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Fair Day
by [?]

Widow Mercy Bascom came back alone into the empty kitchen and seated herself in her favorite splint-bottomed chair by the window, with a dreary look on her face.

“I s’pose I be an old woman, an’ past goin’ to cattle shows an’ junketings, but folks needn’t take it so for granted. I’m sure I don’t want to be on my feet all day, trapesin’ fair grounds an’ swallowin’ everybody’s dust; not but what I’m as able as most, though I be seventy-three year old.”

She folded her hands in her lap and looked out across the deserted yard. There was not even a hen in sight; she was left alone for the day. “Tobias’s folks,” as she called the son’s family with whom she made her home–Tobias’s folks had just started for a day’s pleasuring at the county fair, ten miles distant. She had not thought of going with them, nor expected any invitation; she had even helped them off with her famous energy; but there was an unexpected reluctance at being left behind, a sad little feeling that would rise suddenly in her throat as she stood in the door and saw them drive away in the shiny, two-seated wagon. Johnny, the youngest and favorite of her grandchildren, had shouted back in his piping voice, “I wish you was goin’, Grandma.”

“The only one on ’em that thought of me,” said Mercy Bascom to herself, and then not being a meditative person by nature, she went to work industriously and proceeded to the repairing of Tobias’s work-day coat. It was sharp weather now in the early morning, and he would soon need the warmth of it. Tobias’s placid wife never anticipated and always lived in a state of trying to catch up with her work. It never had been the elder woman’s way, and Mercy reviewed her own active career with no mean pride. She had been left a widow at twenty-eight, with four children and a stony New Hampshire farm, but had bravely won her way, paid her debts, and provided the three girls and their brother Tobias with the best available schooling.

For a woman of such good judgment and high purpose in life, Mrs. Bascom had made a very unwise choice in marrying Tobias Bascom the elder. He was not even the owner of a good name, and led her a terrible life with his drunken shiftlessness, and hindrance of all her own better aims. Even while the children were babies, however, and life was at its busiest and most demanding stages, the determined soul would not be baffled by such damaging partnership. She showed the plainer of what stuff she was made, and simply worked the harder and went her ways more fiercely. If it were sometimes whispered that she was unamiable, her wiser neighbors understood the power of will that was needed to cope with circumstances that would have crushed a weaker woman. As for her children, they were very fond of her in the undemonstrative New England fashion. Only the two eldest could remember their father at all, and after he was removed from this world Tobias Bascom left but slight proofs of having ever existed at all, except in the stern lines and premature aging of his wife’s face.

The years that followed were years of hard work on the little farm, but diligence and perseverance had their reward. When the three daughters came to womanhood they were already skilled farmhouse keepers, and were dispatched for their own homes well equipped with feather-beds and homespun linen and woolen. Mercy Bascom was glad to have them well settled, if the truth were known. She did not like to have her own will and law questioned or opposed, and when she sat down to supper alone with her son Tobias, after the last daughter’s wedding, she had a glorious feeling of peace and satisfaction.