wouldn t fuss so, mother."
Mrs. Field stood back; the meeting bell
began to ring.
" Coin to meetin , mother ? " Lois asked,
in a pleasanter voice.
" I thought mebbe I would."
" I guess I won t go. I want to sew some
on my dress this eveninV
" Sha n t you mind stayin alone, if I go ? "
; Mind stayin alone? of course I sha n t.
You get" the strangest ideas lately, mother."
Mrs. Field put on her black bonnet and
shawl, and started. The bell tolled, and she
passed down the village street with a stiff
steadiness of gait. She felt eager to go to
meeting to-night. This old New England
woman, all of whose traditions, were purely
24 JANE FIELD
orthodox, was all unknowingly a fetich-
worshipper in a time of trouble. Ever since
her daughter had been ill, she had had a
terrified impulse in her meeting-going. It
seemed to her that if she stayed away, Lois
might be worse. Unconsciously her church
attendance became a species of spell, or pro
pitiation to a terrifying deity, and the wild
instinct of the African awoke in the New
When she reached the church the bell
had stopped ringing, and the vestry win
dows were parallelograms of yellow light;
the meeting was in the vestry.
Mrs. Field entered, and took a seat well
toward the front. The room was half filled
with people, and the mass of them were
elderly and middle-aged women. There
were rows of their homely, faded, and
strong-lined faces set in sober bonnets, a
sprinkling of solemn old men, a few bright-
ribboned girls, and in the background a
settee or two of smart young fellows. Right
in front of Mrs. Field sat a pretty girl with
roses in her hat. She was about Lois age,
and had been to school with her.
Mrs. Field, erect and gaunt, with a look
JANE FIELD 25
of goodness so settled and pre-eminent in
her face that it had almost the effect of a
smile, sat and listened to the minister. He
was a young man with boyish shoulders, and
a round face, which he screwed nervously
as he talked. He was vehement, and strung
towiriness with new enthusiasm; he seemed
to toss the doctrines like footballs back and
forth before the eyes of the people.
Mrs. Field listened intently, but all the
time it was as if she were shut up in a cor^l
ner with her own God and her own religion. J
There are as many side chapels as there are
individual sorrows in every church.
After the minister finished his discourse,
the old men muttered prayers, with long
pauses between. Now and then a young
woman played a gospel tune on a melodeon,
and a woman in the same seat with Mrs.
Field led the singing. She was past middle
age, but her voice was still sweet, although
once in a while it quavered. She had sung
in the church choir ever since she was a
child, and was the prima donna of the
village. The young girl with roses in her
hat who sat in front of Mrs. Field also sang
with fervor, although her voice was little
26 JANE FIELD
more than a sweetly husky breath. She
kept her eyes, at once bold and timid, fixed
upon the young minister as she sang.
. When meeting was done, and Mrs. Field
arose, the girl spoke to her. She had a
pretty blush on her round cheeks, and she
smiled at Mrs. Field in the same way that
she would soon smile at the young minister.
"How s Lois to-night, Mrs. Field?"
"She s pretty well, thank you, Ida."
" I heard she was sick."
"Oh, no, she ain t sick. The spring
weather has made her feel kind of tired out,
that s all. It most always does."
"Well, I m glad she isn t sick," said the
girl, her radiant absent eyes turned upon
the minister, who was talking with some
one at the desk. " She wasn t out to meet
ing, and I didn t know but she might be."
"She thought she wouldn t " began
Mrs. Field, but the girl was gone. The min
ister had started down the other aisle, and
she met him at the door.
Several other people inquired for Lois as
Mrs. Field made her way out; some had
heard she was ill in bed. She had an
JANE FIELD 27
errand to do at the store on her way home;
when she reached it she went in, and stood
waiting at the counter.
There were a number of men lounging
about the large, rank, becluttered room, and
there were several customers. The village
post-office was in one corner of the store.
There were only two clerks besides the pro
prietor, who was postmaster as well. Mrs.
Field had to wait quite a while; but at last
she had made her purchases, and was just
stepping out the door, when a voice arrested
her. "Mis Field," it said.
She turned, and saw the postmaster com
ing toward her with a letter in his hand.
The lounging men twisted about and stared
lazily. The postmaster was a short, elderly
man with shelving gray whiskers, and a
wide, smiling mouth, which he was drawing
"Mis Field, here s a letter I want you
to look at; it come this mornin ," he said,
in a low voice.
Mrs. Field took the letter. It was di
rected, in a fair round hand, to Mrs. Esther
Maxwell; that had been her dead sister s
name. She stood looking at it, her face
28 JANE FIELD
drooping severely. " It was sent to my sis
ter," said she.
"I s posed so. Well, I thought I d hand
it to you."
Mrs. Field nodded gravely, and put the
letter in her pocket. She was again passing
out, when somebody nudged her heavily.
It was Mrs. Green, a woman who lived in
the next house beyond hers.
"Jest wait a minute," she said, "an I ll
go along with you."
So Mrs. Field stood back and waited,
while her neighbor pushed forward to the
counter. After a little she drew the letter
from her pocket and studied the superscrip
tion. The post-mark was Elliot. She sup
posed the letter to be from her dead sister s
father-in-law, who lived there.
"I may jest as well open it an see what
it is W 7 hile I m waitin ," she thought.
She tore open the envelope slowly and
clumsily with her stiff fingers, and held up
the letter so the light struck it. She could
not read strange writing easily, and this
was a nearly illegible scrawl. However,
after the first few words, she seemed to ab
sorb it by some higher faculty than reading.
JANE FIELD 2Q
In a short time she had the gist of the letter.
It was from a lawyer who signed himself
Daniel Tuxbury. He stated formally that
Thomas Maxwell was dead; that he had
left a will greatly to Esther Maxwell s ad
vantage, and that it would be advisable for
her to come to Elliot at an early date if
possible. Inclosed was a copy of the will.
It was dated several years ago. All Thomas
Maxwell s property was bequeathed with
out reserve to his son s widow, Esther Max
well, should she survive him. In case of
her decease before his own, the whole was
to revert to his brother s daughter, Flora
Jane Field read the letter through twice,
then she folded it, replaced it in the envel
ope, and stood erect by the store door. She
could see Mrs. Green s broad shawled back
among the customers at the calico counter.
Once in a while she looked around with a
beseeching and apologetic smile.
Mrs. Field thought, " I won t say a word
to her about it." However, she was con
scious of no evil motive; it was simply be
cause she was naturally secretive. She
looked pale and rigid.
30 JANE FIELD
Mrs. Green remarked it when she finally
approached with her parcel of calico.
"Why, what s the matter, Mis Field?"
she exclaimed. "You ain t sick, be you?"
" Seems to me you look dreadful pale. It
was too bad to keep you standin there so
long, but I couldn t get waited on before.
I think Mr. Robbinshad ought to have more
help. It s too much for him with only two
clerks, an the post-office to tend, too. I
see you got a letter." Mrs. Field nodded.
The two women went down the steps into
"How s Lois to-night?" Mrs. Green
asked as they went along.
" I guess she s about as usual. She
didn t say but what she was."
"She ain t left off her school, has she?"
"No," replied Mrs. Field, stiffly, "she
Suddenly Mrs. Green stopped and laid a
heavy hand on Mrs. Field s arm. "Look
here, Mis Field, I dun no as you ll thank
me for it, but I m goin to speak real
plain to you. the way I d thank anybody
to if twas my Jenny. I m dreadful afraid
JANE FIELD 31
you don t realize how bad Lois is, Mis
" Mebbe I don t." Mrs. Field s voice
The other woman looked perplexedly at
her for a moment, then she went on :
" Well, if you do, mebbe I hadn t ought to
said anything; but I was dreadful afraid
you didn t, an then when you come to, per
haps when twas too late, you d never
forgive yourself. She hadn t ought to teach
school another day, Mis Field."
"I dun no how it s goin to be helped,"
Mrs. Field said again, in her hard voice.
"Mis Field, I know it ain t any of my
business, an I don t know but you ll think
I m interfering but I can t help it nohow
when I think of my Abby, an how she
went down. Ain t you got anybody that
could help you a little while till she gets
better an able to work?"
"I dun no of anybody."
" Wouldn t your sister s husband s father ?
Ain t he got considerable property?"
Mrs. Field turned suddenly, her voice
sharpened. "I ve asked him all I m ever
goin to there! I let Esther s husband
32 JANE FIELD
have fifteen hundred dollars that my poor
husband saved out of his hard earnin s, an
he lost it in his business; an after he died
I wrote to his father, an I told him about
it. I thought mebbe he d be willin to be
fair, an pay his son s debts, if he didn t
have much feelin . There was Esther an
Lois an me, an not a cent to live on, an
Esther she was beginnin to be feeble. But
he jest sent me back my letter, an he d
wrote on the back of it that he wa n t re
sponsible for any of his son s debts. I said
then I d- never go to him agin, and I
didn t; an Esther didn t when she was
sick an dyin ; an I never let him know
when she died, an I don t s pose he knows
she is dead to this day."
" Oh, Mis Field, you didn t have to lose
all that money! "
" Yes, I did, every dollar of it."
"I declare it s wicked."
"There s a good many things that s
wicked, an sometimes I think some things
ain t wicked that we ve always thought was.
I don t know but the Lord meant everybody
to have what belonged to them in spite of
JANE FIELD 33
Mrs. Green stared. " I guess I don t
know jest what you mean, Mis Field."
"I meant everybody ought to have what s
their just due, an I believe the Lord will
uphold them in it. I ve about come to the
conclusion that folks ought to lay hold of
justice themselves if there ain t no other
way, an that s what we ve got hands for."
Suddenly Mrs. Field s manner changed.
"I know Lois hadn t ought to be teachin
school as well as you do," said she. "I
ain t said much about it, it ain t my way,
but I ve known it all the time."
" She d ought to take a vacation, Mis
Field, an get away from here for a spell.
Folks say Green River ain t very healthy.
They say these low meadow-lands are bad.
I worried enough about it after my Abby
died, thinkin what might have been done.
It does seem to me that if something was
done right away, Lois might get up; but
there ain t no usewaitin . I ve seen young
girls go down; it seems sometimes as if
there wa n t nothin more to them than
flowers, an they fade away in a day. I ve
been all through it. Mis Field, you don t
mind my speakin so, do you? Oh, Mis
34 JANE FIELD
Field, don t feel so bad! I m real sorry I
said anythin ."
Mrs. Field was shaking with great sobs.
"I ain t blamin you, " she said, brokenly.
Mrs. Green got out her own handkerchief.
" Mis Field, I wouldn t have spoken a
word, but I felt as if something ought to
be done, if there could be; an I thought
so much about my poor Abby. Lois
always makes me think of her; she s jest
about her build; an I didn t know as you
"I realized enough," returned Mrs. Field,
catching her breath as she walked on.
" Now I hope you don t feel any worse be
cause I spoke as I did," Mrs. Green said,
when they reached the gate of the Pratt
"You ain t told me anything I didn t
know," replied Mrs. Field.
Mrs. Green felt for one of her distorted
hands; she held it a second, then she
dropped it. Mrs. Field let it hang stiffly
the while. It was a fervent demonstration
to them, the evidence of unwonted excite
ment arid the deepest feeling. When Mrs.
Field entered her sitting-room, the first ob-
JANE FIELD 35
ject that met her eyes was Lois face. She
was tilted back in the rocking-chair, her
slender throat was exposed, her lips were
slightly parted, and there was a glassy gleam
between her half-open eyelids. Her mother
stood looking at her.
Suddenly Lois opened her eyes wide and
sat up. " What are you standing there
looking at me so for, mother?" she said,
in her weak, peevish voice.
"I ain t lookin at you, child. I ve jest
come home from meetin . I guess you ve
" I haven t been asleep a minute. I heard
you open the outside door."
Mrs. Field s hand verged toward the letter
in her pocket. Then she began untying
Lois arose, and lighted another lamp.
"Well, I guess I ll go to bed," said she.
"Wait a minute," her mother returned.
Lois paused inquiringly.
"Never mind," her mother said, hastily.
"You needn t stop. I can tell you jest as
"What was it?"
" Nothin of any account. Run along."
THE next morning Lois had gone to her
school and her mother had not yet shown
the letter to her. She went about as usual,
doing her housework slowly and vigorously.
Mrs. Field s cleanliness was proverbial in
this cleanly New England neighborhood.
It almost amounted to asceticism; her
rooms, when her work was finished, had the
bareness and purity of a nun s cell. There
was never any bloom of dust on Mrs. Field s
furniture; there was only the hard, dull
glitter of the wood. Her few chairs and
tables looked as if waxed; the paint was
polished in places from her doors and win
dow-casings; her window-glass gave out
green lights like jewels; and all this she
did with infinite pains and slowness, as
there was hardly a natural movement left in
her rheumatic hands. But there was in her
nature an element of stern activity that
must have its outcome in some direction,
JANE FIELD 37
and it took the one that it could find.
Jane had used to take in sewing before her
hands were diseased. In her youth she had
learned the trade of a tailoress; when
ready-made clothing, even for children,
came into use, she made dresses. Her
dresses had been long-waisted and stiffly
boned, with high, straight biases, seem
ingly fitted to her own nature instead of
her customers forms; but they had been
strongly and faithfully sewed, and her
stitches held fast as the rivets on a coat of
mail. Now she could not sew. She could
knit, and that was all, besides her house
work, that she could do.
This morning, while dusting a little tri
angular what-not that stood in a corner of
her sitting-room, she came across a small
box that held some old photographs. The
box was made of a kind of stucco-work
shells held in place by a bed of putty.
Amanda Pratt had made it and given it to
her. Mrs. Field took up this box and
dusted it carefully; then she opened it, and
took out the photographs one by one.
After a while she stopped; she did not
take out any more, but she looked intently
38 JANE FIELD
at one; then she replaced all but that one,
got painfully up from the low foot-stool
where she had been sitting, and went out of
her room across the entry to Amanda s, with
the photograph in her hand.
Amanda sat at her usual window, sewing
on her rug. The sunlight came in, and her
shadow, set in a bright square, wavered on
the floor; the clock out in the kitchen
ticked. Amanda looked up when Mrs.
Field entered. "Oh, it s you?" said she.
"I wondered who was comin . Set down,
won t you? "
Mrs. Field went over to Amanda and held
out the photograph. " I want to see if you
can tell me who this is."
Amanda took the photograph and held it
toward the light. She compressed her lips
and wrinkled her forehead. "Why, it s you,
of course ain t it?"
Mrs. Field made no reply; she stood
looking at her.
"Why, ain t it you?" Amanda asked,
looking from the picture to her in a bewil
"No; it s Esther."
JANE FIELD 39
"Yes, it s Esther."
"Well, I declare! When was it took?"
" About ten years ago, when she was in
"Well, all I ve got to say is, if anybody
had asked me, I d have said it was took for
you yesterday. Why, Mis Field, what s
the matter? "
"There ain t anything the matter."
"Why, you look dreadfully."
Mrs. Field s face was pale, and there was
a curious look about her whole figure. It
seemed as if shrinking from something,
twisting itself rigidly, as a fossil tree might
shrink in a wind that could move it.
"I feel well nough," said she. " I guess
it s the light."
"Well, mebbe tis," replied Amanda, still
looking anxiously at her. " Of course you
know if you feel well, but you do look
dreadful white to me. Don t you want
some water, or a swaller of cold tea?"
"No, I don t want a single thing; I m
well enough." Mrs. Field s tone was al
most surly. She held out her hand for the
photograph. "I must be goin ," she con
tinued; "I ain t got my dustin done. I jest
40 JANE FIELD
come across this, an I thought I d show it
to you, an see what you said."
"Well, I shouldn t have dreamed but
what it was yours; but then you an your
sister did look jest alike. I never could
tell you apart when you first came here."
" Folks always said we looked alike. We
always used to be took for each other when
we was girls, an I think we looked full as
much alike after our hair begun to turn.
Mine was a little lighter than hers, an that
made some difference betwixt us before. It
didn t show when we was both gray."
" I shouldn t have thought twould. Well,
I must say, I shouldn t dream but what
that picture was meant for you."
Mrs. Field took her way out of the room.
"How s Lois this mornin ? " Amanda
called after her.
"About the same, I guess."
"I saw her goin out of the yard this
mornin , an I thought she walked dreadful
" I guess she don t walk any too strong."
When Mrs. Field was in her own room
she stowed away the photograph in the shell
box; then she got a little broom and
JANE FIELD 41
brushed the shell-work carefully; she
thought it looked dusty in spite of her rub
When the dusting was done it was time
for her to get her dinner ready. Indeed,
there was not much leisure for Mrs. Field
all day. She seldom sat down for long at a
time. From morning until night she kept
up her stiff resolute march about her house.
At half-past twelve she had the dinner on
the table, but Lois did not come. Her
mother went into the sitting-room, sat down
beside a window, and watched. The town
clock struck one. Mrs. Field went out
doors and stood by the front gate, looking
down the road. She saw a girl coming in
the distance with a flutter of light skirts, and
she exclaimed with gladness, " There she is !"
The girl drew nearer, and she saw it was Ida
Starr in a dress that looked like Lois .
The girl stopped when she saw Mrs. Field
at the gate. " Good-morning," said she.
" Good-mornin , Ida."
"It s a beautiful day."
Mrs. Field did not reply; she gazed past
her down the road, her face all one pale
42 JANE FIELD
The girl looked curiously at her. "I
hope Lois is pretty well this morning?" she
said, in her amiable voice.
Mrs. Field responded with a harsh out
burst that fairly made her start back.
"No," she cried out, "she ain t well;
she s sick. She wa n t fit to go to school.
She couldn t hardly crawl out of the yard.
