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The Flat-Iron Lot
by [?]

One creature only was capable of rousing Nicholas Oldfield from that calm wherein he went ticking on through life. She it was who, by some natal likeness, understood him wholly; and to-night, just as he was sitting down to his supper of “cream o’ tartar” biscuits and smoking tea, her clear voice broke upon his solitude.

“Gran’ther,” called Mary Oldfield from the door, “mother says, ‘Won’t you come over to supper?’ She saw your smoke.”

Nicholas pushed back his chair a little; he felt himself completed.

“You had yours?” he asked, in his usual even tones.

“No, I waited for you.”

“Then you come right in an’ git it. Take your mug–here, I’ll reach it down for ye–an’ there’s the Good-Girl plate.”

Mary Oldfield was a tall, pleasant looking maid of sixteen, and standing quietly by, while her grandfather got out her own plate and mug, she was an amazingly faithful copy of him. They smiled a little at each other, in sitting down, but there was no closer greeting between them. They were exceedingly well content to be together again, and this was so simple and natural a state that there was nothing to say about it. Only Nicholas looked at her from time to time–her capable brown hands and careful braids of hair,–and nodded briefly, as he had a way of nodding at his clocks.

“You know what I told you, Mary, about the Flat-Iron Lot?” he asked, while Mary buttered her biscuit.

She looked at him in assent.

“Well, I’ve proved it.”

“You don’t say!”

Mary had certain antique methods of speech, which the new-fangled school teacher, not liking to pronounce them vulgar, had tactfully dubbed “obsolete.” “If we used ’em all the time they wouldn’t get obsolete, would they?” asked Mary; and the school teacher, being a logical person, made no answer. So Mary went on plying them with a conscientious calmness like one determined to keep a precious and misprized metal in circulation. She even called Nicholas gran’ther, because he liked it, and because he had called his own grandfather so.

“Ye see,” said Nicholas, “the fust rec’ids were missin’. ‘Burnt up!’ says that town clerk over to Sudleigh. ‘Burnt when the old meetin’-house ketched fire, arter the Injun raid.’ ‘Burnt up!’ thinks I. ‘The cat’s foot! I guess so, when the communion service was carried over fifteen mile an’ left in a potato sullar.’ So I says to myself, ‘What become o’ that fust communion set?’ Why, before the meetin’-house was repaired, they all rode over to what’s now Saltash, to worship in Square Billin’s’s kitchen. Now, when Square Billin’s died of a fever, that same winter, they hove all his books into that old lumber-room over Sudleigh court-house. So, when I was fixin’ up the court-house clock, t’other day, I clim’ up to that room, an’ shet myself in there. An’, Mary, I found them rec’ids!” He looked at her with that complete and awe-stricken triumph which nobody else had ever seen upon his face. Her own reflected it.

“Where are they, gran’ther?” asked Mary. But she was the more excited; she could only whisper.

“They’re loose sheets o’ paper,” returned Nicholas, “an’ they ‘re in my bag!”

Mary made an involuntary movement toward the bag, which lay, innocently secretive, on a neighboring chair. Even its advertising legend had a knowing look. Nicholas followed her glance.

“No,” said he firmly, “not now. We’ll read ’em all over this evenin’, when I’ve done the dishes. But, Mary, I’ll tell ye this much: it’s got the whole story of the settlers comin’ into town, an’ which way they come, an’ all about it, writ down by Simeon Gerry, the fust minister, the one that killed five Injuns, stoppin’ to load an’ fire, an’ then opened on the rest with bilin’ fat. An’, Mary, the fust settler of all was Nicholas Oldfield, haulin’ his wife on a kind of a drag made o’ withes; an’ the path they took led straight over our Flat-Iron Lot. An’, Mary, ‘t was there they rested, an’ offered up prayer to God.”