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A Japanese Jar

A Japanese Jar image
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" I think it cruel, absolutely cruel, and I can't uuderstand it, and never shall," saidprettyAiny Iselin, with asob in her voice and a mist of unshed tears blurring her visión and mak ing tho forgeous pattern of the jar which slie eld dance in raagnified proportions before her eyes. "It wasn't dear aunty that W8S cruel," replied the calmcr May. " She meant to givo us this house and all she had. I know she did, for she told me so a lumdred times. Why, I recollect perfectly her putting her hand on that little writing desk, and saying: ' Write your letters here sometimes, dear. It will make you think of me.' Do you think she v-uld havo said that, if sho had meant that Cousin Elisha should have the desk? Iknow the will gives all tó him; but there's some niistake. I am couvinced, some horrid, dreadful niistake. 1 know aunty never meant to leave everytliing to Cousin Elisha, and to us only her clothes and that jar, which ourfatherbrought her home from his tirst long voyage. The will says so; but that doesn't make the least difference in what I think."' "That will,'' broke in impetuous Amy, " is dated seventcen years ago, when you were nol fouv years old and I almost a baby. I know as well as you do that she made another. Nobody need teil me that. But where is it? What did she care for Cousin Elisha? She never saw him and hardly ever spoke of him; and how dearly she loved us both, especially you, May! I am sure she never meant to leave us out in tho cold, with our beggarly seven hundred a year; just enough to starve on somewhere in tho country, but not enough to keep a roof over our heads, or give us any pleasure, or - " A sob. The room in which the sisters sat was one of those charming old-fashionod rooms which still survivehere and there in city sttfeets, which the plow of imgrovement has so far spared. It had panne led wainscotting, painted white; a high white chimney-piece, with fluted pilasters; anda "toothcd" cornice of carved wood. The furniture was dark with age - only the blooming girls and the ohMashioned " bovv pot" of jonquils and tulips on the table spoke of youth and spring; but over all these breathed that choice aroma which makes quaint things even more delightful than new- the aroma of a well-ordered, century-old home. "The jar is worth a great, great deal, Miss Peters says," remarked May, after a pause of siíence. "She thinks we could get four hundred dollars for it, if we sent it toTift'any's." "Does she really? I can't bear to think of selling it, though; only I suppose we must. Here, May, put it on the side-table, please. It's dreadfully heavy." How do such things happen? Was there some failure in responsive between the two volitions, as Amy lifted and May held out her hands to receive the jar, or was the accident result of some tricksy Fate, bound not to be thwarted in its malicious designs? Certain it is that, between the two, it slipped and feil. May's rapid clutch only gave it a new and rapid direction toward the mavble hearth-stone, on which it struck heavily. With a scream of dismay, Amy threw herself on her knees and ga'thered it up. Too late. The jar was a wreek. A largo hole appeared on one side, and there several fragments lay on the Hoor. "It is a clean break: that is one comfort. It will rivet beautit'ully," declared May, when the iirst shock of horror was past. " But of what use is a brokeii jar? Wecan't sell it. No one will want it now." "No, I supposenot; but we will have it mended and keep it in remembrance of papa and aunty." " It's just our luck, isn't it?" sighed Amy, as May wrapped the picees in paper and deftly made one part-el of the three. "Just our luck. We only had one thing in the world, and now we've smashed that." "It is too, too bad," said May, sorrowfully, as shc turned the key of a little cupboard at the side of the ehinineyand laid the parcel of broken china on a shelf inside. As she did so, she gave a little exelamation. " What is it?" asked her sister. "Nothing. Only I've uut my finger on this broken lamp-chimney. Don't look so frightened. It isn't much. Hardly more than ascratch!" wapping her handkerehief about it as she spoke. "Butreallv, t's quiie dangerous having such things about. Of what possible use is a broken lamp-chimney. Bridget," to a maid, who just then came in, "please throw away this broken glass to-morrow. It is of no use, and some one will hurt themselves badly if it stavs here." " Yes'm." " "What a queer habit that was of aunty's to keep everything, whether it was of anyuse ornot," said Amy, meditatively, when Bridget, after lighting the gas, had left the room. "It makes it stranger still that her will should !e missing. I told you (didn'.t I?) that Ben AUen is almost sure that his father mentioned, about iive years ago, that he had just been drawing op a will for aunty. That was the vuur after we oame hcru ti i live. Oh! ifonly old Mr. Allen hadn't died. Don't you remember, too, liow aunty spent diys last spring in lookinj; over paper?, and tying thcni iuto bundies, and sorting and LabelingP It seemed as if she had a prescntiment of what was fíoinj; to happen, and sho wanted to put all in order.' "What became of the papers she threw asideP" askod May, wilh a sudden thoulit. "I don't know. The man took them, 1 presume. ' "Well, theres no uso in d welling longeron irhatmight have been,'" said May, sagaciously. "What is. is all we have to trust to, whlch Dfleans that you and 1 have just seven hundred a year to live on, with aunty's old things ,o help us along at iirst. And we must be brave aud see what we can make out of it." "Without even tho jar to help us," added Amy, bitterly. "Thatwouid have beett something; 80, uaturally, it is broken." "I ai dreadfully sorry about the jar," confessed May; "but don' t look so tropical, dear Amy. Aunty used to say that accidenta sometimes turned out blessings in disguise; atid perhaps this will, though 1 confesa I don't quite see how." She little guessed how truly she spoke; and neither did Amy, as she shrngged a pair of incredulous shoulders and muttered: " Optimism! Nonsense!" May's optimism, if that it was which gave its serene coloring to her hopeful nature, sustained a severe shock when, going to the cupboard, five days later, for the fragmenta of the jar, they proved to be missing. Bridget was interrogated, with this result. " Sure, ye said they wuz all to be throwed away." "Yes, tho broken lamp-chimneys; but not- " " And how wuz I to know? They wiiz all broke alike; so I in wid them to the dust-bar'l." " Do you meau that you put that parcel of broken china that was done up in paper into the dust-barrel?'' "I didn't know you wanted any of it saved. I just cleared out all the broken things.'1 "Oh! Bridget! Bridget!" despairingly. Then, with sudden hope: ' Where i's the barrel?'' "Sure, it was emptied the day before yisterday. That's the regular time. It's very sorry I am, Miss.' " Do you kuow who empties it?" inquired May. "It's a cart that comes along. A man drives t. I don't remiinber his beyant that it's Mike. Twice a week it comes. He' 11 not be hert; agin till Satunlay." " I wonder if Ben couldn't find out who the man is and whcre he empties his cart?" suggested Amy. "Ben? Ben Allen? Perhaps he could. We will ask him, if lie happens to drop in." Beu was rather given to " dropping in" in those days. He was deeply in love with Amy ïseün, if truth must be told; but prudence aml honor liad so far sealed his lips on the subject. A young lawyer, fighting for practica among a crowd of eager competitors, he could barely calcúlate on a subsistence for himself. To a-k a girl to marry him, with no better hope to offer thau au interminable engagement, was wrong and unfair, he oonsidered. It was tying Amy's bloom and freshness to the rank of a wearing suspense, spoilingthe better chances she wassure to have, he told himself with a groan; so he held back the words which lie would fain have uttered, and restricted himself to the role of friend. But perhaps Ben did not play this role so suceessfully as he fancied. Certainly, Amy had of late taken a great triek of blushing when Ben's name was mentioned, and her hacl eyes met his with a shy i-onseiousness, which said more than they meant. It was hard enough to hoM an honorable silence while the girl he loved was struggling with perplexities and worries, which he could neither relieve nor share; and more than once Ben had muttered wrathfully to himself: "Confound old Miss Iselin! What did she mean by pretending to be so fond of those girls, and then going off and leaving them without a penny - not even a mention in her will? I wish I knew the rights of the thing. If she had done as she ought, I, perhaps I - " And he tugged at his moustache wrathfully. But ill-treating his moustache did Ben no good, nor did it aerve to throw the least light on the vexed question of Miss lsclin's lost will. The question of the city cartman was much more easily settled. "Mike" was found and questioned; but his replies were not encouraging: "Idumps on that big Common out to the East End; but, blessyou. Ma'am, it wouldn't be no use for any one to go searching there. There's a matter of twenty carts that dumps alongside of me, and if your chiny was inside the barrel, why, there's iive or six ton of rubbish alop of it, most likely, by this time." " But I mean to go and search for it, all the same," deelared Amy. " And I'll go with you," said May. " And I, too, if you really mean it," put in Ben Allen. "'Twon't be no use," persisted Mike. But he described as well as he could the part of the Common on which he had emptied his loads the Tuesday before. Tnen he drove off, still shaking his head and repeating, perlinaciously as l'oe's raven, his refrain of " No use! 'Twon't be uo use!" The girls really did "mean it," and next day found them equipped for the expedition, in their oklesl clothes and hats. Eaeh carried a small hoe, and they kept their veils down in the car, fearing to be recognized by some aequaintauce in this nnaccustomed guise. It looked a hopeless cjuest, indeed, when they reached the big Common, and surveyed the huge piles of rubbish wilh whieh they had to deal. Mav's zeal gave out at once, and, though sha made a pretense of using her lioe, the strokes were rather a pretense, and she shrank fastidiously from the dusky cloud which they evoked. Amy was of more vigorous stulT, and, choosing her spot, she plunged in, regardless of dirt and its consequences, and liad soon make a considerable excavation. Such extraordinary rubbish as she turned up! Old shoes, hoopskirts of antiquated patterns, battered and rusty tin pans, broken glass, broken china, broken everything, tomato-cans (always a speeialty of dust-heaps), coverless bowls, scraps of calicó, odds and ends of every diseription. One old audiron was discovered, bearing its brass knob above the ashes, and was pouneed oa by Amy as lawful prize. But its fellow was not to be found, which made it, as Ben suggested, about as valuable as half a pair of scissora. It was a dusty, dirty, depressing search; but Amy's zeal delied discouragement, and she delved and dug with energy worthy of a nobler causo, Onding considerable amusement meamvhile in the motley articles whioh her searcli revealed. "And just to think tliat all this ís lesa than a year's accutnulation!"' said Muv. "The man said this Common would be ftlled up by the end of the year, and they would have to begin dumping in a fresh place.'1 "Oh, dear! what a lot of rubbishthere is in the wojld! It quite wears me out to realize it," rejoined Amy, with a sigh. "Well, you don't seem to be very active. I shall begin in a fresh, place, I think. There doesn't seem to be anything below this except a bed of old papers," throwing the envelope on the ground asshespoke. May picked it up. "Amy," she cried, "stop a minute! It'svery quner, but I do think this is aunty's haudwriting.1' "Why, it's impossibie!" pouncing on I the envelope. "I ean't believe it. Let me see. Why, it really is! That is aunty's unniistakable P. Well, if it isn't queer that we should light upon it. May, an idea strikes me. Do you recollect that great heap of old pajiers which aunty threw aside last spring, when she put the old secretary in order? Would n't it be strange if it was thrown into the barrel and dumped here?" "Let us dig and see!" said May, quite excitod. Dig they did, and their search was reiraided by the disoovory of a great heap of envelopes, old notes and letters, and bill torn across, all diivcted to Miss Iselin or in her unmistakable handwriting. May's impulse and Ben AUen's was simpïy cunosity anil Uu: stimulus of lighting on an unexpected thing; but sorae suelden thought lent to Amy's efforts a koener zeal. Her cheeks blazed, her eycs were bright with excitement, assho turned over the papers, opening, exauiiningand shaking each with an eagerness so intense as to niake the others smile. No sraallest scrap escaped her notice. Suddenly she stopped, and stood as if turned to stone, staring incredulously at a paper which she had just lifted; a thick, longish sheet, folded in three. So strauge was her aspect and so agitated her features that May cried out, in alarm: "Amy, don't look so! What is it?" Amy tried to spoak, but choked in the attempt. She put tho paper into May's hand, and, after a little struggle, burst into a flood of uneontrollable tears. Ben, much alarmcd, put his arm about her. She leaned her pretty head on hisshoulderandsobbed quietly; while May, after a moment's pause, bant into exelamations. "Aunty's will! Oh! Amy, didn't I always say that she made ono? Oh! Amy, dear, ton'! it wonderfulP How did it como heref Oh, Auiy!" And with the third repetition of her sister's name she too began to ery. lien seize.d the paper, while the two girls hung over nis shoulders. It really was Miss Iselin's will, drawn up, as the handwriting proved, by old Mr. Allen, about live years before, and duly signed and attested. Ben rapidly glanced over the instrumont. It'sprovisions were simple enough. All that the testatrix died possessed of was bequeathed, without reservation, to her boloved neices, May Ëleanor Iselin and Amy "Dysart Iselin. There was no meiition whatever of the obnoxious Klisha, the beneficiavy of the fust will. Ben gave a hout of joy as lit; Bnlshed, waved the paper over his head, and cried: "Habemus!'1'' "Is it really Aunty's will?" questioned Amy. "Reallyher will." " And is it legal? Is the dear old house really ours - May's and mine?" 'The old house and all within it, dear." "Oh, Ben!" Amy's head went down on his shoulder, in a new burst of joyful tears. And, somehow, it was never exactly explained, Ben's head bent lower and lower. Amy looked up. ïheir oyes met. Ho kissed her, and May even did QOt seem shoeked. "AU yours, including the broken jar," added Ben, jokingly, perhaps lo liide the fino color which had rushed into his manly cheeks. "Oh! the jar. I had quite furgotten the blessed old thing. We shall never (ind tho broken bits now, I suppose. And, somehow, I don't care, since we have found something so much more valuable. Dear, dear aunty, I knew she hadn't forgotten us. I was sure it was a niistake. May, if you read this in a book, wonld you ever believe a word of it?" "Never! It is a great deal too improbable to be put into a book. Storywriters wonldn't dare; it is so much too good to be trae. The strangest things are those which happen out of books." For a moment the three stood sileutly lookiug at the paper in Ben's haud. How mucli it meant to thorn all, that bit of paper! To the girls it represented home, comfort, society, the continuance of sweet old lies, ease of mind, all things good and pleasant. To Ben it was a shining mirror, from which the face of his future bride looked out and smiled. He folded up tho will. lts rustle was better than song. "Let us go home," said May, softly. "It seems more like home to me now than it ever has done since aunty died." So tho breakage of the Japanese jar did prove a "blessing in disguise" to our sweet little heiresses, after all. -


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Ann Arbor Democrat