A Fair Exchange

I.

THE widow and the widower stood fare to face, looking down at the two graves between them.

One grave was a good deal sunken, as if years old ; the other, high-heaped and comparatively new. One was covered, filled up with periwinkle and long, straggling grass ; the other, except for a rose geranium set in the middle, still quite bare. One had a marble headstone, time-stained and tilting, bearing a woman’s name; the other, a neat unlettered board that seemed alertly holding ground for the stone yet to come, which, judging from length and size here suggested, would commemorate a man. And in all the little brier-grown, stone-walled inclosure, a cleared corner of which was thus taken up, there did not seem to be room for a single other occupant.

The widower drew a long breath as he gazed at the inscription close under his eyes. It was to the effect that Susannah Ann Carrico, beloved wife of Lemuel Carrico (the surname on all the other headstones visible through tangled greenery), had died about fifteen years before, at the age of twenty-five, and — presumably in another, brighter world — found that rest that remaineth for those who deserve it. Somehow, this last had always struck the widower as being a little incredible. He had not been the one to have it put there ; nor could he think of Susannah, his wife, as consciously en joying herself, and yet resting. No doubt she was in heaven, or somewhere, and having a good time in her way, poor girl! But Sue resting ! Sue not actively engaged herself, or managing somebody else ! No, he could not think of her as thus satisfied there any more than contentedly waiting for him here. The vague relief that he had just now felt at finding his reserved place by her side unexpectedly filled was hinted in the countenance at last raised in an involuntary appeal for sympathy.

It was not a bad face. The widow (who had lifted her gaze a few seconds back) was thinking how very “ nice ” it was, how gentle and patient-looking. The eyes that met her own mild blue ones were brown and clearly soft. Though, her vocabulary being very limited, she did not apply the word “ wistful,” it would have suited them well. The mouth, with lines of middle age around it, yet beardless as a boy’s, was just what it should be to match. On the Western ranch where Mr. Carrico had been lately herding sheep, his one modest boast, that he was from Virginia. had won for him the nickname of “ ’Ginian; ” and it befittingly stuck fast. Even if the widow had not always taken an interest in the “ other fam’ly,” into whose habitat, and finally into whose very graveyard, her late husband had stepped, she would have been more or less interested by this its last surviving member. As she noted how old and worn were the clothes on the thin, slightly stooping figure, the thought of that Sunday suit of which Tom, her dead liege lord, had been so fond — and how he had looked in it — flashed back with a sense of jarring, over-prosperous contrast which made her wince guiltily. She would not think so of Tom — now. She smoothed her black frock with small, nervous hands, feeling called upon suddenly to say something. The widower was thinking, in his turn, what a “ nice, peaceable-lookin’ ” somebody was Mrs. Martin.

“We ’ll have him moved sir,” she began, “ in good time for you.”

Her listener started.

“ Thanky, ma’am,” he said gently and quite unhumorously, “I — I ain’t in a hurry.”

The words were spoken with hesitating slowness and a slight stammer. The voice (a soft drawl) fell pleasantly on the widow’s ear. She liked people who were not in a hurry ; and neither did she see anything to laugh at.

“ You ’re mighty kind to be willin’ to wait,” said she.

’Ginian would not, however, take more than his fair share of credit.

“ Oh, I don’t mind waitin’,” he put in, with grave cheerfulness. “ I never did. Now she was — diff’rent.”

He had not meant to say those last words. They slipped out unaware. He grew red. The blue eyes fell. Mrs. Martin had also known somebody who — But never mind that! She divined somehow that this confidence was not scattered broadcast, though she could not know it for the first outspoken hint of a feeling ever present for fifteen years. Out west and back again, north and south, from the wilds of Oregon to Mexico, had that notion held its own. Sue was here waiting for him, and Sue had never liked to wait.

It was with some vague idea of atonement that he murmured, “ She looked mighty nice — laid out.”

Mrs. Martin’s glance left no need for sympathetic words.

“ A heap of people come to the buryin’, too,” added ’Ginian, — “ mo’ than would come to mine, I reck’n.”

The widow’s conscience cried out again.

“ I don’t know what you can think of us, sir,” she said, with a quivering lip, “ takin’ sich a liberty. I ’d ha’ spoke out against it, anyhow, if I had n’t been fairly sick with the shock an’ all. I never thought of tellin’ ’em not to — an’ befo’ I knew it the grave was dug. My mother an’ all of ’em said it had been so long since anybody’d heard a word from you that ’t was n’t likely you’d ever come back, even if not dead an’ buried a’ready. When I think of the ground reserved, an’ this the only room in it for you, — the proper, lawful spot, too, of co’se, — an’ my husban’ bein’ put here by no right whatever — not even kin to yo’ fam’ly ”—

Her eyes filled with tears of mortification. Two lips were now helplessly a-twitch. ’Ginian gave a gasp of dismay.

“ Law ! my dear ma’am,” he cried,“ I — you jest, rest sho’ that I ain’t one bit put out, I ain’t blamin’ anybody — an’ I ’ll wait jest as long as it’s convenient.”

Not even kin to the family!

Strange ! Somehow, though the preacher had made them one, neither had Sue ever seemed to him kin to the family, — poor Sue, to whom his elders had married him when still in his teens, for the sake of her few hundred dollars, which after all put off such a little while that final turning out of doors ! He reckoned they had all been a shiftless set, and he about the worst. It must have been hard on Sue. No wonder she had taken it out by being hard on him, making no secret of repenting her first fancy. How she had worked at the last, and saved, and — scolded ! How her voice used to go through his head! And yet they belonged to each other, he supposed; at least he seemed to belong to her. He had never cared much where he might be buried. But since something stronger than his will had drawn him back to these parts, he supposed his own “ folks ” as well as Sue would naturally expect him home some day. It would n’t do to slight and offend them, after lingering behind in most other people’s way for so many years. It did seem a pity, as little as he really cared, much as he always liked to accommodate, to be harrowing a poor widowed woman’s feelings by turning out her husband ; yet here was his place.

Mrs. Martin wiped away a tear or two. “ Thank you, sir,” she said. “You sha’n’t run any risk, though. None of us know when the call may come. Ma and me will manage it. I ’m glad the tombstone is n’t up. It jest happened so. We ordered a ban’some marble one with a heap of carvin’, — all his virtues an’ all set down, real han’some, — an’ it’s been delayed somehow. Mr. Peters is goin’ to bring it when it’s done. You used to know him, sir, did n’t you ? Mr. Sandy Peters ? I ’ve heard him talk about you, — say how you ’d been unfairly dealt by when the place was sold for so much less ’n’t was worth. I s’pose it was because Mr. Martin was the one to profit by the fo’ced sale, though of co’se he had n’t anything to do with fo’cin’ it, — I s’pose that was why I always felt bad about yo’ bein’ treated so; an’ now this seems to make it worse. If the tombstone had come, I reck’n we ’d ’a’ had it set; but it’s turned out all for the better. Don’t you be uneasy.”

Now ’Ginian was a polite man. He was also generous to a fault. So long as he had had a house, a room of his own, he had been absurdly, incurably hospitable. The sense of what he owed to Sue went, just now, sorely against the grain. If that stone were here already in place, would n’t a neat job finished have made it all right for him to —

He looked desperately around for some diversion. The light of the setting sun was fading from a greenish brass plate nailed high up on a cedar - tree, thus marked as a sort of monument. Out of the black-green briery tangle underneath a skull-and-crossbones tombstone leaned forward and grinned. A garter snake was slipping away behind it. A bloated, rusty toad hopped up at a fly. And here lay all who in this world had ever cared very much for him. He shivered. Sophy Martin was gazing half curiously, half in instinctive womanly pity. Poor lonesome, homeless man, her thought ran, with not even a place in his own buryingground ! Despite herself, a reproachful thought of Tom would persist in coming.

“ I reck’n,” began ’Ginian, rather absently, after a while, “ as this is the only land I own, an’ the only piece o’ property worth speaking of, that I oughter be fixin’ it up some. It seems to need it right bad.”

“ It’s hurt me many a time to see, sir, an’ if I’d had my way ” — Mrs. Martin checked herself, embarrassed. “ Since layin’ him here,” she went on, “ we sho’ly ought to done it, but ma said — that is, lately we’ve been puttin’ off, you know, waitin’ for the tombstone.”

“ Cert’nly, ma’am,” said ’Ginian.

“ Don’t think, because he’s got to be moved, that I won’t have it tended to, all the same, sir. That much we owe you, anyhow.”

“ Owe me ! Law, ma’am, don’t speak of sich a thing. I was thinkin’, if I could stay in the neighborhood a night or so, it would be nice and suitable like for me to do it myself. I’m mighty slow, I know, but I think in a day or two I could, an’ ’pears like I’m the fittin’ person.”

The first impulse of as warm and kind a little heart as ever heat spoke in the widow’s next words.

“ I’m sho’, sir,” cried she, “ that if you feel an’ think so, you ’re welcome, an’ oughter be welcome, to stay here with us jest as long as it suits you.”

The little, low, old-fashioned house, steep-roofed and dormer-windowed, which had been ’Ginian’s home for more than twenty-five years, stood beneath its grove of gnarled locusts in the midst of a trim green yard. From new cypress shingles and freshly painted walls to the last crackless, well-scoured window-pane, all was in perfect, thrifty repair. The former owner looked at it, and glanced around at the fields, no less thrifty, with a lump in his throat. Here was a change indeed. Well, he had tried his best, but he must be (as Sue used to say) of precious little account for anything. He “reckoned,” without any envious bitterness, that he deserved nothing better.

On the porch were two or three splitseated rocking-chairs, a work-basket, and the little shabby hand-trunk that held his own worldly possessions. A smell of supper-getting, of broiled chicken and griddle cakes, was in the air. A tall, portly, rather handsome woman of fifty stood in the doorway. As she looked with hard, curious eyes at the stranger, a faint cloud crept over Mrs. Martin’s face.

“ This is my mother, Mrs. Binder, sir,” said she ; then added, with anxious would-be cheerfulness, “ Ma, I’ve asked Mr. Carrico to stay here with us while he ’s fixin’ up his buryin’-ground. Walk right in, sir, an’ take a chair.”

II.

It was a golden September afternoon, more than six weeks later. Mrs. Martin had taken advantage of perfect weather to go out to tea at a neighbor’s; the “ hands ” were busily at work cutting corn ; the black woman servant was picking hops in the garden. As Mrs. Binder sat on the front porch with Mr. Carrico, it seemed to her that, altogether, there could not be a more favorable time to say her say.

“I ’d like to know, Mr. Carrico, how much longer you count on stayin’ here.”

The county newspaper which the person addressed had been placidly conning fluttered and fell like something hurt.

“ Count — on — stayin’! ” murmured ’Ginian.

Mrs. Binder’s irritation took a fresh start from the faltering surprise of the tone. She sat straighter, shifted a knitting - needle in the steadying quill “sheath ” pinned on her bosom, turned the seam, and went on.

“ It appears to me, sir,” she said very distinctly, “ that you’ve about boarded out Tom Martin’s lodgin’ out yonder.”

The eyes which had met hers with such shocked, half-guilty consternation instinctively sought a view afforded by a certain little gate not very far away, of a certain interior, namely, the buryingground, in perfect order, as lately left by his exertions, with headstones gleaming thick and white amid trimmed shrubbery or against the wall opposite.

“ Boa’ded out his lodgin’! ” gasped ’Ginian.

Mrs. Binder’s needles clicked indignantly.

