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PAGE 2

The Ghost in the Mill
by [?]

“There, now!” he said, when he had brushed over and under and between the fire-irons, and pursued the retreating ashes so far into the red, fiery citadel, that his finger-ends were burning and tingling, “that are’s done now as well as Hepsy herself could ‘a’ done it. I allers sweeps up the haarth: I think it’s part o’ the man’s bisness when he makes the fire. But Hepsy’s so used to seein’ me a-doin’ on’t, that she don’t see no kind o’ merit in’t. It’s just as Parson Lothrop said in his sermon,—folks allers overlook their common marcies”—

“But come, Sam, that story,” said Harry and I coaxingly, pressing upon him, and pulling him down into his seat in the corner.

“Lordy massy, these ‘ere young uns!” said Sam.”There’s never no contentin’ on ’em: ye tell ’em one story, and they jest swallows it as a dog does a gob o’ meat; and they’re all ready for another. What do ye want to hear now?”

Now, the fact was, that Sam’s stories had been told us so often, that they were all arranged and ticketed in our minds. We knew every word in them, and could set him right if he varied a hair from the usual track; and still the interest in them was unabated. Still we shivered, and clung to his knee, at the mysterious parts, and felt gentle, cold chills run down our spines at appropriate places. We were always in the most receptive and sympathetic condition. To-night, in particular, was one of those thundering stormy ones, when the winds appeared to be holding a perfect mad carnival over my grandfather’s house. They yelled and squealed round the corners; they collected in troops, and came tumbling and roaring down chimney; they shook and rattled the buttery-door and the sinkroom-door and the cellar-door and the chamber-door, with a constant undertone of squeak and clatter, as if at every door were a cold, discontented spirit, tired of the chill outside, and longing for the warmth and comfort within.

“Wal, boys,” said Sam confidentially, “what’ll ye have?”

“Tell us ‘Come down, come down!'” we both shouted with one voice. This was, in our mind, an “A No. 1” among Sam’s stories.

“Ye mus’n’t be frightened now,” said Sam Paternally.

“Oh, no! we ar’n’t frightened ever ,” said we both in one breath.

“Not when ye go down the cellar arter cider?” said Sam with severe scrutiny.”Ef ye should be down cellar, and the candle should go out, now?”

“I ain’t,” said I: “I ain’t afraid of any thing. I never knew what it was to be afraid in my life.”

“Wal, then,” said Sam, “I’ll tell ye. This ‘ere’s what Cap’n Eb Sawin told me when I was a boy about your bigness, I reckon.

“Cap’n Eb Sawin was a most respectable man. Your gran’ther knew him very well; and he was a deacon in the church in Dedham afore he died. He was at Lexington when the fust gun was fired agin the British. He was a dreffle smart man, Cap’n Eb was, and driv team a good many years atween here and Boston. He married Lois Peabody, that was cousin to your gran’ther then. Lois was a rael sensible woman; and I’ve heard her tell the story as he told her, and it was jest as he told it to me,—jest exactly; and I shall never forget it if I live to be nine hundred years old, like Mathuselah.

“Ye see, along back in them times, there used to be a fellow come round these ‘ere parts, spring and fall, a-peddlin’ goods, with his pack on his back; and his name was Jehiel Lommedieu. Nobody rightly knew where he come from. He wasn’t much of a talker; but the women rather liked him, and kind o’ liked to have him round. Women will like some fellows, when men can’t see no sort o’ reason why they should; and they liked this ‘ere Lommedieu, though he was kind o’ mournful and thin and shadbellied, and hadn’t nothin’ to say for himself. But it got to be so, that the women would count and calculate so many weeks afore ’twas time for Lommedieu to be along; and they’d make up gingersnaps and preserves and pies, and make him stay to tea at the houses, and feed him up on the best there was: and the story went round, that he was a-courtin’ Phebe Ann Parker, or Phebe Ann was a-courtin’ him,—folks didn’t rightly know which. Wal, all of a sudden, Lommedieu stopped comin’ round; and nobody knew why,—only jest he didn’t come. It turned out that Phebe Ann Parker had got a letter from him, sayin’ he’d be along afore Thanksgiving; but he didn’t come, neither afore nor at Thank
sgiving time, nor arter, nor next spring: and finally the women they gin up lookin’ for him. Some said he was dead; some said he was gone to Canada; and some said he hed gone over to the Old Country.