Mysterious Room [3/18]

Third evening.

Whew! Whew! “How the wind blows; [^1] been blowing all night!” [^2] exclaimed Priscilla, while pouring the cups of catnip the following morning. “I’m afraid the roads will be blocked so we can’t git to Cynthia’s quilting. Saul, did Mrs. Briggs say anything about the quilting?”

“Yes,” replied Saul; “and she sent her regards to the whole of you and wanted I should tell you she’d churned the day before and got some white butter, but I guess she was going to have some color to it, for I saw a good mess of carrot on the table.”

“I s’pose she is going,” said Sally.

“Yes; but she was afraid the weather was going to be bad,” added Saul; “yet she said she had rather it would be stormy on Candlemas Day.”

“Sure enough, this is the second of February. I’m glad it ain’t clear and bright, for then winter would have another flight,” ejaculated the good mother. [*1]

Here the inquisitive lad broke in upon the story by saying, “Grandma, will you tell me what you mean by Candlemas Day?”

“Yes, Ned; it is the second day of February. In the early days of the Roman Catholic Church, a festival was held on the second day of February, when there was a procession with many lighted candles, supposed to commemorate Christ, the light of the world. All candles to be used in the altar service during the year were consecrated on that occasion. It was thought by the ancients that a fine Candlemas foretold a severe winter. Various couplets conveying that idea are repeated on that day. The Scotch say:

‘If Candlemas is fair and clear,
There’ll be twa winters in the year.’ [*2]

[ p 30 ]

“A family saying at my home was:

‘Candlemas Day; half your corn and half your hay.’

Thus implying that winter was just half gone, and that half the supplies should be still in the barn. But, my child,” said grandma, impressively, “such things are far from helpful, yet I heard them during my younger days and they seem to have an influence on me up to this time. I want you to come up free from such whims, and the impressions that are made on your mind now are going to be lasting. Why, I used to be told that to see the new moon through a glass was to have trouble while it lasted, yet it is an extremely foolish notion; but I must confess I had rather see it without the glass, for the impression has so strong a hold on my mind — but to my story. Now, my boy, if you don’t want me to wander you must keep your questions till I am through for the evening,” said grandma.

Seth, who was busy putting down the brown bread and cheese with his cup of catnip, here shouted, “What was you over to Mr. Briggs’ for?”

“For the same reason that you was, I guess. I tracked you across the orchard lot,” replied Saul.

“Eh, eh!” exclaimed the little man at the head of the table, ”I didn’t suppose you’d all make fools of yourselves when I told you I’d give the Simpson farm to you, but I’m bound to stick to my offer now I’ve said it.”

Breakfast over, the brindled steers were hitched to the clumsy oak sled, and the boys, with the father, cleared the road in time for all hands to go to Cynthia Smith’s quilting. They were a little late, but in season for the first rolling and ready to aid in putting in the “shellwork.” [??] The Pendletons, mother and girls, were very skilful at quiltings, and their presence was most desirable on these occasions.

“What a brisk set of hands, and all hard at it!” [^3]

[ p 31 ]

exclaimed Madam Jones as she entered from the kitchen with cap-strings flying.

“Good-afternoon!” [^4] was the salutation from side to side, as hands were extended from various corners.

[ interior sketch ]
Cynthia Smith’s Quilting.

Herrin’ bone!” exclaimed Hannah Nibbs; “I always did like that pattern.”

“Yes, ’tis pretty, but there’s a deal of work in it,” responded the Deacon’s wife.

“But many hands make light work. Come, it’s time to roll on this side!” [^5] exclaimed Hannah, with the usual business air which she always assumed on such occasions.

“Mrs. Briggs, what are you thinking of? You seem to be in a serious frame of mind this afternoon; hope none of the boys are sick?” [^6] inquired Madam Jones.

[ p 32 ]

“No — no, I thank you,” replied Mrs. Briggs, wiping her glasses. “I never can put in herring bone and talk too, for it’s rather of a particular figure you know; but there’s Mrs. Pendleton and her girls, who are so skilful in quilting they go on with as little concern as they have in footing a stocking. I was thinking, however, and I have been ever since I heard a bit of news a few days ago, that I would like to know who we are going to have for neighbors on the Simpson farm.”

“Why,” exclaimed a chorus of voices, “has Mr. Pendleton sold it?”

“No — no; but — but —” here Mrs. Briggs stopped.

“Oh, never mind, Mrs. Briggs,” exclaimed Hannah Nibbs, “I know what you mean, and I ain’t afraid to tell it, too. Father was over to Larkin’s shop yesterday, and Seth was in there, and he said his father was going to give the Simpson farm to the one of them that would get married first; [^7] and I guess it will be Seth, for father said he seemed wide awake.”

By this time the faces of Sally and Priscilla gave unmistakable evidence of internal struggle, yet they plied the needle with increased vigor.

“Remarkable step for Mr. Pendleton — hope it isn’t a bad omen,” anxiously remarked Madam Jones.

“A good start for whoever gets that farm,” says another, while giving her thread another twist, when Patty Potter turned the conversation by remarking about the neat pattern in hand.

The quilt all rolled, two of the company volunteered to take it home and put on the binding; and as the wind began to drift the light snow, all hands started for home, fearing the roads would be blocked again if they stopped to tea, as was the custom on such occasions.

[ p 33 ]

“Mother, did you say anything to Patty about Seth?” asked Father Briggs, while jogging along home in the old yellow sleigh.

“No — no; there was no need of it. I just hinted about the prospect there was of our having some new neighbors on the Simpson farm, when Hannah Nibbs, she always knows everything, broke right in and said her father was up to Larkin’s, you know he’s always loafing about that shop, and heard Seth tell the whole matter. Just think — he had to go and tell after charging us to be so sly, and so it’s all out,” replied Mrs. Briggs, with apparent indignation.

“Perhaps Hannah would like to skim milk in the north room herself,” said Father Briggs.

“But I tell you, father, Priscilla and Sally did look troubled when Hannah shouted that out,” added mother; and it was so strange that Patty Potter should be the first one to speak and turn the conversation by admiring the neat pattern of the quilt.”

[ outdoor sketch ]
Homeward from Cynthia Smith’s Quilting. [*3]

[ p 34 ]

“Well,” said Father Briggs, giving the horse a cut with the whip, “I shouldn’t wonder if Patty had the next quilting in spite of that irrepressible Hannah Nibbs.”

“Now, my boy, about the time these events were transpiring in this town, the first movement was made in way of organizing a temperance society. Rev. Mr. Whitford, who was in the habit of drinking a little himself, as were most of the people, got some men from Boston, I think, to come and talk up the subject, and a society was organized, and many signed the pledge; but drinking was not looked upon with such disdain as it is now, and some of the first people would not give it up. Deacon Jones, in whose family Patty lived, entered upon the temperance work with a will, and, in fact, was so rigid, that he thought any one who did not join the society was worse than an infidel. People nowadays would more generally sympathize with him in his new departure. The society went on and flourished. They had meetings quite often; sometimes the minister would make an address, and again one of the doctors of the village. Much good resulted from that first movement, and I think there has been a temperance society here ever since.”

“Did the Pendletons join the society? ” inquired the boy.

“No; not all of them,” said grandma, “for they enjoyed strong drink now and then, and you will see how they allowed the habit to get control of them.”

If you had been at the home of the Pendletons one afternoon of the following week, you would have seen the boys making haste with their chores, and found everything done up before sundown, with a plenty of wood by the hearth to keep up the fire through the long evening. Seth and Saul took a hasty supper, and then, in their best trim, started off for the village to attend the singing school. Seth’s newly tapped brogans had been well covered with beef’s tallow and lampblack, which greatly improved

[ p 35 ]

their ordinary condition, and to his mind looked “amazing nice.” Seth generally liked company, but on this evening would rather have been left alone; yet Saul was ready to go with him, although not fully realizing the condition of his older brother’s mood; he was supposed to know it all by the ardent, anxious suitor, who even regarded his brother on this evening in the guise of a rival.

[ house sketch ]
The Old School-house.

The old school-house was torn down before you were born; it stood almost in the road, near the location of the present one. It was once a rude dwelling; the only door was on the north side. The furnishing for school purposes consisted of rough benches, and a high desk for the master.

In that house the singing school was taught, once each week. Seth and Saul were among the first to appear at the school-house that evening, and as it was their first appearance of the season, the salutations extended were hearty, and to some would have been interesting; but that irrepressible Hannah Nibbs had been faithful in spreading the story that her father

[ p 36 ]

gathered at Larkin’s shop, so the little sly notes from the boys, and the shy acts of the girls, were understood by Seth, although he had mingled but little in the society of young people. Among the different groups standing about the fire, Seth soon spied Patty and Deacon Jones. The inoffensive deacon, who had an eye single for the good of mankind, happened to notice Seth and Saul. [*4] As it was their first appearance at the school, and unusual too, his heart of sympathy prompted him to go to them at once, and in the kindest manner give them a welcome to the school; he told them he would like to speak with them after the hour’s instruction. The deacon had heard some notes about the Simpson farm, but had given no heed to them, and was perfectly innocent of any of the charges being brought against him in the minds of some of the by-standers and whispered from side to side, one voice being often heard above the whisper, to the amusement of many.

“There,” said Hannah Nibbs, “I did have faith in Deacon Jones, and his prayers always did me good; but if he will stoop to help Seth Pendleton get a wife, just for nothing only to get that Simpson farm, I shall lose all confidence in him and everybody else that belongs to the church.”

“I should think from the way you talk,” said a seat companion half aloud, “that you wanted control of the Simpson house yourself. I’m sure I would n’t marry Seth Pendleton for all the farms in town.”

“Nor I!” [^8] exclaimed Hannah, as she hastily opened her singing book and began to run over the scale.

There was a good deal of whispering and subdued merriment through the session of the school, more than usual, and the order was none too good at any

[ p 37 ]

session; yet Seth, revolving the deacon’s kind words in his mind, sat through the hour like a martyr who was under sentence and awaiting the hour of torture. He had made up his mind that Patty was his, that the deacon had given evidence of his approval of the whole matter, and with such a brilliant prospect before him he could endure all the annoyance of the whole school.

[ interior sketch ]
The Singing School.

At the close of the session, Saul stepped out and started for home, glad enough to again be free and alone; but Seth lingered in spite of the jeers of the boys. He had an object in view, and was determined to accomplish his purpose. A wife and farm, instead of the tedious servitude at the old home on the hill, were objects of sufficient value to inspire courage and determination in any one of the most timid nature

[ p 38 ]

and retiring habit. Presently the good deacon came up and said to Seth, “I am real glad that you have got started out, and I hope you will continue to come; I have a good deal of feeling for you all up there on the hill.”

Turning about and finding Patty waiting for him to go home, he formally introduced her to Seth, who smiled as never before; but his words were few — he was too full for utterance. Patty, who was innocent of the charges brought against her by many of the school, did not fail to drop a word of encouragement, as she had caught the missionary spirit from her friend the deacon.

“Seth,” said Deacon Jones, “you know we are forming a temperance society here, and we want you to join with us,” — a subject entirely foreign to that which occupied the mind of the anxious youth, who tremblingly assented without giving it a thought, and in fact hardly grasping the idea.

The company had disappeared before the lingerers were aware of it, and Seth mustered courage to ask for the privilege of going home with Patty. This seemed strange to her, for there was no occasion for such civility on the part of any one; but as she was anxious to help on the temperance reform, and thought it might be pleasing to the deacon to have Seth walk with them, she did not refuse, and Seth Pendleton had never seen a more happy hour. The deacon, being hard of hearing, had not caught the words of Seth when asking the important question, and he did not understand whether it was Patty or himself who was having the honor of the escort; neither did the boys and girls who watched the proceedings from various corners and hiding places.

[ p 39 ]

A kind invitation from the good deacon to Seth to come down and spend the evening sent him home as happy as he ever went in his life. First he ran, and then he walked, all the time invoking blessings upon the head of Mr. Briggs, and promising himself in the stillness of that winter evening to always remember his good adviser, and vowing that he would follow him in every matter.

Saul had reached home a little before him, and there was a real bustle in the old house when Seth came in. Neighbor Briggs and wife Lucy were informed of the success of the evening as soon as the duties of the following day would permit. Seth soon blacked his brogans again and went to the deacon’s to pass the evening, and continued to go, and soon became a member of the temperance society, although Hannah Nibbs did say, “He won’t keep the pledge, and he is an awkward fellow, and I don’t see what Deacon Jones is thinking about. I thought he was a more sensible man than to advise a good, innocent girl like Patty Potter to receive the attentions of a clownish fellow like Seth Pendleton.”

Here grandma, realizing this kind of talk might not be helpful to the youth, stopped, and said, “My boy, you now see how easy it is for perfectly innocent people, with the best of motives, to have the appearance of doing evil, and to be condemned when they are not guilty. Deacon Jones was only trying to cheer and aid Seth and promote the temperance cause, when Seth thought he was gaining the good man’s aid in securing Patty for a wife, and thus making sure of the Simpson farm. There is one thing that I would like to have you remember, and that is, the determination with which Seth went about this enterprise, and try to put as much energy into your efforts, although of a very different nature.”

Only a few months passed before there was a quilt-

[ p 40 ]

ing at Deacon Jones’. Hannah Nibbs was not there. “A little indisposed,” said her mother when asked why Hannah didn’t come, while making free use of the snuff, her only reliable solace, that always kept her nerves calm at a quilting.

A general clearing up at the Simpson farm told all the neighbors that the taxes would be set to Seth Pendleton the coming year; and so it was. Patty Potter was well located with Mr. Seth Pendleton at the Simpson house before the blueberries were ripe in the three-cornered lot, where she met her friends and took pleasure in saying, “You are welcome to all you can pick in our lot.” Hannah soon learned to address Patty as Mrs. Pendleton, and treated her with much respect.

This change did not add much to the happiness of the Pendletons. Saul, Sally and Priscilla declared they would punish Seth some day.

“Just see what a spirit, my boy, and it is such as we often see, and what I want you to guard against — that is, a desire to ruin or make uncomfortable any one who succeeds in getting what we would like ourselves but fail to obtain.”

Mr. and Mrs. Briggs were soon invited to drink tea at the Simpson place, and a better cup of tea or a better spider cake they both agreed they never ate, while they hoped Patty would never regret the step.


SOURCE TEXT


EMENDATIONS

  1. “How ∨ How
  2. night!” ∨ night,”
  3. at it!” ∨ at it,”
  4. “Good-afternoon!” ∨ “Good-afternoon,”
  5. side!” ∨ side,”
  6. of? You ∨ of? you
  7. yesterday ∨ yesterterday
  8. “Nor I!” ∨ “Nor I,”

ANNOTATIONS

  1. “ejaculated”: exclaimed
  2. “twa”: [ Scots ]: two
  3. “Illustrations” calls this sketch “Horse and Sleigh”. (p 8)
  4. cf. KJV’s Matthew 6:22

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