Lighthouse Village Sketches


“ HIM an’ me wuz hevin’ it over on pol’tics an’ religion,” said Captain Gibson. “ I used to set up with him nights some, when it come his watch in the tower, eight ter twelve. She’d be a grindin’ roun’ up top, two ter the minute on the quicksilver, smooth as silk, the ole lens, an’ the machinery, down where he wuz, no particular objection to talkin’; so we hed it over ’bout them ole Bible dorgmas. Sam, he ’d take a turn on the gallery frum time to time ’count of mebbe fog shuttin’ down, but we wuz pretty still fer the most part, hevin’ it over.

“ He’s a gret scholar, Sam is. I’m proud of Sam. He knows a lot more ’n I do. But I says to him right out plain, says I, 'Capt’n Anderson,’ says I, ‘ you ’re a younger man than what I be,’ — I don’t believe he ain’t more ’n sixty-five an’ odd, ef he is a day, — ‘ an’ you ’ll come to look at these things diff’rent,’ says I. ’T ain’t because he don’t read a lot that he come to be so misguided, but I guess he sorter keeps readin’ the same things right over an’ over like.

“ Now I says to him square to the face an’ kind, I says, 'Now take the Garden of Eden, Capt’n Anderson,’ says I; ‘ how does that set on your stomach ? ’ says I. But Sam don’t hear to reasons easy, an’ I kinder give him up after I’d ben at him a spell. I told him science was agin him, but he jest did n’t appear to care a mite. ‘ I got my Bible,’ he says over an’ over, kinder wearisome. Now I tell you I respect a pig-headed cuss like Capt’n Anderson. I dunno what he calls himself as a congregation, so to speak. Prob’ly Presberterian, like’s not. But he’s twenty miles frum a meetin’ house, an’ ’lowed he might be kinder short of up-todate ’long of not hevin’ went to church fer some years back. But Sam, he ’ll allus be the same bloomin’ radical. I believe that ’s what they call them kind, — reg’lar ole hard - shell Bible folks. He calls me a ninferdel. But I ain’t! Lord, no ! No, I ain’t thet fer down. Only course I don’t believe nothin’ in the Bible. Lord, no ! Godfrey !

“ It comes kinder hard on me, — the way he thinks I ’m goin’ ter hell. I’d kinder like hevin’ him feel we wuz goin’ to git ashore same place, so to speak. Well, when I was comin’ off that time I shook hands with him longer ’n common, an’ I says to him, goin’ away, I says, ‘ Ole boy,’ I says, 'you an’ me thinks diff’rent, but that’s all right,’ I says. ‘ I ain’t sure but what there is a heaven, but I know there ain’t no hell. So you an’ me ’ll meet again, Sam, ef I leave Hawkport fer the findin’ out, Sam, ’fore you do.’ ”


“ You can’t fetch a step in this town ’thout ev’rybody knows it,” said Mrs. Ben, coming in out of the storm, and standing, all snowy, on the inside doormat, while Mrs. Crow disappeared to get the asked-for cup of yeast. “No, I hain’t a-goin’ to set, I hain’t a-goin’ to stop,” she continued, directing her voice toward the pantry. “ I dunno when I’ve ben out o’ yeast before, an’ now I s’pose the whole town ’ll know I come here a-borrowin’ of ye. Why, jest now, on’y last week, I was over to Boston gittin’ me a pair new boots, — shoes they was, — Samson’s is so dreadful poor an’ high; an’ so, well, I went up ’long the street ’fore seven o’clock, so ’s nobody would n’t see me, with a basket to the depot; an’ the postmaster, course he seen me, an’ he called to me the length the street. ‘ Goin’ away ? ’ says he ; an’ the butcher too, he did. I did hope t’ the Lord I’d git by Ann Elizer’s ’thout her seein’ me; an’ sure enough, she stood back t’ the window when I cut past. But ’fore I was out o’ hearin’ I seen her throw up the window an’ holler after me. Folks is so dreadful curious. Now I hain’t a mite that way myself. I dun no half nobody’s business in this town except my own ; an’ ’t ain’t ’cause I don’t hev opportunities, if I say so as had n’t ought to. Bless my soul! What’s that ? ” she exclaimed, opening the door a crack, peering and listening through the fine sleet falling. “ The Methodists’ straw ride ! I do declare ! ”

A long pung creaked into view from the four corners, with slow horses, big bells clanging, and a crowded party of villagers.

