صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

were loitering about the spot, of all ages and sexes. She was greeted with sundry exclamations of dislike, and the aspect of things was not the most inviting. Even threatening words were bestowed upon her, and some went so far as to jostle her steps. She stopped while the children gathered closer to her, and they all proceeded in a solid body together.

“I can see the devil in her eye,” said one. 66 The whole family ought to be hung,” said another. “Poor Mr. Smith's heart is 'most broke,” said Mistress Joy. “I always knew Chil would come to a bad end," said Mistress Hatch; "there were spots on his back when he was born, and his mother cut his finger-nails before he was a month old.” “There was a looking-glass broke at our house, the week before," said Mistress Tuck. “I had a curious itching in my left eye,” said Mistress Tapley, “and our Dorothy dropped three drops of blood from her nose.” “There was a great noise of drums and rattling of arms in the air, just before the Spanish war broke out," said old Mr. Ravel. “ The Saco River run blood when the last war begun,” said Captain Hoag ; " I was down in the Province and saw it.” “He beat his head all to smash with a froe,” said one boy. “They are the most dangerous wretches that ever walked God's earth," said Mr. Cutts.

Coming to the porch of the jail-house, Margaret took the baggage into her own hands, dismissed her guard, and sought of Mr. Shooks admission to Chilion's cell. The reply of that gentleman was brief and explicit. “Troop! gump," said he, “don't hang sogering about here, you sauce box. Haven't you smelt of these premises enough? It will be your turn next. Pack and be off.” She turned from the door. A hundred people stood before her; she encountered the gaze of a hundred pairs of eyes, dark and frowning ; Mr. Shooks, by the application of his hand to her shoulder, helped her from the steps to the ground, where she seemed almost to lose the power of motion. “What do you ax for that ar beast ?” inquired one. “That's Chil's fiddle she's got there in that bag,” said Zenas Joy. “That'll help pay for what the dum Injins owe daddy," said Seth Penrose. «Come, you may as well give it up."

“ You sha'n't touch it,” outspoke Judah Weeks. “I'll stand here, and if anybody wants to put his tricks on her, he'll have to play rough and tumble with me awhile first. She ain't to blame for what her brother did." While he was speaking, Sibyl Radney, stout as an Amazon, brawny as Vulcan, elbowed herself into the midst, and seizing the bundle under one arm and Margaret under the other, bore her off through the crowd. Sundry boys still saw fit to follow, who again closed about Sibyl when she stopped with her load. “There is Deacon Ramsdill, shouted one. * We'll have some fun out of him if we can't out of the Injin,” cried another.

“Well, my lads," said the Deacon, limping in among them with his insenescible smile, “what have we here? You must truss up a cow's tail if you don't want to be switched when you're milking; if there is any mischief here we must attend to it. Come, Molly, you must go with me.

Out of the way, children; a cat may look upon a king ; I guess you will let a squirrel look at you. There, Molly," continued the Deacon, leading her across the Green into the East Street, “we have got through the worst of it, and we praise a bridge that carries us safe, even if it is a poor one.”

“I thank you, Sir, I thank you,” said Margaret; “but oh! let me die; let the boys kill me

· Dogs that bark arter a wagon," replied the Deacon, “ keep out of the way of the whip. I guess the boys wouldn't hurt you much. The people are a good deal up, and when the grain is weedy we must reap high, we must do the best we can. I have seen Judge Morgridge, and he thinks you will be safest at my house; Squire Beach says he can't employ you, and I think you had better go home with me. The Judge says his Susan wants to see you, and it wouldn't be best for you to go to his house now, because he is Judge. Freelove will be glad to see you.

When you was at our house before, you was gone so much you didn't hardly give her a taste."

“ There is nothing left to me,” said Margaret; “I am blank despair.” “ The finer the curd, the better the cheese,” replied the Dea

“ They are cutting you up considerably smart, but it may be as well in the end. What you are going through is nothing to what I saw down to Arcady, when we went to bring off the French under Col. Winslow. We dragged them out of their houses, tore children from their mothers, wives from their husbands, and piled them helter-skelter in the boats. Then we set fire to everything that would kindle; burnt up houses, barns, crops, meeting-houses. They stuck to their old homes like good fellows. One boy we saw running off with his mother on his back, into the woods, and we had to bring him down

con.

a

with a bullet before he would stop. We took off nigh eighteen thousand of them. When we weighed anchor, their homes were in ashes, their woods all a-fire, and the black smoke hung over the whole so funeral-like - they set up such a dismal yell as if the whole airth was going to a butchery — yours an't a feather to it, Molly.”

“ How could you do such things!” exclaimed Margaret.

“O, they were Papists and French. It was political, I believe; I don't know much about it. Here is our house, and the fifty acres of land I got for that job. It has lain powerful hard on my conscience; I have struggled agin it. I don't know as I should ever have got the better of it, if the Lord hadn't a come and forgiven me.

“ Freelove," he said, as he entered his house, “I have found the gal. She will pine away like a sick sheep if we don't nuss and cosset her up

little.” The Deacon's, to which Margaret was not altogether a stranger, was a small, one-story, brown house, having a garden on one side, a grass lot on the other, and a cornfield in the rear. Over the front door trained a luxuriant woodbine, now dyed by the frosts into a dark claret. What with the grant of land, a small pension continued until the Revolution, the Deacon, mauger his lameness, had secured a comfortable livelihood for himself and wife, which was the extent of his family. The usual garnish of pewter appeared in one corner of the room into which Margaret was led; in the other stood a circular snaptable; between the two hung a black-framed looking-glass supported on brass knobs, blazoned with miniature portraits; underneath the glass was a japanned comb-case, and a cushion bristling with pins and needles. On one wall ticked a clock without a case, its weights dangling to the floor. Against the opposite wall was a turn-up bed; over the fireplace were pipes suspended by their throats, and iron candlesticks hanging by their ears.

There was a settle in the room, an oval-back armchair which the Deacon occupied, while his wife in mob-cap and iron-rimmed bridge spectacles, sat knitting in a low flag-bottomed chair by the chimney corner. The Deacon brought from the parlor, or rather spare bedroom, a stuffed easy-chair that he gave to Margaret. For dinner, Mistress Ramsdill prepared tea for their sorrowful visitor, which she poured from a small, bluish, gold-flowered, swan-shaped china pot, into cups of similar material, and the Deacon roasted her apples with his own

L hands, both insisting that she should eat something, to which she seemed no way inclined.

• Why do you treat me so much more kindly than other people ?” said Margaret, resuming her seat by the fire.

“I don't know,” replied the Deacon, "except it's nater. By the grace of God I yielded to nater. I fought agin it till I was past forty; when what Christ says, in what they call his Sarmon on the Mount, and a colt brought me to. I will tell you about the colt. Mr. Stillwater, at the Crown and Bowl, had one, and he wouldn't budge an inch ; and they banged him, and barnacled him, and starved him, and the more they did, the more he wouldn't stir, only bob, and fling, and snort. He was an ear-brisk and high-necked critter, out of Old Delancy. It kinder seemed to me that something could be done, and they let me take the colt. I kept him here in the mow-lot, made considerable of him, groomed him, stroked him, and at last I got him so he would round and caracol, and follow me like a spoon fed lamb; he was as handy as the Judge's bayard ; just like your squirrel there; he is docile as a kitten. I had this nater when I was arter the Hurons under General Webb, and it shook my firelock so when I was pulling the trigger upon a sleeping redskin, I let him go. And when we were in the ships coming away from Arcady, it made me give up my bed to a sick French gal, about as old as you, Molly, and nigh as well-favored; yes, it made me take her up in my arms, rough, soldier-like as I was, and lay her down in my hammock, and she thanked me so with her eyes; she couldn't speak English.”

“ What became of her ?

“She had a lover, I believe, in the other vessel, and when we got to the Bay, it wasn't political to have them put in one place; he was sent away, and they put her in a poorhouse, where she fell off in a decline. One of them old French priests that I helped tear away from the blazing altar of his church, used to come round hereabouts peddling wooden spoons, and I declare it made the tears jump in these eyes to see him, and nater got the upper hands ; so I gave him lodgings a whole month. I fought agin nater, I tell you, and a tough spell I had of it. I read in the good book what Christ said about the blessed ones, and it wan't me, and Freelove said it wan't her. It went through us like a bagonet. I was struck under the conviction here alone one night, when our little Jessie lay in the crib there by the fire. I looked into her sweet white face as she was asleep, and

VOL. XII. - - 36

knew Christ would have blessed her, and that she belonged to the kingdom, and it all came over me how I had slided off from what I was when I was a boy, and that I had been abusing nater all my life. When Freelove came in I told her, and she said she felt just so too. I tried to pray, but nater stood right up before me, and prayed louder than I did, and I couldn't be heard. The arrows of the Almighty stuck fast in me.

We lay one night on the floor, fighting, sweating, groaning. We were not quito ready to give in. We tried to brace up on the notions and politicals, but nater kept knocking them down. Then the colt came, then I saw it in old brindle, our cow, and then I saw it in the sheep, then I remembered the French gal and the Indian; and at last we gave in, and it was all as plain as a pipestem. When I went out in the morning, I saw it in the hens and chickens, the calves, the bees, in the rocks, and in all Creation. There is nater in everybody, only if it was not for their notions and politicals. The Papists, the Negroes, and the Indians have it. Like father, like child. I believe we all have the same nater. I have heard Freelove's grandfather tell-his father told him, he was cousin of Captain Church, and sarved in the expedition - how, when they went out after the Pequods, and had killed the men, and burned the women and boys and gals in their wigwams, they found one woman who had covered her baby with the mats and skins, and then spread herself over to keep off the blazing barks and boughs; and when they raked open the brands, there was the roasted body of the woman, and under her the little innocent all alive, and it stretched up its baby hands, — but the soldiers clubbed their firelocks

“O, these are dreadful stories ; I cannot bear them now."

There is nater agin, Freelove, just as we always told one another. What is bred in the bone will never be out of the flesh; it is only kicking agin the pricks, wrastle with it as hard as you will."

I can never think of myself again,” said Margaret; “but my poor brother and Mr. Smith's family

"I stuttered up to No. 4 yesterday after the funeral, but they are so grown over with rum there, you can hardly tell what is nater, and what is not. I read out of the Bible to Mr. Smith's folk, and tried to pray with them, but they couldn't bear it. That agin is part rum and part nater. You know, Freelove, how we felt when our Jessie died, we didn't want to see any

« السابقةمتابعة »