The Parish and the Hill

Among Schoolchildren

A Down-Look From Depot Hill
A Down-Look From Depot Hill.

The Old Holyoke House — 1867
The Old Holyoke House — 1867.

        It was noticed during the following winter that Uncle John was failing. He walked more feebly and his hair was whitening fast. He was not old enough in years to age so rapidly, and it was thought his old wound was troubling him again.
        A little girl now came to the mill to bring him a warm dinner on pleasant days. It was a child that Uncle John and his sister had rescued from the clutches of Mother Tassett.

The Post Office Entrance
The Post Office Entrance.

        When she first began to come she was a thin, scared looking child, showing the effects of ill usage and neglect. Now she was plump and healthy. In the comfortable clothes that Janet had made for her, she was a neat and comely as any of the mill people’s children.
        Often, when the mill gates were open at night, she was seen patiently waiting for Uncle John. When he appeared they went homeward together, hand in hand.
        Mother Tassett, from whose place the little girl had been taken, had come to the village about a year before and found quarters in a tenement of Rum Alley. If the atmosphere of wickedness about that neighborhood had been strong before, it was stronger than ever after Mother Tassett came. She was the boldest as well as the smartest of the dissolute gang of that dissolute corner of the town.

Mosher Street, From Main
Mosher Street, From Main.

        It was a good thing for the neighborhood and a good thing for little Agnes Frye when Mother Tassett, in spite of all her shrewdness, had at last run her neck into the noose of the law far enough to insure her a six month’s sentence. The little girl was left behind the police station, waiting the action of the overseers of the poor, and there Uncle John had seen her, ragged and forlorn, and in pure pity had taken her home. Now the one dread of her life was the day when Mother Tassett would emerge from prison and try to claim her again.
        But the time went on and no such claim was made. "Mother Tassett’s back, and she ’pears to be tryin’ to drink herself to death this time," Kate Bowlin announced, one day late in the spring, to the girl who attended the next warping frame and the word was passed to Uncle John. Mother Tassett never appeared, however, to make trouble for Agnes or her new guardian.

Lyman Street at the Railroad Crossing
Lyman Street at the Railroad Crossing.

Main Street, Near Dwight
Main Street, Near Dwight.

© Laurel O’Donnell 1996 - 2006, all rights reserved
This document may be downloaded for personal non-commercial use only
and may not be reproduced or distributed without permission in any format.
This is an edited adaptation from the original publication.