About a hundred feet back from the main street of a village in New
Jersey there stood a very good white house. Half-way between it and
the sidewalk was a large chestnut-tree, which had been the pride of
Mr. Himes, who built the house, and was now the pride of Mrs. Himes,
his widow, who lived there.
Under the tree was a bench, and on the bench were two elderly men,
both smoking pipes, and each one of them
eaning forward with his
elbows on his knees. One of these, Thomas Rooper by name, was a
small man with gray side-whiskers, a rather thin face, and very good
clothes. His pipe was a meerschaum, handsomely colored, with a long
amber tip. He had bought that pipe while on a visit to Philadelphia
during the great Centennial Exposition; and if any one noticed it
and happened to remark what a fine pipe it was, that person would be
likely to receive a detailed account of the circumstances of its
purchase, with an appendix relating to the Main Building, the Art
Building, the Agricultural Building, and many other salient points
of the great Exposition which commemorated the centennial of our
The other man, Asaph Scantle, was of a different type. He was a
little older than his companion, but if his hair were gray, it did
not show very much, as his rather long locks were of a sandy hue and
his full face was clean shaven, at least on Wednesdays and Sundays.
He was tall, round-shouldered, and his clothes were not good,
possessing very evident claims to a position on the retired list.
His pipe consisted of a common clay bowl with a long reed stem.
For some minutes the two men continued to puff together as if they
were playing a duet upon tobacco-pipes, and then Asaph, removing his
reed from his lips, remarked, "What you ought to do, Thomas, is to
"There's sense in that," replied the other; "but you wasn't the
first to think of it."
Asaph, who knew very well that Mr. Rooper never allowed any one to
suppose that he received suggestions from without, took no notice of
the last remark, but went on: "Lookin' at the matter in a friendly
way, it seems to me it stands to reason that when the shingles on a
man's house is so rotten that the rain comes through into every room
on the top floor, and when the plaster on the ceilin' is tumblin'
down more or less all the time, and the window-sashes is all loose,
and things generally in a condition that he can't let that house
without spendin' at least a year's rent on it to git it into decent
order, and when a man's got to the time of life--"
"There's nothin' the matter with the time of life," said Thomas;
"that's all right."
"What I was goin' to say was," continued Asaph, "that when a man
gits to the time of life when he knows what it is to be comfortable
in his mind as well as his body--and that time comes to sensible
people as soon as they git fairly growed up--he don't want to give
up his good room in the tavern and all the privileges of the house,
and go to live on his own property and have the plaster come down on
his own head and the rain come down on the coverlet of his own bed."
"No, he don't," said Thomas; "and what is more, he isn't goin' to do
it. But what I git from the rent of that house is what I have to
live on; there's no gittin' around that pint."
"Well, then," said Asaph, "if you don't marry money, what are you
goin' to do? You can't go back to your old business."
"I never had but one business," said Thomas. "I lived with my folks
until I was a good deal more than growed up; and when the war broke
out I went as sutler to the rigiment from this place; and all the
money I made I put into my property in the village here. That's what
I've lived on ever since. There's no more war, so there's no more
sutlers, except away out West where I wouldn't go; and there are no
more folks, for they are all dead; and if what Mrs. McJimsey says is
true, there'll be no more tenants in my house after the 1st of next
November. For when the McJimseys go on account of want of general
repairs, it is not to be expected that anybody else will come there.
There's nobody in this place that can stand as much as the McJimseys
"Consequently," said Asaph, deliberately filling his pipe, "it
stands to reason that there ain't nothin' for you to do but marry
Thomas Rooper took his pipe from his mouth and sat up straight.
Gazing steadfastly at his companion, he remarked, "If you think that
is such a good thing to do, why don't you do it yourself? There
can't be anybody much harder up than you are."
"The law's agin' my doin' it," said Asaph. "A man can't marry his
"Are you thinkin' of Marietta Himes?" asked Mr. Rooper.
"That's the one I'm thinkin' of," said Asaph. "If you can think of
anybody better, I'd like you to mention her."
Mr. Rooper did not immediately speak. He presently asked, "What do
you call money?"
"Well," said Asaph, with a little hesitation, "considerin' the
circumstances, I should say that in a case like this about fifteen
hundred a year, a first-rate house with not a loose shingle on it
nor a crack anywhere, a good garden and an orchard, two cows, a
piece of meadow-land on the other side of the creek, and all the
clothes a woman need have, is money."
Thomas shrugged his shoulders. "Clothes!" he said. "If she marries
she'll go out of black, and then she'll have to have new ones, and
lots of 'em. That would make a big hole in her money, Asaph."
The other smiled. "I always knowed you was a far-seein' feller,
Thomas; but it stands to reason that Marietta's got a lot of clothes
that was on hand before she went into mournin', and she's not the
kind of woman to waste 'em. She'll be twistin' 'em about and makin'
'em over to suit the fashions, and it won't be like her to be buyin'
new colored goods when she's got plenty of 'em already."
There was now another pause in the conversation, and then Mr. Rooper
remarked, "Mrs. Himes must be gettin' on pretty well in years."
"She's not a young woman," said Asaph; "but if she was much younger
she wouldn't have you, and if she was much older you wouldn't have
her. So it strikes me she's just about the right pint."
"How old was John Himes when he died?" asked Thomas.
"I don't exactly know that; but he was a lot older than Marietta."
Thomas shook his head. "It strikes me," said he, "that John Himes
had a hearty constitution and hadn't ought to died as soon as he
did. He fell away a good deal in the last years of his life."
"And considerin' that he died of consumption, he had a right to fall
away," said Asaph. "If what you are drivin' at, Thomas, is that
Marietta isn't a good housekeeper and hasn't the right sort of
notions of feedin', look at me. I've lived with Marietta just about
a year, and in that time I have gained forty-two pounds. Now, of
course, I ain't unreasonable, and don't mean to say that you would
gain forty-two pounds in a year, 'cause you ain't got the frame and
bone to put it on; but it wouldn't surprise me a bit if you was to
gain twenty, or even twenty-five, pounds in eighteen months, anyway;
and more than that you ought not to ask, Thomas, considerin' your
height and general build."
"Isn't Marietta Himes a good deal of a freethinker?" asked Thomas.
"A what?" cried Asaph. "You mean an infidel?"
"No," said Thomas, "I don't charge nobody with nothin' more than
there's reason for; but they do say that she goes sometimes to one
church and sometimes to another, and that if there was a Catholic
church in this village she would go to that. And who's goin' to say
where a woman will turn up when she don't know her own mind better
Asaph colored a little. "The place where Marietta will turn up,"
said he, warmly, "is on a front seat in the kingdom of heaven; and
if the people that talk about her will mend their ways, they'll see
that I am right. You need not trouble yourself about that, Thomas.
Marietta Himes is pious to the heel."
Mr. Rooper now shifted himself a little on the bench and crossed one
leg over the other. "Now look here, Asaph," he said, with a little
more animation than he had yet shown, "supposin' all you say is
true, have you got any reason to think that Mrs. Himes ain't
satisfied with things as they are?"
"Yes, I have," said Asaph. "And I don't mind tellin' you that the
thing she's least satisfied with is me. She wants a man in the
house; that is nateral. She wouldn't be Marietta Himes if she
didn't. When I come to live with her I thought the whole business
was settled; but it isn't. I don't suit her. I don't say she's
lookin' for another man, but if another man was to come along, and
if he was the right kind of a man, it's my opinion she's ready for
him. I wouldn't say this to everybody, but I say it to you, Thomas
Rooper, 'cause I know what kind of a man you are."
Mr. Rooper did not return the compliment. "I don't wonder your
sister ain't satisfied with you," he said, "for you go ahead of all
the lazy men I ever saw yet. They was sayin' down at the tavern
yesterday--only yesterday--that you could do less work in more time
than anybody they ever saw before."
"There's two ways of workin'," said Asaph. "Some people work with
their hands and some with their heads."
Thomas grimly smiled. "It strikes me," said he, "that the most
head-work you do is with your jaws."
Asaph was not the man to take offence readily, especially when he
considered it against his interest to do so, and he showed no
resentment at this remark. "'Tain't so much my not makin' myself
more generally useful," he said, "that Marietta objects to; though,
of course, it could not be expected that a man that hasn't got any
interest in property would keep workin' at it like a man that has
got an interest in it, such as Marietta's husband would have; but
it's my general appearance that she don't like. She's told me more
than once she didn't so much mind my bein' lazy as lookin' lazy."
"I don't wonder she thinks that way," said Thomas. "But look here,
Asaph, do you suppose that if Marietta Himes was to marry a man, he
would really come into her property?"
"There ain't nobody that knows my sister better than I know her, and
I can say, without any fear of bein' contradicted, that when she
gives herself to a man the good-will and fixtures will be included."
Thomas Rooper now leaned forward with his elbows on his knees
without smoking, and Asaph Scantle leaned forward with his elbows on
his knees without smoking. And thus they remained, saying nothing to
each other, for the space of some ten minutes.
Asaph was a man who truly used his head a great deal more than he
used his hands. He had always been a shiftless fellow, but he was no
fool, and this his sister found out soon after she asked him to come
and make his home with her. She had not done this because she wanted
a man in the house, for she had lived two or three years without
that convenience and had not felt the need of it. But she heard that
Asaph was in very uncomfortable circumstances, and she had sent for
him solely for his own good. The arrangement proved to be a very
good one for her brother, but not a good one for her. She had always
known that Asaph's head was his main dependence, but she was just
beginning to discover that he liked to use his head so that other
people's hands should work for him.
"There ain't nobody comin' to see your sister, is there?" asked
"Not a livin' soul," said Asaph, "except women, married folk, and
children. But it has always surprised me that nobody did come; but
just at this minute the field's clear and the gate's open."
"Well," said Mr. Rooper, "I'll think about it."
"That's right," said Asaph, rubbing his knees with his hands.
"That's right. But now tell me, Thomas Rooper, supposin' you get
Marietta, what are you goin' to do for me?"
"For you?" exclaimed the other. "What have you got to do with it?"
"A good deal," said Asaph. "If you get Marietta with her fifteen
hundred a year--and it wouldn't surprise me if it was eighteen
hundred--and her house and her garden and her cattle and her field
and her furniture, with not a leg loose nor a scratch, you will get
her because I proposed her to you, and because I backed you up
afterward. And now, then, I want to know what you are goin' to do
"What do you want?" asked Thomas.
"The first thing I want," said Asaph, "is a suit of clothes. These
clothes is disgraceful."
"You are right there," said Mr. Rooper. "I wonder your sister lets
you come around in front of the house. But what do you mean by
clothes--winter clothes or summer clothes?"
"Winter," said Asaph, without hesitation. "I don't count summer
clothes. And when I say a suit of clothes, I mean shoes and hat and
Mr. Rooper gave a sniff. "I wonder you don't say overcoat," he
"I do say overcoat," replied Asaph. "A suit of winter clothes is a
suit of clothes that you can go out into the weather in without
Mr. Rooper smiled sarcastically. "Is there anything else you want?"
"Yes," said Asaph, decidedly; "there is. I want a umbrella."
"Cotton or silk?"
Asaph hesitated. He had never had a silk umbrella in his hand in his
life. He was afraid to strike too high, and he answered, "I want a
good stout gingham."
Mr. Rooper nodded his head. "Very good," he said. "And is that all?"
"No," said Asaph, "it ain't all. There is one more thing I want, and
that is a dictionary."
The other man rose to his feet. "Upon my word," he exclaimed, "I
never before saw a man that would sell his sister for a dictionary!
And what you want with a dictionary is past my conceivin'."
"Well, it ain't past mine," said Asaph. "For more than ten years I
have wanted a dictionary. If I had a dictionary I could make use of
my head in a way that I can't now. There is books in this house, but
amongst 'em there is no dictionary. If there had been one I'd been a
different man by this time from what I am now, and like as not
Marietta wouldn't have wanted any other man in the house but me."
Mr. Rooper stood looking upon the ground; and Asaph, who had also
arisen, waited for him to speak. "You are a graspin' man, Asaph,"
said Thomas. "But there is another thing I'd like to know: if I give
you them clothes, you don't want them before she's married?"
"Yes, I do," said Asaph. "If I come to the weddin', I can't wear
these things. I have got to have them first."
Mr. Rooper gave his head a little twist. "There's many a slip 'twixt
the cup and the lip," said he.
"Yes," said Asaph; "and there's different cups and different lips.
But what's more, if I was to be best man--which would be nateral,
considerin' I'm your friend and her brother--you wouldn't want me
standin' up in this rig. And that's puttin' it in your own point of
"It strikes me," said the other, "that I could get a best man that
would furnish his own clothes; but we will see about that. There's
another thing, Asaph," he said, abruptly; "what are Mrs. Himes's
views concernin' pipes?"
This question startled and frightened Asaph. He knew that his sister
could not abide the smell of tobacco and that Mr. Rooper was an
"That depends," said he, "on the kind of tobacco. I don't mind
sayin' that Marietta isn't partial to the kind of tobacco I smoke.
But I ain't a moneyed man and I can't afford to buy nothin' but
cheap stuff. But when it comes to a meerschaum pipe and the very
finest Virginia or North Carolina smoking-tobacco, such as a moneyed
man would be likely to use--"
At this moment there came from the house the sound of a woman's
voice, not loud, but clear and distinct, and it said "Asaph."
This word sent through Mr. Rooper a gentle thrill such as he did not
remember ever having felt before. There seemed to be in it a
suggestion, a sort of prophecy, of what appeared to him as an
undefined and chaotic bliss. He was not a fanciful man, but he could
not help imagining himself standing alone under that chestnut-tree
and that voice calling "Thomas."
Upon Asaph the effect was different. The interruption was an
agreeable one in one way, because it cut short his attempted
explanation of the tobacco question; but in another way he knew that
it meant the swinging of an axe, and that was not pleasant.
Mr. Rooper walked back to the tavern in a cogitative state of mind.
"That Asaph Scantle," he said to himself, "has got a head-piece,
there's no denying it. If it had not been for him I do not believe I
should have thought of his sister; at least not until the McJimseys
had left my house, and then it might have been too late."
Marietta Himes was a woman with a gentle voice and an appearance and
demeanor indicative of a general softness of disposition; but
beneath this mild exterior there was a great deal of firmness of
purpose. Asaph had not seen very much of his sister since she had
grown up and married; and when he came to live with her he thought
that he was going to have things pretty much his own way. But it was
not long before he entirely changed his mind.
Mrs. Himes was of moderate height, pleasant countenance, and a
figure inclined to plumpness. Her dark hair, in which there was not
a line of gray, was brushed down smoothly on each side of her face,
and her dress, while plain, was extremely neat. In fact, everything
in the house and on the place was extremely neat, except Asaph.
She was in the bright little dining-room which looked out on the
flower-garden, preparing the table for supper, placing every plate,
dish, glass, and cup with as much care and exactness as if a civil
engineer had drawn a plan on the table-cloth with places marked for
the position of each article.
As she finished her work by placing a chair on each side of the
table, a quiet smile, the result of a train of thought in which she
had been indulging for the past half-hour, stole over her face. She
passed through the kitchen, with a glance at the stove to see if the
tea-kettle had begun to boil; and going out of the back door, she
walked over to the shed where her brother was splitting
"Asaph," said Mrs. Himes, "if I were to give you a good suit of
clothes, would you promise me that you would never smoke when
Her brother looked at her in amazement. "Clothes!" he repeated.
"Mr. Himes was about your size," said his sister, "and he left a
good many clothes, which are most of them very good and carefully
packed away, so that I am sure there is not a moth-hole in any one
of them. I have several times thought, Asaph, that I might give you
some of his clothes; but it did seem to me a desecration to have the
clothes of such a man, who was so particular and nice, filled and
saturated with horrible tobacco-smoke, which he detested. But now
you are getting to be so awful shabby, I do not see how I can stand
it any longer. But one thing I will not do--I will not have Mr.
Himes's clothes smelling of tobacco as yours do; and not only your
own tobacco, but Mr. Rooper's."
"I think," said Asaph, "that you are not exactly right just there.
What you smell about me is my smoke. Thomas Rooper never uses
anything but the finest-scented and delicatest brands. I think that
if you come to get used to his tobacco-smoke you would like it. But
as to my takin' off my clothes and puttin' on a different suit every
time I want to light my pipe, that's pretty hard lines, it seems to
"It would be a good deal easier to give up the pipe," said his
"I will do that," said Asaph, "when you give up tea. But you know as
well as I do that there's no use of either of us a-tryin' to change
our comfortable habits at our time of life."
"I kept on hoping," said Mrs. Himes, "that you would feel yourself
that you were not fit to be seen by decent people, and that you
would go to work and earn at least enough money to buy yourself some
clothes. But as you don't seem inclined to do that, I thought I
would make you this offer. But you must understand that I will not
have you smoke in Mr. Himes's clothes."
Asaph stood thinking, the head of his axe resting upon the ground, a
position which suited him. He was in a little perplexity. Marietta's
proposition seemed to interfere somewhat with the one he had made to
Thomas Rooper. Here was a state of affairs which required most
careful consideration. "I've been arrangin' about some clothes," he
said, presently; "for I know very well I need 'em; but I don't know
just yet how it will turn out."
"I hope, Asaph," said Marietta, quickly, "that you are not thinking
of going into debt for clothing, and I know that you haven't been
working to earn money. What arrangements have you been making?"
"That's my private affair," said Asaph, "but there's no debt in it.
It is all fair and square--cash down, so to speak; though, of
course, it's not cash, but work. But, as I said before, that isn't
"I am afraid, Asaph," said his sister, "that if you have to do the
work first you will never get the clothes, and so you might as well
come back to my offer."
Asaph came back to it and thought about it very earnestly. If by any
chance he could get two suits of clothes, he would then feel that he
had a head worth having. "What would you say," he said, presently,
"if when I wanted to smoke I was to put on a long duster--I guess
Mr. Himes had dusters--and a nightcap and rubbers? I'd agree to hang
the duster and the cap in the shed here and never smoke without
putting 'em on." There was a deep purpose in this proposition, for,
enveloped in the long duster, he might sit with Thomas Rooper under
the chestnut-tree and smoke and talk and plan as long as he pleased,
and his companion would not know that he did not need a new suit of
"Nonsense," said Mrs. Himes; "you must make up your mind to act
perfectly fairly, Asaph, or else say you will not accept my offer.
But if you don't accept it, I can't see how you can keep on living
"What do you mean by clothes, Marietta?" he asked.
"Well, I mean a complete suit, of course," said she.
"Winter or summer?"
"I hadn't thought of that," Mrs. Himes replied; "but that can be as
"Overcoat?" asked Asaph.
"Yes," said she, "and cane and umbrella, if you like, and
pocket-handkerchiefs, too. I will fit you out completely, and shall
be glad to have you looking like a decent man."
At the mention of the umbrella another line of perplexity showed
itself upon Asaph's brow. The idea came to him that if she would add
a dictionary he would strike a bargain. Thomas Rooper was certainly
a very undecided and uncertain sort of man. But then there came up
the thought of his pipe, and he was all at sea again. Giving up
smoking was almost the same as giving up eating. "Marietta," said
he, "I will think about this."
"Very well," she answered; "but it's my opinion, Asaph, that you
ought not to take more than one minute to think about it. However, I
will give you until to-morrow morning, and then if you decide that
you don't care to look like a respectable citizen, I must have some
further talk with you about our future arrangements."
"Make it to-morrow night," said Asaph. And his sister consented.
The next day Asaph was unusually brisk and active; and very soon
after breakfast he walked over to the village tavern to see Mr.
"Hello!" exclaimed that individual, surprised at his visitor's early
appearance at the business centre of the village. "What's started
you out? Have you come after them clothes?"
A happy thought struck Asaph. He had made this visit with the
intention of feeling his way toward some decision on the important
subject of his sister's proposition, and here a way seemed to be
opened to him. "Thomas," said he, taking his friend aside, "I am in
an awful fix. Marietta can't stand my clothes any longer. If she
can't stand them she can't stand me, and when it comes to that, you
can see for yourself that I can't help you."
