Dallett by Sarah Orne Jewett
"No," said Mrs. Hand, speaking wistfully,"no, we never were in
the habit of keeping Christmas at our house. Mother died when we were
all young; she would have been the one to keep up with all new ideas,
but father and grandmother were old-fashioned folks, andwell, you
know how 't was then, Miss Pendexter: nobody took much notice of the
day except to wish you a Merry Christmas."
"They didn't do much to make it merry, certain," answered Miss
Pendexter. "Sometimes nowadays I hear folks complainin' o' bein'
overtaxed with all the Christmas work they have to do."
"Well, others think that it makes a lovely chance for all that
really enjoys givin'; you get an opportunity to speak your kind feelin'
right out," answered Mrs. Hand, with a bright smile. "But there! I
shall always keep New Year's Day, too; it won't do no hurt to have an
extra day kept an' made pleasant. And there's many of the real old
folks have got pretty things to remember about New Year's Day."
"Aunt Cynthy Dallett's just one of 'em," said Miss Pendexter.
"She's always very reproachful if I don't get up to see her. Last year
I missed it, on account of a light fall o' snow that seemed to make the
walkin' too bad, an' she sent a neighbor's boy 'way down from the
mount'in to see if I was sick. Her lameness confines her to the house
altogether now, an' I have her on my mind a good deal. How anybody does
get thinkin' of those that lives alone, as they get older! I waked up
only last night with a start, thinkin' if Aunt Cynthy's house should
get afire or anything, what she would do, 'way up there all alone. I
was half dreamin', I s'pose, but I couldn't seem to settle down until I
got up an' went upstairs to the north garret window to see if I could
see any light; but the mountains was all dark an' safe, same 's usual.
I remember noticin' last time I was there that her chimney needed
pointin', and I spoke to her about it,the bricks looked poor in some
"Can you see the house from your north gable window?" asked Mrs.
Hand, a little absently.
"Yes'm; it's a great comfort that I can," answered her companion.
"I have often wished we were near enough to have her make me some sort
o' signal in case she needed help. I used to plead with her to come
down and spend the winters with me, but she told me one day I might as
well try to fetch down one o' the old hemlocks, an' I believe 't was
"Your aunt Dallett is a very self-contained person," observed Mrs.
"Oh, very!" exclaimed the elderly niece, with a pleased look. "Aunt
Cynthy laughs, an' says she expects the time will come when age 'll
compel her to have me move up an' take care of her; and last time I was
there she looked up real funny, an' says, `I do' know, Abby; I'm most
afeard sometimes that I feel myself beginnin' to look for'ard to it!'
'T was a good deal, comin' from Aunt Cynthy, an' I so esteemed it."
"She ought to have you there now," said Mrs. Hand. "You'd both make
a savin' by doin' it; but I don't expect she needs to save as much as
some. There! I know just how you both feel. I like to have my own home
an' do everything just my way too." And the friends laughed, and looked
at each other affectionately.
"There was old Mr. Nathan Dunn,left no debts an' no money when
he died," said Mrs. Hand. "'Twas over to his niece's last summer. He
had a little money in his wallet, an' when the bill for the funeral
expenses come in there was just exactly enough; some item or other made
it come to so many dollars an' eighty-four cents, and, lo an' behold!
there was eighty-four cents in a little separate pocket beside the neat
fold o' bills, as if the old gentleman had known beforehand. His niece
couldn't help laughin', to save her; she said the old gentleman died as
methodical as he lived. She didn't expect he had any money, an' was
prepared to pay for everything herself; she's very well off."
"'T was funny, certain," said Miss Pendexter. "I expect he felt
comfortable, knowin' he had that money by him. 'T is a comfort, when
all's said and done, 'specially to folks that's gettin' old."
A sad look shadowed her face for an instant, and then she smiled
and rose to take leave, looking expectantly at her hostess to see if
there were anything more to be said.
"I hope to come out square myself," she said, by way of farewell
pleasantry; "but there are times when I feel doubtful."
Mrs. Hand was evidently considering something, and waited a moment
or two before she spoke. "Suppose we both walk up to see you aunt
Dallett, New Year's Day, if it ain't too windy and the snow keeps off?"
she proposed. "I couldn't rise the hill if 't was a windy day. We could
take a hearty breakfast an' start in good season; I'd rather walk than
ride, the road's so rough this time o' year."
"Oh, what a person you are to think o' things! I did so dread goin'
'way up there all alone," said Abby Pendexter. "I'm no hand to go off
alone, an' I had it before me, so I really got to dread it. I do so
enjoy it after I get there, seein' Aunt Cynthy, an' she's always so
much better than I expect to find her."
"Well, we'll start early," said Mrs. Hand cheerfully; and so they
parted. As Miss Pendexter went down the foot-path to the gate, she send
grateful thoughts back to the little sitting-room she had just left.
"How doors are opened!" she exclaimed to herself. "Here I've been
so poor an' distressed at beginnin' the year with nothin', as it were,
that I couldn't think o' even goin' to make poor old Aunt Cynthy a
friendly call. I'll manage to make some kind of a little pleasure too,
an' somethin' for dear Mis' Hand. `Use what you've got,' mother always
used to say when every sort of an emergency come up, an' I may only
have wishes to give, but I'll make 'em good ones!"
The first day of the year was clear and bright, as if it were a New
Year's pattern of what winter can be at its very best. The two friends
were prepared for changes of weather, and met each other well wrapped
in their winter cloaks and shawls, with sufficient brown barége veils
tied securely over their bonnets. They ignored for some time the plain
truth that each carried something under her arm; the shawls were
rounded out suspiciously, especially Miss Pendexter's, but each
respected the other's air of secrecy. The narrow road was frozen in
deep ruts, but a smooth-trodden little foot-path that ran along its
edge was very inviting to the wayfarers. Mrs. Hand walked first and
Miss Pendexter followed, and they were talking busily nearly all the
way, so that they had to stop for breath now and then at the tops of
the little hills. It was not a hard walk; there were a good many almost
level stretches through the woods, in spite of the fact that they
should be a very great deal higher when they reached Mrs. Dallett's
"I do declare, what a nice day 't is, an' such pretty footin'!"
said Mrs. Hand, with satisfaction. "Seems to me as if my feet went o'
themselves; gener'lly I have to toil so when I walk that I can't enjoy
nothin' when I get to a place."
"It's partly this beautiful bracin' air," said Abby Pendexter.
"Sometimes such nice air comes just before a fall of snow. Don't it
seem to make anybody feel young again and to take all your troubles
Mrs. Hand was a comfortable, well-to-do soul, who seldom worried
about anything, but something in her companion's tone touched her
heart, and she glanced sidewise and saw a pained look in Abby
Pendexter's thin face. It was a moment for confidence.
"Why, you speak as if something distressed your mind, Abby," said
the elder woman kindly.
"I ain't one that has myself on my mind as a usual thing, but it
does seem now as if I was goin' to have it very hard," said Abby.
"Well, I've been anxious before."
"Is it anything wrong about your property?" Mrs. Hand ventured to
"Only that I ain't got any," answered Abby, trying to speak gayly.
"'T was all I could do to pay my last quarter's rent, twelve dollars. I
sold my hens, all but this one that had run away at the time, an' now
I'm carryin' her up to Aunt Cynthy, roasted just as nice as I know
"I thought you was carrying somethin'," said Mrs. Hand, in her
usual tone. "For me, I've got a couple o' my mince pies. I thought the
old lady might like 'em; one we can eat for our dinner, and one she
shall have to keep. But weren't you unwise to sacrifice your poultry,
Abby? You always need eggs, and hens don't cost much to keep."
"Why, yes, I shall miss 'em" said Abby; "but, you see, I had to do
every way to get my rent-money. Now the shop's shut down I haven't got
any way of earnin' anything, and I spent what little I've saved through
"Your aunty Cynthy ought to know it an' ought to help you," said
Mrs. Hand. "You're a real foolish person, I must say. I expect you do
for her when she ought to do for you."
