Grandfather Crane Invokes the Aid of Sorcery

I

GRANDFATHER CRANE sat beside the kitchen fire. It. was a midsummer afternoon, but he was wrapped in a quilted double-gown of green and yellow chintz and wore a red bandanna handkerchief twisted about his head. His feet were encased in home-made moccasins of thick felt.

The walnut logs, piled high on the iron fire-dogs, blazed and sputtered merrily, filling the room with stifling heat. At one side of the fireplace a couple of eels hung from a stout hook driven in between the bricks. They were long, fat eels and, as they slowly roast ed, they exuded drops of oil which fell into a skillet placed on the hearth beneath them. Every now and then Grandfather Crane leaned forward in his high-backed chair and turned the eels about.

‘Hey, Ezry, what ye a-concoctin’ now ? ’

A man thrust his body half-way through a window at the side of the room. He was a short, stout, elderly man with a ruddy, good-natured face. He peered at the skillet curiously.

‘ I ’m a-tryin’ eel grease fer my j ’ints,’ Grandfather Crane replied, moving his chair so as to face his visitor. ‘I affairm I believe thet thar’s vartue in it, Simyun.’

Simeon Sims raised his eyebrows.

‘Land of Goshen, Ezry, I thought ye was rubbin’ yerself with turkle ile,’ he said. ‘Moses Spicer’s young ones told me, a spell ago, thet they was kitchin’ mud turkles fer ye by the dozen.’

‘They was, but I’ve gin the critters up,’ Grandfather rejoined. ‘The turkle is a cold-blooded animile, an’ I affairm his juices was n’t warmin’ enough fer sech knees ez mine. I’m dretful stiff an’I need suthin’ heatin’. I’ve jest begun ter try eels an’ I think they’re goin’ ter prove some ben’ficial.’

Mr. Sims removed his hat and fanned his face briskly.

‘By hicky, Ezry,’ he ejaculated, ‘ye’re hotter’n Apollyon’s brimstun porridge in thar. I dunno how Leander stan’s it arfter workin’ out in the sun all day. I dunno how ye stan’ it, yerself.’

‘I ain’t never warm,’ Grandfather answered. ‘I got a woolen weskit under this gownd. Ez fer Leander, he’s got ter stan’ it. I trained him ter respect the weakness of ole age. I never cal’lated ter let him ride over my head. I affairm I begun a-dis’plinin’ him when his payrents died an’ he come ter live with me.’

‘ Oh, of course Leander ’ll put up with all yer notions,’ Simeon responded. ‘But hain’t ye afraid there’ll be trouble when he gits married? Gran’darters-in-law ain’t jest like gran’sons. They’re liable ter up an’ change things round.’

‘I ain’t skeered of bein’ bothered by no gran’darters-in-law,’ Grandfather returned. ‘Leander is bound ter be a bachelder. He comes of stock thet runs ter bacheldcrs. Ye know yerself, Simyun, thet out of five brothers I was the only one thet did n’t stay single. Ez fur back ez I kin trace there’s alwuz ben a mess of bacheldcrs in our fambly. Whatever sot ye ter thinkin’ of Leander marryin’?’

‘Why, nothin’,’ answered Mr. Sims, ‘only thet I heered how he keeps agoin’ ter Freetown every week.’

‘A-goin’ ter Freetown!’ Grandfather repeated. ‘Why should n’t he go ter Freetown ? I ’ ve got wood-lots over thar an’ folks hez ben a-cuttin’ hoop-poles off’n ’em lately. Leander goes ter look arfter my propputty.’

Simeon whistled softly.

‘Wal, I s’pose ye know best, Ezry, but, ’cordin’ ter what I hear, he’s lookin’ arfter suthin’ besides timber when he’s over thar. He spares time from contemplatin’ trees an’ breshwood ter visit thet Weeden gal at Assonet Four Corners.’

Grandfather suddenly sat erect.

‘Weeden gal!’ he cried sharply. ‘What Weeden gal? I dunno nothin’ ’bout her. None of ole Jed Weeden’s stock is she?’

‘Jed Weeden’s gran’darter,’ Mr. Sims replied. ‘His son Rufe’s darter.’

For a moment Grandfather remained motionless. Then he raised his clenched hands high above his head.

‘He shan’t marry her!’ he shrilled. ‘ I won’t hev nary one of Jed Weeden’s breed in my fambly. ’T would be stoopin’! A wuthless tribe, all on ’em! Pore, an’ lazy, an’ shif’less! Leander hain’t a-goin’ ter throw himself an’ my money away on no sech folks!’

‘But r’port says this ’ere Lucreshy is ez smart ez the nex’ one,’ expostulated Simeon. ‘I ben told thet she kin turn off more work in a day than ary other woman in Freetown.’

‘I don’t keer nothin’ about what r’port says!' cried Grandfather. ‘She’s a Weeden an’ thet’s enough. She’d starve us ter death with pore victuals. Them Weedens never sot a decent table. They dunno what good fodder is. Ole Jed uster kitch skunks, in the fall, an’ salt ’em down an’ bile ’em with cabbage all winter fer his Sabbath-day dinners. Biled skunk hain’t fit ter eat, even when it hain’t corned. The right way ter cook a skunk is ter bake it. In my young days, we fellers uster hev skunk suppers at Swansea Village, an’ the skunks was alwuz baked. Ye can’t tell baked skunk from chicken. I hain’t a-goin’ ter let Leander git dyspepsy eatin’ of salt skunk meat. He shan’t marry her.'

Mr. Sims shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.

‘Lurdy, Ezry, I ’m sorry I mentioned the gal,’ he said. ‘I should n’t, only I kinder wondered ef ye knowed about her. I guess Leander won’t thank me fer pokin’ my finger inter his pie.’

‘I hain’t a fool, Simyun,’ Grandfather retorted with some asperity. ‘I hain’t a-goin’ ter let on ter Leander thet I’m knowin’ ter his doin’s. How long hez he ben a-sparkin’?’

‘Oh, not sech a tumble long spell,’ Mr. Sims answered. ‘I only heered of it larst week. Now I would n’t git all riled up ef I was you. Jest look at things ca’mly.’

‘Oh, I’ll be ca’m,’ said Grandfather. ‘Ca’m ez a hornet in winter. But I’ll keep up a devil of a thinkin’ all the time. I got considerble cog’tatin’ ter do in the nex’ few hours.’

Mr. Sims withdrew his body from the window.

‘Wal, I did n’t come over here jest ter peddle gossip,’ he rejoined. ‘ I come ter borry a scythe. There’s one in the barn. I kin hev it, I s’pose?’

‘Take ary thing ye need,’ assented Grandfather. ‘The hull kit an’ bilin’ of tools ef ye d’sire ’em. I’m mighty glad ye happened in ter-day. Forewarned is forearmed. Ef ye hear any more news let me know.’

‘Sartin,’ answered Simeon.

He nodded a farewell and trudged away in the direction of the barn.

As he disappeared from view, Grandfather pushed his chair back to the fireplace and sank into a brooding silence. For more than an hour he sat there, only moving once or twice to turn the eels mechanically. It was not until the clock struck five that he roused from his reverie, his face suddenly illumined.

‘Thet’s the thing ter do,’ he cried exultantly. ‘Why did n’t I think of Hitty Sharp before? There hain’t nothin’ airthly kin holp me! I’ve got ter git afoul of unairthly things ef I don’t want my ole age made misserblel’

II

At six o’clock Leander came into the house to prepare supper. He was a tall, stalwart young fellow, with a bronzed face that was pleasant to look at. He uttered an exclamation of surprise as he perceived that the tea-table was already set.

‘Why, Grandfather,’ he said, ‘you must be feeling more comfortable than you did this noon.’

‘I affairm I’ve ben ez chipper ez a brown thrasher all the arfternoon,’ Grandfather responded. ‘Thet doset of eel grease I applied last night hez limbered me up a considerble. Ye done with the hay, Leander?’

‘We got in the last load an hour ago,’ the young man answered.

’I’m glad on’t,’ returned Grandfather. ‘I want ye should go ter Ta’nton fer me ter-morrer. I’m goin’ ter put thet money I got fer thet ma’sh land at Touiset inter the bank thar. I hain’t a-goin’ ter d’posit any more money in the Prov’dence banks at present. It hain’t a good plan ter put all yer eggs in one basket, I don’t think. An’ I want ye should do some tradin’ fer me. I want some neckerchieves, an’ some pins, an’ some writin’ paper, an’ a mess of other things. I’ve got a list of ’em wrote down. An’ I want ye should stop in Dighton, on yer way hum, an’ call on Cousin David Jillson’s folks. I ben hevin’ some dreams ’bout ’em, lately, thet I don’t like. I kinder think some on ’em is ailin’.’

‘It ’ll be an all-day job,’ said Leander hesitatingly. ‘I was plannin’ to mend the stone wall of the Gate Meadow to-morrow.’

‘Thet wall kin wait awhile,’ Grandfather rejoined. ‘’T won’t do ye no harm ter take a leetle ja’nt, Leander. Ye’ve ben stickin’ ter work pretty clus all summer. I think ye look kinder peaked. An’ I be worried regardin’ them dreams. David Jillson is a-gittin’ on in years. He’s considerble older then I be.’

‘Oh, of course I’ll go,’ Leander said hastily. ‘Young Mose can do the chores, and I’ll get Augusta to help you indoors. You must n’t fret about your dreams, because —’

‘I don’t want Augusty Spicer in my kitchen,’ Grandfather interrupted. ‘She’s slower then a snail, an’ ez bunglin’ ez a beetle. Ye speak fer Ann Julianna. Ann Julianna is a faculized young one. I want her ez airly ez she kin come.’

