Chapter XXVII. Deborah's Trouble
 

"'Oh, I don't know what he'd do, but I know he'd do something. He's that kind of a man.'"

When the first days of the spring bass-fishing came, the Doctor coaxed Dan away for a three days trip to the river, beyond Gordon's Mills, where the roaring trout-brook enters the larger stream.

It was well on toward noon the morning that Dan and the Doctor left, that Miss Farwell found Deborah in tears, with Denny trying vainly to comfort her.

"Come, come, mother, don't be takin' on so. It'll be all right somehow," Denny was saying as the nurse paused on the threshold of the little kitchen, and the crippled lad's voice was broken, though he strove so bravely to make it strong.

The widow in her low chair, her face buried in her apron, swayed back and forth in an agony of grief, her strong form shaking with sobs. Denny looked at the young woman appealingly as--with his one good hand on his mother's shoulder--he said again, "Come, mother, look up; it's Miss Hope that's come to see you. Don't, don't mother dear. We'll make it all right--sure we will though; we've got to!"

Miss Farwell went to Denny's side and together they managed, after a little, to calm the good woman.

"It's a shame it is for me to be a-goin' on so, Miss Hope, but I--but I--" She nearly broke down again.

"Won't you tell me the trouble, Mrs. Mulhall?" urged the nurse. "Perhaps I can help you."

"Indade, dear heart, don't I know you've trouble enough of your own, without your loadin' up with Denny's an' mine beside? Ain't I seen how you been put to it the past months to make both ends meet for you an' Gracie, poor child; an' you all the time fightin' to look cheerful an' bright, so as to keep her heartened up? Many's the time, Miss Hope, I've seen the look on your own sweet face, when you thought nobody'd be noticin', an' every night Denny an' me's prayed the blessed Virgin to soften the hearts of the people in this danged town. Oh, I know! I know! But it does look like God had clean forgotten us altogether. I can't help believin' it would be different somehow if only we could go to mass somewhere like decent Christians ought."

"But you and Denny have helped me more than I can ever tell you, dear friend, and now you must let me help you, don't you see?"

"It's glad enough I'd be to let you help, an' quick enough, too, if it was anything that you could fix. But nothin' but money'll do it, an' I can see by them old shoes you're a-wearin', an' you goin' with that old last year's coat all winter, that you--that you ain't earned but just enough to keep you an' Gracie alive."

"That's all true enough, Mrs. Mulhall," returned the nurse, cheerfully, "but I am sure it will help you just to tell me about the trouble." Then, with a little more urging, the nurse drew from them the whole pitiful story.

At the time of Jack Mulhall's death, Judge Strong; had held a mortgage on the little home for a small amount. By careful planning the widow and her son had managed to pay the interest promptly, and the Judge, though he coveted the place, had not dared to push the payment of the mortgage too soon after the marshal's death because of public sentiment. But now, sufficient time having elapsed for the public to forget their officer, who had been killed on duty, and Deborah, through receiving Grace Conner and Miss Harwell into her home, being included to some extent in the damaging comments of the righteous community, the crafty Judge saw his opportunity. He knew that, while the people would not themselves go to the length of putting Deborah and her crippled boy out of their little home, he had nothing to fear from the sentiment of the community should he do so under the guise of legitimate business.

The attitude of the people had kept Deborah from earning as much as usual and, for the first time, they had been unable to pay the interest. Indeed it was only by the most rigid economy that they would be able to make their bare living until Denny's garden should again begin to bring them in something.

Their failure to pay the interest gave the Judge added reason for pushing the payment of the debt. Everything had been done in regular legal form. Deborah and Denny must go the next day. The widow had exhausted every resource; promises and pleadings were useless, and it was only at the last hour that she had given up.

"But have you no relatives, Mrs. Mulhall, who could help you? No friends? Perhaps Dr. Oldham--"

Deborah shook her head. "There's only me an' Brother Mike in the family," she said. "Mike's a brick-layer an' would give the coat off his back for me, but he's movin' about so over the country, bein' single, you see, that I can't get a letter to him. I did write to him where I heard from him last, but me letter come back. He don't write often, you see, thinkin' Denny an' me is all right. I ain't seen him since he was here to help put poor Jack away."

For a few minutes the silence in the little room was broken only by poor Deborah's sobs, and by Denny's voice, as he tried to comfort his mother.

Suddenly the nurse sprang to her feet. "There is some one," she cried. "I knew there must be, of course. Why didn't we think of him before?"

Deborah raised her head, a look of doubtful hope on her tear-wet face.

"Mr. Matthews," explained the young woman.

Deborah's face fell. "But, child, the minister's away with the Doctor. An' what good could he be doin' if he was here, I'd like to know? He's that poor himself."

"Oh, I don't know what he'd do, but I know he'd do something. He's that kind of a man," declared the nurse, with such conviction that, against their judgment, Deborah and Denny took heart.

"And he's not so far away but that he can be reached," added Hope.

That afternoon the dilapidated old hack from Corinth to Gordon's Mills carried a passenger.