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Chapter 36

XXXVI

The minister heard directly from Barker two or three times during the winter, and as often through Statira, who came to see Mrs. Sewell. Barker had not got the place he had hoped for at once, but he had got a school in the country a little way off, and he was doing something; and he expected to do better.

The winter proved a very severe one. "I guess it's just as well I stayed in town," said Statira, the last time she came, with a resignation which Mrs. Sewell, fond of the ideal in others as most ladies are, did not like. "'Manda Grier says 'twould killed me up there; and I d' know but what it would. I done so well here, since the cold weather set in that 'Manda Grier she thinks I hadn't better get married right away; well, not till it comes summer, anyway. I tell her I guess she don't want I should get married at all, after all she done to help it along first off. Her and Mr. Barker don't seem to get along very well."

Now that Statira felt a little better acquainted with Mrs. Sewell, she dropped the genteel elongation of her final syllables, and used such vernacular forms of speech as came first to her. The name of 'Manda Grier seemed to come in at every fourth word with her, and she tired Mrs. Sewell with visits which she appeared unable to bring to a close of herself.

A long relief from them ended in an alarm for her health with Mrs. Sewell, who went to find her. She found her still better than before, and Statira frankly accounted for her absence by saying that 'Manda thought she had better not come any more till Mrs. Sewell returned some of her calls. She laughed, and then she said—

"I don't know as you'd found me here if you'd come much later. 'Manda Grier don't want I should be here in the east winds, now it's coming spring so soon; and she's heard of a chance at a box factory in Philadelphia. She wants I should go there with her, and I don't know but what it would be about the best thing."

Mrs. Sewell could not deny the good sense of the plan, though she was sensible of liking Statira less and less for it.

The girl continued: "Lem—Mr. Barker, I should say—wants I should come up there, out the east winds. But 'Manda Grier she's opposed to it: she thinks I'd ought to have more of a mild climate, and he better come down there and get a school if he wants me too," Statira broke into an impartial little titter. "I'm sure I don't know which of 'em 'll win the day!"

Mrs. Sewell's report of this speech brought a radiant smile of relief to Sewell's face. "Ah, well, then! That settles it! I feel perfectly sure that 'Manda Grier will win the day. That poor, sick, flimsy little Statira is completely under 'Manda Grier's thumb, and will do just what she says, now that there's no direct appeal from her will to Barker's; they will never be married. Don't you see that it was 'Manda Grier's romance in the beginning, and that when she came to distrust, to dislike Barker, she came to dislike her romance too—to hate it?"

"Well, don't you romance him, David," said Mrs. Sewell, only conditionally accepting his theory.

Yet it may be offered to the reader as founded in probability and human nature. In fact, he may be assured here that the marriage which eventually took place was not that of Lemuel with Statira; though how the union, which was not only happiness for those it joined, but whatever is worthier and better in life than happiness, came about, it is aside from the purpose of this story to tell, and must be left for some future inquiry.

THE END.

William Dean Howells