Abijah's Bubble by F. Hopkinson Smith
Ezekiel Todd, her dry, tight-fisted, lean father, had named her,
bawling it out so loud that the more suitable, certainly the more
euphonious, Evangeline, proffered in a timid whisper by her faded and
somewhat romantic mother, was completely smothered.
I baptize thee, Evang began the minister, when Ezekiel's voice
Abijah, I tell ye, ParsonA-b-i-j-a-hAbijah! And Abijah it was.
The women were furious.
Jes' like Zeke Todd. He's too ornery to live. I come mighty near
speakin' right out, and hadn't been that Martha held on to me I would.
Call her Abbie, for short, Mrs. Todd, exclaimed Deacon Libby's wife,
and shame him.
Abbie never minded it. She was too little to remember, she always
said, and there were few people in the village of Taylorsville present
at the christening who did.
Old Si Spavey, however, never forgot. You kin call yourself Abbie
if you choose, he used to say, and 'tain't none o' my business, but I
was in the meetin'-house and heard Zeke let drive, and b'gosh it
sounded just like a buzz-saw strikin' the butt-end of a log. 'Abijah!
Abijah! he hollered. Shet Parson Simmons up same's a steel trap.
Gosh, but it was funny!
Only twice since the christening had she to face the consequences of
her father's ill temper. This was after his death, when the needs of
the poor mother made a small mortgage imperative and she must sign as a
witness. It came with a certain shock, but there was no help for it,
and she went through the ordeal bravely, dotting the i and giving a
little flourish to the tail of the h.
The second time was when she signed her application for the position
of postmistress of the village. The big mill-owner, Hiram Taylor,
brought her the paper.
Got to put it all in, Miss Abbie, he said with a laugh. Shut your
eyes and sign it and then forget it. Awful, ain't it?but that's the
law, and there ain't no way of getting round it, I guess.
Hiram Taylor had left the village years before, rather suddenly,
some had thought, when he was a strapping young fellow of twenty-two or
three, and had moved West and stayed West until he came back the year
before with a wife and a houseful of children. Then the lawyers in the
village got busy, and pretty soon some builders came down from Boston,
only fifty miles away, and then a lot of bricklayers; and some cars
were switched off on the siding, loaded with lumber and lath and brick,
and next a train-load of machinery, and so the mills were running again
with Hiram sole owner and in full charge. One of the first things he
did after his arrivalthe following morning, reallywas to look up
Abbie's mother. He gave a littie start when he saw how shabby the
cottage looked; no paint for yearssteps rottingwindow-blinds
broken, with a hinge loose. He gave a big one when a thin,
hollow-chested woman, gray and spare, opened the door at his knock.
Hiram! she gasped, and the two went inside, and the door was shut.
All she said when Abbie came home from schoolshe was teaching that
yearwas: The new mill-owner came to see me. His name's Taylor.
That same day a heavy-set man with gray hair and beard, and
jet-black eyebrows shading two kindly eyes, got out of his wagon,
hitched his horse to a post in front of the school-house and stepped to
I'm Hiram Taylor, up to the mills. Going to send one of my girls to
you to-morrow and thought I'd drop in. Then he looked around and said:
Want another coat of whitewash on these walls, don't you, andand a
new stove? This don't seem to be drawin' like it ought to. If them
trustees won't get ugly about it, I got a new stove up to the mill I
don't want, and I'll send it down. And he did. The trustees shrugged
their shoulders, but made no objections. If Hiram Taylor wanted to
throw his money away it was none of their business. Abbie Todd never
said she was coldnot as they had heard on.
When the new school building was finisheda brick structure with
stone trimmings, steam-heated, and varnished desks and seatsthe craze
for the new and up-to-date so dominated the board that they paid Abbie
a month's salary in advance and then replaced her with a man graduate
from Concord. Abbie took her dismissal as a matter of course. Nothing
good ever lasted long. When she went up one step she always slid back
two. It had been that way all her life.
Hiram heard of it and came rattling into the village, where he
expressed himself at a town meeting in language distinguished for its
clearness and force. The result was Abbie's application for the
position of postmistress.
This time he didn't consult the trustees or anybody else. He wrote a
private note to the Postmaster-General, who was his friend, and the
appointment came by return mail.
