It was plain from the quarrel that ensued that the sight of my pistols and my evident uneasiness, together with effect of the fearful storm, which confused all signals, had unsettled the fellow’s plan, and had robbed him of his presence of mind. While puzzling as to the safest course, the sudden entrance of Frank and the dog had precipitated the catastrophe.
The men were conducted to the County Jail, and I was the hero of the hour, although I could not claim much credit for personal valor in the matter.
Was it Fate or Providence that befriended me? But for my presentiment, or what ever it might be, I should have urged Frank’s immediate return to my anxious betrothed. But for her loving anxiety he never would have come down on such a night. But for the dog one of us must have been killed. And first of all, but for the instinctive sense of danger the telegraph wires would never have spoken a warning to my excited fancy; and this manifest feeling of apprehension, though I strove hard to conceal it, held the man in the box at bay.
The practical result of the episode was a more commodious station-house, and more men on duty. My salary was raised; but eventually I gave up the situation because my wife could never feel satisfied to have me perform night work after the fearful experience I have related.
As to Frank, he is not backward with explosive English whenever the subject is mentioned, and no amount of persuasion could ever reconcile Cato to the station-room.
They were five sisters, all unmarried; they lived in the old Dutch town that was made memorable by Barbara Frietchie’s exploits. They never hoisted a Union flag, or did any grand thing; but they deserve a place in story just the same. Their name was Peyre, and the young people called them “The Pears”, not in derision, for the regard they inspired was little short of veneration. Their ages ranged from sixty-five to eighty years when I first knew them. Unlike the Hannah More quintette, they were not literary. But no hive of busy bees was ever more industrious than they in the line of purely feminine accomplishments.
“The Pears” were not poor, but they were frugal. They owned a comfortable two-story brick house on a quiet street, and let their ground floor to a small tradesman. The way to the sisters led along a smoothly-paved side alley, all fenced in, through a little kitchen with spotless floor and shining tins, up a narrow, crooked, snow-white stairway, and finally through funny little chambers, up two steps, or down three, till the workshop was reached. There they sat, clean and fresh and busy, each in her own nook; and just there they might have been found every day these sixty years.
The workshop had the appearance of tidy fullness. An everlasting quilt was stretched across the end window, and here Miss Becky had laid her chalk-lines and pricked her fingers through several generations. The faithful fingers were brown and crooked, she said, from rheumatism; but how could they be straight when eternally bent over the patchwork? Surely the quilt was not always the same; yet the frames were never empty, and the chair was never vacant.