Puslapio vaizdai

apart, And great men be always cruel' aggravating to their women. "T is a law of nature; to be regretted, but so it stands,"

Then she said a clever thing.

"I see your point of view, anyway, Mr. Rowland," she said. "There's a lot in the idea, no doubt; but it 's kept you single, however."

I praised her for such swiftness of mind, and was just going on to show exactly how, in my opinion, she did ought to start on Noah at the first opportunity, when the man hisself came along the garden path. With that Melinda got up and took her work and prepared to go.

""T is all right," she said. "You give him a treat now, if you please. I'll come back in half an hour or so; and you can tell him about the point of view and try and hammer some sense into his thick head, it he 'll stand it. But he ban't so patient as me, remember, for all his wonderful character."

She went out, rather cold and thoughttul like, and Noah came up to the window where I was sitting. He waited for her to shut the door, then, though well knowing it would have troubled her cruel to see him climb into the room through the window, he went and done it. And in the act he knocked over one of they big, redflowered cactus plants. The pot scat abroad, and the plant was broke' in two, and the soil went all over the carpet.

"Good powers!" he said. "My wife will twitter about that. T was give her by her late grandmother, and she thinks the world of the prickly thing. No matter: let her pick it up again: she's got a pair or banks. I believe

Twas a good text for me to tasten moon, and led sa 1 blamed him pretty dep my such a dormà, din act, and

ter-strokes on him and shook him after-

"Don't you talk that rot, Bassett," I answered in my sternest manner. "You know me, and you know I ban't here for my own pleasure, and I 'm not in a mood to stand silliness, especially from a man so wise as you can be. 'T is a poor compliment to me,' I said, "for you to answer good friend to your family and to you me in that tone of voice; for I 've been a likewise; and who would have had the job of all that woodwork at the rectory last week but for me?"

"All right, all right," he answered. fun. "Don't get niffed, Johnny. 'T is only my fun. And whether or no, I stand to it that an Englishman's house is his castle, through his parlor winder any hour of the and he 've got a perfect right to come day or night that pleases him.”

castle, likewise," I declared, "and since "And an Englishwoman's house is her house in a way no other house in the vil't is your wife's joy and pride to keep your lage be kept, you 're wrong altogether to take your careless, dirty line of action, and make nought of all her genteel ideas, and clean and the fitting. torture her sense of the comely and the ing through the winder that strikes the 'T is just that comnote of your conduct, and though you say 't is no business of mine, Noah, I'll chance that for the sake of two clever people I may speak against me-and assure you that think the world of-I 'll chance what you you be wrong and brutal and piglike in this matter; and 't is casting pearls before wite to make your home like a fairy-land, swine for your wonderful creation of a it you will come into it through the winder. Lock what your boof have done to the white paint, and look at all that mess and dirt on the carpet. T's nothing in selt, but everything when you think of Melinda. She's age I tell you, and wi mes special features and CEN LOS the herd of seven-day sik. And her such a fist 2 sup me white was heard of

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of the house to the bottom, in all the colors of the rainbow," he said. Her pride goeth before a fall, as I 've often told her. Pride, pride-curse her pride! She's house-proud and haveage-proud and clothesproud and hair-proud and teeth-proud and voice-proud, and everything but husbandproud. Good Lord, that woman! Every word-every little word I say-she fastens on it like a hawk, and mangles it and turns it inside out, till I very near dance sometimes to see how an innocent speech can be twisted into an ugly one. And I stick up for her in season and out, and you can bear me witness that I do; but when do she say a good word for me and my parts? Her point of view-"

"And well

There I cut him short. "The very word!" I said. I knew, if we had a good tell about it, that word would presently jump to your lips. The point of view is everything, and in that lies the great hope for you and Melinda; for you 're both so chock full of cleverness as an egg of meat, and once you can see from her point of view,-how life strikes upon her and what her ambitions are, and once she can do the like, and put herself in your place, and view your manly outlook, and see your great skill with hard wood, and so on, then you'll lift her eyes, and she 'll clear yours, and all will be well."

He was walking up and down, but now he went into the scullery and I after him. Then he drawed a jug of beer and took two glasses off the kitchen dresser.

"Fetch a third, my son," I said, "for your missis will join us again presently, and 't would be a clever thing to let her know you was expecting her."

He did as I told him, and I went further, and said as we would n't drink until she came. "And, meantime, let me improve the shining hour," I said. Then went on at him in my best manner for a good bit longer till my throat was dry.

He stared at my fine flow of words. "Lord!" he declared, "you ought to have been a hedge-preacher, John Rowland."

Then his wife came down house again and joined us in the parlor. And she was perfectly calm. She had cried a bit after she'd left me, as I could see; but the marks were very near gone. In fact, the only warm member present was myself.

I'd worked myself up into a pretty good heat over the job, you understand, and now Noah noticed it.

"Pour innkeeper a glass of beer, Melindy," he says; "he 's sweating like a pig. And then pour yourself one, and let's see you drink it. You don't drink enough to keep a mouse alive."

She was surprised at this remark. She gived a ghost of a smile and obeyed him; but she did n't speak. However, Noah's tongue was now unloosed and he started.

"Me and Mr. Rowland here have been talking very wise about life in general, and yours and mine in particular. He's so kind as to be interested in our private affairs, -very good of such a busy man, I'm sure, and he 's pointed out to me what I never seed for myself, of course, Melindy,-namely, that you ban't the every-day kind of wife, and that I 've been short-sighted and a selfish beast to you. And in his judgment I did ought to wash oftener, and not come in the house from the stable through the parlor winder, and so on. All sound sense and solemn truth; and I thank him for it."

His wife looked awful' queer, and her voice was strange to me when she answered:

"And I 've heard tell from him what a clever man you are, Noah,-a thing I 'd never thought of myself, more shame to me, in fact, a genius of a man; and such men must n't be judged like common, every-day husbands. I'm going to try and look out at life from your point of view, Noah, and say my prayers to you in future; because that 's the backbone of married life, and Mr. Rowland thinks I'm clever enough to do it."

"And I know you are," he said. "Good powers! What is there you ban't clever enough to do, if you want to? And witty though I may be, and a master carpenter, and all the rest, of course where my love and pride and hope and joy be set I 've failed failed, and well I know it."

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"You have n't failed," she answered. 'T is only now and again, I 'm sure, we don't see alike; and then, no doubt, I 'm far too quick to put my own point of view first. I blush for myself when I think of it now."

"Not at all," he said-"not at all, Melindy. Good powers! And why should n't you have your own point of view—a

clever, well-educated woman as took the prizes you took at school? Your point of view be worth that of any ten men every time, and 't is always dead right, as I've told the people more than once."

"And so 's yours. You 've got a man's mind and you lift your mind up to the big things."

"And the first big thing be you," he told her, "and all else is trash and dross to me. Look there at thicky broken pot— my wicked work! I've been so wrong as to come in through the winder. Shame upon me! What the devil's the front door for?"

"Come in how you please, so long as you do come," she said. "God knows I've often done enough to keep you away. "T is I that have been wrong-wrong to do a score of silly, headstrong things and fret you with my fidgets. What matter for the flower-pot? Ban't there another in the world? D' you think I don't see my sins clear enough? D' you think I wanted Mr. Rowland here, or anybody else, to tell me all my countless faults? No, I did n't. Too well I knew 'em, and too well I knew you knew 'em, too; but you was too generous and manly to name them, though an outsider could."

a woman

Bassett cast an unfriendly glance at me. "I won't have you sing smallwith your family's blood in your veins, and a woman of your great renown, and with such a house and all," he said. "Good powers! Who am I that my wife should say I know her faults, when I cry out at the cross-roads every day that she have n't got none? 'T is all the other way, as Rowland have made me see very clear, though I knew it too well without his telling. 'T is all the other way, and I'm a common, unclean thing, far below you in all my thoughts and deeds. I'm a master carpenter, 't is true; but what 's that, if I'm a careless, dirty man, and mess the house and break my wife's heart and don't value her wonderful character? And what if I do save money for you and work early and late for you and feel my heart-strings tight about you whenever your name comes in my mind? That's all nought against the countless wicked, nasty, shameful things I 've done, as John here be good enough to point out so bitter' clear. But God's my judge I did n't know what a sinner I was!"

"Don't go on like that, dear Noah," she said, "because I'm only flesh and blood, and I can't stand it. I've cried to-night-cried cruel tears to think of my mistakes and how little worth I. was to win such a wonder as you. I won't hear you run yourself down afore me, and no proper wife would. 'T is all nonsense, and if you think 't is my point of view that you ban't all you should be, clean or dirty, and if you think I 'd change a hair on your head,-unless 't is some gray ones brought by my evil, scolding tongue,then you 're wrong."

"Say no more, or I shall get angered with somebody," he answered her. “Good powers, Melindy! You make a lump come in my throat-to see a proud piece like you eating humble pie to me! 'T is horrid, and contrary to nature, for you be worth a million of me, and your precious little finger 's of more account than my whole carcass-or any other man's; and if there's them about think they 've got the wit to teach you your duty to me—” He broke off there, and looked over my way again.

Then she went on:

"And if there 's any man or woman think to tell you what I want of you, well, all I want is your love; and I've got it, and, please God, always shall have."

Her voice was broken.

"Have done," he said, "or I'll-'t is all in a nutshell-a very stupid, needless, impertinent piece of work, and-certain people, with a name for sense, ought to have known better. To make a woman cry ban't no part of a man's duty at no time; and if that woman be another man's wife, and the best wife on God's earth at that-well, 't is better in my opinion if we all stuck to our own job, and the publicans kept behind their own bars and left the sinners to mind their own blessed busi


Then she takes it up again.

"Ban't I your wife? Have we got a secret from each other? No, we have n't, and never shall have. And I don't want any man to tell me your virtues, and you don't want any man to tell you mine."

And then I spoke; for I began to feel that if Noah had come in at the winder, I might find myself going out the same


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"We have heard you," answered Bassett. "We 've heard you together and apart, and in my opinion we 've heard a darned sight too much of you. There's things a man can do, and there's things a man can't do," he said, "and, for my part, it looks to me terrible much as if you 'd done a thing a man can't do."

"You 're a bachelor, and you seem to forget what a married man is, Mr. Rowland," declared Melinda, rather scornful and her nose cocked. "I dare say you meant well. You be so great on the point of view that Noah and me will grant that from your bachelor point of view, you did n't mean all or half you said; but there 't is your point of view be cruel, narrow, and one-sided, and ungentlemanly, too, and you ought n't to have thought that I-"

"I'll go further," interrupted Bassett. "A woman 's that tender that even under insult she 'll often be patient and not answer back. And Melindy here-as be patience made alive-is a lot too kind to say what she really thinks. But I ban't so particular, and I tell you, Johnny Rowland, that there's a place for everything, and everything in its place; and it was n't your place to wait till I 'd gone down to your public house and then sneak up here to bully my wife."

"Or sit and spit out through that window on my geraniums," said Melinda.

"Good powers! You to lecture her, a Westaway, and above you by birth and everything! A proud, sensitive creature like her!"

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And to tell my husband he was n't tidy," she said. "And you sitting there in the window-blowing your smoke into my curtains as if 't was your tap-room!"

"'T is a very great pity you can't see yourself to-night as other people see you, Rowland," went on the man; "because, if you could, you 'd see a very silly creature, as wants all the sense he 's got and a bit more for his own needs. None to spare for me and my wife, I assure you."

"And you a bachelor, too," she said again. 'T was that she found hardest to forgive, seemingly.

Then Noah got telling Melinda more of my faults.

"When I come in here," he said, "that man instantly told me I was ruining your life and a few other things; and how I'm to behave, and how I'm not to do this and not to do that. And never even invited here- unless you asked him?”

"No," she answered; "I did n't ask him, and I did n't want him. He came in and was at my throat before I knew what had happened. You might have knocked me down with a feather."

"The indecency of it!" cried Noah. "And a man who could do a thing like that to pride himself on his good sense and judgment! Why, if 't was n't so shameful, John Rowland, 't would be a trick to laugh at. But it ban't that by long chalks: 't is a beastly, pushing, indelicate thing, thrusting into a happy home with all your dangerous opinions. You come in here by night-by night you come --and poke your nose into my private affairs, and talk a lot of anointed twaddle to this woman behind my back; and then you send her out of the room when I come in, and begin upon me to the same tune. And do you know what you might have done? D' you know what might have happened, you headlong, rash man, if you had n't been dealing with the likes of us?" I did n't answer, but Melinda did.

"You might have separated two people forever a faithful, loving husband and wife."

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'T is properly shameful," went on Bassett, "and no smaller word's big enough. If you'd go to your good books and better your own foolish ideas, 't would be wiser, I should think. 'Those that God have joined together let no man put asunder'— there 's holy words for you, you wretched creature! And yet you try-you come creeping in here-by night, too-to try and put asunder this woman and me! And you ban't ashamed of your devil's work seemingly."

"Ashamed, no; he 's smiling at it," said Melinda. And 't was true. I could n't for the life of me help showing just a twinkle, though I tried to look so solemn as an owl.

But the young couple was working up into a proper fury now, and Noah's voice had got out of hand afore he let fly again.

"I'll l'arn him to smile, a insolent hound; I'll make him smile wrong side of his ugly, flat face in a minute! Drinking my beer and all! And thinks that

we 're a pair of born fools to be preached at by him. But 't is he that's the fool, and I'll show him he is."

Then she cut in.

"And now he'll go babbling through the village, no doubt, saying that you and me be cat and dog, and turning the people from us and telling wicked lies and-"

"Let him dare!" shouts Noah, standing still and banging the table with his fist. "Let me hear as he 's once had your name or mine on his lips, and I'll horsewhip him fust, and have him up afore the court for libel after! A man like you," he went on, turning to me where I sat in a corner"a man like you be a canker in any town, and the smaller the place, the more dangerous 't is to have such a creature in it. And, mark me, I'll set the world against you, and tell every man and woman what a malicious, scandal-mongering dog you are. I'll fright all your friends away from you, and tell the customers what they may expect, and warn the married men that when they be drinking your beer, so like as not you be trying to ruin 'em with their wives."

"And the next thing will be you'll try to ruin the wives themselves, I should n't wonder," says the woman. "A cunning, underhand, hooken-snivey thing like you -Lord knows what I should have heard next if my husband had n't come home!"

"If I thought that," roars Noah, blazing like a bonfire, "I'd wallop you here and now, John Rowland. I'd thrash you to the truth of music, and cry you through the length and breadth of the land as a damned, scoundrelly love-hunter, not to be trusted with any honest woman!"

Well, that let me out. I'd heard enough, and wanted change of air.

"I'll be off," I said, "and then you can clean your house, and fumigate it also."

"No, you 've done that," she answered, quick as lightning. "All we need be a gale of wind in the house to blow your hateful ideas out of it. You 've tried your wicked best to make an everlasting quarrel between my husband and me, and I'll never forgive you for it. I'd be ashamed to forgive you. And now you 'd better go."

"And quick!" said Noah. "And I won't forgive you neither, and no man with any self-respect would do so."

"The first that ever tried to come between us!" she said reproachfully.

"But you've failed, and I hope you'll smart to your dying day when you see how you 've failed," he went on. "You've failed, and if anything could make me love this woman more fierce and faithful than what I do, 't would be your mean trick to try and put me against her. Henceforth she 'll be more-far more to me than ever she was in her life. So now, then!"

"And the same here," cries t' other. "I love the ground my Noah walks on, and ever shall. And I hate the ground you walk on; and I'll spit at your shadow every time you pass me-same as you spat on my geraniums. And now you go out of this or I'll ask my husband to put you out."

So I bent to the blast, and did n't even try to right myself, for that might have been fatal. I just rose up and crept away like a suspicious character when he catches the policeman's eye. I sneaked out of the house in dead silence and went off with my head down, to let 'em see how properly crushed I felt; and at the door I turned half a second and just said: "Well, well, good night, my dears. And if I'd got a tail, I 'm sure I 'd put it between my legs."

They came to the ope-way and cussed so long as I was in ear-shot, and then I looked back and saw them in each other's arms, like them old pictures of folk cut on black paper-lined out black against the light in the passage behind 'em.

Not a word did I ever speak about it after; but be sure they did. A terrible character I got for a season, and Noah Bassett would never know me again or come across the threshold of my public house. And Melinda she cut me dead and made her family do the like. But what mattered was that something new took shape and sprang up and grew betwixt 'em from that hour. Whether 't was the point of view, or the joyful feeling of being in such close and loving sympathy against me, I can't say; but it went pretty well for 'em from that day, and a lot of nice, little, red-headed childer come in due course; and they was all so happy as life allows sensible folk to be.

Peacemaking be noble work for a man, but you must always expect, when you start stopping blows, to find the last and heaviest of 'em fall on your own shoulders.

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