Infomotions, Inc.David Harum A Story of American Life / Westcott, Edward Noyes, 1847-1898



Author: Westcott, Edward Noyes, 1847-1898
Title: David Harum A Story of American Life
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): harum; david; git; john; ben; jest; aunt polly; david harum; guess; an' mebbe
Contributor(s): Braakensiek, Johan, 1858-1940 [Illustrator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 106,721 words (short) Grade range: 8-10 (high school) Readability score: 70 (easy)
Identifier: etext17617
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious

Discover what books you consider "great". Take the Great Books Survey.

The Project Gutenberg eBook, David Harum, by Edward Noyes Westcott


This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org





Title: David Harum
       A Story of American Life


Author: Edward Noyes Westcott



Release Date: January 28, 2006  [eBook #17617]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK DAVID HARUM***


E-text prepared by David Garcia, Janet B, and the Project Gutenberg Online
Distributed Proofreading Team (http://www.pgdp.net/)



DAVID HARUM

A Story of American Life

by

EDWARD NOYES WESTCOTT







New York
D. Appleton and Company
1899
Copyright, 1898,
By D. Appleton and Company.





INTRODUCTION.

     The's as much human nature in some folks as th' is in others, if
     not more.--DAVID HARUM.


One of the most conspicuous characteristics of our contemporary native
fiction is an increasing tendency to subordinate plot or story to the
bold and realistic portrayal of some of the types of American life and
manners. And the reason for this is not far to seek. The extraordinary
mixing of races which has been going on here for more than a century has
produced an enormously diversified human result; and the products of
this "hybridization" have been still further differentiated by an
environment that ranges from the Everglades of Florida to the glaciers
of Alaska. The existence of these conditions, and the great literary
opportunities which they contain, American writers long ago perceived;
and, with a generally true appreciation of artistic values, they have
created from them a gallery of brilliant _genre_ pictures which to-day
stand for the highest we have yet attained in the art of fiction.

Thus it is that we have (to mention but a few) studies of Louisiana and
her people by Mr. Cable; of Virginia and Georgia by Thomas Nelson Page
and Joel Chandler Harris; of New England by Miss Jewett and Miss
Wilkins; of the Middle West by Miss French (Octave Thanet); of the great
Northwest by Hamlin Garland; of Canada and the land of the _habitans_ by
Gilbert Parker; and finally, though really first in point of time, the
Forty-niners and their successors by Bret Harte. This list might be
indefinitely extended, for it is growing daily, but it is long enough as
it stands to show that every section of our country has, or soon will
have, its own painter and historian, whose works will live and become a
permanent part of our literature in just the degree that they are
artistically true. Some of these writers have already produced many
books, while others have gained general recognition and even fame by the
vividness and power of a single study, like Mr. Howe with The Story of a
Country Town. But each one, it will be noticed, has chosen for his field
of work that part of our country wherein he passed the early and
formative years of his life; a natural selection that is, perhaps, an
unconscious affirmation of David Harum's aphorism: "Ev'ry hoss c'n do a
thing better 'n' spryer if he's ben broke to it as a colt."

In the case of the present volume the conditions are identical with
those just mentioned. Most of the scenes are laid in central New York,
where the author, Edward Noyes Westcott, was born, September 24, 1847,
and where he died of consumption, March 31, 1898. Nearly all his life
was passed in his native city of Syracuse, and although banking and not
authorship was the occupation of his active years, yet his sensitive and
impressionable temperament had become so saturated with the local
atmosphere, and his retentive memory so charged with facts, that when at
length he took up the pen he was able to create in David Harum a
character so original, so true, and so strong, yet withal so
delightfully quaint and humorous, that we are at once compelled to admit
that here is a new and permanent addition to the long list of American
literary portraits.

The book is a novel, and throughout it runs a love story which is
characterized by sympathetic treatment and a constantly increasing
interest; but the title role is taken by the old country banker,
David Harum: dry, quaint, somewhat illiterate, no doubt, but possessing
an amazing amount of knowledge not found in printed books, and holding
fast to the cheerful belief that there is nothing wholly bad or useless
in this world. Or, in his own words: "A reasonable amount of fleas
is good for a dog--they keep him f'm broodin' on bein' a dog."
This horse-trading country banker and reputed Shylock, but real
philanthropist, is an accurate portrayal of a type that exists in the
rural districts of central New York to-day. Variations of him may be
seen daily, driving about in their road wagons or seated in their "bank
parlors," shrewd, sharp-tongued, honest as the sunlight from most points
of view, but in a horse trade much inclined to follow the rule laid down
by Mr. Harum himself for such transactions: "Do unto the other feller
the way he'd like to do unto you--an' do it fust."

The genial humor and sunny atmosphere which pervade these pages are in
dramatic contrast with the circumstances under which they were written.
The book was finished while the author lay upon his deathbed, but,
happily for the reader, no trace of his sufferings appears here. It was
not granted that he should live to see his work in its present completed
form, a consummation he most earnestly desired; but it seems not
unreasonable to hope that the result of his labors will be appreciated,
and that David Harum will endure.

FORBES HEERMANS.

SYRACUSE, N.Y., _August 20, 1898._




DAVID HARUM.




CHAPTER I.


David poured half of his second cup of tea into his saucer to lower its
temperature to the drinking point, and helped himself to a second cut of
ham and a third egg. Whatever was on his mind to have kept him unusually
silent during the evening meal, and to cause certain wrinkles in his
forehead suggestive of perplexity or misgiving, had not impaired his
appetite. David was what he called "a good feeder."

Mrs. Bixbee, known to most of those who enjoyed the privilege of her
acquaintance as "Aunt Polly," though nieces and nephews of her blood
there were none in Homeville, Freeland County, looked curiously at her
brother, as, in fact, she had done at intervals during the repast; and
concluding at last that further forbearance was uncalled for, relieved
the pressure of her curiosity thus:

"Guess ye got somethin' on your mind, hain't ye? You hain't hardly said
aye, yes, ner no sence you set down. Anythin' gone 'skew?"

David lifted his saucer, gave the contents a precautionary blow, and
emptied it with sundry windy suspirations.

"No," he said, "nothin' hain't gone exac'ly wrong, 's ye might say--not
yet; but I done that thing I was tellin' ye of to-day."

"Done what thing?" she asked perplexedly.

"I telegraphed to New York," he replied, "fer that young feller to come
on--the young man General Wolsey wrote me about. I got a letter from him
to-day, an' I made up my mind 'the sooner the quicker,' an' I
telegraphed him to come 's soon 's he could."

"I forgit what you said his name was," said Aunt Polly.

"There's his letter," said David, handing it across the table. "Read it
out 'loud."

"You read it," she said, passing it back after a search in her pocket;
"I must 'a' left my specs in the settin'-room."

The letter was as follows:

     "DEAR SIR: I take the liberty of addressing you at the
     instance of General Wolsey, who spoke to me of the matter of your
     communication to him, and was kind enough to say that he would
     write you in my behalf. My acquaintance with him has been in the
     nature of a social rather than a business one, and I fancy that he
     can only recommend me on general grounds. I will say, therefore,
     that I have had some experience with accounts, but not much
     practice in them for nearly three years. Nevertheless, unless the
     work you wish done is of an intricate nature, I think I shall be
     able to accomplish it with such posting at the outset as most
     strangers would require. General Wolsey told me that you wanted
     some one as soon as possible. I have nothing to prevent me from
     starting at once if you desire to have me. A telegram addressed to
     me at the office of the Trust Company will reach me promptly.

                               "Yours very truly,

                                    "JOHN K. LENOX."

"Wa'al," said David, looking over his glasses at his sister, "what do
you think on't?"

"The' ain't much brag in't," she replied thoughtfully.

"No," said David, putting his eyeglasses back in their case, "th' ain't
no brag ner no promises; he don't even say he'll do his best, like most
fellers would. He seems to have took it fer granted that I'll take it
fer granted, an' that's what I like about it. Wa'al," he added, "the
thing's done, an' I'll be lookin' fer him to-morrow mornin' or evenin'
at latest."

Mrs. Bixbee sat for a moment with her large, light blue, and rather
prominent eyes fixed on her brother's face, and then she said, with a
slight undertone of anxiety, "Was you cal'latin' to have that young man
from New York come here?"

"I hadn't no such idee," he replied, with a slight smile, aware of what
was passing in her mind. "What put that in your head?"

"Wa'al," she answered, "you know the' ain't scarcely anybody in the
village that takes boarders in the winter, an' I was wonderin' what he
would do."

"I s'pose he'll go to the Eagle," said David. "I dunno where else,
'nless it's to the Lake House."

"The Eagil!" she exclaimed contemptuously. "Land sakes! Comin' here from
New York! He won't stan' it there a week."

"Wa'al," replied David, "mebbe he will an' mebbe he won't, but I don't
see what else the' is for it, an' I guess 'twon't kill him for a spell
The fact is--" he was proceeding when Mrs. Bixbee interrupted him.

"I guess we'd better adjourn t' the settin'-room an' let Sairy clear off
the tea-things," she said, rising and going into the kitchen.

"What was you sayin'?" she asked, as she presently found her brother in
the apartment designated, and seated herself with her mending-basket in
her lap.

"The fact is, I was sayin'," he resumed, sitting with hand and forearm
resting on a round table, in the centre of which was a large kerosene
lamp, "that my notion was, fust off, to have him come here, but when I
come to think on't I changed my mind. In the fust place, except that
he's well recommended, I don't know nothin' about him; an' in the
second, you'n I are pretty well set in our ways, an' git along all right
just as we be. I may want the young feller to stay, an' then agin I may
not--we'll see. It's a good sight easier to git a fishhook in 'n 'tis to
git it out. I expect he'll find it putty tough at first, but if he's a
feller that c'n be drove out of bus'nis by a spell of the Eagle Tavern,
he ain't the feller I'm lookin' fer--though I will allow," he added with
a grimace, "that it'll be a putty hard test. But if I want to say to
him, after tryin' him a spell, that I guess me an' him don't seem likely
to hitch, we'll both take it easier if we ain't livin' in the same
house. I guess I'll take a look at the Trybune," said David, unfolding
that paper.

Mrs. Bixbee went on with her needlework, with an occasional side glance
at her brother, who was immersed in the gospel of his politics. Twice
or thrice she opened her lips as if to address him, but apparently some
restraining thought interposed. Finally, the impulse to utter her mind
culminated. "Dave," she said, "d' you know what Deakin Perkins is sayin'
about ye?"

David opened his paper so as to hide his face, and the corners of his
mouth twitched as he asked in return, "Wa'al, what's the deakin sayin'
now?"

"He's sayin'," she replied, in a voice mixed of indignation and
apprehension, "thet you sold him a balky horse, an' he's goin' to hev
the law on ye." David's shoulders shook behind the sheltering page, and
his mouth expanded in a grin.

"Wa'al," he replied after a moment, lowering the paper and looking
gravely at his companion over his glasses, "next to the deakin's
religious experience, them of lawin' an' horse-tradin' air his strongest
p'ints, an' he works the hull on 'em to once sometimes."

The evasiveness of this generality was not lost on Mrs. Bixbee, and she
pressed the point with, "Did ye? an' will he?"

"Yes, an' no, an' mebbe, an' mebbe not," was the categorical reply.

"Wa'al," she answered with a snap, "mebbe you call that an answer. I
s'pose if you don't want to let on you won't, but I do believe you've
ben playin' some trick on the deakin, an' won't own up. I do wish," she
added, "that if you hed to git rid of a balky horse onto somebody you'd
hev picked out somebody else."

"When you got a balker to dispose of," said David gravely, "you can't
alwus pick an' choose. Fust come, fust served." Then he went on more
seriously: "Now I'll tell ye. Quite a while ago--in fact, not long
after I come to enjoy the priv'lidge of the deakin's acquaintance--we
hed a deal. I wasn't jest on my guard, knowin' him to be a deakin an'
all that, an' he lied to me so splendid that I was took in, clean over
my head, he done me so brown I was burnt in places, an' you c'd smell
smoke 'round me fer some time."

"Was it a horse?" asked Mrs. Bixbee gratuitously.

"Wa'al," David replied, "mebbe it _had_ ben some time, but at that
partic'lar time the only thing to determine that fact was that it wa'n't
nothin' else."

"Wa'al, I declare!" exclaimed Mrs. Bixbee, wondering not more at the
deacon's turpitude than at the lapse in David's acuteness, of which she
had an immense opinion, but commenting only on the former. "I'm 'mazed
at the deakin."

"Yes'm," said David with a grin, "I'm quite a liar myself when it comes
right down to the hoss bus'nis, but the deakin c'n give me both bowers
ev'ry hand. He done it so slick that I had to laugh when I come to think
it over--an' I had witnesses to the hull confab, too, that he didn't
know of, an' I c'd 've showed him up in great shape if I'd had a mind
to."

"Why didn't ye?" said Aunt Polly, whose feelings about the deacon were
undergoing a revulsion.

"Wa'al, to tell ye the truth, I was so completely skunked that I hadn't
a word to say. I got rid o' the thing fer what it was wuth fer hide an'
taller, an' stid of squealin' 'round the way you say he's doin', like a
stuck pig, I kep' my tongue between my teeth an' laid to git even some
time."

"You ort to 've hed the law on him," declared Mrs. Bixbee, now fully
converted. "The old scamp!"

"Wa'al," was the reply, "I gen'all prefer to settle out of court, an' in
this partic'lar case, while I might 'a' ben willin' t' admit that I hed
ben did up, I didn't feel much like swearin' to it. I reckoned the time
'd come when mebbe I'd git the laugh on the deakin, an' it did, an'
we're putty well settled now in full."

"You mean this last pufformance?" asked Mrs. Bixbee. "I wish you'd quit
beatin' about the bush, an' tell me the hull story."

"Wa'al, it's like this, then, if you _will_ hev it. I was over to
Whiteboro a while ago on a little matter of worldly bus'nis, an' I seen
a couple of fellers halter-exercisin' a hoss in the tavern yard. I stood
'round a spell watchin' 'em, an' when he come to a standstill I went an'
looked him over, an' I liked his looks fust rate.

"'Fer sale?' I says.

"'Wa'al,' says the chap that was leadin' him, 'I never see the hoss that
wa'n't if the price was right.'

"'Your'n?' I says.

"'Mine an' his'n,' he says, noddin' his head at the other feller.

"'What ye askin' fer him?' I says.

"'One-fifty,' he says.

"I looked him all over agin putty careful, an' once or twice I kind o'
shook my head 's if I didn't quite like what I seen, an' when I got
through I sort o' half turned away without sayin' anythin', 's if I'd
seen enough.

"'The' ain't a scratch ner a pimple on him,' says the feller, kind o'
resentin' my looks. 'He's sound an' kind, an' 'll stand without
hitchin', an' a lady c'n drive him 's well 's a man."'

"'I ain't got anythin' agin him,' I says, 'an' prob'ly that's all true,
ev'ry word on't; but one-fifty's a consid'able price fer a hoss these
days. I hain't no pressin' use fer another hoss, an', in fact,' I says,
'I've got one or two fer sale myself.'

"'He's wuth two hunderd jest as he stands,' the feller says. 'He hain't
had no trainin', an' he c'n draw two men in a road-wagin better'n
fifty.'

"Wa'al, the more I looked at him the better I liked him, but I only
says, 'Jes' so, jes' so, he may be wuth the money, but jest as I'm fixed
now he ain't wuth it to _me_, an' I hain't got that much money with me
if he was,' I says. The other feller hadn't said nothin' up to that
time, an' he broke in now. 'I s'pose you'd take him fer a gift, wouldn't
ye?' he says, kind o' sneerin'.

"'Wa'al, yes,' I says, 'I dunno but I would if you'd throw in a pound of
tea an' a halter.'

"He kind o' laughed an' says, 'Wa'al, this ain't no gift enterprise, an'
I guess we ain't goin' to trade, but I'd like to know,' he says, 'jest
as a matter of curios'ty, what you'd say he _was_ wuth to ye?'

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'I come over this mornin' to see a feller that owed me
a trifle o' money. Exceptin' of some loose change, what he paid me 's
all I got with me,' I says, takin' out my wallet. 'That wad's got a
hunderd an' twenty-five into it, an' if you'd sooner have your hoss an'
halter than the wad,' I says, 'why, I'll bid ye good-day.'

"'You're offerin' one-twenty-five fer the hoss an' halter?' he says.

"'That's what I'm doin',' I says.

"'You've made a trade,' he says, puttin' out his hand fer the money an'
handin' the halter over to me."

"An' didn't ye suspicion nuthin' when he took ye up like that?" asked
Mrs. Bixbee.

"I did smell woolen some," said David, "but I had the _hoss_ an' they
had the _money_, an', as fur 's I c'd see, the critter was all right.
Howsomever, I says to 'em: 'This here's all right, fur 's it's gone, but
you've talked putty strong 'bout this hoss. I don't know who you fellers
be, but I c'n find out,' I says. Then the fust feller that done the
talkin' 'bout the hoss put in an' says, 'The' hain't ben one word said
to you about this hoss that wa'n't gospel truth, not one word.' An' when
I come to think on't afterward," said David with a half laugh, "it mebbe
wa'n't _gospel_ truth, but it was good enough _jury_ truth. I guess this
ain't over 'n' above interestin' to ye, is it?" he asked after a pause,
looking doubtfully at his sister.

"Yes, 'tis," she asserted. "I'm lookin' forrered to where the deakin
comes in, but you jest tell it your own way."

"I'll git there all in good time," said David, "but some of the point of
the story'll be lost if I don't tell ye what come fust."

"I allow to stan' it 's long 's you can," she said encouragingly,
"seein' what work I had gettin' ye started. Did ye find out anythin'
'bout them fellers?"

"I ast the barn man if he knowed who they was, an' he said he never seen
'em till the yestiddy before, an' didn't know 'em f'm Adam. They come
along with a couple of hosses, one drivin' an' t'other leadin'--the one
I bought. I ast him if they knowed who I was, an' he said one on 'em
ast him, an' he told him. The feller said to him, seein' me drive up:
'That's a putty likely-lookin' hoss. Who's drivin' him?' An' he says to
the feller: 'That's Dave Harum, f'm over to Homeville. He's a great
feller fer hosses,' he says."

"Dave," said Mrs. Bixbee, "them chaps jest laid fer ye, didn't they?"

"I reckon they did," he admitted; "an' they was as slick a pair as was
ever drawed to," which expression was lost upon his sister. David rubbed
the fringe of yellowish-gray hair which encircled his bald pate for a
moment.

"Wa'al," he resumed, "after the talk with the barn man, I smelt woolen
stronger'n ever, but I didn't say nothin', an' had the mare hitched an'
started back. Old Jinny drives with one hand, an' I c'd watch the new
one all right, an' as we come along I begun to think I wa'n't stuck
after all. I never see a hoss travel evener an' nicer, an' when we come
to a good level place I sent the old mare along the best she knew, an'
the new one never broke his gait, an' kep' right up 'ithout 'par'ntly
half tryin'; an' Jinny don't take most folks' dust neither. I swan!
'fore I got home I reckoned I'd jest as good as made seventy-five
anyway."




CHAPTER II.


"Then the' wa'n't nothin' the matter with him, after all," commented
Mrs. Bixbee in rather a disappointed tone.

"The meanest thing top of the earth was the matter with him," declared
David, "but I didn't find it out till the next afternoon, an' then I
found it out good. I hitched him to the open buggy an' went 'round by
the East road, 'cause that ain't so much travelled. He went along all
right till we got a mile or so out of the village, an' then I slowed him
down to a walk. Wa'al, sir, scat my ----! He hadn't walked more'n a rod
'fore he come to a dead stan'still. I clucked an' git-app'd, an' finely
took the gad to him a little; but he only jest kind o' humped up a
little, an' stood like he'd took root."

"Wa'al, now!" exclaimed Mrs. Bixbee.

"Yes'm," said David; "I was stuck in ev'ry sense of the word."

"What d'ye do?"

"Wa'al, I tried all the tricks I knowed--an' I could lead him--but when
I was in the buggy he wouldn't stir till he got good an' ready; 'n' then
he'd start of his own accord an' go on a spell, an'--"

"Did he keep it up?" Mrs. Bixbee interrupted.

"Wa'al, I s'd say he did. I finely got home with the critter, but I
thought one time I'd either hev to lead him or spend the night on the
East road. He balked five sep'rate times, varyin' in length, an' it was
dark when we struck the barn."

"I should hev thought you'd a wanted to kill him," said Mrs. Bixbee;
"an' the fellers that sold him to ye, too."

"The' _was_ times," David replied, with a nod of his head, "when if he'd
a fell down dead I wouldn't hev figgered on puttin' a band on my hat,
but it don't never pay to git mad with a hoss; an' as fur 's the feller
I bought him of, when I remembered how he told me he'd stand without
hitchin', I swan! I had to laugh. I did, fer a fact. 'Stand without
hitchin'!' He, he, he!"

"I guess you wouldn't think it was so awful funny if you hadn't gone an'
stuck that horse onto Deakin Perkins--an' I don't see how you done it."

"Mebbe that _is_ part of the joke," David allowed, "an' I'll tell ye th'
rest on't. Th' next day I hitched the new one to th' dem'crat wagin an'
put in a lot of straps an' rope, an' started off fer the East road agin.
He went fust rate till we come to about the place where we had the fust
trouble, an', sure enough, he balked agin. I leaned over an' hit him a
smart cut on the off shoulder, but he only humped a little, an' never
lifted a foot. I hit him another lick, with the selfsame result. Then I
got down an' I strapped that animal so't he couldn't move nothin' but
his head an' tail, an' got back into the buggy. Wa'al, bom-by, it may
'a' ben ten minutes, or it may 'a' ben more or less--it's slow work
settin' still behind a balkin' hoss--he was ready to go on his own
account, but he couldn't budge. He kind o' looked around, much as to
say, 'What on earth's the matter?' an' then he tried another move, an'
then another, but no go. Then I got down an' took the hopples off an'
then climbed back into the buggy, an' says 'Cluck, to him, an' off he
stepped as chipper as could be, an' we went joggin' along all right
mebbe two mile, an' when I slowed up, up he come agin. I gin him another
clip in the same place on the shoulder, an' I got down an' tied him up
agin, an' the same thing happened as before, on'y it didn't take him
quite so long to make up his mind about startin', an' we went some
further without a hitch. But I had to go through the pufformance the
third time before he got it into his head that if he didn't go when _I_
wanted he couldn't go when _he_ wanted, an' that didn't suit him; an'
when he felt the whip on his shoulder it meant bus'nis."

"Was that the end of his balkin'?" asked Mrs. Bixbee.

"I had to give him one more go-round," said David, "an' after that I
didn't have no more trouble with him. He showed symptoms at times, but a
touch of the whip on the shoulder alwus fetched him. I alwus carried
them straps, though, till the last two or three times."

"Wa'al, what's the deakin kickin' about, then?" asked Aunt Polly.
"You're jest sayin' you broke him of balkin'."

"Wa'al," said David slowly, "some hosses will balk with some folks an'
not with others. You can't most alwus gen'ally tell."

"Didn't the deakin have a chance to try him?"

"He had all the chance he ast fer," replied David. "Fact is, he done
most of the sellin', as well 's the buyin', himself."

"How's that?"

"Wa'al," said David, "it come about like this: After I'd got the hoss
where I c'd handle him I begun to think I'd had some int'restin' an'
valu'ble experience, an' it wa'n't scurcely fair to keep it all to
myself. I didn't want no patent on't, an' I was willin' to let some
other feller git a piece. So one mornin', week before last--let's see,
week ago Tuesday it was, an' a mighty nice mornin' it was, too--one o'
them days that kind o' lib'ral up your mind--I allowed to hitch an'
drive up past the deakin's an' back, an' mebbe git somethin' to
strengthen my faith, et cetery, in case I run acrost him. Wa'al, 's I
come along I seen the deakin putterin' 'round, an' I waved my hand to
him an' went by a-kitin'. I went up the road a ways an' killed a little
time, an' when I come back there was the deakin, as I expected. He was
leanin' over the fence, an' as I jogged up he hailed me, an' I pulled
up.

"'Mornin', Mr. Harum,' he says.

"'Mornin', deakin,' I says. 'How are ye? an' how's Mis' Perkins these
days?'

"'I'm fair,' he says; 'fair to middlin', but Mis' Perkins is ailin'
some--as _usyul_' he says."

"They do say," put in Mrs. Bixbee, "thet Mis' Perkins don't hev much of
a time herself."

"Guess she hez all the time the' is," answered David. "Wa'al," he went
on, "we passed the time o' day, an' talked a spell about the weather an'
all that, an' finely I straightened up the lines as if I was goin' on,
an' then I says: 'Oh, by the way,' I says, 'I jest thought on't. I heard
Dominie White was lookin' fer a hoss that 'd suit him.' 'I hain't
heard,' he says; but I see in a minute he had--an' it really was a
fact--an' I says: 'I've got a roan colt risin' five, that I took on a
debt a spell ago, that I'll sell reasonable, that's as likely an' nice
ev'ry way a young hoss as ever I owned. I don't need him,' I says, 'an'
didn't want to take him, but it was that or nothin' at the time an' glad
to git it, an' I'll sell him a barg'in. Now what I want to say to you,
deakin, is this: That hoss 'd suit the dominie to a tee in my opinion,
but the dominie won't come to me. Now if _you_ was to say to him--bein'
in his church an' all thet,' I says, 'that you c'd get him the right
kind of a hoss, he'd believe you, an' you an' me 'd be doin' a little
stroke of bus'nis, an' a favor to the dominie into the bargain. The
dominie's well off,' I says, 'an' c'n afford to drive a good hoss.'"

"What did the deakin say?" asked Aunt Polly as David stopped for breath.

"I didn't expect him to jump down my throat," he answered; "but I seen
him prick up his ears, an' all the time I was talkin' I noticed him
lookin' my hoss over, head an' foot. 'Now I 'member,' he says, 'hearin'
sunthin' 'bout Mr. White's lookin' fer a hoss, though when you fust
spoke on't it had slipped my mind. Of course,' he says, 'the' ain't any
real reason why Mr. White shouldn't deal with you direct, an' yit mebbe
I _could_ do more with him 'n you could. But,' he says, 'I wa'n't
cal'latin' to go t' the village this mornin', an' I sent my hired man
off with my drivin' hoss. Mebbe I'll drop 'round in a day or two,' he
says, 'an' look at the roan.'

"'You mightn't ketch me,' I says, 'an' I want to show him myself; an'
more'n that,' I says, 'Dug Robinson's after the dominie. I'll tell ye,'
I says, 'you jest git in 'ith me an' go down an' look at him, an' I'll
send ye back or drive ye back, an' if you've got anythin' special on
hand you needn't be gone three quarters of an hour,' I says."

"He come, did he?" inquired Mrs. Bixbee.

"He done _so_," said David sententiously. "Jest as I knowed he would,
after he'd hem'd an' haw'd about so much, an' he rode a mile an' a half
livelier 'n he done in a good while, I reckon. He had to pull that old
broad-brim of his'n down to his ears, an' don't you fergit it. He, he,
he, he! The road was jest _full_ o' hosses. Wa'al, we drove into the
yard, an' I told the hired man to unhitch the bay hoss an' fetch out the
roan, an' while he was bein' unhitched the deakin stood 'round an' never
took his eyes off'n him, an' I knowed I wouldn't sell the deakin no roan
hoss _that_ day, even if I wanted to. But when he come out I begun to
crack him up, an' I talked hoss fer all I was wuth. The deakin looked
him over in a don't-care kind of a way, an' didn't 'parently give much
heed to what I was sayin'. Finely I says, 'Wa'al, what do you think of
him?' 'Wa'al,' he says, 'he seems to be a likely enough critter, but I
don't believe he'd suit Mr. White--'fraid not,' he says. 'What you
askin' fer him?' he says. 'One-fifty,' I says, 'an' he's a cheap hoss at
the money'; but," added the speaker with a laugh, "I knowed I might 's
well of said a thousan'. The deakin wa'n't buyin' no roan colts that
mornin'."

"What did he say?" asked Mrs. Bixbee.

"'Wa'al,' he says, 'wa'al, I guess you ought to git that much fer him,
but I'm 'fraid he ain't what Mr. White wants.' An' then, 'That's quite
a hoss we come down with,' he says. 'Had him long?' 'Jest long 'nough to
git 'quainted with him,' I says. 'Don't you want the roan fer your own
use?' I says. 'Mebbe we c'd shade the price a little.' 'No,' he says, 'I
guess not. I don't need another hoss jest now.' An' then, after a minute
he says: 'Say, mebbe the bay hoss we drove 'd come nearer the mark fer
White, if he's all right. Jest as soon I'd look at him?' he says.
'Wa'al, I hain't no objections, but I guess he's more of a hoss than the
dominie 'd care for, but I'll go an' fetch him out,' I says. So I
brought him out, an' the deakin looked him all over. I see it was a case
of love at fust sight, as the story-books says. 'Looks all right,' he
says. 'I'll tell ye,' I says, 'what the feller I bought him of told me.'
'What's that?' says the deakin. 'He said to me,' I says, '"that hoss
hain't got a scratch ner a pimple on him. He's sound an' kind, an' 'll
stand without hitchin', an' a lady c'd drive him as well 's a man."'

"'That's what he said to me,' I says, 'an' it's every word on't true.
You've seen whether or not he c'n travel,' I says, 'an', so fur 's I've
seen, he ain't 'fraid of nothin'.' 'D'ye want to sell him?' the deakin
says. 'Wa'al,' I says, 'I ain't offerin' him fer sale. You'll go a good
ways,' I says, ''fore you'll strike such another; but, of course, he
ain't the only hoss in the world, an' I never had anythin' in the hoss
line I wouldn't sell at _some_ price.' 'Wa'al,' he says, 'what d' ye ask
fer him?' 'Wa'al,' I says, 'if my own brother was to ask me that
question I'd say to him two hunderd dollars, cash down, an' I wouldn't
hold the offer open an hour,' I says."

"My!" ejaculated Aunt Polly. "Did he take you up?"

"'That's more'n I give fer a hoss 'n a good while,' he says, shakin' his
head, 'an' more'n I c'n afford, I'm 'fraid.' 'All right,' I says; 'I c'n
afford to keep him'; but I knew I had the deakin same as the woodchuck
had Skip. 'Hitch up the roan,' I says to Mike; 'the deakin wants to be
took up to his house.' 'Is that your last word?' he says. 'That's what
it is,' I says. 'Two hunderd, cash down.'"

"Didn't ye dast to trust the deakin?" asked Mrs. Bixbee.

"Polly," said David, "the's a number of holes in a ten-foot ladder."
Mrs. Bixbee seemed to understand this rather ambiguous rejoinder.

"He must 'a' squirmed some," she remarked. David laughed.

"The deakin ain't much used to payin' the other feller's price," he
said, "an' it was like pullin' teeth; but he wanted that hoss more'n a
cow wants a calf, an' after a little more squimmidgin' he hauled out his
wallet an' forked over. Mike come out with the roan, an' off the deakin
went, leadin' the bay hoss."

"I don't see," said Mrs. Bixbee, looking up at her brother, "thet after
all the' was anythin' you said to the deakin thet he could ketch holt
on."

"The' wa'n't nothin'," he replied. "The only thing he c'n complain
about's what I _didn't_ say to him."

"Hain't he said anythin' to ye?" Mrs. Bixbee inquired.

"He, he, he, he! He hain't but once, an' the' wa'n't but little of it
then."

"How?"

"Wa'al, the day but one after the deakin sold himself Mr.
Stickin'-Plaster I had an arrant three four mile or so up past his
place, an' when I was comin' back, along 'bout four or half past, it
come on to rain like all possessed. I had my old umbrel'--though it
didn't hender me f'm gettin' more or less wet--an' I sent the old mare
along fer all she knew. As I come along to within a mile f'm the
deakin's house I seen somebody in the road, an' when I come up closter I
see it was the deakin himself, in trouble, an' I kind o' slowed up to
see what was goin' on. There he was, settin' all humped up with his ole
broad-brim hat slopin' down his back, a-sheddin' water like a roof. Then
I seen him lean over an' larrup the hoss with the ends of the lines fer
all he was wuth. It appeared he hadn't no whip, an' it wouldn't done him
no good if he'd had. Wa'al, sir, rain or no rain, I jest pulled up to
watch him. He'd larrup a spell, an' then he'd set back; an' then he'd
lean over an' try it agin, harder'n ever. Scat my ----! I thought I'd
die a-laughin'. I couldn't hardly cluck to the mare when I got ready to
move on. I drove alongside an' pulled up. 'Hullo, deakin,' I says,
'what's the matter?' He looked up at me, an' I won't say he was the
maddest man I ever see, but he was long ways the maddest-lookin' man,
an' he shook his fist at me jest like one o' the unregen'rit. 'Consarn
ye, Dave Harum!' he says, 'I'll hev the law on ye fer this.' 'What fer?'
I says. 'I didn't make it come on to rain, did I?' I says. 'You know
mighty well what fer,' he says. 'You sold me this _damned beast_,' he
says, 'an' he's balked with me _nine_ times this afternoon, an' I'll fix
ye for 't,' he says. 'Wa'al, deakin,' I says, 'I'm 'fraid the squire's
office 'll be shut up 'fore you _git_ there, but I'll take any word
you'd like to send. You know I told ye,' I says, 'that he'd stand
'ithout hitchin'.' An' at that he only jest kind o' choked an'
sputtered. He was so mad he couldn't say nothin', an' on I drove, an'
when I got about forty rod or so I looked back, an' there was the deakin
a-comin' along the road with as much of his shoulders as he could git
under his hat an' _leadin'_ his new hoss. He, he, he, he! Oh, my stars
an' garters! Say, Polly, it paid me fer bein' born into this vale o'
tears. It did, I declare for't!" Aunt Polly wiped her eyes on her apron.

"But, Dave," she said, "did the deakin really say--_that word_?"

"Wa'al," he replied, "if 'twa'n't that it was the puttiest imitation
on't that ever I heard."

"David," she continued, "don't you think it putty mean to badger the
deakin so't he swore, an' then laugh 'bout it? An' I s'pose you've told
the story all over."

"Mis' Bixbee," said David emphatically, "if I'd paid good money to see a
funny show I'd be a blamed fool if I didn't laugh, wouldn't I? That
specticle of the deakin cost me consid'able, but it was more'n wuth it.
But," he added, "I guess, the way the thing stands now, I ain't so much
out on the hull."

Mrs. Bixbee looked at him inquiringly.

"Of course, you know Dick Larrabee?" he asked.

She nodded.

"Wa'al, three four days after the shower, an' the story 'd got aroun'
some--as _you_ say, the deakin _is_ consid'able of a talker--I got holt
of Dick--I've done him some favors an' he natur'ly expects more--an' I
says to him: 'Dick,' I says, 'I hear 't Deakin Perkins has got a hoss
that don't jest suit him--hain't got knee-action enough at times,' I
says, 'an' mebbe he'll sell him reasonable.' 'I've heerd somethin' about
it,' says Dick, laughin'. 'One of them kind o' hosses 't you don't like
to git ketched out in the rain with,' he says. 'Jes' so,' I says. 'Now,'
I says, 'I've got a notion 't I'd like to own that hoss at a price, an'
that mebbe _I_ c'd git him home even if it did rain. Here's a hunderd
an' ten,' I says, 'an' I want you to see how fur it'll go to buyin' him.
If you git me the hoss you needn't bring none on't back. Want to try?' I
says. 'All right,' he says, an' took the money. 'But,' he says, 'won't
the deakin suspicion that it comes from you?' 'Wa'al,' I says, 'my
portrit ain't on none o' the bills, an' I reckon _you_ won't tell him
so, out an' out,' an' off he went. Yistidy he come in, an' I says,
'Wa'al, done anythin'?' 'The hoss is in your barn,' he says. 'Good fer
you!' I says. 'Did you make anythin'?' 'I'm satisfied,' he says. 'I made
a ten-dollar note.' An' that's the net results on't," concluded David,
"that I've got the hoss, an' he's cost me jest thirty-five dollars."




CHAPTER III.


Master Jacky Carling was a very nice boy, but not at that time in his
career the safest person to whom to intrust a missive in case its sure
and speedy delivery were a matter of importance. But he protested with
so much earnestness and good will that it should be put into the very
first post-box he came to on his way to school, and that nothing could
induce him to forget it, that Mary Blake, his aunt, confidante and not
unfrequently counsel and advocate, gave it him to post, and dismissed
the matter from her mind. Unfortunately the weather, which had been very
frosty, had changed in the night to a summer-like mildness. As Jacky
opened the door, three or four of his school-fellows were passing. He
felt the softness of the spring morning, and to their injunction to
"Hurry up and come along!" replied with an entreaty to "Wait a minute
till he left his overcoat" (all boys hate an overcoat), and plunged back
into the house.

If John Lenox (John Knox Lenox) had received Miss Blake's note of
condolence and sympathy, written in reply to his own, wherein, besides
speaking of his bereavement, he had made allusion to some changes in his
prospects and some necessary alterations in his ways for a time, he
might perhaps have read between the lines something more than merely a
kind expression of her sorrow for the trouble which had come upon him,
and the reminder that he had friends who, if they could not do more to
lessen his grief, would give him their truest sympathy. And if some days
later he had received a second note, saying that she and her people were
about to go away for some months, and asking him to come and see them
before their departure, it is possible that very many things set forth
in this narrative would not have happened.

       *       *       *       *       *

Life had always been made easy for John Lenox, and his was not the
temperament to interpose obstacles to the process. A course at Andover
had been followed by two years at Princeton; but at the end of the
second year it had occurred to him that practical life ought to begin
for him, and he had thought it rather fine of himself to undertake a
clerkship in the office of Rush & Co., where in the ensuing year and a
half or so, though he took his work in moderation, he got a fair
knowledge of accounts and the ways and methods of "the Street." But that
period of it was enough. He found himself not only regretting the
abandonment of his college career, but feeling that the thing for which
he had given it up had been rather a waste of time. He came to the
conclusion that, though he had entered college later than most, even now
a further acquaintance with text-books and professors was more to be
desired than with ledgers and brokers. His father (somewhat to his
wonderment, and possibly a little to his chagrin) seemed rather to
welcome the suggestion that he spend a couple of years in Europe, taking
some lectures at Heidelberg or elsewhere, and traveling; and in the
course of that time he acquired a pretty fair working acquaintance with
German, brought his knowledge of French up to about the same point, and
came back at the end of two years with a fine and discriminating taste
in beer, and a scar over his left eyebrow which could be seen if
attention were called to it.

He started upon his return without any definite intentions or for any
special reason, except that he had gone away for two years and that the
two years were up. He had carried on a desultory correspondence with his
father, who had replied occasionally, rather briefly, but on the whole
affectionately. He had noticed that during the latter part of his stay
abroad the replies had been more than usually irregular, but had
attributed no special significance to the fact. It was not until
afterward that it occurred to him that in all their correspondence his
father had never alluded in any way to his return.

On the passenger list of the Altruria John came upon the names of Mr.
and Mrs. Julius Carling and Miss Blake.

"Blake, Blake," he said to himself. "Carling--I seem to remember to have
known that name at some time. It must be little Mary Blake whom I knew
as a small girl years ago, and, yes, Carling was the name of the man her
sister married. Well, well, I wonder what she is like. Of course, I
shouldn't know her from Eve now, or she me from Adam. All I can remember
seems to be a pair of very slim and active legs, a lot of flying hair, a
pair of brownish-gray or grayish-brown eyes, and that I thought her a
very nice girl, as girls went. But it doesn't in the least follow that
I might think so now, and shipboard is pretty close quarters for seven
or eight days."

Dinner is by all odds the chief event of the day on board ship to those
who are able to dine, and they will leave all other attractions, even
the surpassingly interesting things which go on in the smoking-room, at
once on the sound of the gong of promise. On this first night of the
voyage the ship was still in smooth water at dinner time, and many a
place was occupied which would know its occupant for the first, and very
possibly for the last, time. The passenger list was fairly large, but
not full. John had assigned to him a seat at a side table. He was
hungry, having had no luncheon but a couple of biscuits and a glass of
"bitter," and was taking his first mouthful of Perrier-Jouet, after the
soup, and scanning the dinner card when the people at his table came in.
The man of the trio was obviously an invalid of the nervous variety, and
the most decided type. The small, dark woman who took the corner seat at
his left was undoubtedly, from the solicitous way in which she adjusted
a small shawl about his shoulders--to his querulous uneasiness--his
wife. There was a good deal of white in the dark hair, brushed smoothly
back from her face.

A tall girl, with a mass of brown hair under a felt traveling hat, took
the corner seat at the man's right. That was all the detail of her
appearance which the brief glance that John allowed himself revealed to
him at the moment, notwithstanding the justifiable curiosity which he
had with regard to the people with whom he was likely to come more or
less in contact for a number of days. But though their faces, so far as
he had seen them, were unfamiliar to him, their identity was made plain
to him by the first words which caught his ear. There were two soups on
the _menu_, and the man's mind instantly poised itself between them.

"Which soup shall I take?" he asked, turning with a frown of uncertainty
to his wife.

"I should say the _consomme_, Julius," was the reply.

"I thought I should like the broth better," he objected.

"I don't think it will disagree with you," she said.

"Perhaps I had better have the _consomme_," he argued, looking with
appeal to his wife and then to the girl at his right. "Which would you
take, Mary?"

"I?" said the young woman; "I should take both in my present state of
appetite.--Steward, bring both soups.--What wine shall I order for you,
Julius? I want some champagne, and I prescribe it for you. After your
mental struggle over the soup question you need a quick stimulant."

"Don't you think a red wine would be better for me?" he asked; "or
perhaps some sauterne? I'm afraid that I sha'n't go to sleep if I drink
champagne. In fact, I don't think I had better take any wine at all.
Perhaps some ginger ale or Apollinaris water."

"No," she said decisively, "whatever you decide upon, you know that
you'll think whatever I have better for you, and I shall want more than
one glass, and Alice wants some, too. Oh, yes, you do, and I shall order
a quart of champagne.--Steward"--giving her order--"please be as quick
as you can."

John had by this fully identified his neighbors, and the talk which
ensued between them, consisting mostly of controversies between the
invalid and his family over the items of the bill of fare, every course
being discussed as to its probable effect upon his stomach or his
nerves--the question being usually settled with a whimsical
high-handedness by the young woman--gave him a pretty good notion of
their relations and the state of affairs in general. Notwithstanding
Miss Blake's benevolent despotism, the invalid was still wrangling
feebly over some last dish when John rose and went to the smoking room
for his coffee and cigarette.

When he stumbled out in search of his bath the next morning the steamer
was well out, and rolling and pitching in a way calculated to disturb
the gastric functions of the hardiest. But, after a shower of sea water
and a rub down, he found himself with a feeling for bacon and eggs that
made him proud of himself, and he went in to breakfast to find, rather
to his, surprise, that Miss Blake was before him, looking as
fresh--well, as fresh as a handsome girl of nineteen or twenty and in
perfect health could look. She acknowledged his perfunctory bow as he
took his seat with a stiff little bend of the head; but later on, when
the steward was absent on some order, he elicited a "Thank you!" by
handing her something which he saw she wanted, and, one thing leading to
another, as things have a way of doing where young and attractive people
are concerned, they were presently engaged in an interchange of small
talk, but before John was moved to the point of disclosing himself on
the warrant of a former acquaintance she had finished her breakfast.

The weather continued very stormy for two days, and during that time
Miss Blake did not appear at table. At any rate, if she breakfasted
there it was either before or after his appearance, and he learned
afterward that she had taken luncheon and dinner in her sister's room.

The morning of the third day broke bright and clear. There was a long
swell upon the sea, but the motion of the boat was even and endurable to
all but the most susceptible. As the morning advanced the deck began to
fill with promenaders, and to be lined with chairs, holding wrapped-up
figures, showing faces of all shades of green and gray.

John, walking for exercise, and at a wholly unnecessary pace, turning at
a sharp angle around the deck house, fairly ran into the girl about whom
he had been wondering for the last two days. She received his somewhat
incoherent apologies, regrets, and self-accusations in such a spirit of
forgiveness that before long they were supplementing their first
conversation with something more personal and satisfactory; and when he
came to the point of saying that half by accident he had found out her
name, and begged to be allowed to tell her his own, she looked at him
with a smile of frank amusement and said: "It is quite unnecessary, Mr.
Lenox. I knew you instantly when I saw you at table the first night;
but," she added mischievously, "I am afraid your memory for people you
have known is not so good as mine."

"Well," said John, "you will admit, I think, that the change from a
little girl in short frocks to a tall young woman in a tailor-made gown
might be more disguising than what might happen with a boy of fifteen or
so. I saw your name in the passenger list with Mr. and Mrs. Carling, and
wondered if it could be the Mary Blake whom I really did remember, and
the first night at dinner, when I heard your sister call Mr. Carling
'Julius,' and heard him call you 'Mary,' I was sure of you. But I hardly
got a fair look at your face, and, indeed, I confess that if I had had
no clew at all I might not have recognized you."

"I think you would have been quite excusable," she replied, "and whether
you would or would not have known me is 'one of those things that no
fellow can find out,' and isn't of supreme importance anyway. We each
know who the other is now, at all events."

"Yes," said John, "I am happy to think that we have come to a conclusion
on that point. But how does it happen that I have heard nothing of you
all these years, or you of me, as I suppose?"

"For the reason, I fancy," she replied, "that during that period of
short frocks with me my sister married Mr. Carling and took me with her
to Chicago, where Mr. Carling was in business. We have been back in New
York only for the last two or three years."

"It might have been on the cards that I should come across you in
Europe," said John. "The beaten track is not very broad. How long have
you been over?"

"Only about six months," she replied. "We have been at one or another of
the German Spas most of the time, as we went abroad for Mr. Carling's
health, and we are on our way home on about such an impulse as that
which started us off--he thinks now that he will be better off there."

"I am afraid you have not derived much pleasure from your European
experiences," said John.

"Pleasure!" she exclaimed. "If ever you saw a young woman who was glad
and thankful to turn her face toward home, _I_ am that person. I think
that one of the heaviest crosses humanity has to bear is to have
constantly to decide between two or more absolutely trivial conclusions
in one's own affairs; but when one is called upon to multiply one's
useless perplexities by, say, ten, life is really a burden.

"I suppose," she added after a pause, "you couldn't help hearing our
discussions at dinner the other night, and I have wondered a little what
you must have thought."

"Yes," he said, "I did hear it. Is it the regular thing, if I may ask?"

"Oh, yes," she replied, with a tone of sadness; "it has grown to be."

"It must be very trying at times," John remarked.

"It is, indeed," she said, "and would often be unendurable to me if it
were not for my sense of humor, as it would be to my sister if it were
not for her love, for Julius is really a very lovable man, and I, too,
am very fond of him. But I must laugh sometimes, though my better nature
should rather, I suppose, impel me to sighs.'"

"'A little laughter is much more worth,'" he quoted.




CHAPTER IV.


They were leaning upon the rail at the stern of the ship, which was
going with what little wind there was, and a following sea, with which,
as it plunged down the long slopes of the waves, the vessel seemed to be
running a victorious race. The sea was a deep sapphire, and in the wake
the sunlight turned the broken water to vivid emerald. The air was of a
caressing softness, and altogether it was a day and scene of
indescribable beauty and inspiration. For a while there was silence
between them, which John broke at last.

"I suppose," he said, "that one would best show his appreciation of all
this by refraining from the comment which must needs be comparatively
commonplace, but really this is so superb that I must express some of my
emotion even at the risk of lowering your opinion of my good taste,
provided, of course, that you have one."

"Well," she said, laughing, "it may relieve your mind, if you care, to
know that had you kept silent an instant longer I should have taken the
risk of lowering your opinion of my good taste, provided, of course,
that you have one, by remarking that this was perfectly magnificent."

"I should think that this would be the sort of day to get Mr. Carling
on deck. This air and sun would brace him up," said John.

She turned to him with a laugh, and said: "That is the general opinion,
or was two hours ago; but I'm afraid it's out of the question now,
unless we can manage it after luncheon."

"What do you mean?" he asked with a puzzled smile at the mixture of
annoyance and amusement visible in her face. "Same old story?"

"Yes," she replied, "same old story. When I went to my breakfast I
called at my sister's room and said, '"Come, boys and girls, come out to
play, the sun doth shine as bright as day," and when I've had my
breakfast I'm coming to lug you both on deck. It's a perfectly glorious
morning, and it will do you both no end of good after being shut up so
long.' 'All right,' my sister answered, 'Julius has quite made up his
mind to go up as soon as he is dressed. You call for us in half an hour,
and we will be ready.'"

"And wouldn't he come?" John asked; "and why not?"

"Oh," she exclaimed with a laugh and a shrug of her shoulders, "shoes."

"Shoes!" said John. "What do you mean?"

"Just what I say," was the rejoinder. "When I went back to the room I
found my brother-in-law sitting on the edge of the lounge, or what you
call it, all dressed but his coat, rubbing his chin between his finger
and thumb, and gazing with despairing perplexity at his feet. It seems
that my sister had got past all the other dilemmas, but in a moment of
inadvertence had left the shoe question to him, with the result that he
had put on one russet shoe and one black one, and had laced them up
before discovering the discrepancy."

"I don't see anything very difficult in that situation," remarked John.

"Don't you?" she said scornfully. "No, I suppose not, but it was quite
enough for Julius, and more than enough for my sister and me. His first
notion was to take off _both_ shoes and begin all over again, and
perhaps if he had been allowed to carry it out he would have been all
right; but Alice was silly enough to suggest the obvious thing to
him--to take off one, and put on the mate to the other--and then the
trouble began. First he was in favor of the black shoes as being thicker
in the sole, and then he reflected that they hadn't been blackened since
coming on board. It seemed to him that the russets were more appropriate
anyway, but the blacks were easier to lace. Had I noticed whether the
men on board were wearing russet or black as a rule, and did Alice
remember whether it was one of the russets or one of the blacks that he
was saying the other day pinched his toe? He didn't quite like the looks
of a russet shoe with dark trousers, and called us to witness that those
he had on were dark; but he thought he remembered that it was the black
shoe which pinched him. He supposed he could change his trousers--and so
on, and so on, _al fine_, _de capo_, _ad lib._, sticking out first one
foot and then the other, lifting them alternately to his knee for
scrutiny, appealing now to Alice and now to me, and getting more
hopelessly bewildered all the time. It went on that way for, it seemed
to me, at least half an hour, and at last I said, 'Oh, come now, Julius,
take off the brown shoe--it's too thin, and doesn't go with your dark
trousers, and pinches your toe, and none of the men are wearing
them--and just put on the other black one, and come along. We're all
suffocating for some fresh air, and if you don't get started pretty soon
we sha'n't get on deck to-day.' 'Get on deck!' he said, looking up at me
with a puzzled expression, and holding fast to the brown shoe on his
knee with both hands, as if he were afraid I would take it away from him
by main strength--'get on deck! Why--why--I believe I'd better not go
out this morning, don't you?'"

"And then?" said John after a pause.

"Oh," she replied, "I looked at Alice, and she shook her head as much to
say, 'It's no use for the present,' and I fled the place."

"M'm!" muttered John. "He must have been a nice traveling companion. Has
it been like that all the time?"

"Most of it," she said, "but not quite all, and this morning was rather
an exaggeration of the regular thing. But getting started on a journey
was usually pretty awful. Once we quite missed our train because he
couldn't make up his mind whether to put on a light overcoat or a heavy
one. I finally settled the question for him, but we were just too late."

"You must be a very amiable person," remarked John.

"Indeed, I am not," she declared, "but Julius is, and it's almost
impossible to be really put out with him, particularly in his condition.
I have come to believe that he can not help it, and he submits to my
bullying with such sweetness that even my impatience gives way."

"Have you three people been alone together all the time?" John asked.

"Yes," she replied, "except for four or five weeks. We visited some
American friends in Berlin, the Nollises, for a fortnight, and after our
visit to them they traveled with us for three weeks through South
Germany and Switzerland. We parted with them at Metz only about three
weeks since."

"How did Mr. Carling seem while you were all together?" asked John,
looking keenly at her.

"Oh," she replied, "he was more like himself than I have seen him for a
long time--since he began to break down, in fact."

He turned his eyes from her face as she looked up at him, and as he did
not speak she said suggestively, "You are thinking something you don't
quite like to say, but I think I know pretty nearly what it is."

"Yes?" said John, with a query.

"You think he has had too much feminine companionship, or had it too
exclusively. Is that it? You need not be afraid to say so."

"Well," said John, "if you put it 'too exclusively,' I will admit that
there was something of the sort in my mind, and," he added, "if you will
let me say so, it must at times have been rather hard for him to be
interested or amused--that it must have--that is to say--"

"Oh, _say_ it!" she exclaimed. "It must have been very _dull_ for him.
Is that it?"

"'Father,'" said John with a grimace, "'I can not tell a lie!'"

"Oh," she said, laughing, "your hatchet isn't very sharp. I forgive you.
But really," she added, "I know it has been. You will laugh when I tell
you the one particular resource we fell back upon."

"Bid me to laugh, and I will laugh," said John.

"Euchre!" she said, looking at him defiantly. "Two-handed euchre! We
have played, as nearly as I can estimate, fifteen hundred games, in
which he has held both bowers and the ace of trumps--or something
equally victorious--I should say fourteen hundred times. Oh!" she
cried, with an expression of loathing, "may I never, never, never see a
card again as long as I live!" John laughed without restraint, and after
a petulant little _moue_ she joined him.

"May I light up my pipe?" he said. "I will get to leeward."

"I shall not mind in the least," she assented.

"By the way," he asked, "does Mr. Carling smoke?"

"He used to," she replied, "and while we were with the Nollises he
smoked every day, but after we left them he fell back into the notion
that it was bad for him."

John filled and lighted his pipe in silence, and after a satisfactory
puff or two said: "Will Mr. Carling go in to dinner to-night?"

"Yes," she replied, "I think he will if it is no rougher than at
present."

"It will probably be smoother," said John. "You must introduce me to
him--"

"Oh," she interrupted, "of course, but it will hardly be necessary, as
Alice and I have spoken so often to him of you--"

"I was going to say," John resumed, "that he may possibly let me take
him off your hands a little, and after dinner will be the best time. I
think if I can get him into the smoking room that a cigar
and--and--something hot with a bit of lemon peel and so forth later on
may induce him to visit with me for a while, and pass the evening, or
part of it."

"You want to be an angel!" she exclaimed. "Oh, I--we--shall be so
obliged. I know it's just what he wants--some _man_ to take him in
hand."

"I'm in no hurry to be an angel," said John, laughing, and, with a bow,
"It's better sometimes to be _near_ the rose than to _be_ the rose, and
you are proposing to overpay me quite. I shall enjoy doing what I
proposed, if it be possible."

Their talk then drifted off into various channels as topics suggested
themselves until the ship's bell sounded the luncheon hour. Miss Blake
went to join her sister and brother-in-law, but John had some bread and
cheese and beer in the smoking room. It appeared that the ladies had
better success than in the morning, for he saw them later on in their
steamer chairs with Mr. Carling, who was huddled in many wraps, with the
flaps of his cap down over his ears. All the chairs were full--his own
included (as happens to easy-tempered men)--and he had only a brief
colloquy with the party. He noticed, however, that Mr. Carling had on
the russet shoes, and wondered if they pinched him. In fact, though he
couldn't have said exactly why, he rather hoped that they did. He had
just that sympathy for the nerves of two-and-fifty which is to be
expected from those of five-and-twenty--that is, very little.

When he went in to dinner the Carlings and Miss Blake had been at table
some minutes. There had been the usual controversy about what Mr.
Carling would drink with his dinner, and he had decided upon
Apollinaris water. But Miss Blake, with an idea of her own, had given an
order for champagne, and was exhibiting some consternation, real or
assumed, at the fact of having a whole bottle brought in with the cork
extracted--a customary trick at sea.

"I hope you will help me out," she said to John as he bowed and seated
himself. "'Some one has blundered,' and here is a whole bottle of
champagne which must be drunk to save it. Are you prepared to help turn
my, or somebody's, blunder into hospitality?"

"I am prepared to make any sacrifice," said John, laughing, "in the
sacred cause."

"No less than I expected of you," she said. "_Noblesse oblige!_ Please
fill your glass."

"Thanks," said John. "Permit me," and he filled her own as well.

As the meal proceeded there was some desultory talk about the weather,
the ship's run, and so on; but Mrs. Carling was almost silent, and her
husband said but little more. Even Miss Blake seemed to have something
on her mind, and contributed but little to the conversation. Presently
Mr. Carling said, "Mary, do you think a mouthful of wine would hurt me?"

"Certainly not," was the reply. "It will do you good," reaching over for
his glass and pouring the wine.

"That's enough, that's enough!" he protested as the foam came up to the
rim of the glass. She proceeded to fill it up to the brim and put it
beside him, and later, as she had opportunity, kept it replenished.

As the dinner concluded, John said to Mr. Carling: "Won't you go up to
the smoking room with me for coffee? I like a bit of tobacco with mine,
and I have some really good cigars and some cigarettes--if you prefer
them--that I can vouch for."

As usual, when the unexpected was presented to his mind, Mr. Carling
passed the perplexity on to his women-folk. At this time, however, his
dinner and the two glasses of wine which Miss Blake had contrived that
he should swallow had braced him up, and John's suggestion was so warmly
seconded by the ladies that, after some feeble protests and misgivings,
he yielded, and John carried him off.

"I hope it won't upset Julius," said Mrs. Carling doubtfully.

"It won't do anything of the sort," her sister replied. "He will get
through the evening without worrying himself and you into fits, and, if
Mr. Lenox succeeds, you won't see anything of him till ten o'clock or
after, and not then, I hope. Mind, you're to be sound asleep when he
comes in--snore a little if necessary--and let him get to bed without
any talk at all."

"Why do you say 'if Mr. Lenox succeeds'?" asked Mrs. Carling.

"It was his suggestion," Miss Blake answered. "We had been talking about
Julius, and he finally told me he thought he would be the better of an
occasional interval of masculine society, and I quite agreed with him.
You know how much he enjoyed being with George Nollis, and how much like
himself he appeared."

"That is true," said Mrs. Carling.

"And you know that just as soon as he got alone again with us two women
he began backing and filling as badly as ever. I believe Mr. Lenox is
right, and that Julius is just petticoated to death between us."

"Did Mr. Lenox say that?" asked Mrs. Carling incredulously.

"No," said her sister, laughing, "he didn't make use of precisely that
figure, but that was what he thought plainly enough."

"What do you think of Mr. Lenox?" said Mrs. Carling irrelevantly. "Do
you like him? I thought that he looked at you very admiringly once or
twice to-night," she added, with her eyes on her sister's face.

"Well," said Mary, with a petulant toss of the head, "except that I've
had about an hour's talk with him, and that I knew him when we were
children--at least when I was a child--he is a perfect stranger to me,
and I do wish," she added in a tone of annoyance, "that you would give
up that fad of yours, that every man who comes along is going to--to--be
a nuisance."

"He seems very pleasant," said Mrs. Carling, meekly ignoring her
sister's reproach.

"Oh, yes," she replied indifferently, "he's pleasant enough. Let us go
up and have a walk on deck. I want you to be sound asleep when Julius
comes in."




CHAPTER V.


John found his humane experiment pleasanter than he expected. Mr.
Carling, as was to be anticipated, demurred a little at the coffee, and
still more at the cigarette; but having his appetite for tobacco
aroused, and finding that no alarming symptoms ensued, he followed it
with a cigar and later on was induced to go the length of "Scotch and
soda," under the pleasant effect of which--and John's sympathetic
efforts--he was for the time transformed, the younger man being
surprised to find him a man of interesting experience, considerable
reading, and, what was most surprising, a jolly sense of humor and a
fund of anecdotes which he related extremely well. The evening was a
decided success, perhaps the best evidence of it coming at the last,
when, at John's suggestion that they supplement their modest potations
with a "night-cap," Mr. Carling cheerfully assented upon the condition
that they should "have it with him"; and as he went along the deck after
saying "Good night," John was positive that he heard a whistled tune.

The next day was equally fine, but during the night the ship had run
into the swell of a storm, and in the morning there was more motion than
the weaker ones could relish. The sea grew quieter as the day advanced.
John was early, and finished his breakfast before Miss Blake came in.
He found her on deck about ten o'clock. She gave him her hand as they
said good morning, and he turned and walked by her side.

"How is your brother-in-law this morning?" he inquired.

"Oh," she said, laughing, "he's in a mixture of feeling very well and
feeling that he ought not to feel so, but, as they are coming up pretty
soon, it would appear that the misgivings are not overwhelming. He came
in last night, and retired without saying a word. My sister pretended to
be asleep. She says he went to sleep at once, and that she was awake at
intervals and knows that he slept like a top. He won't make any very
sweeping admissions, however, but has gone so far as to concede that he
had a very pleasant evening--which is going a long way for him--and to
say that you are a very agreeable young man. There! I didn't intend to
tell you that, but you have been so good that perhaps so much as a
second-hand compliment is no more than your due."

"Thank you very much," said John. "Mr. Carling is evidently a very
discriminating person. Really it wasn't good of me at all. I was quite
the gainer, for he entertained me more than I did him. We had a very
pleasant evening, and I hope we shall have more of them, I do, indeed. I
got an entirely different impression of him," he added.

"Yes," she said, "I can imagine that you did. He can be very agreeable,
and he is really a man of a great deal of character when he is himself.
He has been goodness itself to me, and has managed my affairs for years.
Even to-day his judgment in business matters is wonderfully sound. If
it had not been for him," she continued, "I don't know but I should have
been a pauper. My father left a large estate, but he died very suddenly,
and his affairs were very much spread out and involved and had to be
carried along. Julius put himself into the breach, and not only saved
our fortunes, but has considerably increased them. Of course, Alice is
his wife, but I feel very grateful to him on my own account. I did not
altogether appreciate it at the time, but now I shudder to think that I
might have had either to 'fend for myself' or be dependent."

"I don't think that dependence would have suited your book," was John's
comment as he took in the lines of her clear-cut face.

"No," she replied, "and I thank heaven that I have not had to endure it.
I am not," she added, "so impressed with what money procures for people
as what it saves them from."

"Yes," said John, "I think your distinction is just. To possess it is to
be free from some of the most disagreeable apprehensions certainly, but
I confess, whether to my credit or my shame I don't know, I have never
thought much about it. I certainly am not rich positively, and I haven't
the faintest notion whether I may or not be prospectively. I have always
had as much as I really needed, and perhaps more, but I know absolutely
nothing about the future." They were leaning over the rail on the port
side.

"I should think," she said after a moment, looking at him thoughtfully,
"that it was, if you will not think me presuming, a matter about which
you might have some justifiable curiosity."

"Oh, not at all," he assured her, stepping to leeward and producing a
cigar. "I have had some stirrings of late. And please don't think me an
incorrigible idler. I spent nearly two years in a down-town office and
earned--well, say half my salary. In fact, my business instincts were so
strong that I left college after my second year for that purpose, but
seeing no special chance of advancement in the race for wealth, and as
my father seemed rather to welcome the idea, I broke off and went over
to Germany. I haven't been quite idle, though I should be puzzled, I
admit, to find a market for what I have to offer to the world. Would you
be interested in a schedule of my accomplishments."

"Oh," she said, "I should be charmed, but as I am every moment expecting
the advent of my family, and as I am relied upon to locate them and tuck
them up, I'm afraid I shall not have time to hear it."

"No," he said, laughing, "it's quite too long."

She was silent for some moments, gazing down into the water, apparently
debating something in her mind, and quite unconscious of John's
scrutiny. Finally she turned to him with a little laugh. "You might
begin on your list, and if I am called away you can finish it at another
time."

"I hope you didn't think I was speaking in earnest," he said.

"No," she replied, "I did not think you really intended to unpack your
wares, but, speaking seriously--and at the risk, I fear, that you may
think me rather 'cheeky,' if I may be allowed that expression--I know a
good many men in America, and I think that without an exception they are
professional men or business men, or, being neither--and I know but few
such--have a competence or more; and I was wondering just now after what
you told me what a man like you would or could do if he were thrown upon
his own resources. I'm afraid that is rather frank for the acquaintance
of a day, isn't it?" she asked with a slight flush, "but it really is
not so personal as it may sound to you."

"My dear Miss Blake," he replied, "our acquaintance goes back at least
ten years. Please let that fact count for something in your mind. The
truth is, I have done some wondering along that same line myself without
coming to any satisfactory conclusion. I devoutly hope I may not be so
thrown absolutely, for the truth is I haven't a marketable commodity. 'A
little Latin, and less Greek,' German and French enough to read and
understand and talk--on the surface of things--and what mathematics,
history, et cetera, I have not forgotten. I know the piano well enough
to read and play an accompaniment after a fashion, and I have had some
good teaching for the voice, and some experience in singing, at home and
abroad. In fact, I come nearer to a market there, I think, than in any
other direction perhaps. I have given some time to fencing in various
schools, and before I left home Billy Williams would sometimes speak
encouragingly of my progress with the gloves. There! That is my list,
and not a dollar in it from beginning to end, I'm afraid."

"Who is Billy Williams?" she asked.

