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   Chapter 13 No.13

What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 6069

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Cousin Maria.

After posting one of his men on each side of the house, which stood on the edge of a field, without any fence around it, Tony Kirk stepped up to the front door and knocked. The door was quickly opened by a woman.

"Why, Cousin Maria," said Tony, "is this you?"

"Certainly it's me, Anthony," said the woman; "who else should it be?"

Cousin Maria was a tall woman, dressed in black. She had gray hair and wore spectacles. She seemed very glad to see Tony, and shook hands with him warmly.

"I didn't know you lived here," said Tony.

"Well, I don't live here, exactly," said Cousin Maria; "but come in and sit awhile. You've been a-huntin', have you?"

"Well, yes," said Tony, "I am a-huntin'."

Without mentioning that he had some friends outside, Tony went in and sat down to talk with Cousin Maria. The man in front of the house had stepped to one side when the door opened, and the others were out of sight, of course.

Tony entered a small sitting-room, into which the front door opened, and took a seat by Cousin Maria.

"You see," said she, "old Billy Simpson let this house fur a hundred dollars-there's eighty acres with it-to Sarah Ann Hemphill and her husband; and he's gone to Richmond to git stock for a wheelwright's shop. That's his trade, you know; and they're goin' to have the shop over there in the wagon-house, that can be fixed up easy enough ef Sam Hemphill chooses to work at it, which I don't believe he will; but he can work, ef he will, and this is just the place for a wheelwright's shop, ef the right man goes into the business; and they sold their two cows-keeping only the red-and-white heifer. I guess you remember that heifer; they got her of old Joe Sanders, on the Creek. And they sold one of their horses-the sorrel-and a mule; they hadn't no use fur 'em here, fur the land's not worth much, and hasn't seen no guano nor nothin' fur three or four years; and the money they got was enough to start a mighty good cooper-shop, ef Sam don't spend it all, or most of it, in Richmond, which I think he will; and of course, he being away, Sarah Ann wanted to go to her mother's, and she got herself ready and took them four children-and I pity the old lady, fur Sam's children never had no bringin' up. I disremember how old Tommy is, but it isn't over eight, and just as noisy as ef he wasn't the oldest. And so I come here to take care of the place; but I can't stay no longer than Tuesday fortnight, as I told Sarah Ann, fur I've got to go to Betsey Cropper's then to help her with her spinnin'; and there's my own things-seven pounds of wool to spin fur Truly Mattherses people, besides two bushel baskets, easy, of carpet-rags to sew, and I want 'em done by the time Miss Jane gits her loom empty, or I'll git no weavin' done this year, and what do you think? I've had another visitor to-day, and your comin' right afterwards kind o' struck me as mighty queer, both bein' Akeville people, so to speak tho' it's been a long day since he's been there, and you'll never

guess who it was, fur it was George Mason."

And she stopped and wiped her face with her calico apron.

"So George Mason was here, was he?" said Tony. "Where is he now?"

"Oh! he's gone," replied Cousin Maria. "It wasn't more 'n ten or fifteen minutes before you came in, and he was a-sittin' here talking about ole times-he's rougher than he was, guess he didn't learn no good down there in Mississippi-when all ov a sudden he got up an' took his hat and walked off. Well, that was jist like George Mason. He never had much manners, and would always just as soon go off without biddin' a body good-by as not."

"You didn't notice which way he went, did you?" asked Tony.

"Yes, I did," said Cousin Maria; "he went out o' the back door, and along the edge of the woods, and he was soon out of sight, fur George has got long legs, as you well know; and the last I saw of him was just out there by that fence. And if there isn't Jim Anderson! Come in, Jim; what are you doin' standin' out there?"

So she went to the window to call Jim Anderson, and Tony stepped to the door and whistled for the other men, so that when Cousin Maria came to the door she saw not only Jim Anderson, but Thomas Campbell and Captain Bob Winters and Doctor Price's son Brinsley.

"Well, upon my word an' honor!" said Cousin Maria, lifting up both her hands.

"Come along, boys," said Tony, starting off toward the woods. "We've got no time to lose. Good-by, Cousin Maria."

"Good-by, Cousin Maria," said each of the other men, as the party hurried away.

Cousin Maria did not answer a word. She sat right down on the door-step and took off her spectacles. She rubbed them with her apron, and then put them on again. But there was no mistake. There were the men. If she had seen four ghosts she could not have been more astonished.

Tony did not for a moment doubt Cousin Maria's word when she told him that George Mason had gone away. She never told a lie. The only trouble with her was that she told too much truth.

In about an hour and a half the five men returned to the place where they had left their horses. They had found no trace of George Mason.

When they reached the clump of trees, there were no horses there!

They looked at each other with blank faces!

"He's got our horses!" said Jim Anderson, when his consternation allowed him to speak.

"Yes," said Tony, "and sarved us right. We oughter left one man here to take care uv 'em, knowin' George Mason as we do.'

"I had an idea," said Dr. Price's son Brinsley, "that we should have done something of that kind."

"Idees ain't no good," said Tony with a grunt, as he marched off toward the blacksmith's shop at Jordan's cross-roads.

The blacksmith had seen nothing of Mason or the horses, but Tom Riley's horse was still there; and as the members of the party were all well known to the blacksmith, he allowed them to take the animal to its owner. So the five men rode the one horse back to Akeville; not all riding at once, but one at a time.

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