Her Neighbor's Landmark
by Annie Eliot Trumbull
THE sun had not quite disappeared behind
the horizon, though the days
no longer extended themselves into the
long, murmurous twilight of summer; instead,
the evening fell with a certain definiteness,
precursor of the still later year.
On the step of the door that led directly
into the living-room of his rambling
house sat Reuben Granger, an old man,
bent with laborious seasons, and not untouched
by rheumatism. The wrinkles
on his face were many and curiously intertwined;
his weather-beaten straw hat
seemed to supply any festal deficiency indicated
by the shirt-sleeves; and his dim
eyes blinked with shrewdness upon the
dusty road, along which, at intervals, a
belated wagon passed, clattering. His
days of usefulness were not over, but he
had reached the age when one is willing
to spend more time looking on. He had
always been tired at this hour of the day,
but it was only of late that fatigue had
had a certain numbing effect, which disinclined
him to think of the tasks of
tomorrow. He came to this period of
repose rather earlier nowadays, and after
less sturdy labor—somehow, a great deal
of the sturdy labor got itself done without
him; and there was an acquiescence in
even this dispensation perceptible in the
fall of his knotted hands and the tranquil
gaze of his faded eyes.
About a dozen yards beyond him, on
the doorstep leading directly into the living-room
of a house which joined the
other, midway between two windows (the
union marked by a third doorway unused
and boarded up, around whose stone was
the growth of decades), sat Stephen Granger.
His weather-beaten straw hat shaded
eyes dim also, but still keen; and a network
of curious wrinkles wandered over
his tanned and sun-dried skin. Upon his
features, too, dwelt that look of patient
tolerance that is not indifference, that
only the "wise years" can bring; and
on his face as well as his brother's certain
lines about the puckered mouth went far
to contradict it. If one saw only one of
the old men, there was nothing grim in
the spectacle—that of a weary farmer
looking out upon the highroad from the
shelter of his own doorway; but the sight
of them both together took on suddenly a
forbidding air, a suggestion of sullenness,
of dogged resolution; they were so precisely
alike, and they sat so near one another
on thresholds of the same long, low
building, and they seemed so unconscious
the one of the other. It was impossible
not to believe the unconsciousness wilful
and deliberate. A heavily freighted and
loose-jointed wagon rattled noisily but
slowly along the road.
"Howaryer?" called out one of its
"'Are yer?" returned Stephen Granger.
Reuben had opened his mouth to speak,
but closed it in silence, while he gazed
straight before him, unseeing, apparently,
and unheeding. The leisurely driver
checked his horse, which responded instantly
to the welcome indication. Behind
him in the wagon two calves looked
somewhat perplexedly forth, their mild
eyes, with but slightly accentuated curiosity,
surveying the Grangers and the
landscape from the durance of the cart.
"Been tradin'?" asked Stephen.
"Wal, yes, I have," answered the
other, with that lingering intonation that
seems to modify even the most unconditional
"Got a good bargain?"
"Many folks down to the store this
"Ain't any news?"
"Not any as I know on."
Stephen nodded his acceptance of this
state of things. The other nodded, too.
There was a pause.
"G'long," said the trader, as if he
would have said it before if he had thought
of it. But the horse had taken but a few
steps when another voice greeted him.
"Howaryer, Monroe?" said Reuben
"Whoa," said Monroe. "Howaryer?"
"Been down to the Centre?" asked
"Got some calves in there, I see."
"Wal, yes; been doin' some tradin'."
Reuben nodded. "Ain't any news, I
"None in partickler." Another exchange
of nods followed.
"G'long," said Monroe, after a short
silence, during which the calves looked
more bored than usual. But the shaky
wheels had made but a few revolutions before
the owner of the wagon reined in again.
"Say," he called back, twisting himself
around and resting his hand on the bar
that confined the calves. "They've took
down the shed back of the meetin'-house.
Said 'twas fallin' to pieces. Might 'a'
come down on the heads of the hosses.
Goin' to put up a new one." Then, as
his steed recommenced its modest substitute
for a trot, unseen of the Grangers he
permitted himself an undemonstrative
chuckle. "They can sorter divide that
piece of news between 'em," he said to
his companion, who had been the silent
auditor of the conversation. A moment
of indecision on the part of the Grangers
had given him time to make this observation,
but it was not concluded when
Reuben's cracked voice sang out cheerfully,
"Ye don't say!" A slight contraction
passed over Stephen's face.
Much as he would have liked to mark the
bit of information for his own, now that
it had been appropriated by another, he
gave no further sign. The noise of the
wagon died along the road, and still Reuben
and Stephen Granger sat gazing
straight before them at the hill which
faced them from the other side of the
way, at the foot of which the darkness
was falling fast. By and by a lamp was
lighted in one half of the house, and a
moment later there was a flash through
the window of the other, and slowly and
stiffly the two old men rose and went
inside, each closing his door behind
"Them's the Granger twins," had said
the owner of the calves in answer to his
companion's question as soon as they were
out of hearing. "Yes, they be sort of
odd. Don't have nothin' to say to one
another, and they've lived next door to
each other ever since they haven't lived
with each other. It's goin' on thirty
years since they've spoke. Yes, they do
look alike—I don't see no partickler difference
myself, and it would make it
kinder awk'ard if they expected folks to
know which one he's talkin' to. But
they don't. They're kinder sensible about
that. They're real sensible 'bout some
things," he added tolerantly. "Oh, they
was powerful fond of each other at first—twins,
y' know. They was always
together, and when each of 'em set up
housekeepin', nothin' would do for it but
they should jine their houses and live side
by side—they knew enough not to live
together, seein' as how, though they was
twins, their wives wasn't. So they took
and added on to the old homestead, and
each of 'em took an end. Wal, I dunno
how it began—no, it wasn't their wives—it
don't seem hardly human natur', but
it wasn't their wives." The speaker
sighed a little. He was commonly supposed
to have gained more experience than
felicity through matrimony. "I've heard
it said that it was hoss-reddish that begun
it. You see, they used to eat together,
and Stephen he used to like a little hoss-reddish
along with his victuals in the
spring, and Reuben, he said 't was a pizen
weed. But there! you can never tell;
they're both of 'em just as sot as—as
erysipelas; and when that's so, somethin'
or other is sure to come. I know for a
fact that Reuben always wanted a taste
of molasses in his beans, and Stephen
couldn't abide anythin' but vinegar. So,
bymeby, they took to havin' their meals
separate. You know it ain't in human
natur' to see other folks puttin' things
in their mouths that don't taste good to
yours, and keep still about it."
His companion admitted the truth of
"Sometimes I think," went on Monroe,
musingly, "that if they'd begun by eatin'
separate they might have got along, 'cause
it's only His saints that the Lord has
made pleasant-tempered enough to stand
bein' pestered with three meals a day,
unless they're busy enough not to have
time to think about anythin' but swallerin'.
Hayin'-time most men is kinder pleasant
'bout their food—so long 's it's ready.
Wal, however it was, after they eat separate
there was other things. There was
the weather. They always read the
weather signs different. And each of 'em
had that way of speakin' 'bout the weather
as if it was a little contrivance of his
own, and he was the only person who
could give a hint how 'twas run, or had
any natural means of findin' out if 'twas
hot, or cold, or middlin', 'less he took hold
and told 'em. It's a powerful tryin' sort
of way, and finally it come so that, if
Reuben said we was in for a wet spell,
Stephen 'd start right off and begin to
mow his medder grass, and if Stephen
'lowed there was a sharp thunder-shower
comin' up, inside of ten minutes, Reuben'd
go and git his waterin'-pot and water
every blamed thing he had in his garden.
I dunno when it was they stopped speakin',
but that was about all there was to it—little
things like that. They didn't
either of 'em have any children; sometimes
I've thought if they had, the kids
might sort of brought 'em together—they
couldn't have kep' 'em apart without they
moved away, and of course they wouldn't
either of 'em give in to the other enough
to move away from the old farm. Then
their wives died 'bout a year from each
other. They kep' kind o' friendly to the
last, but they couldn't stir their husbands
no more'n if they was safes—it seems,
sometimes, as if husbands and wives was
sort o' too near one another, when it
comes to movin', to git any kind of a
purchase. When Reuben's wife died,
folks said they'd have to git reconciled
now; and when Stephen's died, there
didn't seem anythin' else for 'em to do;
but folks didn't know 'em. Stephen went
up country where his wife come from and
brought home a little gal, that was her
niece, to keep house for him; and then
what did Reuben do but go down to Zoar,
where his wife come from, and git her
half-sister—both of 'em young, scart
little things, and no kin to one another—and
they can't do nothin' even if they
wanted to. Bad-tempered? Wal, no.
I wouldn't say the Granger twins was
bad-tempered;" and the biographer dexterously
removed a fly from his horse's patient
back. "They're sot, of course, but
they ain't what they used to be—I guess
it's been a sort of discipline to 'em—livin'
next door and never takin' no kind
of notice. They're pleasant folks to
have dealin's with, and I've had both of
'em ask me if I cal'lated it was goin' to
rain, when I've been goin' by—different
times, o' course—but it 'most knocked
the wind out of me when they done it,
'stead of givin' me p'inters. Yes, you
never can speak to 'em both at once,
'cause the other one never hears if ye do;
but there! it ain't much trouble to say a
thing over twice—most of us say it
more'n that 'fore we can git it 'tended to;
and," he added, as he leaned forward and
dropped the whip into its socket preparatory
to turning into his own yard, "most
of us hears it more'n once."
