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nary methods would bring her a spouse, male pursues the female ceases to be and she had tried strategy, and people fiction and becomes fact in just one knew she had tired it; she knew she case-the case of the charmer who has was laughed at, was a byword in already been possessed. Not that Rossville, but that made her the more Myra did not already know this as well determined to succeed. It was the as you or I, but some truths are like super-strategy she now awaited. the pattern on the wall-paper or the
That afternoon when Asa Beebe design on the table-cloth, too familiar brought her half a cord of wood-de to be perceived. Myra had not read a livering wood was only another of Asa's certain novel in which an Irishwoman various pursuits-and said, "Well, observes that it is a wonder any woman Myry, I spose you 'll be going to see ever has a chance to marry till she has the new bill?” she said, yes, she ex- become a widow, and yet this was just pected to go; but she had, nevertheless, the thought that, near the end of the not the faintest presentiment of what comedy reel, flashed upon her. And was lying ahead.
on its heels came another, with the Asa had one of his coughing spells bulky velocity of a bounding collie and asked if he could take a drink. knocking down a small child. Myra She asked him if he had his own cup, glanced about her, for every great disand he modestly produced a collapsi- covery brings the attendant query, ble one, and as she watched him drink, Why does n't some one else see it, too? she thought how the winter had But every one was intent upon the wasted him. He was such a poor, ab- screen, where by means of a vision the ject creature, what with his one leg widow was having a little review of all and his one eye and his one (if it were her recent suitors. At that moment indeed one) lung. But she was not Myra also was visited by a vision. It sorry for him, and it did not occur to was of one sole suitor, really of half a her to tip him for stacking the wood, suitor, with one leg and one eye and though it brought on a second attack one lung. Anybody could tell you of his cough, just as it did not occur to that Asa Beebe would never survive her to offer him one of the fresh dough- another winter. He did not look as nuts that filled a big yellow bowl on if he could live through the present the kitchen-table. Yet he lived alone, spring, active though he was, for he and was too poor to know the taste of was an essentially active man. decent food.
Well, here was the way for an alert That night she was pleased from the spinster to acquire widowhood inside first with the movie program, though of a year, and any woman on earth, the great idea was to come not from once she becomes a widow- An indisthe Maurice Mordaunt, but from the tinct, but thrilling, fantasy followed, four-ace comedy reel. An action- so thrilling that Myra suddenly sat farce of simple theme, it showed a back and closed her eyes. widow triumphing over all other females in the matrimonial race, and triumphing through the mere fact of When Asa brought Myra's milk her being a widow. In other words, next morning,—he delivered milk as the polite biological fiction that the well as wood,-she was still in the
kitchen, though usually by that hour tion. “Business is pretty brisk lately." she was out in the shop part of her He said that was lucky, but guessed little cottage.
she knew how to manage, and, stimu“Asa, you carry milk for other folks, lated by the coffee and food, he made but do you ever drink it yourself?" bold to chuckle rather knowingly, and she asked. “It would be an awful she laughed in a way to convey shy acgood thing for your cough."
quiescence. Then the young girl who Asa tilted back his hat, and his one always opened up the store called her eye gazed with some surprise at the to an early customer. tall, flat spinster rinsing a pail at the Thereafter she continued to insinsink.
uate her friendliness, though Asa little "Well, no, Myry, I stick pretty close guessed its nature. And this, I think, to coffee. It sets me up better 'n any- best explains the completeness of the thing I know of."
modesty of Asa. “Me, I like coffee, too. Come to I don't know whether this modesty think of it, here's some left, still warm, was congenital; I only know he had it if you 'd care to have it. I always have at the time when the freight-car of to throw it away; it 's no good next sheep coupled into his leg instead of day, and it hurts my heart if I take it into the tank-car just ahead. He was more 'n once a day.”
then fifteen. His eye was lost at a Asa's eye stared more roundly, but Fourth of July picnic, when in the when, in addition to the cup of creamy company of two small white boys and coffee, and no mention made of his one big colored boy he prematurely exhaving his own cup, she added two ploded a cannon cracker. These accidoughnuts, even his glass eye seemed dents had a lack of dignity, and that to take on the surplus of amazement may have had something to do with from his real one. Myra continued his loss of confidence. The tuberculobusy at the sink, and at last he found sis was certainly congenital, his father, his tongue and thanked her. And two brothers, and a sister having died while he ate and drank he asked her of it; but until Asa was thirty, with how she had liked the program last him it took the form of bronchitis. He night.
