University of Virginia Library




1. I.

ON a certain mild March evening, A. D. 1864, the
Ducklow kitchen had a general air of waiting for
somebody. Mrs. Ducklow sat knitting by the light of a
kerosene lamp, but paused ever and anon, neglecting her
stocking, and knitting her brows instead, with an aspect
of anxious listening. The old gray cat, coiled up on a
cushion at her side, purring in her sleep, purred and slept
as if she knew perfectly well who was coming soon to
occupy that chair, and meant to make the most of it.
The old-fashioned clock, perched upon the high mantel-piece
of the low-studded room, ticked away lonesomely,
as clocks tick only when somebody is waited for who does
not come. Even the teakettle on the stove seemed to be
in the secret, for it simmered and sang after the manner
of a wise old teakettle fully conscious of the importance
of its mission. The side-table, which was simply a leaf on
hinges fixed in the wall, and looked like an apron when
it was down, giving to that side of the kitchen a curious
resemblance to Mrs. Ducklow, and rested on one arm when
it was up, in which position it reminded you more of Mr.
Ducklow leaning his chin on his hand, — the side-table
was set with a single plate, knife and fork, and cup and
saucer, indicating that the person waited for was expected


Page 2
to partake of refreshments. Behind the stairway door was
a small boy kicking off a very small pair of trousers with a
degree of reluctance which showed that he also wished to
sit up and wait for somebody.

“Say, ma, need I go to bed now!” he exclaimed rather
than inquired, starting to pull on the trousers again after
he had got one leg free. “He 'll want me to hold the
lantern for him to take care of the hoss.”

“No, no, Taddy,” for that was the boy's name (short
for Thaddeus), “you 'll only be in the way, if you set up.
Besides, I want to mend your pants.”

“You 're always wantin' to mend my pants!” complained
the youngster, who seemed to think that it was by no
means to do him a favor, but rather to afford herself a
gloating pleasure, that Mrs. Ducklow, who had a mania for
patching, required the garment to be delivered up to her.
“I wish there was n't such a thing as pants in the world!”
— utterly regardless of the plight the world would be in
without them.

“Don't talk that way, after all the trouble and expense
we 've been to to clothe ye!” said the good woman, reprovingly.
“Where would you be now, if 't was n't for me
and yer Pa Ducklow?”

“I should n't be goin' to bed when I don't want to!”
he muttered, just loud enough to be heard.

“You ungrateful child!” said Mrs. Ducklow, not without
reason, for Taddy knew very well — at least he was
reminded of the fact often enough — that he owed to them
his home and all its comforts. “Would n't be going to
bed when you don't want to! You would n't be going to
bed when you do want to, more likely; for ten to one you
would n't have a bed to go to. Think of the sitewation
you was in when we adopted ye, and then talk that way!”

As this was an unanswerable argument, Taddy contented


Page 3
himself with thrusting a hand into his trousers and recklessly
increasing the area of the forthcoming patch. “If
she likes to mend so well, let her!” thought he.

“Taddy, are you tearing them pants?” cried Mrs. Ducklow
sharply, hearing a sound alarmingly suggestive of
cracking threads.

“I was pullin' 'em off,” said Taddy. “I never see such
mean cloth! can't touch it but it has to tear. Say, ma, do
ye think he 'll bring me home a drum?”

“You 'll know in the morning.”

“I want to know to-night. He said mabby he would.
Say, can't I set up?”

“I 'll let ye know whether you can set up, after you 've
been told so many times!”

So saying, Mrs. Ducklow rose from her chair, laid down
her knitting-work, and started for the stairway door with
great energy and a rattan. But Taddy, who perceived
retribution approaching, did not see fit to wait for it. He
darted up the stairs and crept into his bunk with the
lightness and agility of a squirrel.

“I 'm abed! Say, ma, I 'm abed!” he cried, eager to
save the excellent lady the trouble of ascending the stairs.
“I 'm 'most asleep a'ready!”

“It 's a good thing for you you be!” said Mrs. Ducklow,
gathering up the garment he had left behind the door.
“Why, Taddy, how you did tear it! I 've a good notion
to give ye a smart trouncing now!”

Taddy began to snore, and Mrs. Ducklow concluded that
she would not wake him.

“It is mean cloth, as he says!” she exclaimed, examining
it by the kerosene lamp. “For my part, I consider it a
great misfortin that shoddy was ever invented. Ye can't
buy any sort of a ready-made garment for boys now-days
but it comes to pieces at the least wear or strain, like so
much brown paper.”


Page 4

She was shaping the necessary patch, when the sound
of wheels coming into the yard told her that the person so
long waited for had arrived.

“That you?” said she, opening the kitchen door and
looking out into the darkness.

“Yes,” replied a man's voice.

“Ye want the lantern?”

“No: jest set the lamp in the winder, and I guess I can
git along. Whoa!” And the man jumped to the ground.

“Had good luck?” the woman inquired in a low voice.

“I 'll tell ye when I come in,” was the evasive answer.

“Has he bought me a drum?” bawled Taddy from the
chamber stairs.

“Do you want me to come up there and 'tend to ye?”
demanded Mrs. Ducklow.

The boy was not particularly ambitious of enjoying that

“You be still and go to sleep, then, or you 'll git

And she latched the stairway door, greatly to the dismay
of Master Taddy, who felt that some vast and momentous
secret was kept from him. Overhearing whispered conferences
between his adopted parents in the morning,
noticing also the cautious glances they cast at him, and the
persistency with which they repeatedly sent him away out
of sight on slight and absurd pretences, he had gathered a
fact and drawn an inference, namely, that a great purchase
was to be made by Mr. Ducklow that day in town, and
that, on his return, he (Taddy) was to be surprised by the
presentation of what he had long coveted and teased for,
— a new drum.

To lie quietly in bed under such circumstances was an
act that required more self-control than Master Taddy
possessed. Accordingly he stole down stairs and listened,


Page 5
feeling sure that if the drum should come in, Mrs. Ducklow,
and perhaps Mr. Ducklow himself, would be unable to
resist the temptation of thumping it softly to try its

Mrs. Ducklow was busy taking her husband's supper
out of the oven, where it had been kept warm for him,
pouring hot water into the teapot, and giving the last
touches to the table. Then came the familiar grating
noise of a boot on the scraper. Mrs. Ducklow stepped
quickly to open the door for Mr. Ducklow. Taddy, well
aware that he was committing an indiscretion, but inspired
by the wild hope of seeing a new drum come into the
kitchen, ventured to unlatch the stairway door, open it a
crack, and peep.

Mr. Ducklow entered, bringing a number of parcels containing
purchases from the stores, but no drum visible to

“Did you buy?” whispered Mrs. Ducklow, relieving
him of his load.

Mr. Ducklow pointed mysteriously at the stairway door,
lifting his eyebrows interrogatively.

“Taddy?” said Mrs. Ducklow. “O, he 's abed, —
though I never in my life had such a time to git him off
out of the way; for he 'd somehow got possessed with the
idee that you was to buy something, and he wanted to set
up and see what it was.”

“Strange how childern will ketch things sometimes,
best ye can do to prevent!” said Mr. Ducklow.

“But did ye buy?”

“You better jest take them matches and put 'em out o'
the way, fust thing, 'fore ye forgit it. Matches are dangerous
to have layin' around, and I never feel safe till
they 're safe.”

And Mr. Ducklow hung up his hat, and laid his overcoat


Page 6
across a chair in the next room, with a carefulness
and deliberation exhausting to the patience of good Mrs.
Ducklow, and no less trying to that of Master Taddy, who
was waiting to hear the important question answered.

“Come!” said she, after hastily disposing of the matches,
“what 's the use of keeping me in suspense? Did ye

“Where did ye put 'em?” asked Mr. Ducklow, taking
down the bootjack.

“In the little tin pail, where we always keep 'em, of
course! Where should I put 'em?”

“You need n't be cross. I asked, 'cause I did n't hear
ye put the cover on. I don't believe ye did put the cover
on, either; and I sha' n't be easy till ye do.”

Mrs. Ducklow returned to the pantry; and her husband,
pausing a moment, leaning over a chair, heard the cover
go on the tin pail with a click and a clatter which betrayed,
that, if ever there was an angry and impatient cover, that

“Anybody been here to-day?” Mr. Ducklow inquired,
pressing the heel of his right boot in the jack, and steadying
the toe under a round of the chair.

“No,” replied Mrs. Ducklow.

“Ye been anywheres?”


“Where?” mildly inquired Mr. Ducklow.

“No matter,” said Mrs. Ducklow, with decided ill-temper.

Mr. Ducklow drew a deep sigh, as he turned and looked
upon her.

“Wal, you be about the most uncomf'table woman ever
I see,” he said, with a dark and dissatisfied countenance.

“If you can't answer my question, I don't see why I
need take the trouble to answer yours,” — and Mrs. Ducklow


Page 7
returned with compressed lips to her patching. “Yer
supper is ready; ye can eat it when ye please.”

“I was answerin' your question as fast as I could,” said
her husband, in a tone of excessive mildness, full of sorrow
and discouragement.

“I have n't seen any signs of your answering it.”

And the housewife's fingers stitched away energetically
at the patch.

“Wal, wal! ye don't see everything!”

Mr. Ducklow, having already removed one boot, drew
gently at the other. As it came off, something fell out on
the floor. He picked it up, and handed it with a triumphant
smile to Mrs. Ducklow.

“O, indeed! is this the —”

She was radiant. Her hands dropped their work, and
opened the package, which consisted of a large unsealed
envelope and folded papers within. These she unfolded
and examined with beaming satisfaction.

“But what made ye carry 'em in yer boot so?”

“To tell the truth,” said Mr. Ducklow, in a suppressed
voice, “I was afraid o' bein' robbed. I never was so
afraid o' bein' robbed in my life! So, jest as I got clear o'
the town, I took it out o' my pocket” (meaning, not the
town, but the envelope containing the papers), “an' tucked
it down my boot-leg. Then, all the way home, I was
scaret when I was ridin' alone, an' still more scaret when I
heard anybody comin' after me. You see, it 's jest like so
much money.”

And he arranged the window-curtain in a manner to
prevent the sharpest-eyed burglar from peeping in and
catching a glimpse of the papers.

He neglected to secure the stairway door, however.
There, in his hiding-place behind it, stood Taddy, shivering
in his shirt, but peeping and listening in a fever of curiosity


Page 8
which nothing could chill. His position was such
that he could not see Mr. Ducklow or the documents, and
his mind was left free to revel in the most daring fancies
regarding the wonderful purchase. He had not yet fully
given up the idea of a new drum, although the image,
which vaguely shaped itself in his mind, of Mr. Ducklow
“tucking it down his boot-leg,” presented difficulties.

“This is the bond, you see,” Mr. Ducklow explained;
“and all these little things that fill out the sheet are the
cowpons. You have only to cut off one o' these, take it
to the bank when it is due, and draw the interest on it in

“But suppose you lose the bonds?” queried Mrs. Ducklow,
regarding, not without awe, the destructible paper
representatives of so much property.

“That 's what I 've been thinkin' of; that 's what 's
made me so narvous. I supposed 't would be like so much
railroad stock, good for nothin' to nobody but the owner,
and somethin' that could be replaced if I lost it. But the
man to the bank said no, — 't was like so much currency,
and I must look out for it. That 's what filled all the
bushes with robbers as I come along the road. And I tell
ye, 't was a relief to feel I 'd got safe home at last; though
I don't see now how we 're to keep the plaguy things so we
sha' n't feel uneasy about 'em.”

“Nor I either!” exclaimed Mrs. Ducklow, turning pale.
“Suppose the house should take fire! or burglars should
break in! I don't wonder you was so particular about the
matches! Dear me! I shall be frightened to death!
I 'd no idee 't was to be such dangerous property! I shall
be thinking of fires and burglars! — O-h-h-h!”

The terrified woman uttered a wild scream; for just then
a door flew suddenly open, and there burst into the room
a frightful object, making a headlong plunge at the precious


Page 9
papers. Mr. Ducklow sprang back against the table
set for his supper with a force that made everything jar.
Then he sprang forward again, instinctively reaching to
grasp and save from plunder the coupon bounds. But by
this time both he and his wife had become aware of the
nature of the intrusion.

