JENNY GARROW'S LOVERS
Sarah Orne Jewett
This story of mine may interest some reader, and although it may seem like a great many other stories which one sees in all the magazines, and very unnatural at that, it's true enough, God knows. I'm not much used to writing - I may as well tell you, I'm not used at all to it, for you will find it out soon enough -- but I've heard people say that sometimes it is the telling, and sometimes the story, and my story is interesting enough, with an old woman to write it, even, instead of one of those young men or women who use such long words, and have the same story over and over again, with different names. Well, that's nothing to me.
I have always meant that this story should be told, and now it will be. The people whom it concerned are all dead, long ago, so it can never trouble any one.
Well, Jenny Garrow was the best friend I ever had, and as pretty a girl as there was in the country. I thought so, and so did the young fellows from "the Hall," who used to come, after the day's shooting, for a drink of Farmer Garrow's cider. I never thought the cider had as much attraction as she, though. Jenny never minded what they said to her, she was so innocent and childlike at heart, always. I remember once, the gentlemen were there, and Sir John and my Lady Tarrow, and many ladies who had been hunting with them, and there was one whom everybody was very polite to. I heard afterwards that he was a very great man from London. He hadn't much to say to them. When Jenny and I went in to serve them, he started up, and looked after her. She went in alone next time, and told me, afterwards, that they were having a very merry time over the cider, and they called on the strange gentleman for a toast, and he stood up, and kissed his hand to Jenny, and said:
"This to the fairest maid mine eyes have looked upon."
Jenny was frightened at it, and she turned and came out, as soon as she filled their glasses.
Of course she had plenty of lovers, and no wonder; for, besides the nice girl she was, Farmer Garrow's purse was well filled. She was the only child.
Jenny didn't care much for the lovers, however they might care about her; but there were two young fellows whom everybody might see loved her, and it is of them and herself that I tell my story. She never said a word of either to me, at that time, notwithstanding we had been so intimate ever since we were babies. I guess that was the first thing we didn't both know about.
One day, we were walking together, and I said, in a joking way:
"Jenny, whose heart will you break - Dick or William Tyler's?"
She laughed, and then a moment after muttered:
"God knows how I wish I knew!"
And not a smile did I see on her face the rest of the walk; and it was then I thought first that she might care anything about them.
Soon it got so far that everybody thought it must be one or the other, for she took no notice of any of the other lovers, and what was very strange, she manifested no preference for either of the Tylers. You may be sure it was getting the town talk. The brothers were always waiting at the church door Sunday, and if she went to a neighbor's, to a dance or any merry-making, they were sure to be waiting, and if Dick went off with her, Will took no notice of any one else, but his face would turn red as fire, and away he would go across the fields, home.
So it went on a month or two, everybody wondering what would become of it. Nobody knew which she liked best, and I think the truth was, that she didn't herself.
The two brothers were as nice young men as need be. Both of them were tall and well made. Dick was rather the largest. He had a dark skin, and bushy black hair, while Will was fair and ruddy, and more slight and graceful than his brother. I think I always liked Dick best; there was something honest and nice about him, and he always seemed sort of true. Will seemed - well, as if he was well enough now, but he mightn't hold so. The people generally all liked him best, for Dick was rather odd, and had little to say.
I always wondered; but after a time Jenny seemed to take to Will, and be cold to Dick. He would have been my choice. Poor fellow, he wanted so to be hers!
Well, it went along about this way for some time - just the same. No one saw Dick much. One night, there was a great time over at John Haiton's; his daughter Phebe was married. All the young folks were there. I never shall forget that night as long as I live. It must be forty years ago. For all that, I can see the merry-making going on, as if it were only last night. I remember how Phebe looked. She was as pretty a girl as one would wish to see. Stephen Winnis, her husband, looked as if he had his heart full of happiness. Poor young fellow - he died of the fever.
It was the finest fall night I ever saw. The harvesting was just finished. It was bright, and just cool enough - not "shivery" at all. I remember I sat by the window, and could see the trees, and the river, and the Hall, and the farmhouses, as well as in the daytime.
As I was sitting at the window, while my brother Tim was getting ready (he had been out in the fields), I saw, to my astonishment, two figures over in one of Farmer Garrow's fields. I wasn't astonished then. I thought they might be two of the men; but in a moment more I knew them. One was in the lane, running by the side of the field.
