Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
A Surprise for the Rector
By Richard Burleigh Kimball (1816–1892)
 
[To-Day in New York. 1870.]

ONE pleasant afternoon, the latter part of September; it was about sunset; the Reverend Croton Ellsworth was standing in the open air, leaning against the neat paling which surrounded his grounds.
  1
  He was enjoying the dolce far niente of his situation to the fullest degree. He had just made up his mind to preach a couple of old sermons the following Sunday, and the idea gave an additional expression of freedom from all earthly care to the reverend gentleman’s features. The soft haze of a September day had, too, its tranquillizing effect. I wish I could present him to you in tableau just as he stood with his surroundings.  2
  Two very pretty young women had been conversing on the piazza with Mrs. Ellsworth, and now advanced to pass through the gate. Some very pleasant words were exchanged, while the young neophytes looked adoration in the face of their confessor as they tripped out.  3
  Croton Ellsworth followed them with dreamy eyes. His soul began to glow with complacency. He glanced around his well-kept grounds. He surveyed the handsome church edifice. “Is not this great Babylon that I have built?” be felt to himself.  4
  It was the supreme moment unalloyed—the last he ever experienced at Scotenskopft!  5
  “Can you tell me where hereabouts Barnabas Low is anchored?”  6
  Croton Ellsworth turned, and saw standing before him a large, rough-looking man, with very broad shoulders, a grisly beard, and thick gray hair, which curled closely in his neck. He was dressed in sailors’ garb, and wore a tarpaulin on his head.  7
  Croton was startled by this sudden apparition, but he was not easily thrown off his guard. He scrutinized the speaker closely, and could discover nothing dangerous in his countenance, which was, all things considered, an open one. He ventured, therefore, to put on all his dignity.  8
  He looked majestically in the man’s face, and said—“What?”  9
  “I was asking the bearings of Barnabas Low, who, they tell me, is moored a little to leeward of this, but I am blessed if it is in sight on this tack. What course shall I lay?” he continued, seeing the other did not speak.  10
  “I can give you no information, my man. I know no such person,” responded the Reverend Croton Ellsworth, stiffly.  11
  “Are you a priest?” demanded the sailor, bluntly.  12
  “I am.”  13
  “And you undertake to show people the road to heaven, and don’t know the way to your nearest neighbor,” exclaimed the stranger, in a tone so free and easy that Croton felt alarmed.  14
  The man meantime did not stir.  15
  “You had better pass on,” said Croton.  16
  “Why?” asked the sailor.  17
  “Because it is not agreeable to me for you to stay any longer on my premises.”  18
  “Your premises! The highway is as free as a watercourse. You must be a d—d fool!”  19
  “Man!” exclaimed Croton, with solemn emphasis, “if you do not leave here instantly, I will have you removed.”  20
  “Have me removed!” said the other, laughing, as if struck with the ridiculousness of the idea. “Pray, who is to do it? Suppose, now,” he added, coming up still closer to the fence, “I say, suppose I should make up my mind to go in and see your wife and children, who is to prevent me?”  21
  Croton was now thoroughly alarmed. He cast his eyes up the street. He saw two men walking toward him. They were his parishioners. Here was relief almost immediate.  22
  The sailor saw him looking, and seemed to understand what was passing in his mind. “Come, now,” he said, “you don’t answer?”  23
  “I will answer you presently,” returned Croton, growing bolder.  24
  “So you think I had better not go in?” continued the sailor, in a tantalizing tone.  25
  “Move on, instantly, or I put you in custody.”  26
  The two men were getting near.  27
  “Why, don’t you know me, Crote? By ——, I don’t believe the fellow is shamming, after all. You didn’t know Reub, that’s a fact.”  28
  Croton Ellsworth turned pale. For once he exhibited this show of emotion. What could it be? The two persons came up and passed unheeded. He seized on the paling for support. The sailor stood looking at him with an expression of intense contempt.  29
  “Shall I go in?” he asked.  30
  “No, Reuben, no. I can’t have you come in. The house is full—friends from New York. Besides, my wife doesn’t know—doesn’t know ——”  31
  “That you have such a rough customer for a brother, eh, whom you are ashamed to own. Well, Crote, it’s like you. I suppose you are afraid I’ll tell about your lark with Sally Jenkens—a d—d shame it was, too. Crote,” he continued, with a knowing wink, “you are the same cunning coon you always was—ha—ha—ha—ha—saw it when those pretty girls came out.”  32
  “Reuben, how can you go on so? Do you never think of God, and judgment, and eternity?”  33
  “Don’t come your cant over me. Anything but that. What do you know about God, and judgment, and eternity? You were born a hypocrite. Crote, and a hypocrite you are, and always will be.”  34
  “You are a bold blasphemer.”  35
  “What do you care what I am? Just drop that sort of thing, and tell me where I can find my shipmate.”  36
  “I will inquire of the servants; stay where you are till I return.”  37
  Croton Ellsworth came speedily back with the desired information.  38
  “Croton,” said the sailor, in a less rude tone than he had previously used, “Croton, how is mother?”  39
  “She is well, I presume,” said the clergyman, hesitatingly.  40
  “You presume!” exclaimed his brother. “Don’t you know? When did you hear from her?”  41
  “It is some considerable time.”  42
  “When?”  43
  “I think last Spring.”  44
  “Don’t you help her any?”  45
  “I do all I can afford to——”  46
  “Which is devilish small rations, I’ll be bound,” interrupted Reuben. “Confess, Crote, you have not sent her a stiver for six months.”  47
  The other was silent.  48
  “Nor for a year.”  49
  “You are mistaken,” said Croton Ellsworth, promptly.  50
  “You see, Crote, I am a reprobate—a swearing, drinking, ungodly reprobate. You are a saint—one of the oily, unguentum kind. Now listen to me. When I shipped on my three years’ cruise, I entered on the articles, ‘three-fourths of wages to be paid to the old woman.’ The rest was enough for toggery and tobacco; as for grog, no use for it on board. Good-day. I’ll call on you again some time, and see my sweet little nephews and nieces.”  51
  He disappeared round the corner, and pursued his way along the lane, leaving the clergyman in a state of mind quite indescribable.  52
  “Who is that very rude-looking creature, that Croton talks so long with?” asked one of the Miss Marlinspikes of his wife.  53
  “I am sure I cannot imagine.”  54
  At this moment Croton entered. He looked pale and disturbed. The question was repeated.  55
  “Oh, only a sailor; a very interesting man; an extremely interesting and instructive person. He has lately returned from the Sandwich Islands.”  56
 
 
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