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ERNEST HAYCOX

NO TIME FOR DREAMS

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First published in The Saturday Evening Post, 6 Dec 1947

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
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The Saturday Evening Post, 6 December 1947, with "No Time for Dreams"



KATHERINE turned the wheat out of the lye water, washed it carefully six times, and poured it into the iron kettle over the fire; that was supper—the entire supper. A woolly November rain rolled through the giant firs around her and crusted her cloak with its sparkling beads as she ran toward her wagon. She paused a moment to call up to the Rowley wagon, inside which Mrs. Rowley lay sick with a cold.

"Ella, the wheat's on to boil! I'll watch! Don't get up!"

She climbed the high seat of her own wagon and got beneath the shelter of the canvas stretched over its bows. This was her home, and had been since leaving Independence, Missouri, five months and twenty-three days before. Her mattress and comforters lay in a corner opposite her mother's lowboy; everything else—the trunks and boxes, the dishes in their barrels, the farm tools, the seedling fruit switches bedded in dirt boxes—were closely packed around her. She got out her father's writing box, lighted a candle, and went on with the letter she had been composing for so long a time for her married sister in the East:


...Everything went well until we got to the crossing of the Platte. Then cholera came. Mother took it first, father next. George and Saul died last. They're buried not far from the river, but you and I will never find their graves. The Rowleys were kind—they took me in. We kept the wagon, and a young man in the party helped me with the oxen. His name is Ben McLane and he reminds me of Saul. He's that tall and has red hair almost like Saul's.

We're camped in the trees behind Portland village. Half the train turned off at Fort Hall for California. Most of the rest went south from Oregon City into the Willamette. We're just ten wagons left. The men are all out in a valley beyond here to see what land can be had. I don't know what I'll do yet. The Rowleys are poor and I'm one more mouth to feed. There's not six dollars in all ten families. Maybe you think I ought to feel sadder than I sound. Well, I have cried, but out here you can't cry long. Maybe someday when other things are done, I'll cry again.


THE men were returning, riding or walking the thick mud trail through the trees toward the wagons parked in the forest gloom. Ben McLane went on to the fire and crouched down against it. She watched him through the round opening of the wagon canvas with an attention so complete that it left no room for anything else in her mind; and presently she climbed from the wagon and went over to the fire to stir the wheat in the kettle. He looked up to her. The long ride in the rain had chilled him and he seemed low of spirits. He was a tall boy with big hands and long arms and a smooth, usually cheerful face.

"Land in the Tualatin's all taken up," he said. "We've decided to go down the valley a hundred miles or so. They say it's open there." His hair rolled back around his temples for want of trimming and his lids crept together as he looked back into the fire. He spread his hands to soak in the heat; steam rolled from his shirt.

Other fires were springing up through the shadows as these families made their supper. She laid her hands quietly together, remembering the things she and Ben had talked about on the long ride across the desert, and she searched her mind for some single hint that he thought about her as she thought about him. Nothing came out of her memory. He was a quiet man, and she was quiet, too, and had no way of making him see.

A sudden impulse gave her courage for a moment, and she decided she would smile at him in a warmer way. She would push herself that far because it was important, because time grew short and she couldn't live on hope forever. In a little while the silence caused him to look up to her, and she gave him the smile, inwardly praying he would be interested; he watched her a moment, not seeing what was in her mind, and by that she knew he had no great interest in her. She turned back to the wagon and laid the writing box across her lap. She had known it would end this way; her hope had been foolish.


The men have come back and the wagons will go south in the morning. I shall not go. The Rowleys are too poor, and I have been on their kindness long enough. I talked to a woman in the village today. Her husband runs the store and she boards single men. I think I can work there. It is a hard thing to part with people. I shall never see any of them any more.

It is such a lonely world tonight.


SHE sealed the letter, addressed it, and left the wagon with her cloak drawn around her. A few men had come to the Rowley fire to join Rowley and Ben McLane.

As she went by them, Rowley said, "Where you goin', Katherine?"

"To the store," she said.

