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Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, 1836-1907 [1874], Prudence Palfrey: a novel. (James R. Osgood and Company, Boston) [word count] [eaf450T].
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II. A Parson of the Old School.

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Ever since the death of his wife, some
twenty-five years previous to the events I
am relating, Parson Hawkins had lived in the
small house at the foot of Horseshoe Lane.
The house stood in the middle of a garden
under the shadow of two towering elms, and
was so covered by a network of vines, honeysuckle
and Virginia creeper, that the oddities
of its architecture were not distinetly visible
from the street. Though the cottage was not
built by the parson, its interior arrangements
were as eccentric and inconvenient as if he
had designed it. It consisted of three or four
one-story Ls which had apparently been added
to the main building at various periods, according
to the whim or exigency of the occupant.
At the right of the hall, which paused abruptly
and went up stairs, so to speak, was the

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parson's study; opening from this was a smaller
chamber, the sanctum sanctorum, lined to the
ceiling with theological works; and beyond
this again, though not communicating with it,
was the room where the parson slept. At the
left of the hall was the parlor, redolent of mahogany
furniture and the branches of pungent
spruce which choked the wide chimney-place
summer and winter, for the parlor was seldom
used. Then came the dining-room, and next
to that the kitchen. Leading from the former
were two sleeping-chambers, one occupied by
Salome Pinder, the parson's housekeeper. The
second story of the main building had been
left unfinished on the inside. Viewed from
the garden gate, the zigzag roofs, touched here
and there with patches of purple and gold
moss, presented the appearance of a collection
of military cocked-hats.

It was altogether a grotesque, ruinous, tumbledown
place, and people wondered why Parson
Hawkins should have given up his stately
house on Pleasant Street and moved to Horseshoe
Lane, and why he remained there. But
Salome Pinder understood it.

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“The parson, you see,” said Salome, “is
gittin' a leetle near in his old age. He 'pears
to git nearer an' nearer ev'ry year. When
Miss Hawkins was alive, why, bless you! there
was n't nothin' too handsum nor expensive for
her, an' I won't say she was over an' above
grateful, for she was n't; but she 's dead, the
poor creeter, an' the best of us lack more 'n
wings to be angils. The day after the funeral
the parson says, `S'lome,' says he, `we 'll
move into the cottage, it 's quite good enough
for me.' `Nothin' 's too good for you, Parson
Wibird,' says I. But he did n't feel content
in the great house, an' it was sort o' lonely;
so move we did, to the disapp'intment of
some,—I don't mention no names,—who
thought that mebbe the parson would invite'
em up to Pleasant Street permanent. P'rhaps
the Widder Mugridge was the most disapp'inted.
But, Lord love you, the parson ain't
one of them that is always runnin' after wimmin
folks. He 's ben married onst.”

That was very true, and that Parson Hawkins's
matrimonial venture was not altogether
of an encouraging complexion seems likely;

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for he declined to repeat the experiment. For
several years after the translation of Mrs.
Hawkins, the parish supposed he would take
another helpmeet, and, in fact, more than one
seductive cap had been sedately set for him;
but the parson had shown himself strangely
obtuse. He was not an old man at that time,
but he loved quiet, and perhaps his life had
not been too tranquil under Mrs. Hawkins's
reign. Besides, as Salome said, the parson
was becoming a little near, not in a general
way, but in his personal expenses. The poor
knew how broad and practical his charity was.
His closeness manifested itself only in matters
pertaining to his own comfort. He seemed to
regard himself as an unworthy and designing
person, who was obtaining food and clothes
under false pretences from Parson Hawkins.

These economical tendencies had flowered out
occasionally in his wife's time, but had been
promptly taken up by the roots. Whenever
his coat showed signs of wear or his hat became
a trifle dilapidated, Mrs. Hawkins had
made him buy a new one. It was whispered
in and out of the parish that once, when the

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parson protested against replenishing his wardrobe,
Mrs. Hawkins, who appears to have been
a person of considerable executive ability, settled
the question by putting the parson's best
waistcoat on the kitchen fire. I do not vouch
for the truth of the story, for, though nothing
occurs in Rivermouth without being known, a
great many things are known there that never
occur at all.

