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A Busy Year at the Old Squire's by C. A. Stephens

He stole away for another playday


None

of us, except grandmother, knew where Jim's bank book was, and after one memorable experience with him the old lady always disappeared when she saw him drive in. The second time, Jim actually searched the house for his book; but grandmother had taken it and stolen away to a neighbor's house. Once or twice afterwards Jim came and searched for his book; and I remember that the old Squire had doubts whether it was best for us to withhold it from him. Grandmother, however, had no such scruples.

"He shan't have it! Those rum sellers shan't get it from him!" she exclaimed.

When he had recovered from the effects of his playday Jim was always fervently glad that he had not spent his savings.

But his bad habits rapidly grew on him, and we fully expected that his savings, which, thanks to grandmother's resolute efforts, now amounted to nearly four hundred dollars, would eventually be squandered on drink.

"It's no use," Addison often said. "It will all go that way in the end, and the more there is of it the worse will be the final crash."

Others thought so, too--among them Miss Wilma Emmons, who taught the district school that summer. Miss Emmons was tall, slight and pale, with dark hair and large light-blue eyes. She would have been very pretty except for her very high, narrow forehead that not even her hair, combed

low, could prevent from being noticeable. She made you feel that she was constantly intent on something that worried her.

As time passed, we came to learn the cause of her anxiety. She had two brothers, younger than herself, bright, promising boys whom she was trying to help through college. The three were orphans, without means; and Wilma was working hard, summer and winter, at anything and everything that offered profit, in an effort to give those boys a liberal education; besides teaching school, she went round the countryside in all weathers selling books, maps and sewing machines. Her devotion to those brothers was of course splendid, yet I now think that Wilma, temperamental and overworked, had let it become a kind of monomania with her.

A few days after she came to board at the old Squire's--all the school-teachers boarded there--Addison said to me that he wondered what that girl had on her mind.

As the summer passed, Wilma Emmons came to know our affairs at the old farm very well, and of course heard about Jim and his bank book. Jim, in fact, had taken one of his playdays soon after she came; and grandmother asked Wilma to lock the book up in the drawer of her desk at the schoolhouse for a few days.

It was quite like Jim Doane's impulsive nature, already somewhat unbalanced by intoxicants, to be greatly attracted to the reserved Miss Emmons. Out by the garden gate one morning he rather foolishly made his admiration known to her. Addison and I were weeding a strawberry bed just inside the fence and could not avoid overhearing something of what passed.

Astonished and a little indignant, too, perhaps, Miss Emmons told Jim that a young man of his habits had no right to address himself in such a manner to any young woman.

"But I can reform!" Jim said.

"Let folks see that you have done so, then," Miss Emmons replied, and added that a young man who could not be trusted with his own bank book could hardly be depended on to make a home.

It is quite likely that Jim brooded over the rebuff; he was surly for a week afterwards. Then, like the weakling that he had become, he stole away for another playday; and again grandmother, with Theodora's and Miss Emmons's connivance, hid the book, this time somewhere in the wagon-house cellar.


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