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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTimothy's Quest - Scene 13
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Timothy's Quest - Scene 13 Post by :Tom_Brownsword Category :Long Stories Author :Kate Douglas Wiggin Date :May 2012 Read :2186

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Timothy's Quest - Scene 13

SCENE XIII

The Village.

PLEASANT RIVER IS BAPTIZED WITH THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION.


"But I didn't come in to talk 'bout the fun'ral," continued Aunt Hitty, wishing that human flesh were transparent so that she could see through Samanthy Ann Ripley's back. "I had an errant 'n' oughter ben in afore, but I've ben so busy these last few days I couldn't find rest for the sole o' my foot skersely. I've sewed in seven dif'rent houses sence I was here last, and I've made it my biz'ness to try 'n' stop the gossip 'bout them children 'n' give folks the rights o' the matter, 'n' git 'em interested to do somethin' for 'em. Now there ain't a livin' soul that wants the boy, but"--

"Timothy," said Miss Vilda hurriedly, "run and fetch me a passle of chips, that's a good boy. Land sakes! Aunt Hitty, you needn't tell him to his face that nobody wants him. He's got feelin's like any other child."

"He set there so quiet with a book in front of him I clean forgot he was in the room," said Aunt Hitty apologetically. "Land! I'm so tender-hearted I can't set my foot on a June bug 'n' 't aint' likely I'd hurt anybody's feelin's, but as I was sayin' I can't find nobody that wants the boy, but the Doctor's wife thinks p'raps she'll be willin' to take the baby 'n' board her for nothing if somebody else 'll pay for her clothes. At least she'll try her a spell 'n' see how she behaves, 'n' whether she's good comp'ny for her own little girl that's a reg'lar limb o' Satan anyway, 'n' consid'able worse sence she's had the scarlit fever, 'n' deef as a post too, tho' they're blisterin' her, 'n' she may git over it. I told her I'd bring Gay over to-night as I was comin' by, bein' as how she was worn out with sickness 'n' house-cleanin' 'n' one thing 'n' nother, 'n' couldn't come to git her very well herself. I thought mebbe you'd be willin' to pay for her clothes ruther 'n hev so much talk 'bout it, tho' I've told everybody that they walked right in to the front gate, 'n' you 'n' Samanthy never set eyes on 'em before, 'n' didn't know where they come from."

Samantha wiped her eyes surreptitiously with the dishcloth and turned a scarlet face away from the window. Timothy was getting his "passle o' chips." Gay had spied him, and toddling over to his side, holding her dress above the prettiest little pair of feet that ever trod clover, had sat down on him (a favorite pastime of hers), and after jolting her fat little person up and down on his patient head, rolled herself over and gave him a series of bear-hugs. Timothy looked pale and languid, Samantha thought, and though Gay waited for a frolic with her most adorable smile, he only lifted her coral necklace to kiss the place where it hung, and tied on her sun-bonnet soberly. Samantha wished that Vilda had been looking out of the window. Her own heart didn't need softening, but somebody else's did, she was afraid.

"I'm much obliged to you for takin' so much interest in the children," said Miss Vilda primly, "and partic'lerly for clearin' our characters, which everybody that lives in this village has to do for each other 'bout once a week, and the rest o' the time they take for spoilin' of 'em. And the Doctor's wife is very kind, but I shouldn't think o' sendin' the baby away so sudden while the boy is still here. It wouldn't be no kindness to Mis' Mayo, for she'd have a regular French and Indian war right on her premises. It was here the children came, just as you say, and it's our duty to see 'em settled in good homes, but I shall take a few days more to think 'bout it, and I'll let her know by Saturday night what we've decided to do.--That's the most meddlesome, inteferin', gossipin' woman in this county," she added, as Mrs. Silas Tarbox closed the front gate, "and I wouldn't have her do another day's work at this house if I didn't have to. But it's worse for them that don't have her than for them that does.--Now there's the Baptist minister drivin' up to the barn. What under the canopy does he want? Tell him Jabe ain't to home, Samanthy. No, you needn't, for he's hitched, and seems to be comin' to the front door."

"I never could abide the looks of him," said Samantha, peering over Miss Vilda's shoulder. "No man with a light chiny blue eye like that oughter be allowed to go int' the ministry; for you can't love your brother whom you hev seen with that kind of an eye, and how are you goin' to love the Lord whom you hev not seen?"

Mr. Southwick, who was a spare little man in a long linen duster that looked as if it had not been in the water as often as its wearer, sat down timidly on the settle and cleared his throat.

"I've come to talk with you on a little matter of business, Miss Cummins. Brother Slocum has--a--conferred with me on the subject of a--a--couple of unfortunate children who have--a--strayed, as it were, under your hospitable roof, and whom--a--you are properly anxious to place--a--under other rooves, as it were. Now you are aware, perhaps, that Mrs. Southwick and I have no children living, though we have at times had our quivers full of them--a--as the Scripture says; but the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord, however, that is--a--neither here nor there. Brother Slocum has so interested us that my wife (who is leading the Woman's Auxiliary Praying Legion this afternoon or she would have come herself) wishes me to say that she would like to receive one of these--a--little waifs into our family on probation, as it were, and if satisfactory to both parties, to bring it up--a--somewhat as our own, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."

Samantha waited, in breathless suspense. Miss Vilda never would fling away an opportunity of putting a nameless, homeless child under the roof of a minister of the Gospel, even if he was a Baptist, with a chiny blue eye.

At this exciting juncture there was a clatter of small feet; the door burst open, and the "unfortunate waifs" under consideration raced across the floor to the table where Miss Vilda and Samantha were seated. Gay's sun-bonnet trailed behind her, every hair on her head curled separately, and she held her rag-doll upside down with entire absence of decorum. Timothy's paleness, whatever the cause, had disappeared for the moment, and his eyes shone like stars.

"Oh, Miss Vilda!" he cried breathlessly; "dear Miss Vilda and Samanthy, the gray hen did want to have chickens, and that is what made her so cross, and she is setting, and we've found her nest in the alder bushes by the pond!"

("G'ay hen's net in er buttes by er pond," sung Gay, like a Greek chorus.)

"And we sat down softly beside the pond, but Gay sat into it."

("Gay sat wite into it, an' dolly dot her dess wet, but Gay nite ittle dirl; Gay didn't det wet!")

"And by and by the gray hen got off to get a drink of water"--

("To det a dink o' water"--)

"And we counted the eggs, and there were thirteen big ones!"

("Fir-teen drate bid ones!")

"So that the darling thing had to s-w-ell out to cover them up!"

("Darlin' fin ser-welled out an' tuvvered 'em up!") said Gay, going through the same operation.

"Yes," said Miss Vilda, looking covertly at Mr. Southwick (who had an eye for beauty, notwithstanding Samantha's strictures), "that's very nice, but you mustn't stay here now; we are talkin' to the minister. Run away, both of you, and let the settin' hen alone.--Well, as I was goin' to say, Mr. Southwick, you're very kind and so 's your wife, and I'm sure Timothy, that's the boy's name, would be a great help and comfort to both of you, if you're fond of children, and we should be glad to have him near by, for we feel kind of responsible for him, though he's no relation of ours. And we'll think about the matter over night, and let you know in the morning."

"Yes, exactly, I see, I see; but it was the young child, the--a--female child, that my wife desired to take into her family. She does not care for boys, and she is particularly fond of girls, and so am I, very fond of girls--a--in reason."

Miss Vilda all at once made up her mind on one point, and only wished that Samantha wouldn't stare at her as if she had never seen her before. "I'm sorry to disappoint your wife, Mr. Southwick. It seems that Mrs. Tarbox and Jabez Slocum have been offerin' the child to every family in the village, and I s'pose bime bye they'll have the politeness to offer her to me; but, at any rate, whether they do or not, I propose to keep her myself, and I'd thank you to tell folks so, if they ask you. Mebbe you'd better give it out from the pulpit, though I can let Mis' Tarbox know, and that will answer the same purpose. This is the place the baby was brought, and this is the place she's goin' to stay."

"Vildy, you're a good woman!" cried Samantha, when the door closed on the Reverend Mr. Southwick. "I'm proud o' you, Vildy, 'n' I take back all the hard thoughts I've ben hevin' about you lately. The idee o' that chiny-eyed preacher thinkin' he was goin' to carry that child home in his buggy with hardly so much as sayin' 'Thank you, marm!' I like his Baptist imperdence! His wife hed better wash his duster afore she adopts any children. If they'd carry their theories 'bout immersion 's fur as their close, 't wouldn't be no harm."

"I don' know as I'd have agreed to keep either of 'em ef the whole village hadn't intefered and wanted to manage my business for me, and be so dretful charitable all of a sudden, and dictate to me and try to show me my duty. I haven't had a minute's peace for more 'n a fortnight, and now I hope they'll let me alone. I'll take the boy to the city to-morrow, if I live to see the light, and when I come back I'll tie up the gate and keep the neighbors out till this nine days' wonder gets crowded out o' their heads by somethin' new."

"You're goin' to take Timothy to the city, are you?" asked Samantha sharply.

"That's what I'm goin' to do; and the sooner the better for everybody concerned. Timothy, shut that door and run out to the barn, and don't you let me see you again till supper-time; do you hear me?"

"And you're goin' to put him in one o' them Homes?"

"Yes, I am. You see for yourself we can't find any place fer him hereabouts."