She ain t got home, an I m terrible worried.
I dun no but she s fell down."
" Maybe she just thought she wouldn t
"No; that ain t it. She never did such
a thing as that without saying something
about it; she d know I d worry."
Mrs. Field craned her neck farther over
the gate, and peered down the road. Be
side the gate stood two tall bushes, all
white with flowers that grew in long white
racemes, and they framed her distressed
"Look here, Mrs. Field," said the girl,
"I ll tell you what I ll do. The school-
house isn t much beyond my house ; I ll just
run over there and see if there s anything
the matter; then I ll come back right off,
and let you know."
JANE FIELD 43
"Oh, will you?"
" Of course I will. Now don t you worry,
Mrs. Field; I don t believe it s anything."
The girl nodded back at her with her
pretty smile; then she sped away with a
light tilting motion. Mrs. Field stood a
few minutes longer, then she went up the
steps into the house. She opened Amanda
Pratt s door instead of her own, and went
through the sitting-room to the kitchen,
from whence she could hear the clink of
"Lois ain t got home yet," said she,
standing in the doorway.
Amanda set down the dish she was wip
ing. " Mis Field, what do you mean ? "
"What I say."
" Ain t she got home yet ? "
"No, she ain t."
"Why, it s half-past one o clock! She
ain t comin ; it s time for school to begin.
Look here, Mis Field, I guess she felt
kind of tired, an thought she wouldn t
Mrs. Field shook her head with a sort of
remorselessness toward all comfort. " She s
44 JANE FIELD
"Oh, Mis Field! you don t s pose so?"
"The Starr girl s gone to find out."
Mrs. Field turned to go.
"Hadn t you better stay here till she
comes?" asked Amanda, anxiously.
"No; I must go home." Suddenly Mrs.
Field looked fiercely around. "I ll tell
you what tis, Mandy Pratt, an you mark
my words! I ain t goin to stan this kind
of work much longer! I ain t goin to see
all the child I ve got in the world murdered ;
for that s what it is it s murder! "
Mrs. Field went through the sitting-room
with a stiff rush, and Amanda followed her.
"Oh, Mis Field, don t take on so
don t! " she kept saying.
Mrs. Field went through the house into
her own kitchen. The little white-laid table
stood against the wall ; the tea-kettle
steamed and rocked on the stove; the room
was full of savory odors. Mrs. Field set the
tea-kettle back where it would not boil so
hard. These little household duties had
become to her almost as involuntary as the
tick of her own pulses. No matter what
hours of agony they told off, the pulses
ticked; and in every stress of life she would
JANE FIELD 45
set the tea-kettle back if it were necessary.
Amanda stood in the door, trembling. All
at once there was a swift roll of wheels in
the yard past the window. "Somebody s
come!" gasped Amanda. Mrs. Field
rushed to the back door, and Amanda after
her. There was a buggy drawn up close to
the step, and a man was trying to lift Lois
Mrs. Field burst out in a great wail.
"Oh, Lois! Lois! She s dead she s dead!"
"No, she ain t dead, " replied the man, in
a drawling, jocular tone. " She s worth a
dozen dead ones ain t you, Lois? I found
her layin down side of the road kind of
tuckered out, that s all, and I thought I d
give her a lift. Don t you be scared, Mis
Field. Now, Lois, you jest rest all your
heft on me."
Lois pale face and little reaching hands
appeared around the wing of the buggy.
Amanda ran around to the horse s head.
He did not offer to start; but she stood
there, and said, "Whoa, whoa," over and
over, in a pleading, nervous voice. She was
afraid to touch the bridle; she had a great
terror of horses.
46 JANE FIELD
The man, who was Ida Starr s father,
lifted Lois out, and carried her into the
house. She struggled a little.
"I can walk," said she, in a weakly in
Mr. Starr carried her into the sitting-
room and laid her down on the sofa. She
raised herself immediately, and sat up with
a defiant air.
"Oh, dear child, do lay down," sobbed
She put her hand on Lois shoulder and
tried to force her gently backward, but the
"Don t, mother," said she. "I don t
want to lie down."
Amanda had run into her own room for the
camphor bottle. Now she leaned over Lois
and put it to her nose. " Jest smell of this a
little," she said. Lois pushed it away feebly.
"I guess Lois will have to take a little
vacation," said Mr. Starr. " I guess I shall
have to see about it, and let her have a lit
He was one of the school committee.
"I don t need any vacation," said Lois,
in a peremptory tone.
JANE FIELD 47
"I guess we shall have to see about it,"