THE PARSON’S SECRET SIN.
The Parson’s Secret Sin,
BY CLABA AUGUSTA.
water right down the spine of mr back 1
enuff to make yer blood run cola l”
“ Yes, Deacon Pilgrove, yon may well say it’s
a world of sin and sorrow 1” ejaculated Mrs.
Simon Sweetser, applying her handkerchief to
her eyes to wipe away an imaginary drop of
moisture, evolved by the sympathy her gener
ous heart felt for the wicked sons of men.
“ It is bad enough,” she continued, “ when we
poor worms of the dust that bain’t nobody, for
get ourselves and serve the great adversary;
but when a minister of the goBpel—oh, dear 1”
and up went the handkerchief to finish the sen
“ I don’t wonder you’re affected, sister Sweet-
ser,” said Miss Anna Strickland, a very proper
spinster of forty-five. “It’s enough to draw
tears from a stone to see the wickedness and
depravity of this world 1 and of men in particu
lar 1 Thank the Lord, I never had nothing to
say to none of the desateful critters' Whatever
else I may.be guilty of, I hasn't got that to an
swer for 1”
“ Let me see,” said Deacon Pilgrove, slowly,
wiping his spectacles as though he wanted the
glasses clean to help him see it. “ It’s as much
as six weeks since the parson took to cutting up,
hain’t it ?”
“Jest six weeks day before yesterday,” said
Miss Strickland, solemnly. “ I and Mrs. Sweet
ser watched him, and we’ve watched him ever
sense, off and on. I, for one, calculate to be a
faithful sentinel on the walls of Zion.”
“ Yes, Deacon, so do I,” said Mrs. Sweetser;
“ and I think it’s the bonnden duty of some of
us to break down the doors of that house, and
affront the arch deceiver right in his den 1”
“ Dear me 1” exclaimed Mrs. Perkins, a timid
little woman, who, being something of a invalid,
did not often meet with the Spruceville Sewing-
Society. “ Do tell me what Parson Howard has
“ Why, Mrs. Perkins, is it possible you hain’t
heard?” exclaimed Mrs. Sweetser, amazed.
“ Indeed, not. You see I go out very little,”
“ He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing 1” cried the
deacon, with righteous indignation.
“For full six weeks and two days,” began
Miss Strickland, oracularly, “there has been
lights seen from nine till ten o’clock in the back
chamber of the old Jenkins’ house jest below the
parsonage; and nobody has lived there for ten
year 1 Lights in an old ontensnted house, and
up stairs, too.”
“ Spirits,” suggested Tom Chester.
“ Fiddlesticks!” said Miss Strickland, con'
temptuously; “there hain’t no spirits now days 1
Sister Sweetser will agree with me in that; and
Bhe’s lived years before I was bora, and ought
“Not more than two or three year, Bister
Strickland,” said Mrs. Sweetser, mildly.
Miss Strickland took np her narrative where it
** Me and Mrs. Sweetser, we watched, and the
deacon helped us. Well, seven nights in con
cession we seed Parson Howard steal out of his
honse by the back-door—about nine—with
bundle ot something in his arms; and he’d clip
it acroet the field, climb the fence, and go right
up to the side door of the old Jenkins’ house.
And after stopping a minnit on the steps to
listen, he’d onlock the door and make his en
terance, and lock it behind him; and in five
minnita them back chamber winders would be
“What kind of noises?” asked Mrs. Perkins,
shivering) and drawing nearer Miss Strickland.
“ Oh! the most terrible sounds that ever you
heard; groans as if somebody was almost killed
alivo; and cries of * oh 1 oh 1 oh 1' and ‘ ah 1’ and
’em I’ and rattling of chains ; and sometimes
something would fall so heavy that the very
“ Oh, goodness me 1"
“ I don’t wonder yon turn pale, Mrs. Perkins—
it’s enough to make anybody turn! A minister,
too—a man that sets himself up fora moddle and
natron for the people 1”
“ But what can it mean ?” asked Mrs. Perkins.
