Captors and Captives

The Little Brown House on The Albany Road

one occasion when as the merest slip of a boy he went with his sister to "a neighbor party" and witnessed what would be called in the slang of to-day a "kitchen shin-dig." The hostess, Mistress Sabrina, inspired and directed the old-fashioned contra dances in her long kitchen. Fragments of the sights and sounds still remain with me, impressed, it may be, by a knowledge of the parties, and by seeing the personal application. The director was perched upon the loom at one end of the room, whence her voice rang out with a free and easy swing somewhat like this, with all necessary adaptations:

"Now cross over my son Stoddard, tum turn diddle dum, turn tum diddle dum — down outside now my son Amos, tum turn diddle dum, turn tum diddle dum, come to your ma now Lisa Ann Parker, you're not big enough, you're not big enough, right and left now Jane Alcesta, turn turn diddle dum, turn turn diddle dum, down in the middle Stoddard Williams, turn turn diddle dum, turn turn diddle dum."

This lady was about the age of Charles, and was doubtless at the wedding, and perhaps her peculiar talent may have been called into requisition; but as this is a tale of verities and the scrolls of the household familiars do not particularize, it cannot be asserted. For the same reason it must be left to the imagination to picture how Captain Hannah beckoned Lois from the bright firelight of the kitchen into Aunt Spiddy's dim little bed room for mysterious conference with certain wise matrons, her new aunts, and how Experience gave her timely words of advice and warning from her ample store of hard earned knowledge, or how Marcy and Betsey and Persis showered upon her maxims of wisdom for her guidance in her new sphere, and how the words of her mentors fell upon the ears of the happy and trustful bride with the same abiding effect as water showered upon the back of the proverbial duck.

The year hand on the clock of time crept on. For two-score years Charles the singer and Lois the baker abode together under the roof tree of the little brown cottage, growing browner year by year, and then were gathered to their fathers. Of the two children who first saw the light within these walls, Justin took unto himself a helpmeet and dwelt in a new house hard by, but Harriet remained alone in the old home. Three decades passed. Time was left unmolested to work his will upon the failing habitation and its forlorn, clouded inmate. Little by little the roof gaped here and there as if to invite the rain, the hail and the snow. The floor of the square room and the pantry of Bathsheba found sad companionship in the dark yawning cellar. Ruin and decay rioted in Aunt Spiddy's bed room. The lingering partitions, black with grime and smoke and festooned with dust-laden cobwebs, faltered and staggered. Still, Harriet with bent form and tottering steps clung steadfastly to the old-time home, all for love of it and for the associations which filled every nook and cranny. All else failing, she crept close to our three old friends for sympathy and cheer, and the staunch fireplace, the tried oven and the great east window proved as true to Harriet as Harriet was true to this taleful relic of by-gone days — the little brown house on the old colonial road to Albany.

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This page was last updated on 11 Feb 2006