The Courting of
Sister Wisby by Sara Orne Jewett
All the morning there had been an increasing temptation to take an
out-door holiday, and early in the afternoon the temptation outgrew my
power of resistance. A far-away pasture on the long southwestern slope
of a high hill was persistently present to my mind, yet there seemed to
be no particular reason why I should think of it. I was not sure that I
wanted anything from the pasture, and there was no sign, except the
temptation, that the pasture wanted anything of me. But I was on the
farther side of as many as three fences before I stopped to think again
where I was going, and why.
There is no use in trying to tell another person about that
afternoon unless he distinctly remembers weather exactly like it. No
number of details concerning an Arctic ice-blockade will give a single
shiver to a child of the tropics. This was one of those perfect New
England days in late summer, when the spirit of autumn takes a first
stealthy flight, like a spy, through the ripening country-side, and,
with feigned sympathy for those who droop with August heat, puts her
cool cloak of bracing air about leaf and flower and human shoulders.
Every living thing grows suddenly cheerful and strong; it is only when
you catch sight of a horror-stricken little maple in swampy soil, a
little maple that has second sight and foreknowledge of coming disaster
to her race, only then does a distrust of autumn's friendliness dim
your joyful satisfaction.
In midwinter there is always a day when one has the first foretaste
of spring; in late August there is a morning when the air is for the
first time autumn like. Perhaps it is a hint to the squirrels to get in
their first supplies for the winter hoards, or a reminder that summer
will soon end, and everybody had better make the most of it. We are
always looking forward to the passing and ending of winter, but when
summer is here it seems as if summer must always last. As I went across
the fields that day, I found myself half lamenting that the world must
fade again, even that the best of her budding and bloom was only a
preparation for another spring-time, for an awakening beyond the coming
The sun was slightly veiled; there was a chattering group of birds,
which had gathered for a conference about their early migration. Yet,
oddly enough, I heard the voice of a belated bobolink, and presently
saw him rise from the grass and hover leisurely, while he sang a brief
tune. He was much behind time if he were still a housekeeper; but as
for the other birds, who listened, they cared only for their own notes.
An old crow went sagging by, and gave a croak at his despised neighbor,
just as a black reviewer croaked at Keats: so hard it is to be just to
one's contemporaries. The bobolink was indeed singing out of season,
and it was impossible to say whether he really belonged most to this
summer or to the next. He might have been delayed on his northward
journey; at any rate, he had a light heart now, to judge from his song,
and I wished that I could ask him a few questions, how he liked
being the last man among the bobolinks, and where he had taken singing
lessons in the South.
Presently I left the lower fields, and took a path that led higher,
where I could look beyond the village to the northern country
mountainward. Here the sweet fern grew, thick and fragrant, and I also
found myself heedlessly treading on pennyroyal. Near by, in a field
corner, I long ago made a most comfortable seat by putting a stray
piece of board and bit of rail across the angle of the fences. I have
spent many a delightful hour there, in the shade and shelter of a young
pitch-pine and a wild-cherry tree, with a lovely outlook toward the
village, just far enough away beyond the green slopes and tall elms of
the lower meadows. But that day I still had the feeling of being
outward bound, and did not turn aside nor linger. The high pasture land
grew more and more enticing.
I stopped to pick some blackberries that twinkled at me like beads
among their dry vines, and two or three yellow-birds fluttered up from
the leaves of a thistle, and then came back again, as if they had
complacently discovered that I was only an overgrown yellow-bird, in
strange disguise but perfectly harmless. They made me feel as if I were
an intruder, though they did not offer to peck at me, and we parted
company very soon. It was good to stand at last on the great shoulder
of the hill. The wind was coming in from the sea, there was a fine
fragrance from the pines, and the air grew sweeter every moment. I took
new pleasure in the thought that in a piece of wild pasture land like
this one may get closest to Nature, and subsist upon what she gives of
her own free will. There have been no drudging, heavy-shod ploughmen to
overturn the soil, and vex it into yielding artificial crops. Here one
has to take just what Nature is pleased to give, whether one is a
yellow-bird or a human being. It is very good entertainment for a
summer wayfarer, and I am asking my reader now to share the winter
provision which I harvested that day. Let us hope that the small birds
are also faring well after their fashion, but I give them an anxious
thought while the snow goes hurrying in long waves across the buried
fields, this windy winter night.
I next went farther down the hill, and got a drink of fresh cool
water from the brook, and pulled a tender sheaf of sweet flag beside
it. The mossy old fence just beyond was the last barrier between me and
the pasture which had sent an invisible messenger earlier in the day,
but I saw that somebody else had come first to the rendezvous: there
was a brown gingham cape-bonnet and a sprigged shoulder-shawl bobbing
up and down, a little way off among the junipers. I had taken such
uncommon pleasure in being alone that I instantly felt a sense of
disappointment; then a warm glow of pleasant satisfaction rebuked my
selfishness. This could be no one but dear old Mrs. Goodsoe, the friend
of my childhood and fond dependence of my maturer years. I had not seen
her for many weeks, but here she was, out on one of her famous
campaigns for herbs, or perhaps just returning from a blueberrying
expedition. I approached with care, so as not to startle the gingham
bonnet; but she heard the rustle of the bushes against my dress, and
looked up quickly, as she knelt, bending over the turf. In that
position she was hardly taller than the luxuriant junipers themselves.
"I'm a-gittin' in my mulleins," she said briskly, "an' I've been
thinking o' you these twenty times since I come out o' the house. I
begun to believe you must ha' forgot me at last."
"I have been away from home," I explained. "Why don't you get in
your pennyroyal too? There's a great plantation of it beyond the next
fence but one."
"Pennyr'yal!" repeated the dear little old woman, with an air of
compassion for inferior knowledge; "'t ain't the right time, darlin'.
Pennyr'yal's too rank now. But for mulleins this day is prime. I've got
a dreadful graspin' fit for 'em this year; seems if I must be goin' to
need 'em extry. I feel like the squirrels must when they know a hard
winter's comin'." And Mrs. Goodsoe bent over her work again, while I
stood by and watched her carefully cut the best full-grown leaves with
a clumsy pair of scissors, which might have served through at least
half a century of herb-gathering. They were fastened to her
apron-strings by a long piece of list.
"I'm going to take my jack-knife and help you," I suggested, with
some fear of refusal. "I just passed a flourishing family of six or
seven heads that must have been growing on purpose for you."
"Now be keerful, dear heart," was the anxious response; "choose 'em
well. There's odds in mulleins same 's there is in angels. Take a plant
that's all run up to stalk, and there ain't but little goodness in the
leaves. This one I'm at now must ha' been stepped on by some creatur'
and blighted of its bloom, and the leaves is han'some! When I was small
I used to have a notion that Adam an' Eve must a took mulleins fer
their winter wear. Ain't they just like flannel, for all the world?
I've had experience, and I know there's plenty of sickness might be
saved to folks if they'd quit horse-radish and such fiery, exasperating
things, and use mullein drarves in proper season. Now I shall spread
these an' dry 'em nice on my spare floor in the garrit, an' come to
steam 'em for use along in the winter there'll be the vally of the
whole summer's goodness in 'em, sartin." And she snipped away with the
dull scissors, while I listened respectfully, and took great pains to
have my part of the harvest present a good appearance.
"This is most too dry a head," she added presently, a little out of
breath. "There! I can tell you there's win'rows o' young doctors,
bilin' over with book-larnin', that is truly ignorant of what to do for
the sick, or how to p'int out those paths that well people foller
toward sickness. Book-fools I call 'em them young men, an' some on 'em
never'll live to know much better, if they git to be Methuselahs. In my
time every middle-aged woman, who had brought up a family, had some
proper ideas o' dealin' with complaints. I won't say but there was some
fools amongst them, but I'd rather take my chances, unless they'd
forsook herbs and gone to dealin' with patent stuff. Now my mother
really did sense the use of herbs and roots. I never see anybody that
come up to her. She was a meek-looking woman, but very understandin',
"Then that's where you learned so much yourself, Mrs. Goodsoe," I
ventured to say.
