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The Road to Providence By Maria Thompson Daviess Characters: 31415

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

"Well, I don't know as I'd like to have her messing around my kitchen and house, a stranger and a curious one at that. But you always was kinder soft, Mis' Mayberry," said Mrs. Peavey as she glanced with provoked remonstrance at Mother Mayberry, who went calmly on attending to the needs of a fresh hatching of young chickens. Mrs. Peavey lived next door to the Doctor's house and the stone wall that separated the two families was not in any way a barrier to her frequent neighborly and critical visitations. She was meager of stature and soul, and the victim of a devouring fire of curiosity which literally licked up the fagots of human events that came in her way. She was the fly that kicked perpetually in Mother Mayberry's cruse of placid ointment, but received as full a mead of that balm of friendship as any woman on the Road.

"Why, she ain't a mite of trouble, but just a pleasure, Hettie Ann," answered Mother with mild remonstrance in her tone. "I expected to have a good bit of worry with her, having no cook in my kitchen, 'count of waiting for Cindy to get well and come back to me and nobody easy to pick up to do the work, but she hadn't been here a week before she was reaching out and learning house jobs. I think it takes her mind offen her troubles and I can't say her no if it do help her, not that I want to, for she's a real comfort."

"Well, if it was me I couldn't take no comfort in a play-acting girl. I'd feel like locking up what teaspoons I had and a-counting over everything in my house every day. It's just like you, Mis' Mayberry, to take her in. And I can't sense the why of you're being so close-mouthed about her. Near neighbors oughter know all about one another's doings and not have to ask, I say." Mrs. Peavey sniffed and assumed an air of injured patience.

"Why, Hettie Ann," Mother hastened to answer, "you know as I always did hold that the give and take of advice from friends is the greatest comfort in the world, though at times most confusing, and I thought I told you all about Elinory."

"Well, you didn't. Muster been Bettie Pratt or Mis' Pike you was a-talking to when you thought it was me," answered her friend with the injured note in her voice becoming with every word more noticeable. "Are she rich or poor? Do you know that much?"

"Well now, come to think of it, I don't," answered Mother promptly. "Connecting up folks and they money always looks like sticking a price tag on you to them and them to you. I'd rather charge my friends to a Heaven-account and settle the bill with friendly feelings as we go along. This poor child ain't got no mother or father, that I know. All her young life when most girls ain't got a thought above a beau or a bonnet, she have been a-training of her voice to sing great 'cause it were in her to do it. And she done it, too. Then all to onct when she had got done singing in a great big town hall they call Convent Garden or something up in New York, she made the mistake to drink a glass of ice water and it friz up her throat chords. She haven't been able to sing one single tune since. She have been a-roaming over the earth a-hunting for some sort of help and ain't found none. Now she have lit at my door and I've got her in trying to warm and comfort her to enough strength for Tom to put her voice back into her."

"Well, you don't expect no such thing of Tom Mayberry as that, do you?" asked Mrs. Peavey with uncompromising and combative frankness.

"That I do," answered the Doctor's mother, and this time there was a note of dignity in her voice, as she looked her friend straight in the face. "You know, because I told you about it, Hettie Ann, how Tom Mayberry cured that big preacher of a lost voice who was a friend to this Doctor Stein, while the boy wasn't nothing but serving his term in the hospital. He wrote a paper about it that made all the doctors take notice of him and he have done it twice since, though throats are just a side issue from skins with him. Yes, I'm expecting of him to cure this child and give her back more'n just her voice, her work in life. I'm one that believes that the Lord borns all folks with a work to do and you've got to march on to it, whether it's singing in public places, carrying saddle-bags to suffering or jest playing your tune on the wash-board at home. It's a part of his hallelujah chorus in which we've all got to join."

"Well, I shorely drawed the wash-board fer my instrumint," answered Mrs. Peavey with a vindictive look across the wall at a line of clothes fluttering in the breeze.

