Copyright, 1895, by Harper & Brothers. All Rights Reserved.
||NEW YORK, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1895.
||FIVE CENTS A COPY.
|VOL. XVI.—NO. 835.
||TWO DOLLARS A YEAR.
A HALLOWEEN STORY.
BY HEZEKIAH BUTTERWORTH.
"What was it that Obed saw?" That question used to be asked by chimney-corners in the great farm-houses of an old New England neighborhood for many years.
For Obed in his boyhood on a certain last night of October, "when the moon was round," had seen a spectacle the account of which filled the minds of many good people with wonder and of simple people with terror. Even the cats and dogs seemed to be uneasy when it was discussed in an awesome tone of voice on old red settles, for such animals seem to share the fears of their masters. "Come, now, Obed is no fool," the work-people used to say.
"What do you suppose it was that he saw? It was proper strange!"
Obed lived in one of the farm neighborhoods near Medfield, a town famous in King Philip's war. The place has a fearful legend of a family who were killed by the Indians, and a very curious story of a farmer who saved his family at the time of the Indian attack by rolling out of the cellar a barrel of cider.
It is a quiet town to-day, not a long ride from Boston. It would delight a tired man or an artist; it is old-fashioned and full of rural beauty, a bit of old New England left over, as it were. Great elms throw their cloudlike shadows over the trim and well-kept roads in summertime. The churches, the homes, the farms all show a historic pride. Here great orchards once bloomed; here the Baltimore orioles still swing in the elms, and the bobolinks topple in the clover meadows. Here the lilacs still bloom by door-yard walls, and the people draw water from the round stone wells of the generations gone.
Obed was a "bound boy," as an apprentice lad was called. He was "bound out," to use another old New England term, to a certain Mr. Miller, who was a farmer and a cobbler. This Mr. Miller was named Brister—Brister Miller—a surname not uncommon in colonial times.
A bound boy was one who was "let out" by his parents or guardian or the "selectmen" to the service of another for a term of years; really, a slave for a limited time. Brister Miller had in his family a bound boy and a bound girl.
The girl's name was Eliza. She had come to Boston from England. Her parents had died, and she had been found a home on Brister Miller's bowery farm. Bound children and boys and girls worked hard in the old times, and had but few privileges. They were sometimes allowed to go to the "General Training," and to share in the husking frolics, and they were always permitted to listen for a time after "early candlelight" to the stories that were told on old red settles in cool weather by the open fires.
As Eliza had come from England she was called "English Eliza." She was a good-hearted, resolute girl. She became a great friend to Obed, whom her warm heart pitied, owing to her own hard and solitary lot.
It was the last day of October. There had been a warm rain, which had kept Obed and English Eliza from the husk heap. The weather had suddenly changed towards evening. A chill had come down from the north, and the family and work-people had gathered after supper around the crackling fire. Mr. Miller sat shelling corn with a cob, and Mrs. Miller began to knit by the tallow candle.
The work-people told stories. These stories were of a strange and exciting kind, and related to the times of the Indian war, or to people with haunted consciences who thought that they had seen ghosts. Young people listened to such tales in terror. English Eliza had never heard these tales before or any narratives like them. She saw that the ghost stories filled Obed with fear, and she pitied him.
On this particular night, after a story had been told that made Obed sit close to an older farm-hand, Mrs. Miller paused in her work, and, lifting her brows, said,
"There, English Eliza, what do you think of such doin's as that?"
Eliza looked at Obed, and his fixed eyes and white face nerved her to make a very honest and resolute answer.
"I don't believe in ghosts, marm."
"Honest people never see 'em; if they think they do, they find them out. It is folks with haunted consciences that see such things, marm; folks with something wrong, or touched in mind, marm. I wouldn't be afraid to go right into a