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Title: Collected Stories Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 0605621h.html Language: English Date first posted: August 2006 Date most recently updated: August 2006 This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au
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Table of Contents
If I Were a Man
The Giant Wistaria
'If I were a man,...' that was what pretty little Mollie Mathewson always said when Gerald would not do what she wanted him to--which was seldom.
That was what she said this bright morning, with a stamp of her little high-heeled slipper, just because he had made a fuss about that bill, the long one with the 'account rendered,' which she had forgotten to give him the first time and been afraid to the second--and now he had taken it from the postman himself.
Mollie was 'true to type.' She was a beautiful instance of what is reverentially called 'a true woman.' Little, of course--no true woman may be big. Pretty, of course--no true woman could possibly be plain. Whimsical, capricious, charming, changeable, devoted to pretty clothes and always 'wearing them well,' as the esoteric phrase has it. (This does not refer to the clothes---they do not wear well in the least--but to some special grace of putting them on and carrying them about, granted to but few, it appears.)
She was also a loving wife and a devoted mother possessed of 'the social gift' and the love of 'society' that goes with it, and, with all these was fond and proud of her home and managed it as capably as--well, as most women do.
If ever there was a true woman it was Mollie Mathewson, yet she was wishing heart and soul she was a man.
And all of a sudden she was!
She was Gerald, walking down the path so erect and square-shouldered, in a hurry for his morning train, as usual, and, it must be confessed, in something of a temper.
Her own words were ringing in her ears--not only the 'last word,' but several that had gone before, and she was holding her lips tight shut, not to say something she would be sorry for. But instead of acquiescence in the position taken by that angry little figure on the veranda, what she felt was a sort of superior pride, a sympathy as with weakness, a feeling that 'I must be gentle with her,' in spite of the temper.
A man! Really a man--with only enough subconscious memory of herself remaining to make her recognize the differences.
At first there was a funny sense of size and weight and extra thickness, the feet and hands seemed strangely large, and her long, straight, free legs swung forward at a gait that made her feel as if on stilts.
This presently passed, and in its place, growing all day, wherever she went, came a new and delightful feeling of being the right size.
Everything fitted now. Her back snugly against the seat-back, her feet comfortably on the floor. Her feet?...His feet! She studied them carefully. Never before, since her early school days, had she felt such freedom and comfort as to feet--they were firm and solid on the ground when she walked; quick, springy, safe-as when, moved by an unrecognizable impulse, she had run after, caught, and swung aboard the car.
Another impulse fished in a convenient pocket for change-instantly, automatically, bringing forth a nickel for the conductor and a penny for the newsboy. These pockets came as a revelation. Of course she had known they were there, had counted them, made fun of them, mended them, even envied them; but she never had dreamed of how it felt to have pockets.
Behind her newspaper she let her consciousness, that odd mingled consciousness, rove from pocket to pocket, realizing the armored assurance of having all those things at hand, instantly get-at-able, ready to meet emergencies. The cigar case gave her a warm feeling of comfort--it was full; the firmly held fountain pen, safe unless she stood on her head; the keys, pencils, letters, documents, notebook, checkbook, bill folder--all at once, with a deep rushing sense of power and pride, she felt what she had never felt before in all her life--the possession of money, of her own earned money--hers to give or to withhold, not to beg for, tease for, wheedle for--hers.
That bill--why, if it had come to her--to him, that is--he would have paid it as a matter of course, and never mentioned it--to her.
Then, being he, sitting there so easily and firmly with his money in his pockets, she wakened to his life-long consciousness about money. Boyhood--its desires and dreams, ambitions. Young manhood---working tremendously for the wherewithal to make a home--for her. The present years with all their net of cares and hopes and dangers; the present moment, when he needed every cent for special plans of great importance, and this bill, long overdue and demanding payment, meant an amount of inconvenience wholly unnecessary if it had been given him when it first came; also, the man's keen dislike of that 'account rendered.'
'Women have no business sense!' she found herself saying. 'And all that money just for hats idiotic, useless, ugly things!'
With that she began to see the hats of the women in the car as she had never seen hats before.
The men's seemed normal, dignified, becoming, with enough variety for personal taste, and with distinction in style and in age, such as she had never noticed before. But the women's--
With the eyes of a man and the brain of a man; with the memory of a whole lifetime of free action wherein the hat, close-fitting on cropped hair, had been no handicap; she now perceived the hats of women.
The massed fluffed hair was at once attractive and foolish, and on that hair, at every angle, in all colors, tipped, twisted, tortured into every crooked shape, made of any substance chance might offer, perched these formless objects. Then, on their formlessness the trimmings-these squirts of stiff feathers, these violent outstanding bows of glistening ribbon, these swaying, projecting masses of plumage which tormented the faces of bystanders.
Never in all her life had she imagined that this idolized millinery could look, to those who paid for it, like the decorations of an insane monkey.
And yet, when there came into the car a little woman, as foolish as any, but pretty and sweet-looking, up rose Gerald Mathewson and gave her his seat. And, later, when there came in a handsome red-cheeked girl, whose hat was wilder, more violent in color and eccentric in shape than any other--when she stood nearby and her soft curling plumes swept his cheek once and again--he felt a sense of sudden pleasure at the intimate tickling touch--and she, deep down within, felt such a wave of shame as might well drown a thousand hats forever.
When he took his train, his seat in the smoking car, she had a new surprise. All about him were the other men, commuters too, and many of them friends of his.
To her, they would have been distinguished as 'Mary Wade's husband,' 'the man Belle Grant is engaged to' 'that rich Mr. Shopworth,' or 'that pleasant Mr. Beale.' And they would all have lifted their hats to her, bowed, made polite conversation if near enough--especially Mr. Beale. Now came the feeling of open-eyed acquaintance, of knowing men--as they were. The mere amount of this knowledge was a surprise to her--the whole background of talk from boyhood up, the gossip of barber-shop and club, the conversation of morning and evening hours on trains, the knowledge of political affiliation, of business standing and prospects, of character--in a light she had never known before. The came and talked to Gerald, one and another. He seemed quite popular. And as they talked, with this new memory and new understanding, an understanding which seemed to include all these men's minds, there poured in on the submerged consciousness beneath a new, a startling knowledge--what men really think of women.
Good, average, American men were there; married men for the most part, and happy--as happiness goes in general. In the minds of each and all there seemed to be a two-story department, quite apart from the rest of their ideas, a separate place where they kept their thoughts and feelings about women.
In the upper half were the tenderest emotions, the most exquisite ideals, the sweetest memories, all lovely sentiments as to 'home' and 'mother,' all delicate admiring adjectives, a sort of sanctuary, where a veiled statue, blindly adored, shared place with beloved yet commonplace experiences.
In the lower half--here that buried consciousness woke to keen distress--they kept quite another assortment of ideas. Here, even in this clean-minded husband of hers, was the memory of stories told at men's dinners, of worse ones overheard in street or car, of base traditions, coarse epithets, gross experiences--known, though not shared.
And all these in the department 'woman,' while in the rest of the mind--here was new knowledge indeed.
The world opened before her. Not the world she had been reared in--where Home had covered all the map, almost, and the rest had been 'foreign,' or 'unexplored country,' but the world as it was--man's world, as made, lived in, and seen, by men.
It was dizzying. To see the houses that fled so fast across the car window, in terms of builders' bills, or of some technical insight into materials and methods; to see a passing village with lamentable knowledge of who 'owned it' and of how its Boss was rapidly aspiring in state power, or of how that kind of paving was a failure; to see shops, not as mere exhibitions of desirable objects, but as business ventures, many mere sinking ships, some promising a profitable voyage--this new world bewildered her.
She--as Gerald--had already forgotten about that bill, over which she--as Mollie--was still crying at home. Gerald was 'talking business' with this man, 'talking politics' with that, and now sympathizing with the carefully withheld troubles of a neighbor.
Mollie had always sympathized with the neighbor's wife before.
She began to struggle violently with this large dominant masculine consciousness. She remembered with sudden clearness things she had read, lectures she had heard, and resented with increasing intensity this serene masculine preoccupation with the male point of view.
Mr. Miles, the little fussy man who lived on the other side of the street, was talking now. He had a large complacent wife; Mollie had never liked her much, but had always thought him rather nice-he was so punctilious in small courtesies.
And here he was talking to Gerald--such talk!
'Had to come in here,' he said. 'Gave my seat to a dame who was bound to have it. There's nothing they won't get when they make up their minds to it--eh?'
'No fear!' said the big man in the next seat. 'They haven't much mind to make up, you know--and if they do, hey'll change it.'
'The real danger,' began the Rev. Alfred Smythe, the new Episcopal clergyman, a thin, nervous, tall man with a face several centuries behind the times, 'is that they will overstep the limits of their God-appointed sphere.'
'Their natural limits ought to hold 'em, I think,' said cheerful Dr. Jones. 'You can't get around physiology, I tell you.'
'I've never seen any limits, myself, not to what they want, anyhow,' said Mr. Miles. 'Merely a rich husband and a fine house and no end of bonnets and dresses, and the latest thing in motors, and a few diamonds-and so on. Keeps us pretty busy.'
There was a tired gray man across the aisle. He had a very nice wife, always beautifully dressed, and three unmarried daughters, also beautifully dressed--Mollie knew them. She knew he worked hard, too, and she looked at him now a little anxiously.
But he smiled cheerfully.
'Do you good, Miles,' he said. 'What else would a man work for? A good woman is about the best thing on earth.'
'And a bad one's the worst, that's sure,' responded Miles.
'She's a pretty weak sister, viewed professionally,' Dr. Jones averred with solemnity, and the Rev Alfred Smythe added, 'She brought evil into the world.'
Gerald Mathewson sat up straight. Something was stirring in him which he did not recognize--yet could not resist.
'Seems to me we all talk like Noah,' he suggested drily. 'Or the ancient Hindu scriptures.
Women have their limitations, but so do we. God knows. Haven't we known girls in school and college just as smart as we were?'
'They cannot play our games,' coldly replied the clergyman.
Gerald measured his meager proportions with a practiced eye.
'I never was particularly good at football myself,' he modestly admitted, 'but I've known women who could outlast a man in all-round endurance. Besides--life isn't spent in athletics!'
This was sadly true. They all looked down the aisle where a heavily ill-dressed man with a bad complexion sat alone. He had held the top of the columns once, with headlines and photographs.
Now he earned less than any of them.
'It's time we woke up,' pursued Gerald, still inwardly urged to unfamiliar speech. 'Women are pretty much people, seems to me. I know they dress like fools-but who's to blame for that? We invent all those idiotic hats of theirs, and design their crazy fashions, and, what's more, if a woman is courageous enough to wear common-sense clothes--and shoes--which of us wants to dance with her?
'Yes, we blame them for grafting on us, but are we willing to let our wives work? We are not.
It hurts our pride, that's all. We are always criticizing them for making mercenary marriages, but what do we call a girl who marries a chump with no money? Just a poor fool, that's all. And they know it.
'As for Mother Eve--I wasn't there and can't deny the story, but I will say this. If she brought evil into the world, we men have had the lion's share of keeping it going ever since--how about that?'
They drew into the city, and all day long in his business, Gerald was vaguely conscious of new views, strange feelings, and the submerged Mollie learned and learned.
"Meddle not with my new vine, child! See! Thou hast already broken the tender shoot! Never needle or distaff for thee, and yet thou wilt not be quiet!"
The nervous fingers wavered, clutched at a small carnelian cross that hung from her neck, then fell despairingly.
"Give me my child, mother, and then I will be quiet!"
"Hush! hush! thou fool-some one might be near! See-there is thy father coming, even now! Get in quickly!"
She raised her eyes to her mother's face, weary eyes that yet had a flickering, uncertain blaze in their shaded depths.
"Art thou a mother and hast no pity on me, a mother? Give me my child!"
Her voice rose in a strange, low cry, broken by her father's hand upon her mouth.
"Shameless!" said he, with set teeth. "Get to thy chamber, and be not seen again to-night, or I will have thee bound!"
She went at that, and a hard-faced serving woman followed, and presently returned, bringing a key to her mistress.
"Is all well with her-and the child also?"
"She is quiet, Mistress Dwining, well for the night, be sure. The child fretteth endlessly, but save for that it thriveth with me."
The parents were left alone together on the high square porch with its great pillars, and the rising moon began to make faint shadows of the young vinc leaves that shot up luxuriantly around them: moving shadows, like lit-tie stretching fingers, on the broad and heavy planks of the oaken floor.
"It groweth well, this vine thou broughtest me in the ship, my husband."
"Aye," he broke in bitterly, "and so doth the shame I brought thee! Had I known of it I would sooner have had the ship founder beneath us, and have seen our child cleanly drowned, than live to this end!"
