My Unwilling Neighbor by Frank Stockton
I was about twenty-five years old when I began life as the owner of a
vineyard in western Virginia. I bought a large tract of land, the
greater part of which lay upon the sloping side of one of the
foot-hills of the Blue Ridge, the exposure being that most favorable to
the growth of the vine. I am an enthusiastic lover of the country and
of country life, and believed that I should derive more pleasure as
well as profit from the culture of my far-stretching vineyard than I
would from ordinary farm operations.
I built myself a good house of moderate size upon a little plateau on
the higher part of my estate. Sitting in my porch, smoking my pipe
after the labors of the day, I could look down over my vineyard into a
beautiful valley, with here and there a little curling smoke arising
from some of the few dwellings which were scattered about among the
groves and spreading fields, and above this beauty I could imagine all
my hillside clothed in green and purple.
My family consisted of myself alone. It is true that I expected some
day that there would be others in my house besides myself, but I was
not ready for this yet.
During the summer I found it very pleasant to live by myself. It was a
novelty, and I could arrange and manage everything in my own fashion,
which was a pleasure I had not enjoyed when I lived in my father's
house. But when winter came I found it very lonely. Even my servants
lived in a cabin at some little distance, and there were many dark and
stormy evenings when the company even of a bore would have been welcome
to me. Sometimes I walked over to the town and visited my friends
there, but this was not feasible on stormy nights, and the winter
seemed to me a very long one.
But spring came, outdoor operations began, and for a few weeks I felt
again that I was all-sufficient for my own pleasure and comfort. Then
came a change. One of those seasons of bad and stormy weather which so
frequently follow an early spring settled down upon my spirits and my
hillside. It rained, it was cold, fierce winds blew, and I became more
anxious for somebody to talk to than I had been at any time during the
One night, when a very bad storm was raging, I went to bed early, and
as I lay awake I revolved in my mind a scheme of which I had frequently
thought before. I would build a neat little house on my grounds, not
very far away from my house, but not too near, and I would ask Jack
Brandiger to come there and live. Jack was a friend of mine who was
reading law in the town, and it seemed to me that it would be much more
pleasant, and even more profitable, to read law on a pretty hillside
overlooking a charming valley, with woods and mountains behind and
above him, where he could ramble to his heart's content.
I had thought of asking Jack to come and live with me, but this idea I
soon dismissed. I am a very particular person, and Jack was not. He
left his pipes about in all sorts of places—sometimes when they were
still lighted. When he came to see me he was quite as likely to put
his hat over the inkstand as to put it anywhere else. But if Jack
lived at a little distance, and we could go backward and forward to see
each other whenever we pleased, that would be quite another thing. He
could do as he pleased in his own house, and I could do as I pleased in
mine, and we might have many pleasant evenings together. This was a
cheering idea, and I was planning how we might arrange with the negro
woman who managed my household affairs to attend also to those of Jack
when I fell asleep.
I did not sleep long before I was awakened by the increased violence of
the storm. My house shook with the fury of the wind.
The rain seemed to be pouring on its roof and northern side as if there
were a waterfall above us, and every now and then I could hear a shower
of hailstones rattling against the shutters. My bedroom was one of the
rooms on the lower floor, and even there I could hear the pounding of
the deluge and the hailstones upon the roof.
All this was very doleful, and had a tendency to depress the spirits of
a man awake and alone in a good-sized house. But I shook off this
depression. It was, not agreeable to be up here by myself in such a
terrible storm, but there was nothing to be afraid of, as my house was
new and very strongly built, being constructed of logs, weather-boarded
outside and ceiled within. It would require a hurricane to blow off
the roof, and I believed my shutters to be hail-proof. So, as there
was no reason to stay awake, I turned over and went to sleep.
I do not know how long it was before I was awakened again, this time
not by the noise of the storm, but by a curious movement of my
bedstead. I had once felt the slight shock of an earthquake, and it
seemed to me that this must be something of the kind. Certainly my bed
moved under me. I sat up. The room was pitchy dark. In a moment I
felt another movement, but this time it did not seem to me to resemble
an earthquake shock. Such motion, I think, is generally in horizontal
directions, while that which I felt was more like the movement of a
ship upon the water. The storm was at its height; the wind raged and
roared, and the rain seemed to be pouring down as heavily as ever.
I was about to get up and light the lamp, for even the faintest
candle-flame would be some sort of company at such a grewsome moment,
when my bedstead gave another movement, more shiplike than before. It
actually lurched forward as if it were descending into the trough of
the sea, but, unlike a ship, it did not rise again, but remained in
such a slanting position that I began to slide down toward the foot. I
believe that if it had not been a bedstead provided with a footboard, I
should have slipped out upon the floor.
I did not jump out of bed. I did not do anything. I was trying to
think, to understand the situation, to find out whether I was asleep or
awake, when I became aware of noises in the room and all over the house
which even through the din of the storm made themselves noticed by
their peculiarity. Tables, everything in the room, seemed to be
grating and grinding on the floor, and in a moment there was a crash.
I knew what that meant; my lamp had slipped off the table. Any doubt
on that point would have been dispelled by the smell of kerosene which
soon filled the air of the room.
The motion of the bed, which I now believe must have been the motion of
the whole house, still continued; but the grating noises in the room
gradually ceased, from which I inferred that the furniture had brought
up against the front wall of the room.
It now was impossible for me to get up and strike a light, for to do so
with kerosene oil all over the floor and its vapor diffused through the
room would probably result in setting the house on fire. So I must
stay in darkness and wait. I do not think I was very much
frightened—I was so astonished that there was no room in my mind for
fear. In fact, all my mental energies were occupied in trying to find
out what had happened. It required, however, only a few more minutes
of reflection, and a few more minutes of the grating, bumping,
trembling of my house, to enable me to make up my mind what was
happening. My house was sliding downhill!
The wind must have blown the building from its foundations, and upon
the slippery surface of the hillside, probably lashed into liquid mud
by the pouring rain, it was making its way down toward the valley! In
a flash my mind's eye ran over the whole surface of the country beneath
me as far as I knew it. I was almost positive that there was no
precipice, no terrible chasm into which my house might fall. There was
nothing but sloping hillside, and beneath that a wide stretch of fields.
Now there was a new and sudden noise of heavy objects falling upon the
roof, and I knew what that meant: my chimney had been wrenched from its
foundations, and the upper part of it had now toppled over. I could
hear, through the storm, the bricks banging and sliding upon the
slanting roof. Continuous sounds of cracking and snapping came to me
through the closed front windows, and these were caused, I supposed, by
the destruction of the stakes of my vines as the heavy house moved over
Of course, when I thoroughly understood the state of the case, my first
impulse was to spring out of bed, and, as quickly as possible, to get
out of that thumping and sliding house. But I restrained myself. The
floor might be covered with broken glass, I might not be able to find
my clothes in the darkness and in the jumble of furniture at the end of
the room, and even if I could dress myself, it would be folly to jump
out in the midst of that raging storm into a probable mass of wreckage
which I could not see. It would be far better to remain dry and warm
under my roof. There was no reason whatever to suppose that the house
would go to pieces, or that it would turn over. It must stop some time
or other, and, until it did so, I would be safer in my bed than
anywhere else. Therefore in my bed I stayed.
Sitting upright, with my feet pressed against the footboard, I listened
and felt. The noises of the storm, and the cracking and the snapping
and grinding before me and under me, still continued, although I
sometimes thought that the wind was moderating a little, and that the
strange motion was becoming more regular. I believed the house was
moving faster than when it first began its strange career, but that it
was sliding over a smooth surface. Now I noticed a succession of loud
cracks and snaps at the front of the house, and, from the character of
the sounds, I concluded that my little front porch, which had been
acting as a cutwater at the bow of my shiplike house, had yielded at
last to the rough contact with the ground, and would probably soon be
torn away. This did not disturb me, for the house must still be firm.
It was not long before I perceived that the slanting of my bed was
becoming less and less, and also I was quite sure that the house was
moving more slowly. Then the crackings and snappings before my front
wall ceased altogether. The bed resumed its ordinary horizontal
position, and although I did not know at what moment the house had
ceased sliding and had come to a standstill, I was sure that it had
done so. It was now resting upon a level surface. The room was still
perfectly dark, and the storm continued. It was useless for me to get
up until daylight came,—I could not see what had happened,—so I lay
back upon my pillow and tried to imagine upon what level portion of my
farm I had stranded. While doing this I fell asleep.
When I woke, a little light was stealing into the room through the
blinds of my shutters. I quickly slipped out of bed, opened a window,
and looked out. Day was just breaking, the rain and wind had ceased,
and I could discern objects. But it seemed as if I needed some light
in my brain to enable me to comprehend what I saw. My eyes fell upon
I did not stop to investigate, however, from my window. I found my
clothes huddled together with the furniture at the front end of the
room, and as soon as I was dressed I went into the hall and then to my
front door. I quickly jerked this open and was about to step outside
when, suddenly, I stopped. I was positive that my front porch had been
destroyed. But there I saw a porch a little lower than mine and a
great deal wider, and on the other side of it, not more than eight feet
from me, was a window—the window of a house, and on the other side of
the window was a face—the face of a young girl! As I stood staring in
blank amazement at the house which presented itself at my front door,
the face at the window disappeared, and I was left to contemplate the
scene by myself. I ran to my back door and threw it open. There I
saw, stretching up the fields and far up the hillside, the wide path
which my house had made as it came down from its elevated position to
the valley beneath, where it had ended its onward career by stopping up
against another house. As I looked from the back porch I saw that the
ground still continued to slope, so that if my house had not found in
its path another building, it would probably have proceeded somewhat
farther on its course. It was lighter, and I saw bushes and fences and
outbuildings—I was in a back yard.
Almost breathless with amazement and consternation, I ran again to the
front door. When I reached it I found a young woman standing on the
porch of the house before me. I was about to say something—I know not
what—when she put her finger on her lips and stepped forward.
"Please don't speak loudly," she said. "I am afraid it will frighten
mother. She is asleep yet. I suppose you and your house have been
"That is what has happened," said I. "But I cannot understand it. It
seems to me the most amazing thing that ever took place on the face of
"It is very queer," said she, "but hurricanes do blow away houses, and
that must have been a hurricane we had last night, for the wind was
strong enough to loosen any house. I have often wondered if that house
would ever slide downhill."
"Yes," she said. "Soon after it was built I began to think what a nice
clean sweep it could make from the place where it seemed to be stuck to
the side of the mountain, right down here into the valley."
I could not talk with a girl like this; at least, I could not meet her
on her own conversational grounds. I was so agitated myself that it
seemed unnatural that any one to whom I should speak should not also be
"Who are you?" I asked rather brusquely. "At least, to whom does this
"This is my mother's house," said she. "My mother is Mrs. Carson. We
happen just now to be living here by ourselves, so I cannot call on any
man to help you do anything. My brother has always lived with us, but
last week he went away."
"You don't seem to be a bit astonished at what has happened," said I.
She was rather a pretty girl, of a cheerful disposition, I should say,
for several times she had smiled as she spoke.
"Oh, I am astonished," she answered; "or, at least, I was. But I have
had time enough to get over some of it. It was at least an hour ago
when I was awakened by hearing something crack in the yard. I went to
a window and looked out, and could just barely see that something like
a big building had grown up during the night. Then I watched it, and
watched it, until I made out it was a whole house; and after that it
was not long before I guessed what had happened. It seemed a simpler
thing to me, you know, than it did to you, because I had often thought
about it, and probably you never had."
"You are right there," said I, earnestly. "It would have been
impossible for me to imagine such a thing."
"At first I thought there was nobody in the house," said she, "but when
I heard some one moving about, I came down to tell whoever had arrived
not to make a noise. I see," she added, with another of her smiles,
"that you think I am a very strange person not to be more flurried by
what has happened. But really I cannot think of anything else just
now, except what mother will say and do when she comes down and finds
you and your house here at the back door. I am very sure she will not
"Like it!" I exclaimed. "Who on earth could like it?"
"Please speak more gently," she said. "Mother is always a little
irritable when her night's rest has been broken, and I would not like
to have her wakened up suddenly now. But really, Mr. Warren, I haven't
the least idea in the world how she will take this thing. I must go in
and be with her when she wakes, so that I can explain just what has
"One moment," I said. "You know my name."
"Of course I know your name," she answered. "Could that house be up
there on the hillside for more than a year without my knowing who lived
in it?" With this she went indoors.
I could not help smiling when I thought of the young lady regretting
that there was no man in the house who might help me do something.
What could anybody do in a case like this? I turned and went into my
house. I entered the various rooms on the lower floor, and saw no
signs of any particular damage, except that everything movable in each
room was jumbled together against the front wall. But when I looked
out of the back door I found that the porch there was a good deal
wrecked, which I had not noticed before.
I went up-stairs, and found everything very much as it was below.
Nothing seemed to have been injured except the chimney and the porches.
I thanked my stars that I had used hard wood instead of mortar for the
ceilings of my rooms.
I was about to go into my bedroom, when I heard a woman scream, and of
course I hurried to the front. There on the back porch of her house
stood Mrs. Carson. She was a woman of middle age, and, as I glanced at
her, I saw where her daughter got her good looks. But the placidity
and cheerfulness of the younger face were entirely wanting in the
mother. Her eyes sparkled, her cheeks were red, her mouth was partly
opened, and it seemed to me that I could almost see that her breath was
"Is this your house?" she cried, the moment her eyes fell upon me.
"And what is it doing here?" I did not immediately answer, I looked at
the angry woman, and behind her I saw, through the open door, the
daughter crossing the hallway. It was plain that she had decided to
let me have it out with her mother without interference. As briefly
and as clearly as I could, I explained what had happened.
"What is all that to me?" she screamed. "It doesn't matter to me how
your house got here. There have been storms ever since the beginning
of the world, and I never heard of any of them taking a house into a
person's back yard. You ought not to have built your house where any
such thing could happen. But all this is nothing to me. I don't
understand now how your house did get here, and I don't want to
understand it. All I want is for you to take it away."
"I will do that, madam, just as soon as I can. You may be very sure I
will do that. But—"
"Can you do it now?" she asked. "Can you do it to-day? I don't want a
minute lost. I have not been outside to see what damage has been done,
but the first thing to do is to take your house away."
"I am going to the town now, madam, to summon assistance."
Mrs. Carson made no answer, but she turned and walked to the end of her
porch. There she suddenly gave a scream which quickly brought her
daughter from the house. "Kitty! Kitty!" cried her mother. "Do you
know what he has done? He has gone right over my round flower-garden.
His house is sitting on it this minute!"
"But he could not help it, mother," said Kitty.
"Help it!" exclaimed Mrs. Carson. "I didn't expect him to help it.
What I want—" Suddenly she stopped. Her eyes flashed brighter, her
mouth opened wider, and she became more and more excited as she noticed
the absence of the sheds, fences, or vegetable-beds which had found
themselves in the course of my all-destroying dwelling.
It was now well on in the morning, and some of the neighbors had become
aware of the strange disaster which had happened to me, although if
they had heard the news from Mrs. Carson they might have supposed that
it was a disaster which had happened only to her. As they gazed at the
two houses so closely jammed together, all of them wondered, some of
them even laughed, but not one offered a suggestion which afforded
satisfaction to Mrs. Carson or myself. The general opinion was that,
now my house was there, it would have to stay there, for there were not
enough horses in the State to pull it back up that mountainside. To be
sure, it might possibly be drawn off sidewise. But whether it was
moved one way or the other, a lot of Mrs. Carson's trees would have to
be cut down to let it pass.
"Which shall never happen!" cried that good lady. "If nothing else can
be done, it must be taken apart and hauled off in carts. But no matter
how it is managed, it must be moved, and that immediately." Miss
Carson now prevailed upon her mother to go into the house, and I stayed
and talked to the men and a few women who had gathered outside.
When they had said all they had to say, and seen all there was to see,
these people went home to their breakfasts. I entered my house, but
not by the front door, for to do that I would have been obliged to
trespass upon Mrs. Carson's back porch. I got my hat, and was about to
start for the town, when I heard my name called. Turning into the
hall, I saw Miss Carson, who was standing at my front door.
"Mr. Warren," said she, "you haven't any way of getting breakfast, have
"Oh, no," said I. "My servants are up there in their cabin, and I
suppose they are too much scared to come down. But I am going to town
to see what can be done about my house, and will get my breakfast
"It's a long way to go without anything to eat," she said, "and we can
give you some breakfast. But I want to ask you something. I am in a
good deal of perplexity. Our two servants are out at the front of the
house, but they positively refuse to come in; they are afraid that your
house may begin sliding again and crush them all, so, I shall have to
get breakfast. But what bothers me is trying to find our well. I have
been outside, and can see no signs of it."
"Where was your well?" I gasped.
"It ought to be somewhere near the back of your house," she said. "May
I go through your hall and look out?"
"Of course you may," I cried, and I preceded her to my back door.
"Now, it seems to me," she said, after surveying the scene of
desolation immediately before, and looking from side to side toward
objects which had remained untouched, "that your house has passed
directly over our well, and must have carried away the little shed and
the pump and everything above ground. I should not wonder a bit," she
continued slowly, "if it is under your porch."
I jumped to the ground, for the steps were shattered, and began to
search for the well, and it was not long before I discovered its round
dark opening, which was, as Miss Carson had imagined, under one end of
"What can we do?" she asked. "We can't have breakfast or get along at
all without water." It was a terribly depressing thing to me to think
that I, or rather my house, had given these people so much trouble.
But I speedily, assured Miss Carson that if she could find a bucket and
a rope which I could lower into the well, I would provide her with
She went into her house to see what she could find, and I tore away the
broken planks of the porch, so that I could get to the well. And then,
when she came with a tin pail and a clothes-line, I went to work to
haul up water and carry it to her back door.
"I don't want mother to find out what has happened to the well," she
said, "for she has enough on her mind already."
Mrs. Carson was a woman with some good points in her character. After
a time she called to me herself, and told me to come in to breakfast.
But during the meal she talked very earnestly to me about the amazing
trespass I had committed, and about the means which should be taken to
repair the damages my house had done to her property. I was as
optimistic as I could be, and the young lady spoke very cheerfully and
hopefully about the affair, so that we were beginning to get along
somewhat pleasantly, when, suddenly, Mrs. Carson sprang to her feet.
"Heavens and earth!" she cried, "this house is moving!"
She was not mistaken. I had felt beneath my feet a sudden sharp
shock—not severe, but unmistakable. I remembered that both houses
stood upon slightly sloping ground. My blood turned cold, my heart
stood still; even Miss Carson was pale.
When we had rushed out of doors to see what had happened, or what was
going to happen, I soon found that we had been needlessly frightened.
Some of the broken timbers on which my house had been partially resting
had given way, and the front part of the building had slightly
descended, jarring as it did so the other house against which it
rested. I endeavored to prove to Mrs. Carson that the result was
encouraging rather than otherwise, for my house was now more firmly
settled than it had been. But she did not value the opinion of a man
who did not know enough to put his house in a place where it would be
likely to stay, and she could eat no more breakfast, and was even
afraid to stay under her own roof until experienced mechanics had been
summoned to look into the state of affairs.
I hurried away to the town, and it was not long before several
carpenters and masons were on the spot. After a thorough examination,
they assured Mrs. Carson that there was no danger, that my house would
do no farther damage to her premises, but, to make things certain, they
would bring some heavy beams and brace the front of my house against
her cellar wall. When that should be done it would be impossible for
it to move any farther.
"But I don't want it braced!" cried Mrs. Carson. "I want it taken
away. I want it out of my back yard!"
The master carpenter was a man of imagination and expedients. "That is
quite another thing, ma'am," said he. "We'll fix this gentleman's
house so that you needn't be afraid of it, and then, when the time
comes to move it, there's several ways of doing that. We might rig up
a powerful windlass at the top of the hill, and perhaps get a
steam-engine to turn it, and we could fasten cables to the house and
haul her back to where she belongs."
"And can you take your oaths," cried Mrs. Carson, "that those ropes
won't break, and when that house gets half-way up the hill it won't
come sliding down ten times faster than it did, and crash into me and
mine and everything I own on earth? No, sir! I'll have no house
hauled up a hill back of me!"
"Of course," said the carpenter, "it would be a great deal easier to
move it on this ground, which is almost level—"
"And cut down my trees to do it! No, sir!"
"Well, then," said he, "there is no way to do but to take it apart and
haul it off."
"Which would make an awful time at the back of my house while you were
doing it!" exclaimed Mrs. Carson.
I now put in a word. "There's only one thing to do that I can see!" I
exclaimed. "I will sell it to a match factory. It is almost all wood,
and it can be cut up in sections about two inches thick, and then split
Kitty smiled. "I should like to see them," she said, "taking away the
little sticks in wheelbarrows!"
"There is no need of trifling on the subject," said Mrs. Carson. "I
have had a great deal to bear, and I must bear it no longer than is
necessary. I have just found out that in order to get water out of my
own well, I must go to the back porch of a stranger. Such things
cannot be endured. If my son George were here, he would tell me what I
ought to do. I shall write to him, and see what he advises. I do not
mind waiting a little bit, now that I know that you can fix Mr.
Warren's house so that it won't move any farther."
Thus the matter was left. My house was braced that afternoon, and
toward evening I started to go to a hotel in the town to spend the
"No, sir!" said Mrs. Carson. "Do you suppose that I am going to stay
here all night with a great empty house jammed up against me, and
everybody knowing that it is empty? It will be the same as having
thieves in my own house to have them in yours. You have come down here
in your property, and you can stay in it and take care of it!"
"I don't object to that in the least," I said. "My two women are here,
and I can tell them to attend to my meals. I haven't any chimney, but
I suppose they can make a fire some way or other."
"No, sir!" said Mrs. Carson. "I am not going to have any strange
servants on my place. I have just been able to prevail upon my own
women to go into the house, and I don't want any more trouble. I have
had enough already!"
"But, my dear madam," said I, "you don't want me to go to the town, and
you won't allow me to have any cooking done here. What am I to do?"
"Well," she said, "you can eat with us. It may be two or three days
before I can hear from my son George, and in the meantime you can lodge
in your own house and I will take you to board. That is the best way I
can see of managing the thing. But I am very sure I am not going to be
left here alone in the dreadful predicament in which you have put me."
We had scarcely finished supper when Jack Brandiger came to see me. He
laughed a good deal a about my sudden change of base, but thought, on
the whole, my house had made a very successful move. It must be more
pleasant in the valley than up on that windy hill. Jack was very much
interested in everything, and when Mrs. Carson and her daughter
appeared, as we were walking about viewing the scene, I felt myself
obliged to introduce him.
"I like those ladies," said he to me, afterwards. "I think you have
chosen very agreeable neighbors."
"How do you know you like them?" said I. "You had scarcely anything to
say to Mrs. Carson."
"No, to be sure," said he. "But I expect I should like her. By the
way, do you know how you used to talk to me about coming and living
somewhere near you? How would you like me to take one of your rooms
now? I might cheer you up."
"No," said I, firmly. "That cannot be done. As things are now, I have
as much as I can do to get along here by myself."
Mrs. Carson did not hear from her son for nearly a week, and then he
wrote that he found it almost impossible to give her any advice. He
thought it was a very queer state of affairs. He had never heard of
anything like it. But he would try and arrange his business so that he
could come home in a week or two and look into matters.
As I was thus compelled to force myself upon the close neighborhood of
Mrs. Carson and her daughter, I endeavored to make things as pleasant
as possible. I brought some of my men down out of the vineyard, and
set them to repairing fences, putting the garden in order, and doing
all that I could to remedy the doleful condition of things which I had
unwillingly brought into the back yard of this quiet family. I rigged
up a pump on my back porch by which the water of the well could be
conveniently obtained, and in every way endeavored to repair damages.
But Mrs. Carson never ceased to talk about the unparalleled disaster
which had come upon her, and she must have had a great deal of
correspondence with her son George, because she gave me frequent
messages from him. He could not come on to look into the state of
affairs, but he seemed to be giving it a great deal of thought and
Spring weather had come again, and it was very pleasant to help the
Carson ladies get their flower-garden in order—at least, as much as
was left of it, for my house was resting upon some of the most
important beds. As I was obliged to give up all present idea of doing
anything in the way of getting my residence out of a place where it had
no business to be, because Mrs. Carson would not consent to any plan
which had been suggested, I felt that I was offering some little
compensation in beautifying what seemed to be, at that time, my own
My labors in regard to vines, bushes, and all that sort of thing were
generally carried on under direction of Mrs. Carson or her daughter,
and as the elderly lady was a very busy housewife, the horticultural
work was generally left to Miss Kitty and me.
I liked Miss Kitty. She was a cheerful, whole-souled person, and I
sometimes thought that she was not so unwilling to have me for a
neighbor as the rest of the family seemed to be; for if I were to judge
the disposition of her brother George from what her mother told me
about his letters, both he and Mrs. Carson must be making a great many
plans to get me off the premises.
Nearly a month had now passed since my house and I made that remarkable
morning call upon Mrs. Carson. I was becoming accustomed to my present
mode of living, and, so far as I was concerned, it satisfied me very
well. I certainly lived a great deal better than when I was depending
upon my old negro cook. Miss Kitty seemed to be satisfied with things
as they were, and so, in some respects, did her mother. But the latter
never ceased to give me extracts from some of her son George's letters,
and this was always annoying and worrying to me. Evidently he was not
pleased with me as such a close neighbor to his mother, and it was
astonishing how many expedients he proposed in order to rid her of my
"My son George," said Mrs. Carson, one morning, "has been writing to me
about jack-screws. He says that the greatest improvements have been
made in jack-screws."
"What do you do with them, mother?" asked Miss Kitty.
"You lift houses with them," said she. "He says that in large cities
they lift whole blocks of houses with them and build stories
underneath. He thinks that we can get rid of our trouble here if we
"But how does he propose to use them?" I asked.
"Oh, he has a good many plans," answered Mrs. Carson. "He said that he
should not wonder if jack-screws could be made large enough to lift
your house entirely over mine and set it out in the road, where it
could be carried away without interfering with anything, except, of
course, vehicles which might be coming along. But he has another
plan—that is, to lift my house up and carry it out into the field on
the other side of the road, and then your house might be carried along
right over the cellar until it got to the road. In that way, he says,
the bushes and trees would not have to be interfered with."
"I think brother George is cracked!" said Kitty.
All this sort of thing worried me very much. My mind was eminently
disposed toward peace and tranquillity, but who could be peaceful and
tranquil with a prospective jack-screw under the very base of his
comfort and happiness? In fact, my house had never been such a happy
home as it was at that time. The fact of its unwarranted position upon
other people's grounds had ceased to trouble me.
But the coming son George, with his jack-screws, did trouble me very
much, and that afternoon I deliberately went into Mrs. Carson's house
to look for Kitty. I knew her mother was not at home, for I had seen
her go out. When Kitty appeared I asked her to come out on her back
porch. "Have you thought of any new plan of moving it?" she said, with
a smile, as we sat down.
"No," said I, earnestly. "I have not, and I don't want to think of any
plan of moving it. I am tired of seeing it here, I am tired of
thinking about moving it away, and I am tired of hearing people talk
about moving it. I have not any right to be here, and I am never
allowed to forget it. What I want to do is to go entirely away, and
leave everything behind me—except one thing."
"And what is that?" asked Kitty.
"You," I answered.
She turned a little pale and did not reply.
"You understand me, Kitty," I said. "There is nothing in the world
that I care for but you. What have you to say to me?"
Then came back to her her little smile. "I think it would be very
foolish for us to go away," she said.
It was about a quarter of an hour after this when Kitty proposed that
we should go out to the front of the house; it would look queer if any
of the servants should come by and see us sitting together like that.
I had forgotten that there were other people in the world, but I went
We were standing on the front porch, close to each other, and I think
we were holding each other's hands, when Mrs. Carson came back. As she
approached she looked at us inquiringly, plainly wishing to know why we
were standing side by side before her door as if we had some special
object in so doing.
"Well?" said she, as she came up the steps. Of course it was right
that I should speak, and, in as few words as possible, I told her what
Kitty and I had been saying to each other. I never saw Kitty's mother
look so cheerful and so handsome as when she came forward and kissed
her daughter and shook hands with me. She seemed so perfectly
satisfied that it amazed me. After a little Kitty left us, and then
Mrs. Carson asked me to sit by her on a rustic bench.
"Now," said she, "this will straighten out things in the very best way.
When you are married, you and Kitty can live in the back
building,—for, of course, your house will now be the same thing as a
back building,—and you can have the second floor. We won't have any
separate tables, because it will be a great deal nicer for you and
Kitty to live with me, and it will simply be your paying board for two
persons instead of one. And you know you can manage your vineyard just
as well from the bottom of the hill as from the top. The lower rooms
of what used to be your house can be made very pleasant and comfortable
for all of us. I have been thinking about the room on the right that
you had planned for a parlor, and it will make a lovely sitting-room
for us, which is a thing we have never had, and the room on the other
side is just what will suit beautifully for a guest-chamber. The two
houses together, with the roof of my back porch properly joined to the
front of your house, will make a beautiful and spacious dwelling. It
was fortunate, too, that you painted your house a light yellow. I have
often looked at the two together, and thought what a good thing it was
that one was not one color and the other another. As to the pump, it
will be very easy now to put a pipe from what used to be your back
porch to our kitchen, so that we can get water without being obliged to
carry it. Between us we can make all sorts of improvements, and some
time I will tell you of a good many that I have thought of.
"What used to be your house," she continued, "can be jack-screwed up a
little bit and a good foundation put under it. I have inquired about
that. Of course it would not have been proper to let you know that I
was satisfied with the state of things, but I was satisfied, and there
is no use of denying it. As soon as I got over my first scare after
that house came down the hill, and had seen how everything might be
arranged to suit all parties, I said to myself, `What the Lord has
joined together, let not man put asunder,' and so, according to my
belief, the strongest kind of jack-screws could not put these two
houses asunder, any more than they could put you and Kitty asunder, now
that you have agreed to take each other for each other's own."
Jack Brandiger came to call that evening, and when he had heard what
had happened he whistled a good deal. "You are a funny kind of a
fellow," said he. "You go courting like a snail, with your house on
I think my friend was a little discomfited. "Don't be discouraged,
Jack," said I. "You will get a good wife some of these days—that is,
if you don't try to slide uphill to find her!"