"Aunt Lois," said I, "what was that story about Ruth Sullivan?"
Aunt Lois′s quick black eyes gave a surprised flash; and she and my grandmother looked at each other a minute significantly. "Who told you any thing about Ruth Sullivan," she said sharply.
"Nobody. Somebody said _you_ knew something about her," said I.
I was holding a skein of yarn for Aunt Lois; and she went on winding in silence, putting the ball through loops and tangled places.
"Little boys shouldn′t ask questions," she concluded at last sententiously. "Little boys that ask too many questions get sent to bed."
I knew that of old, and rather wondered at my own hardihood.
Aunt Lois wound on in silence; but, looking in her face, I could see plainly that I had started an exciting topic.
"I should think," pursued my grandmother in her corner, "that Ruth′s case might show you, Lois, that a good many things may happen,—more than you believe."
"Oh, well, mother! Ruth′s was a strange case; but I suppose there are ways of accounting for it."
"You believed Ruth, didn′t you?"
"Oh, certainly, I believed Ruth! Why shouldn′t I? Ruth was one of my best friends, and as true a girl as lives: there wasn′t any nonsense about Ruth. She was one of the sort," said Aunt Lois reflectively, "that I′d as soon trust as myself: when she said a thing was so and so, I knew it was so."
"Then, if you think Ruth′s story was true," pursued my grandmother, "what′s the reason you are always cavilling at things just ′cause you can′t understand how they came to be so?"
Aunt Lois set her lips firmly, and wound with grim resolve. She was the very impersonation of that obstinate rationalism that grew up at the New-England fireside, close alongside of the most undoubting faith in the supernatural.
"I don′t believe such things," at last she snapped out, "and I don′t disbelieve them. I just let ′em alone. What do I know about ′em? Ruth tells me a story; and I believe her. I know what she saw beforehand, came true in a most remarkable way. Well, I′m sure I′ve no objection. One thing may be true, or another, for all me; but, just because I believe Ruth Sullivan, I′m not going to believe, right and left, all the stories in Cotton Mather, and all that anybody can hawk up to tell. Not I."
This whole conversation made me all the more curious to get at the story thus dimly indicated; and so we beset Sam for information.
"So your Aunt Lois wouldn′t tell ye nothin′," said Sam. "Wanter know, neow! sho!"
"No: she said we must go to bed if we asked her."
"That ′are′s a way folks has; but, ye see, boys," said Sam, while a droll confidential expression crossed the lack-lustre dolefulness of his visage, "ye see, I put ye up to it, ′cause Miss Lois is so large and commandin′ in her ways, and so kind o′ up and down in all her doin′s, that I like once and a while to sort o′ gravel her; and I knowed enough to know that that ′are question would git her in a tight place.
"Ye see, yer Aunt Lois was knowin′ to all this ′ere about Ruth, so there wer′n′t no gettin′ away from it; and it′s about as remarkable a providence as any o′ them of Mister Cotton Marther′s ′Magnilly.′ So if you′ll come up in the barn-chamber this arternoon, where I′ve got a lot o′ flax to hatchel out, I′ll tell ye all about it."
So that afternoon beheld Sam arranged at full length on a pile of top-tow in the barn-chamber, hatchelling by proxy by putting Harry and myself to the service.
"Wal, now, boys, it′s kind o′ refreshing to see how wal ye take hold," he observed. "Nothin′ like bein′ industrious while ye′r young: gret sight better now than loafin off, down in them medders.
"′In books and work and useful play
Let my fust years be past:
So shall I give for every day
Some good account at last.′"
"But, Sam, if we work for you, you must tell us that story about Ruth Sullivan."
