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- Dawn - 40/52 -

"'Again'! Nonsense, Susan, we never did quarrel. Don't be silly." The youth shifted his position uneasily.

"I'm thinkin' tain't always me that's silly," observed Susan, with another keen glance. "That girl was gettin' so she come over jest natural-like again, every little while, bringin' in one thing or another, if 'twas nothin' more'n a funny story to make us laugh. An' what I want to know is why she stopped right off short like this, for--"

"Nonsense!" tossed Keith again, with a lift of his chin. Then, with an attempt at lightness that was very near a failure, he laughed: "I reckon we don't want her to come if she doesn't want to, do we, Susan?"

"Humph!" was Susan's only comment--outwardly. Inwardly she was vowing to see that young woman and have it out with her, once for all.

But Susan did not see her nor have it out with her; for, as it happened, something occurred that night so all-absorbing and exciting that even the unexplained absence of Dorothy Parkman became as nothing beside it.

With the abrupt suddenness that sometimes makes the long-waited-for event a real shock, came the news of the death of the poor old woman whose frail hand had held the wealth that Susan had coveted for Daniel Burton and his son.

The two men left the next morning on the four-hundred-mile journey that would take them to the town where Nancy Holworthy had lived.

Scarcely had they left the house before Susan began preparations for their home-coming, as befitted their new estate. Her first move was to get out all the best silver and china. She was busy cleaning it when Mrs. McGuire came in at the kitchen door.

"What's the matter?" she began breathlessly.

"Where's Keith? John's been askin' for him all the mornin'. Is Mr. Burton sick? They just telephoned from the store that Mr. Burton had sent word that he wouldn't be down for a few days. He isn't sick, is he?--or Keith? I couldn't make out quite all they said; but there was somethin' about Keith. They ain't either of 'em sick, are they?"

"Oh, no, they're both well--very well, thank you." There was an air, half elation, half superiority, about Susan that was vaguely irritating to Mrs. McGuire.

"Well, you needn't be so secret about it, Susan," she began a little haughtily. But Susan tossed her head with a light laugh.

"Secret! I guess 't won't be no secret long. Mr. Daniel Burton an' Master Keith have gone away, Mis' McGuire."

"Away! You mean--a--a vacation?" frowned Mrs. McGuire doubtfully.

Susan laughed again, still with that irritating air of superiority.

"Well, hardly. This ain't no pleasure exertion, Mis' McGuire. Still, on the other hand, Daniel Burton wouldn't be half humane if he didn't get some pleasure out of it, though he wouldn't so demean himself as to show it, of course. Mis' Nancy Holworthy is dead, Mis' McGuire. We had the signification last night."

"Not--you don't mean THE Nancy Holworthy--the one that's got the money!" The excited interest in Mrs. McGuire's face and voice was as great as even Susan herself could have desired.

Susan obviously swelled with the glory of the occasion, though she still spoke with cold loftiness.

"The one and the same, Mis' McGuire."

"My stars an' stockin's, you don't say! An' they've gone to the funeral?"

"They have."

"An' they'll get the money now, I s'pose."

"They will."

"But are you sure? You know sometimes when folks expect the money they don't get it. It's been willed away to some one else."

"Yes, I know. But't won't be here," spoke Susan with decision. "Mis' Holworthy couldn't if she'd wanted to. It's all foreordained an' fixed beforehand. Daniel Burton was to get jest the annual while she lived, an' then the whole in a plump sum when she died. Well, she's dead, an' now he gets it. An' a right tidy little sum it is, too."

"Was she awful rich, Susan?"

"More'n a hundred thousand. A hundred an' fifty, I've heard say."

"My gracious me! An' to think of Daniel Burton havin' a hundred and fifty thousand dollars! What in the world will he do with it?"

Susan's chin came up superbly.

