An Unwilling Guest

Mary E. Wilkins

From Harper's Bazar Vol. XIX No. 12 (March 20, 1886)

“I've been lookin' in the pantry, an' you 'ain't got a bit of cake in the house. I'm goin' to work an' make you a good loaf of cup-cake before I go home.”

“Oh! I wouldn't, Mis' Steele; it 'll be too much work.”

“Work! I guess I ain't quite so feeble but I can make a loaf of cup-cake.”

“You've got on your nice silk dress.”

“H'm! I ain't afraid of this old silk. Where's the eggs?”

“There ain't a bit of need of our havin' any cake — Lawson an' me don't eat much cake, anyway. Besides, he can make it.”

“Guess he 'ain't much time to make cake whilst he's plantin'. Besides, 'twould drive me crazy to have a man messin' round. Where'll I find some eggs?”

“I don't believe there's any in the house. You're real good to offer, Mis' Steele, but I don't believe there's any need on't.”

“Where'd the eggs be if there was any in the house?”

“I guess he keeps 'em in a little brown basket in front of the window in the pantry.”

“Here's the basket, but there ain't any eggs in it. Don't you s'pose I could find some out in the barn?”

“You don't want to go huntin' round in the barn with that good dress on.”

“Guess I sha'n't hurt it any.”

Mrs. Steele stalked out of the room, the little basket dangling from her hand. Her black silk dress rattled and her new shiny shoes creaked. She had on some jingling chains and bracelets, and long gold ear-rings with little balls attached, which swung and bobbed and tinkled as she walked.

Susan Lawson at the window could not see her, as she was faced the other way, but she listened to the noise of her departure. She heard two doors slam, and the creaking steps very faint in the distance.

“Oh dear!” said she. She pressed her lips together and leaned her head back. The clock ticked loud; a sunbeam with a broad slant of dancing motes in it streamed in the window. Susan's old face looked like porcelain in the strong light, which seemed almost to shine through it. Her skin was thin and clear, and stretched tightly over the delicate face-bones. There was a faint pink on the cheeks.

“Oh dear!” she said, the second time, when she heard the creaking footsteps nearer and louder. “Did you find the eggs?” asked she, meekly, when the door opened.

“Yes, I found the eggs, an' I found somethin' else. For pity's sake, Susan, what does Lawson mean by havin' so many cats in that barn?”

“I know it. I've said all I could to have him get rid of some of 'em.”

“Well, I guess I'd say, an' keep a-sayin', till he did. I don't believe I'm stretchin' it a mite, when I say I saw fifty out there just now. I hadn't any more'n shut the sink-room door before the evilest-lookin' black cat I ever saw popped its head out of a hole in the wall. Then I went a few steps farther, an' two or three scud like a whirlwind right under my feet. Much as half a dozen flew out of one corner when I went in to look for eggs. I declare I thought they'd scratch my eyes out; I was actually afraid of 'em. They were as black as minks, and they had the greenest eyes. The barn's alive with 'em. I don't see what Lawson's thinkin' of.”

“I know there's a lot; there was the last of my bein' about, when I used to go out there, an' I s'pose there's more now.”

“Why don't Lawson kill some of 'em?”

“I've talked to him about it till I've got tired of it. Two years ago he did get so far's to load the gun one afternoon an' go out in the barn. But I listened, an' it didn't go off. I guess he was kinder afraid on't; to tell the truth, he don't know much about fire-arms.”

“Well, if I was a man, an' couldn't fire a gun, I wouldn't tell of it. I'd risk it, but I could shoot some of them cats. I guess my barn wouldn't be overrun with 'em if I knew it.”

Mrs. Steele carried the eggs into the pantry; then she came back with a resolute look on her large face with its beetling nose. “Where is that gun?” asked she.

“Oh, Mis' Steele, you don't —”

“I ain't goin' to have you so overrun with cats if I can help it. If Lawson can't fire a gun, I can. The amount of it is, if one cat's killed, the rest 'll leave, and I'll risk it but I can hit one. I ain't afraid to try, anyhow. Where's the gun?”

