Dorothy Canfield Fisher.

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B M 1D1 713



Author of "The Sqt irrel-Cage," etc.






The contents of this volume were copyrighted separately as follows :
Vermont, copyright, 1913, by The Century Co. Hemlock Mountain, copy
right, 1910, by The Congregationalist. At the Foot of Hemlock Mountain,
copyright, 1908, by Charles Scribner s Sons. Petunias-Thai s for Remem.
brance, copyright, 1912, by Charles Scribner s Sons. The Heyday of the
Blood, copyright, 1909, by The Frank A. Munsey Company. As a Bird
out of the Snare, copyright, 1908, by Houghton, Mifflin and Company.
The Bedquilt, copyright, 1906, by Harper & Brothers. Portrait of a
Philosopher, copyright, 1911, by Charles Scribner s Sons. Flint and Fire,
copyright, 1915, by Harper & Brothers. A Saint s Hours, copyright 1908
by The Ridgway Company. In Memory of L. H. W., as " The Hill sboro
Shepherd," copyright, 1912, by The Ridgway Company. In New New
England, copyright, 1910, by The Frank A. Munsey Company The De
liverer, copyright, 1908, by New England Magazine Company. Noctes Am-
brosianae, copyright, 1908. by Houghton, Mifflin and Company. Hillsboro s
Good Luck, copyright, 1908. by Houghton, Mifflin and Company. Salem
Hills to Ellis Island, copyright, 1912, by The Ridgway Company. Avunculus,
copyright, 1909, by The Ridgway Company. Finis, as " The End " copy
right, 1908, by The Phillips Publishing Co. A Village Munchausen, copy
right, 1908, by The Frank A. Munsey Company. The Artist, copyright, 1911,
by Charles Scribner s Sous. A Drop in the Bucket, copyright, 1913 by Good
Housekeeping Magazine. Piper Tim, copyright, 1908, by New England
Magazine Company. Adeste Fideles I as " Oh Come, All Ye Faithful ! "
copyright, 1911, by Charles Scribner s Sons.

March, 1915



Wide and shallow in the cowslip marshes
Floods the freshet of the April snow.

Late drifts linger in the hemlock gorges,

Through the brakes and mosses trickling slow

Where the Mayflower,
Where the painted trillium, leaf and blow.

Foliaged deep, the cool midsummer maples
Shade the porches of the long white street;

Trailing wide, Olympian elms lean over

Tiny churches where the highroads meet.

Fields of fireflies
Wheel all night like stars among the wheat.

Blaze the mountains in the windless autumn

Frost-clear, blue-nooned, apple-ripening days ;

Faintly fragrant in the farther valleys

Smoke of many bonfires swells the haze;

Fair-bound cattle
Plod with lowing up the meadowy ways.

Roaring snows down-sweeping from the uplands
Bury the still valleys, drift them deep.

Low along the mountain, lake-blue shadows,
Sea-blue shadows in the hollows sleep.

High above them
Blinding crystal is the sunlit steep.



VERMONT (Poem) v








FLINT AND FIRE . .. / 99

A SAINT S HOURS (Poem) . . . . . .122

IN MEMORY OF L. H.. W, 123

IN NEW NEW ENGLAND . . . .. . . .139


NOCTES AMBROSIAN.E (Poem) ..... 186



AVUNCULUS . . . 209

BY ABANA AND PHARPAR (Poem) . . . . 232

FINIS . . . . - . . . ... . 233









By orange grove and palm-tree, we walked the southern


Each day more still and golden than was the day before.
That calm and languid sunshine ! How faint it made us grow
To look on Hemlock Mountain when the storm hangs low !

To see its rocky pastures, its sparse but hardy corn,
The mist roll off its forehead before a harvest morn ;
To hear the pine-trees crashing across its gulfs of snow
Upon a roaring midnight when the whirlwinds blow.

Tell not of lost Atlantis, or fabled Avalon ;
The olive, or the vineyard, no winter breathes upon ;
Away from Hemlock Mountain we could not well forego,
For all the summer islands where the gulf tides flow.



