by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman
Close to the village street stood the one-story house in which Luella
Miller, who had an evil name in the village, had dwelt. She had been
dead for years, yet there were those in the village who, in spite of
the clearer light which comes on a vantage-point from a long-past
danger, half believed in the tale which they had heard from their
childhood. In their hearts, although they scarcely would have owned
it, was a survival of the wild horror and frenzied fear of their
ancestors who had dwelt in the same age with Luella Miller. Young
people even would stare with a shudder at the old house as they passed,
and children never played around it as was their wont around an
untenanted building. Not a window in the old Miller house was broken:
the panes reflected the morning sunlight in patches of emerald and
blue, and the latch of the sagging front door was never lifted,
although no bolt secured it. Since Luella Miller had been carried out
of it, the house had had no tenant except one friendless old soul who
had no choice between that and the far-off shelter of the open sky.
This old woman, who had survived her kindred and friends, lived in the
house one week, then one morning no smoke came out of the chimney, and
a body of neighbours, a score strong, entered and found her dead in her
bed. There were dark whispers as to the cause of her death, and there
were those who testified to an expression of fear so exalted that it
showed forth the state of the departing soul upon the dead face. The
old woman had been hale and hearty when she entered the house, and in
seven days she was dead; it seemed that she had fallen a victim to some
uncanny power. The minister talked in the pulpit with covert severity
against the sin of superstition; still the belief prevailed. Not a
soul in the village but would have chosen the almshouse rather than
that dwelling. No vagrant, if he heard the tale, would seek shelter
beneath that old roof, unhallowed by nearly half a century of
There was only one person in the village who had actually known Luella
Miller. That person was a woman well over eighty, but a marvel of
vitality and unextinct youth. Straight as an arrow, with the spring of
one recently let loose from the bow of life, she moved about the
streets, and she always went to church, rain or shine. She had never
married, and had lived alone for years in a house across the road from
This woman had none of the garrulousness of age, but never in all her
life had she ever held her tongue for any will save her own, and she
never spared the truth when she essayed to present it. She it was who
bore testimony to the life, evil, though possibly wittingly or
designedly so, of Luella Miller, and to her personal appearance. When
this old woman spoke—and she had the gift of description, although her
thoughts were clothed in the rude vernacular of her native village—one
could seem to see Luella Miller as she had really looked. According to
this woman, Lydia Anderson by name, Luella Miller had been a beauty of
a type rather unusual in New England. She had been a slight, pliant
sort of creature, as ready with a strong yielding to fate and as
unbreakable as a willow. She had glimmering lengths of straight, fair
hair, which she wore softly looped round a long, lovely face. She had
blue eyes full of soft pleading, little slender, clinging hands, and a
wonderful grace of motion and attitude.
"Luella Miller used to sit in a way nobody else could if they sat up
and studied a week of Sundays," said Lydia Anderson, "and it was a
sight to see her walk. If one of them willows over there on the edge
of the brook could start up and get its roots free of the ground, and
move off, it would go just the way Luella Miller used to. She had a
green shot silk she used to wear, too, and a hat with green ribbon
streamers, and a lace veil blowing across her face and out sideways,
and a green ribbon flyin' from her waist. That was what she came out
bride in when she married Erastus Miller. Her name before she was
married was Hill. There was always a sight of "l's" in her name,
married or single. Erastus Miller was good lookin', too, better
lookin' than Luella. Sometimes I used to think that Luella wa'n't so
handsome after all. Erastus just about worshiped her. I used to know
him pretty well. He lived next door to me, and we went to school
together. Folks used to say he was waitin' on me, but he wa'n't. I
never thought he was except once or twice when he said things that some
girls might have suspected meant somethin'. That was before Luella
came here to teach the district school. It was funny how she came to
get it, for folks said she hadn't any education, and that one of the
big girls, Lottie Henderson, used to do all the teachin' for her, while
she sat back and did embroidery work on a cambric pocket-handkerchief.
Lottie Henderson was a real smart girl, a splendid scholar, and she
just set her eyes by Luella, as all the girls did. Lottie would have
made a real smart woman, but she died when Luella had been here about a
year—just faded away and died: nobody knew what ailed her. She
dragged herself to that schoolhouse and helped Luella teach till the
very last minute. The committee all knew how Luella didn't do much of
the work herself, but they winked at it. It wa'n't long after Lottie
died that Erastus married her. I always thought he hurried it up
because she wa'n't fit to teach. One of the big boys used to help her
after Lottie died, but he hadn't much government, and the school didn't
do very well, and Luella might have had to give it up, for the
committee couldn't have shut their eyes to things much longer. The boy
that helped her was a real honest, innocent sort of fellow, and he was
a good scholar, too. Folks said he overstudied, and that was the
reason he was took crazy the year after Luella married, but I don't
know. And I don't know what made Erastus Miller go into consumption of
the blood the year after he was married: consumption wa'n't in his
family. He just grew weaker and weaker, and went almost bent double
when he tried to wait on Luella, and he spoke feeble, like an old man.
He worked terrible hard till the last trying to save up a little to
leave Luella. I've seen him out in the worst storms on a wood-sled—he
used to cut and sell wood—and he was hunched up on top lookin' more
dead than alive. Once I couldn't stand it: I went over and helped him
pitch some wood on the cart—I was always strong in my arms. I
wouldn't stop for all he told me to, and I guess he was glad enough for
the help. That was only a week before he died. He fell on the kitchen
floor while he was gettin' breakfast. He always got the breakfast and
let Luella lay abed. He did all the sweepin' and the washin' and the
ironin' and most of the cookin'. He couldn't bear to have Luella lift
her finger, and she let him do for her. She lived like a queen for all
the work she did. She didn't even do her sewin'. She said it made her
shoulder ache to sew, and poor Erastus's sister Lily used to do all her
sewin'. She wa'n't able to, either; she was never strong in her back,
but she did it beautifully. She had to, to suit Luella, she was so
dreadful particular. I never saw anythin' like the fagottin' and
hemstitchin' that Lily Miller did for Luella. She made all Luella's
weddin' outfit, and that green silk dress, after Maria Babbit cut it.
Maria she cut it for nothin', and she did a lot more cuttin' and
fittin' for nothin' for Luella, too. Lily Miller went to live with
Luella after Erastus died. She gave up her home, though she was real
attached to it and wa'n't a mite afraid to stay alone. She rented it
and she went to live with Luella right away after the funeral."
Then this old woman, Lydia Anderson, who remembered Luella Miller,
would go on to relate the story of Lily Miller. It seemed that on the
removal of Lily Miller to the house of her dead brother, to live with
his widow, the village people first began to talk. This Lily Miller
had been hardly past her first youth, and a most robust and blooming
woman, rosy-cheeked, with curls of strong, black hair overshadowing
round, candid temples and bright dark eyes. It was not six months
after she had taken up her residence with her sister-in-law that her
rosy colour faded and her pretty curves became wan hollows. White
shadows began to show in the black rings of her hair, and the light
died out of her eyes, her features sharpened, and there were pathetic
lines at her mouth, which yet wore always an expression of utter
sweetness and even happiness. She was devoted to her sister; there was
no doubt that she loved her with her whole heart, and was perfectly
content in her service. It was her sole anxiety lest she should die and
leave her alone.
"The way Lily Miller used to talk about Luella was enough to make you
mad and enough to make you cry," said Lydia Anderson. "I've been in
there sometimes toward the last when she was too feeble to cook and
carried her some blanc-mange or custard—somethin' I thought she might
relish, and she'd thank me, and when I asked her how she was, say she
felt better than she did yesterday, and asked me if I didn't think she
looked better, dreadful pitiful, and say poor Luella had an awful time
takin' care of her and doin' the work—she wa'n't strong enough to do
anythin'—when all the time Luella wa'n't liftin' her finger and poor
Lily didn't get any care except what the neighbours gave her, and
Luella eat up everythin' that was carried in for Lily. I had it real
straight that she did. Luella used to just sit and cry and do nothin'.
