“I shouldn’t ha’ minded the money,” Farmer Hartley was saying, even now, “if I’d ha’ been savin’ it jest to spend or lay by. I shouldn’t ha’ minded, though ‘twould ha’ hurt jest the same to hev Simon’s son take it,—my brother Simon’s son, as I allus stood by. But it’s hard to let the farm go. I tell ye, Marm Lucy, it’s terrible hard!” and he bowed his head upon his hands in a dejection which made his wife weep anew and wring her hands.
“But they will not take the farm from you, Farmer Hartley!” cried Hilda, aghast. “They cannot do that, can they? Why, it was your father’s, and your grandfather’s before him.”
“And his father’s afore him!” said the farmer, looking up with a sad smile on his kindly face. “But that don’t make no difference, ye see, Hildy. Lawyer Clinch is a hard man, a terrible hard man; and he’s always wanted this farm. It’s the best piece o’ land in the hull township, an’ he wants it for a market farm.”
“But why did you mortgage it to him?” cried Hilda.
“I didn’t, my gal; I didn’t!” said the farmer, sadly. “He’d kep’ watch over it ever sence Simon began to get into trouble,—reckon he knew pooty well how things would come out; an’ bimeby Jason Doble, as held the mortgage, he up an’ died, an’ then Lawyer Clinch stepped in an’ told the ’xecutors how Jason owed him a big debt, but he didn’t want to do nothin’ onfriendly, so he’d take the mortgage on Hartley’s Glen and call it square. Th’ executors was kind o’ fool people, both on ’em—I d’no’ what possessed Jason Doble to choose them for ’xecutors, when he might ha’ hed the pick o’ the State lunatic asylum an’ got some fools as knew something; but so ‘twas, an’ I s’pose so ‘twas meant to be. They giv’ it to him, an’ thanked him for takin’ it; and he’s waited an’ waited, hopin’ to ketch me in a tight place,—an’ now he’s done it. An’ that’s about all there is to it!” added Farmer Hartley, rising and pushing back his massive gray hair. “An’ I sha’n’t mend it by sittin’ an’ mowlin’ over it. Thar’s all Simon’s work to be done, an’ my own too. Huldy, my gal!” he held out his honest brown hand to Hildegarde, who clasped it affectionately in both of hers, “ye’ll stay by Marm Lucy and chirk her up a bit. ‘T’ll be a hard day for her, an’ she hasn’t no gal of her own now to do for her. But ye’ve grown to be almost a daughter to us, Huldy. God bless ye, child!”
His voice faltered as he laid his other hand for a moment on the girl’s fair head; then, turning hastily away, he took up his battered straw hat and went slowly out of the house, an older man, it might have been by ten years, than he had been the night before.
Right daughterly did Hilda show herself that day, and Faith herself could hardly have been more tender and helpful. Feeling intuitively that work was the best balm for a sore heart, she begged for Nurse Lucy’s help and advice in one and another item of household routine. Then she bethought her of the churning, and felt that if this thing was to befall, it could not have better befallen than on a Tuesday, when the great blue churn stood ready in the dairy, and the cream lay thick and yellow in the shining pans.