"In connection with this phase of the problem of transportation
it must be remembered that the rush of population to the great cities
is no temporary movement. It is caused by a final revolt against
that malignant relic of the dark ages, the country village, and by a
healthy craving for the deep, full life of the metropolis, for contact
with the vitalizing stream of humanity." PRITCHELL S "Hand
book of Economics," page 247.

SOMETIMES people from Hillsboro leave our forgotten
valley, high among the Green Mountains, and " go down
to the city," as the phrase runs. They always come back
exclaiming that they should think New Yorkers would
just die of lonesomeness, and crying out in an ecstasy of
relief that it does seem so good to get back where there
are some folks. After the desolate isolation of city
streets, empty of humanity, filled only with hurrying
ghosts, the vestibule of our church after morning service
fills one with an exalted realization of the great numbers
of the human race. It is like coming into a warmed and
lighted room, full of friendly faces, after wandering long
by night in a forest peopled only with flitting shadows.
In the phantasmagoric pantomime of the city, we forget
that there are so many real people in all the world, so
diverse, so unfathomably human as those who meet us
in the little post-office on the night of our return to Hills

Like any other of those gifts of life which gratify in-



satiable cravings of humanity, living in a country village
conveys a satisfaction which is incommunicable. A great
many authors have written about it, just as a great many
authors have written about the satisfaction of being in
love, but in the one, as in the other case, the essence of the
thing escapes. People rejoice in sweethearts because all
humanity craves love, and they thrive in country villages
because they crave human life. Now the living spirit
of neither of these things can be caught in a net of words.
All the foolish, fond doings of lovers rnay be set down
on paper by whatever eavesdropper cares to take the
trouble, but no one can realize from that record anything
of the glory in the hearts of the unconscious two. All
the queer grammar and insignificant surface eccentric
ities of village character may be ruthlessly reproduced
in every variety of dialect, but no one can guess from that
record the abounding flood of richly human life which
pours along the village street.

This tormenting inequality between the thing felt and
the impression conveyed had vexed us unceasingly until
one day Simple Martin, the town fool, who always says
our wise things, said one of his wisest. He was lounging
by the watering-trough one sunny day in June, when a
carriage-load of " summer folk " from Windfield over
the mountain stopped to water their horses. They asked
him, as they always, always ask all of us, " For mercy s
sake, what do you people do all the time, away off here,
so far from everything."^

Simple Martin was not irritated, or perplexed, or ren
dered helplessly inarticulate by this question, as the rest
of us had always been. He looked around him at the
lovely, sloping lines of Hemlock Mountain, at the Necron-


sett River singing in the sunlight, at the familiar, friendly
faces of the people in the street, and he answered in as
tonishment at the ignorance of his questioners, "Do?
Why, we jes live! "

We felt that he had explained us once and for all. We
had known that, of course, but we hadn t before, in our
own phrase, " sensed it." We just live. And sometimes
it seems to us that we are the only people in America en
gaged in that most wonderful occupation. We know, of
course, that we must be wrong in thinking this, and that
there must be countless other Hillsboros scattered every
where, rejoicing as we do in an existence which does not
necessarily make us care-free or happy, which does not
in the least absolve us from the necessity of working
hard (for Hillsboro is unbelievably poor in money), but
which does keep us alive in every fiber of our sympathy
and thrilling with the consciousness of the life of

A common and picturesque expression for a common
experience runs, " It s so noisy I can t hear myself
think." After a visit to New York we feel that its in
habitants are so deafened by the constant blare of con
fusion that they can t feel themselves live. The steady
sufferers from this complaint do not realize their condi
tion. They find it on the whole less trouble not to feel
themselves live, and they are most uneasy when chance
forces them to spend a few days (on shipboard, for in
stance) where they are not protected by ceaseless and
aimless activity from the consciousness that they are
themselves. They cannot even conceive the bitter-sweet,
vital taste of that consciousness as we villagers have it,
and they cannot understand how arid their existence


seems to us without this unhurried, penetrating realiza
tion of their own existence and of the meaning of their
acts. We do not blame city dwellers for not having it,
we ourselves lose it when we venture into their maelstrom.
Like them, we become dwarfed by overwhelming num
bers, and shriveled by the incapacity to " sense " the
humanity of the countless human simulacra about us.
But we do not stay where we cannot feel ourselves live !

