“We was kind o’ hard on her sometimes, but folks couldn’t help it. I’ve seen her pass Eb right by in the road an’ never look at him when he first come home,” said John Stover.
“If she hadn’t felt bad, she wouldn’t have cared one way or t’other,” insisted Henry Merrill. “’Tain’t for us to judge. Sometimes folks has to get along in years before they see things fair. Come; I must be goin’ home. I’m tired as an old dog.”
“It seemed kind o’ natural to be steppin’ out together again. Strange we three got through with so little damage, an’ so many dropped round us,” said Asa Brown. “I’ve never been one mite sorry I went out in old A Company. I was thinkin’ when I was marchin’ to-day, though, that we should all have to take to the wagons before long an’ do our marchin’ on wheels, so many of us felt kind o’ stiff. There’s one thing,—folks won’t never say again that we can’t show no public sperit here in old Barlow.”
* * * * *
The Flight of Betsey Lane
One windy morning in May, three old women sat together near an open window in the shed chamber of Byfleet Poor-house. The wind was from the northwest, but their window faced the southeast, and they were only visited by an occasional pleasant waft of fresh air. They were close together, knee to knee, picking over a bushel of beans, and commanding a view of the dandelion-starred, green yard below, and of the winding, sandy road that led to the village, two miles away. Some captive bees were scolding among the cobwebs of the rafters overhead, or thumping against the upper panes of glass; two calves were bawling from the barnyard, where some of the men were at work loading a dump-cart and shouting as if every one were deaf. There was a cheerful feeling of activity, and even an air of comfort, about the Byfleet Poor-house. Almost every one was possessed of a most interesting past, though there was less to be said about the future. The inmates were by no means distressed or unhappy; many of them retired to this shelter only for the winter season, and would go out presently, some to begin such work as they could still do, others to live in their own small houses; old age had impoverished most of them by limiting their power of endurance; but far from lamenting the fact that they were town charges, they rather liked the change and excitement of a winter residence on the poor-farm. There was a sharp-faced, hard-worked young widow with seven children, who was an exception to the general level of society, because she deplored the change in her fortunes. The older women regarded her with suspicion, and were apt to talk about her in moments like this, when they happened to sit together at their work.