“Yes, my daughter, you have done wonderfully. We couldn’t do without you!”
And Diana lifts her head and laughs. She likes petting and praising as a cat likes being stroked; but, for all that, the little puss has her claws and a sly notion of using them.
It was in the flush and glow of a gorgeous sunset that you might have seen the dark form of the Pitkin farm-house rising on a green hill against the orange sky.
The red house, with its overhanging canopy of elm, stood out like an old missal picture done on a gold ground.
Through the glimmer of the yellow twilight might be seen the stacks of dry corn-stalks and heaps of golden pumpkins in the neighboring fields, from which the slow oxen were bringing home a cart well laden with farm produce.
It was the hour before supper time, and Biah Carter, the deacon’s hired man, was leaning against a fence, waiting for his evening meal; indulging the while in a stream of conversational wisdom which seemed to flow all the more freely from having been dammed up through the labors of the day.
Biah was, in those far distant times of simplicity a “mute inglorious” newspaper man. Newspapers in those days were as rare and unheard of as steam cars or the telegraph, but Biah had within him all the making of a thriving modern reporter, and no paper to use it on. He was a walking biographical and statistical dictionary of all the affairs of the good folks of Mapleton. He knew every piece of furniture in their houses, and what they gave for it; every foot of land, and what it was worth; every ox, ass and sheep; every man, woman and child in town. And Biah could give pretty shrewd character pictures also, and whoever wanted to inform himself of the status of any person or thing in Mapleton would have done well to have turned the faucet of Biah’s stream of talk, and watched it respectfully as it came, for it was commonly conceded that what Biah Carter didn’t know about Mapleton was hardly worth knowing.
“Putty piece o’ property, this ’ere farm,” he said, surveying the scene around him with the air of a connoisseur. “None o’ yer stun pastur land where the sheep can’t get their noses down through the rocks without a file to sharpen ’em! Deacon Pitkin did a putty fair stroke o’ business when he swapped off his old place for this ’ere. That are old place was all swamp land and stun pastur; wa’n’t good for raisin’ nothin’ but juniper bushes and bull frogs. But I tell yeu” preceded Biah, with a shrewd wink, “that are mortgage pinches the deacon; works him like a dose of aloes and picry, it does. Deacon fairly gets lean on’t.”
“Why,” said Abner Jenks, a stolid plow boy to whom this stream of remark was addressed; “this ’ere place ain’t mortgaged, is it? Du tell, naow!”
“Why, yis; don’t ye know that are? Why there’s risin’ two thousand dollars due on this ’ere farm, and if the deacon don’t scratch for it and pay up squar to the minit, old Squire Norcross’ll foreclose on him. Old squire hain’t no bowels, I tell yeu, and the deacon knows he hain’t: and I tell you it keeps the deacon dancin’ lively as corn on a hot shovel.”