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Rose Terry Cooke
1827-1897

   

Dely's Cow

by Rose Terry Cooke



   
 

     I went down to the farm-yard one day last month, and as I opened the gate I heard Pat Malony say, "Biddy! Biddy!"  I thought at first he was calling a hen, but then I remembered the hens were all shut into the poultry-house that day, to be sorted, and numbered, and condemned: so I looked again, thinking perhaps Pat's little lame sister had strayed up from the village and gone into the barn after Sylvy's kittens, or a pigeon-egg, or to see a new calf; but, to my surprise, I saw a red cow, of no particular beauty or breed, coming out of the stable-door, looking about her as if in search of somebody or something; and when Pat called again, "Biddy! Biddy! Biddy!" the creature walked up to him across the yard, stretched out her awkward neck, sniffed a little, and cropped from his hand the wisp of rowen hay he held, as composedly as if she were a tame kitten, and then followed him all round the yard for more, which I am sorry to say she did not get.  Pat had only displayed her accomplishments to astonish me, and then shut her in her stall again.   I afterward hunted out Biddy's history, and here it is.
      On the Derby turnpike, just before you enter Hanerford, everybody that ever travelled that road will remember Joseph German's bakery.   It was a red brick house, with dusty windows toward the street, and just inside the door a little shop, where Mr. German retailed the scalloped cookies, fluted gingerbread, long loaves of bread, and scantly filled pies, in which he dealt, and which were manufactured in the long shop, where in summer you caught glimpses of flour-barrels all a-row, and men who might have come out of those barrels, so strewed with flour were all their clothes,— paper-cap and white apron scarcely to be distinguished from the rest of the dress, as far as color and dustiness went.  Here, too, when her father drove out the cart every afternoon, sitting in front of the counter with her sewing or her knitting, Dely German, the baker's pretty daughter, dealt out the cakes and rattled the pennies in her apron-pocket with so good a grace, that not a young farmer came into Hanerford with grain or potatoes or live stock, who did not cast a glance in at the shop-door, going toward town, and go in on his return, ostensibly to buy a sheet of gingerbread or a dozen cookies for his refreshment on the drive homeward.  It was a curious thing to see how much hungrier they were on the way home than coming into town.  Though they might have had a good dinner in Hanerford, that never appeased their appetites entirely, while in the morning they had driven their slow teams all the way without so much as thinking of cakes and cheese!  So by the time Dely was seventeen, her black eyes and bright cheeks were well known for miles about, and many a youth, going home to the clean kitchen where his old mother sat by the fire knitting, or his spinster sister scolded and scrubbed over his muddy boot-tracks, thought how pretty it would look to see Dely German sitting on the other side, in her neat calico frock and white apron, her black hair shining smooth, and her fresh, bright face looking a welcome.
      But Dely did not think about any one of them in a reciprocal manner; she liked them all pretty well, but she loved nobody except her father and mother, her three cats and all their kittens, the big dog, the old horse, and a wheezy robin that she kept in a cage, because her favorite cat had half killed it one day, and it never could fly anymore.  For all these dumb things she had a really intense affection: as for her father and mother, she seemed to be a part of them; it never occurred to her that they could leave her, or she them; and when old Joe German died one summer day, just after Dely was seventeen, she was nearly distracted.  However, people who must work for their living have to get over their sorrows, practically, much sooner than those who can afford time to indulge them; and as Dely knew more about the business and the shop than anybody but the foreman, she had to resume her place at the counter before her father had been buried a week.   It was a great source of embarrassment to her rural admirers to see Dely in her black frock, pale and sober, when they went in; they did not know what to say; they felt as if their hands and feet had grown very big all at once, and as if the cents in their pockets never could be got at, at which they turned red and hot and got choked, and went away, swearing internally at their own blundering shyness, and deeper smitten than ever with Dely, because they wanted to comfort her so very much, and didn't know how!
