Far-Away Job

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

From Woman's Home Companion Vol. XXXVI No. 12 (December, 1909)

It always seemed to me that “Far-Away” was kind of hifalutin, but that was what they called Job Weaver ever since I can remember. In reality, it was only because he was about the most absent-minded man that ever lived. He might be talking to you, but his eyes would have that queer, far-off look as if he was seeing right past you, and first thing you knew you would be looking over your own shoulder to find out what was there, but there wouldn't be anything. It did seem as if Job Weaver was all the time seeing and hearing something where there was nothing and as if his mind was going one way and the rest of him another. Job was bright enough, nobody ever questioned that, but it wasn't often that all of him seemed to be in one place at the same time, and so he did some queer things, because his mind was considerably stronger than his body.

Job was tall and slim and delicate. He was a handsome man, almost too handsome for a man, with a pretty complexion and big blue eyes and beautiful soft light hair. He was married when he was quite young to a girl named Eliza Somers. She was as tall as he and real homely, but as smart as they make 'em. Folks wondered why Job ever happened to marry her, and some said she just made up her mind that she would have him and maybe as good as asked him. As for me, I always wondered more how his mother, Madam Weaver — they always called her “Madam,” she was so high and mighty, though she was a little speck of a woman — ever gave in. I could see how Eliza Somers might have got Job to marry her and make all the promises when he was maybe thinking of something miles away, but I never could see how she managed Madam Weaver.

The Weavers had a lot of money, and lived in that splendid old house on Grove Street until Horace, the oldest son, was married. He married against his mother's wishes, and his wife couldn't get around her as Job's did. Old Madam Weaver never, until the time I am going to tell you about, forgave Horace for marrying as he did. It was a little hard on her, because by the terms of his father's will Horace came into possession of the old house when he married. The will provided for Madam Weaver's having the right to live there, but out she bundled. She wouldn't live in the house a day with Horace's wife. Horace's wife was pretty and delicate and was all right, but she came from a poor family and had worked in a store, and that was too much for Madam Weaver. The girl Job married was poor, but her family had always held their heads mighty high, and as for one of them working in a store, they would have owed for all the goods in the store first. The Somerses were very well connected; perhaps that was what reconciled Madam Weaver to Job marrying Eliza. Anyway, Eliza married Job, and she and Madam Weaver visited back and forth, but Job's mother never took any notice of Horace's wife. Her name was Lily, and she had a hard time, though she set her life by Horace. Horace was just as mild and sweet-tempered as Job. He wasn't absent-minded, but he was never very strong and didn't seem to have any business sense. It wasn't long before he had run through every cent his father had left him and there was a mortgage on the old place.

They had four children, but only one of them lived, and Horace's wife was always ailing, and there were always doctor's bills and medicine, and they got dreadfully behindhand. People suspected that they didn't always have enough to eat. Little Agnes, the one child that lived, was a little pale thing, but she was as sweet to look at as an angel, with great solemn blue eyes, and hair as fine as silk that stood out all around her head and shone like sunlight. Old Madam Weaver had never even spoken to that blessed child, and she was going on six, and the others had died, and she looked as if she might not stay long on this earth, but the old lady was so set in her way that she was capable of cutting off her own head to get it if there had been any way to manage it. I dare say she really hankered all the time to see that baby, but she wouldn't give in. Horace had been her idol, too. She had always set more by him than by Job. He favored her people more. He was dark complexioned, but neither of the boys had their mother's spirit.

Job used to go to his brother's house, I guess — folks thought he did — but always when he could sneak out unbeknown to Eliza. She never had anything to do with Horace or Lily. She knew which side her bread was buttered, and she wasn't going to do anything to get Madam Weaver against her and Job. She knew there would be considerable more money to go somewhere when the old lady died, and she wanted it, although, thanks to her, Job had hung onto what his father left him, and they didn't need it. Eliza was a splendid manager. She told Job just how to invest, and they said she knew as much about business as a man. They had a real pretty home, but Eliza could never get over Horace having the old Weaver place instead of her husband. She used to talk a good deal about its being mortgaged, and she would look like a pleased cross cat lifting one corner of her mouth and winking when she spoke of it.