I started up and went to the door, and just then all the stars faded away, and the great full harvest moon came over the hill, and I stood still as stone, watching them. The one in the field was Dick; he walked rather quickly. I don't think he saw his brother, who was rather behind him.
Soon Will seemed to see that Dick was ahead, and began to run. There was a long piece of high hawthorn hedge between him and his brother, so Dick did not see him till he was very much beyond him. Dick began to run, and tried to overtake him; but Will escaped him, and ran in at the door.
Then I saw Dick sit down by the hedge, and put his head in his hands, and soon he got up and walked away.
He was very near our house when he sat down, and as the moon shone bright on his face, I could see it was white as could be, and he looked sorrowful; but there was no anger about him. I remembered that afterwards.
Well, I went in, and when mother asked what kept me so still on the doorstep, I told her the moon, and that it was pleasanter out there than in the house. Then Tim was ready, and we went to the wedding.
When we got to the Haitons, Jenny and Tyler were there before us, and the only time I spoke to Will, I said:
"Where's Dick?" to see what he would say.
"I don't know nor care," said he; and some one spoke to me, and I left him.
After a while, he and Jenny went out at the door. Presently she came in alone, where I was dancing, and I wondered why he had left her. She didn't seem as bright as usual that night, and after that, was very silent. I supposed he and she might have had some little quarrel, and that he was in one of the other rooms.
It was late when the party broke up, and as I was going in at the door, I turned and saw WilI and Jenny going up the lane, which was only a few yards from the house. I could hear them talking together, and one thing I understood. Said he:
"It never should have gone so far; but I thought different of you."
I could tell by his voice that he was angry, and wondered what he meant. That was the last I saw of him. I watched him go away. I thought he did not seem to go straight home, but more towards the village.
I did not see anything of him for four or five days after, and wondered at it. Dick didn't go by, either, and I believe Jenny had gone to the other side of the village, which was a mile or two away, to see her aunt.
One day, Susannah Gerry was over from Tarrow to see me, and as we were talking of the wedding, she said suddenly:
"I suppose you know that about the Tylers?"
"What?" said I. "I knew something would come of that night."
"What night?" And then she told me that Will had not been seen since that night -- that the officers were around now, they said, in search. No one had seen him -- not even his mother. "She is in great trouble, and since that," said Susannah, "some one has told me that they have taken Dick in custody, because everybody knew how jealous they were of each other about Jenny Garrow, and so some thought he might have killed him. Some one saw them both going towards Garrow's, and perhaps Will's getting there first might have angered Dick."
I told Susannah what I had seen, and the next thing I knew, that story was all over the country, and in a few days more, I got summoned to the magistrate's, as one of the witnesses in the murder case of Dick Tyler. Poor Dick!
I told my story. Everything seemed to go against Dick, and everybody thought he would be hung -- they made much less of hanging in those days - but to every one's surprise, he was not, but sentenced to prison for life. I don't know but what that is as bad. It is, to my mind.
I don't see how every one could help thinking that he was telling the truth. What he said, was this: That he did intend to go to the wedding, and wanted to go with Jenny Garrow, and that Will did get there first, and it all happened just as I said; that he went home then, directly, only perhaps he stopped half an hour at a stile, on the way. He owned that he was angry with Will at the time, but he never had any thoughts of doing him harm, he said.
He said that he went home, and climbed up a ladder into his room, so his mother might not question him about his being home from the wedding so early. (His mother had said that he did not come in that night, which went against him, of course.) He said that he couldn't make anything of it, when he found that Will hadn't been home, any more than any one else could.
It was very strange, every one said; for Dick Tyler had never been known to lie, and he seemed more honest and upright than ever, at the trial.
I felt all the time that it was unjust, and one day I said so to mother; that it seemed a pity for a strong young fellow to be shut up a lifetime from his friends, and everything pleasant. Mother said:
"Margery, don't thee be always groaning for that Richard Tyler. If his honor the judge has found him guilty, what have other folks to say?"
One spring day, I was weeding out my flower-bed, and Jenny Garrow -- Jenny Garrow still -- was sitting by me on the grass. Poor Jenny! She wasn't so gay as she used to be, but more quiet and thoughtful -- sometimes sad. There was never a word passed between us about the Tylers, till that day.
Suddenly, as we were talking quietly about the flowers we were weeding, she said, "Margery!" in a quick, sharp voice, so unlike her own that I wondered if it really was hers, and then stopped. I answered, and the first thing I knew, her head was laid in my lap, and she crying like a grieved child. I didn't say a word but calling her pet names, and stroked her pretty, curly hair. When she was more quiet, I said:
"Tell me what troubles you, Jenny dear?"
