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Author of "The Secret Woman," "Mother," etc.

WOMAN may be just as big a fool. at sour seventy as she was at sweet seventeen. In fact, you can say about 'em that a woman 's always a woman as long as there 's breath in her body; and my sister Mary were n't any exception to the rule. You see, there was only us two, and when my parents died, I married, and took on Brownberry Farm, and my sister, who shared and shared alike with me, took over our other farm, by the name of Little Sherberton, t' other side the Dart. A very good farmer, too, she was; knew as much as I did about things, by which I mean sheep and cattle, while she was still cleverer at crops, and I never rose oats like she did at Little Sherberton, nor lifted such heavy turnips as what she did. Mary explained it very simply.

"You 'm just so clever as me," she said, "but you 'm not so generous. You ain't got my powers of looking forward, and you hate to part with money in your pocket for the sake of money that 's to be there. In a word, you 're narrow-minded, and don't spend enough on manure, Rupert; and till you put it on thicker and ban't feared of paying for lime, you'll never get a root fit to put before a decent sheep."

There was truth in it I do believe, for I was always a bit prone, like my father before me, to starve the land against my reason. You'd think that was absurd, and yet you'll hardly find a man, even among the upper educated people, who have n't got his little weak spots like that, and don't do some things that he knows be silly, even while he 's doing 'em. They cast him down at the moment, and he 'll even make resolves to be more openhanded or more close-fisted, as the case may be; but the weaknesses lie in our nature, and you could no more cure me from being small-minded with my manure than you could have cured Mary from shivering to her spine every time she saw a single magpie or spilled the salt.

A very impulsive woman, and yet, as you may say, a very keen and clever one in many respects. I don't think she ever wanted to marry, and certainly I can call home no adventures in the way of courting that fell to her lot. And yet a pleasant woman, though not comely. In fact, without unkindness, she might have been called a terrible ugly woman. Yellow as a guinea, with gingery hair, pale eyes, like a dead fish's, and no figure to save her. You would have thought her property might have drawn an adventurer or two, for Little Sherberton was a tenement farm, and Mary's very own; but nobody came along, or if they did, they only looked and passed by, and though Mary had no objection to men in general, she did n't encourage them. But in her case, without a doubt, they 'd have needed all the encouragement she could give 'em, besides the property, to have a dash at her.

So she bided a spinster woman and took very kindly to my childer, who would run up over to her when they could, for they loved her. And by the same token, my second daughter, by the name of Daisy, was drowned in Dart, poor little maid, trying to go up to her aunt. My wife had whipped her for naughtiness, and the child, only ten she was, went off to get comfort from Mary, and fell in the river, with none to save her. So I 've paid my toll to Dart, you see, like many another.

Well, my sister, same as a good many other terrible ugly women, got better to look at as she grew older; and after she was sixty, her hair turned white, and she filled out a bit. Her voice was always a pleasant thing about her. It reflected her nature, which was kindly, though excitable. But her people never left her. She 'd got a hind and his wife, Noah and Jane Sweet by name, and he was head-man; and his son, Shem Sweet, came next,thirty year' old he was,—and besides them was Nelly Pearn, dairymaid, and two other men and a boy.

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