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Title: Oldtown Fireside Stories
Author: Stowe, Harriet Beecher
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 "Oldtown Fireside Stories" ***

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By Harriet Beecher Stowe.



[Illustration: Titlepage]

[Illustration: Frontispiece]

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871

By James R. Osgood & Co.

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.









[Illustration: The Ghost in the Mill, page 001]


“Come, Sam, tell us a story,” said I, as Harry and I crept to his knees,
in the glow of the bright evening firelight; while Aunt Lois was
busily rattling the tea-things, and grandmamma, at the other end of the
fireplace, was quietly setting the heel of a blue-mixed yarn stocking.

In those days we had no magazines and daily papers, each reeling off
a serial story. Once a week, “The Columbian Sentinel” came from Boston
with its slender stock of news and editorial; but all the multiform
devices--pictorial, narrative, and poetical--which keep the mind of
the present generation ablaze with excitement, had not then even an
existence. There was no theatre, no opera; there were in Oldtown no
parties or balls, except, perhaps, the annual election, or Thanksgiving
festival; and when winter came, and the sun went down at half-past four
o’clock, and left the long, dark hours of evening to be provided
for, the necessity of amusement became urgent. Hence, in those days,
chimney-corner story-telling became an art and an accomplishment.
Society then was full of traditions and narratives which had all the
uncertain glow and shifting mystery of the firelit hearth upon them.
They were told to sympathetic audiences, by the rising and falling light
of the solemn embers, with the hearth-crickets filling up every pause.
Then the aged told their stories to the young,--tales of early life;
tales of war and adventure, of forest-days, of Indian captivities
and escapes, of bears and wild-cats and panthers, of rattlesnakes, of
witches and wizards, and strange and wonderful dreams and appearances
and providences.

In those days of early Massachusetts, faith and credence were in the
very air. Two-thirds of New England was then dark, unbroken forests,
through whose tangled paths the mysterious winter wind groaned and
shrieked and howled with weird noises and unaccountable clamors. Along
the iron-bound shore, the stormful Atlantic raved and thundered, and
dashed its moaning waters, as if to deaden and deafen any voice that
might tell of the settled life of the old civilized world, and shut us
forever into the wilderness. A good story-teller, in those days, was
always sure of a warm seat at the hearthstone, and the delighted homage
of children; and in all Oldtown there was no better story-teller than
Sam Lawson.

“Do, do, tell us a story,” said Harry, pressing upon him, and opening
very wide blue eyes, in which undoubting faith shone as in a mirror;
“and let it be something strange, and different from common.”

“Wal, I know lots o’ strange things,” said Sam, looking mysteriously
into the fire. “Why, I know things, that ef I should tell,--why, people
might say they wa’n’t so; but then they _is_ so for all that.”

“Oh, _do_, do, tell us!”

“Why, I should scare ye to death, mebbe,” said Sam doubtingly.

“Oh, pooh! no, you wouldn’t,” we both burst out at once.

But Sam was possessed by a reticent spirit, and loved dearly to be wooed
and importuned; and so he only took up the great kitchen-tongs, and
smote on the hickory forestick, when it flew apart in the middle, and
scattered a shower of clear bright coals all over the hearth.

“Mercy on us, Sam Lawson!” said Aunt Lois in an indignant voice,
spinning round from her dishwashing.

“Don’t you worry a grain, Miss Lois,” said Sam composedly. “I see that
are stick was e’en a’most in two, and I thought I’d jest settle it. I’ll
sweep up the coals now,” he added, vigorously applying a turkey-wing to
the purpose, as he knelt on the hearth, his spare, lean figure glowing
in the blaze of the firelight, and getting quite flushed with exertion.

“There, now!” he said, when he had brushed over and under and between
the fire-irons, and pursued the retreating ashes so far into the red,
fiery citadel, that his finger-ends were burning and tingling, “that
are’s done now as well as Hepsy herself could ‘a’ done it. I allers
sweeps up the haarth: I think it’s part o’ the man’s bisness when he
makes the fire. But Hepsy’s so used to seein’ me a-doin’ on’t, that she
don’t see no kind o’ merit in’t. It’s just as Parson Lothrop said in his
sermon,--folks allers overlook their common marcies”--

“But come, Sam, that story,” said Harry and I coaxingly, pressing upon
him, and pulling him down into his seat in the corner.

“Lordy massy, these ‘ere young uns!” said Sam. “There’s never no
contentin’ on ‘em: ye tell ‘em one story, and they jest swallows it as
a dog does a gob o’ meat; and they’re all ready for another. What do ye
want to hear now?”

Now, the fact was, that Sam’s stories had been told us so often, that
they were all arranged and ticketed in our minds. We knew every word in
them, and could set him right if he varied a hair from the usual track;
and still the interest in them was unabated. Still we shivered, and
clung to his knee, at the mysterious parts, and felt gentle, cold chills
run down our spines at appropriate places. We were always in the most
receptive and sympathetic condition. To-night, in particular, was one
of those thundering stormy ones, when the winds appeared to be holding
a perfect mad carnival over my grandfather’s house. They yelled and
squealed round the corners; they collected in troops, and came tumbling
and roaring down chimney; they shook and tattled the buttery-door and
the sinkroom-door and the cellar-door and the chamber-door, with a
constant undertone of squeak and clatter, as if at every door were a
cold, discontented spirit, tired of the chill outside, and longing for
the warmth and comfort within.

“Wal, boys,” said Sam confidentially, “what’ll ye have?”

“Tell us ‘Come down, come down!’” we both shouted with one voice. This
was, in our mind, an “A No. 1” among Sam’s stories.

“Ye mus’n’t be frightened now,” said Sam paternally.

“Oh, no! we ar’n’t frightened ever,” said we both in one breath.

“Not when ye go down the cellar arter cider?” said Sam with severe
scrutiny. “Ef ye should be down cellar, and the candle should go out,

“I ain’t,” said I: “I ain’t afraid of any thing. I never knew what it
was to be afraid in my life.”

“Wal, then,” said Sam, “I’ll tell ye. This ‘ere’s what Cap’n Eb Sawin
told me when I was a boy about your bigness, I reckon.

“Cap’n Eb Sawin was a most respectable man. Your gran’ther knew him very
well; and he was a deacon in the church in Dedham afore he died. He
was at Lexington when the fust gun was fired agin the British. He was a
dreffle smart man, Cap’n Eb was, and driv team a good many years atween
here and Boston. He married Lois Peabody, that was cousin to your
gran’ther then. Lois was a rael sensible woman; and I’ve heard her tell
the story as he told her, and it was jest as he told it to me,--jest
exactly; and I shall never forget it if I live to be nine hundred years
old, like Mathuselah.

“Ye see, along back in them times, there used to be a fellow come round
these ‘ere parts, spring and fall, a-peddlin’ goods, with his pack on
his back; and his name was Jehiel Lommedieu. Nobody rightly knew where
he come from. He wasn’t much of a talker; but the women rather liked
him, and kind o’ liked to have him round. Women will like some fellows,
when men can’t see no sort o’ reason why they should; and they liked
this ‘ere Lommedieu, though he was kind o’ mournful and thin and
shad-bellied, and hadn’t nothin’ to say for himself. But it got to be
so, that the women would count and calculate so many weeks afore ‘twas
time for Lommedieu to be along; and they’d make up ginger-snaps and
preserves and pies, and make him stay to tea at the houses, and feed
him up on the best there was: and the story went round, that he was
a-courtin’ Phebe Ann Parker, or Phebe Ann was a-courtin’ him,--folks
didn’t rightly know which. Wal, all of a sudden, Lommedieu stopped
comin’ round; and nobody knew why,--only jest he didn’t come. It turned
out that Phebe Ann Parker had got a letter from him, sayin’ he’d be
along afore Thanksgiving; but he didn’t come, neither afore nor at
Thanksgiving time, nor arter, nor next spring: and finally the women
they gin up lookin’ for him. Some said he was dead; some said he was
gone to Canada; and some said he hed gone over to the Old Country.

“Wal, as to Phebe Ann, she acted like a gal o’ sense, and married ‘Bijah
Moss, and thought no more ‘bout it. She took the right view on’t, and
said she was sartin that all things was ordered out for the best; and
it was jest as well folks couldn’t always have their own way. And so,
in time, Lommedieu was gone out o’ folks’s minds, much as a last year’s

“It’s relly affectin’ to think how little these ‘ere folks is missed
that’s so much sot by. There ain’t nobody, ef they’s ever so important,
but what the world gets to goin’ on without ‘em, pretty much as it did
with ‘em, though there’s some little flurry at fust. Wal, the last
thing that was in anybody’s mind was, that they ever should hear from
Lommedieu agin. But there ain’t nothin’ but what has its time o’ turnin’
up; and it seems his turn was to come.

“Wal, ye see, ‘twas the 19th o’ March, when Cap’n Eb Sawin started with
a team for Boston. That day, there come on about the biggest snow-storm
that there’d been in them parts sence the oldest man could remember.
‘Twas this ‘ere fine, siftin’ snow, that drives in your face like
needles, with a wind to cut your nose off: it made teamin’ pretty
tedious work. Cap’n Eb was about the toughest man in them parts. He’d
spent days in the woods a-loggin’, and he’d been up to the deestrict o’
Maine a-lumberin’, and was about up to any sort o’ thing a man gen’ally
could be up to; but these ‘ere March winds sometimes does set on a
fellow so, that neither natur’ nor grace can stan’ ‘em. The cap’n
used to say he could stan’ any wind that blew one way ‘t time for
five minutes; but come to winds that blew all four p’ints at the same
minit,--why, they flustered him.

“Wal, that was the sort o’ weather it was all day: and by sundown Cap’n
Eb he got clean bewildered, so that he lost his road; and, when night
came on, he didn’t know nothin’ where he was. Ye see the country was all
under drift, and the air so thick with snow, that he couldn’t see a foot
afore him; and the fact was, he got off the Boston road without knowin’
it, and came out at a pair o’ bars nigh upon Sherburn, where old Cack
Sparrock’s mill is.

“Your gran’ther used to know old Cack, boys. He was a drefful drinkin’
old crittur, that lived there all alone in the woods by himself
a-tendin’ saw and grist mill. He wasn’t allers jest what he was then.
Time was that Cack was a pretty consid’ably likely young man, and his
wife was a very respectable woman,--Deacon Amos Petengall’s dater from

“But ye see, the year arter his wife died, Cack he gin up goin’ to
meetin’ Sundays, and, all the tithing-men and selectmen could do, they
couldn’t get him out to meetin’; and, when a man neglects means o’ grace
and sanctuary privileges, there ain’t no sayin’ _what_ he’ll do next.
Why, boys, jist think on’t!--an immortal crittur lyin’ round loose
all day Sunday, and not puttin’ on so much as a clean shirt, when all
‘spectable folks has on their best close, and is to meetin’ worshippin’
the Lord! What can you spect to come of it, when he lies idlin’ round in
his old week-day close, fishing, or some sich, but what the Devil should
be arter him at last, as he was arter old Cack?”

Here Sam winked impressively to my grandfather in the opposite corner,
to call his attention to the moral which he was interweaving with his

“Wal, ye see, Cap’n Eb he told me, that when he come to them bars and
looked up, and saw the dark a-comin’ down, and the storm a-thickenin’
up, he felt that things was gettin’ pretty consid’able serious. There
was a dark piece o’ woods on ahead of him inside the bars; and he knew,
come to get in there, the light would give out clean. So he jest thought
he’d take the hoss out o’ the team, and go ahead a little, and see where
he was. So he driv his oxen up ag’in the fence, and took out the hoss,
and got on him, and pushed along through the woods, not rightly knowin’
where he was goin’.

“Wal, afore long he see a light through the trees; and, sure enough, he
come out to Cack Sparrock’s old mill.

“It was a pretty consid’able gloomy sort of a place, that are old mill
was. There was a great fall of water that come rushin’ down the rocks,
and fell in a deep pool; and it sounded sort o’ wild and lonesome: but
Cap’n Eb he knocked on the door with his whip-handle, and got in.

“There, to be sure, sot old Cack beside a great blazin’ fire, with his
rum-jug at his elbow. He was a drefful fellow to drink, Cack was! For
all that, there was some good in him, for he was pleasant-spoken and
‘bliging; and he made the cap’n welcome.

“‘Ye see, Cack,’ said Cap’n Eb, ‘I ‘m off my road, and got snowed up
down by your bars,’ says he.

“‘Want ter know!’ says Cack. ‘Calculate you’ll jest have to camp down
here till mornin’,’ says he.

“Wal, so old Cack he got out his tin lantern, and went with Cap’n Eb
back to the bars to help him fetch along his critturs. He told him he
could put ‘em under the mill-shed. So they got the critturs up to the
shed, and got the cart under; and by that time the storm was awful.

“But Cack he made a great roarin’ fire, ‘cause, ye see, Cack allers had
slab-wood a plenty from his mill; and a roarin’ fire is jest so much
company. It sort o’ keeps a fellow’s spirits up, a good fire does. So
Cack he sot on his old teakettle, and made a swingeing lot o’ toddy; and
he and Cap’n Eb were havin’ a tol’able comfortable time there. Cack was
a pretty good hand to tell stories; and Cap’n Eb warn’t no way backward
in that line, and kep’ up his end pretty well: and pretty soon they was
a-roarin’ and haw-hawin’ inside about as loud as the storm outside; when
all of a sudden, ‘bout midnight, there come a loud rap on the door.

“‘Lordy massy! what’s that?’ says Cack. Folks is rather startled allers
to be checked up sudden when they are a-carryin’ on and laughin’; and
it was such an awful blowy night, it was a little scary to have a rap on
the door.

“Wal, they waited a minit, and didn’t hear nothin’ but the wind
a-screechin’ round the chimbley; and old Cack was jest goin’ on with his
story, when the rap come ag’in, harder’n ever, as if it’d shook the door

“‘Wal,’ says old Cack,’ if ‘tis the Devil, we’d jest as good’s open, and
have it out with him to onst,’ says he; and so he got up and opened the
door, and, sure enough, there was old Ketury there. Expect you’ve
heard your grandma tell about old Ketury. She used to come to meetin’s
sometimes, and her husband was one o’ the prayin’ Indians; but Ketury
was one of the rael wild sort, and you couldn’t no more convert _her_
than you could convert a wild-cat or a painter [panther]. Lordy massy!
Ketury used to come to meetin’, and sit there on them Indian benches;
and when the second bell was a-tollin’, and when Parson Lothrop and his
wife was comin’ up the broad aisle, and everybody in the house ris’ up
and stood, Ketury would sit there, and look at ‘em out o’ the corner
o’ her eyes; and folks used to say she rattled them necklaces o’
rattlesnakes’ tails and wild-cat teeth, and sich like heathen trumpery,
and looked for all the world as if the spirit of the old Sarpent himself
was in her. I’ve seen her sit and look at Lady Lothrop out o’ the corner
o’ her eyes; and her old brown baggy neck would kind o’ twist and work;
and her eyes they looked so, that ‘twas enough to scare a body. For all
the world, she looked jest as if she was a-workin’ up to spring at her.
Lady Lothrop was jest as kind to Ketury as she always was to every poor
crittur. She’d bow and smile as gracious to her when meetin’ was over,
and she come down the aisle, passin’ oot o, meetin’; but Ketury never
took no notice. Ye see, Ketury’s father was one o’ them great powwows
down to Martha’s Vineyard; and people used to say she was set apart,
when she was a child, to the sarvice o’ the Devil: any way, she never
could be made nothin’ of in a Christian way. She come down to Parson
Lothrop’s study once or twice to be catechised; but he couldn’t get a
word out o’ her, and she kind o’ seemed to sit scornful while he was
a-talkin’. Folks said, if it was in old times, Ketury wouldn’t have been
allowed to go on so; but Parson Lothrop’s so sort o’ mild, he let her
take pretty much her own way. Everybody thought that Ketury was a witch:
at least, she knew consid’able more’n she ought to know, and so they was
kind o’ ‘fraid on her. Cap’n Eb says he never see a fellow seem scareder
than Cack did when he see Ketury a-standin’ there.

“Why, ye see, boys, she was as withered and wrinkled and brown as an old
frosted punkin-vine; and her little snaky eyes sparkled and snapped,
and it made yer head kind o’ dizzy to look at ‘em; and folks used to say
that anybody that Ketury got mad at was sure to get the worst of it fust
or last. And so, no matter what day or hour Ketury had a mind to rap
at anybody’s door, folks gen’lly thought it was best to let her in; but
then, they never thought her coming was for any good, for she was just
like the wind,--she came when the fit was on her, she staid jest so long
as it pleased her, and went when she got ready, and not before. Ketury
understood English, and could talk it well enough, but always seemed to
scorn it, and was allers mo win’ and mutterin’ to herself in Indian,
and winkin’ and blinkin’ as if she saw more folks round than you did,
so that she wa’n’t no way pleasant company; and yet everybody took good
care to be polite to her. So old Cack asked her to come in, and didn’t
make no question where she come from, or what she come on; but he knew
it was twelve good miles from where she lived to his hut, and the snow
was drifted above her middle: and Cap’n Eb declared that there wa’n’t no
track, nor sign o’ a track, of anybody’s coming through that snow next

“How did she get there, then?” said I.

“Didn’t ye never see brown leaves a-ridin’ on the wind? Well,’ Cap’n Eb
he says, ‘she came on the wind,’ and I’m sure it was strong enough to
fetch her. But Cack he got her down into the warm corner, and he poured
her out a mug o’ hot toddy, and give her: but ye see her bein’ there
sort o’ stopped the conversation; for she sot there a-rockin’ back’ards
and for’ards, a-sippin her toddy, and a-mutterin’, and lookin’ up

“Cap’n Eb says in all his born days he never hearn such screeches
and yells as the wind give over that chimbley; and old Cack got so
frightened, you could fairly hear his teeth chatter.

“But Cap’n Eb he was a putty brave man, and he wa’n’t goin’ to have
conversation stopped by no woman, witch or no witch; and so, when he see
her mutterin’, and lookin’ up chimbley, he spoke up, and says he, ‘Well,
Ketury, what do you see?’ says he. ‘Come, out with it; don’t keep it to
yourself.’ Ye see Cap’n Eb was a hearty fellow, and then he was a leetle
warmed up with the toddy.

“Then he said he see an evil kind o’ smile on Ketury’s face, and she
rattled her necklace o’ bones and snakes’ tails; and her eyes seemed to
snap; and she looked up the chimbley, and called out, ‘Come down, come
down! let’s see who ye be.’

“Then there was a scratchin’ and a rumblin’ and a groan; and a pair
of feet come down the chimbley, and stood right in the middle of
the haarth, the toes pi’ntin’ out’rds, with shoes and silver buckles
a-shinin’ in the firelight. Cap’n Eb says he never come so near bein’
scared in his life; and, as to old Cack, he jest wilted right down in
his chair.

“Then old Ketury got up, and reached her stick up chimbley, and called
out louder, ‘Come down, come down! let’s see who ye be.’ And, sure
enough, down came a pair o’ legs, and j’ined right on to the feet: good
fair legs they was, with ribbed stockings and leather breeches.

“‘Wal, we’re in for it now,’ says Cap’n Eb. ‘Go it, Ketury, and let’s
have the rest on him.’

“Ketury didn’t seem to mind him: she stood there as stiff as a stake,
and kep’ callin’ out, ‘Come down, come down! let’s see who ye be.’ And
then come down the body of a man with a brown coat and yellow vest, and
j’ined right on to the legs; but there wa’n’t no arms to it. Then Ketury
shook her stick up chimbley, and called, ‘_Come down, come down!_’ And
there came down a pair o’ arms, and went on each side o’ the body; and
there stood a man all finished, only there wa’n’t no head on him.

“‘Wal, Ketury,’ says Cap’n Eb, ‘this ‘ere’s getting serious. I ‘spec’
you must finish him up, and let’s see what he wants of us.’

“Then Ketury called out once more, louder’n ever, ‘Come down, come down!
let’s see who ye be.’ And, sure enough, down comes a man’s head, and
settled on the shoulders straight enough; and Cap’n Eb, the minit he sot
eyes on him, knew he was Jehiel Lommedieu.

[Illustration: Old Cack knew him too, Page 020]

“Old Cack knew him too; and he fell flat on his face, and prayed the
Lord to have mercy on his soul: but Cap’n Eb he was for gettin’ to the
bottom of matters, and not have his scare for nothin’; so he says to
him, ‘What do you want, now you hev come?’

