But even the joy of April on the bayside was shadowed when the mail came to Applegate Farm that day. The United States mail was represented, in the environs of Asquam, by a preposterously small wagon,—more like a longitudinal slice of a milk-cart than anything else,—drawn by two thin, rangy horses that seemed all out of proportion to their load. Their rhythmic and leisurely trot jangled a loud but not unmusical bell which hung from some hidden part of the wagon’s anatomy, and warned all dwellers on Rural Route No. 1 that the United States mail, ably piloted by Mr. Truman Hobart, was on its way.
The jangling stopped at Applegate Farm, and Mr. Hobart delved into a soap-box in his cart and extracted the Sturgis mail, which he delivered into Kirk’s outstretched hand. Mr. Hobart waited, as usual, to watch, admire, and marvel at Kirk’s unhesitating progress to the house, and then he clucked to the horses and tinkled on his way.
There was a penciled note from Mrs. Sturgis, forwarded, as always, from Westover Street, where she, of course, thought her children were (they sent all their letters for her to Mr. Dodge, that they might bear the Bedford postmark—and very difficult letters those were to write!), a bill from the City Transfer Company (carting: 1 table, etc., etc.), and a letter from Mr. Dodge. It was this letter which shadowed Applegate Farm and dug a new think-line in Ken’s young forehead. For Rocky Head Granite was, it seemed, by no means so firm as its name sounded. Mr. Dodge’s hopes for it were unfulfilled. It was very little indeed that could now be wrung from it. The Fidelity was for Mother—with a margin, scant enough, to eke out the young Sturgises’ income. There was the bill for carting, other bills, daily expenses. Felicia, reading over Ken’s shoulder, bit her lip.
“Come back to town, my dear boy,” wrote Mr. Dodge, “and I will try to get you something to do. You are all welcome to my house and help as long as you may have need.”
It had been dawning more and more on Ken that he had been an idiot not to stay in town, where there was work to do. He had hated to prick Phil’s ideal bubble and cancel the lease on the farm,—for it was really she who had picked out the place,—but he was becoming aware that he should have done so. This latest turn in the Sturgis fortunes made it evident that something must be done to bring more money than the invested capital yielded. There was no work here; unless perhaps he might hire out as a farm-hand, at small wages indeed. And he knew nothing of farm work. Nevertheless, he and Felicia shook their heads at Mr. Dodge’s proposal. They sat at the table within the mellow ring of lamplight, after Kirk had gone to bed, and thrashed out their problem,—pride fighting need and vanquishing judgment. It was a good letter that Kenelm sent Mr. Dodge, and the attorney shook his own head as he read it in his study, and said: