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The New Coachman







From: Jewel

"Now you polish up those buckles real good, won't you, 'Zekiel? I will
say for Fanshaw, you could most see your face in the harness always."

The young fellow addressed rubbed away at the nickel plating good
humoredly, although he had heard enough exhortations in the last
twenty-four hours to chafe somewhat the spirit of youth. His mother, a
large, heavy woman, stood over him, her face full of care.

"It's a big change from driving a grocery wagon to driving a gentleman's
carriage, 'Zekiel. I do hope you sense it."

"You'd make a bronze image sense it, mother," answered the young man,
smiling broadly. "You might sit and sermonize just as well, mightn't
you? Sitting's as cheap as standing,"--he cast a glance around the clean
spaces of the barn in search of a chair,--"or if you'd rather go and
attend to your knitting, I've seen harness before, you know."

"I'm not sure as you've ever handled a gentleman's harness in your life,
'Zekiel Forbes."

"It's a fact they don't wear 'em much down Boston way."

His mother regarded his shock of light hair with repressed fondness.

"It was a big responsibility I took when I asked Mr. Evringham to let
you try the place," she said solemnly, "and I'm going to do my best to
help you fill it. It does seem almost a providence the way Fanshaw's
livery fits you; and if you'll hold yourself up, I may be partial, but
it seems to me you look better in it than he ever did; and I'm sure if
handsome is as handsome does, you'll fill it better every way, even if
he was a fashionable English coachman. Mrs. Evringham was so pleased
with his style she tried to have him kept even after he'd taken too much
for the second time; but Mr. Evringham valued his horses too highly for
that, I can tell you."

"Thought the governor was a widower still," remarked Ezekiel as his
mother drew forward a battered chair and dusted it with the huge apron
that covered her neat dress. She seated herself close to her boy.

"Of course he is," she returned with some asperity. "Why should he get
married with such a home as he's got? Fifteen years I've kept house for
Mr. Evringham. I don't believe but what he'd say that in all that time
he's never found his beef overdone or a button off his shirts."

"Humph!" grunted Ezekiel. "He looks as if he wouldn't mind hanging you
to the nearest tree if he did. I heard tell once that there was a cold
hell as well as a hot one. Think says I, when the governor was looking
me over the other day, 'You've set sail for the cold place, old boy.'"

"Zeke Forbes, don't you ever let me hear you say such a thing again!"
exclaimed Mrs. Forbes. "Mr. Evringham is the finest gentleman within one
hundred miles of New York city. When a man has spent his life in Wall
Street it's bound to show some in his face, of course; but what comfort
has that man ever known?"

"Pretty scrumptious place he's got here in this park, I notice,"
returned the new coachman.

"Yes, he has a breath of fresh air before he goes to the city and after
he gets back every day. Isn't that Essex Maid of his a beauty?" Mrs.
Forbes cast her eyes towards the stalls where the shining flanks of two
horses were visible from her seat by the wide-open doors of the barn.
"His rides back there among the hills,"--Mrs. Forbes waved her hand
vaguely toward the tall trees waving in the spring sunshine,--"are his
one pleasure; and he never tires of them. You will find the horses
here something different to groom from those common grocery horses in
Boston."

"Oh, I don't know," drawled 'Zekiel, teasingly.

"Then you'd better know, young man," emphatically. "And, Zeke, what's
the names of those carriages?" pointing with sudden energy at two half
shrouded vehicles.

"How many guesses do I get?"

"Guessing ain't going to do. Do you know, or don't you?"

"Know? Why," leniently, "bless your heart, mother, don't you s'pose I
know a buggy and a carryall when I see 'em?"

"Oh, you poor benighted grocery boy!" Mrs. Forbes raised her hands.
"What a mercy I mentioned it! Imagine Mrs. Evringham hearing you ask if
she'd have the buggy or the carryall! 'Zekiel," solemnly, "listen to me.
That tall one's a spider, and the other's a broom. There! Do you hear
me? A spider and a broom!"

Ezekiel's merry eyes met the anxious ones with a twinkle.

"Who'd have thought it!" he responded.

"Now then, Zeke," anxiously, "it's my responsibility. I recommended you.
I want you should say 'em off as glib as Fanshaw did. Now then, which is
which?"

"Mother, didn't you tell me that the late lamented was not a
prohibitionist?"

"Fanshaw drank like a fish, if that's what you mean."

"Well, just because he saw things in this barn you needn't expect me to!
Poor chap! Spiders and brooms! He must have been glad to go."

Mrs. Forbes' earnest expression did not change. "'Zekiel, don't you
tease, now! We haven't got time. I want you to make such a success of
this that you'll stay with me. You can't think how I felt when I woke
up this morning and thought the first thing, 'Zeke's here.' Why, I've
scarcely kept acquainted with you for fifteen years. Scarcely saw you
except for a few weeks in the summer time. Now I've got you again!"

"I ain't the only thing you've got again," grinned 'Zekiel, "if you're
going to see things, same as Fanshaw did."

Thus reminded, the housekeeper looked back at the phaeton and the
brougham. "Be a good boy, Zeke," coaxingly, "and don't forget now,
because Mrs. Evringham is a great stickler--and a great sticker, too,"
added Mrs. Forbes in a different tone.

"Who is the old woman, if the governor isn't married?" asked Ezekiel
with not very lively interest. "She don't seem popular with you."

"I'll tell you who she is," returned his mother in a low, emphatic tone.
"she's just what I say--a sticker and an interloper."

"H'm! Shouldn't wonder if the green-eyed monster had got after mamma,"
soliloquized the youth aloud. "Somebody else sews on the buttons now,
perhaps."