"And they ain't nobody in Providence that turns out as white a shirt-song as you do, Hettie Ann. Buck and Mr. Peavey are just looked at in church Sundays fer the color of they collars," Mother hastened to say with pride in the glance that followed Mrs. Peavey's across the wall. "Ain't Tom always a-contriving with you to sneak one of his shirts into your wash, so as not to hurt me and Cindy's feelings? I don't see how you get 'em so white."

"Elbow grease and nothing else," answered Mrs. Peavey in a tone of voice that refused to be mollified. "I've got to be a-going."

"Just wait and look at these chickens; ain't they pretty? Tom sent all the way to Indiany fer the settin' of eggs fer me and I've just been a-watching the day for 'em to hatch. I feel they are a-going to be a credit to me and I'm glad I gave 'em to Ruffle Neck to set on. She's such a good hoverer and can be depended on to run from the rain. Now ain't they pretty?" and Mother even looked at Mrs. Peavey with hope for a word of sympathy in her pleasure-after a thirty years' experience with her neighbor.

"No," answered her friend, "I don't hold with no fancy chickens. Just good dominicks is all I've got any faith in and not much in them. With strange chickens and girls around your house something misfortunate is a-going to happen to you, Mis' Mayberry, and I see it a-coming. Don't say I didn't tell you."

"No, I'll give you credit for your warning," answered Mother propitiatingly. "How's that pain in your side?" she hastened to ask, to change the subject from a disagreeable one to what she knew by experience would prove at least interesting.

"It's a heap better," answered Mrs. Peavey promptly.

"Oh, I'm so glad," exclaimed Mother, immediately beginning to beam with pride. "I told you Tom could help it with that new kind of dry plaster he made for you. Ain't it wonderful?"

"Shoo! I never put that on! It didn't have smell enough to do any good. I knew that as soon as I unrolled it. I just rubbed myself heavy with that mixture of kerosine, vinegar and gum camfire you've been making me for twenty years, and I slept uncommon well."

"Oh," answered Mother Mayberry, "I wish you had tried Tom's plaster. I feel sure-"

"Well, I don't-of anything that a boy like Tom Mayberry knows. If he lives here a spell and learns from you maybe he'll get some doctoring sense, but I wouldn't trust him for ten years at the shortest. But have you heard the news?" A flame of positive joy flared up in Mrs. Peavey's eyes and flushed her sallow cheeks.

"Why, what is it?" asked Mother with a guarded interest and no small amount of anxiety, for she was accustomed to the kind of news that Mrs. Peavey usually took the trouble to spread.

"Well, I knowed what was a-going to happen when I seen Bettie Pratt setting the chairs straight and marshaling in the orphants at poor Mis' Hoover's funeral, not but eleven months ago. It'll be a scandal to this town and had oughter be took notice of by Deacon Bostick and the Elder. She's got four Turner children and six Pratts and he have got seven of his own, so Turner, Pratt and Hoover they'll be seventeen children in the house, all about the same size. Then maybe more-I call it a disgrace, I do!"

"I don't know," answered Mother, though her eyes did twinkle at the thought of this allied force of seventeen, "there never was a better child-raiser than Bettie Pratt and I'll be mighty glad to see them poor, forlorn little Hoovers turned over to her. They've been on my mind night and day since they mother died and they ain't a single one of 'em as peart as it had oughter be. Who told you about it?"

"They didn't nobody tell me-I've got eyes of my own! Just yesterday I seen her hand a pan of biscuits over the fence to Pattie Hoover and he had a Turner and two Pratts in the wagon with him coming in from the field last night. But you can't do nothing about it-she have got the marrying habit. They are other widows in this town that have mourned respectable to say nothing of Miss Prissy Pike, that have never had no husband at all and had oughter be gave a chanct. Mr. Hoover are a nice man and I don't want to see him made noticeable in no such third-husband way."

