her burned wrist giving her pain, of the
frantic haste with which she had taken that
old fruit cake out of the jar down-cellar,
and pulled those sprigs of myrtle from the
bank under the north windows.
" Will you have some weddin -cake ? " said
The ladies each took a slice gingerly and
respectfully. Mrs. Lowe and Mrs. Robbins
nodded to each other imperceptibly. The
cake was not iced with those fine devices
which usually make a wedding-loaf, it was
rather dry, and not particularly rich; but
Mrs. Maxwell s perfect manner as she cut
and served it, her acting on her own little
histrionic stage, h^^jwayed^them^jto Jier
will. Mrs. Lowe and Mrs. Robbins both
thought she knew. But the minister s wife
IQO JANE FIELD
still doubted; and later, when the other
women were removed from the spell of her
acting, their old suspicions returned. It
was always a mooted question in Elliot
whether or not Mrs. Jane Maxwell had
known of her daughter s marriage. Not all
her subsequent behavior, her meeting the
young couple with open arms at the station
on their return, and Flora s appearance at
church the next Sunday in the silk dress
which her mother had concocted during her
absence, could quite allay the suspicion, al
though jt prevented it from gaining ground.
All that evening Mrs. Maxwell s courage
never flagged. She entertained her guests
as well as a woman of Sparta could have
done. She even had the coolness to pros
ecute other projects which she had in mind.
She kept Mrs. Field and Lois behind the
rest, and walked home with the mother,
that Francis might have the girl to himself.
And she went into the house with Mrs.
Field, and slipped a parcel into her pocket,
while the two young people had a parting
word at the gate.
IT was a hot afternoon in August. Aman
da Pratt had set all her windows wide open,
but no breeze came in, only the fervid breath
of the fields and the white road outside.
She sat at a front window and darned a
white stocking; her long, thin arms and her
neck showed faintly through her old loose
muslin sacque. The muslin was white,
with a close-set lavender sprig, and she
wore a cameo brooch at her throat. The
blinds were closed, and she had to bend
low over her mending in order to see in the
Mrs. Babcock came toiling up the bank
to the house, but Amanda did not notice
her until she reached the front door. Then
she fetched a great laboring sigh.
" Oh, hum ! " said she, audibly, in a wrath
ful voice; "if I d had any idea of it, I
wouldn t have come a step."
Then Amanda looked out with a start.
192 JANE FIELD
"Is that you, Mis Babcock ? " she called
hospitably through the blind.
"Yes, it s me what s left of me. Oh,
hum! Oh, hum! "
Amanda ran and opened the door, and
Mrs. Babcock entered, panting. She had
a green umbrella, which she furled with
difficulty at the door, and a palm-leaf fan.
Her face, in the depths of her scooping
green barege bonnet, was dank with per
spiration, and scowling with indignant mis
ery. She sank into a chair, and fanned
herself with a desperate air.
Amanda set her umbrella in the corner,
then she stood looking sympathetically at
her. " It s a pretty hot day, ain t it ? " said
"I should think twas hot. Oh, hum!"
" Don t you want me to get you a tumbler
of water ?"
"I dunno. I don t drink much cold
water; it don t agree with me very well.
Oh, dear! You ain t got any of your beer
made, I s pose?"
"Oh, no, I ain t. I m dreadful sorry.
Don t you want a swaller of cold tea? "
"Well, I dunno but I ll have jest a
JANE FIELD 193
swaller, if you ve got some. Oh, dear me,
Amanda went out hurriedly, and returned
with a britannia teapot and a tumbler. She
poured out some tea, and Mrs. Babcock
drank with desperate gulps.
"I think cold tea is better for anybody
than cold water in hot weather," said
Amanda. " Won t you have another swaller,
Mis Babcock ? "
Mrs. Babcock shook her head, and Aman
da carried the teapot and tumbler back to
the kitchen, then she seated herself again,
and resumed her mending. Mrs. Babcock
fanned and panted, and eyed Amanda.
