“Then it’s the boy you’re worrying about?”
Abigail nodded. “He’s a good young man, and he has had a hard struggle. I don’t want his peace of mind disturbed through any means of ours,” said she.
The Squire got up, shook the ashes out of his pipe, and laid it with tender care on the shelf. Then he put his great hands one upon each of his wife’s little shoulders, and looked down at her. Abigail Merritt had a habit of mind which corresponded to that of her body. She could twist and turn, with the fine adroitness of a fox, round sudden, sharp corners of difficulty, when her husband might go far on the wrong road through drowsy inertia of motion; but, after all, he had sometimes a clearer view than she of ultimate ends, past the petty wayside advantages of these skilful doublings and turnings.
She could deal with details with little taper-finger touches of nicety, but she could not judge as well as he of generalities and the final scope of combinations. It was doubtful if Abigail ever fairly appreciated her own punch.
“Abigail,” said the Squire, looking down at her, his great bearded face all slyly quirked with humor—“Abigail, look here. There are a good many things that you and I can do, and a few that we can’t do. I can fish and shoot and ride with any man in the county, and bluster folks into doing what I want them to mostly, if I keep my temper; and as for you—you know what you can do in the way of fine stitching, and punch-making, and house-keeping, and you and I together have got the best, and the handsomest, and the most blessed”—the Squire’s voice broke—“daughter in the county, by the Lord Harry we have. I can shoot any man who looks askance at her, I can lie down in the mud for her to walk over to keep her little shoes dry, and you can fix her pretty gowns and keep her curls smooth, and watch her lest she breathe too fast or too slow of a night, but there we’ve got to stop. You can’t make the posies in your garden any color you have a mind, my girl, and I can’t change the spots on the trout I land. We can’t, either of us, make a sunset, or a rainbow, or stop a thunder-storm, or raise an east wind. There are things we run up blind against, and I reckon this is one of ’em. It’s got to come out the way it will, and you and I can’t hinder it, Abigail.”
“We can hinder that poor boy from having his heart broken.”
The Squire whistled. “Lock the stable-door after the colt is stolen, eh?”
“Eben Merritt, what do you mean?”
“I mean that the boy comes here now an then, not courting the girl, as I take it, at all, and shows so far no signs of anything amiss, and had, in my opinion, best be let alone. Lord, when I was his age, if a girl like Lucina had been in the question, and anybody had tried to rein me up short, I’d have kicked over the breeches entirely. I’d have either got her or blown my brains out. That boy can take care of himself, anyhow. He’ll stop coming here of his own accord, if he thinks he’d better.”