there are days which, to imaginative minds, at least, possess strangely human qualities. their atmospheres predispose people to crime or virtue, to the calm of good will, to sneaking vice, or fierce, unprovoked aggression.
yet the boy implicitly believes and no doubt resolves to rival what he reads. a specimen or two will amply suggest the rest. in one tale the hero is held up to the unqualified admiration of posterity for having starved to death his son, in an extreme case of family destitution, for the sake of providing food enough for his aged father. in another he unhesitatingly divorces his wife for having dared to poke fun, in the shape of bodkins, at some wooden effigies of his parents which he had had set up in the house for daily devotional contemplation. finally another paragon actually sells himself in perpetuity as a slave that he may thus procure the wherewithal to bury with due honor his anything but worthy progenitor, who had first cheated his neighbors and then squandered his ill-gotten gains in riotous living. of these tales, as of certain questionable novels in a slightly different line, the eventual moral is considered quite competent to redeem the general immorality of the plot.
"reckon i can manage till i get some work," replied david, a trifle stiffly. he was a man who had never lived at another than the state's expense.
"don't want ye to be too short, that's all," said the other, a little apologetically.
"i shall be all right. there are corn and potatoes in the garden, anyway."
"so there be, and one of them hens had better be eat. she don't lay. she'll need a good deal of b'ilin'. you can have all the wood you want to pick up, but i don't want any cut. you mind that
or there'll be trouble."
"i won't cut a stick."
"mind ye don't. folks call me an easy mark, and i guess myself i am easy up to a certain point, and cuttin' my wood is one of them points. roof didn't leak in that shower last night, did it?"
"not a bit."
"didn't s'pose it would. the other feller was handy, and he kept tinkerin' all the time. well, i'll be goin'; you can stay here and welcome if you're careful about matches and don't cut my wood. come over for them hens any time you want to. i'll let my hired man drive you back in the wagon."
"much obliged," said david, with an inflection that was almost tearful.
"you're welcome," said the other, and ambled away.
the new david anderson, the good old grandfather revived in his unfortunate, perhaps graceless grandson, reseated himself on the door-step and watched the bulky, receding figure of his visitor through a pleasant blur of tears, which made the broad, rounded shoulders and the halting columns of legs dance. this david anderson had almost forgotten that there was unpaid kindness in the whole world, and it seemed to him as if he had seen angels walking up and down. he sat for a while doing nothing except realizing happiness of the present and of the future. he gazed at the green spread of forest boughs, and saw in pleased anticipation their red and gold tints of autumn; also in pleased anticipation their snowy and icy mail of winter, and himself, the unmailed, defenseless human creature, housed and sheltered, sitting before his own fire. this last happy outlook aroused him. if all this was to be, he must be up and doing.
"mrs. milvain is not tactful, i know, but you exaggerate, katharine. people are talking about us. she was right to tell us. it only confirms my own feeling--the position is monstrous."
at length katharine realized some part of what he meant.
"you don't mean that this influences you, william?" she asked in amazement.
"it does," he said, flushing. "it's intensely disagreeable to me. i can't endure that people should gossip about us. and then there's your cousin--cassandra--" he paused in embarrassment.
"i came here this morning, katharine," he resumed, with a change of voice, "to ask you to forget my folly, my bad temper, my inconceivable behavior. i came, katharine, to ask whether we can't return to the position we were in before this--this season of lunacy. will you take me back, katharine, once more and for ever?"
no doubt her beauty, intensified by emotion and enhanced by the flowers of bright color and strange shape which she carried wrought upon rodney, and had its share in bestowing upon her the old romance. but a less noble passion worked in him, too; he was inflamed by jealousy. his tentative offer of affection had been rudely and, as he thought, completely repulsed by cassandra on the preceding day. denham's confession was in his mind. and ultimately, katharine's dominion over him was of the sort that the fevers of the night cannot exorcise.