He unsuspectingly and unhesitatingly gave it to her, thinking, "Thchainlink binance infoat's the way with such people. They want to be paid often and be sure of their money. She'll work all the better for having it."
"Well, I know how a man feels when there is a woman so well worth standing up for. It was a lucky thing that I had nothing heavier in my hand than that hickory." All the while he was looking at her curiously; then he spoke his thought. "You're a quiet little woman, Alida, most times, but you're capable of a thunder gust now and then."zarfund bitcoin login"I'll try to be quiet at all times," she replied, with drooping eyes.
"Oh, I'm not complaining!" he said, laughing. "I like the trait."He took a small pitcher and went to the dairy. Returning, he poured out two glasses of milk and said, "Here's to your health and happiness, Alida; and when I don't stand up for the woman who started out to save me from a mob of murderers, may the next thing I eat or drink choke me. You didn't know they were merely a lot of Oakville boys, did you?""You can't make so light of it," said she. "They tried to close on you, and if that stone had struck you on the temple, it might have killed you. They swore like pirates, and looked like ruffians with their blackened faces. They certainly were not boys in appearance.""I'm afraid I swore too," he said sadly."You had some excuse, but I'm sorry. They would have hurt you if you hadn't kept them off."
"Yes, they'd probably have given me a beating. People do things in hot blood they wish they hadn't afterward. I know this Oakville rough-scuff. Since we've had it out, and they know what to expect, they'll give me a wide berth. Now go and sleep. You were never safer in your life."She did not trust herself to reply, but the glance she gave him from her tearful eyes was so eloquent with grateful feeling that he was suddenly conscious of some unwonted sensations. He again patrolled the place and tied the dog near the barn."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 TerrorAs poor, dazed, homeless Alida passed out into the street after the revelation that she was not a wife and never had been, she heard a voice say, "Well, Hanner wasn't long in bouncing the woman. I guess we'd better go up now. Ferguson will need a lesson that he won't soon forget."The speaker of these words was Mrs. Ferguson's brother, William Hackman, and his companion was a detective. The wife had laid her still sleeping child down on the lounge and was coolly completing Alida's preparations for dinner. Her husband had sunk back into a chair and again buried his face in his hands. He looked up with startled, bloodshot eyes as his brother-in-law and the stranger entered, and then resumed his former attitude.
Mrs. Ferguson briefly related what had happened, and then said, "Take chairs and draw up.""I don't want any dinner," muttered the husband.
Mr. William Hackman now gave way to his irritation. Turning to his brother, he relieved his mind as follows: "See here, Hank Ferguson, if you hadn't the best wife in the land, this gentleman would now be giving you a promenade to jail. I've left my work for weeks, and spent a sight of money to see that my sister got her rights, and, by thunder! she's going to have 'em. We've agreed to give you a chance to brace up and be a man. If we find out there isn't any man in you, then you go to prison and hard labor to the full extent of the law. We've fixed things so you can't play any more tricks. This man is a private detective. As long as you do the square thing by your wife and child, you'll be let alone. If you try to sneak off, you'll be nabbed. Now, if you aint a scamp down to your heel-taps, get up out of that chair like a man, treat your wife as she deserves for letting you off so easy, and don't make her change her mind by acting as if you, and not her, was the wronged person."At heart Ferguson was a weak, cowardly, selfish creature, whose chief aim in life was to have things to suit himself. When they ceased to be agreeable, he was ready for a change, without much regard for the means to his ends. He had always foreseen the possibility of the event which had now taken place, but, like all self-indulgent natures, had hoped that he might escape detection.
Alida, moreover, had won a far stronger hold upon him than he had once imagined possible. He was terribly mortified and cast down by the result of his experiment, as he regarded it. But the thought of a prison and hard labor speedily drew his mind away from this aspect of the affair. He had been fairly caught, his lark was over, and he soon resolved that the easiest and safest way out of the scrape was the best way. He therefore raised his head and came forward with a penitent air as he said: "It's natural I should be overwhelmed with shame at the position in which I find myself. But I see the truth of your words, and I'll try to make it all right as far as I can. I'll go back with you and Hannah to my old home. I've got money in the bank, I'll sell out everything here, and I'll pay you, William, as far as I can, what you've spent. Hannah is mighty good to let me off so easy, and she won't be sorry. This man is witness to what I say," and the detective nodded."Why, Ferguson," said Mr. Hackman effusively, "now you're talking like a man. Come and kiss him, Hannah, and make it all up."