She listened intently for wheels, and looked
anxiously at the clock. " It would be dread
ful if we got left, after all," she said.
Suddenly the covered wagon came in
sight; the white horse trotted at a good
pace. Adoniram held the reins and his
wife sat beside him. Mrs. Green peered out
from the back seat. "Mandy! Mandy! "
Mrs. Babcock called, before they reached the
gate. But Amanda was already on the front
door-step, fitting the key in the lock.
" I m all ready," she answered, "jest as
soon as I can get the door locked."
"We ain t got any too much time," cried
Amanda went down the path with her
basket and black valise and parasol. Adon
iram got out and helped her into the wagon.
She had to climb over the front seat. As
they drove off she leaned out and gazed
back at the house. Her tortoise-shell cat
was coming around the corner. " I do hope
the cat will get along all right," she said
agitatedly. "I ve fed her thismornin , an
I ve left her enough milk till I get back
214 JANE FIELD
a saucerful for each day an Abby said
she d give her all the scraps off the table,
you know, Mis Green."
Mrs. Babcock turned around. " Now,
Amanda Pratt," said she, "I d like to know
how in creation you ve left a saucerful of
milk for that cat for every day till you get
"I set ten saucers full of milk down cel
lar," replied Amanda, still staring back anx
iously at the cat " one for each day. I
got extra milk last night on purpose. She
likes it jest as well if it s sour, if the sau
cer s clean."
Amanda looked up with serious wonder at
Mrs. Babcock, who was laughing shrilly.
Mrs. Green, too, was smiling, and Adoniram
"For the land sakes, Amanda Pratt!"
gasped Mrs. Babcock, "you don t s pose
that cat is goin to stint herself to a saucer
a day? Why, she ll eat half of it all up
Amanda stood up in the carriage. " I ve,
got to go back, that s all," said she. "I
ain t goin to have that cat starve."
"Land sakes, set down!" cried Mrs.
JANE FIELD 215
Babcock. " She won t starve. She can
"Abby ll feed her, I know," said Mrs.
Green, pulling gently at her companion s
arm. " Don t you worry, Mandy. "
"Well, I guess I shouldn t worry about
a cat with claws to catch mice in warm
weather," said Mrs. Babcock, with a sarcas
tic titter. "It s goin to be a dreadful hot
day. Set down, Mandy. There ain t no use
talkin about goin back. There ain t any
time. Mis Green an me ain t goin to stay
to home on account of a cat."
Amanda subsided weakly. She felt
strange., and not like herself. Mrs. Babcock
seemed to recognize it by some subtle intui
tion. She would never have daied use such
a tone toward her without subsequent con
cessions. Amanda had always had a certain
dignity and persistency which had served
to intimidate too presuming people; now
she had lost it all,
"I ll write to Abby, jest as soon as I get
down there, to give the cat her milk," whis
pered Mrs. Green soothingly ; and Amanda
The covered wagon rolled along the coun-
2l6 JANE FIELD
try road toward the railroad station. Ad-
oniram drove, and the three women sat up
straight, and looked out with a strange in
terest, as if they had never seen the land
scape before. The meadows were all filmy
with cobwebs; there were patches of corn
in the midst of them, and the long blades
drooped limply. The flies swarmed thickly
over the horse s back. The air was scald
ing; there was a slight current of cool
freshness from the dewy ground, but it
would soon be gone.
" It ain t goin to rain," said Mrs. Bab-
cock, "there s cobwebs on the grass, but
it s goin to be terrible hot."
They reached the station fifteen minutes
before the train. After Adoniram had
driven away, they sat in a row on a bench
on the platform, with their baggage around
them. They did not talk much ; even Mrs.
Babcock looked serious and contemplative
in this momentary lull. Their thoughts
reached past and beyond them to the homes
they had left, and the new scenes ahead.
When the whistle of the train sounded
they all stood up, and grasped their valises
tightly. Mrs. Green looked toward the
JANE FIELD 2 17
coming train; her worn face under her black
bonnet, between its smooth curves of gray
hair, had all the sensitive earnestness which
comes from generations of high breeding.
She was, on her father s side, of a race of old
New England ministers.
"Well, I dunno but I ve been pretty
faithful, an minded my household the way
women are enjoined to in the Scriptures;
mebbe it s right for me to take this little
vacation," she said, and her serious eyes
were full of tears,
WHEN Jane Field, in her assumed charac
ter, had lived three months in Elliot, she
was still unsuspected. She was not liked,
and that made her secret safer. She was
full of dogged resolution and audacity.
She never refused to see a caller nor accept
an invitation, but people never called upon
her nor invited her when they could avoid
it, and thus she was not so often exposed
to contradictions and inconsistencies which
might have betrayed her. Elliot people not
only disliked her, they were full of out
spoken indignation against her. The defi
ant, watchful austerity which made her re
pel when she intended to encourage their
advances had turned them against her, but
more than that her supposed ill-treatment
of her orphan niece.
When Lois, the third week of her stay in
Elliot, had gone to a dressmaker and asked
for some sewing to do, the news was well
over the village by night. "That woman,
JAXE FIELD 219
who has all John Maxwell s money, is too
stingy and mean to support her niece, and
she too delicate to work," people said.
The dressmaker to whom Lois appealed did
not for a minute hesitate to give her work,
although she had already many women
sewing for her, and she had just given some
to Mrs. Maxwell s daughter Flora.
"There!" said she, when Lois had gone
out. u I ain t worth five hundred dollars in
the world, I don t know how she ll sew, and
I didn t need any extra help it s takin it
right out of my pocket, likely as not but I
couldn t turn off a cat that looked up at me
the way that child did. She looks pinched.
1 don t believe that old woman gives her
enough to eat. Of all the mean work
worth all that money, and sending her niece
out to get sewing to do! I don t believe
but what she s most starved her."
It was true that Lois for the last week had
not had enough to eat, but neither had her
mother. The two had been eking out the
remnants of Lois s school-money as best
they might. There were many provisions
in the pantry and cellar of the Maxwell
house, but they would touch none of them.
220 JANE FIELD
Some money which Mr. Tuxbury had paid
to Mrs. Field the first instalment from
the revenue of her estate she had put care
fully away in a sugar-bowl on the top shelf
of the china closet, and had not spent a penny
of it. After Lois began to sew, her slender
earnings provided them with the most frugal
fare. Mrs. Field eked it out in every way
that she could. She had a little vegetable
garden and kept a few hens. As the season
advanced, she scoured the berry pastures,
and spent many hours stooping painfully
over the low bushes. Three months from
the time at which she came to Elliot, on the
day on which her neighbors started from
Green River to visit her, she was out in the
pasture trying to fill her pail with blueber
ries. All the sunlight seemed to centre on
her black figure like a burning-glass; the
thick growth of sweet-fern around the blue
berry bushes sent a hot and stifling aroma
into her face; the wild flowers hung limply,
like delicate painted rags, and the rocks
were like furnaces. Mrs. Field went out
soon after dinner, and at half-past five she
was still picking; the berries were not very
JANE FIELD 221
Lois, at home, wondered why she did not
return, and the more because there was a
thunder-storm coming up. There was a
heavy cloud in the northwest, and a steady
low rumble of thunder. Lois sat out in
the front yard sewing; her face was pink
and moist with the heat; the sleeves of her
old white muslin dress clung to her arms.
Presently the gate clicked, and Mrs. Jane
Maxwell s daughter Flora came toward her
over the grass.
"Hullo!" said she.
" Hullo! " returned Lois.
" It s a terrible day isn t it ? "
Lois got up, but Flora would not take her
chair. She sat down clumsily on the pine
needles, and fanned herself with the cover
of a book she carried.
"I ve just been down to the library, an
got this book," she remarked.
" Is it good ? "
" They say it s real good. Addie Green s
been reading it."
Flora wore a bright blue cambric dress
and a brown straw hat. Her figure was
stout and high-shouldered, her dull-complex-
222 JANE FIELD
ioned face full of placid force. She was not
very young, and she looked much older than
she was; and people had wondered how
George Freeman, who was handsome and
much courted by the girls, as well as younger
than she, had come to marry her. They
also wondered how her mother, who had
been so bitterly opposed to the match, had
given in, and was now living so amicably
with the young couple: they had been on
the alert for a furious village feud. But
when Flora and her husband had returned
from their stolen wedding tour, Mrs. Max
well had met them at the depot and bidden
them home with her with vociferous ardor,
and the next Sunday Flora had gone to
church in the new silk. There had been a
conflict of two wills, and one had covered
its defeat with a parade of victory. Mrs.
Maxwell had talked a great deal about her
daughter s marriage and how well she had
"There s a thunder-shower coming up,"
Flora said after a little. "Where s your
" Gone berrying."
"She ll get caught in the shower if she
JANE FIELD 223
don t look out. What makes you work so
steady this hot day, Lois?"
" I ve got to get this done."
"There isn t any need of your working
Lois said nothing.
" If your aunt ain t willing to do for you
it s time you had somebody else to," per
sisted Flora. " I wish I had had the money
on your account. I wouldn t have let you
work so. You look better than you did
when you came here, but you look tired. I
heard somebody else say so the other day."
Flora said the last with a meaning smile.
"Yes, I did," Flora repeated. "I don t
suppose you can guess who twas?"
Lois said nothing; she bent her hot face
closer over her work.
"See here, Lois," said Flora. She hesi
tated with her eyes fixed warily on Lois;
then she went on : " What makes you treat
Francis so queer lately?"
"I didn t know I had," replied Lois,
"You don t treat him a bit the way you
did at first."
224 JANE FIELD
"I don t know what you mean, Flora."
"Well, if you don t, it s no matter," re
turned Flora. " Francis hasn t said anything
about it to me; you needn t think he has.
All is, you ll never find a better fellow than
he is, Lois Field, I don t care where you go."
Flora spoke with slow warmth. Lois s
face quivered. "If you don t take care
you ll never get married at all," said Flora,
Lois sat up straight. "I shall never get
married to anybody," said she. "That s
one thing I won t do. I ll die first."
Flora stared at her. " Why, why not ? "
"I won t."
"I never knew what happiness was until
I got married," said Flora. Then she flushed
up suddenly all over her steady face.
Lois, too, started and blushed, as if the
other girl s speech had struck some answer
ing chord in her. The two were silent a
moment. Lois sewed; Flora stared off
through the trees at the darkening sky.
The low rumble of thunder was incessant.
" George is one of the best husbands that
ever a girl had," said Flora, in a tender,
JANE FIELD 225
shamed voice; "but Francis would make
just as good a one."
Lois made no reply. She almost turned
her back toward Flora as she sewed.
"I guess you ll change your mind some
time about getting married," Flora said.
"No, I never will," returned Lois.
"Well, I suppose if you don t, you ll have
money enough to take care of yourself with
some time, as far as that goes," said Flora.
Her voice had a sarcastic ring.
" I shall never have one cent of that Max
well money," said Lois, with sudden fire.
"I ll tell you that much, once for all!"
Her eyes fairly gleamed in her delicate,
"Why, you scare me! What is the mat
ter?" cried Flora.
Lois took a stitch. " Nothing, said she.
"You d ought to have the money, of
course," said Flora, in a bewildered way.
"Who else would have it?"
" I don t know, " said Lois. " You are the
one that ought to have it."
Flora laughed. " Land, I don t want it! "
said she. " George earns plenty for us to
live on. She s your own aunt, and of course
226 JANE FIELD
she ll have to leave it to you, if she does
act so miserly with it now. There, I know
she s your aunt, Lois, and I don t suppose
I ought to speak so, but I can t help it.
After all, it don t make much difference,
or it needn t, whether you have it or not.
I ve begun to think money is the very least
part of anything in this world, and I want
you to be looking out for something else,
" I can t look out for money, or something
else, either. You don t know," said Lois,
in a pitiful voice.
There came a flash, and then a great crash
of thunder. The tempest was about to break.
Flora started up abruptly. " I must run,"
she shouted through a sudden gust of wind.
Flora sped out of the yard. Her blue
dress, lashing around her feet, changed color
in the ghastly light of the storm. Some fly
ing leaves struck her in the face. At the
gate a cloud of dust from the road nearly
blinded her. She realized in a bewildered
fashion that there were three women on the
other side struggling frantically with the
JANE FIELD 227
"Does Mis Jane Field live here?" in
quired one of them, breathlessly.
"No," replied Flora; "that isn t her
"She don t?"
"No," gasped Flora, her head lowered
before the wind.
"Well, I want to know, ain t this the old
Maxwell place? "
"Yes," said Flora.
Some great drops of rain began to fall;
there was another flash. The woman strug
gled mightily, and prevailed over the gate-
latch. She pushed it open. " Well, I don t
care," said she, "I m comin in, whether or
no. I dunno but my bonnet-strings will
spot, an I ain t goin to have my best
clothes soaked. It s mighty funny nobody
knows where Mis Field lives; but this is
the old Maxwell house, where she wrote
Mandy she lived, an I m goin in."
Flora stood aside, and the three women
entered with a rush. Lois, standing near
the door front, saw them coming through
the greenish-yellow gloom, their three black
figures scudding before the wind like black-
"Land sakes! " shrieked out Mrs. Bab-
228 JANE FIELD
cock, " there s Lois now ! Lois, how are you ?
I d like to know what that girl we met at
the gate meant telling us they didn t live
here. Why, Lois Field, how do you do?
Where s your mother? I guess we d better
step right in, an not stop to talk. It s an
awful tempest. I m dreadful afraid my bon
net trimmin will spot."
They all scurried up the steps and into
the house. Then the women turned and
kissed Lois, and raised a little clamor of
delight over her. She stood panting. She
did not ask them into the sitting-room.
CHer head whirled. It seemed to her that
;he en& of everything had come.
But Mrs. Babcock turned toward the sit
ting-room door. She had pulled off her
bonnet, and was wiping it anxiously with
her handkerchief. "This is the way, ain t
it?" she said.
Lois followed them in helplessly. The
room was dark as night, for the shutters were
closed. Mrs. Babcock flung one open per
"We ll break our necks here, if we don t
have some light," she said. The hail began
to rattle on the window-panes.
JANE FIELD 22p
" It s hailin ! " the women chorussed.
"Are your windows all shut?" Mrs. Bab-
cock demanded of Lois.
And the girl said, in a dazed way, that the
bedroom windows were open, and then went
mechanically to shut them.
"Shut the blinds, too!" screamed Mrs.
Babcock. "The hail s comin in this side
terrible heavy. I m afraid it ll break the
glass." Mrs. Babcock herself, her face
screwed tightly against an onslaught of wind
and hail, shut the blinds, and the room was
again plunged in darkness. " We ll have
to stan it," said she. "Mis Field don t
want her windows all broke in. That s
Thunder shook the house like an explo
sion. The women looked at each other with
"Where is your mother? Why don t she
come in here?" Mrs. Babcock asked excit
edly of Lois returning from the bedroom.
"She s gone berrying," replied Lois,
feebly. She sank into a chair.
"Gone berryin !" screamed Mrs. Bab
cock, and the other women echoed her.
230 JANE FIELD
"When did she go?"
"Right after dinner."
" Right after dinner, an she ain t got
home yet! Out in this awful tempest!
Well, she ll be killed. You ll never see her
again, that s all. A berry pasture is the most
dangerous place in creation in a thunder-
shower. Out berryin in all this hail an
thunder an lightnin ! "
Mrs. Green pressed close up to Lois.
"Ain t you any idea where she s gone?"
said she. " If you have, I ll jest slip off my
dress skirt, an you give me an old shawl,
an I ll go with you an see if we can t find
"I ll go, too," cried Amanda. "Don t
you know which way they went, Lois?"
Just then the south side-door slammed
"She s come," said Lois, in a strained
"Well, I m thankful!" cried Mrs.
Green. "Hadn t you better run out an
help her off with her wet things, Lois?"
But the sitting-room door opened, and
Mrs. Field stood there, a tall black shadow
hardly shaped out from the gloom. The
JANE FIELD 231
women all arose and hurried toward her.
There was a shrill flurry of greeting. Mrs.
Field s voice arose high and terrified above
"Who is it?" she cried out. "Who s
here ? "
" Why, your old neighbors, Mrs. Field.
Don t you know us Mandy an Mis Green
an Mis Babcock ? We come down on an
excursion ticket to Boston only three dol
lars an sixty cents an we thought we d
"Ain t you dreadful wet, Mis Field?"
interposed Mrs. Green s solicitous voice.
" You d better go and change your dress,"
"When did you come?" said Mrs. Field.
"Jest now. For the land sakes, Mis
Field, your dress is soppin wet! Do go an
change it, or you ll catch your death of
Mrs. Field did not stir. The hail pelted
on the windows. " Now, you go right along
an change it," cried Mrs. Babcock.
"Well," said Mrs. Field vaguely, " meb-
be I d better." She fumbled her way un
steadily toward her bedroom door.
232 JANE FIELD.
" You go help her; it s dark as a pocket,"
said Mrs. Babcock imperatively to Lois; and
the girl followed her mother.
"They act dreadful queer, seems to me,"
whispered Mrs. Babcock, when the bedroom
door was closed.
"I guess it s jest because they re so sur
prised to see us," Mrs. Green whispered
"Well, if I ain t wanted, I can go back to
where I come from, if I do have to throw
the money away," Mrs. Babcock said, almost
aloud. " I think they act queer, both on
em. I should think they might seem a lit
tle mite more pleased to see three old neigh
" Mebbe it s the thunder-shower that s
kind of dazed em," said Amanda. She
herself was much afraid of a thunder-shower.
She had her feet well drawn up, and her
hand over her eyes.
"It s a mercy Mis Field wa n t killed
out in it," said Mrs. Green.
" I don t see what in creation she stayed
out so in it for," rejoined Mrs. Babcock.
"She must have seen the cloud comin up.
This is a pretty big house, ain t it? An I
JANE FIELD 233
should think it was furnished nice, near s
I can see, but it s terrible old-fashioned."
Amanda huddled up in her chair, looked
warily at the strange shadows in this un
familiar room, and wished she were at home.
The storm increased rather than dimin
ished. When Mrs. Field and Lois re
turned, all the women, at Mrs. Babcock s
order, drew their chairs close together in
the middle of the room.
"I ve always heard that was the safest
place, " said she. " That was the way old Dr.
Barnes always used to do. He had thirteen
children; nine of em was girls. When
ever he saw a thunder-shower comin up, he
used to make Mis Barnes an the children
go into the parlor, an then they d all set
in the middle of the floor, an he d offer
prayer. He used to say he d do his part an
get in the safest place he knew of, an then
ask the Lord to help him. Mandy Pratt! "
"What say, Mis Babcock ? " returned
" Have you got your hoop-skirt on ? "
Amanda sprang up. " Yes, I have. I
forgot it! "
"For the land sakes! I should think
234 JANE FIELD
you d thought of that, scared as you pretend
to be in a thunder-shower. Do go in the
bedroom an drop it off this minute! Lois,
you go with her."
While Amanda and Lois were gone there
was a slight lull in the storm.
" I guess it s kind of lettin up," said Mrs.
Babcock. " This is a nice house you ve got
here, ain t it, Mis Field?"
"Yes, tis," replied Jane Field.
" I s pose there was a good deal of nice
furniture in it,wa n t there?"
"Was there nice beddin ?"
" I s pose there was plenty of table-cloths
an such things ? Have you bought any new
furniture, Mis Field?"
"No, I ain t," said Mrs. Field. She
moved her chair a little to make room for
Lois and Amanda when they returned. Lois
sat next her mother.
"I didn t know but you had. I thought
mebbe the furniture was kind of old-fash
ioned. Have you oh, ain t it awful?"
The storm had gathered itself like an an
imal for a fiercer onset. The room was
JANE FIELD ^235
lit up with a wild play of blue fire. The
thunder crashed closely in its wake.
"Oh, we hadn t ought to talk of anything
but the mercy of the Lord an our sins!"
wailed Mrs. Babcock. " Don t let s talk of
anything else. That struck somewheres
near. There s no knowin where it ll come
next. I never see such a shower. We don t
have any like it in Green River. Oh, I
hope we re all prepared! "
"That s the principal thing," said Mrs.
Green, in a solemn trembling voice.
Amanda said nothing. She thought of
her will; a vision of the nicely ordered
rooms she had left seemed to show out before
her in the flare of the lightning; in spite of
her terror it was a comfort to her.
"We d ought to be thankful in a time like
this that we ain t any of us got any great
wickedness on our consciences," said Mrs.
Babcock. " It must be terrible for them that
have, thinkin they may die any minute
when the next flash comes. I don t envy
"It must be terrible," assented Mrs.
Green, like an amen.
" It s bad enough with the sins we ve got
236 JANE FIELD
on all our minds, the best of us," continued
Mrs. Babcock. " Think how them that s
broken God s commandments an committed
murders an robberies must feel. I shouldn t
think they could stan it, unless they burst
right out an confessed to everybody should
you, Mis Field? "
" I guess so," said Mrs. Field, in a hard
Mrs. Babcock said no more; somehow
she and the others felt repelled. They
all sat in silence except for awed ejacula
tions when now and then came a louder
crash of thunder. All at once, after a
sharp flash, there was a wild clamor in the
street; a bell clanged out.
"It s struck! it s struck! " shrieked Mrs.
"Oh, it ain t this house, is it?" Amanda
They all rushed to the windows and flung
open the blinds; a red glare filled the room;
a large barn nearly opposite was^.^on_fire.
They clutched each other, and watched the
red gush of flame. The barn burned as if
lighted at every corner.
"Are there any cows or horses in it?"
JANE FIELD 237
panted Mrs. Babcock. " Oh, ain t it dread
ful ? Are there any, Mis Field?"
"I dunno, " said Mrs. Field.
She stood like a grim statue, the red light
of the fire in her face. Lois was sobbing.
Mrs. Green had put an arm around her.
"Don t, Lois, don t," she kept saying, in
a solemn, agitated voice. "The Lord will!/
overrule it all; it is He speakin in it."
The women watched while the street filled
with people, and the barn burned down.
It did not take long. The storm began to