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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Butterneggs
By Annie Trumbull Slosson (1838–1926)
 
From ‘Seven Dreamers’

                      “I had a sister
Whom the blind waves and surges have devoured.”
—‘TWELFTH NIGHT.’    

SHE was a woman of nearly seventy, I should think; tall, thin, and angular, with strongly marked features and eyes of very pale blue. Her hair, still dark, though streaked with gray, was drawn back from her temples and twisted into a little hard knot behind, and she wore no cap. We had scarcely exchanged greetings before her eyes fell upon my modest bouquet.  1
  “Butterneggs, I declare for ’t!” she exclaimed with lively interest; “fust I’ve seed this season; mine don’t show a speck o’ blowth yet, an’ mine’s gen’lly fust. Where ’d it grow, ma’am, ’f I may ask?”  2
  I told her of the spot near Buttermilk Falls where we had found it; but did not think it necessary to inform her that we had gone there in search of the plant at Jane’s suggestion, that the sight of it might prompt the old woman to tell a certain tale. I begged her at once to accept the flowers, which she did with evident pleasure, placing the homely little nosegay carefully in water. For a vase she used a curious old wineglass, tall and quaint; far more desirable in my eyes than a garden full of the common yellow flowers it held, and I bent forward eagerly to examine it. Aunt Loretty seemed to regard my interest as wholly botanical in its nature, and centred upon her beloved Linaria vulgaris; and I at once rose in her estimation.  3
  “It’s a sightly posy, ain’t it, ma’am?” she said; “jest about the likeliest there is, I guess. But then it’s heredit’ry in our fam’ly, so o’ course I like it.”  4
  “Hereditary!” I exclaimed, forgetting for a moment my promise to take things quietly, showing no surprise or incredulity. “Butter-and-eggs hereditary in your family!”  5
  “Yes, ma’am, ’tis; leastways the settin’ by ’t is. All the Knappses set everything by butterneggs. Ye can’t be a Knapp—course I mean our branch o’ the fam’ly—ye can’t be one o’ our Knappses an’ not have that plant, with its yeller blooms an’ little narrer whity-green leaves, for yer fav’rite. The Knappses allers held it so, an’ they allers will hold it so, or they won’t be Knappses. Didn’t I never tell ye,” she asked, turning to my companion, “’bout my sister, an’ losin’ her, an’ the way I come to find her?”  6
  I do not remember just how Jane evaded this direct question; but her reply served the desired purpose, and Aunt Loretty was soon started upon her wonderful story.  7
  “My father was Cap’n Zenas Knapp, born right here in Coscob. He follered the sea; an ’s there warn’t much sea ’round here to foller, he moved down Stonin’ton way, an’ took ter whalin’. An’ bimeby he married a gal down there, S’liny Ann Beebe, an’ he lost sight an’ run o’ Coscob an’ the Knappses for a long spell. But pa was a Knapp clear through ’f there ever was one; the very Knappiest Knapp, sot’speak, o’ the hull tribe, an’ that’s puttin’ it strong ’nough. All their ways, all their doin’s, their likin’s an’ dislikin’s, their take-tos an’ their don’t-take-tos, their goods an’ their bads—he had ’em all hard. An’ they had ways, the Knappses had, an’ they’ve got ’em still, what’s left o’ the fam’ly—the waysiest ways! Some folks ain’t that kind, ye know: they’re jest like other folks. If ye met ’em ’way from hum ye wouldn’t know where they come from or whose relations they was: they might be Peckses o’ Horseneck, or Noyeses o’ West’ly, or Simsb’ry Phelpses, or agin they might be Smithses o’ ary place, for all the fam’ly ways they’d got. But our folks, the hull tribe on ’em, was tarred with the same stick, ’s ye might say; ye’d ’a knowed ’em for Knappses wherever they was—in Coscob, Stonin’ton, or Chiny. F’rinstance, for one thing, they was all Congr’ation’l in religion; they allers had ben from the creation o’ the airth. Some folks might say to that, that there wa’n’t no Congr’ation’l meetin’s ’s fur back ’s that. Well, I won’t be too sot,—mebbe there wa’n’t: but ’f that’s so, then there wa’n’t no Knappses; there couldn’t be Knappses an’ no Congr’ation’lists. An’ they all b’lieved in foreord’nation an’ ’lection. They was made so. Ye didn’t have ter larn it to ’em: they got it jest ’s they got teeth when ’twas time; they took it jest ’s they took hoopin’-cough an’ mumps when they was ’round. They didn’t, ary one on ’em, need the cat’chism to larn ’em ’bout ‘Whereby for ’s own glory he hath foreordained whats’ever comes to pass,’ nor to tell ’em ’t. ‘He out o’ his mere good pleasure from all etarnity ’lected some to everlastin’ life’; they knowed it theirselves, the Knappses did. An’ they stuck to their b’liefs, an’ would ’a’ stood up on the Saybrook platform an’ ben burnt up for ’em, like John Rogers in the cat’chism, sayin’,—
  ‘What though this carcass smart a while,
  What though this life decay.’
  8
  “An’ they was all Whigs in pol’tics. There wa’n’t never a Knapp—our branch—who voted the Dem’cratic ticket. They took that too: no need for their pa’s to tell ’em; jest ’s soon ’s a boy got to be twenty-one, an’ ’lection day come round, up he went an’ voted the Whig ticket, sayin’ nothin’ to nobody. An’ so ’twas in everything. They had ways o’ their own. It come in even down to readin’ the Scriptur’s; for every Knapp ’t ever I see p’ferred the Book o’ Rev’lations to ary other part o’ the Bible. They liked it all, o’ course, for they was a pious breed, an’ knowed ’t all Scriptur ’s give by insp’ration, an’ ’s prof’t’ble, an’ so forth; but for stiddy, every-day readin’ give ’em Rev’lations. An’ there was lots o’ other little ways they had, too; sech as strong opp’sition to Baptists, an’ dreffle dislikin’ to furr’ners, an’ the greatest app’tite for old-fashioned, hum-made, white-oak cheese.  9
  “Then they was all ’posed to swearin’, an’ didn’t never use perfane language, none o’ the Knappses; but there was jest one sayin’ they had when ’xcited or s’prised or anything, an’ that was, ‘C’rinthians!’ They would say that, all on ’em, ’fore they died, one time or ’nother. An’ when a Knapp said it, it did sound like the awf’lest kind o’ perfan’ty; but o’ course it wa’n’t. An’ ’fore an’ over all, every born soul on ’em took ter flowers an’ gardens. They would have ’em wherever they was. An’ everything they touched growed an’ thriv: drouth didn’t dry ’em, wet didn’t mold ’em, bugs didn’t eat ’em; they come up an’ leafed out an’ budded an’ blowed for the poorest, needin’est Knapp ’t lived, with only the teentiest bit of a back yard for ’em to grow in, or broken teapots an’ cracked pitchers to hold ’em. But they might have all the finest posies in the land, roses an’ heelyertropes an’ verbeny an’ horseshoe g’raniums, an’ they’d swop ’em all off, ary Knapp would,—our branch,—for one single plant o’ that blessed flower ye fetched me to-day, butterneggs. How ’t come about ’s more ’n I can say, or how long it’s ben goin’ on,—from the very fust start o’ things, fortino; but tennerate, every single Knapp I ever see or heerd on held butterneggs to be the beautif’lest posy God ever made.  10
  “I can’t go myself in my rec’lection back o’ my great-gran’mother; but I r’member her, though I was a speck of a gal when she died. She was a Bissell o’ Nor’field, this State, but she married a Knapp, an’ seemed to grow right inter Knapp ways; an’ she an’ gran’f’ther—great-gran’f’ther I mean, Shearjashub Knapp—they used to have a big bed o’ butterneggs in front o’ the side door, an’ it made the hull yard look sunshiny even when the day was dark an’ drizzly. There ain’t nothin’ shinin’er an’ goldier than them flowers with the different kinds o’ yeller in ’em; they’ll most freckle ye, they’re so much like the sun shinin’. Then the next gen’ration come Gran’pa Knapp,—his given name was Ezry,—an’ he was bed-rid for more ’n six year. An’ he had butterneggs planted in boxes an’ stood all ’round his bed, an’ he did take sech comf’t in ’em. The hull room was yeller with ’em, an’ they give him a sort o’ biliousy, jandersy look; but he did set so by ’em; an’ the very last growin’ thing the good old man ever set eyes on here b’low, afore he see the green fields beyond the swellin’ flood, was them bright an’ shinin’ butterneggs. An’ his sister Hopey, she ’t married Enoch Ambler o’ Green’s Farms, I never shall forgit her butterneggs border ’t run all ’round her garden; the pea-green leaves an’ yeller an’ saffrony blooms looked for all the world like biled sparrergrass with chopped-egg sarce.  11
  “Well, you’ll wonder what on airth I’m at with all this rigmajig ’bout the Knappses an’ their ways; but you’ll see bimeby that it’s all got suthin’ to do with the story I begun on ’bout my sister, an’ the way I come to lose her an’ find her ag’in. There’s jest one thing more I must put in, an’ that’s how the Knappses gen’lly died. ’Twas e’enamost allers o’ dumb ager. That’s what they called it them days: I s’pose ’twould be malairy now,—but that wa’n’t invented then, an’ we had to git along ’s well ’s we could without sech lux’ries. The Knappses was long-lived,—called threescore ’n ten bein’ cut off in the midst o’ your days; but when they did come ter die ’twas most gen’lly of dumb ager. But even ’bout that they had their own ways; an’ when a Knapp—our branch I would say—got dumb ager, why, ’twas dumber an’ agerer ’n other folkses dumb ager, an’ so ’t got the name o’ the Knapp shakes. An’ they all seemed to use the same rem’dies an’ physics for the c’mplaint. They wa’n’t much for doctors, but they all b’lieved in yarbs an’ hum-made steeps an’ teas. An’ ’thout any ’dvice or doctor’s receipts or anything, ’s soon ’s they felt the creepy, goose-fleshy, shiv’ry feelin’ that meant dumb ager, with their heads het up an’ their feet ’most froze, they’d jest put some cam’mile an’ hardhack to steep, an’ sew a strip o’ red flann’l round their neck, an’ put a peppergrass poultice to the soles o’ their feet, an’ go to bed; an’ there they’d lay, drinkin’ their cam’mile an’ hardhack, strong an’ hot, an’ allers with their head on a hard thin piller, till all was over, an’ they was in a land where there’s no dumb ager nor any kind o’ sickness ’t all. Gran’f’ther died o’ dumb ager; great-gran’f’ther died on it—had it six year; Aunt Hopey Ambler, great-aunt Cynthy, an’ second cousin Shadrach, all went off that way. An’ pa—well, he didn’t die so; but that’s part o’ my sister’s story.  12
