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George’s Wife
by [?]

“She’s come, and she can go back. No one asked her, no one wants her, and she’s got no rights here. She thinks she’ll come it over me, but she’ll get nothing, and there’s no place for her here.”

The old, gray-bearded man, gnarled and angular, with overhanging brows and a harsh face, made this little speech of malice and unfriendliness, looking out on the snow-covered prairie through the window. Far in the distance were a sleigh and horses like a spot in the snow, growing larger from minute to minute.

It was a day of days. Overhead the sun was pouring out a flood of light and warmth, and, though it was bitterly cold, life was beating hard in the bosom of the West. Men walked lightly, breathed quickly, and their eyes were bright with the brightness of vitality and content. Even the old man at the window of this lonely house, in a great, lonely stretch of country, with the cedar hills behind it, had a living force which defied his seventy-odd years, though the light in his face was hard and his voice was harder still. Under the shelter of the foothills, cold as the day was, his cattle were feeding in the open, scratching away the thin layer of snow and browsing on the tender grass underneath. An arctic world in appearance, it had an abounding life which made it friendly and generous–the harshness belonged to the surface. So, perhaps, it was with the old man who watched the sleigh in the distance coming nearer, but that in his nature on which any one could feed was not so easily reached as the fresh young grass under the protecting snow.

“She’ll get nothing out of me,” he repeated, as the others in the room behind him made no remark, and his eyes ranged gloatingly over the cattle under the foothills and the buildings which he had gathered together to proclaim his substantial greatness in the West. “Not a sou markee!” he added, clinking some coins in his pocket. “She’s got no rights.”

“Cassy’s got as much right here as any of us, Abel, and she’s coming to say it, I guess.”

The voice which spoke was unlike a Western voice. It was deep and full and slow, with an organ-like quality. It was in good-keeping with the tall, spare body and large, fine, rugged face of the woman to whom it belonged. She sat in a rocking-chair, but did not rock, her fingers busy with the knitting-needles, her feet planted squarely on the home-made hassock at her feet.

The old man waited for a minute in a painful silence, then he turned slowly round, and, with tight-pressed lips, looked at the woman in the rocking-chair. If it had been any one else who had “talked back” at him, he would have made quick work of them, for he was of that class of tyrant who pride themselves on being self-made, and have an undue respect for their own judgment and importance. But the woman who had ventured to challenge his cold-blooded remarks about his dead son’s wife, now hastening over the snow to the house her husband had left under a cloud eight years before, had no fear of him, and, maybe, no deep regard for him. He respected her, as did all who knew her–a very reticent, thoughtful, busy being, who had been like a well of comfort to so many that had drunk and passed on out of her life, out of time and time’s experiences. Seventy-nine years saw her still upstanding, strong, full of work, and fuller of life’s knowledge. It was she who had sent the horses and sleigh for Cassy when the old man, having read the letter that Cassy had written him, said that she could “freeze at the station” for all of him. Aunt Kate had said nothing then, but, when the time came, by her orders the sleigh and horses were at the station; and the old man had made no direct protest, for she was the one person he had never dominated nor bullied. If she had only talked, he would have worn her down, for he was fond of talking, and it was said by those who were cynical and incredulous about him that he had gone to prayer-meetings, had been a local preacher, only to hear his own voice. Probably, if there had been any politics in the West in his day, he would have been a politician, though it would have been too costly for his taste, and religion was very cheap; it enabled him to refuse to join in many forms of expenditure, on the ground that he “did not hold by such things.”