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- Main-Travelled Roads - 40/56 -
"You hush up," retorted he. "I'll come when I git ready, not till. I'll be glad when you're gone-"
"Yes, I warrant that."
With which arniable good nlght they went off to sleep, or at least she did, while he lay awake, pondering on "where under the sun she was goin' t' raise that money."
The next day she was up bright and early, working away on her own affairs, ignoring Ripley totally, the fixed look of resolutlon still on her little old wrinkled face. She killed a hen and dressed and baked it She fried up a pan of doughnuts and made a cake. She was engaged on the doughnuts when a neighbor came in, one of those women who take it as a personal affront when anyone in the neighborhood does anything without asking their advice. She was fat, and could talk a man blind in three minutes by the watch.
"What's this I hear, Mis' Ripley?"
"I dun know. I expect you hear about all they is goin' on in this neighborhood," replied Mrs. Ripley with crushing bluntness; but the gossip did not flinch.
"Well, Sett Turner told me that her husband told her that Ripley told him that you was goin' back East on a visit."
"Waal, what of it?"
"Well, air yeh?"
"The Lord willin' an' the weather permitin', I expect to be."
"Good land, I want to know! Well, well! I never was so astonished in my life. I said, says I, 'It can't be.' 'Well,' ses 'e, 'tha's what she told me,' ses 'e. 'But,' ses I, 'she is the last woman in the world to go gallivantin' off East,' ses I. An' ses he, 'But it comes from good authority,' ses he. 'Well, then, it must be so,' ses I. But, land sakes! do tell me all about it. How come you to make up y'r mind? Ail these years you've been kind a-talkin' it over, an' now y'r actshelly goin'-Waal, I never! 'I s'pose Ripley furnishes the money,' ses I to him. 'Well, no,' ses 'e. 'Ripley says he'll be blowed if he sees where the money's comin' from,' ses 'e; and ses I, 'But maybe she's jest jokin',' ses I. 'Not much,' he says. S' 'e: 'Ripley believes she's goin' fast enough. He's jest as anxious to find out as we be-'"
Here Mrs. Doudney paused for breath; she had walked so fast and had rested so little that her interminable flow of "ses I's" and "ses he's" ceased necessarily. She had reached, moreover, the point of most vital interest-the money.
"An' you'll find out jest 'bout as soon as he does," was the dry response from the figure hovering over the stove, and with all her maneuvering that was all she got.
All day Ripley went about his work exceedingly thoughtful for him. It was cold, blustering weather. The wind rustled among the cornstalks with a wild and mournful sound, the geese and ducks went sprawling down the wind, and horses' coats were ruffled and backs raised.
The old man was husking corn alone in the field, his spare form rigged out in two or three ragged coats, his hands inserted in a pair of gloves minus nearly all the fingers, his thumbs done up in "stalls," and his feet thrust into huge coarse boots. During the middle of the day the frozen ground thawed, and the mud stuck to his boots, and the "down ears" wet and chapped his hands, already worn to the quick. Toward night it grew colder and threatened snow. In spite of all these attacks he kept his cheerfulness, and though he was very tired, he was softened in temper.
Having plenty of time to think matters over, he had come to the conclusion "that the old woman needed a play spell. I ain't likely to be no richer next year than I am this one; if I wait till I'm able to send her she won't never go. I calc'late I c'n git enough out o' them shoats to send her. I'd kind a 'lotted on eat'n' them pigs done up mto sassengers, but if the ol' woman goes East, Tukey an' me'll kind a haff to pull through without 'em. We'll. have a turkey f'r Thanksgivin', an' a chicken once 'n a while. Lord! But we'll miss the gravy on the flapjacks. Amen!" (He smacked his lips over the thought of the lost dainty.) "But let 'er rip! We can stand it. Then there is my buffalo overcoat. I'd kind a calc'lated on havin' a buffalo-but that's gone up the spout along with them sassengers."
These heroic sacrifices having been determined upon, he put them into effect at once.
This he was able to do, for his corn rows ran alongside the road leading to Cedarville, and his neighbors were passing almost all hours of the day.
It would have softened Jane Ripley's heart could she have seen his bent and stiffened form amid the corn rows, the cold wind piercing to the bone through his threadbare and insufficient clothing. The rising wind sent the snow rattling among the moaning stalks at intervals. The cold made his poor dim eyes water, and he had to stop now and then to swing his arms about his chest to warm them. His voice was hoarse with shouting at the shivering team.
