THE REVOLT OF "MOTHER"
BY MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN
"What is it?"
"What are them men diggin' over there in the
There was a sudden dropping and enlarging of
the lower part of the old man's face, as if
some heavy weight had settled therein; he shut
his mouth tight, and went on harnessing the
great bay mare. He hustled the collar on to
her neck with a jerk.
The old man slapped the saddle upon the mare's
"Look here, father, I want to know what them
men are diggin' over in the field for, an' I'm
goin' to know."
"I wish you'd go into the house, mother, an'
'tend to your own affairs," the old man said
then. He ran his words together, and his speech
was almost as inarticulate as a growl.
But the woman understood; it was her most
native tongue. "I ain't goin' into the house
till you tell me what them men are doin' over
there in the field," said she.
Then she stood waiting. She was a small woman,
short and straight-waisted like a child in her
brown cotton gown. Her forehead was mild and
benevolent between the smooth curves of gray
hair; there were meek downward lines about her
nose and mouth; but her eyes, fixed upon the
old man, looked as if the meekness had been the
result of her own will, never of the will of
They were in the barn, standing before the
wide-open doors. The spring air, full of the
smell of growing grass and unseen blossoms,
came in their faces. The deep yard in front
was littered with farm wagons and piles of
wood; on the edges, close to the fence and
the house, the grass was a vivid green, and
there were some dandelions.
The old man glanced doggedly at his wife as
he tightened the last buckles on the harness.
She looked as immovable to him as one of the
rocks in his pastureland, bound to the earth
with generations of blackberry vines. He slapped
the reins over the horse, and started forth
from the barn.
"Father!" said she.
The old man pulled up. "What is it?"
"I want to know what them men are diggin' over
there in that field for."
"They're diggin' a cellar, I s'pose, if you've
got to know."
"A cellar for what?"
"A barn? You ain't goin' to build a barn over
there where we was goin' to have a house, father?"
The old man said not another word. He hurried
the horse into the farm wagon, and clattered
out of the yard, jouncing as sturdily on his
seat as a boy.
The woman stood a moment looking after him,
then she went out of the barn across a corner
of the yard to the house. The house, standing
at right angles with the great barn and a long
reach of sheds and out-buildings, was infinitesimal
compared with them. It was scarcely as commodious
for people as the little boxes under the barn
eaves were for doves.
A pretty girl's face, pink and delicate as a
flower, was looking out of one of the house
windows. She was watching three men who were
digging over in the field which bounded the
yard near the road line. She turned quietly
when the woman entered.
"What are they digging for, mother?" said she.
"Did he tell you?"
"They're diggin' for--a cellar for a new barn."
"Oh, mother, he ain't going to build another
"That's what he says."
A boy stood before the kitchen glass combing
his hair. He combed slowly and painstakingly,
arranging his brown hair in a smooth hillock
over his forehead. He did not seem to pay any
attention to the conversation.
"Sammy, did you know father was going to build
a new barn?" asked the girl.
The boy combed assiduously.
He turned, and showed a face like his father's
under his smooth crest of hair. "Yes, I s'pose
I did," he said, reluctantly.
"How long have you known it?" asked his mother.
"'Bout three months, I guess."
"Why didn't you tell of it?"
"Didn't think 'twould do no good."
"I don't see what father wants another barn
for," said the girl, in her sweet, slow voice.
She turned again to the window, and stared
out at the digging men in the field. Her tender,
sweet face was full of a gentle distress. Her
forehead was as bald and innocent as a baby's,
with the light hair strained back from it in
a row of curl-papers. She was quite large, but
her soft curves did not look as if they covered
Her mother looked sternly at the boy. "Is he
goin' to buy more cows?" said she.
The boy did not reply; he was tying his shoes.
"Sammy, I want you to tell me if he's goin' to
buy more cows."
"I s'pose he is."
"Four, I guess."
His mother said nothing more. She went into the
pantry, and there was a clatter of dishes. The
boy got his cap from a nail behind the door, took
an old arithmetic from the shelf, and started for
school. He was lightly built, but clumsy. He went
out of the yard with a curious spring in the hips,
that made his loose home-made jacket tilt up in
The girl went to the sink, and began to wash the
dishes that were piled up there. Her mother came
promptly out of the pantry, and shoved her aside.
"You wipe 'em," said she; "I'll wash. There's a
good many this mornin'."
The mother plunged her hands vigorously into the
water, the girl wiped the plates slowly and dreamily.
"Mother," said she, "don't you think it's too bad
father's going to build that new barn, much as we
need a decent house to live in?"
Her mother scrubbed a dish fiercely. "You ain't
found out yet we're women-folks, Nanny Penn," said
she. "You ain't seen enough of men-folks yet to.
One of these days you'll find it out, an' then
you'll know that we know only what men-folks think
we do, so far as any use of it goes, an' how we'd
ought to reckon men-folks in with Providence, an'
not complain of what they do any more than we do
of the weather."
"I don't care; I don't believe George is anything
like that, anyhow," said Nanny. Her delicate face
flushed pink, her lips pouted softly, as if she
were going to cry.
"You wait an' see. I guess George Eastman ain't no
better than other men. You hadn't ought to judge
father, though. He can't help it, 'cause he don't
look at things jest the way we do. An' we've been
pretty comfortable here, after all. The roof don't
leak--ain't never but once--that's one thing. Father's
kept it shingled right up."
"I do wish we had a parlor."
"I guess it won't hurt George Eastman any to come
to see you in a nice clean kitchen. I guess a good
many girls don't have as good a place as this.
Nobody's ever heard me complain."
"I ain't complained either, mother."
"Well, I don't think you'd better, a good father
an' a good home as you've got. S'pose your father
made you go out an' work for your livin'? Lots of
girls have to that ain't no stronger an' better
able to than you be."
Sarah Penn washed the frying-pan with a conclusive
air. She scrubbed the outside of it as faithfully
as the inside. She was a masterly keeper of her box
of a house. Her one living-room never seemed to have
in it any of the dust which the friction of life
with inanimate matter produces. She swept, and there
seemed to be no dirt to go before the broom; she
cleaned, and one could see no difference. She was
like an artist so perfect that he has apparently no
art. To-day she got out a mixing bowl and a board,
and rolled some pies, and there was no more flour
upon her than upon her daughter who was doing finer
work. Nanny was to be married in the fall, and she
was sewing on some white cambric and embroidery.
She sewed industriously while her mother cooked,
her soft milk-white hands and wrists showed whiter
than her delicate work.
"We must have the stove moved out in the shed before
long," said Mrs. Penn. "Talk about not havin' things,
it's been a real blessin' to be able to put a stove
up in that shed in hot weather. Father did one good
thing when he fixed that stove-pipe out there."
Sarah Penn's face as she rolled her pies had that
expression of meek vigor which might have characterized
one of the New Testament saints. She was making
mince-pies. Her husband, Adoniram Penn, liked them
better than any other kind. She baked twice a week.
Adoniram often liked a piece of pie between meals.
She hurried this morning. It had been later than
usual when she began, and she wanted to have a pie
baked for dinner. However deep a resentment she
might be forced to hold against her husband, she
would never fail in sedulous attention to his wants.
Nobility of character manifests itself at loop-holes
when it is not provided with large doors. Sarah
Penn's showed itself to-day in flaky dishes of
pastry. So she made the pies faithfully, while
across the table she could see, when she glanced
up from her work, the sight that rankled in her
patient and steadfast soul--the digging of the
cellar of the new barn in the place where Adoniram
forty years ago had promised her their new house
The pies were done for dinner. Adoniram and Sammy
were home a few minutes after twelve o'clock. The
dinner was eaten with serious haste. There was
never much conversation at the table in the Penn
family. Adoniram asked a blessing, and they ate
promptly, then rose up and went about their work.
Sammy went back to school, taking soft, sly lopes
out of the yard like a rabbit. He wanted a game of
marbles before school, and feared his father would
give him some chores to do. Adoniram hastened to
the door and called after him, but he was out of
"I don't see what you let him go for, mother,"
said he. "I wanted him to help me unload that wood."
Adoniram went to work out in the yard unloading
wood from the wagon. Sarah put away the dinner
dishes, while Nanny took down her curl-papers and
changed her dress. She was going down to the store
to buy some more embroidery and thread.
When Nanny was gone, Mrs. Penn went to the door.
"Father!" she called.
"Well, what is it!"
"I want to see you jest a minute, father."