"'Zekiel Forbes, we must have an understanding right off. You've got to
joke and tease, I s'pose, but it can't be about Mr. Evringham. This is
like a law of the Medes and Persians, and I want you should understand
it. The more you see of him the less you'll dare to joke about him."

"I told you he scared me stiff," acknowledged Zeke, running the harness
through his hands to discover another dingy spot.

"Well, he'd better. Now I wouldn't gossip to you of my employer's
affairs--I hope we're better than two common servants--but I want you to
be as loyal to him as I am, and to understand a few of the reasons why
he can't go giggling around like some folks."

"Great Scott!" interpolated the young coachman. "Mr. Evringham go
giggling around! So would Bunker Hill monument!"

"Listen to me, Zeke. Mr. Evringham has had two sons. His wife died when
the oldest, Lawrence, was fifteen. Well, both those boys disappointed
him. Lawrence when he was twenty-one married secretly a widow older than
himself, who had a little girl named Eloise. Mr. Evringham made the best
of it, and helped him along in business. Lawrence became a broker and
had made and lost a fortune when he died at the age of thirty-five."

"Broke himself, did he?" remarked the irrepressible 'Zekiel.

"Yes, he did. Here we were, living in peace and comfort,--my employer
at sixty a man of settled habits and naturally very set in his ways and
satisfied with his home and the way I had run it for him for fifteen
years,--when three blows fell on him at once. Firstly his son Lawrence
failed and was ruined; secondly he died; and thirdly his widow and her
daughter nineteen years old came here a couple of months ago and settled
on Mr. Evringham, and here they've stayed ever since! I don't think they
have an idea of going away." Mrs. Forbes's eyes snapped. "Such an upset
as it was! I couldn't show how I felt, of course, for it was so much
worse for him than it was for me. He had never cared for Mrs. Evringham,
and scarcely knew the girl who called him 'grandfather' without an atom
of right."

"Hard lines," observed 'Zekiel. "Does the girl call herself Evringham?"

"Does she?" with scorn. "Well I guess she does. Of course she was only
four when her mother married Lawrence, and I guess she was fond of
her stepfather and he of her, because he never had any children; but
sometimes I ask myself, is it going on forever? I only hope Eloise'll
get married soon."

'Zekiel dropped the harness to arrange imaginary curls on his temples
and pat the tie on his muscular neck. "If she's pretty I'm willing," he
responded.

His mother shook her head absently. "Then there was Mr. Evringham's
younger son, a regular roving ne'er-do-well. He didn't like Wall Street
and he went West to Chicago. He was a rolling stone, first in one
position and then in another; then he got married, and after a few years
he rolled away altogether. All Mr. Evringham knows about him and his
family is that he had one child. Harry wrote a few letters about his
wife Julia and the baby, at the time it was born, and Mr. Evringham sent
a present of money; then the letters ceased until one day the wife wrote
him frantically that her husband had disappeared and begged to know
where he was. Mr. Evringham knew nothing about him and wrote her so, and
that is the last he's heard. So you see if he looks cold and hard, he's
had enough to make him so."

"H'm!" ejaculated 'Zekiel. "He don't give the impression of lyin' awake
nights wondering how his deserted daughter-in-law and the kid make out."

"Why should he?" retorted Mrs. Forbes sharply. "His two boys acted as
selfish to him as boys could. He's a disappointed, humiliated man in
that proud heart of his. He's been hunted out and harrowed up in this
peaceful retreat, when all he asked was to be let alone with his horses
and his golf clubs, and I think one daughter-in-law's enough under
the circumstances. I have some respect for Mrs. Harry, whoever she is,
because she lets him alone. In all the long years we've spent here, when
he often had no one to talk to but me, he's let me have a glimpse of
these things, and I've told you so's you'd think right about him and
serve him all the better."

"He's got a look in his eyes like cold steel," remarked Ezekiel, "and
lines under 'em like they'd been drawn with steel; and his back's as
flat and straight as if a steel rod took the place of a spine. That
thick gray hair and mustache of his might be steel threads."

"He's a splendid sight on horseback," responded Mrs. Forbes devoutly.
"His sons were neither of 'em ever the man he is. I'd like to protect
him from being imposed upon if such a thing was possible."

"Sho!" drawled 'Zekiel. "Might's well talk about protecting a
battleship."

"Well, 'Zekiel Forbes," returned his mother, her eyes bright, "can't you
imagine a battleship hesitating to run down a little pleasure yacht with
all its flags flying? And can't you imagine that hesitation costing the
battleship considerable precious time and money? You've said a good deal
about my sacrificing my room in the house and coming out here to fix a
little home for us both, upstairs in the barn chambers, but perhaps you
can see now that it isn't all sacrifice, that perhaps I'm glad of an
excuse to get out of the house, where things are so different from what
they used to be, and to have a cosy home with my own boy. Now then,
'Zekiel," coaxingly, these words recalling her boy's responsibilities,
"look over there once more and tell me which of those is the spider."

Zekiel dropped the harness and laid his hand gently on his mother's
forehead. "There isn't anything there, dear mother," he said soothingly.

"Zeke!" she exclaimed, jerking away with a short reluctant laugh.

"'Mother, dear mother, come home with me now,'" he roared
sentimentally, so that Essex Maid lifted her beautiful head and looked
out in surprise. "Remember Fanshaw, and put more water in it after
this," he added, dropping his arm to his mother's neck and capturing her
with a hug.

"'Zekiel!" she protested. "'Zekiel!"





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