“How is my father?” he asked; and his mother replied, “He grew worse right away after ’Leny went out, and he seemed so put to’t for breath, that Nancy went for the doctor——”
Here a movement from the invalid arrested her attention and going to the bedside she saw that he was awake. Bending over him she whispered softly, “John has come. Would you like to see him?”
Quickly the feeble arms were outstretched, as if to feel what could not be seen, for the old man’s eyesight was dim with the shadows of death.
Taking both his father’s hands in his, John said, “Here I am, father; can’t you see me?”
“No, John, no; I can’t see you.” And the poor man wept like a little child. Soon growing more calm, he continued: “Your voice is the same that it was years ago, when you lived with us at home. That hasn’t changed, though they say your name has. Oh, John, my boy, how could you do so? ’Twas a good name—my name—and you the only one left to bear it. What made you do so, oh John, John?”
Mr. Livingstone did not reply, and after a moment his father again spoke; “John, lay your hand on my forehead. It’s cold as ice. I am dying, and your mother will be left alone. We are poor, my son; poorer than you think. The homestead is mortgaged for all it’s worth and there are only a few dollars in the purse. Oh, I worked so hard to earn them for her and the girl—Helena’s child. Now, John, promise me that when I am gone they shall go with you to your home in the west. Promise, and I shall die happy.”
This was a new idea to John, and for a time he hesitated. He glanced at his mother; she was ignorant and peculiar, but she was his mother still. He looked at ’Lena, she was beautiful—he knew that, but she was odd and old-fashioned. He thought of his haughty wife, his headstrong son and his imperious daughter. What would they say if he made that promise, for if he made it he would keep it.
A long time his father awaited his answer, and then he spoke again: “Won’t you give your old mother a home?”
The voice was weaker than when it spoke before, and John knew that life was fast ebbing away, for the brow on which his hand was resting was cold and damp with the moisture of death. He could no longer refuse, and the promise was given.
The next morning, the deep-toned bell of Oakland told that another soul was gone, and the villagers as they counted the three score strokes and ten knew that Grandfather Nichols was numbered with the dead.
The funeral was over, and in the quiet valley by the side of his only daughter, Grandfather Nichols was laid to rest. As far as possible his father’s business was settled, and then John began to speak of his returning. More than once had he repented of the promise made to his father, and as the time passed on he shrank more and more from introducing his “plebeian” mother to his “lady” wife, who, he knew, was meditating an open rebellion.