Read CHAPTER XIII - BABY of Bylow Hill, free online book, by George Washington Cable, on

It was most pleasant, being asked by everyone, even by General Byington, how it felt to be a grandmother.  “Oh! ho, ho!” Mrs. Morris’s unutilized dimple kept itself busy to the point of positive fatigue.

Even more delightful was it, when the time came round for the totality of her sex-the only sex worth considering-to call and see the babe and mother, to hear them all proclaim it the prettiest infant ever seen, and covertly pronounce Isabel more beautiful than on her wedding day.

In a way she was; and particularly when they fondly rallied her upon her new accession of motherly practical manner, and she laughed with them, and ended with that merry, mellow sigh which still gave Ruth new pride in her and new hope.  But another source of Ruth’s new hope was that Arthur, who had written to the bishop and resigned his calling the day after Mrs. Morris’s little namesake was born, had at length withdrawn his letter.

“It is to your brother we owe its withdrawal,” said the bishop, privately, to Ruth.

She beamed gratefully, but did not tell him that, after the long, secret conference between her brother and the rector, Leonard had come to her and wept for Arthur the only tears he had ever shed in her presence.  Now Leonard had found occasion to go West for a time, though he still held his office; and Arthur was filling the rectorate almost in the old first way.  On some small parish matter the rustic vestryman with the spectacled daughter came to Arthur’s library in better spirits than he had shown for months, and by and by asked conjecturally, “I-eh-guess you don’t keep any babies here you’re ashamed to show, do ye?” and held his mouth very wide open.

The infinitesimal was brought.

“Well, I vum!  Why, Miz.  Winslow, I don’t believe th’ ever was a pretty baby so puny, nor a puny baby so pretty!  Now, if it’s a fair question, I hope y’ ain’t tryin’ to push in between this baby and the keaow, be ye?”

“No,” laughed Isabel.  “I’m not that conceited.  I should only be in the way.”

“Well,” he said as they parted, shaking Arthur’s hand to the end of his speech, “I like to see a baby resemble its father, and that’s what this ’n ‘s a-tryin’ to do, jest ’s hard ’s she can.”

So went matters for a time, and then, while the babe began to fill out and lengthen out, Isabel showed herself daily more and more overspent.  The physician reappeared, and spoke plainly:-

“And if your cousin down South is so determined to have you at her wedding, why, go!  Leave your baby with your mother; she’s older in the business than you are.”

But the cousin’s wedding was weeks away yet, and Isabel clung to her wee treasure, and temporized with the aunts and cousins in the South and with her mother and Ruth at home, until the doctor spoke again.

“Let’s see,” he said to Arthur.  “This is November, baby’s five months old.  Send your wife away.  Put her out!  Something’s killing her by inches, and I believe it’s just care o’ the nest.  We must drive her off it, as I drove Leonard Byington off,-which, you remember, you, quietly, were the first to suggest to me to do....  Coming back, you say,-Byington?  Yes, but only for a day or two,-election time.”

It did not occur to the doctor that Arthur was secretly keeping his wife from going anywhere.

The night Leonard came home the old pond, for the first time in the season, froze over, and through Giles’s activities it was arranged next day that Martin Kelly, Sarah Stebbens, Minnie, and he should go down there after supper and skate by the light of fagot fires made out on the ice.  Giles piled the fagots; but at a late moment, to the disgust of Giles and Minnie, the older pair pitilessly changed their minds, and decided they were too old to make such nincompoops of themselves.  Minnie would not go without Sarah, for Minnie was up to her pretty eyebrows in love with Giles, as well as immensely correct; and so there, as it seemed, was the end of that.

At tea Arthur told Isabel he was going for a long walk down through the town and across the meadows, and would not be home before bedtime.  Isabel approved heartily, and said Sarah would stay near the sleeping babe, and she would spend the evening with her mother.  She and Arthur went together as far as the cross-paths in the arbor, and there, in parting, he clasped and kissed her with a sudden frenzy that only added one more distressful misgiving to the many that now haunted her days.

She found her mother alone.  They sat down, hand in hand, before an open fire, and had talked in sweet quietness but a short while, when a chance word and the knowledge that this time they would not be interrupted made it easy for Isabel to say things she had for weeks been trying to say.