“I consider myself to blame,” insisted Mrs. Trimble at last. “I haven’t no words of accusation for nobody else, an’ I ain’t one to take comfort in calling names to the board o’ selec’men. I make no reproaches, an’ I take it all on my own shoulders; but I’m goin’ to stir about me, I tell you! I shall begin early to-morrow. They’re goin’ back to their own house,—it’s been standin’ empty all winter,—an’ the town’s goin’ to give ’em the rent an’ what firewood they need; it won’t come to more than the board’s payin’ out now. An’ you an’ me’ll take this same horse an’ wagon, an’ ride an’ go afoot by turns, an’ git means enough together to buy back their furniture an’ whatever was sold at that plaguey auction; an’ then we’ll put it all back, an’ tell ’em they’ve got to move to a new place, an’ just carry ‘em right back again where they come from. An’ don’t you never tell, R’becca, but here I be a widow woman, layin’ up what I make from my farm for nobody knows who, an’ I’m goin’ to do for them Bray girls all I’m a mind to. I should be sca’t to wake up in heaven, an’ hear anybody there ask how the Bray girls was. Don’t talk to me about the town o’ Hampden, an’ don’t ever let me hear the name o’ town poor! I’m ashamed to go home an’ see what’s set out for supper. I wish I’d brought ’em right along.”
“I was goin’ to ask if we couldn’t git the new doctor to go up an’ do somethin’ for poor Ann’s arm,” said Miss Rebecca. “They say he’s very smart. If she could get so’s to braid straw or hook rugs again, she’d soon be earnin’ a little somethin’. An’ may be he could do somethin’ for Mandy’s eyes. They did use to live so neat an’ ladylike. Somehow I couldn’t speak to tell ’em there that ’twas I bought them six best cups an’ saucers, time of the auction; they went very low, as everything else did, an’ I thought I could save it some other way. They shall have ’em back an’ welcome. You’re real whole-hearted, Mis’ Trimble. I expect Ann’ll be sayin’ that her father’s child’n wa’n’t goin’ to be left desolate, an’ that all the bread he cast on the water’s comin’ back through you.”
“I don’t care what she says, dear creatur’!” exclaimed Mrs. Trimble. “I’m full o’ regrets I took time for that installation, an’ set there seepin’ in a lot o’ talk this whole day long, except for its kind of bringin’ us to the Bray girls. I wish to my heart ’t was to-morrow mornin’ a’ready, an’ I a-startin’ for the selec’men.”
* * * * *
A Native of Winby
On the teacher’s desk, in the little roadside school-house, there was a bunch of Mayflowers, beside a dented and bent brass bell, a small Worcester’s Dictionary without any cover, and a worn morocco-covered Bible. These were placed in an orderly row, and behind them was a small wooden box which held some broken pieces of blackboard crayon. The teacher, whom no timid new scholar could look at boldly, wore her accustomed air of authority and importance. She might have been nineteen years old,—not more,—but for the time being she scorned the frivolities of youth.