Law Lane by Sara Orne Jewett
The thump of a flat-iron signified to an educated passer-by that
this was Tuesday morning; yesterday having been fair and the weekly
washing-day unhindered by the weather. It was undoubtedly what Mrs.
Powder pleased herself by calling a good orthodox week; not one of the
disjointed and imperfect sections of time which a rainy Monday forced
upon methodical housekeepers. Mrs. Powder was not a woman who could
live altogether in the present, and whatever she did was done with a
view to having it cleared out of the way of the next enterprise on her
list. "I can't bear to see folks do their work as if every piece on 't
was a tread-mill," she used to say, briskly. "Life means progriss to
me, and I can't dwell by the way no more 'n sparks can fly downwards.
'T ain't the way I'm built, nor none of the Fisher tribe."
The hard white bundles in the shallow splint-basket were
disappearing, one by one, and taking their places on the decrepit
clothes-horse, well ironed and precisely folded. The July sunshine came
in at one side of Mrs. Powder's kitchen, and the cool northwest breeze
blew the heat out again from the other side. Mrs. Powder grew uneasy
and impatient as she neared the end of her task, and the flat-iron
moved more and more vigorously. She kept glancing out through the
doorway and along the country road as if she were watching for
"I shall just have to git ready an' go an' rout her out myself, an'
take my chances," she said at last with a resentful look at the clock,
as if it were partly to blame for the delay and had ears with which to
listen to proper rebuke. The round moon-face had long ago ceased its
waxing and waning across the upper part of the old dial, as if it had
forgotten its responsibility about the movements of a heavenly body in
its pleased concern about housekeeping.
"See here!" said Mrs. Powder, taking a last hot iron from the fire.
"You ain't a-keepin' time like you used to; you're gettin' lazy, I must
say. Look at this 'ere sun-mark on the floor, that calls it full 'leven
o'clock, and you want six minutes to ten. I've got to send word to the
clock-man and have your in'ards all took apart; you got me to meetin'
more 'n half an hour too late, Sabbath last."
To which the moon-face did not change its beaming expression; very
likely, being a moon, it was not willing to mind the ways of the sun.
"Lord, what an old thing you be!" said Mrs. Powder, turning away
with a chuckle. "I don't wonder your sense kind of fails you!" And the
clock clucked at her by way of answer, though presently it was going to
strike ten at any rate.
The hot iron was now put down hurriedly, and the half-ironed
night-cap was left in a queer position on the ironing-board. A small
figure had appeared in the road and was coming toward the house with a
fleet, barefooted run which required speedy action. "Here you, Joel
Smith!" shouted the old woman. "Joel!" But the saucy lad only doubled
his pace and pretended not to see or hear her. Mrs. Powder could play
at that game, too, and did not call again, but quietly went back to her
ironing and tried as hard as she could to be provoked. Presently the
boy came panting up the slope of green turf which led from the road to
the kitchen doorstep.
"I didn't know but you spoke as I ran by," he remarked, in an
amiable tone. Mrs. Powder took no heed of him whatever.
"I ain't in no hurry; I kind o' got running," he explained, a
moment later; and then, as his hostess stepped toward the stove, he
caught up the frilled night-cap and tied it on in a twinkling. When
Mrs. Powder turned again, the sight of him was too much for her
"Them frills is real becoming to ye," she announced, shaking with
laughter. "I declare for 't if you don't favor your gran'ma Dodge's
looks. I should like to have yer folks see ye. There, take it off now;
I'm most through my ironin' and I want to clear it out o' the way."
Joel was perfectly docile and laid the night-cap within reach. He
had a temptation to twitch it back by the end of one string, but he
refrained. "Want me to go drive your old brown hen-turkey out o' the
wet grass, Mis' Powder? She's tolling her chicks off down to'a'ds the
swamp," he offered.
"She's raised up families enough to know how by this time," said
Mrs. Powder, "an' the swamp's dry as a bone."
"I'll split ye up a mess o' kindlin'-wood whilst I'm here, jest as
soon 's not," said Joel, in a still more pleasant tone, after a long
and anxious pause.
"There, I'll get ye your doughnuts, pretty quick. They ain't so
fresh as they was Saturday. I s'pose that's what you're driving at."
The good soul shook with laughter. Joel answered as well for her
amusement as the most famous of comic actors; there was something in
his appealing eyes, his thin cheeks and monstrous freckles, and his
long locks of sandy hair, which was very funny to Mrs. Powder. She was
always interested, too, in fruitless attempts to satisfy his appetite.
He listened now, for the twentieth time, to her opinion that the
bottomless pit alone could be compared to the recesses of his being.
"I should like to be able to say that I had filled ye up jest
once!" she ended her remarks, as she brought a tin pan full of
doughnuts from her pantry.
"Heard the news?" asked small Joel, as he viewed the provisions
with glistening eyes. He bore likeness to a little hungry woodchuck, or
muskrat, as he went to work before the tin pan.
"What news?" Mrs. Powder asked, suspiciously. "I ain't seen nobody
"Barnet's folks has got their case in court."
"They ain't!" and while a solemn silence fell upon the kitchen, the
belated old clock whirred and rumbled and struck ten with persistent
effort. Mrs. Powder looked round at it impatiently; the moon-face
confronted her with the same placid smile.
"Twelve o'clock's the time you git your dinner, ain't it, Mis'
Powder?" the boy inquired, as if he had repeated his news like a parrot
and had no further interest in its meaning.
"I don't plot for to get me no reg'lar dinner this day," was the
unexpected reply. "You can eat a couple or three o' them nuts and step
along, for all I care. An' I want you to go up Lyddy Bangs's lane and
carry her word that I'm goin' out to pick me some blueberries. They'll
be ripened up elegant, and I've got a longin' for 'em. Tell her I say
't is our day she'll know; we've be'n after 'arly blueberries
together this forty years, and Lyddy knows where to meet with me; there
by them split rocks."
The ironing was finished a few minutes afterward, and the board was
taken to its place in the shed. When Mrs. Powder returned, Joel had
stealthily departed; the tin pan was turned upside down on the seat of
the kitchen chair. "Good land!" said the astonished woman, "I believe
he'll bu'st himself to everlastin' bliss one o' these days. Them
doughnuts would have lasted me till Thursday, certain."
"Gimme suthin' to eat, Mis' Powder?" whined Joel at the window,
with his plaintive countenance lifted just above the sill. But he set
forth immediately down the road, with bulging pockets and the speed of
Half an hour later the little gray farmhouse was shut and locked,
and its mistress was crossing the next pasture with a surprisingly
quick step for a person of her age and weight. An old cat was trotting
after her, with tail high in the air, but it was plain to see that she
still looked for danger, having just come down from the woodpile, where
she had retreated on Joel's first approach. She kept as close to Mrs.
Powder as was consistent with short excursions after crickets or young,
unwary sparrows, and opened her wide green eyes fearfully on the
lookout for that evil monster, the boy.
There were two pastures to cross, and Mrs. Powder was very much
heated by the noonday sun and entirely out of breath when she
approached the familiar rendezvous and caught sight of her friend's
"Ain't there no justice left?" was her indignant salutation. "I
s'pose you've heard that Crosby's folks have lost their case? Poor Mis'
Crosby! 't will kill her, I'm sure. I've be'n calculatin' to go
berryin' all the forenoon, but I couldn't git word to you till Joel
came tootin' by. I thought likely you'd expect notice when you see what
a good day 't was."
"I did," replied Lyddy Bangs, in a tone much more serious than her
companion's. She was a thin, despairing little body, with an anxious
face and a general look of disappointment and poverty, though really
the more prosperous person of the two. "Joel told me you said 't was
our day," she added. "I'm wore out tryin' to satisfy that boy; he's
always beggin' for somethin' to eat every time he comes nigh the house.
I should think they'd see to him to home; not let him batten on the
"You ain't been feedin' of him, too?" laughed Mrs. Powder. "Well, I
declare, I don't see whar he puts it!" and she fanned herself with her
apron. "I always forget what a sightly spot this is."
"Here's your pussy-cat, ain't she?" asked Lyddy Bangs, needlessly,
as they sat looking off over the valley. Behind them the hills rose one
above another, with their bare upland clearings and great stretches of
pine and beech forest. Beyond the wide valley was another range of
hills, green and pleasant in the clear mid-day light. Some higher
mountains loomed, sterile and stony, to northward. They were on the
women's right as they sat looking westward.
"It does seem as if folks might keep the peace when the Lord's give
'em so pooty a spot to live in," said Lyddy Bangs, regretfully. "There
ain't no better farms than Barnet's and Crosby's folks have got
neither, but stead o' neighboring they must pick their mean fusses and
fight from generation to generation. My gran'ma'am used to say 't was
just so with 'em when she was a girl and she was one of the first
settlers up this way. She al'ays would have it that Barnet's folks was
the most to blame, but there's plenty sides with 'em, as you know."
"There, 't is all mixed up, so 't is a real tangle," answered
Mrs. Powder. "I've been o' both minds I must say I used to hold for
the Crosbys in the old folks' time, but I've come round to see they
ain't perfect. There! I'm b'ilin' over with somethin' I've got to tell
somebody. I've kep' it close long 's I can."
"Let's get right to pickin', then," said Lyddy Bangs, "or we
sha'n't budge from here the whole livin' afternoon," and the small thin
figure and the tall stout one moved off together toward their
well-known harvest-fields. They were presently settled down within good
hearing distance, and yet the discussion was not begun. The cat curled
herself for a nap on the smooth top of a rock.
"There, I have to eat a while first, like a young-one," said Mrs.
Powder. "I always tell 'em that blueberries is only fit to eat right
off of the twigs. You want 'em full o' sun; let 'em git cold and
they're only fit to cook not but what I eat 'em any ways I can git
'em. Ain't they nice an' spicy? Law, my poor knees is so stiff! I begin
to be afraid, nowadays, every year o' berryin' may be my last. I don'
know why 't should be that my knees serves me so. I ain't rheumaticky,
nor none o' my folks was; we go off with other complaints."
"The mukis membrane o' the knees gits dried up," explained Lyddy
Bangs, "an' the j'ints is all powder-posted. So I've be'n told,
"Then they was ignorant," retorted her companion, sharply. "I know
by the feelin's I have" and the two friends picked industriously and
discussed the vexed points of medicine no more.
"I can't force them Barnets and Crosbys out o' my mind," suggested
Miss Bangs after a while, being eager to receive the proffered
confidence which might be forgotten. "Think of 'em, without no other
door-neighbors, fightin' for three ginerations over the bounds of a
lane wall. What if 't was two foot one way or two foot t'other, let 'em
"But that's just what they couldn't," said Mrs. Powder. "You know
yourself you might be willin' to give away a piece o' land, but when
somebody said 't wa'n't yours, 't was theirs, 't would take more
Christian grace 'n I've got to let 'em see I thought they was right.
All the old Crosbys ever wanted, first, was for the Barnets to say two
foot of the lane was theirs by rights, and then they was willin' to
turn it into the lane and to give that two foot more o' the wedth than
Barnets did they wa'n't haggling for no pay; 't was for rights. But
Barnet's folks said"
"Now, don't you go an' git all flustered up a-tellin' that over,
Harri't Powder," said the lesser woman. "There ain't be'n no words
spoke so often as them along this sidelin' hill, not even the Ten
Commandments. The only sense there's be'n about it is, they've let each
other alone altogether, and ain't spoke at all for six months to a
time. I can't help hoping that the war'll die out with the old breed
and they'll come to some sort of peace. Mis' Barnet was a Sands, and
they're toppin' sort o' folks and she's got fight in her. I think she's
more to blame than Barnet, a good sight; but Mis' Crosby's a downright
peace-making little creatur', and would have ended it long ago if she'd
"Barnet's stubborn, too, let me tell you!" and Mrs. Powder's voice
was full of anger. "'T will never die out in his day, and he'll spend
every cent lawing, as the old folks did afore him. The lawyers must
laugh at him well, 'mongst themselves. One an' another o' the best on
'em has counseled them to leave it out to referees, and tried to show
'em they was fools. My man talked with [the] judge himself about it,
once, after he'd been settin' on a jury and they was comin' away from
court. They couldn't agree; they never could! All the spare money o'
both farms has gone to pay the lawyers and carry on one fight after
another. Now folks don't know it, but Crosby's farm is all mortgaged;
they've spent even what Mis' Crosby had from her folks. An' there's
worse behind there's worse behind," insisted the speaker, stoutly.
"I went up there this spring, as you know, when Mis' Crosby was at
death's door with lung-fever. I went through everything fetchin' of her
round, and was there five weeks, till she got about. `I feel to'a'ds
you as an own sister,' says Abby Crosby to me. `I'm a neighboring woman
at heart,' says she; `and just you think of it, that my man had to
leave me alone, sick as I was, while he went for you and the doctor,
not riskin' to ask Barnet's folks to send for help. I like to live
pleasant,' says she to me, and bu'st right out a-cryin'. I knew then
how she'd felt things all these years. How are they ever goin' to
pay more court bills and all them piles o' damages, if the farm's
mortgaged so heavy?" she resumed. "Crosby's farm ain't worth a good two
thirds of Barnet's. They've both neglected their lands. How many you
got so fur, Lyddy?"
Lyddy proudly displayed her gains of blueberries; the pail was
filling very fast, and the friends were at their usual game of rivalry.
Mrs. Powder had been the faster picker in years past, and she now
doubled her diligence.
"Ain't the sweet-fern thick an' scented as ever you see?" she said.
"Gimme pasture-lands rather 'n the best gardins that grows. If I can
have a sweet-brier bush and sweet-fern patch and some clumps o'
bayberry, you can take all the gardin blooms. Look how folks toils with
witch-grass and pusley and gets a starved lot o' poor sprigs, slug-eat,
and all dyin' together in their front yards, when they might get better
comfort in the first pasture along the road. I guess there's somethin'
wild, that's never got tutored out o' me. I must ha' be'n made o'
somethin' counter to town dust. I never could see why folks wanted to
go off an' live out o' sight o' the mountings, an' have everything on a
"You said there was worse to tell behind," suggested Lyddy Bangs,
as if it were only common politeness to show an appreciation of the
"I have it in mind to get round to that in proper course,"
responded Mrs. Powder, a trifle offended by the mild pertinacity. "I
settled it in my mind that I was goin' to tell you somethin' for a kind
of a treat the day we come out blueberryin'. There!" and Mrs. Powder
rose with difficulty from her knees, and retreated pompously to the
shade of a hemlock-tree which grew over a shelving rock near by.
Lyddy Bangs could not resist picking a little longer in an
unusually fruitful spot; then she hastened to seat herself by her
friend. It was no common occasion.
Mrs. Powder was very warm; and further evaded and postponed telling
the secret by wishing that she were as light on foot as her companion,
and deploring her increasing weight. Then she demanded a second sight
of the blueberries, which were compared and decided upon as to quality
and quantity. Then the cat, which had been left at some distance on her
rock, came trotting toward her mistress in a disturbed way, and after a
minute of security in a comfortable lap darted away again in a strange,
"She's goin' to have a fit, I do believe!" exclaimed Lyddy Bangs,
quite disheartened, for the cat was Mrs. Powder's darling and she might
leave everything to go in search of her.
"She may have seen a snake or something. She often gets scared and
runs home when we're out a-trarvelin'," said the cat's owner,
complacently, and Lyddy's spirits rose again.
"I suppose you never suspected that Ezra Barnet and Ruth Crosby
cared the least thing about one another?" inquired the keeper of the
secret a moment later, and the listener turned toward Mrs. Powder with
a startled face.
"Now, Harri't Powder, for mercy's sakes alive!" was all that she
could say; but Mrs. Powder was satisfied, and confirmed the amazing
news by a most emphatic nod.
"My lawful sakes! what be they goin' to do about it?" inquired
Lyddy Bangs, flushing with excitement. "A Barnet an' a Crosby fall in
love! Don't you rec'lect how the old ones was al'ays fightin' and
callin' names when we was all to school together? Times is changed,
"Now, say you hope to die if ever you'll tell a word I say,"
pursued Mrs. Powder. "If I was to be taken away to-morrow, you'd be all
the one that would know it except Mis' Crosby and Ezra and Ruth
themselves. 'T was nothin' but her bein' nigh to death that urged her
to tell me the state o' things. I s'pose she thought I might favor 'em
in time to come. Abby Crosby she says to me, `Mis' Powder, my poor girl
may need your motherin' care.' An' I says, `Mis' Crosby, she shall have
it;' and then she had a spasm o' pain, and we harped no more that day
as I remember."
"How come it about? I shouldn't have told anybody that asked me
that a Barnet and a Crosby ever 'changed the time o' day, much less
kep' company," protested the listener.
"Kep' company! pore young creatur's!" said Mrs. Powder. "They've
hid 'em away in the swamps an' hollers, and in the edge o' the growth,
at nightfall, for the sake o' gittin' a word; an' they've stole out,
shiverin', into that plaguy lane o' winter nights. I tell ye I've heard
hifalutin' folks say that love would still be lord of all, but I never
was 'strained to believe it till I see what that boy and girl was
willin' to undergo. All the hate of all their folks is turned to love
in them, and I couldn't help a-watchin' of 'em. An' I ventured to send
Ruth over to my house after my alpaccy aprin, and then I made an arrant
out to the spring-brook to see if there was any cresses started
which I knew well enough there wasn't and I spoke right out bold to
Ezra, that was at work on a piece of ditching over on his land. `Ezra,'
says I, `if you git time, just run over to the edge o' my pasture and
pick me a handful o' balm o' Gilead buds. I want to put 'em in half a
pint o' new rum for Mis' Crosby, and there ain't a soul to send.' I
knew he'd just meet her coming back, if I could time it right gittin'
of Ruth started. He looked at me kind of curi's, and pretty quick I see
him leggin' it over the fields with an axe and a couple o' ends o'
board, like he'd got to mend a fence. I had to keep her dinner warm for
her till ha'-past one o'clock. I don't know what he mentioned to his
folks, but Ruth she come an' kissed me hearty when she first come
inside the door. 'Tis harder for Ezra; he ain't got nobody to speak to,
and Ruth's got her mother if she is a Mis' Much-afraid."
"I don't know 's we can blame Crosby for not wantin' to give his
girl to the Barnets, after they've got away all his substance, his
means, an' his cattle, like 't was in the Book o' Job," urged Lyddy
Bangs. "Seems as if they might call it square an' marry the young folks
off, but they won't nohow; 't will only fan the flame." Lyddy Bangs was
a sentimental person; neighbor Powder had chosen wisely in gaining a
new friend to the cause of Ezra Barnet's apparently hopeless affection.
Unknown to herself, however, she had been putting the lover's secret to
great risk of untimely betrayal.
The weather was most beautiful that afternoon; there was an almost
intoxicating freshness and delight among the sweet odors of the
hillside pasture, and the two elderly women were serene at heart and
felt like girls again as they talked together. They remembered many an
afternoon like this; they grew more and more confiding as they reviewed
the past and their life-long friendship. A stranger might have gathered
only the most rural and prosaic statements, and a tedious succession of
questions, from what Mrs. Powder and Lyddy Bangs had to say to each
other, but the old stories of true love and faithful companionship were
again simply rehearsed. Those who are only excited by more complicated
histories too often forget that there are no new plots to the comedies
and tragedies of life. They are played sometimes by country people in
homespun, sometimes by townsfolk in velvet and lace. Love and
prosperity, death and loss and misfortune the stories weave
themselves over and over again, never mind whether the ploughman or the
wit of the clubs plays the part of hero.
The two homely figures sat still so long that they seemed to become
permanent points in the landscape, and the small birds, and even a wary
chipmunk, went their ways unmindful of Mrs. Powder and Lyddy Bangs. The
old hemlock-tree, under which they sat discoursing, towered high above
the young pine-growth which clustered thick behind them on the
hillside. In the middle of a comfortable reflection upon the Barnet
grandfather's foolishness or craftiness, Mrs. Powder gave sudden
utterance to the belief that some creature up in the tree was dropping
pieces of bark and cones all over her.
"A squirrel, most like," said Lyddy Bangs, looking up into the
dense branches. "The tree is a-scatterin' down, ain't it? As you was
sayin', Grandsir Barnet must have knowed well enough what he was about"
"Oh, gorry! oh, git out! owow!" suddenly wailed a voice
overhead, and a desperate scramble and rustling startled the good women
half out of their wits. "Ow, Mis' Powder!" shrieked a familiar voice,
while both hearts thumped fast, and Joel came, half falling, half
climbing, down out of the tree. He bawled, and beat his head with his
hands, and at last rolled inagony among the bayberry and lamb-kill.
"Look out for 'em!" he shouted. "Oh, gorry! I thought 't was only an
old last-year's hornet's nest they'll sting you, too!"
Mrs. Powder untied her apron and laid about her with sure aim. Only
two hornets were to be seen; but after these were beaten to the earth,
and she stopped to regain her breath, Joel hardly dared to lift his
head or to look about him.
"What was you up there for, anyhow?" asked Lyddy Bangs, with severe
suspicion. "Harking to us, I'll be bound!" But Mrs. Powder, who knew
Joel's disposition best, elbowed her friend into silence and began to
inquire about the condition of his wounds. There was a deep-seated
hatred between Joel and Miss Bangs.
"Oh, dear! they've bit me all over," groaned the boy. "Ain't you
got somethin' you can rub on, Mis' Powder?" and the rural remedy of
fresh earth was suggested.
"'Tis too dry here," said the adviser. "Just you step down to that
ma'shy spot there by the brook, dear, and daub you with the wet mud
real good, and 't will ease you right away." Mrs. Powder's voice
sounded compassionate, but her spirit and temper of mind gave promise
of future retribution.
"I'll teach him to follow us out eavesdropping, this fashion!" said
Lyddy Bangs, when the boy had departed, weeping. "I'm more 'n gratified
that the hornets got hold of him! I hope 't will serve him for a
"Don't you r'ile him up one mite, now," pleaded Mrs. Powder, while
her eyes bore witness of hardly controlled anger. "He's the worst
tattle-tale I ever see, and we've put ourselves into a trap. If he
tells his mother she'll spread it all over town. But I should no more
thought o' his bein' up in that tree than o' his bein' the sarpent in
the garden o' Eden. You leave Joel to me, and be mild with him 's you
The culprit approached, still lamenting. His ear and cheek were
hugely swollen already, so that one eye was nearly closed. The
blueberry expedition was relinquished, and with heavy sighs of
dissatisfaction Lyddy Bangs took up the two half-filled pails, while
Mrs. Powder kindly seized Joel by his small, thin hand, and the little
group moved homeward across the pasture.
"Where's your hat?" asked Lyddy, stopping short, after they had
walked a little distance.
"Hanging on a limb up by the wop's nest," answered Joel. "Oh, git
me home, Mis' Powder!"
No one would suspect, from the look of the lane itself, that it had
always been such a provoker of wrath, and even a famous battle-ground.
While petty wars had raged between the men and women of the old farms,
walnut-trees had grown high in air, and apple-trees had leaned their
heavy branches on the stone walls and, year after year, decked
themselves in pink-and-white blossoms to arch this unlucky by-way for a
triumphal procession of peace that never came. Birds built their nests
in the boughs and pecked the ripe blackberries; green brakes and wild
roses and tall barberry-bushes flourished in their season on either
side the wheel-ruts. It was a remarkably pleasant country lane, where
children might play and lovers might linger. No one would imagine that
this lane had its lawsuits and damages, its annual crop of briefs, and
succession of surveyors and quarrelsome partisans; or that in every
generation of owners each man must be either plaintiff or defendant.
The surroundings looked permanent enough. No one would suspect that
a certain piece of wall had been more than once thrown down by night
and built again, angrily, by day; or that a well-timbered corn-house
had been the cause of much litigation, and even now looked, when you
came to know its story, as if it stood on its long, straight legs, like
an ungainly, top-heavy beast, all ready to stalk away when its position
became too dangerous. The Barnets had built it beyond their boundary;
it had been moved two or three times, backward and forward.
The Barnet house and land stood between the Crosby farm and the
high-road; the Crosbys had never been able to reach the highway without
passing their enemies under full fire of ugly looks or taunting voices.
The intricacies of legal complications in the matter of right of way
would be impossible to explain. They had never been very clear to any
impartial investigator. Barnets and Crosbys had gone to their graves
with bitter hatred and sullen desire for revenge in their hearts.
Perhaps this one great interest, outside the simple matters of food and
clothing and farmers' work, had taken the place to them of drama and
literature and art. One could not help thinking, as he looked at the
decrepit fences and mossy, warped roofs and buckling walls, to how much
better use so much money might have been put. The costs of court and
the lawyers' fees had taken everything, and men had drudged, in heat
and frost, and women had pinched and slaved to pay the lane's bills.