"Billy," said John, "is the very mild-mannered and gentlemanlike
'bouncer' at the Altman House, an ex-prize-fighter, and about the most
accomplished member of his profession of his day and weight, who is
employed to keep order and, if necessary, to thrust out the riotous who
would disturb the contemplations of the lovers of art that frequent the
bar of that hotel." It was to be seen that Miss Blake was not
particularly impressed by this description of Billy and his functions,
upon which she made no comment.

"You have not included in your list," she remarked, "what you acquired
in the down-town office you told me of."

"No, upon my word I had forgotten that, and it's about the only thing of
use in the whole category," he answered. "If I were put to it, and could
find a place, I think I might earn fifty dollars a month as a clerk or
messenger, or something. Hullo! here are your people."

He went forward with his companion and greeted Mrs. Carling and her
husband, who returned his "Good morning" with a feeble smile, and
submitted to his ministrations in the matter of chair and rugs with an
air of unresisting invalidism, which was almost too obvious, he thought.
But after luncheon John managed to induce him to walk for a while, to
smoke a cigarette, and finally to brave the perils of a sherry and
bitters before dinner. The ladies had the afternoon to themselves. John
had no chance of a further visit with Mary during the day, a loss only
partially made good to him by a very approving smile and a remark which
she made to him at dinner, that he must be a lineal descendant of the
Samaritan. Mr. Carling submitted himself to him for the evening. Indeed,
it came about that for the rest of the voyage he had rather more of the
company of that gentleman, who fairly attached himself to him, than,
under all the circumstances, he cared for; but the gratitude of the
ladies was so cordial that he felt paid for some sacrifices of his
inclinations. And there was an hour or so every morning--for the fine
weather lasted through--which he spent with Mary Blake, with increasing
interest and pleasure, and he found himself inwardly rejoicing over a
mishap to the engine which, though of no very great magnitude, would
retard the passage by a couple of days.

There can hardly be any conditions more favorable to the forming of
acquaintanceships, friendships, and even more tender relations than are
afforded by the life on board ship. There is opportunity, propinquity,
and the community of interest which breaks down the barriers of ordinary
reserve. These relations, to be sure, are not always of the most lasting
character, and not infrequently are practically ended before the parties
thereto are out of the custom-house officer's hands and fade into
nameless oblivion, unless one happens to run across the passenger list
among one's souvenirs. But there are exceptions. If at this time the
question had been asked our friend, even by himself, whether, to put it
plainly, he were in love with Mary Blake, he would, no doubt, have
strenuously denied it; but it is certain that if any one had said or
intimated that any feature or characteristic of hers was faulty or
susceptible of any change for the better, he would have secretly
disliked that person, and entertained the meanest opinion of that
person's mental and moral attributes. He would have liked the voyage
prolonged indefinitely, or, at any rate, as long as the provisions held
out.

It has been remarked by some one that all mundane things come to an end
sooner or later, and, so far as my experience goes, it bears out that
statement. The engines were successfully repaired, and the ship
eventually came to anchor outside the harbor about eleven o'clock on the
night of the last day. Mary and John were standing together at the
forward rail. There had been but little talk between them, and only of a
desultory and impersonal character. As the anchor chains rattled in the
hawse-pipes, John said, "Well, that ends it."

"What ends what?" she asked.

"The voyage, and the holiday, and the episode, and lots of things," he
replied. "We have come to anchor."

"Yes," she said, "the voyage is over, that is true; but, for my part, if
the last six months can be called a holiday, its end is welcome, and I
should think you might be glad that your holiday is over, too. But I
don't quite understand what you mean by 'the episode and lots of
things.'"

There was an undertone in her utterance which her companion did not
quite comprehend, though it was obvious to him.

"The episode of--of--our friendship, if I may call it so," he replied.

"I call it so," she said decisively. "You have certainly been a friend
to _all_ of us. This episode is over to be sure, but is there any more
than that?"

"Somebody says that 'friendship is largely a matter of streets,'" said
John gloomily. "To-morrow you will go your way and I shall go mine."

"Yes," she replied, rather sharply, "that is true enough; but if that
cynical quotation of yours has anything in it, it's equally true, isn't
it, that friendship is a matter of cabs, and street cars, and the
elevated road? Of course, we can hardly be expected to look you up, but
Sixty-ninth Street isn't exactly in California, and the whole question
lies with yourself. I don't know if you care to be told so, but Julius
and my sister like you very much, and will welcome you heartily always."

"Thanks, very much!" said John, staring straight out in front of him,
and forming a determination that Sixty-ninth Street would see but
precious little of _him_. She gave a side glance at him as he did not
speak further. There was light enough to see the expression of his
mouth, and she read his thought almost in words. She had thought that
she had detected a suggestion of sentimentality on his part which she
intended to keep strictly in abeyance, but in her intention not to seem
to respond to it she had taken an attitude of coolness and a tone which
was almost sarcastic, and now perceived that, so far as results were
apparent, she had carried matters somewhat further than she intended.
Her heart smote her a little, too, to think that he was hurt. She really
liked him very much, and contritely recalled how kind and thoughtful and
unselfish he had been, and how helpful, and she knew that it had been
almost wholly for her. Yes, she was willing--and glad--to think so. But
while she wished that she had taken a different line at the outset, she
hated desperately to make any concession, and the seconds of their
silence grew into minutes. She stole another glance at his face. It was
plain that negotiations for harmony would have to begin with her.
Finally she said in a quiet voice:

"'Thanks, very much,' is an entirely polite expression, but it isn't
very responsive."

"I thought it met your cordiality quite half way," was the rejoinder.
"Of course, I am glad to be assured of Mr. and Mrs. Carling's regard,
and that they would be glad to see me, but I think I might have been
justified in hoping that you would go a little further, don't you
think?"

He looked at her as he asked the question, but she did not turn her
head. Presently she said in a low voice, and slowly, as if weighing her
words:

"Will it be enough if I say that I shall be very sorry if you do not
come?" He put his left hand upon her right, which was resting on the
rail, and for two seconds she let it stay.

"Yes," he said, "thanks--very--much!"

"I must go now," she said, turning toward him, and for a moment she
looked searchingly in his face. "Good night," she said, giving him her
hand, and John looked after her as she walked down the deck, and he knew
how it was with him.




CHAPTER VI.


John saw Miss Blake the next morning in the saloon among the passengers
in line for the customs official. It was an easy conjecture that Mr.
Carling's nerves were not up to committing himself to a "declaration" of
any sort, and that Miss Blake was undertaking the duty for the party. He
did not see her again until he had had his luggage passed and turned it
over to an expressman. As he was on his way to leave the wharf he came
across the group, and stopped to greet them and ask if he could be of
service, and was told that their houseman had everything in charge, and
that they were just going to their carriage, which was waiting. "And,"
said Miss Blake, "if you are going up town, we can offer you a seat."

"Sha'n't I discommode you?" he asked. "If you are sure I shall not, I
shall be glad to be taken as far as Madison Avenue and Thirty-third
Street, for I suppose that will be your route."

"Quite sure," she replied, seconded by the Carlings, and so it happened
that John went directly home instead of going first to his father's
office. The weather was a chilly drizzle, and he was glad to be spared
the discomfort of going about in it with hand-bag, overcoat, and
umbrella, and felt a certain justification in concluding that, after
two years, a few hours more or less under the circumstances would make
but little difference. And then, too, the prospect of half or
three-quarters of an hour in Miss Blake's company, the Carlings
notwithstanding, was a temptation to be welcomed. But if he had hoped or
expected, as perhaps would have been not unnatural, to discover in that
young woman's air any hint or trace of the feeling she had exhibited,
or, perhaps it should be said, to a degree permitted to show itself,
disappointment was his portion. Her manner was as much in contrast with
that of the last days of their voyage together as the handsome street
dress and hat in which she was attired bore to the dress and headgear of
her steamer costume, and it almost seemed to him as if the contrasts
bore some relation to each other. After the question of the carriage
windows--whether they should be up or down, either or both, and how
much--had been settled, and, as usual in such dilemmas, by Miss Blake,
the drive up town was comparatively a silent one. John's mind was
occupied with sundry reflections and speculations, of many of which his
companion was the subject, and to some extent in noting the changes in
the streets and buildings which an absence of two years made noticeable
to him.

Mary looked steadily out of window, lost in her own thoughts save for an
occasional brief response to some casual comment or remark of John's.
Mr. Carling had muffled himself past all talking, and his wife preserved
the silence which was characteristic of her when unurged.

John was set down at Thirty-third Street, and, as he made his adieus,
Mrs. Carling said, "Do come and see us as soon as you can, Mr. Lenox";
but Miss Blake simply said "Good-by" as she gave him her hand for an
instant, and he went on to his father's house.

He let himself in with the latch-key which he had carried through all
his absence, but was at once encountered by Jeffrey, who, with his wife,
had for years constituted the domestic staff of the Lenox household.

"Well, Jeff," said John, as he shook hands heartily with the old
servant, "how are you? and how is Ann? You don't look a day older, and
the climate seems to agree with you, eh?"

"You're welcome home, Mr. John," replied Jeffrey, "and thank you, sir.
Me and Ann is very well, sir. It's a pleasure to see you again and home.
It is, indeed."

"Thank you, Jeff," said John. "It's rather nice to be back. Is my room
ready?"

"Yes, sir," said Jeffrey, "I think it's all right, though we thought
that maybe it 'd be later in the day when you got here, sir. We thought
maybe you'd go to Mr. Lenox's office first."

"I did intend to," said John, mounting the stairs, followed by Jeffrey
with his bag, "but I had a chance to drive up with some friends, and the
day is so beastly that I took advantage of it. How is my father?" he
asked after entering the chamber, which struck him as being so strangely
familiar and so familiarly strange.

"Well, sir," said Jeffrey, "he's much about the same most ways, and then
again he's different, too. Seeing him every day, perhaps I wouldn't
notice so much; but if I was to say that he's kind of quieter, perhaps
that'd be what I mean, sir."

"Well," said John, smiling, "my father was about the quietest person I
ever knew, and if he's grown more so--what do you mean?"

"Well, sir," replied the man, "I notice at table, sir, for one thing.
We've been alone here off and on a good bit, sir, and he used always to
have a pleasant word or two to say to me, and may be to ask me questions
and that, sir; but for a long time lately he hardly seems to notice me.
Of course, there ain't any need of his saying anything, because I know
all he wants, seeing I've waited on him so long, but it's different in a
way, sir."

"Does he go out in the evening to his club?" asked John.

"Very rarely, sir," said Jeffrey. "He mostly goes to his room after
dinner, an' oftentimes I hear him walking up an' down, up an' down, and,
sir," he added, "you know he often used to have some of his friends to
dine with him, and that ain't happened in, I should guess, for a year."

"Have things gone wrong with him in any way?" said John, a sudden
anxiety overcoming some reluctance to question a servant on such a
subject.

"You mean about business, and such like?" replied Jeffrey. "No, sir, not
so far as I know. You know, Mr. John, sir, that I pay all the house
accounts, and there hasn't never been no--no shortness, as I might say,
but we're living a bit simpler than we used to--in the matter of wine
and such like--and, as I told you, we don't have comp'ny no more."

"Is that all?" asked John, with some relief.

"Well, sir," was the reply, "perhaps it's because Mr. Lenox is getting
older and don't care so much about such things, but I have noticed that
he hasn't had anything new from the tailor in a long time, and really,
sir, though perhaps I oughtn't to say it, his things is getting a bit
shabby, sir, and he used to be always so partic'lar."

John got up and walked over to the window which looked out at the rear
of the house. The words of the old servant disquieted him,
notwithstanding that there was nothing so far that could not be
accounted for without alarm. Jeffrey waited for a moment and then asked:

"Is there anything I can do for you, Mr. John? Will you be having
luncheon here, sir?"

"No, thank you, Jeff," said John; "nothing more now, and I will lunch
here. I'll come down and see Ann presently."

"Thank you, sir," said Jeffrey, and withdrew.

The view from the back windows of most city houses is not calculated to
arouse enthusiasm at the best of times, and the day was singularly
dispiriting: a sky of lead and a drizzling rain, which emphasized the
squalor of the back yards in view. It was all very depressing. Jeffrey's
talk, though inconclusive, had stirred in John's mind an uneasiness
which was near to apprehension. He turned and walked about the familiar
room, recognizing the well-known furniture, his mother's picture over
the mantel, the bookshelves filled with his boyhood's accumulations, the
well-remembered pattern of the carpet, and the wall-paper--nothing was
changed. It was all as he had left it two years ago, and for the time it
seemed as if he had merely dreamed the life and experiences of those
years. Indeed, it was with difficulty that he recalled any of them for
the moment. And then suddenly there came into his mind the thought that
he was at the beginning of a new epoch--that on this day his boyhood
ended, for up to then he had been but a boy. The thought was very vivid.
It had come, the time when he must take upon himself the
responsibilities of his own life, and make it for himself; the time
which he had looked forward to as to come some day, but not hitherto at
any particular moment, and so not to be very seriously considered.

It has been said that life had always been made easy for him, and that
he had accepted the situation without protest. To easy-going natures the
thought of any radical change in the current of affairs is usually
unwelcome, but he was too young to find it really repugnant; and then,
too, as he walked about the room with his hands in his pockets, it was
further revealed to him that he had recently found a motive and impulse
such as he had never had before. He recalled the talk that he had had
with the companion of his voyage. He thought of her as one who could be
tender to misfortune and charitable to incapacity, but who would have
nothing but scorn for shiftlessness and malingering; and he realized
that he had never cared for anything as for the good opinion of that
young woman. No, there should be for him no more sauntering in the vales
and groves, no more of loitering or dallying. He would take his place in
the working world, and perhaps--some day--

A thought came to him with the impact of a blow: What could he do? What
work was there for him? How could he pull his weight in the boat? All
his life he had depended upon some one else, with easy-going
thoughtlessness. Hardly had it ever really occurred to him that he
might have to make a career for himself. Of business he had thought as
something which he should undertake some time, but it was always a
business ready made to his hand, with plenty of capital not of his own
acquiring--something for occupation, not of necessity. It came home to
him that his father was his only resource, and that of his father's
affairs he knew next to nothing.

In addition to his affection for him, he had always had an unquestioning
confidence in his father. It was his earliest recollection, and he still
retained it to almost a childish extent. There had always been plenty.
His own allowance, from time to time increased, though never
extravagant, had always been ample, and on the one occasion when he had
grievously exceeded it the excess had been paid with no more protest
than a gentle "I think you ought not to have done this." The two had
lived together when John was at home without ostentation or any
appearance of style, but with every essential of luxury. The house and
its furnishings were old-fashioned, but everything was of the best, and
when three or four of the elder man's friends would come to dine, as
happened occasionally, the contents of the cellar made them look at each
other over their glasses. Mr. Lenox was very reticent in all matters
relating to himself, and in his talks with his son, which were mostly at
the table, rarely spoke of business matters in general, and almost never
of his own. He had read well, and was fond of talking of his reading
when he felt in the vein of talking, which was not always; but John had
invariably found him ready with comment and sympathy upon the topics in
which he himself had interest, and there was a strong if undemonstrative
affection between the father and son.

It was not strange, perhaps, all things considered, that John had come
even to nearly six-and-twenty with no more settled intentions; that his
boyhood should have been so long. He was not at all of a reckless
disposition, and, notwithstanding the desultory way in which he had
spent time, he had strong mental and moral fiber, and was capable of
feeling deeply and enduringly. He had been desultory, but never before
had he had much reason or warning against it. But now, he reflected, a
time had come. Work he must, if only for work's sake, and work he would;
and there was a touch of self-reproach in the thought of his father's
increasing years and of his lonely life. He might have been a help and a
companion during those two years of his not very fruitful European
sojourn, and he would lose no time in finding out what there was for him
to do, and in setting about it.




CHAPTER VII.


The day seemed very long. He ate his luncheon, having first paid a visit
to Ann, who gave him an effusive welcome. Jeffrey waited, and during the
meal they had some further talk, and among other things John said to
him, "Does my father dress for dinner nowadays?"

"No, sir," was the reply, "I don't know when I've seen your father in
his evenin' clothes, sir. Not for a long time, and then maybe two or
three times the past year when he was going out to dinner, but not here,
sir. Maybe it'll be different now you're back again, sir."

After luncheon John's luggage arrived, and he superintended the
unpacking, but that employment was comparatively brief. The day dragged
with him. Truly his home-coming was rather a dreary affair. How
different had been yesterday, and the day before, and all those days
before when he had so enjoyed the ship life, and most of all the daily
hour or more of the companionship which had grown to be of such
surpassing interest to him, and now seemed so utterly a thing of the
past.

Of course, he should see her again. (He put aside a wonder if it would
be within the proprieties on that evening or, at latest, the next.) But,
in any case, "the episode," as he had said to her, was done, and it had
been very pleasant--oh, yes, very dear to him. He wondered if she was
finding the day as interminable as it seemed to him, and if the interval
before they saw each other again would seem as long as his impatience
would make it for him. Finally, the restless dullness became
intolerable. He sallied forth into the weather and went to his club,
having been on non-resident footing during his absence, and, finding
some men whom he knew, spent there the rest of the afternoon.

His father was at home and in his room when John got back.

"Well, father," he said, "the prodigal has returned."

"He is very welcome," was the reply, as the elder man took both his
son's hands and looked at him affectionately. "You seem very well."

"Yes," said John; "and how are you, sir?"

"About as usual, I think," said Mr. Lenox.

They looked at each other for a moment in silence. John thought that his
father seemed thinner than formerly, and he had instantly observed that
a white beard covered the always hitherto smooth-shaven chin, but he
made no comment.

"The old place appears very familiar," he remarked. "Nothing is changed
or even moved, as I can see, and Ann and Jeff are just the same old
sixpences as ever."

"Yes," said his father, "two years make less difference with old people
and their old habits than with young ones. You will have changed more
than we have, I fancy."

"Do we dress for dinner?" asked John, after some little more unimportant
talk.

"Yes," said his father, "in honor of the occasion, if you like. I
haven't done it lately," he added, a little wearily.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I haven't had such a glass of wine since I left home," John remarked as
they sat together after dinner.

"No," said his father, looking thoughtfully at his glass, "it's the old
'Mouton,' and pretty nearly the last of it; it's very old and wants
drinking," he observed as he held his glass up to get the color. "It has
gone off a bit even in two years."

"All right," said John cheerfully, "we'll drink it to save it, if needs
be." The elder man smiled and filled both glasses.

There had been more or less talk during the meal, but nothing of special
moment. John sat back in his chair, absently twirling the stem of his
glass between thumb and fingers. Presently he said, looking straight
before him at the table: "I have been thinking a good deal of late--more
than ever before, positively, in fact--that whatever my prospects may
be," (he did not see the momentary contraction of his father's brow) "I
ought to begin some sort of a career in earnest. I'm afraid," he
continued, "that I have been rather unmindful, and that I might have
been of some use to you as well as myself if I had stayed at home
instead of spending the last two years in Europe."

"I trust," said his father, "that they have not been entirely without
profit."

"No," said John, "perhaps not wholly, but their cash value would not be
large, I'm afraid."

"All value is not to be measured in dollars and cents," remarked Mr.
Lenox. "If I could have acquired as much German and French as I presume
you have, to say nothing of other things, I should look back upon the
time as well spent at almost any cost. At your age a year or two more or
less--you don't realize it now, but you will if you come to my
age--doesn't count for so very much, and you are not too old," he
smiled, "to begin at a beginning."

"I want to begin," said John.

"Yes," said his father, "I want to have you, and I have had the matter a
good deal in my mind. Have you any idea as to what you wish to do?"

"I thought," said John, "that the most obvious thing would be to go into
your office." Mr. Lenox reached over for the cigar-lamp. His cigar had
gone out, and his hand shook as he applied the flame to it. He did not
reply for a moment.

"I understand," he said at last. "It would seem the obvious thing to do,
as you say, but," he clicked his teeth together doubtfully, "I don't see
how it can be managed at present, and I don't think it is what I should
desire for you in any case. The fact is," he went on, "my business has
always been a sort of specialty, and, though it is still worth doing
perhaps, it is not what it used to be. Conditions and methods have
changed--and," he added, "I am too old to change with them."

"I am not," said John.

"In fact," resumed his father, ignoring John's assertion, "as things are
going now, I couldn't make a place for you in my office unless I
displaced Melig and made you my manager, and for many reasons I couldn't
do that. I am too dependent on Melig. Of course, if you came with me it
would be as a partner, but--"

"No," said John, "I should be a poor substitute for old Melig for a good
while, I fancy."

"My idea would be," said Mr. Lenox, "that you should undertake a
profession--say the law. It is a fact that the great majority of men
fail in business, and then most of them, for lack of training or special
aptitude, fall into the ranks of clerks and subordinates. On the other
hand, a man who has a profession--law, medicine, what not--even if he
does not attain high rank, has something on which he can generally get
along, at least after a fashion, and he has the standing. That is my
view of the matter, and though I confess I often wonder at it in
individual cases, it is my advice to you."

"It would take three or four years to put me where I could earn anything
to speak of," said John, "even providing that I could get any business
at the end of the time."

"Yes," said his father, "but the time of itself isn't of so much
consequence. You would be living at home, and would have your
allowance--perhaps," he suggested, "somewhat diminished, seeing that you
would be here--"

"I can get on with half of it," said John confidently.

"We will settle that matter afterward," said Mr. Lenox.

They sat in silence for some minutes, John staring thoughtfully at the
table, unconscious of the occasional scrutiny of his father's glance. At
last he said, "Well, sir, I will do anything that you advise."

"Have you anything to urge against it?" asked Mr. Lenox.

"Not exactly on my own account," replied John, "though I admit that the
three years or more seems a long time to me, but I have been drawing on
you exclusively all my life, except for the little money I earned in
Rush & Company's office, and--"

"You have done so, my dear boy," said his father gently, "with my
acquiescence. I may have been wrong, but that is a fact. If in my
judgment the arrangement may be continued for a while longer, and in the
mean time you are making progress toward a definite end, I think you
need have no misgivings. It gratifies me to have you feel as you do,
though it is no more than I should have expected of you, for you have
never caused me any serious anxiety or disappointment, my son."

Often in the after time did John thank God for that assurance.

"Thank you, sir," he said, putting down his hand, palm upward, on the
table, and his eyes filled as the elder man laid his hand in his, and
they gave each other a lingering pressure.

Mr. Lenox divided the last of the wine in the bottle between the two
glasses, and they drank it in silence, as if in pledge.

"I will go in to see Carey & Carey in the morning, and if they are
agreeable you can see them afterward," said Mr. Lenox. "They are not one
of the great firms, but they have a large and good practice, and they
are friends of mine. Shall I do so?" he asked, looking at his son.

"If you will be so kind," John replied, returning his look. And so the
matter was concluded.




CHAPTER VIII.


This history will not concern itself to any extent with our friend's
career as a law clerk, though, as he promised himself, he took it
seriously and laboriously while it lasted, notwithstanding that after
two years of being his own master, and the rather desultory and
altogether congenial life he had led, he found it at first even more
irksome than he had fancied. The novice penetrates but slowly the
mysteries of the law, and, unless he be of unusual aptitude and
imagination, the interesting and remunerative part seems for a long time
very far off. But John stuck manfully to the reading, and was diligent
in all that was put upon him to do; and after a while the days spent in
the office and in the work appointed to him began to pass more quickly.

He restrained his impulse to call at Sixty-ninth Street until what
seemed to him a fitting interval had elapsed; one which was longer than
it would otherwise have been, from an instinct of shyness not habitual
to him, and a distrustful apprehension that perhaps his advent was not
of so much moment to the people there as to him. But their greeting was
so cordial on every hand that Mrs. Carling's remark that they had been
almost afraid he had forgotten them embarrassed while it pleased him,
and his explanations were somewhat lame. Miss Blake, as usual, came to
the rescue, though John's disconcert was not lessened by the suspicion
that she saw through his inventions. He had conceived a great opinion of
that young person's penetration.

His talk for a while was mostly with Mr. Carling, who was in a pleasant
mood, being, like most nervous people, at his best in the evening. Mary
made an occasional contributory remark, and Mrs. Carling, as was her
wont, was silent except when appealed to. Finally, Mr. Carling rose and,
putting out his hand, said: "I think I will excuse myself, if you will
permit me. I have had to be down town to-day, and am rather tired." Mrs.
Carling followed him, saying to John as she bade him good night: "Do
come, Mr. Lenox, whenever you feel like it. We are very quiet people,
and are almost always at home."

"Thank you, Mrs. Carling," responded John, with much sincerity. "I shall
be most glad to. I am so quiet myself as to be practically noiseless."

The hall of the Carlings' house was their favorite sitting place in the
evening. It ran nearly the whole depth of the house, and had a wide
fireplace at the end. The further right hand portion was recessed by the
stairway, which rose from about the middle of its length.

Miss Blake sat in a low chair, and John took its fellow at the other
angle of the fireplace, which contained the smoldering remnant of a wood
fire. She had a bit of embroidery stretched over a circular frame like a
drum-head. Needlework was not a passion with her, but it was understood
in the Carling household that in course of time a set of table doilies
of elaborate devices in colored silks would be forthcoming. It has been
deplored by some philosopher that custom does not sanction such little
occupations for masculine hands. It would be interesting to speculate
how many embarrassing or disastrous consequences might have been averted
if at a critical point in a negotiation or controversy a needle had had
to be threaded or a dropped stitch taken up before a reply was made, to
say nothing of an excuse for averting features at times without
confession of confusion.

The great and wise Charles Reade tells how his hero, who had an island,
a treasure ship, and a few other trifles of the sort to dispose of,
insisted upon Captain Fullalove's throwing away the stick he was
whittling, as giving the captain an unfair advantage. The value of the
embroidered doily as an article of table napery may be open to question,
but its value, in an unfinished state, as an adjunct to discreet
conversation, is beyond all dispute.

"Ought I to say good night?" asked John with a smile, as he seated
himself on the disappearance of Mr. and Mrs. Carling.

"I don't see any reason," she replied. "It isn't late. Julius is in one
of his periods of retiring early just now. By and by he will be sure to
take up the idea again that his best sleep is after midnight. At present
he is on the theory that it is before twelve o'clock."

"How has he been since your return?" John asked.

"Better in some ways, I think," she replied. "He seems to enjoy the home
life in contrast with the traveling about and living in hotels; and
then, in a moderate way, he is obliged to give some attention to
business matters, and to come in contact with men and affairs
generally."

"And you?" said John. "You find it pleasant to be back?"

"Yes," she said, "I do. As my sister said, we are quiet people. She goes
out so little that it is almost not at all, and when I go it has nearly
always to be with some one else. And then, you know that while Alice and
I are originally New Yorkers, we have only been back here for two or
three years. Most of the people, really, to whose houses we go are those
who knew my father. But," she added, "it is a comfort not to be carrying
about a traveling bag in one hand and a weight of responsibility in the
other."

"I should think," said John, laughing, "that your maid might have taken
the bag, even if she couldn't carry your responsibilities."

"No," she said, joining in his laugh, "that particular bag was too
precious, and Eliza was one of my most serious responsibilities. She had
to be looked after like the luggage, and I used to wish at times that
she could be labeled and go in the van. How has it been with you since
your return? and," as she separated a needleful of silk from what seemed
an inextricable tangle, "if I may ask, what have you been doing? I was
recalling," she added, putting the silk into the needle, "some things
you said to me on the Altruria. Do you remember?"

"Perfectly," said John. "I think I remember every word said on both
sides, and I have thought very often of some things you said to me. In
fact, they had more influence upon my mind than you imagined."

She turned her work so that the light would fall a little more directly
upon it.

"Really?" she asked. "In what way?"

"You put in a drop or two that crystallized the whole solution," he
answered. She looked up at him inquiringly.

"Yes," he said, "I always knew that I should have to stop drifting some
time, but there never seemed to be any particular time. Some things you
said to me set the time. I am under 'full steam a-head' at present.
Behold in me," he exclaimed, touching his breast, "the future chief of
the Supreme Court of the United States, of whom you shall say some time
in the next brief interval of forty years or so, 'I knew him as a young
man, and one for whom no one would have predicted such eminence!' and
perhaps you will add, 'It was largely owing to me.'"

She looked at him with an expression in which amusement and curiosity
were blended.

"I congratulate you," she said, laughing, "upon the career in which it
appears I had the honor to start you. Am I being told that you have
taken up the law?"

"Not quite the whole of it as yet," he said; "but when I am not doing
errands for the office I am to some extent taken up with it," and then
he told her of his talk with his father and what had followed. She
overcame a refractory kink in her silk before speaking.

"It takes a long time, doesn't it, and do you like it?" she asked.

"Well," said John, laughing a little, "a weaker word than 'fascinating'
would describe the pursuit, but I hope with diligence to reach some of
the interesting features in the course of ten or twelve years."

"It is delightful," she remarked, scrutinizing the pattern of her work,
"to encounter such enthusiasm."

"Isn't it?" said John, not in the least wounded by her sarcasm.

"Very much so," she replied, "but I have always understood that it is a
mistake to be too sanguine."

"Perhaps I'd better make it fifteen years, then," he said, laughing. "I
should have a choice of professions by that time at any rate. You know
the proverb that 'At forty every man is either a fool or a physician.'"
She looked at him with a smile. "Yes," he said, "I realize the
alternative." She laughed a little, but did not reply.

"Seriously," he continued, "I know that in everything worth
accomplishing there is a lot of drudgery to be gone through with at the
first, and perhaps it seems the more irksome to me because I have been
so long idly my own master. However," he added, "I shall get down to it,
or up to it, after a while, I dare say. That is my intention, at any
rate."

"I don't think I have ever wished that I were a man," she said after a
moment, "but I often find myself envying a man's opportunities."

"Do not women have opportunities, too?" he said. "Certainly they have
greatly to do with the determination of affairs."

"Oh, yes," she replied, "it is the usual answer that woman's part is to
influence somebody. As for her own life, it is largely made for her.
She has, for the most part, to take what comes to her by the will of
others."

"And yet," said John, "I fancy that there has seldom been a great career
in which some woman's help or influence was not a factor."

"Even granting that," she replied, "the career was the man's, after all,
and the fame and visible reward. A man will sometimes say, 'I owe all my
success to my wife, or my mother, or sister,' but he never really
believes it, nor, in fact, does any one else. It is _his_ success, after
all, and the influence of the woman is but a circumstance, real and
powerful though it may be. I am not sure," she added, "that woman's
influence, so called, isn't rather an overrated thing. Women like to
feel that they have it, and men, in matters which they hold lightly,
flatter them by yielding, but I am doubtful if a man ever arrives at or
abandons a settled course or conviction through the influence of a
woman, however exerted."

"I think you are wrong," said John, "and I feel sure of so much as this:
that a man might often be or do for a woman's sake that which he would
not for its sake or his own."

"That is quite another thing," she said. "There is in it no question of
influence; it is one of impulse and motive."

"I have told you to-night," said John, "that what you said to me had
influenced me greatly."

"Pardon me," she replied, "you employed a figure which exactly defined
your condition. You said I supplied the drop which caused the solution
to crystallize--that is, to elaborate your illustration, that it was
already at the point of saturation with your own convictions and
intentions."

"I said also," he urged, "that you had set the time for me. Is the idea
unpleasant to you?" he asked after a moment, while he watched her face.
She did not at once reply, but presently she turned to him with slightly
heightened color and said, ignoring his question:

"Would you rather think that you had done what you thought right because
you so thought, or because some one else wished to have you? Or, I
should say, would you rather think that the right suggestion was
another's than your own?"

He laughed a little, and said evasively: "You ought to be a lawyer, Miss
Blake. I should hate to have you cross-examine me unless I were very
sure of my evidence."

She gave a little shrug of her shoulders in reply as she turned and
resumed her embroidery. They talked for a while longer, but of other
things, the discussion of woman's influence having been dropped by
mutual consent.

After John's departure she suspended operations on the doily, and sat
for a while gazing reflectively into the fire. She was a person as frank
with herself as with others, and with as little vanity as was compatible
with being human, which is to say that, though she was not without it,
it was of the sort which could be gratified but not flattered--in fact,
the sort which flattery wounds rather than pleases. But despite her
apparent skepticism she had not been displeased by John's assertion that
she had influenced him in his course. She had expressed herself truly,
believing that he would have done as he had without her intervention;
but she thought that he was sincere, and it was pleasant to her to have
him think as he did.

Considering the surroundings and conditions under which she had lived,
she had had her share of the acquaintance and attentions of agreeable
men, but none of them had ever got with her beyond the stage of mere
friendliness. There had never been one whose coming she had particularly
looked forward to, or whose going she had deplored. She had thought of
marriage as something she might come to, but she had promised herself
that it should be on such conditions as were, she was aware, quite
improbable of ever being fulfilled. She would not care for a man because
he was clever and distinguished, but she felt that he must be those
things, and to have, besides, those qualities of character and person
which should attract her. She had known a good many men who were clever
and to some extent distinguished, but none who had attracted her
personally. John Lenox did not strike her as being particularly clever,
and he certainly was not distinguished, nor, she thought, ever very
likely to be; but she had had a pleasure in being with him which she had
never experienced in the society of any other man, and underneath some
boyish ways she divined a strength and steadfastness which could be
relied upon at need. And she admitted to herself that during the ten
days since her return, though she had unsparingly snubbed her sister's
wonderings why he did not call, she had speculated a good deal upon the
subject herself, with a sort of resentful feeling against both herself
and him that she should care--

Her face flushed as she recalled the momentary pressure of his hand upon
hers on that last night on deck. She rang for the servant, and went up
to her room.




CHAPTER IX.


It is not the purpose of this narrative to dwell minutely upon the
events of the next few months. Truth to say, they were devoid of
incidents of sufficient moment in themselves to warrant chronicle. What
they led up to was memorable enough.

As time went on John found himself on terms of growing intimacy with the
Carling household, and eventually it came about that if there passed a
day when their door did not open to him it was _dies non_.

Mr. Carling was ostensibly more responsible than the ladies for the
frequency of our friend's visits, and grew to look forward to them. In
fact, he seemed to regard them as paid primarily to himself, and ignored
an occasional suggestion on his wife's part that it might not be wholly
the pleasure of a chat and a game at cards with him that brought the
young man so often to the house. And when once she ventured to concern
him with some stirrings of her mind on the subject, he rather testily
(for him) pooh-poohed her misgivings, remarking that Mary was her own
mistress, and, so far as he had ever seen, remarkably well qualified to
regulate her own affairs. Had she ever seen anything to lead her to
suppose that there was any particular sentiment existing between Lenox
and her sister?

"No," said Mrs. Carling, "perhaps not exactly, but you know how those
things go, and he always stays after we come up when she is at home." To
which her husband vouchsafed no reply, but began a protracted wavering
as to the advisability of leaving the steam on or turning it off for the
night, which was a cold one--a dilemma which, involving his personal
welfare or comfort at the moment, permitted no consideration of other
matters to share his mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Carling had not spoken to her sister upon the subject. She thought
that that young woman, if she were not, as Mr. Carling said, "remarkably
well qualified to regulate her own affairs," at least held the opinion
that she was, very strongly.

The two were devotedly fond of each other, but Mrs. Carling was the
elder by twenty years, and in her love was an element of maternal
solicitude to which her sister, while giving love for love in fullest
measure, did not fully respond. The elder would have liked to share
every thought, but she was neither so strong nor so clever as the girl
to whom she had been almost as a mother, and who, though perfectly
truthful and frank when she was minded to express herself, gave, as a
rule, little satisfaction to attempts to explore her mind, and on some
subjects was capable of meeting such attempts with impatience, not to
say resentment--a fact of which her sister was quite aware. But as time
went on, and the frequency of John's visits and attentions grew into a
settled habit, Mrs. Carling's uneasiness, with which perhaps was mingled
a bit of curiosity, got the better of her reserve, and she determined
to get what satisfaction could be obtained for it.

They were sitting in Mrs. Carling's room, which was over the
drawing-room in the front of the house. A fire of cannel blazed in the
grate.

A furious storm was whirling outside. Mrs. Carling was occupied with
some sort of needlework, and her sister, with a writing pad on her lap,
was composing a letter to a friend with whom she carried on a desultory
and rather one-sided correspondence. Presently she yawned slightly, and,
putting down her pad, went over to the window and looked out.

"What a day!" she exclaimed. "It seems to get worse and worse.
Positively you can't see across the street. It's like a western
blizzard."

"It is, really," said Mrs. Carling; and then, moved by the current of
thought which had been passing in her mind of late, "I fancy we shall
spend the evening by ourselves to-night."

"That would not be so unusual as to be extraordinary, would it?" said
Mary.

"Wouldn't it?" suggested Mrs. Carling in a tone that was meant to be
slightly quizzical.

"We are by ourselves most evenings, are we not?" responded her sister,
without turning around. "Why do you particularize to-night?"

"I was thinking," answered Mrs. Carling, bending a little closer over
her work, "that even Mr. Lenox would hardly venture out in such a storm
unless it were absolutely necessary."

"Oh, yes, to be sure, Mr. Lenox; very likely not," was Miss Blake's
comment, in a tone of indifferent recollection.

"He comes here very often, almost every night, in fact," remarked Mrs.
Carling, looking up sideways at her sister's back.

"Now that you mention it," said Mary dryly, "I have noticed something of
the sort myself."

"Do you think he ought to?" asked her sister, after a moment of silence.

"Why not?" said the girl, turning to her questioner for the first time.
"And why should I think he should or should not? Doesn't he come to see
Julius, and on Julius's invitation? I have never asked him--but once,"
she said, flushing a little as she recalled the occasion and the wording
of the invitation.

"Do you think," returned Mrs. Carling, "that his visits are wholly on
Julius's account, and that he would come so often if there were no other
inducement? You know," she continued, pressing her point timidly but
persistently, "he always stays after we go upstairs if you are at home,
and I have noticed that when you are out he always goes before our time
for retiring."

"I should say," was the rejoinder, "that that was very much the proper
thing. Whether or not he comes here too often is not for me to say--I
have no opinion on the subject. But, to do him justice, he is about the
last man to wait for a tacit dismissal, or to cause you and Julius to
depart from what he knows to be your regular habit out of politeness to
him. He is a person of too much delicacy and good breeding to stay
when--if--that is to say--" She turned again to the window without
completing her sentence, and, though Mrs. Carling thought she could
complete it for her, she wisely forbore. After a moment of silence, Mary
said in a voice devoid of any traces of confusion:

"You asked me if I thought Mr. Lenox would come so often if there were
no object in his coming except to see Julius. I can only say that if
Julius were out of the question I think he would come here but seldom;
but," she added, as she left the window and resumed her seat, "I do not
quite see the object of this discussion, and, indeed, I am not quite
sure of what we are discussing. Do you object," she asked, looking
curiously at her sister and smiling slightly, "to Mr. Lenox's coming
here as he does, and if so, why?" This was apparently more direct than
Mrs. Carling was quite prepared for. "And if you do," Mary proceeded,
"what is to be done about it? Am I to make him understand that it is not
considered the proper thing? or will you? or shall we leave it to
Julius?"

Mrs. Carling looked up into her sister's face, in which was a smile of
amused penetration, and looked down again in visible embarrassment.

The young woman laughed as she shook her finger at her.

"Oh, you transparent goose!" she cried. "What did he say?"

"What did who say?" was the evasive response.

"Julius," said Mary, putting her finger under her sister's chin and
raising her face. "Tell me now. You've been talking with him, and I
insist upon knowing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth. So there!"

"Well," she admitted hesitatingly, "I said to him something like what I
have to you, that it seemed to me that Mr. Lenox came very often, and
that I did not believe it was all on his account, and that he" (won't
somebody please invent another pronoun?) "always stayed when you were
at home--"

"--and," broke in her sister, "that you were afraid my young affections
were being engaged, and that, after all, we didn't know much if anything
about the young man, or, perhaps, that he was forming a hopeless
attachment, and so on."

"No," said Mrs. Carling, "I didn't say that exactly. I--"

"Didn't you, really?" said Mary teasingly. "One ought to be explicit in
such cases, don't you think? Well, what did Julius say? Was he very much
concerned?" Mrs. Carling's face colored faintly under her sister's
raillery, and she gave a little embarrassed laugh.

"Come, now," said the girl relentlessly, "what did he say?"

"Well," answered Mrs. Carling, "I must admit that he said 'Pooh!' for
one thing, and that you were your own mistress, and, so far as he had
seen, you were very well qualified to manage your own affairs."

Her sister clapped her hands. "Such discrimination have I not seen," she
exclaimed, "no, not in Israel! What else did he say?" she demanded, with
a dramatic gesture. "Let us know the worst."

Mrs. Carling laughed a little. "I don't remember," she admitted, "that
he said anything more on the subject. He got into some perplexity about
whether the steam should be off or on, and after that question was
settled we went to bed." Mary laughed outright.

"So Julius doesn't think I need watching," she said.

"Mary," protested her sister in a hurt tone, "you don't think I ever
did or could watch you? I don't want to pry into your secrets, dear,"
and she looked up with tears in her eyes. The girl dropped on her knees
beside her sister and put her arms about her neck.

"You precious old lamb!" she cried, "I know you don't. You couldn't pry
into anybody's secrets if you tried. You couldn't even try. But I
haven't any, dear, and I'll tell you every one of them, and, rather than
see a tear in your dear eyes, I would tell John Lenox that I never
wanted to see him again; and I don't know what you have been thinking,
but I haven't thought so at all" (which last assertion made even Mrs.
Carling laugh), "and I know that I have been teasing and horrid, and if
you won't put me in the closet I will be good and answer every question
like a nice little girl." Whereupon she gave her sister a kiss and
resumed her seat with an air of abject penitence which lasted for a
minute. Then she laughed again, though there was a watery gleam in her
own eyes. Mrs. Carling gave her a look of great love and admiration.

"I ought not to have brought up the subject," she said, "knowing as I do
how you feel about such discussions, but I love you so much that
sometimes I can't help--"

"Alice," exclaimed the girl, "please have the kindness to call me a
selfish P--I--G. It will relieve my feelings."

"But I do not think you are," said Mrs. Carling literally.

"But I am at times," declared Mary, "and you deserve not only to have,
but to be shown, all the love and confidence that I can give you. It's
only this, that sometimes your solicitude makes you imagine things that
do not exist, and you think I am withholding my confidence; and then,
again, I am enough like other people that I don't always know exactly
what I do think. Now, about this matter--"

"Don't say a word about it, dear," her sister interrupted, "unless you
would rather than not."

"I wish to," said Mary. "Of course I am not oblivious of the fact that
Mr. Lenox comes here very often, nor that he seems to like to stay and
talk with me, because, don't you know, if he didn't he could go when you
do, and I don't mind admitting that, as a general thing, I like to have
him stay; but, as I said to you, if it weren't for Julius he would not
come here very often."

"Don't you think," said Mrs. Carling, now on an assured footing, "that
if it were not for you he would not come so often?"

Perhaps Mary overestimated the attraction which her brother-in-law had
for Mr. Lenox, and she smiled slightly as she thought that it was quite
possible. "I suppose," she went on, with a little shrug of the
shoulders, "that the proceeding is not strictly conventional, and that
the absolutely correct thing would be for him to say good night when you
and Julius do, and that there are those who would regard my permitting a
young man in no way related to me to see me very often in the evening
without the protection of a duenna as a very unbecoming thing."

"I never have had such a thought about it," declared Mrs. Carling.

"I never for a moment supposed you had, dear," said Mary, "nor have I.
We are rather unconventional people, making very few claims upon
society, and upon whom 'society' makes very few."

"I am rather sorry for that on your account," said her sister.

"You needn't be," was the rejoinder. "I have no yearnings in that
direction which are not satisfied with what I have." She sat for a
minute or two with her hands clasped upon her knee, gazing reflectively
into the fire, which, in the growing darkness of the winter afternoon,
afforded almost the only light in the room. Presently she became
conscious that her sister was regarding her with an air of expectation,
and resumed: "Leaving the question of the conventions out of the
discussion as settled," she said, "there is nothing, Alice, that you
need have any concern about, either on Mr. Lenox's account or mine."

"You like him, don't you?" asked Mrs. Carling.

"Yes," said Mary frankly, "I like him very much. We have enough in
common to be rather sympathetic, and we differ enough not to be dull,
and so we get on very well. I never had a brother," she continued, after
a momentary pause, "but I feel toward him as I fancy I should feel
toward a brother of about my own age, though he is five or six years
older than I am."

"You don't think, then," said Mrs. Carling timidly, "that you are
getting to care for him at all?"

"In the sense that you use the word," was the reply, "not the least in
the world. If there were to come a time when I really believed I should
never see him again, I should be sorry; but if at any time it were a
question of six months or a year, I do not think my equanimity would be
particularly disturbed."

"And how about him?" suggested Mrs. Carling. There was no reply.

"Don't you think he may care for you, or be getting to?"

Mary frowned slightly, half closing her eyes and stirring a little
uneasily in her chair.

"He hasn't said anything to me on the subject," she replied evasively.

"Would that be necessary?" asked her sister.

"Perhaps not," was the reply, "if the fact were very obvious."

"Isn't it?" persisted Mrs. Carling, with unusual tenacity.

"Well," said the girl, "to be quite frank with you, I have thought once
or twice that he entertained some such idea--that is--no, I don't mean
to put it just that way. I mean that once or twice something has
occurred to give me that idea. That isn't very coherent, is it? But even
if it be so," she went on after a moment, with a wave of her hands,
"what of it? What does it signify? And if it does signify, what can I do
about it?"

"You have thought about it, then?" said her sister.

"As much as I have told you," she answered. "I am not a very sentimental
person, I think, and not very much on the lookout for such things, but I
know there is such a thing as a man's taking a fancy to a young woman
under circumstances which bring them often together, and I have been led
to believe that it isn't necessarily fatal to the man even if nothing
comes of it. But be that as it may," she said with a shrug of her
shoulders, "what can I do about it? I can't say to Mr. Lenox, 'I think
you ought not to come here so much,' unless I give a reason for it, and
I think we have come to the conclusion that there is no reason except
the danger--to put it in so many words--of his falling in love with me.
I couldn't quite say that to him, could I?"

"No, I suppose not," acquiesced Mrs. Carling faintly.

"No, I should say not," remarked the girl. "If he were to say anything
to me in the way of--declaration is the word, isn't it?--it would be
another matter. But there is no danger of that."

"Why not, if he is fond of you?" asked her sister.

"Because," said Mary, with an emphatic nod, "I won't let him," which
assertion was rather weakened by her adding, "and he wouldn't, if I
would."

"I don't understand," said her sister.

"Well," said Mary, "I don't pretend to know all that goes on in his
mind; but allowing, or rather conjecturing, that he does care for me in
the way you mean, I haven't the least fear of his telling me so, and one
of the reasons is this, that he is wholly dependent upon his father,
with no other prospect for years to come."

"I had the idea somehow," said Mrs. Carling, "that his father was very
well-to-do. The young man gives one the impression of a person who has
always had everything that he wanted."

"I think that is so," said Mary, "but he told me one day, coming over on
the steamer, that he knew nothing whatever of his own prospects or his
father's affairs. I don't remember--at least, it doesn't matter--how he
came to say as much, but he did, and afterward gave me a whimsical
catalogue of his acquirements and accomplishments, remarking, I
remember, that 'there was not a dollar in the whole list'; and lately,
though you must not fancy that he discusses his own affairs with me, he
has now and then said something to make me guess that he was somewhat
troubled about them."

"Is he doing anything?" asked Mrs. Carling.

"He told me the first evening he called here," said Mary, "that he was
studying law, at his father's suggestion; but I don't remember the name
of the firm in whose office he is."

"Why doesn't he ask his father about his prospects?" said Mrs. Carling.

Mary laughed. "You seem to be so much more interested in the matter than
I am," she said, "why don't you ask him yourself?" To which
unjustifiable rejoinder her sister made no reply.

"I don't see why he shouldn't," she remarked.

"I think I understand," said Mary. "I fancy from what he has told me
that his father is a singularly reticent man, but one in whom his son
has always had the most implicit confidence. I imagine, too, that until
recently, at any rate, he has taken it for granted that his father was
wealthy. He has not confided any misgivings to me, but if he has any he
is just the sort of person not to ask, and certainly not to press a
question with his father."

"It would seem like carrying delicacy almost too far," remarked Mrs.
Carling.

"Perhaps it would," said her sister, "but I think I can understand and
sympathize with it."

Mrs. Carling broke the silence which followed for a moment or two as if
she were thinking aloud. "You have plenty of money," she said, and
colored at her inadvertence. Her sister looked at her for an instant
with a humorous smile, and then, as she rose and touched the bell
button, said, "That's another reason."




CHAPTER X.


I think it should hardly be imputed to John as a fault or a shortcoming
that he did not for a long time realize his father's failing powers.
True, as has been stated, he had noted some changes in appearance on his
return, but they were not great enough to be startling, and, though he
thought at times that his father's manner was more subdued than he had
ever known it to be, nothing really occurred to arouse his suspicion or
anxiety. After a few days the two men appeared to drop into their
accustomed relation and routine, meeting in the morning and at dinner;
but as John picked up the threads of his acquaintance he usually went
out after dinner, and even when he did not his father went early to his
own apartment.

From John's childhood he had been much of the time away from home, and
there had never, partly from that circumstance and partly from the older
man's natural and habitual reserve, been very much intimacy between
them. The father did not give his own confidence, and, while always kind
and sympathetic when appealed to, did not ask his son's; and, loving his
father well and loyally, and trusting him implicitly, it did not occur
to John to feel that there was anything wanting in the relation. It was
as it had always been. He was accustomed to accept what his father did
or said without question, and, as is very often the case, had always
regarded him as an old man. He had never felt that they could be in the
same equation. In truth, save for their mutual affection, they had
little in common; and if, as may have been the case, his father had any
cravings for a closer and more intimate relation, he made no sign,
acquiescing in his son's actions as the son did in his, without question
or suggestion. They did not know each other, and such cases are not
rare, more is the pity.

But as time went on even John's unwatchful eye could not fail to notice
that all was not well with his father. Haggard lines were multiplying in
the quiet face, and the silence at the dinner table was often unbroken
except by John's unfruitful efforts to keep some sort of a conversation
in motion. More and more frequently it occurred that his father would
retire to his own room immediately after dinner was over, and the food
on his plate would be almost untouched, while he took more wine than had
ever been his habit. John, retiring late, would often hear him stirring
uneasily in his room, and it would be plain in the morning that he had
spent a wakeful, if not a sleepless, night. Once or twice on such a
morning John had suggested to his father that he should not go down to
the office, and the suggestion had been met with so irritable a negative
as to excite his wonder.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a day in the latter part of March. The winter had been unusually
severe, and lingered into spring with a heart-sickening tenacity,
occasional hints of clemency and promise being followed by recurrences
which were as irritating as a personal affront.

John had held to his work in the office, if not with positive
enthusiasm, at least with industry, and thought that he had made some
progress. On the day in question the managing clerk commented briefly
but favorably on something of his which was satisfactory, and, such
experiences being rare, he was conscious of a feeling of mild elation.
He was also cherishing the anticipation of a call at Sixty-ninth Street,
where, for reasons unnecessary to recount, he had not been for a week.
At dinner that night his father seemed more inclined than for a long
time to keep up a conversation which, though of no special import, was
cheerful in comparison with the silence which had grown to be almost the
rule, and the two men sat for a while over the coffee and cigars.
Presently, however, the elder rose from the table, saying pleasantly, "I
suppose you are going out to-night."

"Not if you'd like me to stay in," was the reply. "I have no definite
engagement."

"Oh, no," said Mr. Lenox, "not at all, not at all," and as he passed his
son on the way out of the room he put out his hand and taking John's,
said, "Good night."

As John stood for a moment rather taken aback, he heard his father mount
the stairs to his room. He was puzzled by the unexpected and unusual
occurrence, but finally concluded that his father, realizing how
taciturn they had become of late, wished to resume their former status,
and this view was confirmed to his mind by the fact that they had been
more companionable than usual that evening, albeit that nothing of any
special significance had been said.

As has been stated, a longer interval than usual had elapsed since
John's last visit to Sixty-ninth Street, a fact which had been commented
on by Mr. Carling, but not mentioned between the ladies. When he found
himself at that hospitable house on that evening, he was greeted by Miss
Blake alone.

"Julius did not come down to-night, and my sister is with him," she
said, "so you will have to put up with my society--unless you'd like me
to send up for Alice. Julius is strictly _en retraite_, I should say."

"Don't disturb her, I beg," protested John, laughing, and wondering a
bit at the touch of coquetry in her speech, something unprecedented in
his experience of her, "if you are willing to put up with my society. I
hope Mr. Carling is not ill?"

They seated themselves as she replied: "No, nothing serious, I should
say. A bit of a cold, I fancy; and for a fortnight he has been more
nervous than usual. The changes in the weather have been so great and so
abrupt that they have worn upon his nerves. He is getting very uneasy
again. Now, after spending the winter, and when spring is almost at
hand, I believe that if he could make up his mind where to go he would
be for setting off to-morrow."

"Really?" said John, in a tone of dismay.

"Quite so," she replied with a nod.

"But," he objected, "it seems too late or too early. Spring may drop in
upon us any day. Isn't this something very recent?"

"It has been developing for a week or ten days," she answered, "and
symptoms have indicated a crisis for some time. In fact," she added,
with a little vexed laugh, "we have talked of nothing for a week but the
advantages and disadvantages of Florida, California, North Carolina,
South Carolina, and Virginia at large; besides St. Augustine, Monterey,
Santa Barbara, Aiken, Asheville, Hot Springs, Old Point Comfort,
Bermuda, and I don't know how many other places, not forgetting Atlantic
City and Lakewood, and only not Barbadoes and the Sandwich Islands
because nobody happened to think of them. Julius," remarked Miss Blake,
"would have given a forenoon to the discussion of the two latter places
as readily as to any of the others."

"Can't you talk him along into warm weather?" suggested John, with
rather a mirthless laugh. "Don't you think that if the weather were to
change for good, as it's likely to do almost any time now, he might put
off going till the usual summer flitting?"

"The change in his mind will have to come pretty soon if I am to retain
my mental faculties," she declared. "He might possibly, but I am afraid
not," she said, shaking her head. "He has the idea fixed in his mind,
and considerations of the weather here, while they got him started, are
not now so much the question. He has the moving fever, and I am afraid
it will have to run its course. I think," she said, after a moment,
"that if I were to formulate a special anathema, it would be, 'May
traveling seize you!'"

"Or restlessness," suggested John.

"Yes," she said, "that's more accurate, perhaps, but it doesn't sound
quite so smart. Julius is in that state of mind when the only place that
seems desirable is somewhere else."

"Of course you will have to go," said John mournfully.

"Oh, yes," she replied, with an air of compulsory resignation. "I shall
not only have to go, of course, but I shall probably have to decide
where in order to save my mind. But it will certainly be somewhere, so I
might as well be packing my trunks."

"And you will be away indefinitely, I suppose?"

"Yes, I imagine so."

"Dear me!" John ejaculated in a dismal tone.

They were sitting as described on a former occasion, and the young woman
was engaged upon the second (perhaps the third, or even the fourth) of
the set of doilies to which she had committed herself. She took some
stitches with a composed air, without responding to her companion's
exclamation.

"I'm awfully sorry," he said presently, leaning forward with his elbows
on his knees, his hands hanging in an attitude of unmistakable
dejection, and staring fixedly into the fire.

"I am very sorry myself," she said, bending her head a little closer
over her work. "I think I like being in New York in the spring better
than at any other time; and I don't at all fancy the idea of living in
my trunks again for an indefinite period."

"I shall miss you horribly," he said, turning his face toward her.

Her eyes opened with a lift of the brows, but whether the surprise so
indicated was quite genuine is a matter for conjecture.

"Yes," he declared desperately, "I shall, indeed."

"I should fancy you must have plenty of other friends," she said,
flushing a little, "and I have wondered sometimes whether Julius's
demands upon you were not more confident than warrantable, and whether
you wouldn't often rather have gone elsewhere than to come here to play
cards with him." She actually said this as if she meant it.

"Do you suppose--" he exclaimed, and checked himself. "No," he said, "I
have come because--well, I've been only too glad to come, and--I suppose
it has got to be a habit," he added, rather lamely. "You see, I've never
known any people in the way I have known you. It has seemed to me more
like home life than anything I've ever known. There has never been any
one but my father and I, and you can have no idea what it has been to me
to be allowed to come here as I have, and--oh, you must know--" He
hesitated, and instantly she advanced her point.

Her face was rather white, and the hand which lay upon the work in her
lap trembled a little, while she clasped the arm of the chair with the
other; but she broke in upon his hesitation with an even voice:

"It has been very pleasant for us all, I'm sure," she said, "and,
frankly, I'm sorry that it must be interrupted for a while, but that is
about all there is of it, isn't it? We shall probably be back not later
than October, I should say, and then you can renew your contests with
Julius and your controversies with me."

Her tone and what she said recalled to him their last night on board the
ship, but there was no relenting on this occasion. He realized that for
a moment he had been on the verge of telling the girl that he loved her,
and he realized, too, that she had divined his impulse and prevented the
disclosure; but he registered a vow that he would know before he saw her
again whether he might consistently tell her his love, and win or lose
upon the touch.

Miss Blake made several inaccurate efforts to introduce her needle at
the exact point desired, and when that endeavor was accomplished broke
the silence by saying, "Speaking of 'October,' have you read the novel?
I think it is charming."

"Yes," said John, with his vow in his mind, but not sorry for the
diversion, "and I enjoyed it very much. I thought it was immensely
clever, but I confess that I didn't quite sympathize with the love
affairs of a hero who was past forty, and I must also confess that I
thought the girl was, well--to put it in plain English--a fool."

Mary laughed, with a little quaver in her voice. "Do you know," she
said, "that sometimes it seems to me that I am older than you are?"

"I know you're awfully wise," said John with a laugh, and from that
their talk drifted off into the safer channels of their usual
intercourse until he rose to say good night.

"Of course, we shall see you again before we go," she said as she gave
him her hand.

"Oh," he declared, "I intend regularly to haunt the place."




CHAPTER XI.


When John came down the next morning his father, who was, as a rule, the
most punctual of men, had not appeared. He opened the paper and sat down
to wait. Ten minutes passed, fifteen, twenty. He rang the bell. "Have
you heard my father this morning?" he said to Jeffrey, remembering for
the first time that he himself had not.

"No, sir," said the man. "He most generally coughs a little in the
morning, but I don't think I heard him this morning, sir."

"Go up and see why he doesn't come down," said John, and a moment later
he followed the servant upstairs, to find him standing at the chamber
door with a frightened face.

"He must be very sound asleep, sir," said Jeffrey. "He hasn't answered
to my knockin' or callin', sir." John tried the door. He found the chain
bolt on, and it opened but a few inches. "Father!" he called, and then
again, louder. He turned almost unconsciously to Jeffrey, and found his
own apprehensions reflected in the man's face. "We must break in the
door," he said. "Now, together!" and the bolt gave way.

His father lay as if asleep. "Go for the doctor at once! Bring him back
with you. Run!" he cried to the servant. Custom and instinct said,
"Send for the doctor," but he knew in his heart that no ministrations
would ever reach the still figure on the bed, upon which, for the
moment, he could not look. It was but a few minutes (how long such
minutes are!) before the doctor came--Doctor Willis, who had brought
John into the world, and had been a lifelong friend of both father and
son. He went swiftly to the bed without speaking, and made a brief
examination, while John watched him with fascinated eyes; and as the
doctor finished, the son dropped on his knees by the bed, and buried his
face in it. The doctor crossed the room to Jeffrey, who was standing in
the door with an awe-stricken face, and in a low voice gave him some
directions. Then, as the man departed, he first glanced at the kneeling
figure and then looked searchingly about the room. Presently he went
over to the grate in which were the ashes of an extinct fire, and,
taking the poker, pressed down among them and covered over a three or
four ounce vial. He had found what he was looking for.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is no need to speak of the happenings of the next few days, nor is
it necessary to touch at any length upon the history of some of the
weeks and months which ensued upon this crisis in John Lenox's life, a
time when it seemed to him that everything he had ever cared for had
been taken. And yet, with that unreason which may perhaps be more easily
understood than accounted for, the one thing upon which his mind most
often dwelt was that he had had no answer to his note to Mary Blake. We
know what happened to her missive. It turned up long afterward in the
pocket of Master Jacky Carling's overcoat; so long afterward that John,
so far as Mary was concerned, had disappeared altogether. The discovery
of Jacky's dereliction explained to her, in part at least, why she had
never seen him or heard from him after that last evening at Sixty-ninth
Street. The Carlings went away some ten days later, and she did, in
fact, send another note to his house address, asking him to see them
before their departure; but John had considered himself fortunate in
getting the house off his hands to a tenant who would assume the lease
if given possession at once, and had gone into the modest apartment
which he occupied during the rest of his life in the city, and so the
second communication failed to reach him. Perhaps it was as well. Some
weeks later he walked up to the Carlings' house one Sunday afternoon,
and saw that it was closed, as he had expected. By an impulse which was
not part of his original intention--which was, indeed, pretty nearly
aimless--he was moved to ring the doorbell; but the maid, a stranger to
him, who opened the door could tell him nothing of the family's
whereabouts, and Mr. Betts (the house man in charge) was "hout." So John
retraced his steps with a feeling of disappointment wholly
disproportionate to his hopes or expectations so far as he had defined
them to himself, and never went back again.

       *       *       *       *       *

He has never had much to say of the months that followed.

It came to be the last of October. An errand from the office had sent
him to General Wolsey, of the Mutual Trust Company, of whom mention has
been made by David Harum. The general was an old friend of the elder
Lenox, and knew John well and kindly. When the latter had discharged his
errand and was about to go, the general said: "Wait a minute. Are you in
a hurry? If not, I want to have a little talk with you."

"Not specially," said John.

"Sit down," said the general, pointing to a chair. "What are your plans?
I see you are still in the Careys' office, but from what you told me
last summer I conclude that you are there because you have not found
anything more satisfactory."

"That is the case, sir," John replied. "I can't be idle, but I don't see
how I can keep on as I am going now, and I have been trying for months
to find something by which I can earn a living. I am afraid," he added,
"that it will be a longer time than I can afford to wait before I shall
be able to do that out of the law."

"If you don't mind my asking," said the general, "what are your
resources? I don't think you told me more than to give me to understand
that your father's affairs were at a pretty low ebb. Of course, I do not
wish to pry into your affairs--"

"Not at all," John interposed; "I am glad to tell you, and thank you for
your interest. I have about two thousand dollars, and there is some
silver and odds and ends of things stored. I don't know what their value
might be--not very much, I fancy--and there were a lot of mining stocks
and that sort of thing which have no value so far as I can find out--no
available value, at any rate. There is also a tract of half-wild land
somewhere in Pennsylvania. There is coal on it, I believe, and some
timber; but Melig, my father's manager, told me that all the large
timber had been cut. So far as available value is concerned, the
property is about as much of an asset as the mining stock, with the
disadvantage that I have to pay taxes on it."

"H'm," said the general, tapping the desk with his eyeglasses.
"H'm--well, I should think if you lived very economically you would have
about enough to carry you through till you can be admitted, provided you
feel that the law is your vocation," he added, looking up.

"It was my father's idea," said John, "and if I were so situated that I
could go on with it, I would. But I am so doubtful with regard to my
aptitude that I don't feel as if I ought to use up what little capital I
have, and some years of time, on a doubtful experiment, and so I have
been looking for something else to do."

"Well," said the general, "if you were very much interested--that is, if
you were anxious to proceed with your studies--I should advise you to go
on, and at a pinch I should be willing to help you out; but, feeling as
you do, I hardly know what to advise. I was thinking of you," he went
on, "before you came in, and was intending to send for you to come in to
see me." He took a letter from his desk.

"I got this yesterday," he said. "It is from an old acquaintance of mine
by the name of Harum, who lives in Homeville, Freeland County. He is a
sort of a banker there, and has written me to recommend some one to take
the place of his manager or cashier whom he is sending away. It's rather
a queer move, I think, but then," said the general with a smile, "Harum
is a queer customer in some ways of his own. There is his letter. Read
it for yourself."

The letter stated that Mr. Harum had had some trouble with his cashier
and wished to replace him, and that he would prefer some one from out of
the village who wouldn't know every man, woman, and child in the whole
region, and "blab everything right and left." "I should want," wrote Mr.
Harum, "to have the young man know something about bookkeeping and so
on, but I should not insist upon his having been through a trainer's
hands. In fact, I would rather break him in myself, and if he's willing
and sound and no vice, I can get him into shape. I will pay a thousand
to start on, and if he draws and travels all right, may be better in the
long run," etc. John handed back the letter with a slight smile, which
was reflected in the face of the general. "What do you think of it?"
asked the latter.

"I should think it might be very characteristic," remarked John.

"Yes," said the general, "it is, to an extent. You see he writes pretty
fair English, and he can, on occasion, talk as he writes, but usually,
either from habit or choice, he uses the most unmitigated dialect. But
what I meant to ask you was, what do you think of the proposal?"

"You mean as an opportunity for _me_?" asked John.

"Yes," said General Wolsey, "I thought of you at once."

"Thank you very much," said John. "What would be your idea?"

"Well," was the reply, "I am inclined to think I should write to him if
I were you, and I will write to him about you if you so decide. You have
had some office experience, you told me--enough, I should say, for a
foundation, and I don't believe that Harum's books and accounts are very
complicated."

John did not speak, and the general went on: "Of course, it will be a
great change from almost everything you have been used to, and I dare
say that you may find the life, at first at least, pretty dull and
irksome. The stipend is not very large, but it is large for the country,
where your expenses will be light. In fact, I'm rather surprised at his
offering so much. At any rate, it is a living for the present, and may
lead to something better. The place is a growing one, and, more than
that, Harum is well off, and keeps more irons in the fire than one, and
if you get on with him you may do well."

"I don't think I should mind the change so much," said John, rather
sadly. "My present life is so different in almost every way from what it
used to be, and I think I feel it in New York more even than I might in
a country village; but the venture seems a little like burning my
bridges."

"Well," replied the general, "if the experiment should turn out a
failure for any reason, you won't be very much more at a loss than at
present, it seems to me, and, of course, I will do anything I can should
you wish me to be still on the lookout for you here."

"You are exceedingly kind, sir," said John earnestly, and then was
silent for a moment or two. "I will make the venture," he said at
length, "and thank you very much."

"You are under no special obligations to the Careys, are you?" asked the
general.

"No, I think not," said John with a laugh. "I fancy that their business
will go on without me, after a fashion," and he took his leave.




CHAPTER XII.


And so it came about that certain letters were written as mentioned in a
previous chapter, and in the evening of a dripping day early in November
John Lenox found himself, after a nine hours' journey, the only traveler
who alighted upon the platform of the Homeville station, which was near
the end of a small lake and about a mile from the village. As he stood
with his bag and umbrella, at a loss what to do, he was accosted by a
short and stubby individual with very black eyes and hair and a round
face, which would have been smooth except that it had not been shaved
for a day or two. "Goin' t' the village?" he said.

"Yes," said John, "that is my intention, but I don't see any way of
getting there."

"Carry ye over fer ten cents," said the man. "Carryall's right back the
deepo. Got 'ny baggidge?"

"Two trunks," said John.

"That'll make it thirty cents," said the native. "Where's your checks?
All right; you c'n jest step 'round an' git in. Mine's the only rig that
drew over to-night."

It was a long clumsy affair, with windows at each end and a door in the
rear, but open at the sides except for enamel cloth curtains, which
were buttoned to the supports that carried a railed roof extending as
far forward as the dashboard. The driver's seat was on a level with
those inside. John took a seat by one of the front windows, which was
open but protected by the roof.

His luggage having been put on board, they began the journey at a walk,
the first part of the road being rough and swampy in places, and
undergoing at intervals the sort of repairs which often prevails in
rural regions--namely, the deposit of a quantity of broken stone, which
is left to be worn smooth by passing vehicles, and is for the most part
carefully avoided by such whenever the roadway is broad enough to drive
round the improvement. But the worst of the way having been
accomplished, the driver took opportunity, speaking sideways over his
shoulder, to allay the curiosity which burned within him, "Guess I never
seen you before." John was tired and hungry, and generally low in his
mind.

"Very likely not," was his answer. Mr. Robinson instantly arrived at the
determination that the stranger was "stuck up," but was in no degree
cast down thereby.

"I heard Chet Timson tellin' that the' was a feller comin' f'm N'York to
work in Dave Harum's bank. Guess you're him, ain't ye?"

No answer this time: theory confirmed.

"My name's Robinson," imparted that individual. "I run the prince'ple
liv'ry to Homeville."

"Ah!" responded the passenger.

"What d'you say your name was?" asked Mr. Robinson, after he had steered
his team around one of the monuments to public spirit.

"It's Lenox," said John, thinking he might concede something to such
deserving perseverance, "but I don't remember mentioning it."

"Now I think on't, I guess you didn't," admitted Mr. Robinson. "Don't
think I ever knowed anybody of the name," he remarked. "Used to know
some folks name o' Lynch, but they couldn't 'a' ben no relations o'
your'n, I guess." This conjecture elicited no reply.

"Git up, goll darn ye!" he exclaimed, as one of the horses stumbled, and
he gave it a jerk and a cut of the whip. "Bought that hoss of Dave
Harum," he confided to his passenger. "Fact, I bought both on 'em of
him, an' dum well stuck I was, too," he added.

"You know Mr. Harum, then," said John, with a glimmer of interest. "Does
he deal in horses?"

"Wa'al, I guess I make eout to know him," asserted the "prince'ple
liv'ryman," "an' he'll git up 'n the middle o' the night any time to git
the best of a hoss trade. Be you goin' to work fer him?" he asked,
encouraged to press the question. "Goin' to take Timson's place?"

"Really," said John, in a tone which advanced Mr. Robinson's opinion to
a rooted conviction, "I have never heard of Mr. Timson."

"He's the feller that Dave's lettin' go," explained Mr. Robinson. "He's
ben in the bank a matter o' five or six year, but Dave got down on him
fer some little thing or other, an' he's got his walkin' papers. He says
to me, says he, 'If any feller thinks he c'n come up here f'm N'York or
anywheres else, he says, 'an' do Dave Harum's work to suit him, he'll
find he's bit off a dum sight more'n he c'n chaw. He'd better keep his
gripsack packed the hull time,' Chet says."

"I thought I'd sock it to the cuss a little," remarked Mr. Robinson in
recounting the conversation subsequently; and, in truth, it was not
elevating to the spirits of our friend, who found himself speculating
whether or no Timson might not be right.

"Where you goin' to put up?" asked Mr. Robinson after an interval,
having failed to draw out any response to his last effort.

"Is there more than one hotel?" inquired the passenger.

"The's the Eagle, an' the Lake House, an' Smith's Hotel," replied Jehu.

"Which would you recommend?" asked John.

"Wa'al," said Robinson, "I don't gen'ally praise up one more'n another.
You see, I have more or less dealin' with all on 'em."

"That's very diplomatic of you, I'm sure," remarked John, not at all
diplomatically. "I think I will try the Eagle."

Mr. Robinson, in his account of the conversation, said in
confidence--not wishing to be openly invidious--that "he was dum'd if he
wa'n't almost sorry he hadn't recommended the Lake House."

It may be inferred from the foregoing that the first impression which
our friend made on his arrival was not wholly in his favor, and Mr.
Robinson's conviction that he was "stuck up," and a person bound to get
himself "gen'ally disliked," was elevated to an article of faith by his
retiring to the rear of the vehicle, and quite out of ordinary range.
But they were nearly at their journey's end, and presently the carryall
drew up at the Eagle Hotel.

It was a frame building of three stories, with a covered veranda running
the length of the front, from which two doors gave entrance--one to the
main hall, the other to the office and bar combined. This was rather a
large room, and was also to be entered from the main hall.

John's luggage was deposited, Mr. Robinson was settled with, and took
his departure without the amenities which might have prevailed under
different conditions, and the new arrival made his way into the office.

Behind the bar counter, which faced the street, at one end of which was
a small high desk and at the other a glazed case containing three or
four partly full boxes of forlorn-looking cigars, but with most
ambitious labels, stood the proprietor, manager, clerk, and what not of
the hostelry, embodied in the single person of Mr. Amos Elright, who was
leaning over the counter in conversation with three or four loungers who
sat about the room with their chairs tipped back against the wall.

A sketch of Mr. Elright would have depicted a dull "complected" person
of a tousled baldness, whose dispirited expression of countenance was
enhanced by a chin whisker. His shirt and collar gave unmistakable
evidence that pajamas or other night-gear were regarded as
superfluities, and his most conspicuous garment as he appeared behind
the counter was a cardigan jacket of a frowsiness beyond compare. A
greasy neck scarf was embellished with a gem whose truthfulness was
without pretence. The atmosphere of the room was accounted for by a
remark which was made by one of the loungers as John came in. "Say,
Ame," the fellow drawled, "I guess the' was more skunk cabbidge 'n pie
plant 'n usual 'n that last lot o' cigars o' your'n, wa'n't the'?" to
which insinuation "Ame" was spared the necessity of a rejoinder by our
friend's advent.

"Wa'al, guess we c'n give ye a room. Oh, yes, you c'n register if you
want to. Where is the dum thing? I seen it last week somewhere. Oh,
yes," producing a thin book ruled for accounts from under the counter,
"we don't alwus use it," he remarked--which was obvious, seeing that the
last entry was a month old.

John concluded that it was a useless formality. "I should like something
to eat," he said, "and desire to go to my room while it is being
prepared; and can you send my luggage up now?"

"Wa'al," said Mr. Elright, looking at the clock, which showed the hour
of half-past nine, and rubbing his chin perplexedly, "supper's ben
cleared off some time ago."

"I don't want very much," said John; "just a bit of steak, and some
stewed potatoes, and a couple of boiled eggs, and some coffee." He might
have heard the sound of a slap in the direction of one of the sitters.

"I'm 'fraid I can't 'commodate ye fur's the steak an' things goes,"
confessed the landlord. "We don't do much cookin' after dinner, an' I
reckon the fire's out anyway. P'r'aps," he added doubtfully, "I c'd hunt
ye up a piece o' pie 'n some doughnuts, or somethin' like that."

He took a key, to which was attached a huge brass tag with serrated
edges, from a hook on a board behind the bar--on which were suspended a
number of the like--lighted a small kerosene lamp, carrying a single
wick, and, shuffling out from behind the counter, said, "Say, Bill,
can't you an' Dick carry the gentleman's trunks up to 'thirteen?'" and,
as they assented, he gave the lamp and key to one of them and left the
room. The two men took a trunk at either end and mounted the stairs,
John following, and when the second one came up he put his fingers into
his waistcoat pocket suggestively.

"No," said the one addressed as Dick, "that's all right. We done it to
oblige Ame."

"I'm very much obliged to you, though," said John.

"Oh, that's all right," remarked Dick as they turned away.

John surveyed the apartment. There were two small-paned windows
overlooking the street, curtained with bright "Turkey-red" cotton; near
to one of them a small wood stove and a wood box, containing some odds
and ends of sticks and bits of bark; a small chest of drawers, serving
as a washstand; a malicious little looking-glass; a basin and ewer,
holding about two quarts; an earthenware mug and soap-dish, the latter
containing a thin bit of red translucent soap scented with sassafras; an
ordinary wooden chair and a rocking-chair with rockers of divergent
aims; a yellow wooden bedstead furnished with a mattress of "excelsior"
(calculated to induce early rising), a dingy white spread, a gray
blanket of coarse wool, a pair of cotton sheets which had too obviously
done duty since passing through the hands of the laundress, and a pair
of flabby little pillows in the same state, in respect to their cases,
as the sheets. On the floor was a much used and faded ingrain carpet, in
one place worn through by the edge of a loose board. A narrow strip of
unpainted pine nailed to the wall carried six or seven wooden pegs to
serve as wardrobe. Two diminutive towels with red borders hung on the
rail of the washstand, and a battered tin slop jar, minus a cover,
completed the inventory.

"Heavens, what a hole!" exclaimed John, and as he performed his
ablutions (not with the sassafras soap) he promised himself a speedy
flitting. There came a knock at the door, and his host appeared to
announce that his "tea" was ready, and to conduct him to the
dining-room--a good-sized apartment, but narrow, with a long table
running near the center lengthwise, covered with a cloth which bore the
marks of many a fray. Another table of like dimensions, but bare, was
shoved up against the wall. Mr. Elright's ravagement of the larder had
resulted in a triangle of cadaverous apple pie, three doughnuts, some
chunks of soft white cheese, and a plate of what are known as oyster
crackers.

"I couldn't git ye no tea," he said. "The hired girls both gone out, an'
my wife's gone to bed, an' the' wa'n't no fire anyway."

"I suppose I could have some beer," suggested John, looking dubiously at
the banquet.

"We don't keep no ale," said the proprietor of the Eagle, "an' I guess
we're out o' lawger. I ben intendin' to git some more," he added.

"A glass of milk?" proposed the guest, but without confidence.

"Milkman didn't come to-night," said Mr. Elright, shuffling off in his
carpet slippers, worn out in spirit with the importunities of the
stranger. There was water on the table, for it had been left there from
supper time. John managed to consume a doughnut and some crackers and
cheese, and then went to his room, carrying the water pitcher with him,
and, after a cigarette or two and a small potation from his flask, to
bed. Before retiring, however, he stripped the bed with the intention of
turning the sheets, but upon inspection thought better of it, and
concluded to leave them as they were. So passed his first night in
Homeville, and, as he fondly promised himself, his last at the Eagle
Hotel.

When Bill and Dick returned to the office after "obligin' Ame," they
stepped with one accord to the counter and looked at the register. "Why,
darn it," exclaimed Bill, "he didn't sign his name, after all."

"No," said Dick, "but I c'n give a putty near guess who he is, all the
same."

"Some drummer?" suggested Bill.

"Naw," said Richard scornfully. "What 'd a drummer be doin' here this
time o' year? That's the feller that's ousted Chet Timson, an' I'll bet
ye the drinks on't. Name's Linx or Lenx, or somethin' like that. Dave
told me."

"So that's the feller, is it?" said Bill. "I guess he won't stay 'round
here long. I guess you'll find he's a little too toney fer these parts,
an' in pertic'ler fer Dave Harum. Dave'll make him feel 'bout as
comf'table as a rooster in a pond. Lord," he exclaimed, slapping his leg
with a guffaw, "'d you notice Ame's face when he said he didn't want
much fer supper, only beefsteak, an' eggs, an' tea, an' coffee, an' a
few little things like that? I thought I'd split."

"Yes," said Dick, laughing, "I guess the' ain't nothin' the matter with
Ame's heart, or he'd 'a' fell down dead.--Hullo, Ame!" he said when the
gentleman in question came back after ministering to his guest, "got the
Prince o' Wales fixed up all right? Did ye cut that pickled el'phant
that come last week?"

"Huh!" grunted Amos, whose sensibilities had been wounded by the events
of the evening, "I didn't cut no el'phant ner no cow, ner rob no hen
roost neither, but I guess he won't starve 'fore mornin'," and with that
he proceeded to fill up the stove and shut the dampers.

"That means 'git,' I reckon," remarked Bill as he watched the operation.

"Wa'al," said Mr. Elright, "if you fellers think you've spent enough
time droolin' 'round here swapping lies, I think _I'll_ go to bed,"
which inhospitable and injurious remark was by no means taken in bad
part, for Dick said, with a laugh:

"Well, Ame, if you'll let me run my face for 'em, Bill 'n I'll take a
little somethin' for the good o' the house before we shed the partin'
tear." This proposition was not declined by Mr. Elright, but he felt
bound on business principles not to yield with too great a show of
readiness.

"Wa'al, I don't mind for this once," he said, going behind the bar and
setting out a bottle and glasses, "but I've gen'ally noticed that it's a
damn sight easier to git somethin' _into_ you fellers 'n 't is to git
anythin' _out_ of ye."




CHAPTER XIII.


The next morning at nine o'clock John presented himself at Mr. Harum's
banking office, which occupied the first floor of a brick building some
twenty or twenty-five feet in width. Besides the entrance to the bank,
there was a door at the south corner opening upon a stairway leading to
a suite of two rooms on the second floor.

The banking office consisted of two rooms--one in front, containing the
desks and counters, and what may be designated as the "parlor" (as used
to be the case in the provincial towns) in the rear, in which were Mr.
Harum's private desk, a safe of medium size, the necessary assortment of
chairs, and a lounge. There was also a large Franklin stove.

The parlor was separated from the front room by a partition, in which
were two doors, one leading into the inclosed space behind the desks and
counters, and the other into the passageway formed by the north wall and
a length of high desk, topped by a railing. The teller's or cashier's
counter faced the street opposite the entrance door. At the left of this
counter (viewed from the front) was a high-standing desk, with a rail.
At the right was a glass-inclosed space of counter of the same height as
that portion which was open, across which latter the business of paying
and receiving was conducted.

As John entered he saw standing behind this open counter, framed, as it
were, between the desk on the one hand, and the glass inclosure on the
other, a person whom he conjectured to be the "Chet" (short for Chester)
Timson of whom he had heard. This person nodded in response to our
friend's "Good morning," and anticipated his inquiry by saying:

"You lookin' for Dave?"

"I am looking for Mr. Harum," said John. "Is he in the office?"

"He hain't come in yet," was the reply. "Up to the barn, I reckon, but
he's liable to come in any minute, an' you c'n step into the back room
an' wait fer him," indicating the direction with a wave of his hand.

Business had not begun to be engrossing, though the bank was open, and
John had hardly seated himself when Timson came into the back room and,
taking a chair where he could see the counter in the front office,
proceeded to investigate the stranger, of whose identity he had not the
smallest doubt. But it was not Mr. Timson's way to take things for
granted in silence, and it must be admitted that his curiosity in this
particular case was not without warrant. After a scrutiny of John's face
and person, which was not brief enough to be unnoticeable, he said, with
a directness which left nothing in that line to be desired, "I reckon
you're the new man Dave's ben gettin' up from the city."

"I came up yesterday," admitted John.

"My name's Timson," said Chet.

"Happy to meet you," said John, rising and putting out his hand. "My
name is Lenox," and they shook hands--that is, John grasped the ends of
four limp fingers. After they had subsided into their seats, Chet's
opaquely bluish eyes made another tour of inspection, in curiosity and
wonder.

"You alwus lived in the city?" he said at last.

"It has always been my home," was the reply.

"What put it in your head to come up here?" with another stare.

"It was at Mr. Harum's suggestion," replied John, not with perfect
candor; but he was not minded to be drawn out too far.

"D'ye know Dave?"

"I have never met him." Mr. Timson looked more puzzled than ever.

"Ever ben in the bankin' bus'nis?"

"I have had some experience of such accounts in a general way."

"Ever keep books?"

"Only as I have told you," said John, smiling at the little man.

"Got any idee what you'll have to do up here?" asked Chet.

"Only in a general way."

"Wa'al," said Mr. Timson, "I c'n tell ye; an', what's _more_, I c'n tell
ye, young man, 't you hain't no idee of what you're undertakin', an' ef
you don't wish you was back in New York 'fore you git through I ain't no
guesser."

"That is possible," said John readily, recalling his night and his
breakfast that morning.

"Yes, sir," said the other. "Yes, _sir_; if you do what I've had to do,
you'll do the hull darned thing, an' nobody to help you but Pele
Hopkins, who don't count fer a row o' crooked pins. As fer's Dave's
concerned," asserted the speaker with a wave of his hands, "he don't
know no more about bankin' 'n a cat. He couldn't count a thousan'
dollars in an hour, an', as for addin' up a row o' figures, he couldn't
git it twice alike, I don't believe, if he was to be hung for't."

"He must understand the meaning of his own books and accounts, I should
think," remarked John.

"Oh," said Chet scornfully, "anybody c'd do that. That's easy 'nough;
but as fur 's the real bus'nis is concerned, he don't have nothin' to do
with it. It's all ben left to me: chargin' an' creditin', postin',
individule ledger, gen'ral ledger, bill-book, discount register,
tickler, for'n register, checkin' off the N'York accounts, drawin' off
statemunts f'm the ledgers an' bill-book, writin' letters--why, the'
ain't an hour 'n the day in bus'nis hours some days that the's an hour
't I ain't busy 'bout somethin'. No, sir," continued Chet, "Dave don't
give himself no trouble about the bus'nis. All he does is to look after
lendin' the money, an' seein' that it gits paid when the time comes, an'
keep track of how much money the' is here an' in N'York, an' what notes
is comin' due--an' a few things like that, that don't put pen to paper,
ner take an hour of his time. Why, a man'll come in an' want to git a
note done, an' it'll be 'All right,' or, 'Can't spare the money to-day,'
all in a minute. He don't give it no thought at all, an' he ain't 'round
here half the time. Now," said Chet, "when I work fer a man I like to
have him 'round so 't I c'n say to him: 'Shall I do it so? or shall I do
it _so_? shall I? or sha'n't I?' an' then when I make a mistake--'s
anybody's liable to--he's as much to blame 's I be."

"I suppose, then," said John, "that you must have to keep Mr. Harum's
private accounts also, seeing that he knows so little of details. I have
been told that he is interested in a good many matters besides this
business."

"Wa'al," replied Timson, somewhat disconcerted, "I suppose he must keep
'em himself in _some_ kind of a fashion, an' I don't know a thing about
any outside matters of his'n, though I suspicion he has got quite a few.
He's got some books in that safe" (pointing with his finger) "an' he's
got a safe in the vault, but if you'll believe _me_"--and the speaker
looked as if he hardly expected it--"I hain't never so much as seen the
inside of either one on 'em. No, sir," he declared, "I hain't no more
idee of what's in them safes 'n you have. He's close, Dave Harum is,"
said Chet with a convincing motion of the head; "on the hull, the
clostest man I ever see. I believe," he averred, "that if he was to lay
out to keep it shut that lightnin' might strike him square in the mouth
an' it wouldn't go in an eighth of an inch. An' yet," he added, "he c'n
talk by the rod when he takes a notion."

"Must be a difficult person to get on with," commented John dryly.

"I couldn't stan' it no longer," declared Mr. Timson with the air of one
who had endured to the end of virtue, "an' I says to him the other day,
'Wa'al,' I says, 'if I can't suit ye, mebbe you'd better suit
yourself.'"

"Ah!" said John politely, seeing that some response was expected of him;
"and what did he say to that?"

"He ast me," replied Chet, "if I meant by that to throw up the
situation. 'Wa'al,' I says 'I'm sick enough to throw up most anythin','
I says, 'along with bein' found fault with fer nothin'.'"

"And then?" queried John, who had received the impression that the
motion to adjourn had come from the other side of the house.

"Wa'al," replied Chet, not quite so confidently, "he said somethin'
about my requirin' a larger spear of action, an' that he thought I'd do
better on a mile track--some o' his hoss talk. That's another thing,"
said Timson, changing the subject. "He's all fer hosses. He'd sooner
make a ten-dollar note on a hoss trade than a hunderd right here 'n this
office. Many's the time right in bus'nis hours, when I've wanted to ask
him how he wanted somethin' done, he'd be busy talkin' hoss, an'
wouldn't pay no attention to me more'n 's if I wa'n't there."

"I am glad to feel," said John, "that you can not possibly have any
unpleasant feeling toward me, seeing that you resigned as you did."

"Cert'nly not, cert'nly not," declared Timson, a little uneasily. "If it
hadn't 'a' ben you, it would 'a' had to ben somebody else, an' now I
seen you an' had a talk with you--Wa'al, I guess I better git back into
the other room. Dave's liable to come in any minute. But," he said in
parting, "I will give ye piece of advice: You keep enough laid by to pay
your gettin' back to N'York. You may want it in a hurry," and with this
parting shot the rejected one took his leave.

       *       *       *       *       *

The bank parlor was lighted by a window and a glazed door in the rear
wall, and another window on the south side. Mr. Harum's desk was by the
rear, or west, window, which gave view of his house, standing some
hundred feet back from the street. The south, or side, window afforded a
view of his front yard and that of an adjoining dwelling, beyond which
rose the wall of a mercantile block. Business was encroaching upon
David's domain. Our friend stood looking out of the south window. To the
left a bit of Main Street was visible, and the naked branches of the
elms and maples with which it was bordered were waving defiantly at
their rivals over the way, incited thereto by a northwest wind.

We invariably form a mental picture of every unknown person of whom we
think at all. It may be so faint that we are unconscious of it at the
time, or so vivid that it is always recalled until dissipated by seeing
the person himself, or his likeness. But that we do so make a picture is
proved by the fact that upon being confronted by the real features of
the person in question we always experience a certain amount of
surprise, even when we have not been conscious of a different conception
of him.

Be that as it may, however, there was no question in John Lenox's mind
as to the identity of the person who at last came briskly into the back
office and interrupted his meditations. Rather under the middle height,
he was broad-shouldered and deep-chested, with a clean-shaven, red face,
with--not a mole--but a slight protuberance the size of half a large pea
on the line from the nostril to the corner of the mouth; bald over the
crown and to a line a couple of inches above the ear, below that thick
and somewhat bushy hair of yellowish red, showing a mingling of gray;
small but very blue eyes; a thick nose, of no classifiable shape, and a
large mouth with the lips so pressed together as to produce a slightly
downward and yet rather humorous curve at the corners. He was dressed in
a sack coat of dark "pepper-and-salt," with waistcoat and trousers to
match. A somewhat old-fashioned standing collar, flaring away from the
throat, was encircled by a red cravat, tied in a bow under his chin. A
diamond stud of perhaps two carats showed in the triangle of spotless
shirt front, and on his head was a cloth cap with ear lappets. He
accosted our friend with, "I reckon you must be Mr. Lenox. How are you?
I'm glad to see you," tugging off a thick buckskin glove, and putting
out a plump but muscular hand.

John thanked him as they shook hands, and "hoped he was well."

"Wa'al," said Mr. Harum, "I'm improvin' slowly. I've got so 'st I c'n
set up long enough to have my bed made. Come last night, I s'pose?
Anybody to the deepo to bring ye over? This time o' year once 'n a while
the' don't nobody go over for passengers."

John said that he had had no trouble. A man by the name of Robinson had
brought him and his luggage.

"E-up!" said David with a nod, backing up to the fire which was burning
in the grate of the Franklin stove, "'Dug' Robinson. 'D he do the p'lite
thing in the matter of questions an' gen'ral conversation?" he asked
with a grin. John laughed in reply to this question.

"Where'd you put up?" asked David, John said that he passed the night
at the Eagle Hotel. Mr. Harum had seen Dick Larrabee that morning and
heard what he had to say of our friend's reception, but he liked to get
his information from original sources.

"Make ye putty comf'table?" he asked, turning to eject a mouthful into
the fire.

"I got along pretty well under the circumstances," said John.

Mr. Harum did not press the inquiry. "How'd you leave the gen'ral?" he
inquired.

"He seemed to be well," replied John, "and he wished to be kindly
remembered to you."

"Fine man, the gen'ral," declared David, well pleased. "Fine man all
'round. Word's as good as his bond. Yes, sir, when the gen'ral gives his
warrant, I don't care whether I see the critter or not. Know him much?"

"He and my father were old friends, and I have known him a good many
years," replied John, adding, "he has been very kind and friendly to
me."

"Set down, set down," said Mr. Harum, pointing to a chair. Seating
himself, he took off his cap and dropped it with his gloves on the
floor. "How long you ben here in the office?" he asked.

"Perhaps half an hour," was the reply.

"I meant to have ben here when you come," said the banker, "but I got
hendered about a matter of a hoss I'm looking at. I guess I'll shut that
door," making a move toward the one into the front office.

"Allow me," said John, getting up and closing it.

"May's well shut the other one while you're about it. Thank you," as
John resumed his seat. "I hain't got nothin' very private, but I'm
'fraid of distractin' Timson's mind. Did he int'duce himself?"

"Yes," said John, "we introduced ourselves and had a few minutes
conversation."

"Gin ye his hull hist'ry an' a few relations throwed in?"

"There was hardly time for that," said John, smiling.

"Rubbed a little furn'ture polish into my char'cter an' repitation?"
insinuated Mr. Harum.

"Most of our talk was on the subject of his duties and
responsibilities," was John's reply. ("Don't cal'late to let on any
more'n he cal'lates to," thought David to himself.)

"Allowed he run the hull shebang, didn't he?"

"He seemed to have a pretty large idea of what was required of one in
his place," admitted the witness.

"Kind o' friendly, was he?" asked David.

"Well," said John, "after we had talked for a while I said to him that I
was glad to think that he could have no unpleasant feeling toward me,
seeing that he had given up the place of his own preference, and he
assured me that he had none."

David turned and looked at John for an instant, with a twinkle in his
eye. The younger man returned the look and smiled slightly. David
laughed outright.

"I guess you've seen folks before," he remarked.

"I have never met any one exactly like Mr. Timson, I think," said our
friend with a slight laugh.

"Fortunitly them kind is rare," observed Mr. Harum dryly, rising and
going to his desk, from a drawer of which he produced a couple of
cigars, one of which he proffered to John, who, for the first time in
his life, during the next half hour regretted that he was a smoker.
David sat for two or three minutes puffing diligently, and then took the
weed out of his mouth and looked contemplatively at it.

"How do you like that cigar?" he inquired.

"It burns very nicely," said the victim. Mr. Harum emitted a cough which
was like a chuckle, or a chuckle which was like a cough, and relapsed
into silence again. Presently he turned his head, looked curiously at
the young man for a moment, and then turned his glance again to the
fire.

"I've ben wonderin' some," he said, "pertic'lerly since I see you, how
't was 't you wanted to come up here to Homeville. Gen'l Wolsey gin his
warrant, an' so I reckon you hadn't ben gettin' into no scrape nor
nothin'," and again he looked sharply at the young man at his side.

"Did the general say nothing of my affairs?" the latter asked.

"No," replied David, "all 't he said was in a gen'ral way that he'd
knowed you an' your folks a good while, an' he thought you'd be jest the
feller I was lookin' fer. Mebbe he reckoned that if you wanted your
story told, you'd ruther tell it yourself."




CHAPTER XIV.


Whatever might have been John's repugnance to making a confidant of the
man whom he had known but for half an hour, he acknowledged to himself
that the other's curiosity was not only natural but proper. He could not
but know that in appearance and manner he was in marked contrast with
those whom the man had so far seen. He divined the fact that his coming
from a great city to settle down in a village town would furnish matter
for surprise and conjecture, and felt that it would be to his advantage
with the man who was to be his employer that he should be perfectly and
obviously frank upon all matters of his own which might be properly
mentioned. He had an instinctive feeling that Harum combined acuteness
and suspiciousness to a very large degree, and he had also a feeling
that the old man's confidence, once gained, would not be easily shaken.
So he told his hearer so much of his history as he thought pertinent,
and David listened without interruption or comment, save an occasional
"E-um'm."

"And here I am," John remarked in conclusion.

"Here you _be_, fer a fact," said David. "Wa'al, the's worse places 'n
Homeville--after you git used to it," he added in qualification. "I ben
back here a matter o' thirteen or fourteen year now, an' am gettin' to
feel my way 'round putty well; but not havin' ben in these parts fer
putty nigh thirty year, I found it ruther lonesome to start with, an' I
guess if it hadn't 'a' ben fer Polly I wouldn't 'a' stood it. But up to
the time I come back she hadn't never ben ten mile away f'm here in her
hull life, an' I couldn't budge her. But then," he remarked, "while
Homeville aint a metrop'lis, it's some a diff'rent place f'm what it
used to be--in some _ways_. Polly's my sister," he added by way of
explanation.

"Well," said John, with rather a rueful laugh, "if it has taken you all
that time to get used to it the outlook for me is not very encouraging,
I'm afraid."

"Wa'al," remarked Mr. Harum, "I'm apt to speak in par'bles sometimes. I
guess you'll git along after a spell, though it mayn't set fust rate on
your stomech till you git used to the diet. Say," he said after a
moment, "if you'd had a couple o' thousan' more, do you think you'd 'a'
stuck to the law bus'nis?"

"I'm sure I don't know," replied John, "but I am inclined to think not.
General Wolsey told me that if I were very anxious to go on with it he
would help me, but after what I told him he advised me to write to you."

"He did, did he?"

"Yes," said John, "and after what I had gone through I was not
altogether sorry to come away."

"Wa'al," said Mr. Harum thoughtfully, "if I was to lose what little I've
got, an' had to give up livin' in the way I was used to, an' couldn't
even keep a hoss, I c'n allow 't I might be willin' fer a change of
scene to make a fresh start in. Yes, sir, I guess I would. Wa'al,"
looking at his watch, "I've got to go now, an' I'll see ye later, mebbe.
You feel like takin' holt to-day?"

"Oh, yes," said John with alacrity.

"All right," said Mr. Harum. "You tell Timson what you want, an' make
him show you everythin'. He understands, an' I've paid him for't. He's
agreed to stay any time in reason 't you want him, but I guess," he
added with a laugh, "'t you c'n pump him dry 'n a day or two. It haint
rained wisdom an' knowlidge in his part o' the country fer a consid'able
spell."

David stood for a moment drawing on his gloves, and then, looking at
John with his characteristic chuckle, continued:

"Allowed he'd ben drawin' the hull load, did he? Wa'al, sir, the truth
on't is 't he never come to a hill yet, 'f 't wa'n't more 'n a foot
high, but what I had to git out an' push; nor never struck a turn in the
road but what I had to take him by the head an' lead him into it." With
which Mr. Harum put on his overcoat and cap and departed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Timson was leaning over the counter in animated controversy with a
man on the outside who had evidently asserted or quoted (the quotation
is the usual weapon: it has a double barb and can be wielded with
comparative safety) something of a wounding effect.

"No, sir," exclaimed Chet, with a sounding slap on the counter, "no,
sir! The' ain't one word o' truth in't. I said myself, 'I won't stan'
it,' I says, 'not f'm you ner nobody else,' I says, 'an' what's more,'
says I--" The expression in the face of Mr. Timson's tormentor caused
that gentleman to break off and look around. The man on the outside
grinned, stared at John a moment, and went out, and Timson turned and
said, as John came forward, "Hello! The old man picked ye to pieces all
he wanted to?"

"We are through for the day, I fancy," said our friend, smiling, "and if
you are ready to begin my lessons I am ready to take them. Mr. Harum
told me that you would be good enough to show me what was necessary."

"All right," said Mr. Timson readily enough, and so John began his first
day's work in David's office. He was surprised and encouraged to find
how much his experience in Rush & Company's office stood him in hand,
and managed to acquire in a comparatively short time a pretty fair
comprehension of the system which prevailed in "Harum's bank,"
notwithstanding the incessant divagations of his instructor.

It was decided between Timson and our friend that on the following day
the latter should undertake the office work under supervision, and the
next morning John was engaged upon the preliminaries of the day's
business when his employer came in and seated himself at his desk in the
back room. After a few minutes, in which he was busy with his letters,
he appeared in the doorway of the front room. He did not speak, for John
saw him, and, responding to a backward toss of the head, followed him
into the "parlor," and at an intimation of the same silent character
shut the doors. Mr. Harum sat down at his desk, and John stood awaiting
his pleasure.

"How 'd ye make out yestidy?" he asked. "Git anythin' out of old
tongue-tied?" pointing with his thumb toward the front room.

"Oh, yes," said John, smiling, as he recalled the unceasing flow of
words which had enveloped Timson's explanations.

"How much longer do you think you'll have to have him 'round?" asked Mr.
Harum.

"Well," said John, "of course your customers are strangers to me, but so
far as the routine of the office is concerned I think I can manage after
to-day. But I shall have to appeal to you rather often for a while until
I get thoroughly acquainted with my work."

"Good fer you," said David. "You've took holt a good sight quicker 'n I
thought ye would, an' I'll spend more or less time 'round here fer a
while, or be where you c'n reach me. It's like this," he continued;
"Chet's a helpless kind of critter, fer all his braggin' an' talk, an' I
ben feelin' kind o' wambly about turnin' him loose--though the Lord
knows," he said with feeling, "'t I've had bother enough with him to
kill a tree. But anyway I wrote to some folks I know up to Syrchester to
git something fer him to do, an' I got a letter to send him along, an'
mebbe they'd give him a show. See?"

"Yes, sir," said John, "and if you are willing to take the chances of my
mistakes I will undertake to get on without him."

"All right," said the banker, "we'll call it a heat--and, say, don't let
on what I've told you. I want to see how long it'll take to git all over
the village that he didn't ask no odds o' nobody. Hadn't ben out o' a
job three days 'fore the' was a lot o' chances, an' all 't he had to do
was to take his pick out o' the lot on 'em."

"Really?" said John.

"Yes, sir," said David. "Some folks is gaited that way. Amusin', ain't
it?--Hullo, Dick! Wa'al?"

"Willis'll give two hunderd fer the sorr'l colt," said the incomer, whom
John recognized as one of the loungers in the Eagle bar the night of his
arrival.

"E-um'm!" said David. "Was he speakin' of any pertic'ler colt, or sorril
colts in gen'ral? I hain't got the only one the' is, I s'pose."

Dick merely laughed. "Because," continued the owner of the "sorril
colt," "if Steve Willis wants to lay in sorril colts at two hunderd a
piece, I ain't goin' to gainsay him, but you tell him that
two-forty-nine ninety-nine won't buy the one in my barn." Dick laughed
again.

John made a move in the direction of the front room.

"Hold on a minute," said David. "Shake hands with Mr. Larrabee."

"Seen ye before," said Dick, as they shook hands. "I was in the barroom
when you come in the other night," and then he laughed as at the
recollection of something very amusing.

John flushed a little and said, a bit stiffly, "I remember you were kind
enough to help about my luggage."

"Excuse me," said Dick, conscious of the other's manner. "I wa'n't
laughin' at you, that is, not in pertic'ler. I couldn't see your face
when Ame offered ye pie an' doughnuts instid of beefsteak an' fixins. I
c'd only guess at that; but Ame's face was enough fer me," and Dick
went off into another cachinnation.

David's face indicated some annoyance. "Oh, shet up," he exclaimed.
"You'd keep that yawp o' your'n goin', I believe, if it was the judgment
day."

"Wa'al," said Dick with a grin, "I expect the' might be some fun to be
got out o' _that_, if a feller wa'n't worryin' too much about his own
skin; an' as fur's I'm concerned----" Dick's further views on the
subject of that momentous occasion were left unexplained. A significant
look in David's face caused the speaker to break off and turn toward the
door, through which came two men, the foremost a hulking, shambling
fellow, with an expression of repellent sullenness. He came forward to
within about ten feet of David's desk, while his companion halted near
the door. David eyed him in silence.

"I got this here notice this mornin'," said the man, "sayin' 't my note
'd be due to-morrer, an' 'd have to be paid."

"Wa'al," said David, with his arm over the back of his chair and his
left hand resting on his desk, "that's so, ain't it?"

"Mebbe so," was the fellow's reply, "fur 's the comin' due 's concerned,
but the payin' part 's another matter."

"Was you cal'latin' to have it renewed?" asked David, leaning a little
forward.

"No," said the man coolly, "I don't know 's I want to renew it fer any
pertic'ler time, an' I guess it c'n run along fer a while jest as 't
is." John looked at Dick Larrabee. He was watching David's face with an
expression of the utmost enjoyment. David twisted his chair a little
more to the right and out from the desk.

"You think it c'n run along, do ye?" he asked suavely. "I'm glad to have
your views on the subject. Wa'al, I guess it kin, too, until _to-morro'_
at four o'clock, an' after that you c'n settle with lawyer Johnson or
the sheriff." The man uttered a disdainful laugh.

"I guess it'll puzzle ye some to c'lect it," he said. Mr. Harum's bushy
red eyebrows met above his nose.

"Look here, Bill Montaig," he said, "I know more 'bout this matter 'n
you think for. I know 't you ben makin' your brags that you'd fix me in
this deal. You allowed that you'd set up usury in the fust place, an' if
that didn't work I'd find you was execution proof anyways. That's so,
ain't it?"

"That's about the size on't," said Montaig, putting his feet a little
farther apart. David had risen from his chair.

"You didn't talk that way," proceeded the latter, "when you come whinin'
'round here to git that money in the fust place, an' as I reckon some o'
the facts in the case has slipped out o' your mind since that time, I
guess I'd better jog your mem'ry a little."

It was plain from the expression of Mr. Montaig's countenance that his
confidence in the strength of his position was not quite so assured as
at first, but he maintained his attitude as well as in him lay.

"In the fust place," David began his assault, "_I_ didn't _lend_ ye the
money. I borr'ed it for ye on my indorsement, an' charged ye fer doin'
it, as I told ye at the time; an' another thing that you appear to
forgit is that you signed a paper statin' that you was wuth, in good and
available pusson'ls, free an' clear, over five hunderd dollars, an' that
the statement was made to me with the view of havin' me indorse your
note fer one-fifty. Rec'lect that?" David smiled grimly at the look of
disconcert which, in spite of himself, appeared in Bill's face.

"I don't remember signin' no paper," he said doggedly.

"Jest as like as not," remarked Mr. Harum. "What _you_ was thinkin' of
about that time was gittin' that _money_."

"I'd like to see that paper," said Bill, with a pretence of incredulity.

"You'll see it when the time comes," asserted David, with an emphatic
nod. He squared himself, planting his feet apart, and, thrusting his
hands deep in his coat pockets, faced the discomfited yokel.

"Do you think, Bill Montaig," he said, with measureless contempt, "that
I didn't know who I was dealin' with? that I didn't know what a
low-lived, roost-robbin' skunk you was? an' didn't know how to protect
myself agin such an'muls as you be? Wa'al, I did, an' don't you stop
thinkin' 'bout it--an'," he added, shaking his finger at the object of
his scorn, "_you'll pay that note_ or I'll put ye where the dogs won't
bite ye," and with that he turned on his heel and resumed his seat. Bill
stood for a minute with a scowl of rage and defeat in his lowering face.

"Got any further bus'nis with me?" inquired Mr. Harum. "Anythin' more 't
I c'n oblige ye about?" There was no answer.

"I asked you," said David, raising his voice and rising to his feet,
"if you had any further bus'nis with me."

"I dunno's I have," was the sullen response.

"All right," said David. "That bein' the case, an' as I've got somethin'
to do beside wastin' my time on such wuthless pups as you be, I'll thank
you to git out. There's the door," he added, pointing to it.

"He, he, he, he, ho, ho, ha, h-o-o-o-o-o!" came from the throat of Dick
Larrabee. This was too much for the exasperated Bill, and he erred (to
put it mildly) in raising his arm and advancing a step toward his
creditor. He was not swift enough to take the second, however, for
David, with amazing quickness, sprang upon him, and twisting him around,
rushed him out of the door, down the passage, and out of the front door,
which was obligingly held open by an outgoing client, who took in the
situation and gave precedence to Mr. Montaig. His companion, who so far
had taken no part, made a motion to interfere, but John, who stood
nearest to him, caught him by the collar and jerked him back, with the
suggestion that it would be better to let the two have it out by
themselves. David came back rather breathless and very red in the face,
but evidently in exceeding good humor.

"Scat my ----!" he exclaimed. "Hain't had such a good tussle I dunno
when."

"Bill's considered ruther an awk'ard customer," remarked Dick. "I guess
he hain't had no such handlin' fer quite a while."

"Sho!" exclaimed Mr. Harum. "The' ain't nothin' to him but wind an'
meanness. Who was that feller with him?"

"Name 's Smith, I believe," replied Dick. "Guess Bill brought him along
fer a witness, an' I reckon he seen all he wanted to. I'll bet _his_
neck's achin' some," added Mr. Larrabee with a laugh.

"How's that?" asked David.

"Well, he made a move to tackle you as you was escortin' Bill out, an'
Mr. Lenox there caught him in the collar an' gin him a jerk that'd 'a'
landed him on his back," said Dick, "if," turning to John, "you hadn't
helt holt of him. You putty nigh broke his neck. He went off--he, he,
he, he, ho!--wrigglin' it to make sure."

"I used more force than was necessary, I'm afraid," said Billy
Williams's pupil, "but there wasn't much time to calculate."

"Much obliged," said David with a nod.

"Not at all," protested John, laughing. "I have enjoyed a great deal
this morning."

"It _has_ ben ruther pleasant," remarked David with a chuckle, "but you
mustn't cal'late on havin' such fun ev'ry mornin'."

John went into the business office, leaving the banker and Dick.

"Say," said the latter when they were alone, "that young man o' your'n
's quite a feller. He took care o' that big Smith chap with one hand;
an' say, _you_ c'n git round on your pins 'bout 's lively 's they make
'em, I guess. I swan!" he exclaimed, slapping his thigh and shaking with
laughter, "the hull thing head-an'-shouldered any show I seen lately."
And then for a while they fell to talking of the "sorril colt" and other
things.




CHAPTER XV.


When John went back to the office after the noonday intermission it was
manifest that something had happened to Mr. Timson, and that the
something was of a nature extremely gratifying to that worthy gentleman.
He was beaming with satisfaction and rustling with importance. Several
times during the afternoon he appeared to be on the point of confiding
his news, but in the face of the interruptions which occurred, or which
he feared might check the flow of his communication, he managed to
restrain himself till after the closing of the office. But scarcely were
the shutters up (at the willing hands of Peleg Hopkins) when he turned
to John and, looking at him sharply, said, "Has Dave said anythin' 'bout
my leavin'?"

"He told me he expected you would stay as long as might be necessary to
get me well started," said John non-committally, mindful of Mr. Harum's
injunction.

"Jest like him," declared Chet. "Jest like him for all the world; but
the fact o' the matter is 't I'm goin' to-morro'. I s'pose he thought,"
reflected Mr. Timson, "thet he'd ruther you'd find it out yourself than
to have to break it to ye, 'cause then, don't ye see, after I was gone
he c'd lay the hull thing at my door."

"Really," said John, "I should have said that he ought to have told me."

"Wa'al," said Chet encouragingly, "mebbe you'll git along somehow,
though I'm 'fraid you'll have more or less trouble; but I told Dave that
as fur 's I c'd see, mebbe you'd do 's well 's most anybody he c'd git
that didn't know any o' the customers, an' hadn't never done any o' this
kind o' work before."

"Thank you very much," said John. "And so you are off to-morrow, are
you?"

"Got to be," declared Mr. Timson. "I'd 'a' liked to stay with you a
spell longer, but the's a big concern f'm out of town that as soon as
they heard I was at libe'ty wrote for me to come right along up, an' I
s'pose I hadn't ought to keep 'em waitin'."

"No, I should think not," said John, "and I congratulate you upon having
located yourself so quickly."

"Oh!" said Mr. Timson, with ineffable complacency, "I hain't give myself
no worry; I hain't lost no sleep. I've allowed all along that Dave
Harum'd find out that he wa'n't the unly man that needed my kind o'
work, an' I ain't meanin' any disrispect to you when I say 't--"

"Just so," said John. "I quite understand. Nobody could expect to take
just the place with him that you have filled. And, by the way," he
added, "as you are going in the morning, and I may not see you again,
would you kindly give me the last balance sheets of the two ledgers and
the bill-book. I suppose, of course, that they are brought down to the
first of the month, and I shall want to have them."

"Oh, yes, cert'nly, of course--wa'al I guess Dave's got 'em," replied
Chet, looking considerably disconcerted, "but I'll look 'em up in the
mornin'. My train don't go till ten o'clock, an' I'll see you 'bout any
little last thing in the mornin'--but I guess I've got to go now on
account of a lot of things. You c'n shut up, can't ye?"

Whereupon Mr. Timson made his exit, and not long afterward David came
in. By that time everything had been put away, the safe and vault
closed, and Peleg had departed with the mail and his freedom for the
rest of the day.

"Wa'al," said Mr. Harum, lifting himself to a seat on the counter,
"how've you made out? All O.K.?"

"Yes," replied John, "I think so."

"Where's Chet?"

"He went away some few minutes ago. He said he had a good many things to
attend to as he was leaving in the morning."

"E-um'm!" said David incredulously. "I guess 't won't take him long to
close up his matters. Did he leave ev'rything in good shape? Cash all
right, an' so on?"

"I think so," said John. "The cash is right I am sure."

"How 'bout the books?"

"I asked him to let me have the balance sheets, and he said that you
must have them, but that he would come in in the morning and--well, what
he said was that he would see me in the morning, and, as he put it, look
after any little last thing."

"E-um'm!" David grunted. "He won't do no such a thing. We've seen the
last of him, you bet, an' a good riddance. He'll take the nine o'clock
to-night, that's what he'll do. Drawed his pay, I guess, didn't he?"

"He said he was to be paid for this month," answered John, "and took
sixty dollars. Was that right?"

"Yes," said David, nodding his head absently. "What was it he said about
them statements?" he inquired after a moment.

"He said he guessed you must have them."

"E-um'm!" was David's comment. "What'd he say about leavin'?"

John laughed and related the conversation as exactly as he could.

"What'd I tell ye," said Mr. Harum, with a short laugh. "Mebbe he won't
go till to-morro', after all," he remarked. "He'll want to put in a
leetle more time tellin' how he was sent for in a hurry by that big
concern f'm out of town 't he's goin' to."

"Upon my word, I can't understand it," said John, "knowing that you can
contradict him."

"Wa'al," said David, "he'll allow that if he gits in the fust word,
he'll take the pole. It don't matter anyway, long 's he's gone. I guess
you an' me c'n pull the load, can't we?" and he dropped down off the
counter and started to go out. "By the way," he said, halting a moment,
"can't you come in to tea at six o'clock? I want to make ye acquainted
with Polly, an' she's itchin' to see ye."

"I shall be delighted," said John.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Polly," said David, "I've ast the young feller to come to tea, but
don't you say the word 'Eagle,' to him. You c'n show your ign'rance
'bout all the other kinds of birds an' animals you ain't familiar
with," said the unfeeling brother, "but leave eagles alone."

"What you up to now?" she asked, but she got no answer but a laugh.

From a social point of view the entertainment could not be described as
a very brilliant success. Our friend was tired and hungry. Mr. Harum was
unusually taciturn, and Mrs. Bixbee, being under her brother's interdict
as regarded the subject which, had it been allowed discussion, might
have opened the way, was at a loss for generalities. But John afterward
got upon terms of the friendliest nature with that kindly soul.




CHAPTER XVI.


Some weeks after John's assumption of his duties in the office of David
Harum, Banker, that gentleman sat reading his New York paper in the
"wing settin'-room," after tea, and Aunt Polly was occupied with the
hemming of a towel. The able editorial which David was perusing was
strengthening his conviction that all the intelligence and virtue of the
country were monopolized by the Republican party, when his meditations
were broken in upon by Mrs. Bixbee, who knew nothing and cared less
about the Force Bill or the doctrine of protection to American
industries.

"You hain't said nothin' fer quite a while about the bank," she
remarked. "Is Mr. Lenox gittin' along all right?"

"Guess he's gittin' into condition as fast as c'd be expected," said
David, between two lines of his editorial.

"It must be awful lonesome fer him," she observed, to which there was no
reply.

"Ain't it?" she asked, after an interval.

"Ain't what?" said David, looking up at her.

"Awful lonesome," she reiterated.

"Guess nobody ain't ever very lonesome when you're 'round an' got your
breath," was the reply. "What you talkin' about?"

"I ain't talkin' about you, 't any rate," said Mrs. Bixbee. "I was
sayin' it must be awful lonesome fer Mr. Lenox up here where he don't
know a soul hardly, an' livin' at that hole of a tavern."

"I don't see 't you've any cause to complain long's he don't," said
David, hoping that it would not come to his sister's ears that he had,
for reasons of his own, discouraged any attempt on John's part to better
his quarters, "an' he hain't ben very lonesome daytimes, I guess, so
fur, 'thout he's ben makin' work fer himself to kill time."

"What do you mean?"

"Wa'al," said David, "we found that Chet hadn't done more 'n to give
matters a lick an' a promise in most a year. He done just enough to keep
up the day's work an' no more an' the upshot on't is that John's had to
put in consid'able time to git things straightened out."

"What a shame!" exclaimed Aunt Polly.

"Keeps him f'm bein' lonesome," remarked her brother with a grin.

"An' he hain't had no time to himself!" she protested. "I don't believe
you've made up your mind yet whether you're goin' to like him, an' I
don't believe he'll _stay_ anyway."

"I've told more 'n forty-leven times," said Mr. Harum, looking up over
his paper, "that I thought we was goin' to make a hitch of it, an' he
cert'nly hain't said nuthin' 'bout leavin', an' I guess he won't fer a
while, tavern or no tavern. He's got a putty stiff upper lip of his own,
I reckon," David further remarked, with a short laugh, causing Mrs.
Bixbee to look up at him inquiringly, which look the speaker answered
with a nod, saying, "Me an' him had a little go-round to-day."

"You hain't had no _words_, hev ye?" she asked anxiously.

"Wa'al, we didn't have what ye might call _words_. I was jest tryin' a
little experiment with him."

"Humph," she remarked, "you're alwus tryin' exper'ments on somebody, an'
you'll be liable to git ketched at it some day."

"Exceptin' on you," said David. "You don't think I'd try any experiments
on you, do ye?"

"Me!" she cried. "You're at me the hull endurin' time, an' you know it."

"Wa'al, but Polly," said David insinuatingly, "you don't know how
int'restin' you _be_."

"Glad you think so," she declared, with a sniff and a toss of the head.
"What you ben up to with Mr. Lenox?"

"Oh, nuthin' much," replied Mr. Harum, making a feint of resuming his
reading.

"Be ye goin' to tell me, or--air ye too _'shamed_ on't?" she added with
a little laugh, which somewhat turned the tables on her teasing brother.

"Wa'al, I laid out to try an' read this paper," he said, spreading it
out on his lap, "but," resignedly, "I guess 't ain't no use. Do you know
what a count'fit bill is?" he asked.

"I dunno 's I ever see one," she said, "but I s'pose I do. They're agin
the law, ain't they?"

"The's a number o' things that's agin the law," remarked David dryly.

"Wa'al?" ejaculated Mrs. Bixbee after a moment of waiting.

"Wa'al," said David, "the' ain't much to tell, but it's plain I don't
git no peace till you git it out of me. It was like this: The young
feller's took holt everywhere else right off, but handlin' the money
bothered him consid'able at fust. It was slow work, an' I c'd see it
myself; but he's gettin' the hang on't now. Another thing I expected
he'd run up agin was count'fits. The' ain't so very many on 'em round
now-a-days, but the' is now an' then one. He allowed to me that he was
liable to get stuck at fust, an' I reckoned he would. But I never said
nuthin' about it, nor ast no questions until to-day; an' this afternoon
I come in to look 'round, an' I says to him, 'What luck have you had
with your money? Git any bad?' I says. 'Wa'al,' he says, colorin' up a
little, 'I don't know how many I may have took in an' paid out agin
without knowin' it,' he says, 'but the' was a couple sent back from New
York out o' that package that went down last Friday.'"

"'What was they?' I says.

"'A five an' a ten,' he says.

"'Where be they?' I says.

"'They're in the draw there--they're ruther int'restin' objects of
study,' he says, kind o' laughin' on the wrong side of his mouth.

"'Countin' 'em in the cash?' I says, an' with that he kind o' reddened
up agin. 'No, sir,' he says, 'I charged 'em up to my own account, an'
I've kept 'em to compare with.'

"'You hadn't ought to done that,' I says.

"'You think I ought to 'a' put 'em in the fire at once?' says he.

"'No,' I says, 'that wa'n't what I meant. Why didn't you mix 'em up with
the other money, an' let 'em go when you was payin' out? Anyways,' I
says, 'you charge 'em up to profit an' loss if you're goin' to charge
'em to anythin', an' let me have 'em,' I says.

"'What'll you do with 'em?' he says to me, kind o' shuttin' his jaws
together.

"'I'll take care on 'em,' I says. 'They mayn't be good enough to send
down to New York,' I says, 'but they'll go around here all right--jest
as good as any other,' I says, 'long 's you keep 'em movin'.'"

"David Harum!" cried Polly, who, though not quite comprehending some of
the technicalities of detail, was fully alive to the turpitude of the
suggestion. "I hope to gracious he didn't think you was in earnest. Why,
s'pose they was passed around, wouldn't somebody git stuck with 'em in
the long run? You know they would." Mrs. Bixbee occasionally surprised
her brother with unexpected penetration, but she seldom got much
recognition of it.

"I see by the paper," he remarked, "that the' was a man died in
Pheladelphy one day last week," which piece of barefaced irrelevancy
elicited no notice from Mrs. Bixbee.

"What more did he say?" she demanded.

"Wa'al," responded Mr. Harum with a laugh, "he said that he didn't see
why I should be a loser by his mistakes, an' that as fur as the bills
was concerned they belonged to him, an' with that," said the narrator,
"Mister Man gits 'em out of the draw an' jest marches into the back room
an' puts the dum things int' the fire."

"He done jest right," declared Aunt Polly, "an' you know it, don't ye
now?"

"Wa'al," said David, "f'm his standpoint--f'm his standpoint, I guess he
did, an'," rubbing his chin with two fingers of his left hand, "it's a
putty dum good standpoint too. I've ben lookin'," he added reflectively,
"fer an honest man fer quite a number o' years, an' I guess I've found
him; yes'm, I guess I've found him."

"An' be you goin' to let him lose that fifteen dollars?" asked the
practical Polly, fixing her brother with her eyes.

"Wa'al," said David, with a short laugh, "what c'n I do with such an
obst'nit critter 's he is? He jest backed into the britchin', an' I
couldn't do nothin' with him." Aunt Polly sat over her sewing for a
minute or two without taking a stitch.

"I'm sorry you done it," she said at last.

"I dunno but I did make ruther a mess of it," admitted Mr. Harum.




CHAPTER XVII.


It was the 23d of December, and shortly after the closing hour. Peleg
had departed and our friend had just locked the vault when David came
into the office and around behind the counter.

"Be you in any hurry?" he asked.

John said he was not, whereupon Mr. Harum hitched himself up onto a high
office stool, with his heels on the spindle, and leaned sideways upon
the desk, while John stood facing him with his left arm upon the desk.

"John," said David, "do ye know the Widdo' Cullom?"

"No" said John, "but I know who she is--a tall, thin woman, who walks
with a slight stoop and limp. I noticed her and asked her name because
there was something about her looks that attracted my attention--as
though at some time she might have seen better days."

"That's the party," said David. "She has seen better days, but she's eat
an' drunk sorro' mostly fer goin' on thirty year, an' darned little else
good share o' the time, I reckon."

"She has that appearance certainly," said John.

"Yes sir," said David, "she's had a putty tough time, the widdo' has,
an' yet," he proceeded after a momentary pause, "the' was a time when
the Culloms was some o' the king-pins o' this hull region. They used to
own quarter o' the county, an' they lived in the big house up on the
hill where Doc Hays lives now. That was considered to be the finest
place anywheres 'round here in them days. I used to think the Capitol to
Washington must be somethin' like the Cullom house, an' that Billy P.
(folks used to call him Billy P. 'cause his father's name was William
an' his was William Parker), an' that Billy P. 'd jest 's like 's not be
president. I've changed my mind some on the subject of presidents since
I was a boy."

Here Mr. Harum turned on his stool, put his right hand into his
sack-coat pocket, extracted therefrom part of a paper of "Maple Dew,"
and replenished his left cheek with an ample wad of "fine-cut." John
took advantage of the break to head off what he had reason to fear might
turn into a lengthy digression from the matter in hand by saying, "I beg
pardon, but how does it happen that Mrs. Cullom is in such
circumstances? Has the family all died out?"

"Wa'al," said David, "they're most on 'em dead, all on 'em, in fact,
except the widdo's son Charley, but as fur 's the family 's concerned,
it more 'n _died_ out--it _gin_ out! 'D ye ever hear of Jim Wheton's
calf? Wa'al, Jim brought three or four veals into town one spring to
sell. Dick Larrabee used to peddle meat them days. Dick looked 'em over
an' says, 'Look here, Jim,' he says, 'I guess you got a "deakin" in that
lot,' he says. 'I dunno what you mean,' says Jim. 'Yes, ye do, goll darn
ye!' says Dick, 'yes, ye do. You didn't never kill that calf, an' you
know it. That calf died, that's what that calf done. Come, now, own
up,' he says. 'Wa'al,' says Jim, 'I didn't _kill_ it, an' it didn't
_die_ nuther--it jest kind o' _gin out_.'"

John joined in the laugh with which the narrator rewarded his own
effort, and David went on: "Yes, sir, they jest petered out. Old Billy,
Billy P.'s father, inheritid all the prop'ty--never done a stroke of
work in his life. He had a collidge education, went to Europe, an' all
that', an' before he was fifty year old he hardly ever come near the old
place after he was growed up. The land was all farmed out on shares, an'
his farmers mostly bamboozled him the hull time. He got consid'able
income, of course, but as things went along and they found out how slack
he was they kept bitin' off bigger chunks all the time, an' sometimes he
didn't git even the core. But all the time when he wanted money--an' he
wanted it putty often I tell ye--the easiest way was to stick on a
morgidge; an' after a spell it got so 't he'd have to give a morgidge to
pay the int'rist on the other morgidges."

"But," said John, "was there nothing to the estate but land?"

"Oh, yes," said David, "old Billy's father left him some consid'able
pers'nal, but after that was gone he went into the morgidge bus'nis as I
tell ye. He lived mostly up to Syrchester and around, an' when he got
married he bought a place in Syrchester and lived there till Billy P.
was about twelve or thirteen year old, an' he was about fifty. By that
time he'd got 'bout to the end of his rope, an' the' wa'n't nothin' for
it but to come back here to Homeville an' make the most o' what the' was
left--an' that's what he done, let alone that he didn't make the most
on't to any pertic'ler extent. Mis' Cullom, his wife, wa'n't no help to
him. She was a city woman an' didn't take to the country no way, but
when she died it broke old Billy up wus 'n ever. She peaked an' pined,
an' died when Billy P. was about fifteen or so. Wa'al, Billy P. an' the
old man wrastled along somehow, an' the boy went to collidge fer a year
or so. How they ever got along 's they did I dunno. The' was a story
that some far-off relation left old Billy some money, an' I guess that
an' what they got off'm what farms was left carried 'em along till Billy
P. was twenty-five or so, an' then he up an' got married. That was the
crownin' stroke," remarked David. "She was one o' the village
girls--respectable folks, more 'n ordinary good lookin' an' high
steppin', an' had had some schoolin'. But the old man was prouder 'n a
cock-turkey, an' thought nobody wa'n't quite good enough fer Billy P.,
an' all along kind o' reckoned that he'd marry some money an' git a new
start. But when he got married--on the quiet, you know, cause he knowed
the old man would kick--wa'al, that killed the trick, an' the old man
into the bargain. It took the gumption all out of him, an' he didn't
live a year. Wa'al, sir, it was curious, but, 's I was told, putty much
the hull village sided with the old man. The Culloms was kind o' kings
in them days, an' folks wa'n't so one-man's-good's-anotherish as they be
now. They thought Billy P. done wrong, though they didn't have nothin'
to say 'gainst the girl neither--an' she's very much respected, Mis'
Cullom is, an' as fur's I'm concerned, I've alwus guessed she kept Billy
P. goin' full as long 's any one could. But 't wa'n't no use--that is
to say, the sure thing come to pass. He had a nom'nal title to a good
deal o' prop'ty, but the equity in most on't if it had ben to be put up
wa'n't enough to pay fer the papers. You see, the' ain't never ben no
real cash value in farm prop'ty in these parts. The' ain't ben hardly a
dozen changes in farm titles, 'cept by inher'tance or foreclosure, in
thirty years. So Billy P. didn't make no effort. Int'rist's one o' them
things that keeps right on nights an' Sundays. He jest had the deeds
made out and handed 'em over when the time came to settle. The' was some
village lots though that was clear, that fetched him in some money from
time to time until they was all gone but one, an' that's the one Mis'
Cullom lives on now. It was consid'able more'n a lot--in fact, a putty
sizable place. She thought the sun rose an' set where Billy P. was, but
she took a crotchit in her head, and wouldn't ever sign no papers fer
that, an' lucky fer him too. The' was a house on to it, an' he had a
roof over his head anyway when he died six or seven years after he
married, an' left her with a boy to raise. How she got along all them
years till Charley got big enough to help, I swan! I don't know. She
took in sewin' an' washin', an' went out to cook an' nurse, an' all
that, but I reckon the' was now an' then times when they didn't overload
their stomechs much, nor have to open the winders to cool off. But she
held onto that prop'ty of her'n like a pup to a root. It was putty well
out when Billy P. died, but the village has growed up to it. The's some
good lots could be cut out on't, an' it backs up to the river where the
current's enough to make a mighty good power fer a 'lectric light. I
know some fellers that are talkin' of startin' a plant here, an' it
ain't out o' sight that they'd pay a good price fer the river front, an'
enough land to build on. Fact on't is, it's got to be a putty valu'ble
piece o' prop'ty, more 'n she cal'lates on, I reckon."

Here Mr. Harum paused, pinching his chin with thumb and index finger,
and mumbling his tobacco. John, who had listened with more attention
than interest--wondering the while as to what the narrative was leading
up to--thought something might properly be expected of him to show that
he had followed it, and said, "So Mrs. Cullom has kept this last piece
clear, has she?"

"No," said David, bringing down his right hand upon the desk with
emphasis, "that's jest what she hain't done, an' that's how I come to
tell ye somethin' of the story, an' more on't 'n you've cared about
hearin', mebbe."

"Not at all," John protested. "I have been very much interested."

"You have, have you?" said Mr. Harum. "Wa'al, I got somethin' I want ye
to do. Day after to-morro' 's Chris'mus, an' I want ye to drop Mis'
Cullom a line, somethin' like this, 'That Mr. Harum told ye to say that
that morgidge he holds, havin' ben past due fer some time, an' no
int'rist havin' ben paid fer, let me see, more'n a year, he wants to
close the matter up, an' he'll see her Chris'mus mornin' at the bank at
nine o'clock, he havin' more time on that day; but that, as fur as he
can see, the bus'nis won't take very long'--somethin' like that, you
understand?"

"Very well, sir," said John, hoping that his employer would not see in
his face the disgust and repugnance he felt as he surmised what a
scheme was on foot, and recalled what he had heard of Harum's hard and
unscrupulous ways, though he had to admit that this, excepting perhaps
the episode of the counterfeit money, was the first revelation to him
personally. But this seemed very bad to him.

"All right," said David cheerfully, "I s'pose it won't take you long to
find out what's in your stockin', an' if you hain't nothin' else to do
Chris'mus mornin' I'd like to have you open the office and stay 'round a
spell till I git through with Mis' Cullom. Mebbe the' 'll be some papers
to fill out or witniss or somethin'; an' have that skeezicks of a boy
make up the fires so'st the place'll be warm."

"Very good, sir," said John, hoping that the interview was at an end.

But the elder man sat for some minutes apparently in a brown study, and
occasionally a smile of sardonic cunning wrinkled his face. At last he
said: "I've told ye so much that I may as well tell ye how I come by
that morgidge. 'Twont take but a minute, an' then you can run an' play,"
he added with a chuckle.

"I trust I have not betrayed any impatience," said John, and instantly
conscious of his infelicitous expression, added hastily, "I have really
been very much interested."

"Oh, no," was the reply, "you hain't _betrayed_ none, but I know old
fellers like me gen'rally tell a thing twice over while they're at it.
Wa'al," he went on, "it was like this. After Charley Cullom got to be
some grown he helped to keep the pot a-bilin', 'n they got on some
better. 'Bout seven year ago, though, he up an' got married, an' then
the fat ketched fire. Finally he allowed that if he had some money he'd
go West 'n take up some land, 'n git along like pussly 'n a flower
gard'n. He ambitioned that if his mother 'd raise a thousan' dollars on
her place he'd be sure to take care of the int'rist, an' prob'ly pay off
the princ'ple in almost no time. Wa'al, she done it, an' off he went.
She didn't come to me fer the money, because--I dunno--at any rate she
didn't, but got it of 'Zeke Swinney.

"Wa'al, it turned out jest 's any fool might 've predilictid, fer after
the first year, when I reckon he paid it out of the thousan', Charley
never paid no int'rist. The second year he was jest gettin' goin', an'
the next year he lost a hoss jest as he was cal'latin' to pay, an' the
next year the grasshoppers smote him, 'n so on; an' the outcome was that
at the end of five years, when the morgidge had one year to run,
Charley'd paid one year, an' she'd paid one, an' she stood to owe three
years' int'rist. How old Swinney come to hold off so was that she used
to pay the cuss ten dollars or so ev'ry six months 'n git no credit fer
it, an' no receipt an' no witniss, 'n he knowed the prop'ty was
improving all the time. He may have had another reason, but at any rate
he let her run, and got the shave reg'lar. But at the time I'm tellin'
you about he'd begun to cut up, an' allowed that if she didn't settle up
the int'rist he'd foreclose, an' I got wind on't an' I run across her
one day an' got to talkin' with her, an' she gin me the hull narration.
'How much do you owe the old critter?' I says. 'A hunderd an' eighty
dollars,' she says, 'an' where I'm goin' to git it,' she says, 'the Lord
only knows.' 'An' He won't tell ye, I reckon,' I says. Wa'al, of course
I'd known that Swinney had a morgidge because it was a matter of record,
an' I knowed him well enough to give a guess what his game was goin' to
be, an' more'n that I'd had my eye on that piece an' parcel an' I
figured that he wa'n't any likelier a citizen 'n I was." ("Yes," said
John to himself, "where the carcase is the vultures are gathered
together.")

"'Wa'al,' I says to her, after we'd had a little more talk, 's'posen you
come 'round to my place to-morro' 'bout 'leven o'clock, an' mebbe we c'n
cipher this thing out. I don't say positive that we kin,' I says, 'but
mebbe, mebbe.' So that afternoon I sent over to the county seat an' got
a description an' had a second morgidge drawed up fer two hundred
dollars, an' Mis' Cullom signed it mighty quick. I had the morgidge made
one day after date, 'cause, as I said to her, it was in the nature of a
temp'rary loan, but she was so tickled she'd have signed most anythin'
at that pertic'ler time. 'Now,' I says to her, 'you go an' settle with
old Step-an'-fetch-it, but don't you say a word where you got the
money,' I says. 'Don't ye let on nothin'--stretch that conscience o'
your'n if nes'sary,' I says, 'an' be pertic'ler if he asks you if Dave
Harum give ye the money you jest say, "No, he didn't." That wont be no
lie,' I says, 'because I aint _givin'_ it to ye,' I says. Wa'al, she
done as I told her. Of course Swinney suspicioned fust off that I was
mixed up in it, but she stood him off so fair an' square that he didn't
know jest what _to_ think, but his claws was cut fer a spell, anyway.

"Wa'al, things went on fer a while, till I made up my mind that I ought
to relieve Swinney of some of his anxieties about worldly bus'nis, an'
I dropped in on him one mornin' an' passed the time o' day, an' after
we'd eased up our minds on the subjects of each other's health an' such
like I says, 'You hold a morgidge on the Widder Cullom's place, don't
ye?' Of course he couldn't say nothin' but 'yes.' 'Does she keep up the
int'rist all right?' I says. 'I don't want to be pokin' my nose into
your bus'nis,' I says, 'an' don't tell me nothin' you don't want to.'
Wa'al, he knowed Dave Harum was Dave Harum, an' that he might 's well
spit it out, an' he says, 'Wa'al, she didn't pay nothin' fer a good
while, but last time she forked over the hull amount. 'But I hain't no
notion,' he says, 'that she'll come to time agin.' 'An' s'posin' she
don't,' I says, 'you'll take the prop'ty, won't ye?' 'Don't see no other
way,' he says, an' lookin' up quick, 'unless you over-bid me,' he says.
'No,' I says, 'I ain't buyin' no real estate jest now, but the thing I
come in fer,' I says, 'leavin' out the pleasure of havin' a talk with
you, was to say that I'd take that morgidge off'm your hands.'

"Wa'al, sir, he, he, he, he! Scat my ----! At that he looked at me fer a
minute with his jaw on his neck, an' then he hunched himself, 'n drawed
in his neck like a mud turtle. 'No,' he says, 'I ain't sufferin' fer the
money, an' I guess I'll keep the morgidge. It's putty near due now, but
mebbe I'll let it run a spell. I guess the secur'ty's good fer it.'
'Yes,' I says, 'I reckon you'll let it run long enough fer the widder to
pay the taxes on't once more anyhow; I guess the secur'ty's good enough
to take that resk; but how 'bout _my_ secur'ty?' I says. 'What d'you
mean?' he says. 'I mean,' says I, 'that I've got a second morgidge on
that prop'ty, an' I begin to tremble fer my secur'ty. You've jest told
me,' I says, 'that you're goin' to foreclose an' I cal'late to protect
myself, an' I _don't_ cal'late,' I says, 'to have to go an' bid on that
prop'ty, an' put in a lot more money to save my investment, unless I'm
'bleeged to--not _much_! an' you can jest sign that morgidge over to me,
an' the sooner the quicker,' I says."

David brought his hand down on his thigh with a vigorous slap, the
fellow of the one which, John could imagine, had emphasized his demand
upon Swinney. The story, to which he had at first listened with polite
patience merely, he had found more interesting as it went on, and,
excusing himself, he brought up a stool, and mounting it, said, "And
what did Swinney say to that?" Mr. Harum emitted a gurgling chuckle,
yawned his quid out of his mouth, tossing it over his shoulder in the
general direction of the waste basket, and bit off the end of a cigar
which he found by slapping his waistcoat pockets. John got down and
fetched him a match, which he scratched in the vicinity of his hip
pocket, lighted his cigar (John declining to join him on some plausible
pretext, having on a previous occasion accepted one of the brand), and
after rolling it around with his lips and tongue to the effect that the
lighted end described sundry eccentric curves, located it firmly with an
upward angle in the left-hand corner of his mouth, gave it a couple of
vigorous puffs, and replied to John's question.

"Wa'al, 'Zeke Swinney was a perfesser of religion some years ago, an'
mebbe he is now, but what he said to me on this pertic'ler occasion was
that he'd see me in hell fust, an' _then_ he wouldn't.

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'mebbe you won't, mebbe you will, it's alwus a
pleasure to meet ye,' I says, 'but in that case this morgidge bus'nis
'll be a question fer our executors,' I says, 'fer _you_ don't never
foreclose that morgidge, an' don't you fergit it,' I says.

"'Oh, you'd like to git holt o' that prop'ty yourself. I see what you're
up to,' he says.

"'Look a-here, 'Zeke Swinney,' I says, 'I've got an int'rist in that
prop'ty, an' I propose to p'tect it. You're goin' to sign that morgidge
over to me, or I'll foreclose and surrygate ye,' I says, 'unless you
allow to bid in the prop'ty, in which case we'll see whose weasel-skin's
the longest. But I guess it won't come to that,' I says. 'You kin take
your choice,' I says. 'Whether I want to git holt o' that prop'ty myself
ain't neither here nor there. Mebbe I do, an' mebbe I don't, but
anyways,' I says, '_you_ don't git it, nor wouldn't ever, for if I can't
make you sign over, I'll either do what I said or I'll back the widder
in a defence fer usury. Put that in your pipe an' smoke it,' I says.

"'What do you mean?' he says, gittin' half out his chair.

"'I mean this,' I says, 'that the fust six months the widder couldn't
pay she gin you ten dollars to hold off, an' the next time she gin you
fifteen, an' that you've bled her fer shaves to the tune of sixty odd
dollars in three years, an' then got your int'rist in full.'

"That riz him clean out of his chair," said David. "'She can't prove
it,' he says, shakin' his fist in the air.

"'Oh, ho! ho!' I says, tippin' my chair back agin the wall. 'If Mis'
Cullom was to swear how an' where she paid you the money, givin'
chapter an' verse, and showin' her own mem'randums even, an' I was to
swear that when I twitted you with gittin' it you didn't deny it, but
only said that she couldn't _prove_ it, how long do you think it 'ould
take a Freeland County jury to find agin ye? I allow, 'Zeke Swinney,' I
says, 'that you wa'n't born yestyd'y, but you ain't so old as you look,
not by a dum sight!' an' then how I did laugh!

"Wa'al," said David, as he got down off the stool and stretched himself,
yawning, "I guess I've yarned it enough fer one day. Don't fergit to
send Mis' Cullom that notice, an' make it up an' up. I'm goin' to git
the thing off my mind this trip."

"Very well, sir," said John, "but let me ask, did Swinney assign the
mortgage without any trouble?"

"O Lord! yes," was the reply. "The' wa'n't nothin' else fer him to do. I
had another twist on him that I hain't mentioned. But he put up a great
show of doin' it to obleege me. Wa'al, I thanked him an' so on, an' when
we'd got through I ast him if he wouldn't step over to the 'Eagil' an'
take somethin', an' he looked kind o' shocked an' said he never drinked
nothin'. It was 'gin his princ'ples, he said. Ho, ho, ho, ho! Scat my
----! Princ'ples!" and John heard him chuckling to himself all the way
out of the office.




CHAPTER XVIII.


Considering John's relations with David Harum, it was natural that he
should wish to think as well of him as possible, and he had not (or
thought he had not) allowed his mind to be influenced by the disparaging
remarks and insinuations which had been made to him, or in his presence,
concerning his employer. He had made up his mind to form his opinion
upon his own experience with the man, and so far it had not only been
pleasant but favorable, and far from justifying the half-jeering,
half-malicious talk that had come to his ears. It had been made manifest
to him, it was true, that David was capable of a sharp bargain in
certain lines, but it seemed to him that it was more for the pleasure of
matching his wits against another's than for any gain involved. Mr.
Harum was an experienced and expert horseman, who delighted above all
things in dealing in and trading horses, and John soon discovered that,
in that community at least, to get the best of a "hoss-trade" by almost
any means was considered a venial sin, if a sin at all, and the
standards of ordinary business probity were not expected to govern those
transactions.

David had said to him once when he suspected that John's ideas might
have sustained something of a shock, "A hoss-trade ain't like anythin'
else. A feller may be straighter 'n a string in ev'rythin' else, an'
never tell the truth--that is, the hull truth--about a hoss. I trade
hosses with hoss-traders. They all think they know as much as I do, an'
I dunno but what they do. They hain't learnt no diff'rent anyway, an'
they've had chances enough. If a feller come to me that didn't think he
knowed anythin' about a hoss, an' wanted to buy on the square, he'd git,
fur's I knew, square treatment. At any rate I'd tell him all 't I knew.
But when one o' them smart Alecks comes along and cal'lates to do up old
Dave, why he's got to take his chances, that's all. An' mind ye,"
asserted David, shaking his forefinger impressively, "it ain't only them
fellers. I've ben wuss stuck two three time by church members in good
standin' than anybody I ever dealed with. Take old Deakin Perkins. He's
a terrible feller fer church bus'nis; c'n pray an' psalm-sing to beat
the Jews, an' in spiritual matters c'n read his title clear the hull
time, but when it comes to hoss-tradin' you got to git up very early in
the mornin' or he'll skin the eyeteeth out of ye. Yes, sir! Scat my
----! I believe the old critter _makes_ hosses! But the deakin," added
David, "he, he, he, he! the deakin hain't hardly spoke to me fer some
consid'able time, the deakin hain't. He, he, he!

"Another thing," he went on, "the' ain't no gamble like a hoss. You may
think you know him through an' through, an' fust thing you know he'll be
cuttin' up a lot o' didos right out o' nothin'. It stands to reason that
sometimes you let a hoss go all on the square--as you know him--an' the
feller that gits him don't know how to hitch him or treat him, an' he
acts like a diff'rent hoss, an' the feller allows you swindled him. You
see, hosses gits used to places an' ways to a certain extent, an' when
they're changed, why they're apt to act diff'rent. Hosses don't know but
dreadful little, really. Talk about hoss sense--wa'al, the' ain't no
such thing."

Thus spoke David on the subject of his favorite pursuit and pastime, and
John thought then that he could understand and condone some things he
had seen and heard, at which at first he was inclined to look askance.
But this matter of the Widow Cullom's was a different thing, and as he
realized that he was expected to play a part, though a small one, in it,
his heart sank within him that he had so far cast his fortunes upon the
good will of a man who could plan and carry out so heartless and cruel
an undertaking as that which had been revealed to him that afternoon. He
spent the evening in his room trying to read, but the widow's affairs
persistently thrust themselves upon his thoughts. All the unpleasant
stories he had heard of David came to his mind, and he remembered with
misgiving some things which at the time had seemed regular and right
enough, but which took on a different color in the light in which he
found himself recalling them. He debated with himself whether he should
not decline to send Mrs. Cullom the notice as he had been instructed,
and left it an open question when he went to bed.

He wakened somewhat earlier than usual to find that the thermometer had
gone up, and the barometer down. The air was full of a steady downpour,
half snow, half rain, about the most disheartening combination which the
worst climate in the world--that of central New York--can furnish. He
passed rather a busy day in the office in an atmosphere redolent of the
unsavory odors raised by the proximity of wet boots and garments to the
big cylinder stove outside the counter, a compound of stale smells from
kitchen and stable.

After the bank closed he dispatched Peleg Hopkins, the office boy, with
the note for Mrs. Cullom. He had abandoned his half-formed intention to
revolt, but had made the note not only as little peremptory as was
compatible with a clear intimation of its purport as he understood it,
but had yielded to a natural impulse in beginning it with an expression
of personal regret--a blunder which cost him no little chagrin in the
outcome.

Peleg Hopkins grumbled audibly when he was requested to build the fires
on Christmas day, and expressed his opinion that "if there warn't Bible
agin workin' on Chris'mus, the' 'd ort ter be"; but when John opened the
door of the bank that morning he found the temperature in comfortable
contrast to the outside air. The weather had changed again, and a
blinding snowstorm, accompanied by a buffeting gale from the northwest,
made it almost impossible to see a path and to keep it. In the central
part of the town some tentative efforts had been made to open walks, but
these were apparent only as slight and tortuous depressions in the
depths of snow. In the outskirts, the unfortunate pedestrian had to wade
to the knees.

As John went behind the counter his eye was at once caught by a small
parcel lying on his desk, of white note paper, tied with a cotton
string, which he found to be addressed, "Mr. John Lenox, Esq., Present,"
and as he took it up it seemed heavy for its size.

Opening it, he found a tiny stocking, knit of white wool, to which was
pinned a piece of paper with the legend, "A Merry Christmas from Aunt
Polly." Out of the stocking fell a packet fastened with a rubber strap.
Inside were five ten-dollar gold pieces and a slip of paper on which was
written, "A Merry Christmas from Your Friend David Harum." For a moment
John's face burned, and there was a curious smarting of the eyelids as
he held the little stocking and its contents in his hand. Surely the
hand that had written "Your Friend" on that scrap of paper could not be
the hand of an oppressor of widows and orphans. "This," said John to
himself, "is what he meant when 'he supposed it wouldn't take me long to
find out what was in my stocking.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

The door opened and a blast and whirl of wind and snow rushed in,
ushering the tall, bent form of the Widow Cullom. The drive of the wind
was so strong that John vaulted over the low cash counter to push the
door shut again. The poor woman was white with snow from the front of
her old worsted hood to the bottom of her ragged skirt.

"You are Mrs. Cullom?" said John. "Wait a moment till I brush off the
snow, and then come to the fire in the back room. Mr. Harum will be in
directly, I expect."

"Be I much late?" she asked. "I made 's much haste 's I could. It don't
appear to me 's if I ever see a blusteriner day, 'n I ain't as strong
as I used to be. Seemed as if I never would git here."

"Oh, no," said John, as he established her before the glowing grate of
the Franklin stove in the bank parlor, "not at all. Mr. Harum has not
come in himself yet. Shall you mind if I excuse myself a moment while
you make yourself as comfortable as possible?" She did not apparently
hear him. She was trembling from head to foot with cold and fatigue and
nervous excitement. Her dress was soaked to the knees, and as she sat
down and put up her feet to the fire John saw a bit of a thin cotton
stocking and her deplorable shoes, almost in a state of pulp. A
snow-obliterated path led from the back door of the office to David's
house, and John snatched his hat and started for it on a run. As he
stamped off some of the snow on the veranda the door was opened for him
by Mrs. Bixbee. "Lord sakes!" she exclaimed. "What on earth be you
cavortin' 'round for such a mornin' 's this without no overcoat, an' on
a dead run? What's the matter?"

"Nothing serious," he answered, "but I'm in a great hurry. Old Mrs.
Cullom has walked up from her house to the office, and she is wet
through and almost perished. I thought you'd send her some dry shoes and
stockings, and an old shawl or blanket to keep her wet skirt off her
knees, and a drop of whisky or something. She's all of a tremble, and
I'm afraid she will have a chill."

"Certain! certain!" said the kind creature, and she bustled out of the
room, returning in a minute or two with an armful of comforts. "There's
a pair of bedroom slips lined with lamb's wool, an' a pair of woolen
stockin's, an' a blanket shawl. This here petticut, 't ain't what ye'd
call bran' new, but it's warm and comf'table, an' I don't believe she's
got much of anythin' on 'ceptin' her dress, an' I'll git ye the whisky,
but"--here she looked deprecatingly at John--"it ain't gen'ally known 't
we keep the stuff in the house. I don't know as it's right, but though
David don't hardly ever touch it he will have it in the house."

"Oh," said John, laughing, "you may trust my discretion, and we'll swear
Mrs. Cullom to secrecy."

"Wa'al, all right," said Mrs. Bixbee, joining in the laugh as she
brought the bottle; "jest a minute till I make a passel of the things to
keep the snow out. There, now, I guess you're fixed, an' you kin hurry
back 'fore she ketches a chill."

"Thanks very much," said John as he started away. "I have something to
say to you besides 'Merry Christmas,' but I must wait till another
time."

When John got back to the office David had just preceded him.

"Wa'al, wa'al," he was saying, "but you be in a putty consid'able state.
Hullo, John! what you got there? Wa'al, you air the stuff! Slips,
blanket-shawl, petticut, stockin's--wa'al, you an' Polly ben puttin'
your heads together, I guess. What's that? Whisky! Wa'al, scat my ----!
I didn't s'pose wild hosses would have drawed it out o' Polly to let on
the' was any in the house, much less to fetch it out. Jest the thing!
Oh, yes ye are, Mis' Cullom--jest a mouthful with water," taking the
glass from John, "jest a spoonful to git your blood a-goin', an' then
Mr. Lenox an' me 'll go into the front room while you make yourself
comf'table."

"Consarn it all!" exclaimed Mr. Harum as they stood leaning against the
teller's counter, facing the street, "I didn't cal'late to have Mis'
Cullom hoof it up here the way she done. When I see what kind of a day
it was I went out to the barn to have the cutter hitched an' send for
her, an' I found ev'rythin' topsy-turvy. That dum'd uneasy sorril colt
had got cast in the stall, an' I ben fussin' with him ever since. I
clean forgot all 'bout Mis' Cullom till jest now."

"Is the colt much injured?" John asked.

"Wa'al, he won't trot a twenty gait in some time, I reckon," replied
David. "He's wrenched his shoulder some, an' mebbe strained his inside.
Don't seem to take no int'rist in his feed, an' that's a bad sign.
Consarn a hoss, anyhow! If they're wuth anythin' they're more bother 'n
a teethin' baby. Alwus some dum thing ailin' 'em, an' I took consid'able
stock in that colt too," he added regretfully, "an' I could 'a' got
putty near what I was askin' fer him last week, an' putty near what he
was wuth, an' I've noticed that most gen'ally alwus when I let a good
offer go like that, some cussed thing happens to the hoss. It ain't a
bad idee, in the hoss bus'nis anyway, to be willin' to let the other
feller make a dollar once 'n a while."

After that aphorism they waited in silence for a few minutes, and then
David called out over his shoulder, "How be you gettin' along, Mis'
Cullom?"

"I guess I'm fixed," she answered, and David walked slowly back into the
parlor, leaving John in the front office. He was annoyed to realize
that in the bustle over Mrs. Cullom and what followed, he had forgotten
to acknowledge the Christmas gift; but, hoping that Mr. Harum had been
equally oblivious, promised himself to repair the omission later on. He
would have preferred to go out and leave the two to settle their affair
without witness or hearer, but his employer, who, as he had found,
usually had a reason for his actions, had explicitly requested him to
remain, and he had no choice. He perched himself upon one of the office
stools and composed himself to await the conclusion of the affair.




CHAPTER XIX.


Mrs. Cullom was sitting at one corner of the fire, and David drew a
chair opposite to her.

"Feelin' all right now? whisky hain't made ye liable to no disorderly
conduct, has it?" he asked with a laugh.

"Yes, thank you," was the reply, "the warm things are real comfortin',
'n' I guess I hain't had licker enough to make me want to throw things.
You got a kind streak in ye, Dave Harum, if you did send me this here
note--but I s'pose ye know your own bus'nis," she added with a sigh of
resignation. "I ben fearin' fer a good while 't I couldn't hold on t'
that prop'ty, an' I don't know but what you might's well git it as 'Zeke
Swinney, though I ben hopin' 'gainst hope that Charley 'd be able to do
more 'n he has."

"Let's see the note," said David curtly. "H'm, humph, 'regret to say
that I have been instructed by Mr. Harum'--wa'al, h'm'm, cal'lated to
clear his own skirts anyway--h'm'm--'must be closed up without further
delay' (John's eye caught the little white stocking which still lay on
his desk)--wa'al, yes, that's about what I told Mr. Lenox to say fur's
the bus'nis part's concerned--I might 'a' done my own regrettin' if I'd
wrote the note myself." (John said something to himself.) "'T ain't the
pleasantest thing in the world fer ye, I allow, but then you see,
bus'nis is bus'nis."

John heard David clear his throat, and there was a hiss in the open
fire. Mrs. Cullom was silent, and David resumed:

"You see, Mis' Cullom, it's like this. I ben thinkin' of this matter fer
a good while. That place ain't ben no real good to ye sence the first
year you signed that morgidge. You hain't scurcely more'n made ends
meet, let alone the int'rist, an' it's ben simply a question o' time,
an' who'd git the prop'ty in the long run fer some years. I reckoned,
same as you did, that Charley 'd mebbe come to the front--but he hain't
done it, an' 't ain't likely he ever will. Charley's a likely 'nough boy
some ways, but he hain't got much 'git there' in his make-up, not more'n
enough fer one anyhow, I reckon. That's about the size on't, ain't it?"

Mrs. Cullom murmured a feeble admission that she was "'fraid it was."

"Wa'al," resumed Mr. Harum, "I see how things was goin', an' I see that
unless I played euchre, 'Zeke Swinney 'd git that prop'ty, an' whether I
wanted it myself or not, I didn't cal'late he sh'd git it anyway. He put
a spoke in my wheel once, an' I hain't forgot it. But that hain't
neither here nor there. Wa'al," after a short pause, "you know I helped
ye pull the thing along on the chance, as ye may say, that you an' your
son 'd somehow make a go on't."

"You ben very kind, so fur," said the widow faintly.

"Don't ye say that, don't ye say that," protested David. "'T wa'n't no
kindness. It was jest bus'nis: I wa'n't takin' no chances, an' I s'pose
I might let the thing run a spell longer if I c'd see any use in't. But
the' ain't, an' so I ast ye to come up this mornin' so 't we c'd settle
the thing up without no fuss, nor trouble, nor lawyer's fees, nor
nothin'. I've got the papers all drawed, an' John--Mr. Lenox--here to
take the acknowlidgments. You hain't no objection to windin' the thing
up this mornin', have ye?"

"I s'pose I'll have to do whatever you say," replied the poor woman in a
tone of hopeless discouragement, "an' I might as well be killed to once,
as to die by inch pieces."

"All right then," said David cheerfully, ignoring her lethal suggestion,
"but before we git down to bus'nis an' signin' papers, an' in order to
set myself in as fair a light 's I can in the matter, I want to tell ye
a little story."

"I hain't no objection 's I know of," acquiesced the widow graciously.

"All right," said David, "I won't preach more 'n about up to the
sixthly--How'd you feel if I was to light up a cigar? I hain't much of a
hand at a yarn, an' if I git stuck, I c'n puff a spell. Thank ye. Wa'al,
Mis' Cullom, you used to know somethin' about my folks. I was raised on
Buxton Hill. The' was nine on us, an' I was the youngest o' the lot. My
father farmed a piece of about forty to fifty acres, an' had a small
shop where he done odd times small jobs of tinkerin' fer the neighbors
when the' was anythin' to do. My mother was his second, an' I was the
only child of that marriage. He married agin when I was about two year
old, an' how I ever got raised 's more 'n I c'n tell ye. My sister Polly
was 'sponsible more 'n any one, I guess, an' the only one o' the whole
lot that ever gin me a decent word. Small farmin' ain't cal'lated to
fetch out the best traits of human nature--an' keep 'em out--an' it
seems to me sometimes that when the old man wa'n't cuffin' my ears he
was lickin' me with a rawhide or a strap. Fur 's that was concerned, all
his boys used to ketch it putty reg'lar till they got too big. One on
'em up an' licked him one night, an' lit out next day. I s'pose the old
man's disposition was sp'iled by what some feller said farmin' was,
'workin' all day, an' doin' chores all night,' an' larrupin' me an' all
the rest on us was about all the enjoyment he got. My brothers an'
sisters--'ceptin' of Polly--was putty nigh as bad in respect of cuffs
an' such like; an' my step-marm was, on the hull, the wust of all. She
hadn't no childern o' her own, an' it appeared 's if I was jest pizen to
her. 'T wa'n't so much slappin' an' cuffin' with her as 't was tongue.
She c'd say things that 'd jest raise a blister like pizen ivy. I s'pose
I _was_ about as ord'nary, no-account-lookin', red-headed, freckled
little cuss as you ever see, an' slinkin' in my manners. The air of our
home circle wa'n't cal'lated to raise heroes in.

"I got three four years' schoolin', an' made out to read an' write an'
cipher up to long division 'fore I got through, but after I got to be
six year old, school or no school, I had to work reg'lar at anything I
had strength fer, an' more too. Chores before school an' after school,
an' a two-mile walk to git there. As fur 's clo'es was concerned, any
old thing that 'd hang together was good enough fer me; but by the time
the older boys had outgrowed their duds, an' they was passed on to me,
the' wa'n't much left on 'em. A pair of old cowhide boots that leaked
in more snow an' water 'n they kept out, an' a couple pairs of woolen
socks that was putty much all darns, was expected to see me through the
winter, an' I went barefoot f'm the time the snow was off the ground
till it flew agin in the fall. The' wa'n't but two seasons o' the year
with me--them of chilblains an' stun-bruises."

The speaker paused and stared for a moment into the comfortable glow of
the fire, and then discovering to his apparent surprise that his cigar
had gone out, lighted it from a coal picked out with the tongs.

"Farmin' 's a hard life," remarked Mrs. Cullom with an air of being
expected to make some contribution to the conversation.

"An' yit, as it seems to me as I look back on't," David resumed
pensively, "the wust on't was that nobody ever gin me a kind word, 'cept
Polly. I s'pose I got kind o' used to bein' cold an' tired; dressin' in
a snowdrift where it blowed into the attic, an' goin' out to fodder
cattle 'fore sun-up; pickin' up stun in the blazin' sun, an' doin' all
the odd jobs my father set me to, an' the older ones shirked onto me.
That was the reg'lar order o' things; but I remember I never _did_ git
used to never pleasin' nobody. 'Course I didn't expect nothin' f'm my
step-marm, an' the only way I ever knowed I'd done my stent fur 's
father was concerned, was that he didn't say nothin'. But sometimes the
older ones 'd git settin' 'round, talkin' an' laughin', havin' pop corn
an' apples, an' that, an' I'd kind o' sidle up, wantin' to join 'em, an'
some on 'em 'd say, 'What _you_ doin' here? time you was in bed,' an'
give me a shove or a cuff. Yes, ma'am," looking up at Mrs. Cullom, "the
wust on't was that I was kind o' scairt the hull time. Once in a while
Polly 'd give me a mossel o' comfort, but Polly wa'n't but little older
'n me, an' bein' the youngest girl, was chored most to death herself."

It had stopped snowing, and though the wind still came in gusty blasts,
whirling the drift against the windows, a wintry gleam of sunshine came
in and touched the widow's wrinkled face.

"It's amazin' how much trouble an' sorrer the' is in the world, an' how
soon it begins," she remarked, moving a little to avoid the sunlight. "I
hain't never ben able to reconcile how many good things the' be, an' how
little most on us gits o' them. I hain't ben to meetin' fer a long spell
'cause I hain't had no fit clo'es, but I remember most of the preachin'
I've set under either dwelt on the wrath to come, or else on the Lord's
doin' all things well, an' providin'. I hope I ain't no wickeder 'n than
the gen'ral run, but it's putty hard to hev faith in the Lord's
providin' when you hain't got nothin' in the house but corn meal, an'
none too much o' that."

"That's so, Mis' Cullom, that's so," affirmed David. "I don't blame ye a
mite. 'Doubts assail, an' oft prevail,' as the hymn-book says, an' I
reckon it's a sight easier to have faith on meat an' potatoes 'n it is
on corn meal mush. Wa'al, as I was sayin'--I hope I ain't tirin' ye with
my goin's on?"

"No," said Mrs. Cullom, "I'm engaged to hear ye, but nobody 'd suppose
to see ye now that ye was such a f'lorn little critter as you make out."

"It's jest as I'm tellin' ye, an' more also, as the Bible says,"
returned David, and then, rather more impressively, as if he were
leading up to his conclusion, "it come along to a time when I was 'twixt
thirteen an' fourteen. The' was a cirkis billed to show down here in
Homeville, an' ev'ry barn an' shed fer miles around had pictures stuck
onto 'em of el'phants, an' rhinoceroses, an' ev'ry animul that went into
the ark; an' girls ridin' bareback an' jumpin' through hoops, an'
fellers ridin' bareback an' turnin' summersets, an' doin' turnovers on
swings; an' clowns gettin' hoss-whipped, an' ev'ry kind of a thing that
could be pictered out; an' how the' was to be a grand percession at ten
o'clock, 'ith golden chariots, an' scripteral allegories, an' the hull
bus'nis; an' the gran' performance at two o'clock; admission twenty-five
cents, children under twelve, at cetery, an' so forth. Wa'al, I hadn't
no more idee o' goin' to that cirkis 'n I had o' flyin' to the moon, but
the night before the show somethin' waked me 'bout twelve o'clock. I
don't know how 't was. I'd ben helpin' mend fence all day, an' gen'ally
I never knowed nothin' after my head struck the bed till mornin'. But
that night, anyhow, somethin' waked me, an' I went an' looked out the
windo', an' there was the hull thing goin' by the house. The' was more
or less moon, an' I see the el'phant, an' the big wagins--the drivers
kind o' noddin' over the dashboards--an' the chariots with canvas
covers--I don't know how many of 'em--an' the cages of the tigers an'
lions, an' all. Wa'al, I got up the next mornin' at sun-up an' done my
chores; an' after breakfust I set off fer the ten-acre lot where I was
mendin' fence. The ten-acre was the farthest off of any, Homeville way,
an' I had my dinner in a tin pail so't I needn't lose no time goin'
home at noon, an', as luck would have it, the' wa'n't nobody with me
that mornin'. Wa'al, I got down to the lot an' set to work; but somehow
I couldn't git that show out o' my head nohow. As I said, I hadn't no
more notion of goin' to that cirkis 'n I had of kingdom come. I'd never
had two shillin' of my own in my hull life. But the more I thought on't
the uneasier I got. Somethin' seemed pullin' an' haulin' at me, an'
fin'ly I gin in. I allowed I'd see that percession anyway if it took a
leg, an' mebbe I c'd git back 'ithout nobody missin' me. 'T any rate,
I'd take the chances of a lickin' jest once--fer that's what it
meant--an' I up an' put fer the village lickity-cut. I done them four
mile lively, I c'n tell ye, an' the stun-bruises never hurt me once.

"When I got down to the village it seemed to me as if the hull
population of Freeland County was there. I'd never seen so many folks
together in my life, an' fer a spell it seemed to me as if ev'rybody was
a-lookin' at me an' sayin', 'That's old Harum's boy Dave, playin'
hookey,' an' I sneaked 'round dreadin' somebody 'd give me away; but I
fin'ly found that nobody wa'n't payin' any attention to me--they was
there to see the show, an' one red-headed boy more or less wa'n't no
pertic'ler account. Wa'al, putty soon the percession hove in sight, an'
the' was a reg'lar stampede among the boys, an' when it got by, I run
an' ketched up with it agin, an' walked alongside the el'phant, tin pail
an' all, till they fetched up inside the tent. Then I went off to one
side--it must 'a' ben about 'leven or half-past, an' eat my dinner--I
had a devourin' appetite--an' thought I'd jest walk round a spell, an'
then light out fer home. But the' was so many things to see an'
hear--all the side-show pictures of Fat Women, an' Livin' Skelitons; an'
Wild Women of Madygasker, an' Wild Men of Borneo; an' snakes windin'
round women's necks; hand-orgins; fellers that played the 'cordion, an'
mouth-pipes, an' drum an' cymbals all to once, an' such like--that I
fergot all about the time an' the ten-acre lot, an' the stun fence, an'
fust I knowed the folks was makin' fer the ticket wagin, an' the band
begun to play inside the tent. Be I taxin' your patience over the
limit?" said David, breaking off in his story and addressing Mrs. Cullom
more directly.

"No, I guess not," she replied; "I was jest thinkin' of a circus I went
to once," she added with an audible sigh.

"Wa'al," said David, taking a last farewell of the end of his cigar,
which he threw into the grate, "mebbe what's comin' 'll int'rest ye more
'n the rest on't has. I was standin' gawpin' 'round, list'nin' to the
band an' watchin' the folks git their tickets, when all of a suddin I
felt a twitch at my hair--it had a way of workin' out of the holes in my
old chip straw hat--an' somebody says to me, 'Wa'al, sonny, what you
thinkin' of?' he says. I looked up, an' who do you s'pose it was? It was
Billy P. Cullom! I knowed who he was, fer I'd seen him before, but of
course he didn't know me. Yes, ma'am, it was Billy P., an' wa'n't he
rigged out to kill!"

The speaker paused and looked into the fire, smiling. The woman started
forward facing him, and clasping her hands, cried, "My husband! What'd
he have on?"

"Wa'al," said David slowly and reminiscently, "near's I c'n remember, he
had on a blue broad-cloth claw-hammer coat with flat gilt buttons, an'
a double-breasted plaid velvet vest, an' pearl-gray pants, strapped down
over his boots, which was of shiny leather, an' a high pointed collar
an' blue stock with a pin in it (I remember wonderin' if it c'd be real
gold), an' a yeller-white plug beaver hat."

At the description of each article of attire Mrs. Cullom nodded her
head, with her eyes fixed on David's face, and as he concluded she broke
out breathlessly, "Oh, yes! Oh, yes! David, he wore them very same
clo'es, an' he took me to that very same show that very same night!"
There was in her face a look almost of awe, as if a sight of her
long-buried past youth had been shown to her from a coffin.

Neither spoke for a moment or two, and it was the widow who broke the
silence. As David had conjectured, she was interested at last, and sat
leaning forward with her hands clasped in her lap.

"Well," she exclaimed, "ain't ye goin' on? What did he say to ye?"

"Cert'nly, cert'nly," responded David, "I'll tell ye near 's I c'n
remember, an' I c'n remember putty near. As I told ye, I felt a twitch
at my hair, an' he said, 'What be you thinkin' about, sonny?' I looked
up at him, an' looked away quick. 'I dunno,' I says, diggin' my big toe
into the dust; an' then, I dunno how I got the spunk to, for I was shyer
'n a rat, 'Guess I was thinkin' 'bout mendin' that fence up in the
ten-acre lot's much's anythin',' I says.

"'Ain't you goin' to the cirkis?' he says.

"'I hain't got no money to go to cirkises,' I says, rubbin' the dusty
toes o' one foot over t' other, 'nor nothin' else,' I says.

"'Wa'al,' he says, 'why don't you crawl under the canvas?'

"That kind o' riled me, shy 's I was. 'I don't crawl under no canvases,'
I says. 'If I can't go in same 's other folks, I'll stay out,' I says,
lookin' square at him fer the fust time. He wa'n't exac'ly smilin', but
the' was a look in his eyes that was the next thing to it."

"Lordy me!" sighed Mrs. Cullom, as if to herself. "How well I can
remember that look; jest as if he was laughin' at ye, an' wa'n't
laughin' at ye, an' his arm around your neck!"

David nodded in reminiscent sympathy, and rubbed his bald poll with the
back of his hand.

"Wa'al," interjected the widow.

"Wa'al," said David, resuming, "he says to me, 'Would you like to go to
the cirkis?' an' with that it occurred to me that I did want to go to
that cirkis more'n anythin' I ever wanted to before--nor since, it seems
to me. But I tell ye the truth, I was so far f'm expectin' to go't I
really hadn't knowed I wanted to. I looked at him, an' then down agin,
an' began tenderin' up a stun-bruise on one heel agin the other instep,
an' all I says was, bein' so dum'd shy, 'I dunno,' I says. But I guess
he seen in my face what my feelin's was, fer he kind o' laughed an'
pulled out half-a-dollar an' says: 'D' you think you could git a couple
o' tickits in that crowd? If you kin, I think I'll go myself, but I
don't want to git my boots all dust,' he says. I allowed I c'd try; an'
I guess them bare feet o' mine tore up the dust some gettin' over to the
wagin. Wa'al, I had another scare gettin' the tickits, fer fear some one
that knowed me 'd see me with a half-a-dollar, an' think I must 'a'
stole the money. But I got 'em an' carried 'em back to him, an' he took
'em an' put 'em in his vest pocket, an' handed me a ten-cent piece, an'
says, 'Mebbe you'll want somethin' in the way of refreshments fer
yourself an' mebbe the el'phant,' he says, an' walked off toward the
tent; an' I stood stun still, lookin' after him. He got off about a rod
or so an' stopped an' looked back. 'Ain't you comin'?' he says.

"'Be I goin' with _you_?" I says.

"'Why not?' he says, ''nless you'd ruther go alone,' an' he put his
finger an' thumb into his vest pocket. Wa'al, ma'am, I looked at him a
minute, with his shiny hat an' boots, an' fine clo'es, an' gold pin, an'
thought of my ragged ole shirt, an' cotton pants, an' ole chip hat with
the brim most gone, an' my tin pail an' all. 'I ain't fit to,' I says,
ready to cry--an'--wa'al, he jest laughed, an' says, 'Nonsense,' he
says, 'come along. A man needn't be ashamed of his workin' clo'es,' he
says, an' I'm dum'd if he didn't take holt of my hand, an' in we went
that way together."

"How like him that was!" said the widow softly.

"Yes, ma'am, yes, ma'am, I reckon it was," said David, nodding.

"Wa'al," he went on after a little pause, "I was ready to sink into the
ground with shyniss at fust, but that wore off some after a little, an'
we two seen the hull show, I _tell_ ye. We walked 'round the cages, an'
we fed the el'phant--that is, he bought the stuff an' I fed him. I
'member--he, he, he!--'t he says, 'mind you git the right end,' he says,
an' then we got a couple o' seats, an' the doin's begun."




CHAPTER XX.


The widow was looking at David with shining eyes and devouring his
words. All the years of trouble and sorrow and privation were wiped out,
and she was back in the days of her girlhood. Ah, yes! how well she
remembered him as he looked that very day--so handsome, so splendidly
dressed, so debonair; and how proud she had been to sit by his side that
night, observed and envied of all the village girls.

"I ain't goin' to go over the hull show," proceeded David, "well 's I
remember it. The' didn't nothin' git away from me that afternoon, an'
once I come near to stickin' a piece o' gingerbread into my ear 'stid o'
my mouth. I had my ten-cent piece that Billy P. give me, but he wouldn't
let me buy nothin'; an' when the gingerbread man come along he says,
'Air ye hungry, Dave? (I'd told him my name), air ye hungry?' Wa'al, I
was a growin' boy, an' I was hungry putty much all the time. He bought
two big squares an' gin me one, an' when I'd swallered it, he says,
'Guess you better tackle this one too,' he says, 'I've dined.' I didn't
exac'ly know what 'dined' meant, but--he, he, he, he!--I tackled it,"
and David smacked his lips in memory.

"Wa'al," he went on, "we done the hull programmy--gingerbread,
lemonade--_pink_ lemonade, an' he took some o' that--pop corn, peanuts,
pep'mint candy, cin'mun candy--scat my ----! an' he payin' fer
ev'rythin'--I thought he was jest made o' money! An' I remember how we
talked about all the doin's; the ridin', an' jumpin', an' summersettin',
an' all--fer he'd got all the shyniss out of me for the time--an' once I
looked up at him, an' he looked down at me with that curious look in his
eyes an' put his hand on my shoulder. Wa'al, now, I tell ye, I had a
queer, crinkly feelin' go up an' down my back, an' I like to up an'
cried."

"Dave," said the widow, "I kin see you two as if you was settin' there
front of me. He was alwus like that. Oh, my! Oh, my! David," she added
solemnly, while two tears rolled slowly down her wrinkled face, "we
lived together, husban' an' wife, fer seven year, an' he never give me a
cross word."

"I don't doubt it a mossel," said David simply, leaning over and poking
the fire, which operation kept his face out of her sight and was
prolonged rather unduly. Finally he straightened up and, blowing his
nose as it were a trumpet, said:

"Wa'al, the cirkis fin'ly come to an end, an' the crowd hustled to git
out 's if they was afraid the tent 'd come down on 'em. I got kind o'
mixed up in 'em, an' somebody tried to git my tin pail, or I thought he
did, an' the upshot was that I lost sight o' Billy P., an' couldn't make
out to ketch a glimpse of him nowhere. An' _then_ I kind o' come down to
earth, kerchug! It was five o'clock, an' I had better 'n four mile to
walk--mostly up hill--an' if I knowed anything 'bout the old man, an' I
thought I _did_, I had the all-firedist lickin' ahead of me 't I'd ever
got, an' that was sayin' a good deal. But, boy 's I was, I had grit
enough to allow 't was wuth it, an' off I put."

"Did he lick ye much?" inqured Mrs. Cullom anxiously.

"Wa'al," replied David, "he done his best. He was layin' fer me when I
struck the front gate--I knowed it wa'n't no use to try the back door,
an' he took me by the ear--most pulled it off--an' marched me off to the
barn shed without a word. I never see him so mad. Seemed like he
couldn't speak fer a while, but fin'ly he says, 'Where you ben all day?'

"'Down t' the village,' I says.

"'What you ben up to down there?' he says.

"'Went to the cirkis,' I says, thinkin' I might 's well make a clean
breast on't.

"'Where 'd you git the money?' he says.

"'Mr. Cullom took me,' I says.

"'You lie,' he says. 'You stole the money somewheres, an' I'll trounce
it out of ye, if I kill ye,' he says.

"Wa'al," said David, twisting his shoulders in recollection, "I won't
harrer up your feelin's. 'S I told you, he done his best. I was willin'
to quit long 'fore he was. Fact was, he overdone it a little, an' he had
to throw water in my face 'fore he got through; an' he done that as
thorough as the other thing. I was somethin' like a chickin jest out o'
the cistern. I crawled off to bed the best I could, but I didn't lay on
my back fer a good spell, I c'n tell ye."

"You poor little critter," exclaimed Mrs. Cullom sympathetically. "You
poor little critter!"

"'T was more'n wuth it, Mis' Cullom," said David emphatically. "I'd had
the most enjoy'ble day, I might say the only enjoy'ble day, 't I'd ever
had in my hull life, an' I hain't never fergot it. I got over the
lickin' in course of time, but I've ben enjoyin' that cirkis fer forty
year. The' wa'n't but one thing to hender, an' that's this, that I
hain't never ben able to remember--an' to this day I lay awake nights
tryin' to--that I said 'Thank ye' to Billy P., an' I never seen him
after that day."

"How's that?" asked Mrs. Cullom.

"Wa'al," was the reply, "that day was the turnin' point with me. The
next night I lit out with what duds I c'd git together, an' as much grub
's I could pack in that tin pail; an' the next time I see the old house
on Buxton Hill the' hadn't ben no Harums in it fer years."

Here David rose from his chair, yawned and stretched himself, and stood
with his back to the fire. The widow looked up anxiously into his face.
"Is that all?" she asked after a while.

"Wa'al, it is an' it ain't. I've got through yarnin' about Dave Harum at
any rate, an' mebbe we'd better have a little confab on your matters,
seein' 't I've got you 'way up here such a mornin' 's this. I gen'ally
do bus'nis fust an' talkin' afterward," he added, "but I kind o' got to
goin' an' kept on this time."

He put his hand into the breast pocket of his coat and took out three
papers, which he shuffled in review as if to verify their identity, and
then held them in one hand, tapping them softly upon the palm of the
other, as if at a loss how to begin. The widow sat with her eyes
fastened upon the papers, trembling with nervous apprehension.
Presently he broke the silence.

"About this here morgidge o' your'n," he said, "I sent ye word that I
wanted to close the matter up, an' seein' 't you're here an' come fer
that purpose, I guess we'd better make a job on't. The' ain't no time
like the present, as the sayin' is."

"I s'pose it'll hev to be as you say," said the widow in a shaking
voice.

"Mis' Cullom," said David solemnly, "_you_ know, an' I know, that I've
got the repitation of bein' a hard, graspin', schemin' man. Mebbe I be.
Mebbe I've ben hard done by all my hull life, an' have had to be; an'
mebbe, now 't I've got ahead some, it's got to be second nature, an' I
can't seem to help it. 'Bus'nis is bus'nis' ain't part of the golden
rule, I allow, but the way it gen'ally runs, fur 's I've found out, is,
'Do unto the other feller the way he'd like to do unto you, an' do it
fust.' But, if you want to keep this thing a-runnin' as it's goin' on
now fer a spell longer, say one year, or two, or even three, you may,
only I've got somethin' to say to ye 'fore ye elect."

"Wa'al," said the poor woman, "I expect it 'd only be pilin' up wrath
agin' the day o' wrath. I can't pay the int'rist now without starvin',
an' I hain't got no one to bid in the prop'ty fer me if it was to be
sold."

"Mis' Cullom," said David, "I said I'd got somethin' more to tell ye,
an' if, when I git through, you don't think I've treated you right,
includin' this mornin's confab, I hope you'll fergive me. It's this, an'
I'm the only person livin' that 's knowin' to it, an' in fact I may say
that I'm the only person that ever was really knowin' to it. It was
before you was married, an' I'm sure he never told ye, fer I don't doubt
he fergot all about it, but your husband, Billy P. Cullom, that was,
made a small investment once on a time, yes, ma'am, he did, an' in his
kind of careless way it jest slipped his mind. The amount of cap'tal he
put in wa'n't large, but the rate of int'rist was uncommon high. Now, he
never drawed no dividends on't, an' they've ben 'cumulatin' fer forty
year, more or less, at compound int'rist."

The widow started forward, as if to rise from her seat. David put his
hand out gently and said, "Jest a minute, Mis' Cullom, jest a minute,
till I git through. Part o' that cap'tal," he resumed, "consistin' of a
quarter an' some odd cents, was invested in the cirkis bus'nis, an' the
rest on't--the cap'tal, an' all the cash cap'tal that I started in
bus'nis with--was the ten cents your husband give me that day, an'
here," said David, striking the papers in his left hand with the back of
his right, "_here_ is the _dividends_! This here second morgidge, not
bein' on record, may jest as well go onto the fire--it's gettin'
low--an' here's a satisfaction piece which I'm goin' to execute now,
that'll clear the thousan' dollar one. Come in here, John," he called
out.

The widow stared at David for a moment speechless, but as the
significance of his words dawned upon her, the blood flushed darkly in
her face. She sprang to her feet and, throwing up her arms, cried out:
"My Lord! My Lord! Dave! Dave Harum! Is it true?--tell me it's true! You
ain't foolin' me, air ye, Dave? You wouldn't fool a poor old woman that
never done ye no harm, nor said a mean word agin ye, would ye? Is it
true? an' is my place clear? an' I don't owe nobody anythin'--I mean, no
money? Tell it agin. Oh, tell it agin! Oh, Dave! it's too good to be
true! Oh! Oh! Oh, _my_! an' here I be cryin' like a great baby, an',
an'"--fumbling in her pocket--"I do believe I hain't got no
hank'chif--Oh, thank ye," to John; "I'll do it up an' send it back
to-morrer. Oh, what made ye do it, Dave?"

"Set right down an' take it easy, Mis' Cullom," said David soothingly,
putting his hands on her shoulders and gently pushing her back into her
chair. "Set right down an' take it easy.--Yes," to John, "I acknowledge
that I signed that."

He turned to the widow, who sat wiping her eyes with John's
handkerchief.

"Yes, ma'am," he said, "It's as true as anythin' kin be. I wouldn't no
more fool ye, ye know I wouldn't, don't ye? than I'd--jerk a hoss," he
asseverated. "Your place is clear now, an' by this time to-morro' the'
won't be the scratch of a pen agin it. I'll send the satisfaction over
fer record fust thing in the mornin'."

"But, Dave," protested the widow, "I s'pose ye know what you're
doin'--?"

"Yes," he interposed, "I cal'late I do, putty near. You ast me why I
done it, an' I'll tell ye if ye want to know. I'm payin' off an old
score, an' gettin' off cheap, too. That's what I'm doin'! I thought I'd
hinted up to it putty plain, seein' 't I've talked till my jaws ache;
but I'll sum it up to ye if you like."

He stood with his feet aggressively wide apart, one hand in his
trousers pocket, and holding in the other the "morgidge," which he waved
from time to time in emphasis.

"You c'n estimate, I reckon," he began, "what kind of a bringin'-up I
had, an' what a poor, mis'able, God-fersaken, scairt-to-death little
forlorn critter I was; put upon, an' snubbed, an' jawed at till I'd come
to believe myself--what was rubbed into me the hull time--that I was the
most all-'round no-account animul that was ever made out o' dust, an'
wa'n't ever likely to be no diff'rent. Lookin' back, it seems to me
that--exceptin' of Polly--I never had a kind word said to me, nor a
day's fun. Your husband, Billy P. Cullom, was the fust man that ever
treated me human up to that time. He give me the only enjoy'ble time 't
I'd ever had, an' I don't know 't anythin' 's ever equaled it since. He
spent money on me, an' he give me money to spend--that had never had a
cent to call my own--_an'_, Mis' Cullom, he took me by the hand, an' he
talked to me, an' he gin me the fust notion 't I'd ever had that mebbe I
wa'n't only the scum o' the earth, as I'd ben teached to believe. I told
ye that that day was the turnin' point of my life. Wa'al, it wa'n't the
lickin' I got, though that had somethin' to do with it, but I'd never
have had the spunk to run away's I did if it hadn't ben for the
heartenin' Billy P. gin me, an' never knowed it, an' never knowed it,"
he repeated mournfully. "I alwus allowed to pay some o' that debt back
to him, but seein' 's I can't do that, Mis' Cullom, I'm glad an'
thankful to pay it to his widdo'."

"Mebbe he knows, Dave," said Mrs. Cullom softly.

"Mebbe he does," assented David in a low voice.

Neither spoke for a time, and then the widow said: "David, I can't thank
ye 's I ought ter--I don't know how--but I'll pray for ye night an'
mornin' 's long 's I got breath. An', Dave," she added humbly, "I want
to take back what I said about the Lord's providin'."

She sat a moment, lost in her thoughts, and then exclaimed, "Oh, it
don't seem 's if I c'd wait to write to Charley!"

"I've wrote to Charley," said David, "an' told him to sell out there an'
come home, an' to draw on me fer any balance he needed to move him. I've
got somethin' in my eye that'll be easier an' better payin' than
fightin' grasshoppers an' drought in Kansas."

"Dave Harum!" cried the widow, rising to her feet, "you ought to 'a' ben
a king!"

"Wa'al," said David with a grin, "I don't know much about the kingin'
bus'nis, but I guess a cloth cap 'n' a hoss whip 's more 'n my line than
a crown an' scepter. An' now," he added, "'s we've got through 'th our
bus'nis, s'pose you step over to the house an' see Polly. She's
expectin' on ye to dinner. Oh, yes," replying to the look of deprecation
in her face as she viewed her shabby frock, "you an' Polly c'n prink up
some if you want to, but we can't take 'No' fer an answer Chris'mus day,
clo'es or no clo'es."

"I'd really like ter," said Mrs. Cullom.

"All right then," said David cheerfully. "The path is swep' by this
time, I guess, an' I'll see ye later. Oh, by the way," he exclaimed,
"the's somethin' I fergot. I want to make you a proposition, ruther an
onusual one, but seein' ev'rythin' is as 't is, perhaps you'll consider
it."

"Dave," declared the widow, "if I could, an' you ast for it, I'd give ye
anythin' on the face o' this mortal globe!"

"Wa'al," said David, nodding and smiling, "I thought that mebbe, long 's
you got the int'rist of that investment we ben talkin' about, you'd let
me keep what's left of the princ'pal. Would ye like to see it?"

Mrs. Cullom looked at him with a puzzled expression without replying.

David took from his pocket a large wallet, secured by a strap, and,
opening it, extracted something enveloped in much faded brown paper.
Unfolding this, he displayed upon his broad fat palm an old silver dime
black with age.

"There's the cap'tal," he said.




CHAPTER XXI.


John walked to the front door with Mrs. Cullom, but she declined with
such evident sincerity his offer to carry her bundle to the house that
he let her out of the office and returned to the back room. David was
sitting before the fire, leaning back in his chair with his hands thrust
deep in his trousers pockets. He looked up as John entered and said,
"Draw up a chair."

John brought a chair and stood by the side of it while he said, "I want
to thank you for the Christmas remembrance, which pleased and touched me
very deeply; and," he added diffidently, "I want to say how mortified I
am--in fact, I want to apologize for--"

"Regrettin'?" interrupted David with a motion of his hand toward the
chair and a smile of great amusement. "Sho, sho! Se' down, se' down.
I'm glad you found somethin' in your stockin' if it pleased ye, an' as
fur's that regret o' your'n was concerned--wa'al--wa'al, I liked ye all
the better for't, I did fer a fact. He, he, he! Appearances was ruther
agin me, wasn't they, the way I told it."

"Nevertheless," said John, seating himself, "I ought not to have--that
is to say, I ought to have known--"

"How could ye," David broke in, "When I as good as told ye I was
cal'latin' to rob the old lady? He, he, he, he! Scat my ----! Your face
was a picture when I told ye to write that note, though I reckon you
didn't know I noticed it."

John laughed and said, "You have been very generous all through, Mr.
Harum."

"Nothin' to brag on," he replied, "nothin' to brag on. Fur 's Mis'
Cullom's matter was concerned, 't was as I said, jest payin' off an old
score; an' as fur 's your stockin', it's really putty much the same.
I'll allow you've earned it, if it'll set any easier on your stomach."

"I can't say that I have been overworked," said John with a slight
laugh.

"Mebbe not," rejoined David, "but you hain't ben overpaid neither, an' I
want ye to be satisfied. Fact is," he continued, "my gettin' you up here
was putty consid'able of an experiment, but I ben watchin' ye putty
close, an' I'm more'n satisfied. Mebbe Timson c'd beat ye at figurin'
an' countin' money when you fust come, an' knowed more about the
pertic'ler points of the office, but outside of that he was the biggist
dumb-head I ever see, an' you know how he left things. He hadn't no
tack, fer one thing. Outside of summin' up figures an' countin' money he
had a faculty fer gettin' things t'other-end to that beat all. I'd tell
him a thing, an' explain it to him two three times over, an' he'd say
'Yes, yes,' an', scat my ----! when it came to carryin' on't out, he
hadn't sensed it a mite--jest got it which-end-t'other. An talk! Wa'al,
I think it must 'a' ben a kind of disease with him. He really didn't
mean no harm, mebbe, but he couldn't no more help lettin' out anythin'
he knowed, or thought he knowed, than a settin' hen c'n help settin'.
He kep' me on tenter-hooks the hull endurin' time."

"I should say he was honest enough, was he not?" said John.

"Oh, yes," replied David with a touch of scorn, "he was honest enough
fur 's money matters was concerned; but he hadn't no tack, nor no sense,
an' many a time he done more mischief with his gibble-gabble than if
he'd took fifty dollars out an' out. Fact is," said David, "the kind of
honesty that won't actually steal 's a kind of fool honesty that's
common enough; but the kind that keeps a feller's mouth shut when he
hadn't ought to talk 's about the scurcest thing goin'. I'll jest tell
ye, fer example, the last mess he made. You know Purse, that keeps the
gen'ral store? Wa'al, he come to me some months ago, on the quiet, an'
said that he wanted to borro' five hunderd. He didn't want to git no
indorser, but he'd show me his books an' give me a statement an' a
chattel morgidge fer six months. He didn't want nobody to know 't he was
anyway pushed fer money because he wanted to git some extensions, an' so
on. I made up my mind it was all right, an' I done it. Wa'al, about a
month or so after he come to me with tears in his eyes, as ye might say,
an' says, 'I got somethin' I want to show ye,' an' handed out a letter
from the house in New York he had some of his biggist dealin's with,
tellin' him that they regretted"--here David gave John a nudge--"that
they couldn't give him the extensions he ast for, an' that his paper
must be paid as it fell due--some twelve hunderd dollars. 'Somebody 's
leaked,' he says, 'an' they've heard of that morgidge, an' I'm in a
putty scrape,' he says.

"'H'm'm,' I says, 'what makes ye think so?'

"'Can't be nothin' else,' he says; 'I've dealt with them people fer
years an' never ast fer nothin' but what I got it, an' now to have 'em
round up on me like this, it can't be nothin' but what they've got wind
o' that chattel morgidge,' he says.

"'H'm'm,' I says. 'Any o' their people ben up here lately?' I says.

"'That's jest it,' he says. 'One o' their travellin' men was up here
last week, an' he come in in the afternoon as chipper as you please,
wantin' to sell me a bill o' goods, an' I put him off, sayin' that I had
a putty big stock, an' so on, an' he said he'd see me agin in the
mornin'--you know that sort of talk,' he says.

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'did he come in?'

"'No,' says Purse, 'he didn't. I never set eyes on him agin, an' more'n
that,' he says, 'he took the first train in the mornin', an' now,' he
says, 'I expect I'll have ev'ry last man I owe anythin' to buzzin'
'round my ears.'

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'I guess I see about how the land lays, an' I reckon
you ain't fur out about the morgidge bein' at the bottom on't, an' the'
ain't no way it c'd 'a' leaked out 'ceptin' through that dum'd
chuckle-head of a Timson. But this is the way it looks to me--you hain't
heard nothin' in the village, have ye?' I says.

"'No,' he says. 'Not _yit_,' he says.

"'Wa'al, ye won't, I don't believe,' I says, 'an' as fur as that drummer
is concerned, you c'n bet,' I says, 'that he didn't nor won't let on to
nobody but his own folks--not till _his_ bus'nis is squared up, an'
more 'n that,' I says, 'seein' that your trouble 's ben made ye by one
o' my help, I don't see but what I'll have to see ye through,' I says.
'You jest give me the address of the New York parties, an' tell me what
you want done, an' I reckon I c'n fix the thing so 't they won't bother
ye. I don't believe,' I says, 'that anybody else knows anythin' yet, an'
I'll shut up Timson's yawp so 's it'll stay shut.'"

"How did the matter come out?" asked John, "and what did Purse say?"

"Oh," replied David, "Purse went off head up an' tail up. He said he was
everlastin'ly obliged to me, an'--he, he, he!--he said 't was more 'n he
expected. You see I charged him what I thought was right on the 'rig'nal
deal, an' he squimmidged some, an' I reckon he allowed to be putty well
bled if I took holt agin; but I done as I agreed on the extension
bus'nis, an' I'm on his paper for twelve hunderd fer nothin', jest
because that nikum-noddy of a Timson let that drummer bamboozle him into
talkin'. I found out the hull thing, an' the very day I wrote to the New
York fellers fer Purse, I wrote to Gen'ral Wolsey to find me somebody to
take Timson's place. I allowed I'd ruther have somebody that didn't know
nobody, than such a clackin' ole he-hen as Chet."

"I should have said that it was rather a hazardous thing to do," said
John, "to put a total stranger like me into what is rather a
confidential position, as well as a responsible one."

"Wa'al," said David, "in the fust place I knew that the Gen'ral wouldn't
recommend no dead-beat nor no skin, an' I allowed that if the raw
material was O.K., I could break it in; an' if it wa'n't I should find
it out putty quick. Like a young hoss," he remarked, "if he's sound an'
kind, an' got gumption, I'd sooner break him in myself 'n not--fur's my
use goes--an' if I can't, nobody can, an' I get rid on him. You
understand?"

"Yes," said John with a smile.

"Wa'al," continued David, "I liked your letter, an' when you come I
liked your looks. Of course I couldn't tell jest how you'd take holt,
nor if you an' me 'd hitch. An' then agin, I didn't know whether you
could stan' it here after livin' in a city all your life. I watched ye
putty close--closter 'n you knowed of, I guess. I seen right off that
you was goin' to fill your collar, fur's the work was concerned, an'
though you didn't know nobody much, an' couldn't have no amusement to
speak on, you didn't mope nor sulk, an' what's more--though I know I
advised ye to stay there fer a spell longer when you spoke about
boardin' somewhere else--I know what the Eagle tavern is in winter;
summer, too, fer that matter, though it's a little better then, an' I
allowed that air test 'd be final. He, he, he! Putty rough, ain't it?"

"It is, rather," said John, laughing. "I'm afraid my endurance is pretty
well at an end. Elright's wife is ill, and the fact is, that since day
before yesterday I have been living on what I could buy at the
grocery--crackers, cheese, salt fish, canned goods, _et cetera_."

"Scat my ----!" cried David. "Wa'al! Wa'al! That's too dum'd bad! Why on
earth--why, you must be _hungry_! Wa'al, you won't have to eat no salt
herrin' to-day, because Polly 'n I are expectin' ye to dinner."

Two or three times during the conversation David had gone to the window
overlooking his lawn and looked out with a general air of observing the
weather, and at this point he did so again, coming back to his seat with
a look of satisfaction, for which there was, to John, no obvious reason.
He sat for a moment without speaking, and then, looking at his watch,
said: "Wa'al, dinner 's at one o'clock, an' Polly's a great one fer
bein' on time. Guess I'll go out an' have another look at that pesky
colt. You better go over to the house 'bout quarter to one, an' you c'n
make your t'ilet over there. I'm 'fraid if you go over to the Eagle
it'll spoil your appetite. She'd think it might, anyway."

So David departed to see the colt, and John got out some of the books
and busied himself with them until the time to present himself at
David's house.




CHAPTER XXII.


"Why, Mis' Cullom, I'm real glad to see ye. Come right in," said Mrs.
Bixbee as she drew the widow into the "wing settin' room," and proceeded
to relieve her of her wraps and her bundle. "Set right here by the fire
while I take these things of your'n into the kitchen to dry 'em out.
I'll be right back"; and she bustled out of the room. When she came back
Mrs. Cullom was sitting with her hands in her lap, and there was in her
eyes an expression of smiling peace that was good to see.

Mrs. Bixbee drew up a chair, and seating herself, said: "Wa'al, I don't
know when I've seen ye to git a chance to speak to ye, an' I was real
pleased when David said you was goin' to be here to dinner. An' my! how
well, you're lookin'--more like Cynthy Sweetland than I've seen ye fer I
don't know when; an' yet," she added, looking curiously at her guest,
"you 'pear somehow as if you'd ben cryin'."

"You're real kind, I'm sure," responded Mrs. Cullom, replying to the
other's welcome and remarks _seriatim_; "I guess, though, I don't look
much like Cynthy Sweetland, if I do feel twenty years younger 'n I did a
while ago; an' I have ben cryin', I allow, but not fer sorro', Polly
Harum," she exclaimed, giving the other her maiden name. "Your brother
Dave comes putty nigh to bein' an angel!"

"Wa'al," replied Mrs. Bixbee with a twinkle, "I reckon Dave might hev to
be fixed up some afore he come out in that pertic'ler shape, but," she
added impressively, "es fur as bein' a _man_ goes, he's 'bout 's good 's
they make 'em. I know folks thinks he's a hard bargainer, an'
close-fisted, an' some on 'em that ain't fit to lick up his tracks says
more'n that. He's got his own ways, I'll allow, but down at bottom, an'
all through, I know the' ain't no better man livin'. No, ma'am, the'
ain't, an' what he's ben to me, Cynthy Cullom, nobody knows but
me--an'--an'--mebbe the Lord--though I hev seen the time," she said
tentatively, "when it seemed to me 't I knowed more about my affairs 'n
He did," and she looked doubtfully at her companion, who had been
following her with affirmative and sympathetic nods, and now drew her
chair a little closer, and said softly: "Yes, yes, I know. I ben putty
doubtful an' rebellious myself a good many times, but seems now as if He
had had me in His mercy all the time." Here Aunt Polly's sense of humor
asserted itself. "What's Dave ben up to now?" she asked.

And then the widow told her story, with tears and smiles, and the keen
enjoyment which we all have in talking about ourselves to a sympathetic
listener like Aunt Polly, whose interjections pointed and illuminated
the narrative. When it was finished she leaned forward and kissed Mrs.
Cullom on the cheek.

"I can't tell ye how glad I be for ye," she said; "but if I'd known that
David held that morgidge, I could hev told ye ye needn't hev worried
yourself a mite. He wouldn't never have taken your prop'ty, more'n he'd
rob a hen-roost. But he done the thing his own way--kind o' fetched it
round fer a Merry Chris'mus, didn't he? Curious," she said reflectively,
after a momentary pause, "how he lays up things about his childhood,"
and then, with a searching look at the Widow Cullom, "you didn't let on,
an' I didn't ask ye, but of course you've heard the things that some
folks says of him, an' natchally they got some holt on your mind.
There's that story about 'Lish, over to Whitcom--you heard somethin'
about that, didn't ye?"

"Yes," admitted the widow, "I heard somethin' of it, I s'pose."

"Wa'al," said Mrs. Bixbee, "you never heard the hull story, ner anybody
else really, but I'm goin' to tell it to ye--"

"Yes," said Mrs. Cullom assentingly.

Mrs. Bixbee sat up straight in her chair with her hands on her knees and
an air of one who would see justice done.

"'Lish Harum," she began, "wa'n't only half-brother to Dave. He was
hull-brother to me, though, but notwithstandin' that, I will say that a
meaner boy, a meaner growin' man, an' a meaner man never walked the
earth. He wa'n't satisfied to git the best piece an' the biggist
piece--he hated to hev any one else git anythin' at all. I don't believe
he ever laughed in his life, except over some kind o' suff'rin'--man or
beast--an' what'd tickle him the most was to be the means on't. He took
pertic'ler delight in abusin' an' tormentin' Dave, an' the poor little
critter was jest as 'fraid as death of him, an' good reason. Father was
awful hard, but he didn't go out of his way; but 'Lish never let no
chance slip. Wa'al, I ain't goin' to give you the hull fam'ly hist'ry,
an' I've got to go into the kitchen fer a while 'fore dinner, but what I
started out fer 's this: 'Lish fin'ly settled over to Whitcom."

"Did he ever git married?" interrupted Mrs. Cullom.

"Oh, yes," replied Mrs. Bixbee, "he got married when he was past forty.
It's curious," she remarked, in passing, "but it don't seem as if the'
was ever yit a man so mean but he c'd find some woman was fool enough to
marry him, an' she was a putty decent sort of a woman too, f'm all
accounts, an' good lookin'. Wa'al, she stood him six or seven year, an'
then she run off."

"With another man?" queried the widow in an awed voice. Aunt Polly
nodded assent with compressed lips.

"Yes'm," she went on, "she left him an' went out West somewhere, an'
that was the last of _her_; an' when her two boys got old enough to look
after themselves a little, they quit him too, an' they wa'n't no way
growed up neither. Wa'al, the long an' the short on't was that 'Lish got
goin' down hill ev'ry way, health an' all, till he hadn't nothin' left
but his disposition, an' fairly got onter the town. The' wa'n't nothin'
for it but to send him to the county house, onless somebody 'd s'port
him. Wa'al, the committee knew Dave was his brother, an' one on 'em come
to see him to see if he'd come forwud an' help out, an' he seen Dave
right here in this room, an' Dave made me stay an' hear the hull thing.
Man's name was Smith, I remember, a peaked little man with long chin
whiskers that he kep' clawin' at with his fingers. Dave let him tell
his story, an' he didn't say nothin' fer a minute or two, an' then he
says, 'What made ye come to me?' he says. 'Did he send ye?'

"'Wa'al,' says Smith, 'when it was clear that he couldn't do nuthin', we
ast him if the' wa'n't nobody could put up fer him, an' he said you was
his brother, an' well off, an' hadn't ought to let him go t' the
poorhouse.'

"'He said that, did he?' says Dave.

"'Amountin' to that,' says Smith.

"'Wa'al,' says Dave, 'it's a good many years sence I see 'Lish, an'
mebbe you know him better 'n I do. You known him some time, eh?'

"'Quite a number o' years,' says Smith.

"'What sort of a feller was he,' says Dave, 'when he was somebody? Putty
good feller? good citizen? good neighber? lib'ral? kind to his fam'ly?
ev'rybody like him? gen'ally pop'lar, an' all that?'

"'Wa'al,' says Smith, wigglin' in his chair an' pullin' out his whiskers
three four hairs to a time, 'I guess he come some short of all that.'

"'E'umph!' says Dave, 'I guess he did! Now, honest,' he says, '_is_ the'
man, woman, or child in Whitcom that knows 'Lish Harum that's got a good
word fer him? or ever knowed of his doin' or sayin' anythin' that hadn't
got a mean side to it some way? Didn't he drive his wife off, out an'
out? an' didn't his two boys hev to quit him soon 's they could travel?
_An'_,' says Dave, 'if any one was to ask you to figure out a pattern of
the meanist human skunk you was capable of thinkin' of, wouldn't
it--honest, now!' Dave says, 'honest, now--wouldn't it be 's near like
'Lish Harum as one buckshot 's like another?'"

"My!" exclaimed Mrs. Cullom. "What did Mr. Smith say to that?"

"Wa'al," replied Mrs. Bixbee, "he didn't say nuthin' at fust, not in so
many words. He sot fer a minute clawin' away at his whiskers--an' he'd
got both hands into 'em by that time--an' then he made a move as if he
gin the hull thing up an' was goin'. Dave set lookin' at him, an' then
he says, 'You ain't goin', air ye?'

"'Wa'al,' says Smith, 'feelin' 's you do, I guess my arrant here ain't
goin' t' amount to nothin', an' I may 's well.'

"'No, you set still a minute,' says Dave. 'If you'll answer my question
honest an' square, I've got sunthin' more to say to ye. Come, now,' he
says.

"'Wa'al,' says Smith, with a kind of give-it-up sort of a grin, 'I guess
you sized him up about right. I didn't come to see you on 'Lish Harum's
account. I come fer the town of Whitcom.' An' then he spunked up some
an' says, 'I don't give a darn,' he says, 'what comes of 'Lish, an' I
don't know nobody as does, fur's he's person'ly concerned; but he's got
to be a town charge less 'n you take 'm off our hands.'

"Dave turned to me an' says, jest as if he meant it, 'How 'd you like to
have him here, Polly?'

"'Dave Harum!' I says, 'what be you thinkin' of, seein' what he is, an'
alwus was, an' how he alwus treated you? Lord sakes!' I says, 'you ain't
thinkin' of it!'

"'Not much,' he says, with an ugly kind of a smile, such as I never see
in his face before, 'not much! Not under this roof, or any roof of
mine, if it wa'n't more'n my cow stable--an',' he says, turnin' to
Smith, 'this is what I want to say to you: You've done all right. I
hain't no fault to find with you. But I want you to go back an' say to
'Lish Harum that you've seen me, an' that I told you that not one cent
of my money nor one mossel o' my food would ever go to keep him alive
one minute of time; that if I had an empty hogpen I wouldn't let him
sleep in't overnight, much less to bunk in with a decent hog. You tell
him that I said the poorhouse was his proper dwellin', barrin' the jail,
an' that it 'd have to be a dum'd sight poorer house 'n I ever heard of
not to be a thousan' times too good fer him.'"

"My!" exclaimed Mrs. Cullom again. "I can't really 'magine it of Dave."

"Wa'al," replied Mrs. Bixbee, "I told ye how set he is on his young
days, an' nobody knows how cruel mean 'Lish used to be to him; but I
never see it come out of him so ugly before, though I didn't blame him a
mite. But I hain't told ye the upshot: 'Now,' he says to Smith, who set
with his mouth gappin' open, 'you understand how I feel about the
feller, an' I've got good reason for it. I want you to promise me that
you'll say to him, word fer word, jest what I've said to you about him,
an' I'll do this: You folks send him to the poorhouse, an' let him git
jest what the rest on 'em gits--no more an' no less--as long 's he
lives. When he dies you git him the tightest coffin you kin buy, to keep
him f'm spilin' the earth as long as may be, an' then you send me the
hull bill. But this has got to be between you an' me only. You c'n tell
the rest of the committee what you like, _but_ if you ever tell a
livin' soul about this here understandin', an' I find it out, I'll never
pay one cent, an' you'll be to blame. I'm willin', on them terms, to
stan' between the town of Whitcom an' harm; but fer 'Lish Harum, not one
sumarkee! Is it a barg'in?' Dave says.

"'Yes, sir,' says Smith, puttin' out his hand. 'An' I guess,' he says,
'f'm all 't I c'n gather, thet you're doin' all 't we could expect, an'
more too,' an' off he put."

"How 'd it come out?" asked Mrs. Cullom.

"'Lish lived about two year," replied Aunt Polly, "an' Dave done as he
agreed, but even then when he come to settle up, he told Smith he didn't
want no more said about it 'n could be helped."

"Wa'al," said Mrs. Cullom, "it seems to me as if David did take care on
him after all, fur 's spendin' money was concerned."

"That's the way it looks to me," said Mrs. Bixbee, "but David likes to
think t'other. He meant to be awful mean, an' he was--as mean as he
could--but the fact is, he didn't reelly know how. My sakes! Cynthy
(looking at the clock), I'll hev to excuse myself fer a spell. Ef you
want to do any fixin' up 'fore dinner, jest step into my bedroom. I've
laid some things out on the bed, if you should happen to want any of
'em," and she hurried out of the room.




CHAPTER XXIII.


David's house stood about a hundred feet back from the street, facing
the east. The main body of the house was of two stories (through which
ran a deep bay in front), with mansard roof. On the south of the main
body of the house were two stories of the "wing," in which were the
"settin' room," Aunt Polly's room, and, above, David's quarters. Ten
minutes or so before one o'clock John rang the bell at the front door.

"Sairy's busy," said Mrs. Bixbee apologetically as she let him in, "an'
so I come to the door myself."

"Thank you very much," said John. "Mr. Harum told me to come over a
little before one, but perhaps I ought to have waited a few minutes
longer."

"No, it's all right," she replied, "for mebbe you'd like to wash an' fix
up 'fore dinner, so I'll jest show ye where to," and she led the way
upstairs and into the "front parlor bedroom."

"There," she said, "make yourself comf'table, an' dinner 'll be ready in
about ten minutes."

For a moment John mentally rubbed his eyes. Then he turned and caught
both of Mrs. Bixbee's hands and looked at her, speechless. When he
found words he said: "I don't know what to say, nor how to thank you
properly. I don't believe you know how kind this is."

"Don't say nothin' about it," she protested, but with a look of great
satisfaction. "I done it jest t' relieve my mind, because ever sence you
fust come, I ben worryin' over your bein' at that nasty tavern," and she
made a motion to go.

"You and your brother," said John earnestly, still holding her hands,
"have made me a gladder and happier man this Christmas day than I have
been for a very long time."

"I'm glad on't," she said heartily, "an' I hope you'll be comf'table an'
contented here. I must go now an' help Sairy dish up. Come down to the
settin' room when you're ready," and she gave his hands a little
squeeze.

"Aunt Po----, I beg pardon, Mrs. Bixbee," said John, moved by a sudden
impulse, "do you think you could find it in your heart to complete my
happiness by giving me a kiss? It's Christmas, you know," he added
smilingly.

Aunt Polly colored to the roots of her hair. "Wa'al," she said, with a
little laugh, "seein' 't I'm old enough to be your mother, I guess 't
won't hurt me none," and as she went down the stairs she softly rubbed
her lips with the side of her forefinger.

John understood now why David had looked out of the bank window so often
that morning. All his belongings were in Aunt Polly's best bedroom,
having been moved over from the Eagle while he and David had been in the
office. A delightful room it was, in immeasurable contrast to his
squalid surroundings at that hostelry. The spacious bed, with its snowy
counterpane and silk patchwork "comf'table" folded on the foot, the
bright fire in the open stove, the big bureau and glass, the soft
carpet, the table for writing and reading standing in the bay, his books
on the broad mantel, and his dressing things laid out ready to his hand,
not to mention an ample supply of _dry_ towels on the rack.

The poor fellow's life during the weeks which he had lived in Homeville
had been utterly in contrast with any previous experience. Nevertheless
he had tried to make the best of it, and to endure the monotony, the
dullness, the entire lack of companionship and entertainment with what
philosophy he could muster. The hours spent in the office were the best
part of the day. He could manage to find occupation for all of them,
though a village bank is not usually a scene of active bustle. Many of
the people who did business there diverted him somewhat, and most of
them seemed never too much in a hurry to stand around and talk the sort
of thing that interested them. After John had got acquainted with his
duties and the people he came in contact with, David gave less personal
attention to the affairs of the bank; but he was in and out frequently
during the day, and rarely failed to interest his cashier with his
observations and remarks.

But the long winter evenings had been very bad. After supper, a meal
which revolted every sense, there had been as many hours to be got
through with as he found wakeful, an empty stomach often adding to the
number of them, and the only resource for passing the time had been
reading, which had often been well-nigh impossible for sheer physical
discomfort. As has been remarked, the winter climate of the middle
portion of New York State is as bad as can be imagined. His light was a
kerosene lamp of half-candle power, and his appliance for warmth
consisted of a small wood stove, which (as David would have expressed
it) "took two men an' a boy" to keep in action, and was either red hot
or exhausted.

As from the depths of a spacious lounging chair he surveyed his new
surroundings, and contrasted them with those from which he had been
rescued out of pure kindness, his heart was full, and it can hardly be
imputed to him as a weakness that for a moment his eyes filled with
tears of gratitude and happiness--no less.

Indeed, there were four happy people at David's table that Christmas
day. Aunt Polly had "smartened up" Mrs. Cullom with collar and cuffs,
and in various ways which the mind of man comprehendeth not in detail;
and there had been some arranging of her hair as well, which altogether
had so transformed and transfigured her that John thought that he should
hardly have known her for the forlorn creature whom he had encountered
in the morning. And as he looked at the still fine eyes, large and
brown, and shining for the first time in many a year with a soft light
of happiness, he felt that he could understand how it was that Billy P.
had married the village girl.

Mrs. Bixbee was grand in black silk and lace collar fastened with a
shell-cameo pin not quite as large as a saucer, and John caught the
sparkle of a diamond on her plump left hand--David's Christmas
gift--with regard to which she had spoken apologetically to Mrs.
Cullom:

"I told David that I was ever so much obliged to him, but I didn't want
a dimun' more'n a cat wanted a flag, an' I thought it was jest throwin'
away money. But he would have it--said I c'd sell it an' keep out the
poorhouse some day, mebbe."

David had not made much change in his usual raiment, but he was shaved
to the blood, and his round red face shone with soap and satisfaction.
As he tucked his napkin into his shirt collar, Sairy brought in the
tureen of oyster soup, and he remarked, as he took his first spoonful of
the stew, that he was "hungry 'nough t' eat a graven imidge," a
condition that John was able to sympathize with after his two days of
fasting on crackers and such provisions as he could buy at Purse's. It
was, on the whole, he reflected, the most enjoyable dinner that he ever
ate. Never was such a turkey; and to see it give way under David's
skillful knife--wings, drumsticks, second joints, side bones,
breast--was an elevating and memorable experience. And such potatoes,
mashed in cream; such boiled onions, turnips, Hubbard squash, succotash,
stewed tomatoes, celery, cranberries, "currant jell!" Oh! and to "top
off" with, a mince pie to die for and a pudding (new to John, but just
you try it some time) of steamed Indian meal and fruit, with a sauce of
cream sweetened with shaved maple sugar.

"What'll you have?" said David to Mrs. Cullom, "dark meat? white meat?"

"Anything," she replied meekly, "I'm not partic'ler. Most any part of a
turkey 'll taste good, I guess."

"All right," said David. "Don't care means a little o' both. I alwus
know what to give Polly--piece o' the second jint an' the
last-thing-over-the-fence. Nice 'n rich fer scraggly folks," he
remarked. "How fer you, John?--little o' both, eh?" and he heaped the
plate till our friend begged him to keep something for himself.

"Little too much is jest right," he asserted.

When David had filled the plates and handed them along--Sairy was for
bringing in and taking out; they did their own helping to vegetables and
"passin'"--he hesitated a moment, and then got out of his chair and
started in the direction of the kitchen door.

"What's the matter?" asked Mrs. Bixbee in surprise. "Where you goin'?"

"Woodshed," said David.

"Woodshed!" she exclaimed, making as if to rise and follow.

"You set still," said David. "Somethin' I fergot."

"What on earth!" she exclaimed, with an air of annoyance and
bewilderment. "What do you want in the woodshed? Can't you set down an'
let Sairy git it for ye?"

"No," he asserted with a grin. "Sairy might sqush it. It must be putty
meller by this time," And out he went.

"Manners!" ejaculated Mrs. Bixbee. "You'll think (to John) we're reg'ler
heathin."

"I guess not," said John, smiling and much amused.

Presently Sairy appeared with four tumblers which she distributed, and
was followed by David bearing a bottle. He seated himself and began a
struggle to unwire the same with an ice-pick. Aunt Polly leaned forward
with a look of perplexed curiosity.

"What you got there?" she asked.

"Vewve Clikot's universal an' suv'rin remedy," said David, reading the
label and bringing the corners of his eye and mouth almost together in a
wink to John, "fer toothache, earache, burns, scalds, warts, dispepsy,
fallin' o' the hair, windgall, ringbone, spavin, disapp'inted
affections, an' pips in hens," and out came the cork with a "_wop_," at
which both the ladies, even Mrs. Cullom, jumped and cried out.

"David Harum," declared his sister with conviction, "I believe thet
that's a bottle of champagne."

"If it ain't," said David, pouring into his tumbler, "I ben swindled out
o' four shillin'," and he passed the bottle to John, who held it up
tentatively, looking at Mrs. Bixbee.

"No, thank ye," she said with a little toss of the head, "I'm a son o'
temp'rence. I don't believe," she remarked to Mrs. Cullom, "thet that
bottle ever cost _less_ 'n a dollar." At which remarks David apparently
"swallered somethin' the wrong way," and for a moment or two was unable
to proceed with his dinner. Aunt Polly looked at him suspiciously. It
was her experience that, in her intercourse with her brother, he often
laughed utterly without reason--so far as she could see.

"I've always heard it was dreadful expensive," remarked Mrs. Cullom.

"Let me give you some," said John, reaching toward her with the bottle.
Mrs. Cullom looked first at Mrs. Bixbee and then at David.

"I don't know," she said. "I never tasted any."

"Take a little," said David, nodding approvingly.

"Just a swallow," said the widow, whose curiosity had got the better of
scruples. She took a swallow of the wine.

"How do ye like it?" asked David.

"Well," she said as she wiped her eyes, into which the gas had driven
the tears, "I guess I could get along if I couldn't have it regular."

"Don't taste good?" suggested David with a grin.

"Well," she replied, "I never did care any great for cider, and this
tastes to me about as if I was drinkin' cider an' snuffin' horseradish
at one and the same time."

"How's that, John?" said David, laughing.

"I suppose it's an acquired taste," said John, returning the laugh and
taking a mouthful of the wine with infinite relish. "I don't think I
ever enjoyed a glass of wine so much, or," turning to Aunt Polly, "ever
enjoyed a dinner so much," which statement completely mollified her
feelings, which had been the least bit in the world "set edgeways."

"Mebbe your app'tite's got somethin' to do with it," said David,
shoveling a knife-load of good things into his mouth. "Polly, this young
man's ben livin' on crackers an' salt herrin' fer a week."

"My land!" cried Mrs. Bixbee with an expression of horror. "Is that
reelly so? 'T ain't now, reelly?"

"Not quite so bad as that," John answered, smiling; "but Mrs. Elright
has been ill for a couple of days and--well, I have been foraging
around Purse's store a little."

"Wa'al, of all the mean shames!" exclaimed Aunt Polly indignantly.
"David Harum, you'd ought to be ridic'lous t' allow such a thing."

"Wa'al, I never!" said David, holding his knife and fork straight up in
either fist as they rested on the table, and staring at his sister. "I
believe if the meetin'-house roof was to blow off you'd lay it onto me
somehow. I hain't ben runnin' the Eagle tavern fer quite a consid'able
while. You got the wrong pig by the ear as usual. Jest you pitch into
him," pointing with his fork to John. "It's his funeral, if anybody's."

"Wa'al," said Aunt Polly, addressing John in a tone of injury, "I do
think you might have let somebody know; I think you'd ortter 've
known--"

"Yes, Mrs. Bixbee," he interrupted, "I did know how kind you are and
would have been, and if matters had gone on so much longer I should have
appealed to you, I should have indeed; but really," he added, smiling at
her, "a dinner like this is worth fasting a week for."

"Wa'al," she said, mollified again, "you won't git no more herrin'
'nless you ask fer 'em."

"That is just what your brother said this morning," replied John,
looking at David with a laugh.




CHAPTER XXIV.


The meal proceeded in silence for a few minutes. Mrs. Cullom had said
but little, but John noticed that her diction was more conventional than
in her talk with David and himself in the morning, and that her manner
at the table was distinctly refined, although she ate with apparent
appetite, not to say hunger. Presently she said, with an air of making
conversation, "I suppose you've always lived in the city, Mr. Lenox?"

"It has always been my home," he replied, "but I have been away a good
deal."

"I suppose folks in the city go to theaters a good deal," she remarked.

"They have a great many opportunities," said John, wondering what she
was leading up to. But he was not to discover, for David broke in with a
chuckle.

"Ask Polly, Mis' Cullom," he said. "She c'n tell ye all about the
theater, Polly kin." Mrs. Cullom looked from David to Mrs. Bixbee, whose
face was suffused.

"Tell her," said David, with a grin.

"I wish you'd shet up," she exclaimed. "I sha'n't do nothin' of the
sort."

"Ne' mind," said David cheerfully, "_I'll_ tell ye, Mis' Cullom."

"Dave Harum!" expostulated Mrs. Bixbee, but he proceeded without heed of
her protest.

"Polly an' I," he said, "went down to New York one spring some years
ago. Her nerves was some wore out 'long of diff'rences with Sairy about
clearin' up the woodshed, an' bread risin's, an' not bein' able to suit
herself up to Purse's in the qual'ty of silk velvit she wanted fer a
Sunday-go-to-meetin' gown, an' I thought a spell off 'd do her good.
Wa'al, the day after we got there I says to her while we was havin'
breakfust--it was picked-up el'phant on toast, near 's I c'n remember,
wa'n't it, Polly?"

"That's as near the truth as most o' the rest on't so fur," said Polly
with a sniff.

"Wa'al, I says to her," he proceeded, untouched by her scorn, "'How'd
you like to go t' the theater? You hain't never ben,' I says, 'an' now
you're down here you may jest as well see somethin' while you got a
chanst,' I says. Up to that _time_" he remarked, as it were in passing,
"she'd ben somewhat pre_juced_ 'ginst theaters, an'----"

"Wa'al," Mrs. Bixbee broke in, "I guess what we see that night was
cal'lated----"

"You hold on," he interposed. "I'm tellin' this story. You had a chanst
to an' wouldn't. Anyway," he resumed, "she allowed she'd try it once,
an' we agreed we'd go somewheres that night. But somethin' happened to
put it out o' my mind, an' I didn't think on't agin till I got back to
the hotel fer supper. So I went to the feller at the news-stand an'
says, 'Got any show-tickits fer to-night?'

"'Theater?' he says.

"'I reckon so,' I says.

"'Wa'al,' he says, 'I hain't got nothin' now but two seats fer
'Clyanthy.'

"'Is it a good show?' I says--'moral, an' so on? I'm goin' to take my
sister, an' she's a little pertic'ler about some things,' I says. He
kind o' grinned, the feller did. 'I've took my wife twice, an' she's
putty pertic'ler herself,' he says, laughin.'"

"She must 'a' ben," remarked Mrs. Bixbee with a sniff that spoke volumes
of her opinion of "the feller's wife." David emitted a chuckle.

"Wa'al," he continued, "I took the tickits on the feller's recommend,
an' the fact of his wife's bein' so pertic'ler, an' after supper we
went. It was a mighty handsome place inside, gilded an' carved all over
like the outside of a cirkis wagin, an' when we went in the orchestry
was playin' an' the people was comin' in, an' after we'd set a few
minutes I says to Polly, 'What do you think on't?' I says.

"'I don't see anythin' very unbecomin' so fur, an' the people looks
respectable enough,' she says.

"'No jail birds in sight fur 's ye c'n see so fur, be they?' I says. He,
he, he, he!"

"You needn't make me out more of a gump 'n I was," protested Mrs.
Bixbee. "An' you was jest as----" David held up his finger at her.

"Don't you sp'ile the story by discountin' the sequil. Wa'al, putty soon
the band struck up some kind of a dancin' tune, an' the curt'in went up,
an' a girl come prancin' down to the footlights an' begun singin' an'
dancin', an', scat my ----! to all human appearances you c'd 'a' covered
ev'ry dum thing she had on with a postage stamp." John stole a glance at
Mrs. Cullom. She was staring at the speaker with wide-open eyes of
horror and amazement.

"I guess I wouldn't go very _fur_ into pertic'lers," said Mrs. Bixbee in
a warning tone.

David bent his head down over his plate and shook from head to foot, and
it was nearly a minute before he was able to go on. "Wa'al," he said, "I
heard Polly give a kind of a gasp an' a snort, 's if some one 'd throwed
water 'n her face. But she didn't say nothin', an', I swan! I didn't
dast to look at her fer a spell; an' putty soon in come a hull crowd
more girls that had left their clo'es in their trunks or somewhere,
singin', an' dancin', an' weavin' 'round on the stage, an' after a few
minutes I turned an' looked at Polly. He, he, he, he!"

"David Harum!" cried Mrs. Bixbee, "ef you're goin' to discribe any more
o' them scand'lous goin's on I sh'll take my victuals into the kitchin.
_I_ didn't see no more of 'em," she added to Mrs. Cullom and John,
"after that fust trollop appeared."

"I don't believe she did," said David, "fer when I turned she set there
with her eys shut tighter 'n a drum, an' her mouth shut too so's her
nose an' chin most come together, an' her face was red enough so 't a
streak o' red paint 'd 'a' made a white mark on it. 'Polly,' I says,
'I'm afraid you ain't gettin' the wuth o' your money.'

"'David Harum,' she says, with her mouth shut all but a little place in
the corner toward me, 'if you don't take me out o' this place, I'll go
without ye,' she says.

"'Don't you think you c'd stan' it a little longer?' I says. 'Mebbe
they've sent home fer their clo'es,' I says. He, he, he, he! But with
that she jest give a hump to start, an' I see she meant bus'nis. When
Polly Bixbee," said David impressively, "puts that foot o' her'n _down_
somethin's got to sqush, an' don't you fergit it." Mrs. Bixbee made no
acknowledgment of this tribute to her strength of character. John looked
at David.

"Yes," he said, with a solemn bend of the head, as if in answer to a
question, "I squshed. I says to her, 'All right. Don't make no
disturbance more'n you c'n help, an' jest put your hank'chif up to your
nose 's if you had the nosebleed,' an' we squeezed out of the seats, an'
sneaked up the aisle, an' by the time we got out into the entry I guess
my face was as red as Polly's. It couldn't 'a' ben no redder," he added.

"You got a putty fair color as a gen'ral thing," remarked Mrs. Bixbee
dryly.

"Yes, ma'am; yes, ma'am, I expect that's so," he assented, "but I got an
extry coat o' tan follerin' you out o' that theater. When we got out
into the entry one o' them fellers that stands 'round steps up to me an'
says, 'Ain't your ma feelin' well?' he says. 'Her feelin's has ben a
trifle rumpled up,' I says, 'an' that gen'ally brings on the nosebleed,'
an' then," said David, looking over Mrs. Bixbee's head, "the feller went
an' leaned up agin the wall."

"David Harum!" exclaimed Mrs. Bixbee, "that's a downright _lie_. You
never spoke to a soul, an'--an'--ev'rybody knows 't I ain't more 'n four
years older 'n you be."

"Wa'al, you see, Polly," her brother replied in a smooth tone of
measureless aggravation, "the feller wa'n't acquainted with us, an' he
only went by appearances."

Aunt Polly appealed to John: "Ain't he enough to--to--I d' know what?"

"I really don't see how you live with him," said John, laughing.

Mrs. Cullom's face wore a faint smile, as if she were conscious that
something amusing was going on, but was not quite sure what. The widow
took things seriously for the most part, poor soul.

"I reckon you haven't followed theater-goin' much after that," she said
to her hostess.

"No, ma'am," Mrs. Bixbee replied with emphasis, "you better believe I
hain't. I hain't never thought of it sence without tinglin' all over. I
believe," she asserted, "that David 'd 'a' stayed the thing out if it
hadn't ben fer me; but as true 's you live, Cynthy Cullom, I was so
'shamed at the little 't I did see that when I come to go to bed I took
my clo'es off in the dark."

David threw back his head and roared with laughter. Mrs. Bixbee looked
at him with unmixed scorn. "If I couldn't help makin' a----" she began,
"I'd----"

"Oh, Lord! Polly," David broke in, "be sure 'n wrap up when you go out.
If you sh'd ketch cold an' your sense o' the ridic'lous sh'd strike in
you'd be a dead-'n'-goner sure." This was treated with the silent
contempt which it deserved, and David fell upon his dinner with the
remark that "he guessed he'd better make up fer lost time," though as a
matter of fact while he had done most of the talking he had by no means
suspended another function of his mouth while so engaged.

For a time nothing more was said which did not relate to the
replenishment of plates, glasses, and cups. Finally David cleaned up
his plate with his knife blade and a piece of bread, and pushed it away
with a sigh of fullness, mentally echoed by John.

"I feel 's if a child could play with me," he remarked. "What's comin'
now, Polly?"

"The's a mince pie, an' Injun puddin' with maple sugar an' cream, an'
ice cream," she replied.

"Mercy on us!" he exclaimed. "I guess I'll have to go an' jump up an'
down on the verandy. How do you feel, John? I s'pose you got so used to
them things at the Eagle 't you won't have no stomach fer 'em, eh?
Wa'al, fetch 'em along. May 's well die fer the ole sheep 's the lamb,
but, Polly Bixbee, if you've got designs on my life, I may 's well tell
ye right now 't I've left all my prop'ty to the Institution fer
Disappinted Hoss Swappers."

"That's putty near next o' kin, ain't it?" was the unexpected rejoinder
of the injured Polly.

"Wa'al, scat my ----!" exclaimed David, hugely amused, "if Polly Bixbee
hain't made a joke! You'll git yourself into the almanic, Polly, fust
thing you know." Sairy brought in the pie and then the pudding.

"John," said David, "if you've got a pencil an' a piece o' paper handy
I'd like to have ye take down a few of my last words 'fore we proceed to
the pie an' puddin' bus'nis. Any more 'hoss-redish' in that bottle?"
holding out his glass. "Hi! hi! that's enough. You take the rest on't,"
which John did, nothing loath.

David ate his pie in silence, but before he made up his mind to attack
the pudding, which was his favorite confection, he gave an audible
chuckle, which elicited Mrs. Bixbee's notice.

"What you gigglin' 'bout now?" she asked.

David laughed. "I was thinkin' of somethin' I heard up to Purse's last
night," he said as he covered his pudding with the thick cream sauce.
"Amri Shapless has ben gittin' married."

"Wa'al, I declare!" she exclaimed. "That ole shack! Who in creation
could he git to take him?"

"Lize Annis is the lucky woman," replied David with a grin.

"Wa'al, if that don't beat all!" said Mrs. Bixbee, throwing up her
hands, and even from Mrs. Cullom was drawn a "Well, I never!"

"Fact," said David, "they was married yestidy forenoon. Squire Parker
done the job. Dominie White wouldn't have nothin' to do with it!"

"Squire Parker 'd ortter be 'shamed of himself," said Mrs. Bixbee
indignantly.

"Don't you think that trew love had ought to be allowed to take its
course?" asked David with an air of sentiment.

"I think the squire'd ortter be 'shamed of himself," she reiterated.
"S'pose them two old skinamulinks was to go an' have children?"

"Polly, you make me blush," protested her brother. "Hain't you got no
respect fer the holy institution of matrimuny?--and--at cet'ry?" he
added, wiping his whole face with his napkin.

"Much as you hev, I reckon," she retorted. "Of all the amazin' things in
this world, the amazinist to me is the kind of people that gits married
to each other in gen'ral; but this here performence beats ev'rything
holler."

"Amri give a very good reason for't," said David with an air of
conviction, and then he broke into a laugh.

"Ef you got anythin' to tell, tell it," said Mrs. Bixbee impatiently.

"Wa'al," said David, taking the last of his pudding into his mouth, "if
you insist on't, painful as 't is. I heard Dick Larrabee tellin' 'bout
it. Amri told Dick day before yestiday that he was thinkin' of gettin'
married, an' ast him to go along with him to Parson White's an' be a
witniss, an' I reckon a kind of moral support. When it comes to moral
supportin'," remarked David in passing, "Dick's as good 's a
professional, an' he'd go an' see his gran'mother hung sooner 'n miss
anythin', an' never let his cigar go out durin' the performence. Dick
said he congratilated Am on his choice, an' said he reckoned they'd be
putty ekally yoked together, if nothin' else."

Here David leaned over toward Aunt Polly and said, protestingly, "Don't
gi' me but jest a teasp'nful o' that ice cream. I'm so full now 't I
can't hardly reach the table." He took a taste of the cream and resumed:
"I can't give it jest as Dick did," he went on, "but this is about the
gist on't. Him, an' Lize, an' Am went to Parson White's about half after
seven o'clock an' was showed into the parler, an' in a minute he come
in, an' after sayin' 'Good evenin'' all 'round, he says, 'Well, what c'n
I do for ye?' lookin' at Am an' Lize, an' then at Dick.

"'Wa'al,' says Am, 'me an' Mis' Annis here has ben thinkin' fer some
time as how we'd ought to git married.'

"'_Ought_ to git married?' says Parson White, scowlin' fust at one an'
then at t'other.

"'Wa'al,' says Am, givin' a kind o' shuffle with his feet, 'I didn't
mean _ortter_ exac'ly, but jest as _well_--kinder comp'ny,' he says. 'We
hain't neither on us got nobody, an' we thought we might 's well.'

"'What have you got to git married on?' says the dominie after a minute.
'Anythin'?' he says.

"'Wa'al,' says Am, droppin' his head sideways an' borin' into his ear
'ith his middle finger, 'I got the promise mebbe of a job o' work fer a
couple o' days next week.' 'H'm'm'm,' says the dominie, lookin' at him.
'Have _you_ got anythin' to git married on?' the dominie says, turnin'
to Lize. 'I've got ninety cents comin' to me fer some work I done last
week,' she says, wiltin' down onto the sofy an' beginnin' to snivvle.
Dick says that at that the dominie turned round an' walked to the other
end of the room, an' he c'd see he was dyin' to laugh, but he come back
with a straight face.

"'How old air you, Shapless?" he says to Am. 'I'll be fifty-eight or
mebbe fifty-nine come next spring,' says Am.

"'How old air _you_?' the dominie says, turnin' to Lize. She wriggled a
minute an' says, 'Wa'al, I reckon I'm all o' thirty,' she says."

"All o' thirty!" exclaimed Aunt Polly. "The woman 's most 's old 's I
be."

David laughed and went on with, "Wa'al, Dick said at that the dominie
give a kind of a choke, an' Dick he bust right out, an' Lize looked at
him as if she c'd eat him. Dick said the dominie didn't say anythin' fer
a minute or two, an' then he says to Am, 'I suppose you c'n find
somebody that'll marry you, but I cert'inly won't, an' what possesses
you to commit such a piece o' folly,' he says, 'passes my
understandin'. What earthly reason have you fer wantin' to marry? On
your own showin',' he says, 'neither one on you 's got a cent o' money
or any settled way o' gettin' any.'

"'That's jest the very reason,' says Am, 'that's jest the _very reason_.
I hain't got nothin', an' Mis' Annis hain't got nothin', an' we figured
that we'd jest better git married an' settle down, an' make a good home
fer us both,' an' if that ain't good reasonin'," David concluded, "I
don't know what is."

"An' be they actially married?" asked Mrs. Bixbee, still incredulous of
anything so preposterous.

"So Dick says," was the reply. "He says Am an' Lize come away f'm the
dominie's putty down in the mouth, but 'fore long Amri braced up an'
allowed that if he had half a dollar he'd try the squire in the mornin',
an' Dick let him have it. I says to Dick, 'You're out fifty cents on
that deal,' an' he says, slappin' his leg, 'I don't give a dum,' he
says; 'I wouldn't 'a' missed it fer double the money.'"

Here David folded his napkin and put it in the ring, and John finished
the cup of clear coffee which Aunt Polly, rather under protest, had
given him. Coffee without cream and sugar was incomprehensible to Mrs.
Bixbee.




CHAPTER XXV.


Two or three days after Christmas John was sitting in his room in the
evening when there came a knock at the door, and to his "Come in" there
entered Mr. Harum, who was warmly welcomed and entreated to take the big
chair, which, after a cursory survey of the apartment and its
furnishings, he did, saying, "Wa'al, I thought I'd come in an' see how
Polly'd got you fixed; whether the baskit [casket?] was worthy of the
jew'l, as I heard a feller say in a theater once."

"I was never more comfortable in my life," said John. "Mrs. Bixbee has
been kindness itself, and even permits me to smoke in the room. Let me
give you a cigar."

"Heh! You got putty well 'round Polly, I reckon," said David, looking
around the room as he lighted the cigar, "an' I'm glad you're
comf'table--I reckon 't is a shade better 'n the Eagle," he remarked,
with his characteristic chuckle.

"I should say so," said John emphatically, "and I am more obliged than I
can tell you."

"All Polly's doin's," asserted David, holding the end of his cigar
critically under his nose. "That's a trifle better article 'n I'm in the
habit of smokin'," he remarked.

"I think it's my one extravagance," said John semi-apologetically, "but
I don't smoke them exclusively. I am very fond of good tobacco, and--"

"I understand," said David, "an' if I had my life to live over agin,
knowin' what I do now, I'd do diff'rent in a number o' ways. I often
think," he proceeded, as he took a pull at the cigar and emitted the
smoke with a chewing movement of his mouth, "of what Andy Brown used to
say. Andy was a curious kind of a customer 't I used to know up to
Syrchester. He liked good things, Andy did, an' didn't scrimp himself
when they was to be had--that is, when he had the go-an'-fetch-it to git
'em with. He used to say, 'Boys, whenever you git holt of a ten-dollar
note you want to git it _into_ ye or _onto_ ye jest 's quick 's you kin.
We're here to-day an' gone to-morrer,' he'd say, 'an' the' ain't no
pocket in a shroud,' an' I'm dum'd if I don't think sometimes," declared
Mr. Harum, "that he wa'n't very fur off neither. 'T any rate," he added
with a philosophy unexpected by his hearer, "'s I look back, it ain't
the money 't I've spent fer the good times 't I've had 't I regret; it's
the good times 't I might 's well 've had an' didn't. I'm inclined to
think," he remarked with an air of having given the matter
consideration, "that after Adam an' Eve got bounced out of the gard'n
they kicked themselves as much as anythin' fer not havin' cleaned up the
hull tree while they was about it."

John laughed and said that that was very likely among their regrets.

"Trouble with me was," said David, "that till I was consid'able older 'n
you be I had to scratch grav'l like all possessed, an' it's hard work
now sometimes to git the idee out of my head but what the money's wuth
more 'n the things. I guess," he remarked, looking at the ivory-backed
brushes and the various toilet knick-knacks of cut-glass and silver
which adorned John's bureau, and indicating them with a motion of his
hand, "that up to about now you ben in the habit of figurin' the other
way mostly."

"Too much so, perhaps," said John; "but yet, after all, I don't think I
am sorry. I wouldn't spend the money for those things now, but I am glad
I bought them when I did."

"Jess so, jess so," said David appreciatively. He reached over to the
table and laid his cigar on the edge of a book, and, reaching for his
hip pocket, produced a silver tobacco box, at which he looked
contemplatively for a moment, opening and shutting the lid with a snap.

"There," he said, holding it out on his palm, "I was twenty years makin'
up my mind to buy that box, an' to this day I can't bring myself to
carry it all the time. Yes, sir, I wanted that box fer twenty years. I
don't mean to say that I didn't spend the wuth of it foolishly times
over an' agin, but I couldn't never make up my mind to put that amount
o' money into that pertic'ler thing. I was alwus figurin' that some day
I'd have a silver tobacco box, an' I sometimes think the reason it
seemed so extrav'gant, an' I put it off so long, was because I wanted it
so much. Now I s'pose you couldn't understand that, could ye?"

"Yes," said John, nodding his head thoughtfully, "I think I can
understand it perfectly," and indeed it spoke pages of David's
biography.

"Yes, sir," said David, "I never spent a small amount o' money but one
other time an' got so much value, only I alwus ben kickin' myself to
think I didn't do it sooner."

"Perhaps," suggested John, "you enjoyed it all the more for waiting so
long."

"No," said David, "it wa'n't that--I dunno--'t was the feelin' 't I'd
got there at last, I guess. Fur's waitin' fer things is concerned, the'
is such a thing as waitin' too long. Your appetite 'll change mebbe. I
used to think when I was a youngster that if ever I got where I c'd have
all the custard pie I c'd eat that'd be all 't I'd ask fer. I used to
imagine bein' baked into one an' eatin' my way out. Nowdays the's a good
many things I'd sooner have than custard pie, though," he said with a
wink, "I gen'ally do eat two pieces jest to please Polly."

John laughed. "What was the other thing?" he asked.

"Other thing I once bought?" queried David. "Oh, yes, it was the fust
hoss I ever owned. I give fifteen dollars fer him, an' if he wa'n't a
dandy you needn't pay me a cent. Crowbait wa'n't no name fer him. He was
stun blind on the off side, an' couldn't see anythin' in pertic'ler on
the nigh side--couldn't get nigh 'nough, I reckon--an' had most
ev'rythin' wrong with him that c'd ail a hoss; but I thought he was a
thoroughbred. I was 'bout seventeen year old then, an' was helpin'
lock-tender on the Erie Canal, an' when the' wa'n't no boat goin'
through I put in most o' my time cleanin' that hoss. If he got through
'th less 'n six times a day he got off cheap, an' once I got up an' give
him a little attention at night. Yes, sir, if I got big money's wuth out
o' that box it was mostly a matter of feelin'; but as fur 's that old
plugamore of a hoss was concerned, I got it both ways, for I got my
fust real start out of his old carkiss."

"Yes?" said John encouragingly.

"Yes, sir," affirmed David, "I cleaned him up, an' fed him up, an'
almost got 'im so'st he c'd see enough out of his left eye to shy at a
load of hay close by; an' fin'ly traded him off fer another
record-breaker an' fifteen dollars to boot."

"Were you as enthusiastic over the next one as the first?" asked John,
laughing.

"Wa'al," replied David, relighting his temporarily abandoned cigar
against a protest and proffer of a fresh one--"wa'al, he didn't lay holt
on my affections to quite the same extent. I done my duty by him, but I
didn't set up with him nights. You see," he added with a grin, "I'd got
some used to bein' a hoss owner, an' the edge had wore off some." He
smoked for a minute or two in silence, with as much apparent relish as
if the cigar had not been stale.

"Aren't you going on?" asked John at last

"Wa'al," he replied, pleased with his audience, "I c'd go on, I s'pose,
fast enough an' fur enough, but I don't want to tire ye out. I reckon
you never had much to do with canals?"

"No," said John, smiling, "I can't say that I have, but I know something
about the subject in a general way, and there is no fear of your tiring
me out."

"All right," proceeded David. "As I was sayin', I got another equine
wonder an' fifteen dollars to boot fer my old plug, an' it wa'n't a
great while before I was in the hoss bus'nis to stay. After between two
an' three years I had fifty or sixty hosses an' mules, an' took all
sorts of towin' jobs. Then a big towin' concern quit bus'nis, an' I
bought their hull stock an' got my money back three four times over, an'
by the time I was about twenty-one I had got ahead enough to quit the
canal an' all its works fer good, an' go into other things. But there
was where I got my livin' after I run away f'm Buxton Hill. Before I got
the job of lock-tendin' I had made the trip to Albany an' back
twice--'walkin' my passage,' as they used to call it, an' I made one
trip helpin' steer, so 't my canal experience was putty thorough, take
it all 'round."

"It must have been a pretty hard life," remarked John.

David took out his penknife and proceeded to impale his cigar upon the
blade thereof. "No," he said, to John's proffer of the box, "this 'll
last quite a spell yet. Wa'al," he resumed after a moment, in reply to
John's remark, "viewin' it all by itself, it _was_ a hard life. A thing
is hard though, I reckon, because it's harder 'n somethin' else, or you
think so. Most things go by comparin'. I s'pose if the gen'ral run of
trotters never got better 'n three 'n a half that a hoss that c'd do it
in three 'd be fast, but we don't call 'em so nowdays. I s'pose if at
that same age you'd had to tackle the life you'd 'a' found it hard, an'
the' was hard things about it--trampin' all night in the rain, fer
instance; sleepin' in barns at times, an' all that; an' once the cap'n
o' the boat got mad at somethin' an' pitched me head over heels into the
canal. It was about the close of navigation an' the' was a scum of ice.
I scrambled out somehow, but he wouldn't 'a' cared if I'd ben drownded.
He was an exception, though. The canalers was a rough set in gen'ral,
but they averaged fer disposition 'bout like the ord'nary run o' folks;
the' was mean ones an' clever ones; them that would put upon ye, an'
them that would treat ye decent. The work was hard an' the grub wasn't
alwus much better 'n what you--he, he, he!--what you ben gettin' at the
Eagle" (John was now by the way of rather relishing jokes on that
subject); "but I hadn't ben raised in the lap o' luxury--not to any
consid'able extent--not enough to stick my nose up much. The men I
worked fer was rough, an' I got my share of cusses an' cuffs, an' once
in a while a kick to keep up my spirit of perseverance; but, on the
hull, I think I got more kindness 'n I did at home (leavin' Polly out),
an' as fer gen'ral treatment, none on 'em c'd come up to my father, an'
wuss yet, my oldest brother 'Lish. The cap'n that throwed me overboard
was the wust, but alongside o' 'Lish he was a forty hosspower angil with
a hull music store o' harps; an' even my father c'd 'a' given him cards
an' spades; an' as fer the victuals" (here David dropped his cigar end
and pulled from his pocket the silver tobacco box)--"as fer the
victuals," he repeated, "they mostly averaged up putty high after what
I'd ben used to. Why, I don't believe I ever tasted a piece of beefsteak
or roast beef in my life till after I left home. When we had meat at all
it was pork--boiled pork, fried pork, pigs' liver, an' all that, enough
to make you 'shamed to look a pig in the face--an' fer the rest,
potatoes, an' duff, an' johnny-cake, an' meal mush, an' milk emptins
bread that you c'd smell a mile after it got cold. With 'leven folks on
a small farm nuthin' c'd afford to be eat that c'd be sold, an'
ev'rythin' that couldn't be sold had to be eat. Once in a while the' 'd
be pie of some kind, or gingerbread; but with 'leven to eat 'em I didn't
ever git more 'n enough to set me hankerin'."

"I must say that I think I should have liked the canal better," remarked
John as David paused. "You were, at any rate, more or less free--that
is, comparatively, I should say."

"Yes, sir, I did," said David, "an' I never see the time, no matter how
rough things was, that I wished I was back on Buxton Hill. I used to
want to see Polly putty bad once in a while, an' used to figure that if
I ever growed up to be a man, an' had money enough, I'd buy her a new
pair o' shoes an' the stuff fer a dress, an' sometimes my cal'lations
went as fur 's a gold breastpin; but I never wanted to see none o' the
rest on 'em, an' fer that matter, I never did. Yes, sir, the old ditch
was better to me than the place I was borned in, an', as you say, I
wa'n't nobody's slave, an' I wa'n't scairt to death the hull time. Some
o' the men was rough, but they wa'n't cruel, as a rule, an' as I growed
up a little I was putty well able to look out fer myself--wa'al, wa'al
(looking at his watch), I guess you must 'a' had enough o' my meemores
fer one sittin'."

"No, really," John protested, "don't go yet. I have a little proposal to
make to you," and he got up and brought a bottle from the bottom of the
washstand.

"Wa'al," said David, "fire it out."

"That you take another cigar and a little of this," holding up the
bottle.

"Got any glasses?" asked David with practical mind.

"One and a tooth mug," replied John, laughing. "Glass for you, tooth
mug for me. Tastes just as good out of a tooth mug."

"Wa'al," said David, with a comical air of yielding as he took the glass
and held it out to John, "under protest, stric'ly under protest--sooner
than have my clo'es torn. I shall tell Polly--if I should happen to
mention it--that you threatened me with vi'lence. Wa'al, here's lookin'
at ye," which toast was drunk with the solemnity which befitted it.




CHAPTER XXVI.


The two men sat for a while smoking in silence, John taking an
occasional sip of his grog. Mr. Harum had swallowed his own liquor
"raw," as was the custom in Homeville and vicinity, following the
potation with a mouthful of water. Presently he settled a little farther
down in his chair and his face took on a look of amused recollection.

He looked up and gave a short laugh. "Speakin' of canals," he said, as
if the subject had only been casually mentioned, "I was thinkin' of
somethin'."

"Yes?" said John.

"E-up," said David. "That old ditch f'm Albany to Buffalo was an
almighty big enterprise in them days, an' a great thing fer the
prosperity of the State, an' a good many better men 'n I be walked the
ole towpath when they was young. Yes, sir, that's a fact. Wa'al, some
years ago I had somethin' of a deal on with a New York man by the name
of Price. He had a place in Newport where his fam'ly spent the summer,
an' where he went as much as he could git away. I was down to New York
to see him, an' we hadn't got things quite straightened out, an' he says
to me, 'I'm goin' over to Newport, where my wife an' fam'ly is, fer
Sunday, an' why can't you come with me,' he says, 'an' stay over till
Monday? an' we c'n have the day to ourselves over this matter?' 'Wa'al,'
I says, 'I'm only down here on this bus'nis, an' as I left a hen on, up
home, I'm willin' to save the time 'stid of waitin' here fer you to git
back, if you don't think,' I says, 'that it'll put Mis' Price out any to
bring home a stranger without no notice.'

"'Wa'al,' he says, laughin', 'I guess she c'n manage fer once,' an' so I
went along. When we got there the' was a carriage to meet us, an' two
men in uniform, one to drive an' one to open the door, an' we got in an'
rode up to the house--cottige, he called it, but it was built of stone,
an' wa'n't only about two sizes smaller 'n the Fifth Avenue Hotel. Some
kind o' doin's was goin' on, fer the house was blazin' with light, an'
music was playin'.

"'What's on?' says Price to the feller that let us in.

"'Sir and Lady somebody 's dinin' here to-night, sir,' says the man.

"'Damn!' says Price, 'I fergot all about the cussed thing. Have Mr.
Harum showed to a room,' he says, 'an' serve dinner in my office in a
quarter of an hour, an' have somebody show Mr. Harum there when it's
ready.'

"Wa'al," pursued David, "I was showed up to a room. The' was lace
coverin's on the bed pillers, an' a silk an' lace spread, an' more dum
trinkits an' bottles an' lookin'-glasses 'n you c'd shake a stick at,
an' a bathroom, an' Lord knows what; an' I washed up, an' putty soon one
o' them fellers come an' showed me down to where Price was waitin'.
Wa'al, we had all manner o' things fer supper, an' champagne, an' so on,
an' after we got done, Price says, 'I've got to ask you to excuse me,
Harum,' he says. 'I've got to go an' dress an' show up in the
drawin'-room,' he says. 'You smoke your cigar in here, an' when you want
to go to your room jest ring the bell.'

"'All right,' I says. 'I'm 'bout ready to turn in anyway.'"

The narrator paused for a moment. John was rather wondering what it all
had to do with the Erie Canal, but he said nothing.

"Wa'al, next mornin'," David resumed, "I got up an' shaved an' dressed,
an' set 'round waitin' fer the breakfust bell to ring till nigh on to
half-past nine o'clock. Bom-by the' came a knock at the door, an' I
says, 'Come in,' an' in come one o' them fellers. 'Beg pah'din, sir,' he
says. 'Did you ring, sir?'

"'No,' I says, 'I didn't ring. I was waitin' to hear the bell.'

"'Thank you, sir,' he says. 'An' will you have your breakfust now, sir?'

"'Where?' I says.

"'Oh,' he says, kind o' grinnin', 'I'll bring it up here, sir,
d'rec'ly,' he says, an' went off. Putty soon come another knock, an' in
come the feller with a silver tray covered with a big napkin, an' on it
was a couple of rolls wrapped up in a napkin, a b'iled egg done up in
another napkin, a cup an' saucer, a little chiney coffee-pot, a little
pitcher of cream, some loaf sugar in a silver dish, a little pancake of
butter, a silver knife, two little spoons like what the childern play
with, a silver pepper duster an' salt dish, an' an orange. Oh, yes, the'
was another contraption--a sort of a chiney wineglass. The feller set
down the tray an' says, 'Anythin' else you'd like to have, sir?'

"'No,' I says, lookin' it over, 'I guess there's enough to last me a day
or two,' an' with that he kind o' turned his face away fer a second or
two. 'Thank you, sir,' he says. 'The second breakfust is at half-past
twelve, sir,' an' out he put. Wa'al," David continued, "the bread an'
butter was all right enough, exceptin' they'd fergot the salt in the
butter, an' the coffee was all right; but when it come to the egg, dum'd
if I wa'n't putty nigh out of the race; but I made up my mind it must be
hard-b'iled, an' tackled it on that idee. Seems t' amuse ye," he said
with a grin, getting up and helping himself. After swallowing the
refreshment, and the palliating mouthful of water, he resumed his seat
and his narrative.

"Wa'al, sir," he said, "that dum'd egg was about 's near raw as it was
when i' was laid, an' the' was a crack in the shell, an' fust thing I
knowed it kind o' c'lapsed, an' I give it a grab, an' it squirtid all
over my pants, an' the floor, an' on my coat an' vest, an' up my sleeve,
an' all over the tray. Scat my ----! I looked gen'ally like an ab'lition
orator before the war. You never see such a mess," he added, with an
expression of rueful recollection. "I believe that dum'd egg held more
'n a pint."

John fairly succumbed to a paroxysm of laughter.

"Funny, wa'n't it?" said David dryly.

"Forgive me," pleaded John, when he got his breath.

"Oh, that's all right," said David, "but it wa'n't the kind of emotion
it kicked up in my breast at the time. I cleaned myself up with a towel
well 's I could, an' thought I'd step out an' take the air before the
feller 'd come back to git that tray, an' mebbe rub my nose in't."

"Oh, Lord!" cried John.

"Yes, sir," said David, unheeding, "I allowed 't I'd walk 'round with my
mouth open a spell, an' git a little air on my stomech to last me till
that second breakfust; an' as I was pokin' 'round the grounds I come to
a sort of arbor, an' there was Price, smokin' a cigar.

"'Mornin', Harum; how you feelin'?' he says, gettin' up an' shakin'
hands; an' as we passed the time o' day, I noticed him noticin' my coat.
You see as they dried out, the egg spots got to showin' agin.

"'Got somethin' on your coat there,' he says.

"'Yes,' I says, tryin' to scratch it out with my finger nail.

"'Have a cigar?' he says, handin' one out.

"'Never smoke on an empty stomach,' I says.

"'What?' he says.

"'Bad fer the ap'tite,' I says, 'an' I'm savin' mine fer that second
breakfust o' your'n.'

"'What!' he says, 'haven't you had anythin' to eat?' An' then I told him
what I ben tellin' you. Wa'al, sir, fust he looked kind o' mad an'
disgusted, an' then he laughed till I thought he'd bust, an' when he
quit he says, 'Excuse me, Harum, it's too damned bad; but I couldn't
help laughin' to save my soul. An' it's all my fault too,' he says. 'I
intended to have you take your breakfust with me, but somethin' happened
last night to upset me, an' I woke with it on my mind, an' I fergot. Now
you jest come right into the house, an' I'll have somethin' got fer you
that'll stay your stomach better 'n air,' he says.

"'No,' I says, 'I've made trouble enough fer one day, I guess,' an' I
wouldn't go, though he urged me agin an' agin. 'You don't fall in with
the customs of this region?' I says to him.

"'Not in that pertic'ler, at any rate,' he says. 'It's one o' the fool
notions that my wife an' the girls brought home f'm Eurup. I have a good
solid meal in the mornin', same as I alwus did,' he says."

Mr. Harum stopped talking to relight his cigar, and after a puff or two,
"When I started out," he said, "I hadn't no notion of goin' into all the
highways an' byways, but when I git begun one thing's apt to lead to
another, an' you never c'n tell jest where I _will_ fetch up. Now I
started off to tell somethin' in about two words, an' I'm putty near as
fur off as when I begun."

"Well," said John, "it's Saturday night, and the longer your story is
the better I shall like it. I hope the second breakfast was more of a
success than the first one," he added with a laugh.

"I managed to average up on the two meals, I guess," David remarked.
"Wa'al," he resumed, "Price an' I set 'round talkin' bus'nis an' things
till about twelve or a little after, mebbe, an' then he turned to me an'
kind o' looked me over an' says, 'You an' me is about of a build, an' if
you say so I'll send one of my coats an' vests up to your room an' have
the man take yours an' clean 'em.'

"'I guess the' is ruther more egg showin' than the law allows,' I says,
'an' mebbe that 'd be a good idee; but the pants caught it the wust,' I
says.

"'Mine'll fit ye,' he says.

"'What'll your wife say to seein' me airifyin' 'round in your git-up?'
I says. He gin me a funny kind of look. 'My wife?' he says. 'Lord, she
don't know more about my clo'es 'n you do.' That struck me as bein'
ruther curious," remarked David. "Wouldn't it you?"

"Very," replied John gravely.

"Yes, sir," said David. "Wa'al, when we went into the eatin' room the
table was full, mostly young folks, chatterin' an' laughin'. Price
int'duced me to his wife, an' I set down by him at the other end of the
table. The' wa'n't nothin' wuth mentionin'; nobody paid any attention to
me 'cept now an' then a word from Price, an' I wa'n't fer talkin'
anyway--I c'd have eat a raw dog. After breakfust, as they called it,
Price an' I went out onto the verandy an' had some coffee, an' smoked
an' talked fer an hour or so, an' then he got up an' excused himself to
write a letter. 'You may like to look at the papers awhile,' he says.
'I've ordered the hosses at five, an' if you like I'll show you 'round a
little.'

"'Won't your wife be wantin' 'em?' I says.

"'No, I guess she'll git along,' he says, kind o' smilin'.

"'All right,' I says, 'don't mind me.' An' so at five up come the hosses
an' the two fellers in uniform an' all. I was lookin' the hosses over
when Price come out. 'Wa'al, what do you think of 'em?' he says.

"'Likely pair,' I says, goin' over an' examinin' the nigh one's feet an'
legs. 'Sore forr'ed?' I says, lookin' up at the driver.

"'A trifle, sir,' he says, touchin' his hat.

"'What's that?' says Price, comin' up an' examinin' the critter's face
an' head. 'I don't see anythin' the matter with his forehead,' he says.
I looked up an' give the driver a wink," said David with a chuckle, "an'
he give kind of a chokin' gasp, but in a second was lookin' as solemn as
ever.

"I can't tell ye jest where we went," the narrator proceeded, "but
anyway it was where all the nabobs turned out, an' I seen more style an'
git-up in them two hours 'n I ever see in my life, I reckon. The' didn't
appear to be no one we run across that, accordin' to Price's tell, was
wuth under five million, though we may 'a' passed one without his
noticin'; an' the' was a good many that run to fifteen an' twenty an'
over, an' most on 'em, it appeared, was f'm New York. Wa'al, fin'ly we
got back to the house a little 'fore seven. On the way back Price says,
'The' are goin' to be three four people to dinner to-night in a quiet
way, an' the' ain't no reason why you shouldn't stay dressed jest as you
are, but if you would feel like puttin' on evenin' clo'es (that's what
he called 'em), why I've got an extry suit that'll fit ye to a "tee,"'
he says.

"'No,' I says, 'I guess I better not. I reckon I'd better git my grip
an' go to the hotel. I sh'd be ruther bashful to wear your swallertail,
an' all them folks'll be strangers,' I says. But he insisted on't that I
sh'd come to dinner anyway, an' fin'ly I gin in, an' thinkin' I might 's
well go the hull hog, I allowed I'd wear his clo'es; 'but if I do
anythin' or say anythin' 't you don't like,' says I, 'don't say I didn't
warn ye.' What would you 'a' done?" Mr. Harum asked.

"Worn the clothes without the slightest hesitation," replied John.
"Nobody gave your costume a thought."

"They didn't appear to, fer a fact," said David, "an' I didn't either,
after I'd slipped up once or twice on the matter of pockets. The same
feller brought 'em up to me that fetched the stuff in the mornin'; an'
the rig was complete--coat, vest, pants, shirt, white necktie, an', by
gum! shoes an' silk socks, an', sir, scat my ----! the hull outfit
fitted me as if it was made fer me. 'Shell I wait on you, sir?' says the
man. 'No,' I says, 'I guess I c'n git into the things; but mebbe you
might come up in 'bout quarter of an hour an' put on the finishin'
touches, an' here,' I says, 'I guess that brand of eggs you give me this
mornin' 's wuth about two dollars apiece.'

"'Thank you, sir,' he says, grinnin', 'I'd like to furnish 'em right
along at that rate, sir, an' I'll be up as you say, sir.'"

"You found the way to _his_ heart," said John, smiling.

"My experience is," said David dryly, "that most men's hearts is located
ruther closter to their britchis pockets than they are to their breast
pockets."

"I'm afraid that's so," said John.

"But this feller," Mr. Harum continued, "was a putty decent kind of a
chap. He come up after I'd got into my togs an' pulled me here, an'
pulled me there, an' fixed my necktie, an' hitched me in gen'ral so'st I
wa'n't neither too tight nor too free, an' when he got through, 'You'll
do now, sir,' he says.

"'Think I will?' says I.

"'Couldn't nobody look more fit, sir,' he says, an' I'm dum'd," said
David, with an assertive nod, "when I looked at myself in the
lookin'-glass. I scurcely knowed myself, an' (with a confidential
lowering of the voice) when I got back to New York the very fust hard
work I done was to go an' buy the hull rig-out--an'," he added with a
grin, "strange as it may appear, it ain't wore out _yit_."




CHAPTER XXVII.


"People don't dress for dinner in Homeville, as a rule, then," John
said, smiling.

"No," said Mr. Harum, "when they dress fer breakfust that does 'em fer
all three meals. I've wore them things two three times when I've ben
down to the city, but I never had 'em on but once up here."

"No?" said John.

"No," said David, "I put 'em on _once_ to show to Polly how city folks
dressed--he, he, he, he!--an' when I come into the room she set forwud
on her chair an' stared at me over her specs. 'What on airth!' she says.

"'I bought these clo'es,' I says, 'to wear when bein' ent'tained by the
fust fam'lies. How do I look?' I says.

