Next, the false and insulting "To Let" sign would be forcibly

tweaked from the tree and thrown into the grass. She would then

lay the table in the kitchen, and make ready the nicest breakfast

that two people ever sat down to. And oh, would two people sit

down to it; or would one go off in a rage and the other die of

grief and disappointment?

Then, having done all, she would wait and palpitate, and

palpitate and wait, until Stephen came. Surely no property-owner

in the universe could drive along a road, observe his corn

leveled to the earth, his sign removed, his house open, and smoke

issuing from his chimney, without going in to surprise the rogue

and villain who could be guilty of such vandalism.

And when he came in?

Oh, she had all day Sunday in which to forecast, with mingled

dread and gladness and suspense, that all-important, all-decisive

first moment! All day Sunday to frame and unframe penitent

speeches. All day Sunday! Would it ever be Monday? If so, what

would Tuesday bring? Would the sun rise on happy Mrs. Stephen

Waterman of Pleasant River, or on miserable Miss Rose Wiley of

the Prier Neighborhood?


Long ago, when Stephen was a boy of fourteen or fifteen, he had

gone with his father to a distant town to spend the night. After

an early breakfast next morning his father had driven off for a

business interview, and left the boy to walk about during his

absence. He wandered aimlessly along a quiet side street, and

threw himself down on the grass outside a pretty garden to amuse

himself as best he could.

After a few minutes he heard voices, and, turning, peeped through

the bars of the gate in idle, boyish curiosity. It was a small

brown house; the kitchen door was open, and a table spread with a

white cloth was set in the middle of the room. There was a

cradle in a far corner, and a man was seated at the table as

though he might be waiting for his breakfast.

There is a kind of sentiment about the kitchen in New England, a

kind of sentiment not provoked by other rooms. Here the farmer

drops in to spend a few minutes when he comes back from the barn

or field on an errand. Here, in the great, clean, sweet,

comfortable place, the busy housewife lives, sometimes rocking

the cradle, sometimes opening and shutting the oven door,

sometimes stirring the pot, darning stockings, paring vegetables,

or mixing goodies in a yellow bowl. The children sit on the

steps, stringing beans, shelling peas, or hulling berries; the

cat sleeps on the floor near the wood-box; and the visitor feels

exiled if he stays in sitting-room or parlor, for here, where the

mother is always busy, is the heart of the farm-house.

There was an open back door to this kitchen, a door framed in

morning-glories, and the woman (or was she only girl?) standing

at the stove was pretty,--oh, so pretty in Stephen's eyes! His

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