41I don’t say you had n’t a claim. It’s yo’ land in there, an’ turn about’s fair play. To be sho’ he ’s cost you nothin’, nor neither inconvenienced, but it did give you a kind o’ claim; an’ knowin’ Tom Martin’s independent spirit, ’specially about debt - payin’, I’ve held my tongue so far. You was asked to stay while clearin’ up the place, — dear knows you spun the job out long enough ! — an’ two or three times when you ’ve hinted goin’, you ’peared to think yo’self pressed to stay on; but there’s reason in the roastin’ of eggs. Sophy Martin’s not the woman to ask anybody out of her house, let alone a homeless man, an’ neither am I, if I can help it; but all the same you ’re neither our kith nor kin, to be fillin’ the only spare room we’ve got. This land’s been fairly bought an’ paid for; an’ whatever Mr. Peters or anybody may say about the price it fetched, that was the lawyer’s fault an’ yo’ creditors’, not Tom’s. We’ve no mo’ to do with any other fam’ly that owned it, for all the foolish notions Sophy may take up, than we have with any new one a-comin’. Enough’s enough. I’m sorry it’s come to this, an’ you ’re welcome to what you ’ve had already, but, as I said jest now, it seems to me we ’re even, anyhow.”

Had it been Mrs. Binder’s house, her hearer would straightway have got his belongings and walked out. As it was, the impulse rose within him. Good gracious ! had all this late supposed welcoming kindness, these peaceful, restful, youth - renewing days, brought him to this ? But besides the sense of general helpless paralysis that held him in his chair, ’Ginian was conscious of one resolve, — to see once more the gentle mistress and get his parting impression from her.

“ ’T ain’t often, ma’am, I trespass so on hospitality,” he said tremulously. “ You ’ll find I won’t need any mo’ remindin’. I — I kind o’ forgot how long I ’d been stayin’.” It flashed across the poor fellow’s mind how, in his time, under that roof, a good many people had forgotten how long they stayed, and had not been reminded, by him at any rate. “ As for owin’ me anythin’, ma’am, that’s jest ridick’lous. Don’t speak o’ sich a thing. I ought to left a month ago. Jest give me time to say good-by to Mrs. Martin, an’ thank her for her kindness.”

“ Then you ’ll stay another night, for she won’t be home till near dark ; though of co’se you could n’t set off now, anyway, I s’pose. If you can’t see for yo’self why she’s off somewhere every day, I ’m not goin’ to tell you. If you can’t see why she’s in her room all mornin’, an’ visitin’ out ’most every evenin’, an’ see what coolness and downcastness is, why, I pity yo’ eyes, sir. If it was me, now, it’s precious little I ’d care (for all I ’d not ’a’ put myself in the way of it) for foolish talk an’ plaguin’ about widders and widderwers. Folks round here must have somethin’ to talk about outside, for Lord knows they’ve got precious little in the’r heads ! But Sophy ain’t me, an’ never was. She’s always takin’ things serious an’ sensitive ; an’ for a lone widder woman to be run out of her house by a strange man, because she’s determined to let people see she’s not stayin’ home ’specially to be courted, — an’ her husband not a year underground, — it seems a pretty hard ease.”

The whistling of the corn-cutters, the hack-hack of their knives, the rattle of dry severing stalks, came from the field on a west wind mellow with mingled ripening scents from garden and orchard between. ’Ginian sat silent, thinking. How fond of the old home he had been before Sue came there ! How homelike it was growing again, till just now ! A new light had broken in upon his simple and single mind as to some recent withdrawal, some uneasiness, on the part of Mrs. Martin, which had puzzled him. Cool she could not be, if she tried. Downcast, embarrassed, — yes, it was so. Was there ever, he thought, anybody else like her, anybody half so “ nice ” ? And he had been scaring her out of the house !

Mrs. Binder turned her seam again with a wrathful jerk.

“ There ’s mo’ than one man, ’specially them with no shoes of their own, that might think Tom Martin’s worth steppin’ into ; but if Sophy Martin don’t know when she’s well off, ’t won’t be for want of my tellin’. Folks can say what they please ’bout, my wantin’ to rule. If they think that, knowin’ as I do how Tom Martin struggled an’ saved on this place to make her home what he ’s left it — think I ’ll stand by tongue-tied an’ see any shiftless man, without a cent to bless himself, walk in an’ hang up his hat, why, they ’re much mistaken. After losin’ sich a husband as that” — She broke off, frowning. Her listener was leaning forward eagerly, with hands upon his knees, and curiosity of more than a moment’s standing in his gaze.

“ What kind o’ husban’ was he ? ” asked ’Ginian.

There was a slight pause. Mrs. Binder returned his look with one of her hardest and most challenging.

“ He was the best husband in this county, sir,” said she at last, deliberately, “ an’ the best care-taker an’ provider. There was nothin’ — in reason, of co’se — that Sophy Martin wanted that he did n’t give her, an’ nothin’ in reason that he would n’t ha’ done to make her happy. He was one in ten thousand. If any man that comes along thinks he can Stand comparin’ with any sich a first husband as that, why, let him try it ! So there !”

This man did not look as if he thought of trying it. What comparisons, what compromises, had he been meditating?

Mrs. Binder went on triumphantly : “ I don’t say that you have n’t behaved like a gentleman since you’ve been here, or that you ’ve given any trouble. I’m glad to give you credit for all you ’ve done, too. As for the graveyard, it’s mo’ yo’s than ours, even if Tom is layin’ there. But you have fetched us the mail every day, an’ you’ve done some other things. I ’m much obliged to you, I ‘m sho’, for straightenin’ them accounts, let alone trimmin’ the rosebushes an’ mendin’ up the well-house, an’ all. I’m much obliged, an’ Sophy too ” —

“ ’T ain’t worth speakin’ of, ma’am.”

Mrs. Binder’s heart was not quite of stone. She looked mollified, almost sorry. “ We ’ll call it even,” she said. “ At any rate, I think it’s settled for Tom. If anybody’d thought you was still in the land o’ the livin’, he would n’t ha’ been put there. I’ve made up my mind what I ’ll do when that tombstone comes, an’ that’s to send Sophy out o’ the way, an’ have the movin’ done. It ’ll sho’ly be here this week, I reck’n. Sandy Peters was to bring it, we heard. Judgin’ by the time it’s been fooled over, it ought to be a han’some beginnin’, anyway. I ’ve picked out my place on the other side of the house, an’ if we can’t git up our own fam’ly buryin’-ground, wall an’ monnyments an’ all, equal to anybody in the county, ’t won’t be for want of money spent on it, as I told Sandy Peters the other day.”

Mrs. Binder rose abruptly, rolled up her knitting-work, and stabbed it with a shining needle. She had grown red at the mention of Mr. Peters. It was said that if Mrs. Binder had been less well provided for and less deferred to in her daughter’s house, she might have embraced more than one offered chance of being the second Mrs. Peters.

41I ask pardon if I’ve hurt yo’ feelin’s ” — she began ; then paused, indeed now quite sorry. The face before her looked so very worn, pinched, and humiliated. “ It was natural you should be fond of the place, I s’pose, an’ jest stay on without thinkin’. Any time it suits you to come back an’ view the ground (as the hymn says), we ’ll make you welcome for a night or so. If so be that you ’re brought while I ’m a-livin’, there sha’n’t be due respect wanted, in the way of invitin’ neighbors, with the parlor open an’ somethin’ to hand round. I ’m sorry if I’ve spoke too sharp-like, an’ ” —

“ ’T ain’t worth mentionin’, ma’am,” said ’Gillian.

III.

The tinkle-tankle of the bells broke merrily on ’Gillian’s ear some moments before he caught a glimpse of what was coming up the other side of the hill. He had climbed with slow, forlorn steps to its top when he first spied the wagon.