"'Turn 'round,' she says. 'You look f'm behind,' she says, 'like a
red-headed snappin' bug, an' in front,' she says, as I turned agin,
'like a reg'lar slinkum. I'll bet,' she says, 'that you hain't throwed
away less 'n twenty dollars on that foolishniss.' Polly's a very
conserv'tive person," remarked her brother, "and don't never imagine a
vain thing, as the Bible says, not when she _knows_ it, an' I thought it
wa'n't wuth while to argue the point with her."

John laughed and said, "Do you recall that memorable interview between
the governors of the two Carolinas?"

"Nothin' in the historical lit'riture of our great an' glorious
country," replied Mr. Harum reverently, "sticks closter to my mind--like
a burr to a cow's tail," he added, by way of illustration. "Thank you,
jest a mouthful."

"How about the dinner?" John asked after a little interlude. "Was it
pleasant?"

"Fust rate," declared David. "The young folks was out somewhere else,
all but one o' Price's girls. The' was twelve at the table all told. I
was int'duced to all of 'em in the parlor, an' putty soon in come one of
the fellers an' said somethin' to Mis' Price that meant dinner was
ready, an' the girl come up to me an' took holt of my arm. 'You're goin'
to take me out,' she says, an' we formed a procession an' marched out to
the dinin' room. 'You're to sit by mammer,' she says, showin' me, an'
there was my name on a card, sure enough. Wa'al, sir, that table was a
show! I couldn't begin to describe it to ye. The' was a hull flower
garden in the middle, an' a worked tablecloth; four five glasses of all
colors an' sizes at ev'ry plate, an' a nosegay, an' five six diff'rent
forks an' a lot o' knives, though fer that matter," remarked the
speaker, "the' wa'n't but one knife in the lot that amounted to
anythin', the rest on 'em wouldn't hold nothin'; an' the' was three four
sort of chiney slates with what they call--the--you 'n me----"

"Menu," suggested John.

"I guess that's it," said David, "but that wa'n't the way it was spelt.
Wa'al, I set down an' tucked my napkin into my neck, an' though I
noticed none o' the rest on 'em seemed to care, I allowed that 't
wa'n't _my_ shirt, an' mebbe Price might want to wear it agin 'fore 't
was washed."

John put his handkerchief over his face and coughed violently. David
looked at him sharply. "Subject to them spells?" he asked.

"Sometimes," said John when he recovered his voice, and then, with as
clear an expression of innocence as he could command, but somewhat
irrelevantly, asked, "How did you get on with Mrs. Price?"

"Oh," said David, "nicer 'n a cotton hat. She appeared to be a quiet
sort of woman that might 'a' lived anywhere, but she was dressed to
kill--an' so was the rest on 'em, fer that matter," he remarked with a
laugh. "I tried to tell Polly about 'em afterwuds, an'--he, he, he!--she
shut me up mighty quick, an' I thought myself at the time, thinks I,
it's a good thing it's warm weather, I says to myself. Oh, yes, Mis'
Price made me feel quite to home, but I didn't talk much the fust part
of dinner, an' I s'pose she was more or less took up with havin' so many
folks at table; but fin'ly she says to me, 'Mr. Price was so annoyed
about your breakfust, Mr. Harum.'

"'Was he?' I says. 'I was afraid you'd be the one that 'd be vexed at
me.'

"'Vexed with you? I don't understand,' she says.

"''Bout the napkin I sp'iled,' I says. 'Mebbe not actially sp'iled,' I
says, 'but it'll have to go into the wash 'fore it c'n be used agin.'
She kind o' smiled, an' says, 'Really, Mr. Harum, I don't know what you
are talkin' about.'

"'Hain't nobody told ye?' I says. 'Well, if they hain't they will, an' I
may 's well make a clean breast on't. I'm awful sorry,' I says, 'but
this mornin' when I come to the egg I didn't see no way to eat it 'cept
to peel it, an' fust I knew it kind of exploded and daubed ev'rythin'
all over creation. Yes'm,' I says, 'it went _off_, 's ye might say, like
old Elder Maybee's powder,' I guess," said David, "that I must 'a' ben
talkin' ruther louder 'n I thought, fer I looked up an' noticed that
putty much ev'ry one on 'em was lookin' our way, an' kind o' laughin',
an' Price in pertic'ler was grinnin' straight at me.

"'What's that,' he says, 'about Elder Maybee's powder?'

"'Oh, nuthin' much,' I says, 'jest a little supprise party the elder had
up to his house.'

"'Tell us about it,' says Price. 'Oh, yes, do tell us about it,' says
Mis' Price.

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'the' ain't much to it in the way of a story, but
seein' dinner must be most through,' I says, 'I'll tell ye all the' was
of it. The elder had a small farm 'bout two miles out of the village,' I
says, 'an' he was great on raisin' chickins an' turkeys. He was a slow,
putterin' kind of an ole foozle, but on the hull a putty decent citizen.
Wa'al,' I says, 'one year when the poultry was comin' along, a family o'
skunks moved onto the premises an' done so well that putty soon, as the
elder said, it seemed to him that it was comin' to be a ch'ice between
the chickin bus'nis an' the skunk bus'nis, an' though he said he'd heard
the' was money in it, if it was done on a big enough scale, he hadn't
ben edicated to it, he said, and didn't take to it _any_ ways. So,' I
says, 'he scratched 'round an' got a lot o' traps an' set 'em, an' the
very next mornin' he went out an' found he'd ketched an ole
he-one--president of the comp'ny. So he went to git his gun to shoot
the critter, an' found he hadn't got no powder. The boys had used it all
up on woodchucks, an' the' wa'n't nothin' fer it but to git some more
down to the village, an', as he had some more things to git, he hitched
up 'long in the forenoon an' drove down.' At this," said David, "one of
the ladies, wife to the judge, name o' Pomfort, spoke up an' says, 'Did
he leave that poor creature to suffer all that time? Couldn't it have
been put out of it's misery some other way?'

"'Wa'al marm,' I says, 'I never happened to know but one feller that set
out to kill one o' them things with a club, an' _he_ put in most o'
_his_ time fer a week or two up in the woods _hatin'_ himself,' I says.
'He didn't mingle in gen'ral soci'ty, an' in fact,' I says, 'he had the
hull road to himself, as ye might say, fer a putty consid'able spell.'"

John threw back his head and laughed. "Did she say any more?" he asked.

"No," said David with a chuckle. "All the men set up a great laugh, an'
she colored up in a kind of huff at fust, an' then she begun to laugh
too, an' then one o' the waiter fellers put somethin' down in front of
me an' I went eatin' agin. But putty soon Price, he says, 'Come,' he
says, 'Harum, ain't you goin' on? How about that powder?'

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'mebbe we had ought to put that critter out of his
misery. The elder went down an' bought a pound o' powder an' had it done
up in a brown paper bundle, an' put it with his other stuff in the
bottom of his dem'crat wagin; but it come on to rain some while he was
ridin' back, an' the stuff got more or less wet, an' so when he got home
he spread it out in a dishpan an' put it under the kitchen stove to dry,
an' thinkin' that it wa'n't dryin' fast enough, I s'pose, made out to
assist Nature, as the sayin' is, by stirrin' on't up with the kitchin
poker. Wa'al,' I says, 'I don't jest know how it happened, an' the elder
cert'inly didn't, fer after they'd got him untangled f'm under what was
left of the woodshed an' the kitchin stove, an' tied him up in cotton
battin', an' set his leg, an' put out the house, an' a few things like
that, bom-by he come round a little, an' the fust thing he says was,
"Wa'al, wa'al, wa'al!" "What is it, pa?" says Mis' Maybee, bendin' down
over him. "That peowder," he says, in almost no voice, "that peowder! I
was jest stirrin' on't a little, an' it went _o-f-f_, it went _o-f-f_,"
he says, "_seemin'ly--in--a--minute_!" an' that,' I says to Mis' Price,
'was what that egg done.'

"'We'll have to forgive you that egg,' she says, laughin' like
ev'rything, 'for Elder Maybee's sake'; an' in fact," said David, "they
all laughed except one feller. He was an Englishman--I fergit his name.
When I got through he looked kind o' puzzled an' says" (Mr. Harum
imitated his style as well as he could), "'But ra'ally, Mr. Harum, you
kneow that's the way powdah always geoes off, don't you kneow,' an'
then," said David, "they laughed harder 'n ever, an' the Englishman got
redder 'n a beet."

"What did you say?" asked John.

"Nuthin'," said David. "They was all laughin' so't I couldn't git in a
word, an' then the waiter brought me another plateful of somethin'. Scat
my ----!" he exclaimed, "I thought that dinner 'd go on till kingdom
come. An' wine! Wa'al! I begun to feel somethin' like the old feller did
that swallered a full tumbler of white whisky, thinkin' it was water.
The old feller was temp'rence, an' the boys put up a job on him one hot
day at gen'ral trainin'. Somebody ast him afterwuds how it made him
feel, an' he said he felt as if he was sittin' straddle the meetin'
house, an' ev'ry shingle was a Jew's-harp. So I kep' mum fer a while.
But jest before we fin'ly got through, an' I hadn't said nothin' fer a
spell, Mis' Price turned to me an' says, 'Did you have a pleasant drive
this afternoon?'

"'Yes'm,' I says, 'I seen the hull show, putty much. I guess poor folks
must be 't a premium 'round here. I reckon,' I says, 'that if they'd
club together, the folks your husband p'inted out to me to-day could
_almost_ satisfy the requirements of the 'Merican Soci'ty fer For'n
Missions.' Mis' Price laughed, an' looked over at her husband. 'Yes,'
says Price, 'I told Mr. Harum about some of the people we saw this
afternoon, an' I must say he didn't appear to be as much impressed as I
thought he would. How's that, Harum?' he says to me.

"'Wa'al,' says I, 'I was thinkin' 't I'd like to bet you two dollars to
a last year's bird's nest,' I says, 'that if all them fellers we seen
this afternoon, that air over fifty, c'd be got together, an' some one
was suddinly to holler "LOW BRIDGE!" that nineteen out o' twenty 'd
_duck their heads_.'"

"And then?" queried John.

"Wa'al," said David, "all on 'em laughed some, but Price--he jest lay
back an' roared, and I found out afterwuds," added David, "that ev'ry
man at the table, except the Englis'man, know'd what 'low bridge' meant
from actial experience. Wa'al, scat my ----!" he exclaimed, as he looked
at his watch, "it ain't hardly wuth while undressin'," and started for
the door. As he was halfway through it, he turned and said, "Say, I
s'pose _you'd_ 'a' known what to do with that egg," but he did not wait
for a reply.




CHAPTER XXVIII.


It must not be understood that the Harums, Larrabees, Robinsons,
Elrights, and sundry who have thus far been mentioned, represented the
only types in the prosperous and enterprising village of Homeville, and
David perhaps somewhat magnified the one-time importance of the Cullom
family, although he was speaking of a period some forty years earlier.
Be that as it may, there were now a good many families, most of them
descendants of early settlers, who lived in good and even fine houses,
and were people of refinement and considerable wealth. These constituted
a coterie of their own, though they were on terms of acquaintance and
comity with the "village people," as they designated the rank and file
of the Homeville population. To these houses came in the summer sons and
daughters, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren, and at the period of
which I am writing there had been built on the shore of the lake, or in
its vicinity, a number of handsome and stately residences by people who
had been attracted by the beauty of the situation and the salubrity of
the summer climate. And so, for some months in the pleasant season, the
village was enlivened by a concourse of visitors who brought with them
urban customs, costumes, and equipages, and gave a good deal of life
and color to the village streets. Then did Homeville put its best foot
forward and money in its pouch.

"I ain't what ye might call an old residenter," said David, "though I
was part raised on Buxton Hill, an' I ain't so well 'quainted with the
nabobs; but Polly's lived in the village ever sence she got married, an'
knows their fam'ly hist'ry, dam, an' sire, an' pedigree gen'ally. Of
course," he remarked, "I know all the men folks, an' they know me, but I
never ben into none o' their houses except now an' then on a matter of
bus'nis, an' I guess," he said with a laugh, "that Polly 'd allow 't she
don't spend all her time in that circle. Still," he added, "they all
know her, an' ev'ry little while some o' the women folks 'll come in an'
see her. She's putty popular, Polly is," he concluded.

"I should think so, indeed," remarked John.

"Yes, sir," said David, "the's worse folks 'n Polly Bixbee, if she don't
put on no style; an' the fact is, that some of the folks that lives here
the year 'round, an' always have, an' call the rest on us 'village
people,' 'r' jest as countryfied in their way 's me an' Polly is in
our'n--only they don't know it. 'Bout the only diff'rence is the way
they talk an' live." John looked at Mr. Harum in some doubt as to the
seriousness of the last remark.

"Go to the 'Piscopal church, an' have what they call dinner at six
o'clock," said David. "Now, there's the The'dore Verjooses," he
continued; "the 'rig'nal Verjoos come an' settled here some time in the
thirties, I reckon. He was some kind of a Dutchman, I guess"
["Dutchman" was Mr. Harum's generic name for all people native to the
Continent of Europe]; "but he had some money, an' bought land an'
morgidges, an' so on, an' havin' money--money was awful scurce in them
early days--made more; never spent anythin' to speak of, an' died
pinchin' the 'rig'nal cent he started in with."

"He was the father of Mr. Verjoos the other banker here, I suppose?"
said John.

"Yes," said David, "the' was two boys an' a sister. The oldest son,
Alferd, went into the law an' done bus'nis in Albany, an' afterw'ds
moved to New York; but he's always kept up the old place here. The old
man left what was a good deal o' propity fer them days, an' Alf he kept
his share an' made more. He was in the Assembly two three terms, an'
afterw'ds member of Congress, an' they do say," remarked Mr. Harum with
a wink, "that he never lost no money by his politics. On the other hand,
The'dore made more or less of a muddle on't, an' 'mongst 'em they set
him up in the bankin' bus'nis. I say 'them' because the Verjooses, an'
the Rogerses, an' the Swaynes, an' a lot of 'em, is all more or less
related to each other, but Alf's reely the one at the bottom on't, an'
after The 'd lost most of his money it was the easiest way to kind o'
keep him on his legs."

"He seems a good-natured, easy-going sort of person," said John by way
of comment, and, truth to say, not very much interested.

"Oh, yes," said David rather contemptuously, "you could drive him with a
tow string. He don't _know_ enough to run away. But what I was gettin'
at was this: He an' his wife--he married one of the Tenakers--has lived
right here fer the Lord knows how long; born an' brought up here both
on 'em, an' somehow we're 'village people' an' they ain't, that's all."

"Rather a fine distinction," remarked his hearer, smiling.

"Yes, sir," said David. "Now, there's old maid Allis, relative of the
Rogerses, lives all alone down on Clark Street in an old house that
hain't had a coat o' paint or a new shingle sence the three Thayers was
hung, an' she talks about the folks next door, both sides, that she's
knowed alwus, as 'village people,' and I don't believe," asserted the
speaker, "she was ever away f'm Homeville two weeks in the hull course
of her life. She's a putty decent sort of a woman too," Mr. Harum
admitted. "If the' was a death in the house she'd go in an' help, but
she wouldn't never think of askin' one on 'em to tea."

"I suppose you have heard it said," remarked John, laughing, "that it
takes all sorts of people to make a world."

"I think I hev heard a rumor to that effect," said David, "an' I guess
the' 's about as much human nature in some folks as the' is in others,
if not more."

"And I don't fancy that it makes very much difference to you," said
John, "whether the Verjooses or Miss Allis call you 'village people' or
not."

"Don't cut no figger at all," declared Mr. Harum. "Polly 'n I are too
old to set up fer shapes even if we wanted to. A good fair road-gait 's
good enough fer me; three square meals, a small portion of the 'filthy
weed,' as it's called in po'try, a hoss 'r two, a ten-dollar note where
you c'n lay your hand on't, an' once in a while, when your consciunce
pricks ye, a little somethin' to permote the cause o' temp'rence, an'
make the inwurd moniter quit jerkin' the reins--wa'al, I guess I c'n git
along, heh?"

"Yes," said John, by way of making some rejoinder, "if one has all one
needs it is enough."

"Wa'al, yes," observed the philosopher, "that's so, as you might say, up
to a certain _point_, an' in some _ways_. I s'pose a feller could git
along, but at the same time I've noticed that, gen'ally speakin', a
leetle too big 's about the right size."

"I am told," said John, after a pause in which the conversation seemed
to be dying out for lack of fuel, and apropos of nothing in particular,
"that Homeville is quite a summer resort."

"Quite a consid'able," responded Mr. Harum. "It has ben to some extent
fer a good many years, an' it's gettin' more an' more so all the time,
only diff'rent. I mean," he said, "that the folks that come now make
more show an' most on 'em who ain't visitin' their relations either has
places of their own or hires 'em fer the summer. One time some folks
used to come an' stay at the hotel. The' was quite a fair one then," he
explained; "but it burned up, an' wa'n't never built up agin because it
had got not to be thought the fash'nable thing to put up there. Mis'
Robinson (Dug's wife), an' Mis' Truman, 'round on Laylock Street, has
some fam'lies that come an' board with them ev'ry year, but that's about
all the boardin' the' is nowdays." Mr. Harum stopped and looked at his
companion thoughtfully for a moment, as if something had just occurred
to him.

"The' 'll be more o' your kind o' folk 'round, come summer," he said;
and then, on a second thought, "you're 'Piscopal, ain't ye?"

"I have always attended that service," replied John, smiling, "and I
have gone to St. James's here nearly every Sunday."

"Hain't they taken any notice of ye?" asked David.

"Mr. Euston, the rector, called upon me," said John, "but I have made no
further acquaintances."

"E-um'm!" said David, and, after a moment, in a sort of confidential
tone, "Do you like goin' to church?" he asked.

"Well," said John, "that depends--yes, I think I do. I think it is the
proper thing," he concluded weakly.

"Depends some on how a feller's ben brought up, don't ye think so?" said
David.

"I should think it very likely," John assented, struggling manfully with
a yawn.

"I guess that's about my case," remarked Mr. Harum, "an' I sh'd have to
admit that I ain't much of a hand fer church-goin'. Polly has the
princ'pal charge of that branch of the bus'nis, an' the one I stay away
from, when I _don't_ go," he said with a grin, "'s the Prespyteriun."
John laughed.

"No, sir," said David, "I ain't much of a hand for't. Polly used to
worry at me about it till I fin'ly says to her, 'Polly,' I says, 'I'll
tell ye what I'll do. I'll compermise with ye,' I says. 'I won't
undertake to foller right along in your track--I hain't got the req'sit
speed,' I says, 'but f'm now on I'll go to church reg'lar on
Thanksgivin'.' It was putty near Thanksgivin' time," he remarked, "an' I
dunno but she thought if she c'd git me started I'd finish the heat,
an' so we fixed it at that."

"Of course," said John with a laugh, "you kept your promise?"

"Wa'al, sir," declared David with the utmost gravity, "fer the next five
years I never missed attendin' church on Thanksgivin' day but _four_
times; but after that," he added, "I had to beg off. It was too much of
a strain," he declared with a chuckle, "an' it took more time 'n Polly
c'd really afford to git me ready." And so he rambled on upon such
topics as suggested themselves to his mind, or in reply to his auditor's
comments and questions, which were, indeed, more perfunctory than
otherwise. For the Verjooses, the Rogerses, the Swaynes, and the rest,
were people whom John not only did not know, but whom he neither
expected nor cared to know; and so his present interest in them was
extremely small.

Outside of his regular occupations, and despite the improvement in his
domestic environment, life was so dull for him that he could not imagine
its ever being otherwise in Homeville. It was a year since the
world--his world--had come to an end, and though his sensations of loss
and defeat had passed the acute stage, his mind was far from healthy. He
had evaded David's question, or only half answered it, when he merely
replied that the rector had called upon him. The truth was that some
tentative advances had been made to him, and Mr. Euston had presented
him to a few of the people in his flock; but beyond the point of mere
politeness he had made no response, mainly from indifference, but to a
degree because of a suspicion that his connection with Mr. Harum would
not, to say the least, enhance his position in the minds of certain of
the people of Homeville. As has been intimated, it seemed at the outset
of his career in the village as if there had been a combination of
circumstance and effort to put him on his guard, and, indeed, rather to
prejudice him against his employer; and Mr. Harum, as it now appeared to
our friend, had on one or two occasions laid himself open to
misjudgment, if no more. No allusion had ever been made to the episode
of the counterfeit money by either his employer or himself, and it was
not till months afterward that the subject was brought up by Mr. Richard
Larrabee, who sauntered into the bank one morning. Finding no one there
but John, he leaned over the counter on his elbows, and, twisting one
leg about the other in a restful attitude, proceeded to open up a
conversation upon various topics of interest to his mind. Dick was Mr.
Harum's confidential henchman and factotum, although not regularly so
employed. His chief object in life was apparently to get as much
amusement as possible out of that experience, and he was quite
unhampered by over-nice notions of delicacy or bashfulness. But, withal,
Mr. Larrabee was a very honest and loyal person, strong in his likes and
dislikes, devoted to David, for whom he had the greatest admiration, and
he had taken a fancy to our friend, stoutly maintaining that he "wa'n't
no more stuck-up 'n you be," only, as he remarked to Bill Perkins, "he
hain't had the advantigis of your bringin' up."

After some preliminary talk--"Say," he said to John, "got stuck with any
more countyfit money lately?"

John's face reddened a little and Dick laughed.

"The old man told me about it," he said. "Say, you'd ought to done as he
told ye to. You'd 'a' saved fifteen dollars," Dick declared, looking at
our friend with an expression of the utmost amusement.

"I don't quite understand," said John rather stiffly.

"Didn't he tell ye to charge 'em up to the bank, an' let him take 'em?"
asked Dick.

"Well?" said John shortly.

"Oh, yes, I know," said Mr. Larrabee. "He said sumpthin' to make you
think he was goin' to pass 'em out, an' you didn't give him no show to
explain, but jest marched into the back room an' stuck 'em onto the
fire. Ho, ho, ho, ho! He told me all about it," cried Dick. "Say," he
declared, "I dunno 's I ever see the old man more kind o' womble-cropped
over anythin'. Why, he wouldn't no more 'a' passed them bills 'n he'd
'a' cut his hand off. He, he, he, he! He was jest ticklin' your heels a
little," said Mr. Larrabee, "to see if you'd kick, an'," chuckled the
speaker, "you _surely_ did."

"Perhaps I acted rather hastily," said John, laughing a little from
contagion.

"Wa'al," said Dick, "Dave's got ways of his own. I've summered an'
wintered with him now for a good many years, an' _I_ ain't got to the
bottom of him yet, an'," he added, "I don't know nobody that has."




CHAPTER XXIX.


Although, as time went on and John had come to a better insight of the
character of the eccentric person whom Dick had failed to fathom, his
half-formed prejudices had fallen away, it must be admitted that he
ofttimes found him a good deal of a puzzle. The domains of the serious
and the facetious in David's mind seemed to have no very well defined
boundaries.

The talk had drifted back to the people and gossip of Homeville, but,
sooth to say, it had not on this occasion got far away from those
topics.

"Yes," said Mr. Harum, "Alf Verjoos is on the hull the best off of any
of the lot. As I told ye, he made money on top of what the old man left
him, an' he married money. The fam'ly--some on 'em--comes here in the
summer, an' he's here part o' the time gen'ally, but the women folks
won't stay here winters, an' the house is left in care of Alf's sister
who never got married. He don't care a hill o' white beans fer anything
in Homeville but the old place, and he don't cal'late to have nobody on
his grass, not if he knows it. Him an' me are on putty friendly terms,
but the fact is," said David, in a semi-confidential tone, "he's about
an even combine of pykery an' viniger, an' about as pop'lar in gen'ral
'round here as a skunk in a hen-house; but Mis' Verjoos is putty well
liked; an' one o' the girls, Claricy is her name, is a good deal of a
fav'rit. Juliet, the other one, don't mix with the village folks much,
an' sometimes don't come with the fam'ly at all. She favors her father,"
remarked the historian.

"Inherits his popularity, I conclude," remarked John, smiling.

"She does favor him to some extent in that respect," was the reply; "an'
she's dark complected like him, but she's a mighty han'some girl,
notwithstandin'. Both on 'em is han'some girls," observed Mr. Harum,
"an' great fer hosses, an' that's the way I got 'quainted with 'em.
They're all fer ridin' hossback when they're up here. Did you ever ride
a hoss?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," said John, "I have ridden a good deal one time and another."

"Never c'd see the sense on't," declared David. "I c'n imagine gettin'
on to a hoss's back when 't was either that or walkin', but to do it fer
the fun o' the thing 's more 'n I c'n understand. There you be," he
continued, "stuck up four five feet up in the air like a clo'espin,
havin' your backbone chucked up into your skull, an' takin' the skin off
in spots an' places, expectin' ev'ry next minute the critter'll git out
f'm under ye--no, sir," he protested, "if it come to be that it was
either to ride a hossback fer the fun o' the thing or have somebody kick
me, an' kick me hard, I'd say, 'Kick away.' It comes to the same thing
fur 's enjoyment goes, and it's a dum sight safer."

John laughed outright, while David leaned forward with his hands on his
knees, looking at him with a broad though somewhat doubtful smile.

"That being your feeling," remarked John, "I should think saddle horses
would be rather out of your line. Was it a saddle horse that the Misses
Verjoos were interested in?"

"Wa'al, I didn't buy him fer that," replied David, "an' in fact when the
feller that sold him to me told me he'd ben rode, I allowed that ought
to knock twenty dollars off 'n the price, but I did have such a hoss,
an', outside o' that, he was a nice piece of hoss flesh. I was up to the
barn one mornin', mebbe four years ago," he continued, "when in drove
the Verjoos carriage with one of the girls, the oldest one, inside, an'
the yeller-haired one on a hossback. 'Good mornin'. You're Mr. Harum,
ain't you?' she says. 'Good mornin',' I says, 'Harum's the name 't I use
when I appear in public. You're Miss Verjoos, I reckon,' I says.

"She laughed a little, an' says, motionin' with her head to'ds the
carriage, 'My sister is Miss Verjoos. I'm Miss Claricy.' I took off my
cap, an' the other girl jest bowed her head a little.

"'I heard you had a hoss 't I could ride,' says the one on hossback.

"'Wa'al,' I says, lookin' at her hoss, an' he was a good one," remarked
David, "'fer a saddle hoss, I shouldn't think you was entirely out o'
hosses long's you got that one.' 'Oh,' she says, this is my sister's
hoss. Mine has hurt his leg so badly that I am 'fraid I sha'n't be able
to ride him this summer.' 'Wa'al,' I says, 'I've got a hoss that's ben
rode, so I was told, but I don't know of my own knowin'.'

"'Don't you ride?' she says. 'Hossback?' I says. 'Why, of course,' she
says. '_No_, ma'am,' I says, 'not when I c'n raise the money to pay my
_fine_' She looked kind o' puzzled at that," remarked David, "but I see
the other girl look at her an' give a kind of quiet laugh."

"'Can I see him?' says Miss Claricy. 'Cert'nly,' I says, an' went an'
brought him out. 'Oh!' she says to her sister, 'ain't he a beauty? C'n I
try him?' she says to me. 'Wa'al,' I says, 'I guess I c'n resk it if you
can, but I didn't buy him fer a saddle hoss, an' if I'm to own him fer
any len'th of time I'd ruther he'd fergit the saddle bus'nis, an' in any
case,' I says, 'I wouldn't like him to git a sore back, an' then agin,'
I says, 'I hain't got no saddle.'

"'Wa'al,' she says, givin' her head a toss, 'if I couldn't sit straight
I'd never ride agin. I never made a hoss's back sore in my life,' she
says. 'We c'n change the saddle,' she says, an' off she jumps, an', scat
my ----!" exclaimed David, "the way she knowed about gettin' that saddle
fixed, pads, straps, girt's, an' the hull bus'nis, an' put up her foot
fer me to give her a lift, an' wheeled that hoss an' went out o' the
yard a-kitin', was as slick a piece o' hoss bus'nis as ever I see. It
took fust money, that did," said Mr. Harum with a confirmatory shake of
the head. "Wa'al," he resumed, "in about a few minutes back she come,
lickity-cut, an' pulled up in front of me. 'C'n you send my sister's
hoss home?' she says, 'an' then I sha'n't have to change agin. I'll stay
on _my_ hoss,' she says, laughin', an' then agin laughin' fit to kill,
fer I stood there with my mouth open clear to my back teeth, not bein'
used to doin' bus'nis 'ith quite so much neatniss an' dispatch, as the
sayin' is.

"'Oh, it's all right,' she says. 'Poppa came home last night an' I'll
have him see you this afternoon or to-morro'.' 'But mebbe he 'n I won't
agree about the price,' I says. 'Yes, you will,' she says, 'an' if you
don't I won't make his back sore'--an' off they went, an' left me
standin' there like a stick in the mud. I've bought an' sold hosses to
some extent fer a consid'able number o' years," said Mr. Harum
reflectively, "but that partic'ler transaction's got a peg all to
itself."

John laughed and asked, "How did it come out? I mean, what sort of an
interview did you have with the young woman's father, the popular Mr.
Verjoos?"

"Oh," said David, "he druv up to the office the next mornin', 'bout ten
o'clock, an' come into the back room here, an' after we'd passed the
time o' day, he says, clearin' his throat in a way he's got, 'He-uh,
he-uh!' he says, 'my daughter tells me that she run off with a hoss of
yours yestidy in rather a summery manner, an--he-uh-uh--I have come to
see you about payin' fer him. What is the price?' he says.

"'Wa'al,' I says, more 'n anythin' to see what he'd say, 'what would you
say he was wuth?' An' with that he kind o' stiffened a little stiffer 'n
he was before, if it could be.

"'Really,' he says, 'he-uh-uh, I haven't any idea. I haven't seen the
animal, an' I should not consider myself qual'fied to give an opinion
upon his value if I had, but,' he says, 'I don't know that that makes
any material diff'rence, however, because I am quite--he-uh, he-uh--in
your hands--he-uh!--within limits--he-uh-uh!--within limits,' he says.
That kind o' riled me," remarked David. "I see in a minute what was
passin' in his mind. 'Wa'al,' I says, 'Mr. Verjoos, I guess the fact o'
the matter is 't I'm about as much in the mud as you be in the
mire--your daughter's got my hoss,' I says. 'Now you ain't dealin' with
a hoss jockey,' I says, 'though I don't deny that I buy an' sell hosses,
an' once in a while make money at it. You're dealin' with David Harum,
Banker, an' I consider 't I'm dealin' with a lady, or the father of one
on her account,' I says.

"'He-uh, he-uh! I meant no offense, sir,' he says.

"'None bein' meant, none will be took,' I says. 'Now,' I says,' I was
offered one-seventy-five fer that hoss day before yestidy, an' wouldn't
take it. I can't sell him fer that,' I says.

"'He-uh, uh! cert'nly not,' he says.

"'Wait a minit,' I says. 'I can't sell him fer that because I
_said_ I wouldn't; but if you feel like drawin' your check fer
one-seventy-_six_,' I says, 'we'll call it a deal,'" The speaker
paused with a chuckle.

"Well?" said John.

"Wa'al," said David, "he, he, he, he! That clean took the wind out of
him, an' he got redder 'n a beet. 'He-uh-uh-uh-huh! really,' he says, 'I
couldn't think of offerin' you less than two hunderd.'

"'All right,' I says, 'I'll send up fer the hoss. One-seventy-six is my
price, no more an' no less,' an' I got up out o' my chair."

"And what did he say then?" asked John.

"Wa'al," replied Mr. Harum, "he settled his neck down into his collar
an' necktie an' cleared his throat a few times, an' says, 'You put me in
ruther an embarrassin' position, Mr. Harum. My daughter has set her
heart on the hoss, an'--he-uh-uh-uh!'--with a kind of a smile like a
wrinkle in a boot, 'I can't very well tell her that I wouldn't buy him
because you wouldn't accept a higher offer than your own price. I--I
think I must accede to your proposition, an'--he-uh-uh--accept the
favor,' he says, draggin' the words out by the roots.

"'No favor at all,' I says, 'not a bit on't, not a bit on't. It was the
cleanest an' slickist deal I ever had,' I says, 'an' I've had a good
many. That girl o' your'n,' I says, 'if you don't mind my sayin' it,
comes as near bein' a full team an' a cross dog under the wagin as you
c'n git; an' you c'n tell her if you think fit,' I says, 'that if she
ever wants anythin' more out o' _my_ barn I'll throw off twenty-four
dollars ev'ry time, if she'll only do her own buyin'.'

"Wa'al," said Mr. Harum, "I didn't know but what he'd gag a little at
that, but he didn't seem to, an' when he went off after givin' me his
check, he put out his hand an' shook hands, a thing he never done
before."

"That was really very amusing," was John's comment.

"'T wa'n't a bad day's work either," observed Mr. Harum. "I've sold the
crowd a good many hosses since then, an' I've laughed a thousan' times
over that pertic'ler trade. Me 'n Miss Claricy," he added, "has alwus
ben good friends sence that time--an' she 'n Polly are reg'lar neetups.
She never sees me in the street but what it's 'How dee do, Mr. H-a-rum?'
An' I'll say, 'Ain't that ole hoss wore out yet?' or, 'When you comin'
'round to run off with another hoss?' I'll say."

At this point David got out of his chair, yawned, and walked over to the
window.

"Did you ever in all your born days," he said, "see such dum'd weather?
Jest look out there--no sleighin', no wheelin', an' a barn full wantin'
exercise. Wa'al, I guess I'll be moseyin' along." And out he went.




CHAPTER XXX.


If John Lenox had kept a diary for the first year of his life in
Homeville most of its pages would have been blank.

The daily routine of the office (he had no assistant but the callow
Hopkins) was more exacting than laborious, but it kept him confined
seven hours in the twenty-four. Still, there was time in the lengthened
days as the year advanced for walking, rowing, and riding or driving
about the picturesque country which surrounds Homeville. He and Mr.
Harum often drove together after the bank closed, or after "tea," and it
was a pleasure in itself to observe David's dexterous handling of his
horses, and his content and satisfaction in the enjoyment of his
favorite pastime. In pursuit of business he "jogged 'round," as he said,
behind the faithful Jinny, but when on pleasure bent, a pair of
satin-coated trotters drew him in the latest and "slickest" model of
top-buggies.

"Of course," he said, "I'd ruther ride all alone than not to ride at
all, but the's twice as much fun in't when you've got somebody along. I
ain't much of a talker, unless I happen to git started" (at which
assertion John repressed a smile), "but once in a while I like to have
somebody to say somethin' to. You like to come along, don't ye?"

"Very much indeed."

"I used to git Polly to come once in a while," said David, "but it
wa'n't no pleasure to her. She hadn't never ben used to hosses an' alwus
set on the edge of the seat ready to jump, an' if one o' the critters
capered a little she'd want to git right out then an' there. I reckon
she never went out but what she thanked mercy when she struck the hoss
block to git back with hull bones."

"I shouldn't have thought that she would have been nervous with the
reins in your hands," said John.

"Wa'al," replied David, "the last time she come along somethin' give the
team a little scare an' she reached over an' made a grab at the lines.
That," he remarked with a grin, "was quite a good while ago. I says to
her when we got home, 'I guess after this you'd better take your airin's
on a stun-boat. You won't be so liable to git run away with an' throwed
out,' I says."

John laughed a little, but made no comment.

"After all," said David, "I dunno 's I blamed her fer bein' skittish,
but I couldn't have her grabbin' the lines. It's curi's," he reflected,
"I didn't used to mind what I rode behind, nor who done the drivin', but
I'd have to admit that as I git older I prefer to do it myself, I ride
ev'ry once in a while with fellers that c'n drive as well, an' mebbe
better, 'n I can, an' I know it, but if anythin' turns up, or looks like
it, I can't help wishin' 't I had holt o' the lines myself."

The two passed a good many hours together thus beguiling the time.
Whatever David's other merits as a companion, he was not exacting of
response when engaged in conversation, and rarely made any demands upon
his auditor.

       *       *       *       *       *

During that first year John made few additions to his social
acquaintance, and if in the summer the sight of a gay party of young
people caused some stirrings in his breast, they were not strong enough
to induce him to make any attempts toward the acquaintance which he
might have formed. He was often conscious of glances of curiosity
directed toward himself, and Mr. Euston was asked a good many questions
about the latest addition to his congregation.

Yes, he had called upon Mr. Lenox and his call had been returned. In
fact, they had had several visits together--had met out walking once and
had gone on in company. Was Mr. Lenox "nice"? Yes, he had made a
pleasant impression upon Mr. Euston, and seemed to be a person of
intelligence and good breeding--very gentlemanlike. Why did not people
know him? Well, Mr. Euston had made some proffers to that end, but Mr.
Lenox had merely expressed his thanks. No, Mr. Euston did not know how
he happened to be in Homeville and employed by that queer old Mr. Harum,
and living with him and his funny old sister; Mr. Lenox had not confided
in him at all, and though very civil and pleasant, did not appear to
wish to be communicative.

So our friend did not make his entrance that season into the drawing or
dining rooms of any of what David called the "nabobs'" houses. By the
middle or latter part of October Homeville was deserted of its visitors
and as many of that class of its regular population as had the means to
go with and a place to go to.

It was under somewhat different auspices that John entered upon the
second winter of his sojourn. It has been made plain that his relations
with his employer and the kind and lovable Polly were on a satisfactory
and permanent footing.

"I'm dum'd," said David to Dick Larrabee, "if it hain't got putty near
to the p'int when if I want to git anythin' out o' the common run out o'
Polly, I'll have to ask John to fix it fer me. She's like a cow with a
calf," he declared.

"David sets all the store in the world by him," stated Mrs. Bixbee to a
friend, "though he don't jest let on to--not in so many words. He's got
a kind of a notion that his little boy, if he'd lived, would 'a' ben
like him some ways. I never seen the child," she added, with an
expression which made her visitor smile, "but as near 's I c'n make out
f'm Dave's tell, he must 'a' ben red-headed. Didn't you know 't he'd
ever ben married? Wa'al, he was fer a few years, though it's the one
thing--wa'al, I don't mean exac'ly that--it's _one_ o' the things he
don't have much to say about. But once in a while he'll talk about the
boy, what he'd be now if he'd lived, an' so on; an' he's the greatest
hand fer childern--everlastin'ly pickin' on 'em up when he's ridin' and
such as that--an' I seen him once when we was travelin' on the cars go
an' take a squawlin' baby away f'm it's mother, who looked ready to
drop, an' lay it across that big chest of his, an' the little thing
never gave a whimper after he got it into his arms--jest went right off
to sleep. No," said Mrs. Bixbee, "I never had no childern, an' I don't
know but what I was glad of it at the time; Jim Bixbee was about as
much baby as I thought I could manage, but now--"

There was some reason for not concluding the sentence, and so we do not
know what was in her mind.




CHAPTER XXXI.


The year that had passed had seemed a very long one to John, but as the
months came and went he had in a measure adjusted himself to the change
in his fortunes and environment; and so as time went on the poignancy of
his sorrow and regret diminished, as it does with all of us. Yet the
sight of a gray-haired man still brought a pang to his heart, and there
were times of yearning longing to recall every line of the face, every
detail of the dress, the voice, the words, of the girl who had been so
dear to him, and who had gone out of his life as irrevocably, it seemed
to him, as if by death itself. It may be strange, but it is true that
for a very long time it never occurred to him that he might communicate
with her by mailing a letter to her New York address to be forwarded,
and when the thought came to him the impulse to act upon it was very
strong, but he did not do so. Perhaps he would have written had he been
less in love with her, but also there was mingled with that sentiment
something of bitterness which, though he could not quite explain or
justify it, did exist. Then, too, he said to himself, "Of what avail
would it be? Only to keep alive a longing for the impossible." No, he
would forget it all. Men had died and worms had eaten them, but not for
love. Many men lived all their lives without it and got on very well
too, he was aware. Perhaps some day, when he had become thoroughly
affiliated and localized, he would wed a village maiden, and rear a
Freeland County brood. Our friend, as may be seen, had a pretty healthy
mind, and we need not sympathize with him to the disturbance of our own
peace.

Books accumulated in the best bedroom. John's expenses were small, and
there was very little temptation, or indeed opportunity, for spending.
At the time of his taking possession of his quarters in David's house he
had raised the question of his contribution to the household expenses,
but Mr. Harum had declined to discuss the matter at all and referred him
to Mrs. Bixbee, with whom he compromised on a weekly sum which appeared
to him absurdly small, but which she protested she was ashamed to
accept. After a while a small upright piano made its appearance, with
Aunt Polly's approval.

"Why, of course," she said. "You needn't to hev ast me. I'd like to hev
you anyway. I like music ever so much, an' so does David, though I guess
it would floor him to try an' raise a tune. I used to sing quite a
little when I was younger, an' I gen'ally help at church an' prayer
meetin' now. Why, cert'nly. Why not? When would you play if it wa'n't in
the evenin'? David sleeps over the wing. Do you hear him snore?"

"Hardly ever," replied John, smiling. "That is to say, not very
much--just enough sometimes to know that he is asleep."

"Wa'al," she said decidedly, "if he's fur enough off so 't you can't
hear _him_, I guess he won't hear _you_ much, an' he sure won't hear
you after he gits to sleep."

So the piano came, and was a great comfort and resource. Indeed, before
long it became the regular order of things for David and his sister to
spend an hour or so on Sunday evenings listening to his music and their
own as well--that is, the music of their choice--which latter was mostly
to be found in "Carmina Sacra" and "Moody and Sankey"; and Aunt Polly's
heart was glad indeed when she and John together made concord of sweet
sounds in some familiar hymn tune, to the great edification of Mr.
Harum, whose admiration was unbounded.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Did I tell you," said David to Dick Larrabee, "what happened the last
time me an' John went ridin' together?"

"Not's I remember on," replied Dick.

"Wa'al, we've rode together quite a consid'able," said Mr. Harum, "but I
hadn't never said anythin' to him about takin' a turn at the lines. This
day we'd got a piece out into the country an' I had the brown colts. I
says to him, 'Ever do any drivin'?"

"'More or less,' he says.

"'Like to take the lines fer a spell?' I says.

"'Yes,' he says, lookin' kind o' pleased, 'if you ain't afraid to trust
me with 'em,' he says.

"'Wa'al, I'll be here,' I says, an' handed 'em over. Wa'al, sir, I see
jest by the way he took holt on 'em it wa'n't the fust time, an' we went
along to where the road turns in through a piece of woods, an' the track
is narrer, an' we run slap onto one o' them dum'd road-engines that had
got wee-wawed putty near square across the track. Now I tell ye," said
Mr. Harum, "them hosses didn't like it fer a cent, an' tell the truth I
didn't like it no better. We couldn't go ahead fer we couldn't git by
the cussed thing, an' the hosses was 'par'ntly tryin' to git back under
the buggy, an', scat my ----! if he didn't straighten 'em out an' back
'em 'round in that narrer road, an' hardly scraped a wheel. Yes, sir,"
declared Mr. Harum, "I couldn't 'a' done it slicker myself, an' I don't
know nobody that could."

"Guess you must 'a' felt a little ticklish yourself," said Dick
sympathetically, laughing as usual.

"Wa'al, you better believe," declared the other. "The' was 'bout half a
minute when I'd have sold out mighty cheap, an' took a promise fer the
money. He's welcome to drive any team in _my_ barn," said David,
feeling--in which view Mr. Larrabee shared--that encomium was pretty
well exhausted in that assertion.

"I don't believe," said Mr. Harum after a moment, in which he and his
companion reflected upon the gravity of his last declaration, "that
the's any dum thing that feller can't do. The last thing 's a piany.
He's got a little one that stands up on it's hind legs in his room, an'
he c'n play it with both hands 'thout lookin' on. Yes, sir, we have
reg'lar concerts at my house ev'ry Sunday night, admission free, an'
childern half price, an'," said David, "you'd ought to hear him an'
Polly sing, an'--he, he, he! you'd ought to _see_ her singin'--tickleder
'n a little dog with a nosegay tied to his tail."




CHAPTER XXXII.


Our friend's acquaintance with the rector of St. James's church had
grown into something like friendship, and the two men were quite often
together in the evening. John went sometimes to Mr. Euston's house, and
not unfrequently the latter would spend an hour in John's room over a
cigar and a chat. On one of the latter occasions, late in the autumn,
Mr. Euston went to the piano after sitting a few minutes and looked over
some of the music, among which were two or three hymnals. "You are
musical," he said.

"In a modest way," was the reply.

"I am very fond of it," said the clergyman, "but have little knowledge
of it. I wish I had more," he added in a tone of so much regret as
to cause his hearer to look curiously at him. "Yes," he said, "I wish I
knew more--or less. It's the bane of my existence," declared the rector
with a half laugh. John looked inquiringly at him, but did not respond.

"I mean the music--so called--at St. James's," said Mr. Euston. "I don't
wonder you smile," he remarked; "but it's not a matter for smiling with
me."

"I beg pardon," said John.

"No, you need not," returned the other, "but really--Well, there are a
good many unpleasant and disheartening experiences in a clergyman's
life, and I can, I hope, face and endure most of them with patience, but
the musical part of my service is a never-ending source of anxiety,
perplexity, and annoyance. I think," said Mr. Euston, "that I expend
more nerve tissue upon that branch of my responsibilities than upon all
the rest of my work. You see we can not afford to pay any of the
singers, and indeed my people--some of them, at least--think fifty
dollars is a great sum for poor little Miss Knapp, the organist. The
rest are volunteers, or rather, I should say, have been pressed into the
service. We are supposed to have two sopranos and two altos; but in
effect it happens sometimes that neither of a pair will appear, each
expecting the other to be on duty. The tenor, Mr. Hubber, who is an
elderly man without any voice to speak of, but a very devout and
faithful churchman, is to be depended upon to the extent of his
abilities; but Mr. Little, the bass--well," observed Mr. Euston, "the
less said about him the better."

"How about the organist?" said John. "I think she does very well,
doesn't she?"

"Miss Knapp is the one redeeming feature," replied the rector, "but she
has not much courage to interfere. Hubber is nominally the leader, but
he knows little of music." Mr. Euston gave a sorry little laugh. "It's
trying enough," he said, "one Sunday with another, but on Christmas and
Easter, when my people make an unusual effort, and attempt the
impossible, it is something deplorable."

John could not forbear a little laugh. "I should think it must be pretty
trying," he said.

"It is simply corroding," declared Mr. Euston.

They sat for a while smoking in silence, the contemplation of his woes
having apparently driven other topics from the mind of the harassed
clergyman. At last he said, turning to our friend:

"I have heard your voice in church."

"Yes?"

"And I noticed that you sang not only the hymns but the chants, and in a
way to suggest the idea that you have had experience and training. I did
not come here for the purpose," said Mr. Euston, after waiting a moment
for John to speak, "though I confess the idea has occurred to me before,
but it was suggested again by the sight of your piano and music. I know
that it is asking a great deal," he continued, "but do you think you
could undertake, for a while at least, to help such a lame dog as I am
over the stile? You have no idea," said the rector earnestly, "what a
service you would be doing not only to me, but to my people and the
church."

John pulled thoughtfully at his mustache for a moment, while Mr. Euston
watched his face. "I don't know," he said at last in a doubtful tone. "I
am afraid you are taking too much for granted--I don't mean as to my
good will, but as to my ability to be of service, for I suppose you mean
that I should help in drilling your choir."

"Yes," replied Mr. Euston. "I suppose it would be too much to ask you to
sing as well."

"I have had no experience in the way of leading or directing," replied
John, ignoring the suggestion, "though I have sung in church more or
less, and am familiar with the service, but even admitting my ability to
be of use, shouldn't you be afraid that my interposing might make more
trouble than it would help? Wouldn't your choir resent it? Such people
are sometimes jealous, you know."

"Oh, dear, yes," sighed the rector. "But," he added, "I think I can
guarantee that there will be no unpleasant feeling either toward you or
about you. Your being from New York will give you a certain prestige,
and their curiosity and the element of novelty will make the beginning
easy."

There came a knock at the door and Mr. Harum appeared, but, seeing a
visitor, was for withdrawing.

"Don't go," said John. "Come in. Of course you know Mr. Euston."

"Glad to see ye," said David, advancing and shaking hands. "You folks
talkin' bus'nis?" he asked before sitting down.

"I am trying to persuade Mr. Lenox to do me a great favor," said Mr.
Euston.

"Well, I guess he won't want such an awful sight o' persuadin'," said
David, taking a chair, "if he's able to do it. What does he want of ye?"
he asked, turning to John. Mr. Euston explained, and our friend gave his
reasons for hesitating--all but the chief one, which was that he was
reluctant to commit himself to an undertaking which he apprehended would
be not only laborious but disagreeable.

"Wa'al," said David, "as fur 's the bus'nis itself 's concerned, the
hull thing's all nix-cum-rouse to me; but as fur 's gettin' folks to
come an' sing, you c'n git a barn full, an' take your pick; an' a
feller that c'n git a pair of hosses an' a buggy out of a tight fix the
way you done a while ago ought to be able to break in a little team of
half a dozen women or so."

"Well," said John, laughing, "_you_ could have done what I was lucky
enough to do with the horses, but--"

"Yes, yes," David broke in, scratching his cheek, "I guess you got me
that time."

Mr. Euston perceived that for some reason he had an ally and advocate in
Mr. Harum. He rose and said good-night, and John escorted him downstairs
to the door. "Pray think of it as favorably as you can," he said, as
they shook hands at parting.

"Putty nice kind of a man," remarked David when John came back; "putty
nice kind of a man. 'Bout the only 'quaintance you've made of his kind,
ain't he? Wa'al, he's all right fur 's he goes. Comes of good stock, I'm
told, an' looks it. Runs a good deal to emptins in his preachin' though,
they say. How do you find him?"

"I think I enjoy his conversation more than his sermons," admitted John
with a smile.

"Less of it at times, ain't the'?" suggested David. "I may have told
ye," he continued, "that I wa'n't a very reg'lar churchgoer, but I've
ben more or less in my time, an' when I did listen to the sermon all
through, it gen'ally seemed to me that if the preacher 'd put all the'
really was in it together he wouldn't need to have took only 'bout
quarter the time; but what with scorin' fer a start, an' laggin' on the
back stretch, an' ev'ry now an' then breakin' to a stan'still, I
gen'ally wanted to come down out o' the stand before the race was over.
The's a good many fast quarter hosses," remarked Mr. Harum, "but them
that c'n keep it up fer a full mile is scurce. What you goin' to do
about the music bus'nis, or hain't ye made up your mind yet?" he asked,
changing the subject.

"I like Mr. Euston," said John, "and he seems very much in earnest about
this matter; but I am not sure," he added thoughtfully, "that I can do
what he wants, and I must say that I am very reluctant to undertake it;
still, I don't know but that I ought to make the trial," and he looked
up at David.

"I guess I would if I was you," said the latter. "It can't do ye no
harm, an' it may do ye some good. The fact is," he continued, "that you
ain't out o' danger of runnin' in a rut. It would do you good mebbe to
git more acquainted, an' mebbe this'll be the start on't."

"With a little team of half a dozen women, as you called them," said
John. "Mr. Euston has offered to introduce me to any one I cared to
know."

"I didn't mean the singin' folks," responded Mr. Harum, "I meant the
church folks in gen'ral, an' it'll come 'round in a natur'l sort of
way--not like bein' took 'round by Mr. Euston as if you'd _ast_ him to.
You can't git along--you may, an' have fer a spell, but not alwus--with
nobody to visit with but me an' Polly an' Dick, an' so on, an' once in a
while with the parson; you ben used to somethin' diff'rent, an' while I
ain't sayin' that Homeville soci'ty, pertic'lerly in the winter, 's the
finest in the land, or that me an' Polly ain't all right in our way, you
want a change o' feed once in a while, or you _may_ git the colic.
Now," proceeded the speaker, "if this singin' bus'nis don't do more'n
to give ye somethin' new to think about, an' take up an evenin' now an'
then, even if it bothers ye some, I think mebbe it'll be a good thing
fer ye. They say a reasonable amount o' fleas is good fer a dog--keeps
him from broodin' over _bein'_ a dog, mebbe," suggested David.

"Perhaps you are right," said John. "Indeed, I don't doubt that you are
right, and I will take your advice."

"Thank you," said David a minute or two later on, holding out the glass
while John poured, "jest a wisdom toothful. I don't set up to be no
Sol'mon, an' if you ever find out how I'm bettin' on a race jest
'copper' me an' you c'n wear di'monds, but I know when a hoss has stood
too long in the barn as soon as the next man."

It is possible that even Mr. Euston did not fully appreciate the
difficulties of the task which he persuaded our friend John to
undertake; and it is certain that had the latter known all that they
were to be he would have hardened his heart against both the pleadings
of the rector and the advice of David. His efforts were welcomed and
seconded by Mr. Hubber the tenor, and Miss Knapp the organist, and there
was some earnestness displayed at first by the ladies of the choir; but
Mr. Little, the bass, proved a hopeless case, and John, wholly against
his intentions, and his inclinations as well, had eventually to take
over the basso's duty altogether, as being the easiest way--in fact, the
only way--to save his efforts from downright failure.

Without going in detail into the trials and tribulations incident to the
bringing of the musical part of the service at Mr. Euston's church up
to a respectable if not a high standard, it may be said that with
unremitting pains this end was accomplished, to the boundless relief and
gratitude of that worthy gentleman, and to a good degree of the members
of his congregation.




CHAPTER XXXIII.


On a fine Sunday in summer after the close of the service the exit of
the congregation of St. James's church presents an animated and
inspiring spectacle. A good many well-dressed ladies of various ages,
and not quite so many well-dressed men, mostly (as David would have put
it) "runnin' a little younger," come from out the sacred edifice with an
expression of relief easily changeable to something gayer. A few drive
away in handsome equipages, but most prefer to walk, and there is
usually a good deal of smiling talk in groups before parting, in which
Mr. Euston likes to join. He leaves matters in the vestry to the care of
old Barlow, the sexton, and makes, if one may be permitted the
expression, "a quick change."

Things had come about very much as David had desired and anticipated,
and our friend had met quite a number of the "summer people," having
been waylaid at times by the rector--in whose good graces he stood so
high that he might have sung anything short of a comic song during the
offertory--and presented willy-nilly. On this particular Sunday he had
lingered a while in the gallery after service over some matter connected
with the music, and when he came out of the church most of the people
had made their way down the front steps and up the street; but standing
near the gate was a group of three--the rector and two young women whom
John had seen the previous summer, and now recognized as the Misses
Verjoos. He raised his hat as he was passing the group, when Mr. Euston
detained him: "I want to present you to the Misses Verjoos." A tall
girl, dressed in some black material which gave John the impression of
lace, recognized his salutation with a slight bow and a rather
indifferent survey from a pair of very somber dark eyes, while her
sister, in light colors, gave him a smiling glance from a pair of very
blue ones, and, rather to his surprise, put out her hand with the usual
declaration of pleasure, happiness, or what not.

"We were just speaking of the singing," said the rector, "and I was
saying that it was all your doing."

"You really have done wonders," condescended she of the somber eyes. "We
have only been here a day or two and this is the first time we have been
at church."

The party moved out of the gate and up the street, the rector leading
with Miss Verjoos, followed by our friend and the younger sister.

"Indeed you have," said the latter, seconding her sister's remark. "I
don't believe even yourself can quite realize what the difference is.
My! it is very nice for the rest of us, but it must be a perfect killing
bore for you."

"I have found it rather trying at times," said John; "but now--you are
so kind--it is beginning to appear to me as the most delightful of
pursuits."

"Very pretty," remarked Miss Clara. "Do you say a good deal of that sort
of thing?"

"I am rather out of practice," replied John. "I haven't had much
opportunity for some time."

"I don't think you need feel discouraged," she returned. "A good method
is everything, and I have no doubt you might soon be in form again."

"Thanks for your encouragement," said John, smiling. "I was beginning to
feel quite low in my mind about it." She laughed a little.

"I heard quite a good deal about you last year from a very good friend
of yours," said Miss Clara after a pause.

John looked at her inquiringly.

"Mrs. Bixbee," she said. "Isn't she an old dear?"

"I have reason to think so, with all my heart," said John stoutly.

"She talked a lot about you to me," said Miss Clara.

"Yes?"

"Yes, and if your ears did not burn you have no sense of gratitude.
Isn't Mr. Harum funny?"

"I have sometimes suspected it," said John, laughing. "He once told me
rather an amusing thing about a young woman's running off with one of
his horses."

"Did he tell you that? Really? I wonder what you must have thought of
me?"

"Something of what Mr. Harum did, I fancy," said John.

"What was that?"

"Pardon me," was the reply, "but I have been snubbed once this morning."
She gave a little laugh.

"Mr. Harum and I are great 'neetups,' as he says. Is 'neetups' a nice
word?" she asked, looking at her companion.

"I should think so if I were in Mr. Harum's place," said John. "It means
'cronies,' I believe, in his dictionary."

They had come to where Freeland Street terminates in the Lake Road,
which follows the border of the lake to the north and winds around the
foot of it to the south and west.

"Why!" exclaimed Miss Clara, "there comes David. I haven't seen him this
summer."

They halted and David drew up, winding the reins about the whipstock and
pulling off his buckskin glove.

"How do you do, Mr. Harum?" said the girl, putting her hand in his.

"How air ye, Miss Claricy? Glad to see ye agin," he said. "I'm settin'
up a little ev'ry day now, an' you don't look as if you was off your
feed much, eh?"

"No," she replied, laughing, "I'm in what you call pretty fair
condition, I think."

"Wa'al, I reckon," he said, looking at her smiling face with the
frankest admiration. "Guess you come out a little finer ev'ry season,
don't ye? Hard work to keep ye out o' the 'free-fer-all' class, I guess.
How's all the folks?"

"Nicely, thanks," she replied.

"That's right," said David.

"How is Mrs. Bixbee?" she inquired.

"Wa'al," said David with a grin, "I ben a little down in the mouth
lately 'bout Polly--seems to be fallin' away some--don't weigh much more
'n I do, I guess;" but Miss Clara only laughed at this gloomy report.

"How is my horse Kirby?" she asked.

"Wa'al, the ole bag-o'-bones is breathin' yet," said David, chuckling,
"but he's putty well wore out--has to lean up agin the shed to whicker.
Guess I'll have to sell ye another putty soon now. Still, what the' is
left of him 's 's good 's ever 't will be, an' I'll send him up in the
mornin'." He looked from Miss Clara to John, whose salutation he had
acknowledged with the briefest of nods.

"How'd you ketch _him_?" he asked, indicating our friend with a motion
of his head. "Had to go after him with a four-quart measure, didn't ye?
or did he let ye corner him?"

"Mr. Euston caught him for me," she said, laughing, but coloring
perceptibly, while John's face grew very red. "I think I will run on and
join my sister, and Mr. Lenox can drive home with you. Good bye, Mr.
Harum. I shall be glad to have Kirby whenever it is convenient. We shall
be glad to see you at Lakelawn," she said to John cordially, "whenever
you can come;" and taking her prayer book and hymnal from him, she sped
away.

"Look at her git over the ground," said David, turning to watch her
while John got into the buggy. "Ain't that a gait?"

"She is a charming girl," said John as old Jinny started off.

"She's the one I told you about that run off with my hoss," remarked
David, "an' I alwus look after him fer her in the winter."

"Yes, I know," said John. "She was laughing about it to-day, and saying
that you and she were great friends."

"She was, was she?" said David, highly pleased. "Yes, sir, that's the
girl, an', scat my ----! if I was thirty years younger she c'd run off
with me jest as easy--an' I dunno but what she could anyway," he added.

"Charming girl," repeated John rather thoughtfully.

"Wa'al," said David, "I don't know as much about girls as I do about
some things; my experience hain't laid much in that line, but I wouldn't
like to take a contract to match _her_ on any _limit_. I guess," he
added softly, "that the consideration in that deal 'd have to be 'love
an' affection.' Git up, old lady," he exclaimed, and drew the whip along
old Jinny's back like a caress. The mare quickened her pace, and in a
few minutes they drove into the barn.




CHAPTER XXXIV.


"Where you ben?" asked Mrs. Bixbee of her brother as the three sat at
the one o'clock dinner. "I see you drivin' off somewheres."

"Ben up the Lake Road to 'Lizer Howe's," replied David. "He's got a hoss
't I've some notion o' buyin'."

"Ain't the' week-days enough," she asked, "to do your horse-tradin' in
'ithout breakin' the Sabbath?"

David threw back his head and lowered a stalk of the last asparagus of
the year into his mouth.

"Some o' the best deals I ever made," he said, "was made on a Sunday.
Hain't you never heard the sayin', 'The better the day, the better the
deal'?"

"Wa'al," declared Mrs. Bixbee, "the' can't be no blessin' on money
that's made in that way, an' you'd be better off without it."

"I dunno," remarked her brother, "but Deakin Perkins might ask a
blessin' on a hoss trade, but I never heard of it's bein' done, an' I
don't know jest how the deakin 'd put it; it'd be two fer the deakin an'
one fer the other feller, though, somehow, you c'n bet."

"Humph!" she ejaculated. "I guess nobody ever did; an' I sh'd think you
had money enough an' horses enough an' time enough to keep out o' that
bus'nis on Sunday, anyhow."

"Wa'al, wa'al," said David, "mebbe I'll swear off before long, an'
anyway the' wa'n't no blessin' needed on this trade, fer if you'll ask
'Lizer he'll tell ye the' wa'n't none made. 'Lizer 's o' your way o'
thinkin' on the subjict."

"That's to his credit, anyway," she asserted.

"Jes' so," observed her brother; "I've gen'ally noticed that folks who
was of your way o' thinkin' never made no mistakes, an' 'Lizer 's a very
consistent believer;" whereupon he laughed in a way to arouse both Mrs.
Bixbee's curiosity and suspicion.

"I don't see anythin' in that to laugh at," she declared.

"He, he, he, he!" chuckled David.

"Wa'al, you may 's well tell it one time 's another. That's the way,"
she said, turning to John with a smile trembling on her lips, "'t he
picks at me the hull time."

"I've noticed it," said John. "It's shameful."

"I do it hully fer her good," asserted David with a grin. "If it wa'n't
fer me she'd git in time as narrer as them seven-day Babtists over to
Peeble--they call 'em the 'narrer Babtists.' You've heard on 'em, hain't
you, Polly?"

"No," she said, without looking up from her plate, "I never heard on
'em, an' I don't much believe you ever did neither."

"What!" exclaimed David, "You lived here goin' on seventy year an' never
heard on 'em?"

"David Harum!" she cried, "I ain't within ten year----"

"Hold on," he protested, "don't throw that teacup. I didn't say you
_was_, I only said you was _goin' on_--an' about them people over to
Peeble, they've got the name of the 'narrer Babtists' because they're so
narrer in their views that fourteen on 'em c'n sit, side an' side, in a
buggy." This astonishing statement elicited a laugh even from Aunt
Polly, but presently she said:

"Wa'al, I'm glad you found one man that would stan' you off on Sunday."

"Yes'm," said her brother, "'Lizer 's jest your kind. I knew 't he'd
hurt his foot, an' prob'ly couldn't go to meetin', an' sure enough, he
was settin' on the stoop, an' I drove in an' pulled up in the lane
alongside. We said good mornin' an' all that, an' I ast after the folks
an' how his foot was gettin' 'long, an' so on, an' fin'ly I says, 'I see
your boy drivin' a hoss the other day that looked a little--f'm the
middle o' the road--as if he might match one I've got, an' I thought I'd
drive up this mornin' an' see if we couldn't git up a dicker.' Wa'al, he
give a kind of a hitch in his chair as if his foot hurt him, an' then he
says, 'I guess I can't deal with ye to-day. I don't never do no bus'nis
on Sunday,' he says.

"'I've heard you was putty pertic'ler,' I says, 'but I'm putty busy jest
about now, an' I thought that mebbe once in a way, an' seein' that you
couldn't go to meetin' anyway, an' that I've come quite a ways an' don't
know when I c'n see you agin, an' so on, that mebbe you'd think, under
all the circumstances, the' wouldn't be no great harm in't--long 's I
don't pay over no money, at cetery,' I says.

"'No,' he says, shakin' his head in a sort o' mournful way, 'I'm glad to
see ye, an' I'm sorry you've took all that trouble fer nuthin', but my
conscience won't allow me,' he says, 'to do no bus'nis on Sunday.'

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'I don't ask no man to go agin his conscience, but it
wouldn't be no very glarin' transgression on your part, would it, if I
was to go up to the barn all alone by myself an' look at the hoss?' I
c'd see," continued Mr. Harum, "that his face kind o' brightened up at
that, but he took his time to answer. 'Wa'al,' he says fin'ly, 'I don't
want to lay down no law fer _you_, an' if _you_ don't see no harm in't,
I guess the' ain't nuthin' to prevent ye.' So I got down an' started fer
the barn, an'--he, he, he!--when I'd got about a rod he hollered after
me, 'He's in the end stall,' he says.

