Deacon Thomas Wales's Will
by Mary E. Wilkins
In the Name of God Amen! the
Thirteenth Day of September One Thousand Seven Hundred
Fifty & eight, I, Thomas Wales of Braintree, in the
County of Suffolk & Province of the Massachusetts Bay in
New England, Gent—being in good health of Body and of
Sound Disproving mind and Memory, Thanks be given to
God—Calling to mind my mortality, Do therefore in my
health make and ordain this my Last Will and Testament.
And First I Recommend my Soul into the hand of God who
gave it—Hoping through grace to obtain Salvation thro'
the merits and Mediation of Jesus Christ my only Lord
and Dear Redeemer, and my body to be Decently interd,
at the Discretion of my Executor, believing at the
General Resurection to receive the Same again by the
mighty Power of God—And such worldly estate as God in
his goodness hath graciously given me after Debts,
funeral Expenses &c, are Paid I give & Dispose of the
Same as Followeth—
Imprimis—I Give to my beloved
Wife Sarah a good Sute of mourning apparrel Such as she
may Choose—also if she acquit my estate of Dower and
third-therin (as we have agreed) Then that my Executor
return all of Household movables she bought at our
marriage & since that are remaining, also to Pay to her
or Her Heirs That Note of Forty Pound I gave to her,
when she acquited my estate and I hers. Before Division
to be made as herein exprest, also the Southwest
fire-Room in my House, a right in my Cellar, Halfe the
Garden, also the Privilege of water at the well & yard
room and to bake in the oven what she hath need of to
improve her Life-time by her.
After this, followed a division of his property
amongst his children, five sons and two daughters.
The "Homeplace" was given to his sons Ephraim and
Atherton. Ephraim had a good house of his own, so he
took his share of the property in land, and Atherton
went to live in the old homestead. His quarters had been
poor enough; he had not been so successful as his
brothers, and had been unable to live as well. It had
been a great cross to his wife, Dorcas, who was very
high-spirited. She had compared, bitterly, the poverty
of her household arrangements, with the abundant comfort
of her sisters-in-law.
Now, she seized eagerly at the opportunity of
improving her style of living. The old Wales house was
quite a pretentious edifice for those times. All the
drawback to her delight was, that Grandma should have
the southwest fire-room. She wanted to set up her
high-posted bedstead, with its enormous feather-bed in
that, and have it for her fore-room. Properly, it was
the fore-room, being right across the entry from the
family sitting-room. There was a tall chest of drawers
that would fit in so nicely between the windows, too.
Take it altogether, she was chagrined at having to give
up the southwest room; but there was no help for
it—there it was in Deacon Wales's will.
Mrs. Dorcas was the youngest of all the sons' wives,
as her husband was the latest born. She was quite a girl
to some of them. Grandma had never more than half
approved of her. Dorcas was high-strung and flighty, she
said. She had her doubts about living happily with her.
But Atherton was anxious for this division of the
property, and he was her youngest darling, so she gave
in. She felt lonely, and out of her element, when
everything was arranged, she established in the
southwest fire-room, and Atherton's family keeping house
in the others, though things started pleasantly and
It occurred to her that her son Samuel might have her
own "help," a stout woman, who had worked in her kitchen
for many years, and she take in exchange his little
bound girl, Ann Ginnins. She had always taken a great
fancy to the child. There was a large closet out of the
southwest room, where she could sleep, and she could be
made very useful, taking steps, and running "arrants"
Mr. Samuel and his wife hesitated a little when this
plan was proposed. In spite of the trouble she gave
them, they were attached to Ann, and did not like to
part with her, and Mrs. Polly was just getting her
"larnt" her own ways, as she put it. Privately, she
feared Grandma would undo all the good she had done, in
teaching Ann to be smart and capable. Finally they gave
in, with the understanding that it was not to be
considered necessarily a permanent arrangement, and Ann
went to live with the old lady.
Mrs. Dorcas did not relish this any more than she did
the appropriation of the southwest fire-room. She had
never liked Ann very well. Besides she had two little
girls of her own, and she fancied Ann rivaled them in
Grandma's affection. So, soon after the girl was
established in the house, she began to show out in
various little ways.
