Page:Lippincotts Monthly Magazine-94.pdf/626

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That Mule Pinders

616

“she can’t last long. She’s living on borrowed time now. Well, I’ll try to do my duty by her as long as she’s with us; ” and young Joshua sighed forlornly. “Well said, my boy, well said. I am sure you will carry out your dear uncle's wishes. And as you say, Pinders is so old that she cannot be long for this world.”

“There’s another thing,” hesitated the young man, as they gazed forlornly upon what must once have been a frisky colt: “a fellow hates to be made fun of, don’t you know, and if people found out about that clause

in the will I’d never have another peaceful minute. It’d be sport for the millions—why, I’d never hear the last of it! If Tom White heard of it

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It was Mr. Dobson’s turn to sigh. His previous acquaintance with Tom White rather prejudiced him in Mr. Crabbe's favor. Really, he could almost hear Mr. White yelping across the whole of Main Street: “Hi, Josh! How’s Aunty Pinders this morning?” and similar expres sions of levity—especially if Mr. Crabbe happened to be walking home from the post-office with Arline Masters, a young lady visitor with whom, Rumor had it, Uncle Josh's heir was desperately smitten. “Nobody knows about this mule business but you and the house keeper,” pursued Mr. Crabbe gloomily. “That dear old soul will do anything I ask her to, and you’ve got to promise me not to tell a living

being about it. Why, I’d die of humiliation if everybody knew my hold upon Uncle's property rests with that thing there”—the “thing” being the ancient Pinders, who returned the epithet with a mild, noncommittal

glance. “My dear boy,” said old Mr. Dobson, after a moment's profound meditation, “you may rely upon my discretion.” It appeared afterward that he might. And not only could Mr. Dobson be trusted to preserve silence on the shameful subject, but also to give

sundry bits of advice as to the care of mules who were not amenable to usual stock-rules. These suggestions he rendered freely, if somewhat specu

latively, and Joshua accepted them gratefully in preference to professional services, even at the risk of lessened efficiency in his dealings with Pinders, because the matter was thus kept sub rosó, so to speak. For Pinders, alas, in spite of her advanced age and her promise of

longer life, appeared to be a chronic invalid. No wonder Uncle Josh had thought a thousand dollars a year necessary for her comfort. She had a

fondness for attacks that began about midnight and lasted well into dawn. These unfortunate affairs started out with the mild symptom on Pinders's part of trying to kick out the end of the stable. Naturally, one could not long remain ignorant of these efforts at dissolution. It might have seemed a simple thing to let her die in one of them; but Joshua Crabbe was not a bad-hearted young man, and, moreover, he had no desire to be