Part 2 out of 5
That reminds me: I have not mentioned Tom, but as he was away at college,
and Bessie never seemed to like to talk of him--I'm sure I can't see
why--it is quite natural that he slipped out of my memory.
He was a ward of Uncle Pennyman, who called him his son, and indeed had
adopted him formally.
How two such opposite people ever came to love each other as they did, I
never can explain. It was not a natural, commonplace affection: it was a
strong, deep, earnest love, as firm in the hearts of both as the life that
caused their throbbings.
Tom was wild and full of frolic: if there is a graver word than gravity,
it should be used to describe Uncle Pennyman's demeanor. Tom was quick and
restless by nature, but his good sense and determination to make a niche
for himself in life, and fill it respectably, had toned down his exuberant
spirits into active energy; while Uncle Penny man's naturally slow
tendencies had become aggravated by the ponderous character of his
pursuits and tastes: all hurry was obnoxious to him, and he firmly
believed that haste was another name for sin. Yet the solemn, slow old man
loved the busy, merry young one, and neither saw any fault or failing in
There was no earthly relationship between Thomas Gray Pennyman and me, and
yet I was always spoken of as his sister by my dear, worrying old uncle.
Tom did not seem to like it, and I knew I did not.
People often said to me, "What a splendid brother you have, Miss Pennyman
but what a pity that all these handsome brothers have to be given up to
How utterly silly! I never had any patience with such nonsense.
There was not much comfort in talking to Bessie about him. I'm sure I do
not know why, but I suppose she saw that I avoided the subject; so I was
really quite surprised when she said to me, laughing and looking a little
"Mr. Tom is to join us by and by, your uncle says. I hope we may be able
to make it pleasant for him. I believe he likes Mrs. Tanner: he used to
like her buns when he was a boy, and I hope he has not forgotten the
Tom coming to visit the Haines! Such a thing had never happened before,
and must mean something now. I began to feel quite uneasy, though I really
could not have explained why.
We never had much of my uncle's or Mr. Haines' society except in the
evening: they spent the day going about together and worrying texts of
Scripture with other good old men, before whom Mr. Haines liked to show
off uncle's Bible knowledge. They took some pious excursions in company,
and had a solemnly festive time, I have no doubt, for they always came in
looking perfectly satisfied with the result of their day.
It generally took some time to hear the dream and find its proper
interpretation. While it was pending the expounder generally gave out his
puzzling verses, and then both pondered a good while before they arrived
at their conclusions and made them known.
Both the dream and the text must have been of an unusually difficult
nature this time, for a whole week went by without either transpiring; and
although Bessie and I watched for some allusions to them in our morning
and evening family worship, at which the two good men officiated
alternately, yet not a hint could we gain until one night at the end of
the week it seemed from Uncle Pennyman's prayer that the matter in some
wise referred to Bessie, since Divine guidance was sought under many
rhetorical forms for the welfare, future and temporal, of "the young
handmaiden, the daughter of thy servant, who would fain know thy will
"Bessie," said I that night, when we got up stairs, "I think I have found
out what your father's last dream was: I solemnly believe that he means to
send you out as a missionary."
Now I thought I had said something calculated to make Bessie turn pale and
gasp, but I could scarcely believe it when I looked up, expecting to find
her almost fainting, and saw her pensively, but by no means alarmedly,
shaking her head.
"I am not devoted enough, Winnie, love," she remarked. "I have not the
grand self-abnegating spirit necessary for such a work. No; mine is a home
If I had not known about the young warriors of Canon lane, I should have
thought her demented: as it was, I could scarcely wait for the next day,
which was Sunday, to be introduced to the scene which had already produced
such a marked change in her character and tastes.
It transpired during breakfast that Uncle Pennyman's peace had been
disturbed by a verse in the book of Nahum, that talked about the lions and
lionesses, and their whelps and prey, in what appeared to him a mysterious
manner. Mr. Haines, who was a dear, good man, elaborated it so that we all
felt as if we had made a visit to the Zoological Gardens, and afterward
been carried into Babylonish captivity. My uncle followed his words with a
brightening face, and when they grew particularly mixed and
long-syllabled, he would exclaim softly,
"It is a great gift! a great gift!" and seem really overcome with the
magnitude of his friend's powers.
I never saw any harm in Uncle Pennyman's texts: they never worried any one
but himself; though I must confess that verse about Ephraim being a cake
not turned affected us a little. But that was because he had the ague, and
Mr. Haines was attending some kind of convention; and what with the
chills, and that unexplained cake of Ephraim's, we were kept a little
uncomfortable for a time.
But Mr. Haines' visions were perplexing: no one could tell where their
signification might point; and this sending for Tom (of course he would
never have thought of coming if he had not been sent for) made me quite
I began to fear that this would be the first time I had ever gone to see
Bessie without enjoying the visit; and as we walked along to Canon Lane
Chapel together, her manner was so absent and fluttered that I really did
not know what to do.
"It is a delightful and meritorious thing to be pious, no doubt," I said
to myself, "but it has not improved the manner of my dear Bessie: on the
contrary, I should say it has entirely shaken her nerves, and given her
palpitation of the heart."
When we reached the chapel we found quite a number and variety of youths
already collected around the door, and when we went into a large and airy
room, well lighted and filled with seats, a goodly selection awaited us
A lady stood on a small platform with a bell in her hand: she had a large,
bony figure, and a long, bony face, and turned her eyes toward us without
changing their expression into any beam of recognition, as she used her
voice without any softening tone or tender cadence whatever:
"Miss Haines, good-afternoon. Mary Bryan, where's your brother? John Mott,
you have dropped your tract. Miss Pennyman, glad to see you. Sarah Harper,
give your sister a seat."
Bessie had pushed me on her attention between the monotonous sentences she
jerked out at her scholars, and she gave me five words just like the rest,
and dropped me off again.
Bessie seemed to become calmer after she had looked around the room once
in a hasty, fluttered way, and placing a chair for me, she threw herself
energetically into her philanthropic work.
I never knew before what a serious thing it was to be a Sunday-school
teacher, or how varied the requirements for such duty were. Thirst seemed
to be a prevailing agony among the scholars, and it seized its victims as
an epidemic does--without warning. They would just reach their seats and
drop into them listlessly, or gain them by energetic contest with some
previous intruder, and after an empty stare around them would be taken
with a sudden pang, expressed in writhing, shaking the right hand wildly
and gasping, "Teacher, I want a drink! I want a drink!"
Then they were subject to a terrible vacillation on the subject of their
hats: they would almost consign them to the care of a monitor appointed to
hang them on the pegs made and provided, when a sense of their
preciousness would suddenly present itself to their minds, and they would
rescue them wildly, and throw themselves on the defensive while they sat
upon or otherwise protected the contested article of dress.
There were six windows with broad sills in the room, and every child
seemed beset with a passionate desire to leave its seat and lodge itself
in a surreptitious manner on one of these perches, as if they had been
posts of honor.
Whether bits of bright tin, glass bottle-stoppers, ends of twine, broken
sticks and marbles were accessions to biblical instruction, or were only
so considered by the pupils themselves, did not transpire, but poor Bessie
seemed to find them stumbling-blocks in her path, and Miss Pepper had no
sooner confiscated one lot than another appeared in circulation and broke
the story of Joseph's coat into a parenthetical narrative:
"Israel loved Joseph so much that as a particular proof of his parental
regard (James Moore, stop putting that stick in your brother's eye) he
prepared a variegated garment known as a 'coat of many colors.' (John
Mink, take that marble out of your throat, or you'll swallow it.) The
bestowal of this beautiful gift (Mary Dunn, put your ticket away, and,
Sally Harris, let her hair alone) awakened feelings akin to envy and
bitterness in (Jane Sloper must not borrow her cousin's bonnet in
Sunday-school) the bosoms of his perverted brethren. (Hugh Fraley will
leave those strings at home, and, William Grove, stop climbing over the
bench.) Alas! what sorrow can evil and disobedient sons, too little
conscious (Dicky Taylor, bring that insect to me) of the sacrifices and
prayerful struggles of their venerable parents (no, Henry, not another
drink), call down upon their already care-burdened minds!"
Of course I felt sure that Miss Pepper was in earnest and meant to do
good, but I suspected that she had not what my uncle called "a gift" with
children, and I saw how much harder it made it for Bessie, who really was
a natural teacher, and who contrived to rule with a steady but gracious
firmness, and to win with a sweet simplicity that explained itself to the
minds of little ones.
I wondered not a little at her infatuation on the Pepper question when I
saw how contrary their ways and influence were. There were plenty of nice,
interesting little girls among the two hundred, and some very well-behaved
boys too; but Bessie set herself to win the unruly, and it was a lesson to
thoughtless me to see her do it. One terrible little soul, with a thin,
wiry body and tight-cropped head, fell into a conflict with a square-set,
hard-faced boy, and they rolled under the seats together just as Miss
Pepper had succeeded in raising the ill-used Joseph out of the pit with
words of three syllables. Bessie went to the rescue, and separated and
inverted the combatants, only the soles of whose boots had been visible a
moment before. She sat down with them, and although I could not hear her
words, I saw that they were slowly smoothing the angry creases of both the
thin and the square face.
"Then let him stop a-callin' me 'Skinny,'" was the last outbreak of the
injured lean one, and his antagonist confessed--
"I won't say nothin' to you no more if you stop grinning 'Flathead' at
Before Miss Pepper had succeeded in describing the paraphernalia of
Eastern travel and the approach of the Ishmaelites, the two were induced
to shake hands silently across their gentle mediatrix, whose face suddenly
grew radiant with the sweetest blush I ever saw as the door opened and a
new feature was added to the scene.
I do not mean to detract from the good impulses or high motives of my dear
girl when I say that this was the key that opened the subject to me, and
made it bright and plain. It wore the form of a truly good and
good-looking young gentleman, who had just enough of the clergyman in his
appearance to show that he honored his holy calling above all things. He
gave Bessie a glance that set my heart at rest--for I naturally felt
anxious that the blush and brightness and other signs should not be thrown
away on an unappreciative object--and then he went right into his work. Oh
dear! what a difference! One could not imagine, without seeing for one's
self, what a beautiful sympathy could do with material that a hard, dry
purpose could only irritate. Of course he bowed to me, and met Miss Pepper
like an old friend, and then he began, and in beginning caught every
single wandering mind, and held it with that mysterious fascination which
individualizes, and convinces each one that he is the particular soul
He had been spending the hour of his absence from us in the chamber of a
little fellow, one of our number, who had been terribly hurt by the
machinery of a factory in which he worked. He took every one of us there
with him, awakening our liveliest interest, and making us anxious to be
helpful to every suffering fellow-creature. Some of us had to cry a little
at the kind remembrances the poor crushed child sent us, and we felt quite
self-reproachful that we had not thought more of him, and been quieter and
more orderly in every way. Then, without any dry, hard preaching, he
planted that lesson, left it to take root without digging it up again with
personal exhortation, and told us something else. Surely no one could have
better divined just what we wanted to know, and just how we would have
liked it related. Love first of all; then cheerfulness, simplicity, and a
strong, earnest enthusiasm that made attention compulsory and the
I do not believe I ever felt better satisfied in my life than when he
closed and the orderly dismission began: then he turned to Bessie, and I
saw that my friend had found the mission of heart-and soul-work, and was
being drawn heavenward by the hand she loved. Such a timid tenderness as
pervaded his every look and word! such a sweet consciousness as lighted
hers! I laughed at my folly about Tom, and felt that I should be delighted
to see him at Haines', and introduce him to the dear, good clergyman whom
Bessie had the good sense to appreciate.
The Rev. Charles Pepper was the nephew of Miss Mary. I soon changed my
prejudiced opinion of that lady into a clearer view of her merits. She was
the Paul that planted: being a woman of wealth and strong religious bias,
she had built the mission chapel, gathered together the children and
taught them, while her good nephew added the superintendence of the school
to his church duties in a different quarter.
"Bessie, does your father know--?" I began as we went homeward together.
She interrupted me: "About Miss Pepper? Oh yes, indeed! She called to ask
his permission for me to teach them, and has been at our house twice
"You know I don't mean her at all," I said, laughing. "I mean her nephew,
But Bessie faltered: she had not the courage to speak freely, since it was
evident they had not spoken so to each other yet. She knew she loved and
was beloved, but could not force the delicate secret into words, since it
was yet unavowed between them.
"All I am afraid of, Bess," said I, determined to make her practical, for
she was as ethereal as if she and her love meant to live in the clouds all
their days--"all I am afraid of is, that your father's vision may threaten
your peace; for, rely on it, Bess, it is about you and you alone, or why
should uncle keep praying for you as a 'young damsel,' and 'handmaiden,'
and 'female pilgrim,' and all that?"
Bessie seemed troubled, but she could not be brought to confidence until
the minister had opened his heart to her. I saw that, and though I had
never had a warning dream in my life, I felt it was my mission to help
The Rev. Charles and I had had a little, a very little, talk, but I saw
that Bessie had named me to him--that pleased me; that he was very
desirous of gaining my good-will--that pleased me too. So I had happened
to say that I admired church architecture, particularly Gothic: some one
had said that his church belonged to that style, and he immediately,
offered to take us to examine it. I asked him to call for us next day, and
he delightedly promised that he would.
I told Bessie, and the ungrateful creature was alarmed and nervous, and
gave way to all sorts of nonsense; but I consoled her and admired him in a
way that seemed to give her satisfaction. The next morning I made a
startling discovery. I went into the little bookroom that opened out of
the great old-fashioned back parlor, where uncle and Mr. Haines sat every
morning with Scott and Clarke and Cruden open before them: I went in very
quietly, and didn't make much noise when there. Mr. Haines was talking in
a slow, set way, and I could hear the scratching of a pen over stiff
"Would you mention my reasons for recording this, my dear Daniel?" he said
to Uncle Pennyman.
"I have set them down at the commencement," said my uncle, who was acting
as scribe. "I have said that, your mind being clear and your feelings at
ease, you retired to your couch on the night of the 28th of October; that
the form of your dear wife seemed waiting for you, since you became
conscious of her presence immediately after your sinking asleep; and so
"Yes," said Mr. Haines, witty a deep sigh: "it is a great thing, no doubt,
to be so guided in the visions of the night, and I have many times
considered myself greatly favored by the knowledge of the ministry of my
dear wife's blessed spirit; but, friend Daniel, if she had been a little
more explicit in this instance it would have been a great comfort to me.
Follow me now, friend Daniel. You have got it down to where she spoke.
Well, she raised her hand and seemed to point to the couch of Dorcas
Elizabeth" (that was what Bess had been baptized, and was called by her
father on solemn occasions)--"my thoughts had been dwelling on the child,
and her increasing age and future duties--and she said, 'Marry her wisely
to Thomas,' and repeated the words three times."
I heard the scratching pen and Mr. Haines' depressed, uncertain sigh, and
my own heart sank heavily. There was no Thomas to marry her to but our
Tom, and such a thing was simply preposterous and wicked. I could not, I
would not, bear even to think of it.
Oh, good Mrs. Haines, departed so long ago! why should you come back
troubling us about such, things? and, above all, why could you not as well
have said Charles as Thomas?
"I have that set down," said Uncle Pennyman. Mr. Haines sighed again in
that anxious, uncertain way of his:
"During the first day after the visitation, Daniel, I could not recall
whether my wife's appearance said, 'To Thomas, marry her wisely,' or as we
now put it down; but since you have set it clearly before me, and your son
will so soon be here, I feel that I am justified in having it stated in
that way, and that Providence is guiding me."
Oh how my heart rose against Uncle Pennyman as I listened! He was the one
to blame for such a shameful, foolish notion stealing into Mr. Haines'
head! Left to himself, any name would have suited him equally well, and
here was Tom's thrust in without any earthly reason. It was really
dreadful! I could scarcely stand on my feet when I remembered how Tom
loved his adopted father, and with what unselfish devotion he always spoke
of him. "If he's told that it will be a family blessing, he never will
have the heart to deny them and grieve Uncle Pennyman. Poor Tom! he is so
shockingly unselfish himself that he would rather enjoy a sacrifice than
otherwise, I suppose." So ran my thoughts, and I grew desperate.
Desperation awakens courage. Tom would be there in the evening, and if
anything could be done it had to be done at once.
I slipped out silently as I came: no one heard me. I did not mean that
they should do so, for, to confess the truth, I was listening on purpose.
I dressed to go out with Mr. Pepper; so did Bessie, though I must say she
was very nervous and uncertain about it. "You know papa does not know him
in--in the character of a friend of mine," she said, hesitatingly. "Miss
Pepper introduced him, and that is all."
"But that is no reason why it should be all," I said to myself, and paid
no attention to her little bashful fussiness.
When he arrived, I saw in his eyes that he meant to take advantage of the
opportunity I was making for him, and so I boldly carried out my plan. We
started, and had gone a block or two when I discovered that they were
becoming unaware of my existence and completely absorbed in each other.
"Poor dears!" I thought, "let them have a still better chance." So I
stopped in the most natural way possible at a window where trimmings were
displayed, and began to stare at some ribbon. "The very shade!" I said: "I
would not miss it for anything. Pray go on slowly, and I'll join you
presently. Keep on till you reach the church--I know the way. And be sure
you stay till I come. No, you shall not come in: I insist that you go
right on, and do not bother. I have a sort of pride in making bargains,
and they never can be made in company, you know." I laughed and wouldn't
listen to their waiting, and managed it so well that they went away as
unsuspecting and tender as two lambs. I waited till they were out of
sight, and then I started straight for home.
I was in high glee till Mrs. Tanner came up stairs.
"There are great preparations making for Mr. Tom," said she with a
portentous face. "Mr. Haines has given more orders about his reception
than I ever knew him to issue before; and, what seems strange, he actually
insists on my calling him Mr. Thomas, when I never can get my tongue round
anything but Mr. Tom, in the world."
Both seemed threatening--the preparations and the name; and when Mrs.
Tanner asked where Miss Bessie was, and heard that she had gone out, she
shook her head and said that she was afraid her pa wouldn't like it. This
convinced me that she too had guessed the nature of the vision, and made
me more than ever anxious to save poor Bessie and Tom from mutual
unhappiness. The first effort was made, and I must consider the next step.
I felt nearly sure that by this time the two dear Sunday-school workers
had become personal in their conversation, and taking up my position on
the broad sofa in the quiet, shady back parlor, I set myself to thinking
out the plan. It was a great, solidly-furnished old room, staid and
handsome like the rest of the house, and meant for comfort in every
particular. Over the mantelpiece, and directly opposite to me, was a
life-size picture of Mrs. Haines, a very young lady with a mild shyness of
expression and a great deal of flaxen hair. She had died when Bessie was a
baby, and was altogether a more childlike and undecided person than her
daughter. The wonder therefore was that she should have become so
dictatorial in the visions of the night, and undertaken to control the
family affairs after so many years, never having meddled with them while
there was a living opportunity.
I was just thinking how useless it would be to appeal to Uncle Pennyman
without--without saying something about Tom (and that under the
circumstances could not be thought of: it made me burn all over merely to
have it in my mind for a moment), when I became drowsy, and had not time
to question the feeling until I was sound asleep.
A murmur of voices roused me, or perhaps I was going to wake at any rate,
for they were singularly low, and the speakers quite unconscious of my
presence. I looked up, and in the faint light coming between the bowed
shutters and lace curtains I saw the Rev. Charles and Bessie directly
under the portrait of Mrs. Haines. He had thrown his arm around her, and,
although she struggled just a little in the embrace, held her to his
"Oh, I cannot believe it," she was saying: "it is like a dream. And Winnie
too!--to forget all about dear Winnie just because I am so happy. It is
selfish and unkind, dear, I am afraid."
He told her I was too good, too lovable to quarrel with their bliss, and
held her to his heart while he looked up to the flaxed-haired, baby-faced
mother for a blessing with quite a glow of feeling on his face and real
tears in his eyes.
There was something in mine I suppose, for when I looked too I could
scarcely believe them: the portrait seemed to show a different face
entirely. The blue eyes bent down on those upturned to meet them with a
look I had never beheld in them before, and the delicate little pink mouth
seemed to tremble with a blessing.
"Am I dreaming?" I almost asked it aloud, and the question and the sound
of Uncle Pennyman's voice in the book-room gave me a new idea. Softly I
slipped from my place and out at the open door, leaving the absorbed ones
to themselves, and joined my uncle and Mr. Haines where they were
preparing for another conflict with the commentators.
"I have had a dream," I said solemnly.
"A dream!" repeated they.
"Yes, and it was so lifelike that I must tell it to you, for I am
convinced it is no common warning, but one full of meaning and truth."
They gazed at me blankly, and I went on, fearing to stop an instant lest I
should lose my courage:
"I was lying on the sofa opposite Mrs. Haines' portrait--"
"The very place where I lay when last I dreamed," murmured her husband.
"And I saw Bessie and a gentleman hand in hand beneath it, looking up into
the sweet face for a blessing; and oh such a heavenly smile lighted it
while the beautiful lips seemed to murmur, 'She will marry wisely, dear
Mr. Haines was so shaken by my words that my heart misgave me. He covered
his face with his hands. "She used to call me dear Thomas," he said, and
the tears ran through his fingers.
"Then the name was _yours_" said Uncle Pennyman with weighty
consideration. "You remember I said it was capable of a double
application: those things are wonderful, and interpret each other. Winnie,
my dear girl, could you distinguish this person's face?"
Before I could answer, Mrs. Tanner at the door said, "Here's Mr. Tom,
bless his heart! I never can learn to call him anything else."
Tom was _so_ glad to see me! Yes, I may as well tell it, for it told
itself: dear Tom never seemed so glad before.
"Was it his face, Winnie?" whispered Mr. Haines.
If ever _No_ was said with energy and decision, it was in my reply. The
parlor door opened just as we were about to go in all together, shaking
hands and making kind speeches over Tom, and Bessie and the Rev. Charles
appeared in the act of taking leave of each other.
"That's the face!" I cried dramatically; and then I really and truly did
faint--stone dead, as Mrs. Tanner said afterward--for I was not used to
telling lies, and even white ones were exciting things to tell, and
scarcely justified themselves to my conscience by the magnitude of the
good they were to do.
When I came to myself, Bessie was hanging over me with all the love she
had left from Mr. Charles, I suppose; and I heard Mr. Haines and Uncle
Pennyman talking with Tom, and trying to explain to him the remarkable
nature of the vision that had overcome me. I sat up, and tried to laugh
and declare that it was nothing at all, though my heart kept throbbing.
"You have all had dreams," said Tom: "you have yet to hear mine. Uncle, I
dreamed that Winnie and I loved each other, and that I asked you for her
and you said yes."
"No, Thomas," said Uncle Pennyman gravely, but with a kind of breaking
about his mouth: "your eyes were open when you had that vision, and you
must not jest with serious subjects. But it is well you mentioned it, dear
boy, and it is well our child Winnie received such a remarkable direction,
since it throws light on friend Haines' visitation, and apparently the
happiness of that excellent young minister and our dear Bessie here."
"The young man has just expressed himself in corroboration of the vision,"
said Mr. Haines, much affected.
Bessie threw her arms round her father, then round me, and then she ran
away. Mr. Haines and Uncle Pennyman went out to their commentaries, Mrs.
Tanner to see to her buns: Tom and I were alone.
"What is this about, Winnie darling?" he said.
"Tom," said I, "we are all the victims of dreams."
The Cold Hand.
There is a rocky hill in what was till recently the town of Dorchester,
looking out over Boston Bay. It takes its name from the stiff black savins
with which it is covered, and which contrive to find nourishment and
support in the rock to which they cling. Some of these trees show their
great age by their gnarled and knotted trunks and boughs. Black and
impassive they stand, alike in the brightest summer or the grayest winter,
sighing restlessly in the breeze, but wailing piteously when the sea-winds
sweep over the hill. Partway up the little rocky eminence stands an old
house, now fast falling to pieces. It is a low building, with a gambrel
roof and a huge chimney. It has stood there many years, for it was built
not long after the Revolution, and it might have stood many years more had
it not been suffered to go to decay with a carelessness which seemed to
belie the general thrift of the town.
Wandering over the hill one bright winter day, with no companion but a
large dog, I stopped to look in at the window of the old house. The glass
was gone from the sash, and the sash itself was broken in many places; but
the obscurity was so deep within that I obtained only a partial glimpse of
an interior which to my fancy had a peculiarly deserted and eerie look. I
felt a desire to explore the place, attracted rather than repelled by its
forlorn look of falling age; for I came from a part of the country where
the most ancient relic dates back only forty years, and the aspect of
everything old and quaint in the place had a charm for me which I suspect
it offers to few of the natives. The front door was locked, but I obtained
an entrance without difficulty at the back, and made my way through a
little shed, which was evidently of more modern construction than the main
part of the building. I came first into the kitchen, where was a large
fireplace blackened with the smoke of long-dead fires, and a narrow, high
mantelpiece. A little cupboard was let into the side of the great chimney,
which projected far across the floor. The room was long and narrow,
running the whole length of the house, with a window at each end. The
blackened plaster was dropping from the walls and ceiling, exposing in
some places the heavy beams, and the floor was dark and discolored with
age and dust, although quite firm to the tread. By a low door I passed
into a small room lighted by two windows--one in front, the other at the
end of the house, and presenting the same appearance of desolate decay.
There were four doors in this room--the one through which I had just
entered, another leading to the rooms above, a third, secured by a bolt,
which I did not then open, and a fourth leading into a narrow passage, in
which was the locked front door. I crossed this passage, and found myself
in a room of the same size as the one I had just left. It was that into
which I had attempted to look from the outside. Here I missed the dog, who
had hitherto followed me, though with seeming reluctance, and no
persuasion could induce him to cross the threshold. This room was in
rather better repair than were the other two. There was the same high
mantelpiece, rather less narrow, and the same little cupboard let into the
massive chimney. The floor was less discolored, but there was a deep burnt
spot on it near the fireplace, as if some one had dropped a shovelful of
hot coals, or rather as if some corrosive fluid had been spilled. I
remained here a few moments, idly wondering what might have been the
history of the former tenants, and what could have induced any one to
build a house in a spot so bleak and exposed, where scarcely a pretence of
soil offered itself for a garden. As I stood there, a singular impression
came upon me that I was not alone. For a moment, and a moment only, I
became conscious of another presence in the room. The impression passed as
suddenly as it had come, but, transient as it was, it awoke me from my
reverie. Smiling at myself for the fancy, I recrossed the passage and
ascended the steep, narrow winding stairs to the chambers above. There
were four small rooms, opening one into the other, with a closet
partitioned off in each, and so low that in the highest part a tall man
could but just have stood upright. Here the ruin was farther advanced. The
floor creaked under my foot, the plaster had nearly all fallen from the
ceiling and was peeling from the walls, while deep stains on the remaining
portion showed that the rain and thawing snow had made their way through
the roof. The place had a lonesome, forlorn look, even more than usually
belongs to a deserted house, though such might not have been its aspect to
other than my unaccustomed Western eyes.
Turning, I made my way down the short staircase, and was about to leave
the house when the third door, as yet unopened, caught my eye. I drew with
some difficulty the rusted bolt, and found myself at the head of a steep
flight of stairs, seemingly longer than that which I had just descended.
It led to the cellar, and though the afternoon was getting on, I thought I
would finish my exploration, and therefore went down, though repelled by
the close and peculiarly damp air. The cellar was blasted and hewn in the
solid rock to a depth which, considering the extreme hardness of the
stone, seemed remarkable in a house so unpretending. A dim light made its
way through a narrow window at each end and fell upon the stone floor. I
walked forward, looking up at the windows, but I had not taken ten steps
before I recoiled with a start. At my feet lay a pit, seemingly of
considerable depth, and filled with water to within four feet of the top.
The cellar did not lie under the kitchen, but only under the two front
rooms and the passage, and this pit occupied the whole length and fully
half the breadth of the space of the rooms above, and, what was more
peculiar, seemed to extend even farther forward than the house itself.
Another step, and I should have fallen into it. Curious to try its depth,
I picked up a little fragment of stone and dropped it in. As the stone
touched the water, and the circles on the sullen surface began to widen, a
current of air rushed down the stairs, and the door above shut violently.
At that moment the impression which I had experienced in the room above
came back upon me with tenfold distinctness, and was accompanied with a
feeling of exceeding horror. It seemed as if there was closing around me
some evil influence, from which I could only escape by instant flight. For
one moment I resisted the unreasonable terror, and made an attempt to
explain, or at least analyze, a sensation so unwonted: the next, the
loathing dread grew too strong. I turned and hurried across the damp
floor, up the narrow stairs, and, opening the door, made my way as quickly
as possible into the outside air. The dog was waiting for me in the little
shed, and seemed delighted at seeing me again. I closed the door, ashamed
of my senseless fright, but nevertheless I was thankful that I had found
no trouble in getting out. I am not quite prepared to say, however, that
these sudden and apparently unreasonable starts are independent of
external causes. The Vermont-bred horse will be thrown into an agony of
fright when the closed cage of a lion passes by, though he has never
learned by experience that lions will kill horses, and though the lion
himself is unseen.
I walked briskly home. I had some distance to go, and had quite lost the
impression of my ghostly terror when I reached the house where I was
staying, a modern shingle Gothic erection, which in vain endeavored to
disguise its barny appearance with sundry wooden adornments modeled after
"Freda," said I to my friend after tea, when she and I were sitting
comfortably by the fire in the library, "do you know anything about the
old yellow-gray house up on the hill?"
"Why, what of it?"
"Nothing, only I went into it to-day. What is its history?"
"Nothing particular. It was built for a Doctor Haywood. Have you read
Alp's last essay on the Semi-occasional?"
"Yes, and great stuff it is."
Freda looked inexpressibly shocked. I had better have condemned law and
gospel together than made light of Alp; but she put up with it, probably
considering it excusable as the utterance of a savage from the wilds of
"Never mind him now. He shall proclaim his figs in the name of the Prophet
for all time if you will tell me about the old house. I know it has a
She rose and took from the drawer an old manuscript volume, which she
placed in my hands. It was a little note-book, in which the entries were
made not from day to day, but at irregular intervals, in a singularly
clear, precise hand:
"_Nov._ 3, 1784. This day my neighbor Ball's cow, getting out of the
pasture and running on the highway, was put in the pound. Took her out,
and cautioned my neighbor to have more care of the creature. _Mem.:_ To
bespeak a pair of shoes for her eldest girl.
"_Jan._ 1, 1785. This day the wind very high.
"_Jan._ 10. Neighbor Ball's cow, getting among my wife's rosebushes, did
do some damage, whereat she was much vexed. Caught the said cow, and
begged my neighbor to keep her at home, which she promised to do, but in
an hour back again. However, she is a widow.
"_Jan._ 13. Doctor Haywood, newly come to this place from the old country,
has taken lodging with Neighbor Ball. Said to be a learned man--has much
baggage, and they say some curious machines. Is curious about plants and
the like. Neighbor Ball did hint to my wife that he knew about matters
better let alone, whereat my wife did tell her that she wished he would
give her a charm to keep her cow out of our yard.
"_Jan._ 15. Dr. Haywood has bought a lot on the hill, and is to build upon
it. Has spoken to me about it. Have drawn the plan, and shall make the
"_Feb._ 1. Doctor Haywood hurries on the work--says he is in haste to get
into his own house. Saw Indian Will to-day, quite drunk. With much trouble
got him to our house, where my wife did let him lie in the kitchen all
night. Had she not done so, the poor man might have frozen to death before
morning, for it was a very cold night. Argued with him in the morning,
whereat he promised amendment.
"_Feb._ 10. My daughter Faithful this day, with my consent, promised
herself to John Clark, skipper of the Federalist schooner.
"_Feb._ 18. Blasting out the cellar for Haywood's house. He wants it more
than common deep--says it makes the house warm.
"_Feb._ 21. Came this day upon a great hollow in the rock filled with
water, which ran in as soon as pumped but. The doctor much displeased at
first--talked of beginning over again, but finally contented himself.
"_June_ 3. Doctor Haywood moved into his house this day. Has much curious
stuff. The minister says he is a chemist.
"_June_ 8. Went up to the doctor's house to settle with him. He came to
the door and said he was too busy then, but would drop round soon. They
say he lets no one inside the place since he moved. Has taken a pew in the
meeting-house, and comes once of a Sabbath.
"_July_ 22. Doctor Haywood and me did settle accounts. He beat everything
down to the last penny--offered to pay part in attendance on my family if
sick. Did not care to settle that way, knowing his charges. Charged James
Sumner five dollars for one visit to his child, which child, nevertheless,
he did greatly help.
"_August_ 18. News came this day that the Federalist went down in the gale
of the tenth, off Marblehead, with all on board. A sore affliction to my
daughter Faithful. The Lord's will be done!
"_August_ 26. Neighbor Ball's eldest girl gets lower. Doctor Cray does no
good. She would call in Doctor Haywood if she dared, but his charges are
so high. James Sumner and me did consult together and agree to take the
charges between us. I have heard say that he has helped several poor
people free: did especially help Indian Will when he lay like to die of
pleurisy at Neponset Village.
"_Sept._ 1. Neighbor Ball, going up the hill last night to call Doctor
Haywood to her daughter Hepsey, did tell my wife that she had a look into
the south room as he opened the door, and that there were queer things
there, such as a brick furnace, all red with fire; and she did say, too,
that she saw things like snakes, only thin like mist, twisting about in
the air by the firelight, which I do hold to be her own invention or mere
"_Sept._ 2. Doctor Haywood has helped Hepsey Ball some considerable,
though he says he cannot cure her, for she has consumption.