"She's old, an' she's all the near relation I've got," said the
little woman. "I've always felt the time would come when she'd need me,
but it's been her great pleasure to live alone an' feel free. I shall
get along somehow, but I shall have it hard. Somebody may want help for
a spell this winter, but I'm afraid I shall have to give up my house.
'T ain't as if I owned it. I don't know just what to do, but there'll
be a way."
Mrs. Hand shifted her two pies to the other arm, and stepped across
to the other side of the road where the ground looked a little
"No, I wouldn't worry if I was you, Abby," she said. "There, I
suppose if 't was me I should worry a good deal more! I expect I should
lay awake nights." But Abby answered nothing, and they came to a steep
place in the road and found another subject for conversation at the
"You aunt don't know we're coming?" asked the chief guest of the
"Oh, now, I never send her word," said Miss Pendexter. "She'd be so
desirous to get everything ready, just as she used to."
"She never seemed to make any trouble o' havin' company; she always
appeared so easy and pleasant, and let you set with her while she made
her preparations," said Mrs. Hand, with great approval. "Some has such
a dreadful way of making you feel inopportune, and you can't always
send word you're comin'. I did have a visit once that's always been a
lesson to me; 't was years ago; I don't know 's I ever told you?"
"I don't believe you ever did," responded the listener to this
somewhat indefinite prelude.
"Well, 't was one hot summer afternoon, I set forth an' took a
great long walk 'way over to Mis' Eben Fulham's, on the crossroad
between the cranberry ma'sh and Staples's Corner. The doctor was
drivin' that way, an' he give me a lift that shortened it some at the
last; but I never should have started, if I'd know 't was so far. I had
been promisin' all summer to go, and every time I saw Mis' Fulham,
Sundays, she'd say somethin' about it. We wa'n't very well acquainted,
but always friendly. She moved here from Bedford Hill."
"Oh, yes; I used to know her, " said Abby, with interest.
"Well, now, she did give me a beautiful welcome when I got there,"
continued Mrs. Hand. "'T was about four o'clock in the afternoon, and'
I told her I'd come to accept her invitation if 't was convenient, an'
the doctor had been called several miles beyond and expected to be
detained, but he was goin' to pick me up as he returned about seven; 't
was very kind of him. She took me right in, and she did appear so
pleased, an' I must go right into the best room where 't was cool, and
then she said she'd have tea early, and I should have to excuse her a
short time. I asked her not to make any difference, and if I couldn't
assist her; but she said no, I must just take her as I found her; and
she give me a large fan, and off she went.
"There. I was glad to be still and rest where 't was cool, an' I
set there in the rockin'-chair an' enjoyed it for a while, an' I heard
her clacking at the oven door out beyond, an' gittin' out some dishes.
She was brisk-actin' little woman, an' I thought I'd caution her when
she come back not to make up a great fire, only for a cup o' tea,
perhaps. I started to go right out in the kitchen, an' then somethin'
told me I'd better not, we never'd been so free together as that; I
didn't know how she'd take it, an' there I set an' set. 'T was sort of
a greenish light in the best room, an' it begun to feel a little damp
to me,the s'rubs outside grew close up to the windows. Oh, it did
seem dreadful long! I could hear her busy with the dishes an' beatin'
eggs an' stirrin, an' I knew she was puttin' herself out to get up a
great supper, and I kind o' fidgeted about a little an' even stepped to
the door, but I thought she'd expect me to remain where I was. I saw
everything in that room forty times over, an' I did divert myself
killin' off a brood o' moths that was in a worsted-work mat on the
table. It all fell to pieces. I never saw such a sight o' moths to
once. But occupation failed after that, an' I begun to feel sort o'
tired an' numb. There was one o' them late crickets got into the room
an' begun to chirp, an' it sounded kind o' fallish. I couldn't help
sayin' to myself that Mis' Fulham had forgot all about my bein' there.
I thought of all the beauties of hospitality that ever I see!"
"Didn't she ever come back at all, not whilst things was in the
oven, nor nothin'?" inquired Miss Pendexter, with awe.
"I never see her again till she come beamin' to the parlor door an'
invited me to walk out to tea," said Mrs. Hand. "'T was 'most a quarter
past six by the clock; I thought 't was seven. I'd thought o'
everything, an' I'd counted, an' I'd trotted my foot, an' I'd looked
more 'n twenty times to see if there was any more moth-millers."
"I s'pose you did have a very nice tea?" suggested Abby, with
"Oh, a beautiful tea! She couldn't have done more if I'd been the
Queen," said Mrs. Hand. "I don't know how she could ever have done it
all in the time, I'm sure. The table was loaded down; there was
cup-custard and custard pie, an' cream pie, an' two kinds o' hot
biscuits, an' black tea as well as green, an' elegant cake,one kind
she'd just made new, and called it quick cake; I've often made it since
- an' she'd opened her best preserves, two kinds. We set down together
an' I'm sure I appreciated what she'd done; but 't wa'n't no time for
real conversation whilst we was to the table, and before we got quite
through the doctor come hurryin' along, an' I had to leave. He asked us
if we'd had a good talk, as we come out, an' I couldn't help laughing
to myself; but she said quite hearty that she'd had a nice visit from
me. She appeared well satisfied, Mis' Fulham did; but for me, I was
disappointed; an' early that fall she died."
Abby Pendexter was laughing like a girl; the speaker's tone had
grown more and more complaining. "I do call that a funny experience,"
she said. "`Better a dinner o' herbs.' I guess that text must ha' risen
to your mind in connection. You must tell that to Aunt Cynthy, if
conversation seems to fail." And she laughed again, but Mrs. Hand still
looked solemn and reproachful.
"Here we are; there's Aunt Cynthy's lane right ahead, there by the
great yellow birch," said Abby. "I must say, you've made the way seem
very short, Mis' Hand."
Old Aunt Cynthia Dallet sat in her high-backed rocking-chair by the
little north window, which was her favorite dwelling-place.
"New Year's Day again," she said, aloud,"New Year's Day again!"
And she folded her old bent hands, and looked out at the great woodland
view and the hills without really seeing them, she was lost in so deep
a reverie. "I'm gittin' to be very old," she added, after a little
It was perfectly still in the small gray house. Outside in the
apple-trees there were some blue-jays flitting about and calling
noisily, like schoolboys fighting at their games. The kitchen was full
of pale winter sunshine. It was more like late October than the first
of January, and the plain little room seemed to smile back into the
sun's face. The outer door was standing open into the greed dooryard,
and a fat small dog lay asleep on the step. A capacious cupboard stood
behind Mrs. Dallett's chair and kept the wind away from her corner. Its
doors and drawers were painted a clean lead-color, and there were
places round the knobs and buttons where the touch of hands had worn
deep into the wood. Every braided rug was straight on the floor. The
square clock on its shelf between the front windows looked as if it had
just had its face washed and been wound up for a whole year to come. If
Mrs. Dallett turned her head she could look into the bedroom, where her
plump feather bed was covered with its dark blue homespun winter quilt.
It was all very peaceful and comfortable, but it was very lonely. By
her side, on a light-stand, lay the religious newspaper of her
denomination, and a pair of spectacles whose jointed silver bows looked
like a funny two-legged beetle cast helplessly upon its back.
"New Year's Day again," said old Cynthia Dallet. Time had left
nobody in her house to wish her a Happy New Year,she was the last
one left in the old nest. "I'm gittin' to be very old," she said for
the second time; it seemed to be all there was to say.
She was keeping a careful eye on her friendly clock, but it was
hardly past the middle of the morning, and there was no excuse for
moving; it was the long hour between the end of her slow morning work
and the appointed time for beginning to get dinner. She was so stiff
and lame that this hour's rest was usually most welcome, but to-day she
sat as if it were Sunday, and did not take up her old shallow splint
basket of braiding-rags from the side of her footstool.
"I do hope Abby Pendexter'll make out to git up to see me this
afternoon as usual," she continued. "I know 't ain't so easy for her to
get up the hill as it used to be, but I do seem to want to see some o'
my own folks. I wish 't I'd thought to send her word I expected her
when Jabez Hooper went back after he came up here with the flour. I'd
like to have had her come prepared to stop two or three days."
A little chickadee perched on the window-sill outside and bobbed
his head sideways to look in, and then pecked impatiently at the glass.
The old woman laughed at him with childish pleasure and felt
companioned; it was pleasant at that moment to see the life in even a
bird's bright eye.
"Sign of a stranger," she said, as he whisked his wings and flew
away in a hurry. "I must throw out some crumbs for 'em; it's getting to
be hard pickin' for the stayin'-birds." She looked past the trees of
her little orchard now with seeing eyes, and followed the long forest
slopes that led downward to the lowland country. She could see the two
white steeples of Fairfield Village, and the map of fields and pastures
along the valley beyond, and the great hills across the valley to the
westward. The scattered houses looked like toys that had been scattered
by children. She knew their lights by night, and watched the smoke of
their chimneys by day. Far to the northward were higher mountains, and
these were already white with snow. Winter was already in sight, but
to-day the wind was in the south, and the snow seemed only part of a
"I do hope the cold'll keep off a while longer," thought Mrs.
Dallett. "I don't know how I going to get along after the deep snow
The little dog suddenly waked, as if he had had a bad dream, and
after giving a few anxious whines he began to bark outrageously. His
mistress tried, as usual, to appeal to his better feelings.
"'T ain't nobody, Tiger," she said. "Can't you have some patience?
Maybe it's some foolish boys that's rangin' about with their guns." But
Tiger kept on, and even took the trouble to waddle in on his short
legs, barking all the way. He looked warningly at her, and then turned
and ran out again. Then she saw him go hurrying down to the bars, as if
it were an occasion of unusual interest.
"I guess somebody is comin'; he don't act as if 't were a vagrant
kind o' noise; must really be somebody in our lane." And Mrs. Dallett
smoothed her apron and gave an anxious housekeeper's glance round the
kitchen. None of her state visitors, the minister or the deacons, ever
came in the morning. Country people are usually too busy to go visiting
in the forenoons.
Presently two figures appeared where the road came out of the
woods,the two women already known to the story, but very surprising
to Mrs. Dallett; the short, thin one was easily recognized as Abby
Pendexter, and the taller, stout one was soon discovered to be Mrs.
Hand. Their old friend's heart was in a glow. As the guests approached
they could see her pale face with its thin white hair framed under the
close black silk handkerchief.
"There she is at her window smilin' away!" exclaimed Mrs. Hand; but
by the time they reached the doorstep she stood waiting to meet them.
"Why, you two dear creatur's!" she said, with a beaming smile. "I
don't know when I've ever been so glad to see folks comin'. I had a
kind of left-all-alone feelin' this mornin', an' I didn't even make
bold to be certain o' you, Abby, though it looked so pleasant. Come
right in an' set down. You're all out o' breath, ain't you, Mis' Hand?"
Mrs. Dallett led the way with eager hospitality. She was the
tiniest little bent old creature, her handkerchiefed head was quick and
alert, and her eyes were bright with excitement and feeling, but the
rest of her was much the worse for age; she could hardly move, poor
soul, as if she had only a make-believe framework of a body under a
shoulder-shawl and thick petticoats. She got back to her chair again,
and the guests took off their bonnets in the bedroom, and returned
discreet and sedate in their black woolen dresses. The lonely kitchen
was blest with society at last, to its mistress's heart's content. They
talked as fast as possible about the weather, and how warm it had been
walking up the mountain, and how cold it had been a year ago, that day
when Abby Pendexter had been kept at home by a snowstorm and missed her
visit. "And I ain't seen you now, aunt, since the twenty-eighth of
September, but I've thought of you a great deal, and looked forward to
comin' more 'n usual," she ended, with an affectionate glance at the
pleased old face by the window.
