A Landless Farmer: In Two Parts. Part Ii

SERENA’S not very tender heart was somewhat touched at last, and she noticed how worn and old her father looked, and wished she had not sold the secretary without speaking to him about it first. She thought it was no time then to say what a good price she had wrung out of the man who had made the purchase, and at any rate her father might insist upon putting the money in his own pocket. She was unusually good-natured all that day, and even went so far as to say that she was glad to see him about the house again. She was a good deal of a coward, as all tyrants and bullies are apt to be ; and she began to be a little afraid, when her father’s weakness and dependency seemed to have been replaced by a sullen indifference to both her words and actions when she came near, and a look of wounded disapproval when she left him to himself.

The next morning he said that he wanted some one to go over to Mary Lyddy’s with him, and bring the horse home. Somehow, Serena felt a shameful sense of guilt and almost of repentance, as she stood in the kitchen door and watched her father drive away. It seemed as if he might have started of his own accord upon a journey from whence there could be no return. He did not turn his head after the horse had started; he had not even said goodby. There was a small trunk in the back of the wagon, an odd, ancient thing, studded with many nails and covered with moth-devoured leather; one might believe it had attained a great age before starting on this first journey, it looked so unused to travel and so garretlike. Into it, very early in the morning, Mr. Jenkins had packed some of his few personal possessions, and his daughter looked at it again and again with suspicious eyes. “ I declare, it’s a dreadful thing to get to be old and past our usefulness,” she said. “ Who would have thought that father would have turned against me so, just for selling an old, out-o’-fashion chist o’ drawers, after the way I’ve tended and nursed him, and mended him up and waited upon him by inches ? Well, it’s the way of the world ! ” And after these reflections, the rattling wagon and plodding horse and the stern, upright figure of the aggrieved old man having passed out of sight over the brow of a hill which rose beyond the house, she turned back into the kitchen again. “ Father used to be a dreadful easy-going man,” she said to herself, later. “ I wonder how long he and Mary Lyddy will hitch their horses together. But I ’most wish I had n’t let the secr’tary go without consulting him. I suppose ’t was his right. I’ll let him stay a spell over to the Mills, and he’ll be sure to get over his huff, and be homesick and wore out with Mary Lyddy’s ramshackle ways, and I ’ll go over, just’s if nothing had happened, and fetch him home.”

Harlow’s Mills was an unattractive village, which had grown up suddenly, a few years before, around some small manufactories. Mrs. Bryan’s husband had been a very successful, industrious man, and it had been thought a most lucky thing for her when he had fallen in love with her pretty face, without waiting to see what sort of character lay behind it. He had done well in his business, and kept everything straight at home as long as he had lived ; but when he died of fever, at the prime of his life, he had saved only a small property, and his inefficient wife was left to fight her way alone. She surrendered ignominiously, and had been tugged along the path of life by her friends and relatives, who grudged even their sympathy more and more. “ When you’ve lugged folks one mile, you like to see ’em try to go the next themselves, — not sit right down in the road,” Serena Nudd had said more than once, and not without reason. Poor Mary Lydia had sheltered her laziness behind various chronic illnesses, which had excused her from active participation in the world’s affairs ; though when anything was going forward in which she cared, for any reason, to join, it had often been noticed that she would step forward with the best. A funeral had such attractions for her that nothing short of her own death-bed would divert her attention or keep her at home. She had vast reserves of strength and will, but she passed most of her time in an unstrung, complaining state. Her house was forlorn, and her boys had grown used to her feeble protests and appeals, and rarely took much notice of what she said except to escape from the whining and scolding as soon as they could. There was a good deal in her life which was pitiable, but still more for which one might blame her; and it was her comfortless house, with its dreary, shaded, unfruitful bit of land, to which the once busy old farmer had fled for refuge. The maple-trees that Henry Bryan had planted had grown too luxuriantly in that damp place, and the grass underneath was all in coarse tufts, mixed with a rank growth of plantain leaves, beside a fine nursery of young burdocks which that summer had started up unheeded in a corner.

