“I hadn’t got asleep,” Ann said; “I was thinkin’ about him. I heard somebody at the front door; I got up and went; I knew it was him.”
The old man smiled at them all. “I’ll tell you where I’ve been,” he said. “It won’t take long. I was behindhand in that interest money. I couldn’t earn enough to get ahead nohow. I was nothin’ but a drag on you all, nothin’ but a drag. All of a sudden, that day when I went away, I reasoned of it out. Says I, that mortgage will be foreclosed; my stayin’ where I be won’t make no difference about that. I ain’t doin’ anythin’ for my family, anyway. I’m wore out tryin’, and it’s no use. If I go away, I can do more for ’em than if I stay. I can save every cent I earn, till I get enough to pay that mortgage up. I’ll get a chance that way to do somethin’ for ’em. So I went.”
The utter inconsequence of his father’s reasoning struck Jerome like a chill. “His mind isn’t just right,” he thought.
“Where did you go, Abel?” asked his mother.
“To West Linfield.”
“What!” cried Jerome. “That’s only twenty miles away.”
Abel Edwards laughed with child-like cunning. “I know it,” he said. “I went to work on Jabez Summers’s farm there. It’s way up the hill-road; nobody ever came there that knew me. I took another name, too—called myself Ephraim Green. I’ve saved up fifteen hundred dollars. It’s there in that little tin chist. I bought that of Summers for a shillin’, to keep my money in. There’s five hundred in gold, an’ the rest in bank-bills. You needn’t worry now, mother. We’ll pay that mortgage up to-morrow.”
“The mortgage is all paid. We’ve paid it, Abel,” cried Ann.
“Paid! The mortgage ain’t paid!”
“Yes, we’ve paid it. We all earnt money an’ paid it.”
“Then we can keep the money,” said the old man, happily. “We can keep it, mother; I thought it would go kinder hard partin’ with it. I’ve worked so hard to save it. I ‘ain’t had many clothes, an’ I ’ain’t ever been to meetin’ lately, my coat got so ragged.”
Elmira was crying.
“How did you get here to-night, father?” Jerome asked, huskily.
“I walked from West Linfield; started yesterday afternoon. I come as far as Westbrook, an’ it began to snow. I put up at Hayes’s Tavern.”
“At Hayes’s Tavern, with all that money!” exclaimed Elmira.
“Why, ain’t they honest there?” asked the old man, quickly.
“Yes, father, they’re all right, I guess. Go on.”
“They seemed real honest,” said his father. “I told ’em all about it, and they acted real interested. Mis’ Hayes she fried me some slapjacks for supper. I had a good room, with a man who was goin’ to Boston this mornin’. He started afore light; he was gone when I woke up. I stayed there till afternoon, then I started out. I got a lift as far as the Corners, then I walked a spell and went into a house, where they give me some supper, and give me another lift as far as the Stone Hill Meetin’-house. I’ve been trampin’ since. It was ruther hard, on account of the roads bein’ some drifted, but it’s stopped snowin’.”