“Oh, Mr. Sawyer,” said she, “have you heard that Mrs. Putnam is dead, and I’ve had such a terrible day with her?”
Her nervous system had been wrought to its highest tension by what she had undergone during the past six hours. She burst into a flood of tears. Then she tottered and would have fallen if Quincy had not grasped her.
“Can you walk?” he asked.
She took a step forward, but he saw at a glance that she had not sufficient strength to reach her room.
“Open the gate, Hiram. Then give the door-bell a good sharp ring, so that Mandy will come quickly.”
He took her in his arms and went up the path, by the astonished Mandy, and upstairs to Alice’s room, where he laid her tenderly upon her bed. Turning to Mandy, who had followed close at his heels, he said:
“She is not sick, only nervous and worn out. If you need me, call me.”
He went into his own room and thanked Heaven that he had been at hand to render her the service that she so much needed. When he went down to supper Mandy told him that Miss Alice was asleep, and she guessed she’d be all right in the morning.
Quincy reached his room at Mrs. Hawkins’s boarding house about midnight of the day of the town meeting. About the same hour Mrs. Heppy Putnam awoke from a troubled sleep and felt a pain, like the thrust of a knife blade, through her left side. The room was dark and cold, the wood fire in the open grate having died out a couple of hours before, while a cool wind was blowing with great force outside.
Mrs. Putnam came of the old stock which considered it a virtue to suffer and be silent, rather than call out and be saved. So she lay for five long hours suffering intense pain, but declaring to herself, with all the sturdiness of an old Roman warrior or an Indian chief, that she would not ask for any assistance “till it wuz time for folks to git up.”
This delay was fatal, or was destined to become so, but she did not know it; she had had colds before, and she had always got well. Why should’nt she now? It is a strange vagary of old people to consider themselves just as young as they used to be, notwithstanding their advanced years. To the majority of the old people, the idea of death is not so appalling as the inability to work and the incapacity to enjoy the customary pleasures of life.
Mrs. Putnam had always been an active, energetic woman until she had lost her power to walk as the result of rheumatic fever; in fact, it was always acknowledged and said by the country folk that she was the better half of the matrimonial firm of Silas and Hepsibeth Putnam. Since her husband’s failure to mount to Heaven on the day fixed for the Second Advent she had had entire control of the family finances. Her investments, many of which had been suggested by her deceased son, J. Jones Putnam, had been very profitable.