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New Chronicles of Rebecca

Ninth Chronicle : The Green Isle
Many a green isle needs must be
In the deep sea of misery,
Or the mariner, worn and wan,
Never thus could voyage on
Day and night and night and day,
Drifting on his weary way.
Shelley
Meantime in these frosty autumn days life was crowded with events in the lonely
Simpson house at Acreville.
The tumble-down dwelling stood on the edge of Pliney's Pond; so called because old
Colonel Richardson left his lands to be divided in five equal parts, each share to be
chosen in turn by one of his five sons, Pliny, the eldest, having priority of choice.
Pliny Richardson, having little taste for farming, and being ardently fond of fishing,
rowing, and swimming, acted up to his reputation of being "a little mite odd," and took
his whole twenty acres in water--hence Pliny's Pond.
The eldest Simpson boy had been working on a farm in Cumberland County for two
years. Samuel, generally dubbed "see-saw," had lately found a humble place in a shingle
mill and was partially self-supporting. Clara Belle had been adopted by the Foggs; thus
there were only three mouths to fill, the capacious ones of Elijah and Elisha, the twin
boys, and of lisping, nine-year-old Susan, the capable houseworker and mother's
assistant, for the baby had died during the summer; died of discouragement at having
been born into a family unprovided with food or money or love or care, or even with
desire for, or appreciation of, babies.
There was no doubt that the erratic father of the house had turned over a new leaf.
Exactly when he began, or how, or why, or how long he would continue the praiseworthy
process,--in a word whether there would be more leaves turned as the months went on,--
Mrs. Simpson did not know, and it is doubtful if any authority lower than that of Mr.
Simpson's Maker could have decided the matter. He had stolen articles for swapping
purposes for a long time, but had often avoided detection, and always escaped
punishment until the last few years. Three fines imposed for small offenses were
followed by several arrests and two imprisonments for brief periods, and he found
himself wholly out of sympathy with the wages of sin. Sin itself he did not especially
mind, but the wages thereof were decidedly unpleasant and irksome to him. He also
minded very much the isolated position in the community which had lately become his;
for he was a social being and would ALMOST rather not steal from a neighbor than have
him find it out and cease intercourse! This feeling was working in him and rendering him
unaccountably irritable and depressed when he took his daughter over to Riverboro at the
time of the great flag-raising.
 
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