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FED 2 4 1966
DUD OCTI4 73-
University of California
MARY E. WILKINS
AUTHOR OF "A HUMBLE ROMANCE, AND OTHER STORIES "
"A NEW ENGLAND NUN, AND OTHER STORIES "
" YOUNG LUCRETIA, AND OTHER STORIES "
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1892, by HARPER BROTHERS.
All rights reserved.
MARY E. WILKINS Frontispiece
" i WISH YOU WOULDN T BE IN SUCH
A HURRY " Faces page IO
SHE TOOK THE CHILD S LITTLE HAND " 2O
"MRS. FIELD STOOD BY THE FRONT
GATE, LOOKING DOWN THE ROAD " 42
"THEY STOOD LOOKING AT THE YOUNG
"SHE WATCHED HER MOTHER OUT OF
"SHE WALKED ON, WITH HER STERN,
IMPASSIVE OLD FACE SET STRAIGHT
FLORA AND THE CHILDREN RECEIVED
THEM BEAMINGLY " " IIO
" NOW CHEER UP, SAID HE" ... " 150
"THE MINISTER, MR. TUXBURY, AND
MRS. ROBBINS S HUSBAND ALL AR
RIVED TOGETHER" " 186
MRS. HENRY MAXWELL " l88
" I DUN KNOW HOW SHE D MANAGE " Faces page 208
"MRS. GREEN LOOKED TOWARDS THE
COMING TRAIN" " 216
"LOIS SAID NOTHING; SHE BENT HER
HOT FACE CLOSER OVER HER
WORK" " 220
" I AIN T ESTHER MAXWELL. HER
VOICE AROSE IN A STERN SHRIEK" " 2&O
AMANDA PRATT S cottage-house was
raised upon two banks above the road-level.
Here and there the banks showed irregular
patches of yellow-green, where a little
milky-stemmed plant grew. It had come
up every spring since Amanda could re
There was a great pink-lined shell on each
side of the front door-step, and the path
down over the banks to the road was
bordered with smaller shells. The house
was white, and the front door was dark
green, with an old-fashioned knocker in the
There were four front windows, and the
roof sloped down to them; two were in
Amanda s parlor, and two were in Mrs.
2*- - X*" - * ; r -JA> T E FIELD
Field s. She rented half of her house to
Mrs. Jane Field.
There was a head at each of Amanda s
front windows. One was hers, the other
was Mrs. Babcock s. Amanda s old blond
face, with its folds of yellow-gray hair over
the ears and sections of the softly-wrinkled,
pinky cheeks, was bent over some needle-
ork. So was Mrs. Babcock s, darkly dim
with age, as if the hearth-fires of her life
had always smoked, with a loose flabbiness
about the jaw-bones, which seemed to make
more evident the firm structure underneath.
Amanda was sewing a braided rug; her
little veiny hands jerked the stout thread
through with a nervous energy that was out
of accord with her calm expression and the
droop of her long slender body.
"It s pretty hard sewin braided mats,
ain t it?" said Mrs. Babcock.
"I don t care how hard tis if I can get
em sewed strong," replied Amanda, and
her voice was unexpectedly quick and de
cided. " I never had any feelin that any
thing was hard, if I could only do it."
"Well, you ain t had so much hard work
to do as some folks. Settin in a rockin -
JANE FIELD 3
chair sewin braided mats ain t like doin
the housework for a whole family. If
you d had the cookin to do for four men-
folks, the way I have, you d felt it was
pretty hard work, even if you did make out
to fill em up." Mrs. Babcock smiled, and
showed that she did not forget she was com
pany, but her tone was quite fierce.
" Mebbe I should," returned Amanda,
There was a silence.
" Let me see, how many mats does that
make?" Mrs. Babcock asked, finally, in an
"Like this one?"
" This makes the ninth."
Mrs. Babcock scrutinized the floor. It
was almost covered with braided rugs, and
they were all alike.
" I declare I don t see where you ll put
another in here," said she.
" I guess I can lay em a little thicker
over there by the what-not."
"Well, mebbe you can; but I declare I
shouldn t scarcely think you needed another.
I shouldn t think your carpet would wear
4 JANE FIELD
out till the day of judgment. What made
you have them mats all jest alike?"
"I like em better so," replied Amanda,
"Well, of course, if you do there ain t
nothin to say; it s your carpet an your
mats," returned Mrs. Babcock, with grim
There were two curious features about
Amanda Pratt s parlor: one was a gentle
monotony of details; the other, a certain
savor of the sea. It was like holding a
shell to one s ear to enter Amanda s parlor.
