well satisfied. She saw that she had produced a
profound sensation. Every eye turned to the minister with a look that
said, plainly—“What have you to say to _that_?”

But the miserable man had not a word to say to it. He sat helplessly
stroking his whiskers, trying to avoid the eyes of both Mrs. Wincoop and
Mrs. Willis. At last Deacon Berry said—“Why, sister Willis, I think if
a body repents and wants to do better, the church ’ad ort to help ’em.
That’s what churches are for.”

Mrs. Willis cleared her throat.

“I don’t consider that a body’s repented, Deacon Berry, tell he
confesses-up. Patience Appleby’s never done that to this day. When she
does, I’m willing to take her into this church.”

“Brothers and sisters,” said Mrs. Wincoop, in a voice that held a kind
of cautious triumph, “I fergot to state that Patience Appleby reckoned
mebbe somebody ’u’d think she’d ort to confess before she come into the
church; and she wanted I should ask the meeting to a’point Mis’ Willis a
committee o’ one fer her to confess up to. Patience reckoned if she could
satisfy Mis’ Willis, ev’rybody else ’u’d be satisfied.”

“Why—yes,” cried the minister, with cheerful eagerness. “That’s all
right—bless the Lord!” he added, in that jaunty tone with which so many
ministers daily insult our God. “I know Mrs. Willis and Patience will be
able to smooth over all difficulties. I think we may now adjourn.”

“Whatever did she do that fer?” said Mrs. Willis, following the lantern
homeward. “She’s got something in her mind, _I_ know, or she’d never want
me a’p’inted. Father, what made you pull my gethers out? D’you think you
could make me set down when I’d once made up my mind to stand up? You’d
ought to know me better by this time. This is my secon’-best dress, and
I’ve only wore it two winters—and now look at all these gethers tore
right out!”

“You hadn’t ought to get up and make a fool o’ yourself, mother. You’d
best leave Patience Appleby be.”

“You’d ort to talk about anybody a-making a fool o’ hisself! After you
a-pulling my gethers clean out o’ the band—right in meeting! You’d ort
to tell me I’d best leave Patience Appleby be! I don’t mean to leave her
be. I mean to let her know she can’t ac’ scandalous, and then set herself
up as being as good’s church folks and Christians. _I’ll_ give her her
come-uppings!”

For probably the first time in his married life Mr. Willis yielded to
his feelings. “God-a’mighty, mother,” he said; “sometimes you don’t seem
to have common sense! I reckon you’d best leave Patience Appleby be, if
you know when you’re well off.” Then, frightened at what he had said, he
walked on, hurriedly, swinging the lantern harder than ever.

Mrs. Willis walked behind him, dumb.

       *       *       *       *       *

The day was cold and gray. Mrs. Willis opened with difficulty the
broken-down gate that shut in Patience Appleby’s house. “And no wonder,”
she thought, “it swags down so!”

There was a foot of snow on the ground. The path to the old, shabby house
was trackless. Not a soul had been there since the snow fell—and that was
two days ago! Mrs. Willis shivered under her warm shawl.

Patience opened the door. Her slow, heavy steps on the bare floor of the
long hall affected Mrs. Willis strangely.

Patience was very tall and thin. She stooped, and her chest was sunken.
She wore a dingy gray dress, mended in many places. There was a small,
checked shawl folded in a “three-cornered” way about her shoulders. She
coughed before she could greet her visitor.

“How d’you do, Mis’ Willis,” she said, at last. “Come in, won’t you?”

“How are you, Patience?” Mrs. Willis said, and, to her own amazement, her
voice did not sound as stern as she had intended it should.

She had been practicing as she came along, and this voice bore no
resemblance whatever to the one she had been having in her mind. Nor, as
she preceded Patience down the bare, draughty hall to the sitting-room,
did she bear herself with that degree of frigid dignity which she had
always considered most fitting to her position, both socially and morally.

Somehow, the evidences of poverty on every side chilled her blood. The
sitting-room was worse, even, than the hall. A big, empty room with a
small fireplace in one corner, wherein a few coals were turning gray; a
threadbare carpet, a couple of chairs, a little table with the Bible on
it, ragged wall-paper, and a shelf in one corner filled with liniment
bottles.

Mrs. Willis sat down in one of the rickety chairs, and Patience, after
stirring up the coals, drew the other to the hearth.

“I’m afraid the room feels kind o’ coolish,” she said. “I’ve got the last
o’ the coal on.”

“D’you mean,” said Mrs. Willis—and again her voice surprised her—“that
you’re all out o’ coal?”

“All out.” She drew the tiny shawl closer to her throat with trembling,
bony fingers. “But Mis’ Abernathy said she’d send me a scuttleful over
to-day. I hate to take it from her, too; her husband’s lost his position
and they ain’t overly well off. But sence my rheumatiz has been so bad I
can’t earn a thing.”

Mrs. Willis stared hard at the coals. For the life of her she could think
of nothing but her own basement filled to the ceiling with coal.

“I reckon,” said Patience, “you’ve come to hear my confessing-up?”

“Why—yes.” Mrs. Willis started guiltily.

“What’s the charges agen me, Mis’ Willis?”

Mrs. Willis’s eyelids fell heavily.

“Why, I reckon you know, Patience. You done wrong onct when you was a
girl, and I don’t think we’d ort to take you into the church tell you own
up to it.”

There was a little silence. Then Patience said, drawing her breath
in heavily—“Mebbe I did do wrong onct when I was a little girl—only
fourteen, say. But that’s thirty year ago, and that’s a long time, Mis’
Willis. I don’t think I’d ort to own up to it.”

“_I_ think you’d ort.”

