“My!” exclaimed Mrs. Cullom again. “I can’t really ’magine it of Dave.”
“Wa’al,” replied Mrs. Bixbee, “I told ye how set he is on his young days, an’ nobody knows how cruel mean ’Lish used to be to him; but I never see it come out of him so ugly before, though I didn’t blame him a mite. But I hain’t told ye the upshot: ‘Now,’ he says to Smith, who set with his mouth gappin’ open, ’you understand how I feel about the feller, an’ I’ve got good reason for it. I want you to promise me that you’ll say to him, word fer word, jest what I’ve said to you about him, an’ I’ll do this: You folks send him to the poorhouse, an’ let him git jest what the rest on ’em gits—no more an’ no less—as long ’s he lives. When he dies you git him the tightest coffin you kin buy, to keep him f’m spilin’ the earth as long as may be, an’ then you send me the hull bill. But this has got to be between you an’ me only. You c’n tell the rest of the committee what you like, but if you ever tell a livin’ soul about this here understandin’, an’ I find it out, I’ll never pay one cent, an’ you’ll be to blame. I’m willin’, on them terms, to stan’ between the town of Whitcom an’ harm; but fer ’Lish Harum, not one sumarkee! Is it a barg’in?’ Dave says.
“‘Yes, sir,’ says Smith, puttin’ out his hand. ‘An’ I guess,’ he says, ’f’m all ‘t I c’n gather, thet you’re doin’ all ‘t we could expect, an’ more too,’ an’ off he put.”
“How ’d it come out?” asked Mrs. Cullom.
“‘Lish lived about two year,” replied Aunt Polly, “an’ Dave done as he agreed, but even then when he come to settle up, he told Smith he didn’t want no more said about it ’n could be helped.”
“Wa’al,” said Mrs. Cullom, “it seems to me as if David did take care on him after all, fur ‘s spendin’ money was concerned.”
“That’s the way it looks to me,” said Mrs. Bixbee, “but David likes to think t’other. He meant to be awful mean, an’ he was—as mean as he could—but the fact is, he didn’t reelly know how. My sakes! Cynthy (looking at the clock), I’ll hev to excuse myself fer a spell. Ef you want to do any fixin’ up ’fore dinner, jest step into my bedroom. I’ve laid some things out on the bed, if you should happen to want any of ’em,” and she hurried out of the room.
David’s house stood about a hundred feet back from the street, facing the east. The main body of the house was of two stories (through which ran a deep bay in front), with mansard roof. On the south of the main body of the house were two stories of the “wing,” in which were the “settin’ room,” Aunt Polly’s room, and, above, David’s quarters. Ten minutes or so before one o’clock John rang the bell at the front door.
“Sairy’s busy,” said Mrs. Bixbee apologetically as she let him in, “an’ so I come to the door myself.”
“Thank you very much,” said John. “Mr. Harum told me to come over a little before one, but perhaps I ought to have waited a few minutes longer.”