One Taste of the Old Time by Eliza Calvert Hall
There is no organic disease whatever, said the doctor. The
trouble is purely mental. No, I don't mean that, he corrected hastily,
as he saw the look of dismay on David Maynor's face. Your wife is not
losing her mind. Nothing of that sort. Indeed, I take her to be a woman
of unusually sound mentality. But, evidently there is some trouble
preying on her mind and producing these nervous symptoms. The
prescription I am leaving will palliate these, but it remains for you
to find out what the trouble is and remove it, if you can. There are
some cases where doctors are powerless, and this, I think, is one of
them. He reached for his hat and bowing with professional courtesy
turned to leave.
How much do I owe you? said David Maynor.
The blunt question was like a sentry's challenge, and the doctor
paused with his hand on the knob of the door.
Ahnever mind about that now. A bill will be sent you at the end
of the month. His tone and manner implied that this was too trivial a
matter to be mentioned.
But David Maynor's hand was in his pocket, and he was drawing forth
his new seal-leather purse.
I always pay as I go, he said stolidly. The corners of the
doctor's mouth twitched, and a gleam of humor came into his eyes. Ten
dollars, he said, and while David Maynor was counting out the bills,
the physician's quick glance was taking note of the expensive furniture
and the utter absence of individuality, that gave the house the air of
a hotel rather than a home. The new rich, he thought with
good-natured amusement, then aloud:
Let me hear from your wife to-morrow, Mr. Maynor. But, as I said
before, the case is in your hands. Good afternoon! And with another
courtly bow he was gone.
David Maynor hurried back up-stairs to his wife's bedside. Sarah,
he said, bending over her and smoothing her hair clumsily, the doctor
says there's not a thing the matter with you, except you've got
something on your mind that's worrying you. He says he can't do much
for you, and that I've got to find out what the trouble is and remove
it, if I can.
Sarah Maynor turned her head restlessly on the pillow. I must say
he's got more sense than I thought he had, she said, with a nervous
laugh. I was afraid he'd go to dosing me with bitters and pills. He's
exactly right: no doctor can cure me. Her voice broke, and she buried
her face in the pillow.
A deep anxiety settled on David's rugged features. Why, Sarah, he
said, with tender reproach in his voice, when did you get to hiding
your troubles from me? Is there anything you want? Anything I can do
for you? You know you can have everything now that money can buy.
Sarah turned her face toward her husband. Her gray eyes were filled
with tears, and her hands were clenched in an effort to control her
That's just the trouble! she cried, her voice rising into a wail.
You've given me everything that money buys, and I don't want anything
except the things that love buys. I want to go back to Millville! I
want to live in our own little cottage! I'm sick of this sort of life!
I never was made to be a rich man's wife, and it's killing me! It's
killing me! Oh! I know I'm ungrateful, Dave, but I can't help it! Her
voice broke in a storm of sobs. She covered her face with the
bedclothes and shrank away from her husband's hand.
A look of profound relief lighted David Maynor's face. Is that
all? he exclaimed. And here I've been putting up with everything
because I thought you were pleased! My gracious, Sarah! You don't hate
this life any more than I do.
Sarah lifted her head from the pillow and searched his face with her
tear-reddened eyes. Dave Maynor, she said solemnly, are you just
saying that to please me, or is it the truth?
I'd go back to Millville to-morrow, if I could, said David, with
an emphasis that swept away all doubt of his sincerity.
Sarah fell back on her pillows with a long, sobbing breath of
relief. Her tears flowed again, but they were tears of happiness, and
an ecstatic smile shone through them.
Oh! Then it's all right, Dave! It's all right! She reached for
David's hand and laid it against her wet cheek. You see, it was just
the thought that you and I didn't think alikethat was what I couldn't
stand. But if you feel as I do, why, I can stand anything. You know
what I mean, don't you, Dave?
Of course I know what you mean, honey, said David soothingly, as
if he were talking to a child in distress. I've felt exactly the same
way, ever since we left our little Millville home and come to this
two-story brick house. I thought you liked it,women always like fine
houses and fine furniture,and I wanted to please you, but I hated it
from the start; and we'd always thought the same about everything, and
to have this big pile of brick and mortar comin' between us at our time
At this point words failed him. He was not in the habit of analyzing
and describing his own feelings, but Sarah's eyes met his, and a look
of perfect understanding passed between husband and wife. They had been
living a divided life, but now they were one.
It was my fault, said Sarah. I ought to have stopped you in the
beginning; but I knew you were trying to please me, and I didn't want
to seem ungrateful
Yes, honey, yes, interrupted David, I know just how it was, and
it was my fault, not yours. I ought to have asked you what you wanted,
instead of takin' things for granted. Yes, if it's anybody's fault,
it's mine. But what's the use in blamin' anybody? My doctrine is that
when a thing has happened, instead of blamin' ourselves or
anybody else, we just ought to conclude that it had to happen,
and then make the best of it. This house is built; it's ours; we're in
it; we don't like it; and now what are we going to do about it?
Sarah's face clouded at once. She and David were of one mind, but
things were not all right", for still the burden of unaccustomed
wealth and luxury weighed upon her, and David's question brought her
face to face with the old troubles.