Ben McLane's glance came over to her, and for a moment she thought he might rise and walk with her. She looked at him until she knew she could no longer let the moment drag on, and turned away, following the trail through the woods to the village with its two dozen houses scattered beside the big river.

Spicer's store was a long building of squared logs in whose windows a yellow light glowed against the wholly dark night. The sudden fragrance of supper came upon her when she stepped inside. A great whale-oil lamp hung over a serious man who was working out some last-minute account in his ledger; he looked up at her and murmured, "Wife's in the kitchen and wants to see you," and returned to his calculations.

She walked to the kitchen door and found Mrs. Spicer turning a pan of biscuits onto a plate. Mrs. Spicer was a tall, tired, once-pretty woman with a mouth pressed together.

"You're back," she said to Katherine. "You've decided on it?"

"I'll be here as soon as the wagons leave in the morning."

Mrs. Spicer said, "If I take you, will you promise to stay a year?"

Katherine gave the question serious thought. If she made a promise, it had to be kept. The biscuits meanwhile were growing cold; she picked up the plate and carried it to the dining room—to the bachelors' table of young men making their way in this settlement—and laid the biscuits before a blond lad at the table's foot. The blond lad looked at her with his quiet interest, and a liveliness came upon the nine other young men. She turned back to the kitchen.

"Yes, I'll stay," she said to Mrs. Spicer. "I'll come in the morning."

She returned through the weeping woods to find the men all gathered around the Rowley fire for a talk. She went to the Rowley wagon and got into it to tell Mrs. Rowley. Mrs. Rowley said, "Oh, Katherine, what'll we do without you?" But somewhere on this woman's kind face was a fleeting bit of relief; to Mrs. Rowley it meant one less mouth to feed. Going to her own wagon, Katherine got into bed and lay long awake; dampness made the blankets sticky, and dampness was a powdered wetness in the air around her. Hope was hard to kill, for even though she knew it was foolish, she tried to frame a last message that would reach out to Ben McLane. Long afterwards she fell asleep.

She rose at the first sound of men shouting at the oxen in the darkness. The wagons were hitched, breakfast was eaten and the children stowed away. Mrs. Rowley hugged her, climbed to the seat and burst into tears. Standing by the fire, Katherine watched the big cumbersome wagons swing into line and slowly roll away. She waved at the Rowleys, but she had her eyes on Ben McLane, who rode beside the column on his horse. His good-by to her had been a few words quietly spoken. She watched his tall body fade into the forest gloom and she pressed her mouth together, and a bitter loneliness came to her, and she tried to memorize how he looked before he faded from her sight; for she had liked him and would have married him, and now would see him no more. As soon as the caravan disappeared, she went to her own wagon and drove to the village.


SHE sold the oxen and the wagon, stored the family goods in an empty log house at the edge of the village; heeled the seedling trees into a sandy patch hard by the river. Mrs. Spicer wondered why Katherine should take the trouble to do this; in Mrs. Spicer's hard work life, time was precious and not to be spent on unnecessary things.

"No," said Katherine, "I mean to plant them someday on a place of my own, and when they grow up, I'll think of my people."

"It's a hard thing to lose your people," said Mrs. Spicer.

"Hard things happen," said Katherine.

Two days after Katherine came, Mrs. Spicer took to her bed, at last able to afford the luxury of being sick. Katherine rose at five, combed her hair in the cold corner room, lighted the fires and got the breakfast for the boarders. She did the housework in the gray forenoons, planned dinner and cooked and served it. Around two o'clock she had an hour for herself and, with her sewing, she kept Mrs. Spicer company; at four she was again in the kitchen, making up supper. She washed, she baked, she scrubbed the puncheon floors, which grew so dirty from the muddy feet of men. She mended Spicer's shirts, she darned socks for Abbott Corning, who was Spicer's clerk—that blond young man she had noticed at the foot of the table on her first day. All days were long and it was never much before eleven when she closed the door of her room, braided up her hair and lay a moment wide-awake, to think of all that had happened, to remember her people, and to bring close to her the image of Ben McLane. She heard his voice, she saw him on the big wagon beside her and she saw his broad back fading away through the trees, and always at that point the room was a silent, lonely place and sadness lay as a lump within her.

Mrs. Spicer, catching up on her rest, at last had time to consider other people, and spoke to Katherine. "You needn't work so hard. Don't be a drudge like me. Anyhow, I'll be up pretty soon."

Katherine showed Mrs. Spicer a smile. "I'd not hurry. Let your men miss you a while longer."

"They do take things for granted," said Mrs. Spicer..."Katherine, what's ahead for you? What's in your busy mind?"

"Oh, I'll get married."

"It won't be hard to do," said Mrs. Spicer dryly. "The country's full of men. I could name six now that will be askin' you sooner or later. You've got your choice."

Katherine looked away from Mrs. Spicer, out through the window into the steady mists of winter's rain. Her face took on its expression of wonder. "It's not the wanting of many men that counts," she said. "It's the one man who doesn't want."

"Was there a man in that wagon train?"

"Yes," said Katherine.

"What was he like?"

"He's big and red-haired, like my brother Saul. Ben's his name. He'll be a farmer somewhere."

"Nothing was said between you?"

"Oh, no."

Mrs. Spicer looked directly at the ceiling. Her glance went through it, away from this village to a place far off from here and to a time in the past. "Katherine," she murmured, "there've been a lot of women with Bens to remember." She soon brought herself back, her face resuming its fretful impatience. "But you've certainly got your choice now."

She certainly had, for all the young men at the table were single and had venturesome eyes. They were foot-loose ones who had crossed the plains or jumped the sailing ships which touched here. Four were woodcutters, three were hunters, one was a surveyor, one a pony-express messenger, and one was Abbott Corning. He was the quietest of the lot, and the one who already had found his opening. He had begun a log house across from Spicer's and worked on it after hours; it was to be his own store.

"I have got a consignment of goods coming around the Horn on the Sea Witch next spring," he told Katherine.

"Won't you be trading against Mr. Spicer?"

"No, he's general merchandise, and I'll be hardware."

He, least of the young group, seemed to want to catch her attention; yet it was he who walked with her on a clear Sunday to the log house at the edge of the settlement and helped her unpack the trunks and air out her people's things. He was from Massachusetts, with a bit of twang in his voice and an agreeable coolness of manner. He was methodical, he was courteous—and now and then she noticed a far-off shining of repressed humor in his eyes.

When they were finished with the airing he strolled toward the river with her to have a look at the heeled-in fruit whips. He put his hands behind his back while he studied the plants; then he looked up at her, and she saw that he had been touched.

"You've not had it easy. We're a long way from home and it's not good to be alone. Those would make a nice orchard behind a house. What's your last name, Katherine?"

"Millison."

He had taken off his hat, either as a deliberate thing or as an unconscious gesture. It gave her a moment of warmth—it was an understanding he seemed to share with her.

That same feeling came again a little later when he opened a twenty-pound mat of rough sugar from the Sandwich Islands and found a colony of mice living within. He was on the point of throwing the sugar away, but she took it and boiled it out in a kettle and made it into sirup. "Now," he said, "that's practical." In the morning when she served some of the sirup with hot cakes, he grinned at her and nodded toward the other men at the table. "They don't know how good this is, do they?" The understanding moved between them again with its nice feeling.

Mrs. Spicer noticed it, and watched the two through the days, and was thoughtful and more than usually short with her husband. She said nothing to Katherine until she found the girl standing at the store's doorway, looking toward the hills.

"Katherine," she said, "you got a hope maybe Ben will come back?"

"I guess I have," said the girl. "It's a foolish thing."

"He ever know you had him on your mind?"

"Oh, no," said Katherine. "I never showed it." She shrugged her shoulders. "It's just a thing I can't have. People have got to make the best of what comes."

"You're a firm girl," said Mrs. Spicer. She stood beside Katherine, staring at the homely village and its street of churned mud and its gloomy forest crowding down. A sudden dead hatred came to her face. "Sometimes it's almost too much."


WINTER settled over the two dozen houses of the village. The hard rains slashed down, turning the street into a quagmire, and the sun came out and steam rose from the forest as though it were afire. These dark evenings Abbott Corning planed out his boards and built his shelves and his counters and sealed in the back room, which was to be living quarters. Seldom did he quit before midnight and, remembering the raw chill of that empty building, Katherine got in the habit of taking coffee to him.

Sometimes, when he put aside his hammer, his weariness made him appear old, but another time, on the day the building was finished, she saw a different side. The young bachelors chose to christen the place with the blue ruin which sold along the river at two dollars the gallon. She was in the kitchen, long past midnight, when he came into Spicer's. He walked down the store aisle with an exaggerated care and halted in the kitchen's doorway. His beaver hat sat angled on his bright blond hair and his eyes were young and sparking with venture. He removed his hat and made his bow, and he looked at her in the way that was new, and strong with personal interest.

"Katherine," he said, "I have got a store. There's nothing in it yet, but I have got it. I'm not a fool often, but I get to thinking sometimes the fools have the best of it. Every board I planed and cut and doweled down, every board came out of time I could have been sleeping or fishing on the river. I thought I'd be a fool for once. Have I done wrong?" He was laughing as he said it, but he was anxious about it, too, and watched her pour coffee for him, and took the cup obediently.

"It's nice to be free once in a while," she said. "I'm glad you did. You drink that and you'll not feel bad tomorrow."

He drank it and smiled at her. "You ought not be so troubled, Katherine, and I ought not be so dull."

"I'll laugh someday, like you're laughing now," she said. "And you're not dull at all." She took him by the arm and led him over the store to his room.

He stood by his bed with the strong admiration in his eyes, but even then she knew she had nothing to fear from him. She gave him a small push. He fell back on the bed and he lay there, his hair tousled and his eyes closed. "It's been satisfactory," he murmured. "I'll never be an old man with a skullcap and muttonchop whiskers."

On the third of April, the bark Sea Witch worked up the river to tie at the bluff with Abbott Corning's consignment of goods from Boston. He hired the bachelors to move the cargo into his store, and on another night, a week later, he brought a sign out of a hiding place—a white shingle blackly lettered: CORNING & CO. HARDWARE, TIN GOODS, CROCKERY, MINERS' SUPPLIES, LEATHER. He went into the dark street and hung it to the waiting bracket over the doorway and came back. A rainy wind rushed over the town and the shingle began to squeak in its metal eyes. He put his hands into his trousers pockets and stood before her. He was quiet, he was happy.

"I shall open this door in the morning. I hope to open it, the same key in the same lock, as long as I'm alive." He jingled the coins in his pocket, he smiled, he settled his shoulders. "I am twenty-three years old and I owe twenty thousand dollars on this stock. My health is good. I am ambitious. I can be trusted. I am not a lively man." The smiling dissolved into great seriousness. "I would be happy if you saw fit to trust me, as others have done...if you'd make the venture with me...if you'd be my wife."

She had one terrible moment of indecision, of something like panic. She crowded it down and smiled at him. "Yes," she said.

The answer brought him embarrassment, for he wanted to kiss her and scarcely knew how to go about it. She lifted her head and made a slight motion with her hands, breaking his uncertainty, and he put his arms around her and gave her a soft kiss and stepped away. He was smiling and confused. "I've never done that before. I guess there's a lot of things I've never done." The deep-hidden New England humor began to sparkle in his eyes and the knowledge of his luck began to work slowly at him, building up his buoyancy. "Now, then, we've got to tell the Spicers."

"I don't know what Mrs. Spicer will say. I promised to work a year for her."

"She's a good woman." Then he added in the considerate tone so characteristic of him: "If she won't release you from the promise, we'll have to wait, of course."

They found the Spicers in the kitchen; he was reading, and she knitting. Mrs. Spicer's glance searched them and her mouth settled with the thought that came to her. She laid her hands in her lap. "Spicer," she said, and when he lifted his attention from the paper, she nodded at the two younger people. Spicer looked around at them.