"I can't leave this wood nohow. I've got to git
it unloaded an' go for a load of gravel afore two
o'clock. Sammy had ought to helped me. You hadn't
ought to let him go to school so early."
"I want to see you jest a minute."
"I tell ye I can't, nohow, mother."
"Father, you come here." Sarah Penn stood in the
door like a queen; she held her head as if it bore
a crown; there was that patience which makes
authority royal in her voice. Adoniram went.
Mrs. Penn led the way into the kitchen, and pointed
to a chair. "Sit down, father," said she; "I've got
somethin' I want to say to you."
He sat down heavily; his face was quite stolid, but
he looked at her with restive eyes. "Well, what is
"I want to know what you're buildin' that new barn
"I ain't got nothin' to say about it."
"It can't be you think you need another barn?"
"I tell ye I ain't got nothin' to say about it,
mother; an' I ain't goin' to say nothin'."
"Be you goin' to buy more cows?"
Adoniram did not reply; he shut his mouth tight.
"I know you be, as well as I want to. Now, father,
look here"--Sarah Penn had not sat down; she stood
before her husband in the humble fashion of a Scripture
woman--"I'm goin' to talk real plain to you; I never
have sence I married you, but I'm goin' to now. I
ain't never complained, an' I ain't goin' to complain
now, but I'm goin' to talk plain. You see this room
here, father; you look at it well. You see there ain't
no carpet on the floor, an' you see the paper is all
dirty, an' droppin' off the walls. We ain't had no
new paper on it for ten year, an' then I put it on
myself, an' it didn't cost but ninepence a roll. You
see this room, father; it's all the one I've had to
work in an' eat in an' sit in sence we was married.
There ain't another woman in the whole town whose
husband ain't got half the means you have but what's
got better. It's all the room Nanny's got to have her
company in; an' there ain't one of her mates but what's
got better, an' their fathers not so able as hers is.
It's all the room she'll have to be married in. What
would you have thought, father, if we had had our
weddin' in a room no better than this? I was married
in my mother's parlor, with a carpet on the floor, an'
stuffed furniture, an' a mahogany card-table. An' this
is all the room my daughter will have to be married
in. Look here, father!"
Sarah Penn went across the room as though it were a
tragic stage. She flung open a door and disclosed a
tiny bedroom, only large enough for a bed and bureau,
with a path between. "There, father," said she--"there's
all the room I've had to sleep in forty year. All my
children were born there--the two that died, an' the
two that's livin'. I was sick with a fever there."
She stepped to another door and opened it. It led into
the small, ill-lighted pantry. "Here," said she, "is
all the buttery I've got--every place I've got for my
dishes, to set away my victuals in, an' to keep my
milk-pans in. Father, I've been takin' care of the
milk of six cows in this place, an' now you're goin'
to build a new barn, an' keep more cows, an' give me
more to do in it."
She threw open another door. A narrow crooked flight
of stairs wound upward from it. "There, father," said
she, "I want you to look at the stairs that go up to
them two unfinished chambers that are all the places
our son an' daughter have had to sleep in all their
lives. There ain't a prettier girl in town nor a more
ladylike one than Nanny, an' that's the place she has
to sleep in. It ain't so good as your horse's stall;
it ain't so warm an' tight."
Sarah Penn went back and stood before her husband.
"Now, father," said she, "I want to know if you
think you're doin' right an' accordin' to what you
profess. Here, when we was married, forty year ago,
you promised me faithful that we should have a new
house built in that lot over in the field before the
year was out. You said you had money enough, an' you
wouldn't ask me to live in no such place as this. It
is forty year now, an' you've been makin' more money,
an' I've been savin' of it for you ever sence, an'
you ain't built no house yet. You've built sheds an'
cow-houses an' one new barn, an' now you're goin' to
build another. Father, I want to know if you think
it's right. You're lodgin' your dumb beasts better
than you are your own flesh an' blood. I want to
know if you think it's right."
"I ain't got nothin' to say."
"You can't say nothin' without ownin' it ain't right,
father. An' there's another thing--I ain't complained;
I've got along forty year, an' I s'pose I should forty
more, if it wa'n't for that--if we don't have another
house. Nanny she can't live with us after she's married.
She'll have to go somewheres else to live away from
us, an' it don't seem as if I could have it so, noways,
father. She wa'n't ever strong. She's got considerable
color, but there wa'n't never any backbone to her. I've
always took the heft of everything off her, an' she
ain't fit to keep house an' do everything herself.
