“An old man,” said Juliet. “An old, old man. He’s a friend of mine. I have to tell him to come home as fast as he can, because it’s a wicked sin.”
“Does he live hereabouts?” asked the farmer.
“He used to,” said Juliet, “but he ran away. Now Mrs. Grumble’s sick, he ought to come home again, and ease her last hours.”
The farmer began to chuckle. “What’s the old gaffer’s name?”
“Mr. Jeminy,” said Juliet.
“Hop in,” said the farmer. “I’ll take you along. He’s been stopping with Aaron Bade, over to the Forge. I declare, if that don’t beat all. Curl up in the hay, child, it’ll keep you warm. What were you doing, hollering for him?”
“Yes, sir,” said Juliet.
The farm wagon started on again, through the rapidly falling dusk. Juliet, under a blanket in the hay, looked up at the tall figure of the farmer, set like a giant above her.
“Mister,” she said.
“Did he come with a scarlet woman, did you hear?”
“Not so far as I know. No, he came all alone, early in the morning. Wasn’t anybody with him.”
Beneath her blanket, Juliet hugged Anna to her breast. “There, you see,” she whispered. And in her fresh, young voice, she began to sing, while the wagon rattled down the road to Milford, a song she had heard her mother singing the year Noel Ploughman died.
“Love is the first thing,
Love goes past.
Sorrow is the next thing,
Quiet is the last.
Love is a good thing,
Quiet isn’t bad,
But sorrow is the best thing
I’ve ever had.”
AND IS FOUND IN GOOD HANDS
From the Bade farmhouse, a mile below Hemlock Mountain, the road winds down to Adams’ Forge, past Aaron Bade’s stony fields. To the north lies Milford; but to the south lies that enchanting land, blue in the distance, misty in the sun, which the heart delights to call its home.
It is the land we see from any hilltop. As we gaze at its far off rises, its hazy, shadowy valleys, we feel within us a longing and a faint melancholy. There, we think, dwell the friends who would love us, if we were known to them, and there, too, must be found the beauty and the happiness that we have failed to discover where we are. It seems to us that there, in the distance, we should be happier, we should be more amiable and more dignified.
Aaron Bade, tied to his rocky farm on the slopes above Adams’ Forge, remembered with a feeling of pleasure his one journey as far south as Attleboro. He had been obliged to return home before he had found the happiness which he had expected to find. However, once he was home, he realized that he had left it behind him, in Attleboro, or just a little further south . . .
Now, at forty, he was neither happy nor unhappy, but turned back in his mind to the fancies of his youth, and enjoyed, in imagination, the travels denied him in reality.