"Monroe," called a voice from the
porch, "did you bring them calves?"
"Yare," said Monroe.
"I told you if you stopped to bring
'em, you wouldn't be home till after
"I told you 't would be dark and you'd
be late to supper."
"Wal?" and Monroe took down the
end of the wagon, and persuaded out the
The person who was Monroe's companion
and the recipient of his confidences
was a young woman who was an inmate
of his house for the present month
Confident and somewhat audacious in
her conduct of life, Cynthia Gardner had
felt that this September existence lacked a
motive for energy before it brought her
into contact with the Granger twins.
"They are so interesting," she said to
Monroe, a day or two later.
"Wal, I guess they be," answered
Monroe, amiably. The quality of being
interesting did not assume to his vision
the proportions it presented to Cynthia
Gardner's, but he saw no reason to deny
its existence. Cynthia cast a backward
glance from the wagon as she spoke, and
saw Reuben slowly and stiffly gathering
up dry stalks in his garden, while Stephen
propped up the declining side of a water-butt
in his adjoining domain, one man's
back carefully turned to the other.
She walked back from the Centre, and
stopped to talk with the twins in a casual
manner. But no careful inadvertence
drew them, at this or any later time when
their social relations had become firmly
established, into a triangular conversation.
They greeted her with cordiality, responded
to her advances, talked to her with the
tolerant and humorous shrewdness that
lurked in their dim eyes, but it was always
one at a time. If, with disarming naïveté,
she appealed to Stephen, Reuben turned
into a graven image; and if she chaffed
with Reuben, Stephen became as one who
having eyes seeth not, and having ears
heareth not. But she persisted with a
zeal which, if not according to knowledge,
was the result of a firm belief in
the possibility of a final adjustment of
differences. She did not know, herself,
what led her into such earnestness,—a
caprice, or the lingering pathos of two
lonely, barren lives.
Monroe watched her proceedings with
tolerant kindliness. It was not his business
to discourage her. He knew what
it was to be discouraged, and he felt that
there was quite enough discouragement
going about in life without his adding
"I tell you they would like to be reconciled,
Mr. Monroe," said Cynthia.
"They don't know they would like it,
but they would."
"Wal, mebbe they would. They're
gittin' to be old men. And when you
git along as far as that, you don't, perhaps,
worry so much about bein' reconciled,
but neither does it seem as worth
while not to. There's a good deal that's
sort of instructive about gittin' old," he
"It's very lonely for them both, I
think;" and Cynthia's voice fell into the
ready accents of youthful pity.
"Their quarrel's been kinder comp'ny
for 'em," suggested Monroe.
"It's overstayed its time," asserted
"Mebbe," answered Monroe.
The crisis—for Cynthia had been looking
for a crisis—came, after all, unexpectedly.
She had been for the mail, and
as she drove the amenable horse over the
homeward road she strained her eyes to
read the last page of an unusually absorbing
letter, for it was again sundown, and
the Granger twins again sat in their doorways.
There was a decided chill in the
air, this late afternoon. The old men,
though they were sturdy still, had put on
their coats, and from behind them the
comfortable glow of two stove doors
promised a later hour of warmth and comfort.
Their aspect was more melancholy
than usual, whether it were that the bleakness
of winter seemed pressing close upon
the bleakness of lonely age, or that there
was an added weariness in the droop of
the thin shoulders and the fixed eyes—it
was certain that the picture had gained a
shadow of depression.
For once, Cynthia was not thinking of
them as she drew near. The reins were
loose in her hand, and as she bent to catch
the waning light, an open newspaper,
which she had laid carelessly on the seat
beside her, was lifted by a transient gust
of wind and tossed almost over her horse's
head. No horse, of whatever serenity,
can be thus treated without resentment.
He jerked the reins from her heedless
hands, made a sharp turn to avoid the
white, wavering, inconsequent thing at his
feet, a wheel caught in a neighboring
boulder, and Cynthia was spilled out just
in front of the Granger house and midway
between the twins. In a common impulse
of fright the two old men started to
their feet. For an instant they paused to
judge of the situation, but it was no time
for fine distinctions. The accident had,
to all appearances, happened as near one
as the other, and meanwhile a young and
pretty woman lay unsuccored upon the
ground. It became a point of honor to
yield nothing to an ignored companion.
As speedily as their years allowed, Stephen
and Reuben marched to the rescue. The
horse, meanwhile, had dragged the overturned
wagon but a few yards, and had
stopped of his own reasonable accord.