“Thaddeus!” ejaculated the lady. “How came you
here? Get up! Give an account of yourself!”

Taddy, whose abrupt appearance in the room had been
altogether involuntary, was quite innocent of any predatory
designs. Leaning forward farther and farther, in the
ardor of discovery, he had, when too late to save himself,
experienced the phenomenon of losing his balance, and
pitched from the stairway into the kitchen with a violence
that threw the door back against the wall with a bang,
and laid him out, a sprawling figure, in scanty, ghostly apparel,
on the floor.

“What ye want? What ye here for?” sternly demanded
Mr. Ducklow, snatching him up by one arm, and
shaking him.

“Don't know,” faltered the luckless youngster, speaking
the truth for once in his life. “Fell.”

“Fell! How did you come to fall? What are you out
o' bed for?”

“Don't know,” — snivelling and rubbing his eyes.
“Did n't know I was.”

“Got up without knowing it! That 's a likely story!
How could that happen you, sir?” said Mrs. Ducklow.

“Don't know, 'thout 't was I got up in my sleep,” said
Taddy, who had on rare occasions been known to indulge
in moderate somnambulism.

“In your sleep!” said Mr. Ducklow, incredulously.

“I guess so. I was dreamin' you brought me home a
new drum, — tucked down yer — boot-leg,” faltered Taddy.


Page 10

“Strange!” said Mr. Ducklow, with a glance at his
wife. “But how could I bring a drum in my boot-leg?”

“Don't know, 'thout it 's a new kind, one that 'll shet

Taddy looked eagerly round, but saw nothing new or interesting,
except some curious-looking papers which Mrs.
Ducklow was hastily tucking into an envelope.

“Say, did ye, pa?”

“Did I? Of course I did n't! What nonsense! But
how came ye down here? Speak the truth!”

“I dreamt you was blowin' it up, and I sprung to ketch
it, when, fust I knowed, I was on the floor, like a thousan'
o' brick! 'Mos' broke my knee-pans!” whimpered Taddy.
“Say, did n't ye bring me home nothin'?' What 's them

“Nothin' little boys know anything about. Now run
back to bed again. I forgot to buy you a drum to-day,
but I 'll git ye somethin' next time I go to town, — if I
think on 't!”

“So ye always say, but ye never think on 't!” complained

“There, there! Somebody 's comin'! What a lookin'
object you are, to be seen by visitors!”

There was a knock. Taddy disappeared. Mr. Ducklow
turned anxiously to his wife, who was hastily hiding the
bonds in her palpitating bosom.

“Who can it be this time o' night?”

“Sakes alive!” said Mrs. Ducklow, in whose mind burglars
were uppermost, “I wish, whoever 't is, they 'd keep
away! Go to the door,” she whispered, resuming her work.

Mr. Ducklow complied; and, as the visitor entered,
there she sat plying her needle as industriously and demurely
as though neither bonds nor burglars had ever
been heard of in that remote rural district.


Page 11

2. II.

Ah, Miss Beswick, walk in!” said Mr. Ducklow.

A tall, spare, somewhat prim-looking female of middle
age, with a shawl over her head, entered, nodding a curt
and precise good-evening, first to Mr. Ducklow, then to his

“What, that you?” said Mrs. Ducklow, with curiosity
and surprise. “Where on 'arth did you come from? Set
her a chair, why don't ye, father?”

Mr. Ducklow, who was busy slipping his feet into a pair
of old shoes, hastened to comply with the hospitable suggestion.

“I 've only jest got home,” said he, apologetically, as if
fearful lest the fact of his being caught in his stockings
should create suspicions: so absurdly careful of appearances
some people become, when they have anything to
conceal. “Jest had time to kick my boots off, you see.
Take a seat.”

“Thank ye. I s'pose you 'll think I 'm wild, makin'
calls at this hour!”

And Miss Beswick seated herself with an angular movement,
and held herself prim and erect in the chair.

“Why, no, I don't,” said Mrs. Ducklow, civilly; while
at the same time she did think it very extraordinary and
unwarrantable conduct on the part of her neighbor to be
walking the streets and entering the dwellings of honest
people, alone, after eight o'clock, on a dark night.

“You 're jest in time to set up and take a cup o' tea
with my husband”; an invitation she knew would not be
accepted, and which she pressed accordingly. “Ye better,


Page 12
Miss Beswick, if only to keep him company. Take off yer
things, won't ye?”

“No, I don't go a-visitin', to take off my things and
drink tea, this time o' night!”

Miss Beswick condescended, however, to throw back the
shawl from her head, exposing to view a long, sinewy neck,
the strong lines of which ran up into her cheeks, and ramified
into wrinkles, giving severity to her features. At the
same time emerged from the fold of the garment, as it
were, a knob, a high, bare poll, so lofty and narrow,
and destitute of the usual ornament, natural or false, that
you involuntarily looked twice, to assure yourself that
it was really that lovely and adorable object, a female

“I 've jest run over to tell you the news,” said Miss

“Nothing bad, I hope?” said Mrs. Ducklow. “No
robbers in town? for massy sake!” And Mrs. Ducklow
laid her hand on her bosom, to make sure that the bonds
were still there.

“No, good news, — good for Sophrony, at any rate!”

“Ah! she has heard from Reuben?”

“No!” The severity of the features was modified by a
grim smile. “No!” and the little, high knob of a head
was shaken expressively.

“What then?” Ducklow inquired.

“Reuben has come home!” The words were spoken
triumphantly, and the keen gray eyes of the elderly
maiden twinkled.

“ome home! home!” echoed both Ducklows at once,
in great astonishment.

Miss Beswick assured them of the fact.

“My! how you talk!” exclaimed Mrs. Ducklow. “I
never dreamed of such a — When did he come?”


Page 13

“About an hour 'n' a half ago. I happened to be in to
Sophrony's. I had jest gone over to set a little while with
her and keep her company, — as I 've often done, she
seemed so lonely, livin' there with her two children alone
in the house, her husband away so. Her friends ha' n't
been none too attentive to her in his absence, she thinks,
— and so I think.”

“I — I hope you don't mean that as a hint to us, Miss
Beswick,” said Mrs. Ducklow.

“You can take it as such, or not, jest as you please! I
leave it to your own consciences. You know best whuther
you have done your duty to Sophrony and her family,
whilst her husband has been off to the war; and I sha' n't
set myself up for a judge. You never had any boys of your
own, and so you adopted Reuben, jest as you have lately
adopted Thaddeus; and I s'pose you think you 've done
well by him, jest as you think you will do by Thaddeus,
if he 's a good boy, and stays with you till he 's twenty-one.”

“I hope no one thinks or says the contrary, Miss Beswick!”
said Mr. Ducklow, gravely, with flushed face.

“There may be two opinions on that subject!” said
Miss Beswick, with a slight toss of the head, setting that
small and irregular spheroid at a still loftier and more
imposing altitude. “Reuben came to you when he was
jest old enough to be of use about the house and on the
farm; and if I recollect right, you did n't encourage idleness
in him long. You did n't give his hands much chance
to do `some mischief still!' No, indeed! nobody can
accuse you of that weakness!” And the skin of the
wrinkled features tightened with a terrible grin.

“Nobody can say we ever overworked the boy, or ill-used
him in any way!” exclaimed Mrs. Ducklow, excitedly.


Page 14

“No! I don't say it! But this I 'll say, for I 've had
it in my mind ever since Sophrony was left alone, — I
could n't help seein' and feelin', and now you 've set me
a-talkin' I may as well speak out. Reuben was always a
good boy, and a willin' boy, as you yourselves must allow;
and he paid his way from the first.”

“I don't know about that!” interposed Mr. Ducklow,
taking up his knife and fork, and dropping them again, in
no little agitation. “He was a good and willin' boy, as
you say; but the expense of clothin' him and keepin' him
to school —”

“He paid his way from the first!” repeated Miss Beswick,
sternly. “You kept him to school winters, when he
did more work 'fore and after school than any other boy in
town. He worked all the time summers; and soon he
was as good as a hired man to you. He never went to
school a day after he was fifteen; and from that time he
was better 'n any hired man, for he was faithful, and took
an interest, and looked after and took care of things as no
hired man ever would or could do, as I 've heard you yourself
say, Mr. Ducklow!”

“Reuben was a good, faithful boy: I never denied that!
I never denied that!”

“Well, he stayed with you till he was twenty-one, — did
ye a man's service for the last five or six years; then you
giv' him what you called a settin' out, — a new suit o'
clothes, a yoke of oxen, some farmin'-tools, and a hundred
dollars in money! You, with yer thousands, Mr. Ducklow,
giv' him a hundred dollars in money!”

“That was only a beginnin', only a beginnin', I 've
always said!” declared the red-flushed farmer.

“I know it; and I s'pose you 'll continner to say so till
the day of yer death! Then maybe you 'll remember
Reuben in yer will. That 's the way! Keep puttin' him


Page 15
off as long as you can possibly hold on to your property
yourself, — then, when you see you 've got to go and leave
it, give him what you ought to 've gi'n him years before.
There a'n't no merit in that kind o' justice, did ye know
it, Mr. Ducklow? I tell ye, what belongs to Reuben belongs
to him now, — not ten or twenty year hence, when
you 've done with 't, and he most likely won't need it. A
few hundred dollars now 'll be more useful to him than all
your thousands will be bime-by. After he left you, he
took the Moseley farm; everybody respected him, everybody
trusted him; he was doin' well, everybody said; then
he married Sophrony, and a good and faithful wife she 's
been to him; and finally he concluded to buy the farm,
which you yourself said was a good idee, and encouraged
him in 't.”

“So it was; Reuben used judgment in that, and he 'd
have got along well enough if 't had n't been for the war,”
said Mr. Ducklow; while his wife sat dumb, not daring to
measure tongues with their vigorous-minded and plain-speaking

“Jest so!” said Miss Beswick. “If it had n't been for
the war! He had made his first payments, and would have
met the rest as they came due, no doubt of it. But the
war broke out, and he left all to sarve his country. Says he,
`I 'm an able-bodied man, and I ought to go,' says he. His
business was as important, and his wife and children was
as dear to him, as anybody's; but he felt it his duty to
go, and he went. They did n't give no such big bounties
to volunteers then as they do now, and it was a sacrifice
to him every way when he enlisted. But says he, `I 'll
jest do my duty,' says he, `and trust to Providence for the
rest.' You did n't discourage his goin', — and you did n't
incourage him, neither, the way you 'd ought to.”

“My! what on 'arth, Miss Beswick! — Seems to me


Page 16
you 're takin' it upon yourself to say things that are uncalled
for, to say the least! I can't understand what
should have sent you here, to tell me what 's my business,
and what a'n't, this fashion. As if I did n't know my own
duty and intentions!” And Mr. Ducklow poured his tea
into his plate, and buttered his bread with a teaspoon.

“I s'pose she 's been talking with Sophrony, and she has
sent her to interfere.”

“Mis' Ducklow, you don't s'pose no such thing! You
know Sophrony would n't send anybody on such an arrant;
and you know I a'n't a person to do such arrants, or be
made a cat's-paw of by anybody. I a'n't handsome, not
partic'larly; and I a'n't wuth my thousands, like some folks
I know; and I never got married, for the best reason in
the world, — them that offered themselves I would n't
have, and them I would have had did n't offer themselves;
and I a'n't so good a Christian as I might be, I 'm aware.
I know my lacks as well as anybody; but bein' a spy and
a cat's-paw a'n't one of 'em. I don't do things sly and
underhand. If I 've anything to say to anybody, I go
right to 'em, and say it to their face, — sometimes perty
blunt, I allow. But I don't wait to be sent by other folks.
I 've a mind o' my own, and my own way o' doin' things,
— that you know as well as anybody. So, when you say
you s'pose Sophrony or anybody else sent me here to interfere,
I say you s'pose what a'n't true, and what you
know a'n't true, Mis' Ducklow!”

Mrs. Ducklow was annihilated, and the visitor went on.

“As for you, Mr. Ducklow, I have n't said you don't
know your own duty and intentions. I 've no doubt you
think you do, at any rate.”

“Very well! then why can't you leave me to do what
I think 's my duty? Everybody ought to have that


Page 17

“You think so?”

“Sartin, Miss Beswick; don't you?”

“Why, then, I ought to have the same.”

“Of course; nobody in this house 'll prevent your
doin' what you 're satisfied 's your duty.”

“Thank ye! much obleeged!” said Miss Beswick,
with gleaming, gristly features. “That 's all I ask. Now
I 'm satisfied it 's my duty to tell ye what I 've been
tellin' ye, and what I 'm goin' to tell ye: that 's my duty.
And then it 'll be your duty to do what you think 's right.
That 's plain, a'n't it?”

“Wal, wal!” said Mr. Ducklow, discomfited; “I can't
hinder yer talkin', I s'pose; though it seems a man ought
to have a right to peace and quiet in his own house.”

“Yes, and in his own conscience too!” said Miss Beswick.
“And if you 'll hearken to me now, I promise you
'll have peace and quiet in your conscience, and in your
house too, such as you never have had yit. I s'pose you
know your great fault, don't ye? Graspin', — that 's your
fault, that 's your besettin' sin, Mr. Ducklow. You used
to give it as an excuse for not helpin' Reuben more, that
you had your daughter to provide for. Well, your daughter
has got married; she married a rich man, — you looked
out for that, — and she 's provided for, fur as property can
provide for any one. Now, without a child in the world
to feel anxious about, you keep layin' up and layin' up,
and 'll continner to lay up, I s'pose, till ye die, and leave a
great fortin' to your daughter, that already has enough,
and jest a pittance to Reuben and Thaddeus.”

“No, no, Miss Beswick! you 're wrong, you 're wrong,
Miss Beswick! I mean to do the handsome thing by both
on 'em.”

“Mean to! ye mean to! That 's the way ye flatter yer
conscience, and cheat yer own soul. Why don't ye do


Page 18
what ye mean to do to once, and make sure on 't? That 's
the way to git the good of your property. I tell ye, the
time 's comin' when the recollection of havin' done a good
action will be a greater comfort to ye than all the property
in the world. Then you 'll look back and say, `Why
did n't I do this and do that with my money, when 't was
in my power, 'stead of hoardin' up and hoardin' up for
others to spend after me?' Now, as I was goin' to say,
ye did n't discourage Reuben's enlistin', and ye did n't
incourage him the way ye might. You ought to 've said
to him, `Go, Reuben, if ye see it to be yer duty; and, as
fur as money goes, ye sha' n't suffer for 't. I 've got
enough for all on us; and I 'll pay yer debts, if need be,
and see 't yer fam'ly 's kep' comf'table while ye 're away.'
But that 's jest what ye did n't say, and it 's jest what ye
did n't do. All the time Reuben 's been sarvin' his country,
he 's had his debts and his family expenses to worry
him; and you know it 's been all Sophrony could do, by
puttin' forth all her energies, and strainin' every narve, to
keep herself and children from goin' hungry and ragged.
You 've helped 'em a little now and then, in driblets, it 's
true; but, dear me!” exclaimed Miss Beswick; and she
smote her hands, palms downwards, upon her lap, with a
look and gesture which signified that words utterly failed
to express her feelings on the subject.

Mrs. Ducklow, who, since her annihilation, had scarcely
ventured to look up, sat biting her lips, drawing quick
breaths of suppressed anger and impatience, and sewing
the patch to the trousers and to her own apron under them.
There was an awful silence, broken only by the clock ticking,
and Mr. Ducklow lifting his knife and fork and letting
them fall again. At last he forced himself to speak.

“Wal, you 've read us a pretty smart lectur', Miss Beswick,
I must say. I can't consaive what should make ye


Page 19
take such an interest in our affairs; but it 's very kind in
ye, — very kind, to be sure!”

“Take an interest! Have n't I seen Sophrony's struggles
with them children? And have n't I seen Reuben
come home this very night, a sick man, with a broken
constitution, and no prospect before him but to give up
his farm, lose all he has paid, and be thrown upon the
charities of the world with his wife and children? And if
the charities of friends are so cold, what can he expect
of the charities of the world? Take an interest! I wish
you took half as much. Here I 've sot half an hour, and
you have n't thought to ask how Reuben appeared, or anything
about him.”

“Maybe there 's a good reason for that, Miss Beswick.
'T was on my lips to ask half a dozen times; but you
talked so fast, you would n't give me a chance.”

“Well, I 'm glad you 've got some excuse, though a poor
one,” said Miss Beswick.

“How is Reuben?” Mrs. Ducklow meekly inquired.

“All broken to pieces, — a mere shadder of what he
was. He 's had his old wound troublin' him ag'in; then
he 's had the fever, that come within one of takin' him out
o' the world. He was in the hospitals, ye know, for two
months or more; but finally the doctors see 't was his
only chance to be sent home, weak as he was. A sergeant
that was comin' on brought him all the way, and took
him straight home; and that 's the reason he got along
so sudden and unexpected, even to Sophrony. O, if you
could seen their meetin', as I did! then you would n't
sneer at my takin' an interest.” And Miss Beswick,
strong-minded as she was, found it necessary to make
use of her handkerchief. “I did n't stop only to help put
him to bed, and fix things a little; then I left 'em alone,
and run over to tell ye. It 's a pity you did n't know he


Page 20
was in town when you was there to-day, so as to bring him
home with ye. But I s'pose you had your investments to
look after. Come, now, Mr. Ducklow, how many thousan'
dollars have you invested, since Reuben 's been off to war,
and his folks have been sufferin' to home? You may have
been layin' up hundreds, or even thousands, that way, this
very day, for aught I know. But let me tell ye, you won't
git no good of such property, — it 'll only be a cuss to ye,
— till you do the right thing by Reuben. Mark my

There was another long silence.

“Ye a'n't going, be ye, Miss Beswick?” said Mrs. Ducklow,
— for the visitor had arisen. “What 's yer hurry?”

“No hurry at all; but I 've done my arrant and said
my say, and may as well be goin'. Good night. Good
night, Mr. Ducklow.”

And Miss Beswick, pulling her shawl over her head,
stalked out of the house like some tall, gaunt spectre, leaving
the Ducklows to recover as best they could from the
consternation into which they had been thrown by her

3. III.

Did you ever?” said Mrs. Ducklow, gaining courage
to speak after the visitor was out of hearing.

“She 's got a tongue!” said Mr. Ducklow.

“Strange she should speak of your investing money to-day!
D' ye s'pose she knows?”

“I don't see how she can know.” And Mr. Ducklow
paced the room in deep trouble. “I 've been careful not


Page 21
to give a hint on 't to anybody, for I knew jest what folks
would say: `If Ducklow has got so much money to dispose
of, he 'd better give Reuben a lift.' I know how folks

“Coming here to browbeat us!” exclaimed Mrs. Ducklow.
“I wonder ye did n't be a little more plain with her,
father! I would n't have sot and been dictated to as
tamely as you did!”

“You would n't? Then why did ye? She dictated to
you as much as she did to me; and you scurce opened
your head; you did n't dars' to say yer soul was your

“Yes, I did, I —”

“You ventur'd to speak once, and she shet ye up
quicker 'n lightnin'. Now tell about you would n't have
sot and been dictated to like a tame noodle, as I did!”

“I did n't say a tame noodle.

“Yes, ye did. I might have answered back sharp
enough, but I was expectin' you to speak. Men don't like
to dispute with women.

“That 's your git-off,” said Mrs. Ducklow, trembling
with vexation. “You was jest as much afraid of her as I
was. I never see ye so cowed in all my life.”

“Cowed! I was n't cowed, neither. How unreasonable,
now, for you to cast all the blame on to me!”

And Mr. Ducklow, his features contracted into a black
scowl, took his boots from the corner.

“Ye ha'n't got to go out, have ye?” said Mrs. Ducklow.
“I should n't think you 'd put on yer boots jest to step to
the barn and see to the hoss.”

“I 'm goin' over to Reuben's.”

“To Reuben's! Not to-night, father!”

“Yes, I think I better. He and Sophrony 'll know we
heard of his gittin' home, and they 're enough inclined


Page 22
a'ready to feel we neglect 'em. Have n't ye got somethin'
ye can send?”

“I don't know,” — curtly. “I 've scurce ever been
over to Sophrony's but I 've carried her a pie or cake or
something; and mighty little thanks I got for it, as it
turns out.”

“Why did n't ye say that to Miss Beswick, when she
was runnin' us so hard about our never doin' anything for

“'T would n't have done no good; I knew jest what
she 'd say. `What 's a pie or a cake now and then?' —
that 's jest the reply she 'd have made. Dear me! What
have I been doing?”

Mrs. Ducklow, rising, had but just discovered that she
had stitched the patch and the trousers to her apron.

“So much for Miss Beswick!” she exclaimed, untying
the apron-strings, and flinging the united garments spitefully
down upon a chair. “I do wish such folks would
mind their own business and stay to home!”

“You 've got the bonds safe?” said Mr. Ducklow,
putting on his overcoat.

“Yes; but I won't engage to keep 'em safe. They
make me as narvous as can be. I 'm afraid to be left
alone in the house with 'em. Here, you take 'em.”

“Don't be foolish. What harm can possibly happen to
them or you while I 'm away? You don't s'pose I want to
lug them around with me wherever I go, do ye?”

“I 'm sure it 's no great lug. I s'pose you 're afraid to
go acrost the fields alone with 'em in yer pocket. What
in the world we 're going to do with 'em I don't see. If
we go out we can't take 'em with us, for fear of losing 'em,
or of being robbed; and we sha' n't dare to leave 'em to
home, fear the house 'll burn up or git broke into.”

“We can hide 'em where no burglar can find 'em,” said
Mr. Ducklow.


Page 23

“Yes, and where nobody else can find 'em, neither, provided
the house burns and neighbors come in to save
things. I don't know but it 'll be about as Miss Beswick
said: we sha' n't take no comfort with property we ought
to make over to Reuben.”

“Do you think it ought to be made over to Reuben?
If you do, it 's new to me.”

“No, I don't!” replied Mrs. Ducklow, decidedly. “I
guess we better put 'em in the clock-case for to-night,
had n't we?”

“Jest where they 'd be discovered, if the house is robbed!
No: I 've an idee. Slip 'em under the settin'-room carpet.
Let me take 'em: I can fix a place right here by the
side of the door.”

With great care and secrecy the bonds were deposited
between the carpet and the floor, and a chair set over

“What noise was that?” said the farmer, starting.

“Thaddeus,” cried Mrs. Ducklow, “is that you?”

It was Thaddeus, indeed, who, awaking from a real
dream of the drum this time, and, hearing conversation in
the room below, had once more descended the stairs to listen.
What were the old people hiding there under the
carpet? It must be those curious things in the envelope.
And what were those things, about which so much mystery
seemed necessary? Taddy was peeping and considering,
when he heard his name called. He would have glided
back to bed again, but Mrs. Ducklow, who sprang to the
stairway door, was too quick for him.

“What do you want now?” she demanded.

“I — I want you to scratch my back,” said Taddy.

As he had often come to her with this innocent request,
after undressing for bed, he did not see why the excuse
would not pass as readily as the previous one of somnambulism.


Page 24
But Mrs. Ducklow was in no mood to be trifled

“I 'll scratch your back for ye!” And seizing her rattan,
she laid it smartly on the troublesome part, to the
terror and pain of poor Taddy, who concluded that too
much of a good thing was decidedly worse than nothing.
“There, you sir, that 's a scratching that 'll last ye for
one while!”

And giving him two or three parting cuts, not confined
to the region of the back, but falling upon the lower latitudes,
which they marked like so many geographical parallels,
she dismissed him with a sharp injunction not to let
himself be seen or heard again that night.

Taddy obeyed, and, crying himself to sleep, dreamed
that he was himself a drum, and that Mrs. Ducklow beat

“Father!” called Mrs. Ducklow to her husband, who
was at the barn, “do you know what time it is? It 's
nine o'clock! I would n't think of going over there to-night;
they 'll be all locked up, and abed and asleep, like
as not.”

