Mysterious Room [16/18]

Sixteenth evening.

Early on the morning following the wedding, Hannah started on a round of visits and a tour of news gathering. She had thought that Saul’s intimacy with her brother Joseph might be the means of her being invited to the wedding of his sister. She also had some faint hope that Saul had a double interest in calling so very often at

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their house; but now that Priscilla was married and gone, and she not invited as guest or servant, there seemed to be a new occasion for unrest on her part.

Hannah was one of those people who enjoyed being sent for on every occasion, whether of sadness or rejoicing; and wherever work was to be done she could make herself useful. She seldom refused, and then derived pleasure from complaining of her burdens. Her mother was at fault in this particular. She put her daughter forward, offering her services, and then continually complained because “My Hannah is always sent for and gets no time for rest.” Hannah was not called to aid at the Pendleton wedding, and she manifested her disappointment by blaming one and another for what did not meet with her approval.

She first dropped in to have a word with Mrs. Briggs, whom she found very busy in the work of the dairy. “Well, Mrs. Briggs, is it possible that you can bring your mind down to such work on the morning following the great wedding?” said Hannah.

“Why, Miss Nibbs, the wedding was not great; on the contrary quite small, and I did not allow my mind to be disturbed, and I saw nothing to excite any one,” replied Mrs. Briggs, while she continued moulding the lumps of winter butter. “Priscilla looked very pretty. She has a fine outfit and has furnished her house very neatly, and I hope she will be happy with Mr. Jones,” continued she.

“Mr. Jones,” said Hannah sneeringly, “he must have a taste to be happy with such an ignorant person.”

“They are married,” said Mrs. Briggs, “and it is

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useless for us to trouble ourselves about the future in their case.”

“I hear Seth didn’t go to the wedding,” continued Hannah.

“No,” replied Mrs. Briggs, “Seth is not making the best use of his time and money; and there’s Patty, poor woman, I believe she has a very hard time, so different from what the prospect was when she married Seth.”

“I never saw any prospect worth speaking of myself,” said Hannah, “and I should think those folks who helped on that match would feel ashamed. I hope the last match will be more gratifying.”

The entrance of Mr. Briggs brought the conversation to a close, and Hannah hastened on to spend a while with Hepsy Page. There the burden of her conversation was the same as at the Briggs home, and when she had completed the trip and reached home, she had accomplished but little more than she did during her first call.

The Sabbath following the wedding was anticipated by Hannah, and others as well, for they felt sure of seeing Priscilla in her new garb. She was not the only one who was looking forward to the Sabbath when the newly married couple were expected to “come out bride.” There were several people in the church who were not very constant; some unusual occasion, like the first appearance of a newly married couple, generally moved them to lay aside their rheumatism for a few hours. Many regular attendants were in their accustomed places before the usual time. Hannah was among them, and her head was plainly seen turning continually about, expecting each new arrival would be Mr. and Mrs.

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Jones. James Wrong struck up his little fiddle, and the big one soon followed with its bass notes, but no bridal couple appeared. Invocation, song, prayer short and long, and sermon, followed each other in the regular order, and nothing was seen of Mr. Jones and Priscilla.

After service the congregation scattered, save such as, living at a distance, brought their lunch and remained until the second service. Hannah was one of them and wasted none of the time that intervened between the services. She had an interest in the prosperity of the church, and now that the new pastor was settled and it was certain that Mr. Jones was not to be their leader, she renewed her energy and spent a portion of the nooning in cleaning about the pews, [*1] “hoeing out” she called it. [*2] While making good use of the broom, she was heard to say to Mrs. Johnson, “Where do you suppose the bride is to-day? “

“I had thought of that myself,” replied Mrs. Johnson, raising her head from a volume of Dr. Watts. “I hope Mr. Jones is not offended because we have not called him to preach for us regularly,” she continued.

“I hope not,” said Hannah, “but wouldn’t he have showed it before if he had any such feelings?”

Here the approach of the bell-man brought the chat and the cleaning to a close. Soon the worshippers gathered for the second service, but the expected couple failed to appear. Mrs. Briggs felt it her duty to drive around by the home of the newly wedded couple after the service to see if any one was ill. She thought that it might be the eggs that kept Mr. Jones, and of course Priscilla wouldn’t go alone on the first Sabbath.

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“Expected to see you at meeting,” said Mrs. Briggs as soon as Mr. Jones appeared at the door, “hope you are all well here.”

“Oh, yes, all well, very well,” replied Mr. Jones with a downcast expression of countenance. “I have concluded that as I am not good enough to preach for you I am not good enough to worship with you. I have a good congregation at home and I can hold services here, which I intend to do.”

This he did, and Priscilla, who had expected to appear in church on the first Sabbath morning, as much as the folks had anticipated seeing her, was obliged to remain at home and sit, the only listener, through a long service, while her husband preached, prayed and sang in a most vigorous manner. Mr. Jones had not felt kindly towards the townspeople for some months, yet had not absented himself very often from church service; but now that he was married he began to show his indignation by staying at home and keeping his wife as well. Priscilla wanted to go very much, as was her custom, but thought it to be her duty to obey her husband, and never thought she had any right to express her preference, for she had always seen her mother do just as her father said. Mr. Jones adhered to this plan a long time, and Priscilla continued to be submissive as on the first Sabbath. She did not have an opportunity to display her fine outfit until the people had given up thinking of her as a bride. Being so utterly incapable of caring for her property, she gradually gave it into the keeping of her husband; while the cash that remained after the outfit was completed had gone immediately into his control.

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[ interior sketch ]
Preaching at Home.

That Sally was ready and anxious for an offer was generally known, and there were many speculations in Larkin’s shop about the future of the two Pendletons who remained on the hill. Thomas Stark, a widower with a large family of full grown children, thought this a favorable opportunity for him, and with but little preliminary work called on Sally and at once made known his errand. He was not a mile away from the Pendletons before Sally was at the Briggs house seeking the advice of her faithful friends.

“Now, if I thought it was my money that he wanted, I would refuse at once.”

“Do you suppose it is love that prompts him to call and make this proposition to you?” asked Mrs. Briggs.

“He says it is,” replied Sally; but how can I know for certain?”

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“There is no way that I know of only to try him. [*3] Wait and see if he remains attentive,” said Mr. Briggs; “I wouldn’t give him an immediate answer.”

Sally received this advice with apparent regret, and went away with a disheartened spirit, for she was anxious to have the question settled at once. She could not bring her mind to the quiet routine of duties at home after the months of exciting preparation had passed since Priscilla gave the favorable reply to Mr. Jones. She did so wish that her friends had been moved to give her different advice; but it was such as their judgment prompted. They were feeling somewhat disappointed over the manner in which Mr. Jones was treating Priscilla. They had never indulged a thought that her prospects were not uncommonly promising. Mr. Jones was a clergyman, had been a pastor of a large people, but having come to town from another state, they did not know anything of his success as a pastor, although he had spent some months in the neighborhood in his earlier years, before he had completed his studies. Mr. Stark repeated his calls upon Sally and pressed the suit very urgently. On the morning following one of his calls, Sally hastened down to Mr. Briggs, carrying an orange and a package of confectionery which her suitor had left as tokens of his regard. On displaying the unmistakable evidences of love as she thought them, she said, “There, do you suppose Mr. Stark would give them to me if he didn’t love me?”

It was a difficult question for them to answer and please her and have due regard for their own impressions, so they made no reply at all to the one question, but started a different subject for conversa-

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tion in which Sally saw nothing interesting. She soon gathered up her presents and went back to her home in a disappointed and unsettled state of mind. Mr. Stark was urgent; it was her first offer; Priscilla had married first after all the plans to the contrary; she would like to follow soon, but to go contrary to the advice of those ever faithful friends did seem hazardous to her. She yielded at length to the persuasions of the artful suitor and the day was set. But little time was required for the last preparations, and in May following the marriage of Priscilla, Sally went with Thomas Stark to the Justice of the Peace, [^1] and the ceremony was performed, and they began housekeeping in the village.

The property was not fully settled, and it now became necessary for Mr. Briggs to give directions about the household affairs, and some one to assist Mother Pendleton was sought for. Hannah did say that if she could leave her mother she would go, but she was not called upon, and for a time Saul and his mother managed affairs alone. As Sally and Priscilla had gone from the home, the plans made soon after their father’s death for the care of their mother had come to an end, and it seemed necessary that a final division and settlement should be made. This was done at once. Seth was given a new start. Sally bought a fine farm, and with her husband, Thomas Stark, settled in a most promising manner. She also had twenty acres of the best of the woodland that was near her old home, wisely preferring to have some of the farm rather than so much money. Priscilla, unwisely enough, gave all her portion over to her husband as she had perfect confidence in him. Being a clergyman, she would not have thought it

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right to doubt his wisdom any more than she did the plans of her Heavenly Father. Saul kept his portion, as he said he intended to do, ”Until I have a good chance to invest.” He had learned a few of the terms and expressions rather imperfectly from Fuller, who, it was plain to be seen, was trying to get the best of him as he had of Seth.

While Saul and his mother were managing affairs at the old home without aid from any one, the day came for providing homes for the people who were supported by the town. Ike Puller was at the sale, and being the lowest bidder, Suky Giles was set down to him for the next year at three and ninepence per week, [*4] “being a good strong woman and capable of doing a good deal of work.” Ike convinced Saul that she was just the one for him to have to help about the house and do the milking, so they made a bargain and Saul took Suky Giles for what she could do, and Fuller was to get the pay from the town. While the woman was in good health this plan was not objected to by any one, but in a few months she was taken ill and Fuller was compelled by the selectmen to take her to his home.

Here Ned, very naturally, began to inquire about the custom, and grandma was obliged to explain, “In the earlier days,” said she, “towns did not have almshouses as later, but once a year the people gathered and said how little they would keep a certain one for during the year, and generally the lowest price was accepted. The later plans for caring for the poor are very much better, as are many of the modern ways. In those days old and feeble folks were sometimes neglected and not infrequently abused. In these later times, it seems to me that the Christian religion has taken more practical forms, for no one can be long allowed to suffer from neglect or abuse without the interference of some of the representatives of the humane societies that are so numerous.”


SOURCE TEXT


EMENDATIONS

  1. Priscilla, ∨ Priscilla

ANNOTATIONS

  1. “nooning”: midday lull
  2. “hoeing out”: weeding
  3. “only”: except
  4. “three and ninepence”: three shillings and nine pence

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