" You look cool enough in that old mus
lin sacque," said she, in a tone of vicious
"Yes, it is real cool. I ve kept this
sacque on purpose for a real hot day."
"Well, it s dreadful long in the shoulder
seams, cordin to the way they make em
now, but I s pose it s cool. Oh, hum! I
ruther guess I shouldn t have come out of
the house, if I d any idea how hot twas in
the sun. Seems to me it s hot as an oven
here. I should think you d air off your
194 JANE FIELD
house early in the mornin , an then shut
your windows tight, an keep the heat
"I know some folks do that way," said
"Well, I always do, an I guess most
everybody does that s good housekeepers.
It makes a sight of difference."
Amanda said nothing, but she sat
"I s pose you don t have to make any
fire from mornin till night; seems as if you
might keep cool."
" No, I don t have to."
"Well, I do. There I had to go to work
to-day an cook squash an beans an green
corn. The men folks ain t satisfied if they
don t have em in the time of em. I wish
sometimes there wasn t no such thing as
garden sauce. I tell em sometimes I guess
if they had to get the things ready an cook
em themselves, they d go without. Seems
sometimes as if the whole creation was like
a kitchen without any pump in it, specially
contrived to make women folks extra work.
Looks to me as if pease without pods could
have been contrived pretty easy, and it
JANE FIELD 1 95
does seem as if there wasn t any need of
havin strings on the beans."
"Mis Green has got a kind of beans
without any strings," said Amanda. "She
brought me over some the other day, an
they were about the best I ever eat."
"Well, I know there is a kind without
strings," returned Mrs. Babcock ; "but I
ain t got none in my garden, an I never
shall have, It ain t my lot to have things
come easj". Seems as if it got hotter an
hotter. Why don t you open your front
" Jest as sure as I do, the house will be
swarmin with flies."
"You d ought to have a screen-door. I
made Adoniram make me one five years ago,
an it s a real nice one; but I know, of
course, you ain t got nobody to make one
for you. Once in a while it seems as if
men folks come in kinder handy, an* they dj/
ought to, when women work an slave the
way I do to fill em up. Mebbe some time
when Adoniram ain t drove, I could get him
to make a door for you. Mebbe some time
"I s pose it would be nice," replied
196 JANE FIELD
Amanda. "You re real kind to offer, Mis
"Well, I s pose women that have men
folks to do for em ought d.o be kind of
obligin sometimes to them that ain t. I ll
see if I can get Adoniram to make you a
screen-door next winter. Seems to me it
does get hotter an hotter. For the land
sakes, Amanda Pratt! what are you cuttin
that great hole in that stockin heel for ?
Are you crazy ? "
Amanda colored. " The other stockin s
got a hole in it," said she, "an I m makin
"Cuttin a great big hole in a stockin
heel on purpose to darn ? Mandy Pratt,
you ain t? "
"I am," replied Amanda, with dignity.
"Well, if you ain t a double and twisted
old maid!" gasped Mrs. Babcock.
Amanda s long face and her neck were a
Mrs. Babcock laughed a loud, sarcastic
cackle. " I never did!" she giggled.
Amanda opened her mouth as if to speak,
then she shut it tightly, remembering the
offer of the screen-door. She had had so
JANE FIELD 197
few gifts in her whole life that she had a
meek impulse of gratitude even if one were
thrust into her hand hard enough to hurt
"Well," Mrs. Babcock continued, still
sniggering unpleasantly, " I don t want to
hurt your feelin s, Mandy; you needn t color
up so; but I can t help laughin ."
"Laugh, then, if you want to," said
Amanda, with a quick flash. She forgot the
Mrs. Babcock drew her face down quickly.
"Land, Mandy," said she, "don t get mad.
I didn t mean anything. Anybody knows
that old maids is jest as good as them that
gets married. I ain t told you what I come
over here for. I declare I got so terrible
heated up, I couldn t think of nothin .