She did act real fond of Lily, and she pined away considerable, too.
There was those that thought she'd go into a decline herself. But
after Lily died, her Aunt Abby Mixter came, and then Luella picked up
and grew as fat and rosy as ever. But poor Aunt Abby begun to droop
just the way Lily had, and I guess somebody wrote to her married
daughter, Mrs. Sam Abbot, who lived in Barre, for she wrote her mother
that she must leave right away and come and make her a visit, but Aunt
Abby wouldn't go. I can see her now. She was a real good-lookin'
woman, tall and large, with a big, square face and a high forehead that
looked of itself kind of benevolent and good. She just tended out on
Luella as if she had been a baby, and when her married daughter sent
for her she wouldn't stir one inch. She'd always thought a lot of her
daughter, too, but she said Luella needed her and her married daughter
didn't. Her daughter kept writin' and writin', but it didn't do any
good. Finally she came, and when she saw how bad her mother looked,
she broke down and cried and all but went on her knees to have her come
away. She spoke her mind out to Luella, too. She told her that she'd
killed her husband and everybody that had anythin' to do with her, and
she'd thank her to leave her mother alone. Luella went into hysterics,
and Aunt Abby was so frightened that she called me after her daughter
went. Mrs. Sam Abbot she went away fairly cryin' out loud in the
buggy, the neighbours heard her, and well she might, for she never saw
her mother again alive. I went in that night when Aunt Abby called for
me, standin' in the door with her little green-checked shawl over her
head. I can see her now. 'Do come over here, Miss Anderson,' she sung
out, kind of gasping for breath. I didn't stop for anythin'. I put
over as fast as I could, and when I got there, there was Luella
laughin' and cryin' all together, and Aunt Abby trying to hush her, and
all the time she herself was white as a sheet and shakin' so she could
hardly stand. 'For the land sakes, Mrs. Mixter,' says I, 'you look
worse than she does. You ain't fit to be up out of your bed.'
"'Oh, there ain't anythin' the matter with me,' says she. Then she
went on talkin' to Luella. 'There, there, don't, don't, poor little
lamb,' says she. 'Aunt Abby is here. She ain't goin' away and leave
you. Don't, poor little lamb.'
"'Do leave her with me, Mrs. Mixter, and you get back to bed,' says I,
for Aunt Abby had been layin' down considerable lately, though somehow
she contrived to do the work.
"'I'm well enough,' says she. 'Don't you think she had better have the
doctor, Miss Anderson?'
"'The doctor,' says I, 'I think YOU had better have the doctor. I
think you need him much worse than some folks I could mention.' And I
looked right straight at Luella Miller laughin' and cryin' and goin' on
as if she was the centre of all creation. All the time she was actin'
so—seemed as if she was too sick to sense anythin'—she was keepin' a
sharp lookout as to how we took it out of the corner of one eye. I see
her. You could never cheat me about Luella Miller. Finally I got real
mad and I run home and I got a bottle of valerian I had, and I poured
some boilin' hot water on a handful of catnip, and I mixed up that
catnip tea with most half a wineglass of valerian, and I went with it
over to Luella's. I marched right up to Luella, a-holdin' out of that
cup, all smokin'. 'Now,' says I, 'Luella Miller, 'YOU SWALLER THIS!'
"'What is—what is it, oh, what is it?' she sort of screeches out. Then
she goes off a-laughin' enough to kill.
"'Poor lamb, poor little lamb,' says Aunt Abby, standin' over her, all
kind of tottery, and tryin' to bathe her head with camphor.
"'YOU SWALLER THIS RIGHT DOWN,' says I. And I didn't waste any
ceremony. I just took hold of Luella Miller's chin and I tipped her
head back, and I caught her mouth open with laughin', and I clapped
that cup to her lips, and I fairly hollered at her: 'Swaller, swaller,
swaller!' and she gulped it right down. She had to, and I guess it did
her good. Anyhow, she stopped cryin' and laughin' and let me put her
to bed, and she went to sleep like a baby inside of half an hour. That
was more than poor Aunt Abby did. She lay awake all that night and I
stayed with her, though she tried not to have me; said she wa'n't sick
enough for watchers. But I stayed, and I made some good cornmeal gruel
and I fed her a teaspoon every little while all night long. It seemed
to me as if she was jest dyin' from bein' all wore out. In the mornin'
as soon as it was light I run over to the Bisbees and sent Johnny
Bisbee for the doctor. I told him to tell the doctor to hurry, and he
come pretty quick. Poor Aunt Abby didn't seem to know much of anythin'
when he got there. You couldn't hardly tell she breathed, she was so
used up. When the doctor had gone, Luella came into the room lookin'
like a baby in her ruffled nightgown. I can see her now. Her eyes
were as blue and her face all pink and white like a blossom, and she
looked at Aunt Abby in the bed sort of innocent and surprised. 'Why,'
says she, 'Aunt Abby ain't got up yet?'
"'No, she ain't,' says I, pretty short.
"'I thought I didn't smell the coffee,' says Luella.
"'Coffee,' says I. 'I guess if you have coffee this mornin' you'll
make it yourself.'
"'I never made the coffee in all my life,' says she, dreadful
astonished. 'Erastus always made the coffee as long as he lived, and
then Lily she made it, and then Aunt Abby made it. I don't believe I
CAN make the coffee, Miss Anderson.'
"'You can make it or go without, jest as you please,' says I.
"'Ain't Aunt Abby goin' to get up?' says she.
"'I guess she won't get up,' says I, 'sick as she is.' I was gettin'
madder and madder. There was somethin' about that little
pink-and-white thing standin' there and talkin' about coffee, when she
had killed so many better folks than she was, and had jest killed
another, that made me feel 'most as if I wished somebody would up and
kill her before she had a chance to do any more harm.
"'Is Aunt Abby sick?' says Luella, as if she was sort of aggrieved and
"'Yes,' says I, 'she's sick, and she's goin' to die, and then you'll be
left alone, and you'll have to do for yourself and wait on yourself, or
do without things.' I don't know but I was sort of hard, but it was
the truth, and if I was any harder than Luella Miller had been I'll
give up. I ain't never been sorry that I said it. Well, Luella, she
up and had hysterics again at that, and I jest let her have 'em. All I
did was to bundle her into the room on the other side of the entry
where Aunt Abby couldn't hear her, if she wa'n't past it—I don't know
but she was—and set her down hard in a chair and told her not to come
back into the other room, and she minded. She had her hysterics in
there till she got tired. When she found out that nobody was comin' to
coddle her and do for her she stopped. At least I suppose she did. I
had all I could do with poor Aunt Abby tryin' to keep the breath of
life in her. The doctor had told me that she was dreadful low, and
give me some very strong medicine to give to her in drops real often,
and told me real particular about the nourishment. Well, I did as he
told me real faithful till she wa'n't able to swaller any longer. Then
I had her daughter sent for. I had begun to realize that she wouldn't
last any time at all. I hadn't realized it before, though I spoke to
Luella the way I did. The doctor he came, and Mrs. Sam Abbot, but when
she got there it was too late; her mother was dead. Aunt Abby's
daughter just give one look at her mother layin' there, then she turned
sort of sharp and sudden and looked at me.
"'Where is she?' says she, and I knew she meant Luella.
"'She's out in the kitchen,' says I. 'She's too nervous to see folks
die. She's afraid it will make her sick.'
"The Doctor he speaks up then. He was a young man. Old Doctor Park
had died the year before, and this was a young fellow just out of
college. 'Mrs. Miller is not strong,' says he, kind of severe, 'and
she is quite right in not agitating herself.'
