AUNT AILSIE first heard the news from her son’s wife, Ruthena, who, returning from a trading trip to The Forks, reined in her nag to call, —
’Maw, there’s a passel of quare women come in from furrin parts and sot ’em up some cloth houses there on the p’int above the court house, and carrying on some of the outlandishest doings ever you heared of. And folks a-pouring up that hill till no jury can’t hardly be got to hold court this week.’
The thread of wool Aunt Ailsie was spinning snapped and flew, and she stepped down from porch to palings. ‘Hit’s a show!’ she exclaimed, in an awed voice; ‘ I heared of one down Jackson-way one time, where there was a elephant and a lion and all manner of varmints, and the women rid around bareback, without no clothes on ’em to speak of.’
’No, hit hain’t no show, neither, folks claim; they allow them women is right women, and dresses theirselves plumb proper. Some says they come up from the level land. And some that Uncle Ephraim Kent fotched ’em in.'
’Did n’t you never go up to see?'
Ruthena laughed. ‘I’ll bound I would if I’d a-been you,’ she said; ‘and but for that sucking child at home, 1 allow I would myself.'
‘Child or no child, you ought, to have went,’ complained Aunt Ailsie, disappointed. ‘I wisht Lot would come on back and tell me about ’em.’
Next morning she was delighted to see her favorite grandson, Fult Fallon, dash up the branch on his black mare.
‘Tell about them quare women,’ she demanded, before he could dismount.
‘I come to get some of your sweet apples for ’em, granny,’ he said. '’Peared like they was apple-hungry, and I knowed hit was time for yourn.’
’Light and take all you need,’ she said. ‘But, Fulty, stop a spell first and tell me more about them women. Air they running a show like we beared of down Jackson-way four or five year gone?’
Fult shook his head emphatically. ‘Not that kind,’he said. ‘Them women are the ladyest women you ever seed, and the friendliest. And hit’s a pure sight all the pretties they got, and all the things that goes on. I never in life enjoyed the like.’
Aunt Ailsie followed him around to the sweet-apple tree, and helped him fill his saddlebags.
‘Keep a-telling about ’em,’ she begged. ‘Seems like I hain’t heared or seed nothing for so long I’m nigh starved to. death.’
‘Well, they come up from the level country — the Blue Grass. You ricollect me telling you how I passed through hit on my way to Frankfort — as smooth, pretty country as ever was made; though, being level, hit looked lonesome to me. And from what they have said, I allow Uncle Ephraim Kent fotched ’em up here, some way or ’nother, I don’t rightly know how. And they put up at our house till me n’ the boys could lay floors and set up their tents.’
The saddlebags were full now, and they turned back. ‘Stay and set with me a while,’ she begged him.
‘Could n’t noways think of hit,’he said; ‘might miss my sewing-lesson.'
‘Sewing-lesson !' she exclaimed.
‘Had n’t you heared about me becoming a man of peace, setting down sewing handkerchers and sech every morning?’ he laughed.
‘Now I know you are lying to me,’ she said, in an injured tone.
‘Nary grain,’ he protested. ‘Come get up behind and go ’long in and see if I hain’t speaking the pure truth!'
‘I would, too, if there was anybody to stay with the place and the property,’ she replied. ‘’Pears like your grandpaw will set on that, grand jury tell doomsday! How many indictments have they drawed up again’ you this time, Fulty?’ she asked, anxiously.
Fult threw back his handsome dark head, and laughed again as he sprang into the saddle. ‘Not more’n leven or twelve!’ he said. ‘They ’re about wound up, now, I allow, and grandpaw will likely be in by sundown. You ride in to-morrow to see them women!’
It was past sundown, however, when Uncle Lot rode up, grave and silent as usual. Aunt Ailsie hardly waited for him to hang his saddle on the porch-peg before inquiring, —
‘What about them quare women on the p’int?’
Uncle Lot frowned. ‘ What should I know about quare women? ’ he demanded. ’Haul’t I a God-fearing man and a’ Old Primitive?’
‘But, setting on the grand jury all week, right there under the p’int, you must have seed ’em, ’pears like?'
‘I did see ’em,’ he admitted, disapprovingly. ’Uncle Ephraim Kent, he come in whilst we was a-starting up court a-Monday morning, and says, “Citizens, ihe best thing that ever come up Perilous is a-coming in now!” .And the jedge he journeyed court, and all hands went out to see. And here was four wagons, one with a passel of women, three loaded with all manner of plunder.'
‘What did they look like?’
