Uncollected Pieces for Young Readers
Sarah Orne Jewett
I MUST ask you to go back more than two hundred years, and watch two people in a quiet old English garden.
One is an old lady reading. In her young days she was a famous beauty. That was very long ago, to be sure; but I think she is a beauty still -- do not you?
She has such a lovely face, and her eyes are so sweet and bright! and better than that, they are the kind which see pleasant things in everybody, and something to like and be interested in. I hope with all my heart yours are that kind, too.
The other person is a little child. She was christened Mary Brenton, like her grandmother; but she was called Polly all her days, for short; and we will call her so.
She is sitting on the grass with a little cat in her arms, which she is trying to put to sleep. But the kitten is not so accommodating as a doll would be, and just as Polly does not dare to move for fear of waking her, she makes up her mind that a run after a leaf and a play with any chance caterpillar which may be so unlucky as to cross her path, will be very preferable, and tries to get away.
It is one of the most delightful days that ever was. September, and almost too warm, if it were not for the breeze that brings cooler air from the sea. Once in a while some fruit falls from the heavily-laden trees, and the first dead leaves rustle a little on the ground. The bees are busy, making the most of the bright day; for they know of the stormy weather coming. The sky is very blue, and the flowers very bright. Two swallows are playing hide-and-seek through the orchard, and chasing each other in great races, now so close to the ground that it seems as if their feet might catch in the green grass, and now away up in the air over the high walls out towards the hills; and just as one loses sight of them, and turns away, here they are again. And in the kitchen the girls are clattering the dishes and laughing; and do you hear some one singing a doleful tune in a cheery, happy voice?
That is Dorothy, Polly's dear Dorothy, who waits upon grandmother, with whom she has been to France, and Holland, and Scotland, and who can tell almost as charming stories as grandmother herself.
The house is large and old, with queer-shaped windows, all sizes and all heights from the ground, and a great many of them hidden by the ivy. That is the outside; and if you were to go in, you would find large, low rooms, filled with furniture that you would think queer and uncomfortable. And there are portraits in some of them, one of Polly, probably painted not very long before, in which she is attired after the fashion of those days, and looks nearly as old as she would now if she were living!
Now let us go back to the garden. The kitten has escaped, and Polly is wishing for something to do.
"Where's Dolly?" says grandmother. "Find her, and then gather some apples and plums, and have a tea drinking."
The doll had been very ill all day; it was strange in grandmother to forget it. She had fallen asleep just before dinner, and been put carefully in her bed; it would never do to wake her so soon. And besides, a tea party was not amusing when there was no one to sit at the other end of the table. This referred to Tom, Polly's dearest cousin, who had just left her after a long visit; and she missed him sadly.
"And," says Polly, "I do not think I should care for it if he were here, if I could have nothing but apples. I'm tired of them. I have eaten one of every kind in the garden to-day, even the great yellow ones by the lower gate. I think they're disagreeable; but I left them till the very last, and then I was afraid they would feel sorry to be left out. I think I will eat another, though; and I will not have a party -- it's a trouble. Which kind would you take, grandmother?"
"One of the very smallest," says the old lady, laughing; "but stop a moment. I have one I'll give you;" and she took a beauty from her pocket, and threw it on the grass by Polly.
"That's the very prettiest apple I ever saw," says the child. "Where did you get it? Not off our trees. 'Father gave it to you?' and where did he find it?"
Grandmother did not know.
After admiring her apple a little more, Polly eats it in a most deliberate manner, enjoying every bite as if it were the first she had eaten that day, and when she has finished it, gives a contented little sigh, and sits looking at the fine brown seeds which she holds in her hand. Presently she says, earnestly,--
"What now, Polly?"
"I wish I had that dear little apple's two brothers and two sisters, and I would put them in the doll's chest until to-morrow; I wouldn't eat them to-day, you know."
"I will tell you what you can do," says grandmother. "Are those seeds in your hand? Go find Dorothy, and ask her to give you the empty flower-pot from the high shelf at my window; and then you can fill it with dark earth from one of the flower-beds, and plant them; then by and by you will have a tree, and can have plenty of your apple's children."
That was a happy thought. And Polly puts the seeds carefully on a leaf, and runs to find Dorothy. Now she comes back with a queer little Dutch china flower-pot, and sits down on the grass again, and makes a hole in the soft brown earth with her finger, and drops the fine seeds in.
For days she watered them, and carried them to sunny places; but at last she grew very impatient, and one morning, when she was all alone in the garden, very much provoked that they had not made their appearance, took a twig and explored; and the first poke brought to light the little seeds, as shiny and brown as when they left the apple. It was a great disappointment, and Polly caught them up, and threw them as far away as she could, and with tears in her eyes ran in to tell grandmother.
"Ah," said the dear old lady, "it was not time! Thou hast not learned thy lesson of waiting; and no wonder, when there are few so hard, and thou art still so young."
Then she sent Polly back to the garden, and the pot was put in its place again. And a week or two after, as grandmother was just going to make room in the earth for a new plant, she saw growing there a little green sprig, which was not a weed. She listened a moment, and heard the child's voice outside.
"Polly, my dear, are you sure you scattered all the seeds of your pretty apple the day you were so provoked at their not having begun to grow for you?"
The child reddened a little, and turned away.
"I don't know, grandmother. I think so; I wished to then."
How delighted she was when the old lady showed her the treasure, and how carefully it was watched and tended! For one little seed had been buried deeper than the rest, and now in the sunshine of grandmother's wide window it had come up. Every pleasant day it was placed somewhere in the sun, and at night it was always carried to Polly's own room. Her dolls and other old play-house friends, formerly much honored, and of great consequence, were quite neglected for "the apple tree," as she always called the tiny thing with its few bits of leaves.
And now we must leave the Brentons' old stone house and the garden. All this happened in the days of King Charles I., when there was a great war, and the country in a highly discordant state. Polly's father was on the king's side, and one day he did something which was considered particularly unpardonable by his enemies, and at night he came riding from Oxford in the greatest hurry he had ever been in; and riding after him were some of Cromwell's men. It was bright moonlight, and as he rode in the paved yard the great dogs in their kennels began to bark, and that waked Polly's mother, in a terrible fright at hearing her husband's voice, and sure something undesirable had happened.
Squire Brenton hurried in to tell her, in as few words as possible, what he had done, and that he was followed, and had just time to say good by, and take another horse, and rush on to the sea, where he hoped to find a fishing-boat, by means of which he could escape.
"And you," said he, "had better take Polly and one of the men, and ride to your cousin Matthew's; for in their rage at my escape, they may mean to burn my house. I little thought a month ago, -- when he offered you 'a safe home,' and I laughed in his face, and said, 'Give your good wife the same message; for she may not find your house so safe as mine by and by.' -- that you would need to accept so soon."
"But I cannot go there now," said Mistress Brenton; "for cousin Matthew is away with the Roundhead army, and his wife and sister have gone to the north. I'll go with you. Listen: I heard one of the maids say to-day that a ship sails to-morrow at daybreak from the bay by Dunner's with a company of Puritans for Holland, on their way to one of the American colonies. We will go for a time to our friends in Amsterdam, and be quite safe."
Anything was better than staying where he was; and Squire Brenton, bidding her hurry, went to the stables with his tired horse, and waking one of his men whom he could trust, told him why he was there, and to say, when the men came, that he was in Oxford yesterday, when they had a letter, and that Mistress Brenton had gone north to some friends. He gave him some messages for his brother, and then, sending him out to a field with the horse he had been riding, which would certainly have betrayed him, he went back to the yard, trying to keep the two fresh horses still, while he listened, fearing every moment to hear his pursuers coming down the road.
Presently out came Mistress Brenton, carrying some bundles of clothing, and a few little things besides, and wrapped in a great riding cloak; and at her side walked Polly, very sleepy, and looking wonderingly in the faces of the others, and asking all manner of childish questions.
Suddenly she ran back to the house, just as her father was going to lift her on his horse; and when she came back, what do you think she had? Together in a little bag were her doll and kitten, and one arm held tightly her little apple tree, wrapped in some garment of her own which she had found lying near it.
And then they rode away. The poor child, after begging them to go to her uncle's, so she might say good by to grandmother, fell asleep, holding fast her treasures all the while.
There was a faint glimmer of light over the sea as they neared the shore, and they saw anchored at a little distance a small ship, and could see the men moving about her deck; for the wind had risen. Mr. Brenton found a man whom he knew, in whose charge he left the horses, and then a fisherman rowed them to the vessel.
The captain was nowhere to be seen, and the sailors paid no attention to them as they came on deck in the chilly morning twilight; and they went immediately below, and hid themselves in a dark corner, thinking they might have to go ashore if discovered, and that it was best to keep out of sight until it was too late to turn back. In the darkness they fell asleep. This may seem very strange; but remembering the long ride, and the fright they had been in, and that now they felt safe, we can hardly wonder. At any rate, it was the middle of the afternoon before Colonel Brenton -- I think I have never given him his title before -- made his appearance on deck, to the great astonishment of the captain and all the other people, who knew him more or less. He told the captain what had happened, saying at the end he would pay him double the usual passage money to Holland, where he meant to stay for a while; and at this the rough man really turned pale.
"Holland, Holland!" said he; "do you not see we're going down the Channel? We are bound direct for America. "
The story says that Colonel Brenton was almost beside himself, and offered large sums of money to be taken back, or to France; but the captain would not consent, saying that they had made good progress, and it was late in the year. The ship would come back in the spring, and he must content himself.
Those of the ship's company who knew our friends had great wonderings at their having turned Puritans, until they knew the true state of affairs. Must not it have been dreadful news to Mistress Brenton, and was it not really a dreary prospect -- a dreary journey in that frail ship, and at the end a cold, forlorn country? and all the stories of the Indians' cruelties to the settlers came to her mind. They could not, in all probability, return for many months. No one whom she cared particularly for would be there to welcome them. Polly did not take it very much to heart, though she cried a little because she was not to go to Holland, which she had heard so much of from her grandmother and Dorothy. It was a great many days before they gave up their hope of falling in with some vessel to which they might be transferred; and the first two weeks were sunshiny and pleasant, with a good wind. But soon it grew bleaker and colder, and they suffered greatly. All through the pleasant days, Polly had been having a very enjoyable time. There were several children on board, and they had games around the deck and in the cabin.
It was delightful to have the kitten, who had a cord tied around her neck; and when she was not in Polly's arms, she was generally anchored for safety in the cabin. Every day she had part of her little mistress's dinner; and though she missed the garden, and the dead leaves that nestled about the walks, and made such nice playthings, and the sedate old family cat, her mother, and her mother's numerous poor relations who lived in the stables, she was by no means unhappy. And the doll's expression was as complacent as ever, though she had worn one gown an astonishing length of time. But if you could have seen the care the little tree received! It was carefully wrapped in the same little cloak Polly put round it the night they left home, and only on the warmest days it was taken on deck to have the sunshine; and every day it had part of Polly's small allowance [allowaance] of water; and when the kitten had had its share, there would often be very little left.
The weary days went slowly by. The ship was slow at the best, and the winds were contrary. The provisions grew less and less, and the water was almost exhausted. Two people -- a man, and a child Polly had grown very fond of -- died, and were buried in the sea. The sky was cold and gray, and it snowed and rained, and every one looked sad and disheartened. It was terribly desolate. Polly could not often go on deck, for the frozen spray and rain made it very slippery and dangerous there; and her mother told story after story, and did her best to shorten the longest December days she had ever known. And soon there came a terrible bereavement. One night there was a great storm, and the dearly-beloved kitten, frightened to death by the things rolling about, and the pitching of the ship, broke the cord and rushed out in the darkness, and never was seen any more. I think a little cat has never been so mourned since the world began. That night, the Dutch flower-pot, with its leafless twig, went rolling about the cabin floor, and half the earth was scattered in the folds of its wrappings, and carefully replaced next morning.
But at last the voyage was ended; they saw land, and finally came close to it and went ashore, Polly with her dear doll and something else rolled up in a little gray cloak. The ship was to stay until spring; and there seemed no hope of getting back to England until then. It was hard to decide what to do; but at last Colonel Brenton heard of some men whom he had known, who had been made prisoners in some of the battles in the north of England and sent to the Massachusetts colony by Cromwell, who had feared to imprison them. They had been sent to the settlement in York.
So the Brentons joined a party going there, or to places beyond. It was the last of January that they came to York, and were warmly welcomed at the great garrison, where they lived till spring. Polly found a very nice child to play with. There had been a good harvest, and the Indians were uncommonly peaceable. They had great log fires in the wide fireplace in the east room; and for a winter in those times, it was very comfortable. The flower-pot was deposited in a chink of the great chimney. Polly had insisted upon bringing it with her; and though "the tree" at that time was a slender little straight stick, she had firm faith that spring time would give it leaves again. And strange to say, she was not disappointed; for all the exposure had not destroyed it. The first of June came, and they were still living in the garrison-house, looking every day for a messenger to tell them the ship was ready to go back. Some people on their way to one of the eastern settlements, early in April, had told them there were no signs of her sailing; and since then they had heard nothing. How dismayed they were, early in June, to find the ship had sailed nearly two months before! It seemed as if everything was against them; and they could live no longer in the garrison. So the Brentons had a little log house near by, and "the squire" worked every day in the great field down towards the river. It must have been such a strange life for them! and I suppose their thoughts often went back to the dear English home. When Mistress Brenton looked from the small window in her log house out over half-cleared fields, and saw the garrison-house, and her husband working among the hills of corn with his gun close by, every now and then looking anxiously about him, she would remember the wide window, with its cushioned seat, in her own room at home, and the sunny garden, with the flowers and bees, and the maids and men singing and chattering in the distance, and the dear voice of grandmother singing the old church hymns. It was a great change; but days much more forlorn than these were yet to come.
The Indians came around the settlement in large numbers, and no one dared to be out alone. At night the people waked in fear at the slightest noise; and in the daytime it was after the same fashion. News came of whole settlements having been murdered or made captives, and some of their own neighbors disappeared finally; and then the suspense was terrible. At last, one day Mrs. Brenton had gone up to the garrison to see one of the women, who was ill, and most of the men were in the field. Polly went with her mother; but the women were talking over something about the king and Parliament, which she found very uninteresting, and soon she unfastened the great outer door, and unwisely ran out with her doll in her arms, and went down to the field to see the men at work. But on her way, she bethought herself of a charming stump she had seen out at one side of the path, and went to visit it. None of the men happened to see her. She talked to the doll, and made a throne for her of the soft moss growing around her, and had been playing there some time, when suddenly she heard shouts, and thought they must be killing a snake, and looked up to see all the men running up the hill to the garrison, with a great many Indians chasing them; and she heard a gun fired, and saw one of the men who had petted and been very kind to her, and told her stories, fall to the ground. Ah, how frightened she was!
The doll was snatched from her throne, and the poor little girl ran towards the garrison, too, right towards the Indians. It was weary work running over the rough ground, -- and the tall grass was not much better, -- and then on, up the hill. By this time the men had succeeded in getting in; and the wicked-looking Indians, after a yell of disappointment, turned to go back to the one who lay dead on the hill-side, and to escape the bullets which would come in a moment from the loopholes. O, if she could only get by them!
Up the hill she hurried as fast as the poor tired little feet could carry her, hugging the doll, almost breathless, with the great tears falling very fast, and still crying, "Wait, father!"
I am glad I know one kind thing the Indians of those days did. As they turned, they saw her coming, and some hurried forward a little to seize her; and it would have been so easy. But one spoke, and they all stopped, and laughed, and shouted, and the child got safely in.
Then the Indians went to the Brentons' house, and some others, and burned them; but luckily the apple tree was at the playhouse, by a large rock, at a little distance, and the wind was not in that direction; and after they disappeared, it was brought up to the fort, safe and sound.
It soon grew tall and strong, and in a little while was entirely too large for its pot; and finally Polly was forced to put it in the ground. It was hard to do it; for she had cared for it, and loved it so long, and this was giving it up, in a measure. And I think if she had understood that now it must be left behind, it would have been almost impossible to have persuaded her. Her father comforted her by telling her he could get quantities of the apples not very far from home, and she could plant more seeds as soon as she liked, or, far better than that, he would graft a tree.
In September, news came that a ship was going to the east coast of England; and they were all heartily glad, in spite of the long, dangerous voyage; and leaving the York friends, who had been so kind, and whom they would probably never see any more, Polly gave the little tree to a Masterson child, her great friend, who promised to wrap it in straw for winter, and to be very kind to it and fond of it. And I think she must have been faithful to her charge. Mistress Brenton laid some of the leaves in the little book she had had in her pocket that night, almost a year ago, when they left home. So they went to Boston, and sailed for the old country.
I know nothing more of them; but we will hope their voyage was a short and easy one, and that they reached home on a pleasant, sunny day, and grandmother was there, and Dorothy, and all the people, and Polly had stories to tell as wonderful as Dorothy's, and all true, and that they were all happy forever after.
A while ago I stood on the hill with an old farmer, eating one of a pocketful of apples he had given me, and said how very nice it was, and that I had never seen any like it.
"There are none of my apples sell half so well," said he. "I've forty young trees that have been bearing a few years; and over to the right you see some old ones. Mine were grafted from those, and my father took his grafts from an old tree I'd like to show you;" and as we walked towards it, he said, "It looks, and I guess it is, as old as any around here. My father always said it was brought from England in a flower-pot by some of the first settlers. Perhaps you have heard the story. It's very shaky. The high winds last fall were pretty hard on it. It will never bear again, I am afraid. I set a good deal by the old thing. The very first thing I can remember is my father's lifting me up to one of the lower limbs, and I was frightened and cried. I believe I think more of that tree than of anything on my farm. My wife always laughs at me about it. Well, it has lasted my time. I'm old and shaky, too; and I suppose my sons won't miss this much, and will like the young orchard best."
"And you and I like your orchard's grandmother," said I.
"The Orchard's Grandmother" first appeared in Merry's Museum (59:201-208) in May 1871, and was later included in Richard Cary, Uncollected Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett.
The story was reprinted, with a few punctuation changes, as the opening story in Happy Days for Boys and Girls. Contributions by Louisa M. Alcott [et.al.]. Philadelphia : Porter & Coates, 1877, pp. 9-17.
This text is from Happy Days for Boys and Girls. The probable error in the text has been corrected and indicated with brackets; this error occurs in both texts. Both texts were illustrated, using identical opening illustrations. The Happy Days text had an additional illustration. Both are included above. The artists are unknown; assistance is welcome.
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King Charles I ... a great war: Born in Scotland in 1600, Charles became the king of England in 1625. Tensions rose between the king and Parliament over time, due chiefly to religious differences. The king was sympathetic with the High Church Party, who believed in the retention of traditional formulaic church rituals, while the Puritans, who favored individual church leadership, were gaining power in the Parliament. This led to a civil war in England between the royalists and the Parliamentarians. The latter party won in the short term, and Charles was executed on January 30, 1649, but the monarchy was restored in 1660, when Charles II became king. (Research: Chris Butler).
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Oxford: The location of Oxford University, which dates from the 12th Century.
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Cromwell's men: Oliver Cromwell was born on April 25, 1599 and died on September 3, 1658. He was one of the generals on the Parliamentarian side of the civil war, and gained a reputation as good military leader with his effective strikes against the royalists. After the war, he continued in a leadership role for England. (Research: Chris Butler).
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the Roundhead army: The Parliamentarians were derisively referred to as "roundheads" due to the Puritan habit of wearing their hair closely cropped as opposed to the fashionable long ringlets of Charles's court. (Research: Chris Butler).
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Puritans for Holland: In the early 1600's, many Puritans began to flee England due to religious persecution both from the king and from the leaders of the Anglican church. These Puritans (also known as Separatists) believed that they would gain more freedom by separating from the Anglican church than by seeking reform from within. After a while, many of those who fled to Holland moved on to the American colonies. (Research: Chris Butler).
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down the Channel: Down the English Channel in a southerly direction from southern England would lead toward the Atlantic and the American continent, whereas up the Channel in a northerly direction would lead to Holland.
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the settlement in York: The following information about the historical York Garrison is from the Michelin Guide to New England (1993). "In 1624 the Pilgrims established a trading post at Agamenticus, the present-day site of York. The small settlement that grew up around the trading post was chosen by Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the proprietor of Maine, as the capital of his vast New World territory. In 1641, Sir Gorges gave the village a city charter and renamed it Gorgeana in his honor." Gorges's plans for the area failed, and the village was reorganized as York by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1652. The village was several times subject to Indian attack, and was destroyed in the York or Candlemas massacre of 1692.
Jewett speaks a little of York in her historical essay, "The Old Town of Berwick," where she mentions Indian raids. About the Royalist settlers in York, she says:... when Cromwell gained a victory over the royal troops at Dunbar, in the north; and "not knowing how to dispose better of his prisoners, he banished them from the realm of England and sent them to America." From Boston they were despatched down the coast to find fellowship in the more conservative royalist colony planted by Gorges, and were given lands in what is still known as Scotland Parish, in the upper part of York, not many miles from the Great Works and Quampeagan [now South Berwick], whither, no doubt, some of them were attracted by the mills and general business.... They had left a stormy England to find the young colonies, beginning a long series of terrible struggles against the Indians; and so fell upon a most anxious time.The illustration below represents a garrison house that stood north of the current village of York, ME, along the York Road. A restored garrison house now sits at this location. Now referred to as the York Garrison, it was originally the Maxwell Garrison and later became the McIntire Garrison. (Source: Virginia Spillers, Old York Historical Society). The illustration is from Emery's Ancient City of Gorgeana and Modern Town of York (1874).
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Masterson child: There was a Masterson Garrison at York in the 17th Century. According to the Old York Historical Society, the Masterson Garrison stood on Cider Hill.
"York Garrison: 1640," one of Jewett's poems, is set at a York garrison, which Jewett suggests is the Masterson Garrison. Polly Masterson, the main character, has an adventure parallel to that of Polly Brenton; she is caught outside the garrison house when Indians appear, and they let her pass.
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The Indians came around: This account of Indian hostility toward settlers at York seem anachronistic. As indicated above, this story seems to be set before 1649, when Charles I was executed, and before Oliver Cromwell sent a number of Scots Loyalist prisoners to do hard labor in the Maine colony in 1652. However, this description of Indians menacing and then attacking a York garrison fits better with the situation after 1675, when King Philip's War initiated a series of French and Indian wars that ended in 1763. In "The Old Town of Berwick," Jewett characterizes the period of settlement before 1675 as one of productive, peaceful interaction between Indians and settlers in the Piscataqua River region. (Research assistance: Wendy Pirsig)
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the orchard's grandmother: In Ancient City of Gorgeana and Modern Town of York (1874), George Alexander Emery tells story of the old apple tree said to have been brought from England to York in about 1629, and provides an illustration.
"The apple-tree flourishes well, and bears bountifully in this town; so much so, that Cider-Hill has long been a name applied to a section in the northerly portion of the town. Here is still standing an apple-tree which is said to have been brought from England, in a little tub or box, by one of the early settlers, more than two hundred and forty years ago. It has borne fruit up to the present time (1874); but the trunk is a mere upright hollow log, and only one limb retaining any vitality, it is not likely to survive many years longer" (p. 89).
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, assisted by Chris Butler, Coe College.
Uncollected Pieces for Young Readers
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