The farmer shook his head, as was his wont when he was about to relapse into reminiscences, and gave old Nancy several thoughtful taps with the whip, which she highly resented.
“Ol’ Mis’ Meeker,” he said, presently, “she was a character, she was! She didn’t belong hereabouts, but down South somewhere, but she was cousin to Cephas Tyson, an’ when Cephas’ wife died, she came to stop with him a spell, an’ look out for his children. Three children there was, little Cephas, an’ Myrick, an’ ’Melia. ’Melia, she was a peart, lively little gal, with snappin’ black eyes, an’ consid’ble of a will of her own; an’ Mis’ Meeker, she was pooty stout, an’ she took things easy, jest as they kem, an’ let the children—an’ ’Melia specially—do pooty much as they’d a mind to. Wal, one day I happened in to see Cephas about a pair o’ steers I was thinkin’ o’ buyin’. Cephas was out; but Mis’ Meeker said he’d be right in, she reckoned, an’ asked me to take a cheer an’ wait. So I sot down, an’ while I was waitin’, in come ‘Melia, an’ says she, ‘Say, Aunt Cilly (Mis’ Meeker’s name was Priscilla)—Say, Aunt Cilly, can I go down an’ play with Eddie? He wants me to come, reel bad. Can I, Aunt Cilly?’ ‘Not to-day, dearie,’ says Mis’ Meeker; ’you was down to play with Eddie yesterday, an’ I reckon that’ll do for one while!’ she says. I looked at little ‘Melia, an’ her eyes was snappin’ like coals. She didn’t say nothin’, but she jest took an’ shoved her elbow right through the plate-glass winder. Ho! ho! Cephas had had his house made over, an’ he was real proud of his plate-glass winders. I d’ ‘no’ how much they’d cost him, but ‘twas a pooty good sum. An’ she shoved her elbow right through it and smashed it into shivers. I jumped up, kind o’ startled by the crash. But ol’ Mis’ Meeker, she jes’ looked up, as if she was a leetle bit surprised, but nothin’ wuth mentionin’. ‘Why, honey!’ says she, in her slow, drawlin’ kind o’ way, ‘I didn’t know ye wanted to go that bad! Put on yer bunnit, an’ go an’ play with Eddie this minute!’ says she. Ho! ho! ho! Them was her very words. An’ ‘Melia, she tossed her bunnit on (one o’ them straw Shakers it was, an’ that’s what made me think o’ the story), and jes’ shook the glass out’n her sleeve,—I d’ ‘no’ why the child warn’t cut to pieces, but she didn’t seem t’ have got no hurt,—and made a face at her aunt, an’ off she went. That’s the way them children was brought up.”
“Poor things!” cried Hilda. “What became of them, Farmer Hartley?”
“‘Melia, she run off an’ married a circus feller,” replied the farmer, “an’ the boys, I don’t rightly know what become of ’em. They went out West, I b’lieve; an’ after ’Melia married, Cephas went out to jine ’em, an’ I ain’t heerd nothin’ of ’em for years.”
By this time they were rattling through the main street of the little village, and presently stopped before an unpretending little shop, in the window of which were displayed some rather forlorn-looking hats and bonnets.