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"What a lovely place!" he
said--"all but the mill down there; it seems too bad it burnt up. I hate
to see a ruin, most of all, one of a mill." She looked at him in
surprise, perceiving that he was not at all an ordinary carpenter. He
had a thoughtful face, and the workman's dress he wore could not
entirely conceal a certain delicacy of limb. His voice had a touch of
cultivation in it.

"The work I want done is on the barn," she said at length. "Do you think
it needs reshingling?"

He looked up at it critically, his head still bare. She was studying him
carefully now, and admired his handsome profile. There was something
fine and powerful in the poise of his head.

"You haven't been working for Mr. Wilber long," she said.

He turned toward her with a smile of gratification, as if he knew she
had detected something out of the ordinary in him.

"No, I'm just out of Beloit," he said, with ready confidence. "You see
that I'm one of these fellows who have to work my passage. I put in my
vacations at my trade." He looked up at the roof again, as if checking
himself. "Yes, I should think from here that it would have to be
reshingled."

She sighed resignedly, and he knew she was poor. "Well, I suppose you
had better do it."

She thought of him pleasantly, as he walked off down the road after the
lumber and tools that were necessary. And, in his turn, he wondered
whether she were a widow or not. It promised to be a pleasant job. She
was quite handsome, in a serious way, he decided--very womanly and
dignified. Perhaps this was his romance, he thought, with the ready
imagination upon this point of a youth of twenty-one.

He returned soon with a German teamster, who helped him unload his
lumber and erect his stagings. When noon came he was working away on the
roof, tearing the old shingles off with a spade.

He was a little uncertain about his dinner. It was the custom to board
carpenters when they were working on a farm, but this farm was so near
town, possibly Mrs. Miner would not think it necessary. He decided,
however, to wait till one o'clock, to be sure. At half past twelve, a
man came in out of the field with a team--a short man, with curly hair,
curly chin beard, and mustache. He walked with a little swagger, and his
legs were slightly bowed. Morris called him "a little feller," and
catalogued him by the slant on his hat.

"Say," called Morris suddenly, "won't you come up here and help me raise
my staging?"

The man looked up with a muttered curse of surprise. "Who the hell y'
take me for? Hired man?" he asked, and then, after a moment, continued,
in a tone which was an insult: "You don't want to rip off the whole
broad side of that roof. Ain't y' got any sense? Come a rain, it'll
raise hell with my hay."

"It ain't going to rain," Morris replied. He wanted to give him a sharp
reply, but concluded not to do so. This was evidently the husband. His
romance was very short.

"Tom, won't you call the man in?" asked Mrs. Miner, as her husband came
up to the kitchen door.

"No, call 'im yourself. You've got a gullet."

Mrs. Miner's face clouded a little, but she composed herself. "Morty,
run out and tell the carpenter to come to dinner."

"Boss is in a temper," Morris thought, as he listened to Miner's reply.
He came up to the well, where Morty brought him a clean towel, and
waited to show him into the kitchen.

Miner was just sitting down to the table when Morris entered. His
sleeves were rolled up. He had his old white hat on his head. He lounged
upon one elbow on the table. His whole bearing was swinish.

"What do I care?" he growled, as if in reply to some low-voiced warning
his wife had uttered. "If he don't like it, he can lump it, and if you
don't like my ways," he said, turning upon her, "all you've got to do is
to say so, and I git out."

Morris was amazed at all this. He could not persuade himself that he had
rightly understood what had been said. There was something beneath the
man's words which puzzled him and forbade his inquiry. He sat down near
the oldest child and opposite Mrs. Miner. Miner began to eat, and Morris
was speaking pleasantly to the child nearest him, when he heard an oath
and a slap. He looked up to see Miner's hat falling from Mrs. Miner's
cheek.

She had begun a silent grace, and her husband had thrown his hat in her
face. She kept her eyes upon her plate, and her lips moved as if in
prayer, though a flush of red streamed up her neck and covered her
cheek.

Morris leaped up, his eyes burning into Miner's face. "H'yere!" he
shouted, "what's all this? Did you strike her?"

"Set down!" roared Miner. "You're too fresh."

"I'll let you know how fresh I am," said the young fellow, shaking his
brawny fist in Miner's face.

Mrs. Miner rose, with a ghastly smile on her face, which was now as pale
as it had been flushed. "Please don't mind him; he's only fooling."
Morris looked at her and understood a little of her feeling as a wife
and mother. He sat down. "Well, I'll let him know the weight of my fist,
if he does anything more of that business when I'm around," he said,
looking at her, and then at her husband. "I didn't grow up in a family
where things like that go on. If you'll just say the word, I--I'll----"

"Please don't do anything," she said, and he saw that he had better not,
if he wished to shield her from further suffering. The meal proceeded in
silence. Miner apparently gloried in what he had done.

The children were trembling with fear and could scarcely go on with
their dinners. They dared not cry. Their eyes were fixed upon their
father's face, like the eyes of kittens accustomed to violence. The wife
tried to conceal her shame and indignation. She thought she succeeded
very well, but the big tears rolling down from her wide unseeing eyes,
were pitiful to witness.

Morris ate his dinner in silence, not seeing anything further to do or
say. His food choked him, and he found it necessary to drink great
draughts of water.

At last she contrived to say, "How did you find the roof?" It was a
pitiful attempt to cover the dreadful silence.

"It was almost as good as no roof at all," he replied, with the desire
to aid her. "Those shingles, I suppose, have been on there for thirty
years. I suppose those shingles must have been rived out by just such a
machine as Old Man Means used, in the 'Hoosier Schoolmaster.'" From
this, he went on to tell about some of the comical parts of the story,
and so managed to end the meal in a fairly presentable way.

"She's found another sympathizer," sneered the husband, returning to his
habit of addressing his wife in the third person.

After eating his dinner, Miner lit his pipe and swaggered out, as if he
had done an admirable thing. Morris remained at the table, talking with
the children. After Miner had passed out of earshot, he looked up at
Mrs. Miner, as if expecting her to say something in explanation of what
had occurred. But she had again forgotten him, and sat biting her lips
and looking out of the window. Her bosom heaved like that of one about
to weep. Her wide-open eyes had unutterable sorrow in their beautiful
depths.

Morris got up and went out, in order to prevent himself from weeping
too. He hammered away on the roof like mad for an hour, and wished that
every blow fell on that little villain's curly pate.

He did not see Mrs. Miner to speak to her again till the next forenoon,
when she came out to see how the work was getting on. He came down from
the roof to meet her, and they stood side by side, talking the job over
and planning other work. She spoke, at last, in a low, hesitating voice,
and without looking at him:

"You mustn't mind what Mr. Miner does. He's very peculiar, and you're
likely--that is, I mean----"

She could not finish her lie. The young man looked down on her
resolutely. "I'd like to lick him, and I'd do it for a leather cent."

She put out her hand with a gesture of dismay. "Oh, don't make trouble;
please don't!"

"I won't if you don't want me to, but that man needs a licking the worst
of any one I ever saw. Mrs. Miner," he said, after a little pause, "I
wish you'd tell me why he acts that way. Now, there must be some reason
for it. No sane man is going to do a thing like that."

She looked away, a hot flush rising upon her face. She felt a distinct
longing for sympathy. There was something very engaging in this young
man's candid manner.

"I do not know who is to blame," she said at last, as if in answer to a
question. "I've tried to be a good wife to him for the children's sake.
I've tried to be patient. I suppose if I'd made the property all over to
him, as most wives do, at first, it would have avoided all trouble." She
paused to think a moment.

"But, you see" she went on suddenly, "father never liked him at all, and
he made me promise never to let the mill or the farm go out of my hands,
and then I didn't think it necessary. It belonged to us both, just as
much as if I'd signed it over. I considered he was my partner as well as
my husband. I knew how father felt, especially about the mill, and I
couldn't go against his wish."

She had the impulse to tell it all now, and she sat down on a bunch of
shingles, as if to be able to state it better. Her eyes were turned
away, her hands pressed upon each other like timid, living things
seeking aid, and, looking at her trembling lips, the young man felt a
lump rise in his throat.

"It began all at once, you see. I mean the worst of it did. Of course,
we'd had sharp words, as all people who live together are apt to have, I
suppose, but they didn't last long. You see, everything was mine, and he
had nothing at all when he came home with me. He'd had bad luck, and
he--he never was a good business man."

The tears were on her face again. She was retrospectively approaching
that miserable time when her suffering began. The droop of her head
appealed to the young man with immense power. He had an impulse to take
her in his arms and comfort her, as if she were his sister.

She mastered herself at last, and went on in low, hesitating voice, more
touching than downright sobbing: "One day, the same summer the mill
burned, one of the horses kicked at little Morty, and I said I'd sell
it, and he said it was all nonsense; the horse wasn't to blame.



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