Both the Barnet and Crosby of the present time stood well enough in the
opinion of other neighbors. They were hard-fisted, honest men; the
fight was inherited to begin with, and they were stubborn enough to
hold fast to the fight. Law Lane was as well known as the county roads
in half a dozen towns. Perhaps its irreconcilable owners felt a thrill
of enmity that had come straight down from Scottish border-frays, as
they glanced along its crooked length. Who could believe that the son
and daughter of the warring households, instead of being ready to lift
the torch in their turn, had weakly and misguidedly fallen in love with
Nobody liked Mrs. Barnet. She was a cross-grained, suspicious soul,
who was a tyrant and terror of discomfort in her own household whenever
the course of events ran counter to her preference. Her son Ezra was a
complete contrast to her in disposition, and to his narrow-minded,
prejudiced father as well. The elder Ezra was capable of better things,
however, and might have been reared to friendliness and justice, if the
Crosby of his youthful day had not been specially aggravating and the
annals of Law Lane at their darkest page. If there had been another boy
to match young Ezra, on the Crosby farm, the two might easily have
fostered their natural boyish rivalries until something worse came into
being; but when one's enemy is only a sweet-faced little girl, it is
very hard to impute to her all manner of discredit and serpent-like
power of evil. At least, so Ezra Barnet the younger felt in his inmost
heart; and though he minded his mother for the sake of peace, and
played his solitary games and built his unapplauded dams and
woodchuck-traps on his own side of the fences, he always saw Ruth
Crosby as she came and went, and liked her better and better as years
went by. When the tide of love rose higher than the young people's
steady heads, they soon laid fast hold of freedom. With all their
perplexities, life was by no means at its worst, and rural diplomacy
must bend all its energies to hinder these unexpected lovers.
Ezra Barnet had never so much as entered the Crosby house; the
families were severed beyond the reuniting power of even a funeral.
Ezra could only try to imagine the room to which his Ruth had returned
one summer evening after he had left her, reluctantly, because the time
drew near for his father's return from the village. His mother had been
in a peculiarly bad temper all day, and he had been glad to escape from
her unwelcome insistence that he should marry any one of two or three
capable girls, and so furnish some help in the housekeeping. Ezra had
often heard this suggestion of his duty, and, tired and provoked at
last, he had stolen out to the garden and wandered beyond it to the
brook and out to the fields. Somewhere, somehow, he had met Ruth, and
the lovers bewailed their trials with unusual sorrow and impatience. It
seemed very hard to wait. Young Barnet was ready to persuade the
tearful girl that they must go away together and establish a peaceful
home of their own. He was heartily ashamed because the last verdict was
in his father's favor, and Ruth forebore to wound him with any glimpse
of the straits to which her own father had been reduced. She was too
dutiful to leave the pinched household, where her help was needed more
than ever; she persuaded her lover that they were sure to be happy at
last indeed, were not they happy now? How much worse it would be if
they could not safely seize so many opportunities, brief though they
were, of being together! If the fight had been less absorbing and the
animosity less bitter, they might have been suspected long ago.
So Ruth and Ezra parted, with uncounted kisses, and Ezra went back
to the dingy-walled kitchen, where his mother sat alone. It was hardly
past twilight out of doors, but Mrs. Barnet had lighted a
kerosene-lamp, and sat near the small open window mending a hot-looking
old coat. She looked so needlessly uncomfortable and surly that her son
was filled with pity, as he stood watching her, there among the moths
and beetles that buffeted the lamp-chimney.
"Why don't you put down your sewing and come out a little ways up
the road, mother, and get cooled off?" he asked, pleasantly; but she
only twitched herself in her chair and snapped off another needleful of
"I can't spare no time to go gallivantin', like some folks," she
answered. "I always have had to work, and I always shall. I see that
Crosby girl mincin' by an hour ago, as if she'd be'n off all the
afternoon. Folks that think she's so amiable about saving her mother's
strength would be surprised at the way she dawdles round, I guess"
and Mrs. Barnet crushed an offending beetle with her brass thimble in a
fashion that disgusted Ezra. Somehow, his mother had a vague instinct
that he did not like to hear sharp words about Ruth Crosby. Yet he
rarely had been betrayed into an ill-judged defense. He had left Ruth
only a minute ago; he knew exactly what she had been doing all day, and
from what kind errand she had been returning; the blood rushed quickly
to his face, and he rose from his seat by the table and went out to the
kitchen doorstep. The air was cool and sweet, and a sleepy bird chirped
once or twice from an elm-bough overhead. The moon was near its rising,
and he could see the great shapes of the mountains that lay to the
eastward. He forgot his mother, and began to think about Ruth again; he
wondered if she were not thinking of him, and meant to ask her if she
remembered an especial feeling of nearness just at this hour. Ezra
turned to look at the clocks to mark the exact time.
"Yes," said Mrs. Barnet, as she saw him try to discover the hour,
"'tis time that father was to home. I s'pose, bein' mail-night,
everybody was out to the post-office to hear the news, and most like
he's bawlin' himself hoarse about fall 'lections or something. He ain't
got done braggin' about our gittin' the case, neither. There's always
some new one that wants to git the p'ints right from headquarters. I
didn't see Crosby go by, did you?"
"He'd have had to foot it by the path 'cross-lots," replied Ezra,
gravely, from the doorstep. "He's sold his hoss."
"He ain't!" exclaimed Mrs. Barnet, with a chuckle. "I s'pose
they're proddin' him for the money up to court. Guess he won't try to
fight us again for one while."
Ezra said nothing; he could not bear this sort of thing much
longer. "I won't be kept like a toad under a harrow," he muttered to
himself. "I think it seems kind of hard," he ventured to say aloud.
"Now he's got to hire when fall work comes on, and"
The hard-hearted woman within had long been trying to provoke her
peaceable son into an argument, and now the occasion had come. Ezra
restrained himself from speech with a desperate effort, and stopped his
ears to the sound of his mother's accusing voice. In the middle of her
harangue a wagon was driven into the yard, and his father left it
quickly and came toward the door.
"Come in here, you lout!" he shouted, angrily. "I want to look at
you! I want to see what such a mean-spirited sneak has got to say for
himself." Then changing his voice to a whine, he begged Ezra, who had
caught him from falling as he stumbled over the step, "Come in, boy,
an' tell me 't ain't true. I guess they was only thornin' of me up; you
ain't took a shine to that Crosby miss, now, have you?"
"No son of mine no son of mine!" burst out the mother, who had
been startled by the sudden entrance of the news-bringer. Her
volubility was promptly set free, and Ezra looked from his father's
face to his mother's.
"Father," said he, turning away from the scold, who was nearly
inarticulate in her excess of rage "father, I'd rather talk to you,
if you want to hear what I've got to say. Mother's got no reason in
"Ezry," said the elder man, "I see how 'tis. Let your ma'am talk
all she will. I'm broke with shame of ye!" his voice choked weakly
in his throat. "Either you tell me 'tis all nonsense, or you go out o'
that door and shut it after you for good. An' ye're all the boy I've
The woman had stopped at last, mastered by the terror of the
moment. Her husband's face was gray with passion; her son's cheeks were
flushed and his eyes were full of tears. Mrs. Barnet's tongue for once
had lost its cunning.