"Thou art very hard, Samuel, art thou not afeard for her life? She grieveth sore for the child, aye, and for the green fields to walk in!"
"Nay," said he grimly, "I fear not. She hath lost already what is more than life; and she shall have air enough soon. To-morrow the ship is ready, and we return to England. None knoweth of our stain here, not one, and if the town hath a child unaccounted for to rear in decent ways--why, it is not the first, even here. It will be well enough cared for! And truly we have matter for thankfulness, that her cousin is yet willing to marry her."
"Has thou told him?"
"Aye! Thinkest thou I would cast shame into another man's house, unknowing it? He hath always desired her, but she would none of him, the stubborn! She hath small choice now!"
"Will he be kind, Samuel? can he-"
"Kind? What call'st thou it to take such as she to wife? Kind! How many men would take her, an' she had double the fortune? and being of the family already, he is glad to hide the blot forever."
"An' if she would not? He is but a coarse fellow, and she ever shunned him." "Art thou mad, woman? She weddeth him ere we? sail to-morrow, or she stayeth ever in that chamber. The girl is not so sheer a fool! He maketh an honest woman of her, and saveth our house from open shame. What other hope for her than a new life to cover the old? Let her have an honest child, an' she so longeth for one!"
He strode heavily across the porch, till the loose planks creaked again, strode back and forth, with his arms folded and his brows fiercely knit above his iron mouth.
Overhead the shadows flickered mockingly across a white face amoung the leaves, with eyes of wasted fire.
* * *
"O, George, what a house! what a lovely house! I am sure it's haunted! Let us get that house to live in this summer! We will have Kate and Jack and Susy and Jim of course, and a splendid time of it!"
Young husbands are indulgent, but still they have to recognize facts.
"My dear, the house may not be to rent: and it may also not be habitable."
"There is surely somebody in it. I am going to inquire!"
The great central gate was rusted off its hinges, and the long drive had trees in it, but a little footpath showed signs of steady usage, and up that Mrs. Jenny went, followed by her obedient George. The front windows of the old mansion were blank, but in a wing at the back they found white curtains and open doors. Outside, in the clear May sunshine, a woman was washing. She was polite and friendly, and evidently glad of visitors in that lonely place. She "guessed it could be rented-didn't know." The heirs were in Europe, but "there was a lawyer in New York had the lettin' of it."
There had been folks there years ago, but not in her time. She and her husband had the rent of their part for taking care of the place. "Not that they took much care on't either, but keepin' robbers out." It was furnished throughout, old-fashioned enough, but good; and "if they took it she could do the work for 'em herself, she guessed-if he was willin'!"
Never was a crazy scheme more easily arranged. George knew that lawyer in New York; the rent was not alarming; and the nearness to a rising sea-shore resort made it a still pleasanter place to spend the summer.
Kate and Jack and Susy and Jim cheerfully accepted, and the June moon found them all sitting on the high front porch.
They had explored the house from top to bottom, from the great room in the garret, with nothing in it but a rickety cradle, to the well in the cellar without a curb and with a rusty chain going down to unknown blackness below. They had explored the grounds, once beautiful with rare trees and shrubs, but now a gloomy wilderness of tangled shade.
The old lilacs and laburnums, the spirea and syringa, nodded against the second-story windows. What garden plants survived were great ragged bushes or great shapeless beds. A huge wistaria vine covered the whole front of the house. The trunk, it was too large to call a stem, rose at the corner of the porch by the high steps, and had once climbed its pillars; but now the pillars were wrenched from their places and held rigid and helpless by the tightly wound and knotted arms.
It fenced in all the upper story of the porch with a knitted wall of stem and leaf; it ran along the eaves, holding up the gutter that had once supported it; it shaded every window with heavy green; and the drooping, fragrant blossoms made a waving sheet of purple from roof to ground..."Did you ever see such a wistaria!" cried ecstatic Mrs. Jenny. "It is worth the rent just to sit under such a vine,-a fig tree beside it would be sheer superfluity and wicked extravagance!"
"Jenny makes much of her wistaria," said George, "because she's so disappointed about the ghosts. She made up her mind at first sight to have ghosts in the house, and she can't find even a ghost story!"
"No," Jenny assented mournfully; "I pumped poor Mrs. Pepperill for three days, but could get nothing out of her. But I'm convinced there is a story, if we could only find it. You need not tell me that a house like this, with a garden like this, and a cellar like this, isn't haunted!"
"I agree with you," said Jack. Jack was a reporter on a New York daily, and engaged to Mrs. Jenny's pretty sister. "And if we don't find a real ghost, you may be very sure I shall make one. It's too good an opportunity to lose!"
The pretty sister, who sat next him, resented. "You shan't do anything of the sort, Jack! This is a real ghostly place, and I won't have you make fun of it! Look at that group of trees out there in the long grass-it looks for all the world like a crouching, hunted figure!"
"It looks to me like a woman picking huckleberries," said Jim, who was married to George's pretty sister.
"Be still, Jim!" said that fair young woman. "I believe in Jenny's ghost as much as she does. Such a place! Just look at this great wistaria trunk crawling up by the steps here! It looks for all the world like a writhing body-cringing-beseeching!"
"Yes," answered the subdued Jim, "it does, Susy. See its waist,-about two yards of it, and twisted at that! A waste of good material!"
"Don't be so horrid, boys! Go off and smoke somewhere if you can't be congenial!"
"We can! We will! We'll be as ghostly as you please:' And forthwith they began to see bloodstains and crouching figures so plentifully that the most delightful shivers multiplied, and the fair enthusiasts started for bed, declaring they should never sleep a wink.
"We shall all surely dream," cried Mrs. Jenny, "and we must all tell our dreams in the morning!"
"There's another thing certain," said George, catching Susy as she tripped over a loose plank; "and that is that you frisky creatures must use the side door till I get this Eiffel tower of a portico fixed, or we shall have some fresh ghosts on our hands! We found a plank here that yawns like a trap-door-big enough to swallow you,-and I believe the bottom of the thing is in China!"
The next morning found them all alive, and eating a substantial New England breakfast, to the accompaniment of saws and hammers on the porch, where carpenters of quite miraculous promptness were tearing things to pieces generally.
"It's got to come down mostly," they had said. "These timbers are clean rotted through, what ain't pulled out o' line by this great creeper. That's about all that holds the thing up."
There was clear reason in what they said, and with a caution from anxious Mrs. Jenny not to hurt the wistaria, they were left to demolish and repair at leisure.
"How about ghosts?" asked Jack after a fourth griddle cake. "I had one, and it's taken away my appetite!"
Mrs. Jenny gave a little shriek and dropped her knife and fork.
"Oh, so had I! I had the most awful-well, not dream exactly, but feeling. I had forgotten all about it!"
"Must have been awful," said Jack, taking another cake. "Do tell us about the feeling. My ghost will wait." "It makes me creep to think of it even now," she said. "I woke up, all at once, with that dreadful feeling as if something were going to happen, you know! I was wide awake, and hearing every little sound for miles around, it seemed to me. There are so many strange little noises in the country for all it is so still. Millions of crickets and things outside, and all kinds of rustles in the trees! There wasn't much wind, and the moonlight came through in my three great windows in three white squares on the black old floor, and those fingery wistaria leaves we were talking of last night just seemed to crawl all over them. And-O, girls, you know that dreadful well in the cellar?"
A most gratifying impression was made by this, and Jenny proceeded cheerfully:
"Well, while it was so horridly still, and I lay there trying not to wake George, I heard as plainly as if it were right in the room, that old chain down there rattle and creak over the stones!"
"Bravo!" cried Jack. "That's fine! I'll put it in the Sunday edition!"
"Be still!" said Kate. "What was it, Jenny? Did you really see anything?"
"No, I didn't, I'm sorry to say. But just then I didn't want to. I woke George, and made such a fuss that he gave me bromide, and said he'd go and look, and that's the last I thought of it till Jack reminded me-the bromide worked so well."
"Now, Jack, give us yours," said Jim. "Maybe, it will dovetail in somehow. Thirsty ghost, I imagine; maybe they had prohibition here even then!"
Jack folded his napkin, and leaned back in his most impressive manner.
"It was striking twelve by the great hall clock-" he began.
"There isn't any hall clock!"
"O hush, Jim, you spoil the current! It was just one o'clock then, by my old-fashioned repeater.
"Waterbury! Never mind what time it was!"