"Bless you heart, I don't hold a candle to her; 't is but little I
can recall of what she used to say. No, her l'arnin' died with her,"
said my friend, in a self-deprecating tone. "Why, there was as many as
twenty kinds of roots alone that she used to keep by her, that I forget
the use of; an' I'm sure I shouldn't know where to find the most of
'em, any. There was an herb" airb she called it "an herb called
masterwort, that she used to get way from Pennsylvany; and she used to
think everything of the noble-liverwort, but I never could seem to get
the right effects from it as she could. Though I don't know as she ever
really did use masterwort where somethin' else wouldn't a served. She
had a cousin married out in Pennsylvany that used to take pains to get
it to her every year or two, and so she felt 't was important to have
it. Some set more by such things as come from a distance, but I
rec'lect mother always used to maintain that folks was meant to be
doctored with the stuff that grew right about 'em; 't was sufficient,
an' so ordered. That was before the whole population took to livin' on
wheels, the way they do now. 'T was never my idee that we was meant to
know what's goin' on all over the world to once. There's goin' to be
some sort of a set-back one o' these days, with these telegraphs an'
things, an' letters comin' every hand's turn, and folks leavin' their
proper work to answer 'em. I may not live to see it. 'T was allowed to
be difficult for folks to git about in old times, or to git word across
the country, and they stood in their lot an' place, and weren't all
just alike, either, same as pine-spills."
We were kneeling side by side now, as if in penitence for the march
of progress, but we laughed as we turned to look at each other.
"Do you think it did much good when everybody brewed a cracked
quart mug of herb-tea?" I asked, walking away on my knees to a new
"I've always lifted my voice against the practice, far 's I could,"
declared Mrs. Goodsoe; "an' I won't deal out none o' the herbs I save
for no such nonsense. There was three houses along our road, I call
no names, where you couldn't go into the livin' room without findin'
a mess o' herb-tea drorin' on the stove or side o' the fireplace,
winter or summer, sick or well. One was thoroughwut, one would be
camomile, and the other, like as not, yellow dock; but they all used to
put in a little new rum to git out the goodness, or keep it from
spilin'." (Mrs. Goodsoe favored me with a knowing smile.) "Land, how
mother used to laugh! But, poor creaturs, they had to work hard, and I
guess it never done 'em a mite o' harm; they was all good herbs. I wish
you could hear the quawkin' there used to be when they was indulged
with a real case o' sickness. Everybody would collect from far an'
near; you'd see 'em coming along the road and across the pastures then;
everybody clamorin' that nothin' wouldn't do no kind o' good but her
choice o' teas or drarves to the feet. I wonder there was a babe lived
to grow up in the whole lower part o' the town; an' if nothin' else
'peared to ail 'em, word was passed about that 't was likely Mis'
So-and-So's last young one was goin' to be foolish. Land, how they'd
gather! I know one day the doctor come to Widder Peck's and the house
was crammed so 't he could scercely git inside the door; and he says,
just as polite, 'do send for some of the neighbors!' as if there wa'n't
a soul to turn to, right or left. You'd ought to seen 'em begin to
"But don't you think the cars and telegraphs have given people more
to interest them, Mrs. Goodsoe? Don't you believe people's lives were
narrower then, and more taken up with little things?" I asked unwisely,
being a product of modern times.
