“There would always be you, Mother, for them to fall back on.” It was as near as John Murchison ever got to flattery.
“No thank you, then! I’ve brought up six of my own, as well as I was able, which isn’t saying much, and a hard life I’ve had of it. Now I’m done with it; they’ll have to find somebody else to fall back on. If they get themselves into such a mess”—Mrs Murchison stopped to laugh with sincere enjoyment—“they needn’t look to me to get them out.”
“I guess you’d have a hand, Mother.”
“Not I. But the man isn’t thinking of any such folly. What do you suppose his salary is?”
“Eight hundred and fifty dollars a year. They raised it last month.”
“And how far would Advena be able to make that go, with servants getting the money they do and expecting the washing put out as a matter of course? Do you remember Eliza, John, that we had when we were first married? Seven dollars a month she got; she would split wood at a pinch, and I’ve never had one since that could do up shirts like her. Three years and a half she was with me, and did everything, everything I didn’t do. But that was management, and Advena’s no manager. It would be me that would tell him, if I had the chance. Then he couldn’t say he hadn’t been warned. But I don’t think he has any such idea.”
“Advena,” pronounced Mr Murchison, “might do worse.”
“Well, I don’t know whether she might. The creature is well enough to preach before a congregation. But what she can see in him out of the pulpit is more than I know. A great gawk of a fellow, with eyes that always look as if he were in the middle of next week! He may be able to talk to Advena, but he’s no hand at general conversation; I know he finds precious little to say to me. But he’s got no such notion. He comes here because, being human, he’s got to open his mouth some time or other, I suppose; but it’s my opinion he has neither Advena nor anybody else in his mind’s eye at present. He doesn’t go the right way about it.”
“H’m!” said John Murchison.
“He brought her a book the last time he came—what do you think the name of it was? The something or other of Plato! Do you call that a natural gift from a young man who is thinking seriously of a girl? Besides, if I know anything about Plato he was a Greek heathen, and no writer for a Presbyterian minister to go lending around. I’d Plato him to the rightabout if it was me!”
“She might read worse than Plato,” remarked John.
“Oh, well, she read it fast enough. She’s your own daughter for outlandish books. Mercy on us, here comes the man! We’ll just say ‘How d’ye do?’ to him, and then start for Abby’s, John. I’m not easy in my mind about the baby, and I haven’t been over since the morning. Harry says it’s nothing but stomach, but I think I know whooping-cough when I hear it. And if it is whooping-cough the boy will have to come here and rampage, I suppose, till they’re clear of it. There’s some use in grandmothers, if I do say it myself!”