[We hurry back to the shadow of Hemlock Mountain,
feeling that to love life one does not need to be what is
usually called happy, one needs only to live.

It cannot be, of course, that we are the only community
to discover this patent fact ; but we know no more of the
others than they of us. All that we hear from that part
of America which is not Hillsboro is the wild yell of ex
citement going up from the great cities, where people
seem to be doing everything that was ever done or
thought of except just living. City dwellers make money,
make reputations (good and bad), make museums and
subways, make charitable institutions, make with a hys
teric rapidity, like excited spiders, more and yet more
complications in the mazy labyrinths of their lives, but
they riever make eacj^ others acquaintances . . . and
that is all that is worth doing in the world.

We who live in HillsBoro know that they are to be
pitied, not blamed, for this fatal omission. We realize
that only in Hillsboro and places like it can one have
" deep, full life and contact with the vitalizing stream
of humanity." We know that in the very nature of
humanity the city is a small and narrow world, the village
a great and wide one, and that the utmost efforts of
city dwellers will not avail to break the bars of the prison


where they are shut in, each with his own kind. They
may look out from the windows upon a great and varied
throng, as the beggar munching a crust may look in at a
banqueting hall, but the people they are forced to live
with are exactly like themselves; and that way lies not
only monomania but an ennui that makes the blessing
of life savorless.

If this does not seem the plainest possible statement of
fact take a concrete instance. Can a banker in the city
by any possibility come to know what kind of an indi
vidual is the remote impersonal creature who waits on
him in a department store? Most bankers recognize with
a misguided joy this natural wall between themselves and
people who are not bankers, and add to it as many stones
of their own quarrying as possible; but they are not shut
off from all the quickening diversity of life any more
effectually than the college-settlement, boys Sunday-
school, brand of banker. The latter may try as hard as
he pleases, he simply cannot achieve real acquaintance
ship with a " storekeeper," as we call them, any more than
the clerk can achieve real acquaintanceship with him.
Lack of any elements of common life form a? impassable
a barrier as lack of a common language, whejgas with us,
in Hillsbdro all the life we have is common. Everyone
Is~~rieeded to live it.

There can be no city dweller of experience who does
not know the result of this herding together of the same
kind of people, this intellectual and moral inbreeding.
To the accountant who knows only accounts, the world
comes to seem like one great ledger, and account-keeping
the only vital pursuit in life. To the banker who knows
only bankers, the world seems one great bank filled with


money, accompanied by people. The prison doors of
uniformity are closed inexorably upon them.

And then what happens? Why, when anything goes
wrong with their trumpery account books, or their trashy
money, these poor folk are like blind men who have lost
their staves. With all the world before them they dare
not continue to go forward. We in Hillsboro are sorry
for the account-keepers who disappear forever, fleeing
from all who know them because their accounts have
come out crooked, we pity the banker who blows out his
brains when something has upset his bank; but we can t
help feeling with this compassion an admixture of the ex
asperated impatience we have for those Prussian school
boys who jump out of third-story windows because they
did not reach a certain grade in their Latin examinations.
Life is not accounts, or banks, or even Latin examina
tions, and it is a sign of inexperience to think it so. The
trouble with the despairing banker is that he has never
had a chance to become aware of the comforting vastness
of the force which animates him in common with all
the rest of humanity, to which force a bank failure is no
apocalyptic end of Creation, but a mere incident or trial
of strength like a fall in a slippery road. Absorbed in
his solitary progress, the banker has forgotten that his
business in life is not so much to keep from falling as to
get up again and go forward.