It was such a farm wagon as one does not often see in this region ; so big, so new, so freshly gorgeous with green and yellow paint. With what dignified and as it were self - conscious strength did the ponderous wheels revolve, their tires flashing in the morning sunshine ! What creaking, rattling echoes of satisfied groans would it give forth under such other and more usual loads as heaps of ivory-white or gold-yellow corn, rotund wheat-sacks, fragrant apples ! No wonder it went boastfully even now. And then the bells ! They were hanging not only from the bowed, bare tent - frame. As the three stout Conestogas in front bent sturdily to their task, the pull up the long gradual slant, with each motion of their heads came a soft, tuneful clash. The broad, jolly red face of the driver beaming over all well befitted a turnout that, on the whole, would not have disgraced a wedding, while the only object visible inside, behind him, was nothing more nor less than a large tombstone.

’Ginian’s hand-trunk had never felt so heavy to him as it did that morning. Next to his heart, it seemed to him the most dragging weight he had ever carried. Having plenty of time on his hands, and no particular place to go to, he yielded to impulse, set it down, and took a seat in an inviting fence-corner. To be kept out of his grave, even a grave beside Sue, did appear, after all, hard enough just then. Here, at least, was some little diversion from the homeless, homesick feeling; nay, worse since yesterday,— the sense of disgrace aching in his very bones.

A small flat space on the hilltop gave breathing - ground for man and beast. There Mr. Peters brought his horses to a standstill.

“ Hello, Lem ! ” he cried, “ is that you ? You ain’t leavin’ the neighborhood ? ”

The good-natured red face beamed with a kindness that brought the mist to his hearer’s eyes.

“ Ain’t it time I was off ? ” asked ’Ginian.

“ Well, I do’ know. They might ha’ sent you to the deepo, anyhow.”

“They wanted to, if I ’d ha’ let ’em.”

Mr. Peters shrewdly suspected why the offer had not been accepted, so asked no questions.

“ You ’re welcome to stay some at my house,” he said, "an’ if you could get a place in a sto’ or somewheres ” — Then he broke off, a sudden twinkle in his eye. “I was thinkin’,” came slyly next, “ that maybe that feller they put in yo’ place outdo’s had left room for you inside.”

He had the joke all to himself. ’Ginian neither smiled nor blushed.

“ I’m sho’ he’s welcome to the ’commodation,” he replied almost stiffly, quite gravely, “ jest as Mrs. Martin’s made even a po’ tramp like me welcome. I ain’t quite the fool to think myself good enough for her.”

Mr. Peters finished laughing, long and loud, and nodded backward over his shoulder. “ Here’s that blessid monnyment,” said he, “ that Sally Binder’s goin’ to start that new buryin’-ground with — ho, ho ! I told ’em I’d fetch it from Alexandry my last trip. Well, I’m glad to think it’s for him ’stead o’ you. I ’m glad to think that po’ gal’s from under his thumb at last.”

’Ginian stared, speechless. The best of husbands thus spoken of ! And yet had he not had Lis own suspicions ? What could it mean ?

“ I’m glad to think he’s safe where he can’t get up any mo’ to be haulin’ her up at three o’clock in the mornin’, an’ then settin’ her down all day long. What Sally Binder could see in that blessid son-in-law of her’n to be always upholdin’ an’ admirin’ I never could tell. She’s a good woman, too, or would be with somebody to rule her. ’stead of rulin’. It’s well known she made that match. I s’pose she ’s took pride in upkoldin’ it. All I say is, they could n’t ’a’ give me a job I like better — even with all the lies po’ Sally’s had put on it — ’an settin’ up this here tombstone.”

“Sandy,” — once more ’Ginian was bending forward with that look of eager curiosity, — “ what sort of a husban’ was he ? ”

A queer flash came into the other’s eyes. He gave the lines a jerk that set each bell a-ring.

“ What sort of a husban’ ! ” said he, with slow emphasis. “ Well, if you ain’t found out already, I ’m glad o’ the chance to tell you. He was the sort, that prided hisself so much on bein’ ev’rything he ought to be (’cordin’ to his notions) that he made you proud o’ bein’ jest what you ought n’t. He was the sort that’s so overpowerin’, all-fired honest an’ truthful he made you feel like stealin’ an’ tellin’ lies, an’ so industr’ous an’ thrifty an’ respectable he set you hankerin’ after laziness an’ dirt. He was one to drive flesh an’ blood all the week, an’ tire God out on Sunday. He was sich a good provider that he give folks no time to eat, even if he had n’t took away the’r appetite, an’ left ’em no mo’ heart for wearin’ silk clo’es ’an sackcloth. I used to notice that she never looked so cowed like as when she ’d on some new frock he’d give her. He was the sort that knowed no more the worth of her sort than a cat knows of a queen, — the hardest, brassiest, conceitedest man that ever walked this earth, an’ ’bout as uncomfortable a husban’, I reck’n, as you ’d find in the Nunited States. If ever a woman deserved a good secon’ one to make up for the first, an’ help her to stand up against Sally Binder in gittin’ some pleasure out o’ her own, why, Sophy Martin ’s that woman ; an’ any man that feels he’s got it in him to do it, an’ lets any dratted foolishness stand in the way, wants sense, that’s all.”

’Ginian rose slowly to his feet with one long breath of relief, and stood so straight he looked almost tall. He felt as if fifteen years had slipped from his shoulders. A new light, a new resolve, had broken in upon him. Let that pair in the burying-ground stay side by side. Let the tombstone go right up for good. Sue had found her proper mate. He was going back to his.

“ Well, I ain’t much account, I reck’n, Sandy, any mo’ ’an good enough for her. But it, does ’pear like we belonged to one ’nother, somehow. If it’s convenient for me to go home with you afterwards, I reck’n I might’s well go back now an’ lend a hand ’bout this here job. ’Pears like it ’ll do for a kind o’ beginnin’. If she ’ll have me, the help ain’t goin’ to be all on one side.”

A smile of unmixed triumph beamed from Mr. Peters’s countenance.

“ Convenient! ” he cried. “ Lord, yes! An’ let me tell you one thing, Lem. Considerin’ what that land was bought for, it’s queer to me if you ain’t got some right there, anyhow; an’ considerin’ how bad I’ve always felt ’bout not tryin’ harder to stop that sale, it would jest do me good to see you back there. As for Sally Binder ” (his red face grew redder), “ what she wants is somebody with spunk to manage her right, — only somebody mighty diff’rent from Tom Martin. Climb right in an’ help me steady this here tombstone.”

He gave the lines another jerk. Clinga-ling went the bells.

Mrs. Binder came to meet them, with triumph and dismay, welcome and unwelcome, in her eye. On the porch behind her hesitated somebody, black as to frock and pale as to cheeks. As ’Ginian opened the gate, and walked straight up to her, past Mrs. Binder, that good woman gasped, and stood staring.

“ What’s the meanin’ of this, Sandy Peters?”

Mr. Peters gave one mighty ho-ho ! “ It means,” said he, “ that the livin’ ’s comin’ back to his right place, Sally, an’ the dead ’s a - goin’ to stay in his’n. We ’re a-goin’ to put this tombstone up in that there graveyard, Sally. If you find the house won’t hold three ag’in, comfortable, — with two to yo’ one, ’stead o’ one to yo’ two, — why, jest come to my house, an’ let’s you an’ me fight it out even. It ’ll count three matches I’ve made this day. As for them two yonder, I reck’n they ’ll have time enough after a while to think about startin’ the new buryin’-ground. I reck’n nex’ time you hand cake an’ wine around ’t won’t be at a funeral, neither.”

A. M. Ewell.