"O, don't tell; but I'm thinking all the time of poor Dick Tyler, Margy. I always liked him best, and the reason I went with Will was half to plague him, and half to see if he really did care for me, or would be off after some other girl. Do you know - that night Phebe Haiton was married, I watched the Tylers just as you did, and I hoped Dick would get there first; and when Will came in at the door, I was right in the window by it, and he saw me, and asked me if I would go with him to the wedding I said "Yes," for I didn't want him to know I was watching them; and besides, I thought that Dick wouldn't come and ask me then, so I went with Will, and I've never been happy since that awful time, and poor Dick in prison till he dies! O Margery!" And she cried more and more. "If I could only see Richard Tyler, and tell him how sorry I am -- for it was all me, you know!"
That struck me. Yes, it was all Jenny.
One day, my brother was going on business to the town where the jail was, and I asked him to take me with him. He was willing; he liked company in his rides, and had often taken Jenny and I. It was a long ride, and we had a fine day for it. As we were on the way -- I think we were almost to town -- Tim said, suddenly:
"I know what you came for, and I'll leave you there while I see to my business."
I said, "Yes;" and wondered how he knew so well. I hated to ask him, you know.
When he left me, I went to ask for Dick, and the man said, in a rough way:
"Well, miss, you are the first visitor Tyler has had since he has been in these parts. It saddened me to think of the poor fellow, so fond he was of company, being alone all that time, not seeing one of his old friends."
The jail-keeper took me along the passage, and when we stopped at one of the cell-doors, my heart was beating, I can tell you! He threw open the door, and shut it after me. At first I couldn't see Dick, it was so dark, and I looked around. He was used to the light, and came up to me from the end of his cell.
"O Margery," said he, "how very kind you are!" and cried like a baby.
O, how I pitied him! I hardly knew him. His hair, I remember, was cut short, and he was pale as he was that night when he sat down under the hawthorn hedge, and Will went off to the wedding with Jenny.
He asked me about every one at Tarrow -- (did I tell you his mother had died?) -- and about everything. Finally he said, slowly:
"Margery, tell me about Jenny; and does she think I did that?"
I told all about that afternoon in the spring, and he was pleased enough to have me tell what she said about liking and respecting him so much. Soon, while I was talking about that, Tim came for me, and the keeper came to let me out.
"Maggy," said he, as I was bidding him good-by, "you'll remember what you promised me?" (I had told him I would bring Jenny some time.) He said that this talk with me would make him live the longer.
While we were going home, Tim and I, he was asking about Dick, and he promised to take Jenny and I over some time. I told him I must say something to her about it first.
"And, Tim," said I, "don't tell any one that I saw him."
About a month after that, Tim went to Haverwell again, and we both went with him. We were not there very long. I wanted to have her go in without me, but she wouldn't. He was glad enough to see us, you may depend, and seemed sort of wild and nervous; but after a little while he lost it all, and the tears kept coming in his eyes, the last part of the time we were there. None of us talked very much; but when we were coming away, they kissed each other. When we were out in the passage, she took hold of my hand, and presently she fell against my shoulder in a dead faint. She nor any of us said much going home.
In the fall after that, I think it may have been two or three months after, perhaps, there was a dreadful fever in our town, and they said near to fifty, young and old, died with it, and many more were very near to death. I had it, and very near I came to dying, too. Once they thought me dead; and when I had my senses again, I thought it queer that I didn't see anything of Jenny, for she generally was in and out of the house. So I asked mother, and she said:
"Jenny had the fever."
And then I saw the tears in her eyes, and said (I seemed to know there was trouble; I remember I trembled all over):
"Mother, is Jenny dead? Tell me about her."
And she said, "Jenny died of the fever a week ago yesterday." And of course I cried dreadfully.
Then I was sick again, and worse than before. It was a great wonder that I got well.
The very first time I went out, it was to Jenny's grave. It was a chilly, dark December day, a week or two before Christmas. I was sitting on an old flat grave-stone, crying. Some one said:
"Margery Blake, are you crazy?"