"Not one mite, dear," said my companion stoutly. "There was as big
thoughts then as there is now; these times was born o' them. The
difference is in folks themselves; but now, instead o' doin' their own
housekeepin' and watchin' their own neighbors, though that was
carried to excess, they git word that a niece's child is ailin' the
other side o' Massachusetts, and they drop everything and git on their
best clothes, and off they jiggit in the cars. 'T is a bad sign when
folks wears out their best clothes faster 'n they do their every-day
ones. The other side o' Massachusetts has got to look after itself by
rights. An' besides that, Sunday-keepin' 's all gone out o' fashion.
Some lays it to one thing an' some another, but some o' them old
ministers that folks are all a-sighin' for did preach a lot o' stuff
that wa'n't nothin' but chaff; 't wa'n't the word o' God out o' either
Old Testament or New. But everybody went to meetin' and heard it, and
come home, and was set to fightin' with their next door neighbor over
it. Now I'm a believer, and I try to live a Christian life, but I'd as
soon hear a surveyor's book read out, figgers an' all, as try to get
any simple truth out o' most sermons. It's them as is most to blame."
"What was the matter that day at Widow Peck's?" I hastened to ask,
for I knew by experience that the good, clear-minded soul beside me was
apt to grow unduly vexed and distressed when she contemplated the state
of religious teaching.
"Why, there wa'n't nothin' the matter, only a gal o' Miss Peck's
had met with a dis'pintment and had gone into screechin' fits. 'T was a
rovin' creatur' that had come along hayin' time, and he'd gone off an'
forsook her betwixt two days; nobody ever knew what become of him. Them
Pecks was 'Good Lord, anybody!' kind o' gals, and took up with whoever
they could get. One of 'em married Heron, the Irishman; they lived in
that little house that was burnt this summer, over on the edge o' the
plains. He was a good-hearted creatur', with a laughin' eye and a
clever word for everybody. He was the first Irishman that ever came
this way, and we was all for gettin' a look at him, when he first used
to go by. Mother's folks was what they call Scotch-Irish, though; there
was an old race of 'em settled about here. They could foretell events,
some on 'em, and had the second sight. I know folks used to say
mother's grandmother had them gifts, but mother was never free to speak
about it to us. She remembered her well, too."
"I suppose that you mean old Jim Heron, who was such a famous
fiddler?" I asked with great interest, for I am always delighted to
know more about that rustic hero, parochial Orpheus that he must have
"Now, dear heart, I suppose you don't remember him, do you?"
replied Mrs. Goodsoe, earnestly. "Fiddle! He'd about break your heart
with them tunes of his, or else set your heels flying up the floor in a
jig, though you was a minister o' the First Parish and all wound up for
a funeral prayer. I tell ye there ain't no tunes sounds like them used
to. It used to seem to me summer nights when I was comin' along the
plains road, and he set by the window playin', as if there was a
bewitched human creatur' in that old red fiddle o' his. He could make
it sound just like a woman's voice tellin' somethin' over and over, as
if folks could help her out o' her sorrows if she could only make 'em
understand. I've set by the stone-wall and cried as if my heart was
broke, and dear knows it wa'n't in them days. How he would twirl off
them jigs and dance tunes! He used to make somethin' han'some out of
'em in fall an' winter, playin' at huskins and dancin' parties; but he
was unstiddy by spells, as he got along in years, and never knew what
it was to be forehanded. Everybody felt bad when he died; you couldn't
help likin' the creatur'. He'd got the gift that's all you could say
"There was a Mis' Jerry Foss, that lived over by the brook bridge,
on the plains road, that had lost her husband early, and was left with
three child'n. She set the world by 'em, and was a real pleasant,
ambitious little woman, and was workin' on as best she could with that
little farm, when there come a rage o' scarlet fever, and her boy and
two girls was swept off and laid dead within the same week. Every one
o' the neighbors did what they could, but she'd had no sleep since they
was taken sick, and after the funeral she set there just like a piece
o' marble, and would only shake her head when you spoke to her. They
all thought her reason would go; and 't would certain, if she couldn't
have shed tears. An' one o' the neighbors 't was like mother's
sense, but it might have been somebody else spoke of o' Jim Heron.
