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Title: Jim of Hellas, or In Durance Vile; The Troubling of Bethesda Pool
Author: Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe
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.

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THE TROUBLING OF BETHESDA POOL***


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      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

      Text enclosed by plus signs is in bold face (+bold+).



JIM OF HELLAS

THE TROUBLING OF BETHESDA POOL


      *      *      *      *      *      *

_Books by Laura E. Richards._

"Mrs. Richards has made for herself a little niche apart in the literary
world, from her delicate treatment of New England village
life."--_Boston Post._


+JIM OF HELLAS; or, IN DURANCE VILE+, and a companion story, +BETHESDA
POOL+. 16mo, 50 cents.

+MARIE.+ 16mo, 50 cents.

"Seldom has Mrs. Richards drawn a more irresistible picture, or framed
one with more artistic literary adjustment."--_Boston Herald._

"A perfect literary gem."--_Boston Transcript._

+NARCISSA+, and a companion story, +IN VERONA+. 16mo, cloth, 50 cents.

"Each is a simple, touching, sweet little story of rustic New England
life, full of vivid pictures of interesting character, and refreshing
for its unaffected genuineness and human feeling."--_Congregationalist._

"They are the most charming stories ever written of American country
life."--_New York World._

+MELODY.+ The Story of a Child. 16mo, cloth, 50 cents.

"Had there never been a 'Captain January,' 'Melody' would easily take
first place."--_Boston Times._

"The quaintly pretty, touching, old-fashioned story is told with perfect
grace; the few persons who belong to it are touched in with distinctness
and with sympathy."--_Milwaukee Sentinel._

+SAME.+ _Illustrated Holiday Edition._ With thirty half-tone pictures
from drawings by Frank T. Merrill. 4to, cloth, $1.25.

+CAPTAIN JANUARY.+ 16mo, cloth, 50 cents.

A charming idyl of New England coast life, whose success has been very
remarkable. One reads it, is thoroughly charmed by it, tells others, and
so its fame has been heralded by its readers, until to-day it is selling
by the thousands, constantly enlarging the circle of its delighted
admirers.

+SAME.+ _Illustrated Holiday Edition._ With thirty half-tone pictures
from drawings by Frank T. Merrill. 4to, cloth, $1.25.

+WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE.+ 4to, cloth, gilt top, $1.25.

The title most happily introduces the reader to the charming home-life
of Dr. Howe and Mrs. Julia Ward Howe during the childhood of the author.

+GLIMPSES OF THE FRENCH COURT.+ Sketches from French History.
Illustrated with a series of portraits in etching and photogravure.
Square 12mo, cloth, $1.50.

With true literary touch, she gives us the story of some of the salient
figures of this remarkable period.

+NAUTILUS.+ A very interesting story, with illustrations; uniquely
bound, small quarto, 75 cents.

+FIVE MINUTE STORIES.+ A charming collection of short poems and clever
stories for children.


_Estes & Lauriat, Publishers, Boston._

      *      *      *      *      *      *



JIM OF HELLAS

Or, In Durance Vile

BETHESDA POOL

by

LAURA E. RICHARDS

Author of "Captain January," "Melody," "Queen Hildegarde,"
"Five-Minute Stories," "When I Was Your Age,"
"Narcissa," "Marie," "Nautilus."

Tenth Thousand



Boston
Estes and Lauriat
1895

Copyright, 1895,
By Estes & Lauriat
All rights reserved

Typography and Printing by
C. H. Simonds & Co.
Electrotyping by Geo. C. Scott & Sons
Boston, U.S.A.



   TO MY

   Dear Brother,

   HENRY MARION HOWE,

   THIS VOLUME

   IS AFFECTIONATELY

   DEDICATED.



JIM OF HELLAS.



Part I.


Everyone knows the Island; it is not necessary to name it. With its
rolling downs, its points, its ponds, its light-houses, and above all,
its town,--who does not know the Island? Some day I shall write a story
about the downs, the billowy acres of gold on russet, russet on gold,
wonderful to see,--but this story is about the town.

The town has its nominal government, like other towns; its selectmen,
and its town-meeting, and other like machinery; but everybody knows that
the real seat of government lies in the Upper House. The meetings of
this republican House of Lords are held in the best room of
"Bannister's," the one inn of the town. It is a pleasant, roomy old
structure, built in the Island fashion, with wide windows and plenty of
them, and with a railed platform on its flat-topped roof, from which, in
former days, the women of the house used to watch for the coming of the
whaling-fleet.

There is little watching now on the Island. No ships come into that
wonderful harbour, once thronged with sails. The great wharves rot
silently and fall apart; a few old hulks rot quietly beside them. Two or
three fishing-smacks, a coal-schooner or two,--these are all one sees
now from the roof or the windows of Bannister's.

But the men who sit together in the upper room still look out of the
windows a great deal, because from them they can see the harbour, and
beyond it the sea; and the sea is what they love best to look at, for
the greater part of their lives has been spent on it. Old
sea-captains,--it needs but one glance to tell of what the Upper House
is composed: Men with faces that might have been carved out of mahogany,
wrinkled and seamed and beaten into strange lines by wind and weather;
with gray or white hair, for the most part, and shaggy beards, yet with
keen, bright eyes which are used to looking, and, what is not always the
same thing, to seeing what they look at.

Though most of them go to sea no more, they keep with care their
sea-going aspect; they wear pea-jackets with huge horn buttons, heavy
sea-boots, and never fail to don their sou'westers in bad weather. The
room in which they sit is well suited to them. On the broad window-seats
lie spy-glasses and telescopes of all kinds. The walls are hung with
sea-trophies.

Here is a piece of plank transfixed by the sharp blade of a sword-fish;
there, a pair of walrus-tusks; there, again, the beautiful horn of the
narwhal, like a wonderful lance of ivory, fit weapon for King Olaf or
Eric the Red. In the doorway stands a whale's jaw, a great arch ten feet
high, under which all must pass with thoughts of Jonah. As for corals
and shells, there is no end to them, for the upper room is a museum as
well as a place of convention, and here the captains love to bring their
choicest treasures, keeping only the second-best to adorn the
chimney-piece of the home-parlour.

In a great arm-chair, facing a seaward window, sits the patriarch of the
Upper House, old Abram Bannister. His grandfather had built the inn
itself, his grandsons now keep it. Every morning, winter and summer,
Jake and Bill "hist" the old captain out of bed, put him in his chair,
and wheel him into the great room; then they give him a spy-glass to
hold in his hand, and leave him till dinner-time. The captains begin to
straggle in about eight o'clock, when their morning chores are done.
They greet the white old man with never-failing cordiality; he is the
pride of the Upper House. They are never tired of asking him how old he
is, nor of hearing him reply in his feeble, cheery pipe,--

"Ninety-nine year, and risin' a hundred."

He sleeps a good deal of the day, and, on waking, never fails to cry
out, "Thar' she blows!"

Whereupon, one of the captains promptly replies, "Where away?" and the
patriarch says,--

"Weather bow!" and straightway forgets all about it, and plays with his
spy-glass.

When the captains are assembled in sufficient number, they discuss the
affairs of the town, talk over this or that question, and decide what
the "_se_-leckmen" ought to do about it.

Woe to the selectmen who should dare to oppose the decision of the Upper
House! Something dreadful would happen to them; but, as they never have
opposed it, one cannot tell what form the punishment would take.

Now it fell, on a day, that the captains were sitting together spinning
yarns, as was their custom when business was over. The present and the
immediate future provided for, it was their delight to plunge into the
past, and bring up the marvellous treasures hidden in that great sea.
Captain Zeno Pye was telling about the loss of the "Sabra" in the year
1807. His father had been on the vessel, and Captain Zeno sometimes
forgot that it was not himself, so often had he told the story. The
other captains, sitting like so many veiled prophets, each shrouded in
his cloud of smoke, listened with the placid enjoyment of connoisseurs,
making a mental note of any slightest variation of word or inflection in
the familiar narrative. Any one of them could have told it in his sleep,
but it was Captain Zeno's story, and it was one of the unwritten laws of
the Upper House that no captain should tell another's story.

"So," said Captain Zeno,--he was a little walnut-faced man, with sharp
black eyes, and a dry and rasping utterance,--"so they was makin' good
sailin' with a fair wind, on the 18th day of October, when all of a
suddent the lookout sung out--"

"Thar she blows!" broke in Captain Abram, in his piping treble.

"Where away?" responded Captain Silas Riggs, promptly.

"Weather bow!" said the old man, and fell silent again. All looked at
Captain Zeno, who smiled appreciatively.

