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Mary-'Gusta By Joseph Crosby Lincoln Characters: 16835

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


The story of Mary-'Gusta Lathrop is almost told. Before Crawford left South Harniss, which was not until the end of another week, it had been decided that on a day in June of the following year she should cease to be Mary-'Gusta Lathrop. There was a great deal of discussion before this decision was reached, for many perplexing questions had to be answered.

First, there was the question of Crawford's future. His father had left a comfortable fortune and an interest in mining properties which would have rendered it quite unnecessary for the young man to keep on with his professional studies had he wished to discontinue them. But he did not so wish.

"As I think I told you that Sunday afternoon when we first met at Mrs. Wyeth's, Mary," he said, "I have always intended to be a doctor. Dad did not want me to be; he wanted me to come in with him, but I wouldn't do it. I love my work and I mean to stick to it and go on with it. If I were as rich as a dozen Rockefellers it wouldn't make any difference. But, as I see it, I am not rich. It is a grave question in my mind how much of that money out there belongs to me."

Mary nodded. "I think I understand what you mean," she said.

"Yes, I think there is no doubt that almost all of my father's money was made there in the West after"-he hesitated and then went on-"after the-the other died and after he married my mother. But nevertheless I shall always feel as if whatever there was belonged to your uncles, the surviving members of the old firm. If I could, I should give it to them."

Mary smiled. "Thank you for saying it, dear," she said, "and I know you mean it; but it would be no use to offer; they wouldn't take it."

"I know they wouldn't. So we must try and make it up to them in some other way. But suppose we leave that for a time and get back to my work. I'm going to keep on with it; I want to and you say that you want me to."

"I do, very much. I am sure you will be happier in that work than in any other, and besides-I suppose I am ever so unpractical, but I do feel it-I had rather you made your own way. Somehow the idea of our depending upon that money out there doesn't-doesn't-Oh, I can't explain exactly, but I don't like the idea a bit."

"I know. I prefer to paddle my own canoe, if I can. But a young doctor's canoe is likely to move pretty slowly at first. And I intend taking a passenger, you know, and I want her to be comfortable."

Mary laughed, a contented little laugh. "She will be," she declared. "Did I tell you of the talk Uncle Shad and I had the other day? He saw me sitting by the dining-room window looking out at nothing in particular-and looking silly enough, too, I dare say-and he asked me what I was thinking. I said, 'Nothing much,' which wasn't true, and he said nothing must be good to think of, I looked so cheerful. I told him I was. Then I asked him-my conscience troubled me a little, you know-if he was sure that he and Uncle Zoeth were happy, because I shouldn't be unless they were."

"Well, that was characteristic. What did he say to that?"

"Oh, he laughed that big laugh of his and told me not to worry. 'I'M feelin' pretty average satisfied with life just now, Mary-'Gusta,' he said, 'and as for Zoeth-well, he asked me this mornin' if I didn't cal'late 'twas wicked for him and me to be so contented with the things of this world, so I know HE'S all right. When Zoeth gets real happy he always begins to feel sinful.' I hope that a consciousness of sin isn't the only test of happiness," she added, "because I don't believe you feel wicked the least bit. At least you have never said you did."

Crawford laughed, and there followed one of those interruptions to conversation with which, although undoubtedly interesting to the participants, outsiders are not supposed to be concerned. When it was over Mary said:

"Of course I am not so foolish as to mean that you must not touch the money your father left. That would be ridiculous. But I mean I think we should not depend upon it; it should not change our plans or spoil your life work, or anything like that. It will make life easier for us, of course, and with its help we can make it easier for other people. I think that is what we should do with it."

"So do I, my dear. And our first duty, it seems to me, is toward your uncles. If they would consent, and I suppose there isn't the least chance that they would, I should like to sell out the store and the Lookout and the rest of it and take them with us, wherever we decide to go, and give them an easy, carefree time of it the rest of their lives."

Mary shook her head. "They wouldn't like it a bit," she said. "That precious old store is the joy of their lives. Without it they wouldn't know what to do; they would be as lost and lonesome and miserable as a pair of stray kittens. No, if we take care of them we must take care of Hamilton and Company, too. And we mustn't let them know we're doing it, either," she added with decision.

Crawford looked troubled. "I suppose you're right," he said; "but it is likely to be something of a puzzle, their problem. It will mean, of course, that you and I must go and leave them."

"Oh, no, we can't do that-not for some time, at any rate."

"It seems to me we must. We have decided, you and I, that I shall go back West, finish my preparatory work, then come here and marry you. After that-well, after that we have decided that I am to locate somewhere or other and begin to practice my profession. You'll go with me then, I presume?"

"Silly! Of course I will."

"I hoped so. But if we can't leave your uncles and they won't leave the store, what are we going to do? Put the store on a truck and take it with us?"

