“I hope,” said he, hesitating, “that all these matters may presently be adjusted. But first I ask you to influence your mother to come back into the place and take up her residence.”
I smiled slowly. “You hardly understand her,” I said. “I doubt if my influence will suffice for that. But I shall meet you again.” I was turning away.
“Your mother, I believe, is not here—she went over to Wallingford. I think it is the day when she goes to the little church—”
“Yes, I know. If you will excuse me I shall ride over to see if I can find her.” He bowed. Presently I was hurrying down the road again. It seemed to me that I could never tolerate the sight of a stranger as master at Cowles’ Farms.
I Found her at the churchyard of the old meetinghouse. She was just turning toward the gate in the low sandstone wall which surrounded the burying ground and separated it from the space immediately about the little stone church. It was a beautiful spot, here where the sun came through the great oaks that had never known an ax, resting upon blue grass that had never known a plow—a spot virgin as it was before old Lord Fairfax ever claimed it hi his loose ownership. Everything about it spoke of quiet and gentleness.
I knew what it was that she looked upon as she turned back toward that spot—it was one more low mound, simple, unpretentious, added to the many which had been placed there this last century and a half; one more little gray sandstone head-mark, cut simply with the name and dates of him who rested there, last in a long roll of our others. The slight figure in the dove-colored gown looked back lingeringly. It gave a new ache to my heart to see her there.
She did not notice me as I slipped down from my saddle and fastened my horse at the long rack. But when I called she turned and came to me with open arms.
“Jack!” she cried. “My son, how I have missed thee! Now thee has come back to thy mother.” She put her forehead on my shoulder, but presently took up a mother’s scrutiny. Her hand stroked my hair, my unshaven beard, took in each line of my face.
“Thee has a button from thy coat,” she said, reprovingly. “And what is this scar on thy neck—thee did not tell me when thee wrote, Jack, what ails thee?” She looked at me closely. “Thee is changed. Thee is older—what has come to thee, my son?”
“Come,” I said to her at length, and led her toward the steps of the little church.
Then I broke out bitterly and railed against our ill-fortune, and cursed at the man who would allow her to live in servants’ quarters—indeed, railed at all of life.
“Thee must learn to subdue thyself, my son,” she said. “It is only so that strength comes to us—when we bend the back to the furrow God sets for us. I am quite content in my little rooms. I have made them very clean; and I have with me a few things of my own—a few, not many.”