"'You are another, young man; she's got her pretty claw on you,' thinks
I, but I didn't say anythin' to him. I just said over to Mrs. Sam
Abbot that Luella was in the kitchen, and Mrs. Sam Abbot she went out
there, and I went, too, and I never heard anythin' like the way she
talked to Luella Miller. I felt pretty hard to Luella myself, but this
was more than I ever would have dared to say. Luella she was too
scared to go into hysterics. She jest flopped. She seemed to jest
shrink away to nothin' in that kitchen chair, with Mrs. Sam Abbot
standin' over her and talkin' and tellin' her the truth. I guess the
truth was most too much for her and no mistake, because Luella
presently actually did faint away, and there wa'n't any sham about it,
the way I always suspected there was about them hysterics. She fainted
dead away and we had to lay her flat on the floor, and the Doctor he
came runnin' out and he said somethin' about a weak heart dreadful
fierce to Mrs. Sam Abbot, but she wa'n't a mite scared. She faced him
jest as white as even Luella was layin' there lookin' like death and
the Doctor feelin' of her pulse.
"'Weak heart,' says she, 'weak heart; weak fiddlesticks! There ain't
nothin' weak about that woman. She's got strength enough to hang onto
other folks till she kills 'em. Weak? It was my poor mother that was
weak: this woman killed her as sure as if she had taken a knife to her.'
"But the Doctor he didn't pay much attention. He was bendin' over
Luella layin' there with her yellow hair all streamin' and her pretty
pink-and-white face all pale, and her blue eyes like stars gone out,
and he was holdin' onto her hand and smoothin' her forehead, and
tellin' me to get the brandy in Aunt Abby's room, and I was sure as I
wanted to be that Luella had got somebody else to hang onto, now Aunt
Abby was gone, and I thought of poor Erastus Miller, and I sort of
pitied the poor young Doctor, led away by a pretty face, and I made up
my mind I'd see what I could do.
"I waited till Aunt Abby had been dead and buried about a month, and
the Doctor was goin' to see Luella steady and folks were beginnin' to
talk; then one evenin', when I knew the Doctor had been called out of
town and wouldn't be round, I went over to Luella's. I found her all
dressed up in a blue muslin with white polka dots on it, and her hair
curled jest as pretty, and there wa'n't a young girl in the place could
compare with her. There was somethin' about Luella Miller seemed to
draw the heart right out of you, but she didn't draw it out of ME. She
was settin' rocking in the chair by her sittin'-room window, and Maria
Brown had gone home. Maria Brown had been in to help her, or rather to
do the work, for Luella wa'n't helped when she didn't do anythin'.
Maria Brown was real capable and she didn't have any ties; she wa'n't
married, and lived alone, so she'd offered. I couldn't see why she
should do the work any more than Luella; she wa'n't any too strong; but
she seemed to think she could and Luella seemed to think so, too, so
she went over and did all the work—washed, and ironed, and baked,
while Luella sat and rocked. Maria didn't live long afterward. She
began to fade away just the same fashion the others had. Well, she was
warned, but she acted real mad when folks said anythin': said Luella
was a poor, abused woman, too delicate to help herself, and they'd
ought to be ashamed, and if she died helpin' them that couldn't help
themselves she would—and she did.
"'I s'pose Maria has gone home,' says I to Luella, when I had gone in
and sat down opposite her.
"'Yes, Maria went half an hour ago, after she had got supper and washed
the dishes,' says Luella, in her pretty way.
"'I suppose she has got a lot of work to do in her own house to-night,'
says I, kind of bitter, but that was all thrown away on Luella Miller.
It seemed to her right that other folks that wa'n't any better able
than she was herself should wait on her, and she couldn't get it
through her head that anybody should think it WA'N'T right.
"'Yes,' says Luella, real sweet and pretty, 'yes, she said she had to
do her washin' to-night. She has let it go for a fortnight along of
comin' over here.'
"'Why don't she stay home and do her washin' instead of comin' over
here and doin' YOUR work, when you are just as well able, and enough
sight more so, than she is to do it?' says I.