"Won'erful, aint it?" he said, meditatively. "He knows that pint, Cap'n
Abram does, as well as I do. Wal, as I was sayin', they struck a school
o' whales, on the weather bow, sure enough; sperms they was, and
likely-lookin' fur as they could see. Three boats put off, and my
father, bein' mate at that time, had one of 'em. He sighted a
sixty-barrel bull, and was pullin' for him for dear life, when an old
cow come by with her calf, and when she saw the boat she dove, and one
eend o' the fluke struck 'em amidships, and stove a hole in 'em. Wal!
that kerwumpussed 'em, ye see! Nothin' for it but to pull back to the
ship, and set to work on repairs. My father called the carpenters, and
give 'em their job, an' then he looked after the school, and cussed a
little, mebbe, for all he was a perfessor, to think he was losin' all
the fun. All of a suddent he seed a whale leave the school, turn round,
and make straight for the ship. He didn't think nothin' of it, 'cept he
see 'twas the biggest bull his eyes had ever come across. Big? Wal!'
Twas like a island, Father used to say. He'd heerd tell of
two-hundred-and-thirty-barrel whales along back in the seventeens, and
he calc'lated this might be one of 'em left over. He see the critter was
comin' pooty nigh, and he sung out for a harpoon, thinkin' he might git
a shy, after all; when, lo ye! that whale took a start an' come through
the water like a shot out of a gun, and struck the ship just forrard of
the forechains.

"Wal, sir, they was knocked consid'able eendways, I tell ye! Father was
dumfoundered for a minute, and the ship's crew with him, what with the
surprise on't, and the everlastin' shakin' it giv 'em, too. But Father
never let his wits go without a string tied to 'em, and in a minute he
ordered all hands to the pumps, to see if she had sprung a-leak. She
hed, sir; she was sinkin'; and Father run up the sign for the boats to
come back. He turned round from runnin' up that signal, and you may call
me a Jerseyman if the whale wasn't comin' for 'em agin, head on and all
sails drawin'! Before Father could sing out, he struck 'em again, pooty
nigh the same place, with a crash that sent every man-jack sprawlin' on
his face. Wal, sir, 'twas boats then, I can tell ye, and no time to
lose, neither! Th' other boats kem back and took 'em aboard, and in five
minutes' time the 'Sabry' down with her nose and up with her heels, and
down she went to Davy. Yes, sir! That's what you might call--"

At this moment the captain was interrupted by a knock at the door. He
looked displeased, but said "Come aboard!" with as good a grace as he
could; while the other captains turned cheerfully in the direction of
the knocker, who might bring them something new in place of a
many-times-told tale.

A lank, ungainly man entered, and stood timidly on one foot, with his
mouth open, holding the door in his hand.

"Come aboard!" repeated Captain Zeno, impatiently. "Shet the door! Say
yer say with yer mouth, and then shet that,--if ye can get it all to at
onc't!" he added, in an undertone.

The ungainly man looked slowly round the room, and stroked his
lantern-jaws. "That man!" he said, deliberately, lingering on each word
as if it were too precious to part with, "what be I to do with him?"

The captains looked at one another. They had been speaking of this
matter only a few minutes before, but they feigned unconsciousness.

"What man do you mean, Sefami Bunt?" asked Captain Zeno, severely. "The
prisoner who was caught stealin' hens from Palmyry Henshaw last week?"

The man nodded. "Says he wants somethin' to do!" he said. "Says he'd
like to do chores round for his victuals. Says he doesn't like my
victuals."

The captains chuckled. Sefami Bunt was a bachelor, and his housekeeping
was not supposed to be of a high order.

"Have ye got him in the jail?" asked Captain Asy Bean.

The lantern-jawed man shifted uneasily to the other foot. "Wal, I hev!"
he admitted. "But he doesn't seem to be contented with that." Then,
after a pause, "I brung him with me. 'T want safe to leave him, for the
jail door sags so I can't lock it, and the chain is bust. So 'f you'd
like to see him for yerselves--"

"Where is he?" asked the captains in chorus.

Sefami Bunt gave a backward jerk with his head. "I tied him to the leg
o' the table," he said. "The boys is mindin' of him. Sh'll I fetch him
up?"

Receiving an affirmative answer, he disappeared, and returned, dragging
the prisoner by the collar.

The latter, the instant he caught sight of the assembly of mariners,
shook off his keeper with a single movement; then, making his obeisance
in true seaman fashion, he glanced quickly round the room, and stood
still, cap in hand, in an attitude of respectful humility.

He was a short, thick-set man, evidently of great strength; a sailor,
every inch of him, from the gold rings in his ears to the way he set his
feet down. Jet-black curls clustered about his brown, smiling face. His
dark eyes were alive with intelligence and humour. His open shirt
displayed a neck elaborately tattooed, while hands and wrists were a
museum of anchors, hearts and crosses.

"Will you speak to him, Cap'n Bean?" said one or two of the other
captains in low tones.

"Wal, I don't want to be settin' myself up," replied Captain Asy, "but
if it's the wish"--he glanced round the circle, and ascertained that it
was the wish. Whereupon, clearing his throat and assuming a quarter-deck
frown, he asked, in majestic tones, "What is your name, prisoner?"

The dark eyes looked intelligence. "Name, honourable captains? Giorgios
Aristides Evangelides Paparipopoulos."

"Great Andes!" exclaimed Captain Asy. "We've got the whole archipelago,
and no mistake. What do they _call_ ye? Hey?"

"Ah!"--the brown face flashed into a bewildering smile, an ivory
revelation. "Call me? Jim!"

The captains breathed again.

"That's more civilized!" said Captain Asy. "Now, you Jim, what have you
got to say for yourself?"

It appeared that Jim had a great deal to say for himself. He was not
happy, he must inform the honourable captains. He complained of his
quarters, of his jailer, of his fare. He had, it was true, stolen a hen,
being very hungry and having no money to seek the so honourable hotel.
The hen was almost uneatable, but--he had stolen her. He had been
condemned to three months' imprisonment in the jail, and it was well.
But--here he waxed eloquent, pathetic. "I haf been in jail, honourable
captains, before. Never for great offence, but--I have been. But never
like zis! Ze rain come in upon my bed. I try to shut ze door, for ze
wind blow at me, but he not shut. I sleep, and ze ship come in ze door
and eat me."

"Hold on there!" said Captain Asy. "What do you mean by that? Hey? Ship
come in the door?"

"Yes, honourable captain; t'ree gre't big ship. I hear 'baa! baa!' I
wake suddainlee, and zey are eat my foot."

"Sheep, he means!" the jailer explained. "The' warnt but two, I guess.
Fact, they got a way o' wand'rin' int' the jail, but they wouldn't ha'
hurt him any. He's dretful skeered for one that's knocked about pooty
nigh the world over, from what he says."

"But!" the prisoner maintained, turning a candid face upon the court;
"is it a jail--for ship to walk in and eat--what you say neeble--ze
foots of prisoners?"

"No! no! 'taint!" "That's so!" "He's right, gentlemen!" came from the
assembled captains.

"Zen," Jim continued, "ze mess! Salted backbone of hog--must I eat
always zis? Never for t'ree mont's ozer sing? Honourable captains, I
die."

"Wal!" said Sefami Bunt, with a hint of bluster in his voice, "I guess
if backbone's good enough for me, it's good enough for him! 'Twas a good
hawg! and, anyway, I've got to use it!"

"Sold the rest and salted down the backbone for yourself and prisoner?"
queried Captain Asy Bean.

The jailer nodded, and repeated in an injured tone:

"'Twas a good hawg! Anybody could ha' seen him fattenin' any time they
mind to pass by."

"And I tell Mr. Bont,"--Jim resumed the thread of his narrative, smiling
apology around,--"I tell him, 'Let-a me go!' not ron avay, of course; I
cannot ron avay if I wish. It is island. I tell him 'Let-a me go and
work! I make ze door good; I mend ze windows; I do for ozer people work,
perhaps zey give me ozer mess.' Is it not?" with a sudden flash and
gleam of eyes and teeth.

There was a short pause. "How did you come here, anyway?" queried
Captain Bije Tarbox.

It appeared that Jim had fallen overboard from his vessel. It was night,
and his fall had not been noticed. Fortunately, the vessel was, even at
the moment, passing the Island. He was a good swimmer, used to being in
the water for a long time--briefly, behold him! He stole the hen. He was
taken, brought before the "selected gentlemen." That was his story.

"Just step outside with Bunt a minute, my man," said Captain Asy Bean,
"and we'll settle your case." Then, as the door closed behind the
smiling criminal and his gloomy guardian, Captain Asy turned to the
others:

"Gentlemen, this story may or may not be true. It sounds fishy; but,
anyhow, the man must have come from somewhere, and I d'no as it matters
much, s'long as he's here now. Question is, what to do with him now he
_is_ here. Just like them _se_leckmen, lettin' the jail go to rack an'
ruin, an' then clappin' a man in thar for the sheep to nibble."

"Man's a seaman, anyhow," said Captain Bije Tarbox. "Ought t' ha' been
sent straight to us."

"That's so!" assented the captains all.

"Wal!" resumed Captain Asy, "'pears to me the straight thing is for us
to send for the _se_leckmen--they'll be goin' by to dinner direckly, an'
we can toll 'em in an' say to 'em--"

"Thar she blows!" sang out Captain Abram.

"Where away?" asked Captain Moses Packard.

"Weather bow!" was the reply; and then the talk went on again.


Part II.


Palmyra Henshaw was sitting in her neat kitchen, with folded hands. The
kettle was singing cheerfully, the cat was purring contentedly by the
stove; but for once Miss Palmyra's mood did not chime in with the
singing or the purring. She had sprained her ankle the day before, and
it was now so painful, that, after dragging it about till her work was
"done up" (for, land sakes! she couldn't sit down in the dirt; and her
kitchen had to be cleaned up, if she did it on her hands and knees), she
was fain now to sit down and put the offending member up on a chair.

She looked at the poor foot with great displeasure. It was badly
swollen; she had had to put on a green carpet slipper, one of an old
pair of her father's; and the contrast with her other foot, in its trim,
well-blacked shoe, was anything but pleasant.

As she sat thus in silent discomfort, she heard the sound of the pump in
the yard. Somebody was working the handle up and down with firm, regular
strokes.

"Well, what next?" said Miss Palmyra, fretfully, peering out of the
window and trying to gain a sight of the intruder. "I sh'd like to know
who's at that pump without askin' leave or license. I left the pail out
there, too, didn't I? Like as not it'll go, same as the hen did. I must
get up!"--she made a motion to rise, but sank back with a groan. "My
Land! Have I got to sit here and have my things stole without liftin' a
finger?"

At the same moment she heard quick steps crossing the yard: the door
opened, and a man entered, carrying a brimming pail of water. Miss
Palmyra opened her mouth to shriek, but closed it again when the
stranger smiled.

"Good eve!" said the man, who had black curls, gold rings in his ears,
and the brightest eyes that ever were seen. "I come to do ze work."

"Work!" ejaculated Miss Palmyra, faintly.

"Ze shores!" explained the man, with a brilliant flash of eyes and
teeth. "You have hurt ze foot? So peety! Look! I fill ze kettel--so! I
bring ze wood--so!" (He was gone, and back again with an armful of wood
before Miss Palmyra could trust her bewildered senses enough to know
whether she was awake or dreaming.) "I fill up ze stofe--so! And next?
It is a cow zat you haf? I milk her!" He swept a glance around the
kitchen, seized with unerring instinct the right pail, and was gone
again.

Miss Palmyra pinched herself, and opened and shut her eyes several
times.

"I wonder if I'm goin' crazy!" she said. "I feel kinder light-headed."

She looked at the cat, who blinked quietly in return, and his calm air
of tranquillity steadied her nerves. "If he'd been a tramp, he wouldn't
ha' brought in that wood!" she said. "Would he, Eben?" The cat was named
Ebenezer. Ebenezer purred assurance, and Miss Palmyra's spirits rose.
"Like as not he's stayin' with some o' the neighbours!" she said. "Mis'
Brewster's real kind: mebbe this is her nephew she was expectin', and
she sent him in to help me. Well, I'm sure!" She twitched a little shawl
over the carpet-slipper, and settled her neat collar and apron.

When the stranger returned, beaming over the brimming milk-pail, she was
able to greet him with "Well, you're real obligin', I must say. I didn't
hardly know what I should do about milkin', for I can't seem to put my
foot to the ground. Stayin' at Mis' Brewster's, be ye?"

"No!" with a flash which illuminated the kitchen. "Not zere. Where he
live, ze milk? Zis door?"

Miss Palmyra indicated the pantry door, where the yellow pans stood
ready and waiting.

She listened keenly for a sound of spilling or dripping, but none came;
only a steady, even pouring. "He's a real good hand!" she murmured.

"And now?" the dark eyes smiled on her again. "You lame, I get your
sopper. What you like?"

"Oh,--no, sir, you can't do that!" cried Miss Palmyra. "I'm jist as
obliged, I assure _you_, but I sha'n't want nothin' more to-night. I had
a good dinner. Well, I'm sure!"

She felt utterly helpless when the stranger, with another smile,
produced three eggs from his pocket, and taking a bowl, proceeded to
break the eggs into it and beat them with right good will. "When you
seeck, then you weak," he explained. "Most eat good sopper! I make!"

In the twinkling of an eye the frying-pan was on the stove; and, while
it was heating, his keen black eyes spied a tray. Napkin, knife and fork
were arranged upon it with swift precision. Setting a plate to warm on
the back of the stove, he proceeded to do wonderful things with the
beaten eggs, tossing them about with a fork, stirring, seasoning,
tasting. This was done with the right hand, while the left was toasting
a slice of bread. All the time the black eyes were glancing here and
there, like darting sunbeams. Spying a string of onions, the stranger
pounced upon them. A morsel was torn off, shredded fine, and stirred
into the savoury mess.

In five minutes such an omelette was smoking on the hot plate as Miss
Palmyra had never even dreamed of; and in one minute more it was beside
her on the little light-stand, and she was bidden "Eat! I make tea!"

Now Miss Palmyra had _not_ had a good dinner, and she was desperately
hungry, and--oh! how good that omelette did smell! The toast was
perfect!

Where had Mis' Brewster's nephew learned all this? And now, to crown
all, a cup of tea was set beside her,--hot, strong and fragrant. And
then--

"Please ze lady I also have a cup?" asked this astonishing person. The
tone was soft and pleading, the dark eyes deprecating, as if he were a
humble suitor, asking a royal boon.

"Well, I should hope you could!" cried Miss Palmyra, hospitably. "The
idea! I don't see what I was thinking of, Mr.--_Is_ your name Brewster?"

"No!" said the stranger, softly. "Name is Jim!"

A good supper had Giorgios Aristides Evangelides Paparipopoulos, _alias_
Jim, that night! There was more omelette than Miss Palmyra could
possibly eat, she declared; indeed, Jim had meant that there should be.
Then she told him where to find a certain loaf of spice cake, and a jar
of damson jam; and she insisted upon his eating till he could eat no
more. After a week of salted backbone of hog, Jim's appetite for these
good things was keen enough.

He beamed with pleasure; his smiles made noonday in the darkening
kitchen: Miss Palmyra thought him uncommonly handsome. Only--it was a
pity he wore ear-rings. And, after all, who was he? She really must find
out.

"You've never told me how you kem to know of my bein' lame!" she said,
as her guest was washing the dishes with careful nicety. "You a stranger
here, too! Who did send ye, if I'm not takin' a liberty?"

"Ze honourable captains send me," said Jim, with open cheerfulness; "and
ze selected gentlemen."

"Well, I'm sure!" ejaculated Miss Palmyra.

"I steal your hen!" Jim explained, with winning grace. "Was very sorry;
should not have done--but! Now I work t'ree mont'; do shores for ladies;
do all works. But for you I work most, for I steal your hen. Is it not?"
And putting away the cups and saucers, he swept the hearth with ardour.

"Well, I'm sure!" said Miss Palmyra again; and she really could not
think of anything else to say.


Everyone agreed that it was a special providence that Jim Popples (such
being the popular rendering of our hero's name) had been cast away on
the Island just when there was so much sickness "goin' about," and when
Aunt Ruhamy Snell, the accredited nurse of the Island, was laid up with
rheumatism The quick, active Greek was here, there and everywhere. He
split wood, he made fires, he milked cows. He mended chairs, and set
panes of glass; he kept all the children happy by plaiting wonderful
things out of twine, and whittling royal navies with his jackknife.

He also mended up the jail as well as he could, and might be seen
patching the walls of his cell, whistling merrily, while the jailer sat
by in moody silence watching him. It was generally felt that Sefami Bunt
had not done as he ought by his prisoner, and that he really was not
fitted for the offices he held of jailer and hog-reeve; but, as Captain
Zeno Pye said, "thar warnt nothin' else Sefami _could_ do, and it kep'
him off the town, anyway."

But Jim's best work, and his longest hours, were given to Miss Palmyra
Henshaw. She had freely forgiven him his theft of the hen, and in the
long period of inactivity to which she was now condemned (for if one
trifles with a sprained ankle, one is apt to pay for it, and it was a
month before she could do more than hobble about with a crutch), she
found him an invaluable friend. Morning, noon and night would see him
smiling at the door, with his cheery "How you do, Mees Palmyre? So
better, is it not? Glad I am!"

Often he brought some little offering: a wooden dish of wild
strawberries; a string of fish, gleaming fresh from the water; or it
might be half-a-dozen crabs, which would crawl out of his pockets, only
to meet a swift death in the kettle of boiling water, and be converted
into some wonderful dish. Of Jim's skill in cookery, Miss Palmyra spoke
with bated breath.

"Well!" she would say to Mrs. Brewster, who, toiling over her own cook
stove, sometimes wished she had a sprained ankle and could have Jim
Popples to do her work; "that man has a real gift, that's sartin'. Give
him an egg and an onion, and it does seem as if he could git the
flesh-pots of Egypt out of 'em. Jest you step to the cupboard, Mis'
Brewster. Thar's a corner I left special for you to taste, a dish o'
tomaytoes and rice he cooked for my dinner yesterday. Just them, and a
bit o' butter and a scrap of onion, and--thar! Did you ever! Don't that
relish good?"

