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HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & COMPANY,
BOSTON AND NEW YORK.
THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874|,
BY JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY,
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
The Riverside Frets, Cambridge, Mass., U. S.
Printed by 11. 0. Uoughtoa & Company.
IN WHICH PARSON WIBIRD HAWKINS KETIRES FROM
A PARSON OF THE OLD SCHOOL . 15
MR. DENT AND HIS WJSID
DRAGONS ..... .37
THE ROMANCE OF HORSESHOE LANE . .57
CONCERNING A SKELETON IN A CLOSET . . . .84
How JOHN DKNT MADE HIS PILE AND LOST IT . . 107
THE PARSON'S LAST TEXT . . . 134
A WILL, AND THE WAY OF IT 150
THE NEW MINISTER 166
A NEW ENGLAND IDOL 179
PEUE! .... ..... 194
KING COPHETUA AND THE BEGGAR MAID . . . 222
COLONEL PEYTON TODHUNTER 233
How PRUE SANG "AULD ROBIN GRAY" .... 255
HOW MR. DlLLINGHAM LOOKED OUT OF A WINDOW . . 269
A RIVERMOUTH MYSTERY . . 301
IN WHICH PARSON WIBIRD HAWKINS RETIRES FROM
PARSON Wibird Hawkins was in trouble.
The trouble was not of a pecuniary nature,
for the good man had not only laid up treas-
ures in heaven, but had kept a temporal eye
on the fluctuations of real estate in River-
mouth, and was the owner of three or four of
the nicest houses in Hollyhock Row. Nor was
his trouble of a domestic nature, whatever it
once might have been, for Mrs. Wibird Haw-
kins was dead this quarter of a century. Nor
was it of the kind that sometimes befalls
too susceptible shepherds, for the parson had
reached an age when the prettiest of his flock
might have frisked about him without stirring
His trouble was the trouble of all men who,
having played their parts nearly if not quite to
the end, persist in remaining on the stage to
the exclusion of more fiery young actors who
have their pieces to speak and their graces to
show off. These hapless old men do not
perceive that the scene has been changed
meanwhile, that twenty or thirty or forty years
are supposed to have elapsed ; it never occurs
to them that they are not the most present-
able poets, lunatics, and lovers, until the au-
dience rises up and hoots them, gray hairs
and all, from the foot-lights.
Parson Wibird Hawkins had been prattling
innocently to half-averted ears for many a sum-
mer and winter. The parish, as a parish, had
become tired of old man Hawkins. After fifty
years he had begun to pall on them. For fifty
years he had christened them and married them
and buried them, and held out to them the
slightest possible hopes of salvation, in accord-
ance with their own grim theology ; and now
they wanted to get rid of him, and he never
once suspected it, never suspected it, until
that day when the deacons waited upon him in
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 9
his study in the cob webbed old parsonage, and
suggested the expediency of his retirement
from active parochial duties. Even then he
did not take in the full import of the dea-
cons' communication. Retire from the Lord's
vineyard just when his experience was ripest
and his heart fullest of his Master's work,
surely they did not mean that ! Here he was
in his prime, as it were ; only seventy-nine
last Thanksgiving. He had come among them
a young man fresh from the University on
the Charles, he had given them the enthu-
siasm of his youth and the wisdom of his ma-
ture manhood, and he would, God willing,
continue to labor with them to the end. He
would die in the harness. It was his prayer
that when the Spirit of the Lord came to
take him away, it might find him preaching
His word from the pulpit of the Old Brick
"It was very good of you, Deacon Wendell,
and you, Deacon Twombly," said the poor old
parson, wiping the perspiration from his brow
with a large red silk handkerchief dotted with
yellow moons ; " it was, I must say, very con-
10 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
siderate in you to think that I might wish to
rest awhile after all these years of labor ; but
1 cannot entertain the idea for a moment."