Mr. Jenkins felt more and more saddened and disturbed all the way, and the drive to the Mills seemed very long and hot. He had little to say to his companion, though he sometimes commented upon the different fields and pastures that skirted the roads. One neighbor’s potatoes and another’s corn looked strong and flourishing; he took note of them with wistfulness. “ I’m done, — I’m done,” he said once or twice, half to himself. He stopped, at last, at his daughter’s door, and while his companion took the little trunk down from the wagon, he went in search of the mistress of the house. There was a strong odor of camphor in the darkened, close front room, and a voice asked feebly who was there.

I ‘ve come to stop with you for a spell,” answered the old man. “ I have been laid up, and not good for much of anything ; and Sereny, she carried too many guns for me, and I thought perhaps you might like to have comp’ny.” There was a pathetic attempt at joking which would have touched the heart of a stone, and Mary Lyddy was quick to catch at this advantage over her sister, and rose slowly from her couch. The old man’s eyes were blinded at coming into this darkness from the glare of sunlight without, and he could not see a yard before him. He already felt homesick, and would have given anything if he had not brought the trunk, which was just now set down on one end, heavily, in the entry just behind him.

“ I’m real pleased to see you, though I wish you had come last week, when I could have enjoyed you more. I don’t know when I have been so well in health as I was last week, but to-day I am so troubled with neurology in my head that I can hardly live. I do’know what there is for dinner. I told the boys they must pick up a lunch somehow or other, for I could n’t go near a stove; the heat of it would kill me. We will get along somehow, though,” she added, more cheerfully, suddenly mindful of the man from the farm, and anxious that he should not carry back anything but a good report of her father’s reception. “ I declare, it does me good to see you ; ” and she came forward, and gave her guest, unwelcome as he had been the moment before, a most affectionate kiss. For all that, when Washington Tufts had driven away down the street, to do some errands at the stores for Sereny before he went home, Mr. Jenkins watched him sadly from the door, and felt as if he had burnt his ships behind him.

But his daughter was very cheerful all that day, and it seemed to him in the evening as if he had done the right thing. He would not look upon it as a permanent change, by any means ; but what could be more likely than that, not being quite fit for work, he should come to pay a visit to his younger daughter? He imagined that everybody would wonder at his being there, and apologized for it elaborately to every one who came in. He received a good deal of attention for a time, being well known in his county and much respected ; and he had long talks with Mrs. Bryan, who dearly liked conversation, and together they recalled people and events of years before, and the housewifely virtues of Mrs. Jenkins, who had been a busy and helpful soul, of better sense and deeper affections than either of her daughters. The farmer was fond of saying “ in your mother’s day,” when he spoke to his children ; indeed, the later years of his life had been a sad contrast to the earlier, though he had not felt the change and loss half so keenly until the last few months, when he could no longer spend an almost untired strength and energy in the ceaseless round and routine of his work. Serena Nudd was not over-fond of hearing her mother’s day referred to, and resented the implied superiority to her own ; but during the first of the visit Mary Lyddy and her father talked about the good woman to their hearts’ content, and Mr. Jenkins said that it seemed more homelike than the old place itself ever did nowadays. Serena’s child was not a pleasant boy, and he tired and fretted his grandfather in a miserable way. The young Bryans kept their wrong-doings and laziness pretty well out of the old man’s sight, and their mother forbore to harangue and scold them in his hearing.

The novelty and mild excitement of the visit appeared to act like a tonic upon Mrs. Bryan for a time, but at length her nature began to assert itself, and her guest at the same time began to be restless and uneasy in his new quarters. He made short excursions about the town, and read the newspaper with unusual care; but he was not used to seeing a daily paper, and it was more reading than he really liked to undertake. One of the neighbors sent it to him every day, with great kindness ; but though he was in many ways well treated, it seemed to him more and more that he could not bear any longer to be away from home. He could not help thinking and worrying about the farm work ; he did not trust Aaron Nudd’s judgment about the management of things, and he watched the street every day anxiously, in the hope of seeing Serena approach in quest of him. He even lamented his impatience, and took her part against himself. But as the days went by, and she did not appear, his heart failed him; for he had not thought they would have found it so easy to get on without him. Shut up in the hot and noisy little village, and seeing every day so many people whom he did not know, he longed for the farmhouse where he had spent all his life, and he was homesick for the wide outlook over the fields and woodlands, and felt strangely lost and alone and old.

