The cooper laughed.
“So, Rachel, you conclude that one or the other of these calamities is the inevitable lot of all who are engaged in this business?”
“You may laugh now, but it is always well to be prepared for the worst,” said Rachel, oracularly.
“But it isn’t well to be always looking for it, Rachel.”
“It’ll come whether you look for it or not,” retorted his sister, sententiously.
“Then suppose we waste no time thinking about it, since, according to your admission, it’s sure to come either way.”
Rachel did not deign a reply, but continued to eat in serene melancholy.
“Won’t you have another piece of pudding, Timothy?” asked his wife.
“I don’t care if I do, Martha, it’s so good,” said the cooper, passing his plate. “Seems to me it’s the best pudding you ever made.”
“You’ve got a good appetite, that is all,” said Mrs. Harding, modestly disclaiming the compliment.
“Apple puddings are unhealthy,” observed Rachel.
“Then what makes you eat them?” asked Jack.
“A body must eat something. Besides, life is so full of sorrow, it makes little difference if it’s longer or shorter.”
“Won’t you have another piece, Rachel?”
Aunt Rachel passed her plate, and received a second portion. Jack winked slyly, but fortunately his aunt did not observe it.
When dinner was over, the cooper thought of the sealed envelope which had been given him for his wife.
“Martha,” he said, “I nearly forgot that I have something for you.”
“Yes, from Mr. Merriam.”
“But he don’t know me,” said Mrs. Harding, in surprise.
“At any rate, he first asked me if I was married, and then handed me this envelope, which he asked me to give to you. I am not quite sure whether I ought to allow strange gentlemen to write letters to my wife.”
Mrs. Harding opened the envelope with considerable curiosity, and uttered an exclamation of surprise as a bank note fell out, and fluttered to the carpet.
“By gracious, mother!” said Jack, springing to get it, “you’re in luck. It’s a hundred-dollar bill.”
“So it is, I declare,” said his mother, joyfully. “But, Timothy, it isn’t mine. It belongs to you.”
“No, Martha, I have nothing to do with it. It belongs to you. You need some clothes, I am sure. Use part of it, and I will put the rest in the savings bank for you.”
“I never expected to have money to invest,” said Mrs. Harding. “I begin to feel like a capitalist. When you want to borrow money, Timothy, you’ll know where to come.”
“Merriam’s a trump and no mistake,” said Jack. “By the way, when you see him again, father, just mention that you’ve got a son. Ain’t we in luck, Aunt Rachel?”
“Boast not overmuch,” said his aunt. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”