Part 1 out of 8
E-text prepared by Charles Aldarondo, Tiffany Vergon, Michelle Shephard,
Charles Franks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
THE STORY OF KENNETT
TO MY FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS OF KENNETT:
I wish to dedicate this Story to you, not only because some of you
inhabit the very houses, and till the very fields which I have given to
the actors in it, but also because many of you will recognize certain of
the latter, and are therefore able to judge whether they are drawn with
the simple truth at which I have aimed. You are, naturally, the critics
whom I have most cause to fear; but I do not inscribe these pages to you
with the design of purchasing your favor. I beg you all to accept the
fact as an acknowledgment of the many quiet and happy years I have spent
among you; of the genial and pleasant relations into which I was born,
and which have never diminished, even when I have returned to you from
the farthest ends of the earth; and of the use (often unconsciously to
you, I confess,) which I have drawn from your memories of former days,
your habits of thought and of life.
I am aware that truth and fiction are so carefully woven together in
this Story of Kennett, that you will sometimes be at a loss to
disentangle them. The lovely pastoral landscapes which I know by heart,
have been copied, field for field and tree for tree, and these you will
immediately recognize. Many of you will have no difficulty in detecting
the originals of Sandy Flash and Deb. Smith; a few will remember the
noble horse which performed the service I have ascribed to Roger; and
the descendants of a certain family will not have forgotten some of the
pranks of Joe and Jake Fairthorn. Many more than these particulars are
drawn from actual sources; but as I have employed them with a strict
regard to the purposes of the Story, transferring dates and characters
at my pleasure, you will often, I doubt not, attribute to invention that
which I owe to family tradition. Herein, I must request that you will
allow me to keep my own counsel; for the processes which led to the
completed work extend through many previous years, and cannot readily be
revealed. I will only say that every custom I have described is true to
the time, though some of them are now obsolete; that I have used no
peculiar word or phrase of the common dialect of the country which I
have not myself heard; and further, that I owe the chief incidents of
the last chapter, given to me on her death-bed, to the dear and noble
woman whose character (not the circumstances of her life) I have
endeavored to reproduce in that of Martha Deane.
The country life of our part of Pennsylvania retains more elements of
its English origin than that of New England or Virginia. Until within a
few years, the conservative influence of the Quakers was so powerful
that it continued to shape the habits even of communities whose
religious sentiment it failed to reach. Hence, whatever might be
selected as incorrect of American life, in its broader sense, in these
pages, is nevertheless locally true; and to this, at least, all of you,
my Friends and Neighbors, can testify. In these days, when Fiction
prefers to deal with abnormal characters and psychological problems more
or less exceptional or morbid, the attempt to represent the elements of
life in a simple, healthy, pastoral community, has been to me a source
of uninterrupted enjoyment. May you read it with half the interest I
have felt in writing it!
WHO SHALL HAVE THE BRUSH?
MARY POTTER AND HER SON
FORTUNE AND MISFORTUNE
GUESTS AT FAIRTHORN'S
THE NEW GILBERT
OLD KENNETT MEETING
AT DR. DEANE'S
GUESTS AT POTTER'S
THE EVENTS OF AN EVENING
TWO OLD MEN
DOUBTS AND SURMISES
ALFRED BARTON BETWEEN TWO FIRES
SANDY FLASH REAPPEARS
THE HUSKING FROLIC
GILBERT ON THE ROAD TO CHESTER
ROGER REPAYS HIS MASTER
MARTHA DEANE TAKES A RESOLUTION
DEB. SMITH TAKES A RESOLUTION
THE LAST OF SANDY FLASH
MISS LAVENDER MAKES A GUESS
HUSBAND AND WIFE
At noon, on the first Saturday of March, 1796, there was an unusual stir
at the old Barton farm-house, just across the creek to the eastward, as
you leave Kennett Square by the Philadelphia stage-road. Any gathering
of the people at Barton's was a most rare occurrence; yet, on that day
and at that hour, whoever stood upon the porch of the corner house, in
the village, could see horsemen approaching by all the four roads which
there met. Some five or six had already dismounted at the Unicorn
Tavern, and were refreshing themselves with stout glasses of "Old Rye,"
while their horses, tethered side by side to the pegs in the long
hitching-bar, pawed and stamped impatiently. An eye familiar with the
ways of the neighborhood might have surmised the nature of the occasion
which called so many together, from the appearance and equipment of
these horses. They were not heavy animals, with the marks of
plough-collars on their broad shoulders, or the hair worn off their
rumps by huge breech-straps; but light and clean-limbed, one or two of
them showing signs of good blood, and all more carefully groomed than
Evidently, there was no "vendue" at the Barton farmhouse; neither a
funeral, nor a wedding, since male guests seemed to have been
exclusively bidden. To be sure, Miss Betsy Lavender had been observed to
issue from Dr. Deane's door, on the opposite side of the way, and turn
into the path beyond the blacksmith's, which led down through the wood
and over the creek to Barton's; but then, Miss Lavender was known to be
handy at all times, and capable of doing all things, from laying out a
corpse to spicing a wedding-cake. Often self-invited, but always
welcome, very few social or domestic events could occur in four
townships (East Marlborough, Kennett, Pennsbury, and New-Garden) without
her presence; while her knowledge of farms, families, and genealogies
extended up to Fallowfield on one side, and over to Birmingham on the
It was, therefore, a matter of course, whatever the present occasion
might be, that Miss Lavender put on her broad gray beaver hat, and brown
stuff cloak, and took the way to Barton's. The distance could easily be
walked in five minutes, and the day was remarkably pleasant for the
season. A fortnight of warm, clear weather had extracted the last fang
of frost, and there was already green grass in the damp hollows.
Bluebirds picked the last year's berries from the cedar-trees; buds
were bursting on the swamp-willows; the alders were hung with tassels,
and a powdery crimson bloom began to dust the bare twigs of the maple-
trees. All these signs of an early spring Miss Lavender noted as she
picked her way down the wooded bank. Once, indeed, she stopped, wet her
forefinger with her tongue, and held it pointed in the air. There was
very little breeze, but this natural weathercock revealed from what
direction it came.
"Southwest!" she said, nodding her head--"Lucky!"
Having crossed the creek on a flat log, secured with stakes at either
end, a few more paces brought her to the warm, gentle knoll, upon which
stood the farm-house. Here, the wood ceased, and the creek, sweeping
around to the eastward, embraced a quarter of a mile of rich bottomland,
before entering the rocky dell below. It was a pleasant seat, and the
age of the house denoted that one of the earliest settlers had been
quick to perceive its advantages. A hundred years had already elapsed
since the masons had run up those walls of rusty hornblende rock, and it
was even said that the leaden window-sashes, with their diamond-shaped
panes of greenish glass, had been brought over from England, in the days
of William Penn. In fact, the ancient aspect of the place--the tall,
massive chimney at the gable, the heavy, projecting eaves, and the
holly-bush in a warm nook beside the front porch, had, nineteen years
before, so forcibly reminded one of Howe's soldiers of his father's
homestead in mid-England, that he was numbered among the missing after
the Brandywine battle, and presently turned up as a hired hand on the
Barton farm, where he still lived, year in and year out.
An open, grassy space, a hundred yards in breadth, intervened between
the house and the barn, which was built against the slope of the knoll,
so that the bridge to the threshing-floor was nearly level, and the
stables below were sheltered from the north winds, and open to the
winter sun. On the other side of the lane leading from the high-road
stood a wagon-house and corn-crib--the latter empty, yet evidently, in
spite of its emptiness, the principal source of attraction to the
visitors. A score of men and boys peeped between the upright laths, and
a dozen dogs howled and sprang around the smooth corner-posts upon which
the structure rested. At the door stood old Giles, the military
straggler already mentioned--now a grizzly, weather-beaten man of
fifty--with a jolly grin on his face, and a short leather whip in his
"Want to see him, Miss Betsy?" he asked, touching his mink-skin cap, as
Miss Lavender crawled through the nearest panel of the lofty picket
"See him?" she repeated. "Don't care if I do, afore goin' into th'
"Come up, then; out o' the way, Cato! Fan, take that, you slut! Don't be
afeard, Miss Betsy; if folks kept 'em in the leash, as had ought to be
done, I'd have less trouble. They're mortal eager, and no wonder.
There!--a'n't he a sly-lookin' divel? If I'd a hoss, Miss Betsy, I'd
foller with the best of 'em, and maybe you wouldn't have the brush?"
"Have the brush. Go along, Giles! He's an old one, and knows how to take
care of it. Do keep off the dreadful dogs, and let me git down!" cried
Miss Lavender, gathering her narrow petticoats about her legs, and
surveying the struggling animals before her with some dismay.
Giles's whip only reached the nearest, and the excited pack rushed
forward again after every repulse; but at this juncture a tall,
smartly-dressed man came across the lane, kicked the hounds out of the
way, and extended a helping hand to the lady.
"Ho, Mr. Alfred!" said she; "Much obliged. Miss Ann's havin' her hands
full, I reckon?"
Without waiting for an answer, she slipped into the yard and along the
front of the house, to the kitchen entrance, at the eastern end. There
we will leave her, and return to the group of gentlemen.
Any one could see at a glance that Mr. Alfred Barton was the most
important person present. His character of host gave him, of course, the
right to control the order of the coming chase; but his size and
swaggering air of strength, his new style of hat, the gloss of his blue
coat, the cut of his buckskin breeches, and above all, the splendor of
his tasselled top-boots, distinguished him from his more homely
apparelled guests. His features were large and heavy: the full, wide
lips betrayed a fondness for indulgence, and the small, uneasy eyes a
capacity for concealing this and any other quality which needed
concealment. They were hard and cold, generally more than half hidden
under thick lids, and avoided, rather than sought, the glance of the man
to whom he spoke. His hair, a mixture of red-brown and gray, descended,
without a break, into bushy whiskers of the same color, and was cut
shorter at the back of the head than was then customary. Something
coarse and vulgar in his nature exhaled, like a powerful odor, through
the assumed shell of a gentleman, which he tried to wear, and rendered
the assumption useless.
A few guests, who had come from a distance, had just finished their
dinner in the farm-house. Owing to causes which will hereafter be
explained, they exhibited less than the usual plethoric satisfaction
after the hospitality of the country, and were the first to welcome the
appearance of a square black bottle, which went the rounds, with the
observation: "Whet up for a start!"
Mr. Barton drew a heavy silver watch from his fob, and carefully holding
it so that the handful of glittering seals could be seen by everybody,
appeared to meditate.
"Five minutes to one," he said at last. "No use in waiting much longer;
't isn't good to keep the hounds fretting. Any signs of anybody else?"
The others, in response, turned towards the lane and highway. Some, with
keen eyes, fancied they could detect a horseman through the wood.
Presently Giles, from his perch at the door of the corn-crib, cried out:
"There's somebody a-comin' up the meadow. I don't know the hoss; rides
like Gilbert Potter. Gilbert it is, blast me! new-mounted."
"Another plough-horse!" suggested Mr. Joel Ferris, a young Pennsbury
buck, who, having recently come into a legacy of four thousand pounds,
wished it to be forgotten that he had never ridden any but plough-horses
until within the year.
The others laughed, some contemptuously, glancing at their own
well-equipped animals the while, some constrainedly, for they knew the
approaching guest, and felt a slight compunction in seeming to side with
Mr. Ferris. Barton began to smile stiffly, but presently bit his lip and
drew his brows together.
Pressing the handle of his riding-whip against his chin, he stared
vacantly up the lane, muttering "We must wait, I suppose."
His lids were lifted in wonder the next moment; he seized Ferris by the
arm, and exclaimed:--
"Whom have we here?"
All eyes turned in the same direction, descried a dashing horseman in
"Upon my soul I don't know," said Ferris. "Anybody expected from the
Fagg's Manor way?"
"Not of my inviting," Barton answered.
The other guests professed their entire ignorance of the stranger, who,
having by this time passed the bars, rode directly up to the group. He
was a short, broad-shouldered man of nearly forty, with a red, freckled
face, keen, snapping gray eyes, and a close, wide mouth. Thick,
jet-black whiskers, eyebrows and pig-tail made the glance of those
eyes, the gleam of his teeth, and the color of his skin where it was not
reddened by the wind, quite dazzling. This violent and singular contrast
gave his plain, common features an air of distinction. Although his
mulberry coat was somewhat faded, it had a jaunty cut, and if his
breeches were worn and stained, the short, muscular thighs and strong
knees they covered, told of a practised horseman.
He rode a large bay gelding, poorly groomed, and apparently not
remarkable for blood, but with no marks of harness on his rough coat.
"Good-day to you, gentlemen!" said the stranger, familiarly knocking the
handle of his whip against his cocked hat. "Squire Barton, how do you
"How do you do, sir?" responded Mr. Barton, instantly flattered by the
title, to which he had no legitimate right. "I believe," he added, "you
have the advantage of me."
A broad smile, or rather grin, spread over the stranger's face. His
teeth flashed, and his eyes shot forth a bright, malicious ray. He
hesitated a moment, ran rapidly over the faces of the others without
perceptibly moving his head, and noting the general curiosity, said, at
"I hardly expected to find an acquaintance in this neighborhood, but a
chase makes quick fellowship. I happened to hear of it at the Anvil
Tavern,--am on my way to the Rising Sun; so, you see, if the hunt goes
down Tuffkenamon, as is likely, it's so much of a lift on the way."
"All right,--glad to have you join us. What did you say your name was?"
inquired Mr. Barton.
"I didn't say what; it's Fortune,--a fortune left to me by my father,
ha! ha! Don't care if I do"--
With the latter words, Fortune (as we must now call him) leaned down
from his saddle, took the black bottle from the unresisting hands of Mr.
Ferris, inverted it against his lips, and drank so long and luxuriously
as to bring water into the mouths of the spectators. Then, wiping his
mouth with the back of his freckled hand, he winked and nodded his head
approvingly to Mr. Barton.
Meanwhile the other horseman had arrived from the meadow, after
dismounting and letting down the bars, over which his horse stepped
slowly and cautiously,--a circumstance which led some of the younger
guests to exchange quiet, amused glances. Gilbert Potter, however,
received a hearty greeting from all, including the host, though the
latter, by an increased shyness in meeting his gaze, manifested some
"I was afraid I should have been too late," said Gilbert; "the old break
in the hedge is stopped at last, so I came over the hill above, without
thinking on the swampy bit, this side."
"Breaking your horse in to rough riding, eh?" said Mr. Ferris, touching
a neighbor with his elbow.
Gilbert smiled good-humoredly, but said nothing, and a little laugh went
around the circle. Mr. Fortune seemed to understand the matter in a
flash. He looked at the brown, shaggy-maned animal, standing behind its
owner, with its head down, and said, in a low, sharp tone: "I see--where
did you get him?"
Gilbert returned the speaker's gaze a moment before he answered. "From a
drover," he then said.
"By the Lord!"-ejaculated Mr. Barton, who had again conspicuously
displayed his watch, "it's over half-past one. Look out for the
hounds,--we must start, if we mean to do any riding this day!"
The owners of the hounds picked out their several animals and dragged
them aside, in which operation they were uproariously assisted by the
boys. The chase in Kennett, it must be confessed, was but a very faint
shadow of the old English pastime. It had been kept up, in the
neighborhood, from the force of habit in the Colonial times, and under
the depression which the strong Quaker element among the people
exercised upon all sports and recreations. The breed of hounds, not
being restricted to close communion, had considerably degenerated, and
few, even of the richer farmers, could afford to keep thoroughbred
hunters for this exclusive object. Consequently all the features of the
pastime had become rude and imperfect, and, although very respectable
gentlemen still gave it their countenance, there was a growing suspicion
that it was a questionable, if not demoralizing diversion. It would be
more agreeable if we could invest the present occasion with a little
more pomp and dignity; but we must describe the event precisely as it
The first to greet Gilbert were his old friends, Joe and Jake Fairthorn.
These boys loudly lamented that their father had denied them the loan of
his old gray mare, Bonnie; they could ride double on a gallop, they
said; and wouldn't Gilbert take them along, one before and one behind
him? But he laughed and shook his head.
"Well, we've got Watch, anyhow," said Joe, who thereupon began
whispering very earnestly to Jake, as the latter seized the big family
bull-dog by the collar. Gilbert foreboded mischief, and kept his eye
upon the pair.
A scuffle was heard in the corn-crib, into which Giles had descended.
The boys shuddered and chuckled in a state of delicious fear, which
changed into a loud shout of triumph, as the soldier again made his
appearance at the door, with the fox in his arms, and a fearless hand
around its muzzle.
"By George! what a fine brush!" exclaimed Mr. Ferris.
A sneer, quickly disguised in a grin, ran over Fortune's face. The
hounds howled and tugged; Giles stepped rapidly across the open space
where the knoll sloped down to the meadow. It was a moment of intense
Just then, Joe and Jake Fairthorn let go their hold on the bull-dog's
collar; but Gilbert Potter caught the animal at the second bound. The
boys darted behind the corn-crib, scared less by Gilbert's brandished
whip than by the wrath and astonishment in Mr. Barton's face.
"Cast him off, Giles!" the latter cried.
The fox, placed upon the ground, shot down the slope and through the
fence into the meadow. Pausing then, as if first to assure himself of
his liberty, he took a quick, keen survey of the ground before him, and
then started off towards the left.
"He's making for the rocks!" cried Mr. Ferris; to which the stranger,
who was now watching the animal with sharp interest, abruptly answered,
"Hold your tongue!"
Within a hundred yards the fox turned to the right, and now, having
apparently made up his mind to the course, struck away in a steady but
not hurried trot. In a minute he had reached the outlying trees of the
timber along the creek.
"He's a cool one, he is!" remarked Giles, admiringly.
By this time he was hidden by the barn from the sight of the hounds, and
they were let loose. While they darted about in eager quest of the
scent, the hunters mounted in haste. Presently an old dog gave tongue
like a trumpet, the pack closed, and the horsemen followed. The boys
kept pace with them over the meadow, Joe and Jake taking the lead, until
the creek abruptly stopped their race, when they sat down upon the bank
and cried bitterly, as the last of the hunters disappeared through the
thickets on the further side.
It was not long before a high picket-fence confronted the riders. Mr.
Ferris, with a look of dismay, dismounted. Fortune, Barton, and Gilbert
Potter each threw off a heavy "rider," and leaped their horses over the
rails. The others followed through the gaps thus made, and all swept
across the field at full speed, guided by the ringing cry of the hounds.
When they reached the Wilmington road, the cry swerved again to the
left, and most of the hunters, with Barton at their head, took the
highway in order to reach the crossroad to New-Garden more conveniently.
Gilbert and Fortune alone sprang into the opposite field, and kept a
straight southwestern course for the other branch of Redley Creek. The
field was divided by a stout thorn-hedge from the one beyond it, and the
two horsemen, careering neck and neck, glanced at each other curiously
as they approached this barrier. Their respective animals were
transformed; the unkempt manes were curried by the wind, as they flew;
their sleepy eyes were full of fire, and the splendid muscles, aroused
to complete action, marked their hides with lines of beauty. There was
no wavering in either; side by side they hung in flight above the hedge,
and side by side struck the clean turf beyond.
Then Fortune turned his head, nodded approvingly to Gilbert, and
muttered to himself: "He's a gallant fellow,--I'll not rob him of the
brush." But he laughed a short, shrill, wicked laugh the next moment.
Before they reached the creek, the cry of the hounds ceased. They halted
a moment on the bank, irresolute.
"He must have gone down towards the snuff-mill," said Gilbert, and was
about to change his course.
"Stop," said the stranger; "if he has, we've lost him any way. Hark!
A deep bay rang from the westward, through the forest. Gilbert shouted:
"The lime-quarry!" and dashed across the stream. A lane was soon
reached, and as the valley opened, they saw the whole pack heading
around the yellow mounds of earth which marked the locality of the
quarry. At the same instant some one shouted in the rear, and they saw
Mr. Alfred Barton, thundering after, and apparently bent on diminishing
the distance between them.
A glance was sufficient to show that the fox had not taken refuge in the
quarry, but was making a straight course up the centre of the valley.
Here it was not so easy to follow. The fertile floor of Tuffkenamon,
stripped of woods, was crossed by lines of compact hedge, and, moreover,
the huntsmen were not free to tear and trample the springing wheat of
the thrifty Quaker farmers. Nevertheless, one familiar with the ground
could take advantage of a gap here and there, choose the connecting
pasture-fields, and favor his course with a bit of road, when the chase
swerved towards either side of the valley. Gilbert Potter soon took the
lead, closely followed by Fortune. Mr. Barton was perhaps better mounted
than either, but both horse and rider were heavier, and lost in the
moist fields, while they gained rapidly where the turf was firm.
After a mile and a half of rather toilsome riding, all three were nearly
abreast. The old tavern of the Hammer and Trowel was visible, at the
foot of the northern hill; the hounds, in front, bayed in a straight
line towards Avondale Woods,--but a long slip of undrained bog made its
appearance. Neither gentleman spoke, for each was silently tasking his
wits how to accomplish the passage most rapidly. The horses began to
sink into the oozy soil: only a very practised eye could tell where the
surface was firmest, and even this knowledge was but slight advantage.
Nimbly as a cat Gilbert sprang from the saddle, still holding the pummel
in his right hand, touched his horse's flank with the whip, and bounded
from one tussock to another. The sagacious animal seemed to understand
and assist his manoeuvre. Hardly had he gained firm ground than he was in
his seat again, while Mr. Barton was still plunging in the middle of the
By the time he had reached the road, Gilbert shrewdly guessed where the
chase would terminate. The idlers on the tavern-porch cheered him as he
swept around the corner; the level highway rang to the galloping hoofs
of his steed, and in fifteen minutes he had passed the long and lofty
oak woods of Avondale. At the same moment, fox and hounds broke into
full view, sweeping up the meadow on his left. The animal made a last
desperate effort to gain a lair among the bushes and loose stones on the
northern hill; but the hunter was there before him, the hounds were
within reach, and one faltering moment decided his fate.
Gilbert sprang down among the frantic dogs, and saved the brush from the
rapid dismemberment which had already befallen its owner. Even then, he
could only assure its possession by sticking it into his hat and
remounting his horse. When he looked around, no one was in sight, but
the noise of hoofs was heard crashing through the wood.
Mr. Ferris, with some dozen others, either anxious to spare their horses
or too timid to take the hedges in the valley, had kept the cross-road
to New-Garden, whence a lane along the top of the southern hill led them
into the Avondale Woods. They soon emerged, shouting and yelling, upon
The chase was up; and Gilbert Potter, on his "plough horse," was the
only huntsman in at the death.
WHO SHALL HAVE THE BRUSH?
Mr. Barton and Fortune, who seemed to have become wonderfully intimate
during the half hour in which they had ridden together, arrived at the
same time. The hunters, of whom a dozen were now assembled (some five or
six inferior horses being still a mile in the rear), were all astounded,
and some of them highly vexed, at the result of the chase. Gilbert's
friends crowded about him, asking questions as to the course he had
taken, and examining the horse, which had maliciously resumed its sleepy
look, and stood with drooping head. The others had not sufficient tact
to disguise their ill-humor, for they belonged to that class which, in
all countries, possesses the least refinement--the uncultivated rich.
"The hunt started well, but it's a poor finish," said one of these.
"Never mind!" Mr. Ferris remarked; "such things come by chance."
These words struck the company to silence. A shock, felt rather than
perceived, fell upon them, and they looked at each other with an
expression of pain and embarrassment. Gilbert's face faded to a sallow
paleness, and his eyes were fastened upon those of the speaker with a
fierce and dangerous intensity. Mr. Ferris colored, turned away, and
called to his hounds.
Fortune was too sharp an observer not to remark the disturbance. He
cried out, and his words produced an instant, general sense of relief:--
"It's been a fine run, friends, and we can't do better than ride back to
the Hammer and Trowel, and take a 'smaller'--or a 'bigger' for that
matter--at my expense. You must let me pay my footing now, for I hope to
ride with you many a time to come. Faith! If I don't happen to buy that
place down by the Rising Sun, I'll try to find another, somewhere about
New London or Westgrove, so that we can be nearer neighbors."
With that he grinned, rather than smiled; but although his manner would
have struck a cool observer as being mocking instead of cordial, the
invitation was accepted with great show of satisfaction, and the
horsemen fell into pairs, forming a picturesque cavalcade as they passed
under the tall, leafless oaks.
Gilbert Potter speedily recovered his self-possession, but his face was
stern and his manner abstracted. Even the marked and careful kindness of
his friends seemed secretly to annoy him, for it constantly suggested
the something by which it had been prompted. Mr. Alfred Barton, however,
whether under the influence of Fortune's friendship, or from a late
suspicion of his duties as host of the day, not unkindly complimented
the young man, and insisted on filling his glass. Gilbert could do no
less than courteously accept the attention, but he shortly afterwards
stole away from the noisy company, mounted his horse, and rode slowly
towards Kennett Square.
As he thus rides, with his eyes abstractedly fixed before him, we will
take the opportunity to observe him more closely. Slightly under-sized,
compactly built, and with strongly-marked features, his twenty-four
years have the effect of thirty. His short jacket and knee-breeches of
gray velveteen cover a chest broad rather than deep, and reveal the
fine, narrow loins and muscular thighs of a frame matured and hardened
by labor. His hands, also, are hard and strong, but not ungraceful in
form. His neck, not too short, is firmly planted, and the carriage of
his head indicates patience and energy. Thick, dark hair enframes his
square forehead, and straight, somewhat heavy brows. His eyes of soft
dark-gray, are large, clear, and steady, and only change their
expression under strong excitement. His nose is straight and short, his
mouth a little too wide for beauty, and less firm now than it will be
ten years hence, when the yearning tenderness shall have vanished from
the corners of the lips; and the chin, in its broad curve, harmonizes
with the square lines of the brow. Evidently a man whose youth has not
been a holiday; who is reticent rather than demonstrative; who will be
strong in his loves and long in his hates; and, without being of a
despondent nature, can never become heartily sanguine.
The spring-day was raw and overcast, as it drew towards its close, and
the rider's musings seemed to accord with the change in the sky. His
face expressed a singular mixture of impatience, determined will, and
unsatisfied desire. But where most other men would have sighed, or given
way to some involuntary exclamation, he merely set his teeth, and
tightened the grasp on his whip-handle.
He was not destined, however, to a solitary journey. Scarcely had he
made three quarters of a mile, when, on approaching the junction of a
wood-road which descended to the highway from a shallow little glen on
the north, the sound of hoofs and voices met his ears. Two female
figures appeared, slowly guiding their horses down the rough road. One,
from her closely-fitting riding-habit of drab cloth, might have been a
Quakeress, but for the feather (of the same sober color) in her beaver
hat, and the rosette of dark red ribbon at her throat. The other, in
bluish-gray, with a black beaver and no feather, rode a heavy old horse
with a blind halter on his head, and held the stout leathern reins with
a hand covered with a blue woollen mitten. She rode in advance, paying
little heed to her seat, but rather twisting herself out of shape in the
saddle in order to chatter to her companion in the rear.
"Do look where you are going, Sally!" cried the latter as the blinded
horse turned aside from the road to drink at a little brook that oozed
forth from under the dead leaves.
Thus appealed to, the other lady whirled around with a half-jump, and
caught sight of Gilbert Potter and of her horse's head at the same
"Whoa there, Bonnie!" she cried. "Why, Gilbert, where did you come from?
Hold up your head, I say! Martha, here's Gilbert, with a brush in his
hat! Don't be afraid, you beast; did you never smell a fox? Here, ride
in between, Gilbert, and tell us all about it! No, not on that side,
Martha; you can manage a horse better than I can!"
In her efforts to arrange the order of march, she drove her horse's head
into Gilbert's back, and came near losing her balance. With amused
screams, and bursts of laughter, and light, rattling exclamations, she
finally succeeded in placing herself at his left hand, while her adroit
and self-possessed companion quietly rode up to his right Then, dropping
the reins on their horses' necks, the two ladies resigned themselves to
conversation, as the three slowly jogged homewards abreast.
"Now, Gilbert!" exclaimed Miss Sally Fairthorn, after waiting a moment
for him to speak; "did you really earn the brush, or beg it from one of
them, on the way home?"
"Begging, you know, is my usual habit," he answered, mockingly.
"I know you're as proud as Lucifer, when you've a mind to be so. There!"
Gilbert was accustomed to the rattling tongue of his left-hand neighbor,
and generally returned her as good as she gave. To-day, however, he was
in no mood for repartee. He drew down his brows and made no answer to
"Where was the fox earthed?" asked the other lady, after a rapid glance
at his face.
Martha Deane's voice was of that quality which compels an answer, and a
courteous answer, from the surliest of mankind. It was not loud, it
could scarcely be called musical; but every tone seemed to exhale
freshness as of dew, and brightness as of morning. It was pure, slightly
resonant; and all the accumulated sorrows of life could not have veiled
its inherent gladness. It could never grow harsh, never be worn thin, or
sound husky from weariness; its first characteristic would always be
youth, and the joy of youth, though it came from the lips of age.
Doubtless Gilbert Potter did not analyze the charm which it exercised
upon him; it was enough that he felt and submitted to it. A few quiet
remarks sufficed to draw from him the story of the chase, in all its
particulars, and the lively interest in Martha Deane's face, the
boisterous glee of Sally Fairthorn, with his own lurking sense of
triumph, soon swept every gloomy line from his visage. His mouth relaxed
from its set compression, and wore a winning sweetness; his eyes shone
softly-bright, and a nimble spirit of gayety gave grace to his
"Fairly won, I must say!" exclaimed Miss Sally Fairthorn, when the
narrative was finished. "And now, Gilbert, the brush?"
"Who's to have it, I mean. Did you never get one before, as you don't
seem to understand?"
"Yes, I understand," said he, in an indifferent tone; "it may be had for
"Then it's mine!" cried Sally, urging her heavy horse against him and
making a clutch at his cap. But he leaned as suddenly away, and shot a
length ahead, out of her reach. Miss Deane's horse, a light, spirited
animal, kept pace with his.
"Martha!" cried the disappointed damsel, "Martha! one of us must have
it; ask him, you!"
"No," answered Martha, with her clear blue eyes fixed on Gilbert's face,
"I will not ask."
He returned her gaze, and his eyes seemed to say: "Will you take it,
knowing what the acceptance implies?"
She read the question correctly; but of this he was not sure. Neither,
if it were so, could he trust himself to interpret the answer. Sally had
already resumed her place on his left, and he saw that the mock strife
would be instantly renewed. With a movement so sudden as to appear
almost ungracious, he snatched the brush from his cap and extended it to
Martha Deane, without saying a word.
If she hesitated, it was at least no longer than would be required in
order to understand the action. Gilbert might either so interpret it, or
suspect that she had understood the condition in his mind, and meant to
signify the rejection thereof. The language of gestures is wonderfully
rapid, and all that could be said by either, in this way, was over, and
the brush in Martha Deane's hand, before Sally Fairthorn became aware of
"Well-done, Martha!" she exclaimed: "Don't let him have it again! Do you
know to whom he would have given it: an A. and a W., with the look of an
Thereupon Sally pulled off her mittens and crossed her forefingers, an
action which her companions understood--in combination with the
mysterious initials--to be the rude, primitive symbol of a squint.
Gilbert looked annoyed, but before he could reply, Sally let go the rein
in order to put on her mittens, and the blinded mare quickly dropping
her head, the rein slipped instantly to the animal's ears. The latter
perceived her advantage, and began snuffing along the edges of the road
in a deliberate search for spring grass. In vain Sally called and
kicked; the mare provokingly preserved her independence. Finally, a
piteous appeal to Gilbert, who had pretended not to notice the dilemma,
and was a hundred yards in advance, was Sally's only resource. The two
halted and enjoyed her comical helplessness.
"That's enough, Gilbert," said Martha Deane, presently, "go now and pick
up the rein."
He rode back, picked it up, and handed it to Sally without speaking.
"Gilbert," she said, with a sudden demure change of tone, as they rode
on to where Miss Deane was waiting, "come and take supper with us, at
home. Martha has promised. You've hardly been to see us in a month."
"You know how much I have to do, Sally," he answered. "It isn't only
that, to-day being a Saturday; but I've promised mother to be at home
by dark, and fetch a quarter of tea from the store."
"When you've once promised, I know, oxen couldn't pull you the other
"I don't often see your mother, Gilbert," said Martha Deane; "she is
"Thank you, Martha,--too well, and yet not well enough."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean," he answered, "that she does more than she has strength to do.
If she had less she would be forced to undertake less; if she had more,
she would be equal to her undertaking."
"I understand you now. But you should not allow her to go on in that
way; you should"--
What Miss Deane would have said must remain unwritten. Gilbert's eyes
were upon her, and held her own; perhaps a little more color came into
her face, but she did not show the slightest embarrassment. A keen
observer might have supposed that either a broken or an imperfect
relation existed between the two, which the gentleman was trying to
restore or complete without the aid of words; and that, furthermore,
while the lady was the more skilful in the use of that silent language,
neither rightly understood the other.
By this time they were ascending the hill from Redley Creek to Kennett
Square. Martha Deane had thus far carried the brush carelessly in her
right hand; she now rolled it into a coil and thrust it into a large
velvet reticule which hung from the pommel of her saddle. A few dull
orange streaks in the overcast sky, behind them, denoted sunset, and a
raw, gloomy twilight crept up from the east.
"You'll not go with us?" Sally asked again, as they reached the corner,
and the loungers on the porch of the Unicorn Tavern beyond, perceiving
Gilbert, sprang from their seats to ask for news of the chase.
"Sally, I cannot!" he answered. "Good-night!"
Joe and Jake Fairthorn rushed up with a whoop, and before Gilbert could
satisfy the curiosity of the tavern-idlers, the former sat behind Sally,
on the old mare, with his face to her tail, while Jake, prevented by
Miss Deane's riding-whip from attempting the same performance, capered
behind the horses and kept up their spirits by flinging handfuls of
Gilbert found another group in "the store"--farmers or their sons who
had come in for a supply of groceries, or the weekly mail, and who sat
in a sweltering atmosphere around the roaring stove. They, too, had
heard of the chase, and he was obliged to give them as many details as
possible while his quarter of tea was being weighed, after which he left
them to supply the story from the narrative of Mr. Joel Ferris, who, a
new-comer announced, had just alighted at the Unicorn, a little drunk,
and in a very bad humor.
"Where's Barton?" Gilbert heard some one ask of Ferris, as he mounted.
"In his skin!" was the answer, "unless he's got into that fellow
Fortune's. They're as thick as two pickpockets!"
Gilbert rode down the hill, and allowed his horse to plod leisurely
across the muddy level, regardless of the deepening twilight.
He was powerfully moved by some suppressed emotion. The muscles of his
lips twitched convulsively, and there was a hot surge and swell
somewhere in his head, as of tears about to overrun their secret
reservoir. But they failed to surprise him, this time. As the first
drops fell from his dark eyelashes, he loosed the rein and gave the word
to his horse. Over the ridge, along the crest, between dusky
thorn-hedges, he swept at full gallop, and so, slowly sinking towards
the fair valley which began to twinkle with the lights of scattered
farms to the eastward, he soon reached the last steep descent, and saw
the gray gleam of his own barn below him.
By this time his face was sternly set. He clinched his hands, and
muttered to himself--
"It will almost kill me to ask, but I must know, and--and she must
It was dark now. As he climbed again from the bottom of the hill towards
the house, a figure on the summit was drawn indistinctly against the
sky, unconscious that it was thus betrayed. But it vanished instantly,
and then he groaned--
"God help me! I cannot ask."
MARY POTTER AND HER SON.
While Gilbert was dismounting at the gate leading into his barn-yard, he
was suddenly accosted by a boyish voice:--
"Got back, have you?"
This was Sam, the "bound-boy,"--the son of a tenant on the old Carson
place, who, in consideration of three months' schooling every winter,
and a "freedom suit" at the age of seventeen, if he desired then to
learn a trade, was duly made over by his father to Gilbert Potter. His
position was something between that of a poor relation and a servant. He
was one of the family, eating at the same table, sleeping, indeed, (for
economy of house-work,) in the same bed with his master, and privileged
to feel his full share of interest in domestic matters; but on the other
hand bound to obedience and rigid service.
"Feed's in the trough," said he, taking hold of the bridle. "I'll fix
him. Better go into th' house. Tea's wanted."
Feeling as sure that all the necessary evening's work was done as if he
had performed it with his own hands, Gilbert silently followed the boy's
The house, built like most other old farm-houses in that part of the
county, of hornblende stone, stood near the bottom of a rounded knoll,
overhanging the deep, winding valley. It was two stories in height, the
gable looking towards the road, and showing, just under the broad double
chimney, a limestone slab, upon which were rudely carved the initials of
the builder and his wife, and the date "1727." A low portico, overgrown
with woodbine and trumpet-flower, ran along the front. In the narrow
flower-bed, under it, the crocuses and daffodils were beginning to
thrust up their blunt, green points. A walk of flag-stones separated
them from the vegetable garden, which was bounded at the bottom by a
mill-race, carrying half the water of the creek to the saw and grist
mill on the other side of the road.
Although this road was the principal thoroughfare between Kennett Square
and Wilmington, the house was so screened from the observation of
travellers, both by the barn, and by some huge, spreading apple-trees
which occupied the space between the garden and road, that its inmates
seemed to live in absolute seclusion. Looking from the front door across
a narrow green meadow, a wooded hill completely shut out all glimpse of
the adjoining farms; while an angle of the valley, to the eastward, hid
from sight the warm, fertile fields higher up the stream.
The place seemed lonelier than ever in the gloomy March twilight; or was
it some other influence which caused Gilbert to pause on the flagged
walk, and stand there, motionless, looking down into the meadow until a
woman's shadow crossing the panes, was thrown upon the square of lighted
earth at his feet? Then he turned and entered the kitchen.
The cloth was spread and the table set. A kettle, humming on a heap of
fresh coals, and a squat little teapot of blue china, were waiting
anxiously for the brown paper parcel which he placed upon the cloth. His
mother was waiting also, in a high straight-backed rocking-chair, with
her hands in her lap.
"You're tired waiting, mother, I suppose?" he said, as he hung his hat
upon a nail over the heavy oak mantel-piece.
"No, not tired, Gilbert, but it's hungry _you'll_ be. It won't take long
for the tea to draw. Everything else has been ready this half-hour."
Gilbert threw himself upon the settle under the front window, and
mechanically followed her with his eyes, as she carefully measured the
precious herb, even stooping to pick up a leaf or two that had fallen
from the spoon to the floor.
The resemblance between mother and son was very striking. Mary Potter
had the same square forehead and level eyebrows, but her hair was darker
than Gilbert's, and her eyes more deeply set. The fire of a lifelong
pain smouldered in them, and the throes of some never-ending struggle
had sharpened every line of cheek and brow, and taught her lips the
close, hard compression, which those of her son were also beginning to
learn. She was about forty-five years of age, but there was even now a
weariness in her motions, as if her prime of strength were already past.
She wore a short gown of brown flannel, with a plain linen stomacher,
and a coarse apron, which she removed when the supper had been placed
upon the table. A simple cap, with a narrow frill, covered her head.
The entire work of the household devolved upon her hands alone. Gilbert
would have cheerfully taken a servant to assist her, but this she
positively refused, seeming to court constant labor, especially during
his absence from the house. Only when he was there would she take
occasion to knit or sew. The kitchen was a marvel of neatness and order.
The bread-trough and dresser-shelves were scoured almost to the
whiteness of a napkin, and the rows of pewter-plates upon the latter
flashed like silver sconces. To Gilbert's eyes, indeed, the effect was
sometimes painful. He would have been satisfied with less laborious
order, a less eager and unwearied thrift. To be sure, all this was in
furtherance of a mutual purpose; but he mentally determined that when
the purpose had been fulfilled, he would insist upon an easier and more
cheerful arrangement. The stern aspect of life from which his nature
craved escape met him oftenest at home.
Sam entered the kitchen barefooted, having left his shoes at the back
door. The tea was drawn, and the three sat down to their supper of
bacon, bread and butter, and apple-sauce. Gilbert and his mother ate and
drank in silence, but Sam's curiosity was too lively to be restrained.
"I say, how did Roger go?" he asked.
Mary Potter looked up, as if expecting the question to be answered, and
"He took the lead, and kept it."
"O cracky!" exclaimed the delighted Sam.
"Then you think it's a good bargain, Gilbert. Was it a long chase? Was
he well tried?"
"All right, mother. I could sell him for twenty dollars advance--even to
Joel Ferris," he answered.
He then gave a sketch of the afternoon's adventures, to which his mother
listened with a keen, steady interest. She compelled him to describe the
stranger, Fortune, as minutely as possible, as if desirous of finding
some form or event in her own memory to which he could be attached; but
After supper Sam squatted upon a stool in the corner of the fireplace,
and resumed his reading of "The Old English Baron," by the light of the
burning back-log, pronouncing every word to himself in something between
a whisper and a whistle. Gilbert took an account-book, a leaden
inkstand, and a stumpy pen from a drawer under the window, and
calculated silently and somewhat laboriously. His mother produced a
clocked stocking of blue wool, and proceeded to turn the heel.
In half an hour's time, however, Sam's whispering ceased; his head
nodded violently, and the book fell upon the hearth.
"I guess I'll go to bed," he said; and having thus conscientiously
announced his intention, he trotted up the steep back-stairs on his
hands and feet. In two minutes more, a creaking overhead announced that
the act was accomplished.
Gilbert filliped the ink out of his pen into the fire, laid it in his
book, and turned away from the table.
"Roger has bottom," he said at last, "and he's as strong as a lion. He
and Fox will make a good team, and the roads will be solid in three
days, if it don't rain."
"Why, you don't mean,"--she commenced.
"Yes, mother. You were not for buying him, I know, and you were right,
inasmuch as there is always _some_ risk. But it will make a difference
of two barrels a load, besides having a horse at home. If I plough both
for corn and oats next week,--and it will be all the better for corn, as
the field next to Carson's is heavy,--I can begin hauling the week
after, and we'll have the interest by the first of April, without
borrowing a penny."
"That would be good,--very good, indeed," said she, dropping her
knitting, and hesitating a moment before she continued; "only--only,
Gilbert, I didn't expect you would be going so soon."
"The sooner I begin, mother, the sooner I shall finish."
"I know that, Gilbert,--I know that; but I'm always looking forward to
the time when you won't be bound to go at all. Not that Sam and I can't
manage awhile--but if the money was paid once"--
"There's less than six hundred now, altogether. It's a good deal to
scrape together in a year's time, but if it can be done I will do it.
Perhaps, then, you will let some help come into the house. I'm as
anxious as you can be, mother. I'm not of a roving disposition, that you
know; yet it isn't pleasant to me to see you slave as you do, and for
that very reason, it's a comfort when I'm away, that you've one less to
He spoke earnestly, turning his face full upon her.
"We've talked this over, often and often, but you never can make me see
it in your way," he then added, in a gentler tone.
"Ay, Gilbert," she replied, somewhat bitterly, "I've had my thoughts.
Maybe they were too fast; it seems so. I meant, and mean, to make a good
home for you, and I'm happiest when I can do the most towards it. I want
you to hold up your head and be beholden to no man. There are them in
the neighborhood that were bound out as boys, and are now as good as the
"But they are not,"--burst from his lips, as the thought on which he so
gloomily brooded sprang to the surface and took him by surprise. He
checked his words by a powerful effort, and the blood forsook his face.
Mary Potter placed her hand on her heart, and seemed to gasp for breath.
Gilbert could not bear to look upon her face. He turned away, placed his
elbow on the table, and leaned his head upon his hand. It never occurred
to him that the unfinished sentence might be otherwise completed. He
knew that his _thought_ was betrayed, and his heart was suddenly filled
with a tumult of shame, pity, and fear.
For a minute there was silence. Only the long pendulum, swinging openly
along the farther wall, ticked at each end of its vibration. Then Mary
Potter drew a deep, weary breath, and spoke. Her voice was hollow and
strange, and each word came as by a separate muscular effort.
"_What_ are they not? What word was on your tongue, Gilbert?"
He could not answer. He could only shake his head, and bring forth a
cowardly, evasive word,--"Nothing."
"But there _is_ something! Oh, I knew it must come some time!" she
cried, rather to herself than to him. "Listen to me, Gilbert! Has any
one dared to say to your face that you are basely born?"
He felt, now, that no further evasion was possible; she had put into
words the terrible question which he could not steel his own heart to
ask. Perhaps it was better so,--better a sharp, intense pain than a dull
perpetual ache. So he answered honestly now, but still kept his head
turned away, as if there might be a kindness in avoiding her gaze.
"Not in so many words, mother," he said; "but there are ways, and ways
of saying a thing; and the cruellest way is that which everybody
understands, and I dare not. But I have long known what it meant. It is
ten years, mother, since I have mentioned the word '_father_' in your
Mary Potter leaned forward, hid her face in her hands, and rocked to and
fro, as if tortured with insupportable pain. She stifled her sobs, but
the tears gushed forth between her fingers.
"O my boy,--my boy!" she moaned. "Ten years?--and you believed it, all
He was silent. She leaned forward and grasped his arm.
"Did you,--_do_ you believe it? Speak, Gilbert!"
When he did speak, his voice was singularly low and gentle. "Never mind,
mother!" was all he could say. His head was still turned away from her,
but she knew there were tears on his cheeks.
"Gilbert, it is a lie!" she exclaimed, with startling vehemence. "A
lie,--A LIE! You are my lawful son, born in wedlock! There is no stain
upon your name, of my giving, and I know there will be none of your
He turned towards her, his eyes shining and his lips parted in
breathless joy and astonishment.
"Is it--is it true?" he whispered.
"True as there is a God in Heaven."
"Then, mother, give me my name! Now I ask you, for the first time, who
was my father?"
She wrung her hands and moaned. The sight of her son's eager, expectant
face, touched with a light which she had never before seen upon it,
seemed to give her another and a different pang.
"That, too!" She murmured to herself.
"Gilbert," she then said, "have I always been a faithful mother to you?
Have I been true and honest in word and deed? Have I done my best to
help you in all right ways,--to make you comfortable, to spare you
trouble? Have I ever,--I'll not say acted, for nobody's judgment is
perfect,--but tried to act otherwise than as I thought it might be for
"You have done all that you could say, and more, mother."
"Then, my boy, is it too much for me to ask that you should believe my
word,--that you should let it stand for the truth, without my giving
proofs and testimonies? For, Gilbert, that I _must_ ask of you, hard as
it may seem. If you will only be content with the knowledge--: but then,
you have felt the shame all this while; it was my fault, mine, and I
ought to ask your forgiveness"--
"Mother--mother!" he interrupted, "don't talk that way! Yes--I believe
you, without testimony. You never said, or thought, an untruth; and your
explanation will be enough not only for me, but for the whole
neighborhood, if all witnesses are dead or gone away. If you knew of the
shameful report, why didn't you deny it at once? Why let it spread and
be believed in?"
"Oh," she moaned again, "if my tongue was not tied--if my tongue was not
tied! There was my fault, and what a punishment! Never--never was woman
punished as I have been. Gilbert, whatever you do, bind yourself by no
vow, except in the sight of men!"
"I do not understand you, mother," said he.
"No, and I dare not make myself understood. Don't ask me anything more!
It's hard to shut my mouth, and bear everything in silence, but it cuts
my very heart in twain to speak and not tell!"
Her distress was so evident, that Gilbert, perplexed and bewildered as
her words left him, felt that he dared not press her further. He could
not doubt the truth of her first assertion; but, alas! it availed only
for his own private consciousness,--it took no stain from him, in the
eyes of the world. Yet, now that the painful theme had been opened,--not
less painful, it seemed, since the suspected dishonor did not exist,--he
craved and decided to ask, enlightenment on one point.
"Mother," he said, after a pause, "I do not want to speak about this
thing again. I believe you, and my greatest comfort in believing is for
your sake, not for mine. I see, too, that you are bound in some way
which I do not understand, so that we cannot be cleared from the blame
that is put upon us. I don't mind that so much, either--for my own sake,
and I will not ask for an explanation, since you say you dare not give
it. But tell me one thing,--will it always be so? Are you bound forever,
and will I never learn anything more? I can wait; but, mother, you know
that these things work in a man's mind, and there will come a time when
the knowledge of the worst thing that could be will seem better than no
knowledge at all."
Her face brightened a little. "Thank you, Gilbert!" she said. "Yes;
there will come a day when you shall know all,--when you and me shall
have justice. I do not know how soon; I cannot guess. In the Lord's good
time. I have nigh out-suffered my fault, I think, and the reward cannot
be far off. A few weeks, perhaps,--yet, maybe, for oh, I am not allowed
even to hope for it!--maybe a few years. It will all come to the light,
after so long--so long--an eternity. If I had but known!"
"Come, we will say no more now. Surely I may wait a little while, when
you have waited so long. I believe you, mother. Yes, I believe you; I am
your lawful son."
She rose, placed her hands on his shoulders, and kissed him. Nothing
more was said.
Gilbert raked the ashes over the smouldering embers on the hearth,
lighted his mother's night-lamp, and after closing the chamber-door
softly behind her, stole up-stairs to his own bed.
It was long past midnight before he slept.
FORTUNE AND MISFORTUNE.
On the same evening, a scene of a very different character occurred, in
which certain personages of this history were actors. In order to
describe it, we must return to the company of sportsmen whom Gilbert
Potter left at the Hammer-and-Trowel Tavern, late in the afternoon.
No sooner had he departed than the sneers of the young bucks, who felt
themselves humiliated by his unexpected success, became loud and
frequent. Mr. Alfred Barton, who seemed to care little for the general
dissatisfaction, was finally reproached with having introduced such an
unfit personage at a gentleman's hunt; whereupon he turned impatiently,
"There were no particular invitations sent out, as all of you know.
Anybody that had a horse, and knew how to manage him, was welcome.
Zounds! if you fellows are afraid to take hedges, am I to blame for
that? A hunter's a hunter, though he's born on the wrong side of the
"That's the talk, Squire!" cried Fortune, giving his friend a hearty
slap between the shoulders. "I've seen riding in my day," he continued,
"both down in Loudon and on the Eastern Shore--men born with spurs on
their heels, and I tell you this Potter could hold his own, even with
the Lees and the Tollivers. We took the hedge together, while you were
making a round of I don't know how many miles on the road; and I never
saw a thing neater done. If you thought there was anything unfair about
him, why didn't you head him off?"
"Yes, damme," echoed Mr. Barton, bringing down his fist upon the bar, so
that the glasses jumped, "why didn't you head him off?" Mr. Barton's
face was suspiciously flushed, and he was more excited than the occasion
There was no answer to the question, except that which none of the young
bucks dared to make.
"Well, I've had about enough of this," said Mr. Joel Ferris, turning on
his heel; "who's for home?"
"Me!" answered three or four, with more readiness than grammar. Some of
the steadier young farmers, who had come for an afternoon's recreation,
caring little who was first in at the death, sat awhile and exchanged
opinions about crops and cattle; but Barton and Fortune kept together,
whispering much, and occasionally bursting into fits of uproarious
laughter. The former was so captivated by his new friend, that before he
knew it every guest was gone. The landlord had lighted two or three
tallow candles, and now approached with the question:
"Will you have supper, gentlemen?"
"That depends on what you've got," said Fortune.
This was not language to which the host was accustomed. His guests were
also his fellow-citizens: if they patronized him, he accommodated them,
and the account was balanced. His meals were as good as anybody's,
though he thought it that shouldn't, and people so very particular might
stay away. But he was a mild, amiable man, and Fortune's keen eye and
dazzling teeth had a powerful effect upon him. He answered civilly, in
spite of an inward protest:
"There's ham and eggs, and frizzled beef."
"Nothing could be better!" Fortune exclaimed, jumping up. "Come
'Squire--if I stay over Sunday with you, you must at least take supper
at my expense."
Mr. Barton tried to recollect whether he had invited his friend to spend
Sunday with him. It must be so, of course; only, he could not remember
when he had spoken, or what words he had used. It would be very
pleasant, he confessed, but for one thing; and how was he to get over
However, here they were, at the table, Fortune heaping his plate like a
bountiful host, and talking so delightfully about horses and hounds, and
drinking-bouts, and all those wild experiences which have such a charm
for bachelors of forty-five or fifty, that it was impossible to
determine in his mind what he should do.
After the supper, they charged themselves with a few additional
potations, to keep off the chill of the night air, mounted their horses,
and took the New-Garden road. A good deal of confidential whispering
had preceded their departure.
"They're off on a lark," the landlord remarked to himself, as they rode
away, "and it's a shame, in men of their age."
After riding a mile, they reached the cross-road on the left, which the
hunters had followed, and Fortune, who was a little in advance, turned
"After what I told you, 'Squire," said he, "you won't wonder that I know
the country so well. Let us push on; it's not more than two miles. I
would be very clear of showing you one of my nests, if you were not such
a good fellow. But mum's the word, you know."
"Never fear," Barton answered, somewhat thickly; "I'm an old bird,
"That you are! Men like you and me are not made of the same stuff as
those young nincompoops; we can follow a trail without giving tongue at
Highly flattered, Barton rode nearer, and gave his friend an
affectionate punch in the side. Fortune answered with an arm around his
waist and a tight hug, and so they rode onward through the darkness.
They had advanced for somewhat more than a mile on the cross-road, and
found themselves in a hollow, with tall, and added in a low, significant
tone, "If you stir from this spot in less than one hour, you are a dead
Then he rode on, whistling "Money Musk" as he went. Once or twice he
stopped, as if to listen, and Barton's heart ceased to beat; but by
degrees the sound of his horse's hoofs died away. The silence that
succeeded was full of terrors. Barton's horse became restive, and he
would have dismounted and held him, but for the weakness in every joint
which made him think that his body was falling asunder. Now and then a
leaf rustled, or the scent of some animal, unperceived by his own
nostrils, caused his horse to snort and stamp. The air was raw and sent
a fearful chill through his blood. Moreover, how was he to measure the
hour? His watch was gone; he might have guessed by the stars, but the
sky was overcast. Fortune and Sandy Flash--for there were two
individuals in his bewildered brain--would surely fulfil their threat if
he stirred before the appointed time. What under heaven should he do?
Wait; that was all; and he waited until it seemed that morning must be
near at hand. Then, turning his horse, he rode back very slowly towards
the New-Garden road, and after many panics, to the Hammer-and-Trowel.
There was still light in the bar-room; should the door open, he would be
seen. He put spurs to his horse and dashed past. Once in motion, it
seemed that he was pursued, and along Tuffkenamon went the race, until
his horse, panting and exhausted, paused to drink at Redley Creek. They
had gone to bed at the Unicorn; he drew a long breath, and felt that the
danger was over. In five minutes more he was at home.
Putting his horse in the stable, he stole quietly to the house, pulled
off his boots in the wood-shed, and entered by a back way through the
kitchen. Here he warmed his chill frame before the hot ashes, and then
very gently and cautiously felt his way to bed in the dark.
The next morning, being Sunday, the whole household, servants and all,
slept an hour later than usual, as was then the country custom. Giles,
the old soldier, was the first to appear. He made the fire in the
kitchen, put on the water to boil, and then attended to the feeding of
the cattle at the barn. When this was accomplished, he returned to the
house and entered a bedroom adjoining the kitchen, on the ground-floor.
Here slept "Old-man Barton," as he was generally called,--Alfred's
father, by name Abiah, and now eighty-five years of age. For many years
he had been a paralytic, and unable to walk, but the disease had not
affected his business capacity. He was the hardest, shrewdest, and
cunningest miser in the county. There was not a penny of the income and
expenditure of the farm, for any year, which he could not account
for,--not a date of a deed, bond, or note of hand, which he had ever
given or received, that was not indelibly burnt upon his memory. No one,
not even his sons, knew precisely how much he was worth. The old lawyer
in Chester, who had charge of much of his investments, was as shrewd as
himself, and when he made his annual visit, the first week in April, the
doors were not only closed, but everybody was banished from hearing
distance so long as he remained.
Giles assisted in washing and dressing the old man, then seated him in a
rude arm-chair, resting on clumsy wooden castors, and poured out for him
a small wine-glass full of raw brandy. Once or twice a year, usually
after the payment of delayed interest, Giles received a share of the
brandy; but he never learned to expect it. Then a long hickory staff was
placed in the old man's hand, and his arm-chair was rolled into the
kitchen, to a certain station between the fire and the southern window,
where he would be out of the way of his daughter Ann, yet could measure
with his eye every bit of lard she put into the frying-pan, and every
spoonful of molasses that entered into the composition of her pies.
She had already set the table for breakfast. The bacon and sliced
potatoes were frying in separate pans, and Ann herself was lifting the
lid of the tin coffee-pot, to see whether the beverage had "come to a
boil," when the old man entered, or, strictly speaking, _was_ entered.
As his chair rolled into the light, the hideousness, not the grace and
serenity of old age, was revealed. His white hair, thin and half-combed,
straggled over the dark-red, purple-veined skin of his head; his cheeks
were flabby bags of bristly, wrinkled leather; his mouth was a sunken,
irregular slit, losing itself in the hanging folds at the corners, and
even the life, gathered into his small, restless gray eyes, was half
quenched under the red and heavy edges of the lids. The third and fourth
fingers of his hands were crooked upon the skinny palms, beyond any
power to open them.
When Ann--a gaunt spinster of fifty-five--had placed the coffee on the
table, the old man looked around, and asked with a snarl: "Where's
"Not up yet, but you needn't wait, father."
"Wait?" was all he said, yet she understood the tone, and wheeled him to
the table. As soon as his plate was filled, he bent forward over it,
rested his elbows on the cloth, and commenced feeding himself with hands
that trembled so violently that he could with great difficulty bring the
food to his mouth. But he resented all offers of assistance, which
implied any weakness beyond that of the infirmity which it was
impossible for him to conceal. His meals were weary tasks, but he shook
and jerked through them, and would have gone away hungry rather than
acknowledge the infirmity of his great age.
Breakfast was nearly over before Alfred Barton made his appearance. No
truant school-boy ever dreaded the master's eye as he dreaded to appear
before his father that Sunday morning. His sleep had been broken and
restless; the teeth of Sandy Flash had again grinned at him in
nightmare-dreams, and when he came to put on his clothes, the sense of
emptiness in his breast-pocket and watch-fob impressed him like a
violent physical pain. His loss was bad enough, but the inability to
conceal it caused him even greater distress.
Buttoning his coat over the double void, and trying to assume his usual
air, he went down to the kitchen and commenced his breakfast. Whenever
he looked up, he found his father's eyes fixed upon him, and before a
word had been spoken, he felt that he had already betrayed something,
and that the truth would follow, sooner or later. A wicked wish crossed
his mind, but was instantly suppressed, for fear lest that, also, should
After Ann had cleared the table, and retired to her own room in order to
array herself in the black cloth gown which she had worn every Sunday
for the past fifteen years, the old man said, or rather wheezed out the
"Not to-day," said his son, "I've a sort of chill from yesterday." And
he folded his arms and shivered very naturally.
"Did Ferris pay you?" the old man again asked.
"Where's the money?"
There was the question, and it must be faced. Alfred Barton worked the
farm "on shares," and was held to a strict account by his father, not
only for half of all the grain and produce sold, but of all the horses
and cattle raised, as well as those which were bought on speculation. On
his share he managed--thanks to the niggardly system enforced in the
house--not only to gratify his vulgar taste for display, but even to lay
aside small sums from time to time. It was a convenient arrangement, but
might be annulled any time when the old man should choose, and Alfred
knew that a prompt division of the profits would be his surest guarantee
"I have not the money with me," he answered, desperately, after a pause,
during which he felt his father's gaze travelling over him, from head to
"Why not! You haven't spent it?" The latter question was a croaking
shriek, which seemed to forebode, while it scarcely admitted, the
possibility of such an enormity.
"I spent only four shillings, father, but--but--but the money's all
The crooked fingers clutched the hickory staff, as if eager to wield it;
the sunken gray eyes shot forth angry fire, and the broken figure
uncurved and straightened itself with a wrathful curiosity.
"Sandy Flash robbed me on the way home," said the son, and now that the
truth was out, he seemed to pluck up a little courage.
"What, what, what!" chattered the old man, incredulously; "no lies, boy,
The son unbuttoned his coat, and showed his empty watch-fob. Then he
gave an account of the robbery, not strictly correct in all its details,
but near enough for his father to know, without discovering inaccuracies
at a later day. The hickory-stick was shaken once or twice during the
recital, but it did not fall upon the culprit--though this correction
(so the gossip of the neighborhood ran) had more than once been
administered within the previous ten years. As Alfred Barton told his
story, it was hardly a case for anger on the father's part, so he took
his revenge in another way.
"This comes o' your races and your expensive company," he growled, after
a few incoherent sniffs and snarls; "but I don't lose my half of the
horse. No, no! I'm not paid till the money's been handed over.
Twenty-five dollars, remember!--and soon, that I don't lose the use of
it too long. As for _your_ money and the watch, I've nothing to do with
them. I've got along without a watch for eighty-five years, and I never
wore as smart a coat as that in my born days. Young men understood how
to save, in my time."
Secretly, however, the old man was flattered by his son's love of
display, and enjoyed his swaggering air, although nothing would have
induced him to confess the fact. His own father had come to Pennsylvania
as a servant of one of the first settlers, and the reverence which he
had felt, as a boy, for the members of the Quaker and farmer aristocracy
of the neighborhood, had now developed into a late vanity to see his own
family acknowledged as the equals of the descendants of the former.
Alfred had long since discovered that when he happened to return home
from the society of the Falconers, or the Caswells, or the Carsons, the
old man was in an unusual good-humor. At such times, the son felt sure
that he was put down for a large slice of the inheritance.
After turning the stick over and over in his skinny hands, and pressing
the top of it against his toothless gums, the old man again spoke.
"See here, you're old enough now to lead a steady life. You might ha'
had a farm o' your own, like Elisha, if you'd done as well. A very fair
bit o' money he married,--very fair,--but I don't say you couldn't do as
well, or, maybe, better."
"I've been thinking of that, myself," the son replied.
"Have you? Why don't you step up to her then? Ten thousand dollars
aren't to be had every day, and you needn't expect to get it without the
askin'! Where molasses is dropped, you'll always find more than one fly.
Others than you have got their eyes on the girl."
The son's eyes opened tolerably wide when the old man began to speak,
but a spark of intelligence presently flashed into them, and an
expression of cunning ran over his face.
"Don't be anxious, daddy!" said he, with assumed playfulness; "she's not
a girl to take the first that offers. She has a mind of her own,--with
her the more haste the less speed. I know what I'm about; I have my top
eye open, and when there's a good chance, you won't find me sneaking
behind the wood-house."
"Well, well!" muttered the old man, "we'll see,--we'll see! A good
family, too,--not that I care for that. My family's as good as the
next. But if you let her slip, boy"--and here he brought down the end of
his stick with a significant whack, upon the floor. "This I'll tell
you," he added, without finishing the broken sentence, "that whether
you're a rich man or a beggar, depends on yourself. The more you have,
the more you'll get; remember that! Bring me my brandy!"
Alfred Barton knew the exact value of his father's words. Having already
neglected, or, at least, failed to succeed, in regard to two matches
which his father had proposed, he understood the risk to his inheritance
which was implied by a third failure. And yet, looking at the subject
soberly, there was not the slightest prospect of success. Martha Deane
was the girl in the old man's mind, and an instinct, stronger than his
vanity, told him that she never would, or could, be his wife. But, in
spite of that, it must be his business to create a contrary impression,
and keep it alive as long as possible,--perhaps until--until--
We all know what was in his mind. Until the old man should die.
GUESTS AT FAIRTHORN'S.
The Fairthorn farm was immediately north of Kennett Square. For the
first mile towards Unionville, the rich rolling fields which any
traveller may see, to this day, on either side of the road, belonged to
it. The house stood on the right, in the hollow into which the road
dips, on leaving the village. Originally a large cabin of hewn logs, it
now rejoiced in a stately stone addition, overgrown with ivy up to the
eaves, and a long porch in front, below which two mounds of box guarded
the flight of stone steps leading down to the garden. The hill in the
rear kept off the north wind, and this garden caught the earliest warmth
of spring. Nowhere else in the neighborhood did the crocuses bloom so
early, or the peas so soon appear above ground. The lack of order, the
air of old neglect about the place, in nowise detracted from its warm,
cosy character; it was a pleasant nook, and the relatives and friends of
the family (whose name was Legion) always liked to visit there.
Several days had elapsed since the chase, and the eventful evening which
followed it. It was baking-day, and the plump arms of Sally Fairthorn
were floury-white up to the elbows. She was leaning over the
dough-trough, plunging her fists furiously into the spongy mass, when
she heard a step on the porch. Although her gown was pinned up, leaving
half of her short, striped petticoat visible, and a blue and white
spotted handkerchief concealed her dark hair, Sally did not stop to
think of that. She rushed into the front room, just as a gaunt female
figure passed the window, at the sight of which she clapped her hands so
that the flour flew in a little white cloud, and two or three strips of
dough peeled off her arms and fell upon the floor.
The front-door opened, and our old friend, Miss Betsy Lavender, walked
into the room.
Any person, between Kildeer Hill and Hockessin, who did not know Miss
Betsy, must have been an utter stranger to the country, or an idiot. She
had a marvellous clairvoyant faculty for the approach of either Joy or
Grief, and always turned up just at the moment when she was most wanted.
Profession had she none; neither a permanent home, but for twenty years
she had wandered hither and thither, in highly independent fashion,
turning her hand to whatever seemed to require its cunning. A better
housekeeper never might have lived, if she could have stuck to one spot;
an admirable cook, nurse, seamstress, and spinner, she refused alike the
high wages of wealthy farmers and the hands of poor widowers. She had a
little money of her own, but never refused payment from those who were
able to give it, in order that she might now and then make a present of
her services to poorer friends. Her speech was blunt and rough, her ways
odd and eccentric; her name was rarely mentioned without a laugh, but
those who laughed at her esteemed her none the less. In those days of
weekly posts and one newspaper, she was Politics, Art, Science, and
Literature to many families.
In person, Miss Betsy Lavender was peculiar rather than attractive. She
was nearly, if not quite fifty years of age, rather tall, and a little
stoop-shouldered. Her face, at first sight, suggested that of a horse,
with its long, ridged nose, loose lips and short chin. Her eyes were
dull gray, set near together, and much sharper in their operation than a
stranger would suppose. Over a high, narrow forehead she wore thin bands
of tan-colored hair, somewhat grizzled, and forming a coil at the back
of her head, barely strong enough to hold the teeth of an enormous
tortoise-shell comb. Yet her grotesqueness had nothing repellant; it was
a genial caricature, at which no one could take offence. "The very
person I wanted to see!" cried Sally. "Father and mother are going up to
Uncle John's this afternoon; Aunt Eliza has an old woman's
quilting-party, and they'll stay all night, and however am I to manage
Joe and Jake by myself? Martha's half promised to come, but not till
after supper. It will all go right, since you are here; come into
mother's room and take off your things!"
"Well," said Miss Betsy, with a snort, "_that's_ to be my business, eh?
I'll have my hands full; a pearter couple o' lads a'n't to be found this
side o' Nottin'gam. They might ha' growed up wild on the Barrens, for
all the manners they've got."
Sally knew that this criticism was true; also that Miss Betsy's task was
no sinecure, and she therefore thought it best to change the subject.
"There!" said she, as Miss Betsy gave the thin rope of her back hair a
fierce twist, and jammed her high comb inward and outward that the teeth
might catch,--"there! now you'll do! Come into the kitchen and tell me
the news, while I set my loaves to rise."
"Loaves to rise," echoed Miss Betsy, seating herself on a tall,
rush-bottomed chair near the window. She had an incorrigible habit of
repeating the last three words of the person with whom she spoke,--a
habit which was sometimes mimicked good-humoredly, even by her best
friends. Many persons, however, were flattered by it, as it seemed to
denote an earnest attention to what they were saying. Between the two,
there it was and there it would be, to the day of her death,--Miss
Lavender's "keel-mark, [Footnote: Keel, a local term for red chalk.] as
the farmers said of their sheep.
"Well," she resumed, after taking breath, "no news is good news, these
days. Down Whitely Creek way, towards Strickersville, there's fever,
they say; Richard Rudd talks o' buildin' higher up the hill,--you know
it's low and swampy about the old house,--but Sarah, she says it'll be a
mortal long ways to the spring-house, and so betwixt and between them I
dunno how it'll turn out. Dear me! I was up at Aunt Buffin'ton's t'
other day; she's lookin' poorly; her mother, I remember, went off in a
decline, the same year the Tories burnt down their barn, and I'm afeard
she's goin' the same way. But, yes! I guess there's one thing you'll
like to hear. Old-man Barton is goin' to put up a new wagon-house, and
Mark is to have the job."
"Law!" exclaimed Sally, "what's that to me?" But there was a decided
smile on her face as she put another loaf into the pan, and, although
her head was turned away, a pretty flush of color came up behind her
ear, and betrayed itself to Miss Lavender's quick eye.
"Nothin' much, I reckon," the latter answered, in the most
matter-of-fact way, "only I thought you might like to know it, Mark
bein' a neighbor, like, and a right-down smart young fellow."
"Well, I _am_ glad of it," said Sally, with sudden candor, "he's
"Martha's cousin,--and I shouldn't wonder if he'd be something more to
her, some day."
"No, indeed! What are you thinking of, Betsy?" Sally turned around and
faced her visitor, regardless that her soft brunette face showed a
decided tinge of scarlet. At this instant clattering feet were heard,
and Joe and Jake rushed into the kitchen. They greeted their old friend
with boisterous demonstrations of joy.
"Now we'll have dough-nuts," cried Joe.
"No; 'lasses-wax!" said Jake. "Sally, where's mother? Dad's out at the
wall, and Bonnie's jumpin' and prancin' like anything!"
"Go along!" exclaimed Sally, with a slap which, lost its force in the
air, as Jake jumped away. Then they all left the kitchen together, and
escorted the mother to the garden-wall by the road, which served the
purpose of a horseblock. Farmer Fairthorn--a hale, ruddy, honest figure,
in broad-brimmed hat, brown coat and knee-breeches--already sat upon the
old mare, and the pillion behind his saddle awaited the coming burden.
Mother Fairthorn, a cheery little woman, with dark eyes and round
brunette face, like her daughter, wore the scoop bonnet and drab shawl
of a Quakeress, as did many in the neighborhood who did not belong to
the sect. Never were people better suited to each other than these two:
they took the world as they found it, and whether the crops were poor or
abundant, whether money came in or had to be borrowed, whether the roof
leaked, or a broken pale let the sheep into the garden, they were alike
easy of heart, contented and cheerful.
