In a moment she had caught him by the arm.
‘Don’ want ‘o break up the meetin’,’ said he laughing.
‘We don’t care if you do know,’ said Hope, ‘we’re not ashamed of it.’
‘Hain’t got no cause t’ be,’ he said. ’Go it while ye’re young ’n full ’o vinegar! That’s what I say every time. It’s the best fun there is. I thought I’d like t’ hev ye both come up t’ my room, fer a minute, ’fore yer mother ‘n father come back,’ he said in a low tone that was almost a whisper.
Then he shut one eye, suggestively, and beckoned with his head, as we followed him up the stairway to the little room in which he slept. He knelt by the bed and pulled out the old skin-covered trunk that David Brower had given him soon after we came. He felt a moment for the keyhole, his hand trembling, and then I helped him open the trunk. From under that sacred suit of broadcloth, worn only on the grandest occasions, he fetched a bundle about the size of a man’s head. It was tied in a big red handkerchief. We were both sitting on the floor beside him.
‘Heft it,’ he whispered.
I did so and found it heavier than I expected.
‘What is it?’ I asked.
‘Spondoolix,’ he whispered.
Then he untied the bundle — a close packed hoard of bankbills with some pieces of gold and silver at the bottom.
‘Hain’t never hed no use fer it,’ he said as he drew out a layer of greenbacks and spread them with trembling fingers. Then he began counting them slowly and carefully.
‘There!’ he whispered, when at length he had counted a hundred dollars. ‘There Hope! take thet an’ put it away in yer wallet. Might come handy when ye’re ‘way fr’m hum.’
She kissed him tenderly.
’Put it ‘n yer wallet an’ say nothin’ — not a word t’ nobody,’ he said.
Then he counted over a like amount for me.
‘Say nothin’,’ he said, looking up at me over his spectacles. ’Ye’ll hev t’ spile a suit o’ clothes purty often if them fellers keep a fightin’ uv ye all the time.’
Father and mother were coming in below stairs and, hearing them, we helped Uncle Eb tie up his bundle and stow it away. Then we went down to meet them.
Next morning we bade Hope goodbye at the cars and returned to our home with a sense of loss that, for long, lay heavy upon us all.
Uncle Eb and David were away buying cattle, half the week, but Elizabeth Brower was always at home to look after my comfort. She was up betimes in the morning and singing at her work long before I was out of bed. When the breakfast was near ready she came to my door with a call so fall of cheerfulness and good-nature it was the best thing in the day. And often, at night, I have known her to come into my room when I was lying awake with some hard problem, to see that I was properly covered or that my window was not open too far. As we sat alone together, of an evening, I have seen her listen for hours while I was committing the Odes of Horace with a curiosity that finally gave way to resignation. Sometimes she would look over my shoulder at the printed page and try to discern some meaning in it when Uncle Eb was with us he would often sit a long time his head turned attentively as the lines came rattling off my tongue.