Puslapio vaizdai
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors]


Author of "The Thief of Virtue," "The Whirlwind," etc.

WHEN Melinda Westaway, took and comfort and outside show went;

Noah Bassett, everybody said 't was a doubtful feat on her part, and the hopeful believed it would turn out right and the experienced did n't see how it well could. She was a proud girl, you must know, with a rather mistaken idea of what it was to be a Westaway; and Noah had a different nature, and held that a man's haveage was nought, but the man everything. He judged of everybody by themselves and said that we must form our judgment on the value of each man or woman by studying their characters, not their grandfathers and grandmothers. All the same, he took Melinda for her outside looks, because love has a trick to play the fool with a man's opinions and make him eat his words and go back on 'em in his deeds. Noah just fell in love with her skin and shape and blue, brave eyes and mane of chestnut hair and pretty voice, like a good few had afore him; and since he was well-to-do, a master carpenter with three men in his shop, and well set up, and well thought of by the bettermost people round about, she took him.

But there was a pretty deep-seated difference in their point of view, and when there 's that, a pair must be more than common wise to keep off trouble. Noah prided himself on his sense, and reckoned himself a bit of a philosopher where clothes



Melinda, with her views, liked to see
everything smart and slap up and a
thought ahead of the neighbors. He 'd
fallen in with that when courting, of
course, and gone to her in his best, and
bought a new coat or two and looked to'
the blacking on his boots and the starch in
his collar; but when he 'd got her, he very
soon fell back to his easy and untidy ways,
and he did n't care no more about the
house-place than himself, and did n't mind.
litter and confusion and dirt, which was
all gall and wormwood to her. Your red
women generally be tidy, particular crea-
tures; but you 'll find oft enough that if
cleanliness be next to godliness o' one side,
't is close kin with a devil of a temper on
t' other. And Melinda were n't no ex-
ception there, I believe, and certain 't is
she was a fiery thing, with a very uncom-
mon sense of what she owed to herself
and what other people owed to her. She
was exacting, and she had a will of iron
where her dignity was at stake; and against
this passion Noah put up a dogged and a
sulky obstinacy; so it ended, as it do in
such cases where two linked creatures pull
different ways, in neither getting what
they wanted, and both finding the chain
gall 'em into living sores.

And when that happens, whether the sufferers yowl about it, or whether they


don't, the thing have got to be known. To do 'em justice, I will say both the man and the woman hid what they could; for he had his pride as well as her, and while she held her head high and pretended to be a cheerful and contented creature and did n't even grumble to her own mother, he merely went his own way and only let out, by side opinions on marriage and women over his glass of a night, what was in his mind.

But running water rubs away a stone, and self-control will fail and self-respect go under with the strongest and the best. The Bassetts went from bad to worse, and presently they were not at such pains to hide the trouble as of old. Folk passing

the door often heard hard words; and it was along of that I came into their story.

Arthur Westaway, Melinda's ancient uncle it was, who first told me that things was so bad, and he only l'arned the fact by an accident. 'T was a summer night, and Arthur he'd gone to see 'em and smoke a pipe with Noah. But as he stood on the door-step, with the knocker lifted, their voices came to him from the parlor window, which was open, and he heard her say:

"You low-minded, mean-spirited trash! If I'd got a character like yours, I'd go and hang myself. A pig 's cleaner and a worm 's prouder than you."

And Noah Bassett answered:

"Oh, you drive me mad with your pride and foolishness! You puff yourself up, like the frog in the fable, and I wish to heaven you 'd bust, like him!"

With that old Arthur Westaway dropped the knocker very quiet, and stole off on the tips of his toes. He was a sensible man, and not valiant, and he judged 't was n't just the evening to visit the Bassetts.

"I never was a pusher," he said when he came in my bar. “I never was a pusher, Johnny Rowland, and you 'll agree that after I'd had the misfortune to hear them bitter speeches 't was truest wisdom for me to be gone."

And knowing his unwarlike nature, I did agree with the man; but nevertheless his sorry news set me thinking. I was younger in them days than what I be now, and braver, no doubt. Youth will rush in where middle age casts a side look and goes by; and, be it as 't will, fired by a

harmless wish to do the poor creatures a good turn, I resolved to try and make 'em listen to sense. Looking back, I see what a terrible rash act it was, and I'd so soon go in a den of lions to-day as seek to patch a quarrel between two such fierce spirits as Melinda and her Noah; but I was just a dashing blade of forty-five or so when these things happened, and at that age a man, specially an unbroken bachelor such as me, will take on anything that comes to his hand with the pluck of a regiment of soldiers and the judgment of a goose. I meant well by 'em-never man meant better. I said to myself, ""T is the point of 'Tis view must be righted if them two are to be saved alive." And then one evening I just walked to their door. Of course I knew 'em and their families quite well. And Noah would often-too often-drop in my bar of an evening and bide there till closing. And it fell out now that he had gone to my public house by a different road from mine, while I came to his. So I found Melinda alone in her parlor, and felt well pleased at that and set about her.

I began crafty and pretended I'd come to see Noah touching a job or two calling for carpenter's work; and then I crept to the matter in hand. She was at her needle, and she sat chill as ice under the light of a paraffin lamp by the table; and me and my pipe was by the open window, where I could sit and spit comfortable into the flower garden.

"Darning his socks, I see."
She nodded, but said nothing.

“My old mother," I went on-"my good, old mother used to say when she was doing my clothes, 'Ah, Johnny, I wish I could put a button or two on your soul so easy as I can put 'em on your knickers.' And I dare say, like all wives, you wish something like that.”

"I dare say I do," she said. Then she laughed at a private thought, and then she spoke.

A bit ago my husband was mending the leg of Mrs. Maydew's table. And he said to me that he wished that he could mend my manners as easy as that. My manners, if you please! Funny to hear that mannerless oaf talk of my manners. A board-school child have got better manners than him."

"Whatever had you done to make him say such a thing?" I asked, surprised-like.

She shrugged her shoulders. "Axed him to wash the blood off his face afore he come to dinner. A splinter had struck him on the cheek, and he 'd bled a pint. And he 'd forgot it, and there 't was, a gashly mess all over his face, to spoil my meal. And all he said was, 'if I was half a wife, I 'd have been troubled for his hurt instead of my appetite.'"

"Not a very tidy man by nature." She went on with her own thoughts, and presently let out another grievance.

[ocr errors]

"He said a bit ago that if he'd been the first of the name,-Noah, I mean, he 'd have took good care to leave one beast out of the ark afore he set forth. And I asked him which it was, and he said, 'My wife.' That's how we go on.'

"Only his fun," I told her.

"Yes," she answered, "his fun. 'Tis a poor lookout for a woman when her husband's notion of fun be like that."

So there we were; and I took my courage in my hands, as they say, and had a dash at her.

"Melinda," I said, "you must listen to me, because I 'm an old friend of your family and terrible wishful to do you and Noah a good turn. I know what a reasonable woman you are, and I know the brain you 've got, and if I did n't, I should n't have took this upon myself, because many ordinary women would n't listen at all. But you 're big-minded, and far too wise to lose a chance of running your show better, if a chance offers. "T is like this, Melinda: you and him can't quite get at each other's point of view, and 't is worth. any trouble to do that."

worry you to death; but he 's awful' proud of you, and many a fine night have he sung your praises in a full bar. He's a shy man, like some of the best, and he won't say to you what he 'll say of you. But he 's loyal, Melinda; he 's loyal and proud of you to the backbone, as well he ought to be. And where money 's the matter, you'd be gratified to learn his view. They was congratulating him a bit ago, because 't is well known what a snug man he groweth; and he said, ''T is along of my wife, for a cleverer head on young shoulders you won't find. She strikes the right note of thrift,' said Noah, 'and you'll look a mighty long way afore you'll find a man's wife so watchful for her husband's pocket as mine.' "

"He don't say things like that to me,' she answered, making her eyes small, and threading her needle against the light.

"Along of that shy feeling that comes over him. He gets nervous, and then he gets clumsy with his own words. But he only wants to keep up his end of the stick, and means far less than you mean, when all's said. So, as you are strong, you must be tender, my dear. And that brings me back to the point of view."

I preached on that text, and showed her as the tenderest point in the world be the point of view.

"If you sit down on a tin tack," I said, "you know what haps; but there's sharper points than that, and the sharpest of all is the point of view. And if we could only train our minds and instincts to look for every man's point of view, and try to feel it afore we fell foul of him, the world

"His point of view 's number one," she would be a different place. And once you answered, satirical-like.

"Wait a bit. As for that, so be everybody's," I told her. "And in this world you 've got to have a pinch of selfishness, else you'll go down, same as a bird with a broken wing, and be no more use to yourself or anybody else. In this case, you be both strong creatures with strong wills and strong opinions. You would n't have took a weak, shambling sort of man, -too proud for that, and Noah, though he ban't so particular about appearances as you would have him be, is very particular indeed about one appearance, and that 's yours. You can't deny it.".

"For his credit and renown," she said. "A very good reason, too.

He may

find yourself looking out at the world through Noah's eyes, mark me, there'll come balm of Gilead into your life, and you'll rise above yourself and above him, as if a angel had lent you wings."

She listened far more patient than I'd got the right to hope. She even nodded. now and again. Then I patted Noah on the back.

"He's a man in ten thousand-a masterpiece of a carpenter and bound for a higher place than this village come a few years. And genius, they say, stands alone. He can't do and think and dress and behave like a common man. 'T is in his blood to be like the burning, fiery phenix," I said "a rare invention and a creature

« AnkstesnisTęsti »