Look here, Mandy."
Amanda mended on the stocking foot
drawn tightly over her left hand, and did
not raise her eyes.
"Mandy, you ain t mad, be you? You
know I didn t mean nothin ."
" I ain t mad," replied Amanda, in a con
"Well, there ain t nothin to be mad
198 JANE FIELD
about. Look here, Mandy, how long is it
since Mis Field and Lois went?"
"About three months."
"Look here! I dunno what you ll say,
but I think Mis Green thought real fa
vorable of it. Do you know how cheap
you can go down to Boston an back now?"
Amanda looked up. " No. Why ? " said
Mrs. Babcock stopped fanning and leaned
forward. " Amanda Pratt, you can go
down to Boston an back, an be gone a
week, for three dollars an sixty cents."
Amanda stared back at her in a startled
"Let s you an me an Mis Green go
down an see Mis Field an Lois," said
Mrs. Babcock, in a tragic voice.
Amanda turned pale. " They don t live
in Boston," she said, with a bewildered air.
" We can go down to Boston on the early
train," replied Mrs. Babcock, importantly.
" Then we can have all the afternoon to
go round Boston an see the sights, an
then, toward night, we can go out to Mis
Field s. Land, here s Mis Green now!
She said she d come over as soon as Abby
JANE FIELD 199
got home from school. I m jest tellin her
about it, Mis Green."
Mrs. Green stood in the doorway, smil
ing half-shamefacedly. " I s pose you think
it s a dreadful silly plan, Mandy," said she
Amanda got up and pushed the rocking-
chair in which she had been sitting toward
"Set down, do," said she. "I dunno,
Mis Green. I ain t had time to think it
over, it s come so sudden." Amanda s face
was collected, but her voice was full of agi
" Well," said Mrs. Green, " I ain t known
which end my head is on since Mis Bab-
cock come in an spoke of it. First I
thought I couldn t go nohow, an I dunno
as I can now. Still, it does seem dread
ful cheap to go down to Boston an back,
an I ain t been down more n four times
in the last twenty years. I ain t been out
gaddin much, an that s a fact."
" The longer you set down in one corner,
the longer you can," remarked Mrs. Bab-
cock. " I believe in goin while you ve got
a chance, for my part."
200 JANE FIELD
"I ain t ever been to Boston," said
Amanda, and her face had the wishful, far
away look that her grandfather s might
have had when he thought of the sea.
" It does seem as if you d ought to go
once," said Mrs. Green.
"I say, let s start up an go!" cried Mrs.
Babcock, in an intense voice.
The three women looked at each other.
" Abby could keep house for father a few
days," said Mrs. Green, as if to some carp
ing judge; "an it ain t goin* to cost much,
an I know father d say go."
"Well, I guess I can cook up enough vict
uals to last Adoniram and the boys whilst
I m gone," said Mrs. Babcock defiantly;
" I guess they can get along. Adoniram
can make rye puddin , an they can fill up on
rye puddin an molasses. I m a-goin ."
"I dunno," said Amanda, trembling.
"I m dreadful afraid I hadn t ought to."
"Well, I should think you could go, if
Mis Green an I could, "said Mrs. Babcock.
"Here you ain t got nobody but jest your
self, an ain t got to leave a thing cooked
up nor nothin ."
"I would like to see Mis Field an Lois
JANE FIELD 2OI
again, but it seems like a great undertakin ,"
sighed Amanda. "Then it s goin to cost
" It ain t goin to cost but jest three dol
lars an sixty cents," said Mrs. Babcock.
" I guess you can afford that, Mandy. There
your tenement didn t stay vacant two weeks
after the Fields went; the Simmonses came
right in. I guess if I had rent-money, an
nobody but myself, I could afford to travel
once in a while."
"Now you d better make up your mind
to go, Mandy," Mrs. Green said. "I think
Mis Field would be more pleased to see you
than anybody in Green River. That s one
thing I think about goin . I know she ll be
tickled almost to death to see us comin in.
Mis Field s a real good woman. There
wa n t anybody in town I set more by than
I did by her."
" When did you hear from her last, Man
dy?" interposed Mrs. Babcock.
"About a month ago."
"I s pose Lois is a good deal better?"
" Yes, I guess she is. Her mother said
she seemed pretty well for her. I s pose it
agrees with her better down there."
202 JANE FIELD
" I s pose there was a good deal more fuss
made about her when she was here than
there was any need of," said Mrs. Babcock,
her whole face wrinkled upward contemptu
ously; "a great deal more fuss. There
wa n t nothin ailed the girl if folks had let
her alone, talkin an scarin her mother to
death. She was jest kind of run down with
the spring weather. Young girls wilt down
dreadful easy, an spring up again. I ve
seen em. Twa n t nothin ."
" Well, I dunno; she looked dreadfully,"
Mrs. Green said, with mild opposition.
* Well, you can see how much it amounted
to," returned Mrs. Babcock, with a trium
phant sniff. " Folks ought to have been
ashamed of themselves, scarin Mis Field
the way they did about her. Seemed as if
they was determined to have Lois go into
consumption whether or no, an was goin
to push her in, if they couldn t manage it in
no other way. I s pose you ve sent all Mis
Field s things down there, Mandy?"
"The furniture is all up garret," said
Amanda. "All I ve sent down was their
clothes. Mi s Field had me pack em up
in their two trunks, an send em down to
JANE FIELD 203
Lois. I didn t see why she didn t have me
mark em to her."
"I should think it was kind of queer,"
said Mrs. Green. " Now s pose we go, what
had we better carry for clothes? We don t
need no trunk."
" Of course we don t," said Mrs. Babcock
promptly. " We can each carry a bag. We
ain t going to need much."
"I guess, if I went," said Amanda, "that
I should carry this sacque to slip on, if it s
as hot weather as tis now. I should have
to do it up, but that ain t much work."
Mrs. Babcock eyed it. "Well, I dunno,"
said she; "it s pretty long in the shoul
der seams. I dunno how much they dress
down there where Mis Field lives. Mebbe
"There s one thing I ve been thinkin
about," Mrs. Green said, with an anxious
air. " If we go down on that early train,
an stay all day in Boston, we shall have to
buy us something to eat; we should get
dreadful faint before we got out to Mis
Field s, and things are dreadful high in
"Oh, land!" cried Mrs. Babcock in a su-
204 JANE FIELD
perior tone. "All we ve got to do is to
carry some luncheon with us. I ll make
some pies, and you can bake some cookies,
an then we ll set down in Boston Common
an eat it. That s the way lots of folks do.
That ain t nothin to worry about. Well,
now, I think it s about time for us to decide
whether or no we re goin . I ve got to go
home an git supper."
"I ll do jest as the rest say," said Mrs.
Green. "I s pose I can go. I s pose
father ll say I d better. An Abby she was
all for it, when I spoke about it to her. She
thinks she can have the Fay girl over to
stay with her, an she wants me to buy her
a dress in Boston, instead of gettin it
"Well, "said Amanda, with a sigh she
was quite pale "I ll think of it."
"We ve got to make up our minds," said
Mrs. Babcock sharply. "There ain t time
for much thinkin . The excursion starts a
day after to-morrow."
"I ll have my mind made up to-morrow
mornin ," said Amanda. " I ve got to think
of it over-night, anyhow. I can t start right
up an say I ll go, without a minute to think
JANE FIELD 205
about it." Her voice trembled nervously,
but decision underlay it.
" I don t see why it ain t time enough if
we decide to-morrow morning. I d ruther
like to think of it a little while longer,"
said Mrs. Green.
Mrs. Babcock got up. "Well," said she,
"I ll send Adoniram round to-morrow
mornin , an you tell him what you ve de
cided. I guess I shall go whether or no.
I ve got three men folks to leave, an it s
a good deal more of an undertakin for me
than some, but I ain t easy scart. I b lieve
in goin once in a while."
"Well, I ll let you know in the mornin .
I jest want to think of it over-night," re
peated Amanda, with dignified apology.
She went to the door with her guests.
Mrs. Babcock spread her green umbrella,
and descended the steps with a stiff side-wise
"It is hotter than ever, I do believe," she
" Well, now, I was jest thinkin it was a
little grain cooler," returned Mrs. Green,
following in her wake. Her back was
meekly bent; her face, shaded by a black
2O6 JANE FIELD
sun-hat, was thrust forward with patient
persistency. " There, I feel a little breeze
now," she added.
" I guess all the breeze there is, is in your
own motion," retorted Mrs. Babcock. Her
green umbrella bobbed energetically. She
fanned at every step.
" Mebbe it s your fan," said the other
Amanda went into the house and shut
the door. She stood in the middle of the
parlor and looked around. There was a
certain amaze in her eyes, as if everything
wore a new aspect. " They can talk all
they ve a mind to," she muttered, "it s a
great undertakin . S pose anything hap
pened? If anything happened to them
whilst they were gone, there s folks enough
to home to see to things. S pose anything
happened to me, there ain t anybody. If I
go, I ve got to leave this house jest so.
I ve got to be sure the bureau drawers are
all packed up, an things swept an dusted,
so folks won t make remarks. There s other
things, too. Everything s got to be thought
of. There s the cat. I s pose I could get
Abby Green to come over an feed her, but
JANE FIELD 207
I dassen t trust her. Young girls ain t to
be depended on. Ten chances to one she d
get to carryin on with that Fay girl an for-
git all about that cat. She won t lap her
milk out of anything but a clean saucer,
neither, and I don t believe Abby would
look out for that. She always seemed to
me kind of heedless. I dunno about the
whole of it."
Amanda shook her head; her eyes were
dilated; there was an anxious and eager
expression in her face. She went into the
kitchen, kindled the fire, and made herself
a cup of tea, which she drank absently. She
could not eat anything.
The cat came mewing at the door, and
she let her in and fed her. " I dunno
how she d manage," she said, as she
watched her lap the milk from the clean
saucer beside the cooking-stove.
After she had put away the cat s saucer
and her own tea-cup, she stood hesitating.
" Well, I don t care, " said she, in a decisive
tone; "I m goin to do it. It s got to be
done, anyhow, whether I go or not. It s
been on my mind for some time."
Amanda got out her best black dress from
2O8 JANE FIELD
the closet, and sat down to alter the shoulder
seams. "I don t care nothin about this
muslin sacque," said she, "but I ain t goin
to have Mis Babcock measurin my shoulder
seams every single minute if I do go, an
they may be real dressy down where Mis
Amanda sewed until ten o clock; then she
went to bed, but she slept little. She was
up early the next morning. Adoniram
Babcock came over about eight o clock; the
windows and blinds were all flung wide open,
the braided rugs lay out in the yard. He
put his gentle grizzled face in at one of the
windows. There was a dusty odor. Amanda
was sweeping vigorously, with a white hand
kerchief tied over her head. Her delicate
face was all of a deep pink color.
" Ann Lizy sent over to see if you d made
up your mind," said Adoniram.
Amanda started. " Good-mornin , Mr.
Babcock. Yes, you can tell her I have.
I m a-goin ." .
There was a reckless defiance of faith in
Amanda s voice. She had a wild air as she
stood there with the broom in a faint swirl
I DUN KNOW HOW SHE D MANAGE
JANE FIELD 2OQ
"Well, Ann Lizy ll be glad you ve made
up your mind to. She s gone to bakin ,
said the old man in the window.
"I ve got to bake some, too," said
Amanda. She began sweeping again.
" I ve jest been over to Mis Green s, an she
says she s goin if you do, " said Mr. Babcock.
