The Miller Of Old Church
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Miller Of Old Church, by Ellen Glasgow
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org
Title: The Miller Of Old Church
Author: Ellen Glasgow
Release Date: April 30, 2006 [EBook #18286]
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE MILLER OF OLD CHURCH ***
Produced by Doug Levy
THE MILLER OF OLD CHURCH
by Ellen Glasgow
To my sister Cary Glasgow McCormack In loving acknowledgment of help and sympathy through the years
I. At Bottom's Ordinary
II. In Which Destiny Wears the Comic Mask
III. In Which Mr. Gay Arrives at His Journey's End
IV. The Revercombs
V. The Mill
VI. Treats of the Ladies' Sphere
VII. Gay Rushes Into a Quarrel and Secures a Kiss
VIII. Shows Two Sides of a Quarrel
IX. In Which Molly Flirts
X. The Reverend Orlando Mullen Preaches a Sermon
XI. A Flight and an Encounter
XII. The Dream and the Real
XIII. By the Mill-race
XIV. Shows the Weakness in Strength
XV. Shows the Tyranny of Weakness
XVI. The Coming of Spring
XVII. The Shade of Mr. Jonathan
XVIII. The Shade of Reuben
XIX. Treats of Contradictions
XX. Life's Ironies
XXI. In Which Pity Masquerades as Reason
I. In which Youth Shows a Little Seasoned
II. The Desire of the Moth
III Abel Hears Gossip and Sees a Vision
IV. His Day of Freedom
V. The Shaping of Molly
VI. In Which Hearts Go Astray
VII. A New Beginning to an Old Tragedy
VIII. A Great Passion in a Humble Place
IX. A Meeting in the Pasture
X. Tangled Threads
XI. The Ride to Piping Tree
XII. One of Love's Victims
XIII. What Life Teaches
XIV. The Turn of the Wheel
XV. Gay Discovers Himself
XVI. The End
Author's Note: The scene of this story is not the
place of the same name in Virginia.
THE MILLER OF OLD CHURCH
AT BOTTOM'S ORDINARY
It was past four o'clock on a sunny October day, when a stranger, whohad ridden over the "corduroy" road between Applegate and Old Church,dismounted near the cross-roads before the small public house known toits frequenters as Bottom's Ordinary. Standing where the three roadsmeet at the old turnpike-gate of the county, the square brick building,which had declined through several generations from a chapel into atavern, had grown at last to resemble the smeared face of a clown undera steeple hat which was worn slightly awry. Originally covered withstucco, the walls had peeled year by year until the dull red of thebricks showed like blotches of paint under a thick coating of powder.Over the wide door two little oblong windows, holding four damagedpanes, blinked rakishly from a mat of ivy, which spread from the rottingeaves to the shingled roof, where the slim wooden spire bent under theweight of creeper and innumerable nesting sparrows in spring. Afterpointing heavenward for half a century, the steeple appeared to haveswerved suddenly from its purpose, and to invite now the attention ofthe wayfarer to the bar beneath. This cheerful room which sprouted, likesome grotesque wing, from the right side of the chapel, marked not onlya utilitarian triumph in architecture, but served, on market days toattract a larger congregation of the righteous than had ever stood upto sing the doxology in the adjoining place of worship. Good and badprospects were weighed here, weddings discussed, births and deathsrecorded in ever-green memories, and here, also, were reputationsdemolished and the owners of them hustled with scant ceremony away toperdition.
From the open door of the bar on this particular October day, therestreamed the ruddy blaze of a fire newly kindled from knots of resinouspine. Against this pleasant background might be discerned now and thenthe shapeless silhouette of Betsey Bottom, the innkeeper, a soft andcapable soul, who, in attaching William Ming some ten years before, hadsuccessfully extinguished his identity without materially impairing herown. Bottom's Ordinary had always been ruled by a woman, and it wouldcontinue to be so, please God, however loudly a mere Ming might protestto the contrary. In the eyes of her neighbours, a female, right orwrong, was always a female, and this obvious fact, beyond and above anynatural two-sided jars of wedlock, sufficed in itself to establish Mrs.Ming as a conjugal martyr. Being an amiable body—peaceably disposed toevery living creature, with the exception of William—she had hastenedto the door to reprimand him for some trivial neglect of the grey mule,when her glance lighted upon the stranger, who had come a few minutesearlier by the Applegate road. As he was a fine looking man of fullhabit and some thirty years, her eyes lingered an instant on his facebefore she turned with the news to her slatternly negro maid who wassousing the floor with a bucket of soapsuds.
"Thar's nobody on earth out thar but young Mr. Jonathan Gay come back toJordan's Journey," she said. "I declar I'd know a Gay by his eyes if Iwar to meet him in so unlikely a place as Kingdom Come. He's talkin'to old Adam Doolittle now," she added, for the information of the maid,who, being of a curious habit of mind, had raised herself on her kneesand was craning her neck toward the door, "I can see his lips movin',but he speaks so low I can't make out what he says."
"Lemme git dar a minute, Miss Betsey, I'se got moughty sharp years, Iis."
"They're no sharper than mine, I reckon, and I couldn't hear if I stoodan' listened forever. It's about the road most likely, for I see oldAdam a-pintin'."
For a minute after dismounting the stranger looked dubiously at themottled face of the tavern. On his head the sunlight shone throughthe boughs of a giant mulberry tree near the well, and beyond this theVirginian forest, brilliant with its autumnal colours of red and copper,stretched to the village of Applegate, some ten or twelve miles to thenorth.
Starting southward from the cross-roads, the character of the countryunderwent so sudden a transformation that it looked as if man, havingcontended here unsuccessfully with nature, had signed an ignominioustruce beneath the crumbling gateposts of the turnpike. Passing beyondthem a few steps out of the forest, one found a low hill, on whichthe reaped corn stood in stacks like weapons of a vanished army, whileacross the sunken road, the abandoned fields, overgrown with broomsedgeand life-everlasting, spread for several miles between "worm fences"which were half buried in brushwood. To the eyes of the stranger, freshfrom the trim landscapes of England, there was an aspect of desolationin the neglected roads, in the deserted fields, and in the dim greymarshes that showed beyond the low banks of the river.
In the effort to shake off the depression this loneliness had broughton his spirits, he turned to an ancient countryman, wearing overallsof blue jeans, who dozed comfortably on the circular bench beneath themulberry tree.
"Is there a nearer way to Jordan's Journey, or must I follow theturnpike?" he asked.
"Hey? Young Adam, are you thar, suh?"
Young Adam, a dejected looking youth of fifty years, with a pair ofshort-sighted eyes that glanced over his shoulder as if in fear ofpursuit, shuffled round the trough of the well, and sat down on thebench at his parent's side.
"He wants to know, pa, if thar's a short cut from the ornary over to
Jordan's Journey," he repeated.
Old Adam, who had sucked patiently at the stem of his pipe during theexplanation, withdrew it at the end, and thrust out his lower lip as achild does that has stopped crying before it intended to.
"You can take a turn to the right at the blazed pine a half a mile on,"he replied, "but thar's the bars to be pulled down an' put up agin."
"I jest come along thar, an' the bars was down," said young Adam.
"Well, they hadn't ought to have been," retorted old Adam, indignantly."Bars is bars whether they be public or private, an' the man that pulls'em down without puttin' 'em up agin, is a man that you'll find to beloose moraled in other matters."
"It's the truth as sure as you speak it, Mr. Doolittle," said a wiry,knocked-kneed farmer, with a hatchet-shaped face, who had sidled up tothe group. "It warn't no longer than yesterday that I was sayin' thesame words to the new minister, or rector as he tries to get us to callhim, about false doctrine an' evil practice. 'The difference betweensprinklin' and immersion ain't jest the difference between a few dripson the head an' goin' all under, Mr. Mullen,' I said, 'but 'tis thewhole difference between the natur that's bent moral an' the natur thatain't.' It follows as clear an' logical as night follows day—now, I axyou, don't it, Mr. Doolittle—that a man that's gone wrong on immersioncan't be trusted to keep his hands off the women?"
"I ain't sayin' all that, Solomon Hatch," responded old Adam, in acharitable tone, "seein' that I've never made up my own mind quite clearon those two p'ints—but I do say, be he immersed or sprinkled, thatthe man who took down them bars without puttin' 'em up ain't a man to betrusted."
"'Twarn't a man, 'twas a gal," put in young Adam, "I seed Molly
Merryweather goin' toward the low grounds as I come up."
"Then it's most likely to have been she," commented Solomon, "for she isa light-minded one, as is proper an' becomin' in a child of sin."
The stranger looked up with a laugh from the moss-grown cattletrough beside which he was standing, and his eyes—of a peculiar darkblue—glanced merrily into the bleared ones of old Adam.
"I ain't so blind yet as not to know a Gay when I see one," said thelabourer, with a sly chuckle. "If I hadn't closed the eyes of old Mr.Jonathan when he was found dead over yonder by the Poplar Spring, I'd assoon as not take my Bible oath that he'd come young agin an' was ridin'along back to Jordan's Journey."
"Do you believe down here that my uncle killed himself?" asked the youngman, with a furtive displeasure in his voice, as if he alluded to adisagreeable subject in response to some pressure of duty.
"'Tis as it may be, suh, I can't answer for that. To this day if you getSolomon Hatch or Betsey Bottom, (axin' her pardon for puttin' her last),started on the subject they'll contend till they're blue in the facethat 'twas naught done but pure murder. However, I'm too old at my timeof life to take up with any opinion that ain't pleasant to thinkon, an', when all's said an' done, pure murder ain't a peaceable,comfortable kind of thing to believe in when thar's only one Justice ofthe Peace an' he bed-ridden since Christmas. When you ax me to pin myfaith on any p'int, be it for this world or the next, my first questionconsarnin' it is whether that particular p'int happens to be pleasant.'Tis that little small argyment of mine that has confounded Mr. Mullenmore than once, when he meets me on equal ground outside the pulpit.'Mebbe 'tis an' mebbe 'tisn't,' as I remarked sociably to