"Mr. Spicer," said Abbott Corning, "I'll be opening shop in the morning. I've not said this before, but I remember your kindness. Yours and Mrs. Spicer's. Now then..."

He looked at Katherine. "Is it the man or the woman who's supposed to say this?"

"It's plain on both of you," said Mrs. Spicer. "It needs no more saying."

"Well, now, that's good," said Spicer, and rose to extend his hand to both of them.

"Spicer," said Mrs. Spicer, "take Abbott out a moment."

She closed the kitchen door after the two men left. She wasn't pleased, Katherine thought. But it really wasn't displeasure so much as it was a fretfulness that gave her face an unhappier look. "Katherine, are you sure Ben won't come back? He might, mightn't he?"

"There's no use thinking about that."

"You still hope for it, don't you?" pressed Mrs. Spicer.

Katherine shook her head. "Maybe, in a little way, I do. But I know it's wrong. It's not practical. People have got to do the best they can, and not grieve over dreams. If they waited for their hopes to work out, nothing would get done and we'd all waste our lives. Maybe I'm a little bit sad, but I can get over it." She paused, still troubled by something in her mind. Then she said, "I have got to tell Abbott about Ben...before we're married."

"Why?" asked Mrs. Spicer, and watched Katherine with her insistent attention.

"It's important. He's got to know. That's fair."

"Katherine," said Mrs. Spicer, "I'm going to make you keep your promise. You've got to finish out your year with me."

"Why, then," said Katherine, "I shall. Abbott and I can wait."

She left the room, and presently Spicer came back and settled in his chair again to finish his newspaper. Mrs. Spicer stood at the kitchen window, staring through the pane to a night she couldn't see; and though Spicer was an incurious man he finally became aware of her silence and looked up from his paper.

"Something not right?"

She was short with her answer. "Right or wrong, what's the difference?"

"You get thinking spells, Nelly. What do you think about?"

"Nothing," she said, and continued to look through the window.

Spring came with its warm rains and its sudden bright suns shining through an air washed clean. The pale greens of new growth made a lacework pattern against the dark greens of the land. The river lifted and turned yellow from the mud of caved-in banks; the pathways of the village sent up their thin steam as they grew dry. Abbott Corning built a shed at the back end of his store lot and bought a cow; early in the morning he milked it and drove it to a pasture out near the Terwilliger claim, and near suppertime he drove it back. He had left Mrs. Spicer's table.

"I could afford the board money," he told Katherine, "but I've got a debt to pay to the merchants in the East who trusted me. So it's better that I batch, though I do miss your cooking."

It became her habit then, on Sundays, to go to his store and bake his bread and—knowing his liking for sweet things—a large cake with a butter frosting. On one such Sunday he hired a wagon and moved her packed things from the log cabin to the drier loft of his store.

"Maybe it will bring your family closer," he said. "You're the sort to remember your people. You got a long memory. I can see it in your eyes most any time."

She almost told him of Ben, but the impulse wavered and she postponed the ordeal. "It's a nice thing for you to take the space for my trunks," she said.

"Well, you don't ask much of anybody. I wish you ask more."

"I don't need much," she said.

He smiled at her. "You need whatever you'd want to ask for, and it would be my pleasure to supply it." He was embarrassed by the warmth of the statement. He looked down to the floor, softly adding, "Maybe I shouldn't trouble you with my feelings."

She touched his arm. "Abbott, I'll try hard to make things go well for us."

He said, "We've got six months to wait. I ought not grow impatient, but I do."

It was her turn to grow self-conscious, so much so that when they walked back to Spicer's she was glad to be in the shadows of the warm spring night. The bells of pastured cows rang gently and intermittently from the village edge and house lights seemed more than usually yellow in their shining. She stood a moment at Spicer's doorway, waiting for whatever he wished to say; but instead of speaking, he looked down to her with his quietness disturbed by the clear-shown impulse to kiss her. She said, "Good night," and turned quickly into the store.