      One, however, had the sense and simplicity to know how, and that was George Adams, a fine healthy young fellow from Hartland Hollow, who came in at least once a week with a load of produce from the farm on which he was head man.  The first time he went after his rations of gingerbread, and found Dely in her mourning, he held out his hand and shook hers heartily.  Dely looked up into his honest blue eyes and saw them full of pity.
      "I'm real sorry for you!" said George. "My father died two years ago."
      Dely burst into tears, and George couldn't help stroking her bright hair softly and saying, "Oh, don't" So she wiped her eyes, and sold him the cookies he wanted; but from that day there was one of Dely's customers that she liked best, one team of white horses she always looked out for, and one voice that hurried the color into her face, if it was ever so pale; and the upshot of pity and produce and gingerbread was that George Adams and Dely German were heartily in love with each other, and Dely began to be comforted for her father's loss six months after he died.  Not that she knew why, or that George had ever said anything to her more than was kind and friendly, but she felt a sense of rest, and yet a sweet restlessness, when he was in her thoughts or presence, that beguiled her grief and made her unintentionally happy: it was the old, old story; the one eternal novelty that never loses its vitality, its interest, its bewitching power, nor ever will till Time shall be no more.
      But the year had not elapsed, devoted to double crape and triple quillings, before Dely's mother, too, began to be consoled.  She was a pleasant, placid, feeble-natured woman, who liked her husband very well, and fretted at him in a mild, persistent way a good deal.  He swore and chewed tobacco, which annoyed her; he also kept a tight grip of his money, which was not pleasant; but she missed him very much when he died, and cried and rocked, and said how afflicted she was, as much as was necessary, even in the neighbors' opinion.  But as time went on, she found the business very hard to manage; even with Dely and the foreman to help her, the ledger got all astray, and the daybook followed its example; so when old Tom Kenyon, who kept the tavern half a mile farther out, took to coming Sunday nights to see the "Widder German," and finally proposed to share her troubles and carry on the bakery in a matrimonial partnership, Mrs. German said she "guessed she would," and announced to Dely on Monday morning that she was going to have a step-father.   Dely was astonished and indignant, but to no purpose.  Mrs. German cried and rocked, and rocked and cried again, rather more saliently than when her husband died, but for all that she did not retract; and in due time she got into the stage with her elderly lover and went to Meriden, where they got married, and came home next day to carry on the bakery.
      Joe German had been foolish enough to leave all his property to his wife, and Dely had no resource but to stay at home and endure her disagreeable position as well as she could, for Tom Kenyon swore and chewed, and smoked beside; moreover, he drank — not to real drunkenness, but enough to make him cross and intractable; worse than all, he had a son, the only child of his first marriage, and it soon became unpleasantly evident to Dely that Steve Kenyon had a mind to marry her, and his father had a mind he should.  Now it is all very well to marry a person one likes, but to go through that ceremony with one you dislike is more than anybody has a right to require, in my opinion, as well as Dely's; so when her mother urged upon her the various advantages of the match, Steve Kenyon being the present master and prospective owner of his father's tavern, a great resort for horse-jockeys, cattle-dealers, and frequenters of State and County fairs, Dely still objected to marry him. But the more she objected, the more her mother talked, her step-father swore, and the swaggering lover persisted in his attentions at all times, so that the poor girl had scare a half-hour to herself.  She grew thin and pale and unhappy enough; and one day George Adams, stepping in unexpectedly, found her with her apron to her eyes crying more bitterly.   It took some persuasion, and some more daring caresses than he had yet ventured on, to get Dely's secret trouble to light.  I am inclined to think George kissed her at least once before she would tell him what she was crying about; but Dely naturally came to the conclusion, that, if he loved her enough to kiss her, and she loved him enough to like it, she might as well share her trouble, and the consequence was, George asked her then and there to share his. Not that either of them thought there would be troubles under that copartnership, for the day was sufficient to them; and it did not daunt Dely in the least to know that George's only possessions were a heifer calf, a suit of clothes, and twenty dollars.
      About a month after this eventful day, Dely went into Hanerford on the errand, she said; so did George Adams.  They stepped into the minister's together and were married; so Dely's errand was done, and she rode out on the front seat of George's empty wagon, stopping at the bakery to tell her mother and get her trunk: having wisely chosen a day for her errand when her step-father had gone away after a load of flour down on Hanerford wharves.  Mrs. Kenyon went at once into wild hysterics, and called Dely a jade hopper, and an ungrateful child; but not understanding the opprobrium of the one term, and not deserving the other, the poor girl only cried a little, and helped George with her trunk, which held all she could call her own in the world,——her clothes, two or three cheap trinkets, and a few books.  She kissed the cats all round, hugged the dog, was glad her robin had died, and then said good-by to her mother, who refused to kiss her, and said George Adams was a snake in the grass.  This was too much for Dely; she wiped her eyes, and clambered over the wagon-wheel, and took her place beside George with a smile so much like crying that he began to whistle, and never stopped for two miles.  By that time they were in a piece of thick pine woods, when, looking both before and behind to be certain no one was coming, he put his arm round his wife and kissed her, which seemed to have a consoling effect; and by the time they reached his mother's little house, Dely was as bright as ever.
      A little bit of a house it was to bring a wife to, but it suited Dely.  It stood on the edge of a pine wood, where the fragrance of the resinous boughs kept the air sweet and pure, and their leaves thrilled responsive to every breeze.   The house was very small and very red, it had two rooms below and one above, but it was neater than many a five-story mansion, and far more cheerful; and when Dely went in at the door, she thought there could be no prettier sight than the exquisitely neat old woman sitting in her arm-chair on one side of the fireplace, and her beautiful cat on the other purring and winking, while the tea-kettle sang and sputtered over the bright fire of pine-cones, and the tea-table at the other side of the room was spread with such clean linen and such shinning crockery that it made one hungry even to look at the brown bread and butter and pink radishes that were Dely's wedding-supper.
      It is very odd how happy people can be, when they are as poor as poverty, and don't know where to look for their living but to the work of their own hands.  Genteel poverty is horrible; it is impossible for one to be poor, and elegant, and comfortable; but downright simple, unblushing poverty may be the most blessed of states; and though it was somewhat of a descent in the social scale for Dely to marry a farm-hand, foreman though he might be, she loved her George so devoutly and healthily that she was as happy as a woman could be.  George's mother, the sweetest and tenderest mother to him, took his wife to a place beside his in her heart, and the two women loved each other the more for this man's sake; he was a bond between them, not a division; hard work left them no thought of rankling jealousy to make their lives bitter, and Dely was happier than ever she had thought she should be away from her mother.  Nor did the hard work hurt her; for she took to her own share all of it that was out of doors and troublesome to the infirmities of the old lady.  She tended the calf in its little log hut, shook down the coarse hay for its bed, made its gruel till it grew beyond gruel, then drove it daily to the pasture where it fed, gave it extra rations of bread and apple-parings and carrot-tops, till the creature knew her voice and ran to her call like a pet kitten, rubbing its soft, wet nose against her red cheek, and showing in a dozen blundering, calfish ways that it both knew and loved her.
      There are two sorts of people in the world — those who love animals, and those who do not.  I have seen them both, I have known both; and if sick or oppressed, or borne down with dreadful sympathies for a groaning nation in mortal struggle, I should go for aid, for pity, or the relief of kindred feeling, to those I had seen touched with quick tenderness for the lower creation,—who remember that the "whole creation travaileth in pain together," and who learn God's own lesson of caring for the fallen sparrow, and the ox that treadeth out the corn.  With men or women who despise animals and treat them as mere beasts and brutes I never want to trust my weary heart or my aching head; but with Dely I could have trusted both safely, and the calf and the cat agreed with me.
