« НазадПродовжити »
useless, we sent him down to the horses, and went down our. selves by another path. It led us a long distance through a grove of young beeches; the last year's whitish leaves lay thick on the ground, and the new leaves made so close a roof overhead that the light was strangely purple, as if it had come through a great church window of stained glass. After this we went through some hemlock growth, where, on the lower branches, the pale green of the new shoots and the dark green of the old made an exquisite contrast each to the other. Finally we came out at Mrs. Bonny's. Mr. Lorimer had told us something about her on the way down, saying in the first place that she was one of the queerest characters he knew. Her husband used to be a charcoal-burner and basket-maker, and she used to sell butter and berries and eggs, and choke-pears preserved in molasses. She always came down to Deephaven on a little black horse, with her goods in baskets and bags which were fastened to the saddle in a mysterious way. She had the reputation of not being a neat housekeeper, and none of the wise women of the town would touch her butter especially, so it was always a joke when she coaxed a new resident or a strange shipmaster into buying her wares; but the old woman always managed to jog home without the freight she had brought. “She must be very old, now,” said Mr. Lorimer; “I have not seen her in a long time. It cannot be possible that her horse is still alive!” And we all laughed when we saw Mrs. Bonny's steed at a little distance, for the shaggy old creature was covered with mud, pine-needles, and dead leaves, with half the last year's burdock-burs in all Deephaven snarled into his mane and tail and sprinkled over his fur, which looked nearly as long as a buffalo's. He had hurt his leg, and his kind mistress had tied it up with a piece of faded red calico and an end of ragged rope. He gave us a civil neigh, and looked at us curiously. Then an impertinent little yellow-and-white dog, with one ear standing up straight and the other drooping over, began to bark with all his might; but he retreated when he saw Kate's great dog, who was walking solemnly by her side and did not deign to notice him. Just now Mrs. Bonny appeared at the door of the house, shading her
eyes with her hand, to see who was coming.
see who was coming. “Landy!” said she, “if it ain't old Parson Lorimer! And who be these with ye?”
“ This is Miss Kate Lancaster of Boston, Miss Katharine Brandon's niece, and her friend Miss Denis.” “Pleased to see ye,” said the old woman ; " walk in and lay
off your things." And we followed her into the house. I wish you could have seen her: she wore a man's coat, cut off so that it made an odd short jacket, and a pair of men's boots much the worse for wear; also, some short skirts, beside two or three aprons, the inner one being a dress-apron, as she took off the outer ones and threw them into a corner; and on her head was a tight cap, with strings to tie under her chin. I thought it was a nightcap, and that she had forgotten to take it off, and dreaded her mortification if she should suddenly become conscious of it; but I need not have troubled myself, for while we were with her she pulled it on and tied it tighter, as if she considered it ornamental.
There were only two rooms in the house ; we went into the kitchen, which was occupied by a flock of hens and one turkey. The latter was evidently undergoing a course of medical treatment behind the stove, and was allowed to stay with us, while the hens were remorselessly hustled out with a hemlock broom. They all congregated on the doorstep, apparently wishing to hear everything that was said.
“ Ben up on the mountain ?” asked our hostess. “ Real sightly place. Goin' to be a master lot o' rosbries; get any down to the shore sence I quit comin'?”
yes,” said Mr. Lorimer, “but we miss seeing you." “I s'pose so," said Mrs. Bonny, smoothing her apron complacently; “but I'm getting old, and I tell 'em I'm goin' to take my comfort; sence he' died, I don't put myself out no great; I've got money enough to keep me long's I live. Beckett's folks goes down often, and I sends by them for what store stuff I want.”
" How are you now?” asked the minister ; “I think I heard you were ill in the spring.”
“ Stirrin', I'm obliged to ye. I wasn't laid up long, and I
** was so's I could get about most of the time. I've got the best bitters ye ever see, good for the spring of the year. S'pose yer sister, Miss Lorimer, wouldn't like some? she used to be weakly lookin'.” But her brother refused the offer, saying that she had not been so well for many years.
“Do you often get out to church nowadays, Mrs. Bonny? I believe Mr. Reid preaches in the schoolhouse sometimes, down by the great ledge; doesn't he?”
· Well, yes, he does; but I don't know as I get much of any good. Parson Reid, he's a worthy creatur', but he never seems
to have nothin' to say about foreordination and them p'ints. Old Parson Padelford was the man! I used to set under his preachin' a good deal; I had an aunt living down to East Parish. He'd get worked up, and he'd shut up the Bible and preach the hair off your head,' long at the end of the sermon. Couldn't understand more nor a quarter part what he said,” said Mrs. Bonny, admiringly. “Well, we were a-speaking about the meet
, ing over to the ledge; I don't know's I like them people any to speak of. They had a great revival over there in the fall, and one Sunday I thought's how I'd go; and when I got there, who should be a-prayin' but old Ben Patey, - he always lays out to get converted, — and he kep' it up diligent till I couldn't stand it no longer; and by and by says he, " I've been a wanderer; and I up and says, “Yes, you have, I'll back ye up on that, Ben; ye've wandered around my wood-lot and spoilt half the likely young oaks and ashes I've got, a-stealing your basket-stuff.' And the folks laughed out loud, and up he got and cleared. He's an awful old thief, and he's no idea of being anything else. I wa’n’t a-goin' to set there and hear him makin' b’lieve to the Lord. If anybody's heart is in it, I ain't a-goin' to hender 'em ; I'm a professor, and I ain't ashamed of it, week-days nor Sundays neither. I can't bear to see folks so pious to meeting, and cheat yer eye-teeth out Monday morning. Well, there! we ain't none of us perfect; even old Parson Moody was roundshouldered, they say."
“ You were speaking of the Becketts just now,” said Mr. Lorimer (after we had stopped laughing, and Mrs. Bonny had settled her big steel-bowed spectacles, and sat looking at him with an expression of extreme wisdom. One might have ventured to call her “peart,” I think). "How do they get on? I am seldom in this region nowadays, since Mr. Reid has taken it under his charge.”
They get along, somehow or ’nother,” replied Mrs. Bonny; “They've got the best farm this side of the ledge, but they're dreadful lazy and shiftless, them young folks. Old Mis' Hateevil Beckett was tellin' me the other day — she that was Samanthy Barnes, you know — that one of the boys got fighting, the other side of the mountain, and come home with his nose broke and a piece o' one ear bit off. I forget which ear it was. Their mother is a real clever, willin' woman, and she takes it to heart, but it's no use for her to say anything. Mis' Hate-evil Beckett, says she, . It does make my man feel dreadful to see
his brother's folks carry on so.' · But there,' says I, Mis' Beckett, it's just such things as we read of; Scriptur' is fulfilled: In the larter days there shall be disobedient children.'
This application of the text was too much for us, but Mrs. Bonny looked serious, and we did not like to laugh. Two or three of the exiled fowls had crept slyly in, dodging underneath our chairs, and had perched themselves behind the stove. They were long-legged, half-grown creatures, and just at this minute one rash young rooster made a manful attempt to crow. “Do tell!” said his mistress, who rose in great wrath, “ you needn't be so forth-putting, as I knows on!” After this we were urged to stay and have some supper. Mrs. Bonny assured us she could pick a likely young hen in no time, fry her with a bit of pork, and get us up - a good meat tea”; but we had to disappoint her, as we had some distance to walk to the house where we had left our horses, and a long drive home.
Kate asked if she would be kind enough to lend us a tumbler (for ours was in the basket, which was given into Tommy's charge). We were thirsty, and would like to go back to the spring and get some water.
* Yes, dear,” said Mrs. Bonny, “ I've got a glass, if it's so’s I can find it.” And she pulled a chair under the little cupboard over the fireplace, mounted it, and opened the door. Several things fell out at her, and after taking a careful survey she went in, head and shoulders, until I thought she would disappear altogether; but soon she came back, and reaching in took out one treasure after another, putting them on the mantel-piece or dropping them on the floor. There were some bunches of dried herbs, a tin born, a lump of tallow in a broken plate, a newspaper, and an old boot, with a number of turkey-wings tied together, several bottles, and a steel trap, and finally, such a tumbler! which she produced with triumph, before stepping down. She poured out of it on the table a mixture of old buttons and squash-seeds, beside a lump of beeswax which she said she had lost, and now pocketed with satisfaction. She wiped the tumbler on her apron and handed it to Kate, but we were not so thirsty as we had been, though we thanked her and went down to the spring, coming back as soon as possible, for we could not lose a bit of the conversation.
There was a beautiful view from the doorstep, and we stopped a minute there. “ Real sightly, ain't it?” said Mrs. Bonny. “ But you ought to be here and look across the woods some
morning just at sun-up. Why, the sky is all yaller and red, and them low lands topped with fog! Yes, it's nice weather, good growin' weather, this week. Corn and all the rest of the trade looks first-rate. I call it a forrard season. It's just such weather as we read of, ain't it?”
"I don't remember where, just at this moment," said Mr. Lorimer.
“Why, in the almanac, bless ye!” said she, with a tone of •
, pity in her grum voice; could it be possible he didn't know, the Deephaven minister!
We asked her to come and see us. She said she had always thought she'd get a chance some time to see Miss Katharine Brandon's house. She should be pleased to call, and she didn't know but she should be down to the shore before very long. She was 'shamed to look so shif'less that day, but she had some good clothes in a chist in the bedroom, and a boughten bonnet with a good cypress veil, which she had when he ” died. She calculated they would do, though they might be old-fashioned, some. She seemed greatly pleased at Mr. Lorimer's having taken the trouble to come to see her. All those people had a great reverence for “the minister.” We were urged to come again in "ros bry” time, which was near at hand, and she gave us messages for some of her old customers and acquaintances. “I believe some of those old creatur's will never die,” said she; “why, they're getting to be ter'ble old, ain't they, Mr. Lorimer? There! ye've done me a sight of good, and I wish I could ha' found the Bible, to hear ye read a psalm.” When Mr. Lorimer shook hands with her, at leaving, she made him a most reverential courtesy. He was the greatest man she knew; and once during the call, when he was speaking of serious things in his simple, earnest way, she had so devout a look, and seemed so interested, that Kate and I, and Mr. Lorimer himself, caught a new, fresh meaning in the familiar words he spoke.
Living there in the lonely clearing, deep in the woods and far from any neighbor, she knew all the herbs and trees and the harmless wild creatures who lived among them, by heart; and she had an amazing store of tradition and superstition, which made her so entertaining to us that we went to see her many times before we came away in the autumn. We went with her to find some pitcher-plants, one day, and it was wonderful how much she knew about the woods, what keen observation she had. There was something so wild and unconventional about Mrs.