A shade settled upon Mr. Rooper's face. During the past evening he
had been thinking and puffing, and puffing and thinking, until
everybody else in the tavern had gone to bed; and he had finally
made up his mind that, if he could do it, he would marry Marietta
Himes. He had never been very intimate with her or her husband, but
he had been to meals in the house, and he remembered the fragrant
coffee and the light, puffy, well-baked rolls made by Marietta's own
hands; and he thought of the many differences between living in that
very good house with that gentle, pleasant-voiced lady and his
present life in the village tavern.
And so, having determined that without delay he would, with the
advice and assistance of Asaph, begin his courtship, it was natural
that he should feel a shock of discouragement when he heard Asaph's
announcement that his sister could not endure him in the house any
longer. To attack that house and its owner without the friendly
offices upon which he depended was an undertaking for which he was
not at all prepared.
"I don't wonder at her," he said, sharply--"not a bit. But this puts
a mighty different face on the thing what we talked about
"It needn't," said Asaph, quietly. "The clothes you was goin' to
give me wouldn't cost a cent more to-day than they would in a couple
of months, say; and when I've got 'em on Marietta will be glad to
have me around. Everything can go on just as we bargained for."
Thomas shook his head. "That would be a mighty resky piece of
business," he said. "You would be all right, but that's not sayin'
that I would; for it strikes me that your sister is about as much a
bird in the bush as any flyin' critter."
Asaph smiled. "If the bush was in the middle of a field," said he,
"and there was only one boy after the bird, it would be a pretty tough
job. But if the bush is in the corner of two high walls, and there's
two boys, and one of 'em's got a fishnet what he can throw clean
over the bush, why, then the chances is a good deal better. But
droppin' figgers, Thomas, and speakin' plain and straightforward, as
I always do--"
"About things you want to git," interrupted Thomas.
"--about everything," resumed Asaph. "I'll just tell you this: if I
don't git decent clothes now to-day, or perhaps to-morrow, I have
got to travel out of Marietta's house. I can do it and she knows it.
I can go back to Drummondville and git my board for keepin' books in
the store, and nobody there cares what sort of clothes I wear. But
when that happens, your chance of gittin' Marietta goes up higher
than a kite."
To the mind of Mr. Rooper this was most conclusive reasoning; but he
would not admit it and he did not like it. "Why don't your sister
give you clothes?" he said. "Old Himes must have left some."
A thin chill like a needleful of frozen thread ran down Asaph's
back. "Mr. Himes's clothes!" he exclaimed. "What in the world are
you talkin' about, Thomas Rooper? 'Tain't likely he had many, 'cept
what he was buried in; and what's left, if there is any, Marietta
would no more think of givin' away than she would of hangin' up his
funeral wreath for the canary-bird to perch on. There's a room up in
the garret where she keeps his special things--for she's awful
particular--and if there is any of his clothes up there I expect
she's got 'em framed."
"If she thinks as much of him as that," muttered Mr. Rooper.
"Now don't git any sech ideas as them into your head, Thomas," said
Asaph, quickly. "Marietta ain't a woman to rake up the past, and you
never need be afraid of her rakin' up Mr. Himes. All of the premises
will be hern and yourn except that room in the garret, and it ain't
likely she'll ever ask you to go in there."
"The Lord knows I don't want to!" ejaculated Mr. Rooper.
The two men walked slowly to the end of a line of well-used, or,
rather, badly used, wooden arm-chairs which stood upon the tavern
piazza, and seated themselves. Mr. Rooper's mind was in a highly
perturbed condition. If he accepted Asaph's present proposition he
would have to make a considerable outlay with a very shadowy
prospect of return.
"If you haven't got the ready money for the clothes," said Asaph,
after having given his companion some minutes for silent
consideration, "there ain't a man in this village what they would
trust sooner at the store for clothes," and then after a pause he
added, "or books, which, of course, they can order from town."
At this Mr. Rooper simply shrugged his shoulders. The question of
ready money or credit did not trouble him.
At this moment a man in a low phaeton, drawn by a stout gray horse,
passed the tavern.
"Who's that?" asked Asaph, who knew everybody in the village.
"That's Doctor Wicker," said Thomas. "He lives over at Timberley. He
'tended John Himes in his last sickness."
"He don't practise here, does he?" said Asaph. "I never see him."
"No; but he was called in to consult." And then the speaker dropped
again into cogitation.
After a few minutes Asaph rose. He knew that Thomas Rooper had a
slow-working mind, and thought it would be well to leave him to
himself for a while. "I'll go home," said he, "and 'tend to my
chores, and by the time you feel like comin' up and takin' a smoke
with me under the chestnut-tree, I reckon you will have made up your
mind, and we'll settle this thing. Fer if I have got to go back to
Drummondville, I s'pose I'll have to pack up this afternoon."
"If you'd say pack off instead of pack up," remarked the other,
"you'd come nearer the facts, considerin' the amount of your
personal property. But I'll be up there in an hour or two."
When Asaph came within sight of his sister's house he was amazed to
see a phaeton and a gray horse standing in front of the gate. From
this it was easy to infer that the doctor was in the house. What on
earth could have happened? Was anything the matter with Marietta?
And if so, why did she send for a physician who lived at a distance,
instead of Doctor McIlvaine, the village doctor? In a very anxious
state of mind Asaph reached the gate, and irresolutely went into the
yard. His impulse was to go to the house and see what had happened;
but he hesitated. He felt that Marietta might object to having a
comparative stranger know that such an exceedingly shabby fellow was
her brother. And, besides, his sister could not have been overtaken
by any sudden illness. She had always appeared perfectly well, and
there would have been no time during his brief absence from the
house to send over to Timberley for a doctor.
So he sat down under the chestnut-tree to consider this strange
condition of affairs. "Whatever it is," he said to himself, "it's
nothin' suddint, and it's bound to be chronic, and that'll skeer
Thomas. I wish I hadn't asked him to come up here. The best thing
for me to do will be to pretend that I have been sent to git
somethin' at the store, and go straight back and keep him from
But Asaph was a good deal quicker to think than to move, and he
still sat with brows wrinkled and mind beset by doubts. For a moment
he thought that it might be well to accept Marietta's proposition
and let Thomas go; but then he remembered the conditions, and he
shut his mental eyes at the prospect.
At that moment the gate opened and in walked Thomas Rooper. He had
made up his mind and had come to say so; but the sight of the
phaeton and gray horse caused him to postpone his intended
announcement. "What's Doctor Wicker doin' here?" he asked, abruptly.
"Dunno," said Asaph, as carelessly as he could speak. "I don't
meddle with household matters of that kind. I expect it's somethin'
the matter with that gal Betsey, that Marietta hires to help her.
She's always wrong some way or other so that she can't do her own
proper work, which I know, havin' to do a good deal of it myself. I
expect it's rickets, like as not. Gals do have that sort of thing,
"Never had anything to do with sick gals," said Thomas, "or sick
people of any sort, and don't want to. But it must be somethin'
pretty deep-seated for your sister to send all the way to Timberley
for a doctor."
Asaph knew very well that Mrs. Himes was too economical a person to
think of doing such a thing as that, and he knew also that Betsey
was as good a specimen of rustic health as could be found in the
county. And therefore his companion's statement that he wanted to
have nothing to do with sick people had for him a saddening import.
"I settled that business of yourn," said Mr. Rooper, "pretty soon
after you left me. I thought I might as well come straight around
and tell you about it. I'll make you a fair and square offer. I'll
give you them clothes, though it strikes me that winter goods will
be pretty heavy for this time of year; but it will be on this
condition: if I don't get Marietta, you have got to give 'em back."
"I know what you are grinnin' at," said Thomas; "but you needn't
think that you are goin' to have the wearin' of them clothes for two
or three months and then give 'em back. I don't go in for any long
courtships. What I do in that line will be short and sharp."
"How short?" asked Asaph.
"Well, this is Thursday," replied the other, "and I calculate to ask
her on Monday."
Asaph looked at his companion in amazement. "By George!" he
exclaimed, "that won't work. Why, it took Marietta more'n five days
to make up her mind whether she would have the chicken-house painted
green or red, and you can't expect her to be quicker than that in
takin' a new husband. She'd say No just as certain as she would now
if you was to go in and ask her right before the doctor and Betsey.
And I'll just tell you plain that it wouldn't pay me to do all the
hustlin' around and talkin' and argyin' and recommendin' that I'd
have to do just for the pleasure of wearin' a suit of warm clothes
for four July days. I tell you what it is, it won't do to spring
that sort of thing on a woman, especially when she's what you might
call a trained widder. You got to give 'em time to think over the
matter and to look up your references. There's no use talkin' about
it; you must give 'em time, especially when the offer comes from a
person that nobody but me has ever thought of as a marryin' man."
"Humph!" said Thomas. "That's all you know about it."
"Facts is facts, and you can't git around 'em. There isn't a woman
in this village what wouldn't take at least two weeks to git it into
her head that you was really courtin' her. She would be just as
likely to think that you was tryin' to git a tenant in place of the
McJimseys. But a month of your courtin' and a month of my workin'
would just about make the matter all right with Marietta, and then
you could sail in and settle it."
"Very good," said Mr. Rooper, rising suddenly. "I will court your
sister for one month; and if, on the 17th day of August, she takes
me, you can go up to the store and git them clothes; but you can't
do it one minute afore. Good-mornin'."
Asaph, left alone, heaved a sigh. He did not despair; but truly,
fate was heaping a great many obstacles in his path. He thought it
was a very hard thing for a man to get his rights in this world.
Mrs. Himes sat on one end of a black hair-covered sofa in the
parlor, and Doctor Wicker sat on a black hair-covered chair opposite
to her and not far away. The blinds of the window opening upon the
garden were drawn up; but those on the front window, which commanded
a view of the chestnut-tree, were down. Doctor Wicker had just made
a proposal of marriage to Mrs. Himes, and at that moment they were
both sitting in silence.
The doctor, a bluff, hearty-looking man of about forty-five, had
been very favorably impressed by Mrs. Himes when he first made her
acquaintance, during her husband's sickness, and since that time he
had seen her occasionally and had thought about her a great deal.
Latterly letters had passed between them, and now he had come to
make his declaration in person.
It was true, as her brother had said, that Marietta was not quick in
making up her mind. But in this case she was able to act more
promptly than usual, because she had in a great measure settled this
matter before the arrival of the doctor. She knew he was going to
propose, and she was very much inclined to accept him. This it was
which had made her smile when she was setting the table the
afternoon before, and this it was which had prompted her to make her
proposition to her brother in regard to his better personal
But now she was in a condition of nervous trepidation, and made no
answer. The doctor thought this was natural enough under the
circumstances, but he had no idea of the cause of it. The cause of
it was sitting under the chestnut-tree, the bright sunlight,
streaming through a break in the branches above, illuminating and
emphasizing and exaggerating his extreme shabbiness. The doctor had
never seen Asaph, and it would have been a great shock to Marietta's
self-respect to have him see her brother in his present aspect.
Through a crack in the blind of the front window she had seen Asaph
come in and sit down, and she had seen Mr. Rooper arrive and had
noticed his departure. And now, with an anxiety which made her chin
tremble, she sat and hoped that Asaph would get up and go away. For
she knew that if she should say to the doctor what she was perfectly
willing to say then and there, he would very soon depart, being a
man of practical mind and pressing business; and that, going to the
front door with him, she would be obliged to introduce him to a
prospective brother-in-law whose appearance, she truly believed,
would make him sick. For the doctor was a man, she well knew, who
was quite as nice and particular about dress and personal appearance
as the late Mr. Himes had been.
Doctor Wicker, aware that the lady's perturbation was increasing
instead of diminishing, thought it wise not to press the matter at
this moment. He felt that he had been, perhaps, a little over-prompt
in making his proposition. "Madam," said he, rising, "I will not ask
you to give me an answer now. I will go away and let you think about
it, and will come again to-morrow."
Through the crack in the window-blind Marietta saw that Asaph was
still under the tree. What could she do to delay the doctor? She did
not offer to take leave of him, but stood looking upon the floor. It
seemed a shame to make so good a man go all the way back to
Timberley and come again next day, just because that ragged, dirty
Asaph was sitting under the chestnut-tree.
The doctor moved toward the door, and as she followed him she
glanced once more through the crack in the window-blind, and, to her
intense delight, she saw Asaph jump up from the bench and run around
to the side of the house. He had heard the doctor's footsteps in the
hallway and had not wished to meet him. The unsatisfactory condition
of his outward appearance had been so strongly impressed upon him of
late that he had become a little sensitive in regard to it when
strangers were concerned. But if he had only known that his
exceedingly unattractive garments had prevented his sister from
making a compact which would have totally ruined his plans in regard
to her matrimonial disposition and his own advantage, he would have
felt for those old clothes the respect and gratitude with which a
Roman soldier regarded the shield and sword which had won him a
Down the middle of the garden, at the back of the house, there ran a
path, and along this path Asaph walked meditatively, with his hands
in his trousers pockets. It was a discouraging place for him to
walk, for the beds on each side of him were full of weeds, which he
had intended to pull out as soon as he should find time for the
work, but which had now grown so tall and strong that they could not
be rooted up without injuring the plants, which were the legitimate
occupants of the garden.
Asaph did not know it, but at this moment there was not one person
in the whole world who thought kindly of him. His sister was so
mortified by him that she was in tears in the house. His crony,
Thomas, had gone away almost angry with him, and even Betsey, whom
he had falsely accused of rickets, and who had often shown a pity
for him simply because he looked so forlorn, had steeled her heart
against him that morning when she found he had gone away without
providing her with any fuel for the kitchen fire.
But he had not made a dozen turns up and down the path before he
became aware of the feeling of Marietta. She looked out of the back
door and then walked rapidly toward him. "Asaph," said she, "I hope
you are considering what I said to you yesterday, for I mean to
stick to my word. If you don't choose to accept my offer, I want you
to go back to Drummondville early to-morrow morning. And I don't
feel in the least as if I were turning you out of the house, for I
have given you a chance to stay here, and have only asked you to act
like a decent Christian. I will not have you here disgracing my
home. When Doctor Wicker came to-day, and I looked out and saw you
with that miserable little coat with the sleeves half-way up to the
elbows and great holes in it which you will not let anybody patch
because you are too proud to wear patches, and those wretched faded
trousers, out at the knees, and which have been turned up and hemmed
at the bottom so often that they are six inches above your shoes,
and your whole scarecrow appearance, I was so ashamed of you that I
could not keep the tears out of my eyes. To tell a respectable
gentleman like Doctor Wicker that you were my brother was more than
I could bear; and I was glad when I saw you get up and sneak out of
the way. I hate to talk to you in this way, Asaph, but you have
brought it on yourself."
Her brother looked at her a moment. "Do you want me to go away
before breakfast?" he said.
"No," answered Marietta, "but immediately afterward." And in her
mind she resolved that breakfast should be very early the next
If Asaph had any idea of yielding, he did not intend to show it
until the last moment, and so he changed the subject. "What's the
matter with Betsey?" said he. "If she's out of health you'd better
get rid of her."
"There's nothing the matter with Betsey," answered his sister.
"Doctor Wicker came to see me."
"Came to see you!" exclaimed her brother. "What in the world did he
do that for? You never told me that you were ailin'. Is it that
sprain in your ankle?"
"Nonsense," said Marietta. "I had almost recovered from that sprain
when you came here. There's nothing the matter with my ankle; the
trouble is probably with my heart."
The moment she said this she regretted it, for Asaph had so good a
head, and could catch meanings so quickly.
"I'm sorry to hear that, Marietta," said Asaph. "That's a good deal
"Yes," said she. And she turned and went back to the house.
Asaph continued to walk up and down the path. He had not done a
stroke of work that morning, but he did not think of that. His
sister's communication saddened him. He liked Marietta, and it
grieved him to hear that she had anything the matter with her heart.
He knew that that often happened to people who looked perfectly
well, and there was no reason why he should have suspected any
disorder in her. Of course, in this case, there was good reason for
her sending for the very best doctor to be had. It was all plain
enough to him now.
But as he walked and walked and walked, and looked at the garden,
and looked at the little orchard, and looked at the house and the
top of the big chestnut-tree, which showed itself above the roof, a
thought came into his mind which had never been there before--he was
Marietta's heir. It was a dreadful thing to think of his sister's
possible early departure from this world; but, after all, life is
life, reality is reality, and business is business. He was
Marietta's only legal heir.
Of course he had known this before, but it had never seemed to be of
any importance. He was a good deal older than she was, and he had
always looked upon her as a marrying woman. When he made his
proposition to Mr. Rooper the thought of his own heirship never came
into his mind. In fact, if any one had offered him ten dollars for
said heirship, he would have asked fifteen, and would have afterward
agreed to split the difference and take twelve and a half.
But now everything had changed. If Marietta had anything the matter
with her heart there was no knowing when all that he saw might be
his own. No sooner had he walked and thought long enough for his
mind to fully appreciate the altered aspects of his future than he
determined to instantly thrust out Mr. Rooper from all connection
with that future. He would go and tell him so at once.
To the dismay of Betsey, who had been watching him, expecting that
he would soon stop walking about and go and saw some wood with which
to cook the dinner, he went out of the front gate and strode rapidly
into the village. He had some trouble in finding Mr. Rooper, who had
gone off to take a walk and arrange a conversation with which to
begin his courtship of Mrs. Himes; but he overtook him under a tree
by the side of the creek. "Thomas," said he, "I have changed my mind
about that business between us. You have been very hard on me, and
I'm not goin' to stand it. I can get the clothes and things I need
without makin' myself your slave and workin' myself to death, and,
perhaps, settin' my sister agin me for life by tryin' to make her
believe that black's white, that you are the kind of husband she
ought to have, and that you hate pipes and never touch spirits. It
would be a mean thing for me to do, and I won't do it. I did think
you were a generous-minded man, with the right sort of feeling for
them as wanted to be your friends; but I have found out that I was
mistook, and I'm not goin' to sacrifice my sister to any such
person. Now that's my state of mind plain and square."
Thomas Rooper shrunk two inches in height. "Asaph Scantle," he said,
in a voice which seemed also to have shrunk, "I don't understand
you. I wasn't hard on you. I only wanted to make a fair bargain. If
I'd got her, I'd paid up cash on delivery. You couldn't expect a man
to do more than that. But I tell you, Asaph, that I am mighty
serious about this. The more I have thought about your sister the
more I want her. And when I tell you that I've been a-thinkin' about
her pretty much all night, you may know that I want her a good deal.
And I was intendin' to go to-morrow and begin to court her."
"Well, you needn't," said Asaph. "It won't do no good. If you don't
have me to back you up you might as well try to twist that tree as
to move her. You can't do it."
"But you don't mean to go agin me, do you, Asaph?" asked Thomas,
"'Tain't necessary," replied the other. "You will go agin yourself."
For a few moments Mr. Rooper remained silent. He was greatly
discouraged and dismayed by what had been said to him, but he could
not yet give up what had become the great object of his life.
"Asaph," said he, presently, "it cuts me to the in'ards to think
that you have gone back on me; but I tell you what I'll do: if you
will promise not to say anything agin me to Mrs. Himes, and not to
set yourself in any way between me and her, I'll go along with you
to the store now, and you can git that suit of clothes and the
umbrella, and I'll tell 'em to order the dictionary and hand it over
to you as soon as it comes. I'd like you to help me, but if you will
only promise to stand out of the way and not hinder, I'll do the
fair thing by you and pay in advance."
"Humph!" said Asaph. "I do believe you think you are the only man
that wants Marietta."
A pang passed through the heart of Mr. Rooper. He had been thinking
a great deal of Mrs. Himes and everything connected with her, and he
had even thought of that visit of Doctor Wicker's. That gentleman
was a widower and a well-to-do and well-appearing man; and it would
have been a long way for him to come just for some trifling rickets
in a servant-girl. Being really in love, his imagination was in a
very capering mood, and he began to fear that the doctor had come to
court Mrs. Himes. "Asaph," he said, quickly, "that's a good offer I
make you. If you take it, in less than an hour you can walk home
looking like a gentleman."
Asaph had taken his reed pipe from his coat pocket and was filling
it. As he pushed the coarse tobacco into the bowl, he considered.
"Thomas," said he, "that ain't enough. Things have changed, and it
wouldn't pay me. But I won't be hard on you. I'm a good friend of
yourn, and I'll tell you what I'll do. If you will give me now all
the things we spoke of between us--and I forgot to mention a cane
and pocket-handkerchiefs--and give me, besides, that meerschaum pipe
of yourn, I'll promise not to hinder you, but let you go ahead and
git Marietta if you kin. I must say it's a good deal for me to do,
knowin' how much you'll git and how little you'll give, and knowin',
too, the other chances she's got if she wanted 'em; but I'll do it
for the sake of friendship."
"My meerschaum pipe!" groaned Mr. Rooper. "My Centennial Exhibition
pipe!" His tones were so plaintive that for a moment Asaph felt a
little touch of remorse. But then he reflected that if Thomas really
did get Marietta the pipe would be of no use to him, for she would
not allow him to smoke it. And, besides, realities were realities
and business was business. "That pipe may be very dear to you," he
said, "Thomas, but I want you to remember that Marietta's very dear
This touched Mr. Rooper, whose heart was sensitive as it had never
been before. "Come along, Asaph," he said. "You shall have
everything, meerschaum pipe included. If anybody but me is goin' to
smoke that pipe, I'd like it to be my brother-in-law." Thus, with
amber-tipped guile, Mr. Rooper hoped to win over his friend to not
only not hinder, but to help him.
As the two men walked away, Asaph thought that he was not acting an
unfraternal part toward Marietta, for it would not be necessary for
him to say or do anything to induce her to refuse so unsuitable a
suitor as Thomas Rooper.
About fifteen minutes before dinner--which had been cooked with bits
of wood which Betsey had picked up here and there--was ready, Asaph
walked into the front yard of his sister's house attired in a
complete suit of new clothes, thick and substantial in texture,
pepper-and-salt in color, and as long in the legs and arms as the
most fastidious could desire. He had on a new shirt and a clean
collar, with a handsome black silk cravat tied in a great bow; and a
new felt hat was on his head. On his left arm he carried an
overcoat, carefully folded, with the lining outside, and in his
right hand an umbrella and a cane. In his pockets were half a dozen
new handkerchiefs and the case containing Mr. Rooper's Centennial
Marietta, who was in the hallway when he opened the front door,
scarcely knew him as he approached.
"Asaph!" she exclaimed. "What has happened to you? Why, you actually
look like a gentleman!"
Asaph grinned. "Do you want me to go to Drummondville right after
breakfast to-morrow?" he asked.
"My dear brother," said Marietta, "don't crush me by talking about
that. But if you could have seen yourself as I saw you, and could
have felt as I felt, you would not wonder at me. You must forget all
that. I should be proud now to introduce you as my brother to any
doctor or king or president. But tell me how you got those beautiful
Asaph was sometimes beset by an absurd regard for truth, which much
annoyed him. He could not say that he had worked for the clothes,
and he did not wish his sister to think that he had run in debt for
them. "They're paid for, every thread of 'em," he said. "I got 'em
in trade. These things is mine, and I don't owe no man a cent for
'em; and it seems to me that dinner must be ready."
"And proud I am," said Marietta, who never before had shown such
enthusiastic affection for her brother, "to sit down to the table
with such a nice-looking fellow as you are."
The next morning Mr. Rooper came into Mrs. Himes's yard, and there
beheld Asaph, in all the glory of his new clothes, sitting under the
chestnut-tree smoking the Centennial meerschaum pipe. Mr. Rooper
himself was dressed in his very best clothes, but he carried with
him no pipe.
"Sit down," said Asaph, "and have a smoke."
"No," replied the other; "I am goin' in the house. I have come to
see your sister."
"Goin' to begin already?" said Asaph.
"Yes," said the other; "I told you I was goin' to begin to-day."
"Very good," said his friend, crossing his pepper-and-salt legs;
"and you will finish the 17th of August. That's a good, reasonable
But Mr. Rooper had no intention of courting Mrs. Himes for a month.
He intended to propose to her that very morning. He had been turning
over the matter in his mind, and for several reasons had come to
this conclusion. In the first place, he did not believe that he
could trust Asaph, even for a single day, not to oppose him.
Furthermore, his mind was in such a turmoil from the combined effect
of the constantly present thought that Asaph was wearing his
clothes, his hat, and his shoes, and smoking his beloved pipe, and
of the perplexities and agitations consequent upon his sentiments
toward Mrs. Himes, that he did not believe he could bear the mental
strain during another night.
Five minutes later Marietta Himes was sitting on the horsehair sofa
in the parlor, with Mr. Rooper on the horsehair chair opposite to
her, and not very far away, and he was delivering the address which
he had prepared.
"Madam," said he, "I am a man that takes things in this world as
they comes, and is content to wait until the time comes for them to
come. I was well acquainted with John Himes. I knowed him in life,
and I helped lay him out. As long as there was reason to suppose
that the late Mr. Himes--I mean that the grass over the grave of Mr.
Himes had remained unwithered, I am not the man to take one step in
the direction of his shoes, nor even to consider the size of 'em in
connection with the measure of my own feet. But time will pass on in
nater as well as in real life; and while I know very well, Mrs.
Himes, that certain feelin's toward them that was is like the leaves
of the oak-tree and can't be blowed off even by the fiercest
tempests of affliction, still them leaves will wither in the fall
and turn brown and curl up at the edges, though they don't depart,
but stick on tight as wax all winter until in the springtime they is
pushed off gently without knowin' it by the green leaves which come
out in real life as well as nater."
When he had finished this opening Mr. Rooper breathed a little sigh
of relief. He had not forgotten any of it, and it pleased him.
Marietta sat and looked at him. She had a good sense of humor, and,
while she was naturally surprised at what had been said to her, she
was greatly amused by it, and really wished to hear what else Thomas
Rooper had to say to her.
"Now, madam," he continued, "I am not the man to thrash a tree with
a pole to knock the leaves off before their time. But when the young
leaves is pushin' and the old leaves is droppin' (not to make any
allusion, of course, to any shrivellin' of proper respect), then I
come forward, madam, not to take the place of anybody else, but jest
as the nateral consequence of the seasons, which everybody ought to
expect; even such as you, madam, which I may liken to a
hemlock-spruce which keeps straight on in the same general line of
appearance without no reference to the fall of the year, nor winter
nor summer. And so, Mrs. Himes, I come here to-day to offer to lead
you agin to the altar. I have never been there myself, and there
ain't no woman in the world that I'd go with but you. I'm a
straightforward person, and when I've got a thing to say I say it,
and now I have said it. And so I set here awaitin' your answer."
At this moment the shutters of the front window, which had been
closed, were opened, and Asaph put in his head. "Look here, Thomas
Rooper," he said, "these shoes is pegged. I didn't bargain for no
pegged shoes; I wanted 'em sewed; everything was to be first-class."