Presently the high notes of a cornet sounded:—

“ Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war ! ”

“ My land alive ! ” cried Mrs. Ben, closing the crack to a line as they passed near, but listening a minute still as the sound swept by, full and sweet, and died away faintly, — “ as to war! ”

“ It’s them Methodists goin’ over to Barry. I should think they’d be ashamed. It’s three weeks runnin’ they ben over to Barry of a Friday evenin’, an’ their own prayer-meetin’ night, too, — not countin’ Tuesdays, when they’ve went considerable, to my truth and knowledge,” said Mrs. Ben, still standing on the doormat, and covering the yeastcup with her hand to keep the snow out going home. “ But I can’t stop a minute now. I on’y say it’s a livin’ shame leavin’ Nathaniel Tewksbury’s meetin’ an’ gaddin’; ’t ain’t nothin’ else. Them young women out’n the choir, an’ the men, an’ the cornet, jest gaddin’ after that elder. I’m ashamed of ’em. Comin’ here with his pomposity an’ his whiskers, an’ his cheeks gittin’ fatter ev’ry week, — the way the women cooked him up one mess o’ food an’ ’nother, ’cause he said he was pindlin’ when he come here. And prayin’ ev’ry night into the vestry, an’ callin’ it revivals when it warn’t only bluster an’ cry with more ’n half the women folks, an’ only seven men saved from everlastin’ perdition in five weeks, an’ him livin’ round on the parish like a porpoise. He made me mad to see him.

“ ‘ He’s a good man an’ all that,’ says Mr. Tewksbury to me, when I fuss at his ways o’ doin’, an’ speakin’ ill o’ him behind his back, which I tole Mr. Tewksbury plum straight I’d as lief say to his face, an’ him so patient an’ forbearin’ with me if I hain’t on’y his housekeeper, an’ no kith nor kin. ‘ He’s a good man,’ says Mr. Tewksbury, quiet an’ firm, ‘ on’y the Lord, he leads him in ways what I don’t take after myself,’ an’ like o’ that; ’n’ I know fer truth an’ knowledge of the elder’s tryin’ to pervert folks right out of our meetin’ house into his’n.

“ An’ now I guess I ’ll be goin’. On’y I do like some kinds o’ ministers better than others, an’ I allus hold by Mr. Tewksbury’s doctrine an’ preachin’ an’ house-to-house visitin’, an’ that’s a fact. He’s jest the kind o’ minister I do like, if he is so grave, an’ gray whiskers, an’ thin. I ’ve heard folks time an’ agin complain an’ say he comes right into yer house, an’ talks ’bout what yer doin’, an’ not a mite o’ religion. I hate a man comes right in an’ gits down on his knees prayin’, whether anybody wants to or not. An’ he’s an awful good scholar, too ; an’ fer’s I can make out, the whole of his doctrine is mostly not goin’ to church an’ comin’ home fightin’, but kinder let yer Sunday sift down slow, an’ last yer the week out. An’ so he does. He’s a beautiful hand to pray ’n’ all, but he’s a great hand to live. He believes in livin’. So do I.

“ I’ve often told my husband he must ’a’ ben a thousand-dollar man where he come from, but we don’t give him but five hundred an’ a donation party. An’ he’s terrible close ’bout where he come from, too, an’ on’y that one little boy. I’ve often said to him, as feelin’ as I could, ‘ Was your wife’s health mostly pretty good ’fore she died ? ’ An’ he’s thanked me an’ said it mostly was, an’ gone away. He’s awful good to the poor. He ’ll take right holt an’ help a poor man cook a meal o’ victuals, an’ he sawed ole Jonson up a load of wood once when he was sick abed, an’ give him his dinner, an’ carried it over; an’ when he was goin’ off ’thout prayin’, — Jonson’s a Methodis’, you know, — Jonson, he looked so expectin’ an’disappointed, Mr. Tewksbury, he says, ‘ It’s all right, Charlie ; you eat your dinner while it’s hot, an’ I ’ll be prayin’ ’long home,’ says he.

“ He’s real good ev’ry which way. But ev’rybody don’t see as I do, an’ I’m free to say he don’t seem to be so sought after as he might be, an’ his numbers ain’t increasin’. Husband said he’s too good for ’em, but I dunno. It’s all a mix to me, — them as is better than others not risin’ ’cordin’ to their quality. Why, I know some folks don’t like a minister takin’ the clo’es off the line fer his wife, with a big fam’ly to wash fer, an’ no girl in the kitchen, an’ I’m terrible careful not to let Mr. Tewksbury lay finger to my wash, to save scandal; not that he’s ever made as if he was goin’ to, but I’ve hed my answer polite an’ ready on wash days, fearin’ he might. Some folks is dreadful particular ’bout their pastors.

“ But I dunno yet but what Mr. Tewksbury will add to the roll in time. I dunno when we hain’t hed a conversion before in ages till ole Jonson was took in, an’ I’ve heard there ’s others meditatin’.

I’m expectin’ Easter will wake ’em up some. But it does make me ache, his goin’ down, snowy night like this, clear to the vestry, an’ sittin’ lookin’ so religious an’ pleasant to them empty benches, an’ on’y them ole folks there, an’ all the young ones gone after that cornet. I wisht they’d kep’ his house fer him like me, an’ seen his ins an’ outs, week through. But I tell him it ’ll come his time soon, an’ them as went after the cornet these days will get their hearts touched an’ shook, an’ stay to the vestry Fridays. I wisht they could jest see his lovin’ ways with Philly; jest how he— Well, I guess I must be goin’. Good-by.”

Thus did Mrs. Ben take news of Mr. Tewksbury’s inner goodness with her wherever she went, and there was always an open ear for the minister’s “ housekeeper.” To Methodist friends she spoke with grieved surprise of their “ goin’s-on ; ” to her church associates she poured forth a stream of pastor praise, varied and enriched by incidents of every-day goodness as the week went by. The leaven worked. The vestry showed it. But the elder at Barry was unconsciously helping Mrs. Ben. The Rockhaven deserters, coming diligently on successive Tuesdays and Fridays through the month following the Barry revival, heard sermons from Elder Plum that had an oblique effect. The crude teaching rose, in inspired moments, to earnest, impressive charge and warning. This was when the elder talked of “ folds ” and our “ ministerial privileges in our midst.”

Thus it came to pass that Emily Baker, cornet, refused to leave a certain Fridaynight prayer meeting at her own church ; and, the leader gone, the sleighing party broke up, forsaking Barry, and in place of it going to church again or not, as might be, but bringing withal sufficient signs of “ warnin’ ” to gladden Mrs.

Ben’s Friday-night heart. As the minister’s housekeeper, she kept a pious eye on backsliders returning, possessing them with a glance as they entered, offering them at once to the Lord in prayer in all simplicity and goodness of heart, as proof of Mr. Tewksbury’s rising ability and pastoral worth.

A proof of further “ warnin’ ” was the widened sympathy for what was respectfully referred to as the pastor’s “ back troubles,” so often dwelt upon by Mrs. Ben, and so called in distinction from those of later date, — an interest that showed itself in numerous invitations to tea, and “ Bring Philly,” from the more warm-hearted members of the pastor’s circle.

The startling news of an accident to Philly, a hurt spine and his life in danger, called out fresh sympathy, and created a disposition to praise the stricken pastor, not alone for his goodness, but for his ability also, now newly believed in. In those weeks when he nursed Philly, refusing all offers to “ spell ” him, sitting all day and all night by the child’s bed, except for the few hours at church, his people heard in his sermons something that stirred them deeply. Mrs. Ben said that folks was “ meditatin’.”

On the Sunday before Christmas several were waiting to be received into the church. The pastor read these names : “ Miss Emily Baker, Mr. Moses Jones, Mrs. Baker, and Mehitable Baker.”

“ The Lord’s struck them Bakerses! ” exclaimed Mrs. Ben, with chastened


On New Year’s Eve a messenger brought word to the parsonage that Miss Baker’s class — Philly’s class — would like to bring a few little gifts on New Year’s morning. Philly would see the boys pass the window. They would be very quiet, and would lay the packages on the window sill outside.

That night the doctor’s word spread through the village that Philly’s New Year would be the end.


A dim, shaded night light burned outside the pastor’s study door, shining faintly in across Philly’s bed. “Father?” anxiously.

“Yes, my boy.”

“ Oh, father ! ”


“ I’m so tired.”

“Yes, pet, I know. Try to lie still ; try hard, little man.” A long silence.

“ I’m trying, father.”

“ My good boy.” A longer silence.

“ Oh, father, father ! ”

“ I know, sonny, I know.”

The little head tossed to and fro on the pillow.

“ Father dear! ” starting.

“ I’m here, Philly.”

“ Hold my hand hard, — there, like that, father.”

“ Yes, pet.”

“Father?” suddenly.

“ Yes, my lad.”

“ You won’t let go my hand ? ”

“ No.” Silence.

“ Did he say I ’d be well in — in twenty-four hours, father ? ”

“ He said you’d be better, my boy.”

“ Very better ? ”

“ More easy, I know.”

“ Will it be twenty-four hours to-morrow morning since to-day, father ? ”

“ Very nearly, sonny. Now try to go to sleep.”

A moan, a sob; then more sobs through shut teeth.

“ He — he said I was a general, d-did n’t he, father ? ”

“ Yes, my boy, and a hero, too.”

“ I’d rather be a general. Oh, father, father ! ” tears raining down.

“ I know, I know, pet.”

“ I’m — so — tired.”

“ Yes, pet; but it will soon be morning.”

“Father?” anxiously. “Don’t go away.”

“ No, my boy.”

“ Oh, don’t take your hand off my forehead, father darling ! ”

“ No, sonny.”

A long pause ; then faintly, “ Sing. My one.”

“ 'When He com-eth, when He com-eth, To — make up His jewels ’ ” —

The song sounded strange in the winter midnight.

“ ' Like the stars of the morning ’ ” —

A little voice, broken with tears, was singing, too.

“ ‘ They shall shine in their beauty ’ ” —

The little voice fell to a moan. “ Oh, father dear ! ”

The singer was silent.

“ Don’t sing it any more, father darling ! ”

A little company of boys, coming two by two down the lane on New Year’s morning, lingered uncertainly a long way off, then gathered in a whispering group round the pastor’s gate. The pastor was at the window, holding Philly, and beckoned them in.

“ Say 'Happy New Year,’ fellers,” whispered their leader, “ ’cause he dunno he’s awful sick, don’t you see ; an’ say it loud right through the winder, so he ’ll hear good.”

The boys crowded forward up the steps, hugging their packages awkwardly, and gazing awestricken at Philly’s white face behind the pane. One by one they laid their gifts on the sill, with quavering greeting, in sorrow and great awe. Little Tommy Dan, last and least of all, stood on tiptoe under the window, with bright greeting ready, and only said, —

“ G-good-by, Philly.”

Louise Lyndon Sibley.