"Course it do look a little sudden," said Mother, "and seventeen is a good lot of children for one family, but if they love each other-"

"Love! Shoo! I declare, Mis' Mayberry, looks to me like you swallow what folks give you in this world whole, pit and all, and never bat a eye. I've got to go home and put on Buck's and Mr. Peavey's supper and sprinkle down some of my wash." And without further parley Mrs. Peavey marched home through a little swinging gate in the wall that had been for years a gap through which a turbid stream had flowed to trouble Mother's peaceful waters.

"It do seem Mis' Peavey are a victim of a most pitiful unrest," said Mother to herself as she watched with satisfaction Ruffle Neck tuck the last despised little Hoosier under her soft gray breast. "Some folks act like they had dyspepsy of the mind. Dearie me, I must go and take a glass of cream to my honey-bird, for that between-meal snack that Tom Mayberry are so perticular about." And she started down toward the spring-house under the hill.

And returning a half hour later with the cool glass in her hand, she was guided by the sound of happy voices to the front porch, where, under the purple wistaria vine, she found the singer lady absorbed in the construction of a most worldly garment for the doll daughter of Eliza Pike, who was watching its evolution with absorbed interest.

"Pleas'm, Miss Elinory, make it a little bit longer, 'cause I want her to have a beau," besought the small mother, as she anxiously watched the measuring of the skirt.

"Want her to have a beau?" asked Miss Wingate with the scissors suspended over the bit of pink muslin which matched exactly her own ruffled skirts.

"Yes'm! Pattie Hoover wored shoe-tops all winter and now she's got foot-dresses and Buck Peavey for a beau."

"Oh, I see," said the singer lady as she smiled down into the eager little face. "Do you think-er, beaux are-are desirable, Eliza?"

"Yes'm, I do," answered the bud of a woman, as she drew nearer and said with an expression of one bestowing a confidence, "When I'm let down to my feet I'm going to have Doctor Tom for my beau, if you don't get him first."

"I'm sure you needn't worry about that, Eliza," Miss Wingate hastened to exclaim with a rising color. "I wouldn't interfere with your plans for the world-if I could."

"Well, you take him if you can get him," answered Eliza generously; "somebody'll grow up by that time for me. But he couldn't make you take oil, could he?" she asked doubtfully, the memory of yesterday's escape lurking in her mind and explaining her most unfeminine generosity.

Miss Wingate eyed her for a moment with mirth fairly dancing over her face, "Yes," she said with a laugh, "I believe he could!"

"Elinory, child," said Mother as she came out from the front hall, "here we are a half hour late with this cream, and both of us under promise solemn to Tom to have it down by four o'clock. 'Liza, honey, how's the baby?"

"He have got a new top-tooth and throwed up onct this morning," answered Eliza in a practical tone of voice.

"Dearie me," said Mother anxiously, for the Pike teether had up to this time been the Doctor's prize patient. "I wonder if your Maw remembered the lime water faithful?"

"I expect she forgot it, for she was whipping Susie for sassing Aunt Prissy, and Bud for saying fool," answered Eliza, not at all hesitating to lay bare the iniquities of her family circle.

"I'm sorry they did like that," said Mother with real concern at the news of such delinquencies.

"Yes'm, Susie told Aunt Prissy Mis' Peavey said she were a-setting her cap fer Mr. Hoover and it made Bud mad 'cause he fights 'Lias Hoover and he called her a fool. He hadn't oughter done it, but he's touchy 'bout Aunt Prissy and so's Paw. There comes Deacon and a little boy with him."

As she spoke, Mother rose to greet Deacon Bostick who had turned in the front gate and got as far up the front walk as the second snowball bush. The Deacon was tall, lean, bent and snow-crowned, with bright old eyes that rested in a benediction on the group on the porch that his fine old smile confirmed. By the hand he led a tiny boy who was clad in a long nondescript garment and topped off by a queer red fez, pulled down over a crop of yellow curls, a strange little exotic against the homely background of Mother Mayberry's lilac bushes.

