The six boys were bestowed in the cottage, where they made merry without seriously interrupting sleep in the main house. The others found comfortable quarters under our roof, except Sir Tom, who would go home some time in the night, to return before lunch the next day.
With such a houseful of people, the cook was worked to the bone; but she gloried in it, and cackled harder than ever. I believe she gave warning twice during those ten days; but Polly has a way with her which Mary cannot resist. I do not think we could have driven that cook out of the house with a club when there was such an opportunity for her to distinguish herself. Her warnings were simply matters of habit.
The holidays were filled with such things as a congenial country house-party can furnish—the wholesomest, jolliest things in the world; and the end, when it came, was regretted by all. I grew to feel a little bit jealous of Jarvis’s attentions to Jane, for they looked serious, and she was not made unhappy by them. Jarvis was all that was honest and manly, but I could not think of giving up Jane, even to the best of fellows. I wanted her for my old age. I suspect that a loving father can dig deeper into the mud of selfishness than any other man, and yet feel all the time that he is doing God service. It is in accord with nature that a daughter should take the bit in her teeth and bolt away from this restraining selfishness, but the man who is left by the roadside cannot always see it in that light.
THE THIRD BECKONING
On the afternoon of December 31 I called a meeting of the committee of ways and means, and Polly and I locked ourselves in my office. It was then two and a half years since we commenced the experiment of building a factory farm, which was to supply us with comforts, luxuries, and pleasures of life, and yet be self-supporting: a continuous experiment in economics.
The building of the factory was practically completed, though not all of its machinery had yet been installed. We had spent our money freely,—too freely, perhaps; and we were now ready to watch the returns. Polly said:—
“There are some things we are sure of: we like the country, and it likes us. I have spent the happiest year of my life here. We’ve entertained more friends than ever before, and they’ve been better entertained, so that we are all right from the social standpoint. You are stronger and better than ever before, and so am I. Credit the farm with these things, Mr. Headman, and you’ll find that it doesn’t owe us such an awful amount after all.”