"Wal, the upshot on′t was, they fussed and fuzzled and wuzzled till they′d drinked up all the tea in the teapot; and then they went down and called on the Parson, and wuzzled him all up talkin′ about this, that, and t′other that wanted lookin′ to, and that it was no way to leave everything to a young chit like Huldy, and that he ought to be lookin′ about for an experienced woman.
"The Parson, he thanked ′em kindly, and said he believed their motives was good, but he didn′t go no further.
"He didn′t ask Mis′ Pipperidge to come and stay there and help him, nor nothin′ o′ that kind; but he said he′d attend to matters himself. The fact was, the Parson had got such a likin′ for havin′ Huldy ′round that he couldn′t think o′ such a thing as swappin′ her off for the Widder Pipperidge.
"′But,′ he thought to himself, ′Huldy is a good girl; but I oughtn′t to be a-leavin′ everything to her—it′s too hard on her. I ought to be instructin′ and guidin′ and helpin′ of her; ′cause ′tain′t everybody could be expected to know and do what Mis′ Carryl did′; and so at it he went; and Lordy massy! didn′t Huldy hev a time on′t when the minister began to come out of his study and wanted to ten′ ′round an′ see to things? Huldy, you see, thought all the world of the minister, and she was ′most afraid to laugh; but she told me she couldn′t, for the life of her, help it when his back was turned, for he wuzzled things up in the most singular way. But Huldy, she′d just say, ′Yes, sir,′ and get him off into his study, and go on her own way.
"′Huldy,′ says the minister one day, ′you ain′t experienced outdoors; and when you want to know anything you must come to me.′
"′Yes, sir,′ said Huldy.
"′Now, Huldy,′ says the Parson, ′you must be sure to save the turkey eggs, so that we can have a lot of turkeys for Thanksgiving.′
"′Yes, sir,′ says Huldy; and she opened the pantry door and showed him a nice dishful she′d been a-savin′ up. Wal, the very next day the parson′s hen-turkey was found killed up to old Jim Scrogg′s barn. Folks say Scroggs killed it, though Scroggs, he stood to it he didn′t; at any rate, the Scroggses they made a meal on′t, and Huldy, she felt bad about it ′cause she′d set her heart on raisin′ the turkeys; and says she, ′Oh, dear! I don′t know what I shall do. I was just ready to set her.′
"′Do, Huldy?′ says the Parson; ′why, there′s the other turkey, out there by the door, and a fine bird, too, he is.′
"Sure enough, there was the old tom-turkey a-struttin′ and a-sidlin′ and a-quitterin′, and a-floutin′ his tail feathers in the sun, like a lively young widower all ready to begin life over again.
"′But,′ says Huldy, ′you know he can′t set on eggs.′
"′He can′t? I′d like to know why" says the Parson. ′He shall set on eggs, and hatch ′em, too.′
′"Oh, Doctor!′ says Huldy, all in a tremble; ′cause, you know, she didn′t want to contradict the minister, and she was afraid she should laugh—′ I never heard that a tom-turkey would set on eggs.′
"′Why, they ought to,′ said the Parson getting quite ′arnest. ′What else be they good for? You just bring out the eggs, now, and put ′em in the nest, and I′ll make him set on ′em.′
"So Huldy, she thought there weren′t no way to convince him but to let him try; so she took the eggs out and fixed ′em all nice in the nest; and then she come back and found old Tom a-skirmishin′ with the Parson pretty lively, I tell ye. Ye see, old Tom, he didn′t take the idea at all; and he flopped and gobbled, and fit the Parson; and the Parson′s wig got ′round so that his cue stuck straight out over his ear, but he′d got his blood up. Ye see, the old Doctor was used to carryin′ his p′ints o′ doctrine; and he hadn′t fit the Arminians and Socinians to be beat by a tom-turkey; and finally he made a dive and ketched him by the neck in spite o′ his floppin′, and stroked him down, and put Huldy′s apron ′round him.
"′There, Huldy,′ he says, quite red in the face, ′we′ve got him now′; and he traveled off to the barn with him as lively as a cricket.
"Huldy came behind, just chokin′ with laugh, and afraid the minister would look ′round and see her.