After supper Leander walked down to the Spicer farm, returning with the welcome intelligence that Mrs. Spicer would be able to spare Ann Julianna at six o’clock on the morrow.

Promptly at the appointed hour the following morning, Ann Julianna made her appearance in the Crane kitchen. She was a tall, bony child of eleven, with an elderly face and a soldierly carriage. Immediately after hanging up her sunbonnet, she charged upon the breakfast table and, in an incredibly short time, had the dishes washed, wiped, and placed on parade in the closet. By eight o’clock every article in the house was under strict martial law, and Ann Julianna was seated on the porch steps grimly shelling beans as if she were moulding bullets.

In the meantime Leander had hitched the black colt, ‘Yankee Doodle,’ to the ancient, high-topped ‘shay,’rarely used except upon the Sabbath, and, arrayed in his ‘meetin’ clothes,’ now started forth on his journey. From the kitchen window Grandfather watched the venerable equipage until it disappeared from view. Then he summoned Ann Julianna from her task.

‘I want ye should go up ter Sims’s place an’ tell Simyun ter fetch his team here ez soon ez he kin,’ he said. ‘Tell him my need on’t is urgent. I’m obleeged ter make a journey.’

If Ann Julianna experienced surprise at this command from the invalid she evinced none. She sprang to her feet, saluted, wheeled about with a click of her heels, and stalked down the steps carrying her folded sunbonnet under her arm like a chapeau bras.

Grandfather chuckled softly.

‘I’ll outwit them two turkle-doves yit, ef I be an ole codger,’ he murmured.

Three quarters of an hour later Mr. Sims halted his ox-team at the gate of the Crane barnyard. Presently Grandfather came across the yard, followed by Ann Julianna bearing a kitchen chair. Grandfather wore a thick brown shawl pinned over his double-gown. His bandanna handkerchief, folded corner-wise, was tied beneath his chin and surmounted by an ancient hat of white wool.

Simeon mopped the perspiration from his forehead.

‘Cal’latin’ ter make a v’yage ter Greenland?’ he inquired jocosely.

‘I’ll tell ye where I’m goin’ arfter we git started,’ Grandfather returned. ‘Set thet cheer clus ter the cart, Ann Julianna. No, Simyun, I affairm I kin manage ter h’ist myself in without yer holp.’

‘Why Lurdy me, Ezry, I sh’d hope ye could,’ responded Mr. Sims. ‘Ye ain’t ole enough ter be holpless quite yit.’

Grandfather paused, one foot in the chair, the other in the cart.

‘Ain’t ole?’ he cried indignantly. ‘I guess ye don’t study yer Bible, Simyun. Thet tells ye thet the days of a man is three-score year an’ ten. How fur off be I from thet age? Ain’t I goin’ on sixty-nine? ’

‘Wal, wal, don’t less quarrel,’ said Simeon. ‘Ef ye want ter ’magine yer Methusaly’s twin brother I dunno ez I hev ary p’ticler objection.’

The invalid made no reply, but drew his other foot into the cart and seated himself upon the chair which Simeon lifted up to him. Dismissed by a wave of his hand, Ann Julianna again saluted and marched back to the house, where she at once commenced a deadly onslaught, with soft soap and a very stiff scrubbing-brush, upon the porch steps.

‘Wal, now thet thar female minuteman hez gone, mebbe ye’ll tell me where ye want ter travel,’ observed Mr. Sims.

‘I want ye should take me over ter Hitty Sharp’s house,’ said Grandfather. ‘I affairm, ef anybuddv kin break up Leander’s match, it’s Hitty.’

Mr. Sims surveyed his passenger with a dismayed countenance.

‘Hitty Sharp!’ he repeated. ‘Why, she’s one third Nigger, one third Injun, an’ t’other third devil. Ef ye want ter c’nsult a witch, why don’t ye go ter Rehoboth an see Poll Jinkins? Polly’s a white woman ef she does hev dealin’s with the Ole Harry.’

‘I ain’t goin’ a-nigh Poll Jinkins,’ Grandfather replied. ‘She ain’t wuth a bean ez a witch. When the Fiske boys quarreled ’bout the ole man’s will, Jerry hired Poll ter cuss ’Zekiel’s farm. But, Lurdy, she could n’t do it. Ev’ry bit of gardin truck thet ’Zekiel planted thet spring growed like pussley. Then Jerry went ter Hitty an’ she done the job fer him. Thar warn’t a durned thing on his hull place thet she did n’t spile ’cept his onions. But Hitty owned up thet thar hain’t no magic known powerful ’nough ter kill onions. I tell ye Hitty onderstan’s her business. She kin do anything.’

‘I know she kin,’ Simeon responded dubiously. ‘Ole Gineral Lyman, down ter Warren, asked her ’bout his brig, the Peggy an’ Sally, which was overdue a fortnit, bein’ she was becalmed in the horse lat’tudes. Hit tuk the figger of a bumble bee, an’ off she went ter sea, raisin’ a devil of a gale ter carry her along. Wal, the fust thing the crew of the Peggy an’ Sally seen, arfter the harricane struck ’em, was thet monstrous insec’ a-buzzin’ in the riggin’. They reckernized Hit, ter once, by the whites of her eyes. She liked ter hev shipwracked’ em with thet storm. When the brig got back ter Warren, Cap’n Hill tole the gineral thet he would n’t sail fer him onless he’d promise never ter send Hit humbuzzin’ ’round the Atlantic agin. Ef ye’ll hear ter me, Ezry, ye’ll keep clear of Hit Sharp. She’s a dangerous critter ter hev dealin’s with.’

‘Ye start them cattle up, Simyun,’ Grandfather said calmly. ‘I hain’t scart of Hitty. I know she’s a powerful sorc’ress, but thet’s the kind I need. Ef matches is made in heaven, it follers thet it takes considerble inflooence from the other place ter break ’em up. Start them cattle along.’

Mr. Sims, with visible unwillingness, cracked the long cowhide lash of his whip and the oxen, obedient to the signal, began to move slowly down the winding road. Grandfather settled back in his chair and surveyed the landscape. He had not ventured beyond the limits of his farm for three months.

It was a typical July morning. The leaves hung motionless on tree and shrub. Bees hummed drowsily among the wayside flowers. In the distance a solitary crow cawed discontentedly. The white road glared in the scorching sunlight, and little puffs of dust rose under the hoofs of the oxen. Grandfather drew his shawl more closely about him. He was afraid of taking cold.

Simeon trudged along, swinging his whip, and occasionally uttering an admonitory ‘Gee,’ or ‘Haw.’ The cart creaked and groaned as it lurched over the uneven ground. It was a rather lonely road, and the turnout attracted considerable attention as it passed the few farms situated upon it. Men at work in the hayfields paused and, leaning on their rakes, exclaimed, ‘I swan! Ef thar ain’t Gran’father Crane! ’ A round-eyed urchin, swinging on a gate, called excitedly to his mother, ‘Ma, Ma, Ole King Cole is a-goin’ by, settin’ on his throne an’ drawed by oxen!’

From the Crane farm at ‘Luther’s Corners’ to the home of Hitty Sharp at ‘King’s Rocks’ was a distance of several miles. It was past eleven o’clock when Simeon brought his beasts to a standstill before the humble cottage of the sorceress. Grandfather descended from the cart to the chair, and from the chair to the ground, and walked stiffly up the quahaug-shell-bordered path which led to the house door. As he reached the steps the witch appeared on the threshold.

She was a little, strange-looking old woman, with keen, beady eyes and a mysterious smile. She might have been seventy years old, but appeared scarcely less than a hundred, so wrinkled was her dusky face, so bent and withered her figure. She beckoned to her visitor with one claw-like hand.

‘I viewed ye in a dream last night,’ she said solemnly, ‘and so I know ye be in trouble. But fear not. I can give ye aid.’

‘I’m mighty glad ter hear ye say thet,’ Grandfather replied in a tone of relief, ‘fer I affairm, Hitty, I need yer holp the wuss kind.’

He nodded reassuringly to Simeon and entered the house, the witch carefully closing the door after him. Mr. Sims sat down beneath the shade of a spreading oak tree on the opposite side of the road. Presently a large black cat established himself on the cottage steps and fixed his great yellow eyes on the ox-team and its owner. Simeon grew nervous under the animal’s scrutiny.

‘Now I wonder ef he’s a-plottin’ deviltry,’ he muttered uneasily. ‘Lurd! I never seen sech a stuny stare. I b’lieve the critter knows thet I advised Ezry not ter c’nsult Hit.’

Mr. Sims tried to whistle carelessly and to become interested in the labors of a colony of black ants near by, but in vain. Like lodestones, the orbs of the cat drew his eyes away from other objects. For three quarters of an hour the man and the animal gazed at each other, the one sphinx-like and motionless, the other agitated and perspiring. Simeon was greatly relieved when, at last, Grandfather appeared in the doorway and the creature vanished around a corner of the house.

Grandfather bore a bottle in his hand. He shook it exultantly as he crossed the road.

‘Hey, Simyun,’ he cried. ‘I got the stuff now! This’ll stop the billin’ an’ cooin’.’

Mr. Sims looked suspiciously at the yellowish, transparent liquid with which the phial was filled.

‘What ’s it made of?’ he queried.

‘I dunno what it’s made of an’ I affairm I don’t keer,’ Grandfather replied. ‘It’s a philter ter make Leander hate, instid of love, thet hussy over ter Freetown. Seven drops in Leander’s coffee, three times a day, will do the job.’

‘Howd’ ye know’t won’t p’ison him? ’ Simeon questioned doubtfully.

‘P’ison be durned!’ Grandfather retorted impatiently. ‘Here, take a smell on’t.’

He drew out the stopper and placed the bottle under Mr. Sims’s nostrils. Simeon sniffed at it hesitatingly. Then he sniffed again.

‘Smells ter me like merlasses an’ water,’ he said.

‘There is merlasses in it ter kill the scent of the other ingrejents,’ Grandfather replied. ‘I s’pose likely there’s powdered toads, an’ nightshade, an sech stuff, but Hitty’s fixed it so’s it won’t kill. Now less be gittin’ hum. Ann Julianna’ll hev a conniption fit ef them beans gits cold.’

He clambered into the cart, and Simeon cracked his whip loudly. The oxen immediately started off at such a brisk pace that their owner had difficulty in keeping up with them. They were young animals, not fully accustomed to the yoke. Moreover they were hungry and realized that their faces were turned homeward. Presently they began to trot. Simeon followed as rapidly as his heavy boots would permit, but he was quickly outdistanced, and his loud shouts only served to increase the excitement of the pair. Grandfather clung wildly to the sides of the cart as it lurched and bounced. Far ahead, the road made a sudden turn. On and on dashed the oxen, and, as they plunged around the curve, the chair and its occupant were hurled violently to the ground.

When Simeon, panting and terrified, reached the scene of the disaster, he found Grandfather seated by the roadside. A comely, middle-aged woman and a fair-faced girl were bending over him. The woman was bathing his forehead with water, while the girl waved a fan of turkey feathers before his pale face. The oxen were nowhere visible.

‘I affairm I hain’t hurt a mite, Simyun,’ Grandfather exclaimed. ‘My gownd and shawl bruk the force of the fall. Whar them confounded critters be, I dunno.’

‘It’s nothin’ less then a merricle,’ declared the woman. ‘ ’T was his age saved him, I’m shore. Ef he’d ben an ole man he’d likely hev broke suthin’. Ole folks’ bones is so brittle.’

‘H’m,’ said Grandfather. ‘How be we a-goin’ ter git hum?’

‘You kin borry our hoss an’ wagon,’ the woman returned. ‘Esther will hitch it right up. We live in thet house down yander.’

The girl dropped the fan and started off in the direction of the house indicated. Mr. Sims followed her. He was anxious to discover the whereabouts of his team. When he and Esther returned with the wagon, they found Grandfather regaling himself with a generous plate of apple turnovers and cheese. Another plate awaited Simeon, but he was too greatly agitated to feel hunger.

‘I’m shore I can’t tell how much obleeged ter ye we be,’ Mis’ Clapp,’ Grandfather said as he climbed into the wagon. ‘I’ll send back yer team jest ez soon’s possible. I shan’t fergit what good S’maritans ye an’ yer darter be.’

He looked back with a farewell smile as Simeon gathered up the reins and clucked to the ancient sorrel horse.

‘Who be they?’ inquired Mr. Sims. ‘I heerd thet some women hed took the ole Dorman place.’

‘She’s a widder from Tiverton,’ Grandfather answered, ‘an’ thet gal is her only child. Hiram Greene is a-runnin’ the farm fer her on shares.’

‘The gal’s a mighty pooty little creetur,’ observed Simeon.

‘H’m,’ returned Grandfather. ‘I affairm the mother must a-ben some considerble harnsomer in her young days. A mighty pleasant-spoken, sensible woman.’

‘Wal, she did n’t take ye fer none of Methusaly’s kin,’ said Simeon dryly.

Grandfather made no reply to this remark, and Mr. Sims’s thoughts reverted to his team.

‘I swow I b’lieve thet cat of Hit’s bewitched them cattle,’ he suddenly exclaimed. ‘He sot an’ eyed ’em all the time you was parleyin’ with her. I bet she sent him ter punish me fer talkin’ agin her ter you.’

‘Like ez not she did,’ Grandfather assented. ‘Injun blood is revengeful. But don’t ye fret none. Ef ye s’tain ary loss on my account, I’ll make things right. I affairm I’d ruther spend my larst dollar then hev Leander git spliced ter a Weeden.’

Mr. Sims’s gloomy anticipations were, however, not destined to be realized. As he drove the sorrel horse into the Crane barnyard, Ann Julianna appeared, a stout cudgel, borne musketwise, across her shoulder.

‘They’re down in the lane,’ she said to Simeon. ‘By the time they got here they was sorter tuckered out, so I headed of ’em off.’

‘Is the cart broke?’ Simeon asked anxiously.

‘’T ain’t hurt a mite,’ Ann Julianna responded.

‘Wal, I snummy!’ Simeon ejaculated. ‘Lurd!’ he said to Grandfather, as Ann Julianna withdrew, ‘ thet young one is more than a match fer Hit Sharp. The idee of her tacklin’ a pair of crazy cattle!’

‘Ann Julianna is sartainly faculized,’ Grandfather responded.

After Mr. Sims had departed with his now docile team, Grandfather and his assistant had dinner. Ann Julianna ate like a true soldier, preferring a tin cup and plate to china ware. She swallowed her food hastily, as if she expected to be ordered to strike camp and march at any moment.

‘I’m a-goin’ ter do the dishes,’ Grandfather announced when the meal was ended. ‘I want ye should drive thet rig back ter Mis’ Clapp’s. Ye kin hitch ole Whitey ter the waggin an’ ride hum on her. An’, now I think on’t, I ruther guess we’d better not mention my journey ter Leander. He’s liable ter worry ef he thinks I’m ja’ntin’ ’bout, gittin’ throwed outer teams, when his back is turned. An’, Ann Julianna, ye kin carry a mess of rozbrys along with ye. Thar ain’t nary rozbry bush on the Dorman place. An’ be sure an’ give my compliments ter Mis’ Clapp.’

Ann Julianna, who had stood at attention w’hile her commanding officer was speaking, now said abruptly, ‘Husband’s ben dead a year. Drinked himself to death. Folks says he was a good reddance.’ Then, selecting a basket from a number hanging on the kitchen wall, she marched off to execute the commissions entrusted to her.

Grandfather began to clear the table. Suddenly he paused before a lookingglass that hung above the dresser. For some moments he surveyed critically the reflection of his face.

‘Wal, I dunno ez I do look my full age,’ he murmured as he turned away. ‘I’ve got my front uppers and unders, an’ e’en a’most the hull of my ha’r. I b’lieve the widder did take me fer a youngish sort of spark.’

Leander returned home late in the afternoon, bringing various purchases, and, also, news of cheer from Dighton. David Jillson was hale and hearty, and all the members of his family were enjoying the best of health.

‘I declare, Grandfather, I believe it does you good to have me out of the way once in a while,’ the young man said smilingly. ‘You look twenty years younger than you did this morning.’

‘Eel grease! Eel grease!’ Grandfather returned. ‘I hain’t shore thet I shan’t git ter be ez spry ez ever I was ef I keep on usin’ of it. I affairm I might hev an’inted myself with turkle ile a year an’ not got a quarter ez limber ez I be arfter tryin’ eels these two days.’

III

A fortnight elapsed ere Mr. Sims again visited the Crane farm. Various things conspired to detain him at home. First his hired man was taken ill, next some relatives from ‘down east’ paid him an unexpected visit, then he was obliged to shingle his hen-house. When at last, one warm afternoon, he looked in at the door of Grandfather’s kitchen, he could scarcely believe the evidence of his own senses.

No fire blazed on the ample hearth. Grandfather’s armchair was drawn up beside an open window, and Grandfather, in his shirt-sleeves, was softly whistling ‘Money Musk’ as he sat busily engaged in sorting gayly colored pins into little piles on the window-seat.

‘Wal, dance my buttons! ’ ejaculated Simeon. He leaned against the door jamb overpowered by the spectacle before him.

Grandfather looked up.

‘Hullo, Simyun,’ he exclaimed cheerfully. ‘I begun ter think thet Hitty’s cat hed kerried ye off ter the infarnal rejins.’

‘What on airth be ye doin’?’ Simeon inquired. ‘Goin’ ter sot up ez a tailor?’

‘I’m goin’ ter fix a lemon fer luck,’ Grandfather answered. ‘My gran’mother alwuz uster keep a lemon stuck full of colored pins ter fetch her good luck. I affairm it’s handy ter hev one on ’em in the house.’

Why, ain’t thet charm workin’?’ inquired Mr. Sims.

‘Oh, Lurdy, yes,’ Grandfather replied. ‘Jest like a merricle. I hed n’t gin Leander but three dosetins afore he up an’ said thet he was n’t goin’ ter Freetown no more. Said he’d made ’rangements ter hev Tim’thy Lake, over thar, notify him ef them thieves cut down any more hoop-poles. I told ye Hitty’d fix things fer me.’

Mr. Sims opened his mouth and then suddenly closed it. Again he opened it, only to close it once more.

Grandfather surveyed his visitor’s strange facial contortions with surprise not unmingled with impatience.

‘What be ye champin’ yer teeth that-a-way fer?’ he demanded. ‘I affairm I should think thet I was a mushrat an’ yer jaws was a trap a-tryin’ ter kitch me. Hev ye got a jumpin’ milltooth?’

‘My teeth is all right,’ Simeon returned in some embarrassment. ‘ I was goin’ ter r’mark thet ye don’t seem ter be any wuss fer yer upset.’

‘Me wuss?’ Grandfather chortled blithely. ‘I’m a durned sight better’n I’ve ben in twenty years. Eel grease, eel grease, Simyun! It’s a-makin’ of me young agin.’

‘I’m glad ’t is,’ said Mr. Sims. He turned abruptly. ‘Wal, good day, Ezry. I’m on my way ter the blacksmith’s shop. Thought I’d stop an’ see how ye was farin’.’ Not waiting for a reply, he walked quickly away.

Grandfather shook his head as he looked after him.

‘Should n’t wonder ef he’d hed a slight sunstroke,’ he murmured. ‘ Never knowed him ter act so durned narvous afore. Whar in tarnation is Ann Julianna? She’s an almighty long time makin’ the trip ter-day.’

Mr. Sims, after his hasty departure, did not return to the highway by which he had reached the Crane farm; but, passing through the barnyard, struck into a ‘cross-lot’ path which led him over a couple of meadows to a tract of woodland. As he reached the edge of this tract, he heard the sound of voices and, peering through the underbrush, beheld Leander and Ann Julianna standing side by side beneath a clump of pine trees.

Simeon was about to continue on his way when Ann Julianna discharged a volley of statements which, piercing his comprehension, held him transfixed with amazement.

‘I jest come from Mis’ Clapp’s,’ said Ann Julianna. ‘Iverried her yer gran’father’s best snuff-box. The one with Gin’ral Washin’ton’s picter on the kiver. Thet box was full of love-snuff. I got it, yisterdy, from Hitty Sharp fer him. Could n’t git a chance ter tell ye ’bout it las’ night.’

Leander bent forward eagerly.

‘Did she accept it, Ann Julianna?’ he demanded.

Ann Julianna gave a sniff that sounded like the snap of a trigger.

‘Accept it? I ruther guess she did! Took a pinch of it ter once. She knowed what ’t was well ’nough. Any woman, ’specially a widder woman, knows thet when a man gives her snuff it’s gin’rally love-snuff.’

Leander knitted his brow thoughtfully.

‘ He probably won’t pop the question till he thinks the snuff has had time to work,’ he said.

‘Hitty allowed’t would take a week ter git. from the head ter the heart,’ rejoined Ann Julianna. ‘But bless yer stars, Leander, Mis’ Clapp don’t need no witch-work ter make her fancy yer gran’father. She’s ben ready ter marry him ever sence them cattle dumped him an’ his kitchen cheer head over heels at her feet. Ter-morrer I’ve got ter go ter Hitty agin. This time it’s fer a charm ter make ye fall in love with Esther. Yer gran’father’s sot on hevin’ her fer a step-darter an’ a gran’darter-in-law, too.’

Leander gazed at his companion in astonishment. Then he burst into a peal of hearty laughter.

‘Sh-h,’ cautioned Ann Julianna. ’I ’ve ben gone a long time an’, like ez not, he’s out lookin’ fer me. I better go now.’

As she spoke she began to creep cautiously along a narrow foot path, peering through the bushes with the wary eyes of a scout. Leander smothered his mirth and, shouldering an axe that lay on the ground, strode away in an opposite direction.

Mr. Sims sank down on a fallen tree trunk.

‘ I knowed it! ’ he exclaimed hoarsely. ‘I knowed thet ef Ezry hed ary dealin’s with Hit Sharp she’d cut him a caper. I warned him, but he wouldn’t hear ter me a secont. Massiful George! Ter think of him a-plannin’ ter marry Mis’ Clapp. Eel grease! Sweet ile of widder’s tongue is t he name of the rem’dy thet’s made him young agin.’

He drew a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the beads of perspiration from his forehead.

‘What’d I oughter do?’ he ruminated anxiously. ‘ I come nigh a-tellin’ ter-day, an’ I should ef I hed n’t ben afeered Hit an’ her cat might do me a harm. When I thought how mad they’d be, my tongue cluv ter the ruff of my mouth. An’ yit, here’s Ezry astannin’ right afoul of a turrible dangerous pit, an’ there don’t seem ter be nobuddy ter yank him off’n the aidge but me. I dunno what I be a-goin’ ter do.’

He rose heavily to his feet and again plodded on his way.

During the following week Simeon Sims was a very unhappy man. His appetite deserted him and sleep refused to visit his pillow. Mrs. Sims, considering that he had ‘a tech of hypochondry,’ brewed various doses of ’arb drink,’ all of which he swallowed uncomplainingly, for not even to his wife could he unburden his tortured soul. But a reaction came, at last, as it usually does come. On the sixth morning, after a restless, nightmare-haunted night, he arose, pale and haggard, but with the exalted look of a hero on his face.

‘I’m a-goin’ ter tell him,’ he exclaimed. ' ’T ain’t neighborly, ner Christianlike, ter keep silunt. An’, ef Hit injures me, I got ter stan’ it like ary other martyr.’

Leander had just started down the road to pasture the cows when Simeon reached the Crane barnyard. Long before he opened the gate he was startled by the deep bass tones of Grandfather’s voice as they boomed melodiously upon the still summer air.

' Ef a buddy meet a buddy
A-comin’ thr-rough the rye,
Ef a buddy kiss a buddy
Need a buddy cr-ry ? ’

‘Gosh all hemlock!’ murmured Simeon, ‘I’m afeered I’m too late.’

‘ Ev’ry lassie hez her laddie,
Nane, they say, hev — ’

The ballad ceased suddenly as the spectre-like face of his visitor appeared before Grandfather’s vision.

‘Cricky!’ cried the startled singer. ‘What’s the matter? Is your barn burnt down?’

Mr. Sims walked into the kitchen.

‘Ezry,’he said solemnly,‘I think it’s my duty ter tell ye suthin’ thet hez laid like a stun on my mind ever sence I heered it. I tried ter tell ye las’ week, but I was helt back from doin’ it. Yer tryin’ ter spark the Widder Clapp. Wal, the Widder Clapp is ole Jed Weeden’s youngest darter. She come here from Tiverton because she married a Tiverton man. An’ her darter Esther is the gal thet Leander’s ben a-wantin’ all along. Folks said he was arfter Rufe Weeden’s darter Lucreshy, but they was mistaken. He was runnin’ over ter Freetown ter see this Esther who was visitin’ Lucreshy. I proph’sied thet Hit Sharp would work more evil than good on ye, an’ my proph’cy hez come true.’

Grandfather began to beat up some batter in a bowl that stood on the table.

‘ Much obleeged ter ye, Simyun, I’m shore,’ he replied, ‘ but I knowed all this before.’

Simeon sat down in a chair suddenly.

‘Knowed all this before!’ he repeated. ‘Knowed all this before!’

‘Sartin,’ said Grandfather calmly. ‘Esther come an’ told me four or five days ago. A mighty nice gran’darterin-law I affairm she’ll make. She see thet me an’ her ma was kinder carstin’ sheep’s eyes ter one another, an’ she knowed, from Leander, thet I did n’t favior the Weedens none. Leander knowed I never had no opinion of ole Jed So she come over ter see me, on the sly, an’ up an’ out with the hull story. Would n’t practice no deceit even ter kitch Leander.’

Simeon rubbed his bewildered eyes.

‘An’ yer a-goin’ ter marry Jed Weeden’s darter?’ he cried.

‘I be,’ Grandfather answered, stirring the batter briskly.

Mr. Sims groaned.

‘Ezry, yer bewitched,’ he said huskily. ’Hit Sharp hez d’luded ye with magic. Bimeby ye’ll be b’wailin’ ter me thet she’s made a fool of ye.’

‘I’ll resk it,’ Grandfather responded. ‘Clarissy — thet’s Mis’ Clapp, Mis’ Crane thet is ter be — is ez fine a woman ez ye’ll find in all Bristol County, or out on’t. We’re goin’ ter hev a double weddin’, an’ I want ye should come, bein’ ez ye hed a hand in makin’ the match.’

Mr. Sims made a final effort to break the spell which he was convinced surrounded his friend.

‘Ezry,’ he said, ‘what be ye a-goin’ ter do ef yer wife should set out ter bile corned skunk?’

‘Taste on’t an’ see how I like it,’ Grandfather returned promptly. ‘Clarissy says she thinks I’ll relish it. Ann Julianna et some, once, an’ she admired it.’

Simeon’s righteous wrath burst forth.

‘It’s a true sayin’ thet thar ain’t no fool like an ole fool,’ he exclaimed, springing from his chair. ‘Hit, an’ Leander, an’ thet Ann Julianna hev all on ’em manoovered ye jest ez they wanted ter. Thet thar Ann Julianna is ez desateful a little critter ez ever I run acrost. Ye think she’s ben a-workin’ in yer in’trust, but I kin tell ye thet she was a-holpin’ Leander along all she could.’

Grandfather chuckled.

‘Ann Julianna is the most faculized young one thet I ever see,’ he answered. ‘I wisht I could send her over ter Europe ter tackle ole Bonnyparty. I ruther guess thet she’d out-gin’ral him. Ye don’t onderstand her gifts. An’, ez fer Hitty, ef she hain’t fetched me good luck I dunno what —’

‘I’m a-goin’ hum,’ interrupted Simeon grimly, ‘an’ the nex’ time thet I mix er meddle in ary ole wid’wer’s love messes ye jest lemme know it. I’m done with ’em.’

Grandfather followed him to the door.

‘I affairm, Simyun,’ he said, ‘thet’s the most sensible idee thet I’ve heerd ye advance this mornin’. Wal, goodbye. The weddin’ is sot fer the fust day of October.’