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Daily Bread
by [?]

“I am here at last,” he said. “Did you think I should fail you?”

Why, no,–poor innocent Mary had not thought any such thing. She had known he would come,–and baby was so well that she had not minded his delay.

Morton looked up at the close drawn shades, which shut out the light, and said, “You did not think of the storm?”

“Storm? no!” said poor Mary. She had noticed, when Robert went to the door at seven and she closed it after him, that some snow was falling. But she had not thought of it again. She had kissed him, told him to keep up good heart, and had come back to her baby.

Then the doctor told her that the storm which had begun before daybreak had been gathering more and more severely; that the drifts were already heavier than he remembered them in all his Boston life; that after half an hour’s trial in his sleigh he had been glad to get back to the stable with his horse; and that all he had done since he had done on foot, with difficulty she could not conceive of. He had been so long down stairs while he brushed the snow off, that he might be fit to come near the child.

“And really, Mrs. Walter, we are doing so well here,” he said cheerfully, “that I will not try to come round this afternoon, unless you see a change. If you do, your husband must come up for me, you know. But you will not need me, I am sure.”

Mary felt quite brave to think that they should not need him really for twenty-four hours, and said so; and added, with the first smile he had seen for a fortnight: “I do not know anybody to whom it is of less account than to me, whether the streets are blocked or open. Only I am sorry for you.”

Poor Mary, how often she thought of that speech, before Christmas day went by! But she did not think of it all through St. Victoria’s day. Her husband did not come home to dinner. She did not expect him. The children came from school at two, rejoicing in the long morning session and the half holiday of the afternoon which had been earned by it. They had some story of their frolic in the snow, and after dinner went quietly away to their little play-room in the attic. And Mary sat with her baby all the afternoon,–nor wanted other company. She could count his breathing now, and knew how to time it by the watch, and she knew that it was steadier and slower than it was the day before. And really he almost showed an appetite for the hourly dole. Her husband was not late. He had taken care of that, and had left the shop an hour early. And as he came in and looked at the child from the other side of the crib, and smiled so cheerfully on her, Mary felt that she could not enough thank God for his mercy.



Five and twenty miles away was another mother, with a baby born the same day as Jamie. Mary had never heard of her and never has heard of her, and, unless she reads this story, never will hear of her till they meet together in the other home, look each other in the face, and know as they are known. Yet their two lives, as you shall see, are twisted together, as indeed are all lives, only they do not know it–as how should they?

A great day for Huldah Stevens was this St. Victoria’s day. Not that she knew its name more than Mary did. Indeed it was only of late years that Huldah Stevens had cared much for keeping Christmas day. But of late years they had all thought of it more; and this year, on Thanksgiving day, at old Mr. Stevens’s, after great joking about the young people’s housekeeping, it had been determined, with some banter, that the same party should meet with John and Huldah on Christmas eve, with all Huldah’s side of the house besides, to a late dinner or early supper, as the guests might please to call it. Little difference between the meals, indeed, was there ever in the profusion of these country homes. The men folks were seldom at home at the noon-day meal, call it what you will. For they were all in the milk-business, as you will see. And, what with collecting the milk from the hill-farms, on the one hand, and then carrying it for delivery at the three o’clock morning milk-train, on the other hand, any hours which you, dear reader, might consider systematic, or of course in country life, were certainly always set aside. But, after much conference, as I have said, it had been determined at the Thanksgiving party that all hands in both families should meet at John and Huldah’s as near three o’clock as they could the day before Christmas; and then and there Huldah was to show her powers in entertaining at her first state family party.