Mysterious Room [6/18]

Sixth evening.

It was a cold spring day, one of those chilly days of May, when a fire is as needful for comfort as in mid-winter, that a company of the farmers had congregated in Larkin’s shop and were having a good chat, such as the people of an old-fashioned town heartily enjoy when the weather does not admit of out-door work. Several of the company were of the group who happened to be present when Seth Pendleton got the taps put on his only brogans. A new associate was a round-faced man who was busy at his post of duty; he was closely shaven, save a few gray bristles on his neck, suggestive of stray brush about the stone wall of a barren pasture, while a huge wart on one cheek, with another somewhat smaller nesting by the side of his Roman nose, reminded one of the boulders so common on neg-

[ p 57 ]

lected grounds. Isaac Fuller, better known as Ike Fuller, was standing by and seemed to be the chief speaker of the hour. He was six feet tall, with a great display of jewelry upon his clothes; he seemed to be discoursing upon the merits of a pair of steers which he had lately purchased. Fuller was something of a cattle trader, by the way, and thought no one was such a good judge of live stock of all kinds as he. Mr. Larkin himself had as keen appreciation of fun as any one and loved to help it on; but, at the same time, would preserve a countenance that would lead one to suppose his mind was fully engrossed with his work; his bench being so located that his back was to the bystanders, his interest in the conversation was not noticed. His son Lewis was of a mirthful turn, much like the father, only he was quite small and slender in his frame. The company were all giving close heed to the remarks of Fuller, when the door opened and Hanson Page entered with whip in hand. Page was a rough fellow and found his greatest delight in tormenting any one who came under his sway. You will remember that it was Hanson Page who met Seth Pendleton on that day when he had been to Larkin’s shop to have his shoes repaired, in preparation for the singing school. After a “How are you?” all round, Page and Fuller had the floor, the one flourishing his ox whip and the other making a great display of his watch chains and seal rings.

“They say,” shouted Page, “that things don’t go on so fine at the Simpson farm after all! [^1] That temperance pledge that Deacon Jones got Seth to sign don’t amount to much, and he gets right out and out drunk so soon.”

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“Just as I expected,” replied Fuller, while the round-faced man paused in his pegging and said, “Perhaps you are misinformed.”

“No I am not,” said Page, “for I got it from Hannah Nibbs as I came up. I stopped there to get some purple topped turnip seed to sow among my potatoes. I knew Mr. Nibbs always raised it, and I thought he might have left some that they would not use. Hannah seems to be full of sympathy for Seth’s wife who has been so taken in.”

“Sure enough; no doubt of that,” said the round-faced man, giving the nose wart a slight twist. “It is a fact, Hannah did feel bad about that Simpson farm, and I guess she would have liked to try her hand there, but she didn’t succeed, and now her sympathetic disposition has found another object on which to fasten itself. I wonder if she would like to have it known generally why she left Mr. Briggs’ employ?”

Here Fuller broke in by saying, “That’s you, Spencer,” addressing the round-faced man. ” You will defend any one that belongs to that temperance society, and won’t believe anything against them, no matter who tells it. I think Hannah Nibbs is a truthful woman, and I believe Seth has gone to drinking again; perhaps not enough to hurt him though,” beginning to be a little ashamed in the presence of Mr. Spencer.

“If such is the case,” replied Mr. Spencer, “I think he may be reclaimed, and that’s a part of our work, and I for one shan’t give him up.”

“If old Pendleton dies and Seth and Saul get the inside of that room, I just bet they will be drunk half of their time,” said Page.

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Here Larkin whirled on his stool and said, inquiringly, “Is Mr. Pendleton sick?”

”Yes,” said Page. Hannah tells me that the gals were at ‘Becca’s party yesterday and had to go home before tea, for the old man was taken with a bad spell, and I met Parson Whitford headed that way as I came up. I guess he has got a hard fellow to contend with in Hezekiah Pendleton, if he hopes to prepare him for death; he has been housed up in that room too many years to repent now.”

Here Mr. Spencer interrupted by saying, “All things are possible with God, and it is not Mr. Whitford who can prepare him, but the Spirit of God. [*1] Mr. Whitford may be able to direct his restless soul; but it has been so imbedded in this world’s goods, that it will cling tight in death, I fear.”

“Right here, my boy,” said grandma, “let me impress upon you the worthlessness of all earthly gains and possessions when one comes to face death; if he has lived a good, useful life and done as he would be done by in all things, trusting in Christ for salvation, he won’t fear in such an hour. I hope, my child, that the folly of Mr. Pendleton will aid you in so planning your life and conducting yourself, that when the summons comes, let it be in youth, middle life or old age, you can welcome it and go in peace and leave a good name behind you in the world. Such a legacy is a good deal more valuable than gold and is worth thinking of. Riches are of but little account in the last hours of one’s life, but treasures that are laid up in Heaven abide and avail for us then.” [*2]

You will see that Mr. Spencer was a good man in word and his whole life was after that type. He was not ready to believe evil reports of any one, and as such a person, he was an influence for good in this community; but I can’t say as much for Fuller and Page, yet I think that Hannah Nibbs had a good

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heart, but she was quite advanced in life when she was introduced to you. Her early hopes had been blighted and she saw no bright prospects for the future, which explained, I think, why she conducted herself so strangely at times and talked so unreasonably on some subjects.

The opening clouds caused a breaking up of the meeting at Larkin’s and the gossips disappeared, greatly to the relief of Mr. Larkin and Mr. Spencer. Hanson Page, while on his way home, stopped at Mr. Briggs’ to inquire after the Pendletons, and also to see why Hannah had gone from his employ, for Aunt Hepsy, his wife, always wanted to know the news, and being somewhat lame, she could not get out much herself, so a budget of news was quite a relief to her. [*3] Mr. Briggs had no taste for gossip, and it was but little of that kind of conversation that he could be drawn into; yet Page drove his steers to the garden wall and went in and found Mr. Briggs sitting by the fire, while Dolly Sprague was near by busily engaged. Both seemed to be looking over various articles of wearing apparel unfamiliar to this rough man.

After comments on the weather and inquiring after Mr. Pendleton, Page started on with his steers, much to the relief of Mr. Briggs and Miss Sprague.

Dolly had come over the hill from her father’s reluctantly, to aid Mr. Briggs in securing various articles of clothing that were being damaged by moths; but Hanson Page saw it in another light, and on reaching home made haste to tell Hepsy, his wife, and so the story started that Mr. Briggs was soon to take Dolly Sprague over the hill to fill the vacancy in his home and the void in his heart. Whether there were any such intentions at the time of this visit on the part

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[ outdoor sketch ]
“Page drove his steers to the garden wall.”

of either, I do not know, but it was not many months before it became apparent to all that this rumor was well founded, and just before haying time of the following year, the dwelling of Deacon Sprague was alive with people, for there was to be a double marriage on that day. Mr. Briggs was to take Dolly away, and Jabez, Dolly’s brother, was to bring a wife home, where he was to locate, and, with the aid of the youthful Mrs. Sprague, to care for his father in the absence of Dolly, who would preside as Mrs. Briggs at the end of the lane leading from Deacon Sprague’s to Mr. Briggs’ home.

Hannah Nibbs felt better about this and was sorry that she was so hasty in leaving her situation. Mr. Briggs and the boys had got along during those

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months quite well, and had enjoyed themselves far better than if Miss Nibbs in her unhappy frame of mind had remained. Hannah was so in the habit of talking that she could not refrain from making a remark once in a while, and she would occasionally say, when in the company of those who would understand the full import of her sarcasm, ”So Mr. Briggs has got the Sprague wheat,” but it can be said to her credit, that she seemed to lose some of the vindictive spirit that had controlled her, and she settled down to care for her mother who was now becoming quite old and feeble.

Dolly Sprague had always been known by the Pendletons and they seemed to take her right into their confidence as they had her predecessor, and Mr. and Mrs. Briggs were now their chief advisers, as in earlier years Mr. Briggs, with his wife Lucy, had been. Sally Pendleton seemed a little disturbed at first, but it was soon over, for Miss Nibbs had not become the companion of her friend, and things went on with the old-time peace and good cheer. The Briggs boys welcomed the new mother as real gentlemen, and found in her a mother’s heart, and one who, by her mild, gentle manner and Christian principles, deserved to be called mother.

“My child, I would have you know that the true Christian man or woman is better fitted to fill any position of responsibility than one who has no decided Christian principles. The position assumed by Mrs. Briggs was not an easy one. Two boys, who well remembered their mother, were ready to detect seeming faults in the one who came to take the mother’s place. Yet they soon learned that she was trying to be a true mother to them, and they grew up to honor her and be honored by her. I may add that good relatives, outside the home, made this position more easy to fill than if they had

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taken the opposite and more common course; and much is due to these young men, who did their part most faithfully; and now they are useful, honored men of business and trust in the world, having gone from that home with a realizing sense of the importance of Christian principles exemplified in their step-mother.


SOURCE TEXT


EMENDATIONS

  1. after all! ∨ after all.

ANNOTATIONS

  1. cf. KJV’s Mark 10:27; Matthew 19:26
  2. cf. KJV’s Matthew 6:19-21
  3. “budget”: digest

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