‘ Well enough — too good to be atraipsing over the land by tbeirselvcs this way.’ He shook his head. ‘And as for their doings, hit ’s a sight to hear the singing and merriment that goes on up thar on that hill when the wind is right. Folks has wore a slick trail traveling up and down. But not me! Solomon says, “Bewar’ of the strange woman”; and I hain’t the man to shun his counsel.’
‘I alloww they are right women — I r How you would n’t have tuck no harm,’ soothed Aunt Ailsie.
‘Little you know, Ailsie, little you know. If you had sot on as many grand juries as me, you would n’t allow nothing about no woman, not even them you had knowed all your life, let alone quare, fotched-on ones that blows in from God knows whar, and darrs their Maker with naught but a piece of factory betwixt them and the elements!’
Aunt Ailsie dropped the subject. ‘What about Fulty?’ she asked, in a troubled voice.
‘ There was several indictments again’ a d hit crowd this time three for shooting on the highway, two for shooting up the town, two for breaking up meetings — same old story.
‘ And you helped again to indict him? ’ remarked Aunt Ailsie, somewhat bitterly.
’I did, too,’ he asserted, in some anger; ‘and will every time he needs hit.'
‘Seems like a man ought to have a leetle mercy on his own blood.’
He held up a stern forefinger. ‘Let me hear no more sech talk,’ he commanded; ‘I am a man of jestice, and I aim to deal hit out fa’r and squar’, let hit fall whar hit may.’
Next morning, which was Saturday, Aunt Ailsie mildly suggested at breakfast, ‘ I might maybe ride in to town today, if you say so. I can’t weave no furder till I get some thread, and there’s a good mess of eggs, and several beans and sweet apples, to trade.’
Uncle Lot fixed severe eyes upon her. ‘Ailsie,’ he said, ‘you would n’t have no call to ride in to The Forks to-day if them quare women was n’t thar. You allus was possessed to run atter some new thing. My counsel to you is the same as Solomon’s — “Bewar’ of the strange woman”!’
However, he did not absolutely forbid her to go, and she said gently, as he started up to the cornfield a little later, hoe in hand, —
‘If I do ride in, you ’ll find beans and ’taters in the pot, and coffee and a good pone of cornbread on the hairth, and the table all sot,.’
Two hours later, clothed in the hot brown-linsey dress, black sunbonnet, new print apron and blue-yarn mitts which she wore on funeral occasions and like social events, she set forth on old Darb, the fat, flea-bitten nag, with a large poke of beans across her side-saddle, and baskets of eggs and apples on her arms.
The half-mile down her branch and the two miles up Perilous Creek had never seemed so long, and the beauty of green folding mountains and tall trees mirrored in winding waters was thrown away on her.
‘I am plumb wore out looking at nothing but clifts and hillsides and creek-beds for sixty year,’she said aloud, resentfully.
‘’Pears like I would give life hitself to see something different.’
She switched the old nag sharply, and could hardly wait for the first glimpse of the ‘cloth houses.’
They came in sight at last — a cluster of white tents, one above another, near the top of a spur overlooking court house and village. Drawing nearer, she could see people moving up the zigzag path toward them. Leaving the beans across her saddle, she did not even stop at the hotel to see her daughter, Cynthia Fallon, but, flinging her bridle over a paling, went up the hill at a good gait, baskets on arms, and entered the lowest tent with a heart beating more rapidly from excitement than from the steep climb.
The sides of this tent were rolled up. A group of ten or twelve girls stood at one end of a long, white table, where a strange and very pretty young woman, in a crisp gingham dress and large white apron, was kneading a batch of light-bread dough, and explaining the process of bread-making as she worked. Men, women, and children, two or three deep in a compact ring, looked on. Gently pushing her way so that she could see better, Aunt Ailsie was a little shocked to find that the man who gave way at her touch was none other than Darcy Kent, the young sheriff, and Fult’s arch enemy.
After the dough was moulded into loaves and placed in the oven of a shining new cook-stove, most of the crowd moved on to the next tent, which was merely a roof of canvas stretched between tall trees. Beneath was another table, and this was being carefully set by two girls, one of whom was Charlotty Fallon, Aunt Ailsie’s granddaughter.
‘The women teached me the pineblank right way to set a table,’ she said importantly to her granny, ‘and now hit ’s aiming to be sot that way every time.'
The smooth white cloth was laid just so; the knives, forks, spoons, and white enameled cups and plates were placed in the proper spots; even the camp-stools observed a correct spacing. There were small folded squares of linen at each plate.
‘What air them handkerchers for, Charlotty?’ inquired Aunt Ailsie, under her breath.
‘Them’s napkins, granny,’replied Charlotty in a lofty tone.
‘And what’s that for?’ indicating the glass of flowers in the centre of the table. ‘Them women don’t eat posies, do they?’
‘ Hit’s for looks,’ answered Charlotty. ‘Them women allows things eats better if they look good. I allus gather a flower-pot every morning and fotch up to ’em.’
Soon Aunt Ailsie and the crowd went up farther, to a wider ‘bench,’ or shelf, where the largest tent stood. Within were numerous young men and maidens, large boys and girls, sitting about on floor or camp-stools, talking and laughing, and every one of them engaged upon a piece of sewing. Another strange young woman, in another crisp dress, moved smilingly about, directing the work.
But Aunt Ailsie’s eyes were instantly drawn to the tent itself, the roof of which was festooned with red cheesecloth and many-colored paper chains, a great flag being draped at one end, while every remaining foot of roofspace and wall-space was covered with bright pictures. Pushing back her black sunbonnet, she moved around the tent sides, gazing rapturously.
'’Pears like I never seed my fill of pretties before,’ she said aloud to herself again and again.
‘You like it then, do you?’ asked a soft voice behind her. And, turning, she confronted still another strange young woman, standing by some shelves filled with books.
‘Like hit!’ repeated Aunt Ailsie, with shining eyes, ‘Woman, hit’s what my soul has pined for these sixty year — jest to see things that are pretty and bright!’
‘You must spend the day with us, and have dinner, and get acquainted,’ smiled the stranger.
‘I will, too — hit’s what I come for. Rutheny she told me a Thursday of you fotched-on women a-being here, and then Fulty he give some account of you, too — ’
‘ You are not Fult’s granny, he talks so much about?’
‘I am, too — Ailsie Pridemore, his maw’s maw, that holp to raise him, and that loves him better than anybody. How many of you furrin’ women is there?’
‘Five — but we ’re not foreign.’
‘Why not? Didn’t you come up from the level land?’
‘Yes, from the Blue Grass. But that’s part of the same state, and we ’re all from the same stock, and really kin, you know.’
‘No, I never heared of having no kin down in the level country.’
‘Yes, our forefathers came out together in the early days. Some stopped in the mountains, some went farther into the wilderness — that’s all the difference. ’
‘Well, hain’t that a sight now! I ’m proud to hear hit, though, and to have sech sprightly looking gals for kin. Did you ride on the railroad train to get here?’
‘Yes, one day by train, and a little over two days by wagon.’
Aunt Ailsie sighed deeply. '’Pears like I’d give life hitself to see a railroad train! ’ she said. ‘ I hain’t never been nowhere nor seed nothing. Ten mile is the furdest ever I got from home.’
’Well, it’s not too late — you must travel yet.’
‘Not me, woman,’ declared Aunt Ailsie. ‘My man is again’ women-folks a-going anywheres; he allows they ’ll be on the traipse alius, if ever they take a start. What might your name be?’
‘And how old air you, Virginny?’
‘How old would you guess?’
‘Well, I would say maybe eighteen or nineteen.’
‘I’m twenty-eight,’ replied Virginia.
‘Now you know you hain’t! No old woman could n’t have sech rosy jaws and tender skin!’
‘Yes, I am; but I don’t call it old.’
‘Hit’s old, too; when I were twentyeight I were very nigh a grandmaw.’
‘You must have married very young.’
‘No, I were fourteen. That hain’t young — my maw, she married at twelve, and had sixteen in family. I never had but a small mess of younguns, — eight, — and they ’re all married and gone, or else dead, now, and me and Lot left alone. Where ’s your man while you traveling the country this way?’
‘I have no man — I ’m not married.’
‘What?’ demanded Aunt Ailsie, as if she could not have heard aright.
‘ I have no husband — I am not married,’ repeated the stranger.
Aunt Ailsie stared, dumb, for some seconds before she could speak. ‘ Twentyeight, and hain’t got a man!’ she then exclaimed. She looked Virginia all over again, as if from a new point of view, and with a gaze in which curiosity and pity were blended. ‘I never in life seed but one old maid before, and she was fittified,’ she remarked tentatively.
‘Well, at least I don’t have fits,’ laughed Virginia.
Lost in puzzled thought, Aunt Ailsie turned to the books. ‘What did you fotch them up here for?’ she asked.
‘For people to read and enjoy.’
