"Stop speaking against him!" she cried. "O xrp price chart etoroGod!" she wailed, "can the law give this man any claim on me, now his wife is dead?"
Prosperous Tom slapped his old friend on the back and said, "You look awfully glum and chopfallen, Jim. Come now, don't look at the world as if it was made of tar, pitch, and turpentine. I know your lucethereum blockchain feesk's been hard, but you make it a sight harder by being so set in all your ways. You think there's no place to live on God's earth but that old up-and-down-hill farm of yours that I wouldn't take as a gift. Why, man alive, there's a dozen things you can turn your hand to; but if you will stay there, do as other men do. Pick out a smart, handy woman that can make butter yaller as gold, that'll bring gold, and not such limpsy-slimsy, ghostly-looking stuff as you've brought me. Bein' it's you, I'll take it and give as much for it as I'd pay for better, but you can't run your old ranch in this fashion.""I know it, Tom," replied Holcroft ruefully. "I'm all at sea; but, as you say, I'm set in my ways, and I'd rather live on bread and milk and keep my farm than make money anywhere else. I guess I'll have to give it all up, though, and pull out, but it's like rooting up one of the old oaks in the meadow lot. The fact is, Tom, I've been fooled into one of the worst scrapes I've got into yet."
"I see how it is," said Tom heartily and complacently, "you want a practical, foresighted man to talk straight at you for an hour or two and clear up the fog you're in. You study and brood over little things out there alone until they seem mountains which you can't get over nohow, when, if you'd take one good jump out, they'd be behind you. Now, you've got to stay and take a bite with me, and then we'll light our pipes and untangle this snarl. No backing out! I can do you more good than all the preachin' you ever heard. Hey, there, Bill!" shouting to one of the paupers who was detailed for such work, "take this team to the barn and feed 'em. Come in, come in, old feller! You'll find that Tom Watterly allus has a snack and a good word for an old crony."Holcroft was easily persuaded, for he felt the need of cheer, and he looked up to Tom as a very sagacious, practical man. So he said, "Perhaps you can see farther into a millstone than I can, and if you can show me a way out of my difficulties you'll be a friend sure enough.""Why, of course I can. Your difficulties are all here and here," touching his bullet head and the region of his heart. "There aint no great difficulties in fact, but, after you've brooded out there a week or two alone, you think you're caught as fast as if you were in a bear trap. Here, Angy," addressing his wife, "I've coaxed Holcroft to take supper with us. You can hurry it up a little, can't you?"Mrs. Watterly gave their guest a cold, limp hand and a rather frigid welcome. But this did not disconcert him. "It's only her way," he had always thought. "She looks after her husband's interests as mine did for me, and she don't talk him to death."This thought, in the main, summed up Mrs. Watterly's best traits.
She was a commonplace, narrow, selfish woman, whose character is not worth sketching. Tom stood a little in fear of her, and was usually careful not to impose extra tasks, but since she helped him to save and get ahead, he regarded her as a model wife.Holcroft shared in his opinion and sighed deeply as he sat down to supper. "Ah, Tom!" he said, "you're a lucky man. You've got a wife that keeps everything indoors up to the mark, and gives you a chance to attend to your own proper business. That's the way it was with mine. I never knew what a lopsided, helpless creature a man was until I was left alone. You and I were lucky in getting the women we did, but when my partner left me, she took all the luck with her. That aint the worst. She took what's more than luck and money and everything. I seemed to lose with her my grit and interest in most things. It'll seem foolishness to you, but I can't take comfort in anything much except working that old farm that I've worked and played on ever since I can remember anything. You're not one of those fools, Tom, that have to learn from their own experience. Take a bit from mine, and be good to your wife while you can. I'd give all I'm worth--I know that aint much--if I could say some things to my wife and do some things for her that I didn't do.""I shrink from YOU!" he exclaimed.
"Yes. Can you think I haven't seen the repugnance growing in spite of yourself? When I thought of that man--especially when he came today--I understood WHY too well. I cannot stay here any longer. You'd try to be kind and considerate, but I'd know how you felt all the time. It would not be safe for you and it would not be right for me to stay, either, and that settles it. Be--be as kind to me--as you can a few--a few hours longer, and then let me go quietly." Her self-control gave way, and burying her face in her hands, she sobbed convulsively.In a moment he was on his knees beside her, with his arm about her waist. "Alida, dear Alida!" he cried, "we've both been in the dark about each other. What I resolved to do, when I started for town, was to tell you that I had learned to love you and to throw myself on your mercy. I thought you saw I was loving you and that you couldn't bear to think of such a thing in an old, homely fellow like me. That was all that was in my mind, so help me God!""But--but HE'S been here," she faltered; "you don't realize--""I don't believe I do or can, yet, Alida, dear, but that blessed Jane's spying trait has served me the best turn in the world. She heard every brave word you said and I shed tears of joy when she told me; and tears are slow coming to my eyes. You think I shrink from you, do you?" and he kissed her hands passionately. "See," he cried, "I kneel to you in gratitude for all you've been to me and are to me."