Oh! I don't know, she said wearily. If we just hadn't left our
It was that architect fellow's fault, my buildin' this house, said
David ruefully. He was a young man just startin' out in the world, and
I thought I'd give him a helpin' hand. And then it didn't look right
for people with the income we've got to live in a four-room cottage in
I don't care how it looked, said Sarah fretfully, we were in our
right place there, and we're out of place here. When we lived in
Millville, I'd get up in the morning, and I knew just exactly what I'd
have to do, and I knew I could do whatever I had to do. But now She
made a gesture of unutterable despairWhy, I hate to open my eyes, I
hate to get up, I hate to think there's another day before me, for I'm
certain there'll be things to do that I never did before, and don't
know how to do and don't want to do, even if I knew how. People come to
see me and they talk about things I never heard of, and ask me to do
things I can't do, and I feel just exactly as if I was caught in some
kind of a cage and couldn't get out. There was that Mrs. Emersonshe
wanted me to join a club she belongs to. She said it used to be a
literary club, but that they'd changed their plans, and, instead of
writin' papers, they'd decided to do civic work.
She paused in her passionate confession and turned abruptly to David
with a look of self-scorn that was tragic in its intensity. Do you
know what 'civic work' is, David? David did not answer at once.
Why, no, Sarah, I can't say I do, he said cautiously. It seems to
me I've seen that word somewhere, and maybe I could think up what it
means, if you'd give me time to
Sarah cut him short. You don't know what that word means, David,
and neither do I, she said with studied calmness.
David was genuinely puzzled by Sarah's evident distress over so
unimportant a circumstance as the meaning of a word. Honey, he said
tenderly, I'll go right down town and buy you a dictionary, so you can
find out what that word means. But what difference does it make,
Once more his wife turned on him a face that was like a mask of
tragedy. What difference does it make? she wailed. Oh, David! Can't
you see? Can't you understand? There I satin my own houselike a
foolnot knowin' what answer to give her, just because I didn't know
what that word meant! And every day something like this happens,
something that makes me feel that I'm out of place, something that
makes me hate myself! Can't you understand?
Yes, David understood as well as a man could be expected to
understand a woman. Many times since Fortune had smiled on him, he had
been thrown with men of superior education and social position and had
known momentarily the feeling of being out of place. And if Sarah's
passionate words failed to convey all she felt and suffered, the
despair in her eyes and the nervous twitching of her fingers brought
comprehension to her husband's mind.
There! There! he soothed, taking her hands in his. You mustn't
carry on this way, Sarah, or I'll have to send for the doctor again.
Just give me time to think; there must be a way out of this trouble. My
goodness! He shook his head in helpless wonderment over the strange
situation. I thought we'd be through with troubles when we got rich,
but it looks as if this money's the most trouble we ever had.
It wouldn't be a trouble if we were used to it, explained Sarah.
We were born poor, and we've lived poor all our lives, and we don't
know how to get happiness out of money.
David sighed. We can't go back to Millville to live, he said
thoughtfully. At least we can't get back our old place. Sarah's face
was already clouded, but at these words a deeper shadow passed over it.
She had known, when she left the Millville house, that the owner of the
property intended tearing down the cottage and building a tenement
house for the mill-workers, and every time she thought of her house in
ruins, she had a dull heartache. I never hankered after riches, mused
David, his mind still occupied with the mysterious ways of the
Providence that had made him rich. I never even tried to invent that
machine. It just seemed to come to me, without any thinkin' or tryin'
on my part; and when I patented the thing, I never supposed it would do
any more than make us fairly comfortable in our old age. But here's the
money comin' in all the time; it's ours, and it's honest money, and
we've got to take it and make the best of it. But, tenderly, I'm not
goin' to let it worry you to death if I can help it. What is it that
bothers you most, honey?
Sarah moved her head restlessly on the pillow and sighed heavily.
Oh! everything; but I believe the servants are the worst aggravation
What's the matter with 'em? asked David; don't they do their work
No, they don't, said Sarah despairingly. I never saw such
cleanin' as that Bertha doesdust behind the doors and on the window
sills; and she never takes up a rug, and the windows look like Jacob's
cattle, all ringed and striped and streaked. And Nelly's just as bad.
The dish towels are a sight, and the kitchen closet's in such a mess I
can't sleep for thinkin' of it. I never could stand dust, especially in
my kitchen; you know that, David. And here we are payin' these
good-for-nothin' creatures every week almost as much money as you used
to earn in a month! It's enough to drive me crazy. It was the
lamentation of a housekeeper, a cry as old as civilization, that Sarah
was uttering, and David heard it sympathetically, for his wife's
troubles were his own.
Can't you make 'em do their work right? he asked.
Make 'em? Sarah's voice rose in a petulant wail. No, I can't. I
can make myself work, but I don't know how to make anybody else work.
Do they ever give you any back talk? asked David.
No, they don't, said Sarah, a dull flush crimsoning her face.
They're polite enough to my face, but, David, I believe they laugh at
us both behind our backs. Two or three times I've turned around right
quick, and I've seen a look on their faces that made me want to turn
'em out of the house.
David's face hardened. Why don't you discharge 'em? he asked
Oh! I don't know how, said Sarah fretfully. It seems to me you
ought to know that, without being told. I never discharged anybody in
my life. I wouldn't know what to say. Don't you have to give servants
warning before you turn 'em off?
David deliberated a moment. Either they have to give you warning,
or you have to give them warning, or maybe it's both, he announced. I
guess it would take a lawyer to settle that question.
People that don't know how to get rid of a servant have got no
business with servants, said Sarah bitterly. Here I am, a stout,
able-bodied woman, holdin' my hands all day, when I ought to be doin'
my own work just as I always have.
You couldn't do your work in this house, argued David. It would
break you down if you tried it.
There it is again, cried Sarah. The house! It's the house that's
to blame for everything. Why, it was just last week I met Molly
Matthews on the street, and she turned her head away and wouldn't speak
to me! Molly Matthews that nursed me when I had the fever and that's
been like a sister to me all these years!
David's face darkened angrily. What right has Molly Matthews to
fall out with you, because you've got a better house than she has?
That's just envy.
No, it's not envy! cried Sarah in loyal defense of the absent
friend. I know Molly as well as I know myself. She hasn't changed, but
she thinks I've changed; she thinks I feel above her just because I've
got this two-story brick. And I don't blame her a bit. When we left
Millville and moved into town, it looked just like we had turned our
backs on all our old friends. I'd feel just as Molly does, if I were in
Molly's place. I've wanted to have Molly and Annie and all the rest of
my friends to spend the day with me,I've only waited because I wanted
to feel at home in my own house, before I had visitors,but now I
can't do it. We've got a fine house, David, and plenty of money, but
we've lost our old friends; and what is life without friends?
The god of Mammon had showered his favors on these simple souls, but
they would never be worshippers of the god. David, too, had felt the
barrier of wealth rising, hard and cruel, between him and the friends
of a lifetime, and his heart echoed Sarah's question, What is life
Well, he said, with an effort at lightness, if our old friends
forsake us, we'll have to make new ones.
But I don't want new friends! cried Sarah, with the accent of a
fretful child, Haven't I just told you I couldn't talk to that Mrs.
A sudden thought seemed to strike David. He took out his watch and
glanced at it. It's time for you to take another dose of the medicine
the doctor left. I have to go down-town for a few minutes. You lie
still and see if you can't sleep a little.
He handed her the medicine and left the room. Sarah waited till he
was out of the house, and then she rose hastily from the bed and began
making a hurried toilet.
When David reappeared, he found her fully dressed and the marks of
tears gone from her face.
That medicine's helped you already, he said cheerfully; and
here's a dictionary, and we'll find out what that word means.
The dictionary was an unfamiliar book to David, but after a patient
search he found the strange word. Here it is: civic, of or pertaining
to a city, a citizen, or citizenship. He looked hopefully at Sarah.
She shook her head rather sadly.
I don't know a bit more now than I did before, David, but never
mind that word. I told you awhile ago that I could stand anything, if
we only felt alike about it, and I'm goin' to stand this.
That's right, said David heartily; and while you're standing it,
I'll be looking for a way out of it. I didn't build this house for you
to stand, I built it for you to enjoy, and if you don't enjoy it, you
don't have to live in it. At that moment the supper bell rang.
Come on, honey, said David, holding out his hand to help her from
the chair, you'll feel better after you've had something to eat.
But Sarah only sighed and shook her head languidly. If I'd only
cooked the supper, I might feel hungry. But I just don't care whether I
eat or not. I'd rather go hungry than to eat with that Nelly starin' at
You stay up here, Sarah, said David with sudden determination. He
wheeled a small table in front of her and hurried from the room. In a
few minutes Nelly appeared with a laden tray that she set on the table.
Mr. Maynor says if there's anything else you want, to let him
know. Nelly's tone and manner were those of the well-trained servant,
and she looked at her mistress with a gleam of real sympathy in her
This is all I want. I'm much obliged, said Sarah Maynor awkwardly.
Nelly withdrew, and Sarah began to eat, more from gratitude to David
than from any sense of hunger. David was so good to her, she must get
used to things for his sake. But the relief of eating without the
espionage of a servant quickened her appetite, and when David rejoined
her, he looked with satisfaction on the empty dishes.
Don't worry about me, David, said Sarah, with a good attempt at a
careless smile. I've been actin' like a child, but from now on I'm
goin' to behave myself. David did not answer. He appeared to be in
deep thought about some important matter. He took out a pencil, did
some figuring on the back of an envelope, relapsed again into the
thoughtful mood, and finally went to bed silent and preoccupied.
For the next few weeks, he was away from home the greater part of
the time. Many days he failed to appear at the midday meal, and often
it would be dusk before he came to supper. The vague excuse of
business satisfied Sarah, for she had the wifely faith that forbade
questioning, and though David's sympathy helped her to stand the hard
conditions of her daily life, she was still too unhappy to feel any
keen curiosity about her husband's comings and goings. But one day
David came home wearing an expression of such triumphant satisfaction
that it could not be overlooked.
What's the matter, David? she asked wistfully. You look just like
you did the day you got your patent.
David laughed joyously. I feel just as I did the day I got my
patent, Sarah: I've got a little business to see to after dinner, but
about four o'clock I'll come around with the buggy, and we'll take a
long ride. I've been workin' hard for the last few weeks, and I reckon
I'm entitled to a little holiday.
That horse and phaeton had been the occasion of much comment on the
part of the general public. People often smiled to see the rich
inventor and his wife in their modest turnout, while men of lesser
worth whizzed by in costly machines; only Sarah knew that the shining
little phaeton and the gentle mare were the realization of a childish
I reckon I ought to have bought a car, said David apologetically,
as he helped Sarah into the phaeton for their first ride together; but
when I was a little shaver I wanted a pony; every boy does. Nobody but
God will ever know how much I wanted that pony I never got. And when I
grew older, I wanted a horse just as bad as I wanted a pony, and now
the time's come when I can have what I want. Some day we can get one of
these big machines, but right now this little buggy and this little
mare just suit me. And Sarah had acquiesced fully in these views.
You can't love a big machine, but you can love a horse, she said.
And thereafter the horse and phaeton were the only mitigating
circumstances of her new life, for they enabled her to get away, for a
few happy, care-free hours, from the two-story brick and the two
hateful servants. She ate her dinner with a better appetite because of
the promised ride. Long before the hour appointed she was dressed and
waiting with the impatience of a child, and before they had gone a
mile, she had caught David's spirit of happiness, and was looking up
into her husband's face with a look her face used to wear before the
curse of wealth came upon her.
Are we going to Millville? she asked apprehensively.
No, said David. We're going in that direction, but we'll stop
before we get there. He understood why Sarah would not want to drive
through the village; it would seem like flaunting her new wealth in the
faces of her old neighbors. David's eyes sparkled, and his mouth kept
curving into a smile even though there was no occasion for smiling.
Sarah felt that she was on the verge of a pleasant surprise, and her
eyes roved here and there searching for the possible stopping-place.
There were pretty cottages at intervals along the road, and each one
reminded her of her lost home. On they went, around a sharp turn in the
road, and suddenly David drew rein in the shade of a huge tulip tree
just in front of a little country place. A new paling fence painted
gray enclosed the lot; the house was not a new one, but its coat of
gray matched the fence, and a fresh green roof crowned its walls. Sarah
leaned forward, her eyes alight with wonder.
Why, Dave, it looks like our old cottage. It's exactly like it,
only it's had a new coat of paint. What are we stopping here for? Does
anybody live here?
David was helping her out of the phaeton. His eyes were smiling, and
the corners of his mouth twitched.
It does look considerably like our cottage, he said gravely.
That's why I brought you out here. I thought you might enjoy lookin'
at it. He opened the gate, and they walked up the path, Sarah glancing
from side to side at the newly planted shrubs and trees.
Why, Dave, it looks just like our front yard, only everything's
new. There's that little maple tree at the corner of the house, just
like our maple tree at home, and all the shrubs I used to have, and
planted in exactly the same places. It's right curious how much it's
like our old place.
They were on the front porch now. David knocked loudly on the door.
That door! Sarah's eyes were scanning it as if it were a written page
from which she hoped to learn good tidings. It glistened bravely in its
thick coat of white paint, but when one has opened and shut the same
door for twenty years, the brush of the painter cannot wholly conceal
its familiar features. Surely that was her front door!
The folks don't seem to be at home, said David, and as he spoke,
he took a key from his pocket, unlocked the door, and flung it wide
open. David was no playwright, but he understood how to produce a
dramatic situation and bring a scene to a successful climax. The
opening of the door disclosed a narrow entry. The floor was covered
with an oilcloth somewhat worn, and in front of the door lay a rug of
braided rags. Against the wall stood a very ugly hatrack, and over the
door leading into the room on the left was a Bible text worked in faded
yarns and framed in dingy gilt. For a moment Sarah stood gazing
bewildered at the familiar interior, then she grasped her husband's
hand and stepped across the threshold, uttering an inarticulate
expression of rapture, while David laughed aloud in pure delight.
Oh, David! David! she cried, it's my own home, my own little
home! What does it mean, David? Am I crazy or dreaming or what? She
was clinging to David's arm, trembling and tearful. David patted her
kindly on the hand.
You're not crazy, honey, and you're wide-awake, too. It means that
you've got your old home again, and you needn't ever go back to the
two-story brick house in town unless you want to.
But I thought the house was torn down, insisted Sarah, incredulous
of the happy reality.
So it was, explained David, but I bought the lumber and had it
all put together again. Everything's just like it used to be except the
wall paper and paint. They're new.
Oh! the miracle of it! And it was David's love that had wrought the
miracle. Sarah tried to speak, tried to tell David all her happiness
and gratitude, but the words were so incoherent, broken, and mixed with
tears that no one but David could have understood their meaning.
Kind? he said, patting her shoulder. No, there's no particular
kindness about this. I've just got Doctor Bourland's prescription
filled, that's all. You know he said I had to find out what the trouble
was and remove it, and that's what I've tried to do.
Sarah's tears flowed afresh at this proof of David's thoughtfulness.
Oh, David! she cried remorsefully. I thought you didn't care for the
thingsour things! And it hurt me so!
Cheer up, old woman, said David. Dry your eyes and see if I've
got everything here I ought to have. You'll find some clothes in the
bureau drawers, enough to last for a few days, anyhow. We're goin' to
stay here awhile, till that head of yours quits achin' and your nerves
get quieted down.
But Sarah was in the kitchen now, opening drawers, doors, and boxes
like a true daughter of Pandora. Sugarmealsodabaconsalt. How
on earth did you manage to think of everything, David?
Come out in the garden, urged David. Pretty outlook, ain't it?
he said, with a gesture toward the west where green meadows and blue
hills slumbered in the late afternoon sunshine. See the new stable and
the chicken yard. I'll put up some martin boxes next week, and we'll
have pigeons, too. Here's the asparagus bed, and over against the
stable we'll have a little hotbed and raise early lettuce. It's too
late to do much now, but I've got the walks laid off, and this time
next year we'll be sittin' under our own 'vine and fig-tree.'
Hand in hand, like two children, they wandered over their acre of
ground, planning for the flower garden, the vegetable garden, and the
tiny orchard and the grape arbor that were to be, till the level rays
of the sun warned them of approaching evening. David took out his
Pretty near supper time, he said. The fire's laid in the kitchen
stove. I wonder if you've forgotten how to cook a meal, Mrs. Maynor?
Sarah answered with a laugh; and as she walked to the house and
entered her kitchen, she looked as Eve might have looked, if, with her
womanly tears and sighs, she had bribed the Angel of the Flaming Sword
to let her pass through the gate and stroll for an hour along the paths
of her lost Eden. But Sarah's Paradise Regained was the paradise of the
worker. She rolled up her sleeves, tied a gingham apron around her
waist, and set about getting supper with the zeal of those who count
themselves blest in having to earn the bread they eat.
She set the little square table near a western window, and the
sunset light fell on the cheap cloth, the ill-matched pieces of cheap
china, and the plain food of the working man. It was all she could do
to keep back the tears of joy when she called David in to supper.
David's eyes filled, too, when he seated himself at the table. He bowed
his head to say grace, but his voice failed, and their grace was a
silent thanksgiving, not for food, but for the restoration of the old
home and the old life.
In the midst of the meal Sarah laid down her knife and fork with an
expression of dismay. Oh, David! she exclaimed, what will we do
about the house in town? We can't leave it in charge of those
Don't worry, said David placidly. Ann Bryan's in charge of that
house, and she'll stay as long as we're here. Ann knows how to manage
servants. She used to be the housekeeper at Northcliffe Manor, you
remember. I told her about the trouble you'd had, and I think you'll
find Nelly and Bertha well broken in when you get back.
Sarah drew a sigh of relief. It was good to know that those hateful
servants were in stronger hands than hers, and better still, that she
and David could eat their meals in the privacy of the kitchen with no
spying eyes upon them.
Do the people at Millville know about this house, David? she asked
later, as they sat on the porch in the stillness and coolness of the
night. David blew a puff of smoke into the darkness before he answered.
They all know, Sarah, and I think it'll make things a good deal
easier for you. Annie McGowan came by one day, when I was havin' the
cottage torn down and the lumber hauled out here; she stopped to ask
questions, and I told her how you pined for your old home and what I
intended to do, and I guess she told all the other women, for I notice
a change in everybody's face.
What did Annie say? urged Sarah eagerly.
She said she always knew your heart was in the right place.
The old home and the old friends, too! All her loved and lost
possessions were found, and if David's wealth were suddenly snatched
away, she would still be a rich woman. She slept soundly and woke with
a thrill of rapture at the thought of the day's work before her. How
many things there were to be done and how willingly she would do them,
for she was back in her own place, living her own life, and finding
health and happiness in daily toil. She went from task to task,
rejoicing that her hand had not lost its cunning for sweeping, dusting,
sewing, cooking, and all the rest of the blessed work that goes to the
making of a home; and the evening and the morning were the first day.
The second day was like unto the first, and on the third day Mary
Matthews and Annie McGowan came, and a broken friendship was cemented,
never to be broken again.
At the end of the week David came home with a grave face. I'm
sorry, Sarah, he said, as they sat down to their supper, but I'm
afraid we'll have to break camp and go back to town to-morrow morning.
I had a letter from Bates and Hammond, that big firm I told you about,
and I have to go to St. Louis to-morrow morning. I can't leave you out
here alone, so I reckon you'll have to go back to the two-story brick
He expected an outburst of tears from Sarah, but to his great relief
she went calmly on, pouring his coffee and helping him to the corn
bread and bacon.
That's all right, David, she said pleasantly. I was just
wonderin' to-day how things were in town, and I'd just as soon go back
David drew a breath of relief. I think you'll find everything in
good order, he said. Ann Bryan has got Nelly and Bertha well in hand.
She says they're good servants, and all they need is a tight rein to
hold them to their work. She says you must look them straight in the
eye when you give an order, and never let a bad piece of work pass. She
says that's the secret of managin' servants.
Sarah said nothing, but there was a look on her face that Ann Bryan
would have approved.
We have to make an early start to-morrow, continued David, for I
leave on the nine o'clock train. Ann may leave the house before we get
to town. Her brother's wife is sick, and she's needed at home, and
that's another reason why we ought to go back to town for awhile.
Of course it is, agreed Sarah, and I don't mind it at all.
David watched his wife closely, as they made preparations for
leaving the next morning, but there was nothing in her manner or her
words to indicate the slightest annoyance over the return to town. She
seemed alert, cheerful, and more than willing to make the change, and
when they came in sight of the two-story brick, David thought she
looked rather pleased.
Maybe you'd better have some one to stay with you while I'm gone,
he suggested, as he kissed her good-by.
No, said Sarah, very decidedly, I've got some work to do, and I'd
rather be alone. Take care of yourself, David, and come home as soon as
She stood on the porch till David was out of sight and then walked
back to the kitchen where the two servants were dawdling and gossiping
over their breakfast.
Nelly, she said, pointing to the kitchen clock and looking the
maid squarely in the face, it's nearly nine o'clock and no cleaning
done yet. Go up-stairs and open the windows so the house'll have a good
airing, and then get the parlor in order first before company comes.
While the astonished Nelly obeyed orders, she turned to Bertha and gave
directions for the next meal. You've got your kitchen in good order,
she said approvingly, and from now on you must keep it just this way.
She's learnin' fast, said Nelly to Bertha an hour later, when they
came together for a whispered conference in the kitchen pantry.
Believe me! returned Bertha, it won't be long before I'll be
cookin' six o'clock dinner instead of supper.
Sarah had ample time to work and think, for David was gone a week
instead of three days. Every morning she arose with certain plans in
her mind, and every night she lay down to sleep, calmly satisfied
because she had carried these plans to a successful completion. The
forenoons were spent in a careful superintendence of household affairs,
and Nelly and Bertha were made to feel the authority of a mistress
whose ideas of cleanliness and order were beyond any they had ever
known. In the afternoon she put on her brown suit and went out to walk,
or to call on the friendly people whose cards lay in the silver tray on
her center table. Her air at such times was one of grave determination,
and even David never knew with what fear and trembling and
heart-sinking these first social duties were performed. She was a
pleasant-faced, wholesome-looking woman; her dark, abundant hair was
somewhat coarse, but it waved naturally, and she arranged it well; her
skin was not fine, but it had a clear, healthy color, and her form was
erect, in spite of years of drudgery. Each day a careful observer might
have found some slight improvement in her dress and manner. Hitherto
the putting on of clothes had been to Sarah merely a part of her day's
work, something to be done with the utmost speed; but now she was
learning to make a toilette, varying the arrangement of her hair and
observing the fit of her garments and the effect of different colors.
Her taste in clothes happened to be good, and the fine simplicity of
her suit and hat offset the plainness of her manner and her evident
embarrassment over the difficult function of making calls.
I like her, said Mrs. Emerson, the minister's wife, to Mrs.
Morris, the banker's wife. She is what you call a plain woman, and
they're unmistakably 'new rich', but the newspaper paragrapher will
never have anything on her. She's absolutely without pretense, and she
has a world of common sense. I'm glad she's consented to join our club,
for we need just such a woman in this legislative work we're
When David wrote her the date of his home-coming, she made it a
festal occasion. The house had an extra cleaning; the grocer's boy left
the choicest meat, fruits, and vegetables on Nelly's kitchen table, and
Bertha was ordered to make the table look as attractive as possible.
Notwithstanding her longing for the old life, Sarah had always taken a
timid, tremulous sort of pleasure in the fine damask, the cut glass,
silver, and china that David had bought when they moved into the
two-story brick", and after she had dressed to meet David, she stole
down to the dining-room to feast her eyes on the costly things that had
replaced the plated spoons, steel knives, ten-cent dishes, and cotton
napkins of other days. Closing the door lest Bertha should intrude on
her, she gazed fondly at her possessions. She was just beginning to
feel they were really hers. She touched the lace of the centerpiece and
a daring thought came into her mind. Was there time to do it before
David came? She rushed up-stairs, put on her hat and coat, seized her
purse, and walked swiftly to a near-by greenhouse.
Roses? said the florist, certainly, madam, what kind?
What kind? Alas! the only roses she knew by name were roses like the
old-fashioned ones that grew in the gardens of the Millville people.
These stately queens clad in white, pink, and crimson satin and cloth
of gold, were strangers to her. She looked hesitatingly from the
Bridesmaid to the Bride, from the Bride to the Jacqueminot, and the
florist, seeing her perplexity, suggested La France as a desirable
choice and called her attention to the perfume. Yes, she wanted a
dozen,she almost turned pale at the thought of her own
extravagance,and when the florist laid the big, soft bundle of roses
and ferns on her arm, she hurried home with a fearful joy in her heart.
She was used to placing flowers on her table, gay nasturtiums, delicate
sweet peas, and gorgeous zinnias from her own little back-yard garden.
But to buy flowers for the table had always seemed to her the acme of
luxury. Often she had gazed admiringly at the treasures of the
florist's window, with never a thought that such splendors of color and
perfume would one day be within her reach. She had really never
accepted the change from poverty to wealth, and not once had she put
her fingers into the purse that the hand of fortune held out to her. It
was David who bought the house and its furnishings, David who bought
even her clothes, while she, fettered by the frugal habits of a
lifetime, stood aghast at what seemed to her a reckless, sinful
extravagance. But now the rich fragrance of the roses was like an
enchantment. Her hands trembled, a flush rose to her cheek, and as she
placed the blossoms in a cut-glass vase, unconsciously she stepped
across the boundary line between the old life and the new. Those
hothouse flowers and ferns were the signs of wealth, David's wealth.
She was David's wife, and she had a right to every costly and beautiful
thing that her husband's money could purchase. She drew back from the
table to observe the effect of the flowers drooping over the heavy
damask cloth set with sparkling glass and silver and delicate china;
then, moved by a sudden impulse that she could not have explained, she
drew one of the roses from the vase and hurried up to her room,
glancing furtively back to see whether she was observed by either of
the servants. Standing before the mirror, she broke off the long stem
and pinned the flower at her belt, then gazed anxiously into the glass.
Clearly the flower looked out of place. She unpinned it, noticing how
rough and coarse her hands were when they touched the satiny rose
petals. But she had seen other women wearing great clusters of such
flowers, and she too must learn to wear them. She heard David's step on
the pavement below; the front door opened. She replaced the rose, and
turning from the mirror with an air of firm resolve, she went bravely
down to meet her husband.
Ah, the joy of reunion! All her perplexities fell away from her as
she and David clasped hands and smiled at each other after the manner
of long married lovers.
Thank God for home! ejaculated David, sinking into an easy chair.
He looked around the room, looked again at his wife, and was conscious
of a subtle change in the atmosphere of the house. The exquisite order
and cleanliness reminded him of the housekeeping he had been accustomed
to, when he and Sarah lived in the little Millville cottage; and on
Sarah's face there was an expression that her husband had never before
seen there, the look of a soul that is girding itself for new
responsibilities and new duties. David did not understand the look, but
he observed that Sarah no longer crept about the house like an awkward,
frightened guest; her step and bearing were that of the mistress, and
he had a thrill of exultant pride a few moments later, when he heard
her address Nelly in a tone of calm command. He also saw and approved
the rose at her belt, but he did not know that the flower was a symbol
of all the changes that had been wrought during his absence.
There was no self-consciousness in the manner of either when they
sat down at the flower-decked table. David had seen persons of
importance and transacted business of importance; he was the sort of
husband who makes his wife a silent partner in all his business
affairs, and the two talked at ease, forgetting the hated presence of a
servant. David looked across the roses at his wife's face, serene and
happy as it used to be in the old days, and again he silently blessed
the doctor and his magic prescription.
How do you feel now, Sarah? he asked, as they seated themselves in
the parlor, and Sarah took up her basket of crocheting. You know the
doctor said I must let him know how you got along.
I am perfectly well, said Sarah emphatically, and what's more, I
intend to stay well.
David laughed aloud with pleasure. I'll tell the doctor how well
his prescription worked. That cottage is the best investment I ever
Even if we never went back to it, said Sarah thoughtfully, it
would make me happy just to know it's there and it's ours.
That reminds me, said David, with a sudden change of manner. Hale
and Davis say they can sell this house for me any day.
Hale and Davis? inquired Sarah with a look of surprise.
Real estate men, explained David.
What right have they to sell my house? asked Sarah almost angrily.
David looked embarrassed. Why, Sarah, I told them you were
dissatisfied; you know you said
Yes, I know I did, owned Sarah hastily. Her face crimsoned with an
embarrassment greater than David's. During his absence she had been
born again, born from poverty to riches. This sudden change of heart
and mind that had made her a new creature was a mystery to herself;
how, then, could she explain it satisfactorily to her husband? I know
you'll think I'm notionate and changeable, butI don't want to sell
this house. I feel just as much at home here now as I do in the little
cottage. I've got used to the servants and everything, and I want to
stay, and if I did not want to, I'd stay anyhow. It's cowardly to run
away or turn back when you've set out to do a certain thing, and I'm
not a coward. Oh! I know I can't make you understand how I feel about
it and how I came to change so, butI want to stay in this house.
She paused and looked pleadingly at David. For a few seconds he was
dumb with astonishment, then:
Good for you, Sarah, ejaculated David: That's exactly the way I
feel about it. Pride and exultation shone in his eyes. Sarah had risen
to the situation, and if Sarah could, so could he.
But can we afford to keep this house and the cottage, too? asked
David laughed as one laughs at the questioning of a child.
Wait a minute, Sarah; I've got something to show you. He rose and
left the room, returning presently with a drawing-board covered with
sheets of drafting paper. He drew his chair near to Sarah's, rested the
board on her knees, and began an enthusiastic description of the
mechanism pictured in his rough drawings. Sarah could not comprehend
the complexities of wheels, pulleys, flanges, and weights that David
pointed out to her, but David's mechanical genius was the glory of her
life, and she looked at the drawings with the rapt admiration a
painter's wife might bestow on a canvas fresh from her husband's touch.
I've been hammering at this idea a good while, concluded David,
and I believe I've got it in working shape at last. I'll have some
better drawings made this week and get them off to Washington, and if
all goes well, we'll have more money than we know what to do with.
No, we won't, said Sarah. Her lips closed to a thin line, and she
spoke with defiant emphasis. That's another thing I've learned while
you were away. I know what to do with money, and I don't care how rich
David stared at his wife in unveiled amazement. Was this his wife,
who a few short weeks ago was weeping over unwelcome riches and longing
for a life of poverty? Sarah's face crimsoned with the confusion of the
woman who is suddenly called upon to explain a change of mind, and she
began her explanation, speaking slowly and hesitatingly.
You remember I told you about that Mrs. Emerson who came to see me
and ask me to join her club,the Fortnightly, I believe they call it.
Well, the day after you left, I dressed myself in my best and went to
see her. And I told her that if the place was still open, I believed
I'd join. She was real pleasant about it, and said she was so glad I'd
changed my mind, and that they'd all be glad to have me for a member.
And I said to her: 'Now, Mrs. Emerson, I'm not an educated woman, but
I've got sense enough to know what I can do and what I can't do. I
can't write papers and make speeches, but maybe there's some kind of
work for me to do, if I join the club;' and she laughed and said that
if I have sense enough to know what I could do and what I couldn't do,
I'd make a fine club woman. And she said they had been studyin' The
Ring and the Book, whatever that is, but now they've concluded to
change their plan of work, and they were lookin' into the conditions of
workin' people, especially workin' women, and she was sure I could help
in that sort of work. And I said: 'That's very likely, for I've been a
workin' woman myself, and lived with workin' women all my life.' And
she said that was something to be proud of, and that every woman ought
to be a workin' woman, and it was just for that reason they wanted me
in the club.
Sarah paused here and bent over to straighten out a tangle in her
worsteds. David was holding a paper open before him, but his wife's
social adventures were of more interest to him than any page of the
Inventor's Journal, and he waited patiently for Sarah to resume her
The next day was Wednesday, and the club met at Mrs.
Morton'sshe's the president.
What Morton? Alexander Morton's wife? interrupted David.
Sarah nodded. Yes, Mrs. Alexander Morton. They live in the big
white stone house over on First Avenue.
He's president of the bank and about everything else in this
place. David stated this fact in an un-emotional way, but his eyes
gleamed with triumph. His wife and Alexander Morton's wife members of
the same club!
When Mrs. Emerson said the club met at Mrs. Morton's, I declare,
Dave, my heart stood still at the thought of goin' by myself to that
club. But Mrs. Emerson said she'd come by in her carriage and take me
there, and she did.
David laid down his paper and straightened himself in his chair.
How did they treat you? he asked eagerly.
Just as nice as they possibly could, said Sarah. I won't mind
goin' by myself next time.
David's face expressed a satisfaction and pride too deep for words.
What did they do? he asked with the curiosity of the masculine mind
that seeks to penetrate the mysteries of a purely feminine affair.
Well, they talked mostly, and at first I couldn't see what they
were drivin' at, but I kept on listenin', and at last I began to
understand what they intend to do. They're lookin' into the conditions
of workin' women and girls and children, and they're tryin' to get laws
passed that will make things easier for people that work in mills and
factories. They asked me about the hours of work at the mills, and the
wages and how the mill people lived, and, David, they said when the
Legislature meets this winter, they'll have to go up to the capital to
get some bills passed, and they want me to go with them.
It was impossible for Sarah to stifle the note of triumph in her
voice. There was a red spot on each cheek, her eyes shone with
enthusiasm, and though she might not be able yet to define the word
civic", evidently she had caught the spirit of civic work. As for
David, he was speechless with astonishment and delight. If long
residence in Millville had qualified Sarah for membership in the
Fortnightly Club, then, after all, the world of the rich and the world
of the poor were not very far apart.
I told them about Agnes Thompson, how she lost her thumb and finger
in the mill this spring, and what the Company offered her for damages,
and how hard it is for mothers with little children to leave home and
work; and they want to build a day nursery where the babies and
children can be looked after, and that's why I said I'd learned what to
do with money. She paused and looked at David, who nodded
sympathetically. One thing that helped me to see things right, she
continued, was a sermon I heard the Sunday you were away. You know
that little church just three blocks down the street back of us? Well,
Sunday morning I dressed and started out, and I said to myself: 'I'll
go to the first church I come to;' and it happened to be that little
church down the street with the cross on the steeple and over the door
'Church of the Eternal Hope.' That's a pretty name for a church, ain't
it? Church of Eternal Hope. I went in while they were singin' the first
hymn, and when the preacher read his text and begun to preach, it
seemed to me that something must have led me there, for that sermon,
every word of it, was just meant for me. The text was: 'I know both how
to abound and to suffer need,' and he said life was a school, and every
change that life brought to us was a lesson, and instead of complaining
about it, we ought to go to work and learn that lesson, and get ready
for a new one. He said if poverty came to us, it was because we needed
the lesson of poverty; and if riches came, it was because we needed
another lesson; and he said the lesson of poverty was easier to learn
than the lesson of wealth. Oh, David!Sarah's face was glowing with
repressed emotion and her voice trembled,I wish you could have heard
him, I can't remember it all, but it seemed as if he was preaching just
to me, and I sat and listened, and all my troubles and worries just
seemed to leave me, because I began to see the meaning of them; and
when you know what trouble means, it's not a trouble any longer. And he
said that there was a purpose in every life, and it was our duty to
find out what the purpose was and do our best to carry it out. Now, I
believe, David, that I see why all this money's been put into our
hands. We were happy without it, and it made us pretty miserable at
first, but it was given to us for a purpose, and we must carry out the
purpose. Both of us were born poor, and we've lived with poor people
all our lives, and I can see the purpose in that. We know how poor
people live, we know what they need, and now we've got moneyshe
stopped abruptly. Don't you see the purpose, David?
David was silent, but Sarah knew that the silence did not mean
dissent. His wife's narrative had started a train of thoughts and
emotions that would be henceforth the mainspring of all his acts. Of
late the sleeping ambition that lies in the heart of every man had
begun to stir, and he had dared to think timidly and doubtfully of a
time when he should be, to use his own words, something and somebody
in the world. As he listened to the story of Sarah's social adventures,
his heart swelled proudly. His wife had found her place among her
fellow women; he would find his among his fellow men. Before him were
the doors of opportunity all barred with gold", but he held in his
hand the golden keys that would unlock them, and the finger of
Divinity was pointing out the way he should go. Could it be that the
Infinite Power had planned his life for a certain end? That he had come
into the world for something more than daily toil, daily wages, and, at
last, old age and death? Were his mortal days a part of some great,
immortal plan? A thrill of awe shook the man as he caught a momentary
vision of the majesty in a human life that expresses a divine purpose.
He had no words for thoughts like these, and the silence lasted a long
time. When he spoke, it was of practical affairs.
The club will have to meet with you one of these days, won't it?
It meets with me the last of the month, said Sarah, trying to
speak in a matter-of-fact way.
David looked critically around the room. This furniture's pretty
nice, he said, but I don't know how it compares with other people's.
The furniture's all right, said Sarah hastily. Of course, this
house doesn't look like Mrs. Emerson's. Her parlor looked as if
everything in it had grown there and belonged there; this room looks as
if we'd just bought the things and put them here. Maybe after we've
lived here a long time, it'll look different, but there's no use tryin'
to make my house look like Mrs. Emerson's or Mrs. Morton's.
Are your clothes as good as the other women's? inquired David
Suppose they're not, argued Sarah sturdily. I'm not goin' to try
to dress like other women. My clothes suit me, and that's enough.
Sarah's sturdy independence pleased David, but like a good husband,
he wanted his wife to look as well as other women. Oughtn't you to
have some jewelry, Sarah? Some rings and chains andthings of that
sort? he added vaguely.
David! David! cried his wife half in anger, half in love. Do you
want to make me a laughing stock? My hands are not the kind for rings;
and what would Molly and Annie say if they saw me wearin' jewelry?
We've got enough things between us and our old friends without jewelry.
Instead of rings, you can give me a check for the day nursery.
Sarah was rolling up her work now and smiling softly. Two weeks
ago, she said, it seemed as if everything was in a tangle just like
this worsted gets sometimes. But I've picked and pulled and twisted,
you might say, till I've straightened it out. You see, David, there's
some things you can't understand till you get 'way off from them. As
long as I was in this house, I thought I was out of place, but I hadn't
been in the cottage long, till I saw that this house was just as much
my home as the little cottage was. I never could have seen it, though,
if I hadn't gone back to the old house.
Wise Sarah! It was well for her that the club had changed its plan
of work. She would never be able to write an analysis of The Ring
and the Book, or throw an interpretative flashlight into the
obscurity of Red Cotton Night-Cap Country, but like the knight
of the Dark Tower, she had learned that
One taste of the old time sets all things right.