“Wal, I s'pose I must do as you say,” replied Mr. Ducklow,
glad of an excuse not to go, — Miss Beswick's visit
having left him in extremely low spirits.

Accordingly, after bedding down the horse and fastening
the barn, he returned to the kitchen; and soon the prosperous
couple retired to rest.

“Why, how res'less you be!” exclaimed Mrs. Ducklow,
in the middle of the night. “What 's the reason ye can't

“I don't know,” groaned Mr. Ducklow. “I can't help
thinkin' o' Miss Beswick. I never was so worked at any
little thing.”

“Well, well! forget it, father; and do go to sleep!”


Page 25

“I feel I ought to have gone over to Reuben's! And I
should have gone, if 't had n't been for you.”

“Now how unreasonable to blame me!” said Mrs.
Ducklow. “Ye might have gone; I only reminded ye
how late it was.”

Mr. Ducklow groaned, and turned over. He tried to
forget Miss Beswick, Reuben, and the bonds, and at last he
fell asleep.

“Father!” whispered Mrs. Ducklow, awaking him.

“What 's the matter?”

“I think — I 'm pretty sure — hark! I heard something
sounded like somebody gitting into the kitchen

“It 's your narvousness.” Yet Mr. Ducklow listened
for further indications of burglary. “Why can't ye be
quiet and go to sleep, as you said to me?”

“I 'm sure I heard something! Anybody might have
looked through the blinds and seen us putting — you
know — under the carpet.”

“Nonsense! 't a'n't at all likely.”

But Mr. Ducklow was more alarmed than he was willing
to confess. He succeeded in quieting his wife's apprehensions;
but at the same time the burden of solicitude and
wakefulness seemed to pass from her mind only to rest
upon his own. She soon after fell asleep; but he lay
awake, hearing burglars in all parts of the house for an
hour longer.

“What now?” suddenly exclaimed Mrs. Ducklow, starting
up in bed.

“I thought I might as well git up and satisfy myself,”
replied her husband, in a low, agitated voice.

He had risen, and was groping his way to the kitchen.

“Is there anything?” she inquired, after listening long


Page 26
with chilling blood, expecting at each moment to hear him
knocked down or throttled.

He made no reply, but presently came gliding softly
back again.

“I can't find nothin'. But I never in all my life heard
the floors creak so! I could have sworn there was somebody
walkin' over 'em!”

“I guess you 're a little excited, a'n't ye?”

“No, — I got over that; but I did hear noises!”

Mr. Ducklow, returning to his pillow, dismissed his
fears, and once more composed his mind for slumber.
But the burden of which he had temporarily relieved his
wife now returned with redoubled force to the bosom of
that virtuous lady. It seemed as if there was only a certain
amount of available sleep in the house, and that,
when one had it, the other must go without; while at the
same time a swarm of fears perpetually buzzed in and out
of the mind, whose windows wakefulness left open.

“Father!” said Mrs. Ducklow, giving him a violent

“Hey? what?” — arousing from his first sound sleep.

“Don't you smell something burning?”

Ducklow snuffed; Mrs. Ducklow snuffed; they sat up
in bed, and snuffed vivaciously in concert.

“No, I can't say I do. Did you?”

“Jest as plain as ever I smelt anything in my life! But
I don't so” — snuff, snuff — “not quite so distinct now.”

“Seems to me I do smell somethin',” said Mr. Ducklow,
imagination coming to his aid. “It can't be the matches,
can it?”

“I thought of the matches, but I certainly covered 'em
up tight.”

They snuffed again, — first one, then the other, — now a
series of quick, short snuffs, then one long, deep snuff, then


Page 27
a snuff by both together, as if by uniting their energies,
like two persons pulling at a rope, they might accomplish
what neither was equal to singly.

“Good heavens!” exclaimed Mr. Ducklow.

“Why, what, father?”

“It 's Thaddeus! He 's been walkin' in his sleep.
That 's what we heard. And now he 's got the matches
and set the house afire!”

He bounded out of bed; he went stumbling over the
chairs in the kitchen, and clattering among the tins in the
pantry, and rushing blindly and wildly up the kitchen
stairs, only to find the matches all right, Taddy fast asleep,
and no indications anywhere, either to eye or nostril, of
anything burning.

“'T was all your imagination, mother.”

My imagination! You was jest as frightened as I was.
I 'm sure I can't tell what it was I smelt; I can't smell it
now. Did you feel for the — you know what?”

Mrs. Ducklow seemed to think there were evil ones listening,
and it was dangerous to mention by name what was
uppermost in the minds of both.

“I wish you would jest put your hand and see if they 're
all right; for I 've thought several times I heard somebody
taking on 'em out.”

Mr. Ducklow had been troubled by similar fancies; so,
getting down on his knees, he felt in the dark for the bonds.

“Good gracious!” he ejaculated.

“What now?” cried Mrs. Ducklow. “They a'n't gone,
be they? You don't say they 're gone!”

“Sure 's the world! — No, here they be! I did n't feel
in the right place.”

“How you did frighten me! My heart almost hopped
out of my mouth!” Indeed, the shock was sufficient to
keep the good woman awake the rest of the night.


Page 28

4. IV.

Daylight the next morning dissipated their doubts, and
made both feel that they had been the victims of unnecessary
and foolish alarms.

“I hope ye won't git so worked up another night,” said
Mr. Ducklow. “It 's no use. We might live in the house
a hundred years, and never hear of a robber or a fire. Ye
only excite yerself, and keep me awake.”

“I should like to know if you did n't git excited, and rob
me of my sleep jest as much as I did you!” retorted the
indignant housewife.

“You began it; you fust put it into my head. But
never mind; it can't be helped now. Le' 's have breakfast
as soon as ye can; then I 'll run over and see Reuben.”

“Why not harness up, and let me ride over with ye?”

“Very well; mabby that 'll be the best way. Come,
Taddy, ye must wake up. Fly round. You 'll have lots o'
chores to do this mornin'.”

“What 's the matter 'th my breeches?” snarled Taddy.
“Some plaguy thing 's stuck to 'em!”

It was Mrs. Ducklow's apron, trailing behind him at
half-mast, — at sight of which, and of Taddy turning round
and round to look at it, like a kitten in pursuit of her own
tail, Ducklow burst into a loud laugh.

“Wal, wal, mother! you 've done it! You 're dressed
for meetin' now, Taddy!”

“I do declare!” said Mrs. Ducklow, mortified. “I
can't, for the life of me, see what there is so very funny
about it!” And she hastened to cut short Taddy's trail
and her husband's laughter with a pair of scissors.


Page 29

After breakfast the Ducklows set off in the one-horse
wagon, leaving Taddy to take care of the house during their
absence. That each felt secretly uneasy about the coupon
bonds cannot be denied; but, after the experiences of the
night and the recriminations of the morning, they were unwilling
to acknowledge their fears even to themselves, and
much less to each other; so the precious papers were left
hidden under the carpet.

“Safe enough, in all conscience!” said Mr. Ducklow.

“Taddy! Taddy! now mind!” Mrs. Ducklow repeated
for the twentieth time. “Don't you leave the house, and
don't you touch the matches nor the fire, and don't go to
ransacking the rooms neither. You won't, will ye?”

“No 'm,” answered Taddy, also for the twentieth time, —
secretly resolved, all the while, to take advantage of their
absence, and discover, if possible, what Mr. Ducklow brought
home last night in his boot-leg.

The Ducklows had intended to show their zeal and affection
by making Reuben an early visit. They were somewhat
chagrined, therefore, to find several neighbors already
arrived to pay their respects to the returned soldier. The
fact that Miss Beswick was among the number did not
serve greatly to heighten their spirits.

“I 've as good a notion to turn round and go straight
home again as ever I had to eat!” muttered Mrs. Ducklow.

“It 's too late now,” said her husband, advancing with
a show of confidence and cordiality he did not feel. “Wal,
Reuben! glad to see ye! glad to see ye! This is a joyful
day I scurce ever expected to see! Why, ye don't look so
sick as I thought ye would! Does he, mother?”

“Dear me!” said Mrs. Ducklow, her woman's nature,
and perhaps her old motherly feelings for their adopted
son, deeply moved by the sight of his changed and wasted


Page 30
aspect. “I 'd no idee he could be so very, so very pale
and thin! Had you, Sophrony?”

“I don't know what I thought,” said the young wife,
standing by, watching her returned volunteer with features
surcharged with emotion, — deep suffering and sympathy,
suffused and lighted up by love and joy. “I only know I
have him now! He has come home! He shall never
leave me again, — never!”

“But was n't it terrible to see him brought home so?”
whispered Mrs. Ducklow.

“Yes, it was! But, oh, I was so thankful! I felt the
worst was over; and I had him again! I can nurse him
now. He is no longer hundreds of miles away, among
strangers, where I cannot go to him, — though I should
have gone long ago, as you know, if I could have raised the
means, and if it had n't been for the children.”

“I — I — Mr. Ducklow would have tried to help you to
the means, and I would have taken the children, if we had
thought it best for you to go,” said Mrs. Ducklow. “But
you see now it was n't best, don't you?”

“Whether it was or not, I don't complain. I am too
happy to-day to complain of anything. To see him home
again! But I have dreamt so often that he came home,
and woke up to find it was only a dream, I 'm half afraid
now to be as happy as I might be.”

“Be as happy as you please, Sophrony!” spoke up
Reuben, who had seemed to be listening to Mr. Ducklow's
apologies for not coming over the night before, while he
was in reality straining his ear to catch every word his
wife was saying. He was dressed in his uniform and lying
on a lounge, supported by pillows. “I 'm just where I
want to be, of all places in this world, — or the next world
either, I may say; for I can't conceive of any greater
heaven than I 'm in now. I 'm going to get well, too, spite


Page 31
of the doctors. Coming home is the best medicine for a
fellow in my condition. Not bad to take, either! Stand
here, Ruby, my boy, and let yer daddy look at ye again!
To think that 's my Ruby, Pa Ducklow! Why, he was a
mere baby when I went away!”

“Reuben! Reuben!” entreated the young wife, leaning
over him, “you are talking too much. You promised me
you would n't, you know.”

“Well, well, I won't. But when a fellow's heart is chockfull,
it 's hard to shut down on it sometimes. Don't look
so, friends, as if ye pitied me! I a'n't to be pitied. I 'll bet
there is n't one of ye half as happy as I am at this minute!”

“Here 's Miss Beswick, Mother Ducklow,” said Sophronia.
“Have n't you noticed her?”

“Oh! how do you do, Miss Beswick?” said Mrs. Ducklow,
appearing surprised.

“Tryin' to keep out o' the way, and make myself useful,”
replied Miss Beswick, stiffly.

“I don't know what I should do without her,” said
Sophronia, as the tall spinster disappeared. “She took
right hold and helped me last night; then she came in
again the first thing this morning. `Go to your husband,'
says she to me; `don't leave him a minute. I know he
don't want ye out of his sight, — and you don't want to
be out of his sight, either; so you 'tend right to him, and
I 'll do the work. There 'll be enough folks comin' in to
hender, but I 've come in to help,' says she. And here
she 's been ever since, hard at work; for when Miss Beswick
says a thing, there 's no use opposing her, — that you
know, Mother Ducklow.”

“Yes, she likes to have her own way,” said Mrs. Ducklow,
with a peculiar pucker.

“It seems she called at the door last night to tell you
Reuben had come.”


Page 32

“Called at the door! Did n't she tell you she came in
and made us a visit?”

“No, indeed! Did she?”

Mrs. Ducklow concluded, that, if nothing had been said
on that subject, she might as well remain silent; so she
merely remarked, —

“O yes, a visit, — for her. She a'n't no great hand to
make long stops, ye know.”

“Only when she 's needed,” said Sophronia; “then she
never thinks of going as long as she sees anything to do.
Reuben! you must n't talk, Reuben!”

“I was saying,” remarked Neighbor Jepworth, “it 'll be
too bad now, if you have to give up this place; but he —”

Sophronia, unseen by her husband, made anxious signs to
the speaker to avoid so distressing a topic in the invalid's

“We are not going to worry about that,” she hastened
to say. “After we have been favored by Providence so far
and in such extraordinary ways, we think we can afford to
trust still further. We have all we can think of and attend
to to-day; and the future will take care of itself.”

“That 's right; that 's the way to talk!” said Mr. Ducklow.
“Providence 'll take care of ye, you may be sure!”

“I should think you might get Ditson to renew the
mortgage,” observed Neighbor Ferring. “He can't be
hard on you, under such circumstances. And he can't be
so foolish as to want the money. There 's no security like
real estate. If I had money to invest, I would n't put it
into anything else.”

“Nor I,” said Mr. Ducklow; “nothin' like real estate!”
— with an expression of profound conviction.

“What do you think of Gov'ment bonds?” asked Neighbor

“I don't know.” Mr. Ducklow scratched his cheek and


Page 33
wrinkled his brow with an expression of thoughtfulness and
candor. “I have n't given much attention to the subject.
It may be a patriotic duty to lend to Gov'ment, if one has
the funds to spare.”

“Yes,” said Jepworth, warming. “When we consider
that every dollar we lend to Government goes to carry on
the war, and put down this cursed Rebellion —”

“And to pay off the soldiers,” put in Reuben, raising
himself on his elbow. “Nobody knows the sufferings of
soldiers and soldiers' families on account of the Government's
inability to pay them off. If that subject was felt
and understood as some I know feel and understand it,
I 'm sure every right-minded man with fifty dollars to spare
would make haste to lend it to Uncle Sam. I tell ye, I
got a little excited on this subject, coming on in the cars.
I heard a gentleman complaining of the Government for
not paying off its creditors; he did n't say so much about
the soldiers, but he thought contractors ought to have
their claims settled at once. At the same time he said he
had had twenty thousand dollars lying idle for two months,
not knowing what to do with it, but had finally concluded
to invest it in railroad stock. `Have ye any Government
stock?' said his friend. `Not a dollar's worth,' said he;
`I 'm afraid of it.' Sick as I was, I could n't lie and hear
that. `And do you know the reason,' said I, `why Government
cannot pay off its creditors? I 'll tell ye,' said I.
`It is because it has n't the money. And it has n't the
money, because such men as you, who have your thousands
lying idle, refuse to lend to your country, because
you are afraid. That 's the extent of your patriotism: you
are afraid! What do you think of us who have gone into
the war, and been willing to risk everything, — not only
our business and our property, but life and limb? I 've
ruined myself personally,' said I, `lost my property and


Page 34
my health, to be of service to my country. I don't regret
it, — though I should never recover, I shall not regret it.
I 'm a tolerably patient, philosophical sort of fellow; but I
have n't patience nor philosophy enough to hear such men
as you abuse the Government for not doing what it 's your
duty to assist it in doing.'”

“Good for you, Reuben!” exclaimed Mr. Ducklow, who
really felt obliged to the young soldier for placing the previous
day's investment in such a strong patriotic light.
(“I 've only done my duty to Gov'ment, let Miss Beswick
say what she will,” thought he.) “You wound him up, I
guess. Fact, you state the case so well, Reuben, I believe,
if I had any funds to spare, I should n't hesitate a minute,
but go right off and invest in Gov'ment bonds.”

“That might be well enough, if you did it from a sense
of duty,” said Neighbor Ferring, who was something of a
croaker, and not much of a patriot. “But as an investment,
't would be the wust ye could make.”

“Ye think so?” said Mr. Ducklow, with quick alarm.

“Certainly,” said Ferring. “Gov'ment 'll repudiate.
It 'll have to repudiate. This enormous debt never can be
paid. Your interest in gold is a temptation, jest now; but
that won't be paid much longer, and then yer bonds won't
be wuth any more 'n so much brown paper.”

“I — I don't think so,” said Mr. Ducklow, who nevertheless
turned pale, — Ferring gave his opinion in such a
positive, oracular way. “I don't believe I should be
frightened, even if I had Gov'ment securities in my hands.
I wish I had; I really wish I had a good lot o' them
bonds! Don't you, Jepworth?”

“They 're mighty resky things to have in the house,
that 's one objection to 'em,” replied Jepworth, thus adding
breath to Ducklow's already kindled alarm.

“That 's so!” said Ferring, emphatically. “I read in


Page 35
the papers almost every day about somebody's having his
cowpon bonds stole.”

“I should be more afraid of fires,” observed Jepworth.

“But there 's this to be considered in favor of fires,”
said Reuben: “if the bonds burn up, they won't have to be
paid. So what is your loss is the country's gain.”

“But is n't there any — is n't there any remedy?”
inquired Ducklow, scarcely able to sit in his chair.

“There 's no risk at all, if a man subscribes for registered
bonds,” said Reuben. “They 're like railroad stock. But
if you have the coupons, you must look out for them.”

“Why did n't I buy registered bonds?” said Ducklow to
himself. His chair was becoming like a keg of gunpowder
with a lighted fuse inserted. The familiar style of
expression — “Your bonds,” “your loss,” “you must look
out” — used by Ferring and Reuben, was not calculated to
relieve his embarrassment. He fancied that he was suspected
of owning Government securities, and that these
careless phrases were based upon that surmise. He could
keep his seat no longer.

“Wal, Reuben! I must be drivin' home, I s'pose. Left
everything at loose ends. I was in such a hurry to see ye,
and find out if there 's anything I can do for ye.”

“As for that,” said Reuben, “I 've got a trunk over in
town which could n't be brought last night. If you will
have that sent for, I 'll be obliged to ye.”

“Sartin! sartin!” And Mr. Ducklow drove away,
greatly to the relief of Mrs. Ducklow, who, listening to the
alarming conversation, and remembering the bonds under
the carpet, and the matches in the pantry, and Taddy's
propensity to mischief, felt herself (as she afterwards confessed)
“jest ready to fly.”


Page 36

5. V.

Mr. Ducklow had scarcely turned the corner of the
street, when, looking anxiously in the direction of his homestead,
he saw a column of smoke. It was directly over the
spot where he knew his house to be situated. He guessed
at a glance what had happened. The frightful catastrophe
he foreboded had befallen. Taddy had set the house afire.

“Them bonds! them bonds!” he exclaimed, distractedly.
He did not think so much of the house: house and furniture
were insured; if they were burned, the inconvenience
would be great indeed, and at any other time the thought
of such an event would have been sufficient cause for trepidation,
— but now his chief, his only anxiety was the
bonds. They were not insured. They would be a dead
loss. And what added sharpness to his pangs, they would
be a loss which he must keep a secret, as he had kept their
existence a secret, — a loss which he could not confess, and
of which he could not complain. Had he not just given
his neighbors to understand that he held no such property?
And his wife, — was she not at that very moment, if not
serving up a lie on the subject, at least paring the truth
very thin indeed?

“A man would think,” observed Ferring, “that Ducklow
had some o' them bonds on his hands, and got scaret, he
took such a sudden start. He has, — has n't he, Mrs.

“Has what?” said Mrs. Ducklow, pretending ignorance.

“Some o' them cowpon bonds. I ruther guess he 's got

“You mean Gov'ment bonds? Ducklow got some?


Page 37
'T a'n't at all likely he 'd spec'late in them, without saying
something to me about it! No, he could n't have any
without my knowing it, I 'm sure!”

How demure, how innocent she looked, plying her knitting-needles,
and stopping to take up a stitch! How little
at that moment she knew of Ducklow's trouble, and its
terrible cause!

Ducklow's first impulse was to drive on, and endeavor
at all hazards to snatch the bonds from the flames. His
next was, to return and alarm his neighbors, and obtain
their assistance. But a minute's delay might be fatal; so
he drove on, screaming, “Fire! fire!” at the top of his

But the old mare was a slow-footed animal; and Ducklow
had no whip. He reached forward and struck her
with the reins.

“Git up! git up! — Fire! fire!” screamed Ducklow.
“O, them bonds! them bonds! Why did n't I give the
money to Reuben? Fire! fire! fire!”

By dint of screaming and slapping, he urged her from
a trot into a gallop, which was scarcely an improvement as
to speed, and certainly not as to grace. It was like the
gallop of an old cow. “Why don't ye go 'long!” he cried

Slap, slap! He knocked his own hat off with the loose
ends of the reins. It fell under the wheels. He cast one
look behind, to satisfy himself that it had been very thoroughly
run over and crushed in the dirt, and left it to
its fate.

Slap, slap! “Fire, fire!” Canter, canter, canter! Neighbors
looked out of their windows, and, recognizing Ducklow's
wagon and old mare in such an astonishing plight,
and Ducklow himself, without his hat, rising from his seat,
and reaching forward in wild attitudes, brandishing the


Page 38
reins, at the same time rending the azure with yells,
thought he must be insane.

He drove to the top of the hill, and looking beyond, in
expectation of seeing his house wrapped in flames, discovered
that the smoke proceeded from a brush-heap which
his neighbor Atkins was burning in a field near by.

The revulsion of feeling that ensued was almost too much
for the excitable Ducklow. His strength went out of him.
For a little while there seemed to be nothing left of him
but tremor and cold sweat. Difficult as it had been to get
the old mare in motion, it was now even more difficult to
stop her.

“Why! what has got into Ducklow's old mare? She 's
running away with him! Who ever heard of such a
thing!” And Atkins, watching the ludicrous spectacle
from his field, became almost as weak from laughter as
Ducklow was from the effects of fear.

At length Ducklow succeeded in checking the old mare's
speed, and in turning her about. It was necessary to drive
back for his hat. By this time he could hear a chorus of
shouts, “Fire! fire! fire!” over the hill. He had aroused
the neighbors as he passed, and now they were flocking to
extinguish the flames.

“A false alarm! a false alarm!” said Ducklow, looking
marvellously sheepish as he met them. “Nothing but
Atkins's brush-heap!”

“Seems to me you ought to have found that out 'fore
you raised all creation with your yells!” said one hyperbolical
fellow. “You looked like the Flying Dutchman!
This your hat? I thought 't was a dead cat in the road.
No fire, no fire!” — turning back to his comrades, — “only
one of Ducklow's jokes.”

Nevertheless, two or three boys there were who would
not be convinced, but continued to leap up, swing their


Page 39
caps, and scream “Fire!” against all remonstrance.
Ducklow did not wait to enter into explanations, but, turning
the old mare about again, drove home amid the laughter
of the bystanders and the screams of the misguided
youngsters. As he approached the house, he met Taddy
rushing wildly up the street.

“Thaddeus! Thaddeus! where ye goin', Thaddeus?”

“Goin' to the fire!” cried Taddy.

“There a'n't any fire, boy!”

“Yes, there is! Did n't ye hear 'em? They 've been
yellin' like fury.”

“It 's nothin' but Atkins's brush.”

“That all?” And Taddy appeared very much disappointed.
“I thought there was goin' to be some fun. I
wonder who was such a fool as to yell fire jest for a darned
old brush-heap!”

Ducklow did not inform him.

“I 've got to drive over to town and git Reuben's trunk.
You stand by the mare while I step in and brush my hat.”

Instead of applying himself at once to the restoration of
his beaver, he hastened to the sitting-room, to see that the
bonds were safe.

“Heavens and 'arth!” said Ducklow.

The chair, which had been carefully planted in the spot
where they were concealed, had been removed. Three or
four tacks had been taken out, and the carpet pushed from
the wall. There was straw scattered about. Evidently
Taddy had been interrupted, in the midst of his ransacking,
by the alarm of fire. Indeed, he was even now creeping
into the house to see what notice Ducklow would take
of these evidences of his mischief.

In great trepidation the farmer thrust in his hand here
and there, and groped, until he found the envelope precisely
where it had been placed the night before, with the tape


Page 40
tied around it, which his wife had put on to prevent its
contents from slipping out and losing themselves. Great
was the joy of Ducklow. Great also was the wrath of him
when he turned and discovered Taddy.

“Did n't I tell you to stand by the old mare?”

“She won't stir,” said Taddy, shrinking away again.

“Come here!” And Ducklow grasped him by the collar.
“What have you been doin'? Look at that!”

“'T wa'n't me!” — beginning to whimper, and ram his
fists into his eyes.

“Don't tell me 't wa'n't you!” Ducklow shook him till
his teeth chattered. “What was you pullin' up the carpet

“Lost a marble!” snivelled Taddy.

“Lost a marble! Ye did n't lose it under the carpet,
did ye? Look at all that straw pulled out!” — shaking
him again.

“Did n't know but it might 'a' got under the carpet,
marbles roll so,” explained Taddy, as soon as he could get
his breath.

“Wal, sir!” Ducklow administered a resounding box
on his ear. “Don't you do such a thing again, if you lose
a million marbles!”

“Ha'n't got a million!” Taddy wept, rubbing his cheek.
“Ha'n't got but four! Won't ye buy me some to-day?”

“Go to that mare, and don't you leave her again till I
come, or I 'll marble ye in a way you won't like!”

Understanding, by this somewhat equivocal form of expression,
that flagellation was threatened, Taddy obeyed,
still feeling his smarting and burning ear.

Ducklow was in trouble. What should he do with the
bonds? The floor was no place for them, after what had
happened, and he remembered too well the experience of
yesterday to think for a moment of carrying them about


Page 41
his person. With unreasonable impatience, his mind
reverted to Mrs. Ducklow.

“Why a'n't she to home? These women are forever
a-gaddin'! I wish Reuben's trunk was in Jericho!”

Thinking of the trunk reminded him of one in the garret,
filled with old papers of all sorts, — newspapers, letters,
bills of sale, children's writing-books, — accumulations of
the past quarter of a century. Neither fire nor burglar
nor ransacking youngster had ever molested those ancient
records during all those five-and-twenty years. A bright
thought struck him.

“I 'll slip the bonds down into that wuthless heap o'
rubbish, where no one 'u'd ever think o' lookin' for 'em, and
resk 'em.”

Having assured himself that Taddy was standing by the
wagon, he paid a hasty visit to the trunk in the garret, and
concealed the envelope, still bound in its band of tape,
among the papers. He then drove away, giving Taddy a
final charge to beware of setting anything afire.

He had driven about half a mile when he met a pedler.
There was nothing unusual or alarming in such a circumstance,
surely; but as Ducklow kept on, it troubled him.

“He 'll stop to the house now, most likely, and want to
trade. Findin' nobody but Taddy, there 's no knowin'
what he 'll be tempted to do. But I a'n't a-goin' to worry.
I 'll defy anybody to find them bonds. Besides, she may
be home by this time. I guess she 'll hear of the fire-alarm,
and hurry home: it 'll be jest like her. She 'll be
there, — and — trade with the pedler?” thought Ducklow,
uneasily. Then a frightful fancy possessed him. “She
has threatened two or three times to sell that trunkful of
old papers. He 'll offer a big price for 'em, and ten to one
she 'll let him have 'em. Why did n't I consider on 't?
What a stupid blunderbuss I be!”


Page 42

As Ducklow thought of it he felt almost certain that
Mrs. Ducklow had returned home, and that she was bargaining
with the pedler at that moment. He fancied her
smilingly receiving bright tin-ware for the old papers; and
he could see the tape-tied envelope going into the bag with
the rest. The result was that he turned about and whipped
the old mare home again in terrific haste, to catch the
departing pedler.

Arriving, he found the house as he had left it, and Taddy
occupied in making a kite-frame.

“Did that pedler stop here?”

“I ha'n't seen no pedler.”

“And ha'n't yer Ma Ducklow been home, neither?”


And with a guilty look, Taddy put the kite-frame behind

Ducklow considered. The pedler had turned up a cross-street:
he would probably turn down again and stop at the
house after all: Mrs. Ducklow might by that time be at
home: then the sale of old papers would very likely
take place. Ducklow thought of leaving word that he did
not wish any old papers in the house to be sold, but feared
the request might excite Taddy's suspicions.

“I don't see no way but for me to take the bonds with
me,” thought he, with an inward groan.

He accordingly went to the garret, took the envelope
out of the trunk, and placed it in the breast-pocket of his
overcoat, to which he pinned it, to prevent it by any
chance from getting out. He used six large, strong pins
for the purpose, and was afterwards sorry he did not use

“There 's suthin' losin' out of yer pocket!” bawled
Taddy, as he was once more mounting the wagon.

Quick as lightning, Ducklow clapped his hand to his


Page 43
breast. In doing so, he loosed his hold of the wagon-box
and fell, raking his shin badly on the wheel.

“Yer side-pocket! it 's one o' yer mittens!” said Taddy.

“You rascal! how you scaret me!”

Seating himself in the wagon, Ducklow gently pulled up
his trousers-leg to look at the bruised part.

“Got anything in yer boot-leg to-day, Pa Ducklow?”
asked Taddy, innocently.

“Yes, a barked shin! — all on your account, too! Go
and put that straw back, and fix the carpet; and don't ye
let me hear ye speak of my boot-leg again, or I 'll boot-leg

So saying, Ducklow departed.

Instead of repairing the mischief he had done in the
sitting-room, Taddy devoted his time and talents to the
more interesting occupation of constructing his kite-frame.
He worked at that, until Mr. Grantley, the minister, driving
by, stopped to inquire how the folks were.

“A'n't to home may I ride?” cried Taddy, all in a breath.

Mr. Grantley was an indulgent old gentleman, fond of
children; so he said, “Jump in”; and in a minute Taddy
had scrambled to a seat by his side.

6. VI.

And now occurred a circumstance which Ducklow had
foreseen. The alarm of fire had reached Reuben's; and
although the report of its falseness followed immediately,
Mrs. Ducklow's inflammable fancy was so kindled by it
that she could find no comfort in prolonging her visit.


Page 44

“Mr. Ducklow 'll be going for the trunk, and I must go
home and see to things, Taddy 's such a fellow for mischief!
I can foot it; I sha' n't mind it.”

And off she started, walking herself out of breath in her

She reached the brow of the hill just in time to see a
chaise drive away from her own door.

“Who can that be? I wonder if Taddy 's there to guard
the house! If anything should happen to them bonds!”

Out of breath as she was, she quickened her pace, and
trudged on, flushed, perspiring, panting, until she reached
the house.

“Thaddeus!” she called.

No Taddy answered. She went in. The house was deserted.
And lo! the carpet torn up and the bonds abstracted.

Mr. Ducklow never would have made such work, removing
the bonds. Then somebody else must have taken
them, she reasoned.

“The man in the chaise!” she exclaimed, or rather
made an effort to exclaim, succeeding only in bringing forth
a hoarse, gasping sound. Fear dried up articulation. Vox
faucibus hœsit.

And Taddy? He had disappeared; been murdered, perhaps,
— or gagged and carried away by the man in the

Mrs. Ducklow flew hither and thither, (to use a favorite
phrase of her own), “like a hen with her head cut off”;
then rushed out of the house, and up the street, screaming
after the chaise, —

“Murder! murder! Stop thief! stop thief!”

She waved her hands aloft in the air frantically. If she
had trudged before, now she trotted, now she cantered:
but if the cantering of the old mare was fitly likened to


Page 45
that of a cow, to what thing, to what manner of motion
under the sun, shall we liken the cantering of Mrs. Ducklow?
It was original; it was unique; it was prodigious.
Now, with her frantically waving hands, and all her undulating
and flapping skirts, she seemed a species of huge,
unwieldy bird attempting to fly. Then she sank down into
a heavy, dragging walk, — breath and strength all gone, —
no voice left even to scream murder. Then the awful realization
of the loss of the bonds once more rushing over
her, she started up again. “Half running, half flying,
what progress she made!” Then Atkins's dog saw her,
and, naturally mistaking her for a prodigy, came out at
her, bristling up and bounding and barking terrifically.

“Come here!” cried Atkins, following the dog.
“What 's the matter? What 's to pay, Mrs. Ducklow?”

Attempting to speak, the good woman could only pant
and wheeze.

“Robbed!” she at last managed to whisper, amid the
yelpings of the cur that refused to be silenced.

“Robbed? How? Who?”

“The chaise! Ketch it!”

Her gestures expressed more than her words; and Atkins's
horse and wagon, with which he had been drawing
out brush, being in the yard near by, he ran to them,
leaped to the seat, drove into the road, took Mrs. Ducklow
aboard, and set out in vigorous pursuit of the slow two-wheeled

“Stop, you, sir! Stop, you, sir!” shrieked Mrs. Ducklow,
having recovered her breath by the time they came up
with the chaise.

It stopped, and Mr. Grantley the minister put out his
good-natured, surprised face.

“You 've robbed my house! You 've took —”

Mrs. Ducklow was going on in wild, accusatory accents,
when she recognized the benign countenance.


Page 46

“What do you say? I have robbed you?” he exclaimed,
very much astonished.

“No, no! not you! You would n't do such a thing!”
she stammered forth, while Atkins, who had laughed himself
weak at Mr. Ducklow's plight earlier in the morning,
now went off into a side-ache at Mrs. Ducklow's ludicrous
mistake. “But did you — did you stop at my house?
Have you seen our Thaddeus?”

“Here I be, Ma Ducklow!” piped a small voice; and
Taddy, who had till then remained hidden, fearing punishment,
peeped out of the chaise from behind the broad back
of the minister.

“Taddy! Taddy! how came the carpet —”

“I pulled it up, huntin' for a marble,” said Taddy, as
she paused, overmastered by her emotions.

“And the — the thing tied up in a yaller wrapper?”

“Pa Ducklow took it.”

“Ye sure?”

“Yes, I seen him!”

“O dear!” said Mrs. Ducklow, “I never was so beat!
Mr. Grantley, I hope — excuse me — I did n't know what
I was about! Taddy, you notty boy, what did you leave
the house for? Be ye quite sure yer Pa Ducklow —”

Taddy repeated that he was quite sure, as he climbed
from the chaise into Atkins's wagon. The minister smilingly
remarked that he hoped she would find no robbery
had been committed, and went his way. Atkins, driving
back, and setting her and Taddy down at the Ducklow
gate, answered her embarrassed “Much obleeged to ye,”
with a sincere “Not at all,” considering the fun he had
had a sufficient compensation for his trouble. And thus
ended the morning's adventures, with the exception of an
unimportant episode, in which Taddy, Mrs. Ducklow, and
Mrs. Ducklow's rattan were the principal actors.


Page 47

7. VII.

At noon Mr. Ducklow returned.

“Did ye take the bonds?” was his wife's first question.

“Of course I did! Ye don't suppose I 'd go away and
leave 'em in the house, not knowin' when you 'd be comin'

“Wal, I did n't know. And I did n't know whuther to
believe Taddy or not. O, I 've had such a fright!”

And she related the story of her pursuit of the minister.

“How could ye make such a fool of yerself? It 'll git
all over town, and I shall be mortified to death. Jest like
a woman to git frightened!”

“If you had n't got frightened, and made a fool of yourself,
yellin' fire, 't would n't have happened!” retorted
Mrs. Ducklow.

“Wal! wal! say no more about it! The bonds are

“I was in hopes you 'd change 'em for them registered
bonds Reuben spoke of.”

“I did try to, but they told me to the bank it could n't
be did. Then I asked 'em if they would keep 'em for
me, and they said they would n't object to lockin' on 'em
up in their safe; but they would n't give me no receipt,
nor hold themselves responsible for 'em. I did n't know
what else to do, so I handed 'em the bonds to keep.”

“I want to know if you did now!” exclaimed Mrs.
Ducklow, disapprovingly.

“Why not? What else could I do? I did n't want to
lug 'em around with me forever. And as for keepin' 'em


Page 48
hid in the house, we 've tried that!” and Ducklow unfolded
his weekly newspaper.

Mrs. Ducklow was placing the dinner on the table, with
a look which seemed to say, “I would n't have left the
bonds in the bank; my judgment would have been better
than all that. If they are lost, I sha' n't be to blame!”
when suddenly Ducklow started and uttered a cry of consternation
over his newspaper.

“Why, what have ye found?”

“Bank robbery!”

“Not your bank? Not the bank where your bonds — ”

“Of course not; but in the very next town! The safe
blown open with gunpowder! Five thousand dollars in
Gov'ment bonds stole!”

“How strange!” said Mrs. Ducklow. “Now what did
I tell ye?”

“I believe you 're right,” cried Ducklow, starting to his
feet. “They 'll be safer in my own house, or even in my
own pocket!”

“If you was going to put 'em in any safe, why not put
'em in Josiah's? He 's got a safe, ye know.”

“So he has! We might drive over there and make a
visit Monday, and ask him to lock up — yes, we might
tell him and Laury all about it, and leave 'em in their

“So we might!” said Mrs. Ducklow.

Laura was their daughter and Josiah her husband, in
whose honor and sagacity they placed unlimited confidence.
The plan was resolved upon at once.

“To-morrow 's Sunday,” said Ducklow, pacing the floor.
“If we leave the bonds in the bank over night, they must
stay there till Monday.”

“And Sunday is jest the day for burglars to operate!”
added Mrs. Ducklow.


Page 49

I 've a good notion — let me see!” said Ducklow,
looking at the clock. “Twenty minutes after twelve!
Bank closes at two! An hour and a half, — I believe I
could git there in an hour and a half. I will. I 'll take a
bite and drive right back.”

Which he accordingly did, and brought the tape-tied
envelope home with him again. That night he slept with
it under his pillow. The next day was Sunday; and although
Mr. Ducklow did not like to have the bonds on his
mind during sermon-time, and Mrs. Ducklow “dreaded
dreadfully,” as she said, “to look the minister in the face,”
they concluded that it was best, on the whole, to go to
meeting, and carry the bonds. With the envelope once
more in his breast-pocket (stitched in this time by Mrs.
Ducklow's own hand), the farmer sat under the droppings
of the sanctuary, and stared up at the good minister, but
without hearing a word of the discourse, his mind was so
engrossed by worldly cares, until the preacher exclaimed
vehemently, looking straight at Ducklow's pew, —

“What said Paul? `I would to God that not only thou,
but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and
altogether such as I am, except these bonds.' `Except these
'!” he repeated, striking the Bible. “Can you, my
hearers, — can you say with Paul, `Would that all were
as I am, except these bonds'?

A point which seemed for a moment so personal to himself,
that Ducklow was filled with confusion, and would
certainly have stammered out some foolish answer, had not
the preacher passed on to other themes. As it was, Ducklow
contented himself with glancing around to see if the
congregation was looking at him, and carelessly passing his
hand across his breast-pocket to make sure the bonds were
still there.

Early the next morning, the old mare was harnessed,


Page 50
and Taddy's adopted parents set out to visit their daughter,
— Mrs. Ducklow having postponed her washing for the
purpose. It was afternoon when they arrived at their
journey's end. Laura received them joyfully, but Josiah
was not expected home until evening. Mr. Ducklow put
the old mare in the barn, and fed her, and then went in to
dinner, feeling very comfortable indeed.

“Josiah 's got a nice place here. That 's about as slick
a little barn as ever I see. Always does me good to come
over here and see you gittin' along so nicely, Laury.”

“I wish you 'd come oftener, then,” said Laura.

“Wal, it 's hard leavin' home, ye know. Have to git
one of the Atkins boys to come and sleep with Taddy the
night we 're away.”

“We should n't have come to-day, if 't had n't been for
me,” remarked Mrs. Ducklow. “Says I to your father, says
I, `I feel as if I wanted to go over and see Laury; it seems
an age since I 've seen her,' says I. `Wal,' says he, `s'pos'n'
we go!' says he. That was only last Saturday; and this
morning we started.”

“And it 's no fool of a job to make the journey with the
old mare!” said Ducklow.

“Why don't you drive a better horse?” said Laura,
whose pride was always touched when her parents came to
visit her with the old mare and the one-horse wagon.

“O, she answers my purpose. Hoss-flesh is high, Laury.
Have to economize, these times.”

“I 'm sure there 's no need of your economizing!”
exclaimed Laura, leading the way to the dining-room.
“Why don't you use your money, and have the good of it?”

“So I tell him,” said Mrs. Ducklow, faintly. — “Why,
Laura! I did n't want you to be to so much trouble to git
dinner jest for us! A bite would have answered. Do see,


Page 51

8. VIII.

At evening Josiah came home; and it was not until then
that Ducklow mentioned the subject which was foremost
in his thoughts.

“What do ye think o' Gov'ment bonds, Josiah?” he
incidentally inquired, after supper.

“First-rate!” said Josiah.

“About as safe as anything, a'n't they?” said Ducklow,

“Safe?” cried Josiah. “Just look at the resources
of this country! Nobody has begun to appreciate the
power and undeveloped wealth of these United States.
It 's a big rebellion, I know; but we 're going to put it
down. It 'll leave us a big debt, very sure; but we handle
it now as easy as that child lifts that stool. It makes him
grunt and stagger a little, not because he is n't strong
enough for it, but because he don't understand his own
strength, or how to use it: he 'll have twice the strength,
and know just how to apply it, in a little while. Just so
with this country. It makes me laugh to hear folks talk
about repudiation and bankruptcy.”

“But s'pos'n' we do put down the rebellion, and the
States come back: then what 's to hender the South, and
Secesh sympathizers in the North, from j'inin' hands and
votin' that the debt sha' n't be paid?”

“Don't you worry about that! Do ye suppose we 're
going to be such fools as to give the rebels, after we 've
whipped 'em, the same political power they had before the
war? Not by a long chalk! Sooner than that we 'll put
the ballot into the hands of the freedmen. They 're our


Page 52
friends. They 've fought on the right side, and they 'll
vote on the right side. I tell ye, spite of all the prejudice
there is against black skins, we a'n't such a nation of ninnies
as to give up all we 're fighting for, and leave our
best friends and allies, not to speak of our own interests, in
the hands of our enemies.”

“You consider Gov'ments a good investment, then, do
ye?” said Ducklow, growing radiant.

“I do, decidedly, — the very best. Besides, you help
the Government; and that 's no small consideration.”

“So I thought. But how is it about the cowpon bonds?
A'n't they ruther ticklish property to have in the house?”

“Well, I don't know. Think how many years you 'll
keep old bills and documents and never dream of such a
thing as losing them! There 's not a bit more danger
with the bonds. I should n't want to carry 'em around
with me, to any great amount, — though I did once carry
three thousand-dollar bonds in my pocket for a week. I
did n't mind it.”

“Curi's!” said Ducklow: “I 've got three thousan'dollar
bonds in my pocket this minute!”

“Well, it 's so much good property,” said Josiah, appearing
not at all surprised at the circumstance.

“Seems to me, though, if I had a safe, as you have, I
should lock 'em up in it.”

“I was travelling that week. I locked 'em up pretty
soon after I got home, though.”

“Suppose,” said Ducklow, as if the thought had but
just occurred to him, — “suppose you put my bonds into
your safe: I shall feel easier.”

“Of course,” replied Josiah. “I 'll keep 'em for you, if
you like.”

“It will be an accommodation. They 'll be safe, will


Page 53

“Safe as mine are; safe as anybody's: I 'll insure 'em
for twenty-five cents.”

Ducklow was happy. Mrs. Ducklow was happy. She
took her husband's coat, and with a pair of scissors cut the
threads that stitched the envelope to the pocket.

“Have you torn off the May coupons?” asked Josiah.


“Well, you 'd better. They 'll be payable now soon;
and if you take them, you won't have to touch the bonds
again till the interest on the November coupons is due.”

“A good idee!” said Ducklow.

He took the envelope, untied the tape, and removed the
contents. Suddenly the glow of comfort, the gleam of
satisfaction, faded from his countenance.

“Hello! What ye got there?” cried Josiah.

“Why, father! massy sakes!” exclaimed Mrs. Ducklow.

As for Ducklow himself, he could not utter a word; but,
dumb with consternation, he looked again in the envelope,
and opened and turned inside out, and shook, with
trembling hands, its astonishing contents. The bonds
were not there: they had been stolen, and three copies of
the “Sunday Visitor” had been inserted in their place.

9. IX.

Very early on the following morning a dismal-faced,
middle-aged couple might have been seen riding away from
Josiah's house. It was the Ducklows returning home,
after their fruitless, their worse than fruitless, journey.
No entreaties could prevail upon them to prolong their


Page 54
visit. It was with difficulty even that they had been prevented
from setting off immediately on the discovery of
their loss, and travelling all night, in their impatience to
get upon the track of the missing bonds.

“There 'll be not the least use in going to-night,” Josiah
had said. “If they were stolen at the bank, you can't do
anything about it till to-morrow. And even if they were
taken from your own house, I don't see what 's to be gained
now by hurrying back. You may just as well take it easy,
— go to bed and sleep on 't, and get a fresh start in the

So, much against their inclination, the unfortunate owners
of the abstracted bonds retired to the luxurious chamber
Laura gave them, and lay awake all night, groaning
and sighing, wondering and surmising, and (I regret to
add) blaming each other. So true it is, that “modern
conveniences,” hot and cold water all over the house, a
pier-glass, and the most magnificently canopied couch,
avail nothing to give tranquillity to the harassed mind.
Hitherto the Ducklows had felt great satisfaction in the
style their daughter, by her marriage, was enabled to support.
To brag of her nice house and furniture and two
servants was almost as good as possessing them. Remembering
her rich dining-room and silver service and porcelain,
they were proud. Such things were enough for the honor
of the family; and, asking nothing for themselves, they
slept well in their humblest of bedchambers, and sipped
their tea contentedly out of clumsy earthen. But that
night the boasted style in which their “darter” lived was
less appreciated than formerly; fashion and splendor were
no longer a consolation.

“If we had only given the three thousan' dollars to
Reuben!” said Ducklow, driving homewards with a countenance
as long as his whip-lash. “'T would have jest set


Page 55
him up, and been some compensation for his sufferin's and
losses goin' to the war.”

“Wal, I had no objections,” replied Mrs. Ducklow. “I
always thought he ought to have the money eventooally.
And, as Miss Beswick said, no doubt it would 'a' been ten
times the comfort to him now it would be a number o'
years from now. But you did n't seem willing.”

“I don't know! 't was you that was n't willin'!”

And they expatiated on Reuben's merits, and their
benevolent intentions towards him, and, in imagination,
endowed him with the price of the bonds over and over
again: so easy is it to be generous with lost money!

“But it 's no use talkin'!” said Ducklow. “I ha'n't
the least idee we shall ever see the color o' them bonds
again. If they was stole to the bank, I can't prove anything.”

“It does seem strange to me,” Mrs. Ducklow replied,
“that you should have no more gumption than to trust
bonds with strangers, when they told you in so many the
words they would n't be responsible.”

“If you have flung that in my teeth once, you have fifty
times!” And Ducklow lashed the old mare, as if she, and
not Mrs. Ducklow, had exasperated him.

“Wal,” said the lady, “I don't see how we 're going to
work to find 'em, now they 're lost, without making inquiries;
and we can't make inquiries without letting it be
known we had bought.”

“I been thinkin' about that,” said her husband. “O
dear!” with a groan; “I wish the pesky cowpon bonds
had never been invented!”

They drove first to the bank, where they were of course
told that the envelope had not been untied there. “Besides,
it was sealed, was n't it?” said the cashier. “Indeed!”
He expressed great surprise, when informed that it was


Page 56
not. “It should have been: I supposed any child would
know enough to look out for that!”

And this was all the consolation Ducklow could obtain.

“Just as I expected,” said Mrs. Ducklow, as they resumed
their journey. “I just as much believe that man stole
your bonds as that you trusted 'em in his hands in an unsealed
wrapper! Beats all how you could be so careless!”

“Wal, wal! I s'pose I never shall hear the last on 't!”

And again the poor old mare had to suffer for Mrs.
Ducklow's offences.

They had but one hope now, — that perhaps Taddy had
tampered with the envelope, and that the bonds might be
found somewhere about the house. But this hope was
quickly extinguished on their arrival. Taddy, being accused,
protested his innocence with a vehemence which convinced
even Mr. Ducklow that the cashier was probably the
guilty party.

“Unless,” said he, brandishing the rattan, “somebody
got into the house that morning when the little scamp run
off to ride with the minister!”