Mr. Taylor would often chat with her through the little window with
which she held converse with the publiche often came himself for his
mailbut she made no mention of her state of mind. She was earning her
living, and she was for the time content. He had helped her and she was
gratefulmore than this it was not her habit to dwell upon. One thing
she was convinced of: she wouldn't keep the position long.
Her mother knew her misgivings, and so did a small open wood fire in
the sitting-room. Many a night the two would croon together. The mother
shrivelled and faded; Abbie herself being over thirtynot so
fresh-looking as she had beennot so prettynever had been very
pretty. Her mother knew, too, how hard she had always struggled to do
something better; how she had studied drawing at the normal school when
she was preparing to be a teacher; and how she had spent weeks in the
elaboration of wall-paper patterns, which she had sent to the
Decorative Art Society in Boston, only to have them returned to her in
the same wrapper in which they had been mailed, with the indorsement
not suitable. That's why she didn't think she was going to be
postmistress long. Far into the night these talks would continue-long
after the other neighbors had gone to bednine o'clock
maybesometimes as late as tenan unheard-of thing in Taylorsville,
where everybody was up at daylight.
Then one day an extraordinary thing happenedextraordinary so far
as her modest post-office was concerned. A poster appeared on the wall
of her officea huge card, big as the top of a school desk, bearing in
large type this legend: Rock Creek Copper Company. Keep &Co., Agents,
and at the bottom, in small type, directions as to the best way of
securing the stock before the lists were closed. She had noticed the
name of the company emblazoned on many of the communications addressed
to people in the villagethe richer onesbut here it was in cold
typehot type, for that matter, for it was in flaming redon the
wall, in front of her window.
Abbie lifted her head in surprise when she saw what had been done
without even By your leave. She had found auction sales, sheriff's
notices and tax warnings opposite her window, but never copper mines.
The longer she looked at it the better she liked it. There was a cheery
bit of color in its blazing letters, and she was partial to bits of
color. That's why she kept plants all winter in the little sitting-room
at home, and nursed one cactus that gave out a scarlet bloom once in so
It was Miss Maria Furgusson, of Bostonsummer boarder at the next
cottage; second floor, six dollars a week, including washingthat
revived, kept alive, in fact, fanned to fever heat, Abbie's first
impression of the poster. Maria called for her mail, and the intimacy
had gone so far that before the week was out Miss Todd had been
replaced by Abbie and then Ab, and Miss Furgusson by Mariathe
postmistress being too dignified for further abbreviation.
Oh, there's our lovely copper minewhere did you get it? Who put
Maria was a shirt-waisted young woman with a bang and a penetrating
voice. She had charge of the hosiery counter in a department store and
could call Cash in tones that brought instant service. This, with her
promptness, had endeared her to many impatient customersespecially
those from out of town who wanted to catch trains. It was through one
of these hayseeds that she secured board at so reasonable a price in
Taylorsville during her vacation.
What do you know about it? inquired Abbie. Such things were Greek
Know? I've got twenty shares, and I'm going to have money to burn
Abbie bent her head, and took in as much of Miss Furgusson as she
could see through the square hole in her window.
Who gave it to you? The idea of a girl like Maria ever having
money enough to buy anything of that kind never occurred to her.
Nobody; I bought it; paid two dollars a share for it and now it's
up to three, and Mr. Slathers, our floor-walker, says it's going to
twenty-five. I've got a profit of twenty dollars on mine now.
Abbie made a mental calculation; twenty dollars was a considerable
part of her month's salary.
And everybody in our store has got some. Mr. Slathers has made
eight hundred dollars, and I know for sure that Miss Henders is going
to leave the cloak department and set up a typewriting place, because
she told me so; she's got a brother in the feed business who staked
Staked her? What's that?
Loaned her the money, answered Maria, a certain pity in her voice
for one so green and countrified.
How do you get it? Abbie's eyes were shining like the disks of a
brass letter scale and almost as largethey were still upon Maria.
No, the stock.
Why, send Mr. Keep the money and he buys the stock and sends you
back the certificate. Want to see mine? I've got it pinned inHere it
Abbie opened the door of the glass partition and beckoned to the
shopgirl. She rarely allowed visitors inside, but this one seemed to
hold the key to a new world.
