From A New England Nun and Other Stories (Harper & Brothers Publishers; New York: 1891)
The moon came up over the mountain, and suddenly the shadows of the trees grew darker and more distinct. There were four great elm-trees in the Amesbury yard. Over across the road was a cemetery; back of that flowed the river; on the opposite bank of the river arose the mountain. The mountain was wooded to its summit. There were patches of silver on it, where some of the tree-tops waved in the moonlight.
Jonas Amesbury and his mother sat on the door-step; neither of them noticed the beautiful moonlight night much. Once the old woman remarked that the moon made it as bright as day, and Jonas did not even trouble himself to assent.
Jonas looked hardly more than a boy; his curly head had the blond lightness of a baby's; his round face was smooth and delicate. He sat on the lower door-stone, resting his elbows on his knees; his mother, a dark, sallow figure, sat on the upper one. She held herself rigidly, and did not lean against the door-casing. She was very tired, but her will would not let her old bones and muscles relax. Jane Amesbury never “lopped,” as she termed it. She was, in her way, a student of human nature and a philosopher. She divided women into two classes: those who “lopped” and those who did not. “I wa'n't never one of the kind that lop,” she used to say, with a backward lift of her head so forcible that it seemed as if her neck muscles were made of steel, and one listened for the click, “an' I ain't never thought much of them women that do lop.”
One looking at her easily realized the truth of the statement. Old as she was now, it was quite evident that Jane Amesbury had no more leaning necessity than a hardy tree over on the mountain. She required for her growth and support only a rude, stanch soil and a sky.
Her son Jonas seemed different; still, he had something of his mother's character. It was evident in a certain dignity and self-restraint with which he bore himself to-night. He was very unhappy. His mother was looking down upon him with tenderness and a kind of indignation. They had been silent for quite a while; when the moon arose it seemed a signal to them. It was with Jonas as if the shadows in his own soul deepened out, and it seemed as if his mother also saw them, for she began at once: “There ain't no use talkin' 'bout it,” said she; “there ain't no sense in a fellar's settin' right down an' givin' up, 'cause he can't git one particular girl. Marryin' ain't everything there is in the world nohow, if folks do act as if 'twas. Folks act like poor fools sometimes. I guess I know.”
The old woman gave her head a shake of rage and wisdom. Jonas said nothing. His face, in the moonlight, looked as fair and pretty as a girl's.
Presently his mother began again; she seemed to have a subtle ear for her son's thoughts, and to answer them like spoken arguments.
“I know she's a good-lookin' girl 'nough,” said she, “an' she's smart 'nough. I dun know as there is anybody 'round here that quite comes up to her; but that don't make no difference. Looks ain't everything, an' smartness ain't everything. There's plenty of girls that's good 'nough, if they can't tear the airth up or set the river on fire. These dretful smart, handsome folks are just the ones that flax out sometimes. They ain't nothin' more'n Fourth of July fire-works; there's more sputter an' fizzle than anything else when you come to find out. I don't think I should give up eatin' an' sleepin', an' go round lookin' as if I'd lost my last friend, on account of one girl, when there's plenty more that would have me. There's Emma Jane Monk —”
Then the young man aroused himself. “I guess,” said he, “when you see me going with Emma Jane Monk you'll know it.”
“Well, you can turn up your nose at Emma Jane Monk all you want to; she's as good as Rose Tenney any day.”
“What is it?”
“You can talk all you want to, but it ain't going to do any good. I suppose I ain't showing much spunk about it, and I know it ain't any worse for me than for other folks, and I ain't the first one that couldn't get the one he wanted. But I can't bear it, and I ain't going to; that's all there is about it.”
“What you goin' to do?” asked his mother, in a stern voice that had in it a frightened inflection.
“I don't know any more than a tree in the wind. I ain't doing anything; I'm being done with.”
