The Twins of Suffering Creek

Language: English
Published: 5 days ago
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Scipio moved about the room uncertainly. It was characteristic of him. Nature had given him an expression that suggested bewilderment, and, somehow, this expression had got into his movements.

He was swabbing the floor with a rag mop; a voluntary task, undertaken to relieve his wife, who was lounging over the glowing cookstove, reading a cheap story book. Once or twice he paused in his labors, and his mild, questioning blue eyes sought the woman’s intent face. His stubby, work-soiled fingers would rake their way through his straw-colored hair, which grew sparsely and defiantly, standing out at every possible unnatural angle, and the mop would again flap into the muddy water, and continue its process of smearing the rough boarded floor.

Now and again the sound of children’s voices floated in through the open doorway, and at each shrill piping the man’s pale eyes lit into a smile of parental tenderness. But his work went on steadily, for such was the deliberateness of his purpose.

The room was small, and already three-quarters of it had been satisfactorily smeared, and the dirt spread to the necessary consistency. Now he was nearing the cookstove where the woman sat.

“I’d hate to worry you any, Jess,” he said, in a gentle, apologetic voice, “but I’m right up to this patch. If you’d kind of lift your feet, an’ tuck your skirts around you some, guess you could go right on reading your fiction.”

The woman looked up with a peevish frown. Then something like a pitying smile warmed her expression. She was a handsome creature, of a large, somewhat bold type, with a passionate glow of strong youth and health in every feature of her well-shaped face. She was taller than her diminutive husband, and, in every detail of expression, his antithesis. She wore a dress with some pretensions to display, and suggesting a considerable personal vanity. But it was of the tawdry order that was unconvincing, and lacked both refinement and tidiness.

Scipio followed up his words with a glance of smiling amiability.

“I’m real sorry––” he began again.

But she cut him short.

“Oh, bother!” she exclaimed; and, thrusting her slippered feet upon the stove, tucked her skirts about her. Then, utterly ignoring him, she buried herself once more in her book.

The mop flapped about her chair legs, the water splashed the stove. Scipio was hurrying, and consequently floundering. It was his endeavor not to disturb his wife more than was necessary.

Finally he wrung out his mop and stood it outside the door in the sun. He emptied his bucket upon the few anæmic cabbages which grew in an untidy patch at the side of the hut, and returned once more to the room.

He glanced round it with feeble appreciation. It was a hopeless sort of place, yet he could not detect its shortcomings. The rough, log-built walls, smeared with a mud plaster, were quite unadorned. There was one solitary opening for a window, and in the center of the room was a roughly manufactured table, laden with the remains of several repasts....