Main Contents & Search
Contents: Uncollected Stories
Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College.
THE GREEN BOWL
Sarah Orne Jewett
"I AM a person who has always cherished a prejudice against crossing the sea, and I have made up for it handsomely by taking many journeys on land here at home. Some of the dearest of these have also been the shortest. I have had an unbroken custom these many years, of going away for a week's driving up the country in late September or early October, and just before I came here I had an adventure for the first time. And that little green bowl on the table there is to me a dear and valued memento of it."
"Do you mean that you go through the country quite, quite alone," asked Mrs. Crosdyck, a majestic-looking elderly lady, with some reproach in her voice.
"A coachman and a footman would spoil my joys altogether," acknowledged Miss Montague with decision. "There is only one way to do it; one must have a good companion and an excellent horse, a light buggy, and almost no baggage at all. One must wear a shirt-waist and a corduroy skirt and jacket, she must have a dressing kit of the most frugal sort, no silver boxes or dressing-table tools or any tea gowns allowed! One may provide a very little good tea for emergencies, and a small box of biscuit, and a nubbin of chocolate or some decent raisins. Yes, and one needs a good golf cape in case of rain," the traveller insisted eagerly, as if the serious duty of selection had suddenly arrived. "But the most important things are the horse and companion!"
"And then, my dear child," asked the disapproving lady, "do you mean to say that you really go driving off to strange places, quite, quite alone? Have you no fear of tramps?"
"None whatever," answered the story-teller with a fire of enthusiasm for which the guests were unprepared. "I might be the only living descendant of Robin Hood himself: besides, I don't go alone; Miss Kent always almost goes with me. My only sorrow is that I can't go gypsying afoot and be a tramp myself. Should you really like to know about our last year's excursion?"
"You would hardly think, to look at my companion now, that she was fit for adventuring," resumed the speaker after a warm response. "You see Miss Frances Kent sitting there, gowned in white, with rare old pink topaz ornaments? (I speak as the society newspaper.) I now show you the celebrated Miss Frances Kent, ladies and gentlemen, known as the best of companions for such a journey. She is ever thankful for 'the key of the fields' like myself, and we are going again this year, gowned in well-worn corduroy, and with happy hearts, to see what else we can of the world. The only thing that troubles us is that we have to take so many clumsy things for the horse, and they make the buggy quite uncomfortable, but we mind nothing when we are really out upon the road."
"Where do you go?" asked an awestricken voice.
"Oh anywhere"; replied Miss Montague with the utmost cheerfulness. "Sometimes northeast and sometimes northwest, as the case may be. The country taverns are much better since the days of bicycling came in. We start off boldly and just say that we are going up the country and then let fate or fortune choose the way. Last year we had been to see an old village, high on the shoulders of the mountains, which I had always wished to visit. We were on our way home, as safe as dolls in a nursery when we had our little adventure and got the green bowl."
The audience politely waited for the story.
"Rain is a great enemy to the primitive traveller and to lose one's way is exciting, but not really dangerous," the speaker explained. [,] "We also wish that there was a useful society for the maintenance of sign-boards. We were hurrying toward home that day, and lost our way because we could find no sign-boards at all, though we poked about with a stick in the raspberry bushes at the fork of the roads and thought we had found what was left of the sign-post, and then were obliged to let the horse himself select the way home, and he struck into a road that carried us many miles through the woods. Instead of leading us the way we expected, this road at last seemed to take a turn back toward the hills again. The bushes grew closer against the wheels, and after we had passed some rough wood-roads by which timber had been hauled out in the winter, the signs of travel were so slight that we feared that we were for the first time likely to spend a night in an impromptu camp. I confess that it was a little too late in the season for that, and it was so near the end of the day that we were sorry to think of going all the way back. Frances, there, began to be timid and even reproachful, she had insisted from the first that we should have taken the other road, and was pleased to blame me when our mistake was all the fault of the horse."
"You haven't said that it was already growing dark and that the clouds were of a threatening hue," broke in Miss Kent. "It looked like a black rainy night; I expected every minute that we should come to a deserted clearing or a ruined logging camp; for at last the road itself seemed hard to find, there were bushes in it by that time as well as alongside and your ignorant horse stopped still in his tracks!"
"Yes, and then we heard a cock crowing," Miss Montague interrupted her scornfully, "and we went on again directly; we should have been all right if it hadn't been for the rain. I like that horse myself and I think that I shall take him again this year. Then we hurried on toward the farm which could not be far away. The voice of poultry usually means not only a hen-coop but a barn and a house, and we began to laugh at each other and I whipped the horse because it was just beginning to rain. It was not long before we were out of the woods but there was no hen-coop to be seen, much less a house or barn. There was indeed a piece of open country but it was all pasture land, and we thought that the cock's crow was only a ghost of a bird and sat and looked at each other. Beyond the empty pastures the road plunged into the woods again."
"And then you said, ["] 'This is what we have always wanted, Frances; this is really an adventure!'" said Miss Kent laughing, but one of the elder ladies gave a groan of dismay.
"It was raining fast and the light was fast going. I began to wonder if there was anything better to do than to drive under a thick pine tree and pull out the rubber lap-robe and put it over our knees and sit still all night in the buggy," continued the narrator, making the most of the situation. "But we really had heard the encouraging rooster; I suppose now that some track led through that pasture to a farmhouse hidden behind the woods. The horse knew more than we did, perhaps he heard some sounds of life that we couldn't hear, for he began to trot along cheerfully as fast as he could go and pretty soon we had passed through those black hemlock woods that lay beyond the pastures and came out to the open world where we saw a funny little church steeple not far away.
"Now, the very morning before this, we had passed another church and I had told Frances, when I saw the long row of open sheds where the horses were left during service time, that ever since I could remember I had thought what fun it would be to drive under such a shelter and keep oneself dry and safe if a shower came up, and that never yet had the shower and the sheds and I all been in the same place at the same time. That was enough to say, the interfering fates had listened to me; my opportunity had arrived; and I fairly whirled in out of the steady rain, thankful enough to get under cover."
"Isn't it the strangest thing in the world!" interrupted Mrs. Crosdyck with enthusiasm, "if you say that you haven't had a headache for a year, you simply do remind the fates to send you one; the careful Germans knock under the table to drive such evil spirits away, but we take no proper precautions here in America, we really are too self-sufficient!"
The hostess looked relieved and even triumphant.
"Go on my dear Katie!" Mrs. Goddard urged the traveller with a contented smile.
"Oh yes, the fates had not only taken heed of me, but they seemed to have provided rain and sheds enough to make up for all lacks of either in my whole history," said Miss Montague. "The only trouble was that there was so little of me. It must have been a large parish, though one could see no houses the line of sheds looked as long as a cavalry barrack, and the rain was a drowning rain. Frances was now more sulky than can be described, though she had been complaining through the whole week's drive of too much dust, and I looked across the road at the church spire and the vane pointed northeast in the most determined fashion, by this time it was quite half-past five o'clock. We had passed one little dark low-storied house that looked quite deserted, but I had seen no barn beside it, it was no use to go back, we should be wet through. We sat there in the buggy and looked at each other in despair. You were very decent in your behaviour Frances! though very glum indeed!" she exclaimed, at which tribute of respect the company laughed aloud.
"What did you do?" demanded Mrs. Crosdyck. "What an awful situation for two young ladies!"
"And a hungry horse!" added a merciful masculine with an amused smile. "I should have advised driving as fast as you could through the rain until you found shelter, there must have been good farm-houses not far beyond."
Miss Montague laughed a little. "If you had only seen how it poured and how dark it was growing!" she answered modestly, "and we might have gone a mile or even two, and Frances here was already wet and shivering. 'Get out my dear!' said I affectionately 'and jump up and down a little to warm you, I'll run across to the church!' and I did not wait for argument but caught up my skirts and ran. I was ready to pound in the door by the time I got to it, but it quietly opened as if it had heard good preaching, and knew its duty; and in the entry I saw that there was a nice pile of pine wood, and I even observed in my extremity, a tin match-box on the ledge of the rough wainscotting. All I wanted was the stove, and that was just beyond, at the back of the pews. I hadn't consciously thought about the cold while we were driving, but I now knew that I was shivering myself. So I just stopped and made a fire in that good old box-stove, then and there. I may have used a few leaves of a tattered hymn-book for kindling, I really can't say, and the smoke puffed out at me so that I thought I should be forever blind, but in two minutes I had a good fire going."
There was a murmur of admiration from the audience.
"Then I ran across the road again, meaning to send Frances over to the church to get dry and warm while I drove on alone to find a good place where we could be housed for the night; you must know that Frances had been ill the winter before, and her lungs were still considered to be delicate. I was going to run no risks; but when I got back she was fairly beaming with joy, I could see her eyes shine though it was almost dark under the sheds. 'Look here,' said she, 'here's a fine pile of hay in the next cubby but one! I suppose some farmer has a horse that won't stand quietly without refreshments, or some one may have been at work about the church and brought it.' 'Don't let's search for reasons,' said I; the dear child had already brought an armful of hay, though I had always thought she knew nothing about horses, and had even let the check rein down, and old Bob was munching away as comfortably as possible. So I told Frances about the fire in the church and sent her across to sit beside it, and made up my mind to stay all night just where we were. I unharnessed old Bob and put on his blanket and halter, and led him through to the stall where the hay was, and pulled the buggy farther in out of the wet, and spread out the rug we had had over us and put all our things into it, and then I splashed over again to the little church. You certainly never heard such a rain, it drummed louder than ever on the roof, and I was as wet as I could be."
"We thought it must be the equinoctial storm," said Miss Frances Kent laughing a little. "Your poor hat, Katie! It had been trimmed with nice ostrich feathers, and when I saw you coming in at the door with your great load, and those feathers dripping into your eyes, you were truly a most forlorn object."
"Of what importance were our looks!" demanded Miss Montague with royal scorn. "You may not believe it, any of you who are listening to me, but we had a most charming evening together, Frances and I, after we got dry. The church was not cold, it had been sunshiny weather, rather hot for the season, all that week, and the pine-wood fire soon made us only too warm. We had a little of our luncheon left and we ate it thankfully, with the aforesaid nubbin of chocolate for dessert. Of course there were plenty of kerosene lamps in the meeting-house, and we lighted two or three of them and made our corner quite gay. There was a little organ in the singing seats that wasn't half bad; a very nice tone it had; and Frances played upon it (contented, sober things), that she remembered, and sang a good deal, dear girl, and made it very pleasant for me, though I don't know much about music; then we got sleepy and looked about for two pews with good cushions. It was a nice old church with decent wide pews that made us very comfortable. We just locked the church door to keep out burglars, and laid ourselves down in our two pews and went to sleep!"
"It was a great bit of fun," insisted Miss Kent, protesting a little at the mingled amusement and horror of the company. "We really had a delightful evening, but you must tell them now about our breakfast, Katie dear."
"I was just waking up in wonder," said the story-teller. "I did really feel a little stiff and lame that next morning, but it was not an equinoctial rain at all; the sunshine was pouring in through the big windows, and I always did like to sleep in a bright room. It was half-past five by the church clock; old Bob was whinnying and there was somebody knocking very loud at the meeting-house door. I was not startled, but I was half provoked, because whoever it was kept up such an incessant knocking and calling. I got there as quick as I could, but Frances was still sound asleep, like a stupid baby, in her pew. I opened the door and there stood the most dear kind-looking old woman that you ever saw, with a face of such anxiety that I couldn't help laughing as I looked at her."
"'You poor dear young creatur's!' she said, 'be you alive this morning? I see you drive by in that drowning rain, and I run out and called after you to come in, but I couldn't make you hear. I expected you'd go right on to Duffy's folks, but 'tis a mile an' a quarter further, and then I watched an' I didn't see ye pass up the hill right out beyond here, and so I knowed you'd been discreet and drove into the sheds. It was pourin' so I couldn't do nothin'; my health ain't sufficient to risk getting a wetting, but I did feel anxious, and 'twant half an hour afore I see you'd got safe into the meetin'-house, an' lit the lamps, an' I set down then an' felt easy, an' says to myself the Lord will provide; they looked like very competent girls an' they can easy make 'em a nice fire. I'd been over early in the morning, a-sweeping out the pews, an' 'twas I that had left the door unlocked, meanin' to go back if it hadn't come on to rain so. I keep the keys; they call me the deacon, some on 'em in the parish! Now I want you to come right along home with me; I laid awake in the night considerable and I see when you put the lights out nice an' careful, an' I says; now what I can do for them strangers is to give 'em a nice hot breakfast!'
"Frances had got herself well waked up and put together by that time, and came out with her most cordial manners, and we all three helped to put the church to rights. Mrs. Patton looked anxiously about to see if we had done any mischief, but we hadn't, and she found the church broom, and swept neatly about the stove for us as I had meant to do myself. We put some money into the contribution box, and then we went off up the road with the good little old soul. It was a perfectly enchanting morning, old Bob was still munching away at his pile of hay, and he called after us most sociably. Mrs. Patton said that we could bring him a pail of water when we came back from breakfast."
"Well, and how did you fare, my dear?" asked Mrs. Crosdyck again, a little incredulous.
"It was the very best breakfast we had ever eaten in our lives, you know that we hadn't in the least over-eaten at supper," said Miss Kent, eagerly taking up the thread of discourse. "By this time it was only six o'clock, but Mrs. Patton had made everything ready that she could before she came over. We ate and ate, and we laughed and laughed, the dear little old woman was so droll and her house was one of those warm little brown country houses that are full of welcome and homely comfort. I believe there wasn't a bit of paint in it except on her pretty green kitchen chairs. She had some good old pictures on the wall too, prints of Bible subjects mostly, and a splendid, coloured one of the Pirate's Bride. Her garden was full of phlox and tiger-lilies then, but it had been a lovely garden all the season; she said that she always put the Sunday flowers on the pulpit desk in summer. As for the green bowl, it was standing on a side-table between the windows in the kitchen, with three yellow apples in it, and I said what a beauty it was, and Katie praised it too, you can see it for yourselves!"
Miss Montague had stopped suddenly in mid-course. She had been gayly recounting this simple adventure of a rainy day, but almost with the first entrance of a figure with so wet a rustic landscape, her manner had entirely changed.
"One always knows when one sees a real friend for the first time," she said gravely. "Frances and I took Mrs. Patton to our lonely hearts at that first moment."
"You ought to call this "The Tale of a Lonely Parish," only Mr. Marion Crawford thought of the title first, laughed Mrs. Goddard. "I can imagine your two faces in the doorway; I am sure that you looked apprehensive, both of you, and tired and hungry too!"
"I shall never forget how Mrs. Patton trotted ahead of us down the road towards her house," laughed Miss Kent. "She was talking as fast as she could over her shoulder all the way, and her cat had come with her and kept close by her skirts. The horse was whinnying after us like a whole circus, poor old Bob feared that he might be forgotten, and altogether we made a great excitement."
"I should have rung the church bell for help," announced Mrs. Crosdyck, with an air of being the only resourceful member of the company.
"There wasn't any bell," retorted the girl, ["]and nobody who listens to me need think that we were frightened for one moment. I should like to know what there was to frighten one in such a peaceful, honest, little corner of the world as that."
"And then you saw the bowl," Mrs. Crosdyck suggested impatiently.
"Yes, all the time we were at the table I kept stealing glances at the green bowl. It was on the other table between the front windows. It was behind Frances and so she couldn't see it as well as I."
"I had seen it," answered Miss Kent, "and I knew very well what you were looking at."
"It is not an unusual thing to see so good a piece of china in a little house like that," explained Mrs. Goddard. "Nearly all the best things in my collection have come out of just such houses. There was a time when they were not much valued, but twenty years have made an entire change. After those of us who began to make collections, came a deluge of mercenary collectors, who canvassed the neighbourhood of all the old seaport towns. There is little to be found now, but the former owners of old china, and French and English pottery, have become well educated in the real values of old plates and bowls, that they once gladly sold for a quarter of a dollar."
"Mrs. Patton was begging us to eat more of everything on her dear little square table," Miss Montague went on. "Somebody asked me if we had pie a few minutes ago, and I would not answer him because the question was not asked in the right spirit, but I now say that we did have an apple pie such as I have never eaten before or since. It made a sort of dessert to our breakfast, instead of berries or any other stewed fruit. For my own part," and she challenged the whole company with great spirit, "I never had any sympathy with those who can accept an inelegant, dull English tart without protest, and then smile at a New England pie. They do not see that the pie is a highly developed English tart made fit for Christian food and attractive to the epicure. Imagination has worked upon it, the higher education of women has spiritualised its grosser form. The English tart is nothing but a pie without a soul. If I described the creation that we ate for breakfast at Mrs. Patton's! —"
"Oh, but we aren't as hungry as you were then!" cried someone. The listeners were in the best of humour now, especially Mrs. Crosdyck, but she proved to have at least one wish still unsatisfied.
