"Oh, certainly, certainly!" the widow hastened to say, "but then business is like a cloud, and the meetings and greetings of friends is a sort of silver lining, you know. Whatethereum classic price target would the world be without friends--the society of those who take an abiding interest? Believe me, Mr. Holcroft," she continued, bringing her long, skinny finger impressively down on the table, "you have lived alone so long that you are unable to see the crying needs of your own constitution. As a Christian man, you require human sympathy and--"
"Can I go nbuy bitcoin fast no idow?" she asked after a moment."Not yet. I want to ask you some questions. Was anyone ever kind to you?"
"I dunno. I suppose so.""What would you call being kind to you?""Not scoldin' or cuffin' me.""If I didn't scold or strike you, would you think I was kind, then?"She nodded; but after a moment's thought, said, "and if you didn't look as if you hated to see me round."
"Do you think I've been kind to you?""Kinder'n anybody else. You sorter look at me sometimes as if I was a rat. I don't s'pose you can help it, and I don't mind. I'd ruther stay here and work than go a-visitin' again. Why can't I work outdoors when there's nothin' for me to do in the house?""Shall I tell him you've been inspectin'?" asked the girl keenly.
"Children of your age should speak when they are spoken to," replied her mother, still more severely. "You cannot comprehend my motives and duties, and I should have to punish you if you passed any remarks upon my actions.""Well," said Jane apprehensively, "I only hope we'll soon have a chance to fix up them drawers, for if he should open 'em we'd have to tramp again, and we will anyway if you don't help me get supper.""You are mistaken, Jane," responded Mrs. Mumpson with dignity. "We shall not leave this roof for three months, and that will give me ample time to open his eyes to his true interests. I will condescend to these menial tasks until he brings a girl who will yield the deference due to my years and station in life."Between them, after filling the room with smoke, they kindled the kitchen fire. Jane insisted on making the coffee and then helped her mother to prepare the rest of the supper, doing, in fact, the greater part of the work. Then they sat down to wait, and they waited so long that Mrs. Mumpson began to express her disapproval by rocking violently. At last, she said severely, "Jane, we will partake of supper alone."
"I'd ruther wait till he comes.""It's not proper that we should wait. He is not showing me due respect. Come, do as I command."
Mrs. Mumpson indulged in lofty and aggrieved remarks throughout the meal and then returned to her rocker. At last, her indignant sense of wrong reached such a point that she commanded Jane to clear the table and put away the things."I won't," said the child."What! Will you compel me to chastise you?""Well, then, I'll tell him it was all your doin's."
"I shall tell him so myself. I shall remonstrate with him. The idea of his coming home alone at this time of night with an unknown female!""One would think you was his aunt, to hear you talk," remarked the girl sullenly."I am a respecterble woman and most respecterbly connected. My character and antercedents render me irrerproachful.--This could not be said of a hussy, and a hussy he'll probably bring--some flighty, immerture female that will tax even MY patience to train."Another hour passed, and the frown on Mrs. Mumpson's brow grew positively awful. "To think," she muttered, "that a man whom I have deemed it my duty to marry should stay out so and under such peculiar circumstances. He must have a lesson which he can never forget." Then aloud, to Jane, "Kindle a fire on the parlor hearth and let this fire go out. He must find us in the most respecterble room in the house--a room befitting my station."
"I declare, mother, you aint got no sense at all!" exclaimed the child, exasperated beyond measure."I'll teach you to use such unrerspectful language!" cried Mrs. Mumpson, darting from her chair like a hawk and pouncing upon the unhappy child.
With ears tingling from a cuffing she could not soon forget, Jane lighted the parlor fire and sat down sniffling in the farthest corner."There shall be only one mistress in this house," said Mrs. Mumpson, who had now reached the loftiest plane of virtuous indignation, "and its master shall learn that his practices reflect upon even me as well as himself."
At last the sound of horses' feet were heard on the wet, oozy ground without. The irate widow did not rise, but merely indicated her knowledge of Holcroft's arrival by rocking more rapidly."Hello, there, Jane!" he shouted, "bring a light to the kitchen.""Jane, remain!" said Mrs. Mumpson, with an awful look.Holcroft stumbled through the dark kitchen to the parlor door and looked with surprise at the group before him,--Mrs. Mumpson apparently oblivious and rocking as if the chair was possessed, and the child crying in a corner."Jane, didn't you hear me call for a light?" he asked a little sharply.Mrs. Mumpson rose with great dignity and began, "Mr. Holcroft, I wish to remonstrate--"
"Oh, bother! I've brought a woman to help you, and we're both wet through from this driving rain.""You've brought a strange female at this time of--"
Holcroft's patience gave say, but he only said quietly, "You had better have a light in the kitchen within two minutes. I warn you both. I also wish some hot coffee."Mrs. Mumpson had no comprehension of a man who could be so quiet when he was angry, and she believed that she might impress him with a due sense of the enormity of his offense. "Mr. Holcroft, I scarcely feel that I can meet a girl who has no more sense of decorum than to--" But Jane, striking a match, revealed the fact that she was speaking to empty air.
Mrs. Wiggins was at last so far aroused that she was helped from the wagon and came shivering and dripping toward the kitchen. She stood a moment in the doorway and filled it, blinking confusedly at the light. There was an absence of celerity in all Mrs. Wiggins' movements, and she was therefore slow in the matter of waking up. Her aspect and proportions almost took away Mrs. Mumpson's breath. Here certainly was much to superintend, much more than had been anticipated. Mrs. Wiggins was undoubtedly a "peculiar female," as had been expected, but she was so elderly and monstrous that Mrs. Mumpson felt some embarrassment in her purpose to overwhelm Holcroft with a sense of the impropriety of his conduct.Mrs. Wiggins took uncertain steps toward the rocking chair, and almost crushed it as she sat down. "Ye gives a body a cold velcome," she remarked, rubbing her eyes.
Mrs. Mumpson had got out of her way as a minnow would shun a leviathan. "May I ask your name?" she gasped."Viggins, Mrs. Viggins.""Oh, indeed! You are a married woman?""No, hi'm a vidder. What's more, hi'm cold, and drippin', an' 'ungry. Hi might 'a' better stayed at the poor-us than come to a place like this."
"What!" almost screamed Mrs. Mumpson, "are you a pauper?""Hi tell ye hi'm a vidder, an' good as you be, for hall he said," was the sullen reply.
"To think that a respecterbly connected woman like me--" But for once Mrs. Mumpson found language inadequate. Since Mrs. Wiggins occupied the rocking chair, she hardly knew what to do and plaintively declared, "I feel as if my whole nervous system was giving way.""No 'arm 'll be done hif hit does," remarked Mrs. Wiggins, who was not in an amiable mood.
"This from the female I'm to superintend!" gasped the bewildered woman.Her equanimity was still further disturbed by the entrance of the farmer, who looked at the stove with a heavy frown.
"Why in the name of common sense isn't there a fire?" he asked, "and supper on the table? Couldn't you hear that it was raining and know we'd want some supper after a long, cold ride?""Mr. Holcroft," began the widow, in some trepidation, "I don't approve--such irregular habits--""Madam," interrupted Holcroft sternly, "did I agree to do what you approved of? Your course is so peculiar that I scarcely believe you are in your right mind. You had better go to your room and try to recover your senses. If I can't have things in this house to suit me, I'll have no one in it. Here, Jane, you can help."Mrs. Mumpson put her handkerchief to her eyes and departed. She felt that this display of emotion would touch Holcroft's feelings when he came to think the scene all over.
Having kindled the fire, he said to Jane, "You and Mrs. Wiggins get some coffee and supper in short order, and have it ready when I come in," and he hastened out to care for his horses. If the old woman was slow, she knew just how to make every motion effective, and a good supper was soon ready."Why didn't you keep up a fire, Jane?" Holcroft asked.
"She wouldn't let me. She said how you must be taught a lesson," replied the girl, feeling that she must choose between two potentates, and deciding quickly in favor of the farmer. She had been losing faith in her mother's wisdom a long time, and this night's experience had banished the last shred of it.Some rather bitter words rose to Holcroft's lips, but he restrained them. He felt that he ought not to disparage the mother to the child. As Mrs. Wiggins grew warm, and imbibed the generous coffee, her demeanor thawed perceptibly and she graciously vouchsafed the remark, "Ven you're hout late hag'in hi'll look hafter ye."
Mrs. Mumpson had not been so far off as not to hear Jane's explanation, as the poor child found to her cost when she went up to bed.Chapter 10 A Night of Terror