GRANDFATHER, who had always been
so provident and had worried so much about the improvidence of his son and
daughter-in-law, feared above all things that I too might develop
spendthrift habits. In one way and another, he tried to encourage me to
save, his first step being to start an account for me in the Rutland
Savings Bank and to exhort me to make it grow. I did not follow his advice
very strictly but somehow, the account did grow, grandfather spurring me
I remember that one deposit was made as a result of an
experience with which I was not at all in sympathy. It happened on a
Christmas morning. It had been my custom to hang up my stocking Christmas
Eve, with the expectation that I would find it stuffed to overflowing in
the morning and that there would also be sundry packages lying around too
large for admission to the stocking.
Trembling with excitement, I crept out of my bedroom
before daylight, made my way across the dining room and felt my way to the
mantel in the sitting room. I found the stocking right where I had hung it
but to my unutterable amazement and disappointment, it hung limp and empty
so far as I could see. My sobs soon brought grandmother to my side and she
told me to feel again in the stocking; to thrust my hand away down deep. I
did so and extracted a tiny package, which when unwrapped proved to be a
five dollar gold piece. Had it been a rock, it could not have been more
meaningless and again I broke down and sobbed. I had been expecting the
customary books, skates, a watch perhaps, popcorn, candy and other things
beyond even my own lively imagination; if Christmas was to be anything
less than an introduction to fairyland, it was to be nothing at all.
Later in the day after many conversations between
grandfather and grandmother, grandfather said to leave the matter to hun.
Under his orders, I hung up my stocking again and waited a reasonable time
for Santa Claus to make a return visit. Eventually, I again made my way to
the mantle, and, with many forebodings, reached my hand down deep into the
stocking and what did I find? Another five dollar gold piece. Shades of my
grandfather! Another five dollars! It was more than human nature could
bear and I set up a howl in tune with the disappointment within me.
Grandfather declared that he had gone his limit so
grandmother took matters in hand again, with the result that the good
things, all that I had dreamed of and more, were realized. Grandfather did
not withdraw his gifts; the two bright five-dollar gold pieces were added
to my savings account; a good day's work for a youngster who had not long
since passed his ninth birthday.
Strange to say, in spite of my lack of enthusiasm for
saving, the account grew to fifteen hundred dollars before I became of
age. When eventually my savings became subject to my disposal they were
expeditiously put to use. I am glad to be able to say, however, that I
used most of them to pay obligations of my father's family, of which there
many and of a pressing nature.
Thus ended all likelihood of my becoming a millionaire.
As a matter of fact, I don't believe grandfather would have had me be one.
He was known even in our village where thrift was the order of the day, as
a frugal man. The few spendthrifts of the village might have thought of
him as miserly, although I have never heard that characterization of my
He was indeed extremely saving; he could not bear to
see anything go to waste, not even a pin or a piece of string; he had a
place for everything, but it was all to a high purpose, one typical of the
New Englander of my day. He wanted to help all of his children and
grandchildren to become self-respecting and independent men and women. He
believed that the best way to accomplish this purpose was through the
encouragement of thrift and the provision of the best possible educational
advantages. I often wondered how he could see so clearly the advantage of
a good education, his own opportunities having been so limited. He aimed
to keep his own records and those of his son, my father, clear and to
provide educational advantages for his grandchildren, so far as his means
permitted and so far as their ambitions prompted them to go.
So much can be truthfully said of my careful, saving
New England grandfather. I can also say, that notwithstanding my distaste
for lectures and the "do's and the don'ts" of which there were not many,
and notwithstanding backslidings too numerous to mention, I absorbed the
substance of my grandfather's teachings.
One of the strange characters in Wallingford in my time
was a man whom we knew as "Doctor Ainsworth." He lived in the hills not
far from the "ice bed." Though he was not a graduate of any school of
medicine, he sometimes prescribed for ailing country people who were even
less informed than he. His panacea for all human ills was said to be
buckshot. If a patient survived after having taken buckshot internally, he
was supposed to be immune henceforth from all ailments, except perchance
buckshot externally applied. While much is known of the external
application of buckshot to human beings, dogs, wild beasts, etc., "Doctor
Ainsworth" was, so far as I know, the sole repository of knowledge
pertaining to its internal application.
The "Doctor's" tall, gaunt, alert figure was a familiar
sight in our community. His eyes were bright and piercing and he carried a
cane. How old he was none, perhaps not even he himself, knew. His house
was on a seldom traveled road and he might have been designated a hermit.
With all the above qualities in his favor, his greatest
glory was reflected from a far more luminous personality, his sister. She
was all lustre, though personally known to but few of the folks of our
valley. She was a clairvoyant and as such she had made a name for herself
While that city was then, as now, one of culture and on
that account spoken of as the "hub of the universe," its people were not
well versed in the occult. That science was as definitely the long suit of
"Doctor Ainsworth's" sister as buckshot healing was of the "Doctor"
Her method was simple. When consulted by anxious
Bostonians on perplexing problems of health, love, finance or the status
of departed loved ones, she merely went into a trance and comforting words
of wisdom soon flowed from her lips. She became known as "Sleeping Lucy"
and her fame spread throughout the land.
To signalize her success and in order to do something
for the village of her nativity, she gave Wallingford folks a special
trance which the citizens might henceforth think of as exclusively their
own. On the occasion of this special trance "Sleeping Lucy" revealed a
fact neither known nor suspected up to that time. She told the world that
Captain Kidd, before the memory of living man, had visited our valley in
search of a suitable repository for his ill-gotten but long famed chest of
gold. When his eagle eye lit upon White Rocks towering in the distance,
east of the spot where the "Doctor" and his famous sister made their home,
he realized at once that there on the top was the very place. There buried
deep in the ground it would be safe from the prying eyes of inquisitive
man. The Captain, being a man of action, planted his famed chest in the
ground on the top of White Rocks.
It might be said that the story of "Sleeping Lucy"
belongs not to truth but to fiction. Some folks in my valley count it as
libelous and as insinuation that they are a simple-minded people which of
course they are not. Personally I cherish it as a legend like the legends
of Norway which rise above prosaic facts into the rarer atmosphere of
poetical fancy. Nations are enriched by their legends.
There was a "Sleeping Lucy," that much we know and many
of her followers believed that it was nothing for her to rise from mundane
affairs into realms unknown to ordinary mortals, and someone having
knowledge of this gift may have hung this yarn about Captain Kidd upon
her; where facts leave off and fiction begins, I neither know or care.
I will admit, however, that the story of "Sleeping
Lucy" and Captain Kidd was one of the reasons I wanted to climb to the top
of White Rocks; that I might poke about among the crevices of the rocks in
case something might have been overlooked by the gold diggers who came in
the wake of the Captain. Even a paltry hundred doubloons or a thousand
dollars might come in handy. So I figured.
The truth of the adage that mistakes will happen in the
best regulated families was demonstrated one summer evening on our hired
girl's day off when grandmother happened to be absent from home making a
call upon a neighbor. Grandfather had been left in charge of the house, a
duty which he did not relish and which he was seldom required to do. Now
it was not unusual for Mrs. Hudson Shaw to call at our house for the
purpose of obtaining a cup of yeast. "Borrow" was the term used although
neither Mrs. Shaw nor grandmother had the remotest idea that the yeast was
ever to be returned. This gentle fiction always pertained in transactions
when yeast was the commodity concerned. One was expected to return monkey
wrenches, screw drivers, etc., but in the case of yeast there was no
return tide. As a matter of fact, if Mrs. Shaw had ever come into our yard
with a cup of yeast and said, "Here is the cup of yeast I borrowed from
you last Wednesday, Mrs. Harris," I very much doubt grandmother's being
able to survive the shock; grandmother was not very strong.
On the occasion mentioned, it was grandfather who did
the honors. Gallantly responding to the request of Mrs. Shaw, he got the
innocent looking brown jug of yeast from its shelf in the cellar and
proceeded to remove the strings with which grandmother had secured the
cork in place. Suddenly there was an explosion and grandfather's head
seemed to have been blown completely off and a huge globe of putty in its
place. Not one feature was distinguishable. Not being experienced in the
ways of yeast, I set up a howl as any little boy might have done in being
thus summarily deprived of his only grandfather; to be sure, grandfather
and I had disagreed at times but that was no reason why he should have had
his bead blown off. What part Mrs. Shaw had in bringing about the ghastly
spectacle, I did not know but I regarded her with considerable suspicion.
Mrs. Hudson Shaw had always been spoken of as a nice old lady and she was
the mother of my dear Professor Will Shaw but the fact still remained that
the moment she crossed our threshold trouble began. Four bulls and a
catamount could not have done more to break up good housekeeping than Mrs.
Hudson Shaw and her cup of yeast.
The first intimation I had that possibly grandfather
had not come to an untimely end was when the globe of putty turned in the
direction of Mrs. Shaw and deliberately and clearly enunciated the
familiar word, "Pshaw7 That word was the nearest semblance to profanity
that grandfather had ever been known to use. Sadly and solemnly, and I
thought reprovingly, the globe of putty looked at Mrs. Shaw very much as
if to say, "Now, see what you have done with your everlasting, 'may I
borrow a cup of yeast?' This ought to be a lesson to you, Mrs. Hudson
Shaw. I have always tried to be a good neighbor and I think I am a good
neighbor but this thing is being run into the ground. Henceforth, Mrs.
Hudson Shaw, you can go hang for all I care."
I think that grandfather was thoroughly ashamed of his
thoughts but so far as I know, not a word percolated through his mask of
yeast. Anyway from that day until the day of his death, I never saw
grandfather with a jug of yeast in his hand, and whenever grandmother
brought her yeast jug through the kitchen I noticed that grandfather
always had some important business to attend to in the wood shed.
There is, however, no
great loss without some small gain and I am sure that grandfather and I
were nearer to each other after that episode and understood each other
better. When grandmother returned from her call she found me asleep
snuggled up in grandfather's lap with my arms clasped around him. I had no
intention of ever letting grandfather get away from me again; at least not
unless grandmother was present and as for Mrs. Hudson Shaw, I would scream
bloody murder if I ever saw her enter our gate with an empty cup in her