Susan Warner.

A Letter of Credit online

. (page 1 of 39)
Online LibrarySusan WarnerA Letter of Credit → online text (page 1 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Susan Warner (1819-1885), A letter of credit (1881), 1882 edition

Produced by Daniel FROMONT

Note from the transcriber: a very important text for the study of
Susan Warner's "Queechy".



I. THE END OF A COIL. 12mo. $1.75.

"Miss Warner has added another pure and beautiful picture to the gallery
that has given so much pleasure to such great numbers. All her pictures
are bright and warm with the blessedness of true love and true religion.
We do not wonder that they receive so wide a welcome, and we wish
sincerely that only such stories were ever written." - _N. Y. Observer_.

II. MY DESIRE. 12mo. $1.75.

"Miss Warner possesses in a remarkable degree the power of vividly
describing New England village life, the power of making her village
people walk and talk for the benefit of her readers in all the freshness
of their clear-cut originality. She has an ample fund of humor, a keen
sense of the ridiculous, and a rare faculty of painting homely truths in
homely but singularly felicitous phrases." - _Philadelphia Times_.


IV. PINE NEEDLES. A Tale. 12mo. $1.50.

V. THE OLD HELMET. A Tale. 12mo. $2.25.

VI. MELBOURNE HOUSE. A Tale. 12mo. $2.00.

VII. THE KING'S PEOPLE. 5 vols. $7.00.

VIII. THE SAY AND DO SERIES. 6 vols. $7.50.


_By Miss Anna Warner_.











...."The bewildering masquerade of life,
Where strangers walk as friends, and friends as strangers."



Copyright, 1881,




The following story, like its predecessors, "The End of a Coil," "My
Desire," and "Diana," is a record of facts. For the characters and the
coloring, of course, I am responsible; but the turns of the story, even
in detail, are almost all utterly true.

S. W.

Martlaer's Rock,
Sept. 12, 1881_.






































"Mother, I wonder how people do, when they are going to write a book?"

"Do?" repeated her mother.

"Yes. I wonder how they begin."

"I suppose they have something to tell; and then they tell it," said
simple Mrs. Carpenter.

"No, no, but I mean a story."

"What story have you got there?"

The mother was shelling peas; the daughter, a girl of twelve years old
perhaps, was sitting on the floor at her feet, with an octavo volume in
her lap. The floor was clean enough to sit upon; clean enough almost to
eat off; it was the floor of the kitchen of a country farmhouse.

"This is the 'Talisman,'" the girl answered her mother's question. "O
mother, when I am old enough, I should like to write stories!"


"I should think it would be so nice. Why, mother, one could imagine
oneself anything."

"Could you?" said her mother. "I never imagined myself anything but what
I was."

"Ah, but perhaps you and I are different."

Which was undoubtedly the fact, as any stander by might have seen with
half an eye. Good types both of them, too. The mother fair, delicate
featured, with sweet womanly eyes, must have been exceedingly pretty in
her young days; she was pretty now; but the face shewed traces of care
and was worn with life-work. While she talked and now and then looked at
her daughter, her fingers were untiringly busy with the peas and peas
pods and never paused for a minute. The girl on the floor did not look
like her mother. She was dark eyed and dark haired; with a dark
complexion too, which at present was not fine; and the eyes, large and
handsome eyes, revealed a fire and intensity and mobility of nature which
was very diverse from the woman's gentle strength. Mrs. Carpenter might
be intense too, after her fashion; but it was the fashion of the
proverbial still waters that run deep. And I do not mean that there was
any shallowness about the girl's nature; though assuredly the placidity
would be wanting.

"I wish your father would forbid you to read stories," Mrs. Carpenter
went on.

"Why, mother?"

"I don't believe they are good for you."

"But what harm should they do me?"

"Life is not a story. I don't want you to think it is."

"Why shouldn't it be? Perhaps my life will be a story, mother. I think it
will," said the girl slowly. "I shouldn't want my life to be always like

"Are you not happy?"

"O yes, mother! But then, by and by, I should like to be a princess, or
to have adventures, and see things; like the people in stories."

"You will never be a princess, my child. You are a poor farmer's
daughter. You had better make up your mind to it, and try to be the best
thing you can in the circumstances."

"You mean, do my duty and shell peas?" asked the girl somewhat
doubtfully, looking at her mother's fingers and the quick stripped pea
pods passing through them. "Is father poor, mother?"


"He has a good farm, he says."

"Yes, but it is encumbered heavily." And Mrs. Carpenter sighed. Rotha had
often heard her mother sigh so. It was a breath with a burden.

"I don't know what you mean by 'encumbered.'"

"It is not needful you should know, just yet."

"But I should like to know, mother. Won't you tell me?"

"It is heavily mortgaged. And _that_ you do not understand. Never mind. He
has a great deal of money to pay out for it every year the interest on
the mortgages and that keeps us poor."

"Why must he pay it?"

"Because the farm is pledged for the debt; and if the interest, this
yearly money, were not paid, the farm itself would go."

"Go? How?"

"Be sold. For the money due on it."

There was silence awhile, during which only the pea pods rustled and
fell; then the girl asked,

"What should we do then, mother, if the farm was sold?"

"I do not know." The words came faint.

"Does it trouble you, mother?"

"It need not trouble you, Rotha. It cannot happen unless the Lord will;
and that is enough. Now you may carry these pea pods out and give them to
the pigs."

"Mother," said Rotha as she slowly rose and laid away her book, "all you
say makes me wish more than ever that I were a princess, or something."

"You may be _something_," said Mrs. Carpenter laughing slightly, but with
a very sweet merriment. "Now take away this basket."

Rotha stooped for the basket, and then stood still, looking out of the
window. Across the intervening piece of kitchen garden, rows of peas and
tufts of asparagus greenery, her eye went to the road, where a buggy had
just stopped.

"Maybe something is going to happen now," she said. "Who is that, mother?
There is somebody getting out of a wagon and tying his horse; - now he is
coming in. It is 'Siah Barker, mother."

Mrs. Carpenter paused to look out of the window, and then hastily
throwing her peas into the pot of boiling water, went herself to the
door. A young countryman met her there, with a whip in his hand.

"Mornin', Mis' Carpenter. Kin you help the distressed?"

"What's the matter, 'Siah?"

"Shot if I know; but he's took pretty bad."

"Who, pray?"

"Wall, I skurce can tell that. He's an Englisher - come to our place this
mornin' and axed fur a horse and wagon to carry him to Rochester; and
he's got so fur, - that's two miles o' the way, - and he can't go no furder,
I guess. He's took powerful bad."

"Ill, is he?"

"Says so. And he looks it."

"Cannot go on to Rochester?

"It's fifteen mile, Mis' Carpenter. I wouldn't like to be the man to
drive him. He can't go another foot, he says. He was took quite sudden."

"Cannot you turn about and carry him back to Medwayville?"

"Now, Mis' Carpenter, you're a Christian, and a soft-hearted one, we all
know. Can't you let him come in and rest a bit? Mebbe you could give him
sunthin' that would set him up. You understand doctorin', fust-rate."

Mrs. Carpenter looked grave, considered.

"Is this your idea, or the stranger's, 'Siah?"

"It's his'n, ef it's anybody's in partickler. He told me to set him down
some'eres, for he couldn't hold out to go on nohow; and then he seed this
house, and he made me stop. He's a sick man, I tell you."

"What's the matter with him?"

"Wall, it's sunthin' in his insides, I guess. He don't say nothin', but
he gits as white as a piece o' chalk, and then purple arter it."

Mrs. Carpenter made no more delay, but bade 'Siah fetch the sick man in;
and herself hastily threw open the windows of the "spare room" and put
sheets on the bed. She had time for all her preparations, for the
bringing the stranger to the house was a work of some difficulty, and not
accomplished without the help of one of the hired men about the farm.
When he came, he was far too ill to give any account of himself; his
dress proclaimed him a well-to-do man, and belonging to the better
classes; that was all they knew.

As Mrs. Carpenter came out from seeing the stranger put to bed in the
spare room, her husband came in from the field. An intellectual looking
man, in spite of his farmer's dress, and handsome; but thin, worn, with
an undue flush on his cheek, and a cough that sounded hollow. He was very
like his little daughter, who instantly laid hold of him.

"Father, father! something has happened. Guess what. There's a sick man
stopped here, and he is in the spare room, and we don't know the least
bit who he is; only 'Siah Barker said he was English, or an 'Englisher,'
he said. We don't know a bit who he is; and his clothes are very nice,
like a gentleman, and his valise is a beautiful, handsome leather one."

"You use rather more adjectives than necessary, Rotha."

"But, father, that is something to happen, isn't it?"

"You speak as if you were glad of it."

"I am not glad the man is sick. I am just glad to have something happen.
Things never do happen here."

"I am afraid your mother will hardly feel as much pleased as you do. Is
the man very ill, Eunice?"

"I think so. He is too ill to tell how he feels."

"He may be on your hands then for a day or two."

"He may for more than that."

"How can you manage?" said Mr. Carpenter, looking anxiously at the sweet
face which already bore such lines of care, and was so work-worn.

"I don't know. I shall find out," Mrs. Carpenter answered as she was
dishing the dinner. "The Lord seems to have given me this to do; and he
knows. I guess, what he gives me to do, I can do."

"I don't see how you can say that, mother," Rotha put in here.


"This man was taken sick on the road, and happened to come in here. How
can you say, the Lord gave him to you to take care of?"

"Nothing 'happens,' Rotha. Suppose his sickness had come on a little
sooner, or a little later? why was it just here that he found he could go
no further?"

"Do you suppose there was any 'why' about it?"

Father and mother both smiled; the father answered.

"Do you suppose I would plough a field, without meaning to get any fruit
from it."

"No, father."

"Neither does the Lord, my child."

Rotha pondered the subject, and had occasion to ponder it more as the
days went on. She found she had some share in the consequences of this
"happening"; more dishes to wash, and more sweeping and dusting, and
churning, and setting of tables, and cleaning of vegetables; and she
quite ceased to be glad that something had come to them out of the common
run of affairs. For several days her mother was much engaged in the care
of the sick man, and put all she could of the housework upon Rotha's
hands; the nursing kept herself very busy. The sickness was at first
severe; and then the mending was gradual; so that it was full two weeks
before the stranger could leave his room. Mrs. Carpenter had no servant
in the house; she did everything for him with her own hands; and with as
much care and tenderness and exactness it was done as if the sick man had
been a dear friend. By day and by night; nothing failed him; and so, in
about two weeks, he was healed and had only his weakness to recover from.
Mrs. Carpenter often looked tired and pale during those weeks, but
cheerfulness and courage never gave out.

"I have learned something," she said one day at dinner, as the two weeks
were ended.

"What is that?" her husband asked.

"The name of our guest."

"Well who is he?"

"He is English; his name is Southwode. He came to America on business two
months ago; to New York; then found it was needful for him to see some
people in Rochester; and was on his way when he was taken ill at our

"That's all?"

"Pretty much all. He is not much of a talker. I never found out so much
till to-day."

"It is quite enough. I suppose he will go on to Rochester now?"

"Not for two or three days yet, Liph; he is very weak; but I guess we
will have him out to supper with us this evening. You may put a glass of
roses on the table, Rotha, and make it look very nice. And set the table
in the hall."

Unlike most of its kind, this farmhouse had a wide hall running through
the middle of it. Probably it had been built originally for somewhat
different occupation. At any rate, the hall served as a great comfort to
Mrs. Carpenter in the summer season, enabling her to get out of the hot
kitchen, without opening her best room, the "parlour."

It was a pretty enough view that greeted the stranger here, when he was
called to supper and crept out of his sick room. Doors stood open at
front and rear of the house, letting the breeze play through. It brought
the odours of the new hay and the shorn grass, mingled with the breath of
roses. Roses were on the table too; a great glass full of them; not
skilfully arranged, certainly, but heavy with sweetness and lovely in
various hues of red and blush white. A special comfortable chair was
placed for him, and a supper served with which an epicure could have
found no fault. Mrs. Carpenter's bread was of the lightest and whitest;
the butter was as if the cows had been eating roses; the cold ham was
cured after an old receipt, and tender and juicy and savoury to suit any
fastidious appetite; and there were big golden raspberries, and cream
almost as golden. Out of doors, the eye saw green fields, with an elm
standing here and there; and on one side, a bit of the kitchen garden.
Mr. Southwode was a silent man, at least he was certainly silent here;
but he was observant; and his looks went quietly from one thing to
another, taking it all in. Perhaps the combination was strange to him and
gave him matter for study. There was conversation too, as the meal went
on, which occupied his ears, though he could hardly be said to take an
active part in it. His host made kind efforts for his entertainment; and
Rotha and her father had always something to discuss. Mr. Southwode
listened. It was not the sort of talk he expected to hear in a farmhouse.
The girl was full of intelligence, the father quite able to meet her, and
evidently doing it with delight; the questions they talked about were
worthy the trouble; and while on the one hand there was keen
inquisitiveness and natural acumen, on the other there was knowledge and
the habit of thought and ease of expression. Mr. Southwode listened, and
now and then let his eye go over to the fair, placid, matronly face at
the head of the table. Mrs. Carpenter did not talk much; yet he saw that
she understood. And more; he saw that in both father and mother there was
culture and literary taste and literary knowledge. Yet she did her own
work, and he came in to-day in his shirt sleeves from the mowing of his
own fields. Mr. Southwode drew conclusions, partly false perhaps, but
partly true. He thought these people had seen what are called better
days; he was sure that they were going through more or less of a struggle
now. Moreover, he saw that the farmer was not strong in body or sound in
health, and he perceived that the farmer's wife knew it.

The supper ended, a new scene opened for his consideration. With quick
and skilful hands the mother and daughter cleared the table, carrying the
things into the kitchen. Rotha brought a Bible and laid it before her
father; and mother and daughter resumed their seats. Mr. Carpenter read a
chapter, like a man who both knew and loved it; and then, a book being
given to the stranger, the other three set up a hymn. There was neither
formality nor difficulty; as the one had read, so they all sang, as if
they loved it. The voices were not remarkable; what was remarkable, to
the guest, was the sweet intonations and the peculiar _appropriation_ with
which the song was sung. It was a very common hymn,

"Jesus, I love thy charming name,
'Tis music to my ear;" -

And Mr. Southwode noticed a thing which greatly stirred his curiosity. As
the singing went on, the lines of those careworn faces relaxed; Mrs.
Carpenter's brow lost its shadow, her husband's face wore an incipient
smile; it was quite plain that both of them had laid down for the moment
the burden which it was also quite plain they carried at other times.
What had become of it? and what power had unloosed them from it? Not the
abstract love of music, certainly; though the melody which they sang was
sweet, and the notes floated out upon the evening air with a kind of
grave joy. So as the summer breeze was wafted in. There was a harmony,
somehow, between the outer world and this little inner world, for the
time, which moved Mr. Southwode strangely, though he could not at all
understand it. He made no remark when the service was over, either upon
that or upon any other subject. Of course the service ended with a
prayer. Not a long one; and as it was in the reading and singing, so in
this; every word was simply said and meant. So evidently, that the
stranger was singularly impressed with the reality of the whole thing, as
contradistinguished from all formal or merely duty work, and as being a
matter of enjoyment to those engaged in it.