had that in his boyhood; it was a com“The feature was fair, but the com- mon thing for him to lose his voice for edy like to put me to sleep." She a week at a time, and he was always watched him stealthily.
hoarse all through the winter. It is “Why, I liked it. I liked to have hard to assert a personality when one died laughing when they all got chas- is voiceless. It seems to me that he ing each other in them automobiles," was handicapped at the start by this he said apologetically. She was re- unromantic malady, and that all the lieved. Plainly the idea had not other accidents and ills befell him as a brushed wings against Asa in its consequence of that original impedipassage to her. She pressed another ment. Unable to recite his lessons at doughnut on him, and when he asked school, he was called a blockhead, and if she had made them, she said, yes, he soon abandoned education; his but she did n't get much time for cook- mother needed him, anyhow. He being; the store took most of her atten- gan to do odd jobs and then odder
ones, and now they were his sole means had not been so heartless to him, for of subsistence, though he always had he was a doomed man. It was none great schemes in his head. Asa was other than Doctor Cranberry who gave the crack schemer of the Rossville re- the verdict, “Not more than a year at gion. His ingenuities embraced the the outside.” He had said it this very invention of a combined can-opener spring, though not to Asa, of course. and hair-curler, the discovery of gold But even before his disease got such in Lipman's Creek, the grafting of headway Asa had never thought of any pears and peaches and apples all on woman wanting him for a husband. one tree; but my memory fails. On Consequently, Myra Spells worked on his ramshackle little estate at the edge his gratitude all through April and into of town he had followed such pursuits May without his ever remotely guessas chicken-raising, mushrooming, um- ing her motives, although Mrs. Leff brella-mending, skate-sharpening, col- Rotchett, next door to Myra, was allie-breeding, collecting junk, painting ready passing out her interpretations signs, bottoming chairs, shoeing horses; of the maiden lady's sudden humanagain my memory is inadequate. His outside activities were frankly un- At last the time came when Myra countable, though I recall plumbing, felt that in some way she must manipucockroach-and-rat exterminating, scis- late Asa's proposal for her hand. She sors-grinding, fish-peddling, and selling had done all she could with feeding ice-cream cones. Yes, and of course he and chatting and mending,—one mornhad sold books. Well, many consump- ing she had made him take off his coat tives are restless and active like Asa. while she patched the sleeve,-but
Some wit had invented the phrase the actual proposal must come from parody, “Busy as Asa Beebe," and it him, though she must first put the had become a local saying. And “Go words into his mouth. In this fortune ask Asa" was another, for he was a favored her by sending her a birthday. great prognosticator as to weather, That evening when Asa came to put elections, and crops. His prophecies up the screens, a job she had got him were always wrong. It was a trick of to do, timing it nicely, he found the the wags to send him clippings and ads little kitchen-table set out with refreshfor get-rich-quick schemes, which he ments for two. Heretofore she had always took seriously and went to given him merely hand-outs, snacks, work upon gratefully.
and therefore he did n't connect the Well, Asa was not colorless; he was festivities with himself, and he was just futile. He had sudden self-assur- about to leave when she asked him to ances, as suddenly extinguished, and stay and help her celebrate. followed by self-effacings, so that he “Why, I 'm all dirty; I ain't even seemed always in a state of apology for shaved," stammered the connubial having presumed, much in the fashion decoy, but Myra laughed gaily. of the collies he raised. His one eye “'T ain't a party. I just feel lonecame to have the look of a wagging some, and the friend I invited could tail, wagging exuberantly, then in pro- n't come after all, and it seems a shame pitiation.
to waste the cake, and it fresh. You But for the last year or two people and me 's old friends by now, Asa;
you stay and make me feel like it is my ing her, hummed, “Here comes the birthday.” And then she said she bride." But her aquiline profile only did n't think other folks did enough sharpened, her black eyes continued to for him; they did n't appreciate him. glitter; in a few weeks, as she knew, But she appreciated him.
the tauntings would cease, for she He flushed to the roots of his hair, would be “Mrs. Beebe." but a snowy towel and some perfumed I pass over the wedding, too. It was soap, thrust into his hand, silenced very quiet. Asa, fed up and renovated him. When he had washed at the in the meantime, made a respectable, sink, she gave him a rose for his lapel, if not commanding, figure. He seemed and they sat down to the cake. dazed, and he often looked at Myra
“Why, what 's that?” he asked sud- helplessly; but he was not so abject as denly.