"Sister Mayberry," said the deacon as he paused at the foot of the steps, "this is Martin Luther Hathaway who was left at my house this morning by the Circuit Rider, as he came through from Springfield on his way to Flat Rock, to be delivered to you, along with his letter. I trust his arrival is not unexpected to you."

"No, indeed, Deacon, I was hoping for him though not exactly expecting him. A month ago while you was sick, our missionary society had news of a missionary and his wife down at Springfield who wanted to go up to Chicagy to study some more about some heathen matter, and couldn't quite make it with two children. My cousin Seliny Lue down to the Bluff have took the little girl and we sent five dollars and a letter saying to send the boy to me for the summer. Come to Mother Mayberry, sonny," and Mother sat down on the lowest step and stretched out her arms to the little ward of the church militant.

Martin Luther's big blue eyes, which were set in his head like those of a Raphael cherub, looked out from under a huge yellow curl that fell over his forehead, straight into Mother's gray ones for a moment, and sticking his pink thumb into his mouth, he sidled into her embrace with a little sigh of evident relief.

"Eat some, thank ma'am, please," he whispered into her ear by way of a return of the introduction. His little mother tongue had evidently suffered a slight twist by his birth and sojourn in a foreign country, but it served to express the normal condition of all inhabitants of boy-land.

"Of course he's hungry, bless his little heart," answered Mother as she removed the fez and ruffled up the damp curls. "Run fetch the tea-cake bucket from the kitchen safe, 'Liza, and won't you come sit down, Deacon?"

"No, thank you, Sister," answered the Deacon with a glance of real regret at the comfortable rocker Miss Wingate had hastened to draw forward into a sunny but sheltered corner of the porch, "I'm on my way to take tea with Sister Pratt. I'm to meet Mrs. Bostick there. How's the throat, child?" And his smile up at the singer lady was one of the most sympathetic interest.

"Better, thank you, I think," said Miss Wingate, answering both question and smile. "How well you are looking to-day, Deacon!"

"Why, I'm made over new by that boy of a Doctor," said the Deacon, fairly beaming with enthusiasm. "Your cure will be only a matter of time, a matter of time, my dear-Squire Tutt to the contrary," he added with a chuckle.

"There, bless my heart, i

f my ears ain't heard two testimonies to Tom Mayberry all in one minute!" exclaimed Mother with a delighted laugh. "Have a cake, won't you, Deacon?" she asked, offering the bucket.

She then established Eliza and the small stranger on the edge of the steps, with an admonition as to the disposal of the crumbs over on to the grass, and filled both pairs of hands with the crisp discs. Eliza spread the end of her short blue calico skirt over Martin Luther's chubby knees, and they both proceeded to eat into the improvised napkin with the utmost comradeship. Miss Wingate had strolled down to the gate with the Deacon and had paused on the way to decorate the buttonhole of his shiny old coat with a bit of the white lilac nodding over the wall.

"'Liza, child," said Mother as she glanced at Martin Luther with a contemplative eye, "when you're done eating run over and ask your Maw to send me a pair of Billy's britches and a shirt. No, maybe young Ez's 'll be better, and bring 'em and Martin Luther on back to the kitchen to me." With which she disappeared into the house, leaving the munchers to finish their feast alone.

And in an incredibly short time the last crumb, even those rescued from the skirt, had disappeared and Eliza had led Martin Luther down the walk, across the Road and around the corner of the Pike cottage, while the Deacon still lingered talking to Miss Wingate at the gate. Eliza had taken upon herself, with her usual generalship, the development of Mother Mayberry's plan for the arraying of the young stranger in what Providence would consider a civilized garb.