"Your travels are very interesting, my dear," she said loftily, "but I should like to hear a real story. I am really curious about that green bowl."
"So were we!" agreed Katie pleasantly. "Presently, when there was a pause, I asked a question: you see that we first had to tell all about ourselves, and hear all about each other, and give proper time to the preliminaries of so true a friendship; then I frankly asked Mrs. Patton where she got that beautiful little green bowl."
"She laughed aloud in the oddest way before she answered me. 'Funny how everybody that comes to this house asks me that question!' she said. 'Won't you have just one more piece of pie, dears?' and then she laughed again!
"[']There's two of them little green bowls! My great aunt gave them to me. She said she must have owned 'em full fifty years; they were given to her just after she was married, by a brother of her husband's that was a sailor, a wild sort of fellow that fetched 'em home from China. They look as if they were plain green from here, but when you hold 'em in the light you see a pattern underneath.
"['] 'Twan't the aunt that brought me up; 'twas still another. I was left an orphan when I was a baby, and I'd every reason to be a lonesome person, but 'twan't my nature.[']"
"That's just the way she talked — oh Katie, you've got it exactly!" interrupted Frances Kent, with delight.
"[']No dears, 'twas my other aunt,[']" Miss Montague went on reporting, as if she had not been interrupted at all. "[']My Aunt Mally, that was the doctor's wife's mother over to Jopham Corners. They went off down to Meriden where he thought he saw a great opening for practice, but aunt said she was too old to change, I don't know but they were glad; 'twas her own house at the Corners and there were times when she made 'em feel it. One o' them two green bowls was always on the mantelpiece [mantlepiece] in her own room, and folks were always proposing that she should put it on the parlour mantelpiece [mantlepiece] where 'twould show, but she never consented. She had that bowl and a little Samuel, and a bunch of feather flowers under a bell-glass, between them. When I was a little girl and went to see her, she used to take a cent out of one of them bowls and give it to me, real pleasant, and when I was grown up she used to offer me a hoarhound drop. Aunt and me was always good friends!' " and Katie and Mrs. Goddard were seen by all the company to smile at each other.
"I asked Mrs. Patton if her aunt had been dead a good while, and she said it was forty years."
Said Frances Kent, "Somehow one feels as if so few things had ever happened and as if everything were so tremendously interesting."
"I began to have a strange feeling about the little green bowl myself," acknowledged Katie, speaking in a low voice. "You see that when we had got up from the table I noticed that Mrs. Patton kept looking at it as if it was somehow in her mind. We helped her clear away the breakfast things, and when we had been in the house an hour one felt as if it had been a week. After awhile she took me by the sleeve when Frances was putting away some plates in the cupboard (somehow one always knew just where everything went), and she whispered to me, 'I expect there's some sort of charm about that bowl!'
"I wasn't going to have dear Frances left out of any pleasure!" said the speaker, and I called to her at once and asked her. 'Did you hear what Mrs. Patton says? There is a charm about the green bowl!' But Mrs. Patton looked a little disturbed.
" ' ["]I can't tell it to but one, dear,' ["] she said, and her cheeks grew quite scarlet. ["] 'Aunt never told it to anybody but me.' ["] Oh I assure you it was quite exciting!"
"I knew there must be a story!" said Mrs. Crosdyck complacently, and she smoothed down her satin dress as if she wore an invisible apron.
"Somehow the whole thing was mysterious," said Frances Kent, slowly. "First we lost the road and then we heard the rooster crowing and could see no house, and then we spent the night in the church, and this strange little old woman came to the door in the morning, and we seemed to know all about each other before we had been together for five minutes, and now we had had that wonderful breakfast, and it was all exactly as if the green bowl had something to do with it; we were all thinking of it from the first minute we had entered her door! I was ready to burst with curiosity, and I said: Oh do tell us! But she grew still more scarlet and confused and caught up a water pail from its little bench, and ran away to the well to fill it."
"Did you say there were two bowls?" asked Mrs. Goddard, smiling a little in spite of herself.
"We never saw but one," answered Katie. "Now don't interrupt me any more, Frances, if you please! You know that —— "
"I don't know anything," retorted Miss Kent, with some spirit. ["]I begin to believe that I never shall; I have always insisted that you might tell me what Mrs. Patton told you!"
All this time the green bowl stood in plain sight. There was a handful of pansies in it which did not hide its lovely outlines or its deep rich colour. All the members of the house party were looking at the strange old piece of eastern ware with constantly increasing curiosity. The fire had sprung afresh on the hearth and a reflection of it twirled and glowed on the bowl. Everybody's attention was centered upon this thing of which hardly any one had been in the least conscious an hour before. It had taken on a strange importance.
"You see it was the one really valuable and beautiful thing in that little house. It shone like a jewel on its table between the windows in the sun that morning," Katie went on. "You can't help wondering about the past experiences of a thing like that," and she looked at the bowl with a sort of apprehensive interest. "The Sailor and the old aunt and Mrs. Patton make but a short chapter of its long history; it is a very old bowl indeed!"
"But the charm?" asked some one eagerly. "Did Mrs. Patton tell you the secret? Were there really two bowls — and one held a curse and the other a blessing?"
"They were for the cents and the hoarhound drops?" suggested an eager listener. But the young narrators looked at each other with odd intentness across the room and did not laugh at all.
"We had to wait there for a while," Miss Montague went on. "Mrs. Patton had been watching all breakfast time for a messenger and finally saw a boy from the nearest house, the one behind the woods where we had heard the cock crow, and sent him for old Bob with orders for plenty of oats and water and to rub him down and keep him until called for. This was at about half-past eight so that Bob was not really suffering. We kept thinking that he would come, but it proved later that the wheels had wanted oiling and that the good woman had dried our blankets and everything. Mrs. Patton looked more and more cheerful and said that she wished that we had no choice but to spend the day with her and our loss of time was her gain. We said that she must let us help her if we stayed, and what was she going to do if we had not been there? Finally she confessed that she had some beans that she was in a hurry to pick over for market, and send off, that day or the next, whenever they were called for, and we sat down together as if we had always been work-mates."
"Wasn't it the cosiest thing you ever did? I am always thinking of it when things are tiresome," exclaimed Miss Kent.
"Picking beans, how odd!" said a scornful voice, but nobody seconded the scoffer, while Mrs. Crosdyck asked with great interest if there were a cat.
"Oh, yes, two enchanting kittens!" cried the teller with enthusiasm. "But now I must really tell you about the bowl! Only as Frances says there is a secret."
She got up from her chair and went and stood by the table and lifted the beautiful old thing in her hand so that all the company could see it.
"It looks too distinguished to have wasted its beauty in such a house as that," said Mrs. Crosdyck who was nearest. "Look out, my dear, that you don't break it."
"Mrs. Patton said that her old aunt used to have the gift of telling fortunes," said Miss Montague solemnly as she still stood there looking very eager and handsome. "And we asked if she couldn't tell fortunes, too, as we sat round the bushel-basket of beans. She seemed a little confused, and then told us that she didn't know why she shouldn't admit it, the gift had brought her more pain than pleasure, but anybody might use the good of any gift, and she had warned some folks of what was coming so that they had been thankful to her afterward. ["] 'And keeping my mind on that,' ["] she said impressively, ["] 'has made me learn to read folks' faces easier than most people can. One of our ministers went so far as to say 'twas a gift that would lead me and other folks straight to the pit if I continued its exercise, but I made bold to say it had heretofore seemed to lead the other way if I wasn't mistaken.' She reached forward then and rolled out the three yellow apples, and took the green bowl and looked at it and into it as I have seen other people looking into crystals, the dear old thing was quite lost in it and I saw her eyelids quiver strangely once or twice. Frances and I stopped clicking the beans and watched her. 'One o' you's been in danger lately, she whispered, and the other's been living in the shadows. Yes, I can read it plain!' You who know us both will know that she spoke the truth. 'And you're going from here to a house near a river, and there'll be lots of folks there,' so she went on and told us nothing that was important, but everything she said was true. Then she told me about my uncle's death in a southern country where the sun was too bright, and that his head would suffer, and that I would have much more money, but wish for the one who had loved me back again and count myself poor without him instead of rich: there were enough remarkable things to make one respect Mrs. Patton as a seer, but she sat there quite simply and used her plain country words while she revealed us, to ourselves and to each other. Then suddenly she gave herself a queer little shake and seemed to wake up into the commonplace world again. You see that there wasn't anything startling about it that she could tell, but we saw plainly that she had the gift."
"Oh, I wish that we had her here!" said one of the listeners, "she would tell all our fortunes!"
"But Miss Montague has been given the power to tell fortunes; didn't you tell us so?" urged another.
"Not on Sunday, my dear," commanded Mrs. Goddard impressively. "No, I should never consent to it!"
"I can only tell you about the two bowls, that is really the most interesting thing of all," said Katie blushing, and looking a little confused. "It seems that the two bowls, the 'sister bowls' she called them, must be kept by two different persons, and the other, which she had kept for many years was put away in the closet, only the day before this one had come back to her from the other owner who had just died. And when she saw me standing in the meetinghouse door that morning she said that she knew; she had a certain sign that made it plain to her that she must give this other green bowl to me. She stood them together on the table and they looked just alike. We asked her how she understood about them, and she said that her old aunt taught her and she would teach me; the sailor who brought them home to her had been a roving man and had gone into some far province of China, and got his strange learning there. He had meant to settle down and be a fortune-teller, and expected to make a great deal of money, but after he had told the aunt about the bowls and made her his companion in their mysteries, he went away, only for a day's journey, and was killed by an accident. Now I am Mrs. Patton's 'companion,' as she calls it; she said that if there were not two of us companions the life of the bowls would soon be gone. She said one very strange thing,— the friend who had kept it for her had been dead two days but she said she could have waited another day if I had not appeared, that as long as the other ["] 'companion's' ["] soul was in her body or near it, there was no danger. But she was glad when she saw me and got the sign. She said that our souls always stayed with our bodies a little while after we die."
"How very strange," said Frances Kent. "But somehow she did not seem half so strange to me at the time when we were there. I sat picking over the beans, not at all excited, even when Mrs. Patton took Katie into the little bedroom and shut the door, and divulged the principles of magic. You certainly did look a little pale when you came out, Katie!"
"Can you see things in it, in the bowl, I mean?" one of the guests asked hurriedly. "Do you try very often, Miss Montague? [.] Oh, please throw out those pansies and tell us something!"
"Aren't you afraid that it will be broken?" some careful soul inquired.
"No, it is the most wonderful thing, like some precious stone or dull crystal — I don't think it is any sort of pottery," said its owner. "It made me a little fidgety to see it in my room and I brought it here. You see that there isn't any story at all. I only promised to give you a plain account of our travels," she added hastily, for every one began to ask questions.
"I don't like this revelation very much," protested Mrs. Goddard. "Katie, my dear, you never told me so much before. I have been enchanted at having such an exquisite thing in the house, but I begin to be a little afraid of the green bowl."
"Mrs. Patton said that it was like any other bowl except for those who could master it. She was very matter of fact, after all," said Frances Kent. "There we sat together nearly all that long morning, and grew to be the best of friends. I tried to make her talk about the bowl to me, but she put on such a droll look and said that I was the joking sort like herself and perhaps she could find some sort of charm that would be fit for me before we came again. We were quite at home together, I assure you. She did not talk much with Katie after they had their secret session. I asked her all about her housekeeping."
Miss Kent was glancing at her friend as she spoke who was standing by the table with the bowl in her hand looking into it as if she had forgotten everything else.
"What is it, dear?" whispered Frances Kent, as she rose and stood beside her.
"I just saw something very strange like a living picture!" answered the holder of the bowl softly. She was turning it to the light and gazing at it with a half-frightened look on her face. "It is just as Mrs. Patton said: she told me that some day I should find that the gift had come."
"Tell me what it is that you see," persisted her friend.
"Oh, don't ask me out loud, don't say anything now!" begged Katie, "I saw two of the people who are sitting here, they were saying farewell to each other like the figures on a Greek vase; one of them is going to die. I knew them at once, Frances! I could not go on looking — Take it away! put it on the table for me, and don't let any one suspect anything!"
Miss Kent crossed the broad hearth rug a little unsteadily and there was a queer look on her face as she put the green bowl down on the table. Miss Montague, by the fire, had stood still for a moment and then turned to the great china jar and lifting the cover took out some of Mrs. Goddard's treasured bits of lightwood to fling them on the bright coals.
"She writes us the most quaint, delightful letters, does Mrs. Patton," said Miss Kent, taking up the story for some one asked if anything were the matter. "She likes to have us send her magazines and stories to read. Oh, I assure you that by the time we took the road again late that morning we were the very best of friends!"
"It certainly did turn out very well," pronounced Mrs. Crosdyck with great amiability, "but I should feel very anxious about you if you were girls of mine, driving about in this way in these lonely places!"
"Where are you going for your driving journey this year, young ladies?" inquired an old gentleman who had just waked up from a good nap.
"Oh, first to Mrs. Patton's again!" answered Katie Montague gallantly. "We have promised to spend a night at her dear little house."
The bright firelight shone upon Katie's face, but she spoke with cheerful determination and instant decision, though more than one of the guests noticed that she looked strangely pale. Then she rose quickly and stood facing them.
"You know," she said, "that I shall have to tell my companion all that has happened about the green bowl!" But though every one, even the sleepy old gentleman, begged to know what had really happened, Katie could not be persuaded to tell anything more.
"A Green Bowl" first appeared in the New York Herald (Section 5: pages 13 and 15), Sunday, November 3, 1901; published anonymously. This was the "Ninth Story in the $1000 Guessing Contest," later published in A House Party, 1901. This text is from Richard Cary, Uncollected Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett, 1971.
Apparent errors are corrected and indicated in brackets. If you find errors or items needing annotation, please contact the site manager.
A House party; an account of the stories told at a gathering of famous American authors, the story tellers being introduced by Paul Leicester Ford, was published in Boston by Small, Maynard & Company, 1901
Items in the collection included: Introduction.--A family tradition [by P. L. Ford]--Artemisia's mirror [by Bertha Runkle]--Dawson's dilemma [by J. K. Bangs]--A surrender [by R. Grant]--Aunt Nancy's annuity [by F. R. Stockton]--The messenger [by Octave Thanet, pseud.]--The green bowl [by Sarah O. Jewett]--The broken story [by Ruth M. Stuart]--Mother [by Owen Wister]--The fairy godmother's story [by Mrs. Burton Harrison]--The angel of the Lord [by G. W. Cable]--The red oxen of Bonval [by C. G. D. Roberts]Roberts, Charles George Douglas, Sir, 1860-1943[ Back ]
Cable, George Washington, 1844-1925
Harrison, Burton, Mrs., 1843-1920
Ford, Paul Leicester, 1865-1902
Bangs, John Kendrick, 1862-1922
Grant, Robert, 1852-1940
Stockton, Frank Richard, 1834-1902
Thanet, Octave, 1850-1934
Jewett, Sarah Orne, 1849-1909
Stuart, Ruth McEnery, 1856-1917
Wister, Owen, 1860-1938
golf cape: Encarta says the game of golf was invented in Scotland in the 14th or 15th Century. St. Andrews Golf Club of Yonkers New York, founded in 1888, is thought to be the earliest American golf club, indicating the growing popularity of the game during Jewett's writing career.
[ Back ]
Robin Hood: Robin Hood might be seen as a legendary tramp, a hero of late 14th-century English ballads, who stole from the rich and gave to the poor in Sherwood Forest.
[ Back ]
'the key of the fields': This phrase has been used in several locations, including Jewett herself in "The Queen's Twin." It appears as well in Charles Dickens, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (Ch. XLVII), and in other writers.
[ Back ]
since the days of bicycling came in: Encarta indicates that by 1899, the safety bicycle -- the basic form of 21st-century bicyles -- made bicycling a very popular activity in the United States and around the world. Harvey Green in The Light of the Home (1983) shows that cycling was an important women's activity at the turn of the 20th Century (160-164).
[ Back ]
the equinoctial storm: Also known as a "line storm," these are storms of rain and wind that occur around the time of an equinox.
[ Back ]
splendid, coloured one of the Pirate's Bride: While the phrase "pirate's bride" is associated with romance and adventure, no specific print or painting of this title before 1900 has been located. Assistance is welcome.
[ Back ]
phlox and tiger-lilies: Phlox (Phlox drummondii) and tiger-lilies (ilium tigrinum) are common garden flowers in North America.
[ Back ]
"The Tale of a Lonely Parish," only Mr. Marion Crawford: Tale of a Lonely Parish, by the American novelist, F. Marion Crawford (1854-1909), was published in 1886.
[ Back ]
a little Samuel: Possibly a representation of the prophet Samuel, from the Bible, who in his old age was known as Samuel, the Seer. Assistance is welcome.
[ Back ]
lightwood: Wood, like that of the southern pine, that burns easily and makes a bright light.
[ Back ]
Main Contents & Search
Contents: Uncollected Stories