‘ I’ll tell you,” said Miss Strickland, impres
sively, “ I’ve studied it all out ”
“ lie’s a counterfitting these ere United States
bonds 1” said the deacon—“ that’s what he’s
about 1 They say he’s got a sight of bonds over
to Spruceville bank: and I’ll bate ten dollars
they’re counterfit. I read about how that the
country was fludded with ’em ; and he’s a mak
ing of ’em—that’s what he’s about.”
“ No, deacon, you’re wrong,” said Miss Strick
land, positively. “He’s got a crazy wife shot
up in that back chamber !’ y
“Gudness gracious 1” cried Mrs. Perkins.
' Why, he’s got a wife to home.”
“That makes no difference in these days.
He’s a bigotist l You may depend on it that
he a got another wife besides poor Mrs. Howard ;
and she’s shot up out in that chamber 1 Don’t
on remember that when the Howards moved
lere they come in the night? Wall, they had a
reason for it 1 Kitty Malone, stop your giggling!
You’re blazy enough naturally; but when you
[le so, you’re as red as a poppy 1”
’ever mind, dear,” said Tom Chester,
I’ve noticed that Mrs. Howard’s eyes is
always red,” said Mr. Perkins.
‘I thought they were weak; that’s what she
told me,” said his wife.
“ Crying makes weak eyes," said Mrs. Sweet
ser ; “ ’tain’t likely she’d tell that it was crying,
though. She's got some pride, I reckon.”
Wall, what shall be done about it ?” asked
the deacon. “ Miss Strickland, what do you say?'
“ Jest what 1 have said from the first, deacon.
We will arm ourselves, and march in a body to
the house; burst open the door—rush up stairs,
and surprise him in his iniquity; for I’ve no
doubt but that he’s up there beating his poor
crazy wife; and that’s where the ‘olis!’ and
' aha t’ and * urns l’ come from.”
And then the outraged citizens of Spruceville
drew nearer together and laid their plans, and
concurred in Miss Strickland’s opinion. The
next evening was the time set apart for the con
founding and exposing of Parson Howard.
It came in due time—dark and wet. Miss
Strickland put on , her water-proof, armed her
self with a butcher-knife and a clothes-pole,
and set forth for the rendezvous, which was the
bit of cover just behind the Jenkins* house,
Deacon Pilgrove and Mr. Perkins were already
there, each carrying an old-fashioned rifle, anc
each feeling very weak in the knees. Soon after
Mrs. Sweetser, and Tim Jones, their hired man,
arrived—Mr. Sweetser refused to have anything
to do with the affair. Parson Howard was about
his own business, he said, and what that busi
ness was did not concern anybody.
A little further back in the woods, still as mice,
were Tom Chester, and two or three of his
chums, gathered to see the fun.
Presently Mr. Howard came out of his house
and walked rapidly to the old mansion. Un
locking the door he disappeared within, and soon
afterward the back chamber windows were
lighted up as usual; and just then the bell on the
factory rang out for nine.
“ Now is the time,” said Miss Strickland.
“ Come, you men folks, lead off.”
“Letthe deacon go first,” said Tim Jones;
“ he’s one of the officers of the church.”
“ Mr. Perkins you go ahead,” said the deacon,
in a faint voice. “ Pm rather nigh-sighted, and
can’t see the path so well.”
“ And I’m subject to turn of ffiintness,” mid
Mr. Perkins. “HI see anything
alters took swoonding. You go, d<
“I’ll lead off myself 1” mid Mi
brandishing the clothes-pole. *• HI am a woman)
I hain’t afeard of my shudder, as some people be.
Come on 1”
She put her shoulder against the door of the airs, sweetser s nestcneeses found its way t
old house, but it was such a rickety concern that parsonage larder before the week was out
she did not have to exert herself. It *- * ”
The back-room door was not fastened, and
Miss Strickland flung it wide open.
And what was the scene revealed ?
