Page images
[ocr errors]


Solly would better take his walk in the tones, so different from the deprecating back yard."

tinkle of her old instrument, were rather But her mother was unexpectedly stub- alarming. Still, she was alone. born.

There was the little, half-forgotten “I like to go walking,” she said. “Be- tune the hand-organ had played as they sides, I 've nothing else to do.”

drove back from the funeral. It had been Life, even as she had dreamed it, was a popular ditty of the day when the judge become a long holiday, a very long holi- was courting her. He had often whistled day.

it. Strange to think of the judge whisSometimes she pulled herself together tling! But he was not the judge then. and thought:

Over and over she tried it, almost remem“This will not do! I 'm not old; I 'm bering; stopping always at the same place only sixty-seven. I must learn to adjust to begin once more. Her ear was not myself.”

very good; a change to the minor always She decided that she would be of some puzzled her. Over and over again use to her daughter. But how? Caroline Once or twice a servant peeped in at was very capable. The household ran as her, and withdrew, giggling. Dusk fell. easily as the player-piano. House-clean- Still she played on happily; striking ing seemed unnecessary: there was wrong notes, listening, remembering, electrical contrivance, with long antennæ dreaming. Such a gay little air! which felt about behind things and on top At last a button clicked behind her, of things, so that no speck of dust escaped. and light flooded the hall. Shelves and drawers never got out of or

"Oh, Mother dear!" cried a laughing der. No buttons were ever missing, no voice. "Would you mind playing somestockings needed darning. The convic- thing else for a while? I don't believe I tion grew upon her that these matters can stand that silly, old-fashioned tune also were attended to by some electrical another minute. Why don't you let me contrivance.

show you how to work the player ?" She tried solitaire, she tried crocheting, Caroline had been there for some time. but was not able to rid herself of the feel- The son-in-law came home for dinner ing that these were merely elaborated one night beaming with satisfaction. forms of idleness. True, she was free to "Congratulations, Mother! You're read the things that suited her. Nobody quite rich now," he said. "We 've sold would jeer at her choice, nobody would your house at last for a very good price. trouble to inquire what she was reading. I have brought the papers for you to But with freedom, the taste for sentimen- sign.” tal fiction, even for poetry, seemed to have Sold the house! She clutched at the disappeared, even as the taste for candy table-cloth; the room swam around her. cruelly deserts those who have reached But she told herself that she must be the age to which it is no longer forbidden. sensible. She had known all along that

Only the hunger for music remained. they were going to sell the house. She Often she eyed the player-piano wistfully, signed her name where her son-in-law wishing that it were as other pianos. bade her.

One day she found herself alone with “Will the new owners move in soon?" it. Caroline had gone to one of her clubs, she asked quite calmly. and the other daughter, by some felicitous "Oh, no." He smiled at her question. chance, was not able to be on duty. The He was always very kind and patient time had come! With much patient la- with her. "It was bought as an investbor, she discovered that the mechanical ment, probably. People don't move into part of the instrument might be detached. that neighborhood nowadays, since shops Even then it was not quite as other and boarding houses have overrun it." pianos. Its full, loud, self-confident Nevertheless, she and Solomon hurried


away the next morning without waiting trate woodbine. Bricks followed.

The for their breakfasts. She had a feeling rooms in which her life had been spent that there was no time to waste.

were about to expose themselves to the Nothing had changed. Cobwebs still gaze of the public, like rooms upon a fastened the closed shutters securely, spar- stage. rows still held possession of the woodbine, Suddenly she cried out aloud, cried to the “For Sale” sign had not been taken the husband who had always taken care away. The house did not seem to realize of her: that it had been sold.

"Henry, don't let them! Make them As the long June mornings passed, still stop it, Henry!" without change, she became almost recon- "Why, it's the judge's widow ! She 's ciled to the thought of strangers in her fainted, poor soul!" exclaimed a neighbor, home. After all, it is not good for houses running out to her. to stand too long vacant. They grow to But she had not fainted.

She was have an empty, hopeless expression, like merely unable to stand up any longer. faces behind which there is no mind. She Every morning Solomon came into her wondered a great deal about the new room and stared at her reproachfully with owners. Perhaps they were young peo- his blurred eyes. There were no rabbits ple, as she and Henry had been when they in Caroline's back yard, no live stock of bought the house. She hoped so; it was any description, with the exception of a such a good house for children. The long sophisticated and able cat or two; in nursery, with elm-branches tapping at the fact, there was no back yard, properly sunny windows, and a gay little frieze of speaking; only a neat, unfenced stretch of cows jumping endlessly over moons, pur- lawn, shared in

with other sued by a placid Bo Peep and her tailless houses. flock-does one find such nurseries in “I'll be out of bed to-morrow,

old modern houses ?

puppy," she promised him daily. "Then She began to wish they would move in. we'll find somewhere else to take our It would be pleasant to see smoke coming walks-somewhere else." out of the chimneys again, curtains Aut- People were very kind to her. They tering at the windows.

came to see her often; not her old neighOne morning as she and Solomon ap- bors, who stood rather in awe of the proached, she saw a group of people on judge's daughters, but other people, who the pavement, and men going in and out spoke in low, sick-room voices, and were of the gate. Her heart began to thump. most sympathetic. Once she overheard They had come at last! She hurried for- Caroline saying to a visitor: ward. The twittering of the sparrows "Yes, we have been expecting this. We was louder than usual; it seemed terrified, knew it would not be long.

She was so frantic. Then she saw what was happen- dependent on father!" ing. Men were tearing down the wood- The widow smiled to herself, a rueful, bine.

guilty little smile. How shocked they She gasped, and began to run.

would all be if they knew the truth! She an outrage! Did they not know there was rather shocked herself. were nests in those vines, young fledg- "I suppose I really ought to be ill," she lings?

thought, “but I 'm not.”' There was a sign at the gate: DAN- Still, since it seemed to be expected of GER. KEEP OUT. The men were her, she kept to her bed awhile longer. tearing down not only the vines, but the At length Solomon abandoned all other house.

interests, and formed the habit of lying in She stood for a while, staring. A the judge's chair all day, fixedly eving the shower of shingles rattled down, and dwindling little figure in the judge's bed, piled themselves in heaps upon the pros

as if he intended to accomplish his purpose

It was


by sheer force of concentration. He had The widow's eyes flew open. had some experience with the power of "Not down yet, not down yet? Susy !" suggestion, had Solomon.

she clutched the other's hand tighter. Under his gaze the widow fretted a lit- "You must pray that there won't be a tle. More than once it brought back her rain! You hear me? Pray hard!" thoughts from the vaguely pleasant re

When the black woman had gone, she gions where they strayed to a reality that prayed herself, very earnestly, that there was less pleasant. At such moments duty would not be a rain, reminding God that claimed her again, and she was very tired the parlor ceiling was frescoed.

It was of duty. With great effort she remem

the first time she had found energy to bered and repeated her daily promise to pray for several days. him, "To-morrow – ”

When the kind and patient son-in-law But Solomon put little faith in prom- tiptoed into her room that evening, she ises. Performance was his creed, prompt was ready for him with an eager quesperformance. He continued to insist; and ion: under his reminding, beseeching, exhort- "You said I was rich. How rich? ing eye the widow could not rest in peace. How much money have I got in bank?"

Sometimes she murmured to the watch- He told her. ers at her bedside:

“And can I do just what I like with all “Solomon-exercise --- rabbits -- the gar- that?" den—" and they humored her soothingly, He assured her that she could. believing that her mind wandered. With "Is-is there anything you wish to cona mother on her death-bed, naturally one sult me about, Mother dear? Or—"his does not think of exercising dogs.

voice broke a little; he was a man of fine Once her eyes opened, to find a familiar feeling-"or perhaps the time has come to black face bending over hers. She spoke consult a lawyer?" in a stronger voice than she had used for She chose the lawyer. days:

He went out to Caroline, saying sadly: "It 's Susy. Crying? What 's the "Mother knows now. She wants to see matter? Have n't you a good place, old a lawyer." friend?"

Caroline put a handkerchief to her eyes. The negress controlled herself gal- Do you think she is quite-capable?” lantly, according to instructions.

“Perfectly. She seems stronger than “Yais 'm, Miss Mary. Miss Calline she has been for weeks and entirely clearput me with some real nice


mai'ed headed. It is often so toward the last. folks; on'y dey does mek me put soda in She even selected the lawyer herself-that my beat biscuit, and Gawd He knows I fellow who lives next door to your faain't never had to put no soda in my bread ther's old house, the shabby chap with all befo' in all my bo'n days."

the children. A queer choice, was n't it? The widow patted her cook's wrinkled But any lawyer can make a will, and we hand.

must humor her." "Young folks, Susy, young ways. We "Yes, yes, of course. Poor mother was must learn to adjust ourselves, you and always so interested in the neighbors !" I." She closed her eyes. "Susy-is the sighed Caroline, in the gently reminiscent

“ house all down yet?".

tone with which one refers to the little "We-all's house? No, ma'am, hit ain't. failings of the dead. De wukmen 's done gone an'. struck, or During the lawyer's visit she refrained somefin' like dat. But, oh, Miss Mary, with some delicacy from entering her dey ain't nary a roof to it now,

mother's room, lest it might possibly be of its insides shows, an' ef a rain was to thought afterward that she had influenced come up, Gawd He knows what would in any way the old lady's last wishes. happen to de parlor ceilin'!"

Therefore, it was somewhat of a sur


an' some

[graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »