The Wind in the Rose-bush by Mary E. Wilkins
FORD VILLAGE has no railroad
station, being on the other side of the river from Porter's
Falls, and accessible only by the ford which gives it its
name, and a ferry line.
The ferry-boat was waiting when Rebecca Flint
got off the train with her bag and lunch basket. When she
and her small trunk were safely embarked she sat stiff and
straight and calm in the ferry-boat as it shot swiftly and
smoothly across stream. There was a horse attached to a
light country wagon on board, and he pawed the deck
uneasily. His owner stood near, with a wary eye upon him,
although he was chewing, with as dully reflective an
expression as a cow. Beside Rebecca sat a woman of about her
own age, who kept looking at her with furtive curiosity; her
husband, short and stout and saturnine, stood near her.
Rebecca paid no attention to either of them. She was tall
and spare and pale, the type of a spinster, yet with
rudimentary lines and expressions of matronhood. She all
unconsciously held her shawl, rolled up in a canvas bag, on
her left hip, as if it had been a child. She wore a settled
frown of dissent at life, but it was the frown of a mother
who regarded life as a froward child, rather than as an
The other woman continued staring at her; she
was mildly stupid, except for an overdeveloped curiosity
which made her at times sharp beyond belief. Her eyes
glittered, red spots came on her flaccid cheeks; she kept
opening her mouth to speak, making little abortive motions.
Finally she could endure it no longer; she nudged Rebecca
"A pleasant day," said she.
Rebecca looked at her and nodded coldly.
"Yes, very," she assented.
"Have you come far?"
"I have come from Michigan."
"Oh!" said the woman, with awe.
"It's a long way," she remarked, presently.
"Yes, it is," replied Rebecca,
Still the other woman was not daunted; there
was something which she determined to know, possibly roused
thereto by a vague sense of incongruity in the other's
appearance. "It's a long ways to come and leave a
family," she remarked with painful slyness.
"I ain't got any family to leave,"
returned Rebecca, shortly.
"Then you ain't----"
"No, I ain't."
"Oh!" said the woman.
Rebecca looked straight ahead at the race of
It was a long ferry. Finally Rebecca herself
waxed unexpectedly loquacious. She turned to the older woman
and inquired if she knew Jolin Dent's widow who lived in
Ford Village. "Her husband died about three years
ago," said she, by way of detail.
The woman started violently. She turned pale,
then she flushed; she cast a strange glance at her husband,
who was regarding both women with a sort of stolid keenness.
"Yes, I guess I do," faltered the
"Well, his first wife was my
sister," said Rebecca with the air of one imparting
"Was she?" responded the other
woman, feebly. She glanced at her husband with an expression
of doubt and terror, and he shook his head forbiddingly.
"I'm going to see her and take my niece
Agnes home with me," said Rebecca.
Then the woman gave such a violent start that
she noticed it.
"What is the matter?" she asked.
"Nothin', I guess," replied the
woman, with eyes on her husband, who was slowly shaking his
head, like a Chinese toy.
"Is my niece sick?" asked Rebecca
with quick suspicion.
"No, she ain't sick," replied the
woman with alacrity, then she caught her breath with a gasp.
"When did you see her?"
"Let me see; I ain't seen her for some
little time," replied the woman. Then she caught her
"She ought to have grown up real pretty,
if she takes after my sister. She was a real pretty
woman," Rebecca said, wistfully.
"Yes, I guess she did grow up
pretty," replied the woman in a trembling voice.
"What kind of a woman is the second
The woman glanced at her husband's warning
face. She continued to gaze at him while she replied in a
choking voice to Rebecca:
"I--guess she's a nice woman," she
replied. "I--don't know, I guess so. I--don't see much
"I felt kind of hurt that John married
again so quick," said Rebecca; "but I suppose he
wanted his house kept, and Agnes wanted care. I wasn't so
situated that I could take her when her mother died. I had
my own mother to care for, and I was school-teaching. Now
mother has gone, and my uncle died six months ago and left
me quite a little property, and I've given up my school and
I've come for Agnes. I guess she'll be glad to go with me,
though I suppose her stepmother is a good woman and has
always done for her."
The man's warning shake at his wife was
"I guess so," said she.
"John always wrote that she was a
beautiful woman," said Rebecca.
Then the ferry-boat grated on the shore.
John Dent's widow had sent a horse and wagon
to meet her sister-in-law. When the woman and her husband
went down the road, on which Rebecca in the wagon with her
trunk soon passed them, she said, reproachfully:
"Seems as if I'd ought to have told her,
"Let her find it out herself,"
replied the man. "Don't you go to burnin' your fingers
in other folks' puddin', Maria."
"Do you s'pose she'll see
anything?" asked the woman with a spasmodic shudder and
a terrified roll of her eyes.
"See!" returned her husband with
stolid scorn. "Better be sure there's anything to
"Oh, Thomas, they say----"
"Lord, ain't you found out that what
they say is mostly lies?"
"But if it should be true, and she's a
nervous woman, she might be scared enough to lose her
wits," said his wife, staring uneasily after Rebecca's
erect figure in the wagon disappearing over the crest of the
"Wits that's so easy upset ain't worth
much," declared the man. "You keep out of it,
Rebecca in the meantime rode on in the wagon,
beside a flaxen-headed boy, who looked, to her
understanding, not very bright. She asked him a question,
and he paid no attention. She repeated it, and he responded
with a bewildered and incoherent grunt. Then she let him
alone, after making sure that he knew how to drive straight.
They had traveled about half a mile, passed
the village square, and gone a short distance beyond, when
the boy drew up with a sudden Whoa! before a very
prosperous-looking house. It had been one of the
aboriginal cottages of the vicinity, small and white, with a
roof extending on one side over a piazza, and a tiny
"L" jutting out in the rear, on the right hand.
Now the cottage was transformed by dormer windows, a bay
window on the piazzaless side, a carved railing down the
front steps, and a modern hardwood door.
"Is this John Dent's house?" asked
The boy was as sparing of speech as a
philosopher. His only response was in flinging the reins
over the horse's back, stretching out one foot to the shaft,
and leaping out of the wagon, then going around to the rear
for the trunk. Rebecca got out and went toward the house.
Its white paint had a new gloss; its blinds were an
immaculate apple green; the lawn was trimmed as smooth as
velvet, and it was dotted with scrupulous groups of
hydrangeas and cannas.
"I always understood that John Dent was
well-to-do," Rebecca reflected, comfortably. "I
guess Agnes will have considerable. I've got enough, but it
will come in handy for her schooling. She can have
The boy dragged the trunk up the fine gravel
walk, but before he reached the steps leading up to the
piazza, for the house stood on a terrace, the front door
opened and a fair, frizzled head of a very large and
handsome woman appeared. She held up her black silk skirt,
disclosing voluminous ruffles of starched embroidery, and
waited for Rebecca. She smiled placidly, her pink,
double-chinned face widened and dimpled, but her blue
eyes were wary and calculating. She extended her hand as
Rebecca climbed the steps.
"This is Miss Flint, I suppose,"
"Yes, ma'am," replied Rebecca,
noticing with bewilderment a curious expression compounded
of fear and defiance on the other's face.
"Your letter only arrived this
morning," said Mrs. Dent, in a steady voice. Her great
face was a uniform pink, and her china-blue eyes were at
once aggressive and veiled with secrecy.
"Yes, I hardly thought you'd get my
letter," replied Rebecca. "I felt as if I could
not wait to hear from you before I came. I supposed you
would be so situated that you could have me a little while
without putting you out too much, from what John used to
write me about his circumstances, and when I had that money
so unexpected I felt as if I must come for Agnes. I suppose
you will be willing to give her up. You know she's my own
blood, and of course she's no relation to you, though you
must have got attached to her. I know from her picture what
a sweet girl she must be, and John always said she looked
like her own mother, and Grace was a beautiful woman, if she
was my sister."
Rebecca stopped and stared at the other woman
in amazement and alarm. The great handsome blonde creature
stood speechless, livid, gasping, with her hand to her
heart, her lips parted in a horrible caricature of a smile.
"Are you sick!" cried Rebecca,
drawing near. "Don't you want me to get you some
Then Mrs. Dent recovered herself with a great
effort. "It is nothing," she said. "I am
subject to--spells. I am over it now. Won't you come in,
As she spoke, the beautiful deep-rose color
suffused her face, her blue eyes met her visitor's with the
opaqueness of turquoise--with a revelation of blue, but
a concealment of all behind.
Rebecca followed her hostess in, and the boy,
who had waited quiescently, climbed the steps with the
trunk. But before they entered the door a strange thing
happened. On the upper terrace, close to the piazza post,
grew a great rose-bush, and on it, late in the season though
it was, one small red, perfect rose.
Rebecca looked at it, and the other woman
extended her hand with a quick gesture. "Don't you pick
that rose!" she brusquely cried.
Rebecca drew herself up with stiff dignity.
"I ain't in the habit of picking other
folks' roses without leave," said she.
As Rebecca spoke she started violently and
lost sight of her resentment, for something singular
happened. Suddenly the rosebush was agitated violently as if
by a gust of wind, yet it was a remarkably still day. Not a
leaf of the hydrangea standing on the terrace close to the
"What on earth----" began Rebecca;
then she stopped with a gasp at the sight of the other
woman's face. Although a face, it gave somehow the
impression of a desperately clutched hand of secrecy.
"Come in!" said she in a harsh
voice, which seemed to come forth from her chest with no
intervention of the organs of speech. "Come into the
house. I'm getting cold out here."
"What makes that rose-bush blow so when
there isn't any wind?" asked Rebecca, trembling with
vague horror, yet resolute.
"I don't see as it is blowing,"
returned the woman, calmly. And as she spoke, indeed, the
bush was quiet.
"It was blowing," declared Rebecca.
"It isn't now," said Mrs. Dent.
"I can't try to account for everything that blows
out-of-doors. I have too much to do."
She spoke scornfully and confidently, with
defiant, unflinching eyes, first on the bush, then on
Rebecca, and led the way into the house.
"It looked queer," persisted
Rebecca, but she followed, and also the boy with the trunk.
Rebecca entered an interior, prosperous, even
elegant, according to her simple ideas. There were Brussels
carpets, lace curtains, and plenty of brilliant upholstery
and polished wood.
"You're real nicely situated,"
remarked Rebecca after she had become a little accustomed to
her new surroundings and the two women were seated at the
Mrs. Dent stared with a hard complacency from
behind her silver-plated service. "Yes, I be,"
"You got all the things new?" said
Rebecca, hesitatingly, with a jealous memory of her dead
sister's bridal furnishings.
"Yes," said Mrs. Dent. "I was
never one to want dead folks' things, and I had money enough
of my own, so I wasn't beholden to John. I had the old duds
put up at auction. They didn't bring much."
"I suppose you saved some for Agnes.
She'll want some of her poor mother's things when she is
grown up," said Rebecca with some indignation.
The defiant stare of Mrs. Dent's blue eyes
waxed more intense. "There's a few things up
garret," said she.
"She'll be likely to value them,"
remarked Rebecca. As she spoke she glanced at the window.
"Isn't it 'most time for her to be coming home?"
"'Most time," answered Mrs. Dent,
carelessly; "but when she gets over to Addie Slocum's
she never knows when to come home."
"Is Addie Slocum her intimate
"Intimate as any."
"Maybe we can have her come out to see
Agnes when she's living with me," said Rebecca,
wistfully. "I suppose she'll be likely to be homesick
"Most likely," answered Mrs. Dent.
"Does she call you mother?" Rebecca
"No, she calls me Aunt Emeline,"
replied the other woman, shortly. "When did you say you
were going home?"
"In about a week, I thought, if she can
be ready to go so soon," answered Rebecca with a
She reflected that she would not remain a day
longer than she could help after such an inhospitable look
"Oh, as far as that goes," said
Mrs. Dent, "it wouldn't make any difference about her
being ready. You could go home whenever you felt that you
must, and she could come afterward."
"Why not? She's a big girl now, and you
don't have to change cars."
"My niece will go home when I do, and
not travel alone; and if I can't wait here for her, in the
house that used to be her mother's and my sister's home,
I'll go and board somewhere," returned Rebecca with
"Oh, you can stay here as long as you
want to. You're welcome," said Mrs. Dent.
Then Rebecca started. "There she
is!" she declared in a trembling, exultant voice.
Nobody knew how she longed to see the girl.
"She isn't as late as I thought she'd
be," said Mrs. Dent, and again that curious, subtle
change passed over her face, and again it settled into that
Rebecca stared at the door, waiting for it to
open. "Where is she?" she asked, presently.
"I guess she's stopped to take off her
hat in the entry," suggested Mrs. Dent.
Rebecca waited. "Why don't she come? It
can't take her all this time to take off her hat."
For answer Mrs. Dent rose with a stiff jerk
and threw open the door.
"Agnes!" she called.
"Agnes!" Then she turned and eyed Rebecca.
"She ain't there."
"I saw her pass the window," said
Rebecca in bewilderment.
"You must have been mistaken."
"I know I did," persisted Rebecca.
"You couldn't have."
"I did. I saw first a shadow go over the
ceiling, then I saw her in the glass there"--she
pointed to a mirror over the sideboard opposite--"and
then the shadow passed the window."
"How did she look in the glass?"
"Little and light-haired, with the light
hair kind of tossing over her forehead."
"You couldn't have seen her."
"Was that like Agnes?"
"Like enough; but of course you didn't
see her. You've been thinking so much about her that you
thought you did."
"You thought you did."
"I thought I saw a shadow pass the
window, but I must have been mistaken. She didn't come in,
or we would have seen her before now. I knew it was too
early for her to get home from Addie Slocum's, anyhow."
When Rebecca went to bed Agnes had not
returned. Rebecca had resolved that she would not retire
until the girl came, but she was very tired, and she
reasoned with herself that she was foolish. Besides, Mrs.
Dent suggested that Agnes might go to the church social with
Addie Slocum. When Rebecca suggested that she be sent for
and told that her aunt had come, Mrs. Dent laughed
"I guess you'll find out that a young
girl ain't so ready to leave a sociable, where there's boys,
to see her aunt," said she.
"She's too young," said Rebecca,
incredulously and indignantly.
"She's sixteen," replied Mrs. Dent;
"and she's always been great for the boys."
"She's going to school four years after
I get her before she thinks of boys," declared Rebecca.
"We'll see," laughed the other
After Rebecca went to bed, she lay awake a
long time listening for the sound of girlish laughter and a
boy's voice under her window; then she fell asleep.
The next morning she was down early. Mrs.
Dent, who kept no servants, was busily preparing breakfast.
"Don't Agnes help you about
breakfast?" asked Rebecca. "No, I let her
lay," replied Mrs. Dent, shortly.
"What time did she get home last
"She didn't get home."
"She didn't get home. She stayed with
Addie. She often does."
"Without sending you word?"
"Oh, she knew I wouldn't worry."
"When will she be home?"
"Oh, I guess she'll be along pretty
Rebecca was uneasy, but she tried to conceal
it, for she knew of no good reason for uneasiness. What was
there to occasion alarm in the fact of one young girl
staying overnight with another? She could not eat much
breakfast. Afterward she went out on the little piazza,
although her hostess strove furtively to stop her.
"Why don't you go out back of the house?
It's real pretty--a view over the river," she said.
"I guess I'll go out here," replied
Rebecca. She had a purpose--to watch for the absent girl.
Presently Rebecca came hustling into the
house through the sitting room, into the kitchen where Mrs.
Dent was cooking.
"That rose-bush!" she gasped.
Mrs. Dent turned and faced her.
"What of it?"
"What of it?"
"There isn't a mite of wind this
Mrs. Dent turned with an inimitable toss of
her fair head. "If you think I can spend my time
puzzling over such nonsense as ----" she began, but
Rebecca interrupted her with a cry and a rush to the door.
"There she is now!" she cried.
She flung the door wide open, and curiously
enough a breeze came in and her own gray hair tossed, and a
paper blew off the table to the floor with a loud rustle,
but there was nobody in sight.
"There's nobody here," Rebecca
She looked blankly at the other woman, who
brought her rolling-pin down on a slab of pie crust with a
"I didn't hear anybody," she said,
"I saw somebody pass that
"You were mistaken again."
"I know I saw somebody."
"You couldn't have. Please shut that
Rebecca shut the door. She sat down beside
the window and looked out on the autumnal yard, with its
little curve of footpath to the kitchen door.
"What smells so strong of roses in this
room?" she said, presently. She sniffed hard.
"I don't smell anything but these
"It is not nutmeg."
"I don't smell anything else."
"Where do you suppose Agnes is?"
"Oh, perhaps she has gone over the ferry
to Porter's Falls with Addie. She often does. Addie's got an
aunt over there, and Addie's got a cousin, a real pretty
"You suppose she's gone over
"Mebbe. I shouldn't wonder."
"When should she be home?"
"Oh, not before afternoon."
Rebecca waited with all the patience she
could muster. She kept reassuring herself, telling herself
that it was all natural, that the other woman could not help
it, but she made up her mind that if Agnes did not return
that afternoon she should be sent for.
When it was four o'clock she started up with
resolution. She had been furtively watching the onyx clock
on the sitting-room mantel; she had timed herself. She
had said that if Agnes was not home by that time she should
demand that she be sent for. She rose and stood before Mrs.
Dent, who looked up coolly from her embroidery.
"I've waited just as long as I'm going
to," she said. "I've come 'way from Michigan to
see my own sister's daughter and take her home with me. I've
been here ever since yesterday--twenty-four hours--and
I haven't seen her. Now I'm going to. I want her sent
Mrs. Dent folded her embroidery and rose.
"Well, I don't blame you," she
said. "It is high time she came home. I'll go right
over and get her myself."
Rebecca heaved a sigh of relief. She hardly
knew what she had suspected or feared, but she knew that her
position had been one of antagonism if not accusation, and
she was sensible of relief.
"I wish you would," she said,
gratefully, and went back to her chair, while Mrs. Dent got
her shawl and her little white head-tie. "I wouldn't
trouble you, but I do feel as if I couldn't wait any longer
to see her," she remarked, apologetically.
"Oh, it ain't any trouble at all,"
said Mrs. Dent as she went out. "I don't blame you; you
have waited long enough."
Rebecca sat at the window watching
breathlessly until Mrs. Dent came stepping through the yard
alone. She ran to the door and saw, hardly noticing it this
time, that the rose-bush was again violently agitated, yet
with no wind evident elsewhere.
"Where is she?" she cried.
Mrs. Dent laughed with stiff lips as she came
up the steps over the terrace. "Girls will be
girls," said she. "She's gone with Addie to
Lincoln. Addie's got an uncle who's conductor on the train,
and lives there, and he got 'em passes, and they're goin' to
stay to Addie's Aunt Margaret's a few days Mrs. Slocum said
Agnes didn't have time to come over and ask me before the
train went, but she took it on herself to say it would be
all right, and ----"
"Why hadn't she been over to tell
you?" Rebecca was angry, though not suspicious. She
even saw no reason for her anger.
"Oh, she was putting up grapes. She was
coming over just as soon as she got the black off her hands.
She heard I had company, and her hands were a sight. She was
holding them over sulphur matches."
"You say she's going to stay a few
days?" repeated Rebecca, dazedly.
"Yes; till Thursday, Mrs. Slocum
"How far is Lincoln from here?"
"About fifty miles. It'll be a real
treat to her. Mrs. Slocum's sister is a real nice
"It is goin' to make it pretty late
about my goin' home."
"If you don't feel as if you could wait,
I'll get her ready and send her on just as soon as I
can," Mrs. Dent said, sweetly.
"I'm going to wait," said Rebecca,
The two women sat down again, and Mrs. Dent
took up her embroidery.
"Is there any sewing I can do for
her?" Rebecca asked, finally, in a desperate way.
"If I can get her sewing along some ----"
Mrs. Dent arose with alacrity and fetched a
mass of white from the closet. "Here," she said,
"if you want to sew the lace on this nightgown. I was
going to put her to it, but she'll be glad enough to get rid
of it. She ought to have this and one more before she goes.
I don't like to send her away without some good
Rebecca snatched at the little white garment
and sewed feverishly.
That night she wakened from a deep sleep a
little after midnight and lay a minute trying to collect her
faculties and explain to herself what she was listening to.
At last she discovered that it was the then popular strains
of "The Maiden's Prayer" floating up through the
floor from the piano in the sitting room below. She jumped
up, threw a shawl over her nightgown, and hurried downstairs
trembling. There was nobody in the sitting room: the piano
was silent. She ran to Mrs. Dent's bedroom and called
"What is it?" asked Mrs. Dent's
voice from the bed. The voice was stern, but had a note of
consciousness in it.
"Who--who was that playing 'The Maiden's
Prayer' in the sitting room, on the piano?"