The two men looked at each other as long as they could; the younger
man's eyes fell first. "I wish you wouldn't be hasty," he said;
"You've heard," was the only answer; and in a moment more Ezra
Barnet reached to the table and took his old straw hat which lay there.
"Good-by, father!" he said, steadily. "I think you're wrong, sir;
but I never meant to carry on that old fight and live like the
heathen." And then, young and strong and angry, he left the kitchen.
"He might have took some notice o' me, if he's goin' for good,"
said the mother spitefully; but her son did not hear this taunt, and
the father only tottered where he stood. The moths struck against his
face as if it were a piece of wood; he sank feebly into a chair,
muttering, and trying to fortify himself in his spent anger.
Ezra went out, dazed and giddy. But he found the young horse
wandering about the yard, eager for his supper and fretful at the
strange delay. He unharnessed the creature and backed the wagon under
the shed; then he turned and looked at the house should he go in?
No! The fighting instinct, which had kept firm grasp on father and
grandfather, took possession of Ezra now. He crossed the yard and went
out at the gate, and down the lane's end to the main road. The father
and mother listened to his footsteps, and the man gave a heavy groan.
"Let him go let him go! 't will teach him a lesson!" said Mrs.
Barnet, with something of her usual spirit. She could not say more,
though she tried her best; the occasion was far too great.
How many times that summer Mrs. Powder attempted to wreak vengeance
upon Joel, the tattle-tale; into what depths of intermittent remorse
the mischief-making boy was resolutely plunged, who shall describe? No
more luncheons of generous provision; no more jovial skirmishing at the
kitchen windows, or liberal payment for easy errands. Whenever Mrs.
Powder saw Lyddy Bangs, or any other intimate and sympathetic friend,
she bewailed her careless confidences under the hemlock-tree and
detailed her anxious attentions to the hornet-stung eavesdropper.
"I went right home," she would say, sorrowfully; "I filled him
plumb-full with as good a supper as I could gather up, and I took all
the fire out o' them hornit-stings with the best o' remedies. `Joel,
dear,' says I, `you won't lose by it if you keep your mouth shut about
them words I spoke to Lyddy Bangs,' and he was that pious I might ha'
known he meant mischief. They ain't boys nor men, they're divils, when
they come to that size, and so you mark my words! But his mother never
could keep nothing to herself, and I knew it from past sorrers; and I
never slept a wink that night sure 's you live till the roosters
crowed for day."
"Perhaps 't won't do nothin' but good!" Lyddy Bangs would say,
consolingly. "Perhaps the young folks 'll git each other a sight the
sooner. They'd had to kep' it to theirselves till they was gray-headed,
'less somebody let the cat out o' the bag."
"Don't you rec'lect how my cat acted that day!" exclaimed Mrs.
Powder excitedly. "How she was good as took with a fit! She knowed well
enough what was brewin'; I only wish we'd had half of her sense."
The day before Christmas all the long valley was white with deep,
new-fallen snow. The road which led up from the neighboring village and
the railroad station stretched along the western slope a mere trail,
untrodden and unbroken. The storm had just ceased; the high
mountain-peaks were clear and keen and rose-tinted with the waning
light; the hills were no longer green with their covering of pines and
maples and beeches, but gray with bare branches, and a cold, dense
color, almost black, where the evergreens grew thickest. On the other
side of the valley the farmsteads were mapped out as if in etching or
pen-drawing; the far-away orchards were drawn with a curious exactness
and regularity, the crooked boughs of the apple-trees and the longer
lines of the walnuts and ashes and elms came out against the snow with
clear beauty. The fences and walls were buried in snow; the farm-houses
and barns were petty shapes in their right-angled unlikeness to natural
growths. You were half amused, half shocked, as the thought came to you
of indifferent creatures called men and women, who busied themselves
within those narrow walls, under so vast a sky, and fancied the whole
importance of the universe was belittled by that of their few pent
acres. What a limitless world lay outside those plaything-farms, yet
what beginnings of immortal things the small gray houses had known!
The day before Christmas! a festival which seemed in that
neighborhood to be of modern origin. The observance of it was hardly
popular yet among the elder people, but Christmas had been
appropriated, nevertheless, as if everybody had felt the lack of it.
New Year's Day never was sufficient for New England, even in its least
mirthful decades. For those persons who took true joy in life,
something deeper was needed than the spread-eagle self-congratulations
of the Fourth of July, or the family reunions of Thanksgiving Day.
There were no bells ringing which the country-folks in Law Lane might
listen for on Christmas Eve; but something more than the joy that is
felt in the poorest dwelling when a little child, with all its
possibilities, is born; something happier still came through that snowy
valley with the thought of a Christmas-Child who "was the bringer-in
and founder of the reign of the higher life." This was the greater
Thanksgiving Day when the whole ofChristendom is called to praise and
pray and hear the good-tidings, and every heart catches something of
the joyful inspirations of good-will to men.
Ezra Barnet sat on a fallen tree from which he had brushed the
powdery snow. It was hard work wading through the drifts, and he had
made good headway up the long hill before he stopped to rest. Across
the valley in the fading daylight he saw the two farms, and could even
trace the course of Law Lane itself, marked by the well-known trees.
How small his own great nut-tree looked at this distance! The two
houses, with their larger and smaller out-buildings and snow-topped
woodpiles, looked as if they had crept near together for protection and
companionship. There were no other houses within a wide space. Ezra
knew how remote the homes really were from each other, judged by any
existing sympathy and interest. He thought of his bare, unnourished
boyhood with something like resentment; then he remembered how small
had been his parents' experience, what poor ambition had been fostered
in them by their lives; even his mother's impatience with the efforts
he had made to bring a little more comfort and pleasantness to the old
farm-house was thought of with pity for her innate lack of pleasure in
pleasant things. Ezra himself was made up of inadequacies, being born
and bred of the Barnets. He was at work on the railroad now, with small
pay; but he had always known that there could be something better than
the life in their farmhouse, while his mother did not. A different
feeling came over him as he thought whom the other farmhouse sheltered;
he had looked for that first, to see if it were standing safe. Ruth's
last letter had come only the day before. This Christmas holiday was to
be a surprise to her. He wondered whether Ruth's father would let him
Never mind! he could sleep in the barn among the hay; and Ezra
dropped into the snow again from the old tree-trunk and went his way.