Why, there, in the center of the room, was
Parson Howard dressed in a pair of red-flannel
pantaloons, his chest bare, ana his feet likewise;
and the good man was making a desperate effort
to fling himself over a bar, stretched frcrm the
posts, about seven feet from the floor.
The women shrieked at sight of the parson’s
en deshabille, and the parson seized his coat and
flungit blushingly over his shoulders.
“ Why, brethren and sisters I” he exclaimed,
“ what means this unseasonable intrusion ?”
“Where is she?” cried Miss Strickland. •
‘ Where is your miserable victim ?”
“ I do not understand you, sister Strickland,”
said the parson, mildly.
“ There’s none so deaf as those who don’t want
to heart” exclaimed Miss Strickland, tartly.
“ Where is your wile ?”
"She’s at home, and in bed.”
Not that onel” returned Miss Strickland,
with dreadful emphasis. “Imean the poor,
crazy being that you keep shot up here, and
amuse yourself with beating every night till the
whole neighborhood can hear her scream, ‘ah l’
and ‘ oh!’ and ‘ um I’ ”
“ Deacon Pilgrove, please explain Miss Strick
land’s meaning,” said the parson.
“ Ahem 1 hem!’’ said the deacon, clearing his
throat, and evidently not knowing where to begin.
“ You see, sir, we’ve noticed these lights here o’
nights in the winders, and seen you come in here
night after night.”
“ But how in the world did you happen to see
the lights, deacon ? I selected the back chamber
because it looked out on Cedar Lennap, where
no one would be likely to notice the light, or be
disturbed by it.”
“ I saw it from the garret winder first," said
Miss Strickland. “ I was up there to get some
arbs for Frank Grimly’s wife, that was sick with
the information of the stummak; and after that
I watched—yes, Parson Howard, I watched and
seed all of vour dreadful doings 1”
“ And now, if you’ve got a crazy wife, less git
a view of her,” said Mrs. Sweetser. “ I read in
a book once about a man by the name of Boches-
ter that kept his maryrade wife Bhot up in his
house, and set out to merry another woman; but
the Lord didn't let him be so wicked.”
“I have no one here but myself)” said the
“ Well, what upon earth are you doing here
at nights, after it’s time for decent folks to be
abed?” asked the deacon, impatiently. “It’s
dreadful works for h minister of the gospel.”
“ I know it is wrong,” replied the parson,
meekly. “ It is my weakness—my sin, if you
choose to call it so. We all have these secret
sins, you know?”
“ I dont 1” said Miss Strickland, emphatically..
“ And now, brethren and sisters, I have a con
fession to make.” He wiped his forehead, and
pulled his coat closer around him. “ My sin
“ Bigotry 1” ejaculated Miss Strickland.
“ The Lord forbid 1” said the minister, de
“ Wall, what is your sin, then ?” asked Mrs.
Smoking 1 I am an inveterate smoker, and
my. wife detests the smell of the weed. She
i go, deacon.”
lid Miss Strickland,
objects to my Bmoking at the parsonage because
it fouls the curtains. The doctor has ordered
me to practice gymnastics every day to keep up
my strength, and I told Charlotte I would have
the things put up out here; and here I come
every night for an hour to exercise and smoke 1”
'“ But, dear me, Parson Howard 1” said Mrs.
Sweetser, “ where did all the * ahs 1’ and • ohs t
and * urns 1’ and the groans come from ?”
“ Just try and swing yourself over that bar,
sister Sweetser, and come down on your head,
as I have done many a time, and you will believe
me when I tell you, I made the noise myself.
And now, ladies, if you will have the goodness
to take leave, I will dress myself and go home.”
There was a stampede down the stairs; a wild
whoop from Tom Chester and the other boys,
who had listened on the landing—and the dis
comfited gossips sought their several homes.
The next day, Miss Strickland left Sprnceville
to visit an imaginary aunt a hundred miles off,
and did not return in a burry. She conld not
endure the jokes of which she was wise enough
to know she would be made the butt.
And Parson Howard still