If the man to whom the world was a bank had not
been so inexorably shut away from the bracing, tonic
shock of knowing men utterly diverse, to whom the world
was just as certainly only a grocery store, or a cobbler s
bench, he might have come to believe in a world that is
none of these things and is big enough to take them all


in; and he might have been alive this minute, a credit to
himself, useful to the world, and doubtless very much
more agreeable to his family than in the days of his blind

The pathetic feature of this universal inexperience
among city dwellers of real life and real people is that it is
really entirely enforced and involuntary. At heart they
crave knowledge of real life and sympathy with their
fellow-men as starving men do food. In Hillsboro we
explain to ourselves the enormous amount of novel-
reading and play-going in the great cities as due to a per
verted form of this natural hunger for human life. If
people are so situated they can t get it fresh, they will
take it canned, which is undoubtedly good for those in
the canning business ; but we feel that we who have better
food ought not to be expected to treat their boughten
canned goods very seriously. We can t help smiling
at the life-and-death discussions of literary people
about their preferences in style and plot and treat
ment . . . their favorite brand on the can, so to

To tell the truth, all novels seem to us badly written,
they are so faint and faded in comparison to the brilliant
colors of the life which palpitates up and down our vil
lage street, called by strangers, " so quaint and sleepy-
looking." What does the author of a novel do for you,
after all, even the best author? He presents to you
people not nearly so interesting as your next-door neigh
bors, makes them do things not nearly so exciting as
what happened to your grandfather, and doles out to you
in meager paragraphs snatches of that comprehending
and consolatory philosophy of life, which long ago you


should have learned to manufacture for yourself out of
every incident in your daily routine. Of course, if you
don t know your next-door neighbors, and have never
had time to listen to what happened to your grandfather,
and are too busy catching trains to philosophize on those
subjects if you did know them, no more remains to be
said. By all means patronize the next shop you see which
displays in its show windows canned romances, adven
tures, tragedies, farces, and the like line of goods. Live
vicariously, if you can t at first hand; but don t be an
noyed at our pity for your method of passing blindfold
through life.

And don t expect to find such a shop in our village.
To open one there would be like trying to crowd out the
great trees on Hemlock Mountain by planting a Noah s-
Ark garden among them. Romances, adventures, trage
dies, and farces . . . why, we are the characters of
those plots. Every child who runs past the house starts
a new story, every old man whom we leave sleeping in
the burying-ground by the Necronsett River is the ending
of another ... or perhaps the beginning of a sequel.
Do you say that in the city a hundred more children run
past the windows of your apartment than along our soli
tary street, and that funeral processions cross your every
walk abroad? True, but they are stories written in a
tongue incomprehensible to you. You look at the covers,
you may even flutter the leaves and look at the pictures,
but you cannot tell what they are all about. You are
like people bored and yawning at a performance of a
tragedy by Sophocles, because the actors speak in Greek.
So dreadful and moving a thing as a man s sudden death
may happen before your eyes, but you do not know


enough of what it means to be moved by it. For you it is
not really a man who dies. It is the abstract idea of a
man, leaving behind him abstract possibilities of a wife
and children. You knew nothing of him, you know noth
ing of them, you shudder, look the other way, and hurry
along, your heart a little more blunted to the sorrows of
others, a little more remote from your fellows even than

All Hillsboro is more stirred than that, both to sym
pathy and active help, by the news that Mrs. Brownell has
broken her leg. It means something unescapably definite
to us, about which we not only can, but must take action.
It means that her sickly oldest daughter will not get the
care she needs if somebody doesn t go to help out; it
means that if we do not do something that bright boy of
hers will have to leave school, just when he is in the way
of winning a scholarship in college ; it means, in short, a
crisis in several human lives, which by the mere fact of
being known calls forth sympathy as irresistibly as sun
shine in May opens the leaf buds.

