“It ain’t right for you not to get married,” Barney said, and his voice was hoarse and strange.
“You want me to get married to another man? Do you know what it means?”
Barney gave a groan that was half a cry.
“Oh, Charlotte!” Barney groaned, as if imploring her for pity.
“You want me to marry Thomas Payne, and live with him—”
“He’d—make you a good husband. He’s—Charlotte—I can’t. You’ve got to be happy. It isn’t right—I can’t—”
“Well,” said Charlotte, “I will marry him. Good-night, Barney Thayer.” She went swiftly out of the yard.
“Charlotte!” Barney called after her, as if against his will; but she never turned her head.
On the north side of the old tavern was a great cherry orchard. In years back it had been a source of considerable revenue to Silas Berry, but for some seasons his returns from it had been very small. The cherries had rotted on the branches, or the robins had eaten them, for Silas would not give them away. Rose and her mother would smuggle a few small baskets of cherries to Sylvia Crane and Mrs. Barnard, but Silas’s displeasure, had he found them out, would have been great. “I ain’t a-goin’ to give them cherries away to nobody,” he would proclaim. “If folks don’t want ’em enough to pay for ’em they can go without.”
Many a great cherry picnic had been held in Silas Berry’s orchard. Parties had come in great rattling wagons from all the towns about, and picked cherries and ate their fill at a most overreaching and exorbitant price.
There were no cherries like those in Silas Berry’s orchard in all the country roundabout. There was no competition, and for many years he had had it all his own way. The young people’s appetite for cherries and their zeal for pleasure had overcome their indignation at his usury. But at last Silas’s greed got the better of his financial shrewdness; he increased his price for cherries every season, and the year after the tavern closed it became so preposterous that there was a rebellion. It was headed by Thomas Payne, who, as the squire’s son and the richest and most freehanded young man in town, could incur no suspicion of parsimony. Going one night to the old tavern to make terms with Silas for the use of his cherry orchard, for a party which included some of his college friends from Boston and his fine young-lady cousin from New York, and hearing the preposterous sum which Silas stated as final, he had turned on his heel with a strong word under his breath. “You can eat your cherries yourself and be damned,” said Thomas Payne, and was out of the yard with the gay swagger which he had learned along with his Greek and Latin at college. The next day Silas saw the party in Squire Payne’s big wagon, with Thomas driving, and the cousin’s pink cheeks and white plumed hat conspicuous in the midst, pass merrily on their way to a cherryless picnic at a neighboring pond, and the young college men shouted out a doggerel couplet which the wit of the party had made and set to a rough tune.