The girl slipped her fingers inside her shirtwaist and drew out a
square piece of paper bearing the inscription of the poster in big
letters. At the bottom of the paper a section of cement drain-pipe
poured forth a steady stream of water, and the whole was underlined by
a motto meaning Peace and Plentyof water, no doubt.
Abbie looked at the beautifully engraved document and a warm glow
suffused her face. Was it as easy as this? Did this little scrap of
paper mean rest and the spreading of wings, and freedom for her mother?
Then she caught her breath. She hadn't any brother in the feed
business-nor anywhere else, for that matter. How would she get the
money? She had only her salary; her mother earned little or
nothingthe interest on the mortgage would be due in a day or so;
thank God it was nearly paid off. Then her heart rose in her throat.
Mr. Taylor! Why he was so kind she never knewbut he was. But if he
insisted as he had with the store and the position in the post-office!
Nohe had done too much already. Besides, she could never repay him if
anything went wrong. Nothis was not her chance for freedom.
Abbie handed the certificate back. Queer way of making money, was
all she said as she reached for her hat and shawl, and went home to
That evening after supper, the two crooning over the fire, Abbie
talked it over with her mothernot the stocknot a word of thatbut
of how Maria had made a lot of money, and how she wished she had a
little of her own so she could make some, too. This the mother
retailed, the next morning, to her neighbor, who met the expressman,
who thereupon sent it rolling through the village. In both its diluted
and enriched form the neighbor had helped. The story was as follows:
That Boston girl who was boardin' up to Skitson's had a thousand
dollars in the bank-made it all in a monthso Abbie Todd, who knew
her, said. It was a dead secret how she made it, but Abbie said if she
had a few hundred dollars she could get rich, too. Beats all how smart
some girls is gettin' to be nowadays.
The next morning Mr. Taylor called for his mail. He generally sent a
boy down from the mill, but this time he came himself.
If you see anything lying around loose, Miss Abbie, where you can
pick up a few dollarsand you must now and thenso many people going
in and out from Boston and other placesand want a couple of hundred
to help out, let me know. I'll stake you, and glad to.
In answer, Abbie passed his mail through the square window. Thank
you, Mr. Taylor, was all she said. I won't forget.
Hiram fingered his mail and hung around for a minute. Then with the
remark: Guess that expressman was lyingI'll find out, anyway, he
got into his buggy and drove away.
He'll stake me, will he? said Abbie thoughtfully. That's
what the feed man did for Maria's friend. With the stake she could get
the stock, and with the stock the clouds would lift! Perhaps her turn
was coming, after all.
Then she resumed her work pigeon-holing the morning's mail. One was
from Keep &Co., judging from the address in the corner, and was
directed to Maria Furgusson, care Miss Skitsona thick, heavy letter.
This she laid aside.
Yes, a big one, she called from the window as she passed it out to
that young woman five minutes later. About the stock, isn't it!
The girl tore open the envelope and gave a little scream.
Oh! Gone up to ten dollars a share! Oh, cracky!how much does that
make? Here, Abdo you figuretwenty shares atTen! Why, that's two
hundred dollars! What?it can't be! Yes, it is. Oh, that's splendid!
I'm going right back to answer his letterand she was gone.
When the supper things were washed up that night, and the towels
hung before the stove to dry, and the faded old mother was resting in
her chair by the fire, Abbie told her the facts as they existed. She
had seen the certificate with her own eyeshad had it in her hand and
she had read the letter from the broker, Mr. Keep. It was all
trueevery word of it. Maria had borrowed forty dollars and now she
could pay it back and have one hundred and sixty dollars leftmore
than she herself could earn in three months.
If I could get somebody to lend me a little money, Mother, she
continued, I might
The girl stopped and stole a look at her mother sitting hunched up
in her chair, her elbows on her knees, the chin resting on the palms of
her hands, the angle of her thin shoulders outlined through the coarse,
worsted shawlalways a pathetic attitude to the daughter:this old
mother broken with hard work and dulled by a life of continued
I was saying, Mother, perhaps I might get somebody to lend me a
little money, and then
The figure straightened up. Don't do it, child! There was a note
almost of terror in her voice. Don't you ever do it! That was what
ruined my father. Abbiepromise mepromise me, I say! You won'tyou
The girl laid her hand tenderly on her mother's shoulder.'
Why, Mother, dearwhy, what's the matter? You look as if you had
seen a ghost.
