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Holcroft saw the tears coming to her eyes and he relbitcoin credit card rewards ukeased his hold as he said, "Forgive me, Jane, I didn't mean to; but for mercy's sake, tell your story."

"Oh, as to that, if I do say it of myself, I don't think it's my natubitcoin news banre to be hard on those who treat me square. I think we shall be very good friends in our quiet way, and that's more than can be said of a good many who promise more than they seem to remember afterward.""I will try to do all you wish for I am very grateful."

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"If you do, you may find I'm as grateful as you are.""That can never be. Your need and mine were very different.--But I shall try to show my gratitude by learning your ways and wishes and not by many words of thanks.""Thank the Lord!" mentally ejaculated the farmer, "there's no Mrs. Mumpson in this case;" but he only said kindly, "I think we understand each other now, Alida. I'm not a man of words either, and I had better show by actions also what I am. The fact is, although we are married, we are scarcely acquainted, and people can't get acquainted in a day."The first long hill was surmounted and away they bowled again, past cottage and farmhouse, through strips of woodland and between fields from which came the fragrance of the springing grass and the peepings of the hylas. The moon soon rose, full-orbed, above the higher eastern hills, and the mild April evening became luminous and full of beauty.A healing sense of quiet and security already began to steal into Alida's bruised heart. In turning her back upon the town in which she had suffered so greatly, she felt like one escaping from prison and torture. An increasing assurance of safety came with every mile; the cool, still radiance of the night appeared typical of her new and most unexpected experience. Light had risen on her shadowed path, but it was not warm, vivifying sunlight, which stimulates and develops. A few hours before she was in darkness which might be felt--yet it was a gloom shot through and through with lurid threatening gleams. It had seemed to her that she had fallen from home, happiness, and honor to unfathomed depths, and yet there had appeared to be deeper and darker abysses on every side. She had shuddered at the thought of going out into the world, feeling that her misfortune would awaken suspicion rather than sympathy, scorn instead of kindness; that she must toil on until death, to sustain a life to which death would come as God's welcome messenger. Then had come this man at her side, with his comparatively trivial troubles and perplexities, and he had asked her help--she who was so helpless. He had banished despair from her earthly future, he had lifted her up and was bearing her away from all which she had so dreaded; nothing had been asked which her crushed spirit was unable to bestow; she was simply expected to aid him in his natural wish to keep his home and to live where he had always dwelt. His very inability to understand her, to see her broken, trampled life and immeasurable need as she saw it, brought quietness of mind. The concentration of his thoughts on a few homely and simple hopes gave her immunity. With quick intuition, she divined that she had not a whimsical, jealous, exacting nature to deal with. He was the plain, matter-of-fact man he seemed; so literal and absolutely truthful that he would appear odd to most people. To her mind, his were the traits which she could now most welcome and value. He knew all about her, she had merely to be herself, to do what she had promised, in order to rest securely on his rock-like truth. He had again touched a deep, grateful chord in speaking of her to the shopkeeper as his wife; he showed no disposition whatever to shrink from the relation before the world; it was evident that he meant to treat her with respect and kindness, and to exact respect from others. For all this, while sitting quietly and silently at his side, she thanked him almost passionately in her heart; but far more than for all this she was glad and grateful that he would not expect what she now felt it would be impossible for her to give--the love and personal devotion which had been inseparable from marriage in her girlhood thoughts. He would make good his words--she should be his wife in name and be respected as such. He was too simple and true to himself and his buried love, too considerate of her, to expect more. She might hope, therefore, as he had said, that they might be helpful, loyal friends and he would have been surprised indeed had he known how the pale, silent woman beside him was longing and hoping to fill his home with comfort.

Thoughts like these had inspired and sustained her while at the same time ministering the balm of hope. The quiet face of nature, lovely in the moonlight, seemed to welcome and reassure her. Happy are those who, when sorely wounded in life, can turn to the natural world and find in every tree, shrub, and flower a comforting friend that will not turn from them. Such are not far from God and peace.The range of Holcroft's thoughts was far simpler and narrower than Alida's. He turned rather deliberately from the past, preferring to dwell on the probable consummation of his hope. His home, his farm, were far more to him than the woman he had married. He had wedded her for their sake, and his thoughts followed his heart, which was in his hillside acres. It is said that women often marry for a home; he truly had done so to keep his home. The question which now most occupied him was the prospect of doing this through quiet, prosperous years. He dwelt minutely on Alida's manner, as well as her words, and found nothing to shake his belief that she had been as truthful as himself. Nevertheless, he queried in regard to the future with not a little anxiety. In her present distress and poverty she might naturally be glad of the refuge he had offered; but as time passed and the poignancy of bitter memories was allayed, might not her life on the farm seem monotonous and dull, might not weariness and discontent come into her eyes in place of gratitude? "Well, well!" he concluded, "this marrying is a risky experiment at best, but Tom Watterly's talk and her manner seemed to shut me up to it. I was made to feel that I couldn't go on in any other way; and I haven't done anything underhanded or wrong, as I see, for the chance of going on. If I hadn't become such a heathen I should say there was a Providence in it, but I don't know what to think about such things any more. Time'll show, and the prospect is better than it has been yet. She'll never be sorry if she carries out the agreement made today, if kindness and good will can repay her."At last the sound of horses' feet were heard on the wet, oozy ground without. The irate widow did not rise, but merely indicated her knowledge of Holcroft's arrival by rocking more rapidly.

"Hello, there, Jane!" he shouted, "bring a light to the kitchen.""Jane, remain!" said Mrs. Mumpson, with an awful look.Holcroft stumbled through the dark kitchen to the parlor door and looked with surprise at the group before him,--Mrs. Mumpson apparently oblivious and rocking as if the chair was possessed, and the child crying in a corner."Jane, didn't you hear me call for a light?" he asked a little sharply.

Mrs. Mumpson rose with great dignity and began, "Mr. Holcroft, I wish to remonstrate--""Oh, bother! I've brought a woman to help you, and we're both wet through from this driving rain."

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"You've brought a strange female at this time of--"Holcroft's patience gave say, but he only said quietly, "You had better have a light in the kitchen within two minutes. I warn you both. I also wish some hot coffee."Mrs. Mumpson had no comprehension of a man who could be so quiet when he was angry, and she believed that she might impress him with a due sense of the enormity of his offense. "Mr. Holcroft, I scarcely feel that I can meet a girl who has no more sense of decorum than to--" But Jane, striking a match, revealed the fact that she was speaking to empty air.Mrs. Wiggins was at last so far aroused that she was helped from the wagon and came shivering and dripping toward the kitchen. She stood a moment in the doorway and filled it, blinking confusedly at the light. There was an absence of celerity in all Mrs. Wiggins' movements, and she was therefore slow in the matter of waking up. Her aspect and proportions almost took away Mrs. Mumpson's breath. Here certainly was much to superintend, much more than had been anticipated. Mrs. Wiggins was undoubtedly a "peculiar female," as had been expected, but she was so elderly and monstrous that Mrs. Mumpson felt some embarrassment in her purpose to overwhelm Holcroft with a sense of the impropriety of his conduct.

Mrs. Wiggins took uncertain steps toward the rocking chair, and almost crushed it as she sat down. "Ye gives a body a cold velcome," she remarked, rubbing her eyes.Mrs. Mumpson had got out of her way as a minnow would shun a leviathan. "May I ask your name?" she gasped."Viggins, Mrs. Viggins.""Oh, indeed! You are a married woman?"

"No, hi'm a vidder. What's more, hi'm cold, and drippin', an' 'ungry. Hi might 'a' better stayed at the poor-us than come to a place like this.""What!" almost screamed Mrs. Mumpson, "are you a pauper?"

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"Hi tell ye hi'm a vidder, an' good as you be, for hall he said," was the sullen reply."To think that a respecterbly connected woman like me--" But for once Mrs. Mumpson found language inadequate. Since Mrs. Wiggins occupied the rocking chair, she hardly knew what to do and plaintively declared, "I feel as if my whole nervous system was giving way."

"No 'arm 'll be done hif hit does," remarked Mrs. Wiggins, who was not in an amiable mood."This from the female I'm to superintend!" gasped the bewildered woman.Her equanimity was still further disturbed by the entrance of the farmer, who looked at the stove with a heavy frown."Why in the name of common sense isn't there a fire?" he asked, "and supper on the table? Couldn't you hear that it was raining and know we'd want some supper after a long, cold ride?""Mr. Holcroft," began the widow, in some trepidation, "I don't approve--such irregular habits--""Madam," interrupted Holcroft sternly, "did I agree to do what you approved of? Your course is so peculiar that I scarcely believe you are in your right mind. You had better go to your room and try to recover your senses. If I can't have things in this house to suit me, I'll have no one in it. Here, Jane, you can help."

Mrs. Mumpson put her handkerchief to her eyes and departed. She felt that this display of emotion would touch Holcroft's feelings when he came to think the scene all over.Having kindled the fire, he said to Jane, "You and Mrs. Wiggins get some coffee and supper in short order, and have it ready when I come in," and he hastened out to care for his horses. If the old woman was slow, she knew just how to make every motion effective, and a good supper was soon ready.

"Why didn't you keep up a fire, Jane?" Holcroft asked."She wouldn't let me. She said how you must be taught a lesson," replied the girl, feeling that she must choose between two potentates, and deciding quickly in favor of the farmer. She had been losing faith in her mother's wisdom a long time, and this night's experience had banished the last shred of it.

Some rather bitter words rose to Holcroft's lips, but he restrained them. He felt that he ought not to disparage the mother to the child. As Mrs. Wiggins grew warm, and imbibed the generous coffee, her demeanor thawed perceptibly and she graciously vouchsafed the remark, "Ven you're hout late hag'in hi'll look hafter ye."Mrs. Mumpson had not been so far off as not to hear Jane's explanation, as the poor child found to her cost when she went up to bed.

Chapter 10 A Night of TerrorAs poor, dazed, homeless Alida passed out into the street after the revelation that she was not a wife and never had been, she heard a voice say, "Well, Hanner wasn't long in bouncing the woman. I guess we'd better go up now. Ferguson will need a lesson that he won't soon forget."The speaker of these words was Mrs. Ferguson's brother, William Hackman, and his companion was a detective. The wife had laid her still sleeping child down on the lounge and was coolly completing Alida's preparations for dinner. Her husband had sunk back into a chair and again buried his face in his hands. He looked up with startled, bloodshot eyes as his brother-in-law and the stranger entered, and then resumed his former attitude.Mrs. Ferguson briefly related what had happened, and then said, "Take chairs and draw up."

"I don't want any dinner," muttered the husband.Mr. William Hackman now gave way to his irritation. Turning to his brother, he relieved his mind as follows: "See here, Hank Ferguson, if you hadn't the best wife in the land, this gentleman would now be giving you a promenade to jail. I've left my work for weeks, and spent a sight of money to see that my sister got her rights, and, by thunder! she's going to have 'em. We've agreed to give you a chance to brace up and be a man. If we find out there isn't any man in you, then you go to prison and hard labor to the full extent of the law. We've fixed things so you can't play any more tricks. This man is a private detective. As long as you do the square thing by your wife and child, you'll be let alone. If you try to sneak off, you'll be nabbed. Now, if you aint a scamp down to your heel-taps, get up out of that chair like a man, treat your wife as she deserves for letting you off so easy, and don't make her change her mind by acting as if you, and not her, was the wronged person."

At heart Ferguson was a weak, cowardly, selfish creature, whose chief aim in life was to have things to suit himself. When they ceased to be agreeable, he was ready for a change, without much regard for the means to his ends. He had always foreseen the possibility of the event which had now taken place, but, like all self-indulgent natures, had hoped that he might escape detection.Alida, moreover, had won a far stronger hold upon him than he had once imagined possible. He was terribly mortified and cast down by the result of his experiment, as he regarded it. But the thought of a prison and hard labor speedily drew his mind away from this aspect of the affair. He had been fairly caught, his lark was over, and he soon resolved that the easiest and safest way out of the scrape was the best way. He therefore raised his head and came forward with a penitent air as he said: "It's natural I should be overwhelmed with shame at the position in which I find myself. But I see the truth of your words, and I'll try to make it all right as far as I can. I'll go back with you and Hannah to my old home. I've got money in the bank, I'll sell out everything here, and I'll pay you, William, as far as I can, what you've spent. Hannah is mighty good to let me off so easy, and she won't be sorry. This man is witness to what I say," and the detective nodded.

"Why, Ferguson," said Mr. Hackman effusively, "now you're talking like a man. Come and kiss him, Hannah, and make it all up.""That's the way with you men," said the woman bitterly. "These things count for little. Henry Ferguson must prove he's honest in what he says by deeds, not words. I'll do as I've said if he acts square, and that's enough to start with."

"All right," said Ferguson, glad enough to escape the caress. "I'll do as I say."He did do all he promised, and very promptly, too. He was not capable of believing that a woman wronged as Alida had been would not prosecute him, and he was eager to escape to another state, and, in a certain measure, again to hide his identity under his own actual name.Meanwhile, how fared the poor creature who had fled, driven forth by her first wild impulse to escape from a false and terrible position? With every step she took down the dimly lighted street, the abyss into which she had fallen seemed to grow deeper and darker. She was overwhelmed with the magnitude of her misfortune. She shunned the illumined thoroughfares with a half-crazed sense that every finger would be pointed at her. Her final words, spoken to Ferguson, were the last clear promptings of her womanly nature. After that, everything grew confused, except the impression of remediless disaster and shame. She was incapable of forming any correct judgment concerning her position. The thought of her pastor filled her with horror. He, she thought, would take the same view which the woman had so brutally expressed--that in her eagerness to be married, she had brought to the parsonage an unknown man and had involved a clergyman in her own scandalous record.--It would all be in the papers, and her pastor's name mixed up in the affair. She would rather die than subject him to such an ordeal. Long after, when he learned the facts in the case, he looked at her very sadly as he asked: "Didn't you know me better than that? Had I so failed in my preaching that you couldn't come straight to me?"She wondered afterward that she had not done this, but she was too morbid, too close upon absolute insanity, to do what was wise and safe. She simply yielded to the wild impulse to escape, to cower, to hide from every human eye, hastening through the darkest, obscurest streets, not caring where. In the confusion of her mind she would retrace her steps, and soon was utterly lost, wandering she knew not whither. As it grew late, casual passers-by looked after her curiously, rough men spoke to her, and others jeered. She only hastened on, driven by her desperate trouble like the wild, ragged clouds that were flying across the stormy March sky.

At last a policeman said gruffly, "You've passed me twice. You can't be roaming the streets at this time of night. Why don't you go home?"Standing before him and wringing her hands, she moaned, "I have no home."

"Where did you come from?""Oh, I can't tell you! Take me to any place where a woman will be safe."

"I can't take you to any place now but the station house.""But can I be alone there? I won't be put with anybody?"

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Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC#

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster