“Your uncle looked at me with a sly twinkle in his eye, and said I was a pretty fair specimen of a country girl, suppose we brought up Harry the way I’d been brought up. I knew he was only joking, yet I got quite excited. ‘Yes,’ I said, ’Do as my father and mother did. Have a farm about twice as large as you can manage. Don’t keep a hired man. Get up at daylight and slave till dark. Never take a holiday. Have the girls do the housework, and take care of the hens, and help pick the fruit, and make the boys tend the colts and the calves, and put all the money they make in the bank. Don’t take any papers, for they would waste their time reading them, and it’s too far to go the postoffice oftener than once a week; and’—but, I don’t remember the rest of what I said. Anyway your uncle burst into a roar of laughter. ‘Hattie,’ he said, ’my farm’s too big. I’m going to sell some of it, and enjoy myself a little more.’ That very week he sold fifty acres, and he hired an extra man, and got me a good girl, and twice a week he left his work in the afternoon, and took me for a drive. Harry held the reins in his tiny fingers, and John told him that Dolly, the old mare we were driving, should be called his, and the very next horse he bought should be called his, too, and he should name it and have it for his own; and he would give him five sheep, and he should have his own bank book and keep his accounts; and Harry understood, mere baby though he was, and from that day he loved John as his own father. If my father had had the wisdom that John has, his boys wouldn’t be the one a poor lawyer and the other a poor doctor in two different cities; and our farm wouldn’t be in the hands of strangers. It makes me sick to go there. I think of my poor mother lying with her tired hands crossed out in the churchyard, and the boys so far away, and my father always hurrying and driving us—I can tell you, Laura, the thing cuts both ways. It isn’t all the fault of the boys that they leave the country.”
Mrs. Wood was silent for a little while after she made this long speech, and Miss Laura said nothing. I took a turn or two up and down the stable, thinking of many things. No matter how happy human beings seem to be, they always have something to worry them. I was sorry for Mrs. Wood, for her face had lost the happy look it usually wore. However, she soon forgot her trouble, and said:
“Now, I must go and get the tea. This is Adele’s afternoon out.”
“I’ll come, too,” said Miss Laura, “for I promised her I’d make the biscuits for tea this evening and let you rest.” They both sauntered slowly down the plank walk to the house, and I followed them.
* * * * *
OUR RETURN HOME
In October, the most beautiful of all the months, we were obliged to go back to Fairport. Miss Laura could not bear to leave the farm, and her face got very sorrowful when any one spoke of her going away. Still, she had gotten well and strong, and was as brown as a berry, and she said that she knew she ought to go home, and get back to her lessons.