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   Chapter 33 No.33

What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 6585

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Time to Stop.

About a week after this letter was written, Kate said to Harry:

"You really ought to have Aunt Matilda's roof mended. There are several holes in it. I think her house ought to be made tight and warm before winter; don't you?"

"Certainly," said Harry. "I'll get some shingles and nail them over the holes to-morrow."

The next day was Saturday, and a rainy day. About ten o'clock Harry went to Aunt Matilda's cabin with his shingles and a hammer and nails. Kate walked over with him.

To their surprise they found the old woman in bed.

"Why, what is the matter, Aunt Matilda?" asked Kate. "Are you sick?"

"No, honey, I isn't sick," said the old woman; "but somehow or other I don't keer to git up. Ise mighty comfurt'ble jist as I is."

"But you ought to have your breakfast," said Kate. "What is this basin of water doing on the foot of your bed?"

"Oh, don't 'sturb dat ar tin basin," said Aunt Matilda. "Dat's to ketch der rain. Dar's a hole right ober de foot o' de bed."

"But you won't want that now," said Kate. "Harry's going to nail shingles over all the holes in your roof."

"An' fall down an' break his neck. He needn't do no sich foolishness. Dat ar tin basin's did me fur years in and years out, and I neber kicked it ober yit. Dere's no use a-mendin' holes dis time o' day."

"It's a very good time of day," said Harry, who was standing in the door; "and it isn't raining now. You used to have a ladder here, Aunt Matilda. If you'll tell me where it is, I can mend that hole over your bed without getting on the roof at all."

"Jist you keep away from de roof," said the old woman. "Ef you go hammerin' on dat ole roof you'll have it all down on me head. I don't want no mendin' dis time o' day."

Finding that Aunt Matilda was so much opposed to any carpenter-work on her premises at that time, Harry went home, while Kate remained to get the old woman some breakfast.

Aunt Matilda felt better that afternoon, and she sat up and ate her supper with Uncle Braddock (who happened to be there); but as she was evidently feeling the effects of her great age, an arrangement was made, by which Aunt Judy gave up her cabin and came to live with Aunt Matilda and take care of her.

One morning, about a week after the rainy Saturday, Mrs. Loudon came over to see Aunt Matilda. She found the old woman lying on the bed, and evidently worried about something.

"You see, Miss Mary," said Aunt Matilda, "Ise kind o' disturbed in me min'. I rit a letter a long time ago, and Ole Miles ain't fetched me no answer yit, and it sorter worries me."

"I didn't know you could write," said Mrs. Loudon, somewhat surprised.

"Neither I kin," said Aunt Matilda. "I jist got dat Greg'ry Montague to write it fur me, and dear knows what he put in it."

"Who was your letter to, Aunt Matilda?" asked Mrs. Loudon.

"I do' know his name, but he works de telegrum at Hetertown. An' I do' min' tellin' you 'bout it, Miss Mary, ef you do' worry dem chillen. De letter was 'bout my money in de telegrum comp'ny. Dat was reel silber money, an' I hain't heerd nor seed nothin' of it sence."

When Mrs. Loudon went home she told Harry and Kate of Aunt Matilda's troubles.

Neither of them said anything at the time, but Harry put on his hat an

d went up to the store, while Kate sat down to her sewing.

After a while, she said:

"I think, mother, it's pretty hard in Aunt Matilda, after all we've done for her, to think of nothing but the ten cents she put into the stock of the company."

"It is perfectly natural," said Mrs. Loudon. "That ten cents was her own private property, and no matter how small a private property may be, it is of greater interest to the owner than any other property in the world. To be sure, the money that was paid for the telegraph line is for Aunt Matilda's benefit, but you and Harry have the management and the spending of it. But that ten cents was all her own, and she could spend it just as she chose."

The next day Kate went over to Aunt Matilda with two silver ten-cent pieces that Harry had got from Mr. Darby.

"Aunt Matilda," said she, "this is not the very same ten-cent piece you put into the company, but it's just as good; and Harry thinks that you have about doubled your money, and so here's another one."

The old woman, who was sitting alone by the fire wrapped up in a shawl, took the money, and putting it in the hollow of her bony hand, gazed at it with delight.

Then she looked up at Kate.

"You is good chillen," she said. "You is mighty good chillen. I don't 'spect I'll lib much longer in dis hyar world. Ise so precious old dat it's 'bout time to stop. But I don't 'spects I'll find nobody in heben that'll be more reel comfort to me dan you chillen."

"Oh Aunt Matilda!" cried Kate. "Why, you'll meet all your friends and relations that you talk so much about and who died so long ago."

"Well," said Aunt Matilda, very deliberately, "perhaps I shall, and perhaps I sha'n't; dere's no tellin'. But dere ain't no mistakin' 'bout you chillen."

That afternoon, when Uncle Braddock called, Aunt Matilda said to him:

"Ef you see Ole Miles ye kin tell him he needn't bring me no answer to dat letter."

Very early one morning, a few days after this, Kate went over to Aunt Matilda's cabin.

She saw Aunt Judy standing at the door.

"How's Aunt Matilda?" asked Kate.

"Gone to glory," said Aunt Judy.

Aunt Matilda was buried under a birch-tree near the church that she used to attend when able to walk.

That portion of her "fund" which remained unexpended at the time of her death was used to pay her funeral expenses and to erect a suitable tombstone over her grave. On the stone was an inscription. Harry composed it, and Kate copied it carefully for the stonecutter.

And thus, after much hard labor and anxious thought, after many disappointments and a great deal of discouragement, Harry and Kate performed to the end the generous task they had set themselves, which was just what might have been expected of such a boy and such a girl.


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Transcriber's Notes

1. Punctuation has been normalized to contemporary standards.

2. Typographic errors corrected from original:

p. 13 find to fine ("fine head for mathematics")

p. 63 "Mr. Mr." to "Mr." ("pacify Mr. Matthews")

p. 78 "hubhub" to "hubbub" ("heard above the hubbub")

p. 96 "grumly" to "grimly" ("said Aunt Matilda, grimly")

p. 129 "buiness" to "business" ("business should not be diverted")

p. 181 or to for ("for it was quite evident")

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