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"Good God! Speak then. Is she sick?" and he sprung out and caught her arm with a grip that hurt her.bittorrent web server"Please, sir, I'm doin' all I kin for yer and--and you hurt me."

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Holcroft saw the tears coming to her eyes and he released his hold as he said, "Forgive me, Jane, I didn't mean to; but for mercy's sake, tell your story.""It's a long 'un.""Well, well, give me the gist of it in a word.""I guess she's goin' to run away."Holcroft groaned and almost staggered to his horses' heads, then led them to the roadside and tied them to a tree. Sitting down, as if too weak to stand, he buried his face in his hands. He could not bear to have Jane see his distress. "Tell your story," he said hoarsely, "quick, for I may have to act quickly."

"Guess yer will. Did yer know she was married?""Certainly--to me."Alida took his proffered hand, but could only falter, "I--I can never forget."

Chapter 20 Uncle Jonathan's Impression of the Bride"Now, Alida," said Holcroft, as they drove away, "remember that we are two middle-aged, sensible people. At least I'm middle-aged, and fairly sensible, too, I hope. You'll need to buy some things, and I want you to get all you need. Don't stint yourself, and you needn't hurry so as to get tired, for we shall have moonlight and there's no use trying to get home before dark. Is there any particular store which you'd like to go to?""No, sir; only I'd rather go over on the east side of the town where I'm not known.""That suits me, for it's the side nearest home and I AM known there."

"Perhaps--perhaps you also would rather go this evening where you are not known," she said hesitatingly."It makes no difference to me. In fact I know of a place where you'll have a good choice at reasonable rates."

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"I'll go where you wish," she said quietly.They soon entered a large shop together, and the proprietor said pleasantly, "Good evening, Mr. Holcroft.""Good evening, Mr. Jasper. My wife wants to get some things. If you'll be good enough to wait on her, I'll step out to do two or three errands."The merchant looked curiously at Alida, but was too polite to ask questions or make comments on her very simple purchases. Her old skill and training were of service now. She knew just what she absolutely needed, and bought no more.

Holcroft laid in a good stock of groceries and some juicy beef and then returned. When Mr. Jasper gave him his bill, he went to Alida, who was resting, and said in a low voice, "This won't do at all. You can't have bought half enough."For the first time something like a smile flitted across her face as she replied, "It's enough to begin with. I know.""Really, Mr. Holcroft, I didn't know you were married," said the merchant. "I must congratulate you.""Well, I am. Thank you. Good night."

A few moments later he and his wife were bowling out of town toward the hills. Reaching one of these, the horses came down to a walk and Holcroft turned and said, "Are you very tired, Alida? I'm troubled about you taking this long ride. You have been so sick.""I'm sorry I'm not stronger, sir, but the fresh air seems to do me good and I think I can stand it."

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"You didn't promise to obey me, did you?" with a rather nervous little laugh."No, sir, but I will."

"That's a good beginning. Now see what an old tyrant I am. In the first place, I don't want you to say 'sir' to me any more. My name is James. In the second place, you must work only as I let you. Your first business is to get strong and well, and you know we agreed to marry on strictly business grounds.""I understand it well, but I think you are very kind for a business man.""Oh, as to that, if I do say it of myself, I don't think it's my nature to be hard on those who treat me square. I think we shall be very good friends in our quiet way, and that's more than can be said of a good many who promise more than they seem to remember afterward.""I will try to do all you wish for I am very grateful.""If you do, you may find I'm as grateful as you are.""That can never be. Your need and mine were very different.--But I shall try to show my gratitude by learning your ways and wishes and not by many words of thanks."

"Thank the Lord!" mentally ejaculated the farmer, "there's no Mrs. Mumpson in this case;" but he only said kindly, "I think we understand each other now, Alida. I'm not a man of words either, and I had better show by actions also what I am. The fact is, although we are married, we are scarcely acquainted, and people can't get acquainted in a day."The first long hill was surmounted and away they bowled again, past cottage and farmhouse, through strips of woodland and between fields from which came the fragrance of the springing grass and the peepings of the hylas. The moon soon rose, full-orbed, above the higher eastern hills, and the mild April evening became luminous and full of beauty.