Susan turned white. “Oh, Mis' Steele, don't.”

“Where's the gun?”

“You'll get killed. Oh, you will! you will! Don't! — please don't.”

“Get killed! I should laugh. What do you s'pose I'm goin' to do — point it at myself instead of the cat? Where is it?”

Mrs. Steele stood in front of the other woman, her large, short-waisted figure, in its smooth shiny black silk, thrown back majestically on her heels, and looked at her imperiously.

Susan felt as if her answer were a thread, and Mrs. Steele had a firm clutch on it, and was pulling it surely out of her soul. She had to let it go.

“It's in the back chamber,” said she. “Oh, don't!”

“You just sit still, an' not worry.”

Susan clutched the arms of her chair with her little bony hands, and sat listening. She heard the footsteps on the back stairs, ascending and descending, then, after an interval of agonized suspense, the sharp report of the gun.

Her heart beat so heavily that it made her tremble all over. She sat thus, her poor little house of life all ajar with the heavy working of its enginery, and waited. Two, three minutes passed, and Mrs. Steele did not come. Five minutes passed. Susan began to scream: “Mis' Steele, oh, Mis' Steele, are you killed? Mis' Steele, answer! Why don't you answer? Mis' Steele, are you killed? Oh! oh! Here I am, an' can't stir a step; p'rhaps she's bleedin' to death out there. Oh, where's Lawson? Lawson! Lawson! come — come quick! Mis' Steele's killed! Mis' Steele! Mis' Steele!”

“Susan Lawson, what are you hollerin' so for?” said Mrs. Steele, suddenly. Susan had not heard her enter amid her frantic outcries.

“Oh, Mis' Steele, you ain't killed?” she said, faintly.

“Killed? I'd laugh if I couldn't shoot a cat without gettin' killed. What have you gone an' got into such a stew for?”

“You was so long!”

“I thought p'rhaps I'd get aim at another, but I didn't.”

“Did you kill one?”

“I guess so. She ran, but I guess she was hurt pretty bad.”

Susan peered round at her. “Why, you look awful white, Mis' Steele. You ain't hurt, are you?” Susan was shivering now so that she could scarcely speak. Her eyes looked wild; her thin lips were parted, and she panted between her words.

“Hurt, no; how should I be hurt? I've been lookin' kinder pale for a few days, anyway; quite a number's spoke of it.”

“Why, Mis' Steele, what's that on your dress?”


“All over the back of it. Why, Mis' Steele, you're all covered with dust. Where hev you been? Come up here, an' let me brush it off. There's hay-seed, too. It's too bad — on this nice dress.”

“Land! I guess 'twon't hurt it any. I must ha' rubbed against something out in the barn. That's enough. I'm goin' to put my shawl on, an' that will cover it up. I'll take it off an' give it a good cleanin' when I get home. Come to think it over, I don't know's I'd better stop to make that cake to-night, if you don't care much about it. I'll come over an' do it to-morrow. It's a little later than I thought for, an' I've got to bake bread for supper.”

“I wouldn't stop, Mis' Steele. It ain't any matter about the cake, nohow.”

“She goes kinder stiff,” thought Susan, watching Mrs. Steele going out of the yard in her black silk and cashmere long shawl. “How beautiful an' green the grass is gettin'! I'm thankful she wa'n't hurt.”

In the course of a half-hour Jonas Lawson, Susan's husband, came up from the garden, where he had been planting peas. The woman at the window watched the tall, soberly moving figure. The broad yard was covered with the most beautiful spring grass, and the dandelions were just beginning to blossom. Susan watched her husband's spreading feet anxiously. “There! he's stepped on that dandelion; I knew he would,” said she.

Lawson opened the door slowly and entered. “Who was it fired a gun a little while ago?” said he. His arms hung straight at his sides, his long face was deeply furrowed, the furrows all running up and down. He dropped his lower jaw a good deal when he spoke, and his straight black beard seemed to elongate.