Small wonder that Miss Palmyra grew plump and rosy in spite of the
sprained ankle.

Many a housewife wished, like Mrs. Brewster, that she also might profit
by Jim's gift; but though he did all kinds of chores for the whole
village, he would cook for no one but Miss Palmyra Henshaw. "I steal you
hen!" he said to her. "I wish to make you up for zat. I steal hens at no
ozer lady."

So Miss Palmyra grew to feel a sort of ownership of Jim Popples, which
was by no means unpleasant; and she sewed on his buttons (for pleasure;
he could do it perfectly well himself, as she knew) and mended his
clothes; while he, at work with broom or mop, or whittling away at
basket-splints, told her wonderful stories of foreign lands, of apes and
peacocks, cedars and pomegranates, till the good woman grew to feel that
her thief was a very remarkable and very gifted person.

So three months slipped away, as fast as months are apt to do; and a day
came when the captains sat all together in the Upper House at
Bannister's, and Giorgios Aristides Evangelides Paparipopoulos stood
before them, as he had stood once before, with his jailer glooming
beside him.

The captains had sent for him, and now, at a murmur from the others,
Captain Zeno Pye took up the word:

"Wal, Jim, yer three months is up, and I s'pose you're thinkin' about
goin'. Me and the captains feel to say to you that you've done well,
real well. Of course you started in mean, and stealin' aint right,
however you look at it. But you've worked stiddy, and you've worked
good; and I reckon you'd have to hunt round consid'able before you found
anybody in town who wa'n't real sorry to have ye go. If you felt to
stay, I don't doubt but you could get all the work you wanted,
odd-jobbin' round. The _se_leckmen 'd oughter pay ye somethin' for
repairin' the jail, but thar!--that's between you and them. Wal! the
steamer comes to-morrer, and I s'pose you'll be movin'. What we want to
say is, that we're right sorry to have ye go, Jim Popples. You're a
handy fellow, and I don't doubt you're a good seaman; and if me or the
other captains can speak a good word for ye, or help ye any way with a
start, why, we're ready to do it. That's so, aint it?"

There was a growl of assent, in the midst of which--

"Thar she blows!" sung out Captain Abram Bannister.

"Where away?" cried Captain Bije Tarbox.

"Weather bow!" responded Captain Abram, and slept peacefully.

Jim looked slowly round the circle; his smile grew wider and brighter,
till each man felt warm, and thought the weather was moderating; then he
saluted in seaman fashion.

"I not go!" said the child of Hellas. "I stay. I get married
to-morrow--to Mees Palmyre!"



THE TROUBLING OF BETHESDA POOL.


Part I.


Some people in the village (but they were the spiteful ones) used to say
that Bethesda Pool might e'en so well be a dummy and done with it, if
she never could open her mouth when a person spoke to her. But there
were always others who were ready to respond that "it was a comfort
there was one woman who knew enough to hold her tongue when she had
nothing to say!" This retort was apt to provoke the reply churlish; and
many a pretty quarrel had been hatched up over the silence of Bethesda
Pool, who never quarrelled herself, because it entailed talking.

She was the Lady of the Inn, Miss Bethesda. Her mother, the late Mrs.
Pool, had married the inn-keeper, and led a sad life of it. She was a
woman of a lively fancy, and had been in the habit of saying that if
she had been fool enough to get drownded in a pool, she meant to get all
the good she could out of the name! So she named her eldest daughter
Siloama (pronounced Silo-amy), her second Bethesda, and the son, who
came just after her husband had drowned himself in his special pool of
whiskey, Heshbon. The neighbours thought this triflin' with Scriptur',
and had their own opinion of Ma'am Pool's eccentricities; but the good
lady cared little for anybody's opinion; indeed, if she had had any such
care, she would not have married Father Pool, whose failings were well
known. All that was long ago, however; Father and Mother Pool were gone
to their places, the pensive Silo-amy and the fishy Heshbon had
followed, and Miss Bethesda was Queen of the Inn.

The Inn was the only one in the village. Perhaps there was little need
even of this; but it had always been there since the old stage-coach
days, when the village was a favourite stopping-place for gay parties of
travellers, and when old Gran'ther Pool kept open house, and smiled over
his bar on all comers, like a rising sun a little the worse for wear. It
was a quaint old house, with a stone veranda in front, and mossy roofs
pitching this way and that. Inside was maze upon maze of long, narrow
corridors, with queer little rooms opening out of them,--some square,
some long; all low of ceiling and wavy of floor, with curious
dolphin-shaped latches, and doors set as if the builder had thrown them
at the wall and made the opening wherever they happened to strike. Few
of these doors were on a level with the floor; they might be two steps
above it, or three steps below; it was a matter of fancy, purely. There
was one room that could only be entered through the closet, unless you
preferred to get in at the window; but you could easily do that, as it
opened on the balcony. Then there was a square chamber containing a
trap-door; the Kidderminster carpet fitted the trap perfectly, and it
was a dangerous room for strangers to enter. Here the Freemasons used,
in old times, to hold their meetings, and carry on their mystic rites.
Later, it was the favourite playroom of the Pool children, and they and
their playmates were never tired of popping up and down the "Tumplety
Hole," as they called it.

In the middle of the second story was a long ballroom, where in old days
merry dances had been held, and young feet jigged it to the tune of
"Money Musk" or "Hull's Victory."

This room, with its wonderful wall-paper, representing the Carnival at
Rome, and its curious clock, was an object of wonder to the whole
village; and strangers or visitors were pretty sure to present
themselves at the Inn door, sometimes begging to be taken in for a few
days, sometimes merely asking the privilege of going over the quaint
old house. The reception of these visitors was apparently a matter of
caprice with the Lady of the Inn; one never could tell how she would
take it. Sometimes an eager statement that "We heard of your beautiful
house, and we have driven over from South Tupham, ten miles, on purpose
to see it!" would be met by the monosyllable "Have!" delivered in Miss
Bethesda's mildest tone, and the door would be softly but firmly shut in
the travellers' faces. Or the visitor might try another tack, and begin
with the bold assumption that the Inn was a place of public
entertainment, and that man and beast were welcome there, as a matter of
course.

"I should like two bedrooms and a sitting-room, please! And will you
send someone to look out for my horses? And--I should like supper,
something hot, as soon as convenient!" To which Miss Bethesda might
reply, "Should you?" and smile, and again shut the door.

But there were other times when something in the asking face or voice
touched one knew not what chord in the good lady's breast. On these
occasions she could be very gracious, and would say, perhaps, that she
really didn't know, she didn't take boarders--mebbe--just this
once--if't would accommodate--she didn't know--but she might compass it
somehow, and the door would be opened wide; and, once inside, the guest
was sure to be made so comfortable that he was loth to go away again.

The fact was, that being clothed with means, as they say in the village,
the Lady of the Inn felt that it was merely a matter of personal fancy,
the taking in of guests, and that if she were not in the mood for
visitors there was no manner of reason why she should be bothered with
them.

She had one servant, a grim elder, by name Ira Goodwin. The spiteful
people before alluded to said that Ira--or Iry, to give the name its
actual pronunciation--and his mistress never spoke to each other, but
communicated by means of signs. That could not be true, however, for
Mrs. Peake, next door, had been shaking a carpet in her yard one day,
close by the fence, and had heard Iry say, in a growling manner, "Guess
I can hold my tongue as well as others!" To which Miss Bethesda's crisp
tones replied: "You'd better, for the outside of your head does you more
credit than the inside!"

Thus Miss Bethesda Pool lived in solitude for the most part, and content
with her lot; and no breeze ruffled the still waters of her life.

It was very peaceful to be alone there in the great rambling Inn, and
hear no sound save the purring of the yellow cat, and the drip of the
water from the roofs. The roofs all leaked in the Inn, whenever there
was a possible chance for leaking, and the walls were covered with
strange patterns and hieroglyphics that were not included in the design
of the wall-paper.

It happened one day that Miss Bethesda Pool was sitting in her own
comfortable room, toeing off a stocking, and thinking of many things,
when she heard a knock at the door. She took no notice of the first
summons, for she found that in many cases the knocker, after one, or at
most two, trials, was apt to go away, which saved a world of trouble,
and showed that he had no business that amounted to anything, anyhow.
But this was a persistent knocker, who kept on with a timid yet steady
"rat-tat-tat--" till Miss Bethesda concluded that, whoever it was, he
had not sense enough to know when he wasn't wanted, and that she must
answer the knock.

She folded her knitting deliberately, and after examining the draughts
of the stove, and stroking the yellow cat two or three times, she went
to the door, holding her chin a little high, and looking, if the truth
must be told, rather uncompromising.

When she opened the door, however, the lines of her face softened and
her chin went down. A bright-faced girl stood there, with a shawl
wrapped round her, for the day was cold. She was trying to smile, but
there were tears in her brown eyes, and her lip was quivering.

"Miss Pool," she said, "I don't suppose I can come in, can I? I'd like
ever so much to speak to you, if you wouldn't mind!"

