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tones, so different from the deprecating tinkle of her old instrument, were rather
Solly would better take his walk in the back yard."
But her mother was unexpectedly stub- alarming. Still, she was alone. born.
"I like to go walking," she said. "Besides, I've nothing else to do."
Life, even as she had dreamed it, was become a long holiday, a very long holiday.
There was the little, half-forgotten tune the hand-organ had played as they drove back from the funeral. It had been a popular ditty of the day when the judge was courting her. He had often whistled it. Strange to think of the judge whis
Sometimes she pulled herself together tling! But he was not the judge then. and thought:
"This will not do! I'm not old; I 'm only sixty-seven. I must learn to adjust myself."
She decided that she would be of some use to her daughter. But how? Caroline was very capable. The household ran as easily as the player-piano. House-cleaning seemed unnecessary: there was an electrical contrivance, with long antennæ which felt about behind things and on top of things, so that no speck of dust escaped. Shelves and drawers never got out of order. No buttons were ever missing, no stockings needed darning. The conviction grew upon her that these matters also were attended to by some electrical contrivance.
She tried solitaire, she tried crocheting, but was not able to rid herself of the feeling that these were merely elaborated forms of idleness. True, she was free to read the things that suited her. Nobody would jeer at her choice, nobody would trouble to inquire what she was reading. But with freedom, the taste for sentimental fiction, even for poetry, seemed to have disappeared, even as the taste for candy cruelly deserts those who have reached the age to which it is no longer forbidden.
Only the hunger for music remained. Often she eyed the player-piano wistfully, wishing that it were as other pianos.
One day she found herself alone with it. Caroline had gone to one of her clubs, and the other daughter, by some felicitous chance, was not able to be on duty. The time had come! With much patient labor, she discovered that the mechanical part of the instrument might be detached. Even then it was not quite as other pianos. Its full, loud, self-confident
Over and over she tried it, almost remembering; stopping always at the same place to begin once more. Her ear was not very good; a change to the minor always puzzled her. Over and over again
Once or twice a servant peeped in at her, and withdrew, giggling. Dusk fell. Still she played on happily; striking wrong notes, listening, remembering, dreaming. Such a gay little air!
At last a button clicked behind her, and light flooded the hall.
"Oh, Mother dear!" cried a laughing voice. "Would you mind playing something else for a while? I don't believe I can stand that silly, old-fashioned tune another minute. Why don't you let me show you how to work the player?"
Caroline had been there for some time. The son-in-law came home for dinner one night beaming with satisfaction.
"Congratulations, Mother! You 're quite rich now," he said. "We 've sold your house at last for a very good price. I have brought the papers for you to sign."
Sold the house! She clutched at the table-cloth; the room swam around her. But she told herself that she must be sensible. She had known all along that they were going to sell the house. She signed her name where her son-in-law bade her.
"Will the new owners move in soon?" she asked quite calmly.
"Oh, no." He smiled at her question. He was always very kind and patient with her. "It was bought as an investment, probably. People don't move into that neighborhood nowadays, since shops and boarding-houses have overrun it."
Nevertheless, she and Solomon hurried
away the next morning without waiting for their breakfasts. She had a feeling that there was no time to waste.
Nothing had changed. Cobwebs still fastened the closed shutters securely, sparrows still held possession of the woodbine, the "For Sale" sign had not been taken away. The house did not seem to realize that it had been sold.
As the long June mornings passed, still without change, she became almost reconciled to the thought of strangers in her home. After all, it is not good for houses to stand too long vacant. They grow to have an empty, hopeless expression, like faces behind which there is no mind. She wondered a great deal about the new owners. Perhaps they were young people, as she and Henry had been when they bought the house. She hoped so; it was such a good house for children. The long nursery, with elm-branches tapping at the sunny windows, and a gay little frieze of cows jumping endlessly over moons, pursued by a placid Bo Peep and her tailless flock-does one find such nurseries in modern houses?
She began to wish they would move in. It would be pleasant to see smoke coming out of the chimneys again, curtains fluttering at the windows.
One morning as she and Solomon approached, she saw a group of people on the pavement, and men going in and out of the gate. Her heart began to thump. They had come at last! She hurried forward. The twittering of the sparrows was louder than usual; it seemed terrified, frantic. Then she saw what was happening. Men were tearing down the woodbine.
She gasped, and began to run. It was an outrage! Did they not know there were nests in those vines, young fledglings?
There was a sign at the gate: DANGER. KEEP OUT. The men were tearing down not only the vines, but the house.
She stood for a while, staring. A shower of shingles rattled down, and piled themselves in heaps upon the pros
trate woodbine. Bricks followed. rooms in which her life had been spent were about to expose themselves to the gaze of the public, like rooms upon a stage.
Suddenly she cried out aloud, cried to the husband who had always taken care of her:
"Henry, don't let them! Make them stop it, Henry!"
"Why, it's the judge's widow! She's fainted, poor soul!" exclaimed a neighbor, running out to her. She was
But she had not fainted. merely unable to stand up any longer. Every morning Solomon came into her room and stared at her reproachfully with his blurred eyes. There were no rabbits in Caroline's back yard, no live stock of any description, with the exception of a sophisticated and able cat or two; in fact, there was no back yard, properly speaking; only a neat, unfenced stretch of lawn, shared in common with other houses.
"I'll be out of bed to-morrow, old puppy," she promised him daily. "Then we'll find somewhere else to take our walks-somewhere else."
People were very kind to her. They came to see her often; not her old neighbors, who stood rather in awe of the judge's daughters, but other people, who spoke in low, sick-room voices, and were most sympathetic. Once she overheard Caroline saying to a visitor:
"Yes, we have been expecting this. We knew it would not be long. She was so dependent on father!"
The widow smiled to herself, a rueful, guilty little smile. How shocked they would all be if they knew the truth! She was rather shocked herself.
"I suppose I really ought to be ill," she thought, "but I'm not."
Still, since it seemed to be expected of her, she kept to her bed awhile longer.
At length Solomon abandoned all other interests, and formed the habit of lying in the judge's chair all day, fixedly eying the dwindling little figure in the judge's bed, as if he intended to accomplish his purpose
by sheer force of concentration. He had had some experience with the power of suggestion, had Solomon.
Under his gaze the widow fretted a little. More than once it brought back her thoughts from the vaguely pleasant regions where they strayed to a reality that was less pleasant. At such moments duty claimed her again, and she was very tired of duty. With great effort she remembered and repeated her daily promise to him, "To-morrow"
But Solomon put little faith in promises. Performance was his creed, prompt performance. He continued to insist; and under his reminding, beseeching, exhorting eye the widow could not rest in peace. Sometimes she murmured to the watchers at her bedside:
"Solomon-exercise-rabbits-the garden-" and they humored her soothingly, believing that her mind wandered. With a mother on her death-bed, naturally one does not think of exercising dogs.
Once her eyes opened, to find a familiar black face bending over hers. She spoke in a stronger voice than she had used for days:
"It's Susy. Crying? What's the matter? Have n't you a good place, old friend?"
The negress controlled herself gallantly, according to instructions.
"Yais 'm, Miss Mary. Miss Calline put me with some real nice young mai'ed folks; on'y dey does mek me put soda in my beat biscuit, and Gawd He knows I ain't never had to put no soda in my bread befo' in all my bo'n days."
The widow patted her cook's wrinkled hand.
"Young folks, Susy, young ways. We must learn to adjust ourselves, you and I." She closed her eyes. "Susy-is the house all down yet?"
"We-all's house? No, ma'am, hit ain't. De wukmen's done gone an' struck, or somefin' like dat. But, oh, Miss Mary, dey ain't nary a roof to it now, an' some of its insides shows, an' ef a rain was to come up, Gawd He knows what would happen to de parlor ceilin'!"
The widow's eyes flew open.
"Not down yet, not down yet? Susy!" she clutched the other's hand tighter. "You must pray that there won't be a rain! You hear me? Pray hard!"
When the black woman had gone, she prayed herself, very earnestly, that there would not be a rain, reminding God that the parlor ceiling was frescoed. It was the first time she had found energy to pray for several days.
When the kind and patient son-in-law tiptoed into her room that evening, she was ready for him with an eager quesion:
"You said I was rich. How rich? How much money have I got in bank?" He told her.
“And can I do just what I like with all that?"
He assured her that she could.
"Is-is there anything you wish to consult me about, Mother dear? Or-" his voice broke a little; he was a man of fine feeling "or perhaps the time has come to consult a lawyer?"
She chose the lawyer.
He went out to Caroline, saying sadly: "Mother knows now. She wants to see a lawyer."
Caroline put a handkerchief to her eyes. "Do you think she is quite-capable?" "Perfectly. She seems stronger than she has been for weeks and entirely clearheaded. It is often so toward the last. She even selected the lawyer herself—that fellow who lives next door to your father's old house, the shabby chap with all the children. A queer choice, was n't it? But any lawyer can make a will, and we must humor her."
"Yes, yes, of course. Poor mother was always so interested in the neighbors!" sighed Caroline, in the gently reminiscent tone with which one refers to the little failings of the dead.
During the lawyer's visit she refrained with some delicacy from entering her mother's room, lest it might possibly be thought afterward that she had influenced in any way the old lady's last wishes.
Therefore, it was somewhat of a sur