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would it be, for Asa certainly had n't summer, enabling Rossville to comany property to leave her? Why pare itself with California, he achieved should she send him riding while she the ten pounds before Christmas. stayed in the store? Why was she so Something, however, besides pounds solicitous ? In some it would have came to him. Its coming was partly meant a change of heart, but they re- due to the pounds and to the clothes membered that Myra had no heart. Myra got him, but only because these
Asa, seated at the wheel and noisily helped to make visible the charm alwhizzing along at fifteen or twenty ready in him, and I use the word miles an hour on this and that transac- "charm" deliberately. What it brought tion, was the happiest man in the was popularity. county. He often went over to Lan- “Why, Asa 's getting to be actually caster, the neighboring large town, on good-looking!” was a frequent remark a secret mission, and sometimes she nowadays, and also his good nature would go with him. It was about this and his honesty and other virtues were time that Hattie Buck also bought a remembered to his credit. The phrase, car, not a second-hand one, which she “Oh, it 's only Asa” which used to be drove herself, picking up any one she the commentary on his appearing, bethought would like a ride, and thereby came, “Oh, it's Asa!” Somehow there freshly endearing herself to Rossville. was a tremendous difference between
All this fresh air and the good food the new and the old exclamation. His Myra cooked-she was an excellent knack for the mandolin was called his cook, for she dearly loved to eat—had talent, and he was made a member of their effect on Asa; his eye cleared, his the Lyceum orchestra, and on matters color was better, and one evening at of animal diseases and weather signs supper he told her he had a surprise for and the countless things about which her. When she asked him what it was they used to consult him as a fake he said:
wizard, they now referred to him in re"Well, Myry, you won't believe it, spectful solemnity and faith. but I've gained eight pounds."
There was one Rossvillite in whom She set down the chowder-ladle and this change of attitude did not occur, stared at him. At last she laughed for the simple reason that she had alrather shrilly. "I did n't believe it at ways had the attitude, and this was first,” she said, and he chuckled, and Hattie Buck. Hattie had always liked said he knew she did n't, but it was the Asa and stood up for him. Now, when truth. While he ate hungrily she every one was respecting and liking looked at him; but finally she decided him, she might have said, “I told you it was all right: people with his ailment he was like this all along,” but she are apt to have a rapid improvement did n't, and I know of no better way to just before the final decline. In fact, show you just what Hattie was than to she had known he would gain, though repeat what she did say, which was she had n't allowed for anything like this: eight pounds. But maybe she must “Well, Myra Spells was n't such a allow for even ten. And it was well mean old maid as we thought she was, she looked at it in that way, for, what for she seen what was in Asa, and she with the mild fall and the long Indian knew if she married him and took care
of him, he'd have a chance to show us scolded her, and the upshot was his the stuff he was made of."
acceptance for supper the very next In fact, that did seem the only logi- night. cal explanation of Myra's marrying Now, I believe the facts to be simply him, and the citizens verbally allowed that Jeffrey, who loved to eat and who that Hattie was right. Then they had heard of Myra's cooking, wanted
. wondered why they were n't really to test that talent of hers. At any rate, convinced. Their faith in the mean- a feast was spread that satisfied his ness of Myra was dying a hard death; curiosity as fully as his presence satisactually, its demise was as slow and fied Myra's palpitating vanity. She dubious, for all their desiring it, as could think of nothing but her triumph Asa's was threatening to be under the and of what Hattie Buck would say, anxious eye of Myra. He was out in for Jeffrey took many of his meals at the car most of the time, but she the Hope Hotel, and it was that very thought, “It will be all the colder after cuisine Myra had set out to excel that winter does really set in," and she was night. And when Jeffrey said it was not exactly alarmed.
the best food he "had et in a year," Meantime there were some pleasant she scoffed merrily; but she knew Asa thoughts to occupy her mind. Three would give the compliment full publicmale citizens had begun to display an ity, for he was overwhelmed by the interest in her that was almost cer- honor Jeffrey had done them. Indeed, tainly significant. Two were widowers, he was likely to gain another pound one was a bachelor. I have n't their just on sheer pride. statements, they made none,--but I You can see Myra's predicament. assume their secret reflections to have Here she was, famous now for her hosbeen: a woman who can be a good pitality and her devotion to her spouse; wife once can be a good wife twice. yet, to keep up the demonstration, she The widower who had the grocery had willy-nilly to keep up the weight store sent her extra measure, the bach- of Asa, even to add to it. And as if to elor sent her books and magazines, make things more difficult, the weather though she never read, and the second kept mild, and he was forever in the widower, a confectioner, conveyed his open air. preference by means of candy sent to You say, Suppose he did live over her and Asa. She knew well what for another year? But think of the exthese attentions meant, but the thrill pense! Myra thought of it, but most from them was feeble alongside the of all she thought of Hattie Buck, who thrill she had on the day she met was not marrying any of her suitors, Jeffrey Simms by the post-office and and who must therefore be meaning to he said banteringly that she and Asa redouble her efforts to land Jeffrey had entertained all their old friends Simms before Myra, her rival, could be except him, and he wanted to know freed. Yes, that was Myra's view of why he was snubbed. Myra flushed herself now; she was Hattie's rival.
Jeffrey had signified a desire to dine at "Why, Jeffrey, I did n't suppose her table again.
her table again. The secret longings you 'd bother with our humble hospi- of thirty years were crystallizing into tality ," she stammered. He jokingly hopes. It was now that the black eyes
began to watch Asa with hawk-like his way down Main Street. In the keenness, while her readings of the post-office he met Hattie Buck. weather reports were almost rapacious. “You look so well, Asa!” she said in But "Fair and continued mild” was
her friendly way. the daily message in the Lancaster “You, too, Hattie.” And they "Herald,” and “well and continued chatted, and suddenly Asa found himgaining” was the report of Asa in self confiding his hopes about his new countenance and frame.
invention. "Myry don't set store by He still gave her small sums of my tinkerings, but she 'll be mighty money, and one day he presented her pleased when this one comes through, with fifty dollars "from a transac- though she don't know about it, I don't tion,” he said. But she was not molli- talk to her about it. I aim to surprise fied, for she did n't really believe he had her," he added. earned the money; he was n't an Hattie said she would n't tell a soul. earner. Moreover, rumor had aroused She wished him luck and gave him her her suspicions, so she said to him one warm, plump hand. She never told a
soul about his invention, either. “Asa, my bills have been pretty big Then he turned the little car toward lately. I was just wondering if you Lancaster, after telephoning Myra would n't as leave sell your back lot. that he was seeing some people about a You don't pay any attention to your transaction and might n't be home till land any more, anyhow."
ten or eleven that night. He blushed and looked uncomfortable. At last he said:
$ 5 “Well, Myry, the fact is, I 've sold That afternoon was the date of the it.”
beginning of the great weather change, “What? You mean—and you did and who would have thought that what not tell me?”
began as a mere gentle snow would be “I 'm so busy on my invention, the greatest blizzard in Rossville's Myry, and I had to have the money, history? Nor had Asa predicted it. and I could n't ask you for it."
The gentle snow had not yet taken When she could trust her voice she on ruffian manners when the moviesaid:
goers gathered at the Thelma for the “Well, how about the front lot and seven-thirty performance. The bill the buildings?"
featured a favorite of Rossville's, and His embarrassment deepened. the audience was large, and Myra was “I sold them, too."
of it. It seems to me that what hap“So that was where the fifty came pened that night was in its nature pefrom?”
culiarly ironical. You may recall that "Yes; it was all one transaction." when Myra had had her great inspira
“Transaction!” she cried in a high tion at the movies, she had immediately voice. Then, after a blank pause, she wondered why no one else had shared
а. abruptly left him. He sat alone, start- it. Well, some one else had shared it, led and bewildered by her manner. and that some one must have been a Then he shook himself, whistled wist- writer of scenarios for the film. fully, then cheerily, and was soon on Whether by the original author of that four-ace comedy or not, the theme Myra did not sit up for Asa, for she had been developed and produced. was in no mood to look at him. He re
A thin spinster, not unlike Myra, turned about eleven. She heard him for that matter, seeing her neighbor, a come into the kitchen, stamping the widow, always surrounded by admir- snow from him, then to the bedroom ers, conceived the notion of winning a door, where she heard him gently call husband via the bereavement route.
her name. Down the street was a man so old that She did not answer, and he went he tottered, toothless, deaf, and lame. back to the kitchen, and soon his potHe was the oldest inhabitant. The tering noises told her that he was spinster wheedled him into marrying brisking up the fire to boil the kettle. her, but not without his drawing up a Yes, likely enough he was most frozen, contract that she would faithfully but what of it? Even if he'd caught his attend him until he died, which she death, what good would that do her cheerfully signed. The story then now? She listened to the stumping of skipped a year and showed the old man his wooden leg on the bare floor, then still alive. Two years, five years, ten
to the sounds of the faucet, of cup and years passed, and he was unchanging, saucer and spoon. These noises were while his spouse, not young to begin peculiar, and at last she knew why: with, got thinner and grayer and old. they were shaky and clattery because Of course he survived her, and lived to Asa was in the throes of a violent chill. marry a pretty young girl who got all Her thin lips pressed together. his money. Forgive the coarseness of “Let him shake!” she said fiercely. the story.
I'm glad she was in the dark, for I am I think it was Jeffrey Simms's niece, spared the unpleasantness of visualizMrs. Hemp, who first saw the light. ing her face just then, and can confine The word was passed with mysterious myself to her actions. She lay stiff for swiftness, and when the lights were a time, then she twitched, turned over, turned up, every eye was fastened on made odd, muffled noises. Then she Myra Beebe, and the titter that went sat up, huddling
sat up, huddling the blankets about around was the same as three hundred her. Next moment she cast these off, pointing forefingers, and when the rose from bed, got into her bath-robe, lights went out, Myra slipped away and was on her way to the kitchen. from her seat and fled from the Thelma. "What in the name of creation"
When, in addition, Mrs. Rotchett, she asked sharply. her next-door neighbor, called forth Asa looked up, and would have from an awesomely accurate memory spoken, but the words were lost in the story of that previous four-ace the castanet-chatterings of his teeth. comedy, together with the facts of "Lands' sakes! now you have got Myra's having been present and of have yourself in a fix! What? What's that ing on the very next day started out you say?" being kind to Asa Beebe, then Ross- He repeated his grotesque phrases, ville saw, as plain as the nose on its and she discovered them to be: face, the great secret of Myra's mar- "You go to bed, Myry; you 'll catch riage. It was all over town that night. your death. I 'm just mixing a hot But so was the blizzard.
drink o' ginger-tea."
His eye was wistful, yet there was and the blizzard was a bad blizzard. solicitude in it; he was really afraid The wires were down, and Myra saw she'd take cold.
no way of getting Doc Cranberry save She frowned sourly, then came at by setting out on foot for his house. him in her abrupt, gaunt way, gestur- She faced this new problem of hers at ing him toward the bedroom.
her solitary breakfast in the kitchen“Go get into bed. I'll fix the ginger- a breakfast she hardly tasted, though tea. Go on now," as he hesitated. He from mere habit she had prepared the obeyed.
usual viands. If she did everything It was not ginger-tea she brewed; it she could to save him, people would was a fine big mug of mulled wine. laugh just the same, even more. They
No, I am not going to strip the secret would say she was doing it only to save of that wine to its bones. I shall not her face. She could even hear their say why Myra had been saving, care gibes. But it would be gibes, either fully hidden, that noble bottle of port, way. twin to the bottle broken on the prow Then she heard Asa's labored breathof the ship Matrimony, or, rather, En- ing in the next room, and all at once she gagement, on a certain night away back realized that she had never seen anylast May. Whatever associations, past, body die. It was really so; her fortypresent, or future, clustered about three years had not vouchsafed her it, she sacrificed them now in this this solemn experience. Her parents strange impulse, which she at the same had died when she was too young to time resented angrily, to minister to remember, and the aunt she had lived
with, and whose cottage she had in"Wh-wh-why, M-myry!" Asa clat- herited, had passed away while Myra tered, his eye opening widely. "Where was absent at Chautauqua; she had on earth d-did ju g-get-it?"
barely got home in time for the funeral. “Never mind that,” she said Since then she had lived alone, and she brusquely. "You drink it while I get “
was not one of those who visit the sick. the irons wrapped." And when she brought in the hot irons he had
6 drained the mug.
She now saw that she had never vis"Now you get into bed; you'll ualized Asa's demise; she had only freeze,” he urged, master of his words looked ahead to a time when he would again. She made no reply, but went have ceased to be. But there is usually back to the kitchen. There she con- a process of ceasing, a simple fact she cocted a first-class mustard-plaster. had forgotten. Moreover, he had been
"You 're awful' good to me, Myry; so alive of late, so active and busy, and it's a shame to spoil your sleep.” his now lying prostrate, stilling moans,
"The best way for me to get sleep is made a contrast too sharp for her to for you to shut up and let me, Asa," accept offhand. In short, and even was her dry retort. Nevertheless, she despite gibes, when a fellow-being is reached over and tucked the extra sufferingblanket more closely under him.
She dressed herself for the trip to These attentions must have helped, Doctor Cranberry's, and brought him yet by morning Asa was a sick man back with her.