Miss Bethesda opened the door wide, and without wasting breath, led the
shivering child in, and closed the door after her with a bang. That bang
carried defiance across the way, and gave Miss Bethesda as much comfort
as if she had let loose a torrent of angry words. There is great comfort
in a door sometimes. Still in silence, she led the girl into the
sitting-room, drew a chair near the stove for her, and motioned her to
sit down. Then resuming her own seat, she took up her knitting again,
and gazing calmly on her visitor, evidently felt that she had done her
part.

"It's Father, Miss Pool!" said the pretty girl, whose name was Nan
Bradford. Miss Pool nodded comprehension, and set her lips more firmly.
"Father, he's going on dreadful!" said Nan. "You know Will Newell has
been--well, he has thought a sight of me, and I of him, these two years
past.

"It came about while I was staying to grandma's, over to Cyrus, and
grandma knew all his folks, and there aint any better folks in the
country, grandma said. And yet--Father--he acts as though Will was one
thief and I was another. He won't let him come to the house, nor he
won't let me write to him, nor he won't do anything--'cept just be ugly!
There! I hadn't ought to say it, I know,--my own father, and just as
good a father as ever a girl has in the wide world, I do believe, till
this come up. But he won't hear of my marrying anybody,--that is the
plain truth, Miss Pool, not if it was a seraph with six wings!
And--and--what am I to do, I should like to know? I come to you, 'cause
you've always been good to me, and I seem to know you better than anyone
else, now grandma's dead. And I wouldn't complain of Father to anyone
else in the village, so I wouldn't!"

She paused for breath; Miss Pool looked at her and nodded. It was an
expressive nod, and the girl seemed to feel better for it. She began to
cry softly, wiping her pretty eyes with the corner of her shawl. "I'm
just beat out!" she said, plaintively. "Be!" said Miss Bethesda,
soothingly; she went to the cupboard and brought out some of the famous
cookies which a few privileged children were allowed to taste from time
to time, but seldom anyone who had passed the boundary of childhood.
Nan, who was still a child in some ways, brightened at sight of the
cookies, and was soon nibbling them in comparative comfort, sighing
from time to time, and glancing up under her long eyelashes at Miss
Bethesda, who sat knitting as if her life depended upon it, her lips set
very tight, and apparently taking no notice of her guest. But Nan
Bradford knew Miss Pool, and was content to wait. She would not have
been let in, she knew, if the Lady of the Inn had not been in a good
mood. So, she nibbled the cookies, and thought of Will, and was as
comfortable as a lovelorn and persecuted damsel could be.

Miss Bethesda kept her eyes fixed on her work, but she did not see it.
Instead of the gray wool and shining needles, a stalwart figure stood
before her, the figure of Buckstone Bradford. He had been her neighbour
for all the years of their life; he was four years her senior, and they
had been playmates in childhood. A breezy, rosy-cheeked boy he had been,
and her sworn ally. The children were apt to divide into two parties:
Bethesda and Buckstone on one side, Siloama and Heshbon on the other.
Thus arrayed, they were wont to do battle around the yawning gulf of the
Tumplety Hole, shouting their respective war-cries, which alluded, in an
unfriendly spirit, to the qualities of the enemy.


     "Gruff and Grum!
     Deaf and Dumb!"


Siloama and Heshbon would pipe shrilly; to which Bethesda and Buckstone
would reply, in deeper tones,


     "Snivelly, Sneaky,
     Wobbly, Weaky!"


A general combat would ensue, in the course of which both parties were
apt to fall down the trap-door into the basement room below, and be
rescued by Mother Pool, and summarily dealt with by her slipper.

Then came the days of youth, when Buckstone courted her, and might have
won her if he had gone to work in the right way. But he was headstrong,
and she was obstinate; and he didn't get on with Siloama, and he was
hard on Heshbon, and so it had all blown over; he had married another
wife, and lost her while Nan was a baby. Miss Bethesda had forgotten all
about Nan by this time: before her stood the man of her choice, with his
feet apart and his chin stuck out, much as her own sometimes was; his
brows were knit, his eyes gleamed with sombre fire.

"Bethesda," he said, and the words seemed to force the way through his
strong white teeth, "Bethesda, I'm going to marry you, anyway, and I'd
like to see you get out of it! Mind that!"

Ah, well, that was all men knew! She had got out of it,--was it a sigh
that came at the thought, or a sniff of triumph, or a combination of the
two? And Buckstone had married a pindlin' soul that hadn't no more life
in her than a November chicken--and--that was all there was to it, Miss
Bethesda reckoned.

And now, here he was hectoring this little girl of his, that always
favoured him, and had no look of her mother--hectoring and bullying,
just as he used; and Miss Bethesda wondered if the child was a-going to
stand it. She wouldn't have stood it, not a day, for her part, if she
was his daughter, let alone his--his--wife! And then she found herself
wondering whether he would have been so hectoring if she had been--and
brought herself up again with an indignant start. Why in Tunkett should
she be fretting herself about Buck Bradford's girl, she wanted to know!
And yet,--she had got the better of Buckstone Bradford once; it would
beat the world if she could put him down again, wouldn't it?

While these thoughts were passing through her mind, the Lady of the Inn
sat, to all appearance, absorbed in her work, never dropping a stitch,
never failing to count with the regularity of a self-respecting clock;
and Nan Bradford watched her anxiously over the edge of her cooky.


Part II.


     "Miss Pool asks the pleasure of your company at a social dance, on
     Thursday evening, at seven o'clock.

     "Yours truly,

     "BETHESDA POOL."


This was the bomb-shell that fell into every respectable household in
the village two days after Nan Bradford's visit. Such a sensation had
never been known since old man Pool rode a saw-horse across the common
and into meeting the Sunday before he died; and, indeed, that was
nothing to be compared to this. Bethesdy Pool! Bethesdy Pool _give a
party_!! Well, what next? everybody wanted to know. Half-an-hour after
the notes had been delivered by Iry Goodwin (who carried them round in a
basket and handed them out as if they were death warrants), every woman
in the village, with two exceptions, was in another house than her own.

"Have you got one?" "Have you?" "Let me see!" "Lemme see if 'tis like
mine?" "Yes, they're all the same!" "Well, I do declare! don't you?" "Is
the mile-ennion coming, or what, do you s'pose?" "A social dance!
Bethesdy Pool, as hasn't set down to a table, nor yet asked a soul to
set down to hers these fifteen years,--well of all! but so't is! You
can't tell where to have some folks, even though you've had 'em all your
life, as you may say!"

The general verdict was that the Pools were all "streaky," and Bethesda
the most streakèd of any of them; and that most likely she was going
clean out of her mind this time, and there would be an end of it.

However, the unanimity on this point was equalled by the determination
of everybody, old and young, rich and poor, to go to the party. In fact,
it seemed probable that every house in the village would be deserted on
the eventful evening; for not a soul was willing to lose the sight of a
party in the old Inn.

Report said, as the day came nearer and nearer, that great preparations
were going on. Every woman who had any skill in cookery had offered her
services eagerly, hoping to have some share in the great doings; Mrs.
Fullby had "presumed likely" that Bethesda would have more'n she could
manage with her own two hands, and had assured her that she, Mrs.
Fullby, would jis lives's not bring her apurn and eggbeater and put
right in on the cake and frostin'! while Miss Virginia Sharpe hinted
delicately that there was "a certain twist" in the making of pastry
that was considered peculiar to the Sharpe family, and that no
festivity would be complete without "Sharpe tarts;" but Miss Bethesda
was of the opinion that she and Iry could do what was necessary, and
just as much obleeged to _them_! and in point of fact, not a soul, with
the exception of Nan Bradford, who was seen to emerge once from the Inn,
looking rather frightened but very happy, was permitted to set foot
within the mysterious doors. Mrs. Peake said that she saw Nan coming
home, looking as if she had seen a ghost and lost her heart to it; but
Mrs. Peake had a poetic way with her, and her remarks were not much
heeded in the village.

It was thought more likely that Nan had been poking her nose in where
her betters wouldn't ha' thought of poking theirs, and got it taken off
for her pains, and served her right! But it happened that Mrs. Peake was
right this time.

