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A Second Spring
by [?]

I.

The Haydon farm was only a few miles from the sea, and the spring wind, which had been blowing from the south all day, had gone into the east. A chilly salt fog had begun to come in, creeping along where a brook wound among the lower fields, like a ghostly serpent that was making its way to shelter across the country.

The old Haydon house stood on high rising land, with two great walnut-trees at one side, and a tall, thin, black-looking spruce in front that had lost its mate. A comfortable row of round-headed old apple-trees led all the way up a long lane from the main road. This lane and the spacious side yard were scarred by wheel ruts, and the fresh turf was cut up by the stamping feet of many horses. It was the evening of a sad day,–the evening after Israel Haydon’s wife’s funeral. Many of the people who were present had far to go, and so the funeral feast had been served early.

The old place looked deserted. The dandelions, which had shone so bright in the grass that morning, were all shut up, and the syringa bushes in the front yard seemed to have taken back their rash buds, and to have grown as gray as winter again. The light was failing fast out of doors; there was a lamp lighted in the kitchen, and a figure kept passing between it and the window.

Israel Haydon lingered as long as he could over his barn-work. Somehow it seemed lonely in the barn, and as long as he could see or feel his way about, he kept himself busy over the old horse and cow, accepting their inexpressive companionship, and serving their suppers with unusual generosity. His sensations, even of grief, were not very distinct to him; there was only a vague sense of discomfort, of being disturbed in his quiet course. He had said to many of his friends that afternoon, “I do’ know why ‘t is, but I can’t realize nothing about it,” and spoken sincerely; but his face was marked with deep lines; he was suffering deeply from the great loss that had befallen him.

His wife had been a woman of uncommon social gifts and facilities, and he had missed her leadership in the great occasion that was just over. Everybody had come to him for directions, and expected from him the knowledge of practical arrangements that she had always shown in the forty years of their married life. He had forgotten already that it was a worn-out and suffering woman who had died; the remembrance of long weeks of illness faded from his mind. It appeared to him as if, in her most active and busy aspect, she had suddenly vanished out of the emergencies and close dependence of their every-day lives.

Mr. Haydon crossed the yard slowly, after he had locked the barn door and tried the fastening, and then gone back to try it again. He was glad to see the cheerfulness of the lighted kitchen, and to remember that his own sister and the sister of his wife were there in charge and ready to companion him. He could not help a feeling of distress at the thought of entering his lonely home; suddenly the fact of their being there made everything seem worse. Another man might have loitered on the step until he was chilly and miserable, but poor Mr. Haydon only dropped his hand for a moment by his side, and looked away down the lane; then, with bent head, he lifted the latch as he always did, and went in. It seemed as if he consciously shouldered the burden of his loneliness in that dreary moment, and never could stand upright again.

The season of his solitary life began with more cheer than could have been expected. The two women were waiting for him placidly, and did not seem to be curious how he might be bearing this great disaster. They had cleared away all signs of the great company, and the kitchen looked as it always did; it had not occurred to them to occupy the more formal sitting-room. The warmth of the fire was pleasant; a table was spread with supper. One of the women was bringing the teapot from the stove, and the other was placidly knitting a blue yarn stocking. It seemed as if Martha Haydon herself might at any moment come out of the pantry door or up the cellar stairs.