“The man he didn’t speak; he only sort o’ moaned, and p’inted to the
chimbley. He seemed to try to speak, but couldn’t; for ye see it isn’t
often that his sort o’ folks is permitted to speak: but just then there
came a screechin’ blast o’ wind, and blowed the door open, and blowed
the smoke and fire all out into the room, and there seemed to be a
whirlwind and darkness and moans and screeches; and, when it all cleared
up, Ketury and the man was both gone, and only old Cack lay on the
ground, rolling and moaning as if he’d die.

“Wal, Cap’n Eb he picked him up, and built up the fire, and sort o’
comforted him up, ‘cause the crittur was in distress o’ mind that was
drefful. The awful Providence, ye see, had awakened him, and his sin had
been set home to his soul; and he was under such conviction, that it all
had to come out,--how old Cack’s father had murdered poor Lommedieu for
his money, and Cack had been privy to it, and helped his father build
the body up in that very chimbley; and he said that he hadn’t had
neither peace nor rest since then, and that was what had driv’ him
away from ordinances; for ye know sinnin’ will always make a man leave
prayin’. Wal, Cack didn’t live but a day or two. Cap’n Eb he got the
minister o’ Sherburn and one o’ the selectmen down to see him; and they
took his deposition. He seemed railly quite penitent; and Parson Carryl
he prayed with him, and was faithful in settin’ home the providence to
his soul: and so, at the eleventh hour, poor old Cack might have got
in; at least it looks a leetle like it. He was distressed to think he
couldn’t live to be hung. He sort o’ seemed to think, that if he was
fairly tried, and hung, it would make it all square. He made Parson
Carryl promise to have the old mill pulled down, and bury the body; and,
after he was dead, they did it.

“Cap’n Eb he was one of a party o’ eight that pulled down the chimbley;
and there, sure enough, was the skeleton of poor Lommedieu.

“So there you see, boys, there can’t be no iniquity so hid but what
it’ll come out. The Wild Indians of the forest, and the stormy winds and
tempests, j’ined together to bring out this ‘ere.”

“For my part,” said Aunt Lois sharply, “I never believed that story.”

“Why, Lois,” said my grandmother, “Cap’n Eb Sawin was a regular
church-member, and a most respectable man.”

“Law, mother! I don’t doubt he thought so. I suppose he and Cack got
drinking toddy together, till he got asleep, and dreamed it. I wouldn’t
believe such a thing if it did happen right before my face and eyes. I
should only think I was crazy, that’s all.”

“Come, Lois, if I was you, I wouldn’t talk so like a Sadducee,” said
my grandmother. “What would become of all the accounts in Dr. Cotton
Mather’s ‘Magnilly’ if folks were like you?”

“Wal,” said Sam Lawson, drooping contemplatively over the coals, and
gazing into the fire, “there’s a putty consid’able sight o’ things in
this world that’s true; and then ag’in there’s a sight o’ things that
ain’t true. Now, my old gran’ther used to say, ‘Boys, says he, ‘if ye
want to lead a pleasant and prosperous life, ye must contrive allers
to keep jest the _happy medium_ between truth and falsehood.’ Now, that
are’s my doctrine.”

Aunt Lois knit severely.

“Boys,” said Sam, “don’t you want ter go down with me and get a mug o’

Of course we did, and took down a basket to bring up some apples to

“Boys,” says Sam mysteriously, while he was drawing the cider, “you jest
ask your Aunt Lois to tell you what she knows ‘bout Ruth Sullivan.”

“Why, what is it?”

“Oh! you must ask her. These ‘ere folks that’s so kind o’ toppin’ about
sperits and sich, come sift ‘em down, you gen’lly find they knows one
story that kind o’ puzzles ‘em. Now you mind, and jist ask your Aunt
Lois about Ruth Sullivan.”

[Illustration: Tailpiece, Page 024]

[Illustration: The Sullivan Looking-Glass, Page 025]


“Aunt Lois,” said I, “what was that story about Ruth Sullivan?”

Aunt Lois’s quick black eyes gave a surprised flash; and she and my
grandmother looked at each other a minute significantly. “Who told you
any thing about Ruth Sullivan,” she said sharply.

“Nobody. Somebody said _you_ knew something about her,” said I.

I was holding a skein of yarn for Aunt Lois; and she went on winding in
silence, putting the ball through loops and tangled places.

“Little boys shouldn’t ask questions,” she concluded at last
sententiously. “Little boys that ask too many questions get sent to

I knew that of old, and rather wondered at my own hardihood.

Aunt Lois wound on in silence; but, looking in her face, I could see
plainly that I had started an exciting topic.

“I should think,” pursued my grandmother in her corner, “that Ruth’s
case might show you, Lois, that a good many things may happen,--more
than you believe.”

“Oh, well, mother! Ruth’s was a strange case; but I suppose there are
ways of accounting for it.”

“You believed Ruth, didn’t you?”

“Oh, certainly, I believed Ruth! Why shouldn’t I? Ruth was one of my
best friends, and as true a girl as lives: there wasn’t any nonsense
about Ruth. She was one of the sort,” said Aunt Lois reflectively, “that
I’d as soon trust as myself: when she said a thing was so and so, I knew
it was so.”

“Then, if you think Ruth’s story was true,” pursued my grandmother,
“what’s the reason you are always cavilling at things just ‘cause you
can’t understand how they came to be so?”

Aunt Lois set her lips firmly, and wound with grim resolve. She was the
very impersonation of that obstinate rationalism that grew up at the
New-England fireside, close alongside of the most undoubting faith in
the supernatural.

“I don’t believe such things,” at last she snapped out, “and I don’t
disbelieve them. I just let ‘em alone. What do I know about ‘em? Ruth
tells me a story; and I believe her. I know what she saw beforehand,
came true in a most remarkable way. Well, I’m sure I’ve no objection.
One thing may be true, or another, for all me; but, just because I
believe Ruth Sullivan, I’m not going to believe, right and left, all the
stories in Cotton Mather, and all that anybody can hawk up to tell. Not

This whole conversation made me all the more curious to get at the story
thus dimly indicated; and so we beset Sam for information.

“So your Aunt Lois wouldn’t tell ye nothin’,” said Sam. “Wanter know,
neow! sho!”

“No: she said we must go to bed if we asked her.”

“That ‘are’s a way folks has; but, ye see, boys,” said Sam, while a
droll confidential expression crossed the lack-lustre dolefulness of
his visage, “ye see, I put ye up to it, ‘cause Miss Lois is so large and
commandin’ in her ways, and so kind o’ up and down in all her doin’s,
that I like once and a while to sort o’ gravel her; and I knowed enough
to know that that ‘are question would git her in a tight place.

“Ye see, yer Aunt Lois was knowin’ to all this ‘ere about Ruth, so
there wer’n’t no gettin’ away from it; and it’s about as remarkable a
providence as any o’ them of Mister Cotton Marther’s ‘Magnilly.’ So if
you’ll come up in the barn-chamber this arternoon, where I’ve got a lot
o’ flax to hatchel out, I’ll tell ye all about it.”

So that afternoon beheld Sam arranged at full length on a pile of
top-tow in the barn-chamber, hatchelling by proxy by putting Harry and
myself to the service.

“Wal, now, boys, it’s kind o’ refreshing to see how wal ye take hold,”
 he observed. “Nothin’ like bein’ industrious while ye’r young: gret
sight better now than loafin off, down in them medders.

     “‘In books and work and useful play
        Let my fust years be past:
     So shall I give for every day
        Some good account at last.’”

“But, Sam, if we work for you, you must tell us that story about Ruth

“Lordy massy! yis,--course I will. I’ve had the best kind o’ chances
of knowin’ all about that ‘are. Wal, you see there was old Gineral
Sullivan, he lived in state and grande’r in the old Sullivan house out
to Roxberry. I been to Roxberry, and seen that ‘are house o’ Gineral
Sullivan’s. There was one time that I was a consid’able spell lookin’
round in Roxberry, a kind o’ seein’ how things wuz there, and whether
or no there mightn’t be some sort o’ providential openin’ or suthin’. I
used to stay with Aunt Polly Ginger. She was sister to Mehitable Ginger,
Gineral Sullivan’s housekeeper, and hed the in and out o’ the Sullivan
house, and kind o’ kept the run o’ how things went and came in it. Polly
she was a kind o’ cousin o’ my mother’s, and allers glad to see me. Fact
was, I was putty handy round house; and she used to save up her broken
things and sich till I come round in the fall; and then I’d mend ‘em up,
and put the clock right, and split her up a lot o’ kindlings, and board
up the cellar-windows, and kind o’ make her sort o’ comfortable,--she
bein’ a lone body, and no man round. As I said, it was sort o’
convenient to hev me; and so I jest got the run o’ things in the
Sullivan house pretty much as ef I was one on ‘em, Gineral Sullivan he
kept a grand house, I tell you. You see, he cum from the old country,
and felt sort o’ lordly and grand; and they used to hev the gretest kind
o’ doin’s there to the Sullivan house. Ye ought ter a seen that ‘are
house,--gret big front hall and gret wide stairs; none o’ your steep
kind that breaks a feller’s neck to get up and down, but gret broad
stairs with easy risers, so they used to say you could a cantered a pony
up that ‘are stairway easy as not. Then there was gret wide rooms, and
sofys, and curtains, and gret curtained bedsteads that looked sort o’
like fortifications, and pictur’s that was got in Italy and Rome and all
them ‘are heathen places. Ye see, the Gineral was a drefful worldly
old critter, and was all for the pomps and the vanities. Lordy massy!
I wonder what the poor old critter thinks about it all now, when his
body’s all gone to dust and ashes in the graveyard, and his soul’s gone
to ‘tarnity! Wal, that are ain’t none o’ my business; only it shows the
vanity o’ riches in a kind o’ strikin’ light, and makes me content that
I never hed none.”

“But, Sam, I hope General Sullivan wasn’t a wicked man, _was_ he?”

“Wal, I wouldn’t say he was railly wickeder than the run; but he was
one o’ these ‘ere high-stepping, big-feeling fellers, that seem to be
a hevin’ their portion in this life. Drefful proud he was; and he was
pretty much sot on this world, and kep’ a sort o’ court goin’ on round
him. Wal, I don’t jedge him nor nobody: folks that hes the world is apt
to get sot on it. Don’t none on us do more than middlin’ well.”

“But, Sam, what about Ruth Sullivan?”

“Ruth?--Oh, yis!--Ruth--

“Wal, ye see, the only crook in the old Gineral’s lot was he didn’t hev
no children. Mis’ Sullivan, she was a beautiful woman, as handsome as a
pictur’; but she never had but one child; and he was a son who died when
he was a baby, and about broke her heart. And then this ‘ere Ruth was
her sister’s child, that was born about the same time; and, when the boy
died, they took Ruth home to sort o’ fill his place, and kind o’ comfort
up Mis’ Sullivan. And then Ruth’s father and mother died; and they
adopted her for their own, and brought her up.

“Wal, she grew up to be amazin’ handsome. Why, everybody said that she
was jest the light and glory of that ‘are old Sullivan place, and worth
more’n all the pictur’s and the silver and the jewels, and all there was
in the house; and she was jest so innercent and sweet, that you never
see nothing to beat it. Wal, your Aunt Lois she got acquainted with Ruth
one summer when she was up to Old Town a visitin’ at Parson Lothrop’s.
Your Aunt Lois was a gal then, and a pretty good-lookin’ one too; and,
somehow or other, she took to Ruth, and Ruth took to her. And when Ruth
went home, they used to be a writin’ backwards and forads; and I guess
the fact was, Ruth thought about as much of your Aunt Lois as she did o’
anybody. Ye see, your aunt was a kind o’ strong up-and-down woman that
always knew certain jest what she did know; and Ruth, she was one o’
them gals that seems sort o’ like a stray lamb or a dove that’s sort o’
lost their way in the world, and wants some one to show ‘em where to go
next. For, ye see, the fact was, the old Gineral and Madam, they
didn’t agree very well. He wa’n’t well pleased that she didn’t have no
children; and she was sort o’ jealous o’ him ‘cause she got hold o’ some
sort of story about how he was to a married somebody else over there in
England: so she got sort o’ riled up, jest as wimmen will, the best on
‘em; and they was pretty apt to have spats, and one could give t’other
as good as they sent; and, by all accounts, they fit putty lively
sometimes. And, between the two, Ruth she was sort o’ scared, and
fluttered like a dove that didn’t know jest where to settle. Ye see,
there she was in; that ‘are great wide house, where they was a feastin’
and a prancin’ and a dancin’, and a goin’ on like Ahashuerus and
Herodias and all them old Scripture days. There was acomin’ and goin,’
and there was gret dinners and gret doin’s, but no love; and, you know,
the Scriptur’ says, ‘Better is a dinner o’ yarbs, where love is, than a
stalled ox, and hatred therewith.’

“Wal, I don’t orter say _hatred_, arter all. I kind o’ reckon, the old
Gineral did the best he could: the fact is, when a woman gits a kink
in her head agin a man, the best on us don’t allers do jest the right

“Any way, Ruth, she was sort o’ forlorn, and didn’t seem to take no
comfort in the goin’s on. The Gineral he was mighty fond on her,
and proud on her; and there wa’n’t nothin’ too good for Ruth. He was
free-handed, the Gineral wuz. He dressed her up in silks and satins, and
she hed a maid to wait on her, and she hed sets o’ pearl and dimond; and
Madam Sullivan she thought all the world on her, and kind o’ worshipped
the ground she trod on. And yet Ruth was sort o’ lonesome.

“Ye see, Ruth wa’n’t calculated for grande’r. Some folks ain’t.

“Why, that ‘are summer she spent out to Old Town, she was jest as chirk
and chipper as a wren, a wearin’ her little sun-bunnet, and goin’ a
huckle-berryin’ and a black-berryin’ and diggin’ sweet-flag, and gettin
cowslops and dandelions; and she hed a word for everybody. And everybody
liked Ruth, and wished her well. Wal, she was sent for her health; and
she got that, and more too: she got a sweetheart.

“Ye see, there was a Cap’n Oliver a visitin’ at the minister’s that
summer,--a nice, handsome young man as ever was. He and Ruth and your
Aunt Lois, they was together a good deal; and they was a ramblin’ and
a ridin’ and a sailin’: and so Ruth and the Capting went the way o’ all
the airth, and fell dead in love with each other. Your Aunt Lois she
was knowing to it and all about it, ‘cause Ruth she was jest one of them
that couldn’t take a step without somebody to talk to.

“Captain Oliver was of a good family in England; and so, when he made
bold to ask the old Gineral for Ruth, he didn’t say him nay: and it was
agreed, as they was young, they should wait a year or two. If he and
she was of the same mind, he should be free to marry her. Jest right on
that, the Captain’s regiment was ordered home, and he had to go; and,
the next they heard, it was sent off to India. And poor little Ruth she
kind o’ drooped and pined; but she kept true, and wouldn’t have nothin’
to say to nobody that came arter her, for there was lots and cords o’
fellows as did come arter her. Ye see, Ruth had a takin’ way with her;
and then she had the name of bein’ a great heiress, and that allers
draws fellers, as molasses does flies.

“Wal, then the news came, that Captain Oliver was comin’ home to
England, and the ship was took by the Algerenes, and he was gone into
slavery there among them heathen Mahomedans and what not.

“Folks seemed to think it was all over with him, and Ruth might jest as
well give up fust as last. And the old Gineral he’d come to think she
might do better; and he kep’ a introducin’ one and another, and tryin’
to marry her off; but Ruth she wouldn’t. She used to write sheets and
sheets to your Aunt Lois about it; and I think Aunt Lois she kep’ her
grit up. Your Aunt Lois she’d a stuck by a man to the end o’ time eft
ben her case; and so she told Ruth.

“Wal, then there was young Jeff Sullivan, the Gineral’s nephew, he
turned up; and the Gineral he took a gret fancy to him. He was next heir
to the Gineral; but he’d ben a pretty rackety youngster in his young
days,--off to sea, and what not, and sowed a consid’able crop o’ wild
oats. People said he’d been a pirating off there in South Ameriky. Lordy
massy! nobody rightly knew where he hed ben or where he hadn’t: all was,
he turned up at last all alive, and chipper as a skunk blackbird. Wal,
of course he made his court to Ruth; and the Gineral, he rather backed
him up in it; but Ruth she wouldn’t have nothin’ to say to him. Wal,
he come and took up his lodgin’ at the Gineral’s; and he was jest as
slippery as an eel, and sort o’ slid into every thing, that was a goin’
on in the house and about it. He was here, and he was there, and he
was everywhere, and a havin’ his say about this and that; and he got
everybody putty much under his thumb. And they used to say, he wound the
Gineral round and round like a skein o’ yarn; but he couldn’t come it
round Ruth.

“Wal, the Gineral said she shouldn’t be forced; and Jeff, he was smooth
as satin, and said he’d be willing to wait as long as Jacob did for
Rachel. And so there he sot down, a watchin’ as patient as a cat at a
mouse-hole; ‘cause the Gineral he was thick-set and short-necked, and
drank pretty free, and was one o’ the sort that might pop off any time.

“Wal, Mis’ Sullivan, she beset the Gineral to make a provision for Ruth;
‘cause she told him very sensible, that he’d brought her up in luxury,
and that it wa’n’t fair not to settle somethin’ on her; and so the
Gineral he said he’d make a will, and part the property equally between
them. And he says to Jeff, that, if he played his part as a young fellow
oughter know how, it would all come to him in the end; ‘cause they
hadn’t heard nothing from Captain Oliver for three or four years, and
folks about settled it that he must be dead.

“Wal, the Gineral he got a letter about an estate that had come to him
in England; and he had to go over. Wal, livin’ on the next estate, was
the very cousin of the Gineral’s that he was to a married when they was
both young: the lands joined so that the grounds run together. What came
between them two nobody knows; but she never married, and there she was.
There was high words between the Gineral and Madam Sullivan about his
goin’ over. She said there wa’n’t no sort o’ need on’t, and he said
there was; and she said she hoped _she_ should be in her grave afore he
come back; and he said she might suit herself about that for all him.
That ‘are was the story that the housekeeper told to Aunt Polly; and
Aunt Polly she told me. These ‘ere squabbles somehow allers does kind o’
leak out one way or t’other. Anyhow, it was a house divided agin itself
at the Gineral’s, when he was a fixin’ out for the voyage. There was
Ruth a goin’ fust to one, and then to t’other, and tryin’ all she could
to keep peace beteen ‘em; and there was this ‘ere Master Slick Tongue
talkin’ this way to one side, and that way to t’other, and the old
Gineral kind o’ like a shuttle-cock atween ‘em.

“Wal, then, the night afore he sailed, the Gineral he hed his lawyer
up in his library there, a lookin’ over all his papers and bonds and
things, and a witnessing his will; and Master Jeff was there, as lively
as a cricket, a goin’ into all affairs, and offerin’ to take precious
good care while he was gone; and the Gineral he had his papers and
letters out, a sortin’ on ‘em over, which was to be took to the old
country, and which was to be put in a trunk to go back to Lawyer
Dennis’s office.

“Wal, Abner Ginger, Polly’s boy, he that was footman and waiter then
at the Gineral’s, he told me, that, about eight o’clock that evening he
went up with hot water and lemons and sperits and sich, and he see the
gret green table in the library all strewed and covered with piles o’
papers; and there was tin boxes a standin’ round; and the Gineral a
packin’ a trunk, and young Master Jeff, as lively and helpful as a rat
that smells cheese. And then the Gineral he says, ‘Abner,’ says he, ‘can
you write your name?’--‘I should hope so, Gineral.’ says Abner.--‘Wal,
then, Abner,’ says he, ‘this is my last will; and I want you to witness
it,’ and so Abner he put down his name opposite to a place with a wafer
and a seal; and then the Gineral, he says, ‘Abner, you tell Ginger to
come here.’ That, you see, was his housekeeper, my Aunt Polly’s sister,
and a likely woman as ever was. And so they had her up, and she put
down her name to the will; and then Aunt Polly she was had up (she was
drinking tea there that night), and she put down her name. And all of
‘em did it with good heart, ‘cause it had got about among ‘em that the
will was to provide for Miss Ruth; for everybody loved Ruth, ye see, and
there was consid’ble many stories kind o’ goin’ the rounds about Master
Jeff and his doin’s. And they did say he sort o’ kep’ up the strife
atween the Gineral and my lady, and so they didn’t think none too well
o’ him; and, as he was next o’ kin, and Miss Ruth wa’n’t none o’ the
Gineral’s blood (ye see, she was Mis’ Sullivan’s sister’s child), of
course there wouldn’t nothin’ go to Miss Ruth in way o’ law, and so that
was why the signin’ o’ that ‘are will was so much talked about among

“Wal, you see, the Gineral he sailed the next day; and Jeff he staid by
to keep watch o’ things.

“Wal, the old Gineral he got over safe; for Miss Sullivan, she had a
letter from him all right. When he got away, his conscience sort o’
nagged him, and he was minded to be a good husband. At any rate, he
wrote a good loving letter to her, and sent his love to Ruth, and sent
over lots o’ little keepsakes and things for her, and told her that he
left her under good protection, and wanted her to try and make up her
mind to marry Jeff, as that would keep the property together.

“Wal, now there couldn’t be no sort o’ sugar sweeter than Jeff was to
them lone wimmen. Jeff was one o’ the sort that could be all things to
all wimmen. He waited and he tended, and he was as humble as any snake
in the grass that ever ye see and the old lady, she clean fell in with
him, but Ruth, she seemed to have a regular spite agin him. And she that
war as gentle as a lamb, that never had so much as a hard thought of a
mortal critter, and wouldn’t tread on a worm, she was so set agin Jeff,
that she wouldn’t so much as touch his hand when she got out o’ her

“Wal, now comes the strange part o’ my story. Ruth was one o’ the kind
that _hes the gift o’ seein’. She was born with a veil over her face!_”

This mysterious piece of physiological information about Ruth was given
with a look and air that announced something very profound and awful;
and we both took up the inquiry, “Born with a veil over her face? How
should _that_ make her see?”

“Wal, boys; how should I know? But the fact _is so_. There’s those as is
wal known as hes the gift o’ seein’ what others can’t see: they can see
through walls and houses; they can see people’s hearts; they can
see what’s to come. They don’t know nothin’ how ‘tis, but this ‘ere
knowledge comes to ‘em: it’s a gret gift; and that sort’s born with the
veil over their faces. Ruth was o’ these ‘ere. Old Granny Badger she
was the knowingest old nuss in all these parts; and she was with Ruth’s
mother when she was born, and she told Lady Lothrop all about it. Says
she, ‘You may depend upon it that child ‘ll have the “second-sight”’
says she. Oh, that ‘are fact was wal known! Wal, that was the reason
why Jeff Sullivan couldn’t come it round Ruth tho’ he was silkier than
a milkweed-pod, and jest about as patient as a spider in his hole a
watchin’ to get his grip on a fly. Ruth wouldn’t argue with him, and she
wouldn’t flout him; but she jest shut herself up in herself, and kept a
lookout on him; but she told your Aunt Lois jest what she thought about

“Wal, in about six months, come the news that the Gineral was dead. He
dropped right down in his tracks, dead with apoplexy, as if he had been
shot; and Lady Maxwell she writ a long letter to my lady and Ruth. Ye
see, he’d got to be Sir Thomas Sullivan over there; and he was a comin’
home to take ‘em all over to England to live in grande’r. Wal, my Lady
Sullivan (she was then, ye see) she took it drefful hard. Ef they’d a
been the lovingest couple in the world, she couldn’t a took it harder.
Aunt Polly, she said it was all ‘cause she thought so much of him, that
she fit him so. There’s women that thinks so much o’ their husbands,
that they won’t let ‘em hev no peace o’ their life; and I expect it war
so with her, poor soul! Any way, she went right down smack, when she
heard he was dead. She was abed, sick, when the news come; and she never
spoke nor smiled, jest turned her back to everybody, and kinder wilted
and wilted, and was dead in a week. And there was poor little Ruth left
all alone in the world, with neither kith nor kin but Jeff.

“Wal, when the funeral was over, and the time app’inted to read the will
and settle up matters, there wa’n’t no will to be found nowhere, high
nor low.

“Lawyer Dean he flew round like a parched pea on a shovel. He said he
thought he could a gone in the darkest night, and put his hand on that
‘ere will; but when he went where he thought it was, he found it warn’t
there, and he knowed he’d kep’ it under lock and key. What he thought
was the will turned out to be an old mortgage. Wal, there was an awful
row and a to-do about it, you may be sure. Ruth, she jist said nothin’
good or bad. And her not speakin’ made Jeff a sight more uncomfortable
than ef she’d a hed it out with him. He told her it shouldn’t make no
sort o’ difference; that he should allers stand ready to give her all he
hed, if she’d only take him with it. And when it came to that she only
gin him a look, and went out o’ the room.

“Jeff he flared and flounced and talked, and went round and round a
rumpussin’ among the papers, but no will was forthcomin’, high or low.
Wal, now here comes what’s remarkable. Ruth she told this ‘ere, all the
particulars, to yer Aunt Lois and Lady Lothrop. She said that the night
after the funeral she went up to her chamber. Ruth had the gret
front chamber, opposite to Mis’ Sullivan’s. I’ve been in it; it was a
monstrous big room, with outlandish furniture in it, that the Gineral
brought over from an old palace out to Italy. And there was a great big
lookin’-glass over the dressin’-table, that they said come from Venice,
that swung so that you could see the whole room in it. Wal, she was a
standin’ front o’ this, jist goin’ to undress herself, a hearin’ the
rain drip on the leaves and the wind a whishin’ and whisperin’ in the
old elm-trees, and jist a thinkin’ over her lot, and what should she
do now, all alone in the world, when of a sudden she felt a kind o’
lightness in her head, and she thought she seemed to see somebody in the
glass a movin’. And she looked behind, and there wa’n’t nobody there.
Then she looked forward in the glass, and saw a strange big room, that
she’d never seen before, with a long painted winder in it; and along
side o’ this stood a tall cabinet with a good many drawers in it. And
she saw herself, and knew that it was herself, in this room, along with
another woman whose back was turned towards her. She saw herself speak
to this woman, and p’int to the cabinet. She saw the woman nod her head.
She saw herself go to the cabinet, and open the middle drawer, and take
out a bundle o’ papers from the very back end on’t. She saw her take out
a paper from the middle, and open it, and hold it up; and she knew that
there was the missin’ will. Wal, it all overcome her so that she fainted
clean away. And her maid found her a lyin’ front o’ the dressin’-table
on the floor.

“She was sick of a fever’ for a week or fortnight a’ter; and your Aunt
Lois she was down takin’ care of her; and, as soon as she got able to be
moved, she was took out to Lady Lothrop’s. Jeff he was jist as attentive
and good as he could be; but she wouldn’t bear him near her room. If he
so much as set a foot on the stairs that led to it she’d know it, and
got so wild that he hed to be kept from comin’ into the front o’ the
house. But he was doin’ his best to buy up good words from everybody. He
paid all the servants double; he kept every one in their places, and
did so well by ‘em all that the gen’l word among ‘em was that Miss Ruth
couldn’t do better than to marry such a nice, open-handed gentleman.

“Wal, Lady Lothrop she wrote to Lady Maxwell all that hed happened; and
Lady Maxwell, she sent over for Ruth to come over and be a companion for
her, and said she’d adopt her, and be as a mother to her.

“Wal, then Ruth she went over with some gentlefolks that was goin’ back
to England, and offered to see her safe and sound; and so she was set
down at Lady Maxwell’s manor. It was a grand place, she said, and such
as she never see before,--like them old gentry places in England. And
Lady Maxwell she made much of her, and cosseted her up for the sake of
what the old Gineral had said about her. And Ruth she told her all her
story, and how she believed that the will was to be found somewhere, and
that she should be led to see it yet.

“She told her, too, that she felt it in her that Cap’n Oliver wasn’t
dead, and that he’d come back yet. And Lady Maxwell she took up for her
with might and main, and said she’d stand by her. But then, ye see, so
long as there warn’t no will to be found, there warn’t nothin’ to be
done. Jeff was the next heir; and he’d got every thing, stock, and lot,
and the estate in England into the bargain. And folks was beginnin’ to
think putty well of him, as folks allers does when a body is up in the
world, and hes houses and lands. Lordy massy! riches allers covers a
multitude o’ sins.

“Finally, when Ruth hed ben six months with her, one day Lady Maxwell
got to tellin’ her all about her history, and what hed ben atween her
and her cousin, when they was young, and how they hed a quarrel and he
flung off to Ameriky, and all them things that it don’t do folks no good
to remember when it’s all over and can’t be helped. But she was a lone
body, and it seemed to do her good to talk about it.

“Finally, she says to Ruth, says she, ‘I’ll show you a room in this
house you han’t seen before. It was the room where we hed that quarrel,’
says she; ‘and the last I saw of him was there, till he come back to
die,’ says she.

“So she took a gret key out of her bunch; and she led Ruth along a
long passage-way to the other end of the house, and opened on a great
library. And the minute Ruth came in, she threw up her hands and gin a
great cry. ‘Oh!’ says she, ‘this is the room! and there is the window!
and there is the cabinet! and _there in that middle drawer at the back
end in a bundle of papers is the will!_

“And Lady Maxwell she said, quite dazed, ‘Go look,’ says she. And Ruth
went, jest as she seed herself do, and opened the drawer, and drew forth
from the back part a yellow pile of old letters. And in the middle of
those was the will, sure enough. Ruth drew it out, and opened it, and
showed it to her.

“Wal, you see that will give Ruth the whole of the Gineral’s property in
America, tho’ it did leave the English estate to Jeff.

“Wal, the end on’t was like a story-book.

“Jeff he made believe be mighty glad. And he said it must a ben that the
Gineral hed got flustered with the sperit and water, and put that
‘ere will in among his letters that he was a doin’ up to take back to
England. For it was in among Lady Maxwell’s letters that she writ him
when they was young, and that he’d a kep’ all these years and was a
takin’ back to her.

“Wal, Lawyer Dean said he was sure that Jeff made himself quite busy and
useful that night, a tyin’ up the papers with red tape, and a packin’
the Gineral’s trunk; and that, when Jeff gin him his bundle to lock up
in his box, he never mistrusted but what he’d got it all right.

“Wal, you see it was jest one of them things that can’t be known to the
jedgment-day. It might a ben an accident, and then agin it might not;
and folks settled it one way or t’other, ‘cordin’ to their ‘pinion
o’ Jeff; but ye see how ‘mazin’ handy for him it happened! Why, ef it
hadn’t ben for the providence I’ve ben a tellin’ about, there it might a
lain in them old letters, that Lady Maxwell said she never hed the heart
to look over! it never would a turned up in the world.”

“Well,” said I, “what became of Ruth?” “Oh! Cap’n Oliver he came back
all alive, and escaped from the Algerines; and they was married in
King’s Chapel, and lived in the old Sullivan House, in peace and
prosperity. That’s jest how the story was; and now Aunt Lois can make
what she’s a mind ter out on’t.”

“And what became of Jeff?” “Oh! he started to go over to England, and
the ship was wrecked off the Irish coast, and that was the last of him.
He never got to his property.”

“Good enough for him,” said both of us.’ “Wal, I don’t know: ‘twas
pretty hard on Jeff. Mebbe he did, and mebbe he didn’t. I’m glad I
warn’t in his shoes, tho’. I’d rather never hed nothin’. This ‘ere
hastin’ to be rich is sich a drefful temptation.

“Wal, now, boys, ye’ve done a nice lot o’ flax, and I guess we’ll go up
to yer grand’ther’s cellar and git a mug o’ cyder. Talkin’ always gits
me dry.”

[Illustration: Tailpiece, Page 052]

[Illustration: The Minister’s Housekeeper, Page 053]


Scene.--The shady side of a blueberry-pasture.--Sam Lawson with the
boys, picking blueberries.--Sam, _loq_.

As, you see, boys, ‘twas just here,--Parson Carryl’s wife, she died
along in the forepart o’ March: my cousin Huldy, she undertook to keep
house for him. The way on’t was, that Huldy, she went to take care
o’ Mis’ Carryl in the fust on’t, when she fust took sick. Huldy was
a tailoress by trade; but then she was one o’ these ‘ere facultised
persons that has a gift for most any thing, and that was how Mis’ Carryl
come to set sech store by her, that, when she was sick, nothin’ would do
for her but she must have Huldy round all the time: and the minister,
he said he’d make it good to her all the same, and she shouldn’t lose
nothin’ by it. And so Huldy, she staid with Mis’ Carryl full three
months afore she died, and got to seein’ to every thing pretty much
round the place.

“Wal, arter Mis’ Carryl died, Parson Carryl, he’d got so kind o’ used to
hevin’ on her ‘round, takin’ care o’ things, that he wanted her to stay
along a spell; and so Huldy, she staid along a spell, and poured out
his tea, and mended his close, and made pies and cakes, and cooked and
washed and ironed, and kep’ every thing as neat as a pin. Huldy was a
drefful chipper sort o’ gal; and work sort o’ rolled off from her like
water off a duck’s back. There warn’t no gal in Sherburne that could
put sich a sight o’ work through as Huldy; and yet, Sunday mornin’, she
always come out in the singers’ seat like one o’ these ‘ere June roses,
lookin’ so fresh and smilin’, and her voice was jest as clear and sweet
as a meadow lark’s--Lordy massy! I ‘member how she used to sing some o’
them ‘are places where the treble and counter used to go together: her
voice kind o’ trembled a little, and it sort o’ went thro’ and thro’ a
feller! tuck him right where he lived!”

Here Sam leaned contemplatively back with his head in a clump of sweet
fern, and refreshed himself with a chew of young wintergreen. “This ‘ere
young wintergreen, boys, is jest like a feller’s thoughts o’ things that
happened when he was young: it comes up jest so fresh and tender every
year, the longest time you hev to live; and you can’t help chawin’
on’t tho’ ‘tis sort o’ stingin’. I don’t never get over likin’ young

“But about Huldah, Sam?”

“Oh, yes! about Huldy. Lordy massy! when a feller is Indianin’ round,
these ‘ere pleasant summer days, a feller’s thoughts gits like a flock
o’ young partridges: they’s up and down and everywhere; ‘cause one place
is jest about as good as another, when they’s all so kind o’ comfortable
and nice. Wal, about Huldy,--as I was a sayin’. She was jest as
handsome a gal to look at as a feller could have; and I think a nice,
well-behaved young gal in the singers’ seat of a Sunday is a means o’
grace: it’s sort o’ drawin’ to the unregenerate, you know. Why, boys, in
them days, I’ve walked ten miles over to Sherburne of a Sunday mornin’,
jest to play the bass-viol in the same singers’ seat with Huldy. She was
very much respected, Huldy was; and, when she went out to tailorin’, she
was allers bespoke six months ahead, and sent for in waggins up and down
for ten miles round; for the young fellers was allers ‘mazin’ anxious to
be sent after Huldy, and was quite free to offer to go for her. Wal,
after Mis’ Carryl died, Huldy got to be sort o’ housekeeper at the
minister’s, and saw to every thing, and did every thing: so that there
warn’t a pin out o’ the way.

“But you know how ‘tis in parishes: there allers is women that thinks
the minister’s affairs belongs to them, and they ought to have the
rulin’ and guidin’ of ‘em; and, if a minister’s wife dies, there’s folks
that allers has their eyes open on providences,--lookin’ out who’s to be
the next one.

“Now, there was Mis’ Amaziah Pipperidge, a widder with snappin’ black
eyes, and a hook nose,--kind o’ like a hawk; and she was one o’ them
up-and-down commandin’ sort o’ women, that feel that they have a call to
be seein’ to every thing that goes on in the parish, and ‘specially to
the minister.

“Folks did say that Mis’ Pipperidge sort o’ sot her eye on the parson
for herself: wal, now that ‘are might a been, or it might not. Some
folks thought it was a very suitable connection. You see she hed a good
property of her own, right nigh to the minister’s lot, and was allers
kind o’ active and busy; so takin’ one thing with another, I shouldn’t
wonder if Mis’ Pipperidge should a thought that Providence p’inted that
way. At any rate, she went up to Deakin Blodgett’s wife, and they two
sort o’ put their heads together a mournin’ and condolin’ about the way
things was likely to go on at the minister’s now Mis’ Carryl was dead.
Ye see, the parson’s wife, she was one of them women who hed their eyes
everywhere and on every thing. She was a little thin woman, but tough as
Inger rubber, and smart as a steel trap; and there warn’t a hen laid an
egg, or cackled, but Mis’ Carryl was right there to see about it; and
she hed the garden made in the spring, and the medders mowed in summer,
and the cider made, and the corn husked, and the apples got in the
fall; and the doctor, he hedn’t nothin’ to do but jest sit stock still a
meditatin’ on Jerusalem and Jericho and them things that ministers think
about. But Lordy massy! he didn’t know nothin’ about where any thing he
eat or drunk or wore come from or went to: his wife jest led him ‘round
in temporal things and took care on him like a baby.

“Wal, to be sure, Mis’ Carryl looked up to him in spirituals, and
thought all the world on him; for there warn’t a smarter minister no
where ‘round. Why, when he preached on decrees and election, they used
to come clear over from South Parish, and West Sherburne, and Old Town
to hear him; and there was sich a row o’ waggins tied along by the
meetin’-house that the stables was all full, and all the hitchin’-posts
was full clean up to the tavern, so that folks said the doctor made the
town look like a gineral trainin’-day a Sunday.

“He was gret on texts, the doctor was. When he hed a p’int to prove,
he’d jest go thro’ the Bible, and drive all the texts ahead o’ him like
a flock o’ sheep; and then, if there was a text that seemed agin him,
why, he’d come out with his Greek and Hebrew, and kind o’ chase it
‘round a spell, jest as ye see a fellar chase a contrary bell-wether,
and make him jump the fence arter the rest. I tell you, there wa’n’t no
text in the Bible that could stand agin the doctor when his blood was
up. The year arter the doctor was app’inted to preach the ‘lection
sermon in Boston, he made such a figger that the Brattle-street Church
sent a committee right down to see if they couldn’t get him to Boston;
and then the Sherburne folks, they up and raised his salary; ye see,
there ain’t nothin’ wakes folks up like somebody else’s wantin’ what
you’ve got. Wal, that fall they made him a Doctor o’ Divinity at
Cambridge College, and so they sot more by him than ever. Wal, you see,
the doctor, of course he felt kind o’ lonesome and afflicted when Mis’
Carryl was gone; but railly and truly, Huldy was so up to every thing
about house, that the doctor didn’t miss nothin’ in a temporal way.
His shirt-bosoms was pleated finer than they ever was, and them ruffles
‘round his wrists was kep’ like the driven snow; and there warn’t a
brack in his silk stockin’s, and his shoe buckles was kep’ polished up,
and his coats brushed; and then there warn’t no bread and biscuit like
Huldy’s; and her butter was like solid lumps o’ gold; and there wern’t
no pies to equal hers; and so the doctor never felt the loss o’ Miss
Carryl at table. Then there was Huldy allers opposite to him, with
her blue eyes and her cheeks like two fresh peaches. She was kind o’
pleasant to look at; and the more the doctor looked at her the better
he liked her; and so things seemed to be goin’ on quite quiet and
comfortable ef it hadn’t been that Mis’ Pipperidge and Mis’ Deakin
Blodgett and Mis’ Sawin got their heads together a talkin’ about things.

“‘Poor man,’ says Mis’ Pipperidge, ‘what can that child that he’s got
there do towards takin’ the care of all that place? It takes a mature
woman,’ she says, ‘to tread in Mis’ Carryl’s shoes.’

“‘That it does,’ said Mis’ Blodgett; and, when things once get to
runnin’ down hill, there ain’t no stoppin’ on ‘em,’ says she.

“Then Mis’ Sawin she took it up. (Ye see, Mis’ Sawin used to go out to
dress-makin’, and was sort o’ ‘jealous, ‘cause folks sot more by Huldy
than they did by her). ‘Well,’ says she, ‘Huldy Peters is well enough at
her trade. I never denied that, though I do say I never did believe in
her way o’ makin’ button-holes; and I must say, if ‘twas the dearest
friend I hed, that I thought Huldy tryin’ to fit Mis’ Kittridge’s
plumb-colored silk was a clear piece o’ presumption; the silk was jist
spiled, so ‘twarn’t fit to come into the meetin’-house. I must say,
Huldy’s a gal that’s always too ventersome about takin’ ‘sponsibilities
she don’t know nothin’ about.’

“‘Of course she don’t,’ said Mis’ Deakin Blodgett. ‘What does she know
about all the lookin’ and seein’ to that there ought to be in guidin’
the minister’s house. Huldy’s well meanin’, and she’s good at her
work, and good in the singers’ seat; but Lordy massy! she hain’t got
no experience. Parson Carryl ought to have an experienced woman to
keep house for him. There’s the spring house-cleanin’ and the fall
house-cleanin’ to be seen to, and the things to be put away from the
moths; and then the gettin’ ready for the association and all the
ministers’ meetin’s; and the makin’ the soap and the candles, and
settin’ the hens and turkeys, watchin’ the calves, and seein’ after
the hired men and the garden; and there that ‘are blessed man jist sets
there at home as serene, and has nobody ‘round but that ‘are gal, and
don’t even know how things must be a runnin’ to waste!’

“Wal, the upshot on’t was, they fussed and fuzzled and wuzzled till
they’d drinked up all the tea in the teapot; and then they went down and
called on the parson, and wuzzled him all up talkin’ about this, that,
and t’other that wanted lookin’ to, and that it was no way to leave
every thing to a young chit like Huldy, and that he ought to be lookin’
about for an experienced woman. The parson he thanked ‘em kindly, and
said he believed their motives was good, but he didn’t go no further.
He didn’t ask Mis’ Pipperidge to come and stay there and help him, nor
nothin’ o’ that kind; but he said he’d attend to matters himself. The
fact was, the parson had got such a likin’ for havin’ Huldy ‘round, that
he couldn’t think o’ such a thing as swappin’ her off for the Widder

“But he thought to himself, ‘Huldy is a good girl; but I oughtn’t to
be a leavin’ every thing to her,--it’s too hard on her. I ought to be
instructin’ and guidin’ and helpin’ of her; ‘cause ‘tain’t everybody
could be expected to know and do what Mis’ Carryl did;’ and so at it he
went; and Lordy massy! didn’t Huldy hev a time on’t when the minister
began to come out of his study, and want to tew ‘round and see to
things? Huldy, you see, thought all the world of the minister, and she
was ‘most afraid to laugh; but she told me she couldn’t, for the life of
her, help it when his back was turned, for he wuzzled things up in the
most singular way. But Huldy she’d jest say ‘Yes, sir,’ and get him off
into his study, and go on her own way.

“‘Huldy,’ says the minister one day, ‘you ain’t experienced out doors;
and, when you want to know any thing, you must come to me.’

“‘Yes, sir,’ says Huldy.

“‘Now, Huldy,’ says the parson, ‘you must be sure to save the
turkey-eggs, so that we can have a lot of turkeys for Thanksgiving.’

“‘Yes, sir,’ says Huldy; and she opened the pantry-door, and showed
him a nice dishful she’d been a savin’ up. Wal, the very next day the
parson’s hen-turkey was found killed up to old Jim Scroggs’s barn. Folks
said Scroggs killed it; though Scroggs, he stood to it he didn’t: at
any rate, the Scroggses, they made a meal on’t; and Huldy, she felt bad
about it ‘cause she’d set her heart on raisin’ the turkeys; and says
she, ‘Oh, dear! I don’t know what I shall do. I was just ready to see
[set] her.’

“‘Do, Huldy?’ says the parson: ‘why, there’s the other turkey, out there
by the door; and a fine bird, too, he is.’ Sure enough, there was the
old tom-turkey a struttin’ and a sidlin’ and a quitterin,’ and a
floutin’ his tail-feathers in the sun, like a lively young widower, all
ready to begin life over agin.

“‘But,’ says Huldy, ‘you know he can’t set on eggs.’

“‘He can’t? I’d like to know why,’ says the parson. ‘He ‘shall’ set on
eggs, and hatch ‘em too.’

“‘O doctor!’ says Huldy, all in a tremble; ‘cause, you know, she
didn’t want to contradict the minister, and she was afraid she should
laugh,--‘I never heard that a tom-turkey would set on eggs.’

“‘Why, they ought to,’ said the parson, getting quite ‘arnest: ‘what
else be they good for? you just bring out the eggs, now, and put ‘em in
the nest, and I’ll make him set on ‘em.’

“So Huldy she thought there wern’t no way to convince him but to let him
try: so she took the eggs out, and fixed ‘em all nice in the nest;
and then she come back and found old Tom a skirmishin’ with the parson
pretty lively, I tell ye. Ye see, old Tom he didn’t take the idee at
all; and he flopped and gobbled, and fit the parson; and the parson’s
wig got ‘round so that his cue stuck straight out over his ear, but he’d
got his blood up. Ye see, the old doctor was used to carryin’ his p’ints
o’ doctrine; and he hadn’t fit the Arminians and Socinians to be beat by
a tom-turkey; so finally he made a dive, and ketched him by the neck
in spite o’ his floppin’, and stroked him down, and put Huldy’s apron
‘round him.

“‘There, Huldy,’ he says, quite red in the face, ‘we’ve got him now;
‘and he travelled off to the barn with him as lively as a cricket.

[Illustration: Huldy came behind chokin’ with laugh, Page 065]

“Huldy came behind jist chokin’ with laugh, and afraid the minister
would look ‘round and see her.

“‘Now, Huldy, we’ll crook his legs, and set him down,’ says the parson,
when they got him to the nest: ‘you see he is getting quiet, and he’ll
set there all right.’

“And the parson, he sot him down; and old Tom he sot there solemn
enough, and held his head down all droopin’, lookin’ like a rail pious
old cock, as long as the parson sot by him.

“‘There: you see how still he sets,’ says the parson to Huldy.

“Huldy was ‘most dyin’ for fear she should laugh. ‘I’m afraid he’ll get
up,’ says she, ‘when you do.’

“‘Oh, no, he won’t!’ says the parson, quite confident. ‘There, there,’
says he, layin’ his hands on him, as if pronouncin’ a blessin’. But when
the parson riz up, old Tom he riz up too, and began to march over the

“‘Stop, now!’ says the parson. ‘I’ll make him get down agin: hand me
that corn-basket; we’ll put that over him.’

“So he crooked old Tom’s legs, and got him down agin; and they put the
corn-basket over him, and then they both stood and waited.

“‘That’ll do the thing, Huldy,’ said the parson.

“‘I don’t know about it,’ says Huldy.

“‘Oh, yes, it will, child! I understand,’ says he.

“Just as he spoke, the basket riz right up and stood, and they could see
old Tom’s long legs.

“‘I’ll make him stay down, confound him,’ says the parson; for, ye see,
parsons is men, like the rest on us, and the doctor had got his spunk

“‘You jist hold him a minute, and I’ll get something that’ll make him
stay, I guess;’ and out he went to the fence, and brought in a long,
thin, flat stone, and laid it on old Tom’s back.

“Old Tom he wilted down considerable under this, and looked railly as if
he was goin’ to give in. He staid still there a good long spell, and
the minister and Huldy left him there and come up to the house; but
they hadn’t more than got in the door before they see old Tom a hippin’
along, as high-steppin’ as ever, sayin’ ‘Talk! talk! and quitter!
quitter!’ and struttin’ and gobblin’ as if he’d come through the Red
Sea, and got the victory.

“‘Oh, my eggs!’ says Huldy. ‘I’m afraid he’s smashed ‘em!’

“And sure enough, there they was, smashed flat enough under the stone.

“‘I’ll have him killed,’ said the parson: ‘we won’t have such a critter

“But the parson, he slep’ on’t, and then didn’t do it: he only come
out next Sunday with a tip-top sermon on the ‘Riginal Cuss’ that was
pronounced on things in gineral, when Adam fell, and showed how every
thing was allowed to go contrary ever since. There was pig-weed, and
pusley, and Canady thistles, cut-worms, and bag-worms, and canker-worms,
to say nothin’ of rattlesnakes. The doctor made it very impressive and
sort o’ improvin’; but Huldy, she told me, goin’ home, that she hardly
could keep from laughin’ two or three times in the sermon when she
thought of old Tom a standin’ up with the corn-basket on his back.

“Wal, next week Huldy she jist borrowed the minister’s horse
and side-saddle, and rode over to South Parish to her Aunt
Bascome’s,--Widder Bascome’s, you know, that lives there by the
trout-brook,--and got a lot o’ turkey-eggs o’ her, and come back and set
a hen on ‘em, and said nothin’; and in good time there was as nice a lot
o’ turkey-chicks as ever ye see.

“Huldy never said a word to the minister about his experiment, and he
never said a word to her; but he sort o’ kep’ more to his books, and
didn’t take it on him to advise her.

“But not long arter he took it into his head that Huldy ought to have a
pig to be a fattin’ with the buttermilk. Mis’ Pipperidge set him up to
it; and jist then old Tim Bigelow, out to Juniper Hill, told him if he’d
call over he’d give him a little pig.

“So he sent for a man, and told him to build a pigpen right out by the
well, and have it all ready when he came home with his pig.

“Huldy she said she wished he might put a curb round the well out there,
because in the dark, sometimes, a body might stumble into it; and the
parson, he told him he might do that.

“Wal, old Aikin, the carpenter, he didn’t come till most the middle of
the arternoon; and then he sort o’ idled, so that he didn’t get up the
well-curb till sundown; and then he went off and said he’d come and do
the pig-pen next day.

“Wal, arter dark, Parson Carryl he driv into the yard, full chizel, with
his pig. He’d tied up his mouth to keep him from squeelin’; and he see
what he thought was the pig-pen,--he was rather nearsighted,--and so he
ran and threw piggy over; and down he dropped into the water, and
the minister put out his horse and pranced off into the house quite

“‘There, Huldy, I’ve got you a nice little pig.’

“‘Dear me!’ says Huldy: ‘where have you put him?’

“‘Why, out there in the pig-pen, to be sure.’

“‘Oh, dear me!’ says Huldy: ‘that’s the well-curb; there ain’t no
pig-pen built,’ says she.

“‘Lordy massy!’ says the parson: ‘then I’ve thrown the pig in the well!’

[Illustration: I’ve thrown the pig in the well, Page 070]

“Wal, Huldy she worked and worked, and finally she fished piggy out in
the bucket, but he was dead as a door-nail; and she got him out o’ the
way quietly, and didn’t say much; and the parson, he took to a
great Hebrew book in his study; and says he, ‘Huldy, I ain’t much in
temporals,’ says he. Huldy says she kind o’ felt her heart go out to
him, he was so sort o’ meek and helpless and lamed; and says she, ‘Wal,
Parson Carryl, don’t trouble your head no more about it; I’ll see
to things;’ and sure enough, a week arter there was a nice pen, all
ship-shape, and two little white pigs that Huldy bought with the money
for the butter she sold at the store.

“‘Wal, Huldy,’ said the parson, ‘you are a most amazin’ child: you don’t
say nothin’ but you do more than most folks.’

“Arter that the parson set sich store by Huldy that he come to her and
asked her about every thing, and it was amazin’ how every thing she put
her hand to prospered. Huldy planted marigolds and larkspurs, pinks and
carnations, all up and down the path to the front door, and trained
up mornin’ glories and scarlet-runners round the windows. And she
was always a gettin’ a root here, and a sprig there, and a seed from
somebody else: for Huldy was one o’ them that has the gift, so that ef
you jist give ‘em the leastest sprig of any thing they make a great
bush out of it right away; so that in six months Huldy had roses and
geraniums and lilies, sich as it would a took a gardener to raise. The
parson, he took no notice at fust; but when the yard was all ablaze with
flowers he used to come and stand in a kind o’ maze at the front door,
and say, ‘Beautiful, beautiful: why, Huldy, I never see any thing like
it.’ And then when her work was done arternoons, Huldy would sit with
her sewin’ in the porch, and sing and trill away till she’d draw the
meadow-larks and the bobolinks, and the orioles to answer her, and the
great big elm-tree overhead would get perfectly rackety with the
birds; and the parson, settin’ there in his study, would git to kind o’
dreamin’ about the angels, and golden harps, and the New Jerusalem;
but he wouldn’t speak a word, ‘cause Huldy she was jist like them
wood-thrushes, she never could sing so well when she thought folks was
hearin’. Folks noticed, about this time, that the parson’s sermons got
to be like Aaron’s rod, that budded and blossomed: there was things
in ‘em about flowers and birds, and more ‘special about the music o’
heaven. And Huldy she noticed, that ef there was a hymn run in her head
while she was ‘round a workin’ the minister was sure to give it out next
Sunday. You see, Huldy was jist like a bee: she always sung when she was
workin’, and you could hear her trillin’, now down in the corn-patch,
while she was pickin’ the corn; and now in the buttery, while she was
workin’ the butter; and now she’d go singin’ down cellar, and then she’d
be singin’ up over head, so that she seemed to fill a house chock full
o’ music.

“Huldy was so sort o’ chipper and fair spoken, that she got the hired
men all under her thumb: they come to her and took her orders jist
as meek as so many calves; and she traded at the store, and kep’ the
accounts, and she hed her eyes everywhere, and tied up all the ends so
tight that there want no gettin’ ‘round her. She wouldn’t let nobody put
nothin’ off on Parson Carryl, ‘cause he was a minister. Huldy was allers
up to anybody that wanted to make a hard bargain; and, afore he knew
jist what he was about, she’d got the best end of it, and everybody said
that Huldy was the most capable gal that they’d ever traded with.

“Wal, come to the meetin’ of the Association, Mis’ Deakin Blodgett and
Mis’ Pipperidge come callin’ up to the parson’s, all in a stew, and
offerin’ their services to get the house ready; but the doctor, he jist
thanked ‘em quite quiet, and turned ‘em over to Huldy; and Huldy she
told ‘em that she’d got every thing ready, and showed ‘em her pantries,
and her cakes and her pies and her puddin’s, and took ‘em all over the
house; and they went peekin’ and pokin’, openin’ cupboard-doors, and
lookin’ into drawers; and they couldn’t find so much as a thread out o’
the way, from garret to cellar, and so they went off quite discontented.
Arter that the women set a new trouble a brewin’. Then they begun to
talk that it was a year now since Mis’ Carryl died; and it r’ally wasn’t
proper such a young gal to be stayin’ there, who everybody could see was
a settin’ her cap for the minister.

“Mis’ Pipperidge said, that, so long as she looked on Huldy as the hired
gal, she hadn’t thought much about it; but Huldy was railly takin’ on
airs as an equal, and appearin’ as mistress o’ the house in a way that
would make talk if it went on. And Mis’ Pipperidge she driv ‘round up to
Deakin Abner Snow’s, and down to Mis’ ‘Lijah Perry’s, and asked them
if they wasn’t afraid that the way the parson and Huldy was a goin’ on
might make talk. And they said they hadn’t thought on’t before, but now,
come to think on’t, they was sure it would; and they all went and talked
with somebody else, and asked them if they didn’t think it would make
talk. So come Sunday, between meetin’s there warn’t nothin’ else talked
about; and Huldy saw folks a noddin’ and a winkin’, and a lookin’ arter
her, and she begun to feel drefful sort o’ disagreeable. Finally Mis’
Sawin she says to her, ‘My dear, didn’t you, never think folk would talk
about you and the minister?’

“‘No: why should they?’ says Huldy, quite innocent.

“Wal, dear,’ says she, ‘I think it’s a shame; but they say you’re tryin’
to catch him, and that it’s so bold and improper for you to be courtin’
of him right in his own house,--you know folks will talk,--I thought I’d
tell you ‘cause I think so much of you,’ says she.

“Huldy was a gal of spirit, and she despised the talk, but it made her
drefful uncomfortable; and when she got home at night she sat down in
the mor-nin’-glory porch, quite quiet, and didn’t sing a word.

“The minister he had heard the same thing from one of his deakins that
day; and, when he saw Huldy so kind o’ silent, he says to her, ‘Why
don’t you sing, my child?’

“He hed a pleasant sort o’ way with him, the minister had, and Huldy had
got to likin’ to be with him; and it all come over her that perhaps
she ought to go away; and her throat kind o’ filled up so she couldn’t
hardly speak; and, says she, ‘I can’t sing to-night.’

“Says he, ‘You don’t know how much good you’re singin’ has done me, nor
how much good _you_ have done me in all ways, Huldy. I wish I knew how
to show my gratitude.’

“‘O sir!’ says Huldy, ‘_is_ it improper for me to be here?’

“‘No, dear,’ says the minister, ‘but ill-natured folks will talk; but
there is one way we can stop it, Huldy--if you will marry me. You’ll
make me very happy, and I’ll do all I can to make you happy. Will you?’

“Wal, Huldy never told me jist what she said to the minister,--gals
never does give you the particulars of them ‘are things jist as you’d
like ‘em,--only I know the upshot and the hull on’t was, that Huldy she
did a consid’able lot o’ clear starchin’ and ironin’ the next two days;
and the Friday o’ next week the minister and she rode over together
to Dr. Lothrop’s in Old Town; and the doctor, he jist made ‘em man and
wife, ‘spite of envy of the Jews,’ as the hymn says. Wal, you’d better
believe there was a starin’ and a wonderin’ next Sunday mornin’ when the
second bell was a tollin’, and the minister walked up the broad aisle
with Huldy, all in white, arm in arm with him, and he opened the
minister’s pew, and handed her in as if she was a princess; for, you
see, Parson Carryl come of a good family, and was a born gentleman, and
had a sort o’ grand way o’ bein’ polite to women-folks. Wal, I guess
there was a rus’lin’ among the bunnets. Mis’ Pipperidge gin a great
bounce, like corn poppin’ on a shovel, and her eyes glared through her
glasses at Huldy as if they’d a sot her afire; and everybody in the
meetin’ house was a starin’, I tell _yew_. But they couldn’t none of
‘em say nothin’ agin Huldy’s looks; for there wa’n’t a crimp nor a frill
about her that wa’n’t jis’ _so_; and her frock was white as the driven
snow, and she had her bunnet all trimmed up with white ribbins; and
all the fellows said the old doctor had stole a march, and got the
handsomest gal in the parish.

“Wal, arter meetin’ they all come ‘round the parson and Huldy at the
door, shakin’ hands and laugh-in’; for by that time they was about
agreed that they’d got to let putty well alone.

“‘Why, Parson Carryl,’ says Mis’ Deakin Blodgett, ‘how you’ve come it
over us.’

“‘Yes,’ says the parson, with a kind o’ twinkle in his eye. ‘I thought,’
says he, ‘as folks wanted to talk about Huldy and me, I’d give ‘em
somethin’ wuth talkin’ about.’”

[Illustration: Tailpiece, Page 078]

[Illustration: The Widow’s Bandbox, Page 079]


“Lordy massy! Stick yer hat into the nor’east, Horace, and see ‘f ye
can’t stop out this ‘ere wind. I’m e’eny most used up with it.” So spake
Sam Lawson, contemplating mournfully a new broad-brimmed straw hat in
which my soul was rejoicing. It was the dripping end of a sour November
afternoon, which closed up a “spell o’ weather” that had been steadily
driving wind and rain for a week past; and we boys sought the shelter
and solace of his shop, and, opening the door, let in the wind

Sam had been all day in one of his periodical fits of desperate
industry. The smoke and sparks had been seen flying out of his
shop-chimney in a frantic manner; and the blows of his hammer had
resounded with a sort of feverish persistence, intermingled with a
doleful wailing of psalm-tunes of the most lugubrious description.

These fits of industry on Sam’s part were an affliction to us boys,
especially when they happened to come on Saturday: for Sam was as much a
part of our Saturday-afternoon calculations as if we had a regular deed
of property in him; and we had been all day hanging round his shop,
looking in from time to time, in the vague hope that he would propose
something to brighten up the dreary monotony of a holiday in which it
had been impossible to go anywhere or do any thing.

“Sam, ain’t you coming over to tell us some stories to-night?”

“Bless your soul and body, boys! life ain’t made to be spent tellin’
stories. Why, I shall hev to be up here workin’ till arter twelve
o’clock,” said Sam, who was suddenly possessed with a spirit of the most
austere diligence. “Here I be up to my neck in work,--things kind o’
comin’ in a heap together. There’s Mis’ Cap’n Broad’s andirons, she sent
word she must have ‘em to-night; and there’s Lady Lothrop, she wants her
warmin’-pan right off; they can’t non’ on ‘em wait a minit longer. I’ve
ben a drivin’ and workin’ all day like a nigger-slave. Then there was
Jeduth Pettybone, he brought down them colts to-day, and I worked the
biggest part o’ the mornin’ shoein’ on ‘em; and then Jeduth he said he
couldn’t make change to pay me, so there wa’n’t nothin’ comin’ in for
‘t; and then Hepsy she kep’ a jawin’ at me all dinner-time ‘bout that.
Why, I warn’t to blame now, was I? I can’t make everybody do jest right
and pay regular, can I? So ye see it goes, boys, gettin’ yer bread by
the sweat o’ your brow; and sometimes sweatin’ and not gettin’ yer
bread. That ‘ere’s what I call the _cuss_, the ‘riginal cuss, that come
on man for hearkenin’ to the voice o’ his wife,--that ‘ere was what did
it. It allers kind o’ riles me up with Mother Eve when I think on’t. The
women hain’t no bisness to fret as they do, ‘cause they sot this ‘ere
state o’ things goin’ in the fust place.”

“But, Sam, Aunt Lois and Aunt Nabby are both going over to Mis’.
Mehitabel’s to tea. Now, you just come over and eat supper with us and
tell us a story, do.”

“Gone out to tea, be they?” said Sam, relaxing his hammering, with a
brightening gleam stealing gradually across his lanky visage. “Wal, that
‘ere looks like a providential openin’, to be sure. Wal, I guess I’ll
come. What’s the use o’ never havin’ a good time? Ef you work yourself
up into shoestrings you don’t get no thanks for it, and things in this
world’s ‘bout as broad as they is long: the women ‘ll scold, turn ‘em
which way ye will. A good mug o’ cider and some cold victuals over to
the Dea-kin’s ‘ll kind o’ comfort a feller up; and your granny she’s
sort o’ merciful, she don’t rub it into a fellow all the time like Miss

“Now, let’s see, boys,” said Sam, when a comfortable meal of pork and
beans had been disposed of, and a mug of cider was set down before the
fire to warm. “I s’pect ye’ll like to hear a Down-East story to-night.”

Of course we did, and tumbled over each other in our eagerness to get
the nearest place to the narrator.

Sam’s method of telling a story was as leisurely as that of some modern
novel-writers. He would take his time for it, and proceed by easy
stages. It was like the course of a dreamy, slow-moving river through a
tangled meadow-flat,--not a rush nor a bush but was reflected in it; in
short, Sam gave his philosophy of matters and things in general as he
went along, and was especially careful to impress an edifying moral.

“Wal, ye see, boys, ye know I was born down to Newport,--there where
it’s all ships and shipping, and sich. My old mother she kep’ a
boardin’-house for sailors down there. Wal, ye see, I rolled and tumbled
round the world pretty consid’able afore I got settled down here in

“Ye see, my mother she wanted to bind me out to a blacksmith, but I kind
o’ sort o’ didn’t seem to take to it. It was kind o’ hard work, and
boys is apt to want to take life easy. Wal, I used to run off to the
sea-shore, and lie stretched out on them rocks there, and look off on to
the water; and it did use to look so sort o’ blue and peaceful, and the
ships come a sailin’ in and out so sort o’ easy and natural, that I felt
as if that are’d be jest the easiest kind o’ life a fellow could have.
All he had to do was to get aboard one o’ them ships, and be off seekin’
his fortin at t’other end o’ the rainbow, where gold grows on bushes and
there’s valleys o’ diamonds.

“So, nothin’ would do but I gin my old mother the slip; and away I went
to sea, with my duds tied up in a han’kercher.

“I tell ye what, boys, ef ye want to find an easy life, don’t ye never
go to sea. I tell ye, life on shipboard ain’t what it looks to be on
shore. I hadn’t been aboard more’n three hours afore I was the sickest
critter that ever ye did see; and I tell you, I didn’t get no kind o’
compassion. Cap’ns and mates they allers thinks boys hain’t no kind o’
business to have no bowels nor nothin’, and they put it on ‘em sick or
well. It’s jest a kick here, and a cuff there, and a twitch by the ear
in t’other place; one a shovin’ on ‘em this way, and another hittin’ on
‘em a clip, and all growlin’ from mornin’ to night. I believe the way my
ears got so long was bein’ hauled out o’ my berth by ‘em: that ‘are’s a
sailor’s regular way o’ wakin’ up a boy.

“Wal, by time I got to the Penobscot country, all I wanted to know was
how to get back agin. That ‘are’s jest the way folks go all their lives,
boys. It’s all fuss, fuss, and stew, stew, till ye get somewhere; and
then it’s fuss, fuss, and stew, stew, to get back agin; jump here and
scratch yer eyes out, and jump there and scratch ‘em in agin,--that
‘are’s life.

“Wal, I kind o’ poked round in Penobscot country till I got a berth on
‘The Brilliant’ that was lyin’ at Camden, goin’ to sail to Boston.

“Ye see, ‘The Brilliant’ she was a tight little sloop in the government
service: ‘twas in the war-times, ye see, and Commodore Tucker that is
now (he was Cap’n Tucker then), he had the command on her,--used to
run up and down all the coast takin’ observations o’ the British, and
keepin’ his eye out on ‘em, and givin’ on ‘em a nip here and a clip
there,’ cordin’ as he got a good chance. Why, your grand’ther knew old
Commodore Tucker. It was he that took Dr. Franklin over Minister, to
France, and dodged all the British vessels, right in the middle o’
the war. I tell you that ‘are was like runnin’ through the drops in a
thunder-shower. He got chased by the British ships pretty consid’able,
but he was too spry for ‘em. Arter the war was over, Commodore Tucker
took over John Adams, our fust Minister to England. A drefful smart man
the Commodore was, but he most like to ‘a’ ben took in this ‘ere time
I’m a tellin’ ye about, and all ‘cause he was sort o’ softhearted to the
women. Tom Toothacre told me the story. Tom he was the one that got me
the berth on the ship. Ye see, I used to know Tom at Newport; and once
when he took sick there my mother nussed him up, and that was why Tom
was friends with me and got me the berth, and kep’ me warm in it too.
Tom he was one of your rael Maine boys, that’s hatched out, so to speak,
in water like ducks. He was born away down there on Harpswell P’int; and
they say, if ye throw one o’ them Harpswell babies into the sea, he’ll
take to it nateral, and swim like a cork: ef they hit their heads agin a
rock it only dents the rock, but don’t hurt the baby. Tom he was a great
character on the ship. He could see farther, and knew more ‘bout wind
and water, than most folks: the officers took Tom’s judgment, and the
men all went by his say. My mother she chalked a streak o’ good luck for
me when she nussed up Tom.

“Wal, we wus a lyin’ at Camden there, one arternoon, goin’ to sail for
Boston that night. It was a sort o’ soft, pleasant arternoon, kind
o’ still, and there wa’n’t nothin’ a goin’ on but jest the hens a
craw-crawin’, and a histin’ up one foot, and holdin’ it a spell ‘cause
they didn’t know when to set it down, and the geese a sissin’ and a
pickin’ at the grass. Ye see, Camden wasn’t nothin’ of a place,--‘twas
jest as if somebody had emptied out a pocketful o’ houses and forgot
‘em. There wer’n’t nothin’ a stirrin’ or goin’ on; and so we was all
took aback, when ‘bout four o’clock in the arternoon there come a
boat alongside, with a tall, elegant lady in it, all dressed in deep
mournin’. She rared up sort o’ princess-like, and come aboard our ship,
and wanted to speak to Cap’n Tucker. Where she come from, or what she
wanted, or where she was goin’ to, we none on us knew: she kep’ her veil
down so we couldn’t get sight o’ her face. All was, she must see Cap’n
Tucker alone right away.

“Wal, Cap’n Tucker he was like the generality o’ cap’ns. He was up to
‘bout every thing that any _man_ could do, but it was pretty easy for a
woman to come it over him. Ye see, cap’ns, they don’t see women as men
do ashore. They don’t have enough of ‘em to get tired on ‘em; and every
woman’s an angel to a sea-cap’n. Anyway, the cap’n he took her into his
cabin, and he sot her a chair, and was her humble servant to command,
and what would she have of him? And we was all a winkin’, and a nudgin’
each other, and a peekin’ to see what was to come o’ it. And she see
it; and so she asks, in a sort o’ princess’ way, to speak to the cap’n
alone; and so the doors was shut, and we was left to our own ideas, and
a wonderin’ what it was all to be about.

“Wal, you see, it come out arterwards all about what went on; and things
went this way. Jest as soon as the doors was shut, and she was left
alone with the cap’n, she busted out a cryin’ and a sobbin’ fit to break
her heart.

“Wal, the cap’n he tried to comfort her up: but no, she wouldn’t be
comforted, but went on a weepin’ and a wailin,’ and a wringin’ on her
hands, till the poor cap’n’s heart was a’most broke; for the cap’n was
the tenderest-hearted critter that could be, and couldn’t bear to see a
child or a woman in trouble noways.

“‘O cap’n!’ said she, ‘I’m the most unfortunate woman. I’m all alone
in the world,’ says she, ‘and I don’t know what’ll become of me ef you
don’t keep me,’ says she.

“Wal, the cap’n thought it was time to run up his colors; and so says
he, ‘Ma’am, I’m a married man, and love my wife,’ says he, ‘and so I can
feel for all women in distress,’ says he.

“‘Oh, well, then!’ says she,‘you can feel for me, and know how to pity
me. My dear husband’s just died suddenly when he was up the river. He
was took with the fever in the woods. I nussed him day and night,’
says she; ‘but he died there in a mis’able little hut far from home
and friends,’ says she; ‘and I’ve brought his body down with me, hopin’
Providence would open some way to get it back to our home in Boston. And
now, cap’n, you must help me.’

“Then the cap’n see what she was up to: and he hated to do it, and tried
to cut her off o’ askin’; but she wa’n’t to be put off.

“‘Now, cap’n,’ says she, ‘ef you’ll take me and the body o’ my husband
on board to-night, I’d be willin’ to reward you to any amount. Money
would be no object to me,’ says she.

“Wal, you see, the cap’n he kind o’ hated to do it; and he hemmed and
hawed, and he tried to ‘pologize. He said ‘twas a government vessel, and
he didn’t know as he had a right to use it. He said sailors was apt to
be superstitious; and he didn’t want ‘em to know as there was a corpse
on board.

“‘Wal,’ says she, ‘why need they know? ‘For, you see, she was up to
every dodge; and she said she’d come along with it at dusk, in a box,
and have it just carried to a state-room, and he needn’t tell nobody
what it was.

“Wal, Cap’n Tucker he hung off; and he tried his best to persuade her
to have a funeral, all quiet, there at Camden. He promised to get a
minister, and ‘tend to it, and wait a day till it was all over, and then
take her on to Boston free gratis. But ‘twas all no go. She wouldn’t
hear a word to ‘t. And she reeled off the talk to him by the yard. And,
when talk failed, she took to her water-works again, till finally the
cap’n said his resolution was clean washed away, and he jest give up
hook and line; and so ‘twas all settled and arranged, that, when evening
come, she was to be alongside with her boat, and took aboard.

“When she come out o’ the cap’n’s room to go off, I see Tom Toothacre a
watchin’ on her. He stood there by the railin’s a shavin’ up a plug o’
baccy to put in his pipe. He didn’t say a word; but he sort o’ took the
measure o’ that ‘are woman with his eye, and kept a follerin’ on her.

“She had a fine sort o’ lively look, carried her head up and shoulders
back, and stepped as if she had steel springs in her heels.

“‘Wal, Tom, what do ye say to her?’ says Ben Bowdin.

“‘I don’t _say_ nothin’,’ says Tom, and he lit his pipe; ‘tain’t _my_
busness,’ says he.

“‘Wal, what do you _think?_’ says Ben. Tom gin a hist to his trousers.

“‘My thoughts is my own,’ says he; ‘and I calculate to keep ‘em to
myself,’ says he. And then he jest walked to the side of the vessel, and
watched the woman a gettin’ ashore. There was a queer kind o’ look in
Tom’s eye.

“Wal, the cap’n he was drefful sort o’ oneasy arter she was gone. He had
a long talk in the cabin with Mr. More, the fust officer; and there was
a sort o’ stir aboard as if somethin’ was a goin’ to happen, we couldn’t
jest say what it was.

“Sometimes it seems as if, when things is goin’ to happen, a body kind
o’ feels ‘em comin’ in the air. We boys was all that way: o’ course we
didn’t know nothin’ ‘bout what the woman wanted, or what she come for,
or whether she was comin’ agin; ‘n fact, we didn’t know nothin’ about
it, and yet we sort o’ expected suthin’ to come o’ it; and suthin’ did
come, sure enough.

“Come on night, jest at dusk, we see a boat comin’ alongside; and there,
sure enough, was the lady in it.

“‘There, she’s comin’ agin,’ says I to Tom Tooth-acre.

“‘Yes, and brought her baggage with her,’ says Tom; and he p’inted down
to a long, narrow pine box that was in the boat beside her.

“Jest then the cap’n called on Mr. More, and he called on Tom Toothacre;
and among ‘em they lowered a tackle, and swung the box aboard, and put
it in the state-room right alongside the cap’n’s cabin.

“The lady she thanked the cap’n and Mr. More, and her voice was jest as
sweet as any nightingale; and she went into the state-room arter they
put the body in, and was gone ever so long with it. The cap’n and Mr.
More they stood a whisperin’ to each other, and every once in a while
they’d kind o’ nod at the door where the lady was.

“Wal, by and by she come out with her han’ker-chief to her eyes, and
come on deck, and begun talk-in’ to the cap’n and Mr. More, and a
wishin’ all kinds o’ blessin’s on their heads.

“Wal, Tom Toothacre didn’t say a word, good or bad; but he jest kep’
a lookin’ at her, watchin’ her as a cat watches a mouse. Finally we up
sail, and started with a fair breeze. The lady she kep’ a walkin’ up and
down, up and down, and every time she turned on her heel, I saw Tom a
lookin’ arter her and kind o’ noddin’ to himself.

“‘What makes you look arter her so, Tom?’ says I to him.

“‘’Cause I think she _wants_ lookin’ arter,’ says Tom. ‘What’s more,’
says he, ‘if the cap’n don’t look sharp arter her the devil ‘ll have
us all afore mornin.’ I tell ye, Sam, there’s mischief under them

“‘Why, what do ye think?’ says I.

“‘Think! I don’t think, I knows! That ‘are’s no gal, nor widder neither,
if my name’s Tom Tooth-acre! Look at her walk; look at the way she turns
on her heel I I’ve been a watchin’ on her. There ain’t no woman livin’
with a step like that!’ says he.

“‘Wal, who should the critter be, then?’ says I.

“‘Wal,’ says Tom, ‘ef that ‘are ain’t a British naval officer, I lose
my bet. I’ve been used to the ways on ‘em, and I knows their build and
their step.’

“‘And what do you suppose she’s got in that long box?’ says I.

“‘What has she got?’ says Tom. ‘Wal, folks might say none o’ my bisness;
but I s’pects it’ll turn out some o’ my bisness, and yourn too, if
he don’t look sharp arter it,’ says Tom. ‘It’s no good, that ‘are box

“‘Why don’t you speak to Mr. More?’ says I.

“‘Wal, you see she’s a chipperin’ round and a mak-in’ herself agreeable
to both on ‘em, you see; she don’t mean to give nobody any chance for
a talk with ‘em; but I’ve got my eye on her, for all that. You see I
hain’t no sort o’ disposition to sarve out a time on one o’ them British
prison-ships,’ says Tom Toothacre. ‘It might be almighty handy for them
British to have “The Brilliant” for a coast-vessel,’ says he; ‘but, ye
see, it can’t be spared jest yet. So, madam,’ says he, ‘I’ve got my eye
on you.’

“Wal, Tom was as good as his word; for when Mr. More came towards him
at the wheel, Tom he up and says to him, ‘Mr. More,’ says he, ‘that ‘are
big box in the state-room yonder wants lookin’ into.’

“Tom was a sort o’ privileged character, and had a way o’ speakin’ up
that the officers took in good part, ‘cause they knew he was a fust-rate

“Wal, Mr. More he looks mysterious; and says he, Tom, do the boys know
what’s in that ‘are box?’

“‘I bet they don’t,’ says Tom. ‘If they had, you wouldn’t a got ‘em to
help it aboard.’

“‘Wal, you see, poor woman,’ says Mr. More to Tom, ‘she was so
distressed. She wanted to get her husband’s body to Boston; and there
wa’n’t no other way, and so the cap’n let it come aboard. He didn’t want
the boys to suspect what it really Was.’

“‘Husband’s body be hanged!’ said Tom. ‘Guess that ‘are corpse ain’t
so dead but what there’ll be a resurrection afore mornin’, if it ain’t
looked arter,’ says he.

“‘Why, what do you mean, Tom?’ said Mr. More, all in a blue maze.

“‘I mean, that ‘are gal that’s ben a switchin’ her petticuts up and down
our deck ain’t no gal at all. That are’s a British officer, Mr. More.
You give my duty to the cap’n, and tell him to look into his wid-der’s
bandbox, and see what he’ll find there.’

“Wal, the mate he went and had a talk with the cap’n; and they ‘greed
between ‘em that Mr. More was to hold her in talk while the cap’n went
and took observations in the state-room.

“So, down the cap’n goes into the state-room to give a look at the box.
Wal, he finds the stateroom door all locked to be sure, and my lady had
the key in her pocket; but then the cap’n he had a master key to it; and
so he puts it in, and opens the door quite softly, and begins to take

“Sure enough, he finds that the screws had been drawed from the top o’
the box, showin’ that the widder had been a tinkerin’ on’t when they
thought she was a cryin’ over it; and then, lookin’ close, he sees a
bit o’ twine goin’ from a crack in the box out o’ the winder, and up on

“Wal, the cap’n he kind o’ got in the sperit o’ the thing; and he
thought he’d jest let the widder play her play out, and see what it
would come to. So he jest calls Tom Toothacre down to him and whispered
to him. ‘Tom,’ says he, ‘you jest crawl under the berth in that ‘are
state-room, and watch that ‘are box.’ And Tom said he would.

“So Tom creeps under the berth, and lies there still as a mouse; and
the cap’n he slips out and turns the key in the door, so that when madam
comes down she shouldn’t s’pect nothin’.

“Putty soon, sure enough, Tom heard the lock rattle, and the young
widder come in; and then he heard a bit o’ conversation between her and
the corpse.

“‘What time is it?’ come in a kind o’ hoarse whisper out o’ the box.

“‘Well, ‘bout nine o’clock,’ says she.

“‘How long afore you’ll let me out?’ says he.

“‘Oh I you must have patience,’ says she, ‘till they’re all gone off to
sleep; when there ain’t but one man up. I can knock him down,’ says she,
‘and then I’ll pull the string for you.’

“‘The devil you will, ma’am!’ says Tom to himself, under the berth.

“‘Well, it’s darned close here,’ says the fellow in the box. He didn’t
say darned, boys; but he said a wickeder word that I can’t repeat,
noways,” said Sam, in a parenthesis: “these ‘ere British officers was
drefful swearin’ critters.

“‘You must have patience a while longer,’ says the lady, ‘till I pull
the string.’ Tom Toothacre lay there on his back a laughin’.

“‘Is every thing goin’ on right?’ says the man in the box.

“‘All straight,’ says she: ‘there don’t none of ‘em suspect.’

“‘You bet,’ says Tom Toothacre, under the berth; and he said he had the
greatest mind to catch the critter by the feet as she was a standin’
there, but somehow thought it would be better fun to see the thing
through ‘cording as they’d planned it.

“Wal, then she went off switchin’ and mincin’ up to the deck agin, and a
flirtin’ with the cap’n; for you see ‘twas ‘greed to let ‘em play their
play out.

“Wal, Tom he lay there a waitin’; and he waited and waited and waited,
till he ‘most got asleep; but finally he heard a stirrin’ in the box,
as if the fellah was a gettin’ up. Tom he jest crawled out still and
kerful, and stood-up tight agin the wall. Putty soon he hears a grunt,
and he sees the top o’ the box a risin’ up, and a man jest gettin’ out
on’t mighty still.

“Wal, Tom he waited till he got fairly out on to the floor, and had his
hand on the lock o’ the door, when he jumps on him, and puts both arms
round him, and gin him a regular bear’s hug.

“‘Why, what’s this?’ says the man.

“‘Guess ye’ll find out, darn ye,’ says Tom Tooth-acre. ‘So, ye wanted
our ship, did ye? Wal, ye jest can’t have our ship,’ says Tom, says he;
and I tell you he jest run that ‘are fellow up stairs lickety-split, for
Tom was strong as a giant.

“The fust thing they saw was Mr. More hed got the widder by both arms,
and was tying on ‘em behind her. ‘Ye see, madam, your game’s up,’ says
Mr. More, ‘but we’ll give ye a free passage to Boston, tho’,’ says
he: ‘we wanted a couple o’ prisoners about these days, and you’ll do

“The fellers they was putty chopfallen, to be sure, and the one in
women’s clothes ‘specially: ‘cause when he was found out, he felt
foolish enough in his petticuts; but they was both took to Boston, and
given over as prisoners.

“Ye see, come to look into matters, they found these two young fellows,
British officers, had formed a regular plot to take Cap’n Tucker’s
vessel, and run it into Halifax; and ye see, Cap’n Tucker he was so
sort o’ spry, and knew all the Maine coast so well, and was so ‘cute at
dodgin’ in and out all them little bays and creeks and places all ‘long
shore, that he made the British considerable trouble, ‘cause wherever
they didn’t want him, that’s where he was sure to be.

“So they’d hatched up this ‘ere plan. There was one or two British
sailors had been and shipped aboard ‘The Brilliant’ a week or two
aforehand, and ‘twas suspected they was to have helped in the plot if
thngs had gone as they laid out; but I tell you, when the fellows see
which way the cat jumped, they took pretty good care to say that they
hadn’t nothin’ to do with it. Oh, no, by no manner o’ means! Wal, o’
course, ye know, it couldn’t be proved on ‘em, and so we let it go.

“But I tell you, Cap’n Tucker he felt pretty cheap about his widder. The
worst on’t was, they do say Ma’am Tucker got hold of it; and you might
know if a woman got hold of a thing like that she’d use it as handy as a
cat would her claws. The women they can’t no more help hittin’ a fellow
a clip and a rap when they’ve fairly got him, than a cat when she’s
ketched a mouse; and so I shouldn’t wonder if the Commodore heard
something about his widder every time he went home from his v’y-ages the
longest day he had to live. I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout it, ye know: I
only kind o’ jedge by what looks, as human natur’ goes.

“But, Lordy massy! boys, ‘t wa’n’t nothin’ to be ‘shamed of in the
cap’n. Folks ‘ll have to answer for wus things at the last day than
tryin’ to do a kindness to a poor widder, now, I tell _you_. It’s better
to be took in doin’ a good thing, than never try to do good; and it’s my
settled opinion,” said Sam, taking up his mug of cider and caressing it
tenderly, “it’s my humble opinion, that the best sort o’ folks is the
easiest took in, ‘specially by the women. I reely don’t think I should a
done a bit better myself.”

[Illustration: Tailpiece, Page 102]

[Illustration: Captain Kidd’s Money, Page 108]


One of our most favorite legendary resorts was the old barn. Sam Lawson
preferred it on many accounts. It was quiet and retired, that is to say,
at such distance from his own house, that he could not hear if Hepsy
called ever so loudly, and farther off than it would be convenient for
that industrious and painstaking woman to follow him. Then there was
the soft fragrant cushion of hay, on which his length of limb could be
easily bestowed. Our barn had an upper loft with a swinging outer door
that commanded a view of the old mill, the waterfall, and the distant
windings of the river, with its grassy green banks, its graceful elm
draperies, and its white flocks of water-lilies; and then on this
Saturday afternoon we had Sam all to ourselves. It was a drowsy, dreamy
October day, when the hens were lazily “craw, crawing,” in a soft,
conversational undertone with each other, as they scratched and picked
the hay-seed under the barn windows. Below in the barn black Cæsar sat
quietly hatchelling flax, sometimes gurgling and giggling to himself
with an overflow of that interior jollity with which he seemed to
be always full. The African in New England was a curious contrast to
everybody around him in the joy and satisfaction that he seemed to feel
in the mere fact of being alive. Every white person was glad or sorry
for some appreciable cause in the past, present, or future, which was
capable of being definitely stated; but black Cæsar was in an eternal
giggle and frizzle and simmer of enjoyment for which he could give no
earthly reason: he was an “embodied joy,” like Shelley’s skylark.

“Jest hear him,” said Sam Lawson, looking pensively over the hay-mow,
and strewing hayseed down on his wool. “How that ‘are critter seems to
tickle and laugh all the while ‘bout nothin’. Lordy massy! he don’t seem
never to consider that ‘this life’s a dream, an empty show.’”

“Look here, Sam,” we broke in, anxious to cut short a threatened stream
of morality, “you promised to tell us about Capt. Kidd, and how you dug
for his money.”

“Did I, now? Wal, boys, that ‘are history o’ Kidd’s is a warnin’ to
fellers. Why, Kidd had pious parents and Bible and sanctuary privileges
when he was a boy, and yet come to be hanged. It’s all in this ‘ere
song I’m a goin’ to sing ye. Lordy massy! I wish I had my bass-viol
now.--Cæsar,” he said, calling down from his perch, “can’t you strike
the pitch o’ ‘Cap’n Kidd,’ on your fiddle?”

Cæsar’s fiddle was never far from him. It was, in fact, tucked away in
a nice little nook just over the manger; and he often caught an interval
from his work to scrape a dancing-tune on it, keeping time with his
heels, to our great delight.

A most wailing minor-keyed tune was doled forth, which seemed quite
refreshing to Sam’s pathetic vein, as he sang in his most lugubrious

     “‘My name was Robert Kidd
         As I sailed, as I sailed,
     My name was Robert Kidd;
     God’s laws I did forbid,
     And so wickedly I did,
         As I sailed, as I sailed.’

“Now ye see, boys, he’s a goin’ to tell how he abused his religious
privileges; just hear now:--

     “‘My father taught me well,
         As I sailed, as I sailed;
     My father taught me well
     To shun the gates of hell,
     But yet I did rebel,
         As I sailed, as I sailed.

     “‘He put a Bible in my hand,
         As I sailed, as I sailed;
     He put a Bible in my hand,
     And I sunk it in the sand
     Before I left the strand,
         As I sailed, as I sailed.’

“Did ye ever hear o’ such a hardened, contrary critter, boys? It’s awful
to think on. Wal, ye see that ‘are’s the way fellers allers begin the
ways o’ sin, by turnin’ their backs on the Bible and the advice o’ pious
parents. Now hear what he come to:--

     “‘Then I murdered William More,
         As I sailed, as I sailed;
     I murdered William More,
     And left him in his gore,
     Not many leagues from shore,
         As I sailed, as I sailed.

     “‘To execution dock
         I must go, I must go.
     To execution dock,
     While thousands round me flock,
     To see me on the block,
         I must go, I must go.’

“There was a good deal more on’t,” said Sam, pausing, “but I don’t seem
to remember it; but it’s real solemn and affectin’.”

“Who was Capt. Kidd, Sam?” said I.

“Wal, he was an officer in the British navy, and he got to bein’ a
pirate: used to take ships and sink ‘em, and murder the folks; and so
they say he got no end o’ money,--gold and silver and precious stones,
as many as the wise men in the East. But ye see, what good did it all do
him? He couldn’t use it, and dar’sn’t keep it; so he used to bury it in
spots round here and there in the awfullest heathen way ye ever heard
of. Why, they say he allers used to kill one or two men or women or
children of his prisoners, and bury with it, so that their sperits might
keep watch on it ef anybody was to dig arter it. That ‘are thing has
been tried and tried and tried, but no man nor mother’s son on ‘em ever
got a cent that dug. ‘Twas tried here’n Oldtown; and they come pretty
nigh gettin’ on’t, but it gin ‘em the slip. Ye see, boys, _it’s the
Devil’s money, and he holds a pretty tight grip on’t_.”

“Well, how was it about digging for it? Tell us, did _you_ do it? Were
_you_ there? Did you see it? And why couldn’t they get it?” we both
asked eagerly and in one breath.

“Why, Lordy massy! boys, your questions tumbles over each other thick
as martins out o’ a martin-box. Now, you jest be moderate and let alone,
and I’ll tell you all about it from the beginnin’ to the end. I didn’t
railly have no hand in’t, though I was know-in’ to ‘t, as I be to most
things that goes on round here; but my conscience wouldn’t railly a let
me start on no sich undertakin’.

“Wal, the one that fust sot the thing a goin’ was old Mother Hokum, that
used to live up in that little tumble-down shed by the cranberry-pond up
beyond the spring pastur’. They had a putty bad name, them Hokums. How
they got a livin’ nobody knew; for they didn’t seem to pay no attention
to raisin’ nothin’ but childun, but the duce knows, there was plenty o’
them. Their old hut was like a rabbit-pen: there was a tow-head to every
crack and cranny. ‘Member what old Cæsar said once when the word come
to the store that old Hokum had got twins. ‘S’pose de Lord knows best,’
says Cæsar, ‘but I thought dere was Hokums enough afore.’ Wal, even poor
workin’ industrious folks like me finds it’s hard gettin’ along when
there’s so many mouths to feed. Lordy massy! there don’t never seem to
be no end on’t, and so it ain’t wonderful, come to think on’t, ef folks
like them Hokums gets tempted to help along in ways that ain’t quite,
right. Anyhow, folks did use to think that old Hokum was too sort o’
familiar with their wood-piles ‘long in the night, though they couldn’t
never prove it on him; and when Mother Hokum come to houses round to
wash, folks use sometimes to miss pieces, here and there, though they
never could find ‘em on her; then they was allers a gettin’ in debt here
and a gottin’ in debt there. Why, they got to owin’ two dollars to Joe
Gidger for butcher’s meat. Joe was sort o’ good-natured and let ‘em have
meat, ‘cause Hokum he promised so fair to pay; but he couldn’t never get
it out o’ him. ‘Member once Joe walked clear up to the cranberry-pond
artor that ‘are two dollars; but Mother Hokum she see him a comin’ jest
as he come past the juniper-bush on the corner. She says to Hokum, ‘Get
into bed, old man, quick, and let me tell the story,’ says she. So she
covered him up; and when Gidger come in she come up to him, and says
she, ‘Why, Mr. Gidger, I’m jest ashamed to see yo: why, Mr. Hokum was
jest a comin’ down to pay yo that ‘are money last week, but ye see
he was took down with the small-pox’--Joe didn’t hear no mow: he
just turned round, and he streaked it out that ‘are door with his
coat-tails flyin’ out straight ahind him; and old Mother Hokum she jest
stood at the window holdin’ her sides and laughin’ fit to split, to see
him run. That ‘are’s jest a sample o’ the ways them Hokums cut up.

“Wal, you see, boys, there’s a queer kind o’ rock down on the bank ‘o
the river, that looks sort o’ like a grave-stone. The biggest part
on’t is sunk down under ground, and it’s pretty well growed over with
blackberry-vines; but, when you scratch the bushes away, they used to
make out some queer marks on that ‘are rock. They was sort o’ lines and
crosses; and folks would have it that them was Kidd’s private marks, and
that there was one o’ the places where he hid his money.

“Wal, there’s no sayin’ fairly how it come to be thought so; but fellers
used to say so, and they used sometimes to talk it over to the tahvern,
and kind o’ wonder whether or no, if they should dig, they wouldn’t come
to suthin’.

“Wal, old Mother Hokum she heard on’t, and she was a sort o’
enterprisin’ old crittur: fact was, she had to be, ‘cause the young
Hokums was jest like bag-worms, the more they growed the more they eat,
and I expect she found it pretty hard to fill their mouths; and so she
said ef there _was_ any thing under that ‘are rock, they’d as good’s
have it as the Devil; and so she didn’t give old Hokum no peace o’ his
life, but he must see what there was there.

“Wal, I was with ‘em the night they was a talk-in’ on’t up. Ye see,
Hokum he got thirty-seven cents’ worth o’ lemons and sperit. I see him
goin’ by as I was out a splittin’ kindlin’s; and says he, ‘Sam, you jest
go ‘long up to our house to-night,’ says he: ‘Toddy Whitney and Harry
Wiggin’s com-in’ up, and we’re goin’ to have a little suthin’ hot,’ says
he; and he kind o’ showed me the lemons and sperit. And I told him I
guessed I would go ‘long. Wal, I kind o’ wanted to see what they’d be up
to, ye know.

“Wal, come to find out, they was a talkin’ about Cap’n Kidd’s treasures,
and layin’ out how they should get it, and a settin’ one another on with
gret stories about it.

“‘I’ve heard that there was whole chists full o’ gold guineas,’ says

“‘And I’ve heard o’ gold bracelets and ear-rings and finger-rings all
sparklin’ with diamonds,’ says another.

“‘Maybe it’s old silver plate from some o’ them old West Indian
grandees,’ says another.

“‘Wal, whatever it is,’ says Mother Hokum, ‘I want to be into it,’ says

“‘Wal, Sam, won’t you jine?’ says they.

“‘Wal, boys,’ says I, ‘I kind o’ don’t feel jest like j’inin’. I sort
o’ ain’t clear about the rights on’t: seems to me it’s mighty nigh like
goin’ to the Devil for money.’

“‘Wal,’ says Mother Hokum, ‘what if ‘tis? Money’s money, get it how ye
will; and the Devil’s money ‘ll buy as much meat as any. I’d go to the
Devil, if he gave good money.’

“‘Wal, I guess I wouldn’t,’ says I. ‘Don’t you ‘member the sermon Parson
Lothrop preached about hastin’ to be rich, last sabba’ day?’

“‘Parson Lothrop be hanged!’ says she. ‘Wal, now,’ says she, ‘I like
to see a parson with his silk stockin’s and great gold-headed cane, a
lollopin’ on his carriage behind his fat, prancin’ hosses, comin’ to
meetin’ to preach to us poor folks not to want to be rich! How’d he like
it to have forty-’leven children, and nothin’ to put onto ‘em or into
‘em, I wonder? Guess if Lady Lothrop had to rub and scrub, and wear
her fingers to the bone as I do, she’d want to be rich; and I guess the
parson, if he couldn’t get a bellyful for a week, would be for diggin’
up Kidd’s money, or doing ‘most any thing else to make the pot bile.’

“‘Wal,’ says I, ‘I’ll kind o’ go with ye, boys, and sort o’ see how
things turn out; but I guess I won’t take no shere in’t,’ says I.

“Wal, they got it all planned out. They was to wait till the full moon,
and then they was to get Primus King to go with ‘em and help do the
diggin’. Ye see, Hokum and Toddy Whitney and Wiggin are all putty softly
fellers, and hate dreffully to work; and I tell you the Kidd money ain’t
to be got without a pretty tough piece o’ diggin. Why, it’s jest like
diggin’ a well to get at it. Now, Primus King was the master hand for
diggin’ wells, and so they said they’d get him by givin’ on him a shere.

“Harry Wiggin he didn’t want no nigger a sherin’ in it, he said; but
Toddy and Hokum they said that when there was such stiff diggin’ to be
done, they didn’t care if they did go in with a nigger.

“Wal, Wiggin he said he hadn’t no objection to havin’ the nigger do the
diggin,’ it was _sherin’ the profits_ he objected to.

“‘Wal,’ says Hokum, ‘you can’t get him without,’ says he. ‘Primus knows
too much,’ says he: ‘you can’t fool him.’ Finally they ‘greed that
they was to give Primus twenty dollars, and shere the treasure ‘mong

“Come to talk with Primus, he wouldn’t stick in a spade, unless they’d
pay him aforehand. Ye see, Primus was up to ‘em; he knowed about Gidger,
and there wa’n’t none on ‘em that was particular good pay; and so they
all jest hed to rake and scrape, and pay him down the twenty dollars
among ‘em; and they ‘greed for the fust full moon, at twelve’ o’clock at
night, the 9th of October.

“Wal, ye see I had to tell Hepsy I was goin’ out to watch. Wal, so I
was; but not jest in the way she took it: but, Lordy massy! a feller has
to tell his wife suthin’ to keep her quiet, ye know, ‘specially Hepsy.

“Wal, wal, of all the moonlight nights that ever I did see, I never did
see one equal to that. Why, you could see the color o’ every thing. I
‘member I could see how the huckleberry-bushes on the rock was red as
blood when the moonlight shone through ‘em; ‘cause the leaves, you see,
had begun to turn.

“Goin’ on our way we got to talkin’ about the sperits.

“‘I ain’t afraid on ‘em,’ says Hokum. ‘What harm can a sperit do me?’
says he. ‘I don’t care ef there’s a dozen on ‘em;’ and he took a swig at
his bottle.

“‘Oh! there ain’t no sperits,’ says Harry Wiggin. ‘That ‘are talk’s all
nonsense;’ and he took a swig at _his_ bottle.

“‘Wal,’ says Toddy, ‘I don’t know ‘bout that ‘are. Me and Ike Sanders
has seen the sperits in the Cap’n Brown house. We thought we’d jest have
a peek into the window one night; and there was a whole flock o’ black
colts without no heads on come rushin’ on us and knocked us flat.’

“‘I expect you’d been at the tahvern,’ said Hokum.

“‘Wal, yes, we had; but them was sperits: we wa’n’t drunk, now; we was
jest as sober as ever we was.’

“‘Wal, they won’t get away my money,’ says Primus, for I put it safe
away in Dinah’s teapot afore I come out;’ and then he showed all his
ivories from ear to ear. ‘I think all this ‘are’s sort o’ foolishness,’
says Primus.

“‘Wal,’ says I, ‘boys, I ain’t a goin’ to have no part or lot in this
‘ere matter, but I’ll jest lay it off to you how it’s to be done. Ef
Kidd’s money is under this rock, there’s ‘sperits’ that watch it, and
you mustn’t give ‘em no advantage. There mustn’t be a word spoke from
the time ye get sight o’ the treasure till ye get it safe up on to firm
ground,’ says I. ‘Ef ye do, it’ll vanish right out o’ sight. I’ve talked
with them that has dug down to it and seen it; but they allers lost it,
‘cause they’d call out and say suthin’; and the minute they spoke, away
it went.’

“Wal, so they marked off the ground; and Primus he begun to dig, and the
rest kind o’ sot round. It was so still it was kind o’ solemn. Ye see,
it was past twelve o’clock, and every critter in Oldtown was asleep;
and there was two whippoorwills on the great Cap’n Brown elm-trees, that
kep’ a answerin’ each other back and forward sort o’ solitary like; and
then every once in a while there’d come a sort o’ strange whisper up
among the elm-tree leaves, jest as if there was talkin’ goin’ on; and
every time Primus struck his spade into the ground it sounded sort
o’ holler, jest as if he’d been a diggin’ a grave. ‘It’s kind o’
melancholy,’ says I, ‘to think o’ them poor critters that had to be
killed and buried jest to keep this ‘ere treasure. What awful things ‘ll
be brought to light in the judgment day! Them poor critters they loved
to live and hated to die as much as any on us; but no, they hed to die
jest to satisfy that critter’s wicked will. I’ve heard them as thought
they could tell the Cap’n Kidd places by layin’ their ear to the ground
at midnight, and they’d hear groans and wailin’s.”

“Why, Sam! were there really people who could tell where Kidd’s money
was?” I here interposed.

“Oh, sartin! why, yis. There was Shebna Basconx, he was one. Shebna
could always tell what was under the earth. He’d cut a hazel-stick, and
hold it in his hand when folks was wantin’ to know where to dig wells;
and that ‘are stick would jest turn in his hand, and p’int down till it
would fairly grind the bark off; and ef you dug in that place you was
sure to find a spring. Oh, yis! Shebna he’s told many where the Kidd
money was, and been with ‘em when they dug for it; but the pester on’t
was they allers lost it, ‘cause they would some on ‘em speak afore they

“But, Sam, what about this digging? Let’s know what came of it,” said
we, as Sam appeared to lose his way in his story.

“Wal, ye see, they dug down about five feet, when Primus he struck his
spade smack on something that chincked like iron.

[Illustration: They dug down about five feet, Page 119]

“Wal, then Hokum and Toddy Whitney was into the hole in a minute: they
made Primus get out, and they took the spade, ‘cause they wanted to be
sure to come on it themselves.

“Wal, they begun, and they dug and he scraped, and sure enough they come
to a gret iron pot as big as your granny’s dinner-pot, with an iron bale
to it.

“Wal, then they put down a rope, and he put the rope through the handle;
then Hokum and Toddy they clambered upon the bank, and all on ‘em began
to draw, up jest as still and silent as could be. They drawed and they
drawed, till they jest got it even with the ground, when Toddy spoke out
all in a tremble, ‘There,’. says he, ‘_we’ve got it!_’ And the minit he
spoke they was both struck by _suthin_ that knocked ‘em clean over; and
the rope give a crack like a pistol-shot, and broke short off; and the
pot went down, down, down, and they heard it goin’, jink, jink, jink;
and it went way down into the earth, and the ground closed over it; and
then they heard the screechin’est laugh ye ever did hear.”

“I want to know, Sam, did you see that pot?” I exclaimed at this part of
the story.

“Wal, no, I didn’t. Ye see, I jest happened to drop asleep while they
was diggin’, I was so kind o’ tired, and I didn’t wake up till it was
all over.

“I was waked up, ‘cause there was consid’able of a scuffle; for Hokum
was so mad at Toddy for speakin’, that he was a fistin’ on him; and
old Primus he jest haw-hawed and laughed. ‘Wal, I got _my_ money safe,
anyhow,’ says he.

“‘Wal, come to,’ says I. ‘’Tain’t no use cryin’ for spilt milk: you’ve
jest got to turn in now and fill up this ‘ere hole, else the selectmen
‘ll be down on ye.’

“‘Wal,’ says Primus, ‘I didn’t engage to fill up no holes;’ and he put
his spade on his shoulder and trudged off.

“Wal, it was putty hard work, fillin’ in that hole; but Hokum and Toddy
and Wiggin had to do it, ‘cause they didn’t want to have everybody a
laughin’ at ‘em; and I kind o’ tried to set it home to ‘em, showin’ on
‘em that ‘twas all for the best.

“‘Ef you’d a been left to get that ‘are money, there’d a come a cuss
with it,’ says I. ‘It shows the vanity o’ hastin’ to be rich.’

“‘Oh, you shet up!’ says Hokum, says he. ‘You never hasted to any
thing,’ says he. Ye see, he was riled, that’s why he spoke so.”

“Sam,” said we, after maturely reflecting over the story, “what do you
suppose was in that pot?”

“Lordy massy! boys: ye never will be done askin’ questions. Why, how
should I know?”

[Illustration: Mis’ Elderkin’s Pitcher, Page 122]


“Ye see, boys,” said Sam Lawson, as we were gathering young wintergreen
on a sunny hillside in June,--“ye see, folks don’t allers know what
their marcies is when they sees ‘em. Folks is kind o’ blinded; and, when
a providence comes along, they don’t seem to know how to take it, and
they growl and grumble about what turns out the best things that ever
happened to ‘em in their lives. It’s like Mis’ Elderkin’s pitcher.”

“What about Mis’ Elderkin’s pitcher?” said both of us in one breath.

“Didn’t I never tell ye, now?” said Sam: “why, I wanter know?”

No, we were sure he never had told us; and Sam, as usual, began clearing
the ground by a thorough introduction, with statistical expositions.

“Wal, ye see, Mis’ Elderkin she lives now over to Sherburne in about the
handsomest house in Sherburne,--a high white house, with green blinds
and white pillars in front,--and she rides out in her own kerridge;
and Mr. Elderkin, he ‘s a deakin in the church, and a colonel in the
malitia, and a s’lectman, and pretty much atop every thing there is
goin’ in Sherburne, and it all come of that ‘are pitcher.”

“What pitcher?” we shouted in chorus.

“Lordy massy! that ‘are ‘s jest what I’m a goin’ to tell you about; but,
ye see, a feller’s jest got to make a beginnin’ to all things.

“Mis’ Elderkin she thinks she’s a gret lady nowadays, I s’pose; but I
‘member when she was Miry Brown over here ‘n Oldtown, and I used to be
waitin’ on her to singing-school.

“Miry and I was putty good friends along in them days,--we was putty
consid’able kind o’ intimate. Fact is, boys, there was times in them
days when I thought whether or no I wouldn’t _take_ Miry myself,” said
Sam, his face growing luminous with the pleasing idea of his former
masculine attractions and privileges. “Yis,” he continued, “there was
a time when folks said I could a hed Miry ef I’d asked her; and I putty
much think so myself, but I didn’t say nothin’: marriage is allers kind
o’ventursome; an’ Miry had such up-and-down kind o’ ways, I was sort o’
fraid on’t.

“But Lordy massy! boys, you mustn’t never tell Hepsy I said so, ‘cause
she’d be mad enough to bite a shingle-nail in two. Not that she sets
so very gret by me neither; but then women’s backs is allers up ef they
think anybody else could a hed you, whether they want you themselves or

“Ye see, Miry she was old Black Hoss John Brown’s da’ter, and lived up
there in that ‘are big brown house by the meetin’-house, that hes the
red hollyhock in the front yard. Miry was about the handsomest gal that
went into the singers’ seat a Sunday.

“I tell you she wa’n’t none o’ your milk-and-sugar gals neither,--she
was ‘mazin’ strong built. She was the strongest gal in her arms that I
ever see. Why, I ‘ve seen Miry take up a barrel o’ flour, and lift it
right into the kitchen; and it would jest make the pink come into her
cheeks like two roses, but she never seemed to mind it a grain. She had
a good strong back of her own, and she was straight as a poplar, with
snappin’ black eyes, and I tell you there was a snap to her tongue too.
Nobody never got ahead o’ Miry; she’d give every fellow as good as he
sent, but for all that she was a gret favorite.

“Miry was one o’ your briery, scratchy gals, that seems to catch fellers
in thorns. She allers fit and flouted her beaux, and the more she fit
and flouted ‘em the more they ‘d be arter her. There wa’n’t a gal in all
Oldtown that led such a string o’ fellers arter her; ‘cause, you see,
she’d now and then throw ‘em a good word over her shoulder, and then
they ‘d all fight who should get it, and she’d jest laugh to see ‘em do

“Why, there was Tom Sawin, he was one o’ her beaux, and Jim Moss, and
Ike Bacon; and there was a Boston boy, Tom Beacon, he came up from
Cambridge to rusticate with Parson Lothrop; he thought he must have his
say with Miry, but he got pretty well come up with. You see, he thought
‘cause he was Boston born that he was kind o’ aristocracy, and hed a
right jest to pick and choose ‘mong country gals; but the way he got
come up with by Miry was too funny for any thing.”

“Do tell us about it,” we said, as Sam made an artful pause, designed to
draw forth solicitation.

“Wal, ye see, Tom Beacon he told Ike Bacon about it, and Ike he told me.
‘Twas this way. Ye see, there was a quiltin’ up to Mis’ Cap’n Broad’s,
and Tom Beacon he was there; and come to goin’ home with the gals, Tom
he cut Ike out, and got Miry all to himself; and ‘twas a putty long
piece of a walk from Mis’ Cap’n Broad’s up past the swamp and the stone
pastur’ clear up to old Black Hoss John’s.

“Wal, Tom he was in high feather ‘cause Miry took him, so that he didn’t
reelly know how to behave; and so, as they was walkin’ along past Parson
Lothrop’s apple-orchard, Tom thought he’d try bein’ familiar, and he
undertook to put his arm round Miry. Wal, if she didn’t jest take that
little fellow by his two shoulders and whirl him over the fence into
the orchard quicker ‘n no time. ‘Why,’ says Tom, ‘the fust I knew I was
lyin’ on my back under the apple-trees lookin’ up at the stars.’ Miry
she jest walked off home and said nothin’ to nobody,--it wa’n’t her way
to talk much about things; and, if it hedn’t ben for Tom Beacon himself,
nobody need ‘a’ known nothin’ about it. Tom was a little fellow, you
see, and ‘mazin’ good-natured, and one o’ the sort that couldn’t keep
nothin’ to himself; and so he let the cat out o’ the bag himself. Wal,
there didn’t nobody think the worse o’ Miry. When fellers find a gal
won’t take saace from no man, they kind o’ respect her; and then fellers
allers thinks ef it hed ben _them_, now, things ‘d ‘a’ been different.
That’s jest what Jim Moss and Ike Bacon said: they said, why Tom Beacon
was a fool not to know better how to get along with Miry,--_they_ never
had no trouble. The fun of it was, that Tom Beacon himself was more
crazy after her than he was afore; and they say he made Miry a right
up-and-down offer, and Miry she jest wouldn’t have him.

“Wal, you see, that went agin old Black Hoss John’s idees: old Black
Hoss was about as close as a nut and as contrairy as a pipperage-tree.
You ought to ‘a’ seen him. Why, his face was all a perfect crisscross o’
wrinkles. There wa’n’t a spot where you could put a pin down that there
wa’n’t a wrinkle; and they used to say that he held on to every cent
that went through his fingers till he’d pinched it into two. You
couldn’t say that his god was his belly, for he hedn’t none, no more’n
an old file: folks said that he’d starved himself till the moon’d shine
through him.

“Old Black Hoss was awfully grouty about Miry’s refusin’ Tom Beacon,
‘cause there was his houses and lots o’ land in Boston. A drefful
worldly old critter Black Hoss John was: he was like the rich fool in
the gospel. Wal, he’s dead and gone now, poor critter, and what good has
it all done him? It’s as the Scriptur’ says, ‘He heapeth up riches, and
knoweth not who shall gather them.’

“Miry hed a pretty hard row to hoe with old Black Hoss John. She was up
early and down late, and kep’ every thing a goin’. She made the cheese
and made the butter, and between spells she braided herself handsome
straw bunnets, and fixed up her clothes; and somehow she worked it so
when she sold her butter and cheese that there was somethin’ for
ribbins and flowers. You know the Scriptur’ says, ‘Can a maid forget her
ornaments?’ Wal, Miry didn’t. I ‘member I used to lead the singin’
in them days, and Miry she used to sing counter, so we sot putty near
together in the singers’ seats; and I used to think Sunday mornin’s
when she come to meetin’ in her white dress and her red cheeks, and her
bunnet all tipped off with laylock, that ‘twas for all the world jest
like sunshine to have her come into the singers’ seats. Them was the
days that I didn’t improve my privileges, boys,” said Sam, sighing
deeply. “There was times that ef I’d a spoke, there’s no knowin’ what
mightn’t ‘a’ happened, ‘cause, you see, boys, I was better lookin’ in
them days than I be now. Now you mind, boys, when you grow up, ef you
get to waitin’ on a nice gal, and you’re ‘most a mind to speak up to
her, don’t you go and put it off, ‘cause, ef you do, you may live to
repent it.

“Wal, you see, from the time that Bill Elderkin come and took the
academy, I could see plain enough that it was time for me to hang up
my fiddle. Bill he used to set in the singers’ seats, too, and he
would have it that he sung tenor. He no more sung tenor than a
skunk-blackbird; but he made b’lieve he did, jest to git next to Miry
in the singers’ seats. They used to set there in the seats a writin’
backward and forward to each other till they tore out all the leaves of
the hymn-books, and the singin’-books besides. Wal, I never thought that
the house o’ the Lord was jest the place to be courtin’ in, and I used
to get consid’able shocked at the way things went on atween ‘em. Why,
they’d be a writin’ all sermon-time; and I’ve seen him a lookin’ at her
all through the long prayer in a way that wa’n’t right, considerin’ they
was both professors of religion. But then the fact was, old Black Hoss
John was to blame for it, ‘cause he never let ‘em have no chance to hum.
Ye see, old Black Hoss he was sot agin Elderkin ‘cause he was poor.
You see, his mother, the old Widdah Elderkin, she was jest about the
poorest, peakedest old body over to Sherburne, and went out to days’
works; and Bill Elderkin he was all for books and larnin’, and old Black
Hoss John he thought it was just shiftlessness: but Miry she thought
he was a genius; and she got it sot in her mind that he was goin’ to be
President o’ the United States, or some sich.

“Wal, old Black Hoss he wa’n’t none too polite to Miry’s beaux in
gineral, but when Elderkin used to come to see her he was snarlier than
a saw: he hadn’t a good word for him noways; and he’d rake up the
fire right before his face and eyes, and rattle about fastenin’ up the
windows, and tramp up to bed, and call down the chamber-stairs to Miry
to go to bed, and was sort o’ aggravatin’ every way.

“Wal, ef folks wants to get a gal set on havin’ a man, that ‘ere’s the
way to go to work. Miry had a consid’able stiff will of her own; and, ef
she didn’t care about Tom Beacon before, she hated him now; and, if she
liked Bill Elderkin before, she was clean gone over to him now. And
so she took to goin’ to the Wednesday-evenin’ lecture, and the
Friday-even-in’ prayer-meetin’, and the singin’-school, jest as regular
as a clock, and so did he; and arterwards they allers walked home the
longest way. Fathers may jest as well let their gals be courted in the
house, peaceable, ‘cause, if they can’t be courted there, they’ll find
places where they can be: it’s jest human natur’.

“Wal, come fall, Elderkin he went to college up to Brunswick; and then I
used to see the letters as regular up to the store every week, comin’ in
from Brunswick, and old Black Hoss John he see ‘em too, and got a way
of droppin’ on ‘em in his coat-pocket when he come up to the store, and
folks used to say that the letters that went into his coat-pocket didn’t
get to Miry. Anyhow, Miry she says to me one day says she, ‘Sam, you’re
up round the post-office a good deal,’ says she. ‘I wish, if you see any
letters for me, you’d jest bring ‘em along.’ I see right into it, and I
told her to be sure I would; and so I used to have the carryin’ of great
thick letters every week. Wal, I was waitin’ on Hepsy along about them
times, and so Miry and I kind o’ sympathized. Hepsy was a pretty gal,
and I thought it was all best as ‘twas; any way, I knew I couldn’t get
Miry, and I could get Hepsy, and that made all the difference in the

“Wal, that next winter old Black Hoss was took down with rheumatism,
and I tell you if Miry didn’t have a time on’t! He wa’n’t noways
sweet-tempered when he was well; but come to be crooked up with the
rheumatis’ and kep’ awake nights, it seemed as if he was determined
there shouldn’t nobody have no peace so long as he couldn’t.

“He’d get Miry up and down with him night after night a makin’ her
heat flannels and vinegar, and then he’d jaw and scold so that she was
eenymost beat out. He wouldn’t have nobody set up with him, though
there was offers made. No: he said Miry was his daughter, and ‘twas her
bisness to take care on him.

“Miry was clear worked down: folks kind o’ pitied her. She was a strong
gal, but there’s things that wears out the strongest. The worst
on’t was, it hung on so. Old Black Hoss had a most amazin’ sight o’
constitution. He’d go all down to death’s door, and seem hardly to have
the breath, o’ life in him, and then up he’d come agin! These ‘ere old
folks that nobody wants to have live allers hev such a sight o’ wear
in ‘em, they jest last and last; and it really did seem as if he’d wear
Miry out and get her into the grave fust, for she got a cough with bein’
up so much in the cold, and grew thin as a shadder. ‘Member one time I
went up there to offer to watch jest in the spring o’ the year, when the
laylocks was jest a buddin’ out, and Miry she come and talked with me
over the fence; and the poor gal she fairly broke down, and sobbed as if
her heart would break, a tellin’ me her trouble.

“Wal, it reelly affected me more to have Miry give up so than most gals,
‘cause she’d allers held her head up, and hed sich a sight o’ grit and
resolution; but she told me all about it.

“It seems old Black Hoss he wa’n’t content with worryin’ on her,
and gettin’ on her up nights, but he kep’ a hectorin’ her about Bill
Elderkin, and wantin’ on her to promise that she wouldn’t hev Bill when
he was dead and gone; and Miry she wouldn’t promise, and then the old
man said she shouldn’t have a cent from him if she didn’t, and so they
had it back and forth. Everybody in town was sayin’ what a shame ‘twas
that he should sarve her so; for though he hed other children, they was
married and gone, and there wa’n’t none of them to do for him but jest

“Wal, he hung on till jest as the pinys in the front yard was beginnin’
to blow out, and then he began, to feel he was a goin’, and he sent for
Parson Lothrop to know what was to be done about his soul.

“‘Wal,’ says Parson Lothrop, ‘you must settle up all your worldly
affairs; you must be in peace and love with all mankind; and, if you’ve
wronged anybody, you must make it good to ‘em.’

“Old Black Hoss he bounced right over in his bed with his back to the

“‘The devil!’ says he: ‘’twill take all I’ve got.’ And he never spoke
another word, though Parson Lothrop he prayed with him, and did what he
could for him.

“Wal, that night I sot up with him; and he went off ‘tween two and three
in the mornin’, and I laid him out regular. Of all the racks o’ bone
I ever see, I never see a human critter so poor as he was. ‘Twa’n’t
nothin’ but his awful will kep’ his soul in his body so long, as it was.

“We had the funeral in the meetin’-house a Sunday; and Parson Lothrop he
preached a sarmon on contentment on the text, ‘We brought nothin’ into
the world, and it’s sartin we can carry nothin’ out; and having food and
raiment, let us be therewith content.’ Parson Lothrop he got round the
subject about as handsome as he could: he didn’t say what a skinflint
old Black Hoss was, but he talked in a gineral way about the vanity o’
worryin’ an’ scrapin’ to heap up riches. Ye see, Parson Lothrop he could
say it all putty easy, too, ‘cause since he married a rich wife he never
hed no occasion to worry about temporal matters. Folks allers
preaches better on the vanity o’ riches when they’s in tol’able easy
circumstances. Ye see, when folks is pestered and worried to pay their
bills, and don’t know where the next dollar’s to come from, it’s a great
temptation to be kind o’ valooin’ riches, and mebbe envyin’ those that’s
got ‘em; whereas when one’s accounts all pays themselves, and the money
comes jest when its wanted regular, a body feels sort o’ composed like,
and able to take the right view o’ things, like Parson Lothrop.

“Wal, arter sermon the relations all went over to the old house to hear
the will read; and, as I was kind o’ friend with the family, I jest
slipped in along with the rest.

“Squire Jones he had the will; and so when they all got sot round all
solemn, he broke the seals and unfolded it, cracklin’ it a good while
afore he begun; and it was so still you might a heard a pin drop when
he begun to read. Fust, there was the farm and stock, he left to his son
John Brown over in Sherburne. Then there was the household stuff and all
them things, spoons and dishes, and beds and kiver-lids, and so on, to
his da’ter Polly Blanchard. And then, last of all, he says, he left to
his da’ter Miry _the pitcher that was on the top o’ the shelf in his
bedroom closet_.

“That ‘are was an old cracked pitcher that Miry allers hed hated the
sight of, and spring and fall she used to beg her father to let her
throw it away; but no, he wouldn’t let her touch it, and so it stood
gatherin’ dust.

“Some on ‘em run and handed it down; and it seemed jest full o’
scourin’-sand and nothin’ else, and they handed it to Miry.

“Wal, Miry she was wrathy then. She didn’t so much mind bein’ left out
in the will, ‘cause she expected that; but to have that ‘are old pitcher
poked at her so sort o’ scornful was more’n she could bear.

“She took it and gin it a throw across the room with all her might; and
it hit agin the wall and broke into a thousand bits, when out rolled
hundreds of gold pieces; great gold eagles and guineas flew round
the kitchen jest as thick as dandelions in a meadow. I tell you, she
scrabbled them up pretty quick, and we all helped her.

“Come to count ‘em over, Miry had the best fortin of the whole, as
‘twas right and proper she should. Miry she was a sensible gal, and
she invested her money well; and so, when Bill Elderkin got through his
law-studies, he found a wife that could make a nice beginnin’ with him.
And that’s the way, you see, they came to be doin’ as well as they be.

“So, boys, you jest mind and remember and allers see what there is in a
providence afore you quarrel with it, ‘cause there’s a good many things
in this world turns out like Mis’ Elderkin’s pitcher.”

[Illustration: Ghost in Cap’n Brown House, Page 139]


“Now, Sam, tell us certain true, is there any such things as ghosts?”

“Be there ghosts?” said Sam, immediately translating into his vernacular
grammar: “wal, now, that are’s jest the question, ye see.” “Well,
grandma thinks there are, and Aunt Lois thinks it’s all nonsense. Why,
Aunt Lois don’t even believe the stories in Cotton Mather’s ‘Magnalia.’”

“Wanter know?” said Sam, with a tone of slow, languid meditation.

We were sitting on a bank of the Charles River, fishing. The soft
melancholy red of evening was fading off in streaks on the glassy water,
and the houses of Oldtown were beginning to loom through the gloom,
solemn and ghostly. There are times and tones and moods of nature that
make all the vulgar, daily real seem shadowy, vague, and supernatural,
as if the outlines of this hard material present were fading into the
invisible and unknown. So Oldtown, with its elm-trees, its great square
white houses, its meeting-house and tavern and blacksmith’s shop and
milly which at high noon seem as real and as commonplace as possible, at
this hour of the evening were dreamy and solemn. They rose up blurred,
indistinct, dark; here and there winking candles sent long lines of
light through the shadows, and little drops of unforeseen rain rippled
the sheeny darkness of the water.

“Wal, you see, boys, in them things it’s jest as well to mind your
granny. There’s a consid’able sight o’ gumption in grandmas. You look at
the folks that’s alius tellin’ you what they don’t believe,--they don’t
believe this, and they don’t believe that,--and what sort o’ folks is
they? Why, like yer Aunt Lois, sort o’ stringy and dry. There ain’t no
‘sorption got out o’ not believin’ nothin’.

“Lord a massy! we don’t know nothin’ ‘bout them things. We hain’t ben
there, and can’t say that there ain’t no ghosts and sich; can we, now?”

We agreed to that fact, and sat a little closer to Sam in the gathering

“Tell us about the Cap’n Brown house, Sam.”

“Ye didn’t never go over the Cap’n Brown house?”

No, we had not that advantage.

“Wal, yer see, Cap’n Brown he made all his money to sea, in furrin
parts, and then come here to Oldtown to settle down.

“Now, there ain’t no knowin’ ‘bout these ‘ere old ship-masters, where
they’s ben, or what they’s ben a doin’, or how they got their money. Ask
me no questions, and I’ll tell ye no lies, is ‘bout the best philosophy
for them. Wal, it didn’t do no good to ask Cap’n Brown questions too
close, ‘cause you didn’t git no satisfaction. Nobody rightly knew ‘bout
who his folks was, or where they come from; and, ef a body asked him,
he used to say that the very fust he know’d ‘bout himself he was a young
man walkin’ the streets in London.

“But, yer see, boys, he hed money, and that is about all folks wanter
know when a man comes to settle down. And he bought that ‘are place, and
built that ‘are house. He built it all sea-cap’n fashion, so’s to feel
as much at home as he could. The parlor was like a ship’s cabin. The
table and chairs was fastened down to the floor, and the closets was
made with holes to set the casters and the decanters and bottles in,
jest’s they be at sea; and there was stanchions to hold on by; and they
say that blowy nights the cap’n used to fire up pretty well with his
grog, till he hed about all he could carry, and then he’d set and hold
on, and hear the wind blow, and kind o’ feel out to sea right there to
hum. There wasn’t no Mis’ Cap’n Brown, and there didn’t seem likely to
be none. And whether there ever hed been one, nobody know’d. He hed an
old black Guinea nigger-woman, named Quassia, that did his work. She was
shaped pretty much like one o’ these ‘ere great crookneck-squashes. She
wa’n’t no gret beauty, I can tell you; and she used to wear a gret red
turban and a yaller short gown and red petticoat, and a gret string o’
gold beads round her neck, and gret big gold hoops in her ears, made
right in the middle o’ Africa among the heathen there. For all she
was black, she thought a heap o’ herself, and was consid’able sort o’
predominative over the cap’n. Lordy massy! boys, it’s alius so. Get a
man and a woman together,--any sort o’ woman you’re a mind to, don’t
care who ‘tis,--and one way or another she gets the rule over him, and
he jest has to train to her fife. Some does it one way, and some does
it another; some does it by jawin’ and some does it by kissin’, and some
does it by faculty and contrivance; but one way or another they allers
does it. Old Cap’n Brown was a good stout, stocky kind o’ John Bull sort
o’ fellow, and a good judge o’ sperits, and allers kep’ the best in them
are cupboards o’ his’n; but, fust and last, things in his house went
pretty much as old Quassia said.

“Folks got to kind o’ respectin’ Quassia. She come to meetin’ Sunday
regular, and sot all fixed up in red and yaller and green, with glass
beads and what not, lookin’ for all the world like one o’ them ugly
Indian idols; but she was well-behaved as any Christian. She was a
master hand at cookin’. Her bread and biscuits couldn’t be beat, and
no couldn’t her pies, and there wa’n’t no such pound-cake as she made
nowhere. Wal, this ‘ere story I’m a goin’ to tell you was told me by
Cinthy Pendleton. There ain’t a more respectable gal, old or young, than
Cinthy nowheres. She lives over to Sherburne now, and I hear tell she’s
sot up a manty-makin’ business; but then she used to do tailorin’ in
Oldtown. She was a member o’ the church, and a good Christian as ever
was. Wal, ye see, Quassia she got Cinthy to come up and spend a week to
the Cap’n Brown house, a doin’ tailorin’ and a fixin’ over his close:
‘twas along toward the fust o’ March. Cinthy she sot by the fire in the
front parlor with her goose and her press-board and her work: for there
wa’n’t no company callin’, and the snow was drifted four feet deep right
across the front door; so there wa’n’t much danger o’ any body comin’
in. And the cap’n he was a perlite man to wimmen; and Cinthy she liked
it jest as well not to have company, ‘cause the cap’n he’d make himself
entertainin’ tellin’ on her sea-stories, and all about his adventures
among the Ammonites, and Perresites, and Jebusites, and all sorts o’
heathen people he’d been among.

“Wal, that ‘are week there come on the master snow-storm. Of all the
snow-storms that hed ben, that ‘are was the beater; and I tell you the
wind blew as if ‘twas the last chance it was ever goin’ to hev. Wal,
it’s kind o’ scary like to be shet up in a lone house with all natur’
a kind o’ breakin’ out, and goin’ on so, and the snow a comin’ down
so thick ye can’t see ‘cross the street, and the wind a pipin’ and a
squeelin’ and a rumblin’ and a tumblin’ fust down this chimney and then
down that. I tell you, it sort o’ sets a feller thinkin’ o’ the three
great things,--death, judgment, and etarnaty; and I don’t care who the
folks is, nor how good they be, there’s times when they must be feelin’
putty consid’able solemn.

“Wal, Cinthy she said she kind o’ felt so along, and she hed a sort o’
queer feelin’ come over her as if there was somebody or somethin’ round
the house more’n appeared. She said she sort o’ felt it in the air; but
it seemed to her silly, and she tried to get over it. But two or three
times, she said, when it got to be dusk, she felt somebody go by her up
the stairs. The front entry wa’n’t very light in the daytime, and in the
storm, come five o’clock, it was so dark that all you could see was jest
a gleam o’ some-thin’, and two or three times when she started to go up
stairs she see a soft white suthin’ that seemed goin’ up before her, and
she stopped with her heart a beatin’ like a trip-hammer, and she sort o’
saw it go up and along the entry to the cap’n’s door, and then it seemed
to go right through, ‘cause the door didn’t open.

“Wal, Cinthy says she to old Quassia, says she, ‘Is there anybody lives
in this house but us?’

“‘Anybody lives here?’ says Quassia: ‘what you mean?’ says she.

“Says Cinthy, ‘I thought somebody went past me on the stairs last night
and to-night.’

“Lordy massy! how old Quassia did screech and laugh. ‘Good Lord!’ says
she, ‘how foolish white folks is! Somebody went past you? Was’t the

“‘No, it wa’n’t the cap’n,’ says she: ‘it was somethin’ soft and white,
and moved very still; it was like somethin’ in the air,’ says she.
Then Quassia she haw-hawed louder. Says she, ‘It’s hy-sterikes, Miss
Cinthy; that’s all it is.’

“Wal, Cinthy she was kind o’ ‘shamed, but for all that she couldn’t help
herself. Sometimes evenin’s she’d be a settin’ with the cap’n, and she’d
think she’d hear somebody a movin’ in his room overhead; and she knowed
it wa’n’t Quassia, ‘cause Quassia was ironin’ in the kitchen. She took
pains once or twice to find out that ‘are.

“Wal, ye see, the cap’n’s room was the gret front upper chamber over the
parlor, and then right oppi-site to it was the gret spare chamber where
Cinthy slept. It was jest as grand as could be, with a gret four-post
mahogany bedstead and damask curtains brought over from England; but it
was cold enough to freeze a white bear solid,--the way spare chambers
allers is. Then there was the entry between, run straight through the
house: one side was old Quassia’s room, and the other was a sort o’
storeroom, where the old cap’n kep’ all sorts o’ traps.

“Wal, Cinthy she kep’ a hevin’ things happen and a seein’ things, till
she didn’t railly know what was in it. Once when she come into the
parlor jest at sundown, she was sure she see a white figure a vanishin’
out o’ the door that went towards the side entry. She said it was so
dusk, that all she could see was jest this white figure, and it jest
went out still as a cat as she come in.

“Wal, Cinthy didn’t like to speak to the cap’n about it. She was a close
woman, putty prudent, Cinthy was.

“But one night, ‘bout the middle o’ the week, this ‘ere thing kind o’
come to a crisis.

“Cinthy said she’d ben up putty late a sewin’ and a finishin’ off down
in the parlor; and the cap’n he sot up with her, and was consid’able
cheerful and entertainin’, tellin’ her all about things over in the
Bermudys, and off to Chiny and Japan, and round the world ginerally. The
storm that hed been a blowin’ all the week was about as furious as ever;
and the cap’n he stirred up a mess o’ flip, and hed it for her hot to
go to bed on. He was a good-natured critter, and allers had feelin’s for
lone women; and I s’pose he knew ‘twas sort o’ desolate for Cinthy.

“Wal, takin’ the flip so right the last thing afore goin’ to bed, she
went right off to sleep as sound as a nut, and slep’ on till somewhere
about mornin’, when she said somethin’ waked her broad awake in a
minute. Her eyes flew wide open like a spring, and the storm hed gone
down and the moon come out; and there, standin’ right in the moonlight
by her bed, was a woman jest as white as a sheet, with black hair
hangin’ down to her waist, and the brightest, mourn fullest black eyes
you ever see. She stood there lookin’ right at Cinthy; and Cinthy thinks
that was what waked her up; ‘cause, you know, ef anybody stands and
looks steady at folks asleep it’s apt to wake ‘em.

[Illustration: Stood there lookin’ right at Cinthy, Page 149]

“Any way, Cinthy said she felt jest as ef she was turnin’ to stone. She
couldn’t move nor speak. She lay a minute, and then she shut her eyes,
and begun to say her prayers; and a minute after she opened ‘em, and it
was gone.

“Cinthy was a sensible gal, and one that allers hed her thoughts about
her; and she jest got up and put a shawl round her shoulders, and went
first and looked at the doors, and they was both on ‘em locked jest as
she left ‘em when she went to bed. Then she looked under the bed and in
the closet, and felt all round the room: where she couldn’t see she felt
her way, and there wa’n’t nothin’ there.

“Wal, next mornin’ Cinthy got up and went home, and she kep’ it to
herself a good while. Finally, one day when she was workin’ to our house
she told Hepsy about it, and Hepsy she told me.”

“Well, Sam,” we said, after a pause, in which we heard only the rustle
of leaves and the ticking of branches against each other, “what do you
suppose it was?”

“Wal, there ‘tis: you know jest as much about it as I do. Hepsy told
Cinthy it might ‘a’ ben a dream; so it might, but Cinthy she was sure it
wa’n’t a dream, ‘cause she remembers plain hearin’ the old clock on the
stairs strike four while she had her eyes open lookin’ at the woman; and
then she only shet ‘em a minute, jest to say ‘Now I lay me,’ and opened
‘em and she was gone.

“Wal, Cinthy told Hepsy, and Hepsy she kep’ it putty close. She didn’t
tell it to nobody except Aunt Sally Dickerson and the Widder Bije Smith
and your Grandma Badger and the minister’s wife; and they every one o’
‘em ‘greed it ought to be kep’ close, ‘cause it would make talk. Wal,
come spring, somehow or other it seemed to ‘a’ got all over Old-town. I
heard on ‘t to the store and up to the tavern; and Jake Marshall he
says to me one day, ‘What’s this ‘ere about the cap’n’s house?’ And the
Widder Loker she says to me, ‘There’s ben a ghost seen in the cap’n’s
house;’ and I heard on ‘t clear over to Needham and Sherburne.

“Some o’ the women they drew themselves up putty stiff and proper. Your
Aunt Lois was one on ‘em.

“‘Ghost,’ says she; ‘don’t tell me! Perhaps it would be best ef ‘twas a
ghost,’ says she. She didn’t think there ought to be no sich doin’s
in nobody’s house; and your grandma she shet her up, and told her she
didn’t oughter talk so.”

“Talk how?” said I, interrupting Sam with wonder. “What did Aunt Lois

“Why, you see,” said Sam mysteriously, “there allers is folks in every
town that’s jest like the Sadducees in old times: they won’t believe in
angel nor sperit, no way you can fix it; and ef things is seen and done
in a house, why, they say, it’s ‘cause there’s somebody there; there’s
some sort o’ deviltry or trick about it.

“So the story got round that there was a woman kep’ private in Cap’n
Brown’s house, and that he brought her from furrin parts; and it growed
and growed, till there was all sorts o’ ways o’ tellin on ‘t.

“Some said they’d seen her a settin’ at an open winder. Some said that
moonlight nights they’d seen her a walkin’ out in the back garden kind
o’ in and out ‘mong the bean-poles and squash-vines.

“You see, it come on spring and summer; and the winders o’ the Cap’n
Brown house stood open, and folks was all a watchin’ on ‘em day and
night. Aunt Sally Dickerson told the minister’s wife that she’d seen in
plain daylight a woman a settin’ at the chamber winder atween four and
five o’clock in the mornin’,--jist a settin’ a lookin’ out and a doin’
nothin’, like anybody else. She was very white and pale, and had black

“Some said that it was a nun the cap’n had brought away from a Roman
Catholic convent in Spain, and some said he’d got her out o’ the

“Aunt Sally said she thought the minister ought to call and inquire why
she didn’t come to meetin’, and who she was, and all about her: ‘cause,
you see, she said it might be all right enough ef folks only know’d jest
how things was; but ef they didn’t, why, folks will talk.”

“Well, did the minister do it?”

“What, Parson Lothrop? Wal, no, he didn’t. He made a call on the cap’n
in a regular way, and asked arter his health and all his family. But the
cap’n he seemed jest as jolly and chipper as a spring robin, and he gin
the minister some o’ his old Jamaiky; and the minister he come away
and said he didn’t see nothin’; and no he didn’t. Folks never does see
nothin’ when they aint’ lookin’ where ‘tis. Fact is, Parson Lothrop
wa’n’t fond o’ inter-ferin’; he was a master hand to slick things over.
Your grandma she used to mourn about it, ‘cause she said he never gin no
p’int to the doctrines; but ‘twas all of a piece, he kind o’ took every
thing the smooth way.

“But your grandma she believed in the ghost, and so did Lady Lothrop. I
was up to her house t’other day fixin’ a door-knob, and says she, ‘Sam,
your wife told me a strange story about the Cap’n Brown house.’

“‘Yes, ma’am, she did,’ says I.

“‘Well, what do you think of it?’ says she.

“‘Wal, sometimes I think, and then agin I don’t know,’ says I. ‘There’s
Cinthy she’s a member o’ the church and a good pious gal,’ says I.

“‘Yes, Sam,’ says Lady Lothrop, says she; ‘and Sam,’ says she, ‘it is
jest like something that happened once to my grandmother when she was
livin’ in the old Province House in Bostin.’ Says she, ‘These ‘ere
things is the mysteries of Providence, and it’s jest as well not to have
‘em too much talked about.’

“‘Jest so,’ says I,--‘jest so. That ‘are’s what every woman I’ve talked
with says; and I guess, fust and last, I’ve talked with twenty,--good,
safe church-members,--and they’s every one o’ opinion that this ‘ere
oughtn’t to be talked about. Why, over to the deakin’s t’other night we
went it all over as much as two or three hours, and we concluded that
the best way was to keep quite still about it; and that’s jest what they
say over to Need-ham and Sherburne. I’ve been all round a hushin’ this
‘ere up, and I hain’t found but a few people that hedn’t the particulars
one way or another.’ This ‘ere was what I says to Lady Lothrop. The
fact was, I never did see no report spread so, nor make sich sort o’
sarchin’s o’ heart, as this ‘ere. It railly did beat all; ‘cause,
ef ‘twas a ghost, why there was the p’int proved, ye see. Cinthy’s a
church-member, and she _see_ it, and got right up and sarched the room:
but then agin, ef ‘twas a woman, why that ‘are was kind o’ awful; it
give cause, ye see, for thinkin’ all sorts o’ things. There was Cap’n
Brown, to be sure, he wa’n’t a church-member; but yet he was as honest
and regular a man as any goin’, as fur as any on us could see. To be
sure, nobody know’d where he come from, but that wa’n’t no reason agin’
him: this ‘ere might a ben a crazy sister, or some poor critter that he
took out o’ the best o’ motives; and the Scriptur’ says, ‘Charity hopeth
all things.’ But then, ye see, folks will talk,--that ‘are’s the pester
o’ all these things,--and they did some on ‘em talk consid’able strong
about the cap’n; but somehow or other, there didn’t nobody come to the
p’int o’ facin’ on him down, and savin’ square out, ‘Cap’n Brown, have
you got a woman in your house, or hain’t you? or is it a ghost, or what
is it?’ Folks somehow never does come to that. Ye see, there was the
cap’n so respectable, a settin’ up every Sunday there in his pew, with
his ruffles round his hands and his red broadcloth cloak and his cocked
hat. Why, folks’ hearts sort o’ failed ‘em when it come to say in’ any
thing right to him. They thought and kind o’ whispered round that the
minister or the deakins oughter do it: but Lordy massy! ministers, I
s’pose, has feelin’s like the rest on us; they don’t want to eat all the
hard cheeses that nobody else won’t eat. Anyhow, there wasn’t nothin’
said direct to the cap’n; and jest for want o’ that all the folks in
Old-town kep’ a bilin’ and a bilin’ like a kettle o’ soap, till it
seemed all the time as if they’d bile over.

“Some o’ the wimmen tried to get somethin’ out o’ Quassy. Lordy massy!
you might as well ‘a’ tried to get it out an old tom-turkey, that’ll
strut and gobble and quitter, and drag his wings on the ground, and fly
at you, but won’t say nothin’. Quassy she screeched her queer sort o’
laugh; and she told ‘em that they was a makin’ fools o’ themselves, and
that the cap’n’s matters wa’n’t none o’ their bisness; and that was true
enough. As to goin’ into Quassia’s room, or into any o’ the store-rooms
or closets she kep’ the keys of, you might as well hev gone into a
lion’s den. She kep’ all her places locked up tight; and there was no
gettin’ at nothin’ in the Cap’n Brown house, else I believe some o’ the
wimmen would ‘a’ sent a sarch-warrant.”

“Well,” said I, “what came of it? Didn’t anybody ever find out?”

“Wal,” said Sam, “it come to an end sort o’, and didn’t come to an
end. It was jest this ‘ere way. You see, along in October, jest in the
cider-makin’ time, Abel Flint he was took down with dysentery and died.
You ‘member the Flint house: it stood on a little rise o’ ground
jest lookin’ over towards the Brown house. Wal, there was Aunt Sally
Dickerson and the Widder Bije Smith, they set up with the corpse. He was
laid out in the back chamber, you see, over the milk-room and kitchen;
but there was cold victuals and sich in the front chamber, where the
watchers sot. Wal, now, Aunt Sally she told me that between three and
four o’clock she heard wheels a rumblin’, and she went to the winder,
and it was clear starlight; and she see a coach come up to the Cap’n
Brown house; and she see the cap’n come out bringin’ a woman all wrapped
in a cloak, and old Quassy came arter with her arms full o’ bundles; and
he put her into the kerridge, and shet her in, and it driv off; and she
see old Quassy stand lookin’ over the fence arter it. She tried to wake
up the widder, but ‘twas towards mornin’, and the widder allers was a
hard sleeper; so there wa’n’t no witness but her.’

“Well, then, it wasn’t a ghost,” said I, “after all, and it _was_ a

“Wal, there ‘tis, you see. Folks don’t know that ‘are yit, ‘cause there
it’s jest as broad as ‘tis long. Now, look at it. There’s Cinthy, she’s
a good, pious gal: she locks her chamber-doors, both on ‘em, and goes
to bed, and wakes up in the night, and there’s a woman there. She jest
shets her eyes, and the woman’s gone. She gits up and looks, and both
doors is locked jest as she left ‘em. That ‘ere woman wa’n’t flesh and
blood now, no way,--not such flesh and blood as we knows on; but then
they say Cinthy might hev dreamed it!

“Wal, now, look at it t’other way. There’s Aunt Sally Dickerson; she’s
a good woman and a church-member: wal, she sees a woman in a cloak
with all her bundles brought out o’ Cap’n Brown’s house, and put into
a kerridge, and driv off, atween three and four o’clock in the mornin’.
Wal, that ‘ere shows there must ‘a’ ben a real live woman kep’ there
privately, and so what Cinthy saw wasn’t a ghost.

“Wal, now, Cinthy says Aunt Sally might ‘a’ dreamed it,--that she got
her head so full o’ stories about the Cap’n Brown house, and watched
it till she got asleep, and hed this ‘ere dream; and, as there didn’t
nobody else see it, it might ‘a’ ben, you know. Aunt Sally’s clear she
didn’t dream, and then agin Cinthy’s clear _she_ didn’t dream; but which
on ‘em was awake, or which on ‘em was asleep, is what ain’t settled in
Oldtown yet.”

[Note: The two last stories in the printed book are not included as
they have missing pages.]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Oldtown Fireside Stories" ***

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