"_Sept._ 16. Doctor Haywood told James Sumner and me that he would ask
nothing for attending Hepsey Ball, but would keep on to ease her what he
could as long as she lived. He told my wife she might last a year.
"_Nov._ 3. Jonathan Phelps told me that Doctor Haywood had borrowed one
hundred dollars of him, giving security on the house and lot.
"_Nov._ 8. James Sumner this day, his wife being dead a year, did ask my
daughter Sophonisba to marry him, the which she did refuse, and snapped
him off too short. Then he spoke to Faithful, and she burst out crying and
ran up stairs, and could by no means be got to listen. Recommended James
to Hannah Gardner.
"_Nov._ 16. Doctor Hay wood this day borrowed fifty dollars of me. If he
had not been so considerate to Widow Ball should not have felt like
letting it go.
"_Dec._ 16. Coming home from Boston last night, overtook Indian Will. He
showed me a big iron tobacco-box nearly full of money--silver, with two
gold-pieces, one a Spanish piece, the other an English half guinea. He got
it for a lot of deer-skins in Boston. Begged him not to drink it all up,
which he said he would not do, but would give it to his squaw. Did ask him
to come home with me, which he refused, as he meant to go on to Neponset
"_Dec._ 17. The wind blowing these two days to the land made it very high
water, coming nearly up to Governor Stoughton's elm, and covering the
"_Dec._ 18. A great gale last night--much damage at sea, doubtless. The
water very high.
"_Dec._ 19. Two men out in a boat found an old hat and blanket floating by
the Point, said to belong to Indian Will: no one has seen him since the
16th. Likely he went to the tavern and got drunk, so missed his way and
was drowned by the tide.
"_Dec._ 20, Last night Indian Will's body came ashore, much beaten by the
rocks, but known to be his by those who knew him. The verdict was,
'Drowned by the tide.'
"_Feb._ 11, 1786. Doctor Haywood spent the evening at our house. He has
been more social of late, going a good deal among people, especially poor
people, to help them. Has never paid me the fifty dollars, but makes
promises. I was led on to speak of Indian Will. The doctor said the night
of the 16th he thought he heard some one cry out, but thought it some
drunken person, and besides was busy with his studies, and so did not
mind. My wife asked him what he studied. He said a good many different
matters, but that he had given it all up now, and meant to practice.
Shortly after jumped up and went away very sudden."
Here the journal came to an abrupt end. The rest of the book was filled
with accounts relating to the business of a milliner and dressmaker.
Slipped in between its leaves were two letters, written in a cramped,
scratchy hand and rather irregular in spelling. They were directed to
Sophonisba T----, Salem, Massachusetts, and seemed to be from a mother to
"DORCHESTER, May 1, 1786.
"My Dear Child: I take my pen in hand to let you knew that we are all in
good health, and hope you are enjoying the same blessing. James Sumner
is married to Hannah Gardner. Most people think she will have her hands
full with his children. Parson H---- married them. She wore a blue silk
at two dollars the yard. Hepsey Ball is dead. She departed this life on
the 29th of April, at half-past eight in the evening, being quite
resigned and in good hope of her election to grace. She had not much
pain at the last. Doctor Haywood called to see her in the morning, and
she being then, as we thought, asleep, did start up and cry out that
there was a black shadow, not his own, always following after him, which
made me think her light-headed; but her mother says the doctor turned as
pale as a sheet, and made as if to go off again. Your sister Faithful is
at Mr. Trueman's, helping to make up Lorenda's wedding-clothes. I would
not have had her go, but she seemed willing to undertake it. Your loving
mother, ANNA T----."
The second was also addressed to Sophonisba, who on the 3d of June was yet
visiting friends in Salem. After a few details of domestic news, it went
"Doctor Haywood is missing: no one knows where he is gone. He has been
looked for in Boston, but they have found no news of him; only that a
little black boy says he saw a man like him go on board a ship bound for
the East Indies. Now he is gone, they find he owes money to a great many
besides your father. He owes to people in Boston for drugs and
medicines--some, it is said, very costly, and sent for express to the
old country. Mr. Sewell, the bookseller there, says he tried to dispose
of his books to him; and when he did not buy them, thinks he sent them
to the old country. He owes every one he could get to trust him. It is
odd what he did with all the money. It is thought Jonathan Phelps will
get the house. They went up to it and found the door unlocked. They
found nothing in the house but the furniture, and that very common and
cheap. There were none of all those things they said he had; only in the
south room a lot of bottles and jars, and a brick place built up with a
vent outside, which Parson H---- says is a furnace such as folks use
that study chemistry. There was a great heap of ashes in the fireplace,
as if he had burned papers or books there, and a great burned spot on
the floor right before it."
"Who was the writer of these?" I asked as I refolded the little old
letter, "and what became of Doctor Haywood? Was nothing more heard?"
In answer to these questions my friend gave the following narration.
The writer of the journal was my great uncle, Silas T----. Sophonisba and
Faithful were my mother's cousins. Both were much older than she, but I
have often seen Faithful when I was a girl, and I had all the story there
is from herself. The little house on the hill fell into the hands of the
chief creditor, who took down the furnace in the south room and offered
the place to rent, but no tenant ever remained there long, either because
of the bleak situation or the want of a garden. There were rumors that the
place was not quite canny. One woman, indeed, went so far as to declare
that she had seen the doctor's figure, dim and unsubstantial, standing
before the fireplace in the twilight, and that once, as she came up the
cellar stairs, something followed her and laid a cold hand on her
shoulder; but as she was a nervous, hysterical person, and moreover was
known to be somewhat given to exaggeration, no one paid much attention to
It was certain, however, that there was a great deal of sickness in the
house. One family who rented the place lost three children by fever in one
summer, and it was remarkable that all three seemed to fall under the same
delusion, and insisted that something or some one, coming behind them,
laid upon their shoulders a cold hand. One of them, toward the last, said
that a shadow kept moving to and fro in the room, and kept the sunshine
all away. The woman who had seen the vision of the old doctor became a
widow the next month, and so much sickness and death took place in the
house that at last no one would live there, and it was shut up by its
In due course of time the father and mother of Sophonisba and Faithful
were laid in Dorchester burial-ground. Mr. T---- had never been a rich man
by any means, and when he died there was little left for the two girls,
even after the sale of the homestead. They did not, however, consider
themselves poor, but with their fifteen hundred dollars in the bank and
their trade of milliner and dressmaker thought themselves very well to do
in the world. Sophonisba, the elder, was at that time a little under
fifty--an energetic, hard-working woman, with a constitution of wrought
iron and bend leather, and no more under the influence of what are called
"nerves" than if they had been left out of her system entirely. If ever a
woman was born into this world an old maid, it was Sophonisba T----. Her
fine name was the only romantic thing about her. She had had more than one
offer of marriage in her day, but she had no talent for matrimony, and had
turned such a very cold shoulder on her admirers that the swains became
dispirited, and betook themselves to the courtship of more impressible
damsels. There was no hidden romance or tale of unreturned affection in
Miss Sophonisba's experience. The simple fact was, she had never wished to
be married. Miss Faithful was five years her sister's junior. She had
never found room in her heart for a second love since John Clark went down
in the Federalist. She had been a young and pretty girl then, and now she
was a thin, silent, rather nervous little body, depending entirely upon
her sister with a helpless kind of affection that was returned on Miss
Sophonisba's part by a devotion which might almost be called passionate.
"I tell you what it is, Faithful," said Miss Sophonisba one evening, as
they sat over their tea, "if they raise the rent on us here, I won't
The sisters had lived in the house ever since the death of their mother,
five years before. Their business had prospered, and they were
conveniently situated, but, for all that, Miss Sophonisba had no mind to
pay additional rent.
"No?" said Faithful, inquiringly.
"That I won't! We pay all it's worth now, and more too. It ain't the extra
four shillings," said Miss Sophonisba, rubbing her spectacles in
irritation, "but I do hate to be imposed upon."
"It will be some trouble to find a new place," suggested Miss Faithful
meekly, "and we can afford it, I suppose."
"I don't care if we can afford it a dozen times over," said her sister,
with increased decision. "I won't be imposed upon. If I've got either to
drive or be driven, I'd rather drive."
"Of course," said Miss Faithful, who had never driven any living creature
in the whole course of her life.
"I saw Peter Phelps to-day," said Miss Sophonisba, "and he says he'll let
us have the old house up on the hill for anything we like to give."
Miss Faithful gave a little start: "Would you like to live there,
"Why, it's a good convenient situation, and plenty big enough for you and
me and the cat."
"But you know," said Miss Faithful, timidly, "they have told such queer
stories about it." "Stuff and nonsense!" said Miss Sophonisba. "You don't
believe them, I hope?"
"No," hesitated her sister, "but then one remembers them, you know. Widow
Eldridge always said she saw old Doctor Haywood there."
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Miss Sophonisba again. "You know perfectly well
you couldn't trust a word she said about anything."
"Oh, Sophonisba, she's dead!" said Miss Faithful, shocked.
"I can't help that, child. It don't hinder her having told fibs all her
"Her husband died the next month."
"Well, so he might anywhere. My wonder is he lived as long as he did,
"And Mrs. Jones's three children died there."
"Well, and didn't Mrs. Gardner lose her two and that brother of hers? and
I never heard their place was haunted; and didn't two die out of the
Trueman house? and ever so many more all over town? It was a dreadful
"And Sarah Jane McClean was taken sick there with fever."
"Well, they had dirt enough to account for anything. Doctor Brown told me
himself that they had a great heap of potatoes sprouted in the cellar, and
there ain't anything so bad as that."
The last vestige of a ghost was demolished: Miss Faithful had nothing more
"It's nigh twenty-five years since the old doctor went off," said Miss
Sophonisba. "It ain't very probable he's alive now; and if he is, he won't
be very apt to come back: and if he is dead, he certainly won't. If he
did, I'd like to ask him why he never paid father that fifty dollars. I
saw Peter Phelps to-day, and he says he'll fix the place all up for us if
we'll have it, but of course I wouldn't say anything about it till I'd
spoken to you."
"Just as you please, Sophonisba," said Miss Faithful.
"He says he'll give us a bit of ground down on the flat for a garden, and
let his man dig it up for us. I went up and looked at the house. It ain't
so much out of repair as you'd think."
"Did you see the burnt spot on the floor?" asked Miss Faithful with some
"Yes, I saw it--a great blackened place. Most likely he spilled some of
his chemical stuff on it."
Miss Sophonisba was not, as she expressed herself, one to let the grass
grow under her feet. She concluded the bargain for the house next day, and
informed their landlord--who, by the by, was a son of their old neighbor,
Widow Ball--of their intention to move. That gentleman was not at all
pleased at the idea of losing his tenants. In vain he offered to recede
from the obnoxious demand of four shillings more. Miss Sophonisba told him
that she had made up her mind, and that _she_ wasn't in the habit of going
back from her bargains when she had given her word, whatever other people
"Well, Miss T----," said Mr. Ball, "I hope you won't repent. They've said
queer things about that house ever since the old doctor went off so
mysterious. Some folks said he drowned himself in that place in the
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Miss Sophonisba. "The old doctor never hurt any
one when he was alive, except by borrowing money of them, and it ain't
likely he'll want to do that now that he's dead; and if he did, I
shouldn't let him have it."
"Well, my mother was in the house when Miss Eldridge came running up the
stairs as pale as a sheet, and said he came behind her and caught hold of
"Joanna Eldridge was always a poor, miserable, shiftless, narvy thing,"
said Miss Sophonisba, "and half the time you couldn't believe a word she
"Well she was a connexion of our'n, Miss T----, and I always thought there
was something in it. Narves won't account for everything."
"Well, I never trusted her a bit more for that," said Miss Sophonisba. "I
know one time she told mother a long story about how you sent in a bill
for shoes to Widow Sumner that James had paid you before he died, and she
said you'd have made her a deal of trouble if she hadn't ha' found the
receipt. A good many folks talked about it, but I always said it was just
one of Joanna's stories."
Mr. Ball was put down, and took his leave.
As soon as the necessary repairs were finished the sisters moved into the
house, and during that summer found reason to congratulate themselves on
their change of abode. The high, airy situation was very pleasant in warm
weather, and the view over the waters of the bay across to Boston and far
out to sea, with the coming and departing ships, afforded much pleasure
and a subject of conversation to the sisters. Their little garden on the
flat throve well, and was a source of never-ending interest. They had been
troubled by no ghostly visitations. Miss Sophonisba had indeed once heard
a mysterious noise in the cellar, but on going down stairs she found that
the cat had jumped on the hanging shelf and was helping herself out of the
The sisters were sitting one day toward the end of November--I think it
was the twenty-fifth--in the north room, which they had made their
work-room. The south room, according to the custom of our ancestors, still
religiously preserved among us, was shut up "for company." The kitchen
served them also for dining-room, and the largest room up stairs was their
bed-chamber. Miss Sophonisba was trimming a bonnet, a task for which she
had an especial gift. Ladies came to her even from Boston, saying that her
work had an air and style quite its own, while her charges were not nearly
so high as those of the more fashionable milliners in the city. Faithful
was altering a dress of her own. Both were much engaged with their work,
and neither had spoken for some time. Suddenly, Faithful started slightly,
and the needle dropped from her hand.
"What's the matter?" asked her sister.
"Nothing," said Faithful, rather confused.
"Yes, there is," said Miss Sophonisba. "People don't jump that way for
nothing. What is it?"
"Oh, I don't know," hesitated Miss Faithful. "I guess I pricked my
"Umph!" said Miss Sophonisba in a very incredulous way, but she pushed her
inquiries no farther.
As soon as her sister was silent, Miss Faithful's conscience began to
chide her for her little evasion. Twice she opened her mouth to speak, and
as often checked herself, but the third time the words were uttered: "If I
tell you, Sophonisba, you will laugh at me."
"Well, that wouldn't kill you, child."
"No; but--well--it was only that I thought all of a sudden some one was
standing behind my chair."
"How could you think so when there was no one there?"
"I don't know, but it felt as if there was."
"Nonsense, Faithful! If you didn't see any one, how did you know there was
any one? Have you got eyes in the back of your head?"
"I didn't see it--I sort of felt so."
"'Sort of felt so!'" said Miss Sophonisba, with good-natured contempt. "If
I was you, I'd take some catnip tea when I went to bed: you're kind of
Miss Faithful assented, and went on quietly with her sewing, but she
changed the seat which she had occupied, with her back to the cellar door,
for one close to her sister.
No further disturbance occurred till the middle of December. It had been a
very windy day. The bay was tossing in long gray-green lines of waves
crested with flying foam. The black savins sighed and wailed as they bent
to the cutting blast. The wind was east, and it took a good deal of fire
to keep the old house warm, but wood was cheap in those days, and Miss
Sophonisba, though prudent and economical, was not given to what New
England expressively calls "skrimping."
Miss Faithful, not feeling very well, had gone up stairs to bed soon after
tea. A windy day always made her uncomfortable, recalling, too vividly
perhaps, the gale in which the Federalist had gone down. Miss Sophonisba,
having some work on hand which she was anxious to finish, was sitting up
rather beyond her usual hour. Pausing for a moment in her sewing, she
heard some one walking about in the room above her to and fro, with a
regular though light step, as of bare or thinly-shod feet, on the boards.
"Why, what can ail the child," she said to herself, "to be walking about
barefoot this time of night? She'll get her death of cold;" and she put
down her work and went up stairs, intending to administer a sisterly
lecture. To her surprise, Faithful was fast asleep in bed, and no other
living creature was in the room. It could not have been the cat this time,
for Puss was comfortably purring before the fire down stairs. Miss
Sophonisba stood by the bed for a moment, candle in hand, listening for a
repetition of the sound.
Suddenly a wilder gust shook the house perceptibly. Miss Faithful started
from her sleep with a cry of terror. "Oh, I have had such a dream!" said
she, clinging to her sister.
"What was it?" said Miss Sophonisba, soothing and quieting her like a
"I thought I was lying in bed just as I was, when all of a sudden I knew
that Something had come in, and was going up and down, up and down the
"What was it like?" asked her sister, rather impressed in spite of
"I couldn't see: it was all shifty and mist-like--like the shadow of smoke
on the ground--and I couldn't tell if it was like a human being or not;
but it seemed to me as if I ought to know it and what it was, and as if it
was trying to make me understand something, and couldn't, just as it is
when the cat sits and looks at you. You know the creature wants something,
if she could tell what it was."
"She wants something out of the cupboard most generally," said Miss
Sophonisba; "but go on."
"And finally," said Miss Faithful with a nervous shudder, "after it had
gone back and forth two or three times--and I could hear it on the floor
too, just like some one walking in their stocking-feet--it came close up
to me and seemed to bend over me, or to be all around me in the air some
way--I can't tell you how--and I was dreadfully scared, and woke up."
"It made a noise, did it?" said Miss Sophonisba.
"Yes; and somehow the noise made me feel as if I ought to know what it
wanted and what it was."
"It was the wind," said Miss Sophonisba. "It got mixed up in your dreams,
I expect. How it does blow!--fit to take the roof off. There! the cellar
door has started open. That latch doesn't catch: I must go down and bolt
At that moment the cat rushed up the short staircase from the lower room,
and springing on the bed, stood with bristling tail and glaring eyes,
intently watching the door.
"Has she got a fit?" exclaimed Miss Sophonisba; and she put out her hand
to push the cat off, but it turned to Miss Faithful, who was sitting up in
bed, and crawling under the bed-clothes, lay there trembling and mewing in
a very curious fashion.
"Some one has got in down stairs," said Miss Faithful, turning white. "Oh,
Sophonisba, we shall all be murdered!"
"Nonsense!" said Miss Sophonisba, quite restored to herself at the thought
of actual danger. She caught up a great pair of tongs and started down
stairs, the candlestick in one hand, the tongs in the other, Miss
Faithful, who dared not stay behind, threw a shawl over her night-dress
and followed close at her sister's heels, while the cat crawled still
farther under the clothes, and refused to answer to Miss Sophonisba's
call. There was nothing unusual down stairs. The two outside doors were
locked, the fire was burning brightly, and Miss Sophonisba's work lay on
the table just as she had left it. The cellar door indeed, which latched
imperfectly, stood open.
"Some one has come in and locked the door after them, and gone down
cellar," was Miss Faithful's whispered suggestion.
"How could they?" said Miss Sophonisba. "We didn't hear any one; and
besides, they would have left their tracks on the floor this wet night;
but I'll go down and look. You stay here by the fire."
But Miss Faithful preferred to follow her sister. They found nothing out
of place in the cellar, into which, if you remember, there is no outside
door. Every tub and barrel and milk-pan was in its place, and the surface
of the pit of water, which served the family as a cistern, was
"It must have been the door flying open that scared the cat," said Miss
Sophonisba, "Faithful, you're as white as a sheet. I shall just heat up
some elderberry wine and make you drink it;" which she did then and there,
and, no further disturbance taking place, the sisters went to bed. The
cat, however, whose usual place was by the kitchen fire, would not go down
stairs, and when at last turned out, she mewed so piteously and scratched
so persistently at the bed-room door that Miss Sophonisba gave way to her
and let her in to sleep all night at the foot of the bed.
No further annoyance took place, nor was Miss Faithful troubled with a
repetition of her curious dream. The next week, however, as Miss
Sophonisba was in the kitchen making preparations for tea, she was
startled by a scream from her sister in the next room, succeeded by the
sound of a heavy fall. She hurried into the work-room. Miss Faithful lay
on the floor quite insensible. It was some time before her sister's
anxious exertions were rewarded by signs of returning animation. When at
last she opened her eyes, she burst into a fit of hysterical sobbing and
"For gracious sake, sister!" said Miss Sophonisba, really alarmed, "what
is the matter?"
"Oh dear! oh dear!" sobbed Miss Faithful. "It was John! I know it was
John, and I could not speak to him!"
"What?" said Miss Sophonisba, alarmed for her sister's wits. "What was
"It--that--the thing that came behind me: I know it was!"
"When?" asked her sister.
"As I was sitting there in my chair something came behind me and put a
hand on my shoulder. It was John--I know it was. His hand was all cold and
wet: he came out of the sea to call me."
"Now just look here, Faithful!" said Miss Sophonisba. "John was one of the
most careful, considerate fellows I ever knew, and he was always
particular careful of you. Do you think it's likely he wouldn't have no
more sense, now that he's a saint in heaven, than to come scaring you out
of your wits in that way? Is it like him, now?"
"But oh, sister, if you had felt it as I did, clear into the bone!"
"Then it's over twenty-five years since the Federalist was lost. Do you
suppose he's been going round the other world all this while without
getting a chance to be dry? Did you see him?"
"No, but I felt it."
"Well, now if there'd been anything real there, anything material, you'd
have seen it; and if it wasn't material, how could it be wet?"
Faithful was not prepared to answer, but it was evident that she had
received a great shock. In vain did her sister argue, reason and coax. She
could not explain, but that something had come behind her, and that this
Something had touched her, she was convinced; and she added: "I do believe
it was John I saw the other night. I thought then I was awake all the
time, and now I know I was."
This last assertion quite overset Miss Sophonisba's patience, "If ever any
one was asleep," she said, "you were when I came up stairs. I thought I
heard you walking about with your bare feet, and I came up to see."
"Then you: heard it too?" said Miss Faithful, eagerly.
It was an unlucky admission, but Miss Sophonisba would not allow that she
had made it.
"I heard the wind make the boards creak, I suppose; and do you think John
wouldn't have more sense than to be walking about our room at half-past
ten at night? What nonsense!"
"You may call it nonsense as much as you like, Sophonisba," said Miss
Faithful, beginning to cry afresh, "but I know what I know, and I can't
"Well, well, dear, we won't think of it any more. You're nervous and
worried, and you'd just best put on your wrapper and lie down and try to
go to sleep."
"I don't like to stay alone just now," said Miss Faithful, timidly.
"I don't want you to: I'll bring my work up stairs and stay with you."
