Mrs. Mumpson did not abandon the suggestion that grace should be said,--she never abandoned anything,--but the farmer, ibitcoin cash hard fork 2020 coinbasen accordance with his purpose to be civil, yet pay no attention to her obtrusive ways, gave no heed to her hint. He thought Jane looked apprehensive, and soon learned the reason. His coffee was at least hot, but seemed exceedingly weak.
"Aha!" he muttered, "glad you reminded me. When SHE'S stronger, she may enjoy catching our supper some afternoon. I must think of all the little things I can to liven her up so she won't get dull. It's curious how interested I am to know how she's got along and what she has for dinner. And to think that, less than a week ago, I used to hate to go near the house!"bittorrent mining appAs he entered the hall on his way to his room, that he might make himself more presentable, an appetizing odor greeted him and Alida smiled from the kitchen door as she said, "Dinner's ready."
Apparently she had taken him at his word, as she had prepared little else than an Irish stew, yet when he had partaken of it, he thought he would prefer Irish stews from that time onward indefinitely. "Where did you learn to cook, Alida?" he asked."Mother wasn't very strong and her appetite often failed her. Then, too, we hadn't much to spend on our table so we tried to make simple things taste nice. Do you like my way of preparing that old-fashioned dish?""I'm going to show you how I like it," he replied, nodding approvingly. "Well, what have you been doing besides tempting me to eat too much?""What you said, resting. You told me not to get up much of a dinner, so I very lazily prepared what you see. I've been lying on the lounge most of the morning.""Famous, and you feel better?"
"Yes, I think I shall soon get well and strong," she replied, looking at him gratefully."Well, well! My luck's turned at last. I once thought it never would, but if this goes on--well, you can't know what a change it is for the better. I can now put my mind on my work.""No, Alida," he said quietly, obeying a subtle impulse. "I'd rather you would do everything your own way--as it's natural for you. There, we've talked so long that it's too late to feed the chickens tonight. You can begin in the morning."
"Oh!" she cried, "and you have all your other work to do. I've hindered rather than helped you by coming out.""No," he replied decidedly, "you've helped me. I'll be in before very long."She returned to the house and busied herself in preparations for supper. She was very thoughtful, and at last concluded: "Yes, he is right. I understand. Although I may do WHAT his wife did, he don't wish me to do it AS she did. There could only be a partial and painful resemblance to his eyes. Both he and I would suffer in comparisons, and he be continually reminded of his loss. She was his wife in reality, and all relating to her is something sacred and past to him. The less I am like her, the better. He married me for the sake of his farm, and I can best satisfy him by carrying out his purpose in my own way. He's through with sentiment and has taken the kindest way he could to tell me that I've nothing to do with his past. He feared, yes, he FEARED, I should forget our businesslike agreement! I didn't know I had given him cause to fear; I certainly won't hereafter!" and the wife felt, with a trace of bitterness and shame, that she had been put on her guard; that her husband had wished to remind her that she must not forget his motive in marrying her, or expect anything not in consonance with that motive. Perhaps she had been too wifelike in her manner, and therefore he had feared. She was as sensitive to such a reproach as she would have been in her girlhood.For once her intuition was at fault, and she misjudged Holcroft in some respects. He did think he was through with sentiment; he could not have talked deliberately to Alida or to any other about his old life and love, and he truly felt that she had no part in that life. It had become a sad and sacred memory, yet he wished to feel that he had the right to dwell upon it as he chose. In his downright sincerity he wished her to know that he could not help dwelling on it; that for him some things were over, and that he was not to blame. He was profoundly grateful to her that she had so clearly accepted the facts of his past, and of their own present relations. He HAD feared, it is true, but she had not realized his fears, and he felt that it was her due that he should acknowledge her straightforward carrying out of the compact made under circumstances which might well excuse her from realizing everything fully.
Moreover, direct and matter of fact as he was, he had felt vaguely the inevitable difficulties of their relationship. The very word "wife" might suggest to her mind an affection which he believed it was not in his power to bestow. They had agreed to give an arbitrary and unusual meaning to their marriage, and, while thinking it could have no other meaning for him, his mind was haunted, and he feared that hers might be, by the natural significance of the rite. So far from meaning to hint that she had been too wifelike, he had meant to acknowledge her simple and natural fulfillment of his wishes in a position far more difficult to fill than even he imagined. That she succeeded so well was due to the fact that she entertained for him all the kind feelings possible except the one supreme regard which, under ordinary circumstances, would have accounted for the marriage. The reason that all promised to go so well in their relationship of mere mutual help was the truth that this basis of union had satisfied their mutual need. As the farmer had hoped, they had become excellent friends, supplementing each other's work in a way that promised prosperity.Without the least intention on the part of either, chance words had been spoken which would not be without effect. He had told her to do everything in her own way because the moment he thought of it he knew he liked her ways. They possessed a novelty and natural grace which interested him. There are both a natural and a conventional grace, and the true lady learns to blend the one with the other so as to make a charming manner essentially her own--a manner which makes a woman a lady the world over. Alida had little more than natural grace and refinement, unmodified by society. This the plain farmer could understand, and he was already awakening to an appreciation of it. It impressed him agreeably that Alida should be trim and neat while about her work, and that all her actions were entirely free from the coarse, slovenly manner, the limp carriage, and slatternly aspect of the whole tribe which had come and gone during the past year. They had all been so much alike in possessing disagreeable traits that he felt that Alida was the only peculiar one among them. He never thought of instituting comparisons between her and his former wife, yet he did so unconsciously. Mrs. Holcroft had been too much like himself, matter of fact, materialistic, kind, and good. Devoid of imagination, uneducated in mind, her thoughts had not ranged far from what she touched and saw. She touched them with something of their own heaviness, she saw them as objects--just what they were--and was incapable of obtaining from them much suggestion or enjoyment. She knew when the cherry and plum trees were in blossom just as she knew it was April. The beautiful sounds and changes in nature reminded her that it was time to do certain kinds of work, and with her, work was alpha and omega. As her mother had before her, she was inclined to be a house drudge rather than a housewife. Thrift, neatness, order, marked the limits of her endeavor, and she accomplished her tasks with the awkward, brisk directness learned in her mother's kitchen. Only mind, imagination, and refinement can embroider the homely details of life. Alida would learn to do all that she had done, but the woman with a finer nature would do it in a different way. Holcroft already knew he liked this way although he could not define it to himself. Tired as he was when he came home in the evening, his eyes would often kindle with pleasure at some action or remark that interested him from its novelty. In spite of his weariness and preoccupation, , in spite of a still greater obstacle--the inertia of a mind dulled by material life--he had begun to consider Alida's personality for its own sake. He liked to watch her, not to see what she did to his advantage, but how she did it. She was awakening an agreeable expectancy, and he sometimes smilingly said to himself, "What's next?"
"Oh, no!" he thought as he was milking the last cow, "I'd much rather she'd take her own natural way in doing things. It would be easier for her and it's her right and--and somehow I like her way just as I used to like Bessie's ways. She isn't Bessie and never can be, and for some reason I'd like her to be as different as possible."Unconsciously and unintentionally, however, he had given Alida's sensitive nature a slight wound. She felt that she had been told in effect, "You can help me all you please, and I would rather you would do this in a way that will not awaken associations, but you must not think of me or expect me to think of you in any light that was not agreed upon." That he had feared the possibility of this, that he might have fancied he saw indications of this, hurt her pride--that pride and delicacy of feeling which most women shield so instinctively. She was now consciously on her guard, and so was not so secure against the thoughts she deprecated as before. In spite of herself, a restraint would tinge her manner which he would eventually feel in a vague, uncomfortable way.But he came in at last, very tired and thoroughly good-natured. "I'm going to town tomorrow," he said, "and I thought of taking a very early start so as to save time. Would you like to go?""There's no need of my going."
"I thought perhaps you'd enjoy the drive.""I would have to meet strangers and I'm so entirely content in being alone--I won't go this time unless you wish it.""Well, if you don't care about it, I'll carry out my first plan and take a very early start. I want to sell the butter and eggs on hand, repay Tom Watterly, and get some seeds. We need some things from the store, too, I suppose?""Yes, you are such a coffee drinker--" she began, smiling.
"Oh, I know!" he interrupted. "Make out your list. You shall say what we want. Isn't there something you want for yourself?""No, not for myself, but I do want something that perhaps you would enjoy, too. You may think it a waste of money, though."
"Well, you've a right to waste some in your way as well as I have over my pipe.""That's good. I hadn't thought of that. You are the one that puts notions into my head. I would like three or four geraniums and a few flower seeds."
He looked as if he was thinking deeply and she felt a little hurt that he should not comply at once with her request, knowing that the outlay suggested was very slight.At last he looked up, smiling as he said, "So I put notions into your head, do I?""Oh, well," she replied, flushing in the consciousness of her thoughts, "if you think it's foolish to spend money for such things--""Tush, tush, Alida! Of course I'll get what you wish. But I really am going to put a notion into your head, and it's stupid and scarcely fair in me that I hadn't thought of some such plan before. You want to take care of the chickens. Well, I put them wholly in your care and you shall have all you can make off them--eggs, young chickens, and everything.""That IS a new notion," she replied, laughing. "I hadn't thought of such a thing and it's more than fair. What would I do with so much money?""What you please. Buy yourself silk dresses if you want to."
"But I couldn't use a quarter of the money.""No matter, use what you like and I'll put the rest in the bank for you and in your name. I was a nice kind of a business partner, wasn't I? Expecting you to do nearly half the work and then have you say, 'Will you please get me a few plants and seeds?' and then, 'Oh! If you think it's foolish to spend money for such things.' Why, you have as good a right to spend some of the money you help earn as I have. You've shown you'll be sensible in spending it. I don't believe you'll use enough of it. Anyway, it will be yours, as it ought to be."
"Very well," she replied, nodding at him with piquant significance, "I'll always have some to lend you.""Yes, shouldn't wonder if you were the richest some day. Everything you touch seems to turn out well. I shall be wholly dependent on you hereafter for eggs and an occasional fricassee."
"You shall have your share. Yes, I like this notion. It grows on me. I'd like to earn some money to do what I please with. You'll be surprised to see what strange and extravagant tastes I'll develop!""I expect to be perfectly dumfoundered, as Mrs. Mumpson used to say. Since you are so willing to lend, I'll lend you enough to get all you want tomorrow. Make out your list. You can get a good start tomorrow for I was too tired and it was too late for me to gather the eggs tonight. I know, too, that a good many of the hens have stolen their nests of late, and I've been too busy to look for 'em. You may find perfect mines of eggs, but, for mercy's sake! don't climb around in dangerous places. I had such bad luck with chicks last year that I've only set a few hens. You can set few or many now, just as you please."
Even as he talked and leisurely finished his supper, his eyes grew heavy with sleep. "What time will you start tomorrow?" she asked."Oh, no matter; long before you are up or ought to be. I'll get myself a cup of coffee. I expect to do my morning work and be back by nine or ten o'clock for I wish to get in some potatoes and other vegetables before Sunday.""Very well, I'll make out my list and lay it on the table here. Now, why don't you go and sleep at once? You ought, with such an early start in prospect.""Ought I? Well, I never felt more inclined to do my duty. You must own up I have put one good notion into your head?"
"I have said nothing against any of them. Come, you ought to go at once.""Can't I smoke my pipe first please?"
"You'll find it quieter in the parlor.""But it's pleasanter here where I can watch you."
"Do you think I need watching?""Yes, a little, since you don't look after your own interests very sharply."
"It isn't my way to look after anything very sharply.""No, Alida, thank the Lord! There's nothing sharp about you, not even your tongue. You won't mind being left alone a few hours tomorrow?""No, indeed, I like to be alone.""I thought I did. Most everyone has seemed a crowd to me. I'm glad you've never given me that feeling. Well, goodbye till you see me driving up with the geraniums."
Chapter 25 A CharivariThe eastern horizon was aglow with rosy tints the following morning when Holcroft awoke; the stars were but just fading from the sky and the birds were still silent. He knew by these signs that it was very early and that he could carry out his plan of a timely start to town. Dressing very quietly, he stole downstairs, shoes in hand, lest his tread should awaken Alida. The kitchen door leading into the hall was closed. Lifting the latch carefully, he found the lamp burning, the breakfast table set, and the kettle humming over a good fire. "This is her work, but where is she?" he queried in much surprise.
The outer door was ajar; he noiselessly crossed the room, and looking out, he saw her. She had been to the well for a pail of water, but had set it down and was watching the swiftly brightening east. She was so still and her face so white in the faint radiance that he had an odd, uncanny impression. No woman that he had ever known would stop that way to look at the dawn. He could see nothing so peculiar in it as to attract such fixed attention. "Alida," he asked, "what do you see?"She started slightly and turned to take up the pail; but he had already sprung down the steps and relieved her of the burden.
"Could anything be more lovely than those changing tints? It seems to me I could have stood there an hour," she said quietly."You are not walking or doing all this in your sleep, are you?" he asked, laughing, yet regarding her curiously. "You looked as you stood there like what people call a--what's that big word?"