He had several occasions for renewing his observations; for Mr.
Southwode's condition of weakness detained him yet several days at the
farm-house. He established for himself during this interval the character
he had gained of a silent man; however, one afternoon he broke through
his habit and spoke. It was the day before he intended to continue his
journey. Rotha had gone to the field with her father, to have some fun in
the hay; Mr. Southwode and Mrs. Carpenter sat together in the wide
farmhouse hall. The day being very warm, they had come to the coolest
place they could find. Mrs. Carpenter was busy with mending clothes; her
guest for some time sat idly watching her; admiring, as he had done often
already, the calm, sweet strength of this woman's face. What a beauty she
must have been once, he thought; all the lines were finely drawn and
delicate; and the soul that looked forth of them was refined by nature
and purified by patience. Mr. Southwode had something to say to her this
afternoon, and did not know how to begin.

"Your husband seems to have a fine farm here," he remarked.

"It is, I believe," Mrs. Carpenter answered, without lifting her eyes
from her darning.

"He took me over some of his ground this morning. He knows what to do
with it, too. It is in good order."

"It would be in good order, if my husband had his full strength."

"Yes. I am sorry to see he has not."

"Did he say anything to you about it?" the wife enquired presently, with
a smothered apprehensiveness which touched her companion. He answered
however indifferently in the negative.

"I don't like his cough, though," he went on after a little interval.
"Have you had advice for him?"

There was a startled look of pain in the eyes which again met him, and
the lips closed upon one another a little more firmly. They always had a
firm though soft set, and the corners of the mouth told of long and
patient endurance. Now the face told of another stab of pain, met and

"He would not call in anybody," she said faintly.

That was not what Mr. Southwode had meant to talk about, though closely
connected with the subject of his thoughts. He would try again.

"I owe you a great debt of gratitude, Mrs. Carpenter," he said after a
long enough pause had ensued, and beginning on another side. "I presume
you have saved my life."

"I am very glad we have been able to do anything," she said quietly.
"There is no need of thanks."

"But I must speak them, or I should not deserve to live. It astonishes
me, how you should be so kind to an entire stranger."

"That's why you needed it," she said with a pleasant smile.

"Yes, yes, my need is one thing; that was plain enough; but if everybody
took care of other people's needs - Why, you have done everything for me,
night and day, Mrs. Carpenter. You have not spared yourself in the least;
and I have given a deal of trouble."

"I did not think it trouble," she said in the same way. "There is no need
to say anything about it."

"Excuse me; I must say something, or earn my own contempt. But what made
you do all that for a person who was nothing to you? I do not understand
that sort of thing, in such a degree."

"Perhaps you do not put it the right way," she returned. "Anybody who is
in trouble is something to me."

"What, pray?" said he quickly.

"My neighbour," - she said with that slight, pleasant smile again. "Don't
you know the gospel rule is, to do to others what you would wish them to
do to you?"

"I never saw anybody before who observed that rule."

"Didn't you? I am sorry for that. It is a pleasant rule to follow."

"Pleasant!" her guest echoed. "Excuse me; you cannot mean that?"

"I mean it, yes, certainly. And there is another thing, Mr. Southwode; I
like to do whatever my Master gives me to do; and he gave you to me to
take care of."

"Did he?"

"I think so."

"You did it," said the stranger slowly. "Mrs. Carpenter, I am under very
great obligations to you."

"You are very welcome," she said simply.

"You have done more for me than you know. I never saw what religion can
be - what religion is - until I saw it in your house."

She was silent now, and he was silent also, for some minutes; not knowing
exactly how to go on. He felt instinctively that he must not offer money
here. The people were poor unquestionably; at the same time they did not
belong to the class that can take that sort of pay for service. He never
thought of offering it. They were quite his equals.

"Mr. Carpenter was so good as to tell me something of his affairs as we
walked this morning," he began again. "I am sorry to hear that his land
is heavily encumbered."

"Yes!" Mrs. Carpenter said with a sigh, and a shadow crossing her face.

"That sort of thing cannot be helped sometimes, but it is a bother, and
it leads to more bother. Well! I should like to be looked upon as a
friend, by you and your husband; but I shall be a friend a good way off.
Mrs. Carpenter, do not be offended at my plain speaking; - I would say,
that if ever you find yourself in difficulties and need a friend's help,

Online LibrarySusan WarnerA Letter of Credit → online text (page 1 of 39)