“Well, mother, I am sure I don’t know. I couldn’t seem to help it: he was so determined, and the clock was such a beauty. I don’t think he is crazy. I think he is simply very queer; and he is ever, ever so rich. The clock isn’t really of any value to him; that is, he’d never do any thing with it. He has a huge room half as big as this house, just crammed with things, all sorts of things, that he took for debts; and this clock was among them. I think it gave the old man a real pleasure to have me take it; so that is one more reason for doing it.”
“Well, you know best, Mercy,” said Mrs. Carr, a little sadly; “but I can’t quite see it’s you do. It seems to me amazin’ like a charity. I wish he hadn’t never found you out.”
“I don’t, mother. I believe he is going to be my best crony here,” said Mercy, laughing; “and I’m sure nobody can say any thing ill-natured about such a crony as he would be. He must be seventy years old, at least.”
When Stephen came home that night, he received from his mother a most graphic account of the arrival of the clock. She had watched the procession from her window, and had heard the confused sounds of talking and moving of furniture in the house afterward. Marty also had supplied some details, she having been surreptitiously overlooking the whole affair.
“I must say,” remarked Mrs. White, “that it looks very queer. Where did she pick up Old Man Wheeler? Who ever heard of his being seen walking with a woman before? Even as a young man, he never would have any thing to do with them; and it was always a marvel how he got married. I used to know him very well.”
“But, mother,” urged Stephen, “for all we know, they may be relations or old friends of his. You forget that we know literally nothing about these people. So far from being queer, it may be the most natural thing in the world that he should be helping her fit up her house.”
But in his heart Stephen thought, as his mother did, that it was very queer.
The beautiful white New England winter had set in. As far as the eye could reach, nothing but white could be seen. The boundary, lines of stone walls and fences were gone, or were indicated only by raised and rounded lines of the same soft white. On one side of these were faintly pencilled dark shadows in the morning and in the afternoon; but at high noon the fields were as unbroken a white as ever Arctic explorer saw, and the roads shone in the sun like white satin ribbons flung out in all directions. The groves of maple and hickory and beech were bare. Their delicate gray tints spread in masses over the hillsides like a transparent, gray veil, through which every outline of the hills was clear, but softened. The massive pines and spruces looked almost black against the white of the snow, and the whole landscape was at once shining and sombre; an effect which is