Miss Sophonisba helped her sister up stairs, and began to assist her to
undress. As she took into her hand the cape of Miss Faithful's woolen
dress she nearly uttered an exclamation of surprise, but checked herself
in time. On the left shoulder was a wet spot, and the dress directly
beneath was quite damp. Miss Sophonisba said nothing, of this matter to
her sister, but she made an excuse to leave the room for a moment, and
going down stairs looked to see if any water had been spilled on the
floor. There was none, and Miss Sophonisba was puzzled. She remembered
that when her sister was startled before she had occupied the same seat,
with her back to the cellar door. She noticed that the door was slightly
ajar, and it occurred to her that the cold air blowing through the crack
might account for her sister's feeling of sudden chill, if not for the
dampness. She went down the cellar stairs, carrying with her a lighted
candle. Bold as she was, a singular sensation came over her when she saw
upon each stair a print, as if some one with wet feet had ascended or
descended, and that very recently. The track was not such as would be left
by a person heavily shod: it was rather like that of one wearing a
stocking or thin slipper.
"What under the sun--" was her perplexed exclamation as she went down,
following the marks of the unknown feet until they were lost on the stone
floor. It was certain that there was no one in the cellar, but as she went
up again, and paused for a moment at the top of the staircase, she heard,
or thought she heard, close to her ear, a long, weary sigh, as of one in
pain, and a sudden breath of cold air swept past her down the stairs. She
turned, and crossing the little passage went into the south room. The
burned spot on the floor was covered by the neat rag carpet, but there
were still some slight marks on the wall of the old doctor's brick
furnace. Miss Sophonisba glanced round the room, but her eyes fell upon
nothing but the familiar and well-preserved furniture; yet there came over
her a strange sense that she was not alone. She saw nothing, but in spite
of herself a feeling of a Presence not her own gathered about her. It was
but for a moment, and then her habitual firmness and common sense
"Stuff and nonsense!" she said. "I am getting as bad as Faithful;" and
leaving the room, she went back to her sister. Miss Faithful had sought
comfort in her devotions, and was more composed than could have been
expected. Neither felt inclined to comment on the recent disturbance. Miss
Faithful's health seemed to have received no permanent harm from the
sudden shock she had undergone, but she had a nervous dread of being
alone, which was a source of some inconvenience to her sister.
The month of December passed, and the uncomfortable impression left by
Faithful's attack was beginning to fade away from the minds of both, when
it happened that the disturbance was renewed in a singular manner.
Miss Sophonisba was alone, her sister having gone to a household in the
village to take the measure for some mourning garments to be made up
immediately. Miss Sophonisba was busy with a black bonnet intended for a
member of the same family, and was thinking of nothing but the folds of
the material directly under her fingers. Gradually there came over her a
feeling that she was not alone. She struggled against it, and resolutely
bent her mind on her work; but the impression grew upon her, and with it a
sensation of horror such as she had never before experienced. The idea
that something stood behind her became so strong that she raised her eyes
from her work and looked around. Was there anything actually there, or was
the shapeless darkness anything more than an accidental shadow? Another
instant, and something touched her cheek--something like soft, cold, moist
fingers. The touch, if such it was, was very gentle, such as a child might
give to attract attention. Miss Sophonisba would not give way. She took up
her work and went quietly on with it, though her fingers trembled. The
same long sigh fell upon her ear, the same chill breath of air swept past
her, and the Presence, if such it was, was gone, and with it the shadow.
"Well," said Miss Sophonisba to herself, "some things _are_ kind of
curious, after all!"
There had certainly been no living creature in the house but herself, for
their cat had disappeared some days before, and the loss of their favorite
had been a great vexation to both sisters. The shadow behind her chair, if
indeed it had been anything but fancy, had been too indistinct to allow
her to say that she had really seen it before it had vanished, but what
had given her the touch, the recollection of which yet caused a shiver?
She put up her hand to her cheek. The place was wet--an actual drop of
water adhered to her finger.
"Dear me!" said she, "I wish I did know what to think."
To one of her temperament the uncertainty was very annoying. She could not
bear to think that her experience was not directly owing to natural--by
which she meant, common--causes. "I am very glad Faithful was not here,"
she thought as she turned to her work again. She would not indulge herself
by changing her seat, but kept her place with her back to the cellar door,
though she could not help now and then casting a glance over her shoulder.
Neither shadow nor substance, however, made itself manifest.
That same night Miss Sophonisba woke from her sleep with the feeling that
some one had called her. She found herself mistaken, however, and lay
quietly awake, thinking over the events of the afternoon. The more she
thought the more puzzled, and even provoked, did she become. She was one
of those people who cannot bear to feel themselves incapable of accounting
for anything that is brought under their notice. A mystery, as such, is an
exasperation to them, and they will sometimes adopt an explanation more
perplexing than the phenomenon itself, rather than say, "I don't know." As
she lay there thinking over the matter, and trying to make herself believe
that the afternoon's experience was the effect of the wind or her own
fancy, she was startled by a step on the floor of the lower room--the same
light step. It crossed the floor, and she heard it on the stairs. Miss
Sophonisba raised her head from her pillow and looked around. There could
be no doubt that she was awake. She could see everything in the room: her
sister slept quietly at her side, and the moonlight shone in brightly at
the window. The slow step came up the stairs and in at the open door. She
heard it on the boards: her eyes beheld the shadow of her sister's vision,
so wavering and indistinct that she could not say with certainty that it
wore the semblance of a human form. The blood at her heart seemed to stand
still, but yet she neither screamed nor fainted, nor tried to wake her
sister. She watched the Thing as it moved to and fro in the chamber.
Suddenly it came toward her, and stood at the bedside, seeming indeed, as
Faithful had said, to be "all around her in the air," and weigh upon her
with a sense of oppression almost unendurable as the shadowy Presence
obscured the moonbeams. Miss Sophonisba bent all her will to the effort,
and with an heroic exertion she put out her hand to try by the sense of
touch if indeed she was in her waking senses. Her fingers were met by
others, soft, cold and damp. For a second, which seemed an hour, they
grasped her extended hand with a close, clinging touch that some way
seemed half familiar. For one instant the shapeless gloom appeared to take
definite form--a tall human figure, a man in poor and ragged clothes; for
one instant a pair of wistful, eager eyes looked into her own; the next,
the cock without crowed loud and shrill. Her hand was released, and with
the same long, weary sigh the ghostly Presence passed away. Miss
Sophonisba sank back on her pillow nearly insensible. She did not know how
long she lay there, but when she at last gathered her senses she saw and
felt, with an involuntary shudder, that her hand was wet and cold, and
that across the floor, plain in the moonlight, leading to the half-open
door, were the marks of wet feet. She did not waken her sister, who still
slept quietly at her side, but it was with unspeakable relief that she saw
the morning dawn at last.
In spite of herself, Miss Sophonisba was forced to the conclusion that,
except on the supposition that some inhabitant of another world had been
permitted to approach her, her experience was wholly inexplicable. "If it
comes again," said she to herself, "I'll certainly speak to it. Goodness
me!" she added, somewhat irritated in spite of her terror, "if it's got
anything to say, why don't it speak and be done with it?"
She said nothing of the matter to her sister, and she so far controlled
herself as to preserve her usual manner.
The sisters were busily engaged all day over the mourning dresses, when
toward night Miss Faithful's thread gave out and her work came to a
"How provoking!" said she. "Three yards more would finish, and now I shall
have to go down to the village and buy a whole skein, just for that."
"No," said Miss Sophonisba, who would not have acknowledged to herself her
dread of being alone in the house, "I think there's some like that in the
chimney cupboard in the south room: I'll get it."
She put down her work, and taking a candle went into the south room.
Placing the light on a chair, she opened the cupboard door and began
searching for the thread among a variety of miscellaneous matters. Some
slight noise startled her. She turned, and saw standing before the
fireplace an elderly gentleman, whose face was, as she thought, familiar,
though she could not recall at the moment where she had seen it. It did
not occur to her that her companion was not a living man, and she stood
for a moment with a look of surprised inquiry, expecting him to speak. The
eyes met hers in a fixed stare, like that of a corpse. She had not seen
the figure move, yet the same instant it was at her side. It, was too
much, even for her. She turned and sprang through the open door into the
passage, but not before it had flashed across her mind that the dead face
bore a horrible resemblance to the old doctor. The Thing did not follow
her, and she stood still in the passage, not daring to alarm her more
timid sister, and yet dreading inexpressibly to re-enter the haunted room.
Her terror was not merely the oppression, the natural fear of the unknown,
the sense of a nature differing from her own, which she had experienced
the past night: it was all this, together with a sense of an evil
influence, a feeling of loathing and horror, that made her sick in soul
and in body. However strong her resolution, Miss Sophonisba felt that she
could never endure, much less question, this frightful Presence. The
candle was yet burning on the chair where she had left it, and, summoning
all her strength, with an inward prayer she recrossed the threshold. The
light still burned brightly, the thread she had come to seek lay on the
floor where she had dropped it, but the figure was gone. She looked about
the room: there was no trace of living presence save her own. She had even
the courage to stoop down and examine the place on the carpet where the
Shape had stood, and which covered the burned spot on the floor; but this
time the mysterious footsteps had failed to leave their mark.
"Whatever shall I do?" said Miss Sophonisba to herself. "If Faithful was
to see what I have, she'd nigh go crazy; and what excuse can we make for
leaving the house?"
If no one but herself had been concerned, I think she would have stood a
siege from the hosts of the unknown world rather than confess that she
left the house because it was haunted. She caught herself up as the word
was formed in her thoughts. "Haunted, indeed!" she said. "I'll think I'm
losing my wits first. Stuff and nonsense!" But she paused, for through the
middle of the room, close by her side, making an angry gesture as it
passed, swept the same Shape, visible for one moment, vanishing the next.
She went back into the other room, and giving her sister the thread, sat
down so as to hide her face, busying herself with her work until she could
in some measure regain her wonted steady composure.
Miss Faithful was much engaged with her sewing just at that moment, and
her sister's unusual agitation escaped her notice. Presently she said,
"Sophonisba, isn't there a bit of old black ribbon in that cupboard? I
want something of the kind, just to put round inside the neck of the
dress, and then it will be done."
"Yes--I don't know--I think not," said her sister, with a hesitation so
unlike her usual promptness that Miss Faithful looked up surprised. "I
mean, I think there is," said Miss Sophonisba. "If you'd like to look,
I'll hold the candle for you."
"Oh, you needn't put down your work for that," said Miss Faithful, but
Miss Sophonisba dropped the ribbon she was plaiting and followed her
sister with the candle. She threw a half-frightened glance around the room
as she entered, but the Vision did not reappear. It was some time before
the ribbon was found. It had been pushed into the farther corner of the
lower shelf, which was a wide and very thick pine board, slipping easily
on the cleats by which it was upheld. One end of the roll had caught
behind this shelf, and Miss Faithful pulled the board a little forward. As
she did so a little roll of paper fell into the bottom of the cupboard.
Miss Sophonisba picked it up. It consisted of several stained and
discolored sheets of paper, seemingly torn from an account-book or
journal, and covered all over with very fine and closely-written though
perfectly legible characters, in a very precise hand.
"What is that?" said Miss Faithful.
"It's nothing of ours, I'm pretty sure," said her sister, looking at it.
"But come, if you've got what you want: let's go into the other room--it's
As they crossed the threshold, Miss Faithful started.