“Mis’ Willis,”—Patience spoke solemnly. “D’you think I’d ort to own up if
it ’u’d affec’ somebody else thet ain’t never b’en talked about?”

“Yes, I do,” said Mrs. Willis, firmly. “If they deserve to be talked
about, they’d _ort_ to be talked about.”

“Even if it was about the best folks in town?”

“Yes.” Mrs. Willis thought of the minister.

“Even if it was about the best-off folks? Folks that hold their head the
highest, and give most to churches and missionary; and thet ev’rybody
looks up to?”

“Ye-es,” said Mrs. Willis. That did not describe the minister, certainly.
She could not have told you why her heart began to beat so violently.
Somehow, she had been surprised out of the attitude she had meant to
assume. Instead of walking in boldly and haughtily, and giving Patience
her “come-uppings,” she was finding it difficult to conquer a feeling of
pity for the enemy because she was so poor and so cold. She must harden
her heart.

“Even”—Patience lowered her eyes to the worn carpet—“if it was folks thet
had b’en loudest condemin’ other folks’s sins, and that had bragged high
and low thet there wa’n’t no disgrace in their fambly, and never had b’en
none, and who’d just be about killed by my confessing-up?”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Willis, sternly. But she paled to the lips.

“I don’t think so,” said Patience, slowly. “I think a body’d ort to have
a chance if they want to live better, without havin’ anybody a-pryin’
into their effairs exceptin’ God. But if you don’t agree with me, I’m
ready to confess-up all _I’ve_ done bad. I guess you recollect, Mis’
Willis, thet your ’Lizy and me was just of an age, to a day?”

Mrs. Willis’s lips moved, but the words stuck in her throat.

“And how we ust to play together and stay nights with each other. We
_loved_ each other, Mis’ Willis. You ust to give us big slices o’
salt-risin’ bread, spread thick with cream and sprinkled with brown
sugar—I can just see you now, a-goin’ out to the spring-house to get the
cream. And I can just taste it, too, when I get good and hungry.”

“What’s all this got to do with your a-owning up?” demanded Mrs. Willis,
fiercely. “What’s my ’Lizy got to do with your going away that time?
Where was you at, Patience Appleby?”

“I’m comin’ to that,” said Patience, calmly; but a deep flush came upon
her face. “I’ve attoned-up fer that time, if any mortal bein’ ever did,
Mis’ Willis. I’ve had a hard life, but I’ve never complained, because I
thought the Lord was a-punishin’ me. But I have suffered.... Thirty year,
Mis’ Willis, of prayin’ to be fergive fer one sin! But I ain’t ever see
the day I could confess-up to ’t—and I couldn’t now, except to ’Lizy’s
mother.”

An awful trembling shook Mrs. Willis’s heart. She looked at Patience with
straining eyes. “Go on,” she said, hoarsely.

“’Lizy and me was fourteen on the same day. She was goin’ to Four Corners
to visit her a’nt, but I had to stay at home and work. I was cryin’ about
it when, all of a sudden, ’Lizy says—“Patience, let’s up and have a good
time on our birthday!”

“Well, let’s,” I says, “but how?”

“I’ll start fer Four Corners and then you run away, and I’ll meet you,
and we’ll go to Springville to the circus and learn to ride bareback”—

Mrs. Willis leaned forward in her chair. Her face was very white; her
thin hands were clenched so hard the knuckles stood out half an inch.

“Patience Appleby,” she said, “you’re a wicked, sinful liar! May the Lord
A’mighty fergive you—_I_ won’t.”

“I ain’t askin’ you to take my word; you can ask Mr. Willis hisself. He
didn’t go to Springville to buy him a horse, like he told you he did.
’Lizy and me had been at the circus two days when she tuk sick, and I
sent fer Mr. Willis unbeknownst to anybody. He come and tuk her home
and fixed it all up with her a’nt at Four Corners, and give out thet
she’d been a-visitin’ there. But I had to sneak home alone and live an
outcast’s life ever sense, and see her set up above me—just because Mr.
Willis got down to beg me on his knees never to tell she was with me.
And I never did tell a soul, Mis’ Willis, tell last winter I was sick
with a fever and told Mis’ Wincoop when I was out o’ my head. But she’s
never told anybody, either, and neither of us ever will. Mr. Willis has
helped me as much as he could without your a-findin’ it out, but I know
how it feels to be hungry and cold, and I know how it feels to see ’Lizy
set up over me, and marry rich, and have nice children; and ride by me ’n
her kerriage without so much as lookin’ at me—and me a-chokin’ with the
dust off o’ her kerriage wheels. But I never complained none, and I ain’t
a-complainin’ now, Mis’ Willis; puttin ’Lizy down wouldn’t help me any.
But I do think it’s hard if I can’t be let into the church.”

Her thin voice died away and there was silence. Patience sat staring at
the coals with the dullness of despair on her face. Mrs. Willis’s spare
frame had suddenly taken on an old, pathetic stoop. What her haughty
soul had suffered during that recital, for which she had been so totally
unprepared, Patience would never realize. The world seemed to be slipping
from under the old woman’s trembling feet. She had been so strong in
her condemnation of sinners because she had felt so sure she should
never have any trading with sin herself. And lo! all these years her
own daughter—her one beloved child, dearer than life itself—had been as
guilty as this poor outcast from whom she had always drawn her skirts
aside, as from a leper. Ay, her daughter had been the guiltier of the
two. She was not spared that bitterness, even. Her harsh sense of justice
forced her to acknowledge, even in that first hour, that this woman had
borne herself nobly, while her daughter had been a despicable coward.

It had been an erect, middle-aged woman who had come to give Patience
Appleby her “come-uppings;” it was an old, broken-spirited one who went
stumbling home in the early, cold twilight of the winter day. The fierce
splendor of the sunset had blazed itself out; the world was a monotone in
milky blue—save for one high line of dull crimson clouds strung along the
horizon.

A shower of snow-birds sunk in Mrs. Willis’s path, but she did not see
them. She went up the path and entered her comfortable home; and she fell
down upon her stiff knees beside the first chair she came to—and prayed
as she had never prayed before in all her hard and selfish life.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Mr. Willis came home to supper he found his wife setting the table
as usual. He started for the bedroom, but she stopped him.

“We’re a-going to use the front bedroom after this, father,” she said.

“Why, what are we going to do that fer, mother?”

“I’m a-going to give our’n to Patience Appleby.”

“You’re a-going to—_what_, mother?”

“I’m a-going to give our’n to Patience Appleby, I say. I’m a-going to
bring her here to live, and she’s got to have the warmest room in the
house, because her rheumatiz is worse ’n mine. I’m a-going after her
myself to-morrow in the kerriage.” She turned and faced her husband
sternly. “She’s confessed-up ev’rything. I was dead set she should, and
she has. I know where she was at that time, and I know who was with her.
I reckon I’d best be attoning up as well as Patience Appleby; and I’m
going to begin by making her comf’terble and taking her into the church.”

“Why, mother,” said the old man, weakly. His wife repressed him with one
look.

“Now, don’t go to talking back, father,” she said, sternly. “I reckon you
kep’ it from me fer the best, but it’s turrable hard on me now. You get
and wash yourself. I want that you should hold this candle while I fry
the apple-fritters.”



THE MOTHER OF “PILLS”



THE MOTHER OF “PILLS”


“Pills! Oh, Pills! You Pillsy!”

The girl turned from the door of the drug-store, and looked back under
bent brows at her mother, who was wiping graduated glasses with a stained
towel, at the end of the prescription counter.

“I wish you wouldn’t call me that,” she said; her tone was impatient but
not disrespectful.

Her mother laughed. She was a big, good-natured looking woman, with
light-blue eyes and sandy eyebrows and hair. She wore a black dress that
had a cheap, white cord-ruche at the neck. There were spots down the
front of her dress where acids had been spilled and had taken out the
color.

“How particular we are gettin’,” she said, turning the measuring glass
round and round on the towel which had been wadded into it. “You didn’t
use to mind if I called you ‘Pills,’ just for fun.”

“Well, I mind now.”

The girl took a clean towel from a cupboard and began to polish the
show-cases, breathing upon them now and then. She was a good-looking
girl. She had strong, handsome features, and heavy brown hair, which she
wore in a long braid down her back. A deep red rose was tucked in the
girdle of her cotton gown and its head lolled to and fro as she worked.
Her hands were not prettily shaped, but sensitive, and the ends of the
fingers were square.

“Well, Mariella, then,” said Mrs. Mansfield, still looking amused; “I was
goin’ to ask you if you knew the Indians had all come in on their way
home from hop pickin’.”

Mariella straightened up and looked at her mother.

“Have they, honest, ma?”

“Yes, they have; they’re all camped down on the beach.”

“Oh, I wonder where!”

“Why, the Nooksacks are clear down at the coal-bunkers, an’ the Lummies
close to Timberline’s Row; an’ the Alaskas are all on the other side of
the viaduct.”

“Are they goin’ to have the canoe race?”

“Yes, I guess so. I guess it’ll be about sundown to-night. There, you
forgot to dust that milk-shake. An’ you ain’t touched that shelf o’
patent medicines!”

She set down the last graduate and hung the damp towel on a nail. Then
she came out into the main part of the store and sat down comfortably
behind the counter.

Long before Mariella was born her father had opened a drug-store in
the tiny town of Sehome, on Puget Sound. There was a coal mine under
the town. A tunnel led down into it, and the men working among the
black diamonds, with their families, made up the town. But there was
some trouble, and the mine was abandoned and flooded with salt water.
The men went away, and for many years Sehome was little more than a
name. A mail boat wheezed up from Seattle once a week; and two or three
storekeepers—Mr. Mansfield among them—clung to the ragged edge of hope
and waited for the boom. Before it came, Mr. Mansfield was bumped over
the terrible road to the graveyard and laid down among the stones and
ferns. Then Mrs. Mansfield “run” the store. The question “Can you fill
perscriptions?” was often put to her fearfully by timid customers, but
she was equal to the occasion.

“Well, I guess I can,” she would say, squaring about and looking her
questioner unwaveringly in the eye. “I guess I’d ought to. I’ve been
in the store with my husband, that’s dead, for twenty years. I’m not a
regular, but I’m a practical—an’ that’s better than a regular any day.”

“It’s not so much what you know in a drug-store as what you _look_ like
you know,” she sometimes confided to admiring friends.

It is true Mrs. Mansfield was often perplexed over the peculiar curdled
appearance of some mixture—being as untaught in the mysterious ways of
emulsions as a babe—but such trifles were dismissed with a philosophical
sigh, and the prescriptions were handed over the counter with a
complaisance that commanded confidence. The doctor hinted, with extreme
delicacy, at times, that his emulsions did not turn out as smooth as he
had expected; or that it would be agreeable to find some of his aqueous
mixtures tinged with cochineal; or that it was possible to make pills in
such a way that they would not—so to speak—melt in the patient’s mouth
before he could swallow them. But Mrs. Mansfield invariably laughed at
him in a kind of motherly way, and reminded him that he ought to be glad
to have even a “practical” in a place like Sehome. And really this was so
true that it was unanswerable.

