By William Dean Howells
Jackson kept his promise to write to Westover, but he was better than his word to his mother, and wrote to her every week that winter.
“I seem just to live from letter to letter. It’s ridic’lous,” she said to Cynthia once when the girl brought the mail in from the barn, where the men folks kept it till they had put away their horses after driving over from Lovewell with it. The trains on the branch road were taken off in the winter, and the post-office at the hotel was discontinued. The men had to go to the town by cutter, over a highway that the winds sifted half full of snow after it had been broken out by the ox-teams in the morning. But Mrs. Durgin had studied the steamer days and calculated the time it would take letters to come from New York to Lovewell; and, unless a blizzard was raging, some one had to go for the mail when the day came. It was usually Jombateeste, who reverted in winter to the type of habitant from which he had sprung. He wore a blue woollen cap, like a large sock, pulled over his ears and close to his eyes, and below it his clean-shaven brown face showed. He had blue woollen mittens, and boots of russet leather, without heels, came to his knees; he got a pair every time he went home on St. John’s day. His lean little body was swathed in several short jackets, and he brought the letters buttoned into one of the innermost pockets. He produced the letter from Jackson promptly enough when Cynthia came out to the barn for it, and then he made a show of getting his horse out of the cutter shafts, and shouting international reproaches at it, till she was forced to ask, “Haven’t you got something for me, Jombateeste?”
“You expec’ some letter?” he said, unbuckling a strap and shouting louder.
“You know whether I do. Give it to me.”
“I don’ know. I think I drop something on the road. I saw something white; maybe snow; good deal of snow.”
“Don’t plague! Give it here!”
“Wait I finish unhitch. I can’t find any letter till I get some time to look.”
“Oh, now, Jombateeste! Give me my letter!”
“W’at you want letter for? Always same thing. Well! ’Old the ’oss; I goin’ to feel.”
Jombateeste felt in one pocket after another, while Cynthia clung to the colt’s bridle, and he was uncertain till the last whether he had any letter for her. When it appeared she made a flying snatch at it and ran; and the comedy was over, to be repeated in some form the next week.
The girl somehow always possessed herself of what was in her letters before she reached the room where Mrs. Durgin was waiting for hers. She had to read that aloud to Jackson’s mother, and in the evening she had to read it again to Mrs. Durgin and Whitwell and Jombateeste and Frank, after they had done their chores, and they had gathered in the old farm-house parlor, around the air-tight sheet-iron stove, in a heat of eighty degrees. Whitwell listened, with planchette ready on the table before him, and he consulted it for telepathic impressions of Jackson’s actual mental state when the reading was over.