"What's the matter?" said her sister, though she well knew the reason. She
too had heard the same long sigh felt the same breath of chill air.
"Why, it seemed as if something breathed close to my ear," said Miss
Faithful, turning white; "and what's more," she continued, as they crossed
the passage and entered the work-room, "I believe you heard it too, and
that you've seen things in this house you haven't told me of."
"Well, child," said Miss Sophonisba in a subdued tone, "there _are_ some
queer things in this world, that's a fact--queerer than ever I thought
Miss Faithful did not press for an explanation: she went quietly on with
her dressmaking, and her sister, hurried though she was about her work,
set herself to examine the papers.
I remember seeing the original manuscript when I was a little girl, but it
was unfortunately destroyed by an accident. My father, however, had copied
part of it, and this copy is yet in my possession. Miss Sophonisba could
make very little of the record, which related to scientific matters of
which she was quite ignorant; and as the most important words were
indicated by signs and figures, she was completely puzzled. The writer
seemed to have been seeking in vain some particular result. She looked on
through the dates of the year 1785, and saw here and there familiar names,
and at last commenced reading at these words:
"_June_ 3. This day took possession of my house. Busied in making
arrangements. Shall build my own furnace. Am sure now that I am in the
right way. Am determined no one shall come into the house."
Much followed which Miss Sophonisba could not understand, until, under the
date of July 1, she found recorded:
"Being over at Neponset, looking for the plant witch-hazel, bethought
myself to ask of the fellow they call Indian Will. Going to the little
hovel he lives in, found him lying very ill with pleurisy. By the grace of
God was able to help him. His wife told me where to find what I sought. To
my surprise, discovered she knew much of its virtues. It may be these
people have a knowledge of simples worth investigating.
"_Sept._ 3. No nearer my great end. My means fast growing less. Have
borrowed from Jonathan Phelps, but the sum is but a drop for such a
purpose. Most like some of these people, who complain of my price for the
exercise of my skill, would give me threefold did they know what I work
for, if they might share in its result. Yet I know I am in the right way.
Should I die before I come to its end--Is Death the gate of knowledge?"
"_Oct._ 7. I advance just so far and no farther. Why is it that I see my
path so plain just to the one point, and there it stops? How small our
understanding of the endless mysteries around us! yet should something
differing from every day's experience befall us, how quickly we speak of
"_Oct._ 29. No nearer, no nearer, and my money all but done. Took some of
my books into Boston and offered them to sell. Refused, of course. How
should they know their value? Have sent them to London. It was hard, but
"_Oct._ 30. This day Indian Will brought the plants I wanted. Have bade
him never to tell any one that he comes here. He only has ever entered. So
far as I know, he has obeyed. He thinks me like one of his own powahs.
"_Dec._ 15. At last! I have passed the crisis, and without accident. How
simple it seems, now that I know! It was my last bit of the essential
metal: like from like. Each element has its seed in itself. The poor
people say I have been good to them. Should success be final, I can indeed
"_Dec._ 16. Last night, lifting the crucible from the furnace, spilled the
liquor on the floor. Had I one particle more of the essential element! All
was utterly lost: no one will lend to me.
"_Dec._ 18. What have I done that I should feel guilt? What was worth the
life of such a useless creature to the interests of mankind? Why did he
not trust my word and give me what I needed when I asked him? If he had
not waked from his half-drunken sleep when I made the attempt, I would
have given him threefold. I gave him his life once: why will not that
atone? No one will know ever. I will devote my life to relieve distress.
What is such as his, weighed in the balance with my purpose? It is strange
that since then I have forgot the very essential thing in the process. I
cannot read my own cipher in which I wrote it down; but it will come, it
"_Dec._ 19. Have been all day trying to read the cipher in vain. Have lost
the key, have forgotten the chief link. Until I can recall it the metal is
useless. What if it should never come to me? This night went down to the
Point. Threw into the sea the evidences of what I have brought to pass.
The tide will soon wash them away.
"_Dec._ 20. Surely it is not meant this thing should be known. To-day a
body came on shore, bruised and shattered, but said to be identified by
those who should have known best. Now, no one will ever search this house.
Twice to-day I have been to look at the place: nothing can be seen.
Providence means I should live to finish my work--to complete that which I
alone of mortal men have rightly understood. Why is it this link is broken
off in my mind, and the cipher I myself wrote darker than before? Would
the creature but have given it up quietly! It was in self-defence I struck
at last. What was it to repent of? Some have held that such as he are not
human--only animals a little more sagacious than the brutes about us.
"_Dec._ 22. Useless, useless! My memory fails me entirely. I have tried to
go on in vain. What is this that is with me now these last two days?
"_Dec._ 25. Once I kept Christmas in another fashion than this. I had no
guest but one I dare not name--
'Tumulum circumvolat umbra.'
"_Dec._ 27. To day it put out its hand: the soft wet fingers touched me. I
will go out into the world, I will go out into the world. I will help
those who are sick and in misery. Will it not be at peace then?"
Then the journal paused: there was no further entry till April 29, 1786:
"The girl, Hepsey Ball, died to-day. Her eyes were opened to see what I
see all the hours in the day. I must go. I have not dared to leave, lest
the awful Thing should be found in its hiding-place. They begin to press
me for money. The house will go on the mortgage. Heard Phelps say if it
was his he would drain the place in the cellar. To-day received fifty
dollars from the sale of apparatus. Could not part with it before,
thinking I should recover my lost knowledge, and should use it. Perhaps it
will come back to me if I go away: it may be This will not follow me. I
will drop the gold into the same place: if it is that it wants, it will
rest. I cannot tell what I have done, my life is too precious. I only, of
all men, have seen unveiled the mystery. I will leave This behind. When I
am safe it may be found, and they will lay it to rest in the earth, if
that is what it seeks. Then it will cease to persecute me with its step
close at my back, its loathsome clinging touch."
Miss Sophonisba (my friend went on) looked up from her reading with such a
strange expression that her sister was startled. "Put on your bonnet,
Faithful," said she: "I'm going down to see the minister."
"What do you mean?" said Miss Faithful: "it's nearly nine o'clock."
"I don't care if it's midnight. I'm going to show these to him, and tell
him what's happened here, and he may make what he can of it."
"Then you have seen something?" said Miss Faithful, turning pale.
Miss Sophonisba made a sign of assent; "I'll tell you all about it when we
get there, but do come along now. You're work's done, and I'll take the
bonnet with me and finish it there."
They lived at some distance from the parsonage, and the roads were in even
worse condition than they are now. It was a tiresome walk, and Miss
Faithful, clinging to her sister's side, was almost inclined to wish they
had braved the terrors at home rather than ventured out into the dark. The
clergyman was a middle-aged bachelor, a grandson of the Parson H----
mentioned by Mrs. T----. He heard Miss Sophonisba's story in silence, but
without any sign of dissent. Faithful, in spite of her terror, could not
but feel a mild degree of triumph in her sister's evident conviction that
what she had seen was, to say the least, unaccountable.
Mr. H---- looked over the papers which had been found in the cupboard, and
which Miss Sophonisba had brought with her. "This is undoubtedly Doctor
Haywood's writing," he said at last. "I have a book purchased of him by my
grandfather, and which has marginal notes in the same hand."
"What shall we do, sir?" asked Miss Sophonisba.
"If I were you I should leave the house as soon as possible. If there is
anything in the air which induces such--" Mr. H---- hesitated for a
word--"sensations as these, it would be better to go."
"Sensations!" said Miss Sophonisba, almost indignant. "I tell you I saw it
myself; and what made the wet spot on Faithful's cape, and the rest?"
"I can't undertake to say, Miss T----; but if you like I will just come up
to-morrow, and we will look into the matter a little. My cousin,
Lieutenant V----, is here from his ship, and he will assist me. And
meantime you had best stay here to-night: my sister will be very glad to
Miss H---- was a particular friend of the sisters, but she could not but
feel a little curious to know the object of their visit. Miss Sophonisba
would have kept the matter to herself, but Miss Faithful, in her
excitement, could not but tell the story of their experiences. Miss H----,
however, was a discreet woman, and kept the tale to herself.
The next evening the clergyman, his cousin the lieutenant and Miss
Sophonisba went quietly about dusk to the old house. They went down into
the cellar, and the drag which the sailor had constructed brought up some
bleached bones, and at the second cast a skeleton hand and a skull. As the
latter was disengaged from the drag something fell glittering from it upon
the cellar floor: two coins rolled to different corners. Mr. H----, picked
them up. One was a Spanish piece, the other an English half guinea.
"Miss T----," said the clergyman in a low tone, "I will see that these
poor relics are laid in the burial-ground; and then--really I think you
had better leave the house."
Miss Sophonisba made no opposition.
The three ascended the cellar stairs, but as they entered the room they
paused terror-stricken, for across the floor, making, as it passed, a wild
gesture of despair, swept the Shape, living yet dead.
"What was that?" said the clergyman, who was the first to recover himself,
"_It_," said Miss Sophonisba in a whisper.
"I have seen that face before," said the sailor. "Once on a stormy passage
round the Cape we came upon a deserted wreck rolling helplessly upon the
waves. I, then a young midshipman, went in the boat which was sent to
board her. No living creature was there, but in the cabin we found a
corpse, that of an old, old man. The look of the Thing was so awful that I
could not bear it and hid my face. One of the sailors, however, took from
the dead hand a paper covered with characters in cipher, which no one
could read. This paper afterward fell into my possession, and I submitted
it in vain to several experts, all of whom failed to read it. By an
accident it was destroyed, and the secret, whatever it was, is hidden for
ever; but the face of that corpse was the face I have just seen in this
CLARA F. GUERNSEY.
The Blood Seedling.
In a bit of green pasture that rose, gradually narrowing, to the tableland
that ended in prairie, and widened out descending to the wet and willowy
sands that border the Great River, a broad-shouldered young man was
planting an apple tree one sunny spring morning when Tyler was President.
The little valley was shut in on the south and east by rocky hills,
patched with the immortal green of cedars and gay with clambering
columbines. In front was the Mississippi, reposing from its plunge over
the rapids, and idling down among the golden sandbars and the low, moist
islands, which were looking their loveliest in their new spring dresses of
The young man was digging with a certain vicious energy, forcing the spade
into the black crumbling loam with a movement full of vigor and malice.
His straight black brows were knitted till they formed one dark line over
his deep-set eyes. His beard was not yet old enough to hide the massive
outline of his firm, square jaw. In the set teeth, in the clouded face, in
the half-articulate exclamations that shot from time to time from the
compressed lips, it was easy to see that the thoughts of the young
horticulturist were far from his work.
A bright young girl came down the path through the hazel thicket that
skirted the hillside, and putting a plump brown hand on the topmost rail
of the fence vaulted lightly over, and lit on the soft springy turf with a
thud that announced a wholesome and liberal architecture. It is usually
expected of poets and lovers that they shall describe the ladies of their
love as so airy and delicate in structure that the flowers they tread on
are greatly improved in health and spirits by the visitation. But not
being a poet or in love, we must admit that there was no resurrection for
the larkspurs and pansies upon which the little boots of Miss Susie
Barringer landed. Yet she was not of the coarse peasant type, though her
cheeks were so rosy as to cause her great heaviness of heart on Sunday
mornings, and her blue lawn dress was as full as it could afford from
shoulders to waist. She was a neat, hearty and very pretty country girl,
with a slightly freckled face, and rippled brown hair, and astonished blue
eyes, but perfectly self-possessed, and graceful as a young quail.