"Wa'al," the narrator proceeded, "I looked the critter over an' made up
my mind about what he was wuth to me, an' went back an' got in, an'
drove into the yard, an' turned 'round, an' drew up agin 'longside the
stoop. 'Lizer looked up at me in an askin' kind of a way, but he didn't
say anythin'.

"'I s'pose,' I says, 'that you wouldn't want me to say anythin' more to
ye, an' I may 's well jog along back.'

"'Wa'al,' he says, 'I can't very well help hearin' ye, kin I, if you got
anythin' to say?'

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'the hoss ain't exac'ly what I expected to find, nor
jest what I'm lookin' fer; but I don't say I wouldn't 'a' made a deal
with ye if the price had ben right, an' it hadn't ben Sunday.' I
reckon," said David with a wink at John, "that that there foot o' his'n
must 'a' give him an extry twinge the way he wriggled in his chair; but
I couldn't break his lockjaw yit. So I gathered up the lines an' took
out the whip, an' made all the motions to go, an' then I kind o' stopped
an' says, 'I don't want you to go agin your princ'ples nor the law an'
gosp'l on my account, but the' can't be no harm in s'posin' a case, can
the'?' No, he allowed that s'posin' wa'n't jest the same as doin'.
'Wa'al,' says I, 'now s'posin' I'd come up here yestidy as I have
to-day, an' looked your hoss over, an' said to you, "What price do you
put on him?" what do you s'pose you'd 'a' said?'

"'Wa'al,' he said, 'puttin' it that way, I s'pose I'd 'a' said
one-seventy.'

"'Yes,' I says, 'an' then agin, if I'd said that he wa'n't wuth that
money to me, not bein' jest what I wanted--an' so he ain't--but that I'd
give one-forty, _cash_, what do you s'pose you'd 'a' said?'

"'Wa'al,' he says, givin' a hitch, 'of course I don't know jest what I
would have said, but I _guess_,' he says, ''t I'd 'a' said if you'll
make it one-fifty you c'n have the hoss.'

"'Wa'al, now,' I says, 's'posin' I was to send Dick Larrabee up here in
the mornin' with the money, what do you s'pose you'd do?'

"'I _s'pose_ I'd let him go,' says 'Lizer.

"'All right,' I says, an' off I put. That conscience o' 'Lizer's,"
remarked Mr. Harum in conclusion, "is wuth its weight in gold, _jest
about_."

"David Harum," declared Aunt Polly, "you'd ort to be 'shamed o'
yourself."

"Wa'al," said David with an air of meekness, "if I've done anythin' I'm
sorry for, I'm willin' to be forgi'n. Now, s'posin'----"

"I've heard enough 'bout s'posin' fer one day," said Mrs. Bixbee
decisively, "unless it's s'posin' you finish your dinner so's't Sairy
c'n git through her work sometime."




CHAPTER XXXV.


After dinner John went to his room and David and his sister seated
themselves on the "verandy." Mr. Harum lighted a cigar and enjoyed his
tobacco for a time in silence, while Mrs. Bixbee perused, with rather
perfunctory diligence, the columns of her weekly church paper.

"I seen a sight fer sore eyes this mornin'," quoth David presently.

"What was that?" asked Aunt Polly, looking up over her glasses.

"Claricy Verjoos fer one part on't," said David.

"The Verjooses hev come, hev they? Wa'al, that's good. I hope she'll
come up an' see me."

David nodded. "An' the other part on't was," he said, "she an' that
young feller of our'n was walkin' together, an' a putty slick pair they
made too."

"Ain't she purty?" said Mrs. Bixbee.

"They don't make 'em no puttier," affirmed David; "an' they was a nice
pair. I couldn't help thinkin'," he remarked, "what a nice hitch up
they'd make."

"Guess the' ain't much chance o' that," she observed.

"No, I guess not either," said David.

"He hain't got anythin' to speak of, I s'pose, an' though I reckon
she'll hev prop'ty some day, all that set o' folks seems to marry money,
an' some one's alwus dyin' an' leavin' some on 'em some more. The' ain't
nothin' truer in the Bible," declared Mrs. Bixbee with conviction, "'n
that sayin' thet them that has gits."

"That's seemin'ly about the way it runs in gen'ral," said David.

"It don't seem right," said Mrs. Bixbee, with her eyes on her brother's
face. "Now there was all that money one o' Mis' Elbert Swayne's
relations left her last year, an' Lucy Scramm, that's poorer 'n
poverty's back kitchin, an' the same relation to him that Mis' Swayne
was, only got a thousan' dollars, an' the Swaynes rich already. Not but
what the thousan' was a godsend to the Scramms, but he might jest as
well 'a' left 'em comf'tibly off as not, 'stid of pilin' more onto the
Swaynes that didn't need it."

"Does seem kind o' tough," David observed, leaning forward to drop his
cigar ash clear of the veranda floor, "but that's the way things goes,
an' I've often had to notice that a man'll sometimes do the foolishist
thing or the meanest thing in his hull life after he's dead."

"You never told me," said Mrs. Bixbee, after a minute or two, in which
she appeared to be following up a train of reflection, "much of anythin'
about John's matters. Hain't he ever told you anythin' more 'n what
you've told me? or don't ye want me to know? Didn't his father leave
anythin'?"

"The' was a little money," replied her brother, blowing out a cloud of
smoke, "an' a lot of unlikely chances, but nothin' to live on."

"An' the' wa'n't nothin' for 't but he had to come up here?" she
queried.

"He'd 'a' had to work on a salary somewhere, I reckon," was the reply.
"The' was one thing," added David thoughtfully after a moment, "that'll
mebbe come to somethin' some time, but it may be a good while fust, an'
don't you ever let on to him nor nobody else 't I ever said anythin'
about it."

"I won't open my head to a livin' soul," she declared. "What was it?"

"Wa'al, I don't know 's I ever told ye," he said, "but a good many years
ago I took some little hand in the oil bus'nis, but though I didn't git
in as deep as I wish now 't I had, I've alwus kept up a kind of int'rist
in what goes on in that line."

"No, I guess you never told me," she said. "Where you goin'?" as he got
out of his chair.

"Goin' to git my cap," he answered. "Dum the dum things! I don't believe
the's a fly in Freeland County that hain't danced the wild kachuky on my
head sence we set here. Be I much specked?" he asked, as he bent his
bald poll for her inspection.

"Oh, go 'long!" she cried, as she gave him a laughing push.

"'Mongst other-things," he resumed, when he had returned to his chair
and relighted his cigar, "the' was a piece of about ten or twelve
hunderd acres of land down in Pennsylvany havin' some coal on it, he
told me he understood, but all the timber, ten inch an' over, 'd ben
sold off. He told me that his father's head clerk told him that the old
gentleman had tried fer a long time to dispose of it; but it called fer
too much to develop it, I guess; 't any rate he couldn't, an' John's
got it to pay taxes on."

"I shouldn't think it was wuth anythin' to him but jest a bill of
expense," observed Mrs. Bixbee.

"Tain't now," said David, "an' mebbe won't be fer a good while; still,
it's wuth somethin', an' I advised him to hold onto it on gen'ral
princ'ples. I don't know the pertic'ler prop'ty, of course," he
continued, "but I do know somethin' of that section of country, fer I
done a little prospectin' 'round there myself once on a time. But it
wa'n't in the oil territory them days, or wa'n't known to be, anyway."

"But it's eatin' itself up with taxes, ain't it?" objected Mrs. Bixbee.

"Wa'al," he replied, "it's free an' clear, an' the taxes ain't so very
much--though they do stick it to an outside owner down there--an' the
p'int is here: I've alwus thought they didn't drill deep enough in that
section. The' was some little traces of oil the time I told ye of, an'
I've heard lately that the's some talk of a move to test the territory
agin, an', if anythin' was to be found, the young feller's prop'ty might
be wuth somethin', but," he added, "of course the' ain't no tellin'."




CHAPTER XXXVI.


"Well," said Miss Verjoos, when her sister overtook her, Mr. Euston
having stopped at his own gate, "you and your latest discovery seemed to
be getting on pretty well from the occasional sounds which came to my
ears. What is he like?"

"He's charming," declared Miss Clara.

"Indeed," remarked her sister, lifting her eyebrows. "You seem to have
come to a pretty broad conclusion in a very short period of time.
'Charming' doesn't leave very much to be added on longer acquaintance,
does it?"

"Oh, yes it does," said Miss Clara, laughing. "There are all degrees:
Charming, very charming, most charming, and _perfectly_ charming."

"To be sure," replied the other. "And there is the descending scale:
Perfectly charming, most charming, very charming, charming, very
pleasant, quite nice, and, oh, yes, well enough. Of course you have
asked him to call."

"Yes, I have," said Miss Clara.

"Don't you think that mamma----"

"No, I don't," declared the girl with decision. "I know from what Mr.
Euston said, and I know from the little talk I had with him this
morning, from his manner and--_je ne sais quoi_--that he will be a
welcome addition to a set of people in which every single one knows
just what every other one will say on any given subject and on any
occasion. You know how it is."

"Well," said the elder sister, smiling and half shutting her eyes with a
musing look, "I think myself that we all know each other a little too
well to make our affairs very exciting. Let us hope the new man will be
all you anticipate, and," she added with a little laugh, and a side
glance at her sister, "that there will be enough of him to go 'round."

It hardly needs to be said that the aristocracy of Homeville and all the
summer visitors and residents devoted their time to getting as much
pleasure and amusement out of their life as was to be afforded by the
opportunities at hand: Boating, tennis, riding, driving; an occasional
picnic, by invitation, at one or the other of two very pretty
waterfalls, far enough away to make the drive there and back a feature;
as much dancing in an informal way as could be managed by the younger
people; and a certain amount of flirtation, of course (but of a very
harmless sort), to supply zest to all the rest. But it is not intended
to give a minute account of the life, nor to describe in detail all the
pursuits and festivities which prevailed during the season. Enough to
say that our friend soon had opportunity to partake in them as much and
often as was compatible with his duties. His first call at Lakelawn
happened to be on an evening when the ladies were not at home, and it is
quite certain that upon this, the occasion of his first essay of the
sort, he experienced a strong feeling of relief to be able to leave
cards instead of meeting a number of strange people, as he had thought
would be likely.

One morning, some days later, Peleg Hopkins came in with a grin and
said, "The's some folks eout in front wants you to come eout an' see
'em."

"Who are they?" asked John, who for the moment was in the back room and
had not seen the carriage drive up.

"The two Verjoos gals," said Peleg with another distortion of his
freckled countenance. "One on 'em hailed me as I was comin' in and ast
me to ast you to come eout." John laughed a little as he wondered what
their feeling would be were they aware that they were denominated as the
"Verjoos gals" by people of Peleg's standing in the community.

"We were so sorry to miss your visit the other evening," said Miss
Clara, after the usual salutations.

John said something about the loss having been his own, and after a few
remarks of no special moment the young woman proceeded to set forth her
errand.

"Do you know the Bensons from Syrchester?" she asked.

John replied that he knew who they were but had not the pleasure of
their acquaintance.

"Well," said Miss Clara, "they are extremely nice people, and Mrs.
Benson is very musical; in fact, Mr. Benson does something in that line
himself. They have with them for a few days a violinist, Fairman I think
his name is, from Boston, and a pianist--what was it, Juliet?"

"Schlitz, I think," said Miss Verjoos.

"Oh, yes, that is it, and they are coming to the house to-night, and we
are going to have some music in an informal sort of way. We shall be
glad to have you come if you can."

"I shall be delighted," said John sincerely. "At what time?"

"Any time you like," she said; "but the Bensons will probably get there
about half-past eight or nine o'clock."

"Thank you very much, and I shall be delighted," he repeated.

Miss Clara looked at him for a moment with a hesitating air.

"There is another thing," she said.

"Yes?"

"Yes," she replied, "I may as well tell you that you will surely be
asked to sing. Quite a good many people who have heard you in the
quartette in church are anxious to hear you sing alone, Mrs. Benson
among them."

John's face fell a little.

"You do sing other than church music, do you not?" she asked.

"Yes," he admitted, "I know some other music."

"Do you think it would be a bore to you."

"No," said John, who indeed saw no way out of it; "I will bring some
music, with pleasure, if you wish."

"That's very nice of you," said Miss Clara, "and you will give us all a
great deal of pleasure."

He looked at her with a smile.

"That will depend," he said, and after a moment, "Who will play for me?"

"I had not thought of that," was the reply. "I think I rather took it
for granted that you could play for yourself. Can't you?"

"After a fashion, and simple things," he said, "but on an occasion I
would rather not attempt it."

The girl looked at her sister in some perplexity.

"I should think," suggested Miss Verjoos, speaking for the second time,
"that Mr. or Herr Schlitz would play your accompaniments, particularly
if Mrs. Benson were to ask him, and if he can play for the violin I
should fancy he can for the voice."

"Very well," said John, "we will let it go at that." As he spoke David
came round the corner of the bank and up to the carriage.

"How d'y' do, Miss Verjoos? How air ye, Miss Claricy?" he asked, taking
off his straw hat and mopping his face and head with his handkerchief.
"Guess we're goin' to lose our sleighin', ain't we?"

"It seems to be going pretty fast," replied Miss Clara, laughing.

"Yes'm," he remarked, "we sh'll be scrapin' bare ground putty soon now
if this weather holds on. How's the old hoss now you got him agin?" he
asked. "Seem to 've wintered putty well? Putty chipper, is he?"

"Better than ever," she affirmed. "He seems to grow younger every year."

"Come, now," said David, "that ain't a-goin' to do. I cal'lated to sell
ye another hoss _this_ summer anyway. Ben dependin' on't in fact, to pay
a dividend. The bankin' bus'nis has been so neglected since this feller
come that it don't amount to much any more," and he laid his hand on
John's shoulder, who colored a little as he caught a look of demure
amusement in the somber eyes of the elder sister.

"After that," he said, "I think I had better get back to my neglected
duties," and he bowed his adieus.

"No, sir," said Miss Clara to David, "you must get your dividend out of
some one else this summer."

"Wa'al," said he, "I see I made a mistake takin' such good care on him.
Guess I'll have to turn him over to Dug Robinson to winter next year.
Ben havin' a little visit with John?" he asked. Miss Clara colored a
little, with something of the same look which John had seen in her
sister's face.

"We are going to have some music at the house to-night, and Mr. Lenox
has kindly promised to sing for us," she replied.

"He has, has he?" said David, full of interest. "Wa'al, he's the feller
c'n do it if anybody can. We have singin' an' music up t' the house
ev'ry Sunday night--me an' Polly an' him--an' it's fine. Yes, ma'am, I
don't know much about music myself, but I c'n beat time, an' he's got a
stack o' music more'n a mile high, an' one o' the songs he sings 'll
jest make the windows rattle. That's my fav'rit," averred Mr. Harum.

"Do you remember the name of it?" asked Miss Clara.

"No," he said; "John told me, an' I guess I'd know it if I heard it; but
it's about a feller sittin' one day by the org'n an' not feelin' exac'ly
right--kind o' tired an' out o' sorts an' not knowin' jest where he was
drivin' at--jest joggin' 'long with a loose rein fer quite a piece, an'
so on; an' then, by an' by, strikin' right into his gait an' goin' on
stronger 'n stronger, an' fin'ly finishin' up with an A--men that
carries him quarter way round the track 'fore he c'n pull up. That's my
fav'rit," Mr. Harum repeated, "'cept when him an' Polly sings together,
an' if that ain't a show--pertic'lerly Polly--I don't want a cent. No,
ma'am, when him an' Polly gits good an' goin' you can't see 'em fer
dust."

"I should like to hear them," said Miss Clara, laughing, "and I should
particularly like to hear your favorite, the one which ends with the
Amen--the very _large_ A--men."

"Seventeen hands," declared Mr. Harum. "Must you be goin'? Wa'al, glad
to have seen ye. Polly's hopin' you'll come an' see her putty soon."

"I will," she promised. "Give her my love, and tell her so, please."

They drove away and David sauntered in, went behind the desks, and
perched himself up on a stool near the teller's counter as he often did
when in the office, and John was not particularly engaged.

"Got you roped in, have they?" he said, using his hat as a fan. "Scat my
----! but ain't this a ring-tail squealer?"

"It is very hot," responded John.

"Miss Claricy says you're goin' to sing fer 'em up to their house
to-night."

"Yes," said John, with a slight shrug of the shoulders, as he pinned a
paper strap around a pile of bills and began to count out another.

"Don't feel very fierce for it, I guess, do ye?" said David, looking
shrewdly at him.

"Not very," said John, with a short laugh.

"Feel a little skittish 'bout it, eh?" suggested Mr. Harum. "Don't see
why ye should--anybody that c'n put up a tune the way you kin."

"It's rather different," observed the younger man, "singing for you and
Mrs. Bixbee and standing up before a lot of strange people."

"H-m, h-m," said David with a nod; "diff'rence 'tween joggin' along on
the road an' drivin' a fust heat on the track; in one case the' ain't
nothin' up, an' ye don't care whether you git there a little more
previously or a little less; an' in the other the's the crowd, an' the
judges, an' the stake, an' your record, an' mebbe the pool box into the
barg'in, that's all got to be considered. Feller don't mind it so much
after he gits fairly off, but thinkin' on't beforehand 's fidgity
bus'nis."

"You have illustrated it exactly," said John, laughing, and much amused
at David's very characteristic, as well as accurate, illustration.

       *       *       *       *       *

"My!" exclaimed Aunt Polly, when John came into the sitting room after
dinner dressed to go out. "My, don't he look nice? I never see you in
them clo'es. Come here a minute," and she picked a thread off his sleeve
and took the opportunity to turn him round for the purpose of giving him
a thorough inspection.

"That wa'n't what you said when you see me in _my_ gold-plated harniss,"
remarked David, with a grin. "You didn't say nothin' putty to me."

"Humph! I guess the's some diff'rence," observed Mrs. Bixbee with scorn,
and her brother laughed.

"How was you cal'latin' to git there?" he asked, looking at our friend's
evening shoes.

"I thought at first I would walk," was the reply, "but I rather think I
will stop at Robinson's and get him to send me over."

"I guess you won't do nothin' o' the sort," declared David. "Tom's all
hitched to take you over, an' when you're ready jest ring the bell."

"You're awfully kind," said John gratefully, "but I don't know when I
shall be coming home."

"Come back when you git a good ready," said Mr. Harum. "If you keep him
an' the hoss waitin' a spell, I guess they won't take cold this
weather."




CHAPTER XXXVII.


The Verjoos house, of old red brick, stands about a hundred feet back
from the north side of the Lake Road, on the south shore of the lake.
Since its original construction a _porte cochere_ has been built upon
the front. A very broad hall, from which rises the stairway with a
double turn and landing, divides the main body of the house through the
middle. On the left, as one enters, is the great drawing room; on the
right a parlor opening into a library; and beyond, the dining room,
which looks out over the lake. The hall opens in the rear upon a broad,
covered veranda, facing the lake, with a flight of steps to a lawn which
slopes down to the lake shore, a distance of some hundred and fifty
yards.

John had to pass through a little flock of young people who stood near
and about the entrance to the drawing room, and having given his package
of music to the maid in waiting, with a request that it be put upon the
piano, he mounted the stairs to deposit his hat and coat, and then went
down.

In the south end of the drawing room were some twenty people sitting and
standing about, most of them the elders of the families who constituted
society in Homeville, many of whom John had met, and nearly all of whom
he knew by sight and name. On the edge of the group, and halfway down
the room, were Mrs. Verjoos and her younger daughter, who gave him a
cordial greeting; and the elder lady was kind enough to repeat her
daughter's morning assurances of regret that they were out on the
occasion of his call.

"I trust you have been as good as your word," said Miss Clara, "and
brought some music."

"Yes, it is on the piano," he replied, looking across the room to where
the instrument stood.

The girl laughed. "I wish," she said, "you could have heard what Mr.
Harum said this morning about your singing, particularly his description
of The Lost Chord, and I wish that I could repeat it just as he gave
it."

"It's about a feller sittin' one day by the org'n," came a voice from
behind John's shoulder, so like David's as fairly to startle him, "an'
not feelin' exac'ly right--kind o' tired an' out o' sorts, an' not
knowin' jest where he was drivin' at--jest joggin' along with a loose
rein fer quite a piece, an' so on; an' then, by an' by, strikin' right
into his gait an' goin' on stronger an' stronger, an' fin'ly finishin'
up with an A--men that carries him quarter way 'round the track 'fore he
c'n pull up." They all laughed except Miss Verjoos, whose gravity was
unbroken, save that behind the dusky windows of her eyes, as she looked
at John, there was for an instant a gleam of mischievous drollery.

"Good evening, Mr. Lenox," she said. "I am very glad to see you," and
hardly waiting for his response, she turned and walked away.

"That is Juliet all over," said her sister. "You would not think to see
her ordinarily that she was given to that sort of thing, but once in a
while, when she feels like it--well--pranks! She is the funniest
creature that ever lived, I believe, and can mimic and imitate any
mortal creature. She sat in the carriage this morning, and one might
have fancied from her expression that she hardly heard a word, but I
haven't a doubt that she could repeat every syllable that was uttered.
Oh, here come the Bensons and their musicians."

John stepped back a pace or two toward the end of the room, but was
presently recalled and presented to the newcomers. After a little talk
the Bensons settled themselves in the corner at the lower end of the
room, where seats were placed for the two musicians, and our friend took
a seat near where he had been standing. The violinist adjusted his
folding music rest. Miss Clara stepped over to the entrance door and put
up her finger at the young people in the hall. "After the music begins,"
she said, with a shake of the head, "if I hear one sound of giggling or
chattering, I will send every one of you young heathen home. Remember
now! This isn't your party at all."

"But, Clara, dear," said Sue Tenaker (aged fifteen), "if we are very
good and quiet do you think they would play for us to dance a little by
and by?"

"Impudence!" exclaimed Miss Clara, giving the girl's cheek a playful
slap and going back to her place. Miss Verjoos came in and took a chair
by her sister. Mrs. Benson leaned forward and raised her eyebrows at
Miss Clara, who took a quick survey of the room and nodded in return.
Herr Schlitz seated himself on the piano chair, pushed it a little back,
drew it a little forward to the original place, looked under the piano
at the pedals, took out his handkerchief and wiped his face and hands,
and after arpeggioing up and down the key-board, swung into a waltz of
Chopin's (Opus 34, Number 1), a favorite of our friend's, and which he
would have thoroughly enjoyed--for it was splendidly played--if he had
not been uneasily apprehensive that he might be asked to sing after it.
And while on some accounts he would have been glad of the opportunity to
"have it over," he felt a cowardly sense of relief when the violinist
came forward for the next number. There had been enthusiastic applause
at the north end of the room, and more or less clapping of hands at the
south end, but not enough to impel the pianist to supplement his
performance at the time. The violin number was so well received that Mr.
Fairman added a little minuet of Boccherini's without accompaniment, and
then John felt that his time had surely come. But he had to sit, drawing
long breaths, through a Liszt fantasie on themes from Faust before his
suspense was ended by Miss Clara, who was apparently mistress of
ceremonies and who said to him, "Will you sing now, Mr. Lenox?"

He rose and went to the end of the room where the pianist was sitting.
"I have been asked to sing," he said to that gentleman. "Can I induce
you to be so kind as to play for me?"

"I am sure he will," said Mrs. Benson, looking at Herr Schlitz.

"Oh, yes, I blay for you if you vant," he said. "Vhere is your moosic?"
They went over to the piano. "Oh, ho! Jensen, Lassen, Helmund,
Grieg--you zing dem?"

"Some of them," said John. The pianist opened the Jensen album.

"You want to zing one of dese?" he asked.

"As well as anything," replied John, who had changed his mind a dozen
times in the last ten minutes and was ready to accept any suggestion.

"Ver' goot," said the other. "Ve dry dis: Lehn deine wang' an meine
Wang'." His face brightened as John began to sing the German words. In a
measure or two the singer and player were in perfect accord, and as the
former found his voice the ends of his fingers grew warm again. At the
end of the song the applause was distributed about as after the Chopin
waltz.

"Sehr schoen!" exclaimed Herr Schlitz, looking up and nodding; "you must
zing zome more," and he played the first bars of Marie, am Fenster
sitzest du, humming the words under his breath, and quite oblivious of
any one but himself and the singer.

"Zierlich," he said when the song was done, reaching for the collection
of Lassen. "Mit deinen blauen Augen," he hummed, keeping time with his
hands, but at this point Miss Clara came across the room, followed by
her sister.

"Mrs. Tenaker," she said, laughing, "asked me to ask you, Mr. Lenox, if
you wouldn't please sing something they could understand."

"I have a song I should like to hear you sing," said Miss Verjoos.
"There is an obligato for violin and we have a violinist here. It is a
beautiful song--Tosti's Beauty's Eyes. Do you know it?"

"Yes," he replied.

"Will you sing it for me?" she asked.

"With the greatest pleasure," he answered.

Once, as he sang the lines of the song, he looked up. Miss Verjoos was
sitting with her elbows on the arm of her chair, her cheek resting upon
her clasped hands and her dusky eyes were fastened upon his face. As the
song concluded she rose and walked away. Mrs. Tenaker came over to the
piano and put out her hand.

"Thank you so much for your singing, Mr. Lenox," she said. "Would you
like to do an old woman a favor?"

"Very much so," said John, smiling and looking first at Mrs. Tenaker and
then about the room, "but there are no old women here as far as I can
see."

"Very pretty, sir, very pretty," she said, looking very graciously at
him. "Will you sing Annie Laurie for me?"

"With all my heart," he said, bowing. He looked at Herr Schlitz, who
shook his head.

"Let me play it for you," said Mrs. Benson, coming over to the piano.

"Where do you want it?" she asked, modulating softly from one key to
another.

"I think D flat will be about right," he replied. "Kindly play a little
bit of it."

The sound of the symphony brought most of even the young people into the
drawing room. At the end of the first verse there was a subdued rustle
of applause, a little more after the second, and at the end of the song
so much of a burst of approval as could be produced by the audience.
Mrs. Benson looked up into John's face and smiled.

"We appear to have scored the success of the evening," she said with a
touch of sarcasm. Miss Clara joined them.

"What a dear old song that is!" she said. "Did you see Aunt Charlie
(Mrs. Tenaker) wiping her eyes?--and that lovely thing of Tosti's! We
are ever so much obliged to you, Mr. Lenox."

John bowed his acknowledgments.

"Will you take Mrs. Benson out to supper? There is a special table for
you musical people at the east end of the veranda."

"Is this merely a segregation or a distinction?" said John as they sat
down.

"We shall have to wait developments to decide that point, I should say,"
replied Mrs. Benson. "I suppose that fifth place was put on the off
chance that Mr. Benson might be of our party, but," she said, with a
short laugh, "he is probably nine fathoms deep in a flirtation with Sue
Tenaker. He shares Artemas Ward's tastes, who said, you may remember,
that he liked little girls--big ones too."

A maid appeared with a tray of eatables, and presently another with a
tray on which were glasses and a bottle of Pommery _sec._ "Miss Clara's
compliments," she said.

"What do you think now?" asked Mrs. Benson, laughing.

"Distinctly a distinction, I should say," he replied.

"Das ist nicht so schlecht," grunted Herr Schlitz as he put half a
_pate_ into his mouth, "bot I vould brefer beer."

"The music has been a great treat to me," remarked John. "I have heard
nothing of the sort for two years."

"You have quite contributed your share of the entertainment," said Mrs.
Benson.

"You and I together," he responded, smiling.

"You have got a be-oodifool woice," said Herr Schlitz, speaking with a
mouthful of salad, "und you zing ligh a moosician, und you bronounce
your vorts very goot."

"Thank you," said John.

After supper there was more singing in the drawing room, but it was not
of a very classical order. Something short and taking for violin and
piano was followed by an announcement from Herr Schlitz.

"I zing you a zong," he said. The worthy man "breferred beer," but had,
perhaps, found the wine quicker in effect, and in a tremendous bass
voice he roared out, Im tiefen Keller sitz' ich hier, auf einem Fass
voll Reben, which, if not wholly understood by the audience, had some of
its purport conveyed by the threefold repetition of "trinke" at the end
of each verse. Then a deputation waited upon John, to ask in behalf of
the girls and boys if he knew and could sing Solomon Levi.

"Yes," he said, sitting down at the piano, "if you'll all sing with me,"
and it came to pass that that classic, followed by Bring Back my Bonnie
to Me, Paddy Duffy's Cart, There's Music in the Air, and sundry other
ditties dear to all hearts, was given by "the full strength of the
company" with such enthusiasm that even Mr. Fairman was moved to join in
with his violin; and when the Soldier's Farewell was given, Herr Schlitz
would have sung the windows out of their frames had they not been open.
Altogether, the evening's programme was brought to an end with a grand
climax.

"Thank you very much," said John as he said good night to Mrs. Verjoos.
"I don't know when I have enjoyed an evening so much."

"Thank _you_ very much," she returned graciously. "You have given us all
a great deal of pleasure."

"Yes," said Miss Verjoos, giving her hand with a mischievous gleam in
her half-shut eyes, "I was enchanted with Solomon Levi."




CHAPTER XXXVIII.


David and John had been driving for some time in silence. The elder man
was apparently musing upon something which had been suggested to his
mind. The horses slackened their gait to a walk as they began the ascent
of a long hill. Presently the silence was broken by a sound which caused
John to turn his head with a look of surprised amusement--Mr. Harum was
singing. The tune, if it could be so called, was scaleless, and these
were the words:

  "_Mon_day _mor_nin' I _mar_ried me a _wife_,
  _Think_in' to _lead_ a _more_ contented _life_;
  _Fid_dlin' an' _danc_in' _the_' was _played_,
  To _see_ how un_happy_ poor _I_ was _made_.

  "_Tues_day _morn_in', _'bout_ break o' _day_,
  _While_ my _head_ on the _pil_ler did _lay_,
  She _tuned_ up her _clack_, an' _scold_ed _more_
  _Than_ I _ever_ heard be_fore_."

"Never heard me sing before, did ye?" he said, looking with a grin at
his companion, who laughed and said that he had never had that pleasure.
"Wa'al, that's all 't I remember on't," said David, "an' I dunno 's I've
thought about it in thirty year. The' was a number o' verses which
carried 'em through the rest o' the week, an' ended up in a case of
'sault an' battery, I rec'lect, but I don't remember jest how.
Somethin' we ben sayin' put the thing into my head, I guess."

"I should like to hear the rest of it," said John, smiling.

David made no reply to this, and seemed to be turning something over in
his mind. At last he said:

"Mebbe Polly's told ye that I'm a wid'wer."

John admitted that Mrs. Bixbee had said as much as that.

"Yes, sir," said David, "I'm a wid'wer of long standin'."

No appropriate comment suggesting itself to his listener, none was made.

"I hain't never cared to say much about it to Polly," he remarked,
"though fer that matter Jim Bixbee, f'm all accounts, was about as poor
a shack as ever was turned out, I guess, an'--"

John took advantage of the slight hesitation to interpose against what
he apprehended might be a lengthy digression on the subject of the
deceased Bixbee by saying:

"You were quite a young fellow when you were married, I infer."

"Two or three years younger 'n you be, I guess," said David, looking at
him, "an' a putty green colt too in some ways," he added, handing over
the reins and whip while he got out his silver tobacco box and helped
himself to a liberal portion of its contents. It was plain that he was
in the mood for personal reminiscences.

"As I look back on't now," he began, "it kind o' seems as if it must 'a'
ben some other feller, an' yet I remember it all putty dum'd well
too--all but one thing, an' that the biggist part on't, an' that is how
I ever come to git married at all. She was a widdo' at the time, an'
kep' the boardin' house where I was livin'. It was up to Syrchester. I
was better lookin' them days 'n I be now--had more hair at any
rate--though," he remarked with a grin, "I was alwus a better goer than
I was a looker. I was doin' fairly well," he continued, "but mebbe not
so well as was thought by some.

"Wa'al, she was a good-lookin' woman, some older 'n I was. She seemed to
take some shine to me. I'd roughed it putty much alwus, an' she was
putty clever to me. She was a good talker, liked a joke an' a laugh, an'
had some education, an' it come about that I got to beauin' her 'round
quite a consid'able, and used to go an' set in her room or the parlor
with her sometimes evenin's an' all that, an' I wouldn't deny that I
liked it putty well."

It was some minutes before Mr. Harum resumed his narrative. The reins
were sagging over the dashboard, held loosely between the first two
fingers and thumb of his left hand, while with his right he had been
making abstracted cuts at the thistles and other eligible marks along
the roadside.

"Wa'al," he said at last, "we was married, an' our wheels tracked putty
well fer quite a consid'able spell. I got to thinkin' more of her all
the time, an' she me, seemin'ly. We took a few days off together two
three times that summer, to Niag'ry, an' Saratogy, an' 'round, an' had
real good times. I got to thinkin' that the state of matrimony was a
putty good institution. When it come along fall, I was doin' well enough
so 't she could give up bus'nis, an' I hired a house an' we set up
housekeepin'. It was really more on my account than her'n, fer I got to
kind o' feelin' that when the meat was tough or the pie wa'n't done on
the bottom that I was 'sociated with it, an' gen'ally I wanted a place
of my own. But," he added, "I guess it was a mistake, fur 's she was
concerned."

"Why?" said John, feeling that some show of interest was incumbent.

"I reckon," said David, "'t she kind o' missed the comp'ny an' the talk
at table, an' the goin's on gen'ally, an' mebbe the work of runnin' the
place--she was a great worker--an' it got to be some diff'rent, I
s'pose, after a spell, settin' down to three meals a day with jest only
me 'stid of a tableful, to say nothin' of the evenin's. I was glad
enough to have a place of my own, but at the same time I hadn't ben used
to settin' 'round with nothin' pertic'ler to do or say, with somebody
else that hadn't neither, an' I wa'n't then nor ain't now, fer that
matter, any great hand fer readin'. Then, too, we'd moved into a
diff'rent part o' the town where my wife wa'n't acquainted. Wa'al,
anyway, fust things begun to drag some--she begun to have spells of not
speakin', an' then she begun to git notions about me. Once in a while
I'd have to go down town on some bus'nis in the evenin'. She didn't seem
to mind it at fust, but bom-by she got it into her head that the' wa'n't
so much bus'nis goin' on as I made out, an' though along that time she'd
set sometimes mebbe the hull evenin' without sayin' anythin' more 'n yes
or no, an' putty often not that, yet if I went out there'd be a
flare-up; an' as things went on the'd be spells fer a fortni't together
when I couldn't any time of day git a word out of her hardly, unless it
was to go fer me 'bout somethin' that mebbe I'd done an' mebbe I
hadn't--it didn't make no diff'rence. An' when them spells was on, what
she didn't take out o' me she did out o' the house--diggin' an'
scrubbin', takin' up carpits, layin' down carpits, shiftin' the
furniture, eatin' one day in the kitchin an' another in the settin'
room, an' sleepin' most anywhere. She wa'n't real well after a while,
an' the wuss she seemed to feel, the fiercer she was fer scrubbin' an'
diggin' an' upsettin' things in gen'ral, an' bom-by she got so she
couldn't keep a hired girl in the house more 'n a day or two at a time.
She either wouldn't have 'em, or they wouldn't stay, an' more 'n half
the time we was without one. This can't int'rist you much, can it?" said
Mr. Harum, turning to his companion.

"On the contrary," replied John, "it interests me very much. I was
thinking," he added, "that probably the state of your wife's health had
a good deal to do with her actions and views of things, but it must have
been pretty hard on you all the same."

"Wa'al, yes," said David, "I guess that's so. Her health wa'n't jest
right, an' she showed it in her looks. I noticed that she'd pined an'
pindled some, but I thought the' was some natural criss-crossedniss
mixed up into it too. But I tried to make allow'nces an' the best o'
things, an' git along 's well 's I could; but things kind o' got wuss
an' wuss. I told ye that she begun to have notions about me, an' 't
ain't hardly nec'sary to say what shape they took, an' after a while,
mebbe a year 'n a half, she got so 't she wa'n't satisfied to know where
I was _nights_--she wanted to know where I was _daytimes_. Kind o'
makes me laugh now," he observed, "it seems so redic'lous; but it wa'n't
no laughin' matter then. If I looked out o' winder she'd hint it up to
me that I was watchin' some woman. She grudged me even to look at a
picture paper; an' one day when we happened to be walkin' together she
showed feelin' about one o' them wooden Injun women outside a cigar
store."

"Oh, come now, Mr. Harum," said John, laughing.

"Wa'al," said David with a short laugh, "mebbe I did stretch that a
little; but 's I told ye, she wanted to know where I was daytimes well
's nights, an' ev'ry once 'n a while she'd turn up at my bus'nis place,
an' if I wa'n't there she'd set an' wait fer me, an' I'd either have to
go home with her or have it out in the office. I don't mean to say that
all the sort of thing I'm tellin' ye of kep' up all the time. It kind o'
run in streaks; but the streaks kep' comin' oftener an' oftener, an' you
couldn't never tell when the' was goin' to appear. Matters 'd go along
putty well fer a while, an' then, all of a sudden, an' fer nothin' 't I
could see, the' 'd come on a thunder shower 'fore you c'd git in out o'
the wet."

"Singular," said John thoughtfully.

"Yes, sir," said David. "Wa'al, it come along to the second spring,
'bout the first of May. She'd ben more like folks fer about a week mebbe
'n she had fer a long spell, an' I begun to chirk up some. I don't
remember jest how I got the idee, but f'm somethin' she let drop I
gathered that she was thinkin' of havin' a new bunnit. I will say this
for her," remarked David, "that she was an economical woman, an' never
spent no money jest fer the sake o' spendin' it. Wa'al, we'd got along
so nice fer a while that I felt more 'n usual like pleasin' her, an' I
allowed to myself that if she wanted a new bunnit, money shouldn't stand
in the way, an' I set out to give her a supprise."

They had reached the level at the top of the long hill and the horses
had broken into a trot, when Mr. Harum's narrative was interrupted and
his equanimity upset by the onslaught of an excessively shrill, active,
and conscientious dog of the "yellow" variety, which barked and sprang
about in front of the mares with such frantic assiduity as at last to
communicate enough of its excitement to them to cause them to bolt
forward on a run, passing the yellow nuisance, which, with the facility
of long practice, dodged the cut which David made at it in passing. It
was with some little trouble that the horses were brought back to a
sober pace.

"Dum that dum'd dog!" exclaimed David with fervor, looking back to where
the object of his execrations was still discharging convulsive yelps at
the retreating vehicle, "I'd give a five-dollar note to git one good
lick at him. I'd make him holler 'pen-an'-ink' _once_! Why anybody's
willin' to have such a dum'd, wuthless, pestiferous varmint as that
'round 's more 'n I c'n understand. I'll bet that the days they churn,
that critter, unless they ketch him an' tie him up the night before, 'll
be under the barn all day, an' he's jest blowed off steam enough to run
a dog churn a hull forenoon."

Whether or not the episode of the dog had diverted Mr. Harum's mind from
his previous topic, he did not resume it until John ventured to remind
him of it, with "You were saying something about the surprise for your
wife."

"That's so," said David. "Yes, wa'al, when I went home that night I
stopped into a mil'nery store, an' after I'd stood 'round a minute, a
girl come up an' ast me if she c'd show me anythin'.

"'I want to buy a bunnit,' I says, an' she kind o' laughed. 'No,' I
says, 'it ain't fer me, it's fer a lady,' I says; an' then we both
laughed.

"'What sort of a bunnit do you want?' she says.

"'Wa'al, I dunno,' I says, 'this is the fust time I ever done anythin'
in the bunnit line.' So she went over to a glass case an' took one out
an' held it up, turnin' it 'round on her hand.

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'I guess it's putty enough fur 's it goes, but the'
don't seem to be much of anythin' _to_ it. Hain't you got somethin' a
little bit bigger an'--'

"'Showier?' she says. 'How is this?' she says, doin' the same trick with
another.

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'that looks more like it, but I had an idee that the
A 1, trible-extry fine article had more traps on't, an' most any one
might have on either one o' them you've showed me an' not attrac' no
attention at all. You needn't mind expense,' I says.

"'Oh, very well,' she says, 'I guess I know what you want,' an' goes
over to another case an' fetches out another bunnit twice as big as
either the others, an' with more notions on't than you c'd shake a stick
at--flowers, an' gard'n stuff, an' fruit, an' glass beads, an' feathers,
an' all that, till you couldn't see what they was fixed on to. She took
holt on't with both hands, the girl did, an' put it onto her head, an'
kind o' smiled an' turned 'round slow so 't I c'd git a gen'ral view
on't.

"'Style all right?' I says.

"'The very best of its kind,' she says.

"'How 'bout the _kind_?' I says.

"'The very best of its style,' she says."

John laughed outright. David looked at him for a moment with a doubtful
grin.

"She _was_ a slick one, wa'n't she?" he said. "What a hoss trader she
would 'a' made. I didn't ketch on at the time, but I rec'lected
afterward. Wa'al," he resumed, after this brief digression, "'how much
is it?' I says.

"'Fifteen dollars,' she says.

"'What?' I says. 'Scat my ----! I c'd buy head rigging enough to last me
ten years fer that.'

"'We couldn't sell it for less,' she says.

"'S'posin' the lady 't I'm buyin' it fer don't jest like it,' I says,
'can you alter it or swap somethin' else for it?'

"'Cert'nly, within a reasonable time,' she says.

"'Wa'al, all right,' I says, 'do her up.' An' so she wrapped the thing
'round with soft paper an' put it in a box, an' I paid for't an' moseyed
along up home, feelin' that ev'ry man, woman, an' child had their eyes
on my parcel, but thinkin' how tickled my wife would be."




CHAPTER XXXIX.


The road they were on was a favorite drive with the two men, and at the
point where they had now arrived David always halted for a look back and
down upon the scene below them--to the south, beyond the intervening
fields, bright with maturing crops, lay the village; to the west the
blue lake, winding its length like a broad river, and the river itself a
silver ribbon, till it was lost beneath the southern hills.

Neither spoke. For a few minutes John took in the scene with the
pleasure it always afforded him, and then glanced at his companion, who
usually had some comment to make upon anything which stirred his
admiration or interest. He was gazing, not at the landscape, but
apparently at the top of the dashboard. "Ho, hum," he said,
straightening the reins, with a "clk" to the horses, and they drove
along for a while in silence--so long, in fact, that our friend, while
aware that the elder man did not usually abandon a topic until he had
"had his say out," was moved to suggest a continuance of the narrative
which had been rather abruptly broken off, and in which he had become
considerably interested.

"Was your wife pleased?" he asked at last.

"Where was I?" asked the other in return.

"You were on your way home with your purchase," was the reply.

"Oh, yes," Mr. Harum resumed. "It was a little after tea time when I got
to the house, an' I thought prob'ly I'd find her in the settin' room
waitin' fer me; but she wa'n't, an' I went up to the bedroom to find
her, feelin' a little less sure o' things. She was settin' lookin' out
o' winder when I come in, an' when I spoke to her she didn't give me no
answer except to say, lookin' up at the clock, 'What's kept ye like
this?'

"'Little matter o' bus'nis,' I says, lookin' as smilin' 's I knew how,
an' holdin' the box behind me.

"'What you got there?' she says, slewin' her head 'round to git a sight
at it.

"'Little matter o' bus'nis,' I says agin, bringin' the box to the front
an' feelin' my face straighten out 's if you'd run a flat iron over it.
She seen the name on the paper.

"'You ben spendin' your time there, have ye?' she says, settin' up in
her chair an' pointin' with her finger at the box. '_That's_ where you
ben the last half hour, hangin' 'round with them minxes in Mis'
Shoolbred's. What's in that box?' she says, with her face a-blazin'.

"'Now, Lizy,' I says, 'I wa'n't there ten minutes if I was that, an' I
ben buyin' you a bunnit.'

"'_You--ben--buyin'--me--a--bunnit_?' she says, stifnin' up stiffer 'n a
stake.

"'Yes,' I says, 'I heard you say somethin' 'bout a spring bunnit, an' I
thought, seein' how economicle you was, that I'd buy you a nicer one 'n
mebbe you'd feel like yourself. I thought it would please ye,' I says,
tryin' to rub her the right way.

"'Let me see it,' she says, in a voice dryer 'n a lime-burner's hat,
pressin' her lips together an' reachin' out fer the box. Wa'al, sir, she
snapped the string with a jerk an' sent the cover skimmin' across the
room, an' then, as she hauled the parcel out of the box, she got up onto
her feet. Then she tore the paper off on't an' looked at it a minute,
an' then took it 'tween her thumb an' finger, like you hold up a dead
rat by the tail, an' held it off at the end of her reach, an' looked it
all over, with her face gettin' even redder if it could. Fin'ly she
says, in a voice 'tween a whisper 'n a choke:

"'What'd you pay fer the thing?'

"'Fifteen dollars,' I says.

"'Fifteen _dollars_?' she says.

"'Yes,' I says, 'don't ye like it?' Wa'al," said David, "she never said
a word. She drawed in her arm an' took holt of the bunnit with her left
hand, an' fust she pulled off one thing an' dropped it on the floor, fur
off as she c'd reach, an' then another, an' then another, an' then, by
gum! she went at it with both hands jest as fast as she could work 'em,
an' in less time 'n I'm tellin' it to ye she picked the thing cleaner 'n
any chicken you ever see, an' when she got down to the carkis she
squeezed it up between her two hands, give it a wring an' a twist like
it was a wet dish towel, an' flung it slap in my face. Then she made a
half turn, throwin' back her head an' grabbin' into her hair, an' give
the awfullest screechin' laugh--one screech after another that you c'd
'a' heard a mile--an' then throwed herself face down on the bed,
screamin' an' kickin'. Wa'al, sir, if I wa'n't at my wits' end, you c'n
have my watch an' chain.

"She wouldn't let me touch her no way, but, as luck had it, it was one
o' the times when we had a hired girl, an' hearin' the noise she come
gallopin' up the stairs. She wa'n't a young girl, an' she had a face
humbly 'nough to keep her awake nights, but she had some sense,
an'--'You'd bether run fer the docther,' she says, when she see the
state my wife was in. You better believe I done the heat of my life,"
said David, "an' more luck, the doctor was home an' jest finishin' his
tea. His house an' office wa'n't but two three blocks off, an' in about
a few minutes me an' him an' his bag was leggin' it fer my house, though
I noticed he didn't seem to be 'n as much of a twitter 's I was. He ast
me more or less questions, an' jest as we got to the house he says:

"'Has your wife had any thin' to 'larm or shock her this evenin'?'

"'Nothin' 't I know on,' I says, ''cept I bought her a new bunnit that
didn't seem to come quite up to her idees.' At that," remarked Mr.
Harum, "he give me a funny look, an' we went in an' upstairs.

"The hired girl," he proceeded, "had got her quieted down some, but when
we went in she looked up, an' seein' me, set up another screech, an' he
told me to go downstairs an' he'd come down putty soon, an' after a
while he did.

"'Wa'al?' I says.

"'She's quiet fer the present,' he says, takin' a pad o' paper out o'
his pocket, an' writin' on it.

"'Do you know Mis' Jones, your next-door neighbor?' he says. I allowed
't I had a speakin' acquaintance with her.

"'Wa'al,' he says, 'fust, you step in an' tell her I'm here an' want to
see her, and ast her if she won't come right along; an' then you go down
to my office an' have these things sent up; an' then,' he says, 'you go
down town an' send this'--handin' me a note that he'd wrote an' put in
an envelope--'up to the hospital--better send it up with a hack, or,
better yet, go yourself,' he says, 'an' hurry. You can't be no use
here,' he says. 'I'll stay, but I want a nurse here in an hour, an' less
if possible.' I was putty well scared," said David, "by all that, an' I
says, 'Lord,' I says, 'is she as bad off as that? What is it ails her?'

"'Don't you know?' says the doc, givin' me a queer look.

"'No,' I says, 'she hain't ben fust rate fer a spell back, but I
couldn't git nothin' out of her what was the matter, an' don't know what
pertic'ler thing ails her now, unless it's that dum'd bunnit,' I says.

"At that the doctor laughed a little, kind as if he couldn't help it.

"'I don't think that was hully to blame,' he says; 'may have hurried
matters up a little--somethin' that was liable to happen any time in the
next two months.'

"'You don't mean it?' I says.

"'Yes,' he says. 'Now you git out as fast as you can. Wait a minute,' he
says. 'How old is your wife?'

"'F'm what she told me 'fore we was married,' I says, 'she's
thirty-one.'

"'Oh!' he says, raisin' his eyebrows. 'All right; hurry up, now,'

"I dusted around putty lively, an' inside of an hour was back with the
nurse, an 'jest after we got inside the door--" David paused
thoughtfully for a moment and then, lowering his tone a little, "jest as
we got inside the front door, a door upstairs opened an' I heard a
little 'Waa! waa!' like it was the leetlist kind of a new lamb--an' I
tell you," said David, with a little quaver in his voice, and looking
straight over the off horse's ears, "nothin' 't I ever heard before nor
since ever fetched me, right where I _lived_, as that did. The nurse,
she made a dive fer the stairs, wavin' me back with her hand, an'
I--wa'al--I went into the settin' room, an--wa'al--ne' mind.

"I dunno how long I set there list'nin' to 'em movin' 'round overhead,
an' wonderin' what was goin' on; but fin'ly I heard a step on the stair
an' I went out into the entry, an' it was Mis' Jones. 'How be they?' I
says.

"'We don't quite know yet,' she says. 'The little boy is a nice formed
little feller,' she says, 'an' them childern very often grow up, but he
is _very little_,' she says.

"'An' how 'bout my wife?' I says.

"'Wa'al,' she says, 'we don't know jest yet, but she is quiet now, an'
we'll hope fer the best. If you want me,' she says, 'I'll come any time,
night or day, but I must go now. The doctor will stay all night, an' the
nurse will stay till you c'n git some one to take her place,' an' she
went home, an'," declared David, "you've hearn tell of the 'salt of the
earth,' an' if that woman wa'n't more on't than a hoss c'n draw down
hill, the' ain't no such thing."

"Did they live?" asked John after a brief silence, conscious of the
bluntness of his question, but curious as to the sequel.

"The child did," replied David; "not to grow up, but till he was 'twixt
six an' seven; but my wife never left her bed, though she lived three
four weeks. She never seemed to take no int'rist in the little feller,
nor nothin' else much; but one day--it was Sunday, long to the last--she
seemed a little more chipper 'n usual. I was settin' with her, an' I
said to her how much better she seemed to be, tryin' to chirk her up.

"'No,' she says, 'I ain't goin' to live.'

"'Don't ye say that,' I says.

"'No,' she says, 'I ain't, an' I don't care.'

"I didn't know jest what to say, an' she spoke agin:

"'I want to tell you, Dave,' she says, 'that you've ben good an' kind to
me.'

"'I've tried to,' I says, 'an' Lizy,' I says, 'I'll never fergive myself
about that bunnit, long 's I live.'

"'That hadn't really nothin' to do with it,' she says, 'an' you meant
all right, though,' she says, almost in a whisper, an' the' came across
her face, not a smile exac'ly, but somethin' like a little riffle on a
piece o' still water, 'that bunnit _was_ enough to kill most
_any_body.'"




CHAPTER XL.


John leaned out of the buggy and looked back along the road, as if
deeply interested in observing something which had attracted his
attention, and David's face worked oddly for a moment.

Turning south in the direction of the village, they began the descent of
a steep hill, and Mr. Harum, careful of loose stones, gave all his
attention to his driving. Our friend, respecting his vigilance, forebore
to say anything which might distract his attention until they reached
level ground, and then, "You never married again?" he queried.

"No," was, the reply. "My matrymonial experience was 'brief an' to the
p'int,' as the sayin' is."

"And yet," urged John, "you were a young man, and I should have
supposed----"

"Wa'al," said David, breaking in and emitting his chuckling laugh, "I
allow 't mebbe I sometimes thought on't, an' once, about ten year after
what I ben tellin' ye, I putty much made up my mind to try another
hitch-up. The' was a woman that I seen quite a good deal of, an' liked
putty well, an' I had some grounds fer thinkin' 't she wouldn't show me
the door if I was to ask her. In fact, I made up my mind I would take
the chances, an' one night I put on my best bib an' tucker an' started
fer her house. I had to go 'cross the town to where she lived, an' the
farther I walked the fiercer I got--havin' made up my mind--so 't putty
soon I was travelin' 's if I was 'fraid some other feller'd git there
'head o' me. Wa'al, it was Sat'day night, an' the stores was all open,
an' the streets was full o' people, an' I had to pull up in the crowd a
little, an' I don't know how it happened in pertic'ler, but fust thing I
knew I run slap into a woman with a ban'box, an' when I looked 'round,
there was a mil'nery store in full blast an' winders full o' bunnits.
Wa'al, sir, do you know what I done? Ye don't. Wa'al, the' was a hoss
car passin' that run three mile out in the country in a diff'rent
direction f'm where I started fer, an' I up an' got onto that car, an'
rode the length o' that road, an' got off an' _walked back_--an' I never
went near her house f'm that day to this, an' that," said David, "was
the nearest I ever come to havin' another pardner to my joys an'
sorro's."

"That was pretty near, though," said John, laughing.

"Wa'al," said David, "mebbe Prov'dence might 'a' had some other plan fer
stoppin' me 'fore I smashed the hull rig, if I hadn't run into the
mil'nery shop, but as it was, that fetched me to a stan'still, an' I
never started to run agin."

They drove on for a few minutes in silence, which John broke at last by
saying, "I have been wondering how you got on after your wife died and
left you with a little child."

"That was where Mis' Jones come in," said David. "Of course I got the
best nurse I could, an' Mis' Jones 'd run in two three times ev'ry day
an' see 't things was goin' on as right 's they could; but it come on
that I had to be away f'm home a good deal, an' fin'ly, come fall, I got
the Joneses to move into a bigger house, where I could have a room, an'
fixed it up with Mis' Jones to take charge o' the little feller right
along. She hadn't but one child, a girl of about thirteen, an' had lost
two little ones, an' so between havin' took to my little mite of a thing
f'm the fust, an' my makin' it wuth her while, she was willin', an' we
went on that way till--the' wa'n't no further occasion fur 's he was
concerned, though I lived with them a spell longer when I was at home,
which wa'n't very often, an' after he died I was gone fer a good while.
But before that time, when I was at home, I had him with me all the time
I could manage. With good care he'd growed up nice an' bright, an' as
big as the average, an' smarter 'n a steel trap. He liked bein' with me
better 'n anybody else, and when I c'd manage to have him I couldn't
bear to have him out o' my sight. Wa'al, as I told you, he got to be
most seven year old. I'd had to go out to Chicago, an' one day I got a
telegraph sayin' he was putty sick--an' I took the fust train East. It
was 'long in March, an' we had a breakdown, an' run into an awful
snowstorm, an' one thing another, an' I lost twelve or fifteen hours. It
seemed to me that them two days was longer 'n my hull life, but I fin'ly
did git home about nine o'clock in the mornin'. When I got to the house
Mis' Jones was on the lookout fer me, an' the door opened as I run up
the stoop, an' I see by her face that I was too late. 'Oh, David,
David!' she says (she'd never called me David before), puttin' her hands
on my shoulders.

"'When?' I says.

"''Bout midnight,' she says.

"'Did he suffer much?' I says.

"'No,' she says, 'I don't think so; but he was out of his head most of
the time after the fust day, an' I guess all the time the last
twenty-four hours.'

"'Do you think he'd 'a' knowed me?' I says. 'Did he say anythin'?' an'
at that," said David, "she looked at me. She wa'n't cryin' when I come
in, though she had ben; but at that her face all broke up. 'I don't
know,' she says. 'He kept sayin' things, an' 'bout all we could
understand was "Daddy, daddy,"' an' then she throwed her apern over her
face, an'----"

David tipped his hat a little farther over his eyes, though, like many
if not most "horsey" men, he usually wore it rather far down, and
leaning over, twirled the whip in the socket between his two fingers and
thumb. John studied the stitched ornamentation of the dashboard until
the reins were pushed into his hands. But it was not for long. David
straightened himself, and, without turning his head, resumed them as if
that were a matter of course.

"Day after the fun'ral," he went on, "I says to Mis' Jones, 'I'm goin'
back out West,' I says, 'an' I can't say how long I shall be gone--long
enough, anyway,' I says, 'to git it into my head that when I come back
the' won't be no little feller to jump up an' 'round my neck when I come
into the house; but, long or short, I'll come back some time, an'
meanwhile, as fur 's things between you an' me air, they're to go on
jest the same, an' more 'n that, do you think you'll remember him some?'
I says.

"'As long as I live,' she says, 'jest like my own.'

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'long 's you remember him, he'll be, in a way, livin'
to ye, an' as long 's that I allow to pay fer his keep an' tendin' jest
the same as I have, _an'_,' I says, 'if you don't let me you ain't no
friend o' mine, an' you _ben_ a _good_ one.' Wa'al, she squimmidged
some, but I wouldn't let her say 'No.' 'I've 'ranged it all with my
pardner an' other ways,' I says, 'an' more 'n that, if you git into any
kind of a scrape an' I don't happen to be got at, you go to him an' git
what you want.'"

"I hope she lived and prospered," said John fervently.

"She lived twenty year," said David, "an' I wish she was livin' now. I
never drawed a check on her account without feelin' 't I was doin'
somethin' for my little boy.

"The's a good many diff'rent sorts an' kinds o' sorro'," he said, after
a moment, "that's in some ways kind o' kin to each other, but I guess
losin' a child 's a specie by itself. Of course I passed the achin',
smartin' point years ago, but it's somethin' you can't fergit--that is,
you can't help feelin' about it, because it ain't only what the child
_was_ to you, but what you keep thinkin' he'd 'a' ben growin' more an'
more to _be_ to you. When I lost my little boy I didn't only lose him as
he was, but I ben losin' him over an' agin all these years. What he'd
'a' ben when he was _so_ old; an' what when he'd got to be a big boy;
an' what he'd 'a' ben when he went mebbe to collidge; an' what he'd 'a'
ben afterward, an' up to _now_. Of course the times when a man stuffs
his face down into the pillers nights, passes, after a while; but while
the's some sorro's that the happenin' o' things helps ye to fergit, I
guess the's some that the happenin' o' things keeps ye rememberin', an'
losin' a child 's one on 'em."




CHAPTER XLI.


It was the latter part of John's fifth winter in Homeville. The business
of the office had largely increased. The new manufactories which had
been established did their banking with Mr. Harum, and the older
concerns, including nearly all the merchants in the village, had
transferred their accounts from Syrchester banks to David's. The callow
Hopkins had fledged and developed into a competent all-'round man, able
to do anything in the office, and there was a new "skeezicks"
discharging Peleg's former functions. Considerable impetus had been
given to the business of the town by the new road whose rails had been
laid the previous summer. There had been a strong and acrimonious
controversy over the route which the road should take into and through
the village. There was the party of the "nabobs" (as they were
characterized by Mr. Harum) and their following, and the party of the
"village people," and the former had carried their point; but now the
road was an accomplished fact, and most of the bitterness which had been
engendered had died away. Yet the struggle was still matter for talk.

"Did I ever tell you," said David, as he and his cashier were sitting in
the rear room of the bank, "how Lawyer Staples come to switch round in
that there railroad jangle last spring?"

"I remember," said John, "that you told me he had deserted his party,
and you laughed a little at the time, but you did not tell me how it
came about."

"I kind o' thought I told ye," said David.

"No," said John, "I am quite sure you did not."

"Wa'al," said Mr. Harum, "the' was, as you know, the Tenaker-Rogers
crowd wantin' one thing, an' the Purse-Babbit lot bound to have the
other, an' run the road under the other fellers' noses. Staples was
workin' tooth an' nail fer the Purse crowd, an' bein' a good deal of a
politician, he was helpin' 'em a good deal. In fact, he was about their
best card. I wa'n't takin' much hand in the matter either way, though my
feelin's was with the Tenaker party. I know 't would come to a point
where some money 'd prob'ly have to be used, an' I made up my mind I
wouldn't do much drivin' myself unless I had to, an' not then till the
last quarter of the heat. Wa'al, it got to lookin' like a putty even
thing. What little show I had made was if anythin' on the Purse side.
One day Tenaker come in to see me an' wanted to know flat-footed which
side the fence I was on. 'Wa'al,' I says, 'I've ben settin' up fer
shapes to be kind o' on the fence, but I don't mind sayin', betwixt you
an' me, that the bulk o' my heft is a-saggin' your way; but I hain't
took no active part, an' Purse an' them thinks I'm goin' to be on their
side when it comes to a pinch.'

"'Wa'al,' he says, 'it's goin' to be a putty close thing, an' we're
goin' to need all the help we c'n git.'

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'I guess that's so, but fer the present I reckon I
c'n do ye more good by keepin' in the shade. Are you folks prepared to
spend a little money?' I says.

"'Yes,' he says, 'if it comes to that.'

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'it putty most gen'ally does come to that, don't it?
Now, the's one feller that's doin' ye more harm than some others.'

"'You mean Staples?' he says.

"'Yes,' I says, 'I mean Staples. He don't really care a hill o' white
beans which way the road comes in, but he thinks he's on the pop'lar
side. Now,' I says, 'I don't know as it'll be nec'sary to use money with
him, an' I don't say 't you could, anyway, but mebbe his yawp c'n be
stopped. I'll have a quiet word with him,' I says, 'an' see you agin.'
So," continued Mr. Harum, "the next night the' was quite a lot of 'em in
the bar of the new hotel, an' Staples was haranguin' away the best he
knowed how, an' bime by I nodded him off to one side, an' we went across
the hall into the settin' room.

"'I see you feel putty strong 'bout this bus'nis,' I says.

"'Yes, sir, it's a matter of princ'ple with me,' he says, knockin' his
fist down onto the table.

"'How does the outcome on't look to ye?' I says. 'Goin' to be a putty
close race, ain't it?'

"'Wa'al,' he says, ''tween you an' me, I reckon it is.'

"'That's the way it looks to me,' I says, 'an' more'n that, the other
fellers are ready to spend some money at a pinch.'

"'They be, be they?' he says.

"'Yes, sir,' I says, 'an' we've got to meet 'em halfway. Now,' I says,
takin' a paper out o' my pocket, 'what I wanted to say to you is this:
You ben ruther more prom'nent in this matter than most anybody--fur's
talkin' goes--but I'm consid'ably int'risted. The's got to be some money
raised, an' I'm ready,' I says, 'to put down as much as you be up to a
couple o' hunderd, an' I'll take the paper 'round to the rest; but,' I
says, unfoldin' it, 'I think you'd ought to head the list, an' I'll come
next.' Wa'al," said David with a chuckle and a shake of the head, "you'd
ought to have seen his jaw go down. He wriggled 'round in his chair, an'
looked ten diff'rent ways fer Sunday.

"'What do you say?' I says, lookin' square at him, ''ll you make it a
couple a hunderd?'

"'Wa'al,' he says, 'I guess I couldn't go 's fur 's that, an' I wouldn't
like to head the list anyway.'

"'All right,' I says, 'I'll head it. Will you say one-fifty?'

"'No,' he says, pullin' his whiskers, 'I guess not.'

"'A hunderd?' I says, an' he shook his head.

"'Fifty,' I says, 'an' I'll go a hunderd,' an at that he got out his
hank'chif an' blowed his nose, an' took his time to it. 'Wa'al,' I says,
'what _do_ ye say?'

"'Wa'al,' he says, 'I ain't quite prepared to give ye 'n answer
to-night. Fact on't is,' he says, 'it don't make a cent's wuth o'
diff'rence to me person'ly which way the dum'd road comes in, an' I
don't jest this minute see why I should spend any money in it.'

"'There's the _princ'ple_ o' the thing,' I says.

"'Yes,' he says, gettin' out of his chair, 'of course, there's the
princ'ple of the thing, an'--wa'al, I'll think it over an' see you
agin,' he says, lookin' at his watch. 'I got to go now.'

"Wa'al, the next night," proceeded Mr. Harum, "I went down to the hotel
agin, an' the' was about the same crowd, but no Staples. The' wa'n't
much goin' on, an' Purse, in pertic'ler, was lookin' putty down in the
mouth. 'Where's Staples?' I says.

"'Wa'al,' says Purse, 'he said mebbe he'd come to-night, an' mebbe he
couldn't. Said it wouldn't make much diff'rence; an' anyhow he was goin'
out o' town up to Syrchester fer a few days. I don't know what's come
over the feller,' says Purse. 'I told him the time was gittin' short an'
we'd have to git in our best licks, an' he said he guessed he'd done
about all 't he could, an' in fact,' says Purse, 'he seemed to 'a' lost
int'rist in the hull thing.'"

"What did you say?" John asked.

"Wa'al," said David with a grin, "Purse went on to allow 't he guessed
somebody's pocketbook had ben talkin', but I didn't say much of
anythin', an' putty soon come away. Two three days after," he continued,
"I see Tenaker agin. 'I hear Staples has gone out o' town,' he says,
'an' I hear, too,' he says, 'that he's kind o' soured on the hull
thing--didn't care much how it did come out.'

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'when he comes back you c'n use your own judgment
about havin' a little interview with him. Mebbe somethin' 's made him
think the's two sides to this thing. But anyway,' I says, 'I guess he
won't do no more hollerin'.'

"'How's that?' says Tenaker.