"Lordy massy! yis,—course I will. I′ve had the best kind o′ chances of knowin′ all about that ′are. Wal, you see there was old Gineral Sullivan, he lived in state and grande′r in the old Sullivan house out to Roxberry. I been to Roxberry, and seen that ′are house o′ Gineral Sullivan′s. There was one time that I was a consid′able spell lookin′ round in Roxberry, a kind o′ seein′ how things wuz there, and whether or no there mightn′t be some sort o′ providential openin′ or suthin′. I used to stay with Aunt Polly Ginger. She was sister to Mehitable Ginger, Gineral Sullivan′s housekeeper, and hed the in and out o′ the Sullivan house, and kind o′ kept the run o′ how things went and came in it. Polly she was a kind o′ cousin o′ my mother′s, and allers glad to see me. Fact was, I was putty handy round house; and she used to save up her broken things and sich till I come round in the fall; and then I′d mend ′em up, and put the clock right, and split her up a lot o′ kindlings, and board up the cellar-windows, and kind o′ make her sort o′ comfortable,—she bein′ a lone body, and no man round. As I said, it was sort o′ convenient to hev me; and so I jest got the run o′ things in the Sullivan house pretty much as ef I was one on ′em, Gineral Sullivan he kept a grand house, I tell you. You see, he cum from the old country, and felt sort o′ lordly and grand; and they used to hev the gretest kind o′ doin′s there to the Sullivan house. Ye ought ter a seen that ′are house,—gret big front hall and gret wide stairs; none o′ your steep kind that breaks a feller′s neck to get up and down, but gret broad stairs with easy risers, so they used to say you could a cantered a pony up that ′are stairway easy as not. Then there was gret wide rooms, and sofys, and curtains, and gret curtained bedsteads that looked sort o′ like fortifications, and pictur′s that was got in Italy and Rome and all them ′are heathen places. Ye see, the Gineral was a drefful worldly old critter, and was all for the pomps and the vanities. Lordy massy! I wonder what the poor old critter thinks about it all now, when his body′s all gone to dust and ashes in the graveyard, and his soul′s gone to ′tarnity! Wal, that are ain′t none o′ my business; only it shows the vanity o′ riches in a kind o′ strikin′ light, and makes me content that I never hed none."
"But, Sam, I hope General Sullivan wasn′t a wicked man, _was_ he?"
"Wal, I wouldn′t say he was railly wickeder than the run; but he was one o′ these ′ere high-stepping, big-feeling fellers, that seem to be a hevin′ their portion in this life. Drefful proud he was; and he was pretty much sot on this world, and kep′ a sort o′ court goin′ on round him. Wal, I don′t jedge him nor nobody: folks that hes the world is apt to get sot on it. Don′t none on us do more than middlin′ well."
"But, Sam, what about Ruth Sullivan?"
"Wal, ye see, the only crook in the old Gineral′s lot was he didn′t hev no children. Mis′ Sullivan, she was a beautiful woman, as handsome as a pictur′; but she never had but one child; and he was a son who died when he was a baby, and about broke her heart. And then this ′ere Ruth was her sister′s child, that was born about the same time; and, when the boy died, they took Ruth home to sort o′ fill his place, and kind o′ comfort up Mis′ Sullivan. And then Ruth′s father and mother died; and they adopted her for their own, and brought her up.
