"Mrs. Mumpson, it would be a much gbitcoin dollar forumreater relief to my mind to forget all about 'em," he replied briefly.
When Mrs. Mumpson learned from Jane of Mrs. Wiggins' disappearance, she was thrown into a state of strcan china buy dogecoinong excitement. She felt that her hour and opportunity might be near also, and she began to rock very fast. "What else could he expect of such a female?" she soliloquized. "I've no doubt but she's taken things, too. He'll now learn my value and what it is to have a caretaker who will never desert him."Spirits and courage rose with the emergency; her thoughts hurried her along like a dry leaf caught in a March gale. "Yes," she murmured, "the time has come for me to act, to dare, to show him in his desperate need and hour of desertion what might be, may be, must be. He will now see clearly the difference between these peculiar females who come and go, and a respecterble woman and a mother who can be depended upon--one who will never steal away like a thief in the night."
She saw Holcroft approaching the house with Jane; she heard him ascend to Mrs. Wiggins' room, then return to the kitchen and ejaculate, "Yes, she's gone, sure enough.""Now, ACT!" murmured the widow, and she rushed toward the farmer with clasped hands, and cried with emotion, "Yes, she's gone; but I'm not gone. You are not deserted. Jane will minister to you; I will be the caretaker, and our home will be all the happier because that monstrous creature is absent. Dear Mr. Holcroft, don't be so blind to your own interests and happiness, don't remain undeveloped! Everything is wrong here if you would but see it. You are lonely and desolate. Moth and rust have entered, things in unopened drawers and closets are molding and going to waste. Yield to true female influence and--"Holcroft had been rendered speechless at first by this onslaught, but the reference to unopened drawers and closets awakened a sudden suspicion. Had she dared to touch what had belonged to his wife? "What!" he exclaimed sharply, interrupting her; then with an expression of disgust and anger, he passed her swiftly and went to his room. A moment later came the stern summons, "Jane, come here!""Now you'll see what'll come of that rummagin'," whimpered Jane. "You aint got no sense at all to go at him so. He's jes' goin' to put us right out," and she went upstairs as if to execution."Have I failed?" gasped Mrs. Mumpson, and retreating to the chair, she rocked nervously.
"Jane," said Holcroft in hot anger, "my wife's things have been pulled out of her bureau and stuffed back again as if they were no better than dishcloths. Who did it?"The child now began to cry aloud."Oh, yes! I suppose so. I've forgiven the old lady, anyhow. I've shaken hands with her."
"If her husband and son should come and apologize and say they were sorry, would you truly and honestly forgive them?""Certainly! I couldn't hold a grudge after that. What are you aiming at?" and he turned and looked inquiringly into her face.It was flushed and tearful in its eager, earnest interest. "Don't you see?" she faltered.He shook his head, but was suddenly and strangely moved by her expression.
"Why, Mr. Holcroft, if you can honestly forgive those who have wronged you, you ought to see how ready God is to forgive."He fairly started to his feet so vividly the truth came home to him, illumined, as it was, by a recent and personal experience. After a moment, he slowly sat down again and said, with a long breath, "That was a close shot, Alida."
"I only wish you to have the trust and comfort which this truth should bring you," she said. "It seems a pity you should do yourself needless injustice when you are willing to do what is right and kind by others.""It's all a terrible muddle, Alida. If God is so ready to forgive, how do you account for all the evil and suffering in the world?""I don't account for it and can't. I'm only one of his little children; often an erring one, too. You've been able to forgive grown people, your equals, and strangers in a sense. Suppose you had a little boy that had done wrong, but said he was sorry, would you hold a grudge against him?""The idea! I'd be a brute."
She laughed softly as she asked again, "don't you see?"He sat looking thoughtfully away across the fields for a long time, and finally asked, "Is your idea of becoming a Christian just being forgiven like a child and then trying to do right?""Yes. Why not?""Well," he remarked, with a grim laugh. "I didn't expect to be cornered in this way."
"You who are truthful should face the truth. It would make you happier. A good deal that was unexpected has happened. When I look out on a scene like this and think that I am safe and at home, I feel that God has been very good to me and that you have, too. I can't bear to think that you have that old trouble on your mind--the feeling that you had been a Christian once, but was not one now. Being sure that there is no need of your continuing to feel so, what sort of return would I be making for all your kindness if I did not try to show you what is as clear to me as this sunshine?""You are a good woman, Alida. Believing as you do, you have done right to speak to me, and I never believed mortal lips could speak so to the purpose. I shall think of what you have said, for you have put things in a new light. But say, Alida, what on earth possesses you to call me 'Mr.'? You don't need to be scared half to death every time to call me by my first name, do you?"
"Scared? Oh, no!" She was a trifle confused, he thought, but then her tone was completely reassuring.The day was one long remembered by both. As in nature about them, the conditions of development and rapid change now existed.
She did not read aloud very much, and long silences fell between them. They were reaching a higher plane of companionship, in which words are not always essential. Both had much to think about, and their thoughts were like roots which prepare for blossom and fruit.With Monday, busy life was resumed. The farmer began planting his corn and Alida her flower seeds. Almost every day now added to the brood of little chicks under her care. The cows went out to pasture. Holcroft brought in an increasing number of overflowing pails of milk, and if the labors of the dairy grew more exacting, they also grew more profitable. The tide had turned; income was larger than outgo, and it truly seemed to the long-harassed man that an era of peace and prosperity had set in.To a superficial observer things might have appeared to be going on much as before, but there were influences at work which Holcroft did not clearly comprehend.As Alida had promised herself, she spent all the money which the eggs brought in, but Holcroft found pretty muslin curtains at the parlor windows, and shades which excluded the glare from the kitchen. Better china took the place of that which was cracked and unsightly. In brief, a subtle and refining touch was apparent all over the house."How fine we are getting!" he remarked one evening at supper."I've only made a beginning," she replied, nodding defiantly at him. "The chickens will paint the house before the year is over."
"Phew! When do the silk dresses come in?""When your broadcloth does."
"Well, if this goes on, I shall certainly have to wear purple and fine linen to keep pace.""Fine linen, certainly. When you take the next lot of eggs to town I shall tell you just the number of yards I need to make half a dozen extra fine shirts. Those you have are getting past mending."
"Do you think I'll let you spend your money in that way?""You'll let me spend MY money just as I please--in the way that will do me the most good!"
"What a saucy little woman you are becoming!" he said, looking at her so fondly that she quickly averted her eyes. "It's a way people fall into when humored," she answered."See here, Alida, you're up to some magic. It seems but the other day I brought you here, a pale ghost of a woman. As old Jonathan Johnson said, you were 'enj'yin' poor health.' Do you know what he said when I took him off so he wouldn't put you through the catechism?""No," she replied, with a deprecating smile and rising color."He said he was 'afeared I'd been taken in, you were such a sickly lookin' critter.' Ha! Ha! Wish he might see you now, with that flushed face of yours. I never believed in magic, but I'll have to come to it. You are bewitched, and are being transformed into a pretty young girl right under my eyes; the house is bewitched, and is growing pretty, too, and pleasanter all the time. The cherry and apple trees are bewitched, for they never blossomed so before; the hens are bewitched, they lay as if possessed; the--"
"Oh, stop! Or I shall think that you're bewitched yourself.""I truly begin to think I am."
"Oh, well! Since we all and everything are affected in the same way, it don't matter.""But it does. It's unaccountable. I'm beginning to rub my eyes and pinch myself to wake up."
"If you like it, I wouldn't wake up.""Suppose I did, and saw Mrs. Mumpson sitting where you do, Jane here, and Mrs. Wiggins smoking her pipe in the corner. The very thought makes me shiver. My first words would be, 'Please pass the cold p'ison.'"
"What nonsense you are talking tonight!" she tried to say severely, but the pleased, happy look in her eyes betrayed her. He regarded her with the open admiration of a boy, and she sought to divert his attention by asking, "What do you think has become of Jane?""I don't know--stealing around like a strange cat in some relation's house, I suppose.""You once said you would like to do something for her.""Well, I would. If I could afford it, I'd like to send her to school."
"Would you like her to come here and study lessons part of the time?"He shivered visibly. "No, Alida, and you wouldn't either. She'd make you more nervous than she would me, and that's saying a good deal. I do feel very sorry for her, and if Mrs. Weeks comes to see you, we'll find out if something can't be done, but her presence would spoil all our cozy comfort. The fact is, I wouldn't enjoy having anyone here. You and I are just about company enough. Still, if you feel that you'd like to have some help--"
"Oh, no! I haven't enough to do.""But you're always a-doing. Well, if you're content, I haven't Christian fortitude enough to make any changes."
She smiled and thought that she was more than content. She had begun to detect symptoms in her husband which her own heart enabled her to interpret. In brief, it looked as if he were drifting on a smooth, swift tide to the same haven in which she was anchored.One unusually warm morning for the season, rain set in after breakfast. Holcroft did not fret in the least that he could not go to the fields, nor did he, as had been his custom at first, find rainy-day work at the barn. The cows, in cropping the lush grass, had so increased their yield of milk that it was necessary to churn every other day, and Alida was busy in the dairy. This place had become inviting by reason of its coolness, and she had rendered it more so by making it perfectly clean and sweet. Strange to say, it contained another chair besides the one she usually occupied. The apartment was large and stone-flagged. Along one side were shelves filled with rows of shining milk-pans. In one corner stood the simple machinery which the old dog put in motion when tied upon his movable walk, and the churn was near. An iron pipe, buried deep in the ground, brought cool spring water from the brook above. This pipe emptied its contents with a low gurgle into a shallow, oblong receptacle sunk in the floor, and was wide and deep enough for two stone crocks of ample size to stand abreast up to their rims in the water. The cream was skimmed into these stone jars until they were full, then Holcroft emptied them into the churn. He had charged Alida never to attempt this part of the work, and indeed it was beyond her strength. After breakfast on churning days, he prepared everything and set the dog at work. Then he emptied the churn of the buttermilk when he came in to dinner.