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´╗┐Title: The Green Door
Author: Freeman, Mary Eleanor Wilkins, 1852-1930
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Green Door" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



The Green Door

By

Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman


Illustrated by
Mary R. Bassett


New York
Dodd, Mead & Company
1931



Letitia lived in the same house where her grandmother and her
great-grandmother had lived and died. Her own parents died when she
was very young, and she had come there to live with her Great-aunt
Peggy. Her Great-aunt Peggy was her grandfather's sister, and was a
very old woman. However, she was very active and bright, and good
company for Letitia. That was fortunate, because there were no little
girls of Letitia's age nearer than a mile. The one maid-servant whom
Aunt Peggy kept was older than she, and had chronic rheumatism in the
right foot and left shoulder-blade, which affected her temper.

Letitia's Great-aunt Peggy used to play grace-hoops with her, and
dominoes and checkers, and even dolls. Sometimes it was hard for
Letitia to realize that she was not another little girl. Her Aunt
Peggy was very kind to her and fond of her, and took care of her as
well as her own mother could have done. Letitia had all the care and
comforts and pleasant society that she really needed, but she was not
a very contented little girl. She was naturally rather idle, and her
Aunt Peggy, who was a wise old woman and believed thoroughly in the
proverb about Satan and idle hands, would keep her always busy at
something.

If she were not playing, she had to sew or study or dust, or read a
stent in a story-book. Letitia had very nice story-books, but she was
not particularly fond of reading. She liked best of anything to sit
quite idle, and plan what she would like to do if she could have her
wish--and that her Aunt Peggy would not allow.

Letitia was not satisfied with her dolls and little treasures. She
wanted new ones. She wanted fine clothes like one little girl, and
plenty of candy like another. When Letitia went to school she always
came home more dissatisfied. She wanted her room newly furnished, and
thought the furniture in the whole house very shabby. She disliked to
rise so early in the morning. She did not like to take a walk every
day, and besides everything else to make her discontented, there was
the little green door, which she must never open and pass through.

The house where Letitia lived was, of course, a very old one. It had
a roof, saggy and mossy, gray shingles in the walls, lilac bushes
half hiding the great windows, and a well-sweep in the yard. It was
quite a large house, and there were sheds and a great barn attached
to it, but they were all on the side. At the back of the house the
fields stretched away for acres, and there were no outbuildings. The
little green door was at the very back of the house, toward the
fields, in a room opening out of the kitchen. It was called the
cheese-room, because Letitia's grandmother, who had made cheeses, had
kept them there. She fancied she could smell cheese, though none had
been there for years, and it was used now only for a lumber-room. She
always sniffed hard for cheese, and then she eyed the little green
door with wonder and longing. It was a small green door, scarcely
higher than her head. A grown person could not have passed through
without stooping almost double. It was very narrow, too, and no one
who was not slender could have squeezed through it. In this door
there was a little black keyhole, with no key in it, but it was
always locked. Letitia knew that her Aunt Peggy kept the key in some
very safe place, but she would never show it to her, nor unlock the
door.

"It is not best for you, my dear," she always replied, when Letitia
teased her; and when Letitia begged only to know why she could not go
out of the door, she made the same reply, "It is not best for you, my
dear."

Sometimes, when Aunt Peggy was not by, Letitia would tease the old
maid-servant about the little green door, but she always seemed both
cross and stupid, and gave her no satisfaction. She even seemed to
think there was no little green door there; but that was nonsense,
because Letitia knew there was. Her curiosity grew greater and
greater; she took every chance she could get to steal into the
cheese-room and shake the door softly, but it was always locked. She
even tried to look through the key-hole, but she could see nothing.
One thing puzzled her more than all, and that was that the little
green door was on the inside of the house only, and not on the
outside. When Letitia went out in the field behind the house, there
was nothing but the blank wall to be seen. There was no sign of a
door in it. But the cheese-room was certainly the last room in the
house, and the little green door was in the rear wall. When Letitia
asked her Great-aunt Peggy to explain that, she only got the same
answer:

"It is not best for you to know, my dear."

Letitia studied the little green door more than she studied her
lesson-books, but she never got any nearer the solution of the
mystery, until one Sunday morning in January. It was a very cold day,
and she had begged hard to stay home from church. Her Aunt Peggy and
the maid-servant, old as they were, were going, but Letitia shivered
and coughed a little and pleaded, and finally had her own way.

"But you must sit down quietly," charged Aunt Peggy, "and you must
learn your texts, to repeat to me when I get home."

After Aunt Peggy and the old servant, in their great cloaks and
bonnets and fur tippets, had gone out of the yard and down the road,
Letitia sat quiet for fifteen minutes or so, hunting in the Bible for
easy texts; then suddenly she thought of the little green door, and
wondered, as she had done so many times before, if it could possibly
be opened. She laid down her Bible and stole out through the kitchen
to the cheese-room and tried the door. It was locked just as usual.
"Oh, dear!" sighed Letitia, and was ready to cry. It seemed to her
that this little green door was the very worst of all her trials;
that she would rather open that and see what was beyond than have all
the nice things she wanted and had to do without.

Suddenly she thought of a little satin-wood box with a picture on the
lid which Aunt Peggy kept in her top bureau-drawer. Letitia had often
seen this box, but had never been allowed to open it.

"I wonder if the key can be in that box," said she.

She did not wait a minute. She was so naughty that she dared not wait
for fear she should remember that she ought to be good. She ran out
of the cheese-room, through the kitchen and sitting-room, to her
aunt's bedroom, and opened the bureau drawer, and then the satin-wood
box. It contained some bits of old lace, an old brooch, a yellow
letter, some other things which she did not examine, and, sure
enough, a little black key on a green ribbon.

Letitia had not a doubt that it was the key of the little green door.
She trembled all over, she panted for breath, she was so frightened,
but she did not hesitate. She took the key and ran back to the
cheese-room. She did not stop to shut the satin-wood box or the
bureau drawer. She was so cold and her hands shook so that she had
some difficulty in fitting the key into the lock of the little green
door; but at last she succeeded, and turned it quite easily. Then,
for a second, she hesitated; she was almost afraid to open the door;
she put her hand on the latch and drew it back. It seemed to her,
too, that she heard strange, alarming sounds on the other side.
Finally, with a great effort of her will, she unlatched the little
green door, and flung it open and ran out.

Then she gave a scream of surprise and terror, and stood still
staring. She did not dare stir nor breathe. She was not in the open
fields which she had always seen behind the house. She was in the
midst of a gloomy forest of trees so tall that she could just see the
wintry sky through their tops. She was hemmed in, too, by a wide,
hooping undergrowth of bushes and brambles, all stiff with snow.
There was something dreadful and ghastly about this forest, which had
the breathless odor of a cellar. And suddenly Letitia heard again
those strange sounds she had heard before coming out, and she knew
that they were savage whoops of Indians, just as she had read about
them in her history-book, and she saw also dark forms skulking about
behind the trees, as she had read.

Then Letitia, wild with fright, turned to run back into the house
through the little green door, but there was no little green door,
and, more than that, there was no house. Nothing was to be seen but
the forest and a bridle-path leading through it.

Letitia gasped. She could not believe her eyes. She ran out into the
path and down it a little way, but there was no house. The dreadful
yells sounded nearer. She looked wildly at the undergrowth beside the
path, wondering if she could hide under that, when suddenly she heard
a gun-shot and the tramp of a horse's feet. She sprang aside just as
a great horse, with a woman and two little girls on his back, came
plunging down the bridle-path and passed her. Then there was another
gun-shot, and a man, with a wide cape flying back like black wings,
came rushing down the path. Letitia gave a little cry, and he heard
her.

"Who are you?" he cried breathlessly. Then, without waiting for an
answer, he caught her up and bore her along with him. "Don't speak,"
he panted in her ear. "The Indians are upon us, but we're almost
home!"

Then all at once a log-house appeared beside the path, and someone
was holding the door ajar, and a white face was peering out. The door
was flung open wide as they came up, the man rushed in, set Letitia
down, shut the door with a crash, and shot some heavy bolts at top
and bottom.

Letitia was so dazed that she scarcely knew what happened for the
next few minutes. She saw there a pale-faced woman and three girls,
one about her own age, two a little younger. She saw, to her great
amazement, the horse tied in the corner. She saw that the door was of
mighty thickness, and, moreover, hasped with iron and studded with
great iron nails, so that some rattling blows that were rained upon
it presently had no effect. She saw three guns set in loopholes in
the walls, and the man, the woman, and the girl of her own age firing
them, with great reports which made the house quake, while the
younger girls raced from one to the other with powder and bullets.
Still, she was not sure she saw right, it was all so strange. She
stood back in a corner, out of the way, and waited, trembling, and at
last the fierce yells outside died away, and the firing stopped.


"They have fled," said the woman with a thankful sigh.

"Yes," said the man, "we are delivered once more out of the hands of
the enemy."

"We must not unbar the door or the shutters yet," said the woman
anxiously. "I will get the supper by candle-light."

Then Letitia realized what she had not done before, that all the
daylight was shut out of the house; that they had for light only one
tallow candle and a low hearth fire. It was very cold. Letitia began
to shiver with cold as well as fear.

Suddenly the woman turned to her with motherly kindness and
curiosity. "Who is this little damsel whom you rescued, husband?"
said she.

"She must speak for herself," replied her husband, smiling. "I
thought at first she was neighbor Adams's Phoebe, but I see she is
not."

"What is your name, little girl?" asked the woman, while the three
little girls looked wonderingly at the new-comer.

"Letitia Hopkins," replied Letitia in a small, scared voice.

"Letitia Hopkins, did you say?" asked the woman doubtfully.

"Yes, ma'am."

They all stared at her, then at one another.

"It is very strange," said the woman finally, with a puzzled,
half-alarmed look. "Letitia Hopkins is my name."

"And it is mine, too," said the eldest girl.

Letitia gave a great jump. There was something very strange about
this. Letitia Hopkins was a family name. Her grandmother, her
father's mother, had been Letitia Hopkins, and she had always heard
that the name could be traced back in the same order for generations,
as the Hopkinses had intermarried. She looked up, trembling, at the
man who had saved her from the Indians.

"Will you please tell me your name, sir?" she said.

"John Hopkins," replied the man, smiling kindly at her.

"Captain John Hopkins," corrected his wife.

Letitia gasped. That settled it. Captain John Hopkins was her
great-great-great-grandfather. Great-aunt Peggy had often told her
about him. He had been a notable man in his day, among the first
settlers, and many a story concerning him had come down to his
descendants. A queer miniature of him, in a little gilt frame, hung
in the best parlor, and Letitia had often looked at it. She had
thought from the first that there was something familiar about the
man's face, and now she recognized the likeness to the miniature.

It seemed awful, and impossible, but the little green door led into
the past, and Letitia Hopkins was visiting her great-great-great-
grandfather and grandmother, great-great-grandmother, and her
great-great-aunts.