There was a faint suggestion of far-away
sandy beaches, the breaking of waves, and
the rush of salt winds. In the centre of the
mantel-shelf stood a stuffed sea-gull; on
either side shells were banked. The fire
place was flanked by great branches of coral,
and on the top of the air-tight stove there
stood always in summer-time, when there
was no fire, a superb nautilus shell, like a
little pearl vessel. The corner what-not, too,
had its shelves heaped with shells and coral
and choice bits of rainbow lava from vol
canic islands. Between the windows, in
stead of the conventional mahogany card-
JANE FIELD 5
table, stood one of Indian lacquer, and on
it was a little inlaid cabinet that was
brought from over seas. The whole room
in this little inland cottage, far beyond the
salt fragrance of the sea, seemed like one of
those mmne fossils sometimes found miles
from the coast. It indicated the presence
of the sea in the lives of Amanda s race.
Her grandfather had been a seafaring man,
and so had her father, until late in life,
when he had married an inland woman, and
settled down among waves of timothy and
clover on her paternal acres.
Amanda was like her mother, she had
nothing of the sea tastes in her nature. She
was full of loyal conservatism toward the
marine ornaments of her parlor, but she
secretly preferred her own braided rugs, and
the popular village fancy-work, in which
she was quite skilful. On each of her
chairs was a tidy, and the tidies were all
alike; in the corners of the room were lam
brequins, all worked after the same pattern
in red worsted and beads. On one wall
hung a group of pictures framed in card
board, four little colored prints of crosses
twined with flowers, and they were all
6 JANE FIELD
alike. "Why didn t you get them crosses
different?" many a neighbor had said to
her these crosses, with some variation of
the entwining foliage, had been very popu
lar in the rural neighborhood and Amanda
had replied with quick dignity that she
liked them better the way she had them.
i fAmanda maintained the monotony of her
I life as fiercely as her fathers had pursued
the sea. She was like a little animal born
with a rebound to its own track, from
whence no amount of pushing could keep
Mrs. Babcock glanced sharply around
the room as she sewed ; she was anxious
to divert Amanda s mind from the mats.
"Don t the moths ever git into that stuffed
bird over there?" she asked suddenly, in
dicating the gull on the shelf with a side-
wise jerk of her head.
"No; I ain t never had a mite of trouble
with em," replied Amanda. "I always
keep a little piece of camphor tucked under
his wing feathers."
"Well, you re lucky Mis Jackson she
had a stuffed canary-bird all eat up with
em. She had to put him in the stove;
JANE FIELD 7
couldn t do nothin with him. She felt real
bad about it. She d thought a good deal of
the bird when he was alive, an he was
stuffed real handsome, an settin on a little
green sprig. She use to keep him on her
parlor shelf; he was jest the right size.
It s a pity your bird is quite so big,
ain t it? "
" I s pose he s jest the way he was made,"
returned Amanda shortly.
" Of course he is. I ain t findin no fault
with him; all is, I thought he was kind of
big for the shelf; but then birds do perch
on dreadful little places." Mrs. Babcock,
full of persistency in exposing herself to re
buffs, was very sensitive and easily cowed
by one. " Let me see he s quite old. Your
grandfather bought him, didn t he?" said
she, in a mollifying tone.
Amanda nodded. " He s a good deal
older than I am," said she.
" It s queer how some things that ain t of
no account really in the world last, while
others that s worth so much more don t,"
Mrs. Babcock remarked, meditatively.
"Now, there s that bird there, lookin jest
as nice and handsome, and there s the one
8 JANE FIELD
that bought him and brought him home, in
his grave out of sight."
"There s a good many queer things in
this world," rejoined Amanda, with a sigh.
"I guess there is," said Mrs. Babcock.
" Now you can jest look round this room,
an see all the things that belonged to your
folks that s dead an gone, and it seems
almost as if they was immortal instead of
them. An it s goin to be jest the same
way with us; the clothes that s hangin up
in our closets are goin to outlast us. Well,
there s one thing about it this world ain t
our abidin -place."
Mrs. Babcock shook her head resolutely,
and began to fold up her work. She rolled
the unbleached cloth into a hard smooth
bundle, with the scissors, thimble, and
thread inside, and the needle quilted in.
" You ain t goin ? " said Amanda.
"Yes, I guess I must. I ve got to be
home by half-past five to get supper, an
I thought I d jest look in at Mis Field s
a minute. Do you s pose she s to home ? "
" I shouldn t wonder if she was. I ain t
seen her go out anywhere."
"Well, I dun no when I ve been in there,
JANE FIELD 9
an I dun no but she d think it was kinder
queer if I went right into the house and
didn t go near her."
