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How Hilda Managed

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"Does Mrs. Murray live here?" Mr. Webb knóckedapologefciiallyön the lass counter of the bakery with the hiiDcllo of his wbip. lt seemeü almost a liberty thus unceremoniously to address the gaily attired young woman who was adding up the accounts boliind the tall desk. He stood near the door, keeping a sharp lookout on the barofooted boy who was holding his sleepy old horse - for had he not heai-d, rriany a time and oft, of the juvenile New York? In reply to his respectful question, the young woman nodded her head and curtly nnswered: "Up stairs." "It's a pret t y big house," said Mr. VVnbb, about him. '-The Murrays wasn't rich when they lived down our way; but Rachel never had pood judgnient. I should say, now, the Vent of a house like tliis - " "II ain't i house," said the young ivnin.'ii!, ppeakiug with a lead pencil bei ween her teeth. "Ain't n house, eh?" Martin Webb's honest, onioiK'olored eyes gradually e.xpa'ndüd, until you would have tliounlit the lida could tcarcely contain theni. "Xot- a house?" "Ño; it's a Hat. Fourth story, back room. Name oL Murray. Staircase iust out in the hall there.' And so for the fh-st time in his life, Mr. Velb found himself in the precincts of a "lat." He lost his way half a dozen of times thia irannt, pood-humored giant, with i ham in his arras, two or three stins of a country sausage over his shotfi&T, and a basket of red apples clasped tightly against his breast. That was a matter of course. He walked into the kitchen of one flat, brouKh't up mthejjarlorofanothef.and presentad himself, smiling.attlie late breakfast table oí a tbird, wttere a lucklesa printer, ivho worked all niht, on the early edition of a morning paper, was sleepily chipping the the shells oí an m. 'Cali theni egsw?" said Martín, contemptuously. "If our WolFa Corners hens can't beat that 'ere sort 'o thing - But I am sure I ask pardon; I rucha I've qot into the wrong flat. P'r'aps yon can teil me where a lady named Murray livcs?', And by (lint of many such questioníiiíís and inquines, Mr. Webb at last got hiinself, Iris red apples, liani and sausages into a scanüly furnished room looking out on a barebrick wall - a room where everything had a star ved look, even down to the cat, which sat iutently watching a mousehole in the wainscoting. Mrs. Murray, a ta.ll, pinched, elderly woman, was engaed, through a doublé pair of speclacles, in mending fine laces, but the slow motion oï her needlè, and tha uncertain expression of her face, denoted no very briliant suceess. And seated on the window ledge opposite her, ariding habit of dark green cloth, a beaver hat with dark green veil twisted around it, and a jaunty little ivory handled whip, was a pretty girl of 18 or 20. K Bolh started at the entrance of Mr. Webb, both smiled glad recojnition. "Why," cried Mrs. Murray, it's cousin Martin! Hilda, give your cousin a chair I declare, Martin, I am surprisad to see you here! "Xo more'n I to get here, I guess," returned the farmer, with a peculiar chuckling noise down in bis throat. "These 'ere city folks, th.ey do take t.he starch outen a fellow. Ain't much like our medder ilat down at Wolf'd Corner, eh? Here, cousin Rachel, I've brung ye one of Eliza's best eugar-cured hanis ari' some sassasies, and a busíjeJ of the aptfles that growed on the tree beyona the well - the real, red-cheeked Josey Moore's you know." "It'a wry kind of you, I'm sure," eaid Mrs. Murray. "Hilda, can you rot offer our cousin some retreshments after bis journey?" Hilda colored painfully. llow could elie explain to her that the clipboard was utteWy empty, even of a crust of bread? "FU bring up Boniething direct! y," she murmured. And then she vanished. From one good neighbor - the very printer's wife, indeed - she borrowed a potful of fieslily-made coffee; from anether, a few slices of cold boiled beef; from a tliird a pan of new-baked biscuits, with a little butter aud a comb of honey, and then she flew back to spread the frugal meal. "Are they all well, cousin Webb?" she asked, timidly, as holding up her ridmg habit with one hand, ehe arfanged the table and ministercd tothe appet.ite of her guest with the other. Mr. Wpbb nodded bis head, keenly surveyina her the while. "All well," he responded between the swallows of coffee. "Eliza, she sent her love. And Reed - no Reed'ilidn't pend no love. But he wantod to ba ppecially remembered. Reed did. He's had dreadful good luck with the eweet potato patches and tobáceo crops thiayear." 'Has he?" and Hilda blushed rosily. She might have added something more, but Mrs. Murray oflicially interfered. "Youmusn't be {ate for your appointmént with Mr. Dulany, daughter,"said she, with a glanceat theclock. And she added, inexplanatory fashion: "Hilda rides out every day. Two hours with, ahem! - a gentleman friendl" "Rides out, does she?" said Mr, Webb. "I guess likely it costs considable to keep horses in New York. I'm glad you and Hilda's got so much money to spare." "I'm told," said Mrs. Murray.complacently, "that Hilda's horse ís one of the haudsomest in the park. And of course a young girl like her ought to get plenty of exercise and fresh air." Once more Marti Webb's keen glance circled around the room and sefctled on Hilda's deeply snffused face. She went out, with a word of hurried apology. "Hunip." was his commeiit. "Yes, nodded Mrs. Murray, with the fiuttered, flattered expression of a motherly old hen who has just found an extra fine kernel of corn for lier brood. "My Hilda has got into some remarkably good society. And I entertain hopes that she may marry well before a great while." Mr. Webb took his leave- rather abruptly, as Mrs. Murray thougbt - and the old lady, after carefully putting away the genprous gifts trom tho old farm, sat down to niend lace and to dream again. Reed Webb listened silently to his father'a account of their relatives. "Goiiif; out l'iding overy day with a grand New York gentleman!" said he. "Dresscd like a princesa! Father, that does not sound like our little Hilda." "Can't help how it sounds," said Martin. "It's so. That'sall I k'now." "Then," said Reed, sadly, "it's no use my building that wing on the south side of the old house? It won.'t be needed now." "Xot if you expect Hilda Murray to live in it." "Hush!" said Mrs. Webb, who was washing up the supper dishe3 with truü housewifely deftness and speed, m.iiking each teaspoon slnnelikesilver, each plate ghsten like ivory, in the friction of her honiespun linen towel. "There's some one at tho door. Go quick, husband!" "Why," ciied Martin, standing on the threshold, "it's Hilda- it's Hilda Murrayl" "But I can't sta y a minute," said Hilda. breathlessly. 'Tve pot to return by the seven-thirty tram!" "Hilda," said Reed giavely, "you must come in. It is not right nor seenily that yon should be out alone at thvs time of night." "I wanted Cousin Webb to know," faltered Hilda. 'I couldn't bear that he should think so ill of me as to fancy that I was indulging in expensive pleasure, while - while my mother was so poor. Her sighfc is failing, you know; she is almost blind. She fanciea that she is earning somcthinc by monding lace, but she only spotls it. We should starve ii-if it wasn't for the money I earn by giving riding lessons in Mr. Dulany's equestrian school. Mother doesn't know. She would break her lieart if any one told her that I went daily to the ring and trained little girls and young ladies in horsewoman-ship. She never can forcet, you know, that my poor father was a college gradúate, and once went to the legislatura. So we let her believe -Mr. Dulany and I- that lam taking lessons, instead of giving theni. She saw us once in the park with the class of young ladies, and she was so proud poor little mother! And Mr. Dulany says I am the best teacher he ever had; and - oh" - with a piteous clasping of the hands - "is it very wrong? Is it? I almost fancied so, when I saw Cousin Webb looking at me this morning - acting alie!" "I dnnno about that, said Mr. Webb, fumbling around for his pocket handkerchief; "but I know you're the nicest and best gal I ever saw!" "Hilda," said Mrs. Webb, pleadingly "cannot yon come back here to Wolf's CornerR? I know your ma was beset togettoXew York. Shethought poor dear, that fortunes was to be made there haud over hand. But surely, now - " Hilda shook her head sorrowfully. "We are too poor," she said; "we cannot aflord the expense of inoving again. And there is no house to be had heré now." Mrs. Webb put her hand on her husband's phoulder. "Martin," said she hurredlv, "if Hildo really wants to get back by the seven-thirty train, you raust hiten np the horse and tako her to the station. And I'll go out to the barn with you and hold the lantern." Once out in the barn, Martin Webb loked at his wife. "Kliza," said he, do yor think our Reed has any chanee?" "If he hasn't got a chanee now, he never will have one," said Mrs. Webb. "I teil you what, Mar(tin, that girl is a pearl of great pricc, and I always said so." No sooner wasFJeed Webb left alone with Hilda than ho spoke out what was in his heart. "llilda," he said resolutely, "you must come back. You can't live there in the great wilderness of bricks and mortar, and I can't live here without you. Thefarm ispaying for itself now. I can givemy wife acomfor-tablehome; and my wffe's mother also. Dëar little Hilda, say that you will be mine." Hilda burst out into a sudden gust of tears and sobs. "Oh, Reed," she cried, "if you knew how often I have dreamed of coming back here - if you knew how homesick I have been - " "Say heartsirk, Hilda," he prmpted, "if you want to make me happy!" And, smiling through her tears, she repeated the word: "Yes, heartsick, Reed!" "You will come back home, then, Hilda?" "I will!" And by that time the old horse wan at the door for the seven-thirty train, the question waasetLled. Reed himself took Hilda back to the city flat, and there pleaded his cause with Mrs. Murray. "It must be a's Hilda decides," declared the old lady, with dignity suilicient for a crown princesa. "Though there's no doubt but that she could make abrilliantmatchinNew York - " "Mother!" urged Hilda, piteously. "Still," went on Mrs. Murray, "I would nqt oppose her affectiona; and if you think, Reed, that you can make her happy a Wolf's Cornets- " "I will do my best!" assented Reed, fervently. "In that case," said Mrs. Murray, she in yours!" And sho never knew, the poor old lady, tho hole story of Dulany's riding school, and Hllda'a innocent network ot harmless deceit. "It was a fraud!" Hilda always deel ared. "Yes," her husband admitted, "but it was a pious one."


Old News
Ann Arbor Democrat