« AnteriorContinuar »
this scarecrow. Be within call, Dickon, in case I need you again."
The good woman had risen thus early (for as yet it was scarcely sunrise) in order to set about making a 25 scarecrow, which she intended to put in the middle of her corn patch. It was now the latter week of May, and the crows and blackbirds had already discovered the little, green, rolled-up leaf of the Indian corn just peeping out of the soil. She was determined, therefore, 30 to contrive as lifelike a scarecrow as ever was seen, and to finish it immediately, from top to toe, so that it should begin its sentinel's duty that very morning. Now Mother Rigby (as everybody must have heard) was one of the most cunning and potent witches in 35 New England, and might, with very little trouble, have made a scarecrow ugly enough to frighten the minister himself. But on this occasion, as she had awakened in an uncommonly pleasant humor, and was further dulcified by her pipe of tobacco, she resolved to produce 40 something fine, beautiful, and splendid, rather than hideous and horrible.
“ I don't want to set up a hobgoblin in my own corn patch, and almost at my own doorstep,” said Mother kigby to herself, puffing out a whiff of smoke; “I 45 could do it if I pleased, but I'm tired of doing marvelous things, and so I'll keep within the bounds of everyday business just for variety's sake. Besides, there is no use in scaring the little children for a mile roundabout, though 'tis true I'm a witch."
It was settled, therefore, in her own mind, that the scarecrow should represent a fine gentleman of the period, so far as the materials at hand would allow. Perhaps it may be as well to enumerate the chief of
the articles that went to the composition of this 55 figure.
The most important item of all, probably, although it made so little show, was a certain broomstick, on which Mother Rigby had taken many an airy gallop at midnight, and which now served the scarecrow by way 60 of a spinal column, or, as the unlearned phrase it, a backbone. One of its arms was a disabled flail which used to be wielded by Goodman Rigby, before his spouse worried him out of this troublesoine world ; the other, if I mistake not, was composed of the pudding stick 65 and a broken rung of a chair, tied loosely together at the elbow. As for its legs, the right was a hoe handle, and the left an undistinguished and miscellaneous stick from the woodpile. Its lungs, stomach, and other affairs of that kind were nothing better than a 70 meal bag stuffed with straw. Thus we have made out the skeleton and entire corporosity of the scarecrow, with the exception of its head; and this was admirably supplied by a somewhat withered and shriveled pumpkin, in which Mother Rigby cut two holes for 75 the eyes, and a slit for the mouth, leaving a bluishcolored knob in the middle to pass for a
It was really quite a respectable face.
“ I've seen worse ones on human shoulders, at any rate," said Mother Rigby. “And many a fine gentle- 80 man has a pumpkin head, as well as my scarecrow.”
But the clothes, in this case, were to be the making of the man. So the good old woman took down from a peg an ancient plum-colored coat of London make, and with relics of embroidery on its seams, cuffs, 85 pocket flaps, and buttonholes, but lamentably worn and faded, patched at the elbows, tattered at the skirts,
and thread bare all over. On the left breast was a round hole, whence either a star of nobility had been rent away, or else the hot heart of some former wearer had 90 scorched it through and through. The neighbors said that this rich garment belonged to the Black Man's wardrobe, and that he kept it at Mother Rigby's cottage for the convenience of slipping it on whenever he wished to make a grand appearance at the governor's 95 table. To match the coat there was a velvet waistcoat of very ample size, and formerly embroidered with foliage that had been as brightly golden as the maple leaves in October, but which had now quite vanished out of the substance of the velvet. Next came a pair 100 of scarlet breeches, once worn by the French governor of Louisburg, and the knees of which had touched the lower step of the throne of Louis le Grand. The Frenchman had given these smallclothes to an Indian pow wow, who parted with them to the old witch for a 105 gill of strong waters, at one of their dances in the forest. Furthermore, Mother Rigby produced a pair of silk stockings and put them on the figure's legs, where they showed as unsubstantial as a dream, with the wooden reality of the two sticks making itself miser- 110 ably apparent through the holes. Lastly, she put her dead husband's wig on the bare scalp of the pumpkin, and surmounted the whole with a dusty three-cornered hat, in which was stuck the longest tail feather of a rooster.
Then the old dame stood the figure up in a corner of her cottage and chuckled to behold its yellow semblance of a visage, with its nobby little nose thrust into the air. It had a strangely self-satisfied aspect, and seemed to say,
66 Come look at me!”
“ And you are well worth looking at, that's a fact ! quoth Mother Rigby, in admiration of her own handiwork. “ I've made many a puppet since I've been a witch, but methinks this is the finest of them all. 'Tis almost too good for a scarecrow. And, by the bye, I'll 125 just fill a fresh pipe of tobacco and then take him out to the corn patch."
While filling her pipe the old woman continued to gaze with almost motherly affection at the figure in the
the truth, whether it were chance, or 130 skill, or downright witchcraft, there was something wonderfully human in this ridiculous shape, bedizened with its tattered finery; and as for the countenance, it appeared to shrivel its yellow surface into a grin— a funny kind of expression betwixt scorn and merriment, 135 as if it understood itself to be a jest at mankind. The more Mother Rigby looked, the better she was pleased.
“Dickon," cried she, sharply, “another coal for my
Hardly had she spoken, than, just as before, there 140 was a red-glowing coal on the top of the tobacco. She drew in a long whiff and puffed it forth again into the bar of morning sunshine which struggled through the one dusty pane of her cottage window. Mother Rigby always liked to flavor her pipe with a coal of fire from 145 the particular chimney corner whence this had been brought. But where that chimney corner might be, or who brought the coal from it, - further than that the invisible messenger seemed to respond to the name of Dickon,- I cannot tell.
“That puppet yonder," thought Mother Rigby, still with her eyes fixed on the scarecrow, “is too good a piece of work to stand all summer in a corn patch,
INTROD. LESS. IN ENG. LIT. -- 2
frightening away the crows and blackbirds. He's capable of better things. Why, I've danced with a worse 155 one, when partners happened to be scarce, at our witch meetings in the forest! What if I should let him take his chance among the other men of straw and empty fellows who go bustling about the world ?”
The old witch took three or four more whiffs of her 160 pipe and smiled.
“ He'll meet plenty of his brethren at every street corner!" continued she. Well; I didn't mean to dabble in witchcraft to-day, further than the lighting of my pipe ; but a witch I am, and a witch I'm likely to 165 be, and there's no use trying to shirk it. I'll make a man of my scarecrow, were it only for the joke's sake !"
While muttering these words, Mother Rigby took the pipe from her own mouth and thrust it into the 170 crevice, which represented the same feature in the pumpkin visage of the scarecrow.
" Puff, darling, puff !” said she. “Puff away, my
“ fine fellow, your life depends on it ! ”
This was a strange exhortation, undoubtedly, to be 175 addressed to a mere thing of sticks, straw, and old clothes, with nothing better than a shriveled pumpkin for a head - as we know to have been the scarecrow's
Nevertheless, as we must carefully hold in remembrance, Mother Rigby was a witch of singular 180 power and dexterity; and, keeping this fact duly before our minds, we shall see nothing beyond credibility in the remarkable incidents of our story. Indeed, the great difficulty will be at once got over, if we can only bring ourselves to believe that, as soon as the old 185 dame bade him puff, there came a whiff of smoke from