A young man's ears are quick to catch the rustling of a woman's dress. The
flight of this plump bird in its fluttering blue plumage over the
rail-fence caused our young man to look up from his spading: the scowl was
routed from his brow by a sudden incursion of blushes, and his mouth was
attacked by an awkward smile.
The young lady nodded, and was hurrying past. The scowl came back in
force, and the smile was repulsed from the bearded mouth with great loss:
"Miss Tudie, are you in a hurry?"
The lady thus addressed turned and said, in a voice that was half pert and
half coaxing, "No particular hurry. Al, I've told you a dozen times not to
call me that redicklis name."
"Why, Tudie, I hain't never called you nothing else sence you was a little
one so high. You ort to know yer own name, and you give yerself that name
when you was a yearling. Howsom-ever, ef you don't like it now, sence
you've been to Jacksonville, I reckon I can call you Miss Susie--when I
The frank amende seemed to satisfy Miss Susie, for she at once interrupted
in the kindest manner: "Never mind, Al Golyer: you can call me what you
are a-mind to." Then, as if conscious of the feminine inconsistency, she
changed the subject by asking, "What are you going to do with that great
hole?--big enough to bury a fellow."
"I'm going to plant this here seedlin', that growed up in Colonel Blood's
pastur', nobody knows how: belike somebody was eatin' an apple and throwed
the core down-like. I'm going to plant a little orchard here next spring,
but the colonel and me, we reckoned this one 'ud be too old by that time
for moving, so I thought I'd stick it in now, and see what come out'n it.
It's a powerful thrifty chunk of a saplin'."
"Yes. I speak for the first peck of apples off'n it. Don't forget.
"Hold on a minute, Miss Susan, twell I git my coat. I'll walk down a piece
with you. I have got something to say to you."
Miss Susie turned a little red and a little pale. These occasions were not
entirely unknown in her short experience of life. When young men in the
country in that primitive period had something to say, it was something
very serious and earnest. Allen Golyer was a good-looking, stalwart young
farmer, well-to-do, honest, able to provide for a family. There was
nothing presumptuous in his aspiring to the hand of the prettiest girl on
Chaney Creek. In childhood he had trotted her to Banbury Cross and back a
hundred times, beguiling the tedium of the journey with kisses and the
music of bells. When the little girl was old enough to go to school, the
big boy carried her books and gave her the rosiest apple out of his
dinner-basket. He fought all her battles and wrote all her compositions;
which latter, by the way, never gained her any great credit. When she was
fifteen and he twenty he had his great reward in taking her twice a week
during one happy winter to singing-school. This was the bloom of
life--nothing before or after could compare with it. The blacking of shoes
and brushing of stiff, electric, bristling hair, all on end with frost and
hope, the struggling into the plate-armor of his starched shirt, the tying
of the portentous and uncontrollable cravat before the glass, which was
hopelessly dimmed every moment by his eager breath,--these trivial and
vulgar details were made beautiful and unreal by the magic of youth and
love. Then came the walk through the crisp, dry snow to the Widow
Barringer's, the sheepish talk with the old lady while Susie "got on her
things," and the long, enchanting tramp to the "deestrick school-house."
There is not a country-bred man or woman now living but will tell you that
life can offer nothing comparable with the innocent zest of that old style
of courting that was done at singing-school in the starlight and
candlelight of the first half of our century. There are few hearts so
withered and old but they beat quicker sometimes when they hear, in
old-fashioned churches, the wailing, sobbing or exulting strains of
"Bradstreet" or "China" or "Coronation;" and the mind floats down on the
current of these old melodies to that fresh young day of hopes and
illusions--of voices that were sweet, no matter how false they sang--of
nights that were rosy with dreams, no matter what Fahrenheit said--of
girls that blushed without cause, and of lovers who talked for hours about
everything but love.
I know I shall excite the scorn of all the ingenuous youth of my time when
I say that there was nothing that our superior civilization would call
love making in those long walks through the winter nights. The heart of
Allen Golyer swelled under his satin waistcoat with love and joy and
devotion as he walked over the crunching roads with his pretty enslaver.
But he talked of apples and pigs and the heathen and the teacher's wig,
and sometimes ventured an illusion to other people's flirtations in a
jocose and distant way; but as to the state of his own heart, his lips
were sealed. It would move a blase smile on the downy lips of juvenile
Lovelaces, who count their conquests by their cotillons, and think nothing
of making a declaration in an avant-deux, to be told of young people
spending several evenings of each week in the year together, and speaking
no word of love until they were ready to name their wedding-day. Yet such
was the sober habit of the place and time.
So there was no troth plighted between Allen and Susie, though the youth
loved the maiden with all the energy of his fresh, unused nature, and she
knew it very well. He never dreamed of marrying any other woman than Susie
Barringer, and she sometimes tried a new pen by writing and carefully
erasing the initials S.M.G., which, as she was christened Susan Minerva,
may be taken as showing the direction of her thoughts.
If Allen Golyer had been less bashful or more enterprising, this history
would never have been written; for Susie would probably have said Yes for
want of anything better to say, and when she went to visit her aunt
Abigail in Jacksonville she would have gone _engaged_, her finger bound
with gold and her maiden meditations fettered by promises. But she went,
as it was, fancy free, and there is no tinder so inflammable as the
imagination of a pretty country girl of sixteen.
One day she went out with her easy-going aunt Abigail to buy ribbons, the
Chancy Creek invoices not supplying the requirements of Jacksonville
society. As they traversed the court-house square on their way to Deacon
Pettybones' place, Miss Susie's vagrant glances rested on an iris of
ribbons displayed in an opposition window. "Let's go in here," she said
with the impetuous decision of her age and sex.
"We will go where you like, dear," said easy-going Aunt Abigail. "It makes
Aunt Abigail was wrong. It made the greatest difference to several persons
whether Susie Barringer bought her ribbons at Simmons' or Pettybones' that
day. If she had but known!
But, all unconscious of the Fate that beckoned invisibly on the threshold,
Miss Susie tripped into "Simmons' Emporium" and asked for ribbons. Two
young men stood at the long counter. One was Mr. Simmons, proprietor of
the emporium, who advanced with his most conscientious smile: "Ribbons,
ma'am? Yes, ma'am--all sorts, ma'am. Cherry, ma'am? Certingly, ma'am. Jest
got a splendid lot from St. Louis this morning, ma'am. This way, ma'am."
The ladies were soon lost in the delight of the eyes. The voice of Mr.
Simmons accompanied the feast of color, insinuating but unheeded.
The other young man approached: "Here is what you want, miss--rich and
elegant. Just suits your style. Sets off your hair and eyes beautiful."
The ladies looked up. A more decided voice than Mr. Simmons'; whiter hands
than Mr. Simmons' handled the silken bands; bolder eyes than the weak,
pink-bordered orbs of Mr. Simmons looked unabashed admiration into the
pretty face of Susie Barringer.
"Look here, Simmons, old boy, introduce a fellow."
Mr. Simmons meekly obeyed: "Mrs. Barringer, let me interduce you to Mr.
Leon of St. Louis, of the house of Draper & Mercer."
"Bertie Leon, at your service," said the brisk young fellow, seizing Miss
Susie's hand with energy. His hand was so much softer and whiter than hers
that she felt quite hot and angry about it.
When they had made their purchases, Mr. Leon insisted on walking home with
them, and was very witty and agreeable all the way. He had all the wit of
the newspapers, of the concert-rooms, of the steamboat bars at his
fingers' ends. In his wandering life he had met all kinds of people: he
had sold ribbons through a dozen States. He never had a moment's doubt of
himself. He never hesitated to allow himself any indulgence which would
not interfere with business. He had one ambition in life--to marry Miss
Mercer and get a share in the house. Miss Mercer was as ugly as a
millionaire's tombstone. Mr. Bertie Leon--who, when his moustache was not
dyed nor his hair greased, was really quite a handsome fellow--considered
that the sacrifice he proposed to make in the interests of trade must be
made good to him in some way. So, "by way of getting even," he made
violent love to all the pretty eyes he met in his commercial travels--"to
have something to think about after he should have found favor in the
strabismic optics of Miss Mercer," he observed, disrespectfully.
Simple Susie, who had seen nothing of young men besides the awkward and
blushing clodhoppers of Chaney Creek, was somewhat dazzled by the
free-and-easy speech and manner of the hard-cheeked bagman. Yet there was
something in his airy talk and point-blank compliments that aroused a
faint feeling of resentment which she could scarcely account for. Aunt
Abigail was delighted with him, and when he bowed his adieux at the gate
in the most recent Planters'-House style, she cordially invited him to
call--"to drop in any time: he must be lonesome so far from home."
He said he wouldn't neglect such a chance, with another Planters'-House
"What a nice young man!" said Aunt Abigail.
"Awful conceited and not overly polite," said Susie as she took off her
bonnet and went into a revel of bows and trimmings.
The oftener Albert Leon came to Mrs. Barringer's bowery cottage, the more
the old lady was pleased with him and the more the young one criticised
him, until it was plain to be seen that Aunt Abigail was growing tired of
him and pretty Susan dangerously interested. But just at this point his
inexorable carpet-bag dragged him off to a neighboring town, and Susie
soon afterward went back to Chaney Creek.
Her Jacksonville hat and ribbons made her what her pretty eyes never could
have done--the belle of the neighborhood. Non cuivis contingit adire
Lutetiam, but to a village where no one has been at Paris the county-town
is a shrine of fashion. Allen Golyer felt a vague sense of distrust
chilling his heart as he saw Mr. Simmons' ribbons decking the pretty head
in the village choir the Sunday after her return, and, spurred on by a
nascent jealousy of the unknown, resolved to learn his fate without loss
of time. But the little lady received him with such cool and unconcerned
friendliness, talked so much and so fast about her visit, that the honest
fellow was quite bewildered, and had to go home to think the matter over,
and cudgel his dull wits to divine whether she was pleasanter than ever,
or had drifted altogether out of his reach.
Allen Golyer was, after all, a man of nerve and decision. He wasted only a
day or two in doubts and fears, and one Sunday afternoon, with a beating
but resolute heart, he left his Sunday-school class to walk down to
Crystal Glen and solve his questions and learn his doom. When he came in
sight of the widow's modest house, he saw a buggy hitched by the gate.
"Dow Padgett's chestnut sorrel, by jing! What is Dow after out here?"
It is natural, if not logical, that young men should regard the visits of
all other persons of their age and sex in certain quarters as a serious
But it was not his friend and crony Dow Padgett, the liveryman, who came
out of the widow's door, leading by the hand the blushing and bridling
Susie. It was a startling apparition of the Southwestern dandy of the
period--light hair drenched with bear's oil, blue eyes and jet-black
moustache, an enormous paste brooch in his bosom, a waistcoat and trowsers
that shrieked in discordant tones, and very small and elegant varnished
boots. The gamblers and bagmen of the Mississippi River are the best-shod
men in the world.
Golyer's heart sank within him as this splendid being shone upon him. But
with his rustic directness he walked to meet the laughing couple at the
gate, and said, "Tudie, I come to see you. Shall I go in and talk to your
mother twell you come back?"