Homespun Tales HTML version

4. Louisa's Mind
Louisa, otherwise Mrs. Adlai Banks, the elder sister of Susanna s husband, was a rock-
ribbed widow of forty-five summers, --forty-five winters would seem a better phrase in
which to assert her age,-- who resided on a small farm twenty miles from the
manufacturing town of Farnham.
When the Fates were bestowing qualities of mind and heart upon the Hathaway babies,
they gave the more graceful, genial, likable ones to John, not realizing, perhaps, what bad
use he would make of them, --and endowed Louisa with great deposits of honesty,
sincerity, energy, piety, and frugality, all so mysteriously compounded that they turned to
granite in her hands. If she had been consulted, it would have been all the same. She
would never have accepted John's charm of personality at the expense of being saddled
with his weaknesses, and he would not have taken her cast-iron virtues at any price
She was sweeping her porch on that day in May when Susanna and Sue had wakened in
the bare upper chamber at the Shaker Settlement--Sue clear-eyed, jubilant, expectant,
unafraid; Susanna pale from her fitful sleep, weary with the burden of her heart.
Looking down the road, Mrs. Banks espied the form of her brother John walking in her
direction and leading Jack by the hand.
This was a most unusual sight, for John's calls had been uncommonly few of late years,
since a man rarely visits a lady relative for the mere purpose of hearing "a piece of her
mind." This piece, large, solid, highly flavored with pepper, and as acid as mental vinegar
could make it, was Louisa Banks's only contribution to conversation when she met her
brother. She could not stop for any airy persiflage about weather, crops, or politics when
her one desire was to tell him what she thought of him.
"Good-morning, Louisa. Shake hands with your aunt, Jack."
"He can't till I'm through sweeping. Good-morning, John; what brings you here?"
John sat down on the steps, and Jack flew to the barn, where there was generally an
amiable hired man and a cheerful cow, both infinitely better company than his highly
respected and wealthy aunt.
"I came because I had to bring the boy to the only relation I've got in the world," John
answered tersely. "My wife's left me."
"Well, she's been a great while doing it," remarked Louisa, digging her broom into the
cracks of the piazza floor and making no pause for reflection. "If she had n't had the