"Well, I've ben waitin' for days to see what you was goin' to do, and now I'll tell you what I'm goin' to do, if you'd like to know. I'm goin' to keep Timothy myself; to have and to hold from this time forth and for evermore, as the Bible says. That's what I'm goin' to do!"

Miss Cummins gasped with astonishment.

"I mean what I say, Vildy. I ain't so well off as some, but I ain't a pauper, not by no means. I've ben layin' by a little every year for twenty years, 'n' you know well enough what for; but that's all over for ever and ever, amen, thanks be! And I ain't got chick nor child, nor blood relation in the world, and if I choose to take somebody to do for, why, it's nobody's affairs but my own."

"You can't do it, and you sha'n't do it!" said Miss Vilda excitedly. "You ain't goin' to make a fool of yourself, if I can help it. We can't have two children clutterin' up this place and eatin' us out of house and home, and that's the end of it."

"It ain't the end of it, Vildy Cummins, not by no manner o' means! If we can't keep both of 'em, do you know what I think 'bout it? I think we'd ought to give away the one that everybody wants and keep the other that nobody does want, more fools they! That's religion, accordin' to my way o' thinkin'. I love the baby, dear knows; but see here. Who planned this thing all out? Timothy. Who took that baby up in his own arms and fetched her out o' that den o' thieves? Timothy. Who stood all the resk of gittin' that innocent lamb out o' that sink of iniquity, and hed wit enough to bring her to a place where she could grow up respectable? Timothy. And do you ketch him say in' a word 'bout himself from fust to last? Not by no manner o' means. That ain't Timothy. And what doos the lovin' gen'rous, faithful little soul git? He gits his labor for his pains. He hears folks say right to his face that nobody wants him and everybody wants Gay. And if he didn't have a disposition like a cherubim-an-seraphim (and better, too, for they 'continually do cry,' now I come to think of it), he'd be sour and bitter, 'stid o' bein' good as an angel in a picture-book from sun-up to sun-down!"

Miss Vilda was crushed by the overpowering weight of this argument, and did not even try to stem the resistless tide of Samantha's eloquence.

"And now folks is all of a high to take in the baby for a spell, jest for a plaything, because her hair curls, 'n' she's handsome, 'n' light complected, 'n' cunning, 'n' a girl (whatever that amounts to is more 'n I know!), and that blessed boy is tread under foot as if he warn't no better 'n an angleworm! And do you mean to tell me you don't see the Lord's hand in this hull bus'ness, Vildy Cummins? There's other kinds o' meracles besides buddin' rods 'n' burnin' bushes 'n' loaves 'n' fishes. What do you s'pose guided that boy to pass all the other houses in this village 'n' turn in at the White Farm? Don't you s'pose he was led? Well, I don't need a Bible nor yit a concordance to tell _me he was. _He didn't know there was plenty 'n' to spare inside this gate; a great, empty house 'n' full cellar, 'n' hay 'n' stock in the barn, and cowpons in the bank, 'n' two lone, mis'able women inside, with nothin' to do but keep flies out in summer-time, 'n' pile wood on in winter-time, till they got so withered up 'n' gnarly they warn't hardly wuth getherin' int' the everlastin' harvest! _He didn't know it, I say, but the Lord did; 'n' the Lord's intention was to give us a chance to make our callin' 'n' election sure, 'n' we can't do that by turnin' our backs on His messenger, and puttin' of him ou'doors! The Lord intended them children should stay together or He wouldn't 'a' started 'em out that way; now that's as plain as the nose on my face, 'n' that's consid'able plain as I've ben told afore now, 'n' can see for myself in the glass without any help from anybody, thanks be!"

"Everybody 'll laugh at us for a couple o' soft-hearted fools," said Miss Vilda feebly, after a long pause. "We'll be a spectacle for the whole village."

"What if we be? Let's be a spectacle, then!" said Samantha stoutly. "We'll be a spectacle for the angels as well as the village, when you come to that! When they look down 'n' see us gittin' outside this dooryard 'n' doin' one o' the Lord's chores for the first time in ten or fifteen years, I guess they'll be consid'able excited! But there's no use in talkin', I've made up my mind, Vildy. We've lived together for thirty years 'n' ain't hardly hed an ugly word ('n' dretful dull it hez ben for both of us!), 'n' I sha'n't live nowheres else without you tell me to go; but I've got lots o' good work in me yit, 'n' I'm goin' to take that boy up 'n' give him a chance, 'n' let him stay alongside o' the thing he loves best in the world. And if there ain't room for all of us in the fourteen rooms o' this part o' the house, Timothy 'n' I can live in the L, as you've allers intended I should if I got married. And I guess this is 'bout as near to gittin' married as either of us ever 'll git now, 'n' consid'able nearer 'n I've expected to git, lately. And I'll tell Timothy this very night, when he goes to bed, for he's grievin' himself into a fit o' sickness, as anybody can tell that's got a glass eye in their heads!"

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