‘They won’t do me no good,’—with a sigh, — ‘ nor nobody else much. I hain’t got nary grain of larning, and none of the women-folks hain’t got none to speak of. But a few of the men-folks they can read: my man, he can,’ — with pride, — ‘and maybe some of the young-uns.’
A collection of beautifully colored sea-shells next claimed her attention; and then Virginia adjusted a stereopticon before her eyes, and for a long time she was lost in wonderful sights. At last, when she was again conscious of her surroundings, her eyes fell upon Fult’s dark head near-by, bent over a piece of muslin.
‘If there hain’t my Fully, jest like he said,’ she exclaimed joyfully. ‘And I made sure he was lying to me. Hit shore is a sight for sore eyes, to see him with sech a harmless weepon in hand! Does he behave hisself that civil all the time?’
‘Yes, indeed, — always.’
A sudden cloud fell upon Aunt Ailsie’s face. ‘As I come up,’ she said, ‘I seed Darcy Kent there in the cook’s house. Hit would n’t never do for him and Fully to meet here on the hill. They hain’t hardly met for two year without gun-play.’
‘Oh, I’m sure they’d never do such things in our presence!’
‘Don’t you be too sure, woman,’ admonished Aunt Ailsie. ‘There is sech feeling betwixt them boys they hain’t liable to stop for nothing. For twentyfive year their paws fit, — the war betwixt Fallons and Kents has gone on nigh thirty year now, — and they hate each other worse ’n pizen. I raised Fully myself, mostly, hoping he never would foller in the footsteps of Fighting Fult, his paw. And he never, neither, till Fighting Fult was kilt by Rafe Kent, Darcy’s paw, four year gone. Then, of course, hit was laid on him, you might say, to revenge his paw,— being the first-born, and the rest mostly gals, — and the day he were eighteen he rid right out in the open one day and shot Rafe in the heart — the Fallons never did foller laywaving. And of course the jury felt for him and give him jest a light sentence — five year. And then the Governor pardoned him out. atter one year. And then he fit in Cuby nigh a year. Then, when he come back home, hit wan ’t no time till him and Darcy was a-warring nigh as bad as their paws had been; and for two year we hain’t seed naught but trouble, and I have looked every day for Fully to be fotched in dead.’
‘Yes, Uncle Ephraim told us about the feud between them. It is very sad, when both are such fine young men.’
There was a stir among the young folks, who rose, put away their work, and gathered at one end of the tent, under the big flag. Then the strange woman who had taught them sewing sat down before a small box and began to play a tune.
‘ Is there music in that-air cupboard ?’ asked Aunt Ailsie, astonished.
‘ It is a baby-organ we brought with us,’ explained Virginia.
‘And who’s that a-picking on hit?'
‘Amy Scott, my best friend.’
‘How old is she?’
‘About my age.’
‘She’s got a man, sure, hain’t she?' ‘No.’
‘ What — as fair a woman as her — and with that friendly smile?’
The anxious, puzzled look again fell upon Aunt Ailsie’s face.
Then a song was started up, in which all the young folks joined with a will. It was a new kind of singing to Aunt Ailsie, — rousing and tuneful, — very different from the long-drawn hymns, or the droning ancient ballads she had loved in her young days.
‘They are getting ready for our Fourth of July picnic next Wednesday,’ said Virginia.
‘I follered singing when I were young,’ Aunt Ailsie said after a period of delighted listening. ‘I could very nigh sing the night through on songballats.’
‘That, ’s where Fult must have learned the ones he sings so well,’cried Virginia. ‘You must sing some for us, this very day.’
Aunt Ailsie raised her hands. ‘Me sing!’ she said; ‘Woman, hit would be as much as my life is worth to sing a song-ballat now; I hain’t dared to raise nothing but hime-tunes sence Lot j’ined.’
‘Sencc my man, Lot, got religion and j’ined. He allows now that songballats is jest devil’s ditties, and won’t have one raised under his roof. When Fulty he wants me to larn him a new one, we have to go clean up to the top of the ridge and a little grain on yan side, before I dairst lift my voice.’
A little later Aunt Ailsie was taken by her new friend to see the two bedroom tents, with their white cots and goods-box washstands; and then to the top of the spur, where, in an almost level space under the trees, a large ring of tiny children circled and sang around another strange young woman.