      So, in this happy, homely life, the sweet centre of her own bright little world, Dely passed the first year of her wedded life, and then the war came! Dreadful pivot of almost all our late lives!  On it also this rude idyl turned. George enlisted for the war.
      It was not in Dely or his mother to stop him. Though tears fell on every round of his blue socks and sprinkled his flannel shirts plentifully, — though the old woman's wan and wrinkled face paled and saddened, and the young one's fair throat quivered with choking sobs when they were alone,— still, whenever George appeared, he was greeted with smiles and cheer, strengthened and steadied from this home armory better than with sabre and bayonet, "with might in the inner man."  George was a brave fellow, no doubt, and would do good service to his free country; but it is a question with me, whether, when the Lord calls out his "noble army of martyrs" before the universe of men and angels, that army will not be found officered and led by just such women as these, who fought silently with the flesh and the Devil by their own hearth, quickened by no stinging excitement of battle, no thrill of splendid strength and fury in soul and body, not temping delight of honor or even recognition from their peers,— upheld only by the dull, recurrent necessities of duty and love.
      At any rate, George went, and they stayed.  The town made them an allowance as a volunteer's family; they had George's bounty to begin with; and a friendly boy from the farm near by came and sawed their wood, took care of the garden, and, when Dely could not go to pasture with the heifer, drove her to and fro daily. After George had been gone three months, Dely had a little baby.  Tiny and bright as it was, it seemed like a small star fallen down from some upper sky to lighten their darkness.  Dely was almost too happy; and the old grandmother, fast slipping into the other world whence baby seemed to have but newly arrived, stayed her feeble steps a little longer to wait upon her son's child.  Yet, for all the baby, Dely never forgot her dumb loves.  The cat had still its place on the foot of her bed; and her first walk was to the barn, where the heifer lowed welcome to her mistress, and rubbed her head against the hand that caressed her with as much feeling as a cow can show, however much she may have.  And Biddy, the heifer, was a good friend to that little household, all through that long ensuing winter.  It went to Dely' heart to sell her first calf to the butcher, but they could not raise it, and when it was taken away she threw her check apron over her head, and buried her face deep in the pillow, that she might not hear the cries of appeal and grief her favorite uttered.  After this, Biddy would let no one milk her but her mistress; and many an inarticulate confidence passed between the two while the sharp streams of milk spun and foamed into the pail below, as Dely's skilful hands coaxed it down.
      They heard from George often: he was well, and busy with drill and camp life — not in active service as yet.  Incidentally, too, Dely heard of her mother.  Old Kenyon was dead of apoplexy, and Steve like to die of drink.  This was a bit of teamster's gossip, but proved to be true.  Toward the end of the winter, old Mother Adams slept quietly in the Lord.  No pain or sickness grasped her, through she knew she was dying, kissed and blessed Dely, sent a mother's message to George, and took the baby for the last time into her arms; then she laid her head on the pillow, smiled, and drew a long breath, — no more.
      Poor Dely's life was very lonely; she buried her dead out of her sight, wrote a loving sobbing letter to George, and began to try to live alone.  Hard enough it was!  March revenged itself on the past toleration of winter; snow fell in blinding fury and drifts hid fences and fenced the doors all through Hartland Hollow.   Day after day Dely struggled through the path to the barn to feed Biddy and milk her; and a warm mess of bread and milk often formed her only meal in that bitter weather.   It is not credible to those who think no more of animals than of chairs and stones how much society and solace they afford to those who do love them.  Biddy was really Dely's friend.  Many a long day passed when no human face but the baby's greeted her from dawn till dusk.  But the cow's beautiful purple eyes always turned to welcome her as she entered its shed-door; her wet muzzle touched Dely's cheek with a velvet caress; and while her mistress drew from the downy bag its white and rich stores, Biddy would turn her head round, and eye her with such mild looks, and breathe such fragrance toward her, that Dely, in her solitary and friendless state, came to regard her as a real sentient being, capable of love and sympathy, and had an affection for her that would seem utter nonsense to half, perhaps three quarters, of the people in this unsentimental world.  Many a time did the lonely little woman lay her head on Biddy's neck, and talk to her about George with sobs and silences interspersed; and many a piece of dry bread steeped in warm water, or golden carrot, or mess of stewed turnips and bran flavored the dry hay that was the staple of the cow's diet.   The cat was old now, and objected to the baby so strenuously that Dely regarded her as partly insane from age; and though she was kind to her course, and fed her faithfully, still a cat that could growl at George's baby was not regarded with the same complacent kindness that had always blessed her before; and whenever the baby was asleep at milking-time, Pussy was locked into the closet,— a proceeding she resented.  Biddy, on the contrary, seemed to admire the child,— she certainly did not object to her,— and necessarily obtained thereby a far higher place in Dely's heart than the cat.
      As I have already said, Dely had heard of her step-father's death some time before; and one stormy day, the last week in March, a team coming from Hanerford with gain stopped at the door of the little red house, and the driver handed Dely a dirty and ill-written letter from her mother.  Just such an epistle it was as might have been expected from Mrs. Kenyon,— full of weak sorrow, and entreaties to Dely to come home and live; she was old and tired, the bakery was coming to trouble for want of a good manager, the foreman was a rough, and the business failing fast, and she wanted George and Dely there: evidently, she had not heard, when the letter began, of George's departure or baby's birth; but the latter half said, "Cum, anyway.  I want to se the Baby.  I'm an old critur, a sinking into my graiv, and when george cums back from the wars he must liv hear the rest off his life."
      Dely's tender heart was greatly stirred by the letter, yet she was undecided what to do.  Here she was alone and poor; there would be her mother,— and she loved her mother, though she could not respect her; there, too, was plenty for all; and if George should ever come home, the bakery business was just the thing for him,--- he had energy and courage enough to redeem a sinking affair like that.   But then what should she do with the cow?  Puss could go home with her; but Biddy?  —There was no place for Biddy.  Pasture was scarce and dear about Hanerford; Dely's father had given up keeping a cow long before his death for that reason; but how could Dely leave and sell her faithful friend and companion?  Her heart sank at the thought; it almost turned the scale, for one pitiful moment, against common-sense and filial feeling.  But baby coughed, — nothing more than a slight cold, yet Dely thought, as she had often thought before, with a quick thrill of terror, What if baby were ever sick?  Seven miles between her and the nearest doctor; nobody to send, nobody to leave baby with, and she herself utterly inexperienced in the care of children.  The matter was decided at once; and before the driver who mother's letter had come, on his next journey, for the answer he had offered to carry, Dely's letter was written, sealed, and put on the shelf, and she was busy contriving and piecing out a warm hood and cloak for baby to ride in.
      But every time she went to the barn to milk Biddy or feed her , the tears sprang to her eyes, and her mind misgave her.  Never before had the dainty bits of food been so plentiful for her pet, or her neck so tenderly stroked. Dely had written to her mother that she would come to her as soon as her affairs were settled, and she had spoken to Orrin Nye, who brought the letter, to find a purchaser for her cow.   Grandfather Hollis, who bought Biddy, and in whose farm-yard I made her acquaintance, gave me the drover's account of the matter, which will be better in his words than mine.  It seems he brought quite a herd of milk cows down to Avondale, which is twenty miles from Hanerford, and hearing that Grandfather wanted a couple of cows, he came to "trade with him," as he expressed it.  He had two beautiful Ayrshires in the lot, — clean heads, shining skins, and good milkers,— that mightily pleased the old gentleman's fancy; for he had long brooded over his favorite scheme of a pure-blooded herd, and the red and white clouded Ayrshires showed beautifully on his green hillside pastures, and were good stock besides.  But Aaron Stow insisted so pertinaciously that he should buy this red cow, that the Squire shoved his hat back and put both his hands in his pockets, a symptom of determination with him, and began to question him.  They fenced awhile, in true Yankee fashion, till at last Grandfather became exasperated.
      "Look here, Aaron Stow!" said he, "what in thunder do you pester me so about the cow for?  She's a good enough beast, I see, for a native; but those Ayrshires are better cows and better blood, and you know it.   What are you navigating around me for, so glib?"
      "Well, now, Squire," returned Aaron, whittling at the gate with sudden vehemence, "fact is, I've set my mind on your buyin' that critter, an' you jes' set down on that ‘ere milkin'-stool an' I'll tel'l ye the rights on't, though I feel kinder meechin' myself, to be so soft about it as I be."
      "Leave off shaving my new gate, then, and don't think I'm going to trust a hundred and eighty-five solid flesh to a three-legged stool.  I'm too old for that.  I'll sit on the step here. Now go ahead, man,"
      So Grandfather sat down on the step, and Aaron turned his back against the gate and kicked one boot on the other.  He was not used to narration.
      "Well, you know we had a dreadful spell ‘o weather a month ago, Squire. There ha'n't never been such a March in my day as this last; an' ‘t was worse up our way here, an' down to Hartland Holler was the beat of all.  Why, it snowed an' it blowed an' it friz till all Natur' couldn't stan' it no more!  Well, about them days I was down to Hartland Centre a-buyin' some fat cattle for Hanerford market, an' I met Orrin Nye drivin' his team pretty spry, for he see it was comin' on to snow; but when he catched sight o' me, he stopped the horses an' hollered out to me, so I stepped along an' asked what he wanted; an' he said there was a woman down to the Hollar that had a cow to sell, an' he knowed I was apt to buy cow-critters along in the spring, so he'd spoke about it for she was kinder in a hurry to sell, for she was goin' to move.  So I said I'd see to't, an' he driv along. I thought likely I should git it cheap, ef she was in a hurry to sell, an' I concluded I'd go along next day; ‘t wa'n't more ‘n' seven mile from the Centre, down by a piece o' piny woods, an' the woman was Miss Adams.  I used ter know George Adams quite a spell ago, an' he was a likely feller.  Well, it come on to snow jest as fine an'dry as sand, an' the wind blew like needles, an', come next day, when I started to foot it down there, I did n't feel as though I could ha'gone, ef I had n't been sure of a good bargain; the snow had n't driv much, but the weather had settled down dreadful cold; ‘t was dead still, an' the air sorter cut ye to breathe it; but I'm naterally hardy, an' I kep' along till I got there.  I did n't feel so all-fired cold as I hev sometimes, but when I stepped in to the door, an' she asked me to hev a cheer by the fire, fust I knew I did n't know nothin'; I come to the floor like a felled ox.  I expect I must ha' been nigh on to dead with clear cold, for she was the best part o' ten minutes bringin' on me to.  She rubbed my hands an' face with camphire an' gin me some hot tea; she had n't got no sperits in the house, but she did everything a little woman could do, an' I was warmed through an' through afore long, an' we stepped out into the shed to look at the cow.
      "Well, Squire, I ha'n't got much natur' into me noway, an'it ‘s well I ha'n't but that cow beat all, I declare for ‘t!  She put her head round the minute Miss Adams come in; an' if ever you see a dumb beast pleased, that'ere cow was tickled to pieces.  She put her nose down to the woman's cheek, an' she licked her hands, an' she moved up agin' her an' rubbed her ear on her, — she all but talked; an' when I looked round an see them black eyes o' Miss Adams's with wet in ‘em, I ‘most wished I had a pocket-handkercher myself.
      "‘ You won't sell her to a hard master, will you?' says she. ‘I want her to go where she'll be well cared for, an' I shall know where she is; for if ever things come right agin, I want to hev her back.  She ‘s been half my livin' an' all my company for quite a spell, an' I shall miss her dreadfully.'
