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"Five dollars air a mighty heap to spen' fer sech foolishness, Newt," replied his wife, turning the squalling baby over on its stomach and pounding it vigorously on the back. "Mo'over," she added, after a pause, "I don't see ez ye've got the five dollars, nohow."
Mr. Pinson stretched out one long leg and thrust a hand into his trousers-pocket. "Ye're mighty right, Nance, I 'ain't," he admitted, blowing the loose tobacco from the handful of coin fetched up from the honest home-made depths; "I've got jes three dollars and a half lef' outn what Sam Leggett paid me fer the yearlin'. But me an' the childern hev been a-talkin' of it over, an' they hev conclusioned to th'ow in ther aigg money; Dan fo' bits, an' Pete fo'; Joe an' Jed hez two bits betwix 'em, an' Polly M'riar says ez how she hev fifteen cents. I'm lackin' of a dime, but I reckin I kin scratch thet up somewhers."
"Thar's my two bits up yan in the clock," Mrs. Pinson remarked, with pretended indifference; "ye kin take that ef ye air sech a plumb fool ez to pike the whole passel of us inter town to see the circus."
"Shucks, Nance!" he returned, indignantly; "I ain't agoin' to tech yo' two bits." Nevertheless he got up and fumbled about in the clock-case on the high mantel-shelf until he found it. "Anyhow," he added, as he reseated himself, "I kin pay it back when ye git ready fer yo' nex' bottle o' snuff."
"Will they be a el'phunt?" demanded one of the freckle-faced urchins gathered around the heads of the family, listening, breathless, to the discussion.
"A dollar fer Nance, en' a dollar fer me," Mr. Pinson counted, gravely, taking no notice of the interruption, "an' fo' bits apiece fer Beck an' Dan an' Pete an' Polly M'riar an' Joe an' Jed. Childern half price" - he glanced casually at the flaming circus poster tacked against the chinked wall in the chimney corner - "not countin' of the baby. An' fifteen cents lef', by jing!"
"Do ye reckin I kin git in fer half price, paw?" This question, which came from Becky, the oldest of the Pinson brood, who stood five feet six and a half inches in her bare feet, might have been meant as a bit of covert sarcasm, had not the eager voice belied any such intention. Her father's eyes travelled slowly up from the hem of her homespun frock, as she stood leaning against the chimney jamb, to her pretty round face framed in its shock of frizzly red hair. "Waal, I be dinged, Beck!" he exclaimed, in dismay, "I keep fergittin' ez how ye air growed up!" His face clouded, and he looked ruefully at the pile of dimes and half-dimes lying in his large palm.
"An' Sam Leggett's gone to Kansas on a cattle drive," murmured the twelve-year-old Dan, with a meaning leer at Becky. A vivid blush overspread her face; she dropped her eyelids and squirmed her shapely toes. But Mr. Pinson was absorbed in a mute recalculation, which ended presently in a beat-out whistle and a mournful shake of the head.
Mrs. Pinson, with the colicky baby laid over her shoulder, was jolting her rockerless chair to and fro, and singing, in a sweet, drawling undertone:
"Far-ye-well, oh, far-ye-well;
When ye git to hev-ven ye will pa-art n-o-o m-o-o'!"
She interrupted herself to observe, quietly, "Ye kin tote the baby, Beck; an' I kin tote Joe; an' yo' paw he kin tote Jed, twel we git inside the tent. They ain't no charge fer children in arms. It says so."
"Lord, Nance!" exclaimed her husband, in an ecstasy of admiration, "ye air the beatenes' white woman on Jim-Ned Creek! Thet settles it oncet mo'! Fetch me a coal fer my pipe, Polly M'riar."
Becky heaved a deep sigh of relief, and sank down on her heels, reaching under her mother's chair at the same time for the snuff-bottle.
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