‘The least ones!’ exclaimed Aunt Alisie. ‘ What a love-lie sight! I never beared of laming sech as them nothing before. And if there hain’t Cynthy’s leetle John Wes, God bless hit!’ as a dark-eyed, impish-looking five-year-old went capering by. ‘Hit were borned the very day hit’s paw got kilt — jest atter Cynthy got the news. I tell you, Yirginny, hit were a sorry time for her —left a widow-woman with seven young-uns, mostly gals.’
‘Little John Wes is very bright and attractive.’
‘Hit is that — and friendly, too; hit never sees a stranger!’
‘He gives us a good deal of trouble, though, with his smoking and chewing. ’
‘Yes, hit’s pyeert every way; I hain ’t seed hit for two-three year without a chaw in hit’s jaw. And liquor! Hit ’s a sight the way that young-un can drink. Fulty and t’other boys they jest load him up, to see the quare things he ’ll do.’
At this moment the little, kindergartners were dismissed, and marched, as decorously as they were able, down the hill after their teacher, followed by all the onlookers. The tents were discharging their crowds, too, and Aunt Ailsie recognized several more of her grandchildren on the way down.
Arrived at the lowest tent, Aunt Ailsie presented her baskets of apples and eggs to the women. A dozen or more elderly folk, and as many young girls who were deeply interested in learning ‘furrin’ cooking, remained to dinner. The rest of the strange women, Amy, the kindergartner, the cooking teacher and the nurse, Aunt Ailsie now met, putting to each the inevitable questions as to name, age, and condition of life. As each smilingly replied that she had no man, a cloud of real distress gathered on Aunt Ailsie’s brow, which not all the novel accompaniments of the meal could entirely banish.
Afterward, when the dishes were washed and all sat around in groups under the trees, resting, she said confidentially to Virginia, —
‘ I am plumb tore up in my mind over you women, five of you, and as goodlookers as ever I beheld, and with sech nice, common ways, too, not having no man. Hit hain’t noways reasonable.
Maybe the men in your country does a sight of fighting, like ourn, and has been mostly kilt off?’
‘No, we have no feuds or fighting down there — there are plenty of men.’
‘Well, what’s wrong with ’em, then? Hain’t they got no feelings—to let sech a passel of gals get past ’em? Thatair cook, now, — her you call Annetty, with the blue eyes and crows’-wing hair, and not but twenty-three; now what do you think about men-folks that would let her live single.’
‘Maybe they can’t help themselves,’ laughed Virginia; ‘maybe she does n’t want to marry.’
‘Not want to marry? Everybody does, don’t they?’
‘I did, too. My Lot was as pretty a boy as ever rid down a creek — jest pine-blank like Fulty.’
‘ And you’ve never been sorry for it? ’
‘Nary a day.’ Then she caught her breath, leaned forward, and spoke in Virginia’s ear:‘Nary a day till he j’ined! I allus was gayly-like and loved to sing song-ballats, and get about, and sech; and my ways don’t pleasure him none sence then, and hit’s hard to ricollect and not rile him. But, woman, while I’ve got the chanct, I want to ax you one more thing, for I know hit’s the first question my man will put when I get home. How come you furrin women to come in here, and what are you aiming to do?’
‘We came because Uncle Ephraim Kent asked us,’ was the reply. ‘A lot of women from down in the state — the State Federation of Women’s Clubs — sent us up to Oliver County last summer to see what needed to be done for the young people of the mountains. And one day, while we were there, Uncle Ephraim walked over and made us promise to come to the Forks of Perilous if we ever returned. And we are here to learn all we can, and teach all we can, and make friends, and give the young folks something pleasant to do and to think about. But here comes Uncle Ephraim up the hill: he’ll tell you more about it.’
An impressive figure was approaching — that of a tall, thin old man, with smooth face, fine dark eyes, and a mane of white hair, uncovered by a hat, wearing a crimson-linsey hunting-jacket, linen homespun trousers and moccasins, and carrying a long staff. Amy, who had joined him, brought him over to the bench where Virginia and Aunt Ailsie were sitting.
‘Well, howdye, Uncle Ephraim, how do you find yourself? ’ was Aunt Ailsie’s greeting.
‘Fine, Ailsie — better, body and sperrit, than ever I looked to be.’
‘I allow you done a good deed when you fotched these furrin women in.’
