Sarah Orne Jewett.

The queen's twin, and other stories online

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rt, Cambridge









WHERE S NORA ....... 73


MARTHA S LADY . ...... :

THE COON DOG ....... 170




THE coast of Maine was in former years
brought so near to foreign shores by its
busy fleet of ships that among the older
men and women one still finds a surprising
proportion of travelers. Each seaward-
stretching headland with its high -set
houses, each island of a single farm, has
sent its spies to view many a Land of Esh-
col ; one may see plain, contented old faces
at the windows, whose eyes have looked at
far-away ports and known the splendors of
the Eastern world. They shame the easy
voyager of the North Atlantic and the Med
iterranean ; they have rounded the Cape of
Good Hope and braved the angry seas of
Cape Horn in small wooden ships ; they have
brought up their hardy boys and girls on
narrow decks ; they were among the last of
the Northmen s children to go adventuring
to unknown shores. More than this one


cannot give to a young State for its enlight
enment ; the sea captains and the captains
wives of Maine knew something of the wide
world, and never mistook their native par
ishes for the whole instead of a part thereof ;
they knew not only Thomaston and Castine
and Portland, but London and Bristol and
Bordeaux, and the strange-mannered har
bors of the China Sea.

One September day, when I was nearly at
the end of a summer spent in a village called
Dunnet Landing, on the Maine coast, my
friend Mrs. Todd, in whose house I lived,
came home from a long, solitary stroll in the
wild pastures, with an eager look as if she
were just starting on a hopeful quest instead
of returning. She brought a little basket
with blackberries enough for supper, and
held it towards me so that I could see that
there were also some late and surprising
raspberries sprinkled on top, but she made
no comment upon her wayfaring. I could
tell plainly that she had something very im
portant to say.

" You have n t brought home a leaf of
anything," I ventured to this practiced herb-
gatherer. " You were saying yesterday that
the witch hazel might be in bloom."


" I dare say, dear," she answered in a
lofty manner ; " I ain t goin to say it was
n t; I ain t much concerned either way
bout the facts o witch hazel. Truth is,
I ve been off visitin ; there s an old In
dian footpath leadin over towards the Back
Shore through the great heron swamp that
anybody can t travel over all summer. You
have to seize your time some day just now,
while the low ground s summer-dried as it
is to-day, and before the fall rains set in. I
never thought of it till I was out o sight o
home, and I says to myself, To-day s the
day, certain ! and stepped along smart as I
could. Yes, I ve been visitin . I did get
into one spot that was wet underfoot before
I noticed ; you wait till I get me a pair o
dry woolen stockings, in case of cold, and
I 11 come an tell ye."

Mrs. Todd disappeared. I could see that
something had deeply interested her. She
might have fallen in with either the sea-ser
pent or the lost tribes of Israel, such was her
air of mystery and satisfaction. She had been
away since just before mid-morning, and as
I sat waiting by my window I saw the last
red glow of autumn sunshine flare along the
gray rocks of the shore and leave them cold


again, and touch the far sails of some coast
wise schooners so that they stood like golden
houses on the sea.

I was left to wonder longer than I liked.
Mrs. Todd was making an evening fire and
putting things in train for supper ; presently
she returned, still looking warm and cheerful
after her long walk.

" There s a beautiful view from a hill
over where I ve been," she told me ; " yes,
there s a beautiful prospect of land and sea.
You would n t discern the hill from any dis
tance, but t is the pretty situation of it that
counts. I sat there a long spell, and I did
wish for you. No, I did n t know a word
about goin when I set out this morning " (as
if I had openly reproached her !) ; "I only
felt one o them travelin fits coinin on, an
I ketched up my little basket ; I did n t
know but I might turn and come back time
for dinner. I thought it wise to set out your
luncheon for you in case I did n t. Hope
you had all you wanted ; yes, I hope you
had enough."

" Oh, yes, indeed," said I. My landlady
was always peculiarly bountiful in her sup
plies when she left me to fare for myself, as
if she made a sort of peace-offering or affec
tionate apology.


" You know that hill with the old house
right on top, over beyond the heron swamp ?
You 11 excuse me for explaining" Mrs. Todd
began, " but you ain t so apt to strike inland
as you be to go right along shore. You know
that hill ; there s a path leadin right over to
it that you have to look sharp to find nowa
days ; it belonged to the up-country Indians
when they had to make a carry to the land
ing here to get to the out islands. I Ve
heard the old folks say that there used to
be a place across a ledge where they d worn
a deep track with their moccasin feet, but
I never could find it. T is so overgrown
in some places that you keep losin the path
in the bushes and findin it as you can ; but
it runs pretty straight considerin the lay o
the land, and I keep my eye on the sun and
the moss that grows one side o the tree
trunks. Some brook s been choked up and
the swamp s bigger than it used to be. Yes ;
I did get in deep enough, one place ! "

I showed the solicitude that I felt. Mrs.
Todd was no longer young, and in spite of
her strong, great frame and spirited be
havior, I knew that certain ills were apt to
seize upon her, and would end some day by
leaving her lame and ailing.


" Don t you go to worryin about me,"
she insisted, " settin still s the only way
the Evil One 11 ever get the upper hand o
me. Keep me movin enough, an I m
twenty year old summer an winter both.
I don t know why t is, but I ve never hap
pened to mention the one I ve been to see.
I don t know why I never happened to speak
the name of Abby Martin, for I often give
her a thought, but t is a dreadful out-o -the-
way place where she lives, and I have n t
seen her myself for three or four years.
She s a real good interesting woman, and
we re well acquainted ; she s nigher mo
ther s age than mine, but she s very young
feeling. She made me a nice cup o tea,
and I don t know but I should have stopped
all night if I could have got word to you
not to worry."

Then there was a serious silence before
Mrs. Todd spoke again to make a formal

" She is the Queen s Twin," and Mrs.
Todd looked steadily to see how I might
bear the great surprise.

"The Queen s Twin?" I repeated.

" Yes, she s come to feel a real interest
in the Queen, and anybody can see how


natural t is. They were born the very same
day, and you would be astonished to see what
a number o other things have corresponded.
She was speaking o some o the facts to me
to-day, an you d think she d never done no
thing but read history. I see how earnest
she was about it as I never did before. I ve
often and often heard her allude to the facts,
but now she s got to be old and the hurry s
over with her work, she s come to live a
good deal in her thoughts, as folks often do,
and I tell you t is a sight o company for
her. If you want to hear about Queen Vic
toria, why Mis Abby Martin 11 tell you
everything. And the prospect from that
hill I spoke of is as beautiful as anything in
this world ; t is worth while your goin over
to see her just for that."

" When can you go again ? " I demanded

" I should say to-morrow," answered Mrs.
Todd ; " yes, I should say to-morrow ; but I
expect twould be better to take one day
to rest, in between. I considered that ques
tion as I was comin home, but I hurried so
that there wa n t much time to think. It s
a dreadful long way to go with a horse ; you
have to go most as far as the old Bowden


place an turn off to the left, a master long,
rough road, and then you have to turn right
round as soon as you get there if you mean
to get home before nine o clock at night.
But to strike across country from here,
there s plenty o time in the shortest day,
and you can have a good hour or two s visit
beside ; t ain t but a very few miles, and
it s pretty all the way along. There used
to be a few good families over there, but
they ve died and scattered, so now she s
far from neighbors. There, she really cried,
she was so glad to see anybody comin .
You 11 be amused to hear her talk about
the Queen, but I thought twice or three
times as I set there t was about all the com
pany she d got."

" Could we go day after to-morrow ? " I
asked eagerly.

" T would suit me exactly," said Mrs.


