“Susan!” exclaimed Mr. Rolliffe, who entered at that moment, and looked aghast at the scene.
“Yes, I will!” exclaimed Susie, too wrought up now for restraint.
“Will what?” gasped the mother.
“Be Zebulon Jarvis’s wife. He’s asked me plump and square like a soldier; and I’ll answer as grandma did, and like grandma I’ll face anything for his sake.”
“Well, this is suddent!” exclaimed Mrs. Rolliffe, dropping into a chair. “Susan, do you think it is becoming and seemly for a young woman—–”
“Oh, mother dear, there’s no use of your trying to make a prim Puritan maiden of me. Zeb doesn’t fight like a deacon, and I can’t love like one. Ha! ha! ha! to think that great soldier is afraid of little me, and nothing else! It’s too funny and heavenly—–”
“Susan, I am dumfounded at your behavior!”
At this moment Mr. Rolliffe came in from the wood-lot, and he was dazed by the wonderful news also. In his eagerness to get even with Zeb, the cobbler enlarged and expatiated till he was hoarse. When he saw that the parents were almost as proud as the daughter over their prospective son-in-law, he relapsed into his old taciturnity, declaring he had talked enough for a month.
Susie, the only child, who apparently had inherited all the fire and spirit of her fighting ancestors, darted out, and soon returned with her rosebud of a face enveloped in a great calyx of a woollen hood.
“Where are you going?” exclaimed her parents.
“You’ve had the news. I guess Mother Jarvis has the next right.” And she was off over the hills with almost the lightness and swiftness of a snowbird.
In due time Zeke appeared, and smiled encouragingly on Mrs. Rolliffe, who sat knitting by the kitchen fire. The matron did not rise, and gave him but a cool salutation. He discussed the coldness of the weather awkwardly for a few moments, and then ventured: “Is Miss Susan at home?”
“No, sir,” replied Mrs. Rolliffe; “she’s gone to make a visit to her mother-in-law that is to be, the Widow Jarvis. Ezra Stokes is sittin’ in the next room, sent home sick. Perhaps you’d like to talk over camp-life with him.”
Not even the cider now sustained Zeke. He looked as if a cannon-ball had wrecked all his hopes and plans instead of a shovel. “Good-evening, Mrs. Rolliffe,” he stammered; “I guess I’ll—I’ll— go home.”
Poor Mrs. Jarvis had a spiritual conflict that day which she never forgot. Susie’s face had flashed at the window near which she had sat spinning, and sighing perhaps that Nature had not provided feathers or fur for a brood like hers; then the girl’s arms were about her neck, the news was stammered out—for the letter could never be shown to any one—in a way that tore primness to tatters. The widow tried to act as if it were a dispensation of Providence which should be received in solemn gratitude; but before she knew it she was laughing and crying, kissing her sweet-faced daughter, or telling how good and brave Zeb had been when his heart was almost breaking.