Mother an' one or two o' the women that knew her best was in the house
with her. 'T was right in the edge o' the woods and some of us younger
ones was over by the wall on the other side of the road where there was
a couple of old willows, I remember just how the brook damp felt;
and we kept quiet 's we could, and some other folks come along down the
road, and stood waitin' on the little bridge, hopin' somebody'd come
out, I suppose, and they'd git news. Everybody was wrought up, and felt
a good deal for her, you know. By an' by Jim Heron come stealin' right
out o' the shadows an' set down on the doorstep, an' 't was a good
while before we heard a sound; then, oh, dear me! 't was what the whole
neighborhood felt for that mother all spoke in the notes, an' they told
me afterwards that Mis' Foss's face changed in a minute, and she come
right over an' got into my mother's lap, she was a little woman,
an' laid her head down, and there she cried herself into a blessed
sleep. After awhile one o' the other women stole out an' told the
folks, and we all went home. He only played that one tune.
"But there!" resumed Mrs. Goodsoe, after a silence, during which my
eyes were filled with tears. "His wife always complained that the
fiddle made her nervous. She never 'peared to think nothin' o' poor
Heron after she'd once got him."
"That's often the way," said I, with harsh cynicism, though I had
no guilty person in my mind at the moment; and we went straying off,
not very far apart, up through the pasture. Mrs. Goodsoe cautioned me
that we must not get so far off that we could not get back the same
day. The sunshine began to feel very hot on our backs, and we both
turned toward the shade. We had already collected a large bundle of
mullein leaves, which were carefully laid into a clean, calico apron,
held together by the four corners, and proudly carried by me, though my
companion regarded them with anxious eyes. We sat down together at the
edge of the pine woods, and Mrs. Goodsoe proceeded to fan herself with
her limp cape-bonnet.
"I declare, how hot it is! The east wind's all gone again," she
said. "It felt so cool this forenoon that I overburdened myself with as
thick a petticoat as any I've got. I'm despri't afeared of having a
chill, now that I ain't so young as once. I hate to be housed up."
"It's only August, after all," I assured her unnecessarily,
confirming my statement by taking two peaches out of my pocket, and
laying them side by side on the brown pine needles between us.
"Dear sakes alive!" exclaimed the old lady, with evident pleasure.
"Where did you get them, now? Doesn't anything taste twice better
out-o'-doors? I ain't had such a peach for years. Do le's keep the
stones, an' I'll plant 'em; it only takes four year for a peach pit to
come to bearing, an' I guess I'm good for four year, 'thout I meet with
I could not help agreeing, or taking a fond look at the thin little
figure, and her wrinkled brown face and kind, twinkling eyes. She
looked as if she had properly dried herself, by mistake, with some of
her mullein leaves, and was likely to keep her goodness, and to last
the longer in consequence. There never was a truer, simple-hearted soul
made out of the old-fashioned country dust than Mrs. Goodsoe. I
thought, as I looked away from her across the wide country, that nobody
was left in any of the farm-houses so original, so full of rural wisdom
and reminiscence, so really able and dependable, as she. And nobody had
made better use of her time in a world foolish enough to sometimes
under-value medicinal herbs.
When we had eaten our peaches we still sat under the pines, and I
was not without pride when I had poked about in the ground with a
little twig, and displayed to my crony a long fine root, bright yellow
to the eye, and a wholesome bitter to the taste.
"Yis, dear, goldthread," she assented indulgently. "Seems to me
there's more of it than anything except grass an' hardhack. Good for
canker, but no better than two or three other things I can call to
mind; but I always lay in a good wisp of it, for old times' sake. Now,
I want to know why you should a bit it, and took away all the taste o'
your nice peach? I was just thinkin' what a han'some entertainment
we've had. I've got so I 'sociate certain things with certain folks,
and goldthread was somethin' Lizy Wisby couldn't keep house without, no
ways whatever. I believe she took so much it kind o' puckered her
"Lizy Wisby?" I repeated inquiringly.
