It was the morning of the fifth of January. Benoni Hill, who ran the only grocery store at Mason’s Corner, was behind his counter and with the aid of his only son, Samuel, was attending to the wants of several customers.
While thus engaged, Miss Tilly James entered, and young Samuel Hill forgot to ask the customer on whom he had been waiting the usual question, “Anything else, ma’am?” so anxious was he to speak to and wait upon the pretty Miss James, whose bright eyes, dark curly hair, and witty remarks had attracted to her side more suitors than had fallen to the lot of any other young girl in the village. As yet she had evinced no especial liking for any particular one of the young men who flocked about her, and this fact had only served to increase their admiration for her and to spur them on to renewed efforts to win her favor.
“Do you know, Miss James,” said Samuel, “I can’t get it out of my ears yet.” As he said this, he leaned over the counter, and being a brave young man, looked straight into Miss James’s smiling face.
“If all home remedies have failed,” said Tilly, “why don’t you go to Boston and have a doctor examine them?”
“What a joker you are!” remarked Samuel; “I believe you will crack a joke on the minister the day you are married.”
“It may be my last chance,” rejoined Tilly. “Mother says the inside of a boiled onion put into the ear is good for some troubles; give me a pound of tea, Oolong and green mixed, same as we always have.”
As Samuel passed the neatly done up package to Miss James, he leaned across the counter again and said in a low voice, “You know what is in my ears, Miss James. How beautifully you played for Mr. Sawyer when he whistled ‘Listen to the Mocking Bird.’ I don’t think I shall ever forget it.”
“Well, I don’t know about the playing, Mr. Hill. I came near losing my place several times, because I wanted so much to hear him whistle.”
During this conversation Tilly and Samuel had been so preoccupied that they had not noticed the entrance of a new-comer and his approach towards them. Only one other customer, a little girl, was left in the store, and Mr. Hill, Sr., had gone down cellar to draw her a quart of molasses.
As Tilly uttered the words, “I wanted so much to hear him whistle,” she heard behind her in clear, melodious, flute-like notes, the opening measures of “Listen to the Mocking Bird.” Turning quickly, she saw Mr. Sawyer standing beside her.
“Why, how do you do, Mr. Sawyer? I am delighted to see you again,” she said in that hearty, whole-souled way that was so captivating to her country admirers.
“The delight is mutual,” replied Quincy, raising his hat and bowing.
Samuel Hill was evidently somewhat disturbed by the great friendliness of the greetings that he had just witnessed. This fact did not escape Tilly’s quick eye, and turning to Mr. Sawyer she said: