“At his age,” echoed Miss Beal.
But it did not amuse Mrs. Grumble to hear anyone else find fault with Mr. Jeminy. “He’s enjoying himself,” she said. “I don’t know as how we’ve any call to make remarks.”
“I only said ‘at his age,’” replied Miss Beal hastily. But when she thought it over, it occurred to her that she was right, and Mrs. Grumble was wrong. Without courage on her own account, she was able to defend with energy the general opinion. “I said ‘at his age,’” she repeated more firmly.
Mrs. Grumble folded her hands, and assumed a forbidding expression. “I expect,” she said, “that Mr. Jeminy is old enough to do as he pleases.”
“Maybe he is,” answered the dressmaker, nettled by her friend’s tone, “maybe he is. And maybe there’s others old enough to know what’s right in a man of his years, Mrs. Grumble.”
“At any rate,” remarked Mrs. Grumble, “it’s not for you to say.”
“It’s not alone me is saying it,” replied Miss Beal. “What’s more,” she added, “for all I don’t like to repeat this to you, Mrs. Grumble, there’s many think Mr. Jeminy is too old to teach school any longer. There’s some would like to see a young woman at the schoolhouse.”
“Oh,” said Mrs. Grumble.
Miss Beal laid her hand on her friend’s arm in a gesture at once triumphant and consoling. “Never you mind,” she said; “trouble comes to all.”
Mr. Jeminy went home from the fair with a light heart. He started early, because he liked to walk; and he carried in his hand a bit of lace for Mrs. Grumble. As he went down the road, beneath the turning leaves, and through the shadows cast by the descending sun, he began to sing, out of the fullness of his heart, the following song:
The Lord of all things,
Maketh the small birds,
To sing on every tree.
The Lord of all things,
He maketh also me;
Giveth me no wings,
Giveth me no words.
When Mr. Jeminy had sung as much as he liked, he went on to say: “In autumn the birds go south by easy stages; to-day their songs are departed from these woods, where there is none left but the catbird, to creak upon the bough. Soon snow will cover the earth, in which nothing is growing. But you, happy song birds, will build your nests far away, in green and windy trees, and your quarrels will fill distant valleys with music.”
When Mr. Jeminy was nearly home he looked behind him and saw Thomas Frye and Anna Barly returning from the fair. He drew aside to let them pass, and with the sun shining in his eyes, he thought to himself, “Only the young are happy to-day.”
THE TURN OF THE YEAR