Letitia looked up in the faces, all staring wonderingly at her, and
all of them had that familiar look, though she had no miniature of
the others. Suddenly she knew that it was a likeness to her own face
which she recognized, and it was as if she saw herself in a
looking-glass. She felt as if her head was turning round and round,
and presently her feet began to follow the motion of her head, then
strong arms caught her, or she would have fallen.

When Letitia came to herself again, she was in a great feather
bed, in the unfinished loft of the log-house. The wind blew in
her face, a great star shone in her eyes. She thought at first
she was out of doors. Then she heard a kind but commanding voice
repeating: "Open your mouth," and stared up wildly into her
great-great-great-grandmother's face, then around the strange little
garret, lighted with a wisp of rag in a pewter dish of tallow,
and the stars shining through the crack in the logs. Not a bit of
furniture was there in the room, besides the bed and an oak chest.
Some queer-looking garments hung about on pegs and swung in the
draughts of the wind. It must have been snowing outside, for little
piles of snow were scattered here and there about the room.

"Where--am--I?" Letitia asked feebly, but no sooner had she opened
her mouth than her great-great-great-grandmother, Goodwife Hopkins,
who had been watching her chance, popped in the pewter spoon full of
some horribly black and bitter medicine.

Letitia nearly choked.

"Swallow it," said Goodwife Hopkins. "You swooned away, and it is
good physic. It will soon make you well."

Goodwife Hopkins had a kind and motherly way, but a way from which
there was no appeal. Letitia swallowed the bitter dose.

"Now go to sleep," ordered Goodwife Hopkins.

Letitia went to sleep. There might have been something quieting to
the nerves in the good physic. She was awakened a little later by her
great-great-grandmother and her two great-great-aunts coming to bed.
They were to sleep with her. There were only two beds in Captain John
Hopkins's house.

Letitia had never slept four in a bed before. There was not much
room. She had to turn herself about crosswise, and then her toes
stuck into the icy air, unless she kept them well pulled up. But soon
she fell asleep again.

About midnight she was awakened by wild cries in the woods outside,
and lay a minute, numb with fright, before she remembered where she
was. Then she nudged her great-great-grandmother, Letitia, who lay
next her.

"What's that?" she whispered fearfully.

"Oh, it's nothing but a catamount. Go to sleep again," said her
great-great-grandmother sleepily. Her great-great-aunt, Phyllis, the
youngest of them all, laughed on the other side.

"She's afraid of a catamount," said she.

Letitia could not go to sleep for a long while, for the wild cries
continued, and she thought several times that the catamount was
scratching up the walls of the house. When she did fall asleep it was
not for long, for the fierce yells she had heard when she had first
opened her little green door sounded again in her ears.

This time she did not need to wake her great-great-grandmother, who
sat straight up in bed at the first sound.

"What's that?" whispered Letitia.

"Hush!" replied the other. "Injuns!"

Both the great-great-aunts were awake; they all listened, scarcely
breathing. The yells came again, but fainter; then again, and fainter
still. Letitia's great-great-grandmother settled back in bed again.

"Go to sleep now," said she. "They've gone away."

But Letitia was weeping with fright. "I can't go to sleep," she
sobbed. "I'm afraid they'll come again."

"Very likely they will," replied the other Letitia coolly. "They come
'most every night."

The little great-great-aunt Phyllis laughed again. "She can't go to
sleep because she heard Injuns," she tittered.

"Hush," said her sister Letitia, "she'll get accustomed to them in
time."

But poor Letitia slept no more till four o'clock. Then she had just
fallen into a sweet doze when she was pulled out of bed.

"Come, come," said her great-great-great-grandmother, Goodwife
Hopkins, "we can have no lazy damsels here."

Letitia found that her bedfellows were up and dressed and downstairs.
She heard a queer buzzing sound from below, as she stood in her bare
feet on the icy floor and gazed about her, dizzy with sleep.

"Hasten and dress yourself," said Goodwife Hopkins. "Here are some of
Letitia's garments I have laid out for you. Those which you wore here
I have put away in the chest. They are too gay, and do not befit a
sober, God-fearing damsel."

With that, Goodwife Hopkins descended to the room below, and Letitia
dressed herself. It did not take her long. There was not much to put
on beside a coarse wool petticoat and a straight little wool gown,
rough yarn stockings, and such shoes as she had never seen.

"I couldn't run from Injuns in these," thought Letitia miserably.
When she got downstairs she discovered what the buzzing noise was.
Her great-great-grandmother was spinning. Her great-great-aunt
Candace was knitting, and little Phyllis was scouring the hearth.
Goodwife Hopkins was preparing breakfast.

"Go to the other wheel," said she to Letitia, "and spin until the
porridge is done. We can have no idle hands here."

Letitia looked helplessly at a great spinning-wheel in the corner,
then at her great-great-great-grandmother.

"I don't know how," she faltered.

Then all the great-grandmothers and the aunts cried out with
astonishment.

"She doesn't know how to spin!" they said to one another.

Letitia felt dreadfully ashamed.

"You must have been strangely brought up," said Goodwife Hopkins.
"Well, take this stocking and round out the toe. There will be just
about time enough for that before breakfast."

"I don't know how to knit," stammered Letitia.

Then there was another cry of astonishment. Goodwife Hopkins cast
about her for another task for this ignorant guest.

"Explain the doctrine of predestination," said she suddenly.

Letitia jumped up and stared at her with scared eyes.

"Don't you know what predestination is?" demanded Goodwife Hopkins.

"No, ma'am," half sobbed Letitia.