Thirsey, her youngest child, was a mere baby, a round
fat dumpling of a thing. She was sweet, and
good-natured, and the pet of the whole family. Ann was
very fond of playing with her, and tending her, and Mrs.
Dorcas began to take advantage of it. The minute Ann was
at liberty she was called upon to take care of Thirsey.
The constant carrying about such a heavy child soon
began to make her shoulders stoop and ache. Then Grandma
took up the cudgels. She was smart and high-spirited,
but she was a very peaceable old lady on her own
account, and fully resolved "to put up with everything
from Dorcas, rather than have strife in the family." She
was not going to see this helpless little girl imposed
on, however. "The little gal ain't goin' to get bent all
over, tendin' that heavy baby, Dorcas," she proclaimed.
"You can jist make up your mind to it. She didn't come
here to do sech work."
So Dorcas had to make up her mind to it.
Ann's principal duties were "scouring the brasses" in
Grandma's room, taking steps for her, and spinning her
stint every day. Grandma set smaller stints than Mrs.
Polly. As time went on, she helped about the cooking.
She and Grandma cooked their own victuals, and ate from
a little separate table in the common kitchen. It was a
very large room, and might have accommodated several
families, if they could have agreed. There was a big
oven and a roomy fire-place. Good Deacon Wales had
probably seen no reason at all why his "beloved wife"
should not have her right therein with the greatest
peace and concord.
But it soon came to pass that Mrs. Dorcas's pots and
kettles were all prepared to hang on the trammels when
Grandma's were, and an army of cakes and pies marshaled
to go in the oven when Grandma had proposed to do some
baking. Grandma bore it patiently for a long time; but
Ann was with difficulty restrained from freeing her
small mind, and her black eyes snapped more dangerously
at every new offense.
One morning, Grandma had two loaves of "riz bread,"
and some election cakes, rising, and was intending to
bake them in about an hour, when they should be
sufficiently light. What should Mrs. Dorcas do, but mix
up sour milk bread, and some pies with the greatest
speed, and fill up the oven, before Grandma's cookery
Grandma sent Ann out into the kitchen to put the
loaves-in the oven and lo and behold! the oven was full.
Ann stood staring for a minute, with a loaf of election
cake in her hands; that and the bread would be ruined if
they were not baked immediately, as they were raised
enough. Mrs. Dorcas had taken Thirsey and stepped out
somewhere, and there was no one in the kitchen. Ann set
the election cake back on the table. Then, with the aid
of the tongs, she reached into the brick oven and took
out every one of Mrs. Dorcas's pies and loaves. Then she
arranged them deliberately in a pitiful semicircle on
the hearth, and put Grandma's cookery in the oven.
She went back to the southwest room then, and sat
quietly down to her spinning. Grandma asked if she had
put the things in, and she said "Yes, ma'am," meekly.
There was a bright red spot on each of her dark cheeks.
When Mrs. Dorcas entered the kitchen, carrying
Thirsey wrapped up in an old homespun blanket, she
nearly dropped as her gaze fell on the fire-place and
the hearth. There sat her bread and pies, in the most
lamentable half-baked, sticky, doughy condition
imaginable. She opened the oven, and peered in. There
were Grandma's loaves, all a lovely brown. Out they
came, with a twitch. Luckily, they were done. Her own
went in, but they were irretrievable failures.
Of course, quite a commotion came from this. Dorcas
raised her shrill voice pretty high, and Grandma, though
she had been innocent of the whole transaction, was so
blamed that she gave Dorcas a piece of her mind at last.
Ann surveyed the nice brown loaves, and listened to the
talk in secret satisfaction; but she had to suffer for
it afterward. Grandma punished her for the first time,
and she discovered that that kind old hand was pretty
firm and strong. "No matter what you think or whether
you air in the rights on't, or not, a little gal mustn't
ever sass her elders," said Grandma.
But if Ann's interference was blamable, it was
productive of one good result—the matter came to Mr.
Atherton's ears, and he had a stern sense of justice
when roused, and a great veneration for his mother. His
father's will should be carried out to the letter, he
declared; and it was. Grandma baked and boiled in peace,
outwardly, at least, after that.
Ann was a great comfort to her; she was outgrowing
her wild, mischievous ways, and she was so bright and
quick. She promised to be pretty, too. Grandma compared
her favorably with her own grandchildren, especially
Mrs. Dorcas's eldest daughter Martha, who was nearly
Ann's age. "Marthy's a pretty little gal enough," she
used to say, "but she ain't got the snap to her that Ann
has, though I wouldn't tell Atherton's wife so, for the
She promised Ann her gold beads, when she should be
done with them, under strict injunctions not to say
anything about it till the time came; for the others
might feel hard as she wasn't her own flesh and blood.
The gold beads were Ann's ideals of beauty and richness,
though she did not like to hear Grandma talk about being
"done with them." Grandma always wore them around her
fair, plump old neck; she had never seen her without her
string of beads.
As before said, Ann was now very seldom mischievous
enough to make herself serious trouble; but, once in a
while, her natural propensities would crop out. When
they did, Mrs. Dorcas was exceedingly bitter. Indeed,
her dislike of Ann was, at all times, smouldering, and
needed only a slight fanning to break out.
One stormy winter day Mrs. Dorcas had been working
till dark, making candle-wicks. When she came to get
tea, she tied the white fleecy rolls together, a great
bundle of them, and hung them up in the cellar-way, over
the stair, to be out of the way. They were extra fine
wicks, being made of flax for the company candles. "I've
got a good job done," said Mrs. Dorcas, surveying them
complacently. Her husband had gone to Boston, and was
not coming home till the next day, so she had had a nice
chance to work at them, without as much interruption as
Ann, going down the cellar stairs, with a lighted
candle, after some butter for tea, spied the beautiful
rolls swinging overhead. What possessed her to, she
could not herself have told—she certainly had no wish to
injure Mrs. Dorcas's wicks—but she pinched up a little
end of the fluffy flax and touched her candle to it. She
thought she would see how that little bit would burn
off. She soon found out. The flame caught, and ran like
lightning through the whole bundle. There was a great
puff of fire and smoke, and poor Mrs. Dorcas's fine
candle-wicks were gone. Ann screamed, and sprang
downstairs. She barely escaped the whole blaze coming in
"What's that!" shrieked Mrs. Dorcas, rushing to the
cellar door. Words cannot describe her feeling when she
saw that her nice candle-wicks, the fruit of her day's
toil, were burnt up.
If ever there was a wretched culprit that night, Ann
was. She had not meant to do wrong, but that, may be,
made it worse for her in one way. She had not even
gratified malice to sustain her. Grandma blamed her,
almost as severely as Mrs. Dorcas. She said she didn't
know what would "become of a little gal, that was so
keerless," and decreed that she must stay at home from
school and work on candle-wicks till Mrs. Dorcas's loss
was made good to her. Ann listened ruefully. She was
scared and sorry, but that did not seem to help matters
any. She did not want any supper, and she went to bed
early and cried herself to sleep.
Somewhere about midnight, a strange sound woke her
up. She called out to Grandma in alarm. The same sound
had awakened her. "Get up, an' light a candle, child,"
said she; "I'm afeard the baby's sick."
Ann scarcely had the candle lighted, before the door
opened, and Mrs. Dorcas appeared in her nightdress. She
was very pale, and trembling all over. "Oh!" she gasped,
"it's the baby. Thirsey's got the croup, an' Atherton's
away, and there ain't anybody to go for the doctor. Oh,
what shall I do, what shall I do!" She fairly wrung her
"Hev you tried the skunk's oil?" asked Grandma
eagerly, preparing to get up.
"Yes, I have, I have! It's a good hour since she woke
up, an' I've tried everything. It hasn't done any good.
I thought I wouldn't call you, if I could help it, but
she's worse—only hear her! An' Atherton's away! Oh! what
shall I do, what shall I do?"
"Don't take on so, Dorcas," said Grandma,
tremulously, but cheeringly. "I'll come right along,
an'—why, child, what air you goin' to do?"
Ann had finished dressing herself, and now she was
pinning a heavy homespun blanket over her head, as if
she were preparing to go out doors.
"I'm going after the doctor for Thirsey," said Ann,
her black eyes flashing with determination.
"Oh, will you, will you!" cried Mrs. Dorcas, catching
at this new help.
"Hush, Dorcas," said Grandma, sternly. "It's an awful
storm out—jist hear the wind blow! It ain't fit fur her
to go. Her life's jist as precious as Thirsey's."