Mrs. Todd drew her shawl closer about her shoulders and leaned
nearer to the girl, her voice trembling:
It's worse than a ghost, childit's a debt! Debt along of
money you never worked for; money somebody gives you sort o'
friendly-like, and when you can't pay it back, they bite you, like
dogs. Nolet's sit here and starve first, child. We can shut the door
and nobody 'll know we're hungry. She straightened up and threw the
shawl from her shoulders. Terror had taken the place of an undefined
You ain't gettin' discouraged, Abbie, be you? she continued in a
calmer tone. Don't get discouraged, child. I got discouraged when I
was younger than you, and I ain't never been happy since. You never
knew why, and I ain't goin' to tell you now, but it's been black night
all these yearsall 'cept you. You've been the only thing made me
live. If you get discouraged, child, I can't stand it. Say you ain't,
Abbielet me hear you say itplease Abbie!
The girl rose from her chair and stood looking down at her mother.
The sudden outburst, so unusual in one so self-restrained, the
unmistakable suffering in the tones of her voice, thrilled and alarmed
her. Her first impulse was to throw her arms about her mother's neck
and weep with her. This had been her usual custom when the load seemed
too heavy for her mother to bear. Then the more practical side of her
nature asserted itself. It was strength, not sympathy, she wanted.
Slipping her hand under her mother's arm, she raised her to her feet,
and in a firm, decided voice, quite as a hospital nurse would speak to
a restless patient, she said:
You'd better not sit up any longer, Mother dear. Come, I'll help
put you to bed.
There was no resistance. Whatever suddenly aroused memory had
stirred the outburst, the paroxysm was over now.
Well, maybe I am tired, child, was all she said, and the two left
Poor, dear old Mother! Poor, tired old Mother! the girl remarked
to herself when she had resumed her place by the dying fire. Wonder if
I'll get that way when I'm as old as she is!
Then the hopelessness of the struggle she was making rose before
her. How much longer would this go on? Up at six o'clock; a cup of
coffee and a piece of bread; then the monotonous sorting of letters and
papersthe ceaseless answering of stupid questions; then half an hour
for dinner; then the routine again till train time, and home to the
mother and the two chairs by the fire, only to begin the dreary
tread-mil! again the next morning. And with this the daily growing
olderolder; her face thinner and more pinched, the shoulders sharp;
her hair gray, head bent, just as her poor mother's was, and, with all
that, hardly money enough to buy herself a pair of shoesnever enough
to give her dear mother the slightest luxury.
Discouraged! Hadn't she reason to be?
The next morning Hiram walked into the post-office and called to
Abbie, through the square window, to open the door. Once inside he
loosened his fur driving-coat, took out a long, black wallet, picked
out a thin slip of paper and laid it on Abbie's desk.
I have been thinking over what I told you yesterday. There's a
check drawn to your order for two hundred dollars. All you got to do is
to put your name on the back of it and it's money. It's goodnever
knew one that warn't.
The girl started back.
I didn't ask you for it. I don't
I know you didn't, and when you did it would be too late maybegot
to catch things sometimes when they're flying past. I don't know
whether it's those town lots they're booming over to Haddam's Corners,
and I don't care, but if that ain't enough there's more where that came
from. Good-day! and he slammed the glass door behind him. Abbie picked
up the thin slip of paper and studied every line on its face, from the
red number in the upper corner to Hiram Taylor in a bold, round hand.
Then her eyes lighted on Abijah Todd or order.
Yes, it was hersall of it. Not to spend, but to make money out
of. Then her mother's words of warning rang clear: Worse than a
ghost, my child! Should shecould she take it? She turned to lay it
in a drawer until she could hand it back to him and her eyes fell upon
the poster framed in by the square of her window. She stopped and shut
the drawer. Was she never to have her chance? Would the treadmill never
end? Would the dear mother's head never be lifted? Folding the check
carefully, she loosened the top button of her dress and pushed it
inside. There it burned like a hot coal.
That night, after putting her mother to bed, she pinned a shawl over
her head, threw her mother's cloak about her shoulders, sneaked into
Maria's house, and crept up into her friend's room like a burglar. What
was to be done must be done quickly, but intelligently.
I've got some money, she exclaimed to the astonished girl who,
half undressed, sat writing at her table. (It was after nine
o'clockan unheard-of hour for visiting.) How much stock can I buy
for two hundred dollars? and she shook out the check, keeping her
finger over the signature.
Twenty shares, answered Maria.
How do I get it?
Send the money to Keep &Co. Oh, you got a check! Well, put 'Keep &
Co.' onhere, I'll do it, and you sign your name underneath. And I'll
write 'em a letter and tell 'em I helped sell it to you. Oh, ain't I
glad, Ab. You must be getting awful big pay to have saved all that.
How long before I know? She had not much time to talkher mother
might wake and call her.
They'll telephone you. You got a long-distance, ain't you, in the
office? Yes, I seen it.
Abbie took the name of the senior partner, replaced the check, and
was by her own fire again. The mother hadn't stirred.
All the next day she waited for the rattle of the bell. At three
o'clock she sprang to the 'phone.
This Miss Toddpostmistress?
Got your checkbought you twenty Rock Creek at ten-mail you
The following morning the certificate took the place of the
checkpinned tight. She could feel it crinkle when she walked. All
that day she moved about her office like one dazed. There was no
exaltationno thrill of triumph. A dull, undefined terror took
possession of her. What if the stock went down in price and she
couldn't pay back the money? Of whom, then, could she borrow? Repay
Hiram she must and would. Again her mother's warning words rang in her
ears. Then came the resolve never to tell her. If it went right she
would add to the dear woman's comforts in silence. If it went
wrongbut it couldn't go wrong: Maria had said so: the papers had said
so: the posters said soeverybody and everything said so.
As the day wore on she became so nervous that she mixed the letters
in their pigeon-holes.
That ain't for me, Miss Todd, was called out half a dozen times
when B or F or S letters had gone into the wrong box. Guess you must
a-got it in the B's by mistake. Woolgathering, ain't ye?
Maria was her only confidante and her only comfort. The Boston girl
laughed when she listened to her fears, and braced her up with fairy
stories of the winnings of Miss Henders and Slathers and the money they
were making; but the relief was only temporary.
Soon the strain began to show itself in her face. You ain't sick,
Abbie, be you? asked the mother. No? Well, you look kind o' peaked.
Don't work too hard, child. Maybe something's worryin' yousomething
you ain't told me. No man I don't know about, is there? and the
mother's sad eyes searched the daughter's.
To all these inquiries the girl only shook her head, adding that the
down mail was late and a big one and she had hurried to sort it.
When the Boston mail arrived the next morning and was dumped from
its bag upon her sorting-table, her own name flamed out on one of Keep
& Co.'s envelopes.
Abbie broke the seal and devoured its contents with bated breath,
her fingers trembling:
We are happy to inform you that the last sales of Rock Creek ranged
from 13 to 14 3/415 bid at close. We confidently expect the stock
will sell at 20 before the week is out. We shall be glad to receive
your further orders as well as those of any of your friends.
Abbie's heart gave a bound; the blood mounted to the roots of her
Fifteentwentywhywhy! that's two hundred dollars for me after
paying Mr. Taylor. The chill of doubt was over now. The fever of hope
had set in. Two hundred! Two hundred! she kept repeating, as her
fingers caressed the certificate snuggling close to her heart.
When she swung wide the porch door and threw her arms around her
astonished mother's neck, the refrain was still on her lips. It had
been years since the hard-working girl had given way to any such joyous
Oh, I'm so happy! Don't ask me whybut I am!
The mother kissed her in reply and patted the girl's shoulder.
There is somebody, she sighed to herself. And they've made up
againand a prayer trembled on her lips.
Her joy now became contagious. The expressman noticed it; so did
Mrs. Skitson and the storekeeper. So did Mr. Taylor, who stopped his
wagon and leaned half out to shake her hand.
You do look wholesome this morning, and no mistake, Miss Abbie (he
always called her so). Don't forget what I told youlots more where
that come fromand he drove on muttering to himself: Ain't no finer
woman in Taylorsville than Abbie Todd.
Keep &Co. letters arrived now by almost every mail. With these came
a daily stock-list printed on tissue-paper, giving the sales on the
exchange. Rock Creek was still holding its own between 13 and 15. From
my brokers, she would say with a smile to Maria, falling into the ways
of the rich.