She knew that was wrong and stood at her window to reason away the memories of Ben McLane which came without her permission. These would someday fade out, and then she'd smile at her foolishness, but it took so long a time. He was still important to her, and because he was important to her, she had to let him know. Sunday she'd do it.

She meant, on Sunday, to go to his store after breakfast work was done; instead he came to her.

"Day's fine," he said. "Northwest wind's blowing. Thought you might like to walk. The trails are dry up along the hill."

"Why," she said, "we'll take a lunch. I've never been up that hill." She rummaged a meal from the kitchen and packed it in a muslin sack and borrowed a pot for coffee. They went by Spicer's store, where he stopped for a blanket, and then struck away from the town into the timber.

Though she had been in the village six months, she had never gone back to the little clearing in the timber where the emigrant wagons had camped; and when she came to it, she stopped and for a moment the picture came up full and strong of that wet morning, the wagons rolling away, and Mrs. Rowley crying, and Ben McLane disappearing into the shadows. She looked down at the round dark place where the fire had been. The taste of boiled wheat returned to her. Everything returned with its original sharpness.

"You're thinking again," said Abbott Corning. "It's like soot in your eyes."

"It's sad to think of people all scattered—the ones I knew so well."

"Well," said Abbott Corning, "it's a country for scattering. But it's a country for starting, and for coming together too. It's a good thing we're so busy out here that we've not got much time to think of the past."

"I've not had time yet to cry for my people," said Katherine.

"It was a bad thing," he said, his sympathy strong in his words.


THEY reached the mouth of a canyon whose damp wild breath came downward to them; they found a trail along the hill's stiff slope, through masses of great fir trees. Wet rock faces glistened in the shadows and the fallen needles of a thousand years' accumulation made a carpet that gave with their weight. Near noon they came to a grassy summit at the peak of these hills and saw the land run away westward—black forest and green meadow and swelling domes of hills—until the massive wall of the Cascades rose up to top the eye. Directly below them the river flashed and turned its great loop, northward moving; beside the river was the small scar of Portland village.

They spread the blanket, made a fire to cook coffee, and had their lunch. Abbott Corning lay back with his sigh of fullest satisfaction, his eyes watching the fair sky. "I am a horse turned out for a day, and that's a good feeling."

"You work hard, Abbott. You keep long hours."

"I'm a slow man, and long hours don't hurt me. I'll never be great, Katherine, but I will be useful, and in time we ought to be well-fixed."

"You ought not speak of yourself so humbly."

"I couldn't fool myself," he said. "I do admit that I have a business head. I do admit one other thing: I was a lonely man till I met you."

She knew this was the time to speak, but, looking at the contentment upon him, she could not bring herself to it. It struck her in the heart. She looked out upon the far mountains, telling herself that she would do it on the homeward walk.

"Abbott," she said, "you need more crockery in your stock at the store."

"It is not a day to think business," he said, and rose with a thought amusing him. "Now come look with me." She followed him to the break of the hill and sighted along his arm as he pointed toward the village. "See that little open spot beyond the Terwilligers', but short of the village? It is an acre, more or less, and five minutes' walk from the store. I have bought it. I should not have bought it without your seeing it, but the price was not much."

"It's your judgment," she said, and was warmed by his wanting to share the decision with her. "I see it. What's it for?"

"When the village gets larger," he said, "we'll not want to live in back of the store. We'll want a house which is not on the main street."

She said, "That will be a good thing. Is there a sunny place for a garden?"

"You'll see," he said, and picked up the blanket and muslin sack. The secret amusement continued to bubble up and leave its impression on his face, and now and then he gave her a sly look. "It may please you," he said.

"I don't need to be pleased more than I am now."

"I wish you did," he said, and was wistful with his tone.

She said, very quickly, "I don't mean to be indifferent, Abbott. I'm not."

He went chuckling down the trail with her. They reached the canyon and walked toward town; when they were within a few minutes of it, Abbott Corning followed another trail into a grove of trees which soon began to thin out before a little meadow. "Now, then," he said, taking her hand, "will you close your eyes and let me bring you to it?"