“There was Horace had as much as Job,” she would say, “and that splendid old house into the bargain, and he has wasted his substance, and now there is a mortgage on the house.”

When she said mortgage, she used to look as if she tasted something sweet. She wasn't really a bad sort of a woman, but she did have an eye to the main chance, and she was as spitey as a red Indian. I always suspected, too, that she couldn't help feeling envious about little Agnes. She had had one little girl, but it died before it was a year old, and she felt so dreadfully about it that nobody, not even her own husband, dared mention it to her. She had fainting spells at first whenever anything happened to remind her of it. She was such a strong-minded woman that it seemed as if she couldn't give in even to the Lord Almighty. She was terribly rebellious and I always thought maybe Horace and Lily having their little girl had more to do with her being set against them than their having the old Weaver house.

Well, the time went on until, as I said, little Agnes was going on six, and poor Horace Weaver got more and more behindhand. He owed everybody, and folks began to be shy of trusting him. There was one grocer who had such a big bill he didn't dare stop letting him have things, for fear that old Madam Weaver should change her mind and put Horace into her will and he would lose the whole. So he kept on letting the poor things have groceries, but he was the smallest grocer in the town, and it was mighty little credit they got anywhere else. I don't believe a single butcher would trust Horace. So folks said, and I guess it was true enough that they lived mostly on baker's bread and crackers and cheese and oatmeal and such things. They said the grocer, his name was P. J. Lawson, wouldn't let them have his best stock; but then he didn't carry much, anyway. He kept a little one-horse store. It must have been pretty hard for Lily, being so delicate, and especially for little Agnes, for that child certainly did need good nourishing food, and a variety. She was a nervous little soul, one of the sort who will never eat like a young animal anything that comes to hand. She needed fruit and beefsteak and chicken, and I guess she got precious little. I heard, I don't know how true it was, that the milkman stopped going there toward the last, before Christmas. That year it did look as if it would be a mighty hard Christmas for Horace Weaver and Lily and the little girl. The interest on the mortgage was due the first of January, everybody knew, because poor Horace, who never could keep anything about his business to himself, told everybody he met, and tried to borrow money. The taxes were due, too, and there was no money for them.

“If this keeps up Horace Weaver will lose his home,” folks said. We all wondered when it really came to that if Madam Weaver would let her son and his wife and child go on the town. Poor Horace tried to do all he could. He actually got a chance at the umbrella counter in White and Pellman's before the holidays, and he had been there just one day, and White and Pellman were getting more custom because people were curious to see a Weaver working behind a counter, when the poor man caught cold — the umbrella counter was right in front of the door — and had to give up his job and go home sick. He had been owing Doctor Abbot for years, but he tended him just the same, though I am afraid poor Lily didn't have money to buy all the things he needed. It was told afterward that they didn't even have enough clothes to keep warm. If that had been known, folks would have tried to help them, but they were always hindered because the Weavers had stood so high in this town that nobody dared offer them things. Mrs. William Means told me that she had more eggs and chickens and cream than she knew what to do with and she was crazy to send some over to Horace Weaver's, but she actually didn't dare, though she knew they needed just such dainty, nourishing food. If folks are poor, family pride is a terrible thing for them, like a hedge made of thorns fencing out charity. I don't think poor Horace had much of the family pride, nor Job either, but they got credited with it just the same.

It had always been the custom for Far-Away Job and his wife to spend Christmas with old Madam Weaver and have dinner there, but this Christmas Madam Weaver wasn't very well. I always wondered if she had heard in any way about Horace and it had preyed on her mind, although she never told of it; anyway, she seemed real feeble, and to cap the climax her old cook, who had been with her over twenty years, left, going West to live with a married daughter, and didn't give a week's warning. I know all about this from Maria Goodman, who was called in to nurse Madam Weaver. She wasn't really sick enough for a nurse, but Maria didn't happen to be busy at the time and they thought it would be a good plan to have her. Maria told me the whole story afterward when I was laid up with the rheumatism. She thought it would take my mind up, and it did. Maria was a great hand to tell a story. She could set it out until you fairly saw things for yourself.