"I didn't hear anybody."
"There was some one."
"I didn't hear anything."
"I tell you there was some one.
But--there ain't anybody there."
"I didn't hear anything."
"I did--somebody playing 'The Maiden's
Prayer' on the piano. Has Agnes got home? I want to
"Of course Agnes hasn't got home,"
answered Mrs. Dent with rising inflection. "Be you gone
crazy over that girl? The last boat from Porter's Falls was
in before we went to bed. Of course she ain't come."
"I heard ----"
"You were dreaming."
"I wasn't; I was broad awake."
Rebecca went back to her chamber and kept her
lamp burning all night.
The next morning her eyes upon Mrs. Dent were
wary and blazing with suppressed excitement. She kept
opening her mouth as if to speak, then frowning, and setting
her lips hard. After breakfast she went upstairs, and came
down presently with her coat and bonnet.
"Now, Emeline," she said, "I
want to know where the Slocums live."
Mrs. Dent gave a strange, long, half-lidded
glance at her. She was finishing her coffee.
"Why?" she asked.
"I'm going over there and find out if
they have heard anything from her daughter and Agnes since
they went away. I don't like what I heard last night."
"You must have been dreaming."
"It don't make any odds whether I was or
not. Does she play 'The Maiden's Prayer' on the piano? I
want to know."
"What if she does? She plays it a
little, I believe. I don't know. She don't half play it,
anyhow; she ain't got an ear."
"That wasn't half played last night. I
don't like such things happening. I ain't superstitious, but
I don't like it. I'm going. Where do the Slocums live?"
"You go down the road over the bridge
past the old grist mill, then you turn to the left; it's the
only house for half a mile. You can't miss it. It has a barn
with a ship in full sail on the cupola."
"Well, I'm going. I don't feel
About two hours later Rebecca returned. There
were red spots on her cheeks. She looked wild. "I've
been there," she said, "and there isn't a soul at
home. Something has happened."
"What has happened?"
"I don't know. Something. I had a
warning last night. There wasn't a soul there. They've been
sent for to Lincoln."
"Did you see anybody to ask?" asked
Mrs. Dent with thinly concealed anxiety.
"I asked the woman that lives on the
turn of the road. She's stone deaf. I suppose you know. She
listened while I screamed at her to know where the Slocums
were, and then she said, 'Mrs. Smith don't live here.' I
didn't see anybody on the road, and that's the only house.
What do you suppose it means?"
"I don't suppose it means much of
anything," replied Mrs. Dent, coolly. "Mr. Slocum
is conductor on the railroad, and he'd be away, anyway, and
Mrs. Slocum often goes early when he does, to spend the day
with her sister in Porter's Falls. She'd be more likely to
go away than Addie."
"And you don't think anything has
happened?" Rebecca asked with diminishing distrust
before the reasonableness of it.
Rebecca went upstairs to lay aside her coat
and bonnet. But she came hurrying back with them still on.
"Who's been in my room?" she
gasped. Her face was pale as ashes.
Mrs. Dent also paled as she regarded her.
"What do you mean?" she asked,
"I found when I went upstairs
that--little nightgown of--Agnes's on--the bed, laid out. It
was--laid out. The sleeves were folded across the
bosom, and there was that little red rose between them.
Emeline, what is it? Emeline, what's the matter? Oh!"
Mrs. Dent was struggling for breath in great,
choking gasps. She clung to the back of a chair. Rebecca,
trembling herself so she could scarcely keep on her feet,
got her some water.
As soon as she recovered herself Mrs. Dent
regarded her with eyes full of the strangest mixture of fear
and horror and hostility. "What do you mean talking
so?" she said in a hard voice.
"It is there."
"Nonsense. You threw it down and it fell
"It was folded in my bureau
"It couldn't have been."
"Who picked that red rose?"
"Look on the bush," Mrs. Dent
Rebecca looked at her; her mouth gaped. She
hurried out of the room. When she came back her eyes seemed
to protrude. (She had in the meantime hastened upstairs, and
come down with tottering steps, clinging to the banister.)
"Now I want to know what all this
means?" she demanded.
"What what means?"
"The rose is on the bush, and it's gone
from the bed in my room! Is this house haunted, or
"I don't know anything about a house
being haunted. I don't believe in such things. Be you
crazy?" Mrs. Dent spoke with gathering force. The color
flashed back to her cheeks.