It was Tim. He told me that I had no right to be out such a day, and in this place, of all others, and I so sick a fortnight ago. I told him mother did not know of it, but I wanted to come so much. His voice was not very steady; I don't think he expected to find me at Jenny's grave. I always thought he was fond of her himself, but he was a very quiet fellow, always. I never knew much about his thoughts. He was a number of years older than I, too. Suddenly I thought of something that startled me.
"Tim," said I, "do you suppose that Richard Tyler knows of this?" And I pointed to the grave.
"My God!" said he; "I'm afraid he doesn't; and you must go and tell him, Margery -- I cannot."
Two or three days after, there came a warmish, pleasant day, and my mother and I went over to Haverwell; and I can tell you it was the saddest ride I ever had. Before I started, I went up the lane to the Garrows. I hadn't been there since Jenny was living -- I couldn't bear to, I knew I should miss her so. I did and I miss her to this very day. I told Mrs. Garrow where I was going. She seemed to understand it all, and said she had meant to write him. She told me that almost the last words she spoke were [was] his name and mine--that is, before she grew crazy with the fever. She gave me a little book to give him, that he had given her, all worn inside and outside, where she had read it and carried it with her, for his sake. There was written on the fly-leaf:
"Jenny Garrow. From her loving friend, Richard Tyler."
I remembered her showing me the book, and laughing at the "loving friend."
Well, I went to Haverwell. Dick came to me, smiling, and said:
"Why didn't Jenny come?"
It was too much for me. I was weak with the fever, and I burst out crying. Said he:
"What on earth has happened, that you cry so, Margery?"
I told him that she was dead. He gasped, and turned away, and sat down on his pallet. When I looked up again, he got up, and came and stood by me I never saw any person alter so in half an hour. I have known people to alter less in ten years. I told him about her, and gave him the book. Neither of us said anything more after I finished, but when I was going, he shook my hand, and thanked me, very quietly.
Now comes the strangest part of my story. One night, a long while after, I was coming home from the village, about sunset, or a little after, and suddenly a man started up from some bushes by the side of the road, and said:
"I've been waiting for you, Margery. How are you and your inseparable -- that flirt of a Jen Garrow, now?"
I never was so startled, before or since.
"For Heaven's sake, William Tyler, where did you come from?"
"Never mind that," said he; "but what has become of our folks? I went home and knocked, to surprise them, you know, and a woman came to the door, said she knew nothing of any Tylers."
Then he asked for Jenny again, and said some light thing that cut me. I could have killed him, almost. I said:
"Come a little way with me, Will, and I'll tell you."
He knew there was a short way home through the churchyard, and so didn't wonder at my going that way. I didn't say anything at all. It was only a little way to her grave. Said he:
"Why don't you tell me? Do you suppose I care if she is married, Maggy?"
I led him through the gate, and stopped before a stone, on which was carved:
"Died September 31, 180-,
"What!" said he; and covered his face with his hands.
I turned and left him there; but before I was half way home, he was beside me. I told him of the supposed murder, and Dick's imprisonment for life, and about Jenny's death. And then he told me his story. He said that on Phebe Haiton's wedding night, he offered himself to Jenny, and she refused him. He knew at once that she loved Dick, and determined not to stay and see her his wife; for he couldn't be with her after that, you know, and then she might think he had killed himself. It was half revenge, and half sorrow, he said. He had been to sea, he said -- started for the Mediterranean, a short voyage. When he arrived there, the captain was going on a much longer voyage, he found, and so he kept on with him, and now was in England for the first time in five years.
He seemed to be entirely changed after that. Dick was liberated, of course; and they settled down together on the old Tyler Farm. It seemed very strange, but they were always friendly. I never saw Dick smile after that day I told him in the prison. I have been away from England many, many years, but it all seems like yesterday. Neither of the brothers ever married, and both died years ago. Dick is buried by Jenny Garrow's side.
How do you like my story?
"Jenny Garrow's Lovers" was Jewett's first published story. It appeared under the name A. C. Eliot in The Flag of Our Union (23:46) on Saturday, January 18, 1868. Richard Cary included it in Uncollected Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett, on which this text is based. Probable errors have been corrected and indicated with brackets. If you find errors or items needing annotation, please contact the site manager.
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It saddened me to think: It seems likely that the punctuation here is incorrect. That this sentence is in simple past tense suggests that "me" refers to Margery rather than to the jail-keeper. Probably this should read: "Well, miss, you are the first visitor Tyler has had since he has been in these parts." It saddened me to think of the poor fellow, so fond he was of company, being alone all that time, not seeing one of his old friends.
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College.