"Well, you tell her I m goin , said
Amanda, with a long breath.
"I guess you ll have a good time," said
the old man, turning away. "I tell Ann
Lizy she can stay a month if she wants to.
Me an the boys can git along. " He laughed
a pleasant chuckle as he went off.
Amanda glanced after him. " I shouldn t
care if I had a man to leave to look after
the house," said she.
Amanda toiled all day; she swept and
dusted every room in her little domicile.
She put all her bureau drawers and closets
in exquisite order. She did not neglect
even the cellar and the garret. Mrs. Bab-
cock, looking in at night, found her rolling
out sugar gingerbread.
"For the land sakes, Mandy! " said she,
"what are you cookin by lamp-light for
this awful hot night?"
2IO JANE FIELD
"I m makin a little short gingerbread
" I don t see what you left it till this time
of day for. What you got them irons on the
stove for? "
" I ve got to iron my muslin sacque. I ve
got it all washed and starched."
"Ironin this time of day! I d like to
know what you ve been doin ever, since you
got up? "
" I ve been getting everything in order, in
case anything happened," replied Amanda.
She tried to speak with cool composure, but
her voice trembled. Her dignity failed her
in this unwonted excitement.
"What s goin to happen, for the land
sake?" cried Mrs. Babcock.
" I dunno. None of us know. Things
do happen sometimes."
Mrs. Babcock stared at her, half in con
tempt, half in alarm. " I hope you ain t
had no forewarnin that you ain t goin to
live nor anything," said she. " If you have,
I should think you d better stay to home."
" I ain t had no more forewarnin than any
body," said Amanda. "All is, there ain t
nobody in the other part of the house. The
JANE FIELD 211
Simmonses all went yesterday to make a
visit at her mother s, and in case anything
should happen, I m goin to leave things
lookin so I m willin anybody should see
"Well," said Mrs. Babcock, "I guess you
couldn t leave things so you d be willin
anybody d see em if you had three men
folks afoul of em for three days. I ve
got to be goin if I git up for that four-
o clock train in the mornin . I ve made fif
teen pies an five loaves of bread, besides
bakin beans, to say nothin of a great pan
ful of doughnuts an some cake. I ain t
been up garret nor down cellar cleanin , an
if anything happens to me, I s pose folks ll
see some dust and cobwebs, but I ve done
considerable. Adoniram s goin to take us
all down in the covered wagon; he ll be
round about half-past four."
Amanda lighted Mrs. Babcock out the
front door; then she returned to her tasks.
She did not go to bed that night. She had
put her bedroom in perfect order, and would
not disturb it. She lay down on her hard
parlor sofa awhile, but she slept very little.
At two o clock she kindled a fire, made some
212 JANE FIELD
tea, and cooked an egg for her breakfast.
Then she arrayed herself in her best dress.
She was all ready, her bag and basket of
luncheon packed and her bonnet on, at three
o clock. She sat down and folded her hands
to wait, but presently started up. "I m
going to do it," said she. "I don t care,
I am. I can t feel easy unless I do."
She got some writing-paper and pen and
ink from the chimney cupboard and sat
down at the table. She wrote rapidly, her
lips pursed, her head to one side. Then
she folded the paper, wrote on the outside,
and arranged it conspicuously on the top of
a leather-covered Bible on the centre of the
table. " There! " said she. " It ain t regu
lar, I s pose, an I ain t had any lawyer, but
I guess they d carry out my wishes if any
thing happened to me. I ain t got nobody
but Cousin Rhoda Hill, an Cousin Maria
Bennet; an Rhoda don t need a cent, an
Maria d ought to have it all. This house
will make her real comfortable, an my
clothes will fit her. I s pose I d have this
dress on, but my black alpaca s pretty good.
I s pose Mis Babcock would laugh, but
I feel a good deal easier about goin ."
JANE FIELD 213
Amanda waited again; she blew out her
lamp, for the early dawnlight strengthened.