Classic New England Stories

Witch Child

Residence of  E.S. Waters
Residence of E.S. Waters.

Afternoon — Prospect Park
Afternoon — Prospect Park.

        One Saturday late in September, when there was to be a half-holiday at the mills, Uncle John waited till most of the mill-hands had swarmed out of the big gates before he took down his walking stick from the beam overhead, put on his tidy outdoor coat and hat, and slowly walked down the four long flights of stairs from the top of the Dexter mills to the mill yard. He stopped in the yard for a few minutes to admire the flower beds that were laid out in the lawn of the mill grounds. The dahlias were just coming into bloom — light and dark and variegated in colors. The lawn was separated by a chain fence from the foot walk, and the flowers were for the mill help to look at and admire but not to touch.

Feeding the Dog
Feeding the Dog.

        "I’ll have some out as fine as these in a week," thought Uncle John.
        Then he hurried on to pass through the mill gate before it was closed. Most of his fellow employes had already disappeared in the tenement houses and blocks surrounding the mill. One long street, lined with mill tenements, reached straight ahead, and through this street and along another at right angles to it he kept on his way. He passed all the stores and business blocks, and then struck out for a considerable distance into the country till he came to a little house set alone in the green fields.
        This was his own house, build and furnished after years of economy, where he made a home for himself and his sister. A slat fence enclosed a little garden full of old-fashioned flowers. A vegetable patch lay beyond it and a thrifty bit of meadow in the rear pastured a sleek cow. Uncle John loved every foot of his little estate. He admired as a landscape the level fields around it, and hte hills in the distance reminded him of the heather hills of home.

Doorstep Friends
Doorstep Friends.

        It was looking its best and pleasantest to-day. The sun was bright on the gay garden beds. The dahlias which he had anticipated were beginning to open.
        Uncle John pulled a weed or two from the garden, picked up a few bits of paling that were scattered alongside the path, and walked slowly around to the kitchen door. He stood there a few minutes, looking over the place with a kind of serene gravity. Then he turned and went indoors.
        There were voices in earnest conversation in the front room, and Uncle John sat down in the kitchen to rest.
        "Janet’s got company, and by the sound it’s somebody I don’t know. I’ll sit here till she’s gone," he thought.
        It was a woman’s voice, shrill and shrewd and not very pleasing that was speaking. The high-pitched words could be heard distinctly in the little kitchen.
        "You don’t mean to say that he’s lived single all these years, an’ all on account of her. Why, it’s twenty years and more. I have never heard of such a thing in my life.

The Drinking Fountain — Hampden Park
The Drinking Fountain — Hampden Park.

        Janet’s voice was then heard in tones of exasperation.
        "But how did you happen to lend yourself to held such a deceit, woman? What did you do it for? And why have you kept up the lie so long, to come and tell the truth at this late day?"
        "Well," replied the woman, in a lower voice and with a note of apology in it, "you know what Jess was—or mebbe you don’t know. She was that masterful that she’d always get her own way. I was a young gell myself then, and Jess was my roommate. I set a sight by her, an’ when she wanted me to write the letter to get her out of a snarl, I did it."
        "But I don’t see why she did such a thing," said Janet. "She must have known my brother wouldn’t have held her to her word if she wished to be free. He wasn’t that sort of man."
        "No," returned the woman, "It wasn’t that. She wasn’t afraid of him. But I suppose she liked him a bit after all. They’d been lass and lad together back home, and she hated to have him think ill of her. She was bound to go off with the other fellow. He’d money, and dash, and style, and Jess had got to care more for them things then for any plain fellow plodding on at home. But she didn’t want John to know. She’d rather have him think her dead."
        "And so the two of you plotted to spoil the lad’s life and break his heart," said Janet.
        "Well, I don’t know about that," returned the other. "Maybe it might have been worse for him than ’tis now. If you’d seen Jess as I did ten years ago, I reckon you’d a thought so. However, ’tis all over now, and can’t be helped."
        "O, it can’t be helped," repeated Janet.

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