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'I guess I'll have to tell ye a little story. Mebbe
you've heard it before, but it seems to be to the point. Once on a
time,' I says, 'the' was a big church meetin' that had lasted three
days, an' the last evenin' the' was consid'able excitement. The prayin'
an' singin' had warmed most on 'em up putty well, an' one o' the most
movin' of the speakers was tellin' 'em what was what. The' was a big
crowd, an' while most on 'em come to be edified, the' was quite a lot in
the back part of the place that was ready fer anythin'. Wa'al, it
happened that standin' mixed up in that lot was a feller named--we'll
call him Smith, to be sure of him--an' Smith was jest runnin' over with
power, an' ev'ry little while when somethin' the speaker said touched
him on the funny bone he'd out with an "A--men! _Yes_, Lord!" in a voice
like a fact'ry whistle. Wa'al, after a little the' was some snickerin'
an' gigglin' an' scroughin' an' hustlin' in the back part, an' even some
of the serioustest up in front would kind o' smile, an' the moderator
leaned over an' says to one of the bretherin on the platform, "Brother
Jones," he says, "can't you git down to the back of the hall an' say
somethin' to quiet Brother Smith? Smith's a good man, an' a pious man,"
the moderator says, "but he's very excitable, an' I'm 'fraid he'll git
the boys to goin' back there an' disturb the meetin'." So Jones he
worked his way back to where Smith was, an' the moderator watched him go
up to Smith and jest speak to him 'bout ten seconds; an' after that
Smith never peeped once. After the meetin' was over, the moderator says
to Jones, "Brother Jones," he says, "what did you say to Brother Smith
to-night that shut him up so quick?" "I ast him fer a dollar for For'n
Missions," says Brother Jones, 'an', wa'al,' I says to Tenaker, 'that's
what I done to Staples.'"

"Did Mr. Tenaker see the point?" asked John, laughing.

"He laughed a little," said David, "but didn't quite ketch on till I
told him about the subscription paper, an' then he like to split."

"Suppose Staples had taken you up," suggested John.

"Wa'al," said David, "I didn't think I was takin' many chances. If, in
the fust place, I hadn't knowed Staples as well 's I did, the Smith
fam'ly, so fur 's my experience goes, has got more members 'n any other
fam'ly on top of the earth." At this point a boy brought in a telegram.
David opened it, gave a side glance at his companion, and, taking out
his pocketbook, put the dispatch therein.




CHAPTER XLII.


The next morning David called John into the rear room. "Busy?" he asked.

"No," said John. "Nothing that can't wait."

"Set down," said Mr. Harum, drawing a chair to the fire. He looked up
with his characteristic grin. "Ever own a hog?" he said.

"No," said John, smiling.

"Ever feel like ownin' one?"

"I don't remember ever having any cravings in that direction."

"Like pork?" asked Mr. Harum.

"In moderation," was the reply. David produced from his pocketbook the
dispatch received the day before and handed it to the young man at his
side. "Read that," he said.

John looked at it and handed it back.

"It doesn't convey any idea to my mind," he said.

"What?" said David, "you don't know what 'Bangs Galilee' means? nor who
'Raisin' is?"

"You'll have to ask me an easier one," said John, smiling.

David sat for a moment in silence, and then, "How much money have you
got?" he asked.

"Well," was the reply, "with what I had and what I have saved since I
came I could get together about five thousand dollars, I think."

"Is it where you c'n put your hands on't?"

John took some slips of paper from his pocketbook and handed them to
David.

"H'm, h'm," said the latter. "Wa'al, I owe ye quite a little bunch o'
money, don't I? Forty-five hunderd! Wa'al! Couldn't you 'a' done better
'n to keep this here at four per cent?"

"Well," said John, "perhaps so, and perhaps not. I preferred to do this
at all events."

"Thought the old man was _safe_ anyway, didn't ye?" said David in a tone
which showed that he was highly pleased.

"Yes," said John.

"Is this all?" asked David.

"There is some interest on those certificates, and I have some balance
in my account," was the reply; "and then, you know, I have some very
valuable securities--a beautiful line of mining stocks, and that
promising Pennsylvania property."

At the mention of the last-named asset David looked at him for an
instant as if about to speak, but if so he changed his mind. He sat for
a moment fingering the yellow paper which carried the mystic words.
Presently he said, opening the message out, "That's from an old friend
of mine out to Chicago. He come from this part of the country, an' we
was young fellers together thirty years ago. I've had a good many deals
with him and through him, an' he never give me a wrong steer, fur 's I
know. That is, I never done as he told me without comin' out all right,
though he's give me a good many pointers I never did nothin' about.
'Tain't nec'sary to name no names, but 'Bangs Galilee' means 'buy pork,'
an' as I've ben watchin' the market fer quite a spell myself, an'
standard pork 's a good deal lower 'n it costs to pack it, I've made up
my mind to buy a few thousan' barrels fer fam'ly use. It's a handy thing
to have in the house," declared Mr. Harum, "an' I thought mebbe it
wouldn't be a bad thing fer you to have a little. It looks cheap to me,"
he added, "an' mebbe bime-by what you don't eat you c'n sell."

"Well," said John, laughing, "you see me at table every day and know
what my appetite is like. How much pork do you think I could take care
of?"

"Wa'al, at the present price," said David, "I think about four thousan'
barrels would give ye enough to eat fer a spell, an' mebbe leave ye a
few barrels to dispose of if you should happen to strike a feller later
on that wanted it wuss 'n you did."

John opened his eyes a little. "I should only have a margin of a dollar
and a quarter," he said.

"Wa'al, I've got a notion that that'll carry ye," said David. "It may go
lower 'n what it is now. I never bought anythin' yet that didn't drop
some, an' I guess nobody but a fool ever did buy at the bottom more'n
once; but I've had an idee for some time that it was about bottom, an'
this here telegraph wouldn't 'a' ben sent if the feller that sent it
didn't think so too, an' I've had some other cor'spondence with him."
Mr. Harum paused and laughed a little.

"I was jest thinkin'," he continued, "of what the Irishman said about
Stofford. Never ben there, have ye? Wa'al, it's a place eight nine mile
f'm here, an' the hills 'round are so steep that when you're goin' up
you c'n look right back under the buggy by jest leanin' over the edge
of the dash. I was drivin' 'round there once, an' I met an Irishman with
a big drove o' hogs.

"'Hello, Pat!' I says, 'where 'd all them hogs come from?'

"'Stofford,' he says.

"'Wa'al,' I says, 'I wouldn't 'a' thought the' was so many hogs _in_
Stofford.'

"'Oh, be gobs!' he says, 'sure they're _all_ hogs in Stofford;' an',"
declared David, "the bears ben sellin' that pork up in Chicago as if the
hull everlastin' West was _all_ hogs."

"It's very tempting," said John thoughtfully.

"Wa'al," said David, "I don't want to tempt ye exac'ly, an' certain I
don't want to urge ye. The' ain't no sure things but death an' taxes, as
the sayin' is, but buyin' pork at these prices is buyin' somethin'
that's got value, an' you can't wipe it out. In other words, it's buyin'
a warranted article at a price consid'ably lower 'n it c'n be produced
for, an' though it may go lower, if a man c'n _stick_, it's bound to
level up in the long run."

Our friend sat for some minutes apparently looking into the fire, but he
was not conscious of seeing anything at all. Finally he rose, went over
to Mr. Harum's desk, figured the interest on the certificates up to the
first of January, indorsed them, and filling up a check for the balance
of the amount in question, handed the check and certificate to David.

"Think you'll go it, eh?" said the latter.

"Yes," said John; "but if I take the quantity you suggest, I shall have
nothing to remargin the trade in case the market goes below a certain
point."

"I've thought of that," replied David, "an' was goin' to say to you that
I'd carry the trade down as fur as your money would go, in case more
margins had to be called."

"Very well," said John. "And will you look after the whole matter for
me?"

"All right," said David.

John thanked him and returned to the front room.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were times in the months which followed when our friend had reason
to wish that all swine had perished with those whom Shylock said "your
prophet the Nazarite conjured the devil into;" and the news of the world
in general was of secondary importance compared with the market reports.
After the purchase pork dropped off a little, and hung about the lower
figure for some time. Then it began to advance by degrees until the
quotation was a dollar above the purchase price.

John's impulse was to sell, but David made no sign. The market held firm
for a while, even going a little higher. Then it began to drop rather
more rapidly than it had advanced, to about what the pork had cost, and
for a long period fluctuated only a few cents one way or the other. This
was followed by a steady decline to the extent of half-a-dollar, and, as
the reports came, it "looked like going lower," which it did. In fact,
there came a day when it was so "low," and so much more "looked like
going lower" than ever (as such things usually do when the "bottom" is
pretty nearly reached), that our friend had not the courage to examine
the market reports for the next two days, and simply tried to keep the
subject out of his mind. On the morning of the third day the Syrchester
paper was brought in about ten o'clock, as usual, and laid on Mr.
Harum's desk. John shivered a little, and for some time refrained from
looking at it. At last, more by impulse than intention, he went into the
back room and glanced at the first page without taking the paper in his
hands. One of the press dispatches was headed: "Great Excitement on
Chicago Board of Trade: Pork Market reported Cornered: Bears on the
Run," and more of the same sort, which struck our friend as being the
most profitable, instructive, and delightful literature that he had ever
come across. David had been in Syrchester the two days previous,
returning the evening before. Just then he came into the office, and
John handed him the paper.

"Wa'al," he said, holding it off at arm's length, and then putting on
his glasses, "them fellers that thought they was _all_ hogs up West, are
havin' a change of heart, are they? I reckoned they would 'fore they got
through with it. It's ben ruther a long pull, though, eh?" he said,
looking at John with a grin.

"Yes," said our friend, with a slight shrug of the shoulders.

"Things looked ruther colicky the last two three days, eh?" suggested
David. "Did you think 'the jig was up an' the monkey was in the box?'"

"Rather," said John. "The fact is," he admitted, "I am ashamed to say
that for a few days back I haven't looked at a quotation. I suppose you
must have carried me to some extent. How much was it?"

"Wa'al," said David, "I kept the trade margined, of course, an' if we'd
sold out at the bottom you'd have owed me somewhere along a thousan' or
fifteen hunderd; but," he added, "it was only in the slump, an' didn't
last long, an' anyway I cal'lated to carry that pork to where it would
'a' ketched fire. I wa'n't worried none, an' you didn't let on to be,
an' so I didn't say anythin'."

"What do you think about it now?" asked John.

"My opinion is now," replied Mr. Harum, "that it's goin' to putty near
where it belongs, an' mebbe higher, an' them 's my advices. We can sell
now at some profit, an' of course the bears 'll jump on agin as it goes
up, an' the other fellers 'll take the profits f'm time to time. If I
was where I could watch the market, I'd mebbe try to make a turn in 't
'casionally, but I guess as 't is we'd better set down an' let her take
her own gait. I don't mean to try an' git the top price--I'm alwus
willin' to let the other feller make a little--but we've waited fer
quite a spell, an' as it's goin' our way, we might 's well wait a little
longer."

"All right," said John, "and I'm very much obliged to you."

"Sho, sho!" said David.

It was not until August, however, that the deal was finally closed out.




CHAPTER XLIII.


The summer was drawing to a close. The season, so far as the social part
of it was concerned, had been what John had grown accustomed to in
previous years, and there were few changes in or among the people whom
he had come to know very well, save those which a few years make in
young people: some increase of importance in demeanor on the part of the
young men whose razors were coming into requisition; and the changes
from short to long skirts, from braids, pig-tails, and flowing-manes to
more elaborate coiffures on the part of the young women. The most
notable event had been the reopening of the Verjoos house, which had
been closed for two summers, and the return of the family, followed by
the appearance of a young man whom Miss Clara had met abroad, and who
represented himself as the acknowledged _fiance_ of that young woman. It
need hardly be said that discussions of the event, and upon the
appearance, manners, prospects, etc., of that fortunate gentleman had
formed a very considerable part of the talk of the season among the
summer people; and, indeed, interest in the affair had permeated all
grades and classes of society.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was some six weeks after the settlement of the transaction in "pork"
that David and John were driving together in the afternoon as they had
so often done in the last five years. They had got to that point of
understanding where neither felt constrained to talk for the purpose of
keeping up conversation, and often in their long drives there was little
said by either of them. The young man was never what is called "a great
talker," and Mr. Harum did not always "git goin'." On this occasion they
had gone along for some time, smoking in silence, each man absorbed in
his thoughts. Finally David turned to his companion.

"Do you know that Dutchman Claricy Verjoos is goin' to marry?" he asked.

"Yes," replied John, laughing; "I have met him a number of times. But he
isn't a Dutchman. What gave you that idea?"

"I heard it was over in Germany she run across him," said David.

"I believe that is so, but he isn't a German. He is from Philadelphia,
and is a friend of the Bradways."

"What kind of a feller is he? Good enough for her?"

"Well," said John, smiling, "in the sense in which that question is
usually taken, I should say yes. He has good looks, good manners, a good
deal of money, I am told, and it is said that Miss Clara--which is the
main point, after all--is very much in love with him."

"H'm," said David after a moment. "How do you git along with the Verjoos
girls? Was Claricy's ears pointed all right when you seen her fust after
she come home?"

"Oh, yes!" replied John, smiling, "she and her sister were perfectly
pleasant and cordial, and Miss Verjoos and I are on very friendly
terms."

"I was thinkin'," said David, "that you an' Claricy might be got to
likin' each other, an' mebbe--"

"I don't think there could ever have been the smallest chance of it,"
declared John hastily.

"Take the lines a minute," said David, handing them to his companion
after stopping the horses. "The nigh one's picked up a stone, I guess,"
and he got out to investigate. "The river road," he remarked as he
climbed back into the buggy after removing the stone from the horse's
foot, "is about the puttiest road 'round here, but I don't drive it
oftener jest on account of them dum'd loose stuns." He sucked the air
through his pursed-up lips, producing a little squeaking sound, and the
horses started forward. Presently he turned to John:

"Did you ever think of gettin' married?" he asked.

"Well," said our friend with a little hesitation, "I don't remember that
I ever did, very definitely."

"Somebody 't you knew 'fore you come up here?" said David, jumping at a
conclusion.

"Yes," said John, smiling a little at the question.

"Wouldn't she have ye?" queried David, who stuck at no trifles when in
pursuit of information.

John laughed. "I never asked her," he replied, in truth a little
surprised at his own willingness to be questioned.

"Did ye cal'late to when the time come right?" pursued Mr. Harum.

Of this part of his history John had, of course, never spoken to David.
There had been a time when, if not resenting the attempt upon his
confidence, he would have made it plain that he did not wish to discuss
the matter, and the old wound still gave him twinges. But he had not
only come to know his questioner very well, but to be much attached to
him. He knew, too, that the elder man would ask him nothing save in the
way of kindness, for he had had a hundred proofs of that; and now, so
far from feeling reluctant to take his companion into his confidence, he
rather welcomed the idea. He was, withal, a bit curious to ascertain the
drift of the inquiry, knowing that David, though sometimes working in
devious ways, rarely started without an intention. And so he answered
the question and what followed as he might have told his story to a
woman.

"An' didn't you never git no note, nor message, nor word of any kind?"
asked David.

"No."

"Nor hain't ever heard a word about her f'm that day to this?"

"No."

"Nor hain't ever tried to?"

"No," said John. "What would have been the use?"

"Prov'dence seemed to 've made a putty clean sweep in your matters that
spring, didn't it?"

"It seemed so to me," said John.

Nothing more was said for a minute or two. Mr. Harum appeared to have
abandoned the pursuit of the subject of his questions. At last he said:

"You ben here most five years."

"Very nearly," John replied.

"Ben putty contented, on the hull?"

"I have grown to be," said John. "Indeed, it's hard to realize at times
that I haven't always lived in Homeville. I remember my former life as
if it were something I have read in a book. There was a John Lenox in
it, but he seems to me sometimes more like a character in a story than
myself."

"An' yet," said David, turning toward him, "if you was to go back to it,
this last five years 'd git to be that way to ye a good deal quicker.
Don't ye think so?"

"Perhaps so," replied John. "Yes," he added thoughtfully, "it is
possible."

"I guess on the hull, though," remarked Mr. Harum, "you done better up
here in the country 'n you might some 'ers else--"

"Oh, yes," said John sincerely, "thanks to you, I have indeed, and--"

"--an'--ne' mind about me--you got quite a little bunch o' money
together now. I was thinkin' 't mebbe you might feel 't you needn't to
stay here no longer if you didn't want to."

The young man turned to the speaker inquiringly, but Mr. Harum's face
was straight to the front, and betrayed nothing.

"It wouldn't be no more 'n natural," he went on, "an' mebbe it would be
best for ye. You're too good a man to spend all your days workin' fer
Dave Harum, an' I've had it in my mind fer some time--somethin' like
that pork deal--to make you a little independent in case anythin' should
happen, an'--gen'ally. I couldn't give ye no money 'cause you wouldn't
'a' took it even if I'd wanted to, but now you got it, why----"

"I feel very much as if you had given it to me," protested the young
man.

David put up his hand. "No, no," he said, "all 't I did was to propose
the thing to ye, an' to put up a little money fer two three days. I
didn't take no chances, an' it's all right, an' it's your'n, an' it
makes ye to a certain extent independent of Homeville."

"I don't quite see it so," said John.

"Wa'al," said David, turning to him, "if you'd had as much five years
ago you wouldn't 'a' come here, would ye?"

John was silent.

"What I was leadin' up to," resumed Mr. Harum after a moment, "is this:
I ben thinkin' about it fer some time, but I haven't wanted to speak to
ye about it before. In fact, I might 'a' put it off some longer if
things wa'n't as they are, but the fact o' the matter is that I'm goin'
to take down my sign."

John looked at him in undisguised amazement, not unmixed with
consternation.

"Yes," said David, obviously avoiding the other's eye, "'David Harum,
Banker,' is goin' to come down. I'm gettin' to be an' old man," he went
on, "an' what with some investments I've got, an' a hoss-trade once in a
while, I guess I c'n manage to keep the fire goin' in the kitchin stove
fer Polly an' me, an' the' ain't no reason why I sh'd keep my sign up
much of any longer. Of course," he said, "if I was to go on as I be now
I'd want ye to stay jest as you are; but, as I was sayin', you're to a
consid'able extent independent. You hain't no speciul ties to keep ye,
an' you ought anyway, as I said before, to be doin' better for yourself
than jest drawin' pay in a country bank."

One of the most impressive morals drawn from the fairy tales of our
childhood, and indeed from the literature and experience of our later
periods of life, is that the fulfilment of wishes is often attended by
the most unwelcome results. There had been a great many times when to
our friend the possibility of being able to bid farewell to Homeville
had seemed the most desirable of things, but confronted with the idea as
a reality--for what other construction could he put upon David's words
except that they amounted practically to a dismissal, though a most kind
one?--he found himself simply in dismay.

"I suppose," he said after a few moments, "that by 'taking down your
sign' you mean going out of business--"

"Figger o' speech," explained David.

"--and your determination is not only a great surprise to me, but
grieves me very much. I am very sorry to hear it--more sorry than I can
tell you. As you remind me, if I leave Homeville I shall not go almost
penniless as I came, but I shall leave with great regret, and,
indeed--Ah, well--" he broke off with a wave of his hands.

"What was you goin' to say?" asked David, after a moment, his eyes on
the horizon.

"I can't say very much more," replied the young man, "than that I am
very sorry. There have been times," he added, "as you may understand,
when I have been restless and discouraged for a while, particularly at
first; but I can see now that, on the whole, I have been far from
unhappy here. Your house has grown to be more a real home than any I
have ever known, and you and your sister are like my own people. What
you say, that I ought not to look forward to spending my life behind
the counter of a village bank on a salary, may be true; but I am not, at
present at least, a very ambitious person, nor, I am afraid, a very
clever one in the way of getting on in the world; and the idea of
breaking out for myself, even if that were all to be considered, is not
a cheerful one. I am afraid all this sounds rather selfish to you, when,
as I can see, you have deferred your plans for my sake, and after all
else that you have done for me."

"I guess I sha'n't lay it up agin ye," said David quietly.

They drove along in silence for a while.

"May I ask," said John, at length, "when you intend to 'take down your
sign,' as you put it?"

"Whenever you say the word," declared David, with a chuckle and a side
glance at his companion. John turned in bewilderment.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Wa'al," said David with another short laugh, "fur 's the sign 's
concerned, I s'pose we _could_ stick a new one over it, but I guess it
might 's well come down; but we'll settle that matter later on."

John still looked at the speaker in utter perplexity, until the latter
broke out into a laugh.

"Got any idee what's goin' onto the new sign?" he asked.

"You don't mean----"

"Yes, I do," declared Mr. Harum, "an' my notion 's this, an' don't you
say aye, yes, nor no till I git through," and he laid his left hand
restrainingly on John's knee.

"The new sign 'll read 'Harum & Comp'ny,' or 'Harum & Lenox,' jest as
you elect. You c'n put in what money you got an' I'll put in as much
more, which 'll make cap'tal enough in gen'ral, an' any extry money
that's needed--wa'al, up to a certain point, I guess I c'n manage. Now
putty much all the new bus'nis has come in through you, an' practically
you got the hull thing in your hands. You'll do the work about 's you're
doin' now, an' you'll draw the same sal'ry; an' after that's paid we'll
go snucks on anythin' that's left--that _is_," added David with a
chuckle, "if you feel that you c'n _stan'_ it in Homeville."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I wish you was married to one of our Homeville girls, though," declared
Mr. Harum later on as they drove homeward.




CHAPTER XLIV.


Since the whooping-cough and measles of childhood the junior partner of
Harum & Company had never to his recollection had a day's illness in his
life, and he fought the attack which came upon him about the first week
in December with a sort of incredulous disgust, until one morning when
he did not appear at breakfast. He spent the next week in bed, and at
the end of that time, while he was able to be about, it was in a languid
and spiritless fashion, and he was shaken and exasperated by a
persistent cough. The season was and had been unusually inclement even
for that region, where the thermometer sometimes changes fifty degrees
in thirty-six hours; and at the time of his release from his room there
was a period of successive changes of temperature from thawing to zero
and below, a characteristic of the winter climate of Homeville and its
vicinity. Dr. Hayes exhibited the inevitable quinine, iron, and all the
tonics in his pharmacopoeia, with cough mixtures and sundry, but in
vain. Aunt Polly pressed bottles of sovereign decoctions and infusions
upon him--which were received with thanks and neglected with the
blackest ingratitude--and exhausted not only the markets of Homeville,
but her own and Sairy's culinary resources (no mean ones, by the way)
to tempt the appetite which would not respond. One week followed another
without any improvement in his condition; and indeed as time went on he
fell into a condition of irritable listlessness which filled his partner
with concern.

"What's the matter with him, Doc?" said David to the physician. "He
don't seem to take no more int'rist than a foundered hoss. Can't ye do
nothin' for him?"

"Not much use dosin' him," replied the doctor. "Pull out all right, may
be, come warm weather. Big strong fellow, but this cussed influenzy, or
grip, as they call it, sometimes hits them hardest."

"Wa'al, warm weather 's some way off," remarked Mr. Harum, "an' he
coughs enough to tear his head off sometimes."

The doctor nodded. "Ought to clear out somewhere," he said. "Don't like
that cough myself."

"What do you mean?" asked David.

"Ought to go 'way for a spell," said the doctor; "quit working, and get
a change of climate."

"Have you told him so?" asked Mr. Harum.

"Yes," replied the doctor; "said he couldn't get away."

"H'm'm!" said David thoughtfully, pinching his lower lip between his
thumb and finger.

A day or two after the foregoing interview, John came in and laid an
open letter in front of David, who was at his desk, and dropped
languidly into a chair without speaking. Mr. Harum read the letter,
smiled a little, and turning in his chair, took off his glasses and
looked at the young man, who was staring abstractedly at the floor.

"I ben rather expectin' you'd git somethin' like this. What be you goin'
to do about it?"

"I don't know," replied John. "I don't like the idea of leasing the
property in any case, and certainly not on the terms they offer; but it
is lying idle, and I'm paying taxes on it----"

"Wa'al, as I said, I ben expectin' fer some time they'd be after ye in
some shape. You got this this mornin'?"

"Yes."

"I expect you'd sell the prop'ty if you got a good chance, wouldn't ye?"

"With the utmost pleasure," said John emphatically.

"Wa'al, I've got a notion they'll buy it of ye," said David, "if it's
handled right. I wouldn't lease it if it was mine an' I wanted to sell
it, an' yet, in the long run, you might git more out of it--an' then
agin you mightn't," he added.

"I don't know anything about it," said John, putting his handkerchief to
his mouth in a fit of coughing. David looked at him with a frown.

"I ben aware fer some time that the' was a movement on foot in your
direction," he said. "You know I told ye that I'd ben int'ristid in the
oil bus'nis once on a time; an' I hain't never quite lost my int'rist,
though it hain't ben a very active one lately, an' some fellers down
there have kep' me posted some. The' 's ben oil found near where you're
located, an' the prospectin' points your way. The hull thing has ben
kep' as close as possible, an' the holes has ben plugged, but the oil is
there somewhere. Now it's like this: If you lease on shares an' they
strike the oil on your prop'ty, mebbe it'll bring you more money; but
they might strike, an' agin they mightn't. Sometimes you git a payin'
well an' a dry hole only a few hunderd feet apart. Nevertheless they
want to drill your prop'ty. I know who the parties is. These fellers
that wrote this letter are simply actin' for 'em."

The speaker was interrupted by another fit of coughing, which left the
sufferer very red in the face, and elicited from him the word which is
always greeted with laughter in a theater.

"Say," said David, after a moment, in which he looked anxiously at his
companion, "I don't like that cough o' your'n."

"I don't thoroughly enjoy it myself," was the rejoinder.

"Seems to be kind o' growin' on ye, don't it?"

"I don't know," said John.

"I was talkin' with Doc Hayes about ye," said David, "an' he allowed
you'd ought to have your shoes off an' run loose a spell."

John smiled a little, but did not reply.

"Spoke to you about it, didn't he?" continued David.

"Yes."

"An' you told him you couldn't git away?"

"Yes."

"Didn't tell him you wouldn't go if you could, did ye?"

"I only told him I couldn't go," said John.

David sat for a moment thoughtfully tapping the desk with his
eyeglasses, and then said with his characteristic chuckle:

"I had a letter f'm Chet Timson yestidy."

John looked up at him, failing to see the connection.

"Yes," said David, "he's out fer a job, an' the way he writes I guess
the dander's putty well out of him. I reckon the' hain't ben nothin'
much but hay in _his_ manger fer quite a spell," remarked Mr. Harum.

"H'm!" said John, raising his brows, conscious of a humane but very
faint interest in Mr. Timson's affairs. Mr. Harum got out a cigar, and,
lighting it, gave a puff or two, and continued with what struck the
younger man as a perfectly irrelevant question. It really seemed to him
as if his senior were making conversation.

"How's Peleg doin' these days?" was the query.

"Very well," was the reply.

"C'n do most anythin' 't's nec'sary, can't he?"

A brief interruption followed upon the entrance of a man, who, after
saying good-morning, laid a note on David's desk, asking for the money
on it. Mr. Harum handed it back, indicating John with a motion of his
thumb.

The latter took it, looked at the face and back, marked his initials on
it with a pencil, and the man went out to the counter.

"If you was fixed so 't you could git away fer a spell," said David a
moment or two after the customer's departure, "where would you like to
go?"

"I have not thought about it," said John rather listlessly.

"Wa'al, s'pose you think about it a little now, if you hain't got no
pressin' engagement. Bus'nis don't seem to be very rushin' this
mornin'."

"Why?" said John.

"Because," said David impressively, "you're goin' somewhere right off,
quick 's you c'n git ready, an' you may 's well be makin' up your mind
where."

John looked up in surprise. "I don't want to go away," he said, "and if
I did, how could I leave the office?"

"No," responded Mr. Harum, "you don't want to make a move of any kind
that you don't actually have to, an' that's the reason fer makin' one.
F'm what the doc said, an' f'm what I c'n see, you got to git out o'
this dum'd climate," waving his hand toward the window, against which
the sleet was beating, "fer a spell; an' as fur 's the office goes, Chet
Timson 'd be tickled to death to come on an' help out while you're away,
an' I guess 'mongst us we c'n mosey along some gait. I ain't _quite_ to
the bone-yard yet myself," he added with a grin.

The younger man sat for a moment or two with brows contracted, and
pulling thoughtfully at his moustache.

"There is that matter," he said, pointing to the letter on the desk.

"Wa'al," said David, "the' ain't no tearin' hurry 'bout that; an' any
way, I was goin' to make you a suggestion to put the matter into my
hands to some extent."

"Will you take it?" said John quickly. "That is exactly what I should
wish in any case."

"If you want I should," replied Mr. Harum. "Would you want to give full
power attorney, or jest have me say 't I was instructed to act for ye?"

"I think a better way would be to put the property in your name
altogether," said John. "Don't you think so?"

"Wa'al," said David, thoughtfully, after a moment, "I hadn't thought of
that, but mebbe I _could_ handle the matter better if you was to do
that. I know the parties, an' if the' was any bluffin' to be done either
side, mebbe it would be better if they thought I was playin' my own
hand."

At that point Peleg appeared and asked Mr. Lenox a question which took
the latter to the teller's counter. David sat for some time drumming on
his desk with the fingers of both hands. A succession of violent coughs
came from the front room. His mouth and brows contracted in a wince, and
rising, he put on his coat and hat and went slowly out of the bank.




CHAPTER XLV.


The Vaterland was advertised to sail at one o'clock, and it wanted but
fifteen or twenty minutes of the hour. After assuring himself that his
belongings were all together in his state-room, John made his way to the
upper deck and leaning against the rail, watched the bustle of
embarkation, somewhat interested in the people standing about, among
whom it was difficult in instances to distinguish the passengers from
those who were present to say farewell. Near him at the moment were two
people, apparently man and wife, of middle age and rather distinguished
appearance, to whom presently approached, with some evidence of hurry
and with outstretched hand, a very well dressed and pleasant looking
man.

"Ah, here you are, Mrs. Ruggles," John heard him say as he shook hands.

Then followed some commonplaces of good wishes and farewells, and in
reply to a question which John did not catch, he heard the lady
addressed as Mrs. Ruggles say, "Oh, didn't you see her? We left her on
the lower deck a few minutes ago. Ah, here she comes."

The man turned and advanced a step to meet the person in question.
John's eyes involuntarily followed the movement, and as he saw her
approach his heart contracted sharply: it was Mary Blake. He turned
away quickly, and as the collar of his ulster was about his face, for
the air of the January day was very keen, he thought that she had not
recognized him. A moment later he went aft around the deck-house, and
going forward to the smoking-room, seated himself therein, and took the
passenger list out of his pocket. He had already scanned it rather
cursorily, having but the smallest expectation of coming upon a familiar
name, yet feeling sure that, had hers been there, it could not have
escaped him. Nevertheless, he now ran his eye over the columns with
eager scrutiny, and the hands which held the paper shook a little.

There was no name in the least like Blake. It occurred to him that by
some chance or error hers might have been omitted, when his eye caught
the following:

  William Ruggles     New York.
  Mrs. Ruggles         "    "
  Mrs. Edward Ruggles  "    "

It was plain to him then. She was obviously traveling with the people
whom she had just joined on deck, and it was equally plain that she was
Mrs. Edward Ruggles. When he looked up the ship was out in the river.




CHAPTER XLVI.


John had been late in applying for his passage, and in consequence, the
ship being very full, had had to take what berth he could get, which
happened to be in the second cabin. The occupants of these quarters,
however, were not rated as second-class passengers. The Vaterland took
none such on her outward voyages, and all were on the same footing as to
the fare and the freedom of the ship. The captain and the orchestra
appeared at dinner in the second saloon on alternate nights, and the
only disadvantage in the location was that it was very far aft; unless
it could be considered a drawback that the furnishings were of plain
wood and plush instead of carving, gilding, and stamped leather. In
fact, as the voyage proceeded, our friend decided that the after-deck
was pleasanter than the one amidships, and the cozy second-class
smoking-room more agreeable than the large and gorgeous one forward.

Consequently, for a while he rarely went across the bridge which spanned
the opening between the two decks. It may be that he had a certain
amount of reluctance to encounter Mrs. Edward Ruggles.

The roof of the second cabin deck-house was, when there was not too much
wind, a favorite place with him. It was not much frequented, as most of
those who spent their time on deck apparently preferred a place nearer
amidships. He was sitting there on the morning of the fifth day out,
looking idly over the sea, with an occasional glance at the people who
were walking on the promenade-deck below, or leaning on the rail which
bounded it. He turned at a slight sound behind him, and rose with his
hat in his hand. The flush in his face, as he took the hand which was
offered him, reflected the color in the face of the owner, but the
grayish brown eyes, which he remembered so well, looked into his, a
little curiously, perhaps, but frankly and kindly. She was the first to
speak.

"How do you do, Mr. Lenox?" she said.

"How do you do, Mrs. Ruggles?" said John, throwing up his hand as, at
the moment of his reply, a puff of wind blew the cape of his mackintosh
over his head. They both laughed a little (this was their greeting after
nearly six years), and sat down.

"What a nice place!" she said, looking about her.

"Yes," said John; "I sit here a good deal when it isn't too windy."

"I have been wondering why I did not get a sight of you," she said. "I
saw your name in the passenger list. Have you been ill?"

"I'm in the second cabin," he said, smiling.

She looked at him a little incredulously, and he explained.

"Ah, yes," she said, "I saw your name, but as you did not appear in the
dining saloon, I thought you must either be ill or that you did not
sail. Did you know that I was on board?" she asked.

It was rather an embarrassing question.

"I have been intending," he replied rather lamely, "to make myself known
to you--that is, to--well, make my presence on board known to you. I got
just a glimpse of you before we sailed, when you came up to speak to a
man who had been saying good-bye to Mr. and Mrs. Ruggles. I heard him
speak their name, and looking over the passenger list I identified you
as Mrs. Edward Ruggles."

"Ah," she said, looking away for an instant, "I did not know that you
had seen me, and I wondered how you came to address me as Mrs. Ruggles
just now."

"That was how," said John; and then, after a moment, "it seems rather
odd, doesn't it, that we should be renewing an acquaintance on an ocean
steamer as we did once before, so many years ago? and that the first bit
of intelligence that I have had of you in all the years since I saw you
last should come to me through the passenger list?"

"Did you ever try to get any?" she asked. "I have always thought it very
strange that we should never have heard anything about you."

"I went to the house once, some weeks after you had gone," said John,
"but the man in charge was out, and the maid could tell me nothing."

"A note I wrote you at the time of your father's death," she said, "we
found in my small nephew's overcoat pocket after we had been some time
in California; but I wrote a second one before we left New York, telling
you of our intended departure, and where we were going."

"I never received it," he said. Neither spoke for a while, and then:

"Tell me of your sister and brother-in-law," he said.

"My sister is at present living in Cambridge, where Jack is at college,"
was the reply; "but poor Julius died two years ago."

"Ah," said John, "I am grieved to hear of Mr. Carling's death. I liked
him very much."

"He liked you very much," she said, "and often spoke of you."

There was another period of silence, so long, indeed, as to be somewhat
embarrassing. None of the thoughts which followed each other in John's
mind was of the sort which he felt like broaching. He realized that the
situation was getting awkward, and that consciousness added to the
confusion of his ideas. But if his companion shared his embarrassment,
neither her face nor her manner betrayed it as at last she said,
turning, and looking frankly at him:

"You seem very little changed. Tell me about yourself. Tell me something
of your life in the last six years."

During the rest of the voyage they were together for a part of every
day, sometimes with the company of Mrs. William Ruggles, but more often
without it, as her husband claimed much of her attention and rarely came
on deck; and John, from time to time, gave his companion pretty much the
whole history of his later career. But with regard to her own life, and,
as he noticed, especially the two years since the death of her
brother-in-law, she was distinctly reticent. She never spoke of her
marriage or her husband, and after one or two faintly tentative
allusions, John forebore to touch upon those subjects, and was driven to
conclude that her experience had not been a happy one. Indeed, in their
intercourse there were times when she appeared distrait and even moody;
but on the whole she seemed to him to be just as he had known and loved
her years ago; and all the feeling that he had had for her then broke
forth afresh in spite of himself--in spite of the fact that, as he told
himself, it was more hopeless than ever: absolutely so, indeed.

It was the last night of their voyage together. The Ruggleses were to
leave the ship the next morning at Algiers, where they intended to
remain for some time.

"Would you mind going to the after-deck?" he asked. "These people
walking about fidget me," he added rather irritably.

She rose, and they made their way aft. John drew a couple of chairs near
to the rail. "I don't care to sit down for the present," she said, and
they stood looking out at sea for a while in silence.

"Do you remember," said John at last, "a night six years ago when we
stood together, at the end of the voyage, leaning over the rail like
this?"

"Yes," she said.

"Does this remind you of it?" he asked.

"I was thinking of it," she said.

"Do you remember the last night I was at your house?" he asked, looking
straight out over the moonlit water.

"Yes," she said again.

"Did you know that night what was in my heart to say to you?"

There was no answer.

"May I tell you now?" he asked, giving a side glance at her profile,
which in the moonlight showed very white.

"Do you think you ought?" she answered in a low voice, "or that I ought
to listen to you?"

"I know," he exclaimed. "You think that as a married woman you should
not listen, and that knowing you to be one I should not speak. If it
were to ask anything of you I would not. It is for the first and last
time. To-morrow we part again, and for all time, I suppose. I have
carried the words that were on my lips that night all these years in my
heart. I know I can have no response--I expect none; but it can not harm
you if I tell you that I loved you then, and have----"

She put up her hand in protest.

"You must not go on, Mr. Lenox," she said, turning to him, "and I must
leave you."

"Are you very angry with me?" he asked humbly.

She turned her face to the sea again and gave a sad little laugh.

"Not so much as I ought to be," she answered; "but you yourself have
given the reason why you should not say such things, and why I should
not listen, and why I ought to say good-night."

"Ah, yes," he said bitterly; "of course you are right, and this is to be
the end."

She turned and looked at him for a moment. "You will never again speak
to me as you have to-night, will you?" she asked.

"I should not have said what I did had I not thought I should never see
you again after to-morrow," said John, "and I am not likely to do that,
am I?"

"If I could be sure," she said hesitatingly, and as if to herself.

"Well," said John eagerly. She stood with her eyes downcast for a
moment, one hand resting on the rail, and then she looked up.

"We expect to stay in Algiers about two months," she said, "and then we
are going to Naples to visit some friends for a few days, about the time
you told me you thought you might be there. Perhaps it would be better
if we said good-bye to-night; but if after we get home you are to spend
your days in Homeville and I mine in New York, we shall not be likely to
meet, and, except on this side of the ocean, we may, as you say, never
see each other again. So, if you wish, you may come to see me in Naples
if you happen to be there when we are. I am sure after to-night that I
may trust you, may I not? But," she added, "perhaps you would not care.
I am treating you very frankly; but from your standpoint you would
expect or excuse more frankness than if I were a young girl."

"I care very much," he declared, "and it will be a happiness to me to
see you on any footing, and you may trust me never to break bounds
again." She made a motion as if to depart.

"Don't go just yet," he said pleadingly; "there is now no reason why you
should for a while, is there? Let us sit here in this gorgeous night a
little longer, and let me smoke a cigar."

At the moment he was undergoing a revulsion of feeling. His state of
mind was like that of an improvident debtor who, while knowing that the
note must be paid some time, does not quite realize it for a while after
an extension. At last the cigar was finished. There had been but little
said between them.

"I really must go," she said, and he walked with her across the hanging
bridge and down the deck to the gangway door.

"Where shall I address you to let you know when we shall be in Naples?"
she asked as they were about to separate.

"Care of Cook & Son," he said. "You will find the address in Baedeker."

He saw her the next morning long enough for a touch of the hand and a
good-bye before the bobbing, tubby little boat with its Arab crew took
the Ruggleses on board.




CHAPTER XLVII.


How John Lenox tried to kill time during the following two months, and
how time retaliated during the process, it is needless to set forth. It
may not, however, be wholly irrelevant to note that his cough had
gradually disappeared, and that his appetite had become good enough to
carry him through the average table d'hote dinner. On the morning after
his arrival at Naples he found a cable dispatch at the office of Cook &
Son, as follows: "Sixty cash, forty stock. Stock good. Harum."

"God bless the dear old boy!" said John fervently. The Pennsylvania
property was sold at last; and if "stock good" was true, the dispatch
informed him that he was, if not a rich man for modern days, still, as
David would have put it, "wuth consid'able." No man, I take it, is very
likely to receive such a piece of news without satisfaction; but if our
friend's first sensation was one of gratification, the thought which
followed had a drop of bitterness in it. "If I could only have had it
before!" he said to himself; and indeed many of the disappointments of
life, if not the greater part, come because events are unpunctual. They
have a way of arriving sometimes too early, or worse, too late.

Another circumstance detracted from his satisfaction: a note he
expected did not appear among the other communications waiting him at
the bankers, and his mind was occupied for the while with various
conjectures as to the reason, none of which was satisfactory. Perhaps
she had changed her mind. Perhaps--a score of things! Well, there was
nothing for it but to be as patient as possible and await events. He
remembered that she had said she was to visit some friends by the name
of Hartleigh, and she had told him the name of their villa, but for the
moment he did not remember it. In any case he did not know the
Hartleighs, and if she had changed her mind--as was possibly indicated
by the omission to send him word--well----! He shrugged his shoulders,
mechanically lighted a cigarette, and strolled down and out of the
Piazza Martiri and across to the Largo della Vittoria. He had a
half-formed idea of walking back through the Villa Nazionale, spending
an hour at the Aquarium, and then to his hotel for luncheon. It occurred
to him at the moment that there was a steamer from Genoa on the Monday
following, that he was tired of wandering about aimlessly and alone, and
that there was really no reason why he should not take the said steamer
and go home. Occupied with these reflections, he absently observed, just
opposite to him across the way, a pair of large bay horses in front of a
handsome landau. A coachman in livery was on the box, and a small
footman, very much coated and silk-hatted, was standing about; and, as
he looked, two ladies came out of the arched entrance to the court of
the building before which the equipage was halted, and the small footman
sprang to the carriage door.

One of the ladies was a stranger to him, but the other was Mrs. William
Ruggles; and John, seeing that he had been recognized, at once crossed
over to the carriage; and presently, having accepted an invitation to
breakfast, found himself sitting opposite them on his way to the Villa
Violante. The conversation during the drive up to the Vomero need not be
detailed. Mrs. Hartleigh arrived at the opinion that our friend was
rather a dull person. Mrs. Ruggles, as he had found out, was usually
rather taciturn. Neither is it necessary to say very much of the
breakfast, nor of the people assembled.

It appeared that several guests had departed the previous day, and the
people at table consisted only of Mr. and Mrs. Ruggles, Mary, Mr. and
Mrs. Hartleigh and their two daughters, and John, whose conversation was
mostly with his host, and was rather desultory. In fact, there was
during the meal a perceptible air of something like disquietude. Mr.
Ruggles in particular said almost nothing, and wore an appearance of
what seemed like anxiety. Once he turned to his host: "When ought I to
get an answer to that cable, Hartleigh? to-day, do you think?"

"Yes, I should say so without doubt," was the reply, "if it's answered
promptly, and in fact there's plenty of time. Remember that we are about
six hours earlier than New York by the clock, and it's only about seven
in the morning over there."

       *       *       *       *       *

Coffee was served on the balustraded platform of the flight of marble
steps leading down to the grounds below.

"Mary," said Mrs. Hartleigh, when cigarettes had been offered, "don't
you want to show Mr. Lenox something of La Violante?"

"I shall take you to my favorite place," she said, as they descended the
steps together.

The southern front of the grounds of the Villa Violante is bounded and
upheld by a wall of tufa fifty feet in height and some four hundred feet
long. About midway of its length a semicircular bench of marble, with a
rail, is built out over one of the buttresses. From this point is
visible the whole bay and harbor of Naples, and about one third of the
city lies in sight, five hundred feet below. To the left one sees
Vesuvius and the Sant' Angelo chain, which the eye follows to Sorrento.
Straight out in front stands Capri, and to the right the curve of the
bay, ending at Posilipo. The two, John and his companion, halted near
the bench, and leaned upon the parapet of the wall for a while in
silence. From the streets below rose no rumble of traffic, no sound of
hoof or wheel; but up through three thousand feet of distance came from
here and there the voices of street-venders, the clang of a bell, and
ever and anon the pathetic supplication of a donkey. Absolute quiet
prevailed where they stood, save for these upcoming sounds. The April
sun, deliciously warm, drew a smoky odor from the hedge of box with
which the parapet walk was bordered, in and out of which darted small
green lizards with the quickness of little fishes.

John drew a long breath.

"I don't believe there is another such view in the world," he said. "I
do not wonder that this is your favorite spot."

"Yes," she said, "you should see the grounds--the whole place is
superb--but this is the glory of it all, and I have brought you
straight here because I wanted to see it with you, and this may be the
only opportunity."

"What do you mean?" he asked apprehensively.

"You heard Mr. Ruggles's question about the cable dispatch?" she said.

"Yes."

"Well," she said, "our plans have been very much upset by some things he
has heard from home. We came on from Algiers ten days earlier than we
had intended, and if the reply to Mr. Ruggles's cable is unfavorable, we
are likely to depart for Genoa to-morrow and take the steamer for home
on Monday. The reason why I did not send a note to your bankers," she
added, "was that we came on the same boat that I intended to write by;
and Mr. Hartleigh's man has inquired for you every day at Cook's so that
Mr. Hartleigh might know of your coming and call upon you."

John gave a little exclamation of dismay. Her face was very still as she
gazed out over the sea with half-closed eyes. He caught the scent of the
violets in the bosom of her white dress.

"Let us sit down," she said at last. "I have something I wish to say to
you."

He made no rejoinder as they seated themselves, and during the moment or
two of silence in which she seemed to be meditating how to begin, he sat
bending forward, holding his stick with both hands between his knees,
absently prodding holes in the gravel.

"I think," she began, "that if I did not believe the chances were for
our going to-morrow, I would not say it to-day." John bit his lip and
gave the gravel a more vigorous punch. "But I have felt that I must say
it to you some time before we saw the last of each other, whenever that
time should be."

"Is it anything about what happened on board ship?" he asked in a low
voice.

"Yes," she replied, "it concerns all that took place on board ship, or
nearly all, and I have had many misgivings about it. I am afraid that I
did wrong, and I am afraid, too, that in your secret heart you would
admit it."

"No, never!" he exclaimed. "If there was any wrong done, it was wholly
of my own doing. I was alone to blame. I ought to have remembered that
you were married, and perhaps--yes, I did remember it in a way, but I
could not realize it. I had never seen or heard of your husband, or
heard of your marriage. He was a perfectly unreal person to me, and
you--you seemed only the Mary Blake that I had known, and as I had known
you. I said what I did that night upon an impulse which was as
unpremeditated as it was sudden. I don't see how you were wrong. You
couldn't have foreseen what took place--and----"

"Have you not been sorry for what took place?" she asked, with her eyes
on the ground. "Have you not thought the less of me since?"

He turned and looked at her. There was a little smile upon her lips and
on her downcast eyes.

"No, by Heaven!" he exclaimed desperately, "I have not, and I am not
sorry. Whether I ought to have said what I did or not, it was true, and
I wanted you to know----"

He broke off as she turned to him with a smile and a blush. The smile
was almost a laugh.

"But, John," she said, "I am not Mrs. Edward Ruggles. I am Mary Blake."

       *       *       *       *       *

The parapet was fifty feet above the terrace. The hedge of box was an
impervious screen.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, and then, after a little of that sort of thing, they both began
hurriedly to admire the view again, for some one was coming. But
it was only one of the gardeners, who did not understand
English; and confidence being once more restored, they fell to
discussing--everything.

"Do you think you could live in Homeville, dear?" asked John after a
while.

"I suppose I shall have to, shall I not?" said Mary. "And are you, too,
really happy, John?"

John instantly proved to her that he was. "But it almost makes me
unhappy," he added, "to think how nearly we have missed each other. If I
had only known in the beginning that you were not Mrs. Edward Ruggles!"

Mary laughed joyously. The mistake which a moment before had seemed
almost tragic now appeared delightfully funny.

"The explanation is painfully simple," she answered. "Mrs. Edward
Ruggles--the real one--did expect to come on the Vaterland, whereas I
did not. But the day before the steamer sailed she was summoned to
Andover by the serious illness of her only son, who is at school there.
I took her ticket, got ready overnight--I like to start on these
unpremeditated journeys--and here I am." John put his arm about her to
make sure of this, and kept it there--lest he should forget. "When we
met on the steamer and I saw the error you had made I was tempted--and
yielded--to let you go on uncorrected. But," she added, looking lovingly
up into John's eyes, "I'm glad you found out your mistake at last."




CHAPTER XLVIII.


A fortnight later Mr. Harum sat at his desk in the office of Harum & Co.
There were a number of letters for him, but the one he opened first bore
a foreign stamp, and was postmarked "Napoli." That he was deeply
interested in the contents of this epistle was manifest from the
beginning, not only from the expression of his face, but from the
frequent "wa'al, wa'als" which were elicited as he went on; but interest
grew into excitement as he neared the close, and culminated as he read
the last few lines.

"Scat my CATS!" he cried, and, grabbing his hat and the letter, he
bolted out of the back door in the direction of the house, leaving the
rest of his correspondence to be digested--any time.




EPILOGUE.


I might, in conclusion, tell how John's further life in Homeville was of
comparatively short duration; how David died of injuries received in a
runaway accident; how John found himself the sole executor of his late
partner's estate, and, save for a life provision for Mrs. Bixbee, the
only legatee, and rich enough (if indeed with his own and his wife's
money he had not been so before) to live wherever he pleased. But as
heretofore I have confined myself strictly to facts, I am, to be
consistent, constrained to abide by them now. Indeed, I am too
conscientious to do otherwise, notwithstanding the temptation to make
what might be a more artistic ending to my story. David is not only
living, but appears almost no older than when we first knew him, and is
still just as likely to "git goin'" on occasion. Even "old Jinny" is
still with us, though her master does most of his "joggin' 'round"
behind a younger horse. Whatever Mr. Harum's testamentary intentions may
be, or even whether he has made a will or not, nobody knows but himself
and his attorney. Aunt Polly--well, there is a little more of her than
when we first made her acquaintance, say twenty pounds.

John and his wife live in a house which they built on the shore of the
lake. It is a settled thing that David and his sister dine with them
every Sunday. Mrs. Bixbee at first looked a little askance at the wine
on the table, but she does not object to it now. Being a "son o'
temp'rence," she has never been induced to taste any champagne, but on
one occasion she was persuaded to take the smallest sip of claret.
"Wa'al," she remarked with a wry face, "I guess the' can't be much sin
or danger 'n drinkin' anythin' 't tastes the way _that_ does."

She and Mrs. Lenox took to each other from the first, and the latter has
quite supplanted (and more) Miss Claricy (Mrs. Elton) with David. In
fact, he said to our friend one day during the first year of the
marriage, "Say, John, I ain't sure but what we'll have to hitch that
wife o' your'n on the off side."

I had nearly forgotten one person whose conversation has yet to be
recorded in print, but which is considered very interesting by at least
four people. His name is David Lenox.

I think that's all.



***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK DAVID HARUM***


******* This file should be named 17617.txt or 17617.zip *******


This and all associated files of various formats will be found in:
http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/7/6/1/17617



Updated editions will replace the previous one--the old editions
will be renamed.

Creating the works from public domain print editions means that no
one owns a United States copyright in these works, so the Foundation
(and you!) can copy and distribute it in the United States without
permission and without paying copyright royalties.  Special rules,
set forth in the General Terms of Use part of this license, apply to
copying and distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works to
protect the PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm concept and trademark.  Project
Gutenberg is a registered trademark, and may not be used if you
charge for the eBooks, unless you receive specific permission.  If you
do not charge anything for copies of this eBook, complying with the
rules is very easy.  You may use this eBook for nearly any purpose
such as creation of derivative works, reports, performances and
research.  They may be modified and printed and given away--you may do
practically ANYTHING with public domain eBooks.  Redistribution is
subject to the trademark license, especially commercial
redistribution.



*** START: FULL LICENSE ***

THE FULL PROJECT GUTENBERG LICENSE
PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU DISTRIBUTE OR USE THIS WORK

To protect the Project Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting the free
distribution of electronic works, by using or distributing this work
(or any other work associated in any way with the phrase "Project
Gutenberg"), you agree to comply with all the terms of the Full Project
Gutenberg-tm License (available with this file or online at
http://www.gutenberg.org/license).


Section 1.  General Terms of Use and Redistributing Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic works

1.A.  By reading or using any part of this Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work, you indicate that you have read, understand, agree to
and accept all the terms of this license and intellectual property
(trademark/copyright) agreement.  If you do not agree to abide by all
the terms of this agreement, you must cease using and return or destroy
all copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in your possession.
If you paid a fee for obtaining a copy of or access to a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work and you do not agree to be bound by the
terms of this agreement, you may obtain a refund from the person or
entity to whom you paid the fee as set forth in paragraph 1.E.8.

1.B.  "Project Gutenberg" is a registered trademark.  It may only be
used on or associated in any way with an electronic work by people who
agree to be bound by the terms of this agreement.  There are a few
things that you can do with most Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works
even without complying with the full terms of this agreement.  See
paragraph 1.C below.  There are a lot of things you can do with Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works if you follow the terms of this agreement
and help preserve free future access to Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.  See paragraph 1.E below.

1.C.  The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation ("the Foundation"
or PGLAF), owns a compilation copyright in the collection of Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works.  Nearly all the individual works in the
collection are in the public domain in the United States.  If an
individual work is in the public domain in the United States and you are
located in the United States, we do not claim a right to prevent you from
copying, distributing, performing, displaying or creating derivative
works based on the work as long as all references to Project Gutenberg
are removed.  Of course, we hope that you will support the Project
Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting free access to electronic works by
freely sharing Project Gutenberg-tm works in compliance with the terms of
this agreement for keeping the Project Gutenberg-tm name associated with
the work.  You can easily comply with the terms of this agreement by
keeping this work in the same format with its attached full Project
Gutenberg-tm License when you share it without charge with others.

1.D.  The copyright laws of the place where you are located also govern
what you can do with this work.  Copyright laws in most countries are in
a constant state of change.  If you are outside the United States, check
the laws of your country in addition to the terms of this agreement
before downloading, copying, displaying, performing, distributing or
creating derivative works based on this work or any other Project
Gutenberg-tm work.  The Foundation makes no representations concerning
the copyright status of any work in any country outside the United
States.

1.E.  Unless you have removed all references to Project Gutenberg:

1.E.1.  The following sentence, with active links to, or other immediate
access to, the full Project Gutenberg-tm License must appear prominently
whenever any copy of a Project Gutenberg-tm work (any work on which the
phrase "Project Gutenberg" appears, or with which the phrase "Project
Gutenberg" is associated) is accessed, displayed, performed, viewed,
copied or distributed:

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

1.E.2.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is derived
from the public domain (does not contain a notice indicating that it is
posted with permission of the copyright holder), the work can be copied
and distributed to anyone in the United States without paying any fees
or charges.  If you are redistributing or providing access to a work
with the phrase "Project Gutenberg" associated with or appearing on the
work, you must comply either with the requirements of paragraphs 1.E.1
through 1.E.7 or obtain permission for the use of the work and the
Project Gutenberg-tm trademark as set forth in paragraphs 1.E.8 or
1.E.9.

1.E.3.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is posted
with the permission of the copyright holder, your use and distribution
must comply with both paragraphs 1.E.1 through 1.E.7 and any additional
terms imposed by the copyright holder.  Additional terms will be linked
to the Project Gutenberg-tm License for all works posted with the
permission of the copyright holder found at the beginning of this work.

1.E.4.  Do not unlink or detach or remove the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License terms from this work, or any files containing a part of this
work or any other work associated with Project Gutenberg-tm.

1.E.5.  Do not copy, display, perform, distribute or redistribute this
electronic work, or any part of this electronic work, without
prominently displaying the sentence set forth in paragraph 1.E.1 with
active links or immediate access to the full terms of the Project
Gutenberg-tm License.

1.E.6.  You may convert to and distribute this work in any binary,
compressed, marked up, nonproprietary or proprietary form, including any
word processing or hypertext form.  However, if you provide access to or
distribute copies of a Project Gutenberg-tm work in a format other than
"Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other format used in the official version
posted on the official Project Gutenberg-tm web site (www.gutenberg.org),
you must, at no additional cost, fee or expense to the user, provide a
copy, a means of exporting a copy, or a means of obtaining a copy upon
request, of the work in its original "Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other
form.  Any alternate format must include the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License as specified in paragraph 1.E.1.

1.E.7.  Do not charge a fee for access to, viewing, displaying,
performing, copying or distributing any Project Gutenberg-tm works
unless you comply with paragraph 1.E.8 or 1.E.9.

1.E.8.  You may charge a reasonable fee for copies of or providing
access to or distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works provided
that

- You pay a royalty fee of 20% of the gross profits you derive from
     the use of Project Gutenberg-tm works calculated using the method
     you already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  The fee is
     owed to the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark, but he
     has agreed to donate royalties under this paragraph to the
     Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.  Royalty payments
     must be paid within 60 days following each date on which you
     prepare (or are legally required to prepare) your periodic tax
     returns.  Royalty payments should be clearly marked as such and
     sent to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation at the
     address specified in Section 4, "Information about donations to
     the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation."

- You provide a full refund of any money paid by a user who notifies
     you in writing (or by e-mail) within 30 days of receipt that s/he
     does not agree to the terms of the full Project Gutenberg-tm
     License.  You must require such a user to return or
     destroy all copies of the works possessed in a physical medium
     and discontinue all use of and all access to other copies of
     Project Gutenberg-tm works.

- You provide, in accordance with paragraph 1.F.3, a full refund of any
     money paid for a work or a replacement copy, if a defect in the
     electronic work is discovered and reported to you within 90 days
     of receipt of the work.

- You comply with all other terms of this agreement for free
     distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm works.

1.E.9.  If you wish to charge a fee or distribute a Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work or group of works on different terms than are set
forth in this agreement, you must obtain permission in writing from
both the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation and Michael
Hart, the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark.  Contact the
Foundation as set forth in Section 3 below.

1.F.

1.F.1.  Project Gutenberg volunteers and employees expend considerable
effort to identify, do copyright research on, transcribe and proofread
public domain works in creating the Project Gutenberg-tm
collection.  Despite these efforts, Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works, and the medium on which they may be stored, may contain
"Defects," such as, but not limited to, incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other intellectual
property infringement, a defective or damaged disk or other medium, a
computer virus, or computer codes that damage or cannot be read by
your equipment.

1.F.2.  LIMITED WARRANTY, DISCLAIMER OF DAMAGES - Except for the "Right
of Replacement or Refund" described in paragraph 1.F.3, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, the owner of the Project
Gutenberg-tm trademark, and any other party distributing a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work under this agreement, disclaim all
liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including legal
fees.  YOU AGREE THAT YOU HAVE NO REMEDIES FOR NEGLIGENCE, STRICT
LIABILITY, BREACH OF WARRANTY OR BREACH OF CONTRACT EXCEPT THOSE
PROVIDED IN PARAGRAPH F3.  YOU AGREE THAT THE FOUNDATION, THE
TRADEMARK OWNER, AND ANY DISTRIBUTOR UNDER THIS AGREEMENT WILL NOT BE
LIABLE TO YOU FOR ACTUAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE OR
INCIDENTAL DAMAGES EVEN IF YOU GIVE NOTICE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH
DAMAGE.

1.F.3.  LIMITED RIGHT OF REPLACEMENT OR REFUND - If you discover a
defect in this electronic work within 90 days of receiving it, you can
receive a refund of the money (if any) you paid for it by sending a
written explanation to the person you received the work from.  If you
received the work on a physical medium, you must return the medium with
your written explanation.  The person or entity that provided you with
the defective work may elect to provide a replacement copy in lieu of a
refund.  If you received the work electronically, the person or entity
providing it to you may choose to give you a second opportunity to
receive the work electronically in lieu of a refund.  If the second copy
is also defective, you may demand a refund in writing without further
opportunities to fix the problem.

1.F.4.  Except for the limited right of replacement or refund set forth
in paragraph 1.F.3, this work is provided to you 'AS-IS', WITH NO OTHER
WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO
WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTIBILITY OR FITNESS FOR ANY PURPOSE.

1.F.5.  Some states do not allow disclaimers of certain implied
warranties or the exclusion or limitation of certain types of damages.
If any disclaimer or limitation set forth in this agreement violates the
law of the state applicable to this agreement, the agreement shall be
interpreted to make the maximum disclaimer or limitation permitted by
the applicable state law.  The invalidity or unenforceability of any
provision of this agreement shall not void the remaining provisions.

1.F.6.  INDEMNITY - You agree to indemnify and hold the Foundation, the
trademark owner, any agent or employee of the Foundation, anyone
providing copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in accordance
with this agreement, and any volunteers associated with the production,
promotion and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works,
harmless from all liability, costs and expenses, including legal fees,
that arise directly or indirectly from any of the following which you do
or cause to occur: (a) distribution of this or any Project Gutenberg-tm
work, (b) alteration, modification, or additions or deletions to any
Project Gutenberg-tm work, and (c) any Defect you cause.


Section  2.  Information about the Mission of Project Gutenberg-tm

Project Gutenberg-tm is synonymous with the free distribution of
electronic works in formats readable by the widest variety of computers
including obsolete, old, middle-aged and new computers.  It exists
because of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donations from
people in all walks of life.

Volunteers and financial support to provide volunteers with the
assistance they need, is critical to reaching Project Gutenberg-tm's
goals and ensuring that the Project Gutenberg-tm collection will
remain freely available for generations to come.  In 2001, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation was created to provide a secure
and permanent future for Project Gutenberg-tm and future generations.
To learn more about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
and how your efforts and donations can help, see Sections 3 and 4
and the Foundation web page at http://www.gutenberg.org/fundraising/pglaf.


Section 3.  Information about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive
Foundation

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation is a non profit
501(c)(3) educational corporation organized under the laws of the
state of Mississippi and granted tax exempt status by the Internal
Revenue Service.  The Foundation's EIN or federal tax identification
number is 64-6221541.  Contributions to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation are tax deductible to the full extent
permitted by U.S. federal laws and your state's laws.

The Foundation's principal office is located at 4557 Melan Dr. S.
Fairbanks, AK, 99712., but its volunteers and employees are scattered
throughout numerous locations.  Its business office is located at
809 North 1500 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116, (801) 596-1887, email
business@pglaf.org.  Email contact links and up to date contact
information can be found at the Foundation's web site and official
page at http://www.gutenberg.org/about/contact

For additional contact information:
     Dr. Gregory B. Newby
     Chief Executive and Director
     gbnewby@pglaf.org

Section 4.  Information about Donations to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation

Project Gutenberg-tm depends upon and cannot survive without wide
spread public support and donations to carry out its mission of
increasing the number of public domain and licensed works that can be
freely distributed in machine readable form accessible by the widest
array of equipment including outdated equipment.  Many small donations
($1 to $5,000) are particularly important to maintaining tax exempt
status with the IRS.

The Foundation is committed to complying with the laws regulating
charities and charitable donations in all 50 states of the United
States.  Compliance requirements are not uniform and it takes a
considerable effort, much paperwork and many fees to meet and keep up
with these requirements.  We do not solicit donations in locations
where we have not received written confirmation of compliance.  To
SEND DONATIONS or determine the status of compliance for any
particular state visit http://www.gutenberg.org/fundraising/donate

While we cannot and do not solicit contributions from states where we
have not met the solicitation requirements, we know of no prohibition
against accepting unsolicited donations from donors in such states who
approach us with offers to donate.

International donations are gratefully accepted, but we cannot make
any statements concerning tax treatment of donations received from
outside the United States.  U.S. laws alone swamp our small staff.

Please check the Project Gutenberg Web pages for current donation
methods and addresses.  Donations are accepted in a number of other
ways including checks, online payments and credit card donations.
To donate, please visit:
http://www.gutenberg.org/fundraising/donate


Section 5.  General Information About Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.

Professor Michael S. Hart is the originator of the Project Gutenberg-tm
concept of a library of electronic works that could be freely shared
with anyone.  For thirty years, he produced and distributed Project
Gutenberg-tm eBooks with only a loose network of volunteer support.

Project Gutenberg-tm eBooks are often created from several printed
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the U.S.
unless a copyright notice is included.  Thus, we do not necessarily
keep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper edition.

Most people start at our Web site which has the main PG search facility:

     http://www.gutenberg.org

This Web site includes information about Project Gutenberg-tm,
including how to make donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary
Archive Foundation, how to help produce our new eBooks, and how to
subscribe to our email newsletter to hear about new eBooks.


Colophon

This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (http://infomotions.com/alex/) by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext17617, and it should be available from the following URL:

http://infomotions.com/etexts/id/etext17617



Infomotions, Inc.

Infomotions Man says, "Give back to the 'Net."