And when, as the “one days” had lengthened into many, enticed by the rumors she heard, the girl, now a married woman, did go, she found a magnificent residence, with lovely terraced lawns, shell-road drives, and luxuries unknown in city homes. All on the site of the despised Dry Thicket. White cottages dotted the landscape, and there was no trace of the gloomy thicket save one natural bower overhung with trees and interlaced by vines. Within its cool recesses was a rustic chair, and sheltered by a miniature Gothic temple, stood the brightly-burnished iron box which chance had made the foundation of so much happiness and prosperity.
A PRACTICAL STORY
“I see no way out of this, girls, but for you to go to work and support yourselves with your accomplishments. At least I suppose you’ve got some. Your schooling cost a fortune, and maybe it was well enough, for now there’s a chance for you to make it count.”
And thus delivering himself, gruff Uncle Abner took a fresh chew of tobacco, and let his eyes wander aimlessly among those dead-and-gone relatives hanging on the walls. Anywhere indeed but at the two rosy, eager faces before him; for the sisters, Margaret and Elizabeth, sat watching and listening to this, the first hint of difficulty in the easy-going of their pampered lives.
Margaret spoke. “What is the amount of the mortgage, Uncle?”
“Tut, tut,” he grunted, with a show of impatience, “you can’t understand; girls aint expected to know about business; they h’aint any heads for it. You’d better just shut up the place and come over to my house till you can look around you a bit.”
“You are very kind, uncle, but we will consider that after you have answered my question,” continued Margaret with quiet insistence. “How are we to understand unless we are told? And why keep us in ignorance? We have a right to know just how our father’s affairs were left, and I, for my part, intend to know;—” and the earnest young voice stopped short of the sob that caught and held it quivering.
There was silence while the tall clock ticked a few moments away. The large grey eyes had no release in their steady depths. Thus driven Uncle Abner proceeded to explain that it was when their brother James got into that trouble over his wife’s property. Their father had been obliged to borrow, and he (Uncle Abner), accommodated him, taking as security a mortage on the farm.
“It was for five thousand dollars,” he concluded, “and of course if he had lived—,” he paused, and walking to the window, his hands plunged deep into his homespun pockets, gazed uncomfortably upon the broad stretch of field and pasture so dear to the orphan nieces he was unwittingly torturing.
The Milfords were a proud race. Proud in the sturdy yeoman spirit of honest independence. Margaret was not long in making up her mind.