There was a small house just past a bend in the road, and he quickened
his steps toward it. Alas! there was no smoke in Mrs. Powder's chimney.
She was away on one of her visiting tours; nursing some sick person,
perhaps. She would have housed him for the night most gladly; now he
must take his chances in Law Lane.
The darkness was already beginning to fall; there was a curious
brownness in the air, like summer twilight; the cold air became
sharper, and the young man shivered a little as he walked. He could not
follow the left-hand road, where it led among hospitable neighbors, but
turned bravely off toward his old home a long, lonely walk at any
time of the year, among woods and thickets all well known to him, and
as familiar as they were to the wild creatures that haunted them. Yet
Ezra Barnet did not find it easy to whistle as he went along.
Suddenly, from behind a scrub-oak that was heavily laden with dead
leaves and snow, leaped a small figure, and Ezra was for the moment
much startled. The boy carried a rabbit-trap with unusual care, and
placed it on the snow-drift before which he stood waist-deep already.
"Gorry, Ezry! you most scared me to pieces!" said Joel, in a perfectly
calm tone. "Wish you Merry Christmas! Folks'll be lookin' for you; they
didn't s'pose you'd git home before to-morrow, though."
"Looking for me? repeated the young man, with surprise. I didn't
send no word"
"Ain't you heard nothin' 'bout your ma'am's being took up for
"No, I ain't; and you ain't foolin' me with your stories, Joel
Smith? You needn't play off any of your mischief onto me."
"What you gittin' mad with me about?" inquired Joel, with a
plaintive tone in his voice. "She got a fall out in the barn this
mornin', an' it liked to killed her. Most folks ain't heard nothin'
'bout it 'cause its been snowin' so. They come for Mis' Powder and she
called out to our folks, as they brought her round by the way of Asa
Packer's store to git some opodildack or somethin'."
Ezra asked no more questions, but strode past the boy, who looked
after him a moment, and then lifted the heavy box-trap and started
homeward. The imprisoned rabbit had been snowed up since the day before
at least, and Joel felt humane anxieties, else he would have followed
Ezra at a proper distance and learned something of his reception.
Mrs. Powder was reigning triumphant in the Barnet house, being
nurse, housekeeper, and spiritual adviser all in one. She had been
longing for an excuse to spend at least half a day under that cheerless
roof for many months, but occasion had not offered. She found the
responsibility of the parted lovers weighing more and more heavily on
her mind, and had set her strong will at work to find some way of
reuniting them, and even to restore a long-banished peace to the farms.
She would not like to confess that a mild satisfaction caused her heart
to feel warm and buoyant when an urgent summons had come at last; but
such was the simple truth. A man who had been felling trees on the farm
brought the news, melancholy to hear under other circumstances, that
Mrs. Barnet had been hunting eggs in a stray nest in the hay-mow, and
had slipped to the floor and been taken up insensible. Bones were
undoubtedly broken; she was a heavy woman, and had hardly recovered her
senses. The doctor must be found as soon as possible. Mrs. Powder
hastily put her house to rights, and, with a good round bundle of what
she called her needments, set forth on the welcome enterprise. On the
way she could hardly keep herself from undue cheerfulness, and if ever
there was likely to be a reassuring presence in a sick-room it was
Harriet Powder's that December day.
She entered the gloomy kitchen looking like a two-footed
snow-drift, her big round shoulders were so heaped with the damp white
flakes. Old Ezra Barnet sat by the stove in utter despair, and waved a
limp hand warningly toward the bedroom door.
"She's layin' in a sog," he said,hopelessly. "I ought to thought to
send word to pore Ezry all the boy she ever had."
Mrs. Powder calmly removed her snowy outer garments, and tried to
warm her hands over the fire.
"Put in a couple o' sticks of good dry wood," she suggested, in a
soothing voice; and the farmer felt his spirits brighten, he knew not
why. Then the whole-souled, hearty woman walked into the bedroom.
"All I could see," she related afterward, "was the end of Jane
Barnet's nose, and I was just as sure then as I be now that she was
likely to continner; but I set down side of the bed and got holt of her
hand, and she groaned two or three times real desperate. I wished the
doctor was there, to see if anything really ailed her; but I someways
knowed there wa'n't, 'less 't was gittin' over such a jounce. I spoke
to her, but she never said nothin', and I went back out into the
kitchen. 'She's a very sick woman,' says I, loud enough for her to hear
me; I knew 't would please her. There was a good deal to do, and I put
on my aprin and took right holt and begun to lay about me and git
dinner; the men-folks was wiltin' for want o' somethin', it being nigh
three o'clock. An' then I got Jane to feel more comfortable with
ondressin' of her, for all she'd hardly let me touch of her poor
creatur', I expect she did feel sore! and then daylight was failin'
and I felt kind o' spent, so I set me down in a cheer by the bed-head
and was speechless, too. I knew if she was able to speak she couldn't
hold in no great spell longer.
"After a while she stirred a little and groaned, and then says she,
`Ain't the doctor comin'?' And I peaced her up well 's I could. `Be I
very bad off, Harri't?' says she.
"'We'll hope for the best, Jane,' says I; and that minute the
notion come to me how I'd work her round, an' I like to laughed right
out, but I didn't.
"`If I should lose me again, you must see to sendin' for my son,'
says she; `his father's got no head.'
"`I will,' says I, real solemn. `An' you can trust me with anything
you feel to say, sister Barnet.'
"She kind of opened her eye that was next to me and surveyed my
countenance sharp, but I looked serious, and she groaned real honest.
`Be I like old Mis' Topliff?' she whispered, and I kind o' nodded an'
put my hand up to my eyes. She was like her, too; some like her, but
not nigh so bad, for Mis' Topliff was hurt so fallin' down the
sullar-stairs that she never got over it an' died the day after.
"`Oh, my sakes!' she bu'st out whinin', `I can't be took away now.
I ain't a-goin' to die right off, be I, Mis' Powder?'
"`I ain't the one to give ye hope. In the midst of life we are in
death. We ain't sure of the next minute, none of us,' says I, meanin'
it general, but discoursin' away like an old book o' sermons.