So Mrs. Mansfield held the fort; and as her medicines, although
abominable to swallow, never killed any one, she was looked upon with
awe and respect by the villagers and the men in the neighboring
logging-camps.

Mariella was brought up in the drug-store. She had the benefit of
her mother’s experience, and, besides that, she had studied the
“dispensatory”—a word, by the way, which Mrs. Mansfield began with a
capital letter because of the many pitfalls from which it had rescued her.

“Mariella is such a good girl,” her mother frequently declared; “she got
a real good education over at the Whatcom schools, an’ she’s such a help
in the drug-store. She does make a beautiful pill.”

Indeed, the girl’s pill-making accomplishment was so appreciated by Mrs.
Mansfield that she had nick-named her “Pills”—a name that had been the
cause of much mirth between them.

Mariella was now sixteen, and the long-deferred “boom” was upon them.
Mrs. Mansfield and her daughter contemplated it from the store door
daily with increasing admiration. The wild clover no longer velveted the
middle of the street. New buildings, with red, green or blue fronts and
nondescript backs, leaped up on every corner and in between corners. The
hammers and saws made music sweeter than any brass band to Sehome ears.
Day and night the forests blazed backward from the town. When there were
no customers in the store Mariella stood in the door, twisting the
rope of the awning around her wrist, and watched the flames leaping
from limb to limb up the tall, straight fir-trees. When Sehome hill
was burning at night, it was a magnificent spectacle; like hundreds of
torches dipped into a very hell of fire and lifted to heaven by invisible
hands—while in the East the noble, white dome of Mount Baker burst out
of the darkness against the lurid sky. The old steamer _Idaho_ came down
from Seattle three times a week now. When she landed, Mrs. Mansfield
and Mariella, and such customers as chanced to be in the store, hurried
breathlessly back to the little sitting-room, which overlooked the bay,
to count the passengers. The old colony wharf, running a mile out across
the tide-lands to deep water, would be “fairly alive with ’em,” Mrs.
Mansfield declared daily, in an ecstasy of anticipation of the good times
their coming foretold. She counted never less than a hundred and fifty;
and so many walked three and four abreast that it was not possible to
count all.

Really, that summer everything seemed to be going Mrs. Mansfield’s way.
Mariella was a comfort to her mother and an attraction to the store;
business was excellent; her property was worth five times more than it
had ever been before; and, besides—when her thoughts reached this point
Mrs. Mansfield smiled consciously and blushed—there was Mr. Grover! Mr.
Grover kept the dry-goods store next door. He had come at the very
beginning of the boom. He was slim and dark and forty. Mrs. Mansfield was
forty and large and fair. Both were “well off.” Mr. Grover was lonely
and “dropped into” Mrs. Mansfield’s little sitting-room every night. She
invited him to supper frequently, and he told her that her fried chicken
and “cream” potatoes were better than anything he had eaten since his
mother died. Of late his intentions were not to be misunderstood, and
Mrs. Mansfield was already putting by a cozy sum for a wedding outfit.
Only that morning she had looked at herself in the glass more attentively
than usual while combing her hair. Some thought made her blush and smile.

“You ought to be ashamed!” she said, shaking her head at herself in the
glass as at a gay, young thing. “To be thinkin’ about gettin’ married!
With a big girl like Pills too. One good thing: He really seems to think
as much of Pills as you do yourself, Mrs. Mansfield. That’s what makes me
so—happy, I guess. I believe it’s the first time I ever was real happy
before.” She sighed unconsciously as she glanced back over her years of
married life. “An’ I don’t know what makes me so awful happy now. But
sometimes when I get up of a mornin’ I just feel as if I could go out on
the hill an’ sing—foolish as any of them larks holler’n’ for joy.

“Mariella,” she said, watching the duster in the girl’s hands, “what made
you flare up so when I called you ‘Pills?’ You never done that before,
an’ I don’t see what ails you all of a sudden.”

“I didn’t mean to flare up,” said Mariella. She opened the cigar-case and
arranged the boxes carefully. Then she closed it with a snap and looked
at her mother. “But I wish you’d stop it, ma. Mr. Grover said——”

“Well, what ’id he say?”

“He said it wasn’t a nice name to call a girl by.” Mariella’s face
reddened, but she was stooping behind the counter.

Mrs. Mansfield drummed on the show-case with broad fingers and looked
thoughtful.

“Well,” she said with significance, after a pause, “if he don’t like it,
I won’t do it. We’ve had lots o’ fun over it, Pills, ain’t we—I mean
Mariella—but I guess he has a right to say what you’ll be called, Pi—— my
dear.”

“Oh, ma,” said Mariella. Her face was like a poppy.

“Well, I guess you won’t object, will you? I’ve been wond’rin’ how you
felt about it.”

“Oh, ma,” faltered the girl; “do you think, honest, he—— he——”

“Yes, I do,” replied her mother, laughing comfortably and blushing
faintly. “I’m sure of it. An’ I’m happier ’n I ever was in my life over
it. I don’t think I could give you a better stepfather, or one that would
think more of you.”

Mariella stood up slowly behind the counter and looked—stared—across the
room at her mother, in a dazed, uncomprehending way. The color ebbed
slowly out of her face. She did not speak, but she felt the muscles about
her mouth jerking. She pressed her lips more tightly together.

“I hope you don’t think I oughtn’t to marry again,” said her mother,
returning her look without understanding it in the least. “Your pa’s
been dead ten years”—this in an injured tone. “There ain’t many women——
Oh, good mornin’, Mr. Lester? Mariella, ’ll you wait on Mr. Lester?
Well”—beaming good naturedly on her customer—“how’s real estate this
mornin’? Any new sales afoot?”