Mary Lyddy became querulous and tiresome ; it would have made a difference to her if she had had hopes of gain, and her father did not take long to discover that he was a burden to her as well as to Serena. Mrs. Bryan had handed him the bill for town taxes, and he bad looked at her with a grieved surprise. “ I have n’t got the money to pay it, if that’s what you mean,” he said at length. “ I’m kept on short commons, I tell you. Serena was dreadful put out, one day, because the dealer that takes the butter called and paid his month’s account, and I wanted part of it to pay the minister ; she said Aaron had seen to his and mine together, and went grumping round the kitchen the rest o’ the morning. I told her’t was the first week since I was out o’ my time that I had been without a dollar in my pocket. Aaron cut considerable of a piece o’ pine growth this last winter, but I never could find out what become of the money. One time he bad n’t got settled up, and the next time he begun to squeal about its taking every cent he could rake and scrape to keep the farm above water. He flung at me about my doctor’s bills once or twice ; miser’ble farmer he is, any way. I’ve got a little money they don’t know about in the North Bank, and I ’ll get you some of it quick’s I get a chance to send : but I ’ve nobody but Aaron, and I never want to say nothing to him about it. I thought I might get into a straiter place than any I’ve been in, and I’ve been holding on to it. ’T ain’t much, but it ’ll do to bury me, if they can’t find the means.”

“ There, don’t, father ! You make my blood run cold,” said Mary Lyddy fretfully. “ I’m sure you can’t doubt but what we shall do what’s proper for you, dead or alive. I felt’t was a mistake all the time that you should n’t ha’ kept things in your own hands ; but Sereny talked all of us over at the time, and — well, you should have thought more about it before you did it, that’s all I’ve got to say. I shall have to get rid of this place, ’less the boys get to earning something pretty soon, for it’s more ’n I can afford to keep. I’m worse off than before I owned it, having nobody to help along. Everything would have gone well if poor Henry had only lived; ” and she began to cry as if she meant to give a good deal of time to tears, and her father took his hat and walked drearily away. It was his best hat, and he often wished for the old one, which he had left hanging on its nail at the farmhouse.

He hoped that he might see somebody from home, and looked at the wagons and teams as they passed him ; until presently somebody bailed him with a cheerful “Well, uncle, you’ve been and given haying the slip, this year.” When the old man turned, he found with delight that it was Ezra Allen, and declared that he was glad to see him. It seemed as if he had n’t seen any of the folks for a month ; it had been the longest week he had ever spent in his life. “ Get in, won’t ye ? ” said the nephew, affectionately. “ Why can’t ye ride over to Jack Townsend’s with me ? I want to see him about doing a lot of ironing for my running work. I’ve got three or four wagons where I can’t go no further with them ; and Estes is sick, and won’t be able to work at blacksmithing for some weeks. I want to take hold of these things right away. I’m about through with what little haying I do. Been a good hay year so far, has n’t it ? ”

“ I don’t know much about it,” sorrowfully confessed the old farmer, climbing quickly into the wagon.

“ Seems to me you are as quick as an eel to what you was a month ago,” said Ezra. “ You look about as well as ever you did; good for ten years yet, uncle Jerry,” and he started the horse at a good pace. There never was a more contented pair of relatives : the younger man had wished for just this chance to hear the particulars of the visit, and the elder one was only too glad to fall in with a sympathetic companion, who had always been kind to him, and who seemed now to have belonged to his better days.

“ How d’ ye like it over here ? ” inquired Ezra, turning round with a beaming smile to take a good look at his uncle.

“ Well, fairly,” answered Mr. Jenkins, without enthusiasm. “ But old folks is better off at home, seems to me. Mary Lyddy does the best she knows how ; but the girls don’t neither of ’em take after their mother, somehow or ’nother ; I don’t know why it is. Sereny kept me feeling like a toad under a harrow, and seems as if I was in the way, and sort of under-foot to both houses. I done just as they wanted me ’long in the winter, and give the reins into their own hands ; but they don’t like me none the better for it, nor so well, far’s I can see, and I don’t know what to do. I had n’t been accustomed to sickness, and when I was so afflicted in the cold weather, and got down so low, I thought I’d got about through with things. You know I’d been ailing and doctoring some months before I had the worst spell come on. They never treated me so clever as they did the time when I was give over, and old Dr. Banks said there wa’n’t no help for me. But I’ve come up considerable, more ’n ever I expected, and I’ve had times of feeling just like myself, of late; and I see how the land lays, and between you and me, Ezry, I wish it was different. I’ve had my day, though, and I don’t want to stand in the way of nobody else’s chance.”

“ Where’s Parker ? Do you get any news from him? ” asked Ezra, giving the horse a flick with his whip, putting it quickly in its socket, and taking a firm hold of the reins. He knew that his uncle was fond of a good horse, and he was very proud of this new one, and wished it to be noticed and praised.

“ Don’t hurry the beast,” said the old man ; “ we’ve got time enough, and it kind of jars me, to what it used, to ride fast. When I’m after a likely creatur’, such as this, that can show a good pace, I ’m satisfied. As for Parker, I ain’t heard from him for hard on to eight months. He wasn’t prompt about writing, and I’ve been wanting the girls to set to work and find out about him. Serena goes into a dreadful frame o’ mind if I much as mention his name, and Mary Lyddy’s always going to do it the next day. My eyesight’s failed dreadfully; it’s better’n it was, but none too good. I did scratch a few lines twice or three times, and send them to the last place I knew him to be in, and I directed once to the postmaster ; but he has made no answer yet, so I keep a-hopin’. Parker had his faults, and perhaps I indulged him more than was good for him, but he was more like his mother’n any of ’em. He and Sereny never got along. I don’t s’pose she means it, but she’s got a dreadful nagging way. I did let him have a good deal o’ money, and I don’t know but it was foolish. Parker’s got a quick temper, same’s his mother had, but it ain’t Sereny’s kind. She gnaws and picks all day long about a thing she don’t like; but Parker ’ll knock ye down with one hand, and pick ye right up again with the other. They ’re always warnin’ me that he was onsteady, and a disgrace to his folks; but I have known many a man that has had his fling, and settled down and been useful afterwards. Parker’s got good natural ability, and I guess he ’ll make his way yet if he gets the right chance.”

“ I never could bear Aaron Nudd, if I must say it,” growled Ezra. “ He was distressin’ himself the other day into Henry Wallis’s, about being afraid all the time Parker might turn up, — poor, wandering vagabone, he called him. I’d knocked him down, if I’d heard him. I mean to see if I can find where Parker is. There ain’t a cousin I’ve got that I ever set so much by, spite of his leanin’ in wrong directions. We’ve always been chums, ’spite of his being so much younger, — you know it, don’t ye, uncle Jerry ? And I’ve always stood up for him ; I’m going to see if he can’t have his rights, if you did sign that paper.”

The old man’s voice faltered as he tried to speak. “ I do’ know where I could ask him to, if I did send for him to come home now,” he said. “ If I know anything about a hoss, this one is the best you ever drove, Ezry. Where did you pick her up ? Not round here, I ’ll make a guess,” and the conversation steered bravely out into this most congenial subject to both travelers.

At ten o’clock that very morning Susan Allen, Ezra’s wife, was bending over her ironing-board and bumping away with her flat-iron, when somebody suddenly came outside the window, and laid his arms on the sill and looked in. At first he seemed to be a stranger, and Susan was chilled from head to foot with fear ; but she stared and stared again at the smiling face before she spoke, and finally she clapped her hands, and said, “ I ’ll give up if it ain’t, — Parker Jenkins ! I want to know if that’s you ? ” and this question of his identity having been decided, the young man strolled round to the door, and came in as if he had never been away.

“ How’s all the folks ? ” he asked. “ Where’s Ezra ? I looked in at the shop first, but there was nobody there.”

“We didn’t know but you was dead,” said Susan, who was much excited. “Your father has been dreadful distressed about you. I do think you ought to have wrote him, Parker. But you can make up with him easy enough ; he ’ll be glad enough to see you.”

The visitor had looked very solemn as lie listened to the first mention of his father’s name, but his expression quickly changed to a look of wild astonishment. “ Do you mean to tell me father is n’t dead ? ” he said, rising to his feet.