"′Now, Huldy, we′ll crook his legs and set him down,′ says the Parson, when they got him to the nest; ′you see, he is getting quiet, and he′ll set there all right.′
"And the Parson, he sot him down; and old Tom, he sot there solemn enough and held his head down all droopin′, lookin′ like a rail pious old cock as long as the Parson sot by him.
"′There; you see how still he sets,′ says the Parson to Huldy.
"Huldy was ′most dyin′ for fear she should laugh. ′I′m afraid he′ll get up,′ says she, ′when you do.′
"′Oh, no, he won′t!′ says the Parson, quite confident. ′There, there,′ says he, layin′ his hands on him as if pronouncin′ a blessin′.
"But when the Parson riz up, old Tom he riz up, too, and began to march over the eggs.
"′Stop, now!′ says the Parson. ′I′ll make him get down agin; hand me that corn-basket; we′ll put that over him.′
"So he crooked old Tom′s legs and got him down agin; and they put the corn-basket over him, and then they both stood and waited.
"′That′ll do the thing, Huldy,′ said the Parson.
"′I don′t know about it,′ says Huldy.
"′Oh, yes, it will, child; I understand,′ says he.
"Just as he spoke, the basket riz up and stood, and they could see old Tom′s long legs.
"′I′ll make him stay down, confound him,′ says the Parson, for you see, parsons is men, like the rest on us, and the Doctor had got his spunk up.
"′You jist hold him a minute, and I′ll get something that′ll make him stay, I guess; and out he went to the fence and brought in a long, thin, flat stone, and laid it on old Tom′s back.
"′Oh, my eggs!′ says Huldy. ′I′m afraid he′s smashed ′em!′
"And sure enough, there they was, smashed flat enough under the stone.
"′I′ll have him killed,′ said the Parson. ′We won′t have such a critter ′round.′
"Wall next week, Huldy, she jist borrowed the minister′s horse and side-saddle and rode over to South Parish to her Aunt Bascome′s— Widder Bascome′s, you know, that lives there by the trout-brook—and got a lot o′ turkey eggs o′ her, and come back and set a hen on ′em, and said nothin′; and in good time there was as nice a lot o′ turkey- chicks as ever ye see.
"Huldy never said a word to the minister about his experiment, and he never said a word to her; but he sort o′ kep more to his books and didn′t take it on him to advise so much.
"But not long arter he took it into his head that Huldy ought to have a pig to be a-fattin′ with the buttermilk.
"Mis′ Pipperidge set him up to it; and jist then old Tom Bigelow, out to Juniper Hill, told him if he′d call over he′d give him a little pig.
"So he sent for a man, and told him to build a pig-pen right out by the well, and have it all ready when he came home with his pig.
"Huldy said she wished he might put a curb round the well out there, because in the dark sometimes a body might stumble into it; and the Parson said he might do that.
"Wal, old Aikin, the carpenter, he didn′t come till ′most the middle of the afternoon; and then he sort o′ idled, so that he didn′t get up the well-curb till sundown; and then he went off, and said he′d come and do the pig-pen next day.
"Wal, arter dark, Parson Carryl, he driv into the yard, full chizel, with his pig.
"′There, Huldy. I′ve got you a nice little pig.′
"′Dear me!′ says Huldy; ′where have you put him?′
"′Why, out there in the pig-pen, to be sure.′
"′Oh, dear me!′ says Huldy,′that′s the well-curb—there ain′t no pig- pen built,′ says she.
"′Lordy massy!′ says the Parson; ′then I′ve thrown the pig in the well!′
"Wal, Huldy she worked and worked, and finally she fished piggy out in the bucket, but he was as dead as a doornail; and she got him out o′ the way quietly, and didn′t say much; and the Parson he took to a great Hebrew book in his study.
"After that the Parson set sich store by Huldy that he come to her and asked her about everything, and it was amazin′ how everything she put her hand to prospered. Huldy planted marigolds and larkspurs, pinks and carnations, all up and down the path to the front door; and trained up mornin′-glories and scarlet runners round the windows. And she was always gettin′ a root here, and a sprig there, and a seed from somebody else; for Huldy was one o′ them that has the gift, so that ef you jist give ′em the leastest of anything they make a great bush out of it right away; so that in six months Huldy had roses and geraniums and lilies sich as it would take a gardener to raise.
"Huldy was so sort o′ chipper and fair spoken that she got the hired men all under her thumb: they come to her and took her orders jist as meek as so many calves, and she traded at the store, and kep′ the accounts, and she had her eyes everywhere, and tied up all the ends so tight that there wa′n′t no gettin′ ′round her. She wouldn′t let nobody put nothin′ off on Parson Carryl ′cause he was a minister. Huldy was allers up to anybody that wanted to make a hard bargain, and afore he knew jist what he was about she′d got the best end of it, and everybody said that Huldy was the most capable girl they ever traded with.
"Wal, come to the meetin′ of the Association, Mis′ Deakin Blodgett and Mis′ Pipperidge come callin′ up to the Parson′s all in a stew and offerin′ their services to get the house ready, but the Doctor he jist thanked ′em quite quiet, and turned ′em over to Huldy; and Huldy she told ′em that she′d got everything ready, and showed ′em her pantries, and her cakes, and her pies, and her puddin′s, and took ′em all over the house; and they went peekin′ and pokin′, openin′ cupboard doors, and lookin′ into drawers; and they couldn′t find so much as a thread out o′ the way, from garret to cellar, and so they went off quite discontented. Arter that the women sat a new trouble a-brewin′. They began to talk that it was a year now since Mis′ Carryl died; and it railly wasn′t proper such a young gal to be stayin′ there, who everybody could see was a-settin′ her cap for the minister.
"Mis′ Pipperidge said, that so long as she looked on Huldy as the hired gal she hadn′t thought much about it; but Huldy was railly takin′ on airs as an equal, and appearin′ as mistress o′ the house in a way that would make talk if it went on. And Mis′ Pipperidge she driv ′round up to Deakin Abner Snow′s, and down to Mis ′Lijah Perry′s, and asked them if they wasn′t afraid that the way the Parson and Huldy was a-goin on might make talk. And they said they hadn′t thought on′t before, but now, come to think on′t it, they was sure it would and they all went and talked with somebody else and asked them if they didn′t think it would make talk. So come Sunday, between meetin′s there warn′t nothin′ else talked about; and Huldy saw folks a-noddin′ and a-winkin′, and a-lookin′ arter her, and she begun to feel drefful sort o′ disagreeable. Finally Mis′ Sawin, she says to her, ′My dear, didn′t you never think folk would talk about you and the minister?′
"′No; why should they?′ says Huldy, quite innocent.
"′Wal, dear,′ says she, ′I think it′s a shame; but they say you′re tryin′ to catch him, and that it′s so bold and improper for you to be courtin′ of him right in his own house—you know folks will talk—I thought I′d tell you, ′cause I think so much of you,′ says she.
"Huldy was a gal of spirit, and she despised the talk, but it made her drefful uncomfortable; and when she got home at night she sat down in the mornin′-glory porch, quite quiet, and didn′t sing a word.
"The minister he had heard the same thing from one of his deakins that day; and when he saw Huldy so kind o′ silent, he says to her, ′Why don′t you sing, my child?′
"He had a pleasant sort o′ way with him, the minister had, and Huldy had got to likin′ to be with him; and it all come over her that perhaps she ought to go away; and her throat kind o′ filled up so she couldn′t hardly speak; and, says she, ′I can′t sing to-night′
"Says he, ′You don′t know how much good your singin′ has done me, nor how much good you have done me in all ways, Huldy. I wish I knew how to show my gratitude.′
"′Oh, sir!′ says Huldy, ′_is_ it improper for me to be here?′
"′No, dear,′ says the minister, ′but ill-natured folks will talk; but there is one way we can stop it, Huldy—if you′ll marry me. You′ll make me very happy, and I′ll do all I can to make you happy. Will you?′
"Wal, Huldy never told me just what she said to the minister; gals never does give you the particulars of them things jist as you′d like ′em—only I know the upshot and the hull on′t was, that Huldy she did a considerable lot o′ clear starchin′ and ironin′ the next two days, and the Friday o′ next week the minister and she rode over together to Doctor Lothrop′s, in Oldtown, and the Doctor he jist made ′em man and wife."