"Oh, James! Please rise. It's too much.""No, not till you promise to go with me to a minister and hear me promise to love, cherish--yes, in your case I'll promise to obey."
She bowed her head upon his shoulder in answer. Springing up, he clasped her close and kissed away her tears as he exclaimed, "No more business marriage for me, if you please. There never was a man so in love with his wife."Suddenly she looked up and said fearfully, "James, he threatened you. He said you'd never be safe a moment as long as I stayed here."His answer was a peal of laughter. "I've done more than threaten him. I've whipped him within an inch of his life, and it was the thought of you that led me, in my rage, to spare his life. I'll tell you all--I'm going to tell you everything now. How much trouble I might have saved if I had told you my thoughts! What was there, Alida, in an old fellow like me that led you to care so?"Looking up shyly, she replied, "I think it was the MAN in you--and--then you stood up for me so."
"Well, love is blind, I suppose, but it don't seem to me that mine is. There never was a man so taken in at his marriage. You were so different from what I expected that I began loving you before I knew it, but I thought you were good to me just as you were to Jane--from a sense of duty--and that you couldn't abide me personally. So I tried to keep out of your way. And, Alida, dear, I thought at first that I was taken by your good traits and your education and all that, but I found out at last that I had fallen in love with YOU. Now you know all. You feel better now, don't you?""Yes," she breathed softly."You've had enough to wear a saint out," he continued kindly. "Lie down on the lounge and I'll bring your supper to you.""No, please! It will do me more good to go on and act as if nothing had happened."
"Well, have your own way, little wife. You're boss now, sure enough."She drew him to the porch, and together they looked upon the June landscape which she had regarded with such despairing eyes an hour before.
"Happiness never kills, after all," she said."Shouldn't be alive if it did," he replied. "The birds seem to sing as if they knew."
Jane emerged from the barn door with a basket of eggs, and Alida sped away to meet her. The first thing the child knew the arms of her mistress were about her neck and she was kissed again and again."What did you do that for?" she asked."You'll understand some day.""Say," said Jane in an impulse of good will, "if you're only half married to Mr. Holcroft, I'd go the whole figure, 'fi's you. If you'd 'a' seen him a-thrashin' that scamp you'd know he's the man to take care of you.""Yes, Jane, I know. He'll take care of me always."The next morning Holcroft and Alida drove to town and went to the church which she and her mother used to attend. After the service they followed the clergyman home, where Alida again told him her story, though not without much help from the farmer. After some kindly reproach that she had not brought her troubles to him at first, the minister performed a ceremony which found deep echoes in both their hearts.
Time and right, sensible living soon remove prejudice from the hearts of the good and stop the mouths of the cynical and scandal-loving. Alida's influence, and the farmer's broadening and more unselfish views gradually bought him into a better understanding of his faith, and into a kinder sympathy and charity for his neighbors than he had ever known. His relations to the society of which he was a part became natural and friendly, and his house a pretty and a hospitable home. Even Mrs. Watterly eventually entered its portals. She and others were compelled to agree with Watterly that Alida was not of the "common sort," and that the happiest good fortune which could befall any man had come to Holcroft when he fell in love with his wife.The End
"Well, anyway, it's no business of ours.""It's very much my business. He was the man who drove me here. . . . I'll give you fifty pounds if you'll get me out before he comes back."
"I shouldn't think it worth while. I should get sacked more likely than not. I've got a good job here.""Suppose I say eighty?"
"I can see it first?""I haven't got it here. If you come with me to Grosvenor Gardens I'll give it to you at once.""We couldn't get away without being seen. And after that, money wouldn't be much use to me.""Isn't it worth trying?"
The girl stared at her with expressionless eyes. It was impossible to tell what she thought. Irene controlled herself to silence till she should hear her reply. Till she had it, she felt it hard to guess what further argument would avail."You're sure they killed him?" the girl asked at last.
"He was alive when he drove me here.""I daresay they did. They kill beautiful dogs. Mr. Snacklit likes doing that."
"We're losing time, If we're going - - ""It's not that simple, Miss. There's Billson too - - Was
Billson one of them two?""I don't know who Billson is.""Did one of them have red hair?""I didn't notice; but I don't think so."
"I'd like to hear what he says."The girl went to the door and gave a shrill whistle. A moment later a man came into the room, showing a close-cropped head of red hair and a sharp-nosed foxy face.
"Bill" the girl said, with a familiarity which was equally evident in his manner to her, "this lady says a taxi-driver's been killed in the yard, and they've just burnt his body. I've told her that, if they did, it was nothing to do with you."The man did not appear to regard this statement as incredible, but, unless he were an exceptionally good actor, it was a surprising item of news.
"I hadn't heard tell of that," he said. "The master told me to stay by the stairs, and not let anyone go down unless he came along with them.""This young lady says she'll give me eighty pounds if I'll let her out.