"Well, dear, at last I am paid for all my trouble, and yours, by adiscovery; he never drinbitcoin investing basicsks a drop of his medicine; he pours it intothe ashes under the grate; I caught him in the fact.""Then this is too much: I can resist no longer. Come with me," saidJosephine doggedly.
"Is your heart bpolygon coin stakingent on this, after what I have said, Wilson?""Yes, yes, indeed!" clasping her hand and drawing her to her feet.
"It would seem very ungrateful in me to refuse, after all you have done for me and mother, if you think it's right and best. Will you go to the minister whose church I attended, and who came to see mother?""Certainly, anyone you like," and he put her hand on his arm and led her away.The clergyman listened sympathetically to her brief history of Ostrom's kindness, then performed a simple ceremony which his wife and daughters witnessed. As they were about to depart he said, "I will send you a certificate.""Don't trouble yourself to do that," said the groom. "I'll call for it some evening soon."Never had she seen Ostrom in such gay spirits as on their return; and, woman-like, she was happy chiefly because she had made him happy. She also felt a glad sense of security. Her mother's dying wish had been fulfilled; she had now a protector, and would soon have a home instead of a boarding place among strangers.
Her husband speedily found the rooms to which the reader has been introduced. The street on which they were located was no thoroughfare. Its farther end was closed by a fence and beyond were fields. With the exception of those who dwelt upon it or had business with the residents, few people came thither. To this locality, Ostrom brought his bride, and selected rooms whose windows were above those of the surrounding houses. So far from regretting this isolation and remoteness from the central life of the town, Alida's feelings sanctioned his choice. The sense of possessing security and a refuge was increased, and it was as natural for her to set about making the rooms homelike as it was to breathe. Her husband appeared to have exhausted his tendencies toward close economy in the choice of apartments, and she was given more money than she desired with which to furnish and decorate. He said, "fix everything up to suit your mind, and I'll be satisfied."This she did with such skill, taste, and good management that she returned a large portion of the sum he had given her, whereupon he laughingly remarked that she had already saved more than she owed him. He seemed disinclined to accompany her in the selection of their simple outfit, but professed himself so pleased with her choice of everything that she was gratified and happy in the thought of relieving him from trouble."You've already said everything, Mrs. Weeks," interrupted Alida gently; "you've said you are sorry."
Mrs. Weeks stared a moment, and then resumed sententiously, "Well, I've heard more gospel in that remark than if I'd gone to church. And I couldn't go to church, I could never have gone there again or held my head up anywhere if--if--""That's all past and gone," said Alida, smiling. "When Mr. Holcroft says anything, you may depend on it.""Well, God bless you for intercedin'--you had so much to forgive. Nobody shall ever speak a word against you again while I've got breath to answer. I wish you'd let me come and see you sometimes.""Whenever you wish, if you care to visit one who has had so much--so much trouble."
"I see now that's all the more reason I should come, for if it hadn't been for you, I'd have been in bitter trouble myself. We've been worse than heathen, standin' off and talking against you. Oh, I've had a lesson I won't forget! Well, I must hurry home, for I left Timothy and Lemuel in a dreadful state."Seeing the farmer in the barn as she was passing, she rushed to him. "You've got to shake hands with me, Mr. Holcroft. Your wife IS a good woman, and she's a lady, too. Anyone with half an eye can see she's not one of the common sort."
The farmer shook the poor woman's hand good-naturedly and said heartily, "That's so! All right, meeting's over. Goodbye." Then he turned to his work and chuckled, "That's what Tom Watterly said. Thank the Lord! She ISN'T of the common sort. I've got to brace up and be more of a man as well as Tim Weeks."In spite of the pain in his head, Alida's words proved true. He was happier than he had been in many a long day. He had the glow which follows a generous act, and the thought that he had pleased a sweet little woman who somehow seemed very attractive to him that May morning; at the same time the old Adam in his nature led to a sneaking satisfaction that he had laid on the hickory so unsparingly the evening before.Alida uttered a low, happy laugh as she heard him whistling "Coronation" in jig time, and she hustled away the breakfast things with the eagerness of a girl, that she might be ready to read to him when he came in.Chapter 27 Farm and Farmer Bewitched
The day grew warm, and having finished her tasks indoors and cared for the poultry, Alida brought a chair out in the porch. Her eyes were dreamy with a vague, undefined happiness. The landscape in itself was cause for exquisite pleasure, for it was an ideal day of the apple-blossoming period. The old orchard back of the barn looked as if pink-and-white clouds had settled upon it, and scattered trees near and far were exhaling their fragrance. The light breeze which fanned her cheek and bent the growing rye in an adjacent field was perfumed beyond the skill of art. Not only were her favorite meadow larks calling to each other, but the thrushes had come and she felt that she had never heard such hymns as they were singing. A burst of song from the lilac bush under the parlor window drew her eyes thither, and there was the paternal redbreast pouring out the very soul of ecstasy. From the nest beneath him rose the black head and yellow beak of his brooding mate. "How contented and happy she looks!" Alida murmured, "how happy they both are! And the secret of it is HOME. And to think that I, who was a friendless waif, am at home, also! At home with Eden-like beauty and peace before my eyes. But if it hadn't been for him, and if he were not brave, kind, and true to all he says--" and she shuddered at a contrast that rose before her fancy.She could now scarcely satisfy herself that it was only gratitude which filled her heart with a strange, happy tumult. She had never been conscious of such exaltation before. It is true, she had learned to cherish a strong affection for the man whom she had believed to be her husband, but chiefly because he had seemed kind and she had an affectionate disposition. Until within the last few hours, her nature had never been touched and awakened in its profoundest depths. She had never known before nor had she idealized the manhood capable of evoking the feelings which now lighted her eyes and gave to her face the supreme charm and beauty of womanhood. In truth, it was a fitting day and time for the birth of a love like hers, simple, all-absorbing, and grateful. It contained no element not in harmony with that May Sunday morning.Holcroft came and sat on the steps below her. She kept her eyes on the landscape, for she was consciously enough on her guard now. "I rather guess you think, Alida, that you are looking at a better picture than any artist fellow could paint?" he remarked."Yes," she replied hesitatingly, "and the picture seems all the more lovely and full of light because the background is so very dark. I've been thinking of what happened here last night and what might have happened, and how I felt then."
"You feel better--different now, don't you? You certainly look so.""Yes!--You made me very happy by yielding to Mrs. Weeks."
"Oh! I didn't yield to her at all.""Very well, have it your own way, then."
"I think you had it your way.""Are you sorry?""Do I look so? How did you know I'd be happier if I gave in?""Because, as you say, I'm getting better acquainted with you. YOU couldn't help being happier for a generous act.""I wouldn't have done it, though, if it hadn't been for you.""I'm not so sure about that."
"I am. You're coming to make me feel confoundedly uncomfortable in my heathenish life.""I wish I could."
"I never had such a sermon in my life as you gave me this morning. A Christian act like yours is worth a year of religious talk."She looked at him wistfully for a moment and then asked, a little abruptly, "Mr. Holcroft, have you truly forgiven that Weeks family?"
"Oh, yes! I suppose so. I've forgiven the old lady, anyhow. I've shaken hands with her.""If her husband and son should come and apologize and say they were sorry, would you truly and honestly forgive them?"
"Certainly! I couldn't hold a grudge after that. What are you aiming at?" and he turned and looked inquiringly into her face.It was flushed and tearful in its eager, earnest interest. "Don't you see?" she faltered.He shook his head, but was suddenly and strangely moved by her expression."Why, Mr. Holcroft, if you can honestly forgive those who have wronged you, you ought to see how ready God is to forgive."
He fairly started to his feet so vividly the truth came home to him, illumined, as it was, by a recent and personal experience. After a moment, he slowly sat down again and said, with a long breath, "That was a close shot, Alida.""I only wish you to have the trust and comfort which this truth should bring you," she said. "It seems a pity you should do yourself needless injustice when you are willing to do what is right and kind by others."
"It's all a terrible muddle, Alida. If God is so ready to forgive, how do you account for all the evil and suffering in the world?""I don't account for it and can't. I'm only one of his little children; often an erring one, too. You've been able to forgive grown people, your equals, and strangers in a sense. Suppose you had a little boy that had done wrong, but said he was sorry, would you hold a grudge against him?"
"The idea! I'd be a brute."She laughed softly as she asked again, "don't you see?"
He sat looking thoughtfully away across the fields for a long time, and finally asked, "Is your idea of becoming a Christian just being forgiven like a child and then trying to do right?""Yes. Why not?""Well," he remarked, with a grim laugh. "I didn't expect to be cornered in this way.""You who are truthful should face the truth. It would make you happier. A good deal that was unexpected has happened. When I look out on a scene like this and think that I am safe and at home, I feel that God has been very good to me and that you have, too. I can't bear to think that you have that old trouble on your mind--the feeling that you had been a Christian once, but was not one now. Being sure that there is no need of your continuing to feel so, what sort of return would I be making for all your kindness if I did not try to show you what is as clear to me as this sunshine?"
"You are a good woman, Alida. Believing as you do, you have done right to speak to me, and I never believed mortal lips could speak so to the purpose. I shall think of what you have said, for you have put things in a new light. But say, Alida, what on earth possesses you to call me 'Mr.'? You don't need to be scared half to death every time to call me by my first name, do you?""Scared? Oh, no!" She was a trifle confused, he thought, but then her tone was completely reassuring.
The day was one long remembered by both. As in nature about them, the conditions of development and rapid change now existed.She did not read aloud very much, and long silences fell between them. They were reaching a higher plane of companionship, in which words are not always essential. Both had much to think about, and their thoughts were like roots which prepare for blossom and fruit.
With Monday, busy life was resumed. The farmer began planting his corn and Alida her flower seeds. Almost every day now added to the brood of little chicks under her care. The cows went out to pasture. Holcroft brought in an increasing number of overflowing pails of milk, and if the labors of the dairy grew more exacting, they also grew more profitable. The tide had turned; income was larger than outgo, and it truly seemed to the long-harassed man that an era of peace and prosperity had set in.To a superficial observer things might have appeared to be going on much as before, but there were influences at work which Holcroft did not clearly comprehend.