Her great-great-grandmother and her great-great-aunts made shocked
exclamations, and her great-great-great-grandmother looked at her
with horror. "You have been brought up as one of the heathen," said
she. Then she produced a small book, and Letitia was bidden to seat
herself upon a stool and learn the doctrine of predestination before
breakfast.

The kitchen was lighted only by one tallow candle and the firelight,
for it was still far from dawn. Letitia drew her little stool close
to the hearth, and bent anxiously over the fire-lit page. She
committed to memory easily, and repeated the text like a frightened
parrot when she was called upon.

"The child has good parts, though she is woefully ignorant," said
Goodwife Hopkins aside to her husband. "It shall be my care to
instruct her."

Letitia, having completed her task, was given her breakfast. It was
only a portion of corn-meal porridge in a pewter plate. She had never
had such a strange breakfast in her life, and she did not like
corn-meal. She sat with it untasted before her.

"Why don't you eat?" asked her great-great-great-grandmother
severely.

"I--don't--like--it," faltered Letitia.

If possible, they were all more shocked by that than they had been by
her ignorance.

"She doesn't like the good porridge," the little great-great-aunts
said to each other.

"Eat the porridge," commanded Captain John Hopkins sternly, when he
had gotten over his surprise.

Letitia ate the porridge, every grain of it. After breakfast the
serious work of the day began. Letitia had never known anything like
it. She felt like a baby who had just come into a new world. She was
ignorant of everything that these strange relatives knew. It made no
difference that she knew some things which they did not, some
advanced things. She could, for instance, crochet, if she could not
knit. She could repeat the multiplication-table, if she did not know
the doctrine of predestination; she had also all the States of the
Union by heart. But advanced knowledge is not of as much value in the
past as past knowledge in the future. She could not crochet, because
there was no crochet needles; there were no States of the Union; and
it seemed doubtful if there was a multiplication-table, there was so
little to multiply.

So Letitia had set herself to acquiring the wisdom of her ancestors.
She learned to card, and hetchel, and spin and weave. She
learned to dye cloth, and make coarse garments, even for her
great-great-great-grandfather, Captain John Hopkins. She knitted
yarn stockings, she scoured brass and pewter, and, more than all,
she learned the entire catechism. Letitia had never really known
what work was. From long before dawn until long after dark, she
toiled. She was not allowed to spend one idle moment. She had no
chance to steal out and search for the little green door, even had
she not been so afraid of wild beasts and Indians.

She never went out of the house except on the Sabbath day. Then, in
fair or foul weather, they all went to meeting, ten miles through the
dense forest. Captain John Hopkins strode ahead, his gun over his
shoulder. Goodwife Hopkins rode the gray horse, and the girls rode by
turns, two at a time, clinging to the pillion at her back. Letitia
was never allowed to wear her own pretty plain dress, with the velvet
collar, even to meeting.

"It would create a scandal in the sanctuary," said Goodwife Hopkins.
So Letitia went always in the queer little coarse and scanty gown,
which seemed to her more like a bag than anything else; and for
outside wraps she had--of all things--a homespun blanket pinned over
her head. Her great-great-grandmother and her great-great-aunts were
all fitted out in a similar fashion. Goodwife Hopkins, however, had a
great wadded hood and a fine red cloak.

There was never any fire in the meeting-house, and the services
lasted all day, with a short recess at noon, during which they went
into a neighboring house, sat round the fire, warmed their half
frozen feet, and ate cold corn-cakes and pan-cakes for luncheon.
There were no pews in the meeting-house, nothing but hard benches
without backs. If Letitia fidgetted, or fell asleep, the tithing-men
rapped her. Letitia would never have been allowed to stay away from
meeting, had she begged to do so, but she never did. She was afraid
to stay alone in the house because of Indians.

Quite often there was a rumor of hostile Indians in the neighborhood,
and twice there were attacks. Letitia learned to load the guns and
hand the powder and bullets.

She grew more and more homesick as the days went on. They were all
kind to her, and she became fond of them, especially of the
great-great-grandmother of her own age, and the little
great-great-aunts, but they seldom had any girlish sports together.
Goodwife Hopkins kept them too busily at work. Once in a while, as
a special treat, they were allowed to play bean-porridge-hot for
fifteen minutes. They were not allowed to talk after they went to
bed, and there was little opportunity for girlish confidences.

However, there came a day at last when Captain Hopkins and his
wife were called away to visit a sick neighbor, some twelve miles
distant, and the four girls were left in charge of the house. At
seven o'clock the two younger went to bed, and Letitia and her
great-great-grandmother remained up to wait for the return of their
elders, as they had been instructed. Then it was that the little
great-great-grandmother showed Letitia her treasures. She had only
two, and was not often allowed to look at them, lest they wean her
heart away from more serious things. They were kept in a secret
drawer of the great chest for safety, and were nothing but a little
silver snuff-box with a picture on the top, and a little flat glass
bottle, about an inch and a half long.

"The box belonged to my grandfather, and the bottle to his mother. I
have them because I am the eldest, but I must not set my heart on
them unduly," said Letitia's great-great-grandmother.

Letitia tried to count how many "greats" belonged to the ancestors
who had first owned these treasures, but it made her dizzy. She had
never told the story of the little green door to any of them. She had
been afraid to, knowing how shocked they would be at her
disobedience. Now, however, when the treasure was replaced, she was
moved in confidence, and told her great-great-grandmother the story.

"That is very strange," said her great-great-grandmother, when
Letitia had finished. "We have a little green door, too; only ours is
on the outside of the house, in the north wall. There's a spruce tree
growing close up against it that hides it, but it is there. Our
parents have forbidden us to open it, too, and we have never
disobeyed."

She said the last with something of an air of superior virtue.
Letitia felt terribly ashamed.

"Is there any key to your little green door?" she asked meekly.

For answer her great-great-grandmother opened the secret drawer of
the chest again, and pulled out a key with a green ribbon in it, the
very counterpart of the one in the satin-wood box.

Letitia looked at it wistfully.

"I should never think of disobeying my parents, and opening the
little green door," remarked her great-great-grandmother, as she put
back the key in the drawer. "I should think something dreadful would
happen to me. I have heard it whispered that the door opened into the
future. It would be dreadful to be all alone in the future, without
one's kins-folk."

"There may not be any Indians or catamounts there," ventured Letitia.

"There might be something a great deal worse," returned her
great-great-grandmother severely.

After that there was silence between the two, and possibly also a
little coldness. Letitia knitted and her great-great-grandmother
knitted. Letitia also thought shrewdly. She had very little doubt
that the key which she had just been shown might unlock another
little green door, and admit her to her past which was her ancestors'
future, but she realized that it was beyond her courage, even if she
had the opportunity, to take it, and use it provided she could find
the second little green door. She had been so frightfully punished
for disobedience, that she dared not risk a second attempt. Then too
how could she tell whether the second little green door would admit
her to her grandmother's cheese-room? She felt so dizzy over what had
happened, that she was not even sure that two and two made four, and
b-o-y spelt boy, although she had mastered such easy facts long ago.
Letitia had arrived at the point wherein she did not know what she
knew, and therefore, she resolved that she would not use that other
little key with the green ribbon, if she had a chance. She shivered
at the possibilities which it might involve. Suppose she were to open
the second little green door and be precipitated head first into a
future far from the one which had merged into the past, and be more
at a loss than now. She might find the conditions of life even more
impossible than in her great-great-great-grandfather's log cabin with
hostile Indians about. It might, as her great-great-grandmother
Letitia had said, be much worse. So she knitted soberly, and the
other Letitia knitted, and neither spoke, and there was not a sound
except the crackling of the hearth fire and bubbling of water in a
large iron pot which swung from the crane, until suddenly there was a
frantic pounding at the door, and a sound as if somebody were hurled
against it.

Both Letitias started to their feet. Letitia turned pale, but her
great-great-grandmother Letitia looked as usual. She approached the
door, and spoke quite coolly. "Who may be without?" said she.

She had taken a musket as she crossed the room, and stood with it
levelled. Letitia also took a musket and levelled it, but it shook
and it seemed as if her great-great-grandmother was in considerable
danger.

There came another pound on the door, and a boy's voice cried out
desperately. "It's me, let me in."

"Who is me?" inquired Great-great-grandmother Letitia, but she
lowered her musket, and Letitia did the same, for it was quite
evident that this was no Indian and no catamount.

"It is Josephus Peabody," answered the boy's voice, and Letitia
gasped, for she remembered seeing that very name on the genealogical
tree which hung in her great-aunt Peggy's front entry, although she
could not quite remember where it came in, whether it was on a main
branch or a twig.

"Are the Injuns after you?" inquired Great-great-grandmother Letitia.

"I don't know, but I heard branches crackling in the wood," replied
the terrified boy-voice, "and I saw your light through the shutters."

"You rake the ashes over the fire, while I let him in," ordered the
great-great-grandmother Letitia, peremptorily, and Letitia obeyed.

She raked the ashes carefully over the fire, she hung blankets over
the shutters, so there might be no tell-tale gleam, and the other
Letitia drew bolts and bars, then slammed the door to again, and the
bolts and bars shot back into place.

When Letitia turned around she saw a little boy of about her own age
who looked strangely familiar to her. He was clad in homespun of a
bright copperas color, and his hair was red, cut in a perfectly round
rim over his forehead. He had big blue eyes, which were bulging with
terror. He drew a sigh of relief as he looked at the two girls.

"If," said he, "I had only had a musket I would not have run, but Mr.
Holbrook and Caleb and Benjamin went hunting this morning, and they
carried all the muskets, and I had nothing except this knife."

With that the boy brandished a wicked-looking knife.

"You might have done something with that," remarked
Great-great-grandmother Letitia, and her voice was somewhat scornful.

"Yes, something," agreed the boy. "It is a good knife. My father
killed a big Injun and took it only last week. It is a scalping
knife."

"Do you mean to say," asked the great-great-grandmother Letitia,
"that you don't know enough to use that knife, great boy that you
are?"

The boy straightened himself. He saw the other Letitia and his blue
eyes were full of admiration and bravery. "Of course I know how,"
said he. "Haven't I killed ten wolves and aren't their heads nailed
to the outside of the meeting-house?"

Letitia was quite sure that the boy lied, but she knew that he lied
to please her, and she liked him for it.

Great-great-grandmother Letitia sniffed. "You are the greatest
braggart in the Precinct," said she. "Nary a wolf have you killed,
and you ran because you heard a wild cat or a bear. Where are the
Injuns, pray?"

"I know there were Injuns after me," said the boy earnestly, "but
perhaps I frightened them away. I brandished my knife as I ran."

Great-great-grandmother Letitia sniffed again, but she looked
anxious. "I hope," said she, "that father and mother will not be
molested on their way home."

"Give me a musket," declared the boy bravely, "and I will guard the
path."

"You!" returned Great-great-grandmother Letitia scornfully. "You are
naught but a child."

"I can handle a musket as well as a man," said Josephus Peabody with
such a straightening of his small back that it seemed positively
alarming, and another glance at Letitia, who returned it. She thought
him a very pretty boy, and quite brave, offering to guard the path
all alone, although he was so young, not much older than she was.

Great-great-grandmother Letitia took up a musket decidedly. "Very
well," said she, "if you can handle a musket like a man, here be the
chance. Take this musket, and I will take one, and Letitia will take
one, and we will leave the door ajar, so we can dash in if
hard-pressed, and we will keep watch lest father and mother be
attacked unawares at the threshold."

Letitia was horribly afraid, but she had learned in the Spartan
household of her ancestors, to be more afraid of fear than of
anything else, so she pulled a blanket over her head and shouldered a
musket, and, after the elder Letitia had unbarred and unbolted the
door, they all stepped out into the night, armed and ready to guard
the house.

"Candace can handle a musket and so can little Phyllis at a pinch,"
said the elder Letitia thoughtfully, "but I for one am thinking that
your Injuns are catamounts, Josephus Peabody."

"They are Injuns," said the boy stoutly, peering out into the gloom.

They were in perfect darkness, for it was a cloudy night, and not a
ray came from the house-door.

"For what reason were you abroad to-night?" inquired the elder in
what Letitia considered a disagreeably patronizing tone as addressed
to such a pretty brave little boy.

"I went to visit my rabbit traps," replied the boy, but his voice was
slightly hesitant.

"In this darkness?"

"I had a pine knot, but I flung it away when I heard the noises."

"A pine knot, and Injuns around, and you with naught but a scalping
knife? 'Tis not bravery but tomfoolery," said the elder Letitia.
"I'll warrant you stole out without the knowledge of Goodman Cephas
Holbrook and Mistress Holbrook, and they having taken you in as they
did and given you food and shelter, with nine of their own to care
for, and not knowing of a certainty who you might be."

Letitia felt sure that the boy hung his head in the darkness. He
mumbled something incoherent.

"It was out of the window in the lean-to you got, and ran away,"
declared the elder Letitia severely. "You are not a boy to be
trusted. You can remain here with Letitia, and I will stand guard a
little way down the path; and do not speak above a whisper, although
I be sure there be none but catamounts to hear."

With that, Great-great-grandmother Letitia, musket over shoulder,
moved down the path and stood quite concealed as if by a vast cloak
of night, an alert vigilant young figure with the hot blood of her
time leaping in her veins, and the shrewd brain of her time alive to
everything which might stir that darkness with sound or light.

"Who are you?" whispered Letitia to the boy.

"I am Josephus Peabody, but I was always called Joe till I came
here," the boy whispered back.

Letitia pondered. The name sounded very familiar to her, just as the
boy's face had looked. Then suddenly she remembered. "When I was a
little girl," she whispered, "not more than seven--I am going on ten
now--I knew a little boy named Joe Peabody, and he was visiting his
grandmother, Mrs. Joe Peabody. She lives about half a mile from my
Aunt Peggy's around the corner of the road. It is a big white house
next to the graveyard."

"That was me," said the boy. "At least," he added in rather a dazed
and hopeless tone, "I suppose it was, and I guess I remember you too.
You had curls, and we went coasting down that long hill near
Grandmother's together."

"Seems to me we did," said Letitia, and her own tone was dazed and
hopeless.

"Since I have been here," whispered the boy, "I haven't been exactly
sure who I was and that is the truth. The folks where I am staying
are real good. They go to meeting all day Sunday and they don't work
Saturday nights, but I can't understand it. We have to make all the
things I have seen already made, for one thing."

Letitia nodded in the dark.

"That is the way here," said she.

"And Mr. Cephas Holbrook has just the name that my
great-great-great-uncle on my mother's side had," said the boy, in a
whisper so puzzled that it was fairly agonized. "Grandmother has told
me about him. He had a battle with six Injuns and killed them all
himself, and this Mr. Cephas Holbrook has done just that same thing.
And he killed ten wolves and nailed their heads to the meeting-house.
Say," the boy continued confidentially, "those were the heads I
meant, you know."

"Of course I know," whispered Letitia. "I wouldn't speak to you if
you had done such awful things."

"I didn't, honestly," said Josephus Peabody. "Where did you come from
to-night?" asked Letitia.

"Why, I came from Mr. Cephas Holbrook's. It's about ten miles away on
that side."  The boy pointed in the dark.

"You came all that way?"

"I had to if I came at all. I don't get any time to see my traps
day-times. I have to work. I have to chop wood, and make wooden pegs.
I never saw wooden pegs, till--till I came here. I have to work all
day. Eliphalet Holbrook, he's a boy about my size, got out of the
window one night, when it was moonlight, and we set traps, and we
haven't either of us had a chance to look at them and see if we've
caught anything; but to-night, I had a cold and they sent me to bed
early and I whispered to Eliphalet, that I'd see those traps; and I
had a pine knot, and I run and run, but I couldn't find the traps."

"You didn't run ten miles?"

"No, the traps were set only about three miles from where we live and
I rather think I lost my way. Then I heard the Injuns--say, I used to
call them Indians."

"So did I," said Letitia.

"They say Injuns here. Then I heard them, and I run the rest of the
way, and then I saw your light. Are you one of Captain John Hopkins'
children?"

"I don't know. I don't think I am," replied Letitia miserably.

"What is your name?"

"Letitia Hopkins."

"Then you must be."

"I don't believe I am."

Suddenly Letitia felt a hard little boy-hand clutch hers in the dark.
The boy's voice whispered forcibly in her ear. "Say," said the voice,
"did you--did you get here, I wonder, in some queer way just as I
did?"