“O, don't lick me for that! I 've been licked for that
once! ha'n't I, Ma Ducklow?” shrieked Taddy.

“And besides, you 'd took 'em with you, remember,”
said Mrs. Ducklow.

The house was searched in vain. No clew to the
purloined securities could be obtained, — the copies of the
“Sunday Visitor,” which had been substituted for them,
affording not the least; for that valuable little paper was
found in almost every household, except Ducklow's.

“I don't see any way left but to advertise, as Josiah
said,” remarked the farmer, with a deep sigh of despondency.

“And that 'll bring it all out!” exclaimed Mrs. Ducklow.
“If you only had n't been so imprudent!”

“Wal, wal!” said Ducklow, cutting her short.


Page 57

10. X.

Before resorting to public measures for the recovery of
the stolen property, it was deemed expedient to acquaint
their friends with their loss in a private way. The next
day, accordingly, they went to pay Reuben a visit. It
was a very different meeting from that which took place a
few mornings before. The returned soldier had gained in
health, but not in spirits. The rapture of reaching home
once more, the flush of hope and happiness, had passed
away with the visitors who had flocked to offer their
congratulations. He had had time to reflect: he had
reached home, indeed; but now every moment reminded
him how soon that home was to be taken from him. He
looked at his wife and children, and clenched his teeth
hard to stifle the emotions that arose at the thought of
their future. The sweet serenity, the faith and patience
and cheerfulness, which never ceased to illumine Sophronia's
face as she moved about the house, pursuing her
daily tasks, and tenderly waiting upon him, deepened at
once his love and his solicitude. He was watching her thus
when the Ducklows entered with countenances mournful
as the grave.

“How are you gittin' along, Reuben?” said Ducklow,
while his wife murmured a solemn “good morning” to

“I am doing well enough. Don't be at all concerned
about me! It a'n't pleasant to lie here, and feel it may
be months, months, before I 'm able to be about my business;
but I would n't mind it, — I could stand it first-rate,
— I could stand anything, anything, but to see her working


Page 58
her life out for me and the children! To no purpose,
either; that 's the worst of it. We shall have to lose this
place, spite of fate!”

“O Reuben!” said Sophronia, hastening to him, and
laying her soothing hands upon his hot forehead; “why
won't you stop thinking about that? Do try to have more
faith! We shall be taken care of, I 'm sure!”

“If I had three thousand dollars, — yes, or even two, —
then I 'd have faith!” said Reuben. “Miss Beswick has
proposed to send a subscription-paper around town for us;
but I 'd rather die than have it done. Besides, nothing
near that amount could be raised, I 'm confident. You
need n't groan so, Pa Ducklow, for I ain't hinting at you.
I don't expect you to help me out of my trouble. If you
had felt called upon to do it, you 'd have done it before
now; and I don't ask, I don't beg of any man!” added
the soldier, proudly.

“That 's right; I like yer sperit!” said the miserable
Ducklow. “But I was sighin' to think of something, —
something you have n't known anything about, Reuben.”

“Yes, Reuben, we should have helped you,” said Mrs.
Ducklow, “and did, did take steps towards it —”

“In fact,” resumed Ducklow, “you 've met with a great
misfortin', Reuben. Unbeknown to yourself, you 've met
with a great misfortin'! Yer Ma Ducklow knows.”

“Yes, Reuben, the very day you come home, your Pa
Ducklow made an investment for your benefit. We did n't
mention it, — you know I would n't own up to it, though
I did n't exactly say the contrary, the morning we was
over here —”

“Because,” said Ducklow, as she faltered, “we wanted
to surprise you; we was keepin' it a secret till the right
time, then we was goin' to make it a pleasant surprise to


Page 59

“What in the name of common sense are you talking
about?” cried Reuben, looking from one to the other of
the wretched, prevaricating pair.

“Cowpon bonds!” groaned Ducklow. “Three thousan'-dollar
cowpon bonds! The money had been lent, but I
wanted to make a good investment for you, and I thought
there was nothin' so good as Gov'ments —”

“That 's all right,” said Reuben. “Only, if you had
money to invest for my benefit, I should have preferred
to pay off the mortgage the first thing.”

“Sartin! sartin!” said Ducklow; “and you could have
turned the bonds right in, if you had so chosen, like so much
cash. Or you could have drawed your interest on the
bonds in gold, and paid the interest on your mortgage in
currency, and made so much, as I ruther thought you

“But the bonds?” eagerly demanded Reuben, with
trembling hopes, just as Miss Beswick, with her shawl over
her head, entered the room.

“We was just telling about our loss, Reuben's loss,”
said Mrs. Ducklow, in a manner which betrayed no little
anxiety to conciliate that terrible woman.

“Very well! don't let me interrupt.” And Miss Beswick,
slipping the shawl from her head, sat down.

Her presence, stiff and prim and sarcastic, did not tend
in the least to relieve Mr. Ducklow from the natural embarrassment
he felt in giving his version of Reuben's loss.
However, assisted occasionally by a judicious remark
thrown in by Mrs. Ducklow, he succeeded in telling a sufficiently
plausible and candid-seeming story.


Page 60

11. XI.

I see! I see!” said Reuben, who had listened with astonishment
and pain to the narrative. “You had kinder
intentions towards me than I gave you credit for. Forgive
me, if I wronged you!” He pressed the hand of his
adopted father, and thanked him from a heart filled with
gratitude and trouble. “But don't feel so bad about it.
You did what you thought best. I can only say, the fates
are against me.”

“Hem!” coughing, Miss Beswick stretched up her long
neck and cleared her throat. “So them bonds you had
bought for Reuben was in the house the very night I

“Yes, Miss Beswick,” replied Mrs. Ducklow; “and that 's
what made it so uncomfortable to us to have you talk the
way you did.”

“Hem!” the neck was stretched up still farther than
before, and the redoubtable throat cleared again. “'T was
too bad! Ye ought to have told me. You 'd actooally
bought the bonds, — bought 'em for Reuben, had ye?”

“Sartain! sartain!” said Ducklow.

“To be sure!” said Mrs. Ducklow.

“We designed 'em for his benefit, a surprise, when the
right time come,” said both together.

“Hem! well!” (It was evident that the Beswick was
clearing her decks for action.) “When the right time
come! yes! That right time was n't somethin' indefinite,
in the fur futur', of course! Yer losin' the bonds did n't
hurry up yer benevolence the least grain, I s'pose! Hem!
let in them boys, Sophrony!”


Page 61

Sophronia opened the door, and in walked Master Dick
Atkins (son of the brush-burner), followed, not without reluctance
and concern, by Master Taddy.

“Thaddeus! what you here for?” demanded the adopted

“Because I said so,” remarked Miss Beswick, arbitrarily.
“Step along, boys, step along. Hold up yer head, Taddy,
for ye' an't goin' to be hurt while I 'm around. Take yer
fists out o' yer eyes, and stop blubberin'. Mr. Ducklow,
that boy knows somethin' about Reuben's cowpon bonds.”

“Thaddeus!” ejaculated both Ducklows at once, “did
you touch them bonds?”

“Did n't know what they was!” whimpered Taddy.

“Did you take them?” And the female Ducklow
grasped his shoulder.

“Hands off, if you please!” remarked Miss Beswick,
with frightfully gleaming courtesy. “I told him, if he 'd
be a good boy, and come along with Richard, and tell the
truth, he should n't be hurt. If you please,” she repeated,
with a majestic nod; and Mrs. Ducklow took her hands off.

“Where are they now? where are they?” cried Ducklow,
rushing headlong to the main question.

“Don't know,” said Taddy.

“Don't know? you villain!” And Ducklow was rising in
wrath. But Miss Beswick put up her hand deprecatingly.

“If you please!” she said, with grim civility; and
Ducklow sank down again.

“What did you do with 'em? what did you want of
'em?” said Mrs. Ducklow, with difficulty restraining an
impulse to wring his neck.

“To cover my kite,” confessed the miserable Taddy.

“Cover your kite! your kite!” A chorus of groans
from the Ducklows. “Did n't you know no better?”

“Did n't think you 'd care,” said Taddy. “I had some


Page 62
newspapers Dick give me to cover it; but I thought them
things 'u'd be pootier. So I took 'em, and put the newspapers
in the wrapper.”

“Did ye cover yer kite?”

“No. When I found out you cared so much about 'em,
I da's'n't; I was afraid you 'd see 'em.”

“Then what did you do with 'em.”

“When you was away, Dick come over to sleep with
me, and I — I sold 'em to him!”

“Sold 'em to Dick!”

“Yes,” spoke up Dick, stoutly, “for six marbles, and
one was a bull's-eye, and one agate, and two alleys. Then,
when you come home and made such a fuss, he wanted 'em
ag'in. But he would n't give me back but four, and I
wa'n't going to agree to no such nonsense as that.”

“I 'd lost the bull's-eye and one common,” whined

“But the bonds! did you destroy 'em?”

“Likely I 'd do that, after I 'd paid six marbles for
'em!” said Dick. “I wanted 'em to cover my kite with.”

“Cover your — oh! then you 've made a kite of 'em!”
groaned Ducklow.

“Well, I was going to, when Aunt Beswick ketched me
at it. She made me tell where I got 'em, and took me
over to your house jest now; and Taddy said you was over
here, and so she put ahead, and made us foller her.”

Again, in an agony of impatience, Ducklow demanded to
know where the bonds were at that moment.

“If Taddy 'll give me back the marbles —” began Master

“That 'll do!” said Miss Beswick, silencing him with a
gesture. “Reuben will give you twenty marbles; for I
believe you said they was Reuben's bonds, Mr. Ducklow?”

“Yes, that is —” stammered the adopted father

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Page 63

“Eventooally,” struck in the adopted mother.

“Now look here! What am I to understand? Be they
Reuben's bonds, or be they not? That 's the question!”
And there was that in Miss Beswick's look which said, “If
they are not Reuben's, then they are nobody's!”

“Of course they are Reuben's!” “We intended all
the while —” “His benefit —” “To do jest what he
pleases with 'em,” chorused Pa and Ma Ducklow.

“Wal! now it 's understood! Here, Reuben, are your
cowpon bonds!”

And Miss Beswick, drawing them from her bosom, placed
the precious documents, with formal politeness, in the glad
soldier's agitated hands.

“Glory!” cried Reuben, assuring himself that they were
genuine and real. “Sophrony, you 've got a home! Ruby,
Carrie, you 've got a home! Miss Beswick! you angel
from the skies! order a bushel of marbles for Dick, and
have the bill sent to me! O Pa Ducklow! you never did
a nobler or more generous thing in your life. These will
lift the mortgage, and leave me a nest-egg besides. Then
when I get my back pay, and my pension, and my health
again, we shall be independent.”

And the soldier, overcome by his feelings, sank back in
the arms of his wife.

“We always told you we 'd do well by ye, you remember?”
said the Ducklows, triumphantly.

The news went abroad. Again congratulations poured
in upon the returned volunteer. Everybody rejoiced in
his good fortune, — especially certain rich ones, who had
been dreading to see Miss Beswick come around with her
proposed subscription-paper.

Among the rest, the Ducklows rejoiced not the least;
for selfishness was with them, as it is with many, rather a
thing of habit than a fault of the heart. The catastrophe


Page 64
of the bonds broke up that life-long habit, and revealed
good hearts underneath. The consciousness of having
done an act of justice, although by accident, proved very
sweet to them; it was really a fresh sensation; and Reuben
and his dear little family, saved from ruin and distress,
happy, thankful, glad, were a sight to their old eyes
such as they had never witnessed before. Not gold itself,
in any quantity, at the highest premium, could have given
them so much satisfaction; and as for coupon bonds, they
are not to be mentioned in the comparison.

“Won't you do well by me some time, too?” teased
little Taddy, who overheard his adopted parents congratulating
themselves on having acted so generously by Reuben.
“I don't care for no cowpen bonds, but I do want a
new drum!”

“Yes, yes, my son!” said Ducklow, patting the boy's

And the drum was bought.

Taddy was delighted. But he did not know what made
the Ducklows so much happier, so much gentler and
kinder, than formerly. Do you?