A healing sense of quiet and security already began to steal into Alida's bruised heart. In turning her back upon the town in which she had suffered so greatly, she felt like one escaping from prison and torture. An increasing assurance of safety came with every mile; the cool, still radiance of the night appeared typical of her new and most unexpected experience. Light had risen on her shadowed path, but it was not warm, vivifying sunlight, which stimulates and develops. A few hours before she was in darkness which might be felt--yet it was a gloom shot through and through with lurid threatening gleams. It had seemed to her that she had fallen from home, happiness, and honor to unfathomed depths, and yet there had appeared to be deeper and darker abysses on every side. She had shuddered at the thought of going out into the world, feeling that her misfortune would awaken suspicion rather than sympathy, scorn instead of kindness; that she must toil on until death, to sustain a life to which death would come as God's welcome messenger. Then had come this man at her side, with his comparatively trivial troubles and perplexities, and he had asked her help--she who was so helpless. He had banished despair from her earthly future, he had lifted her up and was bearing her away from all which she had so dreaded; nothing had been asked which her crushed spirit was unable to bestow; she was simply expected to aid him in his natural wish to keep his home and to live where he had always dwelt. His very inability to understand her, to see her broken, trampled life and immeasurable need as she saw it, brought quietness of mind. The concentration of his thoughts on a few homely and simple hopes gave her immunity. With quick intuition, she divined that she had not a whimsical, jealous, exacting nature to deal with. He was the plain, matter-of-fact man he seemed; so literal and absolutely truthful that he would appear odd to most people. To her mind, his were the traits which she could now most welcome and value. He knew all about her, she had merely to be herself, to do what she had promised, in order to rest securely on his rock-like truth. He had again touched a deep, grateful chord in speaking of her to the shopkeeper as his wife; he showed no disposition whatever to shrink from the relation before the world; it was evident that he meant to treat her with respect and kindness, and to exact respect from others. For all this, while sitting quietly and silently at his side, she thanked him almost passionately in her heart; but far more than for all this she was glad and grateful that he would not expect what she now felt it would be impossible for her to give--the love and personal devotion which had been inseparable from marriage in her girlhood thoughts. He would make good his words--she should be his wife in name and be respected as such. He was too simple and true to himself and his buried love, too considerate of her, to expect more. She might hope, therefore, as he had said, that they might be helpful, loyal friends and he would have been surprised indeed had he known how the pale, silent woman beside him was longing and hoping to fill his home with comfort.Thoughts like these had inspired and sustained her while at the same time ministering the balm of hope. The quiet face of nature, lovely in the moonlight, seemed to welcome and reassure her. Happy are those who, when sorely wounded in life, can turn to the natural world and find in every tree, shrub, and flower a comforting friend that will not turn from them. Such are not far from God and peace.

The range of Holcroft's thoughts was far simpler and narrower than Alida's. He turned rather deliberately from the past, preferring to dwell on the probable consummation of his hope. His home, his farm, were far more to him than the woman he had married. He had wedded her for their sake, and his thoughts followed his heart, which was in his hillside acres. It is said that women often marry for a home; he truly had done so to keep his home. The question which now most occupied him was the prospect of doing this through quiet, prosperous years. He dwelt minutely on Alida's manner, as well as her words, and found nothing to shake his belief that she had been as truthful as himself. Nevertheless, he queried in regard to the future with not a little anxiety. In her present distress and poverty she might naturally be glad of the refuge he had offered; but as time passed and the poignancy of bitter memories was allayed, might not her life on the farm seem monotonous and dull, might not weariness and discontent come into her eyes in place of gratitude? "Well, well!" he concluded, "this marrying is a risky experiment at best, but Tom Watterly's talk and her manner seemed to shut me up to it. I was made to feel that I couldn't go on in any other way; and I haven't done anything underhanded or wrong, as I see, for the chance of going on. If I hadn't become such a heathen I should say there was a Providence in it, but I don't know what to think about such things any more. Time'll show, and the prospect is better than it has been yet. She'll never be sorry if she carries out the agreement made today, if kindness and good will can repay her."Thus it may be seen that, although two life currents had become parallel, they were still very distinct.