"Wal, she grew up to be amazin′ handsome. Why, everybody said that she was jest the light and glory of that ′are old Sullivan place, and worth more′n all the pictur′s and the silver and the jewels, and all there was in the house; and she was jest so innercent and sweet, that you never see nothing to beat it. Wal, your Aunt Lois she got acquainted with Ruth one summer when she was up to Old Town a visitin′ at Parson Lothrop′s. Your Aunt Lois was a gal then, and a pretty good-lookin′ one too; and, somehow or other, she took to Ruth, and Ruth took to her. And when Ruth went home, they used to be a writin′ backwards and forads; and I guess the fact was, Ruth thought about as much of your Aunt Lois as she did o′ anybody. Ye see, your aunt was a kind o′ strong up-and-down woman that always knew certain jest what she did know; and Ruth, she was one o′ them gals that seems sort o′ like a stray lamb or a dove that′s sort o′ lost their way in the world, and wants some one to show ′em where to go next. For, ye see, the fact was, the old Gineral and Madam, they didn′t agree very well. He wa′n′t well pleased that she didn′t have no children; and she was sort o′ jealous o′ him ′cause she got hold o′ some sort of story about how he was to a married somebody else over there in England: so she got sort o′ riled up, jest as wim-men will, the best on ′em; and they was pretty apt to have spats, and one could give t′other as good as they sent; and, by all accounts, they fit putty lively sometimes. And, between the two, Ruth she was sort o′ scared, and fluttered like a dove that didn′t know jest where to settle. Ye see, there she was in; that ′are great wide house, where they was a feastin′ and a prancin′ and a dancin′, and a goin′ on like Ahashuerus and Herodias and all them old Scripture days. There was acomin′ and goin,′ and there was gret dinners and gret doin′s, but no love; and, you know, the Scriptur′ says, ′Better is a dinner o′ yarbs, where love is, than a stalled ox, and hatred therewith.′
"Wal, I don′t orter say _hatred_, arter all. I kind o′ reckon, the old Gineral did the best he could: the fact is, when a woman gits a kink in her head agin a man, the best on us don′t allers do jest the right thing.
"Any way, Ruth, she was sort o′ forlorn, and didn′t seem to take no comfort in the goin′s on. The Gineral he was mighty fond on her, and proud on her; and there wa′n′t nothin′ too good for Ruth. He was free-handed, the Gineral wuz. He dressed her up in silks and satins, and she hed a maid to wait on her, and she hed sets o′ pearl and dimond; and Madam Sullivan she thought all the world on her, and kind o′ worshipped the ground she trod on. And yet Ruth was sort o′ lonesome.
"Ye see, Ruth wa′n′t calculated for grande′r. Some folks ain′t.
"Why, that ′are summer she spent out to Old Town, she was jest as chirk and chipper as a wren, a wearin′ her little sun-bunnet, and goin′ a huckle-berryin′ and a black-berryin′ and diggin′ sweet-flag, and gettin cowslops and dandelions; and she hed a word for everybody. And everybody liked Ruth, and wished her well. Wal, she was sent for her health; and she got that, and more too: she got a sweetheart.
"Ye see, there was a Cap′n Oliver a visitin′ at the minister′s that summer,—a nice, handsome young man as ever was. He and Ruth and your Aunt Lois, they was together a good deal; and they was a ramblin′ and a ridin′ and a sailin′: and so Ruth and the Capting went the way o′ all the airth, and fell dead in love with each other. Your Aunt Lois she was knowing to it and all about it, ′cause Ruth she was jest one of them that couldn′t take a step without somebody to talk to.
"Captain Oliver was of a good family in England; and so, when he made bold to ask the old Gineral for Ruth, he didn′t say him nay: and it was agreed, as they was young, they should wait a year or two. If he and she was of the same mind, he should be free to marry her. Jest right on that, the Captain′s regiment was ordered home, and he had to go; and, the next they heard, it was sent off to India. And poor little Ruth she kind o′ drooped and pined; but she kept true, and wouldn′t have nothin′ to say to nobody that came arter her, for there was lots and cords o′ fellows as did come arter her. Ye see, Ruth had a takin′ way with her; and then she had the name of bein′ a great heiress, and that allers draws fellers, as molasses does flies.
"Wal, then the news came, that Captain Oliver was comin′ home to England, and the ship was took by the Algerenes, and he was gone into slavery there among them heathen Mahomedans and what not.
"Folks seemed to think it was all over with him, and Ruth might jest as well give up fust as last. And the old Gineral he′d come to think she might do better; and he kep′ a introducin′ one and another, and tryin′ to marry her off; but Ruth she wouldn′t. She used to write sheets and sheets to your Aunt Lois about it; and I think Aunt Lois she kep′ her grit up. Your Aunt Lois she′d a stuck by a man to the end o′ time eft ben her case; and so she told Ruth.