Letitia whispered forcibly, "Through a little green door in my
Great-aunt Peggy's cheese-room."

"Had she told you never to open it?"

"Yes, but she and Hannah left me alone when they went to meeting and
I found the key in a little box, and the key had a green ribbon and
it unlocked the door, and I was in the woods around here, and Aunt
Peggy's house was gone and everything."

"How long have you been here?"

"I don't know. It must have been a long time, for I have done so much
work, and learned to do so much that I had started with all done."

"It is just the same with me," whispered the boy.

Letitia shivered, half with joy, half with horror. "Did you come
through a little green door?"

"No, I came through a book."

Letitia jumped. "A book!" she repeated feebly.

"Yes, it was a book. I didn't know it at first. I thought it was just
a wooden box up in Grandmother Peabody's garret, and it was always
locked, and Grandmother Peabody said I was never to ask any questions
about it, and never to try to open it. I expect she was afraid I
might try to pick the lock. Then I began to suspect that it was a
book, and then I found the key. I stayed at home from meeting just
like you, and I had a cold. My father had died, and I had come to
live with Grandmother Peabody."

"I remember now Aunt Peggy told Hannah about it," whispered Letitia
with sudden remembrance.

"I don't know how long ago it was, for I have done so much work
making wooden nails, when all the nails I had ever seen were bought
at a shop, and such things, that it seems an awful long time; but I
was left alone just the way you were, and I found the key to that
book that looked like a wooden box. It was in a little drawer of
Grandmother's secretary."

"Did it have a green ribbon on it?" whispered Letitia breathlessly.

"Yes, it did, honest, a green ribbon, and I went up in the garret and
I unlocked that book, and first thing I knew I was in the woods
around the house where I live now, and a wolf was chasing me, and Mr.
Cephas Holbrook shot him, and took me home."

Letitia sighed. "Do you like it here?" she whispered.

"I think it is awful, don't you?"

"Yes, I do, but I don't dare say so."

"I do," said Josephus Peabody. "I ain't afraid of anything that ain't
bigger and stronger than I am, honest, and I have killed one wolf my
own self. That is true, but I didn't kill the others. I told that
because that other girl was turning up her nose so at me. But I don't
like to live here at all. I used to complain when I was Joe instead
of Josephus, and had to learn lessons, and do errands. But this is
worse than anything I ever dreamed about when I had the nightmare."

"That is the way I feel," said Letitia soberly. "I used to complain,
but I wouldn't now. I've been living back of complaints too long."

"So have I," said Josephus. Then he added, "Say, I'm awful glad I got
scared, and ran here, and found you."

"So am I."

"There's something I want to tell you that's very queer," whispered
Josephus. "There is a wooden book just like the one in Mr. Holbrook's
house under the eaves in the lean-to, and I know where the key is. It
is in the chest in the kitchen, in the till hidden under a lot of
linen night-caps."

"Has it a green ribbon on it?" whispered Letitia fearfully.

"Yes, it has. Say, don't you ever think you'd like to run away from
here?"

"Yes, but I'm afraid I might get into something worse."

"That's the way I feel. Otherwise we might both watch our chance and
go through that wooden book in our lean-to, but we might find
ourselves in Grandmother Peabody's garret where I came from, and we
might find ourselves in a place full of worse wild animals than there
are here, and things worse than Injuns. And we might have to learn
more than we've learned here, and work harder, and I don't feel as if
I could stand that."

"I don't either."  Then Letitia whispered very violently, "There is a
little green door here, and I know where the key is, with a green
ribbon, but I am afraid."

"That's very funny--just like me," said Josephus.

"Well, I may make up my mind to take the chance anyhow, and if I do
you had better. Say, if you hear I've gone, you just go through your
little green door, will you?"

"Maybe," whispered Letitia doubtfully, and then her
Great-great-grandmother Letitia came back. "There isn't a sign of an
Injun here," said she, "and I am 'most froze. I'm going to start the
fire, and you boy, you had better come too. You can sleep on the
floor by the fire to-night and go home in the morning. Father and
mother are coming. I heard their horses. Mother's is a little lame,
and favors one foot, and I know. They're right here, and they'll be
cold, and I've got to start up the fire."

"I'll help," cried Josephus.

"You'd better," said the elder Letitia; "if I had a brother as big as
you, he'd have to work instead of hunting rabbits."

Josephus flew about the kitchen dragging heavy logs, and poking the
fire, and Letitia quite admired him, but her great-great-grandmother
simply scolded. "You are a most unhandy boy," said she. "You can have
had little training in making hearth fires."

However, the flames leaped high into the great chimney mouth, when
Captain John Hopkins and his wife entered.

"How pleasant it is, and how thankful we ought to be to have a good
warm room to enter," said Great-great-great-grandmother Letitia
Hopkins, although she looked very grave. The sick neighbor was very
sick unto death, it was feared, and she was a good woman and a good
neighbor.

Josephus Peabody stayed all night and slept wrapped up in a homespun
blanket beside the fire, but the next morning it was hardly daylight
before Goodman Cephas Holbrook came for him. Cephas Holbrook was a
very stern man, and he believed in the rod. Before Josephus left he
had just one chance and he improved it. It was while Mr. Holbrook
was partaking of a glass of something warm and spicy which
Great-great-great-grandmother Letitia Hopkins mixed for him. It was a
cordial of her own compounding and a good thing for the stomach on a
bitter morning, and this morning was very bitter.

Josephus whispered to Letitia: "He will give me an awful licking when
we get home, and I am not afraid, honest. But if I can get hold of
that key, I mean to go into that book this very night."