Well, the cook's leaving and Madam Weaver being so feeble made a change about their Christmas. Job Weaver's wife said she would have the Christmas dinner cooked at her house, and Job could bring it over in the carryall. Madam Weaver had another girl beside the cook that left; she always kept two girls, but the other couldn't cook very well. Maria said she would have offered to cook the dinner herself, but she knew how particular Mrs. Job was, and she didn't dare. She said, as far as Job was concerned, she wouldn't have hesitated a moment, for if he had had one of his far-away spells he wouldn't have known whether he was eating turkey or codfish; and, anyway, he wasn't a man to fuss. Job was one of the men who take what is set before him by a Divine Providence or his fellow-men and don't question but it is just exactly what he ought to have.

Well, Job Weaver's wife said she would cook the Christmas dinner, and Maria Goodman thought there was no doubt but Madam Weaver would be well enough to sit at the table and eat it if she hadn't any care. Job's wife wasn't usually one of the kind to slop over, but this Christmas she did a little. She took a notion to rig up a little Christmas-tree for Madam Weaver. It was ridiculous as Maria said, for that old lady never had any second childhood, and it took a good deal of imagination to think she had ever had a first, and it did seem as if she would just turn up her nose at a Christmas-tree for herself. Madam Weaver had a little thin, transparent nose, and she had a way of turning it up very nicely and giving a soft lady-like, but very proud, sniff when she didn't like anything. Maria said when she heard that Mrs. Job was going to fix that Christmas-tree she didn't say anything, but she could seem to see that nose curl up and hear that sniff. She wanted to tell Eliza Weaver not to do such a silly thing, but she didn't dare. She just kept up athinking and held her tongue.

Well, Job Weaver's wife rigged up that little tree. It was all trimmed with strings of pop-corn and tinsel and colored balls, and there was a little paper angel perched on the top; and she hung on boxes of candy and silk bags and Christmas cards and a pearl breast-pin from her and Job — that was the only real present. Eliza was pretty careful about her money; all the rest were gimcracks that didn't cost much and might have pleased a real child or an old child if Madam Weaver had happened to be one; but Maria Goodman said when she saw that tree and thought of the old lady's nose, it was all she could do to keep from laughing right in Job's wife's face. Eliza had called her in to see it. She had it set up in her north parlor, with the heat turned off, so the candy wouldn't get sticky. Maria said there were candy canes and birds on that tree enough to make a cat laugh. The tree was just a little one. Eliza planned to have it stand in the middle of the dining-table at dinner and surprise Madam Weaver. She told Maria she thought it would be so nice to surprise Madam Weaver.

Well, she did surprise her fast enough, but not in the way she planned. Eliza only kept one girl, she liked to see to the housekeeping herself, and she and the girl cooked a splendid dinner. There was a great turkey roasted beautifully and a ham and all the vegetables in season and a big plum-pudding with sauce. She and her girl had to do a lot of planning to pack it all so it could be put in the carryall. Job had the turkey on the front seat beside him, and they had to lay the tree across the back seat with the top sticking out of the door. It must have looked sort of funny when it was all done. Eliza didn't dare go in the carryall, even if there had been room, for fear of getting something on her best dress, so she said she would walk. She was slim and wiry and hopped over the ground like a sparrow, and she had a way of holding up her dress high in the back for all the world like a sparrow's tail. It was never rumpled one mite when she let it down. She wasn't dressed when Job started, but she told him she'd go right and get ready and be over, and for him to tell Maria Goodman to help him smuggle the tree into the parlor and shut the door, so Madam Weaver couldn't see it, and when she got there she'd help about setting the dining-table and fixing the tree in the middle.

Well, Far-Away Job drove off. Eliza's girl said afterward that she had never seen his eyes have such a look as they had when he gathered up the reins. She said he looked as if he hadn't got it fairly settled in his mind as to whether he was carrying a turkey and driving a horse or driving a turkey and carrying a horse or whether he was on the road to his ma's or the road to Cork, Ireland. Eliza's girl was Irish and full of fun.

Then Eliza, she went up-stairs to get ready. She was awful fussy about her hair. It was getting thin and a little gray, and she used to put a mite of oil on it to darken it and do it up on hair-pins overnight to make it wave. She used to brush it very carefully and twist it up just so, and there was never one hair out of place, and it took a good deal of time. She was very particular about dressing, too — couldn't stand a wrinkle anywhere. She would smooth and smooth and pull her skirts down here and look at her back, turning her hand-glass this way and that, and she couldn't hurry. Then she was always an awful while getting her bonnet on straight, with the pins in just so, and tying her nice little veil; and she was just as fussy about her gloves as if she had been going to make formal calls instead of going to her mother-in-law's to fix up the table for the Christmas dinner.

Well, by the time she started she calculated that Job, even allowing for slow driving, for fear of tipping over or jostling the Christmas fixings, had more than enough time to get to Madam Weaver's, so she hurried a little when she started because she wanted to make sure that the old lady didn't get a sight of the tree. She just hopped along the road, with her dress tucked up behind, and a little brushy feather in her bonnet bobbing.

She got to Madam Weaver's, and Maria opened the door for her. “Merry Christmas!” says Maria, and Mrs. Job, she had to say “Merry Christmas” whether she wanted to or not. She rather looked down on Maria because she went out nursing, and Maria knew it, and it used to tickle her to make Eliza speak to her whether she wanted to or not.

The house was still, and it seemed queer on Christmas Day not to smell turkey and onions. Old Madam Weaver wasn't down yet. Maria said afterward she thought she wasn't quite so feeble; she had eaten quite a good breakfast, but she was pretty high and mighty, with her nose in the air and wanting to snap out at Maria, only she knew it wouldn't be becoming her dignity. Eliza came in and shut the door real softly. “I hope you got the tree into the parlor without her suspecting,” says she.

“Tree?” says Maria.

“Yes, the Christmas-tree that Mr. Weaver has just brought over with the dinner,” says Eliza.

“I haven't seen any tree or any dinner,” says Maria.

Then Eliza, she turns pale, and stares. “What do you mean?” says she.

Then Maria says it over again. “I haven't seen any tree or any dinner.”

“Do you mean that Job hasn't got here yet?” says Eliza.

“I haven't set eyes on him,” says Maria.

Eliza looked as if she was going to faint away, and Maria tried to make her sit down and drink some water, but she wouldn't.

“Job started to drive here a good hour ago,” says she. “I have got dressed and done up my hair and walked here since, and he hasn't got here, driving.”

“I haven't seen him,” says Maria.

Then she and Eliza stared at each other, wondering. “That horse couldn't have run away. She never ran in her life,” says Eliza.

“It sort of looks to me more as if she might have balked,” says Maria.

She said afterward that she couldn't for the life of her help saying it. It was so ridiculous to think of a horse running and not getting there in an hour, when it wasn't more than three quarters of a mile.

Eliza, she just glared at her. “I don't see anything to laugh at,” says she. “Here is that dinner all getting cold. Everything was covered up, and the turkey was sitting on two hot bricks, but there won't be anything fit to eat, and the table has to be trimmed before mother comes down, and I don't know what has happened to my husband.”

Maria couldn't help sort of smiling because Eliza put Job after the dinner and the Christmas things, and Eliza glared at her harder than ever. “It is very easy for a woman who has never had a husband not to know what it means when he disappears like this,” says she. “I guess if you had a husband you would know what it is to worry.”

“Yes, I guess I should,” says Maria as meek as she could, and Eliza was sort of pacified. “Where in the world can he be?” says she.

Then all of a sudden old Madam Weaver calls down the stairs. Her door had been open, and she had been listening. “What's the matter?” says she real sharp.

“Nothing, mother, nothing at all,” says Eliza. Then she calls out “Merry Christmas” as sweet as honey, but Madam Weaver didn't have any appetite for honey that morning. She didn't take a mite of notice of the “Merry Christmas.” “There is something the matter,” says she, “and I want to know what it is. Maria, you tell me what the matter is.”

Maria looked at Mrs. Job, and Mrs. Job looked at her. Then Mrs. Job answered, and she told an awful whopper. “I am afraid the squash isn't very good,” says she.

Then Madam Weaver sniffed. They couldn't hear her, but they knew it. “Making such a fuss about squash,” says she. “As far as I am concerned I don't care if I don't have any squash.” Then she sniffed again and stopped talking, but Maria and Mrs. Job knew she was listening, and they tiptoed into the dining-room and shut the door as softly as they could.

“I don't know what to think of it,” begins Mrs. Job, and then there comes a great pounding of a cane on the floor above. Madam Weaver knew they had gone where she couldn't overhear, and she was hopping mad. She pounded and pounded until it seemed as if she would have the ceiling down. “It's no use, I must go up there,” says Maria, and off she goes, and leaves Mrs. Job whispering after her, trying to keep her back. Poor Mrs. Job was really beginning to be scared. It did seem sort of queer to have her husband and a horse and carryall with a Christmas dinner and a tree disappear in three quarters of a mile of straight road. She couldn't stand it when she was left alone, so she called in Madam Weaver's colored girl, and told her about it, but she didn't get much comfort from her, for the girl was awful superstitious, and had a lot of stories about men who had disappeared in just that way down South and never come back.

In the meantime Maria was getting old Madam Weaver up. She wouldn't stay put another minute. She was pretty bright, and she suspected that that squash had just been a makeshift. Maria helped her get into her black satin dress, and fastened her lace collar, and tied her cap, and put her cane in her hand. Then she and the old lady came down-stairs, and the colored girl was just going out. “I do not allow Rosa to enter this room except for the purpose of laying the table and waiting,” says Madam Weaver, and Eliza sort of wilts. “Now there is no use trying to keep it from me any longer,” says the old lady. “I insist upon knowing what the matter is. I do not wish to hear anything more about squash. I wish to know what the matter is.”

Then Eliza, strong-minded as she was, gave it up. The old lady had a stronger mind than she, and she was really frightened.

“Job started for here over an hour ago with the dinner,” says she, “and he has not got here yet, and I don't know what has become of him, and the dinner will be spoiled.”

Maria told me afterward that she knew she was mean to do it, but she says, “And there was a Christmas-tree, too.”

With that the old lady did explode. “Christmas-tree!” says she. “I would like to know if you and Job have lost your wits. What on earth are you bringing a Christmas-tree here for?”

“I thought it would please you, mother,” says Eliza, speaking sort of cast down. “It is just a little tree. I meant to have it in the middle of the dinner-table and surprise you.”

Maria said it was as good as a play to see Madam Weaver's nose go up. “Surprise me!” says she. “What do you take me for, Eliza — a child in arms? I never had such foolishness in my house, and I rather think I am not going to begin now, when I am eighty and over, and ought to have sense if I am ever going to. A Christmas-tree for me!

Eliza gave up entirely then. She sat down and wiped her eyes. “I meant it for the best,” says she.

“A Christmas-tree for me,” says the old lady again, so insulted that she looked like a queen. But Eliza got her off on another tack.

“I'm sorry I ever thought of the tree if you don't like it, mother,” says she. “But where is Job?”

Then Madam Weaver began to be scared, too, but she was mad, and that kept her up. “Do you mean to say that boy started for here with that dinner, and driving, more than hour ago?” says she.

“Yes, he did.”

“Driving on a straight road, not more than three quarters of a mile,” says the old lady, sniffing. “If there had been a turn in the road I would think that the boy had one of his absent-minded spells that he inherited from his father's side; but a straight road! I don't see how he could go astray on a straight road. I have known Job to do very strange things, very strange things indeed, when he had an absent-minded spell, like coming home instead of getting on the train when he was going to Boston; and once he went to meeting with one of my bonnets on. He had taken it off the hall table, and never knew that it wasn't his hat; but this caps the climax.”

Then the old lady got pretty white, and sat down, and Maria got some port wine for her. But meantime Maria had been doing some sharp thinking. If Job Weaver was as absent-minded as all that he might do stranger things than ever as he got older. Maria said she begun to think how he had been born and brought up in the old Weaver house where his brother Horace lived, and how it was to that very house he had come home instead of going to Boston years ago. She didn't say a word, but she slipped out, and put a shawl over her head, and just ran up the street to Horace Weaver's. She didn't ring the bell. She just tiptoed up the steps, and peaked around a corner of the dining-room window, and there they were, as fine as you please, just finishing off that Christmas dinner. They had come to the pudding, and they all looked as happy as could be. The tree wasn't on the table, but stuck into a flower-pot, close to little Agnes, and she looked like a picture beside it. Her pretty little face was like a bouquet of smiles.

Well, it was a cold day, but Maria, she waited outside until they had finished the pudding, then she rang the door-bell and Horace's wife came. She had on a pink dress, old-fashioned — it has been one of her wedding dresses that she had earned herself working in the store — but it was a lovely color, and she looked lovely, and so pleased and hopeful. Maria wished her a “Merry Christmas,” and Lily answered with another; she had very nice manners, and then Maria asked to see Mr. Job for a minute, and he came to the door. Maria said that the minute he saw her, all she could think of was a bird that had been flying and had lit sooner than he expected, and didn't know whether to depend on his feet or wings. Mr. Job clapped his hands to his head, and all of a sudden remembered. He knew the minute he saw Maria that he had come to the wrong house and had not done what his wife had told him to do. Maria said he turned red, then pale, and just rushed into the hall, and came out with his hat jammed down over his eyes, and thrusting his arms into the sleeves of his great coat. Then he made a bee-line for the barn, and the first thing Maria knew he was driving that old horse at a gallop up the street to his own home. Maria said she always thought he was so scared that when he got there he jumped into bed and pulled the clothes over his head, like a baby in a thunder-storm.

Horace and Lily and little Agnes came out and stood looking after him. “Where has he gone?” says Horace. He looked sort of surprised, but real happy, and he didn't suspect a thing. He had always been used to Job doing something he didn't expect him to do all of a sudden.

“I guess he has gone home,” says Maria. Then she didn't wait for any more questions; she started for Madam Weaver's as fast as she could go, and went in the back way, and managed to get Eliza out in the kitchen without the old lady's knowing.

Well, Eliza, after Maria had whispered a little in her ear, was taken aback, but she wasn't the woman to give up the ship, and up the back stairs she scuttles and comes back in a few minutes with a note for Rosa to take to Job. “Run, Rosa,” says she, and Rosa ran, and it wasn't long before Job came driving up and he had the carryall loaded with Christmas wreaths from Eliza's windows, and a lot of cake, and a pair of silver candlesticks that somebody had given Eliza for a present; and she gave them to the old lady, and there was a monstrous chicken-pie with oyster-sauce. It had to be warmed a little, but it didn't take long, for it wasn't very cold. It was lucky that Eliza had baked that pie that morning, or there wouldn't have been any Christmas dinner at Madam Weaver's. As it happened, it was all right. The old lady was very partial to chicken-pie, and she didn't care much about turkey and fixings. She did say, for she was never one not to speak her mind, that it was the queerest Christmas dinner without turkey, and she was afraid that Job would be hungry, and Job just mumbled something and looked foolish. There he was just stuffed with turkey and vegetables and pudding, and having to eat another dinner on top of that. Maria said she didn't know but the poor man would be sick, for his mother kept worrying for fear he wouldn't have enough, and urging him to eat a little more, and he didn't dare refuse.

I don't know as Madam Weaver would ever have found out about it all, but after dinner when they were sitting in the parlor before the hearth fire, and she was looking at her candlesticks, and Eliza was looking at some silver spoons the old lady had given her, there was a little rush into the room, and there were Horace Weaver and Lily and the little girl. Poor Horace looked sick and thin and shabby, but his face was beaming, and Lily was frightened almost to pieces, but looking sweet; and as for the baby, she just gave her grandmother one look and jumped into her lap for all the world like a kitten that has always been petted and expects it of everybody. She was the most loving little thing, anyway, and such a little angel face as she had, and her mother had contrived to dress her up real pretty in a little white coat and bonnet made out of one of her own old dresses.

Well, old Madam Weaver sort of gasped at first and turned white, but she had grit. I suppose nobody will ever know how she had hungered to have that blessed baby in her arms. Over that little head she looked like a queen at Horace and Lily, but before she could speak Horace got in his word, and that saved the day. “Oh, mother, mother,” says he, “you will never know what it has meant to us, you will never know what you have done for us this day and how we will love and bless you for it all the days of our lives!”

“What have I done?” says Madam Weaver in a queer voice.

Then poor Lily begun, for Horace was actually trying not to cry.

“Oh,” says she, “to think of your sending over that beautiful dinner and the lovely tree for Agnes and this beautiful, beautiful pearl pin for me!” Then Lily began to cry.

“Who did you say brought the things?” says Madam Weaver still in that queer voice, but she bent her old head down and kissed the top of the child's white hood. Then she begun to untie the strings with her trembling old hands, shining with rings. “Why, brother Job brought them,” said Horace in his hoarse voice; and he looked at Job and he looked at his mother for all the world like a stray dog that has got home. He had beautiful blue eyes and the baby's were like his.

“I am very glad Job brought the dinner and the tree,” says Madam Weaver, and she took off little Agnes's hood and looked at her. Then she kissed her. “Is she dressed warm enough?” says she, feeling of her coat.

“Yes, ma'am, I think so,” says poor Lily trembling. “Her coat is all lined and wadded.”

Then old Madam Weaver looked at her, and the softest flush came over the poor girl's cheeks. She did not know what to say, and she was so anxious to please, and so grateful that Maria said she cried at the sight of her.

“You don't look very warmly dressed yourself,” says the old lady, and then Lily smiled, and said very prettily that she had not felt the cold at all.

“Come here, Horace,” says Madam Weaver, and Horace goes to his mother, and everybody looked away while she reached up and kissed him. “Tell your wife to come, Horace,” says the old lady, and she showed then a vestige of her pride, but neither Horace nor Lily minded. Horace's wife went to her mother-in-law and kissed her, and Maria said (she was always a little flowery) that it actually seemed to her as if she could see peace shining out in the room like a lamp.

Well, Horace and Lily and the child stayed there that night. Finally the old lady went to live with them in the old Weaver house, but she had a lot done to it first, for it was out of repair, and she kept her son and his family with her until it was ready. She hung onto Job and his wife that Christmas night, though they were dreadful uneasy and kept saying they must go, but she wouldn't let them until after Horace and Lily had gone up-stairs for the night. She made them go early. She said they looked tired, and they surely did. Maria said tired and thin and half starved, for one good dinner could not undo the lack of so many. When they had gone she turned on Eliza and Job. Job faced her like a man, but Eliza, she looked scared. The old lady laughed. “I see through it all,” says she, “if you did think I was far enough in my second childhood to rig up a Christmas-tree for me. I can see through some things that younger folks think I can't, and, what is more, they never will; but you meant well, Eliza, and I have more to thank you for than you planned.” Then she looked at Far-Away Job, and she laughed again real lovingly. “Job,” says she, “I used to spank you when you were a little boy for being so absent-minded, and going one way when I sent you another, but I rather think now that you know which is the right way better than I do if you are left alone. Anyhow,” says she, “you have taken a side track to peace this day, and given your mother a happy Christmas in spite of herself.”