One of these letters, marked Private and confidential, she took to
Maria. It was in the writer's own hand and signed by the senior member
of the firm. Literally translated into uncommercial language by that
female financier, it meant that Miss Todd, on notice from Keep &Co. should write her name at the bottom of the transfer blank on the back
of the certificate and mail it to them. This done they would buy her
another ten shares of stock, using her certificate as additional
margin. There was no question that Rock Creek would sell at forty
before the month ended, and they did not want her to be left when the
melon was cut.
Another and a newer and a more vibrant song now rose to her lips.
Forty for Rock Creek meant foursixyes, eight hundred dollarswith
two hundred to Mr. Taylor! Yes! Six hundred clear! The scrap of paper
in her bosom was no longer a receipt for money paid, but an Aladdin's
lamp producing untold wealth.
That night the music burst from her lips before she had taken off
her cloak and hat.
You made six hundred dollars, Abbie! You! cried the mother,
with a note of wonder in her voice.
Then the whole story came out; her mother's arms about her, the pale
cheek touching her own, tears of joy streaming from both their eyes.
First Maria's luck, then that of her fellow-clerks; then the letters,
one after another, spread out upon her lap, the lamp held close, so the
dim eyes could read the easierdown to the stake-money of two hundred
And who gave you that, child? Miss Furgusson? The mother's heart
was still fluttering. After all, the sun was shining.
No; Mr. Taylor.
The mother put her hands to her head.
Hiram! You ain't never borrowed any money of Hiram, have
you? she cried in an agonized voice.
But, Mother dear, he forced it upon me. He came
Yes, that's what he did to me. Give it back to him, child, now,
'fore you sleep. Don't wait a minute. Borrowed two hundred dollars of
Hiramand my child, too! Oh, it can't be! It can't be!
The mother dropped into a chair and rocked herself to and fro. The
girl started to explain, to protest, to comfort her with promises; then
she crossed to where her mother was sitting, and stood patient until
the paroxysm should pass. A sudden fright now possessed her; these
attacks were coming on oftener; was her mother's mind failing? Was
there anything serious? Perhaps it would have been better not to tell
her at all.
The mother motioned Abbie to a chair.
Sit down, child, and listen to me. I ain't crazy; I ain't out of my
headI'm only skeered.
But, Mother dear, I can get the money any day I want it. All I've
got to do is to telephone them and a check comes the next day.
Yes, I knowI know. She was still trembling, her voice hardly
audible. But that ain't what skeers me; it's Hiram. He done the same
thing to me last December. Come in here and laid the bills on that
table behind you and begged me to take 'em; he'd heard about the
mortgage; he wanted to fix the house up, too. I put my hands behind my
back and got close to the wall there. I couldn't touch it, and he
begged and begged, and then he went away. Next he went to the
school-house, and you know what he did. That's why you got the
A light broke in upon the girl. And you've known him before?
Yes, forty years ago. He loved me and I loved him. We had bad luck,
and my father got into trouble. He and Hiram's father were friend's;
been boys together, and Hiram's father loaned him money. I don't know
how muchI never knew, but considerable money. My father couldn't pay,
and then come bad blood. The week before Hiram and I were to be called
in church they struck each other, and when Hiram took my father's part
his father drove him out of his house, and Hiram hadn't nothing, and
went West; and I never heard from him nor saw him till the day he come
in here last fall. Don't you see, child, you got to take him back his
Abbie squared her shoulders. The blood of the Puritan was in her
eyes. This was a fight for home and freedom. Her flintlock was between
the cracks of her log cabin. The old mother, with the other women and
children, lay huddled together in the far corners. This was no time for
No! she cried in a firm voice. I won't give it back, not till I
get good and ready. Mr. Taylor loaned me that two hundred dollars to
make money with, and he won't get it again till I do. She wondered at
her courage, but it seemed the only way to save her mother from
herself. What happened forty years ago has nothing to do with what's
The look in the girl's eyes; her courage; the ring of independence
in her voice, the sureness and confidence of her words, began to have
their effect. The Genie of the Lamp was at work: the life-giving power
of Gold was being pumped from her own into the poor old woman's
And you don't think, child, that it will bring you trouble?
Bring trouble! No!
The cabin was saved; the enemy was in retreat. She could sing once
more! It will bring nothing but joy and freedom, you precious old
Mother! Do you know what I'm going to do?
I'm going to pay off the mortgage, every cent of it.
She said I now; it had been we all the years before: Keep
rubbing, dear old Genie. Then I'll fix up the house and paint it, and
get you some nice clothes, and a new cook stove that isn't all rusted
You won't resign, will you, Abbieand leave me? the mother
exclaimed. The chill of possible desertion suddenly crept over her,
(The Genie is often unmindful of others, especially the poor.)
Leave you! What, now? You darling Mother. As to resigning, I may
later. But I'm going to Boston when I get my vacation and stay a week
with Maria, and go to the opera if I never do another thing. Oh! just
you wait, Mother, you and I will lead a different life after this.
And you think, Abbie, you'll make more than six hundred dollars?
Already the mother's veins were expandingwonderful elixir, this
Extract of Gold.
Six hundred! Why, if the stock goes to what they call parand
that's where they all go, so Maria saysI'll havehavetwo thousand,
less Mr. Taylor's two hundredI'll have eighteen hundred dollars! The
little fellow in her bosom was rubbing away now with all his might. She
could hear his heart beat against her own.
It was nearly midnight when the two went to bed. Stick after stick
had been thrown on the fire; the logs had flamed and crackled in
sympathy with their own joyous feelings, and had then fallen into
piled-up coals, each heap a castle of delight, rosy in the glow of
freshly enkindled hopes.
And the song in her heart never ceased. Day by day a fresh note was
added; everything she touched; everything she saw was transformed. The
old tumble-down house with its propped-up furniture and makeshift
carpets seemed to have become already the place she planned it to be.
There would be vines over the door and a new summer kitchen at the
back'; and there would be a porch where her mother could sit, flowers
all about herher dear mother, bent no longer, but fresh and rosy in
her new clothes, smiling at her as she came up the garden path.
And what delight it was just to breathe the air! Never had her step
been so light, or her daily walk to the dingy officedingy no
longerso bracing. And the out-of-doorsthe sky and drifting clouds;
the low hills, bleak in the winter's gloomwhat changes had come over
them? Was it the first blush of the coming spring that had softened
their lines, or had her eyes been blind to all their beauty? Oh!
Marvellous elixir that makes hopes certainty and gilds each cloud!
One morning a man waiting for a letter from an absent son heard the
telephone ring, and saw Abbie drop her letters and catch up the
Yes, I'm Miss Todd.Oh! Mr. Keep? Yes.YesI've got it here.
Her face grew deathly white. What! Selling at twelve! The man feared
she was about to fall. I thought you told me... A big slump! Well, I
don't want to lose if... Yes, I'll mail it right away... Reach you by
the 9.10 to-morrow.
I hope you ain't got any bad news, have you? the man asked in a
No, she answered in a choking voice, as she handed him his letter;
then she turned her back and took the certificate from her bosom.
Selling at twelve, she kept saying to herself; perhaps at ten;
perhaps at five. Would it go lower? Suppose it went down to nothing.
What could she say to her mother? How would she pay Mr. Taylor? Her
breath came short; a dull sense of some impending calamity took
possession of her. Everything seemed slipping from her grasp.
An hour passedtwo. In the interim she had indorsed the certificate
and had dropped it into the open mouth of the night-bag. Again the bell
Yes, she answered in a faint voice; her shoulder was against the
wall now for support.
She was ready for the blow; all her life they had come this way.
Sold your twenty at ten. Mail you check for $190 on receipt of
Abbie clutched her bosom as if for relief, but there came no
answering throb. The little devil was gone, and the lamp with him.
And is it all over, Abbie? asked her mother, as she drew her shawl
closer about her head. One stick of wood must last them till bedtime
Yesall. The girl lay crouched at her feet sobbing, her head in
her mother's lap.
Can you pay Hiram?
I have paid him in full. I gave him Mr. Keep's check and ten
dollars of my paypaid him this morning. He wouldn't take any
Oh, that's goodthat's good, child! she crooned.
There came a long pause, during which the two women sat motionless,
the mother looking into the smouldering coals. She had but few tears
left none for disappointments like these.
And we have got to keep on as we have?
Yes. The reply was barely audible.
The mother lifted her thin, worn hand, and laid it on Abbie's head.
Well, child, she said slowly, you can thank God for one thing.
You had your dream; ain't many even had that.