"Well, I can tell you one thing he'll do, Mis' McGuire. He'll stop peddlin' peas an' beans over that counter down there, an' retire to a life of ease an' laxity with his paint-brushes, as he ought to. An' he'll have somethin' fit to eat an' wear, an' Keith will, too. An' furthermore an' likewise you'll see SOME difference in this place, or my name ain't Susan Betts. Them two men have got an awful lot to live up to, an' I mean they shall understand it right away."

"Which explains this array of china an' silver, I take it," observed Mrs. McGuire dryly.

"Eh? What?" frowned Susan doubtfully; then her face cleared. "Yes, that's jest it. They've got to have things now fitted up to their new estation. We shall get more, too. We need some new teaspoons an' forks. An' I want 'em to get some of them bunion spoons."

"BUNION spoons!"

"Yes--when you eat soup out of them two-handled cups, you know. Or maybe you don't know," she corrected herself, at the odd expression that had come to Mrs. McGuire's face. "But I do. Mrs. Professor Hinkley used to have 'em. They're awful pretty an' stylish, too. And we've got to have a lot of other things--new china, an' some cut- glass, an'--"

"Well, it strikes me," interrupted Mrs. McGuire severely, "that Daniel Burton had better be puttin' his money into Liberty Bonds an' Red Cross work, instead of silver spoons an' cut-glass, in these war- times. An'--"

"My lan', Mis' McGuire!" With the sudden exclamation Susan had dropped the spoon she was polishing. Her eyes, wild and incredulous, were staring straight into the startled eyes of the woman opposite. "Do you know? Since that yeller telegram came last night tellin' us Nancy Holworthy was dead, I hain't even once thought of--the war."

"Well, I guess you would think of it--if you had my John right before you all the time." With a bitter sigh Mrs. McGuire had relaxed in her chair. "You wouldn't need anything else."

"Humph! I don't need anything else with Daniel Burton 'round."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, I mean that that man don't do nothin' but read war an' talk war every minute he's in the house. An' what with them wheatless days an' meatless days, he fairly EATS war. You heard my poem on them meatless, wheatless days, didn't you?"

Mrs. McGuire shook her head listlessly. Her somber eyes were on the lonely figure of her son on the porch across the two back yards.

"You didn't? Well, I'll say it to you, then. 'Tain't much; still, it's kind of good, in a way. I hain't written hardly anything lately; but I did write this:

We've a wheatless day, An' a meatless day, An' a tasteless, wasteless, sweetless day.

But with never a pause, For the good of the cause, We'd even consent to an eatless day.

"An' we would, too, of course.

"An' as far as that's concerned, there's a good many other kinds of 'less days that I'm thinkin' wouldn't hurt none of us. How about a fretless day an' a worryless day? Wouldn't they be great? An' only think what a talkless day'd mean in some households I could mention. Oh, of course, present comp'ny always accentuated," she hastened to add with a sly chuckle, as Mrs. McGuire stirred into sudden resentment.

"Humph!" subsided Mrs. McGuire, still a little resentfully.

"An' I'm free to confess that there's some kinds of 'less days that we've already got plenty of," went on Susan, after a moment's thoughtful pause. "There is folks that take quite enough workless days, an' laughless days, an' pityless days, an' thankless days. My lan', there ain't no end to them kind, as any one can see. An' there was them heatless days last winter--I guess no one was hankerin' for more of THEM. Oh, 'course I understand that that was just preservation of coal, an' that 'twas necessary, an' all that. An' that's another thing, too--this preservation business. I'd like to add a few things to that, an' make 'em preserve in fault-findin', an' crossness, an' backbitin', an' gossip, as well as in coal, an' sugar, an' wheat, an' beef."

Mrs. McGuire gave a short laugh.

"My goodness, Susan Betts, if you ain't the limit, an' no mistake! I s'pose you mean CONservation."

"Heh? What's that? Well, CONservation, then. What's the difference, anyway?" she scoffed a bit testily. Then, abruptly, her face changed. "But, there! this ain't settlin' what I'm going to do with Daniel Burton," she finished with a profound sigh.

Dawn - 40/52

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