HOW THE WIDOW WON THE DEACON
by William James Lampton
Of course the Widow Stimson never tried to win Deacon
Hawkins, nor any other man, for that matter. A widow
doesn't have to try to win a man; she wins without
trying. Still, the Widow Stimson sometimes wondered
why the deacon was so blind as not to see how her fine
farm adjoining his equally fine place on the outskirts
of the town might not be brought under one management
with mutual benefit to both parties at interest. Which
one that management might become was a matter of future
detail. The widow knew how to run a farm successfully,
and a large farm is not much more difficult to run than
one of half the size. She had also had one husband, and
knew something more than running a farm successfully.
Of all of which the deacon was perfectly well aware,
and still he had not been moved by the merging spirit
of the age to propose consolidation.
This interesting situation was up for discussion at
the Wednesday afternoon meeting of the Sisters' Sewing
"For my part," Sister Susan Spicer, wife of the Methodist
minister, remarked as she took another tuck in a
fourteen-year-old girl's skirt for a ten-year-old--"for
my part, I can't see why Deacon Hawkins and Kate Stimson
don't see the error of their ways and depart from them."
"I rather guess she has," smiled Sister Poteet, the
grocer's better half, who had taken an afternoon off
from the store in order to be present.
"Or is willing to," added Sister Maria Cartridge, a
spinster still possessing faith, hope, and charity,
notwithstanding she had been on the waiting list a
"Really, now," exclaimed little Sister Green, the
doctor's wife, "do you think it is the deacon who
"It looks that way to me," Sister Poteet did not
hesitate to affirm.
"Well, I heard Sister Clark say that she had heard
him call her 'Kitty' one night when they were eating
ice-cream at the Mite Society," Sister Candish, the
druggist's wife, added to the fund of reliable
information on hand.
"'Kitty,' indeed!" protested Sister Spicer. "The idea
of anybody calling Kate Stimson 'Kitty'! The deacon
will talk that way to 'most any woman, but if she let
him say it to her more than once, she must be getting
mighty anxious, I think."
"Oh," Sister Candish hastened to explain, "Sister
Clark didn't say she had heard him say it twice.'"
"Well, I don't think she heard him say it once,"
Sister Spicer asserted with confidence.
"I don't know about that," Sister Poteet argued.
"From all I can see and hear I think Kate Stimson
wouldn't object to 'most anything the deacon would
say to her, knowing as she does that he ain't going
to say anything he shouldn't say."
"And isn't saying what he should," added Sister Green,
with a sly snicker, which went around the room softly.
"But as I was saying--" Sister Spicer began, when Sister
Poteet, whose rocker, near the window, commanded a view
of the front gate, interrupted with a warning, "'Sh-'sh."
"Why shouldn't I say what I wanted to when--" Sister
"There she comes now," explained Sister Poteet, "and
as I live the deacon drove her here in his sleigh,
and he's waiting while she comes in. I wonder what
next," and Sister Poteet, in conjunction with the
entire society, gasped and held their eager breaths,
awaiting the entrance of the subject of conversation.
Sister Spicer went to the front door to let her in,
and she was greeted with the greatest cordiality by
"We were just talking about you and wondering why you
were so late coming," cried Sister Poteet. "Now take
off your things and make up for lost time. There's a
pair of pants over there to be cut down to fit that
poor little Snithers boy."
The excitement and curiosity of the society were
almost more than could be borne, but never a sister
let on that she knew the deacon was at the gate
waiting. Indeed, as far as the widow could discover,
there was not the slightest indication that anybody
had ever heard there was such a person as the deacon
"Oh," she chirruped, in the liveliest of humors,
"you will have to excuse me for today. Deacon
Hawkins overtook me on the way here, and here said
I had simply got to go sleigh-riding with him. He's
waiting out at the gate now."
"Is that so?" exclaimed the society unanimously,
and rushed to the window to see if it were really
"Well, did you ever?" commented Sister Poteet,
"Hardly ever," laughed the widow, good-naturedly,
"and I don't want to lose the chance. You know
Deacon Hawkins isn't asking somebody every day to
go sleighing with him. I told him I'd go if he
would bring me around here to let you know what
had become of me, and so he did. Now, good-by,
and I'll be sure to be present at the next meeting.