"`I do feel kind o' failin', now,' says she. `Oh, can't you do
nothin'?' and I come over an' set on the foot o' the bed an' looked
right at her. I knew she was a dreadful notional woman, and always made
a fuss when anything was the matter with her; couldn't bear no kind o'
"`Sister Barnet,' says I, `don't you bear nothin' on your mind
you'd like to see righted before you go? I know you ain't been at peace
with Crosby's folks, and 't ain't none o' my business, but I shouldn't
want to be called away with hard feelin's in my heart. You must
overlook my speaking right out, but I should want to be so used
"Poor old creatur'! She had an awful fight of it, but she beat her
temper for once an' give in. `I do forgive all them Crosbys,' says she,
an' rolled up her eyes. I says to myself that wa'n't all I wanted, but
I let her alone a spell, and set there watchin' as if I expected her to
breathe her last any minute.
"She asked for Barnet, and I said he was anxious and out watchin'
for the doctor, now the snow'd stopped. `I wish I could see Ezra,' says
she. `I'm all done with the lane now, and I'd keep the peace if I was
goin' to live.' Her voice got weak, and I didn't know but she was worse
off than I s'posed. I was scared for a minute, and then I took a grain
o' hope. I'd watched by too many dyin'-beds not to know the difference.
"`Don't ye let Barnet git old Nevins to make my coffin, will ye,
Mis' Powder?' says she once.
"`He's called a good workman, ain't he?' says I, soothin' as I
could. When it come to her givin' funeral orders, 'twas more'n I could
do to hold in.
"`I ain't goin' snappin' through torment in a hemlock coffin, to
please that old cheat!' says she, same 's if she was well, an' ris'
right up in bed; and then her bruises pained her an' she dropped back
on the pillow.
"`Oh, I'm a-goin' now!' says she. `I've been an awful hard woman.
'Twas I put Barnet up to the worst on't. I'm willing Ezra should marry
Ruthy Crosby; she's a nice pooty gal, and I never owned it till now I'm
on my dyin'-bed Oh, I'm a-goin', I'm a-goin'! Ezra can marry her,
and the two farms together 'll make the best farm in town. Barnet ain't
got no fight left; he's like an old sheep since we drove off Ezra.' And
then she'd screech; you never saw no such a fit of narves. And the end
was I had to send to Crosby's, in all the snow, for them to come over.
"An' Barnet was got in to hold her hand and hear last words enough
to make a Fourth o' July speech; and I was sent out to the door to
hurry up the Crosbys, and who should come right out o' the dark but
Ezra. I declare, when I see him you could a-knocked me down with a
feather. But I got him by the sleeve `You hide away a spell,' says
I, `till I set the little lamp in this winder; an' don't you make the
best o' your ma's condition; 'pear just as consarned about her as you
can. I'll let ye know why, soon's we can talk' and I shoved him right
out an' shut the door.
"The groans was goin' on, and in come Crosby and Ruth, lookin'
scared about to death themselves. Neither on 'em had ever been in that
house before, as I know of. She called 'em into the bedroom and said
she'd had hard feelin's towards them and wanted to make peace before
she died, and both on 'em shook hands with her.
"`Don't you want to tell Ruth what you said to me about her and
Ezry?' says I, whisperin' over the bed. `'Live or dead, you know 't is
right and best.'
"`There ain't no half way 'bout me,' she says, and so there wa'n't.
`Ruth,' says she, out loud, `I want you to tell pore Ezra that I gave
ye both my blessin',' and I made two steps acrost that kitchin and set
the lamp in the window, and in comes Ezra pore boy, he didn't know
what was brewin', and thought his mother was dyin' certain when he saw
the Crosbys goin' in.
"He went an' stood beside the bed, an' his father clutched right
holt of him. Thinks I to myself, if you make as edifyin' an end when
your time really does come, you may well be thankful, Jane Barnet!
"They was all a-weepin', an' I was weepin' myself, if you'll
believe it, I'd got a-goin' so. You ought to seen her take holt o'
Ruth's hand an' Ezra's an' put 'em together. Then I'd got all I wanted,
I tell you. An' after she'd screeched two or three times more she begun
to git tired; the poor old creatur' was shook up dreadful, and I felt
for her consid'able, though you may not think it; so I beckoned 'em out
into the kitchen an' went in an' set with her alone. She dropped off
into a good easy sleep, an' I told the folks her symptoms was more
"I tell you, if ever I took handsome care o' any sick person 't was
Jane Barnet, before she got about again; an' Ruth she used to come over
an' help real willin'. She got holt of her ma-in-law's bunnit one
afternoon an' trimmed it up real tasty, and that pleased Mis' Barnet
about to death. My conscience pricked me some, but not a great sight.
I'm willin' to take what blame come to me by rights.
"The doctor come postin' along, late that night, and said she was
doin' well, owin' to the care she'd had, and give me a wink. And she's
alive yet," Mrs. Powder always assured her friends, triumphantly
"and, what's more, is middlin' peaceable disposed. She's said one or
two p'inted things to me, though, an' I shouldn't wonder, come to think
it over, if she mistrusted me just the least grain. But, dear sakes!
they never was so comfortable in their lives; an' Ezra he got a
first-rate bargain for a lot o' Crosby's woodland that the railroad
wanted, and peace is kind o' set in amon'st 'em up in Law Lane."
When Ezra Barnet waked on Christmas morning, in his familiar, dark
little chamber under the lean-to roof, he could hardly believe that he
was at home again, and that such strange things had happened. There
were cheerful voices in the kitchen below, and he dressed hurriedly and
There was Mrs. Powder, cooking the breakfast with lavish
generosity, and beaming with good-nature. Barnet, the father, was
smiling and looking on with pleased anticipation; the sick woman was
comfortably bolstered up in the bedroom. In all his life the son had
never felt so drawn to his mother; there was a new look in her eyes as
he went toward her; she had lost her high color, and looked at him
pleadingly, as she never had done before. "Ezry, come close here!" said
she. "I believe I'm goin' to git about ag'in, after all. Mis' Powder
says I be; but them feelin's I had slippin' down the mow, yesterday,
was twice as bad as the thump I struck with. I may never be the same to
work, but I ain't goin' to fight with folks no more, sence the Lord 'll
let me live a spell longer. I ain't a-goin' to fight with nobody, no
matter how bad I want to. Now, you go an' git you a good breakfast. I
ain't eat a mouthful since breakfast yesterday, and you can bring me a
help o' anything Sister Powder favors my havin'."
"I hope 't will last," muttered Sister Powder to herself, as she
heaped the blue plate. "Wish you all a Merry Christmas!" she said. "I
like to forgot my manners."
It was Christmas Day, whether anybody in Law Lane remembered it or
not. The sun shone bright on the sparkling snow, the eaves were
dropping, and the snow-birds and blue-jays came about the door. The
wars of Law Lane were ended.