By Grace of Julius Caesar by Lucy Maud
Melissa sent word on Monday evening that she thought we had better go
round with the subscription list for cushioning the church pews on
Tuesday. I sent back word that I thought we had better go on Thursday.
I had no particular objection to Tuesday, but Melissa is rather fond
of settling things without consulting anyone else, and I don't believe
in always letting her have her own way. Melissa is my cousin and we
have always been good friends, and I am really very fond of her; but
there's no sense in lying down and letting yourself be walked over. We
finally compromised on Wednesday.
I always have a feeling of dread when I hear of any new church-project
for which money will be needed, because I know perfectly well that
Melissa and I will be sent round to collect for it. People say we seem
to be able to get more than anybody else; and they appear to think
that because Melissa is an unencumbered old maid, and I am an
unencumbered widow, we can spare the time without any inconvenience to
ourselves. Well, we have been canvassing for building funds, and
socials, and suppers for years, but it is needed now; at least, I have
had enough of it, and I should think Melissa has, too.
We started out bright and early on Wednesday morning, for Jersey Cove
is a big place and we knew we should need the whole day. We had to
walk because neither of us owned a horse, and anyway it's more
nuisance getting out to open and shut gates than it is worth while. It
was a lovely day then, though promising to be hot, and our hearts
were as light as could be expected, considering the disagreeable
expedition we were on.
I was waiting at my gate for Melissa when she came, and she looked me
over with wonder and disapproval. I could see she thought I was a fool
to dress up in my second best flowered muslin and my very best hat
with the pale pink roses in it to walk about in the heat and dust; but
I wasn't. All my experience in canvassing goes to show that the better
dressed and better looking you are the more money you'll get—that is,
when it's the men you have to tackle, as in this case. If it had been
the women, however, I would have put on the oldest and ugliest things,
consistent with decency, I had. This was what Melissa had done, as it
was, and she did look fearfully prim and dowdy, except for her front
hair, which was as soft and fluffy and elaborate as usual. I never
could understand how Melissa always got it arranged so beautifully.
Nothing particular happened the first part of the day. Some few
growled and wouldn't subscribe anything, but on the whole we did
pretty well. If it had been a missionary subscription we should have
fared worse; but when it was something touching their own comfort,
like cushioning the pews, they came down handsomely. We reached Daniel
Wilson's by noon, and had to have dinner there. We didn't eat much,
although we were hungry enough—Mary Wilson's cooking is a by-word in
Jersey Cove. No wonder Daniel is dyspeptic; but dyspeptic or not, he
gave us a big subscription for our cushions and told us we looked
younger than ever. Daniel is always very complimentary, and they say
Mary is jealous.
When we left the Wilson's Melissa said, with an air of a woman nerving
herself to a disagreeable duty:
"I suppose we might as well go to Isaac Appleby's now and get it
I agreed with her. I had been dreading that call all day. It isn't a
very pleasant thing to go to a man you have recently refused to marry
and ask him for money; and Melissa and I were both in that
Isaac was a well-to-do old bachelor who had never had any notion of
getting married until his sister died in the winter. And then, as soon
as the spring planting was over, he began to look round for a wife. He
came to me first and I said "No" good and hard. I liked Isaac well
enough; but I was snug and comfortable, and didn't feel like pulling
up my roots and moving into another lot; besides, Isaac's courting
seemed to me a shade too business-like. I can't get along without a
little romance; it's my nature.
Isaac was disappointed and said so, but intimated that it wasn't
crushing and that the next best would do very well. The next best was
Melissa, and he proposed to her after the decent interval of a
fortnight. Melissa also refused him. I admit I was surprised at this,
for I knew Melissa was rather anxious to marry; but she has always
been down on Isaac Appleby, from principle, because of a family feud
on her mother's side; besides, an old beau of hers, a widower at
Kingsbridge, was just beginning to take notice again, and I suspected
Melissa had hopes concerning him. Finally, I imagine Melissa did not
fancy being second choice.
Whatever her reasons were, she refused poor Isaac, and that finished
his matrimonial prospects as far as Jersey Cove was concerned, for
there wasn't another eligible woman in it—that is, for a man of
Isaac's age. I was the only widow, and the other old maids besides
Melissa were all hopelessly old-maiden.
This was all three months ago, and Isaac had been keeping house for
himself ever since. Nobody knew much about how he got along, for the
Appleby house is half a mile from anywhere, down near the shore at the
end of a long lane—the lonesomest place, as I did not fail to
remember when I was considering Isaac's offer.
"I heard Jarvis Aldrich say Isaac had got a dog lately," said Melissa,
when we finally came in sight of the house—a handsome new one, by the
way, put up only ten years ago. "Jarvis said it was an imported
breed. I do hope it isn't cross."
I have a mortal horror of dogs, and I followed Melissa into the big
farmyard with fear and trembling. We were halfway across the yard when
"Anne, there's the dog!"
There was the dog; and the trouble was that he didn't stay there, but
came right down the slope at a steady, business-like trot. He was a
bull-dog and big enough to bite a body clean in two, and he was the
ugliest thing in dogs I had ever seen.
Melissa and I both lost our heads. We screamed, dropped our parasols,
and ran instinctively to the only refuge that was in sight—a ladder
leaning against the old Appleby house. I am forty-five and something
more than plump, so that climbing ladders is not my favorite form of
exercise. But I went up that one with the agility and grace of
sixteen. Melissa followed me, and we found ourselves on the
roof—fortunately it was a flat one—panting and gasping, but safe,
unless that diabolical dog could climb a ladder.
I crept cautiously to the edge and peered over. The beast was sitting
on his haunches at the foot of the ladder, and it was quite evident he
was not short on time. The gleam in his eye seemed to say:
"I've got you two unprincipled subscription hunters beautifully treed
and it's treed you're going to stay. That is what I call satisfying."
I reported the state of the case to Melissa.
"What shall we do?" I asked.
"Do?" said Melissa, snappishly. "Why, stay here till Isaac Appleby
comes out and takes that brute away? What else can we do?"
"What if he isn't at home?" I suggested.
"We'll stay here till he comes home. Oh, this is a nice predicament.
This is what comes of cushioning churches!"
"It might be worse," I said comfortingly. "Suppose the roof hadn't
"Call Isaac," said Melissa shortly.
I didn't fancy calling Isaac, but call him I did, and when that failed
to bring him Melissa condescended to call, too; but scream as we
might, no Isaac appeared, and that dog sat there and smiled
"It's no use," said Melissa sulkily at last. "Isaac Appleby is dead or
Half an hour passed; it seemed as long as a day. The sun just boiled
down on that roof and we were nearly melted. We were dreadfully
thirsty, and the heat made our heads ache, and I could see my muslin
dress fading before my very eyes. As for the roses on my best hat—but
that was too harrowing to think about.
Then we saw a welcome sight—Isaac Appleby coming through the yard
with a hoe over his shoulder. He had probably been working in his
field at the back of the house. I never thought I should have been so
glad to see him.
"Isaac, oh, Isaac!" I called joyfully, leaning over as far as I dared.
Isaac looked up in amazement at me and Melissa craning our necks over
the edge of the roof. Then he saw the dog and took in the situation.
The creature actually grinned.
"Won't you call off your dog and let us get down, Isaac?" I said
Isaac stood and reflected for a moment or two. Then he came slowly
forward and, before we realized what he was going to do, he took that
ladder down and laid it on the ground.
"Isaac Appleby, what do you mean?" demanded Melissa wrathfully.
Isaac folded his arms and looked up. It would be hard to say which
face was the more determined, his or the dog's. But Isaac had the
advantage in point of looks, I will say that for him.
"I mean that you two women will stay up on that roof until one of you
agrees to marry me," said Isaac solemnly.
"Isaac Appleby, you can't be in earnest?" I cried incredulously. "You
couldn't be so mean?"
"I am in earnest. I want a wife, and I am going to have one. You two
will stay up there, and Julius Caesar here will watch you until one of
you makes up her mind to take me. You can settle it between
yourselves, and let me know when you have come to a decision."
And with that Isaac walked jauntily into his new house.
"The man can't mean it!" said Melissa. "He is trying to play a joke on
"He does mean it," I said gloomily. "An Appleby never says anything he
doesn't mean. He will keep us here until one of us consents to marry
"It won't be me, then," said Melissa in a calm sort of rage. "I won't
marry him if I have to sit on this roof for the rest of my life. You
can take him. It's really you he wants, anyway; he asked you first."
I always knew that rankled with Melissa.
I thought the situation over before I said anything more. We certainly
couldn't get off that roof, and if we could, there was Julius Caesar.