"You knew her, if ever by the name of Mis' Deacon Brimblecom,"
answered my friend, as if this were only a brief preface to further
information, so I waited with respectful expectation. Mrs. Goodsoe had
grown tired out in the sun, and a good story would be an excuse for
sufficient rest. It was a most lovely place where we sat, halfway up
the long hillside; for my part, I was perfectly contented and happy.
"You've often heard of Deacon Brimblecom?" she asked, as if a great
deal depended upon his being properly introduced.
"I remember him," said I. "They called him Deacon Brimfull, you
know, and he used to go about with a witch-hazel branch to show people
where to dig wells."
"That's the one," said Mis. Goodsoe, laughing. "I didn't know 's
you could go so far back. I'm always divided between whether you can
remember everything I can, or are only a babe in arms."
"I have a dim recollection of there being something strange about
their marriage," I suggested, after a pause, which began to appear
dangerous. I was so much afraid the subject would be changed.
"I can tell you all about it," I was quickly answered. "Deacon
Brimblecom was very pious accordin' to his lights in his early years.
He lived way back in the country then, and there come a rovin' preacher
along, and set everybody up that way all by the ears. I've heard the
old folks talk it over, but I forget most of his doctrine, except some
of his followers was persuaded they could dwell among the angels while
yet on airth, and this Deacon Brimfull, as you call him, felt sure he
was called by the voice of a spirit bride. So he left a good, deservin'
wife he had, an' four children, and built him a new house over to the
other side of the land he'd had from his father. They didn't take much
pains with the buildin', because they expected to be translated before
long, and then the spirit brides and them folks was goin' to appear and
divide up the airth amongst 'em, and the world's folks and onbelievers
was goin' to serve 'em or be sent to torments. They had meetins about
in the school-houses, an' all sorts o' goins on; some on 'em went
crazy, but the deacon held on to what wits he had, an' by an' by the
spirit bride didn't turn out to be much of a housekeeper, an' he had
always been used to good livin', so he sneaked home ag'in. One o'
mother's sisters married up to Ash Hill, where it all took place;
that's how I come to have the particulars."
"Then how did he come to find his Eliza Wisby?" I inquired. "Do
tell me the whole story; you've got mullein leaves enough."
"There's all yisterday's at home, if I haven't," replied Mrs.
Goodsoe. "The way he come a-courtin' o' Sister Wisby was this: she went
a-courtin' o' him.
"There was a spell he lived to home, and then his poor wife died,
and he had a spirit bride in good earnest, an' the child'n was placed
about with his folks and hers, for they was both out o' good families;
and I don't know what come over him, but he had another pious fit that
looked for all the world like the real thing. He hadn't no family
cares, and he lived with his brother's folks, and turned his land in
with theirs. He used to travel to every meetin' an' conference that was
within reach of his old sorrel hoss's feeble legs; he j'ined the
Christian Baptists that was just in their early prime, and he was a
great exhorter, and got to be called deacon, though I guess he wa'n't
deacon, 'less it was for a spare hand when deacon timber was scercer 'n
usual. An' one time there was a four days' protracted meetin' to the
church in the lower part of the town. 'Twas a real solemn time;
something more 'n usual was goin' forward, an' they collected from the
whole country round. Women folks liked it, an' the men too; it give 'em
a change, an' they was quartered round free, same as conference folks
now. Some on 'em, for a joke, sent Silas Brimblecom up to Lizy Wisby's,
though she'd give out she couldn't accommodate nobody, because of
expectin' her cousin's folks. Everybody knew 't was a lie; she was
amazin' close considerin' she had plenty to do with. There was a streak
that wa'n't just right somewheres in Lizy's wits, I always thought. She
was very kind in case o' sickness, I'll say that for her.
"You know where the house is, over there on what they call Windy
Hill? There the deacon went, all unsuspectin', and 'stead o' Lizy's
resentin' of him she put in her own hoss, and they come back together
to evenin' meetin'. She was prominent among the sect herself, an' he
bawled and talked, and she bawled and talked, an' took up more 'n the
time allotted in the exercises, just as if they was showin' off to each
other what they was able to do at expoundin'. Everybody was laughin' at
'em after the meetin' broke up, and that next day an' the next, an' all
through, they was constant, and seemed to be havin' a beautiful
occasion. Lizy had always give out she scorned the men, but when she
got a chance at a particular one 't was altogether different, and the
deacon seemed to please her somehow or 'nother, and There! you don't
want to listen to this old stuff that's past an' gone?"
"Oh yes, I do," said I.
"I run on like a clock that's onset her striking hand," said Mrs.
Goodsoe mildly. "Sometimes my kitchen timepiece goes on half the
forenoon, and I says to myself the day before yisterday I would let it
be a warnin', and keep it in mind for a check on my own speech. The
next news that was heard was that the deacon an' Lizy well, opinions
differed which of 'em had spoke first, but them fools settled it before
the protracted meetin' was over, and give away their hearts before he
started for home. They considered 't would be wise, though, considerin'
their short acquaintance, to take one another on trial a spell; 't was
Lizy's notion, and she asked him why he wouldn't come over and stop
with her till spring, and then, if they both continued to like, they
could git married any time 't was convenient. Lizy, she come and talked
it over with mother, and mother disliked to offend her, but she spoke
pretty plain; and Lizy felt hurt, an' thought they was showin'
excellent judgment, so much harm come from hasty unions and folks
comin' to a realizin' sense of each other's failin's when 't was too
"So one day our folks saw Deacon Brimfull a-ridin' by with a gre't
coopful of hens in the back o' his wagon, and bundles o' stuff tied on
top and hitched to the exes underneath; and he riz a hymn just as he
passed the house, and was speedin' the old sorrel with a willer switch.
'T was most Thanksgivin' time, an' sooner 'n she expected him. New
Year's was the time she set; but he thought he'd better come while the
roads was fit for wheels. They was out to meetin' together Thanksgivin'
Day, an' that used to be a gre't season for marryin'; so the young
folks nudged each other, and some on' 'em ventured to speak to the
couple as they come down the aisle. Lizy carried it off real well; she
wa'n't afraid o' what nobody said or thought, and so home they went.
They'd got out her yaller sleigh and her hoss; she never would ride
after the deacon's poor old creatur', and I believe it died long o' the
winter from stiffenin' up.
"Yes," said Mrs. Goodsoe emphatically, after we had silently
considered the situation for a short space of time, "yes, there was
consider'ble talk, now I tell you! The raskil boys pestered 'em just
about to death for a while. They used to collect up there an' rap on
the winders, and they'd turn out all the deacon's hens 'long at nine
o'clock o' night, and chase 'em all over the dingle; an' one night they
even lugged the pig right out o' the sty, and shoved it into the back
entry, an' run for their lives. They'd stuffed its mouth full o'
somethin', so it couldn't squeal till it got there. There wa'n't a sign
o' nobody to be seen when Lizy hasted out with the light, and she an'
the deacon had to persuade the creatur' back as best they could; 't was
a cold night, and they said it took 'em till towards mornin'. You see
the deacon was just the kind of a man that a hog wouldn't budge for; it
takes a masterful man to deal with a hog. Well, there was no end to the
works nor the talk, but Lizy left 'em pretty much alone. She did 'pear
kind of dignified about it, I must say!"
"And then, were theymarried in the spring?"