      "‘ Well,' says I, ‘I'll take her down to Squire Hollis's in Avondale; he ‘s got a cow-barn good enough for a Representative to set it, an' clean water, an' chains to halter ‘em up with, an' a dry yard where the water all dreens off as slick as can be, an' there an'n't such a piece o'land nowhere round for rootcrops; an' the Squire he sets such store by his cows an' things, I've heerd tell he turned off two Irishmen for abusin' on ‘em; an' they has their bags washed an' their tails combed every day in the year, — an' I don't know but what they ties ‘em up with a blew ribbin.'"
      "Get out!" growled Grandfather.
      "Can't, jest yet, Squire, not t'll I've done.  Anyway, I figgered it off to her, an' she was kinder consoled up to think on ‘t; for I told her I thought likely you'd buy her cow, an' when we come to do the tradin' part, why, con-found it!  She wa'n't no more fit to buy an' sell a critter than my three-year-old Hepsy.  I said a piece back I ha'n't got much natur',an'a man that trades dumb beasts the biggest part o' the time hed n't oughter hev; but I swan to man! Natur' was too much for me this time; I could n't more ha' bought the cow cheap that I could ha' sold my old gran'ther to a tin-peddler.  Somehow, she was so innocent, an' she felt so to part with the critter, an' then she let me know ‘t George was in the army; an' thinks I, I guess I'll help the Gov'ment along some; I can't fight, 'cause I'm subject to rheumatiz in my back, but I can look out for them that can; so, take the hull on't, long an' broad, why, I up an' gin her seventy-five dollars for that cow,— an' I'd ha' gin twenty more not to ha' seen Miss Adams's face a-lookin' arter me an' her when we went away from the door.
      "So now, Squire, you can take her or leave her."
      Aaron Stow knew his man.  Squire Hollis put out his pocket-book and paid seventy-five dollars on the spot for a native cow called Biddy.
      "Now clear out with your Ayrshires!" said he, irascibly. "I'm a fool, but I won't buy them, too."
      "Well, Squire, good day," said Aaron, with a grin.
      But I am credibly informed that the next week he did come back with the two Ayrshires, and sold them to Grandfather, remarking to the farmer that he "should ha' been a darned fool to take the old gentleman at his word; for he never knowed a man hanker arter harnsome stock but what he bought it, fust or last."
      Now I also discovered that the regiment George enlisted in was one whose Colonel I knew well: so I wrote and asked about Sergeant Adams.  My report was highly honorable to George, but had some bad news in it: he had been severely wounded in the right leg, and, through recovering, would be disabled from further service.  A fortnight after I drove into Hanerford with Grandfather Hollis, and we stopped at the old bakery.  It looked exquisitely neat in the shop, as well as prosperous externally, and Dely stood behind the counter with a lovely child in her arms.  Grandfather brought about half a bushel of crackers and cookies, while I played with the baby.  As he paid for them, he said in his kind old voice that nobody can hear without pleasure,—
      "I believe I have a pet of yours in my barn at Avondale, Mrs. Adams."
      Dely's eyes lighted up, and a quick flush of feeling glowed on her pretty face.
      "Oh, Sir! You did buy Biddy, then? And you are Squire Hollis?"
      "Yes, Ma'am, and Biddy is well, and well cared for, as fat and sleek as a mole and still comes to her name."
      "Thank you kindly, Sir!" said Dely, with an emphasis that gave the simple phrase most earnest meaning.  And how is your husband, Mrs. Adams?" said I.
      A deeper glow displaced the fading blush Grandfather had called out, and her beautiful eyes flashed at me.
      "Quite well, I thank you, and not so very lame.  And he's coming home next week."
      She took the baby from me, as she spoke, and, looking in its bright little face, said,—
      "Call him, Baby!"
      "Pa-pa!" said the child.
      "If ever you come to Avondale, Mrs. Adams, come and see my cows," said Grandfather, as he gathered up the reins. "You may be sure I wouldn't sell Biddy to anybody but you."
      Dely smiled from the steps where she stood; and we drove away.

 
           

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Last updated:
December 23, 2003
   
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