An Old Woman's Tale
consent to wed. The seat they had chosen was in an open grove of elm and walnut trees,
at a right angle of the road; a spring of diamond water just bubbled into the moonlight
beside them, and then whimpered away through the bushes and long grass, in search of a
neighboring millstream. The nearest house (situate within twenty yards of them, and the
residence of their great- grandfather in his lifetime) was a venerable old edifice, crowned
with many high and narrow peaks, all overrun by innumerable creeping plants, which
hung curling about the roof like a nice young wig on an elderly gentleman's head.
Opposite to this establishment was a tavern, with a well and horse-trough before it, and a
low green bank running along the left side of the door. Thence, the road went onward,
curving scarce perceptibly, through the village, divided in the midst by a narrow lane of
verdure, and bounded on each side by a grassy strip of twice its own breadth. The houses
had generally an odd look. Here, the moonlight tried to get a glimpse of one, a rough old
heap of ponderous timber, which, ashamed of its dilapidated aspect, was hiding behind a
great thick tree; the lower story of the next had sunk almost under ground, as if the poor
little house were a-weary of the world, and retiring into the seclusion of its own cellar;
farther on stood one of the few recent structures, thrusting its painted face conspicuously
into the street, with an evident idea that it was the fairest thing there. About midway in
the village was a grist-mill, partly concealed by the descent of the ground towards the
stream which turned its wheel. At the southern extremity, just so far distant that the
window-paces dazzled into each other, rose the meeting-house, a dingy old barn-like
building, with an enormously disproportioned steeple sticking up straight into heaven, as
high as the Tower of Babel, and the cause of nearly as much confusion in its day. This
steeple, it must be understood, was an afterthought, and its addition to the main edifice,
when the latter had already begun to decay, had excited a vehement quarrel, and almost a
schism in the church, some fifty years before. Here the road wound down a hill and was
seen no more, the remotest object in view being the graveyard gate, beyond the
meetinghouse. The youthful pair sat hand in hand beneath the trees, and for several
moments they had not spoken, because the breeze was hushed, the brook scarce tinkled,
the leaves had ceased their rustling, and everything lay motionless and silent as if Nature
were composing herself to slumber.
"What a beautiful night it is, Esther!" remarked David, somewhat drowsily.
"Very beautiful," answered the girl, in the same tone.
"But how still!" continued David.
"Ah, too still!" said Esther, with a faint shudder, like a modest leaf when the wind kisses
Perhaps they fell asleep together, and, united as their spirits were by close and tender
sympathies, the same strange dream might have wrapped them in its shadowy arms. But
they conceived, at the time, that they still remained wakeful by the spring of bubbling
water, looking down through the village, and all along the moonlighted road, and at the
queer old houses, and at the trees which thrust their great twisted branches almost into the
windows. There was only a sort of mistiness over their minds like the smoky air of an