Mrs. White persisted. “Your voice, when you’re angry, ’s enough to drive anybody wild. I never heard any thing like it. And I’m sure I don’t see what you have to be angry at now. I should think I was the one to be angry. You’re all I’ve got in the world, Stephen; and you know what a life I lead. It isn’t as if I could go about, like other women; then I shouldn’t care where you spent your time, if you didn’t want to spend it with me.” And tears, partly of ill-temper, partly of real grief, rolled down the hard, unlovely, old face.
This was only one evening. There are three hundred and sixty-five in a year. Was not the burden too heavy for mortal man to carry?
Mercy said nothing to her mother of Mrs. White’s rudeness. She merely mentioned the fact of her having met Mr. White near the house, and having gone with him, at his request, to speak to his mother.
“What’s she like, Mercy?” asked Mrs. Carr, eagerly. “Is she goin’ to be company for me?”
“I could not tell, mother,” replied Mercy, indifferently; “for it was just their tea-hour, and I did not stay a minute,—only just to say, How d’ye do, and Good-evening. But Mr. White says she is very lonely; people don’t go to see her much: so I should think she would be very glad of somebody her own age in the house, to come and sit with her. She looks very ill, poor soul. She hasn’t been out of her bed, except when she was lifted, for eight years.”
“Dear me! dear me!” exclaimed Mrs. Carr. “Oh, I hope I’ll never be that way. What’u’d you ever do child, if I’d get to be like that?”
“No danger, mother dear, of your ever being like Mrs. White,” said Mercy, with an incautious emphasis, which, however, escaped Mrs. Carr’s recognition.
“Why, how can you be so sure I mightn’t ever get into jest so bad a way, child? There’s none of us can say what diseases we’re likely to hev or not to hev. Now there’s never been a case o’ lung trouble in our family afore mine, not ’s fur back ’s anybody kin trace it out; ‘n’ there’s been two cancers to my own knowledge; ‘n’ I allus hed a most awful dread o’ gettin’ a cancer. There ain’t no death like thet. There wuz my mother’s half-sister, Keziah,—she that married Elder Swift for her second husband. She died o’ cancer; an’ her oldest boy by her first husband he hed it in his face awful. But he held on ter life ’s ef he couldn’t say die, nohow; and I tell yer, Mercy, it wuz a sight nobody’d ever forget, to see him goin’ round the street with one side o’ his face all bound up, and his well eye a rolling round, a-doin’ the work o’ two. He got so he couldn’t see at all out o’ either eye afore he died, ‘n’ you could hear his screeches way to our house. There wouldn’t no laudalum stop the pain a mite.”
“Oh, mother! don’t! don’t!” exclaimed Mercy. “It is too dreadful to talk about. I can’t bear to think that any human being has ever suffered so. Please don’t ever speak of cancers again.”