Mrs. Wood leaned back against the high carving of her old chair and smiled, and said very slowly, “Would he have been very angry?”
“He’d have flogged us, I expect,” said I.
“And I expect,” continued Jem, “that he’d have said to us what he said to Bob Furniss when he took the filberts: ’If you begin by stealing nuts, you’ll end by being transported.’ Do you think Jack and I shall end by being transported?” added Jem, who had a merciless talent for applying general principles to individual cases.
Mrs. Wood made no reply, neither did she move, but her eyelids fell, and then her eyes looked far worse than if they had been shut, for there was a little bit open, with nothing but white to be seen. She was still rather red, and she did not visibly breathe. I have no idea for how many seconds I had gazed stupidly at her, when Jem gasped, “Is she dead?”
Then I became terror-struck, and crying, “Let’s find Mary Anne!” fled into the kitchen, closely followed by Jem.
“She’s took with them fits occasional,” said Mary Anne, and depositing a dripping tin she ran to the parlour. We followed in time to see her stooping over the chair and speaking very loudly in the school-mistress’s ear,
“I’ll lay ye down, ma’am, shall I?”
But still the widow was silent, on which Mary Anne took her up in her brawny arms, and laid her on “Cripple Charlie’s” sofa, and covered her with the quilt.
We settled the Major and his wives into their new abode, and then hurried home to my mother, who put on her bonnet, and took a bottle of something, and went off to the farm.
She did not come back till tea-time, and then she was full of poor Mrs. Wood. “Most curious attacks,” she explained to my father; “she can neither move nor speak, and yet she hears everything, though she doesn’t always remember afterwards. She said she thought it was ‘trouble,’ poor soul!”
“What brought this one on?” said my father.
“I can’t make out,” said my mother. “I hope you boys did nothing to frighten her, eh? Are you sure you didn’t do one of those dreadful wheels, Jack?”
This I indignantly denied, and Jem supported me.
My mother’s sympathy had been so deeply enlisted, and her report was so detailed, that Jem and I became bored at last, besides resenting the notion that we had been to blame. I gave one look into the strawberry jam pot, and finding it empty, said my grace and added, “Women are a poor lot, always turning up their eyes and having fits about nothing. I know one thing, nobody ’ll ever catch me being bothered with a wife.”
“Nor me neither,” said Jem.
“The bee, a more adventurous
colonist than man.”
“Some silent laws our hearts
Which they shall long obey;
We for the year to come may take
Our temper from to-day.”—WORDSWORTH.