“_Are_ there?” repeated that gentleman, leaning on the show-case and
lighting his cigar, innocent of intentional discourtesy. “Well, I should
_smile_—and smile broadly too, Mrs. Mansfield. There’s a Minneapolis chap
here that’s buyin’ right an’ left; just _slashin’_ things! He’s bought a
lot o’ water-front property, too; an’ let me tell _you_, right now, that
Jim Hill’s behind him; an’ Jim Hill’s the biggest railroad man in the U.
S. to-day, an’ the Great Northern’s behind _him_!”

“Well, I hope so.” Mrs. Mansfield drew a long breath of delight. Mr.
Lester smiled, shrugged his shoulders, spread out his hands, and
sauntered out with the air of a man who has the ear of railroad kings.

“Are you goin’ to the canoe races to-night, Mariella?” began her mother,
in a conciliatory tone.

“I don’t know. Might as well, I guess.”

The girl was wiping the shelf bottles now; her face was pale, but her
back was to her mother.

“Well, we will have an early supper, so you can get off. Mercy, child!
Did you break one o’ them glass labels? How often ’v’ I told you not to
press on ’em so hard? What one is it? The tincture cantharides! Well, tie
a string around it, so we’ll know what it is. There ain’t no label on the
aconite bottle, nor the Jamaica ginger either—an’ them settin’ side by
side, too. I hate guessin’ at things in a drug-store—specially when one’s
a poison. Have you scoured up them spatulas?”

“Yes’m.”

“Well, I’ll go in an’ do up the dishes, an’ leave you to ’tend store.
Don’t forget to make Mr. Benson’s pills.”

But Mr. Benson’s pills were not made right away. When her mother was
gone, Mariella got down from the step-ladder and leaned one elbow on the
show-case and rested her chin in her hand. Her throat swelled in and out
fitfully, and the blue veins showed, large and full, on her temples. For
a long time she stood thus, twisting the towel in her hand and looking
at the fires on the hill without seeing them. Some of their dry burning
seemed to get into her own eyes.

Mr. Grover, passing, glanced in.

“Mariella,” he said, putting one foot across the threshold, “are you
goin’ to the canoe races?”

The girl had darted erect instantly, and put on a look of coquettish
indifference.

“Yes, I am.” Her eyes flashed at him over her shoulder from the corners
of their lids as she started back to the prescription-case. “I’m goin’
with Charlie Walton!”

When Mariella had gone to the races that night, and customers were
few and far between, Mr. Grover walked with a determined air through
Mrs. Mansfield’s store and, pushing aside the crimson canton-flannel
portieres, entered her cheerful sitting-room. On the floor was a Brussels
carpet, large-flowered and vivid. A sewing-machine stood in one corner
and Mariella’s organ in another. The two narrow windows overlooking the
sound were gay with blooming geraniums and white curtains tied with
red ribbons. There was a trunk deceptively stuffed and cretonned into
the semblance of a settee; and there was a wicker-chair that was full
of rasping, aggravating noises when you rocked in it. It had red ribbon
twisted through its back and arms. Mrs. Mansfield was sitting in it now,
reading a novel, and the chair was complaining unceasingly.

Mr. Grover sat down on the trunk.

“Mrs. Mansfield,” he said, looking squarely at her, “I’ve got somethin’
to ask of you, an’ I’m goin’ to do it while Mariella’s away.”

“That so?” said Mrs. Mansfield.

The color in her cheek deepened almost to a purple. She put one hand up
to her face, and with the other nervously wrinkled the corners of the
leaves of her novel. She lowered her lids resolutely to hide the sudden
joy in her eyes.

“I guess you know what I’ve been comin’ here so much for. I couldn’t help
thinkin’, too, that you liked the idea an’ was sort of encouragin’ me.”

Mrs. Mansfield threw one hand out toward him in a gesture at once
deprecating, coquettish and helpful.

“Oh, you!” she exclaimed, laughing and coloring more deeply. There was
decided encouragement in her honest blue eyes under their sandy lashes.

“Well, didn’t you, now?” Mr. Grover leaned toward her.

She hesitated, fingering the leaves of her book. She turned her head to
one side; the leaves swished softly as they swept past her broad thumb;
the corners of her mouth curled in a tremulous smile; the fingers of her
other hand moved in an unconscious caress across her warm cheek; she
remembered afterward that the band across the bay on the long pier, where
the races were, was playing “Annie Laurie,” and that the odor of wild
musk, growing outside her window in a box, was borne in, sweet and heavy,
by the sea winds. It was the one perfect moment of Mrs. Mansfield’s
life—in which there had been no moments that even approached perfection;
in which there had been no hint of poetry—only dullest, everyday prose.
She had married because she had been taught that women should marry; and
Mr. Mansfield had been a good husband. She always said that; and she did
not even know that she always sighed after saying it. Her regard for Mr.
Grover was the poetry—the wine—of her hard, frontier life. Never before
that summer had she stood and listened to the message of the meadow-lark
with a feeling of exaltation that brought tears to her eyes; or gone out
to gather wild pink clover with the dew on it; or turned her broad foot
aside to spare a worm. Not that Mr. Grover ever did any of these things;
but that love had lifted the woman’s soul and given her the new gift of
seeing the beauty of common things. No one had guessed that there was a
change in her heart, not even Mariella.

It was well that Mrs. Mansfield prolonged that perfect moment. When she
did lift her eyes there was a kind of appealing tenderness in them.

“I guess I did,” she said.

“Well, then,”—Mr. Grover drew a breath of relief—“you might’s well say I
can have her. I want it all understood before she gets home. I want to
stop her runnin’ with that Walton. Once or twice I’ve been afraid you’d
just as leave she’d marry him as me. I don’t like to see girls gallivant
with two or three fellows.”

Mrs. Mansfield sat motionless, looking at him. Her eyes did not falter;
the smile did not wholly vanish from her face. Only the blood throbbed
slowly away, leaving it paler than Mariella’s had been that morning. She
understood her mistake almost before his first sentence. While he was
speaking her thoughts were busy. She felt the blood coming back when she
remembered what she had said to Mariella. If _only_ she had not spoken!

“Well,” she said, calmly, “have you said anything to Mariella?”

“Yes, I have; lots o’ times. An’ I know she likes me; but she’s some
flirtish, and that’s what I want to put a stop to. So, with your
permission, I’ll have a talk with her to-night.”

“I’d like to talk to her first myself.” Mrs. Mansfield looked almost
stern. “But I guess it’ll be all right, Mr. Grover. If you’d just as soon
wait till to-morrow, I’d like to be alone and make up my mind what to say
to her.”

Mr. Grover got up and shook hands with her awkwardly.

“I’ll make her a good husband,” he said, earnestly.

“I don’t doubt that,” replied Mrs. Mansfield.

Then he went out and the crimson curtain fell behind him.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Mariella came home her mother was sitting, rocking, by the window.
The lamp was lighted.

“Pills,” she said, “I want you to stop goin’ with that fello’.”

The girl looked at her in silence. Then she took off her turban and stuck
the long black pins back into it.

“I thought you liked him,” she said, slowly.

“I do, but Mr. Grover wants you—an’ I like him better.”

“Wants _me_!” Mariella drew up her shoulders proudly.

“Yes, you,” replied Mrs. Mansfield, laughing. The humor of the situation
was beginning to appeal to her. “He says he’d told you. You must of
laughed after I told you he wanted me.”

“Oh, ma, does he want me, honest?”

“Yes, he does.” She was still laughing.

“An’ don’t you mind, ma?”

“Not a mite,” said the widow, cheerfully. “I’d rather he’d marry you than
me; only, I thought he was too nice a man to be lost to the fam’ly.”

“Oh, ma!”

“Well, get to bed now. He’s comin’ in the mornin’ to see you.”

She took up the lamp and stood holding it irresolutely.

“Pills,” she said, looking embarrassed, “You won’t ever tell him that I——
that I——”

“Never, ma!” exclaimed the girl, earnestly; “as long as I live.”

“All right, then. Look out! You’re droppin’ tallo’ from your candle!
Don’t hold it so crooked, child! I wouldn’t like him to laugh about it.
Good-night.”

As she passed through the kitchen she called out: “Oh, Pills! Mr. Jordan
brought in a mess of trout. We’ll have ’em fried for breakfast.”

The girl came running after her mother, and threw her arms around her.

“Oh, ma, are you sure you don’t care a bit?”

“Not a bit,” said Mrs. Mansfield, kissing her heartily. “I just thought
he ought to be in the family. I’m glad it’s turned out this way. Now, you
go to bed, an’ don’t forget to roll up your bangs.”

She went into her room and shut the door.



MRS. RISLEY’S CHRISTMAS DINNER



MRS. RISLEY’S CHRISTMAS DINNER


She was an old, old woman. She was crippled with rheumatism and bent
with toil. Her hair was gray,—not that lovely white that softens and
beautifies the face, but harsh, grizzled gray. Her shoulders were round,
her chest was sunken, her face had many deep wrinkles. Her feet were
large and knotty; her hands were large, too, with great hollows running
down their backs. And how painfully the cords stood out in her old,
withered neck!

For the twentieth time she limped to the window and flattened her face
against the pane. It was Christmas day. A violet sky sparkled coldly over
the frozen village. The ground was covered with snow; the roofs were
white with it. The chimneys looked redder than usual as they emerged from
its pure drifts and sent slender curls of electric-blue smoke into the
air.

The wind was rising. Now and then it came sweeping down the hill, pushing
a great sheet of snow, powdered like dust, before it. The window-sashes
did not fit tightly, and some of it sifted into the room and climbed
into little cones on the floor. Snow-birds drifted past, like soft, dark
shadows; and high overhead wild geese went sculling through the yellow
air, their mournful “hawnk-e-hawnk-hawnks” sinking downward like human
cries.

As the old woman stood with her face against the window and her weak eyes
strained down the street, a neighbor came to the door.

“Has your daughter an’ her fambly come yet, Mis’ Risley?” she asked,
entering sociably.

“Not yet,” replied Mrs. Risley, with a good attempt at cheerfulness; but
her knees suddenly began shaking, and she sat down.

“Why, she’d ought to ’a’ come on the last train, hadn’t she?”

“Oh, I do’ know. There’s a plenty o’ time. Dinner won’t be ready tell two
past.”

“She ain’t b’en to see you fer five year, has she?” said the neighbor. “I
reckon you’ll have a right scrumptious set-out fer ’em?”

“I will so,” said Mrs. Risley, ignoring the other question. “Her
husband’s comin’.”

“I want to know! Why, he just thinks he’s some punkins, I hear.”

“Well, he’s rich enough to think hisself anything he wants to,” Mrs.
Risley’s voice took on a tone of pride.

“I sh’u’d think you’d want to go an’ live with ’em. It’s offul hard fer
you to live here all alone, with your rheumatiz.”

Mrs. Risley stooped to lay a stick of wood on the fire.

“I’ve worked nigh onto two weeks over this dinner,” she said, “a-seed’n’
raisins an’ cur’nts, an’ things. I’ve hed to skimp harrable, Mis’
Tomlinson, to get it; but it’s just—_perfec’_. Roast goose an’ cranberry
sass, an’ cel’ry soup, an’ mince an’ punkin pie,—to say nothin’ o’
plum-puddin’! An’ cookies an’ cur’nt-jell tarts fer the children. I’ll
hev to wear my old underclo’s all winter to pay fer ’t; but I don’t care.”

“I sh’u’d think your daughter’d keep you more comf’terble, seein’ her
husband’s so rich.”

There was a silence. Mrs. Risley’s face grew stern. The gold-colored cat
came and arched her back for a caress. “My bread riz beautiful,” Mrs.
Risley said then. “I worried so over ’t. An’ my fruit-cake smells that
good when I open the stun crock! I put a hull cup o’ brandy in it. Well,
I guess you’ll hev to excuse me. I’ve got to set the table.”

When Mrs. Tomlinson was gone, the strained look came back to the old
woman’s eyes. She went on setting the table, but at the sound of a wheel,
or a step even, she began to tremble and put her hand behind her ear to
listen.

“It’s funny they _didn’t_ come on that last train,” she said. “I w’u’dn’t
tell her, though. But they’d ort to be here by this time.”

She opened the oven door. The hot, delicious odor of its precious
contents gushed out. Did ever goose brown so perfectly before? And
how large the liver was! It lay in the gravy in one corner of the
big dripping-pan, just beginning to curl at the edges. She tested it
carefully with a little three-tined iron fork.

The mince-pie was on the table, waiting to be warmed, and the pumpkin-pie
was out on the back porch,—from which the cat had been excluded for the
present. The cranberry sauce, the celery in its high, old-fashioned
glass, the little bee-hive of hard sauce for the pudding and the thick
cream for the coffee, bore the pumpkin-pie company. The currant jelly in
the tarts glowed like great red rubies set in circles of old gold; the
mashed potatoes were light and white as foam.

For one moment, as she stood there in the savory kitchen, she thought of
the thin, worn flannels, and how much better her rheumatism would be with
the warm ones which could have been bought with the money spent for this
dinner. Then she flushed with self-shame.

“I must be gittin’ childish,” she exclaimed, indignantly; “to begredge
a Chris’mas dinner to ’Lizy. ’S if I hedn’t put up with old underclo’s
afore now! But I will say there ain’t many women o’ my age thet c’u’d git
up a dinner like this ’n’,—rheumatiz an’ all.”

A long, shrill whistle announced the last train from the city. Mrs.
Risley started and turned pale. A violent trembling seized her. She could
scarcely get to the window, she stumbled so. On the way she stopped at
the old walnut bureau to put a lace cap on her white hair and to look
anxiously into the mirror.

“Five year!” she whispered. “It’s an offul spell to go without seein’
your only daughter! Everything’ll seem mighty poor an’ shabby to her, I
reckon,—her old mother worst o’ all. I never sensed how I’d changed tell
now. My! how no-account I’m a gittin’! I’m all of a trimble!”

Then she stumbled on to the window and pressed her cheek against the pane.

“They’d ort to be in sight now,” she said. But the minutes went by, and
they did not come.

“Mebbe they’ve stopped to talk, meetin’ folks,” site said, again. “But
they’d ort to be in sight now.” She trembled so she had to get a chair
and sit down. But still she wrinkled her cheek upon the cold pane and
strained her dim eyes down the street.

After a while a boy came whistling down from the corner. There was a
letter in his hand. He stopped and rapped, and when she opened the door
with a kind of frightened haste, he gave her the letter and went away,
whistling again.

A letter! Why should a letter come? Her heart was beating in her throat
now,—that poor old heart that had beaten under so many sorrows! She
searched in a dazed way for her glasses. Then she fell helplessly into a
chair and read it:

    “DEAR MOTHER,—I am so sorry we cannot come, after all. We
    just got word that Robert’s aunt has been expecting us all
    the time, because we’ve spent every Christmas there. We feel
    as if we _must_ go there, because she always goes to so much
    trouble to get up a fine dinner; and we knew you wouldn’t do
    that. Besides, she is so rich; and one has to think of one’s
    children, you know. We’ll come, _sure_, next year. With a
    merry, merry Christmas from all,

                                                          “ELIZA.”

It was hard work reading it, she had to spell out so many of the words.
After she had finished, she sat for a long, long time motionless, looking
at the letter. Finally the cat came and rubbed against her, “myowing”
for her dinner. Then she saw that the fire had burned down to a gray,
desolate ash.

She no longer trembled, although the room was cold. The wind was blowing
steadily now. It was snowing, too. The bleak Christmas afternoon and
the long Christmas night stretched before her. Her eyes rested upon the
little fir-tree on a table in one corner, with its gilt balls and strings
of popcorn and colored candles. She could not bear the sight of it. She
got up stiffly.

“Well, kitten,” she said, trying to speak cheerfully, but with a pitiful
break in her voice, “let’s go out an’ eat our Christmas dinner.”



BOOKS ON NATURE


=BADENOCH= (L. N.).—=The Romance of the Insect World.= By L. N. BADENOCH.
With Illustrations by Margaret J. D. Badenoch and others. _Second
Edition._ Gilt top, $1.25.

    “The volume is fascinating from beginning to end, and there are
    many hints to be found in the wisdom and thrift shown by the
    smallest animal creatures.”—_Boston Times._

    “A splendid book to be put in the hands of any youth who may
    need an incentive to interest in out-door life or the history
    of things around him.”—_Chicago Times._

=BRIGHTWEN.=—=Inmates of My House and Garden.= By Mrs. BRIGHTWEN.
Illustrated. 12mo, $1.25.

    “One of the most charming books of the season, both as to form
    and substance.”—_The Outlook._

    “The book fills a delightful place not occupied by any other
    book that we have ever seen.”—_Boston Home Journal._

=GAYE.=—=The Great World’s Farm.= Some Account of Nature’s Crops and How
They are Grown. By SELINA GAYE. With a Preface by G. S. Boulger, F.L.S.,
and numerous Illustrations. 12mo, $1.50.

    _The University of California_ expressly commends this to its
    affiliated secondary schools for supplementary reading.

    “It is a thoroughly well-written and well-illustrated book,
    divested as much as possible of technicalities, and is
    admirably adapted to giving young people, for whom it was
    prepared, a readable account of plants and how they live and
    grow.”—_Public Opinion._

    “One of the most delightful semi-scientific books, which
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    from a cursory glance at paragraphs the reader is insensibly
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    purposes in connection with the study of elementary natural
    science, to which modern authorities are united in giving an
    early and important place in the school curriculum.”—_The
    Journal of Education._

=HUTCHINSON.=—=The Story of the Hills.= A Book about Mountains for
General Readers and Supplementary Reading in Schools. By H. N.
HUTCHINSON, author of “The Autobiography of the Earth,” etc. Illustrated.
$1.50.

    “A book that has long been needed, one that gives a clear
    account of the geological formation of mountains, and their
    various methods of origin, in language so clear and untechnical
    that it will not confuse even the most unscientific.”—_Boston
    Evening Transcript._

    “It is as interesting as a story, and full of the most
    instructive information, which is given in a style that
    everyone can comprehend....”—_Journal of Education._

=INGERSOLL.=—=Wild Neighbors.= A Book about Animals. By ERNEST INGERSOLL.
Illustrated. 16mo, Cloth. _In Press._

=JAPP= (A. H.).—=Hours in My Garden=, and Other Nature-Sketches. With 138
Illustrations, $1.75.

    “It is not a book to be described, but to be read in the spirit
    in which it is written—carefully and lovingly.”—_Mail and
    Express._

    “It is a book to be read and enjoyed by both young and
    old.”—_Public Opinion._

=POTTS= (W.).—=From a New England Hillside.= Notes from Underledge. By
WILLIAM POTTS. _Macmillan’s Miniature Series._ 18mo, 75 cents.

    “But the attraction of Mr. Potts’ book is not merely in its
    record of the natural year. He has been building a house, and
    we have the humors and the satisfactions, and hopes deferred,
    that usually attend that business. He has been digging a well,
    and the truth which he has found at the bottom of that he has
    duly set forth.... Then, too, his village is Farmington, Conn.,
    and there Miss Porter has her famous schools, and her young
    ladies flit across his page and lend their brightness to the
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    but not least, there are lucubrations on a great many personal
    and social topics, in which the touch is light and graceful and
    the philosophy is sound and sweet.”—_Brooklyn Standard-Union._

=WEED.=—=Life Histories of American Insects.= By Prof. CLARENCE M.
WEED, New Hampshire College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. Fully
Illustrated. Cloth. _In Press._


“_AN IDEAL BOOK ON NATURE STUDY._”

CITIZEN BIRD

Scenes from Bird Life in Plain English for Beginners. By MABEL OSGOOD
WRIGHT and ELLIOTT COUES. With One Hundred and Eleven Illustrations by
Louis Agassiz Fuertes. 12mo, Cloth, $1.50 _net_.

    This first issue of The Heart of Nature Series—_Citizen Bird_—is
    in every way a remarkable book. It is the story of the Bird-People
    told for the House-People, especially the _young_ House-People,
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    It is a question when one becomes too old to enjoy such a
    delightful and entertaining book.


TOMMY-ANNE AND THE THREE HEARTS

By MABEL OSGOOD WRIGHT. With many Illustrations by Albert D. Blashfield.
12mo, Cloth, Colored Edges, $1.50.

    “This book is calculated to interest children in nature, and
    grown folks, too, will find themselves catching the author’s
    enthusiasm. As for Tommy-Anne herself, she is bound to make
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    the better for the children. One Tommy-Anne is worth a whole
    shelf of the average juvenile Literature.”—_Critic._

    “Her book is altogether out of the commonplace. It will be
    immensely entertaining to all children who have a touch of
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    “The work is probably the most charming nature-book for
    children published this year.”—_Dial._


FIRST BOOK IN PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY

By RALPH STOCKMAN TARR, B.S., F.G.S.A., Professor of Dynamic Geology and
Physical Geography at Cornell University. 12mo, Half Leather, $1.10 _net_.

    The striking success of Tarr’s Elementary Physical Geography
    in high schools has led to the preparation of this _First
    Book_, which is designed for use in public and private schools
    requiring a somewhat shorter course than is given in the
    Elementary Physical Geography. Its claim to attention lies in
    its presentation of physical geography in its modern aspect.
    The main emphasis is laid upon physiography, and all the
    features that have contributed to the rapid introduction of the
    earlier books are retained in simpler form.


ELEMENTARY PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY

By R. S. TARR. 12mo, Half Leather, $1.40 _net_.

    The widespread and increasing use of Tarr’s Elementary Physical
    Geography, due originally to the recent and general change in
    methods of teaching the subject, has received a renewed impetus
    during the present year from the enthusiastic commendations
    of the teachers in the public schools of Chicago, Brooklyn,
    Philadelphia, Kansas City, and many other important centers.


ELEMENTARY GEOLOGY

By R. S. TARR. 12mo, Half Leather, $1.40 _net_.

    This book, published in February, 1897, is now generally
    recognized as the most attractive and scientific presentation
    of the subject for high schools. Many important schools have
    already adopted it.

                          THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                        66 Fifth Avenue, New York



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