"No," said Rebecca, shortly,
"I ain't crazy yet, but I shall be if this keeps on
much longer. I'm going to find out where that girl is before
Mrs. Dent eyed her. "What be you going
"I'm going to Lincoln."
A faint triumphant smile overspread Mrs.
Dent's large face.
"You can't," said she; "there
ain't any train."
"No; there ain't any afternoon train
from the Falls to Lincoln."
"Then I'm going over to the Slocums'
However, Rebecca did not go; such a rain came
up as deterred even her resolution, and she had only her
best dresses with her. Then in the evening came the letter
from the Michigan village which she had left nearly a week
ago. It was from her cousin, a single woman, who had come to
keep her house while she was away. It was a pleasant
unexciting letter enough, all the first of it, and related
mostly how she missed Rebecca; how she hoped she was having
pleasant weather and kept her health; and how her friend,
Mrs. Greenaway, had come to stay with her since she had felt
lonesome the first night in the house; how she hoped Rebecca
would have no objections to this, although nothing had been
said about it, since she had not realized that she might be
nervous alone. The cousin was painfully conscientious, hence
the letter. Rebecca smiled in spite of her disturbed mind as
she read it; then her eye caught the postscript. That was in
a different hand, purporting to be written by the friend,
Mrs. Hannah Greenaway, informing her that the cousin had
fallen down the cellar stairs and broken her hip, and was in
a dangerous condition, and begging Rebecca to return at
once, as she herself was rheumatic and unable to nurse her
properly, and no one else could be obtained.
Rebecca looked at Mrs. Dent, who had come to
her room with the letter quite late; it was half-past nine,
and she had gone upstairs for the night.
"Where did this come from?" she
"Mr. Amblecrom brought it," she
"The postmaster. He often brings the
letters that come on the late mail. He knows I ain't anybody
to send. He brought yours about your coming. He said he and
his wife came over on the ferry-boat with you."
"I remember him," Rebecca replied,
shortly. "There's bad news in this letter."
Mrs. Dent's face took on an expression of
"Yes, my Cousin Harriet has fallen down
the cellar stairs--they were always dangerous--and
she's broken her hip, and I've got to take the first train
"You don't say so. I'm dreadfully
"No, you ain't sorry!" said Rebecca
with a look as if she leaped. "You're glad. I don't
know why, but you're glad. You've wanted to get rid of me
for some reason ever since I came. I don't know why. You're
a strange woman. Now you've got your way, and I hope you're
"How you talk."
Mrs. Dent spoke in a faintly injured voice,
but there was a light in her eyes.
"I talk the way it is. Well, I'm going
to-morrow morning, and I want you, just as soon as Agnes
Dent comes home, to send her out to me. Don't you wait for
anything. You pack what clothes she's got, and don't wait
even to mend them, and you buy her ticket. I'll leave the
money, and you send her along. She don't have to change
cars. You start her off, when she gets home, on the next
"Very well," replied the other
woman. She had an expression of covert amusement.
"Mind you do it."
"Very well, Rebecca."
Rebecca started on her journey the next
morning. When she arrived, two days later, she found her
cousin in perfect health. She found, moreover, that the
friend had not written the postscript in the cousin's
letter. Rebecca would have returned to Ford Village the next
morning, but the fatigue and nervous strain had been too
much for her. She was not able to move from her bed. She had
a species of low fever induced by anxiety and fatigue. But
she could write, and she did, to the Slocums, and she
received no answer. She also wrote to Mrs. Dent; she even
sent numerous telegrams, with no response. Finally she wrote
to the postmaster, and an answer arrived by the first
possible mail. The letter was short, curt, and to the
purpose. Mr. Amblecrom, the post-master, was a man of few
words, and especially wary as to his expressions in a
"Dear madam," he wrote, "your
favour rec'ed. No Slocums in Ford's Village. All dead. Addie
ten years ago, her mother two years later, her father five.
House vacant. Mrs. John Dent said to have neglected
stepdaughter. Girl was sick. Medicine not given. Talk of
taking action. Not enough evidence. House said to be
haunted. Strange sights and sounds. Your niece, Agnes Dent,
died a year ago, about this time.