Ransom of Mercy Carter

The Little Brown House on The Albany Road

center of the executive power of the new county of Franklin, for the General was high sheriff. We may trust that when he went in state to open the courts. Aunt Spiddy saw to it that his blue, brass-buttoned coat was scrupulously clean, that his cockade and crimson silk sash were properly arranged, and the hangings of his dress sword were spotless as the sun.

Time changes all things. The philosopher and friend, the student and the guide, the man of science and the man of power departed; and of his kith and kin the only representative left to-day on the old Albany road is a young woman who revels in the quick wit and the flight of imagination which she inherited from an unexpended balance in the large brain of her great grandfather; Epaphras Hoyt.

No greater contrast can be conceived than that between some of the early occupants and those who now for a year and a day make their abode in the little brown house, -- Rufus Rice and his fitting mate, Esther. Rufus was a first class representative of the typical Yankee, keen, shrewd and honest in business, droll and witty in words, wise, careful and farsighted in action. He was the founder of the fourpence-ha'penny packet express between Deerfield and Greenfield, which still flourishes under the whip of his grandson, another Rufus. "Express Rice" had small opportunity for book learning in youth; but his judgment was sound, and he came to be much relied upon in business by the manless maiden, the distressed widow, and the skilless professor. One of the latter class, after vain struggle to repair a water conduit, called in Mr. Rice. The following brief conversation illustrates the prominent traits in both the interlocutors:

"I find," says the Professor, "after thoughtful consideration and repeated, carefully conducted experiments with this preparation, that all my attempts are fruitless, and that the water still continues to exude copiously."

"0, yaas, yaas, fix it so 't 'll allus leak like sixty."

"I am compelled to acquiesce in your decisions; but, Mr. Rice, may I inquire what methods you would recommend to—"

"0, I'll git it fixt as right 's a hoe-handle. Don't you give yourself no more trouble about it."

In sorrowfully condoling with Mr. Rice on the great loss he had sustained in the death of his son, the Professor remarked with his voice full of tears, "I understand, sir, that your son possessed a considerable amount of mechanical ingenuity, that in fact he had proved his constructive talent in practical achievements under adverse circumstances, and with great lack of needful appliances."

"0, yaas! yis, you give Seth a jackknife and gimlet and he'd make eny most anything."

The sphere of Mr. Rice was narrow; he filled it well. He left no stain on his character or shadow on the little cottage. Neither the hearthstone, the oven, nor the window had reason to complain in the companionship of these honest everyday folk.

It is said that coming events cast their shadow before. With the next occupants of the little brown house, we will suppose in our musings the case is reversed. One of the fleeting scroll bears a name well known in border warfare, that of Sergeant John Hawks, the hero of Fort Massachusetts, the compeer of Stark and Putnam, of Burke and Rogers and other noted partisans of the French and Indian wars. He died as colonel at his home in Deerfield Street, next door to that of David Hoyt, elder brother of Epaphras. Colonel Hawks in his old age spent much time at the "Old Indian House," then a tavern, with the father of Epaphras as landlord. We may be sure that young Epaphras improved every opportunity of- hearing the bar-room stories of this scarred veteran of two wars, that he

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This page was last updated on 11 Feb 2006