One can never be so certain of good New
England weather as in the days when a long
easterly storm has blown away the warm
late-summer mists, and cooled the air so
that however bright the sunshine is by day,


the nights come nearer and nearer to frosti-
ness. There was a cold freshness in the
morning air when Mrs. Todd and I locked
the house-door behind us ; we took the key
of the fields into our own hands that day,
and put out across country as one puts out
to sea. When we reached the top of the
ridge behind the town it seemed as if we had
anxiously passed the harbor bar and were
comfortably in open sea at last.

"There, now!" proclaimed Mrs. Todd,
taking a long breath, " now I do feel safe.
It s just the weather that s liable to bring
somebody to spend the day ; I ve had a
feeling of Mis Elder Caplin from North
Point bein close upon me ever since I
waked up this mornin , an I didn t want
to be hampered with our present plans.
She s a great hand to visit ; she 11 be
spendin the day somewhere from now till
Thanksgivin , but there s plenty o places at
the Landin where she goes, an if I ain t
there she 11 just select another. I thought
mother might be in, too, t is so pleasant ;
but I run up the road to look off this
mornin before you was awake, and there
was no sign o the boat. If they haa n t
started by that time they wouldn t start,


just as the tide is now ; besides, I see a lot
o* mackerel-men headin Green Island way,
and they 11 detain William. No, we re safe
now, an if mother should be comin in to
morrow we 11 have all this to tell her. She
an Mis Abby Martin s very old friends."

We were walking down the long pasture
slopes towards the dark woods and thickets
of the low ground. They stretched away
northward like an unbroken wilderness ; the
early mists still dulled much of the color
and made the uplands beyond look like a
very far-off country.

"It ain t so far as it looks from here,"
said my companion reassuringly, " but we ve
got no time to spare either," and she hurried
on, leading the way with a fine sort of spirit
in her step ; and presently we struck into
the old Indian footpath, which could be
plainly seen across the long-unploughed turf
of the pastures, and followed it among the
thick, low -growing spruces. There the
ground was smooth and brown under foot,
and the thin-stemmed trees held a dark and
shadowy roof overhead. W r e walked a long
way without speaking ; sometimes we had to
push aside the branches, and sometimes we
walked in a broad aisle where the trees were


larger. It was a solitary wood, birdless and
beastless ; there was not even a rabbit to be
seen, or a crow high in air to break the

" I don t believe the Queen ever saw such
a lonesome trail as this," said Mrs. Todd, as
if she followed the thoughts that were in
my mind. Our visit to Mrs. Abby Martin
seemed in some strange way to concern the
high affairs of royalty. I had just been
thinking of English landscapes, and of the
solemn hills of Scotland with their lonely
cottages and stone-walled sheepfolds, and
the wandering flocks on high cloudy pas
tures. I had often been struck by the quick
interest and familiar allusion to certain
members of the royal house which one
found in distant neighborhoods of New
England ; whether some old instincts of
personal loyalty have survived all changes
of time and national vicissitudes, or whether
it is only that the Queen s own character
and disposition have won friends for her so
far away, it is impossible to tell. But to
hear of a twin sister was the most surpris
ing proof of intimacy of all, and I must con
fess that there was something remarkably
exciting to the imagination in my morning


walk. To think of being presented at Court
in the usual way was for the moment quite


Mrs. Todd was swinging her basket to
and fro like a schoolgirl as she walked, and
at this moment it slipped from her hand and
rolled, lightly along the ground as if there
were nothing in it. I picked it up and gave
it to her, whereupon she lifted the cover and
looked in with anxiety.

" T is only a few little things, but I don t
want to lose em," she explained humbly.
" T was lucky you took the other basket
if I was goin to roll it round. Mis Abby
Martin complained o lacking some pretty
pink silk to finish one o her little frames,
an I thought I d carry her some, and I had
a bunch o gold thread that had been in a
box o mine this twenty year. I never was
one to do much fancy work, but we re all
liable to be swept away by fashion. And
then there s a small packet o very choice
herbs that I gave a good deal of attention
to ; they 11 smarten her up and give her
the best of appetites, come spring. She
was tellin me that spring weather is very


wiltin an try in to her, and she was begin-
nin to dread it already. Mother s just the
same way ; if I could prevail on mother to
take some o these remedies in good season
twould make a world o difference, but she
gets all down hill before I have a chance to
hear of it, and then William comes in to tell
me, sighin and bewailin , how feeble mother
is. Why can t you remember bout them
good herbs that I never let her be without ?
I say to him he does provoke me so ; and
then off he goes, sulky enough, down to his
boat. Next thing I know, she comes in to
go to meetin , wantin to speak to everybody
and feelin like a girl. Mis Martin s case is
very much the same ; but she s nobody to
watch her. William s kind o slow-moulded ;
but there, any William s better than none
when you get to be Mis Martin s age."

" Had n t she any children ? " I asked.

"Quite a number," replied Mrs. Todd
grandly, "but some are gone and the rest
are married and settled. She never was a
great hand to go about visitin . I don t
know but Mis Martin might be called a
little peculiar. Even her own folks has to
make company of her ; she never slips in
and lives right along with the rest as if


twas at home, even in her own children s
houses. I heard one o her sons wives say
once she d much rather have the Queen to
spend the day if she could choose between
the two, but I never thought Abby was so
difficult as that. I used to love to have her
come ; she may have been sort o ceremoni
ous, but very pleasant and sprightly if you
had sense enough to treat her her own way.
I always think she d know just how to live
with great folks, and feel easier long of
them an their ways. Her son s wife s a
great driver with farm-work, boards a great
tableful o men in hayin time, an feels right
in her element. I don t say but she s a
good woman an smart, but sort o rough.
Anybody that s gentle-mannered an precise
like Mis Martin would be a sort o restraint.
" There s all sorts o folks in the country,
same s there is in the city," concluded Mrs.
Todd gravely, and I as gravely agreed. The
thick woods were behind us now, and the sun
was shining clear overhead, the morning
mists were gone, and a faint blue haze soft
ened the distance; as we climbed the hill
where we were to see the view, it seemed
like a summer day. There was an old house
on the height, facing southward, a mere


forsaken shell of an old house, with empty
windows that looked like blind eyes. The
frost-bitten grass grew close about it like
brown fur, and there was a single crooked
bough of lilac holding its green leaves close
by the door.

" We 11 just have a good piece of bread-
an -butter now," said the commander of the
expedition, " and then we 11 hang up the bas
ket on some peg inside the house out o the
way o the sheep, and have a han some enter
tainment as we re comin back. She 11 be all
through her little dinner when we get there,
Mis Martin will ; but she 11 want to make
us some tea, an we must have our visit an
be startin back pretty soon after two. I
don t want to cross all that low ground
again after it s begun to grow chilly. An
it looks to me as if the clouds might begin
to gather late in the afternoon."

Before us lay a splendid world of sea and
shore. The autumn colors already bright
ened the landscape ; and here and there at
the edge of a dark tract of pointed firs stood
a row of bright swamp-maples like scarlet
flowers. The blue sea and the great tide
inlets were untroubled by the lightest


" Poor land, this is ! " sighed Mrs. Todd
as we sat down to rest on the worn door
step. " I ve known three good hard-workin
families that come here full o hope an pride
and tried to make something o this farm,
but it beat em all. There s one small field
that s excellent for potatoes if you let half
of it rest every year ; but the land s always
hungry. Now, you see them little peaked-
topped spruces an fir balsams comin up
over the hill all green an hearty ; they ve
got it all their own way ! Seems sometimes
as if wild Natur got jealous over a certain
spot, and wanted to do just as she d a mind
to. You 11 see here ; she 11 do her own
ploughin an harrowin with frost an wet,
an plant just what she wants and wait for
her own crops. Man can t do nothin with
it, try as he may. I tell you those little
trees means business ! "

I looked down the slope, and felt as if we
ourselves were likely to be surrounded and
overcome if we lingered too long. There
was a vigor of growth, a persistence and
savagery about the sturdy little trees that
put weak human nature at complete defi
ance. One felt a sudden pity for the men
and women who had been worsted after a


long fight in that lonely place ; one felt a
sudden fear of the unconquerable, immedi
ate forces of Nature, as in the irresistible
moment of a thunderstorm.

" I can recollect the time when folks were
shy o these woods we just come through,"
said Mrs. Todd seriously. " The men-folks
themselves never d venture into em alone ;
if their cattle got strayed they d collect
whoever they could get, and start off all
together. They said a person was liable to
get bewildered in there alone, and in old
times folks had been lost. I expect there
was considerable fear left over from the old
Indian times, and the poor days o witch
craft ; anyway, I ve seen bold men act kind
o timid. Some women o the Asa Bowden
family went out one afternoon berry in when
I was a girl, and got lost and was out all
night ; they found em middle o the mornin
next day, not half a mile from home, scared
most to death, an sayin they d heard
wolves and other beasts sufficient for a car
avan. Poor creatur s ! they d strayed at
last into a kind of low place amongst some
alders, an one of em was so overset she
never got over it, an went off in a sort o
slow decline. T was like them victims that


drowns in a foot o water ; but their minds
did suffer dreadful. Some folks is born
afraid of the woods and all wild places, but
I must say they ve always been like home
to me."

I glanced at the resolute, confident face
of my companion. Life was very strong in
her, as if some force of Nature were person
ified in this simple-hearted woman and gave
her cousinship to the ancient deities. She
might have walked the primeval fields of
Sicily ; her strong gingham skirts might at
that very moment bend the slender stalks
of asphodel and be fragrant with trodden
thyme, instead of the brown wind-brushed
grass of New England and frost-bitten gold-
enrod. She was a great soul, was Mrs.
Todd, and I her humble follower, as we
went our way to visit the Queen s Twin,
leaving the bright view of the sea behind
us, and descending to a lower country-side
through the dry pastures and fields.

The farms all wore a look of gathering
age, though the settlement was, after all, so
young. The fences were already fragile, and
it seemed as if the first impulse of agricul
ture had soon spent itself without hope of
renewal. The better houses were always


those that had some hold upon the riches
of the sea ; a house that could not harbor a
fishing-boat in some neighboring inlet was
far from being sure of every-day comforts.
The land alone was not enough to live upon
in that stony region ; it belonged by right to
the forest, and to the forest it fast returned.
From the top of the hill where we had been
sitting we had seen prosperity in the dim
distance, where the land was good and the
sun shone upon fat barns, and where warm-
looking houses with three or four chimneys
apiece stood high on their solid ridge above
the bay.

As we drew nearer to Mrs. Martin s it
was sad to see what poor bushy fields, what
thin and empty dwelling-places had been
left by those who had chosen this disap
pointing part of the northern country for
their home. We crossed the last field and
came into a narrow rain-washed road, and
Mrs. Todd looked eager and expectant and
said that we were almost at our journey s
end. " I do hope Mis Martin 11 ask you
into her best room where she keeps all the
Queen s pictures. Yes, I think likely she
will ask you ; but t ain t everybody she
deems worthy to visit em, I can tell you ! "


said Mrs. Todd warningly. " She s been
collectin em an cuttin em out o news
papers an magazines time out o mind, and
if she heard of anybody sailin for an Eng
lish port she d contrive to get a little money
to em and ask to have the last likeness there
was. She s most covered her best-room wall
now ; she keeps that room shut up sacred as
a meetin -house ! 4 1 won t say but I have
my favorites amongst em, she told me
t other day, but they re all beautiful to
me as they can be ! And she s made some
kind o pretty little frames for em all
you know there s always a new fashion o
frames comin round ; first t was shell-work,
and then t was pine-cones, and bead-work s
had its day, and now she s much concerned
with perforated cardboard worked with silk.
I tell you that best room s a sight to see !
But you must n t look for anything elegant,"
continued Mrs. Todd, after a moment s re
flection. "Mis Martin s always been in
very poor, strugglin circumstances. She

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Online LibrarySarah Orne JewettThe queen's twin, and other stories → online text (page 1 of 11)