Letitia looked frightened.

"You had better--" began Josephus, and he nodded meaningly.

Letitia knew what he meant, but she had no chance to reply, for Mr.
Holbrook had finished his cordial and had Josephus by the hand, and
was jerking him rather forcibly out of the door.

"A froward child, I fear," remarked Captain John Hopkins when they
had gone.

"Yes," assented his wife.

"He is afraid of Injuns when there are none, too," said
Great-great-grandmother Letitia.

"That is an evil thing, too," said her father. "It is distrusting the
Almighty to fear where is nothing to fear. A froward child, and I
trust that Goodman Holbrook will not spare the rod."

Letitia was very sure that he would not, and she pitied poor Josephus
Peabody with all her heart. She also pitied herself more than usual
that day, for the cold was stinging, and she was put to hard tasks,
and she felt forlorn at the thought that her little brother in the
hardships of the Past might that very night strive to make his
escape. Gradually her own resolve grew. She was horribly afraid, but
she was also horribly homesick, and homesickness will urge to
desperate deeds.

That night, also, Captain John Hopkins and his wife went to visit the
sick neighbor, and, after the younger sisters were in bed, Letitia
was left alone with her great-great-grandmother, who was sleepy.
Letitia did not talk; she knitted, with a shrewd eye upon the elder
Letitia, who presently fell fast asleep. Then Letitia rose softly,
and laid down her knitting work. It might be her chance for nobody
knew how long, and Josephus might even now be entering his book. She
pulled off her shoes, tiptoed in her thick yarn stockings up to the
loft, got her own clothes out of the chest, and put them on. The
little great-great-aunts did not stir. Letitia blew a kiss to them.
Then she tiptoed down, got the key out of the secret drawer, blew
another farewell kiss to her sleeping great-great-grandmother and was
out of the house.

It was broad moonlight outside. She ran around to the north side of
the house, and there was the little green door hidden under the low
branches of the spruce tree. Letitia gave a sob of fear and
thankfulness. She fitted the key in the lock, turned it, opened the
door, and there she was back in her great-aunt's cheese-room.

She shut the door hard, locked it, and carried the key back to its
place in the satin-wood box. Then she looked out of the window, and
there was her great-aunt Peggy, and the old maid-servant just coming
home from meeting.

Letitia confessed what she had done, and her aunt listened gravely.
Letitia did not say anything about Josephus Peabody.

She was not sure that he had made his escape, and if he had his
grandmother might punish him, and she considered that he had probably
suffered enough at the hands of Goodman Cephas Holbrook.

Letitia's aunt listened gravely. "You were disobedient," said she
when Letitia had finished, "but I think your disobediance has brought
its own punishment, and I hope now that you will be more contented."

"Oh, Aunt Peggy," sobbed Letitia, "everything I've got is so
beautiful, and I love to study and crochet and go to church."

"Well, it was a hard lesson to learn, and I hoped to spare you from
it, but perhaps it was for the best," said her great-aunt Peggy.

"I was there a whole winter," said Letitia, "but when I got back you
were just coming home from church."

"It doesn't take as long to visit the past as it did to live in it,"
replied her aunt. Then she sent Letitia to her room for the
satin-wood box, and, when she had brought it, took out of it a little
parcel, neatly folded in white paper, tied with a green ribbon. "Open
it," said she.

Letitia untied the green ribbon and unfolded the paper, and there was
the little silver snuff-box which had been the treasure of the
great-great-grandmother, Letitia Hopkins. She raised the lid, and
there was also the little glass bottle.

They had a very nice dinner that day, and afterward had settled down
for a quiet afternoon, Letitia feeling very happy, when there was a
jingle of sleigh bells, and Aunt Peggy cried out. "Why, I declare,"
said she, "if there isn't Mrs. Joe Peabody with her little grandson
driving over this cold day. She is a very smart old lady."

Then Aunt Peggy hurried out to tell Hannah, the maid servant, to have
some tea, and hot biscuits, and quince preserves, and pound cakes
served before the guests left, and Hannah with a shawl over her head,
went out and backed the old lady's horse into the barn, and Mrs. Joe
Peabody and her grandson entered.

Mrs. Joe Peabody was a very pretty old lady when she was unwrapped
from her black cloak and two shawls and fitch tippet and pumpkin
hood, and seated in the big chair by the fire. Her white hair hung on
either side of her face in rows of beautiful curls, and her eyes were
blue as turquoises. Her grandson stood by her side, and she had a
loving arm around him. "You remember my grandson Joe, don't you,
dear?" she said to Letitia. "Two years ago you used to go coasting
together."

"Yes'm," said Letitia. She and Joe glanced at each other, and their
eyes were very big, and their cheeks very red.

Later on when the tea and biscuits and preserves and pound cake were
served, Joe and Letitia got a chance for a word. "You got back
alright through the little green door," whispered Joe.

Letitia nodded.

"And I came right through that book into grandma's garret," whispered
Joe, "and I told grandma all about it, and she only laughed and
hugged me and said some laws were made to be broken for the good of
the breakers. But I am glad to be back here, aren't you?"

"Oh," gasped Letitia fervently, and she took a bite of pound cake.

"This would have been corn meal mush there," said she.

"And I should have got another whipping after I got out of the book
like the one I had before I got in," said Joe.

They both ate pound cake and looked happily at each other. "I think,"
said Joe presently, "that it would be better not to tell the other
boys and girls about all this. Grandmother thinks so."

"Aunt Peggy does, too," said Letitia. "They might think we made it
all up, it is so queer. No, we will never tell anybody as long as we
live."





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