She looked up at him and smiled. "I have a plan," she said. "I haven't quite worked it out yet, but if it does work I think it's going to be a very nice plan indeed. No, I'm not going to tell you what it is yet, so you mustn't tease. You don't mind my planning for you and bossing you and all that sort of thing, do you? I hope you don't, because I can't help it. It's the way I'm made, I think."

"I don't mind. Boss away."

"Oh, I shall. I'm like that Scotch girl in the play Mrs. Wyeth took me to see in Boston-Bunty, her name was. She made me think of myself more than once, although she was ever so much more clever. At the end of the play she said to her sweetheart, 'William, I must tell ye this: if I marry ye I'll aye be managin' ye.' She meant she couldn't help it. Neither can I. I'm afraid I'm a born manager."

Crawford stooped and kissed her.

"Do you remember William's answer?" he asked. "I do. It was: 'Bunty, I'll glory in my shame.' Manage all you like, my lady, I'll glory in it."

The plan did work out and it was this: Doctor Harley, who had practiced medicine for forty-one years in South Harniss, was thinking of retiring after two more years of active work. He was willing to sell out his practice at the end of that time. He liked Crawford, had taken a fancy to him on the occasion of his first visit to the town when he was a guest of the Keiths. Crawford, after Mary had suggested the idea to him, called upon the old doctor. Before the end of the week it was arranged that after Crawford's final season of college and hospital work he was to come to South Harniss, work with Doctor Harley as assistant for another year, and then buy out the practice and, as Captain Shad said, "put up his own shingle."

"I don't mean to stay here always," Crawford said, "but it will do me good to be here for a time. Harley's a tiptop old chap and a thoroughly competent general practitioner. He'll give me points that may be invaluable by and by. And a country practice is the best of training."

Mary nodded. "Yes," she said. "And at the end of this winter I shall have Simeon Crocker well broken in as manager of the store. And I can sell the tea-room, I think. My uncles don't care much for that, anyway. They will be perfectly happy with the store to putter about in and with Simeon to take the hard work and care off their shoulders they can putter to their hearts' content."

"But suppose Simeon doesn't make it pay!" suggested Crawford. "That's at least a possibility. Everyone isn't a Napoleon-I should say a Queen Elizabeth-of finance and business like yourself, young lady."

Mary's confidence was not in the least shaken.

"It will pa

y," she said. "If the townspeople and the summer cottagers don't buy enough-well, you and I can help out. There is that money in the West, you know."

He nodded emphatically.

"Good!" he cried. "You're right. It will be a chance for us-just a little chance. And they will never know."

He went away at the end of the week, but he came back for Christmas and again at Easter and again in the latter part of May. And soon after that, on a day in early June, he stood, with Sam Keith at his elbow, in the parlor of the white house by the shore, while Edna Keith played "Here Comes the Bride" on the piano which had been hired for the occasion; and, with her hand in Zoeth's arm, and with Captain Shadrach and Barbara Howe just behind, Mary walked between the two lines of smiling, teary friends to meet him.

It was a lovely wedding; everyone said so, and as there probably never was a wedding which was not pronounced lovely by friends and relatives, we may be doubly certain of the loveliness of this. And there never was a more beautiful bride. All brides are beautiful, more or less, but this one was more. Isaiah, who had been favored with a peep at the rehearsal on the previous evening, was found later on by Shadrach in the kitchen in a state of ecstatic incoherence.

"I swan to godfreys!" cried Isaiah. "Ain't-ain't she an angel, though! Did you ever see anything prettier'n she is in them clothes and with that-that moskeeter net on her head? An angel-yes, sir-ee! one of them cherrybins out of the Bible, that's what she is. And to think it's our Mary-'Gusta! Say, Cap'n Shad, will checkered pants be all right to wear with my blue coat tomorrow? I burnt a hole in my lavender ones tryin' to press the wrinkles out of 'em. And I went down to the wharf in 'em last Sunday and they smell consider'ble of fish, besides."

The wedding company was small, but select. Judge Baxter and his wife were there and the Keiths-Mrs. Keith condescended to ornament the occasion; some of the "best people" had seen fit to make much of Mary Lathrop and Mrs. Keith never permitted herself to be very far behind the best people in anything-and Mrs. Wyeth was there, and Miss Pease, and Mr. Green who had received an invitation and had come from Boston, and Doctor Harley, and Simeon Crocker and his "steady company," one of the tea-room young ladies, and Annabel and-and-well, a dozen or fifteen more.

When the minister asked, "Who giveth this woman to this man?" Zoeth answered, bravely, "I do-that is, me and Shadrach." But no one laughed, because Zoeth himself was trying to smile and making rather wet weather of it. As for the Captain, his expression during the ceremony was a sort of fixed grin which he had assumed before entering the room and had evidently determined to wear to the finish, no matter what his emotions might be. But Miss Pease, always susceptible, had a delightful cry all to herself, and Isaiah, retiring to the hall, blew his nose with a vigor which, as Captain Shad said afterwards, "had the Pollack Rip foghorn soundin' like a deef and dumb sign."

Mary had managed everything, of course. Her uncles had tried to remonstrate with her, telling her there were plenty of others to arrange the flowers and attend to what the local newspaper would, in its account of the affair, be sure to call the "collation," and to make the hundred and one preparations necessary for even so small and simple a wedding as this. But she only laughed at their remonstrances.

"I wouldn't miss it for anything," she said. "I have always wanted to manage someone's wedding and I am certainly not going to let anyone else manage mine. I don't care a bit whether it is the proper thing or not. This isn't going to be a formal affair; I won't have it so. Uncle Shad, if you want to say 'Jumpin' fire' when Crawford drops the ring, as he is almost sure to do, you have my permission."

But Crawford did not drop the ring, and so the Captain's favorite exclamation was not uttered, being unnecessary. In fact there were no mishaps, everything went exactly as it should, reception and "collation" included, and, to quote from the South Harniss local once more, "A good time was had by all."

And when the bride and groom, dressed in their traveling costumes, came down the stairs to the carriage which was to take them to the station, Mary ran back, amid the shower of rice and confetti, to kiss Uncle Zoeth and Uncle Shad once more and whisper in their ears not to feel that she had really gone, because she hadn't but would be back in just a little while.

"And I have told Isaiah about your rubbers and oilskins when it rains," she added, in Shadrach's ear, "and he is not to forget Uncle Zoeth's medicine. Good-by. Good-by. Don't be lonesome. Promise that you won't."

But to promise is easy and to keep that promise is often hard, as Shadrach observed when he and Zoeth were alone in the sitting-room that evening. "I feel as if the whole vitals of this place had gone away on that afternoon train," the Captain admitted. "And yet I know it's awful foolish, 'cause she'll only be gone a couple of weeks."

"I'm glad that question about the name is settled," mused Zoeth. "That kind of troubled me, that did."

The partners had worried not a little over the question of whether Crawford's name was legally Smith or Farmer. If it were Farmer and he must be so called in South Harniss, they feared the revival of the old scandal and all its miserable gossip. But when they asked Crawford he reassured them.

"I consulted my lawyer about that," he said. "My father's middle name was Smith; that is why he took it, I suppose. Edwin Smith is not so very different from Edgar Smith Farmer, shorter, that's all. He and my mother were married under the name of Smith. Mother never knew he had had another name. I was born Smith and christened Smith and my lawyer tells me that Smith I am. If there had been any question I should have petitioned to have the name changed."

So that question was settled and Shadrach and Zoeth felt easier because of it.

"Zoeth," observed Shadrach, after replying to his friend's remark concerning the name, "do you know what I kind of felt as if we'd ought to have had here this afternoon?"

"No, Shadrach," replied Zoeth, "I don't. What was it?"

"Seemed to me we'd ought to had one of them music box chairs. I'd like to have put it under that Keith woman and seen her face when the Campbells started to come. Ho, ho!"

"What in the world made you think of that?" demanded his partner.

"Oh, I don't know. Thinkin' about Mary-'Gusta, I cal'late, set me to rememberin' how we fust met her and about Marcellus's funeral and all. That made me think of the chair, you see. I ain't thought of it afore for years."

Zoeth nodded. "Shadrach," he said, "that was a blessed day for you and me, the day when we brought that child home in our old buggy. The Lord put her there, Shadrach."

"Well, I guess likely He did, maybe, in a way of speakin'. Does seem so, that's a fact."

"Our lives was pretty sot and narrow afore she came. She's changed everything."

"That's so. Hello! What's that noise? I declare if it ain't Isaiah liftin' up his voice in song! In a hymn tune! What do you think of that?"

From the kitchen, above the rattle of dishes, Mr. Chase's nasal falsetto quavered shrilly:

"There shall be showers of blessin's-"

The Captain interrupted.

"Hi, you-what's your name-Jennie Lind-come in here," he hailed.

Mr. Chase appeared, his arms dripping soapsuds. "What do you want, callin' me out of my name?" he demanded.

"Want to know what started you singin' about blessin's? Fust I thought 'twas the weathervane squeakin'. What tuned you up, eh?"

Isaiah looked rather foolish, but he grinned.

"I was thinkin' about Mary-'Gusta," he said.

"You was, eh? Well, she's been a blessin' to us, there's no doubt about that."

"Indeed she has," concurred Zoeth.

But Isaiah had the final word.

"Huh!" he declared, "she's more'n one blessin', she's a whole shower. That's what set me to singin' about 'em."

He departed for the kitchen once more, the falsetto rising triumphant:

"There shall be showers of blessin's,

Send 'em upon us, oh Lord!"

Captain Shad looked after him. Then he turned to his friend and partner and said earnestly:

"Do you know, Isaiah's gettin' real kind of sensible in his old age."

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