The mare, after various obstinate whirls, was finally brought near the
wall; the old woman took her seat on the pillion, and after a parting
admonition to Sally: "Rake the coals and cover 'em up, before going to
bed, whatever you do!"--they went off, deliberately, up the hill.
"Miss Betsy," said Joe, with a very grave air, as they returned to the
kitchen, "I want you to tell me one thing,--whether it's true or not.
Sally says I'm a monkey."
"I'm a monkey," repeated the unconscious Miss Lavender, whereupon both
boys burst into shrieks of laughter, and made their escape.
"Much dough-nuts they'll get from me," muttered the ruffled spinster, as
she pinned up her sleeves and proceeded to help Sally. The work went on
rapidly, and by the middle of the afternoon, the kitchen wore its normal
aspect of homely neatness. Then came the hour or two of quiet and rest,
nowhere in the world so grateful as in a country farm-house, to its
mistress and her daughters, when all the rough work of the day is over,
and only the lighter task of preparing supper yet remains. Then, when
the sewing or knitting has been produced, the little painted-pine
work-stand placed near the window, and a pleasant neighbor drops in to
enliven the softer occupation with gossip, the country wife or girl
finds her life a very happy and cheerful possession. No dresses are worn
with so much pleasure as those then made; no books so enjoyed as those
then read, a chapter or two at a time.
Sally Fairthorn, we must confess, was not in the habit of reading much.
Her education had been limited. She had ciphered as far as Compound
Interest, read Murray's "Sequel," and Goldsmith's "Rome," and could
write a fair letter, without misspelling many words; but very few other
girls in the neighborhood possessed greater accomplishments than these,
and none of them felt, or even thought of, their deficiencies. There
were no "missions" in those days; it was fifty or sixty years before the
formation of the "Kennett Psychological Society," and "Pamela,"
"Rasselas," and "Joseph Andrews," were lent and borrowed, as at present
"Consuelo," Buckle, Ruskin, and "Enoch Arden."
One single work of art had Sally created, and it now hung, stately in a
frame of curled maple, in the chilly parlor. It was a sampler,
containing the alphabet, both large and small, the names and dates of
birth of both her parents, a harp and willow-tree, the twigs whereof
were represented by parallel rows of "herring-bone" stitch, a sharp
zigzag spray of rose-buds, and the following stanza, placed directly
underneath the harp and willow:--
"By Babel's streams we Sat and Wept
When Zion we thought on;
For Grief thereof, we Hang our Harp
The Willow Tree upon."
Across the bottom of the sampler was embroidered the inscription: "Done
by Sarah Ann Fairthorn, May, 1792, in the 16th year of her age."
While Sally went up-stairs to her room, to put her hair into order, and
tie a finer apron over her cloth gown, Miss Betsy Lavender was made the
victim of a most painful experience.
Joe and Jake, who had been dodging around the house, half-coaxing and
half-teasing the ancient maiden whom they both plagued and liked, had
not been heard or seen for a while. Miss Betsy was knitting by the front
window, waiting for Sally, when the door was hastily thrown open, and
Joe appeared, panting, scared, and with an expression of horror upon his
"Oh, Miss Betsy!" was his breathless exclamation, "Jake! the
Dropping her work upon the floor, Miss Lavender hurried out of the
house, with beating heart and trembling limbs, following Joe, who ran
towards the field above the barn, where, near the fence, there stood a
large and lofty cherry-tree. As she reached the fence she beheld Jake,
lying motionless on his back, on the brown grass.
"The Lord have mercy!" she cried; her knees gave way, and she sank upon
the ground in an angular heap. When, with a desperate groan, she lifted
her head and looked through the lower rails, Jake was not to be seen.
With a swift, convulsive effort she rose to her feet, just in time to
catch a glimpse of the two young scamps whirling over the farther fence
into the wood below.
She walked unsteadily back to the house. "It's given me such a turn,"
she said to Sally, after describing the trick, "that I dunno when I'll
get over it."
Sally gave her some whiskey and sugar, which soon brought a vivid red to
the tip of her chin and the region of her cheek-bones, after which she
professed that she felt very comfortable. But the boys, frightened at
the effect of their thoughtless prank, did not make their appearance.
Joe, seeing Miss Betsy fall, thought she was dead, and the two hid
themselves in a bed of dead leaves, beside a fallen log, not daring to
venture home for supper. Sally said they should have none, and would
have cleared the table; but Miss Betsy, whose kind heart had long since
relented, went forth and brought them to light, promising that she would
not tell their father, provided they "would never do such a wicked thing
again." Their behavior, for the rest of the evening, was irreproachable.
Just as candles were being lighted, there was another step on the porch,
and the door opened on Martha Deane.
"I'm _so_ glad!" cried Sally. "Never mind your pattens, Martha; Joe
shall carry them into the kitchen. Come, let me take off your cloak and
Martha's coming seemed to restore the fading daylight. Not boisterous or
impulsive, like Sally, her nature burned with a bright and steady
flame,--white and cold to some, golden and radiant to others. Her form
was slender, and every motion expressed a calm, serene grace, which
could only spring from some conscious strength of character. Her face
was remarkably symmetrical, its oval outline approaching the Greek
ideal; but the brow was rather high than low, and the light brown hair
covered the fair temples evenly, without a ripple. Her eyes were purely
blue, and a quick, soft spark was easily kindled in their depths; the
cheeks round and rosy, and the mouth clearly and delicately cut, with an
unusual, yet wholly feminine firmness in the lines of the upper lip.
This peculiarity, again, if slightly out of harmony with the pervading
gentleness of her face, was balanced by the softness and sweetness of
her dimpled chin, and gave to her face a rare union of strength and
tenderness. It very rarely happens that decision and power of will in a
young woman are not manifested by some characteristic rather masculine
than feminine; but Martha Deane knew the art of unwearied, soft
assertion and resistance, and her beautiful lips could pronounce, when
necessary, a final word.
Joe and Jake came forward with a half-shy delight, to welcome "Cousin
Martha," as she was called in the Fairthorn household, her mother and
Sally's father having been "own" cousins. There was a cheerful fire on
the hearth, and the three ladies gathered in front of it, with the
work-stand in the middle, while the boys took possession of the
corner-nooks. The latter claimed their share of the gossip; they knew
the family histories of the neighborhood much better than their
school-books, and exhibited a precocious interest in this form of
knowledge. The conversation, therefore, was somewhat guarded, and the
knitting and sewing all the more assiduously performed, until, with
great reluctance, and after repeated commands, Joe and Jake stole off to
The atmosphere of the room then became infinitely more free and
confidential. Sally dropped her hands in her lap, and settled herself
more comfortably in her chair, while Miss Lavender, with an unobserved
side-glance at her, said:--
"Mark is to put up Barton's new wagon-house, I hear, Martha."
"Yes," Martha answered; "it is not much, but Mark, of course, is very
proud of his first job. There is a better one in store, though he does
not know of it."
Sally pricked up her ears. "What is it?" asked Miss Betsy.
"It is not to be mentioned, you will understand. I saw Alfred Barton
to-day. He seems to take quite an interest in Mark, all at once, and he
told me that the Hallowells are going to build a new barn this summer.
He spoke to them of Mark, and thinks the work is almost sure."
"Well, now!" Miss Betsy exclaimed, "if he gets that, after a year's
journey-work, Mark is a made man. And I'll speak to Richard Rudd the
next time I see him. He thinks he's beholden to me, since Sarah had the
fever so bad. I don't like folks to think that, but there's times when
it appears to come handy."
Sally arose, flushed and silent, and brought a plate of cakes and a
basket of apples from the pantry. The work was now wholly laid aside,
and the stand cleared to receive the refreshments.
"Now pare your peels in one piece, girls," Miss Betsy advised, "and then
whirl 'em to find the _initials_ o' your sweethearts' names."
"You, too, Miss Betsy!" cried Sally, "we must find out the widower's
"The widower's name," Miss Betsy gravely repeated, as she took a knife.
With much mirth the parings were cut, slowly whirled three times around
the head, and then let fly over the left shoulder. Miss Betsy's was
first examined and pronounced to be an A.
"Who's A?" she asked.
"Alfred!" said Sally. "Now, Martha, here's yours--an S, no it's a G!"
"The curl is the wrong way," said Martha, gravely, "it's a figure 3; so,
I have three of them, have I?"
"And mine," Sally continued, "is a W!"
"Yes, if you look at it upside down. The inside of the peel is
uppermost: you must turn it, and then it will be an M."
Sally snatched it up in affected vexation, and threw it into the fire.
"Oh, I know a new way!" she cried; "did you ever try it, Martha--with
the key and the Bible!"
"Old as the hills, but awful sure," remarked Miss Lavender. "When it's
done serious, it's never been known to fail."
Sally took the house-key, and brought from the old walnut cabinet a
plump octavo Bible, which she opened at the Song of Solomon, eighth
chapter and sixth verse. The end of the key being carefully placed
therein, the halves of the book were bound together with cords, so that
it could be carried by the key-handle. Then Sally and Martha, sitting
face to face, placed each the end of the fore finger of the right hand
under the half the ring of the key nearest to her.
"Now, Martha," said Sally, "we'll try your fortune first. Say 'A,' and
then repeat the verse: 'set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon
thine arm; for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave:
the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.'"
Martha did as she was bidden, but the book hung motionless. She was
thereupon directed to say B, and repeat the verse; and so on, letter by
letter. The slender fingers trembled a little with the growing weight of
the book, and, although Sally protested that she was holding as still
"as she knew how," the trembling increased, and before the verse which
followed G had been finished, the ring of the key slowly turned, and the
volume fell to the floor.
Martha picked it up with a quiet smile.
"It is easy to see who was in _your_ mind, Sally," she said. "Now let me
tell your fortune: we will begin at L--it will save time."
"Save time," said Miss Lavender, rising. "Have it out betwixt and
between you, girls: I'm a-goin' to bed."
The two girls soon followed her example. Hastily undressing themselves
in the chilly room, they lay down side by side, to enjoy the blended
warmth and rest, and the tender, delicious interchanges of confidence
which precede sleep. Though so different in every fibre of their
natures, they loved each other with a very true and tender affection.
"Martha," said Sally, after an interval of silence, "did you think I
_made_ the Bible turn at G?"
"I think you thought it would turn, and therefore it did. Gilbert Potter