He had got it into his head that the deacons
were proposing a vacation to him, were possi-
bly intending to send him to Europe on a tour
through Palestine, as the Saint Ann's parish
had sent the Rev. Josiah Jones the year
" Not," he went on, " but I should like to
visit the Holy Land and behold with my own
eyes the places made sacred by the footsteps
of our Saviour, Jerusalem, and Jordan, and
the Mount of Olives, ah! I used to dream
of that ; but my duties held me here then, and
now I cannot bring myself to desert, even
temporarily, the flock I have tended so long.
"Why, I know them all by face and name, and
love them all, down to the latest ewe-lamb."
The latest ewe-lamb, by the way, was Deacon
Twombly's, and the allusion made him feel
very uncomfortable indeed. He glanced un-
easily at Deacon Wendell, and Deacon Wen-
dell glanced covertly at him, and they both
wished that the duty of dismissing Parson
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 11
Hawkins had fallen upon somebody else. But
the duty was to be performed. The matter
had been settled, and the new minister all but
decided on, before the deacons went up to the
parsonage that afternoon. Even before the
king was cold, his subjects had in a manner
thrown up their caps for the next in succes-
sion. All this had not been brought about,
however, without a struggle.
Some of the less progressive members of the
parish clung to the ancient order of things.
Parson Wibird had been their main-stay in
life, sickness, and death for full half a cen-
tury ; they had sprung to manhood and grown
gray under his ministrations, and they held it
a shame to throw him over now that his voice
was a little tremulous and his manner not
quite so vigorous as it was. They acknowl-
edged he was not the man he used to be. He
wrote no new sermons now ; he was turning
the barrel upside-down, and his latest essay
dated back as far as 1850. They admitted it
was something of a slip he made, in resurrect-
ing one of those by-gone sermons, to allude to
General Jackson as " our lately deceased Presi-
12 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
dent" ; but then the sermon was a good
sermon, enough sight better than those sug-
ary discourses without a word of sound doc-
trine in 'em, which they had listened to from
flibberty-jibberty young ministers from the
city. There was one of them the other day,
the Sabbath Parson Hawkins was ill, who
preached all about somebody named Darwin.
Who was Darwin ? Darwin was n't one of
" Fur my part," said Mr. Wiggins, the
butcher, " I '11 be shot ef I don't stan' by the
parson. He buried my Merriah Jane fur me,
an' I don't forgit it nuther."
As it was notorious that the late Maria Jane
had led Mr. Wiggins something of a dance in
this life, the unconscious sarcasm of his grati-
tude caused ill-natured people to smile.
Uncle Jedd, the sexton of the Old Brick
Church, threatened never to dig another grave
if they turned off Parson Wibircl. Uncle Jedd
had a loose idea that such a course on his
part would make it rather embarrassing for
Ri vermouth folks. " Ther' is graves an' ther'
is holes," Uncle Jedd would say ; " I makes
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 13
graves, myself, an' I 'm th' only man in th'
county thet can."
Unfortunately the parson's supporters con-
stituted the minority, and not an influential
minority. The voice of the parish was for the
dismissal of the Rev. Wibird Hawkins, and
dismissed he should be.
Deacons Wendell and Twombly found their
mission perplexing. " We tried to let him
down easy, of course," remarked Deacon Zeb
Twombly, relating the circumstance afterwards
to a group of eager listeners in Odiorne's gro-
cery-store ; " but, Lord bless you, you never
see an old gentleman so unwillin' and so hard
to be let down." The parson persisted in not
understanding the drift of the deacons' propo-
sition until, at last, they were forced to use
the most explicit language, and in no way
soften the blow which they suspected rather
than knew would be a heavy one, however
adroitly delivered. But when, finally, he was
made to comprehend the astounding fact that
the Old Brick Church of. Rivermouth actually
wished him to relinquish his pastorate, then
the aged clergyman bowed his head, and, wav-
14 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
ing his hands in a sort of benediction over the
two deacons, retreated slowly, with his chin
on his breast, into a little room adjoining the
study, leaving the pillars of the church stand-
ing rather awkwardly in the middle of the
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 15
A PARSON OP THE OLD SCHOOL.
"TWER since the death of his wife, some
JJ twenty-five years previous to the events I
am relating, Parson Hawkins had lived in the
small house at the foot of Horseshoe Lane.
The house stood in the middle of a garden
under the shadow of two towering elms, and
was so covered by a network of vines, honey-
suckle and Virginia creeper, that the oddities
of its architecture were not distinctly visible
from the street. Though the cottage was not
built by the parson, its interior arrangements
were as eccentric and inconvenient as if he
had designed it. It consisted of three or four
one-story Ls which had apparently been added
to the main building at various periods, accord-
ing to the whim or exigency of the occupant.
At the right of the hall, which paused abruptly
and went up stairs, so to speak, was the par-
16 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
son's study ; opening from this was a smaller
chamber, the sanctum sanctorum, lined to the
ceiling with theological works ; and beyond
this again, though not communicating with it.
was the room where the parson slept. At the
left of the hall was the parlor, redolent of ma-
hogany furniture and the branches of pungent
spruce which choked the wide chimney-place
summer and winter, for the parlor was seldom
used. Then came the dining-room, and next
to that the kitchen. Leading from the former
were two sleeping-chambers, one occupied by
Salome Finder, the parson's housekeeper. The
second story of the main building had been
left unfinished on the inside. Viewed from
the garden gate, the zigzag roofs, touched here
and there with patches of purple and gold
moss, presented the appearance of a collection
of military cocked-hats.
It was altogether a grotesque, ruinous, tum-
bledown place, and people wondered why Par-
son Hawkins should have given up his stately
house on Pleasant Street and moved to Horse-
shoe Lane, and why he remained there. But
Salome Pinder understood it.
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 17
" The parson, you see," said Salome, " is
gittin' a leetle near in his old age. He 'pears
to git nearer an' nearer ev'ry year. When
Miss Hawkins was alive, why, bless you ! there
was n't nothin' too haudsum nor expensive for
her, an' I won't say she was over an' above
grateful, for she was n't ; but she 's dead, the
poor creeter, an' the best of us lack more 'n
wings to be angils. The day after the funeral
the parson says, ' S'lonie,' says he, ' we '11
move into the cottage, it 's quite good enough
for me.' ' Nothin' 's too good for you, Parson
Wibird,' says I. But he did n't feel content
in the great house, an' it was sort o' lonely ;
so move we did, to the disapp'intment of
some, I don't mention no names, who
thought that mebbe the parson would invite
'em up to Pleasant Street permanent. P'rhaps
the Widder Mugridge was the most disap-
p'inted. But, Lord love you, the parson ain't
one of them that is always runnin' after wim-
niin folks. He 's ben married onst."
That was very true, and that Parson Haw-
kins's matrimonial venture was not altogether
of an encouraging complexion seems likely ;
18 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
for he declined to repeat the experiment. For
several years after the translation of Mrs.
Hawkins, the parish supposed he would take
another helpmeet, and, in fact, more than one
seductive cap had been sedately set for him ;
but the parson had shown himself strangely
obtuse. He was not an old man at that time,
but he loved quiet, and perhaps his life had
not been too tranquil under Mrs. Hawkins's
reign. Besides, as Salome said, the parson
was becoming a little near, not in a general
way, but in his personal expenses. The poor
knew how broad and practical his charity was.
His closeness manifested itself only in matters
pertaining to his own comfort. He seemed to
regard himself as an unworthy and designing
person, who was obtaining food and clothes
under false pretences from Parson Hawkins.
These economical tendencies had flowered out
occasionally in his wife's time, but had been
promptly taken up by the roots. Whenever
his coat showed signs of wear or his hat be-
came a trifle dilapidated, Mrs. Hawkins had
made him buy a new one. It was whispered
in and out of the parish that once, when the
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 19
parson protested against replenishing his ward-
robe, Mrs. Hawkins, who appears to have been
a person of considerable executive ability, set-
tled the question by putting the parson's best
waistcoat on the kitchen fire. I do not vouch
for the truth of the story, for, though nothing
occurs in Rivermouth without being known, a
great many things are known there that never
occur at all.
This may have been one of them ; but it is
certain that after Parson Hawkins took up his
abode in the small house he neglected himself
frightfully. His linen was always scrupulously
neat and fresh, for Salome saw to that ; but
he wore his coats until the seams stood out
pathetically, like the bones of the late Mr.
Jamison, the Living Skeleton, who used to
travel with Van Amburgh's circus, and must
have given Death very little trouble to make a
ghost of him. Of course Salome could not
put the old gentleman's coats into the kitchen
stove when they became shabby. The parson's
thriftiness increased with his years, and no
doubt sorely cramped Salome, who had a New
England housewife's appreciation of bountiful
20 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
living, and to whom a riotous number of mince-
pies was a necessity at Thanksgiving. She
uttered no complaint, however, and was quick
to resent any reflection on her master's do-
" We could live on the fat of the land if we
wanted to," said Salome to Mrs. Waldron, who
had dropped in of an afternoon to gossip.
" The parson he 's a rich man as time goes,
an' the pore oughter be thankful for it. He
feeds the widder an' the fatherless, instead of
" I wanter know, now ! "
Salome's homely statement was strictly ac-
curate. However severe the internal economy
at the small house in Horseshoe Lane, the
poor were not scrimped. The Widow Pepper-
ell had her winter fuel regularly ; and the two
Clemmer boys, whose father had leaned against
a circular saw in the Miantonomoh Mills, knew
precisely where their winter jackets were com-
ing from. Even wayside tramps there were
no professional mendicants in Rivermouth
halted instinctively at the modest white gate.
Doubtless the parson helped many a transpar-
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 21
ent impostor on his winding way. There was
a certain yellow dog that used to walk lame
up to the scullery door for a bone, and then
run away with it very nimbly on four legs.
Sandy Marden's Skye-terrier was likely enough
only a fair type of many that shared the par-
He had been a prosperous man. When he
first came to Rivermouth he purchased a lot
of land at the west end of the town, as a pas-
ture for a horse which he neglected or forgot
to buy. The "minister's pasture" became a
standing joke. It turned out a very excellent
joke in the end. Several times he was tempted
to sell the land for less than he gave for it;
but it had cost him little, and he thought that
perhaps it might be worth something more by
and by ; so he held on to it. As the town
grew, fashion drifted in that direction. Then
Captain Pendexter put up his haughty Gothic
mansion at the head of Anchor Street. That
settled the business. A colony of French-roof
houses sprang up as if by magic along Jos-
selyn Avenue, and the "minister's pasture"
was about as valuable a piece of property as
22 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
there was in Rivermouth. So it came to pass
that Parson Hawkins was a moderately rich
man. The people thought the parson was
pretty shrewd, when perhaps he was only pretty
lucky : if he had been shrewd he would have
sold the land long before it was worth any-
thing. Another speculation he entered into at
this time was not so successful. If the local
tradition is correct, Colonel Trueworthy Den-
nett's daughter Dorcas got the best of that
But for many years now the parson's lines
had fallen in pleasant places. The tumult and
jar of life never reached him among his books
in the seven-by-nine library in Horseshoe Lane.
The fateful waves of time and chance that beat
about the world surged and broke far away
from the little garden with its bright row of
sentinel hoUyhocks and its annual encamp-
ments of marigolds and nasturtiums. To be
sure he had had, four or five years before this
chronicle opens, what he regarded as a griev-
ous affliction. The parish, contrary to his
wishes, had removed the old pine-wood pulpit
and replaced it with an ornate new-fangled
PRUDENCE PALFEEY. 23
black-walnut affair thick with grotesque carv-
ings like a heathen idol. The old pulpit was
hallowed by a hundred associations ; it had
been built in King George's time ; eminent
divines whose names are fresh in our colonial
history had stood under that antiquated sound-
iiig-board ; but, after all, what did it matter
to him whether he expounded the Scriptures
from pine or black-walnut, so long as he was
permitted to teach his children the way and
the life? His annoyance was but transient, and
he came to look upon it as a vanity and vex-
ation of spirit on his part. But now a real
trouble had come to him.