I have to hurry because he'll get fidgety."
The widow ran away like a lively schoolgirl. All
the sisters watched her get into the sleigh with
the deacon, and resumed the previous discussion
with greatly increased interest.
But little recked the widow and less recked the
deacon. He had bought a new horse and he wanted
the widow's opinion of it, for the Widow Stimson
was a competent judge of fine horseflesh. If Deacon
Hawkins had one insatiable ambition it was to own
a horse which could fling its heels in the face of
the best that Squire Hopkins drove. In his early
manhood the deacon was no deacon by a great deal.
But as the years gathered in behind him he put off
most of the frivolities of youth and held now only
to the one of driving a fast horse. No other man
in the county drove anything faster except Squire
Hopkins, and him the deacon had not been able to
throw the dust over. The deacon would get good
ones, but somehow never could he find one that
the squire didn't get a better. The squire had
also in the early days beaten the deacon in the
race for a certain pretty girl he dreamed about.
But the girl and the squire had lived happily ever
after and the deacon, being a philosopher, might
have forgotten the squire's superiority had it
been manifested in this one regard only. But in
horses, too--that graveled the deacon.
"How much did you give for him?" was the widow's
first query, after they had reached a stretch of
road that was good going and the deacon had let
him out for a length or two.
"Well, what do you suppose? You're a judge."
"More than I would give, I'll bet a cookie."
"Not if you was as anxious as I am to show Hopkins
that he can't drive by everything on the pike."
"I thought you loved a good horse because he was
a good horse," said the widow, rather disapprovingly.
"I do, but I could love him a good deal harder
if he would stay in front of Hopkins's best."
"Does he know you've got this one?"
"Yes, and he's been blowing round town that he is
waiting to pick me up on the road some day and make
my five hundred dollars look like a pewter quarter."
"So you gave five hundred dollars for him, did you?"
laughed the widow.
"Is it too much?"
"Um-er," hesitated the widow, glancing along the
graceful lines of the powerful trotter, "I suppose
not if you can beat the squire."
"Right you are," crowed the deacon, "and I'll show
him a thing or two in getting over the ground," he
added with swelling pride.
"Well, I hope he won't be out looking for you today,
with me in your sleigh," said the widow, almost
apprehensively, "because, you know, deacon, I have
always wanted you to beat Squire Hopkins."
The deacon looked at her sharply. There was a softness
in her tones that appealed to him, even if she had not
expressed such agreeable sentiments. Just what the
deacon might have said or done after the impulse had
been set going must remain unknown, for at the crucial
moment a sound of militant bells, bells of defiance,
jangled up behind them, disturbing their personal
absorption, and they looked around simultaneously.
Behind the bells was the squire in his sleigh drawn
by his fastest stepper, and he was alone, as the deacon
was not. The widow weighed one hundred and sixty pounds,
net--which is weighting a horse in a race rather more
than the law allows.
But the deacon never thought of that. Forgetting
everything except his cherished ambition, he braced
himself for the contest, took a twist hold on the
lines, sent a sharp, quick call to his horse, and
let him out for all that was in him. The squire
followed suit and the deacon. The road was wide and
the snow was worn down smooth. The track couldn't
have been in better condition. The Hopkins colors
were not five rods behind the Hawkins colors as
they got away. For half a mile it was nip and tuck,
the deacon encouraging his horse and the widow
encouraging the deacon, and then the squire began
creeping up. The deacon's horse was a good one, but
he was not accustomed to hauling freight in a race.
A half-mile of it was as much as he could stand, and
he weakened under the strain.
Not handicapped, the squire's horse forged ahead,
and as his nose pushed up to the dashboard of the
deacon's sleigh, that good man groaned in agonized
disappointment and bitterness of spirit. The widow
was mad all over that Squire Hopkins should take
such a mean advantage of his rival. Why didn't he
wait till another time when the deacon was alone,
as he was? If she had her way she never would speak
to Squire Hopkins again, nor to his wife, either.
But her resentment was not helping the deacon's
horse to win.