That night, as Mrs. Ripley was clearing the dishes away, she got to thinking about the departure of the next day, and she began to soften. She gave way to a few tears when little Tewksbury Gilchrist, her grandson, came up and stood beside her.
"Gran'ma, you ain't goin' to stay away always, are yeh?"
"Why, course not, Tukey. What made y' think that?"
"Well, y' ain't told us nawfliln' 'tall about it. An' yeb kind o' look 'sif yeh was mad."
"Well, Lain't mad; I'm jest a-thinkin', Tukey. Y'see, I come away from them hills when I was a little glrl a'most; before I married y'r grandad. And I ain't never been back. 'Most all my folks is there, souny, an' we've been s' poor all these years I couldn't seem t' never get started. Now, when I'm 'most ready t' go, I feel kind a queer-'sif I'd cry."
And cry she did, while little Tewksbury stood patting her trembling hands. Hearing Ripley's step on the porch, she rose hastily and, drying her eyes, plunged at the work again. Ripley came in with a big armful of wood, which he rolled into the woodbox with a thundering crash. Then he pulled off his mittens, slapped them together to knock off the ice and snow, and laid them side by side under the stove. He then removed cap, coat, blouse, and boots, which last he laid upon the woodbox, the soles turned toward the stovepipe.
As he sat down without speaking, he opened the front doors of the stove and held the palms of his stiffened hands to the blaze. The light brought out a thoughtful look on his large, uncouth, yet kindly visage. Life had laid hard lines on his brown skin, but it had not entirely soured a naturally kind and simple nature. It had made him penurious and dull and iron-muscled; had stifled all the slender flowers of his nature; yet there was warm soil somewhere hid in his heart.
"It's snowin' like all p'sessed," he remarked finally. "I guess we'll have a sleigh ride tomorrow. I calc'late t' drive y' daown in scrumptious style. If yeh must leave, why, we'll give yeh a whoopin' old send-off-won't we, Tukey?
"I've ben a4hinkin' things over kind o' t'day, Mother, an' I've come t' the conclusion that we have been kind a hard on yeh, without knowin' it, y' see. Y' see, I'm kind a easygoin, 'an' little Tuke he's only a child, an' we ain't c'nsidered how you felt."
She didn't appear to be listening, but she was, and he didn't appear, on his part, to be talking to her, and he kept his voice as hard and dry as he could.
"An' I was tellin' Tukey t'day that it was a dum shame our crops hadn't, turned out better. An' when I saw ol' Hatfield go by, I hailed him an' asked him what he'd gimme for two o' m' shoats. Waal, the upshot is, I sent t' town for some things I calc'lated ye'd heed. An' here's a tlcket to Georgetown, and ten dollars. Why, Ma, what's up?"
Mrs. Ripley broke down, and with her hands all wet with dishwater, as they were, covered her face and sobbed. She felt like kissing him, but she didn't. Tewksbury began to whimper, too; but the old man was astonished. His wife had not wept for years (before him). He rose and walked clumsily up to her and timidly touching her hair-
"Why, Mother! What's the matter? What 'v' I done now? I was calc'latln' to sell them pigs anyway. Hatfield jest advanced the money on' em."
She hopped up and dashed into the bedroom,and in a few minutes returned with a yarn mitten, tied around the wrist, which she laid on the table with a thump, saying:
"I don't want yer money. There's money enough to take me where I want to go."
"Whee-w! Thunder and jimson root! Wher'd ye git that? Didn't dig it out of a hole?"
"No. I jest saved it-a dime at a time-see?"
Here she turned it out on the table-some bills, but mostly silver dimes and quarters.
"Thunder and scissors! Must be two er three hundred dollars there," stared he.
"They's jest seventy-five dollars and thirty cents; jest about enough to go back on. Tickets is fifty-five dollars, goin' an' comin'. That leaves twenty dollars for other expenses, not countin' what I've already spent, which is six-fifty," said she, recovering her self-possession. "It's plenty."
"But y' ain't calc'lated on no sleepers nor hotel bills."
"I ain't goin' on no sleeper. Mis' Doudney says it's jest scandalous the way things is managed on them cars. I'm goin' on the old-fashioned cars, where they ain't no half-dressed men runain' around."
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