While the two deacons were engaged with
the parson in the study that May afternoon,
Salome Finder moved about the hall and the
dining-room with strange restlessness. Few
things went on in the cottage without her cog-
nizance. Not that Salome was given to eaves-
dropping ; but the rooms were contracted, the
partitions thin, and words spoken in even the
usual conversational tone had a trick of re-
peating themselves in the adjacent apartments.
The study door was ajar, and Salome could
24 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
scarcely help catching scraps of the dialogue
from time to time.
Long before the deacons took their depart-
ure she knew very well what had happened.
In fact, when she saw Deacon Twombly and
Deacon Wendell coming up the garden walk,
she felt their visit to be ominous. Salome
knew of the dissatisfaction that had been
brewing in the parish for months past. That
Parson Hawkins never dreamed of it shows
how unfitted he was to serve longer. The ap-
pearance of the executioners, with warrant and
bow-string, was the first intimation he had of
Salome was appalled by what had taken
place, though in a degree prepared for it. She
was so flustered that she neglected to open the
front door for the retreating deacons, but left
them, as the parson had done, to find their
way out as best they might.
It was some time before she could gather
strength to cross the hall and look into the
study. The parson was not there ; he was in
the little inner room, and the door was locked.
Salome tried the latch and spoke to him sev-
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 25
eral times without getting a reply. Then the
parson told her gently to go away, he was en-
gaged, he would talk with her presently. But
Salome did not go away ; she sunk into a chair
and sat there with her hands folded listlessly
in her lap, a more abject figure, perhaps,
than the old parson on the other side of the
The scent of the lilacs came in at the open
window, and the leaves of the vines trailing
over the casement outside made wavering sil-
houettes on the uncarpeted floor of the study.
The robins sang full-throated in the garden, as
if there were no such thing in the world as
care. Salome listened, and wondered vaguely
at their merriment.
The afternoon sunlight slipped from the
eaves and the shadows deepened under the
great elms. The phantom leaves at Salome's
feet had vanished ; the songs of the robins had
died away to faint and intermittent twitter-
ings, and the early twilight crept into the
study. Now and then she fancied she heard
the parson moving in the little room ; he
seemed to be walking to and fro at intervals,
26 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
like some poor caged animal. She could not
It was nearly dark when the garden gate
swung to with a sharp click, and a quick, light
footstep sounded on the gravel-walk. Salome
rose hastily from the chair, and reached the
street-door just as some one stepped upon the
It was a girl of nineteen or twenty, but
looking younger with her hair blown about her
brows by the fresh May wind. She held in
one hand a chip-straw hat which had slipped
from its place, and with the other was pushing
back an enviable mass of brown hair, showing a
serious, pale face, a little flushed at the cheeks
with walking. It was a face which, passing it
heedlessly in the street, you would be likely
to retain in your memory unconsciously. The
wide gray eyes, capable of great tenderness
and great haughtiness, would come back to
you vividly, maybe, years afterwards. The girl
was not a beauty in the ordinary sense, but
she had what some one has described as a
haunting face. Who has not caught a chance
expression on some face in a crowd, a lift-
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 27
ing of the eye, a turn of the lip, an instanta-
neous revelation of strength or weakness, -
and never forgotten it ? I have a fancy, which
I do not thrust upon the reader, that the per-
son who casts this spell on us would exert a
marked influence over our destiny if circum-
stance brought us in contact with him or her.
He or she would be our good angel or our
As the girl stood there now on the porch,
she looked little enough like playing the part
of a Fate. With her heavy hair blown in
clouds over her eyes, she looked rather like a
" Miss Prue ! is that you, honey ? ' cried
Salome. " Do jest step in an' speak to the
parson ; he 's in a peck of trouble."
" I was afraid so, Salome. Where is he ? '
asked the girl, pushing open the door of the
study and seeing it unoccupied.
" He 's locked hisself in the sanctrum,"