Slowly the squire pulled closer to the front; the
deacon's horse, realizing what it meant to his
master and to him, spurted bravely, but, struggle
as gamely as he might, the odds were too many for
him, and he dropped to the rear. The squire shouted
in triumph as he drew past the deacon, and the
dejected Hawkins shrivelled into a heap on the seat,
with only his hands sufficiently alive to hold the
lines. He had been beaten again, humiliated before
a woman, and that, too, with the best horse that he
could hope to put against the ever-conquering squire.
Here sank his fondest hopes, here ended his ambition.
From this time on he would drive a mule or an
automobile. The fruit of his desire had turned to
ashes in his mouth.
But no. What of the widow? She realized, if the
deacon did not, that she, not the squire's horse,
had beaten the deacon's, and she was ready to make
what atonement she could. As the squire passed ahead
of the deacon she was stirred by a noble resolve.
A deep bed of drifted snow lay close by the side of
the road not far in front. It was soft and safe and
she smiled as she looked at it as though waiting for
her. Without a hint of her purpose, or a sign to
disturb the deacon in his final throes, she rose as
the sleigh ran near its edge, and with a spring which
had many a time sent her lightly from the ground to
the bare back of a horse in the meadow, she cleared
the robes and lit plump in the drift. The deacon's
horse knew before the deacon did that something had
happened in his favor, and was quick to respond. With
his first jump of relief the deacon suddenly revived,
his hopes came fast again, his blood retingled, he
gathered himself, and, cracking his lines, he shot
forward, and three minutes later he had passed the
squire as though he were hitched to the fence. For
a quarter of a mile the squire made heroic efforts
to recover his vanished prestige, but effort was
useless, and finally concluding that he was practically
left standing, he veered off from the main road down
a farm lane to find some spot in which to hide the
humiliation of his defeat. The deacon, still going
at a clipping gait, had one eye over his shoulder as
wary drivers always have on such occasions, and when
he saw the squire was off the track he slowed down
and jogged along with the apparent intention of
continuing indefinitely. Presently an idea struck
him, and he looked around for the widow. She was not
where he had seen her last. Where was she? In the
enthusiasm of victory he had forgotten her. He was
so dejected at the moment she had leaped that he
did not realize what she had done, and two minutes
later he was so elated that, shame on him! he did
not care. With her, all was lost; without her, all
was won, and the deacon's greatest ambition was to
win. But now, with victory perched on his horse-collar,
success his at last, he thought of the widow, and
he did care. He cared so much that he almost threw
his horse off his feet by the abrupt turn he gave
him, and back down the pike he flew as if a legion
of squires were after him.
He did not know what injury she might have sustained;
she might have been seriously hurt, if not actually
killed. And why? Simply to make it possible for him
to win. The deacon shivered as he thought of it, and
urged his horse to greater speed. The squire, down the
lane, saw him whizzing along and accepted it profanely
as an exhibition for his especial benefit. The deacon
now had forgotten the squire as he had only so shortly
before forgotten the widow. Two hundred yards from the
drift into which she had jumped there was a turn in the
road, where some trees shut off the sight, and the
deacon's anxiety increased momentarily until he reached
this point. From here he could see ahead, and down there
in the middle of the road stood the widow waving her
shawl as a banner of triumph, though she could only
guess at results. The deacon came on with a rush, and
pulled up alongside of her in a condition of nervousness
he didn't think possible to him.
"Hooray! hooray!" shouted the widow, tossing her shawl
into the air. "You beat him. I know you did. Didn't
you? I saw you pulling ahead at the turn yonder. Where
is he and his old plug?"
"Oh, bother take him and his horse and the race and
everything. Are you hurt?" gasped the deacon, jumping
out, but mindful to keep the lines in his hand. "Are
you hurt?" he repeated, anxiously, though she looked
anything but a hurt woman.
"If I am," she chirped, cheerily, "I'm not hurt half as
bad as I would have been if the squire had beat you,
deacon. Now don't you worry about me. Let's hurry back
to town so the squire won't get another chance, with no
place for me to jump."
And the deacon? Well, well, with the lines in the crook
of his elbow the deacon held out his arms to the widow
and--. The sisters at the next meeting of the Sewing
Society were unanimously of the opinion that any woman
who would risk her life like that for a husband was mighty
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~