"Wal, then there was young Jeff Sullivan, the Gineral′s nephew, he turned up; and the Gineral he took a gret fancy to him. He was next heir to the Gineral; but he′d ben a pretty rackety youngster in his young days,—off to sea, and what not, and sowed a consid′able crop o′ wild oats. People said he′d been a pirating off there in South Ameriky. Lordy massy! nobody rightly knew where he hed ben or where he hadn′t: all was, he turned up at last all alive, and chipper as a skunk blackbird. Wal, of course he made his court to Ruth; and the Gineral, he rather backed him up in it; but Ruth she wouldn′t have nothin′ to say to him. Wal, he come and took up his lodgin′ at the Gineral′s; and he was jest as slippery as an eel, and sort o′ slid into every thing, that was a goin′ on in the house and about it. He was here, and he was there, and he was everywhere, and a havin′ his say about this and that; and he got everybody putty much under his thumb. And they used to say, he wound the Gineral round and round like a skein o′ yarn; but he couldn′t come it round Ruth.
"Wal, the Gineral said she shouldn′t be forced; and Jeff, he was smooth as satin, and said he′d be willing to wait as long as Jacob did for Rachel. And so there he sot down, a watchin′ as patient as a cat at a mouse-hole; ′cause the Gineral he was thick-set and short-necked, and drank pretty free, and was one o′ the sort that might pop off any time.
"Wal, Mis′ Sullivan, she beset the Gineral to make a provision for Ruth; ′cause she told him very sensible, that he′d brought her up in luxury, and that it wa′n′t fair not to settle somethin′ on her; and so the Gineral he said he′d make a will, and part the property equally between them. And he says to Jeff, that, if he played his part as a young fellow oughter know how, it would all come to him in the end; ′cause they hadn′t heard nothing from Captain Oliver for three or four years, and folks about settled it that he must, be dead.
"Wal, the Gineral he got a letter about an estate that had come to him in England; and he had to go over. Wal, livin′ on the next estate, was the very cousin of the Gineral′s that he was to a married when they was both young: the lands joined so that the grounds run together. What came between them two nobody knows; but she never married, and there she was. There was high words between the Gineral and Madam Sullivan about his goin′ over. She said there wa′n′t no sort o′ need on′t, and he said there was; and she said she hoped _she_ should be in her grave afore he come back; and he said she might suit herself about that for all him. That ′are was the story that the housekeeper told to Aunt Polly; and Aunt Polly she told me. These ′ere squabbles somehow allers does kind o′ leak out one way or t′other. Anyhow, it was a house divided agin itself at the Gineral′s, when he was a fixin′ out for the voyage. There was Ruth a goin′ fust to one, and then to t′other, and tryin′ all she could to keep peace beteen ′em; and there was this ′ere Master Slick Tongue talkin′ this way to one side, and that way to t′other, and the old Gineral kind o′ like a shuttle-cock atween ′em.
"Wal, then, the night afore he sailed, the Gineral he hed his lawyer up in his library there, a lookin′ over all his papers and bonds and things, and a witnessing his will; and Master Jeff was there, as lively as a cricket, a goin′ into all affairs, and offerin′ to take precious good care while he was gone; and the Gineral he had his papers and letters out, a sortin′ on ′em over, which was to be took to the old country, and which was to be put in a trunk to go back to Lawyer Dennis′s office.
"Wal, Abner Ginger, Polly′s boy, he that was footman and waiter then at the Gineral′s, he told me, that, about eight o′clock that evening he went up with hot water and lemons and sperits and sich, and he see the gret green table in the library all strewed and covered with piles o′ papers; and there was tin boxes a standin′ round; and the Gineral a packin′ a trunk, and young Master Jeff, as lively and helpful as a rat that smells cheese. And then the Gineral he says, ′Abner,′ says he, ′can you write your name?′—′I should hope so, Gineral.′ says Abner.—′Wal, then, Abner,′ says he, ′this is my last will; and I want you to witness it,′ and so Abner he put down his name opposite to a place with a wafer and a seal; and then the Gineral, he says, ′Abner, you tell Ginger to come here.′ That, you see, was his housekeeper, my Aunt Polly′s sister, and a likely woman as ever was. And so they had her up, and she put down her name to the will; and then Aunt Polly she was had up (she was drinking tea there that night), and she put down her name. And all of ′em did it with good heart, ′cause it had got about among ′em that the will was to provide for Miss Ruth; for everybody loved Ruth, ye see, and there was consid′ble many stories kind o′ goin′ the rounds about Master Jeff and his doin′s. And they did say he sort o′ kep′ up the strife atween the Gineral and my lady, and so they didn′t think none too well o′ him; and, as he was next o′ kin, and Miss Ruth wa′n′t none o′ the Gineral′s blood (ye see, she was Mis′ Sullivan′s sister′s child), of course there wouldn′t nothin′ go to Miss Ruth in way o′ law, and so that was why the signin′ o′ that ′are will was so much talked about among ′em."
"Wal, you see, the Gineral he sailed the next day; and Jeff he staid by to keep watch o′ things.
"Wal, the old Gineral he got over safe; for Miss Sullivan, she had a letter from him all right. When he got away, his conscience sort o′ nagged him, and he was minded to be a good husband. At any rate, he wrote a good loving letter to her, and sent his love to Ruth, and sent over lots o′ little keepsakes and things for her, and told her that he left her under good protection, and wanted her to try and make up her mind to marry Jeff, as that would keep the property together.
"Wal, now there couldn′t be no sort o′ sugar sweeter than Jeff was to them lone wimmen. Jeff was one o′ the sort that could be all things to all wimmen. He waited and he tended, and he was as humble as any snake in the grass that ever ye see and the old lady, she clean fell in with him, but Ruth, she seemed to have a regular spite agin him. And she that war as gentle as a lamb, that never had so much as a hard thought of a mortal critter, and wouldn′t tread on a worm, she was so set agin Jeff, that she wouldn′t so much as touch his hand when she got out o′ her kerridge.
"Wal, now comes the strange part o′ my story. Ruth was one o′ the kind that _hes the gift o′ seein′. She was born with a veil over her face!_"
This mysterious piece of physiological information about Ruth was given with a look and air that announced something very profound and awful; and we both took up the inquiry, "Born with a veil over her face? How should _that_ make her see?"
"Wal, boys; how should I know? But the fact _is so_. There′s those as is wal known as hes the gift o′ seein′ what others can′t see: they can see through walls and houses; they can see people′s hearts; they can see what′s to come. They don′t know nothin′ how ′tis, but this ′ere knowledge comes to ′em: it′s a gret gift; and that sort′s born with the veil over their faces. Ruth was o′ these ′ere. Old Granny Badger she was the knowingest old nuss in all these parts; and she was with Ruth′s mother when she was born, and she told Lady Lothrop all about it. Says she, ′You may depend upon it that child ′ll have the "second-sight"′ says she. Oh, that ′are fact was wal known! Wal, that was the reason why Jeff Sullivan couldn′t come it round Ruth tho′ he was silkier than a milkweed-pod, and jest about as patient as a spider in his hole a watchin′ to get his grip on a fly. Ruth wouldn′t argue with him, and she wouldn′t flout him; but she jest shut herself up in herself, and kept a lookout on him; but she told your Aunt Lois jest what she thought about him.
"Wal, in about six months, come the news that the Gineral was dead. He dropped right down in his tracks, dead with apoplexy, as if he had been shot; and Lady Maxwell she writ a long letter to my lady and Ruth. Ye see, he′d got to be Sir Thomas Sullivan over there; and he was a comin′ home to take ′em all over to England to live in grande′r. Wal, my Lady Sullivan (she was then, ye see) she took it drefful hard. Ef they′d a been the lovingest couple in the world, she couldn′t a took it harder. Aunt Polly, she said it was all ′cause she thought so much of him, that she fit him so. There′s women that thinks so much o′ their husbands, that they won′t let ′em hev no peace o′ their life; and I expect it war so with her, poor soul! Any way, she went right down smack, when she heard he was dead. She was abed, sick, when the news come; and she never spoke nor smiled, jest turned her back to everybody, and kinder wilted and wilted, and was dead in a week. And there was poor little Ruth left all alone in the world, with neither kith nor kin but Jeff.
"Wal, when the funeral was over, and the time app′inted to read the will and settle up matters, there wa′n′t no will to be found nowhere, high nor low.
"Lawyer Dean he flew round like a parched pea on a shovel. He said he thought he could a gone in the darkest night, and put his hand on that ′ere will; but when he went where he thought it was, he found it warn′t there, and he knowed he′d kep′ it under lock and key. What he thought was the will turned out to be an old mortgage. Wal, there was an awful row and a to-do about it, you may be sure. Ruth, she jist said nothin′ good or bad. And her not speakin′ made Jeff a sight more uncomfortable than ef she′d a hed it out with him. He told her it shouldn′t make no sort o′ difference; that he should allers stand ready to give her all he hed, if she′d only take him with it. And when it came to that she only gin him a look, and went out o′ the room.
"Jeff he flared and flounced and talked, and went round and round a rumpussin′ among the papers, but no will was forthcomin′, high or low. Wal, now here comes what′s remarkable. Ruth she told this ′ere, all the particulars, to yer Aunt Lois and Lady Lothrop. She said that the night after the funeral she went up to her chamber. Ruth had the gret front chamber, opposite to Mis′ Sullivan′s. I′ve been in it; it was a monstrous big room, with outlandish furniture in it, that the Gineral brought over from an old palace out to Italy. And there was a great big lookin′-glass over the dressin′-table, that they said come from Venice, that swung so that you could see the whole room in it. Wal, she was a standin′ front o′ this, jist goin′ to undress herself, a hearin′ the rain drip on the leaves and the wind a whishin′ and whis-perin′ in the old elm-trees, and jist a thinkin′ over her lot, and what should she do now, all alone in the world, when of a sudden she felt a kind o′ lightness in her head, and she thought she seemed to see somebody in the glass a movin′. And she looked behind, and there wa′n′t nobody there. Then she looked forward in the glass, and saw a strange big room, that she′d never seen before, with a long painted winder in it; and along side o′ this stood a tall cabinet with a good many drawers in it. And she saw herself, and knew that it was herself, in this room, along with another woman whose back was turned towards her. She saw herself speak to this woman, and p′int to the cabinet. She saw the woman nod her head. She saw herself go to the cabinet, and open the middle drawer, and take out a bundle o′ papers from the very back end on′t. She saw her take out a paper from the middle, and open it, and hold it up; and she knew that there was the missin′ will. Wal, it all overcome her so that she fainted clean away. And her maid found her a ly-in′ front o′ the dressin′-table on the floor.
"She was sick of a fever′ for a week or fortnight a′ter; and your Aunt Lois she was down takin′ care of her; and, as soon as she got able to be moved, she was took out to Lady Lothrop′s. Jeff he was jist as attentive and good as he could be; but she wouldn′t bear him near her room. If he so much as set a foot on the stairs that led to it she′d know it, and got so wild that he hed to be kept from comin′ into the front o′ the house. But he was doin′ his best to buy up good words from everybody. He paid all the servants double; he kept every one in their places, and did so well by ′em all that the gen′l word among ′em was that Miss Ruth couldn′t do better than to marry such a nice, open-handed gentleman.
"Wal, Lady Lothrop she wrote to Lady Maxwell all that hed happened; and Lady Maxwell, she sent over for Ruth to come over and be a companion for her, and said she′d adopt her, and be as a mother to her.
"Wal, then Ruth she went over with some gentlefolks that was goin′ back to England, and offered to see her safe and sound; and so she was set down at Lady Maxwell′s manor. It was a grand place, she said, and such as she never see before,—like them old gentry places in England. And Lady Maxwell she made much of her, and cosseted her up for the sake of what the old Gineral had said about her. And Ruth she told her all her story, and how she believed that the will was to be found somewhere, and that she should be led to see it yet.
"She told her, too, that she felt it in her that Cap′n Oliver wasn′t dead, and that he′d come back yet. And Lady Maxwell she took up for her with might and main, and said she′d stand by her. But then, ye see, so long as there warn′t no will to be found, there warn′t nothin′ to be done. Jeff was the next heir; and he′d got every thing, stock, and lot, and the estate in England into the bargain. And folks was beginnin′ to think putty well of him, as folks allers does when a body is up in the world, and hes houses and lands. Lordy massy! riches allers covers a multitude o′ sins.
"Finally, when Ruth hed ben six months with her, one day Lady Maxwell got to tellin′ her all about her history, and what hed ben atween her and her cousin, when they was young, and how they hed a quarrel and he flung off to Ameriky, and all them things that it don′t do folks no good to remember when it′s all over and can′t be helped. But she was a lone body, and it seemed to do her good to talk about it.
"Finally, she says to Ruth, says she, ′I′ll show you a room in this house you han′t seen before. It was the room where we hed that quarrel,′ says she; ′and the last I saw of him was there, till he come back to die,′ says she.
"So she took a gret key out of her bunch; and she led Ruth along a long passage-way to the other end of the house, and opened on a great library. And the minute Ruth came in, she threw up her hands and gin a great cry. ′Oh!′ says she, ′this is the room! and there is the window! and there is the cabinet! and _there in that middle drawer at the back end in a bundle of papers is the will!_
"And Lady Maxwell she said, quite dazed, ′Go look,′ says she. And Ruth went, jest as she seed herself do, and opened the drawer, and drew forth from the back part a yellow pile of old letters. And in the middle of those was the will, sure enough. Ruth drew it out, and opened it, and showed it to her.
"Wal, you see that will give Ruth the whole of the Gineral′s property in America, tho′ it did leave the English estate to Jeff.
"Wal, the end on′t was like a story-book.
"Jeff he made believe be mighty glad. And he said it must a ben that the Gineral hed got flustered with the sperit and water, and put that ′ere will in among his letters that he was a doin′ up to take back to England. For it was in among Lady Maxwell′s letters that she writ him when they was young, and that he′d a kep′ all these years and was a takin′ back to her.
"Wal, Lawyer Dean said he was sure that Jeff made himself quite busy and useful that night, a tyin′ up the papers with red tape, and a packin′ the Gineral′s trunk; and that, when Jeff gin him his bundle to lock up in his box, he never mistrusted but what he′d got it all right.
"Wal, you see it was jest one of them things that can′t be known to the jedgment-day. It might a ben an accident, and then agin it might not; and folks settled it one way or t′other, ′cordin′ to their ′pinion o′ Jeff; but ye see how ′mazin′ handy for him it happened! Why, ef it hadn′t ben for the providence I′ve ben a tellin′ about, there it might a lain in them old letters, that Lady Maxwell said she never hed the heart to look over! it never would a turned up in the world."
"Well," said I, "what became of Ruth?" "Oh! Cap′n Oliver he came back all alive, and escaped from the Algerines; and they was married in King′s Chapel, and lived in the old Sullivan House, in peace and prosperity. That′s jest how the story was; and now Aunt Lois can make what she′s a mind ter out on′t."
"And what became of Jeff?" "Oh! he started to go over to England, and the ship was wrecked off the Irish coast, and that was the last of him. He never got to his property."
"Good enough for him," said both of us.′ "Wal, I don′t know: ′twas pretty hard on Jeff. Mebbe he did, and mebbe he didn′t. I′m glad I warn′t in his shoes, tho′. I′d rather never hed nothin′. This ′ere hastin′ to be rich is sich a drefful temptation.
"Wal, now, boys, ye′ve done a nice lot o′ flax, and I guess we′ll go up to yer grand′ther′s cellar and git a mug o′ cyder. Talkin′ always gits me dry."