The place was out of sight of every other house in Jersey Cove, and
nobody might come near it for a week. To be sure, when Melissa and I
didn't turn up the Covites might get out and search for us; but that
wouldn't be for two or three days anyhow.
Melissa had turned her back on me and was sitting with her elbows
propped up on her knees, looking gloomily out to sea. I was afraid I
couldn't coax her into marrying Isaac. As for me, I hadn't any real
objection to marrying him, after all, for if he was short of romance
he was good-natured and has a fat bank account; but I hated to be
driven into it that way.
"You'd better take him, Melissa," I said entreatingly. "I've had one
husband and that is enough."
"More than enough for me, thank you," said Melissa sarcastically.
"Isaac is a fine man and has a lovely house; and you aren't sure the
Kingsbridge man really means anything," I went on.
"I would rather," said Melissa, with the same awful calmness, "jump
down from this roof and break my neck, or be devoured piecemeal by
that fiend down there than marry Isaac Appleby."
It didn't seem worth while to say anything more after that. We sat
there in stony silence and the time dragged by. I was hot, hungry,
thirsty, cross; and besides, I felt that I was in a ridiculous
position, which was worse than all the rest. We could see Isaac
sitting in the shade of one of his apple trees in the front orchard
comfortably reading a newspaper. I think if he hadn't aggravated me by
doing that I'd have given in sooner. But as it was, I was determined
to be as stubborn as everybody else. We were four obstinate
creatures—Isaac and Melissa and Julius Caesar and I.
At four o'clock Isaac got up and went into the house; in a few minutes
he came out again with a basket in one hand and a ball of cord in the
"I don't intend to starve you, of course, ladies," he said politely,
"I will throw this ball up to you and you can then draw up the
I caught the ball, for Melissa never turned her head. I would have
preferred to be scornful, too, and reject the food altogether; but I
was so dreadfully thirsty that I put my pride in my pocket and hauled
the basket up. Besides, I thought it might enable us to hold out until
some loophole of escape presented itself.
Isaac went back into the house and I unpacked the basket. There was a
bottle of milk, some bread and butter, and a pie. Melissa wouldn't
take a morsel of the food, but she was so thirsty she had to take a
drink of milk.
She tried to lift her veil—and something caught; Melissa gave it a
savage twitch, and off came veil and hat—and all her front hair!
You never saw such a sight. I'd always suspected Melissa wore a false
front, but I'd never had any proof before.
Melissa pinned on her hair again and put on her hat and drank the
milk, all without a word; but she was purple. I felt sorry for her.
And I felt sorry for Isaac when I tried to eat that bread. It was sour
and dreadful. As for the pie, it was hopeless. I tasted it, and then
threw it down to Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar, not being over
particular, ate it up. I thought perhaps it would kill him, for
anything might come of eating such a concoction. That pie was a strong
argument for Isaac. I thought a man who had to live on such cookery
did indeed need a wife and might be pardoned for taking desperate
measures to get one. I was dreadfully tired of broiling on the roof
But it was the thunderstorm that decided me. When I saw it coming up,
black and quick, from the northwest, I gave in at once. I had endured
a good deal and was prepared to endure more; but I had paid ten
dollars for my hat and I was not going to have it ruined by a
thunderstorm. I called to Isaac and out he came.
"If you will let us down and promise to dispose of that dog before I
come here I will marry you, Isaac," I said, "but I'll make you sorry
for it afterwards, though."
"I'll take the risk of that, Anne," he said; "and, of course, I'll
sell the dog. I won't need him when I have you."
Isaac meant to be complimentary, though you mightn't have thought so
if you had seen the face of that dog.
Isaac ordered Julius Caesar away and put up the ladder, and turned his
back, real considerately, while we climbed down. We had to go in his
house and stay till the shower was over. I didn't forget the object of
our call and I produced our subscription list at once.
"How much have you got?" asked Isaac.
"Seventy dollars and we want a hundred and fifty," I said.
"You may put me down for the remaining eighty, then," said Isaac
The Applebys are never mean where money is concerned, I must say.
Isaac offered to drive us home when it cleared up, but I said "No." I
wanted to settle Melissa before she got a chance to talk.
On the way home I said to her:
"I hope you won't mention this to anyone, Melissa. I don't mind
marrying Isaac, but I don't want people to know how it came about."
"Oh, I won't say anything about it," said Melissa, laughing a little
"Because," I said, to clinch the matter, looking significantly at her
front hair as I said it, "I have something to tell, too."
Melissa will hold her tongue.