“Jonas Amesbury, you make me mad talkin' such stuff. I don't see where you got such notions; for my part I know you didn't git 'em from me. Rose Tenney — h'm! S'pose she does curl her hair over her forehead, an' wear her dresses all girt in round her waist, an' act so dreadful soft an' sweet! Her folks ain't much, an' everybody knows it; everybody knows what old Joe Tenney is — stole all that land that belonged to his brother; everybody knowed he did it, if they couldn't prove it. I don't think Rose Tenney's got so very much to brag of nohow.”
“I'd like to know what good you think it does talking that way, mother?”
“Oh, I don't s'pose it does any good. I s'pose if all Rose Tenney's relations were strung up on the gallows in a row, you'd want her just the same.”
“Yes, I would,” said Jonas, in a fervent tone, tossing back his head like his mother, with a defiant air. He could fancy himself wedding Rose under the shadow of her swinging relatives, and see nothing ridiculous; he was in such an intense mood that humor was entirely barred out.
“Yes, I s'pose you would; it would be just like you,” returned his mother, sarcastically. Then she arose. “Well, I'm goin' in to set the bread a-risin',” said she. “I s'pose the bread might jest as well be riz, if you can't git Rose Tenney.”
Jonas did not reply; he got up and went strolling off across the yard. His mother entered the house — the door opened directly into the kitchen. It was dark except for the moonlight. Jane spoke as she stepped over the threshold.
“You there?” said she.
“Where be yer?”
“Over here by the winder.”
“Oh, yes, I see yer.”
Jane stepped over to the window, where another woman was sitting, and peered out into the yard.
“He's gone out of the yard,” said the sitting woman.
“You don't s'pose he's goin' down there, do ye?”
“No; he headed up the other way. I see him.”
Jane then sat down in a chair near the other woman, who was her unmarried sister. Her name was Elvira Slawson. Elvira was ten years younger than her sister; her blond hair was scarcely gray; she wore it in twisted loops over her ears; she was tall and thin, and her clothes were so loose that all her outlines seemed wavering; one shoulder was a little higher than the other; she had a slow, high-pitched voice.
Jane looked at her; she was in the shadow herself. “I s'pose you heard me talkin' to him, didn't ye?” she remarked.
“I heard a little on't; I couldn't help it. I was settin' right here.”
“Well, I dun know what he's goin' to do. I think it's a pretty piece of work, for my part.”
“You don't s'pose he'll do anything desprit, do ye?”
“Desprit? — no. If he does, I'll shake him. Desprit! I ain't got no patience with sech kind of work. Ready to pull the house down, 'bout a girl. I s'pose it's what they call — love! H'm! it's 'nough to make anybody sick! Love!” Jane's voice as she said “love” had a contemptuous drawl.
Elvira, with her head gently inclined to one side, looked doubtfully at her sister. Being supposed to have no acquaintance with love, she had more respect for him. “Well, I s'pose men do pretty desprit things sometimes on account of love,” she said, in a shamefaced way. She was exceedingly timid about alluding to such matters before her sister.
“Desprit things! Well, I s'pose some that's poor fools do, an' I guess it's good riddance to 'em. Folks that can't see nothin' in this world but the one sugar-plum they ain't able to git had better git out of it. Love!”
Jane arose; she went to the shelf and struck a match. “Goin' to mix up bread?” asked her sister.
“Yes, I s'pose so. I thought I'd have some riz biscuit in the mornin', Jonas thinks so much of 'em; but I don't s'pose he'll tech 'em even if I make 'em. He ain't eat enough to-day to feed a fly.”
The light flared out; Jane bent her brows over it to see if it were trimmed squarely. Then she went into the pantry for her mixing-bowl and flour. There was now and then a click as her heels struck the floor; the floor was worn into little hillocks, and the nails frequently protruded; one could see here and there one sparkle in the lamp-light. This was an old house; the underpinning sagged in places, and the rooms were full of crooked lines; not a door or window was straight.
Elvira watched her sister mix the bread. Jane did not lose a grain of flour in the process; her knotty fingers were deft and delicate from faithful practice. She left the mixing-bowl polished quite clean when she finally deposited the dough in the pans. There was little treasure in the Amesbury house, but none would be left clinging to the sides of it. Jane had made an appendix to the decalogue to suit her own exigencies; one of the new sins was wastefulness. She did all the housework; she privately believed Elvira to be nothing of a housekeeper. Elvira knitted a great deal of lace edging, and she sold yards of it to people in the village. She also furnished a store with some. She had quite a local reputation for her knitted lace, and was looked upon somewhat in the line of an artist. It was even rumored that she devised new patterns out of her own head. Her sister gave her her board, and all the money she spent was the proceeds of her lace-making. She knitted incessantly, and always had her lace with her in a little bag. Pretty soon she drew her chair up to the table where her sister was making the bread, and drew out her knitting.
“You ain't goin' to knittin' to-night?” remarked Jane, disapprovingly.
“I'm jest goin' to make one scallop.”
This lace was considered Elvira's masterpiece, being very broad and intricate. She bent over it, and knitted with a frowning forehead. The light was not very good. She wore spectacles.
“You countin'?” said Jane presently.
“I'd like to know the hull truth of it 'bout Rose Tenney.”
Elvira kept her eyes on her lace. “Do you s'pose she wouldn't have him?” she queried, timidly.
“I dun know; but I do know one thing: it wa'n't her fault if she wouldn't. I know a thing or two. I've had my eyes open. If that girl don't think 'nough of Jonas I'll miss my guess. I've seen her when he was round. A girl don't light up like a rainbow when she sees a fellar comin' if there ain't somethin' in the wind. She thinks 'nough of him. Old Joe Tenney's at the bottom of it. He don't think there's quite 'nough money here. I know him. Since he's got a little money himself, everybody else that ain't got it ain't any more than the dirt under his feet. Joe Tenney always thought more of money than anything else in the world. Cheated his own brother for the sake of it. I shouldn't think he'd want to say much.”
Elvira still kept her eyes upon her lace; a red flush mounted on her soft, flabby cheeks. “There didn't nobody really know he cheated him,” said she.
“Yes, they did know, too, well's they wanted to. Where did the deeds for that land go to, I'd like to know? They couldn't prove nothin', 'cause they wa'n't registered, but there wa'n't no doubt 'bout it.”
“I s'pose he thought that land belonged to him anyhow. You know they said he'd lent Henry consider'ble money. I guess some thought Henry'd agreed to give him them deeds, an' then backed out.”
“Elvira Slawson, if you want to stan' up for old Joe Tenney, you can. I should think you was 'bout old 'nough to be off the notion of that by this time.”
“I — dun know what you mean, Jane.”
“I know what I mean. Well, I s'pose it's — love.”
Elvira said no more. She kept her meek suffused face close to her lace. It was quite true that years ago there had been a love affair between herself and Joseph Tenney, and it had come to naught. Her sister had never done twitting her with it: all the prickles in her nature seemed turned against sentiment, perhaps because of its fancied softness, which made her indignant. She had nursed Elvira faithfully through the severe illness which her disappointment had brought upon her, and then had tried a system of mental cauterization to cure the wound. Any symptoms that led her to believe the cure was not complete caused her to apply the iron anew. Now she kept glancing sharply at Elvira over her lace; her lips were compressed, her nose was elevated sarcastically. But soon her anxiety over her son drew her thoughts away from her sister.
“I don't see where he is,” she said, standing in the door, after the bread was set away.
“Mebbe he's gone up to Jake Manson's.”
“I don't think he has, this time of night. Oh, there he is!”
Neither of the women said anything to Jonas when he entered the kitchen, but they watched him furtively. He went across the room to the mantel-shelf and lighted a candle. “Goin' to bed?” asked his mother then.
Jonas gave an affirmative grunt. He looked as if he had been walking fast, his face was flushed, and his fair hair lay damp and flat on the temples.