Thursday evening came! The moon was full, the sleighing perfect; Nature
was evidently in league with Miss Bethesda Pool, and meant to do her
share in making the party a success. Miss Pool, standing in state at the
end of the ballroom, waiting for her guests to arrive, made a pleasant
picture in her old-fashioned flowered brocade, one of the
self-supporting kind, little beholden to any figure inside it. Her hair
was still brown, still pretty, with its crinkles that caught the light,
and gave her a wonderful look of youth, well carried out by her bright
hazel eyes, and trim figure. In truth, she was not old, Miss Bethesda;
her fortieth birthday was only just past, and she was straight as a
dart, and strong as a tree; but when one has played old woman for
fifteen years, one gets to think the play a reality, and one's
neighbours are not slow to adopt the view. On looking in the glass, this
evening, Miss Bethesda experienced a slight shock, and a decided
impression of good looks. She wondered if Buckstone Bradford would find
her much changed; she regretted that she had worn her old "punkin" hood
quite so uniformly for the last ten years, and meditated on the
attractions of a certain sky-blue "fascinator," which had been lying in
her top-drawer ever since Siloama died. Fond of bright colours Siloama
always was, and dressy to the day of her death. Anyhow, the brocade was
handsome enough to please any one! Miss Bethesda smoothed down the
shining folds, examined her white silk mitts carefully, and glanced up
at the clock, to see how much longer she had to wait. Nearly seven!
Folks would most likely be on time, Miss Bethesda thought, with a grim
smile; curiosity could hurry the laziest folks that ever forgot to draw
their breath! She reckoned every old podogger in the village would turn
out to see Bethesdy Pool make a fool of herself; but let 'em come!
There'd be more than one fool to-night, if things went as they should!
'Twas strange, though, that she hadn't heard no word from--

Here her meditations were interrupted; for the door at the end of the
ballroom flew open and revealed a tall young man, wrapped to his eyes in
fur, who rushed forward and took her hand, and tried to say something,
and failed egregiously.

"Will Newell!" cried Miss Bethesda, "do you mean to tell me this is you?
For gracious sake, what do you want? Didn't you get my note?"

"Yes, ma'am, I did," cried the big fellow, drawing the sleeve of his fur
coat across his eyes. "I've done as you said; but I couldn't go farther
without thanking you, not if 'twas ever so! Miss Bethesda, I--I'd do
anything in the world for you, I believe. You don't know what a time
we've had,--Nan and me. We--I--well, I'm not one to talk, never was! but
I _would_ do anything for you, now, I would!"

"Dance the Virginia Reel with me, then," said Miss Bethesda, smiling
grimly at her joke. "Or else, if you don't want to do that, take
yourself out of this as quick as you can, Will Newell, and get ready!
Hark! There's the bell this minute. You've fixed it all right with Nan?"

"All right!" panted Will. "I've got the team hid away where you said, in
the old cow-shed. Now I'll go and fix me; and maybe we will have the
reel, Miss Pool, if you'll have it early enough on the programme. I
won't promise to wait for you, though, more'n the first half of the
evening."

He ran out, his eyes shining with joy; and Miss Bethesda folded her
white mitts again, and waited calmly for the first guests.

The clock struck seven, and Miss Bethesda glanced up again. It was a
wonderful clock, this of the old Inn. More than a hundred years it had
hung there, having been brought over from England by Gran'ther Pool,
before he lost his money and took to keeping the Inn. Its dial and frame
were gayly painted with dancing figures, with garlands of flowers, from
which peeped laughing faces of loves and fairies. The great weights that
hung against the wall were curious, too,--dolphin-shaped, like the
door-latches, and shining with remnants of gilding. And now, following
closely on the seventh stroke, came notes of music, faint, rustling
notes, the very spirit of sound; a waltz, sweet and delicate as the tiny
faces that peeped from the painted garlands on its dial, faltered forth
from the old clock: "Tra-la-la, lira-la, la-la!--" and between the notes
of the swinging measure the wheels creaked and groaned, and the wires
wheezed, and the weights lamented as they slid up and down. "Just like
any other old fool," thought Miss Bethesda, "doing things she has no
business to!" and for a moment she felt as old as the clock, and
repented her of her purpose.

But the guests were here! They had been gathering for some time in the
cloak-room, and now one couple had been bold enough to make the first
break, and the narrow staircase was crowded with maids and matrons, sons
and fathers, all in their best. Every eye glistened with eager
curiosity, every mouth was open to whisper in the next ear at anything
singular that should meet the eye when they came into their hostess's
presence; but lo and behold! there stood Bethesda Pool, looking as if
she had a party every week of her life, and had nothing in the world to
do but stand there and look fine.

Very stately was the courtesy with which Miss Bethesda greeted her
guests. She was pleased to see them; hoped they would enjoy themselves,
and make themselves as much to home as if they _was_ to home! This was
generally the extent of her conversation with any one group of eager
neighbours, before turning to welcome the next. But presently the colour
deepened a little in her still fresh cheek, and her eyes grew brighter;
for, coming up the ballroom, she saw the stalwart form of Buckstone
Bradford, with pretty Nan beside him, looking like roses and milk in her
white dress. "Knew he'd come!" Miss Bethesda said to herself; and
immediately discovered, by the flutter at her heart, that she had not
known, but only hoped it.

Truth to tell, Mr. Bradford had had a dozen minds about coming to
Bethesda Pool's party. He had never forgiven her for her treatment of
him twenty years before; his heart was of firm and tenacious fibre, and
retained the impression of affections and of injuries more than many a
softer organ. He considered Bethesda still the finest-looking woman in
the neighbourhood, and would have snorted with contempt if anyone had
told him that his daughter Nan, with her pink-and-white prettiness, was
fairer than ever his old sweetheart had been. But admiring was not
forgiving, and nothing would have brought Buckstone out to-night save
the dread of "goings-on" on the part of his girl and that
good-for-nothing Newell fellow.

There was something in the air,--Buckstone did not know what it
was,--something that made him uneasy. Nan had been so meek the last time
he scolded her, never once standing up for her favourite, as she was
wont to do; she had been so affectionate, and,--well, she was always a
good girl when she wasn't making a fool of herself about a noodle; but
there was more than usual, her father thought. He didn't dare to let her
go alone to the party; there was the plain truth of it; he was afraid,
he knew not of what. So he had had his hair cut, and had taken out and
brushed his wedding coat, not without angry and defiant thoughts of her
who should have stood up with him when he wore it; and, briefly, here he
was, standing before Bethesda Pool, grim and forbidding, but still a
fine-looking man, his hostess thought, and towering head and shoulders
above everyone else in the room.

"Good evening, Mr. Bradford! pleased to see you!"

"Your servant, Miss Pool!" and it was over, and the mist began to clear
from Miss Bethesda's eyes, as she turned aside to ask the fiddler if he
was ready. The fiddler was ready, of course. He had been tuning his
fiddle for the last fifteen minutes, and his fingers were itching to
begin. Was he not a pupil of old Jacques de Arthenay, the famous fiddler
of the last generation? And had he not been shelved for the past ten
years, just because folks were fools enough to prefer an organ and a
cornet to the only instrument ordained of Heaven to make people dance!
So with right good-will he mounted the stool in the corner, and struck
up the "Lady of the Lake."

How many years it was since that hall had rung to the sound of a fiddle!
Probably no one present knew; but many, and especially the older ones,
or those who were cast in a sentimental mould, felt that there was
something ghostly in this first dance. People were a little timid,
perhaps; and their hostess, standing silent and stately in her stiff
brocade, was not the one to set them at their ease. It seemed to Miss
Selina Leaf as if, when the dancers took their places in the two long
lines, she heard the rustle of many gowns that were not seen in the
room; as if old, forgotten perfumes were wafted through the air, and
soft, subdued voices whispered courtly greetings at her side. She was
"littery," Miss Selina, and had written many "sweet things" for the
county weekly.

But the "Lady of the Lake" is a robust and inspiring dance, and soon
banished all shadowy or sentimental thoughts from the minds of the
dancers. "Down the middle!" "Sashy to partners!" "Turn the same!" "Eight
hands round!"

Soon eyes were sparkling and cheeks glowing like flame, and the young
feet went flying up and down the long, low room, as young feet will fly
when the fiddle sounds and the blood courses freely through the veins.

Miss Bethesda Pool looked on with bright eyes, her foot (she had the
prettiest foot in the room, and knew it) tapping in time to the music.
She had refused several invitations to dance, without a word, simply a
sniff of denial; but it was good to see a dance again.

Will Newell was there, dancing with his cousin, the pasty-faced girl,
who would have money when her grandfather died: dancing dutifully, as if
the cousin were the only girl in the room, and not so much as glancing
toward where Nan Bradford, more rosy than ever, was footing it lightly
as a fairy, opposite young Jacob Flynt.

Jacob was her father's choice for her, as everybody knew; and it was no
wonder that Buckstone Bradford looked cheerful and contented as he
leaned against the wall with folded arms, watching the dancers.

Yes, Buckstone was contented for the moment; things were going just as
he wished to see them; and yet--so ungrateful a creature is man--he
could not help suspecting even his own satisfaction. What made Nan so
happy? When had anyone seen her look like this before when she had to
dance with Jacob Flynt? Was this duty or--or what?

The "Lady of the Lake" was followed by the "Portland Fancy;" that by the
splendid romp of the "Tempest."

Ah! these were dances! Happy the neighbourhood where the real dances,
the wreathing, linked garlands of grace and lightness and youth, still
form part of a ball! The waltz is pretty enough, when well done; but
who has not tired of the endless whirl of revolving couples, dual
teetotums, spinning round and round, till sight and brain are dizzy
alike? You shall not find, in painting or sculpture, any showing forth
of waltz or polka as Nature's expression of joy and motion. But what
Greek vase or tablet, what glowing canvas of Giorgione, or Veronese, but
might be glad to catch the rhythmic swing of the "Tempest," as the long
line wavers to and fro, and the bold dancers in the middle sweep down
the hall and back again,--to catch and fix it in immortal lines of
carving or of colour?


"Gents choose partners for 'Pop goes the Weasel!'"

There had been an intermission, during which the hall had hummed like a
hive of vari-coloured bees. People were thoroughly at ease now, and
speech flowed freely, as the couples promenaded up and down.

"A festive occasion, truly, Mr. Bumpus!" said Miss Selina Leaf, with
gentle dignity.

"Bustin'! bustin'!" replied Mr. Bumpus, with effusion. "Haven't seen
such goin's on in the village, _I_ d'no when! Does a person good to
limber out the j'ints once in a while; dancin's better than bar's grease
any day in the week! Haw! haw!"

Miss Selina considered this remark vulgar, and bridled gently, but made
no reply.

"Surprisin' thing, too," Mr. Bumpus went on. "Bethesdy Pool--now, you'd
ha' said her dancin' days were over, if anyone had ha' asked you,
wouldn't you,--same as yours and mine?"

Miss Selina winced again, and looked toward a seat, but the bold Bumpus
went on, unconscious.

"We'd ha' said that, surely,--you and me; yet there she is, looking most
as young as the girls, I do maintain. Don't know as there's any manner
of use in gettin' old before you're obleeged ter; never enj'yed a 'Lady
of the Lake' more than I did that one with you, ma'am. What's that? 'Pop
goes the Weasel?' Now you don't mean to say! Why, I haint danced 'Pop
goes the Weasel!' since my Maria was a baby, and look at her dancin' it
with her husband! Reckon I must look up my woman and dance this with
her, or she'll be castin' up at you, Miss Selina; so if you'll excuse
_me_!--" and the good man bustled off, leaving Miss Selina rigid with
indignation.

"Pop goes the Weasel!" It was an old dance, and had not been seen in the
village for years. Indeed, many of the lads and lasses had never seen
it, and looked about them at a loss, as the lively strains struck up,
notes whose shrill gayety made even the "Tempest" seem quiet by
comparison. But the older men and women cast glances at each other,
half-shy, half-pleased. This was renewing old times with a vengeance!
Many a husband followed the example of Israel Bumpus, and led out the
choice of his youth, flattering himself that she "stood it as well as
any of 'em," while mature spinsters settled themselves elaborately in
their seats, with an air of never having heard of the old-fashioned
dance,--unless some one came to ask them for it, in which case memory
became suddenly refreshed, and they stood up with right good-will.

Now it happened that in happier days this had been the favourite dance
of Miss Bethesda Pool, and that her favourite partner in it had been
Buckstone Bradford. She could not keep back a start when the well-known
air was played with all its old fire; and for the life of her, it
seemed, she could not help looking across the hall at Buckstone, where
he stood, leaning stiffly against the wall. He was looking at her, of
course: somehow, she knew he would be. Their eyes met; and perhaps
neither of them knew exactly what happened next. Before Mr. Bradford had
time to collect his thoughts, he found himself bowing his stiff back
before Bethesda Pool. "My dance, I believe!" he said, shortly; and
though Miss Bethesda knew it was nothing of the kind, she could not find
breath to say so. She looked up, she looked down; and the next moment,
to the amazement of everybody, the two old sweethearts took their places
at the head of the line.

Now Will Newell had been growing uneasy during the last half-hour. He
had hardly had a chance to speak to Nan, yet had managed to make her
understand that all was ready, and that when he gave the word she was to
take her life in her hand and fly with him. But when could he give the
word? Bradford's eyes had hardly left his daughter's figure all the
evening; he followed her up and down the lines of dancers, frowning
heavily if Will happened to be near her in the dance, stolidly content
if her neighbour were young Jacob Flynt. What was Will to do? The horse
would be getting uneasy, and the moon would be setting before long. He
must get rid of old Bradford, somehow!

Suddenly, hardly able to believe his eyes, he saw his tormentor fairly
turn his back on Nan: saw him cross the room, saw him bend before Miss
Bethesda, saw him standing up to dance. Now! now was the chance! In an
instant Will had forced his way before Jacob Flynt, who was just about
to lead Nan out for the dance. "You're engaged to me for this, you know,
Nan," said this unblushing young fellow; and he drew her arm under his
with a quick, masterful gesture. "But--but--but she promised me!" cried
poor Jacob, who stammered a little.

"Oh, go to Tinkham!" said Will, alluding disrespectfully to the next
township; and he led off his trembling Nan in triumph.


     "All around the cobbler's shop
       The monkey chased the weasel;
     That's the way the money goes,--
       _Pop!_ goes the weasel!"


The fiddle says "Pop!" as plainly as the ridiculous doggerel; and at the
word, two of the three who have been swinging round together lift their
arms, and the third goes "_pop!_" under and rises to confront the next
couple: more tiptoe swaying, balancing to this one, chassez-ing to that
one; then three hands round, and "_pop!_" goes the weasel again; and so
on down the whole room, in the prettiest, merriest, most enchanting
dance of them all. But this is engrossing, I would have you know. When
one is popping every third minute, and balancing and swinging during the
other two, it is difficult, it is impossible, to keep a sharp lookout on
two persons who are popping at the other end of the dance. Half of
Buckstone Bradford, the worst half, was having a sad time of it, trying
to see over his shoulder and behind his back; but the other half, the
one that had asked Miss Bethesda to dance, ah! that half was enjoying
itself as it had not done for years. How she danced! as pat to the
music as fiddle to bow! How small her hand looked, just as it used to
look, lying in his big brown palm! How--now, where in time were those
pesky young ones?

For lo! a thing had happened. At the last triumphant "_pop!_" of the
weasel, there had been another pop through the little door at the
farther end of the hall; and by this time, Miss Bethesda calculated,
Will and Nan must have reached the foot of the back stairs, and be
flying across the kitchen on their way to the outer door and safety. She
drew a long breath, and turned to her companion, trying to keep the
light of triumph out of her eyes. Bradford had stopped short, setting
the dancers all astray; he looked around the room, seeking the
delinquents; his heavy brows met, his face grew scarlet. Yes, Miss
Bethesda knew he would be proper mad! But now he turned, and fixed his
eyes on her with relentless scrutiny; another moment, and with a roar
like a wild animal, he darted in pursuit.

The fiddler, who had learned more things than fiddling from old De
Arthenay, put out his foot, hoping to trip up the angry man; but, heavy
as he was, Bradford leaped aside like a deer, and the next instant he
was in the outer hall, and Bethesda Pool after him.

"Buckstone," she cried, "wait just a minute, and I'll tell you!"

But he turned on her savagely.

"I'll see to you afterwards, Bethesda Pool!" he cried, furiously. "You
won't make me lose time, I can tell you! Think I don't remember the old
short cut? Stand out of the way, or I shall do ye a hurt, and I don't
want to do that!"

"Buckstone!" cried Miss Bethesda again; but this time the big man,
without another word, lifted her away from the doorway in which she had
placed herself, and rushed on.

"He's forgotten," said Miss Bethesda to herself; "he's forgotten, and I
didn't tell him. He might--" she caught her breath, for there came the
sound of a crash, and then a heavy fall. "Lord, forgive me!" she cried.
"He's found it, sure enough, and like t' ha' killed himself."

"It" meant the old trap-door in the room that was formerly used by the
Freemasons. Many and many a time had she and Buckstone explored it in
childish days, and played prisoner under it, and come up through it in
all manner of costume and disguise. He ought to have known the room as
well as he knew his own hand. Was it her fault that he had forgotten, in
his blind rage? But--but she had seen him rush into the room, and she
had not warned him.

"Buckstone, be you hurt?" she cried, leaning over the dark hole in the
floor. She listened, and heard strange sounds from below,--grunts and
groans, mingled with unscriptural language.

She drew a long breath. "I knew 'twasn't deep enough to hurt him real
bad," she said. "Provided he can cuss, I guess he's all right."

She listened again, inclining her ear this time toward the outer door,
and she heard the clear jingle of sleigh-bells and the swish of a
sleigh, as it swept out of the yard and away over the snowy road. Again
Miss Bethesda breathed deep. "That's a good hearin'," she murmured; "but
I _am_ sorry for Buckstone!

"Be you hurt?" she asked again, bending once more over the hole.

"I'll let you know whether I'm hurt or not!" muttered Buckstone from
below. "Once let me get out of this, and I'll be even with you, Bethesda
Pool!"

"Will!" said Miss Bethesda, in her calmest tone. "Well, I must be going,
Mr. Bradford. I'll send Iry to help you out. I _am_ surprised, though,
at you forgettin', after as many times as you've ben down that hole!"

Mr. Bradford's reply did little credit to him as a church-member, and
Miss Bethesda, after calling her man and giving him certain directions,
returned to her guests in the dancing-hall.