And for some minutes Miss Wingate stood leaning over the top rail of the low gate idly watching a group of Pratts, Turners, Mosbeys, Hoovers and Pikes playing a mysterious game, which necessitated wild dashes across a line drawn down the middle of the Road in the white dust, shrill cries of capture and frequent change of base. The day had been a long sunshiny one, full of absorbing interests, and as she stood drinking in the perfume from a spray of lilac she had broken to choose the bit for the Deacon, she suddenly realized that not one minute had she found in which to let the horrible dread creep close and clutch at her throat. Helping along in the construction of a bucket of tea-cakes, the printing of four cakes of butter, the simmering of a large pan of horehound syrup and the excitement of pouring it into the family bottles that Mother was filling against a sudden night call from some crouper down or across the Road, to say nothing of a most exciting pie, that had been concocted entirely by herself from a jar of peaches and frilled around with the utmost regard for its artistic appearance, to which could be added the triumph of the long-tailed pink gown for the daughter of young Eliza, had kept her busy and-with a quick smile she had to admit to herself, happy. Indeed the remembrance of the rapid disappearance of the pie and Doctor Mayberry's blush when, after he had eaten two-thirds of it, his mother had informed him of the authorship, brought a positive glow of pleasure to her cheeks. Such a serious, gentle, skilful young Doctor as he was-and "a perfect dear" she went as far as admitting to herself, this time with a low laugh.

And as if her pondering on his virtues had had power to bring a materialization, suddenly Doctor Tom stood in front of her on the other side of the gate. He had come from up the Road while she had been looking down in the other direction, and in his hand he held a spray of purple lilacs which he had broken from a large bush that hung over the fence from the Pratt yard into the Road and also spread itself a yard or two into Hoover territory.

"Aren't they lovely and plumy?" she asked, as she took the bunch he offered and laid the purple flowers against the white ones she held in her hand. "These are so much darker than Mrs. Mayberry's purple ones. I wonder why."

"Some years they bloom lighter than Mother's and other years still darker-just another one of the mysteries," he answered as he leaned against the gate-post and looked down at her with a smile. He was tall, and strong, and forceful, with a clean-cut young face which was lit by Mother Mayberry's very own black-lashed, serene gray eyes, and his very evident air of a man of affairs had much of the charm of Mother Mayberry's rustic dignity. His serge coat, blue shirt and soft gray tie had a decided cut of sophistication and were worn with a most worldly grace that was yet strangely harmonious with his surroundings. For with all of his distinctions in appearance and attainments, as a man he struck no discord when contrasted with Mr. Pike's shirt-sleeved, butternut-trousers personality and he seemed but the flowering of Buck Peavey's store-clothes ambitions. The accord of it all struck Miss Wingate so forcibly that unconsciously she gave voice to the feeling.

"How at home you are in all this-this?" she paused and raised her eyes to his with a hint of helplessness to express herself within them.

"Simple life," he supplied with a smile that held a bit of banter.

"It's not so simple as one would think to balance a pie plate on one hand and cut around it with a knife so the edges aren't jagged-to be all consumed within the hour," she answered with spirit, rising to the slight challenge in his voice and smile. "And there are other most complicated things I have discovered that-"

But just here she was interrupted by a sally from around the corner of the Pike house which streamed out across the Road, headed precisely in their direction. Eliza was in the lead and held little Teether swung perilously across one slender hip, while she clasped Martin Luther's chubby fingers in her other hand. And behold, the transformation of the young stranger was complete beyond belief! His yellow thatch was crowned by a straw hat, which was circled by a brand new shoestring, though it gaped across the crown to let out a peeping curl. Young Ez's garments even had proved a size too large and the faded blue jeans "britches" were rolled up over his round little knees and hitched up high under his arms by an improvised pair of calico "galluses" which were stretched tight over a clean but much patched gingham shirt. His feet and legs had been stripped in accordance with the time-ordered custom in Providence that bare feet could greet May Day, and his little, bare, pink toes curled up with protest against the roughness of even the dust-softened pike. Susie May, Billy and young Ez beamed with pride at their share in the rehabiting of the recent acquisition and waited breathlessly for words of praise from Miss Wingate and the Doctor.

"Why, who is this?" asked the Doctor quickly with a most gratifying interest in his big voice, while Miss Wingate came out of the gate on to the pavement.

"It's the little missionary boy that the Deacon brought Mother Mayberry. I guess the Lord sent him, for he's too big to come outen a cabbage," answered Eliza, and as she spoke she settled the hat an inch farther down over the curls with a motherly gesture. She had failed to grasp with exactness the situation concerning the advent of Martin Luther, but was supplying a version of her own that seemed entirely satisfactory to the youngster's newly acquired friends.

"Spit through teeth," ventured the young stranger, anxious to display an accomplishment that had been bestowed upon him by Billy while the "galluses" were in process of construction a few minutes ago. "Thank ma'am, please," he hastened to add with pathetic loyalty to some injunction that had been impressed upon his young mind before his embarkation upon strange seas.

"Let me see you do it," demanded the Doctor, in instant sympathy with his pride in this newly acquired national accomplishment.

"He hasn't got time to do it now," answered Eliza importantly, as she hitched Teether a notch higher up on her arm. "I've got to take him and the baby in to Mother Mayberry to see if his other top-tooth have come up enough for Maw to rub it through with her thimble." Though she did not designate Teether as the subject of the operation the audience understood that it was he and not Martin Luther so fated.

"Oh, no, no!" exclaimed Miss Wingate in horror, and she reached out and took Teether into protective arms. The day had been a long and weary one for Teether Pike and he dropped his tired little head over on the cool pink muslin shoulder and nestled his aching jaw against the smooth white neck.

"Hold him still just a second as he is," said Doctor Tom quickly, and in an instant he had whipped a case from his pocket, selected an instrument and, inserting his finger between the pink lips, he rendered unnecessary the agony of the maternal thimble. It had been done so quickly that Teether himself only nestled a bit closer with a faint moan, and Miss Wingate looked up at the operator with grateful eyes. She hugged the limp baby closer and started to speak, but was interrupted by an anxious question from Eliza.

"Did you cut it?" she demanded.

"Yes," answered the Doctor non-committally.

"Well, Maw'll be mighty mad at you, for Mother Mayberry asked her last night to let you cut it and she said she'd thimbled the rest of us and she reckoned he could stand it too. If it was me, I'd let you cut me wide open and sew me up again if you wanted to," and Eliza beamed upon the Doctor with an affection that was the acme of idealization. She had forgotten that only a few hours ago she had renounced her loyalty at the memory of the oil, but Miss Wingate smiled in appreciation of this display of further feminine inconsistency.

"Shucks," said Billy, "you'd holler 'fore he could cut onct. I'm a-going to let him fix my next stump toe and 'Lias Hoover have got two warts he can cut off, if he gives him a piece of catgut string to tie on fish hooks." And Billy looked as if he expected to see the Doctor entirely overwhelmed at the prospect of so much practice so easily obtained.

"Go take Martin Luther to show Mrs. Mayberry, Eliza," said Miss Wingate with a laughing smile over the baby's head at the Doctor and his practice. "I'll come on with the baby." And with Teether still embraced she strolled up the walk with Doctor Mayberry at her side. When they reached the front steps she seated herself on the top one and slowly lowered the drowsy little chap, until his head rested on her breast and her arms held him cradlewise. She began a low husky humming as she rocked herself to and fro, watching breathlessly the fringed lashes sink over his wearied eyes, until they lay like shadows on the purple circles beneath. She was utterly absorbed in getting Teether into a comatose condition, and had neither eyes nor ears for the Doctor; not that he claimed either.

He sat for some moments watching her and listening breathlessly to the low music that came out through the wonderful throat, as if from some master instrument with strings uncouthly muted. And as he looked, the horrible thought clutched at his own heart. Suppose he should not be able to free her voice for her! Many others had tried-the greatest-and they had all been baffled by the strange stiffness of the chords. He knew himself to be, in a way, her last resort. A world of music lovers awaited the result. He had been obliged to send out two Press bulletins as to her condition within the week-and she sat on the steps in the twilight humming Teether Pike to sleep, shut in by the Harpeth Hills with only him to fight her fight for her. He almost groaned aloud with the pain of it, when into his consciousness came Mother Mayberry's placid voice shooing the Pike children home with promises and admonitions. A line from Doctor Stein's letter flashed into his mind: "And first and above all I want your mother to put heart and hope into the girl." The fight was not his alone, thank God, and he knew just how much he could trust to his mother's heart-building. Why not? Over the land men were learning to strengthen the man within before attempting to cure the man without. Hadn't that always been his mother's unconscious policy out on Harpeth Hills? A deep calm fell into his troubled spirit and, as the singer lady and Mother escorted the escort down the walk, he slipped away into his office for an hour before supper with his reports and microscope.

A half hour later Mother Mayberry came into his office for the little chat she often took the time for just before the summons to supper. She seated herself by the open window, through which the twilight was creeping, and he threw down his pen and came and stood leaning against the casement.

"Well," she said with a long breath of contentment, "well, I do feel about ready to get ready to rest. The Pikeses is all in, I heard Bettie Pratt calling in the Turners and Pratts and Hoovers, Buck have come home to supper on time, as I know will relieve Hettie Ann's mind, Squire Tutt just went in the front gate as I come up the walk and I seen Mis' Bostick light the lamp in the Deacon's study from my kitchen window a minute ago. They ain't nothing in the world that makes me so contented as to know that all Providence is a-setting down to meals at the same time and a-feeding together as one family, though in different houses. The good Lord will get all the rendered thanks at the same time and I feel it will please Him-ours is late on account of Elinory deciding at the last minute to beat up some clabber cheese with fresh cream for your supper, like she says they fix it up over in Europe somewhere she lived while she was a-studying to sing. I come on out so she could have a swing to herself and not think anybody was a-hurrying of her. It's a riled woman as generally answers the call of hurry and I never gives it, lessen it's life or death or a chicken-hawk."

"But, Mother," remonstrated the Doctor with a very real distress in his voice, "ought you to let her-Miss Wingate-do such things-so many things? Are you sure she enjoys it and is not just doing it to help or because she thinks she ought? Or do you-?"

"Well," interrupted Mother decidedly, "it's my opinion they ain't nothing in the world so heavy as empty hands. She have had to lay down a music book and I don't know nothing better to offer than a butter-paddle and a bread-bowl. It's the feeding of folks that counts in a woman's life, whether it be songs or just bread and butter. If Elinory's tunes was as much of a success as her riz biscuits have come to be, I wisht I could have heard her just onct."

"I did, Mother, the first night she sang in America-and it was very wonderful. When I think of the great opera house, the lights and the flowers, the audience mad with joy and the applause and-I-I-wonder how she stands it!"

"Yes," answered Mother, "I reckon wondering how Eve stood things muster took Adam's mind offen hisself to a very comforting degree. Courage was the ingredient the good Lord took to start making a woman with and it's been a-witnessing his spirit in her ever since. I oughtn't to have to tell you that."

"You don't," Doctor Tom hastened to answer as he smiled down on Mother. "I only spoke as I did about Miss Wingate because you see she is-well, what we would call a very great lady and I wouldn't have her think that I did not realize that-?"

"Well, you can do as you choose," answered Mother placidly as she prepared to take her departure to see to the finishing up of the supper, "but I ain't a-letting no foolish pride hold my heart back from my honey-bird. Love's my bread of life and I offers it free, high or low. Come on and see how you like that cheese fixing she's done made for you."

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