Amanda arose, letting the mat slide to
the floor, and went into the bedroom to get
Mrs. Babcock s bonnet and light shawl.
"I wish you wouldn t be in such a hurry,"
said she, using the village formula of hos
pitality to a departing guest.
"It don t seem to me I ve been in much
of a hurry. I ve stayed here the whole after
Suddenly Mrs. Babcock, pinning on her
shawl, thrust her face close to Amanda s.
"I want to know if it s true Lois Field is so
miserable?" she whispered.
"Well, I dun no . She don t look jest
right, but she an her mother won t own up
but what she swell."
" Coin the way Mis Maxwell did, ain t
"I dun no . I m worried about her my
self dreadful worried. Lois is a nice girl
as ever was."
" She ain t give up her school ?"
Amanda shook her head.
" I shouldn t think her mother d have her. "
10 JANE FIELD
"I s pose she feels as if she d got to."
Mrs. Babcock dropped her voice still lower.
"They re real poor, ain t they?"
"I guess they ain t got much."
"I s posed they hadn t. Well, I hope
Lois ain t goin down. I heard she looked
dreadful. Mis Jackson she was in yester
day, talkin about it. Well, you come over
an see me, Mandy. Bring your sewin
over some afternoon."
"Well, mebbe I will. I don t go out a
great deal, you know."
The two women grimaced to each other
in a friendly fashion, then Amanda shut her
door, and Mrs. Babcock pattered softly and
heavily across the little entry, and opened
Mrs. Field s door. She pressed the old
brass latch with a slight show of ceremo
nious hesitancy, but she never thought of
knocking. There was no one in the room,
which had a clean and sparse air. The
chairs all stood back against the walls, and
left in the centre a wide extent of faded
carpet, full of shadowy gray scrolls.
Mrs. Babcock stood for a moment staring
in and listening.
There was a faint sound of a voice seem-
i WISH YOU WOULDN T BE IN SUCH A HURRY
JANE FIELD II
ingly from a room beyond. She called,
softly, "Mis Field!" There was no re
sponse. She advanced then resolutely over
the stretch of carpet toward the bedroom
door. She opened it, then gave a little em
barrassed grunt, and began backing away.
Mrs. Field was in there, kneeling beside
the bed, praying. She started and looked
up at Mrs. Babcock with a kind of solemn
abashedness, her long face flushed. Then
she got up. "Good-afternoon," said she.
" Good-afternoon," returned Mrs. Babcock.
She tried to smile and recover her equa
nimity. "I ve been into Mandy Pratt s,"
she went on, "an I thought I d jest look
in here a minute before I went home, but I
wouldn t have come in so if I d known you
"Come out in the other room an sit
down," said Mrs. Field.
Mrs. Babcock s agitated bulk followed
her over the gray carpet, and settled into the
rocking-chair at one of the front windows.
Mrs. Field seated herself at the other.
"It s been a pleasant day, ain t it?"
" Real pleasant. I told Mr. Babcock this
12 JANE FIELD
noon that I was goin to git out somewheres
this afternoon come what would. I ve been
cooped up all the spring house-cleanin , an
now I m goin to git out. I dun no when
I ve been anywhere. I ain t been into
Mandy s sence Christmas that I know of
I ain t been in to set down, anyway; an
I ve been meanin to run in an see you all
winter, Mis Field." All the trace of confu
sion now left in Mrs. Babcock s manner was
a weak volubility.
"It s about all anybody can do to do
their housework, if they do it thorough,"
returned Mrs. Field. "I s pose you ve
been takin* up carpets?"
"Took up every carpet in the house. I
do every year. Some folks don t, but I
can t stand it. I m afraid of moths, too.
I s pose you ve got yourcleanin all done?"
"Yes, I ve got it about done."
"Well, I shouldn t think you could do so
much, Mis Field, with your hands."
Mrs. Field s hands lay in her lap, yellow
and heavily corrugated, the finger-joints in
great knots, which looked as if they had
been tied in the bone. Mrs. Babcock eyed
JANE FIELD 13
" How are they now ? " she inquired.
" Seems to me they look worse than they
Mrs. Field regarded her hands with a
staid, melancholy air. "Well, I dun noV
" Seems to me they look worse. How s
Lois, Mis Field?"
" She s pretty well, I guess. I dun no
why she ain t."
" Somebody was sayin the other day that
she looked dreadfully."
Mrs. Field had heretofore held herself
with a certain slow dignity. Now her man
ner suddenly changed, and she spoke fast.
"I dun no what folks mean talkin so,"
said she. " Lois ain t been lookin very
well, as I know of, lately; but it s the
spring of the year, an she s always apt to
" Mebbe that is it," replied the other,
with a doubtful inflection. "Let s see, you
called it consumption that ailed your sister,
didn t you, Mis Field?"
"I s pose it was."
Mrs. Babcock stared with cool reflection
at the other woman s long, pale face, with
its high cheek-bones and deep-set eyes and
14 JANE FIELD
wide, drooping mouth. She was deliberating
whether or not to ask for some information
that she wanted. "Speakin of your sister,"
said she finally, with a casual air, " her
husband s father is livin , ain t he?"
" He was the last I knew."
"I s pose he s worth considerable prop
"Yes, I s pose he is."
"Well, I want to know. Somebody was
speakin about it the other day, an they
said they thought he did, an I told em I
didn t believe it. He never helped your
sister s husband any, did he?"
Mrs. Field did not reply for a moment.
Mrs. Babcock was leaning forward and smil
ing ingratiatingly, with keen eyes upon her
"I dun no as he did. But I guess Ed
ward never expected he would much," said
" Well, I told em I didn t believe he did.
I declare ! it seemed pretty tough, didn t it ? "
" I dun no . I thought of it some along
there when Edward was sick."
" I declare, I should have thought you d
wrote to him about it."
JANE FIELD 15
Mrs. Field said nothing.
"Didn t you ever?" Mrs. Babcock asked.
"Well, yes; I wrote once when he was
first taken sick."
"An he didn t take any notice of it?"
Mrs. Field shook her head.
" He s a regular old skinflint, ain t he?"
said Mrs. Babcock.
"I guess he s a pretty set kind of a man."
" Set! I should call it more n set. Now,
Mis Field, I d really like to know some
thing. I ain t curious, but I ve heard so
many stories about it that I d really like to
know the truth of it once. Somebody was
speakin about it the other day, an it don t
seem right for stories to be goin the rounds
when there ain t no truth in em. Mis
Field, what was it set Edward Maxwell s
father agin him?" Mrs. Babcock s voice
sank to a whisper, she leaned farther for
ward, and gazed at Mrs. Field with crafty
Mrs. Field looked out of the window.
"Well, I s pose it was some trouble about
" Money matters ? "
"Yes, I s pose so."
l6 JANE FIELD
"Mis Field, what did he do ? "
Mrs. Field did not reply. She looked out
of the window at the green banks in front.
Her face was inscrutable.
Mrs. Babcock drew herself up. " Course
I don t want you to tell me nothin you
don t want to," said she, with injured dig
nity. " I ain t pryin into things that folks
don t w r ant me to know about; it wa n t
never my way. All is, I thought I d like
to know the truth of it, whether there was
anything in them stories or not."
" Oh, I d jest as soon tell you," rejoined
Mrs. Field quietly. "I was jest a- think in .
As near as I can tell you, Mis Babcock,
Edward s father he let him have some money,
and Edward he speculated with it on some
thing contrary to his advice, an lost it, an
that made the trouble."
"Was that all?" asked Mrs. Babcock,
with a disappointed air.
"Yes, I s pose it was."
"I want to know!" Mrs. Babcock
leaned back with a sigh. "Well, there s
another thing, " she said presently.
"Somebody was sayin the other day that
you thought Esther caught the consumption
JANE FIELD I 7
from her husband. I wanted to know if
Mrs. Field s face twitched. " Well, " she
replied, "I dun no . I ve heard consump
tion was catchin , an she was right over
him the whole time."
"Well, I don t know. I ain t never been
able to take much stock in catchin con
sumption. There was Mis Gay night an
day with Susan for ten years, an she s jest
as well as anybody. I should be afraid
twas a good deal likelier to be in your
family. Does Lois cough ? "
* None to speak of."
"Well, there s more kinds of consumption
Mrs. Babcock made quite a long call.
She shook Mrs. Field s hand warmly at
parting. "I want to know, does Lois like
honey? " said she.
"Yes, she s real fond of it."
"Well, I m goin to send her over a dish
of it. Ours was uncommon nice this year.
It s real good for a cough."
On her way home Mrs. Babcock met Lois
Field coming from school attended by a
little flock of children. Mrs. Babcock
1 8 JANE FIELD
stopped, and looked sharply at her small,
delicately pretty face, with its pointed chin
and deep-set blue eyes.
"How are you feelin to-night, Lois? "
she inquired, in a tone of forcible commis
"I m pretty well, thank you, "said Lois.
"Seems to me you re lookin pretty slim.
You d ought to take a little vacation."
Mrs. Babcock surveyed her with a kind of
Lois stood quite erect in the midst of the
children. "I don t think I need any vaca
tion," said she, smiling constrainedly. She
pushed gently past Mrs. Babcock, with the
children at her heels.
"You d better take a little one," Mrs.
Babcock called after her.
Lois kept on as if she did not hear. Her
face was flushed, and her head seemed full
of beating pulses.
One of the children, a thin little girl in a
blue dress, turned around and grimaced at
Mrs. Babcock; another pulled Lois dress.
" Teacher, Jenny Whitcomb is makin faces
at Mis Babcock," she drawled.
"Jenny!" said Lois sharply; and the
JANE FIELD 19
little girl turned her face with a scared ner
vous giggle. " You mustn t ever do such a
thing as that again," said Lois. She
reached down and took the child s little
restive hand and led her along.
Lois had not much farther to go. The
children all clamored, " Good-by, teacher!"
when she turned in at her own gate.
She went in through the sitting-room to
the kitchen, and settled down into a chair
with her hat on.
"Well, so you ve got home," said her
mother; she was moving about preparing
supper. She smiled anxiously at Lois as
Lois smiled faintly, but her forehead was
frowning. " Has that Mrs. Babcock been
here?" she asked.
" Yes. Did you meet her ? "
"Yes, I did; and I d like to know what
she meant telling me I d ought to take a
vacation, and I looked bad. I wish people
would let me alone tellin me how I look."
"She meant well, I guess," said her
mother, soothingly. " She said she was
goin to send you over a dish of her honey."
" I don t want any of her honey. I don t
20 JANE FIELD
see what folks want to send things in to
me, as if I were sick, for."
"Oh, I guess she thought I d like some
too," returned her mother, with a kind of
stiff, playfulness. "You needn t think
you re goin to have all that honey."
" I don t want any of it," said Lois. The
window beside which she sat was open; un
der it, in the back yard, was a little thicket
of mint, and some long sprays of sweetbrier
bowing over it. Lois reached out and
broke off a piece of the sweetbrier and
"Supper s ready," said her mother, pres
ently; and she took off her hat and went
listlessly over to the table.
The table, covered with a white cloth,
was set back against the wall, with only one
leaf spread. There were bread and butter
and custards and a small glass dish of rhu
barb sauce for supper.
Lois looked at the dish. " I didn t know
the rhubarb was grown," said she.
"I managed to get enough for supper,"
replied her mother, in a casual voice.
Nobody would have dreamed how day
after day she had journeyed stiffly down to
"SHE TOOK THE CHILD S LITTLE HAND"
JANE FIELD 21
the old garden spot behind the house to
watch the progress of the rhubarb, and how
triumphantly she had brought up those
green and rosy stalks. Lois had always
been very fond of rhubarb.
She ate it now with a keen relish. Her
mother contrived that she should have
nearly all of it; she made a show of helping
herself twice, but she took very little. But
it was to her as if she also tasted every
spoonful which her daughter ate, and as if
it had the flavor of a fruit of Paradise and
satisfied her very soul.
After supper Lois began packing up the
cups and saucers.
" Now you go in the other room an set
down, an let me take care of the dishes,"
said Mrs. Field, timidly.
Lois faced about instantly. " Now,
mother, I d just like to know what you
mean ? " said she. " I guess I ain t quite so
far gone but what I can wash up a few
dishes. You act as if you wanted to make
me out sick in spite of myself."
"I thought mebbe you was kind of tired,"
said her mother, apologetically.
"I ain t tired. I m just as well able to
22 JANE FIELD
wash up the supper dishes as I ever was."
Lois carried the cups and saucers to the
sink with a resolute air, and Mrs. Field said
no more. She went into her bedroom to
change her dress; she was going to evening
Lois washed and put away the dishes;
then she went into the sitting-room, and sat
down by the open window. She leaned her
cheek against the chairback and looked out;
a sweet almond fragrance of cherry and
apple blossoms came into her face; over
across the fields a bird was calling. Lois
did not think it tangibly, but it was to her
as if the blossom scent and the bird call
came out of her own future. She was ill,
poor, and overworked, but she was not un
happy, for her future was yet, in a way, un
touched; she had not learned to judge of it
by hard precedent, nor had any mistake of
hers made a miserable certainty of it. It
still looked to her as fair ahead as an un
trodden field of heaven.
She was quite happy as she sat there; but
when her mother, in her black woollen dress,
entered, she felt instantly nervous and
fretted. Mrs. Field said nothing, but the
JANE FIELD 23
volume and impetus of her anxiety when she
saw her daughter s head in the window
seemed to actually misplace the air.
Presently she went to the window, and
leaned over to shut it.
"Don t shut the window, mother," said
"I m dreadful afraid you ll catch cold,
" No, I sha n t, either. I wish you