She'll be all worn out inside of a year. Think of her
doin' all the washin' an' ironin' an' bakin' with them
soft white hands an' arms, an' sweepin'! I can't have
it so, noways, father."
Mrs. Penn's face was burning; her mild eyes gleamed.
She had pleaded her little cause like a Webster; she
had ranged from severity to pathos; but her opponent
employed that obstinate silence which makes eloquence
futile with mocking echoes. Adoniram arose clumsily.
"Father, ain't you got nothin' to say?" said Mrs.
"I've got to go off after that load of gravel. I
can't stan' here talkin' all day."
"Father, won't you think it over, an' have a house
built there instead of a barn?"
"I ain't got nothin' to say."
Adoniram shuffled out. Mrs. Penn went into her bedroom.
When she came out, her eyes were red. She had a roll
of unbleached cotton cloth. She spread it out on the
kitchen table, and began cutting out some shirts for
her husband. The men over in the field had a team to
help them this afternoon; she could hear their halloos.
She had a scanty pattern for the shirts; she had to
plan and piece the sleeves.
Nanny came home with her embroidery, and sat down with
her needlework. She had taken down her curl-papers,
and there was a soft roll of fair hair like an aureole
over her forehead; her face was as delicately fine
and clear as porcelain. Suddenly she looked up, and
the tender red flamed all over her face and neck.
"Mother," said she.
"I've been thinking--I don't see how we're goin' to
have any--wedding in this room. I'd be ashamed to
have his folks come if we didn't have anybody else."
"Mebbe we can have some new paper before then; I
can put it on. I guess you won't have no call to
be ashamed of your belongin's."
"We might have the wedding in the new barn," said
Nanny, with gentle pettishness. "Why, mother, what
makes you look so?"
Mrs. Penn had started, and was staring at her with
a curious expression. She turned again to her work,
and spread out a pattern carefully on the cloth.
"Nothin'," said she.
Presently Adoniram clattered out of the yard in his
two-wheeled dump cart, standing as proudly upright
as a Roman charioteer. Mrs. Penn opened the door
and stood there a minute looking out; the halloos
of the men sounded louder.
It seemed to her all through the spring months that
she heard nothing but the halloos and the noises of
saws and hammers. The new barn grew fast. It was a
fine edifice for this little village. Men came on
pleasant Sundays, in their meeting suits and clean
shirt bosoms, and stood around it admiringly. Mrs.
Penn did not speak of it, and Adoniram did not mention
it to her, although sometimes, upon a return from
inspecting it, he bore himself with injured dignity.
"It's a strange thing how your mother feels about
the new barn," he said, confidentially, to Sammy
Sammy only grunted after an odd fashion for a boy;
he had learned it from his father.
The barn was all completed ready for use by the
third week in July. Adoniram had planned to move
his stock in on Wednesday; on Tuesday he received
a letter which changed his plans. He came in with
it early in the morning. "Sammy's been to the post-office,"
said he, "an' I've got a letter from Hiram." Hiram
was Mrs. Penn's brother, who lived in Vermont.
"Well," said Mrs. Penn, "what does he say about
"I guess they're all right. He says he thinks if
I come up country right off there's a chance to
buy jest the kind of a horse I want." He stared
reflectively out of the window at the new barn.
Mrs. Penn was making pies. She went on clapping
the rolling-pin into the crust, although she was
very pale, and her heart beat loudly.
"I dun' know but what I'd better go," said Adoniram.
"I hate to go off jest now, right in the midst of
hayin', but the ten-acre lot's cut, an' I guess
Rufus an' the others can git along without me three
or four days. I can't get a horse round here to suit
me, nohow, an' I've got to have another for all that
wood-haulin' in the fall. I told Hiram to watch out,
an' if he got wind of a good horse to let me know.
I guess I'd better go."
"I'll get out your clean shirt an' collar," said Mrs.
She laid out Adoniram's Sunday suit and his clean
clothes on the bed in the little bedroom. She got
his shaving-water and razor ready. At last she
buttoned on his collar and fastened his black
Adoniram never wore his collar and cravat except
on extra occasions. He held his head high, with a
rasped dignity. When he was all ready, with his
coat and hat brushed, and a lunch of pie and cheese
in a paper bag, he hesitated on the threshold of
the door. He looked at his wife, and his manner
was defiantly apologetic. "If them cows come to-day,
Sammy can drive 'em into the new barn," said he;
"an' when they bring the hay up, they can pitch
it in there."
"Well," replied Mrs. Penn.
Adoniram set his shaven face ahead and started.
When he had cleared the door-step, he turned and
looked back with a kind of nervous solemnity. "I
shall be back by Saturday if nothin' happens,"
"Do be careful, father," returned his wife.
She stood in the door with Nanny at her elbow
and watched him out of sight. Her eyes had a
strange, doubtful expression in them; her peaceful
forehead was contracted. She went in, and about
her baking again. Nanny sat sewing. Her wedding-day
was drawing nearer, and she was getting pale and
thin with her steady sewing. Her mother kept
glancing at her.
"Have you got that pain in your side this mornin'?"
Mrs. Penn's face, as she worked, changed, her
perplexed forehead smoothed, her eyes were steady,
her lips firmly set. She formed a maxim for herself,
although incoherently with her unlettered thoughts.
"Unsolicited opportunities are the guide-posts of
the Lord to the new roads of life," she repeated
in effect, and she made up her mind to her course
"S'posin' I had wrote to Hiram," she muttered once,
when she was in the pantry--"s'posin' I had wrote,
an' asked him if he knew of any horse? But I didn't,
an' father's goin' wa'n't none of my doin'. It looks
like a providence." Her voice rang out quite loud
at the last.
"What you talkin' about, mother?" called Nanny.
Mrs. Penn hurried her baking; at eleven o 'clock
it was all done. The load of hay from the west
field came slowly down the cart track, and drew
up at the new barn. Mrs. Penn ran out. "Stop!" she
The men stopped and looked; Sammy upreared from
the top of the load, and stared at his mother.
"Stop!" she cried out again. "Don't you put the
hay in that barn; put it in the old one."
"Why, he said to put it in here," returned one of
the haymakers, wonderingly. He was a young man, a
neighbor's son, whom Adoniram hired by the year to
help on the farm.
"Don't you put the hay in the new barn; there's
room enough in the old one, ain't there?" said Mrs.
"Room enough," returned the hired man, in his thick,
rustic tones. "Didn't need the new barn, nohow, far
as room's concerned. Well, I s'pose he changed his
mind." He took hold of the horses' bridles.
Mrs. Penn went back to the house. Soon the kitchen
windows were darkened, and a fragrance like warm
honey came into the room.
Nanny laid down her work. "I thought father wanted
them to put the hay into the new barn?" she said,
"It's all right," replied her mother.
Sammy slid down from the load of hay, and came in
to see if dinner was ready.
"I ain't goin' to get a regular dinner to-day, as
long as father's gone," said his mother. "I've let
the fire go out. You can have some bread an' milk
an' pie. I thought we could get along." She set out
some bowls of milk, some bread, and a pie on the
kitchen table. "You'd better eat your dinner now,"
said she. "You might jest as well get through with
it. I want you to help me afterward."
Nanny and Sammy stared at each other. There was
something strange in their mother's manner. Mrs.
Penn did not eat anything herself. She went into
the pantry, and they heard her moving dishes while
they ate. Presently she came out with a pile of
plates. She got the clothes-basket out of the shed,
and packed them in it. Nanny and Sammy watched.
She brought out cups and saucers, and put them in
with the plates.
"What you goin' to do, mother?" inquired Nanny,
in a timid voice. A sense of something unusual
made her tremble, as if it were a ghost. Sammy
rolled his eyes over his pie.
"You'll see what I'm goin' to do," replied Mrs.
Penn. "If you're through, Nanny, I want you to
go upstairs an' pack up your things; an' I want
you, Sammy, to help me take down the bed in the
"Oh, mother, what for?" gasped Nanny.
During the next few hours a feat was performed
by this simple, pious New England mother which
was equal in its way to Wolfe's storming of the
Heights of Abraham. It took no more genius and
audacity of bravery for Wolfe to cheer his
wondering soldiers up those steep precipices,
under the sleeping eyes of the enemy, than for
Sarah Penn, at the head of her children, to move
all their little household goods into the new
barn while her husband was away.
Nanny and Sammy followed their mother's instructions
without a murmur; indeed, they were overawed.
There is a certain uncanny and superhuman quality
about all such purely original undertakings as
their mother's was to them. Nanny went back and
forth with her light loads, and Sammy tugged with
At five o'clock in the afternoon the little house
in which the Penns had lived for forty years had
emptied itself into the new barn.
Every builder builds somewhat for unknown purposes,
and is in a measure a prophet. The architect of
Adoniram Penn's barn, while he designed it for the
comfort of four-footed animals, had planned better
than he knew for the comfort of humans. Sarah Penn
saw at a glance its possibilities. Those great
box-stalls, with quilts hung before them, would
make better bedrooms than the one she had occupied
for forty years, and there was a tight carriage-room.
The harness-room, with its chimney and shelves,
would make a kitchen of her dreams. The great middle
space would make a parlor, by-and-by, fit for a
palace. Upstairs there was as much room as down.
With partitions and windows, what a house would
there be! Sarah looked at the row of stanchions
before the allotted space for cows, and reflected
that she would have her front entry there.
At six o'clock the stove was up in the harness-room,
the kettle was boiling, and the table set for tea.
It looked almost as home-like as the abandoned
house across the yard had ever done. The young
hired man milked, and Sarah directed him calmly
to bring the milk to the new barn. He came gaping,
dropping little blots of foam from the brimming
pails on the grass. Before the next morning he
had spread the story of Adoniram Penn's wife moving
into the new barn all over the little village. Men
assembled in the store and talked it over, women
with shawls over their heads scuttled into each
other's houses before their work was done. Any
deviation from the ordinary course of life in this
quiet town was enough to stop all progress in it.
Everybody paused to look at the staid, independent
figure on the side track. There was a difference
of opinion with regard to her. Some held her to
be insane; some, of a lawless and rebellious
Friday the minister went to see her. It was in the
forenoon, and she was at the barn door shelling
peas for dinner. She looked up and returned his
salutation with dignity, then she went on with
her work. She did not invite him in. The saintly
expression of her face remained fixed, but there
was an angry flush over it.
The minister stood awkwardly before her, and
talked, She handled the peas as if they were
bullets. At last she looked up, and her eyes
showed the spirit that her meek front had covered
for a lifetime.
"There ain't no use talkin', Mr. Hersey," said
she. "I've thought it all over an' over, an' I
believe I'm doin' what's right. I've made it the
subject of prayer, an' it's betwixt me an' the
Lord an' Adoniram. There ain't no call for nobody
else to worry about it."
"Well, of course, if you have brought it to the
Lord in prayer, and feel satisfied that you are
doing right, Mrs. Penn," said the minister,
helplessly. His thin gray-bearded face was pathetic.
He was a sickly man; his youthful confidence had
cooled; he had to scourge himself up to some of
his pastoral duties as relentlessly as a Catholic
ascetic, and then he was prostrated by the smart.
"I think it's right jest as much as I think it
was right for our forefathers to come over from
the old country 'cause they didn't have what
belonged to 'em," said Mrs. Penn. She arose. The
barn threshold might have been Plymouth Rock from
her bearing. "I don't doubt you mean well, Mr.
Hersey," said she, "but there are things people
hadn't ought to interfere with. I've been a member
of the church for over forty year. I've got my
own mind an' my own feet, an' I'm goin' to think
my own thoughts an' go my own ways, an' nobody
but the Lord is goin' to dictate to me unless
I've a mind to have him. Won't you come in an'
set down? How is Mis' Hersey?"
"She is well, I thank you," replied the minister.
He added some more perplexed apologetic remarks;
then he retreated.
He could expound the intricacies of every character
study in the Scriptures, he was competent to grasp
the Pilgrim Fathers and all historical innovators,
but Sarah Penn was beyond him. He could deal with
primal cases, but parallel ones worsted him. But,
after all, although it was aside from his province,
he wondered more how Adoniram Penn would deal with
his wife than how the Lord would. Everybody shared
the wonder. When Adoniram's four new cows arrived,
Sarah ordered three to be put in the old barn, the
other in the house shed where the cooking-stove
had stood. That added to the excitement. It was
whispered that all four cows were domiciled in the
Towards sunset on Saturday, when Adoniram was
expected home, there was a knot of men in the
road near the new barn. The hired man had milked,
but he still hung around the premises. Sarah Penn
had supper all ready. There were brown-bread and
baked beans and a custard pie; it was the supper
that Adoniram loved on a Saturday night. She had
on a clean calico, and she bore herself imperturbably.
Nanny and Sammy kept close at her heels. Their eyes
were large, and Nanny was full of nervous tremors.
Still there was to them more pleasant excitement
than anything else. An inborn confidence in their
mother over their father asserted itself.
Sammy looked out of the harness-room window. "There
he is," he announced, in an awed whisper. He and
Nanny peeped around the casing. Mrs. Penn kept on
about her work. The children watched Adoniram leave
the new horse standing in the drive while he went
to the house door. It was fastened. Then he went
around to the shed. That door was seldom locked,
even when the family was away. The thought how her
father would be confronted by the cow flashed upon
Nanny. There was a hysterical sob in her throat.
Adoniram emerged from the shed and stood looking
about in a dazed fashion. His lips moved; he was
saying something, but they could not hear what it
was. The hired man was peeping around a corner of
the old barn, but nobody saw him.
Adoniram took the new horse by the bridle and led
him across the yard to the new barn. Nanny and
Sammy slunk close to their mother. The barn doors
rolled back, and there stood Adoniram, with the
long mild face of the great Canadian farm horse
looking over his shoulder.
Nanny kept behind her mother, but Sammy stepped
suddenly forward, and stood in front of her.
Adoniram stared at the group. "What on airth you
all down here for?" said he. "What's the matter
over to the house!"
"We've come here to live, father," said Sammy.
His shrill voice quavered out bravely.
"What"--Adoniram sniffed--"what is it smells like
cookin'?" said he. He stepped forward and looked
in the open door of the harness-room. Then he
turned to his wife. His old bristling face was
pale and frightened. "What on airth does this
mean, mother?" he gasped.
"You come in here, father," said Sarah. She led
the way into the harness-room and shut the door.
"Now, father," said she, "you needn't be scared.
I ain't crazy. There ain't nothin' to be upset
over. But we've come here to live, an' we're goin'
to live here. We've got jest as good a right here
as new horses an' cows. The house wa'n't fit for
us to live in any longer, an' I made up my mind
I wa'n't goin' to stay there. I've done my duty
by you forty year, an' I'm goin' to do it now;
but I'm goin' to live here. You've got to put
in some windows and partitions; an' you'll have
to buy some furniture."
"Why, mother!" the old man gasped.
"You'd better take your coat off an' get washed--there's
the wash-basin--an' then we'll have supper."
Sammy went past the window, leading the new
horse to the old barn. The old man saw him, and
shook his head speechlessly. He tried to take
off his coat, but his arms seemed to lack the
power. His wife helped him. She poured some
water into the tin basin, and put in a piece
of soap. She got the comb and brush, and smoothed
his thin gray hair after he had washed. Then
she put the beans, hot bread, and tea on the
table. Sammy came in, and the family drew up.
Adoniram sat looking dazedly at his plate, and
"Ain't you goin' to ask a blessin', father!"
And the old man bent his head and mumbled.
All through the meal he stopped eating at
intervals, and stared furtively at his wife;
but he ate well. The home food tasted good
to him, and his old frame was too sturdily
healthy to be affected by his mind. But after
supper he went out, and sat down on the step
of the smaller door at the right of the barn,
through which he had meant his Jerseys to pass
in stately file, but which Sarah designed for
her front house door, and he leaned his head
on his hands.
After the supper dishes were cleared away and
the milk-pans washed, Sarah went out to him.
The twilight was deepening. There was a clear
green glow in the sky. Before them stretched
the smooth level of field; in the distance was
a cluster of hay-stacks like the huts of a
village; the air was very cool and calm and
sweet. The landscape might have been an ideal
one of peace.
Sarah bent over and touched her husband on one
of his thin, sinewy shoulders. "Father!"
The old man's shoulders heaved: he was weeping.
"Why, don't do so, father," said Sarah.
"I'll--put up the--partitions, an'--everything
Sarah put her apron up to her face; she was
overcome by her own triumph.
Adoniram was like a fortress whose walls had no
active resistance, and went down the instant the
right besieging tools were used. "Why, mother,"
he said, hoarsely, "I hadn't no idee you was so
set on't as all this comes to."
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~