He went before her and reached the clearing, and stopped in it. "If you like this," he said, "I'll be satisfied."

She opened her eyes to see the acre lying within the border of roundabout firs. A small creek crossed the clearing, wandering as it went; toward the middle of the acre stood three small cedars. This much she saw at first glance, and then her glance went beyond the cedars to a corner of the acre and discovered the plowed corner in which her father's seedling trees stood in their rows, one day to be an orchard.

He said, "I moved these at night, when you wouldn't notice. I hope I didn't do wrong. The house will sit by the cedars. You can look out of the window to the orchard, and there's your people with you, Katherine."

She turned to see the smiling gone from him completely. He was once more a sober man holding his hat in his hand, watching her with his hope for her happiness. She said, "Abbott," and began to cry. She tried to stop it by pressing her palms tightly against her eyes, but he reached up and pulled them aside and put his arms around her. He didn't say anything; he held her while she cried, his head touching the top of her head. All her restraint gave way before the pressure so long accumulated. She laid her arms on his shoulders to steady herself, and poured out everything bitter and regretful, and ceased to cry, and remained long still. He patted her slowly and lightly on the back; he waited, still without words.

She drew away and raised a reddened face to him, then realized how she looked, and turned aside to use her fingers to press away the tears. She kept her back to him, looking toward the nursery rows. "Well, Abbott, now I've cried for my people and I guess I'm done with it. I've been a sorrowful girl, but that's past."

He said, "I didn't do wrong, then?"

"No, Abbott. It was right."

He took her arm and walked back through the pathway and through the timber to the village. When they got to the door he stepped aside to let her go ahead of him. She stopped in the front room, but he went on to the rear with the blanket and left it and came back. He was restless and embarrassed, and he went by her and paused at the window, rattling the silver in his pocket. Suddenly he turned and stood in front of her with something of the expression she had noticed the night he had christened the building—the rash sparkling in his eyes, the boyishness, the close personal interest.

"Katherine," he said, "I'm not patient about waiting six months."

"Mrs. Spicer—"

He touched her arm, and hesitated, and pulled her forward. "No," he said, "it's a long time," and he kissed her with the driving impatience of a man in love.

It wasn't like his first kiss; it wasn't tender and embarrassed and unsure. He wanted her, and this possessiveness went around her like a heavy arm. She drew her head back, staring up to him; her lips softened from the knowledge of his wanting. She dropped her glance, smiling and unsteady.

"Well, then, Abbott," she said, "we must go see her."

"Now," he said. They crossed to Spicer's, and went through the front room, passing Spicer, who looked up with his incurious mildness. Mrs. Spicer was at the kitchen stove. She heard them, but some perversity made her delay turning around. When she did turn, with a wearied resentment on her face, she saw the pleasure in Katherine's eyes at once. She saw the change, and a loosening came immediately to those drawn cheeks; a kindness warmed her eyes.

"Mrs. Spicer—"

"You don't need to tell anybody," said Mrs. Spicer, "you've found a man."

"I found him a long time ago."

"No," said Mrs. Spicer, "you found him today." She looked at Katherine with her private message. She said, "Have you said what you thought you would say to him?"

"No," said Katherine. "It's not important. If it were important, I would. But it isn't at all."

Mrs. Spicer turned to the stove. She opened the oven door and stooped to haul out a pan. "Well, then, I shan't keep you to a promise. You're sure it's all right?"

"Oh, yes," said Katherine, "it's all right. I'll be back in a little while to help with supper. I'll help as long as I can. I'll be close enough, even married."

"That's fine," said Mrs. Spicer, and went on with her work. She listened to the girl's steps and the man's steps go on to the store, and presently she straightened and stopped her work. There were tears in her eyes and she thought, Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it's good like this. She looked across the kitchen and out through the window, and for a little while she was quite still, with her thoughts far off and far back. She shook her head to clear her eyes, and turned to the stove.


THE END


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