“Dead, no!” answered Susan. “He had a long spell of sickness, beginning in the fall of the year, and we all supposed he was breaking up; and along in the first of the winter he had a very bad time, when we give him up for certain, and there was two days and a night when they thought he might be taken away any minute ; but he pulled through ” —

Parker had seated himself again, and did not seem to be listening to this account. He had put his head on his arm down upon the ironing-board, and was crying like a child. Susan felt as if this were a somewhat theatrical performance, and a little unnecessary. She was vaguely reminded of his being addicted to drink, and of the story of the Prodigal Son; and then she noticed how broad his shoulders had grown, and that his coat was made of a beautiful piece of cloth, and that he was quite citified in his appearance.

“ Don’t take on so,” she begged him nervously, after a few minutes, for it made her very ill at ease.

And the unexpected guest lifted his head presently, and wiped his eyes with a handsome, bright-colored silk handkerchief. “I never had anything come over me so in my life,” he said, beginning to laugh in the midst of his tears. “ I must go right up to the house and see him. Serena wrote me along in the winter that they ’d give him up, and he would n’t be alive when I got the letter. They did n’t expect him to get through the afternoon. I never heard any more from her, and I’ve mourned him as dead. I wrote on to Ezra to tell me the particulars; for after finding Serena did n’t write again, I got mad with her, and then I got mad with Ezra because he did n’t write, and I thought you were all banded together to kick me over.”

“He never got the letter,” said Susan. “I hope to die if he ever did, Parker. The last letter that ever come inside this house from you was one Ezra got, saying you were going out into the mining country. You know you ain’t much of a hand to write, nor Ezra neither; but of course he would have answered such a letter as that, and told you your father was living. I don’t know but he ‘ll see him this morning. The old gentleman went over to stop with Mary Lyddy for a while.”

Parker had been standing by the door for the last few minutes, as if he were impatient to be off; but he came back wonderingly into the room again, and Susan, after prefacing her remarks with “ Well, I may’s well tell you first as last,” embarked upon a minute explanation of the state of affairs.

The young man seemed at last to be able to listen to no more. He threw off his coat, and sat by the window in his shirt sleeves, and when he had kept quiet as long as was possible he indulged in some very strong language, and expressed feelings toward his sister Serena and Aaron Nudd that would have startled them a good deal if they had been within hearing. He was outraged at their conniving to get all the property into their own hands in his absence, and at first he threatened them with such terrors of the law that Susan began to shake in her shoes, and became as afraid of his anger as if she had been only a mole burrowing in the mountain side, which had started an avalanche downward on its path of destruction. It was a solemn scene when Parker Jenkins met his sister, later in the afternoon; but by that time Susan had become so used to excitements of this kind — her own explanations and the accompanying comments having been repeated after Ezra’s return — that she had a feeling of envy when she saw her husband and his cousin marching away toward the farmhouse. “ I don’t know now what it was fetched me here,” Parker was saying. “ I made up my mind forty times that I never would set foot inside town limits again ; but I wanted to be sure everything was right and proper in the burying lot, and it seemed as if you would set some things straight that I could n’t understand, any way I looked at ’em, and I wanted to let folks see I had n’t quite run to seed.”

Serena’s face was a picture of defenseless misery when she first caught sight of her brother. She had had a long, hard morning’s work already, and she felt guilty and on the losing side. Parker had passed through his unreasoning storm of rage, and had sailed into smoother but very deep waters of contempt. He said very little beyond remarking that, not having heard anything after her last letter, he had supposed that his father was dead. He announced in the course of conversation that he had done well, on the whole, and that he did not think he should return to Colorado at present.

Serena was pale and crimson by turns, and tried her best to be affectionate and conciliatory. She ventured at last to speak of her father, and to say that somebody should go over to the Mills and bring him home that very afternoon. “ We ’ll have supper late, and he ’ll be here by that time. You ’ll find him a good deal changed, but it’s nothing to what he was in the winter,” she said, fearfully.

Parker fixed his eyes on her, and presently gave a contemptuous little laugh. Ezra’s excitement reached its topmost pitch.