"I've been wantin' to see you, dear, and wonderin' how you was
gettin' on," said Aunt Cynthy kindly. "And I take it as a great
attention to have you come to-day, Mis' Hand," she added, turning again
towards the more distinguished guest. "We have to put one thing against
another. I should hate dreadfully to live anywhere except on a high
hill farm, 'cordin' as I was born an' raised. But there ain't the
chance to neighbor that townfolks has, an' I do seem to have more
lonely hours than I used to when I was younger. I don't know but I
shall soon be gittin' too old to live alone." And she turned to her
niece with an expectant, lovely look, and Abby smiled back.
"I often wish I could run in an' see you every day, aunt," she
answered. "I have been sayin' so to Mrs. Hand."
"There, how anybody does relish company when they don't have but a
little of it!" exclaimed Aunt Cynthia. "I am all alone to-day; there is
going to be a shootin'-match somewhere the other side o' the mountain,
an' Johnny Foss, that does my chores, begged off to go when he brought
the milk unusual early this mornin'. Gener'lly he's about here all the
fore part of the day; but he don't go off with the boys very often, and
I like to have him have a little sport; 't was New Year's Day, anyway;
he's a good, stiddy boy for my wants."
"Why, I wish you Happy New Year, aunt!" said Abby, springing up
with unusual spirit. "Why, that's just what we come to say, and we like
to have forgot all about it!" She kissed her aunt, and stood a minute
holding her hand with a soft, affectionate touch. Mrs. Hand rose and
kissed Mrs. Dallett too, and it was a moment of ceremony and deep
"I always like to keep the day," said the old hostess, as they
seated themselves and drew their splint-bottomed chairs a little nearer
together than before. "You see, I was brought up to it, and father made
a good deal of it; he said he liked to make it pleasant and give the
year a fair start. I can see him now, how he used to be standing there
by the fireplace when we came out o' the two bedrooms early in the
morning, an' he always made out, poor 's he was, to give us some little
present, and he'd heap 'em up on the corner o' the mantelpiece, an'
we'd stand front of him in a row, and mother be bustling about gettin'
breakfast. One year he give me a beautiful copy o' the `Life o' General
Lafayette,' in a green cover,I've got it now, but we child'n 'bout
read it to pieces,an' one year a nice piece o' blue ribbon, an' Abby
- that was your mother, Abbyhad a pink one. Father was real kind to
his child'n. I thought o' them early days when I first waked up this
mornin', and I couldn't help lookin' up then to the corner o' the shelf
just as I used to look."
"There's nothin' so beautiful as to have a bright childhood to look
back to," said Mrs. Hand. "Sometimes I think child'n has too hard a
time now,all the responsibility is put on to 'em, since they take
the lead o' what to do an' what they want, and get to be so toppin' an'
knowin'. 'T was happier in the old days, when the fathers an' mothers
done the rulin'."
"They say things have changed," said Aunt Cynthy; "but staying
right here, I don't know much of any world but my own world."
Abby Pendexter did not join in this conversation, but sat in her
straight-backed chair with folded hands and the air of a good child.
The little old dog had followed her in, and now lay sound asleep again
at her feet. The front breadth of her black dress looked rusty and old
in the sunshine that slanted across it, and the aunt's sharp eyes saw
this and saw the careful darns. Abby was as neat as wax, but she looked
as if the frost had struck her. "I declare, she's gittin' along in
years," thought Aunt Cynthia compassionately. "She begins to look sort
o' set and dried up, Abby does. She oughtn't to live all alone; she's
one that needs company."
At this moment Abby looked up with new interest. "Now, aunt," she
said, in her pleasant voice, "I don't want you to forget to tell me if
there ain't some sewin' or mendin' I can do whilst I'm here. I know
your hands trouble you some, an' I may 's well tell you we're bent on
stayin' all day an' makin' a good visit, Mis' Hand an' me."
"Thank ye kindly," said the old woman; "I do want a little sewin'
done before long, but 't ain't no use to spile a good holiday." Her
face took a resolved expression. "I'm goin' to make other
arrangements," she said. "No, you needn't come up here to pass New
Year's Day an' be put right down to sewin'. I make out to do what
mendin' I need, an' to sew on my hooks an' eyes. I get Johnny Foss
[Ross] to thread me up a good lot o' needles every little while, an'
that helps me a good deal. Abby, why can't you step into the best room
an' bring out the rockin'-chair? I seem to want Mis' Hand to have it."
"I opened the window to let the sun in awhile," said the niece, as
she returned. "It felt cool in there an' shut up."
"I thought of doin' it not long before you come," said Mrs.
Dallett, looking gratified. Once the taking of such a liberty would
have been very provoking to her. "Why, it does seem good to have
somebody think o' things an' take right hold like that!"
"I'm sure you would, if you were down at my house," said Abby,
blushing. "Aunt Cynthy, I don't suppose you could feel as if 't would
be best to come down an' pass the winter with me,just durin' the
cold weather, I mean. You'd see more folks to amuse you, an'I do
think of you so anxious these long winter nights."
There was a terrible silence in the room, and Miss Pendexter felt
her heart begin to beat very fast. She did not dare to look at her aunt
Presently the silence was broken. Aunt Cynthia had been gazing out
of the window, and she turned towards them a little paler and older
than before, and smiling sadly.
"Well, dear, I'll do just as you say," she answered. "I'm beat by
age at last, but I've had my own way for eighty-five years, come the
month o' March, an' last winter I did use to lay awake an' worry in the
long storms. I'm kind o' humble now about livin' alone to what I was
once." At this moment a new light shone in her face. "I don't expect
you'd be willin' to come up here an' stay till spring,not if I had
Foss's folks stop for you to ride to meetin' every pleasant Sunday, an'
take you down to the Corners plenty o' other times besides?" she said
beseechingly. "No, Abby, I'm too old to move now; I should be homesick
down to the village. If you'll come an' stay with me, all I have shall
be yours. Mis' Hand hears me say it."
"Oh, don't you think o' that; you're all I've got near to me in the
world, an' I'll come an' welcome," said Abby, though the thought of her
own little home gave a hard tug at her heart. "Yes, Aunt Cynthy, I'll
come, an' we'll be real comfortable together. I've been lonesome
"'T will be best for both," said Mrs. Hand judicially. And so the
great question was settled, and suddenly, without too much excitement,
it became a thing of the past.
"We must be thinkin' o' dinner," said Aunt Cynthia gayly. "I wish I
was better prepared; but there's nice eggs an' pork an' potatoes, an'
you girls can take hold an' help." At this moment the roast chicken and
the best mince pies were offered and kindly accepted, and before
another hour had gone they were sitting at their New Year feast, which
Mrs. Dallett decided to be quite proper for the Queen.
Before the guests departed, when the sun was getting low, Aunt
Cynthia called her niece to her side and took hold of her hand.
"Don't you make it too long now, Abby," said she. "I shall be
wantin' ye every day till you come; but you mustn't forgit what a set
old thing I be."
Abby had the kindest of hearts, and was always longing for somebody
to love and care for; her aunt's very age and helplessness seemed to
beg for pity.
"This is Saturday, you may expect me the early part of the week;
and thank you, too, aunt," said Abby.
Mrs. Hand stood by with deep sympathy. "It's the proper thing," she
announced calmly. "You'd both of you be a sight happier; and truth is,
Abby's wild an' reckless, an' needs somebody to stand right over her,
Mis' Dallett. I guess she'll try an' behave, but therethere's no
knowin'!" And they all laughed. Then the New Year guests said farewell
and started off down the mountain road. They looked back more than once
to see Aunt Cynthia's face at the window as she watched them out of
sight. Miss Abby Pendexter was full of excitement; she looked as happy
as a child.
"I feel as if we'd gained the battle of Waterloo," said Mrs. Hand.
"I've really had a most beautiful time. You an' you aunt mustn't forgit
to invite me up some time again to spend another day."