"Well, honestly, I woke up sharp, like our beloved hostess, and tried to go to sleep again, but couldn't. I experienced all those moonlight and grasshopper sensations, just like Jenny, and was wondering what could have been the matter with the supper, when in came my ghost, and I knew it was all a dream! It was a female ghost, and I imagine she was young and handsome, but all those crouching, hunted figures of last evening ran riot in my brain, and this poor creature looked just like them. She was all wrapped up in a shawl, and had a big bundle under her arm,-dear me, I am spoiling the story! With the air and gait of one in frantic haste and terror, the muffled figure glided to a dark old bureau, and seemed taking things from the drawers. As she turned, the moonlight shone full on a little red cross that hung from her neck by a thin gold chain-I saw it glitter as she crept noiselessly' from the room! That's all."
"O Jack, don't be so horrid! Did you really? Is that all! What do you think it was?"
"I am not horrid by nature, only professionally. I really did. That was all. And I am fully convinced it was the genuine, legitimate ghost of an eloping chambermaid with kleptomania!"
"You are too bad, Jack!" cried Jenny. "You take all the horror out of it. There isn't a 'creep' left among us."
"It's no time for creeps at nine-thirty A.M., with sunlight and carpenters outside! However, if you can't wait till twilight for your creeps, I think I can furnish one or two," said George. "I went down cellar after Jenny's ghost!"
There was a delighted chorus of female voices, and Jenny cast upon her lord a glance of genuine gratitude.
"It's all very well to lie in bed and see ghosts, or hear them," he went on. "But the young householder suspecteth burglars, even though as a medical man he knoweth nerves, and after Jenny dropped off I started on a voyage of discovery. I never will again, I promise you!" "Why, what was it?"
"I got a candle-"
"Good mark for the burglars," murmured Jack.
"And went all over the house, gradually working down to the cellar and the well."
"Well?" said Jack.
"Now you can laugh; but that cellar is no joke by daylight, and a candle there at night is about as inspiring as a lightning-bug in the Mammoth Cave. I went along with the light, trying not to fall into the well prematurely; got to it all at once; held the light down and then I saw, right under my feet-(I nearly fell over her, or walked through her, perhaps),-a woman, hunched up under a shawl! She had hold of the chain, and the candle shone on her hands-white, thin hands-on a little red cross that hung from her neck-ride Jack! I'm no believer in ghosts, and I firmly object to unknown parties in the house at night; so I spoke to her rather fiercely. She didn't seem to notice that, and I reached down to take hold of her-then I came upstairs!"
"What was the matter?"
"Well, nothing happened. Only she wasn't there! May have been indigestion, of course, but as a physician I don't advise any one to court indigestion alone at midnight in a cellar!"
"This is the most interesting and peripatetic and evasive ghost I ever heard of!" said Jack. "It's my belief she has no end of silver tankards, and jewels galore, at the bottom of that well, and I move we go and see!"
"To the bottom of the well, Jack?"
"To the bottom of the mystery. Come on!"
There was unanimous assent, and the fresh cambrics and pretty boots were gallantly escorted below by gentlemen whose jokes were so frequent that many of them were a little forced.
The deep old cellar was so dark that they had to bring lights, and the well so gloomy in its blackness that the ladies recoiled.
"That well is enough to scare even a ghost. It's my opinion you'd better let well enough alone?" quoth Jim.
"Truth lies hid in a well, and we must get her out," said George. "Bear a hand with the chain?"
Jim pulled away on the chain, George turned the creaking windlass, and Jack was chorus.
"A wet sheet for this ghost, if not a flowing sea," said he. "Seems to be hard work raising spirits! I suppose he kicked the bucket when he went down!"
As the chain lightened and shortened there grew a strained silence among them; and when at length the bucket appeared, rising slowly through the dark water, there was an eager, half reluctant peering, and a natural drawing back. They poked the gloomy contents. "Only water."
"Nothing but mud."
They emptied the bucket up on the dark earth, and then the girls all went out into the air, into the bright warm sunshine in front of the house, where was the sound of saw and hammer, and the smell of new wood. There was nothing said until the men joined them, and then Jenny timidly asked:
"How old should you think it was, George?"
"All of a century," he answered. "That water is a preservative-lime in it. Oh!-you mean?--Not more than a month: a very little baby!".There was another silence at this, broken by a cry from the workmen. They had removed the floor and the side walls of the old porch, so that the sunshine poured down to the dark stones of the cellar bottom. And there, in the strangling grasp of the roots of the great wistaria, lay the bones of a woman, from whose neck still hung a tiny scarlet cross on a thin chain of gold.
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