On the following morning young Mr. Ware anticipated events by inscribing in his diary for the day, immediately after breakfast, these remarks: “Arranged about piano. Began work upon book.”
The date indeed deserved to be distinguished from its fellows. Theron was so conscious of its importance that he not only prophesied in the little morocco-bound diary which Alice had given him for Christmas, but returned after he had got out upon the front steps of the parsonage to have his hat brushed afresh by her.
“Wonders will never cease,” she said jocosely. “With you getting particular about your clothes, there isn’t anything in this wide world that can’t happen now!”
“One doesn’t go out to bring home a piano every day,” he made answer. “Besides, I want to make such an impression upon the man that he will deal gently with that first cash payment down. Do you know,” he added, watching her turn the felt brim under the wisp-broom’s strokes, “I’m thinking some of getting me a regular silk stove-pipe hat.”
“Why don’t you, then?” she rejoined, but without any ring of glad acquiescence in her tone. He fancied that her face lengthened a little, and he instantly ascribed it to recollections of the way in which the roses had been bullied out of her own headgear.
“You are quite sure, now, pet,” he made haste to change the subject, “that the hired girl can wait just as well as not until fall?”
“Oh, my, yes!” Alice replied, putting the hat on his head, and smoothing back his hair behind his ears. “She’d only be in the way now. You see, with hot weather coming on, there won’t be much cooking. We’ll take all our meals out here, and that saves so much work that really what remains is hardly more than taking care of a bird-cage. And, besides, not having her will almost half pay for the piano.”
“But when cold weather comes, you’re sure you’ll consent?” he urged.
“Like a shot!” she assured him, and, after a happy little caress, he started out again on his momentous mission.
“Thurston’s” was a place concerning which opinions differed in Octavius. That it typified progress, and helped more than any other feature of the village to bring it up to date, no one indeed disputed. One might move about a great deal, in truth, and hear no other view expressed. But then again one might stumble into conversation with one small storekeeper after another, and learn that they united in resenting the existence of “Thurston’s,” as rival farmers might join to curse a protracted drought. Each had his special flaming grievance. The little dry-goods dealers asked mournfully how they could be expected to compete with an establishment which could buy bankrupt stocks at a hundred different points, and make a profit if only one-third of the articles were sold for more than they would cost from the jobber? The little boot and shoe dealers, clothiers, hatters, and furriers, the small merchants in carpets, crockery, and furniture, the venders of hardware and household utensils, of leathern goods and picture-frames, of wall-paper, musical instruments, and even toys—all had the same pathetically unanswerable question to propound. But mostly they put it to themselves, because the others were at “Thurston’s.”