"I was tryin' to remember whether it was just before Fast Day or
just after," responded my friend, with a careful look at the sun, which
was nearer the west than either of us had noticed. "I think likely 't
was along in the last o' April, any way some of us looked out o' the
window one Monday mornin' early, and says, 'for goodness' sake! Lizy's
sent the deacon home again!' His old sorrel havin' passed away, he was
ridin' in Ezry Welsh's hoss-cart, with his hen-coop and more bundles
than he had when he come, and he looked as meechin' as ever you see.
Ezry was drivin', and he let a glance fly swiftly round to see if any
of us was lookin' out; an' then I declare if he didn't have the malice
to turn right in towards the barn, where he see my oldest brother,
Joshuay, an' says he real natural, 'Joshuay, just step out with your
wrench. I believe I hear my kingbolt rattlin' kind o' loose.' Brother,
he went out an' took in the sitooation, an' the deacon bowed kind of
stiff. Joshuay was so full o' laugh, and Ezry Welsh, that they couldn't
look one another in the face. There wa'n't nothing ailed the kingbolt,
you know, an' when Josh riz up he says, 'Goin' up country for a spell,
"'I be,' says the deacon, lookin' dreadful mortified and cast down.
"'Ain't things turned out well with you an' Sister Wisby?' says
Joshuay. 'You had ought to remember that the woman is the weaker
"'Hang her, let her carry less sail, then!' the deacon bu'st out,
and he stood right up an' shook his fist there by the hen-coop, he was
so mad; an' Ezry's hoss was a young creatur', an' started up an set the
deacon right over backwards into the chips. We didn't know but he'd
broke his neck; but when he see the women folks runnin' out, he jumped
up quick as a cat, an' clim' into the cart, an' off they went. Ezry
said he told him that he couldn't git along with Lizy, she was so
fractious in thundery weather; if there was a rumble in the day-time
she must go right to bed an' screech, and if 't was night she must git
right up an' go an' call him out of a sound sleep. But everybody knew
he'd never a gone home unless she'd a sent him.
"Somehow they made it up agin right away, him an' Lizy, and she had
him back. She'd been countin' all along on not havin' to hire nobody to
work about the gardin an' so on, an' she said she wa'n't goin' to let
him have a whole winter's board for nothin'. So the old hens was moved
back, and they was married right off fair an' square, an' I don't know
but they got along well as most folks. He brought his youngest girl
down to live with 'em after a while, an' she was a real treasure to
Lizy; everybody spoke well o' Phebe Brimblecom. The deacon got over his
pious fit, and there was consider'ble work in him if you kept right
after him. He was an amazin' cider-drinker, and he airnt the name you
know him by in his latter days. Lizy never trusted him with nothin',
but she kep' him well. She left everything she owned to Phebe, when she
died, 'cept somethin' to satisfy the law. There, they're all gone now:
seems to me sometimes, when I get thinkin', as if I'd lived a
I laughed, but I found that Mrs. Goodsoe's thoughts had taken a
"There, I come by some old graves down here in the lower edge of
the pasture," she said as we rose to go. "I couldn't help thinking how
I should like to be laid right out in the pasture ground, when my time
comes; it looked sort o' comfortable, and I have ranged these slopes so
many summers. Seems as if I could see right up through the turf and
tell when the weather was pleasant, and get the goodness o' the sweet
fern. Now, dear, just hand me my apernful o' mulleins out o' the shade.
I hope you won't come to need none this winter, but I'll dry some
special for you."
"I'm going home by the road," said I, "or else by the path across
the meadows, so I will walk as far as the house with you. Aren't you
pleased with my company?" for she demurred at my going the least bit
out of the way.
So we strolled toward the little gray house, with our plunder of
mullein leaves slung on a stick which we carried between us. Of course
I went in to make a call, as if I had not seen my hostess before; she
is the last maker of muster-gingerbread, and before I came away I was
kindly measured for a pair of mittens.
"You'll be sure to come an' see them two peach-trees after I get
'em well growin'?" Mrs Goodsoe called after me when I had said good-by,
and was almost out of hearing down the road.