As Cynthia raised herself rather confusedly
and quite convinced that she was
killed, her first impression was that the
angels were older than she had fancied,
and looked very much like the Granger
twins. But in a few seconds her balance
of mind was restored, she realized that
while there was life there was hope, and
that for the first time in her experience
the eyes of Reuben and Stephen were
fixed solicitously upon a common object,
that each of them had stretched out to
her a helping hand, and that two voices
with precisely the same anxious intonation
"Be ye hurt?"
It was a solemn moment, but Cynthia
Gardner was of the stuff that recognizes
opportunity. She laid a hand upon each
rugged arm, and steadied herself between
them; she perceived that they trembled
under her touch, and she felt that the instant
in which they stood side by side was
"I declare, 'twas too bad," said Reuben.
"'Twas too bad," said Stephen.
"Is the horse all right?" asked Cynthia,
"Yes, Johnny Allen got him," said
"Johnny Allen came along," said Reuben,
as if Stephen had not spoken, "and
he's got him."
"I can walk," she said, with not unconscious
pathos, "if you will walk with
me, but I must go in and rest a moment;"
and the three moved slowly straight forward.
A few steps brought them to the point
at which they must turn aside to reach
either entrance. Before them rose the
old boarded-up, dismal doorway, weather-beaten,
stained, repellent as bitterness.
There was another fateful pause. Cynthia
felt the quiver that ran through the
frames of the old men as for the first time
in long years they stood side by side before
the doorway about which as children
they had played, and through which as
boys they had rushed together. In Cynthia's
drooping head plans were rapidly
forming themselves, but she had time to
be thankful that she did not know which
was Reuben and which was Stephen—it
saved her the anxiety of decision; instinctively
she turned to the right, a small
brown hand clutching impartially either
rough and shabby sleeve.
The man on her right swerved in an
impulse of desertion, but her grasp did
"Is the judgment of Solomon to be
pronounced!" she said to herself, half
hysterically, for her nerves were a little
"Oh, I hope I sha'n't faint!" she exclaimed
Beneath Reuben's rustic exterior beat
the American heart that cannot desert an
elegant female in distress. He followed
the inclination of the other two to Stephen's
door, and in another never-to-be-forgotten
moment he stepped inside his
Stephen's deceased wife's niece was so
overcome by the spectacle that she retained
barely enough presence of mind to
drag forward a wooden chair upon which
Cynthia sank in a condition evidently bordering
upon syncope. It was a critical
moment; she must not give the intruder
an opportunity to escape. She knew the
intruder by that impulse of desertion, and
she clung the tighter to his arm when she
murmured pitifully, "If you could get me
some water, Mr. Granger."
Stephen hastened towards the kitchen
pump—the sight of Reuben in his side
of the house, after thirty years, set old
chords vibrating with a suddenness that
threatened to snap some disused string,
and his perceptions were not as clear as
usual. He seized the dipper, filled it, and
looked about him.
"Where's the tumbler, Jenny?" he
"It's right there," answered the girl,
with the explicitness of agitation.
"Whar?" he demanded with asperity.
"Settin' on the side—right back of
the molasses jug."
"Molasses jug!" he exclaimed. "Nice
place for the molasses jug!"
"We was goin' to have baked beans
for supper," said the trembling Jenny,
feeling that it was best to be tentative
about even a trifling matter within the
area of this convulsion, "and you always
want it handy."
It was a simple statement, but it laid a
finger upon the past and upon the future.
Cynthia, through her half-closed eyes, saw
one old man with disturbed features, standing
with his hand upon her chair, while
another old man shuffled toward her with
a glass of water, which spilled a little in
his shaking hand as he came across the
humble kitchen. Most inadequate dramatic
elements, yet they held the tragedy
of nearly a lifetime, and the comedy,
though more evident, was cast by it in
the shade, and she neither laughed nor
Within a few moments more she was
on her homeward way, a trifling break in
the harness tied up with twine, and Johnny
Allen in the seat beside her as guard of
The next evening the people, driving
home from the Centre, were saved from
some active demonstration only by the
repression of the New England temperament.
Some of them even, after driving
past, invented an errand to drive back
again, so as to make sure. For the
Granger twins sat side by side in front of
the disused doorway, and their straw hats
were turned sociably towards one another,
now and then, as they exchanged a syllable
or two, and there was a mild luminousness
of pleasure in the recesses of
their pale-blue eyes. The evening darkened
fast into night. The plaintive
half-chirp, half-whistle of a tree-toad
fell in monotonous repetition upon the
"Hear them little fellers!" said Stephen,
ruminantly. "I reckon they think
it's goin' to rain."
"Yare," said Reuben. "And," he
went on, pushing back his straw hat and
looking up into the sky, "I wouldn't
wonder if they was right."
"Mostly are," said Stephen.