Mr. Rooper, who had been leaning forward in his chair, his hands
upon his knees, and his face glistening with his expressed feelings
as brightly as the old-fashioned but shining silk hat which stood on
the floor by his side, turned his head, grew red to the ears, and
then sprang to his feet. "Asaph Scantle," he cried, with extended
fist, "you have broke your word; you hindered."
"No, I didn't," said Asaph, sulkily; "but pegged shoes is too much
for any man to stand." And he withdrew from the window, closing the
"What does this mean?" asked Mrs. Himes, who had also risen.
"It means," said Thomas, speaking with difficulty, his indignation
was so great, "that your brother is a person of tricks and meanders
beyond the reach of common human calculation. I don't like to say
this of a man who is more or less likely to be my brother-in-law,
but I can't help sayin' it, so entirely upset am I at his goin' back
on me at such a minute."
"Going back on you?" asked Mrs. Himes. "What do you mean? What has
Thomas hesitated. He did not wish to interrupt his courtship by the
discussion of any new question, especially this question. "If we
could settle what we have been talkin' about, Mrs. Himes," he said,
"and if you would give me my answer, then I could git my mind down
to commoner things. But swingin' on a hook as I am, I don't know
whether my head or my heels is uppermost, or what's revolvin' around
"Oh, I can give you your answer quickly enough," she said. "It is
impossible for me to marry you, so that's all settled."
"Impossible is a big word," said Mr. Rooper. "Has anybody else got
"I am not bound to answer that question," said Marietta, slightly
coloring; "but I cannot accept you, Mr. Rooper."
"Then there's somebody else, of course," said Thomas, gazing darkly
upon the floor. "And what's more, Asaph knew it; that's just as
clear as daylight. That's what made him come to me yesterday and go
back on his first bargain."
"Now then," said Mrs. Himes, speaking very decidedly, "I want to
know what you mean by this talk about bargains."
Mr. Rooper knit his brows. "This is mighty different talk," he said,
"from the kind I expected when I come here. But you have answered my
question, now I'll answer yours. Asaph Scantle, no longer ago than
day before yesterday, after hearin' that things wasn't goin' very
well with me, recommended me to marry you, and agreed that he would
do his level best, by day and by night, to help me git you, if I
would give him a suit of clothes, an umbrella, and a dictionary."
At this Mrs. Himes gave a little gasp and sat down.
"Now, I hadn't no thoughts of tradin' for a wife," continued Thomas,
"especially in woollen goods and books; but when I considered and
turned the matter over in my mind, and thought what a woman you was,
and what a life there was afore me if I got you, I agreed to do it.
Then he wanted pay aforehand, and that I wouldn't agree to, not
because I thought you wasn't wuth it, but because I couldn't trust
him if anybody offered him more before I got you. But that ain't the
wust of it; yesterday he come down to see me and went back on his
bargain, and that after I had spent the whole night thinkin' of you
and what I was goin' to say. And he put on such high-cockalorum airs
that I, bein' as soft as mush around the heart, jest wilted and
agreed to give him everything he bargained for if he would promise
not to hinder. But he wasn't satisfied with that and wouldn't come
to no terms until I'd give him my Centennial pipe, what's been like
a child to me this many a year. And when he saw how disgruntled I
was at sich a loss, he said that my pipe might be very dear to me,
but his sister was jest as dear to him. And then, on top of the
whole thing, he pokes his head through the shutters and hinders jest
at the most ticklish moment."
"A dictionary and a pipe!" ejaculated poor Marietta, her eyes fixed
upon the floor.
"But I'm goin' to make him give 'em all back," exclaimed Thomas.
"They was the price of not hinderin', and he hindered."
"He shall give them back," said Marietta, rising, "but you must
understand, Mr. Rooper, that in no way did Asaph interfere with your
marrying me. That was a matter with which he did have and could have
nothing to do. And now I wish you could get away without speaking to
him. I do not want any quarrelling or high words here, and I will
see him and arrange the matter better than you can do it."
"Oh, I can git away without speakin' to him," said Mr. Rooper, with
reddened face. And so saying, he strode out of the house, through
the front yard, and out of the gate, without turning his head toward
Asaph, still sitting under the tree.
"Oh, ho!" said the latter to himself; "she's bounced him short and
sharp; and it serves him right, too, after playin' that trick on me.
Pegged shoes, indeed!"
At this moment the word "Asaph" came from the house in tones
shriller and sharper and higher than any in which he had ever heard
it pronounced before. He sprang to his feet and went to the house.
His sister took him into the parlor and shut the door. Her eyes were
red and her face was pale. "Asaph," said she, "Mr. Rooper has told
me the whole of your infamous conduct. Now I know what you meant
when you said that you were making arrangements to get clothes. You
were going to sell me for them. And when you found out that I was
likely to marry Doctor Wicker, you put up your price and wanted a
dictionary and a pipe."
"No, Marietta," said Asaph, "the dictionary belonged to the first
bargain. If you knew how I need a dictionary--"
"Be still!" she cried. "I do not want you to say a word. You have
acted most shamefully toward me, and I want you to go away this very
day. And before you go you must give back to Mr. Rooper everything
that you got from him. I will fit you out with some of Mr. Himes's
clothes and make no conditions at all, only that you shall go away.
Come upstairs with me, and I will get the clothes."
The room in the garret was opened, and various garments which had
belonged to the late Mr. Himes were brought out.
"This is pretty hard on me, Marietta," said Asaph, as he held up a
coat, "to give up new all-wool goods for things what has been worn
and is part cotton, if I am a judge."
Marietta said very little. She gave him what clothes he needed, and
insisted on his putting them on, making a package of the things he
had received from Mr. Rooper, and returning them to that gentleman.
Asaph at first grumbled, but he finally obeyed with a willingness
which might have excited the suspicions of Marietta had she not been
With an enormous package wrapped in brown paper in one hand, and a
cane, an umbrella, and a very small hand-bag in the other, Asaph
approached the tavern. Mr. Rooper was sitting on the piazza alone.
He was smoking a very common-looking clay pipe and gazing intently
into the air in front of him. When his old crony came and stood
before the piazza he did not turn his head nor his eyes.
"Thomas Rooper," said Asaph, "you have got me into a very bad
scrape. I have been turned out of doors on account of what you said
about me. And where I am goin' I don't know, for I can't walk to
Drummondville. And what's more, I kept my word and you didn't. I
didn't hinder you; for how could I suppose that you was goin' to pop
the question the very minute you got inside the door? And that
dictionary you promised I've not got."
Thomas Rooper answered not a word, but looked steadily in front of
him. "And there's another thing," said Asaph. "What are you goin' to
allow me for that suit of clothes what I've been wearin', what I
took off in your room and left there?"
At this Mr. Rooper sprang to his feet with such violence that the
fire danced out of the bowl of his pipe. "What is the fare to
Drummondville?" he cried.
Asaph reflected a moment. "Three dollars and fifty cents, includin'
"I'll give you that for them clothes," said the other, and counted