People were looking for her with some curiosity. The news of Will's
departure with Nan had spread, and when they saw Buckstone Bradford rush
from the room, followed closely by their hostess, there was a good deal
of suppressed excitement, but no one dared to follow; you might take
liberties with some folks, but Bethesda Pool was not one of them. And,
after all, she and Buck Bradford knew each other like two old shoes, if
they hadn't spoken for fifteen years; and what they--the guests--were
here for was a good time, so when the fiddler struck up the "Chorus
Jig," most of the dancers took the floor, leaving only a few of the most
curious to watch the door, and speculate what was going on behind it.
But now the little door opened, and here was Miss Pool again, calm and
unruffled, folding her mitted hands, and looking as if she had never
heard of such a thing as a runaway couple.

"Why, Bethesdy!" said Mrs. Minchin, taking the freedom of an old
schoolmate, "we thought you was lost, for sure, goin' off with Mr.
Bradford that way!"

"Did!" replied Miss Bethesda. "Please take your partners to go down to
supper!"


The guests, with one exception, were gone. The lights were out in the
long ballroom, and the old clock resumed its solitary sway, thankful
that the noisy scraping of the fiddle was over. As Miss Bethesda closed
the door behind her the clock struck two, and softly, timidly, stole
forth the notes of the fairy waltz, as elves, waiting for their forest
revels, might steal from their hiding-places when the clumsy foot of man
has ceased to echo in their sacred green places. "La-la-la, la-lira-la!"
and who could tell what gentle ghosts were now gliding forward in the
dance?

But Miss Bethesda never thought of ghosts. She had to lay a spirit, it
was true, but there was little of ghostly about it.

Perhaps she felt some trepidation at the thought of what was before her,
and as she listened to Iry's muttered words concerning the mental status
of the one guest remaining in the Inn. But she gave no sign, only told
Iry to go to bed, and leave his door open, in case she should want to
call him.

She took a tray, and covering it with one of her finest napkins,
proceeded to lay out a dainty supper, such as she well knew how to
prepare. What had Buckstone liked best, in the old times? She guessed a
little of that lobster salad would be about right, and half-a-dozen
rolls, feathery and unsubstantial as baked morning cloud; then a
whip,--he always liked a tall whip, with raspberry jam at the bottom!
and a slice of plum-cake, and,--well, a glass of cherry-brandy might do
no harm, if they _were_ both temperance folks. He'd be some tired,
likely, raging and routing round the way he had been, from what Iry
said. And so Miss Bethesda, like the bold woman she was, unlocked the
sitting-room door, and entered the lion's den.

She expected a rush, and held her tray firmly; but no rush came. The
lion was sitting huddled up in a great chair, with his foot on another
chair before him. At first Miss Bethesda thought he was asleep; but
catching the sombre glare of his dark eyes, she set the tray down
carefully, and faced her guest with folded hands and apparent composure.

"How are you feeling, Mr. Bradford?" she asked, seeing, with some
compunction, how pale he was.

"My leg is broke!" was the grim reply, "and I'm injured some inside,
most probably bleeding; but otherwise I'm well, Miss Pool, and much
obleeged to _you_!"

"You're welcome!" said Bethesda, with a flash; and then she went down on
her knees, and manipulated him skilfully.

"Your leg isn't broke!" she announced, cheerfully; "but you have got a
leetle sprain into your ankle, Buck,--I should say Mr. Bradford,--and
it's some considerable swoll up. You'd better let me bathe it for ye,
and then have a bit of supper, and then you can lay right down on the
l'unge here, and rest ye till morning. You'll be all right by then, I
calc'late, and able to git you home,--with a stick!"

The last thrust was pure malice, and the big man winced; but not
altogether at thought of the stick or the sprained ankle.

"I've got no home," he said; "thanks to you, Bethesda Pool! You've seen
that my girl got off safe with that good-for-nothin' feller, and that's
the last of any home for me! I hope it's done ye good!"

"It has so!" replied Miss Bethesda, rubbing the ankle briskly with her
favourite liniment. "A sight o' good it's done me, Mr. Bradford, and I
hope 'twill do you good, too, some day!"

"May I ask," Buckstone continued, grimly, glowering down on the little
woman, as she knelt beside him, "why you felt called to make or meddle
in my affairs, Miss Bethesda Pool?"

"You may!" said Miss Bethesda, looking up with fire in her eye. "Your
girl, pretty creetur, come cryin' to me the other day, and told me all
about how you was treating her, Buckstone Bradford; and 'twas a shame,
and you know it was! There's nothing in this world against Will Newell,
well you know! He's a church-member, and he's well thought of by all
that's acquainted with him. You didn't like his father, because you
thought I,--because you thought things about him that there was no
occasion for thinking, and he killed in the war afterwards and all; and
that's all the reason, save and except that you are a greedy grab-all,
Buckstone Bradford, and don't want your girl to do anything all her days
'cept wait on you! That's the living truth, and you know it as well as I
do! Hurt ye, did I? Well, I'm sorry for that, but if I could hurt your
mind instead of your ankle, I should be pleased to death! I can speak
when I've a mind to, if they do call me a dummy; and I'm speaking to you
now, Buckstone, and don't you forget it! You've been acting mean and
selfish and greedy, and every right-thinking person in this village is
disgusted with you, clean through to the ground! So, now! And I helped
them children off for pure pleasure, so I did, and for love of seeing
young things happy, if I aint ben happy myself! Not that that's here or
there. I planned this party for it, and laid out consid'able money, and
set every tongue in the village clacking till they e'enamost dropped
off, and a mighty good thing, too, if they had! and I sent for Will
Newell, and showed him where he could hitch his hoss, and how he could
git his girl off the quickest and the safest. You was pretty spry,
Buckstone, but you wouldn't ha' caught 'em, even if you hadn't--if you
hadn't have fell down the Tumplety Hole. And--and that's what I did, and
glad clean through to my back-comb that I done it, and would do it again
the fust time I got a chance!"

Miss Bethesda paused for breath, and bound up the lame ankle, wrapping
it in fold on fold of cool linen. She expected thunders of reply, but
Buckstone Bradford was silent.

There was a long pause, during which the coals tinkled in the grate and
the frost cracked and snapped outside.

At length,--"The Tumplety Hole!" he said, musingly. "Yes, that was it! I
was trying to think what we used to call it, and I couldn't bring the
name to mind. The Tumplety Hole, sure enough! And you come up through
it, one day, dressed in a white gown with silver trimmin's,--"

"That I found in the old trunk up garret!" put in Miss Bethesda.

"And flowers in your hair!" Bradford went on. "I thought you looked the
slickest of anything I ever saw, then, Bethesda; and--well, I don't know
but I think so still."

"Foolishness!" said Miss Bethesda, rising and wiping her hands. "Have a
bit o' supper, now, Buckstone, do!"

"No, I couldn't eat," said the big man, drawing his hand slowly across
his brow. "I couldn't eat your victuals, Bethesda, and have you thinkin'
of me the way you--you said. It's all true, it seems born in on me to
feel. I've done a good bit o' thinkin', sittin' here alone. I never
realized it before, but the fact seems to be that I've been a hog, and
bein' so, I can't sit down with no lady and eat her victuals, you see."

"Foolishness!" said Miss Bethesda again, looking rather discomposed.
"You mustn't think too much of what I said, Buckstone. Mebbe I spoke too
hash--"

"Oh, you spoke out!" said the man. "Needn't ever anybody tell me that
Bethesda Pool can't open her head. When them waters is troubled, there's
no mistake about their movin'; I knowed that before. You spoke out once
before to me, Bethesda, and the sound of it stays with me yet. There! I
guess I'll be goin'. You said you'd lend me a stick, did ye?"

"Good Isick!" cried Miss Bethesda, standing up to bar his way, in real
distress. "Buckstone, you can't go out in this cold in the middle of the
night, and with your ankle that way. You'll ketch your death. Stop where
you be, like a sensible man, and have some supper with me!"

"S'pose I do ketch my death!" said Buckstone; "aint no one to care, that
I know of. Nan's gone, and there's no one else, is there, Bethesda?"

"Good Isick!" cried Miss Bethesda again, and wrung her hands in sheer
desperation. Whither were they drifting?

"If I thought--" Buckstone Bradford was speaking again, slowly this
time, the anger clean gone out of him, but with an earnestness that
shook his deep voice, and made the brave little woman before him
tremble, and her cheek flush as it had not done for many a day--

"If I thought there _was_ anyone that cared what become of me; if I
thought there was anyone that was willing to let bygones be bygones,
seeing that I've cared for that person all my life, since--since first
we knew there was a Tumplety Hole in that room; if I thought there was
anyone who knew she could fetch out all the good there was in me,--in
old "Gruff and Grum,"--and that knew best of anyone how much good there
was to be fetched--why--if there _was_ any such person, I'd sit down to
that table the proudest man in the wide world, and the happiest!
But--but--I don't suppose there is, do you, Bethesda?"

"Oh, my gracious land of deliverance!" cried Miss Bethesda, fairly
beside herself. "I--I--don't know as there is, Buckstone, and--and
yet--I don't know _but_ there is! But do, for gracious sake, sit down,
whatever way it is, and eat your supper like a Christian man!"

And Buckstone sat down.





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