Reading all this in his manner, she had the delicacy to forbear intruding upon him questions to which she saw it would only give him pain to reply.
Not so Aunt Rachel.
“I needn’t ask,” she began, “whether you’ve got work, Timothy. I knew beforehand you wouldn’t. There ain’t no use in tryin’! The times is awful dull, and mark my words, they’ll be wuss before they’re better. We mayn’t live to see ’em. I don’t expect we shall. Folks can’t live without money; and if we can’t get that, we shall have to starve.”
“Not so bad as that, Rachel,” said the cooper, trying to look cheerful; “I don’t talk about starving till the time comes. Anyhow,” glancing at the table, on which was spread a good plain meal, “we needn’t talk about starving till to-morrow with that before us. Where’s Jack?”
“Gone after some flour,” replied his wife.
“On credit?” asked the cooper.
“No, he’s got money enough to pay for a few pounds,” said Mrs. Harding, smiling with an air of mystery.
“Where did it come from?” asked Timothy, who was puzzled, as his wife anticipated. “I didn’t know you had any money in the house.”
“No more we had; but he earned it himself, holding horses, this afternoon.”
“Come, that’s good,” said the cooper, cheerfully. “We ain’t so bad off as we might be, you see, Rachel.”
“Very likely the bill’s bad,” she said, with the air of one who rather hoped it was.
“Now, Rachel, what’s the use of anticipating evil?” said Mrs. Harding. “You see you’re wrong, for here’s Jack with the flour.”
The family sat down to supper.
“You haven’t told us,” said Mrs. Harding, seeing her husband’s cheerfulness in a measure restored, “what Mr. Blodgett said about the chances for employment.”
“Not much that was encouraging,” answered Timothy. “He isn’t at all sure when it will be safe to commence work; perhaps not before spring.”
“Didn’t I tell you so?” commented Rachel, with sepulchral sadness.
Even Mrs. Harding couldn’t help looking sober.
“I suppose, Timothy, you haven’t formed any plans,” she said.
“No, I haven’t had time. I must try to get something else to do.”
“What, for instance?”
“Anything by which I can earn a little; I don’t care if it’s only sawing wood. We shall have to get along as economically as we can—cut our coat according to our cloth.”
“Oh, you’ll be able to earn something, and we can live very plain,” said Mrs. Harding, affecting a cheerfulness she didn’t feel.
“Pity you hadn’t done it sooner,” was the comforting suggestion of Rachel.
“Mustn’t cry over spilt milk,” said the cooper, good-humoredly. “Perhaps we might have lived a leetle more economically, but I don’t think we’ve been extravagant.”
“Besides, I can earn something, father,” said Jack, hopefully. “You know I did this afternoon.”