This may have been one of them; but it is
certain that after Parson Hawkins took up his
abode in the small house he neglected himself
frightfully. His linen was always scrupulously
neat and fresh, for Salome saw to that; but
he wore his coats until the seams stood out
pathetically, like the bones of the late Mr.
Jamison, the Living Skeleton, who used to
travel with Van Amburgh's circus, and must
have given Death very little trouble to make a
ghost of him. Of course Salome could not
put the old gentleman's coats into the kitchen
stove when they became shabby. The parson's
thriftiness increased with his years, and no
doubt sorely cramped Salome, who had a New
England housewife's appreciation of bountiful

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living, and to whom a riotous number of mincepies
was a necessity at Thanksgiving. She
uttered no complaint, however, and was quick
to resent any reflection on her master's domestic

“We could live on the fat of the land if we
wanted to,” said Salome to Mrs. Waldron, who
had dropped in of an afternoon to gossip.
“The parson he's a rich man as time goes,
an' the pore oughter be thankful for it. He
feeds the widder an' the fatherless, instead of
a-stuffin' hisself.”

“I wanter know, now!”

Salome's homely statement was strictly accurate.
However severe the internal economy
at the small house in Horseshoe Lane, the
poor were not scrimped. The Widow Pepperell
had her winter fuel regularly; and the two
Clemmer boys, whose father had leaned against
a circular saw in the Miantonomoh Mills, knew
precisely where their winter jackets were coming
from. Even wayside tramps—there were
no professional mendicants in Rivermouth—
halted instinctively at the modest white gate.
Doubtless the parson helped many a

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transparent impostor on his winding way. There was
a certain yellow dog that used to walk lame
up to the scullery door for a bone, and then
run away with it very nimbly on four legs.
Sandy Marden's Skye-terrier was likely enough
only a fair type of many that shared the parson's

He had been a prosperous man. When he
first came to Rivermouth he purchased a lot
of land at the west end of the town, as a pasture
for a horse which he neglected or forgot
to buy. The “minister's pasture” became a
standing joke. It turned out a very excellent
joke in the end. Several times he was tempted
to sell the land for less than he gave for it;
but it had cost him little, and he thought that
perhaps it might be worth something more by
and by; so he held on to it. As the town
grew, fashion drifted in that direction. Then
Captain Pendexter put up his haughty Gothic
mansion at the head of Anchor Street. That
settled the business. A colony of French-roof
houses sprang up as if by magic along Josselyn
Avenue, and the “minister's pasture”
was about as valuable a piece of property as

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there was in Rivermouth. So it came to pass
that Parson Hawkins was a moderately rich
man. The people thought the parson was
pretty shrewd, when perhaps he was only pretty
lucky: if he had been shrewd he would have
sold the land long before it was worth anything.
Another speculation he entered into at
this time was not so successful. If the local
tradition is correct, Colonel Trueworthy Dennett's
daughter Dorcas got the best of that

But for many years now the parson's lines
had fallen in pleasant places. The tumult and
jar of life never reached him among his books
in the seven-by-nine library in Horseshoe Lane.
The fateful waves of time and chance that beat
about the world surged and broke far away
from the little garden with its bright row of
sentinel hollyhocks and its annual encampments
of marigolds and nasturtiums. To be
sure he had had, four or five years before this
chronicle opens, what he regarded as a grievous
affliction. The parish, contrary to his
wishes, had removed the old pine-wood pulpit
and replaced it with an ornate new-fangled

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black-walnut affair thick with grotesque carvings
like a heathen idol. The old pulpit was
hallowed by a hundred associations; it had
been built in King George's time; eminent
divines whose names are fresh in our colonial
history had stood under that antiquated sounding-board;
but, after all, what did it matter
to him whether he expounded the Seriptures
from pine or black-walnut, so long as he was
permitted to teach his children the way and
the life? His annoyance was but transient, and
he came to look upon it as a vanity and vexation
of spirit on his part. But now a real
trouble had come to him.

While the two deacons were engaged with
the parson in the study that May afternoon,
Salome Pinder moved about the hall and the
dining-room with strange restlessness. Few
things went on in the cottage without her cognizance.
Not that Salome was given to eavesdropping;
but the rooms were contracted, the
partitions thin, and words spoken in even the
usual conversational tone had a trick of repeating
themselves in the adjacent apartments.
The study door was ajar, and Salome could

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scarcely help catching scraps of the dialogue
from time to time.

Long before the deacons took their departure
she knew very well what had happened.
In fact, when she saw Deacon Twombly and
Deacon Wendell coming up the garden walk,
she felt their visit to be ominous. Salome
knew of the dissatisfaction that had been
brewing in the parish for months past. That
Parson Hawkins never dreamed of it shows
how unfitted he was to serve longer. The appearance
of the executioners, with warrant and
bow-string, was the first intimation he had of
his downfall.

Salome was appalled by what had taken
place, though in a degree prepared for it. She
was so flustered that she neglected to open the
front door for the retreating deacons, but left
them, as the parson had done, to find their
way out as best they might.

It was some time before she could gather
strength to cross the hall and look into the
study. The parson was not there; he was in
the little inner room, and the door was locked.
Salome tried the latch and spoke to him

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several times without getting a reply. Then the
parson told her gently to go away, he was engaged,
he would talk with her presently. But
Salome did not go away; she sunk into a chair
and sat there with her hands folded listlessly
in her lap, — a more abject figure, perhaps,
than the old parson on the other side of the

The scent of the lilacs blew in at the open
window, and the leaves of the vines trailing
over the casement outside made wavering silhouettes
on the uncarpeted floor of the study.
The robins sang full-throated in the garden, as
if there were no such thing in the world as
care. Salome listened and wondered vaguely
at their merriment.

The afternoon sunlight slipped from the
eaves and the shadows deepend under the
great elms. The phantom leaves at Salome's
feet had vanished; the songs of the robins had
died away to faint and intermittent twitterings,
and the early twilight crept into the
study. Now and then she fancied she heard
the parson moving in the little room; he
seemed to be walking to and fro at intervals,

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like some poor caged animal. She could not

It was nearly dark when the garden gate
swung to with a sharp click, and a quick, light
footstep sounded on the gravel-walk. Salome
rose hastily from the chair, and reached the
street-door just as some one stepped upon the

It was a girl of nineteen or twenty, but
looking younger with her hair blown about her
brows by the fresh May wind. She held in
one hand a chip-straw hat which had slipped
from its place, and with the other was pushing
back an enviable mass of brown hair, showing a
serious, pale face, a little flushed at the cheeks
with walking. It was a face which, passing it
heedlessly in the street, you would be likely
to retain in your memory unconsciously. The
wide gray eyes, capable of great tenderness
and great haughtiness, would come back to
you vividly, maybe, years afterwards. The girl
was not a beauty in the ordinary sense, but
she had what some one has described as a
haunting face. Who has not caught a chance
expression on some face in a crowd,—a

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lifting of the eye, a turn of the lip, an instantaneous
revelation of strength or weakness,—
and never forgotten it? I have a fancy, which
I do not thrust upon the reader, that the person
who casts this spell on us would exert a
marked influence over our destiny if circumstance
brought us in contact with him or her.
He or she would be our good angel or our
evil star.

As the girl stood there now on the porch,
she looked little enough like playing the part
of a Fate. With her heavy hair blown in
clouds over her eyes, she looked rather like a
Shetland pony.

“O Miss Prue! is that you, honey?” cried
Salome. “Do jest step in an' speak to the
parson; he 's in a peck of trouble.”

“I was afraid so, Salome. Where is he?”
asked the girl, pushing open the door of the
study and seeing it unoccupied.

“He 's locked hisself in the sanctrum,”
whispered Salome.

“Locked himself in?”

“Yes, an' there he 's ben ever sence them
plaguey deacons went away, more 'n two hours.”

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“Maybe he will not care to see me just
now, Salome?”

“Mebbe,—dunno; but do jest speak a word
to him.”

“If you think I had better?”

“I do, honey.”

“How strange,—to lock himself in!”

Then Prudence Palfrey crossed the study,
and tapped softly on the panel of the inner

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Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, 1836-1907 [1874], Prudence Palfrey: a novel. (James R. Osgood and Company, Boston) [word count] [eaf450T].
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