“ Serena ! ” said the returned wanderer, “ I should think you’d be ashamed to come near decent folks. I’ve no right to boast, and I’ve been a confounded fool, I ’ll own, but I never set to work to cheat folks, or to sneak, or to lose folks’ respect, so that I could have one more dirty dollar tucked away in the bank. As far as I can find out, you have cheated me and Mary Lyddy out of our rights, and you have treated your poor old father anything but Christian. As for Aaron Nudd, I won’t have anything to say to such cattle. The writings you got from father won’t stand one minute in the eye of the law, but your false pretenses and your tricks will, and if either of you make any trouble I ’ll just fix you so you ’ll wish you’d held your peace. I may have shown signs of being a scapegrace, and being gone hook and sinker ; but I’m older than I was when I went off, and though I don’t make no boasts, as I say, I don’t mean my folks shall ever be ashamed of me. I’m going over myself to fetch father home, and afterward I’m going to stay here, and you can do as you see fit.”

It was only three or four days after this that, late on a Sunday afternoon, Parker and Ezra Allen stood on the little bridge over the brook. Parker was fashionably dressed. He had attracted a good deal more attention than the minister, that day, for he had accompanied his father to church, and had received congratulations on his return from all his acquaintances. Old Mr. Jenkins was so happy that he smiled continually, and glanced round proudly at his son when he should have been listening to the sermon. It seemed to him a greater proof of the providence of God than had ever before been vouchsafed him, and he appeared to have taken, as everybody said, a new lease of life.

“ Done well, out there among the mines, you said ? ” inquired Ezra, somewhat indifferently, though he was eager to ask a few questions before any other neighbor should join them.

“ First rate,” responded Parker ; “ though I have n’t made the fortunes some do. Trouble is, you either lose all you’ve got, or else you have luck, and then get picked off with a bullet from behind a bush. We struck a good vein in a claim I had shares in, and some fellows were out there from New York wanting to buy a good mining property, and — well, I’ll tell you all about it some day ; but the end of it was, I sold out to them for twenty-five thousand dollars. I think they chuckled over it lively, and thought they’d made an awful good thing out of me ; but I said to myself that a bird in the hand’s worth two in the bush. You see they had n’t been taking out much of any ore each side of us. I had some thoughts of going into business with a fellow I know in New York. We come on East together but I don’t know what I shall do. It seems pleasant at the old place, and father he holds on to me. I don’t take much to farming, but I’ve thought a good many times what a chance there is to raise cranberries up here in the swamp. I’ve got forty notions. I’ll wait a while before I settle down anywhere. I can afford to.”

“ Aaron Nudd told Asa Parsons yesterday that he guessed he should go over to Harlow’s Mills quick’s the crops were in, and take a place in the boxing room at the shoe factory they’ve been urging him to fill,” said Ezra, with a wise smile.

“ I ’d just as soon he would, for my part,” said Parker. “ They ’re both softspoken and meaching as any two you ever saw, and Sereny makes excuses about things from morning to night, worse than poor Mary Lyddy ever thought of. I don’ know, but I never did seem to have a right sort o’ feelin’ for the girls. But it pleases me to death to see how satisfied the old gentleman is. It kind of makes me feel bad, Ezra. I guess I shall steady down for good ; but I’ve seen something of hard times and raking round, for a fellow of my age. I ain’t one to talk religious, but I ’m going to look after father ; he does set everything by me, don’t he ? And a more homesick man I never saw than he was, sitting in the front door over there to Mary Lyddy’s. He’s got quite a notion, since I spoke of it, of setting out a lot of cranberries. I pointed out to him how well the land lay for it, and the springs watered it just right. I’ve seen a good deal of ’em down towards the Cape. I was there some time, you know, when I first cleared out from home. But there, I’m a roving fellow by nature. I shan’t make any plans yet a while.”

“ There was an awful sight of water come down out of the swamp this last spring.” said Ezra, turning to look at the brook. “ I’ve always heard cranberries was an uncertain crop, and don’t you go throwing away your means till you know what you ’re about. But you stick to the old gentleman, Parker; if ever I pitied a man in my life, it was him, this summer.”

It was soon observed how Mr. Jerry Jenkins had improved in health and spirits since his son’s return. He resumed his place in society, and entered upon such duties as fell to his share with pleased alacrity. He was complimented on his recovery, and though some grumbling people, who always chose to be on the off side, spoke with pity of the Nudds, and expressed a sympathy for Aaron’s having undertaken the farm only to be ousted, other people thought of them with scorn. However, worldly prosperity is one of the surest titles to respect, and after it was known that Aaron had bought an interest in one of the shoe-manufacturing companies at Harlow’s Mills he was looked up to as much as he deserved, at any rate, and possibly more. Some people who knew him held him up as an example of its being worth while to save and be thrifty; but Ezra Allen and others of his way of thinking could not use hard enough language to suit themselves, whenever his name was mentioned. Serena was much more popular in the village than her sister. She dressed conspicuously, as she thought became her station, and she took an active part in church matters, being very efficient in the sewing society and the social relations of the parish. She assented emphatically to all the doctrines, and insisted upon the respectability of the Christian virtues; but it must be owned that she practiced very few of them which related to the well-being and comfort of other people. She and Aaron and their boy drove out to the farm occasionally, in a shiny top-buggy, to see her father, and such visits were outwardly successful and harmonious.

At the farm itself life went on smoothly. Mr. Jenkins had been troubled at first with many fears, when he found that Serena was really going to depart early in the fall, after her brother’s return, and he could not forbear some expressions of wonder at her sudden change of feeling in regard to farming. She constantly said that she had never liked it, that it was a dog’s life for any woman to do the housework on a large farm; and her father only replied that her tune had changed a good deal within a year. He took a long breath as he saw her go away in a heavily laden wagon, which preceded the team in which her household goods were being moved to the Mills. She had waited until the last minute, as if she feared that some treasures might be abstracted from the load. “ She’s about stripped the house,” said Mr. Jenkins, with a chuckle, as he came back into the kitchen ; “ but we ’ll get along somehow, Parker. I’ve done the best I could by her, I know that! ”

Parker chuckled in his turn. “She’s an awful grabber,” said he. “ I ‘m hanged if I did n’t catch her down cellar this morning fishing into the pork barrel; she did n’t hear me coming, and she was started, and let a piece drop, and it sent the brine all up into her face and eyes.”

“ It can’t be possible that new barrel is so low as that a’ready,” said the old man. “ I guess she had made a good haul before you come. Well, I ’m glad, I’m sure. I shouldn’t want any child o’ mine to be without pork. And there was times Sereny was right down clever and pleasant spoken. I don’t blame her for wanting to be where there is more going forrard, if she takes a notion to it.”

As for Parker Jenkins, he settled down on the old farm, as many another New Englishman has done, after two or three voyages at sea, or long journeys in quest of wealth to California or Texas or the Western country. He looked upon himself as being much more a man of the world than his neighbors, and his consideration for his old father was most delightful. The housekeeping went on well enough under the auspices of a cousin, a good, sensible woman, who was set adrift just in good time for these two unprotected men by the death of her own father, who had been for some years dependent on her care. It was soon known, however, that the chief reason of young Jenkins’s contentment with so quiet a life was his attraction toward a pretty daughter of his neighbor, Asa Parsons, who was only too ready to smile upon so pleasant and good-looking a person, while her father and mother were mindful of his wealth.

So we leave the old farmer, no longer feeling cast off and desolate, to live out the rest of his days. He forgot even the worst of his sorrows in that unhappy winter and summer. It seemed as if most of them had been fanciful and connected with his illness. Serena was apt to be reminded oftener and oftener, as he grew older, of how impossible he found it to get on comfortably without his old secretary, and she came to regret deeply that her love for gain had allowed her to part with it, when the craze for old furniture reached Harlow’s Mills in its most unreasoning form, and a piece of furniture that could be called centennial was a credit to its owner.

The old man often said that his illness had broken him down ; and that he had never been the same man since. Those of his neighbors who bad known his sorrows, and the pain which had been harder to bear than the long sickness itself, were glad that this blessed Indian summer had come to him to warm him through and through, and smile upon him in the late autumn of his life’s year.

Heaven only knows the story of the lives that the gray old New England farmhouses have sheltered and hidden away from curious eyes as best they might. Stranger dramas than have ever been written belong to the dulllooking, quiet homes, that have seen generation after generation live and die. On the well-worn boards of these provincial theatres the great plays of life, the comedies and tragedies, with their lovers and conspirators and clowns; their Juliets and Ophelias, Shylocks and King Lears, are acted over and over and over again.

Sarah Orne Jewett.