  “Ma, she was a Beebe, ’s I said afore; but she might ’a’ ben ’most anything else, for there wa’n’t any strong Beebe ways to her. Her mother was a Palmer,—’most everybody’s mother is, down Stonin’ton way, ye know,—an’ ma was ’s much Palmer ’s Beebe, an’ she was more Thayer than ary one on ’em (her gran’mother was a Thayer). So ’t stands to reason that when we child’n come ’long we was more Knapp than Beebe. There was two on us, twins an’ gals, me an’ my sister; an’ they named us arter pa’s twin sisters ’t died years afore, Coretty an’ Loretty,—an’ I’m Loretty.  13
  “Well, by the time we was four year old pa he’d riz to be cap’n. He was honest an’ stiddy, ’s all the Knappses be, an’ that’s the sort they want for whalin’. So when the Tiger was to be fitted up for a three-year v’y’ge, why, there was nothin’ for ’t but pa he must go cap’n. But ma she took on so ’bout it,—for he hadn’t ben off much sence she married him,—that jest for peace, if nothin’ else, he fin’lly consented to take her an’ the twins along too; an’ so we went. Well, I can’t tell ye much about that v’y’ge, o’ course. I was only a baby, an’ all I know about it’s what ma told me long a’terward. But the v’y’ge ’a’n’t got much to do with my story. They done pretty fair: took a good many sperm whales, got one big lump o’ ambergrease, an’ pa he was in great sperrits; when all on a suddent there come a dreffle storm, an’ they lost their reck’nin’, an’ they got on some rocks, an’ the poor old Tiger went all to pieces. I never can rightly remember how any soul on us was saved; but we was, some way or other, ma an’ me an’ some o’ the crew,—but poor pa an’ Coretty was lost. As nigh ’s I can rec’lect the story, we was tied to suthin’ nuther that ’d float, ma an’ me, an’ a ship picked us up an’ fetched us home. ’Tennerate we got here,—to Stonin’ton I mean; but poor ma was a heart-brok’n widder, an’ I was half an orph’n an’ only half a pair o’ twins. For my good pa an’ that dear little Coretty was both left far behind in the dreadful seas. An’ that’s why pa didn’t die o’ the Knapp-shakes.  14
  “I won’t take up your time tellin’ all that come arter that, for it’s another part you want to hear. So I’ll skip over to the time when I was a woman growed, ma dead an’ gone, an’ me livin’ all by myself—a single woman, goin’ on thirty-seven year old, or p’r’aps suthin’ older—in Har’ford, this State. I’d had my ups an’ my downs, more downs than ups; I’d worked hard an’ lived poor: but I was a Knapp, an’ never gin up, an’ so at last there I was in a little bit of a house, all my own, on Morg’n Street, Har’ford. An’ there I lived, quite well-to-do, an’ no disgrace to any Knapp ’t ever lived, be she who she be. I had plenty to do, though I hadn’t any reg’lar trade. I wa’n’t a tail’ress exactly, but I could make over their pas’ pant’loons for boys, an’ cut out jackets by a pattern for ’em; an’ I wa’n’t a real mill’ner, but I could trim up a bunnet kind o’ tasty, an’ bleach over a Leghorn or a fancy braid as well as a perfession’l; I never larnt the dressmakin’ trade, but I knew how to cut little gals’ frocks an’ make their black-silk ap’ons; an’ I’d rip up an’ press an’ clean ladies’ dresses, an’ do over their crape an’ love veils, an’ steam up their velvet ribb’ns over the tea-kettle to raise the pile. An’ I sewed over carpets, an’ stitched wristban’s, an’—I don’t know what I didn’t do them days: for I had what ary Knapp I ever see—I mean our branch—had all their born days; an’ that was, ’s I ’spose you know, o’ course—fac’lty.  15
  “An’ the best fam’lies in Har’ford employed me, an’ set by me; an’ knowin’ what I was an’ what my an’stors had ben, they treated me ’s if I was one of their own sort. An’ ag’in an’ ag’in I’ve set to the same table with sech folks ’s the Wadsworthses an’ Ellsworthses an’ Terrys an’ Wellses an’ Huntin’tons. An’ I made a good deal outer my gard’nin’. I had all the Knapp hank’rin’ for that; an’ from the time I was a mite of a gal I was allers diggin’ an’ scratchin’ in the dirt like a hen, stickin’ in seeds an’ slips, an’ pullin’ up weeds, snippin’ an’ prunin’ an’ trainin’ an’ wat’rin’. An’ I had the beautif’lest gard’n in Har’ford, an’ made a pretty penny outer it too. I sold slips an’ cuttin’s, an’ saved seeds o’ my best posies, puttin’ ’em up in little paper cases pasted over at the edges; an’ there was plenty o’ cust’mers for ’em, I can tell ye. For my sunflowers was ’s big as pie plates, my hollyhawks jest dazzlin’ to look at, my cant’b’ry-bells big an’ blue, my dailyers ’s quilly ’s quills—all colors; I had four kinds o’ pinks; I had bach’lor’s-buttons, feather-fews, noneserpretties, sweet-williams, chiny-asters, flowerdelooses, tulups, daffies, larkspurs, prince’s-feathers, cock’s-combs, red-balm, mournin’-bride, merrygools— Oh, I’m all outer breath, an’ I ’a’n’t told ye half the blooms I had in that Har’ford garden. But I could tell ye! If ’twas all drawed out there on that floor an’ painted to life, I couldn’t see it any plainer ’n I see ’t this minnit, eyes shet or op’n. An’ how I did set by them beds! Dr. Hawes—I went to the Centre to meetin’—Dr. Hawes he says, one time when he come to make a past’ral call, says he in his way,—he was kinder ongraceful, ye know,—p’intin’ his long finger at me an’ shakin’ it up an’ down, he says: ‘Loretty, Loretty,’ very loud an’ solemn, ye know, ‘don’t you set your ’fections on them fadin’ flowers o’ earth an’ forgit the never’with’rin’ flowers o’ heav’n,’ he says. Ye see he’d ben prayin’ with me, an’ right in the midst an’ ’mongst o’ his prayer he ketched sight o’ me reachin’ out to pull up a weed in the box o’ young balsams I was startin’ in the house. So ’tain’t no wonder he was riled; for he was dreffle good, an’ was one of them folks who, ’s the hymn says,—
  ‘Knows the wuth o’ prayer,
An’ wishes often to be there.’
  16
  “Well, ’twas ’bout that time, ’s I was sayin’, an’ I was a single woman o’ thirty-seven, or p’r’aps a leetle more,—not wuth countin’ on a single woman’s age,—when there come upon me the biggest, awf’lest, scariest s’prise ’t ever come upon any one afore, let ’lone a Knapp—our branch. A letter come to me one day from Cap’n Akus Chadwick, form’ly o’ Stonin’ton, an’ a friend o’ pa’s, but now an old man in New Lon’on, an’ this ’s what he says: Seems ’t a ship ’d come into New Bedford, a whalin’ ship, with a r’mark’ble story. They’d had rough weather an’ big gales, an’ got outer their course, an’ they’d sighted land, an’ when they come to ’t—I don’t know how or why they did come to ’t, whether they meant ter or had ter—they see on the shore a woman, an’ when they landed there wa’n’t ary other folks on the hull island: nothin’ but four-footed critters—wild ones—an’ birds an’ monkeys, an’ all kinder outlandish bein’s; not a blessed man or woman, not even a heath’n or a idle, ’s fur ’s they could tell, in the hull deestrick, but only jest this one poor woman. An’ she couldn’t talk no more ’n Juley Brace to the ’sylum; an she was queer-lookin’, an’ her clo’es was all outer fash’n, kinder furry an’ skinny garm’nts, an’ she had a lonesome, scaret kinder look, ’s if she hadn’t ben much in comp’ny. An’ yit with ’t all there was a sorter r’spectable ’pearance, an’— O ladies, I’m all stuffed up, an’ can’t swaller good. I’m livin’ over ’n my mind the fust time I read them words, an’ was struck all ’n a heap by ’em. Jest hand me them posies a minute, an’ I’ll be all right in a jiffy.—There, now I can go on. With it all, he says, there was a strong Knapp look about this unfort’nate isl’nder; in fac’, she favored ’em so strong ’t the fust mate, a Mystic man, who’d often heerd the story o’ pa’s shipwreck an’ Coretty’s drownin’, thought he’d orter ’nquire inter the matter. The cap’n o’ the ship was a Scotchman, an’ the sailors was mostly Portergeese, an’ Sandwidgers, an’ Kannakers; an’ she wouldn’t take no notice o’ ary on ’em, an’ tried to run away. But when ’Lias Mall’ry, the mate, went up to her, she stopped an’ looked ’t him, an’ kinder gabbled a leetle bit, in a jibbery sorter way, an’ when he ast her to come aboard she follered like a lamb. An’ they fetched her along, an’ the more they see on her—I mean ’Lias, who was the only one ’t knowed the Knappses, our branch—the more ’t seemed sure an’ sartin ’t this was reely an’ truly, strange as ’t might be, Coretty Knapp, who’d ben lost more’n thirty year afore. There’s no use my tryin’ to tell you how I felt, or what I done jest at fust: when I read that letter I couldn’t seem to sense it one mite; an’ yit in half an hour ’t seemt ’s if I’d a-knowed it a year, an’ I never misdoubted that ’twas true ’s gospil, an’ that my poor dear little twin sister Coretty ’d ben found an’ was comin’ home to me.  17
  “I gin up pa t’ wunst; he’d ’a’ ben too old now, even for a Knapp, an’ I see plain enough ’t he must be deader ’n dead: but oh, what ’twas to realize ’t I had a reel flesh-an’-blood sister, queer an’ oncivilized ’s she must be a’ter livin’ in the backwoods so long! The letter went on to say that ’Lias Mall’ry was on his way to Har’ford this very minute, ‘bringin’ Miss Knapp to her only livin’ relation’—that was me. An’ ’t said they was goin’ to bring her jest ’s she was when they ketched her, so ’s I could see her in her nat’ral state: an’ who had a better right? ‘But land’s sake!’ I says to myself ’s I lay that letter down, ‘how she’ll look a-comin’ through Har’ford streets all skinny an’ furry an’ jabbery ’s they d’scribe her! I do hope she’ll take a carr’ge.’ Well, I couldn’t stand all this alone, an’ I put on my bunnit an’ shawl an’ went up to Dr. Hawes’s an’ to Deacon Colton’s an’ over to Sister Pitkin’s, an’ I told ’em all this amazin’ hist’ry, wonderf’ler than ‘Rob’nson Crusoe’ or ‘Riley’s Narr’tive.’ An’ sech a stir’ s it made in quiet old Har’ford you’d never bleeve. Afore I’d fairly got hum an’ took off my things, folks begun to call. Ev’ry one wanted to know ’f ’twas reely an’ truly so, an’ ’f I had a reel live heath’n sister comin’ home from them far-away countries where ev’ry prospeck pleases an’ only man is vile. But this part on’t I wouldn’t hear to for a minute. ‘Whatever she is,’ I says, ‘she ain’t a heath’n. She’s a Knapp, born ’f not bred, an’ there never was a heath’n ’mong the Knappses sence Knappses was fust made. Mebbe she ain’t a perfesser,’ I says,—‘prob’ly ain’t, for she ’a’n’t had no settled min’ster or sech priv’leges; but she don’t have nothin’ to do with idles an’ sech foolishness,’ I says. But I could see ’t they was countin’ on suthin’ outer this for monthly concert, an’ that stirred me up a leetle; but I jest waited. An’ bimeby—what do you think o’ this?—there was a c’mittee waited on me. An’ sech a time!  18
  “There was P’fessor Phelps o’ the Congr’ational Sem’nary, an’ P’fessor Spencer o’ Wash’n’t’n College, an’ Elder Day the Baptist min’ster; an’ there was one o’ the Dem’cratic ed’tors o’ the Har’ford Times, an’ some one from the Connet’cut Cour’nt; an’ Dr. Barnes o’ Weth’sfield, a infiddle, who’d writ a sorter Tom-Painey book that was put inter the stove by every Christian ’t got hold on it. An’ there was Mr. Gallagher from the deaf-an’-dumb ’sylum, an’ Dr. Cook from the crazy ’sylum, an’ Mr. Williams the ’Piscople min’ster, an’ Priest O’Conner the Cath’lic, an’ Parson Loomis the Meth’dist. That’s ’bout all, I b’lieve, but there may ’a’ ben some I disremember arter all these years. An’ what do you think—what do you think they wanted? ’Twas some time afore I could see through their talk myself; for they was all big scholars, an’ you know them’s the hardest sort to compr’end. But bimeby I made out ’t they was all dreffle ’xcited about this story o’ my sister; for it gin ’em a chance they’d never ’xpected to git, of a bran’-new human bein’ growed up without ’precept or ’xample,’ ’s they say, or ary idee o’ religion or pol’tics or church gov’ment, or doctrines o’ any sort. An’ they’d all got together an’ ’greed, ’f I was willin’, they’d jest ’xper’ment on Coretty Knapp. Well, ’t fust I didn’t take t’ the idee one speck. It seemed kinder onnat’ral an’ onhuman to go to work pullin’ to pieces an’ patchin’ up an’ fittin’ in scraps to this poor, onfort’nate, empty sorter soul, ’t had strayed ’way off from its hum in a Christian land o’ deestrick schools an’ meetin’s, an’ all sech priv’leges, instead o’ takin’ her right inter our hearts an’ ’fections, an’ larnin’ her all ’t she orter know. ’T seemed ’s if we orter let ’xper’ments alone, an’ go to coddlin’ an’ coss’tin’ up this poor lost sheep, which was wuth far more ’n ninety an’ nine which goes not astray.  19
  “But howsomepro—as Elder Cheeseman used to say—they was all, ’s I said afore, larned men, an’ most on ’em good men too; an’ ’s they was all ’greed, an’ I was only one, and a woman too, I gin up. An’ afore they left, ’twas all settled ’t they all should have a try at poor sister Coretty, an’ all persent their own views on religion, pol’tics, an’ so forth. An’ me nor nobody was to make nor meddle aforehand, or try to prej’dice her one way or t’other; an’ so they ’xpected to find out what the nat’ral mind would take ter, or whether there was anything ’t all in heredit’ry ways. I could ’a’ telled ’em that last afore they b’gun, but I thought I’d let ’em find ’t out their own way.  20
  “You might think, mebbe, I’d ben scaret ’bout the r’sult. For what a dreffle thing ’f poor Coretty ’d ben talked over by Elder Day,—a dreffle glib talker, ’s all Baptists be, an’ a reel good man, ’s most on ’em is, though I say ’t ’s shouldn’t, bein’ a Knapp myself, with all the Knappses’ dislike to their doctrines,—what ’f she’d ben talked over to ’mersion an’ close c’mmunion views, an’ ben dipped ’stead o’ sprinkled? Or ag’in, ’f she’d b’lieved all the Cath’lic priest let on, an’ swallered his can’les an’ beads an’ fish an’ sech popish things. Or wuss still, s’pose she’d backslid hully, an’ put her trust in Dr. Barnes’s talk,—becomin’ an infiddle, like unter the fool that said in his heart. But some way or ’nother I wa’n’t a mite ’fraid. I fell right back on my faith in a overrulin’ Prov’dence, an’ p’r’aps more on Knapp ways, an’ felt all the time Coretty ’d come out right at the eend.  21
  “But you see she hadn’t come yit; an’ the thing was ter know whether you could make her un’erstan’ anything till she’d larnt to talk. ’F she could only gabble, how was any on us to know whether she gabbled Baptistry or ’Piscopality or what-all; an’ we’d got to wait an’ see. An’ Mr. Gallagher o’ the ’sylum, he wanted to try her on signs fust, an’ see ’f he couldn’t c’mmunicate with her right off by snappin’ his fingers an’ screwin’ up his featur’s an’ p’intin’ at her in that dumb way they do up t’ the ’sylum. He said ’twas more nat’ral to do that way than to talk; but then he didn’t know much about the Knappses an’ their powers o’ speech. An’ Dr. Cook, the crazy doctor, he said he was int’rested in the brains part o’ the subjick, an’ he’d jest like ter get at ’em; he wanted to see what ’fect on her head an’ ’djacent parts this queer sorter retired life ’d had. An’ so they went on till they went off.  22
  “Well, might ’s well come to the p’int o’ my story, an’ the blessed minnit I fust see my twin sister,—my t’other half, you might say; for ’twas reely her, a-comin’ in at the gate. ’Twa’n’t so bad ’s I ’xpected. I’d kinder got my head sot on picters o’ the Eskimoses in my jography, with buff’lo robes tied round ’em; an’ I was r’lieved when I see her get outer the carr’ge with ’Lias Mall’ry, lookin’ quite respect’ble an’ Knappy. To be sure she had skins on; but she’d gone an’ made ’em inter a reel fair likeness o’ my plainest every-day dresses, cut gorin’ an’ sorter fittin’ in at the waist, an’ with the skirt pretty long, ’bout to the tops o’ her gaiters. An’ she had quite a nice-lookin’ bunnit on, braided o’ some kinder furrin grass or straw; hum-made o’ course, an’ not jest in the latest fash’n,—but that wa’n’t to be ’xpected when she’d made it ’fore ever seein’ one. An’ she was dreffle tanned an’ freckled an’ weather-beat like, but oh, my! my! wa’n’t she a Knapp all over, from head to foot! Every featur’ favored some o’ the fam’ly. There was Uncle Zadock’s long nose, an’ gran’mer’s square chin, an’ Aunt Hopey’s thick eyebrows, an’ dear pa’s pacin’ walk, an’ over an’ above all there was me all over her, ’s if I was a-lookin’ ’t myself in a lookin’-glass. I d’ know what I done for a minute. I cried an’ I choked an’ I blowed my nose, an’ I couldn’t say one blessed word till I swallered hard an’ set my teeth, an’ then I bust out, ‘O Coretty Knapp, I’m glad to see ye! how’s your health?’ I’d forgot for a minute ’bout her not talkin’; but I own I was beat when she jest says, ’s good ’s I could say it myself, says she, ‘Thank ye, sister Loretty: how’s yourn?’ An’ we shook hands an’ kissed each other;—I’d been so ’fraid she’d rub noses or hit her forrid on the ground,—s’lammin’, ’s the books o’ travels says;—an’ then she took one cheer an’ I took another, an’ we both took a good look ’t each other, for you know we hadn’t met anywheres for the longest spell. An’ I forgot all about ’Lias Mall’ry till he says, ‘You see, Miss Knapp, she speaks pretty good, don’t she? Them Scotch an’ Portergeese an’ so on couldn’t get a word out on her; but ’s soon ’s she heerd good Connet’cut spoke, she picked ’t right up ’s slick ’s anything.’ ‘O’ course I did, Mr. Mall’ry,’ says Coretty. ‘I never could abide them furr’ners. United States talk ’s good enough for me,’ says she. ‘Knapp all over,’ says I;—‘an’ now do take off your things an’ jest make yourself to hum, an’ le’s have a good old-fashioned talk, for I ’a’n’t seen none o’ my folks for so long.’  23
  “But when she took off her bunnit an’ I see how the poor thing ’d ben an’ gone an’ twisted up her hair behind in the same tight, knobby, Knappy way all the Knappses—the female part o’ our branch, I mean—had fixed theirn for gen’rations, furzino, I ’most cried ag’in. ’Course she hadn’t no hairpins nor shoestring to fasten ’t with; but she’d tied it tight ’s tight with some kind o’ barky stuff, an’ stuck a big thorn in to keep it there.  24
  “Well, you won’t care ’bout our talk: it was all folksy an’ Knappy an’ ’bout fam’ly matters, for we had lots to talk about. She’d lost all run o’ the fam’ly an’ neighbors, never hearin’ a word for more ’n thirty year. In fac’, she’d forgot all about pa an’ ma an’ me, ’s was nat’ral, with not a livin’ soul to talk to; for she owned right up she’d never seed a human bein’, or heerd a word o’ speech, or seen a paper, sence I see her last in that dreffle spell o’ weather out to sea. So I’ll jest jump over to where the ’xperiment was tried an’ how it come out. I’d kep’ my prommus an’ never said one word about religion, or pol’tics, or church gov’ment, or anything o’ that kind, though I did ache to know her views.  25
  “An’ they all come in, the evenin’ arter she arriv,—the c’mittee, I mean,—to have it out with her. Coretty did’nt s’mise ’twas an ’xperiment,—she thought ’twas a sorter visitin’ time; an’ she was dreffle fond o’ comp’ny, an’ never ’d had much chance for ’t. So there she set a-knittin’ (she took to that right off, an’ ’fore I’d done castin’ on for her she ketched it outer my hands an’ says, ‘’Twill be stronger with double thread, Loretty,’ an’ she raveled it out an’ done it over double). She set there knittin’, ’s I said afore, an’ I set close by her; an’ the c’mittee they set round, an’ they’d ’greed ’mong theirselves how they’d do it, an’ who’d have the fust chance; an’ arter a few p’lite r’marks about the weather an’ her health, an’ sech, Mr. Williams, the ’Piscople min’ster, begun, an’ he says:—‘Miss Knapp, I s’pose there wa’n’t no Church in your place o’ res’dence, seein’ ’t there was so few ’nhabitants. But even ’f there’d a-ben more ’f a parish,’ says he, ‘there couldn’t ’a ben no reel Church’ (he spoke it with a cap’tle C, ’s all ’Piscoples does), ‘’s there wa’n’t no prop’ly fixed-up priest, nor no bishop to put his hands on one,’ he says. (Mebbe I don’t give jest the very words, but I git the meanin’ straight.) ‘No, sir,’ says sister, ‘there wa’n’t a meetin’-house on the hull island, nor any means o’ grace o’ that kind; for there wa’n’t no folks but me, an’ you can’t have a prosp’rous religious s’ciety without folks. But ’f there had ben,’ she says, ribbin’ away at her stockin’ top, two an’ one, two an’ one, says she, ‘we’d ’a’ listened to a few can’dates, an’ s’lected a suit’ble party, had a s’ciety meetin’, an’ called him. For myself,’ says she, ‘I don’t set much by this applestollic succesh’n.’  26
  “Well, I was beat agin, spite o’ knowin’ the strong feelin’ o’ the fam’ly on that very p’int; for how on airth ’d she picked up sech sound an’ good idees ’way off in that rural deestrick? I tell ye, ye can’t ’xplain it on ary other ground than ways; ’twas Knapp ways. Mr. Williams he looked a mite riled, but he was a dreffle pleasant man, an’ he kep’ on, though the others they sorter smiled. I can’t rec’lect all he said, but ’twas ’bout the orders in the Church, the deacons an’ presbyter’ans an’ bishops; an’ he talked ’bout the creed an’ other art’cles an’ collicks an’ lit’nies, an’ all them litigical things. He did talk beautiful, I own it myself, an’ my mouth was all in my heart for a spell, for Coretty kep’ so still, an’ seemed ’s if she was a-listenin’ an med’tatin’. But in a minute I see she was jest countin’ her stitches to set her seam, an’ I was r’lieved. An’ when he got through talkin’ he handed her a prayer-book—jest a common one, he called it—an’ a little cat’chism. Coretty took ’em, perlite ’s ye please, an’ she looked ’t the covers, an’ she says very p’lite, ‘Much obleeged to ye, sir; but they don’t seem ter int’rest me, someway. I can make up prayers for myself, ’f it’s all the same to you,’ she says, still dreffle p’lite; ‘an’ this cat’chism don’t seem to go t’ the right spot, ’s fur as I’m consarned,’ says she, not openin’ it ’t all: ‘but I’m jest ’s much obleeged to ye;’—an’ she went on knittin’.  27
  “Then Elder Day he opened the subjeck o’ Baptistry. Fust, sister Coretty listened p’litely ’s she had afore: but he hadn’t hardly got to his sec’ndly afore she pricked up her ears an’ jumped ’s if suthin’ ’d hit her, an’ she lay down her stockin’ an’ stiffened up, an’ she looked him right in the eye; an’ ’fore he was half-way to the thirdly she broke out, an’ she says: ‘Elder Day, I don’t want to be imp’lite to comp’ny in my sister’s house, an’ me jest arriv; but there’s suthin’ in me that reely can’t stand them doctrines o’ yourn another minute, they rile me so. No, I won’t stand it!’ she says, with her face all red, an’ her eyes snappin’; an’ she b’gun to gether up her things, an’ git up outer her cheer for a run. But I went up ter her, an’ whispered to her, an’ sorter smoothed her down; for I see what ’twas, an’ ’t the old Knapp feelin’ ’gainst Baptists that’d ben growin’ up an’ ’ncreasin’ for cent’ries was all comin’ inside on her t’ wunst an’ tearin’ her up: but Elder Day he jest said, ’s pleasant ’s pie-crust, he says, ‘Let her ’lone, Miss Knapp, an’ I’ll read her a soothin’ varse or two,’ an’ he up with a little leather-covered book, an’ he read out:—
  “‘A few drops o’ water dropped from a man’s han’,—
They call it baptissum, an’ think it will stan’
On the head of a child that is under the cuss;
But that has no warrant in Scriptur’ for us.’
  28
  “He was goin’ on; but Coretty she jest jumped up, makin’ her cheer fall over with a bang, an’ she slat her work down an’ run outer the room, her knittin’ bobbin’ a’ter her,—for the ball o’ yarn was in her pocket. I went a’ter her to coax her back, but she kep’ a-sayin’, ‘O Loretty, what’s the matter o’ me! I’m jest bilin’ an’ bubblin’ an’ swellin’ up inside, an’ I feel ’s if nothin’ could help me but burnin’ up a few Baptists,’ she says. An’ I says, ‘Keep ’s quiet ’s you can, sister: it’s dreffle tryin’, I know, an’ it’s all come on you t’ wunst,—the strong Knapp feelin’ ag’in ’em,—but come back to the keepin’-room an’ we’ll change the subjeck.’ An’ she come. An’ then Priest O’Conner, the Cath’lic, he begun at her; an’ he was jest ’s smooth ’s silk, an’ he talked reel fluent ’bout the saints, an’ purg’t’ry, an’ Fridays, an’ the bach’lor state for min’sters, an’ penances, an’ I d’ know what-all. An’ Coretty she was hard at work at her knittin’; an’ when he stopped to take breath, an’ pull out some beads an’ medals an’ jingly trinkets o’ that sort, she kinder started ’s if she’d jest waked up, an’ she says, ‘’Xcuse me, Mr. O’Conner, I lost the thread o’ what you was sayin’ for a minute, but I won’t trouble ye to go over ’t ag’in: I don’t seem ter take to Cath’lics, an’ I never wear beads.’ An’ she went on knittin’.  29
  “An’ so ’twas with ’em all,—’Piscople, Baptist, Meth’dist: every livin’ soul on ’em, they done their best, an’ never p’duced any impression ’t all. But bimeby P’fessor Phelps o’ the Congr’ation’l Sem’nary, he got his turn an’ b’gun. Oh, how she did jest drink it in! She dropped her knittin’ an’ set up an’ leaned forrud, an’ she smiled, an’ nodded her head, an’ beat her hands up an’ down, an’ tapped her foot, ’s if she was hearin’ the takin’est music; she ’most purred, she seemed so comf’t’ble an’ sat’sfied. Wunst in a while she’d up an’ say suthin’ herself ’fore he could say it. F’rinstance, when he come to foreord’nation an’ says, ‘My good woman, I hope soon ter ’xplain to you ’bout the won’ful decrees o’ God, an’ how they are his etarnal purpose, an’’—‘Don’t put yourself out to do that, p’fessor,’ she says. ‘O’ course I know ’t accordin’ to the couns’l of his own will he ’th foreordained whats’ever cometh to pass; but I’d jest like to hear you preach on that subjeck.’ An’ when he alluded to some havin’ ben ’lected to everlastin’ life, she says, kinder low, to herself like, ‘Out of his mere good pleasure from all etarnity, I s’pose.’ The very words o’ the cat’chism, ye see; an’ she never goin’ to weekly cat’chism or monthly r’view! An’ when he stopped a minute she says, all ’xcited like, ‘Now I call that talk, an’ it’s the very fust I’ve heerd to-night.’ Then he took a book out of his pocket. ’Twas a copy of the old New England Primer, with whity-blue covers outside an’ the cat’chism inside, an’ he says, ‘Miss Knapp, p’raps you ain’t f’miliar with this little book, but—’ She ketched it right outer his hand, an’ the tears they come right up inter her eyes, an’ she says in a shaky voice, ‘I don’t think I ever see ’t afore, p’fessor, but it ’pears to be the Westminster Shorter.’ Then she jest give way an’ cried all over it till ’twas soppin’. An’ she did jest hang on ter his words when he come to the prob’ble futur’ o’ most folks, an’ how the cat’chism says they’re ‘under His wrath an’ cuss, an’ so made li’ble to all the mis’ries o’ this life, to death itself, an’ the pains o’ hell f’rever.’ She jest kep’ time to them words with her head an’ her hands an’ her feet, ’s if ’twas an old toon she’d knowed all her born days.  30
  “An’ so ’twas, right straight through: they tried her on everything, an’ ’twas allus the same come-out; she picked an’ kep’ all the Knappses had allus stood to, an’ throwed away what the Knappses ’d disliked. She ’most pitched her knittin’, ball an’ all, at the Dem’cratic newspaper man; an’ when the Connet’cut Cour’nt ed’tor laid down the Whig platform, she called out loud: ‘I’m on that; that’s my pol’cy. Who’s our can’date?’ Poor Mr. Gallagher, he didn’t make out to c’mmunicate with her ’s he ’xpected. He tried her on a Bible story in signs, but a’ter lookin’ at him a minute she turned away an’ says: ‘Poor creatur’, can’t he talk any? He must ’a’ ben cast away some time, I guess, an’ ’tis sorter dumb’in’ to the speech, as I orter know. But he’ll pick it up agin.’ An’ the doctor from the crazies, an’ the p’fessor from Wash’n’t’n College, they tried all kinds o’ brainy tricks on her; but her head was ’s sound as their own, and made on the good old Knapp patt’n. An’—oh, I wish you could ’a’ seen how foolish Dr. Barnes looked when she says to him, a’ter he’d opened out his infiddle b’liefs or unb’liefs, says she: ‘Now you jest hush up. I sh’d think you’d be ashamed, a’ter livin’ here in a Christian land ’mong Congr’ation’lists all your days, an’ not know who made you, an’ what your chief eend is, an’ what the Scriptur’s princ’p’ly teach. Even I knowed that,’ she says, ’an’ me in a heath’n land o’ graven im’ges.’  31
  “I’m spinnin’ out my story in reel Knappy way,—they’re a long-winded lot,—but I’ll try to bind off now. But fust I must tell ye ’bout the time I showed Coretty my garden. She’d ben anxious to see ’t; said she lotted on flowers, an’ had dreffle pretty ones on th’ island, kinder tropicky an’ queer, but she wanted ter see some hum ones. So I took her out an’ showed her my beds. ’Twas July, an’ my garden was like a rainbow or a patchwork comf’ter,—all colors. She walked round an’ looked at the roses an’ pinks an’ all, and smelt at ’em, an’ seemed pleased.  32
  “‘But somehow I’m kinder dis’p’inted too,’ she says: ‘I d’ know why, but there’s suthin’ lackin’.’ I jest kep’ still, an’ kinder led her ’long down the walk to the corner ’hind the row o’ box, an’ fust she knowed she was standin’ by the bed o’ butterneggs. She stood stock-still a minute; then she held up both hands an’ cried out, ‘Oh, C’rinthians!’  33
  “’Twas the fust time she’d ever used the ’xpression; there never ’d ben any ’casion for ’t, for she’d had sech a quiet sorter life. A’ter that she was allus hangin’ round that bed like a cat round a valerium patch, ’tendin’ them posies, weedin’ ’em, wat’rin’, tyin’ ’em up, pickin’ ’em, wearin’ ’em, an’ keepin’ ’em in her room. ’Twas a dreffle comfort to have her with me; but ’twa’n’t to last; I see that ’most ’s soon ’s she got settled down with me. She b’gun to droop an’ wilt down, an’ to look pindlin’ an’ lean-like, an’ bleached out. I tried not to see it, an’ talked ’s if ’twas change o’ air, an’ givin’ up her r’tired life, an’ ’s if she’d soon pick up an’ grow to a good old Knapp age. But when she b’gun to c’mplain o’ feelin’ creepy an’ goose-fleshy an’ shiv’ry, to say her head was het up an’ her feet ’most froze, I couldn’t shet my eyes to ’t no longer; I knowed the sympt’ms too well: it was the old Knapp enemy, dumb ager. She was awful young for that; not forty yit, an’ the Knappses mostly lived to eighty or ninety. But I’ll tell you how I reasoned ’t out to myself. The fam’ly—the rest on ’em—was all their lives takin’ in gradjal-like—stronger an’ stronger ’s they could bear ’em—the Knapp b’liefs. One a’ter t’other they got ’em, like teeth, an’ so they could stand it. But jest think on ’t a minnit: that poor dear gal took in all them b’liefs—an’ strong ones they was, too, the strongest goin’—in jest a few days’ time. Foreord’nation, ’lection, etarnal punishment, the Whig platform, Congr’ation’l s’ciety gov’ment, United States language, white-oak cheese, butterneggs,—in short, the hull set o’ Knapp ways, she took ’em all, ’s you might say, ’t one big swaller. No wonder they disagreed with her, an’ left her nothin’ for ’t but to take the only one left ’t she hadn’t took a’ready,—the Knapp shakes!  34
  “I didn’t say nothin’ ’bout it to her; I never spoke o’ the fam’ly trouble ’t all, an’ I knowed she’d never heerd on ’t in her life. She kep’ up an’ ’bout for a spell; but one day she come to see me, an’ she says, very quiet an’ carm, ‘Loretty, ’f ye’ll give me the sarcepan I’ll jest set some cam’mile an’ hardhack to steep, an’ put a strip o’ red flannel round my neck an’ go to bed.’ My heart sunk ’way down ’s I heerd her; but I see ’t she’d left out some o’ the receipt, so I hoped ’twa’n’t so bad ’s I feared. But jest ’s she was goin’ inter her bedroom she turned round an’ says, ‘An’ mebbe a peppergrass poult’ce on the bottoms o’ my feet would be a good an’ drawin’ thing,’ she says. There was a lump in my throat, but I thinks to myself, ‘Never mind, ’f she don’t ’lude to the piller.’ An’ I was pickin’ the peppergrass an’ wond’rin’ if ’twas the smell o’ that ’t made my eyes so wet an’ smarty, when she calls me softly, an’ she says, ‘Sister, I’m dreffle sorry to trouble ye, but ’f you could give me another piller,—a hard, thin one,—I’d be ’bleeged.’ Then I knowed ’twas all over, an’ I never had a grain o’ hope agin.  35
  “You’ll ’xcuse me, ladies, from talkin’ much more ’bout that time. I think on ’t ’nough, dear knows; I dream on ’t, an’ wake with my piller all wet: but ’tain’t good for me to say too much ’bout it. She wa’n’t sick long: her dumb ager wa’n’t very chronic, ’s the doctors says, but sharp an’ quick. An’ jest three weeks from the day she come home to me she’d added one more to the long list o’ things she’d had to larn in such a lim’ted per’od, poor gal, an’ took in the Knapp way o’ dyin’.  36
  “An’ ’twas a quiet way; peace’ble, still-like, not makin’ no great fuss ’bout it, but ready an’ willin’. She didn’t want much waitin’ on, only fresh posies—butterneggs o’ course—in the wineglass on the stand by her bed; an’ ye may be sure she allus had ’em there. An’ I picked all I had, an’ stuck ’em in pitchers an’ mugs an’ bowls, an’ stood ’em on the mantel-shelf, an’ on the chest o’ drawers, an’ any place ’t would hold ’em, an’ the room was all lit up with ’em—an’ with her hope an’ faith an’ patient ways too; an’ so she seemed to pass right through a shinin’ yeller path, till we lost sight on her where it ended, I ’a’n’t the leastest doubt, in the golden streets o’ heaven.  37
  “But I ’xpect to see her agin ’fore very long. There’s more o’ the fam’ly t’other side than there is here now, an’ when I think o’ all the tribe o’ Knappses in that land ’cross the river, why, I think I’d be kinder glad to go there myself: ’twould be ’most like goin’ to Thanksgivin’ ’t the old homestid. An’ I was sayin’ to Marthy Hustid yist’day—she looks a’ter me now, ye know—’t I had a kinder creepy, goose-fleshy, shiv’ry feelin’ sometimes, ’t my head was all het up an’ my feet ’most froze, an’ I guessed she better be lookin’ at the yarb bags up garr’t, an’ layin’ in a little red flann’l, in case o’ any sickness in the fam’ly. ‘An’ Marthy,’ I says, ‘I s’pose there’s a harder piller in the house ’n the one I’m usin’,—a thin one, you know.’ An’ I am glad the butterneggs is comin’ in season.”  38
  As we came away from the little brown house and drove along towards Greenwich, we were silent for a little. Then I exclaimed: “Jane Benedict, how much truth is there in that wild tale? Was her sister shipwrecked, and did she appear after many days? For pity’s sake enlighten me, for my head is ‘all het up,’ as Aunt Loretty would say!”  39
  “She was an only child,” answered Jane calmly, as she touched Billy lightly with the whip. “I believe her father was a sailor, and was lost at sea. She herself lived as housekeeper for many years with Dr. Lounsbury of Stamford, who wrote that queer book on heredity,—‘Heirship,’ I think he called it. Perhaps she imbibed some of his ideas.”  40
 
 
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