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above them. Then the men became uneasy, and whispered suggestion and suspicion passed from the one to the other. “Reckon she's caved in his head the first lick!” “ Decoyed him inter the tunnel and barred him up, likely.” “Got him down and sittin' on him.” “Prob’ly biling suthin' to heave on us: stand clear the door, boys !” For just then the latch clicked, the door slowly opened, and a voice said, “ Come in out o' the wet."
The voice was neither that of the Old Man nor of his wife. It was the voice of a small boy, its weak treble broken by that preternatural hoarseness which only vaga· bondage and the habit of premature selfassertion can give. It was the face of a small boy that looked up at theirs, — a face that might have been pretty, and even refined, but that it was darkened by evil knowledge from within, and dirt and hard experience from without. He had a blanket around his shoulders, and had evidently just risen from his bed. “Come in," he repeated, “ and don't make no noise. The Old Man's in there talking to mar,” he continued, pointing to an adjacent room which seemed to be a kitchen, from which the Old Man's voice came in deprecating accents. “Let me be,” he added querulously to Dick Bullen, who had caught him up, blanket and all, and was affecting to toss him into the fire; “ let go o' me, you d-d old fool, d'ye hear?”
Thus adjured, Dick Bullen lowered Johnny to the ground with a smothered laugh, while the men, entering quietly, ranged themselves around a long table of rough boards which occupied the centre of the room. Johnny then gravely proceeded to a cupboard and brought out several articles, which he deposited on the table. " Thar 's whiskey. And crackers. And red herons. And cheese." He took a bite of the latter on his way to. the table. “And sugar.” He scooped up a mouthful en route with a small and very dirty hand. “ And terbacker. Thar's dried appils too on the shelf, but I don't admire 'em. Appils is swellin'. Thar,” he concluded, “now wade in, and don't be afeard. I don't mind the old woman. She don't b’long to me. S' long."
He had stepped to the threshold of a small room, scarcely larger than a closet, partitioned off from the main apartment, and holding in its dim recess a small bed. He stood there a moment looking at the company, his bare feet peeping from the blanket, and nodded.
“Hello, Johnny! You ain't goin' to turn in agin, are ye?” said Dick.
“Yes, I are,”, responded Johnny decidedly.
• Why, wot's up, old fellow ?”
“I've got a fevier. And childblains. And roomatiz," returned Johnny, and vanished within. After a moment's pause, he added in the dark, apparently from under the bed-clothes, “ And biles ! ”
There was an embarrassing silence. The men looked at each other and at the fire. Even with the appetizing banquet before them, it seemed as if they might again fall into the despondency of Thompson's grocery, when the voice of the Old Man, incautiously lifted, came deprecatingly from the kitchen.
“ Certainly! Thet 's so. In course they is. A gang o'lazy, drunken loafers, and that ar Dick Bullen 's the ornariest of all. Did n't hev no more sabe than to come round yar, with sickness in the house and no provision. Thet's what I said: Bullen,' sez I, “it's crazy drunk you are, or a fool,' sez I, to think o' such a thing.' 'Staples,' I sez, “be you a man, Staples, and 'spect to raise h–ll under my roof, and invalids lyin' round ?' But they would come, — they would. Thet 's wot you must 'spect o'such trash as lays round the Bar.”
A burst of laughter from the men followed this unfortunate exposure. Whether it was overheard in the kitchen, or whether the Old Man's irate companion had just then exhausted all other modes of expressing her contemptuous indignation, I cannot say, but a back door was suddenly slammed with great violence. A moment later and the Old Man reappeared, haply unconscious of the cause of the late hilarious outburst, and smiled blandly.
“ The old woman thought she'd jest run over to Mrs. MacFadden's for a sociable call,” he explained with jaunty indifference as he took a seat at the board.
Oddly enough it needed this untoward incident to relieve the embarrassment that was beginning to be felt by the party, and their natural audacity returned with their host. I do not propose to record the convivialities of that evening. The inquisitive reader will accept the statement that the conversation was characterized by the same intellectual exaltation, the same cautious reverence, the same fastidious delicacy, the same rhetorical precision, and the same logical and coherent discourse, somewhat later in the evening, which distinguish similar gatherings of the masculine sex in more civilized localities and under more favorable auspices. No glasses were broken in the absence of any; no liquor was uselessly spilt on the floor or table in the scarcity of that article.
It was nearly midnight when the festivities were interrupted. “Hush !” said Dick Bullen, holding up his hand. It was the querulous voice of Johnny from his adjacent closet: “Oh, dad!”
The Old Man arose hurriedly and disappeared in the closet. Presently he reappeared. “His rheumatiz is coming on agin bad,” he explained, “and he wants rubbin'.” He lifted the demijohn of whiskey from the table and shook it. It was empty. Dick Bullen put down his tin cup with an embarrassed laugh. So did the others. The Old Man examined their contents, and said hopefully, “I reckon that's enough; he don't need much. You hold on, all o'you, for a