Ann said nothing more, but she went into her own
little room with the same determined look in her eyes.
There was a door leading from this room into the
kitchen. Ann slipped through it hastily, lit a lantern
which was hanging beside the kitchen chimney, and was
out doors in a minute.
The storm was one of sharp, driving sleet, which
struck her face like so many needles. The first blast,
as she stepped outside the door, seemed to almost force
her back, but her heart did not fail her. The snow was
not so very deep, but it was hard walking. There was no
pretense of a path. The doctor lived half a mile away,
and there was not a house in the whole distance, save
the meeting house and schoolhouse. It was very dark.
Lucky it was that she had taken the lantern; she could
not have found her way without it.
On kept the little slender, erect figure, with the
fierce determination in its heart, through the snow and
sleet, holding the blanket close over its head, and
swinging the feeble lantern bravely.
When she reached the doctor's house, he was gone. He
had started for the North Precinct early in the evening,
his good wife said; he was called down to Captain Isaac
Lovejoy's, the house next the North Precinct Meeting
House. She'd been sitting up waiting for him, it was
such an awful storm, and such a lonely road. She was
worried, but she didn't think he'd start for home that
night; she guessed he'd stay at Captain Lovejoy's till
SHE ALMOST FAINTED FROM COLD AND EXHAUSTION.
The doctor's wife, holding her door open, as best she
could, in the violent wind, had hardly given this
information to the little snow-bedraggled object
standing out there in the inky darkness, through which
the lantern made a faint circle of light, before she had
"She went like a speerit," said the good woman,
staring out into the blackness in amazement. She never
dreamed of such a thing as Ann's going to the North
Precinct after the doctor, but that was what the daring
girl had determined to do. She had listened to the
doctor's wife in dismay, but with never one doubt as to
her own course of proceeding.
Straight along the road to the North Precinct she
kept. It would have been an awful journey that night for
a strong man. It seemed incredible that a little girl
could have the strength or courage to accomplish it.
There were four miles to traverse in a black, howling
storm, over a pathless road, through forests, with
hardly a house by the way.
When she reached Captain Isaac Lovejoy's house, next
to the meeting house in the North Precinct of Braintree,
stumbling blindly into the warm, lighted kitchen, the
captain and the doctor could hardly believe their
senses. She told the doctor about Thirsey; then she
almost fainted from cold and exhaustion.
Good-wife Lovejoy laid her on the settee, and brewed
her some hot herb tea. She almost forgot her own sick
little girl, for a few minutes, in trying to restore
this brave child who had come from the South Precinct in
this dreadful storm to save little Thirsey Wales's life.
When Ann came to herself a little, her first question
was, if the doctor were ready to go.
"He's gone," said Mrs. Lovejoy, cheeringly.
Ann felt disappointed. She had thought she was going
back with him. But that would have been impossible. She
could not have stood the journey for the second time
that night, even on horseback behind the doctor, as she
She drank a second bowlful of herb tea, and went to
bed with a hot stone at her feet, and a great many
blankets and coverlids over her.
The next morning, Captain Lovejoy carried her home.
He had a rough wood sled, and she rode on that, on an
old quilt; it was easier than horseback, and she was
pretty lame and tired.
Mrs. Dorcas saw her coming and opened the door. When
Ann came up on the stoop, she just threw her arms around
her and kissed her.
"You needn't make the candle-wicks," said she. "It's
no matter about them at all. Thirsey's better this
morning, an' I guess you saved her life."
Grandma was fairly bursting with pride and delight in
her little gal's brave feat, now that she saw her safe.
She untied the gold beads on her neck, and fastened them
around Ann's. "There," said she, "you may wear them to
school to-day, if you'll be keerful."
That day, with the gold beads by way of celebration,
began a new era in Ann's life. There was no more secret
animosity between her and Mrs. Dorcas. The doctor had
come that night in the very nick of time. Thirsey was
almost dying. Her mother was fully convinced that Ann
had saved her life, and she never forgot it. She was a
woman of strong feelings, who never did things by
halves, and she not only treated Ann with kindness, but
she seemed to smother her grudge against Grandma for
robbing her of the southwest fire-room.