"Then Luella she looked at me like a baby who has a rattle shook at it.
She sort of laughed as innocent as you please. 'Oh, I can't do the
work myself, Miss Anderson,' says she. 'I never did. Maria HAS to do
"Then I spoke out: 'Has to do it I' says I. 'Has to do it!' She don't
have to do it, either. Maria Brown has her own home and enough to live
on. She ain't beholden to you to come over here and slave for you and
"Luella she jest set and stared at me for all the world like a
doll-baby that was so abused that it was comin' to life.
"'Yes,' says I, 'she's killin' herself. She's goin' to die just the
way Erastus did, and Lily, and your Aunt Abby. You're killin' her jest
as you did them. I don't know what there is about you, but you seem to
bring a curse,' says I. 'You kill everybody that is fool enough to
care anythin' about you and do for you.'
"She stared at me and she was pretty pale.
"'And Maria ain't the only one you're goin' to kill,' says I. 'You're
goin' to kill Doctor Malcom before you're done with him.'
"Then a red colour came flamin' all over her face. 'I ain't goin' to
kill him, either,' says she, and she begun to cry.
"'Yes, you BE!' says I. Then I spoke as I had never spoke before. You
see, I felt it on account of Erastus. I told her that she hadn't any
business to think of another man after she'd been married to one that
had died for her: that she was a dreadful woman; and she was, that's
true enough, but sometimes I have wondered lately if she knew it—if
she wa'n't like a baby with scissors in its hand cuttin' everybody
without knowin' what it was doin'.
"Luella she kept gettin' paler and paler, and she never took her eyes
off my face. There was somethin' awful about the way she looked at me
and never spoke one word. After awhile I quit talkin' and I went home.
I watched that night, but her lamp went out before nine o'clock, and
when Doctor Malcom came drivin' past and sort of slowed up he see there
wa'n't any light and he drove along. I saw her sort of shy out of
meetin' the next Sunday, too, so he shouldn't go home with her, and I
begun to think mebbe she did have some conscience after all. It was
only a week after that that Maria Brown died—sort of sudden at the
last, though everybody had seen it was comin'. Well, then there was a
good deal of feelin' and pretty dark whispers. Folks said the days of
witchcraft had come again, and they were pretty shy of Luella. She
acted sort of offish to the Doctor and he didn't go there, and there
wa'n't anybody to do anythin' for her. I don't know how she DID get
along. I wouldn't go in there and offer to help her—not because I was
afraid of dyin' like the rest, but I thought she was just as well able
to do her own work as I was to do it for her, and I thought it was
about time that she did it and stopped killin' other folks. But it
wa'n't very long before folks began to say that Luella herself was
goin' into a decline jest the way her husband, and Lily, and Aunt Abby
and the others had, and I saw myself that she looked pretty bad. I
used to see her goin' past from the store with a bundle as if she could
hardly crawl, but I remembered how Erastus used to wait and 'tend when
he couldn't hardly put one foot before the other, and I didn't go out
to help her.
"But at last one afternoon I saw the Doctor come drivin' up like mad
with his medicine chest, and Mrs. Babbit came in after supper and said
that Luella was real sick.
"'I'd offer to go in and nurse her,' says she, 'but I've got my
children to consider, and mebbe it ain't true what they say, but it's
queer how many folks that have done for her have died.'
"I didn't say anythin', but I considered how she had been Erastus's
wife and how he had set his eyes by her, and I made up my mind to go in
the next mornin', unless she was better, and see what I could do; but
the next mornin' I see her at the window, and pretty soon she came
steppin' out as spry as you please, and a little while afterward Mrs.
Babbit came in and told me that the Doctor had got a girl from out of
town, a Sarah Jones, to come there, and she said she was pretty sure
that the Doctor was goin' to marry Luella.
"I saw him kiss her in the door that night myself, and I knew it was
true. The woman came that afternoon, and the way she flew around was a
caution. I don't believe Luella had swept since Maria died. She swept
and dusted, and washed and ironed; wet clothes and dusters and carpets
were flyin' over there all day, and every time Luella set her foot out
when the Doctor wa'n't there there was that Sarah Jones helpin' of her
up and down the steps, as if she hadn't learned to walk.
"Well, everybody knew that Luella and the Doctor were goin' to be
married, but it wa'n't long before they began to talk about his lookin'
so poorly, jest as they had about the others; and they talked about
Sarah Jones, too.
"Well, the Doctor did die, and he wanted to be married first, so as to
leave what little he had to Luella, but he died before the minister
could get there, and Sarah Jones died a week afterward.
"Well, that wound up everything for Luella Miller. Not another soul in
the whole town would lift a finger for her. There got to be a sort of
panic. Then she began to droop in good earnest. She used to have to
go to the store herself, for Mrs. Babbit was afraid to let Tommy go for
her, and I've seen her goin' past and stoppin' every two or three steps
to rest. Well, I stood it as long as I could, but one day I see her
comin' with her arms full and stoppin' to lean against the Babbit
fence, and I run out and took her bundles and carried them to her
house. Then I went home and never spoke one word to her though she
called after me dreadful kind of pitiful. Well, that night I was taken
sick with a chill, and I was sick as I wanted to be for two weeks.
Mrs. Babbit had seen me run out to help Luella and she came in and told
me I was goin' to die on account of it. I didn't know whether I was or
not, but I considered I had done right by Erastus's wife.
"That last two weeks Luella she had a dreadful hard time, I guess. She
was pretty sick, and as near as I could make out nobody dared go near
her. I don't know as she was really needin' anythin' very much, for
there was enough to eat in her house and it was warm weather, and she
made out to cook a little flour gruel every day, I know, but I guess
she had a hard time, she that had been so petted and done for all her
"When I got so I could go out, I went over there one morning. Mrs.
Babbit had just come in to say she hadn't seen any smoke and she didn't
know but it was somebody's duty to go in, but she couldn't help
thinkin' of her children, and I got right up, though I hadn't been out
of the house for two weeks, and I went in there, and Luella she was
layin' on the bed, and she was dyin'.
"She lasted all that day and into the night. But I sat there after the
new doctor had gone away. Nobody else dared to go there. It was about
midnight that I left her for a minute to run home and get some medicine
I had been takin', for I begun to feel rather bad.
"It was a full moon that night, and just as I started out of my door to
cross the street back to Luella's, I stopped short, for I saw
Lydia Anderson at this juncture always said with a certain defiance
that she did not expect to be believed, and then proceeded in a hushed
"I saw what I saw, and I know I saw it, and I will swear on my death
bed that I saw it. I saw Luella Miller and Erastus Miller, and Lily,
and Aunt Abby, and Maria, and the Doctor, and Sarah, all goin' out of
her door, and all but Luella shone white in the moonlight, and they
were all helpin' her along till she seemed to fairly fly in the midst
of them. Then it all disappeared. I stood a minute with my heart
poundin', then I went over there. I thought of goin' for Mrs. Babbit,
but I thought she'd be afraid. So I went alone, though I knew what had
happened. Luella was layin' real peaceful, dead on her bed."
This was the story that the old woman, Lydia Anderson, told, but the
sequel was told by the people who survived her, and this is the tale
which has become folklore in the village.
Lydia Anderson died when she was eighty-seven. She had continued
wonderfully hale and hearty for one of her years until about two weeks
before her death.
One bright moonlight evening she was sitting beside a window in her
parlour when she made a sudden exclamation, and was out of the house
and across the street before the neighbour who was taking care of her
could stop her. She followed as fast as possible and found Lydia
Anderson stretched on the ground before the door of Luella Miller's
deserted house, and she was quite dead.
The next night there was a red gleam of fire athwart the moonlight and
the old house of Luella Miller was burned to the ground. Nothing is now
left of it except a few old cellar stones and a lilac bush, and in
summer a helpless trail of morning glories among the weeds, which might
be considered emblematic of Luella herself.