Just as it is only one lover in a million who can con
tinue to love his mistress during a lifetime of absolute
separation from her, so it is one man in a million who
can continue his sympathy and interest in his fellow-men
without continual close contact with them. The divine
feeling of responsibHity for the well-being of others is
diluted and washed away in great cities by the overwhelm
ing impersonal flood of vast numbers; in villages it is
strengthened by the sight, apparent to the dullest eyes,
of immediate personal and visible application. In other
words, we are not only the characters of our unwritten
stories, but also part authors. Something of the final out-


come depends upon us, something of the creative instinct
of the artist is stirred to life within every one of us
however unconscious of it in our countrified simplicity
we may be. The sympathy we feel for a distressed
neighbor has none of the impotent sterility of a reader s
sympathy for a distressed character in a book. There
is always a chance to try to help, and if that fail, to try
again and yet again. Death writes the only Finis to our
stories, and since a chance to start over again has been
so unfailingly granted us here, we cannot but feel
that Death may mean only turning over another

I suppose we do not appreciate the seriousness of fic
tion-writing, nor its importance to those who cannot get
any nearer to real life. And yet it is not that we are
unprogressive. Our young people, returning from college,
or from visits to the city, freshen and bring up to date our
ideas on literature as rigorously as they do our sleeves
and hats; but after a short stay in Hillsboro even these
conscientious young missionaries of culture turn away
from the feeble plots of Ibsen and the tame inventions
of Bernard Shaw to the really exciting, perplexing,
and stimulating events in the life of the village

In " Ghosts," Ibsen preaches a terrible sermon on the
responsibility of one generation for the next, but not all
his relentless logic can move you to the sharp throb of
horrified sympathy you feel as you see Nelse Pettingrew s
poor mother run down the street, her shawl flung hastily
over her head, framing a face of despairing resolve,
such as can never look at you out of the pages of a book.
Somebody has told her that Nelse has been drinking again


and " is beginning to get ugly." For Hillsboro is no
model village, but the world entire, with hateful forces
of evil lying in wait for weakness. Who will not lay
down " Ghosts " to watch, with a painfully beating heart,
the progress of this living " Mrs. Alving " past the house,
leading, persuading, coaxing the burly weakling, who
will be saved from a week s debauch if she can only get
him safely home now, and keep him quiet till " the fit
goes by."

At the sight everybody in Hillsboro realizes that Nelse
" got it from his father," with a penetrating sense of the
tragedy of heredity, quite as stimulating to self-control
in the future as Ibsen is able to make us feel in " Ghosts."
But we know something better than Ibsen, for Mrs. Pet-
tingrew is no " Mrs. Alving." She is a plain, hard-
featured woman who takes in sewing for a living, and
she is quite unlettered, but she is a general in the army of
spiritual forces. She does not despair, she does not give
up like the half-hearted mother in " Ghosts," she does not
waste her strength in concealments ; she stands up to her
enemy and fights. She fought the wild beast in Nelse s
father, hand to hand, all his life, and he died a bet
ter man than when she married him. Undaunted, she
fought it in Nelse as a boy, and now as a man; and in
the flowering of his physical forces when the wind of
his youth blows most wildly through the hateful
thicket of inherited weaknesses she generally wins the

And this she has done with none of the hard, consistent
strength and intelligence of your make-believe heroine in
a book, so disheartening an example to our faltering im
pulses for good. She has been infinitely human and


pathetically fallible; she has cried out and hesitated and
complained and done the wrong thing and wept anc 1
failed and still fought on, till to think of her is, for the
weakest of us, like a bugle call to high endeavor. Nelse is
now a better man than his father, and we shut up
" Ghosts" with impatience that Ibsen should have selected
that story to tell out of all the tales there must have been
in the village where he lived.

Now imagine if you can ... for I cannot even faintly
indicate to you . . . our excitement when Nelse begins to
look about him for a wife. In the first place, we are
saved by our enforced closeness to real people from wast
ing our energies in the profitless outcry of economists,
that people like Nelse should be prohibited from having
children. It occurs to us that perhaps the handsome fel
low s immense good-humor and generosity are as good
inheritance as the selfishness and cold avarice of priggish
young Horace Gallatin, who never drinks a drop. Per
haps at some future date all people who are not perfectly
worthy to have children will be kept from it by law. In
Hillsboro, we think, that after such a decree the human
race would last just one generation; but that is not the

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Online LibraryDorothy Canfield FisherHillsboro people → online text (page 1 of 23)