By the time Holcroft approached the lane leading to his dwelling, Alida was growing very weary, and felt that her endurance had almost reached its limit. Her face was so white in the moonlight that he asked solicitously, "You can stand it a little longer, can't you?""I'll try. I'm very sorry I'm not stronger.""Don't you worry about that! You won't know yourself in a week. Here we are at the lane and there's the house yonder. A moment or two more and you'll be by the fire."A loud barking startled old Jonathan Johnson out of his doze, and he hastened to replenish the fire and to call off his rather savage dog. He was a little surprised to see Holcroft drive toward the kitchen door with a woman by his side. "He's tried his luck with another of them town gals," he muttered, "but, Jerusalem! She won't stay a week, an' my old woman'll have the washin' an' mendin' all the same."

He could scarcely believe his ears and eyes when he heard the farmer say, "Alida, you must let me lift you out," and then saw the "town gal" set gently on the ground, her hand placed on Holcroft's arm as she was supported slowly and carefully to the rocking chair beside the fire. "Jonathan," was the quiet announcement, "this is Mrs. Holcroft, my wife.""Jeru--beg a pardon. Wasn't 'spectin; jis' sich a turn o' things. Respects, missus! Sorry to see yer enj'yin' poor health."

"Yes, Jonathan, Mrs. Holcroft has been sick, but she's much better and will soon be well. She's very tired now from the long drive, but quiet life and country air will soon make her strong. I'll just step out and care for the horses, Alida, and soon be back again. You come and help me, Jonathan, and keep your dog off, too."The old man complied with rather poor grace for he would have preferred to interview the bride, at whom he was staring with all his weak, watery eyes. Holcroft understood his neighbor's peculiarities too well to subject his wife to this ordeal, and was bent on dispatching Jonathan homeward as soon as possible.

"I say, Jim," said the old guardsman, who felt that he was speaking to the boy he had known for thirty odd years, "where on airth did you pick up sich a sickly lookin' critter?""I didn't pick her up," replied the farmer laughingly. "I married her fair and square just as you did your wife a hundred years ago, more or less. Haven't I as good a right to get married as you had?"

"Oh, I aint a-disputin' yer right, but it seems so kind o' suddint that it's taken what little breath I've left.""How do you know it's sudden? Did you go around telling everyone how you were getting on when you were a-courting?""Well, I swan! Yer got me. 'Taint so long ago that I disremember we did it on the sly.""Well, now, Uncle Jonathan, you've got nothing to say against me for I didn't marry on the sly, although I've gone on the principle that my business wasn't everybody's business. When I saw your wife about my washing and mending I didn't know I was going to be lucky so soon. You know you can't marry a woman in this country till she's willing. But tell your wife she shan't lose anything, and the next time I go to town I'll leave that settin' of eggs she wanted. Now, Jonathan, honor bright, do you feel able to walk home if I give you fifty cents extra?"

"Why, sartinly! S'pose I'd take yer away on sich a 'casion? My wife wouldn't let me in if she knowed it.""Well, you and your wife are good neighbors, and that's more'n I can say for most people in these parts. Here's the money. Mrs. Holcroft isn't strong or well enough to talk any tonight. You got yourself a good supper, didn't you?"

"Yes, yes! Helped myself bount'fully. Good night, and good luck ter yer. I can't help thinkin' it was kind o' suddint though, and then she's sich a sickly lookin' critter. Hope yer haven't been taken in, but then, as you say, the marryin' business, like other kinds o' business, is a man's own business.""I hope everyone will take your sensible view, Uncle Jonathan. Good night."

Chapter 21 At HomeAlida was not so cold, weary, and almost faint but that she looked around the old kitchen with the strongest interest. This interest was as unlike Mrs. Mumpson's curiosity as she was unlike the widow. It is true the thought of self was prominent, yet hers were not selfish thoughts. There are some blessed natures in the world that in doing the best for themselves do the best that is possible for others.

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Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC#

Mark Suster

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2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster