THE Professor strolled along, meditating on a translation of Antigone. He was but dimly conscious how pleasant the soft, damp air felt against his cheek. The gray sky stooped to blend with a pallid mist that rested on the earth. This fog did not hide the wooded summit of a hill which rose steeply
from the western side of the road, but it caused the distant height to suggest some mysterious purport in its outlines and masses. Eastward, the country slipped easily to a lower level, where cool, sweet meadows skirted a placid little river. The road was bounded by stone walls, and lined, like all good New England country roads, with wild rose and brier bushes and brambles, growing now under the open sky, and now under little thickets of small trees.
In one of the rocky pastures a quail began to call. The Professor answered the bird’s cry. The quail responded confidently. An exchange of salutations went on for some time, and the Professor felt as if he had been received into the fellowship of the gods, till, turning a little, he descried the figure of a man half-way up the western slope. It stood upon a hillock, and held forward one hand. The shape loomed like an apparition through the moist atmosphere. Slowly it defined itself to the Professor as that of an old man holding a little box in the outstretched hand.
“ So — ho ! So — ho ! Come here, my little beauty. Jenny ! oh, my little Jenny ! ” The voice came down the hillside. “ Jenny ! ” it cried again, and two horses appeared from some hidden nook, and trotted towards him. He received one of them with caressing gestures, laying her head against his own cheek. Then he coaxed her towards the bars, proffering her the little box. The other beast followed, with a dubious air. The Professor also started for the bars, to meet the old man, whom he now recognized as a farmer with whom he had some acquaintance, a rosy, round-cheeked man, with gray hair and twinkling blue eyes. Arrived at the entrance to the road, the farmer let Jenny pass the barrier, but shut in the other horse, whom he sought to console with what oats remained in the box. When he finally moved down the road, the Professor accosted him, and pointed back to the deserted animal, who had retreated to a little eminence, where he stood gazing forward, with grave melancholy in his appearance.
“ Good - evening, Mr. Whitmarsh,” said the Professor. “That horse yonder looks lonesome.”
“ Yes,” answered the farmer. “ He allus acts as ef he had real feelin’s about Jenny. Once when she was sick I found her layin’ down in the sun, and that feller standin’ so’s to shade her. I ’m keepin’ ’em for some city folks. Good-evenin,’ William,” he added, as a tall, gaunt man appeared, climbing over the wall on the lower side of the road. This man carried a small Bible under his arm, spoke his answering greeting, and passed on. “ That’s William Hapgood, the Adventist preacher,” explained the farmer. “ I remember the Second Advent folks forty year ago. Things did n’t turn out as we looked to have ’em then. Mebbe William’s mistook the meanin’ of the texts now. But I don’t know. Mis’ Whitmarsh seems to think she knows, but I ain’t sure. She hates Second Adventists like p’ison. Women are queer, anyhow, in their ways of thinkin’ an’ hatin’. Be you merried ? ”
“ No,” said the young man.
Mr. Whitmarsh’s eyes twinkled.
“ Wal,” said he, “mebbe it’s lucky for you that you ain’t got no wife, an’ mebbe it’s lucky for her. William Hapgood’s wife, now. He used to drink an’ swear some till he got religion this last time. She used to say it. made her feel sick to hear him swear, but now she says it makes her sicker to hear him pray. Mis’ Whitmarsh is a Baptist, — reg’lar kind. I guess she ’d like it if she could be dipped more ’n once, she’s got sech faith in it. But her immersin’ was all done up fifty year ago, jest afore we was merried. There’s suthin’ almighty queer about gettin’ merried. Fellers an’ gals live along together in the same town, an’ don’t think nothin’ of each other, till all of a sudden suthin’ seems to strike ’em, an’ the feller must dress up Sunday nights an’ go ’n’ see some pertic’ler gal, an’ she’s pleased, an’ the minister’s called for after a time, an’ then there they are, bound to set still an’ bear it all the rest of their nateral lives.”
“ You consider marriage a state of endurance, then ? ” said the Professor.
“Wal, yes, pretty much so. I’ve took some comfort along of Mis’ Wliitmarsh these forty-nine years. But she was allus a driver, an’ a woman with a head, an’ sometimes it was wearin’ to a man constitooted like me.” He smiled a little ruefully. “ I s’pose I worrited her, too. Oh, yes. But she’s eight year older ’n me, an’ I went to school to her, an’ she never got over thinkin’ I was a child, to be ordered round. An’ sometimes I wa’n’t of her way of thinkin’. I think, if I was free to marry again, I ’d look round for a younger woman.”
His imagination did not seem to compass such a possibility as his having married a younger woman or any other woman in the beginning, and there was a sort of innocence about the old fellow which prevented his silly, half-humorous speeches from seeming offensive. The Professor could not repress a chuckle. The farmer looked at him with wide, vague eyes.
“ I really believe I should,” he said, as if he thought his sincerity was in question ; so the other drew his face down soberly, and they walked on till they came in front of a small weatherbeaten house, which stood close to the road. An untidy yard stretched away at the left to some dilapidated barns. Several old wagon-wheels slanted up against the fences, and hens roosted in a buggy-top, which, deprived of its natural circular supports, sat forlornly on the ground. The hill here retreated from the road, and on the other side of the house made room for a rich green field, marshy with the springs which leaked down the slope. The sunset rays were now breaking through the clouds, and the wet grass fairly shone.
A woman came to the doorway, holding a milk-pail.
“Hello, Emmeline,” called the farmer.
“ This pail leaks,” she answered, turning it up to the light. “ You ’ll have to use the four-quart one.”
“ All right,” returned her husband.
The Professor advanced, and lifted his hat. “ May I rest here a little while, Mrs. Whitmarsli ? ” he asked, seating himself on the broad stone at the doorway.
The old woman smiled consent. She was thin, bent, and worn, with scanty white hair laid smoothly under her cap. There was a red spot on each wasted cheek. She looked nervous and worried, but she took the mare from her husband’s guidance and led her gently to the barn. Mr. Whitmarsh disappeared round the back way, and soon afterwards crossed the yard with a small battered tin pail. A swallow flew before him into the yawning portal of the unpainted shed. Then Mrs. Whitmarsh came to the Professor, bringing buttermilk and gingerbread. He put the dishes down on the stone beside him, and as he ate and drank she sat above him in the doorway.
“ Judson says he met the Advent preacher,” she began. “ I wish that man would move off from here.”
“ Don’t you like him ? ” asked the young man.
“ No; somehow it makes folks kind of crazy to take up with his ideas. Seems as if most people was made with heads that only fit one kind of doctrines. Put any others in ’em, an’ they split an’ the wits scatter. Judson always had a leaning towards queer views, an’ they ain’t good for him.”
“ I should think you could keep him in the right way,” observed the Professor tentatively.
“ I’ve tried to,” she answered simply, gazing before her through her spectacles. “ I don’t feel as I’ve always succeeded. I never could make him clear up the yard decent.” Her glance rested on the buggy-top. Then she sighed. “ Still, I hain’t no call to complain,” she went on. “ We’ve got on better ’n I supposed we would, when we were married. I did n’t expect much then but that we’d end up in the poorhouse.”
“ You expected that when you married him ? ”
“ Well, not exactly expected it, but thought it was likely. I knew his ways, you see.”
“ Why did you marry him, then ? ” asked the Professor, surprised out of his discretion.
The old woman’s features relaxed into a shrewd smile. “ Some on his ways was mighty pleasant ones,” she said naively. " So I told him that I’d take the heft of things, if we was married ; that I ‘d go ahead, and only expect him to rake after.”
“ Well, I hope some of his ways have stayed pleasant,” said the Professor.
“ Yes,” she answered, with a look half amused, half tender, on her wrinkled face, " I’m bound to admit they have. But there ’s a sort of pleasantness that gets mighty aggravatin’ in the course of forty-nine years.”
A pause ensued, during which the young man’s curiosity urged him to tempt her on to further revelations, but some other impulse constrained him to a silence which aided her to guard the secrets of the vicissitudes of her wifehood. So at last he sought to explore ground that seemed to him less sacred.
“ Was Mr. Whitmarsh a Second Adventist in the old times ? ” he asked.
She roused herself from her reverie with a snorting ejaculation.
“ Pretty much so,” she cried. " And his sister Pireny was one out an’ out. Had a white dress made to ascend in ! It looked like a nightgown. I believe it was one, kinder fixed up. She kept it on the sofy in her parlor two weeks, all ready for the last day. I asked her once who she expected would be carried up to heaven safe an’ sound, when everybody an’ everything else went to everlastin’ smash. Says she, ‘I expect to be borne up, an’ I expect my children will be, an’ I expect our cow will be, and mebbe Clement will be,’ — Clement was her husband.”
“ No, really! ” cried the Professor.
“ Yes, really. Yon see Clement Newton did n’t take to them notions at first, but he slumped in later ; an’ one day he come to Judson, an’ says he, £ I can’t tinker that harness for you to-morrow,’ — he mended harnesses an’ did such jobs, — ‘ because I must go to Peperill so ’s to come back Thursday. To-morrow’s Wednesday, and Christ leaves his Mediatorial Throne Friday. I must go an’ get back before then,’ says he, ‘ as nothin’ can’t be done in the way of savin’ souls after that.’ ”
“ Did you ever go to their meetings ? ” asked the Professor.
“ Oh, yes, an’ I never shall forget one meetin’. The preacher was a man named Hiram Oldfield, an’ this William Hapgood sat right in front, glowerin’ with all his eyes at him. William hain’t never got that look out of his eyes since, though he ’s fell from grace an’ had to get religion over again. Hiram Oldfield just tramped up an’ down the platform.
' What is it Christ wants of yon ? ’ he shouted. ‘ It’s all you’ve got. Christ’s got a wardrobe full of weddin’ garments. An’ there’s only one price to ’em. It’s all you’ve got. It don’t make no difference whether it’s a farm, or a thousand dollars, or a cow, or a silk gown, or a string o’ gold beads. That’s the price, all you’ve got. An’ you can’t enter the new kingdom without havin’ one of these weddin’ garments. Soon the last prayer that ’ll do any good will have gone up from the lips of repentant sinners, the last car will have started for heaven, the last Bible will have left the earth. Christ will descend from his Mediatorial Throne, an’ there ’ll be silence in heaven for about half an hour; an’ the silence on earth, will be full of hope for them as have paid the price of the weddin’ garments, an’ full of groanin’ an’ misery for them as have kept back things, an’ set store by what is perishable. Oh, how ’ll you stand then, neighbors ? Sisters, how ’ll you feel then ? Give, give ! cries Christ.’ So he went on, an’ Pireny, she got up, most knockin’ Clement over as she pushed by him, an’ she tore her gran’mother’s gold beads right off her neck, an’ marched forrard an’ gave ’em to the minister, an’ he said there wa’n’t no doubt about her bein’ saved. An’ a woman behind me fetched a screech because she’d left her beads to home, thinkin’ she would n’t give ’em anyhow, an’ now she was scared for fear she’d lost her soul. She stood up screamin’ an’ tremblin’, an’ promised she ’d bring ’em next night.”
The old woman told her story with a dramatic force which surprised the Professor. He wanted more of this diversion, and when she stopped he inquired how far her husband sympathized with his sister at that time. A look of real pain came into the withered face.
“ He got pretty far gone,” she said. “ The Adventist folks set up a sort of common fund, you know. That’s why they wanted the gold beads. Judson gave all my silver spoons. I got ’em when we was married, with money I ’d earned. There was six of ’em, — beautiful ones, — an’ I had ’em marked J. E., for him an’ me.” She snorted again. “ I never felt so bad about anything in my life. An’ I’ve had to set my teeth against pewter an’ tin spoons ever since.”
The Professor respected her sorrow by a moment’s hesitation before he spoke again.
“ And when the day came that was fixed for the destruction of the world, how did the believers feel ? ”
She brought her fist down emphatically on her knee. “ Like fools, I guess,” she said laconically. Then she added, “ Pireny put on her ascension robe, an’ wrapped a sheet round Clement, for she had n’t made him no robe ; an’ they sot together all night on the roof of the woodshed waitin’ for the summons. The roof was kinder flat, an’ they took chairs up there, an’ made themselves sorter half-way comfortable. But Pireny wa’n’t quite satisfied. She wanted to get on the housetop ; but there wa’n’t no place to set there, an’ Clement spunked up an’ vowed he would n’t perch on the ridgepole to wait for nothin.’ ”
While the young man laughed, Mr. Whitmarsh came up, calling for another pail that he might finish milking. His wife spoke rather sharply.
“ Empty that in the pans,” she said, “ an’ use it over again. Mebbe that ’ll help you to remember to get the other mended to-morrow.”
“ All right,” retorted the farmer cheerily. “I wisht I had a better memory.”
Whereat the woman got up and went into the house. When she had disappeared, the old man glanced after her, came a little nearer to the Professor, set the milk-pail down on the grass, put up both his horny hands around his mouth, like a schoolboy, and, with his blue eyes twinkling, whispered, —
“ If I had a better memory, you see, I could allus keep it in mind what a harnsome girl Mis’ Whitmarsh used to be.”
Then he picked up the pail, and went chuckling away, just as his wife came back.
“Won’t you come in?” she said to the Professor. “ I’d like to show you the powder-horn that Judson’s grandfather carried in the Revolution.”
It ended in the Professor’s staying to a homely tea, drunk out of burnt and chipped cups. The birds darted about past the window next which he sat. The old man laughed beside him, and, in spite of the jests and the complaints which had suggested some dissonance, the young man perceived that the husband and wife indulged in a certain tolerant affectionateness toward each other. A very slender moon shone above the hill when the visitor departed, and he rejoiced because he caught the first glimpse of it over his right shoulder. “ You ’ll have good luck, sure,” said the farmer ; and the guest’s thoughts leaped suddenly towards the hope which inspired his youth.
The Professor boarded with the village doctor, and so it happened that he heard early the next morning that Mrs. Whitmarsh had been taken ill in the night, and was then lying at the point of death. Obeying an impulse he hardly felt warranted, he hurried to the farmhouse. The sunshine lay richly decorative on the fields. The air moved with a little breeze, like the motion of a happy pulse. It was one of those vivid days, when the soul feels akin to the earth, and death seems like an impossible legend. But the Professor was learned in strange lore, and believed that in every legend, howsoever startling it be, lurks a kernel of truth.
When he reached the house, he found that he had done right to come. Judson sat on the doorstep, his hands looking helpless and misshapen as they rested on his knees. His blue eyes were dull, his cheeks fallen, and his lips dropped apart. He turned a vague, beseeching glance on the young man.
“ There’s lots of folks in there,” he said, slowly lifting one hand, and pointing within. “ Wimmen sittin’ round and whisperin’. It’s sorter skeery to see their faces an’ to hear ’em. I’m kinder glad to see you.”
The Professor sat down by him, and touched his knee with a filial gesture of sympathy.
“ If our Gilead had lived, he ‘d a been about your age now. He come late, the only boy we had. An’ the gal was allus sick. He was killed at Bull Run. Lord, what a day that was ! We thought the country was ruined, an’ we knowed Gilead was dead. He’s buried somewheres down there amongst them stranger folks, — them thet killed him, — an’ him nothin’ but a boy. It’s lonesome to think on.” He paused, and his lips trembled. “ This mornin’,” he added after a moment, “ I’ve thought Emmeline was mebbe goin’ to die, too. I wonder if she ’ll tell Gilead how I’Ve disapp’inted her expectations. Look at them wagon-wheels, now. I guess if she’s asked me once to put ’em away, she’s asked me fifty times.”
A lean-faced woman came from within, and touched the farmer’s shoulder.
“ She’s callin’ fur you,” said she.
“ Yes, Mis’ Whitin’,” answered he, rising obediently, and going in. The Professor remained behind, watching a butterfly career lightly before him in the shadow of a big elm that stood between the house and the road.
Mr. Whitmarsh came back with excited eyes.
“ Lord ! ” said he, “ she’s talkin’ about them spoons I give away in the Millerite times. She says she won’t take her gruel from a tin spoon. I’m goin’ to get her a silver one.” He pulled from his pocket a worn greenback.
“You’d better borrow one,” said the Professor. “You can’t buy one in this village.”
The old man looked woe-begone. “ I wanted to buy one, an’ tell her’t was reelly hern,” said he.
“ Well,” answered the young man, “I will go to Worcester and get it for you.”
Mr. Whitmarsh brightened up at this, and, accompanying his friend part way to the station, finally told him to get two or three spoons, if the money held out so far.
Before noon the Professor came back, and gave a little box to the old man, who opened it with clumsy fingers.
“ Six of ’em,” he said, smiling tremulously. “ If I’d known silver spoons was so cheap, I’d ha’ got some long afore now.”
The Professor had a little secret, and kept it, as he threw himself down on the grassy slope under the elm.
Mr. Whitmarsh went eagerly into his wife’s room. She lay there covered with a calico quilt. Her sharp features looked gray and pinched. Her fingers wandered over the gay covering of the bed. A bunch of red roses stood in a tumbler on the window-seat. Judson leaned over her, and said,
“ Look here, Emmeline, here’s six new silver spoons for you. Ain’t they as good as them others ? Won’t you take your gruel now ? ”
She did not seem to hear his words. He choked with a great sob, laid the spoons beside her arm, and, turning, left the room.
“ ’T ain’t no good,” he said disconsolately, sitting down on the doorstep, and looking across at the Professor, who came up sympathetically and stood by him. Then both men distinctly heard Mrs. Whiting’s voice within the house, saying, —
“ Wal, I never ! Gittin’ silver spoons for her now she’s ’most dead. He’d better have smarted up an’ helped her more while she was well, ’stead o’ settin’ round playing on the jew’s-harp an’ tamin’ squirrels, while she was slavin’ herself to death with that sick darter, an’ takin’ care of his old mother, an’ aunt too, till they died. I don’t see whatever the Lord made men so unsatisfactory for.”
Judson looked appealingly at the young man, whose silence confessed his impotence in this emotional emergency. Then the old man let his head droop a little, as he said helplessly, —
“I did use to play the jew’s-harp consid’able.”
A crow flew overhead during the pause that ensued, and then Judson began again.
“ What troubles me the most,” said he, " is that I have thought some about Emmeline’s bein’ old an’ fussy. An’ ’t wa’n’t no longer ago ’n last night as I said what I did about lookin’ out for a younger woman. It was kinder mean o’ me. I feel as if I’d oughter tell her, — own up, afore she dies.”
“ But you must n’t think of doing such a tiling! ” cried the Professor, aghast.
The old man persisted mournfully. " It seems mean to let. her die ’thout knowin’ jest how wuthless I be. An’ I’d rather tell her now, with no one to hear but her an’ me, than tell her at the Judgment Day, afore Christ an’ Gilead an’ the Lord knows who else.”
“ It would be very cruel to tell her,” said the other energetically. " Besides, it was nothing. You spoke in fun.”
“ Not jest in fun, — not jest.”
But the Professor was so determined that he constrained the remorseful husband to promise silence.
When, later in the day, the young man came again to the farmhouse, Mr. Whitmarsh stood under the elm-tree in close consultation with a very fat old woman.
“ My sister Pireny,” said he, introducing her, " and her husband, Mr. Newton.”
Clement Newton, a small, lean man, with perked-up features, stepped from behind his wife, and stared vacantly around.
“ They say,” said Mr. Whitmarsh, “thet I’d oughter send for a minister to pray with Emmeline. Pireny wants me to send for William Hapgood, bein’ of his way of thinkin’. But it don’t seem fair to Emmeline. She allus hated them doctrines.”
“ It won’t hurt her none,” said Pireny. " She don’t sense nothin’ of what ’s goin’ on.”
“ But,” said Judson, " don’t know as I set much by his prayin’, in a case like this. He’s gre’t on the Day o’ Judgment, an’ trumps, an’ angels flyin’ round in the sky, an’ sech things ; but when it comes to prayin’ for rain or against sickness, for my part I’d rather have Mr. Allen.”
The Professor sided with the farmer, and Clement Newton went off for the minister. When that gentleman arrived, he was taken at once to the sick-room, but Mr. Whitmarsh came and sat in the doorway with the Professor. The troubled vagueness in his eyes had increased.
“ I don’t want to go in,” he whispered. “ It sorter skeers me to see her layin’ there, never fakin’ no notice of them spoons, an’ never so much as grumblin’ at me now. I don’t feel like prayin’, neither. I feel as if I was a-keepin’ back suthin’, an’ as if I had n’t nothin’ to do with God.”
“ Judson, Judson,” said Pireny, shaking the entry behind them with her mighty footsteps, and speaking in a hoarse whisper of command. “ You’ve been as onreliable as a willow twig all your life, but you’ve got to come in an’ pray for your wife now.”
Judson rose, and tottered in. The day passed into twilight. The voice of the minister came softly to the ears of the Professor. Life grew drowsy on the earth, and the sky reddened above.
After this sunset hour everything was peaceful in the room where the worn old woman lay. Sometimes Judson tried to think she looked at the silver spoons, which he insisted should stay on the bed, but in truth she saw nothing in this world more. At intervals she talked, generally about her housework. Once only she fancied that she held a baby again in her arms. Her features sharpened steadily, and she spoke at longer and longer intervals. Judson himself grew less restless, and made fewer uneasy excursions from the room. The blinds were left open, and as the night came on he sat by the window and watched the stars, till he could bear their lonesome light no longer. Then he turned his eyes back into the room, and fixed his gaze on the rag carpet. He remembered the evening that he was engaged to Emmeline. It had never been quite dear to his mind whether he or she had made first overtures on that occasion, but he knew that he had been very happy when it was all settled. His head dropped forward a little. He seemed to lose the consciousness of that which connected his present pain with that far-off happiness. The fat Pireny sat by the head of the bed, and the thin Mrs. Whiting by the foot. The lamp burned dim, but its yellow glare shone full in the lean woman’s eyes, and made her wink and blink. Pireny slept in her chair. Once a bat flew in at the window, but fortunately flew out before Mrs. Whiting had quite shrieked aloud.
The Professor sat in his own chamber, half a mile away, with his Greek books and manuscripts before him, but his thoughts were at the farmhouse.
“ Death is an outrage,” he cried at last, rising up and stamping about. He went to the window, pushed open the blinds, and leaned forth. The earth was as sweet in the darkness as a bride in her veil. “ I shall never want to die,” he said. Some old memory seized his heart, as he marked the outline of a pinetree against the low horizon. " Why,”he asked, “ should God take me from sights that can make me feel as these do ? ”
At that moment Judson’s eyes were closing in slumber, and Pireny, who chanced to be awake, whispered to Mrs. Whiting, “ I ’ll make him go to bed. He needs it, an’ he ain’t no use here. He ’s had a look all day thet worrits me.”
Judson felt a touch on his shoulder, and when he started guiltily, expecting reproof, he heard his sister saying kindly, “You’d better go up an’ lay down in the attic.”
She made him stop first in the kitchen, where Clement sat dozing, and gave him tea to drink, and finally followed him to his chamber, and did not leave him till his head was on the pillow. As her heavy footsteps creaked down the stairs, he lay still, and remembered how they two used to go for flag-root together, and how they had been wont to make money-bags out of the leaves of live-forever. He felt soothed and peaceful, and after a moment more he struggled up in the bed, said a short prayer, lay down again, thought of his mother, and fell asleep.
When he woke in the morning he was afraid to go down-stairs, afraid of what he should hear there ; so he remained sitting irresolutely close to the door he dared not open, till he grew more afraid some one would come up and find him thus, and reproach him with the news that his wife had died while he waited. He rose with an effort, and groped his way down. There was a blaze of sunlight burning over the earth, and he went out into it, and stood bareheaded under the elm, looking among the boughs for some odd, cup-shaped leaves that grew on that particular tree. Mrs. Whiting called him sharply from the window.
“ I did n’t mean nothin’,” he stuttered. “I was jest comin’ in,” and he hurried to the house. The fact was that he felt afraid, like a little child, to go in and see how his wife would look, but when he saw her his mind was quieter. Her face was very peaceful, and as the sunshine faded, that afternoon, her soul passed away with it.
“ Where be them silver spoons ? ” cried Pireny, a few minutes after all was over. They had disappeared from the bed. She went out into the kitchen, and stood with her husband and her daughter Eolah, who had come that forenoon. Judson passed silently through the room.
“ Uncle looks kinder distracted,” whispered Eolah.
“ I declare I don’t know what he will do,” answered Pireny. “ He never was quite like folks. Best let him pretty much alone.”
Judson, therefore, was left to his own devices during the two days that elapsed before the funeral. He spent most of the time in the barn, where the fowls cackled and fed, and some young kittens played about his feet. Once he undertook to clear up the yard, and remove therefrom the rubbish that had been so obnoxious to Emmeline ; but he worked only a little while, and finally abandoning the effort, he went back to brood in the barn doorway, and to watch a flock of pigeons peck among the clutter.
On the morning of the funeral, twenty pies ranged in the kitchen bore evidence to Eolah’s efforts to prepare for the occasion. Pireny was too fat to work much, but she had been able to suggest a good many things for her daughter to do. Emmeline was laid out in a black gown, and after all was ready Judson went into the room where the coffin stood, and shut the door behind him, while Pireny chattered and wondered in the entry.
“ I was real relieved,” she said afterwards, “ when he come out, lookin’ nateral. I was skeery about his mind them days. It was a beautiful thing for him to do, I think.”
The country folk filled the house during the service. Mr. Allen preached and prayed. William Hapgood listened, with a wild devoutness in his look. The minister’s words were simple. He spoke of the love of God. and declared that it completed that which life and death left incomplete. The Professor listened, and involuntarily bowed his head.
Clement Newton acted as sexton, and confused the arrangements as much as possible. Judson escaped from the house as soon as he could, and climbed into the carryall which was to convey him to the grave. Pireny tried to follow, but was so big and clumsy that she was not able to get into the vehicle.
“ Get her suthin’ to stand on,” suggested Judson. “ Suthin’ solid.”
Clement, full of this idea, ran back to the parlor, and shouted out, —
“ Is anybody settin’ in a wooden-bottomed chair ? ”
The whole grim, speechless company looked dazed, then solemnly arose. All the men and women faced about, and gazed seriously at the chairs they had been occupying, and then all who found that theirs were bottomed with flag or wicker-work silently sat down again. Six women remained standing. Clement seized the wooden chair that was nearest him, and bore it forth ; then the five reseated themselves, and one woman stood erect in that mute assembly.
The Professor helped to push and hoist Pireny into the carryall, and Eolah got up on the front seat, and drove on a little way.
Two evenings later, the Professor wandered again along the road at the foot of the rocky hill. When he reached the familiar pasture, he loitered by the bars till Judson came over the uneven ground, coaxing the horses after him. The Professor’s mood had been a happy one. June was never more beautiful than in that sunset hour. It seemed to him that he knew how the shimmering grass blades felt. There was an orchard at one side of the field, and his soul was conscious of an intimate relation with the long shadows under the trees, and with the sunlit spaces between. But when he saw the old man approaching, the sense of the keener human relation saddened him. The two men greeted each other quietly, and Judson came out into the road, letting both animals follow him this time, and then stray on before him towards home.
“ I ‘m going away to-morrow,” said the Professor.
“ Be you ? Wal, I ‘m sorry,” said the farmer. “ You understand things sorter that most folks don’t.”
“ What are you intending to do ? ” asked the young man.
“ Oh, I shall live right on. There ain’t nothin’ else to do ; but it’s kinder upsettin’ to be shook up so, after fifty years in one measure. An old ache even gits to be company, you know, an’ a wife’s a wife, somehow. Pireny’s darter ’ll stay with me one while, so I m fixed. As good as I desarve, I dare say.” His lips quivered with the pathetic quiver of sorrow in old age. His white hair was tossed. The red was gone from his cheeks. He carried in one hand a small tree that he had uprooted on the hillside, and his eyes were wild and troubled in their blueness. " I’ve thought about it a good deal,” he went on. “ I don’t expect to make no change. An’ I hid them spoons in Emmeline’s coffin, an’ buried ’em with her.” He raised his hand, and planted the tree like a staff on the ground. “ I don’t never mean to marry again. Thet ’s what I mean.” He blurted out the words, and looked suddenly and squarely at the younger man. “ But if I ain’t preserved from sech folly, at least I ’ll marry a woman as old as Emmeline was, — to a day, — an’ quite as humly. Thet’s all. Good-by.”
He turned quickly, but the Professor mastered a feeling of amusement, and detained him for an affectionate and serious farewell, and afterwards stood watching him as he tottered after the horses along the green-bordered road. A quail called cheerily, as on that other evening, from the spaces on the hill. The young man smiled, then suddenly felt that his eyes were wet, for the figure of the old man looked lonely, as it passed onward from his sight.
Six months later, however, Judson lay in his snow-covered grave, very near to Emmeline.
Lillie Chace Wyman.