’I did, too, the best I ever done,’ he said, with conviction. Sitting down, he looked out over the valley of Perilous, the village below, and the opposite steep slopes. ‘ You know how things has allus been with us, Ailsie, shut off in these rugged hills for uppards of a hunderd year, scarce knowing there was a world outside, with nobody going out or coming in, and no chance ever for the young-uns to get larning or manners. When I were jest a leetle chunk of a shirt-tail boy, hoeing corn on yon hillsides,’ — pointing to the opposite mountain, — ‘ I would look up Perilous, and down Perilous, and wonder if anybody would ever come in to larn us anything. And as I got older, I follered praying for somebody to come. I growed up; nobody come. My offsprings, to grands and greats, growed up; still nobody come. And times a-getting wusser every day, with all the drinking and shooting and wars and killings — as well you know, Ailsie.’
‘I do, too,’ sighed Aunt Ailsie.
‘Then last summer, about the time the crap was laid by, I heared how some strange women had come in and sot up tents over in Oliver, and was a-doing all manner of things for young-uns. And one day I tuck my foot in my hand, — though I be eighty-two, twenty mile still hain’t no walk for me, — and went acrost to see ’em. Two days I sot and watched them and their doings. Then I said to ’em, “Women, my prayers is answered. You air the ones I have looked for for seventy year—the ones sont in to help us. Come next summer to the Forks of Perilous and do what the sperrit moves you for my grands and greats and t’other young-uns that needs hit.” And here they be, doing not only for the young, but for every age. And there hain’t been a gun shot off in town sence the first night they come in. And all hands is a-larning civility and God-fearingness.’
’Yes, and Fulty and his crowd sets up here and sews every morning.’
‘And that hain’t all. I allow you won’t hardly believe your years, when I tell you that I ’m a-getting me larning.’ He drew a new primer from his pocket, and held it out to her with pride. ‘Already, in three lessons, Amy here has teached me my letters, and I am beginning to spell. And I will die a larned man yet, able to read in my grandsir’s old Bible!’
Aunt Ailsie was speechless a moment before replying, ‘I’m proud for you, Uncle Ephraim — I shore am glad. I wisht hit was me!’
But already the young people were trooping blithely up the hill and past the dining-tent. Fult went by, with his pretty, pale sweetheart Aletha; and all his followers and friends, with various girls of their choice. For from two to three was ‘play-time’ on the hill, and every young creature from miles around came to it.
The older folks followed to the top of the spur, and Virginia told a herostory, and the nurse gave a five-minute talk; and then the play-games began, all taking partners and forming a large ring, and afterward going through many pretty figures, singing as they played, Fult’s rich voice in the lead. Aunt Ailsie had played all the games when she was young; her ancestors had played them on village greens in Old England for centuries. Her eyes shone as she watched the flying feet and happy faces.
They were in the very midst of a play-game and song called ‘Old Betty Larkin,’ when the singing suddenly broke off, and everybody stood stock still in their tracks. The cooking-teacher — the young woman with the blue eyes and crows’-wing hair — was stepping into the circle, and with her was Darcy Kent.
All eyes were riveted upon Fult. He stiffened for a bare instant, a deep flush overspread his face as his eyes met Darcy’s; then, with scarcely a break, he took up the song again and deliberately turned and swung his partner.
Astonishment took the place of apprehension, faces relaxed, feet became busy. Aunt Ailsie, who had not been able to suppress a cry of fear, laid a trembling hand on Uncle Ephraim’s arm.
‘Hit’s a meracle!’ she exclaimed.
‘Hit is,’ he agreed, solemnly.
She ran to Virginia and Amy, in her excitement throwing an arm about each.
‘Do you see that sight - Fulty and Darcy a-playing together in the same game, as peaceable as lambs?’
‘Yes,’ they said.
‘I would n’t believe if I did n’t see,’ she declared. ‘Women, if I was sot down in Heaven, I could n’t be more happier than I am this day; and two angels with wings could n’t look half as good to me as you two gals. And I love you for a allus-to-come, and I want you to take the night with me a-Monday, if you feel to.'
‘We shall love to come.’
‘And I ’ll live on the thoughts of seeing you once more. And, women,’ — she drew them close and dropped her voice low,—‘ seems like hit purely breaks my heart to think of you two sweet creaturs a-living a lone-lie life like you do, without ary man to your name. And there hain ’t no earthly reason for hit to go on. I know a mighty working widow-man over on Powderhorn, with a good farm, and a tight house, and several head of property, and nine orphant young-uns. I ’ll get the word acrost to him right off; and if one of you don’t please him, ’t other will; and quick as I get one fixed in life I ’ll start on t’ other. And you jest take heart — I ’ll gorroniee you won’t live lone-lie much longer, neither one of you!’
(In course of their next adventure, the Quare Women will ’take the night’ with Aunt Ailsie.)