One night the agent was sitting alone in his large, half-furnished house. Mary Moynahan, his housekeeper, had gone up to the church. There was a timid knock at the door.
There were two persons waiting, a short, thick-set man and a pale woman with dark, bright eyes who was nearly a head taller than her companion.
“Come in, Ellen; I’m glad to see you,” said the agent. “Have you got your wheel-barrow, Mike?” Almost all the would-be planters of the field had come under cover of darkness and contrived if possible to avoid each other.
“’Tisn’t the potatoes we’re after asking, sir,” said Ellen. She was always spokeswoman, for Mike had an impediment in his speech. “The childher come up yisterday and got them while you’d be down at the counting-room. ’Twas Mary Moynahan saw to them. We do be very thankful to you, sir, for your kindness.”
“Come in,” said the agent, seeing there was something of consequence to be said. Ellen Carroll and he had worked side by side many a long day when they were young. She had been a noble wife to Mike, whose poor fortunes she had gladly shared for sake of his good heart, though Mike now and then paid too much respect to his often infirmities. There was a slight flavor of whisky now on the evening air, but it was a serious thing to put on your Sunday coat and go up with your wife to see the agent.
“We’ve come wanting to talk about any chances there might be with the mill,” ventured Ellen timidly, as she stood in the lighted room; then she looked at Mike for reassurance. “We’re very bad off, you see,” she went on. “Yes, sir, I got them potaties, but I had to bake a little of them for supper and more again the day, for our breakfast. I don’t know whatever we’ll do whin they’re gone. The poor children does be entreating me for them, Dan!”
The mother’s eyes were full of tears. It was very seldom now that anybody called the agent by his Christian name; there was a natural reserve and dignity about him, and there had come a definite separation between him and most of his old friends in the two years while he had managed to go to the School of Technology in Boston.