Read CHAPTER IX - THE YOUNG YEAR SMILES of Bylow Hill, free online book, by George Washington Cable, on

Martin Kelly, pious Irishman and out-door factotum of the Byington place, paused from the last snow-shovelling of the season to reply to a wandering salesman of fruit trees.

“Mr. Airthur Winslow or Mr. Linnard Boyington,-naw, sor! ye can see nayther the wan nor th’ other, whatsomiver!  How can ye see thim, moy graciouz! whin ‘tis two weeks since the two o’ thim was tuck the same noight wid the pneumonias, boy gorra! and the both of thim has thim on the loongs!”

The nursery agent asked how it had happened so.

“Hawh! ask yer grandmother!  All ye can say is they was roipe to catch the maladee, whatsomiver!  Ye cannot always tell how ’tis catched, and whin ye cannot tell, moy graciouz! ye have got the wurrst koind!”

The two sick men recovered very nearly at the same time.

One day when Leonard had read all his accumulated mail and had seen three or four men officially in his bedchamber, he told Ruth that a certain criminal case, the trial of which had been waiting for his recovery, would take him to the county-seat, and would keep him there many days, probably weeks, except for brief visits to his office and yet briefer moments at home.

Ruth gave him a look of tender approval, laid a hand in his, and bent into the evening fire her far-off smile.  Thus, and only thus, he knew she had divined what had befallen.

A day or two afterward Mrs. Morris brought him a note from Arthur.  He wrote an answer while she stayed, and while Ruth listened elatedly to her sprightly account of how well Isabel still bore the burden of nursing a most loving but most nervous husband.

The missive from Arthur was a short but complete and propitiative acknowledgment of his error and fraility.  It offered no change in the agreement as to Isabel, but it professed a high yet humble resolve to fall no more, and it ended with a manly offer to resign his pulpit, and even to lay aside his sacred calling, if Leonard retained any belief in the moral necessity of his so doing.

Leonard’s reply was a very brief exhortation to his friend to put away all thought of resigning, and to take up his work again with the zeal with which he had first entered upon it.

Mrs. Morris went away refreshed, and left the Byingtons equally so.  Her buoyancy had been as prettily restrained, her sympathies as sweet, her dimple as unconscious, her belief in everybody’s wit and wisdom except her own as genuine, and her timid dissimulations as kindly meant and as transparent, as ever.  Yet there was an unspoken compassion for her when she was gone, for in the parting words with which she playfully vaunted her ignorance of the correspondence she was bearing, it was clear, even to the General, that behind that small ignorance she had a larger knowledge,-a fact that made her dainty cheerfulness seem very brave.

The freshets swept down the valleys, the myriad yellow twigs of the brookside willows turned green, a cheery piping rose from the ponds, the last gleam of snow passed from the farthest hills, the bluebird sang, the harrow followed the plough, Ruth’s crocuses shone above the greening sod, and down by the old mill-pool and on the steep hillside beyond it she and Isabel gathered arbutus, anémones, and the yellow violet.  Spring had come.

Then through the thickening greenery the dogwood shone like belated drifts, the flashing warblers passed on into the north, the bobolink had arrived, the robin was already overeating, the whole chorus of birds that had come to nest and stay broke forth, and it was summer.

Leonard was back in his own town, enriched with new esteem from the public and from the men of his profession.  The noted case was won, a victory for the peace and dignity of the state, due wholly, it was said, to the energy and sagacity of the young district attorney.  A murder had been so cunningly done that suspicion could fasten nowhere, until Byington laid his finger upon a man of so unspotted a name that no one else had had the mental courage to point to him.  Through a long and masterly untangling of contradictions the state’s counsel had so overwhelmingly proved him guilty that he had confessed without waiting for the jury’s verdict.

“Yes,” said many, “it was a great stroke, Leonard’s management of that thing.”  And not a few added that it had made him an older man-“that or something.”  Those who were of his politics, and even some who were not, stopped him in Main Street and State Street to “shake” and to say, without too much care for logical sequence, how soon, in their opinion, he would be the commonwealth’s “favorite son.”

“My dear Mrs. Morris,” said the General, “every town has at least one.”  But even Mrs. Morris could see the father’s faith and pride through the old soldier’s satire.