"You dote on butter. See how firm and yellow it's getting. You wouldbitcoin inr yahoo financen't think it was milk-white cream a little while ago, would you? Now I'll put in the salt and you must taste it, for you're a connoisseur."
As the man tremblingly untied his horse, Jane stepped out before him and said, "I'm a little idiotic girl, am I?"huobiwangHe was too thoroughly cowed to make any reply and drove as rapidly away as the ground permitted, guiding his horse with difficulty in his maimed condition.
Jane, in the exuberance of her pleasure, began something like a jig on the scene of conflict, and her antics were so ridiculous that Holcroft had to turn away to repress a smile. "You didn't mind me, Jane," he said gravely."Well, sir," she replied, "after showin' you the way to 'im, you oughter not grudge me seein' the fun.""But it isn't nice for little girls to see such things.""Never saw anything nicer in my life. You're the kind of man I believe in, you are. Golly! Only wished SHE'D seen you. I've seen many a rough and tumble 'mong farm hands, but never anything like this. It was only his pistol I was 'fraid of.""Will you do exactly what I say now?"
She nodded."Well, go home across the fields and don't by word or manner let Mrs. Holcroft know what you've seen or heard, and say nothing about meeting me. Just make her think you know nothing at all and that you only watched the man out of sight. Do this and I'll give you a new dress.""Yes, she won't stay long, you may be sure. I'm going to give that Weeks tribe one lesson and pay off the whole score."
He merely bowed coldly to Mrs. Weeks' salutation and offered her a chair. The poor woman took out her handkerchief and began to mop her eyes, but Holcroft was steeled against her, not so much on account of the wound inflicted by her son as for the reason that he saw in her an accomplice with her husband in the fraud of Mrs. Mumpson."I hope you're not badly hurt," she began."It might be worse.""Oh, Mr. Holcroft!" she broke out sobbingly, "spare my son. It would kill me if you sent him to prison."
"He took the chance of killing me last night," was the cold reply. "What's far worse, he insulted my wife.""Oh, Mr. Holcroft! He was young and foolish; he didn't realize--"
"Were you and your husband young and foolish," he interrupted bitterly, "when you gulled me into employing that crazy cousin of yours?"This retort was so overwhelming that Mrs. Weeks sobbed speechlessly.Alida could not help overhearing the conversation, and she now glided into the room and stood by her husband's side."James," she said, "won't you do me a favor, a great kindness?"
Mrs. Weeks raised her eyes and looked wonderingly at this dreadful woman, against whom all Oakville was talking."I know what you wish, Alida," he replied sternly, "but I can't do it. This is a case for justice. This woman's son was the leader of that vile crowd that insulted you last night. I can forgive his injuring me, but not the words he used about you. Moreover, when I was alone and struggling to keep my home, Mrs. Weeks took part with her husband in imposing on me their fraud of a cousin and in tricking me out of honest money. Any woman with a heart in her breast would have tried to help a man situated as I was. No, it's a clear case of justice, and her son shall go to jail."Mrs. Weeks wailed afresh at this final sentence. Holcroft was amazed to see his wife drop on her knees beside his chair. He raised her instantly. "Don't do such a thing as that," he said huskily.Without removing her pleading eyes from his face she asked gently, "Who told us to forgive as we would be forgiven? James, I shall be very unhappy if you don't grant this mother's prayer."
He tried to turn away, but she caught his hand and held his eyes with hers. "Alida," he said in strong agitation, "you heard the vile, false words that Timothy Weeks said last night. They struck you down like a blow. Can you forgive him?""Yes, and I plead with you to forgive him. Grant me my wish, James; I shall be so much happier, and so will you."
"Well, Mrs. Weeks, now you know what kind of a woman your son came to insult. You may tell your neighbors that there's one Christian in Oakville. I yield to Mrs. Holcroft, and will take no further action in the affair if we are let alone."Mrs. Weeks was not a bad woman at heart, and she had received a wholesome lesson. She came and took Alida's hand as she said, "Yes, you are a Christian--a better woman than I've been, but I aint so mean and bad but what, when I see my fault, I am sorry and can ask forgiveness. I do ask your forgiveness, Mr. Holcroft. I've been ashamed of myself ever since you brought my cousin back. I thought she would try, when she had the chance you gave her, but she seems to have no sense."
"There, there! Let bygones be bygones," said the farmer in embarrassment. "I've surrendered. Please don't say anything more.""You've got a kind heart, in spite--""Oh, come now! Please quit, or I'll begin to swear a little to keep up the reputation my neighbors have given me. Go home and tell Tim to brace up and try to be a man. When I say I'm done with a grudge, I AM done. You and Mrs. Holcroft can talk all you like, but please excuse me," and with more than most men's horror of a scene, he escaped precipitately."Sit down, Mrs. Weeks," said Alida kindly."Well, I will. I can't say much to excuse myself or my folks--""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."