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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 63, 19 February 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE TWO WIDOWS. “ Bow, wow, wow ! ” came fiercely from the throat of Billy Grimes as he paused in front of Widow' Giles’ garden gate. “Bow, wow! ” repeated the reckless youth, undaunted, though now, Mrs. Giles —who had been watering her plants that bordered the walk from the gate to the little green front door of her neat cottage —rushed towards him, fuming with indignation. “ Be still trying ter frighten my innercent kitten ter death ! ” and she was about to sprinkle him, when he dashed into the middle of the street, where, dropping his milk pails, he applied his dirty fingers to his nose in so aggravating a manner, that she hastened to inform him that a “ nary corner in some lock-up ” was looming up for him in the not far distant future. Instead of being appalled by this item of confidence, Billy, good naturedly, with the versatility for which young boyhood is somewhat famous, dropped his soiled fingers from his most facial appendage, thrust them into his already crammed pockets, and, spreading his bare feet as far apart as he could and retain his perpendicular position, became communicative in turn, and informed her as confidentially that his mother had “ got ” a new boarder, adding with emphasis : “He’s a stunner yer’d better b’lieve, Mi's. Giles. O, my ! ain’t he, though ! ” “ What’s his name, and where’d he come from, Billy?” inquired the widow', setting the watering-pot upon the path, and then crossing her arras upon the bop of the gate. “ Cap’n Martin. He gave me a handful of coppers ! He let me see inside his chist ! It’s chock full of funny things ! He come from Rockland. He’s jolly !” ‘ ‘ Is he rich ? Is he a married man ? Or is he, like me, a poor, bereaved critter ?” with a sigh. “ Don’t know. What makes yer ask so many ques’ons ? ” “Nothin’ ! Don’t yer want a hoket, Billy ? ” “Wal, I’m willin’ !” and the youth drew near the gate once more, and could hardly keep from barking again when the “ innocent ” kitten thrust her head out from under the lilac bush to reconnoitre the whereabouts of her enemy who was only swayed by prudential motives from renewing the attack. He was the only son of a poor widow, who kept hoarders for a living, and he often ungratefully imagined he did not receive his full share of the profits. “I don’t git coppers very ofn Mrs. Giles, yer know,” with a whimper. “ I s’pose not, poor boy ! Had yer breakfast ?” “ No—’m ” was hesitatingly given m reply. Billy had attended Sunday-school, and had heard—with distended eyes—-the punishment that awaits those who deviate from the paths of truth here. “ Come in, poor child, and set down and eat with me. I hate to take my meals alone. I’m a lonely widder woman. Billy. Nothin’ hut a poor widder woman. ” Billy couldn’t see, for the life of him, what there was so dreadful in that for her. “ Yer comfortahler’n my mother, an she says she’s a lonely widder woman.” “ But she’s got you, Billy.” Billy realised a sense of exaltation. Then, after all, he was worth something. Thoughtfully turning this over in his mind, he stuffed himself. During the first pause, when he was resting for a renewed attack, the widow resumed, as she put pie upon his plate—- “ Is this captain a nice looking man ? ” “N—o guess not! His face is all crinkled up, like yourn, Mrs. Giles. What ails yer, got cramp ? ” “No, nor never had,” curtly answered the widow, longing to go for him. “He hes the blues, he says. What’s them ? Anythin’ catchin’ ? ” “ He’s lost friends, p’raps. I know how ter pity him,” with a sniff'. Bill did no! press for an answer to his last question, for having finished this, his second breakfast, he concluded it was time to he moving home with the milk. Mrs. Giles did not forget to fasten a bouquet in his leathern belt, which imparted a jauntiness to his otherwise commonplace appearance. Suddenly looking up at the captain’s room, he espied that gentleman smoking his pipe at the window. Dashing over the stairs, he unceremoniously invaded the bachelor’s sanctuary, and offered his bouquet to its occupant, who said ; “A nice hoy,” and thrusting his hand into a pocket of his wide lined pants, he drew forth a few coppers offered them gratefully repeating “ a nice boy.” Billy rapturously exclaimed : “ By hokey ! ” “ Where did you got these ? ” inquired the gentleman, with face hidden among the flowers. “ Mrs. Giles gin ’em ter me. She’s got lots, and she’s a lonely widder woman. ” “That’s too bad.” “No ’taint; She’s jest as comfortable, and has pies and things, an’ a little white cat. ” “Billy do I hear your voice up in the cap’n’s room ? ” was shrilly called from the foot of the stairs. “ Murder won’t I catch it! ” The captain thought Billy’s prediction verified, as he heard sounds of juvenile distress emerging from the lower regions immediately after. “ I’ll go and live with Mrs. Giles. She lives in° a pretty house, an’ wouldn't make ms do arx-ans and clean folk’s boots,” sobbed Billy, Aviso had stolen up stairs again at his first opportunity. “And leave your mother Avhen she has done so much for yon and needs your help, Billy ? ” in a tone of mild reproof. “ She kin get along Avithout me ” came doggedly. “She can take a poor orphin out of the ’sylum to do her Avork.” And Billy blubbered with one hand to his eye and the other to the scene of the recent attack. “She says I’ve no business here in your room botherin’ yer. I’m goin’ to live with Mrs. Giles, an’ you come, too ? I-won’t mind blackin’ yer boots.” Captain Martin laughed, and bade Billy go below and obey his mother in all things. Billy looked as steadily at him as he could for dirt and tears, and saw the best thing for himself aavis to obey the captain’s orders. Captain Martin Avas a bachelor, and hut recently emancipated from his lifelong occupation of “going down to the sea in ships.” Sixty years before, be had first drawn the breath of life in Gimhleton, and uoav ho had returned to see if he AA'onkl like it Avell enough to draw his last breath within its peaceful borders. “That’s a Aright boy, and don’t seem to have a very good chance,” he thought, while smoking, an occupation which we have seen Billy had interrupted. “He gets too many beatings and scoldings, I believe.' I wonder if his mother Avould give him out to me. PshaAV ! when I’ve no Avoman or home to take him to—children need a different home from a hoard-ing-house to come up right in. If Fanny had lived. Heigh-ho ! ” And with this the captain threw aAvay his cigar, went to his old blue chest, and from the till took a minature painted on ivory. His weather-beaten face asgunied n softer look uoav, and in his eyes, so long used to sAvceping the horizon in calm and storm, there gleamed tears of heartfelt sorrow. Ah, what breast has not a secret chamber, Avhere the sAveetest, | holiest, saddest treasures are tenderly • cherished! • ~ , ~ • , I The Captain put on his broad-brimmed I Panama hat, and took his stout cane from the coiner, and started for a walk to the I
old church-yard, where his parents were buried half a century before. With difficulty he found their graves, for the old slate headstones had become nearly hidden from sight. He pulled the grass and stubble away, and then read the nearly illegible inscription. Then he knelt with closed eyes and clasped hands. Mrs, Giles was tending the flowers on her husband’s grave at this very time, and not so far from the stranger that she was unable to see how he was engaged. His rolling gait, blue coat, loose duck pants, flopping about the instep, and the shiny pumps, with their tasteful tie of black ribbon, assured her of the nautical habits of the gentleman, as, without having seen her, he left the cemetery. Repairing to the spot he had occupied himself about, she read on the stone the name of Martin. “Mrs. Grimes’ new hoarder, I do declare. How singular I should ha’ seed him here ! ” and she laid a few flowers on the old graves, which she viewed with a pensive air. “Like me he’s - seed trouble, poor dear ! ” Now Billy, who had instituted himself an unseen attendant upon the captain, in order to do which he had diverged from the path of duty, which lay in the direction of the vendor of ham and eggs, was near enough to see all this. And wonderful for him, he not only kept out of sight, but actually held his tongue. But he kept up a fearful thinking. Having procured his ham and eggs, he made another detour in order t© call on the widow, who he rightly conjectured, would be at home by this time. “The cap’n’s real good ter me; he give me more coppers. Why don’t yer ask what for, Mrs. Giles ? ” he said suddenly standing before her. “Can’t yer tell me without?” she facetiously enquired. “No not ef I knows myseil, an’ I reckon Ido.” “ Wal, then, for what ? ” was laughingly rejoined. “ For yer flowers. He thinks lots of me an’ you, he does. Ain’t yer glad ? ” “ Billy, tell me all about it! ” And Billy did, not forgetting to dwell on the spanking he had experienced for her, and the captain, the demon within him prompted him to imitate. Mrs. Giles hunted up a small paper-hag and filled it with doughnuts, which she presented to the communicative youth. Did she entertain a hope that some of them would bo taken into cleaner hands than those which seized the bag with such avidity ? “ Mrs. Grimes alius was a shiftless cook. Guess her boarders likely ennugh’ll git dispepsy with their victuals,” thought Mrs. Giles. Billy slipped up to the captain’s room and offered magnanimously to share the doughnuts before venturing into the presence of his maternal ancestor. “ No I thank you,” answered the gentleman, glancing at Billy’s hands. “O, now, you try one. She made ’urn —Mrs. Giles. She was a cry in’ like the toothache, captain, she was, now, ’cos she’s a poor lonely widder woman. I wish I war a man ! Wouldn’t Igo there ter live ? She cooks lot of good things, and has got lots of roses, and a little white cat,” and thoughtless and forgetfully Billy hurst into a bark, which brought his mother in hot haste to the foot of the stairs. :igain Billy bravely bore the second attack in the rear, and a smile of triumph irradiated his soiled features as he danced before the kitchen fire to the music of the switch. “ Ye’ve been eating doughnuts—where did you get them ? ” catching a whiff of his breath. “ Mrs. Gib's gin ’em ter me. I meant ter a gi’n yer some.” “ Don’t think I’d taste the nasty things! I’d scorn to do it ! She is a stuck-up thing, with her money and house, and nothing to do, whilst I must delve, and my own child don’t have any feelings for me, and I have so much for him ! ” Billy felt sure of the truth of the last, which he had experienced that morning, as we have seen. “Now, see if you can keep still troubling the captain, and wash the potatoes for me.” “ I don’t trouble him, for he likes me,” said Billy, with dignity, proceeding to obey. A light dawned upon Mrs. Grimes’ mind. If her son Billy—troublesome comfort —wore beloved by a certain evidently well-to-do individual, why might not for her emanate from the same source a brighter hit of experience ? Toil and anxiety had seamed her countenance abundantly, however. This she remembered quakingly. She looked at her poor face, using a full pail of water as a mirror. She had this consolation—Mrs Giles was not a whit better younger looking. Then dress could do so much for her. Another advantage ; the gentleman was in her house, so the coast looked pretty clear for her venture, and the old widow, generally forlorn and unsentimental enough, looked at her wedding linger, and wondered how a bright, new wedding ring would become it. At table that noon she put on her best manners with her brightest smile, and a new buff print wrapper, with purple braid bauds, and was careful to use her choicest language, which would be correct. “ Humph ! some widows she knew spoke so badly,” she thought. Billy looked bewildered what did it mean ? Just the three at the table, the young girl who tended the milliner’s store taking her lonely meal in the kitchen as usual. As she paid low board—and being a woman—she was not wanted there or anywhere else. She of course was glad to put up with anything in the way of food, shelter, and treatment, as shop-girls of all grades generally are, especially in large places. “ Billy you will oblige me by not going to Widow Giles’ again. She is not a lit person for mo to associate with ; therefore she cannot he for you,” with dignity observed Mrs. Grimes. “She’s splendid,” protested Billy, winking at the amused captain. “ A child is easily Avon,” said Mrs. Grimes, sweeily, to that gentleman. “Show me a spray of lily of the valley,” said Anna Gamagc to the milliner girl that afternoon. Usually Miss Gnmage was high in her manner, given to taking airs with working people. Now she was condescending—nay, more, patronizing, “where do you hoard,” she condescendingly inquired, knowing well enough. “At Mrs. Grimes’.” The girl wondered greatly as she answered. “Are you the only boarder?” with apparent carelessness. “ There is one other, I believe ; an elderly retired sea captain, a recent addition.” “ Why don’t you set your cap ? ” playfully enquired Miss Gamage. Miss Waters quietly put back the box of flowers which Miss Gamage had inspected without purchasing from. “ She came in here to pump me,” thought Miss Waters, disgusted. ‘‘l hope someone will marry her. What nuisances such women are. ” “Why don’t you call on me’’asked Miss Gamage, kindly. “ Maybe because you never invited me,” came bluntly. “Was I so thoughtless? But I ought to call on you first. Shall you be at home this evening ? ” “I am at the store every evening,” coldly said Miss Waters. Miss Gamage left, indignant at the airs such a girl put on, but decided that it was because “such a girl” had designs on the captain. “Did I see you speaking to my new boarder Miss Waters ? ” severely questioned Mrs. Grimes, as she filled a cup of poor, weak tea, and passed it to her.
“ You did. As I was coming in at the gate he said ‘Good evening Miss.’ Of course I returned it,” Avith hauteur. “ I suppose you could not help answering,” said Mrs. Grimes, presently adding, after a silent survey of the girl’s appearance. “I shall need your attic in two days, a man boarder is more profitable and less trouble than a Avoman.” Miss Waters looked up into the cold blue eyes of her landlady and said pointedly : “ I do not desire to interfere with your plans or retard your prosperity. The room shall be vacated in two days.” Mrs. Grimes evaded the steady, scornful gaze. “ Do you know where a young woman, Avho cannot afford to pay high board, can be accomodated ? ” was asked in the variety store, Avhere Fred Gamage tended, that evening. “Perhaps our folks Avould take you,” said Fred, Avho thought his mother and Anna especially the latter, ought to add to the family funds. “If the Avomen are willing the men will be. ” Captain Martin Avas purchasing cigars of Fred’s employer. Certainly that young girl Avent in and out of the back gate of the Grimes mansion. He had seen J|g£| and noticed lioav neatly she always dresMß and lioav sad Avas the expression of BH sad thin young face, and Avas there rJH| look of Fanny ? BB “ Billy, Avhat is your sister’s adroitly inquired of the youngster morning when his boots Avere brougHH “ Golly ! I ain’t got none ! that into yer head ? ” “Who is that young lady' seen about here ? ” HjH “ Mary Waters. She’s goin’ ter Mother told her so last night, room ’ud be hetter’n her reckon I knoAv a thing or t\vo! ” and looked capable of imparting information to the gentleman, slight encouragement Avith money aflH basis. That forenoon the captain Avay toward the cemetry. On each of sunken graves a fresh bouquet had laid. Near by sobbed Mrs. Giles marble grave-stone, her handkerchieHß her face. The captain, though not a-flj man, felt sure she could see him —aiBB indeed, watchful of his every “ O, those AvidoAvs ! ” Avas his imvard c<|H ment. Who can blame him ! he lingered outside the premises Avalking sloAvly backAvard and forAvnßß deep in meditation. The busy landlßß noticed him narrowly, and felt Avard rage Avhen she saAV him address qSH Waters, Avho ansAvered him although aching for sympathy and apfl| ciation, and believing him to be a gH| man actuated only by the kindest motin| which Avas true. He had made concerning her of the proprietor of |H variety store previously refei red to. Hj “ I Avant a feAv moments Avith you. Can I join you in your aBB from the store this evening ? ” he deferentially. “ Certainly,” she answered with H least flitting of AA'onderment over BJ anxious yet patient face. BR “ Have you found a place ? ” Mrs. Grimes upon the girl’s entrance. |H Even Billy peeling potatoes, looflß daggers at the girl. _ |H “I have, and shall leave your huspiiJH roof to-morroAV. ” ofl “Lucky! You’d go Avithout if fl| hadn’t ” said Mrs. Grimes. “ I am all alone in the Avorld as I BB you are,” said Captain Martin, that ing to Mis Waters, Avho found him side Availing to accompany her ho'SH “ and it seems to mo avc might be cBB fortable together. I have money eno JH and am not the worst man in the AvojjH If you had not looked like a sweet loved and lost nigh upon forty years BB I don’t believe I could have been so Avard. ” When they reached the back gate,Hl twain had promised to take each better or for Avorse immediately. ‘‘ I have decided not to enter family,” Miss Waters said to Mrs. age the next day. The girl looked (BB scions as she spoke. “Hoav strange,” thought the family. H| ‘ ‘ May I enquire Avhat has chanH| your plans ? ” asked Anna, ‘ ‘ Heaven help these helpless, inefiicHj women ? ” “ I can hardly spare the time just BB to answer you,” said Miss Waters, feejH deeply the disgust and suspicion of “He! he ! Maybe you are getting married ? ” Hj “Why mother ! Who could thinkH such a thing ! If she did, gentlerH worth having are particular in tflß choice ! Miss Waters felt able to pity AnnJH amply to. |B The next day Captain Martin and Waters left Mrs. Grimes in compajH They were married at once. Neither friends to admire, consult or offend. HR Mrs. Giles had no more clougliuutsßß Billy, Avhosc mother laid carefully her new buff wrapper in sadness |H gloom. The next Aveek the Gimbhßß “Courier” contained “ The Wail offlfl Broken-hearted,” a poem generally aßfl bated to Miss Gamage. fl| “ What a fool to let the world kflH that you tried to catch the old man BB then failed,” said Fred ‘ ‘ How unfeeling is my, only brothflß she sobbingly answered. BB “It is stuff; my boss says.” Fred repeated nasally : B| I thought my feet no longer swayed Along life’s road alone. But now I know hope only played With a heart now turned to stone. Bb As fair and bright my cheek as hers, As deep in wisdom’s lore, My mind now filled with blurs, |H But she as bride away he bore.” BB “ What beautiful verses ! Can’t J talent make a forten for yer ? ” Bj “ Dear, Avise mother ! You inspire ifl| I Avill not die, but will live for you ! Ifflß a fortune shall bo mine ! ” cried AnHj brightening. BB
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 63, 19 February 1880
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