one might have supposed, for she had "Asa, it's port wine, what I got last carefully given him the impression that winter when Doc Cranberry told me I he had wooed and won her despite needed building up after the grippe.” maidenly resistance, and the notion
Well, to shorten the story, next added to his self-esteem. They went morning Asa waked up to find himself away for a week, and returned to live engaged to be married to Myra Spells. at Myra's, though Asa did not give up She set the wedding for early June. his own domicile.
his own domicile. And Myra knew
that when the time came, the sale of $ 3
this little property of his would help Yes, Myra dared to be a June bride. meet certain expenditures, though deliDid she mind what the town would cacy forbids me more than to hint at say? I only know that she faced un- what she meant by that. flinchingly the ridicule that burst forth Well, why deny it? A married woat her announcement. How right is man commands a special respect the the philosopher who says that will is mere spinster never enjoys. True, in a nothing, that motive is all! Myra town where every one knew every one could look clear past the ridicule to the else there were few chances for Myra's day when Rossville would be singing new name to be used, but now and then another tune. I don't say that she it happened that goods were sent to actually visualized Asa's gravestone on her, delivered to "Mrs. Asa Beebe," the far side of the marriage-altar. Hers and her checks were to the account of was rather the position of the doctor, “Mrs. Asa Beebe”; she never signed who, without desiring man's illness, "Myra Beebe” or “Myra Spells Beebe.” yet alertly profits by it. Or did she People laughed, but she comported more nearly resemble the undertaker? herself with dignity, and gradually the So I pass over, as did Myra, the rich I
more sarcastic of the gibes ceased. harvest of gibes her engagement Indeed, some comments were, though brought, and cull only a few. "Well, cynically, commendatory, as, “Well, any woman can get some husband,” Myra acts like she actually likes him!" “She tried all the others first; we got "She does keep him neat and spruce.” to give her that credit,” “It 's more “She must have seen things in him we blessed to give than to receive," and others missed.” That was so. the like. Children in the streets, see- There were two people in Rossville whose attitude Myra watched with small sums to her, and she pretended particular care. There was no doubt gratitude, though they did not half of it, Jeffrey Simms did take off his meet her outlay on him. But being hat more gallantly now, and once he prepared to pay for her own private walked along the street with her, some scheme, she went on dressing him for thing that had not happened in a his part, and the town was visibly imdecade. She tasted triumph that day. pressed by the transformation. Well,
The other person she watched was they were to see that what she was to Hattie Buck. Hattie was the most lose was worthy of being mourned; she popular woman in Rossville, at least was to be a widow really bereaved, not unofficially. This was despite certain easy to console. So she very carefully laxities not of morals, but of conven- brought into respectful relief those tions. At forty Hattie was what she activities of Asa's, and, “I guess I'd had been at fifteen, twenty, and thirty, better consult him," she would say, or, a child of nature. Impetuous, plump, “Maybe Asa could tell you," or, "Well, merry, pretty, with a charming blue if he is n't too busy, I 'll ask him.” At eye, gay, wilful hair, and bubbling the same time she developed a line of laugh, she had gone a careless way, public solicitude for his health. "If I generous in love and money. Every don't watch him, he overdoes,” “I'll small town has its Hattie Buck. She see if he feels well enough," or, "I've was so good-natured that there would found a new medicine that 's helping have been no fun in saying anything him a heap." mean about her, anyhow, and no one Asa was grateful, he admired her, he desired to say it. It was thought that believed in her; so he supposed he loved she liked Jeffrey Simms, and lately it her, as he supposed she loved him, was being said that Jeffrey acted as if strange as that still seemed. His haphe liked Hattie. But he was that kind piness was quite visible. of man of whom one never can tell. "A man does need a wife, Myry. I
So fall approached, a significant was runnin' to seed. I been doing that season for Myra, the first act, as she since I was born till you married me, saw it, of a drama of three acts, of and I did n't know why it was." which the others were to be the winter “Yes, Asa, a man does need a woand the spring. For, remember, it man to look after him. Some women was Doc Cranberry who had said Asa neglect their husbands, but I 'm not could not live more than one year.
In September she sold her two lots § 4
and got a small second-hand car, At heart like other males, when Myra which he drove. “He must be out in got him a pongee suit and a Panama the air,” she explained. hat and silk socks and gay ties, Asa Rossville had by now passed into a gained assurance; his ambitions also state of complete mystification. To moved up to a higher plane. He sold repudiate its former opinion of Myra off his junk and gave up his odd jobs, was impossible; the demonstration of devoting himself to transactions and her character had been before them schemes and—but that was his secret too long. "She must have something —to inventions. At times he brought up her sleeve," they said; but what