Mysterious Room [12/18]

Twelfth evening.

Larkin’s shop was alive with the notes of the town-folks who dropped in for a little chat, and the various speakers did not hesitate to comment on the prospects of Ike Fuller. The round-faced man showed a good deal of feeling over the downfall of Seth, and was the only one known to make a personal effort to reclaim the unfortunate man and relieve Patty of her trouble; but his efforts were of little avail.

That the report was correct was soon apparent, for Ike Fuller had a gang of men at work laying the cellar wall, and the lot of noble oaks on Seth Pendleton’s farm were fast being cut and hewn for the building. “What did I tell you? ” said Hannah, one morn-

[ p 105 ]

ing as Mr. Briggs was passing the Nibbs house. “How much do you suppose Ike Fuller pays for them oaks that Hezekiah Pendleton watched so many years, hey?” continued Hannah.

“I don’t know, I am sure,” said Mr. Briggs; “but we have no right to say that he does not pay all they are worth. The timber belongs to Seth and he is at liberty to dispose of it as he pleases. It is grand timber that they are getting out, and I see no reason why they may not put up a superior barn, and I hope Mr. Fuller will enjoy it, for to be sure he needs it very much.”

“I tell Joe,” said Hannah, “that he had better renew his acquaintance with Seth and see if we can’t have a new barn as well as Ike.”

“Now, Miss Nibbs,” said Mr. Briggs, “you don’t mean that you would have a barn obtained by any unfair or underhanded means.”

“No, to be sure not,” replied Hannah, just as her mother came forward and offered Mr. Briggs a pinch of snuff, while taking some herself. Mrs. Nibbs was noted for being the greatest snuff-taker in the neighborhood, and always had the best quality of Rappee and Maccoboy mixed. [*1][*2] Mr. Briggs commented on the weather, but the good woman failing to hear, cried out, “Meditating, as usual.” With a gentlemanly salutation, Mr. Briggs hastened on his way.

It was the custom for people to prepare their timber for building in the winter, when the work of the farm was not so pressing as in the spring and summer, and when the sap was not so active. The fact that Fuller allowed the winter to pass, also the early spring months, before he began his work of felling the stately oaks, caused those who were the least

[ p 106 ]

inclined to suspect wrong of their neighbors to be a little suspicious that everything was not straight in the purchase of this timber of Seth Pendleton; and it seemed utterly impossible for Fuller to get his barn ready for the hay when harvested. After some weeks, during which there was much discussion through the community, all hands were bidden to the raising at Fuller’s. Joshua Paine was the master builder, and he had a large gang of workmen, who could drink as much hard cider as any men in the country; they could also do as much work as any company of laborers of equal number.

The day was clear and calm in the morning, and all things looked favorable for a successful raising; but to Hannah there seemed to appear an omen of evil, for a crow chanced to light on a tree near the piles of lumber.

In those days the building was framed and put together on the ground, and raised one side at a time, being pulled into an erect position by the great company that always gathered for the purpose, with the expectation of being treated to a good feast and a plenty of strong drink, according to the custom. Boys were there as well as men, and not a few women aided in preparing the dinner. Hannah was leader in the house, for Mrs. Fuller was in poor health, and Hannah always had so much sympathy, and not a little curiosity, that she volunteered to be present, and but few could be found in all the village who were as capable and willing as she, and her strength, with her power of endurance, led many to call upon her, when some one less inclined to comment would have been preferred.

I regret to say that at Fuller’s raising, three tubs

[ p 107 ]

were brought out, and early in the day, were filled to the brim with as many kinds of drink and of different degrees of strength. It was for the free use of the workmen, and those who looked on also, and the latter never failed to exercise that right. Before the work began it was the custom for the clergyman of the town to offer prayer, and as the society had not yet called one to fill the vacant desk, Mr. Jones was invited and performed the service to the gratification of all. Hepsy Page, who had been brought over, despite her lameness, in Seth Pendleton’s chaise, remarked that she thought Mr. Jones would make a good pastor for them, and as he had settled in town it would be convenient for him and for the people. Having a home already established, they would not be expected to give him a settlement fee. Hannah ventured to say in reply, “He might do well enough, but what sort of a minister’s wife would Priscilla Pendleton make?”

All agreed with Hannah that she was not one whom they could respect as they had Mrs. Whitford.

Hannah brought that conversation to a close by saying, “If Mr. Jones is so foolish as to take Priscilla Pendleton for a wife, and that is what he is going to do, why, we won’t have him for our minister.”

A grand hurrah from the assembled crowd attracted the attention of the women, and by one pull the first side was put in an upright position and held there, while Paine hastened from stick to stick and drove the fastening pins. Soon the opposite side was up, and the ends were in place before many hours; thus the long anticipated job was well under way before Hannah Nibbs was ready to serve the great feast,

[ p 108 ]

having given them a lunch earlier, “just to stay their stomachs,” she said.

While the company was disposing of the ham of Fuller’s best curing and the eggs, Hannah doing her best in serving, one of the youths who was waiting for the second sitting was heard to say, “Do you see that cloud over there coming from the north? “

“Yes,” was the word that came from Hannah, who was passing the door at the time and stopped to reply, although she had not seen it or thought of it until she heard the voice outside; but her desire to be the first to see or know anything always kept her ready to make a reply, and sometimes placed her in an awkward position, especially when she gave an answer that was the very opposite from what she would have given had she understood the nature of the question. “Yes, I see it,” said Hannah, “and it is just what I expected. That crow meant something, I knew.”

By the time the boys were seated at the table for their share in the feast, the cloud had become very large and the wind was fast rising. Paine, fearing bad results, and knowing that the frame would not stand through a great blow in its present condition, ordered all hands at work to make it more secure; but a sudden gust, then a whirl of wind, together with hail and rain, dashed down upon them before they were aware of it, and this was followed by others of increased violence, until a wrench, a twist, and a crash settled the whole, and the frame of the building was brought to the ground. The timber was in a more useless condition than before it was taken from Seth Pendleton’s lot; but worse than all that, two of the young men were killed by the falling timbers.

[ p 109 ]

While the living were exerting every muscle to remove the mass of timbers in order to get at the lifeless forms, after the dreadful cloud passed over, Hannah was hastening from man to man, exclaiming, “I told you so; that crow was a warning; and what will poor Amy say when she knows her Thad is dead? “

[ exterior sketch ]
The Crow and the Raising.

One of the unfortunate workmen was engaged to a promising young lady who had not appeared at the raising, and Hannah at once aroused her sympathy for the one who soon must know that her fondest hopes were blasted. [*3] The living soon separated, to return to their homes, and the dead were given Christian attention; but Larkin’s shop still kept up its busy hum, and the company again gathered there to exchange regrets and speculate on the cause of the calamity.

[ p 110 ]

“The innocent must suffer with the guilty,” said Mr. Spencer, continuing to base his ideas on the Scriptures. “If Ike Fuller got the timbers for his barn in an underhanded way, and this storm was directed by God as a punishment for his evil doing, why, Thaddeus Peterson and Jacob Paine were the innocent who have been cut off, while Fuller still remains.” [^1][*4]


SOURCE TEXT


EMENDATIONS

  1. remains.” ∨ remains.

ANNOTATIONS

  1. “Rappee” (i.e., “rappee”): dark, coarse snuff
  2. “Maccoboy” (i.e., “maccoboy”): rose-scented snuff
  3. “blasted”: ruined
  4. cf. (perhaps) KJV’s Job 4:7-9

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