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- A Day Of Fate - 10/66 -


"I may be in error, but is not a piano one of the worldly vanities?" I asked, as she turned to comply. "I did not expect to see one here."

"Mrs. Yocomb kindly took this in with me. I could scarcely live without one, so you see I carry the shop with me everywhere, and am so linked to my business that I can never be above it."

"I hope not, but you carry the business up with you. The shop may be, and ought to be, thoroughly respectable. It is the narrow, mercenary spirit of the shop that is detestable. If you had that, you would leave your piano in New York, since here it would have no money value. '

"You take a nice view of it."

"Is it not the true view?"

In mock surprise she answered:

"Mr. Morton, I'm from New York. Did you ever meet a lady from that city who was not all that the poets claimed for womanhood?"

CHAPTER VI

A QUAKER TEA

"Richard Morton," said Mrs. Yocomb genially, "thee seems listening very intently to something Emily Warren is saying, so thee may take that seat beside her."

"Richard Morton," said Mr. Yocomb from the head of the table, "has thee made the acquaintance of Emily Warren?"

"No, sir, but I am making it."

"So am I, and she has been here a week."

"I should esteem that one of the highest of compliments," I said; then turning to her, I added, in an aside, "You found me out in half an hour."

"Am I such a sphinx?" she asked Mr. Yocomb with a smile; while to me she said, in a low tone: "You are mistaken. You have had something to say to me almost daily for a year or more."

"I am not acquainted with the article, and so can't give an opinion," Mr. Yocomb replied, with a humorous twinkle in his eye. "If the resemblance is close, so much the better for the sphinxes."

"Now, father, thee isn't a young man that thee should be complimenting the girls," his wife remarked.

"I've persuaded Silas Jones to stay," said Adah, entering.

"Silas Jones, I hope thee and thy parents are well," Mrs. Yocomb answered, with a courtesy somewhat constrained. "Will thee take that seat by Adah? Let me make thee acquainted with Richard Morton and Emily Warren."

We bowed, but I turned instantly to Miss Warren and said.

"Do you note how delightfully Mrs. Yocomb unites our names? I take it as an omen that we may become friends in spite of my shortcomings. You should have been named first in the order of merit."

"Mrs. Yocomb rarely makes mistakes," she replied.

"That confirms my omen."

"Omens are often ominous."

"I'm prepared for the best."

"Hush!" and she bowed her head in the grace customary before meals in this house.

I had noted that Mr. Yocomb's bow to Mr. Jones was slightly formal also. Remembering the hospitable traits of my host and hostess, I concluded that the young man was not exactly to their taste. Indeed, a certain jauntiness in dress that verged toward flashiness would not naturally predispose them in his favor. But Adah, although disclaiming any special interest in him, seemed pleased with his attentions. She was not so absorbed, however, but that she had an eye for me, and expected my homage also. She apparently felt that she had made a very favorable impression on me, and that we were congenial spirits. During the half hour that followed I felt rather than saw that this fact amused Miss Warren exceedingly.

For a few moments we sat in silence, but I fear my grace was as graceless as my morning worship had been. Miss Warren's manner was reverent. Were her thoughts also wandering? and whither? She certainly held mine, and by a constraint that was not unwelcome.

When she lifted her expressive eyes I concluded that she had done better than merely comply with a religious custom.

"The spirit of this home has infected you," I said.

"It might be well for you also to catch the infection."

"I know it would be well for me, and wish to expose myself to it to the utmost. You are the only obstacle I fear."

"I?"

"Yes. I will explain after supper."

"To explain that you have good cause to ask for time,"

"Richard Morton, does thee like much sugar in thy tea?" Mrs. Yocomb asked.

"No-yes, none at all, if you please."

My hostess looked at me a little blankly, and Adah and Silas Jones giggled.

"A glass of milk will help us both out of our dilemma," I said, with a laugh.

"An editor should be able to think of two things at once," Miss Warren remarked, in a low aside.

"That depends on the subject of his thoughts. But don't breathe that word here, or I'm undone."

"Richard Morton," said Mr. Yocomb, "I hope thee feels the better for mother's ministrations since we came home. Will thee pass thy plate for some more of the same kind?"

"Mrs. Yocomb has done me good ever since I followed her into the meeting-house," I replied. "I am indeed the better for her dinner, and I ought to be. I feared you would all be aghast at the havoc I made. But it is your kindness and hospitality that have done me the most good, i would not have believed yesterday afternoon that my fortunes could have taken so favorable a turn."

"Why, what was the matter with you then?" asked Adah, with wide-eyed curiosity; and little Zillah looked at me with a pitying and puzzled glance.

"A common complaint in the city. I was committing suicide, and yesterday became conscious of the fact."

"Mr. Morton must have hit on an agreeable method of suicide, since he could commit it unconsciously," Miss Warren remarked mischievously. "I read in Emily Warren's newspaper this afternoon," said Silas Jones, with awkward malice, "of a young fellow who got a girl to marry him by pretending to commit suicide. He didn't hurt himself much though."

The incident amused Adah exceedingly, and I saw that Miss Warren's eyes were full of laughter. Assuming a shocked expression, I said:

"I am surprised that Miss Warren takes a paper so full of insidious evil." Then, with the deepest gravity, I remarked to Silas Jones, "I have recently been informed, sir, on good authority, that each one instinctively finds and reads in a newspaper that which he likes or needs. I sincerely hope, my dear sir, that the example you have quoted will not lead you to adopt a like method."

Adah laughed openly to her suitor's confusion, and the mouths of the others were twitching. With the complexion of the rose at his button- hole Mr. Jones said, a trifle vindictively:

"I thought the paragraph might refer to you, sir, you seem so slightly hurt."

"I don't like to contradict you, but I cannot be this ingenious youth whose matrimonial enterprise so deeply interests you, since I am not married, and I was hurt severely."

"Thee had been overworking," said Mrs. Yocomb kindly.

"Working foolishly rather. I thought I had broken down, but sleep and your kindness have so revived me that I scarcely know myself. Are you accustomed to take in tramps from New York?"

"That depends somewhat upon the tramps. I think the right leadings are given us."

"If good leadings constitute a Friend, I am one to-day, for I have been led to your home." "Now I'm moved to preach a little," said Mr. Yocomb. "Richard Morton, does thee realize the sin and folly of overwork? If thee works for thyself it is folly. If thee toils for the good of the world, and art able to do the world any good, it is sin; if there are loved ones dependent on thee, thee may do them a wrong for which there is no remedy. Thee looks to me like a man who has been over-doing"

"Unfortunately there is no one dependent on me, and I fear I have not had the world's welfare very greatly at heart. I have learned that I was becoming my own worst enemy, and so must plead guilty of folly."

"Well, thee doesn't look as if thee had sinned away thy day of grace yet. If thee'll take roast-beef and common-sense as thy medicine, thee'll see my years and vigor."


A Day Of Fate - 10/66

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