Pretty soon the women heard his steps on the stairs. “It's the greatest work I ever see,” said Jane. She went about and slammed to the doors and locked them; Elvira put up her lace-work. Then they went to bed in the little bedroom that opened out of the kitchen — they slept together.
A little after midnight Elvira awoke her sister — “Jane, Jane, wake up!” she whispered, fearfully. The dark seemed to loom over her and make her voice echo like a mountain. Jane did not awaken very easily, she had to speak again and shake her a little. When Jane finally aroused it was with a jerk. She sat straight up in bed. “What's the matter?” asked she, in a loud, determined voice.
“Oh, Jane, lay down again; don't be scart. I've jest had the queerest dream.”
“Elvira Slawson, you don't mean to say you made all this row an' waked me up out of a sound sleep for a dream!”
“You jest wait till you hear it. You lay down an' I'll tell you what 'twas.”
“I don't want to hear it, an' I ain't goin' to. I ain't goin' to listen to any such tomfoolery — wakin' me up out of a sound sleep! I thought the house was afire, or somebody was gittin' in.”
“I won't take but jest a minute, Jane.”
“I ain't goin' to hear it, an' that's all there is about it.” Jane lay down with a thud that made the feather-bed arise in billows.
Elvira begged hard, but she would not let her tell the dream. “If you don't stop carryin' on so I'll go in the spare bedroom an' leave you alone,” said she; “I ain't goin' to be broke of my rest this way.”
That threat silenced Elvira. All her life she had been afraid of the dark if she were alone in it.
With daylight she began again, but Jane was obdurate. She would not hear the dream at all. She did not believe in dreams. She had always had a contempt for them, and she held the opinion that repeating them caused one to dream more.
So Elvira carried about her dream all day, like a poet his unsung song. She would have told it to Jonas, but he was away all day haying in a distant field. The Amesburys owned this small farm, but their own haying was so meagre that it was done long ago. Now Jonas was hiring out to one of the neighbors. It was a relief to his mother to have him away all day; his miserable face stirred her to keenest agony and wrath. She was utterly distressed and despairing over his misery, and furious with him that he yielded to it.
“I don't see as he looked a mite different when he came home to supper,” she told Elvira that night, “and he hadn't eat half what I give him for dinner.”
“I wish you'd let me tell you that dream,” returned Elvira, eagerly and mysteriously.
“Elvira Slawson, if you don't quit talkin' 'bout that dream I shall go ravin' crazy. I've got enough to stan' up under without that.”
The two women were preparing for bed again, and Jane took the hair-pins out of her knot of hair with a conclusive air. Her hair hanging about her face gave her a fierce, haggard look.
“Well, of course I ain't a-goin' to tell it to you if you don't want to hear it,” returned Elvira, with some trace of dignity.
“Well, I don't want to hear it, an' I hope you'll remember it.”
But again Jane was awakened. This time Elvira clutched her desperately. “Jane,” she called, “wake up, for massy sake! I've dreamed it again.”
Jane sat up, took hold of her sister, and laid her down peremptorily. Elvira in her excitement had raised herself, and was bending over her. “Now,” said she, “you jest listen. I'm a-goin' to lay down again, an' if you speak another word I'm a-goin' into the spare bedroom. As for bein' broke of my rest again to-night, I won't.”
Elvira gave a little gasp, but she said nothing more. Soon Jane began to breathe regularly. It was three o'clock in the morning when Elvira aroused her again. This time Elvira had a firm clutch on her arm; her voice was quite loud and decisive.
“What do you mean actin' so?” Jane asked, feebly. She was now quite alarmed.
“I'm a-goin' to tell you my dream. I've dreamed it again.”
“Well, do tell it, for massy sakes. I never see sech work.”
“Jane, I've dreamed three times that I found a pot of gold in our field that joins Joe Tenney's oat field. It was under an apple-tree. I dug under it, and I found it.”
“It was an iron pot with a cover, like the one you boil beans in, an' it was chock-full of gold dollars.”
“Jane, where you dream about the same thing three times, it comes true. I've always heard it did.”
“I s'pose you believe it.”
“I dun know as I really believe, but I've heard lots of folks say there was somethin' in it. Don't you remember how mother dreamed three times runnin' how father was goin' on a journey, before he died?”
“Well, if you want to believe sech stuff you can. I wish you'd stop talkin'. I've been broke of my rest 'bout all I want to be. I dun know but I'll go into the spare bedroom anyhow. I s'pose jest as I git fairly to sleep again you'll dream it over again an' grab me.”
“Jane, don't you think it means somethin'?”
“It means I'm goin' into the spare bedroom, an' I ain't goin' to lay here talkin' 'bout it.”
“Don't, Jane; I won't speak another word.”
“You mind you don't, then.”
Elvira kept her word. She said no more that night, nor did she the next morning. She never alluded to the dream. She assisted about the dish-washing after breakfast; then she sat down with her lace. After a while Jane went out to feed the hens. When she returned she caught a glimpse of Elvira stealing around the corner of the house. “Where you goin'?” she called.
“I ain't goin' far,” answered Elvira, in a trembling voice. Jane strode after her, the hens' dough-dish in her hand. Elvira hustled along, but she soon caught up with her, and saw that she was carrying the shovel.
“Where are you going with that shovel?” asked Jane.
Suddenly Elvira faced her; she held the shovel like a staff. “I'm — a-goin' to dig.”
“Elvira Slawson, I never thought you was quite sech a perfect fool.”
“I don't care what you say, Jane, I'm goin' to be sure that pot of gold ain't there.”
“Well, you ain't goin' to dull up that new shovel diggin', nohow.”
“I jest as soon take the old one.”
Elvira went back and got the old shovel. Her sister sneered and argued all the way, but she paid no heed. There was on her mild face a kind of rapt expression, like a higher determination. She had gotten her revelation, however petty by comparison, Joan of Arc fashion, and was not to be turned back by banners and spears. Her mission was not to fight, but to dig, and she would dig.
She went forth with her shovel, and left Jane still talking. She did not return until noon; then her face was all flushed with the heat; she tried not to pant. There was a cup of tea and some bread and butter for dinner; they did not have a regular dinner when Jonas was not at home, and Jonas was still haying for the neighbor.
After dinner Elvira put on her sun-bonnet again.
“Then you ain't found the pot of gold yet?” remarked her sister, in a sweet, stinging voice. She had not spoken before except concerning food at the table.
“No,” said Elvira, “I ain't found it yet.”
“I should think you'd want to finish that lace you was workin' on some time. I should think you'd lose more money than you'll find in the wonderful pot.”
“I can finish the lace to-morrow,” replied Elvira, going out the door. She had left her shovel in the field. The afternoon passed, and she did not return. Jane got supper ready, and she had not come. Jane did not expect Jonas until late, and there was no one but herself at home for supper. She kept going to the road and looking. Finally she put on her sun-bonnet, and went down the road. It was not far to the field of Elvira's dream. On the farther side a stone wall divided it from Joseph Tenney's land; in the distance she could see the Tenney house — white-painted and piazzaed, a village mansion. The bars at the entrance of the field were let down; she passed through. There were five old apple-trees in the field. Around four of them were heaps of loose earth where Elvira had been digging. The fifth tree stood close to the wall that marked the Tenney land; its branches reached over it. Under this tree crouched Elvira, examining something. Her shovel lay beside her on the ground. Jane approached stealthily. Just as she reached the tree she heard a quick rustle on the other side of the wall; she looked, and saw Joseph Tenney's face through branches of pink dog-bane and over masses of poison-ivy. It was a handsome old face, clean-shaven and blue-eyed, but it was deathly pale. Elvira saw him too. She and Jane looked at him, and he looked at them; then he turned about and went homeward across the wet field, with a step like a slow march. If it was a retreat, it was a dignified one.
The minute Joseph Tenney went away, Elvira sprang up and grasped the shovel. Jane peered around her. “What you got there?” she asked. Then she repeated the question in an excited tone: “Why, what is it? what have you found?” She had seen a small iron-bound chest, with loam clinging to it; it was open, and overflowing with unfolded papers. She stepped forward, but Elvira was before her in the path. She held the shovel uplifted. “Don't you go near it!”
“Course I'm goin' near it. I'd like to know what you mean; I guess I've got jest as good a right to know what 'tis as you have. I should laugh.”
“If you come one step nearer I'll kill you!” Elvira's eyes were gleaming; there seemed to be sharp lights like steel in them; her face was white and resolute.
Jane started back: she was frightened. “Well, you can keep your old box if you want to,” said she. Then she went off across the field. Her sun-bonnet was tilted until it looked of itself aggressive and rampant; she never turned around.
She had not been home long when Elvira returned, leaning upon the shovel. She could scarcely walk, she was so exhausted. When she sat down at the supper-table she turned faint; she laid her head down on the table with a low groan. Jane sprang and brought some water. “It's the greatest piece of work I ever did see,” she said, bathing her sister's forehead.
Elvira began to weep. “Oh, Jane, I didn't mean to say such a dreadful thing to you!” she sobbed, weakly. “But I couldn't show it to you, nohow; I couldn't.”
“We won't say nothin' more 'bout it,” said Jane, shortly. “You'll be sick next. I don't care nothin' 'bout the old box.”
After Elvira had had her tea, Jane made her go to bed. She said nothing about the matter to Jonas when he returned. She thought he seemed more depressed than ever.
The next day, in the afternoon, Jane went down to the store for a little shopping. She had a plan to buy some gray flannel and make a nice shirt for Jonas to do haying in. She thought that might perhaps please him and cheer him a little. She was gone an hour. When she returned she found Elvira sitting on the door-step knitting her lace. There was a grape-vine around the door, and some of the light green sprays hung down over Elvira's head. Her face, bent over her lace-work, looked fair and peaceful. Her old muslin dress fell around her in soft folds. She was sixty years old, but she looked maidenly. When Jane stood before her she smiled up at her. Jane sank down on the door-step. “It's a dreadful hot day,” she sighed. She eyed Elvira sharply. She felt irascible, and as if she must let go her tongue. Her face was glossy with perspiration, her hands were black from her cotton gloves. She suspected that the flannel was a poor bargain. She eyed Elvira a minute, then she spoke. “There wa'n't no need of your bein' so mighty private 'bout that box. I knowed well 'nough what 'twas all the time.”
Elvira dropped the lace and looked at her.
“Mebbe you don't b'lieve it. Well, I'll tell you what 'twas: it was them deeds.”
Elvira was trembling violently. “Well, there ain't no harm in it if it was.”
“Mebbe there ain't; but that's what was in that box — them deeds.”
“His brother's dead now, an' they're his anyway. You can't do nothin'.”
“Oh, I ain't goin' to do nothin'. I wouldn't stir a step to tell it to a livin' soul. You needn't worry 'bout that. I ain't afeared but he'll git punishment 'nough some way. I sha'n't do nothin' to bring it on him.”
Elvira looked fixedly at her sister; her soft, drawling voice became quite firm. “Jane, he didn't do nothin' wrong 'bout that. He's told me all 'bout it.”
“Told you 'bout it? When?”
“Just now — this afternoon.”
“Has Joe Tenney been here?”
“Come over 'cause he was scart, I s'pose.”
“No, he didn't. He was goin' by, and I called him in. I wanted to tell him where I put it.”
“Where did you put it?”
“Under the stone wall, on his side. He told me all 'bout it; jest how it was.”
“I'd like to know how he 'counted for hidin' the deeds.”
“I can't tell you; I said I wouldn't; but he wa'n't one mite to blame.”
“Well, mebbe you believe it.”
“Course I believe it.”
Jane surveyed her blackened hands. Her right knee ached; she was rheumatic. “P'rhaps he'll have you yet, if you stick up for him so,” said she.
Elvira quivered and shrank; her eyes suddenly looked red and weak. “Jane, you know I'm past all that. There ain't no call for you to say sech things as that. Sech a thing ain't never entered into his head. He's been married to a real nice woman, an' he ain't thought of me once a year. 'Twa'n't ever much to him anyway; he wa'n't nothin' but a boy. He don't want me, an' I wouldn't have him if he did. I ain't no fit person for him. He can git somebody that's younger an' smarter if he wants anybody. I ain't nothin' to be married, an' I know it well 'nough.”
“You can talk that way all you want to; you'd have him fast enough if you had the chance.”
Elvira looked quite solemnly at her sister. “Look a-here, Jane,” said she, “mebbe you dun know jest what I mean; but it seems to me as if bein' sure that anybody was all right an' honest was the completest kind of bein' married that anybody could have.”
Jane stared at her for a moment; then she looked away; she did not say any more.
Elvira knitted for a few minutes; then she looked up. “I ruther guess,” said she, “that it will come out all right 'bout Jonas an' Rose.”
“What do you mean?”
“We talked it over some. I guess he thought Jonas hadn't got much, an' there wa'n't much sense in it, in the first place, an' he told Rose she's got to give him up; but I shouldn't wonder if he was kinder thinkin' better of it.”
“S'pose he's afraid we'll tell if he don't.”
“No, that ain't it. If you knew what I know you wouldn't say so.”
“Well, I dun know what you know, but you've got more faith in him than I have.”
Elvira's face was lifted; she looked past her sister with an expression as if she were looking at a shrine. “I know Joe Tenney is a good man,” said she.
The next day Jonas was at home working in the garden. In the afternoon a neighbor drove into the yard and called to him. He had brought a letter to him from the post-office.
Jane was peeping curiously from the window. “What is it?” she called out, after the neighbor had driven away.
Jonas stood out in the yard staring at the letter. “Oh, nothing much,” he answered. But smiles were playing all over his face. He went back to the garden, and whistled as he worked.
After tea he went up-stairs, and was gone quite a while. “I believe he's goin' somewhere,” Jane said to Elvira. “He washed him real particular, an' he's shaved him. I don't believe but he's goin' down there.”
When Jonas came down-stairs he had on his best suit; his curly hair was damp and trained in careful locks over his smooth young forehead; his cheeks were fresh and rosy; he held his neck stiffly in his clean collar and white necktie.
He stood in the kitchen and brushed his hat carefully. His mother and aunt were in the sitting-room, and he stepped softly, hoping they would not come out; but his mother looked out into the kitchen. “Where you goin'?” she inquired.
Jonas blushed beautifully like a girl. Then he laughed. “Oh, I ain't goin' far,” he replied, putting on his hat and passing out under the grape-vine.
Jane and Elvira sat up until he returned, although it was quite late. They heard his step out in the yard, and were alert when he came in. He was radiant. He stood in the door looking at them and smiling. “Well,” said his mother.
“I guess it's all right,” said Jonas. “I shouldn't wonder if one of these days you had a daughter.” His face was all pink and glowing, his yellow hair was dry, and the fluffy curls stood out around his forehead and caught the light. Elvira began to cry. His mother laughed and frowned together.
“Well, I hope you'll behave yourself an' eat somethin' now,” said she.
After he had gone up-stairs she went out into the kitchen to mix bread. “I guess I'll have some riz biscuit for breakfast,” she said to Elvira. “He didn't eat none of them others, but I s'pose he'll eat these fast 'nough. It beats me, but I s'pose it's — love.” She tried to say “love” as if it were a clod of mud, but in spite of herself she said it as if it were a jewel.