“Well, I declare,” cried Mandy, “if I didn’t forget to give it to you, after sending Mrs. Crowley down stairs for it, when you was out there in the road.”
“That’s all right,” said Hiram, as he finished the mugful she passed him, and handed it back to be refilled. “That sort o’ limbers a feller’s tongue a bit. Well, the secret is,” said Hiram, lowering his voice, “that when Huldy saw me gettin’ ready to go out, sez she, ’Where are you goin’?’ ‘Over to Mr. Pettengill’s,’ sez I. Then sez she, ’Will you wait a minute till I write a note?’ ‘Certainly,’ sez I. And when she brought me the note, sez she, ’Please give that to Mr. Pettengill and don’t let anybody else see it.’ Then sez I to her, ‘No, ma’am;’ but I sez to myself, ‘Nobody but Mandy.’” And Hiram took from an inside pocket an envelope, addressed to Mr. Ezekiel Pettengill, and showed it to Mandy. Then he put it back quickly in his pocket.
“Well, what of that?” asked Mandy. “That’s no great secret.”
“Well, not in itself,” said Hiram; “but I am willing to bet a year’s salary agin a big red apple that those two people have made up and are engaged reg’lar fashion.”
“You don’t say so,” cried Mandy, “what makes you think so?”
“Well, a number of things,” said Hiram. “I overheard the Deacon say to Huldy, ‘It will be pretty lonesome for us one of these days,’ and then you see Mrs. Mason, she is just as good as pie to me all the time, and that shows something has pleased her more than common; and then you see Huldy has that sort of look about her that girls have when their market’s made, and they feel so happy that they can’t help showing it. You see, Mandy, I’m no chicken. I’ve had lots of experience.”
What Mandy might have said in reply to this remark will never be known, for at this juncture Ezekiel entered the room and passed through on his way to the wood-shed.
“Now’s my time,” said Hiram, and he arose and followed him out.
Ezekiel was piling up some wood which he was to take to Alice’s room, when Hiram came up beside him and slyly passed him the note. Then Hiram looked out of the wood-shed window at the storm, which had lost none of its fury, while Ezekiel read the note.
“Are you going home soon?” asked Ezekiel.
“Well, I guess I’ll try it again,” said Hiram, “as soon as I get warm and kinder limbered up.”
“I guess I’ll go back with you,” said Ezekiel. “We will take Swiss with us; two men and a dog ought to be enough for a little snowstorm like this.”
“You won’t find it a little one,” said Hiram, “when you get out in the road, but I guess the three on us can pull through.”
Ezekiel went upstairs with the wood and Hiram resumed his seat before the kitchen fire.
“What did I tell you?” said Hiram to Mandy. “’Zeke’s going back with me. She has writ him to come over and see her. Now you see if you don’t lose your apple.”