“Oh, Lawson, it was Mis' Steele. She skeered me 'most to death.”

Lawson stood listening to the story. “The gun kicked, most likely,” said he, soberly, when Susan mentioned the dust on Mrs. Steele's black silk. “It's apt to. It ain't a very safe gun; I'm 'most afraid of it myself. I reckon she got knocked over.”

“Oh dear! do you s'pose it hurt her much, Lawson?”

“Shouldn't be surprised if she was pretty lame to-morrow.”

“Oh dear! I wish she hadn't touched it.”

“I heard the gun, an' I thought I'd come up as soon as I got that row of peas planted, an' see if there was anythin' the matter. I knew you couldn't do nothin' to help yourself, if anybody was to kill you.”

Lawson plodded about, getting tea ready. Susan had been unable to walk for several years, and all the domestic duties had devolved upon him. She had taught him how to cook, and he did fairly well, although he was extremely slow and painstaking. Susan had been very quick herself, and sometimes it fretted her to watch him.

“It took him jest three hours and a half to make a pan of gingerbread this mornin',” she told Mrs. Steele one day. “It was real good, but it seemed as if I should fly, seein' him do it. He measured the flour over ten times — I counted.” She was all of a nervous quiver telling it.

Nobody knew the real magnitude of the trial which the poor vivacious soul had to bear, sitting there in her calico-covered rocker, with her stiff feet on a little wooden stool, from morning till night day after day. She fluttered and beat under Providence as a bird would under a man's hand; but she was held down relentlessly in that chair, and would be till the beating and fluttering stopped.

Lawson turned her chair about, as was the custom, that she might watch him preparing the meal.

He spread the cover on the table and placed the plates; then he was in the pantry a long time fumbling about.

“What are you doin', Lawson?” Susan asked, trying to peer around the corner.

“I — can't seem to see the knives anywhere. It's curious. I allers put 'em in one place.”

“Ain't they in the knife-box?”

“They — appear to be gone, box and all.” Lawson spoke in a tone of grave perplexity, and fumbled on.

“'Ain't you found 'em yet!”

“No, I — don't seem to see 'em yet. It's curious.”

“Oh dear! push me in there, an' let me see if I can't see 'em. Mis' Steele came in here an' righted up things,” said Susan, after sitting in the pantry and staring vainly at the shelves; “she must have put 'em somewhere else.”

They spread their bread and butter with Lawson's jackknife that night.

“Mis' Steele means real well,” said Lawson, laboring with the narrow blade, “but it seems as if she kinder upsets things sometimes.”

“I ain't goin' to hear a word again' Mis' Steele. She put 'em up somewhere; they're safe enough.”

“Oh, I 'ain't no doubt of it, Susan; we'll come across 'em. I don't mean a thing again' Mis' Steele.”

Lawson, after he had cleared away the tea things, fumbled again in the pantry.

“What are you huntin' for now?” Susan called out.

“Nothin' but my shavin' things. I don't seem to see 'em. It's curious.”

“Ain't they in the corner of the top shelf, where they allers are?”

“I don't seem to see 'em there. I guess mebbe Mis' Steele set 'em somewhere else. It ain't no matter. I was kinder thinkin' of shavin' an' goin' to meetin', but mebbe it's jest as well I didn't. I feel kinder stiff to-night.”

“Seems as if you ought to go to meetin'. You're sure they ain't right there?”

“I don't see 'em. I guess Mis' Steele must ha' put 'em up. Well, it don't make no odds.”

Lawson sat down and read the paper.

The next day Mrs. Steele came over, and revealed the knives and the shaving apparatus in the top drawer of a bureau in the kitchen.

“There wa'n't nothin' in there,” said she, “an' I thought you could use it for a kind of a sideboard.”

That day Mrs. Steele made the cup-cake and broached a plan.

“You be ready, Susan,” said she, standing with her bonnet and shawl on, taking leave; “I'm comin' over with the horse an' wagon to-morrow, to take you to my house.”

“Oh no, Mis' Steele!”

“You needn't say a word. You're comin', an' you're goin' to make me a good long visit.”

“Oh, I can't!”

“Can't? I don't see any reason why you can't.”

“I can't leave Lawson.”

“Goodness! if Lawson can't take care of himself six weeks, I should think 'twas a pity.”

“Oh, Mis' Steele, I couldn't stay six weeks.”

“Don't you say another word about it. I'm comin' over to-morrow, an' you be ready.”

“I couldn't git into the wagon.”

“Me an' Lawson can lift you in. Don't you say a word. You ain't goin' to sit in that chair without any change a day longer, if I can help it. You be ready.”

“Oh, Mis' Steele.”

But she was out in the yard, looking back at the window, and nodding emphatically.

When Lawson came in from his planting he found Susan crying.

“What's the matter? ain't you feelin' as well as common to-day?” he inquired, with long-drawn concern.

“Oh, Lawson, what do you think? — Mis' Steele's comin' over with her horse an' covered wagon to-morrow, an' take me over to her house, and keep me six weeks.”

“Don't you feel as if you wanted to go?” Lawson said, with a look of slow wonder.

“I'm scared to death. You don't think about it; nobody thinks nothin' about it: how I've been sittin' here in this house nigh on to ten year, an' what an awful thing it is for me to think of goin' out of it.”

“Don't you feel as if it might do you good?”

“Good! I've been lookin' at that grass out there. I feel as if I'd staid in this house so long that I'm rooted, jest as the grass is in the yard. An' now they're goin' to take me up root an' all, an' I'm only a poor little old worn-out woman, an' I can't stan' it; I — can't — stan' it!” Susan sobbed hysterically.

“It seems to me I'd tell her I couldn't come, if I felt so about it,” said Lawson, his face lengthening, and the long furrows in it.

“There's them lilacs an' them flowerin' almonds gettin' ready to blow under the window here. An' the yard's greener than I ever see it this time o' year.”

“The grass round Mis' Steele's place is uncommon forrard; I noticed it goin' by there the other day.”

“What do you s'pose I care about her grass? You can't git along alone, Lawson, neither.”

“Oh, I shall do well enough! I can make me some pies.”

“Yes, you won't make a thing but mince-pies, an' git sick, I'll warrant.”

“I was calculatin' to make some apple-pies.”

“Mis' Steele made some cup-cake to-day, an' I expect nothin' but that 'll make you sick, now I'm goin' away. It's rich. She put a cup of butter and two whole cups of sugar in it. I didn't know how to have her, butter's so high, but I couldn't say nothin'. She was real good to do it.”

In the night Susan aroused Lawson; she had thought of another tribulation connected with her prospective visit.

“Lawson,” said she, “I've thought of somethin' else. I can't go, nohow.”

“What is it?” asked Lawson, with his usual steady gravity — not even his sudden awakening could alter that.

“I 'ain't got a bonnet that's fit to wear. I 'ain't been out to meetin' for ten year, you know; an' I 'ain't hed a sign of a bonnet for all that time.”

“Is the one you hed when you was taken sick worn out?”

“Worn out? No; but it don't look nothin' like the bonnets they wear nowadays. It's as flat as a saucer, an' Mis' Steele's is high in front as a steeple. I ain't goin' to ride through the town in such a lookin' thing. I've got some pride left.”

But for all poor Susan Lawson's little feminine pride concerning attire, for all her valid excuses and her tearful, sleepless night, she went. She tied on nervously the flat Neapolitan bonnet, with its little tuft of feathery green grass, which had flourished bravely in some old millinery spring; the strings were grass green too.

Lawson and Mrs. Steele carried her out between them in her chair. Poor Susan in her old bonnet, coming out into the sweet spring world, was like the feeble blossoming of some ancient rose which had missed the full glory of the resurrection. The spring, which one thinks of as an angel, was the same, but the rose and the old woman were different. The old woman felt the difference, if the rose did not.

“Oh dear! I ain't what I used to be,” she groaned, as they hoisted her, all trembling with fear, into the wagon. “I can't do as I used to, an' my bonnet is all behind the times.”

Mrs. Steele's vehicle was a “covered wagon.” There was no opening except in front; the black curtains buttoned down closely over the back and sides. Susan sat, every nerve rigid, on the glossy back seat, and clutched the one in front firmly. Mrs. Steele sat there driving in a masterly way, holding the lines high and taut, her shoulders thrown back. The horse had been, though he was not now, a spirited animal.

Years ago a long stable at the right of Mrs. Steele's house had been well filled with horses. Mr. Steele had been an extensive dealer in them, and had thus acquired the wealth which his widow now enjoyed. She had always been well conversant with her husband's business, and now she liked to talk wisely about horses, though she had only one of their noble stock left.

“Ain't you afraid, Mis' Steele?” Susan kept asking, nervously.

“Afraid! Why, I've drove this horse ever since John died.”

“Then you're used to him?”

“I should hope I was. He's rather smart, but he's a pretty fair horse. He's been a little lame lately, but he's gettin' over it all right. He interfered goin' down that steep hill by Sam Basset's one time last February, an' hurt him. Two year ago I thought he had a spavin, but it didn't amount to nothin'. John always thought a good deal of this horse; he valued him pretty high.”

Susan looked with her wide, wondering eyes at a small galled spot on the horse's back, and thought innocently that that was the fraudulent spavin.

She watched every motion of the animal timorously, and felt such a glad sense of safety that she did not repine, as she had expected, when she was carried over Mrs. Steele's threshold by Mrs. Steele and her hired man.

But the repining came. Susan was quite prostrated from her unusual exertion, and had to lie in bed for several days. Stretched out there in Mrs. Steele's unfamiliar bedroom, staring at the unfamiliar walls, that terrible, anticipated home-sickness attacked her.

“I don't want you to think I ain't grateful,” she told Mrs. Steele, who found her crying one day, “but I do kinder wish, if I'm goin' to be sick, that I was to home in my own bed.”

“You ain't goin' to be sick,” pronounced Mrs. Steele, with cheerful alacrity; “an' if you was, you're a good deal better off here.”

In a few days Susan was able to sit up. Mrs. Steele arranged her complacently in a stuffed easy-chair beside her sitting-room window.

“There, Harrison,” she told her hired man that night, “that poor soul in there is goin' to take a little comfort for a few weeks, if I can bring it about.”

Harrison Adams, the hired man, had come into the service of the Steeles in his boyhood. Now he was married, and lived at a short distance; but he still carried on the farm for Mrs. Steele. She was not a woman to live idly. She could not deal in horses, but she could make a few acres profitable, and she did.

This man was all the servant she kept. She managed her house herself. She was a fine cook, and Susan, during her visit, could complain of no lack of good living. The house was comfortable, too; indeed, it was grand compared with the guest's own domicile.

But all this made no impression on Susan. The truth was that she had become so accustomed to her own poor little pebbles, and loved them so, that she thought they were diamonds.

Seated there in Mrs. Steele's soft easy-chair, she would sigh regretfully for her hard creaking rocker at home. She tasted Mrs. Steele's rich food, and longed for some of Lawson's cooking. She looked out of that pleasant front window on the broad road, with the spring garlands flinging over it and the people passing, and muttered, “It ain't half so pleasant as my window to home.” Mrs. Steele's fine sitting-room, with its brave Brussels and its springy hair-cloth, what was it to her own beloved kitchen, with the bureau in the corner, the table and stove and yellow chairs, and its voice — the clock?

On the morning of the day when the six weeks were up, Susan woke in a tumult of joyful anticipation. Nothing was said, but she supposed that her going home that day was an understood thing. So, after breakfast, she sat waiting for her hostess to mention it. Mrs. Steele was busy in the kitchen all the morning, the sweet, rich smell of baking cake floated into the sitting-room.

“Mebbe she thinks we'd better not go till afternoon; she seems pretty busy,” Susan thought, patiently.

But when the afternoon was spinning out, and Mrs. Steele sat sewing and said nothing, Susan's heart sank.

“Mis' Steele,” she said, timidly, “don't you think we'd better go before much later? I'm afraid it 'll be growin' damp.”

“Go where?”

“Why, goin' home.”

“Goin' home?”

“Why, I thought I was goin' home to-day; it's six weeks since I came.”

“Oh, you ain't goin' home yet a while; you're goin' to stay till you get better. Your visit ain't half out yet.”

“Oh, Mis' Steele, you're real good, but I feel as if I must git home.”

“Now, Susan Lawson, I should like to know what earthly reason you have for wantin' to go home. You can't do nothin' when you get there.”

“I feel as if I'd oughter get home. I've left Lawson a long spell now.”

“Nonsense! — a man that can cook as well as he can!”

“He won't make nothin' but mince-pies, an' get sick.”

“I didn't see but he looked well enough when he was here last week. You ain't goin', so don't you say another word about it. You're goin' to stay here, where you can be took care of an' have things as you'd ought to.”

“You're real good, Mis' Steele.”

Susan turned her face toward the window. There were tears in her eyes, and she saw the trees all wavering, the grassy front yard seemed to undulate.

Mrs. Steele watched her sharply. “I declare I'm 'most mad with her!” she said to herself when she went into the kitchen to get tea. “Seems as if anybody might know when they was well off.”

June came, and poor Susan Lawson still visited. Her timid entreaties and mild protests had availed nothing against Mrs. Steele's determined kindness. Once she had appealed to Lawson, but that had been fruitless.

“She don't want to go,” Mrs. Steele had assured him, following him to the door. “She'll be all off the notion of it to-morrow. Don't you do nothin' about it.”

“Well, jest as you say, Mis' Steele,” Lawson had replied, and gone home and eaten his solitary pie for tea undisturbedly.

In the second week of June, on Sunday afternoon, Susan was all alone in the house. Mrs. Steele had gone to church. It was a lovely day. The June roses were in blossom; there were clumps of them in the front yard. Susan at her window poked her head out into the sweet air, and stared about.

This poor old troubled face at the window, and the beautiful day armed against grief with roses and honey and songs, confronted each other.

Then the old woman began complaining, as if to the other.

“Oh,” she muttered, “there's roses and everything. It's summer, an' I ain't to home yet. I'm a poor old woman, that's what I am — a poor old woman with a longin' to get home, an' no legs. Oh, what shall I do? Oh dear! oh dear me!”

Harrison Adams came strolling up the road. He was not a constant church-goer. Susan eyed his swinging arms in their clean white Sunday shirt sleeves, and his dark red face with its sun-bleached blond mustache.

“Harrison!” she called. Her voice quavered out shrilly. “Won't you please come up to the window a minute?” she cried out again, when he stopped and looked around inquiringly.

“Anything wrong?” he asked, standing under the window and smiling.

“I want you to harness up an' take me home.”

“Why, Mis' Steele's got the horse,” the young man said, staring at her.

“Can't you git one somewhere — can't you?”

“Why, Mis' Steele 'll carry you when she gets home. 'Twon't be more'n half an hour.”

“No, she won't — she won't!” Susan's voice rose into a wail. “She won't; an' I want to go home.”

“Why, she would if you asked her — wouldn't she?” Harrison looked at her apprehensively. He began to think there was something wrong with her head.

“I've asked an' asked her.”

“Well, I should think it was pretty work if she wouldn't let you go home when you wanted to.”

“Mis' Steele means all right. I ain't goin' to hear a word again' her. She's done everything for me, an' more too; but she don't know how gold ain't yaller an' honey ain't sweet when anybody's away from home and wantin' to be there. She means all right.”

“Well, I don' know but she does; but it seems pretty hard lines if you can't go home when you want to,” said the young fellow, growing indignant and sympathetic.

“Can't you git me home somehow? I've got to git home; I can't stan' it any longer. It seems as if I should die.” She began sobbing.

Harrison stood looking at her; her little frail, quivering shoulders, her head with its thin yellow-gray hair, her narrow, knotty hands which covered her poor weeping face, her peaked elbows which seemed pricking through the sleeves, those pitiful, stiff, helpless feet on the cricket. Before this young man, with all his nerves and muscles, all his body-servants ready to obey joyfully and strongly his commands, this woman seemed like a little appealing skeleton, who, deprived of her own physical powers, and left stranded in an element where they were necessary, besought the assistance of his.

“I don' know,” said he. “I'm perfectly willin' to carry you home, if we can fix it. But you see the horse is gone.”

“Ain't there another you can git?”

“Nobody's but White's over there. They've gone to meetin', but I can get into the barn, I guess. But I don' know 'bout takin' you with him. He's an awful smart horse, jumpin' at everything. They don't drive him to meetin' because the women-folks are so scared of him. He ran away last spring, an' one of the boys was throwed out an' had his arm broke. I ain't afraid but what I can hold him, but you might get uneasy.”

“I ain't afraid. Harness him up quick.”

“Well, I'll do jest as you say. I can hold him fast enough, an' there ain't any danger really. I'll go an' see if I can get into the barn.”

“Hurry, or she'll be home.”

That black plunging horse had to be securely tied to the stone post while Harrison lifted Susan in. Then he unfastened him, and sprang for his life to the seat. Then they flew.

“Don't you be afraid, Mis' Lawson,” said Harrison, the veins swelling out on his forehead, his extended arms like steel. “I can hold him.”

“I ain't afraid.”

Harrison glanced at her. That old wasted face looked above fear. Her eyes were fixed ahead, and rapt.

“You're pretty spunky,” said he.

“I've allers been scared of horses, but I'm goin' home now, an' I don't care for nothin' else.”

The horse was somewhat subdued by the time they reached the Lawson place.

Susan gave a cry of rapture when they came in sight of it. Then she leaned forward and looked. Just a low, poorly kept cottage, with a grassy yard sloping to the road to the ordinary eye; but no one knew, no mortal could ever know, what that poor homesick soul saw there.

As they drove into the yard one of the black cats peered around the open door of the barn; her wild green eyes shone.

“How bright that cat looks!” said Susan, admiringly.

Presently Lawson opened the side door. He had an apron on, and his hands were white with flour.

“Oh, Lawson, I've got home!”

“I was jest makin' a few apple-pies,” said he, going out to the buggy. “I don't calculate to do such things Sunday, but I was drove yesterday, hayin', an' I got short. How do you do, Susan?”

When Susan was safely in the kitchen, seated in her old beloved chair, she leaned her head back, and closed her eyes with a happy sigh. “Oh!” she said, “I 'ain't never set in a chair so easy as this!”

Lawson stood looking uneasily at a bowl on the table. “I reckon I'll set this up,” said he; “it's a little mince-meat I had. I brought it out, but I didn't really think I'd use it; I thought I'd make a few apple-pies.”

“I'd make the mince ones, Lawson; I guess they'd taste good. You need somethin' hearty whilst you're hayin'.”

“Well perhaps it would be a good idea for me to.”

“Lawson, them cherry-trees out in front of the house are loaded with cherries, ain't they?”

Lawson stared at her. “There ain't a cherry on 'em this year,” said he; “I've been wonderin' what ailed 'em. Porter thinks it's that frost we had, when they were blowed out.”

“You'd better go an' look again by-and-by. I guess you didn't look very sharp; the trees was red with 'em. Them blush-roses is beautiful, too.”

“Why, there ain't one rose on the bushes.”

“I rather guess I know when I see 'em.”