From kitchen-windows were now wafted odors of boiled corned beef and stewed apples, instead of the fragrance of delicate preserves and delicious turkey.
Young ladies, when they met in the street, greeted each, other with a shade less of cordiality than usual, and fathers and mothers in Israel cast into each other’s eyes searching and suspicious glances.
One afternoon, when the pious matrons of Hardhack were gathering at the pastor’s residence to take part in the regular weekly mothers’ prayer-meeting, the mail-coach rolled into town, and Mrs. Leekins, who was sitting by the window, as she always did, exclaimed:
“He’s come back—there he is—on the seat with the driver!”
Every one hurried to the window, and saw that Mrs. Leekins had spoken truly, for there sat Crewne with a pleasant smile on his face, while on top of the stage were several large trunks marked C.
[Illustration: THE SISTERS HASTENED TO THE WINDOW.]
“Must have got a handsome fit-out,” suggested Mrs. Leekins.
The stage stopped at the door of Crewne’s new cottage, and Crewne got out. The pastor entered the parlor to open the meeting, and was selecting a hymn, when Mrs. Leekins startled the meeting by ejaculating:
The meeting was demoralized; the sisters hastened to the window, and the good pastor, laying down his hymn-book, followed in time to see Crewne helping out a well-dressed and apparently young and handsome lady.
“Hardhack girls not good ’nough for him, it seems!” sneered Mrs. Leekins.
A resigned and sympathetic sigh broke from the motherly lips present, then Mrs. Leekins cried:
“Gracious sakes! married a widder with children!”
It certainly seemed that she told the truth, for Crewne lifted out two children, the youngest of whom seemed not more than three years old.
The gazers abruptly left the window, and the general tone of the meeting was that of melancholy resignation.
* * * * *
“Why didn’t he ever say he was a married man?” asked the prospective Mrs. Faxton, of her lover, that evening.
“Partly because he is too much of a gentleman to talk of his own affairs,” replied Faxton; “but principally because there had been, as he told me this afternoon, an unfortunate quarrel between them, which drove him to the mines. A few days ago he heard from her, for the first time in three years, and they’ve patched up matters, and are very happy.”
“Well,” said the lady, with considerable decision, “Hardhack will never forgive him.”
Hardhack did, however, for Crewne and his two friends drew about them a few of their old comrades, who took unto themselves wives from the people about them, and made of Hardhack one of the pleasantest villages in the State.